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Thank You, Ariel Sharon

1:50 pm in Uncategorized by EdwardTeller

sabra_shatila_massacres

Thanks for turning me from a Zionist into a post-Zionist.

It was late November, 1982.  I had been at sea on one tug boat or another since early July.  As we pulled into Puget Sound, headed toward Elliot Bay, towing our barge and its stacked and lashed down cargo of auxiliary C-130 fuel tanks, which we were bringing south from the air force base on Shemya Island, I called my closest friend in Seattle on the radiotelephone.  He agreed to pick me up in a few hours at the Crowley dock on Harbor Island.   I was more than ready for my first beer in three months.

When Jim Acord picked me up at the pier, he said “We’re going to an art exhibit in Fremont.”

I replied, “Is it close to a bar?”  This was a decade before Fremont came back to life, and there were only one or two seedy bars in what was then one of Seattle’s most neglected neighborhoods.

Jim was a struggling sculptor, and a couple of Fremont’s pioneer artists, most notably Richard Beyer, were allowing Acord to use their sheds and tools to carve granite.

“Sculpture?” I asked.

“No, kids’ art.  Orphans, actually – Palestinian orphans from Beirut.”

“From the massacres?”   Even though I had been at sea in the north Pacific, Bering, Chukchi and Beaufort Seas for months, we had kept up with the news via our boats’ excellent radios in the bridge cabin.  We listened avidly to BBC, Radio Moscow, U.S. Armed Forces Radio, and NHK.

Jim answered, “Yes. It’s a collection of impressions by Palestinian refugees from Sabra who lost family members or parents.   Put together by people in the Seattle area Palestinian-American community.”

“That was fast.”  The massacres of thousands of Palestinian refugees residing in the fetid, overcrowded refugee camps in Beirut’s outskirts had occurred in mid-September, just over two months earlier.  The massacres had been inflicted during the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, that had commenced on June 6th, 1982.

We went to the impromptu exhibit.  Here, my close associate introduced me to some of his Palestinian-American friends, who walked me around to others, and to the show’s organizers.  I was as warmed by their genuine geniality as I was chilled by the images of guns, blood, mangled bodies, Stars of David, helicopters, tanks and tears.  I wrote ten years ago:

This Seattle exhibit opened my eyes to sociological aspects of the growing Mid-East tragedy for the first time. My previous interests in subjects like “Israel’s defensible borders” or fascination with the Battle of the Chinese Farm during the Yom Kippur War were completely overshadowed by developing friendships with Christian and Muslim Palestinian Americans.

Up to the time of the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, and this exhibit, I had been very supportive of Israel.  After this experience, and my gaining Palestinian friends, I ceased to accept Zionist explanations for Israeli actions uncritically.

Ariel Sharon, who left his eight-year-long persistent vegetative state yesterday for his eternal place, deep in the depths of Hell, has long been reviled for his role in these massacres:

Sharon was found by the Kahan Commission to be indirectly responsible for the Sabra and Shatila Massacre of over 3,000 Palestinian refugees by Israel’s Lebanese allies, the Phalanges, and was made to resign – although he remained in the cabinet as minister without portfolio. Attempts to bring him to trial in international courts over the massacre went to no avail.

That this unrepentant thug went on, after having enabled such massacres, to become Israeli prime minister says as much about how sick that society is as it does about Sharon’s own relentless drive for personal power.

Saturday Art: Will 2014 Be the Watershed Year for Cultural Boycotts of Israel?

11:29 pm in Uncategorized by EdwardTeller

Moddi

I.  On December 27th, Gaza’s University Teachers’ Association and the Gaza Palestinian Students for the Academic Boycott of Israel wrote to young Norwegian songwriter, Moddi, asking him to cancel his upcoming 2014 concert, in Tel Aviv on February 1st.  Friday the young and rapidly upcoming artist responded, in a Facebook post that links to an article Jello Biafra wrote after he had cancelled an Israeli show, with his band, the Guantanamo School of Medicine, back in 2011.

The Gaza letter is an openly emotional plea.  It recounts some musicians who have recently decided to cancel appearances in the militant expansionist Zionist state:

We call upon your free soul that has been adding uplifting music into this disenchanted world of ours, to join those courageous people of conscience, artists like Elvis Costello, Annie Lennox, Roger Waters of Pink Floyd, Massive Attack, Gil Scott-Heron, Faithless, Carlos Santana, Vanessa Paradis, Natacha Atlas and Devendra Banhart.

And directly confronts the notion of an Israeli performance being appropriate, from a Gazan perspective:

We ask you now, like so many people of your nation have stood with the oppressed in the past, to stand on the right side of history, to respond to our call from the Gaza ghetto to not turn your back on us. If you play in Israel, then we will be a short distance away from where you are playing. But your beautiful tunes will break our wrenching hearts and not sway our souls.

I’ve watched a few of Moddi’s Youtube videos over the past year, after a student turned me on to his art.  Here is what the Gazan suppliants meant when they wrote “your beautiful tunes.”  Moddi, rendering Smoke, with Katrine Schiøtt, in Istanbul:

Moddi’s Facebook response to the Gazans is as poignant and defiant as his song, Smoke:

I have chosen to cancel my performance in Tel Aviv on February 1st. This is without comparison the most difficult decision I have ever made as an artist, and one that hurts almost as much as it feels right.

The reason for my decision is the situation in Israel and the areas it controls. Although music can be a unique arena for public debate, the debate over these territories has been misused for a long time. Discussion and dialogue creates an impression of constant progress. The realities of politics are very different. An example: as we speak, John Kerry is negotiating peace talks between Israel and Palestine, while at the same time Israel announces the construction of 1400 new settlements on occupied land. While everyone speaks about a two-state solution, the constant scattering of the West Bank through the building of new control posts, security fences and walls are making such a solution practically impossible.

The discourse of peace creates a thick veil, concealing the increasingly tighter besiegement of Gaza, the ongoing fragmentation of the West Bank and the continuing discrimination of Arab-Israeli citizens. By encouraging ‘dialogue’ and ‘tolerance’ as ideals, I am afraid that my voice will do nothing but to increase the already dysfunctional divide between words and action in a conflict where no one seems to trust each other’s intentions.

I know that I disappoint many of my Israeli listeners and I am truthfully sorry that it has to stay like this for now. I believe that you will understand, although you might not agree. Again, I encourage you to read Jello Biafra’s article, which provides many perspectives and no clear answers to the questions he has been faced with. Like him, I am overwhelmed by the complexity of the situation. Therefore, I will be going to Israel and to the West Bank to see things with my own eyes, meet some of the people who have joined the discussion and try to understand the situation better.

As long as ‘dialogue’ continues to be a goal in itself and not a means to solve one of the deepest, most intense conflicts of this time, I will not lend my voice to it. For now I’ll keep away, hoping that things can change for the better and that one day I can carry through with my very first concert on an Israeli stage.

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How Many Times Will Kerry Let Netanyahu Kick Him in the Nuts?

10:48 pm in Uncategorized by EdwardTeller

We don’t know yet.

Kerry & Netanyahu

“Netanyahu’s doing it because over the years he and most high-ranking Israeli officials have come to loath Americans.”

I.  Upon his return to do whatever he does in Israel and Palestine to push for some sort of a deal that both the Israelis and Palestinians can accommodate (an utterly impossible task), U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was treated to this tirade by the Israeli Prime Minister:

Welcome back to Jerusalem, John. I want to use this opportunity to express once again my personal appreciation and the appreciation of the people of Israel for your unremitting personal efforts to advance peace between us and the Palestinians. I know that you’re committed to peace, I know that I’m committed to peace, but unfortunately, given the actions and words of Palestinian leaders, there’s growing doubt in Israel that the Palestinians are committed to peace.

A few days ago in Ramallah, President Abbas embraced terrorists as heroes. To glorify the murders of innocent women and men as heroes is an outrage. How can President Abbas says – how can he say that he stands against terrorism when he embraces the perpetrators of terrorism and glorifies them as heroes? He can’t stand against terrorists and stand with the terrorists. And I’m wondering what a young Palestinian would think when he sees the leader of the Palestinian people embrace people who axed innocent men and women – axed their heads or blew them up or riddled them with bullets – what’s a young Palestinian supposed to think about the future? What’s he supposed to think about what he should do vis-a-vis Israelis and vis-a-vis the state of Israel? So it’s not surprising that in recent weeks Israel has been subjected to a growing wave of terrorist attacks. President Abbas didn’t see fit to condemn these attacks, even after we learned that at least in one case – I stress, at least in one case – those who served and are serving in the Palestinian security forces took part in them.

Netanyahu is referring, in part, to the record of some of the imprisoned Palestinians whose release is being celebrated in the Occupied Territories of the West Bank. What he was doing, in the statement, was paying Kerry back for his moment of candor, when, back in early November, he warned:

John Kerry, the US Secretary of State, warned Israel on Friday that it faced a third intifada if peace talks with the Palestinians failed.

During a visit to Israel aimed at putting the faltering peace process back on track, Mr Kerry told Israeli and Palestinian television that the alternative to success was a potential eruption of Palestinian violence.

‘The alternative to getting back to the talks is the potential of chaos,” he said. “I mean, does Israel want a third intifada?’

It was strong language from America’s top diplomat, clearly frustrated at the lack of progress in a process in which he has personally invested considerable effort.

Using the Arabic word for uprising, it recalled the first and second Palestinian intifadas which ran from 1987 to 1993 and from 2000 to 2005. Each period of escalated violence claimed thousands of lives, with the toll particularly heavy on the Palestinian side.

The so-called “Peace Process” talks seem to be entering new levels of absurdity:

‘We’re not expecting a breakthrough on this trip,’ Martin Indyk, the State Department’s mediator on the conflict, said today in a supposedly-anonymous briefing on this week’s urgent round of peace talks in Ramallah and Jerusalem.

Indyk said there is no ‘agreement’ between the parties, but Secretary of State John Kerry is seeking an agreement on a ‘framework’ for continued talks, not so different from the Clinton parameters of 2000. Indyk, a longtime advocate for Israel, said part of the framework is a possible announcement of final borders of a Palestinian state:

We’re trying to reach an understanding on what the final borders will be.

The briefing was supposedly anonymous– ‘with a Senior State Department Official who will be previewing the Secretary’s trip to Jerusalem and Ramallah this week’– but the first clue to Indyk’s identity came when the anonymous official mentioned his ’35-year experience on this particular conflict.” Then the briefing’s unnamed moderator outed him: “It’s an agreement on the terms, as Martin said– right– which has not been achieved in the past, at least in recent history.’

The talks will never get past Israeli demands that Palestine recognize the land stolen from the latter as “the Jewish State,” and Palestinian demands for a level of autonomy that would give them the same degree of statehood as Belize, Andorra, Singapore or Bermuda, to name similarly sized countries.

II.  Netanyahu isn’t kicking Kerry in the nuts because Kerry deserves it. He’s doing it because over the years he and most high-ranking Israeli officials have come to loath Americans. Even though the Obama administration’s record of supporting Israeli policies is perhaps the most disgustingly pro-Israeli in our country’s history, that matters less to the Israelis than that Obama is black and that they can sow seeds of distrust toward him in our country through Republican politicians, and through Democrats up for close elections in red states.  Is that cynical, or what?

The most disgustingly anti-American, anti-Obama interview I’ve read this week comes from The Times of Israel, in an interview of former U.S. Ambassador Michael Oren with the Times‘ David Horovitz. Justin Raimondo, in his first 2014 essay, got to the heart of the anti-Americanism in the interview:

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Book Salon Preview: Goliath, Life & Loathing in Greater Israel by Max Blumenthal – Part Three: The Complete Real News Interviews

8:58 pm in Uncategorized by EdwardTeller

This past week, Max Blumenthal, author of Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel, sat for five interview with The Real News‘ Paul Jay.  I posted part one here in mid-week.  All five segments have now been posted at The Real News.  Saturday afternoon, Firedoglake will host Blumenthal on the Saturday portion of the weekly Book Salon.  As part of the preliminaries for this important salon, here are all five segments, posted together for your convenience.

Part One:

Part Two:

Part Three:

Part Four:

I’ll post when I can find a link…..

Part Five:

Book Salon Preview: Goliath, Life & Loathing in Greater Israel by Max Blumenthal – Part One: The Book

1:10 pm in Uncategorized by EdwardTeller

Join the FDL Book Salon with Max Blumenthal, hosted by Edward Teller this Saturday at 2:00pm PST.

Max Blumenthal portraits

Firedoglake’s Edward Teller hosts Max Blumenthal book salon this weekend.

In 2009, soon after finishing his bestselling look at authoritarian underpinnings of the evangelical core of the USA’s militant new right, Republican Gomorrah: Inside the Movement that Shattered the Party, Max Blumenthal went to work on his next book.  He had actually conceived of the idea that became the framework of Goliath before he began writing Republican Gomorrah:

I conceived this book project before I even started my first book, Republican Gomorrah, and when I was beginning to refine the tactics that were working really well in exposing the radical right and the Republican Party. I was simply insinuating myself into the institutions of the GOP base, and into the gatherings this party would hold, getting to know people, trying to understand their mentality, and then following up with them. And making constant calls instead of relying on other people to do the reporting for me. From there, I’d conduct my own research and analysis and immerse myself in the history of the Christian right.

So what I set out to do when I made my first extended trip to Israel in May 2009, right after it elected its most right-wing government in history, is to insinuate myself into the major institutions of Israeli society.

The young author spent a lot of time in Israel and the occupied West Bank, assiduously chronicling, and interviewing, posting dozens of articles in magazines, online journals and blogs. Although Blumenthal continued to cover aspects of the far right in America, his efforts toward gathering the vast amount of information packed into the new book must have been a formidable task.

Four years later, what we have in Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel is simply the most detailed look yet taken at the increasingly racist, authoritarian and Xenophobic nation that Israel has become. The book’s narrative is relentless in its pursuit of detail. Interviews with contemporary political, cultural, religious and military figures are interspersed with well laid out chapters looking into the historical context of today’s events.

Divided into ten parts, and subdivided into 73 chapters, the book can be approached cover to cover, or tackled by looking at the subjects contained in the subdivisions. The ten divisions cluster chapter episodes related to a broader subject. For instance, Part V, What Lies Beneath the Forest, concentrates on the legacy of internal displacement of non-Jewish Palestinians within Israel itself. It contains five chapters, each of which looks at an aspect or ramification of this policy over the years:

The Days of ’48 Have Come Again looks at house demolitions of Palestinians inside of Israel, particularly the Lod ghetto, and in the occupied territories.  Blumenthal interviews several people who had their houses destroyed, often without warning.

The Blueprint goes back into the historical basis for internal displacement of non-Jewish residents of Israel, particularly the historically semi-nomadic Bedouins, 170,000 of whom are Israeli citizens. Looking closely at the writings of David Ben Gurion, back into the mid-1930s, Blumenthal demonstrates that the Zionist ideal has always and continues to regard the placement of their Bedouin citizens into concentration camps as a laudable goal.

The Summer Camp of Destruction looks at how a group of Jewish Israeli kids took a day off from summer camp in 2010, to help in the total destruction of the Bedouin village of Al Arabiq in the Negev.

Preparing the Land for Jesus ties into the preceding chapter, which as an aside, brings up the strange relationship between Zionism and millennialist Christian Zionism.  Blumenthal details workings of GOD-TV, “a Jerusalem-based cable television network that claimed to reach over half a billion people around the world with programming blending New World Order conspiracism with Greater-Israeli zealotry.” In essence, Blumenthal discovered that the founders of GOD-TV were partnering with the Jewish National Fund to plant over a million trees on the site or the demolished Bedouin village of Al Arabiq, and in the nearby rural areas. The author describes the development, since the 1980s, of ties between Israeli Jewish agencies, NGOs and non-profits, to American fundamentalist Christian Zionist groups.

There Are No Facts looks at the absurd Canada Forest project, culminating in the late 2010 Carmel area forest fires that killed 40 Israeli police cadets, among others. One of the best chapters of the book, it abundantly shows how nutty some of Israel’s land reclamation projects have been, how destined to failure they always were.

The five chapters of What Lies Beneath the Forest are a microcosm of the way the entire book is constructed — clusters of facts, history, interviews and encounters, showing the fatal shortcomings of Zionism’s paradigm.

Blumenthal, describing this aspect of the book’s thrust:

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Israel Threatens to Ban French Diplomat Who Reacted to Armed Thugs

5:02 pm in Uncategorized by EdwardTeller

Last Friday an incident occurred at the site of the Bedouin village of Khirbet Al-Makhul, in the occupied West Bank area of Palestine. In violation of Geneva Convention protocols for conduct by occupying forces, an Israeli court ruled early last week that the village should be demolished, as nobody living there had been able to receive building permits for dwellings there. According to locals, the village has been at this location since long before the occupying power, Israel, even existed, let alone had occupied the local area through aggressive war, in June, 1967.

Once demolitions had occurred, the International Committee of the Red Cross attempted to deliver temporary housing to the homeless refugees:

Israeli soldiers stopped the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) delivering emergency aid on Tuesday and on Wednesday ICRC staff managed to put up some tents but the army forced them to take the shelters down.

Friday, when diplomatic staff from several nations attempted to deliver supplies and shelter, things became violent:

Diplomats from France, Britain, Spain, Ireland, Australia and the European Union’s political office, turned up on Friday with more supplies. As soon as they arrived, about a dozen Israeli army jeeps converged on them, and soldiers told them not to unload their truck.

Here is the longest video of the event I have been able to locate so far. Please note how many people are documenting the confrontation with cameras, phones and video equipment:

Here is a report that was shown on Iranian TV early Saturday:

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John Kerry Addresses the American Jewish Community Global Forum on Middle East Peace Prospects

12:37 am in Uncategorized by EdwardTeller

Kerry

Is Kerry's hope for a two-state solution naive?

Secretary of State John Kerry addressed the annual American Jewish Community Global Forum on Monday, June 3rd.  He focused on the limited time he believes the Palestinians and Israelis have to come up with a workable “two-state solution.”

So I want to ask you this: Whenever you think about this challenge and how hard it is, think about what will happen if it doesn’t work. We will find ourselves in a negative spiral of responses and counter-responses that could literally slam the door on a two-state solution, having already agreed, I think, that there isn’t a one-state one. And the insidious campaign to de-legitimize Israel will only gain steam. Israel will be left to choose between being a Jewish state or a democratic state…

Personally, I believe the two-state solution is dead, and was probably never viable.  The “negative spiral” he cites is an ongoing death spiral of what might have been Democratic Israel, with equal rights for all its citizens.

The ultra-Orthodox are growing in numbers, population percentage and political power.  They do not want a two-state solution.  They want to expel the Palestinian Christians and Muslims, either across the Jordan into other countries, or onto increasingly smaller allotments, similar to the former South African Bantustans, or the kinds of Indian reservations one finds in upstate New York, or along the California coast.  So that they can have their ethnically cleansed, and – in their minds – pure Judea and Samaria.

Kerry’s pandering to American Zionist and Israeli concerns about Palestinian United Nations efforts (and their widening support), and over the rapid growth of the Global BDS movement, by referring to these efforts as “insidious,” is countered by his acknowledging that hostile reaction to Israeli actions is “gaining steam.”

Kerry paints the growing isolation of Israel and its few supporters glumly, without acknowledging why this is happening [emphasis added]:

So before anyone gives up on this hope, we have to ask whether we are prepared to live with permanent conflict, with the possibility of widespread civil disobedience, with the possibility of a civil rights movement that grows in the West Bank, with the possibility of another intifada always looming around the corner. If the parties don’t agree to come back to the table, the Palestinians have already said that they will go to the UN and seek to join more UN organizations, where, despite the best efforts of the United States, they will probably get more votes in their favor than they got last time. And last time, we only got nine votes against. And the Palestinians have also threatened to take their case to the International Criminal Court.

Why is “the possibility of a civil rights movement that grows in the West Bank” a bad thing, in the face of the continuing land confiscations, ghettoization, repression and random violence that Palestinians face daily?

Overall, it is a well put-together, very well delivered speech.  However, it offers nothing imaginative regarding the dangerous impasse with Iran.  It is more than a bit too obsequious.  But it is no more of that than any typical speech about Israel by any leading American politician:

The recent dog-and-pony show of Tony Blair and John Kerry boasting a multi-billion-dollar, multi-year Palestinian development plan, preceded Kerry’s Forum speech, which was informed of Blair’s and Kerry’s “plan” in its content.   The announcement, made at the World Economic Forum in Amman, Jordan, hasn’t gotten much press coverage.  Max Blumenthal wrote a detailed article about it last weekend, in which he describes Kerry’s Amman speech:

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The Weirdness of Zionist Reaction to Stephen Hawking Supporting Global BDS

11:53 pm in Uncategorized by EdwardTeller

Einstein i Hawking

Last Friday, renowned physicist Stephen Hawking wrote to the organizers of an upcoming conference in Jerusalem, telling them he was backing out of a commitment to participate, in solidarity with Palestinian academics who had asked him to reconsider attending.  Here is part of his letter:

I have received a number of emails from Palestinian academics. They are unanimous that I should respect the boycott. In view of this, I must withdraw from the conference. Had I attended I would have stated my opinion that the policy of the present Israeli government is likely to lead to disaster.

The story of his cancellation broke Wednesday morning in the Guardian:

Professor Stephen Hawking is backing the academic boycott of Israel by pulling out of a conference hosted by Israeli president Shimon Peres in Jerusalem as a protest at Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.

Hawking, 71, the world-renowned theoretical physicist and former Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge, had accepted an invitation to headline the fifth annual president’s conference, Facing Tomorrow, in June, which features major international personalities, attracts thousands of participants and this year will celebrate Peres’s 90th birthday.

Hawking is in very poor health, but last week he wrote a brief letter to the Israeli president to say he had changed his mind. He has not announced his decision publicly, but a statement published by the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine with Hawking’s approval described it as “his independent decision to respect the boycott, based upon his knowledge of Palestine, and on the unanimous advice of his own academic contacts there”.

Hawking’s decision marks another victory in the campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions targeting Israeli academic institutions.

Although the Guardian article appeared to be authoritative when it was published, it was soon questioned, based on a statement emanating from the communication office of his employer, Cambridge University:

Tim Holt, media director at the University of Cambridge spokesman, said Hawking’s decision was based strictly on health concerns.

“For health reasons, his doctors said he should not be flying at the moment so he’s decided not to attend,” said Holt. “He is 71-years-old. He’s fine, but he has to be sensible about what he can do.”

A University of Cambridge statement released earlier Wednesday cited “personal reasons” for his decision. Hawking, who has ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease, cannot move his body and uses a wheelchair. He communicates through a computerized voice system.

The story of Hawking’s cancellation, carried by the Guardian had little traction Wednesday morning, but the story of the Guardian having blown the real reason for Hawking’s backing out got it up into major news aggregators, such as memeorandum.  Throughout Wednesday morning, there was confusion.  Hawking was attacked severely on facebook and elsewhere, savaged for being ungrateful to Israelis for creating technology that helps him continue to communicate, and for not  being that good of a scientist:

if one decides to Boycott Israel, then one must be consistent, if Mr. Hawking decides to boycott us he should also refrain from using his means of communications as he is using products that were invented and produced in Israel. it is very interesting though that we continue to hear him isn’t it.

and (I like this one):

Who cares? He hasn’t been coherent since he wrote that the universe was capable of creating itself. His kind of “reason” fits neither science nor sociology…but it’s perfectly suited to politics.

and:

Given that much of his work is based on Israeli scientists’ work. I guess it was fine to use Jacob Bekenstein’s research to further his own fame (after previously deriding his ideas), but heavens forbid he visit the man’s homeland! Why, that would just be WRONG!

and:

An Israeli company made a medicine that cures ALS, so go ahead Mr. Genius Idiot, Boycott Israel.

When the contrary statement from Cambridge claiming health reasons as being the real motivator came out Wednesday morning, some pro-Zionist blogs strutted Cambridge communicator Holt’s obfuscation out as proof of the Guardian‘s anti-Israel agenda:

The Guardian, which broke the story late last night, claimed that Hawking was due to boycott Israel after receiving an erroneous statement from the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine (BRICUP), apparently with Hawking’s approval.

The statement said that the move was “his independent decision to respect the boycott, based upon his knowledge of Palestine, and on the unanimous advice of his own academic contacts there”.

However, a Cambridge university spokesperson has confirmed to The Commentator that there was a “misunderstanding” this past weekend, and that Prof. Hawking had pulled out of the conference for medical reasons.

In comments to the feuding articles, inevitable comparisons between Hawking and Albert Einstein were made.  Soon after the formation of Israel, the great physicist was invited to go to Israel to become President.  He declined:

When [Israeli] President Chaim Weizmann died in 1952, Einstein was asked to be Israel’s second president, but he declined, stating that he had “neither the natural ability nor the experience to deal with human beings.” He wrote: “I am deeply moved by the offer from our State of Israel, and at once saddened and ashamed that I cannot accept it.”

Carefully chosen words. Four years ago, I compiled the most authoritative web version I know of Einstein’s April 17th, 1938 Commodore Hotel speech.  All others leave out the last two sentences, which I here emphasize:

I should much rather see reasonable agreement with the Arabs on the basis of living together in peace than the creation of a Jewish State. Apart from practical considerations, my awareness of the essential nature of Judaism resists the idea of a Jewish State, with borders, an army, and a measure of temporal power, no matter how modest. I am afraid of the inner damage Judaism will sustain – especially from the development of a narrow nationalism within our own ranks, against which we have already had to fight strongly, even without a Jewish State. We are no longer the Jews of the Maccabee period.

A return to a nation in the political sense of the word, would be equivalent to turning away from the spiritualization of our community which we owe to the genius of our prophets.

Einstein uttered this profound declaration before the horrors of World War II, which left over 60 million dead, 10% of them Jewish.  After the war, and during the very early years of Israeli existence, he could be conflicted regarding his support for the new Levantine crusader state, created largely by colonists from north central Europe.

Hawking is a non-Jewish atheist, apparently appalled by his encounters with what Einstein feared, “the development of a narrow nationalism within our own ranks.”  Einstein believed deeply in the existence of something beyond what he or we might readily explain through scientific method – “God,” if you will.

Hawking’s reaching out to pleas from Palestinian academics and scientists is motivated more by his well-known penchant for not wanting to put up with bullshit.

I wish Prof. Hawking had decided to attend.  As he wrote to the guy who cannot claim to be Einstein’s successor to a failing dream, “Had I attended I would have stated my opinion that the policy of the present Israeli government is likely to lead to disaster.”

It already has.  Einstein, was a true Jewish prophet along the lines of  Ezekiel, Elisha and Elijah, among others.  Had he accepted the offer to become Israel’s president, a largely symbolic office, it may have changed the course of human events on the Levant.  He predicted the ongoing disaster’s inevitability.  Hawking, like Einstein, questions the charade.

Who will be next?

The Only Occupied European Country to Save Its Jews from the Nazis Recognizes Palestine – Google It!

11:09 pm in Uncategorized by EdwardTeller

I.  On April 9, 1940, the German military invaded Denmark and Norway.  Denmark, a small country with an even smaller military, ended open resistance within a few hours.  Norway openly resisted until late May.  The Norwegian government relocated to London.  The Danes stayed.

Denmark was able to retain many of its government functions through the first part of the occupation.  The Germans were able to milk propaganda value out of this by their claims of benevolent occupation.  Danes were able to provide valuable agricultural products to the German war effort through much of the war.  Denmark suffered less than any other European country occupied by the Germans during the Second World War.

Denmark was one of several countries occupied by or in alliance with the Nazis who were pressured over years to address their “Jewish problem.”  They irked the Nazis by not acknowledging there was any such problem.  Occupied Norway and Denmark, and Nazi ally Finland all had fairly small Jewish populations, but they were fully emancipated, and had been for some time before the war.  Only in Norway did Nazi demands to limit Jewish freedoms gain traction.  By late 1942, at the height of both Nazi power and that of the Norwegian fascist Quisling government, arrests and deportations commenced there:

The deporation followed a series of steps to discriminate, persecute, and disenfranchise Jews in Norway. Jewish individuals were at first arrested, Jewish property was confiscated, Jews were ordered to report to local police stations and have their identification cards stamped with a “J” and fill in a lengthy form about their profession, holdings, and family. Based on the lists the police compiled, most Jewish adult men were arrested and detained in October 1942, and by November 26, women and children were also arrested for deportation.

This is the only time in Norwegian history that Norwegian police had been ordered to arrest children.

Of the 775 of Norway’s 2,200 Jews the Nazis managed to deport, only about 30 survived the war.  The late 1942 actions in Norway gave warning to the Danes that should they want to save their Jewish citizens, action might have to soon be taken.

Some of the commonly believed stories about Danish actions on behalf of their Jewish brethren are not true.  The most famous, that of King Christian X, the Star of David, and all Danes wearing them, when the Nazis demanded Danish Jews wear one, simply is not true:

During World War II King Christian X became the hero of a number of myths about his defense of the Danish Jews. The story which became best known says that the king showed his support for the Jews by carrying the star of David when riding in the streets of Copenhagen.

This myth dates back to the wartime but gained a second youth in 1952 with its retelling in Leon Uris novel Exodus. In this last version the king orders the whole population to follow his example – and everybody then wore the star to force the Germans to abandon their anti-Jewish policy. The story is told in a few lines and in a very realistic style. It was repeated in the film Exodus. However, it was not invented by Leon Uris, but during the war and probably by a person hired by a Danish-American club in New York. This has been shown by the Icelandic historian Vilhjálmur Örn Vilhjálmsson in The King and the Star. Myths created during the Occupation of Denmark. The myth has been read as a metaphor for the general warm relation that existed between Danes and the Danish Jews, which resulted in the Rescue of the Danish Jews in 1943.

The truth, however, is more powerful:

Although the majority of the Danish Jews were in hiding, they would eventually have been caught if safe passage to Sweden could not be secured. Sweden had earlier turned away the Norwegian Jews to their certain deaths and they were determined to do the same to the Danish Jews.

Fortunately, Niels Bohr, the Danish physicist, made a determined stand for his fellow countrymen. He was spirited off to Sweden, whose government was under strict orders to get him to the United States without delay to work on the then top-secret Manhattan Project. When Bohr reached the shores of Sweden they told him he had to board a plane immediately for the United States. Bohr refused. He told the Swedish officials, and eventually the king, that until they announced over their air waves and through their press that their borders would be open to receive the Danish Jews, he wasn’t going anywhere. Bohr wrote of these events himself. As related by the historian Richard Rhodes, on 30 September 1943 Bohr persuaded King Gustaf of Sweden to make public Sweden’s willingness to provide asylum, and on 2 October 1943 Swedish radio broadcast that Sweden was ready to offer asylum. Historians Richard Rhodes and others interpret Bohr’s actions in Sweden as being a necessary precursor without which that mass rescue could not have occurred. Whether or not the mass rescue of the Danish Jews could have happened without Bohr’s political activity in Sweden, there is no doubt that he did all that he could for his countrymen.

The Jews were smuggled out of Denmark over the Øresund strait from Zealand to Sweden—a passage of varying time depending on the specific route and the weather, but averaging under an hour on the choppy winter sea, as noted by Preben Munch-Nielsen in an interview with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Some were transported in large fishing boats of up to 20 tons, but others were carried to freedom in rowboats or kayaks. The ketch Albatros was one of the ships used to smuggle Jews to Sweden. Some refugees were smuggled inside freight cars on the regular ferries between Denmark and Sweden, this route being suited for the very young or old who were too weak to endure a rough sea passage. The underground had broken into empty freight cars sealed by the Germans after inspection, helped refugees onto the cars, and then resealed the cars with forged or stolen German seals to forestall further inspection.

The collective efforts of Danes to support their Jewish citizens, protect and save their lives, was honored by postwar Israel, declaring Danes “Righteous among Nations.”

Last Friday, Denmark and Finland jointly announced they were joining Sweden, which had granted Palestine embassy status.  The formal announcement was Monday, at a Scandinavian ministerial conference.  Here’s Friday’s statement:

It is with satisfaction that we announce our joint intention to work with the Palestinians to be able to upgrade the status of the Palestinian Missions in Copenhagen and Helsinki. After this process all Nordic countries will be offering the same working conditions for official Palestinian representatives as is the case for accredited diplomats serving in an embassy of a recognized state.

Palestine is in a phase of state-building, and many challenges remain for President Abbas to handle before we can recognize Palestine formally as a state. But it is important to keep focused on the aim of Palestine becoming a fully recognized state and as such claim its rightful place as part of the international community of states. Denmark and Finland took, together with the majority of EU member states and all Nordic countries, an essential step by voting in favour of the upgraded status of Palestine in the UN on 29 November 2012.

We hope that the intention to give, for all practical purposes, the Palestinian Missions in our capitals conditions for work identical to those of an embassy will encourage President Abbas to engage with determination in the necessary negotiations with the Israeli government on a two-state solution. The present efforts undertaken from the US and strongly supported by the EU deserve the support of the Palestinian and the Israeli governments.

As yet, Israeli reaction has been muted.  All the Nordic States now recognize Palestine.

The efforts during World War II by Scandinavian diplomats, most notably Swedes, to rescue Jews and other war prisoners in the debacle consuming the shards of Hitler’s 1,000-year Reich were remarkable.  They evolved into support by those same countries after the war for the most humanitarian aspects of  the United Nations, and international humanitarian agencies.  This recognition of Palestine and Palestinian aspirations by these countries is part of that.

II.  The muted restraint by the Israeli government to recognition of Palestine by Denmark and Finland over the past weekend can be contrasted to Israeli outrage to Google‘s announcement that it has given Palestine the same upgrade:

Deputy Foreign Minister Zeev Elkin wrote to Google CEO Larry Page on Sunday urging the company to rescind its decision to refer to the Palestinian territories as “Palestine” on all its products. Elkin claimed this decision was liable to have a negative impact on efforts to restart Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.

“By so doing,” Elkin wrote, “Google is in essence recognizing the existence of a Palestinian state. Such a decision, is in my opinion, not only mistaken but could also negatively impinge on the efforts of my government to bring about direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

“ … I would be grateful were you to reconsider this decision since it entrenches the Palestinians in their view that they can further their political aims through one-side actions rather than through negotiating and mutual agreement.”

Elkin concluded by proposing that Israeli representatives meet with representatives of Google to discuss the issue.

Where does Elkin propose they meet?

Copenhagen? Helsinki? Stockholm? Oslo? Reykjavik?

Relations between Israel and Palestine have certainly been eclipsed recently by the Syrian meltdown, but they will remain to be important.  However, whenever the subject of Palestinian freedom comes up this year, it seems that acknowledgement of the egregious occupation, and the insidiousness of colonial settler expansion into more Palestinian territory, is becoming more widely accepted.

Photo Christian X of Denmark, in the public domain

Saturday Art: Alice Walker Reads Rachel Corrie

12:29 pm in Uncategorized by EdwardTeller

Rachel Corrie - February 2003

Next Saturday, March 16th, will mark the tenth anniversary of the death in Gaza, of Rachel Corrie.  Rachel, then a senior at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, had gone to Gaza at the beginning of 2003, to fulfill aspects of her senior thesis.  While there, she became active in efforts by the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), to protect Palestinians from outrages of the Israeli occupation forces.

She was killed by an Israeli Army D-9 armored bulldozer, with two people aboard in the cockpit, one there to drive, the other, to observe.  During the same time period, Israeli forces in Gaza shot and mortally wounded Tom Hurndall, a British photographer, also working with the ISM (April 11th), and mutilated Brian Avery (April 5th), another American ISM activist, in Jenin in the West Bank.  This time period coincided with the American invasion of Iraq – March 19th to May 1st.

A notable aspect of Rachel Corrie’s legacy is the sheer volume of art her life and sacrifice evoked.  Between March 19th 2003 and April 24th 2004, I collected over 160 poems written in the young woman’s honor, and posted on the web, in the English language.  I used two of them in my 2003-2004 cantata, The Skies Are Weeping.  California composer, Paul Crabtree composed another cantata about Corrie, American Persephone.

Corrie’s journals and emails from Gaza became the basis of the most widely viewed and highly regarded work of art about Corrie, My Name is Rachel Corrie.  Written by Katharine Viner and Alan Rickman, the play premiered in London on April 5, 2005, in a highly evocative solo performance by actress Megan Dodds.  Premiered in a very small theatre, it was revived in the 2005 fall London theatre season in a larger venue, and proceeded to win many awards.

The first attempt to produce My Name is Rachel Corrie in the USA, at the New York Theatre Workshop resulted in a cancellation, when the NYTW caved to threats from militant Zionist expansionists. (Incidentally – the article about the cancellation in The Nation, by writer Philip Weiss, and the pushback that writer got in the publishing world for having written so sympathetically about Corrie, and critically about the NYTW, was one of the epiphanies Weiss underwent that led him into new directions, now expressed most fully at his web site, Mondoweiss).

The play has gone on to be performed on every continent save Antarctica, in many languages.

The play was derived from Corrie’s written material with cooperation of the slain activist’s family.  Some of Corrie’s writings had been posted on the web soon after her death.  Some soon became the basis of poems or lyrics.  For instance, the concluding lyric in The Skies are Weeping is my editing (with the Corrie family’s approval) of one of her last emails home: Read the rest of this entry →