Naomi Klein -- Enough. It's time for a boycott
Palestine / Israel
Enough. It's time for a boycott.
The best way to end the bloody occupation is to target Israel with the kind of movement that ended apartheid in South Africa
The Guardian, Saturday 10 January 2009
It's time. Long past time. The best strategy to end the increasingly bloody occupation is for Israel to become the target of the kind of global movement that put an end to apartheid in South Africa. In July 2005 a huge coalition of Palestinian groups laid out plans to do just that. They called on "people of conscience all over the world to impose broad boycotts and implement divestment initiatives against Israel similar to those applied to South Africa in the apartheid era". The campaign Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions was born.
Every day that Israel pounds Gaza brings more converts to the BDS cause - even among Israeli Jews. In the midst of the assault roughly 500 Israelis, dozens of them well-known artists and scholars, sent a letter to foreign ambassadors in Israel. It calls for "the adoption of immediate restrictive measures and sanctions" and draws a clear parallel with the anti-apartheid struggle. "The boycott on South Africa was effective, but Israel is handled with kid gloves ... This international backing must stop."
Yet even in the face of these clear calls, many of us still can't go there. The reasons are complex, emotional and understandable. But they simply aren't good enough. Economic sanctions are the most effective tool in the non-violent arsenal: surrendering them verges on active complicity. Here are the top four objections to the BDS strategy, followed by counter-arguments.
Punitive measures will alienate rather than persuade Israelis.
Electronic Intifada -- Why American academics must join boycott of Israel
Palestine / Israel
Why American academics must join boycott of Israel
Rania Masri and Marcy Newman, The Electronic Intifada, 18 January 2009
A student in Gaza enrolled in a US university is unable to travel to the US because of Israel's border closure. (Hatem Omar/MaanImages)
On Friday 16 January, Israeli occupation forces bombed the headquarters of the University Teachers Association-Palestine (UTA), in Gaza, during their indiscriminate, willful destruction of the Tel al-Hawa neighborhood of Gaza City.
The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) noted that "the UTA, together with other Gaza-based civil society organizations, called on 15 January for a wide campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel in response to its well-documented, premeditated war crimes in Gaza. The Israeli bombing of UTA's headquarters occurred on the exact following day, 16 January."
On 28 December, Israel had already bombed the Islamic University of Gaza (IUG), with American-made F-16s destroying six buildings including research laboratories and a women's dormitory. IUG, like all Palestinian universities in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, has no political affiliation. Like the rest of the society, the faculty and students are a composite of various political factions ranging from Communist to Islamist to unaffiliated. IUG is a flagship university, one with connections to the United States; Americans have taught at the university as Fulbrighters, and professors from the university have been Fulbrighters in the US.
The attack on Gaza is the latest in a long line of Israeli massacres and ethnic cleansing perpetrated with impunity since 1948. Often overlooked but as devastating to a society is Israel's systematic attack on Palestinians' right to education.
These realities must inform debates about the academic boycott campaign.
The IUG and UTA were only two of hundreds of civilian institutions Israel has bombed in the Gaza Strip since 27 December, primarily with American-made weapons. The first bombs were dropped at the precise time when children's school shifts change and students were among the first victims.
Israel has attacked several UN schools killing dozens of people seeking refuge from the onslaught.
As of this writing, 1,400 Palestinians, hundreds among them children, have been killed, and almost 6,000, the vast majority of them civilians, have been injured in a relentless attack. On the ground, officials of the UN and the International Committee of the Red Cross have warned of humanitarian catastrophe and observed actions by Israel that may constitute war crimes, including deliberately shelling civilian homes and denying medical care to injured civilians.
Rene -- IN AMERICA, SPEAKING THE TRUTH IS A CAREER-ENDING EVENT
This is not intended to dissuade anyone from speaking up, I just found it speaking. -rg
IN AMERICA, SPEAKING THE TRUTH IS A CAREER-ENDING EVENT
By Paul Craig Roberts
January 26, 2009
"The evidence is sitting on the table. There is no avoiding the fact
that this was torture."
These are the words of Manfred Nowak, the UN official appointed by
the Commission on Human Rights to examine cases of torture. Nowak has
concluded that President Obama is legally obligated to prosecute former
President George W. Bush and former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
If President Obama's bankster economic team finishes off what remains
of the US economy, Obama, to deflect the public's attention from
his own failures and Americans' growing hardships, might fulfill
his responsibility to prosecute Bush and Rumsfeld. But for now the
interesting question is why did the US military succumb to illegal
In the December 2008 issue of CounterPunch, Alexander Cockburn, in
his report on an inglorious chapter in the history of the Harvard Law
School, provides the answer. Two brothers, Jonathan and David Lubell,
both Harvard law students, were politically active against the Korean
War. It was the McCarthy era, and the brothers were subpoenaed. They
refused to cooperate on the grounds that the subpoena was a violation
of the First Amendment.
Harvard Law School immediately began pressuring the students to
cooperate with Congre ss. The other students ostracized them. Pressures
from the Dean and faculty turned into threats. Although the
Lubells graduated magna cum laude, they were kept off the Harvard
Law Review. Their scholarships were terminated. A majority of the
Harvard Law faculty voted for their expulsion (expulsion required a
Rene -- Wallerstein: Capitalism's Demise?
