Posts Tagged ‘Israel’

Alternative Information Center (Israel)            Sunday, 18 January 2009

Absolutely Not in Their Name, Not in Ours

Written by Michael Warschawski  

Ehud Barak, Tzipi Livni, Gabi Ashkenazi and Ehud Olmert–don’t you dare show your faces at any memorial ceremony for the heroes of the Warsaw Ghetto, Lublin, Vilna or Kishinev. And you too, leaders of Peace Now, for whom peace means a pacification of the Palestinian resistance by any means, including the destruction of a people. Whenever I will be there, I shall personally do my best to expel each of you from these events, for your very presence would be an immense sacrilege.

Not in Their Names

You have no right to speak in the name of the martyrs of our people. You are not Anne Frank of the Bergen Belsen concentration camp but Hans Frank, the German general who acted to starve and destroy the Jews of Poland.

You are not representing any continuity with the Warsaw Ghetto, because today the Warsaw Ghetto is right in front of you, targeted by your own tanks and artillery, and its name is Gaza. Gaza that you have decided to eliminate from the map, as General Frank intended to eliminate the Ghetto. But, unlike the Ghettos of Poland and Belorussia, in which the Jews were left almost alone, Gaza will not be eliminated because millions of men and women from the four corners of our world are building a powerful human shield carrying two words: Never Again!

Not in Our Name!

Together with tens of thousands of other Jews, from Canada to Great Britain, from Australia to Germany, we are warning you: don’t dare to speak in our names, because we will run after you, even, if needed, to the hell of war-criminals, and stuff your words down your throat until you ask for forgiveness for having mixed us up with your crimes. We, and not you, are the children of Mala Zimetbaum and Marek Edelman, of Mordechai Anilevicz and Stephane Hessel, and we are conveying their message to humankind for custody in the hands of the Gaza resistance fighters: “We are fighting for our freedom and yours, for our pride and yours, for our human, social and national dignity and yours.” (Appeal of the Ghetto to the world, Passover 1943)

But for you, the leaders of Israel , “freedom” is a dirty word. You have no pride and you do not understand the meaning of human dignity.

We are not “another Jewish voice,” but the sole Jewish voice able to speak in the names of the tortured saints of the Jewish people. Your voice is nothing other than the old bestial vociferations of the killers of our ancestors.


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The Israeli assault on Gaza continues. In the last few days, it is increasingly acknowledged that Israel is quite purposely directing attacks against civilian populations, actively hindering the work of international humanitarian agencies, and even shelling local offices of the United Nations.

What’s on my mind today, though, is something larger – the discussion that is beginning to take place about not only Zionism as a political agenda but about the whole idea of  ‘a people’, and how identity in general functions to both include and exclude.

My ex-father-in-law is a radical active in the Palestine solidarity movement. He also identifies as a Jew. Though non-religious and coming from a family of Jewish-American Communist Party activists, Jewishness is a key part of his identity, marking both a history of anti-semitism, a history of a particular set of struggles, and a particular intellectual and cultural tradition that is distinct. Together with other anti-Zionist Jews, he’s worked to build Independent Jewish Voices, an organization committed to solidarity with Palestinians living under Israeli occupation and with challenging the all-too-prevalent notion that criticism of Israel or the questioning whether Israel should exist as a state is synonymous with anti-semitism.

Anyway, he works as a union researcher but is perhaps best known among radicals around the world for his massive email list, through which he sends out, across the globe, news and opinion pieces from around the world on a wide range of issues of interest to radicals. Lately, of course, the vast majority of this has been on the Israeli assault and the struggle for Palestine.

And two things in particular that have struck me.

The first is an article coming out of the UK’s Palestine solidarity movement. Here, Francis Clark-Lowes decides it is time to cross lines and force questions, no matter what accusations of anti-semitism might follow. He argues, basically, that Israel – and by extension Zionism – has been so overwhlemingly defended by Jewish communities in Europe and North America, that he cannot any longer distinguish ‘the Isreali state’ from Jewish public opinion. Meaning, basically, that it is no more wrong to say ‘Jews collectively are responsible for the genocide in Gaza’ than it is wrong to hold Europeans collectively accountable for colonialism.

