Friday, 28 September 2007

Shame and the semantics of soft Zionism

I recently watched BBC 4's moving production of Primo Levi, with Anthony Sher in the one man title role. It's an astonishing performance, drawing out Levi's attempts to relate this almost unrelatable set of inhuman experiences in Auschwitz concentration camp, while grappling with the darkest of questions: how was it possible for the Nazis to exercise this cruelty in so casual a manner?Levi also talks of the “shame” that the Russian liberators seemed to feel on discovering him and his few surviving inmates at Auschwitz. It wasn't, of course, the shame of what these young soldiers, personally, or as an army, had done. Rather, it was the more reflective shame of actually realising that one man could do this to another.

It got me thinking about Levi’s use of the word “shame” in this context. And it occurs that his profound observation holds in similar principle to the shame one feels when standing in front of Israel’s ‘separation wall’, or when watching the ritual humiliation of Palestinians at checkpoints, or in staring at the pictures of broken bodies being pulled from homes demolished by Israeli Apache helicopters. How, one asks, can they do these things in such a cold and wilful manner? And if they have no shame in their actions, is there a sense in which we, in ways similar to Levi’s use of the term, should feel shameful about their very absence of shame?

This feeling of 'humanitarian shame' - the shame we might feel for what oppressors do in the name of freedom and democracy – can, and should, of course, apply to many other inhuman situations around the world. But, another thought arises: what kind of compounded shame must a Jew with sincere consideration of the Palestinians’ plight feel when witnessing such brutality? How, they, might ask, did it come to this? A people themselves murdered in their millions, their suffering seared into Jewish consciousness. How could fellow Jews, in turn, use the memory of that suffering to inflict and justify this suffering on the Palestinian people?

In a recent Guardian article, the acclaimed author Howard Jacobson argued that the Holocaust, in itself, is, effectively, all that needs to be said in defence of the Zionist cause. It’s not a particulary original argument, flowing from the same use and abuse of what Chomsky and others have called the “Holocaust industry”. But Jacobson has managed to clothe this attempt in some new semantic adornments. The title piece, “There seems to be a pecking order among the dispossessed, and the Jews come last ”, gives notice of the sleight of hand to come.

One is immediately struck here, or should be if it were not secreted in such an emotive sentence, by the word "dispossessed". In what immediate sense can we call the Jews a dispossessed people? Yes, we may reasonably use that term to describe, at least, the terror and dispossession of the Jews by the Nazis. But, Jacobson is stretching the word from its historical context to convey "dispossession" in its more current idiom. While entitled to remind us of the appalling persecution of the Jews, Jacobson abuses that truth in seeking to equate the contemporary standing of Jews in general with the gross dispossession of the Palestinians in particular.

Indeed, with perverse irony, he has actually managed to violate the memory even of those Holocaust Jews. Jacobson has appropriated a particular term of oppression and sought to include within that category a state founded on the dispossession of another people.

The author Ben White captures the deceit very ably in his article Shoot and cry: Liberal Zionism's dilemma:

But Jacobson is a liberal Zionist, not a Likudnik, a Sharon or a Netanyahu. He thus finds himself in a fix -- how to render the horrors of colonialism more palatable? This is done in two ways (aside from appealing to the standard Zionist frameworks already discussed): firstly, Jacobson sows a seed of doubt that all this talk of "ethnic cleansing" is even true -- "Jews are now held to be dispossessors themselves" (my emphasis). At the risk of repetition, it is worth noting that once again, Jacobson talks of "Jews," a mirror-claim of the anti-Semites who see world Jewry as one and the same as the Zionist colonizers.

In his follow-up column, he positively layers on the ambiguities, diverting the reader's gaze from the columns of Palestinians forced from their homes in 1948, or the farmers robbed of their land in 2007, to a less queasy exchange of claim and counter-claim. It is impossible to "understand" a situation, Jacobson urges, if you "refuse to see its contradictions and intractabilities." Apparently, you don't aid peace by denying the "competing claims" of a "complex situation." It is the naggingly familiar liberal lullaby of the "circle of violence" and "two sides," which sends us to sleep while Palestine shrinks.

The second approach, and one beloved by Zionist liberals from Tel Aviv to London, is to move from the material horror of Palestine's colonization to the vaporous world of existential rumination and "feelings." Jacobson states for the record that he is "one of those who believe that Jewish experience of exile obliges Israel actively to comprehend the sorrows of Palestinian exile." That, of course, is as far as it goes. It's similar to one of the correspondents who wrote to the paper in Jacobson's defense, who acknowledges that the Palestinians might "feel" badly treated, as if all that was needed was a good dose of navel-gazing therapy. Jacobson was even more categorical in the second column. The dispossession of the Palestinians is not a "moral" issue, he wrote, but rather an unfortunate afterthought, a "tragic political consequence" of the Jews' "return."

With billions of dollars in guaranteed aid coming from the US every year, in what economic sense can Jacobson speak of Jewish dispossession? With America continuing to back Olmert's plans for expanding settlements in the West Bank, in what political sense does he witness Jewish dispossession? And, in a land where Palestinians are even marked-out by their very car registration plates, in what humanitarian sense can he talk of Jewish dispossession?

