Friday, January 16, 2009


I hereby nominate Capt. C.B. "Sully" Sullenberger to Obama's Israel/Palestine Task Force so that he can lead peace negotiations and promote an immediate cease-fire in Gaza.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

also good 

Bolivia bows out:

Waltz with Olmert 


On Sunday night January 11 as bombs rained down on Gaza, Israeli’s watched one of the their own, director Ari Folman give his acceptance speech for best foreign film at the Golden Globe’s for his animated film “Waltz with Bashir." At the end of that same night at least 60 Palestinians were killed in what was the 16th day of Israel's "Operation Cast Lead."...

At its core, "Waltz with Bashir" is a tale of a middle-aged man flashing back to his war experience as a 19-year-old Israeli soldier in Lebanon in 1982. It specifically deals with Ari Forman’s attempt at reconciling his own complicity and the Israeli army’s complicity in the massacres in the Palestinian refugee camps Sabra and Shatila in September 1982....

Over the last year, as “Waltz with Bashir” has made its rounds at festivals throughout the world, it has been welcomed with open arms in Israeli society, including in right-wing circles, which initially surprised the director....

But why the warm public welcome for this anti-war film – a sensitive topic in Israeli history - when Israelis are at the same time hailing the war waging in Gaza - a potential black stain on Israeli history in the years to come?....

Folman even gave part of the reasons himself in an interview with Jewish and Israel News (JTA). According to Folman, "It made Israel look like a tolerant country, allowing soldiers to talk openly about their experiences in the war, and when it was screened in Europe it made many people there realize for the first time that it wasn’t the Israeli troops that committed the 1982 Sabra and Shatila massacres,” he said....

In his portrayal of the events of Israel’s involvement in the Lebanese civil war, particularly the Sabra and Shatila massacres, the director presents the Israeli soldiers as naïve young men who were only participating in a massacre because of the time and the place they happened to be in. "It is a completely apolitical film. It's a personal film. If it were a political film, we would have dealt with the other sides, meaning that we would have interviewed the Palestinians and Christian sides. And it does not. It's a very personal film," Folman told France 24....

The film’s narrative begins as Folman, who plays the main character, travels to Europe and around Israel speaking with fellow soldiers who fought in Lebanon. He eventually begins to piece together what happened during his term in Beirut, which he had erased from his memory....

Waltz with Bashir shows scenes of inhumane Israeli acts – Israeli tanks trampling cars in the narrow streets of Beirut, a soldier being chased by the 26 dogs he killed in preparation for the bombardment of a Lebanese village, and a random sniper who kills a man on a donkey. Nevertheless, as he pieces the story together for the audience, he fails to provide a complete picture of Israel’s role in the Lebanese civil war....

Maybe it was too much to ask of Folman to reinterpret the entire historical accounting of Israel’s invasion of Lebanon in one film, but the Israeli public can swallow the sensitive nature of Waltz with Bashir because it stays away from treating the Israeli state as a long-time political actor in the systematic, ongoing violence of Palestinian and Lebanese people. Thus, there is no overt questioning of why Israel was in Lebanon in the first place. Israeli military actions are validated under the guise of “fighting terrorism”....

As well, Waltz with Bashir fails to present Israeli soldiers as direct participants in the massacres of Sabra and Shatila. Israeli soldiers were only following orders and were therefore tacit participants - responsibility then lies solely with the chain of command. As a result, and perhaps without Folman’s intent, individual responsibility is deferred. In a sense, the film then buffers the actions of soldiers in Gaza today.

As for popular support of the Israeli occupation of Beirut in 1982 and for actions of the Israeli army at the time, Israeli public opinion was very much against the massacres committed at Sabra and Shatila. 400,000 Israelis marched in the streets on Tel-Aviv pressuring the Israeli Knesset to begin an inquiry after reports of the massacre were leaked. The ensuing investigation – the Kahan Report - concluded that then Israeli defense minister Sharon was personally responsible for the massacres - which led to his resignation, although he remained in government as a minister.

