Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Attack on the USS Liberty, on on freedome of the press...

<http://www.counterpunch.org/weir06232007.html> American Media Misses the Boat

USA Today and the USS Liberty By ALISON WEIR

Capitol Hill, October 2003. It is a historic occasion. An independent, blue-ribbon commission is to release its findings from an investigation into an internationally significant 36-year-old attack on a US Navy ship that left more than 200 American sailors killed or wounded.

The commission consists of:
* A former ambassador to one of the US's most important allies

* A US Navy rear admiral and former head of the Navy's legal division

* A Marine general, America's highest ranking recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor and the former Assistant Commandant of Marines

* A US Navy four-star admiral, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (the highest military position in the country), former Chief of Naval Operations, a World War II hero, and the only Naval admiral to have commanded both the Pacific and the Atlantic fleets

The panel is moderated by a former ambassador who served as Chief of Mission in Iraq and Deputy Director of Ronald Reagan's White House Task Force on Terrorism.

The commission announces explosive findings:
* That the attack, by a US ally, was a "deliberate attempt to destroy an American ship and kill her entire crew"

* That the ally committed "acts of murder against American servicemen and an act of war against the United States"

* That the attack involved the machine-gunning of stretcher-bearers and life rafts

* That "the White House deliberately prevented the U.S. Navy from coming to the defense of the [ship] never before in American naval history has a rescue mission been cancelled when an American ship was under attack"

* That surviving crewmembers were later threatened with "court-martial, imprisonment or worse" if they talked to anyone about what had happened to them; and were "abandoned by their own government"

* That due to the influence of the ally's "powerful supporters in the United States, the White House deliberately covered up the facts of this attack from the American people"

* That due to continuing pressure by this lobby, this attack remains "the only serious naval incident that has never been thoroughly investigated by Congress"

* That "there has been an official cover-up without precedent in American naval history"

* That "the truth about Israel's attack and subsequent White House cover-up continues to be officially concealed from the American people to the present day and is a national disgrace"

* That "a danger to the national security exists whenever our elected officials are willing to subordinate American interests to those of any foreign nation" and that this policy "endangers the safety of Americans and the security of the United States"

Newsworthy?

Not when Israel is the attacking nation. Not when Israel is the "ally" to whose interests American needs are said to be subverted.

This extraordinarily high-ranking commission was reporting on the 1967 Israeli attack on the USS Liberty. Many analysts believe that the Liberty attack could be Israel's undoing --at least as far as US support is concerned --if Americans knew the facts about it.

But they don't. Here's why:
A search of hundreds of the largest news media in this country indexed by Lexis-Nexis does not turn up a single US newspaper that mentioned this commission, a single US television station, a single US radio station, a single US magazine. While it was mentioned in an Associated Press report focusing on one of the commission's most dramatic revelations, Lexis reveals only a sprinkling of news media printed information from this AP report, and those few that that did failed to mention this commission itself, its extremely star-studded composition, and the entirety of its findings.

Apart from a few members of the alternative press and the excellent Washington Report on Middle East Affairs (not indexed by Lexis), this commission might as well not have existed as far as most of the US media is concerned --and therefore, the American public.

While the results of its investigation can be read in the Congressional Record, "Findings of the Independent Commission of Inquiry into the Israeli Attack on the USS Liberty, the Recall of Military Rescue Support Aircraft while the Ship was Under Attack, and the Subsequent Cover-up by the United States Government," only an infinitesimal fraction of the American citizenry has any idea that a commission made up of some of the nation's most respected military leaders stated publicly and forcefully --on Capitol Hill

-- that a US president chose to sacrifice US interests and US servicemen specifically, the 25 of the 34 dead who were killed after US rescue missions were recalled) to Israeli interests, and then ordered a cover-up of his actions.

Almost no one knows that the US's purported "special" ally tried to sink a Navy ship, and then quibbled for years over what it would pay in compensation to the widows, children, and parents of those it killed and to the United States for the ship it destroyed. (Thirteen years later it grudgingly paid $6 million for a ship valued at $40 million.

The one piece of this story that did make it into the mainstream media has also remained astonishingly buried: testimony that provided the final nail in the coffin of claims that the Israeli attack --which lasted two hours; consisted of rockets, napalm, and torpedoes; and killed 34 Americans total and injured over 170 --was somehow accidental.

This testimony, which was read at the Capitol Hill event, was by Captain Ward Boston, the chief counsel to the one US government investigation ever undertaken of this attack, the Naval Court of Inquiry. This quickie investigation, overseen by Admiral John S. McCain (the current Presidential contender's father), who gave subordinates one week to conduct an investigation that normally would have been allotted a minimum of six months, found the attack to be a case of "mistaken identity." The report, which focused on the performance of the crew and the adequacy of communications, and which excluded critical testimony from crew members, is the keystone in Israel partisans' claims that the attack was accidental. All other US reviews of the attack that state it was accidental cite this investigation as their source.

For decades, Liberty crewmembers and authors such as James Ennes, Stephen Green, Paul Findley, John Borne, and James Bamford had provided substantial evidence that this conclusion was false. Numerous American officials of cabinet-level positions and the equivalent have stated publicly that they believed the attack to be intentional. Senior military, diplomatic and intelligence officials had long held that the magnitude and duration of the attack on the easily recognizable ship precluded any possibility that it was a mistake.

Captain Boston's testimony was a dramatic confirmation that they were correct.

In his testimony, Boston stated that he had decided to end his 30-year silence and was going to expose the truth: the Court of Inquiry conclusions had been a sham. President Lyndon Johnson and his secretary of defense, Robert McNamara, had ordered the court to cover up the fact that all the evidence had indicated clearly that the attack had been intentional.

Somehow the major media missed this, even though AP, uncharacteristically, had an excellent news report on it. There was no report in USA Today, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the LA Times you name it, and they probably missed it. Despite the significance of this new evidence, only a handful of newspapers printed it, mostly small, regional ones; a Lexis search a few days later revealed nine.

A major tree had fallen in the forest, and almost no one heard it, because the US media chose not to report it.

This mainstream media blind spot has continued, and with it an American cover-up of astounding proportions.

June 8th, was the 40th anniversary of this attack. There were moving ceremonies in commemoration of the fallen at Arlington National Cemetery, the Naval Academy, and the Naval War Memorial in Washington DC. Survivors placed wreaths for their shipmates, sisters remembered their brothers; mothers wept yet again for their sons. Somehow CNN missed this; ABC World News Tonight, CBS Evening News, NBC Nightly news missed it. Despite the fact that the USS Liberty was the most decorated ship in American history; despite the fact that its commander received the Congressional Medal of Honor; despite the fact that a War Crimes Report on the unprovoked attack has been filed by the crew, and that members of the military elite are calling for a sustained, public investigation; despite the fact that a Naval rear admiral stated that the Liberty honorees had suffered "an unprecedented injustice at the hands of our very own Navy and government ;" the national media almost entirely ignored the Liberty, its crew, and its significance. The Washington Post, in whose backyard this all occurred, printed nary a word on any of it. Not a single mainstream news outlet reported the statement by former high-ranking career diplomat and Reagan appointee Ambassador Edward Peck comparing the treatment of Pat Tillman's death to the treatment of Liberty casualties:
"The US has just gone through a long, painful, costly and embarrassing effort to unravel the cover-up of the death by friendly fire of Pat Tillman in Afghanistan. American servicemen will be punished for attempting to conceal the circumstances of the accidental killing of a single American soldier by his own comrades. It is totally unacceptable that even though Israeli servicemen would not receive punishment for carrying out ordersthat resulted in the killing and wounding of more than 200 of the Liberty's crew, our government has steadfastly refused to permit the survivors of the heaviest attack on a Navy ship since WWII to tell properly constituted official investigators what happened on that fateful day.

This is obsequious, unctuous subservience to the peripheral interests of a foreign nation at the cost of the lives and morale of our own service members and their families. It should no longer be condoned."

While AP did have a story on the Liberty on June 8th, the report, oddly, was filed from Israel and was sent out only internationally; US editors never saw it. Where the US media did produce stories, almost all (like the above AP story) gave the Israeli invention --that "investigations" showed it was accidental.

