Nazism, Zionism, and the Arab World by Annette Herskovits
Annette Herskovits, a holocaust survivor and the daughter of holocaust victims, holds a PhD in linguistics from Stanford University and is the author of Language and Spatial Cognition (Cambridge University Press, 1987, 2009). This article was first published at Dissident Voice.
Countering the myths spread by pro-Israel ideologues
By Annette Herskovits
May 21, 2012 “Information Clearing House” — The intricate, sprawling architecture of deception that shapes understanding of the Israel-Palestine conflict in America is probably unique in history. For over six decades, the U.S. Congress, successive presidents, media, public opinion, all have supported a story which portrays Israel as wholly good and innocent, while painting those resisting its violence and injustice as anti-Semites, Nazis, and terrorists. The myth that Israel is the victim of unprovoked attacks by uncivilized Arabs persists, even in the face of Israel’s brutality and violations of international law in its 44-year long occupation of the Palestinian Territories.
The grip of this fiction on the American collective mind reflects a conjuncture of causes: the West’s guilt about the Holocaust; the proto-Zionist theology of American evangelical sects; U.S. imperial interests in Middle East oil reserves; and the West’s long-distrust of and contempt for Arabs and Muslims.
Propaganda produced by Israel and the American Jewish establishment inverts reality. This is crude stuff, manifestly false to anyone who would look up information published by a multitude of respected media and human rights organizations. But omissions and outright lies are probably a deliberate tactic: deny, deny … confuse, confuse … Like Israel’s building of “facts on the ground” (settlements, roads, etc.), it gains time; the hope is that Israeli power will eventually be so entrenched in the land of “Greater Israel” that nobody will remember Palestinians ever lived there.
The justice of the Palestinian cause is increasingly recognized in the West, particularly at the grassroots level. This is due, above all, to the courage and persistence of the Palestinians themselves. But scholars—Arab, Jewish, and other—who challenge the deceptive narratives also deserve credit. One such scholar is Gilbert Achcar, a Lebanese-born professor at the University of London and author of several books on the Middle East and U.S. foreign policy.
A smear campaign The Arabs and the Holocaust: The Arab-Israeli War of Narratives (Henry Holt and Company, 2010), Achcar’s most recent book, is an ambitious attempt to present an accurate history of Arab attitudes toward Nazism, Jews, and the Holocaust. It refutes the story told by pro-Israel zealots, who attribute hostility to Israel in the Arab world not to Israel’s actions, but to Arabs’ hatred of Jews: hatred, they argue, which originated in Islam and flourished with the Arabs’ collaboration with the Nazis during WWII.
The book has been well received by Middle East and Jewish Studies scholars, and Achcar has been invited to give talks on many university campuses. This raised the ire of David Horowitz, founder of the Horowitz Freedom Center, which, according to its mission statement, “combats the efforts of the radical left and its Islamist allies to destroy American values and disarm this country … The leftist offensive is most obvious on our nation’s campuses, where the Freedom Center protects students from indoctrination and political harassment.”
Last November, an article in the web FrontPage Magazine, edited and published by Horowitz, launched a smear campaign against Achcar. Focusing on a presentation by Achcar under the auspices of Middle East Studies of the University of California at Berkeley, the article appeared on a host of kindred websites, such as that of Campus Watch, an organization founded by Daniel Pipes, a main purveyor with Horowitz of Islamophobic material and whitewashing of Israel.1
Another attack, directed at Achcar’s lecture in the Jewish Studies Department of the University of California at Davis, came from BlueTruth, a blog devoted to “refuting the accusations and exposing the lies that are being told … about Israel, Jews and pro-Israel organizations …” One such lie, to judge by the article, is that Israel was “built on Arab land.”
As someone whose mother and father were murdered in Auschwitz, and who herself survived the Nazis’ barbarous nationalism thanks to the courage of a group of Catholics, Protestants, Communists, and Jews, I find the idea that defending the “Jewish state” supersedes all other human obligations both immoral and senseless. Nothing, not even the Holocaust, justifies Israel’s treatment of Palestinians or the continuing efforts of pro-Israel zealots to show Arabs and Muslims as less than human. Israel and its unconditional supporters are on a path leading to catastrophe not only for Palestinians, but in the not very long run, for Israel itself.
The Arabs and the Holocaust In his talk at Berkeley, Achcar described the book’s main purpose as deconstructing the image, dominant in the West and Israel, of Arabs as pro-Nazi. Relying on an extensive array of primary sources and historical studies, Achcar presents an “Arab world” with a great diversity of beliefs and opinions, a multiplicity of evolving ideological currents—just as in the West. The many Arab countries are not peopled by an indistinct mass of millions animated by ancestral hatred of the Jews. “The Arabs,” Achcar writes, do not exist “as a politically and intellectually uniform group.”2
The first part of Achcar’s book covers the period from 1933, when Hitler acceded to power, until Israel’s foundation in 1948. At that time, “liberal Westernizers” and Marxists took a strong stand against both Nazism and anti-Semitism. In the various Arab nationalist movements, sympathy for the Axis varied but was overall low, and opposition to Zionism did not translate into hatred of “the Jews.” It is only among “reactionary and/or fundamentalist pan-Islamists” that significant anti-Semitism and support for Nazism were found. Several recent studies confirm this. For example, Achcar’s book quotes Israel Gershoni, a professor of Middle Eastern History at Tel Aviv University, who wrote that in the 1930s:
the overwhelming majority of Egyptian voices—in the political arena, in intellectual circles, among the professional, educated, urban middle classes and even in the literate popular cultures—rejected fascism and Nazism both as an ideology and a practice, and as “an enemy of the enemy.”3 [a reference to “The enemy of my enemy is my friend,” a view which did create some support for Nazi Germany among Arabs living under the yoke of French and British colonization.]
Those painting Arabs as heirs to Nazism use as “proof” one particular episode: the 1941 Baghdad “pogrom” (the Farhud). In April 1941, Iraqi pro-German nationalists led a coup against Iraq’s pro-British regent. Propaganda by the German legation, reinforced by the presence of the pro-Nazi Mufti of Jerusalem, had whipped up anti-Jewish feeling in Baghdad. British forces invaded Iraq, put the pro-German government to flight, and secured Baghdad, but their troops remained posted on the outskirts. Rumors circulated that the Jews were helping the much-hated British. There followed two days of killing and plunder; about 180 Jews were murdered. The rioters were stopped when Iraqi troops entered Baghdad and reestablished order, killing many of the mob.
Achcar notes that the vast majority of Muslim Iraqis condemned the violence and many protected their Jewish neighbors at the risk of their own lives. Looters from Baghdad’s slums, driven by need rather than anti-Jewish sentiment, joined in the action. With the regent back in power, the Iraqi government granted compensation to the families of Jewish victims.
Achcar’s account of the Farhud agrees with that of several authors, such as Nissim Rejwan, an Israeli writer of Baghdadi origin.4 There is little evidence that the Farhud was indicative of widespread and deeply rooted hatred toward Jews in the whole of “the Arab world.” Note that no anti-Jewish rioting occurred in any other Arab country during WWII, despite the calls to jihad broadcast from Berlin by the Mufti from November 1941 on.
In fact, Arabs played a truly remarkable role in defeating Hitler, a fact so carefully suppressed by the French after the war that I did not learn of it in 15 years of schooling in France. As part of De Gaulle’s Free French Forces, Arab troops from French North Africa contributed massively to the liberation of Europe. They fought alongside the Allies from the landing in Sicily in July 1943 to the invasion of Germany in 1945, with great loss of life. For instance, 233,000 of the 550,000 Free French troops landing on the Mediterranean coast in Nazi-occupied France in November 1944 were North African Muslims.5
The second part of Achcar’s book traces the rise of anti-Semitism in the Arab world after the founding of Israel in 1948. Western anti-Semitic themes, such as the “international Jewish conspiracy” of the fraudulent Protocols of the Elders of Zion, found their way into public discourse. Achcar does not excuse or minimize Arab anti-Semitism. He deplores the “abysmal stupidity” of these “anti-Semitic ravings or mindless denials of the Holocaust.” But do these ravings indicate an Arab wish to exterminate the Jews, a project they supposedly inherited from the Nazis? These claims are absurd, according to Achcar and many others. Nissim Rejwan, for instance, writes:
Neither their religious culture nor their historical record lends credence to the claim that the Muslim Arabs of today are capable of the kind of historical consummation that found expression in Auschwitz and other Nazi extermination camps … Viewed in anything like the correct historical perspective, the idea of “Arab Auschwitz” is an absurdity.6
And, of course, there are parallel ravings in Israeli/Jewish political discourse: referring to Arabs by animal names, calling for their expulsion and annihilation, and so on. See Israeli General Rafael Eitan’s infamous statement: “When we have settled the land, all the Arabs will be able to do about it will be to scurry around like drugged cockroaches in a bottle.”7
Achcar writes: “There are more anti-Semites among the Arabs today than among any other population group—for obvious historical reasons” [emphasis mine].8 These historical reasons, which are indeed obvious, were they not again and again obfuscated by pro-Israel apologists, include: Israel’s ethnic cleansing of 750,000 Palestinian Arabs in 1948-1949 and its systematic destruction of 418 Palestinian villages to prevent the refugees’ return: creating 300,000 more Palestinian refugees in 1967; a brutal and tyrannical occupation accompanied by continued ethnic cleansing ever since; and atrocities against civilian populations in wars in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and Lebanon.
Contemporary Arab anti-Semitism is not unmotivated, atavistic hatred. It is rooted in anger at Israel’s very real aggressive and destructive policies. Even Bernard Lewis, a historian favored by defenders of Israel, wrote “for Christian anti-Semites, the Palestine problem is a pretext and an outlet for their hatred; for Muslim anti-Semites, it is the cause.”9 Remove the cause—that is, end Israel’s ethnocentrism and expansionism—and Arab anti-Semitism would likely fade away.
Achcar shows how Arab anti-Semitism is “reactive” and changeable—dependent on Israel’s actions, its violence, its propaganda (e.g., calling Arabs “Nazis”), and on the particular historical and political circumstances of the various Arab/Muslim countries. It is not “the fantasy-based hatred of the Jews that was and still is typical of European racists.”10
I surmise that The Arabs and the Holocaust was written with an Arab audience in mind as well as a Western one. The book has been translated into Arabic and it is, among other things, an attempt to build bridges, a call for each side to listen to the other. He writes:
It is faith in human reason that justifies the hope that what counts as truth on one side of the Green Line or, rather, of the separation wall, will not forever count as error on the other.11
In the conclusion, describing “statist Zionism” as “a Janus, one face turned toward the Holocaust, the other toward the Nakba, one toward persecution endured, the other toward persecution inflicted,” Achcar returns to the need for each side to acknowledge the sufferings of the other:
Only recognition of both of Janus’ faces—of the Holocaust and the Nakba—can bring Israeli, Palestinians, and other Arabs in genuine dialogue.12
Achcar’s book displays a formidable knowledge of the currents of thought on both sides of the Arab/Jewish divide as well as a brilliant analytic mind. By placing Arab attitudes toward the Holocaust in historical and psychological contexts, he opens up vistas to Western readers beyond the shallow, warped views of U.S. main media. He understands and has compassion for the historical wounds of the Jews. His integrity and openness shine throughout.
Hasbara The authors of the FrontPageMag article, Cinnamon Stillwell and Rima Greene, seem not to be concerned about historical context. They mix innuendo, distortion and falsehood, quote out of context and misquote, then add in one or another point of dogma. They do not at any point counter Achcar with contrary evidence. Instead, they speak in generalities, e.g., Achcar’s book “masks its outlandish conclusions with scholarly apparatus while confirming the biases of the left-leaning, anti-Israel Middle East studies establishment.”
