Monday, December 24, 2012

O little town of Bethlehem

“O little town of Bethlehem/How still we see thee lie…”

A massive 25 foot high concrete separation Wall enchains the city and confines and chokes its Palestinian Christian and Muslim inhabitants. The Israeli government continues building thousands of housing units in existing and ever-increasing Jewish-only settlements. “Above thy deep and dreamless sleep/ The silent stars go by.” Many cannot see the stars anymore. Bethlehem’s land is controlled by a ring of settlements, military zones, highways for settlers and Israelis only. Bethlehem’s agricultural lands have been confiscated, sacred olive trees uprooted and water resources stolen. “Yet in thy dark streets shineth/ The everlasting Light…” Families are separated from each other, their jobs, hospitals, schools, churches, mosques. The biblical and literal path from Nazareth to Bethlehem is blocked by checkpoints and 25 foot high slabs of concrete. “And praises sing to God the King/ And Peace to men on earth.” Let us raise our voices to ending racism, occupation, and apartheid. Let us dedicate the NewYear to rebuilding a Holy Land for people of all faiths.

Jane Toby

Monday, December 10, 2012

Festival of Lights

Of course, Israel has the right to defend itself. But Israel does NOT have the right to block food and medicine to Palestinian men, women, and children. Israel does NOT have the right to steal Palestinian land to build thousands of illegal homes in illegal settlements. Israel does NOT have the right to confiscate or demolish Palestinian homes. Israel does NOT have the right to steal Palestinian water and resources. Israel does NOT have the right to imprison over one and a half million Palestinian refugees in Gaza and then bomb them from F-16 fighter jets, shell them from battleships, or assassinate them with drones. In short, Israel does NOT have the right to inflict collective punishment on innocent Palestinians.

As long as Israel continues to oppress, humiliate and brutalize Palestinians there is little hope for a lasting and just peace. Perhaps, during this festival of lights, Israel will see the light. Until Israel's military occupation ends, until displaced Palestinians can return to their stolen homes and farms, until there is justice and equality for all (Israelis and Palestinians) the light of peace will not shine on Israel.

Eli Kassirer

Sunday, December 9, 2012

National Disgrace

The price of our country's alliance with Israel is a forbidden topic in our media. The figure of 3 billion a year is sometimes given, although that amount is always exceeded by armament shipments and other giveaways. 

Money given to Israel is only a small part of the price we pay as US citizens. The Israeli lobby has turned our electoral process into a sham, and our elected representatives into sycophants to Israel's rightwing leadership. Congress pays much more attention to currying favor with Israeli war hawks than trying to keep young Americans out of another Middle Eastern conflict. And there is nothing our elected leaders won't do to please their foreign masters. The spectacle of our representatives pledging allegiance to Israel at meetings of the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee is enough to turn one's stomach.

Our government's one sided relationship with Israel has also eaten away at our rights as citizens for a fair trial. Take the case of Ghassan Elashi, sentenced to 65 years for founding a Palestinian charity, the Holy Land Foundation. His trial had a special witness, a nameless Israeli secret service agent whose qualifications and testimony couldn't be cross examined. Among the agent's inflammatory statements was the declaration that, "there was a smell of Hamas" about the Palestinian charity group. Dr. Elashi's rights for due process as an American citizen were destroyed by our court's "special relationship" with Israel. 

And then there is slaughter in Gaza. America's support for Israel is a national disgrace.

Fred Nagel

Almost Unimaginable Degree of Injustice

Letter to the Editor:

I'm one of the people who stand in front of Starbucks to bring attention to the desperate plight of the Palestinians, and I'm writing in response to Suzanne Federman's letter (12/6/12) questioning our knowledge and our motives. Yes, Ms. Federman, most of us have been to Israel and to the West Bank, some of us multiple times. We are highly informed—please stop and talk to us next time. We protest because of what we have witnessed firsthand: the almost unimaginable degree of injustice and human rights violations endured by Palestinians daily. 

Certainly there are individual Israeli Jews who are principled, compassionate, and courageous, and we applaud them. But their government is impervious to demands for justice. Boycotting products made in the illegal West Bank settlements, calling for sanctions, and divesting in Israeli corporations are our only way of creating pressure that we hope will eventually lead to change, as it did in apartheid South Africa. 

Jo Salas

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Palestinian Bid for Non-member Observer State

Gaza is the world’s largest open-air prison—it is the most densely populated area on this planet. Since the election of Hamas in 2006, Israel has imposed a harsh siege on Gaza. Israel now controls the water, land, and air space of Gaza; Israel mainly controls who and what goes in and out of Gaza; Israel determines the daily number of calories ingested by Gazans (“Put them on a diet, but not to make them die of hunger,” said an Olmert advisor); and Israeli gunboats force Gaza’s fishermen to fish within a three-mile limit, in water polluted by Gaza’s Israeli-destroyed sewage system. A recent UNRWA report noted that unless damage to Gaza’s aquifer is reversed, Gaza may not be a "livable place” by 2020. The list goes on and on—this is collective punishment. And, sadly, Israel does this with our tax dollars and with total impunity. Israel wants Gazans to feel powerless; Israel wants Gazans to feel hopeless about even the possibility of a better future. 

Noam Chomsky recently visited Gaza. He reports, “The Gaza Strip could have become a prosperous Mediterranean region, with rich agriculture and a flourishing fishing industry, marvelous beaches and, as discovered a decade ago, good prospects for extensive natural gas supplies within its territorial waters. By coincidence or not, that is when Israel intensified its naval blockade, driving fishing boats toward shore ….”

Perhaps, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak are now provoking Gaza, implicitly threatening another assault akin to Operation Cast Lead. During that travesty, it was excruciatingly evident that Gazans were trapped—they had no way to escape. Perhaps Israel is using its current provocation to stop the Palestinian bid for non-member observer state status at the United Nations later this month. Israeli leadership has notified the world that Israel will “go crazy” if the UN grants even limited recognition to the Palestinians. Ehud Barak said the Palestinian UN bid had to be delayed "immediately."

The next day, the IDF went into Gaza with tanks and bulldozers and killed a child. The Popular Resistance Committees fired rockets into southern Israel saying they were a “revenge invoice;” the PRC wanted to make it clear to the world that they saw the Israeli attack as a provocation. However, Americans are mainly ignorant of these facts because our mainstream media keeps us from knowing the facts.

As Annie Roberts wrote, “On Election Day in 2008, Israel invaded Gaza and broke the ceasefire. The ensuing rocket fire was used as the pretext for a full on invasion and war against Gaza beginning 3 weeks later. November 29, the day the Palestinian delegation is expected to submit its bid for observer status at the UN, is two weeks from tomorrow.”

Let’s see what happens.

Helaine Meisler

The Greenville Mountain View Pioneer

On the front page of the October 19th issue of the Pioneer, we learned that the US Postal
Service is planning to reduce the hours of service at “thousands of rural post offices around the
country” and that 30 of those post offices are in our area. Nineteen of the thirty would be open
only four or less hours each day to serve the families in our communities.

Just one day earlier, the International Herald Tribune had reported our federal government
would spend 30 million dollars on an Israeli missile drill in October. That’s 30 million of our tax
dollars added to the nearly three billion dollars in annual military aid Washington gives to
Israel…a country that ranks 10th among all the world’s nations in terms of military firepower,
before even taking into account the atomic weapons in Israel’s arsenal.

Does that make you wonder how many rural post offices could continue to provide full service
in the heart of their communities if our government were to bring some of our tax dollars back
from Israel and use them to help our postal service continue to help us?


