Israel

Fake Quotes And Nelson Mandela

As I commented elsewhere, even before Nelson Mandela’s body was cold various cynical operators were trying to expropriate his memory.

As distasteful as that is, it is to be expected. Political activists have axes to grind and often very little self-awareness.

They cannot understand when they are being tasteless, silly or cynical. That applies across the political spectrum from the Left to the extremes of the Right.

However, there are no excuses for using fake quotes.

These are very common in the arena of debate on the Middle East.

Regrettably, the speaker and personality Mohammed Ansar has allowed himself to be manipulated in this area.
MoAnsar1

Mohammed Ansar may have had the best of intentions. But it is incredibly sloppy for anyone in the lime-light, with access to Google. Public figures and organisations on Twitter need to take extra care.

We know this is fake because the original author, Arjan El Fassed, admits it.

Even the Electronic Intifada site acknowledges that fact:

Editor’s note, 28 June 2013: This article was written by Arjan El Fassed in 2001 in the satirical style then being employed by Thomas Friedman, of writing mock letters from one world leader to another. Although it carries El Fassed’s byline, it has been repeatedly mistaken for an actual letter from Mandela. It is not. It is a piece of satire. El Fassed has written this history of the piece and how it subsequently was mistaken for a real letter, on his personal blog.” [My emphasis.]

My own view is, by all means criticise any government for their actions or deeds, but don’t get pulled into demonisation or use fake quotes. In the age of Google there is no excuse.

Punishing Israel

In light of recent events an adage needs updating:

Benjamin Netanyahu never seems to miss an opportunity, to miss an opportunity.

I am not the only one annoyed at Netanyahu’s maladroitness.

Two astute Middle East analysts, Meir Javedanfar and Hussein Ibish have noticed the issue, how Netanyahu has succeeded in isolating Israel and himself from potential allies by his own clumsy actions.

Ibish remarked on the UN vote:

Israelis must ask themselves how they lost their “quality minority” and why so many European and Western states that have been historically supportive of them or neutral moved rather dramatically today in the Palestinian direction. The war between Israel and Hamas shows that the situation on the ground is fundamentally unstable and untenable. The dramatic shift in the diplomatic landscape at the U.N. today demonstrates that the international community understands that and is losing patience.

Javedanfar puts his finger on it:

“The Iranian regime was hoping that the recent Gaza conflict between Israel and Gaza based militants would create a diplomatic crisis for Israel.

Unfortunately for the regime, this did not happen.

Ayatollah Khamenei must have been very disappointed to see that his regime’s military support for Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorist groups did not lead to an Israeli military response which created a diplomatic crisis in Israel – EU and Israel – US relations.

What Iran could not achieve in Gaza, Netanyahu achieved for the Iranian regime with his latest plans for new settlement homes in East Jerusalem and the West Bank: diplomatic crisis in relations between top EU countries and Israel. As Barak Ravid reported in Haaretz: “Europe threatens to withdraw support for Israel over settlement building plans”. According to the article the top 3 EU economic powerhouses Germany, UK, and France are protesting, so are the Dutch. More countries could follow.”

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Cheerleaders Abroad, Gaza And Israel

I was composing, in my head, some reflections on Gaza’s past eight or so days, but Jonathan Freedland seems to have beat me to it.

I think the cheerleaders abroad sentiment, is something we should dwell on.

How is it that many in the West take up the pose of football supporters?

Cheering on their team irrespective of the murders, the rockets and the crippling inhumanity of prolonged low-level warfare. It is a form of intellectual hooliganism, desensitizing, brutalizing and demeaning.

You might not unreasonably expect that some of these cheerleaders would show a degree of sensitivity or reflection, once in a while. However, that doesn’t happen and having encountered both sides in the West I find their entrenched attitudes revolting, almost incomprehensible.

Anyone that has genuinely studied the Middle East would know there is no military solution to the conflicts in Israel, in Gaza and the West Bank, and those that cheer on from the sidelines have either lost their humanity or common sense, but Jonathan Freedland expresses it far better than I ever could:

“And through it all is the weariness: of those living – and dying – in the conflict most of all, but also of those drawn into it somehow. I feel it myself, a deep fatigue with this struggle, with the actions of both sides and, sometimes especially, with their cheerleaders abroad.

