This article was received on 3 March 2009 by email:
Israeli economist: boycotts beginning to bite
Shir Hever, an economist with the Palestinian-Israeli Alternative Information Center (AIC), notes that four recent articles in Ha'aretz' business section, The Marker, have fretted about the impact of boycotts, divestment & sanctions (BDS) on the Israeli economy. Writes Hever in the AIC, March 1:[...]
The growing protest against the atrocities committed by the Israeli military in the Gaza Strip have begun to change something in the Israeli political discourse, and the first indication of this can already be seen in the Israeli economic media.
Although the Israeli economic media doesn't concern itself with the moral dimension of the attacks on Gaza, the economic dimension of recent events have created a rising level of concern. In order to demonstrate this trend, here are summaries of four articles that appeared in the Israeli The Marker magazine for economic news:1.
On 2 February, Guy Grimland warned about a growing phenomenon of boycott of Israeli high-tech companies, and several Israeli companies received letters from European and U.S. companies explaining that they cannot invest in Israel for moral reasons.2.
In 3 February, Nehemia Strassler, one of Israel's most famous economic correspondents, attacked the Israeli Minister of Industry, Trade and Labor, Eli Yishai, for calling on the Israeli military to "destroy one hundred homes in Gaza for every rocket that falls in Israel." Strassler had nothing to say about the Palestinians living in these homes or about the loss of life, but he warned:
"[the minister] doesn't even understand how the operation in Gaza hurts the economy. The horror sights on television and the words of politicians in Europe and Turkey change the behavior of consumers, businessmen and potential investors. Many European consumers boycott Israeli products in practice. Intellectuals call for an economic war against us and to enforce an official and full consumer boycott.
Calls are heard in board meetings of economic corporations to boycott trade relations with Israel. So far deals were cancelled with Turkey, the UK, Egypt and the Gulf States, and visits by economic delegations were cancelled. It’s much easier now to switch providers while abandoning Israeli providers. Many company boards are required to take wide considerations into account with regards to the good of society and the environment, and they put political considerations in that slot as well.
Of course there is an economic cost to severing diplomatic ties. Qatar cut its trade relations with Israel, Venezuela and Bolivia cut diplomatic relations. Mauritania recalled its ambassador and the relations with Turkey worsened considerably—and this bad ambience seeps into the business sector decisions. Here, just yesterday Dudi Ovshitz, who grows peppers for export, said that 'there is a concealed boycott of Israeli products in Europe.'"3.
On 6 February, Shuki Sadeh wrote about even more companies that have decided to boycott relations with Israel. A Turkish company demanded that Israeli companies sign a document condemning the Israeli massacre in Gaza before they can offer their services for it. Sadeh quoted Naomi Klein's recent call for boycott, the 2005 Palestinian civil society call for boycott and Israeli organizations that support the boycott and provide information for the global BDS movement. Sadeh's article also had concerned quotes by Israeli businessmen who demanded government intervention to protect them from the growing boycott.4.
In 11 February, Ora Koren reported that the Israeli business sectors feel the effects of the attack on Gaza. She reported that Israeli businessmen in Turkey are hiding their names so that the local BDS organizations won't learn about their activities, and that the situation is even worse in the UK.
These four articles are a sign that there is a shift in the effectiveness of the BDS movement against Israel, and that if the momentum is maintained and strengthened, Israeli businessmen may decide to move their headquarters away from Israel, or to begin to put pressure on the Israeli government to begin respecting international law, and ending the occupation.Hever has written extensively on the economy of the occupation & the usefulness of BDS tactics to fight it, available here.
The following article appeared in the Sunday Age on 8 March 2009:
AN ARTWORK by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's nephew attacking Connex for suppressing Palestinians was installed beneath Flinders Street Station, then covered up following complaints. It has now been declared fit to be seen, on the grounds of freedom of speech.
The piece was censored last week after complaints from the public and at least one Jewish group, but reinstalled on Friday night after being cleared by the City of Melbourne's Protocol on Artworks panel. The body found the work caused community concerns, but was consistent with the Victorian Charter of Human Rights and Responsibility.
Van Thanh Rudd, who has called himself an "artist-activist", uses two framed statements to attack Connex's parent company, Veolia, and rail infrastructure giant Alstom, stating they support "illegal operations on occupied Palestinian territory" by building a light rail through disputed land in East Jerusalem. It also includes a rock allegedly thrown at an Israeli tank by a Palestinian youth in the city.
The artwork's white and blue colouring is designed to look like Connex literature, prompting the train operator to express its concern to the City of Melbourne. It denies lodging a complaint, and maintains the East Jerusalem project is legal.
Economy of Movement (A Piece of Palestine) is part of a new exhibition, Resisting Subversion of Subversive Resistance, in Campbell Arcade beneath Flinders Street.
Mr Rudd, son of Kevin Rudd's brother Malcolm and Malcolm's wife, Tuoi, declined to answer questions but said in a statement that the colours represented blue skies, freedom and the Israeli flag, which he said is a sign of oppression for many Palestinians.
The work was unveiled last Monday, but exhibition organisers Platform covered it the next day and sought legal advice.
The City of Melbourne last year banned from an exhibition Van Thanh Rudd's painting of Ronald McDonald carrying an Olympic torch past a burning monk.
Platform director Din Heagney said the latest work was initially covered after Connex threatened legal action because of the similarities to its own literature, another claim the transport operator denies.
But Mr Heagney said that after receiving legal advice they decided to unveil it again at the exhibition's official launch on Friday.
Veolia plans to run the East Jerusalem system for 27 years when it opens in 2010, while Alstom has been constructing it.
Activists claim it will break international law by transporting an occupier's civilian population into occupied territory. The Palestine Liberation Organisation took the two companies to court in France in 2007.
arena Magazine www.arena.org.au and John Docker and Ned Curthoys have given their permission to reprint the following item from arena Magazine Number 99 - February-March 2009:
We are part of an increasing number of people around the world of Jewish descent who are sickened by the coldly calculated massacre of the Palestinians of Gaza and who utterly repudiate Israel’s claim that it acts in the name of Jews the world over. Like an increasing number of people around the world of Jewish and non-Jewish descent, we are also sickened by the indifference of Western governments, including your government, to the death, maiming, terror and trauma inflicted on the Palestinians of Gaza, including a disproportionate number of children, in what now resembles a vast outdoor prison or policed ghetto. The apparent indifference of your government to the humanitarian plight of the Palestinians lends support to Israel’s crimes against humanity.
