Cal Tzedek

Sunday, July 16, 2006

On the Right of Return and Sloppy Activism

This weekend I volunteered to present at a workshop at the Al Awda convention on behalf of Berkeley SJP. The topic was Student Activism. I always look forward to any opportunity I might have to lead an activism workshop at a conference, because I think student activism is usually rife with problems, and I'll always welcome a forum in which to address those problems. I'm tired of sloppy rhetoric substituting for a clear presentation of the facts, which speak for themselves in making very clear the following: 1). Israel's occupation of the 1967 territories involves a tremendous amount of structural and physical violence against the Palestinians, is indistinguishable from classical colonialism, and is predicated on a negation of Palestinian civil and human rights. 2). The right of return is a sacred, universal human right, which applies to all people, including Palestinians. 3). These rights will not come into fruition without substantial institutional pressure on the Israeli government to recognize them.

So, an organization like Al Awda is important to have. But frankly, I am disappointed in the Al-Awda convention, and there are many ways in which I feel the manner in which it was conducted can ultimately be a liability for a successful Right of Return campaign.

First of all, it is not my place to tell other activists whether they should recognize Israel's "right" to exist. But I see NO legitimate reason to put "Israel" in quotation marks, as is the case throughout the Al-Awda points of unity. Is this morally wrong? I don't think so. But I think it's flat-out stupid. It makes Right of Return activists look like crazy ideologues. Edward Said often wrote about how pointless it is to deny that Israel does exist, aside from questions about the justness of its creation, or whether it would always exist. Yes, the problematic nature of Israel began well before 1967. But is referring to "Israel" THAT much different than referring to "Palestine"? To me, this is the grown-up version of the sloppy activism employed by too many students.

Secondly, one of the presentations made references to the genocide being committed against the Palestinians. If the purpose of calling it a genocide is to create a sense of urgency, then I suppose that's one way of going about things. But the simple fact is that most people disagree with that classification, including me. I see no reason to employ that term when names already exist for the assorted crimes Israel has committed against Palestinians over several decades. (Crime A) + (Crime B) + (Crime C) = (Crime A + Crime B + Crime C). It does not equal (Crime Genocide). And I imagine a good number of serious human rights activists and advocates --who would unequivocally support the right of displaced people to return to their homeland-- would find this rhetoric outrageous.

Third, an argument was made about Zionism that I felt was pointless and obfuscatory. The presenter argued that Zionism is anti-Semitic; on the one hand, because Palestinians and Arab Jews --whom it places at varying disadvantages-- are Semitic, and on the other hand because it co-opts Jewish identity. If this is the presenter's only idea for how to demonstrate that opposition to Zionism is not anti-Semitic, then he is not focusing on actual issues, and instead is culling obscure arguments in lieu of a perfectly valid one: Opposition to Zionism is not anti-Semitic because Zionism is a political ideology which has historically projected bad consequences onto many people, and problematic political ideologies are open to criticism and even rejection without reflecting on whatever ethnic or religious group those who have supported the movement --for whatever reasons-- traditionally come from. Why couldn't the presenter say something like that? Was he hoping to convince a Jew who opposes the right of return to start supporting it because Zionism is "anti-Semitic?" Al-Awda generally makes very clear that it is not in the business of reasoning with anti-return folks, so that can't be it. So as long as the main goal is preaching to the converted, is there really any need to convince anyone attending in good faith --Jewish or otherwise-- why Zionism is "bad" and why anti-Zionism is "not bad"? The whole thing seemed vacuous.

These are just examples of what I feel is a current of irresponsible rhetoric that can only be damaging in the long term. I have no intention of painting the entire conference as an exercise in intellectual bankruptcy, but I'm also very impatient with the types of arguments and language that are more a staple of grandstanding than they are of political action.

I am told, interestingly enough, that Al-Awda Wisconsin, whose effective political campaigns I discussed during the workshop, is not affiliated with "national" Al-Awda. My support lies with the Wisconsin Al-Awda and all of the independent SJP's which live by their principles. An activist from a chapter other than Berkeley said something during the workshop that was entirely inappropriate, and he was rebuked by another activist, and his claim was also implicitly rejected by an academic. These things are incredibly frustrating to the point where all I can trust is Berkeley SJP. I can't always influence the type of discourse that defines organizations based elsewhere, although I'm always hopeful that presenting at conferences might have some impact. Nonetheless, I will be more careful in the future about whom I piggyback off of. I met lots of wonderful individuals at the conference, but ultimately, Al-Awda --for reasons ENTIRELY unrelated to its position on the Right of Return-- is not a group that I feel acts in accordance with my vision of how Berkeley SJP should act. I am not a part of Al-Awda and will take part in activism --against the occupation and in support of return-- through other channels.

-Ehud

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Thursday, February 02, 2006

Lee Kaplan Caught in a Lie

UPDATE: For the latest on Lee Kaplan, click here.

Lee Kaplan, one of FrontPageMag's star reporters, is perhaps the most prolific writer in the nation on the subject of the International Solidarity Movement and the Palestine Solidarity Movement. His exposes on the ISM training sessions and the PSM conferences have earned him accolades by the Internet's motley crew of Islamophobes, pro-war activists, and "former" Muslims who have renounced their evil ways. Ironically, his in-your-face-style has largely failed to capture the imagination of the mainstream pro-Israel movement, which also tends to disagree with the PSM and ISM.

But Kaplan's noble crusade against advocates for Palestinian rights turns out to involve some pretty sleazy tactics. Who knew!?

I was reading some back-and-forth between "Defender of Western Civilization" Bill Levinson and Nadeem Muaddi, a Christian Palestinian, and an organizer of the upcoming Fifth National Student Conference of the Palestine Solidarity Movement, to be held at Georgetown University.

It seems as though Muaddi wrote a book review of "Witnessing for Peace" by Bishop Munib Younan back in July. His review is titled "A Call for Christian Martyrdom." "Martyrdom" is a highly charged word in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Those of you who are interested in Muaddi's views on martyrdom, and the role of Christians in such, read his article. But let me point out two things before re-introducing Levinson and Kaplan.

First of all, Muaddi writes:

Living in a region of the world where occupation, oppression, apartheid, and suicide bombings have become the unfortunate norm, Bishop Younan’s claim that the “theology of martyria” is a “concept misunderstood” is not only refreshing, but long overdue.

Muaddi equates suicide bombings with occupation, oppression, and apartheid. He calls all four of them "unfortunate." Perhaps "unfortunate" is an understatement, but by regarding them all in the same vein, he makes clear his opposition to suicide attacks.

He then writes:

Muslim fundamentalists have mistakenly “tied” the concept of “martyrdom to death”.

So he sets parameters for what he does and does not consider "martyrdom" worth advocating. Any sort of "cult of death" is not on his agenda.

Bill Levinson, either mistakenly alarmed by what he perceived as a call for Christians to kill and die, or else simply eager to discredit pro-Palestinian activists by any means necessary, cooked up a little expose on Muaddi. Israpundit, which is hosting this article, is gracious enough to provide space for discussion. The first comment, available on the same page, is Muaddi's response. He informs Levinson that he is seeking damages for libel, since Levinson appears to be deliberately misrepresenting Muaddi's views. Muaddi closes with this:

Your actions are not only morally reprehensible, but illegal. You will be hearing from my attorney soon.

Springing to Muaddi's defense is a commenter using the name Chaim:

Is this guy for real? Bill, what level of education have you reached? Read the guy's article; nowhere can you infer that he's trying to recruit Christian martyrs at this conference. That's just assinine to suggest that, and Israpundit how dare you post such garbage.

Then, in defense of Levinson, we get Abu Abubu, who says:

I honestly doubt that Chaim is real. It's probably Muuadi under a Jewish name. Levinson's article hit the nail on the head, though.

So then, Levinson directs us here, where he says he responds to Muaddi's "insults and threats."

Muaddi responds again. Then Abu Abubu:

You have to excuse Nadeem. His referring to Bill Levinson as "little Billy" is classic in Arab culture. He has to belittle Bill as a man and talk to him as if a boy in order for Nadeem to dissemble his endorsement for terrorism properly and to cover his lies. (. . .)

As an Arab myself, I know you Nadeem: Kus Eumek. You are dissembling to destroy Jews and to dismantle Israel, the best friend the Palestinians ever had. (. . .)

Again, a dare: Write a public article and say you condemn any manner of suicide bombing, shooting , knifing, rock throwing against the people of Israel as a solution to the conflict. No conditions. Noo euphemsisms like "legitimate resistance."

You won't do this, because you use Arabic-style rhetoric referring to murder as "resistance" and "right of return" as dismantling Israel. And it kills you when one of your own like me points it out.

We can now surmise a number of things about Abu Abubu:

-He is an Arab.

-He is frustrated by Arabs who use Jewish names so as to pretend that any Jews other than crazy and stupid ones sympathize with Palestinian grievances.

-He is frustrated with Arabs in general, who either are anti-Semitic, or supporters of terrorism, or both. But not him. In fact, not only does he oppose anti-Semitism, he opposes all opposition to Israel, since Israel is "the best friend the Palestinians ever had." And he's in a position to know all of this, because he is an Arab.

The claim that Israel is "the best friend the Palestinians ever had" seemed familar to me. Then I remembered where I had read something similar: on this very blog. In the very first comment under "Lee Kaplan Responds," someone who is "not Lee Kaplan," but speaking on his behalf, says:

I know Mr. Kaplan. Rather than being a lackey of his, let me say he is a better friend to the Palestinian people than you are, as he exposes the lies and propaganda the thieves and murderers of the PLO use to still try to destroy Israel and prevent any settlement.

I admit that this is a bit of a stretch, since the phrases in question differ quite a bit, and since this friend of Lee Kaplan doesn't claim to be anyone other than Abu Abubu.

