The New York Times Declares the Peace Process Futile

 (27 April 2014)

Part I


In 1988 Yasser Arafat declared independence for Palestine based upon the notion of two states living in peace in historic Palestine. The border between those two states was to be set roughly at the armistice line established at the end of the 1948 Arab-Israeli war. The Palestinian state’s capital was to be located in East Jerusalem.


That was 26 years ago. Then on14 April 2014, the editorial board of the New York Times (NYT) decided that Arafat was correct and the “principles” that “must undergird a two-state solution” are those he had proposed. Of course the board did so without ever referencing the great Palestinian leader.


Not only does the NYT declare the pre-1967 border and a shared capital at Jerusalem necessary and valid, but it calls on the U.S. government to do the same: “It is time for the administration to lay down the principles … should the Israelis and the Palestinians ever decide to make peace.”


Part II


Before anyone gets too excited over this seeming miracle on Eighth Avenue (where the paper is headquartered), it should be noted that the NYT editorial board made this pronouncement at a point when its fulfillment was impossible. And the editorial board knew this was the case. “The pointless arguing over who brought the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks to the brink of collapse is in full swing. The United States is still working to salvage the negotiations, but there is scant sign

of serious purpose. … President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry should move on and devote their attention to other major international challenges like Ukraine.”


Having reached this point in the editorial board’s text one starts to suspect that the board is being disingenuous. First of all, why is it “pointless” to discuss the reason these talks are collapsing? Secretary of State Kerry’s explanation (the famous “poof” heard around the world), made before Congress, lays blame right where it has always belonged – with Israeli acts of sabotage of those very principles the NYT now espouses. Why does the NYT say that stating this increasingly obvious fact is “pointless”?


It is also interesting that the editorial board suggests in what direction the subject should be changed – toward the “major international challenge” of Ukraine. I am not sure the board thought this suggestion through. After all, what is the core Western complaint about happenings in Ukraine? It is the Russian land grab in the Crimea as well as the alleged threat of more such moves in eastern Ukraine. Yet just how different is Russian behavior in this regard from that of Israel in the West Bank and Golan Heights? Obviously the NYT editors do not think it is “pointless” to to discuss land grabs when the Russians do it. It is only pointless when the Israelis do it.


The editorial board also surrounds its declaration of principles with an archaic effort to present Israel and the Palestinians as equally at fault. It is not only the Israelis who have decided against making peace, it is both the “Israelis and Palestinians.” It is not just “the obstinacy of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu” that is a problem. That “obstinacy” has to be coupled with “resistance from the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas.” It is not just Israel which is unwilling to “move on to core issues,” it is “the two sides” that are unwilling. This insistence on dualism is an illusion hiding the fact that the two sides are not at all equal and, with the exception of the red-herring issue of Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, ninety-nine percent of the obstinacy and all the resistance has been on one side – the Israeli side.


Part III


The NYT editorial board has the same problem as the Obama administration: they both know the truth but are unwilling to do something about it. They both know the problem is that the Israeli government is not interested in genuine peace (actually, has never been interested in it). Israel is only interested in continuing its conquest of Palestinian land. And thanks to the West, most particularly the United States, Israel has the military wherewithal to ignore not only the Palestinian protests but also those of the rest of the world.


Both the U.S. government and the U.S. “newspaper of record” refuse to act on their knowledge of Israel’s history of sabotage and call for punitive action against a nation that is hurting U.S. national interests in an important part of the world. Their main concern is to avoid a confrontation with Zionist lobbyists and NYT advertisers whose devotion to Israel is wholly uncritical. This appears to still be the most favored position even though standing firm over negotiations with Iran has proved the Zionists are not omnipotent.


It’s that old two steps forward, one step backward shuffle: heading in the right direction while ensuring we never reach the proper destination.

Israel’s catalogue of savagery

Lawrence Davidson views Israel’s litany of savage behaviour, from the ethnic cleansing that started in earnest in 1948 and is ongoing to the starvation war waged on Gaza and numerous acts of wanton, petty cruelty.

Savagery ongoing

In my article “America’s billboard wars: Zionists vs. the truth, I noted that a Zionist organization run by the Islamophobe Pamela Geller is posting messages on buses and subways calling for support for Israel. The messages claim that Israel represents the “civilized man” in a struggle against jihadist “savagery”. I questioned Israel’s qualifications for civilized status in the earlier piece, but am drawn back to the subject by the almost daily revelations of the Zionist state’s questionable behaviour. It is not that the jihadist cannot be a savage at times; it is that the Israeli government seems quite incapable of being civilized. For instance:

Ethnic cleansing

On 16 October 2012 the Israeli organization Yazkern hosted dozens of veterans of Israel’s 1948 “War of Independence” for a look at what that struggle really entailed. The veterans testified to what can only be called a conscious effort at ethnic cleansing – the systematic destruction of entire Palestinian villages and numerous massacres. A documentary film by Israeli-Russian journalist Lia Tarachansky, dealing with this same subject, the Palestinian Nakba or catastrophe, is nearing completion. It too has the testimony of Israeli soldiers of the 1948 war. These latest revelations lend credence to the claims of Israel’s “new historians”, such as Ilan Pappe, who have written books based on evidence gleamed from government archives showing that, even before the outbreak of hostilities leading to the creation of the state of Israel, the Zionist authorities planned to ethnically cleanse as much of Palestine as possible of non-Jews. The aim of Yazkern’s effort at truth-telling is to break through the sanitized “mainstream nationalistic narrative” of 1948 and the accompanying denial of any legitimate Palestinian counter-narrative.”

OK. The Israelis were savages in 1948 and only a small minority will admit it. What about after “the War of Independence”? As it turns out the ethnic cleansing never stopped. Conveniently, the long-standing denial that it ever started has helped to hide the fact of its ongoing nature. Yet just this week we received the news that Defence Minister Ehud Barak has given the order to demolish eight Palestinian villages with some 1,500 residents in the south Hebron hills. The excuse offered by Barack is that the land is needed for military training exercises. According to the “new historians”, this is a standard Israeli government cover for ethnic cleansing. Sure, for a couple of years the Israeli army will use the land that held the demolished villages. Then, almost inevitably, the area becomes the site of a new Israeli Jewish settlement.


On 20 October 2012 Al-Jazeera reported on Israeli documents showing that between 2008 and 2010 the Israeli army allowed food supplies into the Gaza Strip based on a daily calorie count that held the basic diet of a million and half people to a point just short of malnutrition. According to the Israeli human rights organization Gisha, “the official goal of the policy was to wage economic warfare which would paralyze Gaza’s economy and, according to the Defence Ministry, create pressure on the Hamas government”. Actually, this bit of savagery predates 2008. Back in 2006 Dov Weissglass, then an advisor to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, stated that “the idea is to put the Palestinians on a diet, but not to make them die of hunger”. Of course, precedents for this can be found in the treatment of European Jews in the 1930s and 1940s. One assumes that Mr Weissglass was aware of this.

However, just as with the barbarism practiced in the “War of Independence”, in this case too there is a well practised capacity for national denial. According to Gideon Levy writing in Haaretz, “the country has plenty of ways … of burying skeletons deep in the closet so that Israelis shouldn’t be overly disturbed”. The military authors of the document that turned Weissglass’s hideous “idea” into savage practice, operated in “a country afflicted with blindness”. So, the present Israeli government does not have to worry about public unease over the fact that it is slowly but surely destroying the Gaza sewage system and rendering its water supply undrinkable.

Wanton cruelty

Then there are the petty acts of cruelty that can be considered tell-tale signs of savagery. For instance, the fact that Israeli customs officials held back the exam sheets for the October 2012 College Board tests bound for the West Bank graduating high school seniors. AMIDEAST, the organization that serves as the testing agency for the Palestinian territories, had made sure the Israeli authorities had the tests in their hands weeks in advance. Nonetheless, in an apparent act of petty vindictiveness, the customs officials held on to them until AMIDEAST had to cancel the exam. One observer has asked the question: “What has the SAT [tests] have to do with Israeli security?” Well, it might be that, in the mind of a savage customs official, the more college-bound Palestinians from the occupied territories, the more articulate witnesses to Israeli oppression. On the Gaza side of the equation, the US was forced to cancel a small scholarship programme for Gaza college students because the Israelis refused to let the students leave their open air prison, even if only to go to a West Bank school.

For anyone who might want to follow the grim procession of Israeli oppressive and barbaric acts on a day to day basis, I recommend the web site “Today in Palestine“, provided by the International Middle East Centre.

Challenge and denial

In the face of this persistent savage behaviour on the part of Israel, that country’s public support has finally begun to slip in the United States. Most recently, 15 prominent church leaders, representing major Christian denominations, wrote an open letter to Congress calling for

an immediate investigation into possible violations by Israel of the US Foreign Assistance Act and the US Arms Export Control Act which respectively prohibit assistance to any country that engages in a consistent pattern of human rights violations….We urge Congress to hold hearings to examine Israel’s compliance, and we request regular reporting on compliance and the withholding of military aid for non-compliance.

So far, the Congress has turned a deaf-ear to this request, but the Zionist reaction was loud and clear. Leading the way in this effort was the head of the misnamed “Anti-Defamation League” (ADL), Abraham Foxman. Charging the Christian leaders with a “blatant lack of sensitivity” (one might ask just how sensitive one is supposed to be to an oppressor?) Foxman decided to punish the offending clergy by refusing to engage in ongoing “interfaith dialogue”. The Zionist reaction to being called out for their own savage behaviour is a classic example of denial.


Having “big brains” is a two edge sword for human beings. It means we can think all manner of creative thoughts and even exercise some self-control over our own inappropriate impulses if we care to try. However, it also means that we can be manipulated into thinking that we need not try – that we are the victims even as we are oppressing others and that any criticism of our actions is just another example of our victimization. Israeli culture, and indeed the culture of Zionism generally, is one ongoing project of self-manipulation to achieve just such a state of mind. And, to a great extent, it has succeeded. A recent poll taken in Israel shows that “a majority of the [Israeli Jewish] public wants the state to discriminate against Palestinians … revealing a deeply rooted racism in Israeli society”.

The Zionists are not the only experts in denial. The United States, Israel’s chief ally, has always been good at this gambit as well. After the 9/11 attacks any consideration of the possibility that United States foreign policy in the Middle East might have helped motivate the terrorism was anathema, and it still is over a decade later. Instead of taking a hard look at our own behaviour we are simply expanding our capacity to kill outright anyone who would challenge our policies in a violent fashion. Our answer is targeted killings by drones or otherwise – a bit of savagery we learned from the Israelis.

Machiavelli, who can always be relied upon to see the darker side of things, once said:

Whoever wishes to foresee the future must consult the past; for human events resemble those of preceding times. This arises from the fact that they are produced by men who ever have been, and ever shall be, animated by the same passions, and thus they necessarily have the same results.

But yet, is it really inevitable?

River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian  

The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this Blog!

‘US will try to preserve low-grade instability in Syria’

Press TV

March 16 2012

The secretary-general of the Lebanese resistance movement of Hezbollah has called on the Syrians to start political dialogue to resolve their differences.

Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah has warned that any other course of action would result in more bloodshed.

Syria has been experiencing unrest since mid-March 2011. The violence has claimed the lives of hundreds of people, including many security forces.

Damascus blames ‘outlaws, saboteurs, and armed terrorist groups’ for the unrest, asserting that it is being orchestrated from abroad.

Press TV has conducted an interview with Lawrence Davidson, a professor at West Chester University of Pennsylvania, to get more on the issue.

The video offers the opinions of two additional guests: Omar Nashabi from Al Akhbar, a daily Arabic language newspaper published in the Lebanese capital Beirut, and Jiwad Rashad from Syrian Social Club.

What follows is an approximate transcription of the interview:

Press TV: What the Syrian government has done so far in terms of the constitution, in terms of the reforms, is much more than what for example Yemen has done under this joint US-Persian Gulf Arab countries mainly Saudi Arabia and we can include some of the other countries from the Persian Gulf area also. But Syria is accused of doing nothing and when it comes to the efforts by President Bashar al-Assad and his government, why this contradiction?

Davidson: I think it is a political positioning, if you will. There is no inherent contradiction. The government in Syria has in fact set forth a program of reform. Now that has been done under pressure but it has been done and I think that a certain amount of pressure will have to be maintained on the government to make sure that there is a modicum of follow-through on this.

But that pressure cannot be in the form of a civil war and that is really what these outside agitators, if you will, and their supporters really want. The United States, the Saudis, what they want is regime change and clearly in the case of Syria, the only way you are going to get regime change is by a very bloody and destructive civil war and so it is [de facto] that is what they are trying to do.

That is why they are smuggling the weapons; that is why they are enticing Syrian soldiers to desert and that is why these Saudis are pouring in the money. Now that seems to me that strategy has resulted in the pressure that is factionalizing the opposition and so there probably are a lot of Syrians who had started out in the opposition and demonstrated in the streets, etc. would say OK, let’s take the government out of its words, so to speak, and see where these proposed reforms go.

And I think that they are wise decision under the circumstances because the alternative is pretty bad. However, I do not think that we should kid ourselves. If there is going to be serious follow-through on these reforms, people are going to have to periodically take to the streets in a non-violent fashion but in a relatively massive fashion to make sure the government knows they are still there.

Press TV: We saw in the hundreds and thousands today Syrians poured out; Kofi Annan tomorrow will be making his revelations to the UN. What do you think? Is this the point where some of the Arab countries such as Qatar and Saudi Arabia along with the US and its allies have realized their approach has not worked, of course given the fact that Russia and China have stood firmly against them?

Davidson: I am not sure if that is the case. I think they have realized that they cannot promote outright civil war and get their regime change, but I think that they are perfectly willing to maintain a low-grade unstabilizing kind of profits. So I do not think that the smuggling of the weapons and the funding of an armed opposition, I do not think that is going to go away; I do not think it is going to go away even if everybody else is satisfied with the reforms of the government.

So my feeling is that you are going to have this sort of insidious, periodic outburst of violence, car bombing, the whole nine yards, I think that is going to go on for a while yet because a certain modicum of the instability particularly in a place like Syria are distracting the government say from its confrontation with Israel, making nervous the Iranians. I think that that kind of low-grade instability is something that the US will try to maintain.


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The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this Blog!

For both Humanity and Palestine: One front: Occupy the Lobby…Kill the Beast

Nature of the Beast

In Case you missed it: The Helen Thomas’ Resolution by Gilad Atzmon

Two Front International Struggle For Palestine

by Lawrence Davidson

Part I – Two International Fronts
In January 2011, I wrote an analysis in support of a one-state solution to the on-going Israeli-Palestinian struggle. It is the Israelis themselves who have made the one-state solution the only practicable approach, because their incessant and illegal colonization of the West Bank has simply eliminated all possibility of a viable and truly independent Palestinian state. Israeli behavior has not changed in the past year and so I still stand by the position.

That being said, it is important to point out that even a one-state solution capable of bringing justice to the Palestinians, and in doing so, saving the Jews from the folly of Zionism, will not be possible without worldwide intervention. What is necessary is a struggle on two international fronts:

  • A) A strong growing international boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign against Israel and
  • B) Growing popular pressure in the United States that forces a change in foreign policy toward Israel.

