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Slowly but surely the BDS movement, despite every effort of western “democracies” to stop it, is gaining ground in the fight for a free Palestine and peace and justice for Jew and Arab in the Middle East. The following article appeared on Alakhbar English website on October 28th 2011
Another BDS Victory: Alstom Loses US$10 Billion Saudi Contract Bid
The Saudi government had previously given phase one of the Haramain railway project to Alstom, a decision that was met with fierce opposition from the BDS movement.
By: Annabel Turner
Published Friday, October 28, 2011
The Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) National Committee is celebrating another success after the French corporation Alstom lost the bid for the second phase of the Saudi Haramain railway project — a deal worth US$10 billion.
“Following this massive loss for Alstom in the Saudi market, we hope that all Arab states will pass laws that exclude from public contracts any company or institution that is complicit in Israel’s violations of international law,” says Omar Barghouti, a leading member of the BDS movement.
He adds, “If the Norwegian sovereign fund can exclude three Israeli companies since 2009 over their involvement in Israel’s human rights violations, we hope Arab states, especially in light of the popular revolutions, will adopt similar guidelines, if not stricter ones. This is the most effective way to stand in solidarity with the people of Palestine and end Israel’s occupation, colonialism, apartheid, and denial of refugee rights.”
The contract for the Haramain rail project — which will connect the holy cities of Mecca and Medina to Jeddah and the King Abdullah Economic City — was awarded to the Saudi-Spanish al-Shoula consortium yesterday. The contract includes the construction of 450km of railway, supplying 35 trains, and managing the system for 12 years.
This is a significant victory for the BDS movement, and a tremendous loss for Alstom. The Saudi government had previously given phase one of the Haramain railway project to Alstom, a decision that was met with fierce opposition from the BDS movement because of Alstom’s complicity in the illegal construction of Israel’s Jerusalem Light Rail. The project, according to official Israeli statements, has the sole intention of “Judaizing Jerusalem.”
The Jerusalem transit line connects illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank to Jerusalem and surrounding areas. It relies on the colonization of Palestinian land to support the expansion of illegal Israeli settlements, while at the same time, it fragments and divides the surrounding Arab villages.
BDS campaigners have not shied away from pointing to the complicity of Arab states in the occupation of Palestine through their business dealings with Alstom and have asked the Saudi leadership to stop working with the French firm.
The BDS National Committee has systematically targeted Alstom since 2008 through the ‘Derail Veolia and Alstom’ campaign. News of this US$10 billion loss for Alstom adds to similar setbacks, including more than US$12 billion of losses Veolia incurred due to their involvement in the Jerusalem project.
It is alleged that the PLO also urged the Saudi government to withdraw from any further involvement with Alstom.
The Saudi authorities have not revealed the exact reason why they granted the second phase to the al-Shoula group, but a number of statements have been circulated that refer to “multiple factors” influencing their decision, suggesting that increasing political pressure is one of them.
The Saudi decision is in line with an agreement made by consensus at the Arab Summit held in Khartoum in 2006, which both condemned the Jerusalem Light Rail project and called on Alstom and Veolia to immediately halt construction of the railway. The Arab states also demanded that punitive measures be taken against them if they fail to respect their obligations under international law.
However, many Arab states continue to conduct business with Alstom. In Lebanon, the firm is responsible for the control center of the national electricity company (Electricité du Liban). Alstom is also involved in various multi-billion-dollar infrastructure and energy projects in the region, notably in Egypt, Morocco, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait. It is also being considered for a number of other major contracts, including a railway project in Iraq, which is worth an estimated US$1.5 billion.
Some Jewish Zionist friends of mine still believe that the only solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict lies in a Two-State solution. The other day I came across the following interview with Norman Finkelstein and John Mearsheimer. I have posted the entire text of the interview and though the post is a bit longer than usual, it really is worth the read.
It was originally posted on October 25th at http://www.theamericanconservative.com/blog/greater-israel-or-peace/
Scott McConnell of The American Conservative recently interviewed Norman Finkelstein and John Mearsheimer about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Scott McConnell: Have we come to the end of the Oslo process? Is a two‑state solution still a viable possibility?
Norman Finkelstein: The problem is the definition of terms. The Oslo process, contrary to what’s widely understood, was largely a success. It’s true now that it may be at an impasse, but as it was originally conceived, it was largely a success. The Israeli leadership was very clear about what it intended from the Oslo process.
Mainly, Rabin said—the former prime minister, Yitzhak Rabin—that if we can get the Palestinians to do the dirty work in the Occupied Territories, there’s going to be less pressure from human rights organizations. They wouldn’t cause as many problems if the Palestinians were doing the policing. And there was a military reason: namely, a large number of Israeli troops were bogged down in the Occupied Territories. That meant time taken away from military training.
The quid pro quo was, well, in 1990‑91 the PLO made what seemed to have been a tactical or strategic error by supporting Saddam Hussein, and they lost all of their funding from the Gulf States. And basically the United States and Israel threw them a life preserver, saying, “If you switch sides, you do what we want you to do, we’ll keep you alive.” That was the choice that the Palestinians made, or the Palestinian leadership made. But then a new problem arose, and that’s Hamas began to rise in power.
John Mearsheimer: The Israelis—and this was especially true of Rabin when the Oslo peace process got started—had no interest in giving the Palestinians a viable state. What they wanted was to restrict the Palestinians to a handful of Bantustans that were located inside of Greater Israel, and it could be called a Palestinian state. In a very important way, Oslo has been successful in that it has allowed the Israelis, working with the Palestinian Authority, to create a situation where the Palestinians have some autonomy in these Bantustans.
McConnell: You say this about Rabin too? He’s considered the most peace-oriented Israeli.
Finkelstein: He was the most rigid. Even Rabin’s wife, afterwards, during the Camp David negotiations, said that her husband would never have agreed to the concessions that [Prime Minister Ehud] Barak made. Now remember, Barak barely made any concessions. But she said her husband would have never agreed to that. I think she’s probably right. In Rabin’s last speech to the Knesset before he was assassinated, he said, “I don’t support a Palestinian state.” He said, “Something less than it.”
Mearsheimer: It’s also important to understand the American position since the Oslo process began has reflected very clearly the Israeli position. It was considered politically unacceptable in the United States to use the words “Palestinian state” until Bill Clinton’s last month in office.
The first time Bill Clinton uttered the words “Palestinian state” was in January of 2001. If you remember, in 1998 Hillary Clinton, who was then the first lady, said that she thought it would be very good for peace in the region if Palestinians had a state of their own. All hell broke loose. The president had to dissociate himself from his wife because it was so controversial. This was 1998, five years after the Oslo peace accords had been signed.
As unusual as this may sound, or as paradoxical as this may sound, it was actually George W. Bush who was the first president who really put the issue of a Palestinian state on the table. But even he realized that with Ariel Sharon as his counterpart in Israel there was no way he could push in any meaningful manner for the Palestinians to get a viable state of their own. And again, that’s the key to having a deal.
McConnell: Do you think there is a framework for a possible deal in the kind of negotiations that went on late in Barak’s term before Sharon’s election, at the 2001 Taba summit and things like that?
Finkelstein: What you can say with a fair amount of generality is that if you look at the Taba map, and you look at the map that [Prime Minister Ehud] Olmert presented in 2006, they look the same. They all call for keeping about 9 percent of the West Bank, and they all call for keeping the large settlement blocs, what’s called Ariel in the north and Maale Adumim in the center. It is impossible to construct a Palestinian state with those maps.
