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Should Israel Teach the Holocaust Less?

6:52 am in Uncategorized by David Swanson

Humans almost invariably imagine humans to be far more imaginative and original than they are. But most of our ideas come from (often imperfect and improvised) imitation. And even more powerful than our tendency to imitate is our inability to refrain from imitating, to shake an idea out of our heads once it’s there, to “not think of an elephant.”

An Israeli High School

Does an emphasis on teaching the holocaust lead to Israel’s violence?

Anthropologists have found cultures whose members cannot conceive of killing. “Why won’t you shoot an arrow at those slave raiders?” “Because it would kill them.”

In Western culture, children hear of killing in fairy tales, cartoons, Harry Potter books, video games, the TV news, the newspaper, the games played in the park. It’s everywhere. Usually it’s frowned upon, although often a distinction is made between bad killing by bad guys and good killing by good guys, or inexplicable random killing and killing justified and sanctified by bitter revenge.

But even when a behavior is frowned upon, the listener or viewer has now heard of that behavior. There have been studies of children’s responses to stories and television dramas in which fictional children misbehave for three-quarters of the episode and then learn an important moral lesson at the end. Guess what? Kids don’t retroactively view the whole story as a package and wipe the bad behavior out of their minds. Instead they display a tendency to try out the behavior demonstrated to them in so many of the isolated moments that they lived while watching or listening to the story.

Humans also almost invariably imagine humans to be far kinder and far more selfless than they are. Most of us very much want others to be kind to us, and we try our best to be kind to others. So, when we see behaviors and institutions that cause horrendous suffering, we like to imagine there is a rational cause, a greater good, or that the explanation is incompetence or stupidity — anything other than the most obvious explanation: vicious, evil sadism.

We are often encouraged to picture vicious cruelty and irrational evil in certain foreign groups of humans. But usually this perspective is intended to help us avoid seeing cruelty in those who are supposedly like ourselves.

These thoughts arise as I’m confronted by the polling showing that 95% of Israelis deem the slaughter of Gazans to be just, and the realization that for many in Israel “just” is a rather disgusting euphemism for “satisfyingly sadistic.” People are sitting on hills watching the missiles hit the homes, some of them telling cameras they want everyone killed, and then explaining that their thoughts are “a little bit fascist.”

This week we’ll be remembering Harry Truman’s bombing of Japan with nuclear weapons, and we’ll be told that he must have believed those acts of mass murder would help end the war, even though the evidence shows he knew otherwise. Truman had earlier advocated aiding the Russians or the Germans, whoever was losing, so that as many people as possible would die, he said. Top U.S. military officials wanted Japan cleansed of all human life. The most likely explanation for the nukes, namely that Truman viewed killing lots of Japanese as an advantage to be weighed along with impressing the Russians and so forth, is too ugly, so we turn away. We even have to turn away from his own statement on the occasion, which justified the bombing in terms of revenge, not in terms of ending the war.

Also this week we’ll mark 50 years since the Gulf of Tonkin fraud. We like to imagine such incidents, even when they result in the deaths of 4 million foreigners, as misunderstandings. But during the course of the savagery that followed, how was progress gauged? That’s right: by body counts.

Examples of evil policies, in one’s own or other parts of the world, flood in the moment you begin to look for them. The evidence is clear that locking kids up in juvenile prisons makes them more likely, not less likely, to grow into criminals. But we just go on locking them up for other motives we don’t care to examine too closely. We’ve learned what it’s impolite to mention. Support for wars in Afghanistan or Iraq is discussed on television in terms of “strategic interests” and other such blather, but the counter-demonstrators across the street from a peace rally sometimes have different desires, including the death of foreigners — and of the peace activists with them.

Courageous peace activists in Israel have been facing hostile counter-demonstrations from those in their society who have moved in a different direction.

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Two Kinds of Countries: Israel’s Dangerous Path

7:31 am in Uncategorized by David Swanson

There are two kinds of countries or societies or places to live. In the first kind, decent, fair, kind, and respectful treatment of every person takes precedent over anyone’s preferences for how a culture changes or how much effort is expended trying to slow the change of a culture, or which cultures mix with each other, or which groups intermarry. In this first type of society — admittedly a nonexistent ideal — people identify with humanity and welcome any member of humanity into their group of associates, their neighborhood, and their family.  Desire to keep some corner of the globe inhabited by people with a particular skin color or language isn’t just slightly outweighed by diligent observance of individuals’ rights.  Instead, such sectarian  or tribal desire doesn’t exist. And its absence leaves room for concern over war, environmental destruction, hunger, poor healthcare, illiteracy, and all sorts of problems not involving the exclusion of some people from a group.