Now, Israeli streets are empty compared to 1982. The biggest demonstration reported in Tel-Aviv numbered 10,000, and the most recent polls have shown that nearly 90 percent of Israelis support the war in Gaza - that does not include the 20 percent of Palestinians living inside Israel. Some 100,000 Israeli-Palestinians demonstrated in the village of Sakhnin. Israeli public support for the current war is actually soaring while their TV screens show a rapidly increasing Palestinian death toll in Gaza, and oddly enough, Folman’s “anti-war” film is being venerated.

In his blog Angry Arab, Professor of political science at California State University, As`ad AbuKhalil, questions what the international response would be like if Palestinians were to make such a film.

“If a Hamas writer were to shoot a film about his experience in Gaza would the Hollywood community welcome him with open arms, and would the liberal media shower him with praise? With or without the "anguish" of the Israel soldiers.”....

The image of the consciense-stricken killer, struggling with his past, gives a reassuring face to the young men, or kids, who are at this moment committing acts of terroristic mass-murder. It doesn't matter what they do now, as long as we can be assured that 20 years from now, they will articulate their regrets poignantly -- would "terrorists" do that?

Ari Folman may be a nice and thoughtful guy. But his film is performing a particular function right now, and this needs to be pointed out.

Past utterances of language 

Meron Benvenisti, former deputy mayor of Jerusalem, in 2004:

When George Bush referred to Ariel Sharon's unilateral separation plan to pull out of the Gaza Strip as a historic event, he wasn't exaggerating - even if it is not clear that he grasped the implications of his words for the future of the Jewish state.

Nor did the Palestinians [i.e., Arafat, Abu Mazen, lackeys, criminals] err when they compared his statement to the Balfour Declaration (the British government's first world war promise to establish a "national home for the Jewish people" in Palestine) - even if they perhaps failed to grasp that the statement is liable to have implications yet more grave [for the actual Palestinian people] than the 1917 pledge, and will compel a substantive strategic change in their struggle....

What's the connection between, on the one hand, the end of the conquest in the Gaza Strip and the dismantling of settlements and, on the other, the establishment of a binational state? After all, the goal of disengagement is to improve the demographic situation by removing a million and a half Palestinians from Israeli control and thereby reducing the danger that the country will cease to be a Jewish state. The surprising fact is that this "conceptual transfer" is accepted by the Israeli left, which continues to believe in anachronistic slogans about the "end of the conquest" and the "dismantling of settlements".

And [Ariel] Sharon [this was before he consummated his identity by sustaining a coma-inducing paralytic stroke] will be surprised to discover that in Washington he was pushed into embracing an accelerated process of founding the state of Israel as a binational state based on apartheid. [I'm not sure Sharon would have been surprised.]

The report about a tacit agreement being reached between the Peace Now movement and Sharon's aides - Peace Now will suspend its "evacuate settlements, choose life" campaign so as not to harm public relations efforts for Sharon's separation plan - illustrates the profoundly confused state of public discourse in Israel. As the Israeli left sees it, the confinement of one and a half million people in a huge holding pen fulfils the ideal of putting an end to the occupation, and furnishes some relief about how "we are not responsible".

Similarly, when in South Africa a failed attempt was made to solve demographic problems by creating "homelands for the blacks", liberals originally supported the idea, and even a portion of the international community viewed the measure as a step toward "decolonisation". But, after a short time, it became clear that the ploy was designed to confer legitimacy on the expulsion of black people, and their uprooting. The bantustans collapsed, demands for civil equality intensified, and the world mobilised for the defeat of apartheid.

The bantustan model for Gaza, as depicted in the disengagement plan, is a model that Sharon plans to copy on the West Bank. His announcement that he will not start to disengage [from the West Bank] before construction of the fence is completed along a route that will include all settlement blocs (in keeping with Binyamin Netanyahu's demand), underscores the continuity of the bantustan concept. The fence creates three bantustans on the West Bank - Jenin-Nablus, Bethlehem-Hebron and Ramallah. This is the real link between the Gaza and West Bank plans. The link is not what those politicians who will provide a "security net" for Sharon in a Knesset no-confidence vote [i.e., the deluded Israeli and American "left"] call "the precedent of the dismantling of settlements".