But still, this seemed like a red flag, so I took a closer look at Abu Abubu's postings.

Israpundit, I found out, moderates posts from first-time commenters, presumably to filter out spam. In order to determine whether a person is leaving his or her first comment, the site requires commenters to leave an e-mail address. So many things online require an e-mail address that it helps to have multiple addresses, so that our personal or business mailboxes are not overrun with stuff we don't want, be it spam, listserv stuff, or hate mail. The minute I ran my cursor over Abu Abubu's name, the e-mail address listed with it jumped at me. I had seen something very similar to it before.

The e-mail address is TheHussar@netzero.net. A google search of that address brings up this page. It seems as though Abu Abubu was not thinking back five years when he used that as his throwaway address. Way near the bottom of the page, on June 28, 2001, the guest book is signed as follows:

Name: Lee Kaplan
E-mail address: thehussar@netzero.net
Where you reside (City/State/Country) : :California
Ancestor/Family a member of 11th Kentucky Cavalry CSA?:Not Sure
How did you like this website?:neat
Other Comments: Was wondering if this unit carried henry rifles
Thursday, June 28th 2001 - 09:08:41 AM.

I do not believe Mr. Kaplan is an Arab. He has gone "undercover" as a Pakistani before, an act which witnesses have compared with black face. If, Mr. Kaplan is of Mizrahi origin and considers himself an Arab, I will gladly apologize to him and retract this post. Otherwise, I would like to point out that misrepresenting oneself on the internet is not "going undercover." It is lying.

UPDATE: Lee Kaplan will be on The O'Reilly Factor on Thursday, February 9th, to discuss the Palestine Solidarity Movement (PSM), the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) and his "new" website, stoptheISM.com. For the time being, Mr. Kaplan denies that he is Abu Abubu, but says that Mr. Abubu's comments are "well written." He says that "one of the [multiple] Arabs who works for stoptheISM.com" must have written the messages under an old account of his which, he claims, is now one of "many" e-mail addresses collectively used by stoptheISM.com. When pressed for more information about who used the address that Kaplan was using since before the ISM itself was created, he declined.

-Ehud

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Monday, January 30, 2006

"Hamas Elected to Power" is an anagram of "Mashed Potato Eel Crew"

Here are my thoughts on the Palestinian elections.

1. I respect the will of the Palestinian people who elected Hamas. I am not a hypocrite who champions democracy until people I don't like are elected. Hamas is, more or less, the governing body of the Palestinians and it must be respected as such by the world, including Israel.

2. I believe that people voted for Hamas for many reasons. Some voted for Hamas because they support its religious ideology. Some politically unsophisticated people might have voted for it solely because they like its violence, which they see as the only solution even when such violence fails to be part of a comprehensive, coherent strategy. Some voted for it because they might not necessarily like violence, but they recognize that violence has its place in overall liberation movements, and thus are rewarding Hamas for its more militant (and effective) fight against occupation. But I think these preceeding reasons aren't THAT significant, because I think most people voted for Hamas because a). it takes care of Palestinians, particularly poor Palestinians and b). they hate Fatah which a). has neither successfully worked with nor opposed Israel in a way which improves life for Palestinians and b). has stolen lots of money and acted undemocratically. Expect a LOT of misrepresentation of the Palestinian majority in the coming months, both from the Israeli government, and from right-wing talk show hosts and columnists here. Expect lots of demonization of Palestinians in the weeks to come. If you can stomach a sample of what's to come, just look at Frontpagemag.com (that's what Lee Kaplan writes for).

3. I do not like Hamas. Hamas has done much more than any other Palestinian organization to help ordinary Palestinians in every aspect of their lives, and so people who reduce it simply to a "terrorist group" are simplistic fools. And its terrorism is not necessarily the reason I object to Hamas (see point 4). I object to Hamas because it is a right-wing theocratic group. I do not like the idea of a theocratic Palestine any more than I like the idea of a theocratic Israel, a theocratic Iran, a theocratic Saudi Arabia, or our increasingly theocratic United States. Already today, Hamas has announced it plans to separate boys and girls into separate schools. On the other hand, it has said that alcohol will not be banned, and hijabs will not be mandated, so they are aware of the the limited extent to which their success was an endorsement of their theocratic intentions. I in no way equate Hamas with Al Qaeda or the Taliban, nor even with Iran or Saudia Arabia (but I do fear that, under certain circumstances, Hamas could lead in the direction of the latter two). But I simply cannot support any group which is right wing. There are many, many left wing Palestinian parties which also oppose both Israel's oppression and Fatah's corruption. Mustafa Barghouti, for instance, has a principled but secular party which is forming an opposition to both Hamas and Fatah, but which is still small, and which has not yet had time to establish the charity networks and stuff that have made Hamas so popular. I would be quite delighted if these left wing groups grow in popularity and replace control by Hamas, Fatah, AND Israel.

4. I do not support the suicide bombings, for reasons I don't think I need to explain, nor do I support any attacks on any civilians anywhere by anyone for any reason. But the fact that Hamas has committed suicide bombings has very little to do with why I don't like it. Terrorism is a political tool, certainly an immoral one, but the fact is that, if it is part of a comprehensive strategy, it sometimes works. I don't know if it has worked for Palestinians; ten years from now, we will have some clarity in terms of how much the Gaza withdrawal was influenced by a terrorist campaign and how much it was influenced by demographic concerns. State terrorism (or, for those who object to that term but nonetheless are honest in classifying the home "clearing operations" and helicopter attacks as what they are, collective punishment aimed at civilians) has NOT worked for Israel and has consistently made its citizens less safe. But people who believe that Hamas being in power will result in "a new wave of terror" are missing an important point: Hamas has really not committed much terrorism for over a year. The vast majority of attacks inside Israel have been by Islamic Jihad or by Al Aqsa Martyr's Brigade. The first group is not a legitimate political party at all, and basically just commits indiscriminate violence with only a vague notion that this will help liberate Palestine. The second group is affiliated with Fatah. Now, Fatah dudes at the top condemn attacks on civilians, so AAMB attacks indicate that Fatah cannot control its own people, even if its leadership adheres to a ceasefire. Hamas clearly CAN control its own people and HAS adhered to the ceasefire, and has said it intends to CONTINUE adhering to the ceasefire, and I have EVERY reason to believe that it WILL adhere to the ceasefire if Israel doesn't start assassinating its members. The Palestinians who voted for Hamas but do not agree with suicide bombings recognized when they voted that Hamas has adhered to a cease fire for over a year and will probably continue to do so. So the upcoming demonization of the Palestinian people at large ignores this fact so that all Palestinians can be painted as bloodthirsty animals. IF Israel respects the terms of a cease fire, then, at least in the short run, the safety of its civilians has likely just improved. In the long run, of course, it will only improve if Israel respects the rights, needs, and claims of Palestinians and negotiates with them in good faith as equals.

5. The IF two sentences above was a big IF. I unfortunately expect Israel to continue with the arbitrary detentions, closures, shellings, missile attacks, beatings, home demolitions, and land seizures. So most likely, life will continue to be bad for Palestinians, and innocent Israelis will have to pay a price too. Any pessimism I have about a ceasefire, though, is NOT the result of this election. Like I said, a mutually honored ceasefire with Hamas will be stronger now than every before.

6. I have no idea if this is an integral part of Hamas ideology now adays, but the Hamas charter also includes anti-Jewish themes and language. I'm not talking about its rejection or non-recognition of the State of Israel, but rather its distortion of certain Islamic texts to demonize Jews and their religion. I do not think that any significant number of Palestinians voted for Hamas because they have inherently anti-Jewish beliefs. I do think that lots of Palestinians have anti-Jewish sentiment which comes from only encountering Jews who are occupation soldiers or settlers. This is the type of sentiment that goes away when you realize that there are Jews and Israelis who support the Palestinians and risk alot to work with the Palestinians as equals in opposing the occupation and other forms of discrimination and violence. In fact, I was once told that Palestinians who are jailed in Israel might increase their animosity to Israel and its zionist institutions, but lose their animosity to Jews, because in jail they meet just regular jews (criminals, but still just regular people) who do not fit the soldier/settler mould. Those who complain about anti-Jewish sentiment among Palestinians but who belittle the refuseniks, or the Israeli activists who stand in front of homes that are going to be bulldozed, or the human rights monitors of B'Tselem who investigate why Palestinians REALLY are killed, or the Jewish academics around the world who,whether or not they agree with divestiture or boycott campaigns, at least acknowledge them as well intentioned ALTERNATIVES to violence, are hypocrites. Having said that, the rhetoric used in Hamas's founding documents is a bit more disturbing than this misguided but natural reaction, and the Hamas extremists (there are also Hamas moderates who probably don't take the ideology word for word) worry me. As more Jews turn against oppression and in favor of helping the Palestinians, I have no doubt that support for this rhetoric will be restricted only to the fanatics and will be rejected by everyone else who is just really (and rightfully) pissed off. Now, the Netanyahus likes to compare Hamas to Nazis. This is absurd. Even Hamas's bizarre and offensive anti-Jewish themes most likely originated in the same type of "temporary" anti-Jewish sentiment I described above. It's just that, when it's mixed with theocratic religious ideas, it becomes creepy, and seems less likely to go away when those who buy into it realize that there are good Jews too. But this is in no way similar to the evil, genocidal, mind-numbingly racist Nazi regime. It seems that Israel's main demand re: the Hamas charter has been changing the clauses that reject recognition of Israel. I am much more concerned with the anti-Semitism, and so this is another reason I don't like Hamas.

