Oriental ’Orientalists’ and the US Unchanged Policies

Oriental ’Orientalists’ and the US Unchanged Policies

By Elham Hashemi

Media outlets have been trying to anticipate and predict the new Biden Administration’s performance in terms of US domestic and international politics, with much focus on the nuclear deal with Iran known as the JCPOA. 

Articles and Op-eds praised the quick reversal of his predecessor’s decisions such as the reversal of the ‘Muslim Ban’, which may seem like a sign of goodwill. He seems to be giving his administration a façade of diversity which is impressive to the public opinion at least.  

But people of different color and race in the new administration is not necessarily a good thing. If those placed in power do not represent the popular opinions of the communities they come from then it is to no avail. The appointing of Kamala Harris, as the first woman of color to hold the position of Vice President, does nothing unless she is willing to create real change for women of color. 

Also pointing an American-Palestinian, Maher Bitar to a position co-ordinating the stream of information coming in from the US intelligence apparatus does not necessarily mean Biden will retreat from supporting the Israeli apartheid regime. 

According to a report published by the Politico last Friday, Bitar, who served as general counsel to Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee and played an important role in former president Donald Trump’s first impeachment, will assume the post of senior director for intelligence on Mr. Biden’s National Security Council.

The designation of the high-profile Arab-American lawyer to a prominent White House position co-ordinating the stream of information that pours in from the vast US intelligence apparatus and Kamala Harris sounds like Biden has decided to use the “oriental orientalists” to help him push his US policies forward. 

The Joe Biden website reads “Joe knows how we treat Muslim-Americans and prioritize issues affecting them reflects who we are as nation. As President, he will: protect Muslim-American constitutional and civil rights; honor the diversity of Muslim-American communities; ensure adequate healthcare; create a safe learning environment; rebuild our economy with a more resilient, more inclusive middle class; and make communities safer.” But these remain to be words of publicity and an exploitation to the American diversity unless serious steps are made and new policies are made in terms of dealing with the “East”. 

Why should the reversal of the “Muslim Ban” matter when the US is helping destroy many of the Muslim countries on that list? The halting of the border wall is maybe perceived as move of good will too, but wouldn’t it be great and more real if the United States was to also halt its policies which help create many of the refugees trying to find a better life in the United States?

The US Biden administration is different from the Trump administration, probably only in stopping the US staunch support for Saudi Arabia’s war on Yemen. It may arrive to a deal with Iran too on its nuclear program, but simultaneously without addressing the nuclear war heads Israel possesses or the violence and breach of law against other states. 

“Orientalism,” as Edward Said wrote, is “a Western style for dominating, restructuring, and having authority over the Orient.”

The result of this attitude and these policies? A culture in which the Middle East is seen as a playground and a subject for exploration, rather than a region of equal worth and value as the West. This was what the Palestinian-American intellectual and professor Edward Said observed in much detail in his famed book Orientalism, over fifty years ago.

A Mutual Understanding

October 28, 2020

by Nicholas Molodyko for The Saker Blog

They need to understand that we know. We need to understand that they are human.

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn at Harvard University, 1978 © YouTube
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn at Harvard University, 1978 © YouTube

Cancer Ward

From my youth I had a strong connection to Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, but I did not know precisely why. His name was mentioned in our house. His friends were friends of my parents.

Solzhenitsyn was supposed to spend a summer in the late 1970s with our family in Alaska. That was the plan, one that excited me. In preparation, I attempted to read Cancer Ward, the semi-autobiographical novel Solzhenitsyn completed in 1966, a dissection of the cancerous Soviet police state. I was 12 years old. I was unprepared for such a thing. It would be a long time before I had the maturity.

Solzhenitsyn in that spring of 1978 gave the famous commencement speech at Harvard, where he publicly shamed the country’s elite, to an America unprepared to accept such a thing. And it would be a long time before the country even had the maturity to understand and could really do so.

Solzhenitsyn did not visit us in Alaska that year.

Now, I’m over forty years older, Donald Trump is America’s 45th President, and the country is revisiting the prophet’s words. Because President Trump is up against the same angry Harvard crowd.

Under a False Flag

From the earliest days in the build up to the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution, as part of a purely political strategy, Vladimir Lenin attacked Tsar Nicholas II for his alleged mistreatment of Jews and publicly denounced not only all manifestations of antisemitism but everything but the kitchen sink that could be associated with it.

After the Revolution, when Lenin took power in Russia, he endorsed the establishment of special departments for Jewish affairs in both the ruling Communist Party and in the relevant ministry, the Commissariat of Nationalities, headed by Joseph Stalin. Lenin had taken note of the higher percentage of Jews in the revolutionary movement than their proportion in the population, and he initiated the promotion of Jews to higher positions in the state and party apparatus. Lenin essentially took from Oliver Cromwell’s playbook. And, voilà, an elite Jewish politburo was born.

“With the notable exception of Lenin, the majority of the leading figures are Jews. Moreover, the principal inspiration and driving power comes from the Jewish leaders,” said Sir Winston Churchill referring to the Soviet government.

The Bolsheviks claimed power on November 7, 1917 and two days later the fledgling government issued its famous “Decree on Peace.”

The Balfour Declaration, a letter dated November 2, 1917 from British Foreign Secretary Lord Arthur Balfour to Lord Walter Rothschild, a leader of the British Jewish community, for transmission to the Zionist Federation of Great Britain, was then published on the very same day as Lenin’s “Decree on Peace.”

This was kept secret, because in 1917 the British government, through international bankers, offered a national home for Jews in Palestine, at the expense of the land and future of the Palestinians.

The promissory note to Lord Rothschild for the Zionist Federation, the Balfour Declaration, partly drafted by Associate Justice of the Supreme Court Louis Brandeis, and underwritten by U.S. Congress has cost and continues to cost American taxpayers billions of dollars a year.

The year 1917 was a very big year, indeed. A revolutionary one. A transparent cabal of British and American financiers backed Vladimir Lenin and the so-called Jewish “Bolsheviks” set out to destroy Russia and murder tens of millions of Christians, at very same time the Balfour Declaration backed by a secret cartel was signed to establish a Jewish state in the Middle East where Palestinians would be mass murdered, as if by Biblical design.

In “Under a False Flag,” Lenin described a three-phase development of capitalism, culminating in reactionary and militarist imperialism, sustaining itself through super-profits used to secure the support of an aristocracy. It is a Biblical account of opportunism. Then, in “The Deception of the People by the Slogans of Equality and Freedom,” Lenin warns about the elaborate false flag operations and deception perpetuated under the disguise of democracy.

“The best way to control the opposition is to lead it ourselves,” said Vladimir Lenin.

The Politburo

On June 8, 1978, an exiled Russian author spoke out against the malign media and its suppression of independent thought during a commencement speech at Harvard University, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He was in the belly of the elite beast that controls America, and he knew it.

Much has been written about that event. Much has still gone unsaid. I plan to say some of the unsaid things.

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn was a writer in the grand 19th century Russian literary tradition who represents our plight today to defeat violence and lies, the twin pillars of 21st century  authoritarianism, in America. The twin pillars of the totalitarianism in the East in the 20th century that Solzhenitsyn warned us from that day forth.

On that day at Harvard in the 20th century, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s words had the same effect as the preaching of John the Baptist. Both had a sharp message to deliver to an audience they believed had grown complacent and morally decadent.

Solzhenitsyn tried to shake up the exact people he believed were responsible for the decline of the West and installation of a politburo, the shrill war mongers in Washington DC. Similarly, John the Baptist denounced the moral depravity of King Herod and his politburo. The politburo was the principal policymaking committee in the former Soviet Union, founded in 1917, to oversee the violence and lies of the state. It is the most appropriate word.

For his prophetic word, John the Baptist was thrown into a dirty dungeon. Then, on September 11th of that year, to be exact, his head was offered on a platter as a gift from Herod to his equally depraved daughter, Salome. In 1978, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn was banished from the intellectual set in America. Harvard, the New York Times and DC’s politburo put his head on a metaphorical cocktail tray.

When the most influential group of American intellectuals, liberals and Neoconservatives alike, united against one man, a Russian refuge in a New England town, there was unquestionably a John the Baptist vibe. Both prophets were dismembered, dismissed for saying too much.

Speaking of prophets, the esteemed Palestinian scholar Edward W. Said wrote that “American Orientalism” is unique because it is seen almost entirely thru the prism of Israel. To be precise, the Zionist Israel of the Ashkenazi European Jews. He’s been dead for nearly 17 years. But the British are pathologically relentless in their perverse cruelty and continue to this day post mortem to brutally smear Edward Said for saying too much. He has been dismissed by the Zionist powers even in death.

Today, we simply cannot dismiss the most uncomfortable part, the distinct roles that atheist Jews have played in empire and in the installation of a suzerain or politburo in the Holy Roman, Habsburg, Russian, French, British, and American Empires, and in the outcomes of the Israel project via the World Wars and the British Zionist enterprise today. But, let’s get one thing straight. Capisce? We are talking about a policy making minority of white, liberal, atheist, intellectual elites, not Jews, in general. Not by a long shot. John the Baptist and Solzhenitsyn were warning us about the conspiracy of identity politics, not about Jews. They were warning us about rich, atheist oppressors. They were not fingering religious Jews.

I think Zionism in America today is best understood as what is left of the politburo —decades of clandestine operations of a rogue network of military-industrial complex officials and intelligence agents involved in an invisible government supporting a British enterprise. Zionism has more in common with a corporation than a religion or even a political ideology. Zionism has got little to do with religious Jews. In fact, Zionism is opposed to Judaic dogma and is thus heretical. Not to mention that Zionism is next level schismatic.

The Schismatics

Let’s start at the beginning. There are three Abrahamic religions, a group of Semitic-originated religions that claim descent from the Judaism of the ancient Israelites and the worship of the God of Abraham. According to the Hebrew calendar, this is the year 5,781. Christianity was founded 2,020 years ago, and Islam 1,450 years ago. Each religion was originally a whole one. Over time, each has encountered schism.

A schism is a division between people, usually belonging to a religious denomination. The word is most frequently applied to a split in what had previously been a single religious body, such as “the Great Schism” of Christianity in 1054 between Orthodoxy (true faith) in the East and the Roman Catholic Church in the West. Then, the Western Church became highly political and split into a million pieces.

A schismatic is a person who creates or incites schism in an organization or who is a member of a splinter group. Schismatic as an adjective means pertaining to a schism or schisms, or to those ideas or policies that are thought to lead towards or promote schism. In religion, the charge of schism is distinguished from that of heresy, since the offense of schism concerns not differences of belief or doctrine but promotion of, or the state of, division.

However, schisms frequently involve heresy, but it becomes the matter of a political point of view rather than a church law. For instance the Orthodox Church considers the Roman Catholic Church heretical but the Catholic Church says that the Orthodox Church is schismatic. Because the Orthodox Christian Church is not a political organization.

While Christianity was intended as a beautiful religion of peace, some of the schismatic pieces are heretical, politically aggressive and even war-like.

Orthodox Christianity is one of three original true Abrahamic faiths —Orthodox Christianity, Orthodox Judaism and Orthodox Islam. Each has suffered schisms and with each spilt, like cancer cells, the divisions have increased toxicity, chaos and conflict and decreased full unity and peace.

As breaks in a religion increase and church laws or canons are broken in favor of a new branch, the least canonical branches become the most political. While, there are several formal branches of Jewish faith (Reform, Conservative, Orthodox and Reconstructionist Judaism), Zionism is purely political but has somehow retained a religious imprint. This is because Zionism is a product of the British Empire, namely Western intelligence services.

The schisms within Orthodox Christianity today are regional and related to the Catholic Church, such as what has been going on in Ukraine —all orchestrated by Western intelligence services such as America’s CIA and Britain’s MI6. A schism in Orthodox Islam emerged into public consciousness at the end of the 1970s —the Sunnis and Shias. In 1978, the Islamic revolution in Iran, orchestrated, once again by the CIA and MI6, brought politics front and center.

This political strategy of cancerous attack on a faith, religious metastasis, is a fundamental aspect of atheist philosophy as it is applied in the ideologies of Nazism, Bolshevism, and Neoconservatism. It is the basic principle of divide and rule, but applied to a sovereign religion, not a sovereign state.

Zionist Ze’ev Jabotinsky, co-founder of the Jewish Legion of the British army in World War I in Poland, was a journalist who died as Vladimir Jabotinsky in 1940, near Hunter, New York. He founded the militant Zionist Revisionist movement that played an important role in the establishment of the State of Israel. During the 1920s and 1930s, Jabotinsky and his movement were frequently called fascist.

Polish Zionist Jabotinsky and his buddies implemented a staggering number of permutations that did divisive harm to Judaism. At the same time, the permutations enabled Polish Zionism to appeal to a broader base of supporters than any other Jewish political movement. This created an elite leadership that was vastly out of touch with the majority of Jewish people.

Sound familiar? It should. Because Zionism is the living definition of identity politics. It is a perversion. Like “angiogenesis” in a cancer, which is perversion of a normal cellular process, a perversion that is an essential requirement for the development of cancer. Thus, attempts to stop the spread of a cancer in a human body that can easily result in killing the person. The Western intelligence services attack in a political war-like fashion the immune systems of the peaceful Abrahamic religions.

The Transparent CabalIsraeli Prime Minister Golda Meir with Sen. Henry “Scoop” Jackson during a reception at Israeli Ambassador to the United States Yitzhak Rabin’s residence in Washington, D.C. © Moshe Milner/GPO

Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir with Sen. Henry “Scoop” Jackson during a reception at Israeli Ambassador to the United States Yitzhak Rabin’s residence in Washington, D.C. © Moshe Milner/GPO

In his 2008 book, The Transparent Cabal: The Neoconservative Agenda, War in the Middle East, and the National Interest of Israel, Stephen J. Sniegoski describes in great detail how Neoconservatives were the driving force behind the Bush administration’s war in Iraq, their motivation was based on their belief that American interests in the Middle East are virtually identical with the Israeli Likud party’s beliefs about Israeli interests in the region, and these mutual interests lie in destabilizing Israel’s adversaries and reconfiguring the environment rather than in the traditional American policy of stabilizing the Middle East.

They began to see McGovern and Carter Democrats and the Nixon and Ford Republicans as insufficiently devoted to anti-communism, military strength, interventionism and Israel and gravitated first to Senator Henry Jackson (D-WA) and then to the Reagan Republicans.

Sniegoski argues that, while the Neoconservatives were the driving force for the war with Iraq in 2003, the basic idea of offensive war to weaken Israel’s neighbors, induce regime change and reconfigure the region has been an element of Zionist thinking since Vladimir Jabotinsky in the 1920s.

The barbaric Zionist Jews that caused the Great Terror remained in power in the Soviet Union until Joseph Stalin had to purge (murder) them. Consequently, U.S. Senator Jackson went on to become the patron saint of those outcasted Soviet Jews and his legacy, while mostly clandestine, can be glimpsed at briefly through the Henry Jackson Society, a Transatlantic foreign policy think tank based in London. Its purpose is “the promotion of liberal democracy across the world,” and it is currently focused primarily on “supporting global democracy in the face of threats from China and Russia.” Importantly, the Henry Jackson Society in England is the sister organization to The Atlantic Council in America, a den of vipers.

“Senator Henry Jackson, the Solzhenitsyn Affair, and American Liberalism,” by Jeff Bloodworth (2006) provides a sanitized version of how Jackson exploited Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn with his anti-communism campaign. Clearly, the CIA was heavily involved and poached Solzhenitsyn as its asset. And it did not go well.

For his “defense of the rights of the Jewish people,” in 1983 an international panel selected the late Senator Henry Jackson as a recipient of the first “Jabotinsky Prize: Shield of Jerusalem” award.

Identity Politics

There is a unique historical relationship between capitalism and Jews that is crucial to understanding America. Why Jews have tended to be disproportionately successful in capitalism, the Jewish role in the development of capitalism, and the role of capitalism in the fate of Jews. In a way, Jews unknowingly were the early agents of globalization.

Like today’s web strategists and technologists, Jews were keen on building networks across national borders. And like today’s high-tech entrepreneurs, the global Jewish diaspora managed to utilize this network for their benefit. Who wouldn’t? The relationship is best understood in the context of identity politics and the function of  conspiracy inherent to capitalism.

Identity politics in America began in 1973, the year the first volume of Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipeilago was published in the West. In fact, if you take a look at the “Solzhenitsyn affair” which involved Neoconservative U.S. Senator Henry Jackson, President Nixon, Vice President Gerald Ford, the birth of “human rights,” the Helsinki Commission, and the emigration of millions of Soviet Jewry to America, you get a much better understanding of the people who consider themselves to be the elite in U.S. today.

In response to Republican President Nixon, it was Democrat Senator Jackson and House Representative Charles Vanik who passed a bill in 1974 denying the Soviet bloc most favored nation trading status unless it granted Jews freedom to emigrate. The first piece of U.S. legislation inspired by the “Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” the Jackson‐Vanik amendment has acted as a catalyst in hastening Soviet Jewish emigration policies.

Since the mid-1960s, nearly half a million Jews from the former Soviet Union have settled in the United States. They constitute the largest single group of Jewish immigrants to enter the U.S. since the 1920s. Although they share kinship ties with the many American Jews whose roots are also in the pre-communist Russian empire, their lives have been shaped by different forces: the Bolshevik revolution and life in a communist state. Like American Jews, contemporary emigres are distinguished by high levels of skill and education, are urban and disproportionately professionals. Unlike most American Jews, they have had minimal exposure to formal Jewish training and Jewish religious life, and no experience with a highly organized Jewish community.

This is a tremendous piece of American history. Soviet Jews have been steadily streaming into the U.S. for decades, to the point of even insulting Israel, which campaigned hard on their behalf and had hoped to populate itself with the Jewish emigres. The U.S. has long had an open policy to Jews, which continued even after the Soviets cracked open their borders. Soviet Jews were not forced out due to war, famine or natural disaster and didn’t seek refugee status. This is an important point today. Because some may have been fleeing prosecution for crimes against humanity during the Great Terror.

Enormous resources were invested in this immigration of Soviet Jews by the U.S. Government. Accordingly, Soviet Jews in the U.S. created an ecosystem of prosperity around themselves and the Jews who mass migrated to Israel.

According to Pew, after the fall of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, Israel’s largest wave of Jewish immigrants arrived from Russia and other former Soviet republics. These immigrants far outnumbered those from other countries since Israel achieved statehood. According to Pew, Soviet Jews brought a secular mindset to Israel, and more than two decades later, Jews who were born in the FSU continue to be noticeably less religious than Israeli Jews overall. Secular means atheist: 81% FSU-born Jews in Israel self-identify as secular. Importantly, 25% of Israel’s population is made up of Jews from USSR and these Soviet Jews are running Israel’s Likud government.

We must insert Canada here. Throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, Canada has been one of the most active centers of former Soviet Jewish immigration. Toronto has attracted disproportionate numbers of immigrants: over 47% of all new immigrants to Canada have settled in Toronto in the late 1990s. About 70% of former Soviet Jewish immigrants to Canada reside in Toronto. According to the 1996 Canadian census, nationally there were about 16,000 Jews born of Russian/Soviet parents, mostly refugees – arrivals of the 1970s and 1980s.

Toronto is the most Zionist community in the world.  Toronto is also an international hot spot for all types of bigotry and heinous hate crimes. Toronto is important to our story for one reason. Zionist operatives there are complete morons, so much so that they exposed with their own incompetence the biggest subversive cultural revolution in the history of the world.

The anti-religious enthusiasm that once galvanized the secular Jews of Russia produced long-lasting results for Jewish immigrants. The religious Jew became “the other.” Thus, identity politics is yet another underhanded attempt to install policies of white supremacy via the tactics of British East India Company, predicated on the “representation” of approved minority individuals who appear as part of the elite class —educated, monied, brainwashed.

Identity politics as a school of thought is Hitler’s racist ideology with a fresh coat of paint. The paint comes from an exclusive manufacturer that gives each paint color the thoughtful name of a Pantone pedigree which can used across global industries with ease.

Zionism is Slippery

Zionism is an especially slippery one, and that is its most marked characteristic.

On November 10, 1975 UN Resolution 3379 passed which defined Zionism as a form of racism and racial discrimination. The Soviet Union originated the idea leading up to the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. What national consensus influenced the Soviet Union to take such a step?

Remember, Zionists Jews played a highly disproportionate and probably decisive role effectively dominating the Soviet terror regime during its early years and in a genocide of tens of millions of Christians.

In 1975, the UN General Assembly adopted resolution 3379, which “determine(d) that Zionism is a form of racism and racial discrimination.” Fifteen years later, on December 16 1991, that resolution was revoked. The UN had defined Zionism as a racist ideology. It was repealed in 1991 when Israel and the U.S. initially refused to participate in the Madrid Peace Conference.

The Madrid Peace Conference, held from October 30 to November 1, 1991, marked the first time that Israeli leaders negotiated face to face with delegations from Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, and, most importantly, with the Palestinians.

The year 1991 was also the year that communism fell. That year and the George H.W. Bush legacy in the Middle East —the Gulf War and the Madrid peace conference— continue to shape U.S. policy in the region a quarter century later.

Most people do not seem to understand that Jewish is not a race. However, how Jewish today is applied has subversively made it one. Jews come in all sizes, shapes and colors including black. A Jew is not just a willow thin white lady with a Harvard degree and a Park Avenue apartment full of Chanel suits who works as a staff writer at the New York Times. The Manhattan doyenne is literally the racist version.

Zionism dictates racial and religious supremacy. Israel, a state built on ethnically cleansed land, thus operates under the veil of a democracy in which the Jewish population is the exclusive beneficiary of the democratic process. However, Israel’s Jewish population is itself stratified within an ethnic hierarchy, where prosperous Ashkenazi (white Jews of European descent) dominate the economy, media and politics. In comparison, Mizrahi and Sephardi (Jews of MENA descent) suffer socio-economic hardship.

If you have ever been to Jerusalem, you know what I am describing. The disparity is shocking. It is like going to the Jim Crow South in America. It is a type of white supremacy. It is racism. It is apartheid, but even worse. It is severe brutality, communist strength brutality. This type of racism means that white lady at the New York Times can write about everybody else and decide on their narratives. Moreover, like anti-Semitism, racism is part of the racket of the Zionist Cultural Revolution.

Racism is all too evident in Israel. Ruling class Zionists cause the hardship that the Mizrahi and Sephardi suffer. Through rhetoric and vitriol they’re able to redirect anger toward African migrant communities who’re victims of greater oppression themselves. It’s a mess, but you never hear about it. The media, the Jerusalem press corps, sees to that.

Zionism is a white, Ashkenazi phenomenon, based on the denial of the Orient and the rights of both Mizrahi Jews and the Palestinians, “the other.” You could call it white supremacy and you’d be right. Solzhenitsyn detailed it in the banned book, 200 Years Together, which documents the mutual understanding between Russians and Jews of the Soviet Union. Solzhenitsyn could have easily been writing about Neoconservatives in America.

The Zionist Cultural Revolution

There’s an uncomfortable similarity between the Zionist Neoconservatives in America —and their dedicated “intelligence community” such as the CIA and the NSA— and the Zionist Bolsheviks who ran the early Soviet terror agencies that committed all of the atrocities: NKVD, Cheka, KGB, and GRU —80% of Stalin’s Soviet government, from bottom to top. Zionists were responsible for The Great Terror and the genocides of tens of millions, “The New Martyrs” —all of those who were martyred in the years of severe persecutions against the faith and the Orthodox Church, which continues in the world for over 70 years in the 21st century.

The persecution started immediately after the 1917 October Revolution, when the Bolsheviks took over. The persecution against the faithful was purposeful and long, and surpassed in cruelty all the previous persecutions against the Church, including those by the Roman emperors in the first, second, and third centuries. The Bolsheviks created an antihuman and criminal ideology to guide rulers for decades. This ideology led to millions of victims, the people of different beliefs and social status. They began with the class struggle against the nobility and merchant class followed by the dispossession of well-to-do peasants, then resettlement and destruction of whole ethnic communities. One destruction campaign followed another and these criminal actions continued for several decades. The Russian Orthodox Church was only one of the targets of that suicidal campaign waged by the authorities against their own people.

The number is unknown, whether it was tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands or millions, because the whole truth about those years will never be revealed. Not all the archives will ever be opened so that the records could reveal who remained faithful to the end and who stumbled. Besides, there are many forgeries in the transcripts of interrogation we use to restore the story of a given new martyr. Some recorded as having renounced their faith did not actually do that.

Revolutions are always atheist in nature. The Zionist cultural revolution is the revolution of revolutions. In fact, it seems to have been modeled on the fall of Byzantium. Atheist revolutionaries spread religious disunity and divide the majority of people as a means to gain political or territorial advantage for a minority of atheists. A revolution can manifest as an inner enemy which appears within the bowels of society to break its spirit, turning the majority into a helpless victim of the minority or suzerainty as it did in Byzantium after nearly twelve hundred years of peaceful living.

I wrote this a year ago: “I am not going to go into detail about the Neocons because there’s really not too much to say beyond the salient fact that they are a deliberately constructed social group, almost like a secret society, that has only one unifying principle: to make money and do it anyway they desire, because when you are morally bankrupt the world is your oyster of possibilities. Neoconservatives identify themselves as whomever is paying them to do so. In layman’s terms, we would call them con artists.”

From a policy perspective, the reference that makes most sense to the Neocons and racist Zionist Jews, in general, is the one instance in our country’s history of American authoritarianism — the one party terror state that was the Jim Crow South — was built on minority rule. The degree of discrimination against blacks under Jim Crow was unparalleled. Yet elite opinion at the time sanctioned it as legally-mandated white supremacy. This is exactly the same kind of warped thinking and public manipulation we see among Neocons today.

The “intelligence community” believes the U.S. was built on this superiority of white men. Their professional culture was shaped by that system. Slavery and Jim Crow may be behind us, and attitudes have no doubt become more open and tolerant over time, but they remain unchanged.

Racist Neoconservatives have run Washington DC this way. The Zionist elite minority and their cult-like war machine. Their think tanks, in particular, should all be abolished like slavery and then segregation was.

What is the difference between the oppressors in the U.S. “intelligence community” and the infamous oppressors of Nazi and Soviet secret police? Nothing. The slightly longer answer to that question is that the Americans are clumsy to the point of incompetence and even more arrogant than the Germans and Russians.

“Stalin’s terror” is, in fact, Zionist terror. Anti-Jewish sentiment is widespread among people of the former USSR because Jews played a highly disproportionate and probably decisive role effectively dominating the Soviet terror regime during its early years. In turn, Neoconservatives carried this torch to America and along with the fabricated “war in Iraq” in 2003, lied their way to achieve nearly every war since World War Two.

The use of terror to revolutionize society is an historical precedent established by the Bolsheviks. We need to talk about the bullies in America’s politburo. We need to talk about their exploitation of religion. We need to talk about the British Zionist enterprise —The Saker (Andrei Raevsky) calls this the “AngloZionist Empire” —in relation to America’s alliance with Israel. We need to look at racial trouble in the U.S. and issues like “cancel culture” with respect to the Zionist Cultural Revolution.

U.S. President Trump has encouraged these conversations. You just were not aware that this is part and parcel of “draining the swamp.” He’s turned the British Zionist enterprise upside down. He’s called their bluff. Donald Trump is essentially “containing” Zionism to use a word that the Neocons understand. The Zionism he seeks to contain is the toxic part, the white supremacist ideology. For example, Trump is pushing back against the rising tide of Marxist critical theory. He’s quietly containing the Zionist cultural revolution in America. In order to contain today’s cultural threats, the oppression must be eliminated.

At the same time, Israel is rejecting that political Zionism. Slowly. It’s a process. A very slow one. Apartheid in South Africa was not resolved over night. Apartheid is a cancer in the body politic of the world. One of the largest Christian denomination, the Dutch Reformed Church (NGK), used Christian theology to argue a theological support for the Apartheid regime. The Dutch Reformed Church, with 3 million Christian members, remained the “official religion” of the Apartheid-supporting National Party.

How the Zionist regime and settler colonialism will be brought to an end is an important question to discuss. The clearest and most practical vision to date seems to be that, as in South Africa, the Zionist state will have no choice but to capitulate.

How the Zionist cultural revolution will be brought to an end is the question we all must face if we want to stop the chaos in the world. We need a mutual understanding of the answer.

Live Not By Lies

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn wrote the essay “Live not by Lies” in 1974 on the same day in February that year that secret police broke into his apartment and arrested him. The next day he was exiled to West Germany.

Everybody today knows that the media is a horrific problem. The extent of lying in the press is simply out of control. Now we need to better understand why journalists gesticulate wildly on social media, wave their arms in the air at the New York Times, shout at the crowd from CNNand MSNBC, invent things in the Washington Post, and try to attract the fame and attention they feel they deserve in The Atlantic.