The “Hasbara Handbook: Promoting Israel on Campus” (hasbara is Hebrew for “public relations, “ or “propaganda”), published in 2002 by the World Union of Jewish Students, gives advice on how to score points “whilst avoiding genuine discussion”: rather than addressing your opponent’s arguments, make “as many comments that are positive about Israel as possible whilst attacking certain Palestinian positions, and attempting to cultivate a dignified appearance”; repeat points again and again, “If people hear something often enough, they come to believe it.” The same tactics seem to be used in the writing of most FrontPageMag articles.
Nakba vs. Holocaust Stillwell and Greene write: “Achcar concluded by drawing an asinine correlation between the Holocaust … and the ‘Nakba’ or ‘catastrophe,’ the Arabic term to describe the creation of the state of Israel: ‘The Shoah ended in 1945, but the suffering of the Palestinians is never-ending.’”
In fact, Achcar, in his talk characterized the Nakba as “fortunately not a genocide, but what we could call an act of ethnic cleansing.” He went on to say that real dialogue conducive to peace requires the mutual recognition of the tragedies of each other without putting them on the same plane … because the magnitude of the Holocaust cannot be compared to that of the Nakba… Nevertheless, this does not diminish the importance of what Palestinians have suffered. Not only the ordeal of the Palestinians is continuing … But they went through … the worst kind of experience just recently in Gaza in the winter of 2008-2009.
In his book, Achcar condemns making “no distinction between colonialist usurpation of a territory and the racist extermination of a whole population.”13 He quotes Edward Said: “Who would want morally to equate mass extermination with mass dispossession?”14 But he also states that Palestinian suffering is ongoing, and getting worse.
In fact, it is rarely useful to compare the Holocaust and the ordeal of the Palestinians; it does not help us understand the reality of either. Sixty-four years have elapsed since the Nakba, 64 years during which Palestinians have been subjected to further wars, expulsions, and dispossession. They have been denied political, economic, and human rights. At present, in Gaza, 1.5 million people, half of them children, are imprisoned behind a 25-foot high fence and regularly attacked by Israeli drones and Apache helicopters, killed by fire from tanks and snipers on Gaza’s borders; in the West Bank, Palestinians are evicted from their land to make way for Israeli settlers who harass and kill with impunity; and East Jerusalem is being “judaized,” i.e., emptied of its Palestinian inhabitants.
This is not genocide, but what name is there for it?
Anti-Arab racism in Israel Stillwell and Greene claim that, unlike anti-Semitism in the Arab world, “’anti-Arab attitudes in Israel’ are neither widespread, [nor] promulgated through state-provided education and other official means.” But all polls of Israeli Jews reveal deep anti-Arab feeling. For instance, the Israel Democracy Institute released a poll in January 2011, which found that nearly half of Israeli Jews would not want to live next door to an Arab.15 Racism is strongest among the young: the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper reported that civics teachers around the country were complaining of rampant, virulent anti-Arab racism amongst their Jewish students.16 Nurit Peled-Elhanan, an Israeli professor of education and author of a book on Israeli school books,17 thinks “state-provided education” is a main culprit in promoting racism. Interviewed in the Guardian, she said Israeli school books describe Arabs “as vile and deviant and criminal, people who don’t pay taxes, people who live off the state, people who don’t want to develop… The only representation is as refugees, primitive farmers and terrorists.” She added: “One question that bothers many people is how do you explain the cruel behavior of Israeli soldiers towards Palestinians, an indifference to human suffering, the inflicting of suffering. … I think the major reason for that is education.”
“Other official means” of promulgating racism include laws that are the very foundation of the Israeli state: the 1950 Law of Return and 1952 Citizenship Law, which allow every Jew in the world to immigrate to Israel and become an Israeli citizen. These same laws forbid the return of Palestinians who were forced to flee their homes from 1947 to 1952. This inequity may have made sense to those in the West who lived through the years after WWII, when the horrors of the Holocaust and general acceptance of colonialism blinded almost everyone to the injustice perpetrated against Palestinian Arabs. But it is much past time to look at the situation through Palestinian eyes.
More recent laws show racism becoming increasingly institutionalized in Israel. Adalah, the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, reports that “the current government coalition has proposed a flood of new racist and discriminatory bills.” One such bill legalizes “admission committees” operating in nearly 700 small towns, allowing them to reject applicants deemed “unsuitable to the social life of the community … or the social and cultural fabric of the town”—for “unsuitable applicants,” read principally “Arabs.”18
Holocaust denial, Nakba denial Israel’s recent Nakba Law effectively forbids the public commemoration of the Nakba. Israel lodged a protest when UN secretary-general Ban Ki-Moon used the word in a telephone conversation with Mahmoud Abbas on May 2008, the 60th anniversary of the Nakba. Tzipi Livni, then Israel’s foreign minister, declared: “The Palestinians can celebrate an Independence Day if, on that day, they eliminate the word Nakba from their vocabulary.”
Speaking with her usual icy self-assurance, Livni was essentially telling the Arab minority to shut up about a fact no historian denies, not even Zionist historian Benny Morris, who said: “I don’t think that the expulsions of 1948 were war crimes. You can’t make an omelet without breaking eggs.”19 Because she speaks as a government minister of a state with a very powerful military and several hundred nuclear weapons, her pronouncements are alarming.
Livni makes luminously clear that Israel is not a democracy for all its citizens. For the Jews, yes, although the rights of dissenters are increasingly restricted. In effect, “a Jewish and democratic state” is an oxymoron, no matter how much ink has been spent to deny it: a state so defined must privilege the Jews over other citizens. And being Jewish is unlike being, for example, French. One can become French by participating in the country’s communal life for five years, but there is no way to become Jewish and qualify for the Law of Return except by converting to Judaism, or by being “a child and a grandchild of a Jew, the spouse of a Jew, the spouse of a child of a Jew, and the spouse of a grandchild of a Jew.” Israel: innocent, victimized, maligned …
Gail Rubin J.D. author of the BlueTruth article, waxes indignant at Achcar for describing Israel as a “’settler colonial project’ built on ‘Arab land,’” and “accusing Zionists of ‘ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians.’”
That Israel was built on Arab land, whether bought or confiscated, is undeniable. As for “ethnic cleansing,” Benny Morris, who argued in his early books that the Palestinians had fled because of the war, now concedes the role of deliberate Zionist policy: “I have concluded that pre-1948 thinking had a greater effect on what happened in 1948 than I had allowed for…”20
In any case, no one denies that Israel prevented the return of refugees, a violation of international law. It was Israeli policy to shoot as “infiltrators” Palestinians trying to return to their villages in the night. Hundreds of villages were destroyed to foreclose their former inhabitants’ return. Arguments about the colonial nature of the Israeli state usually take the form of semantic nitpicking. Sociologist Maxime Rodinson, a French Jew who first broke the taboo against calling Israel a “colonial-settler state,” concludes his remarkable 1967 essay:
… the creation of the State of Israel on Palestinian soil is the culmination of a process that fits perfectly into the European-American movement of expansion in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries whose aim was to settle new inhabitants among other people or to dominate them economically and politically. This is, moreover, an obvious diagnosis, and if I have taken so many words to state it, it is only because of the desperate efforts that have been made to conceal it.21
Stillwell and Greene recommend a review of Achcar’s book by “atypical professors” Matthias Küntzel and Colin Meade. The lengthy review22 takes up the themes of Küntzel’s book, Jihad and Jew-hatred: Islamism, Nazism and the roots of 9/11, such as: Islamist movements—al-Qaeda, Hamas, Hezbollah, Iran’s regime—originated in the lethal link between Islamism and Nazism; the Arabs have inherited “eliminatory anti-Semitism” from the Nazis; jihadism and jihadist anti-Semitism are the greatest threats to the world today. According to Achcar, his book is “a fantasy-based narrative pasted together out of secondary sources and third-hand reports.”23 In Küntzler’s view, responsibility for the Palestine-Israel conflict lies entirely with the Palestinians and Arabs:
… it is not the escalation of the Middle East conflict that has given rise to anti-Semitism; it is rather anti-Semitism that has given rise to the escalation of the Middle East conflict – again and again…. In fact, what we are seeing is the revival of Nazi ideology in a new garb.24
This is yet another version of the myth that Israel acts only in response to Arab aggression. In fact, following the conquest of land and expulsion of its native Arab inhabitants, Israel again and again inflicted great harm on Arabs and Muslims—primarily the Palestinians, but also those living in the border states—through actions that cannot be attributed to Israel’s need to survive. Consider the annexation of Jerusalem, a city sacred to Islam; the occupation of the Palestinian territories and of the Golan Heights; and wars such as that against Lebanon in 2006, supposedly a response to the kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers that resulted in 1,200 Lebanese deaths, almost all of them civilians.
One example provides strong evidence that Arabs have not inherited the Nazis’ exterminatory will. The 2002 Arab Peace Initiative, re-endorsed unanimously by the Arab League in 2007,25 calls upon Israel to withdraw from all the territories occupied since 1967, and for the establishment of a Palestinian state on the West Bank and Gaza Strip, with East Jerusalem as its capital. The Arab countries would then commit to establishing normal relations with Israel and provide security for all the states of the region. Israel is entreated to accept the initiative to “[enable] the Arab countries and Israel to live in peace and good neighborliness and provide future generations with security, stability and prosperity.” The initiative calls for “a just solution to the Palestinian refugee problem,” but expresses support for any negotiated settlement between Israel and Palestinians.
It is difficult to find exterminatory anti-Semitism in all this. Unsurprisingly, Israeli politicians have ignored the initiative.
All signs point to the fact that Israel has never wanted an equitable peace settlement. Israeli governments since Israel’s beginnings, including Labor governments, have all acted to further the goal of a Greater Israel empty of Palestinians.
The how and why of pro-Israel watchdogs on campuses Pro-Israel propaganda outlets like Frontpage Magazine carry little weight with scholars of the Middle East, but they are significant actors in sustaining the upside-down view of the Israel-Palestine conflict in America. They use intimidation to inhibit free speech on campuses, and poison the well of public discourse.
They advise students to take notes and report on professors, which especially intimidates junior, untenured faculty. They post on their websites telephone numbers and e-mail addresses of departments and faculties which get harassed by angry phone calls and swamped by hate mail.
Pipes and Horowitz encourage confrontation and creating disturbances, followed by complaints that their freedom of speech was curtailed. So here is Gail Rubin’s account of the Q&A part of Achcar’s talk at UC, Davis:
… challenging questions were not welcomed during the Q & A. I was abruptly censored while attempting to establish facts to challenge Mr. Achcar’s skewed conclusion that the Grand Mufti’s anti-Semitism had only a minimal impact on both Jews and Arabs. Professors Miller and Biale angrily told me the questions were insulting and to either stop or leave the room.
In fact, according to Jewish Studies Director, Professor Diane Wolf, Rubin was called on to ask her question, read a prepared script with no relation to Achcar’s talk, and then asked him whether he wasn’t blaming the Holocaust on the Jews. As he started to express that he was shocked and offended, she tried to re-read her statement. At this point, Professor David Biale and others told her to be quiet and Professor Susan Miller explained that in an academic environment, we wait for the speaker’s response to a question. She should leave if she could not abide by those rules. So the questioner was stopped only when she interrupted Achcar to repeat her statement.