Wallerstein: Capitalism's Demise?
posted Jan 21, 2009 11:11 PM by david calnitsky
Immanuel Wallerstein interviewed by Jae-Jung Suh
The financial crisis sweeping the world has led many to reconsider the neoliberal premises of the U.S. government. Jae-Jung Suh sits down with sociologist and world systems theorist Immanuel Wallerstein to consider the paradigm shift in global thinking on economic policy and the future of capitalism.
Crisis? What Crisis?
Suh: These days, everybody is talking about a crisis. But everyone has a different definition of crisis. Some talk about a financial crisis, others about a more general economic crisis, including production. Still others talk about a crisis of neoliberalism, a crisis of American hegemony, and, of course, some talk about a crisis of capitalism. I would like to start by asking how you define the current crisis.
Wallerstein: First, I think the word crisis is used very loosely. As most people use it, it simply means a situation in which some curve is going down that had been going up. And they call that a crisis. I don't use the term that way. But, in fact, I think we are in a crisis and a crisis is a very rare thing.
We have to separate a number of elements here. If you take the world since 1945, we had a situation for about 25 years in which the United States was the unquestioned hegemonic power in the world system and it was also true that it was a period of enormous economic expansion. It was, in fact, the single biggest economic expansion in the history of the world economy. The French like to call it the "Thirty Glorious Years."
Rene -- Judith Butler -- Peace Is a Resistance To The Terrible Satisfactions Of War
Judith Butler: Peace Is a Resistance To The Terrible Satisfactions Of War
Non-violence is compatible with murderous impulses
Sometimes doing nothing is more fruitful than doing something
Gender is not what you think it is
Neither is freedom
Even something universal differs from place to place.
What is a human being? Are you sure you can tell the difference between who counts and who doesn’t? Philosopher Judith Butler throws a wrench into the works of what seems like a simple matter. She tells us that dominant assumptions about things like gender, race and citizenship cast those who don’t fit our preconceived ideas of those categories into a no-man’s land, where they are in danger of having their humanity left unacknowledged. And why does that matter? Butler proclaims that the answer to that question gets at the very possibility of war, and of a meaningful peace. It also directs us toward a renewed understanding of injury, and of what it means to grieve.
Perhaps best known for her pioneering work on gender, Butler is the author of Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity and Bodies that Matter: On the Discursive Limits of Sex. Gender is not biological, she tells us, but rather is something assumed and performed, as well as cast upon bodies by norms and conventions that are larger than any given individual. Butler has also published widely in the arena of political theory, from her book Excitable Speech: A Politics of the Performative to recent articles in The Nation on the ramifications of the indefinite detention of accused terrorists at Guantanamo Bay. She is Maxine Elliot Professor of Rhetoric and Comparative Literature at the University of California, Berkeley. This interview took place on March 22, 2003, in the Mission district of San Francisco. Judith Butler should be thanked for her patience with a cat named The Rhombus, who is not a human being, and whose contributions to the conversation have been removed. Ever the intrepid leaper, and more vocal than the average feline, he felt compelled to demonstrate his talents. No amount of reason could persuade him otherwise.
Anj -- Chomsky -- "Exterminate all the Brutes": Gaza 2009
Palestine / Israel
Whether we have just witnessed the "politicide" of viable Palestine or the suicide of Israel, the peoples of this world will have to determine.
"Exterminate all the Brutes": Gaza 2009
January 20, 2009 By Noam Chomsky
Noam Chomsky's ZSpace Page
On Saturday December 27, the latest US-Israeli attack on helpless Palestinians was launched. The attack had been meticulously planned, for over 6 months according to the Israeli press. The planning had two components: military and propaganda. It was based on the lessons of Israel's 2006 invasion of Lebanon, which was considered to be poorly planned and badly advertised. We may, therefore, be fairly confident that most of what has been done and said was pre-planned and intended.
That surely includes the timing of the assault: shortly before noon, when children were returning from school and crowds were milling in the streets of densely populated Gaza City. It took only a few minutes to kill over 225 people and wound 700, an auspicious opening to the mass slaughter of defenseless civilians trapped in a tiny cage with nowhere to flee.
In his retrospective "Parsing Gains of Gaza War," New York Times correspondent Ethan Bronner cited this achievement as one of the most significant of the gains. Israel calculated that it would be advantageous to appear to "go crazy," causing vastly disproportionate terror, a doctrine that traces back to the 1950s. "The Palestinians in Gaza got the message on the first day," Bronner wrote, "when Israeli warplanes struck numerous targets simultaneously in the middle of a Saturday morning. Some 200 were killed instantly, shocking Hamas and indeed all of Gaza." The tactic of "going crazy" appears to have been successful, Bronner concluded: there are "limited indications that the people of Gaza felt such pain from this war that they will seek to rein in Hamas," the elected government. That is another long-standing doctrine of state terror. I don't, incidentally, recall the Times retrospective "Parsing Gains of Chechnya War," though the gains were great.