What Jacobson refuses to acknowledge is the apartheid dispossesson of the Palestinians and the massive gulf separating them from Israeli Jews. It's a shameful state of affairs when such supposed people of conscience and high intellect seek to hide behind the pain and language of the truly dispossessed.


John

Thursday, 27 September 2007

Singin' and dancin' in the rain: GPHRC at Faslane

Glasgow Palestine Human Rights Campaign's bloc protest

Faslane
16 September 2007



Sunday morning at the Peace Camp, the waft of burning wood from a kindling fire welcoming us as the rain batters down on the makeshift canvas above. That useful Scottish word “dreich” about sums it up.

But, hey, what's a little precipitation when we're all so full of good feeling and a desire to register our objection to these obscene weapons and the economy of death that's keeping it all going.
And what more can we say about the all-weather commitment and 'operational ingenuity' of those living here at the camp? The effort and determination of all the organisers and bloc protesters this past year has been truly inspiring [1].

We set off from the camp in resilient mood along with our fellow contingent of teachers, the ugly base and razor-wire fence soon appearing like a demonic presence among these magnificent lochs and hills. Though few in numbers, there's no shortage of songs, chants and happy banter to keep us all motivated. From somewhere behind the GPHRC [2] banner, our 'dear leaderene' Margaret's resounding tones seem to rise, as usual, several octaves above the rest. What a lady!

On arrival at the gate, the chief of police operations is courteous and welcoming. We, quite naturally, reciprocate. He seems interested in the work of GPHRC and listens thoughtfully to an account of our recent visit to Palestine. The procedural matters of the day are, likewise, explained by him to us. He is, of course, doing his job.

But, it's worth remembering, too, that this pleasant man is still helping to protect and uphold a 'system of deterrence' predicated on mass murder. Indeed, as the recent letter from the lawyers' bloc to the base commander [3] reminds us, Britain's nuclear capability and declared replacement of Trident violates international humanitarian law and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. The UK, in short, is acting illegally.

The case for nuclear disarmament is also underwritten by a range of legal and political opinion at Holyrood now opposing WMD in Scotland [4]. The new Scottish Government's declared opposition to Trident raises the stakes considerably. But, even with a substantial majority of MSPs now against its replacement, there's the need for increased pressure on Holyrood to, in turn, up-the-ante at Westminster. However small, GPHRC's lively presence here is part of that gathering effort.

The gazebos erected, falafel, zatar bread and other Palestinian staples happily devoured, it's dabke time, that wonderfully rhythmic, expressive and perfectly choreographed Palestinian dance form. Or, at least, that's how it's supposed to look. Lined up along the pavement, our bemused constabulary keeping a wary eye, it's more dabke meets ad hoc Glasgow line dancing to the laughing assembly. Fortunately, we have among us a fine young Palestinian and exponent of the art. And with his leading instruction, we're soon all tapping and turning, some even in step, to the dulcet dabke beats.



Oddly, the police in the vans and at the gates seem rather less amused as our happy keffiyeh-waving troupe dance off the pavement and onto the roundabout, ringing around it, hand-in-hand, to the turned-up music. A few rush over to call a halt to the reverie, giving stern warnings about our 'dangerous obstruction' of the road. Ah well, happiness is a form of dissent. Some of the teachers carry on the mood of musical resistance with some great old guitar-led protest songs, our collective group all joining in.

Thereafter, a number of us head around to the Coulport base for an additional spot of protest. Again, looking down over Faslane and reaching Coulport, one is reminded of the crass violation of this rolling landscape.



On arrival, our entourage is 'encouraged' back from the main gate by the waiting police. A little jollity and chiding ensues. But, again, we use the opportunity to speak candidly with them about the politics of Trident, pointing out that around two thirds of people in Scotland don't want it or its replacement [5], a view which the UK government is continuing to ignore. So much for the notion of political accountability some of the officers seem to believe prevails in this country.

GHPRC is also concerned to highlight the political alliances and mercenary profiteers behind the same UK/US arms industry that's supplying Israel with the mass weaponry to murder Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank [6]. From Trident and its offspring to parts for Apache killer helicopters and F-16s, it's all part of the same corporate-driven arms market.

As with our recent efforts to explain the illegality and immorality of Israel's occupation to soldiers at West Bank checkpoints, it's important for those guarding this arsenal of annihilation to be reminded of such basic truths.

It's been another good day of 365 protest; a day of dancing, singing dissent. Despite gesturing hostility from some coming in and out of Faslane base, there's the reminder that we speak for the majority who want this affront to humanity removed.

The sun is finally shining as we depart, stopping back at the camp to thank our kindly hosts for all their assistance. Some of the young Belgian activists are 'preparing' for their upcoming blockade, and we all enjoy a last bit of comradely chit-chat. There's something morally uplifting being among such people.

Now for the Big Blockade on 1st October.

Peace and love.

