Showing posts with label palestine. Show all posts
Showing posts with label palestine. Show all posts


solidarity from scotland to palestine via soccer

At a football (soccer) match between the Scottish Celtic team and an Israeli team, Hapoel Beersheba, hundreds of Celtic fans defied Scottish law to show their solidarity with Palestine and protest the Israeli occupation.

Mondoweiss reports:
There could be serious consequences for Celtic thanks to the protest, carried out in front of Israelis themselves. Fines and closures of their fans seating sections are possible, under UEFA rules. And a 2012 Scottish law against provocative political speech at sporting events makes the flag display an arrestable offense, although authorities reportedly did not take the offending fans into custody. There were dozens of them, photographs show.

Although the flag politics of the region are contrarian, the feelings of political solidarity are real.

“Since at least the late 80’s Palestine flags have been seen at Celtic Park and Celtic fans have shown their support for the Palestinians. Celtic fans have always had a radical history with support for Irish resistance to British rule and it is from there that support for Palestine stems. Also following support for Palestine among other football and sports fans and figures,” reads a Facebook page called Celtic Fans for Palestine, with about 3,300 members.

The Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) will weigh what could happen, but it might involve the closing of some of the stands in the stadium for a Champions league game, writes Neil Cameron in the Herald, a Scottish paper, in an opinion piece chiding protesters for risking the forfeiture of other fans tickets. European football carries out collective punishment against fans, apparently.
Watch this beautiful video from AJ+.


israel slaughters palestinians, pays for online propaganda, and north americans gobble up the bait

I've been trying to write about Israel's latest slaughter of Palestinian people ever since the hideous spectacle began, without results. I post little bits of horror and disgust on Facebook, but can't sustain anything worth posting here. Because... what is there to say?

A mighty military power unleashes deadly force against a civilian population. Some people within that population have dared to use violence to resist their own oppression. Therefore the entire population must be terrorized, hundreds murdered, thousands maimed, lives destroyed.

Another great military power and a second-tier military wannaberush to the defense of the military power, and anyone who speaks out against it is accused of bigotry. People who normally would recoil at such warmongering are silent, or, incredibly, call the slaughter defense.

It's a topsy-turvy world.

In the US, if you don't blindly support, without question, every single military action perpetrated by the government, you are accused of being unpatriotic, not "supporting the troops", even of siding with "the enemy". If you don't do the same about Israel's military actions, you are accused of being anti-Semitic.

The parallels are not surprising. What I do find astonishing is how many normally progressive American Jews fall for this bullshit. "Both sides are wrong," they whine. "Hamas used rockets." Rockets?? You see an equivalence between a hand-fired rocket and the force of the second-largest military on the planet? When black South Africans threw rocks at the riot-shielded apartheid army, did you say "both sides are wrong"?

"Israel has a right to defend itself," they say. "It cannot tolerate terrorism." I wonder, do you support retaliation for all victims of terrorism? If the Iraqi people, if the Afghan people, could somehow launch air strikes against your town, would you shrug your shoulders and say, "Well, the US started it. Iraq has a right to defend itself."?

Or are you still hiding behind accusations of anti-Semitism? You've heard anti-Semitic statements! Oh my! Keep defending the slaughter of civilians. That will help.

I don't see or hear anti-Semitism in anti-Israeli activism. But if there is anti-Semitic rhetoric coming from some pro-Palestinian people, can you rightly tell me that such words justify slaughter? Will you continue to support the murder of civilians, because someone has said words that offend you?

My friend David C, who used to blog here, tells me that online comment sections have been deluged by wildly over-the-top accusations of anti-Semitism.
What is going on is just insane. Doctors without Borders had a Facebook post that simply called for Israel to show restraint and gets flooded with angry comments accusing the organization of politicizing the tragedy. Amnesty International calls both sides to calm down on its Facebook page and again got deluged with angry comments. The reason even though it was calling out both sides? Amnesty used a photo of a Palestinian woman wailing, not an Israeli. That apparently is tantamount to anti-Semitism.
That flood of commentary is not coincidental, nor indicative of public opinion: it is organized propaganda.
Israel has announced it will pay university students to circulate pro-Israeli information on social media networks, without having to identify themselves as working for the government.

The move was publicised in a statement from Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office, the Associated Press reported. Students will receive scholarships to "engage international audiences online" and combat anti-Semitism and calls to boycott Israel, it was alleged.

In 2012, a Palestinian-run blog reported similar arrangements between the National Union of Israeli Students and the Israeli government. Students would be paid $2,000 to post pro-Israel messages online for five hours a week.

According to Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz, the most recent proposition is being spearheaded by Danny Seaman, who was slammed by the media for writing anti-Muslim messages on Facebook.

Students will be organised into units at each university, with a chief co-ordinator who receives a full scholarship, three desk co-ordinators for language, graphics and research who receive lesser scholarships and students termed “activists” who will receive a “minimal scholarship”, the Independent reported.
See also: "Students offered grants if they tweet pro-Israeli propaganda" (The Independent), and "Prime Minister's Office recruiting students to wage online hasbara battles; PMO and national student union to create covert units at universities to engage in diplomacy via social media; unit heads to receive full scholarships" (Haaretz). (Again, thanks to David C; I would have missed this.)

The latest war on Gaza has led me back to some old wmtc posts, and the interesting discussions that followed.

From 2013:

my journey to palestinian solidarity and the myth of the self-hating jew, part 1

my journey to palestinian solidarity and the myth of the self-hating jew, part 2

my journey to palestinian solidarity and the myth of the self-hating jew, part 3 and final

From 2010:

a simple lesson: how to tell the difference between hatred of a people and criticism of a nation's policies

* That's Canada, by the way.


ny times letters on the movement against israeli apartheid

The New York Times recently ran a heavy dose of letters in support of the movement against Israeli apartheid, many of them written by Jewish North Americans.

Philip Weiss of Mondoweiss suggests the Times is seeking to balance two recent articles it ran about the boycott, divest, sanction (BDS) movement. (Weiss incorrectly notes, based on a reader's comment, that these letters appeared only in the international edition of the Times; they actually appeared in all editions.)
First, I sense that the Times editors are seeking to balance two articles it ran describing BDS as anti-Semitic. Columnist Roger Cohen said that the BDS movement harbors anti-Semitism, because it would deny “the core of the Zionist idea,” that Jews have a national home (p.s. Roger Cohen has led a worldly life of accomplishment in New York and London). And reporter Jodi Rudoren wrote a piece quoting rightwing Israelis, saying BDS is immoral and anti-Semitic and reminiscent of Nazi tactics (with Omar Barghouti quoted from the other side).
I agree with Weiss that such a large number of letters, many of them in support of BDS, running under the headline "Is a boycott of Israel just?" is a positive occurrence, but I wouldn't expect more balanced reporting from the Times anytime soon.

I'm re-running the letters in support of Palestinian freedom below. I am omitting two short letters in support of the status quo, one strongly anti-BDS letter by an Israeli, plus one letter about academic freedom. You can read all the letters at the link below.

* * * * *

Regarding “In boycott, a political act or prejudice?” (Page 2, Feb. 12): It’s galling that in a piece on the nonviolent Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (B.D.S.) movement, launched in 2005 by Palestinian civil society in response to Israeli violations of Palestinian human rights, Jodi Rudoren frames her story in terms of B.D.S. echoing the anti-Semitic boycotts of Nazi Germany, quoting several Israelis harshly critical of B.D.S. and just one Palestinian supporter. Ms. Rudoren even seems to endorse allegations that B.D.S. is anti-Semitic and directed at Jews rather than Israel and Israelis, writing, “Avoiding a coffee shop because you don’t like the way the boss treats his employees is voting with your wallet; doing so because the boss is Jewish — or black or female or gay — is discrimination.” Contrary to what Ms. Rudoren and the quoted B.D.S. critics suggest, the movement does not target Jews, individually or collectively, and rejects all forms of bigotry and discrimination, including anti-Semitism. B.D.S. is, in fact, a legal, moral and inclusive movement struggling against the discriminatory policies of a country that defines itself in religiously exclusive terms, and that seeks to deny Palestinians the most basic rights simply because we are not Jewish.

Dr. Hanan Ashrawi, Ramallah, West Bank

The writer is a member of the Executive Committee of the Palestinian Liberation Organization and head of the P.L.O. Department of Culture and Information.


The B.D.S. movement has nothing to do with animus toward Jews. Many American Jews, myself included, are vigorously working in support of B.D.S. — and there are more and more of us with every passing month. We target Israel for boycott not because we believe Israel is the worst human rights violator (we don’t), but because Israel is the single largest recipient of American foreign aid, more than $3 billion a year. As Jews, as taxpayers, as people of conscience, we have not only the right but the moral obligation to use boycott and divestment as strategies of nonviolent resistance to Israel’s systematic, racist mistreatment of Palestinians being done on our nickel and in our names.

Hannah Schwarzschild Arlington, Mass.


The Palestinian boycott call was initiated in 2005, decades after Zionists evicted Palestinians from the lands of the future Israeli state, after all of Palestine came under Israeli control and occupation, and after thousands of Palestinians had been tortured, detained or killed. International institutions have pointed to Israel’s violations of international law. Yet the United States and Western countries have ignored the harsh realities of Palestinian life and the widening system of superior privilege for Jews in Palestine. From the Israeli-Jewish cocoon it looks like an attack on Israel and the Jewish nation when the criticism of Israeli actions against Palestinians grows after decades of singular support for Israel and total silence on the Palestinian issues. Israel needs to learn to follow international law. The boycott is a teaching tool, nothing more.