Here’s  a summary, in his own words, of where Clark-Lowes believes we need to go:

·        A recognition that Jewish identity has become inextricably linked with Zionism.

·        An acceptance that Jews are collectively responsible for what is happening in Israel/Palestine, just as we [the British], as a nation, accept our responsibility for the empire and slavery.

·        A renunciation of the right of return and the right to Israeli nationality.

·        An acceptance that ‘the Holocaust’ (in inverted commas and with a capital H) has become a kind of religion, an instrument of propaganda, an abusive mythology.

·        A recognition that accusing people of hating Jews is usually a way of stopping them speaking.

·        A recognition that the Zionist project is incompatible with respect for the human rights of Palestinians. Israel has got to go.

·        A recognition that Jews, as a collective, exercise immense, and quite disproportionate, power in the world, and that this power is being abused.

It’s a strong statement, and one that is uncomfortable to read. Indeed, he states explicitly that it was uncomfortable to write.

Now, I’m not going to get into taking this apart and teasing out the various things Clark-Lowes writes. More interesting to me is that this came from my ex-father-in-law only a day after I read an interview he gave to Gilad Atzmon, jazz musician and anti-Zionist activist in London.

Atzmon has renounced his Jewish identity. For him, to identify as a Jew is to identify as a part of a ‘chosen people’ which is to support, however unwittingly, the Zionist project. For Atzmon, to define oneself as a Jew is to concede that Jews are different, Jews are special – a necessary foundation to the concept of chosen people and a main pillar of Zionist ideology. So the interview is really focused on this question of identity, and the relationship between identity and politics. For Atzmon, the only possible identity is universalist, and the first step to anti-Zionism is renunciation of one’s Jewish identity; for Sid, Jewishness does have meaning, and has a particularly important political meaning in the struggle against Israel.

An interesting discussion, and one I encourage folks to read. Obviously, it’s a discussion that goes far beyond Israel or Jewishness. It’s a discussion about identity.

We make our place in the world by identifying ourselves with certain things and against other things – whether those boundaries be marked by ethnicity, religion, politics, or preferred colour of socks. In anthropological terms, we form tribes – collective groupings that help us place ourselves in a world that is simply too big and too complex to understand. So. Are such tribes ultimately exclusionary and divisive? Or do such tribes ground us in the world? Is the drive to separate and identify something innate? Or something that can be abandoned? Or – more to my thinking – are tribes always and everywhere a muddling of all the above?

These are interesting questions to play with. Atzmon, clearly, has decided that a Jewish tribalism is inherently destructive – and I presume he would argue the same about any collective based on a religious or cultural or ethnic characteristic. OK. But what about political characteristics? Or cultural mores? Are these any less ‘tribes’, with any less significance to thier members and with any less possibility for exclusion? Or are they something different altogether? Can we distinguish tribes we believe are based on choice from those we believe people are born into? And if so, where exactly do we mark those lines between different categories of characteristics? Is there always and easy-to-see dividing line? Can we opt-out of communities we are identified with? What’s the relationship between how we identify ourselves and how we are identified by those close to us and how we are seen by the world at large?

All this is rolling around in my head today. I am thinking of Sam movies, Metal: a headbanger’s journey and Global Metal, in which anthropologist and metalhead Dunn talks about the global tribe defined by a music – a global tribe I count myself a part of. I am thinking of my own Catholic upbringing, and the fact that I still feel very Catholic despite the fact that I do not have any religous life to speak of. I am thinking about Noel Ignatiev and the folks around  Race Traitor who are grappling with how all these questions play out in the power and privilege of whiteness.