In the second kind of society, importance is placed on creating or maintaining a population that is exclusively or predominantly of a particular appearance or background, religion or ethnicity.  Such a society strays, mildly or moderately or extremely, from democracy, as its demographic project conflicts with people’s rights to immigrate, marry, practice or abandon religion, and speak and behave as they choose. Valuing some types of people over others leads toward anti-democratic positions and leaves a society open to easy manipulation through fear and prejudice, distracting energy away from real problems that might appear harder to solve. In extreme cases, this type of society becomes fascist. Hatred and violence become admirable. Lynchings and apartheid and Jim Crow and mass incarceration and sadistic punishment follow.

The nation of Israel claims to be both a democracy and a Jewish state. It can’t be. Similarly, the United States cannot be a Christian nation or a white nation and a democracy.  A poll in Israel in 2012 asked, “Israel is defined as both a Jewish and democratic state. Which is more important to you?” 34% said Jewish, while 22% said democratic, but 42% said that both were equally important.  People in that 42% misunderstand the necessity to choose, as they no doubt do choose every day.  The same poll asked, “Speakers should be prohibited from harshly criticizing the State of Israel in public … ,” and 20% agreed, while another 29% strongly agreed.  Hmmm, is that the democracy or the Jewish state talking?

Max Blumenthal’s new book, Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel, is 400 pages of fascistic horrors, a dystopian vision of where the United States or most any other country could go and where Israel has gone.  Of course, Israel uses World War II to justify its outrages, just as the United States uses World War II to justify its military presence in 177 other nations.  The United States arms Israel and protects it from legal consequences for crimes.  U.S. companies and individuals and universities and churches fund and take part in Israel’s brutality. U.S. Congress members listen to Israeli war propaganda as attentively as do Knesset members. So, there are perhaps extra reasons for those of us in the U.S. to pay particular attention to Israel’s fascistic tendencies.

And what do these consist of? Well, permanent war, permanent crisis, fear-mongering, racism, legal and popularly imposed segregation and harassment. False beliefs about past and current crimes of the Israeli military are so openly willful that Israel has a contest show on television for amateur propagandists. Crimes by soldiers or civilians go unpunished or lightly punished when the victims are non-Jews.  These crimes include lynchings, assaults, torture, harassment, humiliation, eviction, home destruction, job discrimination, and constant traumatization. Soldiers always nearby.  Drones always buzzing overhead. Artificial sewage called Skunk sprayed through open windows of homes.  The star of David painted on homes and businesses destroyed to intimidate non-Jews. Crowds gathered on a hill to watch and cheer for the bombing of Gaza like Washingtonians picnicking in Manassas to watch a civil war slaughter. Israeli soldiers openly describing themselves as fascists. Trials with pre-determined outcomes. Incarceration of masses of people in concentration camps.

Blumenthal’s portrait of Israel is a partial one to be sure, but a terrifying one nonetheless.  He contrasts the relentless hatred and abuse he documents with brief moments of imagining something else.  At a restaurant in Haifa, writes Blumenthal, “seated at a long table in Fatoush’s outdoor garden, listening to a mélange of English, Arabic, and Hebrew amid a crowd of Palestinians, Jews, and internationals, it is sometimes possible to imagine the kind of place Israel could be if it ever managed to shed its settler-colonial armor.”

That place is not a Jewish democracy or a white democracy or a European democracy. That place is a democracy, and a democracy is a place where you’re happy for your son or daughter to get married because they’re in love, not because of the ethnicity of their beloved. Read the rest of this entry →

An Endless “Peace Process” for Palestine

1:10 am in Uncategorized by David Swanson

The United States balances its endless war of terrorism with the institution of an endless “peace process” for Palestine, a process valuable for its peaceyness and interminability.

Josh Ruebner’s new book, Shattered Hopes: The Failure of Obama’s Middle East Peace Process, could just as easily have been called “Fulfilled Expectations: The Success of Obama’s Middle East Peace Process,” depending on one’s perspective.  Its story could be summarized: Obama’s performance in this area has been of a piece with his performance in every other.  Some people became very hopeful about his rhetoric and then very dejected about his actions.

In this case, among those getting hopeful were Palestinian negotiators.  But they didn’t just grow depressed and despondent.  They felt no obligation to behave like Democratic voters.  They swore off the Hopium and went to work on an international approach through the United Nations that has begun to pay off.

Obama began his “peace process” efforts “naively unprepared for the intensity of the pushback from Israel and its supporters in the United States to its demand that Israel freeze settlements,” Ruebner writes.  But evidence of Obama’s mental state is hard to pin down, and I’m not sure of the relevance.  Whether Obama began with naive good intentions or the same cynicism that he was, by all accounts, fully immersed in by his second or third year in office, the important point remains the same.  As Ruebner explains, Obama employs an all-carrots / no-sticks approach with Israel that is doomed to failure.

