Sunday, September 30, 2007

In Between the Improbable and Impossible

Blockading the One-State and Two-State Solutions
By Joshua Alzona

In the wake of the Six-Day War, the blueprint of two states living side-by-side has been the accepted solution to effectively settle the Israel/Palestine conflict and begin a rapprochement between the two. It is also the solution dictated by the mainstream Middle Eastern policy players and amongst most intellectuals today. Israel's intransigence, an occupation that is ubiquitous to Palestinians, its violation of human rights and chronic defiance of international law, is accelerating the downfall of the Two-State Solution. But the potentiality, or lack there of, that Israel would concede anything to implement a Palestinian state has left many to abandon the Two-State Solution in favour of the idealistic One-State Solution, a binational state for all citizens regardless of ethnicity.

The left is fragmented on which solution to support. Some are adamant that the Two-State Solution is the more pragmatic approach. Others are fixed that Israel will not ever grant the Palestinians a state of their own. Both sides make compelling cases. Unfortunately for the Palestinians, they are left stuck in the middle. So which one should we advocate?

Two States for One People

The Two-State Solution (TSS) is a more sober presentation between the two to be realised in the distant future. Dating back to the aftermath of the 1967 War, the commitment to Zionism had blocked any proposal to have a state called Palestine consisting of the West Bank and Gaza Strip (22% of original Palestine, instead of 45% under the UN Partition). The window of opportunity for a genuine peace based on territorial swap for recognition of existence was shut quickly as Israel proceeded to pursue what they felt was not completed back in 1948: the imposition of Eretz Israel. Plundering villages and plains in the area meant for a Palestinian state and erecting Jewish settlements in its place has frozen the possibility of a genuine peace which may have actualised after the debilitating loss on the Arab Nation forty years ago. Israel persisted to encroach the most arable lands; the few water resources in the region; designed the encirclement of East Jerusalem which effectively severed the economic hub of a viable Palestinian state, the desired capital for the future nation, along with its numerous religious importance to Islam; organised the ghettoisation of the Palestinians; and the construction of the monolithic wall, 730 km in length, close to 8 metres in height and 3 metres in width, while at some sections it reaches 100 metres in width, dwarfing the Berlin Wall. The separation barrier in combination with the expanded settlements that pockmark the West Bank, littered with military checkpoints and closures, has dissected what was left of the TSS and to the reality of something resembling the Gaza strip, only into six separate versions.

You need not be an expert on the topic to know that the TSS is nearing its own extinction. A brief glance at a map of the West Bank only typifies how unreasonable things are for the Palestinians. According to the UN's latest map, 40% of the area reserved for a Palestinian state, "which is roughly the size of the US state of Delaware or the English county of Norfolk, off-limits to Palestinians."

Life for a Palestinian in the occupied territories has exemplified complete hopelessness. For instance, Palestinians are forbidden to enter East Jerusalem and the Jordan Valley, and residents of Jerusalem are forbidden movement into area A. No one is allowed entry into the region between the Green Line and the separation wall representing 10 % of the West Bank. Gazans are sealed off from the West Bank and are subjected to closed borders manned by the military. Only a smidgen of aid allowed to cross into the Gaza Strip. The major routes are not accessible for the Palestinians, reserved for Jews to speed across the occupied territories from settlement to settlement. Based on B'Tselem's data from June 2007, there are 93 manned checkpoints and 467 permanent roadblocks, epitomising Israeli dominance over Palestinian daily movement. A journey from Nablus to Ramallah, a distance of 47 km and a travel time of an hour, is extended by another 1-2 hours courtesy of three checkpoints and a number of roadblocks.

Fatah's inability to provide the Palestinians with some relief from the decay of occupation, exemplified above, helped along with Arafat's ineptitude, culminated with the Hamas election victory. Isolation of the Islamists was immediate, and recent developments in Gaza, backed by a man entrusted by the US to overthrow the party the Palestinians voted for, only reinforced the improbability of the TSS. Without a unified authority, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank are deliberated as two lone entities, impeding any movement between the two unless through the occupier. As long as the Palestinian Authority is split, there can be no Palestinian state under the TSS. (The impasse is such a concern that some proposed the outrageous Three-State Solution.)

For the TSS to come into fruition, both nations must undertake some versions of "voluntary transfer". This is the issue that is the biggest hurdle. It may seem to make perfect sense to remove the "Israeli Arabs" so that Zionism is rid of its "demographic bomb", for a swap of the dismantlement of the illegal settlements that has pockmarked the West Bank, "transfer" is one that is met with fierce opposition. The settlers refuse to be moved, and it remains to be seen that the Arabs in Israel would be "encouraged" to be expelled and suffer the fate of their brethren. Israel maintains the these outposts are not illegal despite the fact that they are not recognised by international law.

In addition, a new type of refusenik emerged, objecting to orders to evacuate the disputed settlements. Majority opinion may lie with the "two states for two peoples", but the reality is that common Israelis would rather continue with things the way they are than see a Palestinian state exist. Olmert is following their lead, despite the "niceties" with Abu Mazen.

A New Hope(lessness)?

The One-State Solution (OSS) has gained steam since the fallout of Oslo, whose total failure led to the malaise. Fundamentally sound, the core of the OSS is difficult to argue with. Israel with all its fervour of being the only democracy in a region of autocrats trapped itself by encouraging questions on its own basis as an exclusive Jewish nation. Zionism is in danger because it is the antithesis to authentic democracy: political and social equality amongst all of its citizens. The principles of Zionism propels Israel to achieve a demographic that is unrealistic unless drastic actions are (re)introduced. The slow and methodical brooming of unwanted non-Jews is not going to be enough. Zionism needs a clear majority to exist and anything that could prevent this is distinguished as an existential threat to Israel. And being in a region that is dominated by Muslims, this cannot happen.

Israel only has itself to blame for the arising call for the OSS. All factors that discredited any leader of the PA as a negotiating partner resulted in the disaffection towards the TSS. Ordinary Palestinians bearing the brunt of the futility of Arafat witnessed Fatah's concessions amount to nil. The chicanery of peace proposals was simply PR to increment the policy of a Greater Israel that sees the West Bank split into enclaves. Settlements and construction only reiterated to an already skeptical Palestine that Israel had no intention of conceding anything. Dispossessions and house demolitions only increased during the Oslo period and rose even higher after the outbreak of the Second Intifada. Is this what Palestinians had to look forward to by giving up what little they have to negotiate with?

We need not go into too much analysis of the OSS. Even though it is a desired denouement, the OSS has two blatant snags: Israelis and their settlements. Former Knesset member and Gush Shalom member Uri Avnery puts the percentage at "99.99% Jewish Public do not want to dismantle the state." It is highly optimistic that such attitudes that afflict elite opinion could be reversed in the near future. Leaders past and present have done their best to deny the Palestinians under the TSS; the deconstruction of Israel in its current form today is only questioned by a tiny few inside Israel. There are certain parts that still want to make a compelling case that Israel won the war against Hezbollah. This is a population that wants to drop bombs on Iran, a demonised existential "threat". You can only imagine what a truthful objection to Zionism would trigger (pun intended), supported by the international community, on the Jewish Public: the propagation of universal Jewish victimhood.

The settlements also poses, in my opinion, the biggest problem under the OSS. Philosophy professor at Trent University Michael Neumann averred the settler obstacle as one that absolves the most odious parts of the occupation today. "If the settlements are something to be legitimated... [it] means a great big pat on the back for the very worst, least conciliatory, most violent political forces in Israel, the spoilt, fanatic racial supremacists who conceived the settler movement and made it into the formidable force it is today." We should not forget that these outposts are illegal and have no basis to continue. If these settlements remain, it would exculpate the occupier and those who have supported it. It would result in a victory for Israel's policy of annexing what is Palestinian property. The protests and demands to remove the settlements that "squeeze out" Palestinian life, hijack the water resources, destroy agriculture and turn their villages into a wasteland, is now void of purpose if they are left untouched. Occupied Palestinian soil would immediately be Israel's dividends under the proposed OSS.