Without achieving both of these goals the fate of both Palestinians and Jews looks very bleak indeed.

Part II – Israel Will Try To Prevent A Civil Rights Struggle.
The necessity of this two-front international approach was reinforced for me upon reading a speech given by Noam Chomsky in Beirut in May of 2010. When commenting on a one-state solution to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, he made the following points:

  1. For the indefinite future, “Israel will continue doing exactly what [its] doing….[taking] the water resources, the valuable land…the Jordan Valley…and send[ing] corridors through the remaining regions to break them up into separated cantons…”
  2. In the process the Israeli government will make sure that “very few Palestinians [are] incorporated in the valuable areas that Israel will take over” and they will do so in order to preclude “any civil rights struggle.”
  3. he Israelis can do this as long as the United States supports them. Chomsky calls this the “mafia principle.” He notes that in the case of South Africa, the apartheid state was able to hold out against an international boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign as long as the United States did not participate in it. And the primary reason the US gave for not doing so was that the leading resistance organization fighting apartheid, Nelson Mandela’s African National Congress, was a “notorious” terrorist organization.
  4. However, international anti-apartheid sentiment did help push Washington to finally cease its support South Africa and then apartheid collapsed. Chomsky concludes: “When the godfather [that is, the U.S.] changes his policy, things change….I think this could happen with Israel. If the United States changes policy and decides to join the world[‘s growing opposition to Israeli behavior], Israel will have no option but to go along.”

Chomsky’s analysis is a bit too reductionist for me. That is, he tends to bring everything down to positions taken by the U.S. government. But there is no denying that changing U.S. policy is one of two necessary international parts to any solution. And, he makes a seminal point when he tells us that the Israeli government has no intention of incorporating the mass of West Bank Palestinians (to say nothing of the Gazans) into the Jewish state.

Part III – Avoiding A Civil Rights Struggle Through “Transfer”

Indeed, Israeli strategy necessitates allowing a fake “Palestinian state” in the form of West Bank Bantustans, and then deporting their Arab Israeli citizens into those enclaves. No Arabs in Israel, no civil rights struggle.

An interesting piece of news that speaks to this possibility appeared on January 31, 2012. According to Associated Press reports, the Israeli Interior Ministry plans to deport thousands of Southern Sudanese refugees. Why so? Because, according to a ministry spokeswoman, “since the Southern Sudanese have an independent state, they will no longer be given protected status in Israel.” The first step will be to offer them “voluntary deportation and around $1300″ in ‘thanks for leaving’ money. After that, forced deportation and no money, will be the policy.

As the American Palestinian activist Ali Abunimah notes, “Israeli leaders have already hinted that they could use the same type of logic to justify removal of Palestinian citizens of Israel if a nominally independent Palestinian state is established on scrapes of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.”

This is known as a policy of “transfer” in Zionist parlance and it has been discussed at least since the time of Theodor Herzl. In recent years it has been suggested by former Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni (now head of the Israeli opposition in the Knesset) and the present Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman as well as a slew of other Israeli politicians. Abunimah’s conclusion is that a “two-state solution would be more likely to lead to further ethnic cleansing of Palestinians than to peace.”

Part IV – Conclusion

So what do we have here? On the one hand, Noam Chomsky points to the very real possibility that the Israelis will not allow a one state solution that creates the conditions for an internal struggle for civil and political equality. And, on the other hand, Ali Abunimah points to the very real possibility that any two state solution will lead to forced deportation of Palestinians into Bantustans.

Is there a way out of this? Well if the South African experience is to be a guide it is this: The sine qua non of any solution is the collapse of Israel’s ethno/religious, that is Zionist, ideology of governance. Just as the racist apartheid form of governance had to be changed for there to be a resolution of the South African struggle, so the Israeli Zionist form of governance has to be changed for there to be a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian struggle.

And, I think that Chomsky is right when he says the Israelis have no intention of allowing such a change in governance to come about through an internal civil rights struggle. Therefore, the pressure for the necessary transformation will have to come from outside. It will have to come in the form a two-front movement: one front building the worldwide boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel, and the second front concentrating on making support of Israel a national scandal in the U.S. and therefore a domestic voting issue.

While there are a few good organizations in the U.S. (such as the U.S. Campaign To End The Occupation and Jewish Voices for Peace) involved in building this second front, I think that the effort has not been given enough attention by Americans involved in supporting the Palestinian cause. It is time this changed for, as Noam Chomsky suggests, there will be no just solution to the Israeli-Palestinian struggle unless Israeli treatment of the Palestinians becomes a strong enough cause to impact U.S. policy.

River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian  

The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this Blog!

Democratic Elections in the Middle East: Why the Islamists Win – An Analysis (

With full respect to Dr Lawrence Davidson, the West don’t care who win or lose, who govern as long as its economical interests and the security of Israel are guaranteed,
“Is it a pre-condition to recognize Israel in order to govern?”  asked the deputy of Egypt Brotherhood’s Guide

(29 January 2012)
 by Lawrence Davidson

Part I – Two Democratic Elections

There have now been two democratic elections in the Middle East as a consequence of the Arab Spring. One was in Tunisia in October 2011, and the recent staggered elections of December 2011-January 2012 for a lower house of parliament in Egypt.

In both cases Islamist parties did the best. In Tunisia it was the Islamist al-Nahda (Renaissance) party that got 41% of the votes. In Egypt it was Hizb al-hurriya wa al-adala (Freedom and Justice Party), affiliated with country’s Muslim Brotherhood, that got 47% of the votes, while the hard-line Salafi group, the al-Nour (the Light) party got 29%.. In Tunisia the liberal parties came in a collective second with 34% of the votes, but in Egypt they did poorly. The liberal Egyptian Bloc Coalition only managed 8.9% of the vote.

Actually, the biggest surprise was the good showing of the liberals in Tunisia, and not the fact that relatively fair elections put the Islamists in positions of power. No one should be surprised at this result. Why? It has to do with history. While what I describe below is simplified for the sake of brevity, it gives a basically accurate picture of how the past has given us the present we now witness.

Part II – A Very Brief History Lesson

The Middle East has been the home of an evolving Islamic civilization since the 7th century. Civilization means more than just religion and religious practice–it means values, outlooks, mannerisms, habits of thought and behavior. The dynamic nature of this way of life was such that up to, roughly, the 16th century every outside invader that pushed its way into the Middle East ended up being “Islamized.” That is, whether they were Turks, Mongols, Crusaders, etc. most ended up adopting an Islamic way of life. But this changed sometime in the late 1500s.

It was about then that the military and economic balance of power between the Islamic world and Christian Europe shifted. From that point on European power allowed incursions into the Middle East by Western invaders who saw Islam and its civilization as inferior. These invaders proved not to be susceptible to “Islamization.”

In fact it was at this point that Western ways began to draw at least a certain class of Middle Easterners away from their traditional lifestyle. Those who became Westernized were largely the people who politically, economically, militarily and educationally interacted with the increasingly powerful Europeans. Many of them became secular in their outlook and some developed principled positions supporting liberal, open societies. Some sought to meld Western technology and educational techniques with Islamic tradition. Others, however, obtained leadership positions in which they behaved (and still behave) in corrupt and dictatorial ways.

It is a mistake to think that this process penetrated deeply within Middle Eastern society. One way to think of the result is in terms of a volcanic landscape. Here you have a thin crust of surface material beneath which is a deep pool of magna under building pressure. When the pressure gets high enough the magna breaks through. The thin crust represents Westernized elites, the magna is the great mass of Middle Easterners who have always identified with Islamic civilization and increasingly resent the penetration of Western culture into their lands. Historically, the resulting occasional volcanic eruptions, if you will, have occurred in the form of revolution–a modern example of which is Iran in 1979.
Of course Tunisia and Egypt had their own brief revolutions which led to democratic elections. You can think of these elections as controlled breakthroughs of the Islamic magna. Given the state of society in the Middle East, the results were predictable.

Part III – The Price of Historical Ignorance

On 22 January 2012 Juan Cole wrote a revealing piece on his blog Informed Comment. It was entitled “South Carolina & Gingrich, Egypt & the Muslim Brotherhood.” What Cole notes is that you can get a large number of religious fundamentalists swaying the primary election in South Carolina and the media hardly considers it an event to be looked into. But let religious fundamentalists do well in elections in the Middle East and it automatically generates stereotyping and shallow, inaccurate analyses. Thus, Cole notes:

1. “…it is implicitly deemed illegitimate for Egyptians to be religious or vote for a religious party. But it is legitimate for South Carolinians to be religious, to vote on a religious basis, to seek to impose their religious laws on all Americans.”

2. What if Egyptians voted for religious parties for reasons other than just religion? Given the shallowness of U.S. media coverage how would we ever know? Yet, polls in Egypt indicate that many Egyptian voters chose the Freedom and Justice Party because the Muslim Brotherhood has a reputation for honesty and a commitment to social justice.

3. And finally, “almost no Egyptians think that the revolution against [the military dictatorship of] Mubarak was made to establish a religious state.”

None of this makes much difference to U.S. politicians who usually know little or no relevant history and are therefore oblivious to reality in the Middle East. They are, however, deeply committed to ideologically driven stereotypes and conventions. And there are plenty of special interests out there pushing an Islamophobic message.

How can one ever create reasonable and workable foreign policy under these conditions? The answer is, you can’t. You end up thrashing around this way and that, running scared and talking yourself into war-like scenarios. This is utterly crazy and utterly typical.

Let’s end with a quote from a religious leader who does have a penetrating sense of history, the current Dalai Lama: “Where ignorance is our master there is no possibility of real peace.” Alas, that is reality!

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The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this Blog!

The Jews Go To War (With Themselves)

The Jews Go To War (With Themselves)

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On 12 December 2011 hundreds of Israeli settler fanatics besieged a West Bank IDF army base. They destroyed equipment, set fires, and even stoned the base soldiers. This was the second such attack in a month. The cause? Anger over the army’s dismantlement of a small number of isolated, unauthorized settler outposts. The Chief of the Central Command of the Israel “Defense” Forces, Major General Avi Misrahi, is quoted as saying “I have not seen such hatred of Jews towards soldiers during my 30 years of service.” He must not have been looking.

This was not an exceptional event. The subsequent indignation over the attack expressed by Prime Minister Netanyahu (“red lines have been crossed”) was, as Alex Fishman writing in Yedioth Ahronoth put it, staged hypocrisy. The Prime Minister is certainly aware that for some time there has been on-going skirmishing between the settlers and government security forces. Right wing settlers regularly throw rocks and fire bombs at police and army vehicles and “physical altercations” between settlers and Israeli police and soldiers are “almost routine.” This is so despite the fact that the government, both Prime Minister and Knesset, “either tacitly or openly” support the settlers. Then why the hatred and why the attacks?

At this stage the battle is over strategy. The Israeli government wants to gobble up all of Palestine in an orderly step by step fashion. In part, this is to avoid too much international criticism at any particular stage of the process. On the other hand, the settlers don’t give a damn about international opinion – no more than does al-Qaeda, to which they have an unsavory resemblance. Led “by fundamentalist religious leaders who do not recognize the state of Israel and its laws,” they are driven by religious fanaticism and have no respect for governments or their agents. It is their ideological conviction that all of Palestine (including, by the way, Jordan) must be Jewish as soon as possible. The authorities sometime get in the way of this goal and that has led the settlers to, as Fishman puts it, “terrorize not only the Palestinian population but also the police and the army.”

Prime Minister Netanyahu, belatedly noticing an erosion of government authority, has begun to set rules against settler violence when it is directed toward the IDF and police ( but not toward the Palestinians). The New York Times reports that from now on such “radical Israelis” attacking soldiers or policemen will be treated just like “Palestinian militants.” That is they will be “detained for long periods without charge and tried in military courts.”

Alas, this new toughness won’t work. For years Israeli governments have looked the other way as thousands of armed religious fanatics organized themselves and got stronger and more self-assured. Now, as Adam Keller of Gush Shalom tells us, “the Golem has turned on its creator.” These are the people who assassinated Yitzhak Rabin. What makes Netanyahu believe that Israel’s present army, police and courts which, reminiscent of the Weimar Republic, regularly show sympathy and leniency toward these criminals, are going to change their attitude on his orders? When a military reporter asked a brigade commander if he was prepared to act toward settler hostility in the same manner as he would Palestinian hostility, he answered “you would not expect me to open fire on a Jew…I am certain you didn’t mean that.”

The reporter would have gotten a very different answer if she had asked the fanatic settlers about how far they were willing to go. Anshel Pfeffer writing in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz notes that “the only red line that has yet to be crossed is a scenario in which an Israeli citizen [belonging to] the extreme settler right would open fire on IDF soldiers. There are those in Israel’s security forces who fear that day is not so distant.”

Netanyahu’s apparent change of heart comes too late. What we have here is incipient civil war. Any really serious effort to stop these fanatics will result in their turning their weapons on those who represent the government. What you sow is what you reap.

This climate of internecine hostility contaminates the Jewish diaspora as well. There is no rock throwing or armed men threatening violence, but the hatred is there. Jewish critics of Israeli behavior are categorized as “Israel-haters” or, alternatively, “self-hating Jews.” This is often expressed with the same vehemence displayed by Israel’s settler fanatics. And, indeed, those pointing fingers in the U.S. are often supporters of the extremists on the West Bank.

Last week Howard Gutman, the U.S. Ambassador to Belgium, addressed “a group of European Jewish lawyers gathered…to discuss anti-Semitism” Gutman told them that there was now two different kinds of anti-Semitism: a “classic” type that is “directed against Jews for being Jews” and “a newer form” that is a product of “the Israeli-Arab conflict and can therefore be mitigated by reducing Israeli-Palestinian tensions.” This is actually a conclusion that was reached by Israel’s Defense Ministry as early as 1994. No matter, when Gutman’s statement became public “the long knives” came out “for another Jewish liberal who committed the sin of stating the uncomfortably obvious truth about a causal relation between Israeli policy and Muslim anti-Semitism.”

The Republican Jewish Coalition’s Executive Director Matthew Brooks called Gutman’s revelation “outrageous” and one that “makes excuses for anti-Semitic hatred and bigotry.” Senator Joe Lieberman called Gutman’s remarks “inexcusable” and Representative Gary Ackerman of New York suggested that Gutman himself might be anti-Semitic.

Again, the charge of anti-Semitism can be and frequently is leveled against fellow Jews who are critical of Israel. The logic goes something like this: Judaism and Israel are one and the same. Ergo if you are critical of Israeli behavior you are critical of Jewish behavior and that makes you an anti-Semite. Very neat. Of course, the whole train of thought rests on the false assumption that Israel and Judaism are two sides of the same coin.

Despite the viral reaction, Jewish criticism of Israel is growing quickly and this creates a frustrating dilemma for the Zionists. The pro-Israeli blogger Steven Plaut describes this situation in catastrophic terms. “Jewish anti-Semitism is all around us, part of the political air we breathe, a modern disease. In the twenty-first century the world is experiencing an explosion of it, a virtual plague.”

