Thursday, July 20, 2006

Psychotic grammar 

When Israel first began to murder Lebanese civilians indiscriminately, I found it hard to understand why the response of the U.S. government and most policy analysts on "both sides" of the American ideological "spectrum" was to condemn Syria for its aggression against Israel.

But after talking to my father yesterday, I now have a better understanding of the grammar that governs Israeli action and its interpretation. If any of you are confused in the coming days by "news" reports, "opinion pieces," or governmental proclamations, it will be useful to keep the following principles in mind:

1) If Israel drops a bomb, launches a missile, or a fires a gun at an Arab person or persons, this means that Israel not only has been but currently is being attacked by the person or persons whose lives it is ending.

2) If an Arab of any age is blown into pieces, cut open, maimed, incinerated, or buried under rubble, that Arab was a terrorist or a "human shield" for a terrorist or--and this is most likely--living near a "back yard" or "basement" filled with advanced weaponry imported from Syria and/or Iran.

3) If Israel drops a 10-ton bomb on or launches a cruise missile into an apartment block or water-purification plant, or if it uses multiple bombs and missiles to end the lives of 20-30 residents of a hillside village, Israel is, at the very instant it fires the weapon in question, actually avoiding and preventing civilian casualties.

4) If Israel lobs bombs and missiles at random into apartment blocks in the city of highest population density on earth, killing dozens of people daily, after which Israel kidnaps the entire freely elected government of an ostensibly sovereign "national entity," then Israel is conducting a patient, house-by-house search for a single "kidnapped" soldier.

5) If someone expresses revulsion and disgust upon learning about the violent death or wounding of an Arab person or persons, especially an Arab person under the age of 12, the revolted and disgusted indvidual is a vicious, cruel, bloodthirsty partisan of murderers.

6) If you are Jewish, the Israeli government and its actions are "you," and you not only must but do wish this government to continue doing what it does and being what it is as the culmination of 2,500 years of "Jewish suffering."

Postscript. A contextual or "meta-grammatical" note, perhaps organizing and directing the use of previously listed principles:

If Israel uses its army to annex, destroy, pave over, and then rebuild (as Israeli settlements) the towns, villages, or farms of Arabs; or if Israel uses its army to build walls through the towns, villages, or farms of Arabs, thereafter driving these same Arabs from the West to the East side of these walls; or if Israel uses its army to construct highways through the towns, villages, or farms of Arabs, thereafter using the army to prevent these same Arabs from using or being near or being seen from the highways; or if Israel uses its army to surround the towns, villages, or farms of Arabs, preventing these same Arabs from ever leaving their residences and contacting Arabs in similarly surrounded towns, farms, and villages; or if Israel uses its army to blow up, burn down, or bury the homes and/or persons of any Arabs who try to stop the army from executing any one of its orders; if any one of these conditions obtain--then Israel is always and only waiting, patiently and hopefully and with heartfelt longing, for a "partner for peace."

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

A sick society 

(Which is not, of course, to say that there aren't other sick societies.)

From the Jabotinski Society of Militant Zionists, otherwise known as the Washington Post: "A poll in Tuesday's Yedioth Aharonoth, an Israeli daily, found that 86 percent of those surveyed said that the Israeli offensive against Hezbollah was "the right thing to do," and 81 percent wanted it to continue; 58 percent said it should continue until Hezbollah is destroyed, and 17 percent said they favored a cease-fire and the start of negotiations."

An unparalleled history of victimization; an unprecedented and inconceivable industrial massacre during World War II; the development thereafter of an international politics of victimization (in which it is presumed that groups of tribally-defined groups fight only for their own interests before official government arbiters, and only the victimized groups are seen as being beyond reproach in their self-seeking); the resulting celebration of the "Jew" as, to borrow Gillian Rose's words, "the sublime Other of modernity," untainted by the depredations of enlightenment and bureaucratic rationality; the appearance of various "holy Jews" at the highest and lowest levels of international culture (Jacques Derrida, Emmanuel Levinas, Elie Wiesel, Anne Frank, Jesus Christ--piously recast, of course, as a misunderstood "Jew", etc., etc.); the delirious self-celebration of America in the period after World War II, focusing largely on the American "rescue" of the world from the evils of Hitler, and developing into a cult of American support for Hitler's holy victims in the holy land; 70 years of hermetically sealed Zionist history taught in the U.S. and in Israel, in which virtually all Jews are taught that, as "holy Jew" Golda Meir put it, "there is no such thing as a Palestinian"; and the result of all of this is: a sick, sick society.