In an interview after Achcar’s program, Professor Emily Gottreich, Vice Chair of the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Berkeley, commented that if these campus pro-Israel activists were truly interested in engaging in academic dialogue, they would express their disagreements directly to the scholar in a public forum or to departmental chairs or program directors; instead, they appeal directly to donors, who tend to be neither Middle East experts nor particularly well-versed in the rules of academic discourse, to withdraw funding; or they approach university presidents or chancellors with accusations of anti-Semitism and “biased” scholarship.
Campus Watch and Horowitz’ Freedom Center are only two pieces in a large network of pro-Israel pressure groups operating on campuses. The Israel on Campus Coalition includes no less than 33 independent organizations, including the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and Anti-Defamation League (but not Horowitz’ or Pipes’ organizations, whose work may not quite fit the coalition’s image). The coalition works “to engage leaders at colleges and universities around issues affecting Israel, and to create positive campus change for Israel.”
Why this vast deployment of resources on campuses? The answer is straightforward. A recent document by the David Project, dedicated to ensuring that “effective support for Israel thrives on campuses and in our communities,” states: “AIPAC has had a successful track record in building campus ties to future members of Congress and campus leaders.”26 To-morrow’s leaders are on campuses today, so the thinking goes, and they must be reached by Israeli propaganda as early as possible.
Changing Americans’ view of who Palestinians are Philip Weiss, founder and co-editor of Mondoweiss.net, a website of news about Israel/Palestine, recounts a Skype-mediated “meeting” with youth in Gaza: “Most of the questions were from young men. They were smart but slightly abstract questions … Then Rawan Yaghi sat at the microphone and asked, What can be done to change Americans’ view of who Palestinians are?”
Weiss writes of being overcome with emotion by this “poised young woman wearing wire-rimmed glasses, 18 years old … There was such delicacy to her manner and her question … I struggled against upwelling emotions to answer her question. ‘`This is the biggest question of all, and I don’t know the answer.’”
For all of us living outside the prison of Gaza, this young woman’s question should come as a call to remember the immense harm created by prejudice, ignorance, and demonization. Voices like Gilbert Achcar’s must be heard on campuses and in larger public arenas.
Larry Ratter, Jewish owner and creator of Choice Videos based out of Los Angeles, CA, is a silent hero by bringing outstanding educational documentaries with fair depictions of Israeli abuse documentation to the United States. His recent releases include Israel vs Israel (http://www.israelvsisraelmovie.com/), Checkpoint (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0391857/ by Israeli Yoav Shamir, and the anticipated release of Tears of Gaza this summer.
Dr. Terri Gingsburg, Jewish American academic, is being witch-hunted by Zionists for expressing empathy for the Palestinians and questioning Israel’s human-rights violations. From Jewish Voice for Peace on-line journal Muzzelwatch:
Terri Ginsberg was a visiting film studies professor at North Carolina State University when she was dismissed after sharing views critical of Zionism and the state of Israel. (You can read prior coverage of her case in Muzzlewatch, the Electronic Intifada and in Ha’aretz). She filed a grievance with the university, which denied her a hearing – three times. So she took her case to the courts. Two lower courts have decided against her, and she is now appealing to the Supreme Court of North Carolina.
In the words of an open letter co-sponsored by The British Committee for the Universities of Palestine (BRICUP), the Center for Constitutional Rights, JVP-Westchester and others:
At North Carolina State University, shortly after Dr. Terri Ginsberg made supportive political comments at a screening of a Palestinian film in 2007, she went from being the favored candidate for a tenure-track position to being denied even an interview. Her efforts at redress were summarily rejected by NCSU and two courts.
A jury should be permitted to decide whether NCSU’s real reason for firing Dr. Ginsberg was its hostility to her political views, but this legal right has been denied.
While the judgments against Ginsberg have been disappointing and frustrating, the litigation process forced the university to go on record citing their suppression of Ginsberg’s free speech. As Ginsberg writes in
U.S. Jews Should Heed Top Israeli Soldiers Who Oppose Bombing Iran
Peter Beinart is a Jewish American Jornalist, and author of the book The New Republican and his new book is called The Crisis of Zionism. In this article he warns U.S. Jews to question blindly supporting a war based in Jewish loyalty.
U.S. Jews Should Heed Top Israeli Soldiers Who Oppose Bombing Iran
There’s nothing American Jews love more than Israeli soldiers, except perhaps, Israeli spies. Go to American synagogues-especially Orthodox synagogues-and you’ll find boys wearing green-and-yellow skullcaps bearing the Israel Defense Force’s Hebrew acronym. A central element of the Birthright Israel program, which aims to instill a love of Israel and Judaism in young American Jews, is their mifgash, or encounter-often R-rated-with Israeli soldiers. For my Bar Mitzvah, I was given a tome celebrating the exploits of Israel’s external and internal spy agencies, the Mossad and Shin Bet. My 6-year-old son recently came back from the library of his Jewish school carrying a volume entitled Keeping Israel Safe: Serving the Israel Defense Forces.
So perhaps American Jews should start noticing that an astonishing number of Israel’s top soldiers and spies are warning against bombing Iran. It began last summer, when Meir Dagan, fresh from a highly successful, eight-year stint as head of the Mossad, called attacking Iran “the stupidest thing I have ever heard.” He noted that while in office, he had joined with Yuval Diskin, director of the Shin Bet, and Gabi Ashkenazi, chief of staff of the Israeli Defense Fund, to block this “dangerous adventure.”
Since then, a throng of current and former security officials have issued similar warnings. In December, Dagan’s successor at Mossad, Tamir Pardo, suggested that an Iranian nuclear weapon was not an existential threat. This month, another former Mossad chief, Efraim Halevy, declared that “it is not in the power of Iran to destroy the state of Israel.” Former IDF chief of staff Dan Halutz added that “Iran poses a serious threat but not an existential threat” and that bombing would mean “taking upon ourselves a task that is bigger than us.” It’s remarkable, when you think about it. Almost every week, Israeli security officials say things about Iran’s nuclear program that, if Barack Obama said them, would get him labeled anti-Israel by American Jewish activists and the GOP.
The struggle between Israel’s civilian and military leaders eerily evokes the struggle inside the Bush administration over war with Iraq. Like Dick Cheney, Benjamin Netanyahu has only one mode: apocalyptic. His idols are Winston Churchill and Revisionist Zionist leader Vladimir Jabotinsky, both men famed for having foreseen the Nazi menace when others looked away. And throughout his career, Netanyahu has plugged virtually every adversary Israel faces into the Hitler role. In 1993, when then–Foreign Minister Shimon Peres brokered the Oslo Accords, Netanyahu compared him with Neville Chamberlain. In his 1993 book, A Place Among the Nations, reissued in 2000 as A Durable Peace, Netanyahu compared the Palestinian effort “to gouge Judea and Samaria [the West Bank] out of Israel” to the Nazi effort to force Czechoslovakia to cede the “Sudeten district.” In a CNN interview with Piers Morgan in 2011, Netanyahu analogized negotiating with Hamas to negotiating with Hitler. And in 2006 he told an American Jewish audience that “it’s 1938 and Iran is Germany.” […] Israel today is witnessing the same struggle that Washington witnessed in 2002 and 2003, a struggle between people who think practically and people who think ideologically, between people trying to soberly assess a given adversary and people who can view that adversary only by analogy with the mightiest, most demonic powers the world has ever known. One of the most appalling features of America’s invasion of Iraq was how ignorant top policymakers turned out to be about the country they set out to conquer and remake. Netanyahu doesn’t seem much better. According to The New York Times, he has been telling visitors that the Iranian people may welcome being bombed by Israel. No wonder Meir Dagan is scared.
We all know how the Iraq debate turned out: Skeptics in the military, State Department, and intelligence agencies were sidelined or cowed. Similarly in Israel, Dagan has had his diplomatic passport revoked, and Netanyahu’s allies have pushed legislation to prevent former security officials from speaking to the media.
The most valuable thing American Jewish leaders can do to influence Israel’s internal struggle is to stop equating being pro-Israel with being pro-war. American Jews have long basked in the wartime prowess of Israel’s soldiers and spies. Perhaps it’s time we started admiring their aversion to war as well.
The Holocaust is Over; We Must Rise from its Ashes, a powerful book by former Israeli Knesset speaker and Jewish National Fund chairman Avraham Burg:
‘If you are a bad person, a whining enemy or a strong-arm occupier, you are not my brother, even if you are circumcised, observe the Sabbath, and do mitzvahs. If your scarf covers every hair on your head for modesty, you give alms and do charity, but what is under your scarf is dedicated to the sanctity of Jewish land, taking precedence over the sanctity of human life, whosoever life that is, then you are not my sister. You might be my enemy. A good Arab or a righteous gentile will be a brother or sister to me. A wicked man, even of Jewish descent, is my adversary, and I would stand on the other side of the barricade and fight him to the end.’”
Fighting a Forbidden Battle: How I Stopped Covering Up for a Hidden Wrong
It is precisely because of the proud tradition of critical thinking inside the Jewish culture, one which spoke the truth during social movements throughout the last century, that has allowed the next generation to break free. Seventeen year old Jewish high school student Jesse Lieberfeld, wins first place for a Martin Luther King, Jr. Writing Award at Winchester Thurstin High School, holding accountable his Jewish religion and people.
2012 Martin Luther King, Jr. Writing Awards Prose: High School
First Place (Tie)
Fighting a Forbidden Battle: How I Stopped Covering Up for a Hidden Wrong Jesse Lieberfeld 11th grade, Winchester Thurston
I once belonged to a wonderful religion. I belonged to a religion that allows those of us who believe in it to feel that we are the greatest people in the world—and feel sorry for ourselves at the same time. Once, I thought that I truly belonged in this world of security, self-pity, self-proclaimed intelligence, and perfect moral aesthetic. I thought myself to be somewhat privileged early on. It was soon revealed to me, however, that my fellow believers and I were not part of anything so flattering.
Although I was fortunate enough to have parents who did not try to force me into any one set of beliefs, being Jewish was in no way possible to escape growing up. It was constantly reinforced at every holiday, every service, and every encounter with the rest of my relatives. I was forever reminded how intelligent my family was, how important it was to remember where we had come from, and to be proud of all the suffering our people had overcome in order to finally achieve their dream in the perfect society of Israel.
This last mandatory belief was one which I never fully understood, but I always kept the doubts I had about Israel’s spotless reputation to the back of my mind. “Our people” were fighting a war, one I did not fully comprehend, but I naturally assumed that it must be justified. We would never be so amoral as to fight an unjust war. Yet as I came to learn more about our so-called “conflict” with the Palestinians, I grew more concerned. I routinely heard about unexplained mass killings, attacks on medical bases, and other alarmingly violent actions for which I could see no possible reason. “Genocide” almost seemed the more appropriate term, yet no one I knew would have ever dreamed of portraying the war in that manner; they always described the situation in shockingly neutral terms. Whenever I brought up the subject, I was always given the answer that there were faults on both sides, that no one was really to blame, or simply that it was a “difficult situation.” It was not until eighth grade that I fully understood what I was on the side of. One afternoon, after a fresh round of killings was announced on our bus ride home, I asked two of my friends who actively supported Israel what they thought. “We need to defend our race,” they told me. “It’s our right.”
“We need to defend our race.”
Where had I heard that before? Wasn’t it the same excuse our own country had used to justify its abuses of African-Americans sixty years ago? In that moment, I realized how similar the two struggles were—like the white radicals of that era, we controlled the lives of another people whom we abused daily, and no one could speak out against us. It was too politically incorrect to do so. We had suffered too much, endured too many hardships, and overcome too many losses to be criticized. I realized then that I was in no way part of a “conflict”—the term “Israeli/Palestinian Conflict” was no more accurate than calling the Civil Rights Movement the “Caucasian/ African-American Conflict.” In both cases, the expression was a blatant euphemism: it gave the impression that this was a dispute among equals and that both held an equal share of the blame. However, in both, there was clearly an oppressor and an oppressed, and I felt horrified at the realization that I was by nature on the side of the oppressors. I was grouped with the racial supremacists. I was part of a group that killed while praising its own intelligence and reason. I was part of a delusion.