Paul W. Rehm

Saturday, November 17, 2012

End the New Jim Crow! Action Network Statement Against the U.S.-Israeli War on Gaza

14 November 2012

As we  meet  today  the  state  of  Israel,  funded  to   the  tune  of $3 billion  U.S.  tax  dollars  worth  of  military   equipment  and  aid  per  year,  is  engaging  in  a  military   assault  on  Gaza  City,  Palestine,  a  civilian  city  with  almost   a  million  residents.  At  the  time  we  penned  this  statement,  at  least  15  people  had  been  killed  as  a   result  of  the  assault,  including  a  one-­‐month  old  toddler  and  a  seven-­‐year-­‐old  girl,  and  over  a  100   people  had  been  wounded.  The  number  of  dead  and  wounded  is  expected  to  rise  if  this  war  is   allowed  to  continue.

Like the  racist  system  of  mass  incarceration  here  in  the  United  States,  the  U.S.-­‐Israeli  war   on  the  Palestinian  city  of  Gaza  is  an  example  of  the  gross  contradiction  between  the  priorities  of   the  vast  majority  of  humanity  who  want  to  live  peaceful,  dignified  lives  and  the  misuse  of  societal   resources  by  elites  that  should  be  used  to  meet  human  needs  but  are  instead  used  for  war,  bank   bailouts,  police  brutality,  and  mass  incarceration.

The End  the  New  Jim  Crow!  Action  Network (E.N.J.A.N.) stands  with  the  Palestinian   people  in  their  struggle  against  war  and  occupation,  and  makes  the  connection  between  the   struggle  of  the  people  in  Gaza which  M.I.T.  professor  Noam  Chomsky  called  the  “world’s  largest   open  air  prison”  during  his  recent  trip  there and  the  struggle  of  people  in  the  United  States   fighting  the  world’s  largest  prison  system.

The U.S.  system  of  mass  incarceration  directly  restricts  the  movement  and  liberty  of  over   2  million  people,  including  over  a  million  African  Americans,  just  as  Israel’s  occupation  restricts   the  movement  and  liberty  of  all  Palestinians.  It  is  the  same  racist  system  that  harasses  people  of   color  on  the  streets  of  U.S.  cities,  and  whose  police  and  racist  vigilantes  murdered  at  least  120   Black  people  in  the  first  six  months  of  this  year.  As  a  network  we  oppose  all  forms  of  racism,   including  anti-­‐Black  racism,  Islamophobia,  and  anti-­‐Semitism,  and  we  make  common  cause  with   all  those  around  the  world  who  do  the  same.

As an  organization  we  demand  societal  resources  be  shifted  towards  jobs,  housing, healthcare, and  education,  both  at  home  and  abroad,  and  away  from  prisons,  war,  and
occupation. End the  U.S.-­‐Israeli  War  on  Gaza!   Free  Palestine!   End  the  New  Jim  Crow  Now!

The End  the  New  Jim  Crow!  Action  Network (E.N.J.A.N.) Campaign  Against  Mass  Incarceration


Meetings are  on  the  2nd  and  4th  Wednesday  of  the  month  at  the  Sadie  Peterson  Delaney  African  Roots  Library,  on   the  second  floor,  in  the  Family  Partnership  Center,  29  North  Hamilton  St,  Suite  218,  Poughkeepsie,  New  York  12601

Monday, October 15, 2012

Wrench in the Machine

Veterans For Peace in NYC

Thursday, October 4, 2012


A delegation of thirty-five U.S. activists is now in Pakistan to protest U.S. Predator drone warfare policy, which, according to Code Pink, has killed between 2,500 and 3,330 people since 2004 (a far greater number than our government and media has reported).  These strikes have terrorized the Pakistani people; civilians, adults and children alike, live in constant fear that U.S. drone operators might strike them at any time – day or night.
I personally know seven of the delegates.  I trust them.  I know them as intelligent, thoughtful, and caring human rights activists.  I support their mission, and I pray for their safety.  Having participated in the Gaza Freedom March, and having been involved in the U.S. Boat to Gaza campaign, I know just how important it is to let the world know that there are Americans who oppose American policy and who want peace with justice in the Middle East.  
The delegation will meet with families of drone victims, members of civil society, and politicians; it will deliver a petition to the US Embassy in Islamabad from Americans who oppose the strikes; and it will give funds to help drone victims (especially because the United States offers no assistance to innocent civilian victims of these immoral and illegal drone strikes).  On October 7, these courageous delegates, along with hundreds of Pakistanis, will participate in a caravan of cars and vans on a 6-hour drive from Islamabad to the northwest region of Waziristan, where U.S. drones have injured and killed civilians, to make their collective and international voices heard.   
U.S. drone strikes violate international and U.S. law – furthermore, they have not made us safer; rather, they have turned Pakistanis against the United States, and, according to a new NYU/Stanford study, they have “facilitated recruitment to non-state armed groups, and motivated further violent attacks.”
To become more knowledgeable about this issue, visit Code Pink’s website (; read Medea Benjamin’s book, Drone Warfare; read Ray McGovern’s article, “Silence of the Drones,” (www.consortiumnews/com/2012/10/01/); and read a recently published report from the NYU and Stanford law schools, “Living under Drones.”  To become more active in this issue, sign the delegation’s petition (; donate funds to the victims (; attend the Veterans for Peace commemoration in NYC, on Sunday, October 7, 6:00-10:00 p.m., as the Afghanistan war enters its 12th year (; and, stand and march with like-minded people in New Paltz, on Saturday, October 13,  12:30 p.m., in front of the Elting Library.   

Let those of us who believe in promoting justice for all human beings by working to end our government’s drone strike policy in Pakistan come together, speak out, and say, “NO MORE!”

Helaine Meisler

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Repentance and Atonement

To the Editor:
Yom Kippur is the highest of Jewish holy days. During these days of repentance and atonement Jews ask forgiveness for their own wrongdoings and give forgiveness for wrongs committed against them. It has been documented extensively by historians, human rights organizations and the UN that since 1948 the Jewish State of Israel has stolen Palestinian land and water, humiliated, impoverished, imprisoned, and killed innocent Palestinian men, women, and children. Are the Israeli Jews and their American supporters asking forgiveness for these sins? Or are they busy justifying, rationalizing and self-righteously proclaiming the need for these abominations?

I am hoping and praying that my own anger, resentment, and bitterness towards Israeli sins will be forgiven. And I am trying to move towards a place of forgiveness in my own heart for those supporters of Israel who are responsible for the unnecessary pain, suffering, and devastation inflicted upon innocent Palestinians. Finally, I hope Palestinians will find forgiveness in their hearts for me since it is the actions of my own government and my tax dollars that allow and encourage Israel in itís ongoing oppression and persecution of the Palestinians.

Eli Kassirer

Fortunes Read Like Crime Novels

In a US political climate awash in corporate money, there is one immensely powerful interest group that always lies beneath the surface.

The poster boys for these immense gifts to major parties and candidates are the Koch brothers and Sheldon Adelson. Their fortunes read like crime novels, combining bribes of governmental officials, money laundering, manipulating the world’s gasoline futures, environmental destruction, and assaults on the rights of working people. And they bring the same zeal and lack of ethics into the buying of our elections. 

There is one aspect of their perfidy, however, that lies hidden from public view. Our media won't touch the one area of their "philanthropy" that is most damaging to the interests of our country as a whole, and that is their support of rightwing racism and militarism in Israel. 

All three billionaires are intimately connected to Israel, and support its government's extremist view about getting rid of all Palestinians because God gave the land to Jews.

Adelson, billionaire casino magnate with ties to organized crime, paid Newt Gingrich 10 million to say that Palestinians were an “invented” people. Now all three are preparing to spend even more on candidates who will go to war with Iran. 

What will it take before Americans stand up to this blatant corruption of our political system by outside influences? Another war because three billionaire, Zionist ideologues have the money to buy elections? Weren't the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan enough for the Israeli lobby?