War, identity, power, collective, security, tribe. There is much here to consider, much here to challenge ourselves with, much thinking and re-thinking. But that is not to say there are answers. But that’s OK. I’m not really looking for answers. I am, however, very interested in the questions, and the ways in which different people confront these questions generally, and the ways particular activisits – Jews, non-Jews, former-Jews – confront these questions in the specific context of Israeli occupation and the Zionism that underpins it.

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A weekend from Heaven, as Meg spirited me off to the Sunshine Coast to a fabulous B&B for what was one of the best weekends I can remember. I continue to be awed by this girl. Damn. How lucky am I?

On home front, more anxiety as the offer we received may have fallen apart given the potential buyers financing hurdles. Drag. Not happy. Kinda anxious.

However, I am here today for none of this, as I’m far too busy with meetings to actually write anything. I did, though, want to share an article sent to me on the Israeli assault on Gaza. Definitely worth the read.


Uri Avnery



How Many Divisions?


NEARLY SEVENTY YEARS 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: the Hamas terrorists use the inhabitants of Gaza as “hostages” and exploit the women and children as “human shields”, they leave us no alternative but to carry out massive bombardments, in which, to our deep sorrow, thousands of women, children and unarmed men are killed and injured.



IN THIS WAR, as in any modern war, propaganda plays a major role. The disparity between the forces, between the Israeli army – with its airplanes, gunships, drones, warships, artillery and tanks – and the few thousand lightly armed Hamas fighters, is one to a thousand, perhaps one to a million. In the political arena the gap between them is even wider. But in the propaganda war, the gap is almost infinite.


Almost all the Western media initially repeated the official Israeli propaganda line. They almost entirely ignored the Palestinian side of the story, not to mention the daily demonstrations of the Israeli peace camp. The rationale of the Israeli government (“The state must defend its citizens against the Qassam rockets”) has been accepted as the whole truth. The view from the other side, that the Qassams are a retaliation for the siege that starves the one and a half million inhabitants of the Gaza Strip, was not mentioned at all.


Only when the horrible scenes from Gaza started to appear on Western TV screens, did world public opinion gradually begin to change.


True, Western and Israeli TV channels showed only a tiny fraction of the dreadful events that appear 24 hours every day on Aljazeera’s Arabic channel, but one picture of a dead baby in the arms of its terrified father is more powerful than a thousand elegantly constructed sentences from the Israeli army spokesman. And that is what is decisive, in the end.


War – every war – is the realm of lies. Whether called propaganda or psychological warfare, everybody accepts that it is right to lie for one’s country. Anyone who speaks the truth runs the risk of being branded a traitor.


The trouble is that propaganda is most convincing for the propagandist himself. And after you convince yourself that a lie is the truth and falsification reality, you can no longer make rational decisions.


An example of this process surrounds the most shocking atrocity of this war so far: the shelling of the UN Fakhura school in Jabaliya refugee camp.


Immediately after the incident became known throughout the world, the army “revealed” that Hamas fighters had been firing mortars from near the school entrance. As proof they released an aerial photo which indeed showed the school and the mortar. But within a short time the official army liar had to admit that the photo was more than a year old. In brief: a falsification.


Later the official liar claimed that “our  soldiers were shot at from inside the school”. Barely a day passed before the army had to admit to UN personnel that that was a lie, too. Nobody had shot from inside the school, no Hamas fighters were inside the school, which was full of terrified refugees.


But the admission made hardly any difference anymore. By that time, the Israeli public was completely convinced that “they shot from inside the school”, and TV announcers stated this as a simple fact.


So it went with the other atrocities. Every baby metamorphosed, in the act of dying, into a Hamas terrorist. Every bombed mosque instantly became a Hamas base, every apartment building an arms cache, every school a terror command post, every civilian government building a “symbol of Hamas rule”. Thus the Israeli army retained its purity as the “most moral army in the world”.



THE TRUTH is that the atrocities are a direct result of the war plan. This reflects the personality of Ehud Barak – a man whose way of thinking and actions are clear evidence of what is called “moral insanity”, a sociopathic disorder.


