On Friday, March 30, First Lady Michelle Obama received an unusual request at her San Francisco fundraiser. Instead of “Can I have a picture with you?,” one major donor asked, “Will you use your leadership to prevent an attack on Iran?” Kristin Hull hand delivered to Ms. Obama a petition against war on Iran that was signed by prominent women including Gloria Steinem, Alice Walker, and Eve Ensler, and over 20,000 American women and allies. Hull implored the First Lady to think of the military families and veterans who have paid the price of war. Ms. Obama has championed veterans’ issues while in office and for this reason, in addition to her obvious proximity to the President, women’s groups have made her a focus of their peace efforts.
Ms. Obama thanked Hull for her advocacy and said, “Keep up the great work.” As Hull was walking away after her photo with the First Lady, Michelle Obama grabbed her hand, squeezed it and said, “We really need you.”
The petition implores three powerful American female politicians—Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Ambassador Susan Rice and First Lady Michelle Obama—to use their influence to push for diplomacy, not bombing, in US relations with Iran. The next step will be to hand-deliver the petition to Clinton. CODEPINK launched this petition online on March 20th, the 9th anniversary of the US invasion of Iraq (coincidentally also on the Iranian New Year, Norooz), with a call from Pulitzer Prize-winning author Alice Walker. “Nine years ago, I joined CODEPINK in front of the White House in an act of civil disobedience to try to stop our government from bombing Iraq,” said Alice Walker. “None of us could live with ourselves if we sat by idly while a country filled with children was blown to bits using money we needed in the United States to build hospitals, housing and schools. We must not let another tragic war begin.”
I’ve been a huge Red Hot Chili Peppers fan since I was 14 years old. The prospect of a live show in Israel has always been slim-to-non. I saved up some serious cash for their last slated show, way back when, needless to say I was heartbroken when they cancelled. Over a decade later things are quite different. It seems ridiculous to me that the Red Hot Chili Peppers would even consider crossing the picket line of the global Palestinian liberation movement, that’s been forming since the last time they cancelled. One thing remains the same though : It’s very hard to reach a band of their stature. I want to make sure that no artist can say they didn’t know. Not about the atrocities of the apartheid state and its brutal occupation, and not about the movement to boycott, divest and sanction it. Below is the letter I’ve sent the band via snail mail.
One of the regions of the world most severely hit by the current global capitalist crisis is Europe. The European crisis has been rendered even more severe by a regression to a pre-Keynesian outlook that, as Paul Krugman has pointed out in his New York Timescolumns, is reminiscent of the outlook of Herbert Hoover and other political leaders in the early stages of the Great Depression. In today’s Europe this regression takes the form of brutal austerity measures that drastically cut government expenditures and attack ordinary workers’ and citizens’ salaries and pensions. The ostensible purpose of these measures is to reduce government deficit and debt and to alleviate the sovereign debt crisis that is posing a threat to the future of the eurozone and the European project alike. In fact, however, these measures are proving counterproductive, thus leading to some debate even within the still dominant neoliberal camp. Against the ‘budget slashing’ neoliberalism favored by Angela Merkel and the European economic and political elites a more subtle ‘Keynesian neo-liberalism’ is making its appearance.
A recent New York Times editorial on the European austerity programs illustrates this alternative approach. The editorial begins by pointing out that two years “of unrelenting fiscal austerity … have brought [Europe] nothing but recession and deepening indebtedness.” As the editorial explains, this is due to the ‘growth-killing’ effect of ‘spending cuts and tax increases’ at a time of economic crisis. As the economy shrinks and unemployment soars, the editorial suggests, government tax revenues suffer, making the austerity programs counterproductive even from a narrowly fiscal point of view.
Adam Shatz has a superb piece in the latest issue of the LRB on Claude Lanzmann, the maker of Shoah. I highly recommend it to readers. (It requires a subscription, which I highly recommend since LRB is by far the world’s best political-literary publication). Here’s an excerpt:
‘Everybody is somebody’s Jew, and today the Palestinians are the Jews of the Israelis,’ Primo Levi said after the massacres in Sabra and Shatila. The bitter ironies of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians – all too evident to Levi, who had seen men and women in Auschwitz reduced to ghosts ‘who march and labour in silence’, known in the camps as ‘Muslims’ – are invisible to Lanzmann. He is fond of quoting Emil Fackenheim’s remark that the murdered Jews of Europe are ‘the presence of an absence’, but refuses to see that the Jewish state was also created ‘in the presence of absence’, as Mahmoud Darwish wrote. Only a few years after the war, Holocaust survivors found themselves living in the homes of another people who had been driven into exile, and on the ruins of destroyed villages. The Ben Shemen forest, where Lanzmann spoke with survivors of the Sonderkommando in Shoah, is only four kilometres east of Lod, where tens of thousands of Arabs were forcibly expelled in 1948. The Nakba – Arabic for ‘catastrophe’, or Shoah – has yet to end […]
Since the outbreak of the Second Intifada, the French Jewish community has been swept by a wave of communautarisme, or identity politics. Anti-semitism is one reason: clannishness is understandable in the face of incidents like last month’s killings in Toulouse. But anti-semitism alone can’t explain the Jewish community’s turn inward, or its drift to the right. A few years ago, troubled by the increasingly bellicose tenor of Jewish politics in France, Jean Daniel published a striking little book calledThe Jewish Prison. This prison, unlike anti-semitism, was self-imposed, and made up of three invisible walls: the idea of the Chosen People, Holocaust remembrance and support for the state of Israel. Having trapped themselves inside these walls, the prosperous, assimilated Jews of the West were less and less able to see themselves clearly, or to appreciate the suffering of others – particularly the Palestinians living behind the ‘separation fence’. Over the last four decades, Claude Lanzmann has played a formidable role not only in building this prison but in keeping watch over it. That a chronicler of the Holocaust could become a mystical champion of military force, an unswerving defender of Israel’s war against the Palestinian people and a skilled denier of its crimes, is a remarkable story, but you won’t find it in Lanzmann’s memoir.