Neumann states that these settlers can be expelled, but only if we can get the "Israeli government to stop supporting them". He cites Gaza as an example of the potentiality of withdrawal.

The "disengagement" of the Gaza Strip was a clever deception. Gaza was only disengaged to pre-empt any kind of concession in the West Bank, that it was a slick move to prolong Israel's presence. The Gaza Strip was a price the Israelis were willing to pay in order to prevent negotiations over the coveted areas of Judea and Sumaria. Not even President Bush could withstand the pressure from Israel's apologists of telling Sharon to stop the accelerating settlement activity. Dov Weisglass, a spokesperson for Ariel Sharon, said the "significance of the plan is the freezing of the peace process." Sharon himself codified his plan to impede a "Palestinian state in a unilateral move." It leaves the Palestinians into a paradox that the only way they could gain a state is to give up their rights for a state: total submission to the coloniser.

What the OSS leaves for the Palestinians and their supporters is a long battle that could expand generations waiting for the Israeli ball to drop. Some can argue that under the TSS we're at the same dilemma facing the OSS: waiting for the Israelis and the international community to speak out against the oppression. But surely the TSS is the option that is more pragmatic to halt the Palestinian suffering as soon as possible, and isn't that our direct aim? Although it has its flaws, the TSS is the probable choice considering that the Western powers are backing every decision that only incapacitates any discussion that would make Israel relent their stranglehold on the Palestinian people.

The Right To Remain

UN General Assembly Resolution 194 - the Right of Return - has been conveniently left out of the equation. Israel is insistent that such a demand by any Palestinian leader is not a moderate position, and is not negotiable for any chance of a Palestinian state. It had been removed from the Oslo Accords, and since then it is been left off the table (only to re-emerge at Camp David) for any settlement scheme with the TSS serving as a basis.

What Israel did at Oslo, by omitting the Right of Return from the negotiations for peace, had set the precedent for future proposals for any Palestinian state: the demand of the refugees to return home or be compensated was erased. Arafat brought back what was deemed "extremist": there was no possibility that Resolution 194 could ever be considered. And almost immediately, the second intifada erupted, thanks mainly to the fallout at Camp David.

For the Palestinians the result was calamitous; for the Israelis, it was a success. The temerity of Arafat to even attempt to suggest the Right of Return showed in clear view that the Palestinians were unwilling partners in the negotiating process; that they were still stuck in the past intent on Israel's destruction; and that the Right of Return must not be entertained because it poses a threat to Zionism, that it was not practical, that the "facts on the ground" states that it was an impossibility. Brutality ensued. Despair followed. The world took no notice.

All the talk about peace and ceasefires and settlements is hollow unless the Right of Return is recognised. To the Palestinians, the Right of Return is the root cause of the conflict, the heart of the matter, and the fire that still burns to this day, alive amongst the Diaspora that now number in the millions, languishing in neighbouring countries, most not recognised by their host states. In his latest book The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, Israeli historian Ilan Pappe describes how "the Palestine question needed to be reminded that this conflict was not just about the future of the Occupied Territories, but that at its heart are the refugees Israel had cleansed from Palestine in 1948."

It is also a memory of the Nakba, the ethnic cleansing that was perpetrated on the Palestinians by armed immigrants who claimed they had rights to a land that was not their own. It is a denial that is still existent to this day and happens before our very eyes when we see more houses bulldozed , farms being grazed and Palestinians dispossessed from their ancient homeland.

Saifedean Ammous, a Palestinian student at Columbia University, reveals the Palestinian resolve, how "the right of return remains vital, and we as Palestinians should continue to cling to this inalienable right after almost 60 years, since it is the only commendable and honorable thing to do, and it is the only path to achieve a true and comprehensive peace." The sentiment demonstrated by Ammous still pulses throughout the Palestinians in the Occupied Territories and amongst the Diaspora, that they continue to maintain the hope that one day they will be allowed to return home. Overlooking the Palestinians right to return is to maintain the illusion that there was no crime committed upon the birth of Israel and the calculated extirpation Palestine was a total 'necessity' for the greater good to occur, as explained by another Israeli historian Benny Morris. To quote Pappe,

"to recognise the Palestinians as the victims of Israeli actions is deeply distressing...it calls into question the very foundational myths of the State of Israel... For the Israeli Jews to accept this [Palestinian victimhood] would naturally mean undermining their own status of victimhood... Israeli Jews would have to recognise that they have become the mirror image of their own worst nightmare."

In her latest article, former CIA analyst Kathleen Christison defines the Right of Return as the primary issue toward progress because "justice will not be served, nor peace achieved, until this issue is resolved equitably and democratically, in a manner satisfactory to the human rights and the national aspirations of both Palestinians, including those living in refugee camps outside Palestine, and Israeli Jews." For blocking any conciliation on the Right of Return, "neither Palestinians nor Israelis will ever enjoy true peace and stability." Only an Israeli version of peace can occur, ie the current form of occupation and annexation, at the cost of "grave injustice" to the Palestinian people.

While it is widely accepted that the Right of Return is an immediate non-starter to negotiations, it is the very core of Palestinian disposition and its neglect from any talk along with the future of the Occupied Territories is inadmissible.

Israel's track record is certainly not one to be confident in but the TSS is the one that is likely to be agreed upon in the near future by all parties that have a stake in the conflict. Not long ago, the US pulpit Mohammed Dahlan let it slip that Israel was not planning on giving up anything. This sequence of events is atypical of the Israel-Palestine conflict and further exposed that subservience to the occupier is not the way to gain statehood.

Visions (of Granduer) For Tomorrow

I cannot blame anyone who is pessimistic about the chances of the TSS and I'm not alone, I'm positive of that. What I do believe, however, is that the longer the occupation continues , we can kiss the TSS goodbye. Some would say that it is dead already and I can sympathise with that opinion: the wall is near its completion and with it the hopes of a viable Palestinian state. With the separation barrier in place, the fight for two states will no longer be appropriate. In its place will be a unified battle against an Israeli-version of apartheid and with it, more proponents of the OSS with the addition of the call to disband Zionism.

Palestinians are helpless and their fate is sealed amongst the ordinary people in the West, the US especially. It is a sordid affair when you are left to count on the ones who not only exonerate themselves from the Iraq blunder but are more than willing to drop some nuclear bombs on Iran. We're still far from progress when Dennis Ross is still considered an expert in the field, the architect of Sabra and Shatilla is inculcated as a "man of peace" 25 years after the massacre and the ones who are meant to speak out against the "security wall" are busy advocating a xenophobic wall on their own border. I'm afraid that actions akin to Jenin refugee massacre in 2002 or the appalling siege of Lebanon last year might be needed before the international community can rethink their perceptions that Israel is not the David they assume to be. It could be a long time coming considering how embedded the media is with an Israeli-centred thinking.

A rare victory occurred at Bi'lin not long ago. Many will point to this sequence that there is still hope that Israel can be stopped before it's too late. I wish fervently that they are correct and that the historic judgement at against the wall won't be a Pyrrhic victory (after all, didn't the same Israel Supreme Court ratify the wall's legality in the first place?). However, the decision at Bi'lin may have only prolonged the inevitable (as the verdict did not prevent construction of the wall, only its redirection that did not fall along the Green Line). The Berlin Wall may have come crashing down, but it was in place for a long, long time. Apartheid may have fallen, but it had plenty of casualties on the way.