USA Today: Covering-up the Cover-up

USA Today is a case in point. According to its website, USA Today is the nation's top selling newspaper. Its average daily circulation is 2.3 million and it is available worldwide.

USA Today has a history of missing stories on the Liberty. It neglected to report on Ward Boston's historic revelations; it missed the independent commission's Capitol Hill announcement; it refused to print an op-ed by commission chairman and former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Thomas Moorer (later published by the military newspaper Stars and Stripes. ). In fact, in its 25-year history, it appears that USA Today had never carried a single news report on the USS Liberty.

On the June 8th anniversary, USA Today finally published a news story about the Liberty: "Coverup theory alive at USS Liberty reunion." The good news was that USA Today had finally discovered the Liberty; the bad news was that it relied on Israel partisans for the story's context and that it omitted major facts. Most troubling, it published a fraudulent statement that then framed the entire story.

While there are numerous objective US experts on this attack, USA Today's reporter Oren Dorell chose to use only those with ties to Israel: Michael Oren, who was born and grew up in the United States where he was active in Zionist youth movements, emigrated to Israel where he took Israeli citizenship, served in the Israeli army, participated in Israel's first invasion of Lebanon, and, most recently, served as a Major in the Reserve during Israel's 2006 invasion ; and Mitchell Bard, a former editor of the Near East Report, the publication produced by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), Israel's lobby in the United States. (None of this information was in Dorell's article). Despite the fact that the Liberty survivors have created an award-winning website containing first-hand testimonies and exhaustive documentation on the attack, and that there are additional websites with valuable information, Dorell's article mentioned only one website --Bard's.

While Dorell did interview crewmembers, his failure to include any of the massive evidence supporting their contention that the attack was intentional conveyed the impression that these survivors were simply traumatized conspiracy theorists. Worse yet, he preceded their statements with a sentence that contained an outright falsehood: "Israel has always insisted the attack was a case of mistaken identity, and 11 U.S. investigations over the years have reached the same conclusion."

While it is true that Israel proclaims its innocence, the second half of this statement is, quite simply, a fabrication.

The Myth of the "11 Investigations"

If USA Today had investigated this claim, continually put forward by Israel partisans, its editors would have discovered that in 2006 the reference librarian at the Library of Congress had investigated this allegation and found it to be false:
"After checking numerous resources, including the CIS (Congressional Information Service) Indexes to Congressional Hearings (both published and unpublished), and the Public Documents Masterfile, I could find no evidence that the Congress ever held hearings or launched an investigation into the June 8, 1967 incident with the USS Liberty."

Even earlier, in 2003, a writer for the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, Terence O'Keefe, investigated this claim and similarly found it to be hokum. In his subsequent article, also clearly missed by USA Today, O'Keefe discussed each of these alleged "investigations," as well as their alleged conclusions. Following are excerpts from his report:
1. The U.S. Navy Court of Inquiry: The court concluded that "available evidence combines to indicate...[that the attack was] a case of mistaken identity." According to Captain Ward Boston, chief legal counsel to the Court of Inquiry, the court found that the attack was deliberate, but reported falsely that it was not, because they were directed by the president of the United States and the secretary of defense to report falsely. So the findings are fraudulent. Yet these fraudulent findings were the basis for several other reports that followed.

2. The Joint Chiefs of Staff Report of June 1967: This was an inquiry into the mishandling of several messages intended for the ship. It was not an investigation into the attack. It did not exonerate Israel, because it did not in any way consider the question of culpability.

3. CIA report of June 13, 1967: This interim report, completed five days after the attack, reported "our best judgment [is] that the attack...was a mistake." No investigation was conducted, and no first-hand evidence was collected. Then-CIA Director Richard Helms concluded and later reported in his autobiography that the attack was planned and deliberate.

4. Clark Clifford report of July 18, 1967: Clark Clifford was directed by Lyndon Johnson to review the Court of Inquiry report and the interim CIA report and "not to make an independent inquiry." His was merely a summary of other fallacious reports, not an "investigation"... The report reached no conclusions and did not exonerate Israel... On the contrary, Clifford wrote later that he regarded the attack as deliberate.

5. and 6. Two Senate meetings: The Committee on Foreign Relations meeting of 1967 and Senate Armed Services Committee meeting of 1968 were hearings on unrelated matters which clearly skeptical members used to castigate representatives of the administration under oath before them. Typical questions were, "Why can't we get the truth about this?" They were not "investigations" at all, but budget hearings, and reported no conclusions concerning the attack. They did not exonerate Israel.

7. House Appropriations Committee meeting of April and May 1968: This was a budget committee meeting which explored the issue of lost messages intended for the ship. It was not an investigation and reported no conclusions concerning the attack.

8. House Armed Services Committee Review of Communications, May 1971:
Liberty communications were discussed along with other communications failures. The committee reported no conclusions concerning the attack.

9. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, 1979/1981: [Miami bankruptcy judge A. Jay Cristol, author of a book exonerating Israel] claims that the committee investigated the attack and exonerated Israel, yet he has been unable to provide minutes, a report or other evidence of such an investigation. Rules of the select committee require that any committee investigation be followed by a report. There is no report of such an investigation; ergo, there was no such investigation.

10. National Security Agency Report, 1981: Upon the publication in 1980 of "Assault on the Liberty" by James Ennes, the National Security Agency completed a detailed account of the attack. The report drew no conclusions, although its authors did note that the deputy director dismissed the Israeli excuse (the Yerushalmi report) as "a nice whitewash." The report did not exonerate Israel.

11. House Armed Services Committee meeting of 1991/1992: Though cited by Mr. Cristol as an investigation which exonerates Israel, the U.S. government reports no record of such an investigation. Cristol claims that the investigation resulted from a letter to Rep. Nicholas Mavroules from Joe Meadors, then-president of the USS Liberty Veterans Association, seeking Mavroules' support. Instead of responding to Liberty veterans, however, Congressman Mavroules referred the matter to Mr. Cristol for advice. Survivors heard nothing further. Meadors' letter was never answered. The

U. S. government reports that there has been no such investigation.

Ethics the USA Today Way

Armed with this information, I contacted USA Today about their story. They had committed two significant errors: one of omission and one of commission. According to the American Society of Newspaper Editors Statement of Principles, both types require a correction.

Specifically, it was unconscionable for USA Today to include the finding of the Naval Court of Inquiry, as it had, while omitting the fact that its chief counsel had subsequently disavowed the inquiry. Nevertheless, given the fact that newspapers rarely correct omissions, and given the power dynamics of the situation (a national newspaper has a great deal, a reader next to none; the Israel lobby has a massive amount, the Liberty survivors barely any) I didn't expect USA Today to run a correction on this omission.

However, an outright, irrefutable error, I thought, was a different matter. When a statement is shown to be erroneous, papers usually run a simple, short correction in a corrections box. Since the paper's claim that there have been 11 US investigations finding "mistaken identity" is without any substantiation whatsoever, I felt it would be impossible for USA Today editors to deny the need to correct it.

I was right. It was impossible for them to deny this. So, instead, they (1) created a new definition for a word they couldn't justify (investigation), (2) defended a different statement, one from the middle of the article which was also incorrect; I am now asking that they correct this one as well) and (3) stated that what they had meant to convey was not wrong, and therefore they didn't need to correct the statement that they still had not denied was incorrect.

It has been one of my more bizarre exchanges with US editors.

It is now more than two weeks since I first contacted USA Today about its need to run a correction. In that time they've run over 25 corrections. For example, on June 19th they were careful to inform readers: "A daily feature Friday tracking Barry Bonds' progress toward Hank Aaron's career home run record misidentified the home city of the Braves when they signed Aaron in

1952. It was Boston." On June 15th they took the time to tell the public: "A story Wednesday on the FX series Rescue Me misstated a family relationship. Sheila is the widow of Tommy's cousin." Nothing, however, on their erroneous reporting on an incident of profound geopolitical importance.