John Hilley
---------------------------
1. http://www.sundayherald.com/life/people/display.var.1691627.0.touched_by_trident.php
2.
http://www.gphrc.org/
3. http://www.faslane365.org//en/letter_to_commadore_carolyn_stait_from_10_scottish_lawyers_against_trident
4.
http://www.faslane365.org/en/1oct/press/political_context
5.
http://www.banthebomb.org/newbombs/poll.htm
6.
http://www.caat.org.uk/issues/israel.php

Tuesday, 18 September 2007

Keeping your mouth shut in the 'land of the free'

Here's a little reminder of how tolerant America is these days in responding to peaceful dissenters. Shocking as this incident is to view, it’s all too typical of the ruthless deployment of US police and penal brutality that belies even the homely patriotic notions of American liberals. In the Youtube video, A student tasered at Kerry speech, we get a good snapshot of America's continuing drift towards political authoritarianism. It rather reminded me of James Kelman's fine book and admonitory title, You Have to be Careful in the Land of the Free.

Aside from its wider global atrocities, here's a further sample of America's internal record of shame, from the 2007 Amnesty International report on the US:

Ill-treatment in jails and police custody

There were reports of ill-treatment of suspects in jails and police custody, involving abusive use of restraints and electro-shock weapons. More than 70 people died after being shocked with tasers (dart-firing electro-shock weapons), bringing to more than 230 the number of such deaths since 2001.

In June the Justice Department announced that a two-year study of taser deaths would be undertaken by the National Institute of Justice. Meanwhile many police departments continued to use tasers in situations that fell far below any threat of deadly force. The UN Committee against Torture called on the USA to deploy tasers only as a non-lethal alternative to using firearms.

• In August, Raul Gallegos-Reyes died in Arapahoe County Jail, Colorado, after being repeatedly tasered and strapped into a restraint chair for screaming and banging on his cell door. The coroner concluded he had died from "positional asphyxia" due to restraint and ruled the death a homicide.

• A lawsuit filed against Garfield County Jail, Colorado, in July, alleged that prisoners were frequently strapped into restraint chairs and left for hours in painful positions after being tasered or drenched with pepper spray. Guards were also alleged to have taunted and threatened to shock prisoners wearing remote-controlled electro-shock belts while being transported to court. The jail reportedly had no clear policies governing use of restraints.There were reports of police ill-treatment of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, and of a failure to respond adequately to identity-based crimes against them.

• Mariah L√≥pez, a transgender woman, was allegedly subjected to verbal and physical abuse by New York Police Department officers and city jail employees after she was arrested. She reportedly sustained a broken cartilage in her nose, a broken tooth and numerous abrasions after being beaten by officers. She was also subjected to humiliating strip searches.

• Christina Sforza, a transgender woman, was reportedly assaulted in a New York restaurant. Police responding to the scene arrested her and refused to accept her complaint against her assailant. Assault charges filed against her were eventually dropped.

'Supermax' prisons

Thousands of prisoners continued to be held in long-term isolation in "supermaximum" security facilities in conditions that sometimes amounted to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. In November a federal appeals court condemned as unconstitutional alleged conditions in a "Behavioral Modification Program" in a Wisconsin "supermax" prison. A lawsuit brought on behalf of an inmate confined under the programme in 2002 claimed he was stripped of clothes and bedding, confined to a small bare cell and fed only ground-up food formed into a "loaf". The conditions were alleged to have had a severe adverse effect on his mental health. The case was referred to a lower court for a ruling on the facts, some of which were in dispute.

The dark practices of US torture and ritual humiliation, it seems, is not just confined to Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib.

John

Monday, 17 September 2007

ORB: 1.2 million now dead in Iraq

The carnage in Iraq continues. So, what's new? Well, actually, a new study which clearly shows the immense scale of death and misery in this ravaged, blood-soaked land.

In 2006, the esteemed Lancet study put the number of violent deaths in Iraq since 2003 at over 655,000. The latest reputable survey from ORB has now raised that to over 1.2 million.

The loss and suffering can only be imagined. And imagined without the aid of a media which, in its varying servitude to power, thinks that this new evidence need not concern us too much. Which is why it's either been ignored or buried by editors and reporters since its publication last week. Was there ever a more graphic example of how the media regards the pain of the non-Western other?

Never mind. The tabloids and mainstream news channels might retain their casual disregard for human life beyond these 'civilized' shores, but thank goodness, at least, for the gallant liberal media serving to keep us all updated and morally abreast.

Or perhaps not. The ORB findings, like the Lancet study before it, have been conspicuously absent, or given only token attention, in the Guardian, Independent and on Newsnight.

This telling little exchange with Jon Snow of Ch 4 News gives a flavour of how the liberal media gate-keepers are a key part of the problem.

John

Thursday, 13 September 2007

The architecture of oppression

The infrastructure of oppresssion across the West Bank is not just a physical set of barriers and constraints. It's also a psychological strategy, designed to demoralise and break the Palestinian people emotionally and spiritually. Here are some images of that daily trauma and the enduring spirit of the people, as captured by GPHRC members during our recent visit.*



Posted by Picasa

* GPHRC visit to the West Bank, July-August 2007.
Thanks to the campaign members for these images.
More photos of our visit, here.