So yes, I’m weary of those who get so much more exercised, so much more excited, by deaths in Gaza than they do by deaths in, say, Syria. An estimated 800 died under Assad during the same eight days of what Israel called Operation Pillar of Defence. But, for some reason, the loss of those lives failed to touch the activists who so rapidly organised the demos and student sit-ins against Israel. You might have heard me make this point before, and you might be weary of it. Well, so am I. I’m tired, too, of the argument that “We hold western nations like Israel to a higher standard”, because I see only a fraction of the outrage that’s directed at Israel turned on the US – a western nation – for its drone war in Pakistan which has cost an estimated 3,000 lives, nearly 900 of them civilians, since 2004.

I’m tired of those who like to pretend that Israel attacked unprovoked, as if there had been no rockets fired from Gaza, as if Hamas was peacefully minding its own business, a Mediterranean Sweden, until Israel randomly lashed out. I’m tired of having to ask whether any government anywhere would really let one million of its citizens be confined to bomb shelters while missiles rained down. I’m weary of having to point out that, yes, occupied peoples do have a right to resist, but that right does not extend to taking deliberate aim at civilian targets – schools and villages – which is where all but a handful of Gaza’s rockets were directed.

And I’m especially tired that so many otherwise smart, sophisticated people apparently struggle to talk about Israel-Palestine without reaching, even unwittingly, for the dog-eared lexicon of anti-Jewish cliche, casting Israeli leaders as supremacists driven by a (misunderstood) notion of Jews as “chosen people” or, hoarier still, as international puppet-masters. It pains me that too many fail to realise that while, of course, there is a clear line that separates hostility to Israel and hostility to Jews, that border is porous. Traffic moves across it both ways. Witness the Lazio thugs who bombarded Spurs fans with anti-Jewish chants – “Juden Tottenham” among them – during their match on Thursday night, but also brandished a Free Palestine banner, deployed not to declare solidarity with Gaza but to taunt a club with large Jewish support. “

Operation Pillar of Defense Rolling Thread

I imagine that Operation Pillar of Defense will go on for a while so I am having a rolling thread with anything I read, hear or think relevant.

Firstly, John Cook at Gawker puts his foot in it with Israel Names Its New War After Biblical Story About God Terrorizing Egyptians.

The Tablet takes him down a peg or two:

“But don’t tell that to John Cook. Writing at Gawker in a post subtly titled “Israel Names Its New War After Biblical Story About God Terrorizing Egyptians,” Cook—who admits he does not know Hebrew (let alone, one can safely assume, midrash)—lists a few Googled biblical verses in which the pillar of cloud appears…”

Over at Foreign Policy the depressing, Israel Defense Forces live blogs Gaza offensive.

Aluf Benn has a piece entitled, Israel killed its subcontractor in Gaza, which even I found to be incredibly cynical, but on reflection I think he might have a point.

This is a backgrounder by B’Tselem on Gaza.

Reuters explains what it sees:

Hussien Ibish presents a different perspective:

“During most of the period since Cast Lead, the Hamas rulers in Gaza have refrained from attacks against Israel and tried to prevent other militant groups from launching attacks as well. But as 2012 has progressed, that policy has changed — largely due to internal transformations within the group itself.

The internal dynamic of Hamas has traditionally been that leaders in its Politburo, which is based almost entirely in neighboring Arab countries, were more militant than their compatriots inside Gaza. It was the leaders in exile who maintained close relations with the radical regimes in Iran and Syria, while the Hamas government in Gaza was more restrained because it had more to lose from violence with Israel.

That calculation has been inverted in recent months as Hamas’s foreign alliances have undergone a dramatic transformation and its domestic wing has made a bold attempt to assert its primacy. Hamas’s relationship with Damascus completely collapsed when the group came out in opposition to President Bashar al-Assad’s regime. The Politburo had to abandon its Damascus headquarters, and is now scattered in capitals throughout the Arab world. This has also created enormous strains with Iran, which is apparently supplying much less funding and material to Hamas than before.