Martina Lauer Chesterville, Ontario


Ms. Rudoren notes that Mark Regev, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s spokesman, believes the B.D.S. movement is holding Israel to a higher standard than any other country in the world. Actually, the opposite is true. Israel itself likes to portray itself as having higher standards than most, while at the same time violating these standards with apparent impunity. Israel is a signatory to the Declaration of Human Rights, yet has violated almost all of its articles. Israel, in its Declaration of Independence, promised to provide equal rights and justice to all residents of Palestine-Israel, but apparently never had any intention of doing so. Israel promised, as a provision of the United Nations recognition of their state, to adopt a Constitution, but has never done so.

In view of the massive unquestioned support of Israel by the American government, one might assume that Israel would be more cooperative in the search for peace and justice. This has obviously not happened. Resorting to proclaiming anti-Semitism every time there are questions as to the policies of the Israeli government is the fallback position when all else fails. This should not be allowed.

Doris Rausch, Columbia, Md.


The Israelis claim that anti-Semitism is behind the boycott, but they don’t see the real reason: the occupation of Palestinian lands and the subjugation of the Palestinians over the years.

Lillian Laskin, Los Angeles


Regarding “The B.D.S. Threat” (Opinion, Feb. 11): Roger Cohen cites the fact that my brother, Omar Barghouti, received a degree from Tel Aviv University to conclude that Israel affords more rights to minorities than other regional states. But minorities receive higher academic degrees in all neighboring states.

More important, Mr. Cohen argues that while it was acceptable for the Jewish people to exercise their right of return to create a Jewish homeland in Palestine after 2,000 years of diaspora, the Palestinians should not be allowed to exercise the same right after 66 years of exile from their homeland. That said, he claims to be for “equality in the Jews’ national home.” What kind of equality would that be, exactly?

If a state defines its legitimacy on the premise of denying the indigenous people their right to live within it, then what choice do the indigenous people have but to delegitimize that state? To deny the Palestinians the right to fight for their right of return is to say they are not equal to Israeli Jews.

Dr. Nasser Barghouti, San Diego


The writer mentions the divestment of firms from the West Bank as potentially positive, as it may bring an end to the occupation. He also acknowledges his agreement with that aim. But there is a difference between refusing to fund the occupation and actively participating in the B.D.S. movement; the largest Dutch pension fund and the largest Danish bank are not followers of B.D.S. They, like many of us who support a two-state compromise, refuse to send money to an occupation that is detrimental to both Israel and the Palestinians. If Israel wants to be on the list of free and democratic countries, it should look to the advice of its friends, like Secretary of State Kerry, not to those who’d like to see it dismantled.

Nathan Hersh, Brooklyn, N.Y.


Mr. Cohen writes that the United Nations gave an “unambiguous mandate” in 1947 for a Jewish state. But that mandate came with specific borders based on where Jews resided in sufficient numbers to have a majority. Instead of retreating to these borders at the end of the 1948 war or allowing for a reconfiguration of boundaries based on population, Israel insisted on keeping the land it conquered, which included half the land that had been designated for an Arab state. With expanded territory, there was no way Israel could allow Palestinians to return and still be “Jewish and democratic.” The United Nations did not give a mandate for expanded borders, ethnic cleansing and mass expulsion. Allowing Palestinians to return is necessary for the healing of this conflict. A novel solution — two states with identical borders — would enable Palestinians to return and have self-determination, while allowing Israel to remain a Jewish state and haven for Jews. The two states would have equal power.

Esther Riley, Fairfax, Calif.


The writer says that of the three goals set by the B.D.S. movement, the first (ending the occupation) “is essential to Israel’s future,” the second (full equality for Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel) “is laudable,” but the third (the right of return for all Palestinian refugees) “equals the end of Israel as a Jewish state.” One of Israel’s Basic Laws, the Law of Return, guarantees automatic Israeli citizenship to any Jew living anywhere in the world, a provision that was not envisioned in the 1947 United Nations partition resolution, which provided for the creation of a state for Jews “resident” in Palestine. United Nations Resolution 194 and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which Israel accepted as a condition of United Nations membership, both establish the right of refugees to return to their homes.

Mr. Cohen’s embrace of full equality is insincere because he justifies an unequal law. Inequality and guarantees of ethnic/religious supremacy are endemic to the notion of a Jewish state. Such a state can never be democratic, because in a democracy the people are sovereign. The state belongs to all its citizens.

Rod Such, Portland, Ore.


The B.D.S. movement may indeed have a negative economic impact, but it is probably the most effective way to get Israel to make any kind of deal at all with the Palestinians. If its backers can actually force an accord that creates a Palestinian state along the 1967 borders, then more power to them.

Robert Haufrecht, New York


What Mr. Cohen’s argument boils down to is a belief that civil equality and human rights are less lofty ideals than the perseverance of a Jewish majority state. I wonder, would you ever publish an opinion article voicing concern over the end of America as a white state? What would Mr. Cohen make of the demographic realities within Israel’s 1967 borders: the 20-percent-and-growing population of Arab-Palestinian citizens in Israel? What does that reality suggest for the sustainability of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state? To preserve a Jewish majority, would Mr. Cohen push his argument further to call for the removal of Israel’s Palestinian population?

Bayann Hamid, New York


my journey to palestinian solidarity and the myth of the self-hating jew, part 3 and final

Part 1 here.

Part 2 here.

By now it should be clear that my abandonment of my ties to Israel, and my support for the liberation of Palestine, are not based on denial of my Jewish heritage or on anti-Semitism. This is a political issue, and a moral one. Jewish people cannot be - and should not be - expected to adhere to some kind of party line of political views. I am heartened that increasing numbers of Jewish people are making their own journeys away from unconditional support for Israel - away from nationalism and towards justice - and I'm frustrated and saddened that so many others are completely entrenched in their loyalties.

In this post, I try to address some of the issues many Jewish (and many non-Jewish) people raise when explaining their support for Israel, and their negative beliefs about the Palestinian cause. If you recognize yourself in this post, be assured that whatever conversation I may have had with you, I've had with many others, and I've read and heard many more.

Your response, from any point of view, is welcome, as long as it falls within my comment guidelines. And, as always, I do not wish to debate.


For many people, the biggest obstacle to support for the Palestinian cause is the use of violence by some portion of the Palestinian people. I want to try to unpack this.

What is terrorism?

Most of us, when we hear about terrorism, feel sympathy and empathy for the victims, and feel only antipathy and alienation, or worse, towards the perpetrators. Most of us do not support groups that use violence, especially violence against civilians - people who, we feel, are innocent victims who have not wronged the other party in any way.

Palestinian violence is almost always characterized as terrorism, and therefore is almost always condemned. But what is terrorism?

Here's one definition, from Merriam-Webster:
The unlawful use or threatened use of force or violence by a person or an organized group against people or property with the intention of intimidating or coercing societies or governments, often for ideological or political reasons.
Even using this strict dictionary definition, many military actions - such as the US-led invasion of Iraq - qualify as terrorism.*

In the media, violence is characterized as terrorism when it is perpetrated by people outside the structure of an organized, state military. Thus, Afghans defending their land are terrorists. US and Canadian forces occupying that land are not. Some call the US's actions "state terrorism".** If we distinguish between terrorism and state terrorism, state terrorism is by far the more dangerous and lethal, as it draws upon enormous, unmatched resources that are impossible to repel.

Which of these is terrorism?

A roadside bomb.

A bomb planted on a bus.

Bombs falling from jets.

House raids: doors blown off with explosives, male occupants rounded up and disappeared, home ransacked, family terrified; male occupants never seen again.

The destruction of homes, either by aerial bombing or by bulldozer.

Mass round-ups and imprisonments.

The widespread use of torture.

Imprisonment without charges, and without access to representation, defense, or a judicial system.

I maintain these are all terrorism.

Hiroshima was terrorism. Guernica was terrorism. Gaza was terrorism.

Colonialism is violent. Imperialism is violent. These are by definition brutal, repressive systems. A system that can only be maintained through violence will be resisted by violence.

Many of us recoil at the acts of a suicide bomber, but ignore or dismiss widespread destruction, imprisonment, and extra-judicial killing - although the latter is more lethal, exponentially so. Bombs on buses evoke a particular kind of horror. Should not indefinite detentions, torture, destruction, and murder of civilians by an army evoke horror, too?

All people deserve autonomy and self-rule.

You may abhor Palestinian violence, but Palestinians have human rights.

Many people claim that if only the Palestinians would cease the use of violence, then Israel could and would allow them to live in peace. But Palestinians are not children. We cannot require them to behave - to be passive and compliant - before granting them the same rights and freedoms we take for granted for ourselves. They are human beings who must be free. You may disapprove of their methods, but that does not diminish their claim.

This may seem like a strange analogy, but some of the rhetoric I hear around this issue reminds me of society's judgements of women. The "good girl" who is raped is a victim, but the slut brought it on herself. A teenager who was raped deserves the right to choose abortion. A woman with multiple partners who never uses contraception doesn't.

