During Saturday Evening’s Saturday Night Live dress rehearsal, the cast tried this sketch, which parodies the obsequiousness shown by U.S. Senators toward Israel last week, during the confirmation hearing for former Senator Chuck Hagel, to head the Department of Defense:
The sketch didn’t run, but the show soon put it up on the web at HULU, where it was picked up by Huffington Post and Mondoweiss by early Sunday morning.
In comments and articles on the sketch, many are saying that the sketch wasn’t run because it wasn’t funny. I didn’t watch SNL this week, but my wife did, and she says it would have been one of the funniest sketches this week, which isn’t saying much these days. I think the audience may have at times been uncomfortable watching the sketch unfold before them.
Surprisingly, the funniest headline on it, even beating out Wonkette, was the Times of Israel, which put this in the headline:
After being banished from earnest Washington discussion for decades by various press gate-keepers, the absurdly overblown power of the Greater Israel lobby is now seeping into the popular culture. SNL captures the lunacy.
This does appear to be the case. As Philip Weiss noted today:
Even friends of mine who don’t know the issue are fulminating about the Hagel hearing. And remember that those gatekeepers and lobby pooh-poohers included the Atlantic Magazine, David Remnick, Leon Wieseltier, Leslie Gelb, Walter Russell Mead, Jeffrey Goldberg, among other eminent journalists.
2013 is shaping up to be the year during which people will no longer have to carefully and guardedly talk about Israeli apartheid, but will finally be listened to, when they openly draw attention to Israeli Apartheid.
Watching the Breitbart-inspired campaign against Hagel’s “Hamas PAC” unfold, the SNL scriptwriters might consider keeping their pencils handy.
If you live in Brooklyn, you have probably heard of the threat from members of the New York City Council against Brooklyn College. If you live elsewhere, chances are that, unless you are involved in the struggle for Palestinian rights, or the struggle against them, you’ve missed his one.
In a nutshell, in late January a controversy arose over the political science department at Brooklyn College sponsoring an upcoming appearance there by two advocates of Global BDS. That movement, now in its ninth year, advocates putting pressures upon the increasingly apartheid Israeli state, similar to the sanctions imposed in the late 1980s and early 1990s, against the increasingly apartheid South African state. Here is a description of the controversy, from a friendly point of view:
At Brooklyn College, a student chapter of the Students for Justice in Palestine organized a forthcoming panel with Judith Butler and Omar Barghouti to discuss the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement. The political science department agreed to co-sponsor it. When certain individuals hostile to BDS heard about this event they raised an outcry. The outcry started with Alan Dershowitz, who demanded that the political science department either withdraw its sponsorship or ‘balance’ it with a voice – namely his – that is critical of the panelists. Very quickly this became a city and state-wide issue, and various politicians, including City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, began to make the same demands. Now, quite disturbingly, the New York City Council is threatening to withhold future funding for CUNY unless the political science department either cancels the event or withdraws its sponsorship.
Advocates for the college’s position have emerged, including constitutional attorney, Glenn Greenwald, Palestinian rights advocate Andrew Sullivan, and – surprisingly – MSNBC‘s Chris Hayes (as described by Phil Weiss):
A “who’s who” list of New York politicians is trying to shut down the conversation. Hayes mentions Omar Barghouti and Judith Butler. “I understand why there’s an outcry” from those who find BDS odious — he says, covering his bases. But Hayes is clear about the academic-freedom principle and about the highly “selective” concern for balance in this instance and not others. What if the University of Alabama tried to disinvite a gay speaker? Hayes says that some of those politicians “browbeating” the college have been on his show. Good liberals. Yes: Progressive Except Palestine, PEP.
Greenwald has written several columns now on the threats against the college. Most recently, he centered on comments by NYC council member, Lew Fidler, whose threats against Brooklyn College funding seem to have been the most explicit yet. Greenwald:
How can anyone not be seriously alarmed by this? These threats are infinitely more destructive than any single academic event could ever possibly be…Plainly, this entire controversy has only one ‘principle’ and one purpose: to threaten, intimidate and bully professors, school administrators and academic institutions out of any involvement in criticisms of Israel.
One speaker at the upcoming event, prominent feminist philosopher, Judith Butler, has defended herself many times against specious “anti-semitism” charges (Butler is Jewish), most notably, in her profound essay on anti-semitism, in the London Review of Books, eleven years ago:
In holding out for a distinction to be made between Israel and Jews, I am calling for a space for dissent for Jews, and non-Jews, who have criticisms of Israel to articulate; but I am also opposing anti-semitic reductions of Jewishness to Israeli interests. The ‘Jew’ is no more defined by Israel than by anti-semitism. The ‘Jew’ exceeds both determinations, and is to be found, substantively, as a historically and culturally changing identity that takes no single form and has no single telos. Once the distinction is made, discussion of both Zionism and anti-semitism can begin, since it will be as important to understand the legacy of Zionism and to debate its future as to oppose anti-semitism wherever we find it.