Mearsheimer: Ariel reaches far out into the West Bank and actually sits on top of the largest aquifer in the West Bank, and it was put there for a purpose. Maale Adumim is designed to give Israel control well out into the heart of the West Bank. And the people who built those settlements understood full well that it would be almost impossible for any Israeli political leader to abandon them and turn them over to the Palestinians.
The reason that the Oslo peace process is dead and that you’re not going to get a two‑state solution is that the political center of gravity in Israel has moved far enough to the right over time that it’s, in my opinion, unthinkable that the Israelis would number one, give up the Jordan River valley; number two, abandon Ariel and Maale Adumim; and number three, allow for a capital in East Jerusalem.
So given all those factors, I think that we’re rapidly reaching the point—in fact, I think we’ve reached that point—where we’re going to have a Greater Israel which runs from the Jordan River valley to the Mediterranean.
Finkelstein: I don’t agree with that. There are many reasons to be pessimistic. But there are also some grounds for a reasonable amount of optimism. Things are changing in the region, and things are changing in the world. Like you say, the Israeli political establishment has moved to the right. The Israeli population has moved to the right, it has a siege mentality. But those are political factors.
And then the question is trying to change the calculus of power. Here things are changing. There are changes in American public opinion, which are quite significant when you look at the polls. There are changes in Jewish public opinion. There are major regional changes—what’s happening now between Israel and Turkey that’s part of an Arab Spring.
Mearsheimer: I think there’s no question that the international environment that Israel operates in is changing in profound ways, and developments in Turkey and Egypt are probably the best two examples of that. As a result of all this, Israel has a growing sense that it’s isolated, that it really only has one friend in the world, which is the United States.
Now the $64,000 question is whether that’s likely to lead Israel to be more flexible in the short to medium term, or is it likely to cause them to hunker down and be much less flexible and even more bellicose than they have been. And I would bet that the latter would be the case.
McConnell: What difference does it make that Turkey and Egypt are no longer de facto allies of Israel?
Finkelstein: I think a lot of it is psychological, and not psychological in the sense of Oprah psychological. It’s a whole way of relating to the region. Israel has the sense that this is its region. And it’s very disorienting for them to feel as if they’re losing control in that part of the world, that the natives are getting restless.
Mearsheimer: I put Norman’s point in slightly different terms, that is to say, I think what is at stake for the Israelis here is legitimacy, and I think that for them, and for most countries, legitimacy matters greatly. If you read the Israeli press, you’ll see there are all sorts of concerns about de-legitimization. And if you listen to people in the American Jewish community talk about what’s happening to Israel, they’re deeply concerned about de‑legitimization. What’s happening here with Turkey and with Egypt is that as those countries become more democratized and more critical of Israel, they’re adding fuel to that de‑legitimization fire.
There’s no question that most European governments will support Israel at the UN, and there’s certainly no question that the United States will. But the support in Europe, and even the support in the United States, is not terribly deep. It’s wide, right, but not deep.
Finkelstein: Actually support for Israel is no longer that wide. It used to be fair to say wide but not deep, wide and thin. But now if you look at the polls, it’s actually quite surprising. In Pew polls of the last few years, the negative opinion of Israel is kind of astonishing.
Mearsheimer: It’s right down there with Iran, North Korea…
Finkelstein: Well, it’s always ranked with Iran, North Korea, and Pakistan. They’re the four countries least liked in the world. But even if you take countries which have the strongest Israel lobbies—apart from the U.S., it’s Canada, the U.K., France, Germany, and Australia—look at the polls. Even in places like Canada, the polls show about 15 to 20 percent having a positive view of Israel, 60 or 70 percent having a negative view. Public opinion has really swung. Even in the U.S., by the way.
McConnell: Let’s try to tease this out, I mean, the number of Americans who consider themselves pro‑Israeli as opposed to pro-Palestinian has been kind of constant, like a 60 to 10 ratio, and hasn’t changed very much over a generation.
Finkelstein: Except—if you put it “pro‑Israel versus pro‑Palestinian,” that’s correct—if you look at it in terms of, “Do you have a positive or negative opinion of Israel?” for the first time in the last two or three years it’s come down to 50/50. It has changed.
Mearsheimer: I think that’s very important, but I think there’s an even more important indicator of how weak the support is. And that is that if you ask Americans if the United States should support Israel or the Palestinians in their conflict, roughly 70 percent, sometimes up to 75 percent, say we should favor neither side.
It’s really quite remarkable. We have this special relationship where we favor Israel axiomatically over Palestinians at every critical juncture. But here you have a situation where the American people, three-fourths of them, are saying that the United States should favor neither side. In fact, what the American people want to see is the United States act as a—what’s the word?
McConnell: Neutral arbiter.
Mearsheimer: Yeah, a neutral arbiter rather than as Israel’s lawyer.
When you think about how Americans deal with Israel, there are three dimensions to it. One is how people think about Israel and America’s relationship with Israel. Number two is how they talk about it, and number three is actual U.S. policy. There’s great variation among those three dimensions.
I think that over the past ten years how Americans think about Israel has changed in significant ways. More and more people are aware of what the Israelis are doing to the Palestinians. They understand that this is bad for the United States from a strategic point of view, and it’s morally bankrupt behavior.
There has been a significant change in the discourse as well over the past ten years. And that’s largely a result of the Internet. It’s very difficult for pro‑Israel forces to shape the discourse on the Internet the way they exercise great influence with the New York Times or CBS or even NPR.
So the discourse has really changed, especially when you get away from the mainstream media, which is increasingly less important. But what’s depressing is that U.S. policy has hardly changed at all. And the question you have to ask yourself is what does this mean for the long term. In a world where people are thinking very differently from the policy-makers and talking very differently from the policy-makers, how does this play itself out?
McConnell: Norman, you’ve been on this subject a long time, a whole career. I wonder if you could talk a little bit about the beginning of your involvement and whether you’ve sensed a change in response to what you say compared to the way it was 20 or 30 years ago, or 10 or 15 years ago?
Finkelstein: I’m sort of second generation. I think the Edward Said, Noam Chomsky generation was first—that was the generation of the ’70s, where it was really virtually impossible to say anything on the topic without being ostracized. I came in right after the Lebanon War of June 1982. And the Lebanon War was Israel’s first public relations disaster in the United States, at least after the ’67 War. They took a big blow back then. It’s forgotten, but it was a PR disaster. Immediately afterwards they tried to recoup from it.
Actually, one of the initiatives they took to recoup was how I got started. I think the Joan Peters book From Time Immemorial was simply a propaganda exercise to try to recoup from the ’82 war.
The next big change occurs with the 1987 Palestinian Intifada, which I think had a very substantial impact, though it was temporary, on public opinion in the United States. I was already teaching by ’88. And I remember in my class—I was at Brooklyn College at the time—a student who was not particularly political, he was what you’d call a typical white ethnic, he was either Irish or Italian, from Bay Ridge or Bensonhurst, he said in class, “Stone vs. Uzi, that doesn’t sound fair.” And that was the image that was being projected then.
The next big turning point probably came with the Second Intifada, which had a very negative impact because of the suicide bombings. But it also had a positive impact because the Israeli repression was so terrible; again, it alienated significant numbers of people.