Rights are rights. If some Palestinians don't appear to be "good victims", holding sit-ins and singing "We Shall Overcome," that doesn't make their rights any less urgent or less deserved. The Black Panthers were also part of the freedom struggle.

There is no liberation without violence.

This, to use an overused phrase, is an inconvenient truth that many first-world people prefer to deny.

No unwilling colony, no occupied country, no oppressed people has ever achieved freedom without the use of violence. There have been nonviolent movements, of course. But no nonviolent movement was ever successful without the existence of some alternative organization that used violence and the threat of violence. In other words, nonviolence, when it succeeded, was never the only factor. The riveting nonviolent resistance of Martin Luther King, Jr. would not have succeeded without Malcolm X's "by any means necessary". Gandhi's powerful methods of nonviolent resistance worked alongside many militant independence movements. Would Britain ever have sat at the negotiating table with Ireland had it not been for the IRA? (If you believe the answer is yes, ask yourself, Why would they?)

Nelson Mandela, now at the end of his life and justly celebrated the world over, has been transformed through celebrity into a man of peace. This sleight of hand omits Mandela's true role as a leader of the African National Congress, a group that engaged in armed resistance against the apartheid regime. Mandela's long imprisonment was not for his political beliefs; it was for acts of political violence. Mandela himself was instrumental in the ANC's adoption of armed struggle after nonviolent methods failed to move the white ruling class.

While in prison, Mandela never renounced violence. When South Africa offered to release Mandela from prison if he would sign a statement condemning terrorism, he refused, saying that armed resistance was legitimate when other channels of free political activity were no longer available.

One observer writes, "Mandela was more the Rory O'Brody than Gerry Adams of the ANC." The quote comes from an interesting blog post describing Mandela's role in the use of violence. The writer says:
This, I believe, is really the principle that articulates the natural law right to engage in armed struggle against oppression when other forms of resistance are no longer available. And, perhaps more importantly, to support publicly the rights of others to engage in armed struggle against state ideology which condemns all political violence as "terrorism", and therefore de-facto illegitimate. Thinking seriously and honestly about conflicts in the world today means not ignoring the potential legitimacy of armed struggle, and not white-washing revolutionary leaders in the past in order to put up their posters in public schools whilst no one is offended.
Imagine the situation reversed.

If we swap the Israelis' and Palestinians' positions - if your people were in Gaza, being held in the world's largest open-air prison - would you support the armed struggle? Would you understand it? Would you agree that a government has the right to force you to live behind a wall, to pass through checkpoints, to live under a surveillance state, in order to survive?

Under this imagined scenario, if your sympathies change, I suggest those sympathies are based not on morality or justice, but on nationalism.

When can the use of violence be condoned?

I realize that many, maybe most, Western Jews - and many first-world people of any background - will never support the armed struggle of Palestinians against Israel. I wonder, though, if the same people condemn the use of violence in all resistance movements. Would they, I wonder, condemn or condone the use of violence by black South Africans under apartheid? By Native Americans as Andrew Jackson's armies rode in? In the Warsaw Ghetto uprising?

If you draw a moral distinction between these examples and Palestine, what is it? Are Palestinians less deserving of their freedom? Do Israelis deserve to be shielded from the human consequences of their government's policies?

Or does Jewishness trump all?

To achieve a goal, people will use whatever means are available to them.

Israel seeks to expand its borders, and to control and subjugate the Palestinian people. To do so, it employs a powerful military and a brutal police state.

The Palestinian people seek to regain their occupied territory and expel their oppressors. What means are available to them?

To me there is a moral distinction between violence in the service of state repression and violence committed by people trying to resist and retaliate against state repression.

To alleviate the effect, remove the cause.

The achieve certain political, economic, and military goals, the US invaded Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003.

When some Iraqis fought back - physically resisting the invasion and occupation of their country - the US labelled them "insurgents", then used the presence of this "insurgency" to justify its continued presence.

To condemn Palestinians' violent resistance, but not to recognize and condemn the systemic, continued violence against, and persecution of, Palestinians by Israel can, at this point, only be an act of wilful blindness.

If one condemns the violence of the oppressed against their oppressors, and not the violence of the oppressor against the oppressed, one is siding with P.W. Botha, with George Wallace, with the Raj, with the Conquistadors. With Israel.

"Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East"

File this with George W. Bush bringing democracy to Iraq.

Was the United States a democracy when about 15% of the country's population - one-third of the population in the southern states - were owned as property? The US called itself a democracy before the emancipation of slavery. Was it?

Was apartheid South Africa a democracy?

Those who call Israel a democracy are either narrowly defining Israel to exclude the occupied territories, or parrotting something they have heard but not investigated, or believing propaganda disguised as news reports.

What's more, the Palestinian territories hold elections, too.

Here I can only urge you: please educate yourself. One place to start might be The Only Democracy in the Middle East?, a project of Jewish Voice for Peace.

If you wonder why you and I have such different views on this "democracy," you might be interested in Muzzlewatch, also from JVP.

For a perspective from a South African, you might want to read the series of wmtc posts that begins here: "is israel an apartheid state? a south african perspective, part 1".

"Palestinians and their supporters are anti-Semitic"

Many Jewish people believe that Arabs and others in solidarity with the Palestinian cause are anti-Semitic. They may have heard or read anti-Semitic statements, or they may be basing their feelings on assumptions.

Jewish friends have said to me, "Palestinians hate Jews. They are taught to." I'm not sure how they possess this information, where it comes from, or how much or little it represents reality. My own liberal, suburban, Jewish parents taught me to look down on Arabs, to see them as violent, lawless, ignorant, "backwards", dirty (yes, physically dirty). Is it possible that the idea of Arab children being taught to hate Jews is part of that same bigoted stereotype? Or do Arab families actually teach hatred towards Jews? Do Jewish families do the same, in reverse?

I personally have encountered no anti-Semitism in the pro-Palestinian movement; indeed, I have seen quite the opposite, a great multicultural solidarity in the struggle for justice. On the other hand, I hear casual Islamophobia on a regular basis both in person and online.

Of course, one can find a flood of anti-Semitism online without too much difficulty. And some Jew-haters use the Palestinian cause as cover for their own hatred.

So let's assume all this is true. Let's assume that at least some Palestinians are anti-Semitic and some Jews are anti-Arab or anti-Muslim. So what? It may be true, but it's irrelevant.

You may believe that the pro-Palestinian cause is rife with anti-Semitism. But what does that have to do with the Palestinian people's right to autonomy and self-determination?

Some Black people may hate all white people, but could that have been used as a moral justification for Jim Crow? If you read a Black South African's rant against his white oppressors, would that have caused you to support South African apartheid?

Human rights belong to all people, without exception. There are bigots everywhere. There are good people everywhere. If you've heard or read anti-Jewish rhetoric within the pro-Palestinian cause, would you really use that to justify the continued repression of millions of people?

An Israeli friend once said to me, "How long will we use real or imagined anti-Semitism to justify The Occupation?"

Israel's "right to exist"

One often hears the expression, "Israel has a right to defend itself" and "Israel must use violence or it will cease to exist." Many people claim that Israel must act aggressively to contain and neutralize the Palestinian people, or its existence will be threatened.

Every Israeli person and every Palestinian person has the right to exist.

People have an inherent right to exist.

Regimes do not.

The apartheid regime in South Africa no longer exists. Jim Crow no longer exists. The Raj no longer exists.

If the survival of your state - your state, not your people - depends on the subjugation of others, can you credibly plead self-defense? The survival of the Confederacy depended upon slavery. The survival of Afrikaan South Africa depended on apartheid.

The westward expansion of the early United States was predicated on genocide. Did the US have a right to that expansion? How can expansion be equated with survival?

How can this

be considered survival?

If Palestine is free, can Israel continue to exist? If Israel the state, acting in concert with all the people who live in its territory, can figure out a way to become a democratically ruled country, equally open to all people, equally governed by all people, granting the same inalienable rights to all people, regardless of origin or heritage, then it will continue to exist, as South Africa has done, as the US did after its Civil War.

But if by Israel's "right to exist," we mean its self-proclaimed right to be exclusively governed by, and grant exclusive rights to, one set of people but not another, based on hereditary, then no, it has no right to exist.

If you support Israel's right to maintain itself as a Jewish state, do you also support other exclusive states? An exclusively white state? An exclusively blond and blue-eyed state?

Here are two premises I think we would all support.

1. A government that can only maintain power through force and violence and repression is not a legitimate government.

2. All people have the right to be free.

Why should Israel be an exception?

"Without Israel, Jews cannot be safe, and there could be another Holocaust"

I'm very familiar with this argument, and I used to believe it. Under closer scrutiny, however, it fell apart.

The existence of a Jewish state cannot prevent anti-Semitism. Indeed, I would argue that it does just the opposite. The Jewish claim to special status and the insistence of a birthright, a claim we would view as illegitimate from any other people, is the perfect fodder for anti-Jewish feeling.

Recognizing that a certain degree of bigotry will always exist, our goal should be to prevent such bigotry from resulting in discrimination, persecution and, ultimately, genocide. But our goal cannot be merely to protect Jews. We must protect all people from discrimination, persecution, and genocide - or what are we?