The other main speaker in the upcoming BC event is Palestinian, Omar Barghouti, echoed Butler in a 2011 interview with The Guardian on Global BDS, which he helped found:
Here is what the petition in support of Brooklyn College’s position states:
We the undersigned write in support of the decision by Brooklyn College’s political science department to co-sponsor a panel discussion with Judith Butler and Omar Barghouti. We urge CUNY President Karen Gould to resist attempts by those who have attempted to intimidate CUNY into canceling, changing, or withdrawing its sponsorship for the panel. We are especially concerned that the New York City Council has threatened to withhold further money for CUNY if it does not either cancel the event or withdraw its sponsorship. This is a grave threat to academic freedom and sets a terrible precedent for the future.
“Muslims that arrive here do not even believe that this country belongs to us, to the white man.”
That is Yishai’s latest response to the increasingly racist events unfolding in Israel having to do with that country’s disturbingly violent reaction to an influx of migrants from sub-Saharan Africa.
I’m not quite sure what Yishai’s definition of “white man” is. His parents emigrated to Israel from Tunisia. His party affiliation has been with Shas since soon after the party’s inception in 1984. Under the current government, this is the third time Yishai has held the cabinet post of Interior head, the previous terms being from 2001 to 2003.
It is a post unlike any in the United States:
The position is often demanded by avowedly religious or secular parties as it allows them to control religious councils and planning (including the building of settlements), as well as religion and state issues such as civil marriage and immigration (which is affected by the Who is a Jew? debate). In recent years it has been held by Shas, an ultra-orthodox party, as well as Shinui and Yisrael BaAliyah, both secularist.
Who is Yishai pandering to with his white supremacist statement that he surely must have known would be picked up by the Israeli press, possibly outside of the country too? His quote came out early Sunday in a Haaretz article about a new law that came into effect today, regarding detention of migrants:
A law granting Israeli authorities the power to detain illegal migrants for up to three years came into effect on Sunday, in the wake of widening public controversy over the influx of African migrants who cross into Israel along its border with Egypt.
The law makes illegal migrants and asylum seekers liable to jail, without trial or deportation, if caught staying in Israel for long periods. In addition, anyone helping migrants or providing them with shelter could face prison sentences of between five and 15 years.
The law amended the Prevention of Infiltration Law of 1954, passed to prevent the entry of Palestinians as part of emergency legislation. The law is expanded to address migrant workers or asylum seekers who enter Israel without posing a threat to Israel’s security.
According to the law, migrant workers already here could be jailed for the most minor offense such as spraying graffiti or stealing a bicycle – infractions for which they would not have been detained before.
So far, all migrants who have been caught by the Israel Defense Forces on the Israel-Egypt border have been transferred to the Saharonim detention facility which holds 2,000 spaces.
I wrote here about the current push in Israel for race-based concentration camps back on May 24th. In that diary, I speculated that Yishai is one of the Israeli politicians playing a role in purposefully fueling the rising violence against people there perceived to be non-white. Since the time of the Tel Aviv riots last month, Ethiopian Jews, who I doubt Yishai considers “white,” have taken to wearing t-shirts proclaiming their Jewishness. They’re afraid they will get assaulted by people inflamed by Yishai and his colleagues’ incendiary diatribes.
This new law, and statements of the sort uttered this morning by Minister Yishai clearly reinforce what I wrote back on the 24th:
More than the rantings pushing for a war against Iran, more than the struggle for Palestinian rights, more than the billions upon billions we give away to Israel every year, the almost daily mushrooming of racial hatred by Israelis may be what finally disgusts us out of our stupor.
Back on May 9th, Philip Giraldi, in an essay about a “tipping point” having arrived in Israel in respect to the U.S. population’s generic blind support of Israeli policies in all areas, wrote:
So we have reached the point where the proverbial cat is out of the bag. Everyone, with the possible exception of the U.S. Congress, has become aware that there is something terribly wrong with Israel. In Israel itself, where there is often ferocious debate over the country’s policies, it is time for a reckoning. Does Israel want to become a normal state with correct relationships with its neighbors, including an independent Palestine, or does it want to continue down the road that it is pursuing, which is folly and will lead to ruin? The choice is ultimately Israel’s, but, for the first time, Americans are actually beginning to talk and write freely and openly about the problem.