Fred Nagel

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Poems from Guantanamo

Poems from Guantanamo

Amnesty International Magazine
Fall 2007
by Marc Falcoff
I first met Adnan Farhan Abdul Latif soon after I filed a habeas corpus petition on his behalf in late 2004. We were sitting in an interview cell really a retrofitted storage container at Camp Echo in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Across the table, Latif sat with his arms crossed and his head down. The guards had removed his handcuffs, but when he shifted his weight his leg irons clanged and echoed in the bare room. The irons were chained to an eyebolt on the floor. Guards were stationed outside the door, and a video camera was visible in the corner.
Latif, a small, thin Yemeni man with a scraggly beard, had been in the prison for nearly three years. Upon his arrival in Cuba, he said, he was chained hand and foot while still in the blackout goggles and ear muffs he had been forced to wear for the flight. Soldiers kicked him, hit him, and dislocated his shoulder. Early on, interrogators questioned him with a gun to his head. Latif spent his first weeks at Camp X-Ray in an open-air cage, exposed to the tropical sun, without shade or shelter from the wind that buffeted him with sand and pebbles. His only amenities were a bucket for water and another for urine and feces.
"This is an island of hell," he told me. Punishment for minor infractions of rules, such as squirreling away lunch food, included solitary confinement. No comfort items. No mattress. No pants.
"They take away your pants and leave you wearing only shorts. This is to prevent the brothers from praying. It would be immodest to pray uncovered. They do it to humiliate us," said Latif. Dressed in a pullover shirt and cotton pants dyed iconic Gitmo orange, he looked pale, weak and much older than his 28 years. He had been seeking medical treatment in Pakistan for a 1994 head injury when Pakistani forces detained him and turned him over to the United States for a $5,000 bounty. His health was deteriorating at Guantánamo.
Despairing of ever being released, Latif had sent a number of poems in his letters to me and other lawyers representing Guantanamo detainees. The Pentagon refuses to allow most of them to be made public, but it did clear "Hunger Strike Poem," which contains the lines:
They are artists of torture,
They are artists of pain and fatigue,
They are artists of insults
and humiliation.
Where is the world to save us
from torture?
Where is the world to save us
from the fire and sadness?
Where is the world to save
the hunger strikers?
The military won't let you read the rest of Latif's poetry.
Poems from Guantanamo, a collection of 22 poems written in the cages of Guantanamo, was published with great difficulty in August 2007. Six of the seventeen poets all of whom, like the entire camp population, are Muslim have been released to their home countries, but most, including Latif, are now in their sixth year of captivity in conditions harsher than "super maximum" security in U.S. prisons. They wrote their poems with little expectation of ever reaching an audience beyond a small circle of their fellow prisoners. My colleagues and I, all volunteer lawyers, first visited Guantanamo in November 2004 after receiving "secret"-level security clearances from the FBI. We knew little about our prospective clients, due to the Bush administration's disinformation campaign that to this day includes the refrain that the prisoners "were picked up on battlefields fighting against our troops." (The reality, according to the military's own documents, is that only 8 percent of the prisoners are accused of being al-Qaeda, and only 5 percent were captured by U.S. forces on the battlefields of Afghanistan.)
What we learned from our clients on that trip was shocking. During the three years in which they had been held in total isolation, they had been subjected repeatedly to stress positions, sleep deprivation, blaring music, and extremes of heat and cold during endless interrogations. Female interrogators smeared simulated menstrual blood onto the chests of some detainees and sexually taunted them, fully aware of the insult they were meting out to devout Muslims. They were denied basic medical care. They were broken down and psychologically tyrannized, kept in extreme isolation, threatened with rendition, interrogated at gunpoint and told that their families would be harmed if they refused to talk. They were also frequently prevented from engaging in their daily prayers-one of the five pillars of Islam-and forced to witness U.S. soldiers intentionally mishandling the holy Koran.
"I've lost hope of being released," Latif told me on one visit. Three days before, he explained, he'd been visited by an "Immediate Reaction Force" team. A half-dozen soldiers in body armor, carrying shields and batons, had forcibly extracted him from his cell. His offense: stepping over a line, painted on the floor of his cell, while his lunch was being passed through the food slot of his door.
"Suddenly the riot police came," he recounted. "No one in the cellblock knew who for. They closed all the windows except mine. A female soldier came in with a big can of pepper spray. Eventually I figured out they were coming for me. She sprayed me. I couldn't breathe. I fell down. I put a mattress over my head. I thought I was dying. They opened the door. I was lying on the bed but they were kicking and hitting me with the shields. They put my head in the toilet. They put me on a stretcher and carried me away."
On my third trip to Guantanamo, Latif told me he had begun a hunger strike more than a month earlier. (The military calls it a "voluntary fast." Latif is currently in his sixth month of "fasting.") Twice a day, the guards immobilize Latif's head, strap his arms and legs to a special restraint chair, and force-feed him a liquid nutrient by inserting a tube up his nose and into his stomach a clear violation of international standards. The feeding, Latif says, "is like having a dagger shoved down your throat."
At first, there was little we could do with any of this information. Anything our clients told us, military officials explained, represented a potential national security threat and therefore could not be revealed to the public until cleared by a Pentagon "Privilege Review Team." The review team initially used its power to suppress all evidence of abuse and mistreatment. Our notes, returned with a classified stamp, were deemed unsuitable for public release on the grounds that they revealed interrogation techniques that the military had a legitimate interest in keeping secret. Only threats of litigation forced the Pentagon to reconsider its classification decisions.
The Pentagon's reaction to the publication of Poems from Guantanamo has been predictable. Last June, in an article in the Wall Street Journal, Defense Department spokesman Cmdr. J. D. Gordon commented on the collection by saying, "While a few detainees at Guantanamo Bay have made efforts to author what they claim to be poetry, given the nature of their writings they have seemingly not done so for the sake of art. They have attempted to use this medium as merely another tool in their battle of ideas against Western democracies." Gordon had not, at the time, read the poems.
Perhaps the Pentagon's anxiety is justified, for the poems offer the world a glimpse of the profound psychic toll that Guantanamo has taken on the prisoners. They give voice to men whom the U.S. government has detained for more than five years without charge, trial or even the most basic protections of the Geneva Conventions. The prisoners remain entirely cut off from the world: military censors excise all references to current events from the occasional letters allowed from family members, and lawyers may not tell prisoners any personal or general news unless it "directly relates" to their cases. Indeed, dozens of prisoners have attempted suicide by hanging, by hoarding medicine and then overdosing, or by slashing their wrists. The military, in typically Orwellian fashion, has described these suicide attempts as incidents of "manipulative self-injurious behavior."
Many men at Guantanamo turned to writing poetry as a way to maintain their sanity, to memorialize their suffering and to preserve their humanity through acts of creation. The obstacles the prisoners have faced in composing their poems are profound. In the first year of their detention, they were not allowed regular use of pen and paper. Undeterred, some drafted short poems on Styrofoam cups retrieved from lunch and dinner trays. Lacking writing instruments, they inscribed their words with pebbles or traced out letters with small dabs of toothpaste, then passed the "cup poems" from cell to cell. The cups were inevitably collected with the day's trash, the verses consigned to the bottom of a rubbish bin.
After about a year, the military granted the prisoners access to regular writing materials, and for the first time poems could be preserved. The first I saw was sent to me by Abdulsalam Ali Abdulrahman Al-Hela, a Yemeni businessman from Sanaa, who had written his verses in Arabic after extended periods in an isolation cell. The poem is a cry against the injustice of arbitrary detention and at the same time a hymn to the comforts of religious faith. Soon after reading it, I learned of a poem by Latif called "The Shout of Death." (Both of these poems remain classified.) After querying other lawyers, I realized that Guantanamo was filled with amateur poets.
Military officials at Guantanamo destroyed or confiscated many of the prisoners' poems before the authors could share them with their lawyers. In addition, the Pentagon refuses to allow most of the existing poems to be made public, asserting that poetry "presents a special risk" to national security due to its "content and format." The risk appears to be that the prisoners will try to smuggle coded messages out of the prison camp.
Still, the earliest of the poems we submitted for classification review were deemed unclassified, and it was only after the Pentagon learned that we were putting together a book of the poems that the hand of censorship came down. Hundreds of poems therefore remain suppressed by the military and will likely never be seen by the public. In addition, most of the poems that have been cleared are in English translation only, because the Pentagon believes that their original Arabic or Pashto versions represent an enhanced security risk. Because only linguists with secret-level security clearances are allowed to read our clients' communications (which are kept by court order in a secure facility in the Washington, D.C., area), it was impossible to invite experts to translate the poems for us. The translations included in the collection, therefore, cannot do justice to the subtlety and cadence of the originals.
Despite these and many other hurdles, 22 poems have now been published, and the voices of the prisoners in Guantanamo may now be heard. As the courts move sluggishly toward granting the prisoners fair and open hearings, and as politicians bicker about whether to extend the protections of the Geneva Conventions to the detainees, the prisoners' own words may now become part of the dialogue. Perhaps their poems will prick the conscience of a nation.
Marc Falkoff is an assistant professor at the Northern Illinois University College of Law and attorney for 17Guantanamo prisoners. Poems reprinted by permission from Poems from Guantanamo, published by University of Iowa press.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Adnan Farhan Abdul Latif dies at Guantanamo