Hamas leaders in Gaza, meanwhile, have increasingly been making the case that the Politburo does not represent the organization’s paramount leadership — but rather its diplomatic wing, whose main role is to secure aid and support from foreign governments. It is the Hamas government and paramilitary force in Gaza, they argue, that are in the driver’s seat, because they are actually involved in fighting Israel. “

Emily L. Hauser’s contribution, I have one question about Israel and Gaza.

One noticeable characteristic of this conflict is how it has ignited passions not seen in the past 18 months. By that I mean, the likes of the Stop the War Coalition are organising a demonstration outside the Israeli Embassy in London, yet for the last 18 months they have been almost silent concerning Assad’s slaughter of Syrian civilians.

That’s worthwhile comparing and contrasting when it comes to Western attitudes to people in the Middle East.

Simon Tisdall in the Guardian touches upon a real danger, the longer term consequences of this conflict:

“Ironically, Netanyahu’s uncontrollable new Gaza war could also tip the scales in an internal power struggle within Hamas, strengthening the faction gathered around Gaza political chief Ismail Haniyeh at the expense of those Hamas leaders in exile who hope to succeed Khaled Meshaal. Netanyahu’s war may actually end up bolstering Hamas in Gaza, or alternatively cause it to splinter and lose ground to more violently confrontationalist jihadi groups. Neither outcome would serve the all but forgotten cause of peaceful co-existence. “

Brent E. Sasley is astute:

“Given the emphasis on short-term tactical goals, it’s more likely the military operation won’t end neatly, which will in turn cause considerable electoral problems for Netanyahu and Likud-Beiteinu—who are otherwise persistently polling at less seats than they currently have. If this happens, perhaps Kadima—whose otherwise tired image doesn’t bode well for it in January—will have been proven prescient after all: that Bibi really is bad for Israel. In this case, the bad decision-making will become the politics. “

The Daily Kos (which is excellent for US election coverage) has a speculative report, which is based on the word of one individual, Israeli newspaper: Israel attacked Gaza knowing truce was in the works.

According to an informed journalist, Hamas have access to some serious hardware including the Fajr-5 rocket. It is over six metres in length and has a potential destructive distance of about 70 kilometres. What a terrible waste of human resources, building armaments the fire at Israeli civilians.
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The GOP Convention And More Racism Round Up.

[Trigger warning, Assange related material.]

When the GOP Convention comes around there is almost the feeling that America has stepped back in time, not by the technology employed or the showmanship, but the underlying ideas.

Issues that many might think are uncontroversial provoke alarm and worry amongst the GOP, the Pew Research Quiz is just one indicator.

But a deeper whiff of bigotry and reaction clings to GOP events, as TPM reported:

“An attendee at the Republican National Convention in Tampa on Tuesday allegedly threw nuts at a black camerawoman working for CNN and said “This is how we feed animals” before being removed from the convention, a network official confirmed to TPM. “

And more, Nativism 101:

“There were energetic shouts of “Aye!” and “Nay!” as a Puerto Rican party functionary—Zoraida Fonalledas, the chairwoman of the Committee on Permanent Organization—took her turn at the main-stage lectern. As she began speaking in her accented English, some in the crowd started shouting “U.S.A.! U.S.A.!”

The chanting carried on for nearly a minute while most of the other delegates and the media stood by in stunned silence. The Puerto Rican correspondent turned to me and asked, “Is this happening?” I said I honestly didn’t know what was happening—it was astonishing to see all the brittle work of narrative construction that is a modern political convention suddenly crack before our eyes. None of us could quite believe what we were seeing: A sea of twentysomething bowties and cowboy hats morphing into frat bros apparently shrieking over (or at) a Latina. RNC chairman Reince Priebus quickly stepped up and asked for order and respect for the speaker, suggesting that, yeah, what we had just seen might well have been an ugly outburst of nativism.”

Meanwhile, for would-be GOPers, Ayn Rand and a discussion of her “philosophy”, which seems to have all of the depth and consistency of L.Ron. Hubbard’s Scientology, albeit without the UFOs.
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Why Occupation Is Wrong

“Corruption is authority plus monopoly minus transparency.” Anon

Corruption and abuse of power are fairly commonplace in the world. Some examples we hear of, whilst others are conveniently brushed under the carpet.