Giraldi only tangentially addressed the rapid rise of racism in policy, procedure and actions. To him the tipping point was more about a succession of brilliant books on how Americans react to Israeli policy, by Jimmy Carter, Stephen Walt & John Mearsheimer, and Peter Beinert.
These are indeed important. However, those of us attempting to get the message across that Israel has fully become the new apartheid South Africa can rest assured that the white supremacist images, quotes and policies coming out of Israel almost daily will explain our message quite fully on their own.
What I supported as a younger politician was exactly what the whole world now supports for Israel and Palestine, namely separate nation states will be the solution. In our case we failed.
There were three main reasons. We failed because the whites wanted too much land for themselves. We failed because the majority of blacks said this is not how we want our political rights. And we failed because we became economically totally integrated. We became an economic omelet and you can never again divide an omelet into the white and the yellow of the egg. And we realized in the early eighties we had landed in a place which has become morally unjustified.
Mondoweiss, in an article by Adam Horowitz, covers this too. The comments are illuminating. One commenter observes, “So, now BOTH sides the of South African apartheid fight are calling a spade a spade in Palestine.”
South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu has accused Israel of practising apartheid in its policies towards the Palestinians.
The Nobel peace laureate said he was “very deeply distressed” by a visit to the Holy Land, adding that “it reminded me so much of what happened to us black people in South Africa”.
So, now both the former oppressor (and former longtime ardent Israeli ally) of blueprint Apartheid, and the formerly oppressed, have joined together in condemning Israeli policies in the Occupied West Bank.
My dear friend, Deborah Fink, was one of the people who put this together Thursday in London. Their ad hoc group, Beethovians for Boycotting Israel, created new lyrics to Ludvig van Beethoven’s paean to the unity of mankind, Ode to Joy, and sang it several times during the performance of the Israel Philharmonic at the BBC Proms Concert:
Israel, end your occupation:
There’s no peace on stolen land.
We’ll sing out for liberation
’till you hear and understand.
Ethnic cleansing and apartheid
Should belong to history.
Human rights cannot be silenced:
Palestine will soon be free.
BBC went so far as to take their live concert broadcast off the air for a time.
I’m not quite sure what I think yet, except that it was an astounding happening, which brings to mind the May, 1913 premiere in Paris of Igor Stravinsky’s Le Sacre du Printemps. A major difference might be that after that opening’s scandal, people came to fully appreciate Stravinsky’s masterpiece. There were no further disruptions of consequence.
In the case of the Israel Philharmonic, they can look forward to a future of a rising crescendo of cancellations and a growing chorus of protests.
Here’s a cell phone video of the portion of the disruption during Max Bruch’s Concerto for Violin:
Update: For more information on what Global BDS is (the worldwide campaign to encourage boycott, divestment and sanctions of the Israeli state over treatment of Palestinians) please see the bottom of this essay.*
March 30 is Global BDS Day of Action 2011. According to the BDS Movement’s web site:
Activists in the Europe and North America held actions over the weekend as a contribution towards tomorrow’s Global BDS Day of Action. Looking at some of the planned actions, today is looking like it is set to be the biggest and widest day of action to date!
- Flashmobs and BDS demonstrations will take place in dozens of cities, from Rabat to Toronto, from Prague to Melbourne.
- The international campaign against the Jewish National Fund will be officially launched.
- New initiatives, resources and campaigns will be launched by groups all over the world.
What is a flashmob?
Here’s one, early today from March 26th, creatively protesting in Grand Central Station:
What is the international campaign against the Jewish National Fund?
Max Blumenthal has managed to document several aspects of the JNF’s ongoing activities inside Israel itself (as opposed to his documentation of Israeli activities in the occupied territories of the West Bank) that remind me of government actions against black citizens in South Africa in the 60s, 70s and 80s. Here’s a video Max ran at his blog last month “depicting the 17th(!) pogrom against the Bedouin village of Al-Arakib by the criminal syndicate known as the Jewish National Fund and the End Timers at GOD TV,” as Max described it.
The campaign against the JNF has been described by the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network:
A key pillar of the colonization of Palestine – from the founding of the State of Israel to the present – has been the Keren Kayemet LeIsrael (KKL), commonly known in English as the Jewish National Fund (JNF). The JNF enjoys charity status in over 50 countries. This is despite its role in the on-going displacement of indigenous Palestinians from their land, the theft of their property, the funding of historic and present-day colonies, and the destruction of the natural environment.
