Posts Tagged ‘Israel and Palestine’

HRW calls Israel an apartheid state

May 17, 2021

Human Rights Watch, in its new report, A Threshold Crossed, presented some powerful graphics to illustrate its claim that Israel is an apartheid state.

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Boycott Israel? divest from Israel? sanction Israel?

April 8, 2021

In 2005, some 170 Palestinian civil society organizations—labor unions, professional associations, women’s organizations, resistance committees and others—called upon the world to boycott Israel, divest from Israel and sanction Israel.

Their movement has given rise to a huge backlash.  The British government, some 32 U.S. states and the German cities of Bonn, Frankfurt and Munich refuse to do business with anyone who supports BDS.

The BDS movement has been condemned by the parliaments of Canada, Germany, Austria, Spain, and the Czech Republic, as well as the U.S. House of Representatives.  President Biden opposes BDS, although he says there is a First Amendment right to support it.

The United States is committed to giving Israel $38 billion in military aid over 10 years, starting Oct. 1, 2018.  For decades, the U.S. has given more military aid to Israel than any other country.  In the past few years, it has been second only to Afghanistan. 

What does BDS call for?  And why is it considered so dangerous?  The BDS movement, in its own words, calls for:

1.  Ending Israel’s occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the Wall.  

2. Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality.  

3. Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN Resolution 194.  

Until Israel accepts these demands, the BDS movement favors boycotts, divestment and sanctions:

BOYCOTTS involve withdrawing support from Israel’s apartheid regime, complicit Israeli sporting, cultural and academic institutions, and from all Israeli and international companies engaged in violations of Palestinian human rights.

DIVESTMENT campaigns urge banks, local councils, churches, pension funds and universities to withdraw investments from the State of Israel and all Israeli and international companies that sustain Israeli apartheid.

SANCTIONS campaigns pressure governments to fulfill their legal obligations to end Israeli apartheid, and not aid or assist its maintenance, by banning business with illegal Israeli settlements, ending military trade and free-trade agreements, as well as suspending Israel’s membership in international forums such as UN bodies and FIFA (internatiional footfall)

The Palestinian Authority, which controls the West Bank, does not support the BDS movement.  It instead favors boycotts of businesses that actually operate on the West Bank.  Its leaders hope for a two-state solution, in which Israel continues to exist, but Palestinians have genuine sovereignty in their own land.

Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, does not officially recognize Israel’s right to exist.

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Israel’s barrier wall as of 2011. Click to enlarge.

Let me look into this in more detail

‘Israel’s occupation and colonization of all Arab lands”

When Britain in 1948 decided to end its rule of Palestine, the United Nations proposed a partition plan between Jewish and Arab areas. 

The Arab League refused to accept the plan, and troops from Egypt, Jordan (then called Transjordan), Syria and Iraq invaded. 

When fighting ended, Israel controlled all the areas awarded by the UN and much of the Arab areas.  Jordan controlled the West Bank and Egypt controlled the Gaza Strip.  About 700,000 Palestinian Arabs were driven out of Israel into the West Bank and Gaza Strip, where most of them and their descendants have remained ever since.

In 1967, after several more wars, Israel wound up in control of these territories. There was talk of a “two-state” solution – that the Palestinians would give up fighting against Israel in return for a greater or lesser degree of self-government on the West Bank and Gaza.

“dismantling the Wall”

The Wall refers to some 300-plus miles of security fence through the West Bank, cutting off Palestinians from some of their land near the border and from access to other land occupied by Jewish settlers.  The International Court of Justice has ruled the fence illegal.

Over the years, some 400,000 Jewish settlers have moved into the West Bank.  They are mostly ultra-Orthodox Jews who believe God has granted them the right to the land.

The settlers have taken possession of scarce water resources.  Even though a UN commission has determined that their settlements are illegal, they have received protection from Israeli forces.

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Is Zionism racist? Should Israel exist?

April 8, 2021

Kibbutz ceremony, 1951 (Wikipedia Commons)

It isn’t possible to understand Zionism without understanding that Jews have a basic, understandable fear of being wiped out.

In medieval times, Christians regarded Jews as Christ-killers.

In modern times, blood-and-soil nationalists regarded Jews as disloyal foreigners.

Both forms of antisemitism were existential threats.

One of the doctrines of Christianity is that Jesus is the prophesied Jewish messiah. The question arises: Why don’t the Jews recognize their own messiah?

One easy answer is that Jews must be an exceptionally wicked people.  And from there, it is an easy to to saying they must be persecuted, killed or expelled.