And thus, with breathtaking daring, Sharon submits a plan that appears to promise the existence of a "Jewish democratic state" via "separation", "the end of the conquest", the "dismantling of settlements" - and also the imprisonment of some 3 million Palestinians in bantustans. This is an "interim plan" that is meant to last forever. The plan will last, however, only as long as the illusion is sustained that "separation" is a means to end the conflict.

The day will come when believers in this illusion will realise that "separation" is a means to oppress and dominate, and then they will mobilise to dismantle the apartheid apparatus...

And some more recent thoughts (2008) from Benvenisti:

...After more than 40 years, the Israeli governing system known as "the occupation," which ensures full control over every agent or process that jeopardizes the Jewish community's total domination and the political and material advantage that it accumulates, has become steadily more sophisticated through trial and error - without planning, but in response to the genetic code of settler society.

This status quo, which appears to be chaotic and unstable, is much sturdier than the conventional description of the situation as a temporary "military occupation" would indicate....

This explosive status quo survives due to the combination of several factors: fragmentation of the Palestinian community and incitement of the remaining fragments against each other; enlistment of the Jewish community into support for the occupation regime, which is perceived as protecting its very existence; funding of the status quo by the "donor nations," which cause corruption among the Palestinian leadership; persuasion of the neighboring states to give priority to bilateral and global interests over Arab ethnic solidarity; success of the propaganda campaign known as "negotiations with the Palestinians," which convinces many that the status quo is temporary and thus they can continue to amuse themselves with theoretical alternatives to "the final-status arrangement"....

It's great that a thoughtful man like Benvenisti can express his thoughts in language published in widely read newspapers. The publication of Benvenisti's words allows other people to read them, and to learn about reality. Then, they can make informed judgments about what to do.

Propaganda FAIL 

An inadvertent tidbit of truth from an otherwise specious McClatchy article (et tu McClatchy?) which attempts to depict American public opinion as overwhelmingly pro-Israel:

The Hamas-Israel battle appears to have given Americans pause about the creation of an independent Palestinian state, which was the goal of the Bush administration and leading lawmakers of both parties.

Yep. Giving Americans pause about creating a Palestinian state is indeed the goal of Bush and leading lawmakers. Well done!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

One or Two 

This comment thread was starting to get lost, so I am reposting. I re-post speakingcorpse and my responses in the comment thread.

speakingcorpse --
Your outrage at Israel's actions in Gaza (and in the occupied territories more generally) is understandable, but I'm not so clear on what would constitute the ideal (i.e. most ethical/fair/least harmful, and also realistic) solution to the larger Palestinian-Israeli conflict for you. (I'm not just talking about the immediate crisis in Gaza here.) Am I correct in understanding that you are not in favor of a 2-state solution? If so, what is an alternative which would not mean either or a form of apartheid for the Palestinians (even worse that that which exists currently) or the effective end of the state of Israel? Are you in favor of the end of Israel? If so, what would take it's place, and what would that mean for the Jewish citizens of Israel?
Also, do you not believe that Hamas bears any culpability for the current crisis? Do you see Hamas as a genuine people's movement with the true interests of the Palestinian people at stake? Can the rocket fire be explained in terms other than as a cynical, calculated means of further marginalizing remaining peace advocates within Isreal and provoking Isreal to strike back with excessive force so as to enhance Hamas' standing with its people and turn the international community against Israel? If we can all agree that Israel's response to the rocket fire is completely disproportional, what would be a reaosonable response?

I'm putting these questions out with all sincerity, in good faith. As an occasional reader of amcop, I'd really like to have a better understanding of where you stand on this.