Adnan Farhan Abdul Latif dies at Guantanamo

Adnan Farhan Abdul Latif was one of the poets whose poems we read when we had our readings of poems by Guantanamo inmates. This was his poem:


They are criminals, increasing their crimes.
They are criminals, claiming to be peace-loving.
They are criminals, torturing the hunger strikers.
They are artists of torture. †They are artists of pain and fatigue,
They are artists of insults and humiliation.
They are faithless - traitors and cowards
They have surpassed devils with their criminal acts.
They do not respect the law, They do not respect men,
They do not spare the elderly, They do not spare the baby-toothed child.
They leave us in prison for years, uncharged, Because we are Muslims.
Where is the world to save us from torture?
Where is the world to save us from the fire and sadness?
Where is the world to save the hunger strikers?
But we are content, on the side of justice and right, Worshiping the Almighty.
And our motto on this island is, salaam.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Marking the Culmination of Ramadan

Sunday, August 19th, the Muslim holiday Eid ul-Fitr will be celebrated throughout the world, marking the culmination of Ramadan, the 29 or 30 days of dawn-to-sunset fasting.

Local community members learned about Ramadan in lessons on the Qur’an that Taha Awadallah recently gave at Miriam’s Well.  Taha, a young Palestinian film-maker visiting from Al Walaja Village, Bethlehem, has been frequenting Torah studies at the WJC and was approached to share teachings from the Qur’an.  There I learned more about the purpose of the Ramadan fast: to feel empathy with the poor; to give charity; to develop steadfastness, patience; to focus on the realm of the spiritual and God.  Taha told me that at the end of each day, his family anxiously awaits the Call to Prayer from the Mosque (and his brother Mustafa can really get impatient saying “Why doesn’t he call us to prayer yet?  It’s time!”) as this Call to Prayer means people can finally eat after hours of complete fasting. Taha laughed, recalling his brother’s impatience.

Soon, Taha’s family, as families the world over, will celebrate Eid ul-Fitr concluding Ramadan.  They will gather early in the morning in outdoor places or mosques for the Eid prayer after which they will visit family and friends, give gifts (especially to children), and phone distant relatives to extend well-wishes. Before the Eid Prayer, as an obligatory act of charity (known in the Arabic as: Zakat and Sadaqat-ul-fitr ) money is paid to the poor and needy. It is interesting that the Arabic word Sadaqat resembles the Hebrew: Sadaka which also means charitable giving.  How our languages and customs touch each other; how– how close we could be. Yet there are harsh realities:  The Palestinian Authority recently instructed the Prayer Caller in Al Walaja village to mute his Call to Prayer so it will not disturb the people of Har Gilo who have settled on the community’s land.  Soon there will not be an easy way for Taha’s family to visit relatives and friends outside their village.  Once the Separation Wall is completed around Al Walaja, families will be cut off from each other.  Their village will be sealed off --  from schools and universities, hospitals, work places; from their springs of water, from their cultivated lands and fields of wild thyme (za’atar); sacred olive trees uprooted, houses demolished to make way for settlement growth and for the construction of Route 60; and the people of Al Walaja will be denied the possibility (long forbidden to most males in the West Bank) - of worship at the Al Quds Mosque in Jerusalem. These are realities Taha has not spoken of to our community, but that I feel incumbent upon myself to share with you now.

Jane Toby
Catskill, NY

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Woodstock Brand

To the Editor:
A few weeks ago, the Woodstock Times published an article about the origin of the familiar circular peace sign, which often appears via strings of light, tie-died shirts and woven vines and flowers in store windows and on porch railings of our village. The title of the article was "Peace is the Woodstock Brand".  As such this is a deeply hypocritical branding.

Woodstock is home to a crucial cog in the imperialist war machine that runs this nation.  Ametek Rotron's fans are essential components in the many of the most deadly instruments of destruction and death commissioned by the U.S. Department of Defense, Israel and other war mongers.  A few years ago a group of Woodstockers held a conference where the war machine was examined and discussed. Peace activists from Texas and Missouri, Massachusetts and Maine came to share their distress in the ways their communities are likewise bound into the war machine. While Obama berates Romney for outsourcing, we need to look closely at the in-sourced war business in our back yard.  Response to the call that Woodstock convert to peaceful manufacturing was never seriously discussed by our local officials.  If peace is our brand, we must convert the "dark satanic mills" in our midst to constructive and ecological industry for the future of our town and our children.

DeeDee Halleck

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Nabil is Home Again

Just a few days ago I heard that Nabil is home again. On June 6 soldiers took him at gunpoint from his home in the West Bank, at 3 am, in front of his terrified wife and small daughter. It was two weeks before he had any access to a lawyer or communication with his family, and more than four weeks before charges were made, which did not hold up in court. Nabil is the artistic director of the acclaimed Freedom Theatre, bringing hope and creative expression to young people who have spent their entire lives under the occupation.

Thousands of Palestinians are held without charges in "administrative detention" for as long as the Israeli army wants to hold them, sometimes years. In contrast, an Israeli cannot be held for more than 48 hours without being charged. Nabil was lucky, you could say: people all over the world spoke up on his behalf. Perhaps that made a difference.

I was in the West Bank and Israel this past spring, teaching theatre. I spoke to Israelis who are themselves outraged at the injustices and humiliations that Palestinians are subjected to. They see us, the Americans, as enablers, with our massive aid to the Israeli government--$3 billion per year, paid for by my taxes and yours.

Let's support those Israelis who have the courage to protest the inhumanity of their government. And let's tell our own government to stop enabling injustice.

Jo Salas

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Broken Cameras, Unbroken Dreams
By Lisa Mullenneaux
For Hudson-Catskill Newspaper

The documentary film “5 Broken Cameras” (2011), playing at Time & Space Limited July 5-8 and 12-14 tells the story of life under Israeli occupation through the lens of Emad Burnat, an olive grower who lives with his wife Soraya and their four children in Bil’in. When his son Gibreel is born in 2005, Burnat begins to record his growing family and “buildings that pop out of the land.” But whose land? Burnat’s neighbors discover that half of their farm land is threatened by a planned separation barrier and the settlements mushrooming behind it. They organize weekly protests, hire an Israeli attorney, and petition the High Court of Justice—and win. Burnat records it all—at the risk of his life. As Gibreel learns the Arabic words for “wall” and “army” and gets tear-gassed (“I hope he grows a eview tough skin”) his father tries to get as close to the action—now drawing international supporters—as he can. Villagers march unarmed but are often met with physical violence. Burnat’s five cameras are shot or smashed, olive trees are burned, houses bulldozed, he is critically injured and cannot work, his brothers are arrested, his friends are killed.

