Friday, December 28, 2007

The End Of Israel?

12/22/07 "Electronic Intifada"
By Hannah Mermelstein

[The author is co-founder and co-director of Birthright Unplugged, which takes mostly Jewish North American people into the West Bank to meet with Palestinian people and to equip them to return to their own communities and work for justice; and takes Palestinian children from refugee camps to Jerusalem, the sea, and the villages their grandparents fled in 1948, and supports them to document their experiences and create photography exhibits to share with their communities and with the world. Anna Baltzer helped contribute to this article.]

I am feeling optimistic about Palestine.

I know it sounds crazy. How can I use "optimistic" and "Palestine" in the same sentence when conditions on the ground only seem to get worse? Israeli settlements continue to expand on a daily basis, the checkpoints and segregated road system are becoming more and more institutionalized, more than 10,000 Palestinian political prisoners are being held in Israeli jails, Gaza is under heavy attack and the borders are entirely controlled by Israel, preventing people from getting their most basic human needs met.

We can never forget these things and the daily suffering of the people, and yet I dare to say that I am optimistic. Why? Ehud Olmert. Let me clarify. Better yet, let's let him clarify:

"The day will come when the two-state solution collapses, and we face a South African-style struggle for equal voting rights. As soon as that happens, the state of Israel is finished."

That's right, the Prime Minister of Israel is currently trying to negotiate a "two-state solution" specifically because he realizes that if he doesn't, Palestinians might begin to demand, en masse, equal rights to Israelis. Furthermore, he worries, the world might begin to see Israel as an apartheid state. In actuality, most of the world already sees Israel this way, but Olmert is worried that even Israel's most ardent supporters will begin to catch up with the rest of the world.

"The Jewish organizations, which were our power base in America, will be the first to come out against us," he told Haaretz, "because they will say they cannot support a state that does not support democracy and equal voting rights for all its residents."

Perhaps Olmert is giving American Jews too much credit here, but he does expose a basic contradiction in the minds of most American people, Jewish and not: most of us -- at least in theory -- support equal rights for all residents of a country. Most of us do not support rights given on the basis of ethnicity and religion, especially when the ethnicity/religion being prioritized is one that excludes the vast majority of the country's indigenous population. We cannot, of course, forget the history of ethnic cleansing of indigenous people on the American continent. But we must not use the existence of past atrocities to justify present ones.

I am optimistic not because I think the process of ethnic cleansing and apartheid in Israel/Palestine is going to end tomorrow, but because I can feel the ideology behind these policies beginning to collapse. For years the true meaning of political Zionism has been as ignored as its effects on Palestinian daily life. And suddenly it is beginning to break open. Olmert's comments last week are reminiscent of those of early Zionist leaders who talked openly of transfer and ethnic cleansing in order to create an artificial Jewish majority in historic Palestine.

“We must expel the Arabs and take their places and if we have to use force to guarantee our own right to settle in those places -- then we have force at our disposal.” - David Ben-Gurion, Israel's "founding father" and first prime minister, 1937

So this idea of a "two-state solution" a la Olmert -- which I would argue provides neither a "state" nor a "solution" for the Palestinian people -- is the new transfer. It is no longer popular in the world to openly discuss expulsion (though there are political parties in Israel that advocate this), but Olmert hopes that by creating a Palestinian "state" on a tiny portion of historic Palestine, he can accomplish the same goal: maintaining an ethno-religious state exclusively for the Jewish people in most of historic Palestine. His plan, as all other plans Israeli leaders have tried to "negotiate," ignores the basic rights of the two-thirds of the Palestinian population who are refugees. They, like all other refugees in the world, have the internationally recognized right to return to their lands and receive compensation for loss and damages. This should not be up for negotiation.

So why am I optimistic? Why do I think Olmert will fail, if not in the short term, at least in the long term? There are many signs.

The first and most important is that Palestinian people are holding on. Sometimes by a thread, but holding on nonetheless. Despite the hope of many in Israel, Palestinians will not disappear. They engage in daily acts of nonviolent resistance, from demonstrations against the wall and land confiscation, to simply remaining in their homes against all odds. Young people are joining organizations designed to preserve their culture and identity. Older Palestinians have said to me, "We lived through the Ottoman Empire, we lived through the British Mandate, we lived through Jordanian rule, and we will live through Israeli occupation." This too shall pass.

In Israel, it seems that within the traditional "Zionist left," Jewish Israelis are beginning to have open conversations about the exclusivity of Zionism as a political ideology, and are questioning it more and more.

In the US, I have been traveling around speaking to groups about Palestine, and they get it. Even those whose prior information has come only from US mainstream media, when they hear what is actually happening, they get it. When we explain the difference between being Jewish (a religion or ethnicity), Israeli (a citizenship), and Zionist (an ideology), people understand.

"Does Israel have a right to exist?" people ask. What does that mean? Do countries really have rights, or do people have rights? The Jewish people have a right to exist, the Israeli people have a right to exist, but what does "Israel" mean? Israel defines itself as the state of the Jewish people. It is not a state of its citizens. It is a state of many people who are not its citizens, like myself, and is not the state of many people who are its citizens, like the 20 percent of its population that is Palestinian. So if we ask a Palestinian person, "Do you recognize the right for there to be a country on your historic homeland that explicitly excludes you?" what kind of response should we expect?

So when Olmert warns that we will "face a South African-style struggle for equal voting rights" and that "the state of Israel [will be] finished," I get a little flutter of excitement. I think of the 171 Palestinian organizations who have called on the international community to begin campaigns of boycott, divestment, and sanctions against Israel until Israel complies with international law. This is already a South African-style struggle, and we outside of Palestine need to do our part. Especially those of us who live in the US, the country that gives Israel more than $10 million every single day, must take responsibility for the atrocities committed in our name and with our money.

Ultimately, this is our role as Americans. It is to begin campaigns in our churches, synagogues, mosques, universities, cities, unions, etc. It is not to broker false negotiations between occupier and occupied, and it is not to muse over solutions the way I have above. But one can dream. And as a Jewish-American, I know that while it might be scary to some, while it will require a lot of imagination, the end of Israel as a Jewish state could mean the beginning of democracy, human rights, and some semblance of justice in a land that has almost forgotten what that means.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

How Unrepresentative Neocon Jewish Groups

Published on Wednesday, December 12, 2007 by

New Poll Reveals How Unrepresentative Neocon Jewish Groups Are by Glenn Greenwald

A new survey of American Jewish opinion, released by the American Jewish Committee, demonstrates several important propositions: (1) right-wing neocons (the Bill Kristol/Commentary/ AIPAC/Marty Peretz faction) who relentlessly claim to speak for Israel and for Jews generally hold views that are shared only by a small minority of American Jews; (2) viewpoints that are routinely demonized as reflective of animus towards Israel or even anti-Semitism are ones that are held by large majorities of American Jews; and (3) most American Jews oppose U.S. military action in the Middle East — including both in Iraq and against Iran.

It is beyond dispute that American Jews overwhelmingly oppose core neoconservative foreign policy principles. Hence, in large numbers, they disapprove of the way the U.S. is handling its “campaign against terrorism” (59-31); overwhelmingly believe the U.S. should have stayed out of Iraq (67-27); believe that things are going “somewhat badly” or “very badly” in Iraq (76-23); and believe that the “surge” has either made things worse or has had no impact (68-30).