What's more, continued segregation will only perpetuate bigotry, on both sides. In the US, we've seen that the key to dispelling bigotry and helping people recognize our common humanity has been integration. Integrated workplaces have probably done more to normalize (so-called) "race relations" in the US than anything else. (Of course, integrated workplaces would not have been possible without court-ordered desegregation of education and other civil rights legislation.) If we want to reduce both anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, segregated nation-states should not be our goal. Until Israeli and Palestinian, Jew and Arab and Christian, co-exist in one country, as equals, there will never be peace.

But is peaceful coexistence your goal? Perhaps you're less concerned with the prevention of another genocide than with the prevention of another Jewish genocide - not a holocaust, but only The Holocaust.

As Jews, do you really feel that your own safety and the safety of other Jewish people are more important, more valuable, than the safety of people who are not Jewish? Can you admit such a thing, even to yourself?

How much repression is your safety worth? How many deaths? How much oppression should be tolerated so that our people can have a "homeland"?

Why do I have more rights to live freely in Israel, a country I have never even visited, than someone whose family has lived there for generations?

If a survivor of the Warsaw Ghetto calls for continued Palestinian resistance, if the child of two Holocaust survivors knows that Israel maintains an apartheid state and it must end, how can you continue to close your eyes?

How can you, as a Jew, tolerate this?

* * * *

The following is excerpted from a report by Richard Falk, UN special rapporteur on the Palestinian territories.
Israel continues to annex Palestinian territory; Israel persists in demolishing Palestinians' homes and populating Palestine with Israeli citizens; Israel routinely detains Palestinians without charges; Israel maintains an policy of collectively punishing 1.75 million Palestinians through its imposition of a blockade on the Gaza Strip; and Israel prosecutes its occupation with impunity, refusing to accept the world’s calls to respect international law.

The Israeli population registry confirms that around 650,000 Israelis had settled in the occupied Palestinian territory by the end of 2012. Just last week Israel took another step toward building the 3,000 additional settlements authorized by Prime Minister Netanyahu in November, even as Israeli leaders pay lip service to peace negotiations.

In the first three months of 2013, Israel demolished 204 Palestinian homes, and violence by Israeli settlers against Palestinians is an everyday occurrence, with 146 incidents documented through April.

[According to the independent expert designated by the UN Human Rights Council, Israel is actively confiscating Palestinian water and land, having seized an additional 60,000 square meters of land near Nablus just this week.]

My new report reminds the Human Rights Council that a Security Council report raised these same concerns in 1979, but 34 years later Israel remains committed to ignoring international law and pursuing its own set of facts on the ground.

. . . since the occupation began 46 years ago, Israel has detained approximately 750,000 Palestinians, equaling nearly 20% of the entire Palestinian population. At the end of May Israel had 4,979 Palestinians, including 236 children, in its prisons. Another fact is that Israel constantly holds around 200 Palestinians in so-called administrative detention, which is a euphemism Israel uses for detention without charges.

[Turning to the situation in the Gaza Strip, Mr. Falk recalled that, in mid-June, Palestinians in Gaza will enter the seventh year of living under Israel's oppressive and illegal blockade.]

My report discusses my visit to Gaza last December, just after Israel's last major military operation. In short, Israel's blockade is suffocating Palestinians in Gaza, with an incredible 70% of the population dependent on international aid for survival and 90% of the water unfit for human consumption.

These violations deprive Palestinians of hope and make a mockery of revived peace negotiations.
I ask you again: as a Jew, and as a human being, how can you continue to support this?

* For some people, the word "unlawful" in the above definition is a sticking point. Internationally, the US's invasion and occupation of Iraq were and are unlawful. But the US makes its own laws. It invades countries at will, using whatever pretext or contrived incident is convenient, and using the media as its propaganda agent. For more on this pattern, please read Overthrow by Stephen Kinzer, an excellent and very accessible book.

** For a discussion on varying concepts of terrorism, including the concept of "state terrorism," try this article by John Sigler: "Palestine: Legitimate Armed Resistance vs. Terrorism".


my journey to palestinian solidarity and the myth of the self-hating jew, part 2

Part 1 here.

For a while I had been reluctant to write this story, because it seemed so baggy and shapeless. The best essays are crisp, with a clearly defined turning point and an easily identifiable ah-ha moment. This story has none of those that I can see. A clear path would make a better essay, but all I have is this murky stew.

My path of change of mind and heart about Israel and Palestine was a long one, and when I try to trace it, many seemingly unconnected points stand out.

Early warnings

In university (1978-1982), I was involved in the anti-apartheid movement, which at the time was focused on divestment from South Africa. I learned a lot about the apartheid system, which was so much more brutal and more repressive than was generally known. I learned about US complicity and involvement in the apartheid regime. No surprise there. But I also learned about Israel's role in South African apartheid. That, I can tell you, I found shocking. Remember the Israel I had learned about at home?
Israel was, to them, a fragile but tenacious outpost of democracy in an otherwise backward region of the world. Israel had made the desert bloom. Israel was experimenting in socialism. Israel was fighting for her life. Israel was where Jews could find refuge if they were suddenly unwelcome in their countries of origin. Israel was surrounded by enemies who sought to destroy her. Jews needed the possibility of Israel and Israel needed our support.
I didn't know what to make of this new information. It was confusing, a cognitive dissonance. I tucked it away, and did nothing. By "did nothing," I mean that if asked, I might have repeated the platitudes I grew up with, about the only democracy in the Middle East or how there is no Palestine. I might have said, "It's a very complicated situation." Mostly I avoided the issue.

Once in university, I also saw the omissions and inconsistencies in my family's worldview. This is not the classic case where a little distance allows a young person to see the imperfections in a happy home; quite the opposite. My family life had been so filled with turmoil that I never had space to process these details, to question the little things. Now I realized how the word "Arab" was always preceded by an epithet. I recognized how my parents rejected the my-country-right-or-wrong jingoism of many Americans, but embraced that same ethic about Israel. Their progressive politics were genuine, but they maintained a strict double standard when it came to Israel.

Again, I didn't do anything with this knowledge. I just tucked it away.

Here's a moment which may seem unrelated, but feels essential to my awakening: in university, a classmate talked to me about the Armenian genocide. I had never heard of it - not one word. This young man was very passionate about raising awareness about his people's history. I was ashamed of my ignorance. (He was an excellent educator. I wish he could know how he opened my mind that day.*)

When I next spoke to my mother, I mentioned this: "Did you know there was an Armenian genocide?" She did. She knew a lot about it. I think at that moment I began to question - and to shed - the special status of Jews as Most Persecuted People. It takes nothing away from the Holocaust to know that others have been slaughtered. I note with sadness that in Hebrew School, I never learned that other people were targeted by the Nazis, too. I never learned that Romani, gay people, people with disabilities, people deemed mentally ill, and others were also rounded up and exterminated. Why was it necessary to erase those histories in order to teach us ours?

When Israel invaded Lebanon in 1982, and the Sabra and Shatila massacre became public, I argued in Israel's defense and did not understand why people blamed Israel for the atrocities. I feel great shame as I admit this. (An investigation into the massacre by an Israeli commission has since laid responsibility with Ariel Sharon, then Israeli Minister of Defence.)

A short time later, I visited the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam. I really appreciated how, after the exhibits on the Frank family and the Jews of Amsterdam, the story was widened to include the victims of repression and genocide everywhere.

These two disparate events - a massacre in a distant refugee camp, and my visit to the Anne Frank House - became linked in my mind. I was starting to see a bit more clearly.

A revelation

I began to think that the Jewish community in which I was raised had taught the wrong lessons about the Holocaust. I felt they were saying, "Jews have been persecuted throughout history, and now they must be protected. Israel is our special protection." But the more important lessons of the Holocaust would be about recognizing escalating scapegoating and repression, about how small steps of degradation and dehumanization can progress to genocide. It would be a lesson about universal human rights, about oppressed people everywhere. About how, as the famous saying goes, evil happens when good people are silent.

I felt that if we are to glean any meaning from the carnage of history, if we are to make any attempt to prevent genocides, the lesson of the Holocaust cannot only be about Jews.** Jews are not the only oppressed people, neither now nor through history. Acknowledging this does not change the facts of our own past oppression. It merely connects us to the larger family of humanity.

Here's another point on the path. In university and later in New York, I met Palestinians. People who identified themselves as Palestinians! I was taken aback, although hopefully I didn't show it. Wait, I thought, there is no Palestine. Then I thought, what does that mean?

This, finally, was the basic disconnect lying beneath that cheery suburban Zionism I was raised with: people were already living there. People were already living there. When the "world" - the dominant powers that gave themselves the right to divide up the globe according to their own interests - gave Israel to the Jewish people, there were already people living on that land. Who were those people? Where did they go? What happened to them?

By the time I read this 2008 essay by Howard Zinn, my mind had already changed, but he expresses almost exactly what happened to me. Of course the precise details are different, but his awakening - "It did not occur to me" - resonates deeply with me.
I was not long out of the Air Force when in 1947 the U.N. adopted a partition plan for Palestine, and in 1948, Israel, fighting off Arab attacks, declared its independence. Though not a religious Jew at all, indeed hostile to all organized religions, I had an indefinable feeling of satisfaction that the Jews, so long victims and wanderers, would now have a "homeland."