As for myself, I don’t know if you were familiar with the lingo from back in the ’30s and ’40s, but there were all of these young Americans, many of whom incidentally were Jewish, in the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, who went to go fight fascism in Spain. And at that point, to fight fascism made you pro‑Communist, because—you know the whole thing. And then they went to fight in World War II again.
So they come back, and a lot of them are called before [Sen. Joseph] McCarthy, the very same people who fought in World War II. And why were they called before McCarthy? Well, they called themselves premature anti‑fascists. They were anti‑fascists before it was politically correct to be anti‑fascists because they were anti‑fascist at the time of Franco, and at that time the Americans supported Franco.
So even though personally my political positions aren’t really radical at all, and even though I don’t particularly like the nomenclature, I say I was a premature anti‑Zionist.
Mearsheimer: Can I ask Norman a quick question…
McConnell: Yeah, sure.
Mearsheimer: …which I think is important to readers and for me and Scott. You say that you’re an anti‑Zionist.
Finkelstein: No, I don’t. I say I don’t like the nomenclature.
Mearsheimer: You said you were an anti‑Zionist before your time.
Finkelstein: I said that just to make the parallel with anti‑fascist.
Mearsheimer: But here’s the question. Do you, Norman Finkelstein, think it’s a good thing there’s a Jewish state?
Finkelstein: No. But I don’t think it’s a good thing to have Christian states, Muslim states, or any kind of ethnic states. There is a difference between saying… remember let’s be clear about what the UN said. The UN said, “We want to create a Jewish state and an Arab state in Palestine.”
Finkelstein: But then the UN went on to say, and it was very explicit in the recommendation, “There cannot be any discrimination whatsoever in the Jewish state against an Arab minority.” Now, you may ask the reasonable question, “Well, if there can’t be any discrimination whatsoever, what do they mean by a Jewish state?” They never answer that.
But it doesn’t necessarily follow from the idea that you say there should be two states that you believe it should be a Jewish state or that you’re a Zionist. There’s no connection between the two.
Mearsheimer: I was just interested in what your preferences were.
Finkelstein: I think one of the problems when we discuss the Israel‑Palestine conflict is people talk too much in terms of “What’s your preference?”, like politics is a Chinese menu—I’ll take one from column A and two from column B. That’s not what politics is about.
Politics is about what is realistically possible in terms of your long‑term values, your philosophical perspective. What is really possible now in my opinion are two states, basically what people call the international consensus. It doesn’t mean it’s my philosophical preference. If you asked me, I’d say I would like to see a world without states.
McConnell: When does a two-state solution become not realistically possible?
Mearsheimer: The reason that people continue to talk about a two‑state solution even though I think it’s no longer realizable is that many Palestinians don’t see a viable alternative; they don’t think that a one‑state solution will work.
And in the case of many Israelis and their American supporters, they’re basically sticking their heads in the sand because they don’t want to talk about a one‑state solution, because they understand that a one‑state solution is basically an apartheid state.
Finkelstein: You know, I can see John’s point, but we have to be clear about what John’s point is. He was talking about political facts and political will. He said that the political spectrum has shifted in Israel and that it’s going to be very hard to get these people to budge.
Yes, that’s true. It’s going to be hard to get them to budge, but the problem is, to put it simply, it’s never been tried. The only time it really was tried to get them to budge was the First Intifada, and you know, the First Intifada was very sobering for Israel.
I lived there during the First Intifada. I used to go every summer. You’d be very surprised what it looked like. They had to have 500,000 troops there. When you went in the Occupied Territories then, you saw 65‑year‑old men—they had to bring up all their reserves, and they were putting in six months.
Once there is a real mass action and summoning of will, you may see things shift in Israel. It’s just not been tried. All that’s been tried is this thing called a “peace process.” Nothing happens because there was no pressure on them; the Israelis treat the whole thing like a joke.
Mearsheimer: A lot has changed since 1987 when the First Intifada broke out. First of all, there are many more settlers. And if you leave 60-plus percent of those settlers, you still have to remove…
Mearsheimer: Right. You still have to remove a…
Finkelstein: If you look at the polls, the polls vary. But as high as 60 percent say they’re willing to be bought out. The Israeli expression is “quality of life settlers.” They just moved there because Israel gave them tons of mortgage subsidies and everything. They say, “Give us money, we’ll leave.”
Mearsheimer: But the fact is that if 40 percent of the settlers were to resist removal, it would be incredibly bloody.
Finkelstein: Yeah, but then you look at the polls, and the polls say about 10,000 or 15,000 would resist violently. The rest say they would oppose it, but if the army gives an order, “You have to leave,” only about 10,000 or 15,000 say that they would resist violently. In my opinion that’s mostly bravado. The actual number will probably be several thousand.
And then the Israeli former security people say there’s a really easy way to handle them: all we’ll do is say, “We’re leaving. You want to stay in Hebron with 160,000 crazy Arabs? Stay. We’re going.” And the Israeli security people say, “You’ll see how fast they’ll leave.”
Mearsheimer: Your point that pressure has not been brought to bear on the Israelis up to now is correct. But the reason that pressure has not been brought to bear is because the United States protects Israel at every turn. If the United States were willing to put serious sanctions on Israel, there’s no question that we could get Israel to move to a two‑state settlement very quickly.
And by the way, that would be good for Israel, good for the Palestinians, and good for us. And the fact that we don’t do it is really quite shocking because it’s a win‑win‑win situation.
Mearsheimer: But then the question is, who’s going to put pressure on Israel?
Finkelstein: That’s why I said there are new factors. It is true that the U.S. is the key factor, but now with the Arab Spring there are regional factors. For a lot of the Arab countries, or a lot of the Arab leaders, this has become a drain on them. Turkey and Egypt, they want to modernize and this Israel/Palestine thing is a drain on them. They have a real incentive to want to resolve it.
But the other thing is, as we’ve all agreed, there are changes in public opinion. The challenge is translating the changes in public opinion into some sort of political force. There is raw material; it still requires work. It’s a hard job, but our possibilities now are greater than ever.
Mearsheimer: Yeah. I hope that you’re right, but I think that you’re wrong. The reason has to do with how American politics works. The way this political system of ours was set up in the beginning gave huge amounts of influence to interest groups, interest groups of all sorts.
In the present situation, interest groups that have lots of money can influence the political process in profound ways. The principal reason that we don’t have any financial reform after the 2008 financial crisis is, in large part, because of the interest groups or lobbies associated with the financial industry. They’re just so powerful in Washington that Congress really can’t stand up to them. As a result, we’ve done very little to fix the system that caused this disaster in 2008.
When it comes to foreign policy, we, of course, have interest groups—like the Cuban lobby, the Israel lobby, the Armenian lobby—that can wield lots of influence. In this day and age, where money really matters, and where the Israel lobby has lots of money to throw at political candidates, it is very easy for it to get its way. And foolishly, in my opinion, the lobby tends to support the hard-line policies of Israel, which I don’t think are in Israel’s interests.
The end result is that virtually nobody on Capitol Hill will stand up to Benjamin Netanyahu. And the president won’t either.
Finkelstein: Everything you said, of course, is true and I don’t bury my head in the ground. The only addition to what you said is, I haven’t seen any real attempt to challenge the lobby. There’s never been a serious opposition in Washington. They’ve never had to contend with anybody.
It is true money talks. No question about it. But then we don’t know how many people in Congress—I know you may react cynically to it—but we don’t really know how many are just misinformed. They just don’t know what’s going on because there’s nobody on the other side doing anything. How many people in Congress are really sick of the bribery and bullying of AIPAC, but there’s nobody with whom they can stand? There’s no lobby here.