(For more see pictures below.)

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

child abuse 

Israeli girls write messages on a shell at a heavy artillery position near Kiryat Shmona, in northern Israel, next to the Lebanese border, Monday, July 17.


Monday, July 17, 2006

Not a lie 

Unlike every word uttered by the staffs of the Washington Post and New York Times and the members of the Democrat Party, this post will not be a lie. Instead, it will present a few basic facts that certain hypothetical "people" might like to know. The facts will be presented in a straightforward way, without extraneous expressions of rage and/or despair. The facts, unadorned, could conceivably be presented to a hypothetical "person" who is confused about the situation and seems in danger of being snowed by the media, the propagandists, and other professional liars.

1) Hezbollah is not a terrorist organization being manipulated from a distance by Iran. It is a political party with a military wing, a party which represents the Shi'ites of southern Lebanon. It is backed by Iran, which is the only Shi'ite majority state in the world. There is a real convergence of interests between the Lebanese and Iranian Shi'ites, which should not be surprising, and should not be understood as a dark consipracy.

The Shi'ites are a poor minority in Lebanon, as they are everywhere else in the world except Iran. In Lebanon, they had never seeked to enfranchise themselves, as Shi'ites, until the 1982 invasion of Lebanon by Israel. Before that invasion, the PLO (a secular organization) had taken over the south of Lebanon. This did not please the Shi'ites, who became even more resentful of the Palestinians when Israel invaded Shi'ite territory to get rid of the Palestinians who had ensconced themselves there. To this day, there is bad blood between Hezbollah and the Palestinians (which makes the recent Hezbollah attacks on Israel, in an apparent gesture of solidarity with the brutalized people of Gaza, especially significant).

Even though the Shi'ites resented the Palestinians, they did not appreciate the Israeli effort to remove the PLO from southern Lebanon. This supposedly defensive operation was, as Uri Avnery points out in the crucial article I've pasted into a previous post (scroll down), an attempt to install a Christian dictator in Beirut. This operation led to tens of thousands of civilian deaths and the 20-year Israeli occupation of southern Lebanon.

Hezbollah was founded in order to remove the Israelis from southern Lebanon. Even after the PLO had been routed from this region, the Israeli army stayed. Hezbollah was born of the ultimately successful effort to rid the region of this occupying army.

Hezbollah has committed terrorist attacks, including the bombing of the Israeli embassy in Argentina in 1995. But it has not committed an act of terrorism since this attack. After 1995 Hezbollah focused on IDF targets in southern Lebanon, from which the Israelis left ignominiously in 2000. Since 2000 Hezbollah has occasionally launched rockets into northern Israel, in order to protest the presence of IDF soldiers on a small piece of land called Shebaa farms. These attacks have had minimal casualties. They are intended to maintain Hezbollah's credibility with its Shi'ite consituency in southern Lebanon. The major basis of this credibility is Hezbollah's successful removal of the IDF from much of the region. The rocket attacks are a reminder to Shi'ites of the enemy that Hezbollah successfully faced down.

Hezbollah is not a nice organization. It is very violent, its version of Shi'ism is simplistic and aggressive, and its rhetoric is anti-Semitic. But to suggest that Hezbollah is merely a terrorist organization, much less a terrorist organization manipulated from a distance by Iranian paymasters, is a dangerous oversimplification. This description of Hezbollah is dangerous to all concerned, because it does not conform to reality.