All those years ago, Solzhenitsyn attempted to inform the world that the Bolsheviks committed the greatest human slaughter of all time. And he said the fact that most of the world is ignorant and uncaring about this enormous crime is proof that the “fourth estate” —the press, the media, and the profession of journalism— is in the hands of the Bolshevik perpetrators. He was warning that the “fourth estate” is the “fifth column.” Today the media is visibly filled with the “intelligence community.” Simply turn on CNN; former intelligence agency officials are now political commentators.

Julian Assange reported that nearly every war that has started in the last 50 years has been a result of media lies. The “intelligence community” has him locked up in a British prison.

The Balfour Declaration was only considered to be a first step that would enable the British Government to entreat the sympathies of world Jewry, for the Entente war effort and a British Palestine. To that end, the Government quickly embarked upon an elaborate and extensive propaganda campaign. This endeavour was undertaken with the ever present advice and work of Britain’s Zionist supporters in London. Together, British officials and Zionists sought to create and disseminate the myth that the Jewish nation was about to be reborn in Palestine under British auspices, which would capture the Jewish imagination but would in no way commit the Government to anything beyond the vague terms of the Balfour Declaration.

This was the sum of British policy towards the Zionist movement for the remainder of the war and the extent of the Anglo-Zionist alliance, as it was originally conceived by the British Government. Journalism has been a British military strategy since 1917.

Journalism in America today is, in fact, Zionist “hasbara” and therefore, by design, is intended to hide the truth. Hasbara is the Israeli word for how Zionists explain to the world through the Jerusalem press corps their slaughter of Palestinians. It is almost never the truth. Zionist propaganda and the most ridiculous lies. The sole purpose of Zionist hasbara is to side step conspiracy.

For example, maybe the biggest historic example, in fact, whenever there’s an attempt to discuss ancient Christianity and its legacy of Eastern Orthodox Christianity —iconoclasm, persecution, martyrdom, and subsequently a massive, Holocaust-like, genocide of Christians— it is shut down in the same manner that Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and others were when speaking of Jews as perpetrators.

Simply put, the Orthodox Christian Church is not a political organization. While the Church is a global body, it does not function like a transnational corporation. Any “power” has been decentralized. Inasmuch as there is no PR, marketing, or even a spokesperson to be found, the Orthodox Church is even without the Madison Avenue language necessary to express the concept of the “New Martyrs” in secular terms.

Christianity has always been anti-imperialistic. Of the currently existing autocephalous Orthodox Churches the most ancient are the Jerusalem, Alexandrian and Antiochian Churches founded by the Holy Apostles. Later, Byzantium, in 330 AD which was pretty peaceful for nearly twelve hundred years. And the ideology of pre-1917 Russia might be described as a kind of “Orthodox monarchism.”

In other words, Christian imperialism exists in the West today in the person of the Pope. In the East, it was and remains a temptation. Orthodox Christianity peacefully held the nations of Byzantium together for twelve hundred years, not imperialism. Since 1453 and the fall of Constantinople, anti-Christian forces worldwide, and destructive forces inside the broader Christian Church itself have carried out the real imperialistic plans.

Christians are the victims of worldwide persecution and this does not minimize the Holocaust nor demonetize Islam. The untold story of the 20th century is the murder of over 50 million Christians, mostly at the hands of communist and Islamic regimes. Christian genocide has continued into the 21st century. In an era when we get get statistics for nearly anything at our fingertips within seconds, some how the number of Christian lives lost to terrorism, war, genocide and mass murder is strangely missing.

It is estimated that the number of Christian martyrs during the 20th century far exceeds that of all the martyrs who died for Christ during the first three centuries of Christianity. Simply combine Christian mass murders worldwide.

The political scientist, adviser and academic who spent more than half a century at Harvard University, Samuel P. Huntington has been credited with forecasting the cultural and religious context in which a 9/11-type incident could emerge. In 1993 Huntington argued that with the collapse of communism, ideological rivalries would no longer drive global affairs. Conflict would occur between groups defined by culture, religion and identity. His thesis was propped up amid NATO’s fresh attacks on the Slavic (Orthodox Christianity) fraternity.

Huntington is the Zionist cult scholar who inspired “Israel Lobby” book by John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt. Another Zionist cult political scientist Zbigniew Brzezinski (the father of corporate media maven Mika Brzezinski), back in 1997, in his book The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and Its Geostrategic Imperatives wrote: “After the victory over communism, we need a split of Orthodoxy and the breakdown of Russia, and Ukraine, where betrayal is the norm of public morality, will help us in this.”

When Zionist Brzezinski died, Zionist Radek Sikorski, the former foreign minister of Poland and “a distinguished statesman at the Brzezinski Institute on Geostrategy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies” wrote a very telling love letter to “Zbig” in the Washington PostZionist Sikorski is married to an American columnist, Zionist Anne Applebaum. Applebaum and her husband serve as British foreign agents of influence. Lucas is British. Are Sikorski and Applebaum the Julius and Ethel Rosenberg of the 21st century? Communists? Maybe not, but they have not been playing for Team USA. Applebaum has spent the better part of her dreadful writing career trashing the conservative Catholic majority of Poland, which is literally all of Poland. The country is at least 93% Roman Catholic in faith. Also, Anne Applebaum heavily plagiarized Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (several books worth) and censored out the parts incriminating the cabal of atheist Jews and the Anglo-American “intelligence community” or their unspeakable crimes in Soviet Russia, so there’s that.

According to U.S. President Jimmy Carter’s National Security Adviser, Brzezinski, after the collapse of communism, the Zionist West’s main opponent became the Orthodox Christian Church. The Balkan wars manufactured by NATO in the late 1990s were a manifestation of this concept. Samuel Huntington peddled an international conspiracy theory that became the cornerstone of NATO after the fall of the USSR.

I wrote this a year ago and it has taken me that long to get the full depth and vastness of the terror: “Remember, the true religions prevent the New World Order, that is the crux here. With that in mind, you should know, if you don’t already, that Orthodox Christianity is the truest form of Christianity. It just is. Don’t argue with me, just accept it. Here comes the worse part. After the devastation that NATO caused in Serbia in the 1990s people started to notice a pattern with NATO operations after the second World War, specifically that the Alliance was bombing Christians. For a person like me, I don’t normally think in such terms so that before the recent crisis in Ukraine, I myself brushed it off as a conspiracy theory. Well, guys, it is not.”

If you turn your eyes to a think tank (read shit hole) in DC, the Center for European Analysis(CEPA), which is a National Endowment for Democracy (NED) spinoff and initially directed by Zbigniew Brzezinski and Madeline Albright, you can arrive at the current day. You will find Ben Hodges at CEPA. Also, Anne Applebaum and CEPA’s Edward Lucas crowned themselves the king and queen of “disinformation” when the crisis in Ukraine broke out. It’s a small world, huh?

Zionist Albright spelled out the first two decades of the new millennium in 1998: “As we prepare to undertake NATO’s first post-Cold War expansion next spring, prior to the Summit, the Alliance is considering its vision for the future, and initiatives critical to preparing NATO for the 21st century.” The transparent cabal have focused on so-called “disinformation.” Check out Albright’s speech at the Atlantic Council in 2017 regarding the alleged threat of “digital disinformation.”

Life is full of disinformation, it’s called lying.

Tintin in the Land of the Soviets

The very first adventure of one of the world's most beloved cartoon characters.

The very first adventure of one of the world’s most beloved cartoon characters.

If someone would give me a handsome book deal, I’d love to do a children’s book or even young adult franchise in tribute to 1929 publication, “Tintin in the Land of the Soviets” and Belgian cartoonist Hergé, where Tintin discovers the truth about the Bolsheviks, specifically the theft of the country’s wealth by its leadership.

Listen, Vladimir Lenin was a grifter who exploited the Jews. This is a simple and easily understandable message that we ought to convey broadly. In fact, in the original book, Tintin stumbles upon the secret cache of riches that Stalin, Lenin, and Trotsky have stolen from the Soviet people.

Armed with this knowledge, Tintin flees Russia with his faithful dog called Snowy returning safely to Belgium and is greeted with great pomp by the rapturous public. The ending to my book would be just as magnificent as the original. Because in my book the pathological hatred for President Trump, the Neoconservative fifth column and their think tanks in our nation’s capital would be really explosive.

I would update the story for 2020 in America and my character would visit “the Land of the Neoconservatives.” Because the Bolsheviks —Stalin, Lenin, and Trotsky— were a British cabal in Russia just like the Neoconservatives are today in America. A sneaky fifth column of total frauds supported by the same dark financial structure in the City of London, in the interest of the global elite. I might even use the phrase “Davos Man” Samuel P. Huntington penned in a paper about elites and “an emerging global superclass” of “Davos men” or “gold-collar workers.”

I am actually quite serious. The mutual understanding is one that we ought to be teaching kids as soon as they can understand that conspiracy is a part of modern life. Importantly, convey the message that conspiracy aims to divide us and is a most always blamed on the victim.

No, the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917 was not a Jewish plot. In fact, kids ought to learn about the function of economic conspiracies and the political perversion of the religions so they don’t grow up to be adults who fall for hate propaganda and deceitful intellectual ideologies.

To find unity, let’s bring conspiracy out of the shadows.

While Solzhenitsyn’s work was a significant contribution to such mutual understanding, many were offended by his suggestion that some Jews also need to come to terms with their sins. I take a different stand, maybe because I have the benefit of hindsight and luxury of progress. I say we need to look at ourselves. Look within U.S. foreign policy. Look at the trillions of dollars that America has sent in aid to fund the Israel project. Don’t blame the “Jooz.”

I believe that we are at an important crossroads of knowledge. It is time for everybody to take a closer inspection in the mirror to reflect on how we arrived here, in order to fully shift the understanding internally. The mirror reveals it all, crystal clear, if we’re willing to look.

There are plenty of other people who understand the depth and breath of Solzhenitsyn’s message. Kim R. Holmes, the Executive Vice President, at The Heritage Foundation is one of them. Read his excellent article, which sort of dovetails my own. And read writer (and Jazz saxophonist) Gilad Atzmon regarding the U.S. military-industrial complex.  “America is willing to sacrifice its young soldiers and national interests and even its economy for Israel,” writes Atzmon. Also, get familiar with the plight of the Torah Jews. They are my team! Finally, always read Andrei Raevsky (The Saker), and here is one he wrote for The Unz Review.

Spiritual Awakening

Our awareness of Alexander Solzhenitsyn seems to have been awakened following Ukraine’s coup d’état in 2014 that was backed by Washington, when several Russian-language publications decided to revisit Solzhenitsyn’s statements about the two neighboring countries made throughout his life. After all, he foretold today’s Ukrainian crisis.

The veil of the mutual understanding was lifted in Ukraine. Did Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn change the course of either the East or the West? Maybe not back then. But his words have had residual impact since the Harvard speech, for certain, and we are only now really starting to appreciate them as we should, four decades later.

Alexander Solzhenitsyn spoke of a “moral revolution” that would move beyond the excesses of modernity, yet without returning to the spiritual despotisms of the past. Because he instinctively knew that the so-called “intelligence community” was up to no good and was scheming to split peaceful religions and society, in general. The Bolsheviks had relied on those covert actions. And ascetic religions were and are the enemy of the “intelligence community,” back then and now, because these religious practices allow a man to take control of himself in a powerful way, to think for himself.

Thus, the immediate threat to American national security is our military-industrial complex and specifically its intelligence agencies that pervert religions around the world. Alexander Solzhenitsyn said it all those years ago at Harvard. But he used words we did not understand at the time. Because we were not prepared to hear them.

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn understood that spiritual genocide, a cancer resulting from a system, like communism, can be not only be difficult to recognize—and many people are entirely unaware that this type of terror even exists.

Let’s try internal realization instead of finger pointing. When we seek knowledge about the world’s damaged bullies through compassion and understanding, we will eventually come to a state of full unity through mutual understanding. This is what Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn tried.

They need to understand that we know. We need to understand that they are human.

Solzhenitsyn sought to encourage a mutual understanding between Russians and Jews. He even cooperated with the CIA until it became clear that they like the Jewish politburo in the Soviet government were equally as perverted, equally as corrupted from their original course.

The mutual understanding is that the peaceful religions have been been perverted for the purpose of terror. We only now can begin to understand all of this. Because we are finally having a spiritual awakening in America.

On a policy level, this leads to better decision making. Because humility fosters critical thinking. It is also important in ending wars and in conflict resolution. It enables a policy where a nation is more likely to accept that it wrongfully provoked war. And this kind of public policy starts with education of the very young.

“It’s a universal law — intolerance is the first sign of an inadequate education. An ill-educated person behaves with arrogant impatience, whereas truly profound education breeds humility,” said Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.

Nicholas Molodyko is a writer in Chicago who writes about Western popular culture and politics in relation to the secret history of the Eastern religions. After writing professionally in the fields of public health research and international development, while working in Europe, Asia and Africa, he is now writing independently at Mediapart in France.

An Attack on Edward Said’s Legacy


by Lawrence Davidson

Lawrence Davidson | Author | Common Dreams

Part I—Meeting Caroline Glick

I traveled to Israel and the Occupied Territories in the early 2000s with the progressive group Faculty for Israeli-Palestinian Peace. We made an effort to gain insight into most of the players in the conflict, and so a series of interviews was arranged with members of the Israeli right wing. I remember that one of them was Caroline Glick, an ardent American-Israeli Zionist. She lectured us on the positive personal relationships allegedly prevalent between Israeli Jews and Palestinians. 

It was an interesting and somewhat embarrassing experience. Glick and I are both American and both Jewish. Growing up, I had this understanding that American plus Jewish always meant being anti-racist. To be so was, in my mind, the prime lesson of modern Jewish history. What being anti-racist meant to Glick was unclear. She spent the better part of an hour giving us a defense of Israeli-Jewish treatment of Palestinians based on the classic “some of my best friends are Black” (read Palestinian) defense. In the words of the New York Times journalist John Eligon, this line of argument “has so often been relied on by those facing accusations of racism that it has become shorthand for weak denials of bigotry—a punch line about the absence of thoughtfulness and rigor in our conversations about racism.” And so it was with Glick, who explained that she, and many other Israeli Jews, had Palestinians who do small jobs for them and are treated well, and that this proves a lack of cultural and societal racism. It was such a vacuous argument that I remember feeling embarrassed for her. 

Things haven’t gotten much better when it comes to Ms. Glick’s worldview. She is now a senior columnist at Israel Hayom (Israel Today, a pro-Netanyahu newspaper owned by the family of Sheldon Anderson) and contributor to such questionable U.S. outlets as Breitbart NewsShealso directs the Israeli Security Project at the David Horowitz Freedom Center. There can be little doubt that she continues to see the world through the distorting lens of a particularly hardline variant of Zionism.  

Part II—Glick’s Attack on Edward Said’s Legacy 

Recently, Caroline Glick launched an attack on the legacy of the late American-Palestinian scholar and teacher Edward Said. Entitled “Edward Said, Prophet of Political Violence in America,” it was recently (7 July 2020) published in the U.S. by Newsweek—a news magazine with an increasingly pro-Zionist editorial stand. As it turns out, one cannot find a better example of how ideology can distort one’s outlook to the point of absurdity. Below is an analysis of Glick’s piece in a point-by-point fashion. Ultimately, the ideological basis for her argument will become clear. 

1. Glick begins by resurrecting a twenty-year-old event. “On July 3, 2000, an incident occurred along the Lebanese border with Israel that, at the time, seemed both bizarre and … unimportant. That day, Columbia University professor Edward Said was photographed on the Hezbollah-controlled Lebanese side of the border with Israel throwing a rock at an Israel Defense Forces watchtower 30 feet away.” She goes on to describe this act as “Said’s rock attack on Israel” and the “soldiers protecting their border.”

We need some context to put all of this in perspective: Israel is an expansionist state, and the original Zionist aim (as presented to the Paris Peace Conference following World War I) was to incorporate parts of southern Lebanon into what is now Israel. Southern Lebanon also briefly became a staging area for Palestinian retaliatory attacks into Israel. Thus, Israel invaded Lebanon multiple times only to be forced to withdraw in the face of resistance led by Hezbollah, a strong Lebanese Shiite militia in control of much of southern Lebanon.  

Said relates that during his 2000 visit to the Lebanese border with his family, he threw a pebble (not a “rock”) at a deserted Israeli watchtower (no Israeli soldiers were “defending their border”).  Said saw this as a symbolic act of defiance against Israeli occupation. Over the years stone throwing by Palestinian youth had become just such a symbolic act. And, it was from their example that Said might have taken his cue.

2. However, Glick wants to draw highly questionable consequences from Said’s act. She tells us that “with the hindsight of 20 years, it was a seminal moment and a harbinger for the mob violence now taking place in many parts of America.” By the way, the “mob violence” in America she is referring to is the mass protests against police brutality that followed the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police on 25 May 2020.

3. Now that sounds a bit odd. How does Glick manage this segue from Edward Said’s symbolic stone toss in the year 2000 to nationwide inner-city rebellions against police brutality in 2020 America? Here is the contorted sequence she offers: 

a. Said was a terrorist because he was an influential member of the alleged “terrorist organization,” the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO). “Terrorist organization” is a standard Zionist descriptor of most Palestinian organizations. Actually, the PLO is the legally recognized representative of the Palestinian people and as such has carried on both a armed and a diplomatic struggle to liberate Palestine from Israeli Occupation. In 1993, the PLO recognized Israel’s right to exist. This made little difference to the Zionist right wing who, like Glick, continued to use the terrorist tag for propaganda purposes. It is to be noted that all liberation movements are considered to be “terrorist” by those they fight against. And, indeed both sides in such a struggle usually act in this fashion on occasion. Certainly, Israel is no innocent in this regard. 

b. For Glick, Said’s alleged terrorist connection transforms his “rock attack” into a terrorist act. This is simply an ad hominem assertion on Glick’s part. There is no evidence that Said ever engaged in any act, including the tossing of stones, that can sanely be characterized as terrorism.

c. Glick tells us that, at the same time Said was ‘committing a terrorist attack’ on Israel, he was also “the superstar of far-Left intellectuals.” It is hard to know what she means here by “far-Left.” It is seems to be another ad hominem slander. Said was a scholar of Comparative Literature and, when not in the classroom, he advocated for the political and human rights of oppressed Palestinians—how “far-Left” is that?

d. Nonetheless, Glick goes on to assert that as a “far-Left” academic, Said waged a “nihilistic” and “anti-intellectual” offensive against Western thought. He did so in a well-known work entitled Orientalism published in 1978.

What does Orientalism actually say? Using mostly 19th century literary and artistic examples, the book documents the prevailing Western perception of the Near East and North Africa, which stands in for the Orient. This perception reflects a basically bipolar worldview—one which, according to Said, reserved for the West a superior image of science and reason, prosperity and high culture, and for the Orient an inferior somewhat mysterious and effeminate image of the “other” fated for domination by the West. Over time this view became pervasive in the West and influenced not only literary and artistic views of the Orient, but also impacted political, historical, anthropological and other non-fictional interpretations. Having helped create a superior sense of self, this orientalist perception served as a rationale for Western world dominance. It should be said that whether one agrees with every one of Said’s details or not, there is no doubt his well researched and documented work has made most scholars more aware of their biases.

e. Glick refuses to see Orientalism asjust an influential academic work. Instead, in what appears to be a pattern of illogical jumps, she claims that “in Orientalism, Said characterized all Western—and particularly American—scholarship on the Arab and Islamic worlds as one big conspiracy theory” designed to justify empire. This then is the heart of Said’s alleged “nihilistic” repudiation of Western scholarship. She particularly points to Said’s claim that “From the Enlightenment period through the present every European, in what he could say about the Orient, was a racist, an imperialist and almost totally ethnocentric.” While this is a far-reaching generalization, it basically reflects an equally pervasive, very real Western cultural bias. What Glick describes as a “conspiracy theory” is Said’s scholarly demonstration of how that bias has expressed itself. And, it should be noted that such pervasive biases are not uniquely American nor even Western. Chinese, Japanese, Arab/Muslim, Hindu and Jewish civilizations have their own variants of such biases. Yet, it is Said’s effort to expose and ameliorate the orientalism of the West that seems to madden Caroline Glick.

f. For Glick, Said’s suggestion that both past as well as many present scholars have culturally biased points of view of the Orient becomes an accusation that any “great scholar” with a classical Western worldview “is worse than worthless. If he is a white American, he is an agent of evil.” Glick is now building a real head of steam and her account becomes more and more grotesque. She now claims that Said’s work is “intellectual nihilism.” How so? Because it “champions narrative over evidence.” What Glick is implying here is that Said’s work is an anti-Western screed presented without evidence. This is demonstrably wrong, but nonetheless provides a platform for Glick’s further assertion that Said’s fantastical narrative is told in order to “manipulate students to engage in political violence against the United States.”

Part III—What Is This All About?

Caroline Glick makes repeated illogical jumps. As egregious as these are they actually point the way to her larger ideological agenda.

  1. Said is a terrorist because he opposes Israel and supports the Palestinians. Participation in the PLO is her proof of this. 
  2. Because Said is a terrorist, his throwing of a stone at the southern Lebanese border is a terrorist attack against Israel and its defense forces. 
  3. Somehow, Said’s throwing the stone was also “a harbinger for the mob violence now taking place in many parts of America.” The connector here is Said’s tossing of an intellectual “rock”—his thesis presented in Orientalism.
  4. Just as his “rock attack” was terroristic, so Said’s book, Orientalism, is itself an act of terrorism as well as a “nihilistic” project. 
  5. It is all these nasty things rolled into one because it calls into question established cultural assumptions that had long underpinned colonialism and imperialism, and which also just happens to underpin Israel’s claim to legitimacy.
  6. But there is more. Glick tells us, “Said’s championing of the Palestinian war against Israel was part of a far wider post-colonialist crusade he waged against the United States. The purpose of his scholarship was to deny American professors the right to study and understand the world [in an orientalist fashion] by delegitimizing them as nothing but racists and imperialists.”
  7. And finally, “Orientalism formed the foundation of a much broader campaign on campuses to delegitimize the United States as a political entity steeped in racism.”

Part IV—Conclusion

Glick’s attack on Edward Said’s legacy is beset with leaps of illogic. So let me conclude this analysis with my own leap, hopefully a logical one, to an explanation of what may be Glick’s larger agenda. Glick is attempting to turn the ideological clock back to a time before decolonization. Specifically, she wishes to resurrect an overall acceptance of Western colonialism as a benevolent endeavor whereby progress and civilization was spread by a superior culture. 

Why would she want to do this? Because if we all believe this proposition, then Israel can be seen as a legitimate and normal state. After all, Israel is the last of the colonial settler states—the imposition of Western culture into the Orient. It rules over millions of Palestinian Arabs as the result of a European invasion made “legal” by a colonial document, the Balfour Declaration, and its acceptance by a pro-colonial League of Nations. Our post-colonial age in which Edward Said is a “superstar intellectual,” is seen as a constant threat to Zionist Israel’s legitimacy. 

Edward Said’s legacy provides a strong theoretical foundation for understanding why the Western imperialists thought and acted as they did, and hence helps both Western and non-Western peoples to confront their own modern historical situation. However, Glick cannot see any of this except through the Zionist perspective. Thus, Said’s legacy is just part of an anti-Israeli conspiracy—an attack on those scholars who support the legitimacy of an orientalist point of view and of the Zionist state. 

She also suggests that Said’s undoing of historically accepted biases lets loose the “mob violence” seen in the U.S. There is no evidence for this, but it may be Glick’s  roundabout way of undermining student support for Palestinian rights on American campuses. 

Ultimately, what Glick is interested in is preserving the image of Israel as a Western democratic enclave in an otherwise uncivilized sea of Arab and Islamic barbarians. That fits right into the traditional orientalist belief system and justifies the continuing U.S.-Israeli alliance. Said has successfully called that perspective into question. Hence Glick’s assault on his legacy. 

Finally, Glick’s present attack on Said, and her attempt to tie his work into the protests that followed George Floyd’s murder, shows how frightened the defenders of one racist state, Zionist Israel, become when their principle ally, the United States, comes under attack for racist practices. Said as a “superstar” foe of all racism becomes the lighting rod for that fear. 

Jared Kushner, here are 25 more books you should read about Palestine, Israel relations

Donald Trump’s senior advisor says he has looked at 25 books relating to the conflict – here are some more he might also want to consider
Jared Kushner, special adviser to US President Donald Trump, is regarded as a key figure in the US administration’s policy towards the Middle East


Earlier this week, in the wake of the announcement of Donald Trump’s “deal of the century” for Israel and Palestine, Jared Kushner, its chief architect explained to CNN’s Christiane Amanpour just how much he had studied the region.

“I’ve been studying this now for three years,” Kuchner said. “I’ve read 25 books on it, I’ve spoken to every leader in the region, I’ve spoken to everyone who’s been involved in this.”

Most interest focused just on which 25 books Kuchner had read: some sleuthing by The Forward revealed several titles, including State of Failure and Hamas vs Fatah, by Jonathan Schanzer; and Thirteen Days in September, by journalist Lawrence Wright.

The impression from those few titles to emerge is that they are broadly written from a Washington perspective, and not necessarily that insightful about the lived experiences of Palestinians, who Kushner on Wednesday called “foolish” for rejecting his plan.

In the spirit of a geo-political book club, the editors and writers at Middle East Eye would like to offer Mr Kushner the following reading list to maybe deaden his echo chamber.

Our choices are, we suspect, more eclectic than those he has read so far, and include poetry, fiction and graphic novels amid geo-political analysis and discourse. The list, presented here in no particular order, is by no means exhaustive. We have restricted ourselves to books originally written in or translated into English.

But we hope that Mr Kushner and others engaged in securing the “deal of the century” might obtain a different perspective from the reading list below. Please let MEE know on Facebook and Twitter (@MiddleEastEye) which titles you think we have missed.

Twenty-five books, after all, barely scratches the surface when it comes to explaining what has become the Middle East’s most intractable problem.

1. The Question of Palestine
by Edward Said


For a long time, Edward Said was the most high-profile and internationally recognised of Palestinian intellectuals. His untimely death in 2003 was a blow for Palestinian advocacy, especially in the US, where few prominent Palestinian voices have been able to rise to prominence.

The Question of Palestine was published in 1979, a year after Said’s better-known volume Orientalism, and discusses the situation of the Palestinians, including the history of the Nakba, the dispossession and scattering of the Palestinian diaspora, and the misrepresentation of the Palestinian cause in the Western world.

Said also examines the development of Palestinian political movements, particularly the Palestine Liberation Organisation led by his then friend Yasser Arafat, and the changing perceptions of Palestinian groups towards the question of Jewish identity and Israeli statehood.

Towards the end of his life, Said espoused a humanist vision of a unified secular state between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean, based on equal rights and universal suffrage. The reality on the ground in Israel-Palestine suggests a one-state reality is already playing out. The result, more than ever, is that Said’s ideals need to be pushed to the fore.

2. The Gun and the Olive Branch
by David Hirst


Few volumes during the past half-century have been as contentious about the Israel-Palestine conflict as David Hirst’s The Gun and the Olive Branch. First published in 1977, it was initially savaged in the UK and ignored in the US (the first 14 pages of subsequent editions detail this).

Hirst’s narrative was the first of international note to question the pro-Israeli orthodoxy about the state’s creation as well as highlighting how Washington and other Western capitals had fuelled the conflict.

That Hirst, a reporter for The Guardian, had meticulously researched and presented his argument – the book comes in at more than 600 pages – only seemed to inflame his critics more.

But Hirst is even-handed in his coverage: he apportions blame to both sides, but is especially adept at examining the Israeli role in the conflict. Through this he pre-dated the later work of Israel’s New Historian revisionist school of academics, including Illan Pappe (below), who challenged the until-then accepted view of the state’s formation and past.

The most recent edition of The Gun and the Olive Branch was published in 2003, near two decades ago, during which so much has come to pass between Israel and Palestine. But Hirst’s work is still as relevant as ever: his analysis of the routes of the conflict, going back as far as the 1880s, are peerless and set the groundwork for what has come to pass since.

3. Palestine
by Joe Sacco


Palestineby Joe Sacco, is one of the best reads for a novice attempting to understand the situation in the land between the River Jordan and the Mediterranean – and not just because it is a graphic novel, a medium historically dismissed as juvenile by many.

Based on reporting by Sacco from Israel-Palestine during 1991 and 1992 (the tail end of the first Intifada and before the Oslo Accords), it goes into uncompromising detail about life in the occupied territories and the daily occupation and injustices faced by Palestinians.