It’s work that we have to do. And then, once we have done our part and nothing budges, I’ll see your side. But it’s the same thing with the Palestinians. I saw what happened during the First Intifada. The Israelis were in a complete panic. They didn’t know what to do. They didn’t know if they were coming or going. The people had real power.
McConnell: My fear is that Israel, if they were faced with a third Intifada as a result of, say, the dead‑end of the Palestinian‑UN thing, would welcome it.
Mearsheimer: It’s very clear that when the Palestinians turn to terrorism it works to Israel’s advantage. It makes much more sense for the Palestinians to pursue a Gandhi‑like policy. The other reason that the Palestinians do not want to turn to terrorism or to a third Intifada is the threat of further expulsion. I believe that there are lots of Israelis who would welcome an opportunity to drive the Palestinians…
McConnell: Across the Jordan River. Yeah.
Mearsheimer: …out of Greater Israel and solve the demographic problem that way. The reason I believe that Israel is in such trouble over the long term is that you’re going to end up with a Greater Israel, where there are going to be more Palestinians than Israeli Jews.
In fact, I think I could make a convincing argument that right now there are more Palestinians than Israeli Jews living between the Jordan and the Mediterranean. But certainly 20 years down the road, the numbers are going to clearly favor the Palestinians, and I believe that will be an apartheid state. It will be impossible for Israel to maintain that state.
McConnell: What keeps Israel from trying to push the Palestinians out of the West Bank?
Finkelstein: I remember during the Second Intifada, I had a several hour conversation with Rantissi, who was the head of Hamas—he was subsequently assassinated by Israel. And I said to him, “You know, these suicide bombings, they just give Israel the pretext to commit massacres.” And he said to me, “Israel does what it wants. It doesn’t need pretext.” I said to him, “If Israel did what it wanted to do, none of you would be here.”
Israel has real constraints and limits imposed on it by international public opinion. People are very naïve about that. Even the Gaza massacre, the Israeli invasion of 2008 to 2009, okay, it was terrible. No question about it. Killed 1,400 people. Lebanon 2006, July, August, it killed 1,200 people, 1,000 civilians. It was horrible. But it was really small potatoes next to Lebanon 1982. Lebanon ’82, the estimates are they killed between 15,000 and 20,000 people. That’s a big difference because the limits have increased on them.
Mearsheimer: And what has increased the limits?
Finkelstein: Well, public opinion has put real constraints on what Israel can do, even though what it did in Gaza was terrible, I’ll be the first one to say. It’s still much less than they were once able to get away with. Every time there’s a war, they have been hoping to do a mass expulsion: during that attack on Iraq in 2003; they were hoping to do it in 1990–91. If you read the Israeli newspapers, they’re always talking about the transfer. They can’t do it because public opinion puts real constraints on them.
I think sometimes we underestimate just how vulnerable Israel is on the public-relations front. That’s why they spend so much money on propaganda. And that’s why they panic every time they feel like they’re losing the propaganda war. Because they realize just how vulnerable they are and how big the constraints on them are. Otherwise it makes no sense why they invest so much in that image of theirs.
Mearsheimer: When Norman says that Israelis and their supporters in the United States care greatly about what people think about Israel, I think that’s a further way of saying they’re worried deeply about Israel’s legitimacy. And this is why people like Norman and people like me, and Steve Walt, and Jimmy Carter, and Noam Chomsky, and Edward Said are viewed as being so dangerous to Israel. When Norman tells you about all the times he’s been blacklisted and mafia‑like tactics have been used on him, basically what’s going on there is that the lobby is interested in marginalizing him and silencing him because it knows how dangerous he is.
Israel’s greatest advantage in the world today is in terms of its material resources. It’s a rich country that has one of the most formidable militaries on the planet. And of course, it’s joined at the hip with the United States, which has the most formidable military in the world.
But where Israel is particularly weak and is threatened is in the realm of ideas. I like to think about this in Gramscian terms. Gramsci used to talk about wars of ideas. What’s happened here is that as the material balance of power has moved in Israel’s favor, the balance of ideas has moved against Israel.
People like Norman, who are what I like to call the “corridor cutters” on this issue, help in a major way, pushing in that direction. Then people like Jimmy Carter, Steve Walt, and I came along and stood on the shoulders of people like Norman. All of us have been attacked, viciously attacked in some cases, and ostracized in other cases because we are viewed as a threat.
Again, it all gets back to that important concept of legitimacy.
McConnell: There’s some voice in me, not mine, but I can hear a voice saying if you’re a realist in terms of power politics, ideas matter much less than military/economic strength and things like that.
Mearsheimer: The truth is sometimes ideas don’t matter very much, and sometimes they really do. This is a case where ideas do matter. What the Israelis are doing to the Palestinians has become an important part of our discourse about the Middle East. It simply does not work to Israel’s advantage. My argument is that this situation is only going to get worse over time. Israel is going to be more isolated, and the United States, which of course backs Israel at every turn, is going to be increasingly isolated as well.
Finkelstein: On the strictly military plane, it is true Israel is very powerful. But we should also bear in mind that it’s become a very modern country. One of the consequences of becoming a modern country is people don’t want to die. Israel has a very effective, automated military. But when it comes to actual battlefield engagement, the Israeli soldiers don’t want to fight.
McConnell: What happened in Lebanon in 2006?
Finkelstein: It’s very clear Israel did not launch a major ground offensive for one reason: it did not want to take a large number of casualties. Lebanon proved to be for them a complete disaster. Now they make claims—there’s a tiny bit of truth to it—their claim was that because they were bogged down during the Second Intifada in policing action in the West Bank, there had been no time for rehearsals for ground/air coordination and that’s why things went so badly in Lebanon.
There’s a little bit of truth to it, but a bigger truth is Hezbollah people, they’re ready to die. They’re not afraid to go out there and get killed. The Israelis don’t want to get killed. The same thing happened in Gaza. Gaza was a—there was no war. As one person put it, it was like a child with a magnifying glass burning ants. It was all a high‑tech war.
Once a friend of mine—she’s an Israeli, I went to high school with her—she was very offended, and she said why did I call Israel a modern‑day Sparta? She says, “You don’t know Israelis. They’re not Sparta. They like the Beatles. They like this, they like that.” I said, “You misunderstood what I said. I said a high‑tech Sparta.” Because it’s true, they are not Spartans. They like cafes. They like the good life.
Mearsheimer: They like unfair fights.
Finkelstein: They want to live.
Mearsheimer: But I think there’s a more important point at play here, which is not to say this point is not important. As Israel becomes a modern economy, and you have more and more people who are secular, wealthy, and like to lead the good life, what begins to happen is that they begin to think about the exit option. They think about leaving Israel. Because they don’t want to live in Sparta. They’d much prefer to live in Europe or in the United States.
McConnell: Are you guys surprised by how quickly Obama seemed to have climbed down from making a solution to the conflict a top priority? By all indications he was someone who understood the moral and political case for a Palestinian state.
Mearsheimer: He did not step away from the problem quickly. Shortly after taking office in January 2009 he began to put pressure on Israel—throughout 2009, throughout 2010, and even earlier this year Obama was putting pressure on the Israelis.