Still Burnat continues to document the village’s weekly demonstra- tions, often against his wife wishes. “Find something else to do,” she demands after soldiers start arresting villagers, including children. But as the farmer-turned-cameraman explains, “When wounds are forgotten they cannot heal. I film to heal, to survive.” His survival is precarious; his third camera takes a soldier’s bullet intended for him.

Life is bloody and unpredictable; for five years Burnat’s camera records how that instability affects the families around him. When one man takes a direct hit from a tear-gas grenade and dies, neighbors are grief-stricken, enraged. “Clinging to nonviolent ideals isn’t easy when death is all around,” Burnat admits. As a tribute, he gathers the villagers and screens his footage, increasing their solidarity and endurance.

Burnat, a Palestinian Arab, and his collaborator Guy Davidi, an Israeli Jew, say “we knew we would be criticized for working together,” but they tried to use their cultural differences creatively. The Israeli filmmaker was at first reluctant to make “just another film on [West Bank] resist- ance.” Then as he reviewed Burnat’s years of footage, Davidi saw the image of an old man climbing onto a military jeep to stop it from taking his son away. He asked Burnat who the man was. “It’s my father,” said the cameraman. That, says Davidi, is when he knew “we had the making of a new film that would tell the events the way Emad experienced them.”

“We decided the film had to be as intimate and personal as possible,” says Davidi. “That was the only way to tell the story in a new...way.” That choice, concedes Burnat, meant exposing “difficult moments in my life” but the result is a compelling portrait of one family’s steadfastness in the face of dwindling hope and resources.

“5 Broken Cameras” has so far won awards at Utah’s Sundance and Amsterdam’s International Documentary Film festivals and will be screened at the Jerusalem Film Festival in July. For more information, including additional playdates, see

Friday, May 11, 2012

* Dignity*

 Also Posted at where you can post comments

* "We did not go into the battle [the hunger strike] because we love to be hungry or in pain, but for our dignity and the dignity of our nation,"* Thaer Halahlef, 33 years old from Hebron, 73 days on Hunger strike

Dignity is such a word that makes us shudder.  We Palestinians want our leaders and political leaders around the world to show a fraction of the dignity shown by Thaer and his comrades.  Dignity.  Self respect. Honor. Independence that begins with freeing our minds from mental occupation. Dignitry is what we 11.2 million Paslestinians seek on the eve of the Nakba.  5.6 million Palestinians live in historic Palestin; 1.4 million of whom are within the 1948 occupied areas and 4.2 million in the 1967 occupied areas. Thousands of political prisoners still in jail and nearly

800, 000 Palestinians experienced Israeli prisons.  Prisoners want their rights not to be held without trials and not to be held in isolation and to receive visitors (some have not seen relatives since 2007).

* Friday will be a day full of events around the world in solidarity with the hunger strikers and in memorizing the Nakba. * Look in your area fora nearby event. Here in the Bethlehem district, we will gather in Al Walajeh Friday 11 May 2012 at 12:00 (by the mosque at the entrance of the village).

This Week in Palestine Nakba issue includes a seriers of brilliant and unexpected articles: You can download PDF here They also included my book on Popular Resistance in Palestine as book of the month And from Dr. AbedAlfattah Abusrour a great article on Beautiful Resistance Abed is in the US now on a speaking tour:

For the first time since 1948 the children and grandchildren of the refugees can see their homeland from which their fathers were expelled. When they tried to return in 1948, they were shot dead as 'infiltrators'. Now the father and his children can see Palestine as it was in 1948. They can fly over it, but only in preparation for the day when they will actually walk over its soil and recover their patrimony. Click this link:

International Red Cross: Lives of Palestinian detainees on hunger strike in danger Palestinian Prisoners near Death

Jewish Rabbis tour and make prayers in Sidon Synagogue (Lebanon) now housing a Palestinian refugee family

South African student leader, Mbuyiseni Ndlozi on Palestine

Stay human

Mazin Qumsiyeh, PhD A Bedouin in cyberspace, a villager at home

Friday, March 2, 2012

Exactly nine years ago

To the Editor:
Exactly nine years ago Rachel Corrie, a 23 year old American student, was crushed to death by an American-supplied Israeli military bulldozer as she tried to prevent the demolition of a Palestinian familyís home. Rachel was committed to easing the suffering and injustice faced by Palestinians. Unfortunately, hundreds of Palestinian homes have been demolished (some more than once), and the Palestinians in the occupied territories continue to experience ongoing abuse, devastation, and humiliation.

As Israel continues to perceive ìexistentialî threats from all directions her actions and policies become more extreme and dangerous. The extreme disparities of the apartheid state become more stark. The Palestinians are more shattered and desperate than ever, and Israel is more militaristic and menacing than ever. Israel continues to expand the illegal settlements, imprison more Palestinians (including children), carry out assassinations, and enforce a blockade that has caused a humanitarian crisis in Gaza. On a daily basis Jewish Israeli settlers, many from Brooklyn, and the IDF soldiers attack, harass, intimidate, and sometimes kill Palestinian men, women, and children.

Of course, Israel has legitimate security and safety concerns, but Israel will never achieve safety or security through the use of violence and oppression. The State of Israel would not be able to engage in human rights abuses, flagrant UN violations, and nuclear gamesmanship without the political, financial, and military support that our government provides. Israel is the largest recipient of US aid - $3 Billion per year of US taxpayers money goes to Israel; mostly in the form of military aid. It seems to me that we could use the money more wisely here at home. If Rachel was still alive today I somehow imagine that she would agree.

Eli Kassirer 
New Paltz, NY

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Debate on local BDS action

The following letters were all in response to a BDS/CVS demonstration in Poughkeepsie. †The first letter (Rabbi Loevinger) is at the bottom; then Pat L's response and then mine - so if you read from the bottom it makes more sense. † †Thought MECR might be interested. Eli

Begin forwarded message:
From: Elias Kassirer
Date: February 28, 2012 11:30:28 AM EST

To: Subject: Re: [DutchessPeace] Letter in today's PoJo Reply-To:

Good response Pat. †I am sending the following letter to the Journal today. Eli


To the Editor:
Rabbi Neal Joseph Loevinger, with all due respect, is simply wrong about Dutchess Peace and itís boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel. †In truth and in fact, †Israel is the aggressor, the obstacle to peace, and the problem. †Israel enjoys complete military, economic, and media dominance over the Palestinians. †As a result of military occupation, land theft, illegal settlement building, humiliating military checkpoints, extensive home demolitions, imprisonment of children, bombings, and strangulation through the blockade, † Israel has created an apartheid state (ask Jimmy Carter or Desmond Tutu). †Jewish survivors of the Warsaw ghetto have noted the similarities between the horrors of Nazi occupied Warsaw and Israeli controlled Gaza.

Palestinians called for the BDS campaign as a non-violent attempt to pressure Israel to change. †The goals of BDS are to end Israeli military occupation, secure equal rights for all, and to allow Palestinians to return to homes and land that was taken from them. †Of course, Israel has legitimate and very real concerns about security, but Israel will never achieve either through policies of brutality and oppression. †Hopefully, †the non-violent BDS campaign will move Israel in a more human and humane direction. †I would hope that Rabbi Loevinger would spend some time speaking to his congregation about our shared humanity and shared suffering with particular attention to the current plight of the †Palestinian men, women, and children who are attacked, intimidated, and humiliated on a daily basis by Jewish settlers and IDF soldiers.

