Thursday, March 29, 2007

Op-Ed: Occupation defies social justice (thanks, Eldad)

The Stanford Daily

Op-Ed: Occupation defies social justice
March 2, 2007
By Amanda Gelender

I attribute my deep sense of social justice to my Jewish upbringing. Active in my congregation as a child, I have fond memories of attending Jewish summer camp, Shabbat services and Purim carnivals. And, of course, I have perhaps not-so fond memories of studying relentlessly for my Haftorah portion and bat mitzvah ceremony. As a young person, I eagerly absorbed Jewish culture and values, harnessing the lessons of tikkun olam, the Judaic principle which translates to "repair the world." As I came of age, I became increasingly committed to this principle in my daily life as an activist for social change.

As a trusting and uninformed child, I never questioned my exuberant, unequivocal support for Israel. Looking back on this period of my life, I marvel at my own naivete. After more than a decade of pro-Israeli indoctrination, it took a long time for me to unravel and ultimately rebuild my belief system in accordance with Jewish values of social justice. Today, I stand in full opposition to the Israeli occupation and the plethora of atrocious human rights violations committed by Israel and supported by the United States. I believe that it is my right and responsibility to speak out against the actions of the Israeli government - not in spite of being Jewish but because I am Jewish.

Jews are uniquely positioned in this conflict. Chiefly, we as a people have experienced an exorbitant amount of oppression and have always had to fight for recognition, equality and freedom. Undeniably, Jews throughout the world still face extreme discrimination and struggle for these basic liberties. We, of all people, know injustice and the many ways that it can devastate and even destroy the lives of innocent people.

However, our actions - as represented by the Israeli government - distort the essence of our core values of peace and social justice. Israel's despotism has turned Jews into the very oppressors we have struggled against for thousands of years. We are killing. We are demolishing homes. We are denying basic human rights. I refuse to tolerate the unequivocal endorsement of these brutalities to compose the predominant voice of the Jewish community at Stanford. A Jewish upbringing informs my system of values, and I will not betray my notions of social justice merely because those committing the atrocities are fellow Jews.

Jewish culture embodies the struggle for peace and equality, selflessness in serving others and liberation from oppression. The treatment of Palestinian people by the Israeli government is ethically depraved. It is in direct violation of both internationally recognized human rights standards and our stated ideals. No, I do not support acts of Palestinian terror, and I condemn all forms of violence against civilians. However, these fringe acts of terrorism in no way justify the horrific actions of collective punishment and severe repression perpetrated by the powerful Israeli military and government. We as Jews are not "repairing the world" in Israel and the Occupied Territories - we are destroying it along with the integrity of our faith and culture.

I refuse to stand idly by while the supreme injustices committed by Israel occur in my name. I refuse to allow fellow Jews to hijack our peaceful, resilient religion by supporting the occupation of Palestine under the guise of anti-Semitism and national security. For those of you who feel stifled and angry at this usurpation of Jewish values, I encourage you to join Jews for Justice in Palestine and become advocates for justice, human rights and peace in Israel and the Occupied Territories. For those of you who are afraid to stand in solidarity with Palestinians out of fear of offending the Jewish community, know that there are many Jews who are repulsed by the stifling of legitimate critique of Israel based upon unfounded claims of anti-Semitism. There is real anti-Semitism in the world, but employing the term in this manner is a disgrace to the legacy and current manifestations of prejudice and discrimination against Jews. Unlike others outspoken on this issue, I do not claim to represent the Jewish community. I do, however, represent myself, and I refuse to be spoken for.

Now is the time for Jews to be the loudest, strongest advocates against occupation and in support of equal rights for Palestinians - not in spite of our Judaism but because of it. The Talmud says, "On three things the world stands: On Justice, on Truth, and on Peace." Judaism taught me to fight for integrity, so it is in the name of Judaism that I call upon all Jews to end the destruction, inequality, and oppression committed by the Israeli government.

Amanda Gelender is a sophomore majoring in drama and political science and a co-founder of the student group Jews for Justice in Palestine. She can be reached at gelender@stanford.edu .

http://www.stanforddaily.com/article/2007/3/2/opedOccupationDefiesSocialJustice

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Soros and Media Heavyweights Attack Pro-Israel Lobby

Soros and Media Heavyweights Attack Pro-Israel Lobby's Influence on U.S. Policy

Nathan Guttman | Fri. Mar 23, 2007

Washington - The simmering debate over American policy toward Israel and the role of the Jewish community in shaping it exploded with near-nuclear force this week. Several of the nation's best-known international affairs commentators fired salvos at pro-Israel lobbyists and defenders of Israel fired back with unprecedented fury.