We know, as a scholar, you meditate on the long and troubled history of humanity. We trust you do not wish Israel/Palestine to be to your prime ministership what East Timor has become to Gough Whitlam’s, a terrible blot on an otherwise positive record, an instance of putting realpolitik above morality in international affairs. If that is the case, then we urge you to take a stand now, on behalf of the Australian people, against the wanton destruction of the Palestinians and their way of life.
As believers in Gandhian non-violent protest, we call your attention to the Mahatma’s pleas on behalf of the Palestinians in the late 1930s and early 1940s, when the Zionist intention in British-Mandated Palestine to dispossess and drive out the Palestinians was becoming ever clearer. In his 1938 essay ‘Zionism and Anti-Semitism’, Gandhi passionately argues that Palestine ‘belongs to the Arabs in the same sense that England belongs to the English or France to the French. It is wrong and inhuman to impose the Jews on the Arabs. What is going on in Palestine today cannot be justified by any moral code of conduct … Surely it would be a crime against humanity to reduce the proud Arabs so that Palestine can be restored to the Jews partly or wholly as their national home.’
Recall that the great Australian Sir Isaac Isaacs, the first Australian-born Governor General and a former Chief Justice of the High Court, predicted in essays in The Hebrew Standard in the early 1940s what now has occurred, that Zionist plans to take over Palestine while dispossessing and marginalising the Palestinians would be a disaster for international law. Isaacs pointed out that the Zionist campaign to make Palestine a Jewish State was contrary to the Balfour Declaration, which called for a ‘National Home for Jews in Palestine.’ If Zionism succeeded in creating such a Jewish State, its injustice would, he felt, antagonize the Arab population in Palestine and would exasperate the whole Muslim world. To create a Jewish state, he noted, would necessarily mean the domination of a single nationality over other nationalities; a Christian or Muslim could not become a full citizen of the new state. Why not, he suggested, make citizenship Palestinian, that is, neither Arab nor Jewish? Isaacs regarded the Zionist plan for a Jewish State as a giant historical step backwards, away from a modern democratic notion of a national unit formed by various nationalities. Instead, Isaacs proposed what, given the recent history of South Africa, we would recognise as a rainbow nation: a vision of Palestine where Jew, Muslim and Christian alike would have equal rights. Against the Zionist insistence that Jewish identity was tied to political and military possession of a particular land, Isaacs argued that Judaism is ‘written in the hearts of the Jewish people and is independent of Palestine or any locality’. One of the great political theorists of the twentieth century, Hannah Arendt, a German Jewish refugee from Nazi Germany, lamented in her 1944 essay ‘Zionism reconsidered’ that the Zionist program of a state for Jews alone had replaced the possibility of a ‘binational Palestine state’ which might have come about as the result of a working agreement with ‘Arabs and other Mediterranean peoples’. For surely only folly, she argued, ‘could dictate a policy which trusts a distant imperial power for protection, while alienating the goodwill of its neighbours’. That folly continues and we might well ask, along with Hannah Arendt in that same essay, what program does an aggressively nationalistic movement such as Zionism ‘offer for a solution of the Arab-Jewish conflict?’
On 13 February 2008, in your historic and moving speech apologizing to the Stolen Generations of the Indigenous people of Australia you clasped hands and shared tears: please extend the same sympathy and empathy to the indigenous people of Palestine. Since 1948 the Indigenous Palestinians of historical Palestine have faced having their lives, cities, villages, mosques, fields, olive groves, health, dignity, freedom of movement and rights under international law unlawfully transgressed and stolen from them. Please reach out to them, please extend your sympathy to the beleaguered Palestinian people. We urge you to bring to public attention and to support UN Resolution 194, which declares the unconditional right of the Palestinian refugees - some 700,000 - expelled from Palestine in 1948 to return to their homes. We ask you to reflect on the significance of a conjunction of dates: on 10 December 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was declared, Article 13/2 making it clear that, ‘Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and return to his country.’ Resolution 194 was declared on the following day, 11 December 1948. The right of the Palestinian refugees to return to their homes had been demanded by the assassinated UN mediator, Count Folke Bernadotte. Then as now, Israel disdainfully sneered at the United Nations, the Geneva Convention, and international law.
By publicly supporting the unconditional right of the Palestinians to return to their homeland, you would go a long way in restoring Australia’s human rights reputation in relation to refugees. In doing so, you would grant to Australia an independent foreign policy and our own political and ethical stance, rather than continuing the immoral and embarrassing subservience pursued by the previous government towards the United States of America.
Prime Minister, we ask that you do everything you can to avert the destruction of the Palestinians.JOHN DOCKER and NED CURTHOYS, Committee for the Dismantling of Zionism, 11 February 2009
arena Magazine www.arena.org.au and Jeremy Salt have given their permission to reprint the following item from arena Magazine Number 99 - February-March 2009:
JEREMY SALT asks if war crimes were committed in Gaza
By the time you read this article, Gaza will hardly be in the news; but then it was hardly in the news a few days after the killing stopped, such is the inert and morally indifferent state of the mainstream media. We know where to begin, with dead bodies, the main product of war:1285 Palestinians dead as of 21 January (2009)
The secondary product of war is destruction:2400 houses completely destroyed as of 21 January (2009)
The figures above, from the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, are conservative. The Palestinian Ministry of Health estimates that 1314 Palestinians were killed: 412 of them children (many of them under 5) or teenagers under 18; 110 of them women. More than 85 per cent of the dead were civilians. About 140 were killed in the first 4 minutes of the aerial attack. The streets were strewn with teh bodies of dead policemen and young recruits. In the coming days and weeks whole families were obliterated. Many of the wounded will be maimed for life. Corpses were still being pulled out of the rubble days after Israel stopped shooting on 18 January.