But it is important NOT to give in to pessimism, especially in these times. There is quite a ruckus going about right now and a major backlash has alerted Tony Karon, a senior editor at TIME magazine and a South African Jew, that a Jewish Glasnost is in the making; more and more condemnation of Israel is piercing the mainstream; Walt and Mearsheimer continue to press the Lobby issue and receive the typical reaction; the taboo of criticising Israel is no longer taboo in many places and the Boycott campaign seems to be getting stronger and stronger. Another reason for optimism is a recent survey that showed that less and less American Jews were identifying themselves with Israel and is also wilting amongst the Diaspora.

It seems the more the zealots push, the more the truth bleeds out about the Jewish State. The apartheid analogy is reiterated by many who suffered the odious regime. Those who saw it fall down enunciate that things were very similar then to what we face today, that South Africa had the support of all of the power players and that it collapsed on its own. It is a danger that stares Zionism in the eyes. It will eventually destroy Israel, and the sooner it is realised then more lives can be saved from the occupation's brutality.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Maybe there is hope for Europe

A good piece by Mariano Aguirre is featured in the French paper, Le Monde diplomatique:

"The New York Post editorial on 5 January 2007 read: “How did this man ever become president of the United States?” Readers might have thought this was a crack about President George Bush in a paper owned by Rupert Murdoch. But the editorial went on: “He’s gone from failed president to friend of leftwing tyrants and global scold of anything that represents America’s legitimate interests”; he wanted to “demonise Israel” and had secretly given “PR and political advice to Yasser Arafat”. The Post was damning not Bush, but Jimmy Carter, and it said Democrats should “cut all their ties” to him for “when he flatly condones mass murder, he goes beyond the pale”...

Carter insists that he was talking about Palestine, not the situation in Israel, but there has been vociferous reaction in sections of the US Jewish community. Like the Anti-Defamation League, they take any criticism of Israel to be anti-semitic. The protests have succeeded: both the chairman of the Democrats, Howard Dean, and their leader in Congress, Nancy Pelosi, distanced themselves from Carter. In this early pre-election period the affair was unwelcome and pushed them to take a stance on the Israel-Palestine conflict...

In response to the attacks on his references to apartheid, Carter explained: “The alternative to peace is apartheid, not inside Israel… but in the West Bank and Gaza and East Jerusalem, the Palestinian territory. And there, apartheid exists in its more despicable forms, Palestinians are deprived of basic human rights.” For Carter there are three essentials for peace in the region: guarantees on Israel’s security, an end to Palestinian violence, and recognition by Israel of the Palestinians’ right to a state in its pre-1967 borders...

Following [Chris] McGreal’s articles on [these] comparisons and the close military relations between the apartheid regime and Israel, the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (Camera) accused him of falsehood and defamatory distortion of the facts (7)...

In 2006 there was a rise in tension around academics critical of Israel. There were strong reactions to an article published in London by two specialists in international relations, John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt (11), on the overriding influence of Jewish pressure groups in the US on its foreign policy in the Middle East; they claimed this had pushed the US into the war in Iraq. A few months later, Tony Judt, British and Jewish, and director of New York’s Remarque Institute for European studies, was attacked for “anti-semitic” views; he had maintained that the only solution to the conflict in the Middle East was a single, binational state (12). Judt held pro-Israeli views in his youth and is today regarded as a traitor. In October 2006, the Anti-Defamation League successfully pressed the Polish consulate in New York to cancel a conference Judt was to give on its premises. This caused shock, but Judt was later able to make his point – in Israel’s reputable Haaretz newspaper (26 July 2007) – that Israel’s future will remain in the balance as long as it continues repression and occupation in Palestine."

The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy

Courtesy of Antiwar.com and the New York Times, the first chapter of Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer's book is available online. I have reprinted it here. It is worth the read, even though it may not be news to most out there:

‘The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy’
By JOHN J. MEARSHEIMER and STEPHEN M. WALT

America is about to enter a presidential election year. Although the outcome is of course impossible to predict at this stage, certain features of the campaign are easy to foresee. The candidates will inevitably differ on various domestic issues-health care, abortion, gay marriage, taxes, education, immigration-and spirited debates are certain to erupt on a host of foreign policy questions as well. What course of action should the United States pursue in Iraq? What is the best response to the crisis in Darfur, Iran's nuclear ambitions, Russia's hostility to NATO, and China's rising power? How should the United States address global warming, combat terrorism, and reverse the erosion of its international image? On these and many other issues, we can confidently expect lively disagreements among the various candidates.

'The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy,' By JOHN J. MEARSHEIMER and STEPHEN M. WALT: Dual Loyalties (September 23, 2007) Yet on one subject, we can be equally confident that the candidates will speak with one voice. In 2008, as in previous election years, serious candidates for the highest office in the land will go to considerable lengths to express their deep personal commitment to one foreign country-Israel-as well as their determination to maintain unyielding U.S. support for the Jewish state. Each candidate will emphasize that he or she fully appreciates the multitude of threats facing Israel and make it clear that, if elected, the United States will remain firmly committed to defending Israel's interests under any and all circumstances. None of the candidates is likely to criticize Israel in any significant way or suggest that the United States ought to pursue a more evenhanded policy in the region. Any who do will probably fall by the wayside.

This observation is hardly a bold prediction, because presidential aspirants were already proclaiming their support for Israel in early 2007. The process began in January, when four potential candidates spoke to Israel's annual Herzliya Conference on security issues. As Joshua Mitnick reported in Jewish Week, they were "seemingly competing to see who can be most strident in defense of the Jewish State." Appearing via satellite link, John Edwards, the Democratic party's 2004 vice presidential candidate, told his Israeli listeners that "your future is our future" and said that the bond between the United States and Israel "will never be broken." Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney spoke of being "in a country I love with people I love" and, aware of Israel's deep concern about a possible nuclear Iran, proclaimed that "it is time for the world to speak three truths: (1) Iran must be stopped; (2) Iran can be stopped; (3) Iran will be stopped!" Senator John McCain (R-AZ) declared that "when it comes to the defense of Israel, we simply cannot compromise," while former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA) told the audience that "Israel is facing the greatest danger for [sic] its survival since the 1967 victory."

Shortly thereafter, in early February, Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY) spoke in New York before the local chapter of the powerful American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), where she said that in this "moment of great difficulty for Israel and great peril for Israel ... what is vital is that we stand by our friend and our ally and we stand by our own values. Israel is a beacon of what's right in a neighborhood overshadowed by the wrongs of radicalism, extremism, despotism and terrorism." One of her rivals for the Democratic nomination, Senator Barack Obama (D-IL), spoke a month later before an AIPAC audience in Chicago. Obama, who has expressed some sympathy for the Palestinians' plight in the past and made a brief reference to Palestinian "suffering" at a campaign appearance in March 2007, was unequivocal in his praise for Israel and made it manifestly clear that he would do nothing to change the U.S.-Israeli relationship. Other presidential hopefuls, including Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS) and New Mexico governor Bill Richardson, have expressed pro-Israel sentiments with equal or greater ardor.What explains this behavior? Why is there so little disagreement among these presidential hopefuls regarding Israel, when there are profound disagreements among them on almost every other important issue facing the United States and when it is apparent that America's Middle East policy has gone badly awry? Why does Israel get a free pass from presidential candidates, when its own citizens are often deeply critical of its present policies and when these same presidential candidates are all too willing to criticize many of the things that other countries do? Why does Israel, and no other country in the world, receive such consistent deference from America's leading politicians?

Some might say that it is because Israel is a vital strategic asset for the United States. Indeed, it is said to be an indispensable partner in the "war on terror." Others will answer that there is a powerful moral case for providing Israel with unqualified support, because it is the only country in the region that "shares our values." But neither of these arguments stands up to fair-minded scrutiny. Washington's close relationship with Jerusalem makes it harder, not easier, to defeat the terrorists who are now targeting the United States, and it simultaneously undermines America's standing with important allies around the world. Now that the Cold War is over, Israel has become a strategic liability for the United States. Yet no aspiring politician is going to say so in public, or even raise the possibility.