The real aim (apart from gaining seats in the coming elections) is to terminate the rule of Hamas in the Gaza Strip. In the imagination of the planners, Hamas is an invader which has gained control of a foreign country. The reality is, of course, entirely different.


The Hamas movement won the majority of the votes in the eminently democratic elections that took place in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip. It won because the Palestinians had come to the conclusion that Fatah’s peaceful approach had gained precisely nothing from Israel – neither a freeze of the settlements, nor release of the prisoners, nor any significant steps toward ending the occupation and creating the Palestinian state. Hamas is deeply rooted in the population – not only as a resistance movement fighting the foreign occupier, like the Irgun and the Stern Group in the past – but also as a political and religious body that provides social, educational and medical services.


From the point of view of the population, the Hamas fighters are not a foreign body, but the sons of every family in the Strip and the other Palestinian regions. They do not “hide behind the population”, the population views them as their only defenders.


Therefore, the whole operation is based on erroneous assumptions. Turning life into living hell does not cause the population to rise up against Hamas, but on the contrary, it unites behind Hamas and reinforces its determination not to surrender. The population of Leningrad did not rise up against Stalin, any more than the Londoners rose up against Churchill.


He who gives the order for such a war with such methods in a densely populated area knows that it will cause dreadful slaughter of civilians. Apparently that did not touch him. Or he believed that “they will change their ways” and “it will sear their consciousness”, so that in future they will not dare to resist Israel.


A top priority for the planners was the need to minimize casualties among the soldiers, knowing that the mood of a large part of the pro-war public would change if reports of such casualties came in. That is what happened in Lebanon Wars I and II.


This consideration played an especially important role because the entire war is a part of the election campaign. Ehud Barak, who gained in the polls in the first days of the war, knew that his ratings would collapse if pictures of dead soldiers filled the TV screens.


Therefore, a new doctrine was applied: to avoid losses among our soldiers by the total destruction of everything in their path. The planners were not only ready to kill 80 Palestinians to save one Israeli soldier, as has happened, but also 800. The avoidance of casualties on our side is the overriding commandment, which is causing record numbers of civilian casualties on the other side.


That means the conscious choice of an especially cruel kind of warfare – and that has been its Achilles heel.


A person without imagination, like Barak (his election slogan: “Not a Nice Guy, but a Leader”) cannot imagine how decent people around the world react to actions like the killing of whole extended families, the destruction of houses over the heads of their inhabitants, the rows of boys and girls in white shrouds ready for burial, the reports about people bleeding to death over days because ambulances are not allowed to reach them, the killing of doctors and medics on their way to save lives, the killing of UN drivers bringing in food. The pictures of the hospitals, with the dead, the dying and the injured lying together on the floor for lack of space, have shocked the world. No argument has any force next to an image of a wounded little girl lying on the floor, twisting with pain and crying out: “Mama! Mama!”


The planners thought that they could stop the world from seeing these images by forcibly preventing press coverage. The Israeli journalists, to their shame, agreed to be satisfied with the reports and photos provided by the Army Spokesman, as if they were authentic news, while they themselves remained miles away from the events. Foreign journalists were not allowed in either, until they protested and were taken for quick tours in selected and supervised groups. But in a modern war, such a sterile manufactured view cannot completely exclude all others – the cameras are inside the strip, in the middle of the hell, and cannot be controlled. Aljazeera broadcasts the pictures around the clock and reaches every home.



THE BATTLE for the TV screen is one of the decisive battles of the war.


Hundreds of millions of Arabs from Mauritania to Iraq, more than a billion Muslims from Nigeria to Indonesia see the pictures and are horrified. This has a strong impact on the war. Many of the viewers see the rulers of Egypt, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority as collaborators with Israel in carrying out these atrocities against their Palestinian brothers.


The security services of the Arab regimes are registering a dangerous ferment among the peoples. Hosny Mubarak, the most exposed Arab leader because of his closing of the Rafah crossing in the face of terrified refugees, started to pressure the decision-makers in Washington, who until that time had blocked all calls for a cease-fire. These began to understand the menace to vital American interests in the Arab world and suddenly changed their attitude – causing consternation among the complacent Israeli diplomats.


People with moral insanity cannot really understand the motives of normal people and must guess their reactions. “How many divisions has the Pope?” Stalin sneered. “How many divisions have people of conscience?” Ehud Barak may well be asking.


As it turns out, they do have some. Not numerous. Not very quick to react. Not very strong and organized. But at a certain moment, when the atrocities overflow and masses of protesters come together, that can decide a war.



THE FAILURE to grasp the nature of Hamas has caused a failure to grasp the predictable results. Not only is Israel unable to win the war, Hamas cannot lose it.


Even if the Israeli army were to succeed in killing every Hamas fighter to the last man, even then Hamas would win. The Hamas fighters would be seen as the paragons of the Arab nation, the heroes of the Palestinian people, models for emulation by every youngster in the Arab world. The West Bank would fall into the hands of Hamas like a ripe fruit, Fatah would drown in a sea of contempt, the Arab regimes would be threatened with collapse.


If the war ends with Hamas still standing, bloodied but unvanquished, in face of the mighty Israeli military machine, it will look like a fantastic victory, a victory of mind over matter.


What will be seared into the consciousness of the world will be the image of Israel as a blood-stained monster, ready at any moment to commit war crimes and not prepared to abide by any moral restraints. This will have severe consequences for our long-term future, our standing in the world, our chance of achieving peace and quiet.


In the end, this war is a crime against ourselves too, a crime against the State of Israel.

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Another New Year, and another assault on Palestine by the state of Israel.

But signs of courage, too. Here in Canada, a group of Jewish women occupied the Israeli consulate in protest sending the message “We’ll stop our occupation if you stop yours”. In Venezuela, the government of Hugo Chavez has expelled Israel’s diplomatic corps.

And interesting things coming to light. A couple points worth noting in particular.

1) As always, we’ve seen another wave of  statements from all and sundry suggesting Israel may be a little too over-zealous in its response but really, of course, the Palestinians are themselves to blame. And yet also renewed interest in Israel’s role – not only in fostering increased resistance by its actions generally, but more specifically in the creation of Hamas. In the 1970s and 1980s, the Israeli security establishment decided the best way to break the strength of the Palestine Liberation Organization was to splinter it. So Israel funneled money for weapons and training to groups like Hamas in order to build them up and foster dissension within the ranks of the Palestinian nationalist movement. A tried and true strategy, long-used by the Americans in their own geopolotical machinations. Remember the immediate aftermath of 9-11, and all the talk of ‘blowback’ when it became common knowledge that the US had nurtured the growth of the Taliban as a bulwark against the Soviets? Yeah. Same plan. Same result.

2) CUPE leader Sid Ryan has apologized for suggesting that Israeli state terror in the name of a Jewish homeland could be akin to German state terror in the name of a Christian homeland, once again showing how the charge of anti-Semitism is so successfully deployed as a means to silence criticism of the Israeli state.   But this amid widely circulating reporting of a statement by a senior Israeli military leader, made some years ago but now getting  attention, to the effect that Israel must learn from wherever it can how to defeat a popular uprising such as it faces in Palestine. Explicitly this means, “shocking as it may sound” in his own words, learning how the Nazis pacified the Warsaw Ghetto and deploying those same tactics wherever they might be applicable.

Over the last several days I’ve been reading Karen Armstrong’s A History of God, which traces changes in the way god is concieved by Islam, Christianity and Judaism over the last 4000 years. Really quite the experience, reading this book while the bombs fall and the tanks roll in.

Armstrong’s book isn’t written particularly well, making it hard to get through sometimes, but it does clearly draw together the spiritual, intellectual and political histories of the three big montheistic religions, illustrating their close inter-relationship not only at time of origin but right through the present day. It also has much to say about the political-cultural histories of the Middle East and Europe, and reminds me just how collective and just how common a history this is. Not the easiest read, but definitely worth a quick skim.

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