This attack was directed against people trapped between the sea at their back and fences to the front and sides. It was a war launched against people who could not fight back, with the exception of a militia bearing small arms, a war of fighter aircraft, helicopters, tanks, artillery, warships, phosphorus bombs and DIME (Diminished Inert Metal Explosive) bombs against people who have not one of these weapons. It was a war of obliteration; a war directed against refugees by the state that turned them into refugees; a war that aimed to bring the Palestinian government to its knees by terrorising the civilian population; a war designed, like all of Israel's wars against the Palestinians over the past six decades, to grind them into the dust and make them forget who they are, who they were and who they could be. It was an educational war. As Shimon Peres, Israel's Nobel Prize-winning man of peace, said, Hamas needed to be taught a lesson and 'we are teaching them that lesson'.
This was a war actively or tacitly supported by the West. The United States provided the weapons and its Western allies allowed it to continue. They did nothing to stop children from being slaughtered by 'the only democracy in the Middle East.' When it was over, the heads of European governments rushed in to take charge, expressing their determination to restore the momentum of the 'peace process' by pulling the noose around Gaza even tighter. Nicholas Sarkozy, Angela Merkel, Silvio Berlusconi, Gordon Brown and other EU leaders gathered at Sharm al Sheikh to express their undying support for the perpetrator of the atrocities the people of the world had watched in horror for three weeks. Berlusconi pledged to work hard to bring Israel into the EU. Over the Egyptian border, while they wined, dined, laughed and posed for the cameras, Palestinians dug their dead families out of the ruins of bombed homes and told of acts of cold-blooded murder committed by Israeli soldiers.
We need to remember that these same governments fulsomely supported the democratic election of a Palestinian government three years ago and then, lining up behind the United States, Israel and the Quartet, tried to bring it down by starving the people who voted for it into submission. The blockade did not work; the attempt to overthrow the Hamas government in 2007 did not work; the latest round of destruction has not worked, but they still have not given up.
In Israel they are proud of their war. They are proud of their boys. They believe they can hold their heads high after the debacle against Hizbullah three years ago. By bombing schools, apartment blocks, open markets, orange orchards and police stattions the Israeli military has apparently redeemed itself. This would be pathetic if the consequences were not so tragic. The 'success' of Israel's armed forces in Gaza proved absolutely nothing about their fighting capacity. Nearly all the killing was done by fighter aircraft, artillery and tank fire, not by the men on the ground advancing behind the protective cover of tanks and bulldozers. Few Hamas fighters were killed and even fewer captured. They did not fully engage with Israel in the open because they would have been slaughtered from the air, and Israel stopped short of advancing into the heart of the cities for fear of taking heavy casualties.
If success is to be measured by atrocities the war was wildly successful. Otherwise, none of Israel's stated objectives were achieved. The war weakened not the 'Hamas government' - the elected and only legitimate Palestinian government - but the puppet regime in Ramallah and the West's friends across the region. Mahmud Abbas and Hosni Mubarak will never recover from the stain of their participation in this war. Rockets were still being fired into southern Israel when the ceasefire was declared and Gilad Schalit had not been freed.
In fact, this was not a war. It was a one-sided onslaught designed to terrorise the Palestinian people; to send a lesson to Lebanon that this is what it awaits it next time around; to show Iran and Hizbullah who's boss; and to send a signal to the world generally that Israel is capable of any insanity. 'Do not fuck with the Jews', as the New Republic'sMartin Peretz put it (27 December 2008).
And insanity is what people who have been watching Israel for a long time are thinking. Norman Finkelstein regards Israel as a lunatic state; Ithzak Laor describes it as being engaged in a 'long war of annihalation againstPalestinian society', to drive it back into tribal groups and territorial enclaves in ' the last phase of the Zionist colonial mission'; Ilan Pappe thinks that Palestinians have been so dehumanised by Israelis ' that killing them comes naturally' (London Review of Books, 15 January 2009).
Between September 2000 and 30 June 2008, the so-called Israel Defence Forces killed nearly 5000 Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank, 859 of them children, on the top of the thousands they killed in the first intifada and on top of the men, women and children they have killed all the way back to 1948 in all the countries outside the fortress-ghetto they have built for themselves.
'I kill everyone who belongs to the enemy camp: man, women, old person and child', wrote one of Moshe Dayan's soldiers in 1948, 'and I am not deterred' (Benny Morris, THe birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem Revisited, 2004). Compare this to the Jerusalem Post's comment on the killing of Palestinian civilians in Gaza this year:
How do Israelis feel when our artillery strikes a UN-run school building, killing dozens of people? The answer is deeply shaken, profoundly distressed, sorrowful at the catastophic loss of life. But we do not feel guilt. We are angry at Hamas for forcing this war on us; for habitually using Gaza's civilians as a human shield and - in this latest outrage - for transforming a centre where people had sought refuge into a shooting gallery and weapons depot. To paraphrase Golda Meir, there may come a time when we will forgive the Arabs for killing our sons, ' but it will be harder to forgive them for having forced us to kill their sons' (Jerusalem Post editorial 6 January 2009).
The Israelis are living on lies and delusions. None of the justification in the above paragraph is true. Israel broke the ceasefire, by not respecting it in the first place (in not lifting the blockade) and by sending troops to kill Palestinians. Hamas did not use civilians as human shields. The crowded cities and refugee camps of the Gaza strip are where Paestinians happen to live. There were no weapons in the UN school and no shots fired from it any more than shots were being fired from the UNRRWA compound bombed with white phosphorus. Hamas repeatedly offered Israel a long-term truce, which the Israeli government refused to take up. Israel was not 'forced' to kill Palestinians. It chose to kill them.
Richard Falk, The United Nations' special rapporteur for human rights in the occupied territories, regards the blockade of Gaza as collective punishment and therefore a crime against humanity under international law. There is now a powerful case that Ehud Barak, Ehud Olmert, Tzipi Livni and the officers and enlisted men who obeyed their orders have committed war crimes and crimes against humanity. If they are never brought to trial it will be because the same country that provided them with the weapons to kill and destroy in Gaza will exert every pressure to make sure they are not brought to justice.
Barack Obama's Middle East team largely consists of stale leftovers from the Bill Clinton years most notably Dennis Ross and Martin Indyk, topped off with Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State. Obama and Ms Clinton made the necessary obeisance to the Israeli lobby at the AIPAC conference last year. There will be lots of window dressing and photo opportunities in the coming year but real change is not in sight. Gaza is further proof that there is virtually nothing Israel cannot do that the West will not allow beforehand and forgive afterwards. This is the real lesson coming out of Israel's latest onslaught.Jeremy Salt teaches in the Department of Political Science at the University of Bilkent, Ankara.
arena Magazine www.arena.org.au and Les Rosenblatt have given their permission to reprint the following item from arena Magazine Number 99 - February-March 2009:
LES ROSENBLATT considers the sources and ramifications of the carnage in Gaza.