In fact, suggesting that the White House cease providing Israel with ever more weaponry and/or cease providing Israel with ever more protection from justice following its crimes is liable to get Ruebner himself denounced as naive, along with the rest of us who think he’s right.  Obama’s fundamental problem is not one of naiveté, but of “seriousness,” of upholding the solemn seriousness of willful belief in a respectable but doomed approach.  If Obama was surprised that Palestinian negotiators didn’t play along with this the way U.S. “journalists” do, that would suggest he had internalized the official point of view.  Whether that is naiveté or deep cynicism may be in the eye of the beholder.

Ruebner provides the chronological play-by-play from Obama’s first happy shiny moves in office to his familiar flailing about in search of propaganda that would continue to hold up year after year.  And Ruebner includes analysis of what activists were up to along the way.

In fact, Ruebner begins with Obama’s campaign promises, which — upon close inspection — prove, as with every other issue, to have been much closer to the President’s abysmal performance than to the glowing image people recall of his early hope-and-changey self.  Obama campaigned placing all blame on Palestinians, supporting Jerusalem as Israel’s undivided capital, backing resolutions and legislation in the Senate imposing sanctions on Palestinians as punishment for having held an open election, and supporting Israel during its wars on Lebanon and Gaza.  Obama’s speeches and his website made his position clear to those inclined to see it.  Boycott campaigns against the Israeli government were, according to him, “bigoted.”

As with every other area, on peace in Palestine, Obama’s disastrous approach could also have been read clearly from his selection of individuals to run his foreign policy team.  During the transition period prior to his inauguration, Obama took positions on many foreign policy matters, but when it came to the ongoing Israeli assault on Gaza, he declared himself unable to speak prior to becoming president.

Watching the sequence of events play out post-inauguration is painful.  Obama urges an end to Israel’s expansion of settlements.  Netanyahu suggests that Obama, with all due respect, stick his proposals where the sun don’t shine.  But Netanyahu backs “statehood” (someday, with no rights or power or independence or actual — you know — statehood) for Palestinians, but proceeds to rapidly expand settlements, effectively eliminating territory on which to create any state.  Obama announces that victory has come and help is on the way!

Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave up on freezing settlements and announced that slowing the pace of the expansion would be an “unprecedented” accomplishment — a claim that was less credible to people who had lived and suffered through many such claims before.  As reward for the same lawless abuses as always, Israel received from the Obama administration more weaponry than ever, and a veto of a resolution at the United Nations opposing more Israeli settlements.

Ruebner rightly concludes:

“Obama’s failure to achieve Israeli-Palestinian peace resulted not only from his unwillingness to go to the mat with the Israel lobby over the issue of fully freezing Israeli settlements, not only from the scattershot, frenetic lurching of his policy initiatives thereafter.  Obama also foundered because his approach relied solely on providing Israel with carrots.  With the trivial exceptions of denying Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu photo-ops at the White House on a few occasions and reportedly forcing him to wait for several hours before a meeting, Obama never brandished the proverbial stick.  But these personal insults did nothing to create incentives for Israel to cease openly and brazenly defying U.S. policy objectives.”

Hope is so much more popular than reality.  But Ruebner is full of hope.  He holds it out there in front of us.  All that’s required is a little actually useful action:

“[I]f the United States were to pull its backing for Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians, then Israeli intransigence would melt away in the historical blink of an eye, as it did when President Dwight Eisenhower terminated all U.S. aid programs to Israel after it invaded and occupied the Egyptian Sinai Peninsula in 1956.”

How do we get there?  Part of the answer, Ruebner persuasively suggests is Boycott-Divestment-and-Sanctions (BDS), a movement that is making great strides, including in changing the public discourse, altering the sorts of things that even U.S. politicians can get away with claiming with a straight face. Read the rest of this entry →

How to Criticize the Israeli Government

10:40 pm in Uncategorized by David Swanson

The other day I tweeted an article that reported on a rather horrible story.  It seems that the Israeli government gives African women drugs that keep them from reproducing.

Cover of Our Hash Logic

Our Harsh Logic: Israeli Soldiers' Testimonies from the Occupied Territories 2000-2010

I think if this story had been about Canada, Korea, France, or Brazil people would have read it.  The conversation would not have immediately shifted to my alleged hatred of all Canadians.

Since it was about Israel, some people chose to announce that I hated Jews.  Such a response is not only baseless and nonsensical, but it shifts attention to me and away from the story, which in the end isn’t seen.