See also: 10 days in the West Bank.

John

Tuesday, 11 September 2007

Making the imaginative leap

From Scotland to Palestine,
all change is possible


On May 8 2007, a smiling Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness stood together on the steps of Stormont, Northern Ireland’s imposing parliament, ready to enact a power-sharing agreement. Many an observer, worldwide, gawped at the actual, culminating reality. Here, after all, was the personal manifestation of two seemingly intractable forces, Unionism and Republicanism, preparing for the daily diet of parliamentary business.

None of this changes the ultimate aims of the main parties behind the rapprochement: for Paisley’s Democratic Unionists, the ‘safe-keeping’ of Ulster’s position within the UK; for Adams and Sinn Fein, the eventual realisation of a 32-county united Ireland. Who knows where all this will lead. The peace barriers across Northern Ireland remain as visible proof of the ongoing sectarian enmities. Yet, despite all those physical and ideological divisions, people have, somehow, managed to make bridges for the practical purposes of peace and co-operation.

More recently, Paisley and McGuinness received a courtesy visit from Scotland’s newly-elected First Minister, Alex Salmond. Again, watching the smiling handshakes, one could be forgiven for questioning the actuality of this event.

The Scottish National Party’s historic termination of Labour’s 50-year rein in Scotland did not, alas, end graciously. Outgoing-FM Jack McConnell initially refused to endorse the result or congratulate the new FM. Gordon Brown somehow managed to avoid making the same courtesy phone call for weeks after the election. And Tony Blair, now comfying into his new Jerusalem residence as the Quartet’s Middle East ‘peace envoy’, will likely never acknowledge the man who led the Westminster campaign for his impeachment over Iraq. As with the Quartet’s own refusal to engage Hamas – more of which, in a moment - the New Labour elite have shown an arrogant contempt for political outcomes they deem ‘unsuitable’. The actual process of ‘democracy’ really can be such a bothersome inconvenience.

Despite holding-out as a minority government (the true-to-form Lib Dems having rejected Salmond’s coalition offer), the SNP is pushing-on with a raft of nominally progressive policies, such as reversing hospital closures and enacting public-based alternatives to New Labour’s prized PFI policy. Salmond has also pledged every constitutional effort to remove Trident weapons of mass destruction from Faslane.

Needless to say – but I will, anyway - we shouldn’t be overawed by party leaders or place unrealistic hopes in their promises. But, we can, at least, enjoy the moment of New Labour’s ousting and the refreshing look of the SNP’s ‘leftish’ manifesto. Any more serious shift towards an independent socialistic Scotland will be incremental and stubbornly resisted by the usual forces of big business and the political establishment. Nor should we forget the SNP’s own pro-business inclinations and base-building as its seeks to court support for independence.

Yet, one also senses a more sanguine desire for change in Scotland, driven, largely, by an anti-Blairist mood comparable to the anti-Thatcherism that preceded it. If not quite a zeitgeist moment, the SNP mandate might, usefully, be read as a practical vocalisation of that shift. But, again, this all comes with the standard caveat that the willingness of parliamentarians to act radically will only show fruition through the radical mobilisation of people outside those seemingly select chambers.

Ch…ch…changes…

The rejection of New Labourism here in Scotland may not be borne of revolutionary fervour. But it is a useful example of the anti-globalisation maxim that “another world is possible”. And not only possible, but, in a more fluid and dynamic set of contestations than the elite would have us believe, highly probable.

Consider, most obviously, the break-up of the Soviet system. The cold-bath of neoliberal ‘restructuring’ has seen severe social disaggregation and economic impoverishment for those new ‘non-entrepreneurial’ citizens. Washington’s embrace also includes US/NATO overtures to states like Poland, which now acts as host for CIA rendition flights and torture of detainees. It’s an object case of how the world changes, yet finds new opportunities and locations for capitalist exploitation and elite repression.

But, beyond the developmental hype, it also pushes the system towards new contradictions and hegemonic crises. One only has to consider the economic impoverishment in former East Germany, the spiralling suicide rate across Eastern Europe and Putin’s proxy war with his nouveau-riche adversaries as they carve-up, mob-like, the spoils of Russia’s privatised economy.

The predictable social crises across Russia and Eastern Europe has also fuelled the desire for serious alternatives from ‘market liberation’ around the globe. Thus, in Venezuela, Hugo Chavez is heading a popular economic, political and social revolution against all the usual odds of a CIA coup, inspiring new counter-hegemonic alliances and initiatives across Latin America.

But, of course, while Chavez was recently able to end Venezuela’s dependence on the IMF/World Bank mandarins, this and other regions, most notably Africa, remain locked-into such blackmail economics - or “Washington consensus”, as the neoliberal spinners like to call it. Again, it’s easy to succumb to the view that this all-powerful, all-consuming, monolith cannot be challenged. And yet, as John Pilger admirably documents in War on Democracy, the practical accomplishments of real people-led socialist democracy in the barrios of Venezuela and Bolivia have shown that it can, helping to lay down a practical template for other nations of the South to follow.