7. I do think that until Hamas gets too cocky and starts imposing theocracy more dramatically, it will be much, much, better for Palestinians than Fatah, and for this reason, I'm happy for the Palestinians. Hamas knows how to get things done. I hope that countries don't cut aid to Palestinians based on these elections; they're setting all kinds of conditions, such that Hamas disarm and recognize Israel. I absolutely believe that Hamas should adhere to a ceasefire, but I do NOT believe that disarming itself or recognizing Israel at this point should be requirements for desparately needed aid, NOR should they be pre-requirements for talks with Israel. Anyway, if Hamas gets enough money, and if Israel doesn't seek to completely invade and destroy the territories again like it did in 2002, then I expect Palestinian life to improve.
8. I think that a lasting peace agreement CAN be reached between Israel and Hamas. Obviously, Hamas is going to push for Right of Return, since at least part of its popularity over Fatah must stem from Fatah's weak position on that issue. Now, there are two ways to have Right of Return (that is, two ways that I would find acceptable): 2 states for two peoples, but those Palestinians who want to become Israeli citizens with equal rights are allowed to do so, or 1 state for two peoples, equal rights for all. In the case of two states, Israel would almost certainly object to allowing RoR, EXCEPT that studies have shown that, at most, 300,000 Palestinians would want to go to Israel. Most would simply rather go to Palestine, as long as Israel acknowledges that it caused the refugee problem and pays compensation. So, with two states AND RoR, Israel would still remain a "Jewish state" with a solid Jewish majority and, if it started granting its Palestinian citizens legitimately equal rights, everyone would be happy. I myself have a problem with this underlying obsession with demographics, as I have explained before and will reiterate now: There is no such thing as a "demographic threat," nor a "demographic time bomb," nor the "demographic demon." There exist only demographic realities that are respected in a democracy and suppressed in a demogracy. Israel is a demogracy, and even under a two-state solution, where everyone, including refugees, is happy, Israel cannot continue to define itself by its demographics. Under this hypothetical solution, Israel would maintain a Jewish majority, but until the day that it acknowledges that IF Palestinians were to become the majority, the world will not end,then it is not a democracy, just a demogracy fomenting garden-variety racist paranoia. The One Binational State, of course, allows all refugees to return to anywhere in Israel/Palestine and allows Israelis to live anywhere in Israel/Palestine. This seems utopian to me, and is thus simultaneously more favorable and more impractical. So as someone who does not feel threatened by granting rights to Palestinian refugees, I think the first option has the potential to satisfy the most people.

But it is extremely unlikely that Israel would ever agree to this. So, that leaves us a two state solution with no right of return, or at best a symbolic, limited one. I honestly think that Israel would never allow more than 75,000 Palestinians to return, and this saddens me. So, the other option for Hamas is to push for a one state solution which, like I said, I find ideal, in a naive sort of way. But, I don't think the Hamas vision of one state is the same as my vision of one state, just as the Israeli vision of one state is not the same as my vision of one state. For most Israelis who speak of "one state," they mean one apartheid state, or one state ethnically cleansed of Palestinians. I think that one state under the complete control of Hamas would probably tolerate Jews, but I certainly don't expect it to be a good situation for them either. My one state is based on liberal secular democracy, whereas a Hamas state would be based on conservative religious democracy (or theocracy?). According to Hamas's founding documents, they want to control all of Palestine as one state. But --and many might find this surprising, but I am one hundred percent certain of it-- Hamas will ultimately settle for two states, based on the 1967 borders. Why? For the same reason Israel is now unilaterally "disengaging" from populated Palestinian territories: demographic concerns. I hate to be cynical but Hamas, like Fatah, will eventually put its own interests ahead of the refugees. Hamas wants an Islamic government. I do not believe Hamas wants to kill all the Jews, and there's no way to expel all of them, so if Hamas were really in charge of everything, it would face WAY too much opposition to an Islamic government. Hamas would ultimately rather have all of the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem with a majority who support it than rule over millions more who do not. Just as Israel got out of Gaza not because the government that ordered it respects the rights and freedoms of Palestinians, but because the Palestinians there are a "demographic threat." And because Hamas is a tough negotiating partner, IF Israel sticks to negotiations and IF Israel acts in good faith, then Israel will eventually agree to cede all of the territories, divide (but probably not share) Jerusalem, stop ruling Palestinians at the barrel of a gun, and recognize Palestine. Hamas will then "reward" Israel (and screw refugees) by agreeing to a vastly limited right of return, as described above. Then most refugees will move to Palestine.
Now, considering that this might be the only acceptable outcome to both governments, refugees might have to grit their teeth and accept it. And of course, this is assuming that Hamas stays in power. Ironically, as Hamas improves things for Palestinians, other parties will probably grow, and eventually either a reformed Fatah or a left wing party will take over. But the simple fact of the matter is, Fatah is already "committed" to a two state solution and has basically already conceded to Israel's RoR demands, and the left wing parties might insist on the RoR, but will also push for two states (so, for example, if they were successful, they'd get something approaching the 300,000 refugee plan). But ultimately, it seems most likely that a two state solution without RoR will be agreed upon. In this case, I believe that Israel MUST acknowledge AND apologize AND pay reparations, and MOST Palestinians will be satisfied, as long as the Palestine they DO return to is one hundred percent free.

9. Now, consider the options described above. Because of my distaste for ethnic/religious nation-states and demogracies, I am not a liberal Zionist, but a post-Zionist. But, let me assume the perspective of a liberal Israeli Zionist (like my parents) who believes in two states, both of them free, who does not believe bombing refugee camps makes Israelis safe, who feels bad and guilty about the refugees, but who believes in the long term importance of Israel maintaining a Jewish majority, and doesn't really think of the POTENTIAL moral consequences of such without them being pointed out. So, from this perspective, I want a Palestinian party with whom I can negotiate. Because I do not believe in endless war, I'm willing to negotiate with Fatah OR with Hamas, and basically am willing to make the same concessions to either of them: withdraw from territories, take down settlements, share Jerusalem, share water; and demand the same things of either ofthem: they stop violence against Israelis, and they agree that only a few Palestinians return to Israel. This is exactly the position of Meretz. It's also the position of some disaffected former Labor members who hate the fact that Labor has moved to the right (well, it didn't move there, it's always been there, in fact it was Labor who expelled the Palestinians in 1948. So I should say that these former Labor members are starting to wake up). So, Yossi Beilin will negotiate with whomever and come up with something like The Geneva Accords. In fact, Yossi Beilin DID negotiate with the Palestinians and DID come up with the Geneva Accords, which is basically the final option discussed in section 8. He negotiated it with Fatah, under Arafat, during some of the most intense violence between 2001-2003. For Palestinians, it is an imperfect solution, because it respects Zionist sensibilities over refugee rights, but most people on all sides acknowledge --if only in private-- that ANY possible agreement is going to look very similar to this. Now, suppose I'm not a liberal Zionist, but one of these pro-Sharon "centrists" who believes in unilateral disengagement because the "demographic demon" is so evil. This is easily the majority in Israel right now. "We can't negotiate with the Palestinians, because they want only to destroy us, so we will build a wall, leave their cities, and leave them to their own devices." Alot of these people formerly did not support a Palestinian state. A lot of them still don't support a truly sovereign Palestinian state, but they don't support ruling directly over Palestinians either. So they make the West Bank into swiss cheese, where Israel is responsible where it is convenient and NOT responsible where it is not convenient. Israel keeps most of its settlements and continues to control much Palestinian movement, but does not have to think of itself as an apartheid state anymore (of course, in South Africa, they "disengaged" from the black Homelands as well, and claimed that they were independent countries and thus their residents shouldn't get a vote in South Africa, and this of course was ridiculous). Even more importantly, Israel keeps all of Jerusalem, does not even acknowledge responsibility for refugees, and can continue to unilaterally control water. So, let's compare the Centrist goals to the Liberal Zionist goals. Liberal Zionist, except for refugee issue, wants to approach Palestinians more or less as equals, with the idea being that the conflict is "solved" by figuring out how to fairly divide the land between two nations. Centrist does not approach Palestinians at all, and in fact unilateralism is clearly based on viewing them as having inferior rights, and therefore a solution need not actually include their input. Liberal Zionist believes in a two-way demogracy: Jewish demogracy and Palestinian demogracy. Liberal Zionist generally assumes everyone WANTS to live in a place where they are the majority. Centrist reserves demogracy as an inherent right for Israel, and RoR as a malicious attempt to destroy this right. Liberal Zionist wants reconcilliation, even if he does not realize that RoR would probably help this process. Centrist just doesn't want to think about Palestinians ever again. So the centrist camp MUST refuse to negotiate with any Palestinian party, or else their ideas have no validity whatsoever. So centrists refused to negotiate with Arafat, with Abbas, and will continue to refuse to negotiate with Hamas.