Personally, I'm appalled at Israel's campaign in Gaza, and at the seemingly unanimous response, without any room for dissent or debate, within the US political class. Nevertheless, I'm also uneasy with some of the recent postings on amcop which present a picture in almost equally stark, black-and-white terms, albeit flipped. Should I understand the tone of you (and Scat and JHD) to at least partly reflect an exaggerated reaction to the lopsided coverage of and discourse around events in the Middle East? Or do you honestly see Israel as a criminal, "rogue" state, and believe that any arguments that it is motivated to such extreme (and ultimately self-destructive) actions by a real fear of its long-term survival to be entirely bogus?

-an amcop reader

Unrelenting shit-stream 

More proof that the violence comes from the terms, and not the other way around. Israel is not sovereign; it does not have to be. With so many otherwise intelligent people simply accepting the ludicrous idea of Palestinian sovereignty to distract attention from the obvious fact of Israeli domination, who needs to justify anything? Just kill and they will absolve you. The terms are flexible and invite play, flattering the commentator's creativity. Goldberg is a polyp dropped in a bucket of slops.

With a Whimper 

"You know, I've been the President during this period of time."

--George W. Bush

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Caption Contest 

Have at it!


Army Attacks Its Own Citizens; State of Emergency Declared in Israestine

TEL-AGAZA, January 14, 2009.
The Israestinian army’s chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, resigned today after taking responsibility for an apparent series of incidents in which the army mistakenly began attacking the fortified Tel-Agaza neighborhood of Gaza last week and killed in excess of 900 people, wounding thousands more. Ashkenazi was unable to account for the actions of his forces, though he theorized that the catastrophe may have spiraled from a training exercise spun out of control.

"I am leaving my post today to do the small part that I can do to atone for our army's inexcusable and regrettable slaughter of its own citizens," said Ashkenazi. "I cannot explain why these people were killed in so systematic and barbaric a manner as they were. It is the job of a nation to protect its citizens, not to kill them."

Jerusallah newspaper Ha'aretz condemned the massacre earlier today, arguing that "this is a moment of great national embarrassment before the vigilant eyes of the world. The flags will fly at half-mast for the year to come. This should be a time of reflection and introspection as we collectively devise a process by which to de-arm our military, so that a disaster like this never occurs again. The time of its relevance and gross expenditure of public funds is finally past, and we should all breathe a sign of relief. Future generations will see this as the turning point when we all regained our senses."

Opposition party Hamkud leader Benjamin Netanyahu put the blame squarely on the shoulders of the current government, which risks being voted out in upcoming elections. "The issue here is simple," Netanyahu said. "Is the government assuring that all its citizens have equal rights or not? This is the baseline expectation in any democracy." Netanyahu is currently leading in the polls.

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, surveying the damage in Gaza District, pledged to do whatever the U.N. could to repair damaged infrastructure as quickly as possible, noting that "part of the raison d'etre of the United Nations is to help other nations recover as quickly as possible from tragic accidents such as this. But we trust that all Israestinians will stand together at this moment. It is in their unity that the strength will be found to get past this tragedy."

loony tunes 

Monday, January 12, 2009


Excellent account of the legal and political implications of Israel's orchestration of its particular brand of judicial strangulation and mass-murder, by philosopher Adi Ophir. I'm only quoting a few bits, not the thrust of the argument.

...What is also new is the open way so many enjoy, let alone tolerate, the killing of civilians. There is a sense of satisfaction, even joy among Jewish Israelis....

Body count is of the essence, because there are no clear objectives to this assault. Since victory would be elusive any way, and since Hamas is going to win due to the mere fact that it won't be eradicated and it will emerge from the war as a power that will have survived the attack of the most powerful army in the region -- a power that has already enforced a new agenda and must be reckoned with by all other players -- death and destruction remain the only possible indicators of the Israeli sense of victory. The low number of Israeli casualties is also important for the continuation of public support for the "war". Everyone wants it to be as economic and as "clean" as possible. In order to achieve this goal the soldiers' hands must be really dirty. Unidentified commanders speaking to Haaretz from inside Gaza explained how they proceed: with a lot of force. You do not come close to a suspicious house without firing on it first, with a missile, with a tank, then tear off one of its walls with an armored D 9 (a huge tractor), and only then look to see who is inside, if anyone is still alive....