I thought of the leader of the other oppressed side of years ago, Martin Luther King. He too had been part of a struggle that had been hidden and glossed over for the convenience of those against whom he fought. What would his reaction have been? As it turned out, it was precisely the same as mine. As he wrote in his letter from Birmingham Jail, he believed the greatest enemy of his cause to be “Not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who…lives by a mythical concept of time…. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.” When I first read those words, I felt as if I were staring at myself in a mirror. All my life I had been conditioned to simply treat the so-called conflict with the same apathy which King had so forcefully condemned. I, too, held the role of an accepting moderate. I, too, “lived by a mythical concept of time,” shrouded in my own surreal world and the set of beliefs that had been assigned to me. I had never before felt so trapped.
I decided to make one last appeal to my religion. If it could not answer my misgivings, no one could. The next time I attended a service, there was an open question-and-answer session about any point of our religion. I wanted to place my dilemma in as clear and simple terms as I knew how. I thought out my exact question over the course of the seventeen-minute cello solo that was routinely played during service. Previously, I had always accepted this solo as just another part of the program, yet now it seemed to capture the whole essence of our religion: intelligent and well-crafted on paper, yet completely oblivious to the outside world (the soloist did not have the faintest idea of how masterfully he was putting us all to sleep). When I was finally given the chance to ask a question, I asked, “I want to support Israel. But how can I when it lets its army commit so many killings?” I was met with a few angry glares from some of the older men, but the rabbi answered me. “It is a terrible thing, isn’t it?” he said. “But there’s nothing we can do. It’s just a fact of life.” I knew, of course, that the war was no simple matter and that we did not by any means commit murder for its own sake, but to portray our thousands of killings as a “fact of life” was simply too much for me to accept. I thanked him and walked out shortly afterward. I never went back. I thought about what I could do. If nothing else, I could at least try to free myself from the burden of being saddled with a belief I could not hold with a clear conscience. I could not live the rest of my life as one of the pathetic moderates whom King had rightfully portrayed as the worst part of the problem. I did not intend to go on being one of the Self-Chosen People, identifying myself as part of a group to which I did not belong.
It was different not being the ideal nice Jewish boy. The difference was subtle, yet by no means unaffecting. Whenever it came to the attention of any of our more religious family friends that I did not share their beliefs, I was met with either a disapproving stare and a quick change of the subject or an alarmed cry of, “What? Doesn’t Israel matter to you?” Relatives talked down to me more afterward, but eventually I stopped noticing the way adults around me perceived me. It was worth it to no longer feel as though I were just another apathetic part of the machine.
I can obviously never know what it must have been like to be an African-American in the 1950s. I do feel, however, as though I know exactly what it must have been like to be white during that time, to live under an aura of moral invincibility, to hold unchallengeable beliefs, and to contrive illusions of superiority to avoid having to face simple everyday truths. That illusion was nice while it lasted, but I decided to pass it up. I have never been happier.
Menachem Rosensaft on why Ultra-Orthodox Judaism Need Not Be Obscurantist
From the Huffington Post, January 13, 2012:
Menachem Z. Rosensaft is general counsel of the World Jewish Congress and the immediate past president of Park Avenue Synagogue in Manhattan. He teaches about the law of genocide and World War II war crimes trials at Cornell Law School, Columbia Law School and Syracuse University College of Law.
Posted: 1/12/12 11:00 AM ET The spectacle of haredi — that is, ultra-Orthodox — thugs spitting on Naama Margolis, an 8-year-old schoolgirl in the Israeli town of Beit Shemesh has exacerbated the already frayed relations between the fundamentalist religious sector of the Jewish community, in Israel and elsewhere, and the rest of us, that is, Conservative, Reform, Modern Orthodox and secular Jews.
The Beit Shemesh incident was triggered not only by the zealots’ belief that the child, a religious girl from an observant family, was immodestly dressed — she was wearing a regulation school uniform — but by their conviction that they have the right to physically and verbally abuse women and girls of whose attire, demeanor or behavior they disapprove.
Another haredi paragon, one Shlomo Fuchs, recently called Doron Matalon, a female Israeli soldier returning to her base, a “slut” on a public bus in Jerusalem. When the soldier pointed out accurately that she protects him and his way of life, Fuchs responded by saying, “She protects me? I sit at shul from eight in the morning till midnight and study, and she’s protecting me? I protect her.”
While one must not generalize and tar all ultra-Orthodox Jews with the brush of intolerance, the fact is that the antagonism displayed by haredim toward other Jews is becoming ever more extreme. Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, one of the most prominent ultra-Orthodox personalities in Israel, has called for increased isolationism on the part of his community. According to Rabbi Elyashiv, haredi Jews should not engage in any educational process other than Torah study. No university. No law school or medical school. Not even vocational school. “We must protest and warn of all sorts of trends from outside to strike at the cruse of pure oil, to alter the spirit and the essence of the ultra-Orthodox public,” exhorted the haredi newspaper Yated Neeman.
It was not always thus. One of the greatest Hasidic masters of the 19th century, Rabbi Simhah Bunim of Prszysucha (in Yiddish, Pshyskhe), worked as a bookkeeper, then in the timber trade and ultimately as a licensed pharmacist before devoting himself full-time to his religious and communal pursuits. As far as he was concerned, “no Jew, however learned and pious, may consider himself an iota better than a fellow Jew, however ignorant or irreligious the latter may be. This is confirmed by the law that if a learned and pious Jew were commanded to slay the ignorant or impious one, or be himself slain, he must accept death rather than kill the other. No one can tell whose blood is redder, and whose life is more important in the eyes of God. If a man in this crucial moment has no right to deem himself superior to another, what right can he possibly have to do so on less critical occasions?”
Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the widely revered Lubavicher Rebbe, who in his youth had studied at the University of Berlin and the Sorbonne in Paris, was adamant that science and faith could be reconciled. In a 1962 letter featured on the Chabad.org website, he wrote that “it is safe to assume that all we have learned in the field of nucleonics in the last few decades is very little by comparison with what we can confidently expect to learn in the next few decades.”
My own grandparents were all members of the Hasidic community in their respective Polish hometowns. All four were devoutly observant, and yet my two grandfathers treated the women in their families with respect, even when this required a deviation or departure from tradition.
Before her parents married, my mother told me, her mother told her future husband that she would not wear a sheytl, the wig traditionally worn by married Orthodox Jewish women to cover their hair, and my grandfather accepted her decision without argument. In her memoir, my mother wrote that when she left to attend the University of Nancy in France to study medicine — she eventually became a dentist — her father told her “We are sending you off with all our love and may God watch over you. Remember, whatever times may come, you may lose all your possessions, but nobody can take away your education.”
My father’s father was equally tolerant. My grandmother died in 1919 in a typhus epidemic that also took the life of the husband of my father’s sister, Lea’le. My grandfather, Reb Mendl Rosensaft, was a prominent and highly respected disciple of the Gerer Rebbe, the largest and most prominent Hasidic dynasty in pre-World War II Poland. A few years after my grandmother’s and uncle’s death, an emissary of the Gerer Rebbe came to my grandfather and told him that the Rebbe wanted to marry Lea’le. Rather making a decision on his daughter’s behalf, as would have been expected in Hasidic circles, my grandfather said that he needed to consult her. A little while later, my grandfather returned to tell his guest that he was sorry, but Lea’le did not want to marry the Rebbe. For my grandfather, his daughter’s feelings and wishes were of paramount importance.
The fact that the obscurantism that has taken hold in the haredi world was not inevitable makes it all the more tragic. Before this schism becomes irreparable, those ultra-Orthodox rabbis and leaders who still adhere to the concept of Jewish peoplehood would do well to ponder the words of another Hasidic master, Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Kotzk, as taught by Elie Wiesel, “We are going farther and farther away from the light at Sinai, yet we do not come any closer to the light of the Messiah!”
Demonstration in commemoration of the killing of Mustafa Tamimi, Nabi Salih, West Bank (16 December 2011).
If we had a wish list for 2012 as Palestinians and friends of Palestine, one of the top items ought to be our hope that we can translate the dramatic shift in recent years in world public opinion into political action against Israeli policies on the ground.
We know why this has not yet materialized: the political, intellectual and cultural elites of the West cower whenever they even contemplate acting according to their own consciences as well as the wishes of their societies.
This last year was particularly illuminating for me in that respect. I encountered that timidity at every station in the many trips I took for the cause I believe in. And these personal experiences were accentuated by the more general examples of how governments and institutions caved in under intimidation from Israel and pro-Zionist Jewish organizations.
A catalogue of complicity
Of course there were US President Barack Obama’s pandering appearances in front of AIPAC, the Israeli lobby, and his administration’s continued silence and inaction in face of Israel’s colonization of the West Bank, siege and killings in Gaza, ethnic cleansing of the Bedouins in the Naqab and new legislation discriminating against Palestinians in Israel.
The complicity continued with the shameful retreat of Judge Richard Goldstone from his rather tame report on the Gaza massacre — which began three years ago today. And then there was the decision of European governments, especially Greece, to disallow campaigns of human aid and solidarity from reaching Gaza by sea.
On the margins of all of this were prosecutions in France against activists calling for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) and a few u-turns by some groups and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Europe caving in under pressure and retracting an earlier decision to cede connections with Israel.
Learning firsthand how pro-Israel intimidation works
In recent years, I have learned firsthand how intimidation of this kind works. In November 2009 the mayor of Munich was scared to death by a Zionist lobby group and cancelled my lecture there. More recently, the Austrian foreign ministry withdrew its funding for an event in which I participated, and finally it was my own university, the University of Exeter, once a haven of security in my eyes, becoming frigid when a bunch of Zionist hooligans claimed I was a fabricator and a self-hating Jew.
Every year since I moved there, Zionist organizations in the UK and the US have asked the university to investigate my work and were brushed aside. This year a similar appeal was taken, momentarily one should say, seriously. One hopes this was just a temporary lapse; but you never know with an academic institution (bravery is not one of their hallmarks).
Standing up to pressure
But there were examples of courage — local and global — as well: the student union of the University of Surrey under heavy pressure to cancel my talk did not give in and allowed the event to take place.
The Episcopal Bishops Committee on Israel/Palestine in Seattle faced the wrath of many of the city’s synagogues and the Israeli Consul General in San Francisco, Akiva Tor, for arranging an event with me in September 2011 in Seattle’s Town Hall, but bravely brushed aside this campaign of intimidation. The usual charges of “anti-Semitism” did not work there — they never do where people refuse to be intimidated.
The outgoing year was also the one in which Turkey imposed military and diplomatic sanctions on Israel in response to the latter’s refusal to take responsibility for the attack on the Mavi Marmara. Turkey’s action was in marked contrast to the European and international habit of sufficing with toothless statements at best, and never imposing a real price on Israel for its actions.
Do not cave in to intimidation
I do not wish to underestimate the task ahead of us. Only recently did we learn how much money is channeled to this machinery of intimidation whose sole purpose is to silence criticism on Israel. Last year, the Jewish Federations of North America and the Jewish Council for Public Affairs — leading pro-Israel lobby groups — allocated $6 million to be spent over three years to fight BDS campaigns and smear the Palestine solidarity movement. This is not the only such initiative under way.