Which calls to mind South Africa’s ongoing enslavement. With its co-opted integration into the ‘new economic order’, the chains of inequality and international servitude still remain to be unlocked for the still massive black under-majority. As the enduring presence of De Beers and other corporate giants shows, Thabo Mbeki is the compliant face of a country still in thrall to global market forces. No new black middle classness can disguise the gross poverty, attacks on health care and political corruption that has marked Mbeki’s administration. Despite certain advances and infrastructural improvements, notes Pilger:
...some people in the black townships actually [speak] nostalgically of the last years of official apartheid. Then, they didn’t have to pay for their water, their electricity [The] new black elite--- known rather sardonically in South Africa as the “wabenzie”, because they prefer big silver Mercedes Benz to drive around in…are a cover for the continuation of white economic power in South Africa.

And yet, Mandela’s historic victory over the apartheid system remains a vital example of how to effect change through internal resistance and external pressure. In a perverse sense, Mbeki’s denialist stance on poverty, corruption and, of course, AIDS has also helped highlight the contradictions of the ANC project, thus intensifying the case, and demand, for a true post-apartheid society.

The mirrors of apartheid

The painful lessons of South Africa have, at the same time, become a kind of benchmark reference for other oppressive conflicts. Thus, South Africa’s ever-campaigning Desmond Tutu - who has also taken a close and practical interest in Northern Ireland’s fragile peace process and reconciliations - believes that Israel’s occupation and persecution of the Palestinian Territories is akin to apartheid South Africa. While the world witnessed an end to the bantustanisation of his country, Palestine becomes an evermore ugly reflection of that apartheid system. Indeed, Israeli apartheid is worse than South Africa’s, according to ex-US President Jimmy Carter:

And the word “apartheid” is exactly accurate. You know, this is an area that’s occupied by two powers. They are now completely separated. Palestinians can't even ride on the same roads that the Israelis have created or built in Palestinian territory. The Israelis never see a Palestinian, except the Israeli soldiers. The Palestinians never see an Israeli, except at a distance, except the Israeli soldiers. So within Palestinian territory, they are absolutely and totally separated, much worse than they were in South Africa, by the way. And the other thing is, the other definition of “apartheid” is, one side dominates the other. And the Israelis completely dominate the life of the Palestinian people.

We shouldn’t pass here without recalling Carter’s own dirty dealings with repressive regimes during his presidency, most notably his support for Indonesia as it sought to murder East Timor. Yet, it’s instructive to witness the organised criticism, mostly from the US Zionist-neo-con alliance, that has greeted Carter’s book and statements on Palestine.

As Israel expands the West Bank settlements, erects its ‘security’ wall through more Palestinian olive groves and wields its daily killing and humiliation of an impoverished people, one might despairingly ask if there’s a scintilla of hope for a comprehensive peace deal and just solution for the Palestinians? That question has taken on even greater resonance in the wake of the Hamas-Fatah conflict, a process which, as its siege/starvation tactics towards Gaza shows, Israel is doing its utmost to promote.

Where now, many ask, for the ‘peace process’ and any, already forlorn, hope of a two-state solution? Why, many increasingly wonder, do Olmert and Bush continue to pledge their ‘joint support’ for such an ‘option’? Could it be that their continuing ‘commitment’ to such an ‘ideal’ is really a convenient posture serving to effect their already-determined ‘solution’: the ongoing encirclement of Gaza and pocketisation of the West Bank territory.

Lofty proclamations about a two-state settlement, with ultimate Palestinian sovereignty, are, of course, a good hint of Israeli/US malfeasance, in itself. But what more particular reasons can we have for doubting such a commonly-asserted ‘aim’?

The core arguments for a one solution have been broadly set-out by Ilan Pappe and Omar Barghouti, who has this blunt reminder that the “demise of the two-state solution should not be mourned”:

Besides having passed its expiry date, it was never a moral solution to start with…It is now clearer than ever that the two-state solution -- other than being only a disguise for continued Israeli occupation and a mechanism to permanently divide the people of Palestine into three disconnected segments -- was primarily intended to induce Palestinians to give up the inalienable right of their refugees to return to their homes and lands from which they were ethnically cleansed by Zionists during the 1948 Nakba.
Electronic Intifada Editor/founder Ali Abunimah is also among a growing set of key Palestinian academics and activists who now see the futility of any two state ‘option’.

Three basic reasons for this conclusion can be noted. Firstly, it is abundantly evident that Israel, firmly backed by the US – and, indirectly, by the EU – has no actual intention of relinquishing its West Bank settlements, dismantling the wall or offering the Palestinians any serious form of sovereign nationhood.

Secondly, any peace deal premised on Israel’s hypothetical withdrawal from the West Bank (and ending the siege of Gaza) – a kind of ‘Oslo plus’ – would still leave the Palestinians with a disjointed 22 per cent set of their geographical entities.