Now, I don’t know any more about that story than what I’ve read at that website (the website of a Jewish organization, as it happens).  The report may be accurate or not.  Israeli newspapers seem to report it as fully established, neither doubted nor challenged.  The story at least seems to merit investigation.  The point is that nobody told me it was inaccurate (news that would have delighted me).  Instead, they told me that I was anti-Semitic.

This happens with the United States too, of course.  If I criticize the U.S. government a few thousand times, and if the president is a Republican, I’ll hear from some disturbed individual who wants to recommend that I leave the country since I hate it so much.  Why one would try so hard to reform the government of a country he hated is never really explained.

With Israel, such nonsense is triggered much more swiftly.  I haven’t made a career of trying to reform Israel’s government.  All I had to do was tweet a link to an article.  Those who have gone to greater lengths to criticize the crimes of the government of Israel have, in some cases, seen themselves censored, vilified, and their careers derailed.  Many persevere despite this climate.

There is, however, a way to speak openly and honestly about Israel.  Not everyone can do it.  The trick is to be a veteran of the Israeli military.  This approach helps people whose “service” was years ago.  And it helps those whose memories of what they did “for their country” are very fresh.  Not only does such status shield one from a great deal of criticism, but it provides a substantive advantage in being able to report first-hand on what the Israeli military has been doing.  Just as Veterans For Peace are able to speak with some legitimate authority in the United States against the use of war (see Winter Soldier now if you haven’t), members of the Israeli military, and those who recently were Israeli soldiers, command attention.

A new book called Our Harsh Logic: Israeli Soldiers’ Testimonies from the Occupied Territories 2000-2010, collects the accounts of numerous Israeli soldiers, although withholding their names.  Videos of some of the soldiers telling their stories can be seen online.  The online database sorts the stories into categories: › AbuseAssassinationsBriberyCheckpointsConfirmation of killingCurfews/closuresDeathsDestruction of propertyHuman shieldsHumiliationLootingLoss of livelihoodRoutineRules of engagementSettlementsSettler violence.

“Supporting the troops” is usually understood to exclude listening to the troops.  But these troops should be listened to.  Their experiences are very similar to those of the U.S. and coalition troops in Iraq.  But their war has lasted much, much longer, and with no end in sight.  Their testimonies make clear that their tactics do not serve the supposed purpose of reducing violence, and are in fact not intended to do any such thing.  The bizarre ordeals imposed on the soldiers outdo Kafka and pale in comparison to the nightmares imposed on Palestinians.  The driving forces are quite clearly racism, sadism, imperialism, and excessive obedience.

A very few of the many samples I was tempted to provide:

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Davids Oppose Israel’s Use of King David

3:28 am in Uncategorized by David Swanson

One tool being employed by the government of Israel to evict Palestinian people from their homes is the claim that doing so will allow archaeologists to discover historical evidence of the existence of King David.  Such evidence is intended to strengthen the claim that Jews are returning to land occupied by Jews millennia ago.

Yet the living people moved off their land by Israeli expansion are denied any right to return to it.

The King David in the book of Samuel is greedy and cruel, thoughtless of the pain he causes others.  David is punished for his actions, but appears to learn nothing from the punishment.  The lesson that Nathan attempts to teach David, to condemn evil actions in oneself that one would condemn in others, is a difficult lesson to learn.

We encourage the government of Israel to try.

 