But are these forces as powerful as they seem to be in the eyes of very respectable institutions such as universities, community centers, churches, media outlets and, of course, politicians?
What you learn is that once you cower, you become prey to continued and relentless bashing until you sing the Israeli national anthem. If once you do not cave in, you discover that as time goes by, the ability of Zionist lobbies of intimidation around the world to affect you gradually diminishes.
Reducing the influence of the United States
Undoubtedly the centers of power that fuel this culture of intimidation lie to a great extent in the United States, which brings me to the second item on my 2012 wish list: an end to the American dominance in the affairs of Israelis and Palestinians. I know this influence cannot be easily curbed.
But the issue of timidity and intimidation belong to an American sphere of activity where things can, and should be, different. There will be no peace process or even Pax Americana in Palestine if the Palestinians, under whatever leadership, would agree to allow Washington to play such a central role. It is not as if US policy-makers can threaten the Palestinians that without their involvement there will be no peace process.
In fact history has proved that there was no peace process — in the sense of a genuine movement toward the restoration of Palestinian rights — precisely because of American involvement. Outside mediation may be necessary for the cause of reconciliation in Palestine. But does it have to be American?
If elite politics are needed — along with other forces and movements — to facilitate a change on the ground, such a role should come from other places in the world and not just from the United States.
One would hope that the recent rapprochement between Hamas and Fatah — and the new attempt to base the issue of Palestinian representation on a wider and more just basis — will lead to a clear Palestinian position that would expose the fallacy that peace can only be achieved with the Americans as its brokers.
Dwarfing the US role will disarm American Zionist bodies and those who emulate them in Europe and Israel of their power of intimidation.
Letting the other America play a role
This will also enable the other America, that of the civil society, the Occupy Wall Street movement, the progressive campuses, the courageous churches, African-Americans marginalized by mainstream politics, Native Americans and millions of other decent Americans who never fell captive to elite propaganda about Israel and Palestine, to take a far more central role in “American involvement” in Palestine.
That would benefit America as much as it will benefit justice and peace in Palestine. But this long road to redeeming all of us who want to see justice begins by asking academics, journalists and politicians in the West to show a modicum of steadfastness and courage in the face of those who want to intimidate us. Their bark is far fiercer than their bite.
The author of numerous books, Ilan Pappe is Professor of History and Director of the European Centre for Palestine Studies at the University of Exeter.
Protesters opposing the eviction of the Sumarin family. (Photo: Activestills)
Seth Morrison, Jewish American, writes in the Forward about his decision to resign from the Jewish National Fund board, and sever all ties with the organization, over the eviction of the Sumarin family in Silwan.
Uri Avnery is a Israeli writer who has become critical toward his own country because of Israeli treatment of the Palestinians. He is creator of the Gush Shalom Peace Movement in Israel.
December 17, 2011
“With Friends Like These…”
MY GOD, what a bizarre lot these Republican aspirants for the US presidency are! What a sorry bunch of ignoramuses and downright crazies. Or, at best, what a bunch of cheats and cynics! (With the possible exception of the good doctor Ron Paul)”. Is this the best a great and proud nation can produce? How frightening the thought that one of them may actually become the most powerful person in the world, with a finger on the biggest nuclear button!
BUT LET’S concentrate on the present front-runner. (Republicans seem to change front-runners like a fastidious beau changes socks.) It’s Newt Gingrich. Remember him? The Speaker of the House who had an extra-marital affair with an intern while at the same time leading the campaign to impeach President Bill Clinton for having an affair with an intern. But that’s not the point. The point is that this intellectual giant – named after Isaac Newton, perhaps the greatest scientist ever – has discovered a great historical truth. The original Newton discovered the Law of Gravity. Newton Leroy Gingrich has discovered something no less earth-shaking: there is an “invented” people around, referring to the Palestinians. To which a humble Israeli like me might answer, in the best Hebrew slang: “Good morning, Eliyahu!” Thus we honor people who have made a great discovery which, unfortunately, has been discovered by others long before.
FROM ITS very beginning, the Zionist movement has denied the existence of the Palestinian people. It’s an article of faith. The reason is obvious: if there exists a Palestinian people, then the country the Zionists were about to take over was not empty. Zionism would entail an injustice of historic proportions. Being very idealistic persons, the original Zionists found a way out of this moral dilemma: they simply denied its existence. The winning slogan was “A land without a people for a people without a land.”
So who were these curious human beings they met when they came to the country? Oh, ah, well, they were just people who happened to be there, but not “a” people. Passers-by, so to speak. Later, the story goes, after we had made the desert bloom and turned an arid and neglected land into a paradise, Arabs from all over the region flocked to the country, and now they have the temerity – indeed the chutzpah – to claim that they constitute a Palestinian nation! For many years after the founding of the State of Israel, this was the official line. Golda Meir famously exclaimed: “There is no such thing as a Palestinian people!” (To which I replied in the Knesset: “Mrs. Prime Minister, perhaps you are right. Perhaps there really is no Palestinian people. But if millions of people mistakenly believe that they are a people, and behave like a people, then they are a people.”)
A huge propaganda machine – both in Israel and abroad – was employed to “prove” that there was no Palestinian people. A lady called Joan Peters wrote a book (“From Time Immemorial”) proving that the riffraff calling themselves “Palestinians” had nothing to do with Palestine. They are nothing but interlopers and impostors. The book was immensely successful – until some experts took it apart and proved that the whole edifice of conclusive proofs was utter rubbish. I myself have spent many hundreds of hours trying to convince Israeli and foreign audiences that there is a Palestinian people and that we have to make peace with them.
Until one day the State of Israel recognized the PLO as the sole representative of the “Palestinian people”, and the argument was laid to rest. Until Newt came along and, like a later-day Jesus, raised it from the dead.
OBVIOUSLY, HE is much too busy to read books. True, he was once a teacher of history, but for many years now he has been very busy speakering the Congress, making a fortune as an “adviser” of big corporations and now trying to become president. Otherwise, he would probably have come across a brilliant historical book by Benedict Anderson, “Imagined Communities”, which asserts that all modern nations are invented. Nationalism is a relatively recent historical phenomenon.
When a community decides to become a nation, it has to reinvent itself. That means inventing a national past, reshuffling historical facts (and non-facts) in order to create a coherent picture of a nation existing since antiquity. Hermann the Cherusker, member of a Germanic tribe who betrayed his Roman employers, became a “national” hero. Religious refugees who landed in America and destroyed the native population became a “nation”. Members of an ethnic-religious Diaspora formed themselves into a “Jewish nation”. Many others did more or less the same. Indeed, Newt would profit from reading a book by a Tel Aviv University professor, Shlomo Sand, a kosher Jew, whose Hebrew title speaks for itself: “When and How the Jewish People was Invented?”
Who are these Palestinians? About a hundred years ago, two young students in Istanbul, David Ben-Gurion and Yitzhak Ben-Zvi, the future Prime Minister and President (respectively) of Israel, wrote a treatise about the Palestinians. The population of this country, they said, has never changed. Only small elites were sometimes deported. The towns and villages never moved, as their names prove. Canaanites became Israelites, then Jews and Samaritans, then Christian Byzantines. With the Arab conquest, they slowly adopted the religion of Islam and the Arabic Culture. These are today’s Palestinians. I tend to agree with them.
PARROTING THE straight Zionist propaganda line – by now discarded by most Zionists – Gingrich argues that there can be no Palestinian people because there never was a Palestinian state. The people in this country were just “Arabs” under Ottoman rule. So what? I used to hear from French colonial masters that there is no Algerian people, because there never was an Algerian state, there was never even a united country called Algeria. Any takers for this theory now? The name “Palestine” was mentioned by a Greek historian some 2500 years ago. A “Duke of Palestine” is mentioned in the Talmud. When the Arabs conquered the country, they called it “Filastin”, as they still do”. The Arab national movement came into being all over the Arab world, including Palestine – at the same time as the Zionist movement – and strove for independence from the Ottoman Sultan. For centuries, Palestine was considered a part of Greater Syria (the region known in Arabic as ‘Sham’). There was no formal distinction between Syrians, Lebanese, Palestinians and Jordanians. But when, after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, the European powers divided the Arab world between them, a state called Palestine became a fact under the British Mandate, and the Arab Palestinian people established themselves as a separate nation with a national flag of their own.
Many peoples in Europe, Asia, Africa and Latin America did the same, even without asking Gingrich for confirmation. It would certainly be ironic if the members of the “invented” Palestinian nation were expected to ask for recognition from the members of the “invented” Jewish/Israeli nation, at the demand of a member of the “invented” American nation, a person who, by the way, is of mixed German, English, Scottish and Irish stock. Years ago, there was short-lived controversy about Palestinian textbooks. It was argued that they were anti-Semitic and incited to murder. That was laid to rest when it became clear that all Palestinian schoolbooks were cleared by the Israeli occupation authorities, and most were inherited from the previous Jordanian regime.
But Gingrich does not shrink from resurrecting this corpse, too. All Palestinians – men, women and children – are terrorists, he asserts, and Palestinian pupils learn at school how to kill us poor and helpless Israelis. Ah, what would we do without such stout defenders as Newt? What a pity that this week a photo of him, shaking the hand of Yasser Arafat, was published. And please don’t show him the textbooks used in some of our schools, especially the religious ones!
IS IT really a waste of time to write about such nonsense? It may seem so, but one cannot ignore the fact that the dispenser of these inanities may be tomorrow’s President of the United States of America. Given the economic situation, that is not as unlikely as it sounds. As for now, Gingrich is doing immense damage to the national interests of the US. At this historic juncture, the masses at all the Tahrir Squares across the Arab world are wondering about America’s attitude. Newt’s answer contributes to a new and more profound anti-Americanism. Alas, he is not the only extreme rightist seeking to embrace Israel. Israel has lately become the Mecca of all the world’s racists. This week we were honored by the visit of the husband of Marine Le Pen, leader of the French National Front.
A pilgrimage to the Jewish State is now a must for any aspiring fascist. One of our ancient sages coined the phrase: “Not for nothing does the starling go to the raven. It’s because they are of the same kind”. Thanks. But sorry. They are not of my kind. To quote another proverb: With friends like these, who needs enemies?
For those unaware, Professor Marc Ellis from Baylor University and author of the book Judaism Does Not Equal Israel is currently being attacked by American Zionist powers-that-be to let him go from Baylor for his pro-Palestinian stand and teaching. The below post is by Rabbi Brant Rosen (who has been featured on this blog in the past) stating his absolute support for Marc Ellis. This public display of Jewish support for pro-Palestinian Jews is uncommon, and deserves acknowledgement.
Support Prof. Marc Elllis – and tell Ken Starr to Stand Down!
I first read Professor Marc Ellis’ book “Toward a Jewish Theology of Liberation” as a rabbinical student back in the mid-1980s – and suffice to say it fairly rocked my world at the time. Here was a Jewish thinker thoughtfully and compellingly advocating a new kind of post-Holocaust theology: one that didn’t view Jewish suffering as “unique” and “untouchable” but as an experience that should sensitize us to the suffering and persecution of all peoples everywhere.
And yet further: Ellis had the courage to take these ideas to the place that few in the Jewish world were willing to go. If we truly believe in the God of liberation, if our sacred tradition truly demands of us that we stand with the oppressed, then the Jewish people cannot only focus on our own oppression – we must also come to grips with our own penchant for oppression, particularly when it comes to the actions of the state of Israel. And yes, if we truly believe in the God of liberation this also means that we must ultimately be prepared to stand with the Palestinians in their struggle for liberation.