Thirdly, and perhaps more fundamentally, there remains the problem of Israel as an apartheid state in itself. Endorsing the one-state view, Jonathan Cook has noted, in a number of fine commentaries the centrality of Israel’s deep dilemma over what to do about its Palestinian/Arab ‘citizens’, a scenario which Cook sees as, in many way, a more difficult and threatening problem for the Israeli state to resolve.

Such perceptions of the internal Palestinian ‘problem’ are not exclusive to the Israeli political elite. They run deep within Israeli society, a mood racism which ultra right-wing politicians have been all-too-willing to exploit in their calls for “transfers”, expulsions and other ethnic cleansing of Palestinians.

As Cook reminds us, Uri Avnery and Peace Now can only fall-back on the same redundant two state arguments. Cook traces this to the base Zionist principles underlying Peace Now’s view of Israel and the right to a Jewish homeland. In contrast, one state advocates point out that no peaceable and just solution can evolve without the transformation of Israel itself into a fully democratic and secular – that is, non-Zionist - state.

And here we return to those seemingly impossible scenarios of radical political change. Precisely how, sceptics of the one-state case might reasonably ask, could such an entity ever come to supplant the status quo. One thinks depressingly here of the vanguard belief in the Zionist ‘cause’, the bloody history of that ‘project’ and its sheer ‘righteousness’ in Israeli consciousness.

Yet, it’s worth reiterating that there is no essential interface between Judaism and Zionism. Many Jews, orthodox and otherwise, have consistently opposed what the Israeli state has done in the name of Judaism. Indeed, Jews for Justice in Palestine and the orthodox Neturei Karta recently marched in the ‘Enough’ demonstration in London alongside thousands of Palestinian supporters to mark the 40th anniversary of Israel’s 1967 war of expansion.

Amid the Palestinians’ despair, we see small and significant victories, as in the recent Israeli Supreme Court decision in favour of Bil’in village. This, of course, has to be tempered by the reality that while parts of the Israeli state may give way here and there, it has multiple other ways of maintaining its oppressive control. For example, the same court also ruled against the removal of Israeli settlement houses around Bil’in. As with the illegality and immorality of the wall itself, let’s not lose sight of Israel’s larger agenda of oppression. Yet, the decision over the wall’s route, after years of weekly demonstrating, is testament to the power of sustained dissent, part of the often hidden, yet gathering, solidarity serving to pressurise the Israeli state.

Again, the principal lesson here is that actual change is more likely than we might sometimes believe. The combination of collective consideration and individual concern for oppressed peoples is a more powerful force than even we might often realise. And, despite what power and a servile media want us to believe, the push and desire for those alternatives - a more kind and equitable society, an end to corporate-driven wars, the removal of mass weaponry, the dismantling of neoliberal policies, privatised services and market rules – is a worryingly constant for the elite. Indeed, the extent of that concern is inversely related to the sheer weight of propaganda used to maintain the illusion that there is no alternative.

On the anniversary of 9/11, a day that supposedly “changed the world”, it’s worth remembering, in tribute to all the people who have lost their lives to state terrorists, corporate warmongers and other political fanatics, that we inhabit an ever-changing world, where all actions have consequences. Thus, an important part of the resistance to such greed, hate and violence lies in our own ability to cultivate an inner political mindfulness of rational dissent, human engagement and care for others. A politics of justice, love and compassion? Now, there’s an uncomfortable set of ideals for Bush, Blair, Olmert and their fellow war criminals to contemplate.

John

Wednesday, 5 September 2007

BBC framing of Blair's Middle East 'peace task'

Jeremy Bowen isn't the worst of the BBC's Middle East 'correspondents', but, as with much of the BBC's regional coverage, the whole tenor of the following piece still assumes Blair's political and moral bona fides for the 'peace envoy' job. In this example, Bowen focuses on Blair's 'thoughtful' selection of residence and 'good intentions' in desiring to 'fix' the problems of Gaza and the West Bank.

Never does it seemingly occur to Bowen that Blair's appointment by the Quartet is itself specifically meant to prop-up Abbas/Fatah and further undermine Hamas. Blair might see, 'deep down', the need, at some stage, to 'talk' with Hamas, but this - rather obvious truth - comes nowhere near acknowledging their fundamental mandate nor the legitimate case which they articulate on behalf of the Palestinians who elected and support them.

Bowen may state some of the 'intractable problems' here in seeking a negotiated settlement, but he fails to recognise or specify the kind of window-dressing exercise that's going on with Blair and the Quartet, a posture which remains umbilically tied to Israel's long-term occupation agenda.

John

Bowen's diary article

Sunday, 2 September 2007

Killing the infants, protecting the zone




"Anything moving in the zone, even a three-year-old, needs to be killed."

Two questions.

When does a state reach the depths of its depravity?
When does the wider 'community of states' demonstrate its own collective depravity?

The answer to the first question can be variously interpreted. But here's a useful suggestion: when it openly instructs and sanctions the murder of innocent children. The answer to the second question might logically follow on, at least to any sane and rational observer: when it fails to highlight, challenge and end that state's depravity.