When asked whether they would support or oppose the United States taking military action against Iran, a large majority — 57-35% — say they would oppose such action, even if it were being undertaken “to prevent [Iran] from developing nuclear weapons.” While Jews hold views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict which are quite pessimistic about the prospects for Israel’s ability to achieve a lasting peace with its “Arab neighbors,” even there, a plurality (46-43) supports the establishment of a Palestinian state.

In the realm of U.S. domestic politics, it is even clearer that right-wing neoconservatives are a fringe segment of American Jewish public opinion. By a large margin, American Jews identify as some shade of liberal rather than conservative (43-25), and overwhelmingly identify themselves as Democrats rather than Republicans (58-15). And, most strikingly, by a 3-1 margin (61-21), they believe that Democrats, rather than Republicans, are “more likely to make the right decision about the war in Iraq,” and by a similarly lopsided margin (53-30), believe that Democrats are “more likely to make the right decision when it comes to dealing with terrorism.” They have overwhelmingly favorable views of the top 3 Democratic presidential candidates, and overwhelmingly negative views of 3 out of the top 4 GOP candidates (Giuliani being the sole exception, where opinion is split).

Contrary to the bottomless obssession which most neocon pundits and office-holders have with All Matters Israel, the principal political concerns of most American Jews have nothing to do with the Middle East. Thus, they identify “economy/jobs” (22) and “health care” (19) — not Terrorism — as “the most important problem facing the U.S. today.” Still, most American Jews agree that “[c]aring about Israel is a very important part of [their] being a Jew” — a common, innocuous and indisputable attribute that typically triggers noxious charges of anti-Semitism if pointed out by those who oppose the neoconservative agenda.

One of the defining traits of war-loving neoconservatives is that their unrelenting and exclusive fixation on the Middle East places them loudly at the center of any foreign policy debates. That tenacity — combined with their reckless exploitation of “anti-Israel” and anti-Semitism accusations as instruments in their political rhetoric and their corresponding, deceitful equation of their own views with being “pro-Israel” — often casts the appearance that they are some sort of spokespeople for the “pro-Israel” agenda or the Jewish viewpoint.

Manifestly, they are nothing of the sort. Even among American Jews, they comprise only a small minority, and their generally discredited militarism is widely rejected by most Jews as well. It is always worth underscoring these points, which are so frequently (and deliberately) obscured, and this comprehensive poll provides potent — actually quite conclusive — evidence for doing so.

Glenn Greenwald was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator in New York. He is the author of the New York Times Bestselling book “How Would a Patriot Act?,” a critique of the Bush administration’s use of executive power, released in May 2006. His second book, “A Tragic Legacy“, examines the Bush legacy.


Monday, October 29, 2007

Desmond Tutu Likens Israeli Actions to Apartheid

by Adrianne Appel

BOSTON - South African Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu compared conditions in Palestine to those of South Africa under apartheid, and called on Israelis to try and change them, while speaking in Boston Saturday at historic Old South Church.”We hope the occupation of the Palestinian territory by Israel will end,” Tutu said.

“There is a cry of anguish from the depth of my heart, to my spiritual relatives. Please, please hear the call, the noble call of our scripture,” Tutu said of Israelis.1029 03

“Don’t be found fighting against this god, your god, our god, who hears the cry of the oppressed,” Tutu said.

Tutu spoke with political activist and lecturer Noam Chomsky and others to a largely religious audience about “The Apartheid Paradigm in Palestine-Israel,” a conference sponsored by Friends of Sabeel North America, a Christian Palestinian group.

Israeli policy toward Palestine is an inflammatory topic in the U.S. and is not commonly discussed in large, public forums.

In Boston, complaints were lodged with Old South Church in the weeks prior to the event, in an effort to halt the conference. The Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting complained that Sabeel is “an anti-Zionist organisation that traffics in anti-Judaic themes,” according to press reports.

Outside the church Saturday, Christians and Jews United for Israel demonstrated against Tutu and the conference.

“Sabeel is an organisation that seeks to demonise Israel. Tutu several years ago made anti-Semitic comments,” May Long, president of the group, told IPS. Long did not hear Tutu’s speech, she said.

Tutu was an inspirational leader in the South African fight against apartheid, which officially ended 13 years ago. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984 and today continues to speak around the globe for peace and justice, and to call for Palestinian rights.

The 76-year-old Tutu also appears to have won a battle against prostate cancer, which he was last treated for in 2000.

“Because of what I experienced in South Africa, I harbour hope for Israel and the Palestinian territories,” said Tutu, who invoked passages from the Christian bible throughout his talk.

Tutu drew parallels between the apartheid of South Africa and occupied Palestine of today, including demolitions of Palestinian homes by the Israeli government and the inability of Palestinians to travel freely within and out of Palestine.

“I experienced a déjà vu when I encountered a security checkpoint that Palestinians must negotiate every day and be demeaned, all their lives,” Tutu said.

Tutu said that Palestinian homes are being bulldozed, and new, illegal homes for Israeli’s built in their place.

“When I hear, ‘that used to be my home,’ it is painfully similar to the treatment in South Africa when coloureds had no rights,” Tutu said.

Tutu is a pacifist and he said only non-violent means should be used to confront the oppression at play in Palestine.

“Palestinians ought to try themselves to restrain those who fire the rockets into Israeli territory,” Tutu said.

Tutu said that while fighting apartheid in South Africa he drew inspiration from the Jewish struggle as the bible describes it.

“Spiritually I am of Hebrew decent. When apartheid oppression was at its most vicious, and all but knocked the stuffing out of those of us who opposed it, we turned to the Hebrew tradition of resistance,” and the belief that good will triumph over evil, and that a day of freedom from oppression will come, he said.

“The well-to-do and powerful complain that we are mixing religion with politics. I’ve never heard the poor complain that ‘Tutu, you are being too political,”‘ he said.

“I am not playing politics when it involves children who suffer,” Tutu said. “A human rights violation is a human rights violation is a human rights violation, wherever it occurs.”

Tutu recently bumped up against U.S. discomfort with discourse about Palestine, when a Minnesota university president yanked an invitation to Tutu that had been extended by a youth group.

Rev. Dennis Dease, president of the University of St. Thomas, in St. Paul Minnesota, said he did not want Tutu to speak because the Nobel Laureate’s position on Palestine was viewed by some as anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic.

Dease also fired Cris Toffolo as head of the university’s peace and justice programme, who had supported the invitation to Tutu.

Dease apologised to Tutu three weeks ago.

Tutu said Saturday that he accepted Dease’s “handsome apology”, but that he will not consider speaking at the school until Toffolo is reinstated and her record cleared.

At the conference, Chomsky said the U.S. provides heavy financial support to Israel and has a profound influence on Israeli policies, including those toward Palestine and foreign trade.

“If the U.S. doesn’t like what Israel is doing, it just kicks Israel in the face,” Chomsky said. In 2005, Israel wanted to sell improved missiles to China. The Bush administration halted the sale, Chomsky said.

“It blocked them and refused to allow Israeli officials to come to the U.S. The U.S. demanded an apology from Israel. It dragged Israel through the mud,” Chomsky said.