Hezbollah is the only organization that represents the interests of a significant minority in Lebanon. It controls about a third of the seats in the Lebanese parliament, not because one-third of the population of Lebanon is a bunch of bloodthirsty terrorists, but because one-third of the population is Shi'ite. It is Hezbollah that has looked out for the Shi'ites. Hezbollah's actions against the IDF are continuous with its general program of advocacy for Shi'ites. Some may think that I'm naive for saying this, that Hezbollah really exists only to destroy Israel. But Hezbollah has in fact provided much needed infrastructure and support to impoverished southern Lebanon--healthcare, transportation supervision, parliamentary advocacy, etc. Its resistance to IDF occupation was a part of this general program.

2) Hamas is not just a terrorist organization, nor is it manipulated from a distance by Syria. Hamas has a "military wing" which is not in reality "military" but in fact terroristic in the most appalling way. I would never say otherwise. Hamas's ruthless recruitment, manipulation, and transformation of teenage boys into suicide-murderers is beyond the pale. But Hamas is also a grassroots Islamist political movement that, even more than Hezbollah, has provided desperately needed support and advocacy to a disenfranchised population.

The Palestinians voted for Hamas not because Palestinians love suicide bombing, but because Hamas is the only major Palestinian organization that has stood up for Palestinians since the first intifada. The PLO was horribly corrupt. It did nothing for its constituency. It is Hamas that has set up medical clinics, schools, etc. And it is Hamas--and only Hamas--that rejected the bogus Oslo "peace process." The PLO went along with this "process" not out of "moderation," but out of a corrupt desire for power.

Hamas came into existence in the early 1980's, with IDF encouragement (the Islamists were seen as a counterweight to the real enemy, the secular PLO). But Hamas really began to develop during the first intifada--the stone-throwing demonstrations of the late 1980's. Israel reacted brutally to those stone-throwers because it knew that the spontaneous demonstrations were an expression, on a scale of unprecedented size in Palestinian history, of new national consciousness.

The first intifada could not be put down, and only ended when, after three years and the first Gulf War, Israel agreed to the Madrid peace conference. Israel then commenced the implementation of the strategy that has led to the current state of affairs: Israel would use the corrupt PLO against the newly articulate aspirations of the Palestinian people.

Yasir Arafat and the PLO had missed out on the whole first intifada. The Palestinian cause had more visibility and international support than ever before, because of the teenagers in the streets throwing stones. But Arafat had been in Tunis the whole time, and had not been involved in this spontaneous movement. So he was delighted to be given--by Israel and the U.S.--a spot at the negotiating table.

This was the dynamic that governed Madrid and then Oslo: Arafat, weak and corrupt and hungry for international plaudits, would accept the recognition bestowed on him not by his own people, but by the "peace process." The "peace process" was his meal ticket, and Israel realized that Arafat had to keep it alive at all costs--even if this meant betraying his own people and the cause he had built.

So Israel and the U.S. dictated the 1993 accords and then ignored them. The settlements were not halted, as they were supposed to be, but expanded--they doubled in size during the "peace process." Arafat never left the negotiating table. Only Hamas called a spade a spade. And once it became clear that the "peace process" was a sham--that it was a way for Israel to build "facts on the ground" in the form of ineradicable settlements and inextricable intertwinements of population, that Israel was using the "peace process" as a way to force the Palestinians into a truncated, surrounded, non-contiguous, and impotent township state--once all this was clear, Hamas was the only game in town.

The Hamas suicide bombings began in 1995.

Syria has long helped Hamas, and the leader of Hamas lives in Syria. But it is the Palestinians who give Hamas whatever power it has. And they lend their weight to Hamas because Hamas has fought for them when their appointed leaders were selling them out.

One should have no illusions about Hezbollah and Hamas. They are filled with hatred and they are cruelly violent--though in the last 10 years only Hamas has been a terrorist organization. Hamas's military leaders are bloodthirsty and intoxicated with the sick power they wield over young men who are willing to die at their command. But the idea that either of these organizations are merely military, much less that they are military implements remote-controlled from Iran and Syria, is pure fantasy.