Now, let's consider the effects of this policy, and let's put it into historical context: before 1948, some Zionists wanted to work with Palestinians as equals to come up with some sort of peaceful way to share the land. These Zionists were marginalized by the mainstream Labor Zionists who actually founded the state. These Labor Zionists presided over the creation of hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees. Current historiography seems to indicate that the Arab states would have recognized and made peace with Israel if the refugees were allowed to return. But Israel could not do this, because it chose not to recognize the legitimate grievances of Palestinians. So the countries all remained at war, and the refugees could not return home. Thus, Fatah emerges, and to pressure Israel to let the refugees back, Fatah and other groups like it start committing violence against Israelis. Objectively speaking, this is not moral, but it did force Israel to abandon its complacency and always think about the displaced Palestinians in the back of its mind. This violence probably would have ended if the refugees were allowed to return, but Israel could not do that, because it could not caputilate to terrorists. Then critics of this logic would point out that these acts were political, and would stop if Israel addressed the actual grievances behind them. But Israel could not do this, because it chose not to recognize the legitimate grievances of Palestinians. So then Fatah and other groups got organized and formed the PLO. No one took them seriously at first, so they too took up terrorism. When they became big, a lot of pressure could have been put on them to negotiate with Israel, but Israel would not do this, because the demands of the PLO, while alarmingly calling for the "total liberation of Palestine," were based on legitimate grievances against Israel, which Israel chose not to ackowledge. Then in 1974, the PLO proposed a secular, democratic state for both Jews and Palestinians. But Israel would not accept this, because it would entail a return of the refugees, and Israel chose not to recognize the legitimate grievances of Palestinians. Then in 1987, ordinary Palestinians started fighting against the occupation, but Israel smashed it, because it chose not to recognize the legitimate grievances of the Palestinians. FINALLY, after six years, Israel SORT of agreed to negotiate with the PLO. So this was a breakthrough! Except that, because agreeing to negotiate with Palestinians was such a milestone for Israel, it allowed Israel to exaggerate, consciously or otherwise, the actual significance of Oslo, and basically the process was rigged so that Israel would "win" the negotiations. In effect, even the Oslo years exemplified a policy of Israeli unilateralism, because there were so many preconditions placed on Arafat that all the agreements produced then reflected Israeli interests and ignored Palestinian interests. So, in July 2000, Ehud Barak and Arafat couldn't come to an agreement on final status issues. Whether Barak made a generous offer which Arafat rejected is beside the point. Suppose it's true. Arafat DID agree to start talks again several months later, just as Sharon was assuming power. But Barak and Sharon had already decided to demonize and marginalize Arafat, because he wouldn't submit to an imposed (i.e. unilateral) peace by Israel, presented to the world as the result of a negotiation. So now they refused to negotiate with Arafat, who unofficially continued to negotiate with Yossi Beilin. Their reason for not talking to Arafat was that "he wants to destroy Israel." But, the Geneva Accord, as described above, was the product of Yossi Beilin and Fatah. At ANY point in the past three years, if Israel had called up Fatah and said "We'll sign the Geneva Accord if you do," an agreement would have been reached instantly. An imperfect agreement, but one that would satisfy the Liberal Zionist, and technically the Centrist as well, because negotiations were in fact possible and very easy. Certainly an agreement not all Palestinians would appreciate; but one which the supposedly evil Arafat would accept and enforce, if he could. He probably couldn't. But, for the centrist, who wants the PA to be a police force to protect Israelis even if it has no other power, bombing PA police stations and killing Fatah cops wasn't really a smart idea for their interests. So Israel ignores Arafat. Then people like Marwan Barghouti speak of a lasting peace with Israel, and then describe word for word something like the Geneva Plan. This does not excuse Barghouti's actions IF he is in fact guilty, but given his track record, the demonization of him as an INTRACTABLE, INHERENT terrorist rather than a person who uses terrorism to achieve goals that are ULTIMATELY in Israel's AND Palestine's interest is disingenous at worst and, at best, demonstrates a weak understanding of the role of terrorism in every single national liberation movement, including Israel's. Meanwhile, the Yossi Beilins and the other Liberal Zionists notice the rise of the suicide bombings, and are at least smart enough to see some cause-and-effect relationship between Israeli actions in the territories and terrorism in Israel. They start to warn the Centrists and the Right Wingers that Arafat should be strengthened, that if he negotiates a 2 state solution (which is in Israel's interest), then the vast majority of Palestinians will accept it and abide by it, just because of who he is. But the Centrists and Right Wingers have little interest in these unpatriotic Israelis, so they isolate Arafat. Then Arafat dies, and Mahmoud Abbas, who would agree to something even better for Israel than the Geneva Accords, takes over. So the Liberal Zionists say, "now's our chance. Things will get worse if we don't use it." But suddenly, Abbas isn't doing enough about incitement, and he's not fighting terror, and Israel's going to pull out of Gaza anyway, why bother talking to them? What is there to talk about? And the Liberal Zionists point out that it is hypocritical to expect Abbas to confront Hamas if Fatah does not have any arms. But the Centrists would not allow Fatah to import weapons, because Arabs are evil and can't be trusted with them.

And now Hamas is in power. And like I said, Hamas will ULTIMATELY agree to something like the Geneva Accord, but they're not going to hand it over on a silver platter to Israel like Arafat and Abbas would have. So we notice a pattern here. For the last six months, regardless of their political position or whether or not they recognize Palestinian rights, any Israeli with half a brain warned that if Abbas was not dealt with in good faith, and strengthened (NOT by sending him money, which is the kiss of death to know he's on the Israeli or American payroll), but by being offered a full withdrawal and other concessions, then things would get worse and worse for Israel. Any Israeli with a full brain was pushing for Israel to release Marwan Barghouti at this time last year, between when Arafat died and when Abbas was elected president. As I said the other night, Marwan Barghouti, like Hamas, could have enforced a ceasefire; Marwan Barghouti, unlike Hamas, would have agreed very quickly to something like the Geneva Accords. Marwan Barghouti, unlike Hamas, is liberal and secular. And, while I don't personally think anyone should have to do this, Marwan Barghouti, unlike Abbas, could have convinced refugees that they'd be better off going to Palestine (whether or not this is true). Since Hamas is so popular, and IF it remains popular, by caring for its people, then at the end of the day, it too, like Barghouti, will be able to convince most Palestinians to accept the terms described above. So the moral of this story is, you have to deal with whomever you can deal with and address the REAL issues (occupation and terrorism are real issues, "teaching kids peace" is not). Otherwise, things get worse. The same people who feel stupid now for having thought Marwan Barghouti was bad and now must deal with Hamas are the ones who will go on to shun Hamas and ignore the consequences of that. What's next? Islamic Jihad? Bin Laden? a straight up fascist party?

10. This is in line with the last paragraph of point 9. Just as Israel shouldn't have rejected various Palestinian political leaders who could have helped solve this bloody mess much sooner, Israel's supporters should have been alot more careful about whom they villified. Edward Said, for instance, supported the one state solution, but for ALL the right reasons. When he said he wanted peace, equality, and mutual respect between Jews and Palestinians, he meant it, and he backed that up with action. I read that he used to go to synagogues and tell Jews about the Palestinian refugees and the occupation. But he'd also go to Arab groups and tell them about the Holocaust. He was a vocal and passionate voice against anti-semitism, and particularly Holocaust denial (for the record, I think that negationism is one of the most offensive things imaginable). He also spoke out against suicide bombings and the religious fundamentalism that was embodied in Hamas. He wanted everything for Israelis that sane Israelis wanted for themselves; but he also wanted those things for his own people, including the refugees, and thus pro-Israel groups poured massive resources into discrediting this guy, a true humanist with the best intentions for all, who was was influential enough to have had an effect on the Palestinian liberation movement IF he had been strengthened, not weakened, by people who's primary interest in Israel is the security of Israelis (though not necessarily the preponderance of the Zionist institutions). A lot of fake-Liberals say, "if only the Palestinians would use non-violence, like Ghandi, I would support them." well, why don't these fake-Liberals join the Jews who go to Bi'lin and nonviolently fight the wall hand in hand with the Palestinian residents? Why do they demonize divestment campaigns, which are entirely non-violent? Why don't they champion the influential public figures like Edward Said who are guided by universalistic (rather than Palestinian particularist) principles? There have always been Palestinians who oppose Hamas, for any and sometimes all of the reasons that Israelis oppose Hamas.

11. I of course did not anticipate these results. My thoughts before the election were that I hoped either Fatah would overwhelmingly win, or that Hamas would win, but narrowly. The first choice was selfish, because it ignored how bad Fatah has been for Palestinians, so I'm glad that didn't happen. My second choice was based on my concerns that if Hamas were popular, but just barely out of power, it would try to overthrow Fatah by force, and lots of people would die. I don't know how likely that really would have been to happen, though. I'm glad that Fatah was voted out, though; but I wish the margin were smaller, so that Hamas would have less of a chance of feeling cocky as though its electorate endorses all of its views. Kind of like how Bush felt with his 2004 "mandate." And ultimately, I look forward to a lengthy peace between a strong, secular, left wing Israeli government and a strong, secular, left wing Palestinian government.

-Ehud

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Saturday, January 14, 2006

Cal Tzedek Enters the Twenty-First Century!

I have finally managed to get an actual comments service on our humble blog. Enjoy!

-Ehud

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Sunday, December 11, 2005

Kadima

Lest I become too complacent with the reinvented Sharon, now a man of peace, and his centrist party Kadima, he is now joined by Defense Minister and war criminal Shaul Mofaz. Mofaz believes in "the language of force" as much as Sharon ever has, but he lacks the cuddly image of the new and incredibly popular Sharon. I'm happy that Sharon has formally broken ranks with the fascist right, but let's not kid ourselves into thinking he is a now a champion of human rights in the tradition of such Jewish champions, especially if he hobnobs with folks whose primary method of defense involves "extracting a price" of 7o Palestinians per day --terrorists, or otherwise.

I have not posted in a while --none of us have. Much has happened since June. The Gaza withdrawal was technically successful, and has perhaps moved the general Israeli political spectrum slightly to the left, such that Sharon overwhelmingly beats Netanyahu and Peretz shockingly beats Peres. Islamic Jihad has not exactly helped Peretz's campaign by carrying out a suicide bombing, and at this point anything but a third term for Sharon seems incredibly unlikely.

The president of Iran is certainly a sleaze bag, and I certainly appreciate the broad rejection of his Holocaust denial and stupid, stupid threats. But an Israeli airstrike on suspected nuclear facilities seems like the precursor to a lengthy, lengthy bloodbath. If the aftermath of Iran's two instances of verbal aggression shows anything, it is that, contrary to official Israeli alarmism, IF Israel is threatened after a complete end to the occupation, the rest of the world WILL in fact stick up for it.

On the local front, activism on both sides of the aisle has been very low-key. Students for Justice in Palestine is virtually non-existant, and while the IAC seems to have put on one concert, I am not aware of any political advocacy on their part during the past semseter. In general, I think many Israel/Palestine groups are waiting out the dual elections to see what happens.