David R. Applebaum, professor, USA

David Bacon, photographer, USA

David Barkham, film-production-designer, South Africa

David Becker, environmental-lawyer, USA

David ben Or, computer-scientist, USA

David J. Biviano, educator, USA

David Berrian, videographer, USA

Dave Bleakney, educator, Canada

David Booth, software-architect, USA

David Brast, appliance-repairer, USA

David Brookbank, social-worker, USA

David B. Buehrens, editor, USA

David Camfield, professor, Canada

David Cobb, activist, USA

David Cole, researcher, USA

David Cone, webmaster, USA

David Crowningshield, consultant, USA

David Earnhardt, filmmaker, USA

David Ecklein, computer-consultant, USA

David Finke, printer, USA

David Finkelstein, filmmaker, USA

David Graeber, anthropologist, UK

David Scott Halenda, rambler, USA

David Hall, MD, physician

David Hartsough, activist, USA

David J. Heap, professor, Canada

David R. Heap, actor, Ireland

David Janzen, activist, Canada

David Klein, professor, USA

David Korten, author, USA

David Kubiak, journalist, Japan

David Lambert, Activist, USA

David Lerner, PR guy, USA

David Levy, computer-consultant, USA

David Lindorff, reporter, USA

David Lippman, songwriter, USA

David Lloyd, Professor, USA

David L. Mandel, attorney, USA

David Marsh, broadcaster, USA

David R. Marshall, guitarist, USA

David McGiffen, atheist, UK

David McNally, professor, Canada

David McReynolds, activist, USA
David Meserve, activist, USA

David J. Milne, peace-and-justice-worker, Canada

David Morris, musician, USA

David Neff, manager (retired), USA

David Norris, city council member, USA

David I. Robinson, professor, USA

David Rovics, musician, USA

David Rubinson, activist, France

David Schaich, physicist, USA

David Schott, partnership-coordinator, USA

David Shelton, entrepreneur, USA

David Shewan, Environmentalist, UK

David Eric Shur, salesman, USA

David A. Smith, sociologist, USA

David Solnit, author, USA

David Soumis, human, USA

David Stark, executive director, USA

David Swanson, author, USA

David Tykulsker, attorney, USA

David Underhill, descendant, USA

David Weiss, environmental-activist, USA

David Welsh, labor organizer, USA

David Witham, educator (retired), USA

David Zaworski, pastor, USA

 

If your name is David, please add your name and identification at http://davidswanson.org/davids

Iran, Israel, and Existential Threats

5:13 am in Uncategorized by David Swanson

Drawing of a laughing Ahmadinejad

Ahmdinejad: Axis of evil? (Image: Shahram Sharif / Flickr)

I had dinner with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Tuesday night in New York, along with dozens of other peace activists.  This is an annual event, and I’ve taken part in it more than once.

There’s some divergence of opinion on Ahmadinejad.  The New York Daily News on Tuesday called Ahmadinejad “a pure evil crackpot Holocaust denier who wants to see Israel obliterated from planet Earth.”

In contrast, a Jewish lawyer addressing the dinner gathering said that a friend had told him not to come on Yom Kippur when he should be home atoning for his sins.  “I’m going to go,” he said he told his friend, “and atone for the sins of Israel.”

The media tells us that Ahmadinejad is “an existential threat to Israel.”  Let’s consider that.

I start from the assumption that an existential threat to a human being is a greater concern than an existential threat to a government.  Denying a past existential threat to millions of human beings is offensive and dangerous.  Creating a new existential threat to millions of human beings is worse — is, in fact, the danger we try to avoid by properly remembering the past.

President Barack Obama said on Tuesday that no speech, not even a video attacking Islam, should be censored, and no speech can justify violence.  But the absence of speech, in Obama’s view, can justify war.  The Democratic Party Platform calls for war on Iran if Iran does not cease violating the nonproliferation treaty.  Obama declared on Tuesday that if Iran were to develop nuclear weapons it would destroy the nonproliferation treaty.  It would start a nuclear arms race.  Iran would be, or rather it already is, a threat to Israel’s existence.

But how exactly can Iran stop violating a treaty that it is not violating?  What can it say to prove it does not have what even the U.S. National Intelligence Estimates say it does not have and is not working to produce?  How can Iran prove a negative?  Many of us still recall that impossible task being assigned to Iraq in 2003.
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Beyond the Two-State Solution

8:22 am in Uncategorized by David Swanson

Fast forward to 2048. The world is greatly changed, and in this year China invades France, occupying Paris and a good portion of the nation. The French are massacred, evicted, raped, chased, and terrorized. Towns are destroyed. Every town and village has its name changed to a Chinese name, and its prior existence erased from any history books produced from then forward.

Portions of France not yet under Chinese control shelter refugees by the millions. French citizens captured in their homes are held as “prisoners of war” and freed to become refugees in distant parts of France. China changes the name of its occupied areas from France to Chance. The remaining parts of the country are just referred to by their local (Chinese) names, as if they were part of no nation at all and yet somehow Chinese in the end.

For years, the Chancian government continues to expand and to assault the French people. With more and more immigrants from China, Chance becomes an apartheid nation with lesser rights for any French within it. In 2067, Chance launches a major assault, seizing control of much of what’s left of France. The newly seized areas come to be called “the occupied territories,” in contrast to the already occupied territories, which are called simply Chance.

As the years pass, Chancian children are born and raised in Chance who had nothing to do with the original invasion. In fact, they are never even told about it. At most they are taught that Chance was founded in 2048 when the French voluntarily left and the true border of the Chancian nation was drawn on a map with a purple line. That purple line is also called “the line of 2067,” even though it was drawn in 2048. Outside of that purple line are the occupied territories and the few towns and villages left to the French.

Liberals in Chance propose giving “the occupied territories” back to the French and restoring the Purple Line, while conservatives propose eliminating the last French descendant from Europe. Those are the extremes of the political debate in Chance. Everything within the Purple Line is universally agreed upon as properly Chancian. The agreement runs so deep that the question is never raised at all. The original sin in Chancian history is dated to 2067 when the Chancian democracy strayed outside its natural borders and violated the rights of others for the first time.