'Eyeless in Gaza'. Such was the title of Aldous Huxley's 1936 novel, and provoked as I was by the recent coverage in The Age of Israel's 'Cast Lead' (and white phosphorus) assaults in Gaza, it came to mind again. Curious as to where Huxley had obtained the phrase, I discovered its origin in Milton's long poem Samson Agonistes, written in mid-17th century England. Specifically, it is to be found in the lines,Promise was that I
A far cry from the triumphalism expressed elsewhere in the poem when Samson,. . . with what trivial weapon came to hand,
Where the Bilblical Samson, blind suicide - terrorist ab initio, once dealt out mass death in fields with the jawbone of an ass, the Israeli IDF's war machine - pilotless drones, swift bombers, long-range heavy artillery, armoured troop carriers, naval missile boats and tanks - now delivered death, injury and destruction on an untold scale. The IDF achieved a kill ratio of about 100;1, radically skewed against Palestinian civilians, including children (leaving aside the aggregate of injuries, chronic and acute illnesses, disbilitiy, and loss of 'quality of life' and longevity).
Benjamin Netanyahu and Avigdor Lieberman are the likely right- and ultra-right-wing successors to the current 'centrist' leadership of Olmert, Barak and Livni. They now wait their chance to take further revenge (in the name of self-defence) against Palestinian resistance to being stretched to near-extinction on the intolerable Israeli rack. Regardless of the outcome of Israel's elections, the punitive rage that fuelled the Israeli actions threatens to persist until Israel, like blind Samson, pulls the pillars of the 'two-state solution' inwards, collapsing on all heads.
Displacing the comparison of Israel with Samson, we might find another apt metaphor in the idea of a Palestinian Odyssey, the Palestinians becoming the 'Nobody' who have blinded the single eye of the terrorising Polyphemus of the Israeli state. They have managed to escape its deathly machinations in no little part by clinging to the underbelly of demographic change. This, and the likely confounding of roaring Polyphemus' intentions by emerging regional and international configurations, may serve to shepherd them to the relative safety of a bi-national state, or even some other radically different political/national configuration.
These prospects are sharply intensifying dread and apprehension amongst Jews everywhere as they see their candle in the wind flickering crazily and threatening to go out entirely. For most of them, the fluorsecent menorahs on the car-roofs of ultra-orthodox Jews, or their car stickers which announce the coming of the Messiah, provide little consolation. They must be aware that financing the vast US deficit in response to ongoing economic collapse will inevitably reduce the effectiveness of Israel's claims to the US military and economic assistance on which its regional strength and prosperity depends. With this, together with the Obama administration looking to unclench its fist against Iran, combined with the unpredictibility of Sunni-Shia and intra-Muslim discord within and across the region's unstable and undemocratic states, prospects for peace are further confused.
Aside from these inchoate elements that make up the broad context of the recent carnage there are also spreading tensions over the characteristics of modern anti-Semitism, and where and how it is manifested. Are these characteristics any longer distinguishable (without excrucatingly cautious finesse) from expressions of ambivalence or antipathy towards Israel? In the scale of genocidal magnitudes, is the Holocaust the only 'real ground zero', and so absolute as to defy comparison for all time? These are questions now being asked ever more painfully and urgently both by non-Jews and Jews.
In his most recently published essays on violence, the Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Zizek attempts an analysis of why, in today's globalised world, sensitivities to Israeli violence are so acutely disturbing. He finds that 'what the state of Israel confronts us with is merely (sic) the obliterated past of every state power.' When he visits Israel he finds himself 'in a state which hasn't yet obliterated the "founding violence" of its illegitimate origins, repressed them into a timeless past'. Zizek appears to be arguing that this is why the Palestine-Israel conflict attracts the compulsively distressing attention and intensity of feeling that it does: it stirs up the apprehensions and guilt associated with a threatening awareness of our own national origins in violently oppressive ( and sometimes genocidal) enactments of (dis)possession, subjugation and displacement.
We are all so far removed from sympathetic, apologetic and restitutive reconciliation with our own ever-threatening 'hearts of darkness' that we seize upon Israel as our shame-bearer because it is so accessible to such projection. It is too painful for us to recall the ravages of four centuries of imerialism and colonialism, slavery (sometimes genocidal), racist contempt, hatred, cruelty and immiseration, and the lie of progress we have been forced to confront since the 20th century. Israel reminds us more easily than does contemporary Burma, East Timor, Indonesia, Zimbabwe, Congolese Africa, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Somalia, Rwanda, Afghanistan, Sudan, Russia, Chechnya, Georgia, or the history of Namibia, the Americas, Ireland, Australia and Armenia.
Needless to say, such determined focus on Israel does not go uncontested, particularly amongst Israeli and diaspora Jewry, which exhibits its own exquisite sensitivities to a criticism, now more and more frequently drawn from universalising international principles and law dismissive of the defences of religious/national/historical/cultural 'exceptionalism'.
An example of this sensitivity was seen recently in the response to a clumsy article in The Age critical of Israel, which evoked some anti-Semitic stereotypes depicting Israelis abroad. Though The Age subsequently apologised, as did the author Michael Backman, it was seized upon by peak Victorian Jewish groups as a pretext for opposing The Age's sympathetic coverage of Gazan suffering. Springboarding on the clamour amongst Melbourne's Jewish community, which the community itself had helped to provoke, Fairfax suddenly found itself under extraordinary pressure to defend its news and photographs from the Israeli war on Gaza.
Thw years ago, when Ed O'Loughlin was reporting on the destruction of much of Lebanon and the use of cluster bombs by Israeli forces, these same Jewish voices attempted to silence reports by bringing pressure to bear on Fairfax. O'Loughlin was duly replaced by Jason Koutsoukis. But with the leverage now provided by the Backman episode, it seems that even Koutsoukis cannot file from Gaza or Israel without the same accusations of bias, imbalance and implied anti-Semitism being directed at him and Fairfax.