Eli Kassirer New Paltz


On Feb 24, 2012, at 3:12 PM, wrote:
The following letter appeared in today's Poughkeepsie Journal. Of course, it must be responded to. My suggestion is, rather than have one letter coming from all of us, as many as feel moved to do so write individual letters. I'm pasting my response below. It's personal and meant to come only from me. Who else wants to write a letter?


Boycotting Israel won't lead to peace The Dutchess Peace Coalition is a small group of activists for peace and social justice, who are by all appearances both sincere and passionate in their desire to bring about a better world.

If the DPC wants to work toward peace, it must swiftly separate itself from the movement to delegitimize and isolate the State of Israel, otherwise known as BDS: boycott, divestment, and sanctions.

The Peace Coalitionís website lists local actions, such as protesting the sale of Israeli cosmetics in front of drugstores, which will not bring peace, but will instead make peace a more distant goal. The inevitable result of such efforts is that Israel is seen as the sole aggressor, the sole obstacle to peace, the sole problem ó and it most assuredly is not.

Because BDS supporters do not understand or acknowledge the real threats to Israelís security, they strengthen extremist elements on both sides of the conflict, empowering those who think they can destroy Israel by means of war, provoking a more intense defensive posture on the Israeli side.

If the Dutchess Peace Coalition truly wants peace, it should work to promote a two-state solution ó which is the policy of the United States, Europe, Israel, and the mainstream Jewish groups in this country. It is our only real hope of peace.

Boycotting Israel doesnít help two peoples live side by side. Thatís what a real peace would look like, and itís not too late for the Peace Coalition to help bring it about.

Rabbi Neal Joseph Loevinger


Now, my response:
As a member of Dutchess Peace, I wish to respond to Rabbi Loevingerís letter of February 24.

Dutchess Peace doesnít seek to ìdelegitimizeî Israel. We donít need to ìisolateî Israel; Israel has isolated itself. On February 18, 2011, the United Nations Security Council considered a resolution calling on Israel to withdraw from its illegal settlements. Only the United States opposed the resolution, although Ambassador Susan Rice stated: ìÖwe reject in the strongest terms the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlement activityÖî The U.N. General Assembly passed a similar, non-binding, resolution, 159 to 6.

The settlements, as well as the border wall (which often extends deep into Palestinian territory and separates Palestinians from their lands and livelihoods ñ another violation of the Geneva Conventions), destroy the possibility of a contiguous Palestinian state. They are the most serious threat to Israelís security, as they make a two-state solution unworkable and create understandable resentment and despair. Dutchess Peace supports a boycott of products such as Ahava, a beauty product made in the settlements and sold at CVS stores and on their web site, to bring peopleís awareness to this injustice and to pressure Israel to abandon this reckless and dangerous policy.

While I regret having to oppose the Israeli government publicly, my Jewish upbringing has taught me to protest against injustice wherever I encounter it. While I condemn all violence on both sides, it is clear to me that it is the Israeli state that is the aggressor and must be stopped.

Pat Lamanna

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Israel – as living conditions deteriorate, more money to army

By Lia Tarachansky, The Real News Network – 11 Jan 2012

Russians, nearly a quarter of the population, speak about their isolation and economic struggles

During the summer, Israelis rose up in a mass movement inspired by the regional protests of the Arab Spring. On July 14, 26-year-old Daphny Leef set up a tent on Rothschild Boulevard, one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in Tel Aviv. Within weeks, protest tent cities sprung up throughout the country, and week after week, Israelis poured onto the streets to demonstrate. But in September, as quickly as the tent cities popped up, they disappeared. The weekly protests stopped, and in a sweeping move, the government demolished dozens of tent cities throughout the country.

The Real News’ Lia Tarachansky spoke with Yael Lerer is a writer and founder of Andalus Publishing, who wrote in LeMonde Diplomatique about the exclusivist nature of the mostly-Ashkenazi movement. But the closest, both economically and culturally, to the Ashkenazi elite is the Russian immigration of 1990. Many of the Soviet expats had difficulties acclimating to Israel, but unlike other immigrations of Jews from the Arab world and Ethiopia, Russians were quicker to enter the job market, elect representatives to Parliament,and enter the middle class. Today they make up nearly a quarter of the Israeli society, but by and large they too did not participate in the summer protests. In this story we meet Reuven Moshayev, a 30-year-old convenience store owner, Dimitry Shevchenko, a 32-year-old factory worker, and his younger brother Ivan, a 28 year old industrial abseilingclimber, who immigrated to Israel from the former Soviet Union.


LIA TARACHANSKY, TRNN: During the summer, Israelis rose up in a mass movement inspired by the regional protests of the Arab Spring. On July 14, 26-year-old Daphny Leef set up a tent here on Rothschild Boulevard, one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in Tel Aviv. Within weeks, protest tent cities sprung up throughout the country, and week after week, Israelis poured onto the streets to demonstrate.

CHANTING (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): The people demand social justice. They take away from the poor and give to the rich. What a corrupt country.

TARACHANSKY: But in September, as quickly as the tent cities popped up, they disappeared. The weekly protests stopped, and in a sweeping move, the government demolished dozens of tent cities throughout the country. Yael Lerer is a writer and founder of Andalus Publishing. Writing in Le Monde diplomatique, she says: “After almost three decades of neo-liberal economic policy, living costs are up and salaries down, the jobs market is worsening, social spending is being cut and public services are deteriorating. Israel’s welfare state – always limited and unequal – has disappeared.”

YAEL LERER, FOUNDER, ANDALUS PUBLISHING: From the first moment it was not clear for me that the J14 is a real—what kind of protest. I mean, I didn’t thought about it as a real revolution. A major part of it, it was because it was a very white revolution. Its leadership and most of its participants were Ashkenazi Jews from the elite of the society. I mean, and if we speak about from the richest, richer part in the Israeli society, except in some isolated islands, but not like in the huge crowd, we didn’t see a real massive participations of Palestinian citizens of Israel, Russian voices, Ethiopian voices for sure, and ultra-Orthodox.

TARACHANSKY: But the closest, both economically and culturally, to the Ashkenazi elite is the Russian immigration of 1990. Many of the Soviet expats had difficulties acclimating to Israel, but unlike other immigrations of Jews from the Arab world and Ethiopia, Russians were quicker to enter the job market, elect representatives to Parliament, and enter the middle class. Today they make up nearly a quarter of the Israeli society, but by and large they too did not participate in the summer protests. Reuven Moshayev is a 30-year-old convenience store owner and an immigrant from the former Soviet Union.

TARACHANSKY (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): You chose not to join the protests. Why?


TARACHANSKY: Well, they’re fighting for their rights.

MOSHAYEV: What rights? Does anyone think about them? Does anyone think about us? Everything is too complicated in Israel. We are tiny for them.

TARACHANSKY: But we’re a quarter of the population.

MOSHAYEV: We don’t have influence. They always reject us. Always. Before, it was with words. Today, maybe with looks. By the way I don’t think they look at me different because I look like them. I’m not light-skinned. And most of the Russian-speakers stand out in the Israeli society.

TARACHANSKY (ENGLISH): During the last major demonstration, where nearly half a million Israelis poured onto the streets, I met Dimitry Shevchenko, a 32-year-old factory worker, one of the few Russian speakers to attend the protests. His younger brother Ivan is 28 years old and works as an industrial abseiling climber. He chose not to participate in the demonstrations. We sat down to talk in their hometown of Rishon LeZion before the local protest tent city was demolished.

DIMITRY SHEVCHENKO, FACTORY WORKER, RISHON LEZION (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): Many in the Russian community, especially the generation of my father and grandfather, they don’t know how to influence politics, how it’s possible to oppose the government.

IVAN SHEVCHENKO, INDUSTRIAL ABSEILING CLIMBER, RISHON LEZION (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): We basically knew nothing about this country. We just knew it was a Jewish country that accepts Jews from all over the world, that promises a better life than here, from the point of view of government, that it treats its citizens as citizens and not as milking cows.