Things would certainly be easier for Israel if this fantasy had some basis in reality. If it did, then Israel might indeed be able, as the newspapers there are demanding, to "smash Hezbollah," and to "stamp out Hamas" once and for all. However, because of the meaningful roles they have played in the histories of their communities, both organizations are far too powerful to defeat with overwhelming force.

More Anti-Semitism, cont'd. 

Finchy writes:

I want to clear something up about the refrain I have been hearing from Jewish person after Jewish person that I have been talking to about this ongoing catastrophe. "Yes," these left-leaning Jews admit, "what's going on is horrible, but, you know, you have to support Israel." Has anyone else heard this snappy phrase a few dozen times or so?

I would like to demystify these words for a moment, in the hopes that for someone out there, copious gauze might be extracted from their eyes. Let's say you have a friend. We all support our friends. So you support your friend. Let's say your friend holds a gun to his head and tells you he is going to kill himself. How might you best support your friend in this situation?

Your friend tells you that "supporting" him means always agreeing with what he wants to do. But he wants to kill himself. Isn't there something of a contradiction there? Might it not be in our best interest to THINK THE SITUATION THROUGH ON OUR OWN TERMS, instead of simply agreeing with that friend that he's taking the right course of action?

Of course, this entire scenario is generous. Because what our friend is really doing is holding a gun at someone else's head. In fact, he's already pulled the trigger, plenty of times, and wants to keep pulling it.

Accepting the true terms of the present situation means accepting that Israel's power in this region dwarfs those of its foes. It means accepting that the groups that Israel is fighting are complicated, comprising different interests. "Arabs" are not the same from region to region. I could go on. All of these simplistic distortions of the state of things between Israel, Palestine and Lebanon are in the service of such spurious "support," a support that is really just wilfull blindness. We are letting our friend shoot himself in the head. Israel's actions right now comprise one massive, apocalyptically horrible mistake. To miss this, to ignore this, is literally to not live up to one's supposed responsibility as a Jew, in the most Zionist of terms. It is to condemn Israel to a potentially destructive fate.

Of course, that friend isn't just trying to shoot himself, or others. He's pointing the barrel at us too-- we're looking straight down it.

Update: from NYT:

Senator Clinton Speaks Up for Israel at U.N. Rally

Speaking at a boisterous rally for Israel near the United Nations headquarters this afternoon, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton said she supported taking “whatever steps are necessary” to defend Israel against Hamas, Hezbollah, Iran and Syria in the military conflict in the Middle East.

Senator Clinton, addressing a crowd of several thousand people, said the United States must show “solidarity and support” for Israel in the face of the “unwarranted, unprovoked” seizure of three Israeli soldiers by members of Hamas and Hezbollah, which she referred to as among “the new totalitarians of the 21st century.”

“We will stand with Israel because Israel is standing for American values as well as Israeli ones,” said Mrs. Clinton, who was joined by two dozen political and religious leaders on a stage along 42nd Street.

Mrs. Clinton, who is seeking re-election to the Senate and is considered a possible candidate for president in 2008, also compared Israel’s fierce response, which has included heavy bombardment of Lebanon, to a theoretical response by the United States if it faced attacks from neighboring countries.

“I want us here in New York to imagine, if extremist terrorists were launching rocket attacks across the Mexican or Canadian border, would we stand by or would we defend America against these attacks from extremists?” Mrs. Clinton said to roars of approval.

“We will support her efforts to send a message to Hamas, Hezbollah, to the Syrians, to the Iranians,” Mrs. Clinton said. “We will not permit this to happen and we will take whatever steps are necessary.”

“It is a message that we want not only those in the Middle East to hear, but the world, because no nation is safe from these terrorist extremists,” she said. “They do not believe in human rights, they do not believe in democracy. They are totalitarians, they are the new totalitarians of the 21st century.”

Mrs. Clinton spoke for about two minutes and focused specifically on Israel and its citizens. She made no reference to a proposal, made earlier today by British Prime Minister Tony Blair and United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan, for sending an international “stabilization force” to quell the fighting between Israel and Hezbollah in the south of Lebanon.