In the space of three days, major critiques of Jewish lobbying were published by controversial billionaire George Soros, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Nicholas Kristof, the respected British newsmagazine The Economist and the popular Web site Salon.

The replies were furious. The New York Sun accused Kristof and Soros of spreading a “new blood libel. American Jewish Committee.s executive director, David Harris, wrote in a Jerusalem Post opinion article that Kristof had a 'blind spot' and had sanctimoniously lecturedù Israel.

The editor of The New Republic, Martin Peretz, renewed an attack on Soros that he began a month ago when he called the Hungarian-born Holocaust survivor a cog in the Hitlerite wheel.

The outburst over Middle East policymaking was triggered in part by the annual Washington conference last week of the pro-Israel lobbying powerhouse, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a highly publicized event that put the issue of pro-Israel influence in the media spotlight. A parade of politicians and presidential candidates came to the conference to declare their unwavering support for Israel, while the lobby itself reaffirmed a hard-line agenda that included cutting all American ties with the new Palestinian government.

At the same time, the latest attacks and counterattacks were also a continuation and an escalation of an ongoing debate in Washington over the purported role of the pro-Israel lobby in shaping American policy in the Middle East and stifling debate. Those attacks reached a peak of venom last year with the publication of a contentious document by two senior political scientists, Stephen Walt of Harvard and John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago, who charged that a sprawling, powerful “Israel Lobby had pushed the United States into war with Iraq.

Among the latest group of critics, Soros, the billionaire philanthropist and currency trader, was the harshest. In an article in The New York Review of Books, published Monday, he argued that the United States is doing Israel a disservice by allowing it to boycott the Hamas-Fatah Palestinian unity government and to turn down the Saudi peace initiative. But, he wrote, there is no meaningful debate of such policies.

“While other problem areas of the Middle East are freely discussed, criticism of our policies toward Israel is very muted indeed, Soros wrote. He added that pro-Israel activists have been remarkably successful in suppressing criticism.

Soros singled out Aipac as a key source of the problem, accusing the lobby of pushing a hawkish agenda on Israeli-Palestinian issues. Aipac under its current leadership has clearly exceeded its mission, and far from guaranteeing Israel's existence, has endangered it, he wrote.

Soros's article was noteworthy in part because it broke his longstanding practice of avoiding public identification with Jewish causes. While he has given hundreds of millions of dollars in the past decade to democratization in the former communist bloc, he has given almost nothing to Jewish causes. In this week's article, however, he stated apparently for the first time that he has a great deal of sympathy for my fellow Jews and a deep concern for the survival of Israel.

He said that while he has disagreed with Israeli policies in the past, he has kept quiet because he did not want to provide fodder to the enemies of Israel.ù However, he said, the mishandling of recent events by Washington and Jerusalem now demanded greater public debate, which he said was stifled by groups like Aipac.

He also sprang to the defense of his fellow Jewish liberals, criticizing a recent essay on “Progressive Jewish Thought,ù written by Indiana University historian Alvin Rosenfeld and published by the American Jewish Committee, for its attack on critics of Israel.

Soros wrote that he is not sufficiently engaged in Jewish affairs to be involved in the reform of Aipacù and called on the American Jewish community “to rein in the organization that claims to represent it.

A spokesperson for Aipac said the group will not comment on Soros's remarks.

An argument echoing Soros's was posted a day later on the popular Web site Salon, in an article titled Can American Jews unplug the Israel lobbyù The writer, Gary Kamiya, called on American Jews to stand up and say "not in my name"ù and to challenge the notion that Aipac's views are representative of the broader Jewish community.

Less pointed, but far more widely circulated, was a critique of American policymaking published Sunday by New York Times opinion columnist Nicholas Kristof. The much-decorated journalist, famous for his determined coverage of the Darfur genocide, argued that American politicians have muzzled themselvesù when it comes to Israel and that “there is no serious political debate among either Democrats or Republicans about our policy toward Israelis and Palestinians.

Both Kristof and Soros compared America's Middle East policy discussion unfavorably with the lively debate in Israel over the government's policy. Both claimed that while Israelis feel free to criticize their government and question its policies, American politicians are afraid to take it on.

The Economist, the internationally respected British newsweekly, summed up Friday in a prescient article the changing climateù facing the pro-Israel lobby. It mentioned challenges to Aipac from Arab Americans, liberal Jews and foreign-policy experts worried about America's standing in the Arab world. America needs an open debate about its role in the Middle East and Aipac needs to take a positive role in this debate if it is to remain such a mighty force in American politics, the article concluded.