Alot of Israelis are nervous about the success of Marwan Barghouti but, even if he has blood on his hands, I would consider him much more favorable to Israel than a Hamas theocrat, and I hope those Israelis in a position to work with secularists do so, if not to effect any sort of justice, simply out of common sense and self-interest. I guess the same argument could be made about Sharon vs. Netanyahu, but then the same argument could be made about Sharon vs. Peretz, and the latter, even if he too is bad for Palestinians, at LEAST, unlike anyone from Likud or the pushovers from post-Oslo labor, he could potentially be good for poor Israelis. EVEN if Peretz is as paternalistic as Barak, at least he has the potential to focus Israel's priorities away from colonizing the West Bank, and towards addressing its actual (not "demographic") threats from within. So, while many have their reservations about Peretz, and I'm certainly nervous about romanticizing --or looking for easy answers in the form of-- anyone, I am nonetheless excited about Peretz heading Labor. I sort of see him as a Howard Dean: I don't really think his views are far enough to the left to prefer him and his party over, say, the Greens, but at LEAST, unlike John Kerry (and Shimon Peres) he seems like he would form an ACTUAL opposition to the Republican party (and the Likud party and its allies).

I hope to continue posting here a couple times a week, harkening back to this blog's glory days.

-Ehud

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Friday, June 24, 2005

Shockingly, Schwarzenegger doesn't actually run UC Press

Alan Dershowitz appears none too happy about the forthcoming book Beyond Chutzpah: On the Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History by Norman Finkelstein, which rumor has it, tears apart The Case for Israel. So what does the former ACLU advocate do? Why, writes to the governor of California and asks him to stop publication of the book of, course.

Schwarzenegger, showing unusual wisdom, declined to act. The governor's legal affairs secretary wrote Dershowitz, "You have asked for the Governor's assistance in preventing the publication of this book," but "he is not inclined to otherwise exert influence in this case because of the clear, academic freedom issue it presents." (read the whole story here )
(via http://jewssansfrontieres.blogspot.com/)

Lisa

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Thursday, June 16, 2005

British Civil War

Some recent developments seem to have created a rift in a group of (largely Jewish) pro-Palestinian, socialist, and anti-Zionist activists in Britain.

Other bloggers --with much less tenuous connections to this situation than I-- have opined on this matter extensively. In summary, a small, uh, cabal of pseudo-intellectuals from nominally Jewish backgrounds have been steadily introducing classical anti-Semitic themes into the European socialist and pro-Palestinian movement discourses. The ringleaders are Israel Shamir, Paul Eisen, and Gilad Atzmon --an award winning Jazz saxophonist.

I'd rather not link to any of these gentlemen's writings any more than I already have in an earlier entry. Rather, I direct you to Jews Sans Frontieres where Mark Elf has registered his disgust with the SWP's decision to allow Atzmon a platform at the Marxism 2005 conference. Elf is British and close to the action, and will take part in a picket of a London bookstore where Atzmon will be speaking in advance of the conference.

This will be a showdown between the principled and unprincipled members of this movement, and I hope that the anti-racists are able to expunge the Holocaust denial, ZOG imagery, and Medievalism which these men have introduced --and which their apologists have defended-- from the movement.

One organizer of the picket also set up this petition "rejecting Eisen's and other similar arguments." I would encourage any readers who agree with the politics of these activists and who deplore racism and anti-Semitism to sign the petition.

-Ehud

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Tuesday, May 31, 2005

New York Times article reports on secret kidnapping operations

Today's New York Times has relatively substantive article on the CIA's secret kidnapping operations. The reporters here have done some good research, although one does wonder why this article didn't appear earlier, given that, as the article reports,

In the aviation industry, said Mr. Houston, who died in 1995, "everybody knows what everybody is doing, and something new coming along is immediately the focus of a thousand eyes and prying questions."

Also interesting is the shifting tone: while the headline calmly states that the CIA is "expanding terror battle under guise of charter flights," and the opening paragraph describes charter flight pilots as the "discreet bus drivers of the battle against terrorism," reading further, we learn that ""When the C.I.A. is given a task, it's usually because national policy makers don't want 'U.S. government' written all over it," said Jim Glerum, a retired C.I.A. officer ," and that "Some of the C.I.A. planes have been used for carrying out renditions, the legal term for the agency's practice of seizing terrorism suspects in one foreign country and delivering them to be detained in another, including countries that routinely engage in torture."

-Lisa

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Monday, May 30, 2005

Lee Kaplan Responds

UPDATE: For the latest on Lee Kaplan, read this.

Lee Kaplan, pretending to be a Lee Kaplan lackey, has responded to my last post . He will respond again to this post to clarify that he is not, in fact, Lee Kaplan. For the record, he chose Option 3.

I will actually try to address some of Mr. Kaplan's points:

I. "did you know article 7 of the PA constitution sets up "Palestine" with sharia law.and Israel [sic] as the only religion?"

This is mostly true. The article, in English, states: "The principles of Islamic Shari’a shall be a major source of legislation."

As a secularist, this is certainly something I have a problem with, although I think it is misleading on Kaplan's part to imply that this is on par with the fanatical theocracies of Iran, Saudi Arabia, and the Taliban. The majority of Palestinians are Muslims. Having Shari'a be a source of legislation makes some sense; having it be a major source is pushing it for me, and I do not support that. But I also do not support the stranglehold which the Ultra-Orthodox in Israel have over marriage, divorce, and immigration issues, and the lack of civil marriage in Israel is one example of Jewish law being a "major source" of Israeli law. My point is that semi-theocracies are bad, but neither Israel nor Palestine are on par with Iran or Saudi Arabia.

Kaplan also conveniently ignores the next sentence: "The civil and religious matters of the followers of monotheistic religions shall be organized in accordance with their religious teaching and their denominations, within the framework of law and in a manner that preserves the unity and independence of the Palestinian people."

In other words, there is room for negotiation on this issue, just like in Israel. Each religious community has some form of autonomy, just like in Israel. Shari'aesque law is considered appropriate for most people, but the constitution does recognize that it is not appropriate for everyone.

It is also true that Islam (not "Israel") is listed in Article 5 as being "the official religion in Palestine." But Kaplan did not mention Article 5, and here's why. It goes on to say:

"Christianity, and all other monotheistic religions, shall be equally revered and respected. The Constitution guarantees equality in rights and duties to all citizens irrespective of their religious belief."

Because Mr. Kaplan alludes to "the PA Constitution in Arabic," I looked at it in Arabic. Unfortunately, Mr. Kaplan, Article 5, in Arabic, says precisely what it says in English. I don't need the expensive translators that NEIN "consults" to justify soliciting donations to tell me that.

Does this mean that the PA has fulfilled the promises of its constitution? Hardly. The P.A. is corrupt and authoritarian, although it has fared relatively better than most other Arab countries. But Kaplan clearly wants us to believe that the Palestinians are so barbaric that they have no problem writing out their plans for despotism and signing their names to it or, better yet, writing a fake progressive constitution in English and hiding their true Arabic colors from the world.

The constitution, in fact, is rather progressive, and apart from the first sentences of Articles 5 and 7, it could be a decent constitution for the new State of Palestine. I could find no reference in it to killing Jews. Without changing the subject, Mr. Kaplan, would you like to point it out to me?

II. "Can Ehud cite any major Islamic group in the United States like CAIR, ADC, MPAC, MPCC etc. that has ever condemned terrorism and not made excuses for 9/11?"

Try this link, in which at least two of your groups are reported to condemn the attacks. By the way, the ADC is not an Islamic group, and as a distinguished journalist, you should know that the vast majority of Arab-Americans are Christians.

III. "1.7% of the West Bank is populated by Jews, why can't they keep their homes and live in a Palestinian state like Arabs live inan Israeli one?"

Here you contradict yourself, because either a). You believe that Palestinians are so brutal --as proven by their constitution-- that no Jew could ever be a Palestinian, or you believe that b). Jews can be Palestinians as long as there's a political agreement that allows them to stay. I have no problem with Jews staying in Palestine, and according to the P.A. constitution, neither would the P.A. How many Israeli settlers, though, do you honestly think want to be Palestinians, even if they are guaranteed the protection the P.A. constitution offers on paper? How many Israeli settlers do you think are willing to give up their Israeli citizenship, their privileges in Israel, to stay where they are? If you really think it's more than a handful, then I will say that yes, they should be allowed to live in Palestine, as Palestinian citizens.

You know that your1.7% is misleading. You and I both know that Area C covers 60% of the West Bank. Assuming the 1.7% of the land with settlements is incorporated into Palestine and all 200,000 West Bank Settlers become fully protected Palestinian citizens, would you be happy to transfer all of Areas A, B, and C to the Palestinian Authority?

IV. "Maybe you should go live inside Israel where Arabs have equal rights to Jews except in the imaginations of the Palestinian propaganda ministries."

Arabs have equal rights to Jews according to the Declaration of Independence, just as all Palestinians have equal rights under their constitution. Is the latter necessarily true? Probably not. But it also demonstrates that a state's core documents do not necessarily reflect the reality of its policies. Until recently, the JNF was allowed to sell its land, which is about 13 percent of Israel's "public land," to Jews only. This was just recently overturned BUT: "From now on, JNF lands will be available to Jews and non-Jews alike - though the ILA will compensate the JNF with substitute land for any plot purchased by a non-Jew."

In other words, Israel is compensating the JNF for the inconvenience of not being able to discriminate against Arabs. Does this sound like a state that protects all of its citizens equally? Did an Arab propaganda ministry make this up?

V. "I dare you to prove anything Lee Kaplan has ever written has been untrue."

In "Why You Should Not Donate Funds to Berkeley Hillel" Kaplan writes: "Tzedek is a national organization within Hillel also but was not removed."