The prevalent moral argument goes more or less like this: It's not about their children but about ours. The government has a duty to protect its citizens (the duty of the Israeli sovereign to its Palestinian subjects has been denied since the Oslo accords, but in the Gaza Strip after the "disengagement plan" it has been wiped out altogether -- in fact this was one of the main purposes of that plan). And no matter how notoriously deadly our self-defense appears to be, the argument still sticks. In order to save one Jewish child, one is ready to sacrifice the lives of 100,000 of theirs. The number may vary of course; 100,000 is the figure I heard this morning with exactly this formulation from a colleague, a distinguished professor of Hebrew and Yiddish literature. He was speaking in public, very conscious of and proud in his position....

Alongside the moral argument there is the ideological one. It is all too familiar. We are different from them; they kill indiscriminately while we don't; they want to eliminate us together with the entire Western civilization while we are only defending ourselves. Since our very existence is at stake (and they are not ready for any compromise that would let us live here in peace) we are locked in a war unto death. It's either us or them, all of us or all of them. We don't want to kill so many of them, of course, but we have no choice. Actually, it's not us -- it's their own ideology that kills them. It's a tragedy, the more liberal Zionist would say, but they have only themselves to blame for what is happening to them. Since they are totally uncompromising, the only way to deter them is to make it so painful for them that they would think twice before shooting at us again. Only we don't know exactly how many bodies would deter them. 750 dead -- the number is rising as I am writing -- several thousand injured, and immense destruction of houses and infrastructure have not deterred them so far. Hence it is necessary to call on more reserve soldiers and widen the scope of this assault. It's a war, "the most justified of our justified wars" said our president, the dear peace-maker Shimon Peres, and we have no choice.

Justification aside, this is not a war. The assault resembles an expedition of a colonial power that goes out of the colonists' enclave to teach a lesson to rebellious barbaric tribes. The kind of raids known from 19th century colonial wars; the kind of raids South Africa conducted often in the seventies and eighties against neighboring countries. Only now the natives not the colonists are in the enclave. The Jewish colonists have turned the entire Palestinian territory into a series of enclaves, more or less separated from each other, and from "Israel proper" (which includes not only the territory west of the 67 border , "the green line," but also most of the Jewish settlements east of the green line). Different enclaves are treated differently. They are more or less "external" to the Israeli mainland, more or less forsaken by the Israeli sovereign and its governmental apparatuses. Gaza is an enclave of a special kind and status. It is an enclave that has turned into a frontier, a no man's land and an experimental field for man's hunting and for a gradual, more or less controlled destruction....

Also some clever remarks from Uri Avnery:

Nearly seventy ago, in the course of World War II, a heinous crime was committed in the city of Leningrad. For more than a thousand days, a gang of extremists called “the Red Army” held the millions of the town’s inhabitants hostage and provoked retaliation from the German Wehrmacht from inside the population centers. The Germans had no alternative but to bomb and shell the population and to impose a total blockade, which caused the death of hundreds of thousands. Some time before that, a similar crime was committed in England. The Churchill gang hid among the population of London, misusing the millions of citizens as a human shield. The Germans were compelled to send their Luftwaffe and reluctantly reduce the city to ruins. They called it the Blitz. This is the description that would now appear in the history books – if the Germans had won the war. Absurd? No more than the daily descriptions in our media, which are being repeated ad nauseam...

More here.


From promotional stuff I've received in the mail and stories about the practice inauguration I've heard on NPR, I'm given to understand that Obama will be announced as "Barack H. Obama" during the inaugural ceremony.

I have to register my grave disappointment.  I was genuinely looking forward to hearing the "Hussein" spoken by Jutice Roberts.  Barack Hussein Obama.  That's the president's name.  Do they really not dare speak it?

What way is this to pay back all those hundreds who changed their middle names on Facebook in solidarity with candidate Obama??

C'mon!  Wear it with pride!