There is also no compelling moral rationale for America's uncritical and uncompromising relationship with Israel. There is a strong moral case for Israel's existence and there are good reasons for the United States to be committed to helping Israel if its survival is in jeopardy. But given Israel's brutal treatment of the Palestinians in the Occupied Territories, moral considerations might suggest that the United States pursue a more evenhanded policy toward the two sides, and maybe even lean toward the Palestinians. Yet we are unlikely to hear that sentiment expressed by anyone who wants to be president, or anyone who would like to occupy a position in Congress.

The real reason why American politicians are so deferential is the political power of the Israel lobby. The lobby is a loose coalition of individuals and organizations that actively works to move U.S. foreign policy in a pro-Israel direction. As we will describe in detail, it is not a single, unified movement with a central leadership, and it is certainly not a cabal or conspiracy that "controls" U.S. foreign policy. It is simply a powerful interest group, made up of both Jews and gentiles, whose acknowledged purpose is to press Israel's case within the United States and influence American foreign policy in ways that its members believe will benefit the Jewish state. The various groups that make up the lobby do not agree on every issue, although they share the desire to promote a special relationship between the United States and Israel. Like the efforts of other ethnic lobbies and interest groups, the activities of the Israel lobby's various elements are legitimate forms of democratic political participation, and they are for the most part consistent with America's long tradition of interest group activity.

Because the Israel lobby has gradually become one of the most powerful interest groups in the United States, candidates for high office pay close attention to its wishes. The individuals and groups in the United States that make up the lobby care deeply about Israel, and they do not want American politicians to criticize it, even when criticism might be warranted and might even be in Israel's own interest. Instead, these groups want U.S. leaders to treat Israel as if it were the fifty-first state. Democrats and Republicans alike fear the lobby's clout. They all know that any politician who challenges its policies stands little chance of becoming president.The lobby's political power is important not because it affects what presidential candidates say during a campaign, but because it has a significant influence on American foreign policy, especially in the Middle East. America's actions in that volatile region have enormous consequences for people all around the world, especially the people who live there. Just consider how the Bush administration's misbegotten war in Iraq has affected the long-suffering people of that shattered country: tens of thousands dead, hundreds of thousands forced to flee their homes, and a vicious sectarian war taking place with no end in sight. The war has also been a strategic disaster for the United States and has alarmed and endangered U.S. allies both inside and outside the region. One could hardly imagine a more vivid or tragic demonstration of the impact the United States can have-for good or ill-when it unleashes the power at its disposal.

The United States has been involved in the Middle East since the early days of the Republic, with much of the activity centered on educational programs or missionary work. For some, a biblically inspired fascination with the Holy Land and the role of Judaism in its history led to support for the idea of restoring the Jewish people to a homeland there, a view that was embraced by certain religious leaders and, in a general way, by a few U.S. politicians. But it is a mistake to see this history of modest and for the most part private engagement as the taproot of America's role in the region since World War II, and especially its extraordinary relationship with Israel today. Between the routing of the Barbary pirates two hundred years ago and World War II, the United States played no significant security role anywhere in the region and U.S. leaders did not aspire to one. Woodrow Wilson did endorse the 1917 Balfour Declaration (which expressed Britain's support for the creation of a Jewish homeland in Palestine), but Wilson did virtually nothing to advance this goal. Indeed, the most significant U.S. involvement during this period-a fact-finding mission dispatched to the region in 1919 by the Paris Peace Conference under the leadership of Americans Henry Churchill King and Charles Crane-concluded that the local population opposed continued Zionist inroads and recommended against the establishment of an independent Jewish homeland. Yet as the historian Margaret Macmillan notes, "Nobody paid the slightest attention." The possibility of a U.S. mandate over portions of the Middle East was briefly considered but never pursued, and Britain and France ended up dividing the relevant portions of the Ottoman Empire between themselves.

The United States has played an important and steadily increasing role in Middle East security issues since World War II, driven initially by oil, then by anticommunism and, over time, by its growing relationship with Israel. America's first significant involvement in the security politics of the region was a nascent partnership with Saudi Arabia in the mid-1940s (intended by both parties as a check on British ambitions in the region), and its first formal alliance commitments were Turkey's inclusion in NATO in 1952 and the anti-Soviet Baghdad Pact in 1954. After backing Israel's founding in 1948, U.S. leaders tried to strike a balanced position between Israel and the Arabs and carefully avoided making any formal commitment to the Jewish state for fear of jeopardizing more important strategic interests. This situation changed gradually over the ensuing decades, in response to events like the Six-Day War, Soviet arms sales to various Arab states, and the growing influence of pro-Israel groups in the United States. Given this dramatic transformation in America's role in the region, it makes little sense to try to explain current U.S. policy-and especially the lavish support that is now given to Israel-by referring to the religious beliefs of a bygone era or the radically different forms of past American engagement. There was nothing inevitable or predetermined about the current special relationship between the United States and Israel.

Since the Six-Day War of 1967, a salient feature-and arguably the central focus-of America's Middle East policy has been its relationship with Israel. For the past four decades, in fact, the United States has provided Israel with a level of material and diplomatic support that dwarfs what it provides to other countries. That aid is largely unconditional: no matter what Israel does, the level of support remains for the most part unchanged. In particular, the United States consistently favors Israel over the Palestinians and rarely puts pressure on the Jewish state to stop building settlements and roads in the West Bank. Although Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush openly favored the creation of a viable Palestinian state, neither was willing to use American leverage to make that outcome a reality.

The United States has also undertaken policies in the broader Middle East that reflected Israel's preferences. Since the early 1990s, for example, American policy toward Iran has been heavily influenced by the wishes of successive Israeli governments. Tehran has made several attempts in recent years to improve relations with Washington and settle outstanding differences, but Israel and its American supporters have been able to stymie any d√ątente between Iran and the United States, and to keep the two countries far apart. Another example is the Bush administration's behavior during Israel's war against Lebanon in the summer of 2006. Almost every country in the world harshly criticized Israel's bombing campaign-a campaign that killed more than one thousand Lebanese, most of them civilians-but the United States did not. Instead, it helped Israel prosecute the war, with prominent members of both political parties openly defending Israel's behavior. This unequivocal support for Israel undermined the pro-American government in Beirut, strengthened Hezbollah, and drove Iran, Syria, and Hezbollah closer together, results that were hardly good for either Washington or Jerusalem.

Many policies pursued on Israel's behalf now jeopardize U.S. national security. The combination of unstinting U.S. support for Israel and Israel's prolonged occupation of Palestinian territory has fueled anti-Americanism throughout the Arab and Islamic world, thereby increasing the threat from international terrorism and making it harder for Washington to deal with other problems, such as shutting down Iran's nuclear program. Because the United States is now so unpopular within the broader region, Arab leaders who might otherwise share U.S. goals are reluctant to help us openly, a predicament that cripples U.S. efforts to deal with a host of regional challenges.

This situation, which has no equal in American history, is due primarily to the activities of the Israel lobby. While other special interest groups-including ethnic lobbies representing Cuban Americans, Irish Americans, Armenian Americans, and Indian Americans-have managed to skew U.S. foreign policy in directions that they favored, no ethnic lobby has diverted that policy as far from what the American national interest would otherwise suggest. The Israel lobby has successfully convinced many Americans that American and Israeli interests are essentially identical. In fact, they are not.