The U.S. began its close relationship with Israel after the Israeli victory in the 1967 “Six Day War” against Egypt, Syria and Jordan, Chomsky said.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Israel Lobby Targets Haaretz

October 23, 2007

The Israel Lobby Targets Haaretz
It takes me a while to understand stuff I see with my own eyes. In my post last night about CAMERA's conference on Israel's Jewish defamers (which I paid $40 to attend), I failed to linger on executive director Andrea Levin's important speech about Ha'aretz. At some point I will transcribe her comments and provide them. But here is the gist of them.

No other newspaper in Israel matters, Levin says, because Ha'aretz is an elite publication and it has such an amazing English-language website. It is read by millions around the world. "None of the other papers is having international impact." All true.

"We feel directly affected by Haaretz... we feel we should be directly interacting as much as possible... putting more resources into that, because of its direct effect on all of us." I believe that Levin said she had even appealed to government bodies in Israel, including the IDF, to do something about Haaretz stories. The speech ended with the call to arms, for CAMERA members to start pressuring Haaretz. "Write, phone, challenge, speak out... Haaretz is now affecting all of us."

The heart of Levin's concern was the American discourse. When Haaretz was just published in Israel, CAMERA didn't care about its statements about the occupation and the destruction of Palestinian hopes and dreams and olive trees. "This all happened in Hebrew... causing little outward impact.."

Outward impact. She means: now Haaretz is affecting U.S. opinion and foreign policy. The most important statement Levin made was that she gets the brushoff from Amos Schocken, the Haaretz publisher, but with the American media, "there is an unwritten contract between them and us." (Verbatim transcript to come later, when I have a little time...) An unwritten contract: to be fair to Israel, to print CAMERA members' letters, to pick up the phone.

Isn't that amazing and scandalous? Levin is explaining why there is a free debate in Israel and not here. Because of the lobby and its "unwritten contract." Because U.S. support is crucial to Israel's existence. And so Americans, who supposedly so love the Middle East democracy that they support it out of the goodness of their hearts, must not read the news from Israel.

Posted at 05:25 AM in Journalism, U.S. Policy in the Mideast | Permalink

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Israel shaken by troops' tales of brutality against Palestinians,,2195924,00.html

A psychologist blames assaults on civilians in the 1990s on soldiers' bad training, boredom and poor supervision

Conal Urquhart in Jerusalem Sunday October 21, 2007 The Observer

A study by an Israeli psychologist into the violent behaviour of the country's soldiers is provoking bitter controversy and has awakened urgent questions about the way the army conducts itself in the Gaza Strip and West Bank. Nufar Yishai-Karin, a clinical psychologist at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, interviewed 21 Israeli soldiers and heard confessions of frequent brutal assaults against Palestinians, aggravated by poor training and discipline. In her recently published report, co-authored by Professor Yoel Elizur, Yishai-Karin details a series of violent incidents, including the beating of a four-year-old boy by an officer.

Article continues

The report, although dealing with the experience of soldiers in the 1990s, has triggered an impassioned debate in Israel, where it was published in an abbreviated form in the newspaper Haaretz last month. According to Yishai Karin: 'At one point or another of their service, the majority of the interviewees enjoyed violence. They enjoyed the violence because it broke the routine and they liked the destruction and the chaos. They also enjoyed the feeling of power in the violence and the sense of danger.' In the words of one soldier: 'The truth? When there is chaos, I like it. That's when I enjoy it. It's like a drug. If I don't go into Rafah, and if there isn't some kind of riot once in some weeks, I go nuts.'

Another explained: 'The most important thing is that it removes the burden of the law from you. You feel that you are the law. You are the law. You are the one who decides... As though from the moment you leave the place that is called Eretz Yisrael [the Land of Israel] and go through the Erez checkpoint into the Gaza Strip, you are the law. You are God.'

The soldiers described dozens of incidents of extreme violence. One recalled an incident when a Palestinian was shot for no reason and left on the street. 'We were in a weapons carrier when this guy, around 25, passed by in the street and, just like that, for no reason - he didn't throw a stone, did nothing - bang, a bullet in the stomach, he shot him in the stomach and the guy is dying on the pavement and we keep going, apathetic. No one gave him a second look,' he said.

The soldiers developed a mentality in which they would use physical violence to deter Palestinians from abusing them. One described beating women. 'With women I have no problem. With women, one threw a clog at me and I kicked her here [pointing to the crotch], I broke everything there. She can't have children. Next time she won't throw clogs at me. When one of them [a woman] spat at me, I gave her the rifle butt in the face. She doesn't have what to spit with any more.'

Yishai-Karin found that the soldiers were exposed to violence against Palestinians from as early as their first weeks of basic training. On one occasion, the soldiers were escorting some arrested Palestinians. The arrested men were made to sit on the floor of the bus. They had been taken from their beds and were barely clothed, even though the temperature was below zero. The new recruits trampled on the Palestinians and then proceeded to beat them for the whole of the journey. They opened the bus windows and poured water on the arrested men.

The disclosure of the report in the Israeli media has occasioned a remarkable response. In letters responding to the recollections, writers have focused on both the present and past experience of Israeli soldiers to ask troubling questions that have probed the legitimacy of the actions of the Israeli Defence Forces.

The study and the reactions to it have marked a sharp change in the way Israelis regard their period of military service - particularly in the occupied territories - which has been reflected in the increasing levels of conscientious objection and draft-dodging.

The debate has contrasted sharply with an Israeli army where new recruits are taught that they are joining 'the most ethical army in the world' - a refrain that is echoed throughout Israeli society. In its doctrine, published on its website, the Israeli army emphasises human dignity. 'The Israeli army and its soldiers are obligated to protect human dignity. Every human being is of value regardless of his or her origin, religion, nationality, gender, status or position.'

However, the Israeli army, like other armies, has found it difficult to maintain these values beyond the classroom. The first intifada, which began in 1987, before the wave of suicide bombings, was markedly different to the violence of the second intifada, and its main events were popular demonstrations with stone-throwing.

Yishai-Karin, in an interview with Haaretz, described how her research came out of her own experience as a soldier at an army base in Rafah in the Gaza Strip. She interviewed 18 ordinary soldiers and three officers whom she had served with in Gaza. The soldiers described how the violence was encouraged by some commanders. One soldier recalled: 'After two months in Rafah, a [new] commanding officer arrived... So we do a first patrol with him. It's 6am, Rafah is under curfew, there isn't so much as a dog in the streets. Only a little boy of four playing in the sand. He is building a castle in his yard. He [the officer] suddenly starts running and we all run with him. He was from the combat engineers.

'He grabbed the boy. I am a degenerate if I am not telling you the truth. He broke his hand here at the wrist, broke his leg here. And started to stomp on his stomach, three times, and left. We are all there, jaws dropping, looking at him in shock...

'The next day I go out with him on another patrol, and the soldiers are already starting to do the same thing."

Yishai-Karin concluded that the main reason for the soldiers' violence was a lack of training. She found that the soldiers did not know what was expected of them and therefore were free to develop their own way of behaviour. The longer a unit was left in the field, the more violent it became. The Israeli soldiers, she concluded, had a level of violence which is universal across all nations and cultures. If they are allowed to operate in difficult circumstances, such as in Gaza and the West Bank, without training and proper supervision, the violence is bound to come out.