It did not occur to me--so little did I know about the Middle East--that the establishment of a Jewish state meant the dispossession of the Arab majority that lived on that land. I was as ignorant of that as, when in school, I was shown a classroom map of American "Western Expansion" and assumed the white settlers were moving into empty territory. In neither case did I grasp that the advance of "civilization" involved what we would today call "ethnic cleansing."

It was only after the "Six-Day War" of 1967 and Israel's occupation of territories seized in that war (the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, the Golan Heights, the Sinai peninsula) that I began to see Israel not simply as a beleaguered little nation surrounded by hostile Arab states, but as an expansionist power.

In 1967 I was totally engaged in the movement against the war in Vietnam. I had long since understood that the phrases "national security" and "national defense" were used by the United States government to justify aggressive violence against other countries. Indeed, there was a clear bond between Israel and the United States in their respective foreign polices, illustrated by the military and economic support the United States was giving to Israel, and by Israel's tacit approval of the U.S. war in Vietnam.

True, Israel's claim of "security," given its geographical position, seemed to have more substance than the one made by the U.S. government, but it seemed clear to me that the occupation and subjugation of several million Palestinians in the occupied territories did not enhance Israel's security but endangered it.

Once this basic fact sunk in - people already lived there - I saw the Law of Return as if for the first time. I had never stepped foot in Israel. My family had lived in the United States for three generations, and before that, in Eastern Europe. Yet I, an American, had more right to live in Israel than people who were born on that land and whose families had lived there for countless generations. I had this right whether or not I was an observant Jew. I had the right because my mother was Jewish.

This no longer looked like the sacred birthright of an oppressed people. It looked false and corrupt, like some kind of legal double-speak. I couldn't articulate it at the time, but what it looks like, more than anything, is the South African system of manufactured "homelands" and "passports" and racial designations that were instituted to justify apartheid.

I may have been taken aback when a friend identified himself as Palestinian, but I was shocked when I first heard of the Nakba. It was a lot to take in: that the day our synagogue and Jewish youth groups and marching bands and parades had celebrated as Israeli Independence Day was, for other people, a day of mourning, the commemoration of the expulsion from their homeland. Well, sure. Think about Columbus Day from the Native American point of view. You won't find any celebrations of Pizarro in the Andes.

It's getting mighty crowded

File enough papers in the back of a drawer, and eventually the drawer won't close. At some point, all the information I was avoiding became impossible to ignore.

Sometime in the 1990s, I don't know when, I read about the Wall, and I saw the words Israeli apartheid. It took time for me to process this. Gradually, I steeled myself and read more. I read about the conditions Israel had placed on the daily lives of Palestinians. I read about bulldozers. Read about the occupation. I already knew quite a bit about South African apartheid. It wasn't much of a leap.

I had two choices. I could deny reality, or I could admit that Israel was an imperialist, expansionist power. It had built an apartheid system and was guilty of massive human rights abuses.

I wish I could tell you what year it was, what I was doing. I wish I could identify a final straw. I can't. It was a gradual awakening, like layers of gauze being lifted from my eyes. One day things came into focus. It was time to bring my thoughts about Israel and Palestine into line with my core values. I realized that because I support the rights of all people to autonomy and self-determination, I must support Palestinians' rights to those, too. And just as I oppose repressive regimes the world over, I must oppose the repressive Israeli regime, too.

I could say it didn't matter that the oppressors are Jewish and I am Jewish: right is right and wrong is wrong. Or I could say that our shared heritage makes it more horrible - that Jews, of all people, should know better. It makes no difference. The only ways I could justify support for Israel's policies and actions were either with claims to nationalism, which I abhor, or worse, with a claim of racial or genetic superiority. There was simply no other defense.

Next: some stumbling blocks for many Jewish people: violence, anti-Semitism, and the non-existence of Israel.

Continue to part 3.


* See? Talk to people about justice. You never know.

** Much Holocaust education is now about this.


my journey to palestinian solidarity and the myth of the self-hating jew, part 1

The Self-Hating Jew.

This is what I am, according to some.

There's a line from an Andrew Lloyd-Webber musical: "I've been called many names, but they're the strangest."* I think of this every time I hear or read the expression "self-hating Jew". What a bizarre turn of phrase. Is it like a self-cleaning oven, or a self-basting turkey? No need to hate me, thanks, I've got it covered!

A "self-hating Jew" is the term given by some Jewish people who support Israel's policies and actions towards the Palestinian people to other Jewish people who do not support those policies and actions. If that's an awkward sentence, it's because I'm avoiding the shorthands of "pro-Israel" and "pro-Palestinian," as that is oversimplified, and open to complaint.

In short, a "self-hating Jew" is a Jewish anti-Semite. A Jew who is ashamed of being Jewish, who doesn't like to admit her Jewishness, and who avoids being identified as Jewish. A Jewish person who wants to "pass" as non-Jewish. An Uncle Tom.

Apparently the expression has a complex history. However, the way I see it used - the way it's been hurled at me from time to time - is anything but complex. It means: shut up. It means: I'm not listening. It means: your opinion was formed by your own personal issues, not by your examination of any material conditions, not by reality. It means: I am avoiding meaningful discussion by dismissing your views with an ad hominem attack.It's like a man, when confronted by a woman upset at his behavior, saying, "You must be PMS". A nasty piece of avoidance.

I've long wanted to unpack this accusation, and to examine it in the context of my own life. Three facts are given: I am Jewish, I was raised to support Israel, and I now support a free Palestine. How did I get from there to here?

I am Jewish

I am Jewish. As an adult, I am a non-observant Jew, which means I no longer observe any of the prayers, holidays, or rituals associated with the religion of Judaism. I've chosen to be non-observant because I'm an atheist, and this path feels most comfortable for me. Many atheist Jews choose to celebrate Jewish culture in a secular way. Mine is a personal choice, and certainly not the only way to reconcile a Jewish identity with atheism or irreligiousness.

Being Jewish is my heritage and my original culture. It is my ethnicity. When my ancestors lived in Eastern Europe, Jews were isolated into ghettos or shtetls, not integrated into the dominant culture. Thus, my people were not Russian or Polish or Belorussian. They were Jews.

Both my parents were raised in Jewish households, with some idiosyncratic mix of old-world Yiddish culture and new-world Jewish Americanism. My parents, uncomfortable with the conservative, Yiddish type of Jewishness, accidentally found a better fit with a liberal, reformed synagogue in the New York-area suburbs where I grew up. That culture was Jewish, liberal (in US terms), and Zionist. There was no contradiction, in their minds, between liberal values and Zionism. More about that in a bit.

I was raised to love Israel

I grew up in a political household. I can't call myself a red-diaper baby, but my parents' progressive political views were very present in our home and a strong influence on my development. I grew up during the era of the Vietnam War and the civil rights movement. My parents were adamantly opposed to the war and strong supporters of integration and equal rights.

I grew up in a Jewish household. My siblings and I all attended Hebrew school, meaning after-school religious instruction. We were Bat and Bar Mitzvah. Through most of my life, on Friday nights we lit candles, said the Shabbat prayers over candles, bread, and wine, and attended Friday night services. My parents never worked on Jewish holidays and we never went to school on those days; we would normally go to temple and do whatever one did at home for that holiday. Our synagogue was reform, which means there were a lot of things we didn't do - we weren't kosher, we drove to synagogue (as opposed to walking), and all kinds of other things that, according to some people, made us barely Jewish at all. But we identified as Jewish in every way.

I also grew up learning about anti-Semitism. I knew about the concentration camps, about pogroms, about the Russian Jews who were not allowed to emigrate. I knew about the outsider status of Jews in the US, less so in my world than in my parents', and less in their world than in my grandparents' day. My parents believed that Jews had a special interest in the civil rights movement, a special obligation to justice and equality. Our Passover seder was always about civil rights. Our rabbi always related the story of the Exodus - the story of an oppressed people moving from slavery to freedom - to Selma and Montgomery, to the bus boycotts, to the huge marches on Washington. You may find this ironic, given some of their other beliefs, but they intended no irony, nor did they detect any.

My parents were Zionists. Our synagogue was Zionist. This meant supporting Israel against her Arab antagonists. Israel was, to them, a fragile but tenacious outpost of democracy in an otherwise backward region of the world. Israel had made the desert bloom. Israel was experimenting in socialism. Israel was fighting for her life. Israel was where Jews could find refuge if they were suddenly unwelcome in their countries of origin. Israel was surrounded by enemies who sought to destroy her. Jews needed the possibility of Israel and Israel needed our support.

Whether you consider this a completely fabricated myth, or completely accurate, or anywhere in the middle, this was the Israel of my childhood, the Israel I received from my parents and from my Jewish community.

My understanding of anti-Semitism was intimately connected to my understanding of our support of Israel. I knew I could claim Israeli citizenship if I needed to. We needed Israel because we were Jews, and without Israel, Jews were vulnerable to discrimination, persecution, even genocide.

I'm not saying this was spelled out every night at dinner. But it was the message we received.

Next: I discover a disconnect, and have a gradual awakening. Part two here.


* It appears that this line was altered in the movie version of "Evita," but if you can find the excellent original Broadway cast soundtrack with Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin, you'll find the line in "High Flying, Adored". I wonder if the film producers thought Madonna shouldn't say that line?