Although this book focuses primarily on the lobby's influence on U.S. foreign policy and its negative effect on American interests, the lobby's impact has been unintentionally harmful to Israel as well. Take Israel's settlements, which even a writer as sympathetic to Israel as Leon Wieseltier recently called a "moral and strategic blunder of historic proportions." Israel's situation would be better today if the United States had long ago used its financial and diplomatic leverage to convince Israel to stop building settlements in the West Bank and Gaza, and instead helped Israel create a viable Palestinian state on those lands. Washington did not do so, however, largely because it would have been politically costly for any president to attempt it. As noted above, Israel would have been much better off if the United States had told it that its military strategy for fighting the 2006 Lebanon war was doomed to fail, rather than reflexively endorsing and facilitating it. By making it difficult to impossible for the U.S. government to criticize Israel's conduct and press it to change some of its counterproductive policies, the lobby may even be jeopardizing the long-term prospects of the Jewish state.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Palestinian boy stabbed

Jewish settlers are at it again:

"Israeli settlers stabbed and wounded a 15-year-old Palestinian in the West bank's region of Hebron on Sunday, medical sources said.

Mohammad Aseellah was admitted to hospital with blood-oozing cuts after being stabbed with a sharp object by the Jewish settlers near the settlement of Keryat Arbaa in the Hebron region.

Five settlers attacked the boy as he was walking close to the settlement, witnesses said.

In Bethlehem, settlers attacked Palestinian medics wounding one and the driver of an ambulance.

The latter was wounded in the neck and head.Separately, Israeli troops advanced into the village of Al-Shoka close to the border town of Rafah in the south of Gaza Strip. They bulldozed wide swaths of cultivated lands and green houses."

Giuliani fights for Israel

Glenn Greenwald nails Giuliani about fighting for America's biggest ally, Israel:

"So Rudy Giuliani, as President, would in essence deem any war in which Israel is involved to be, by definition, a war on the U.S., and would use American resources and lives to become involved in any such war and fight on behalf of Israel...

As Matt Yglesias noted, Guiliani's policy would, among many other things, "commit[] the United States to the armed defense of the borders of a country that lacks internationally recognized borders."

Is it even possible to imagine a presidential candidate objecting to the view that the U.S. should consider Israel's enemies to be enemies of the U.S., even though vast majorities of Americans share that objection?

Now that we are occupying two Middle Eastern countries, with a broken military, and are threatening imminent war with at least another one, isn't it long past time to have the discussion about the extent to which the U.S. is willing to wage war on behalf of Israel's interests? Do Americans really think that Iranian hostility towards Israel or its support for "terrorists groups" that are hostile to Israel are grounds for declaring Iran to be our Enemy or waging war against them? If so, then let proponents of war with Iran make that case expressly. And for the rest of the presidential campaign, shouldn't Giuliani's desire to involve the U.S. military in every war Israel fights be a rather central feature in discussions of his potential presidency?"

(Emphasis in original.)

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Knee-Jerk Reaction

Only the best is saved for the critics of Israel. You'd think there was an army of Holocaust deniers out there spewing out their junk of anti-semitism on our young minds if Israel's supporters set the rules. The accusations against Finkelstein is remarkably similar to the ones directed at Stephen Walt, a tenured political scientist at Harvard, known to most Israel's apologists as the co-author of The Israel Lobby and their new book The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy.

Professor Richard Drake invited Stephen Walt to speak at University of Montana, only to be put under the kosh by pro-Israeli henchmen. Drake confesses about the assaults on himself and Walt:

"[F]our days before Walt's scheduled arrival, three full tenured professors... castigated Walt as the author of an ugly racist diatribe and demanded that the university invite Harvard University law professor Alan Dershowitz or some comparable defender of Israel to offer a rebuttal."

Similar "rebuttals" have been requested, as though listening to Mr Dershowitz would mean a total enlightenment to Israel's impeccable human rights record. Earlier this year, Brandeis University courted Professor Dershowitz so those righties could sit easy knowing that Carter had it all wrong because Dershowitz said so.

Although the assault was focused on Walt, Drake copped some flak of his own for having the audacity of "booking a critic of Israel". That equals anti-semitism in our world:

"One of my critics told me before startled witnesses that he would not rest until I had been stripped of my position of power, which manifestly had corrupted me. Someone as insensitive to Jewish issues as I was could no longer be entrusted to coordinate a university lecture series. He initiated a campaign to bring about my dismissal."

In accordance with Plaut's initiative against Finkelstein, the charges against Walt is uncanny:

"...individuals who had not attended either of his presentations to hear what he actually said called him a liar and likened him to a Holocaust denier and Ku Klux Klansman...

'It is much as if the university had brought a Holocaust denier to campus and accorded him the honors of a respected guest.'"

Our old buddy David Duke gets another mention. It's like a broken record:

"When questioned by the New York Sun about Duke’s endorsement of his article, Walt said, “I have always found Mr. Duke’s views reprehensible, and I am sorry that he sees this article as consistent with his view of the world.”"

Drake says it like it is:

"The attempt to group Walt and Mearsheimer with the likes of Faurisson and Duke reveals the real aims behind the campaign of denigration that began on my campus last September: to shut down critical inquiry into the activities of the Israel lobby and to blacken the name of anyone with the temerity to speak up about them."

Facing backlash such as this is not easy, especially for tenured professors like Walt and Mearsheimer. I distinctly remember reading an interview that featured both professors, and they decided to wait until they had tenureship before they wrote the essay on the Israel Lobby. The both of them have been speaking at numerous events thanks to the publication of their new book and they haven't been traveling alone. The usual suspects have been denouncing their every move. They've been adamant that their work is NOT anti-semitic, and that having this discussion in the open is the best thing for the Lobby.

But it's a reflex to most of Israel's supporters to slander anyone who dare speak negatively about the Jewish State and its affiliates. It comes so natural to them, probably because Israel's "humane" image has been increasingly more difficult to shape as of late.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Where's the liberal media now?

George Bisharat cleverly highlights the careful silence on the Gaza Strip and also on the rights to education for Palestinians:

"No full-page advertisements in major American newspapers have publicized Israel's violations of Palestinian children's right to an education. No editors, syndicated columnists or presidents of major universities in this country have denounced this callous measure. Our politicians have demanded no remedial action. Instead, they continue, verbally and materially, to support Israel in its near-total blockade of 1.5 million Palestinians, kids and all.

Israel's trampling of Palestinian students' right to education -- the key to a lifetime of opportunity -- has rarely evoked official protest from American leaders. The Israeli army has closed Palestinian universities for years at a time. Israeli military authorities have barred Palestinian occupational therapy students from traveling from Gaza to the West Bank to obtain vital clinical training."

Amira Hass claims that "no more than 100 students have been allowed to leave since June. The Israeli authorities had agreed to allow 700 students to leave, but the remaining 600 are still waiting."

This is two years after the appraised "disengagement". An analysis of Gaza today sees "[m]ore than 75 percent of Gazans are unemployed and 80 percent are now dependent on international aid just in order to eat." Despite limited sovereignity given to the Palestinians, the suffocation thanks to the unilateral evacuation from Gaza "that Israel destroyed the houses of the settlements and only left greenhouses intact", the emergence of Hamas only gave Israel the perfect reason to squeeze their hands on the necks of the Palestinians tighter: a brutal form of collective punishment that is supported by every major Western power.

As the story unfolds, it allowed Israel to declare Gaza to be 'hostile territory', therefore giving it valid reasons for more sealed borders, cutting off electricity and actions such as the slaughtering of Palestinians without accountability. Click here for more on the situation in Gaza after the phony disengagement.

Here's the latest report from PCHR:

"IOF have imposed a strict siege on the Gaza Strip. They have closed its border crossings as a form of collective punishment against Palestinian civilians.

IOF have closed Rafah International Crossing Point, even though they do not directly control it. They have prevented European observers working at the crossing point form reaching it. IOF had already closed Rafah International Crossing Point following an armed attack against an IOF military post in Kerem Shalom area, southeast of Rafah, on 25 June 2006. The crossing point had been partially reopened for short, sporadic periods to allow few numbers of Palestinian to travel through it. The crossing point has been completely closed since Hamas’ takeover of the Gaza Strip and the withdrawal of Palestinian security forces from the crossing point. At least 6,000 Palestinians stuck in Egypt were allowed in the Gaza Strip through El-Ojah – Erez route. According to PCHR’s documentation, 19 Palestinians of those who are stuck in Egypt have died due to the deterioration in their health conditions.

