I’m not a fan of Bill Maher. His movie Religulous, left out how the nuttiness of some practitioners of one major religion, influence the politics of Israel, for instance. His reputation for being a mild misogynist is pretty firmly established. He’s somewhat of an Obamabot.
Back in 2010, he confronted Oliver Stone, when the latter was defending Palestinian rights under Israeli occupation:
Maher’s argument in the above case was effectively countered by Stone, who brings up AIPAC. Rachel Maddow sat on her thumbs throughout the whole exchange on Israel-Palestine. Maher’s problem in the exchange, like that of so many, is to obfuscate when it comes to individual Palestinian rights per se.
Yesterday on his show, Maher, defending Defense Secretary nominee Chuck Hagel, seemed upset about undue influence by people and organizations supporting Israel over U.S. policy making. The GOP being the case:
The two segments show possible signs of evolution by Maher in respect to the conventional narrative about that pesky little country.
In the preliminaries for Thursday’s U.N. General Assembly vote on granting Palestine the right to be called “Palestine” at several U.N. agencies, and to gain equal footing there with the Vatican, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice delivered a fairly short speech that I could have written for her.
If I had been asked to craft a 650-word U.N. speech for Rice that would meet every requirement of an AIPAC-approved document, it would have sounded remarkably like that delivered by the ambassador. Had former U.N. ambassador John Bolton delivered the speech, there would have been more inflammatory adjectives, but 97% of the speech would have been the same. Here’s what Rice said:
For decades, the United States has worked to help achieve a comprehensive end to the long and tragic Arab-Israeli conflict. We have always been clear that only through direct negotiations between the parties can the Palestinians and Israelis achieve the peace that both deserve: two states for two peoples, with a sovereign, viable and independent Palestine living side by side in peace and security with a Jewish and democratic Israel.
That remains our goal, and we therefore measure any proposed action against that clear yardstick: will it bring the parties closer to peace or push them further apart? Will it help Israelis and Palestinians return to negotiations or hinder their efforts to reach a mutually acceptable agreement? Today’s unfortunate and counterproductive resolution places further obstacles in the path to peace. That is why the United States voted against it.
The backers of today’s resolution say they seek a functioning, independent Palestinian state at peace with Israel. So do we.
But we have long been clear that the only way to establish such a Palestinian state and resolve all permanent-status issues is through the crucial, if painful, work of direct negotiations between the parties. This is not just a bedrock commitment of the United States. Israel and the Palestinians have repeatedly affirmed their own obligations under existing agreements to resolve all issues through direct negotiations, which have been endorsed frequently by the international community. The United States agrees—strongly.
Today’s grand pronouncements will soon fade. And the Palestinian people will wake up tomorrow and find that little about their lives has changed, save that the prospects of a durable peace have only receded.
The United States therefore calls upon both the parties to resume direct talks without preconditions on all the issues that divide them. And we pledge that the United States will be there to support the parties vigorously in such efforts.
The United States will continue to urge all parties to avoid any further provocative actions—in the region, in New York, or elsewhere.
We will continue to oppose firmly any and all unilateral actions in international bodies or treaties that circumvent or prejudge the very outcomes that can only be negotiated, including Palestinian statehood. And, we will continue to stand up to every effort that seeks to delegitimize Israel or undermine its security.
Progress toward a just and lasting two-state solution cannot be made by pressing a green voting button here in this hall. Nor does passing any resolution create a state where none indeed exists or change the reality on the ground.
For this reason, today’s vote should not be misconstrued by any as constituting eligibility for U.N. membership. It does not. This resolution does not establish that Palestine is a state.
The United States believes the current resolution should not and cannot be read as establishing terms of reference. In many respects, the resolution prejudges the very issues it says are to be resolved through negotiation, particularly with respect to territory. At the same time, it virtually ignores other core questions such as security, which must be solved for any viable agreement to be achieved.
President Obama has been clear in stating what the United States believes is a realistic basis for successful negotiations, and we will continue to base our efforts on that approach.
The recent conflict in Gaza is just the latest reminder that the absence of peace risks the presence of war. We urge those who share our hopes for peace between a sovereign Palestine and a secure Israel to join us in supporting negotiations, not encouraging further distractions. There simply are no short cuts.
Long after the votes have been cast, long after the speeches have been forgotten, it is the Palestinians and the Israelis who must still talk to each other—and listen to each other—and find a way to live side by side in the land they share.
Rather than parse this boilerplate bullshit, I’ll concentrate on a few reactions to Rice’s statement from the far right.