When I first read Ellis’ words, I didn’t know quite what to make of them. They flew so directly in the face of such post-Holocaust theologians as Elie Wiesel, Rabbi Irving Greenberg and Emil Fackenheim – all of whom viewed the state of Israel in quasi-redemptive terms. And they were certainly at odds with the views of those who tended the gates of the American Jewish community, for whom this sort of critique of Israel was strictly forbidden.
Over the years, however, I’ve found Ellis’ ideas to be increasingly prescient, relevant – and I daresay even liberating. As a rabbi, I’ve come to deeply appreciate his brave willingness to not only ask the hard questions, but to unflinchingly pose the answers as well. And it is not at all surprising to me that we are now witnessing a new generation of rabbis and young Jewish leaders starting down the road he has paved for us.
All this to say I am profoundly sorrowed to learn that Ellis is currently under threat of losing his job at Baylor University due to an investigation led by new university president Ken Starr.
By every appearance, Ellis has had a distinguished academic career, having taught at Maryknoll School of Theology, Harvard Center for the Study of World Religions and Florida State University. Thirteen years ago, he was appointed Professor of American and Jewish Studies at Baylor, where he founded Baylor University’s Center for American and Jewish Studies and currently serves as its director.
Marc Ellis was brought to Baylor in 1998 and all previous presidents supported his dissident voice. After Ken Starr (nemesis of Clinton in the White House) became president in 2010 the attacks started. During the last year Baylor lawyers were instructed to communicate with many of Marc’s colleagues, past students and staff. The objective was to request all of them to report all “abuse of authority.” Most of us explained to the lawyers that was a lost cause because Marc has been an exemplar colleague, professor and mentor.
But starting this Fall he was separated from his classes, his center closed and a hearing scheduled to take place some time in this academic year. As far as we know the accusations are about abuse of authority but we are not aware of the details because they are part of the internal legal process. Obviously it is about something else: Marc’s dissident voice. We will inform all of you as soon as we know more information.
In a statement released yesterday, Ellis commented thus:
Given what I currently understand of the rules of the Baylor process I will, for now, honor the process by not discussing the specifics, except to say that I believe this is a pretext to silence an independent voice at the place for which I have had deep appreciation.
I write now to ask you to please join me in signing this petition in support of Ellis – an important Jewish dissident thinker and (as his many academic colleagues are now attesting) a truly distinguished scholar. I would add: even if you don’t personally agree with all of his ideas, I urge you to support his cause. It is high time for us to stand down those who would trample academic freedom, shun open discourse and debate, and muzzle those with whom they simply disagree.
I’ll end with Professor Ellis’ own words, all too sadly apt under the circumstances:
Prophetic Jewish theology, or a Jewish theology of liberation, seeks to bring to light the hidden and sometimes censored movements of Jewish life. It seeks to express the dissent of those afraid or unable to speak. Ultimately, a Jewish theology of liberation seeks, in concert with others, to weave disparate hopes and aspirations into the very heart of Jewish life.
(“Toward a Jewish Theology of Liberation,” p. 206)
Ilan Pappe is an ex Israeli history professor who now write and teaches about Israeli injustice. The review of his latest book (hyperlink above) called The Forgotton Palestinians is by Asa Winstanly for the December 7th, 2011 edition of the Electronic Intifada.
From Occupation to “Occupy”: The Israelification of American Domestic Security
Max Blumenthal is a Jewish American journalist and author who writes for several on-line journals. He and his outstanding Israeli interview videos have been featured on this blog in the past. The following article is a well researched look at how America is adopting Israeli militant security tactics.
From Occupation to “Occupy”: The Israelification of American Domestic Security
By Max Blumenthal
December 05, 2011 —- al-akhbar — New York - In October, the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department turned parts of the campus of the University of California in Berkeley into an urban battlefield. The occasion was Urban Shield 2011, an annual SWAT team exposition organized to promote “mutual response,” collaboration and competition between heavily militarized police strike forces representing law enforcement departments across the United States and foreign nations.
At the time, the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department was preparing for an imminent confrontation with the nascent “Occupy” movement that had set up camp in downtown Oakland, and would demonstrate the brunt of its repressive capacity against the demonstrators a month later when it attacked the encampment with teargas and rubber bullet rounds, leaving an Iraq war veteran in critical condition and dozens injured. According to Police Magazine, a law enforcement trade publication, “Law enforcement agencies responding to…Occupy protesters in northern California credit Urban Shield for their effective teamwork.”
Training alongside the American police departments at Urban Shield was the Yamam, an Israeli Border Police unit that claims to specialize in “counter-terror” operations but is better known for its extra-judicial assassinations of Palestinian militant leaders and long record of repression and abuses in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip. Urban Shield also featured a unit from the military of Bahrain, which had just crushed a largely non-violent democratic uprising by opening fire on protest camps and arresting wounded demonstrators when they attempted to enter hospitals. While the involvement of Bahraini soldiers in the drills was a novel phenomenon, the presence of quasi-military Israeli police – whose participation in Urban Shield was not reported anywhere in US media – reflected a disturbing but all-too-common feature of the post-9/11 American security landscape.
The Israelification of America’s security apparatus, recently unleashed in full force against the Occupy Wall Street Movement, has taken place at every level of law enforcement, and in areas that have yet to be exposed. The phenomenon has been documented in bits and pieces, through occasional news reports that typically highlight Israel’s national security prowess without examining the problematic nature of working with a country accused of grave human rights abuses. But it has never been the subject of a national discussion. And collaboration between American and Israeli cops is just the tip of the iceberg.
Having been schooled in Israeli tactics perfected during a 63 year experience of controlling, dispossessing, and occupying an indigenous population, local police forces have adapted them to monitor Muslim and immigrant neighborhoods in US cities. Meanwhile, former Israeli military officers have been hired to spearhead security operations at American airports and suburban shopping malls, leading to a wave of disturbing incidents of racial profiling, intimidation, and FBI interrogations of innocent, unsuspecting people. The New York Police Department’s disclosure that it deployed “counter-terror” measures against Occupy protesters encamped in downtown Manhattan’s Zuccotti Park is just the latest example of the so-called War on Terror creeping into every day life. Revelations like these have raised serious questions about the extent to which Israeli-inspired tactics are being used to suppress the Occupy movement.
The process of Israelification began in the immediate wake of 9/11, when national panic led federal and municipal law enforcement officials to beseech Israeli security honchos for advice and training. America’s Israel lobby exploited the climate of hysteria, providing thousands of top cops with all-expenses paid trips to Israel and stateside training sessions with Israeli military and intelligence officials. By now, police chiefs of major American cities who have not been on junkets to Israel are the exception.
“Israel is the Harvard of antiterrorism,” said former US Capitol Police Chief Terrance W. Gainer, who now serves as the US Senate Sergeant-at-Arms. Cathy Lanier, the Chief of the Washington DC Metropolitan Police, remarked, “No experience in my life has had more of an impact on doing my job than going to Israel.” “One would say it is the front line,” Barnett Jones, the police chief of Ann Arbor, Michigan, said of Israel. “We’re in a global war.”
Karen Greenberg, the director of Fordham School of Law’s Center on National Security and a leading expert on terror and civil liberties, said the Israeli influence on American law enforcement is so extensive it has bled into street-level police conduct. “After 9/11 we reached out to the Israelis on many fronts and one of those fronts was torture,” Greenberg told me. “The training in Iraq and Afghanistan on torture was Israeli training. There’s been a huge downside to taking our cue from the Israelis and now we’re going to spread that into the fabric of everyday American life? It’s counter-terrorism creep. And it’s exactly what you could have predicted would have happened.”
Changing the way we do business The Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA) is at the heart of American-Israeli law enforcement collaboration. JINSA is a Jerusalem and Washington DC-based think tank known for stridently neoconservative policy positions on Israel’s policy towards the Palestinians and its brinkmanship with Iran. The group’s board of directors boasts a Who’s Who of neocon ideologues. Two former JINSA advisors who have also consulted for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Douglas Feith and Richard Perle, went on to serve in the Department of Defense under President George W. Bush, playing influential roles in the push to invade and occupy Iraq.
Through its Law Enforcement Education Program (LEEP), JINSA claims to have arranged Israeli-led training sessions for over 9000 American law enforcement officials at the federal, state and municipal level. “The Israelis changed the way we do business regarding homeland security in New Jersey,” Richard Fuentes, the NJ State Police Superintendent, said after attending a 2004 JINSA-sponsored Israel trip and a subsequent JINSA conference alongside 435 other law enforcement officers.
During a 2004 LEEP trip, JINSA brought 14 senior American law enforcement officials to Israel to receive instruction from their counterparts. The Americans were trained in “how to secure large venues, such as shopping malls, sporting events and concerts,” JINSA’s website reported. Escorted by Brigadier General Simon Perry, an Israeli police attaché and former Mossad official, the group toured the Israeli separation wall, now a mandatory stop for American cops on junkets to Israel. “American officials learned about the mindset of a suicide bomber and how to spot trouble signs,” according to JINSA. And they were schooled in Israeli killing methods. “Although the police are typically told to aim for the chest when shooting because it is the largest target, the Israelis are teaching [American] officers to aim for a suspect’s head so as not to detonate any explosives that might be strapped to his torso,” the New York Times reported.
Cathy Lanier, now the Chief of Washington DC’s Metropolitan Police Department, was among the law enforcement officials junketed to Israel by JINSA. “I was with the bomb units and the SWAT team and all of those high profile specialized [Israeli] units and I learned a tremendous amount,” Lanier reflected. “I took 82 pages of notes while I was there which I later brought back and used to formulate a lot of what I later used to create and formulate the Homeland Security terrorism bureau in the DC Metropolitan Police department.”
Some of the police chiefs who have taken part in JINSA’s LEEP program have done so under the auspices of the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF), a private non-governmental group with close ties to the Department of Homeland Security. Chuck Wexler, the executive director of PERF, was so enthusiastic about the program that by 2005 he had begun organizing trips to Israel sponsored by PERF, bringing numerous high-level American police officials to receive instruction from their Israeli counterparts.
PERF gained notoriety when Wexler confirmed that his group coordinated police raids in 16 cities across America against “Occupy” protest encampments. As many as 40 cities have sought PERF advice on suppressing the “Occupy” movement and other mass protest activities. Wexler did not respond to my requests for an interview.
Lessons from Israel to Auschwitz Besides JINSA, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has positioned itself as an important liaison between American police forces and the Israeli security-intelligence apparatus. Though the ADL promotes itself as a Jewish civil rights group, it has provoked controversy by publishing a blacklist of organizations supporting Palestinian rights, and for condemning a proposal to construct an Islamic community center in downtown New York, several blocks from Ground Zero, on the basis that some opponents of the project were entitled to “positions that others would characterize as irrational or bigoted.”
Through the ADL’s Advanced Training School course on Extremist and Terrorist Threats, over 700 law enforcement personnel from 220 federal and local agencies including the FBI and CIA have been trained by Israeli police and intelligence commanders. This year, the ADL brought 15 high-level American police officials to Israel for instruction from the country’s security apparatus. According to the ADL, over 115 federal, state and local law enforcement executives have undergone ADL-organized training sessions in Israel since the program began in 2003. “I can honestly say that the training offered by ADL is by far the most useful and current training course I have ever attended,” Deputy Commissioner Thomas Wright of the Philadelphia Police Department commented after completing an ADL program this year. The ADL’s relationship with the Washington DC Police Department is so cozy its members are invited to accompany DC cops on “ride along” patrols.