But, of course, Chancian families are raised through the years outside as well as inside the Purple Line, a line that had never been agreed to in any way by the French, a line that would deny many of them the right to return to their homes.

The French want reparations and restoration. They date the catastrophe of their nation to 2048. The Chancians are willing to talk about undoing anything they’ve done since 2067, including through the creation of a French nation. The French nation would include several geographically separated bits of territory in northern and southern parts of the former France. It would remain subject to the rule of Chance on major questions. And the new France would have to agree to the rightful existence of Chance inside the Purple Line — or the Purple Line plus a little.

So, a lengthy and seemingly endless process is created called the Peace Process. The French show up wanting to talk about 2048. The Chancians show up willing to talk only about 2067. The two sides never hear each other. There is never any peace. The Chancians announce at the end of each failed meeting that they “have no partner” with which to negotiate peace. Hostilities and a permanent state of emergency prevail, with French people within Chance and Chance’s “occupied territories” deprived of basic rights, imprisoned, tortured, and assaulted. The other nations of Europe join with the French in resenting the behavior of Chance. The nations of Asia, however, celebrate Chance as “the only democracy in Europe.”

***

There are several differences between this story and the story of Israel and Palestine. Some of the differences are trivial: The dates are 1948 and 1967, not 2048 and 2067. The line is green rather than purple. Some of the differences are significant: The Jewish culture always had ties to Israel. The religious element allows for an intermediary class of citizens consisting of Arab Jews. Et cetera.

But morally, the differences seem only to obscure what matters. The state of Israel was created through ethnic cleansing. It was created as a state to privilege one religious group, something that states should not do. But two wrongs cannot make a right. Evicting Israelis from their homes, inside or outside the Green Line, is not a solution.

Yehouda Shenhav’s new book, “Beyond the Two State Solution: A Jewish Political Essay” tells the story above, but straightforwardly, without the analogy. The language of the Green Line, Shenhav writes, is “a language through which Israel is described as a liberal democracy, while the Arabs (and Mizrachi and religious Jews to boot) are described as inferior and undemocratic. This is the language of someone who came to the Middle East for a short while, not to integrate but to exist here as a guest. The position it expresses is not only immoral with regard to the Palestinians, but also potentially disastrous for the Jews. It commits them to life in a ghetto with a limited idea of democracy based on racial laws and a perpetual state of emergency.”

Shenhav wants to restore awareness of 1948, but not to try to reconstruct the world of 1948. He does not propose eliminating Israel. He does not propose uniting the people of Israel and Palestine into a single nation.

He does propose allowing Palestinians to return to their homes in a manner least disturbing to Israelis already living in those villages or buildings, including with compensation paid to residents evicted by an agreement with returning refugees. He proposes a bilingual society, with a fragmented political federation. He expects this to be very difficult, while preferable to any other approach. And he rightly sees the first step as recovering honesty with regards to not-so-distant history.

Israel Upside Down

1:05 pm in Uncategorized by David Swanson

Miko Peled has written a perfect book for people, including Israelis, who have always heard that the Israeli government can do no wrong.  The General’s Son: Journey of an Israeli in Palestine is partly an account of the author’s father’s life.  His father, Matti Peled, was an Israeli general, war hero, military governor of the Gaza strip, member of Parliament, professor, and columnist who turned against the occupation of Palestine.

Author Miko Peled

Author Miko Peled (Photo: Salaam Shalom / Flickr).

Largely, however, the book is an account of Miko Peled’s own life, and the evolution of his thinking about Israel. This autobiographical narrative, by a very likable and moral author, takes us step by step from unquestioning Zionism to condemnation of Israeli war crimes.  For those who would condemn the morality of this intellectual journey, there are two obvious responses.  First, read it.

Second, the false accusations of hating Israel that often result from any sensible proposal to protect Israel from its government cannot easily apply here, by the accusers’ own logic, because the author dutifully performed his Israeli military service, and his father killed a huge number of people in the name of Israel.

Such shallow prejudices have no place in this book, which respectfully and non-confrontationally persuades the reader gradually, through the course of a self-questioning life’s story, that much of what is commonly assumed about Israel is in fact the reverse of reality.  The Peled family’s military history is of less interest as superficial immunity from false accusations, than as a starting place for an argument that runs its course from the necessity of brutalizing Palestinians all the way through to the necessity of Israelis and Palestinians living together as friends and family.

Miko Peled grew up in Jerusalem believing that Israel had always been a little David struggling honorably against an Arab Goliath.  His grandfather, Avraham Katznelson, had been an important figure in the founding of Israel.  His father, Matti Peled, had in 1948 fought in either the War of Independence or the Catastrophe, depending on which label one prefers.   Matti Peled was also a leader of the Six-Day War of 1967, when Miko — born in 1961 — was a child.

But Matti Peled, in 1967, had believed he was leading troops into a limited war with Egypt, not a war to conquer territory.  At the first weekly meeting of the General Staff after the war, Matti Peled proposed that the Palestinians be given their own state.  He said that occupying the West Bank, Gaza, and the Golan Heights would endanger, rather than protect, an Israeli democracy, that it would in fact turn Israel into a brutal occupying power.  The other generals claimed that the Palestinians would never settle for the West Bank and Gaza.  So, Peled produced evidence that the vast majority of Palestinians would indeed accept that deal.  Chief of Staff Yitzhak Rabin told Peled to let it go.

Matti Peled began writing a column in the Israeli newspaper Ma’ariv in 1967.  He immediately rejected the popular propaganda which held that Israel had been viciously attacked.  On the contrary, he wrote, Israel had seen an opportunity to damage the Egyptian military and had seized it.  Peled proposed allowing the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza to hold elections, and denounced the common pretense that Israel could not negotiate with the Palestinians because they had no representatives.  After all, Peled pointed out, Israel was forbidding them from electing representatives.

Earlier this year, 2012, former U.S. representative and current buffoon Newt Gingrich claimed that Palestinians are “an invented people.”  When Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir made this claim in 1973, Matti Peled wrote:

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The 10 Most Excellent Reasons to Attack Iran

8:57 pm in Uncategorized by David Swanson

10

(image via freefoto.com, creative commons license)

1. Iran has threatened to fight back if attacked, and that’s a war crime. War crimes must be punished.

2. My television says Iran has nukes.  I’m sure it’s true this time.  Just like with North Korea.  I’m sure they’re next.  We only bomb places that really truly have nukes and are in the Axis of Evil.  Except Iraq, which was different.

3. Iraq didn’t go so badly. Considering how lousy its government is, the place is better off with so many people having left or died.  Really, that one couldn’t have worked out better if we’d planned it.

4. When we threaten to cut off Iran’s oil, Iran threatens to cut off Iran’s oil, which is absolutely intolerable.  What would we do without that oil? And what good is buying it if they want to sell it?

5. Iran was secretly behind 9-11. I read it online. And if it wasn’t, that’s worse. Iran hasn’t attacked another nation in centuries, which means its next attack is guaranteed to be coming very soon.

6. Iranians are religious nuts, unlike Israelis and Americans.  Most Israelis don’t want to attack Iran, but the Holy Israeli government does. To oppose that decision would be to sin against God.

7. Iranians are so stupid that when we murder their scientists they try to hire a car dealer in Texas to hire a drug gang in Mexico to murder a Saudi ambassador in Washington, and then they don’t do it — just to make us look bad for catching them.

7. b. Oh, and stupid people should be bombed.  They’re not civilized.

8. War is good for the U.S. economy, and the Iranian economy too.  Troops stationed in Iran would buy stuff.  And women who survived the war would have more rights.  Like in Virginia.  We owe Iranians this after that little mishap in 1953.

9. This is the only way to unite the region.  Either we bomb Iran and it swears its eternal love to us.  Or, if necessary, we occupy Iran to liberate it like its neighbors.  Which shouldn’t take long.  Look how well Afghanistan is going already.

10. They won’t give our drone back.  Enough said.

At Stake in Egypt: Reading Gaza Mom

6:41 am in Uncategorized by David Swanson

The danger of permitting the Egyptians democracy, rather than replacing a dictator with his (and our) torturer lies, let us be honest, not in the possibility that Egyptian politics will approach the religiosity of our own Republican Party, and not in the possibility that the civil liberties we have helped deny Egyptians for decades won’t all be immediately established, and certainly not in the possibility that the Egyptians would commit collective suicide by attempting to attack the United States, but rather in the possibility that other peoples would be inspired to attempt self-rule as well, and — more directly — in the probability that Egypt would cease to uphold the collective punishment of the people of Gaza.

Gaza is about twice the size and has about twice the population of Washington, D.C. In DC the schools are lousy, the houses cost too much, there are too many guns, and there’s no corporate stooge like the rest of the United States has to misrepresent you in Congress. But if you are in Washington, D.C., and not in an actual prison, you are permitted to go to Maryland or Virginia or anywhere else you like. You can acquire a U.S. passport and travel abroad. You can find just about any type of food or building material or medical supply. Injured children are generally taken to hospitals that have beds available.

There is airplane noise in DC, but it’s not the sonic boom of war planes flying low threatening to strike. While you may get mugged on the street, you can be pretty sure the street and its buildings will be there tomorrow. And when a handful of lunatics crash an airplane into the Pentagon across the river, millions of innocent people you’ve never seen have their lives destroyed or ended in response. If downtown DC were hit day after day with bombs and white phosphorous and depleted uranium and cluster bombs, you can be pretty sure that there would be some sort of response, sane or otherwise. Such horrors would not be ignored.

The ideal remedy to the ignoring of Gaza, I think, would be if we had a writer and speaker who was from Gaza but also lived frequently right here in the Washington, D.C., area, someone who was a news reporter who could get the facts and report them, but also someone who could tell a human story of life as a Gazan, and someone up to speed on the most useful current forms of communication: a blogger, and a blogger whose best work had been excerpted and collected into a well-edited book. That would be ideal and is also Laila El-Haddad of http://gazamom.com and now of “Gaza Mom: Palestine, Politics, Parenting, and Everything in Between.”

When Emerson said that novels would eventually become autobiographies he grasped what blogs can now produce. Here is a collection of writings from the Gaza Mom blog from 2004 through 2010, covering a period of worsening hardship in Gaza that was launched with Israel’s supposed ending of the occupation. Ending an occupation while blockading entrance or exit from a small territory and murdering its people at will turns out not to be what most people envisioned as the ending of an occupation. El-Haddad tells this story with great skill and humanity, with neither overpowering bitterness nor the simulation of robotic indifference expected of corporate journalists. El-Haddad gives birth to a little boy and raises him in Gaza and the United States, and towards the end of the book gives birth to his little sister. This is, in fact, a book about parenting — which, like everything else, is unique for Gazans while still familiar to people everywhere.

El-Haddad’s husband is a Palestinian refugee, as are a large percentage of the world’s refugees, and he is not permitted into Gaza, so his wife and kids live in Maryland with him, he visiting his family in Lebanon and she hers in Gaza — or trying to. International travel is not simple for Gazans, whose citizenship anywhere is not widely recognized, and whose ability to enter their own country through Egypt is controlled by the top two long-term recipients of foreign U.S. “aid,” Israel and Egypt. El-Haddad’s little boy took his first steps while waiting weeks in Egypt to get into Gaza. On another occasion, they were not permitted out of Cairo’s airport and were forcibly sent back to the United States because Egypt was only permitting Gazans who had permanent residency status somewhere else to enter Gaza.

“Kafkan” is a word that El-Haddad uses, as everyone does, to describe the huge percentage of Gazans’ hours that is spent waiting, and waiting, and waiting. But the book that hers most brought to mind for me was Albert Camus’ “The Plague” which tells the story of a city closed off and dying because of a contagious disease. The lives of the people in that story may have taken inspiration from World War II’s occupied France but I think more closely resemble the lives of the people of Gaza today. There is also an element of the Italian film “Life Is Beautiful” in “Gaza Mom.” At one point she half-convinces her little boy that the bombing around them is popcorn popping.

El-Haddad records her reactions to events, often on a daily basis. On a couple of occasions I did not think those reactions were ideal. On one she writes of “Weepy Settler Syndrome” objecting to the media’s narrow focus on the point of view of Israeli settlers forced to abandon illegal settlements, excluding from the story the suffering of the people whom the settlers had displaced from their lands. But the deceptions of propaganda and the relative scales of suffering can be addressed without mocking the tears of human beings. On other occasions, as many people do, El-Haddad records encounters — including with bigoted Americans — and then runs through possible ideal things she could have said that didn’t come to her in the heat of the moment, and her inclinations seem pretty good to me. When her child asks whether the people who keep closing the border to Gaza are like “the bad guys” in stories, El-Haddad says yes, but to her credit she publishes a letter that she sends to the Israeli Minister of “Defense” asking him how she should have answered her son’s question. And late in the book (in a blog from 2008) El-Haddad discusses a growing interest in nonviolent resistance in Gaza and in Hamas.

I strongly recommend picking up this informative and entertaining book:
http://www.justworldbooks.com

And reading this blog:
http://www.gazamom.com

And joining El-Haddad at Busboys and Poets in DC today!
http://www.gazamom.com/2011/02/reading-busyboyspoets-feb-6

And watching this video of El-Haddad on GRIT tv:
http://www.gazamom.com/2011/01/lizzy-ratner-and-i-discuss-the-goldstone-…

And reading this excerpt of Naomi Klein’s introduction to a book about the Goldstone Report:
http://www.alternet.org/rights/149792/goldstone_report_details_a_massive…

And reading that report:
http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrcouncil/specialsession/9/factfind…

And considering what is really at stake in the efforts of the people of Egypt to take control of their government away from the gang of thugs our own nation has backed and funded for decades.