From the Vatican to Burma and brown paper envelopes corruption goes much further, even the work of Transparency International only scratches the surface.

We can see this particularly when armies and occupation is involved.

Within living memory who can forget the slaughter at Tiananmen Square? Or how the US army acted in Vietnam? In Northern Ireland human rights abuses by the British Army and the RUC are well documented, but they only tell part of the story.

We have yet to hear testimonies from those soldiers involved in the slaughter of civilians in Sri Lanka or the abuses conducted by Syrian forces during the occupation of Lebanon, which ended around 2005.

So it is beneficial to hear the testimonies of Israeli soldiers, however, distressing they are.

They demonstrate, if that point needed reiterating, how destructive an occupation is, to the societies who conduct them and those that suffer under subjugation.

Many sources have noted how corrosive the occupation of the West Bank has been on Israeli society. Israelis themselves debate these issues on a daily basis, something that you don’t see much of in other societies. British brutality, castration and torture during its rule of Kenya is kept tidily within law courts.

Israeli society is divided, but the fact that so many Israelis are involved in pointing out abuses by the IDF and the Israeli government is a healthy one. This type of activity came very late to British society and only then when pressurised by the citizens of Northern Ireland.

It is worthwhile reading these accounts and remembering the longer lasting effects:

“For the past eight years, Breaking the Silence has been taking testimonies from former soldiers who witnessed or participated in human rights abuses in the occupied territories. Most of these accounts deal with “rough justice” administered to minors by soldiers on the ground, often without specific authorisation and without recourse to the military courts. Reading them, however, it’s hard not to recall the Sedley report’s shocked reference to the “belief, which was advanced to us by a military prosecutor, that every Palestinian child is a ‘potential terrorist’”.

The soldier puts it differently: “We were sort of indifferent. It becomes a kind of habit. Patrols with beatings happened on a daily basis. We were really going at it. It was enough for you to give us a look that we didn’t like, straight in the eye, and you’d be hit on the spot. We got to such a state and were so sick of being there.”

Some time ago, after he had testified to Breaking the Silence, we had interviewed this soldier. As he sat nervously one morning in a quiet Israeli beauty spot, an incongruous location he had chosen to ensure no one knew he was talking, he went through his recollections about the incident – and several others – once again. His account does not match the Palestinian’s in every detail. (Hafez remembers a gun being pressed to his temple, for example, while the soldier recalls that the commander “actually stuck the gun barrel in the kid’s mouth. Literally”.)

Breaking the silence: soldiers’ testimonies

First Sergeant, Kfir Brigade

Salfit 2009

“We took over a school and had to arrest anyone in the village who was between the ages of 17 and 50. When these detainees asked to go to the bathroom, and the soldiers took them there, they beat them to a pulp and cursed them for no reason, and there was nothing that would legitimise hitting them. An Arab was taken to the bathroom to piss, and a soldier slapped him, took him down to the ground while he was shackled and blindfolded. The guy wasn’t rude and did nothing to provoke any hatred or nerves. Just like that, because he is an Arab. He was about 15, hadn’t done a thing.

“In general people at the school were sitting for hours in the sun. They could get water once in a while, but let’s say someone asked for water five times, a soldier could come to him and slap him just like that. I saw many soldiers using their knees to hit them, just out of boredom. Because you’re standing around for 10 hours doing nothing, you’re bored, so you hit them. I know that at the bathroom, there was this ‘demons’ dance’ as it was called. Anyone who brought a Palestinian there – it was catastrophic. Not bleeding beatings – they stayed dry – but still beatings.”
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Israelis, Social Justice And Moshe Siman

I had not heard of Moshe Siman until I read Mystical Politics’ account of his protest.

When reading that what struck me was, how little we hear of the real Israelis’ struggles in the Western media.

Contrast that with the excellent coverage of Greece, the Banks, the economy and more importantly the people, their lives, the daily effort of Greeks to exist and the dire poverty that many suffer, after almost a year without pay.

Whilst Greeks receive subtle and sympathetic coverage, there is barely a word on Moshe Siman’s self immolation and what real Israelis think and do. It is simply not heard in the West.