The event drew a who’s who of New York City politicians, including Congressmen Jerrold Nadler and Anthony D. Weiner, City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn, and two candidates for state attorney general, Andrew M. Cuomo and Mark Green.

As for the latter two opportunistic has-beens, fuck 'em and remember to vote for Sean Patrick Maloney for State AG this fall.

Necessary information, presented, by a sentient and articulate human being, in the medium of language 

Please read the following article by Uri Avnery, longtime journalist and peace-activist, and also a veteran of the IDF and a soldier in the 1948 war. Avnery now represents Gush Shalom.

The Real Aim
by Uri Avnery

July 17, 2006

THE REAL aim is to change the regime in Lebanon and to install a puppet government.

That was the aim of Ariel Sharon's invasion of Lebanon in 1982. It failed. But Sharon and his pupils in the military and political leadership have never really given up on it.

As in 1982, the present operation, too, was planned and is being carried out in full coordination with the US.

As then, there is no doubt that it is coordinated with a part of the Lebanese elite.

That's the main thing. Everything else is noise and propaganda.

ON THE eve of the 1982 invasion, Secretary of State Alexander Haig told Ariel Sharon that, before starting it, it was necessary to have a "clear provocation", which would be accepted by the world.

The provocation indeed took place - exactly at the appropriate time - when Abu-Nidal's terror gang tried to assassinate the Israeli ambassador in London. This had no connection with Lebanon, and even less with the PLO (the enemy of Abu-Nidal), but it served its purpose.

This time, the necessary provocation has been provided by the capture of the two Israeli soldiers by Hizbullah. Everyone knows that they cannot be freed except through an exchange of prisoners. But the huge military campaign that has been ready to go for months was sold to the Israeli and international public as a rescue operation.

(Strangely enough, the very same thing happened two weeks earlier in the Gaza Strip. Hamas and its partners captured a soldier, which provided the excuse for a massive operation that had been prepared for a long time and whose aim is to destroy the Palestinian government.)

THE DECLARED aim of the Lebanon operation is to push Hizbullah away from the border, so as to make it impossible for them to capture more soldiers and to launch rockets at Israeli towns. The invasion of the Gaza strip is also officially aimed at getting Ashkelon and Sderot out of the range of the Qassams.

That resembles the 1982 "Operation Peace for Gallilee". Then, the public and the Knesset were told that the aim of the war was to "push the Katyushas 40 km away from the border".

That was a deliberate lie. For 11 months before the war, not a single Katyusha rocket (nor a single shot) had been fired over the border. From the beginning, the aim of the operation was to reach Beirut and install a Quisling dictator. As I have recounted more than once, Sharon himself told me so nine months before the war, and I duly published it at the time, with his consent (but unattributed).

Of course, the present operation also has several secondary aims, which do not include the freeing of the prisoners. Everybody understands that that cannot be achieved by military means. But it is probably possible to destroy some of the thousands of missiles that Hizbullah has accumulated over the years. For this end, the army chiefs are ready to endanger the inhabitants of the Israeli towns that are exposed to the rockets. They believe that that is worthwhile, like an exchange of chess figures.

Another secondary aim is to rehabilitate the "deterrent power" of the army. That is a codeword for the restoration of the army's injured pride that has suffered a severe blow from the daring military actions of Hamas in the south and Hizbullah in the north.

OFFICIALLY, THE Israeli government demands that the Government of Lebanon disarm Hizbullah and remove it from the border region.

That is clearly impossible under the present Lebanese regime, a delicate fabric of ethno-religious communities. The slightest shock can bring the whole structure crashing down and throw the state into total anarchy - especially after the Americans succeeded in driving out the Syrian army, the only element that has for years provided some stability.