IOF have also closed commercial crossings, especially al-Mentar (Karni) crossing. If this closure continues, a humanitarian crisis is likely to emerge in the Gaza Strip. IOF have also continued to close Erez crossing in the northern Gaza Strip. Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from the Gaza Strip are prevented from traveling through this crossing. They prevented traders and patients from passing through. IOF allow very few patients to travel through the crossing, but following coordination through the ICRC. During the reporting period, Nahal Ouz crossing, east of Gaza City, which is deigned for the entry of fuels into the Gaza Strip, was opened for standard fuel for one day only."

It is disastrous and t
he slow starvation of Gazans is a very crude and draconian act by the occupier. It borders on a (manmade) humanitarian catastrophe funded by US taxpayers. But don't fret, Israel only wants to keep the Palestinians from that catastrophe so the world doesn't take notice. Just keeping them alive enough to suffer for another day.

"Once again the region needs saving from Israel."

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Plaut never ceases to amaze

Of and on, sometimes I get the feeling that maybe all of this is not worth the trouble; that writing about the affair on Israel and Palestine is only reserved for the experts and the few who are better prepared to articulate the best criticisms of the Jewish State, and perhaps, that the side I am fighting for is losing so badly that it is easier to let the guns down and continue living a normal existence by raising my beautiful son and inundating myself with the trappings of every day problems such as bills and what is good on TV tonight. Because worrying about a conflict that really does not involve myself personally does not look like it's worth the trouble of reading and writing and researching on my own spare time for precious little to be given back. Looking around, it seems that the activism on behalf of the Palestinians is only resulting in the cesspool of nothingness and ineffectuality. Despite all the best efforts, the knocking on the door is not answered by most in the media and is given an oblique look, derided as petty partisan displays of "Jew mongering" and "anti-Semitism", in whatever form that word is meant to define nowadays anyway.

But then I run into the likes of Steven Plaut, one of the most pious of morons out there defending the regime of Israel and all its glorious actions that leaves bodies in its wake, and then I am adamant that I am doing the right thing and I'm on the correct path and that I should not be unnerved about what I do and what it all means with a bigger picture.

Plaut lost a libel suit against Neve Gordon last year, and had to fork out some money to compensate for accusing Gordon of being a "Holocaust Denier", amongst other smears with it. Do you think such a decision would stop Plaut in his tracks? You'd think maybe he would have learned a lesson after losing such a case. But not our Steven Plaut.

Check out the latest from the liar of liars. Having lost his battle with Gordon, he targets recently fired professor Norman Finkelstein and his supporters, claiming that no outside party had no bearing in the decision to deny Finkelstein tenureship. The article has to be read in its entirety to grasp how silly Plaut really is. Plaut never fails to find baseless lies to rely upon. (Here's another refutation of his repugnant statements on the Nakba.)

He has plenty to choose from in his latest rant:

  • "Finkelstein had repeatedly proclaimed Holocaust Denier and pseudo-historian David Irving as his role model and hero"
  • "Finkelstein physically threatened his own Dean"
  • "[Depaul] has a long history of hosting pro-terror radical haters of America, from Ward Churchill to Tariq Ali"
  • "It hosts and sponsors numerous Islamist pro-terror student groups and faculty members"
  • "Finkelstein has yet to publish a single scholarly paper in a refereed bona fide academic journal"
  • "And speaking of little white lies, much of the media were willing to accept at face value claims by the Finkelstein Lobby about "hundreds" of DePaul students rallying on campus in early September to back Finkelstein. A fast look at this news photo of the event shows that there were less than 25 people present, some of whom might have been DePaul students"
  • "Finkelstein's "books" were almost universally dismissed by serious historians (meaning, those working for the something other than the annihilation of Israel) as fraud"
  • "The bottom line is that "outside pressure" had little to do with Finkelstein getting turned down for tenure"
  • "Exiled to rural Vermont, Hilberg was bitter and hostile towards a "Jewish establishment" that he felt granted him insufficient recognition, and was willing to praise a vicious anti-Semite in order to poke his finger in their eye"
  • "The liberal media are overflowing with hatred of Israel, and the real endangered species on campus are the conservatives and Israel supporters"

It's all in a day's business for Plaut and his ilk. Typifying what tactics they use to discredit ANY dissenter of Israel, it is laden with smears here and another slander there. What really takes the cake is accusing Finkelstein of "physically threatening his Dean". There is no source given, no evidence, just a shameless display of bullplop. Where did he get this information from? This is the best of my search from the internet:

"Mr. Finkelstein physically held open elevator doors so he could confront a DePaul dean."

No corroboration from DePaul on anything close to this, nor charges being filed against Finkelstein. The fact that he held open an elevator door so he could "confront" the Dean is enough to expose Finkelstein as a man on a warpath. He may have been angry but didn't he have reason to be? I'm sure plenty will say alot about the memos that circulated around the campus, but nothing ever equated to a "physical threat". All credit goes to Plaut for his misconceptions and oversimplification to suit his own needs.

Some more refutations are mandatory here to expose how awful Plaut's lies are.

First, Finkelstein had not proclaimed Irving his "hero". Here's a clip courtesy of Holocaust Controversies (in which Finkelstein argues with Michele Renouf about the Holocaust). By using Irving, Plaut attempts to discredit Finkelstein's work by association, falsely. The sentence also suggests that Finkelstein sympathises with Holocaust Denier, removing the fact that Finkelstein himself is a victim of the Nazi Holocaust and explicitly states that fact. The sheer nonsense of this sentence from Plaut is unparalleled, until he writes more in his article.

DePaul's long record? Shouldn't universities invite speakers from all kinds of opinions? Didn't David Horowitz speak there too? What would Plaut's ideal university have? Would it be diverse enough to invite professors he excoriates? Did he omit purposely that DePaul is home to a Conservative Alliance? Yeah, it really is a shame he left that out.

Plaut then asserts that DePaul is a haven for "lumpen leftists" (his emphasis), ie critics of Israeli and US policy, and that no outside force was at play in the decision of Finkelstein's denial of tenure. He cites a number of staff members at DePaul to emphasise his point. But what he unknowingly proved is the exact opposite of what he claims is the truth. Logically, if DePaul is a hub of "bash-Israel and hate-America political extremism", and by Plaut's standards Finkelstein matches this description to a tee, if no there was no foul play, Finkelstein would have been not only granted tenure but hailed with more accolades considering DePaul approves of such "political extremism and vulgarity". Something made the "modest heroes" change their "liberal" minds or else there would not have been a furore.

Not having his fill with DePaul's staff, Plaut proceeds to denigrate Noam Chomsky and John Mearsheimer, the former for his appraisals of a "French Holocaust Denier" and the latter just for praising Finkelstein. He lambasts Professor Chomsky for his lack of credentials in political science (but not even mentioning Mearsheimer is a specialist in that field) in a vain attempt to minimise Chomsky's worldwide stature with his dissidence of American foreign policy. Noam Chomsky is revered in his field of linguistics, publishing a coterie of books and pioneering a theory still in use to date. But Plaut wants him to keep his opinions to himself, much like the rest he disagrees with, all because they don't specialise in PS. Curiously, Plaut includes himself as his profession is in business. Should he be barred from politics and stay in what he knows?

The Faurisson-Chomsky affair is decades old but is the one spectre (along with Pol Pot which is surprisingly absent in Plaut's characterisation of Chomsky) that is repeated over and over about him. Chomsky is decontextualised and misrepresented, the right maintains that he backtracks and never admits when he is wrong. It's really who you choose to believe here. Pierre Vidal-Naquet; Chomsky's rebuttal; Brad DeLong; Edward Herman. To me, Chomsky went over the top in an attempt to defend free speech, even to the likes of a person who was threatened with violence because he questioned the existence of gas chambers. Some may perceive this to be defending an anti-Semite, but Chomsky maintains that just because someone asks questions about the Nazi Holocaust doesn't mean they're an anti-Semite. "Similarly, numerous scholars deny that the Armenian genocide took place, and some people, like Elie Wiesel, make extraordinary efforts to prevent any commemoration or even discussion of it." Would that make Elie an anti-Armenian? Of course not.