Tzedek is NOT a national organization within Hillel. Mr. Kaplan probably assumed this because he googled "tzedek hillel" or something. There are other Hillel chapters with other subsidiary organizations called "Tzedek." They have different functions, and Cal Tzedek is not affiliated with them in any way. Nor is Tzedek affiliated with Brit Tzedek V'Shalom. "Tzedek" is a common word and can be applied to all sorts of Jewish organizations. Tzedek was founded by U.C. Berkeley Students in 2002 and has never been affiliated with any organization other than Berkeley Hillel. Had Kaplan's efforts to keep his exposes "well-researched" extended beyond a cursory Internet search, this fact would have been clear to him.

On a related note, in "Inside Duke's Hatefest," Kaplan places his ego above any semblance of actual events and describes his fantasy of the 2003-2004 year:

"When scholar Daniel Pipes came to speak at U.C. Berkeley, some students from the campus Hillel sought to disrupt his speech and had organized events critical of Israel. I joined some pro-Israel students who were concerned about these activities and expressed their concern on the Internet program, Israel National News. Instead of addressing the problem, Hillel's director ejected the pro-Israel students who had gone on the air to expose the radicals in their midst. On campuses like Berkeley, Hillel has created a monster -- a vehicle for anti-Israel activists funded by the Jewish state's most ardent supporters."

Kaplan's Fantasy Chronology:

1. Announcement of Daniel Pipes' lecture.

2. some Hillel students seeking to disrupt the speech.

3. some Hillel students organizing events critical of Israel.

4 (presumably): Daniel Pipes speeks and is disrupted, thanks to some Hillel students.

5. Lee Kaplan and concerned students address these issues on Israel National News.

6. DAFKA "ejected."

These are all belied by a perusal through DAFKA's own archives. The actual chronology is something like this.

1. Hillel and Jewish Student Union disaffilliate from DAFKA sometime in October, 2003. The reasons why are disputed by the two parties. I will take Mr. Kaplan's word on this.

2. Tzedek members organize a panel called "Meet the Jewish Left" which is held on October 30, 2003. That night, Mr. Kaplan "exposes Berkeley Hillel" on the Tovia Singer Show. Executive Director of Hillel asks Mr. Kaplan to leave the room, and they engage in a lengthy and vocal argument outside. DAFKA students were allowed to stay and politely asked questions at the end. None of them were ejected or heckled (nor had any of them attempted to dominate the question and answer session, nor had any of them been secretly recording anything).

3. Over the next couple of weeks, Mr. Kaplan and people who listened to the show continue to heckle Berkeley Hillel's Executive Director.

4. Sometime in November, the prospect of Daniel Pipes coming to Berkeley is proposed by the Israel Action Committee, although Tzedek was not aware of this until January.

5. In January of 2004, Tzedek appealed to the Jewish Student Union to withhold funds from the event and, when that failed, organized a letter to be printed in the Daily Cal which denounced the event.

6. On February 10th, 2004 Daniel Pipes came, and all sorts of craziness happened. I only know of one Hillel (and Tzedek) member who opposed the event and who did not stay outside demonstrating peacefully the whole time. He did not take part in the disruptions, nor did Tzedek encourage them. Presumably, Lee Kaplan and his concerned students were there, but I think I've made it clear by now that Kaplan's depiction of these events was entirely distorted so as to exaggerate the injustice committed against DAFKA.

In "Ford Funds the Palestinian Left," Kaplan claims that "B' tselem never addresses human rights abuses in the Palestine Authority where misogyny, religious intolerance and public murders of "collaborators" are rife." This is a convenient way to discredit out-of-hand an organization which meticulously documents evidence which contradicts the rosy picture Mr. Kaplan would like to paint about life in the Territories. But he is simply wrong here. B'tselem devotes an entire section to Palestinian attacks on Israelis and another to the death penalty in the P.A. It even has an extensive report from 1994, when most of Israel was lovey-dovey about the Oslo process, criticizing the Palestinian Authority and other political groups for their role in "the torture and killing of Palestinians suspected of collaborating with the Israeli authorities during the Intifada."

So Mr. Kaplan is, at best, far sloppier at research than he claims. The B'tselem dig, however, is particularly insiduous, and I believe it is a deliberate lie which he assumes will go unchallenged by the typical FrontPageMag reader.

I eagerly await your response Mr. Kaplan/Kaplan Fan (and to Other Lee Kaplan Fan, I appreciate your kind words. I will respond to you soon).

-Ehud

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Friday, May 27, 2005

U.S. Preparing to Use "Small" Nuclear Bombs

See this story in Haaretz:

"Each detonation of a bomb a few meters underground would destroy most of the buildings on the surface to a range of two kilometers. After the explosion, there would be a need to quickly evacuate civilians from an area of 100 square kilometers, to avoid the deadly effects of the radioactive fallout; buildings, agricultural crops and livestock would be affected in an area of thousands of square kilometers, and depending on wind direction and velocity, there could be a need to evacuate more people from thousands of additional square kilometers. None of this takes into account the political and psychological repercussions of using nuclear weapons for the first time in more than 60 years. The Bush administration regards all this as "limited collateral damage.""
The article concludes:
"Herein lies an inherent contradiction in the American approach that on the one hand acts with commendable determination to prevent the proliferation of nuclear arms, but on the other hand, contributes toward it by adopting an irresponsible nuclear policy."

Limited collateral damage? That the administration is even contemplating the use of nuclear weapons is an outrage.

Lisa

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Sunday, May 22, 2005

Is DAFKA racist?

UPDATE: For the latest on Lee Kaplan, read this.

Lee Kaplan is a true Renaissance man. As National Director of DAFKA, he is a brave, tells-it-like-it-is defender of my right to settle in all of the Land of Israel. In his former stint as the Coordinator for the U.C. Berkeley chapter of Students for Academic Freedom, he tirelessly defended my right to praise my government. As a front man for Stop The ISM he has significantly impeded the International Solidarity Movement by putting up a conspicuously incomplete website, promising to update it soon, then abandoning it. As a hard-hitting investigative reporter for David Horowitz's FrontPage Magazine, he holds nothing back: he has seen it all, and his writings --while scholarly-- are hardboiled and gritty in a way that can only be expected of a world-weary, no-nonsense journalist's journalist.

He now has a new job, which is front-page news on his own DAFKA site (let's remember that DAFKA still has many student members, and is most certainly not just a venue for Kaplan's self-promotion). As Director of Communications for the Northeast Intelligence Network, "Mr. Kaplan will be expanding the organization's media attention" (i.e. appearing on the Tovia Singer show every other week).

The Northeast Intelligence Network "is an anti-terrorist web site developed in response to the September 11, 2001 attacks on America that will offer practical reference information, vital links, and other valuable information from an investigative perspective."

So, as a macho, no-holds-barred super agent, Lee Kaplan literally is defending my life, and for this I have immense gratitude. After all, he's in good company:

"We are not constrained by bureaucratic 'red tape' that always tends to slow things down. Although we are respectful and never try to be offensive to anyone or any group of people (except the terrorists who are trying to kill us), we do not have to worry about being 'politically correct.' "
--Answer to FAQ (by Douglas Hagmann, Director)

He goes on to demonstrate the sincerity with which he is respectful to everyone but the terrorists. In response to "Are you against Islam?" he clarifies:

"I am against anyone who flies planes into buildings and kills innocent men, women and children for their beliefs. I am against anyone who has painted targets on the backs of my family, friends, neighbors and fellow citizens and desires to kill them for their beliefs. I am also sick and tired of the sugar-coated rhetoric I hear about tolerance and political correctness, and I do NOT blame the US and our lifestyle for being attacked on 9/11. I do NOT believe we have to 'look inward' or ask ourselves 'why' we were attacked on 9/11 like some of the more visible politicians and pundits have suggested. I also DO NOT believe that the religion of Islam was 'hijacked' or 'perverted' as many in our own government have stated. If that makes me anti-Islam, then so be it."

It does make him anti-Islam, and not in the cute sense he is suggesting so as to demonstrate how Bold he is in Standing Up to the Intractable Cult of Political Correctness. This is virulently racist stuff in which he explicity rejects any distinction between "Radical Islam" and Islam, a distinction that even demagogues like Daniel Pipes pretend to make before warning us to keep an eye on that mosque around the corner, just in case.

Elsewhere, Laura Mansfield, Associate Director and Middle East "Specialist" writes: "I’m still waiting for an apology from Muslims for the September 11, 2001 attacks." That "Muslims" must apologize for these "Muslim" crimes echoes the filth that Israel Shamir peddles about collective, pathological Jewish guilt for "Jewish crimes" and "Jewish racism."

Are these sentiments consistent with the principles of DAFKA? It is very clear from the site's front page that DAFKA opposes racism and fascism coming from Arab and Islamic countries; and, because the group's membership is diverse and consists of "Jews, Muslims and Christians or Secularists," it can be assumed that this disgust with racism is from a universalistic perspective. So DAFKA is an anti-racist organization. True, it links to the Kahanist Masada 2000, but that's really just because Masada 2000 is an excellent source of the information which the Oslo Criminals are trying to censor from us. Why, then, would the National Director of an anti-racist organization align himself with racists?

It's possible that Mr. Kaplan is only interested in Stopping Terror and does not agree with the views of Mr. Hagmann or Ms. Mansfield. If he were anyone else, I would assume this to be true. But by Mr. Kaplan's own rules, he needs to explicitly and publicly denounce those statements or else he AND his organization will always be associated with them. Consider his January, 2004 e-mail exchange with SF State Professor Stephen Zunes. Kaplan says to Zunes:

"From my knowledge of you, you tend to run with people who advocate dismantling Israel. For our debate, I think it only fair if you have made statements in the past in the company of such groups, or attended meetings with them where you did not condemn certain activities or positions or statements you at least clarify your position by rejecting them."