None of this Zionist extremism can be dismissed as a passing phenomenon. It has been with us too long. In fact it has been with us since 1917 and the Balfour Declaration. That is when a certain segment of European Jewry began its obsessive drive to create and maintain a state for one group only. It was then, and continues to be an inherently racist project. Ideologies, like Zionism, that support such projects usually reject all opposition. And opposition from erstwhile members of the in-group is the very worst because it exposes the false nature of claims of ethnic, religious or racial solidarity.

When and if Israeli society comes to its senses and decides to rid itself of the Occupied Territories the settler fanatics will resist “fanatically,” and the civil war that is now incipient will release its full potential violence. When and if that happens there will be repercussions for U.S. and European Jews and they too may well entail violence. It would seem that the people chosen to be a “light unto the nations” have only managed to create another badly flawed nation state–one with a preference for apartheid policies. Zionism said “let modern Israel be” and, pop, the light went out.

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The Whistle Blower As Hero

Part I – Robin Hood of the Information Age

Julian Assange, who might be the man most hated by the U.S. government, was given Australia’s Walkley Foundation Award for outstanding journalism last week. He accepted it from a distance, using Skype, because he is under house arrest in England pending extradition to Sweden. He is threatened with extradition because, curiously, the Swedish police have reopened a case of alleged rape against him that had been previously dismissed.

Assange is a kind of Robin Hood of the Information Age–purloining vital information from often criminal governments, and distributing it to the information-poor citizenry. As a result he has become the hero of all those who would defy a media environment of government-warped news. And rightly so, for he and Bradley Manning are the first ones since 1971 (when Daniel Ellsberg and Neil Sheehan made public the Pentagon Papers) to defy U.S. government secrecy and reveal the official criminality committed in the names of its citizens.

Assange accomplished this feat back in November of 2010 when his Wikileaks website began the release of over 250,000 U.S. diplomatic cables. Ever since then the U.S. government has been searching for ways to silence him and his web based operation. To date, two approaches have proved effective:
1. The use of official pressure to shut down the avenues through which Wikileaks gets its financial contributions. These have been coming mostly through paypal and other web based sources.
2. And tying Assange up with a rape charge that was active, then inactive, and now, lo and behold, is active again.

Part II – Corruption of the News Media

On 28 November, just days after receiving the Walkley Award, Assange addressed, again by Skype, the News World Summit in Hong Kong . Here he was blunt, and quite accurate, in his description of U.S. government behavior in relation to open access to information. “It is not an age of transparency at all” he said (perhaps alluding to President Obama’s unfulfilled pledge to promote “an unprecedented level of openness in government”)… the amount of secret information is more than ever before.”
For this Assange blames not just governments, but also the profession of journalism. In his opinion journalism has become “corrupted” by editors and reporters who value the prestige of being associated with important centers of power more than the uncensored practice of their craft. Such ambition does not allow the profession to hold those in power to account. “There is a crisis of legitimacy within the mainstream press, a rightful crisis of legitimacy.” For Assange, the consequences of this crisis are potentially catastrophic. “If the press doesn’t hold powerful corporations and governments to account then how can a democratic process work?”

Assange has a point. Yet historically, journalism’s record of keeping the powerful honest, and itself uncorrupted, is mediocre at best. In the United States, modern mainstream journalism has its roots in the shady reporting known as “yellow journalism.” That refers to the exaggerations and outright lies that passed for news at the end of the 19th century. Unfortunately, such “journalism” did build up the distribution numbers, and thus the profitability, of the papers that practiced it. And often the consequences have been catastrophic. One of yellow journalism’s most notable achievements was whipping up support for the Spanish American War. That is a role the press, and now the news media in general, has played over and again. At least at a national level, the muckraking alternative of honest expository journalism (think of the Watergate reporting of the Washington Post back in 1972) is the exception and not the rule.

Part III – The Complicity of Public Taste

Why is that the case? Well, just ask yourself how regional U.S. newspapers which run into financial difficulties reorganize the presentation of their papers. They put in more pictures, up the amount of entertainment “news,” gossip and especially sports (lots of sports), favor local happenings and downsize national and international events. This is not really a conspiracy to keep us all stupid, though it might contribute to that end. It is a business decision based on market surveys that tell owners and editors what the customer prefers in his or her paper.

It you want to see a recent example of such a maneuver take a look at the comparison of Time magazine covers. Buy Time’s upcoming December 5, 2011 issue in Asia, Europe or even in the South Pacific, and you will see an Egyptian protester on the cover with the title “Revolution Redux.” Buy the U.S. version of the same magazine and you will see a silly little cartoon guy with the title, “Why Anxiety Is Good For You.” That not only says something about how the editors and owners of Time see their American readership, it also says a whole lot about the apparent tastes and interests of that readership.

The fact is that Julian Assange, and the rest of us who are interested in a truly free press, have run smack up against the fact that as long as we have a capitalist news media, we will also have an easily corruptible news media. Just like any other capitalist enterprise, what such a press or media aims at is profit, and not factual accuracy. It also will follow the lead of its corporate owners and board of directors because that is what private enterprise prescribes. Just take a look at every media enterprise Rupert Murdoch owns. Given this situation you will have a range of news organizations that fall out on something like a bell curve. Most of them will be middle of the road nonentities while on the extremes you will have right-wing and left-wing offerings. It is a sign of our times here in the U.S. that the right-wing media has taken a jump in popularity (witness Fox TV).

That is not to say that what passes for press and media in the non-capitalist world is any sort of worthy alternative. It certainly is not. What is needed is a formula to create endowed, and therefore truly independent, news media. As Assange suggests this is a sine qua non of a free society.

Part IV – We Will Always Need The Whistle Blower

Most of the world’s population has only a minimal interest in what is happening beyond their local environment. That is why the market surveys noted above deliver the message they do. Occasionally something comes over the hill and hits the locals in the head. That something thereby becomes both part of the local scene and demands explaining. The 9/11 attacks qualify as such an event. Originating from afar, how are the locals to understand it? They have no ready context in which to do so. So they listen to so-called “experts” from the government and media who they assume will give them the “truth.” That is the only explanation most people ever get.

We have all seen where this leads us–right off a cliff. When Julian Assange dumped those hundreds of thousands of documents onto the web he was saying “Here: you want the truth? It is somewhere in here. Let’s all take a look.” Some did. Most did not. But the precedent he set sent shivers through the U.S. government as if it had caught an institutional flu. For this Assange is persecuted. That is the sort of world we live in. A world that will always need the whistle blower, will always need a Julian Assange.

Lawrence Davidson is in the Department of History, West Chester University, Pennsylvania. Read other articles by Lawrence.

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Israeli Democracy Fades to Black

Part I: Bad Movies

Have you seen those old time movies notable for their endings? The cowboy is seen riding into the sunset or the lovers are reunited, etc. And then comes the end – the screen dramatically fades to black. Most of these movies are pretty bad. The stories are predictable, the acting melodramatic and directing inept. Well, this genre seems to be making a comeback, but off the screen rather than on it. In this revival, the Israelis are leading the way.

Israel’s bad movie starts out as an historical drama with moral overtones. It’s the story of Israeli democracy but, unfortunately, it has an illogical and misguided script. It begins with the premise that you can have a religiously exclusive democracy amidst a multi-religious population. Under these circumstances happy endings are impossible and the drama quickly turns to tragedy.

Part II: Final Act

The final act of this tragedy appears to be playing itself out before our eyes. It opened in 2009 with the second term of Prime Minister Netanyahu. Netanyahu is a hard-line “Likudnik” determined to expand Israel to the Jordan River (if not the Potomac). That makes him an ally and supporter of the settler fanatics who represent today’s version of Zionist fascists.

There is a correlation between the condition of Israeli democracy and the ambitions of Netanyahu’s allies. As the settlements expand, Israeli democracy shrinks. This in turn is tied into the fact that the prime minister is determined to keep greater Israel demographically Jewish, and this means expansion must be coupled with ethnic cleansing. One can see this clearly in present Israeli policies in East Jerusalem as well as the violent harassment of Palestinians by settler thugs throughout the West Bank. Following logically from the flawed premise in the original script, this is a perfectly predictable ending for the story of modern Israel.

The drama now turning into tragedy has its peculiarly Jewish subplots. There have always been multiple expressions of Judaism. One has been the East European insular version born of acute persecution. This version expressed an inward tribal orientation that assigned the role of real or potential anti-Semites to all those who are non-Jews. Then there was the pre-1967 American version. This one was outward looking and held in high esteem the general principles of tolerance. Here the reasoning was that, as a minority, Jews were safest in a world where tolerance was a universal virtue. In Israel/Palestine it was the East Europeans who shaped the outlook of most Jewish citizens.

That paranoid outlook is certainly the one held by Netanyahu, but he inherited it from others of East European origin. He, and his supporters, are the heirs of Vladimir Jabotinsky and Menachem Begin. This is not to say that Israel’s Labor Party heritage was not also insular and expansionist. After all David Ben Gurion was from Russian controlled Poland. The differences between the two groups are a matter of quantitative and not qualitative. However, it is Netanyahu and his coalition who control the Israeli government. They rule in the Knesset. And they are using their power to destroy not only the Palestinians but also those Israeli Jews who would defend the bygone American version of tolerant Judaism. One can only imagine that Netanyahu and his fanatics look upon these other Jews, who would make their peace with the Palestinians, as the Bolshevik fanatics once looked upon the Kronstadt sailors. They ultimately see them as dangerous traitors.

Just in the past few weeks the Knesset has spat out a number of bills aimed at restricting the voices of Jewish opponents and to make it more difficult for them to secure appointed offices. Part of a continuing line of similar legislation, these new potential laws represent scenes in the final act of this tragedy. Here are some highlights:

1. A bill to “ban political organizations in Israel from receiving donations of more than $5000 from foreign governments and other international groups.” Peace groups such as Peace Now and human rights organizations such as B’Tselem, as well as others which are normally critical of the Israeli government would lose much of their funding under the new law.

2. Another bill in the pipeline would then tax at 45% all remaining income from foreign governments. Put together the two bills will have a “staggering” impact.

Yet, it will come as no surprise that individual donors, such as wealthy right-wing Zionists who give millions of tax free dollars to sustain the settler movement, are exempt from the new laws.

As noted, there are other laws as well that are causing concern. It is now a criminal offense in Israel to advocate a boycott of the country and its illegal settlements, or to mark the occurrence of the Nakba. There are bills pending that would make it easier to pack the Israeli supreme court with rightists and even to punish media outlets who dare to investigate the prime minister or his wife. Thus does Israeli democracy fade to black.

Part III: The Reviews

The argument on the part of the Netanyahu forces is that the money coming from foreign governments and organizations represents “meddling” in the internal affairs of Israel. Well the Israeli establishment should certainly know meddling when they see it. Their politicians and agents are no doubt the world’s experts at meddling in the affairs of other countries, particularly the United States. Here, through the manipulation of large cash donations, they meddle away to their heart’s content, to the predicable detriment of U.S. national interests in the Middle East. Simultaneously, these same Israeli politicians see no problem in receiving a minimum of $3 billion a year from the foreign government in Washington.

These new laws have a lot of Israelis upset, and not just those who are going to be directly impacted. The official opposition in Israel, the Kadima Party (ambitiously translated as the “forward” party) has suddenly taken it upon itself to warn the nation that democracy is in danger. Tzipi Livni, former foreign minister and now leader of the opposition (also rather infamous for her part in the “Cast Lead” invasion of Gaza), said that “this is an attempt to turn Israel into a dark…dictatorship.” The ceremonial president of Israel, Shimon Peres, has declared that “these proposals deviate from the basis of democracy.” Of course there is a good bit of hypocrisy in these protests. These dissent ers never exercised their consciences over the suppression of the democratic rights of non-Jews. Nevertheless, the targeting of the rights of Jews, even tolerant ones, is “beyond the Pale.” But that is what you get when you deny the rights of others. Sooner or later the process comes full circle and those in the in-crowd lose their rights too.

When the screen fades to black all that will be left of Israeli democracy is a facade, a democracy in name only. For many, however, that will be sufficient. It will certainly be sufficient for the Israeli politicians who, living wholly within their Zionist ideology, prize its commandments above all else. And it will suffice for the lobbyists and propagandists who must manage the image of the Zionist state so that those Americans who give money and make the policies can maintain the fantasy that Israel is “just like us.” And finally, it will no doubt suffice for American Jewish congregants who do not want to be ostracized from synagogues run by businessmen whose only connection to “their people” comes from blindly supporting Israel.

Will it suffice for the rest of us? Hopefully not. Perhaps as the last act of this bad movie plays out many other reviews will come forth criticizing the media image of Israel as fraudulent, the product of half-truths running on to lies. That might take a bit of lobbying on the part of those who see this movie as a real disservice not only to Palestinians, but also to Jews. But take heart and remember what Will Rogers once said, “there is only one thing that can kill [bad] movies and that’s education.”

Lawrence Davidson is in the Department of History, West Chester University, Pennsylvania. Read other articles by Lawrence.

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Condoleezza Rice Talks Values

An Analysis

By Lawrence Davidson

Condoleezza Rice was both National Security Advisor and Secretary of State under President George W. Bush. She was also an administration spokesperson who helped scare the American people into supporting the invasion of Iraq. She accomplished this by invoking the image of “mushroom clouds” incinerating the skylines of America. In doing so she gave credence to the false story that Iraq was a threat to the United States because it possessed weapons of mass destruction (WMDs).

Rice is presently on a lecture tour promoting her 734 page memoir entitled No Higher Honor (Crown, 1 November 2011). That is what brought her to the Belk Theater on the campus of Queens University in Charlotte, North Carolina on 25 October 2011. There she spoke to a packed house of 2000 people. Actually, what made this event notable was not the large numbers who had come to hear her, but rather that, among other things, Condoleezza Rice chose to speak about values.

According to Ms Rice our present challenge “is not China or Brazil or India, and certainly not Europe. The challenge is the United States gone bad.” Well, she should know. Despite the fact that values are fluid concepts most people esteem the precepts underlying honest government and respect for the law. Most but not all, and it may very well be that Rice is not with the majority on this. There is no living group of individuals who have done more to undermine these sort of crucial values than those who worked in the Bush Jr. White House. Truth in government, due process in the Justice System, personal protection from official spying, regulating economic greed and corruption, and a general respect for the Constitution and its Bill of Rights, you name it and they managed to trash it. And, of course, Condoleezza Rice was there throughout the entire eight your assault on those sort of values.

Not surprisingly, in her Charlotte address Rice avoided these topics and instead focused on the value found in equal opportunity. “The idea that you can come from humble circumstances and also do great things” seems to her beyond the reach of today’s American youth. That is one of the ways America has “gone bad.” Ms Rice seemed to be suggesting that she is one of the last to be able to make this leap, coming as she did “from segregated Birmingham to the highest reaches of government.”

It has always been one of America’s foundational myths that any child can “grow up to be president,” or the CEO of some giant corporation, or just become fabulously wealthy. Of course some do. Some people hit the lottery as well, but the numbers are exceedingly small. This reflects the very low probability that any one individual, not born with the proverbial silver spoon in their mouth, can succeed to this extent. The hard fact is that any suggestion on the part of Ms Rice that there has ever been a time when such a jump from rags to riches was possible for most Americans is as misleading as the stories she spun to help get us into the Iraq war.

Yet it is clear that this myth never seems to die. For instance, it is this misconception that leads ordinary Americans to often oppose fair taxation of the rich. After all, someday they or their children might be rich and they won’t want to be taxed either. This is the “lotto nation” syndrome sometimes referred to by Keith Obermann. Not only is Rice a true believer in this myth, but she seems not to understand that it was her boss, George W. Bush, who pushed economic policies that made her special value of equal opportunity ever harder to achieve. One wonders if she was really paying attention during those eight years in the “highest reaches of government.”

Not wanting to be entirely negative–after all the “U.S. gone bad” is pretty tough–Ms Rice sought to end her talk on a high note. Despite all, she told her 2000 strong audience, “I believe we will again make the impossible dream inevitable.” What an unfortunate contradiction in terms from a lady whose day job is teaching at Stanford University.

But it is not Ms Rice’s words that are at issue here. It is her sense of values. Condoleezza Rice might have improbably risen out of segregated Birmingham, but for what? What sort of values did she display? What great things did she accomplish? Well, she assisted in the killing of between 600,00 and 1 million Iraqis and over 33,000 Americans and did so on the basis of false claims. This is the sort of record that ought to put one before the International Criminal Court and not in the halls of a great university.

Compared to others of our age who have risen from obscurity, people such as Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Rosa Parks, Caesar Chavez, etc. Rice’s sense of values is just appalling. The fact that she rose to the “highest reaches of government” suggests a Faustian bargain that led to eight full years of the corruption of values. Her memoirs, No Higher Honor, is therefore grotesquely miss-titled. Indeed, it is hard to imagine a more dishonorable record.

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Israel: Twenty Years and Counting


var addthis_product = ‘wpp-262’;var addthis_config = {“data_track_clickback”:true,”data_track_addressbar”:false};if (typeof(addthis_share) == “undefined”){ addthis_share = [];} How long do the angry men in Jerusalem think it will take the American public to notice?

by Dr. Lawrence Davidson

Not too long ago I gave a talk on the Palestinian bid for statehood. In the audience was a Russian-Israeli expatriate who politely took exception to my criticisms of Israeli policies and behavior.
His main point was that I could not credibly criticize the Israelis because I had not experienced what they had and did not know what they knew. Or, to put it in a more homey manner, I had not walked in their shoes.

“Israelis have been trying to find solutions to the Israeli-Palestinian dilemma for over sixty years, so what gives you the wisdom to criticize them and tell them what they should do?”

This is an old and often used objection and, if taken literally, would suggest that outside mediation is never possible.

My response to this was quite pointed.

Negev Bus Attack on Soldiers – Reported as Civilians

It is exactly because Israelis have been entangled in this dilemma for so long and, in addition, have passed off to themselves as well as others their hidden expansionist ambitions as “security” needs, that most of them are incapable of coming up with a just and equitable solution.
They therefore very much need those with an outside and relatively objective view to critique their actions.

Essentially, most Israelis live in a “closed information environment.” This is so despite their claim to have a free media.

That media may be technically free, but it is nonetheless dominated by the nation’s Zionist ideology and the political and social assumptions it expounds.

Counter views may indeed exist, but they do so only as rare exceptions or at the margins. So consistent is the Zionist interpretation of things that, for the country’s Jewish citizenry, it now constitutes a “thought collective” and as such dictates the parameters of their thinking.

Under such circumstances, it is only by standing outside this “thought collective” (as do a small number of clear sighted progressive folks on the Israeli margins) and looking in that one can see clearly what is going on, identify its self-destructive aspects and respond with a rational critique.
Of course, to the committed Israeli ideologue, enmeshed on the inside, such a critique will sound wrong-headed and dangerous.

Gideon Levy

Take for example the valiant efforts of Gideon Levy, the Haaretz journalist who is one of those rare persons dwelling on the margins of Israeli journalism.

He has somehow managed to escape the smothering impact of the “thought collective,” or what he calls a “machinery of brainwashing…which really accompanies each of us [Israelis] from early childhood.”
Levy is exceptional because he can ask ordinary questions that, nonetheless, go unasked by the vast majority.

Take for instance the following comment he made during the self-aggrandizing Israel celebrations upon the release of Gilad Shalit. “Who isn’t against terror and for Shalit’s release?

But that same sobbing [Israeli] society did not for a moment ask itself, with honesty and with courage, why Shalit was captured. It did not for a moment say to itself, with courage and honesty, that if it continued along the same path there will be many more Gilad Shalits, dead or captured.

In successive elections it voted, again and again, for centrist and right-wing governments, the kind that guarantee that Shalit will not be the last….No one ever told it that Shalit was the unavoidable price of a state that chooses to live by the sword forever.”

As a consequence of his publicly offered insight, Levy “has been shot at repeatedly by the Israeli Defense Force, been threatened with being ‘beaten to a pulp’ on the country’s streets, and faced demands from government ministers that he be tightly monitored as ‘a security risk.’” According to the U.K.’s Independent Levy might be either the “most hated man in Israel or just the most heroic .”

Former CIA director Leon Panetta.

Sometimes the outside critique is so unacceptable that it demands suppression. A good example of this has recently surfaced.

It seems that back on February 12, 2009 then head of the CIA Leon Panetta (who is now Secretary of Defense) endorsed a secret CIA analysis “predicting the demise of Zionist Israel within 20 years if general political trends in the region continue.”

A primary assumption of the report was that “it was unlikely that Israeli leaders would grant even minimal concessions in order to achieve a settlement with their neighbors which comprise increasingly disillusioned and rapidly growing dignity and justice seeking populations.”

So politically unwelcome was this outside assessment that it was immediately suppressed by Zionists within the U.S. government. According to web based accounts only seven copies of the report exist today (at least one of which must be buried deep in some CIA vault).

Though the report was kept from broad distribution, it was not forgotten. So, when Leon Panetta went off to pay a visit to the Israeli leadership in October 2011, he resurrected this assessment.
In private talks he told the Israelis that time was working against them and that they had a choice of making peace with their Palestinian and Arab neighbors or risk Israel’s national stability.

Publicly his message came out like this:

…The Israelis may have a military edge, but in the long run that may not be enough to sustain them. Things are changing rapidly in the Middle East and yet Israel is not adjusting to the evolving reality. It is instead isolating itself particularly in terms of the diplomatic arena. It is a no win situation for them.

In addition, Panetta tried to get across to the Israeli leaders that U.S. support, particularly at current levels, is unlikely to last forever. Public attitudes toward Israel are changing in the U.S. and economic troubles might well undermine American support in the foreseeable future.
Reportedly, the Israeli leaders’ response was to get angry with Panetta. The traditional Zionist attitude is that the West owes Israel support because of the Holocaust and they expect the West to deliver whatever the sacrifices and inconveniences.

This sort of attitude seems still to prevail not only in Israel, but also in the U.S. Congress (where a similar closed information environment exists). Panetta’s message was that Israel’s assumptions might outlast U.S. feelings of obligation.

Israel’s Edited Version 1st Grade Maths text Book (Right)

Israel’s reaction to ideologically unacceptable messages is, of course, not unique. All nations seek to establish a paradigmatic storyline favorable to themselves and then inculcate it in all following generations. And most succeed in doing so.
But the persistent level of continuing Palestinian resistance has made Israel’s Zionist storyline vulnerable and instead of adjusting it to changing circumstances they have circled the wagons and insisted on ideological purity.

They have even undertaken a new effort to censor Palestinian textbooks, as if such an act will negate what Palestinian children witness daily on the streets.
Stubbornness has risks when it comes to Israel. Panetta emphasized the regional risks to Israel but those are not the only ones.
As just mentioned economic times are tough here in the U.S., deficits are high–perhaps high enough to impact Defense Department budgets.

Social and cultural programs are being cut back daily. And yet Congress, under the mesmerizing sway of Zionist ideologues, pours billions of dollars yearly into Israeli coffers.

Young Jews Are Protesting Radical Zionism Now

How long do the angry men in Jerusalem think it will take the American public to notice?
And when they do, when aid to Israel becomes a voting issue, the politicians they so depend on, the ones who have been loyal to Israel for decades, are liable to abandon them with alacrity.
But that is not all. At least some of the outrage at this diversion of resources to Israel is bound to take the form of anti-Semitism.

Israeli behavior has managed to turn the Middle East, a region largely devoid of anti-Semitism until the intrusion of the Zionists, into a potential breeding ground for that obnoxious sentiment.

And perhaps they will do the same to the American hinterland. That is called Blow Back.
But the men in Jerusalem will never admit their responsibility for this. They always knew the world was anti-Semitic at heart and they will then loudly proclaim they were right. It was there all the time, even in the heartland of their greatest ally. Such is the distorting power of a thought collective.


Alex Thompson has their story…

Channel 4 News – Dispatches from Gaza – 26 January 2011


In case you missed it: FINALLY !! The TRUTH Comes Out !

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Israel and Those “Real Democratic Rights”

 – An Analysis by Lawrence Davidson

Part I – What “Real Democratic Rights”?

In his speech to Congress on 24 May 2011 Prime Minister Netanyahu boasted that “Of the 300 million Arabs in the Middle East and North Africa, only Israel’s Arab citizens enjoy real democratic rights.” This is, of course, a variation on the oft cited claim that Israel is “the only democracy in the Middle East.” Leaving aside places like Lebanon and now potentially Tunisia and Egypt, one can ask just how “real” are these democratic rights the Prime Minister claims for Israel’s Arabs? Here is some recent evidence that speaks to this question.

1. At the end of September 2011 the Israeli government announced “a plan to displace 30,000 native Bedouin Arabs [all of whom are Israeli citizens]…from their homes [in the Negev].” This would constitute “the biggest dispossession plan of Palestinians issued by Israel since 1948. It would forcibly relocate about half of the Bedouin population from their existing villages, which are older than the State of Israel itself….”

Why should Israel do this to the Bedouin? Is it to facilitate their enjoyment of their “real democratic rights”? Well not quite. According to head of the Regional Council of Ramat Ha-Negev, a Zionist settlement in the region, the reason goes like this, “I want the Negev to be Jewish….Jewish settlement must grow, must continue…..What do you mean by ‘they [the Bedouin] also have rights’! You know what–after all this it is no longer possible to conceal the core problem, which is the struggle over the land. Who does this land belong to–us or them?”

2. At the Beginning of October 2011 leaders of the Jewish settler movement announced their intention “to turn Palestinian population centers into another Srebrenica.” This was their reaction to the prospect of international recognition of a Palestinian state. Initiating Balkan style killing fields would represent a marked escalation of ongoing lower level terror tactics which have seen the destruction of Palestinian crops, the harassment of Palestinian adults and children, the practice of arson against mosques, and the occasional outright murder. While this threat was directed mainly at the Palestinians of the West Bank, the Israelis are bound by international law to see to their civil rights as well. And since Netanyahu’s vaunted claim implies Israel’s civilized, law-abiding status relative to the Arab states, that Palestinian population must be taken account of.

To show the extent of their respect for the rights of the Palestinians, settler rabbis have evoked the memory of their American-Israeli “saint and hero,” Barach Goldstein, whose claim to lasting fame is the massacre of Muslims at prayer in Hebron back in 1994. And, there has been much recapitulating of the message delivered in October 2010 by “the spiritual leader of Shas, the powerful religious political party….that the status of non-Jews is similar to that of beasts of burden….” And just how many “real democratic rights” do the animals of Israel have?

3. Just in case you think that these threats are hyperbole, take a look at reports and video on the recent pogrom-like violence near the settlement of Anatot. On 30 September 2011 Palestinians along with Israeli allies came to help a Palestinian farmer plant trees on land he owns near the settlement. They were attacked and beaten by settlers some of whom were armed policemen. The attackers have been accurately described as “nearly a lynch-mob.” Then on 3 October 2011 a mosque in the upper Galilee village of Tuba -Zangariyye was set on fire by arsonists who left behind the message “Price Tag.” This is a terrorist tactic used by Israeli right wing extremists. Every time the Israeli government gets in the way of their racist and expansionist ambitions (which really is not often enough) they retaliate with acts of terror against Palestinians.

Part II – Woeful Ignorance

The truth is that Arab-Israelis have always been second-class citizens, suffering systematic and state sanctioned discrimination. Most of them are effectively segregated out from the majority Israeli Jewish citizenry. In this way their “real democratic rights” are rendered largely symbolic. The only reason they are allowed to vote is because their votes cannot change the system that discriminates against them. The Palestinians in the Occupied Territories are even more vulnerable. They are not citizens at all and, even if Israel annexes the West Bank they never will be. This is because making them citizens would greatly enhance the likelihood that Arab-Israeli votes might, in fact, become sufficient to alter the system. The Zionists will never let that happen. If the choice is between democracy and keeping Israel a Jewish state, the Israeli establishment will jettison democracy without thinking twice. In fact, there is a portion of Israeli Jews who have already jettisoned any regard for “real democratic rights,” even for themselves.

It is interesting to note that 95% of the U.S. Congress seems oblivious to all this. Indeed, a good number of them recently went off on an all expenses paid (illegal) junket to Israel which objective observers might consider the equivalent of giving material aid to a terrorist organization. There is good reason to believe that this oblivious state of mind is not shared by many of their constituents, who are slowly but surely being educated about the criminal nature of Israeli behavior. Unfortunately these constituents have not, as of yet, made their representatives’ slavish attachment to Zionist lobby money and influence a voting issue. When will they do so? Perhaps soon after it is brought home to them that Israel, the “democracy,” has an unsavory resemblance to Alabama or Georgia in the 1930s and 1940s. If the settler rabbis have their way this likeness will grow rapidly and thus become harder to hide. Through their sacrilegious misreading of the Talmud, these holy men appear anxious to bless lynching on all days of the week except the Sabbath.

It is not only American Congressmen who are ignorant of Israel’s deteriorating national character. One might ask just how many Israeli Jews know how close they are to the precipice of pogrom violence or worse. Some of course do. In a 14 June 2011 piece by Ilan Peleg and Dov Waxman they tell us “We believe that unless immediate, serious and dramatic action is taken to improve the situation of the Arab minority and majority-minority relations, great dangers are in store for Israel. It is no exaggeration to say that domestic stability, Israeli democracy and future Israeli-Palestinian peace could all be undermined by a continued deterioration in Arab-Jewish relations in Israel.” But polls of Israelis show that the majority, caught up as they are in the dominant culture of victimhood and fear of the Arabs, are either ignorant of or unconcerned about the dangers of which Peleg and Waxman warn. Indeed, most of them want the Arabs segregated or just kicked out and therefore have no problem with their society’s deteriorating majority-minority relations.

Part III – The National Skinner Box

All of this raises some serious issues:
1. For most citizens the national environment is like a great big Skinner Box. In other words it is a hothouse of indoctrination. Americans were taught to hate and fear communists, Russians were taught to hate and fear capitalists, and Israeli Jews are taught to hate and fear Palestinians. Nation states do a good job at such indoctrination–making it part and parcel of the acculturation process. And, under the right circumstances, whole populations can easily move from hatred and fear to actual mayhem.
2. This sort of deep seated indoctrination results in nationwide habits of thought that are remarkably hard to change. Think of the inertia of a large body, say a planet, moving through space. It is going to take a lot of force to overcome that inertia, usually force of catastrophic intensity. To put it another way, whole populations trained to seeing the world one way, usually do not shift perceptions unless something really bad happens to them. That something can be military defeat, deep and unbridgeable societal divides leading to civil war, or the severe costs of isolation and economic boycott visited on them by the outside world. The severity of these forces are testimony to just how stubborn indoctrinated populations can be.

Any way you look at it, the situation for those Palestinians under Israeli domination is likely to get worse before it gets better. And it is going to take a force of powerful intensity to really change Israeli behavior. My money is on BDS – Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions.

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Great Britain : Goodbye to International Law

On 15 September 2011 Great Britain changed its UJ law to allow the government, in the person of the Director of Public Prosecutions, to veto any arrest warrant referencing universal jurisdiction issued by a British judge.
by Dr. Lawrence Davidson
Now we have proof of this process of erosion. On 15 September 2011 Great Britain changed its UJ law to allow the government, in the person of the Director of Public Prosecutions, to veto any arrest warrant referencing universal jurisdiction issued by a British judge. What that means is that when crimes against humanity are committed by representatives of a power friendly to Britain, the government can negate any risk of arrest for those persons while visiting British soil. This happens to be the British government’s response to warrants issued for the arrest of Israeli personages such as former foreign minister Lzipi Livni in 2009. The British UJ law exists by virtue of Great Britain being a signatory to the Fourth Geneva Convention but that does not seem to matter. For the sake of friendly relations with Israel, the British government is willing to render its obligations under international law moot.
Of course the British government does not explain its actions that way. Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke insists that the government is “clear about our international obligations.” This change in the law is simply designed to “ensure…that universal jurisdiction cases are only proceeded with on the basis of solid evidence that is likely to lead to successful prosecution.” The fact that Israeli crimes against the Palestinians are among the best documented seems not to be part of Clarke’s judicial world. Indeed, according to Matthew Gould, Britain’s ambassador to Israel, warrants issued against Israelis for war crimes and crimes against humanity are only “abuses” of Britain’s judicial system carried out “for political reasons.”
Part II – Double Standards
Israeli Major General Yoav Galant
In truth, what the British government has done is institutionalize double standards. Just imagine what would happen if the head of the Izz ad-Din al-Qassem Brigades (Hamas’s military wing) flew into Heathrow to see some sick friend. The British Zionists would have a judge issue a warrant within the hour and the British government would enforce it without question. Now imagine that at about the same time Israeli Major General Yoav Galant arrived. Galant was Israel’s Chief of Staff during Operation Cast Lead and publically stated that the operation turned Gaza into an “ideal training zone” to test new weapons that were often themselves banned under international law. With this new qualification of the UJ law, nothing at all would happen to Galant. And that double standard is absolutely in place “for political reasons.”
This is a disastrous precedent because other countries will almost certainly follow the British example. However, it is not the only case of erosion of international law. The international law referencing behavior on the high seas has recently been called into question and guess who forced that issue. Israel again. This is function of the fact that all the major powers, and the UN as well, proved willing to let the Israelis off the hook for attacking an unarmed Turkish vessel in international waters and killing nine passengers. Only Turkey has taken a stand for international law. Then there is the U.S. corruption of the International Criminal Court (see my analysis “International Law and the Problem of Enforcement” posted on 4 June 2011) and finally the repeated use of a U.S. veto at the Security Council to protect its ally–again Israel–when that country violates international law by moving its own population into occupied territory and commits daily crimes against the Palestinians.
Part II – Conclusion
Generally speaking, if it is a great power or allied to one, a government can do just about any horrible thing it wants as long as it does it to its own citizens and within its own borders. Thus, if Hitler, as chancellor of a great power, had just stuck to killing every last German Jew, communist, retarded person, etc. he almost certainly would have gotten away with it. That is the power of sovereignty. If Saddam Hussein, as a U.S. ally, had confined himself to killing Iraqi Kurds and Shiites by the tens of thousands no one would have intervened. But in both of these cases the dictators made the mistake of incurring the wrath of great powers by crossing a border for reasons other than blatant self-defense. Now the Israelis have shown that this criterion (sticking to your own territory when you do your killing) to be an arbitrary one. They cross borders all the time (as does their great power patron). My guess is that, unlike Iraq, the Israelis could have invaded Kuwait and gotten away with it! That is because they are more than just protected by the United States. Washington does not control its ally, its ally controls Washington.
Israeli front organizations such as AIPAC control the information flow and dictate relevant Middle East foreign policy to the government of the “greatest power on earth.” That is why joint resolutions, standing ovations for the likes of Netanyahu, and such stupid proclamations as “Israel has the right to annex the West Bank” flow uninterrupted from the halls of Congress.
It is odd. The only thing that stands between all of us and the next holocaust is international law and treaty provisions such as universal jurisdiction. But who cares? Not the U.S. or British governments and not the Zionists. No. Memory fades and double standards are, after all, a universal human failing. So it is just a matter of time before it happens all over again. Not in some far away place like the Balkans or Africa or the Far East, but once more right here in the West. Just as if the primary civilian disaster of World War II never happened.
Lawrence Davidson is a Professor of Middle East History at West Chester University in West ChesterPennsylvania.He is the author of America’s Palestine: Popular and Official Perceptions from Balfour to Israeli Statehood (University Press of Florida, 2001), Islamic Fundamentalism (Greenwood Press, 2003), and, co-author with Arthur Goldschmidt of the Concise History of the Middle East, 8th and 9th Editions (Westview Press, 2006 and 2009). His latest book is entitled Foreign Policy, Inc.: Privatizing American National Interest (University of Kentucky Press, 2009). Professor Davidson travels often and widely in the Middle East. He also has taken on the role of public intellectual in order to explain to American audiences the impact of U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East

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Triumph of groupthink, careerism and narrow interests over honesty and moral courage

By Lawrence Davidson

10 September 2011

Lawrence Davidson looks at how “groupthink” and “the narrow fate of party and career” prevent senior politicians and bureaucrats from honestly speaking out their minds on crucial matters of war and peace while they are in a position to put their views into practice.

There is an interesting phenomenon which we can call “the political retiree’s confession”. I don’t mean all those hyped memoirs, ghost written for all manner of high ranking ex-officials. Here I refer to statements by important political leaders and bureaucrats, either out of office or about to vacate their positions, publicly describing what really needs to be done. For instance, what really needs to be done to obtain peace, or accurately pointing fingers at those obstructing peace. These statements can be shocking in their honesty, but curiously enough, are never made, much less acted upon, while the truth sayer is in a position of power. They come to us only with retirement or pending retirement.

“… in both the US and Israel … there are leaders and advisers who know what needs to be done in Israel-Palestine to make the world more secure and stable, and yet they stand by and twiddle their thumbs.”

Example 1: Ehud Olmert on the occupation

For example, take former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. Olmert was prime minister from 2006 (replacing Ariel Sharon who had suffered a debilitating stroke) till early 2009. A few months before leaving office Olmert told the newspaper Yediot Aharonot that, in the end, Israel would have to return “almost all” of the West Bank to the Palestinians, including East Jerusalem. There was no other way to achieve peace with the Arab world. Olmert went on to say that “the decision we are going to have to make is the decision we have been refusing for 40 years to look at open-eyed…The time has come to say these things. The time has come to put them on the table.” Of course “the time” oddly coincided with a period when the prime minister could not move this insight from theory into practice.

Example 2: Robert Gates on Israel the ungrateful ally

Now we have another example of this strange phenomenon. This time from the United States. According to Jeffrey Goldberg, the national correspondent for The Atlantic magazine, former US Secretary of Defence Robert Gates, “in a meeting of the National Security Council Principals Committee held shortly before his retirement this summer [2011]”, gave his expert opinion that the Israeli government was ungrateful for United States assistance. That despite all the Obama administration had done for Jerusalem, “access to top-quality weapons, assistance developing missile defence systems, high-level intelligence sharing … the US has received nothing in return”. On top of that, in Gates’s estimation Prime Minister Netanyahu is “endangering his country by refusing to grapple with Israel’s growing isolation…” No one at the high level meeting disagreed with this analysis.

Gates’s publically revealed anger is nice to hear about but, like Olmert’s epiphany, it means little in practice. Netanyahu has been rude, duplicitous and downright nasty to President Obama in what was actually a replay of the behaviour of Menachem Begin toward Jimmy Carter in the late 1970s. Carter’s National Security adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski, learned to distrust the Israeli leadership and would later, after he was no longer in office, advocate an increasing hard line toward Jerusalem. Indeed, he once suggested military confrontation with Israel if that country’s leaders risked a regional war by attacking Iranian nuclear development sites (he suggested the US Air Force shoot down the Israeli planes). This was a reasonable suggestion given the stakes but, of course, it was made when Brzezinski had no position of influence.

Getting back to the article on Gates’s negative opinion of Netanyahu and his government, Jeffrey Goldberg writes that the former defence secretary actually “articulated bluntly what so many people in the administration seem to believe”. OK. So what are they doing about this? Absolutely nothing. They will all wait until they no longer have positions of influence to come out and vent. The situation is disgusting. And it is disgusting because in both the US and Israel (and no doubt in many other countries as well) there are leaders and advisers who know what needs to be done in Israel-Palestine to make the world more secure and stable, and yet they stand by and twiddle their thumbs.

Why do these leaders do nothing about matters of such importance? Here are two interconnected reasons:

“The narrow fate of party and career is … worth more than world peace. It is worth more than the lives of millions of doomed civilians and soldiers. It is worth more than justice for nations and peoples.”
1. In his book Victims of Groupthink (1972) Irving L. Janis shows how governing political elites create self-reinforcing decision-making circles that insulate themselves from serious challenge. It is rare that anyone within these circles “thinks outside the box”. However, it turns out that the “box” must always be able to accommodate the demands and interests of other groups whose money and power support the “circle’s” political viability. This is a system that must produce frustration and a sense of powerlessness among (the rare) officials who can see even a little more clearly than their peers. By the way, it is not a problem unique to political elites. It surely exists in most organizational structures. It is just that when it comes to government the stakes are so much higher for all of us.

2. Enmeshed as they are in a system of national interest group politics that dictate the fate of their various political parties and their own careers, those who might suspect a world outside the box will stay silent. The narrow fate of party and career is, apparently, worth more than world peace. It is worth more than the lives of millions of doomed civilians and soldiers. It is worth more than justice for nations and peoples. Only when free of this debilitating system do some of these people find their tongues. But by then all they have are impotent words. This is what we are seeing in the belated surfacing of rational criticism and analysis from unexpected sources such as Olmert and Gates.


How often do we read about individuals and groups who, witnessing an accident or a crime, just stand by and do nothing? These people do not want to “get involved”. Afterwards, such folks are usually very quiet and meek. They don’t want their neighbours to know that they stood by and did nothing. But the position of these confessing political retirees is quite different. They were already involved. And now, after the fact, these one-eyed men in the world of the blind want us all to know they have seen the light. Great. Now you tell us!

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Israel and the American Jewish Voter

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Assemblyman David I. Weprin, center, is a Democrat running against Bob Turner for the House seat Anthony D. Weiner gave up.

The Jewish voters in the ninth district are numerous. Almost half of the population is Jewish, many of them observant, and a significant number of them, 30 to 35%, regularly turn out to vote

Part I

The 27 July 2011 New York Times has a front page article about the upcoming September 13 special election for New York City’s Ninth Congressional District seat. The article opens a window on the political use of Israel as a campaign touchstone. The Ninth District, the most heavily Jewish District in the nation, is the one recently vacated by Democratic Representative Anthony Weiner who was, of course, a loyal supporter of Israel. Alas, he was also a man with a strong libido and no discretion. He was forced to step down after electronically sharing obscene pictures of himself with at least six women. The Democratic and Republican candidates who seek to fill this seat are not known for gross indiscretion in their private lives (though who knows what skeletons lurk in which closets), yet in their public pursuit of this Congressional seat they seem to be drawn, as by an irresistible political force, to follow Weiner’s lead and do obeisance at the alter of Zionism. Is this yet another form of folly?

Both candidates, Democratic Assemblyman David I. Weprin and his Republican opponent, Bob Turner (a retired cable television executive) are involved in a process of “one-upmanship on who is more pro-Israel.” One would think that Turner would have no chance in such a competition seeing as how Weprin is an “Orthodox Jew who keeps a kosher home, observes the Sabbath, and has been to Israel at least eight times.” Nonetheless, he is playing this game with some serious support.

Bob Turner makes his debut as a Republican candidate for the NY9 seat. (photo credit: azi paybarah / observer)

“On Monday [July 25], former Mayor Edward Koch, [a Jew and] a Democrat, endorsed the Republican candidate”on the basis that a Democrat, even one who is a strong supporter of Israel, can not be strong enough as long as President Obama holds the White House. Koch argues that only the election of a strong Republican supporter of Israel will “rebuke” the president for saying “that Israel’s pre-1967 border should be the basis for a peace agreement.” Former Mayor Koch, apparently not just physically but also mentally 87 years old, seems not to care that a Republican candidate may end up supporting domestic positions that can ruin the United States. He is obsessed with a single issue, Israel.

You would think that this obsession with Israel and its 1967 borders is pretty crazy in an election for someone to represent the interests of parts New York City that have names like Queens, Kew Gardens, Flatbush and Sheepshead Bay. And aren’t there numerous other issues, vital to the health of the nation, such as the federal budget and deficit, the fate of Medicare and Social Security, etc. that ought to hold voters’ attention? So who cares about some foreign country approximately 6,000 miles away? Well, according to Cynthia Zalisky, the executive director of the Queens Jewish Community Council, it is not only Ed Koch who is obsessed. She tells us that “how the candidates feel about Israel and the president’s concept of the pre-1967 borders is going to resonate in this district.” Donald Schwartz, an Orthodox Jewish activist from Kew Gardens agrees. He says that the Democratic candidate is not a sufficiently “fierce advocate” for Israel and his election would allow President Obama to “take the Jewish vote for granted.”

Former Mayor Edward Koch — NYC

All of this should raise eyebrows. Just how many Jewish voters are we talking about? And, how do we know that most care about what the Zionist activists care about? Why should it always be assumed that the Jewish vote turns on the question of Israel? The New York Times article answers the first of the these questions. The Jewish voters in the ninth district are numerous. Almost half of the population is Jewish, many of them observant, and a significant number of them, 30 to 35%, regularly turn out to vote. Thus, as political consultant Jerry Skurnik puts it, “you can’t get wiped out in the Jewish vote and expect to win a district like this.” Ok. But why assume most of those 30 to 35% of Jewish voters prioritize Israel when they vote, or are dissatisfied with President Obama on the issue of Israeli borders? You know, Mr. Weprin did endorse same sex marriage and that has upset some of the Orthodox community. Yet the New York Times really has its focus on the question of loyalty to Israel and takes it for granted that those Zionist activists who shout loudest know what the silent majority is thinking. On the other hand, maybe the Ninth is somehow special. Maybe Israeli settlements do top social security. It is depressing to think so, but it is possible.

Part II

Just for argument sake, let’s go with the notion that the Ninth District is indeed special. So lets say that the candidates do have to cater to specifically Jewish opinion to win this district, and that enough Jewish votes turn on the issue of Israel’s 1967 borders that candidates have to play the Zionist card to win.

What should those who oppose kowtowing to Zionist influence (and there are organizations of anti-Zionist Jews out there) do about this? Here are three possible approaches:
1. Find a way to increase the non-Jewish voter turnout. The political party that can do this can probably destroy the formula set forth above by Jerry Skurnik.
2. Find a way to get as many of the Jewish voters as possible to shed the single issue picture painted of them by the Zionists. There is probably an undercurrent of resentment about this one dimensional representation. Someone should tap into it. To this end, we proceed to #3.
3. Find a way to form a Jewish, but non-Zionist, political cadre to compete for Jewish voter support within the Democratic Party in the Ninth District and others like it. Give the Democratic Jewish voters a democratic choice.
Number one is the least volatile of these efforts. The consequences of pushing numbers 2 and 3 really depend on just how deep the Zionist “Jewish activists” are entrenched. Depending on that question, one of two things could happen. If the Israeli obsession is in fact only skin deep, that is only an issue for a relatively small, albeit vocal, minority of Jewish voters, it should be overcome pretty easily by insisting on the greater importance of domestic concerns. Those issues, closer to home, will then come to the fore as candidate touchstones and Israel will recede to the lower end of the list of important factors. If, however, a notable percentage of the Ninth District’s Jewish voters are obsessed with Israel, then concerted efforts as described in 2 and 3 could result in blood in the streets.

Part III

Either way, something really should be done to challenge the prevailing assumption that Israel is the touchstone political issue for American Jewish voters. Whatever might be the case in the Ninth District, this level of concern for Israel is probably not true of Jews nationally. On a national level most U.S. Jews vote Democratic and probably do so regardless of the candidates position on Israel. In fact, my bet is that both political parties don’t really scramble for Jewish votes which, except for rare places like the Ninth District, are minuscule.

What they scramble for is Jewish lobby money. And the Jewish lobby is not only obsessed with Israel, for all intents and purposes it functions as unregistered agent of that country. So to get the money you have to do your obeisance at the alter of Zionism.

This situation is potentially more dangerous then most American Jews realize. The Zionist hold over U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East has already cost the country dearly. It was at least part of the reason we were attacked on 9/11 and why we subsequently invaded Iraq. The Israel connection has alienated America from the entire Muslim world and helped encourage domestic racism in the form of Islamophobia. What happens if this orientation continues and results in more wars, more terrorist attacks and greater debilitation of the domestic budget? At some point the American public, looking for reasons for these disasters, may well focus on lobby influence and the prioritizing of the interests of a foreign land 6000 miles away. At that point it will not be just AIPAC (American Israeli Public Affairs Committee) that will pay the price. The Zionist insistence that all Jews support Israel, as untrue as it is, will have stereotyped American Jewry and anti-Semitism will quickly become a serious issue.
Therefore, it is in the best interests of the American Jewish community to shed the image of the single issue voter, to consciously begin to hold those Zionist activists at arms length, and to join with those groups, such as Jewish Voices for Peace, that reject any demand that they do obeisance at the alter of Zionism.
Quite frankly, the leaders of Israel are fanatics, the true believers of the American Zionist lobbies are fanatics, and Ed Koch is a fanatic. Most American Jews are not fanatics and it is time they let the rest of the country know it.

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Death and Contradiction: The Case of Iran’s Nuclear Scientists

By Professor Lawrence Davidson


July 27, 2011 Information Clearing House— On 23 July 2011 it was announced that Dariush Rezai-Nejad was shot to death in Tehran by two men on motorbikes. The shooters also chased after his wife and shot her too. According to Al Jazeera Rezai-Nejad was doing research in the field of electronics and had connections to the Iranian Department of Defense. It is not known if he was associated with Iran’s nuclear program. This is not the first such attack. In November of 2010 the cars of two other Iranian scientists who had definite links to the country’s nuclear program were rigged with bombs. One of them, Majid Shahriari, was killed outright and the other, Fereydoun Abbasi, again along with his wife, were injured.

There is a lot of speculation as to who is responsible for these attacks. One favorite Western theory is that the Iranian government is killing its own scientists because they are threatening to defect. The only publicly identified Iranian scientist who may or may not of defected is Shahram Amiri. He claims to have been kidnaped by Saudi agents while on pilgrimage to Mecca in June 2009, and then forcibly taken to the United States. He later made his way back to Iran. The notion that the Iranian government is now murdering some of their own scientists to assure the loyalty of the others seems farfetched. There are any number of less drastic ways to achieve this end. Just about every independent source of analysis on this question agrees that the real perpetrators of these serial murders and attempted murders are the U.S. and Israel, perhaps with an assist from the UK. These sources include Israel’s own senior military correspondent, Yossi Melman, who once told the British paper The Independent that there are “endless efforts of the Israeli intelligence establishment along with its Western counterparts, Britain’s MI6 and the CIA, to sabotage, delay and if possible stop Iran from reaching…its first nuclear bomb.” This effort includes the murder of Iranian scientists. The same reports have come from France’s Le Figaro, China’s Xinhua news agency and the Jerusalem Post.

To most Americans it might sound wrong that Washington, classically described to them from birth to death as God’s gift to good government, should be involved in campaigns of “official” murder. However, a brief look at recent history suggests that such practice is actually the norm. For instance, during the Viet Nam war the CIA initiated the Phoenix Program which managed to assassinate 26,369 suspected members of the Viet Cong. The Program lasted from 1967 to 1972 when it was closed down due to negative publicity. Almost immediately it was replaced by a new secret, yet similar, operation code named “F-6.” During the 1950s, 60s and 70s the CIA carried out or assisted in the assassination of thousands of individuals in Central and South America. The Agency reportedly tried to murder Fidel Castro hundreds of times. Under the Bush Jr. administration, kidnaping, torture and murder were standard operating procedures. And, finally, it appears that a sloppy form of assassination is still today’s preferred tactic in the on-going “war on terror.” The U.S. now uses drones which not only “take out” the target but also everyone else who happens to be in the vicinity at the time of the attack. This brief history should make it clear that the repeated reports of U.S. involvement in the attacks on Iranian scientists is quite consistent with past practice. More generally, one will find no “moral squeamishness” when it comes to Washington’s use of murder as an element of foreign policy.


Now we come to the really amazing part of this story. Readers of this blog may remember my analysis, posted 10 June 2011, entitled”Iran and the Issue of Nuclear Weapons.” It laid out strong evidence that Iran’s nuclear program was not aimed at the development of atomic weapons. It will be recalled that this was and still is the conclusion of no less than 16 U.S. intelligence agencies
(including the CIA) as put forth in two National Intelligence Estimates. In other words, one part of the United States government appears involved in an effort to kill Iranian scientists because of their alleged work on a program that another part of the United States government has confirmed not to exist. We can reduce this even further. It appears the one part of the CIA is involved in the attacks on these scientists because of nuclear weapons research another part of the CIA tells us is not taking place. What sort of schizophrenic game is being played out here?

1. Complicity in the program of assassinations is a part of a policy that flows from a certain worldview. That worldview is anti-Iranian (this goes back to the 1978-79 Iranian revolution and the holding of American hostages), anti-Muslim (assuming a “clash of civilizations”) and pro-Israel (solidified by the power of the Zionist lobby). The decision to pursue this policy is a political one made by a men and women in key foreign policy positions within the Congress and executive branch of government who share or at least acquiesce in this worldview. In addition, all of these individuals adhere to or acquiesce in assumptions about Iran that are compatible with the worldview. Thus, it is assumed that present day Iran is aggressive, ambitious and instinctively hostile to both American and Israeli interests. Therefore, no matter how benign the Iranian quest for nuclear energy is demonstrated to be, it is metamorphosed into something malignant by the demands of the prevailing worldview and its standing assumptions. This in turn justifies the attacks on those involved in Iran’s nuclear energy research.

2. Meanwhile, those who perform the professional intelligence analyses, such as those carried out by National Intelligence Estimates, are not motivated by this worldview and make no assumptions. The ability to approach the intelligence data with an open mind is part of what makes these people professionals. So they look at the intelligence intelligently, determine what it means in an objective fashion, and report accordingly. Obviously this sort of procedure is going to give a more honest and accurate assessment than one largely pre-determined by myriad assumptions.


Unfortunately, honesty and accuracy are not the priorities of policy makers captured by ideologically shaped worldviews and their accompanying assumptions. Be it the Cold War or the War against Terror, it is ideology that defines reality. Intelligence estimates that give a different picture are most often found to be politically unacceptable. Therefore, making clear the contradiction between policy driven by skewed assumptions, and that based on objective investigation is like putting a spotlight on all that is wrong with American foreign policy. Yet this is a message our policy makers cannot hear. That worldview also clogs up their ears.

Professor Lawrence Davidson – Department of History – West Chester University –

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On Flotillas and the Law

Via End Israeli Aparthied

By Lawrence Davidson

Civil Society Movements vs. Corrupt Politics

July 07, 2011 Information Clearing House— When it comes to the struggle against Israel’s policies of oppression there are two conflicting levels: that of government and that of civil society. The most recent example of this duality is the half dozen or so small ships held captive in the ports of Greece. The ships, loaded with humanitarian supplies for the one and half million people of the Gaza strip, are instruments of a civil society campaign against the inhumanity of the Israeli state. The forces that hold them back are the instruments of governments corrupted by special interest influence and political bribery.

Most of us are unaware of the potential of organized civil society because we have resigned the public sphere to professional politicians and bureaucrats and retreated into a private sphere of everyday life which we see as separate from politics. This is a serious mistake. Politics shapes our lives whether we pay attention to it or not. By ignoring it we allow the power of the state to respond not so much to the citizenry as to special interests. Our indifference means that the politicians and government bureaucrats live their professional lives within systems largely uninterested in and sometimes incapable of acting in the public good because they are corrupted by lobby power. The ability to render justice is also often a casualty of the way things operate politically. The stymying of the latest flotilla due to the disproportionate influence of Zionist special interests on U.S. and European Middle East foreign policy is a good example of this situation.

There are small but growing elements of society which understand this problem and have moved to remedy it through organizing common citizens to reassert influence in the public sphere. Their efforts constitute civil society movements. Not all of these efforts can be deemed progressive.

The “Tea Party” phenomenon in the United States is a radical conservative movement that aims at minimizing government to the point of self-destruction. But other movements of civil society, in their expressions of direct action in the cause of justice, are much healthier. The worldwide movement for the boycott, divestment and sanctioning (BDS) of Israel, of which the flotilla movement is an offshoot, is one of these.

The Forum of International Law

The resulting struggle between the corrupt politics that keeps the West aligned with the oppressive and racist ideology that rules Israel and the civil society movement that seeks to liberate the victims of that ideology goes on worldwide and in many forums. One is the forum of international law. Presently, the debate revolves around the legality of Israel’s blockade of Gaza and the effort of the flotilla movement to defy it. Let us take a look at this aspect of the conflict.

1. The well known American Lawyer Alan Dershowitz, a strong defender of Israel, has blatantly stated, “Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza is legal under international law–anyone who tries to break it can be arrested and prosecuted in a court of law.” Of course, Dershowitz is not an expert on international law. Rather he has made his reputation as a defense lawyer with a passion for murder cases (which makes him quite suited to defend the Israeli state). This being said, what is the basis for his assertion that the Gaza blockade is legal?

2. The argument for the legality of the blockade is based on the 1909 Declaration of London and the 1994 San Remo Manual on Armed Conflict at Sea. Both are part of an international treaty system that sets down the parameters of much international law. According to these documents two states engaged in armed conflict can legally blockade one and other for clear military reasons. However, any blockade would cease to be legal if “damage to the civilian population is, or may be expected to be, excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated from the blockade.” Defenders of Israeli actions such as Dershowitz do a very superficial reading of the documents and reason that Israel is in an armed conflict with Hamas, which is the ruling authority in Gaza, and so Israel can legally blockade Gaza so as to stop the importation of weapons and “terrorist” fighters.

3. The holes in this reasoning are big enough to sail a flotilla of small ships through (if only they were not imprisoned in Greek ports). Thus, Israel certainly does not consider itself engaged in an armed conflict with another state. If you doubt this just ask any member of the present Israeli government whether he or she would define Palestine, including Gaza, as a state. In truth, the proper definition of Israel’s presence in the West Bank and Gaza is that of an occupying colonial power whose policies and actions are stark violations of the Geneva Conventions. That is, by virtue of their colonizing actions and treatment of residents of the Occupied Territories, their presence in Palestine beyond the 1967 borders is not legal (one can also argue over the legality of Israel within the 1967 borders). That means those they are in armed conflict with are those resisting illegal occupation. There is no international law that makes it legal for Israel, itself acting illegally, to blockade those legally resisting its actions. The arbitrary labeling of those resisting as “terrorists” does not change this legal situation.

4. As noted above, “legal” blockades must have a military objective and must not do excessive harm to the civilian population. Yet there is evidence that Israel’s goals for the blockade are not primarily military but are, instead, aimed at committing excessive harm to the people of Gaza. The Gaza blockade was not done out of fear of weapons smuggling or terrorist infiltration, but rather constituted a conscious act of economic warfare against the people of Gaza for having the audacity to be ruled by Hamas, the winner of a 2006 free and fair election. There is documentary evidence for this interpretation of events. For instance, in 2006 Dov Weisglass, an adviser to then Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, publically stated that the goal of Israeli policy in Gaza was to “put the Palestinians on a diet, but not make them die of hunger.” Then, in June of 2010 McClatchy Newspapers published Israeli government documents attesting to the fact that Jerusalem primarily saw the blockade as an act of economic warfare, and not as a security measure. To this you can add the fact that Israeli gunboats keep shooting at Gaza fisherman who they know are doing nothing except fishing. What we have here is the collective punishment of 1.5 million Palestinians. As such it is not legal, it is illegal–a violation of the Geneva Conventions. The UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon, usually so responsive to U.S. demands, momentarily broke free and in his 2009 annual report told the Israelis they should end their unwarranted blockade. He was ignored.

We Cannot Count on Governments or International Law

So how is it that the Israelis can get away with these crimes? It is because, at the level of government, their lobbyists and advocates wield enough influence to successfully warp the policy formulation of Western governments. Against this corruptive influence, international law means very little. Even embarrassing historical analogies mean little. Nima Shirazi, whose blog, Wide Asleep In America can be found at wrote a very good piece entitled “The Deplorable Acts: The ‘Quartet Comments on Gaza.” In this piece he points out the relative similarity between the Gaza blockade and the blockade of Boston set up by imperial Britain in late 1773. The Americans of that time labeled the action, “the Intolerable Acts.” Secretary of State Hilary Clinton and her boss in the White House ought to consider this analogy, but then there is that lobby power factor that would prevent them from ever acknowledging it.

As a consequence, those who seek justice for the Palestinians must, for the moment, not place much hope in government or international law. They must act within the realm of civil society, building the BDS movement and its offshoots. Where government moves in and attempts to block civil society actions, these actions must be turned against government if only by using them as campaign tools to expand the BDS movement further. If we persist there will come a time, as was the case with South Africa, when the power of civil society will be such that politicians and bureaucrats will see the cost of defying popular opinion as greater than defying Zionist lobbies.

For all intents and purposes, when it comes to the Palestine-Israeli conflict, the United States and Israeli governments have placed themselves above all law. That means not just international law, but selective domestic law as well. The ubiquitous and improper use of such categories as “terrorist” or “rendering material aid to terrorists” are the corruptive vectors here.

The only hope for justice and the integrity of law is in the realm of civil society which might in the foreseeable future redeem not only Palestine, but the US and Israel too.

Lawrence Davidson is professor of history at West Chester University in West Chester PA. His academic work is focused on the history of American foreign relations with the Middle East. He also teaches courses in the history of science and modern European intellectual history.


Reasonable conjecture on Israel’s changing demographics

By Lawrence Davidson

20 June 2011

Lawrence Davidson considers why a growing number of Israeli Jews are voting – or preparing to vote – with their feet by emigrating or acquiring foreign passports, and views a possible future scenario where the majority of Jews remaining in Israel are racist, ideologically-motivated religious fanatics.

”…as Zionism “purifies” itself, gets rid of all those who would question it or compromise it, it must take its remaining adherents into the realm of unadorned horror. We should all be afraid of this. Very afraid.” (Lawrence Davidson)

Israeli Jews are voting with their feet

If the historical goal of the state of Israel is to provide the world’s Jews with a secure national home, a place of refuge in a world of real or potential anti-Semitism, it seems to have failed. It has failed not because this writer says so, but because an increasing number of its own Jewish citizens say so.

There have been studies originating both in Israel and abroad that show “as many as half of the Jews living in Israel will consider leaving … if in the next few years the current political and social trends continue”. This finding is in addition to the fact that yerida, or emigration out of Israel, has long been running at higher numbers than aliyah, or immigration into the country. “ According to the Israel Central Bureau of Statistics, as of 2005, 650,000 Israelis have left the country for over one year and not returned”. The great majority of these were Jews. In addition, polls show that at least 60 per cent and as high as 80 per cent of remaining Israeli Jews “sympathize with those who leave the country”.

Among those who stay, there is the conviction that the safe thing is to have a second passport issued by the United States or a European country. As the Haaretz reporter Gideon Levy puts it, “if our forefathers dreamt of an Israeli passport, there are those among us who are now dreaming of a foreign passport”.

At present the United States has issued over half a million passports to Israelis and a quarter million additional applications are pending. Germany runs second with 100,000 passports given to Israeli Jews and 7,000 new ones issued yearly.

“…when you combine the growth in emigration with the desire for foreign passports you get a different sort of message. Planning to possibly emigrate on a foreign passport implies that there are a number of Israelis who foresee the demise of the state. In other words, they foresee a day when the Israeli passport will be worthless.”

Why the scramble for foreign passports? Well, according to Levy, “the excuses are strange and diverse, but at the base of them all are unease and anxiety, both personal and national. The foreign passport has become an insurance policy against a rainy day. It turns out there are more and more Israelis who are thinking that day may eventually come.”
There are two prevailing explanations for this phenomenon. The first is that it reflects the conviction that the safe haven that Zionism was suppose to create is not safe at all. This is the position taken by the University of Pennsylvania political scientist Ian Lustick. According to him,

The danger for the Jewish state is that, given the choice between convincing Middle Easterners that Israel can be a good neighbour and leaving the neighbourhood, more and more Israelis are attracted to the latter… The logically extreme expression of escape is, of course, emigration.

Lustick is supported by Stephen Walt, Professor of International Relations at Harvard University, who suggests that “the Zionist ideal is losing hold within Israel itself” because the Israeli government “endlessly delays the [peace] process”.

The second explanation is that suggested by the editors of the Jerusalem Post who cite interviews with “hundreds of Israeli expats in North America”. Their conclusion is that when Israelis go abroad and stay, it is due to economic, and not political or security reasons.

Actually, the explanation offered by the Jerusalem Post is suspect. If the desire to emigrate is motivated mainly by economics, the demand for second passports would not be necessary. Israelis travel freely in the United States and the economic interconnections between the two countries make it relatively easy for Israeli Jews to get “green cards” to stay and work. This is probably true in some other parts of the West as well, as long as you are not tagged as a war criminal.

However, when you combine the growth in emigration with the desire for foreign passports you get a different sort of message. Planning to possibly emigrate on a foreign passport implies that there are a number of Israelis who foresee the demise of the state. In other words, they foresee a day when the Israeli passport will be worthless. Given the fact that emigration is something of an ideological sin for Zionists, it is no surprise that some of the emigrants tell pollsters their motivation is economic. It sounds better. But in the end it hardly matters, leaving for whatever reason is the equivalent of voting with your feet.

Not without its costs

This trend is no doubt encouraging to the Palestinians and their supporters, but it is not without its costs. If we assume no change and project this development into the future, say 20 years or so, what will Jewish Israel look like?

“In a population shorn of its middle class, there will be no real political opposition and the right-wing parties will become ever more aggressive against what they regard as anti-Zionist elements within the Jewish population.”

First, the ratio of Jews to Israeli Arabs within the Green Line [i.e. the pre-1967-war borders] will certainly shrink. That is, the Arab population, which already has a higher birth rate than the Jewish one, will grow all the more rapidly, making up an increasing percentage of the population. Factor in the occupied territories and there will be more Palestinians than Jews.
One can, of course, say that this is as it should be. The notion that Palestine must have a Jewish majority has always been a perverse one. Nonetheless, as a consequence of the changing demographics, it is almost certain that Palestinian-Jewish Israeli relations, which have never been good, will get rapidly and proportionately worse. Why so? The second point answers this question.

Second, of the Jews who remain in Israel, an increasing percentage will be ideological fanatics. Take a look at the religiously-motivated, armed and aggressive settlers on the West Bank and then imagine them, along with those in black hats and pa’ot (unshaven sideburns), as making up 60 or 70 per cent of the Jewish population. That is a masada majority who will be willing to “defend” their way of life in all of Palestine not due to patriotic propaganda, but out of real racial conviction and religious zeal.

Third, the other remaining Jews, the ones not necessarily fanatical, will be mostly docile. These are the ones who cannot get the foreign passports, who have no relatives abroad to vouch for them, and not enough resources to bankroll a new start even if they could find another place to go. They will follow what orders they are given by their increasingly fanatical government for the sake of their jobs, their pensions, to put bread on the table, because their peers are doing so, etc.

Fourth, ideological fanatics confronting their worse nightmare, in this case the “demographic holocaust”, are not going to be devotees of democracy and human rights. Israel’s government will become more and more dictatorial. We can already see this in today’s Israel where the Knesset, presently controlled by ideological parties, is in the process of passing anti-democratic laws. This may be just the beginning. In a population shorn of its middle class, there will be no real political opposition and the right-wing parties will become ever more aggressive against what they regard as anti-Zionist elements within the Jewish population. Organizations such as B’tselem, Gush Shalom, Rabbis for Human Rights, the Israeli Committee Against Home Demolitions and the like will be shut down. Supporters of these groups will become silent or go into exile, as will the small number of Israeli academics who now stand against government policy. If they do not, they will likely end up in jail.


“In today’s Israel you can still tell the difference between those Jewish Israelis who want a just and humane settlement with the Palestinians and those who do not. If things keep going as they are now there will come a time when it will be much harder to make that distinction.”

This, of course, is just conjecture. However, it is reasonable conjecture. And so we really ought to think about this. In today’s Israel you can still tell the difference between those Jewish Israelis who want a just and humane settlement with the Palestinians and those who do not. If things keep going as they are now there will come a time when it will be much harder to make that distinction. In other words, when the everyday man and women just looking for economic or physical safety, just looking for a better place to raise their kids, packs up and leaves, the “neutral zone” of everyday life vanishes with them. Society becomes a place where, as George Bush once put it, you’re with us or against us. And, if to be with us means to be a racist, a supporter of the God-chosen people and an active enemy of the inferior and doomed Amalekites, then that is how everyone still in residence will behave.

When and if that time comes, how are we on the outside, and especially those of us who are Jews, going to react to an Israel where those who seek a just peace are either silenced, imprisoned or exiled? What do you do with a society where everyone must support injustice or be themselves condemned as traitors or criminals? Under these circumstances how do you tell the difference between the innocent and the guilty?

This is not a potential scenario unique to Israel’s situation. It has been played out before. The difference is that before the Jews were among the victims and not victimizers. This is what happens when any group gives itself over to a doctrine, be it racial, religious or political, which destroys all notions of common humanity. That is what the prevailing ideology of Israel has done. And, if history remains consistent, as Zionism “purifies” itself, gets rid of all those who would question it or compromise it, it must take its remaining adherents into the realm of unadorned horror. We should all be afraid of this. Very afraid.

Israelis Rush for Second Passports as Palestinians Preparing to Return
River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian

International law and the problem of enforcement

By Lawrence Davidson

5 June 2011

Lawrence Davidson traces the flaws built into the International Criminal Court that allow some states to get away with crimes to the exceptionalism and superiority complexes afflicting countries such as Russia, China and the US, which is also “tied so closely to the criminal behaviour of the Israelis that it has dedicated itself to protecting Israeli nationals as well”.

Anthropomorphizing the nation state

One of the defining characteristics of modern Western culture is individuality. Most people in the West take it for granted that they have the right to free expression and personality development.

However, in practice, this right is not open ended. It is fine if you want to express yourself as a musician, a painter, a film maker, a writer, etc. Equally legitimate is your desire to express yourself as an engineer, accountant, bus driver or auto mechanic.

Things become very different if you have a great desire to express yourself as a thief or want to develop your personality as a serial killer. There are rules, in the form of laws, against these latter avenues of expression. If you choose to ignore these laws there are police forces and courts systems that will seek to force you to do so. Another way of saying this is that within states or nations, people usually must confine their right of self expression to activities that do not impinge in a harmful or unwanted way on others in the community

It was at the end of the 18th century and throughout the19th century that Western leaders of both established nations and aspiring nationalities began to apply this language of self expression to the nation state. In other words, they claimed the same right of self expression for the collective as for the individual. This represented a melding of romanticism and politics that allowed for the anthropomorphizing of the nation. That is, something that was not a human being (the nation) was being treated as if it was.

The French revolutionaries spoke of “France” as the growing embodiment of human freedom with a mission to export liberty to others, German nationalists such as Herder and Fichte believed that the “German nation” embodied a volkgiest, or “spirit of the people” that had to be free to create a unified and enduring state. Italian, Russian and other nationalists made the same argument for their nationalities or ethnic groups. In each case, the claim that the collective, with its unique cultural personality, had the right to unfettered development led to a serious and continuing problem.

The problem

One half of the problem expresses itself in the form of “exceptionalism”. That is the assertion that the nation has rights because its culture and people are, in some way, superior to others and/or because they are “God blessed”. Being superior to others means the nation, striving to realize its uniqueness, has priority claims to a “homeland” and its resources. Those who stand in the way of this goal can be evicted or otherwise persecuted.

Or, perhaps, the nation in question has evolved a special way of life (democracy, capitalism, communism or some religion) that its leaders feel it must share with others – whether they want this gift or not. So it sends out missionaries and diplomats and then usually follows them up with gunboats.

Empire building based on a claim of superiority often results. It turns out that almost all great powers, Western and non-Western, have expressed some form of exceptionalism.

The second half of the problem lies in the fact that these anthropomorphized nation states, with their insistence on the right of self-expression, are acting in an arena of international relations that lacks sufficient rules to limit their behaviour. There is nothing to actually force them to confine their acts of self expression to activities that do not impinge in a harmful or unwanted way on other states or populations.

Certainly, traditional diplomacy and the use of standard treaties has not been able to do so. Until the end of World War II there were a few Geneva conventions that, with mediocre success, sought to ameliorate the treatment of civilians and prisoners during wartime. Come the world wars of the 20th century even these were ignored. The horrors of World War II gave new impetus to establishing enforceable international rules or laws, including laws against genocide and crimes against humanity, but over time these too have been eroded. And, here again, exceptionalism has been the motivator. We can see how this has taken place by looking at the case of the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Undermining international law

The ICC was created in 2002 by the a founding treaty known as the Rome Statute. The court was designed to be an independent body capable of prosecuting major transgressions such as genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

However, there were also conflicting amendments built into the founding document. Among others, the court’s jurisdiction is usually limited to crimes committed by a national of a state that is party to the treaty or committed on such a state’s territory. Nonetheless, the court is also obligated to investigate any case referred to it by the United Nations Security Council, whether the nation or individuals involved are covered by the treaty or not.

Presently, 114 countries are party to the treaty and thus subject to the jurisdiction of the ICC. Some 34 others, including Russia, have signed the treaty but are yet to ratify it. Thus, they are still outside its jurisdiction. An additional 44 states, including China, have never signed the treaty. And finally, several states, such as the United States and Israel, while having initially adhered to the treaty have subsequently “unsigned” it and thereby withdrawn from its jurisdiction.

Just what is going on here? It would seem that the leaders of many of the major world powers – China, Russia and the United States – know that they operate in the world on the basis of exceptionalism. They actually are or likely will occupy foreign lands, pursue foreign wars, massacre civilian populations, etc. In other words, the behaviour of their nationals is very likely to transgress the laws against war crimes and crimes against humanity, and perhaps genocide as well. So they seek to stay clear of the ICC’s jurisdiction. And, in the case of the United States, the government is tied so closely to the criminal behaviour of the Israelis that it has dedicated itself to protecting Israeli nationals as well.

That is why, if you look at the record of ICC prosecutions, all of them have to do with smaller states, mostly African, who have relatively little power and no great power patrons.

Yet this skewed record gets worse, for the United States and other great powers, which are not even a party to the Rome Statute, have found a way to turn the court into a weapon to be directed at their assumed enemies. They have done so by taking advantage of the treaty clause requiring the ICC to pursue cases referred to it by the UN Security Council. This harmful bit of hypocrisy has recently been examined in an article by Stuart Littlewood, using information and analysis supplied by Dr. David Morrison of Ireland. Here are some of the points they make:

1. Libya is not a party to the ICC…Yet three months ago the UN Security Council voted unanimously, in Resolution 1970, to refer the situation in Libya to the prosecutor of the ICC. Five of the states that voted for this referral [including the United States] … are not parties to the ICC and don’t accept its jurisdiction. So here we see the US among those forcing Libya to accept the jurisdiction of the ICC, when it refuses to do so itself.

2. This is a situation that cannot happen to countries like the United States because they can “wield their veto to block any attempt by UN colleagues to extend ICC jurisdiction to their territory”.

3. David Morrison concludes that “a court with universal jurisdiction is fair. A court whose jurisdiction you, as a state, can choose to accept or reject has some semblance of fairness. But a court like the ICC, whose jurisdiction can be targeted, at the whim of the Security Council, on certain states that have chosen not to accept it, but not others, is grossly unfair.”


It is the sad height of hypocrisy when the United States, whose leaders claim to have the secret to world salvation (both politically and economically), not only corrupts international law to target others, but simultaneously goes to extraordinary lengths to protect its own nationals from that same law.

For instance, if Americans were to commit war crimes in the territories of states party to the Rome Statute, those states could refer the matter to the ICC and the court could then go after US citizens. Washington has negotiated bilateral agreements with over 100 nations that specifically forbid those states from doing just that. No nation can receive military aide from the US without making this pledge.

This is the behavior of a government that knows it acts in a criminal fashion, be it on a small scale or large, and claims the exceptional right to do so with impunity. The leaders of the US do this because, as so many presidents have told us time and again, the free expression and expansion of the American way of life is best for the world. God has decreed it so. This is extraordinary hubris in action and it is why so much of the rest of the world have, at best, a love-hate relationship with the US and what it claims to stand for.

The notable English thinker and politician, Edmund Burke (1729-97), once observed that “the greater the power, the more dangerous the abuse”. What can be more powerful, and therefore more abusive, than great powers claiming the right of free expression in an international arena devoid of restraining rules? In a world that is, like ours, mostly lawless.

River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian

The President Goes AIPACing

Indeed, U.S. foreign policy has only sustained Israel’s ability not to resolve the conflict.

Israel is not so much a small nation as a military giant. Obama knows that because it is the U.S. that has done the most to make Israel flagrantly oversized in this regard. In doing so Washington allowed Israel to become the bully that dominates the neighborhood.

by Lawrence Davidson

President Obama addressed the Zionist lobby AIPAC on 22 May 2011, just four days after his major televised 19 May address on the Middle East. In that earlier speech he paid attention to the popular uprisings going on in the region and placed himself, at least rhetorically, on the side of those seeking democratic reform. But then, in typical diplomatic fashion, he gave no indication that his administration would do anything forceful to prevent the current violent suppression of democratic protesters in those places where, we might assume, the U.S. has influence, like Bahrain, Jordan and Saudi Arabia and Yemen.
The speech to AIPAC was of a similar nature. In the earlier talk the president also said that the 1967 border was an appropriate starting point for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. Within the pro-Israeli environment of American domestic politics, many Zionists took offense. So, the speech on the 22 of May was diplomatically required to reassure them of the toothless nature of the original assertion.

There was something wearying about the President’s speech to AIPAC. The first half of it was all about how we are so solidly committed to Israel that whatever they do we will never abandon them. It was all about how we are going to go right on arming them so that, in effect, they will continue to have no incentive to negotiate justly with the Palestinians. In other words, the first half of the speech was all about why the Israelis and their supporters need pay no attention to the 1967 borders.

The president also peppered the talk with statements that, I am sorry to say, sound utterly wrong to anyone with an objective sense of the present situation. Here are just a couple of examples:
1. “We also know how difficult that search for security can be, especially for a small nation like Israel in a tough neighborhood.” Israel is not so much a small nation as a military giant. Obama knows that because it is the U.S. that has done the most to make Israel flagrantly oversized in this regard. In doing so Washington allowed Israel to become the bully that dominates the neighborhood. In other words, the president, as almost all of his modern predecessors before him, was reversing the facts for the sake of domestic political advantage.

2. “No country can be expected to negotiate with a terrorist organization sworn to its destruction.” This reference was, of course, to Hamas. To call Hamas a “terrorist organization” is considerably out of date. Actually, it would be more fitting to assign the epithet to the Israeli government. That purveyor of state terrorism has brought sudden death to much larger numbers of innocent people than Hamas. And, using Obama’s logic, one might argue that Hamas should not be expected to negotiate with Israel, because Israel adamantly refuses to recognize it as the legitimately elected government of Palestine (which it is) and is “sworn to its destruction.” Further, as Palestine’s legally elected government, Hamas too has a right to defend itself against predatory neighbors.

3. “America’s commitment to Israel also flows from a deeper place–and that is the values we share.” There is something really embarrassing, actually downright humiliating, about the first African American president of the United States saying this about a prima facie racist state like Israel. Our two countries do not share any important values. This can be seen clearly in the fact that, when it comes to societal goals, the two lands are moving in starkly opposite directions. At least since the end of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s the United States has moved in the direction of greater and greater inclusiveness. This movement has not always been smooth and consistent. However, today President Obama himself stands as living proof that inclusiveness is the direction American society has consciously set for itself. Not so Israel. Here it is the opposite–exclusiveness is the goal. If you are not Jewish, the goal of Israeli society is to render you a second class citizen and, eventually, expel you altogether. In terms of democracy, this makes Israel as democratic as, say, Alabama circa 1950. As a nation, the United States has left that era behind. So tell me, where are the shared values?

Part II – The Political Dance Has Become Irrelevant

President Obama sought to avoid “idealism or naivete.” He claimed to be approaching the Israel-Palestine problem in a “hard-headed” manner. Let me do the same. The American domestic political dance done obsessively by all recent presidents has never resulted in anything positive on the ground in Israel-Palestine. Indeed, U.S. foreign policy has only sustained Israel’s ability not to resolve the conflict. As a consequence of this Washington has rendered itself largely irrelevant to any final just resolution of this contest. Take the issue of the 1967 border which is the center of the present political flap in the U.S. It has significance only if you assume that there will be a viable two state solution. However, long ago Israel has demonstrated that this will never happen. That was what Netanyahu was trying to tell Obama over the last few days. Most Palestinians and their worldwide supporters know this quite well. However, what neither Obama nor Netanyahu will admit is that the probable future of the Israel-Palestine conflict lies along a path that parallels the one taken by apartheid South Africa. In other words, the fate of Israel-Palestine is no longer in the hands of the Israelis and the Palestinians alone. The entire conflict has been internationalized. There is a quickly growing world-wide Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement that has joined the fray and its actions will, in the end, be more significant in resolving this struggle than those of any American President.

Part III – Conclusion

Weariness and boredom set in when you listen to people repeat themselves endlessly. Within the democratic political realm, that is the obsessive spell lobbies can cast on politicians. It is a design flaw, if you will, in the democratic system. The lobbies act like jealous gods who need to hear the prayers of their devotees said again and again. I am loyal, I am yours, forever, forever. Deviation means blasphemy and blasphemy means that the gods will bestow their cash blessings on someone else come the next election cycle.

It is weariness and boredom, a pronounced ennui, that one experiences when presidents go AIPACing. It would be better if they just sent an e-mail.

Lawrence Davidson is professor of history at West Chester University in West Chester PA. His academic work is focused on the history of American foreign relations with the Middle East. He also teaches courses in the history of science and modern European intellectual history.
River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian

Egypt and the US: Considering the What and the Why of Things – An Analysis by Dr. Lawrence Davidson

Via IP 

U.S. President Barack Obama announces shifts in military
and intelligence leadership in the East Room of the
White House in Washington, DC,
on April 27, 2011. UPI/Roger L. Wollenberg

by: Dr. Lawrence Davidson
09. May, 2011
Part I – Egypt

Last week I was in Egypt, a country presently moved by optimism. The optimism reflects a high state of political consciousness. Almost everyone I met, be they workers (urban and rural), students, shopkeepers, and the ubiquitous taxi drivers know why their country is beset by problems. They can itemize the structural flaws that led to massive corruption, economic deprivation and brutal repression.
For instance, they all know that the “laughing cow” dictator, Hosni Mubarak, had substituted his personal interests, and that of his friends, for the national interest. Everyone has the same general notion of what needs to be done: destroy the power of this “party of thieves” and rid the country of the failed policies it has so long endured. How all this will play out in the new environment of relative freedom, with its multiple party formation and emotional debate, is uncertain. However, if the United States can refrain from its usual level of gross interference, things should end up better rather than worse. Hence the optimism.

What are the odds that the US will leave the Egyptian reform process alone? In the long run, they are not good. The new Egypt has already moved to repair ties with Iran and ease the blockade of Gaza. The latter, in particular, is immensely popular in Egypt and will be just as unpopular in the US Congress. Egypt’s military still exercises ultimate control and is supposedly guiding the nation on its path of political reform. That same military is the recipient of billions of US aid dollars and Congress controls those purse strings. There is a lot of room for behind the scenes interference here.

The pressure to meddle will increase if the Muslim Brotherhood is successful in the forthcoming parliamentary elections. They are getting ready to contest up to half the legislative seats and their prospects look good. However, such particulars are but catalysts that set in motion a more general, essentially structural, US approach to places like Egypt. On-going meddling in the affairs of other “sovereign” nations has become a veritable part of the culture of the “intelligence” and military bureaucracies of the United States.

Part II – The United States

Here is a depressing example of this attitude. While in Cairo I picked up the 29 April edition of the International Herald Tribune. The story that caught my eye was entitled “New Missions, Blurred Roles.” In part, the opening paragraph went like this, “President Barack Obama’s decision to send an intelligence chief [Leon Penetta] to the Pentagon [as Secretary of Defense] and a four star general [David Patraeus] to [be head of] the CIA is the latest evidence of a significant shift…in how the US fights its battles: the blurring of the lines between soldiers and spies.” What level of awareness does this maneuver reflect of the problems that have long beset America’s failed Middle East policies? In relative terms, certainly something short of that possessed by your average Egyptian cab driver.

The Egyptians now boldly think about and discuss not only what is wrong but also why it is so. A significant aspect of why their problems persisted so long was the decades of US support for the country’s dictator. They know that and there is popular sentiment for avoiding that sort of “aid” in the future. If they can achieve this the Egyptians have a genuine shot at a better future. On the other hand, America’s leaders are fixated on what they think confronts them and have relegated the why of it all to irrelevancy. In other words, when it comes to foreign policy our leaders, to say nothing of our soldiers and our spies, are dismally short-sighted. Hence the policy failures.

The CIA, along with the rest of America’s so called “intelligence” agencies, are designed to tell the country’s leaders what is going on in the world. Somewhere buried deep in these information gathering bureaucracies are people who can also tell them why things are happening as they are, but these folks carry little or no influence. This is because the explanations they often give for events conflict with or call into serious question the special interest motives and ends that drive US policies. You see, just as in Egypt, special interests have supplanted national interests. With rare exception, American foreign policy in the Middle East is designed to respond to the desires of domestic lobbies such as the Zionists and not to any national interest, or even to the conditions on the ground in foreign lands.

If foreign opposition develops to what our domestic special interests desire, we want to know what it is and then destroy it. Why it arises is a question to avoid because it opens space for the questioning the influence of the special interests. If the CIA is stuck at the ‘what’ stage of things (say, the what of Israeli security or the what of Iranian nuclear energy development), the Defense Department is dedicated to designing tactical responses to the ‘what.’ Now the efforts of these two aggressive government organizations are to be closely coordinated within a political environment that refuses to look objectively at the roots of its own policies. So what can this move really mean?

Part III – Assassination as a Panacea

In the post Cold War era the decision was made that ability to carry on classical warfare, the warfare between fielded armies, is a less immediate priority than “special operations” designed to “penetrate, disrupt, defeat and destroy” small militant groups which stand against US policy positions in the Third World. Beyond the supporting of dictators and their armies, how does this presently translate into practice? Well, under Leon Panetta, the CIA oversaw “a sharp escalation” of the agency’s “bombing campaign in Pakistan using armed drone aircraft and an increase in the number of secret bases and covert operations in remote parts of Afghanistan.” On the Defense Department side, in 2009 General Patreaus, acting as head of the US Central Command signed a classified order “authorizing US special operations troops to collect intelligence in Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Iran and other places outside of traditional war zones.

” The intelligence gathered is to be used to “prepare the environment for future military attacks.” What we have here is an admission that both the CIA and the Defense Department have taken up the tactic of assassination as a major adjunct to the support the dictator policy. These are not like the horridly romanticized James Bond “license to kill” actions, nor even the cruder, but still selective, operations of the 11th century Assassins. What Washington has elevated to the level of high tactics is the extraordinarily messy fighter bomber and predator drone attacks that are as likely to massacre entire families, wedding parties, mosque gatherings and café crowds as they are any intended victims. And now the fighter bombers of the Defense Department and the predator drones of the CIA will be oh so better coordinated. Of course, none of this touches on the question of why the “bad guys” are out there, in so determined a fashion, in the first place.

The refusal to consider why opposition to American foreign policy in the Middle East has grown steadily since the end of World War II and finally, on September 11, 2001, reached an unparalleled level of destructiveness, suggests that this latest tactical maneuver will be of little long term worth. It will not alter the US policy of allying with dictators and oppressors. It will not alter the US policy of destructive economic exploitation. It will only intensify American violence against the innocent people who happen to be in the vicinity of those we decide are guilty. And, in doing so, drive them into the arms of extremists – that is those who stand against the US by pursuing tactics as extreme as those used by the US itself. Keep in mind that the violence of the oppressed tends to raise to the level of the violence of the oppressor.

Part IV – Conclusion

There is a difference between being smart or clever, and being truly intelligent. The men and women who run the United States are very clever, but they are not equally intelligent. They are clever enough to design deadly responses to specific situations. However, the responses are almost always bounded by a priori domestic political positions. Our leaders never display the intelligence and the political courage to challenge those positions no matter how disastrous they prove to be.

The most recent example of this stuck in a rut scenario is the national hoopla that followed the assassination of Osama bin Laden. In the president’s speech announcing this action, and the subsequent media discussion about what it might mean for the future, no attention was paid to why the 9/11 attacks were originally launched. President Obama solemnly declared that “justice had been served” but he dared not note the fact that bin Laden had launched the attacks of 2001 in order to obtain “justice” for what American policy in the Muslim world had wrought. Unless the US changes its policies in the Middle East the so-called War On Terror cannot be won. There is a symbiotic relationship between our policies and the resistance we encounter, between our state terrorism and their non-state terrorism.

You cannot bludgeon the connection away by simply honing your tactical abilities to “penetrate and disrupt” because doing so does not “destroy” the reasons for continuing opposition. That is the truth that comes from an objective consideration of the ‘why’ of things. Unlike the Cairo taxi drivers, America’s leadership just does not get it.

Lawrence Davidson Department of History West Chester University West Chester, Pa 19383 USA

DR. LAWRENCE DAVIDSON is professor of Middle East history at West Chester University in West Chester, PA, and the author of America’s Palestine: Popular and Official Perceptions from Balfour to Israeli Statehood (University of Florida Press, 2001), Islamic Fundamentalism (Greenwood Press, 2003), and Foreign Policy, Inc.: Privatizing American National Interest (University of Kentuck Press, 2009).
River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian
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