The meticulous planning also presumably included the termination of the assault, carefully timed to be just before the inauguration, so as to minimize the (remote) threat that Obama might have to say some words critical of these vicious US-supported crimes.
Two weeks after the Sabbath opening of the assault, with much of Gaza already pounded to rubble and the death toll approaching 1000, the UN Agency UNRWA, on which most Gazans depend for survival, announced that the Israeli military refused to allow aid shipments to Gaza, saying that the crossings were closed for the Sabbath. To honor the holy day, Palestinians at the edge of survival must be denied food and medicine, while hundreds can be slaughtered by US jet bombers and helicopters.
Anj -- Joseph Massad -- Israel's right to defend itself
Palestine / Israel
To understand the horrific absurd, one sometimes needs to work with the language of the absurd. -rg
Israel's right to defend itself
Joseph Massad, The Electronic Intifada, 20 January 2009
Palestinians inspect a mosque in Gaza City destroyed by Israel during
its 22 days of attacks on the Gaza Strip that killed more than 1,300
Palestinians, 18 January 2009. (Wissam Nassar/MaanImages)
Common Western political wisdom has it that when Western countries
support Israeli military action against Arab countries or the
Palestinian people, they do so because they support Israel's right to
defend itself against its enemies.
This has always been established wisdom in Israel itself, even before
the colonial settlement was established, wherein its predatory army is
ironically named the Israel Defense Forces, not unlike the South African
apartheid army, which was also known as the South African Defense
Forces. This defensive nomenclature is hardly exclusive to Israel and
South Africa, as many countries rushed after World War II to rename
their Ministries of "War" as Ministries of "Defense." Still, Israel's
allegedly defensive actions define every single war the colonial
settlement has ever engaged in, even and especially when it starts these
wars, which it has done in all cases except in 1973.
Thus the war of 1948 which Zionist militias started against the
Palestinian people on 30 November 1947, a day after a Western-controlled
United Nations General Assembly issued the Partition Plan, is presented
as "defensive," as was its expulsion of about 400,000 Palestinians
before 15 May 1948, i.e. before the day on which three Arab armies (the
Egyptian, Syrian, and Iraqi armies) invaded the area that became Israel
(Lebanon hardly had an army to invade with and hardly managed to
retrieve two Lebanese villages that Israel had occupied, and Jordanian
forces only entered the areas designated by the UN plan for the
Palestinian state, and East Jerusalem which was projected to fall under
Yet until this very day, Israel, its Western and Arab and Palestinian
allies, seem to agree with the major Israeli lie that the refugee
"problem" resulted from the 1948 war which Israel fought as a
"defensive" war and that the responsibility of the refugees lies with
the Arab governments who "started" the war. While the remaining 370,000
Palestinians Israel expelled were driven out after 15 May 1948 and
before the end of January 1949 (when armistice talks began), they could
ostensibly be included in the argument that their expulsion was a result
of the war, but it remains unclear why the first 400,000 would be
included in that category. The thousands of Palestinians who would be
expelled after the armistice agreements were signed, especially those of
the city of Majdal, now Ashkelon, whose population was loaded onto
trucks and expelled to Gaza, does not even enter these calculations.
The argument in fact must be extended to the post-15 May refugees. After
all, it was Zionist expulsions of the Palestinians for over five months
prior to the Arab armies' intervention in May 1948 that was used as a
casus belli for the Arab armies whose intervention was carried out under
the banner of defending Palestine and the Palestinians against Zionist
aggression. None of this however seems to matter and Zionist aggression
against the Palestinian people and their UN-designated state continues
to be presented as part of "Israel's right to defend itself."
Ironically, Israel's unprovoked invasion of Egypt in 1956 and occupation
of Sinai also seems to fall under the category of Israel's right to
defend itself as far as the Israelis were concerned, although United
States President Dwight Eisenhower and the Soviet Union thought
otherwise at the time, which forced Israel to withdraw. Israel's massive
invasions of three Arab countries in 1967 was/is also presented as
another defensive war, wherein if it is ever admitted that Israel is the
party that started the war, the admission is quickly followed by the
"explanation" (hasbara in Hebrew, which is also the word for
"propaganda") that it was a "preemptive" war in which Israel was
"defending" itself. This also applies to Israel's 1978 and 1982 and 2006
invasions of Lebanon, its continued occupation of the West Bank and East
Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, its siege of Gaza, and its massacres
against the Palestinians there in the last three weeks.
The logic goes as follows: Israel has the right to occupy Palestinian
land, lay siege to Palestinian populations in Bantustans surrounded by
an apartheid wall, starve the population, cut them off from fuel and
electricity, uproot their trees and crops, and launch periodic raids and
targeted assassinations against them and their elected leadership, and
if this population resists these massive Israeli attacks against their
lives and the fabric of their society and Israel responds by
slaughtering them en masse, Israel would simply be "defending" itself as
it must and should.
Indeed, as The New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, the best friend
of Israel and the Saudi ruling family, has argued recently, in doing so,
Israel is engaged in a pedagogical exercise of "educating" the
Palestinians. Perhaps many of the Arab businessmen's associations who
regularly invite Friedman to speak to their organizations in a number of
Arab countries and pay him an astronomical speaking fee can invite him
back to educate them on Israel's pedagogical methods and on The New York
Times' war propaganda on behalf of Israel.