A spokeswoman for the Israeli army said that, if a soldier deviates from the army's norms, they could be investigated by the military police or face criminal investigation.

She said: 'It should be noted that since the events described in Nufar Yishai-Karin's research the number of ethical violations by IDF soldiers involving the Palestinian population has consistently dropped. This trend has continued in the last few years.'

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The Open Secret About the Israel Lobby


October 16, 2007

Follow the Leader


There is an open secret in Washington. I learned it well during my 22-year tenure as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives. All members swear to serve the interests of the United States, but there is an unwritten and overwhelming exception: The interests of one small foreign country almost always trump U.S. interests. That nation of course is Israel.

Both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue give priority to Israel over America. Those on Capitol Hill are pre-primed to roar approval for Israeli actions whether right or wrong, instead of at least fussing first and then caving. The White House sometimes puts up a modest and ineffective show of resistance before it follows Israel's lead.

In 2002, President Bush publicly ordered Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon to end a bloody, destructive rampage through the Palestinian West Bank. He wilted just as publicly when he received curt word from Sharon that Israeli troops would not withdraw and would continue their military operations. A few days later President Bush invited Sharon to the White House where he saluted him as a "man of peace."

I had similar experiences in the House of Representatives. On several occasions, colleagues told me privately that they admired what I was trying to do in Middle East policy reform but could not risk pro-Israel protest back home by supporting my positions.

The pro-Israel lobby is not one organization orchestrating U.S. Middle East policy from a backroom in Washington. Nor is it entirely Jewish. It consists of scores of groups -- large and small -- that work at various levels. The largest, most professional, and most effective is the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. Many pro-Israel lobby groups belong to the Christian Right.

The recently released book, "The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy," co-authored by distinguished professors John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago and Stephen Walt of Harvard, offers hope for constructive change. It details the damage to U.S. national interests caused by the lobby for Israel. These brave professors render a great service to America, but their theme, expressed in a published study paper a year ago, is already under heavy, vitriolic attack.

They are unjustly accused of anti-Semitism, the ultimate instrument of intimidation employed by the lobby. A common problem: Under pressure, the Chicago Council on Global Affairs withdrew an invitation for the authors to speak about their book. Council president Marshall Bouton explained ruefully that the invitation posed "a political problem" and a need "to protect the institution" from those who would be angry if the authors appeared.

I know what it is like to be targeted in this way. In the last years of my long service in Congress, I spoke out, making many of the points now presented in the Mearsheimer-Walt book. In 1980, my opponent charged me with anti-Semitism, and money poured into his campaign fund from every state in the Union. I prevailed that year but two years later lost by a narrow margin. In 1984, Sen. Charles Percy, then chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee and an occasional critic of Israel, was defeated. Leaders of the Israel lobby claimed credit for defeating both Percy and me, claims that strengthened lobby influence in the years that followed.

The result is that Members of Congress today loudly reward Israel as it violates international law and peace agreements, lures America into costly wars, and subjects millions of Palestinians under its rule to apartheid-like conditions because they are not Jewish.

It is time to call politicians to account for their undying allegiance to a foreign state. Let the Mearsheimer-Walt book be a clarion that bestirs the American people to political action and finally brings fundamental change to both Capitol Hill and the White House.

Citizen participation in public policy development is a hallmark of our proud democracy. But the pro-Israel groups subvert democracy when they engage in smear campaigns that intimidate and silence critics. America badly needs a civilized discussion of the damaging role of Israel in U.S. policy formulation.

Paul Findley represented Illinois in the U.S. House of Representatives for 22 years. He is the author of They Dare to Speak Out: People and Institutions Confront the Israel Lobby.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Palestine: democracy not Zionism

Palestine: democracy not Zionism
A decent two-state solution to the 'Palestinian problem' has become impossible.

By John V. Whitbeck
from the September 14, 2007 edition

Jeddah, saudi arabia - With some sort of "meeting" or "conference" to kick start the peace process now being touted by the Bush administration, there is at least the appearance of an understanding in Washington of the importance for the region and the world of solving the "Palestinian problem."

However, if this problem is ever to be solved, it must be redefined. Those who truly seek justice and peace in the Middle East must dare to speak openly and honestly of the "Zionism problem" – and then to draw the moral, ethical, and practical conclusions that follow.

When South Africa was under a racial-supremacist, settler-colonial regime, the world recognized that the problem was the ideology and political system of the state. Anyone outside the country who referred to the "black problem" or the "native problem" (or, for that matter, to the "white problem") would instantly have been branded a racist.

The world also recognized that the solution to that problem could not be found either in "separation" (apartheid in Afrikaans) and scattered native reservations (called "independent states" by the South African regime and Bantustans by the rest of the world) or in driving the settler-colonial group in power into the sea. Rather, the solution had to be found – and to almost universal satisfaction was found – in democracy, in white South Africans growing out of their racial-supremacist ideology and political system and accepting that their interests and their children's futures would be best served in a democratic, non-racist state with equal rights for all who live there.

The solution for the land which, until it was literally wiped off the map in 1948, was called Palestine is the same. It can only be democracy.

The ever-receding "political horizon" for a decent two-state solution, which, on the ground, becomes less practical with each passing year of expanding settlements, bypass roads, and walls, is weighed down by a multitude of excruciatingly difficult "final status" issues. Israeli governments have consistently refused to discuss these final-status issues seriously, preferring to postpone them to the end of a road which is never reached – and which, almost certainly, is intended never to be reached.

Just as marriage is vastly less complicated than divorce, democracy is vastly less complicated than partition. A democratic post-Zionist solution would not require any borders to be agreed, any division of Jerusalem, anyone to move from his current home, or any assets to be evaluated and apportioned. Full rights of citizenship would simply be extended to all the surviving natives still living in the country, as happened in the United States in the early 20th century and in South Africa in the late 20th century.

The obstacle to such a simple – and morally unimpeachable – solution is, of course, intellectual and psychological. Traumatized by the Holocaust and perceived insecurity as a Jewish island in an Arab sea, Israelis have immense psychological problems in coming to grips with the practical impossibility of sustaining forever what most of mankind views as a racial-supremacist, settler-colonial regime founded upon the ethnic cleansing of an indigenous population.

Indeed, Israelis have placed themselves in a virtually impossible situation. To taste its bitter essence, Americans might try to imagine what life in their country would be like if the European settlers had not virtually exterminated the indigenous population and if almost half of today's American population were Indians, without basic human rights, impoverished, smoldering with resentment, and visible every day as the inescapable living evidence of the injustice inflicted on their ancestors.

This would not be a pleasant society in which to live. Both colonizers and colonized would be progressively degraded and dehumanized. The colonizers could, rationally, conclude that they could never be forgiven by those they had dispossessed and that no "solution" was imaginable. So it has been, and continues to be, in the lands under Israeli rule.

Perhaps the coming "meeting" or "conference" will be the last gasp of the fruitless pursuit of a separation-based solution. Perhaps those who care about justice and peace and believe in democracy can then find ways to stimulate Israelis to move beyond Zionist ideology toward a more humane, hopeful, and democratic view of present realities and future possibilities.