Sacco doesn’t shy away from the personal: although a self-professed sympathiser with the Palestinian cause, he notes that a formative moment in his understanding of the conflict was the news in 1985 of the murder of Leon Klinghoffer. The 69-year old disabled Jewish-American was killed by the Palestinian Liberation Front after it hijacked a cruise liner, something which Sacco says angered and discomforted him.

Throughout, Sacco presents the lives of real people – both Palestinians and Israelis – with unflinching honesty, resorting to neither polemic nor hyperbole.

4. Palestine +100: Stories from a Century after the Nakba
edited by Basma Ghalayini


In the introduction to Palestine +100: Stories from a Century after the Nakba, a powerful collection of short stories in which 12 Palestinian writers imagine life in 2048, editor Basma Ghalayini considers why Palestinian writers in general eschew the genre of science fiction.

“The cruel present (and the traumatic past),” she writes, “have too firm a grip on Palestinian writers’ imaginations for fanciful ventures into possible futures.”

Palestine +100 is a collection informed by catastrophe – the forced expulsion of 700,000 Palestinian Arabs in 1948 to create the state of Israel – that triggered a refugee crisis, the consequences of which reverberate to this day.

The ideas are myriad and eclectic: they include Saleem Haddad’s Song of the Birds (the teen sister of an older brother who killed himself sees her world disintegrate – literally); Anwar Hamed’s The Key (Palestinian ghosts defy technology to torment the Israel of the future); and Ahmed Masoud’s Application 39 (Gaza City hosts the 2048 Olympic Games)

A worthy collection that excavates and probes, reacquainting the West with the horrors of Palestinian existence right now.

5. The Butterfly’s Burden
by Mahmoud Darwish, translated by Fady Joudah


The oeuvre of acclaimed poet Mahmoud Darwish is too large to simply select one collection over another. With more than 30 published books and poems translated into 35 languages, he is deservedly one of the Arab world’s most famous and prolific writers.

The Butterfly’s Burden pulls together three of his previously published collections: The Stranger’s Bed (1998); State of Siege (2002), his response to the second intifada; and Don’t Apologize for What You’ve Done (2003), all published in Arabic following his return to Ramallah after 26 years in exile.

In much of his work he mixed modern poetry with Arabic rhythmical meters: subjects included the Palestinian revolution of 1965-1993 and the mass exodus of 1948

The Butterfly’s Burden was awarded the Saif Ghobash-Banipal Prize for Arabic Literary Translation in 2008, the same year that Darwish died.

It’s also worth tracking down Palestine as Metaphor, a collection of interviews with Darwish. Published last year, it includes an incisive piece with Israeli poet and magazine editor Helit Yeshurun which explores exile, memory, history and belonging through Darwish’s clear, just and poetic vision.

6. A History of Modern Palestine: One Land, Two Peoples
by Illan Pappe


During the 1980s and 1990s,  a new generation of Israeli historians sought to challenge long accepted narratives about the creation of the Israeli state and the nature of Zionism.

Arguably the most famous among these New Historians, as they are known, is Ilan Pappe, who more than anyone else broke with the establishment’s account of what happened to the native Arab population of Palestine in 1948 during Israel’s “independence war”.

He is one of the few Israeli voices to question the legitimacy of the Israeli state in its current form, for which he has earned much opprobrium from Israelis, while attracting also acclaim and support from activists, intellectuals and academics worldwide.

In A History of Modern Palestine, Pappe depicts a land which, rather than being made to flourish by intrepid pioneers, was subjected to ethnic cleansing and premised a project of demographic and cultural superiority. He rejects the viability of a two-state solution and instead offers a state where all the inhabitants of the land are on an equal footing.

Also see The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, where Pappe demonstrates how Zionist leaders planned the expulsion of Palestinians from March 1948 onwards through intimidation and destruction, challenging the official Israeli account currently accepted by many in Washington.

7. Returning to Haifa
by Ghassan Kanafani


Read Donald Trump’s “deal of the century” and one thing soon becomes very stark: the US administration has no conception of what Palestine means to Palestinians.

Washington has no idea why a return to their homes is such a core tenet of Palestinian identity today – even among the younger generations who have never been able to set foot on the lands of their elders.

Ghassan Kanafani’s short story Returning to Haifa, which features in his collection Palestine’s Children, sets this into perspective with its focus on a Palestinian couple coming back to the home from which they had to flee 20 years earlier

Its poignancy comes in how Kanafani demonstrates what Palestine means for refugees, including their grief for what has been lost and their steadfast determination of fighting for a future.

Also see Kanafani’s short fiction story The Land of the Sad Orange, which focuses on the journey of one Palestinian family from Jaffa, expelled from their homes during the Nakba, and the consequent strain on their mental health, not least how Palestinian children cease being children as they carry the weight of displacement.

8. The Palestinians
by Elias Sanbar, translated by John Tittensor, Nigel Palmer


Palestine is one of the most frequently photographed places in the world – yet, according to Sanbar, real life is almost always missing from photographs taken mainly by visitors, with their focus on conflict.

Sanbar’s avowed intention with The Palestinians is to reconstruct their history in a book which he titles a “private album”.

The result is an alternative and in-depth vision of Palestine over the course of two centuries, a highly symbolic place whose people have been both captured and abstracted by the camera.

The contents of the book include themes such as pilgrims and tourists, intermingled with coverage of everyday life and uprisings.

A 2015 winner of the Palestine Book Awards, The Palestinians offers what writer Amelia Smith called “an alternative way to look at Palestine, a glimpse beyond the headlines. But it also leaves you with a question: How do these “alternative” images come to be adopted as the “normal” lens through which the world views Palestine?”


9. Gate of the Sun
by Elias Khoury, translated by Humphrey Davies

Although a work of fiction by a Lebanese author, Gate of the Sun is informed by Elias Khoury’s extensive interviews and research with refugees, lending the novel its humanity and spiritual resonance.

A meandering journey alternating between the fate of Palestinians in their homeland post-Nakba, and those exiled in refugee camps in Lebanon, it is a moving testament to those who have suffered occupation and mass expulsion.

Indeed, no less than Edward Said described this epic and its 1,001 nights-style tapestry as giving “voice to rooted exiles and trapped refugees, to dissolving boundaries and changing identities, to radical demands and new languages”.

In the wake of the “deal of the century”, it makes for a moving testament to those who have suffered occupation and mass expulsion.


10. Palestinian Walks: Notes on a Vanishing Landscape
by Raja Shehadeh

It is impossible to address the Israel-Palestine conflict without considering land and the occupied West Bank’s changing landscape. Shehadeh addresses this through his love of “sarha” – walking or roaming in Arabic.

Through a series of seven hikes in the West Bank hills, which span 27 years, Shehadeh describes the wildness, abundance and beauty of Palestine.

But then there is the sadness, frustration and injustice of that land being snatched, severed and seized.

Palestinian Walks, which won the Orwell Prize in 2008, is also notable for the contemplations that Shehadeh weaves through his wanderings, from Oslo’s inherent failures to the growing realisation that two peoples must come to terms with one another.


11. My People Shall Live: The Autobiography of a Revolutionary
by Leila Khaled

Leila Khaled’s autobiography was published when she only 29, usually a premature age for someone wanting to document their life’s achievements. But by then Khaled, who gained notoriety as a plane hijacker and icon of Palestinian resistance, had already experienced more than most people manage during a lifetime.

Published in 1973, My People Shall Live details Khaled’s early years with her family fleeing the catastrophe that engulfed the Palestinians after the creation of Israel.

She then lives as a refugee in Lebanon and Kuwait, joins the left-wing Arab Nationalist Movement in Beirut at 15, and later becomes part of the Marxist-Leninist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestinian (PFLP).

Some of the strongest moments are the interaction between her life and that of her family, such as her mother’s disbelief when she is jailed for a hijacking: “I know my daughter … she’s not like they are saying, all this beauty!”

More than anything My People Shall Live depicts the events, tragedies and injustices that create a “terrorist” in the eyes of the Israeli government and its allies.

12. A Child in Palestine: The Cartoons of Naji al-Ali
by Naji al-Ali


If there was ever a book that Kushner needs to read then it’s A Child in Palestine, which beautifully presents Naji al-Ali’s illustrations of Handala, an innocent refugee boy who has become a symbol of Palestinian resistance.

For anyone who’s visited the Middle East, Handala is a common sight in souks and bazaars, his likeness adorning keychains, necklaces and T-shirts among other regalia. He’s also graffitied on the Separation Wall in Palestine, the pyramids of Cairo and the famed old city of Sanaa.

Shoeless and in tatters, Handala’s face is never shown to the audience. Like his creator Ali, who was also a refugee, Handala is forced to confront the tragedies of the region at a terribly young age.

Through his creation, Ali’s sharp and critical commentary on regional politics and the inhumanity of war has left an indelible mark, which few cartoonists have been able to replicate.

The book is short, with Ali’s cartoons filling up most of its 117 pages. But it resonates, along with the memory of Naji al-Ali: the brilliant cartoonist was gunned down in London in 1987, three years after fleeing Kuwait, where he had received death threats. His killers have never been caught.


13. Mornings in Jenin
by Susan Abulhawa

Susan Abulhawa’s novel is an angry and sad work that insists you see the Palestinian experience, from the 1948 Nakba to the Lebanese civil war, from a deeply personal perspective.

At the centre of the narrative is Amal, orphaned during the 1967 war and the victim of multiple displacements.

There are also her twin brothers, one brought up as an Israeli, the other a proud Palestinian embittered by tragedy.

The contrasting scenes of bucolic pre-Nakba village life and refugee camps in Jenin and Beirut are described in Mornings in Jenin in stark relief by Abdulhawa. And while Palestinian life and culture are enjoyed and treasured, they are eventually torn apart by Israeli attacks.


14. Teaching Plato in Palestine
by Carlos Fraenkel

Neo-conservatives are famously fond of the ancient Greek historian Thucydides –  but perhaps Kushner might find another fifth-century Athenian a better frame of reference when it comes to the Middle East.

Plato has, unfairly, a pretty poor reputation thanks to the philosopher Karl Popper. But in this essay, Carlos Fraenkel suggests several of the Greek thinker’s notions can help untangle the natural biases that each side has in Israel and Palestine.

Who decides what justice is? Have you truly examined the experience of another? Is non-violent resistance helpful in attracting support – or does it merely make you a doormat for more powerful forces?

Teaching Plato in Palestine posits these kinds of questions and others in the context of the occupation, post-classical Arab philosophers’ own reception of Plato, and how they relate to Islam and Judaism. Required reading for those wanting a different take on the conflict.


15. Shatila Stories

Shatila Stories is a collaborative novel written by nine Palestinian and Syrian refugees (names below) from Lebanon’s Shatila refugee camp, described here as “a prison without walls”.

Initially set up in 1949 to house Palestinian refugees, it has also come to house a recent influx of Syrian refugees from the conflict of the past decade.

Its population is now estimated to stand at more than 40,000 for a space that covers barely one square kilometre.

The authors are mostly novices, who use real life experiences – such as the very real risk of being killed by low-hanging electricity cables, which are tangled with water pipes – to inform their fiction. Through this they present a startling and vivid idea of life in the camp.

The co-authors are Omar Khaled Ahmad, Nibal Alalo, Safa Khaled Algharbawi, Omar Abdellatif Alndaf, Rayan Mohamad Sukkar, Safiya Badran, Fatima Omar Ghazawi, Samih Mahmoud, Hiba Marei, with translation by Nashwa Gowanlock.


16. Hamas Contained
by Tareq Baconi

You’d be forgiven, after reading the “deal of the century” proposal, for thinking Hamas is to blame for the humanitarian crisis in Gaza rather than, say, the Israel-imposed siege that has now lasted for more than 12 years.

In that case, read Hamas Contained: The Rise and Pacification of Palestinian Resistance, Tareq Baconi’s groundbreaking history based on interviews with leaders and the group’s own writings, for an informed and critical take on the movement and a deeper understanding of what has motivated it over the past 30 years.

Most people learning about Gaza from the mainstream media, Baconi argues, will either see it as a strip of land destroyed with unprecedented humanitarian suffering; or a haven run by an unruly organisation that has taken its people hostage in order to run a campaign of terror against Israel.

Both views are reductionist and unhelpful in understanding either the movement or why two million Palestinians are crammed into a land mass the size of Philadelphia today. Reading Baconi’s history is a perfect remedy.


17. The Woman from Tantoura
by Radwa Ashour, translated by Kay Heikkinen

Ruqayya is a young Palestinian girl, who somehow survives the ethnic cleansing of her small village, Tantoura. It shapes her life as she ultimately carries the weight of that experience into her old age.

With The Woman from Tantoura, Egyptian novelist Radwa Ashour has crafted a beautiful story that captures the essence of the Palestinian experience through Ruqayya’s existence.

The story takes as its focus the cross-border, multi-generational trauma to which Palestinians refuse to succumb in their relentless search for meaning.

The result is a haunting story about loss, survival, memory, identity, and the persistence to return home – no matter how long it takes.


18. I Saw Ramallah
by Mourid Barghouti, translated by Adhaf Soueif

In his forward to this memoir, Edward Said calls I Saw Ramallah “one of the finest existential accounts of Palestinian displacement that we now have”. There are few higher endorsements.

A renowned poet, Mourid Barghouti here tries his hand at prose, with natural poetic flourishes of course. Barghouti was locked out of his homeland by the 1967 war while studying in Egypt.

His memoir chronicles the strangeness of his return 30 years later: the diminished waters of the River Jordan he crosses, the absence of lost relatives and a people forever coming to terms with the violence that has cost them so much.

Ramallah, too, is a much-changed place. Barghouti finds some humour in this, but also there is an enduring melancholy that with so much time passed, home is not what it once was. Though he has returned, the poet will be eternally homeless.


19. Words Under the Words: Selected Poems
by Naomi Shihab Nye

Any of Nye’s books are a pleasurable and informative introduction to the Palestinian experience, but a good place to start is Words under the Words.

It’s a collection of selected poems from her previous books: Different Ways to Pray, Yellow Glove, and National Poetry Series winner Hugging the Jukebox.

Having grown up both in Palestine and the US, and travelling the world to deliver workshops and talks, Nye calls herself “the wandering poet”. She writes in English about subjects close to her heart, including her mixed heritage (she is the daughter of a Palestinian refugee father and an American mother) and being Arab American.

A Palestinian Might Say is as good a place as any to sample her work

A Palestinian Might Say
You don’t feel at home in your country,
almost overnight?
All the simple things
you cared about,
maybe took for granted..
you feel
insulted, invisible?
Almost as if you’re not there?
But you’re there

Nye also writes for children and is a professor of Creative Writing at Texas State University.


20. Baddawi
by Leila Abdelrazaq

For younger Palestinians in the diaspora, much of their connection to their homeland and understanding of the traumatic events is understood through the recollections of their elders.

In the graphic novel Baddawi, Leila Abdelrazaq draws from her own father’s tales of childhood in the eponymous refugee camp in north Lebanon as well as his youth growing up in Beirut.

Somewhat controversially, Israeli and Lebanese aggressors are depicted only abstractly: this is a piece whose focus is very much on the Palestinian experience alone.

Threaded throughout this occasionally bleak work are patterns based on tatreez Palestinian embroidery, a poignant symbol of Palestine’s enduring folk culture.


21. The Sea Cloak & Other Stories
by Nayrouz Qarmout

The Sea Cloak & Other Stories is a deceptively short volume – but while the 11 stories initially appear easily digestible, they are likely to leave a sour taste.

Here Qarmout portrays daily life in Gaza, “the world’s largest prison” for a band of mostly female characters.

For anyone looking to experience what constitutes “normal life”, this collection is an introduction to what it feels like to come of age in this charged environment. There are the games played by children, such as “Arabs and Jews”, but also the traditions and heritage of a culture so often misrepresented.

A writer, journalist and women’s rights campaigner, Qarmout doesn’t portray her characters as victims: nor does she shy away from expressing the restrictive realities of her traditional upbringing either.

22. The Earth in the Attic
by Fady Joudah


And the sea, each time it reaches the shore,
Becomes a bird to see of the land
What it otherwise wouldn’t.
And the wind through the trees
Is the sea coming home.

The plight of Palestinian refugees, those who’ve inherited the intergenerational trauma of displacement, is often hard to articulate.

Poets like the great Mahmoud Darwish encapsulated the subtlety and pained beauty of exile, and of trying to retain the soil, both literal and metaphorical, carried by those forced to leave their homes in the Nakba of 1948 and subsequent migrations thereafter.

His work also gave birth to a second, a third and a fourth generation of Palestinians dreaming of return, and transforming that yearning into a romance of words.

Fady Joudah is one of those voices, and a powerful one. The Palestinian-American is the child of refugees and grew up between Libya and Saudi Arabia, before pursuing his career as a doctor in Texas.

His poetry – such as The Earth in the Attic – is adorned with references to his humanitarian missions, bringing him in contact with painful stories that mimic those of his own parents. Like Darwish, he leans on a connection with trees, birds and sea allowing them to speak on his behalf.

His painstaking translation of the great works of Darwish and Ghassan Zaqtan has earned him accolades, as well as a reputation for bridging the rooted tradition of Palestinian poetry-as-testament with a new audience who needs to hear and read it.


23. Dreaming of Freedom: Palestinian Child Prisoners Speak
edited by Norma Hashim, translated by Yousef M. Aljamal

The Israeli justice system has long been accused of being one-sided and unsympathetic to Palestinian citizens of Israel, with a conviction rate of between 85 and 93 percent.

In occupied Palestinian Territories however, the reality is grimmer. Palestinians arrested by Israeli forces in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem are mostly tried in military courts, with a conviction rate of close to 100 percent, according to Human Rights Watch.

Many of them are children, detained and charged with “security violations” that can include throwing rocks, waving Palestinian flags or simply protesting.

Once they’ve spent time in Israeli jails, these juveniles, and often their family members, are then denied work and travel visas, leaving them economically and politically vulnerable.

The story of Ahed Tamimi, the 16-year-old activist from Nabi Saleh sent to jail for attempting to stop Israeli soldiers from entering her home, shone a light on the systemic practice of child detentions.

Dreaming of Freedom: Palestinian Child Prisoners Speak, which includes a forward by Richard Falk, is a powerful collection of first-hand accounts from other Palestinian minors told from inside prisons in their own words.

Their harrowing stories of torture, humiliation and repeated incarceration tell of a generation confined within a punitive system that criminalises their existence. But there are also stories of hope, of the dreams only children can retain against often insurmountable odds.


24. Before Their Diaspora
by Walid Khalidi

Walid Khalidi, a Jerusalem-born Palestinian historian, takes the reader on a visual journey into the lives of Palestinians in their homeland before they were expelled in 1948.

Here he has carefully handpicked 500 photographs depicting different aspects of Palestinian society between the Ottoman rule of Palestine in 1876 until the end of the British mandate in May 1948. Their subjects include not only inhabitants of the region but also others among the diaspora in the UK and the US.

Each photograph, sourced from public or private collections, is accompanied with well-researched captions from Arabic, English and Hebrew sources.

There are few better volumes for a visual record of the rich history of the land and its people than Before Their Diaspora, from children in schools and farmers in their fields to busy city centres and acts of resistance. A must-read if you wish a better understanding of Palestinian heritage.


25. The Book of Disappearance
by Ibitisam Azem, translated by Sinan Antoon

For her novel The Book of Disappearance, Azem takes an interesting hypothesis: what if Israelis woke up one day to discover that all the Palestinians had disappeared?

Instead of instant celebration, what follows in her novel is initial chaos with no one left to drive the buses, deliver the newspapers or run the cafes. Palestinian prisoners are also no longer in their cells.

Azem’s narrative is a work of fantasy, but one which features historical context in the form of stories from 1948, as told to one of the protagonists by his grandmothers, which he then records in a notebook.

This record eventually lands in the hands of his Israeli friend and neighbour who then makes initially hesitant steps at usurping his disappeared friend’s home.

The Palestinians may be gone, and their houses claimed, one by one, by those who remain – but what The Book of Disappearance leaves the reader with is a sense of palpable eeriness of the ghosts and memories which do not go away.

Unilateral Surrender? Hollow Mahmoud Abbas Suspension of Agreements with Israel

Image result for traitor Abbas
Global Research, July 26, 2019
Image result for traitor Abbas


In 2005, Mahmoud Abbas was anointed by Israel to serve its interests.

Installed by a rigged election with no legitimacy, his term expired in 2009 but it didn’t matter. 

Israeli hardliners kept him in power where he remains as long as staying submissive to their will, meaningless rhetoric not an issue.

For over 14 years, he served as Jewish state enforcer in the Occupied Territories, betraying the Palestinian people. More convenient stooge than statesman, he’s Israel’s puppet.

He long ago abandoned Palestine’s liberating struggle, collaborating with the enemy for benefits afforded him and his family.

Betrayal pays well. Middle East expert As’ad AbuKhalil earlier estimated his super-wealth, saying he amassed around $1 million monthly, largely from stolen Palestinian money and other embezzled funds, adding:

His wealth is stashed abroad in Jordanian and other accounts — “not under any national or international scrutiny.”

Unnamed PA sources earlier said he has extensive property holdings. His sons Tarek and Yasser also profited hugely from PA projects.

A former Abbas aide called him the “sultan of Ramallah,” describing him as thin-skinned and vengeful, tolerating no opposition.

He’s in power unchallenged because Israel and the US wants him heading the PA, largely serving their interests by enforcing harshness on the Palestinian people.

Since Hamas was elected Palestine’s legitimate ruling authority in January 2006, Abbas collaborated with Israel against its leadership, part of the Jewish state’s divide and conquer strategy.

In 1993, he was part of the Palestinian team in Oslo, negotiating the Versailles accord, his signature on the capitulation.

The late Edward Said minced no words calling it unilateral surrender, Palestinians getting nothing in return but hollow Israeli promises, abandoned before the ink was dry.

Throughout Abbas’ tenure as puppet president, Israel expanded settlements on stolen Palestinian land unobstructed by him or his cronies, handsomely bribed to capitulate to their interests.

Collaborating with the enemy is treason, how Abbas operated since Oslo and throughout his time as PA head.

He hasn’t gone along with what he knows about Trump’s no-peace/peace plan “deal of the century” for good reason.

A third intifada might erupt if he capitulated to what no responsible leadership should touch, possibly making him a marked man by Palestinians for elimination, maybe killed for betrayal.

Time and again in response to unacceptable Israeli actions against long-suffering Palestinians, Abbas threatened to suspend cooperation with the Jewish state, never following through with commitment, his rhetoric amounting to hollow deception.

His latest threat came in response to Israel’s unlawful demolition of 70 Wadi al-Hummus homes in Sur Baher township, a Palestinian neighborhood on the southeastern outskirts of East Jerusalem.

Israel claimed they were too close to its separation wall, what the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled illegal in 2004 — a land theft scheme unrelated to security issues.

Israel wants the entire city Judaized for exclusive Jewish development and use, Palestinians ethnically cleansed from land they legally own.

Most Sur Baher Palestinian structures destroyed were in West Bank Areas A and B, under Palestinian jurisdiction, according to Oslo.

It didn’t matter and never does. Nothing stands in the way of Israeli pursuit of its agenda at the expense of fundamental Palestinian rights and the rule of law.

Abbas’ latest “suspension” threat takes effect on July 26, saying

“(w)e will not succumb to the dictates and the imposing of a fait accompli on the ground with brute force, specifically in Jerusalem. All that the (Israeli) occupation state is doing is illegal,” adding:

“Our hands have been and are still extended to a just, comprehensive and lasting peace. But this does not mean that we accept the status quo or surrender to the measures of the occupation.”

“We will not surrender and we will not coexist with the occupation, nor will we accept the ‘deal of the century.’ ”

“Palestine and Jerusalem are not for sale or bargain. They are not a real estate deal in a real estate company…no matter how much time it takes, the repugnant occupation is going to be defeated and our future state will be independent.”

In 2017, the PA suspended diplomatic relations with the US over Trump’s one-sided support for Israel, including his no-peace “deal of the century” peace plan — a symbolic gesture, achieving nothing positive for the Palestinian people.

Image result for traitor Abbas

Abbas and his cronies capitulated to occupation harshness for over 25 years ago, permitting hundreds of thousands of settlers to control Palestinian land illegally — Israel ignoring Fourth Geneva’s Article 49, the PA leadership doing nothing to contest its unlawful actions.

The Fourth Geneva provision prohibits

“(i)ndividuals or mass forcible transfers, as well as deportations of protected persons from occupied territory to the territory of the Occupying Power or to that of any other country, occupied or not…regardless of their motive.”

“The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.”

It’s what Israel has done since 1967 — unobstructed by the world community and UN authorities — nor by PA leadership since Oslo (1993) and follow-up agreements.

Ignoring his longstanding collaboration with Israel against Hamas, undermining Palestinian unity against repressive occupation, land theft, and other Jewish state high crimes against long-suffering Palestinians, including three Israeli wars of aggression against Gaza since December 2008, Abbas falsely said:

“My hand is extended (to Hamas) for reconciliation, and it is time to get more serious.”

Image result for Ramallah traitor

Political analyst Dawoud Yousef downplayed Abbas’ threatened suspension of ties to Israel, saying:

“(T)he PA is completely powerless to make these kind of dictates. They exist because the occupation allows it,” adding:

“From the Oslo Accords onwards, the PA has been designed and structured to be dependent on cooperation with Israel.”

It’s a powerless, Israeli created body to serve its interests. Earlier PA threats to cut cooperation with Israel were “never complete and only meant the ending of high level communications, not day to day interactions between security forces,” Yousef explained, adding:

“(T)hese threats demonstrate to an acute degree the complete emptiness of the PA’s diplomatic strategy within the current Post-Oslo paradigm.”

“The asymmetry of power wasn’t offset by the PA’s establishment. It was officially entrenched. (Its threats are) as if the prisoner says that he no longer recognizes his cell.”


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Award-winning author Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. He is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG)

His new book as editor and contributor is titled “Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.”


Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.

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Iran: Socialism’s ignored success story

May 23, 2017

by Ramin MazaheriIran: Socialism’s ignored success story

Iran just completed their presidential election, but this article will not discuss the candidates, the result or the political consequences.

I work for Iran’s Press TV, which essentially makes me a civil servant, and I think it is correct for me to not reveal who I voted for in order to preserve my independence within the government. I’m quite happy to work for “the people” instead of “a person” – as in private media – and I will support which ever candidate the people choose.

Why will I support Iran’s government, whoever is in charge? Truly, it is not for my paycheck.

I support Iran because I support socialism where ever I can find it, and Iran has socialism in abundance.

Iranian Socialism has been so successful at redistributing wealth to the average person; has safeguarded the nation’s security despite being ringed by US military bases and repeated threats; has grown the economy despite an international blockade; has produced a foreign policy motivated on political principles; and has fought against the divisive identity politics which undermine human solidarity.

I have actually seen Iran over the decades, unlike 99% of the journalists who claim to understand Iran, so you can’t dissuade me.

And I’m not even going to try to persuade you. This is not that article, either.

This article is to lay out for left-wing readers and supporters of socialism what should be crystal clear: Iran is a socialist nation. Even more than that: Iran is a socialist success story.

Iran, like all nations, has had its unique developmental history; of course we have been reading Marx just as long as anyone else, as well.

But the most convincing and simplest way I can put it to non-Iranians is this: Europe came to socialism through industrialization, theory and war, but Iran came to socialism through its religious and moral beliefs. The ends are the same, and that is all that should matter to anyone who is truly trying to promote socialism for the benefits it brings to the average person.

The problem is not us, it is you

I repeat: The problem is not us, it is you…when it comes to looking at Iran’s contributions to socialism.

I believe that around 99% of Westerners have no idea at all what Iran is really like. Unfortunately, this total ignorance about Iran and the Muslim world is the historical norm in the West.

The greatest contribution of Middle East scholar Edward Said was that his book, “Orientalism”, definitively proved through historical scholarship that the West has never, ever, ever been favorable towards the Muslim world.

Not in the 8th century, when Muslims were occupiers of the Iberian Peninsula, not in the following centuries when Islam was an ideological competitor to Christianity; not in the 15th century, when the Ottoman Empire occupied the Balkans; not in the 19th century, when the Europeans occupied the Middle East & North Africa; not in 1916, when they redrew the borders for the West’s benefit; not in 1945, when they bombed countries like Syria which had fought on their side against the Germans and the Italians; not in the 1960s, when their reaction to independence was neo-colonialism; not in 1979, when they created the forerunner of the Taliban; not during 2 wars in Iraq, a war in Syria today, etc. Said’s point was: Never has the West viewed or treated the Muslim world as equals, much less intellectual equals.

Given this history, why should us Iranians expect the reality of our high-achieving modernity to be accepted and admired?

LOL, believe me, I am over it! I write this to enlighten you, not me! I humbly hope that it works.