True enough, if there’s a bombing, shooting or knife attack in Israel there will be a video clip or mention in the news, but not the rest of people’s lives there.

It is a hard life for Israelis, faced with a Right-wing government and pressures on their existence every day. Whatever the reason behind Moshe Siman’s decision to set fire to himself this story should have been covered better in the West.

On Google news there are three stories, but they are Israeli based so you would expect that.

There is nothing on the BBC, but its news site does have a piece on the nonsense about “Yasser Arafat poisoning claims to be investigated”. Paranoid balderdash, as ably demonstrated by Hussein Ibish.

The Indy and Guardian have relegated it to their specialist Middle East sections and it can’t be found via the search function.

I am sure if this terrible event had taken place in any other country in the Middle East then it would have received widespread and proportional coverage.

However, for that to happen the Western media would have to humanises Israelis, understand them, deeply, and treat them as they do everyone else in all other countries.

I doubt that will occur in the Western media any time soon.

Nativism, Racism And Riots In Tel Aviv

Demagogical politicians and nativism are nothing new.

Across the world from the Balkans to the resurgence of nativism in North America, it is a common political current. However, we are now seeing the consequences of nativism in Israel, race riots.

Noam Sheizaf reports:

“More than 1,000 Israelis protested this evening (Wednesday) against the African refugees and asylum seekers who have settled in South Tel Aviv in recent years. According to eyewitnesses’ reports, the crowd grew angry and ultimately violent, following speeches from Knesset members, including members of the government coalition.

It was one of the most violent protests Tel Aviv has known in recent years. Confrontations were continuing between police and Jewish citizens at around 10:30 p.m. local time.

Dozens of protesters tried to move from the Hatikva neighborhood, where the rally was held, towards Tel Aviv’s Shapira neighborhood, where most African asylum seekers and migrants live. They were stopped by police. Protesters attacked a car passing by carrying African passengers, smashing its windows. Shops associated with the African community were vandalized. [UPDATE: As of midnight, activists in Hatikva are still reporting looting and occasional attacks on immigrants.] “

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Dealing With Anti-Muslim Racism & More.

The advent of the MAMA project is most welcome.

Until now it has been hard to quantify the extent and level of racism which faces many Muslims in Britain. Years back when I tried to research the topic I found scattered information, incomplete police reporting and a serious lack of concrete information.

It is going to be a hard and depressing task, to correlate and document the level of racism faced by Muslims on a day-to-day basis in Britain, however, I hope that the MAMA project has the success that the Community Security trust does. Good luck to them.

James Bloodworth looks at a common British habit, When did looking down on others become the national pastime?

Report from Lhasa: February 18, 2012 makes difficult reading:

“Lhasa consists of approximately 1.2 million Chinese and approximately 200,000 Tibetans. The majority of these Tibetans live in an area which is now almost entirely enclosed by military compounds with walls between 10-16 feet; some with barbed wire. This isolation gives the impression of what the Warsaw Ghetto was like. Inside the “enclosed” area groups of armed soldiers, S.W.A.T. teams, and police patrol the streets 24 hours a day. Military drill songs can be heard throughout the day. S.W.A.T trucks and rows of 6 to 15 armored vehicles and tanks come through the area on a daily basis. Each vehicle has 3 to 4 soldiers at the opening turret, armed with assault rifles or machine guns aimed at the Tibetans.

All Tibetans must carry identification at all times. Tibetans residing in Lhasa are required to register with the police. There are approximately 134 new Police station checkpoints in Lhasa for random searches of pedestrians and vehicles. In addition to the military compounds in and around Lhasa, permanent military posts holding 1-10 armed soldiers have been established throughout the city. “

It could be just like Switzerland, that’s what Hirsh Goodman thinks.

Spiegel Online reminds us the Neo-Nazi Terrorist Threat Remains Real.

In local blog news, the Third Estate on How rich institutions, the big parties and the mass media have colonised the blogosphere.

Jeff Goldberg has a worrying piece, Iranian Scientist’s Wife Says Husband Sought Annihilation of Israel. The Fars News Agency has the original copy.

Norms of intervention.