That of course is why Netanyahu came to Washington and spoke before AIPAC and spoke before Congress and went toe to toe, in effect, with Obama. The sad truth is that Netanyahu beat him at every turn, and now with the election looming and the economy in shambles, Obama is in no position to pick a fight with Israel.
Finkelstein: Even if Obama prevailed over Netanyahu, the settlement he was calling for was roughly that map where Israel would keep about 10 percent—9 or 10 percent—of the West Bank, including all the major settlement blocs.
If you include the settlement blocs, like Maale Adumim, there’s no state because the way that settlement bloc is constructed, it separates Jerusalem from the whole West Bank. So you have this little island of Jerusalem. Metropolitan Jerusalem is about 30 to 40 percent of the Palestinian economy. If you separate Jerusalem, there’s no state. Even if Obama prevailed and you got the 10 percent map, it still has no relationship to what a viable Palestinian state would look like.
Mearsheimer: I don’t think, Norman, that it’s clear whether Obama was thinking in terms of what’s called the Israeli map or whether he was thinking in terms of the Palestinian map. But I believe that most of his Middle East advisers and Obama understand that the only way we’re going to solve this is to give the Palestinians a viable state, and that means basically the Palestinian map.
Finkelstein: No, I don’t think that’s true, John. I mean…
Mearsheimer: Then I wonder why you’re so optimistic that we can solve this one?
Finkelstein: Oh, because as I said, I totally agree with you on Congress. I totally agree with you on the executive. On those points there’s no disagreement at all. What I said is there is a changed political configuration now. There are changes in public opinion. There are changes in Jewish opinion. There’s a lot of work to be done. But there are reasons to be optimistic.
McConnell: Can you elaborate on the changes in Jewish opinion?
Finkelstein: Trying to understand Jewish relationships with Israel, there are three factors. There is the ethnic factor, which is the one people tend to home in on—Israel, Jewish State, of course Jews love Israel. That’s how people usually reason.
There is a second factor. That’s the citizenship factor, namely American Jews are American citizens, and they have a good life here, and they are very wary of being hit with the dual-loyalty charge. So wherever it looks like there are tensions between the U.S. and Israel, or tensions might be brewing, Americans Jews are very cautious and very wary.
That was very noticeable between ’48 and ’67, when American Jews had no interest whatsoever in Israel. It’s easily documented. Even those people who subsequently became Israel’s supporters, like Norman Podhoretz—if you look at Commentary magazine, as I have, between 1960 and 1967, there’s virtually nothing on Israel.
And then there’s the third factor. It’s the ideological factor. American Jews are liberal. They are liberal Democrats ever since Roosevelt in ’32. Last presidential election, 80 percent of Jews voted for Obama. More Jews voted for Obama than Latinos voted for Obama. American Jews are liberal, and they vote liberal and Democratic. Now for a long time on this ideological level, they were able to reconcile being liberal with being supportive of Israel, because Israel was the light unto the nations, bringing Western civilization to the barbaric East…
Mearsheimer: Only democracy.
Finkelstein: Only democracy in the Middle East, and all the rest. Well, in the last ten or 15 years, it’s wearing thin, and American Jews are having a lot of trouble as liberals—especially young American Jews on college campuses, which tend to be more liberal than American society in general—they’re having a lot of trouble reconciling their liberal beliefs with the way Israel carries on, and Israeli conduct and Israeli society in general.
And therefore you can see in a lot of polls—the best pollster in the American Jewish community, by a far margin, is Stephen Cohen. And Cohen says, “Support for Israel is dying.” He claims it’s dying because of intermarriage; you know, the ethnic factor. Jews are now intermarrying at a rate of about 6o percent. He says that it’s obvious that among the intermarried Jews, interest in Israel tends to plummet. And again, there’s a lot of statistical evidence. The intermarriage factor is significant. But I think as big a factor now is the liberalism factor. They just can’t do it anymore.
Mearsheimer: This is the Peter Beinart thesis.
Finkelstein: No, that’s the Norman Finkelstein thesis, which Peter Beinart took. [laughter]
Finkelstein: Because I was working on it since 2007. You know, I lectured very widely on it. I wrote a book. I started the book. It was called A Farewell to Israel: The Coming Break‑up of American Jewish Support for Israel. I’ve since re-titled it. It’s now called Knowing Too Much because I think that’s the problem. American Jews now know too much. They don’t know what to do with it.
McConnell: And Birthright Israel isn’t enough to counter this?
Finkelstein: It’s not enough, no, because Birthright Israel, first of all, is self‑selective. Many of them are just…
Mearsheimer: It’s propaganda. It’s very hard to propagandize Jews. They’re very knowledgeable, and they’re critical thinkers.
Finkelstein: That’s the other thing. All of the scholarship that comes out—those are the sectors where Jews tend to be, in the highly educated, literate sectors. That information is reaching them, and they don’t know what to do with it. You can see it in colleges now. It used to be when someone like me would come speak, it would be hysteria, with the audience shouting and screaming. Then they realized, “Well, we don’t really want to do that anymore.” So they would start having vigils outside and passing out leaflets.
Now, nothing. Nothing. There’s only one way they can work now: behind the scenes. They try to put pressure to not invite him because he’s this or he’s that. Behind the scenes they’re working very hard, but in the public arena—in the court of public opinion—they have vanished because it’s hopeless. How do you defend it?
They don’t like me, not because of my beliefs, they don’t like me because they know I’m going to have the facts. I read. I patiently go through all the reports. That’s what they fear. It’s not my politics because, as I said, my politics are not radical. It’s the facts. They’re in dread of that because there’s no defense anymore.
McConnell: How much are you speaking now on campuses?
Finkelstein: Quite a lot. Let’s put it this way: I could easily speak every day, if I were to accept every invitation, but it’s impossible because my forte is knowing the facts, which means I have to sit home and work. I have to read. I don’t want to become a rhetorical speaker. My effectiveness is mastering all of the data and being able to respond.
People ask me, “Why don’t you ever lose your cool? Why don’t you get angry? I get so angry.” I say, “Because the reason you get angry is frustration. You know what the other person is saying is not true, but you don’t know how to answer it. You don’t know the facts, and that’s where the anger and frustration come from.”
When you know how to answer it, you just sit very patiently. You’ll get your turn, and then you’ll answer. That’s why I can’t accept all the speaking engagements, because I’ve got to know the facts. Then we’ll be effective, and I still say we could win. John knows that, because I saw that you can have very big meetings at the University of Chicago, which has a very large Jewish population. There was one meeting where John and I were present, I don’t remember which one it was.
Mearsheimer: Yeah, it was during operation Cast Lead in January 2009.
Finkelstein: It must have been what? 1,500 people?
Mearsheimer: It was a huge audience. They turned away, I think, 800 people.
Finkelstein: And they can’t answer, the other side. There’s nothing. Nothing. And that’s what’s causing a lot of Jews—that’s, for me, what’s breaking up the whole support. It’s like—oh, what’s his name?—David Remnick said a few months ago. He said, “How long is this occupation going to go on?” He said, “I can’t take it anymore.” But what he really meant was, “I can’t justify it anymore.” How do you justify it?
I’m continually told by Christian Nationalists that the idea of separation of church and state is just some lie thought up by liberals. Those liberals! They are the reason everything in the U.S. goes wrong when it does. They are the reason why capitalism never gets the real chance it deserves to let the riches of the wealthy trickle down to the poor losers who never really deserve anything better anyway! I’ll never forget how a spokesperson for a right-wing Christian ministry assured me that the real enemy of the Palestinians were their liberal supporters.