** I use the term support, but really, what does my support amount to? What did I do for Israel and what do I now do for Palestine? These are difficult questions for every activist, and any compassionate person. For now, let's agree that the term support refers to my own opinions, however insignificant they may be.


how can we condemn bigotry on the soccer field yet support racist israeli policies?

This week in The Nation, Dave Zirin reports on some disturbing - and disgusting - behaviour from Israeli soccer fans.
Not even in the earliest days of Jackie Robinson’s 1947 historic debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers did Brooklyn’s white fans walk out after number 42 stole a base or hit a home run. The Brooklyn faithful’s love of “Dem Bums” trumped any racism that simmered in the stands. What does it say that sixty-six years later, Israeli fans of the soccer club Beitar Jerusalem have not evolved to postwar-Brooklyn standards of human decency?

Earlier this season, Beitar Jersulam broke their own version of the “color line” by signing the first two Muslim players in team history: Zaur Sadayev and Dzhabrail Kadiyev. Predictably, Beitar’s supporters were madder than the NRA in a school zone. Boos have rained down on Sadayev and Kadiyev every time they’ve taken the field or touched the ball. Several members of a team fan club flew a banner that read, “Beitar is pure forever.” Two others attempted to burn down the team offices. This pales, however, next to what happened when Sadayev scored his first goal for the team last week. After the striker found glory, hundreds of Beitar Jerusalem fans simply stood up and walked out. Even by soccer standards, where racism on the pitch is a continual plague, this organized nature of the action was shocking.

As one 19-year-old fan told The Independent, “The reaction to the Muslim players being here is not racist. But the club’s existence is under threat. Beitar is a symbol for the whole country.” Another said, “It’s not racism, they just shouldn’t be here…. Beitar Jerusalem has always been a clean club, but now it’s being destroyed—many of the other players are thinking of leaving because of the Muslim players being here."
Most Americans and Canadians will be repelled by this blatant bigotry, and will condemn it. That certainly includes most US Jews. But how many of those North Americans will continue to support the roots of this bigotry?

Israel's racist policies of exclusion condone and enable this disgusting display. Indeed, it's not possible to build a society on racist policies and not see this kind of behaviour on the ground. Just like "whites only" signs and segregated public facilities throughout the Jim Crow US South enabled and condoned ugly, hateful acts by some white Americans, so do the racist policies of present-day Israel enable these hateful acts by Israeli soccer fans.

If this is wrong, the wall is wrong.

If this is wrong, the checkpoints are wrong.

If this is wrong, Jewish-only Israeli settlements in the West Bank are wrong.

If this is wrong, laws controlling the legal rights, movements, access to land, and civil liberties of Palestinian people - laws that do not apply to Israelis - are wrong.

How can you condemn these soccer fans and their desire for racial purity, yet continue to support Israeli apartheid?

Read Dave Zirin's full column here.

See also, my interview with a South African activist explaining why it is accurate to call the Israeli system of control of the Palestinian population apartheid, and why that apartheid is even more brutal than the system he grew up under in South Africa: "they didn't build a wall": is israel an apartheid state? a south african perspective: คาสิโนออนไลน์ แจกเครดิตฟรี 2019part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, and part 5.

See also, Dave Zirin: Killing Hope: Why Israel Targets Sports in Gaza


greenwald on "both sides are wrong", hedges on the world as gaza

There are always at least two sides to every story.

Long ago, in the American West, some pioneers and cowboys were killed by "Indians". More recently, Iraqi "insurgents" have killed US soldiers. When I was growing up, Vietnamese "guerillas" - I believe the technical term was gooks - were killing American soldiers, too.

Those deaths were not trivial. Death is never trivial to the victims and the people who love them. But we understand that, had the US not invaded Iraq, Vietnam, (etc. etc.) - and had Europeans and their descendants not believed it was their divine right to own an entire continent and to cleanse it of its original habitants - those Iraqis, Vietnamese, and Native Americans wouldn't have killed those Americans.

I used to have a political cartoon on my bulletin board: black South Africa was on the ground, its head held by the apartheid jackboot. Ronald Reagan, observing, said, "Gee, all that pressure on your foot must be tiring."

Because, you know, there are two sides to every story. Greenwald:
Everything about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict follows the same pattern over and over, including the reaction of Americans. In the first couple of days after a new round of violence breaks out, there is intense interest and passion, which is quickly replaced by weariness, irritation, and even anger that one has to be bothered by this never-ending, always-ugly and seemingly irresolvable conflict. These sentiments then morph into an attempt to separate oneself from the entire matter by declaring both sides to be equally horrendous and thus washing one's hands from any responsibility for thinking further about it ("I'm sick of both sides"), followed by recriminations against anyone who actually has an opinion that is more supportive of one side than the other. . . .

But for two independent reasons, this reasoning, understandable though it may be, depends upon patent fictions, and is thus invalid. The first reason, which I will mention only briefly, is that there is not equality between the two sides.

As my Guardian colleague Seumas Milne superbly detailed in his column Tuesday night, the overarching fact of this conflict is that the Palestinians, for decades now, have been brutally occupied, blockaded, humiliated, deprived of the most basic human rights of statehood and autonomy though the continuous application of brute, lawless force (for that reason, those who like to righteously condemn Hamas' rockets (Pierce, defending Obama; "he happened to be correct the other day. No country can tolerate the bombing of its citizens") have the obligation to state what form of legitimate resistance Palestinians have to all of this). Moreover, as these clear numbers from the Economist demonstrate, the violence and carnage so disproportionately harm the Palestinians that to suggest some form of equivalence between the two sides borders on the obscene.

But the second reason, to me, is even clearer. The government which Americans fund and elect, and for which they thus bear at least some responsibility, is anything but neutral in this conflict. That government - certainly including the Democratic Party - is categorically, uncritically, and unfailingly on the side of Israel in every respect when it comes to violence and oppression against the Palestinians.

For years now, US financial, military and diplomatic support of Israel has been the central enabling force driving this endless conflict. The bombs Israel drops on Gazans, and the planes they use to drop them, and the weapons they use to occupy the West Bank and protect settlements are paid for, in substantial part, by the US taxpayer, and those actions are shielded from recrimination by the UN veto power aggressively wielded in Israel's favor by the US government. . . .

So this "both-sides-are-hideous" mentality is not what drives the actions of the US government. Quite the contrary: the US government is as partisan and loyal a supporter of one side of this conflict as one can possibly be. So if people want to rail against anyone who has convictions about one side or the other - Pierce: "The only people who make me more ill than the two active sides in this endless slaughter are the people far from the killing grounds who are so very goddamn sure they know what to do . . . I hate the cheering squads over here today" - then the place to begin is with the US government, the Obama administration, whose unstinting, multi-faceted support for and enabling of Israel is central to all of this. . . .

If one wants to try to wash one's hands of this entire matter by declaring both sides equally culpable, that's fine. But doing so requires an acknowledgment that the US government is doing nothing of the sort. It is fueling, funding and feeding the Israeli war machine, and, with its own militaristic conduct, is legitimizing the premises of Israeli aggression.
Chris Hedges relates the massacre in Gaza to the economic situation worldwide. Some people believe Hedges writes in broad hyperbole. I think he's just more observant than most.
In the new global landscape, as in Israel’s occupied territories and the United States’ own imperial projects in Iraq, Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen and Afghanistan, massacres of thousands of defenseless innocents are labeled wars. Resistance is called a provocation, terrorism or a crime against humanity. The rule of law, as well as respect for the most basic civil liberties and the right of self-determination, is a public relations fiction used to placate the consciences of those who live in the zones of privilege. Prisoners are routinely tortured and “disappeared.” The severance of food and medical supplies is an accepted tactic of control. Lies permeate the airwaves. Religious, racial and ethnic groups are demonized. Missiles rain down on concrete hovels, mechanized units fire on unarmed villagers, gunboats pound refugee camps with heavy shells, and the dead, including children, line the corridors of hospitals that lack electricity and medicine. . . . .

Because it has the power to do so, Israel — as does the United States — flouts international law to keep a subject population in misery. The continued presence of Israeli occupation forces defies nearly a hundred U.N. Security Council resolutions calling for them to withdraw. The Israeli blockade of Gaza, established in June 2007, is a brutal form of collective punishment that violates Article 33 of the Fourth 1949 Geneva Convention, which set up rules for the “Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War.” The blockade has turned Gaza into a sliver of hell, an Israeli-administered ghetto where thousands have died, including the 1,400 civilians killed in the Israeli incursion of 2008. With 95 percent of factories shut down, Palestinian industry has virtually ceased functioning. The remaining 5 percent operate at 25 to 50 percent capacity. Even the fishing industry is moribund. Israel refuses to let fishermen travel more than three miles from the coastline, and within the fishing zone boats frequently come under Israeli fire. The Israeli border patrols have seized 35 percent of the agricultural land in Gaza for a buffer zone. The collapsing infrastructure and Israeli seizure of aquifers mean that in many refugee camps, such as Khan Yunis, there is no running water. UNRWA (the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East) estimates that 80 percent of all Gazans now rely on food aid. And the claim of Israeli self-defense belies the fact that it is Israel that maintains an illegal occupation and violates international law by carrying out collective punishment of Palestinians. It is Israel that chose to escalate the violence when during an incursion into Gaza earlier this month its forces fatally shot a 13-year-old boy. As the world breaks down, this becomes the new paradigm—modern warlords awash in terrifying technologies and weapons murdering whole peoples. We do the same in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia.


saturday across canada: end the siege of gaza

This Saturday, across Canada and around the world, people will gather to condemn Israel's massacre of Gaza. The call:
Stop Israel's war on Gaza!
Stop the killing. End the blockade. Free Palestine. Support BDS.