LERER: Seventy-four percent of the Israeli wage, they have—their salary is less than EUR 1,400, about ILS 7,000 a month, which is the French minimum wage. It is significant, because when we think about poverty in Israel, actually, the most—the poor in Israel are basically the Palestinian citizens in Israel and the ultra-Orthodox Jews. We’re speaking these both, in society, about 60 percent of the families are below the poverty line. And the poverty line—and this is also very important—in Israel is very low.

I. SHEVCHENKO: All of the expats worked incredible hours when they first arrived, and in principal continue to work like that to this day, maybe because most of them didn’t find work in professions they had back there. So when they do get the opportunity to tell their kids, get up and go to the demonstration because it will help, they don’t have that kind of time. And the state of extreme competition and depression of new immigrants is transferred to the children.

TARACHANSKY: According to a poll conducted by the Israeli Democracy Institute in 2009, when asked to self-evaluate their class before and after immigrating to Israel, more said they belonged to the lower and middle class in Israel than they did in the Soviet Union. The class difference was much higher for the upper classes: many more said they belonged to the upper-middle and elite classes in the Soviet Union, rather than in Israel.

MOSHAYEV: Russians have their own kinds of problems.

TARACHANSKY: What does that mean?

MOSHAYEV: I’m telling you they feel like they’re isolated. They get chased after when some party needs votes in elections. Then Russians are 1.5 million in Israel. That’s a very serious percentage of the population. But for students, to lower the prices on rent, housing, etc., etc., they don’t turn to the Russians. That’s what I think.

TARACHANSKY: One of the stated successes of the summer movement was its ability to open unprecedented spaces of dialog. Dozens of discussion groups took place every day at Rothschild Boulevard. At the end of August, Russian Israelis organized a discussion group with Palestinian citizens of Israel.
UNIDENTIFIED (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): This is the first time I’m doing something. And you know how much time I knew something has to be done? I did a few little things, but you know, you have this thing hovering over you. And I’m from a bit of an outspoken family. But everyone’s head is lowered, very lowered. You know what it was like to be a Jew there?

UNIDENTIFIED (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): We can’t talk about coexistence or why the Russians are right-wing or why the Arabs don’t like Russians and all of that without giving account to the fact that one of the reasons we’re here is because this country had an interest, and that one of the reasons I’m here is to battle the demographic war against the Palestinians.

TARACHANSKY: The government’s response to the demonstrations was to establish a committee headed by economist Manuel Trachtenberg. The committee published its recommendations in late September, and despite many in the protest movement rejecting the process, the Israeli parliament approved it in early December. Some of the Trachtenberg recommendations include unfreezing construction on social housing, more taxation on the rich, free education from age three, and minimal cuts to the defense budget.

MOSHAYEV: This committee won’t lead to anything. They’re always promising something. They always blame everything on security. Money, security. Security, money. Security. For war, jet planes, antimissile shields, etc., etc. It all ends with money in defense.

TARACHANSKY: Indeed, on Monday the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, rejected the proposal to divert funds from the defense budget and instead increased it by $700 million, saying the Arab Spring created new security concerns for Israel. “I have reflected on this question, but in view of what has happened in the region, I have reached the conclusion that cutting the defence budget would be a mistake, even a big mistake … [The Israeli army] is the shield of the country, which is why we must increase its means.” For The Real News, I’m Lia Tarachansky in Tel Aviv

Netanyahu’s war wish

By Moshé Machover, Weekly Worker – 9 Feb 2012

The threat of a military provocation by Tel Aviv against Iran is very real

One thing is beyond any doubt: a major aim of Israel’s foreign policy is the overthrow of the Iranian regime. What is not generally understood are the motives behind this aim, and the present Israeli government’s preferred means of achieving it. In this article I would like to say something about the motives, and then explain why prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s preferred means is war – one likely to ignite a major conflagration.


In my 2008 article ‘Zionism: propaganda and reality’,[1] I quoted a recent Jerusalem Post report on a conference at Israel’s Institute for National Security Studies. That report deserves to be read very carefully, so here it is again:

“Iran’s success in obtaining a nuclear capability will deter Jews from immigrating to Israel, cause many Israelis to leave and will be the end of the ‘Zionist dream’, former deputy defence minister Ephraim Sneh said Tuesday.

“‘A nuclear weapon in Iranian hands will be an intolerable reality for Israel,’ Sneh said during a conference on Iran’s nuclear programme at the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) in Tel Aviv. ‘The decision-making process in Israel will be under constant [Iranian] influence – this will be the end of the Zionist dream.’

“Former Mossad chief Ephraim Halevy slammed Israeli political leaders for calling Iran’s nuclear threat ‘an existential threat’. ‘There is something wrong with informing our enemy that they can bring about our demise,’ Halevy said. ‘It is also wrong that we inform the world that the moment the Iranians have a nuclear capability there is a countdown to the destruction of the state of Israel. We are the superpower in the Middle East and it is time that we began behaving like [a] superpower,’ he said.

“Iran’s real goal, Halevy said, was to turn itself into a regional superpower and reach a ‘state of equality’ with the United States in their diplomatic dealings.

“Sneh said that, while the military option was not preferred, Israel needed to keep it on the table, since such a possibility was the motivation for the international community’s efforts to use diplomacy to stop Iran. Sneh added that he was confident that the [Israeli Defence Force] was capable of successfully carrying out a military strike against Iran. ‘We grew up in a place that when the political echelon wanted something, the professional echelon knew how to do it,’ he said. ‘I believe this has not changed in 2008.’”[2]

Two points in this report are particularly noteworthy. First, one of the experts, a former chief of the Mossad (Israel’s counterpart of MI6 and the CIA) is talking here about the prospect of Iranian nuclear capability rather than actual production and possession of a nuclear weapon. As all experts are well aware, there is no evidence that Iran has a programme for producing such a weapon. This is as true today as it was in 2008. Indeed, the US defence secretary, Leon Panetta, confirmed this quite recently.[3] (Nuclear capability is the ability to produce a usable nuclear weapon at fairly short notice. It is a policy pursued by several other governments, and is not prohibited by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, of which Iran – but not Israel! – is a signatory.)

Second, contrary to Israeli and western hype, neither expert claims that Iran is actually planning to attack Israel, let alone subject it to a nuclear holocaust. The former Mossad chief is dismissive of the scaremongering propaganda alleging that Iran poses a credible military threat to Israel. Ephraim Sneh, a former brigadier general and senior Labour Party politician, does mention the (purely hypothetical) prospect of Iran producing a nuclear weapon, but even he believes that the threat it would pose to Israel is political rather than a direct military one.

Indeed, Israel’s worry regarding Iran is the real political threat it poses to Israel’s regional hegemony, not the imaginary threat of being attacked by the Islamic Republic. Possession of nuclear capability is certainly a component of this political threat, inasmuch as it would contribute to Iran’s diplomatic muscle in its dealings with other Middle Eastern states and with the US. But it is only a component. Even without the nuclear issue, the Zionist state has a clear interest in replacing the present Iranian regime by one compliant with global US hegemony.


As far as this aim is concerned, the interests of US and Israel are in complete agreement. But, as regards the means, there appears to be a divergence between the Obama administration and the Netanyahu government.

The US, smarting from the wounds of its adventurous wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, would like to avoid an outright open military conflict with Iran, a state that can inflict serious damage to its attackers. Moreover, in the present economic climate a sharp rise in the price of oil – an inevitable concomitant of war in the Middle East – may have catastrophic consequences for the global capitalist economy. True, the scary game of ‘chicken’ the Obama administration is playing against Iran can inadvertently get out of hand and lead to disastrous unintended consequences. (Recall the classic James Dean film, Rebel without a cause …). But the administration is hoping to keep this danger under control and avoid outright war – at least for the time being.