No one would suggest that the moral, ethical, and intellectual transformation necessary to achieve a decent one-state solution will be easy. However, more and more people now recognize that a decent two-state solution has become impossible.

It is surely time for concerned people everywhere – and particularly for Americans – to imagine a better way, to encourage Israelis to imagine a better way, and to help both Israelis and Palestinians to achieve it. It is surely time to seriously consider democracy and to give it a chance.

• John V. Whitbeck, an international lawyer who has advised the Palestinian negotiating team in negotiations with Israel, is author of "The World According to Whitbeck."

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Wars and Occupations

Wars and occupations are never completely alike. Yet future historians will marvel over the similarities between the US occupation of Iraq and the Israeli occupation of Palestine.

Both occupations involve taking what belongs to other nations. The US wants Iraq’s oil and Israel wants Palestine’s water and land. Both involve incredible suffering of occupied populations. After four years, Iraq is without basic services like water and electricity. Four million have fled. In Palestine, the human suffering has gone on for decades, creating one of the largest refugee populations in the world (six million).

The US and Israel employ many of the same tactics including unlimited detention without charges, torture, and daily assassinations that almost always involve civilian deaths. Neither country bothers to count the the number of civilians made homeless or killed. It simply doesn’t matter.

Both occupying countries use high tech weaponry to keep their own troop casualties at a minimum. Both occupying countries use fear to keep people back home from questioning the butchery being committed in their names.

Both occupations are being paid for by the same country, the United States. The occupation of Iraq has cost at least 450 billion with no end in sight. US payments to Israel have exceeded 130 billion, or more than $20,000 for each Israeli citizen. These numbers are well beyond anyone’s imagination, but represent the wealth of the world’s most powerful nation being used for war and oppression.

Israel Lobby Slammed at Start of Book Tour

Israel Lobby Slammed at Start of Book Tour
By Terry Walz
CNI Staff

John Mearsheimer and Steven Walt, the Chicago/Harvard University professors whose article last year on the Israel Lobby caused an uproar amongst hardline supporters of Israel have started a national book tour in connection with the publication of their book, The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $26.00), now available.

They made two appearances in Washington, DC on September 5, addressing packed audiences at the Cosmos Club and at the city's famous bookstore, Politics and Prose. The response was overwhelmingly positive.

At the Cosmos Club event, which I attended, the authors addressed two questions: Is there an Israel Lobby? (Walt) and Is the Lobby's impact positive or negative? (Mearsheimer). The object was to bear out the thesis of their book, that such a lobby does exist (which had been preposterously denied by Martin Indyk and Dennis Ross in a debate a year earlier at Cooper Union in New York City), and that it has worked extremely well, often to the detriment of both American and Israeli interests.

Walt told the audience how the initial reaction to the article in the London Review of Books in March 2006 had prompted a vociferous response, one that was often laced with charges of anti-Semitism, none of which was true, and "sloppy scholarship", a charge aimed at demeaning and dismissing the views of the authors. But the response by interested people has been significant. According to the webmaster at the Harvard University website where the longer version of the article was posted, it had been downloaded 265,000 times as of July 2006.

The lobby's successes in congressional hallways have come by wielding a heavy axe, often forcing nervous congressional representative to realize that criticism aimed at Israel would likely result in electoral defeat at the polls. The lobby's ability to steer money to their electoral opponents was among the tools the Lobby used without hesitation. In this, it was perhaps no different than other lobbies, which as Walt averred, were "as American as apple pie."

And yet, the Israel Lobby's agenda, Mearsheimer stated, has led the United States into an alliance with Israel that in the long run undermines both the strategic interests of the United States in the Middle East as Israel's own interests within that region. It has also led the American government to hold positions that are not only opposed by the majority of Americans polled - for example, on Jewish settlements in Gaza and the West Bank, on the continued occupation of the West Bank - but also by most peoples in the world. In a post-colonial world, it has tolerated Israel to construct colonies in the West Bank. There is no doubt, Mearsheimer said, that the treatment of the Palestinians by the Israelis was among the reasons that led to the 9/11 attacks, and to continues attacks on American interests. There is also no doubt that, whatever leaders of the Israeli government may have thought, the Lobby solidly backed neoconservative efforts to promote the war on Iraq, which has produced nothing but continued death, destruction, and turmoil in the Middle East, to neither American nor Israeli strategic interests in the area, nor the welfare of the people in the region.

Whatever else happens with the book, the authors concluded, their hope is that it would open up the debate on Israel and the American policy in the Middle East, and move the United States to adopt more sensible policies there.

The 355 page book is backed up by an additional 108 pages of footnotes.

The a list of Mearsheimer and Walt's upcoming appearances in California (San Francisco, Los Angeles) and elsewhere during September and October, see their website and also Farrar Straus and Giroux's (author appearances).

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

When the Occupation Gets Really Filthy

Published on Tuesday, August 21, 2007 by Inter Press Service
MIDEAST: When the Occupation Gets Really Filthy
by Nora Barrows-Friedman
BETHLEHEM - In the orange glow of another sunset, Awad Abu Swai, 36, stands underneath a towering fig tree, a sample of its fruit in his hand. He peels back the bright green skin to expose crimson jelly and seeds inside.

“The Israeli military came inside the valley and cut about 50 apricot and walnut trees since May. And now, they are coming to cut more trees. This is all because of what they are building through this land — my land. Here, they are building a sewage channel to run raw sewage through this valley collected from four Israeli settlements near here.” Abu Swai is one of approximately 4,000 residents of the Palestinian village of Artas, located southeast of Bethlehem city. Artas is known regionally for its succulent vegetables, and fruit and nut trees. But over the last few months Israeli occupation forces have brought dozens of bulldozers to the eastern valley fields of Artas to construct a wall that will cut villagers off from this fertile land, while a concrete tunnel for raw settlement sewage grows longer each day.

Efrat settlement colony, part of the Gush Etzion settlement bloc that stretches around several villages and towns near Bethlehem, sits perched on a hill over Artas. Below the settlement, a colony which houses approximately 9,000 Israelis and immigrants, Israeli bulldozers and earth movers work day and night constructing the sewage channel and building the wall.

Artas villagers have kept up an active and defiant campaign over the last year after unofficial information was leaked to the community that the village was in danger. Villagers watched in shock as bulldozers kept moving down the hillsides from Efrat toward the orchards on the valley floor.

Since May, Abu Swai has led actions as head of the popular committee in Artas, inviting international and Israeli peace activists to join villagers in their fight against the occupation administration’s designs on this land.

Non-violent protesters have been shot at, beaten and arrested by Israeli occupation soldiers and private settlement security guards. Abu Swai tells IPS that he was imprisoned for five days after being badly beaten by an Israeli soldier during a non-violent demonstration as he tried to protect his land.

Elsewhere across the West Bank, Palestinian villagers are facing land confiscation as illegal settlement colonies expand and tumble down hillsides. Some are watching as crops and orchards become poisoned and contaminated from raw sewage being actively pumped into their land from the sewage treatment facilities inside Israeli settlements.

South of Artas village, sewage from the Gush Etzion settlement bloc is slowly decimating the farming village of Beit Ommar, a small community reliant on its agricultural exports. Next to a vineyard owned by several families in Beit Ommar sits Gush Etzion’s sewage treatment facility, surrounded by a fence with barbed wire. Two pipes jut out from the edge of the brackish open water pool, aimed directly at the vineyard.