Land Day 2011 will welcome the launch of internationally coordinated campaigns to challenge the JNF-KKL. As part of the global movement for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS), in solidarity with the Palestinian liberation struggle, and until such time as the State of Israel respects and implements international law, the Palestinian BDS National Committee and many other organizations call on global civil society to join in a campaign to challenge the JNF.
Why should firedoglake take a position for or against the BDS movement?
I was not in favor of the idea until 2010, even though I have been arguing for and working for Palestinian rights since late in the last century. What changed my mind in 2010?
1. The continuing expropriation of Palestinian lands inside Israel itself, in East Jerusalem and in countless places in the West Bank.
2. The growing strength of the ultra far right in Israeli politics and government ministries. Just this week the Knesset passed a new “Citizenship Law” that, although watered down from the initially proposed “Loyalty Oath” legislation, leaves much room for further implementation of apartheid policies or worse against Palestinians who are Israeli citizens:
Initially, Israel Beiteinu pushed for legislation requiring a loyalty oath to a “Jewish and democratic” state, but the current law was the compromise that the faction managed to secure from the coalition.
“Another promise made by Israel Beiteinu to its voters has been fulfilled,” responded Lieberman minutes after the vote. “Without loyalty, there can be no citizenship. Any person who harms the country cannot enjoy the benefits of citizenship and its fruit. The law will help confront the phenomenon by which there are those who take advantage of our democracy in order to undermine it, and by which those who are called citizens collaborate with the enemy.”
In a gibe at Arab MKs who presented outspoken and impassioned opposition to the bill, Lieberman added that “unfortunately, we are witness to these incidents even among members of the Knesset.”
3. The brazenly unlawful and unnecessary attack on the MV Mavi Marmara, the hundreds of deaths or injuries in 2011 of Palestinians, almost half of them children, and the continuing insinuation of Israeli-based interest groups into American politics helped spur me toward supporting BDS.
4. Already, before I supported BDS, I felt strongly about the negative effects of Israeli-centric American policies. I was asked this 15 months ago:
I don’t understand your preoccupation with Palistine. How about giving some balanced blog space and advocacy for the oppressed people of countries such as North Korea, Tibet, China, Sudan, Somalia, Myanmar, etc.?
Also, and importantly, there is no large body of American people who openly believe that we need to foster violence in North Korea, Tibet, China, Somalia, Venezuela, Cuba, Sudan or Burma, so that we may enable the second coming of Jesus Christ, and implement a new age. And there is no cynical tie-in between Columbian politicians who hope to bring money to their country because of some apocolyptic religious myth, and American fundamentalist sects who total in the tens of millions of misguided believers.
I’ve come to actively support the global BDS movement. I encourage others to do the same. I would like to hear the thoughts of readers on whether or not this might be a laudable goal for fdl to also pursue.
*Update: Here is a statement about the origins and goals of the Global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign against the Israeli Government policies against the Palestinian people:
On July 9 2005, a year after the International Court of Justice’s historic advisory opinion on the illegality of Israel’s Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT), a clear majority of Palestinian civil society called upon their counterparts and people of conscience all over the world to launch broad boycotts, implement divestment initiatives, and to demand sanctions against Israel, until Palestinian rights are recognised in full compliance with international law.
The campaign for boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) is shaped by a rights-based approach and highlights the three broad sections of the Palestinian people: the refugees, those under military occupation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and Palestinians in Israel. The call urges various forms of boycott against Israel until it meets its obligations under international law by:
Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands occupied in June 1967 and dismantling the Wall;
Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and
Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN Resolution 194.
The BDS call was endorsed by over 170 Palestinian political parties, organizations, trade unions and movements. The signatories represent the refugees, Palestinians in the OPT, and Palestinian citizens of Israel.
YNet - and now Haaretz are reporting that MIT professor emeritus, groundbreaking linguist and passionate spokesman for human rights, Noam Chomsky, has been refused entry into Israel this morning, at the Allenby Bridge:
Jewish intellectual Noam Chomsky, one of the prominent speakers against the Israeli policy, was stopped Sunday while trying to enter Israel through the Allenby Bridge, sources in the Birzeit University in Ramallah told Ynet.
According to the officials, Chomsky was scheduled to deliver a lecture at the university and was detained at the border crossing for more than four hours. A human rights activists who was with Chomsky at the crossing confirmed that the 81-year-old linguist was not allowed to enter Israel.
Haaretz is reporting that:
When he asked an Israeli inspector why he had not received permission, he was told that an explanation would be sent in writing to the American embassy.
Chomsky arrived at the Allenby Bridge at around 1:30 in the afternoon and was taken for questioning, before being released back to Amman at 4:30 P.M.