NYC Indymedia:

Today, more than 15,000 people rallied in Times Square to protest Israel's ongoing assault against the people of Palestine . The demonstration stretched from 42nd Street south to 38 Street, along 7th Ave , and was followed by a spirited march past the New York Times building to the Time Warner building on 58th Street where CNN's New York office is located.

Organizers reported provocative and hostile police behavior throughout the event. Police massed at the end of the march route began cursing, taunting and attacking protesters. One uniformed cop was reported as yelling, "Why don't you all blow yourselves up?"

Eyewitnesses reported that the police used pepper spray in an unprovoked assault on the protesters including teenagers and children as young as ten years old. Others were pushed and struck by police.

At least 30 people were arrested during the day, and everyone who was arrested was beaten by police, some severely. Most were arrested while simply trying to leave at the end of the march, when police charged and began arresting and beating people.

One provocateur grabbed a Palestinian flag and began trampling on it. When onlookers attempted to retrieve the flag, they were attacked and nine were arrested.

Organizers are reporting that the attacks and arrests clearly targeted Arab youth. Lamis Deek, human rights attorney and co-chair of Al-Awda New York, said, "The systematic pattern of attacks and provocations and the sudden appearance of police amass at the end of the march were clearly a message from City Hall. This police riot was clearly on orders from Mayor Bloomberg, who just returned from Israel where he cheered on the attacks against the people of Gaza , and who is clearly trying to intimidate the mass protests that have taken place here, and will continue to take place. But these tactics will not keep us off the streets. We outnumbered the rally in support of Israel 's crimes by a hundred to one."

Sane citizens of an insane country 

These folks provide at least a minute sign of hope. I forget who was debating this with me, but protests definitely matter, particularly when they come out of a country that would otherwise tacitly support its own bloodletting.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

beaten to the punch 

Looks like Derrick Jensen has already crafted the rudiments of The Corporate Media Styleguide. Two premises from his book Endgame:

Premise Four: Civilization is based on a clearly defined and widely accepted yet often unarticulated hierarchy. Violence done by those higher on the hierarchy to those lower is nearly always invisible, that is, unnoticed. When it is noticed, it is fully rationalized. Violence done by those lower on the hierarchy to those higher is unthinkable, and when it does occur is regarded with shock, horror, and the fetishization of the victims.

Premise Five: The property of those higher on the hierarchy is more valuable than the lives of those below. It is acceptable for those above to increase the amount of property they control—in everyday language, to make money—by destroying or taking the lives of those below. This is called production. If those below damage the property of those above, those above may kill or otherwise destroy the lives of those below. This is called justice.

Both apply perfectly to the Oscar Grant murder and subsequent riots as well as the attack on Gaza.

Obama paving way for more massacres 

Jonathan at Tiny Revolution notes the amazing fact that the truth about the Middle East was spoken briefly on Olbermann's show recently. Former diplomat Hillary Mann Leverett explains to the ignorant Olbermann that Obama and Clinton are alreadying covering themselves with Palestinian blood:

OLBERMANN: The other thing that will change, if not on the 20th then shortly thereafter, is the identify of the secretary of state. And here is Hillary Clinton coming in to the middle of this with a last name certainly that is, to some degree, magical, influential at least in the Middle East. How is her appointment going to shape Obama`s efforts for Middle East peace? And how will it be received by both sides in the Middle East?
LEVERETT: Her name is magical and influential to an extent in Israel. But throughout many capitals in the Arab world, where I served at the US embassy in Cairo and in the Gulf, there is a lot more skepticism that she is going to be even handed. There is considerable fear about the advisers that she is going to bring with her, people like Martin Indyk or Dennis Ross, Ken Pollack, people that I would call neo-conservative fellow travelers, people who brought us a failed peace process between the Israelis and Palestinians by the end of the Clinton term in 2000, people who cheered and championed the invasion of Iraq under this administration.

There is a lot of fear and consternation that the advisers, in particular, that Hillary Clinton is bringing with her are going to make us long for the Bush days.

Dennis Ross and Martin Indyk are criminals. Asking them to mediate Middle East peace is like asking a pyromaniac to work as a fireman.



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