Fortunately, The Israeli Supreme Vourt has just judged that attempts by the Israeli government and military to keep foreign journalists out of Gaza are not warranted, and we can expect more rather than less courageous reporting from a range of sources. But without a doubt such courage is exercised at some peril, as attested by the targeting and assassination of journalists in other parts of the world.
Ben Kiernan, in his impressive Blood and Soil: A World History of Genocide and Extermination from Sparta to Darfur (2007), presents an analysis of over 2000 years of genocidal slaughter. He finds persistent clusters of critical factors in most of the genocidal violence he surveys. These factors are territorial expansion and violent militarism, and 'include not only racial and religious hatreds, but also idealist cults of ancient glory or pristine purity, more modern conceptions of biological contamination, and varied historical forms of agrarian romanticism and other obsessions with land use'. Importantly, he also acknowledges the tactical and ideological power which accrues to genocidal forces if they can persuasively present their target victims as motivated by equivalent hatreds and ambitions.
Akiva Eldar, chief poitical columnist and editor of the Israeli newspaper Haaretz wrote recently about the work of Daniel Bar-Tal, an Israeli political psychologist. He summarised Bar-Tal's findings from a study into the collective memory of Israeli Jews regarding their conflicts with 'Arabs', finding that
The sweeping support for Operation Cast Lead confirmed the main diagnosis that arises from the study . . . Israeli Jews' consciousness is characterised by a sense of victimisation, a seige mentality, blind patriotism, belligerence, self-righteousness, dehumanisation of the Palestinians and insensitivity to their suffering.
He further remarks on Bar-Tal's findings of widespread historical ignorance amongst Israelis regarding the establishment of their own state and the conditions of Palestinians under occupation. Add to this the widespread awareness among Israelis of the denial of Israel's right to exist stated in the Hamas charter. Without knowledge to enable empathy, and with fears of persecution strengthened, we are getting closer to the conditions identified by Kiernan as the precursors of genocide.
The internationally recognised definition of genocide requires the evidence of demonstrable intent 'to achieve the destruction, in whole or in part, of a national, ethnic, racial or religious group'. Although accusations of war crimes and human rights abuses have been persuasively lodged against Israel, I am not claiming that Israel is behaving genocidally towards the Palestinian people in Gaza. But I am suggesting that as Israel moves ever more blindly, contemptuous of internationally prohibited actions, the more likely its 'trump card' of the Jewish Holocaust will resonate more hollowly across the globe.
I do not approve or agree with attempts by the victims (or their sympathisers) of Israel's belligerence to compare the scale of their collective suffering to that of Europe's Jews under Nazi Germany's systematic policies of Jewish annihilation. But I can understand their desperation in attempting to find parallels for the types, extent and effects of the violence used against the Palestinian people. Zizek, in attempting to answer the question as to 'why should we abstract from the Holocaust when we judge Israeli politics towards Palestinians?'. offers:
Not because one can compare the two, but precisely because the Holocaust was the incomparably graver crime. The very need to evoke the Holocaust in defence of Israeli acts secretly implies that Israel is committing such horrible crimes that only the trump card of the Holocaust can redeem them.
Since the December-January violence in Gaza, renewed shame and consternation, stunned silence, guilt by association, outrage, calls for sanctions and boycotts of Israel, manifestos, demonstrations, petitions and anguished outpourings over the validity or absence of highly calibrated threshold sensitivities to anti-Semitism are threatening to turn even the 'trump card' into a non-redeemable wild card.
Despite the evidence of Hamas' intransigence and its own terrorist and occasionally lethal attacks on nearby Israelis, it seems such agitation is beginning to expose the indefensibility of Israeli militarism and expansionism even to the hitherto 'locked-onto-Israel' Australian Jewish community. We can only hope that US presidential changes will now admit a more benign Middle Eastern policy posture, one that the belligerent right-moving Israeli administration cannot rely on.
A view with even more far-reaching consequences is the conclusion of John Mearsheimer, co-author of the former tail-wagging-the-dog study with Stephen Walt of the Israeli lobby in the United States, that '[t]he two-state solution is probably dead'. Perhaps the eyeless in Gaza should now remember the Polyphemus and the wily Odysseus rather than Samson bringing down the twin columns.Les Rosenblatt is a Melbourne based writer and member of the Australian Jewish Democratic Society.
Ronnie Kasrils has kindly given permission for his article on Israel and Palestine to be reproduced in full. Here it is:
"...a colonial racist mentality which rationalised the genocide of the indigenous peoples of the Americas and Australasia, in Africa from Namibia to the Congo and elsewhere, most clearly has its parallels in Palestine."
At the onset of international “Israel Apartheid Week” in solidarity with the embattled Palestinian people, I want to start by quoting a South African who emphatically stated as far back as 1963 that “Israel is an apartheid state.” Those were not the words of Nelson Mandela, Archbishop Tutu or Joe Slovo, but were uttered by none other than the architect of apartheid itself, racist Prime Minister, Dr. Hendrik Verwoerd.
He was irked by the criticism of apartheid policy and Harold Macmillan’s “Winds of Change” speech , in contrast to the West’s unconditional support for Zionist Israel.
To be sure Verwoerd was correct. Both states preached and implemented a policy based on racial ethnicity; the sole claim of Jews in Israel and whites in South Africa to exclusive citizenship; monopolised rights in law regarding the ownership of land, property, business; superior access to education, health, social, sporting and cultural amenities, pensions and municipal services at the expense of the original indigenous population; the virtual monopoly membership of military and security forces, and privileged development along their own racial supremacist lines - even both countries marriage laws designed to safeguard racial “purity”.
The so-called “non-whites” in apartheid South Africa, indigenous Africans, others of mixed race or of Indian origin - like second or third class non-Jews in Israel - were consigned to a non-citizenship status of Kafkaesque existence, subject to bureaucratic whims and the laws prohibiting their free movement, access to work and trade, dictating where they could reside and so forth.
Verwoerd would have been well aware of Israel’s dispossession of indigenous Palestinian in 1948 - the year his apartheid party similarly came to power - of the unfolding destruction of their villages, the premeditated massacres and the systematic ethnic cleansing.