I passionately believe that Jesus is God come in the flesh and the inspiration of the Bible. It may shock readers of this blog, but I’m not much of a Darwinist either, but none of that matters in the eyes of those who believe in Christian nationalism or support the Zionist state. Once you support things like indigenous rights to self determination or , God help me, think that there may be a better way than capitalism and that western imperialism is not justified by even one conversion to Christ, then all is lost. You are a GODLESS liberal and everything you stand for instantly becomes a lie.
After years of being bombarded with the counter narratives of the religious right, I finally decided that what my faith really is about is going out and showing the same mercy that was shown to me by God. That is, unmerited favour. If anyone else out there feels the same, then read the following article posted on the Mondoweiss website on the 22nd of October 2011.
Struggling for water in Gaza
Oct 22, 2011 07:14 am | Leila al-Najar and Ishraq Othman
The Beach camp “Al-shate” is located to the west of Gaza City. Small houses are crowded together with an unbearable smell springing from the wastewater running through the alleys. As volunteers in Youth for the Right of Water and Sanitation project (YRWS) we occasionally visit homes there randomly for our case study on water problems. Residents suffer enormously from serious water problems caused by the Israeli occupation which for years has undertaken exploiting and withdrawing all our pure water resources; groundwater, the Jordan River, the Gaza valley and Lake Tiberius. Thus, all aquifers start to run out and the problem of salty water is increasingly appearing in most houses in Gaza.
We visited the home of Haider Saed Abu-Jazya, a 51 year old carpenter and a father of 14 children whose family has a long miserable history with water. “We have been suffering from water shortage and unfair distribution for 10 years. It’s only available for two days a week beginning at midnight only to run out again in the morning. Along with the problem of polluted insufficient supply another problem has emerged, salty water” said Haider who looks older than his age.
The tone of Haider’s voice tells us he is extremely worried about his family’s life. He is likely to pass on the misery he inherited from his refugee parents to his children. “Can you drink a cup of tea melted with three spoons of salt? Absolutely you cannot” he stresses. He describes how salty and polluted water negatively affects his family. For this, he is obliged to buy a 500-liter gallon supply of water which costs 15 NIS 4 US dollars a day. Sometimes he borrows from a neighbor or friend to pay for it, other times his friends have no money to offer.
Not only is pure water used for drinking but also for ordinary daily use. Haider has a big family, yet he earns a low income to cover the simplest and most important needs of life like water which must be affordable to all people as a matter of human rights.
“A house without water as quiet as a desert”, he concludes.
Once, he ran out of water for two weeks in a row, so his wife couldn’t do the house chores like cooking, washing and laundering. Thus, they had to throw their dirty clothes away, which were not laundered for days and could not be used again.
How can a human being survive in such conditions?! How can not one be infected by diseases of salty water?
“The low quality of water causes allergies and red pimples arising on my children’s skin” his wife whispers.
WHAT TO DO?!
“All dwellers of the neighborhood gathered and headed to the municipality to complain about the water problems we all face, there were promises made but never fulfilled” he said.
Haider speaks on behalf of the Palestinian nation, hoping this voice will be heard all over the planet.
To those who read this article, imagine that you cannot get a drop of pure water while your baby is strongly crying because his milk is his only food.
Palestine suffers from severe lack of water and Gaza’s water in particular is going to run out by 2020. As long as the world commits absolute silence, Gaza will turn into a wasteland. Gaza needs your help, don’t hesitate to help our people.
Over the past few days our western media has shown footage of the return of Israeli prisoner of war, Gilad Shalit. The joy his parents must be feeling at the final ending of a nightmare that has lasted 5 years can’t be overstated. What of course has not been shown are the similar scenes of joy that have taken place with the return home of hundreds of imprisoned Palestinians, some of whom have been in prison for over 25 years. Without doubt many of those released have been involved in terrorist attacks and the impact that this must be having on the families of the victims of those attacks is impossible to imagine. No doubt media attention to the families of the Israeli victims of terrorism will not be allowed to go unnoticed by the western media while at the same time the sorrow and sense of injustice that the families of the 1400 victims of Operation Cast Lead are feeling, will go on with out a blink of western eyes. Arabs are never the real victims of injustice, or so we are lead to believe. With thousands of Palestinians still being held in Israeli jails, many of them without charge or proper legal defense, the nightmare of many Palestinian families will continue. What impact this has on peace negotiations or the standing of Hamas in the eyes of Palestinians remains to be seen. While the media portrays the prisoner swap as a lopsided act of generosity by the Israelis, the concessions made by Hamas in the deal are not spoken of. All analysis of the prisoner swap must be made in the context of which party is the provocateur in this conflict and who has the real power to bring peace: Israel.
The following article appeared on the Mondoweiss website on October 19th 2011
UNICEF pressures Israel on child detainees
Oct 19, 2011 02:56 pm | Adam Horowitz
From Foreign Policy’s Turtle Bay blog:
As the Israeli-Palestinian prisoner swap got under way this week, the U.N. Children’s Fund (UNICEF) appealed late last night to the Israel military to ensure the release of 164 Palestinian prisoners detained as minors, mostly on charges of throwing stones at Israeli authorities.
The minors were not included in a list of the first round 477 Palestinian prisoners who were released in exchange for one Israel soldier, Gilad Shalit, freed by Hamas after five years of captivity through a prison swap brokered by the Egyptian government. It remains unclear whether the minors will be included in a second round of an additional 550 Palestinian prisoners due to be released in the coming months, according to UNICEF officials.
“As stated in the convention on the rights of the child, the detention of children should be used only as a measure of last resort for the shortest appropriate period of time,” said Jean Gough, UNICEF’s Special Representative in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. “UNICEF calls on the Israeli government to release Palestinian child detainees so that they can be reunited with their families.”
Israel’s U.N. ambassador, Ron Prosor, reacted sharply to the U.N. agencies appeal, telling Turtle Bay in a statement that “this press release demonstrates UNICEF’s clear bias and double-standards when it comes to Israel. Its timing is mind-boggling.”
Prosor said that while Israel is willing to discuss the concerns of any humanitarian agency UNICEF “should use its time and resource to focus on real violators of children’s rights in the Middle East.”
Israel’s detention of minors has been a sore point for the U.N. children’s agencies and other children’s rights groups, who maintain that children should not be tried by military courts and that governments should only jail minors under the most extreme circumstances. “Military tribunals are not required to treat children’s best interests as their primary concern, and, therefore, are not an appropriate forum for hearing cases against children,” according to a September report by the U.N. secretary general special representative for children and armed conflict, Radikha Coomaraswamy.
“Seven thousand Palestinian children have been detained, interrogated and prosecuted and imprisoned in the Israeli military system over the past ten years,” Catherine Weibel, a spokeswoman for UNICEF said in a phone interview today.
Weibel said that 35 of the detained minors are between the ages of 12 and 15 but that most are 16 or 17 years of age. Under Israeli law, minors over the age of 14 can be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison for throwing a stone at an individual, and up to 20 years for hurling it at a moving vehicle. In practice, Israeli military courts rarely sentence minors to more than 2 months, and typically hold them for a period of a couple of weeks to about 3 months. Children under the age of 12 are released from custody without being charged.
With almost universal agreement (except for the Christian supporters of Zionism), the international community has come to realise that the continued construction of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem is the real impediment to justice and peace in the Israel-Palestine conflict. Christian Zionists need to understand that the continued support (particularly the financial support) of the illegal settlements in the occupied territories constitutes a flagrant breach of God’s command that we be peace makers, not just peace lovers. The following post was published by Philip Weiss on the Mondoweiss website on October 14th 2011.
Fat lady sings — Israel announces new E J’lem neighborhod called Givat Hamatos
by Philip Weiss on October 14, 2011
Big news. Netanyahu claims yet another spoil from his political victory over Obama: Israel has approved another new settlement in occupied East Jerusalem, a new neighborhood of 2600 homes.
“Disastrous new plan to build new settlement in southeast Jerusalem is potential killer of peace agreement,” Ori Nir of Peace Now tweeted yesterday. Peace Now, which broke word of the Hebrew announcement of the deal, calls the plan, “a game changer that significantly changes the possible border between Israel and Palestine.”
The neighbourhood is called Givat Hamatos and will be situated in the chink of land between Gilo and Har Homa above Bethlehem.
From the NYT report on the announcement:
Reacting to the news, the chief Palestinian Authority negotiator, Saeb Erekat, who was in Paris with President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority, was quoted by Agence France-Presse as saying it proved “the Israeli government wants to destroy the peace process and the two-state solution.”
From the Peace Now report on the new settlement:
Unlike recent plans that caused controversy in Gilo and Pisgat Ze’ev which expanded the footprint of existing neighborhoods, the new plan creates an entirely new footprint of a new Israeli neighborhood in East Jerusalem…Parts of the plan for Palestinian construction? -there will probably be those in the Israeli government who will argue that the new neighborhood will not necessarily be only for Jews. Similar protestations were voiced in defense of the construction of the settlement of Har Homa, and eventually there wasn’t even one unit built for Palestinians in Har Homa.
The world wide BDS campaign designed to put economic pressure on the Zionist state of Israel continues to gain momentum. The following article was published on the JTA website, The Global News Service of the Jewish People, at http://www.jta.org/news/article/2011/10/06/3089743/swedish-academics-call-for-boycott-of-israel-institutions, on October 6th 2011.
JTA) – More than 200 professors and students from Sweden have signed on to a call for an academic boycott of Israeli institutions.
The boycott petition was initiated by the Action Group for the Boycott of Israel at the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm.
According to the petition, “Israeli academic institutions are deeply complicit in Israel’s occupation of Palestine. They cooperate closely with the security-military establishment. They offer advice to military intelligence and assist in developing weapon technologies for the Occupation forces. So far, none of the Israeli academic institutions have dissociated themselves from the occupation regime, or condemned the entrenched system of discrimination of Palestinians.”
The petition adds that the boycott is not aimed at individuals but against institutions. It calls on the Swedish academics to refuse to participate in collaborations with Israel universities; to refrain from attending academic activities at Israeli universities; to suspend all funding to Israeli universities; to promote divestment from Israel by academic institutions; and to foster initiatives that support Palestinian educational institutions.
The Royal Institute of Technology has an ongoing relationship with the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa, home to Israel’s latest Nobel Prize winner.
European Jewish Congress President Dr. Moshe Kantor slammed the boycott call.
“It is incongruous that in the week that an Israeli scientist was awarded the Nobel Prize by The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, a group of Swedish academics are calling for a boycott of Israeli educational institutions,” Kantor said.
“This merely demonstrates that those who are involved with calling for boycotts against Israel are uninterested in the free transmission of values, education and progress.”
While I do not believe that the roots of the Israel-Palestine conflict are to be found in religious issues, it seems clear now that religious extremists have entered the fray from all sides and have made the path to a just peace even more difficult. Whether it be Christian Nationalists in the U.S., Christian Zionists, Right wing Zionists, Radical Islamists or Ultra Orthodox religious Zionists, all these groups have done nothing for the cause of justice, peace, self determination, democracy and reconciliation. This is because all of these groups place a very low priority on these values and hence find it easy to turn religious values that esteem the ideas of compassion and mercy into dogmas where hatred becomes virtuous. The following article was posted on the Mondoweiss website on 8th October 2011.
Muslim and Christian cemeteries desecrated in Jaffa on eve of Yom Kippur
Oct 08, 2011 07:17 pm | annie
From the Facebook photo album “Extremist attack Muslim and Christian cemeteries in Jaffa”:
Images of assault by the Zionist extremists on the Islamic cemetery named “Al-kazachana”, and they also made a assault on the Christian Orthodox cemetery adjacent to it.
They left racist statements such as “Death to Arabs” and “Price Tag” on the graves and walls in addition to Smashing and vandalizing a number of gravestones.
While Haaretz opens its report on the desecration of Muslim and Christian graves in Jaffa with Prez Peres’s denouncement Yossi Gurvitz over @+972 hits all the right notes: “So what can be done? We can begin by closing down the hornet’s nest, the yeshiva in Yitzhar, and ban all its teachers and students from the West Bank.”
The fact that they boil over the Green Line is not accidental. These people, after all, are the disciples of Baruch Goldstein; if they had broader horizons, they could name Abu Musab Al Zarqawi as another mentor. Their whole purpose is ending this calmness. They want blood, fire and columns of smoke. When these will appear, they will lean back and say “we told you so.” Another point worth noting is the desecration of the Christian cemetery: Contrary to the myths, it proves that the hatred of mankind of Orthodox Judaism has little if anything to do with the current conflict with the Palestinians. It is the last in a long, under-reported attacks on Christian establishments in Israel.
One further wonders whether this escalation – how many more steps to the gates of hell? – is not a response, among others, to the arrest of a suspect in the burning of the mosque in Tuba Zangaria. Terror organizations often react in this way to the arrest of their members, and the whole logic of the “price tag” pogroms is to punish Palestinians for the actions of the security forces.
The guilt resides, as Tibi noted correctly, with the government of Israel. PM Netanyahu may denounce these pogroms, but he is speaking out of both sides of his mouth: He had no problem whatsoever sitting on the same platform with Dov Lior, possibly the worst of the inciting rabbis. Shmuel Elihau, the municipal rabbi of Safed, keeps drawing his government salary despite publishing illegal calls for denying apartments to Israeli Palestinians. This is the same Eliahu who openly and clearly refused to denounce the “price tag” pogroms. He is still in office. Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar – the one suspected of kidnapping and assault, not the one suspected of receiving bribes and inappropriately touching men – said this week that the burning of the mosque in Tuba Zangria “may have been a blood libel.” (Hebrew) It’s easy to imagine the uproar had, say, a Polish bishop said he opposed the burning of synagogues, but we should first ascertain this isn’t a blood libel against good Christians. Amar keeps his job as if nothing happened; we didn’t even had a proper public outcry. In short, the government of Israel looks, when trying to fight Jewish terrorism, like the Saudi government of a decade ago, facing the Salafist terrorists: It is a main source of funds to the terrorists, and they can only exist because the government’s armed forces support them.
The West Bank pogromchiks has made a mockery of the IDF’s legal obligation to protect the indigent population from them. Now they are trying to make it plain to Israeli Palestinians that they, too, will not be protected by the Zionist regime – and the latter know it’s not that the regime can’t, it’s that it won’t.
Read the entire article. Gurvitz is Tweeting (Hebrew) from a protest going on in Jaffa right now. “More than a hundred people, in my estimation.”