I will address the elephant in the room, and quickly: Yes, I assume that a large part of this prejudice is religious. Some Christians cannot accept that Islam promotes the most recent prophet of the monotheism which they both share.

Such religious prejudices are not my problem, and they do not blind my analysis of 2017 Iran.

No socialist believes in a “clash of civilizations” or “religious war”, anyway.

My point is not to criticize Europe for a lack of brotherhood with their fellow Abrahamic religion: My point is to criticize them in 2017 because most Westerners believe that that even the most leftist Iranian cannot even qualify as merely a “conservative social democrat”!

Can there never be a Muslim “democrat” or an Iranian “republican”?

The proof of this bias is the decades of Western support for the oppression of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Iranian Revolution and any Muslim attempt to allow their religion into their politics. This is even though Christian Democratic parties governed Europe for decades after WWII, and it is absurd to think that the Christian dogma is not upheld and promoted in European politics today.

So, if Iranians cannot even be allowed to fulfill 19th century notions, why would the West accept that 2017 Iran can be even more truly leftist than the merely centrist ideology of European social democracy?

Of course, the average European cannot accept this, and this is why Western Socialists are aghast at my idea that Iran is an “ignored Socialist success story”.

The radical left of European Socialism, which seeks to destroy organized religion, is especially aghast, but they are a tiny minority and on the way out, thankfully. They do not realize that they have already been drastically tempered, if not ousted, in the still-Socialist countries they purportedly admire: Cuba is full of Santeria and Pope pictures, yin-yangy Confucianism is being promoted in China, etc.

But these Western radicals are a minority who simply cannot accept that spirituality cannot be rubbed out, largely because they see it as a choice or a social conditioning instead of a part of many people’s intrinsic nature (if not theirs). A modern Socialist must accept that this fight has already been fought and decided. The capitalists certainly advance as we chase our tails….

Even if leftist detractors can get past religion, they immediately will talk about Iran’s human rights faults.

I respond: Yawn yawn yawn African-Americans fill US jails; Muslims fill France’s jails; this is the centenary of the British-orchestrated Persian Famine, which killed 8-10 million people and actually made Iran the biggest victim of WWI, that is just one Western/capitalist inspired famine/death/human rights violation yawn yawn yawn.

I am not here to say Iran is perfect – only God can be – I am saying that Iran is absolutely no worse than the West. It is an undeniable fact that the current Islamic Republic of Iran has far less blood on its hands than most – and Iran has not invaded a country in 300 years!

Religion, human rights – these are all classic diversions from the facts presented against socialist societies, and Iran certainly is one.

Iran checks all the boxes as a Socialist nation, and as Revolutionary Socialists

What are the key components of socialism? Let’s clarify our terms.

The first is leadership by an avant-garde party committed to defending the revolution: Iran certainly has this, and it crosses over Principlist/Reformist party lines.

The second is central planning of the economy: Whoever had won, they would be largely implementing the 6th Five-year plan (2016-2021). And there is also the “Resistance Economy” approach promoted by many, which is certainly anti-globalization.

The third is control over the media: This is mixed – I would say Iran does not really have this in the traditionally Socialist sense. Cuba has no private media, for example, while Iran has dozens of private newspapers and innumerable TV satellites. But Iran does have limitations, so let’s check this box.

The fourth is support for foreign liberation movements: When the history of Palestinian liberation is finally written, just as a now-free South Africa thanks Cuba for sending troops to Angola, will not Palestinians do the same for Iran’s decades of support? The same with Lebanon and now Syria, correct?

The fifth is democratically devolving as much democracy as possible in order to empower the average person: There is no doubt that Iran is the most vibrant democracy in the Middle East, and by a huge margin. The difference between Iran’s social-democratic procedures and guarantees in 2017 when compared with 1978 is obviously laughable. I write this from Paris, a nation in an 18-month state of emergency with no end in sight….

If your country has these five crucial components: Congratulations! You are in a socialist country!

A little bit more on each for the naysayers….

An Avant-Garde Party:

Iran is a one-party system – that party defends the 1979 Revolution. China is a one-party system – promoting Chinese communism. Many would say that the US is a one-party system – promoting imperialist capitalism.

The difference between Iran & China and the US is that in the former their one-party systems are formalized, explicit and well-known; in the US it is informal, but just as strong, and maybe even stronger.

I don’t think this needs much further explanation but, for example, you cannot propose to end the Iranian Revolution and run for office. In France a presidential candidate in their recent election (Jean-Luc Melenchon) won 20% of the first-round vote by proposing to abolish France’s current 5th Republic.

Like all socialist countries, Iran is criticized for not having democracy but they do: it is simply within their own particular structure. Just as in the USSR, there was lively debate about how to advance their own system – should we following the right-wing model of socialism of Bukharin/Khrushchev or the left-wing model socialism of Lenin/Trotsky? – but there was no debate about deviating from their chosen national system, i.e. communism. When they did allow such debates under Gorbachev, Soviet Socialism was almost immediately subverted by capitalist reactionaries and consigned to oblivion.

Again, please examine the repression of communism in the US, South Korea, Greece, Italy, Chile, etc. for historical examples of capitalist “one-party systems”, which are definitely NOT avant-garde and promoting socialism….

The idea that Iran has no avant-garde party but is some sort of totalitarian structure governed by the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei is only expressed by those who are supremely ignorant about Iran. For the second presidential election in a row Hassan Rouhani won despite not seeming to be Khamenei’s preferred candidate, after all.

Central Planning of the Economy:

I think I can illustrate Iran’s state of economic socialism with this anecdote: Back in 2013 all 8 presidential candidates were pushing for more privatization…not to promote capitalism, but because everything has already been nationalized for so long, LOL!

So Iran has already done the nationalizing, and maybe they need to do more? However, socialist countries have increasingly agreed that some revenue-producing businesses are needed to meet some of the basic needs of their people: North Korea has the Kaesong Industrial area, Cuba’s Port Mariel is giving some space to completely foreign-owned businesses, Vietnam and China have plenty of state-run capitalist enterprises, etc. The reality is that even producing things as simple as soap need some expertise, and very often only capitalist corporations can have that expertise.

That’s why the Iranian government went on a spending spree in 2016, but it was decidedly not your typical capitalism. (I do not want to appear to credit only the Rouhani administration because economic policy is produced by the entire government in 5-year development plans, as already noted.)

Iran was feted like a king in places like France and Italy because they were prepared to spend dozens of billions of euros. But what pleased me was how Iran spent: They demanded equal partnerships, joint ventures and technology transfers.

These are the ways in which foreign investment can be mutually beneficial and not exploitative – this was good for France too. I am not a dogmatic person who is absolutely against all capitalism, but I am against all exploitative capitalism.

My point is: It was a socialist spending spree, not a capitalist one. Iran did not just give money away; they did not waste money on vanity projects; this was not one billionaire dealing with another for their own benefit; they invested in Iran via long-term central planning, i.e. the socialist view of economic management.

This is not like France’s ruling “Socialist Party” recently selling off national industrial jewel Alstom to the United States’ General Electric: The French people got nothing for that. That was capitalism; that was globalization

Iran is not in favor of globalization – they are not even a member of the World Trade Organization, unlike 164 other countries. Some will say this is solely due to the opposition of the United States, but it is not: As many in Iran said during the election: membership in the WTO is against Iran’s principles…and these are socialist principles regarding the economy – there is nothing about the WTO in the Koran.

Control over the Media:

It’s true you can’t have Charlie Hebdo in Iran – hardly a major loss –but Iran is certainly no Cuba.

Iran’s refusal to crack down on TV satellites which permit reactionary, anti-revolutionary channels like BBC Persian and VOA Persian (UK and US government-funded respectively) appears to be a dangerous fire which Havana will not tolerate. This tolerance does give Iran “human rights” credibility with the West – well it doesn’t, but it should!

I would suggest that Iran is simply confident that foreign propaganda cannot overwhelm the obvious successes of the 1979 Revolution. I imagine that Cuba feels that they cannot take chances, being just 100 kilometers from the USA.

Of course, Cubans simply laugh at Western propaganda channels like the US government’s pathetic Radio Marti. Cubans are supremely intelligent politically and, after all, their education programs are decades older than Iran’s.

Iran, like Cuba and China, bans pornography. I note that such respect for sexuality and for women is a very basic tenet of Socialism. If your utopia includes unfettered access to porn I suggest that you are a libertarian, and not a socialist.

I remind again that the media glasnost implemented by Gorbachev was a major driver in the catastrophic implosion of the Russian Revolution. To privatize media means, necessarily, that you are giving those few people rich enough to actually start newspapers the chance to promote their obviously capitalist worldviews.

I, for one, am not about to cry over the lack of published capitalist, imperialist, sexist, racist, regressive anti-revolutionary nonsense, and neither are most Iranians. As sad as the Dutch may be about it – Iran is not Amsterdam!

Support of foreign liberation movements:

Some will say that Palestine is just a “distraction” from Iran’s own problems. Nonsense – this is a point of pride to all Iranians. This is a point of admiration for Iran from the entire Muslim world, just as it is a negative point for much of the Western world.

This is another way Iran is revolutionary Socialist country: they support oppressed countries on the basis of ideology. Perhaps Iran is not the “Mecca of Revolutionaries” which Algeria was in the 1960s, but let’s agree that the rate and scope of revolutionary movements worldwide are at a much lower level today, sadly.

Russia may support Syria, for example, but it appears more for Moscow’s self-interest and the idea of national sovereignty – which is the idea of national self-interest – rather than a moral-based ideology.

Call Iran the same as Russia – no insult there – but you cannot deny that Iran supports Palestine for reasons which are clearly to the detriment of their own success, i.e., they do it out of solidarity and morality. Were Iran to recognize Israel they would surely have the international dogs called off them…but Iran is a revolutionary Socialist society, as you are hopefully agreeing with by now.

Iran is also an anti-racist society, like all modern socialist societies.

They constitutionally protect minorities, with parliamentary seats for Armenians, Assyrians, Christians and Jews, despite their small numbers. Iran may not promote them, but their tolerance of local languages like Azeri and Kurdish far exceeds that of many minorities in Western Europe. Iran accommodates the 5th-largest number of refugees in the world, while French authorities put up gates and even ‘’anti-migrant boulders’’ to deny refugees even the barest shelter.

When it comes to religion they are extremely tolerant of ancient Iranian Zoroastrianism and all of the pre-Prophet Muhammad Abrahamic religions. Any religion after Prophet Muhammad? Well…it is an “Islamic” Revolution, after all.

This is perhaps a pedantic point but an important one on a verbal, Foucauldian level: Has there been any “revolution” in the world since WWI which was not “socialist”? I can’t think of any, because without a socialism component it cannot be a revolution – it can only be a continuation of the capitalist/feudalist/bourgeois status quo, or a military coup.

Empowering people:

The two fundamental tenets of socialism are redistribution of wealth and empowering the average person so that they can reach their full potential. Dismantling the social roadblocks thrown up by capitalism against the non-wealthy has clearly been a major goal of the Islamic Revolution, and I can quite easily prove it has been achieved with a tremendous amount of real-world success.

Since 1990 – when the West’s attack dog of Iraq was beaten off – no country’s Human Development Index has improved more than Iran’s, with the lone exception of South Korea.

Everyone should take notice, especially Socialists, as it is we anti-capitalists who prize human development – not economic development – above all.

That’s why I’m going to leave the Human Development Index as the only proof of success. For me, I have so many other econometrics, anecdotes and personal reflections to prove that Iran has succeeded in creating a new, better, modern society that to do so is quite boring.

Bottom line: It is obvious that I do not have to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. Despite the tremendous amount of opposition, violence and propaganda, Iran has advanced the most in the past 3+ decades.

I say “the most” because, unlike South Korea, Iran has done this without 30,000 US troops currently on its soil; it was not preceded by decades of brutal dictatorship which slaughtered hundreds of thousands of people (mainly leftists); and they did not collaborate with the Americans in the division of their nation which currently causes the greatest possibility of thermonuclear war.

Iran didn’t get to #1 as many others did: by capitalism and imperialism.

Iran’s recent election had a 73% voter turnout rate, ranking it #12 in the world. Unlike many of these other 11 countries, Iran does not compel citizens to vote. There is obviously tremendous support for the Iranian system from the Iranian people because…they are not blind to success, I would say!

The hardest thing to get people to do when it comes to socialism (or Iran) is to think realistically: Nobody can achieve “perfect” socialism. No country has 100% voter turnout. No country has zero human rights violations.

But for Iran you have add on another layer of misconception: Many of the “restrictions” in Iranian society predate 1979 by centuries: women were largely wearing the hejab before then; unmarried people, especially young women, also lived at home before 1979; alcohol could send you to prison then and now.

My point is: Iran is a culturally conservative nation, and it was like that long, long before 1979. You will have to simply trust me that Iranians don’t need a government to make them want to live in a society which appears conservative to modern Western standards.

Again, Iran is not Amsterdam, LOL! Maybe you can talk about the royal court in Shiraz in the 14thcentury as being a hotbed of drunken poetic reveling, but this is does not reflect the reality of life for the average person.

Only an Iranian will agree quickly with this statement and move on: Take away the 1979 Revolution and you would still have many of the same rules in place – they would just be enforced informally.

I will, lastly, put it this way: Take away the mullahs, and you still have to deal with my grandmother!!!!!

But to believe that the government has not empowered people since 1979…well, back then the average woman had 7 children, was illiterate 70% of the time, and the UN was not calling its health care system “excellent”.

Today, the birthrate is 1.7 children per woman, the overall literacy rate is 93% and the right-wing Washington DC-based think-tank the Brookings Institution runs dumbfounded articles with headlines like “Are Iranian Women Overeducated?”.

All in 30+ years…and have you thought it was capitalism that did it?!

Socialists who ignore Iran are not really Socialists at all

Do you still want to think that Iran is a country solely motivated by religious radicalism and not the ideals of socialism? Well, then I place you on the right and the left, and that is the point of this article.

It is bad enough that the right (capitalists, imperialists) not only co-opt Socialist ideas as their own (social security, Medicare, Medicaid, affirmative action programs, welfare, free schooling, free nurseries, etc.), but it is laughable when the left refuses to see the leftism in Iran because it does not fit with their preconceived, totally inflexible notions.

Any true Socialist/Communist should realize that attacking Iran is doing a capitalist’s job for them.

And how can someone who proclaims to be a “leftist” have the exact same interpretation of Iran as a right-wing capitalist does?

Again, it is simply laughable that Iran is “not” what it really is.

But this is what always happens: Chinese communism “is not really communism”…despite having 1-party rule, a state-run economy, control over the media, support for Vietnam and North Korea, and the 2nd highest HDI improvement from 1970-2010.

North Korean communism is just a “cult of personality”…despite expelling the Japanese, resisting the Americans, maintaining their independence, security and high-level of education. Cuba is just the Castro dictatorship and, again, not communism.

This is all anti-socialist propaganda – for capitalism there can never be ANY “Socialist success story”.

You remain adamant that you do not want to implement all the principles of the Iranian Islamic Revolution in your country?

Fine, it is your country to decide for as you like. Like I wrote, no worries – Iran hasn’t invaded in 300 years and it sure seems like our military is necessarily focused on defense.

But just because you disagree with some aspects of the 1979 Revolution I encourage you not to throw the baby out with the bath water. I remind you that I needed only one fact to prove that Iran has been improving at a rate which is essentially the best in the world over the last 3 decades – how far below Iran does your country rank, hmm?

I write this article because practically no media in the English language will ever pursue the links between Iran and socialism. We leftists know this not just anti-Iran bias, but a much larger anti-Socialist bias.

However, it is truly suicidal to ignore the left-wing successes in Iran because, even if you reject some of them, Iran has clearly found MANY modern solutions to our MANY modern problems: surely some of them can be of use to you, right? Is Iran ALL wrong?

Of course not – only Satan can be all wrong.

Therefore, I advise those fighting against capitalism and imperialism: Please afford Iran a bit more respect and interest than you would afford Satan!

And now I take our victory lap

I can only laugh at those who say Iran’s revolution has failed!

“Oh really? Who was the puppet that was installed? Who was the king that was restored? What is the name of the popular democratic revolution which replaced the peoples’ one of 1979, because I have not heard of it and I still see many familiar faces from 1979?”

The revolution has succeeded, and I am not sorry to say so.

Not that I care about your opinion – this is for YOUR own benefit: YOU will not win socialism, anti-capitalism or anti-imperialism in your country if you cannot learn from the successes of others.

But sadly, your inability to recognize socialism in Iran imperils all of us, because the people worldwide cannot win in the long term if even like-minded leftists cannot stick together to work against fascism, capitalism and racism.

But Iran, Cuba, China, etc. – we can win enough of these things for ourselves, at least.

We are doing just fine – steady as she goes, eh? All thanks to central planning, as the capitalists veer from crisis to crisis, with the 1% sucking up a greater percentage every time. Our election had huge participation rates, as usual, dwarfing the European cultures who probably want to claim they invented voting, along with everything else. Asia has heard it all before….

For the non-Western readers: I know that the vast majority of you already support Iran. I have talked with too many of you over my life – I know better. I also know that for us “field slaves” we have to give that impression in order to survive, sometimes, or at least to avoid annoyances.

Anyway, many Westerners appear to misunderstand Socialism completely: they don’t realize it is intrinsically a global idea; they think the Franco-German-Russian (European) variety is the only one. More Eurocentrism blinding them to reality, and necessarily limiting them….

But I look across the West and I see nothing but leftist failure after leftist failure: The fall of communism in Russia, the breakup of Yugoslavia, the obvious absorption of “left” parties into the dominant right-wing parties, the rise of austerity, the advance of globalization at the expense of national interests….

So the next time you look at Iran, you should applaud it as a rare socialist success. Iranians will certainly keep living their path of creating modern socialism, Inshallah.

Ramin Mazaheri is the chief correspondent in Paris for Press TV and has lived in France since 2009. He has been a daily newspaper reporter in the US, and has reported from Iran, Cuba, Egypt, Tunisia, South Korea and elsewhere. His work has appeared in various journals, magazines and websites, as well as on radio and television.

Orientalists, Gatekeepers, Evangelists and Subverters of the Syrian Defense Community

May 12, 2016

By Intibah Kadi

A curious phenomenon has gradually crept upon the English language social media community that defends Syria; a small but effective group of “orientalists” with their varied agendas, gatekeepers amongst them of all shapes and sizes and evangelizers and assorted nefarious subverters. Syrians, having never experienced working together with people from across the world, had no experience of the pro and cons of such activism. In general, Syrians have politely made excuses for colonialist or exceptionalist behaviour with statements such as “anyone who speaks up about Syria is our friend”. We may even say that the Syrian government has done this in its endeavour to welcome any promotion for the defence of Syria , no matter who it comes from.

How did this happen? Syrians had not experienced what Palestinians had in their decades long struggle which involved volunteer advocates, mainly from the West. Palestinians became quickly aware that they had to keep control and ownership of their struggle as some of their supporters suffered from an overwhelming need and sense of entitlement to speak for and on behalf of the Palestinian people to the point where some actually saw themselves as representing that struggle. Apparently Gandhi insisted to his great and life-long friend Charles Andrews that only Indians must be involved in their struggle, so, that awareness was there a long time ago.

Edward Said’s most famous and rather complex work ,“Orientalism”, published in 1978, explores the relationship between power, knowledge and colonialism. Some of his words echo in my mind when it comes to this subject of a people needing to preserve the integrity of and control over their struggle. It is claimed that Said was influenced by the Italian Marxist Gramsci’s notion of ‘hegemony’ in terms of understanding the influence of orientalist constructs and entrenchment in Western academia and even their reach of power over the Orient itself. In this context, Gramsci’s views on ‘hegemony’ refer to the victory of the dominant class’s promotion of their definition of reality and world view.

We are here talking about people in the West and in the case of this article, specifically of a section of Western activists. Hence, the various frameworks they present are seen in their paradigm as the norm, as logical, the given and the only set of frameworks to view the world through. Those who do not toe the line, and in this subject being discussed here, these are the actual “orientals” themselves; they are utterly marginalized even though is it their struggle, their story, their history and their culture. They can lose their voice because of the exceptionalists’ need to play the role for them and be their voice. These “orientalists” have a tremendous need to retell another culture’s experience. And, how dare in the case of Syria, for example, that there can exist eloquent, highly educated, brilliant and deeply knowledgeable Syrian analysts and activists who contradict the conclusions derived from the frameworks of the significant and only paradigm on this planet?

For as long as such a person toes the line, agrees with his Western allies, all goes well and, to a certain degree, there will be some support for this analyst or writer. But, the moment this “oriental” has the audacity to make conclusions or claims that fall well outside of those reached by the Western academics or analysts who use their Western paradigm frameworks, then it is time to silence, shut out and shut down this audacious “oriental” before their own inadequacies and failings are exposed.

All views, theories and assessments must fit neatly into these Western hemisphere frameworks, if not, then they must be ridiculed and shut down.

In the increasing phenomenon of Western activist involvement in causes far away from their lands, causes that have emerged principally due to the actions of the “masters of the universe”, they are coming into contact with people who they normally would not and, this is the case vice versa . The Western activists see themselves as in a position to to assist and support advocacy on situations involving underprivileged, disenfranchised or oppressed people. For the well-intentioned who are able to keep their ego in check and who have expunged as much of their socio-political biases and subconscious assumptions, they can be of immense assistance and value. However, for those who see a window of opportunity for personal advancement or some other agenda, then this is an ideal opportunity for them and this is where, in the case of Syria, generally experience of Syrians in recognizing this and making an informed assessment and decision about this is lacking or they are just too polite.

The more this problematic section of solidarists became involved in the struggles of others far away from their world, the more many became enmeshed and deluded in a world of fantasy, placing themselves as the centre piece of someone else’s struggle and ultimately disempowering those they were meant to support.

In the case of Palestine this became painfully obvious when many if not most activists from the West, not having the background to understand the history, cultural and intimate nuances of life in the region that only an Indigenous person can have, supported the disappointingly large section of Palestinians who took the sectarian path and supported the murderous Takfiris. Some took these little understood, adopted views on as if it were a new cause for their very own existence when, in fact, they were assisting those who were threatening the very existence of the only secular and truly independent nation in the Levant, Syria and the mother of Palestine.

The world in the Levant is so different in so many ways to life in the West and, no words can adequately reflect this. For a person from another culture far away, to meddle in areas of sensitivity in the region, believing they understand it all, they can, in fact, contribute to further violence, hatred or even genocide. For example, in the Levant, there is a term used to inflict extreme insult upon others; it is in fact the name of a particular ethnic culture. The same goes for those who do not understand that some of their words have contributed to fanning the flames of sectarianism in the region. Both examples have the potential to become giant bloodbaths, particularly the latter.

When we come to the works of Indigenous Levantines, from newspaper reports, analysis or interviews, these seem not to be regarded by any Western analysts as primary materials. And, when Indigenous Levantines endeavour to bring out to the Western world important news or analysis from key, important Arabic speaking analysts, they are not for one moment regarded as primary documents or even read by these described analysts. So in fact, in general, many of these non-Indigenous analysts tend to present their analysis based on secondary sources. I am not specifically referring to news reports here as many competent Syrians have been able to get news out in the English language. I am talking about analysis. So the point I am making here is that, when I really think back to the last five years of the War On Syria, indigenous insights from the Levant brought to the West in order to assist the supporters of Syria and the West in general to appreciate what is really going on from the perspective of the people actually in that area tends to be discounted or totally ignored by serious Western analysts and others. Those “orientalists” often are at total odds in their analysis to what the Levantine analysts state.

Even worse, despite countless instances when none of the Arabic language media in the region makes a single mention of some purported event published in the alternative media of the West, these reports gain enormous credibility amongst the Western supporters and even gain a life of their own. The fact that these “reports” are not even mentioned in the street or in the media of the country or region where it was supposed to have occurred, seems not to have the slightest impact on the this section of Western supporters. It is desired reading and it perhaps fits within their framework.

As for the story about why ISIS and such Takfiri groups were able to be created and prevail, the story from the Levant, from learned and informed understanding of the Quran and the history of Islam from an Indigenous person, is to be totally discounted and in fact ridiculed and insulted. The Western framework around this narrative is the one and only valid explanation.

I will share a very telling story with the reader which demonstrates a world of insight into the issues this article explores. This is an experience I encountered but I am sure many other Indigenous analysts may have even more amusing stories to share.

A startling report came out back in September 2013, in the Arabic language Al Manar, the official organ of Hezbollah, a stickler for accurate reports. It claimed that Russia had stopped two ballistic missiles heading for Syria. When I partook in promptly and urgently translating this report into English and sent it around the world I came across a problem with one of the alternative media sites in an English speaking country. The editor refused to publish it as he said the report was not verified as it had not been reported in the American site called “Information Clearing House” (ICH). Rather a chicken versus the egg argument! So a report from the mighty Hezbollah’s media site about an event that happened in its own area was not valid until the ICH said it was so. Besides the incredible arrogance, the logic in the Editor’s argument was missing.

Edward Said always warned about ‘orientalism’ and its proponents’ tremendous need to retell another culture’s experience and that it was even utilized by imperialism. Undoubtedly this includes conscious but mostly subconscious attitudes of colonialism and gate-keeping and ultimately results in the silencing of Indigenous voices that are “non-compliant” with the place and status these “orientalists” want to relegate them to!

This hijacking and subverting of Syrian control over the English speaking social media fight for Syria came to a head recently when a large section of the English speaking members of the social media movement, after one of the members had for months promoted one of her kind, Senator Dick Black, shared across the social media enthusiastic posts of the “hero” Senator. Senator Black was welcomed in Syria and indeed had a meeting with President Assad.

This is the background fundamentalist Christian Senator Black comes from; the Ted Cruz platform in the running up for preselection for the American Presidential race which included a proposed policy of only Christian Syrian refugees, not Muslims, being allowed into the USA; an overt and despicable sectarian stand.

Senator Black is a minor State Senator who curiously believes he has a role to play on the international arena. The Senator had been challenged over a year ago by an analyst whose insights on the misinterpretation of Islam and how that lent itself to driving the jihadist recruitment was given to a trusted acquaintance but immediately landed in the hands of the Senator. The Senator promptly used this information to achieve the exact opposite goals to the originator of the information and, clearly, this was used by the Senator to further his sectarian agenda. The result was a cleverly written article by the Senator, where that analyst saw his own words and concepts in print but with a very different message to the one he was trying to get across. Senator Black, in a subtle manner, stated that extremist Islam was a danger for Christianity and the Western civilization, making no mention of the danger it posed to everyone in the entire Middle East and indeed the whole world. Just like ISIS, the fundamentalist drive in the USA potentially poses a great danger. Such beliefs including other bizarre beliefs of Senator Black, goes against everything the State of Syria values and advocates.

“Cruz is avowedly as sectarian as you can get and so is Black”, to quote an American academic when contemplating on the meeting Black had with President Assad, … “nor does it benefit Syria to elevate a local state politician who is ridiculed in the US press for such bizarre extremist views on sexuality, birth control, etc. My god, what is [Black] doing even speaking about marital rape, let alone denying it. The guy is a nutcase and minor figure.”

And why do I focus on this matter of Senator Black? It is to demonstrate the extent that the Syrian fight for Syria on the English speaking forum has been subverted. So who does Black truly represent? For those who understand Cruz and his kind intimately, they will be able to suggest some answers. Cruz is as rabidly pro-Israel as an American can be. Those from his camp who may be involved in defending Syria are only interested in the Christians of Syria. Some may even come from USA based churches that on one hand have members setting off to Israel for solidarity activities and other members who suddenly veer off and focus on Syria.

Had the Syrians been in control of their cause on the English speaking social media forum, then the issues described above would never have occurred. Instead, due to politeness and extreme civility on the part of Syrians, their cause on the English speaking social media, was incrementally eroded and overrun by evangelists, agents of all kinds of agenda, self-promoting individuals, agents who speak for Syrian fifth columnists and even agents of the CIA backed Unification Church.

The clique that gradually formed and overran the solidarity community all fraternise with each other, the whole lot of these nefarious characters, supposedly some being in total contradiction to each other’s values and politics, all the while co-opting vulnerable Syrians and attacking or freezing out the Syrians who expose them just by the virtue of what they write and say. The Arabic speaking Syria defence community on social media has never heard of these “famous” clique members or of Senator Black. This clique, formed their own cocoon, live in a fantasy and, unfortunately affected the English language social media fight for Syria.

The genuine, sincere, Western supporters of Syria are also generally sidelined as their modus operandi of empowerment of Syrians and helping from far behind acts as a mirror to the ego driven and profile seeking activists. The most hard working and effective supporters of Syria are those we never hear about, and we never know of their deeds or how their help empowered key Syrian figures to achieve certain tasks. Some of these quiet unsung heroes from the West may silently enter Syria at times, meet discreetly with key figures, listen carefully, keep their eyes and ears open and mouths closed and, with the expertise they may possess, help from behind the scenes without any recognition or fanfare.