Interior Ministry spokeswoman Sabine Haddad said Chomsky was turned away for various reasons but declined to elaborate. The ministry was looking into allowing him to enter only the West Bank, said Haddad.
In a telephone interview with Channel 10, Chomsky said the interrogators had told him he had written things that the Israeli government did not like.
"I suggested [the interrogator try to] find any government in the world that likes anything I say," he said [emphasis added]
There is an ongoing crackdown in Israel on peace activists, human rights NGOs and – especially – outspoken Israeli citizens who are not Jewish. Not much of this is making the U.S. papers. Chomsky’s refused entry is too recent to have gotten much U.S. attention yet – this happened on an early Sunday afternoon in Israel or, to be more accurate, East Jerusalem, which is part of Palestine, though Israeli police control the well-known border crossing point.
This may be a difficult story for U.S. media to spin in favor of the Israeli action. Some will try, though.
Not my words. Andrew Sullivan’s. He also claims today, "Joe Biden was kicked in the balls as he came to Israel, with a simultaneous "fuck you" by the Israeli government announcing new settlements – 1600 houses – in East Jerusalem."
No sooner did Biden boldly make Netanyahu wait 90 minutes for Biden to show up for dinner, than Biden totally accommodated the Israelis by delivering a message designed to show our properly deferential role to Israel in dealing with those pesky Palestinians:
United States Vice President Joe Biden warned Israelis in a direct address from Tel Aviv on Thursday that the status quo in the Middle East was not sustainable, and vowed that the United States would do everything in its power to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.
He also urged both Israelis and the Palestinians look toward direct negotiations to end the long-standing conflict.
"The demographic realities make it difficult for Israel to be a Jewish homeland and a democratic country," said Biden in his speech to foreign dignitaries, Israeli officials and students at Tel Aviv University. "The status quo is not sustainable."
"To end this historic conflict, both sides must be historically bold," he said.
That’s pretty bold, eh? The Israelis’ answer to Biden’s challenge to be "bold"? This announcement, made early today:
Some 50,000 new housing units in Jerusalem neighborhoods beyond the Green Line are in various stages of planning and approval, planning officials told Haaretz. They said Jerusalem’s construction plans for the next few years, even decades, are expected to focus on East Jerusalem.
Most of the housing units will be built in predominantly Jewish neighborhoods beyond the Green Line, while a smaller number of them will be built in Arab neighborhoods. The plans for some 20,000 of the apartments are already in advanced stages of approval and implementation, while plans for the remainder have yet to be submitted to the planning committees.
The planned construction includes the 1,600 homes in the ultra-Orthodox East Jerusalem neighborhood of Ramat Shlomo that were approved Tuesday. Saying the decision undermines peace talks, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden has publicly condemned the move, which the Interior Ministry announced during his visit to Israel.
Sullivan goes on to write:
I cannot read Netanyahu’s mind. But I can observe Israel’s actions. They intend to occupy and colonize the entire West Bank for ever. [emphasis added] They may allow some parceled enclaves for Palestinians, but they will maintain a big military presence on the Eastern border of West Bank, and they will sustain this with raw military power and force. I certainly cannot see any other rationale for their actions these past few years that makes any sense at all. Many Israeli politicians now use the term "apartheid" for this future.
The Israelis’ bold move may be intended to do more than just kick the Vice President of the United States in the nuts.
Biden mentions "bold." The Israelis accommodate him. But the Palestinians are quite limited in the range of ways they can show "boldness."
It may well be a provocation designed to not only make it impossible for the Palestinian Authority to negotiate at all with the Israelis, but also to force the level of demonstrations in the West Bank to escalate beyond their current relative peacefulness, to levels where the IDF can claim it has to perform a Cast Lead type operation in the regions where the expansionism is already going ahead full bore.
The Israeli government is mounting an intense campaign in the United States to keep Americans from being allowed to stop militant expansionist Zionism. Without even attempting to hide the direct links between the Israeli government and the campaign’s enablers, militant Zionist expansion organizations have pretty much taken over the anti-BDS campaign, with a lot of Israeli (and American) money.
This article at mondoweiss, links to a paper being disseminated now by something called the "BDS Working Group." The pamphlet is called "Delegitimization of Israel: “Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions,” and is credited to Co-Chairs: Dr. Mitchell Bard and Professor Gil Troy.
Go to mondoweiss and read the document. If you teach college, are involved in union activism, or will be participating at upcoming Democratic Party caucuses, you may begin to see the products of the "BDS Working Group" real soon. Mixed in with more rhetoric about bombing Iran.
And just so it is clear, I am not in favor of the BDS campaign as it is now configured.
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