So why has Rice changed her tune? Well, of course, to mollify opposition to her becoming the next Secretary of State should President Obama choose to appoint her. I’m not sure a single forceful pro-Israeli statement will be enough to overcome her statements on Benghazi but it could certainly help her with Senators who are sitting on the fence.
Had Rice not been under pressure about the Benghazi horse shit, she would have said exactly the same.
The National Review article linked to above speculates:
The vote will almost certainly lead the Palestinian Authority to seek membership in U.N. specialized agencies, as it did last year with UNESCO. It will be particularly hard for those specialized agencies that include the Vatican among their membership, such as the International Atomic Energy Agency and the International Telecommunication Union, to deny the Palestinians membership, because the Holy See is also a U.N. non-member state observer. The most significant impediment to Palestinian-membership efforts in other specialized agencies is the threat of losing U.S. funding, which means that the U.S. must maintain and enforce current law that prohibits funding international organizations that grant membership to the Palestinians.
The Palestinian Authority will also likely seek to either join the International Criminal Court (ICC) or ask the organization to revisit the ICC prosecutor’s conclusion earlier this year that he does not have the authority to initiate an investigation because the issue of Palestinian statehood is in question.
The U.S. should communicate to the ICC that its decisions on these matters will influence future U.S. cooperation with that organization. [emphasis added]
It might be easier for the U.S. to communicate with the ICC, if we were a member. We are not, and Obama has made no indication that status will change. His staff is probably spending more time trying to steer the Bradley Manning court case away from bringing out more on the soldier’s torture and who knew what when, than they are on dealing with the ICC.
But should Susan Rice be Obama’s Secretary of State nominee (I’m not at all convinced he’s going to nominate her), the GOP senators are going to have to eat the words she uttered today. Barbara Boxer, John Kerry and Dick Durban will relish shoving it down their throats, and adding to their AIPAC-related PAC coffers, for their blind service to another country.
I’m posting the video of the president’s speech put up a few minutes ago by the White House. Other versions have already been posted, but it is important to see how many comments coming in already at the president’s own Youtube site are very negative toward the speech and toward ongoing U.S. policy decisions having to do with Israel. Click on the Youtube icon on the video to go to the site.
The U.S. House of Representatives, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland all made statements this week indicating they are willing to end U.S. support for this ongoing program:
[T]eaching the lessons of the Holocaust is fundamental to establishing respect for human rights, basic freedoms and the values of tolerance and mutual respect….
….States are encouraged to develop educational programmes to transmit the memory of the Holocaust to future generations so as to prevent genocide from occurring again.
….the Organization works with The Holocaust and the UN Outreach Programme and other major specialized institutions to promote educational resources that use the lessons of the Holocaust to develop knowledge, attitudes and skills that will help students become more tolerant and prevent future genocides.
Why? Perhaps Ms. Nuland gave it an appropriate name: Incoherence. I’ll get back to the term.
UNESCO’s board has recommended Palestine’s membership in the UN. The House and Obama administration are threatening to withhold U.S. funding to UNESCO because of the move:
Lawmakers on Wednesday warned the U.N. cultural agency that it stands to lose tens of millions of dollars in U.S. funding if it agrees to admit Palestine as a member before an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal is concluded.
Two top members of the House panel that oversees such funding say the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization could lose roughly $80 million in annual U.S. contributions if it follows the recommendation of its board and admits Palestine.
Over U.S. objections, the UNESCO board voted earlier Wednesday in Paris to recommend Palestine’s membership. A vote from the full body is expected later this month.
It is unfortunate that there is a policy to pursue recognition of whatever sort through the United Nations rather than returning to the negotiating table to resolve the issues that will result in a real Palestinian state, something that the United States strongly supports and wants to see as soon as possible. But we know that there cannot be a state without negotiations.
What is the boundary of this state that is being considered by UNESCO? What authorities does it have? What jurisdiction will it be endowed with? Who knows? Nobody knows because those are the hard issues that can only be resolved by negotiation. And unfortunately, there are those who, in their enthusiasm to recognize the aspirations of the Palestinian people, are skipping over the most important step, which is determining what the state will look like, what its borders are, how it will deal with the myriad of issues that states must address.
With respect to the question about the United States’s response, we are certainly aware of strong legislative prohibition that prevents the United States from funding organizations that jump the gun, so to speak, in recognizing entities before they are fully ready for such recognition.
HRC characterized the move by the Palestinians to seek recognition at various powerful UN agencies as a premature “threat.” Yet the State Department has said since last week that the Obama administration will ultimately veto Palestine’s request for full membership at the UN, when it comes before the Security Council. The State Department’s chief media spokesperson, Victoria Nuland (wife of Robert Kagan, one of the founders of the Project for a New American Century), tried to explain to CNN‘s Matt Lauer Wednesday why the Palestinian move at UNESCO is not only a threat, but “Incoherent.”