The practice of children being deliberately shot dead by Israeli soldies in Gaza might seem to the rational person so barbaric as to merit - at the very least - the ending of diplomatic ties with that state. But, of course, we are speaking here of the West's regional friend and ally, a state that can, effectively, kill anyone it likes with impunity.

Rarely does such wickedness even merit cursory media attention. Such is the corporate media's own depravity and complicity in such crimes. Occasionally - when the crime becomes so glaringly obvious - the details of such depravity might seep through, as in this more decent, if still rare, effort from the Sunday Herald.

How many dead children will it take, one wonders, before the crimes of this apartheid regime are responded to not with sanctions on the suffering people of Gaza, but on the perpetrators of this cruel siege and their army of child killers?

John



Palestinians dice with death in search of work

Territory’s stifling conditions lead many to risk crossing Israel’s fatal frontier

From Ed O’Loughlin in Nusseirat

ISRAEL'S BORDER with Gaza is one of the most dangerous frontiers on the planet: 32 miles of fences, watchtowers and free-fire zones guarded by tanks, troops and aircraft with the latest in sensor technology.

Violent deaths are so common here that few even make the local papers. Among those in the past fortnight alone were two armed Palestinians on an attempted raid who passed several hundred metres through the defences before they were shot.

In two other incidents, five Palestinian girls and boys aged 10 to 12 were killed by Israeli missiles in fields near the northern border.

Initially, the Israeli army implied that the children had been recruited by militants to recycle launchers used to fire missiles at nearby Israeli communities, an allegation which Palestinians reject.

And the Israeli army later admitted that three cousins who died in the second attack had only been playing in the area of a used launcher, but had been identified as "suspicious".

In October 2004, Israeli soldiers shot dead a 13-year-old schoolgirl near the Egyptian border. Would-be whistleblowers in the unit leaked communication tapes of the incident in which their commander was heard to say he had finished off the wounded child, ordering his men: "Anything moving in the zone, even a three-year-old, needs to be killed." He was acquitted by a military court, and later promoted.

Clearly, Gazans testing such defences are taking their life in their hands. Yet so deep has Gaza sunk into poverty that some men are prepared to try to cross the fence merely in search of a job.

One such was 22-year-old Nizar al-Adeeb of Nusseirat refugee camp in central Gaza, who was shot dead on August 18 a few metres from the fence. His two companions were arrested.
The Israeli army told reporters the three were militants who had been trying to lay a mine. But one of the detained men, Nizar's cousin, Abdullah Faraj, who was freed three days later, said they were only looking for work.

He added: "The situation here is getting worse and worse, so we said, let's go and check and see if we can cross'. As soon as we got close to the border fence, the Israelis opened fire on him."
The dead man's father, Raji al-Adeeb, 47, claims to know of dozens of people who have managed to cross the fence and find work in Israel. Some, he said, pay 5000 shekels (£600) to professional smugglers. But most take their chances on the fence. The Gaza-based Al Mezan Centre for Human Rights says it knows of 55 unarmed men killed while trying to cross the fence in search of work.

The Israeli Defence Force does not give a breakdown for the number of Palestinian civilians killed while trying to get through the fortified frontier. But it says about 30 Palestinians have been arrested trying to cross in the past month. Most "were not terrorists and were returned to the Gaza Strip".

Another cousin of Nizar al-Adeeb, Abdul Minar, 23, said that the death would not prevent him from trying to cross himself. He said: "What else am I going to do? Sometimes I wake up and ask myself, what am I doing here?' I wake up, I wander around the neighbourhood and then I go to bed again. For me to die is better than staying here. Life? There is no life here."
Ghassan al-Adeeb, 24, the dead man's brother, says he has crossed the border four times in the past few years, at one time managing to escape capture and deportation for more than a year.
Those who do make it across can make up to 200 shekels (£24) a day as labourers in Arab-Israeli communities. Many are also lured by the relative freedom of life away from the overcrowded, authoritarian Gaza Strip.

"It's great over there," said Ghassan al-Adeeb. "In the beginning I was lost, but then I was in another world. Last time, if I hadn't been caught, I would never have come back to Gaza."
Before the Palestinians first rebelled against Israel's military rule 20 years ago, it was normal for people from Gaza to survive off indigenous textile and agricultural industries, by finding menial jobs in Israel, or by working in other Arab countries.

But ever-increasing Israeli restrictions on travel and trade - justified by Israel as "security measures" - have shut off Gaza from the outside world.

The Gaza director of the UN relief agency UNRWA, John Ging, says that what little industry remained in Gaza has been shut down since June, when Hamas took control from the former ruling party Fatah and Israel responded by imposing an almost total blockade.