I am not privy to the internal workings of USA Today and the individual predilections of its writers, editors and owners, so I have no idea what is going on. I don't know if reporter Oren Dorell and/or his editors unconsciously or consciously tilt toward Israel, or whether they were simply sloppy. I don't know if their refusal to correct an obvious mistake is caused by defensiveness or arrogance, partiality toward Israel or unwillingness to trigger the displeasure of pro-Israel superiors or Israeli-centric readers/advertisers. I don't know if it's that they prefer the explanations of the powerful to the facts of the powerless, or simply that they don't like to admit mistakes. I don't know if it's all of the above, or whether they're just too busy to bother and too jaded to care.

Whatever the reason, until American news media start being conscientious enough to get their reports on Israel right, Americans are going to continue being disastrously misinformed about one of the globe's most destabilizing, tragic, and potentially calamitous areas of conflict. When the media refuse to report on findings by a four-star US Navy admiral and the highest ranking Medal of Honor recipient in the United States, and ignore an affidavit of historic proportions, perhaps it's not surprising that they also ignore the

18- month truce conducted by Hamas despite continuing Israeli violence, the role in the current Palestinian strife played by Israeli-orchestrated policies of divide-and-conquer, and that they perpetually, just as in the USS Liberty attack, report the context dead wrong.

If you think it's worth a few minutes of your time to contact USA Today's corrections department, you'll find their email address reassuring:
"Commitment to Accuracy" accuracy@usatoday.com (800-872-7073)

Alison Weir is Executive Director of If Americans Knew . She grew up in a military family

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Bakri's documentary Jenin, Jenin

AMY GOODMAN: Acclaimed Palestinian actor and director Mohammad Bakri is one of Israel's most well-known citizens. He's acted in over a dozen films made by Israeli and international directors, including Hanna K. by Costa-Gavras, and is well-known as a stage actor and director. But since producing a documentary on Israel's 2002 assault on the West Bank town of Jenin, Bakri has found himself virtually blacklisted in Israeli cinema, and now he even faces possible jail time for making the film.

In April 2002, the Israeli military killed fifty-two Palestinians, flattened over 150 buildings and closed off the camp for weeks. Several human rights groups accused Israel of committing war crimes. United Nations suspended its fact-finding mission after Israel refused to allow them entry.

Bakri's documentary Jenin, Jenin was one of the first to tell the stories of the town's residents during the Israeli assault.

JENIN RESIDENT: [translated] No one in the world has committed such atrocities. They demolished the houses over the children's heads. They come with their tanks and F16 planes to fight against stone-throwers. How can you explain this? The world continues to turn a deaf ear. This is unfair.

AMY GOODMAN: A resident of Jenin, the refugee camp there, from the film Jenin, Jenin. Despite receiving international acclaim, the film was initially banned in Israel until a reversal by the Israeli Supreme Court. Mohammad Bakri was then sued by five Israeli soldiers who were part of the military operation in Jenin. They alleged Bakri falsified information about them. The trial is set to begin next month.

In addition to Jenin, Jenin, Bakri is the director of 1948 and, most recently, Since You Left. Earlier this week, Mohammad Bakri joined me here in the firehouse studio. I asked him how he came to make the film Jenin, Jenin.

MOHAMMAD BAKRI: Unfortunately, sometimes you are forced to do things that you didn't program to do. I’m an actor. I never thought that I am going to make a documentary. My profession is an actor on the screen and on the stage.

During the invasion on the camp, Jenin, which started on the 29 of March, 2002, I was playing in the theater, and I had made a play by Llorca. And things were -- many wrong things were happening in the West Bank, including Jenin, the camp. So we were, a lot of people, hundreds of people, Jews and Arab Israelis, who were demonstrating. We were demonstrating on the checkpoint of the north checkpoint of Jenin, the camp, with slogans like “Stop the War,” “Stop the Massacre,” “Stop” -- all kinds of peace slogans. And suddenly an Israeli soldier veered, passed over, looked at us in very bad eyes, pulled his gun, M-16, and started shooting at us. My colleague was an actor in my play, in the same play we were doing together, was shot. All his hand exploded.

And it drove me mad, because I thought to myself, if this soldier behaved like this with us, citizens, just citizens who are demonstrating, how he behaves inside the camp Jenin? In the same moment, I thought to myself, I must go there and make a film about what's going on, because nobody knew what's going on. Everybody thought that many wrong things happening there in the camp, crime.

So after two weeks -- maybe less than two weeks -- when the invasion was finished, I sneaked with the cameraman and with soundman, and I shot four days, nonstop shooting, just shooting everything I saw. I shot the houses. I shot the people. And the people were very, very -- they wanted to tell their stories, because they were still in shock. When I came in Jenin, I was shocked with what I saw. I couldn't think. I couldn't feel. I was really just humiliated as a human being, not as a Palestinian, not as a director, not as an actor, just as a human. How come people can do such things like that in the camp? So I shot the people and just filmed everything. And I met many people -- young, old, women, children -- and I just put the camera on and said, “What happened?” I didn't ask anything, just “What happened?” And everybody was telling nonstop stories about what he felt, what he saw, what he had. And the film was banned in Israel.

AMY GOODMAN: On what grounds?

MOHAMMAD BAKRI: It was banned. They say that this film is one-sided, one-sided point of view; the film is a propaganda; it is made by terror, supporting terror, supported by terror. And, you know, I’m a very famous actor in Israel. I made many films. My film Beyond the Walls, 1984, represented Israel in the American Oscar, so I’m very known, well-known actor and respected actor, in Israel. And suddenly I became like bin Laden in their point of view. They just massacred me in the media, all kinds, internet, TV, newspaper.

And, you know, suddenly I felt betrayed. I am a good citizen. I’m working in theater, in Israeli theater. I work in many plays and many films. And all my films are talking about coexistence and love and peace and dreams about a real good solution for everybody. I have no problem with Israelis or the Jews. I have no problem with Israel as a state. I have a problem with the occupation. And my film was against the occupation. So, until now, I am paying the price.

I know what scares me, that I ask myself -- they are pretending that Israel is the only democratic state in the Middle East. OK, right, fine. So why they are doing this if we are living in a democracy? You can imagine that if Michael Moore make a film here in America, he will be in prison or he’ll by soldiers or by Marines or by the government? He made many films here in America, and I saw all his films, and it’s all of them against the mainstream. And he wasn't punished. He's not paying the price. He's a very famous and very rich man and very successful. So, I mean, where is the democracy in Israel?

AMY GOODMAN: Mohammad Bakri, I’m looking at a BBC News report saying five Israeli reserve soldiers suing an Israeli Arab film director they accuse of libeling troops who fought in the battle for the Jenin refugee camp, they accuse Mohammad Bakri of libelously portraying them and their comrades as war criminals in the film Jenin, Jenin, which was recently banned in Israel. The soldiers are also suing two Israeli cinemas which screened it after its October release, demanding about half-a-million dollars. One of the reservists told the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz, “We received an emergency call-up order, went out to fight, in order to defend our homes. We fought slowly, day after day, in order to avoid harming the civilian population. This film portrays us as war criminals.” Your response?

MOHAMMAD BAKRI: I know that under the name, under the slogan “fighting the terror,” the are fighting their homeland. They are not fighting their homeland. They are fighting for the settlements. They are fighting to defend the occupation. They mustn't be there. They mustn’t be in the West Bank. They mustn’t be in Gaza. This land was occupied in 1967. So I don't accept this as the Palestinian terror.

And I am against all the suicide bombing, which happens all over the world, not only in Palestine. I’m a human being, and I think that this is not the right thing to do. This is not human to punish innocent people, wherever they are.

But in the same time, when this happened, the Israel army is punishing the whole Palestinian community, and the people who are here usually are the innocent people. So this is not the right way. This is not the right way to fight against occupation, by suicide bombing. But this is not the right way also to fight the terrorists, by this, by demolishing the whole houses and by that very cruel invasion...

Full interview: http://www.democracynow.org/article.pl?sid=07/06/22/1458237

Friday, June 15, 2007

A New General for God’s Army?