Son of Edward Said Publishes Book on Terrorism Prosecutions in the US

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[Ed. note – According to a recent poll, slightly over half of Americans–51 percent–side with the FBI in its dispute with Apple over whether or not the company should provide a key to unlock the iPhone. The poll would seem to uphold the old adage that if you scare people enough they’ll gladly and willingly turn over their freedoms and rights to privacy.

Sadly this seems to be the general direction in which things are headed in America, with the judicial system being another case in point. For a while now we have been seeing people prosecuted on “terrorism” charges–not for any act of terrorism but simply for holding views the government finds objectionable. Much of this is documented in a book called Crimes of Terror: The Legal and Political Implications of Federal Terrorism Prosecutions, by Wadie Said. The book discusses a number of high profile prosecutions, including of members of the Holy Land Foundation, who will “likely  serve the rest of their lives in prison” for nothing more than running a charity. Said, by the way, is a law professor at the University of South Carolina and the son of Edward Said.]

How the Son of Edward Said is Trying to Change Terrorism Prosecutions

By Murtaza Hussein | The Intercept

In 1999, Wadie Said was finishing his graduate studies at Columbia Law School, unsure of the direction he wanted his career to take.

A year earlier, the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania were bombed by a little-known terrorist group called al Qaeda. The lawyer for Muhammad al-Owhali, accused of organizing the bombings, reached out to Palestinian-American academic Edward Said for help in communicating with his Arabic-speaking client, as well as in understanding the politics of the region. Said suggested that his son might provide assistance.

“Sure, I guess,” was Wadie’s somewhat nervous reply at the time.

The experience was formative, setting Wadie, now a law professor at the University of South Carolina, down a path of legal practice and activism in the field of post-9/11 terror cases.

“I really absorbed from my father the idea of standing up for people who were persecuted or otherwise down-and-out, and wanted to apply that lesson in a different way, hence my initial decision to become a public defender,” Said says in an interview. “I was fortunate enough to start my career working on a high-profile prosecution like that with political overtones, and I came to the belief that it is always important to try and get the client’s message across, especially given how the overwhelming official hostility towards anyone with the status of terrorism defendant can subvert the legal process.”

The judicial fearmongering is perhaps best encapsulated by a 2013 appellate ruling in the case of Tarek Mehanna, a Boston-area man convicted of material support for terrorism. Mehanna was not actually accused of planning any violent act. The terrorism charges were instead based primarily on an accusation that he had translated ideological materials from Arabic to English and posted them online.

In his ruling upholding Mehanna’s 17-year sentence, Judge Bruce Selya wrote, with considerable rhetorical excess, “Terrorism is the modern-day equivalent of the bubonic plague: it is an existential threat,” and he added that terrorism defendants, even ostensibly non-violent ones like Mehanna, should expect the posture of the courts toward them “will be fierce.”

Wadie Said’s critical view of these sorts of cases was shaped by his father’s scholarship, as well as his own legal studies. “My father’s books obviously had a deep impact on me, as I learned how negative stereotypes affecting whole regions, cultures, languages and religious practices of anyone who could be considered part of the Muslim world could be very overwhelming,” Said says. “Once these stereotypes migrated to the realm of criminal prosecution, I felt I should try my best to counteract and dispel them in the legal field, particularly in cases where the government wanted to put people in prison for non-violent political activism, charity and other forms of solidarity with oppressed people around the globe.”

Said has written a new book, Crimes of Terror: The Legal and Political Implications of Federal Terrorism Prosecutions, which argues that “the mentality that we are in a nebulous and continuous war on terror” has led to overzealous and unwarranted terrorism prosecutions, while eroding key aspects of the rule of law. “The excesses of the past, including the use of agents provocateurs, racial profiling and mass infiltration by informants, have all been quietly revived under the banner of fighting this ill-defined threat,” Said told The Intercept.

Since 9/11, the U.S. government has pursued extraordinary legal (as well as extralegal) efforts to combat terrorism, and in doing so has expanded the “terrorist” label far beyond its previous connotations. Said argues that measures taken by the courts have created an effective “terrorist exception” to previously existing legal standards. Crimes of Terror examines the way in which this exception has altered normal law enforcement and judicial practices at every stage of the legal cycle, from initial investigation and evidence gathering, to trial, and finally to sentencing and incarceration.

In the courts, the admission of evidence obtained through torture, violations of due process rights and even evidence obtained by agents of foreign governments known for human rights abuses, have been deemed legally acceptable. Ahmed Abou Ali, a U.S. citizen who confessed under torture by Saudi authorities to a plot to kill then-President George W. Bush, had his confession deemed admissible by an American judge, in a trial thatAmnesty International criticized as potentially “[setting] a precedent in US courts of according support to …. statements obtained by torture and ill-treatment.” Abou Ali is presently serving a life sentence in the ADX Supermax facility in Florence, Colorado.

The extent to which normal legal procedures are often suspended was highlighted in one bizarre episode, described in Said’s book, from the 2007 trial of the directors of the Holy Land Foundation, once the largest Muslim charity in the United States. At that trial, agents of the Israeli Mossad werepermitted to testify anonymously and with their faces hidden as expert witnesses about the foundation’s purported links to Hamas. One of the agents, introduced to the jury solely under the pseudonym “Avi,” told the court that he could “smell Hamas” on the defendants’ charity work.

Crimes of Terror documents what Said says is a willful, ongoing effort by the government to blur the line between peaceful activism and terrorism, wherein people advocating for unpopular political causes are treated by the legal system in the same manner as those accused of committing violent acts. During the Holy Land Foundation trial, the prosecution played incendiary videos of Hamas and Islamic Jihad rallies to connect the defendants in the minds of the jury to violent militarism, despite the government conceding that the defendants themselves were engaged in purely humanitarian work.

Indeed, it was revealed at trial that several of the defendants had attempted in 1996 to clarify the rules on sending charity money to the Gaza Strip without running afoul of material support laws, a request to which the government had been unresponsive. The defendants in that case were ultimately convicted of terrorism charges and sentenced to lengthy prison terms on the grounds that their funding of charitable committees in Gaza had provided “reputational” benefits to the Hamas government there.

“One deliberate goal of the government has been to effectively equate having unpopular politics with being a terrorist,” Said says. “No one involved in the Holy Land Foundation had anything to do with violence and the government readily acknowledged they were involved in purely humanitarian work. However, because they were advocating Palestinian nationalism, an unpopular cause in the United States, they were successfully prosecuted as ‘terrorists’ and will now likely serve the rest of their lives in prison.”

The sense that terrorism cases are legally exceptional pervades the entire legal process, right up to incarceration. The U.S. government now operates a number of highly restrictive prison facilities for terrorism suspects on the mainland, known as Communication Management Units, or CMUs. These units are widely perceived to have developed a religious component, specifically as facilities created for the purpose of housing Muslim prisoners. A 2011 NPR report documenting the existence of these facilities, dubbed “Guantanamo North,” cited figures showing up to three quarters of CMU detainees were Muslim, a “tenfold over-representation” when compared with the national prison population.

Even unluckier, however, are the people convicted of terrorism who wind up in facilities like ADX Supermax in Florence, Colorado, where they are subjected to solitary confinement, as well as Special Administrative Measures (SAMs), which restrict their ability to communicate with other inmates, friends and relatives outside prison, and even prevent them from receiving news of the outside world.

While these measures are justified on the basis of preventing convicted terrorists from issuing orders to potential co-conspirators, in practice, Said says, they serve no purpose other than to make prison a more punitive experience for those convicted of terrorism offenses. “The element of punitiveness and gratuitous cruelty involved in incarcerating and holding terrorism suspects is off the charts. There is simply no way that any of these people, locked in solitary confinement in some remote prison, could coordinate crimes with or without the existence of SAMs,” he says. “There are bad prisons around the world but the idea of a ‘clean version of hell,’ which ADX has been widely described as, is a uniquely American idea.”

Although movements like Black Lives Matter and Solitary Watch are attempting to end some of the harsher practices of the police state, Said writes that exceptional measures taken in terror cases can have ramifications throughout the criminal justice system. “There is a poorly understood creep that is going on between terrorism prosecutions and what you might call ‘ordinary’ criminal cases,” he says. “The number of terrorism cases are small enough to slip under the radar, but it keeps alive the precedent to be used in future against some of the inchoate social movements challenging other aspects of government power.”

Said believes that these judicial and legal practices are enabled by a pervasive sense of fear and racism toward Arab and Muslim defendants. “If you have a funny name and darker skin and are facing charges like this, then really, good luck to you,” he says. “It’s going to be really tough when the government begins drawing all these connections to a jury based on your religion or politics.”

‘Stop that journalism shit’…Filmmaker Discusses Trials of Working in Occupied Palestine

Posted on November 23, 2015


A Flawed Model? Or the Only One That Now Works?

New Film Tells the Story of the Occupation Through the Eyes of Israeli Jews

What if you had filmed a documentary on life under Israeli occupation and then later, after the documentary was released, one of the Palestinians you had interviewed, and who had appeared in your film, was shot by Israeli soldiers, presumably in retaliation? How would it make you feel?

Such matters are among the subjects discussed in a lengthy article published recently at Americans for Middle East Understanding. The article is written by Tom Hayes, an independent filmmaker since the late 1970s and whose documentaries have appeared on PBS and elsewhere. In the course of his lengthy career, Hayes has made three documentaries on Occupied Palestine–one released in 1985, the second in 1997, and the most recent, “Two Blue Lines,” which came out earlier this year.

His first film on Palestine, Native Sons: Palestinians in Exile, was filmed largely in Lebanon, but his second–People and the Land–was filmed inside Palestine, and those Palestinians who worked with him on it, i.e. those who agreed to be interviewed as well as those who were part of his film crew, suffered retribution. One of them was warned to “stop that journalism shit,” and then later shot in the stomach.

All of which led Hayes to adopt what he refers to as “Plan B” in the making of Two Blue Lines. Obviously Israeli Jews, in cooperating on such a film project, don’t run the same risk that Palestinians do–and so virtually all of the subjects interviewed for this latest documentary are I guess what you might refer to as “Jews of conscience.” This means in essence, of course, that the film tells the story of the occupation through Jewish eyes, rather than Palestinian eyes, which will strike some people as farcical or preposterous–and indeed that’s how it struck Hayes at first. But it was the method he eventually chose, apparently out of necessity.

Jews of conscience, I suppose, can be expected to speak of such things as how the occupation runs contrary to “Jewish values” and the like, and indeed if you look at the trailer below, you’ll see and hear a bit of that. But apparently even Hayes himself is of a rather similar mindset, making reference to a “Jewish ethical tradition,” as he puts it in his article. And this might give us pause to thought.

There are of course good Jews. And there are bad Jews. (As is the case with any group of people.) And if we look around us today, judging not only from what we see going on in Israel but also the support that the Jewish state gets from Jews abroad, it would appear that the “bad Jews” outnumber the “good Jews,” perhaps by a fairly considerable margin. Despite that, though, we are supposed to take it on faith that there exists such a thing as a “Jewish ethical tradition.” It has always struck me as flawed logic.

But there is another problem with it as well. If I, as a white American, were to lay claim to having “white values” or to begin making conversational references to a “white ethical tradition,” I would, quite naturally, be called a racist. So why are Jews given a free pass when they do the same? Why do people, including Jews themselves–and yes, Jews of conscience most especially of all–not hear with their ears and recognize all this talk about “Jewish values” as having the same sort of supremacist overtones? But it seems they don’t. And this, I think, may be one of the problems lying at the root of the occupation, and why it has gone on for as long as it has.

Yet these are the people through whose eyes Hayes tells the story of the occupation. To be clear–I’m not passing judgement. I can’t.  I haven’t seen the film. All I’ve seen is the trailer below. It may well be that it’s a good film. Or it may be, as I say, that it’s a flawed model for a documentary but the only real option available, particularly now with an intifada in full swing. If you’re curious to find out for yourself, you can order the film here.

Below is an excerpt from Hayes’ article. As I mentioned above, the full article is quite lengthy. In it, the author makes some good points, and maybe a few that are not so good, but overall, it is an article well worth reading, and it definitely gives you a taste of the trials and tribulations of trying to film a documentary in Occupied Palestine.

Between Two Blue Lines

Two Blue Lines Trailer from Tom Hayes on Vimeo.

By Tom Hayes

Why Plan B

In 1981, when the fire lit under me, I was reading anything I could lay my hands to about Palestine, Palestinians, political Zionism, the creation of Israel.  One text of particular clarity was (and still is) The Question of Palestine by Edward Said.  I called Professor Said at Columbia and explained that I didn’t think Americans had any idea what was happening to Palestinians.  I wanted to do a film that would change that, and had found his book particularly illuminating.  Would he come on board as a consultant for the project?  Edward was polite in the face of my naiveté.

This isn’t an exact quote, but it’s close, “Tom, it’s nice that you care, but we Palestinians need to take control of our own narrative.”  He indicated that he was just too busy with that enterprise to help.  Edward eventually relented and assisted me with writing the voice-over for Native Sons: Palestinians in Exile.

I never forgot that first interaction with Professor Said.  His seminal statement about who needs to be holding the reigns on the Palestinian narrative rang in me.  I worked very hard in both Native Sons and People and The Land to create work that would at least serve as conduits for Palestinian voices, that they might reach American ears.

Yet, staring into the screens in my editing suite in 2005, the film that was peering back at me flew in the face of Professor Said’s injunction. I noticed that some of the Israelis I filmed on “Plan B days” were actually telling the truth—the honest, empathic, truth of the enslavement of Palestinian people and the attack on their culture at the hands of the Zionist project.  Not old school retail enslavement where the owner is responsible for food and shelter of those whose lives he “owns.”  I’m talking wholesale, big lots of enslavement; just chain their lives, let them starve, and hope they find a way to run away.

In 2007, I cobbled together enough grants to mount another production trip to Palestine. I wanted to be there for the fortieth anniversary of the 1967 war.

I got a great wake-up call from one of my enablers in Gaza on that trip. I was prohibited by Israeli forces from entering Gaza, but Palestinian friends were there filming for me. My friend, Mohammed, said something that forever changed how I see “the situation.” We were discussing filming dates and I was adamant that cameras be rolling through what I was calling “the anniversary of the occupation,” June 5, 1967.  He was perplexed. “June 5th, not May 14th? Oh, you’re talking about the anniversary of the Naksa, not the Nakba.”

Mohammed was born in a refugee camp in Gaza. For him, for his parents, for all the people of his hometown, the occupation began on the day that Israel declared its independence. It began with the Nakba, the Catastrophe that left his family locked outside their homes, their town, their land. The 1967 war was, as far as he and his community are concerned, the Naksa, the “Setback.” It wasn’t particularly significant for the vast community of Palestinian refugees. For Palestinian refugees, every inch of land controlled by Israel is occupied territory. That is their narrative, lived for sixty-seven years, and it should be recognized.

During that trip I leaned even harder on gathering the testimony of progressive Israeli Jews. Back in the States, sifting the footage, the suspicions that I had had about the film’s intent became clearer.  It is that way with a documentary.  There is something in a mountain of film that says “I know who I am, what I want to be.  Listen to me.”  If you wind up with the documentary you thought you were making when you started a project, you probably should have stayed home.  You didn’t discover anything new, and stuck with the preconceptions you had when you started.

What was climbing out of the screens into my editing room was the picture of a film that swerved one hundred eighty degrees away from Edward Said’s pronouncement on control of narrative.  I started seeing a film that handed the story of the Palestinian experience over to Israeli voices.  That seemed too wrong to contemplate.  My gut reaction was “No, no, and absolutely not!”  I spent about a week prowling the night, thinking, rethinking, rejecting, weighing the approach.  It was such a twisted idea, I had a hard time getting my head around it.

There are some life, death, and destruction elements that had to be considered in the equation.  There had been Israeli reprisals against individuals and families who spoke candidly to my camera in People and The Land.  Abu Imad was shot twice and his family home regularly ransacked by Israeli forces.   One of my fixers was shot in the stomach after he ignored an Israeli order to “stop that journalism shit.”  The father of one of my subjects died at a checkpoint while suffering a heart attack.  The ambulance he was in was denied entry to Jerusalem.  This is not hypothetical.  The Zionist sword hangs over the neck of every Palestinian.  It’s an honor that so many Palestinian people have provided access to their communities and given my camera their testimony.  An honor that so many cared to protect me and my crew from the Israeli army.

There is responsibility, and there are consequences for the actions of documentary makers.  Every time I have gone back to Palestine the lives of my Palestinian friends have been further debased by the Zionist project.  It’s one of the things that has made the work of documenting an inescapable obligation.  That and the knowledge that I, and my country, are responsible for that debasement.

I spoke about that grinding guilt with one of my longtime contacts the last time I was in Palestine.  He put a gentle hand on my arm and said, “Tom, what makes you think they wouldn’t have shot us if we hadn’t helped you?  What makes you think they wouldn’t have imprisoned and tortured us if we hadn’t helped you?  You need to forget about that.”  It was a very sweet thing to say, but I cannot forget about the horrible things that happened to them, nor can I clear myself of responsibility for that carnage.  The blade of the occupation never wavers, patient in its hunt for the next person to defy it.  As a filmmaker, you’d be crazy not to think about that, if you care at all for your fellow human beings.

On a trip after the second Intifada I contacted a health care professional who had provided excellent clinical analysis of the impact of Israeli ordnance on Palestinian bodies during the first uprising.  I was curious about the escalation in degree and scope of injuries he had recently encountered.  I was invited to his home outside of Jerusalem and, after tea, I broached my request to film with him again.  He politely declined.  “I knew you were going to ask me this.  I can’t do it.  It’s not worth it.”  He explained that his wife had cancer and they had to go to Jerusalem for her treatments.  “I could lose our permits if I appear in a film.”  I didn’t press him.  The tentacles of the occupation reach into every cranny of people’s lives.  His was a well founded fear.

There was a time when speaking on camera about the occupation would, at worst, get a Palestinian beaten and jailed.  Those were “the good old days” before the policy of targeted murder was adopted.  Israel has murdered hundreds of Palestinians under that policy.  Israel’s murderous brutality in the West Bank and Gaza has increased to such a point that even drawing forward footage from “the good old days” for a new film could be a death warrant for my subjects.

Just as I have footage of Stephen Langfur aging twenty years on film, so do I have footage of many Palestinians aging before the camera as their lives are squeezed in the vise of Israel’s systematic denial of their humanity.  It is gripping, sometimes inspiring, and horribly tragic material.

As I prowled the night wrestling with the mode of retelling the story of Palestine, weighing the possible impact of my options, I came to a turning point.

I am no longer going to gamble the lives and families of my friends by putting them in a film that might or might not positively impact their lives.  Not until they either live as free human beings, or cease to exist at all.  Palestinian filmmakers know the risk/reward equation within their own community.  I leave it to them and their subjects to take control of their own images and narrative.

Concurrent with the concrete implications of mode and content I was also weighing the profoundly racist nature of American media.  It occurred to me that what lay before me was an opportunity.  If the only voices that are presented by the media as “unbiased” vis-a-vis the I/P conflict are Jewish voices, I could build a film from Jewish voices that are actually telling the truth.  Not denying, distorting, distracting, or engaging in deceit (4D Zio-ganda).

I could deploy not just Jewish voices, but Israeli Jewish voices, speaking with human empathy and passion, the truth of what the Zionist project has done to the indigenous people of Palestine.

That’s exactly what had climbed out of the screens into my editing room: an opportunity to weaponize racism against itself.

I am an utterly unapologetic proponent of human equality.  I don’t believe that you have to have been a slave to know that slavery is repugnant.  I have not known the experience of slavery, but I sure as hell know that practicing it is a moral abyss.  Just as the strong voices of my Israeli subjects in Two Blue Lines know that the enslavement of the Palestinian people is a moral abyss.

In the end, if you truly believe in human equality, then any informed person of conscience can tell this story.  I myself am not Palestinian and have been trying to find an effective means of telling this story throughout my adult life.

It goes to the title of the film.  The Israeli flag contains two blue lines.  Two parallel blue lines that cannot intersect anymore than the Zionist project will ever truly intersect with the Jewish ethical tradition.

There’s something else that you can do with two blue lines.  You can make an equals sign.  In Palestine, equality has got the deep down blues real bad.

Full article here

Counter Ouch


Today Counterpunch and Redressonline published this incredible analysis by Blake Alcott.
It proves beyond doubt that Ali Abunimah & Co. never read my work or understood any of my ideas.

I guess that some of our Palestinian activists may have to self-reflect. Those who believe in one democratic state would be well advised to engage debate and endorse the notions of tolerance, pluralism and integrity.

Let us all leave Talmudic Herem to Israel and its sayanim.

To Shun or Bury the Hatchet?

The Case of Gilad Atzmon


Panel at Cooper Union NYC led by Anne-Marie Slaughter, 28 September 2006:
Tony Judt: I just… I’d just like to say one very quick thing about [the difficulty of getting anything critical of Israel into the mainstream media]. When I submitted an article about the Israeli Lobby debate — that Mearsheimer and Walt kicked off — to a very well known American, North American, newspaper [NY Times], I was asked by the editorial directors would I mind telling them whether I’m Jewish or not. They felt it was something they would like to know before they published it.
Martin Indyk: But they published it.
TJ: I told them I was Jewish. (Audience laughs.)

This review of Gilad Atzmon’s book The Wandering Who? A Study of Jewish Identity Politics and the anti-Atzmon essay by Ali Abunimah and some 20 co-signatories called Granting No Quarter: A Call for the Disavowal of the Racism and Antisemitism of Gilad Atzmon is an effort to unite the movement for one secular, democratic state (ODS) in historic Palestine of which both Atzmon and Abunimah are adherents. Edward Said wrote,

The absence of a collective end to which all are committed has crippled Palestinian efforts not just in the official realm, but even among private associations, where personality conflicts, outright fights, and disgraceful backbiting hamper our every step.

In his last years Said put such a “collective end” into words – for coexistence between Jews and Arabs in one state – and now, at the end of a decade that has witnessed outstanding articles, books and conferences articulating this vision, a chasm opens up. If our effort is not to be crippled both sides must bury the hatchet.

Abunimah, Omar Barghouti, Rafeef Ziadah and other signatories, as well as other ODS supporters known to me who have disavowed Atzmon, have made enormous contributions to justice for Palestinians. Their accusations are worth examining, which requires examining The Wandering Who? and some of Atzmon’s blogs and videos with an eye out for the racism, ‘antisemitism’ and Holocaust denial of which Granting accuses him. I haven’t read everything, of course, and there are certainly mistakes in my judgment, so I welcome any feedback and debate.

The call for disavowal accuses Atzmon of 5 trespasses:

(1) He claims to speak for Palestinians.
(2) He denies that Zionism is settler-colonialist.
(3) He believes that to self-identify as a Jew is to be a Zionist.
(4) He denies the Holocaust.
(5) He is an ‘antisemite’, a racist.

Two general observations: First, Granting’s accusations are formulated indirectly, not ‘in so many words’; but a reading of the short document shows that these are what it boils down to. Second, Granting itself does not include any proof or evidence for the accusations; there are no examinations of Atzmon’s texts, even out of context. Neither are there explicit definitions of the terms ‘racist’ and ‘antisemitic’ that would by rights accompany such severe accusations. For such more detailed definitions and arguments I have searched the web in vain, but of course the web is large, and if I have missed something I hope somebody tells me. I’m restricting my analysis almost entirely to Wandering on the assumption that evidence for the accusations would be there, if anywhere.

Strictly speaking there is thus no case, only claims. Atzmon is innocent till proven guilty. It is unfair, difficult and inefficient to put the burden of proof on the accused. Nevertheless, I’ve read the book carefully and ended up writing a defense of it that includes several criticisms, quoting Atzmon at length along the way. Please also see the favourable reviews by Mazin Qumsiyeh and John Mearsheimer, and a less favourable one by Elias Davidson. I ignore denunciations of Atzmon by Alan Dershowitz, Tony Greenstein and Jeffrey Goldberg because they consist of associative thinking and are based on often-unreferenced quotations out of context. Preceding Granting, in late February 2012, was a similar critique of Wandering that actually contains 12 quotations from Atzmon.

The five accusations

(1) Guiding the Palestinian struggle

Granting claims that Atzmon “for many years now… has taken on the self-appointed task of defining for the Palestinian movement the nature of our struggle, and the philosophy underpinning it.” Since I am sure the Granting signatories do not reject all ideas of all outsiders, this leaves it unclear what counts as acceptable opinion and support. It is moreover legitimate for Atzmon and other Israeli citizens to advocate visions of the future of their country – necessarily including Palestinians.

Granting’s concern becomes clearer through the further statementthat “As Palestinians, it is our collective responsibility, whether we are in Palestine or in exile, to assert our guidance of our grassroots liberation struggle.” Atzmon has in fact elsewhere agreed with this:

It is our duty (as human beings) to show our support to the Palestinian people but we are not allowed to tell them what to do. We are not allowed to tell them what is right or wrong, we can only offer ourselves as soldiers…

Ignoring the absurdity of the idea of ‘telling Palestinians what to do’, roles between the oppressed and those in solidarity with them must always be negotiated. In this case however I know that there is almost total agreement between Atzmon and the “principles” of the movement guided by the signatories: Right of Return, equality not apartheid within Israel, liberation of the West Bank and Gaza, and perhaps even a preference for one over two states.

(2) Settler-colonialism

Granting claims that “Zionism, to Atzmon, is not a settler-colonial project…” The text of Wandering does not support this claim. Atzmon in several places explicitly affirms that Zionism is settler-colonial. (pp 9, 88, 101, 165) In apparent contradiction, he does in one place write that it “is not a colonial movement with an interest in Palestine”. (p 19) In my reading this means it is not just a run-of-the-mill colonial movement out for economic or geopolitical gain: there is no mother country unless it is world Jewry, and Zionism’s only colony is Palestine, which was chosen over Argentina and Uganda for cultural and/or religious reasons. Atzmon elsewhere objects to the “misleading” colonialism paradigm because he regards Zionism as a unique racialist project, not motivated by material exploitation for the (non-existent) homeland.

Atzmon is basically asserting that the settler-colonialist paradigm is not sufficient to explain Zionism: Zionist events like the attack on the Mavi Marmara, dropping White Phosphorus on Gaza, slicing up the Holy Land with separation walls, and indeed the original expulsion of “the vast majority of the Palestinian indigenous population just three years after the liberation of Auschwitz… have nothing to do with the colonialist nature of the Jewish state…” (pp 181-182) To be sure, the term “nothing” overstates the case, but his claim is that more than colonialism is involved. I’m inclined to agree when I read for instance Netanyahu’s December 2012 statement that “We live in a Jewish state, and Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. The Western Wall is not occupied territory. We will build in Jerusalem because this is our right.”

(3) Jewish political identity

Granting interprets Atzmon’s complex sociological concept of Jewish-ness to mean that

Zionism…is…part and parcel of defining one’s self as a Jew. Therefore, he claims, one cannot self-describe as a Jew and also do work in solidarity with Palestine, because to identify as a Jew is to be a Zionist.

Now, to say that self-identifying as a Jew entails Zionism is prima facie absurd, and I do not find the claim in Wandering. I agree with Granting that Atzmon is wrong in his blanket criticism of anti-Zionist Jewish groups. I also find Atzmon at places abstruse on this issue of the relation between world Jewry, “Jewish ideology” and Zionism.

But confusion is abated when we realise that his definition of Zionism differs from the standard, broad ‘movement for a Jewish state in Palestine’. Rather: “I suggest that it makes far more sense to regard Zionism as a tribal Jewish preservation project [aiming at] the prevention of assimilation…[] Accordingly, Zionism should be seen as an amalgam of different philosophies specialising in different forms of tribal separatism, disengagement and segregation.” (p 70) Atzmon is thus talking only about a political self-identity, so Granting misrepresents him.

Atzmon sets up three non-exclusive basic categories: “Jews (the people), Judaism (the religion) and Jewish-ness (the ideology)… or identity politics, or political discourse”. (p 15) The book does not criticise Jews, the first category, does criticise a few aspects of Judaism, the second, and argues for 200 pages against the third, Jewish-ness, and against those who “put their Jewish-ness over and above all of their other traits.” (p 16)

I am confused as to whether Atzmon wants to say that politically identifying with Jewish-ness entails Zionism. In numerous places criticises or laughs at Jewish tribalism (pp 19, 32, 56, 113, 116, 164-165, 172, 181-184), writing that “to identify politically as a Jew and to wonder what is ‘good for the Jews’ is the true essence of Jewish tribal thinking...” (p 184) Zionism “united the tribe on many levels” (p 46) and “is grounded on a very specific realisation of the Jewish identity as a synthesis of racial awareness, religious awareness and nationalistic awareness”. But while Jewish-ness is an ethnically-based political ideology, Atzmon doesn’t show that non-Zionist Jewish political identities are inconceivable.