This burst of criticism against the Israel lobby and its role in the shaping of American policy toward Israel was immediately met by critical articles from supporters of Aipac and of America's pro-Israel policies.

A Monday editorial in the New York Sun was the harshest of all. It compared Soros's and Kristof's criticisms to the so-called blood libels directed against Jews in medieval Europe. “The fact is that they write at a time when a war against the Jews is underway,â€ù the Sun wrote. It is a war in which the American people have stood with Israel for three generations The reason is that Americans are wise enough to understand which side in the war against the Jews shares our values and to sort out the truth from the libels.

But Soros's greatest critic is no doubt New Republic editor Martin Peretz, who posted only a brief reaction on his blog to Soros's article, promising to elaborate when he returns from his trip abroad. Peretz had attacked Soros in February for saying that the United States would need de-Nazification after President Bush leaves office, charging that Soros himself had been guilty of collaborating with the Nazis as a teenager in Hungary. Soros replied in the magazine that the charge was false, and Peretz backed off somewhat. Now, however, he has promised to come back with guns blazing, after he returns from an overseas trip.

Since he has picked the scab off his own wound this time, I will not be so kind this time,â€ù Peretz warned.

David Harris, executive director of the American Jewish Committee, also joined the debate in an opinion article in the Jerusalem Post. Harris praised Kristof's acclaimed foreign reporting but said he has a “blind spotâ€ù regarding Israel. He added that “Israel doe'st need lectures from well-intentioned journalists on the need for peace. Israel needs well-intentioned partners for peace.

The current round in the debate over the pro-Israel lobby is already spilling over into the political system. Presidential candidate Barack Obama, who was seen as being supported financially by Soros, distanced himself from the billionaire following Soros’s article on Aipac.

“On this issue he and Senator Obama disagree,â€ù said a statement from the Obama campaign issued Tuesday. It is now unclear how willing Democratic candidates will be to accept campaign contributions from Soros, who is one of the biggest donors to Democratic-aligned advocacy groups.

While the debate is reaching a boiling point in the public sphere, work on the ground on establishing a new lobbying apparatus by dovish Jewish groups and individuals is moving at a much slower pace.

The initiative was initially called in media reports the Soros lobby, after the financier attended an exploratory meeting last fall in New York to discuss creating a new lobby. Since that meeting, however, Soros has shown no further interest in the effort, organizers said.

He met with us once and that's it,â€ù said Jeremy Ben-Ami, one of the main figures behind the initiative. Ben-Ami stressed that that Soros has not yet pledged any funds for the new advocacy group and that the initiative is still in need of donors. Many in the group now refer to it jokingly as the non-Soros lobby.

Fri. Mar 23, 2007

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

The ethnic cleansing of Palestine

by Ilan Pappe
October 03, 2006 - ZNET

(1) Can you tell ZNet, please, what your new book, "The ethnic cleansing of Palestine" is about? What is it trying to communicate?

The book tries to show that in 1948, the Zionist movement waged a war against the Palestinain people in order to implement its long term plans of ethnic cleansing (whereas Israeli historians, including 'new historians', claimed that the war was waged by the Arab world against the state of Israel in order to eliminate it and it resulted in expulsions of Palestinians). The Arab world tried to prevent this cleansing, but was too fragmented, self-centered and ineffective to stop the uprooting of half of Palestine's native population, the destruction of half of its villages and towns and the killing of thousands of its people.

And since that ethnic cleansing was successfully implemented in almost 80% of Palestine without any global or regional repercussions - the ethnic cleansing policy continues ever since 1967 in the remaining 20% of the country. Creating a Jewish state in historical Palestine cleansed of Palestinians is still the ideolgoical infrastructure on which the state of Israel is based. How to achieve this goal is a divisive issue between Left Zionists - hoping to negotiate a settlement that would leave a small number of Palestinains in a greater Israel and the Right Zionsts willing to implement a more direct cleasning policy from the same area even today.

The book uses the accepted scholarly definition of Ethnic Cleansing to show its academic as well legal applicability to the case of Palestine and argues that since in the eyes of the world - including the State Department and the UN - ethnic cleansing is a crime against humanity, this how we should view the Israeli actions in the past and ISrael's policies in the present.

(2) Can you tell ZNet something about writing the book? Where does the content come from? What went into making the book what it is?