Finally, Bradley Burston makes some excellent points:

“It’s Israel Apartheid Week 2012. Time for people who support Israel to tell the truth. Yes, the settlements are an obstacle to peace. Yes, the occupation, which exists to protect the settlements, is the opposite of democracy. Yes, the present government speaks of two states in theory alone.

In the democracy that was the United States in the year 1840, there were those who said that slavery was essential, irreversible, eternal, God’s will. And that people of color and women of all races should not, and therefore would not, be granted the freedoms and rights of full citizenship, that the only good Native American was a dead one.

And, at the same time, there were those who believed that democracy and equality would become law, however dreadful and protracted the process might be, and they were right.

It is 2012. America’s freedoms, its promises of opportunity and openness to immigrants and minorities, are still under attack, still being tested. The answer is not to dismantle America, but to strengthen its freedoms.

All Americans deserve democracy and self-determination. So do both of the native peoples of the Holy Land, Palestinians and Israelis alike. Just as in 1840 America, in this Holy Land there are people working on both sides, quietly, continually, toward that goal. Not freedom for one people at the expense of the other, but freedom and independence for both.

This is the lesson that BDS has yet to learn. And this is why BDS, and Israeli Apartheid Week, are failures. “

Power, Armies And Unacceptable Demolitions

The excess of power twists peoples’ perspective, it brutalises us and affects our humanity as evidenced by US forces’ activities in Haditha.

That is true of the British Army’s long list of atrocities in Northern Ireland.

We can see that in the Libyan and Syrian armies murder of civilians and elsewhere.

Nevertheless, that brutalising and detachment from humanity does not occur overnight.

Israel’s occupation in and around the West Bank has desensitise many Israelis, leading to unacceptable behaviour, the demolishment of ordinary people’s homes:

“UNITED NATIONS — The United Nations has called on Israel to immediately halt the destruction of Palestinian homes in the West Bank after reporting a dramatic rise in demolitions in the past year.

Israeli forces destroyed 622 Palestinian homes in the West Bank in 2011, “forcibly displacing” almost 1,100 people, over half of them children, according to a UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs report.

“The current policy and practice of demolitions cause extensive human suffering and should end,” UN humanitarian coordinator for the occupied Palestinian territories, Maxwell Gaylard, said late Friday.

Gaylard said the demolition figures represent a “dramatic” increase on previous years and that tens of thousands of people remain under threat of dispossession, demolition and displacement.

Israel says it only demolishes structures that have been built without required permission. Palestinians say they are rarely granted permits.

Gaylard said he went on Thursday to the village of Anata near Jerusalem where seven Palestinian homes were demolished this week.”

UNESCO And Settlements

David Schraub makes an excellent point:

“In response to Palestine’s successful bid to gain membership in UNESCO, Israel has approved a wave of new settlement construction, apparently on the theory that hacking off one’s own nose is worth it to spite someone else’s face. Seriously, one gets the sense that radical Palestinians can just play Israel like a flute at this point. Do something Israel doesn’t like, and watch as they furiously self-destruct.”

I am not keen on the tone of this article at HuffPost, but it makes some pertinent points:

“But the end of U.S. involvement in one lesser-known UN body, the World Intellectual Property Organization, may pose the most direct consequences for American business interests. If the U.S. is forced to stop funding the group, it would open the door to a possible contest for the attention of lawmakers between the pro-Israel and Silicon Valley lobbies.

WIPO hosts forums for the negotiation of international treaties on copyright protection. It is an essential outlet for Hollywood and Silicon Valley businesses seeking to prevent infringement in the developing world, such as from those who pirate DVDs in China and elsewhere.

The consequences of a diminished US presence in WIPO could be devastating, experts on intellectual property law predict.

“You’re trying to engage developing and developed countries in enhancing intellectual property protections where there are already barriers to your success,” said Suzanne Stoll, the former WIPO representative in Washington and now COO of the IP lobbying firm Raben Group. “Now you add that you can’t vote in the annual governing bodies as the result of a 20-year-old legislative provision involving Palestine. It’s not a good position for the U.S government to be in. You have to anticipate some diminution of your influence in that body. There are always people and interests and nations waiting to fill a void there.”

The State Department has said it recognizes these consequences, and is looking for a way to work around them. Yet it has also indicated they cannot see a way forward without new legislation.”