In Toronto:
Rally & March
Saturday, November 24 at 2:00 p.m.
Israeli Consulate, 180 Bloor Street West
TTC: St. George or Museum

For listings across Canada, see the Canadian Peace Alliance.

Facebook event

The Canadian government has failed to condemn Israel's latest attack on Gaza. Instead, it provides Israel with the military, economic and diplomatic support necessary to carry out its acts of aggression. We call on all people of conscience to join the international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel until it complies with international law.

And on Saturday, please join us for a city-wide rally and march in solidarity with Gaza. Tell Stephen Harper and the Canadian government: end your support for Israel's war. Show the people of Gaza and all of Palestine that we stand in solidarity with them.

Organized by:

Canadian Arab Federation
Canadian Peace Alliance
Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid
Independent Jewish Voices – Canada
Palestine House
Toronto Coalition to Stop the War

More information:

Mainstream media fails to report on atrocities against Gaza
Ten things you need to know about Gaza
Top ten myths about Israeli attack on Gaza
Counting bodies in Gaza: This is what Israeli 'self-defense' looks like
As Israel assaults Gaza, BBC reporting assaults the truth
Gaza situation report, November 19: United Nations Relief and Works Agency
In photos: Israel attacks Gaza


first they came for pride: city of toronto vs free speech

Last week, I blogged about the ongoing pattern of harassment and discrimination against people who express solidarity with the Palestinian people. This isn't in the same universe as the oppression endured by Palestine every day; nonetheless, it's a violation of our own civil liberties and rights, and raises a huge obstacle to disseminating accurate information about the situation in Gaza and elsewhere.

When powerful institutional forces are heavily invested in repressing information, for much of the public, that information will remain invisible or be seen as suspect and dangerous. In other words, when someone like Immigration Minister Jason Kenney constantly associates Palestine solidarity and humanitarian aid with terrorism, and the compliant media echoes that characterization, large segments of the public will accept that link without question.

Currently, the City of Toronto is poised to revise its anti-discrimination policy to reflect this kind of repression. As many of you know, there was a battle between the City of Toronto and the official Pride Toronto organization on one side, and Queers Against Israeli Apartheid on the other. Pride eventually reversed its ill-conceived attempt to refuse to allow QUAIA to march under its own banner, but the City has not given up the fight.

As part of changes to the City's anti-discrimination policy, Pride Toronto would be required to prohibit the use of the term "Israeli Apartheid" during Pride as a condition of funding, as certain city councillors claim the term constitutes hate speech. Get your head around that one. An anti-discrimination policy would discriminate against people who express solidarity with the Palestinian people, who believe that Israel's policies towards Palestinians constitute an apartheid regime, and who express that belief publicly.

To my knowledge, no other festival and no other movement has been similarly targeted. This seems to be a clear violation of Charter rights and possibly the Ontario Human Rights Code. And, as far as I can tell, the only media reports about this appeared in the LGBT newspaper Xtra: "A new battle over Pride funding - City executive committee wants 'Israeli Apartheid' banned". No other newspaper saw fit to report on this. (If I'm wrong and you see something I missed, please do post it in comments.)

Xtra also published an Open Letter to Toronto's major cultural institutions, calling for solidarity against this attack on freedom of expression. Leaders of those groups responded positively.

Lost in the City's grandstanding against QUAIA is the irrefutable fact that the words "Israeli apartheid" have nothing to do with hating Jews. If you have trouble distinguishing between the two, please refer to this simple lesson to refresh your memory.

QUAIA organizers tell me that it's not too late to write to Toronto city councillors about this - and they believe it's worthwhile for people who don't live in Toronto to apply pressure as well. Here's a sample letter from QUAIA, and a list of Toronto city councillors is below.
Dear Councillor,

On September 10th, the revised City Anti-Discrimination Policy was once again blocked at the Executive Committee and sent back to city staff for further revision (EX22.4). The motions for revision included vague proposals to “go beyond provincial and federal statutes and legislation,” and to include “anything which shows a lack of respect for all persons.” They further instruct staff to single out Pride Toronto for special treatment; “the imposition of a condition of the funding for the 2013 Pride event, that the term “Israeli Apartheid” not be permitted to be used as part of the event.”

I am concerned that these motions trivialize the real discrimination faced by designated groups in Toronto. They open the door to frivolous complaints that will waste city and community resources. They threaten to violate Charter rights of freedom of expression. They single out a group defined by its sexual orientation for special scrutiny in apparent violation of the Ontario Human Rights Code.

The City’s Anti-Discrimination Policy must be clear and fair, not subject to the whims of lobbying and political manipulation, or used to muzzle “challenging” viewpoints in all arenas – from Pride to our city’s arts and culture.

I urge you to ensure that any changes proposed to the City of Toronto’s Anti-Discrimination policy be opened to a full and accessible public consultation process. The Policy must reflect the input of all citizens, and the traditions of Human Rights legislation in Canada.


illegal detention abroad, censorship and media propaganda at home: solidarity with palestine under attack

As you may have heard, the ship The Estelle, sailing in international waters, was illegally boarded by the Israeli navy, and its occupants taken into custody. Among those being held are Jim Manley, a Canadian, and a former New Democrat MP.

The Estelle is part of the Freedom Flotilla movement, which seeks to draw attention to the illegal blockade of Gaza, to stand in solidarity with the people of Palestine, and to bring humanitarian aid to Gaza. The 30 activists on board The Estelle hailed from Israel, the US, Canada, Israel, Norway, and Sweden.

In a story about the incident, the Calgary Herald describes Gaza as "คาสิโนออนไลน์ แจกเครดิตฟรี 2019the seaside strip ruled by the Islamic militant Hamas group".

This "seaside strip" is home to 1.7 million people, and Hamas is recognized by those people as their legitimate government.

Of course, Hamas is an officially designated terrorist organization as defined by the US, Israel, and the EU, and since Canada takes its marching orders from the US, by Canada as well. According to much of the world, including many citizens of those same countries, that is one very large, powerful pot name-calling a small, freedom-fighting kettle.

Labelling Hamas a terrorist group allows Israel to engage in all manner of repression, destruction, torture, and murder.

Elsewhere, that same label provides a cover for suppressing free speech and freedom of assembly. For example, that official terrorist designation gave Jason Kenney's office an excuse to bar the British activist and (then former) MP George Galloway from Canada. The Canadian courts correctly reversed that decision.

Examples of this censorship are everywhere. The City of Toronto wants to change its anti-discrimination policies so that the words "Israeli apartheid" will be a violation of rights. So calling Hamas a terrorist organization is not an insult to Palestinians, but calling Israel an apartheid state is discrimination against... who exactly? No one.

The boycott-divest-sanction movement and the mere words "Israeli apartheid" are instantly and constantly equated with anti-Semitism, often by people who equate everything Muslim with terrorism. At this point, the knee-jerk reaction is so swift and shallow, it's become almost comical. Write something defending Palestinian autonomy human rights, get labelled an anti-Semite. It's amazing how everyone cares so much about Jews all of a sudden. Too bad Canada and the US didn't care when it really mattered.

More on the Toronto so-called anti-discrimination policy in a future post.


onboard the tahrir, now with video

I've updated my recent post, onboard the tahrir: 'our course is the conscience of humanity. our final destination is the betterment of mankind.' to correct a few factual errors. I also added this video, which you might want to watch, whether or not you appreciated that post. The sight of the Israeli boats speeding towards the Tahrir sent chills up my spine.


onboard the tahrir: "our course is the conscience of humanity. our final destination is the betterment of mankind."

This post is based on my notes on a talk by David Heap, supplemented by graphics from David's presentation, about his experience as part of the Canadian Boat to Gaza.

To see David's presentation in its entirety, go here. It was videoed and put online by Paul S. Graham (with additional footage from Harold Shuster) for Winnipeg Community TV. You can see more of Paul's videos on his Red River Pete YouTube channel. Images in this post courtesy of

Illegal, ongoing, and only getting worse

The closure of Gaza has been going on for decades. The blockade of international aid is the end of a long process of increasing restrictions of the movement of Palestinians.

Israeli journalist Amira Hass reminds us that restriction on movement is a hallmark of apartheid regimes. The inability to move around one's own country, needing passes (often impossible to get and laden with arcane bureaucracy) to visit family or conduct trade, adds humiliation to the constant reminder of one's subservient status. This was the case in apartheid South Africa, and it's the case in apartheid Israel/Palestine.

Like the checkpoints in the West Bank, the blockade of Gaza has become increasingly severe over the last five years. In 2006 and 2007, the blockade was becoming extreme. By 2009, Israel was harassing, ramming, and boarding boats bound for Gaza - all of which is illegal under international law.

The blockade of Gaza is, without a doubt, illegal under international law. This was reiterated by four UN special rapporteurs in September 2011.

According to Amnesty International, the International Red Cross/Red Crescent, and many other NGOs, the humanitarian crisis in Gaza is desperate. It is also unnecessary and avoidable, as it is a direct product of the blockade.