Granting’s signatories must have misread the sentence, “To be a Zionist means to accept that, more than anything else, one is primarily a Jew.” (p 19) This says that all Zionists are 3rd-category Jews, not the reverse. The context moreover is a specific discussion of sanayim, Mossad agents living abroad.

I do however fault Atzmon’s statement that “…considering the racist, expansionist Judeo-centric nature of the Jewish State, the Diaspora Jew finds himself or herself intrinsically associated with a bigoted, ethnocentric ideology and an endless list of crimes against humanity.” (p 48) What does “intrinsically” associated mean? Merely being “associated” (by others) with something bad is one thing; but when this is “intrinsic” it could mean that the bad thing is indeed “part and parcel” of being a Diaspora Jew.

(4) Holocaust denial

Atzmon throughout acknowledges the Holocaust, shoah or Judeocide, asserting however that it should be studied historically like other ethnic exterminations. (pp 43, 70, 130-131, 154, 175-176, 182, 185-186) And we need to see how the Holocaust is used in the destruction of the Palestinians – a position shared by Yeshayahu Leibowitz, Adi Ophir, Norman Finkelstein and Marc Ellis. (pp 148-152, 162) I do find imprecision in his statement that the “Holocaust… [is] not an historical narrative, for historical narratives do not need the protection of the law and politicians” (p149); to be consistent with everything he writes about the Holocaust this should read “not merely an historical narrative”.
Atzmon recalls,

As much as I was a sceptic youngster, I was also horrified by the Holocaust. In the 1970s Holocaust survivors were part of our social landscape. They were our neighbours, we met them in our family gatherings, in the classroom, in politics, in the corner shop. They were part of our lives. The dark numbers tattooed on their white arms never faded away. It always had a chilling effect. Yet I must mention that I can hardly recall a single Holocaust survivor who ever attempted to manipulate me emotionally.” (pp 185-186)

Further, “It is the Holocaust that eventually made me a devoted supporter of Palestinian rights, resistance and the Palestinian right of return.” (p 186)
An earlier blog reads,

[T]he form of Holocaust denial that really bothers me is the denial of the on-going Palestinian Holocaust. This Holocaust is documented and covered daily by the western media. The turning of residential Palestinian cities into concentration camps; the deliberate starvation of the Palestinian population; the withholding of medical aid from Palestinian civilians; the wall that tears the holy land into isolated cantons and Bantustans; the continuous bombardment of civilians by the IAF are known to us all. This Holocaust is committed by the Jewish state with the support of world Jewry.

This accusation by Granting is absurd.

(5) Racism and ‘antisemitism’

Atzmon writes nothing against Jews by origin, i.e. against anybody based on their genetic heritage or ‘race’; yet this would be the precondition for justifying the allegation of ‘antisemitism’/racism because ‘semitic’ refers to an ethnos or race. I trust moreover that ‘some of his best friends are Jewish’, and he vows:

I will present a harsh criticism of Jewish politics and identity. Yet… there will not be a single reference to Jews as ethnicity or race… This book doesn’t deal with Jews as a people or ethnicity. If anything, my studies of the issue suggest that Jews do not form any kind of racial continuum…[] I also refrain from criticisng Judaism. Instead, I confront different interpretations of the Judaic code. I deal with Jewish Ideology, Jewish identity politics, and the Jewish political discourse. I ask what being a Jew entails. (p 15; also pp 147-148)

Again, his first two categories – religious Jews and Jews by origin – are “harmless and innocent”. (p 16) No one is calling for harm to Jews. (p 131)

Atzmon does once lambaste Judaism for tribalism because it so closely adheres to an ethnic rather than religious concept of itself (p 113) and sees a continuum between the Bible and Zionism (pp 120-122). But he says clearly,

I am against racism and in fact in my writing you won’t find a single racial reference. Moreover, when I write about Jewish identity I analyse it in ideological and philosophical terms. For me Jewishness is a mind set. Nothing to do with the quality of one’s blood or the religion of one’s mother.

He does unfortunately make several statements that refer to “Jews” where “Jewish-ness” or “Zionist” would be more accurate and consistent with the whole book. He for instance writes of “European and American Jews” who have assimilated and cast aside their “Jewish identity”, where he means their Jewish political identity or identification with the “tribe”. (pp 64-65) He rightly says that all Jewish Zionists sign up to the Jewish-ness ideology, but he should avoid any ambiguity suggesting that all Jews adhere to Jewish-ness.

Blurring occurs when he omits the qualifier ‘political’ in writing of “the Jew within”, “the Jewish understanding of the past” or occasionally of “Jewish identity”. (pp 95, 173, 135) He does however usually precisely include it, for example in writing that one “can hardly endorse a universal philosophy while being identified politically as a Jew.” (p 39; also pp 102, 138, 145, 174) Imprecision burdens as well the statement that “Jewish people… can never be like ‘other people’, for those who demand to be seen as equal must feel inherently and categorically different.” (p 52) I also miss clear definitions for the phrases “the Jewish condition” (p 184) and “the wider Jewish problem”. (p 15)

Atzmon’s use of the phrase “Jewish lobbyists” (pp 152, 171) has been challenged, clarity speaking for “Israel lobby” or “Zionist lobby”. It is however at least mitigating that most Jewish Zionist lobbyists themselves refer to themselves and their organisations as ‘Jewish’, and that Zionists themselves appropriate Jewish identities to oppress Palestinian Arabs – for instance with the Holocaust (pp 130-134) or Judaic symbols on fighter planes (p 140). As Zionist Michael Bar-Zohar puts it, “If you’re attacking Israel, this means you are attacking Jews.” But why should one language-rule be valid for pro-Israel lobbies and another for its critics? (pp 149-151)

Granting in addition accuses Atzmon of ‘”allying” himself with “conspiracy theories, far-right, orientalist, and racist arguments, associations and entities”, but offers no evidence, nor even a definition of what “allying” would look like. I urge Atzmon to make his language less ambiguous, but given that he is criticising what he sees as the dominant Jewish political culture, not Jews in general, his book in fact supports Granting’s position that “our struggle was never, and will never be, with Jews, or Judaism, no matter how much Zionism insists that our enemies are the Jews. Rather, our struggle is with Zionism.”


Benny Morris, in an interview with Jewish Chronicle and Guardian Zionist Jonathan Freedland, defends himself against Freedland’s suggestion that his critical, negative claims about Arab culture “could be seen as” racist by rejoining that he [like Atzmon] is speaking of a dominant political culture, not Arabs as a genetically defined ethnic group. Morris’s ambiguities are between statements that ‘all Arabs’ or ‘a majority of Arabs’ or ‘Arabs’ or ‘Arab culture(s)’ place relatively low value on human life, but it seems the generalising nature of sociological analysis always entails a degree of conflation between (1) the dominant norms of the group and (2) all members of the group. Nietzsche walked the same tightrope in his Kulturkritik of Christianity. But the issue is the quality of Morris’s or Atzmon’s or Nietzsche’s empirical evidence and cultural analysis – a well-known academic field – not whether any such investigation is racist. It is not, since there is no appeal to ethnic causality which is the criterion for both positive (e.g. ‘philosemitic’) and negative (e.g. ‘antisemitic’) racism.
The advertisement for Wandering claims: “Since Israel defines itself openly as the ‘Jewish State’, we should ask what the notions of ‘Judaism’, ‘Jewishness’, ‘Jewish culture’ and ‘Jewish ideology’ stand for.” The Jewish state and its behaviour is an explicandum of the first order, costing as it does Palestinian lives and livelihoods. He quotes Israel’s first president: “‘There are no English, French, German or American Jews, but only Jews living in England, France, Germany or America.’ In just a few words, Weizmann managed to categorically define the essence of Jewish-ness.” (p 16) With this concept he hopes to correct and add to our understanding of Zionism.
Atzmon told Ha’aretz:

The Israelis can put an end to the conflict in two fucking minutes. Netanyahu gets up tomorrow morning, returns to the Palestinians the lands that belong to them, their fields and houses, and that’s it. The refugees will come home and the Jews will also finally be liberated: They will be free in their country and will be able to be like all the nations, get on with their lives and even salvage the bad reputation they have brought on themselves in the past 2,000 years. But for Netanyahu and the Israelis to do that, they have to undergo de-Judaization and accept the fact that they are like all peoples and are not the chosen people. So, in my analysis this is not a political, sociopolitical or socioeconomic issue but something basic that has to do with Jewish identity.

The anti-Zionist as well as the pro-Zionist discourse cannot be separated from the Jewish discourse.
At a One Democratic State conference in Stuttgart in 2010, attended by both Atzmon and Abunimah, the latter argued that this ‘culture’ category is useless:

I think that to use language that blames a particular culture – [Atzmon] was talking about Jewish culture – is wrong [applause] because such arguments could be made about anyone. We could blame German culture for the history of Germany, we could blame British culture for the history of British imperialism, we could blame Afrikaner culture for apartheid in South Africa. And this really doesn’t explain anything at all. (emphasis added)

Atzmon counters that this is

what historians, sociologists, anthropologists, intellectuals are doing when they try to understand historical and political development. The historians and sociologists who look into the Nazi era, don’t they look into German culture, into German philosophy, into the work of Wagner, both as a writer and as a composer, into the work of Hegel, and the German spirit, into Christian antisemitism, and the impact of the Protestant church, don’t they look into a Martin Luther, and his infamous book about the Jews and their lives? Don’t they look into German Early Romanticism? We are in the 21st century. We understand very well that culture, politics, history, heritage, religions, are all bonded together.

Abunimah’s position is of course untenable, while at the same time it remains to be seen whether Atzmon’s concept of ‘Jewish-ness’ really earns its keep.

Perhaps “Jewish-ness” is not strictly necessary to refute Zionism and support ODS. However, on the principle of ‘know thine enemy’ it may assist us in fighting Zionism and negotiating with Israel – were it ever to come to the table. I moreover submit that analysing the hoary topic of ‘what it is to be a Jew’ is of much interest to many Jews who are now doubting their support of the Jewish state. It seems to me that the issue can contribute to both an intra-Jewish discussion and to the discussion of how to stop the Jewish state’s murderous ethnic cleansing. Why should it do only one or the other?

One Granting signatory, Omar Barghouti, has sought in terms similar to Atzmon’s to explain Zionist crimes against Palestinians, the “relative-humanization” of Palestinians, and how Zionists live with it. His explanatory concept is ‘Jewish fundamentalism’, relying partly on the thought of Israel Shahak to find cold-bloodedness and justification for Jewish ethnic superiority in some “tenets of Jewish Law”. The Midianite genocide and certain Torah passages provide precedents for what is happening today. Atzmon likewise relates Israeli behaviour to Biblical precedents (pp 120-122, 157-162), yet in the main looks at secular Jewish culture, whereas Barghouti is perhaps focusing only on religious Jewish culture. Or, if it is not Atzmon’s anti-Jewish-ness that Barghouti finds racist, antisemitic and Holocaust-denying, what is it?

As for the content of Jewish-ness – in the broadest terms merely “Judeo-centric political discourse” (pp 88, 55, 145, 197) – Atzmon characterises it as (1) exclusivist, (2) based on the uniqueness of Jewish suffering, (3) supremacist and (4) uncannily paralleling some Old Testament stories. (pp 121, 160, 188) He writes for instance that

assimilation has never been presented as a Jewish political call. It was rather individual Jews who welcomed and enjoyed European liberal tendencies. The Jewish political call was inspired by different means of tribal, cultural or even racially-orientated segregation. (p 32)

As evidence that it is more “tribal” than many other groups Atzmon points to a relatively high resistance to assimilation, strong halachic marriage rules (procreative isolation), and high hurdles for conversion to Judaism. (pp 19, 32, 56, 113, 116, 164-165, 172) The bridge to Zionism, in Atzmon’s view, seems to be that a combination of exile, cohesion and chosenness, together with feelings of unique suffering, led to both a strong desire for an ethnically-defined rather than secular-democratic state and a sense of righteousness (and thoroughness) in its establishment at the expense of indigenous people.

I don’t know much about either Judaism or Jewishness, but I think Atzmon’s evidence for the trait of supremacy is inadequate. (see pp 2, 101, 181-182) True, Zionist acts are racially supremacist, but the book does not give a rigorous proof that feelings of ethnic superiority inhere in the Jewish political culture. But this is a question of content; that he writes about it is certainly kosher.

We should perhaps not forget that Hess, Jabotinsky, Weizmann and all Israeli politicians have tied the state as closely as possible to Jewish history and culture. (pp 16-17, 139) The Law of Return, the Jewish National Fund, Jews-only settlements and roads, the very concept of Eretz Israel, and Israel’s Declaration of Independence are racist. Negative Kulturkritik is not.

Atzmon unexpectedly even has a good word for Jewish-ness in seeing its “complexity” and the “duality of tribalism and universalism… at the very heart of the collective secular Jewish identity…” (pp 148, 162, 56) “Secular collective Jewish identity” is made up of bothelements, “Athens” and “Jerusalem”. (pp 56, 57, 78) In conciliatory mode he ambivalently asserts that while there is no such thing as a “Jewish humanist heritage’… there are some remote patches of humanism in Jewish culture, [which however] are certainly far from being universal.” (p 113) By reference to the ethnic particularism of Jewish-ness he suggests an answer to the question “How is it that… Israel and its lobbies are so blind to any form of ethical or universal thinking?” (p 177, emphasis added)

Another writer seeking connection between “Jewish resources” and a universal, egalitarian ethics is Judith Butler, whose new book Parting Ways: Jewishness and the Critique of Zionism promises a rewarding look at this topic which should be debated, not silenced by the charge of ‘antisemitism’ or denying the legitimacy of cultural explanations in principle.

Imagine an exam question: “Is the following statement antisemitic?:

The reopening of the tunnel [beneath al-Haram al-Sharif] seems… an act of arrogant triumphalism, a sort of rubbing of Palestinian and Muslim noses in the dirt. This had the added effect of pouring fuel on the smoldering sectarian competition that has been the city’s long-standing bane. I do not think there is any doubt that this Lukud assertion of what is unmistakably Jewish power over Muslim holy places was intended to show the world… that Judaism can do what it wants.

Atzmon speaks of “Jewish nationalism, Jewish lobbying and Jewish power” (p 145), interpreted perhaps by Granting with the somewhat vague phrase “attacking Jewish identities”. But cannot one speak of a political ideology that sees itself as Jewish using the term ‘Jewish’ with its bundle of ethnic, religious, and political meanings?


Atzmon asks several taboo questions.

I think that 65 years after the liberation of Auschwitz, we must be entitled to start asking questions… We should strip the Holocaust of its Judeo-centric exceptional status and treat it as an historical chapter that belongs to a certain time and place. The Holocaust, like every other historical narrative, must be analysed properly… Why were the Jews hated? Why did European people stand up against their neighbours? Why are the Jews hated in the Middle East, surely they had a chance to open a new page in their troubled history? If they geniunely planned to do so, as the early Zionists claimed, why did they fail? (pp 175-176)

People who place such questions out of bounds “are doomed to think that anti-Semitism is an ‘irrational social phenomenon that ‘erupts out of nowhere’. Accordingly they must believe that the Goyim are potentially mad.” (p 182) It is a matter of simple logic that to ask why Jews were hated in Europe is not to presuppose that there were good reasons.
Another excerpt:

It took me many years to understand that the Holocaust, the core belief of the contemporary Jewish faith, was not at all an historical narrative [for] historical narratives do not need the protection of the law and political lobbies. It took me years to grasp that my great-grandmother wasn’t made into a ‘soap’ or a ‘lampshade’ as I was taught in Israel. She probably perished of exhaustion, typhus or maybe even by mass shooting… The fate of my great-grandmother was not so different from hundreds of thousands of German civilians who died in deliberate, indiscriminate bombing, just because they were Germans. Similarly, people in Hiroshima died just because they were Japanese… [As devastating as it was], at a certain moment in time, a horrible chapter was given an exceptional meta-historical status. (pp 175, 149)

The “Holocaust religion” freezes a certain narrative in law while Holocaust research follows normal historiographic rules; the claim of its uniqueness is ‘philosemitic’, and its severity is used to justify, with the logic of two wrongs’ making a right, the ethnic cleansing of people having nothing to do with the Holocaust. (pp 148-153)
Evil questions came naturally to Atzmon:

[At age 14 he] asked the emotional tour guide if she could explain the fact that so many Europeans loathed the Jews so much and in so many places at once. I was thrown out of school for a week. (p 184)
“As long as we fail to ask questions, we will be subjected to Zionist lobbies and their plots. We will continue killing in the name of Jewish suffering.” (p 176)

Ben White has similarly asked, “Is it possible to understand the rise in anti-semitism?” This requires defining both ‘antisemitic’ and ‘understand’. One poll question asked people if they “can understand very well that some people are unpleasant towards Jews”. While White is not anti-Semitic and not unpleasant towards Jews, he “can… understand why some are.” First, Israel subscribes to the racial supremacy of Jews, and Zionists “equate their colonial project with Judaism”, and although reacting to this racism and injustice with “attacks on Jews or Jewish property [is] misguided”, it can be understood politically. Second, since the Western media are overwhelmingly pro-Israel, some people believe, again “misguidedly”, the idea of a “Jewish conspiracy”. We must live with the ambiguity of the word ‘understand’.

Similarly, when Atzmon calls violence against non-combatants who are Jewish by origin “rational”, we must acknowledge the ambiguity of the term ‘rational’, which doesn’t mean ‘morally justified’. Atzmon defends his statement that burning down a synagogue can be “a rational act” by explaining that by “rational” he means that “any form of anti-Jewish activity may be seen as political retaliation. This does not make it right.” One can ask why such violence occurs, just as we can ask why the Jewish state commits and condones violence against innocent Palestinians and the destruction of olive trees and water cisterns. It can be Israeli racism, but it could also be ‘rational’ behaviour for Israel’s security. Antisemitism expert Antony Lerman, also, has noted that many acts against Jews in Europe were tied to Israel’s unjust behaviour – they were political, not irrational in the sense of arbitrary, or necessarily motivated solely by hate of Jews.

Another hot topic that might can approach solely in terms of Zionism, not Jewish-ness, is that of the economic, political and media power of Zionists who are also Jews in part motivated by allegiance to their ethnic group. Atzmon covers this briefly (169-172), his Exhibit A being the ardently pro-Zionist Jewish Chronicle’s listing of the relatively large number of Jews in the UK Parliament (all hard or soft Zionists). Exhibit B is billionaire Haim Saban who says, according to a New Yorker portrait, “I’m a one-issue guy, and my issue is Israel… [The Arab] terrorists give me a potch in the panim…”;he openly seeks influence in “political parties,… think tanks… and media outlets…”, has tried to buy the LA Times and NY Times to push his agenda, and “harbors a wariness of Arabs that may stem from growing up as a Jew in Egypt.”

To declare out of bounds the subject of Jewish, as opposed to merely Zionist, influence in politics, finance and media is to claim that support for Zionism by many powerful people has nothing at all to do with the fact that they are Jewish, or rather, that they politically identify as Jews. Xstrata boss Mick Davis’s charity ‘United Jewish Israel Appeal’ (‘Powering young people in the UK and Israel’, ‘Strengthening Jewish identity and the connection to Israel’), is merely pro-Israel; in spite of its name, its slogans and its activities furthering Judaisation in “the Galil” and the Negev, it has nothing to do with Jewishness, no ethno-cultural content whatsoever. The Anti-Defamation League in the US, on this view, is merely a group protecting Jews from ‘antisemitism’, only coincidentally pro-Israel. Everybody knows this is fiction, and the subject appears taboo for critics but not for supporters of Zionism.

Again, one can strip Herzl’s movement for a Judenstaat to its settler-colonialist bones, but given an interest in promoting pro-Palestinian public opinion, one can look at this subject soberly, with no ‘antisemitic’ intent. Whether Jewish-ness and Zionism connect here, and whether this makes any difference in understanding Zionist oppression of Palestinians, are open questions, and I for one look for ‘Zionist’ rather than ‘Jewish’ publicists. But why should this be taboo? At any rate, on this subject Atzmon delivers a one-liner: “As I have said earlier, I do not believe in Jewish conspiracies: everything done in the open.” (p 76) But his real view is that “In fact the opposite [than a conspiracy] is the case. It isn’t a plot and certainly not a conspiracy for it was all in the open. It is actually an accident.” (pp 30, 21)

To be avoided is the situation where only supporters of Israel can point to ethnic-ideological connections while critics of Israel cannot. If we want to understand the entity committing the Palestinicide, the only line to be drawn is at hate speech based on ethnic, racial and religious criteria.

My objections

The ambiguity of ‘Jewish’
As shown above, some of Atzmon’s statements fail to distinguish clearly between his 2nd and 3rd categories – between Jews by biological origin and those whose priority is their (Jewish) cultural identity – and could thus be read as ‘antisemitic’. I find however no evidence of hate of, distaste for, or even criticism of, ‘Jews’. Complicating judgment of these statements is the fact that when they are ‘philosemitic’ they are not, in our mainstream discourse, seen as objectionable. (p 51) Not only ‘Jewish humour’, but quotidian political analysis routinely refers to ‘Jewish’ – not ‘Zionist’ or ‘Israeli’ – identity.

One Israeli analyst for instance correlates Israeli “right” and “left” stances with “where on our scale of identity we place Jewish identity”, quoting Netanyahu saying, “The leftists have forgotten what it is to be Jewish.” Still, I believe Atzmon should avoid sentences that use the unqualified terms ‘Jews’ or ‘Jewish’ when the subject is identity politics. The statement “I grasped that Israel and Zionism were just parts of the wider Jewish problem” (p 15) is understood by those familiar with a long intra-Jewish discourse, but not by the wider world. It takes a lot of context to de-fuse a statement like, “With contempt, I am actually elaborating on the Jew in me” – the context coming three paragraphs later, namely that “Jewish-ness isn’t at all a racial category…” (pp 94-95)

Tribal supremacy

As already touched on, while the Jewish supremacy of the Jewish state’s Zionism is obvious, Wandering does not demonstrate to my satisfaction that Jewish-ness is supremacist. Now if Jewish political culture (‘Jewish-ness’) is Zionism, the claim is tautologically true, but Atzmon maintains throughout that they are different. To be sure, adherence to any ethnically- or religiously-defined group arguably implies a belief that the group is a bit better than rival groups: upholding türklük, or saying ‘I am a Christian’ says something about Kurds, and perhaps Islam, as well. But Atzmon’s claim is not only open to empirical examination, it is not a claim about (all) Jews as an ethnicity, and therefore not racist. Nevertheless, because this claim is so central to building the bridge between Jewish-ness and Zionism it deserves more argument.

Jews Against Zionism

Atzmon criticises groups that mix ethnic Jewish identity with the non-ethnic political goals of socialism and anti-Zionism; they put their Jewish-ness above the content of their political stance in addition to excluding non-Jews. (pp 62, 71-76, 86-87, 102-105) Groups such as British Jewish Socialists, Jews for Boycott of Israeli Goods, Jews for Justice for Palestinians, or Jewish Voice for Peace remain, he says, within the discourse of ethnicism rather than universal humanism:

Even saying ‘I do not agree with Israel although I am a Jew’ is to fall into the trap. Having fallen into the trap, one cannot leave the clan behind – one can hardly endorse a universal philosophy while being identified politically as a Jew. (pp 38-39)

He gives an instance of the conflicting loyalties of Jews who oppose Zionism or support socialism as Jews by relating a Jewish Chronicle interview with two founding members of British Jewish Socialists who want also to belong to the Jewish ethnic group or nation.

I do differentiate between ‘the leftist who happens to be jewish’ – an innocent category inspired by humanism, and ‘the Jewish leftist’, which seems to me to be a contradiction in terms, for the left aims to universally transcend itself beyond ethnicity, religion or race. Clearly ‘Jewish left’ is there to maintain a Jewish tribal ethnocentric identity at the heart of working class philosophy. (pp 116-117)

The Marxist European Bund also mixed pro-socialist and pro-Jewish goals (pp 56, 116, 181), but I am not aware of what substantial differentiae would set Jewish socialism off from other brands.
It is however Atzmon’s attack on Jewish anti-Zionists that prompts the passage in Granting stating,

We will not allow a false sense of expediency to drive us into alliance with those who attack, malign, or otherwise attempt to target our political fraternity with all liberation struggles and movements for justice.

Yes, Atzmon targets that part of the pro-Palestinian movement defining itself as ‘Jewish’, believing that in the long run the cause is best served if we shed our ethnic political identities. He is asking whether, when the message is that “not all Jews are Zionists” (p 102), the main goal is to protect the good name of Jews, to retain some Jewish-ness, or to further the Palestinian cause. I believe Atzmon is here too severe in his critique, firstly because many such Jews fighting for Palestinian rights have impeccable motives, and secondly because there is a gain for Palestinians when a message to world opinion is that criticism of Israel does not entail being against Jews as Jews.

I am not aware that investigations into both ‘Jewishness’ and ‘Jewish ethics’ in connection with Zionism have revealed any difference in content between ‘Jewish’ anti-Zionism and ethno-religiously neutral anti-Zionism (i.e. universal ethics). I also accept the common observation that “Anti-Zionist (or Israel-critical) organizing, then, plays a crucial role in establishing a new secular Jewish identity, a field dominated by Zionism in Western nations for decades.” But again, the groups often identify themselves as Jewish for public-relations reasons, and indeed, why shouldn’t some such activists promote both anti-Zionism and the good name of their Jewish ethnos?

The social-marketing desirability of de-coupling Jewishness from criticism of Israel, which Atzmon misses or rejects (p 102), is expressed by the group ‘Jews for Justice for Palestinians’ (which notabene supports the two-state solution and is thus not anti-Zionist):

As well as organising to ensure that Jewish opinions critical of Israeli policy are heard in Britain, we extend support to Palestinians trapped in the spiral of violence and repression. We believe that such actions are important in countering antisemitism and the claim that opposition to Israel’s destructive policies is itself antisemitic.

While in the long or even medium run it is good to eliminate ethnocentricity from politics, there is perhaps now still some benefit for the Palestinian cause in having explicitly Jewish allies.

Finally, it slanders the many sincere anti-Zionist Jews organised as Jews to claim that they “hate the Goyim” (p 55), that they are (only) there “to keep the debate within the family” (p 102). While I sympathise with Atzmon’s attempt to “untangle the knot” (p 15) of religion, ethnicity and Jewish identity politics, and agree we should first and foremost explicitly embrace universal ethics, he here overstates his case. It also seems merely polemical to claim that “when it comes to ‘action’ against the so-called ‘enemies of the Jewish people’, Zionists and ‘Jewish anti-Zionists’ act as one people – because they are one people.” (p 102) Philosophical analysis of what Zionism has to do with Jewish-ness is still a nascent field, and I urge Atzmon to criticise but not ridicule all organised ‘anti-Zionist Jews’.

Alan Greenspan

Atzmon offers a cogent argument that Alan Greenspan’s economic policies were disastrous, but asserts that Greenspan, by creating an economic boom, “found a… way to facilitate or at least divert… attention from the wars perpetrated by the largely Jewish neo-conservatives in Afghanistan and Iraq.” (pp 27-30) He however neither offers evidence that Greenspan intended the boom to enable the expensive warmongering, nor criticises him for Zionism. He merely calls him a “rich Jew”. (p 27) This not only feeds the ‘antisemitic’ picture of the unscrupulous Jewish money-grubber but is based on Greenspan’s being a Jew by origin, not any purported Jewish political identity or culture. I also happen to know that the foreign-policy views of Greenspan are much closer to those of Ron Paul, and that in 1969 he paid for the bail and lawyer of my best friend who had refused to be drafted to go fight in Vietnam. Atzmon’s digression on Greenspan is harmful or at least pointless in the battle for justice for Palestinians.

An objection to Granting

The anti-colonialist ‘self-determination’ discourse must today compete with the individual-rights discourse. While Atzmon adheres strictly to the latter and sees the dangers in the self-determination of groups (pp 52, 105-106), Granting refers to the Arab-Palestinian “homeland” and the “self-determination… of the Palestinian people” (emphasis added); the text speaks of “our native lands”. The “our” can refer to those comprising the large majority of those who have lived there during the last dozen-plus centuries and happened to be ‘Arabs’ or ‘Semites’ and overwhelmingly Moslem; or it can be ethnicist, meaning Arab Semites, perhaps describing the signatories. Here perhaps we have contrasting visions of the one-state vision broadly shared by Atzmon, Barghouti and Abunimah, the latter seeing the constitution more in terms of bi-nationalism rather than the state’s absolute blindness towards ethnicity and religion. Yet why would this would be a reason to “disavow” Atzmon?