As a result, he said, most of Gaza's 1.4 million people depend on international food aid. "The sense of imprisonment here is greater than ever before," said Ging. "People feel trapped and desperate people do desperate things."

http://www.sundayherald.com/international/shinternational/display.var.1658562.0.palestinians_dice_with_death_in_search_of_work.php

(My emphases.)



















































































































































































































































































































Palestinians dice with death in search of
work

Territory’s stifling conditions lead many to
risk
crossing Israel’s
fatal frontierFrom Ed O’Loughlin in Nusseirat

ISRAEL'S
BORDER with Gaza is one of the most dangerous frontiers on the
planet:
32
miles of fences, watchtowers and free-fire zones guarded by tanks,
troops
and aircraft with the latest in sensor technology.

Violent
deaths are so
common here that few even make the local papers.
Among
those in the past
fortnight alone were two armed Palestinians on an
attempted raid who passed
several hundred metres through the defences
before
they were shot.

In
two other incidents, five
Palestinian
girls and boys aged 10 to 12 were
killed by Israeli
missiles
in fields near
the northern
border.

Initially,
the Israeli
army implied that the
children had
been recruited by
militants to
recycle launchers used to
fire missiles at
nearby
Israeli
communities, an
allegation which
Palestinians
reject.

And the
Israeli army later admitted that three
cousins who died
in the
second attack had only been playing in the
area
of a used launcher,
but had been
identified as
"suspicious".
In
October 2004, Israeli
soldiers shot dead a
13-year-old schoolgirl near
the Egyptian
border.
Would-be
whistleblowers in the
unit leaked
communication
tapes of the
incident in which their commander was
heard
to say he
had
finished off the
wounded child, ordering his men: "Anything
moving
in the zone, even a
three-year-old, needs to be killed." He was
acquitted
by a military court,
and later promoted.

Clearly,
Gazans testing such defences are taking
their life in their hands.
Yet
so deep has Gaza sunk into poverty that some
men are prepared to
try to
cross the fence merely in search of a
job.

One such
was
22-year-old Nizar al-Adeeb of Nusseirat refugee camp in
central
Gaza,
who
was shot dead on August 18 a few metres from the fence.
His
two
companions were arrested.
The Israeli army told reporters
the
three
were
militants who had been trying to lay a mine. But
one
of the
detained
men,
Nizar's cousin, Abdullah Faraj, who
was
freed
three
days
later,
said they were
only
looking
for
work.

He added:
"The situation
here is
getting worse and
worse,
so we said, let's
go and
check and
see
if
we can
cross'. As soon
as we got close to the border
fence, the
Israelis
opened fire on
him."
The dead man's
father,
Raji
al-Adeeb,
47, claims to
know of dozens of
people
who have
managed to cross
the
fence and
find
work
in Israel.
Some, he
said, pay 5000
shekels (£600) to
professional
smugglers. But
most
take their
chances on the
fence.
The
Gaza-based Al
Mezan Centre
for
Human Rights
says
it knows of
55
unarmed
men
killed
while trying
to cross the
fence in
search of
work.

The Israeli
Defence
Force
does not
give a
breakdown for the
number
of
Palestinian
civilians
killed
while trying to get through
the
fortified
frontier.
But
it
says
about 30
Palestinians
have been
arrested trying
to cross in the
past
month. Most "were
not
terrorists and
were
returned to the
Gaza
Strip".

Another cousin
of Nizar
al-Adeeb,
Abdul
Minar,
23, said
that
the
death
would not
prevent him
from
trying to
cross
himself. He said:
"What
else am I
going
to do?
Sometimes I
wake
up and ask
myself, what am
I doing
here?' I wake
up, I
wander around
the neighbourhood
and then I
go to bed
again.
For
me to die
is
better
than
staying
here. Life? There
is no life
here."
Ghassan
al-Adeeb,
24, the
dead man's brother, says he
has
crossed
the
border
four
times in
the
past few years,
at one
time
managing
to escape
capture and
deportation for more
than a
year.

Those who
do
make it across
can make up
to
200
shekels
(£24) a
day as
labourers in
Arab-Israeli
communities. Many are
also
lured
by the
relative
freedom
of
life away from the
overcrowded,
authoritarian Gaza
Strip.

"It's great
over
there," said
Ghassan
al-Adeeb.
"In the
beginning I was
lost, but
then
I
was
in another
world.
Last time, if I
hadn't been
caught,
I
would
never
have come
back
to
Gaza."

Before
the
Palestinians first
rebelled
against
Israel's military rule 20
years
ago,
it was
normal for
people
from Gaza to survive
off
indigenous textile
and
agricultural
industries, by
finding
menial
jobs in Israel,
or by
working
in
other
Arab
countries.

But
ever-increasing
Israeli
restrictions on
travel and
trade -
justified by Israel as
"security
measures" - have
shut
off
Gaza from the outside
world.

The Gaza
director
of
the
UN
relief
agency
UNRWA, John Ging, says that what
little
industry
remained in
Gaza
has been
shut down since June,
when
Hamas
took
control
from the former
ruling party
Fatah
and
Israel
responded by
imposing an
almost total
blockade.

As a
result,
he said,
most of Gaza's 1.4
million people
depend on
international
food aid.
"The sense
of
imprisonment here is
greater
than ever
before," said
Ging.
"People feel trapped and desperate
people do
desperate
things."