Within a few short years the apartheid regime was ruthlessly clearing South Africa’s cities and towns of so-called “black spots” - where the “non-whites” lived, socialised, studied and traded - bulldozing homes, loading families onto military trucks, and forcibly relocating them to distant settlements. Unlike the “native reserves” - soon to be reconstituted as Bantustans - not too far away from industrial areas because the economy thrived on a quota of cheap black labour.
Whilst he did not live to see the division of Palestinian territory after the Six Day War, and the subsequent creation of miniscule Bantustans in the West Bank and Gaza, he would have greatly admired and approved of the machinations that enclosed the Palestinians in their own ghettoised prisons. This after all was the Verwoerdian grand plan, and the reason why Jimmy Carter could so readily identify the Occupied Palestinian Territories as being akin to apartheid. In fact the Bantustans consisted of 13% of apartheid South Africa, uncannily comparable to the derisory, ever shrinking pieces of ground Israel is consigning to the Palestinians.
A further comment about the Bantustans. When I visited Yasser Arafat in his virtually demolished headquarters in Ramallah as part of a South African delegation in 2004, he pointed around him and said “See this is nothing but a Bantustan!” No, we responded, pointing out that no Bantustan, in fact not even our townships, had been bombed by warplanes, pulverised by tanks. To a wide-eyed Arafat we pointed out that Pretoria pumped in funds, constructed impressive administration buildings, even allowed for Bantustan airlines to service the Mickey Mouse capitals in order to impress the world that they were serious about so-called “separate development.”
What Verwoerd admired too was the impunity with which Israel exercised state violence and terror to get its way, without hindrance from its Western allies, increasingly key among them the USA. What Verwoerd and his ilk came to admire in Israel, and seek to emulate in the southern African region, was the way the Western powers permitted an imperialist Israel to use its unbridled military with impunity in expanding its territory and holding back the rising tide of Arab nationalism in its neighbourhood..
After the Six Day War, Verwoerd’s successor John Vorster, infamously stated: “The Israelis have beaten the Arabs before lunchtime. We will eat the African states for breakfast.” But it was not only the racial doctrine of Israel that excited apartheid’s leaders, it was the use of the biblical narrative as the ideological rationale to justify its vision, aims and methods.
The early Dutch pioneers, the Afrikaners, had used Bible and gun as colonisers elsewhere, to carve out their exclusive fortress bastion in South Africa’s hinterland. Like the biblical Israelites they claimed to be “God’s chosen people” with a mission to tame and civilise the wilderness; disregarding the productivity and industriousness of people who had tilled the soil and traded for centuries - claiming it was only they who would make the land flow with milk and honey. They invoked a covenant with God to deliver their enemies into their hands and to bless their deeds. Until the advent of South Africa’s democracy, the racial history books generally taught that the white man arrived in South Africa more or less as the so-called “Bantu tribes” from the north were wandering across the Limpopo - South Africa’s border with Zimbabwe - and that they the were pioneer settlers in a land without people.
Such a colonial racist mentality which rationalised the genocide of the indigenous peoples of the Americas and Australasia, in Africa from Namibia to the Congo and elsewhere, most clearly has its parallels in Palestine.
What is so shameless about this anachronistic colonial barbarism is that Zionist Israel has been permitted by the West to aspire to such a goal even into the 21st Century.
It is by no means difficult to recognise from afar, as Verwoerd had been able to do, that Israel is indeed an apartheid state. Verwoerd’s successor, Balthazar John Vorster visited Israel after the 1973 October War, when Egypt in a rare victory regained the Suez Canal and Sinai from Israel. After that Israel and South Africa were virtually twinned as military allies for Pretoria helped supply Israel militarily in the immediacy of its 1973 setback and Israel came to support apartheid South Africa at the height of sanctions with weaponry and technology - from naval ships and the conversion of supersonic fighter planes to assistance in building six nuclear bombs and the creation of an arms industry.
For the liberation movements of southern Africa, Israel and apartheid South Africa represented a racist, colonial axis. It was noted that people like Vorster had been nazi sympathisers, interned during World War II - yet feted as heroes in Israel and incidentally never again referred to by South African Zionists as an anti-semite!. This did not surprise those that came to understand the true racist nature and character of Zionist Israel.
Time and space does not allow further elaboration, but it is instructive to add that in its conduct and methods of repression, Israel came to resemble more and more apartheid South Africa at its zenith - even surpassing its brutality, house demolitions, removal of communities, targeted assassinations, massacres, imprisonment and torture of its opponents, collective punishment and the aggression against neighbouring states.
Certainly we South Africans can identify the pathological cause, fuelling the hate, of Israel’s political-military elite and public in general. Neither is this difficult for anyone acquainted with colonial history to understand the way in which deliberately cultivated race hate inculcates a justification for the most atrocious and inhumane actions against even defenceless civilians - women, children, the elderly amongst them. In fact was this not the pathological racist ideology that fuelled Hitler’s war lust and implementation of the Holocaust?
I will state clearly, without exaggeration, that any South African, whether involved in the freedom struggle, or motivated by basic human decency, who visits the Occupied Palestinian Territories are shocked to the core at the situation they encounter and agree with Archbishop Tutu’s comment that what the Palestinians are experiencing is far worse than what happened in South Africa, where the Sharpeville massacre of 69 civilians in 1960 became international symbol of apartheid cruelty.
I want to recall here the words of an Israeli Cabinet Minister, Aharon Cizling in 1948, after the savagery of the Deir Yassin massacre of 240 villagers became known. He said: “Now we too have behaved like the Nazis and my whole being is shaken.”
Recently the veteran British MP, Gerald Kaufman, long time friend of Israel, was reported as remarking that a spokeswoman of the Israeli Defence Force, talked like a Nazi, when she coldly dismissed the deaths of defenceless civilians in Gaza - many women and children amongst them.
It needs to be frankly raised that if the crimes of the Holocaust are at the top end of the scale of human barbarity in modern times, where do we place the human cost of what has so recently occurred in Gaza and against the Palestinians since 1948 in the ‘nakba’ (catastrophe) they have endured?
How do we evaluate the inhumanity of dropping bombs and blazing white phosphorous on civilian populations, burning people alive, gassing them in a Gaza ghetto under relentless siege with no place to run or hide. For 22 days relentless bombardment whole families vaporised before the horrified eyes of a surviving parent or child.