Plaut was not content with just Finkelstein, Noam Chomsky, Mearsheimer and the DePaul staff, he included Ward Churchhill and evokes neo-Nazi favourites such as David Irving and KKK man David Duke while defending his buddies on the right like Alan Dershowitz and Thomas Klocek. While it is unclear what just transpired in the Klocek affair, two versions seems to have arisen in the matter so it is difficult to judge on what truly happened, (see Klocek's version here) but the ASU from DePaul states that "faced a harassment board which asked him to remedy certain issues, which he did not." Until more details are revealed, it is impossible for me to make a judgement on this issue, considering most of the support given to Klocek are from right-wing circles involved in the lynching of Finkelstein.

The abuse of Hilberg was a nice shot for a person who just recently passed away. Hillberg exiled? I recall he was appointed emeritus professor and was honoured with Germany's Order of Merit. Hilberg is still referenced by most historians and his work is unparalleled. Plaut's attempt to limit Hilberg's sanity for his support of Finkelstein is not appropriate. The only conclusion as to why is because Hilberg was the Dean of Holocaust Studies, and to get approval from him is a nice star on your work. I am not sure about how seriously other scholars take Finkelstein's work, some say yes, others say not at all, but the fact that Hilberg gave Finkelstein his blessing could not have been sitting well with Plaut, hence his slander.

The denial of the existence of an Israel Lobby is fascinating. Walt and Mearsheimer has done the work for me in this section. How much money does it receive? How much money does the Arab Lobby receive? It's leaves one scratching their head when Israel's leaders brag about a lobby in the US, and the US refuses to recognise that they have great power in Washington. (The National Journal listed AIPAC at #2.)

The accusation of a "liberal media" is the strategem of the right: be the victim. It's weird that Plaut can say such things without realising the irony that such an outrage against a man like Finkelstein happened at all. All apologists make a huff about the "liberal media". It's a fallback position that inverts who the true victim is. It's shameful that coverage of the Israel/Palestine conflict is deemed "leftist". (For numbers on bias, see If Americans Knew.)Plaut seems to forget that Dershowitz himself admits to playing a role in getting Finkelstein fired, and that the relationship is close to personal thanks to Finkelstein exposing the fraud of The Case For Israel. Why isn't Dershowitz being called to get fired for his role if the liberal media were so liberal? Where's David Horowitz calling for support for Finkelstein? In addition, I don't recall even seeing a major newspaper carrying a Finkelstein article. Since he's the Arab Lobby's poster boy, the "liberal media" has dropped the ball on this one. Wasn't there a major hubbub over Churchill's appearance at DePaul? In fact, hasn't there been plenty of coverage defaming Churchill? It's enough to make you sick. Save me "liberal media".

Truth be told the alternative media is gaining so much steam because the mainstream is so unreasonable.

I would love to know more about the Klocek affair and I can only hope people are subjective in that case, careful to not take it at "face value". The right seems to have elevated him to martyrdom, which they love to do because the playing field is so far to the left in academia.

The link to the photo is broken. The Chicago Tribune has removed it from its archives so I can not investigate further without seeing the photo in question.

I wanted to write something about the picture he claims to hold on 25 people, mostly students. I would be under the impression that most, if not, ALL who supported Finkelstein and showed up would be students of his or those who heard about the sit-ins. Many academics signed petitions for Finkelstein too. Norman Finkelstein Wordpress is up and running, along with a magnitude of praise from his peers and supporters. Scroll through and Plaut may be surprised that it isn't just students who part of Finkelstein Solidarity.

I'm sure many others would willingly express their solidarity with Professor Finkelstein but in the end there is no point to call attention to every single detail. Plaut will be Plaut. I may not even register to him but at least someone is onto him, and I hope more are easily dismissive of him as he is of his (perceived) enemies. Perhaps one day he will just be ignored; maybe not. Dershowitz still gets a say, not matter how much he depicts himself as an ignoramus, right Mr Sonypictures.com? (Queue Democracy Now! debate with Finkelstein.)

The stakes are high, and the players are willing to go to any lengths to win the propaganda game. We shouldn't be unphased by all of this. The right is trying, very hard, to keep Israel's bad name hidden from the mainstream. But slowly things may be pierced. We may be witnessing something good. Or something really terrible if we let it go under the radar. I'd report Plaut to the Anti-Defamation League but it looks like Abraham Foxman is a little busy denying genocides right about now.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Jordan Valley plundering

A report (PDF file) published by the MA'AN Development Center and the Grassroots Palestinian Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign details the policies pushed by Israel in the integral region of the Jordan Valley. A brief glance at the map shown below gives the reality of how dissected the West Bank is, while the Jordan Valley is tripartited into areas A, B, C:


East Jerusalem is to be separated completely from the West Bank or any future Palestinian state (if there ever will be one). Every Palestinian will attest to the fact that they can have no viable state unless there is access to East Jerusalem. The importance of East Jerusalem cannot be undermined (re: Jeff Halper's Matrix of Control). With continued construction of the wall, as soon as the proposed border is finished around Jerusalem, the only state that is left for the Palestinians is a slighter bigger version of the Gaza Strip, split into three regions of activity. It would resemble a refugee camp.

The settlement control of the Jordan Valley is at 28.5%, while the Palestinians are left with 54.5% of the West Bank. Considering the original figure given to the Palestinian state during the UN Partition Plan was 43% of Mandate Palestine, they are being offered just over half of the territory known as the West Bank, while being encircled by settlements to the east and trapped by the border to their west. As an added bonus, there are certain Palestinian villages which is split by the wall, leaving 10% in No Man's Land, between the wall and the State of Israel.



Now the area A and B of the Jordan Valley are under Palestinian control. In total, both areas amount to 5.62% of the Jordan Valley. Area C (for settlements) and the closed zones (border line, military bases and natural reserves) have 94.7% of the Jordan Valley. There are thirty-six settlements, including one belonging to one woman (Mol Nefo) amounting to 66 dunams. The table below encapsulates the comparisons between coloniser and colonised:


And here's more of an outline of the daily humiliations that Palestinians are subjected to just by being unfortunate enough to be living in the area desired by the Jewish State:
"On 12 January 2006 Israeli leaders officially announced the isolation of the Jordan Valley from the rest of the West Bank, dropping the status of the Jordan Valley from final status negotiations. Furthermore, Israel continues its escalation of military procedures in the area by:

* Imposing strict military procedures on areas inhabited by Palestinians, such as placing watch towers at the entrances of Jordan Valley villages and along Road 90, setting up 24-hour military routes, breaking into villages and houses and imposing regular and continuous curfews;

* Preventing landowners, whose IDs do not show a Jordan Valley residential address, from reaching their lands, resulting in loss of sources of income and making it easier for Israel to confiscate their land under Israel’s "absentee’ property law;

* Preventing Palestinian farmers from selling their produce to Israeli traders at Bardala-Bisan checkpoint (5km away), forcing them to travel 50km more to get to Al-Jalameh trade crossing, increasing the cost and making crops, especially fruits and vegetables, far more vulnerable to damage;

* Preventing traders from 1948 land from entering Palestinian villages or farms, based on the excuse of “security, creating problems with regard to quality, price and payments;

* Closing thousands of dunums of pastures and surrounding some with trenches and announcing others as closed military zones;

* Focusing the colonization project, which ultimately gives Israel complete control over the West Bank by continuing to build settlements along the eastern borders from the Dead Sea in the south to Bisan in the north, with 36 settlements and several military bases; consequently, Israel would control the northern, center and southern parts of the Jordan Valley, which is about 20 km to the west of the Jordan River, in addition to controlling the huge water basin in the area;

* Issuing military orders that prevent Palestinians who do not have a Jordan Valley address in their IDs from living there and arresting or expelling those whose ID does not show a change of address (additionally, Israeli authorities prevent any change of address in this area);

* Forcing Palestinians to deal with Israeli Civil Administration for their daily dealings;
* Restricting movement to and from Jericho by:
* Placing 7 checkpoints manned by Israeli soldiers around the city especially outlets to road 90.
* Surrounding Jericho with a trench: 30km long, 2m deep, 2-5m wide.
* Closing all entrances/ exits to Jericho by roadblocks permanently and controlling movement through two permanent checkpoints.
* Stopping coordination with the Palestinian Civil Coordination Office in Jericho.
* Invading Jericho, resulting in killings and arrests of many Palestinians
* Demolishing and destroying public buildings by curettage and air strikes.
* Preventing Palestinian vehicles and tourist guides from moving out of Jericho towards the Dead
Sea."