MS. NULAND: I’m simply saying that as a procedural matter, you have the Security Council looking into this issue. So to have a separate track in the constituent entities doesn’t make a lot of sense.
QUESTION: Okay. Well if – you guys have – correct me if I’m wrong; I thought you guys said you were going to veto it in the Security Council. So no matter how long the Security Council takes to look at it, whether it’s in the Security Council or not, it ain’t going anywhere. You guys are going to kill it, correct?
MS. NULAND: Was there a question there, Matt?
QUESTION: Yes. Is that right? You’re going to veto it in the Security Council. Why should the Palestinians wait when you’ve already said you’re going to veto it in the Security Council? Why is it incoherent for them to go to someplace else to try and get the – something minor that they would like, that they think is important to them.
MS. NULAND: Again, our view has not changed. This is not going to create a state for them.
QUESTION: But Toria, they don’t even say it’s going to create a state for them.
MS. NULAND: It is going to make things harder.
MS. NULAND: It creates tensions that add to the environment and makes it harder –
QUESTION: In other words, it gets Israel upset.
MS. NULAND: I didn’t say that. I simply said that it further exacerbates the environment of tension. We’re trying to create an environment of trust. We’re trying to create constituencies for peace.
QUESTION: And you think that Palestinian membership in UNESCO creates tensions? Palestinian membership in the Office for Outer Space Affairs creates tensions?
MS. NULAND: Matt, I think I’ve said what I can on this subject.
QUESTION: Well, the problem with what you’ve said on the subject is it doesn’t make any sense, and most of the world, almost all of it, disagrees with you. A, they don’t believe it’s incoherent because they’re voting for it, and B, I don’t think you can get away from the fact that you have said you were going to veto it at the Security Council. So saying the Palestinians should wait for the Security Council to act when they know – because you’ve told them and the rest of the world – that you’re going to kill it, doesn’t make any sense.
MS. NULAND: Doesn’t change the fact that we oppose this at UNESCO.
One has to hand it to Matt Lauer for being persistent. He has been asking hard questions about the wisdom of going up against much of the rest of the world to support the continuing and rapidly expanding colonization of Palestine, merely to keep from losing pro-Zionist political funding from the Democratic Party (and Obama 2012), and see those funds go to the GOP instead, especially the far right GOP, which is already increasingly being funded by rich Christian Zionists. His persistence is encouraging other journalists to realize he has not been taken out for his honesty. So, now more journalists at State Department briefings are following him up. And – to bring back the word – the State Department is sounding increasingly, uh – incoherent.
It is extremely incoherent to threaten to de-fund UNESCO’s hundreds of important programs worldwide, merely because they agree with most of the rest of the world on an important human rights issue.
Unfortunately, it is just going to get more bizarrely incoherent in these matters, as we approach next year’s election.
[Today, along with Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski and 83 other U.S. Senators, Sen. Mark Begich signed a letter so rife with lies that it begs a very detailed and determined answer. Part of the reason I am posting this open letter here is that firedoglake, Blue America, Act Blue and the netroots community helped raise key money that brought Sen. Begich to office:]
Sen. Mark Begich
I wrote a letter to you on April 15th about your previous involvement in another letter, which had been crafted by people communicating with the same foreign government who ardently sought your signature on this one. You didn’t respond to that one.
This time, I will go down the elements of your letter, and describe what seem to be errors so blatant, they defy being categorized as the truth. Here is your letter (pdf), with my annotated comments:
President Barack Obama The White House Washington, DC
Dear Mr. President:
June XX, 2010
We write to affirm our support for our strategic partnership with Israel, and encourage you to continue to do so before international organizations such as the United Nations. The United States has traditionally stood with Israel because it is in our national security interest and must continue to do so.
Our history of relations with Israel does not support our and their so-called "security interests" as having been mutual since the downfall of the USSR. Rather, the growing perception in almost the entire world, is that our rather one-sided support of one right-wing government after another in Israel, which continue to illegally expand settlements in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights (none of which the U.S. government views as legal) increasingly create problems for our national security.
1.) Our military involvement off the Lebanese Coast during the misguided 1982 Israeli invasion, led to the loss of many American servicemen, with no benefit to our security.
2.) The First Gulf War, in which Irael wasn’t an asset, nor much of a liability, was somewhat of a wash.
3.) Almost all attacks on American military installations abroad in the 1990s, up to Septamber 11th, were cited by the perpetrators as being fueled to a major degree by our unerring support of Israel.