The idea of installing a Quisling in Lebanon is nothing new. In 1955, David Ben-Gurion proposed taking a "Christian officer" and installing him as dictator. Moshe Sharet showed that this idea was based on complete ignorance of Lebanese affairs and torpedoed it. But 27 years later, Ariel Sharon tried to put it into effect nevertheless. Bashir Gemayel was indeed installed as president, only to be murdered soon afterwards. His brother, Amin, succeeded him and signed a peace agreement with Israel, but was driven out of office. (The same brother is now publicly supporting the Israeli operation.)

The calculation now is that if the Israeli Air Force rains heavy enough blows on the Lebanese population - paralysing the sea- and airports, destroying the infrastructure, bombarding residential neighborhoods, cutting the Beirut-Damascus highroad etc. - the public will get furious with Hizbullah and pressure the Lebanese government into fulfilling Israel's demands. Since the present government cannot even dream of doing so, a dictatorship will be set up with Israel's support.

That is the military logic. I have my doubts. It can be assumed that most Lebanese will react as any other people on earth would: with fury and hatred towards the invader. That happened in 1982, when the Shiites in the south of Lebanon, until then as docile as a doormat, stood up against the Israeli occupiers and created the Hizbullah, which has become the strongest force in the country. If the Lebanese elite now becomes tainted as collaborators with Israel, it will be swept off the map. (By the way, have the Qassams and Katyushas caused the Israeli population to exert pressure on our government to give up? Quite the contrary.)

The American policy is full of contradictions. President Bush wants "regime change" in the Middle East, but the present Lebanese regime has only recently been set up by under American pressure. In the meantime, Bush has succeeded only in breaking up Iraq and causing a civil war (as foretold here). He may get the same in Lebanon, if he does not stop the Israeli army in time. Moreover, a devastating blow against Hizbullah may arouse fury not only in Iran, but also among the Shiites in Iraq, on whose support all of Bush's plans for a pro-American regime are built.

So what's the answer? Not by accident, Hizbullah has carried out its soldier-snatching raid at a time when the Palestinians are crying out for succor. The Palestinian cause is popular all over the Arab word. By showing that they are a friend in need, when all other Arabs are failing dismally, Hizbullah hopes to increase its popularity. If an Israeli-Palestinian agreement had been achieved by now, Hizbullah would be no more than a local Lebanese phenomenon, irrelevant to our situation.

LESS THAN three months after its formation, the Olmert-Peretz government has succeeded in plunging Israel into a two-front war, whose aims are unrealistic and whose results cannot be foreseen.

If Olmert hopes to be seen as Mister Macho-Macho, a Sharon # 2, he will be disappointed. The same goes for the desperate attempts of Peretz to be taken seriously as an imposing Mister Security. Everybody understands that this campaign - both in Gaza and in Lebanon - has been planned by the army and dictated by the army. The man who makes the decisions in Israel now is Dan Halutz. It is no accident that the job in Lebanon has been turned over to the Air Force.

The public is not enthusiastic about the war. It is resigned to it, in stoic fatalism, because it is being told that there is no alternative. And indeed, who can be against it? Who does not want to liberate the "kidnapped soldiers"? Who does not want to remove the Katyushas and rehabilitate deterrence? No politician dares to criticize the operation (except the Arab MKs, who are ignored by the Jewish public). In the media, the generals reign supreme, and not only those in uniform. There is almost no former general who is not being invited by the media to comment, explain and justify, all speaking in one voice.

(As an illustration: Israel's most popular TV channel invited me to an interview about the war, after hearing that I had taken part in an anti-war demonstration. I was quite surprised. But not for long - an hour before the broadcast, an apologetic talk-show host called and said that there had been a terrible mistake - they really meant to invite Professor Shlomo Avineri, a former Director General of the Foreign Office who can be counted on to justify any act of the government, whatever it may be, in lofty academic language.)

"Inter arma silent Musae" - when the weapons speak, the muses fall silent. Or, rather: when the guns roar, the brain ceases to function.

AND JUST a small thought: when the State of Israel was founded in the middle of a cruel war, a poster was plastered on the walls: "All the country - a front! All the people - an army!"

58 Years have passed, and the same slogan is still as valid as it was then. What does that say about generations of statesmen and generals?


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