The ADL claims to have trained over 45,000 American law enforcement officials through its Law Enforcement and Society program, which “draws on the history of the Holocaust to provide law enforcement professionals with an increased understanding of…their role as protectors of the Constitution,” the group’s website stated. All new FBI agents and intelligence analysts are required to attend the ADL program, which is incorporated into three FBI training programs. According to official FBI recruitment material, “all new special agents must visit the US Holocaust Memorial Museum to see firsthand what can happen when law enforcement fails to protect individuals.”
Fighting “crimeterror” Among the most prominent Israeli government figure to have influenced the practices of American law enforcement officials is Avi Dichter, a former head of Israel’s Shin Bet internal security service and current member of Knesset who recently introduced legislation widely criticized as anti-democratic. During the Second Intifada, Dichter ordered several bombings on densely populated Palestinian civilian areas, including one on the al-Daraj neighborhood of Gaza that resulted in the death of 15 innocent people, including 8 children, and 150 injuries. “After each success, the only thought is, ‘Okay, who’s next?’” Dichter said of the “targeted” assassinations he has ordered.
Despite his dubious human rights record and apparently dim view of democratic values, or perhaps because of them, Dichter has been a key figure in fostering cooperation between Israeli security forces and American law enforcement. In 2006, while Dichter was serving at the time as Israel’s Minister of Public Security, he spoke in Boston, Massachusetts before the annual convention of the International Association of Chiefs of Police. Seated beside FBI Director Robert Mueller and then-Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez, Dichter told the 10,000 police officers in the crowd that there was an “intimate connection between fighting criminals and fighting terrorists.” Dichter declared that American cops were actually “fighting crimiterrorists.” The Jerusalem Post reported that Dichter was “greeted by a hail of applause, as he was hugged by Mueller, who described Dichter as his mentor in anti-terror tactics.”
A year after Dichter’s speech, he and then-Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff signed a joint memorandum pledging security collaboration between America and Israel on issues ranging from airport security to emergency planning. In 2010, Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano authorized a new joint memorandum with Israeli Transport and Road Safety Minister Israel Katz shoring up cooperation between the US Transportation Security Agency – the agency in charge of day-to-day airport security – and Israel’s Security Department. The recent joint memorandum also consolidated the presence of US Homeland Security law enforcement personnel on Israeli soil. “The bond between the United States and Israel has never been stronger,” Napolitano remarked at a recent summit of AIPAC, the leading outfit of America’s Israel lobby, in Scottsdale, Arizona.
The Demographic Unit For the New York Police Department, collaboration with Israel’s security and intelligence apparatus became a top priority after 9/11. Just months after the attacks on New York City, the NYPD assigned a permanent, taxpayer-funded liaison officer to Tel Aviv. Under the leadership of Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, ties between the NYPD and Israel have deepened by the day. Kelly embarked on his first trip to Israel in early 2009 to demonstrate his support for Israel’s ongoing assault on the Gaza Strip, a one-sided attack that left over 1400 Gaza residents dead in three weeks and led a United Nations fact-finding mission to conclude that Israeli military and government officials had committed war crimes.
Kelly returned to Israel the following year to speak at the Herziliya Conference, an annual gathering of neoconservative security and government officials who obsess over supposed “demographic threats.” After Kelly appeared on stage, the Herziliya crowd was addressed by the pro-Israel academic Martin Kramer, who claimed that Israel’s blockade of Gaza was helping to reduce the numbers of “superfluous young men of fighting age.” Kramer added, “If a state can’t control these young men, then someone else will.”
Back in New York, the NYPD set up a secret “Demographics Unit” designed to spy on and monitor Muslim communities around the city. The unit was developed with input and intensive involvement by the CIA, which still refuses to name the former Middle East station chief it has posted in the senior ranks of the NYPD’s intelligence division. Since 2002, the NYPD has dispatched undercover agents known as “rakers” and “mosque crawlers” into Pakistani-American bookstores and restaurants to gauge community anger over US drone strikes inside Pakistan, and into Palestinian hookah bars and mosques to search out signs of terror recruitment and clandestine funding. “If a raker noticed a customer looking at radical literature, he might chat up the store owner and see what he could learn,” the Associated Press reported. “The bookstore, or even the customer, might get further scrutiny.”
The Israeli imprimatur on the NYPD’s Demographics Unit is unmistakable. As a former police official told the Associated Press, the Demographics Unit has attempted to “map the city’s human terrain” through a program “modeled in part on how Israeli authorities operate in the West Bank.”
Shop ‘til you’re stopped At Israel’s Ben Gurion International Airport, security personnel target non-Jewish and non-white passengers, especially Arabs, as a matter of policy. The most routinely harassed passengers are Palestinian citizens of Israel, who must brace themselves for five-hour interrogation sessions and strip searches before flying. Those singled out for extra screening by Shin Bet officers are sent to what many Palestinians from Israel call the “Arab room,” where they are subjected to humiliating questioning sessions (former White House Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala encountered such mistreatment during a visit to Israel last year). Some Palestinians are forbidden from speaking to anyone until takeoff, and may be menaced by Israeli flight attendants during the flight. In one documented case, a six-month-old was awoken for a strip search by Israeli Shin Bet personnel. Instances of discrimination against Arabs at Ben Gurion International are too numerous to detail – several incidents occur each day – but a few of the more egregious instances were outlined in a 2007 petition the Association for Civil Rights in Israel filed with the country’s Supreme Court.
Though the Israeli system of airline security contains dubious benefits and clearly deleterious implications for civil liberties, it is quietly and rapidly migrating into major American airports. Security personnel at Boston’s Logan International Airport have undergone extensive training from Israeli intelligence personnel, learning to apply profiling and behavioral assessment techniques against American citizens that were initially tested on Palestinians. The new procedures began in August, when so-called Behavior Detection Officers were placed in security queues at Logan’s heavily trafficked Terminal A. Though the procedures have added to traveler stress while netting exactly zero terrorists, they are likely to spread to other cities. “I would like to see a lot more profiling” in American airports, said Yossi Sheffi, an Israeli-born risk analyst at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Center for Transportation and Logistics.
Israeli techniques now dictate security procedures at the Mall of America, a gargantuan shopping mall in Bloomington, Minnesota that has become a major tourist attraction. The new methods took hold in 2005 when the mall hired a former Israeli army sergeant named Mike Rozin to lead a special new security unit. Rozin, who once worked with a canine unit at Ben Gurion Airport in Israel, instructed his employees at the Mall of America to visually profile every shopper, examining their expressions for suspicious signs. His security team accosts and interrogates an average of 1200 shoppers a year, according to the Center for Investigative Reporting.
One of the thousands who fell into Rozin’s dragnet was Najam Qureshi, a Pakistani-American mall vendor whose father accidentally left his cell phone on a table in the mall food court. A day after the incident, FBI agents appeared at Qureshi’s doorstep to ask if he knew anyone seeking to harm the United States. An army veteran interrogated for two hours by Rozin’s men for taking video inside the mall sobbed openly about his experience to reporters. Meanwhile, another man, Emile Khalil, was visited by FBI agents after mall security stopped him for taking photographs of the dazzling consumer haven.
“I think that the threat of terrorism in the United States is going to become an unfortunate part of American life,” Rozin remarked to American Jewish World. And as long as the threat persists in the public’s mind, Israeli securitocrats like Rozin will never have to worry about the next paycheck.
“Occupy” meets the Occupation When a riot squad from the New York Police Department destroyed and evicted the “Occupy Wall Street” protest encampment at Zuccotti Park in downtown Manhattan, department leadership drew on the anti-terror tactics they had refined since the 9/11 attacks. According to the New York Times, the NYPD deployed “counterterrorism measures” to mobilize large numbers of cops for the lightning raid on Zuccotti. The use of anti-terror techniques to suppress a civilian protest complemented harsh police measures demonstrated across the country against the nationwide “Occupy” movement, from firing tear gas canisters and rubber bullets into unarmed crowds to blasting demonstrators with the LRAD sound cannon.
Given the amount of training the NYPD and so many other police forces have received from Israel’s military-intelligence apparatus, and the profuse levels of gratitude American police chiefs have expressed to their Israeli mentors, it is worth asking how much Israeli instruction has influenced the way the police have attempted to suppress the Occupy movement, and how much it will inform police repression of future upsurges of street protest. But already, the Israelification of American law enforcement appears to have intensified police hostility towards the civilian population, blurring the lines between protesters, common criminals, and terrorists. As Dichter said, they are all just “crimiterrorists.”
“After 9/11 we had to react very quickly,” Greenberg remarked, “but now we’re in 2011 and we’re not talking about people who want to fly planes into buildings. We’re talking about young American citizens who feel that their birthright has been sold. If we’re using Israeli style tactics on them and this stuff bleeds into the way we do business at large, were in big trouble.”
Philip Weiss is Jewish American, co-founder of the pro-Palestinian on-line journal Mondoweiss. His latest op-ed shows, with photos, how Israel is becoming a scary place even for American Jews. The link to his op-ed is above. Below is a short excerpt:
"I found this separation of consciousness and community so scary that at times I said to myself, I’m American, this isn’t worth dying for; I need to get out of this mess and tiptoe away.”
Even Goldberg acknowledges that a Jew can vote for the government while his Palestinian neighbor cannot
Philip Weiss is a Jewish American reporter and co-creator of the pro-Palestinian on-line journal Mondoweiss. The following is his assessment of the review of Gershom Gorenberg’s recent book “The Unmaking of Israel”.
Nov 20, 2011 09:42 am
by Philip Weiss
Have you noticed that all criticism of Israel on the part of our political leaders is now boiled down to the phrase, “The status quo is unsustainable.” Obama used to talk about the occupation. Now this vague “unsustainable” phrase overcomes Jim Crow, apartheid, ethnic cleansing, evictions, nonviolent resistance, the entire scene of Palestinian dispossession.
Jeffrey Goldberg’s review in the New York Times Book Review of Gershom Gorenberg’s new book, The Unmaking of Israel struggles through the talking points and ends with a similar openended vagueness.
"On a recent visit to the West Bank city of Hebron, I met with a Palestinian resident who recently passed through Israel’s military justice system. His rights in this system were limited. This particular Palestinian lives on a street that he shares with Jewish settlers. The settlers, unlike the Palestinians, are full citizens of Israel; they can vote for their leaders, and have open access to the Israeli civilian judicial system. The Palestinians who live side by side with them are not allowed a say in choosing the government that rules over them. Gorenberg’s book makes clear that this is a situation that cannot go on forever."
I applaud Goldberg’s incisiveness about an unjust situation. But wait, hasn’t this been clear for a long time? Not just for “this particular Palestinian.” But for millions living alongside 500,000 Jewish settlers. And how long is forever? And how are Palestinians supposed to respond to this “forever,” which so far has lasted, with western aegis, since 1920 or so, even as the west upholds the right of self-determination?
I like this too:
“Most of Ofra [settlement] was built ‘with no legal basis’ on land privately owned by Palestinians.” Gorenberg notes that the settlers would not have succeeded had they not had the support of politicians like Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres. How did it happen that a country of laws — Israel’s Supreme Court justices are renowned around the globe — came to be so lawless in one corner of the territory it ruled?”
Jewish social justice guru Jill Jacobs is known for her vocal advocacy work on behalf of society’s most marginalized, including undocumented workers and the poor. Now, as newly appointed executive director of Rabbis for Human Rights-North America, she will engage with the most incendiary issue in American Jewish life: public criticism of Israel for its treatment of Palestinians.
Sever Plocker is an Israeli Jew who writes for YNet News, an Israeli opinion on-line journal. In this article he talks about Israel’s declining global reputation as an abusive, colonizing nation.