4.) Our support of Israel was cited by Al Qaeda as a major reason for the attacks on American interests on September 11th, 2001.
5.) Many attacks on Americans since our unjustified Iraq Invasion and Occupation have been linked to people who sought justice for what they perceived to be the continuing erosion of Palestinian rights, which wouldn’t occur without our unflinching support.
6.) I can’t think of a military operation in the Middle East in which we might participate with this so-called "valuable ally" that would enhance American prestige in that part of the world.
Israel is our strongest ally in the Middle East and a vibrant democracy.
Turkey is our strongest ally in the Middle East, unless one counts Israeli nuclear weapons as being something entered into the "strong ally" equation. Turkey is also a vibrant democracy, which like that of Israel’s, is in transition. The vibrancy of Turkish democracy is threatened by our blind support of one of these nations over the other.
Israel is also a partner to the United States on military and intelligence issues in this critical region.
And in our country. Would you consider requesting an investigation into Urban Moving Systems? Or into how the Israelis stole American plutonium and other important materials to create their nuclear arsenal?
That is why it is our national interest to support Israel at a moment when Israel faces multiple threats from Hamas in Gaza, Hezbollah in Lebanon, and the current regime in Iran.
Israel has invaded Lebanon multiple times, sometimes on almost no pretext, causing thousands of needless deaths, fracturing Lebanese society, destroying its economy and creating animosity that will last long past my life and yours. Israel helped create Hamas as a counter-poise to Al Fatah. They won what was generally considered to be a more transparent election in the occupied territories than most view our 2000 election to have been. They won because Palestinians want to be represented by a party that won’t accommodate further theft of their land and dignity, and isn’t as notoriously corrupt as is Al Fatah.
Hezbollah was an uprising against Israeli occupation of Lebanon. Once again, it wouldn’t even exist but for Israeli stupidity, intransigence and gratuitous military violence.
The current regime in Iran is, as with Hamas and Hezbollah, a product of reactions to violence and mayhem created by either Israeli or American military actions.
Israel’s opponents have developed clever diplomatic and tactical ploys to challenge its international standing, whether the effort to isolate Israel at the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty review conference or the recent effort to breach the naval blockade around Gaza.
First, the "clever diplomatic and tactical ploys" issue:
Israel’s international standing is based on its own clever diplomatic and tactical ploys. Right now, Mark, you are playing your part. You will be paid well for your dishonest efforts.
Second, the isolation of Israel regarding the NPT. Israel is isolated. They have chosen that. With a weapon program built on a mix of technologies that included multiple thefts through espionage and treachery, of items from our nuclear establishment, they continually act, as in the Baghdad reactor bombing, in ways that have since come to also increasingly define how the USA acts internationally.
You categorize countries concerned with Israel’s nuclear arsenal, stolen from America, as "opponents." Yet, as an elected member of our Senate, one might expect that recently declassified documents related to the level of espionage Israel committed to steal our nuclear materials for their first bombs suggests you would consider a hearing into this matter, instead of signing onto a letter crafted by the country that stole our fucking plutonium,and that criticizes our president.
We fully support Israel’s right to self-defense.
So do I.
In response to thousands of rocket attacks on Israel from Hamas terrorists in Gaza, Israel took steps to prevent items which could be used to support these attacks from reaching Gaza.
Israeli drunk drivers, over the past decade, have killed far more people than the Hamas rockets, which are dreadful. When you were mayor, did you bomb bars and liquor stores? Did you hold all of Spenard accountable for what somebody who lived in that historic community did?
A majority of Hamas rocket attacks since 2007 have been stupid responses to equally stupid Israeli actions that were in violation of agreements Israel had made with Hamas.
Israel’s naval blockade, which is legal under international law, allows Israel to keep dangerous goods from entering Gaza by sea.
The United States has issued no legal rulings regarding the legality of Israel’s blockade of Gaza, so you are deferring to a view held by virtually no government on this planet save the one which has let you know that if you don’t sign this letter, you will have fundraising problems in the future. Once again, "clever ploy" comes into play.
The United Nations and several international agencies all agree that the blockade is illegal, harshly punitive and should be immediately ended. The International Red Cross – how many fundraisers for the Red Cross have you been to over the years, Mark? – issued a report this week condemning the blockade as inhumane.
Mark, kids in Gaza are suffering brain damage right now because of the illegal blockade. The kids that suffer brain damage tomorrow will have your imprint on that brain damage.
The intent of the measures is to protect Israel, while allowing humanitarian aid into Gaza.
The intent of the blockade is that, and to put Gaza on a diet that leads to lower births, lower birth weights and to the unfortunate strengthening of Hamas. Had Gaza been given more freedom after the Hamas election, I think that things might have gotten better, rather than markedly worse. But Israel needs for Hamas to be powerful. Just not too powerful.
Late last month when Israel learned that groups operating in Turkey wanted to challenge its blockade of Gaza, Israel made every effort to ensure that all humanitarian aid reached Gaza without needlessly precipitating a confrontation.
They did as little as possible, given the growing international, especially European, attention to the gathering flotilla.
Israeli forces were able to safely divert five of the six ships challenging the blockade.
Those ships all watched the assault on the MV Mavi Marmara from distances varying between a half mile and two miles. They were also much smaller.
However, video footage shows that the Israeli commandos who arrived on the sixth ship, which was owned by the Turkish Humanitarian Relief Foundation (the IHH), were brutally attacked with iron rods, knives, and broken glass. They were forced to respond to that attack and we regret the loss of life that resulted.
This might be the most vile of the part of your letter, Senator:
Mavi Marmara was the first vessel, not the last. Clever ploy to call it "last," though.
The video footage to which you refer is highly selective. I followed the meetup of the flotilla, its problems and route as well as anyone in the USA. I watched other "video footage," as the flotilla tried to maintain a live stream of accurate information out to the world, as the Israelis tried to jam more and more output channels from flotilla vessels, through the night of the atrocity.
I read twitters, emails, and photos sent to me from the flotilla, as they came in. I followed the route of the vessels with transponders on the web. You rely on a few snips, edited by the military of a country that stole a lot of plutonium from us, yet allow that same country to either destroy or seize thousands of hours of video and perhaps hundreds of thousands of images from the flotilla participants. Many of the people who had their possessions stolen were American, Mark.
Your letter labels several worldwide parliamentarians, Nobel Peace prize recipients, prominent non-Muslim clerics, former U.S. Army officers, former U.S. diplomats, longtime Democrats and liberals as being directly supportive of a relief organization you want to now see be labelled as a terrorist organization.
Many Israeli maritime law experts believe the attack on the MV Mavi Marmara was a criminal act. The numerous cites of the San Remo Treaty defenders of the piracy throw about have never been put to the test, but they weigh little in the overall context of the way the attack on the Turkish ship went.
For you to characterize the attack upon a NATO ally’s vessel, in an action that resulted in the death of a young American, by a rogue country that has built a nuclear arsenal around materials stolen from us through espionage, as the Israelis being the ones attacked:
were brutally attacked with iron rods, knives, and broken glass. They were forced to respond to that attack and we regret the loss of life that resulted.
is a brutal assault upon the plain truth.
We are deeply concerned about the IHH’s role in this incident and have additional questions about Turkey and any connections to Hamas.
What is Turkey to do? Not have any relations with the elected government of an area that drains on waters important to Turkey?
Maybe help the water quality and sewage treatment experts into Gaza, Mark, so people feel less like shooting rockets?
The IHH is a member of a group of Muslim charities, the Union of Good, which was designated by the US Treasury Department as a terrorist organization. The Union of Good was created by and strongly supports Hamas, which has been designated as a foreign terrorist organization by the US State Department. We recommend that your administration consider whether the IHH should be put on the list of foreign terrorist organizations, after an examination by the intelligence community, the State Department, and the Treasury Department.
Mark, please read Max Blumenthal’s book, Republican Gomorrah. It’s got a lot more scarier stuff in it than the AIPAC-crafted bullshit you signed on to.
We commend the action you took to prevent the adoption of an unfair United Nations Security Council resolution, which would have represented a rush to judgment by the international community.
As opposed to the Israeli report that the White House has accommodated? I’m sure you’d be just as willing to have the Turks investigate an international incident, had the Turks been attacked instead of the Israelis? Do you really believe it was the Turks who attacked the Israelis?
We also deplore the actions of the United Nations Human Rights Council which, once again, singled out Israel. Israel has announced its intention to promptly carry out a thorough investigation of this incident and has the right to determine how its investigation is conducted. In the meantime, we ask you to stand firm in the future at the United Nations Security Council and to use your veto power, if necessary, to prevent any similar biased or one-sided resolutions from passing.
Mark, I’m so glad you deplore "one-sided" acts. Don’t you realize that that is exactly what you are participating in, in this letter?
Finally, we believe that this incident should not derail the current proximity talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. We hope that these talks will move quickly to direct negotiations and ultimately, to a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict.
I’m sure they will. And thanks for that letter, Mark. The Israelis just announced another 600 housing units in East Jerusalem within minutes of being told your letter was coming through.
Your checks are already in the mail.
You need to ask yourself whether or not your signing on to this boilerplate lie, and the way it enables this nuclear-powered spoiled brat to act next, will help lead to more American deaths in the future, rather than less, Senator.
I. Some of the best parts of Katherine Viner’s 2003 play, My Name is Rachel Corrie, have to do with how this vibrant 11-year-old spent the first half of the second half of her short life. In the play, the actress acts out a kid growing into adolescence and young adulthood. The scenes are based on diaries and correspondence Rachel’s parents shared with the playwright. Watching the monodrama, one can sense, through the diaries being declaimed, a powerful, rich, resonant feminist voice beginning to emerge.
The optimistic kid we see in the video above never lost that hope.
There’s always an abundance of hopeful kids. Not all of them are attractive young white Americans, though.
All around the world, whether it is in Darfur, East Timor, Juarez, Anchorage, Tehran or Hebron, some young optimistic kid in the 5th grade has an abundance of hope. There are scores of millions of hopeful kids like Rachel Corrie. Many will get eaten by the machine before they reach adulthood. 99 point something of these kids aren’t white, so we’ll probably never know whether or not the way the machine ate them was significant.
When Corrie was killed, seven years ago today, it was the eve of our Iraqi invasion and occupation. We’ll never know whether or not the war’s outbreak attenuated coverage of her death. It wasn’t covered, though.
The only extensive article on her death appeared in the September-October 2003 edition of Mother Jones magazine. The article’s author, Joshua Hammer, concluded:
Five days after her death, Rachel Corrie’s body was shipped home to Olympia. The [IDF] has since pulled out of the northern part of Gaza, but demolitions along the Pink Line continue. The inquiry promised by Ariel Sharon cleared the soldiers of any wrongdoing, and momentum has faded for a U.S. congressional investigation. A skeleton staff at the ISM Rafah ofﬁce spends most of its time attempting to revitalize Corrie’s sister-city project. And Corrie herself has faded into obscurity, a subject of debate in Internet chat rooms and practically nowhere else. [emphasis added]
He was wrong. Why?
Around the same time, other remarkable young American women had their lives swept up or away in the growing conflagration of multiple wars in the Middle East and Afghanistan.
Exactly one week after Rachel Corrie was killed in Gaza, U.S. Army SPC Lori Piestewa was severely injured, when vehicles in her unit made a wrong turn and ended up being ambushed in the Iraqi city of Nasiriyah, a town the unit was supposed to bypass. According to another woman in Piestewa’s unit, Jessica Lynch, "Piestewa was wounded in the head, and it was impossible to perform delicate neurosurgery in an Iraqi civilian hospital in wartime conditions (such as intermittent electric power). In a U.S. military hospital with reliable power and neurosurgeons available around the clock, she might have survived.)."
Lynch was also seriously wounded, and Iraqi medical personnel managed to stabilize and save her, even as American Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s fantasy machine began creating a labyrinth of myths about the incident. Shoshana Johnson, another member of the unit in which Piestewa and Lynch served, was also captured, and shown alive on Iraqi television.
Just over two years later, on April 16, 2005, American peace activist Marla Ruzicka, who was working in Iraq on a project that sought to reliably account for the number of civilian deaths caused by the deteriorating occupation war there, was killed by a roadside bomb on the Baghdad Airport road. Ruzicka, like Corrie, was assisting a non-governmental organization when she perished. Unlike Corrie, Ruzicka had been able to see some of her notable efforts come to fruition, both in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Rolling Stone noted, "Ruzicka is perhaps the most famous American aid worker to die in any conflict of the past ten or twenty years. Though a novice in life — she had less than four years of professional humanitarian experience — her death resonated far beyond the tightly knit group of war junkies and policymakers who knew her. She stands as a youthful representative of a certain kind of not-yet-lost American idealism, and darkly symbolic of what has gone so tragically wrong in Iraq."
A movie about Ruzicka, titled Sweet Relief, and starring Kirsten Dunst, has been in "development" by Paramount since before her death, but as yet, there is no movie. The current projected release year is 2011.
Though the powerful play about Rachel Corrie had difficulties getting a premiere performance in the United States, once the ice jam broke, there have been a number of productions, and perhaps hundreds of readings. In the past few months, My Name is Rachel Corrie has been produced in Spanish in Buenos Aires, in Greek in Athens, and in Arabic in Haifa.
The documentary, Rachel, by Simone Bitton, has caused controversy, most notably when it was shown as part of the 2009 San Francisco Jewish Film Festival (Bitton is Israeli).