He takes it a step further:

"Surely you can write a one page letter to Yasser Arafat? If you state your position as you have stated to me, it could prevent the situation from roiling some more. I do believe you are perceived by the "other side" as being against the US and Israel. You had time to write me, so certainly this should be no burden on you unless you fear presenting your views to your public? Humor me, write the letter, one page, and copy me."

It seems to me like Mr. Kaplan has only three options given the high standards which (I assume) he holds himself to.

1. He can clearly and publicly denounce the racist comments by his colleagues, thus preserving DAFKA's impeccable anti-racist credentials while being able to continue his important anti-terror work.

2. He can avoid denouncing them which, by his own definition, proves that he shares their sentiments.

3. He can claim that the comments in question are not racist --which perhaps is a legitimate position, although it would call into question the validity of DAFKA's anti-racist principles.

Lee Kaplan reads this. I can say with zero hesitation that as a Very Important Person with a Very Big Ego, and a Very Big Grudge against us Bolshevik Tzedek Extremists, Lee Kaplan will read any of our posts that mention DAFKA. So I challenge you, Mr. Kaplan, to be consistent with your own standards and act accordingly. I would be very disappointed if you didn't, because you protect me in so many ways.

-Ehud

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Friday, April 22, 2005

Is Hasbara...dishonest?!

There is more to J.K's April 19th letter than meets the eye. I would not normally sit here and transcribe the text of the article which is conspicuously absent from the Daily Cal website. But this is too amazing to pass up:

Teach Kids Peace

"We will have peace with the Arabs when they love their children more than they hate us." Golda Meir was absolutely right. Now, more than ever in the past fifty-seven years, there is an opportunity for genuine dialogue and ultimate peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

However, with that optimism comes a lingering skepticism. For years, the Palestinian leadership has been indoctrinating children to hate and instructing them towards violence. This type of exploitation has brainwashed a whole generation to hate Israel.

This hate-filled indoctrination is institutionalized and systemic. In order for genuine peace to ever emerge, the Palestinian Authority must begin to teach their children peace. With the death of former PA president Yasser Arafat, a different Palestinian leadership has laid the ground for a better future, seemingly moving in the direction of dismantling terrorist organizations and preparing the Palestinian people for peace. However, while Palestinian children are still predisposed to hate their Jewish neighbors, there are still greater goals that must be achieved.

The PA must dismantle its military-style summer camps for children --camps with the explicit aim of preparing children for battle. Agreements between governments carry little significanceif future generations are being schooled in the ways of war instead of the ways of peace.

Unfortunately, this generation of Palestinian children has been forced to endure a level of hateful propaganda, forcing them to be pawns in a corrupt game of death. Too often, we have seen children between ages 14 and 16, wearing explosive belts, walk into crowded bus stops, resturants, and malls and blow themselves up with the aim of inflicting as many casualties as possible. Just several months ago in November, a 16 year old Palestinian boy walked into a market in Jerusalem, and blew himself up, killing three Israelis and himself.

Children do not grow up wanting to be terrorists unless they are directly instructed that it is a proper way to live one's life. Currently, these youths are being taken out of their homes and their schools and brought into a world where violence instead of communication is the only means for resolution.

No set of values anywhere in the world mandates the exploitation of children for the express purpose of killing themselves in order to kill others. Human rights organizations must stand at the forefront of condemning behavior that leads directly to the murder of innocent civilians. The Palestinian Authority needs to be held accountable for promoting the use of "child soldiers," especially by the human rights organizations, but currently is not.

Yet, in this time of great potential, perhaps a new era will emerge where violence is traded for hope. Strides towards resolution are beginning, and democracy is starting to take root. Now is the time for legitimate change in the region. Now, more than ever, is the time to teach kids peace.

J.K.,
Israel Action Committee Chair
* * * * * * * * * * *
Now, I was snooping around some Hasbara websites, when I discovered a link to one called Teach Kids Peace. In their campus section, they brag that "Op-eds were printed in student newspapers at Drexel University, American University and many others." Clicking on these links reveals op-eds by Laruen Krol and Gregg Roman, respectively. Unfortunately, they are exactly alike!!! Word for word, these "op-eds" are identical!

Anyway, I had lost my copy of Tuesday's Daily Cal until today, when I got another copy directly from the office. Below I will print the Krol/Roman piece. Pay attention to the color-correspondence. I understand that this is visually unappealing and awkward, but bear with me:

There is cause for optimism for those monitoring progress in the Middle East. A new era led by a movement toward democracy is gripping the region and we should all approach this era with a profound sense of hope.

Entrenched in this optimism however, still lingers some of the skepticism of the past. Years of indoctrinating children to hate others, instructing children toward violence, and exploiting children into war has created a generation that has been brainwashed to act as a veto against any real peace. This state-sponsored, systemic indoctrination continues today and children continue to be exploited and abused into violence.

This must end. For peace to prevail the Palestinian Authority (PA) must begin to teach their children peace.

The Palestinian Authority has been rejuvenated with a leadership that seems committed to resolving the bitter feuds that have plagued their peoples for so many years. However, for this commitment to be seen as a real pledge for peace, the PA must begin dismantling its infrastructure of hate that Yasser Arafat so rigidly constructed. The PA administers military style summer camps for children with the implicit aim of preparing them for battle. Children are taught that war is the way of the future, leaving little room for ambitions of peace. While Israeli children attend summer camps that teach skills such as swimming, art, and other positive life skills, Palestinian children attending PA administered camps learn the basics of violence, hatred and combat. State sponsored military training for children is nothing less than child abuse.

No peace agreement alone will dispel the deeply entrenched hatred that has so tenaciously been programmed into these children. A generation of children have been forced to endure a level of hateful propaganda that has left them ready to fight and die, entirely unaware that they are being used as pawns in a corrupt game of death.

Too often we have seen children ranging from 14 to 16 years old strap themselves to a bomb and blow themselves up. On November 1, 2004, a 16-year-old Palestinian blew himself up in the Carmel market in Jerusalem, killing three Israelis and himself. The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine claimed responsibility. But what does it mean when a terrorist organization claims responsibility for a terrorist attack? What does it mean when the terrorist was 16 years old? It means that organizations are taking the Palestinian youth out of their homes, their schools and their nightclubs and are bringing them into a sinister, manufactured world and teaching them to kill. Unfortunately however, these terrorist organizations are neither limited to fringe groups nor sidelined by the government. The government itself promotes this behavior and acts as a resource in preparing children to pursue this activity. In fact, the web site of the Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade, the military wing of Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah party, displays pictures of children training in uniform with weapons. In most Western countries it is considered child abuse for a parent to teach their child to use a gun when he or she is five years old. Where is the condemnation when the PA commits the same abuse against an entire generation?

Between January 2002 and January 2004, there were at least eight terrorist attacks committed by children less than 18 years of age. Children do not naturally aspire to blow themselves up. This attitude is taught and learned; now is the time to stop it.

With this new hopeful era that has emerged in the region, must also come a commitment to teaching the children peace. Children are not soldiers, they are not weapons and they should be taught love and compassion, not hatred and intolerance. The world must demand an end to the exploitation and abuse of Palestinian children. The future of Middle East peace depends on it.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

So this is what Hasbara has come to: a plagiarism ring. Which is not surprising, since I do not believe "critical thinking" or "research" are what are emphasized in Hasbara seminars.

-Ehud

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Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Indoctrination

Here is my response to a letter to the Daily Cal by the head of the Israel Action Committee. He discussed incitement by the P.A. and its effects on the peace process. There are several points on which I disagree with him, and I hope the Daily Cal prints my response, although I would not count on it:


J.K.’s letter (“Teach Kids Peace,” April 19) did not appear to be in response to anything which the Daily Cal has actually printed recently. Thus, I can only assume that it is one of those periodical recitations of the standard truisms: Israelis love, Palestinians hate. Israelis are instinctively democratic, Palestinians are not. Israel has always sought peace, the Palestinians have always responded with war.

These Golda Meir Era clichés are quite soothing for those of us with something to lose in Israel (such as a sister) who might otherwise get that uncomfortable feeling that perhaps Palestinian youth have been “brainwashed” not exclusively by the PA, but by the “institutionalized and systemic” policies of Israel toward them, their families, and their property. Hasbara never fails to leave me with that warm and fuzzy feeling that those who have been so radicalized as to want to hurt my sister have undergone that process only in the last twelve years, and only because of what they have seen on television or read in a book.


It’s really quite an empowering way of looking at things! Consider the inexplicably popular FaceBook group “Responsible Parenting,” of which Mr. K. is a member. By “wondering what kind of parent allows their child to go and throw rocks at tanks,” we can take comfort in the fact that Palestinian parents don’t really care about their children’s well-being, meaning that if those children were to die it would mean less to them (and should mean less to us) than if our children were to die. Plus, we get to ignore the question of why people in tanks feel the need to fire back at children throwing rocks! It’s the best of both worlds, and the feeling of moral absolution is heavenly!


But ultimately, it reeks of the arrogance and ignorance which those who have power allow themselves to exhibit toward those who do not. Israel’s government presumes to be able to read the collective Palestinian mind, as if there were such a thing, and for rather self-serving reasons. Of Sharon’s infamous 14 Reservations to the Road Map for Peace, often described as being-security related, only the first two really deal with the violence and incitement (and the first reservation even presents Israel’s demand that “the road map will not state that Israel must cease violence and incitement against the Palestinians.”) The other twelve essentially exist to preserve Israel’s advantage in negotiations, on issues such as the settlements, right of return, and Jerusalem.