———————- I’ve been invited to deliver a lecture about Israel’s economy and society at Oxford University. As it is a short lecture, and a respectable forum, I gladly accepted the offer. The invitation was extended about six months ago. Yet now, as my trip approaches, I feel concern. I’m hesitating.
My acquaintances are warning me: Don’t go. Hostile elements will cause disturbances, protest, shout and interfere. The atmosphere at British universities is anti-Israel to an extent unseen in the past. Israel is perceived as a thorn in the civilized world’s side.
An Israeli professor who quietly left a prestigious British university told me: “My academic and social life there was intolerable. Colleagues stayed away from me as if I was a leper. I was not invited to meetings, which were shifted from university buildings to private residences in order to keep me out. The fact I openly expressed leftist views was to no avail. My objection to the occupation and endorsement of a return to the 1967 borders made no difference. In practice, I became ostracized.”
“Today you are a welcome guest in the British and European academic world only if you reject the very existence of the colonialist and imperialistic creature that methodically commits war crimes, known as Israel,” he said. “Today it isn’t enough to condemn Bibi and Barak; in order to be accepted by academia outside of Israel one must condemn the Balfour Declaration.”
British academia’s radicalism highlights the accelerated deterioration in Israel’s status and image. We are in the midst of a freefall on the foreign affairs front. The cold peace with three Muslim states – Egypt, Jordan, and Turkey – has turned into a cold war. Israelis are unwelcome guests in these and many other states, where in the past we were embraced.
Meanwhile, Israel failed in its efforts to isolate Ahmadinejad’s Iran and disqualify it as a member of the family of nations. Ahmadinejad is having a grand time. Bibi doesn’t see the change
The intimate dialogue that in the past characterized the relationship between the US president and Israel’s prime minister is paralyzed. The pipeline of dialogue is clogged.
India and China, the two emerging powers, voted in favor of adopting the Goldstone Report at the UN’s human rights commission.
Ever since then, it has been etched on Israel’s forehead as a Sign of Cain. Friendly governments, such as France and Britain, are turning their backs on us while currying favor with local sentiments. Israel’s membership in OECD, which was largely a done deal in the past, is distancing again – because of the growing negativity vis-à-vis Israel and not because any technical dispute. By coincidence, or not, large foreign investors are pulling out of Israel.
Does everyone hate us? Possibly so, yet the fact is that up until six months ago Israel enjoyed an extraordinary boom on the foreign affairs front, both in terms of its foreign ties as well as in global public opinion. This fact points to one source for the deterioration we’re seeing: The new government in Jerusalem.
Indeed, this is a government elected by the people and it reflects the preferences of voters, who wanted a coalition comprising Likud, Shas, and Yisrael Beiteinu. As such, Netanyahu appointed Lieberman foreign minister, did not agree to a government rotation with Kadima, was unable to arrange a work meeting with the Palestinian Authority president, and conveyed a message of indifference towards the peace process.
Yet worse than this, the 2009 Netanyahu does not understand the world, and he mostly fails to grasp the change taking place within conservative parties, which are close to his political positions. Today they are the source of harsh criticism against the Israeli government; Netanyahu’s government.
The current anti-Israel wave is particularly dangerous especially because it is not limited to the media and to leftist groups that traditionally were classified as “Israel haters.” This wave is rising, expending, drawing young people, and painting the perceptions of the well-established middle class and influential elites.
Israel’s image has hit a nadir; it is isolated, unwanted, and perceived as bad. The world is telling us that should we continue along the same contemptible path, we will lose our legitimacy.
Hero of French Resistance and Concentration Camp Survivor Expresses Outrage Over Israel
by Dr. Hanan Chehata Middle East Monitor
Friday, 11 November 2011 11:03
Stѐphan Hessel was one of the jurors of this year’s Russell Tribunal on Palestine held in Cape Town. Mr Hessel, who is of Jewish origin, is lauded as a hero of the French Resistance who survived torture in Nazi concentration camps following his capture by the Gestapo in World War Two. He went on to be one of those who drafted the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In his long and distinguished career he served as a French Diplomat and a UN Ambassador. Recently, at the age of 94, he became a publishing success when his slim 4,000 word French booklet “Indignez-Vous!” (“Time for Outrage”) became an overnight best-seller, selling over a million and a half copies in a matter of months. Perhaps the most controversial aspect of this phenomenon was his harsh criticism of Israel, particularly its 5-year siege and 2008-9 war against the people of the Gaza Strip. MEMO caught up with Mr Hessel one morning over breakfast in Cape Town and asked him to explain a little more about his stance on the Palestine-Israel situation.
Hanan Chehata: Mr Hessel, in your best-selling “Time for Outrage” you encourage people to find their own reason for indignation and encourage us all to get outraged over issues that matter, whether it’s the growing gap between rich and poor or France’s appalling treatment of illegal immigrants or anything else. You say that for you, personally, the biggest outrage is Palestine. Why is that?
Stѐphan Hessel: I say that it is the outrage that I am most concerned with for a very personal reason. I was there when the state of Israel was created in New York in 1948-9. I then worked as a UN official and my friends and comrades were engaged actively in seeing to it (Israel), so that the Jews should get a state. We were all still terribly affected by the Shoah (Holocaust) and we felt that Israel was essential; that the injustice done to the Palestinians when the state was created was unavoidable and that one should live with it. But then when the Six Day War started [in 1967] I felt that the Israelis did the wrong thing by colonising and occupying [the rest of] Palestine. I thought that the Israelis should have withdrawn and Israel should have started to make peace with the Palestinians. So from that time on I have paid many visits to Israel and to Gaza and to the West Bank and that is why I feel that what is happening there is particularly dangerous for the world because that little spot in the near East, which is only a few thousand square miles, has such historical importance. When Obama came to the Presidency I was so happy with his speech in Cairo and I thought now maybe we will be able to live together peacefully, the West and Islam, and Palestinians and Israelis. For all these reasons I feel very strongly about what goes on there. I was in Gaza a few months after Operation Cast Lead and I read the Goldstone Report and I even drafted a little preface for that report in German. I was therefore also very sad when Goldstone withdrew from his position. For all of these reasons, while I feel that there are many, many terrible problems in the world, Chechnya, Sudan, Guatemala wherever, this particular spot is terribly important for all of us. It is only if there is a change of mind within the Israeli government, overthrowing Netanyahu and putting somebody there who wants peace, that things can change.
HC: What can you tell us about your visit to Gaza?
SH: We saw exactly what is in the Goldstone Report; of course we did not see as much as he did, he really enquired, but we saw the destruction. We saw the blockade. One could not get in or out. We managed, my wife and I, to get into Gaza because we have diplomatic passports and somehow the French Consul-General in Jerusalem managed to help get us in but for all others it became impossible. We found that fishing was made impossible because of the Israeli navy blockade. We saw the destruction and the lack of hope for rebuilding. The next year we also went back and saw the tunnels and we realised that this was of course the only way for the poor Gazans to receive some food and so on.
HC: You helped to draft the Universal Declaration on Human Rights but it looks as though every clause in it is being breached by Israel. How would you categorise Israel’s human rights record today?
SH: I think that [this applies] not only to the Declaration – which is not a legally binding instrument - but on the two covenants on Human Rights: the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The witnesses that we have heard at the Russell Tribunal here have all indicated clearly that Israel is respecting none of those covenants nor the Geneva Convention on humanitarian law so one can really say that these violations of human rights and of international law is, as we are saying in our Tribunal conclusions, something that cannot be allowed any more in our new global society.
HC: You have supported the flotilla efforts to break the siege of Gaza and you support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. You are also participating as a Juror at the Russell Tribunal on Palestine here in South Africa. Do you think that, since Israel clearly has no regard for international law or any international bodies, it is now down to such civil society initiatives to bring Israel to account?
SH: It is clear to me that governments, all of our governments, are terribly intimidated by Israeli propaganda and unfortunately they are not strong enough to really act. They have drafted resolutions but they are not implementing them; they come together in Quartets but nothing occurs. For that reason we feel that civil pressure from public opinion is absolutely needed. We are not too hopeful that it will prevail quickly but I also have the feeling, and that is the focus of my “Time for Outrage”, that it is time for the civil population to take responsibility.
HC: What do you make of Israel’s demand that it should be recognised as an exclusively Jewish State? As someone who is Jewish yourself do you support that demand?
SH: That demand is really what allows us to say that what happens there is similar to apartheid because when there is one part which claims to be something that the others cannot be, and the others cannot be Jewish, then therefore this Jewish state is a little bit like the whites here during Apartheid South Africa saying, “we are the ones”; “we the Jews”; or “we the whites” and the others have to be disregarded. So that is why we feel that there is a similarity between what is happening to the Palestinians and South African apartheid and we are trying to show that in our statements.
HC: Many very courageous Jews have been speaking out and criticising the actions of the Israeli government: yourself, Professor Richard Falk, Ronnie Kasrils and others; are you not worried about the criticism of anti-Semitism or being labelled as “self-hating”? How do you bear the criticism?
SH: We are standing it and we are trying to convince those who throw that at us that we are more concerned for the future of Israel than they are. We feel that it is still possible for Israel to be a good secure country living in peace with the Palestinians and that all those who disregard that possibility and say they have to be strong and violent, they are on the wrong path.
JJ Goldberg, Jewish American writer for the Jewish Daily Forward, says the only thing uniting Israel is a hate for Arabs:
"So here’s what I’m starting to think: What unifies the Jewish right is not love of Israel but fear and loathing of the Arabs, and anything and anyone giving Arabs a moment’s satisfaction — even an Israeli prime minister who has served his fellow Jews before — is craven, foolish and treasonous.
Elad Benari, Jewish Canadian, reports on Extremist Control in Israel.
"Former Mossad Chief: Hareidim a Bigger Threat than Iran"
Former Mossad chief Ephraim Halevy attacks Israel’s hareidi Jews: Their radicalization is a bigger threat to Israel than Iran.
By Elad Benari, Canada
Former Mossad chief Ephraim Halevyattacked Israel’s hareidi Jews on Thursday, saying they are “a bigger existential threat to Israel than Iran and Ahmadinejad.”
Speaking at a reunion of military academy graduates, Halevy said, “The existential danger to Israel, more than Iran’s nuclear program, is the radicalization of the hareidi Jews which is getting worse.”
He added, “The hareidi extremism is a greater danger than Ahmadinejad. I was educated in Bnei Akiva, and there we used to dance, girls and boys together. Were the rabbis back then so wanton? Extremist Orthodox has darkened our lives.”
Halevy, who was born in the United Kingdom in 1934 to an Orthodox family, emigrated to Israel in 1948. He attended Ma’aleh, a religious high schoolin Jerusalem. He joined the Mossad in 1961, and headed it between 1998 and 2002.
He took an active part in a special mission by former Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin which helped forge the Israel-Jordan peace treaty in 1994.
Halevy, who is known as a hard-headed pragmatist on issues involving the conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, is always willing to ruffle feathers on both the right and the left.
The Eretz Yisrael Shelanu movement sharply criticized Halevy’s anti-hareidi rant on Friday, comparing it to the Nazi ideology which brought about World War II.
“Ephraim Halevy’s remarks are a kind ofinferior European anti-Semitism which was used in the Europein 1930s to delegitimize millions of Jews,” the movement said in a statement. “The anti-Semitic cartoons in the Nazi Der Stürmerused to depict Jews in a hareidi appearance.”
“It should be made clear that Ephraim Halevy’s words are directed at the entire religious population, which part of the establishment in Israel sees as a threat to its continued domination,” the movement added.
(Arutz Sheva’s North American Desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)