It does not end there either. Along with the land, Israel has made agriculture extremely difficult to maintain, which provides for up to 35% of total produce; the water resources has been isolated from Palestinian use, which settlers consume six times more water than Palestinians; tourism is also affected by policies of closures and destruction of tourist sites; and there is no sewage network available for the Palestinians. In fact, "[T]he location—between Fasayel and south of Al-Jiftlik—was strategically selected because of the direction the wind would blow the smell to avoid the settlements." Poisoning them is also an option.

These may not be news to many, but it is just another example of how difficult the occupation is getting. Every day is another attempt to displace the rightful owners of the land, so the harsh policies have to be in place in order for the usurpation to be complete.

Israel is willing to give the bare minimum in order to get what they want. The occupation is something they can live with as long as they are able to appropriate more Palestinian land.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Norman Finkelstein resigns at DePaul

An statement was released by DePaul University regarding Professor Finkelstein's final status, including one from Finkelstein himself. (Courtesy of Jews Sans Frontieres)

Joint statement of Norman Finkelstein and DePaul University on their tenure controversy and its resolution


Norman Finkelstein and DePaul University issued the following statement today in connection with the resolution of their dispute over the University's denial of tenure to Professor Finkelstein. Except for this statement there will be no public comment regarding the resolution of our controversy or the terms of our agreement.

From Professor Finkelstein: I came to DePaul University in 2001 and was put on a tenure-track position in 2003. To get tenure I had to demonstrate a credible record as a teacher, scholar, and citizen of the university. During my six year stint at DePaul I consistently received among the highest student evaluations in my department. I have published five books to critical acclaim from leading scholars, and they have been translated into 46 foreign editions. I have been recognized as a public intellectual at many of the leading universities in the United States and Europe and have become an internationally recognized scholar in my academic specialties. Based on this record, I should have received tenure. Indeed, after extensive scrutiny of my academic credentials, my department voted overwhelmingly to tenure me as did the college-level tenure committee, which voted unanimously in my favor. The only inference that I can draw is that I was denied tenure due to external pressures climaxing in a national hysteria that tainted the tenure process. The outpouring of support for me after the tenure denial from among the most respected scholars in the world buttresses this conclusion.

Although DePaul's decision to deny me tenure was a bitter blow, I would be remiss in my responsibilities if I did not also acknowledge DePaul's honorable role of providing a scholarly haven for me the past six years. It is a fact, and I would want to acknowledge it, that the DePaul administration kept me on its faculty despite overwhelming external pressures. It is also a fact that my professional colleagues displayed rare rectitude in steadfastly supporting me. It is also a fact that DePaul students rose to dazzling spiritual heights in my defense that should be the envy of and an example for every university in the United States. I will miss them.


It is now time for me to move on and hopefully find new ways to fulfill my own mission in life of making this world a slightly better place on leaving it than when I entered it.


From DePaul: Today we have reached a resolution of our dispute with Professor Norman Finkelstein. As a part of that resolution he has agreed to resign effective immediately. With this issue behind us, we can once again turn our full attention and energy to discharging our most important duty: the education of DePaul students, who have placed in us their trust and faith.

Granting tenure is a guarantee of lifetime employment. DePaul's standards for tenure are demonstrated and sustainable excellence in teaching and scholarship as well as meaningful service to the University. Every DePaul faculty member seeking tenure is evaluated by the same standards: it is an evaluation of faculty conducted by
faculty.

Throughout the tenure process, our faculty ensured that the established standards for tenure were their only consideration. Upon receiving the recommendations from the lower level faculty committees, the University Board on Promotion and Tenure - DePaul's highest academic committee - voted to deny Professor Finkelstein tenure, and the President of DePaul accepted that vote. We understand that Professor Finkelstein and his supporters disagree with the University Board on Promotion and Tenure's conclusion that he did not meet the requirements for tenure. The system is designed to give every applicant the same opportunity to achieve tenure, and has proven to be fair and effective. In every tenure case, the final decision is one of balancing the various arguments for and against tenure.


Professor Finkelstein has expressed the view that he should have been granted tenure and that third parties external to the University influenced DePaul in denying tenure. That is not so. Over the past several months, there has been considerable outside interest about the tenure decision. This attention was unwelcome and inappropriate. In the end, however, it had absolutely no impact on either the process or the final outcome.

Professor Finkelstein is a prolific scholar and an outstanding teacher. The University thanks him for his contributions and service.


Both parties are satisfied with the resolution of their dispute and wish each other well in their future endeavors.


Media Contact: Denise Mattson, (312)362-6225

It is definitely a blow to acadamia throughout the United States over this tenure keffafle, and quite possibly is a warning to institutions north of the 49th parallel that being a proponent of Palestinian political rights, or an ardent critic of Israeli policies is one that could not only threaten your tenureship, but also even your job at a private institution. While it is sad to see Professor Finkelstein be the one on the losing end here, it is perhaps what is best for both parties to attempt to get this behind them and move on to what they do best: teach. There may have been no other outcome since the denial of tenure, as the pressure may have broken DePaul's Board. And despite all their gloss, "that third parties external to the University influenced DePaul in denying tenure" was untrue, I don't believe anyone following this case closely is buying the sophistry. Professor Finkelstein has powerful enemies, and they have not let this little "symoblic" gesture of granting tenure to Finkelstein slip by.

Even though Norman Finkelstein was very reluctant to grapple with the whole issue, his students and some professors at the University has stood beside him knowing that this decision is not one that should be taking lying down. And nor should it be: precedence is a scary thought when groundbreaking rules are set for the future to be molded into. Akin to the ghastly illegal escapades of pre-emptive wars that could be in the hands of what could be the lamest duck of Presidents, we have the freedom of academics being severely threatened now. Mossad and Khalidi can be a testament in the past; now Finkelstein is another one to be gunned down by the Lobby and Campus Watchers. In a world that is Israeli-centred, the only view tolerated is one that is to their liking, whether you are a scholar or not. Your job is on the line, so you better toe the line and be spat out into the unemployment line along with the rest of the lynched.

They may have won the battle, but if Walt and Mearsheimer continue to press the issue of the Lobby to be newsworthy and remain unwaivered in the challenges that has claimed so many before them, then maybe the bubble could be burst that begun last year thanks to former President Jimmy Carter. Finkelstein may have left, but the fight rages on, possibly even moreso thanks to the denial of his tenureship and his dismissal from DePaul. It is hard to imagine such a ruckus if Dershowitz and his ilk had left the process to DePaul itself but now they have only provided more overt evidence that they have power to be reckoned with.

"The least I could hope for is to leave DePaul with my head up high and my reputation intact." We can't say much about the Board at DePaul or those "external pressures" though.