The signatories speak of “the struggle for Palestine and its national movement” and of theirs as “the Palestinian movement”. They also claim some rights in “defining for the Palestinian movement the nature of our struggle” and “the philosophy underpinning it”. Some sectarian as well as secular anti-Zionist Palestinians might disagree with this but, recalling the very first accusation against Atzmon (above), the point is that unless one excludes Israeli Jews from voting in the future secular, democratic state, Atzmon can speak not only universally but for himself as a citizen. I agree that one state is a bigger ask for the Palestinians than for the Israeli Jews, who as colonists are being invited to remain. But even outsiders like myself have the right to support any part of the ‘Palestinian movement’ we agree with. These questions about homelands and leadership deserve discussion rather than disavowal.

Granting speaks as well of Atzmon’s “obsession with ‘Jewishness’”, but this would surely be only Atzmon’s problem. The call moreover characterises Atzmon’s “attacks on anyone who disagrees with his [alleged] obsession with ‘Jewishness’” as “vicious”. However, in Wandering he aims no criticism at critics of his concept of Jewish-ness, and while I find sarcasm that occasionally goes too far, “vicious” is a crass mis-characterisation.

Other takes on Jewishness

How does Atzmon’s anti-Jewish-ness compare with other types of pro- or anti-Jewishness? Witness a Jewish-critical statement of Meron Benvenisti:

I would say that what characterizes us collectively is ethnic hatred, ethnic recoil, ethnic contempt and ethnic patronizing.

He balances this generalising take on the Jewish “collective” with the caveat that “I would not categorize us all as racists”, exactly paralleling Atzmon’s distinction between 2nd– and 3rd-category Jews; he attests racism only of a “large segment” of Jewish Israeli society. Benvenisti by the way also makes the statement that he is “proud to be a white sabra [native-born Israeli Jew]”. Is Benvenisti an anti-Jewish racist, a pro-Jewish one, or neither?

Philo-Jewishness statements likewise may or may not be ‘philosemitic’. In a Guardian interview Arnold Wesker utters, “A reverence for the power of the intellect is for me a definition of Jewishness:…” Now, a definition has a genus and one or more differentiae, so what distinguishes “Jewishness” as a type of sociological reification is a reverence for the power of the intellect. The inescapable corollary is that other ethnic (religious? cultural?) groups have no, or less, such reverence. It is perhaps evidence of this purported reverence that a website proudly lists Jewish Nobel laureates.
What are we to make of the observation of one of these Nobel laureates, Saul Bellow, on a trip to Jerusalem, that “a few Arab hens are scratching up dust and pecking”? That “Jewish claims in Jerusalem are legitimate”? That Israelis have a tough life “all because [they] wished to lead Jewish lives in a Jewish state”? That “When the Jews decided, through Zionism, to ‘go political’, they didn’t know what they were getting into”? That (according to A.B. Yehoshua) “Perhaps there is something exceptional in all our Jewishness [which] to us… is clear and we can feel it…”? That Bellow’s one academic colleague who criticised Zionism “went out to jog on a boiling Chicago afternoon and died of heart failure”? Bellow, who believes in “the moral meaning of Israel’s existence” and that it “stands for something in Western history”, uses ethnic, political and culture concepts interchangeably. Is Bellow an anti-Arab racist, a pro-Jewish one, or neither?

Many Jews-by-origin reject Zionism but retain Jewishness. Paul Knepper writes of Michael Polanyi:

In making the case for a Jewish state as the solution to anti-Semitism, Zionists had thrown up an array of mistaken identities, defining Jewishness in political, religious, and cultural terms. Polanyi rejected this as inward-looking, even reactionary; he pursued an outward-looking understanding based on the relationship of Jews to non-Jews. Polanyi saw assimilated Jews [like himself] not as running away or denying Jewish identity, but instead, as pursuing a truer and more significant expression of Jewishness.

Atzmon agrees with the first sentence but argues against finding identity in what one is not, and abandons the quest for Jewish-ness as such. (pp 31-36, 58-63, passim)

Eric Hobsbawm, the unobservant Jew who called himself a “non-Jewish Jew” and “not a Jewish historian [but an] historian who happened to be Jewish” (also Atzmon, pp 16-18), similarly saw a need to retain some “Jewishness”, even if it consisted merely of not being ashamed to be Jewish. He said of his friend Isaiah Berlin in contrast, “His Jewish identity implied identity with Israel because he believed that the Jews should be a nation.”

I have read only the introduction to Judith Butler’s Parting Ways, where she outlines the Jewishness of her formation and many of the ethical sources she draws on but acknowledges the paradox – perhaps contradiction – of holding values that are simultaneously universal and Jewish. (pp 26, 18) As the jacket of her book states,

Jewish ethics not only demand a critique of Zionism, but must transcend its exclusive Jewishness in order to realize the ethical and political ideals of living together in radical democracy.

She is a proponent of one secular, democratic state in Palestine searching for “a different Jewishness… [and] the departure from Jewishness as an exclusionary framework for thinking both ethics and politics.” (p 2) Her book promises [recalling Polanyi, above] “to locate Jewishness in the moment of its encounter with the non-Jewish, in the dispersal of the self that follows from that encounter [mainly with Edward Said and Mahmoud Darwish].” (p 26)


Within Israel’s left, Atzmon’s ideas and formulations ruffle few feathers. As Ha’aretz journalist Yaron Frid says, lamenting Israel’s loss of Atzmon, “The score, for now: 1-0, Palestine leading.” In Israel Atzmon’s mother commented, “[The book] is not at all anti-Semitic. Gilad has a problem with Jewishness, he talks about three categories of Jews, but you have to read everything to understand – rather than bring quotations and take them out of context… I am very proud of my son.” (ibid.) But a mother would say that, wouldn’t she?

Atzmon insists that the desire for a Jewish nation arises out of Jewish suffering’s experienced specialness and asks what is then left of Jewish-ness when identification with (the uniqueness of) Jewish suffering is overcome. He asserts that Israel is not just another colonial power, but one driven by a distinctly Jewish ideology, and he convinced me that we must understand this Jewish-ness to understand for instance AIPAC, or to see that the West Bank to be given up by Israel in some phantasmagoric two-state settlement is not the West Bank, but Judea and Samaria. Yes, talking about a culture as opposed to some number of that culture’s members holds risks of conflation and ambiguity, and some of Atzmon’s discussion is an intra-Jewish one. But his book undoubtedly illuminates the ‘prosemitic’ racist ideology fatal to Palestinians. Perceptions differ, of course, but I do not see how anyone can read the whole book, with open ears, and find Atzmon ‘antisemitic’ or racist.
Granting’s signatories write that they “stand with all and any movements that call for justice, human dignity, equality, and social, economic, cultural and political rights.” I urge them to re-read (or read) Wandering, present a definition of ‘antisemitic’ racism, and based on textual evidence debate whether Atzmon’s words fulfill it. Because Jew-hatred has been so trivialised by Zionists, accusations of ‘antisemitism’ must be especially well-argued. For the ODS movement unity at any cost is not essential, but we need our energies to help transform Israel into a normal country respecting all humans’ rights. Unless racism is proven, one should bury the hatchet.

Blake Alcott is an ecological economist living in Cambridge, England. He can be reached at: blakeley@bluewin.ch.

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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!

Justice for All: Alexander Cockburn, Palestine, and U.S. media

by Alison Weir
Saturday, August 11th, 2012

Alexander_cockburnLongtime journalist Alexander Cockburn passed away on July 21st, an enormous loss. Cockburn was a brilliant, witty, and courageous opponent of falsehoods and injustice. He stood on the side of the oppressed, the weak, and the victimized – even those victims that many writers and human rights defenders chose to ignore.

With his scathing intellect, engaging talent, far ranging knowledge, and quick humor, the Oxford-educated Cockburn could have become a celebrated, wealthy journalist – the kind whose lucrative articles are consistently published in top journals, whose best-selling books are reviewed widely throughout the media, and whose commentary is in demand by the top television and radio news programs.
Instead, he used his extraordinary abilities to skewer dishonesty, expose cruelty and hypocrisy, and spread facts that many wished to remain hidden.

Others have written remembrances that discuss the diverse topics he addressed; I will limit myself to just one.

Although he was not known as an activist on Israel-Palestine, I believe that history will show Alexander Cockburn to have been one of the most important figures in the quest for justice in Palestine.

While most others on the left were largely ignoring, obscuring, or misrepresenting the facts on this issue, Cockburn was exposing them.

In fact, he lost his first major position in the U.S., as a writer for the Village Voice, because of his articles discussing Israel-Palestine and Israel’s ruthless invasion of Lebanon. His pieces earned the enmity of both Zionists and those who claimed they weren’t, but who had what former Voice writer James Wolcott describes as a “gravitational pull to Israel.”

When Cockburn received a $10,000 research grant from the Massachusetts-based Institute for Arab Studies to investigate Israel’s invasion of Lebanon, Israel partisans saw this as a way to get rid of him. (He had been recommended for the grant by Columbia professor Edward Said.)

An article published by the Boston Phoenix after Cockburn’s death, “How the Boston Phoenix Got Alexander Cockburn Fired from the Village Voice,” gives some of the details.

The Phoenix, which was then published by Israel partisan Stephen Mindich (and now by his son), reported on the grant in an article written by Alan Lupo, a writer with a record of consistent pro-Israel bias in his articles. The piece was headlined “Alexander Cockburn’s $10,000 Arab connection” and subtitled “A question of propriety.” For his story Lupo phoned Village Voice Editor David Schneiderman, who eventually suspended Cockburn because of an alleged “conflict of interest.”

Other pro-Israel journalists gleefully took up the refrain, suggesting that Cockburn had acted improperly in accepting money from “the Arabs.” Recent obituaries mentioned the incident and continued this spin.

The validity of this charge, however, is significantly diminished by the fact that receiving a grant from an American foundation is normal, acceptable, and standard practice, as evidenced by the multitude of books in which author acknowledgements thank the various foundations that have funded their research.

As James Wolcott recently pointed out in his Vanity Fair blog: “Much handwringing to-do was made at the time of the incident about the need for journalistic transparency and accountability and such but let’s be honest — if it had been a Jewish-American organization or Israel front forking off the relative piddling sum of $10 thou, there hardly would have been this gummy uproar.”
Wolcott went on to note,

Imagine how many Beltway pundits, commentators, consultants and the like are on the take today via speaking fees, serving on panels, free fact-finding trips to the Mideast, etc. Alex’s sin was in aligning with the wrong team.”

The articles in 1984 and since that focused on Cockburn’s alleged “impropriety” failed to mention the fact that, according to prominent pro-Israel journalist Michael Kinsley, numerous journalists have gone to Israel on trips financed by the Israeli government – a far sketchier proposition. *
Governmental funding of journalism, in fact, is considered so problematic that a number of Israel Lobby organizations such as Act for Israel and the Washington Institute for Near East Policy have now stepped in to finance such journalistic junkets to Israel, removing the need for the Israeli government to be directly involved.

The fact that many journalists go on these Lobby-financed junkets also went unmentioned in the articles that brought up Cockburn’s allegedly improper grant and supposed conflict of interest. Also unmentioned was the fact that many journalists reporting on Israel-Palestine have close family – and sometimes personal – ties to the Israel military.
And there is still more to the story – which also is not referenced in recent obituaries. According to a 1992 article by former AIPAC insider Gregory Slabodkin, “AIPAC [the American Israel Public Affairs Committee] was the source of the original Phoenix story.” AIPAC is a leading institution in the Israel Lobby.

In his article, “The Secret Section in Israel’s U.S. Lobby That Stifles American Debate” published by the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, Slabodkin described how AIPAC secretly monitors individuals critical of Israel and feeds negative information about them to the media.

Slabodkin, who used to work for the section within AIPAC responsible for this surreptitious activity, reported that Lupo “said AIPAC had told him the Institute for Arab Studies was ‘linked to a $100 million campaign to sway U.S. policy against Israel.’” In reality, Slabodkin reported, “the Institute had U.S. tax-exempt status and listed individual contributors within the United States until it closed down in 1983 due to a lack of funds.”
Slabodkin discussed AIPAC’S promulgation of anti-Arab bigotry as a tactic to protect Israel: “AIPAC attempted to discredit critics of Israel not by refuting their arguments, but by trying to tie them to Arab money. Making an Arab connection can damage the victim’s reputation, the pro-Israel lobby believes, so long as it can encourage a mindset in the United States that anything Arab-related is tainted.”
While Voice Editor Schneiderman at first defended Cockburn, he eventually went along with the charges, suspending him for what he claimed was a conflict of interest, and Cockburn left.

Schneiderman, who had originally been hired to edit the Voice by Rupert Murdoch, went into increasingly lucrative directions, eventually making tens of millions of dollars by turning the Village Voice and its offspring into advertising money machines, largely through classified ads, some of which eventually got the paper sued for the grotesque sex trafficking they enabled. He is currently employed at a PR firm advising global corporations on corporate communications, crises, antitrust and other regulatory matters, labor relations, and environmental issues.

Cockburn, on the other hand, continued to skewer the powerful, mendacious, hypocritical, and cruel. His biting and occasionally very funny essays were published in periodicals from the Nation to the Wall Street Journal, both of which employed him as a columnist, and collected in his book Corruptions of Empire and others.

A scan of these reveals that in the 1980s he was already exposing the neocons and their appaling agenda. In “The Gospel According to Ali Agca,” originally published in the Nation in 1985, he described the CBS documentary “Terrorism: War in the Shadows,” and reported the implied challenge by alleged “terrorism expert” Robert Kupperman** not to let TV images of “charred babies” and our guilt over Vietnam interfere with our commitment to fighting “terrorists.”


Most important, in 1996 Cockburn and co-editor Jeffrey St. Clair took over CounterPunch, a small newsletter that had been started two years earlier. In subsequent years they created an extraordinarily non-doctrinaire muckraking publication where independent writers could cover a wide variety of topics fully, accurately, and without being constrained by positions decreed by political orthodoxy.

CounterPunch has covered Israel-Palestine with a thoroughness and honesty that few if any other non-specialty publications have approached. Moreover, it has been uniquely open to pieces by writers from a wide variety of backgrounds and perspectives.

I am personally indebted to CounterPunch, which was the first general interest publication to publish my pieces on the topic. Without CounterPunch, I think it is quite likely that my articles on Israel-Palestine would never have made it into the small, fairly closed world of highly regarded progressive general interest publications.

While most other media were covering Israel-Palestine very little, if at all – and were frequently obscuring such central issues as the Palestinian right of return, the systemic discrimination within Israel itself, the power of the Israel Lobby in the U.S., and Israel partisans’ direct connections to the invasion of Iraq – CounterPunch contributors were exposing all in meticulous, principled detail.

When former Zionists worked on a campaign to blackball some writers, including two Israeli anti-Zionist authors, for allegedly going too far in their subject matter, CounterPunch refused to bow to the attempted party line and continued to publish their thought provoking, often highly informative pieces.
The importance of what Cockburn and co-editor St. Clair have achieved in CounterPunch cannot be overstated. Without CounterPunch, it is quite likely that essential information on Israel-Palestine would have remained largely hidden from progressive American readers. CounterPunch not only published critical facts itself; by carrying thoroughly cited articles on information that had previously been buried, it also pushed other American publications and individuals into discussing Palestine with greater depth, frequency, and honesty.

The censorship on Israel-Palestine has been far more serious and profound than most people realize. It has pervaded both the left and the right and has long worked to minimize informed discussion on the subject and prevent effective work for justice and peace.

CounterPunch ripped open the curtain.

* Kinsley’s revelation about this came in his essay “Cockburn the Barbarian: Lessons in journalistic ethics from a veteran of an infamous Israeli junket,” Washington Monthly, April 1984. Online at http://www.unz.org/Pub/WashingtonMonthly-1984apr-00035

** Robert Kupperman was in on the ground floor of building the war against certain types of terror. He created the Cabinet Committee to Combat Terrorism under President Richard Nixon. This was in response to Palestinian fighters who had taken eleven Israeli athletes hostage to use in an exchange to free Palestinian men and women held (and tortured) in Israeli prisons. When Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir refused to consider such an exchange, a bungled rescue attempt resulted in the hostages being killed. The next day Israel launched air attacks against Lebanon and Syria, killing between 200 and 500 Lebanese, Syrians and Palestinians, mostly civilians.”

When the UN Security Council tried to pass a resolution condemning these raids, the U.S. vetoed it, only the second time that the U.S. had vetoed a Security Council resolution in its history. This was the beginning of a long string of vetoes perpetrated to shield Israel from international condemnation of various massacres and other human rights abuses, creating extreme hostility toward the U.S. and escalating Americans’ risk from retaliatory “terror.” For more information see “The U.S. Cast the First of 29 Security Council Vetoes to Shield Israel” by Donald Neff, Washington Report on Middlel East Affairs Sept-Oct, 1993, p. 82. Also in Fifty Years of Israel, by Donald Neff, published by the American Educational Trust. Online at http://www.wrmea.org/archives/150-washington-report-archives-1988-1993/september-october-1993/7306-the-us-cast-the-first-of-29-security-council-vetoes-to-shield-israel.html
Alison Weir is president of the Council for the National Interest and executive director of If Americans Knew. While CounterPunch published many of her articles, she did not know Cockburn personally. For information on American journalists’ ties to the Israeli military see her article “US Media and Israeli Military: All in the Family” at http://ifamericansknew.org/media/bronner2.html

Alison Weir
President, Council for the National Interest
Executive Director, If Americans Knew
 If Americans Knew: 9208 NE Highway 99, Suite 107-207, Vancouver, WA 98665
Phone: (202) 631-4060

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The Morning After

>Edward Said

Now that some of the euphoria has lifted, it is possible to re-examine the Israeli-PLO agreement with the required common sense. What emerges from such scrutiny is a deal that is more flawed and, for most of the Palestinian people, more unfavourably weighted than many had first supposed. The fashion-show vulgarities of the White House ceremony, the degrading spectacle of Yasser Arafat thanking everyone for the suspension of most of his people’s rights, and the fatuous solemnity of Bill Clinton’s performance, like a 20th-century Roman emperor shepherding two vassal kings through rituals of reconciliation and obeisance: all these only temporarily obscure the truly astonishing proportions of the Palestinian capitulation.

So first of all let us call the agreement by its real name: an instrument of Palestinian surrender, a Palestinian Versailles. What makes it worse is that for at least the past fifteen years the PLO could have negotiated a better arrangement than this modified Allon Plan, one not requiring so many unilateral concessions to Israel. For reasons best known to the leadership it refused all previous overtures. To take one example of which I have personal knowledge: in the late Seventies, Secretary of State Cyrus Vance asked me to persuade Arafat to accept Resolution 242 with a reservation (accepted by the US) to be added by the PLO which would insist on the national rights of the Palestinian people as well as Palestinian self-determination. Vance said that the US would immediately recognise the PLO and inaugurate negotiations between it and Israel. Arafat categorically turned the offer down, as he did similar offers. Then the Gulf War occurred, and because of the disastrous positions it took then, the PLO lost even more ground. The gains of the intifada were squandered, and today advocates of the new document say: ‘We had no alternative.’ The correct way of phrasing that is: ‘We had no alternative because we either lost or threw away a lot of others, leaving us only this one.’

In order to advance towards Palestinian self-determination – which has a meaning only if freedom, sovereignly and equality, rather than perpetual subservience to Israel, are its goal – we need an honest acknowledgment of where we are, now that the interim agreement is about to be negotiated. What is particularly mystifying is how so many Palestinian leaders and their intellectuals can persist in speaking of the agreement as a ‘victory’. Nabil Shaath has called it one of ‘complete parity’ between Israelis and Palestinians. The fact is that Israel has conceded nothing, as former Secretary Of State James Baker said in a TV interview, except, blandly, the existence of ‘the PLO as the representative of the Palestinian people’. Or as the Israeli ‘dove’ Amos Oz reportedly put it in the course of a BBC interview, ‘this is the second biggest victory in the history of Zionism.’

By contrast Arafat’s recognition of Israel’s right to exist carries with it a whole series of renunciations: of the PLO Charter; of violence and terrorism; of all relevant UN resolutions, except 242 and 338, which do not have one word in them about the Palestinians, their rights or aspirations. By implication, the PLO set aside numerous other UN resolutions (which, with Israel and the US, it is now apparently undertaking to modify or rescind) that, since 1948, have given Palestinians refugee rights, including either compensation or repatriation. The Palestinians had won numerous international resolutions – passed by, among others, the EC, the non-aligned movement, the Islamic Conference and the Arab League, as well as the UN – which disallowed or censured Israeli settlements, annexations and crimes against the people under occupation.
It would therefore seem that the PLO has ended the intifada, which embodied not terrorism or violence but the Palestinian right to resist, even though Israel remains in occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. The primary consideration in the document is for Israel’s security, with none for the Palestinians’ security from Israel’s incursions. In his 13 September press conference Rabin was straightforward about Israels continuing control over sover-eignty; in addition, he said, Israel would hold the River Jordan, the boundaries with Egypt and Jordan, the sea, the land between Gaza and Jericho, Jerusalem, the settlements and the roads. There is little in the document to suggest that Israel will give up its violence against Palestinians or, as Iraq was required to do after it withdrew from Kuwait, compensate those who have been the victims of its policies over the past 45 years.

Neither Arafat nor any of his Palestinian partners who met the Israelis in Oslo has ever seen an Israeli settlement. There are now over two hundred of them, principally on hills, promontories and strategic points throughout the West Bank and Gaza. Many will probably shrivel and die, but the largest are designed for permanence. An independent system of roads connects them to Israel, and creates a disabling discontinuity between the main centres of Palestinian population. The actual land taken by these settlements, plus the land designated for expropriation, amounts – it is guessed – to over 55 per cent of the total land area of the Occupied Territories. Greater Jerusalem alone, annexed by Israel, comprises a huge tranche of virtually stolen land, at least 25 per cent of the total amount. In Gaza settlements in the north (three), the middle (two) and the south, along the coast from the Egyptian border past Khan Yunis (12), constitute at least 30 per cent of the Strip. In addition, Israel has tapped into every aquifer on the West Bank, and now uses about 80 per cent of the water there for the settlements and for Israel proper. (There are probably similar water installations in Israel’s Lebanese ‘security zone’.) So the domination (if not the outright theft) of land and water resources is either overlooked, in the case of water, or, in the case of land, postponed by the Oslo accord.

What makes matters worse is that all the information on settlements, land and water is held by Israel, which hasn’t shared most of these data with the Palestinians, any more than it has shared the revenues raised by the inordinately high taxes it has imposed on them for 26 years. All sorts of technical committees (in which non-resident Palestinians have participated) have been set up by the PLO in the territories to consider such questions, but there is little evidence that committee findings (if any) were made use of by the Palestinian side in Oslo. So the impression of a huge discrepancy between what Israel got and what the Palestinians conceded or overlooked remains unrectified.

I doubt that there was a single Palestinian who watched the White House ceremony who did not also feel that a century of sacrifice, dispossession and heroic struggle had finally come to nought. Indeed, what was most troubling is that Rabin in effect gave the Palestinian speech while Arafat pronounced words that had all the flair of a rental agreement. So far from being seen as the victims of Zionism, the Palestinians were characterised before the world as its now repentant assailants: as if the thousands killed by Israel’s bombing of refugee camps, hospitals and schools in Lebanon; Israel’s expulsion of 800,000 people in 1948 (whose descendants now number about three million, many of them stateless); the conquest of their land and property; the destruction of over four hundred Palestinian villages; the invasion of Lebanon; the ravages of 26 years of brutal military Occupation – it was as if these sufferings had been reduced to the status of terrorism and violence, to be renounced retrospectively or passed over in silence. Israel has always described Palestinian resistance as terrorism and violence, so even in the matter of wording it received a moral and historical gift.

In return for exactly what? Israel’s recognition of the PLO – undoubtedly a significant step forward. Beyond that, by accepting that questions of land and sovereignty are being postponed till ‘final Status negotiations’, the Palestinians have in effect discounted their unilateral and internationally acknowledged claim to the West Bank and Gaza: these have now become ‘disputed territories’. Thus with Palestinian assistance Israel has been awarded at least an equal claim to them. The Israeli calculation seems to be that by agreeing to police Gaza – a job which Begin tried to give Sadat fifteen years ago – the PLO would soon fall foul of local competitors, of whom Hamas is only one. Moreover, rather than becoming stronger during the interim period, the Palestinians may grow weaker, come more under the Israeli thumb, and therefore be less able to dispute the Israeli claim when the last set of negotiations begins. But on the matter of how, by what specific mechanism, to get from an interim status to a later one, the document is purposefully silent. Does this mean, ominously, that the interim stage may be the final one?

Israeli commentators have been suggesting that within, say, six months the PLO and Rabin’s government will negotiate a new agreement further postponing elections, and thereby allowing the PLO to continue to rule. It is worth mentioning that at least twice during the past summer Arafat said that his experience of government consisted of the ten years during which he ‘controlled’ Lebanon, hardly a comfort to the many Lebanese and Palestinians who recollect that sorry period. Nor is there at present any concrete way for elections to be held should they even be scheduled. The imposition of rule from above, plus the long legacy of the occupation, have not contributed much to the growth of democratic, grass-roots institutions. There are unconfirmed reports in the Arabic press indicating that the PLO has already appointed ministers from its own inner circle in Tunis, and deputy ministers from among trusted residents of the West Bank and Gaza. Will there ever be truly representative institutions? One cannot be very sanguine, given Arafat’s absolute refusal to share or delegate power, to say nothing of the financial assets he alone knows about and controls.
In both internal security and development, Israel and the PLO are now aligned with each Other. PLO members or consultants have been meeting with Mossad officials since last October to discuss security problems, including Arafat’s own security. And this at the time of the worst Israeli repression of Palestinians under military occupation. The thinking behind the collaboration is that it will deter any Palestinian from demonstrating against the occupation, which will not withdraw, but merely redeploy. Besides, Israeli settlers will remain living, as they always have, under a different jurisdiction. The PLO will thus become Israel’s enforcer, an unhappy prospect for most Palestinians Interestingly, the ANC has consistently refused to supply the South African government with police officials until after power is shared, precisely in order to avoid appearing as the white government’s enforcer. It was reported from Amman a few days ago that 170 members of the Palestine Liberation Army, now being trained in Jordan for police work in Gaza, have refused to co-operate for precisely that reason. With about 14,000 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails – some of whom Israel says it may release – there is an inherent contradiction, not to say incoherence, to the new security arrangements. Will more room be made in them for Palestinian security?

The one subject on which most Palestinians agree is development, which is being described in the most naive terms imaginable. The world community will be expected to give the nearly autonomous areas large-scale financial support; the Palestinian diaspora is expected, indeed preparing, to do the same. Yet all development for Palestine must be funnelled through the joint Palestinian-Israeli Economic Co-operation Committee, even though, according to the document, ‘both sides will co-operate jointly and unilaterally with regional and international parties to support these aims.’ Israel is the dominant economic and political power in the region – and its power is of course enhanced by its alliance with the US. Over 80 per cent of the West Bank and Gaza economy is dependent on Israel, which is likely to control Palestinian exports, manufacturing and labour for the foreseeable future. Aside from the small entrepreneurial and middle class, the vast majority of Palestinians are impoverished and landless, subject to the vagaries of the Israeli manufacturing and commercial community which employs Palestinians as cheap labour. Most Palestinians, economically speaking, will almost certainly remain as they are, although now they are expected to work in private-sector, partly Palestinian-controlled service industries, including resorts, small assembly-plants, farms and the like.

A recent study by the Israeli journalist Asher Davidi quotes Dov Lautman, president of the Israeli Manufacturers Association: ‘It’s not important whether there will be a Palestinian state, autonomy or a Palestinian-Jordanian state. The economic borders between Israel and the territories must remain open.’ With its well developed institutions, close relations with the US and aggressive economy, Israel will in effect incorporate the territories economically, keeping them in a state of permanent dependency. Then Israel will turn to the wider Arab world, using the political benefits of the Palestinian agreement as a Springboard to break into Arab markets, which it will also exploit and is likely to dominate.