“Here, you will see that the land is black. This is where the sewage is pumped when the sewage pool from the settlement gets too full,” Musa abu Mariya, 29, a farmer and Beit Ommar community leader tells IPS. He points to an area in front of the facility that was once full of Beit Ommar’s apricot and plum trees.

“The bulldozers came about two years ago and started to pile dirt into a circle so that the overflow from the pool would go there.” Abu Mariya says that every few months, especially in the rainy season, Gush Etzion starts to pump overflow sewage over the fence and into this built-up area — an open and unprotected pit. “The water just shoots right out. It is destroying all of these crops on Palestinian land.”

Abu Mariya tells IPS that a whole area in this vineyard is now completely contaminated because of another open pipe leaking sewage. On the other side of the sewage facility, a small orange pipe connected to the facility cuts through the barbed wire fence and opens directly in front of the vineyard. Dirty, foul-smelling water drips from the end of the pipe.

“Look at these grapes,” Abu Mariya says. “They are not good here. Before the sewage plant started pumping water here, these grapes used to be beautiful and delicious.” On one grapevine, the leaves are yellowed and curling, and the grapes themselves are grey and withered. “They are obviously sick grapes,” Abu Mariya remarks. “They are all poisoned and dirty. This is from the water that they pump onto this land from the sewage.”

Jeff Halper, Nobel Peace Prize nominee, former professor of anthropology at Ben Gurion University and co-founder of the Israeli Committee Against Home Demolitions, tells IPS that this otherwise banal issue of sewage infrastructure is consistent with broadening Israeli policies of Palestinian dispossession.

“Infrastructure sounds innocuous, but the partisan planning behind it simply pushes Palestinians out of historic farmlands that are ether expropriated for settlements or Israeli-only highways, or which are flooded by sewage by settlements with no sustainable infrastructure of their own.

“Planning by the Israeli authorities is done with impunity regarding the Palestinians,” adds Halper. “It is merely one more means, more subtle than actual transfer, to alienate them from the lands and, in the end, render the greater Land of Israel cleansed of all but remnants of non-Jewish populations. It constitutes a crime of genocide, a crime taking place in the light of day and over six decades, that must be urgently addressed by the international community.”

Meanwhile, Abu Swai says he remains anxious as the sewage channel expands each day and the village prepares another round of direct actions against the confiscation and destruction of Artas. “We are going to the (Israeli) Supreme Court in two days to await a decision…they should determine that all of this destruction is illegal. We have certificates of ownership for this land from 1936. We hope we get justice.” (END/2007)

Copyright © 2007 IPS-Inter Press Service. All rights reserved.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

terrifying video

Click on this website. This is an illustration of the Coalition between Israeli's who want to bomb Iran and the Christian right so looking forward to the Rapture that a nuclear holocaust fits right in with their plans. It is the ultimate apocalyptic cleansing that will destroy the earth:

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Keeping on a steady course to Apartheid

by Jeff Halper
Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD).

June 25, 2007

For all the attention and hysteria the latest events in Gaza have generated since the Hamas "takeover," for Israel they represent nothing but a minor blip in its inexorable drive towards its own unilateral "solution:" apartheid. Israel’s end-game, explicit and unruffled by the recent turmoil on the ground, is clear. It is laid out in detail in the Convergence Plan" Olmert presented to a joint session of the American Congress in May, 2006, based on Sharon's plan of "cantonization." With minor adjustments, it constitutes the plan Israel's Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni is quietly advancing with the help of Condoleezza Rice, and it is accepted in its entirety by Ehud Barak, the newly-elected leader of the Labor Party, who played a key role in its formulation. The Israeli plan for apartheid is as follows:

(1) Creating a truncated Palestinian "state" comprised of four disconnected cantons, three in the West Bank and Gaza. By annexing its major settlement blocs defined by the Wall, Israel thereby expands onto 85% of the country, leaving the Palestinians confined to impoverished enclaves on the remaining 15% of the land. In such a "two-state solution" Israel would control the borders, external and internal Palestinian movement, the "Greater" Jerusalem area, all the water resources, the air space, the communications sphere and even the Palestinian state's foreign policy. Such a Bantustan would have no genuine sovereignty or viable economy - but would have to accept all the traumatized and impoverished Palestinian refugees.

(2) If this fails, primarily because Israel cannot find the quisling Palestinian leader who would sign off on a Bantustan, Plan B - the Livni-Rice plan - calls for the unilateral declaration by the US of a "provisional" Palestinian state with no fixed borders, no meaningful sovereignty and no viable economy, squeezed between the Wall, Israel's eastern "demographic" border incorporating the settlement blocs, and the Jordan Valley, Israel's eastern "security" border. The Palestinians would thus be left in the limbo of a "provisional" state indefinitely - or until they agree to a Bantustan - all in conformity to the parameters of the "Road Map."

Period. Regardless of the "peace initiative" of the moment - the Road Map, the Saudi initiative, the summit at Sharm el-sheikh, the appointment of a Middle East envoy - all these plans will have to conform to one of these alternatives or be doomed to irrelevance.

What happens in Gaza, then (tellingly nicknamed "Hamastan," the Palestinian cantons of the West Bank now dubbed "Fatahland"), is therefore irrelevant to Israel, since Gaza represents nothing more than a tiny part of the tiny Palestinian Bantustan (about 8%). Whether Gaza would have been "quieted" after the Israeli disengagement as Sharon had planned, exporting cheap labor into Israel and perhaps enjoying limited economic growth, whether it was merely isolated and impoverished due to US and Israeli sanctions after the Hamas election victory or whether, as happened, it explodes, nothing will hamper Israel's ceaseless process of consolidating its hold on the West Bank. Sooner or later, in the Israeli-American plan, Gaza will fall into place.

Not only are the Palestinians irrelevant, in Israel’s view, but the Hamas "takeover" is actually a positive development, since it furthers the apartheid process. A key reason why Palestinians voted for Hamas was the perception that it would resist pressures to accept a Bantustan better than the weak, vacillating Fatah movement, which was seen as little more than Israel’s policeman in the Territories. Israel, the US and a complicit Europe is thus seen as trying to isolate precisely those who truly resist the Occupation while "strengthening" Abbas and the "moderates" - "moderate" defined as those willing to pacify the Palestinians without securing their fundamental right to a sovereign and viable state of their own. The American-sponsored program of arming Fatah against its own people, complete with "lending" them an American general (Dayton), only confirms these suspicions, especially if they make Abbas dependent upon outside forces for his survival.

Israel and the US are doing in microcosm in Palestine what the US is doing throughout the Muslim world, forcing the Palestinians to choose between two unacceptable options: either the prospects of an apartheid regime which is all the "moderates" can deliver or continued resistance to occupation and apartheid under Hamas at the price of international isolation and an unwanted process of Islamization. Where are the true liberators who can deliver a viable Palestinian state while recognizing - though standing up to - Israel? Where are the progressive leaders who represent the wishes of the overwhelming majority of the Palestinian people? Where are the "strong" leaders that Bush claims are lacking on the Palestinian side? Either dead, the victims of a 30-year campaign on the part of Israel to eliminate any effective Palestinian leader, or languishing in refugee camps or in exile, or in prison. If Marwan Bargouti and the prisoners of all the factions who produced the Prisoners‚ Document, the only viable peace plan that has any chance of success, were free and allowed to lead their people, the Israel/Palestine conflict could be resolved tomorrow.