In modern times, Jews were allowed out of their ghettos to participate in civic life. But a new question arose. The basis of nationhood was blood and soil—a group of people of the same lineage occupying the same territory.

But Jews are of different lineage, and they have no territory.   How do they fit in with modern nationalism?  They don’t.  And from there, it is an easy step to regard all Jews as potential or actual traitors.

This form of antisemitism inspired the Dreyfus case., in which a French Jewish artillery officer was falsely accused of treason.  The older form of antisemitism inspired the Beilis case, in which a Russian factory manager was falsely accused of the ritual murder of a Christian child.

Justice eventually prevailed in both cases, but the founders of the Zionist movement believed that Jews needed a homeland of their own—not just as a refuge from antisemitism, but because they were a nation with the same right to a homeland in which they were in the majority..

That was one of the roots of Zionism.  The other was a fundamentalist religious nationalism, inspired by Biblical prophecies, that links the Jewish people to their ancient homeland.  There are fundamentalist Christian Zionists, based on the same prophecies.

Zionism in its early years was a controversial movement among Jewish people.  Jews in western Europe and North America mostly regarded themselves primarily as Americans, Britons, French, Germans and so on who happened to be a different religion than their fellow citizens.

This changed during the Second World War.  Hitler’s attempted genocide of the Jews was matched by an unwillingness of Allied nations, including the USA, to accept more than a token number of Jewish refugees.  The British government did its best to prevent Jewish immigration to Palestine, lest they provoke the Arabs into revolt.

I am old enough to remember the Allied war propaganda during the Second World War.  Hitler’s antisemitism was not emphasized.  Knowledge of the Holocaust was suppressed.  I think now that Roosevelt, Churchill and other Allied leaders feared to give credence to Hitler’s claim that the war was being fought on behalf of the Jews.

After the war, Europe was filled with “displaced persons” camps.  All the DPs had homelands to which they could return, except for the Jews.  So a lot of them headed for Israel.

Invading a country and driving out the inhabitants is now regarded as a crime against humanity.  But if I had been one of those Jewish DPs, I wouldn’t have cared.  All I would have cared about was having a place I could call my own.

Of course, if I had been a Palestinian Arab at the time, I wouldn’t have cared about the plight of the Jewish refugees.  I wouldn’t have seen any reason why I should lose everything because of events in Europe.

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Gabor Mate on anti-Semitism and Zionism

November 11, 2019

Dr. Gabor Maté is a physician who lives in Vancouver and writes about addiction and childhood trauma.

Born in Hungary, he is a Holocaust survivor and a disillusioned Zionist.  He is shown in the video above being interviewed by his journalist son, Aaron Mate, about anti-Semitism, Zionism and the Israel-Palestine conflict.

He said he has gone through three disillusionments in his lifetime—with Hungarian Communism, with American exceptionalism and with Zionism. Disillusionment is painful, he said, but it is better to be free of illusion than a slave to it.

The interview is well worth watching, as is an earlier interview about Russiagate.

LINKS

Gabor Mate on the misuse of anti-Semitism and why fewer Jews identify with Israel, an interview for The Gray Zone.

America in denial: Gabor Mate on the psychology of Russiagate, an interview for The Gray Zone.  With transcript.

Israel from underdog to top dog

August 1, 2014

300px-Arab_Israeli_Conflict_6

I am not Jewish.  I am not a Zionist.  I think of Israel as I think of Britain or France—as a foreign country whose people I wish well, but whose interests are not necessarily those of my own country.

But there was a time when I had considerable sympathy for the State of Israel.  The map above shows why.  The nations in green are members of the Arab League, whose 1967 Khartoum resolution reaffirmed a long-standing policy of no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel and no negotiations with Israel.  The countries marked in dark green show the countries that went to war with Israel at one time or another.

As long as Israel was surrounded by larger and more populous countries dedicated to its destruction, I thought of Israel as the underdog.   Their situations were not comparable.

 There was never any possibility that Israel could threaten the existence of Egypt, Syria, Iraq or the other Arab nations.  But there was a very real possibility that the Arab nations together could wipe Israel from the map of history.

I argued that the Jewish people had as much right to create a new nation as the Germans or Italians in an earlier era.  I would argue that people who are in peril cannot be expected to follow moral rules.