This is not to belittle Mr. K’s point that incitement, terrorism, and “child soldiers” are immoral phenomena, but he should look more carefully before claiming that “human rights organizations” do not condemn these things. B’Tselem has an entire section dedicated to Palestinian violence against Israeli civilians which it condemns in the strongest possible terms, along with the PA’s rather broad application of the death penalty. Amnesty International has called suicide bombings a “crime against humanity.” Human Rights Watch, in response to the horrific November bombing that Mr. K. described, states, “Palestinian armed groups should immediately end all use of children in military attacks.” If these groups focus more on Israeli policies, perhaps that’s because Israeli policies play a greater role in the conflict.

Ehud


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Tuesday, April 12, 2005

t-shirts

Apparently, someone recently came by looking for "kach t-shirts." sorry, wrong place. JVP has some nice ones though.


In other news, the American Jewish Congress has just announced that all us Jews ought to rush out and buy some Caterpillar stock. Because clearly it should be the top priority of American Jews to support an American company that provides equipment that makes Palestinian families homeless. Not.

More at Semitism.net.

-Lisa

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Wednesday, March 23, 2005

CaterPillar of Democracy

On Wednesday, Jewish Voice for Peace led about 65 mostly Jewish activists in a demonstration at San Leandro's CAT dealership. JVP's strategy is smart: they have bought up stock in Caterpillar so that they can vote in shareholder elections. Whether or not this will effect a decision by CAT to stop its sale of modified bulldozers to Israel has yet to be seen, but it definitely is getting some folks worried. More on that later. First, a rare criticism by me of the Left/Peace Camp which might not make me extremely popular:

Rachel Corrie should NOT be the symbol of the anti-house-demolition movement. She took a noble stand and paid the ultimate price. The investigation into her death was a joke, and there must be an independent investigation. Her parents are right to sue CAT, and they deserve moral support. But when demonstrators descend upon CAT dealerships, she should not be the focal point of the demonstration. The Israeli army did not "go too far" when it used a CAT D-9 to kill Ms. Corrie. They went too far in October, when they more or less arbitrarily destroyed 55 homes in Jabaliya. They went too far in May, when it was hundreds of homes in Rafah. Long before Rachel Corrie, they went too far during the Oslo years when 2200 homes were destroyed for being built in "Area C" (which was almost 60% of the West Bank).

By fixating on Rachel Corrie, activists indirectly assert that the "clearing operations" carried out during the fog of war, the thankfully discontinued non-deterrent collective punishment demolitions, the racistly selective "administrative demolitions" meant to assert that "Area A is your homeland! Why aren't you grateful?", that these demolitions are not reason enough to deplore the sale of bulldozers to Israel. We should not need a martyr to present our case with moral clarity. JVP activists acknowledged this at one point during the demonstration, and I appreciated it, but CAT knew damn well that we were there on the anniversary of Rachel's death, and that for many of us, she was our cause.

I absolutely do not want to suggest that the actual demolitions were less important to any of these activisits than was Ms. Corrie. That is not what I believe. But I think we need to present our case more effectively for others. Rachel Corrie is such an easy target for our political opponents. She burnt a (paper) American Flag! Her death was an accident, or she deliberately let herself be killed! Look at the picture, it's clearly doctored! The ISM is an anti-Semitic terrorist front group, as proven by Lee Kaplan, Investigative Reporter! And whether or not any of these rebuttals are valid, our opponents can stop listening to us once they put them forth. They need not confront the actual Israeli policies behind the home demolitions, the huge scale on which they occur, the homelessness they perpetuate, the colonial arrogance with which they are carried out. They need not look us --or more significantly, a Palestinian whose house has been arbitrarily destroyed-- in the eye and say without looking away that these actions are moral. We are setting ourselves up too easily, and allowing right-wingers to steer the debate in their direction. We are letting them distract us, waste our time with intimations that we are dishonest, that we are naive, that we have been duped or are ourselves the dupers, that we do not understand that suicide bombings are deplorable, that we foolishly feel sorry for one person who has died when so many others have also died. The next time around, we should each come armed not with pictures of Rachel Corrie, but with B'Tselem reports detailing just how "necessary" these demolitions are for the "democracy defending itself."

Having said that, there is absolutely nothing wrong with commemorating Rachel Corrie's death. I also applaud the lawsuit filed against CAT earlier this week. This, more than anything, will put pressure on CAT to change its policies. But I still maintain that this campaign would be more effective if the parallel demonstrations focused solely on house demolitions. I wish the Corries the best of luck in their suit, and hope that it results in justice both for their daughter and for all of those whose lives have been worsened by this destructive series of policies.

Now, onto at least one sign that the campaigns by JVP and other groups might be worrying the Right: a ListServ proporting to represent North American Jewish students, but which is far too reactionary to accurately do that, presents the following Action Alert:

************************
SUPPORT CATERPILLAR COMPANY’S BUSINESS WITH ISRAEL

· COUNTER THE ANTI-ISRAEL PRESSURE ON THE CATERPILLAR COMPANY

· BUY CATERPILLAR STOCK if possible

BACKGROUND

A coalition of anti-Israel groups, “Stop Caterpillar,” is zeroing in on Caterpillar to make it stop selling bulldozers to Israel. Their strategy is to target a small, specific “winnable” action and use it as a launching pad to begin boycotts of Israel by US companies. They plan to “turn the tide in pushing US corporations to stop doing business with Israel until the Occupation ends.”...

...Members of Jewish Voice for Peace and Sisters of Loretto bought Caterpillar stock, giving them the power to introduce an anti-Israel resolution at the annual Caterpillar Shareholders meeting on April 14 2004. It called for the company to investigate its business dealings with Israel, and vilified Israel in the proposal and in speeches at the meeting. This is the first time an American corporation has ever had an anti-Israel proposal. The Board of Directors unanimously recommended voting against it, arguing that they had neither the legal right nor the means to police how their equipment is used and that policies about the Middle East should be left up to government....

...Jewish Voice for Peace stockholders reintroduced the anti-Israel proposal for this year’s Shareholder’s Meeting, scheduled for April 13 2005 in Chicago and are calling for world-wide demonstration against Caterpillar for the same day. The Presbyterian Church and an array of anti-Israel groups and human rights groups support the actions. [Emphasis mine]...

...Caterpillar has firmly resisted this pressure—so far. Company spokesman Benjamin Cordani said, "What we're talking about here is a publicity campaign being taken on by a small number of persons.” Even so, some Israeli officials are concerned that the bad publicity will eventually influence the corporation [Emphasis mine]..."

The action alert then suggests several actions to take so as to "Help BALANCE the pressure they are receiving:"

1. BUY CATERPILLAR STOCK TO SUPPORT THE COMPANY AND TO VOTE AGAINST THE ANTI-ISRAEL RESOLUTIONS. LET’S GET A MASSIVE MOVEMENT OF PRO-ISRAEL SHAREHOLDERS....

2. PLAN A COUNTER-DEMONSTRATION AT A CATERPILLAR OFFICE NEAR YOU
· Carry signs that

Credit Caterpillar for helping the fight against terrorism

Thank Caterpillar for doing business with the democratic nation of Israel

Criticize anti-Israel groups that support terrorism

3. SIGN OUR DECLARATION SUPPORTING CATERPILLAR AND ISRAEL

4. WRITE CATERPILLAR’S BOARD OF DIRECTORS TO THANK THEM FOR DOING BUSINESS WITH ISRAEL AND REASSERT ISRAEL’S RIGHT TO DEFEND ITSELF FROM TERRORISM - This will counteract the 43,000 letters that they have received from people trying to stop Caterpillar from selling to Israel.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

So not even the organizers of this counter-action will deny that human rights groups oppose the house-demolitions and believe that Caterpillar's supplying Israel with bulldozers is irresponsible. They don't even bother to remind their on-call activists that these human rights groups are “controlled by Arab dictatorships” or “never condemn terror.” That these human rights groups would voice objection to an Israeli policy is apparently damning enough. Since the authors of this memo do not even attempt to discredit these groups by other means, they betray their reactionary attitude: criticizing Israel is wrong.

I have a question for both right wing activists and mainstream Hasbara activists. When a group says something about Israel that you believe is defamatory, is there automatically no truth to it? I’m not saying that you should not correct misinformation or argue your perspective, but do you really believe there is a conspiracy to “demonize, delegitimize, and dehumanize” Israel? Do you think that “the Left” wakes up every day and asks “how can we demonize, delegitimize, and dehumanize Israel today?”? And if this is the case, is it at all disproportionate to the campaign by Stand With Us (listed as an “encourager” of this action) to demonize, delegitimize, and dehumanize the Palestinian Authority? And if this IS an appropriate tactic, wouldn’t it also be appropriate to do the same toward Israel? Demonization, delegitimization, and dehumanization, as reprehensible as they are, serve strategic or political purposes. They are not arbitrary expressions of hatred. If you are going to call out your opponents for using them, be prepared to turn the mirror on yourselves.

I’d vote against demonizing, delegitimizing, and dehumanizing either party, but I think we need to remind ourselves that governments and militaries and corporations are always impure, that there is no such thing as “purity of arms,” and that exceptionalism in this regard is at best moral comfort food and at worst moral mythology.

One person to whom “special thanks” is directed in this action alert is Roberta Seid, “Director of Research and Education for Stand With Us.” She is ALSO one of the “historians” behind the recent study –all but ignored in Israel but lapped up by ultra-nationalist Zionist groups here—which claims that 1.4 million Palestinians do not exist. But as my main man and Haaretz columnist Akiva Eldar recently taunted: “Experts on the right say that the demographic problem is overblown. Okay, then let them annex it all.”

I do not support the Israeli Left’s idea that annexing Palestinian land is bad because demographics are a “problem,” but I’d love to see Ms. Seid squirm out of Eldar’s challenge. “Well…” I can imagine her saying. “They’re not really ours. They’re disputed.”

-Ehud

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