The book is based on three major sources. First it uses new material from the Israeli military archives that was released in the late 1990s. Secondly, it is based on a re-reading of the older archival material through the prism of the ethnic cleansing paradigm. Thirdly, it uses extensively the Palestinian oral history archives.

(3) What are your hopes for "The ethnic cleansing of Palestine"? What do you hope it will contribute or achieve, politically? Given the effort and aspirations you have for the book, what will you deem to be a success? What would leave you happy about the whole undertaking? What would leave you wondering if it was worth all the time and effort?

The book first and foremost is my modest message to the Palestinians wherever they are, and especially to the refugees, that their narrative, which was denied for so many years, is fully vindicated and validated in this book.

Secondly, I think that through the paradigm offered in this book for the 1948 events, one can have a far better understanding of the Israeli policies in 2006. It offers a better conceptualization of the nature of the Israeli actions agaisnt the Palestinian minority inside Israel, in the occupied territories, and the disengaged Gaza Strip and lately in Lebanon. In this respect occupation and pullout and ingathering are all different ways for implementing the coveted goal of a complete ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians.

Thirdly, but this is really in the realm of wishful thinking, it hopes to stir public opinion in the West and in Israel. If the premises of this book are accepted, the West has to change its attitude towards the Jewish State. It can not be absovled any more for its past and present crimes. And more importantly, the Israeli society has to look at the mirror and refuse the policies that were and are made in its name. If this is not done then eventually all of us - Palestinians and Israelis alike - will perish in a mutually assured destructive process.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Palestinian Christians' troubles and "The New York Times"

It is good to know that the troubles of the Palestinian Christians have nothing to do with Israeli settlers throwing stones at them, the Israeli Defense Force bulldozing their homes and building huge walls on their land, the Israeli checkpoints, the Israeli snipers, and the Israeli apartheid rules that dictate one highway for Jews and one for Palestinians.

Perhaps when apartheid finally falls, "The New York Time" will look at articles like this Sunday's "Palestinian Christians Look Back on a Year of Troubles" (March 11, 2007) and investigate how these stories ended up being so inaccurate and misleading.

But the investigations when they come will focus on individual reporters, not on the newspaper's long established practice of covering up Israel's expansion into the West Bank. Like many of our elected officials, "The New York Times" has long shown more loyalty to the Israeli lobby than to the American people.

Fred Nagel

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/11/world/middleeast/11christians.html?_r=1&ref=world&oref=slogin

Saturday, March 10, 2007

remarks made by two German bishops.

This article is interesting in that it never touches the possibility that racism in the West Bank actually exists. It ends with a wonderful statement that the Catholic Church hasn't really learned to deal with its role in Hitler's Germany.



http://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/10/world/europe/10germany.html?_r=1&oref=slogin

Germany’s top Catholic official, Cardinal Karl Lehmann, disavowed remarks made by two German bishops.

By MARK LANDLER
Published: March 10, 2007
FRANKFURT, March 9 — A pilgrimage to Israel by 27 Roman Catholic bishops from Germany last week was meant to be a historic symbol of reconciliation between Jews and German Catholics.

Instead, after two bishops drew a link between the plight of Palestinians in the West Bank and Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto during World War II, it has become a fresh source of recrimination.

Jewish groups in Germany and Israel’s ambassador to Germany condemned their comments, which were reported in newspapers here, saying they were demagogic and “verging on anti-Semitism.”

“If one uses terms like Warsaw Ghetto or racism in connection with Israeli or Palestinian politics, then one has forgotten everything, or learned nothing,” the Israeli ambassador, Shimon Stein, said in a statement this week.

The Warsaw Ghetto, established by the Nazis in 1940, was used as a holding pen for Polish Jews before they were sent to concentration camps. It has come to epitomize the barbarity of the Holocaust.

Germany’s top Catholic official, Cardinal Karl Lehmann, disavowed the bishops’ remarks in a letter to the director of the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem that was made public on Wednesday. But the outrage among Jews living here has not yet subsided.

“I made my point; Cardinal Lehmann made his point, unfortunately a bit late,” Mr. Stein said in an interview. “Now we have to find other ways to deal with this. It tells us we have a problem.”

The dispute came after a trip that was, by all initial accounts, successful. The bishops were met by Israel’s deputy prime minister, Shimon Peres. At Yad Vashem, Cardinal Lehmann, the chairman of the Conference of German Bishops, spoke about deepening ties between Jews and Catholics.