I argued that if the Soviet Union was providing unlimited armaments to Egypt and Syria to destroy Israel, it was only right that the USA provide military aid to Israel.  I argued—I think that 40 or so years ago, this argument was plausible—that more Arab civilians, even more Palestinian civilians had been killed by Arab governments during Israel’s existence than had been killed by Israelis.

Nowadays I no longer make these arguments because I no longer see Israel as the underdog.  The map below shows why.

No Arab government threatens to attack Israel.  Egypt and Jordan have signed peace treaties.  Israel has committed acts of war against Lebanon, Syria and Iraq with impunity.

Their only enemies are the powerless, miserable Palestinians in Gaza and on the West Bank.  All the arguments I made in justification of Israel could now be made in justification of Hamas and Fatah.

The Palestinians have as much right to constitute themselves as a nation as the Israelis did.   People who are being killed indiscriminately have the right to fight back by any means necessary, especially against a nation being given virtually unlimited aid by the USA, the world’s largest military superpower.

There is no possibility that the Palestinians can threaten the existence of Israel.  But there is a very real possibility that Israel can eliminate the Palestinian presence in Gaza and the West Bank.

map-story-of-palestinian-nationhood

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A Jewish critique of Israel’s policies

August 1, 2014

Rabbi Henry Siegman, former head of the American Jewish Council and of the Synagogue Council of America, in interviews on Democracy Now, calls for the Israeli government to cease its attacks on Gaza and to recognize the human rights of the Palestinian Arabs.  The interview is a excellent, objective summary of the situation.

I think Rabbi Siegman is representative of what is best in the Jewish tradition, which is older and much richer than Zionism.  I think he is right in advocating real self-determination for the Palestinians, as opposed to the fake self-determination they have now.

I would like to think that true self-determination would open a path to peace.  Peace is impossible otherwise.  But I fear Israel may have passed the point of no return.  Rabbi Siegman said in the interview that part of the purpose of the attacks on Gaza is to destroy the possibility of an independent Palestine and of peace talks that might lead to an independent Palestine.  That purpose may have been accomplished.

I recall a story about an American officer offering compensation to an Iraqi family for the killing of the father.  The eldest son said it wasn’t enough.  The American asked how much compensation would be enough.  The son replied, “Ten dead Americans.”

But I don’t want to write anything that, in however tiny a way, would diminish the chances for peace, however small they may be.  Age-old enemies have made peace in the past, as in Ireland.  It is up to Israelis and Palestinian Arabs, not to me, to say whether peace is possible.

LINKS

Israel Provoked This War: It’s up to President Obama to end it by Henry Siegman for Politico.

The Liberal Zionists by Jonathan Freedland for the New York Review of Books.

I thank Jack Clontz for calling my attention to the Democracy Now interview.  It is well worth viewing in its entirety.

The passing scene: Links & comments 7/16/14

July 16, 2014

The case for shutting down Stuyvesant High School, the best public high school in New York by Reihan Salam for Slate.

Stuyvesant High School in New York City is a highly selective public school which admits fewer than 1 in 100 applicants, based solely on test scores.  The newest class is 71 percent of Asian origin and less than 3 percent black and Latino, even though blacks and Latinos are the overwhelming majority of New York City’s eighth graders.

Reihan Salam, a graduate of Stuyvesant, does not believe that blacks and Latinos will be helped by changing admissions policies.  Even in its glory days, he said, not every Stuyvesant student flourished in its highly competitive, sink-or-swim environment.

Because of differences in background, gifted black and Latino students are likely to need more backup and support from the school system than gifted Asia students did, Salam wrote.  He said the best thing would be to have a diverse range of high schools that serve the differing needs of students.

Piketty is the Anti-Marx by Noah Millman for The American Conservative.

Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century deals with the same subject as Karl Marx’s Capital more than a century before, but his approach and conclusions are the opposite.

Marx wrote about how capitalism was revolutionizing everything, and concluded that humanity was on the verge of a new stage of development.  Piketty wrote about how, despite revolutionary changes, the concentration of wealth and income remains the same.

Marx was a revolutionary.  Piketty wants the minimum change necessary.  Marx was a bold and original theorist.  Piketty is a cautious researcher, whose great merits are his compilation of new data and his reluctance to go beyond what the data show.

Israel’s bombing of Gaza is morally justified—and eminently stupid by Damon Linker for The Week.

Gaza War: Tunnels, Targets and Rockets | IJ Strategy and Tactics by Ahmed Hadi for Al Akhbar English.   Hat tip to Informed Comment.