New productions of Viner’s play and showings of Bitton’s documentary often spark dialogue in the communities or at the larger events in which they are shown. From the beginning of Viner’s play’s runs, there have been requests or demands from segments of the local Jewish communities that the play or documentary be given "context." That has often meant discussion groups, lectures, distribution of written materials and debates. It has also often meant angry op-eds in the local papers and demonstrations outside of the productions. Media coverage of the play and the documentary has often centered as much on the demonstrations as it has on the play or movie.
And, like media coverage of the Tea Party, for instance, the image presented from the news isn’t always accurate. A good example of that might be BBC coverage of the London premiere of my own art about Rachel Corrie, the cantata The Skies are Weeping, in November, 2005. On the evening of the performance, outside of the Hackney Empire Theatre, where the work was presented, there were three demonstrations about the performance. There were rows of signs, with images of The Forgotten Rachels, and scores of demonstrators with graphic signs. All three of the protesting groups were Jewish, the BBC TV report announced. What they failed to disclose though, was that two of the demonstrating groups were protesting in favor of the performance. Eventually, BBC apologized to the concert organizers (another Jewish group, Jews for Justice for Palestinians) for their inaccurate coverage.
II. In the seven years since Rachel Corrie’s death, some of the causes in which she believed have been transformed. Some of the transformations have been positive. Others have been awful.
She died defending the house of a family she had come to know. It was one of many hundreds of houses the Israelis were demolishing in Rafah. Eventually, the IDF destroyed Samir Nasralla’s house. But the house has since been rebuilt, and Israeli military operations in Rafah are now limited to totally outrageous invasions, rather than day-to-day casual destruction of a city of 71,000.
Since Rachel Corrie perished, the Israel Defense Forces have killed almost 2,000 Lebanese civilians, almost 1,500 Palestinians in Gaza, and many Palestinian civilians in the occupied territories of the West Bank. They have gratuitously caused the largest oil spill in the history of the Mediterranean, and immense destruction of antiquities and archeological sites in Lebanon.
Gaza’s infrastructure is in ruins and the 1.5 million civilians there have been compared to the Soviet citizens of Leningrad during that city’s besiegement in World War II, to people in a vast, open-air prison, and to the Na’vi, in the movie Avatar.
Israeli encroachments on Palestinian land in the West Bank relentlessly continue. Destruction of archeological sites in the West Bank and East Jerusalem happen on a weekly basis.
So why is this "transformed"? This level of destruction of Lebanon by the IDF isn’t as horrific as was that during the earlier war against that country, but it is more of the same. And the Israelis have been slowly stealing and appropriating Palestinian lands on the West Bank for almost 43 years.
The transformation has been apparent mostly since the 2009 Gaza War. As the title of Norman Finkelstein’s new book, This Time We Went Too Far – Truth & Consequences of the Gaza Invasion, implies, many people in Europe and North America who had previously supported IDF incursions, invasions, occupations and so on, reached their limit in early 2009, as they witnessed what is very difficult not to characterize as an atrocious war crime.
An earlier watershed was the August 2007 publication of The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy, written by John Mearsheimer and Steven Walt. The book’s almost encyclopedic coverage of how this lobby often inhibits two of the three branches of American government from crafting policies that suit our own long-term interests rather than those of Israel, has had a profound impact. Particularly, the book’s conclusion "that when the Lobby succeeds in shaping U.S. policy in the Middle East, then "Israel’s enemies get weakened or overthrown, Israel gets a free hand with the Palestinians, and the United States does most of the fighting, dying, rebuilding, and paying," is again and again resonating in sometimes startling ways.
The most recent example has been the leaked powerpoint presentation given on January 16 by CENTCOM’s commander, Gen. Petraeus, and the context that presentation’s announcement has had this past few days. Petraeus, echoing Mearsheimer and Walt, proposed moving jurisdiction over Israel and Palestine to CENTCOM (the Central Command, which oversees our ongoing wars) from EUCOM (European Command). The argument’s central point has been distilled in an article for Foreign Policy, by Mark Perry:
David Petraeus sent a briefing team to the Pentagon with a stark warning: America’s relationship with Israel is important, but not as important as the lives of America’s soldiers. Maybe Israel gets the message now.
III. This past week, we’ve had the purposefully stunning public humiliation of the Vice President of the United States by the Israeli Prime Minister, a detailed and harsh response to that humiliation from our Secretary of State, increasingly successful boycotts of Israeli products created on lands in the West Bank stolen from Palestinians, the opening of the Rachel Corrie civil suit in Haifa, and the possibility of the reopening of investigations into the severe injury of American Tristan Anderson by IDF forces in the West Bank.
These mostly unconnected events are not being greeted in a vacuum. Typically, as Mearsheimer and Walt documented so thoroughly in their book, and was amply shown by the pushback against its publication and dissemination – Vice President Biden, Secretary of State Clinton, President Obama, Gen. Petraeus, the supporters of Corrie’s trial, the supporters of Tristan Andeson’s vindication, and the hundreds of people writing about these items of interest, have all been branded as anti-Semites, in articles, press releases, statements and blog posts. Polemicist John Podhoretz is calling for American Jews to abandon the anti-Semitic Democratic Party.
Writer-blogger Philip Weiss may have best summed up the sea change we’re currently undergoing in an article yesterday at Mondoweiss:
When both Joe Biden and General David Petraeus are reported to say that the special relationship is endangering American soldiers, they are only saying what Walt and Mearsheimer said in their historic paper four years ago, and what Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, Colin Powell’s former chief of staff, described as the blinding flash of the obvious. But remember, Walt and Mearsheimer could not publish their paper in the United States, and when their book came out, the joke was that a lot of people in D.C. were reading it in brown paper covers, lest they be called anti-Semites.
You could not say that Israel was hurting our interests because Abrams, Libby, Wurmser, Feith, Frum, and Wolfowitz were helping guide the ship of state through the seas of Islamophobia. And intellectuals were just as afraid of the policers of official understanding, of Alan Dershowitz, Jeffrey Goldberg, Larry Summers, Richard Haass, and David Remnick and Bob Silvers too–Silvers who has never run a review of The Israel Lobby.
Now that atmosphere is changing, even in power circles. Of course, the best reflection of the change is Andrew Sullivan’s remarkable shift. Sullivan was not deterred by Leon Wieseltier’s calling him an anti-Semite, because he knows, the issue is just too important to world peace not to keep talking.
I don’t think you can say enough about Gaza, Goldstone, and the grassroots. Gaza vindicated those of us on the left who said that Israel was treating Palestinians like animals; and instead of understanding the moment and engaging the critics honestly, Israel hunkered down and smeared the critics, thereby discrediting itself in Europe and among young American peace types. I can point to many important moments over the last year: we have the crazy video from Judaized East Jerusalem to thank, the young bloggers of the Gaza war, the suppressed Max Blumenthal video from Jerusalem, and the silent demonstration outside the Waldorf last week with its swarming pro-Israel loonies.
IV. Back in 2003, 2004 and 2005, when tributes to Rachel Corrie were being suppressed, canceled or "postponed," courageous supporters of her idealism kept pushing, even in the face of threats, personal attacks and shunning from within their professional communities. Even as one Joshua Hammer after another wrote that she" ha[d] faded into obscurity," the relentless progress of projects seeking to portray her idealism for what it truly was and is, went on. And still goes on.
The comparisons between what Corrie sought to achieve, people drawn toward her story have hoped to show, and what policy makers on high levels are now attempting to bring to public attention all fall back onto what General Petraeus’ January briefing illustrated: That lack of peace and justice toward the Palestinian people by the Israeli government and armed forces hurts America and our fighting forces in serious ways, and the simplest remedy might be to seriously consider advancing peace and justice for those very people.
Even though the civil trial over the circumstances of Rachel Corrie’s death is getting scant coverage in the American media, the ideas she stood for, and for which her parents have been such powerful advocates are now unavoidably coming through in many arenas simultaneously.
Next week, the 2010 AIPAC Conference will occur. Most likely, the keynote address speaker, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, will once again repeat the mantras about "our closest ally, the only democracy in the Middle East, whose interests and ours are irrevokably linked," etc. But there will probably be an edge to her remarks that, though invisible to some, will show to people aware of this sea change, where the Obama administration might take this evolving relationship next.
Six years ago today – four days before the U.S. began the present Iraq War, an American college student named Rachel Corrie was killed defending Palestinian rights in Gaza. The U.S. press vaguely noticed. Last Friday, a young American named Tristan Anderson was severely injured defending Palestinian rights in the West Bank. The U.S. press vaguely noticed.
Yet, much has changed in those six years.
The September 2003 issue of Mother Jones Magazine carried an article about Rachel Corrie. It was written by Joshua Hammer, at that time, Newsweek Magazine’s Jerusalem correspondent. The article, titled The Death of Rachel Corrie, contained a header which read:
Martyr, idiot, dedicated, deluded. Why did this American college student crushed by an Israeli bulldozer put her life on the line? And did it matter?
The article tediously explained why it did not matter, concluding:
Corrie herself has faded into obscurity, a subject of debate in internet chat rooms and practically nowhere else.
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