Published on Thursday, June 14, 2007 by Inter Press Service
A New General for God’s Army?
by Bill Berkowitz

OAKLAND, Calif. - In recent appearances on two U.S. cable news networks, he was slinging and zinging — the well-rehearsed pitchman for the Biblical “End Times” was dead certain that “Iran is going to have to be attacked” before 2008.

He also claimed that during a recent visit to Iraq, he was told by intelligence sources that Iran had given the green light to Hezbollah to unleash suicide bombers in the United States this summer.

Mike Evans is a shock jock for Armageddon, a cheerleader for the apocalypse. These days, the bestselling author and head of the “Jerusalem Prayer Team”, a U.S.-based pro-Israeli Christian evangelical organization, is at the top of his game. On Jun. 3, his new book, “The Final Move Beyond Iraq: The Final Solution While The World Sleeps“, made it onto the New York Times bestsellers’ list at number one in the paperback category.

Evans’s publisher bills him as “one of America’s top experts on the Middle East” and “a personal confidant to most of Israel’s top leaders.” He has several bestselling books under his belt, including “Beyond Iraq: The Next Move” and “The American Prophecies“.

Evans’ latest offering — 200 pages of text and 100 of assorted appendices — is relatively uncomplicated: Iran is the biggest threat to the United States and to peace in the Middle East, and it should be confronted militarily no later than the end of the George W. Bush presidency. Under no circumstances should U.S. troops be withdrawn from Iraq before the mission is accomplished — the mission being the disarming of Iran. The U.S. public has been dumbed down by the secular left and the liberal media. And god has been removed from the public square in the U.S., resulting in Christians being systematically “stripped” of their rights.

His prose is pugnacious, a style you might expect from a writer who claims that he is giving the U.S. its “final wake up call.” In the book, and in its promotional materials, terms like “appeasement,” “secular humanist God-haters,” and “pro-Islamic radical sympathizers” are tossed around as easily as if he were playing catch in the backyard.

In one passage, Evans maintains that the recommendations in the bipartisan Iraq Study Group (ISG) report, issued in early December 2006, are a “call to appeasement — just like Chamberlain’s in the face of Nazi aggression in 1938.”

The ISG report, which was largely ignored by the administration, had urged the withdrawal of virtually all U.S. combat troops by next spring, as well as the engagement of Iraq’s neighbors, including Syria and Iran, as part of a comprehensive “diplomatic offensive” designed to both stabilize Iraq and to address “key regional issues”, including the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Evans essentially agrees with the core group of neoconservatives in the Bush administration who were the architects of the war in Iraq and have more recently been advocating a robust response to Iran. He departs company with them, however, in that his analysis appears to be strictly based on his reading of the Bible and what he calls the relentless attack on Christians in the United States.

In the penultimate chapter, titled “The Battle for the Soul of America“, Evans argues that the assassinations in the 1960s of President John F. Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, and Martin Luther King Jr. “signaled the end of the age of innocence that had been enjoyed by the American people.”

The social revolution that followed “was a full frontal assault against traditional family values and an American culture steeped in the tenets of the Bible,” and was accompanied by a “lack of moral clarity.”

This “lack of moral clarity” resulted in “battle after battle [that] has slowly stripped Christians in America of their rights,” he says. “The American courts that espouse such movements as ‘gay rights,’ ‘abortion rights,’ and even ‘animal rights’ are now pursuing the right to be godless.”

The book’s appendices offer an interesting array of excerpts from interviews with former Israeli Defence Forces Chief of Staff Moshe Ya’alon, former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, former CIA director James Woolsey, former Chairman of the Armed Services General Hugh Shelton, Harvard University Law Professor Alan Dershowitz, and U.S. News & World Report editor-in-chief Mort Zuckerman.

The journey of “The Final Move Beyond Iraq” to the number one spot on the New York Times bestselling paperback book list is a fascinating tale in and of itself. Evans and his publisher, FrontLine, an imprint of the Christian publishing house, Strang Communications, flew under the radar of the mainstream media, using near-daily e-mail blasts to supporters urging them not only to buy multiple copies of the book, but to help publicize it by writing five-star reviews at Amazon.com.

The goal of the campaign was two-fold: Become a bestselling book, and have that result in multiple appearances on mainstream radio and television programs. By all accounts, this approach has achieved its aims.

Evans had “made himself a major religious movement and media figure long before his new book was published,” John Stauber, executive director of the Center for Media and Democracy and the co-founder of PRWatch, told IPS. Although “he pegs himself as a ‘journalist,’ he’s really a right-wing religious political advocate with great media marketing savvy.”

For Stauber, the co-author of two books on Iraq, “Weapons of Mass Deception,” and “The Best War Ever,” Evans fits into the conservative evangelist Pat Robertson category “in some ways.” After all, “Pat started the 700 Club and morphed his run for the presidency into the Christian Coalition.”

The success of Evans’ book “shows is that if you can tap into a passionate movement, present yourself well in the media, know how to raise money, and have a fan base of hundreds of thousands of rabid fans, you can sell books. He uses the media — right wing, religious, mainstream and online — very effectively. He’s not just an author, he’s a general in God’s patriotic army, and he knows how to mobilize his troops,” Stauber added.

Bill Berkowitz is a longtime observer of the conservative movement. His column “Conservative Watch” documents the strategies, players, institutions, victories and defeats of the U.S. Right.

Copyright © 2007 IPS-Inter Press Service

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

"These people have pretty much stopped me dead in my tracks."

The Chronicle of Higher Ed: A reliable source

DePaul U. Turns Norman Finkelstein Down for Tenure

06.04.2007 | The Chronicle of Higher Education
By JENNIFER HOWARD

Norman G. Finkelstein, the controversial political scientist who has been engaged in a public battle for tenure at DePaul University, learned on Friday that he had lost that fight. In a written statement, the university confirmed that Mr. Finkelstein had been denied tenure.

Mr. Finkelstein has inspired heated debate with his writings and commentary on such highly charged topics as the Israel-Palestine conflict and what he has termed "the Holocaust industry," and has sparred publicly over such issues with Alan M. Dershowitz, a professor of law at Harvard University. Last fall, Mr. Dershowitz sent members of DePaul's law and political-science faculties what he described as "a dossier of Norman Finkelstein's most egregious academic sins, and especially his outright lies, misquotations, and distortions" (The Chronicle, April 5).

Mr. Finkelstein's departmental committee voted 9 to 3 in support of granting him tenure, and a five-member college-level personnel committee then voted unanimously in favor of tenure. But the dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences wrote a memorandum recommending against it, and the University Board on Promotion and Tenure then voted not to grant tenure.

The final decision rested with the university's president, the Rev. Dennis H. Holtschneider, who said in a three-page letter sent to Mr. Finkelstein on Friday that he had found "no compelling reasons to overturn" the tenure board's recommendation.

An electronic copy of the letter has now been posted on Mr. Finkelstein's Web site.

In the letter, Father Holtschneider quotes extensively from the report of the university's tenure-and-promotion board, which describes Mr. Finkelstein as "a nationally known scholar and public intellectual, considered provocative, challenging, and intellectually interesting," and then comments that Mr. Finkelstein's dossier "reveals some division of opinion as to the soundness of some of his scholarship."

Father Holtschneider's letter dwells on allegations that Mr. Finkelstein engaged in "ad hominem attacks" on scholars with opposing views. "In the opinion of those opposing tenure," the university president writes, "your unprofessional personal attacks divert the conversation away from consideration of ideas, and polarize and simplify conversations that deserve layered and subtle consideration."

The president goes on to invoke the American Association of University Professors and its standards of scholarly conduct, as well as standards articulated in the DePaul Faculty Handbook.

"On the record before me, I cannot in good faith conclude that you honor" those collegial obligations, Father Holtschneider told Mr. Finkelstein in the letter. "Nor can I conclude that your scholarship honors our university's commitment to creating an environment in which all persons engaged in research and learning exercise academic freedom and respect it in others."

In an interview over the weekend with The Chronicle, Mr. Finkelstein took strong exception to the letter's verdict on his character as a scholar and to what he called "this vicious, sordid campaign to dirty my name so that there's a pretext for getting rid of me." He said that the university tenure-and-promotion board had relied on the so-called minority report -- a document put together by the three members of the departmental committee who opposed giving Mr. Finkelstein tenure -- rather than the "majority report" compiled by the nine committee members who supported him.

"I met the requirements of tenure. I met them, and then some," Mr. Finkelstein said. "But meeting those requirements, and playing by the rules, was not sufficient to overcome the outside pressures that were exerted on DePaul."

The case has excited widespread interest, in part because of Mr. Dershowitz's open involvement. The Harvard professor threatened to sue the University of California Press if Mr. Finkelstein's 2005 book Beyond Chutzpah: On the Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History went to press containing allegations that Mr. Dershowitz plagiarized portions of his book The Case for Israel. And in recent months he has written about Mr. Finkelstein in op-ed commentaries in prominent venues such as The Wall Street Journal and The New Republic. He also comments on the dispute on his Web site.

Informed of the tenure denial on Friday evening, Mr. Dershowitz said, "It was the right decision, proving that DePaul University is indeed a first-rate university, not as Finkelstein characterized it, 'a third-rate university.' Based on objective standards of scholarship, this should not have even been a close case."

(Mr. Dershowitz was referring to comments Mr. Finkelstein made in April to The Harvard Crimson. In an article headlined "Feud Weakens Prof's Tenure Bid," the paper quoted the DePaul professor as saying, "I think Dershowitz is desperate to discredit me to be able to say that this Finkelstein guy couldn't even get tenure at a third-rate Catholic university, so how can we take him seriously?")

Mr. Finkelstein's supporters have also worked actively on his behalf, conducting letter-writing campaigns and gathering petition signatures. The scholar denied any involvement in those activities. "I did not solicit outside support," he told The Chronicle on Sunday. "I never orchestrated, instigated, or in any way initiated the campaign on my behalf. That was completely spontaneous on the part of those who felt an injustice was being inflicted on me."

In both his letter to Mr. Finkelstein and the statement released by the university, Father Holtschneider denied that the tenure decision had been influenced by the "unwelcome attention" the case has received.

"I am well aware of the outside interest in this decision, and the many ways in which the university community was 'lobbied' both to grant and to deny tenure," he wrote in the letter. "I am satisfied that the faculty review process maintained its independence from this unwelcome attention. As much as some would like to create the impression that our process and decision have been influenced by outside interests, they are mistaken."

A spokeswoman for DePaul, Denise Mattson, said on Saturday that the university had considered 42 tenure cases this year. Of those, three scholars (including Mr. Finkelstein) were denied tenure and promotion, one was denied tenure only, and five were denied promotion only. Ms. Mattson also confirmed rumors that Father Holtschneider had called Roger W. Bowen, general secretary of the Association of American University Professors, to inform him of the decision regarding Mr. Finkelstein. Mr. Bowen is stepping down at the end of this month.

Mr. Finkelstein said he was convinced that in his case "the university succumbed to outside pressure, and the criticism should be directed fundamentally at those who exerted such pressure that the university finally had to cave in."

"That to me is the essential element," he continued. "It's not Norman Finkelstein versus DePaul University. That is not correct, because I have not the slightest doubt whatsoever that had there not been external pressure exerted on this university, I would have gotten tenure. I don't want to lose sight of that."

Other members of the DePaul faculty have apparently had their doubts as well. The Liberal Arts and Sciences' Faculty Governance Council voted unanimously last November to send a letter to administrators at both DePaul and Harvard to "express the council's dismay at Professor Dershowitz's interference in Finkelstein's tenure and promotion case."

Mr. Finkelstein's fate at DePaul appears to be sealed. In a letter sent on Friday in response to a query from the president of the faculty council, JosÈ D. Padilla, DePaul's general counsel, wrote: "It is my understanding that you have asked whether the president's tenure decisions may be appealed. ... Based on my review of the clear language of the relevant sections of the Faculty Handbook, there is no appeal of a tenure decision."

Mr. Finkelstein, meanwhile, has not yet determined what his next step will be. "It's been an exceedingly ugly experience," he said. "There are two options, basically: Try to achieve a settlement and leave, or come back next year for what's called my terminal year and fight it out."

He would not rule out the possibility of a lawsuit, although he said he was "not inclined" to take that option, "basically because I think that's what the university wants. Let's say I win $10-million. That's a drop in the bucket to get rid of me."

He continued, "I've consulted lawyers who say that these things drag on for five years. By then I'm 58 and the party is over. It's not saying that I'm ruling it out."

Mr. Finkelstein noted that "DePaul is in a growth mode" and that, in his view, the university found itself forced to choose between "a long-term catastrophe and a short-term catastrophe" -- the short-term catastrophe being the publicity about his case, the long-term catastrophe "having me on this faculty for another 20 years, and every time I open my mouth or say something about Israeli policy, the hysteria starting up again, and they see their money disappear."

Such sentiments, he said, may have doomed his future prospects in academe. "No administration would have me on its faculty because of the hysteria that would evoke," he said. "These people have pretty much stopped me dead in my tracks."

Saturday, June 9, 2007

road map to peace is a lie

http://news.independent.co.uk/world/middle_east/article2640432.ece

General who helped redraw the borders of Israel says road map to peace is a lie
The man who commanded Gaza and the West Bank from the last day of the Six Day War talks to Donald Macintyre in Tel Aviv

Published: 10 June 2007
Immediately after the Six Day War, 40 years ago, Shlomo Gazit was put in charge of Gaza and the West Bank. Today, the retired general is in favour of talks with Hamas, describes the road map as a "pretext" for Israel not to negotiate with the Palestinians, and thinks the idea that the US can or should veto a peace process between Jerusalem and Damascus is a "nonsense".

At first sight Mr Gazit could be a classic military hawk. A tough, unsentimental man with 37 years in the Israeli Defence Forces behind him, he has never been slow in condemning Palestinian attacks on Israeli civilians. Yet he enjoys the unique distinction of having, from the heart of the Israeli military, proposed in writing a Palestinian state exactly 40 years ago yesterday - 24 hours before the war had even ended.

And he has never been more convinced than now that such a state, its negotiated borders based on those that preceded the war, and involving withdrawal from most of the West Bank Jewish settlements, remains the only answer to the conflict.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Time to Talk Peace (thanks, Eldad)

As part of its Jewish New Year's edition Israel largest circulating newspaper, Yediot Acharonot, asked several prominent Israelis for a message for the coming year. This is from former Israeli Education Minister and long time member of Knesset Shulamit Aloni.

------------

Time to talk peace
[Hebrew heading: Time to replace the Occupation Disk]

Israel's leaders must change mindset, engage in dialogue with Palestinians
Shulamit Aloni

In a few months, we will mark 40 years of "enlightened" occupation by our famed army in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip. Israel pretends to be an enlightened state and signatory of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which states that "the Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies" (Israel ratified the Convention in 1951).

Over the years we deported, robbed land and stole water, destroyed crops, uprooted trees, turned every village and town into a detention camp, and set up hundreds of settlements on land that doesn't belong to us.

We allowed the settlers to make a living by providing them with huge amounts of money (more than five times per capita compared to residents of Israeli southern development towns).

We paved splendid roads for Jews only, a case of blatant apartheid, while defending it using convoluted, Jewish self-righteous logic in the absence of fair and public reporting of the budgets involved, deeds committed, expropriation of land, and disregard for vandalism.

Morality, justice, law and order stopped at the Green Line [pre-67 borders- Trans]. There is no judge and no justice. Lawlessness prevailed right under the noses and protective and soothing hand of the IDF and police, as lawbreaking settlers made their own laws undisturbed, and at times with the generous help of authorities.

Every illegal settlement enjoys water, electricity, and a paved road. The indigenous inhabitants, which the Israeli regime had to take care of, became seemingly non-existent, as we call them, "present absentees." The authorities only notice them if they bother them by filing complaints.

It's no wonder that the leader of a political movement in Israel and a Knesset member can declare that we should expel the Palestinians (and also Israel's Arab citizens) in order to take over what is still left to them.

But as we usually present it ˆ we're the victim while they're the murderers with blood on their hands. We never publicise the number of Palestinians we have murdered from the sky and killed by fire - women, children, the elderly, whole families, thousands of them.

We use aerial bombings to liquidate a wanted suspect, in the process liquidating many civilians - yet the hands of the pilot are "clean" of any blood. After all, the victims were killed at the press of a button while their killers returned home safely. None of them committed suicide to kill wanted suspects, who, by the way are not a "ticking bomb" and no evidence exists against them.

At times it appears that the IDF, particularly during the last, needless Lebanon war, turns the Gaza Strip into live-fire training grounds for all defence force's branches. Is it any wonder they hate us, and is it any wonder they elected Hamas in free elections, the same Hamas whose establishment we encouraged in order to undermine the PLO?

Don‚t know and don‚t want to talk

Many peace-making windows of opportunity have been opened over the years. We thwarted all of them, because we coveted the whole of the Territories. We had the Oslo agreements. Twenty countries, which in the past had no ties with us, have recognised Israel. We had new openings, international ties were blossoming, peace was at our doorway ˆ but we didn't want to make concessions.

Rabin was murdered for the sake of the settlers, and the task of burying peace-making attempts was completed by Ehud Barak with his "There's nobody to talk to!" spin. In order to establish himself in power, Barak also allowed Arik Sharon to visit Temple Mount with armed escorts, even though he was asked by Arafat the night before not to allow this because of the frustration and fury among Palestinians this would cause.

Now, another possibility for dialogue has opened. Yet our government is again turning its back on it. They don't know how to and don't want to talk. Just recently we brutally destroyed half of Lebanon at an immense cost and turned a million civilians into refugees in their own country - yet another splendid achievement by the IDF and government of Israel. We're willing to resort to any provocation and blow any incident out of proportion, just to hold on to the regular pretext that "there's nobody to talk to", and that we don't talk to terrorists.

Yet the acts we undertake by starving, curfews, deportations, the theft of water and land, false arrests, and liquidations - all those are, of course, not terror, because the acts are undertaken by a national army through the power of decisions made by legitimate government.

Wonderful, it turns out we forget the fascist states (including Stalin's USSR) that were highly legitimate according to their own logic, while committing a plethora of terror acts.

The time has come for the government of Israel to start talking peace, and end the excuses for disqualifying and boycotting Palestinian representatives. Resorting to the use of arms does not have to be the first reaction. Starvation, imprisonment, and expropriation by an occupying force attest to an unwillingness to reach an agreement and an addiction to greed.

This is reminiscent of Benny Elon's comment: "We'll embitter their lives so that they transfer themselves elsewhere."

One cannot escape the impression that the racist and brutal declarations by Effie Eitam gave public expression to long-standing government policy. We must note that the courts - the defenders of law and order, including the High Court of Justice - have been part and parcel of the developments that led to the legitimisation of parties and Knesset members along the lines of the racist, crude words uttered by MK Eitam.

In fact, it looks as though Meir Kahane won, and we are continuing in his path - we don't talk, but rather only kill, raze homes and roads and bridges, cut off electricity, remove vegetation, fill prisons with women and children and elected officials, because all of them are the "terrorists" while we, the Jewish state, need to be defended from them. We're always the ultimate victim.

As Golda Meir said: "I don't forgive the Arabs for forcing us to kill them." There you go, she's the killer, yet she's the victim.

For our sake, the citizens of Israel, and for the sake of bringing peace and quiet - government leaders, start talking and keep doing it until you reach an agreement!

Our unruly sons will be brought back to the country, we'll be respecting UN resolutions and international conventions, we'll earnestly memorise the universal human rights declaration and our own declaration of independence, we'll rehabilitate our soul, and we'll attempt to establish a democratic country governed by law and justice. Shana Tova.
Time to talk peace
[Hebrew heading: Time to replace the Occupation Disk]

Israel's leaders must change mindset, engage in dialogue with Palestinians
Shulamit Aloni

In a few months, we will mark 40 years of "enlightened" occupation by our famed army in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip. Israel pretends to be an enlightened state and signatory of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which states that "the Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies" (Israel ratified the Convention in 1951).

Over the years we deported, robbed land and stole water, destroyed crops, uprooted trees, turned every village and town into a detention camp, and set up hundreds of settlements on land that doesn't belong to us.

We allowed the settlers to make a living by providing them with huge amounts of money (more than five times per capita compared to residents of Israeli southern development towns).

We paved splendid roads for Jews only, a case of blatant apartheid, while defending it using convoluted, Jewish self-righteous logic in the absence of fair and public reporting of the budgets involved, deeds committed, expropriation of land, and disregard for vandalism.

Morality, justice, law and order stopped at the Green Line [pre-67 borders- Trans]. There is no judge and no justice. Lawlessness prevailed right under the noses and protective and soothing hand of the IDF and police, as lawbreaking settlers made their own laws undisturbed, and at times with the generous help of authorities.

Every illegal settlement enjoys water, electricity, and a paved road. The indigenous inhabitants, which the Israeli regime had to take care of, became seemingly non-existent, as we call them, "present absentees." The authorities only notice them if they bother them by filing complaints.

It's no wonder that the leader of a political movement in Israel and a Knesset member can declare that we should expel the Palestinians (and also Israel's Arab citizens) in order to take over what is still left to them.

But as we usually present it ˆ we're the victim while they're the murderers with blood on their hands. We never publicise the number of Palestinians we have murdered from the sky and killed by fire - women, children, the elderly, whole families, thousands of them.

We use aerial bombings to liquidate a wanted suspect, in the process liquidating many civilians - yet the hands of the pilot are "clean" of any blood. After all, the victims were killed at the press of a button while their killers returned home safely. None of them committed suicide to kill wanted suspects, who, by the way are not a "ticking bomb" and no evidence exists against them.

At times it appears that the IDF, particularly during the last, needless Lebanon war, turns the Gaza Strip into live-fire training grounds for all defence force's branches. Is it any wonder they hate us, and is it any wonder they elected Hamas in free elections, the same Hamas whose establishment we encouraged in order to undermine the PLO?

Don‚t know and don‚t want to talk

Many peace-making windows of opportunity have been opened over the years. We thwarted all of them, because we coveted the whole of the Territories. We had the Oslo agreements. Twenty countries, which in the past had no ties with us, have recognised Israel. We had new openings, international ties were blossoming, peace was at our doorway ˆ but we didn't want to make concessions.

Rabin was murdered for the sake of the settlers, and the task of burying peace-making attempts was completed by Ehud Barak with his "There's nobody to talk to!" spin. In order to establish himself in power, Barak also allowed Arik Sharon to visit Temple Mount with armed escorts, even though he was asked by Arafat the night before not to allow this because of the frustration and fury among Palestinians this would cause.

Now, another possibility for dialogue has opened. Yet our government is again turning its back on it. They don't know how to and don't want to talk. Just recently we brutally destroyed half of Lebanon at an immense cost and turned a million civilians into refugees in their own country - yet another splendid achievement by the IDF and government of Israel. We're willing to resort to any provocation and blow any incident out of proportion, just to hold on to the regular pretext that "there's nobody to talk to", and that we don't talk to terrorists.

Yet the acts we undertake by starving, curfews, deportations, the theft of water and land, false arrests, and liquidations - all those are, of course, not terror, because the acts are undertaken by a national army through the power of decisions made by legitimate government.

Wonderful, it turns out we forget the fascist states (including Stalin's USSR) that were highly legitimate according to their own logic, while committing a plethora of terror acts.

The time has come for the government of Israel to start talking peace, and end the excuses for disqualifying and boycotting Palestinian representatives. Resorting to the use of arms does not have to be the first reaction. Starvation, imprisonment, and expropriation by an occupying force attest to an unwillingness to reach an agreement and an addiction to greed.

This is reminiscent of Benny Elon's comment: "We'll embitter their lives so that they transfer themselves elsewhere."

One cannot escape the impression that the racist and brutal declarations by Effie Eitam gave public expression to long-standing government policy. We must note that the courts - the defenders of law and order, including the High Court of Justice - have been part and parcel of the developments that led to the legitimisation of parties and Knesset members along the lines of the racist, crude words uttered by MK Eitam.

In fact, it looks as though Meir Kahane won, and we are continuing in his path - we don't talk, but rather only kill, raze homes and roads and bridges, cut off electricity, remove vegetation, fill prisons with women and children and elected officials, because all of them are the "terrorists" while we, the Jewish state, need to be defended from them. We're always the ultimate victim.

As Golda Meir said: "I don't forgive the Arabs for forcing us to kill them." There you go, she's the killer, yet she's the victim.

For our sake, the citizens of Israel, and for the sake of bringing peace and quiet - government leaders, start talking and keep doing it until you reach an agreement!

Our unruly sons will be brought back to the country, we'll be respecting UN resolutions and international conventions, we'll earnestly memorise the universal human rights declaration and our own declaration of independence, we'll rehabilitate our soul, and we'll attempt to establish a democratic country governed by law and justice. Shana Tova.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

The Jewish People, Zionism, and the Question of Justice

Mark Braverman, Ph.D. http://www.qumsiyeh.org/markbraverman/

When I was a boy in the 1950s attending Hebrew School in Philadelphia, we would receive little cardboard folders with slots for dimes distributed by the Jewish National Fund. On the cover was a picture of a tree being planted by handsome, tanned people in shorts. When the card was full, you sent it in and in return received a certificate with your name on and a bigger picture of a tree, which was the tree you had planted in Israel. It was fun and it was a thrill - I was reclaiming the homeland. I saw pictures of kibbutzim and orange groves filling the valleys and dreamt of going there someday.

Four decades later, now a middle-aged man, I saw pictures of Israeli bulldozers uprooting three hundred year-old olive trees and Jewish soldiers restraining Arab villagers crying hysterically over the destruction of their groves. I traveled to the West Bank - Israeli occupied Palestine - and saw the hillsides denuded of trees to build concrete Jewish settlement cities. I saw Arab houses leveled and gardens taken to make way for a 30 foot-high concrete wall cutting through Palestinian cities and village fields. I saw that this was wrong. I didn't buy the story that this was for defense. I could see that it was a lie.

When I returned to the United States and began to talk about my horror, sadness and deep concern over what I had seen, I was told by many of my fellow Jews that I must not talk like this. I was informed that this makes me an enemy of the Jewish people and that I was opening the way for the next Holocaust. I was told by many Jews that I was disloyal to my people, that I had "gone over" to the "Palestinian side." One Jewish rabbinical student informed his colleagues that I was obviously a convert to Christianity "masquerading" as a Jew in order to cause the destruction of the Jewish people. I have spoken about my experiences before many groups, almost all of them in churches. I have yet to speak in a synagogue. I am trying hard to make sense out of this and to figure out a way forward. Here is what I have figured out so far.

Jewish History: Survival and its Shadow

Zionism was the answer to the anti-Semitism of Christian Europe. The failure, despite the Enlightenment, to establish Jews as an emancipated, accepted group in Europe in the 18th and 19th centuries, and the rise of political anti-Semitism in the late 19th and first half of the 20th century gave birth to political Zionism under the leadership of Theodore Herzl. Zionism expressed the powerful drive of the Jewish people to establish ourselves as a nation among other nations, with a land of our own and the ability to achieve self- determination. This is why, in sermons from synagogue pulpits, in lectures on Jewish history, in classroom lessons for small children, and in spirited discussions about the Israel-Palestine question, you will so often here the preamble "throughout the centuries∑," followed by a description of the suffering of the Jews at the hands of our oppressors. Indeed, it‚s in our liturgy, notably in the Passover Seder. The story of Jewish survival despite constant persecution is in many ways our theme song -- it‚s in our cultural DNA, it‚s the mantra of our peoplehood. It runs deep.

This unique Jewish quality is not the product of some cultural aberration or collective character flaw. Developing this particular brand of "character armor" has been part of our survival throughout long ages of persecution, marginalization, and demonization. We survived, in part, by creating rituals, habits and attitudes of insularity, pride and persistence that allowed us never to forget, never to let down our guard, and to always be proud of our stubborn vitality in the face of "those who sought to destroy us." When, in our modern liturgical idiom, we talk of the State of Israel as "the First Flowering of our Redemption," we are reflecting the reality of our survival, the meaning of the achievement of political self- determination in the context of Jewish history. It is good to have survived.

But we must also see clearly the shadow that this history casts on us today. We have striven to be the masters of our fate - but, having achieved this, we must also realize that we are responsible for our actions and for the consequences of these actions. Being free, we have free choice. The tragedy of Jewish Diaspora history, in our own cultural narrative as well as in reality, is rooted in our history of powerlessness and passivity. Zionism came to correct this, and it has undeniably succeeded, indeed far beyond the expectations of Jews and non-Jews alike. But if we now become slaves to the consequences of empowerment, then we are not free, and we are not truly powerful. The Nazi Holocaust in particular casts its shadow over our modern history and the history of the State of Israel. The Nazi’s campaign to eradicate world Jewry has become part of our uniquely Jewish "Liturgy of Destruction," the way we Jews throughout the ages have made sense of our suffering by turning to the broader context of Jewish history. From this matrix of vulnerability, victimization and meaning-making comes the Zionist cry, "Never again!" But the modern State in its policies, carried out purportedly to preserve our people, and using the Holocaust as justification for unjust actions, is betraying the meaning of Jewish history. You cannot achieve your own deliverance, even from the most unspeakable evil, by the oppression of another people. Indeed, in this current era of power and self-determination for Jews in Israel, we face risks to our peoplehood that far exceed the physical perils brought by millennia of persecution.

Israel and Palestine: Reality Stood On its Head

The stormy controversy over the Israel-Palestine question today - a controversy that is splitting the Jewish community here in the United States as well as Israeli society, stands as evidence of this risk. The history of conflict and bloodshed between the State of Israel, its Arab neighbors, and the indigenous inhabitants of historic Palestine is the unavoidable and predictable result of the colonialist nature of the Zionist enterprise. Although Zionism, unlike the other European colonial projects, was not directed originally toward the occupation and exploitation of a subject people - the Zionists sought only to create a refuge for a themselves - it is no less a settler colonial enterprise for that. What is uncanny and tragic is that in the current discourse, the roles of the combatants are turned upside down: The Jews are portrayed as the victims, and the Palestinians as the aggressors. In truth, it is the Palestinians who are the victims: dispossessed, powerless, and pained. In every way, the Jews are victorious and all-powerful. The Jews of Israel are, to be sure, pricked by acts of popular resistance on the part of Palestinians. But in the perspective of the current power balance, these are pinpricks, no more. At the same time, this resistance, fueled by the desperation and humiliation of a displaced and occupied people, has been amplified and exploited by political forces within and outside of Palestine. As terrifying as acts of resistance such as suicide bombings and cross-border shellings are, Israel's current hegemony, power, and certainly her security are not threatened by these acts. Suicide bombings are horrible and terrorizing. But it is too easy, too convenient to tar an entire people with this brush, which is precisely what has happened. The image of the Palestinians as a violent people, as "terrorists" bent on the destruction of Israel, is not a true picture. The truth is that by and large the Palestinians are a peaceful, patient people - and at this pass an angry, humiliated and pained people. Their sin over the last 60 plus years has been their relative lack of organization - set up effectively by the British during their 30-year rule -- in the face of the highly organized and effective Zionist colonial project. They are paying for this now as they face the ongoing dismantling of their economy and their infrastructure, and the continuing program to disable their leadership and ability to self-govern. Israel has taken over where Britain left off - and with far greater efficiency and thoroughness.

The Jewish Discussion

Although it is painful and deeply troubling, I see the ferocity and depth of the current split within the Jewish community in the Diaspora as an opportunity for dialogue. This is an issue of crisis proportions for Jews, and we need to take it seriously. We must encourage this conversation -- we stifle it at our great, great peril. It is our responsibility as Jews to examine our relationship to Israel, rather than to passively accept the story fed to us by the Jewish establishment: the synagogues, Jewish Federations, lobbying organizations and the rest of the apparatus devoted to maintaining the mighty stream of financial and policy support for Israel from the US government and from private sources. We must examine our convictions and feelings about the meaning of the State to us personally, especially in relation to anti-Semitism. For example, do

I, as a Jew living in America, believe that the State of Israel is important to me as a haven if I should feel unsafe or disadvantaged in my home country? Do I personally feel that the existence of a Jewish State is an essential or part of my Jewishness, or of the religious values and beliefs that I hold as a Jew? Do I believe that the world owes a state to the Jews because of the centuries of violence against and persecution of the Jews, culminating in the Nazi Holocaust? These are all important questions - they need to be asked, confronted, and measured against the realities of contemporary life. Furthermore, as Diaspora Jews we need to question where we get our information about the history of the State of Israel and about the current political situation. What news services do we rely on, what websites do we visit? What do we know about the discussion going on inside Israel today, exemplified by the active dialogue to be found in the pages of Haaretz, the organizations voicing opposition to Israeli government policy, and the accelerated pace of revisionist Zionist history being produced by Jewish Israeli historians?

We must become willing to overcome our profound denial about the current reality and the injustices wrought by Zionism. Walter Brueggemann, the Protestant theologian, in his work on the prophetic imagination, writes about the prophetic call to grieve and to mourn, that only in this way can we hope to move on to a new and better reality. Only when we are able to cry, in Jeremiah's phrase, for our own brokenness, and to confront the implications of the suffering we have caused, can we be the beneficiaries of God's bounty. In other words, we must break through the denial about what we have done. The power structure, of course, is committed to the very opposite. The State turns the story on its head in order to paper over the truth:
"This is done in the name of national security." "These others are the terrorists, they are the obstacles to peace."

One particularly "slippery" form of denial, of this failure to grieve, is how some Jews take issue with some of the actions of the Israeli government while still avoiding confronting the fundamental issues of justice. This can take several forms. The first is the "pragmatic" approach, which can also be called the appeal to "enlightened self-interest." "The Occupation," so this position goes, "was a mistake. It's bad for Israel. Denying self-determination for Palestinians and subjecting them to the humiliation of a military administration breeds hatred and desperation, which is then visited upon Israelis in the form of violence." Some American Jewish organizations, hoping to avoid being marginalized by the mainstream community, or labeled "Pro-Palestinian" adopt this position, ignoring the issue of justice.. "Israel," they say, "should smarten up and change its policies if it wants to live in peace and limit the economic drain of unending conflict." In informal conversations with some Jewish Americans who articulate this position, I have heard confessions that their position is really much more extreme with respect to their feelings about Israeli policy, but that they feel it important to hew to this line for strategic purposes, in order to maintain credibility with the Jewish establishment as well as with government legislators.

A second kind of denial, for me more serious and more disturbing, is to be found in the ranks of what has come to be called the Jewish Progressive movement. In his critique of this element of American Judaism, Jewish Liberation theologian Marc Ellis notes that whereas this element of Jewry critiques aspects of Jewish ascendancy by recognizing the validity of Palestinian aspirations, it limits the scope of the critique by accepting the need for this same Jewish ascendancy as a solution to Jewish history. This viewpoint acknowledges the issue of justice, but attempts to do this within the context of Jewish mainstream assumptions of entitlement with respect to the rights of the Jews to historic Palestine. "If we can just clean up this messy business of the Occupation," say these people, "things will come out alright, and we will be able to enjoy the land with a clean conscience." This viewpoint limits the discourse to actions post-1967: it denies the history of Palestinian displacement prior to that. Indeed, Progressive Jewish organizations avoid discussion of the Nakba, an Arabic word meaning "catastrophe" used to describe the ethnic cleansing of three quarters of a million Palestinians from historic Palestine by Israeli forces between 1948 and 1949. Indeed, progressive Jews have been known to become quite irritated with fellow Jews who raise it. Finally, it avoids the fundamental question, which is how a Jewish State, founded as a haven and a homeland for Jews, can be a true democracy, providing justice and fair treatment for its non-Jewish citizenry. It avoids the related and equally fundamental question of demography - the issue that, above all others, drives Israeli foreign policy and fuels the current political and military conflict. On the whole, Jews outside of Israel across a wide spectrum from "establishment" to "progressive want to avoid these questions - indeed, they are off limits.

This is denial - it is a fundamental failure to accept the consequences of Jewish actions in pre- and post- 1948 Palestine- Israel, and thus a failure to grieve over the particularly Jewish tragedy from which we as Jews suffer today. Returning to the pre-1967 borders (as if that will ever happen) will not make everything better. It will not make Israel a just society with respect to its Palestinian citizens. It will not erase what was done to the Palestinians who were driven out of their cities, towns and villages in 1948. It does not place the issue of justice as primary. Rather, it places the interests of Israel as primary, and promotes an entitled, supremacist, paternalistic stance with respect to non- Jewish inhabitants of historic Palestine, on whichever side of the final status border they may reside when a political settlement is finally achieved. It pre-empts our horror over the crimes we are committing and the suffering we have caused. It muffles our own cries of pain over our sins and our cruelties. It squelches the agony of confronting the contradictions and the excruciating dilemmas. It blocks the discussion. It closes our hearts.

Conclusion: Christians, Jews, Anti-Semitism, and Our Accountability

The issue of anti-Semitism is complex and deeply embedded in two thousand years of Western history. Among liberal Christian theologians and religious leaders, Supercessionism - the concept that Christianity, embodied in the Gospels, came to replace Judaism as God's plan for humankind - has become the Great Evil. The argument, well supported by history, is that this idea, developed in the first centuries after Christ and central to Christian belief and doctrine, laid the groundwork for anti-Semitism. But in their zeal to correct the injustices of the past, and to in effect atone for anti-Semitism, Christian leaders and thinkers are in danger of losing sight of an important aspect of early Christian thought. Christianity, in its reframing of the relationship of God to humanity, produced a revolution -- in effect, it moved the concept of "Israel" from the tribal to the communal. In the Christian reframing, God's commitment to humanity through his election of the seed of Abraham, assigned a special role in history, was transformed into God‚s love for humankind and the invitation to all to become part of a universal spiritual community. This was a great contribution, a great step forward, and it has special relevance today, as all religions struggle to move from "Constantinian," power-based religions to communities based on a commitment to diversity, human rights and Justice. The choice between religion based on and consorting with political power and oppression, and religion grounded in a concept of community is one that must be faced by all the faiths. Jews and Christians must talk about this, indeed they must come together with their Muslim friends and colleagues to together confront what may be the central challenge of our times. We stifle this discussion at our peril.

To our Christian sisters and brothers I say - do not, out of a sense of guilt for anti-Semitism, give the Jewish people a free pass. Do not confuse anti-Semitism with critique of Israel, and in so doing fail to hold Jews accountable for our choices and our actions, as members of the human community, as individuals, and as a nation state
-- especially as a nation state. To make this mistake, to allow

yourselves to be - I will use the word - bullied by the threat of the charge of anti-Semitism, is to commit a pernicious fallacy. As Jews we sought political self-determination, and we got it. Now we must behave in accordance with principles of justice and in accordance with international law as an expression of universally agreed-upon principles of justice. As Jews, we are confronted daily with this choice as we witness the illegal and oppressive actions of the Jewish State toward the Palestinian people it is so rapidly displacing. Empowerment - political empowerment - presents a mighty challenge to values. The Prophets knew this well, continually speaking this truth to the power structures of their day. To the crushed and exiled Jewish people of his time, Second Isaiah declared that redemption and comfort was coming, but only when the people acknowledged the divine meaning of their suffering. To my coreligionists in Israel and America, I say that we will ultimately survive as a people only to the extent that we can understand how our own suffering makes us part of humankind, and responsible for suffering wherever and whenever it happens. It was Roberta Feuerlicht, the Jewish ethicist who famously wrote, "Judaism survived centuries of persecution without a state; it must now learn how to survive despite a state."

Mark Braverman lives in Bethesda, MD. He is a member of Jewish Voices for Peace and serves on the Boards of Partners for Peace and the Washington Interfaith Alliance for Middle East Peace. Contact:m_braverman@yahoo.com

© 2007 mbraverman@bravermangroup.com