Not so the Israeli government: there are increasing signs that Netanyahu and his defence minister, Ehud Barak, are considering – against the advice of some of their military and intelligence experts – a provocation that would lead to a major war. This causes the Obama administration serious worry: they do not wish to be dragged into such a war by their Israeli junior partner.

On January 20, while on an unadvertised and little noticed visit to Israel (no press conference, no public statement), general Martin Dempsey, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, “told Israeli leaders … that the United States would not participate in a war against Iran begun by Israel without prior agreement from Washington … Dempsey’s warning, conveyed to both prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Israeli defence minister Ehud Barak, represents the strongest move yet by president Barack Obama to deter an Israeli attack and ensure that the United States is not caught up in a regional conflagration with Iran.”[4]

His warning seems to have fallen on deaf ears. On February 2, Associated Press reported:

“US defence secretary Leon Panetta won’t dispute a report that he believes Israel may attack Iran this spring in an attempt to set back the Islamic republic’s nuclear programme.

“Panetta was asked by reporters to comment on a Washington Post opinion column by David Ignatius that said Panetta believes there is a ‘strong likelihood’ that Israel will attack in April, May or June. Ignatius did not say who told him this.

“Asked whether he disputes the report, Panetta said, ‘No, I’m just not commenting’ …

“He noted that Israel has stated publicly that it is considering military action against Iran. He said the US has ‘indicated our concerns’.”[5]

In my opinion this is not just sabre-rattling on Israel’s part. There is reason to believe that Netanyahu is seriously considering a provocation designed to trigger off a major Middle East conflagration, despite the enormous risks, that include Iranian retaliation causing loss of many Israeli lives.

To explain Netanyahu’s reckless calculation we need to turn our attention to Zionism’s nightmare: the Palestinian ‘demographic peril’.

One state, Zionist style

By now most people are aware that the present Israeli government has done all in its power to torpedo a so-called ‘two-state solution’. What is less well known is that opposition to a sovereign Palestinian state in any part of Eretz Yisrael is not a mere quirk of a rightwing Israeli government, but a deep-seated and fundamental principle shared by all mainstream Zionist parties.

In 1975, General Moshe Dayan put it like this: “Fundamentally, a Palestinian state is an antithesis of the state of Israel … The basic and naked truth is that there is no fundamental difference between the relation of the Arabs of Nablus to Nablus [in the West Bank] and that of the Arabs of Jaffa to Jaffa [in Israel] … And if today we set out on this road and say that the Palestinians are entitled to their own state because they are natives of the same country and have the same rights, then it will not end with the West Bank. The West Bank together with the Gaza Strip do not amount to a state … The establishment of such a Palestinian state would lay a cornerstone to something else … Either the state of Israel – or a Palestinian state.”[6]

Thus, for mainstream Zionism any admission that “the Palestinians are entitled to their own state because they are natives of the same country and have the same rights” would undermine the legitimacy of the Zionist state, and eventually its very existence.

This has remained a cornerstone of Israel’s political strategy. For this reason, no Israeli government has ever signed a legally binding commitment to accepting a Palestinian Arab state. This applies, in particular, to the Oslo accords of 1993, which the second government of Yitzhak Rabin co-signed with the Palestinian leadership under Yasser Arafat. In this treaty there is no mention of a Palestinian state. This was not an accidental omission: when presenting the Oslo accords to the Knesset for ratification – on October 5 1995, a month before he was assassinated – Rabin pointedly stressed that what Israel was going to insist on was a Palestinian “entity which is less than a state”.

Many observers have been puzzled by Israel’s adamant rejection of any Palestinian sovereign state, however small, west of the Jordan River. This seems terribly short-sighted. For, if the whole of pre-1948 Palestine is to remain under Israeli sovereignty, that would mean that Israel would have to rule over a hostile Palestinian Arab people. In effect, the whole of that territory will be one state. Right now there is a rough numerical parity between the two national groups. Since no large-scale Jewish immigration is expected, and since the natural rate of increase of the Palestinian population is higher than that of the Hebrew population, the former will considerably outnumber the latter within a few decades. Surely, the Palestinian majority cannot indefinitely be denied equal rights; but equal rights would lead to the demise of the Jewish state. For Zionism this ‘demographic peril’ is worse even than a sovereign Palestinian mini-state. So it would seem that by sabotaging the creation of such a state, Israel is heading for what its own ruling ideology regards as the abyss.

This apparent contradiction disregards a third option: neither a two-state solution, nor a single state with an Arab majority, but ‘population transfer’. Large-scale ethnic cleansing of Palestinian Arabs would result in a single state in the entire territory, with a large Jewish majority, which is the ultimate aim of all mainstream Zionist parties.

But implementing ethnic cleansing on a sufficiently large scale – while technically quite easy, as explained by the Israeli military theorist, Martin van Creveld[7] – is politically very tricky. It cannot be done in normal, politically tranquil circumstances. It requires what in Zionist parlance is called she’at kosher: an opportune moment of major political, and preferably military, crisis.

Interestingly, quite a long time ago, on November 16 1989, a junior minister in the Shamir government made precisely this point in a speech delivered at Bar-Ilan University, a hotbed of clerical ultra-chauvinist Zionism.

The Jerusalem Post of November 19 1989, quoting a tape recording of the speech, reported that the deputy foreign minister (roughly equivalent to parliamentary under-secretary of state in Westminster) “has called for Israel to exploit political opportunities in order to expel large numbers of Palestinians from the [occupied] territories”. He told students in a speech at Bar-Ilan University that “the government had failed to exploit politically favourable situations in order to carry out ‘large-scale’ expulsions at times when ‘the damage would have been relatively small. I still believe that there are opportunities to expel many people’.”

Oh, the name of that junior minister: Binyamin Netanyahu.

A sacrifice worth making

A war with Iran would present a golden opportunity for large-scale expulsion of Palestinians, precisely because (unlike the Iraq invasion of 2003) fighting would not be over too soon, and major protests and disturbances are likely to occur among the masses throughout the region, including the Palestinian Arabs under Israeli rule. What better way to pacify such disturbances than to “expel many people”.

Of course, a decision to ignite a war against Iran is not one that any Israeli leader would take lightly. There is a non-negligible risk that Israel would suffer many casualties. This is not a price that even the most adventurous prime minister would consider paying, unless the expected prize is extremely high. But in this case the prize is the highest possible one from a Zionist point of view: eliminating the demographic threat to the future of Israel as a Jewish ethnocracy. So Netanyahu will be sorely tempted to make a sacrifice of his own people for the greater national good.

I assume that American policy-makers are aware of Israel’s special interest in a military denouement of the conflict with Iran, an interest not quite shared by the US. This is why they are worried, and issue stern warnings to Netanyahu and Barak – discreetly and behind the scenes, of course, because especially in this election year, when he will face Republican crazies, Obama cannot afford to appear pusillanimous.

However, Netanyahu cannot flagrantly go ahead and start a war without US approval. Therefore the most likely scenario is a series of provocations instigated by Israel, mostly by devious and covert means, in order to escalate the conflict and drag the US by degrees into mission creep.

I do not wish to sound too alarmist, but the coming few months may well be ‘interesting’ in the Chinese sense.


1. Weekly Worker September 18 2008.

2. ‘Iranian nukes mean end of Zionism’ The Jerusalem Post internet edition, September 9 2008.

3. ‘Panetta: Iran has not yet decided to make a nuclear bomb’ Associated Press, January 8 2012; reported by Fox News:

4. IPS report, February 1 2012:

5. Washington Post February 2 2012.

6. Ha’aretz December 12 1975.

7. Martin van Creveld, ‘Sharon’s plan is to drive Palestinians across the Jordan’ The Sunday Telegraph April 28 2002: