Israeli Exceptionalism: The Destabilizing Logic of Zionism

This book discerns in the history of Zionism the plot of a Shakespearean tragedy. A small band of European Zionists enters the world stage in late 19th century, determined to create a Jewish state in Palestine. This is their solution to the ‘abnormal’ condition of European Jews, who are without a land and are not a nation. To achieve this, they must seize Palestine; induce Western Jews to become colonists; and, above all, recruit Western powers to sponsor their colonial project. Zionists can only succeed by creating Islamicate enemies; they need resurgent anti-Semitism to send Jewish colons to Palestine; and they must persuade/coerce the West to sponsor their colonial project. In succeeding, the Zionists merely transplant Jewish abnormality from Europe to the Middle East – and make it worse. In Europe, Jewish-Gentile frictions were local problems; in Israel, ominously, they have come to form the pivot of a global conflict that pits the West against the Islamicate.

Cover Image GIFThis is an excerpt from my forthcoming book, Israeli Exceptionalism: The Destabilizing Logic of Zionism (Palgrave Macmillan, November 10, 2009). Publisher’s link

— M. Shahid Alam

Why is an economist writing a book on the geopolitics of Zionism? This is easily explained. I could have written a book about the economics of Zionism, the Israeli economy, or the economy of the West Bank and Gaza, but how would any of that have helped me to understand the cold logic and the deep passions that have driven Zionism?

Zionism is a historic movement that emerges from the guts of Europe’s turbulent history. It is propelled by the dialectical interactions between two intertwined streams of Western civilization, the Jewish and Christian. And, as it has unfolded, Zionism has brought both these Western streams into a dangerous collision with the Islamicate. It would not be easy squeezing this tragic history into an economic model or a set of econometric estimations.

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Challenging the Dahiyeh Doctrine: the Samouni Family and the Goldstone Report

The Samouni family of Palestine lost 29 members of its extended family in Israel’s December massacre against the defenceless population in Gaza. Brenda Heard, founder of Friends of Lebanon, reveals how the goodwill of the Samouni family and assumption of continued cordiality with Israelis was repaid: in their family’s blood. The Samouni’s naive neighbourliness in the service of self-preservation was repaid with most of their extended family mercilessly wiped out by the occupying apartheid regime. This was not collaboration but a misguided attempt to co-exist under conditions of occupation and siege. The genocidal contempt towards genuine peace and all Palestinians is on display in a microcosm here as the UNHRC passes the Goldstone Report.

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Just Say No – Refusing the Drug of Propaganda at an Early Age

Israeli media is finally starting to feel the pressure. These past two weeks, the news has been full of the issues that activists have been working hard for and paying with their freedom for. Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions is slowly making headlines, the Goldstone report has been on the Israeli mind all week and the issue I’d like to highlight today, has been gaining momentum: The Shministim.

Meet the Shministim

In Hebrew “Shministim” means “seniors”. Every high school senior, in Israel, gets their drafting order in the mail. On rare occasions, these seniors refuse on ethical grounds, becoming conscientious objectors. In Israel, conscientious objectors are jailed by the army. They serve up to 28 days (those refusing to wear an army uniform, during their jailing, are sent to solitary confinement), are released and jailed again, until the army agrees to discharge them.

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Khalil Bendib interviews Shlomo Sand

(Download Mp3)

Sand Invention-of-the-Jewish-smallFollowing an interview earlier this year, Khalil Bendib once again speaks with Tel Aviv University historian Dr. Shlomo Sand about his brand-new book, The Invention of the Jewish People. The book has become a best seller both in Israel and in France: Did the world’s Jewry truly originate in Palestine, and if not, why does that myth persist to this day?

Sand is currently touring the US: see also an interesting review of Shlomo Sand’s recent NYU lecture by Philip Weiss here.

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Smashing the Silence: Community Defiance in Honduras

Demonstration in front of Clarion Hotel, Tegucigalpa. (Photo: Joseph Shansky)
Demonstration in front of Clarion Hotel, Tegucigalpa. (Photo: Joseph Shansky)

By Joseph Shansky

Since the few days of renewed excitement around the “secret” return to Honduras of democratically-elected President Manuel “Mel” Zelaya, there has been a disturbing omission of the Honduran political crisis in the international news.  It would be reasonable to think that with each passing day an exiled president was camped in a foreign embassy (as Zelaya has been in the Brazilian embassy since September 21st), tensions would rise and all eyes of the world would be on that lone building.  Instead the opposite has occurred and it appears as though the international press had lost interest without action to follow.  The subsequent collapse and renewal (and collapse again, etc.) of ongoing “negotiations” with Roberto Micheletti’s coup government did little to breathe life into this story.

Here in Tegucigalpa, life continues under subtle siege for ordinary citizens.  The city gets dark faster at night now and the people seem more frightened in general.  The curfew remains.  Small groups huddle together and glance around anxiously, couples hug closer, young girls grasp hands tighter and walk faster.  Militia is everywhere of course, made up of young, mostly uneducated kids who twirl their guns with abandon, dig their batons into the dirt and wait for a notice for action.  It can come at a whistle’s call here, and sometimes it feels as though the entire country is poised, frozen in battle.

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Treasury’s Cohen Cracks Down!….well, not on everyone.

Where are Lev Leviev and Irving Moskowitz in the big scheme of things?
Where are Lev Leviev and Irving Moskowitz in the big scheme of things?

The Treasury Department’s assistant secretary David Cohen addressed the American Bankers Association on Monday. Cohen implored the assembled executives to understand that money laundering sometimes involves “good money being put to bad use,” a standard the G7 Financial Action Task Force adopted way back in 1989. Cohen outlined Treasury’s efforts to “detect, deter and deny” money launderers access to the financial system by naming and shaming “facilitators” from the Gulf petroleum producers to Mexico. He also warned that there would be “reputational and legal consequences” for banks that didn’t pull at the yoke of expanded Treasury powers assumed under Executive order 13224 (PDF).

Audience members were visibly uneasy during camera pans. There was little interest in questioning the Treasury’s new employee. Perhaps with good reason. James G. Carr, the chief federal judge in northern Ohio, recently ruled that Treasury was acting unconstitutionally when it froze a US charity under suspicion of terrorist ties. US courts are only beginning to weigh in on the vast new powers assumed by Treasury. Until now there has been little visibility into its overseas activities. Treasury maintains that the Bank Secrecy Act, a money laundering law, empowers it to deny FOIA requests.

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Peshawar: A Journey Home

Beyond Hayatabad, the sun sets over the Khyber hills which separate Peshawar from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). The Pakistani Army is at present conducting a military opertion in the Khyber Agency.

Le Monde Diplomatique, 14 October 2009;, 15 October 2009

I leave Kamra (*) in Punjab at 7pm in a rickety old bus without air-conditioning. A pleasant wind rushes through the open windows: the late summer evening has mercifully sucked the humidity out of it. People who can’t afford air-conditioned transportation escape the infernal elements by travelling at night. And the passengers are mostly a destitute lot. When a man in the seat in front gets up I notice that his sādr — a cotton shawl used by Pakhtun men variously as a turban, windbreaker or bedspread — covers the long rip running down the back of his kameez. Next to that rip is an older tear crudely stitched together.

In two hours we are in Peshawar. For a third of each day the city has no electricity. It’s lights out as we arrive. I get off a stop early and decide to walk — though I have been advised against walking in western clothes outside the city centre. A pharmaceutical company salesman was killed a short while back for arriving at a hospital wearing pants, shirt and tie. But I feel safe despite my hiking outfit, backpack and sandals: I haven’t been in Peshawar long enough to think of it as anything but the city I grew up in. Wetook our safety for granted.

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Goldstone and the Kids

Illustration by Carlos Latuff
Illustration by Carlos Latuff

Anything that happens in my world, now, seems just that little bit more ironic, since Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Not that I credit the institution with too much merit, considering its list of peace-fakers, but the propaganda of this ill-executed award bothers me, nevertheless. While it’s easy to discredit Obama as an initiator of peace just for the sheer amassing of dead Afghans, this year I’d like to take it to my own little corner of the world.

Politics of Human Rights

Another action against peace, which the Obama administration has taken, is the pressure it applied in the UN to bury the Goldstone report:

Unsurprisingly, an early ally in the Israeli campaign for impunity was the Obama Administration, whose UN ambassador, Susan Rice, expressed “very serious concerns” about the report and trashed Goldstone’s mandate as “unbalanced, one-sided and basically unacceptable.” (Rice was acting true to her word; in April she told the newspaper Politico that one of the main reasons the Obama Administration decided to join the UN Human Rights Council was to fight what she called “the anti-Israel crap.”) [Electronic Intifada]

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Nobel Prize for Public Speaking

Robert Fisk, Richard Murphy and Azzam Tamimi discuss the Nobel Peace Prize to Barack Obama. Does he deserve the prize? And what has he achieved? Or was the award granted in the hope he would succeed in the future?

No Quarter on the Frontier

'Everything is coming up roses in Pakistan' --

The day that I arrived in Pakistan mid-September, the frontpage story on Foreign Policy magazine’s ‘Af-Pak Channel’ carried the exuberant headline ‘Everything’s coming up roses in Pakistan’. In the next four days the frontier capital of Peshawar would be hit by five rocket attacks. The week after there would be a car bombing. And things have only gotten worse since.

There was much triumphalism about the Pakistani army’s decisive action in Swat. Some were even encouraged to claim ownership of the war; it wasn’t an American war anymore, they said, it was ‘our’ war. The Pakistani liberal elite exhorted the military to press on and carry out similar actions in the Federally Administered Tribal Agencies (FATA). The militants seemed demoralized; it was was time to finish the job. It was not to be.

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