The trouble started back home when newspapers published blunt remarks by two southern German bishops: Gregor Maria Hanke, of Eichstätt, and Walter Mixa, of Augsburg.

“In the morning, we see the photos of the inhuman Warsaw Ghetto, and this evening we travel to the ghetto in Ramallah; that makes you angry,” Bishop Hanke was quoted as saying by the Süddeutsche Zeitung, one of Germany’s largest newspapers.

Bishop Mixa described the situation in Ramallah as “ghettolike” and said it was “almost racism.”

The bishops said they had been reacting to an emotional meeting with Palestinian Christians and a stop at a children’s hospital in Bethlehem, in the occupied West Bank, where nurses spoke of the hardships mothers faced because of security restrictions imposed by the Israelis.

A third member of the delegation, Cardinal Joachim Meisner, the archbishop of Cologne, was quoted by the newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine as likening the separation barrier in the West Bank to the Berlin Wall. “I never thought I would have to see something like this ever again in my life,” said Cardinal Meisner, who is from the former East Germany.

Jewish leaders in Germany said the bishops either had a shaky grasp of history, or were trying to draw a comparison between the genocide by the Nazis and the policies of the current Israeli government.

Bishop Hanke said in a statement that he had not intended such a comparison. In his letter, Cardinal Lehmann wrote, “It is inappropriate to connect contemporary problems or situations of injustice, in any way, with the National Socialists’ mass murder of the Jews.”

Relations between Catholics and Jews in postwar Germany have often been strained, said Hartmut Zinser, a religious historian at the Free University of Berlin, because the Roman Catholic Church has been less “self-critical” about its wartime role than Protestant churches have about theirs.

Sunday, March 4, 2007

ISRAELI TAIL WAG AMERICAN DOG?

ADBUSTERS #70

Journal of the Mental Environment

March/April 2007

DOES THE ISRAELI TAIL WAG AMERICAN DOG?

By Kathleen and Bill Christison

Excerpted from a longer article at:
http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article17217.htm


...The pervasiveness of the lobby’s influence makes Tony Judt’s reference to the US president as a “ventriloquist’s dummy” particularly apt. As Walt pointed out in a Mother Jones interview, no matter what Israel does, the United States continues to support it. “They continue to build settlements even though every president since Lyndon Johnson has thought that was a bad idea. They spy on us routinely. They’ve given or sold American military technology to other countries. Also…they have conducted a wide variety of human rights violations, and yet none of those activities ever slows down American support.” For the last several decades, AIPAC has frequently involved itself directly in the legislative process, writing legislation relating to the Middle East and pushing a series of anti-Arab, pro-Israeli resolutions that state the stance of the Senate and the House on various issues, such as Israel’s construction of the separation wall and Israel’s summer 2006 attack on Lebanon. AIPAC often boasts that it vets and exerts influence over presidential candidates. During the 2004 presidential campaign when Howard Dean issued ! a mild a nd seemingly non-controversial call for an “even-handed” US policy toward the Arab-Israeli conflict, he was roundly condemned by the lobby and by fellow Democrats, and he quickly dropped the call. Long-serving congressmen who deviate are targeted for electoral defeat. In the 1980s, Representative Paul Findley and Senator Charles Percy, who had each served multiple terms in Illinois, were defeated through the efforts of AIPAC after both spoke out in favor of negotiating with the PLO. More recently, Georgia’s Cynthia McKinney has twice been the target of AIPAC’s electoral interference.

The list goes on. Israel and its lobby have been the policy initiators, the US the follower, in Israel’s 1967 war, its 1982 invasion of Lebanon, its 2002 invasion of the West Bank, its 40-year settlement-construction enterprise in the occupied Palestinian territories, its disproportionate attacks on Palestinians, its assault on Lebanon. The scope of the lobby’s infiltration of government policymaking councils has been unprecedented during the current Bush administration, and there is strong evidence that neo-conservatives inside the administration—whose ties to Israel’s right wing are undeniable—were the architects of the invasion of Iraq and of the administration’s push to “transform” the Middle East and spread “democracy” throughout the region. Mearsheimer and Walt assert that the Iraq war was “at least partly intended to improve Israel’s strategic position”—a reality that would seem to be confirmed by the fact that some of these same neo-cons authored a strategy paper, entitled “A Clean Break,” in the mid-1990s for then Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, laying out a plan for attacking Iraq that was later pushed when the neo-cons entered the Bush administration. The strategy was designed explicitly to assure Israel’s regional dominance, to undermine the Oslo peace process, and to relieve Israel of pressure to make concessions to the Palestinians...