The first flotilla, 2010

Against this backdrop, the Mavi Marmara and nine other boats sailed for Gaza in May 2010; a tenth boat, the Rachel Corrie, arrived later. This was the Freedom Flotilla of 2010.

The world watched in horror as Israel attacked the boats. When the IDF attacked, the boats were in international waters, heading away from Israel and from Israeli waters.

Nine unarmed people were killed, at least six of them "execution style", shot at close range in the back or the back of the head. Everything aboard the boats was confiscated. Israeli soldiers forced the boats to sail to Ashdod, Israel, where all survivors were first jailed, then deported.

Two Canadian responses to this crime are worth noting.

On the streets, the peace movement erupted in spontaneous protests. Activists began to ask, "When will we have a Canadian boat to Gaza?" Not could we have, or perhaps we should discuss, but when.

In the halls of power, within hours of this heinous crime, Prime Minister Stephen Harper was shaking hands with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyaho.

The second flotilla, summer 2011

A group of activists immediately began the greatest fundraising challenge any of them had ever faced: the cost of a boat and the expense of putting it to sea.

With a lofty goal of $300,000, they raised $350,000. This money was raised exclusively through people-to-people solidarity - no foundations, no grants, no official funding channels. With the money raised, Canadian activists were able to help people from other countries come onboard. They began to call it the ABCD boat: Australian, Belgian, Canadian, and Danish.

The ABCD boat joined with 10 other initiatives, representing campaigns in over 20 countries. This was Freedom Flotilla II.

The ABCD team held a contest to name the boat. Many suggestions were heavy on the Maple Leaf, but they wanted a name that reflected the international character of the movement. They settled on a name which reflects a universal human value: liberation. It's a word that we're all now familiar with, a word made famous by the Egyptian revolution: Tahrir, the Arabic word for liberation.

Now the group needed to find a boat and the expertise needed to get it inspected, file the correct paperwork, hire a crew, and so on. They had to bring delegates and journalists in a port in eastern Crete, in Greece.

There were 10 boats in the flotilla, distributed around the Greek islands and Turkey. Everyone undertook nonviolence training together, as were committed to reacting only nonviolently to whatever was thrown at them.

Almost 50 delegates and journalists from more than eight countries were trained. The group included a former MP from Australia, a former Senator from Belgium, a former Mayor of Copenhagen and a former Chief of the Ardoch Algonquin first nation, Bob Lovelace. Lovelace describes himself as a former political prisoner, having been arrested while defending First Nation land from uranium mining.
The African-American writer Alice Walker called the flotillas "the freedom rides of our generation," drawing a comparison to Palestinian solidarity and the US civil rights movement.

At this point, the Greek authorities began to find (or invent) mistakes in the boats' paperwork, which had perviously passed all inspections. Funny how these abnormalities appeared now. All kinds of delays were invented.

On July 1, the Greek Minister of Civil Protection issued a decree forbidding any ship from leaving any Greek port with Gaza as its destination. The Israeli foreign minister immediately thanked Greece - and offered to help with its economic troubles.

At the time, no one knew the extent of Israel's bribe to Greece. It turned out that Israel sent Greece tear gas and armoured vehicles that later would be used against Greeks protesting the imposition of austerity measures. So Israel helped the Greek government attack its own citizens.

The flotilla members now had to decide whether they would face down the Greek authorities before meeting the Israeli ones. The answer was a resounding yes.

The same day the decree was issued, the US boat, The Audacity of Hope, made a break for it. As Bob Lovelace says, "As indigenous people one of the things we learned about colonialism is that you never ask the oppressor for permission."

The Americans were barred from bringing supplies, so they carried only love letters - expressions of solidarity with the people of Palestine. They were stopped by the Greek coast guard and impounded in a joint US-Greek naval dockyard.

On July 4, 2011, in what might be the first use of the word kayaktivism, two people in kayaks blocked the Greek coast guard ship to give the Tahrir time to get out of port.

David notes that the Greek soldiers preventing the ship from leaving seemed embarrassed, and it is noteworthy that Greek authorities did not interfere with the media. Onshore, Greek citizens demonstrated in favour of the flotilla. The soldiers said, "We are under orders." The activists shouted, "From who, Athens or Tel Aviv?"

In the end, the Greek coast guard was guarding the flotilla boats. Two ships in the flotilla were sabotaged. There was no investigation. Officially, the incident never happened.

Freedom Waves, autumn 2011

The delegates learned valuable lessons about strategy from this experience, and they brought hope to the people of Gaza. Now they felt an urgency to act sooner rather than later. They didn't want to wait an entire year to try again. After discussion and consultation, they decided to try again with two boats. It wasn't a full flotilla, but neither were they giving up.

The same Greek captain - well known to the Greek coast guard, and a veteran of three successful missions to Gaza - signed on. The Tahrir joined with the Irish boat Saoirse (which means freedom in Irish) to form Freedom Waves to Gaza.

Unfortunately, the Tahrir had to prune their delegation from 35 to 12, forcing some painful decisions about who would go. They were forced to leave behind friends, media, and their own videographer. The media still on board had to leave behind their film crews, so they took turns filming each other.

Among the crew was a Palestinian student from Haifa. If he was arrested, there would be serious consequences, and he stayed with the mission at great personal risk. He was travelling illegally to his own homeland.

On November 2, 2011, the Tahrir and the Saorsie were authorized to leave, with their declared destination the Greek island of Rhodes. On their first night at sea, the Tahrir was followed by Turkish navy vessels until they were well out of Turkish waters.

Two delegates got a crash course in steering, so that George, the captain, could get a few hours of sleep (in the wheel room, in case he was needed). There was some urgency, as they wanted to approach within 100 nautical miles of Gaza during daylight. (The first flotilla had been attacked at night.) Israel has unilaterally decided that its borders extends 100 nautical miles off the coast - a legal fiction that no other nation assumes for its own security zone. (This is reminiscent of the US's self-declared, elastic borders, which extend 50 miles into Canada and Mexico.)

Once the boats were in international waters, they turned left - towards Gaza - and began the media campaign they had prepared, sending out releases, tweeting, posting on Facebook. Democracy Now and Al Jazeera began broadcasting. They did all their interviews in advance, knowing once they approached Israel, their communications would be blocked.

They hoisted the Palestinian flag, and hung signs in English and Hebrew.

Next came this:

[This video exists because, as the IDF was confiscating the equipment on the boats (tens of thousands of dollars worth of equipment, never returned) some quick-thinking media person swapped in a blank memory chip and smuggled out the used one.]

On the radio, they were hailed, and they responded:

What is your course?

"Our course is the conscience of humanity."

What is your final destination?

"Our final destination is the betterment of mankind."

The IDF sprayed them with water cannons, soaking the boats and creating both dangerously slippery conditions and a fire hazard. The Irish boat caught on fire. They were ordered to the rear deck, then sprayed with water cannons. They were ordered to the front deck, then sprayed there.

Hundreds of Israeli soldiers were present. At least 30 boarded the Tahrir. They took control of the ship, tasered the delegates, threatened them with electricution, dragged them out, strip-searched them, and so on.

It was an overwhelming show of force: three large warships, at least 15 smaller attack boats, and air support. Against 12 unarmed people. By contrast, the Greeks used six people to subdue four times as many people, and most of the Greek guards never drew their weapons.

(At this point, in David's backyard, it was difficult to take notes, as the story was so riveting and disturbing.) I later asked him, How did you feel when you saw those boats? Knowing the year before, they executed nine people with total impunity, how did you feel?

David said, Of course I was afraid. You're afraid of what they will do - and also afraid because you know that the governments of the world will not hold them to account for anything they do.

But solidarity is not about not being afraid. It's about being afraid and doing it anyway.

Both boats were forced to sail to the Israeli port of Ashdud. Everyone was strip-searched, the boat was searched and x-rayed. All their electronic equipment was confiscated (supposedly temporarily, but it was never returned). (Eventually, the entire boat was confiscated, and is still being held in Israel!)

They were brought to a low-security immigration prison, where they were searched and interrogated several times. In prison, they had no contact with other prisoners. The Irish activists, with their history of resistance to colonial occupation, were better prepared for prison, and approached it with humour and the Irish feck off attitude.

They didn't know how long they would be held for, whether it would be days, weeks, or months. But they knew that Palestinian prisoners are held for years without charges in far worse conditions with far less support.

David and Ehab Lotayef, the other Canadian on the Tahrir, were held for six days. For more about David's experience during his six days in Israeli prison, visit his blog: More mind games, and the language of resistance and Lies, misinformation and manipulations.

"Your message has reached all of Palestine"

On November 4, David received an email from a Palestinian comrade. It said, in essence, "Whether or not you reach the shores of Gaza, your message has reached all of Palestine." In this and many respects, the Canadian Boat to Gaza was a success. Freedom Waves:

• sent a clear message to the Palestinian people of Gaza: peoples of the world have not forgotten you, and never will,

• shook the myth of Israeli invincibility, as civil society organizations working quietly, managed to keep an element of surprise and break the outsourced blockade, and

• exposed the inhumane and illegal actions of Israel against Gaza.

As the Irish activists on board the Saoirse said: Tiocfaidh ár lá. Our day will come.