Guernica, Lidice, the Warsaw Ghetto, Deir Yassin, Mai Lei, Sabra and Shatilla, Sharpeville are high on that scale - and the perpetrators of the slaughter in Gaza are the off-spring of holocaust victims yet again, in Cizling’s words, behaving like Nazis. This must not be allowed to go unpunished and the international community must demand they be tried for war crimes and crimes against humanity. For the lesson is that if apartheid Israel is not stopped in its tracks these crimes will get greater and spread not only to engulf the entire Middle East and Iran, but indeed anywhere that Israel is challenged . Like the apartheid security forces the hand of Mossad stretches very far indeed. And of course with Israel a key ally in the USA’s “War on Terror” and all the motives for that onslaught, oil resources included, there will be no end to this bloody saga - with the Palestinians targeted to go the way of the extinct peoples of the former colonial era.
But such a fate must not and will not happen, if together with the unconquerable Palestinian people we share the resolve and determination to halt this insidious Zionist project, and its Great Power backing and encouragement.
Once more, let me turn to our South African experience.
There, as with other struggles such as Vietnam, Algeria, the former Portuguese colonies, the just nature of the struggle was the assurance for success.
With that moral advantage, on the basis of a just liberation struggle, we learnt the secret of Vietnam’s victory and strategised according to what we termed our Four Pillars of Struggle: Political mass struggle; reinforced by armed struggle; clandestine underground struggle; and international solidarity.
At times any one of these can become predominant and it is not for outsiders to direct those at the frontline of struggle what and how to choose but to modestly provide the lessons of our experience pointing out that the unity of the struggling people is as indispensable as the moral high-ground they occupy. For the Vietnamese the military element was generally primary but always resting on popular mass support.
In South Africa the mass struggle became the primary way, with sabotage actions and limited guerrilla operations inspiring our people. It all depends on the conditions and the situation.
But unquestioningly, what helped tip the balance, in Vietnam and South Africa, was the force and power of international solidarity action. It took some 30 years but the worldwide Anti-Apartheid Movements campaigns - launched in London in 1959 - for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions - not only provided international activists with a practical role, but became an incalculable factor in (a) isolating and weakening the apartheid regime (b) inspiring the struggling people (c) undermining the resolve of those states that supported and benefited from relations with apartheid South Africa, (d) generated a change of attitude amongst the South African white public generally, and political, business, professional, academic, religious and sporting associations in particular. Boycott made them feel the pinch in their pocket and their polecat status everywhere - whether on the sporting fields, at academic or business conventions, in the world of theatre and the arts they were totally shunned like biblical lepers.
There was literally no place to hide from universal condemnation backed by decisive and relentless action which in time became more and more creatve.
To conclude: we must spare no effort in building a world-wide solidarity movement to emulate the success of the Anti-Apartheid Movement which played such a crucial role in toppling the apartheid regime in South Africa. Nelson Mandela stated after South Africa attained democratic rule that “ we South Africans cannot feel free until the Palestinians are free.” A slogan of South Africa’s liberation struggle and our trade union movement is “An injury to one is an injury to all!“ That goes for the whole of humanity. Every act of solidarity demonstrates to the Palestinians and those courageous Jews who stand by them in Israel - that they are not alone.
Israel has lost in Gaza. Whilst many Palestinians have lost their lives the Palestinians have not been conquered or cowed. Repression generates resistance and that will grow. Israeli aggression stands exposed. A turning point has been reached in humanity‘s perception of this issue. The time is ripe for us to drive home the advantage. When 150,000 Palestinians within Israel itself demonstrated against the carnage in Gaza; when Jewish women staged a sit-in in at the Israeli Consulate in Toronto; when Norwegian tram drivers stopped their transport in sympathy; when municipalities and colleges decide to divest like Hampshire college in the USA (the first that took this step against apartheid South Africa), when Durban dockworkers refused to unload a ship with Israeli cargo; joining with the countless thousands around the world, from Australia to Britain to Belgium to Canada to Cairo, Jordan, Indonesia and the USA we know the times are changing and Zionist hegemony is fast losing control. BDS represents three words that will help bring about the defeat of Zionist Israel and victory for Palestine. Like South Africa this can mean, must mean: freedom, peace, security, equality and justice for all - Muslim, Christian and Jew. That is well worth struggling for!----------------------------------------------------- * Address by Ronnie Kasrils: "Israel Apartheid Week"
The second United Nations conference on racism, generally known as Durban II because the first one in Durban some years ago created an international storm about anti-semitism, and will probably be known as Durban I, has had some fairly predictable outcomes.
Two of the fall-guys for this conference are, of course, predictably in one case, the president of Iran, Ahmadinejad, and in the second case Ban Ki Moon, United Nations secretary general, who is being attacked for hosting such a conference in the first place!
Now holocaust deniers such as Ahmadinejad lose their credibility when they attack such countries as Israel, because Iran is a racist, sexist, homophobic intolerant society, and a dictatorship of the mullahs, by the mullahs for the mullahs. Oppression, imprisonment, murder of homosexuals and other opponents of the state hardly make for a credible, tolerant society, and Iran is very low on the scale of countries which command respect in world forums because of their human rights abuses
When it comes to Israel, one is hard put to restrain oneself from accusations of a similar nature. It must be admitted at this stage that Israel dos not incarcerate its homosexual communities, nor does it yet murder them, but with the government it has recently elected to power, including the fascist Boris Lieberman, the future looks bleak indeed, unless some moderation can be achieved by other members of Israel’s parliament.
Certainly in the occupied territories such as the West Bank and Gaza, those who are potentially the governing politicians, Fatah and Hamas, are dangerously homophobic and those who live in those territories who are homosexuals probably have to live largely closeted existences in order to survive, much as in many other fanatical Islamic countries.
That, though, is a diversion from racism, which is at the core of this discussion.
The countries which either boycotted the conference or walked out during Ahmadinejad’s speech are countries in which racism has long been a feature of their politics. Germany and South Africa have been held up as examples of pariah states for much of the 20th century, but a proper analysis of the racist history of that century will show that before, during and after the second world war, the Jews were not wanted in those countries now throwing up their hypocritical arms in horror, and mostly were not allowed into them, even when their positions became so dire because of Nazi Germany’s assaults on Europe’s Jewish communities.