Rene -- WHY THE OBAMA/CLINTON PATH TO MIDEAST PEACE WILL FAIL
Palestine / Israel
I agree with the basic premise of this column by Rabbi Lerner. That the likely path to "middle east peace" will fail, unless it changes course and stops being defined by Israeli interests alone. Having said that, I do get unsettled when reading articles by people I may agree with, that continue to reinforce (either unwittingly or not) the same lines fed to us by the state and mainstream media. How does Syria or Iran truly pose a threat to US interests? The only threat they seem to pose to the US is tied directly to US unconditional support of Israel and the constant threat of their countries being attacked (by either US or Israel).
Another example, is the idea of an "Islamic fundamentalist movement" re-emerging. Again I agree that as long as a just settlement is not reached, there will continue to be resistance. But that resistance need not be characterized as "fundamentalist." A few decades ago, that same resistance was associated with the "communists." That institutions, states, ideological movements, sources of funding may use or be used by the weak, powerless, dominated is a historical constant. But let's call resistance, political struggle and disagreement what it is, rather only see the ideological cloaks it may be wrapped in or wrap itself in. So if we truly want change, and I believe from what I know, Rabbi Lerner and Tiqqun have that sincere desire, let's begin to undo these stupid/insipid inheritances from the mainstream media and political discourse. -rg
WHY THE OBAMA/CLINTON PATH TO MIDEAST PEACE WILL FAIL
by Michael Lerner
The San Francisco Chronicle
January 15, 2009
There is little chance peace can be brought to the Middle East unless
it is imposed on both Israel and Palestine by the international
community. Calling for an international peace conference and an
immediate cease-fire ought to be the first foreign policy priority
for the Obama administration.
Instead, Secretary of State-designate Hillary Rodham Clinton's remarks
to the Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday committed the Obama
administration to a path that is certain to fail as it has throughout
the past several decades.
NYTimes -- Bailout Is a Windfall to Banks, if Not to Borrowers
This seems more like the confirmation of neoliberalism and not its end. The government's main purpose is to create a good business climate for corporations. Of course, the long term impacts of this fallout/bailout still remain to be seen. But, in the interim, it appears that the ideological machine is well-oiled and may in fact not just survive, but come out of this, with even greater powers, until, of course, the next crisis. One long term ray of "hope" is that the disrepute and fallen credibility of this wretched ideology (neoliberalism) will lead to greater experiments of finding/discovering different forms of life, different forms of exchange, different sets of values, ... . The short term "hope" may rest in the fact that the government has decided to continue "business as usual." That is, there seems to be no fundamental change in its position in relation to businesses (e.g., It is there not to oversee what they do with the money, but to assist them in getting access to the taxpayer money, or It does not know what they should do with the money, the businesses know better what they should do with the money, or, If each business looks out for its best interests, everything will sort itself out). Although this short term "hope" does not bode well for the economic well-being of Americans in the coming years and USA's position as a global power, it may be another sign that this bailout will fail miserably, since it is just an extension of the policies and ideology which got us here. More jobs will be lost, more defaults, more loss of confidence, forcing the government to spend even more, repeating this cycle again. -gdr
January 18, 2009
Bailout Is a Windfall to Banks, if Not to Borrowers
By MIKE McINTIRE
At the Palm Beach Ritz-Carlton last November, John C. Hope III, the chairman of Whitney National Bank in New Orleans, stood before a ballroom full of Wall Street analysts and explained how his bank intended to use its $300 million in federal bailout money.
“Make more loans?” Mr. Hope said. “We’re not going to change our business model or our credit policies to accommodate the needs of the public sector as they see it to have us make more loans.”
As the incoming Obama administration decides how to fix the economy, the troubles of the banking system have become particularly vexing.
Congress approved the $700 billion rescue plan with the idea that banks would help struggling borrowers and increase lending to stimulate the economy, and many lawmakers want to know how the first half of that money has been spent before approving the second half. But many banks that have received bailout money so far are reluctant to lend, worrying that if new loans go bad, they will be in worse shape if the economy deteriorates.
Indeed, as mounting losses at major banks like Citigroup and Bank of America in the last week have underscored, regulators are still searching for ways to stabilize the banking system. The Obama administration could be forced early on to come up with a systemic solution, getting bad loans off balance sheets as a way to encourage banks to begin lending, which most economists say is essential to get businesses and consumers spending again.
Rene -- Finkelstein -- SEEING THROUGH THE LIES
Palestine / Israel
SEEING THROUGH THE LIES
By Norman Finkelstein
January 13, 2009
The record is fairly clear. You can find it on the Israeli website,
the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website. Israel broke the ceasefire by
going into the Gaza and killing six or seven Palestinian militants. At
that pointâ€"and now I'm quoting the official Israeli websiteâ€"Hamas
retaliated or, in retaliation for the Israeli attack, then launched
Now, as to the reason why, the record is fairly clear as
well. According to Ha'aretz, Defense Minister Barak began plans for
this invasion before the ceasefire even began. In fact, according to
yesterday's Ha'aretz, the plans for the invasion began in March. And
the main reasons for the invasion, I think, are twofold. Number one;
to enhance what Israel calls its deterrence capacity, which in layman's
language basically means Israel's capacity to terrorize the region
into submission. After their defeat in July 2006 in Lebanon, they felt
it important to transmit the message that Israel is still a fighting
force, still capable of terrorizing those who dare defy its word.