The rocket attacks on Israel by Hamas and Islamic Jihad do not threaten Israeli power.  All they do is provoke retaliation.   The Israeli bombardment of Gaza does not threaten the power of Hamas and Islamic Jihad.  Their leaders are hidden in underground tunnels.  Nothing will change except that many civilians will be dead and peace will be even more unlikely.

 

Is an Israeli-Palestinian peace even possible?

July 14, 2014

This video is an admirable effort by the Jewish Voice for Peace to describe the Israel / Palestine conflict objectively and to propose a constructive solution.  Sadly, I doubt a constructive solution is possible.  I’d be glad to be proved wrong.

I’m currently reading Empire of the Summer Moon, a history of the Comanche nation and its great chief, Quanah Parker.   The history of United States treaties with the Comanches and other American Indian nations is very like the various peace plans between Israeli and the Palestinians.

The problems with the Indian treaties were that, on the one hand, the United States government did not and maybe could not hold back white settlers who wanted Indian land, and that, on the other hand, Indians did not recognize the authority of negotiators making concessions in their names and did not consider themselves bound by the treaties.

I do not equate the Palestinian Arabs with tribal peoples of North America, but I do see parallels in their situations.  The only possible outcomes of the merciless wars between the Plains Indians and the white settlers were that the Indians would drive out the settlers, or that the United States Army would subjugate the Indians and force them to live on reservations.

Via Juan Cole.   Hat tip to Jack Clontz.

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Ex-chiefs of Shin Bet warn of Israel’s bad path

April 6, 2013

The other night I saw “The Gatekeepers,” a documentary movie about the history of Israel’s struggle with the Palestinians told through interviews with six living former chiefs of Shin Bet, the secret Israeli anti-terrorism agency.   The movie is now playing at The Little here in Rochester, NY.

Shin Bet has for decades been doing all the things which the U.S. government says are necessary to keep Americans safe—”targeted killings,” “enhanced interrogations,” military occupations of hostile territory.  Shin Bet has thwarted terrorist plots and killed terrorist leaders, but the Shin Bet chiefs said Israel has not been made safe from terrorism, because the killings, torture and occupation generates more support for terrorism.   They said the only hope for Israel is to negotiate with a truly independent Palestinian state.

I am impressed with the seriousness and realism of these six men.   Their frankness is a contrast to the evasiveness of the architects of our American “war on terror,” who seek to protect their own reputations by pretending failure is success.

The fact that this documentary was made does credit to Israel’s democracy.  I can’t imagine six former heads of the Egyptian or Syrian security services giving such interviews, or a documentary being made freely available in their countries.   I hope that Israelis, and also us Americans, take their warnings to heart.

[Added 4/21/13]  Click on Filmmakers capture Israeli spy chiefs’ doubts about covert killing operations. for a review in The Observer of London.

International recognition for Palestine

December 5, 2012

Double click to enlarge.

Double click to enlarge.

If you follow my web log at all, you know that I like maps and charts as a way to convey information.  There is a lot of good information in the map above.

One of the things that this map shows is that most of the world gives some sort of acknowledgement of the existence both the Israeli and Palestinian nations.

The biggest exception is a bloc of Muslim nations, including all the nations except Egypt and Jordan that declared war on Israel in 1948, plus Bhutan (!) and North Korea.  Even though the United States is Israel’s chief ally and supporter, the governments of Iraq and Afghanistan, which were put in power by the United States, refuse to recognize the legitimacy of Israel as a nation.  Likewise Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Indonesia, all U.S. allies, refuse recognition.

Very few nations are found on the corresponding opposite side, refusing to acknowledge the existence of Palestine as a nation.  They are all minor countries—South Sudan, Guatemala, Panama, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Jamaica, the former Yugoslav Macedonia, Armenia and Burma (Myanmar).

The United States and most U.S. allies recognize Israel, but have some sort of acknowledgement of the Palestinian nation.  Most of the rest of the world recognizes both countries, which is what the United States ought to do.

This is all very interesting, at least it is to me, but only two nations on this map really count, and they are Israel and Palestine themselves.   It is up to the leaders of these two nations to determine when Israel will be at peace and Palestine will be free.

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Israel and Palestine: a voice for peace

December 5, 2012

This video pretty much sums up the Israel-Palestine situation as I see it.   I think it is to the credit of Israel that such a video could be made and discussed in that country.  Such freedom exists in few, if any, of the countries that are Israel’s avowed enemies.  This in itself is a reason why Israel should not be erased from the map of history.

Click on Jewish Voice for Peace for more from the makers of the video.

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