What is lacking, of course, is good faith. The will among governments to stand up for Palestinian rights and against Israeli apartheid is totally lacking. The Israeli newspaper Ha‚aretz (21.6.07) noted the cynicism underlying the recent Olmert-Bush meeting. "Olmert reached an understanding with∑Bush during his visit to Washington that it is necessary to support Abbas," a senior political source in Jerusalem said. "The decision to aid Abbas was made despite skepticism about his chances for success, in view of past experience. Olmert and Bush agreed they must not allow the impression that Abbas failed because Israel or the U.S. failed him."

Israel is not going to bolster Abbas - unless he becomes the collaborator Israel is looking for, which he won't. Olmert has already announced that there will be no final status negotiations in the foreseeable future. So neither the Saudi Inititative nor the Sharm meeting will lead to genuine negotiations. The US, with its moribund Road Map, will not facilitate the establishment of a viable Palestinian state and Europe will not act independently to do so, even in its own interest. The Palestinians, for their part, are powerless to achieve a viable state on their own and will continue to be beaten and blamed for their own incarceration and resistance.

Our governments have failed us. Unless we, the people worldwide, can mobilize grassroots opposition to the Israeli-US-European Occupation, a new apartheid regime,in the Holy Land no less, will soon emerge before our very eyes. Its only when the people lead that our "leaders" will even contemplate doing the right thing.

(Jeff Halper is the Coordinator of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD). He can be reached at

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

A Declaration of Independence from Israel

by Chris Hedges

Israel, without the United States, would probably not exist. The country came perilously close to extinction during the October 1973 war when Egypt, trained and backed by the Soviet Union, crossed the Suez and the Syrians poured in over the Golan Heights. Huge American military transport planes came to the rescue. They began landing every half-hour to refit the battered Israeli army, which had lost most of its heavy armor. By the time the war was over, the United States had given Israel $2.2 billion in emergency military aid.

The intervention, which enraged the Arab world, triggered the OPEC oil embargo that for a time wreaked havoc on Western economies. This was perhaps the most dramatic example of the sustained life-support system the United States has provided to the Jewish state.

Israel was born at midnight May 14, 1948. The U.S. recognized the new state 11 minutes later. The two countries have been locked in a deadly embrace ever since.

Washington, at the beginning of the relationship, was able to be a moderating influence. An incensed President Eisenhower demanded and got Israel’s withdrawal after the Israelis occupied Gaza in 1956. During the Six-Day War in 1967, Israeli warplanes bombed the USS Liberty. The ship, flying the U.S. flag and stationed 15 miles off the Israeli coast, was intercepting tactical and strategic communications from both sides. The Israeli strikes killed 34 U.S. sailors and wounded 171. The deliberate attack froze, for a while, Washington’s enthusiasm for Israel. But ruptures like this one proved to be only bumps, soon smoothed out by an increasingly sophisticated and well-financed Israel lobby that set out to merge Israel and American foreign policy in the Middle East.

Israel has reaped tremendous rewards from this alliance. It has been given more than $140 billion in U.S. direct economic and military assistance. It receives about $3 billion in direct assistance annually, roughly one-fifth of the U.S. foreign aid budget. Although most American foreign aid packages stipulate that related military purchases have to be made in the United States, Israel is allowed to use about 25 percent of the money to subsidize its own growing and profitable defense industry. It is exempt, unlike other nations, from accounting for how it spends the aid money. And funds are routinely siphoned off to build new Jewish settlements, bolster the Israeli occupation in the Palestinian territories and construct the security barrier, which costs an estimated $1 million a mile.

The barrier weaves its way through the West Bank, creating isolated pockets of impoverished Palestinians in ringed ghettos. By the time the barrier is finished it will probably in effect seize up to 40 percent of Palestinian land. This is the largest land grab by Israel since the 1967 war. And although the United States officially opposes settlement expansion and the barrier, it also funds them.

The U.S. has provided Israel with nearly $3 billion to develop weapons systems and given Israel access to some of the most sophisticated items in its own military arsenal, including Blackhawk attack helicopters and F-16 fighter jets. The United States also gives Israel access to intelligence it denies to its NATO allies. And when Israel refused to sign the nuclear nonproliferation treaty, the United States stood by without a word of protest as the Israelis built the region’s first nuclear weapons program.

U.S. foreign policy, especially under the current Bush administration, has become little more than an extension of Israeli foreign policy. The United States since 1982 has vetoed 32 Security Council resolutions critical of Israel, more than the total number of vetoes cast by all the other Security Council members. It refuses to enforce the Security Council resolutions it claims to support. These resolutions call on Israel to withdraw from the occupied territories.

There is now volcanic anger and revulsion by Arabs at this blatant favoritism. Few in the Middle East see any distinction between Israeli and American policies, nor should they. And when the Islamic radicals speak of U.S. support of Israel as a prime reason for their hatred of the United States, we should listen. The consequences of this one-sided relationship are being played out in the disastrous war in Iraq, growing tension with Iran, and the humanitarian and political crisis in Gaza. It is being played out in Lebanon, where Hezbollah is gearing up for another war with Israel, one most Middle East analysts say is inevitable. The U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East is unraveling. And it is doing so because of this special relationship. The eruption of a regional conflict would usher in a nightmare of catastrophic proportions.

There were many in the American foreign policy establishment and State Department who saw this situation coming. The decision to throw our lot in with Israel in the Middle East was not initially a popular one with an array of foreign policy experts, including President Harry Truman’s secretary of state, Gen. George Marshall. They warned there would be a backlash. They knew the cost the United States would pay in the oil-rich region for this decision, which they feared would be one of the greatest strategic blunders of the postwar era. And they were right. The decision has jeopardized American and Israeli security and created the kindling for a regional conflagration.

The alliance, which makes no sense in geopolitical terms, does makes sense when seen through the lens of domestic politics. The Israel lobby has become a potent force in the American political system. No major candidate, Democrat or Republican, dares to challenge it. The lobby successfully purged the State Department of Arab experts who challenged the notion that Israeli and American interests were identical. Backers of Israel have doled out hundreds of millions of dollars to support U.S. political candidates deemed favorable to Israel. They have brutally punished those who strayed, including the first President Bush, who they said was not vigorous enough in his defense of Israeli interests. This was a lesson the next Bush White House did not forget. George W. Bush did not want to be a one-term president like his father.

Israel advocated removing Saddam Hussein from power and currently advocates striking Iran to prevent it from acquiring nuclear weapons. Direct Israeli involvement in American military operations in the Middle East is impossible. It would reignite a war between Arab states and Israel. The United States, which during the Cold War avoided direct military involvement in the region, now does the direct bidding of Israel while Israel watches from the sidelines. During the 1991 Gulf War, Israel was a spectator, just as it is in the war with Iraq.