And the second main reason for the attack is because Hamas was
signaling that it wanted a diplomatic settlement of the conflict
along the June 1967 border.
That is to say, Hamas was signaling they had joined the international
consen sus, they had joined most of the international community,
overwhelmingly the international community, in seeking a diplomatic
settlement. And at that point, Israel was faced with what Israelis
call a Palestinian peace offensive. And in order to defeat the peace
offensive, they sought to dismantle Hamas.
As was documented in the April 2008 issue of Vanity Fair by the writer
David Rose, basing himself on internal US documents, it was the United
States in cahoots with the Palestinian Authority and Israel which were
attempting a putsch on Hamas, and Hamas preempted the putsch. That,
too, is no longer debatable or no longer a controversial claim.
The issue is can it rule in Gaza if Israel maintains a blockade and
prevents economic activity among the Palestinians. The blockade,
incidentally, was implemented before Hamas came to power. The
blockade doesn't even have anything to do with Hamas. The blockade
came toâ€"there were Americans who were sent over, in particular James
Wolfensohn, to try to break the blockade after Israel redeployed its
troops in Gaza.
Nettime -- The War Against Preterrorism: The ‘Tarnac Nine’ and The Coming Insurrection
The War Against Preterrorism: The ‘Tarnac Nine’ and The Coming Insurrection
I. The Case*
On 11 November 2008, twenty French youths are arrested simultaneously in Paris, Rouen, and in the small village of Tarnac (located in the district of Corrčze, in France’s relatively impoverished Massif Central region). The Tarnac operation involves helicopters, one hundred and fifty balaclava-clad anti-terrorist policemen and studiously prearranged media coverage. The youths are accused of having participated in a number of sabotage attacks against the high-speed TGV train routes, involving the obstruction of the train’s power cables with horseshoe-shaped iron bars, causing material damage and a series of delays affecting some 160 trains. Eleven of the suspects are promptly freed. Those who remain in custody are soon termed the ‘Tarnac Nine’, after the village where a number of them had purchased a small farmhouse, reorganised the local grocery store as a cooperative, and taken up a number of civic activities from the running of a film club to the delivery of food to the elderly. In their parents’ words, ‘they planted carrots without bosses or leaders. They think that life, intelligence and decisions are more joyous when they are collective’.
Almost immediately, the Minister of the Interior, Michčle Alliot-Marie, brushing aside Republican legal niceties, intervenes to strongly underline the presumption of guilt and to classify the whole affair under the rubric of terrorism, linking it to the supposed rise of an insurrectionist ‘ultra-left’ (ultra-gauche), or ‘anarcho-autonomist tendency’ (mouvance anarcho-autonome), filling in the vacuum left by the collapse of the institutional Left (the PCF). Invoking anti-terrorist legislation, the nine are interrogated and detained for 96 hours; four are subsequently released. The official accusation is that of ‘association of wrongdoers in relation to a terrorist undertaking’, a charge that can carry up to 20 years in jail; what’s more, the accused might be detained for as long as two years before their case goes to trial. On December 2, three more of the Tarnac Nine are released under judiciary control, leaving two in jail, at the time of writing (early January 2009): Julien Coupat and Yldune Lévy.
Giorgio Agamben and Luc Boltanski, among others, write editorials decrying the disproportion and hysteria of this repressive operation. A petition is circulated by Eric Hazan, radical publisher and friend of Coupat, signed by Badiou, Bensaďd, Butler, Rancičre, Žižek and several others. In the city of Tarnac (a village proud of its role in the Resistance, and represented by a communist mayor for four decades) a combative committee of support is set up, conveying a virtually unanimous show of solidarity of the villagers with the arrested; other committees and protests emerge in Bruxelles, New York, Moscow, and elsewhere.
Anj -- Ilan Pappe -- First you fence them in, then . . .
Palestine / Israel
First you fence them in, then . . .
In 2004, the Israeli army began building a dummy Arab city in the Negev desert. It's the size of a real city, with streets (all of them given names), mosques, public buildings and cars. Built at a cost of $45 million, this phantom city became a dummy Gaza in the winter of 2006, after Hizbullah fought Israel to a draw in the north, so that the IDF could prepare to fight a `better war' against Hamas in the south.
When the Israeli Chief of General Staff Dan Halutz visited the site after the Lebanon war, he told the press that soldiers `were preparing for the scenario that will unfold in the dense neighbourhood of Gaza City'. A week into the bombardment of Gaza, Ehud Barak attended a rehearsal for the ground war. Foreign television crews filmed him as he watched ground troops conquer the dummy city, storming the empty houses and no doubt killing the `terrorists' hiding in them.
`Gaza is the problem,' Levy Eshkol, then prime minister of Israel, said in June 1967. `I was there in 1956 and saw venomous snakes walking in the street. We should settle some of them in the Sinai, and hopefully the others will immigrate.' Eshkol was discussing the fate of the newly occupied territories: he and his cabinet wanted the Gaza Strip, but not the people living in it.
Israelis often refer to Gaza as `Me'arat Nachashim', a snake pit. Before the first intifada, when the Strip provided Tel Aviv with people to wash their dishes and clean their streets, Gazans were depicted more humanely. The `honeymoon' ended during their first intifada, after a series of incidents in which a few of these employees stabbed their employers. The religious fervour that was said to have inspired these isolated attacks generated a wave of Islamophobic feeling in Israel, which led to the first enclosure of Gaza and the construction of an electric fence around it. Even after the 1993 Oslo Accords, Gaza remained sealed off from Israel, and was used merely as a pool of cheap labour; throughout the 1990s, `peace' for Gaza meant its gradual transformation into a ghetto.
Rene -- WAR OF CHOICE: HOW ISRAEL MANUFACTURED THE GAZA ESCALATION
Palestine / Israel
WAR OF CHOICE: HOW ISRAEL MANUFACTURED THE GAZA ESCALATION
by Steve Niva
Foreign Policy in Focus
January 8, 2009
Israel has repeatedly claimed that it had "no choice" but to wage war
on Gaza on December 27 because Hamas had broken a ceasefire, was firing
rockets at Israeli civilians, and had "tried everything in order to
avoid this military operation," as Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni put it.
This claim, however, is widely at odds with the fact that Israel's
military and political leadership took many aggressive steps during
the ceasefire that escalated a crisis with Hamas, and possibly even
provoked Hamas to create a pretext for the assault. This wasn't a
war of "no choice," but rather a very avoidable war in which Israeli
actions played the major role in instigating.
Israel has a long history of deliberately using violence and other
provocative measures to trigger reactions in order to create a pretext
for military action, and to portray its opponents as the aggressors
and Israel as the victim.
According to the respected Israeli military historian Zeev Maoz in
his recent book, Defending the Holy Land, Israel most notably used
this policy of "strategic escalation" in 1955-1956, when it launched
deadly raids on Egyptian army positions to provoke Egypt's President
Nasser into violent reprisals preceding its ill-fated invasion of
Egypt; in 1981-1982, when it launched violent raids on Lebanon in
order to provoke Palestinian escalation preceding the Israeli invasion
of Lebanon; and between 2001-2004, when Prime Minister Ariel Sharon
repeatedly ordered assassinations of high-level Palestinian militants
during declared ceasefires, provoking violent attacks that enabled
Israel's virtual reoccupation of the West Bank.
Israel's current assault on Gaza bears many trademark elements
of Israel's long history of employing "strategic escalation" to
manufacture a major crisis, if not a war.
Making War 'Inevitable' The countdown to a war began, according to
a detailed report by Barak Raviv in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz,
when Israel's Defense Minister Ehud Barak started planning the current
attack on Gaza with his chiefs of staff at least six months ago - even
as Israel was negotiating the Egyptian brokered ceasefire with Hamas
that went into effect on June 19. During the subsequent ceasefire,
the report contends, the Israeli security establishment carefully
gathered intelligence to map out Hamas' security infrastructure,
engaged in operational deception, and spread disinformation to mislead
the public about its intentions.
This revelation doesn't confirm that Israel intended to start a war
with Hamas in December, but it does shed some light on why Israel
continuously took steps that undermined the terms of the fragile
ceasefire with Hamas, even though Hamas respected their side of
Indeed, there was a genuine lull in rocket and mortar fire between
June 19 and November 4, due to Hamas compliance and only sporadically
violated by a small number of launchings carried out by rival Fatah
and Islamic Jihad militants, largely in defiance of Hamas. According to
the conservative Israeli-based Intelligence and Terrorism Information
Center's analysis of rocket and missile attacks in 2008, there were
only three rockets fired at Israel in July, September, and October
combined. Israeli civilians living near Gaza experienced an almost
unprecedented degree of security during this period, with no Israeli
Yet despite the major lull, Israel continually raided the West Bank,
arresting and frequently killing "wanted" Palestinians from June to
October, which had the inevitable effect of ratcheting up pressure
on Hamas to respond. Moreover, while the central expectation of Hamas
going into the ceasefire was that Israel would lift the siege on Gaza,
Israel only took the barest steps to ease the siege, which kept the
people at a bare survival level. This policy was a clear affront to
Hamas, and had the inescapable effect of undermining both Hamas and
popular Palestinian support for the ceasefire.
Rene -- Obama's deadly silence
Palestine / Israel
Obama's deadly silence
The Electronic Intifada
2 January 2009
Barack Obama is presented with a t-shirt by Sderot mayor Eli Moyal as
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak (left) looks on after inspecting
homemade Palestinian rockets during his visit to the southern Israeli
town last year. (David Silverman/Getty Images)
"I would like to ask President-elect Obama to say something please
about the humanitarian crisis that is being experienced right now by
the people of Gaza." Former Georgia Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney made
her plea after disembarking from the badly damaged SS Dignity that had
limped to the Lebanese port of Tyre while taking on water.
The small boat, carrying McKinney, the Green Party's recent
presidential candidate, other volunteers, and several tons of donated
medical supplies, had been trying to reach the coast of Gaza when it
was rammed by an Israeli gunboat in international waters.
But as more than 2,400 Palestinians have been killed or injured -- the
majority civilians -- since Israel began its savage bombardment of Gaza
on 27 December, Obama has maintained his silence. "There is only one
president at a time," his spokesmen tell the media. This convenient
excuse has not applied, say, to Obama's detailed interventions on the
economy, or his condemnation of the "coordinated attacks on innocent
civilians" in Mumbai in November.
The Mumbai attacks were a clear-cut case of innocent people being
slaughtered. The situation in the Middle East however is seen as more
"complicated" and so polite opinion accepts Obama's silence not as the
approval for Israel's actions that it certainly is, but as responsible
It ought not to be difficult to condemn Israel's murder of civilians
and bombing of civilian infrastructure including hundreds of private
homes, universities, schools, mosques, civil police stations and
ministries, and the building housing the only freely-elected Arab
It ought not to be risky or disruptive to US foreign policy to say that
Israel has an unconditional obligation under the Fourth Geneva
Convention to lift its lethal, months-old blockade preventing adequate
food, fuel, surgical supplies, medications and other basic necessities
from reaching Gaza.
Rene -- OBAMA'S SILENCE
Palestine / Israel
by Tom Hayden
January 8, 2009
Back when Barack Obama was a longshot candidate in the Iowa primary,
he was morally candid, saying on March 11, 2007, that "nobody is
suffering more than the Palestinian people." It was one month after the
announcement of Obama's campaign, and the last time he would make such
a statement. Three days later, at the AIPAC conference in Washington
DC, he was hammered as inexperienced by the New York Times reporter,
Patrick Healy, on March 14.
"Less experienced than Mrs. Clinton in the thickets of Jewish and
Middle Eastern politics, [Obama] became a bit tangled in the eyes of
some voters" at the AIPAC event, Healy commented. After calling himself
pro-Israel and endorsing a two-state solution, Obama "pointedly"
mentioned the Palestinians.
He and Senator Clinton sounded the same themes, Healy wrote, "yet
Mr. Obama proved more expansive by bringing up the Palestinians and
ruminating on the Holocaust and slavery and on cynicism in politics",
which caused "murmurs" from the audience.
One AIPAC activist, the son of a rabbi and a Hillary fan, was busily
"spreading the word at the conference about Mr. Obama's remarks. 'It's
just clumsy of him to say that on the eve of the AIPAC conferences."
While the Obama staff was trying to put up a small speaker's platform,
Mrs Clinton "wanted a big moment...to counteract the curiosity factor
and showmanship of Mr. Obama...There was Israeli music on the sound
system, there was a sign with Mrs. Clinton's name in Hebrew, and there
were campaign banners and balloons, and a video showing her at work."
It's possible to defend Obama's retreat to a safe pro-Israel position
in 2007, especially if he sat down first with long-time Palestinian
friends and supporters in Chicago and explained himself. After all,
Bush-Cheney and the neo-conservatives were virtually welded to the
Israeli hawks, and Hillary Clinton, who once gave Arafat's wife a kiss
on the cheek, was threatening to obliterate Israel's enemies. Obama
would be a fresh start.
But Obama must know that his continuing silence today is more than
It is immoral. And if being moral is not the business of statecraft,
he must know that his November 4 election helped cause the Israelis
to thunder into Gaza and change "the facts on the ground" before his
inauguration. They are afraid of his coming.
He must know that this Israeli offensive is the ultimate effort of
the neo-conservatives, with consenting Democratic silence, to wrest
a victory in the Middle East. It's bad enough that William Kristol
has gained a coveted columnist's role at the New York Times; worse is
Kristol's propaganda offensive for the Israelis, claiming that Israel
will do Obama a favor by knocking off Hamas. Shamelessly, Kristol
adds that this victory will come on top of America's "success" in Iraq.
Rene -- The Self-Defense of Suicide
Palestine / Israel
Despite It's Military Might, Israel is a Weak and Dying State
The Self-Defense of Suicide
By OREN BEN-DOR
Echoing Lebanon 2006, the people of Gaza are being butchered by murderous pilots of a murderous state. Ground forces will soon butcher many more. This widely-expected repetition of Israel’s large scale violence is carried out after a long process that was triggered when Israel unilaterally cleared its settlements and ground presence from Gaza only to create what has been described as a remote-controlled human zoo. Israel has maintained total control over Gaza’s borders, its air and sea space, its economy, its electricity, food and medical supplies. The people of Gaza have been starved, humiliated and constantly intimidated. However, whether the withdrawal was well-intended or not engages little with the reasons rockets are being defiantly shot at the Israeli towns of Sderot, Ashkelon and Beer Sheva.
Beyond achieving very short term relief from rocket attacks the scale of Israel’s violence is question-begging and thought provoking. Israel’s actions, justified by the “no choice” (ein brera) and “self-defence” rhetoric, can temporarily put the lid on the volcano of hatred around Israel and within it but, after the initial shock and awe, it is surely destined to bring much more violence.
Assassinating individual members of Hamas, even toppling the organisation, destroying its infrastructure and buildings, will not destroy the legitimate opposition to the arrogant and self-righteous Zionist entity. No army, however well equipped and trained, can win a combat against increasing number of people who no longer have any reason to care about dying. If there was hatred against Israelis before the Gaza massacre, the hatred after it will be of a different order of magnitude.
Given the sure failure of attempts to bring about stability through violence, intimidation, starvation and humiliation, what, on earth, is the desire that moves the Israeli state? What, do Israelis imagine, will be achieved by this massacre? There must be something which is suppressed here. There must be, for Israelis, some being and thinking which is preserved, indeed defended, by the pathology of provoking a permanent state of violence against them. What kind of self-righteousness conditions this self-destructive desire to be hated?
Rene -- If Hamas Did Not Exist
Palestine / Israel
Israel Has No Intention of Granting a Palestinian State
If Hamas Did Not Exist
By JENNIFER LOEWENSTEIN
Let us get one thing perfectly straight. If the wholesale mutilation and degradation of the Gaza Strip is going to continue; if Israel’s will is at one with that of the United States; if the European Union, Russia, the United Nations and all the international legal agencies and organizations spread across the globe are going to continue to sit by like hollow mannequins doing nothing but making repeated “calls” for a “ceasefire” on “both sides”; if the cowardly, obsequious and supine Arab States are going to stand by watching their brethren get slaughtered by the hour while the world’s bullying Superpower eyes them threateningly from Washington lest they say something a little to their disliking; then let us at least tell the truth why this hell on earth is taking place.
The state terror unleashed from the skies and on the ground against the Gaza Strip as we speak has nothing to do with Hamas. It has nothing to do with “Terror”. It has nothing to do with the long-term “security” of the Jewish State or with Hizbullah or Syria or Iran except insofar as it is aggravating the conditions that have led up to this crisis today. It has nothing to do with some conjured-up “war” – a cynical and overused euphemism that amounts to little more the wholesale enslavement of any nation that dares claim its sovereign rights; that dares assert that its resources are its own; that doesn’t want one of the Empire’s obscene military bases sitting on its cherished land.
This crisis has nothing to do with freedom, democracy, justice or peace. It is not about Mahmoud Zahhar or Khalid Mash’al or Ismail Haniyeh. It is not about Hassan Nasrallah or Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. These are all circumstantial players who have gained a role in the current tempest only now that the situation has been allowed for 61 years to develop into the catastrophe that it is today. The Islamist factor has colored and will continue to color the atmosphere of the crisis; it has enlisted the current leaders and mobilized wide sectors of the world’s population. The primary symbols today are Islamic – the mosques, the Qur’an, the references to the Prophet Muhammad and to Jihad. But these symbols could disappear and the impasse would continue.
There was a time when Fatah and the PFLP held the day; when few Palestinians wanted anything to do with Islamist policies and politics. Such politics have nothing to do with primitive rockets being fired over the border, or smuggling tunnels and black-market weapons; just as Arafat’s Fatah had little to do with stones and suicide bombings. The associations are coincidental; the creations of a given political environment. They are the result of something entirely different than what the lying politicians and their analysts are telling you. They have become part of the landscape of human events in the modern Middle East today; but incidentals wholly as lethal, or as recalcitrant, deadly, angry or incorrigible could just as soon have been in their places.
Strip away the clichés and the vacuous newspeak blaring out across the servile media and its pathetic corps of voluntary state servants in the Western world and what you will find is the naked desire for hegemony; for power over the weak and dominion over the world’s wealth. Worse yet you will find that the selfishness, the hatred and indifference, the racism and bigotry, the egotism and hedonism that we try so hard to cover up with our sophisticated jargon, our refined academic theories and models actually help to guide our basest and ugliest desires. The callousness with which we in indulge in them all are endemic to our very culture; thriving here like flies on a corpse.
Rene -- Halper -- Where's the Academic Outrage Over the Bombing of a University in Gaza?
Palestine / Israel
This article is co-written by Jeff Halper, one of the individuals Ayreen and I interviewed for 'What Everybody Knows'. He is an amazing critic working within the state. -rg
Where's the Academic Outrage Over the Bombing of a University in Gaza?
By NEVE GORDON and JEFF HALPER
Not one of the nearly 450 presidents of American colleges and universities who prominently denounced an effort by British academics to boycott Israeli universities in September 2007 have raised their voice in opposition to Israel’s bombardment of the Islamic University of Gaza earlier this week. Lee C. Bollinger, president of Columbia University, who organized the petition, has been silent, as have his co-signatories from Princeton, Northwestern, and Cornell Universities, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Most others who signed similar petitions, like the 11,000 professors from nearly 1,000 universities around the world, have also refrained from expressing their outrage at Israel’s attack on the leading university in Gaza. The artfully named Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, which organized the latter appeal, has said nothing about the assault.
While the extent of the damage to the Islamic University, which was hit in six separate airstrikes, is still unknown, recent reports indicate that at least two major buildings were targeted, a science laboratory and the Ladies’ Building, where female students attended classes. There were no casualties, as the university was evacuated when the Israeli assault began on Saturday.