Framing all this is the US, the only global power, whose idea of the New World Order is based on economic domination by a few giant corporations and pauperisation if necessary for many of the lesser peoples (even those in metropolitan countries). Economic aid for Palestine is being supervised and controlled by the US, bypassing the UN, some of whose agencies like UNRWA and UNDP are far better placed to administer it. Take Nicaragua and Vietnam. Both are former enemies of the US; Vietnam actually defeated the US but is now economically in need of it. A boycott against Vietnam continues and the history books are being written in such a way as to show how the Vietnamese sinned against and ‘mistreated’ the US for the latter’s idealistic gesture of having invaded, bombed and devastated their country. Nicaragua’s Sandinista government was attacked by the US-financed Contra movement; the country’s harbours were mined, its people ravaged by famine, boycotts and every conceivable type of subversion. After the 1991 elections, which brought a US-supported candidate, Mrs Chamorro, to power, the US promised many millions of dollars in aid, of which only 30 million have actually materialised. In mid-September all aid was cut off. There is now famine and civil war in Nicaragua. No less unfortunate have been the fates of El Salvador and Haiti. To throw oneself, as Arafat has done, on the tender mercies of the US is almost certainly to suffer the fate the US has meted out to rebellious or ‘terrorist’ peoples it has had to deal with in the Third World after they have promised not to resist the US any more.

Hand in hand with the economic and strategic control of Third World countries that happen to be close to, or possess, resources like oil that are necessary to the US, is the media system, whose reach and control over thought is truly astounding. For at least twenty years, Yasser Arafat was taken to be the most unattractive and morally repellent man on earth. Whenever he appeared in the media, or was discussed by them, he was presented as if he had only one thought in his head: killing Jews, especially innocent women and children. Within a matter of days, the ‘independent media’ had totally rehabilitated Arafat. He was now an accepted, even lovable figure whose courage and realism had bestowed on Israel its rightful due. He had repented, he had become a ‘friend’, and he and his people were now on ‘our’ side. Anyone who opposed or criticised what he had done was either a fundamentalist like the Likud settlers or a terrorist like the members of Hamas. It became nearly impossible to say anything except that the Israeli-Palestinian agreement – mostly unread or unexamined, and in any case unclear, lacking dozens of crucial details – was the first step towards Palestinian independence.

So far as the truly independent critic or analyst is concerned, the problem is how he is to free himself from the ideological system which both the agreement and the media now serve. What is needed are memory and scepticism (if not outright suspicion). Even if it is patently obvious that Palestinian freedom in any real sense has not been achieved, and is clearly designed not to be, beyond the meagre limits imposed by Israel and the US, the famous handshake broadcast all over the world is supposed not only to symbolise a great moment of success but to blot out past as well as present realities.

Given a modicum of honesty the Palestinians should be capable of seeing that the large majority of people the PLO is supposed to represent will not really be served by the agreement, except cosmetically. True, residents of the West Bank and Gaza are rightly glad to see that some Israeli troops will withdraw, and that large amounts of money might start to come in. But it is rank dishonesty not to be alert to what the agreement entails in terms of further occupation, economic control and profound insecurity. Then there is the mammoth problem of the Palestinians who live in Jordan, to say nothing of the thousands of stateless refugees in Lebanon and Syria, ‘Friendly’ Arab states have always had one law for Palestinians, one for natives. These double standards have already intensified, as witnessed by the appalling scenes of delay and harassment that have occurred on the Allenby Bridge since the agreement was announced.

So what is to be done, if crying over spilt milk is useless? The first thing is to spell out, not only the virtues of being recognised by Israel and accepted at the White House, but also what the truly major disabilities are. Pessimism of the intellect first, then optimism of the will. You can’t improve on a bad situation that is largely due to the technical incompetence of the PLO – which negotiated in English, a language that neither Arafat nor his emissary in Oslo knows, with no legal adviser – until on the technical level at least you involve people who can think for themselves and are not mere instruments of what is by now a single Palestinian authority. I find it extraordinarily disheartening that so many Arab and Palestinian intellectuals, who a week earlier had been moaning and groaning about Arafat’s dictatorial ways, his single-minded control over the money, the circle of sycophants and courtiers that have surrounded him in Tunis of late, the absence of accountability and reflection, at least since the Gulf War, should suddenly make a 180-degree switch and start applauding his tactical genius, and his latest victory. The march towards self-determination can only be embarked on by a people with democratic aspirations and goals. Otherwise it is not worth the effort.

After all the hoopla celebrating ‘the first step towards a Palestinian state’, we should remind ourselves that much more important than having a state is the kind of state it is. The history of the post-colonial world is disfigured by one-party tyrannies, rapacious oligarchies, social dislocation caused by Western ‘investments’, and large-scale pauperisation brought about by famine, civil war or outright robbery. Any more than religious fundamentalism, mere nationalism is not, and can never be, ‘the answer’ to the problems of new secular societies. Alas one can already see in Palestine’s potential statehood the lineaments of a marriage between the chaos of Lebanon and the tyranny of Iraq.

If this isn’t to happen, a number of quite specific issues need to be addressed. One is the diaspora Palestinians, who originally brought Arafat and the PLO to power, kept them there, and are now relegated to permanent exile or refugee status. Since they comprise at least half of the total Palestinian population their needs and aspirations are not negligible. A small segment of the exile community is represented by the various political organisations ‘hosted’ by Syria. A significant number of independents (some of whom, like Shafik al-Hout and Mahmoud Darwish, resigned in protest from the PLO) still have an important role to play, not simply by applauding or condemning from the sidelines, but by advocating specific alterations in the PLO’s structure, trying to change the triumphalist ambience of the moment into something more appropriate, mobilising support and building an organisation from within the various Palestinian communities all over the world to continue the march towards self-determination. These communities have been singularly disaffected, leaderlees and indifferent since the Madrid process began.

One of the first tasks is a Palestinian census, which has to be regarded not just as a bureaucratic exercise but as the enfranchisement of Palestinians wherever they are. Israel, the US and the Arab states – all of them – have always opposed a census: it would give the Palestinians too high a profile in countries where they are supposed to be invisible, and before the Gulf War, it would have made it clear to varions Gulf governments how dependent they were on an inappropriately large, usually exploited ‘guest’ community. Above all, opposition to the census stemmed from the realisation that, were Palestinians to be counted all together, despite dispersion and dispossession, they would by that very exercise come close to constituting a nation rather than a mere collection of people. Now more than ever the process of holding a census and perhaps, later, world-wide elections – should be a leading item on the agenda for Palestinians everywhere. It would constitute an act of historical and political self-realisation outside the limitations imposed by the absence of sovereignty. And it would give body to the universal need for democratic participation, now ostensibly curtailed by Israel and the PLO in a premature alliance.

Certainly a census would once again raise the question of return for those Palestinians who are not from the West Bank and Gaza. Although this issue has been compressed into the general ‘refugee’ formula deferred until the final status talks some time in the future, it needs to be brought up now. The Lebanese government, for instance, has been publicly heating up the rhetoric against citizenship and naturalisation for the 350-400,000 Palestinians in Lebanon, most of whom are stateless, poor, permanently stalled. A similar situation obtains in Jordan and Egypt. These people, who have paid the heaviest price of all Palestinians, can neither be left to rot nor dumped somewhere else against their will. Israel is able to offer the right of return to every Jew in the world: individual Jews can become Israeli citizens and live in Israel at any time. This extraordinary inequity, intolerable to all Palestinians for almost half a century, has to be rectified. It is unthinkable that all the 1948 refugees would either want or be able to return to so small a place as a Palestinian state: on the other hand, it is unacceptable for them all to be told to resettle elsewhere, or drop any ideas they might have about repatriation and compensation.

One of the things the PLO and independent Palestinians should therefore do is raise a question not addressed by the Oslo Accords, thereby pre-empting the final status talks – namely, ask for reparations for Palestinians who have been the victims of this dreadful conflict. Although it is the Israeli Government’s wish (expressed quite forcibly by Rabin at his Washington news conference) that the PLO should close ‘its so-called embassies’, these offices should be kept open selectively so that claims for repatriation or compensation can be pressed.

In sum, we need to move up from the state of supine abjectness in which the Oslo Accords were negotiated (‘we will accept anything so long as you recognise us’) into one that enables us to prosecute parallel agreements with Israel and the Arabs concerning Palestinian national, as opposed to municipal, aspirations. But this does not exclude resistance against the Israeli occupation, which continues indefinitely. So long as occupation and settlements exist, whether legitimised or not by the PLO, Palestinians and others must speak against them. One of the issues not raised, either by the Oslo Accords, the exchange of PLO-lsraeli letters or the Washington speeches, is whether the violence and terrorism renounced by the PLO includes non-violent resistance, civil disobedience etc. These are the inalienable right of any people denied full sovereignty and independence, and must fee supported.

Like so many unpopular and undemocratic Arab governments, the PLO has already begun to appropriate authority for itself by calling its opponents ‘terrorists’ and ‘fundamentalists’. This is demagoguery. Hamas and Islamic Jihad are opposed to the Oslo agreement but they have said several times that they will not use violence against other Palestinians. Besides, their combined sway amounts to fewer than a third of the citizens of the West Bank and Gaza. As for the Damascus-based groups, they seem to me to be either paralysed or discredited. But this by no means exhausts the Palestinian opposition, which also includes well-known secularists, people who an committed to a peaceful solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, realists and democrats. I include myself in this group which is, I believe, far bigger than is now supposed.
Central to this opposition’s thinking is the desperate need for reform within the PLO, which is now put on notice that reductive claims to ‘national unity’ are no longer an excuse for incompetence, corruption and autocracy. For the first time in Palestinian history such opposition cannot, except by some preposterous and disingenuous logic, be equated with treason or betrayal. Indeed our claim is that we are opposed to sectarian Palestinianism and blind loyalty to the leadership: we remain committed to the broad democratic and social principles of accountability and performance that triumphalist nationalism has always tried to annul. I believe that a broad-based opposition to the PLO’s history of bungling will emerge in the diaspora, but will come to include people and parties in the Occupied Territories.

Lastly there is the confusing matter of relationships between Israelis and Palestinians who believe in self-determination for two peoples, mutually and equally. Celebrations are premature and, for far too many Israeli and non-Israeli Jews, an easy way out of the enormous disparities that remain. Our peoples are already too bound up with each other in conflict and a shared history of persecution for an American-style pow-wow to heal the wounds and open the way forward. There is still a victim and a victimiser. But there can be solidarity in struggling to end the inequities, and for Israelis in pressuring their government to end the occupation, the expropriation and the settlements. The Palestinians, after all, have very little left to give. The common battle against poverty, injustice and militarism must now be joined seriously, and without the ritual demands for psychological security for Israelis – who if they don’t have it now, never will. More than anything else, this will show whether the symbolic handshake is going to be a first step towards reconciliation and real peace.

River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian

Book review: Edward Said’s commitment in conversation

Robin Yassin-Kassab, The Electronic Intifada, 26 April 2010

Edward Said was one of the great public intellectuals of the 20th century — prolific, polymathic, principled and always concerned to link theory to practice. Perhaps by virtue of his Palestinian identity, he was never an ivory tower intellectual. He never feared dirtying his hands in the messy, unwritten history of the present moment. Neither was he ever a committed member of a particular camp. Rather he offered a discomfiting, provocative, constantly critical voice. And against the postmodern grain of contemporary academia, his perspective was consistently moral, consistently worried about justice.

Said was primarily a historian of ideas. More precisely, he was interested in “discourse,” the stories a society tells itself and by which it (mis)understands itself and others. His landmark book Orientalism examined the Western constructs of Islam and the “East,” as depicted by Gustave Flaubert and Ernest Renan, Bernard Lewis and CNN. Said’s multi-disciplinary approach, his treatment of poetry, news coverage and colonial administration documents as aspects of one cultural continuum, was hugely influential in academia, helping to spawn a host of “postcolonial” studies. Said’s Culture and Imperialism expanded the focus to include Western depictions of India, Africa, the Caribbean and Latin America, and the literary and political “replies” of the colonized.

Edward Said died in 2003. His friend Eqbal Ahmad — who wrote one of the excellent introductions to The Pen and the Sword, published this year by Haymarket Books — died in 1999. This book — a collection of five interviews with Said conducted between 1987 and 1994 by David Barsamian, the founder of Alternative Radio — serves partly as a memoriam for Said himself and for the generation he represented.

Two of the interviews concentrate on the dual role of culture in propping up and deconstructing colonial oppression. There are illuminating discussions of Camus, V. S. Naipaul, Joseph Conrad and Mahmoud Darwish, amongst others. Said proclaims the importance of “writing back” to imperialism, and most specifically to Zionism by “telling the story of Palestine.” He examines the obstructions to the airing of this story in the West, as well as the contradictions of Zionism’s “dominant narrative.” Said understood that anti-Palestinian propaganda was not merely a pragmatic tactic for Zionism but central to its epistemology and sense of itself. Significantly, he exposed the connections between Western anti-Arab racism and European anti-Semitism.

Two interviews focus on Said’s criticisms of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). According to Said, the leadership lost touch with its people after Israel drove it out of Lebanon (and thus the eastern Arab world) in 1982. The PLO’s upper echelons became “bourgeois, ideologically dependent on the US.” With the disastrous 1993 Oslo agreements the PLO transformed into “the only liberation movement that I know of in the 20th century that before independence, before the end of colonial occupation, turned itself into a collaborator with the occupying force.”

Said demolishes Oslo’s substance — the PLO’s implicit abandonment of UN Resolution 194 (which declares the right of Palestinian refugees to repatriation and/or compensation) and thus its desertion of the majority of Palestinians, who live in exile, in return for the “limited self-rule of the residents of the West Bank and Gaza.” And he demolishes Oslo’s style, down to chairman Yasser Arafat’s infuriating “thank yous” on the White House lawn — “the ‘nigger mentality,’ the white man’s nigger, that we are finally arrived and they’ve patted us on the head and we’ve been accepted and can sit on their nice chairs and talk to them.”

In a 1993 interview Said calls for a democratic reestablishment of the PLO as a unifying body. “We want,” he said, “a Palestinian census in every country where a Palestinian resides in order for there to be assemblies of Palestinians. Our problem is dispersion and representation.” Seventeen years later, though the crisis is even more urgent, this call has not been heeded.

Said himself was criticized by some for his “bourgeois humanistic approach.” Said had worked since the ’70s for a two-state solution and therefore recognition of Israel, and resisted a blanket boycott of Israelis, meeting frequently with peace activists. He understood the struggle as one between two peoples, two voices, two stories. Another thinker may have slid from here into an amoral, ahistorical liberalism in which both sides possessed equal claims and Palestine became “contested” rather than colonized territory. But Said didn’t follow this trajectory — he was too concerned with history and principle. What infuriated him most about Oslo was the erasure of Palestinian memory that it represented, the silencing yet again of the Palestinian narrative.

Certainly there were contradictions in Said’s positions. He understood the connection between the Palestinian cause and the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa, a movement which resisted the notion of bantustan “homelands” for blacks as much as it resisted white supremacism, yet he still supported an unjust ethnic partition of Palestine. To his credit, he was always honest enough to recognize these contradictions. He was keenly aware, for instance, of the tensions between his backing for a mini-state and his abhorrence of narrow nationalism. He emphasized “the plural, the multicommunal aspect of Palestine … the intersection of many communities and cultures.”

By the end of his life, Said resolved many of the tensions by advocating a single, binational state. The shift is not visible in these interviews, but the elements underpinning it are. Said tells Barsamian that he first joined the PLO on the understanding that “we were not interested in another separatist nationalism … we were talking about an alternative in which the discriminations made on the basis of race and religion and national origin would be transcended by something that we called liberation … That, it seems to me, is the essence of resistance. It’s not stubbornly putting your foot in the door, but opening a window.”

It is disappointing that Haymarket Books didn’t provide better copy editing of The Pen and the Sword. To pick only the worst examples, “Arafat” becomes “Ararat” (a mountain in Turkey), “pied noir” becomes “pied notre,” and “hijra,” the Arabic word for migration, becomes “hyra.” But the editing is my only quibble. In these valuable interviews we observe a great mind working through knotty problems with humility and discipline. We are reminded too of Said’s lessons for the pro-justice movement in the West. While Arafat set great store on buying jewels for Hillary Clinton, Said recommended addressing Palestine’s story to “the media, the universities, the churches, the minorities, the ethnic groups, the associations, the labor movement.” The fact that this work has now begun is the greatest tribute to Edward Said and will perhaps be his greatest legacy.

The Brooklyn-based performance poet Suheir Hammad put it to me very well in Palestine. “We’ve lost Said and Darwish,” she said, “our towering figures, but thanks to them we now have tens of public intellectuals, writers, musicians, filmmakers at work. It’s a gain, not a loss.”

Robin Yassin-Kassab has been a journalist in Pakistan and an English teacher around the Arab world. His first novel, The Road from Damascus, is published by Hamish Hamilton and Penguin. He blogs on politics, culture, religion and books at qunfuz.com.

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The Mighty Pen of Edward Said

Culture, Consciousness and Resistance


In 1994, David Barsamian and Edward Said published a set of interviews Barsamian had conducted with Said in the years previous.  This collection was titled The Pen and the Sword and was recently republished by Haymarket.  I remember reading the book as soon as it came into the library I worked at then and being impressed by the clarity of thought contained therein.  The two men discuss many things: the role of culture in maintaining empires, the responsibility of intellectuals in modern society, the surrender of those intellectuals to the power structure, and the Oslo accords of 199?.  It was Said who made the clearest and most forceful critique of those accords, essentially calling them a capitulation on the part of Yasser Arafat.  This analysis did not endear him to any of the power structures involved–Washington, Tel Aviv, or the Palestinian Authority. 

Re-reading Said today and then reading the news concerning the PA and its role in opposing Hamas and the release of the Goldstone report makes Said’s observation that the Oslo accords were nothing but capitulation that much truer.  It was Said’s contention that Israel needed a Palestinian partner to go along with its decision to continue its expansion into Palestinian lands.  Sadly, says Said, they found that partner in the person of Yasser Arafat.  Arafat’s death in 2004 (not long after Said’s) and subsequent placement in the pantheon of Palestinian heroes may have modified Said’s impressions of the latter day Arafat had he survived him.  However, it is unlikely that Said’s perception of the accords and their subsequent annihilation by Israel and Mr. Arafat’s successors would have improved.  In fact, the continued flouting of those accords by Israel and the capitulation of the Palestinian Authority to Tel Aviv’s snubbing have only proven Said’s original impressions.

Some of the most interesting conversation in these pages regards the Palestine Liberation Organization’s (PLO) transition from a liberation to one concerned only with creating a nation, no matter how that nation looked.  Said’s observations on the shortcomings opf nationalism as an idology or strategy are telling and apply acroos the board to all national liberation movements that trade in their desire for liberation for the simple fact of nationhood.  When this occurs, argues Said, the way is open for those only interested in profiteering and power to take control.  By discussing this, the two men break the ice on one of the modern world’s major quandaries: how does a people make the shift from a colonial state to one that doesn’t just merely replicate the colonial situation without the occupiers troops and administration?  As any student of history can see, the postcolonial world has not created a situation where equality exists between the former colonies and the former colonialists.  In fact, the disparities and systems of control are arguably greater now than they were in colonial times, at least in some circumstances.

These discussions make it clear that Said believes that the liberation of one’s land from the yoke of colonialism is not enough.  A people also need to liberate their minds from that yoke, too.  This is where Said’s thoughts on culture–both that of the oppressor and of the oppressed–become so important.  He was one of a very few modern leftists that put the role of culture in developing a people’s consciousness foremost among the elements that go into that development.  Conversely, Said also understood and wrote a lot about the use of culture by the imperial power to colonize the occupied peoples’ mind.  Like Frantz Fanon, he was not afraid to challenge the assumption of the occupiers mindset by some of the colonized.  Interestingly, religiously-inspired resistance groups like Hamas understand this only too well.  While Hamas certainly addresses the economic and political oppression of the Palestinians with programs that feed and educate them, they also celebrate an Islamic version of Palestine’s culture of resistance, thereby planting a relationship between Islam and Palestinian liberation.  It’s not that secular Palestinian culture does not exist, says Said, it’s that those intellectuals who should be encouraging its spread have abdicated their responsibility.  Like intellectuals in the West, they have either ceded to the power of politics, money or both.
Of course, Palestine has not thrown off the occupier’s authority and replaced it with their own.  The control Tel Aviv exerts over the people of the West Bank and Gaza today is more complete than it was before Oslo.  Nothing proves this more than the recent killings of Palestinians by IDF forces and the subsequent incursion of Israeli tanks into Gaza.  Furthermore, the current argument in the media between Washington and Tel Aviv over new settlements in East Jerusalem underline that truth.

Despite the overall sense of historical tragedy underlined by greater tragedies to come, Said manages to find some hope.  Like a flower rising from the dirt of a freshly dug grave or the phoenix rising from the ashes, the despair present in these interviews is brightened by the hope for a different future.  One wonders whether he would find a similar hope today.

As I write this review, rumors of the possibility of another Intifada appear in the media.  The arrogant insistence of the Netanyahu government that the international treasure that is Jerusalem belongs only to Israel and the consequent territorial invasion of the Arab quarter by Israelis may well exceed Palestinian patience once again.  If another uprising does occur, the plight of the Palestinians will once again be on the world’s front pages, as will the propaganda onslaught from Tel Aviv and Washington revising that story to their perspective.  Yet, when all is said and done, I wonder if anything will really change.

Ron Jacobs is author of The Way the Wind Blew: a history of the Weather Underground, which is just republished by Verso. Jacobs’ essay on Big Bill Broonzy is featured in CounterPunch’s collection on music, art and sex, Serpents in the Garden. His first novel, Short Order Frame Up, is published by Mainstay Press. He can be reached at: rjacobs3625@charter.net 

River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian

Talking Palestine to power

Sonja Karkar, The Electronic Intifada, 12 April 2010

Israel claims exceptionalism no matter how extreme its crimes. (Hatem Omar/MaanImages)

Today, there is no excuse for not knowing the truth about Palestine, especially what is happening in Gaza. Even taking into account the disinformation spread in mainstream media, there are enough glimpses one gets of a ravaged Gaza and a brutalized people that should compel us to ask questions.

There are enoughwebsites and blogs easily available for anyone to learn more, even if it requires sifting through and evaluating the available information. Certainly, the alarm bells should be ringing when our political leaders declare undying fealty to Israel or cavalierly wear it as a badge of honor, despite the documented reports of Israel’s war crimes by human rights groups and official enquiries.

But the world lacks courage from government leaders, acquiescent mainstream media, nongovernmental organizations dependent on government support, academics looking for tenure and populations too long fed on a diet of Zionist myths. People are terrified of being labelled anti-Semitic, a mendacious charge against anyone criticizing Israel. Palestinians too, afraid of being further shunned and disadvantaged in countries that give them refuge, so often remain silent. Not only do people fear repercussions, but speaking the truth or even just hearing it has a way of taking people out of their comfort zones. They fear their troubled consciences may require them to act and so they bury their heads deeper into the sand where they hope even the sounds of silence might be extinguished.

This then is the challenge for advocates the world over. How does one talk Palestine to power if one cannot even talk Palestine to the people who are in fear of the powerful?
In the face of media saturation with Zionist viewpoints and the new “Brand Israel” campaigns, many wanting to advocate for Palestine might feel defeated, but time and again we see that the power of one can be enormously effective.

The great scholar and public intellectual Edward Said showed more than anyone else that individuals can make a difference in the public defense of Palestine. He particularly saw the intellectual’s voice as having “resonance.”
But one does not need to be an intellectual. Said’s words can just as aptly apply to any one of us. He said avoidance was “reprehensible” and in his 1994 book Representations of the Intellectual, described it as “that characteristic turning away from a difficult and principled position which you know to be the right one, but which you decide not to take. You do not want to appear too political; you are afraid of seeming too controversial; you need the approval of a boss or an authority figure; you want to keep a reputation for being balanced, objective, moderate; your hope is … to remain within the responsible mainstream … .”

In 1993 when almost everyone else thought the handshakes at the White House steps would seal the negotiated Oslo accords and at long last give the Palestinians their freedom and bring peace to the region, Edward Said saw that these accords would merely provide the cover for Israel to pursue its colonial expansionism and consolidate its occupation of Palestine. However, he knew to criticize Oslo meant in effect taking a position against “hope” and “peace.” His decision to do so flew in the face of the Palestinian revolutionary leadership that had bartered for statehood.

Although Said was denounced for his views, he was not prepared to buy into the deception that he knew would leave the Palestinians with neither hope nor peace. And just as he predicted, each fruitless year of peacemaking finally exposed the horrible reality of Oslo as Palestinians found themselves the victims of Israel’s matrix of control, a term first used to describe the situation by Israeli professor Jeff Halper in 1999. And this domination of one people over another without any intention of addressing the injustices against the Palestinians ethnically cleansed from their homeland, has undeniably reduced Israel to an apartheid state.

The Palestinians have nothing left worth calling a state and they are facing an existential threat on all fronts. Yet, some intellectuals are still talking about a two-state solution in lock step with politicians, a mantra that is repeated uncritically, even mendaciously, in the mainstream media.

This pandering to an idea for decades has been undermined by the furious sounds of drills and hammers reverberating in illegal settlements throughout the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the catastrophic societal ruptures engineered in Gaza. Now those sounds are muffled by the rhetoric of “economic peace,” “institution-building,” “democracy,” “internal security” and “statehood.” They are words that must be challenged at every opportunity, for they are not mere words, but dangerous concepts when isolated from truth on the ground.

It is no use talking about “economic peace” when industrial estates built for Palestinian workers are intended to provide Israel with slave labor and cheap goods. It is useless to support “institution-building” when Israel continues to undermine and obstruct those programs already struggling to service Palestinian society. It is a lie to speak of “democracy” when fair elections in 2006 had Israel and the “international community” denying Hamas the right to govern. It is a charade to accept “internal security” when arming and training Palestinians to police their own people covers for Israel’s and America’s divide-and-conquer scheme. It is hollow to speak of “statehood” when Israel keeps stealing land and building illegal settlements that deprive the Palestinians of their homes and livelihoods while herding them into isolated and walled-in ghettoes.

Edward Said was proven right. Now, it is our turn to speak the truth and act fearlessly, regardless of the censure we are likely to encounter. The German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer is believed to have said that truth passes through three stages: “first, it is ridiculed; second, it is violently opposed; third, it is accepted as being self-evident.” Today, we are at the third stage: the 11 million Palestinians living under occupation, apartheid and as stateless refugees are the living truth. That is Israel’s Achilles’ heel.

The Palestinians are no longer the humble shepherds and farmers that Zionist forces terrorized into fleeing to make way for the Jewish State of Israel. A new generation wants justice and it is demanding it eloquently, nonviolently and strategically. Their message: no normal relations with Israel while it oppresses Palestinians, denies their rights and violates international law. And boycott, divestment and sanctions have to be legitimate tools for challenging a state that claims exceptionalism no matter how extreme and criminal its actions.

The temptation of course is always to opt for the path of least resistance. Therefore, we must appeal to the individual, not even to sacrifice for others, but to recognize that no matter where we live in this global village, we are all vulnerable if we do not stand up for universal human rights and uphold the principles and application of international law.

Despite his own Zionist affiliations and loyalty to Israel, Justice Richard Goldstone saw the danger of tailoring his UN-backed report on war crimes in Gaza to exonerate Israel. He had the decency and courage to put the rule of law and humanity ahead of the savage condemnation he knew would come from talking truth to power.
The same can be said of Richard Falk, the Jewish professor emeritus from Princeton University and UN special rapporteur in the occupied Palestinian territories, who was denied entry into Israel because he described Israel’s siege on Gaza as a “Holocaust in the making” (“Israel deports American academic,” Guardian, 15 December 2008). Israel’s treatment was insulting enough, but now shamefully, the Palestinian Authority has asked the Human Rights Council to “postpone” his report on Gaza and, as Nadia Hijab reported, is asking him to resign (“PA’s betrayal of human rights defenders the unkindest cut,” Nadia Hijab, 14 March 2010).

These are honorable men, but we too can stand on principle in smaller ways, whether that is refusing to buy Israeli goods at our local store, boycotting an Israeli-government sponsored event or exposing and protesting the collusion between governments and corporations with Israel. That is what it means to become part of a worldwide civil movement that will do what our leaders will not: pressure Israel to dismantle the matrix of control on Palestine and make reparations for the decades of injustices it has perpetrated against its people.

It is indeed possible for all of us to “squeeze out of reality some of its potentialities,” the reality that University of Melbourne Professor Ghassan Hage has said is found in those utopic moments that come from challenging our own thoughts, fears and biases. In that space lies the untapped power we seek, to speak the truth without fear or favor. In that space lies the potential for political change. In that space, there will always be hope for Palestine.

A version of this essay was originally published on the website of Labour Friends of Palestine & the Middle East (UK)

Sonja Karkar is the founder and president of Women for Palestine and one of the founders and co-convener of Australians for Palestine in Melbourne, Australia. She is also the editor of www.australiansforpalestine.com and contributes articles on Palestine regularly to various publications. She can be contacted at sonjakarkar A T womenforpalestine D O T org.

River to Sea
Uprooted Palestinian

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