President Bush, facing dwindling support for the war in Iraq, publicly holds Israel up as a model for what he would like Iraq to become. Imagine how this idea plays out on the Arab street, which views Israel as the Algerians viewed the French colonizers during the war of liberation.

“In Israel,” Bush said recently, “terrorists have taken innocent human life for years in suicide attacks. The difference is that Israel is a functioning democracy and it’s not prevented from carrying out its responsibilities. And that’s a good indicator of success that we’re looking for in Iraq.”

Americans are increasingly isolated and reviled in the world. They remain blissfully ignorant of their own culpability for this isolation. U.S. “spin” paints the rest of the world as unreasonable, but Israel, Americans are assured, will always be on our side.

Israel is reaping economic as well as political rewards from its lock-down apartheid state. In the “gated community” market it has begun to sell systems and techniques that allow the nation to cope with terrorism. Israel, in 2006, exported $3.4 billion in defense products—well over a billion dollars more than it received in American military aid. Israel has grown into the fourth largest arms dealer in the world. Most of this growth has come in the so-called homeland security sector.

“The key products and services,” as Naomi Klein wrote in The Nation, “are hi-tech fences, unmanned drones, biometric IDs, video and audio surveillance gear, air passenger profiling and prisoner interrogation systems—precisely the tools and technologies Israel has used to lock in the occupied territories. And that is why the chaos in Gaza and the rest of the region doesn’t threaten the bottom line in Tel Aviv, and may actually boost it. Israel has learned to turn endless war into a brand asset, pitching its uprooting, occupation and containment of the Palestinian people as a half-century head start in the ‘global war on terror.’ ”

The United States, at least officially, does not support the occupation and calls for a viable Palestinian state. It is a global player, with interests that stretch well beyond the boundaries of the Middle East, and the equation that Israel’s enemies are our enemies is not that simple.

“Terrorism is not a single adversary,” John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt wrote in The London Review of Books, “but a tactic employed by a wide array of political groups. The terrorist organizations that threaten Israel do not threaten the United States, except when it intervenes against them (as in Lebanon in 1982). Moreover, Palestinian terrorism is not random violence directed against Israel or ‘the West’; it is largely a response to Israel’s prolonged campaign to colonize the West Bank and Gaza Strip. More important, saying that Israel and the US are united by a shared terrorist threat has the causal relationship backwards: the US has a terrorism problem in good part because it is so closely allied with Israel, not the other way around.”

Middle Eastern policy is shaped in the United States by those with very close ties to the Israel lobby. Those who attempt to counter the virulent Israeli position, such as former Secretary of State Colin Powell, are ruthlessly slapped down. This alliance was true also during the Clinton administration, with its array of Israeli-first Middle East experts, including special Middle East coordinator Dennis Ross and Martin Indyk, the former deputy director of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, AIPAC, one of the most powerful Israel lobbying groups in Washington. But at least people like Indyk and Ross are sane, willing to consider a Palestinian state, however unviable, as long as it is palatable to Israel. The Bush administration turned to the far-right wing of the Israel lobby, those who have not a shred of compassion for the Palestinians or a word of criticism for Israel. These new Middle East experts include Elliott Abrams, John Bolton, Douglas Feith, the disgraced I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz and David Wurmser.

Washington was once willing to stay Israel’s hand. It intervened to thwart some of its most extreme violations of human rights. This administration, however, has signed on for every disastrous Israeli blunder, from building the security barrier in the West Bank, to sealing off Gaza and triggering a humanitarian crisis, to the ruinous invasion and saturation bombing of Lebanon.

The few tepid attempts by the Bush White House to criticize Israeli actions have all ended in hasty and humiliating retreats in the face of Israeli pressure. When the Israel Defense Forces in April 2002 reoccupied the West Bank, President Bush called on then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to “halt the incursions and begin withdrawal.” It never happened. After a week of heavy pressure from the Israel lobby and Israel’s allies in Congress, meaning just about everyone in Congress, the president gave up, calling Sharon “a man of peace.” It was a humiliating moment for the United Sates, a clear sign of who pulled the strings.

There were several reasons for the war in Iraq. The desire for American control of oil, the belief that Washington could build puppet states in the region, and a real, if misplaced, fear of Saddam Hussein played a part in the current disaster. But it was also strongly shaped by the notion that what is good for Israel is good for the United States. Israel wanted Iraq neutralized. Israeli intelligence, in the lead-up to the war, gave faulty information to the U.S. about Iraq’s alleged arsenal of weapons of mass destruction. And when Baghdad was taken in April 2003, the Israeli government immediately began to push for an attack on Syria. The lust for this attack has waned, in no small part because the Americans don’t have enough troops to hang on in Iraq, much less launch a new occupation.

Israel is currently lobbying the United States to launch aerial strikes on Iran, despite the debacle in Lebanon. Israel’s iron determination to forcibly prevent a nuclear Iran makes it probable that before the end of the Bush administration an attack on Iran will take place. The efforts to halt nuclear development through diplomatic means have failed. It does not matter that Iran poses no threat to the United States. It does not matter that it does not even pose a threat to Israel, which has several hundred nuclear weapons in its arsenal. It matters only that Israel demands total military domination of the Middle East.

The alliance between Israel and the United States has culminated after 50 years in direct U.S. military involvement in the Middle East. This involvement, which is not furthering American interests, is unleashing a geopolitical nightmare. American soldiers and Marines are dying in droves in a useless war. The impotence of the United States in the face of Israeli pressure is complete. The White House and the Congress have become, for perhaps the first time, a direct extension of Israeli interests. There is no longer any debate within the United States. This is evidenced by the obsequious nods to Israel by all the current presidential candidates with the exception of Dennis Kucinich. The political cost for those who challenge Israel is too high.

This means there will be no peaceful resolution of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. It means the incidents of Islamic terrorism against the U.S. and Israel will grow. It means that American power and prestige are on a steep, irreversible decline. And I fear it also means the ultimate end of the Jewish experiment in the Middle East.

The weakening of the United States, economically and militarily, is giving rise to new centers of power. The U.S. economy, mismanaged and drained by the Iraq war, is increasingly dependent on Chinese trade imports and on Chinese holdings of U.S. Treasury securities. China holds dollar reserves worth $825 billion. If Beijing decides to abandon the U.S. bond market, even in part, it would cause a free fall by the dollar. It would lead to the collapse of the $7-trillion U.S. real estate market. There would be a wave of U.S. bank failures and huge unemployment. The growing dependence on China has been accompanied by aggressive work by the Chinese to build alliances with many of the world’s major exporters of oil, such as Iran, Nigeria, Sudan and Venezuela. The Chinese are preparing for the looming worldwide clash over dwindling resources.

The future is ominous. Not only do Israel’s foreign policy objectives not coincide with American interests, they actively hurt them. The growing belligerence in the Middle East, the calls for an attack against Iran, the collapse of the imperial project in Iraq have all given an opening, where there was none before, to America’s rivals. It is not in Israel’s interests to ignite a regional conflict. It is not in ours. But those who have their hands on the wheel seem determined, in the name of freedom and democracy, to keep the American ship of state headed at breakneck speed into the cliffs before us.

Chris Hedges, who graduated from Harvard Divinity School and was for nearly two decades a foreign correspondent for The New York Times, is the author of “American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America.”

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

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

<> 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"


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" (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: