Israel has no such ‘right’

For anyone keen to understand the ethnic dynamic in US politics, the pernicious influence of the Israel lobby over US foreign policy, Philip Weiss’s excellent blog should be a daily stop. In a recent post on this indispensable resource, Harvard scholar Jerome Slater — author of an excellent comparative study of the New York Times and Haaretz — makes some exceptionally astute comments which need bearing in mind whenever another person — as even some otherwise well-meaning people have been wont to do — bring up Israel’s supposed ‘right to defend itself’.

Slater makes these comments in the context of what he calls New York Times’s recent epiphany where it has attenuated its uncritically, unabashedly pro-Israel stance to allow some critical voices — Rashid Khalidi, Nicholas Kristof and (the rather less critical) Roger Cohen — on its op-ed pages.

How should we feel about these developments at the Times?  Should we rejoice that it’s finally beginning to understand? Of course.  Or should we be angry that it’s taken this long for it to acknowledge the obvious and begin to undo the enormous damage that it has done until now.  That too.

In any case, the Times–and most US critical commentary–is well short of attaining full enlightenment.  Kristof and even Cohen repeat the by-now standard mantra, the essence of which is “Of course Israel has the right to defend itself against Hamas rockets, but not by these methods.”  No, the proportionality issue aside, Israel has no such “right.”  An oppressor is not engaged in “self defense” when it uses force in order to annihilate resistance to its repression, and that holds true even if the form of resistance–attacks intended to kill civilians–is itself morally wrong.

The implicit assumption of the critics who focus only on the “proportionality” issue is that Israel has no choice but to use some kind of (proportional) force to end the Hamas attacks.  But of course it has other choices–it can withdraw from Palestinian land, end the occupation and repression of the Palestinians, and offer all the Palestinians–including Hamas–the international consensus two-state solution. If Hamas continued attacking Israel even after such a settlement, then–and only then–would it have a true “right of self defense.”


From Street Protest to Web 2.0 Lobbying

A typically insightful post from Juan Cole on ‘the Uselessness of Street Protest; And the Usefulness of Web 2.0 Lobbying’. Even though I don’t agree with his disparaging of initiatives like boycotts, and I think the best use of Web 2.0 is not merely its fund raising potential. It is however an edifying read for anyone who has participated in the wonderful but sadly futile protests all over the world. It is the information war where we have usually done worst; it is time to step up the game.

(Note: The neoconservatives have mobilized their cyber army to defeat Juan Cole in an online poll for the best Middle East related blog. Their man, a rather lame mediocrity by the name of Michael Totten is at the moment ahead by a significant margin. But there is time. Please show your appreciation for Juan’s work by voting for him here).

This kind of headline about large street protests against the Israeli attack on Gaza annoys me no end.

The mechanisms are well known whereby the Israeli Right* is able to engage in this cavalier disregard for civilian life (and, some are saying possible occasional targeting of civilians.

I’m sorry, but it just doesn’t matter if tens of thousands of people demonstrate in Paris. Oh,it might put a little pressure on Sarkozy to remonstrate a little harder with the Israeli government, but in the larger scheme of things it isn’t very significant.

Europe has ceded dealing with the Israelis to the United States.

The people of the United States have ceded dealing with the Israelis to the US Congress.

The US Congress generally abdicates its responsibilities when faced with large powerful single-issue lobbies such as the National Rifle Association, the Cuban-American pro-boycott organizations, and the Israel lobbies.

So Congress has ceded Israel, and indeed, most Middle East, policy to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and its myriad organizational supporters, from the Southern Baptist churches to the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs.

The Israel lobbies take their cue on what is good policy from the Israeli government and the Likud Party.

So, US Israel policy is driven by . . . the Israeli rightwing. That is why Congress voted 309 to five to support Israel’s war on the people of Gaza, with 22 abstaining.

What do do about it?

Continue reading “From Street Protest to Web 2.0 Lobbying”

Canadian Postal Workers Call for Boycott

The Canadian Postal Workers call for a boycott of Israel. Their excellent letter points to the root causes of the slaughter in Gaza – ethnic cleansing and occupation. It’s encouraging to see this attention to context. Context is essential, as it cuts through all the magical fog of ‘balance’ and ‘peace process.’ It shows that this is an assault against a people, not a dispute between equals.