Countries such as the United States of America, the United Kingdom, Australia, South Africa and most of the European countries such as France, were not prepared to take in Jewish refugees from Hitler’s Germany. However, Zionists working behind the scenes with many of these governments managed to make deals in some cases to let Jews escape – provided they went to Palestine to help setting up a Zionist state on Arab land.
So, anti-semitism was rife, and the Zionists who worked to subvert the refugee problem were in effect self-hating Jews – ready to sacrifice those Jews such as the Bundists in eastern Europe who were anti-zionist, and not prepared to submit to being shipped off to a country such as Palestine which didn’t want them and which they didn’t want!
Now we have the situation around the world that some of those countries thought they could overcome their feelings of guilt due to their allowing the holocaust to occur by ensuring that the Jews have a “homeland” where Jews from around the world can go and live. The Israeli law of return means that Jews from anywhere, even possibly those with criminal convictions, such as some of the Russian post-USSR era Jewish mafia businessmen who made crooked fortunes in the collapse of the Soviet Union, can enter Israel because they are Jews.
Now we come to the real self-hating Jews. Israel, the country which is now guilty of war crimes, genocide, and every human rights abuse known to man – white phosphorus, cluster bombs, carpet bombing, closing borders to starve into submission those whose land they are anxious to steal – is supported by all those countries whose racism and human rights abuses are not any less than those of the Israelis.
Living in these countries are half the world’s Jewish population of about 13 million, and they wield disproportionate power on the governments of the countries in which they live. Many of these Jews hate vehemently those Jews who have seen through the whole Zionist enterprise and believe it should be stopped now.
They accuse those Jews of being self-hating, but they are the ones themselves who are hypocrites and liars – they are the ones who live safe and secure and comfortable lives in the USA, UK, Australia and other countries, but don’t have the courage of their convictions to go and live in Israel and fight for what they supposedly believe in – the Zionist Jewish state of Israel – the racist non-democratic state in the middle of the middle east!
The United States of America, the state that is terrorism personified, is the country that invaded Afghanistan and Iraq without provocation, which sponsors Rendition, Water-boarding, Torture of people held in its custody in defiance of the Geneva Convention which it has ignored, has covered up and protected its president and other members of his circle from the war crimes prosecutions which should have come from Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay, the concentration camp in Cuba (what is the USA doing in Cuba anyway?).
The United States of America, with a population nearing 300 million contains about 6 million Jews who are US citizens. This tiny percentage of Jews controls much of the US foreign policy, much of it dictated by the US oil interests and therefore control in the Middle East, and is therefore the protector of Israel under all circumstances.
These are the Jews who help Israel propagate anti-semitism in the idle hope that it will drive Jews out of their countries of residence to migrate to Israel and thus strengthen the Zionist Jewish population in the hope that they will be able to outnumber the Palestinians. The reverse is actually what has happened as many Israeli citizens have fled the country to seek peace and quiet in other countries around the world.
The USA sees that Israel is armed to the teeth, that everybody denies its nuclear capability – Vanunu and the joint South African-Israeli nuclear device exploded during the South African apartheid years in the South Atlantic, and is determined to continue the holocaust propaganda endlessly to drive home to the world that Israeli Jews must be able to protect themselves from those terrorists armed by Iran – Hezbollah and Hamas and any others of their ilk (organizations originally supported by the USA in order to split the Arab/Muslim forces in the middle east and ending in the reversal of their plans.
The Jews in the USA who belong to the propaganda arms of Israeli policy are determined to silence any and all opposition to Israel’s human rights abuses by ensuring that these vocal anti-zionists are driven out of their positions in US universities and academic institutions.
Somehow Noam Chomsky still seems to have maintained tenure, but two of the main opponents of the state of Israel and its Zionist propaganda and expansionist policies who have been sacked because of what they have said and written are Norman Finkelstein and Joel Kovel. They have stated that Israel is a failed state and that there is no possibility of a two-state solution, only a one-state secular state in Palestine. This ‘heresy’ is unacceptable, so removing them from their employment will send a message to others of their ilk to toe the Zionist party line.
Australia – that toady of the USA - has recently been host to an Israeli academic Professor Jeff Halper who is outspoken about Israel’s brutal behaviour in Gaza and Lebanon and his tour of Australia was marred by certain Jewish (Zionist) organizations to refuse to give him a platform. He was hosted in Australia by organisations such as Independent Australian Jewish Voices – Antony Loewenstein and others, and the Australian Jewish News (aka Israel Zionist times) refused to countenance announcements about meetings and talks at which the visiting professor would utter sounds anathema to the local 100,000 (not so) strong Jewish community which is supposed to be a united front but is anything but that!
Now all of this leads to the same conclusion – these Zionists are their own worst enemies, are anti-semites – they hate other Jews who don’t agree with them, and these Zionist self-hating Jews continue to call Toorak and Rushcutters Bay home, and not Tel Aviv and Rechovot. These are the heroes who are destroying the Zionist dream by their own actions and are not aware of the damage they are doing because they are so besotted by Israel – right or wrong!
Jewish and Israel/Palestine Issues Part 1
Jewish and Israel/Palestine Issues Part 2
Jewish and Israel/Palestine Issues Part 3
Jewish and Israel/Palestine Issues Part 4
Jewish and Israel/Palestine Issues Part 5
Jewish and Israel/Palestine Issues Part 6
Jewish and Israel/Palestine Issues Part 7
Jewish and Israel/Palestine Issues Part 8
Jewish and Israel/Palestine Issues Part 9a
Jewish and Israel/Palestine Issues Part 9b
Jewish and Israel/Palestine Issues Part 10
Jewish and Israel/Palestine Issues Part 11
Jewish and Israel/Palestine Issues Part 12
Jewish and Israel/Palestine Issues Part 13
Jewish and Israel/Palestine Issues Part 15
Jewish and Israel/Palestine Issues Part 16
Jewish and Israel/Palestine Issues Part 17
Jewish and Israel/Palestine Issues Part 18
Jewish and Israel/Palestine Issues Part 19
Jewish and Israel/Palestine Issues Part 20
Jewish and Israel/Palestine Issues Part 21
Jewish and Israel/Palestine Issues Part 22
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This page updated 17 APRIL 2014 and again on 26 OCTOBER 2016