On behalf of the 56,000 members of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, I am writing to demand that the Canadian government condemn the military assault on the people of Gaza that the state of Israel commenced on December 26th, 2008.

Canada must also call for a cessation of the ongoing Israeli siege of Gaza, which has resulted in the collective punishment of the entire Gaza population.

Canada must also address the root cause of the violence: Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories.
Continue reading “Canadian Postal Workers Call for Boycott”

If Gaza falls . . .

This excellent piece from the latest issue of the London Review of Books by Harvard scholar Sara Roy lays out the context within which Israel’s current assault on Gaza is taking place. The piece was written before the war started, which makes it all the more important as many are treating the present bombing as somehow an anomaly, a humanitarian crisis. As Roy makes clear, the bombings are a mere tactical shift in Israel’s extant political program.

Israel’s siege of Gaza began on 5 November, the day after an Israeli attack inside the strip, no doubt designed finally to undermine the truce between Israel and Hamas established last June. Although both sides had violated the agreement before, this incursion was on a different scale. Hamas responded by firing rockets into Israel and the violence has not abated since then. Israel’s siege has two fundamental goals. One is to ensure that the Palestinians there are seen merely as a humanitarian problem, beggars who have no political identity and therefore can have no political claims. The second is to foist Gaza onto Egypt. That is why the Israelis tolerate the hundreds of tunnels between Gaza and Egypt around which an informal but increasingly regulated commercial sector has begun to form. The overwhelming majority of Gazans are impoverished and officially 49.1 per cent are unemployed. In fact the prospect of steady employment is rapidly disappearing for the majority of the population.

Continue reading “If Gaza falls . . .”

No Other Option?

Sam Bahour on Israel’s other options:

I watch in shock, like the rest of the world, at the appalling death and destruction being wrought on Gaza by Israel; and still it does not stop. Meanwhile, we see a seemingly never-ending army of well-prepared Israeli war propagandists, some Israeli government officials, and many other people self-enlisted for the purpose, explaining to the world the justifications for pulverizing the Gaza Strip, with its 1.5 million inhabitants. Curious about how Israel, or any society for that matter, could justify a crime of such magnitude against humanity, I turned to my Jewish Israeli friends today to hear their take on things. One after another, the theme was the same. The vast majority of Jewish Israelis has apparently bought into the state-sponsored line that Israel was under attack and had no other option available to stop Hamas’ rockets. More frightening is the revelation that many Israelis–including one person who self-identifies as a former “peace activist”–are speaking of accepting the killing of 100,000 or more Palestinians, if need be.

I have a problem with this logic.

I am a Palestinian American based in Al-Bireh, the sister city of Ramallah in the West Bank. I can see how an observer from abroad could be blind to the facts, given the blitz of Gaza war propaganda orchestrated by the Israeli military. But I know better. Like all other Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank, I am not an observer from abroad. We live every day under the bitter burden of Israeli military occupation and we know that this question, presented as rhetorical–did we really have an option? –has a rational answer. Allow me, from my vantage point as an economic development professional, to touch on some of the other options that could have been chosen. Moreover, many of them will be forced on Israel anyway, sooner or later, whether after the next “war,” or in the coming days under the ceasefire agreement and the Egyptian-sponsored implementation mechanism being discussed as I write this. Meaning: all this death and destruction could have been easily avoided. Continue reading “No Other Option?”


In Gaza, the schools are dying too‘, write Ameer Ahmad and Ed Vulliamy.

A new word emerged from the carnage in Gaza this week: “scholasticide” – the systematic destruction by Israeli forces of centres of education dear to Palestinian society, as the ministry of education was bombed, the infrastructure of teaching destroyed, and schools across the Gaza strip targeted for attack by the air, sea and ground offensives.

“Learn, baby, learn” was a slogan of the black rights movement in America’s ghettoes a generation ago, but it also epitomises the idea of education as the central pillar of Palestinian identity – a traditional premium on schooling steeled by occupation, and something the Israelis “cannot abide… and seek to destroy”, according to Dr Karma Nabulsi, who teaches politics at St Edmund Hall, Oxford. “We knew before, and see more clearly now than ever, that Israel is seeking to annihilate an educated Palestine,” she says.

Continue reading “Scholasticide”