Some of the ideas that inspired me to create this blog, and write my book, come from the doctrines of Orthodox religious Jews who reject Zionism in the name of the Torah. The tradition in Orthodox Judaism that takes an anti-Zionist approach is not novel in our world, as is Zionism itself, but stretches back in time to the Oaths taken by the Rabbis, and recorded in the Talmud, around 130 AD according to Jewish tradition. The early advocates of Zionism found staunch resistance from the Orthodox community to say the least. Yosef Salmon tells us that;
It was the Zionist threat that offered the gravest danger, for it sought to rob the traditional community of its very birthright, both in the Diaspora and in Eretz Israel, the object of its messianic hopes. Zionism challenged all the aspects of traditional Judaism: in its proposal of a modern, national Jewish identity; in the subordination of traditional society to new life-styles; and in its attitude to religious concepts of Diaspora and redemption. The Zionist threat reached every Jewish community. It was unrelenting and uncompromising, and therefore it met with uncompromising opposition (cited in Rabkin, 2006, p. 2).
Israeli intellectual, Boaz Evron has stated:
“Zionism is indeed the negation of Judaism” (cited in Rabkin, 2006, p. 56).
Over the last six months, a number of Christian folk, both in support of this blog and against it, have made comments that challenge the more favourable view of Judaism that I hold to in this blog. According to them, Orthodox Judaism is ultimately guided by the Talmud, particularly the Babylonian Talmud, which they say, contains teachings that are reprehensible to all gentiles and Christians in particular. The Talmud’s teachings are held up as near satanic doctrines that all Christians should be made aware of. The Christians who have made these comments are sincere in their position and tell me that their conclusions have come from years of careful study. I have decided to post some comments made by one of the Rabbis of Neturei Karta, Rabbi Beck, concerning these claims about the Talmud. Jewish Rabbis are not naive to these criticisms in any way; having come across them on many occasions. If anyone would like to chase these comments up further, I would refer them to the Neturei Karta website, the link to them can be found under the Links heading down the left hand side of my blog.
I do not claim that criticism of the Talmud is always evidence of anti-Semitism (any more than I think criticism of the New Testament is necessarily evidence of Christaphobia) and I do not think it is so in the case of those fellow Christians who have commented on this blog. Nor do I claim to be an expert on this matter, but I do think the primary way to learn about Judaism is by first listening to its advocates directly.
An Orthodox Rabbi writes in defense of the Talmud.
When G-d gave us the Torah, He also gave us an explanation of its laws, to be transmitted orally from generation to generation. For example, the Torah prohibits work on the Sabbath, but does not say exactly what “work” means. G-d explained to Moses orally that it means carrying objects in the street, lighting fires, tying knots, slaughtering animals and so on. The Torah says to take the fruit of the goodly trees on Succoth, but does not say which fruit. Oral tradition explains that it is the ethrog or citron. If you think about it, most of the laws in the Torah are impossible to observe without more explanation.
These explanations were passed down from teacher to student for about 1500 years, until around the year 200 of the Common Era. At that time the Sages became afraid that the laws would be forgotten, and they decided to write them down. This written work was called the Mishnah, and is the backbone of the Talmud. Even this Mishnah was written in a concise style and left much room for oral explanation, which went on being passed down for another 300 years. At that time it was written down, again out of fear of being forgotten, as the Talmud. All of Jewish law today is based on the Talmud, and is kept by all observant Jews.
Countless passages in the Talmud, its commentaries and legal codes show the ideals of kindness and fairness to all of mankind aspired to and practiced by the Jewish people.
Unfortunately, some individuals in our time have accused the Talmud of advocating racism and unfair treatment of gentiles. They provide short quotations, invariably taken completely out of context, that seem to support their accusations.
In reply to these accusers, we can only remind people that the Talmud contains a vast amount of material; to cover it all takes the brightest scholars a lifetime of study. Although it does contain a small number of statements directed at gentiles, most of the Talmud consists of laws and sharply-stated ethical teachings directed at Jews. For every “anti-gentile” statement the critics can find, there are ten “anti-Jewish” statements. And just as the latter must be studied in context, so too the former.
One brief example: the Babylonian Talmud was written in Babylonia as its name indicates. Yet it contains the statement, “Whoever lives outside the Holy Land is as if he worshipped idols.”
The greatest proof that the Talmud does not advocate unfair treatment of gentiles is that ever since the Talmud was completed, the Jews who follow it have lived in exile among many gentile countries. In every place where they lived, they conducted their business affairs with the local gentiles with the utmost honesty and fairness.
Many of the quotations posted online by anti-Semites are half-true but are translated incorrectly or taken out of context. You can read a good refutation to most of these accusations at:
Below you will find quotations from the major codes of Talmudic law, exemplifying the Talmud’s positions on gentiles. The Code of Jewish Law, written about 500 years ago by a Palestinian rabbi named Rabbi Joseph Caro (1488-1575), is today the universally accepted codification of Talmudic law. Before that, the codes of Maimonides (1135-1204) were prevalent.
Jews are obligated to give charity to poor gentiles as well as poor Jews (Code of Jewish Law, Yoreh Deah 251:1)
Jews must bury the dead of the gentiles, comfort their mourners and visit their sick. (Maimonides, Laws of Mourning 14:12)
The commandment of “visiting the sick” applies to sick gentiles as well as sick Jews. (Code of Jewish Law, Yoreh Deah 335:9)
Anyone who steals even a minor amount violates the prohibition of [Leviticus 19:11] “You shall not steal” and is required to repay [the amount stolen] whether one steals from a Jew or a gentile. (Code of Jewish Law, Choshen Mishpat 348:2)
It is forbidden to rob or to cheat even a minor amount from either a Jew or a gentile. (Code of Jewish Law, Choshen Mishpat 359:1)
It is Biblically forbidden to steal even a minor amount; even a gentile – it is forbidden to steal from him or to cheat him. And if you stole from him or cheated him you must return the stolen money or object. (Maimonides, Laws of Stealing 1:2)
Maimonides of blessed memory wrote that if one lies in his measures and thereby overcharges even to an idolatrous gentile one violates a negative commandment and must return the money. Similarly, it is forbidden to mislead the gentiles in calculating prices as it says [Leviticus 25:50] “he shall make a reckoning with his purchaser” even if he is subjugated to your authority; even more so if the gentile is not subjugated to your authority, and it says [Deuteronomy 25:16] “For an abomination to the Lord, you G-d, are all who do this.” (Sefer HaChinuch, 259)
And similiarly, lies, tricks, subterfuges, cheatings, and circumventions of gentiles are forbidden. They said, “It is forbidden to deceive anyone, even an idolatrous gentile” and even more so when it can lead to the desecration of G-d’s name. For that is a great sin and imbues in a person bad traits. And regarding all these wicked actions, G-d explained that He will be disgusted with them and with those who perform them, as it says: (Deuteronomy 18:12) “For anyone who does these is an abomination of G-d.” (Maimonides, Commentary to the Mishnah, Keilim 12:7)
Returning Lost Objects
R. Chaninah told this story: Some rabbinic scholars bought one pile of wheat from some gentile soldiers. [The scholars] found in it a bundle of money and returned it to [the soldiers]. [The soldiers] said “Blessed is the G-d of the Jews.” (Jerusalem Talmud Bava Metzia 2:5 (7a))
Once, Rabbi Shimon ben Shetach bought a donkey from an Arab. His students went and found a precious stone hanging around [the donkey's] neck. Rabbi said to him [Proverbs 10:22] “It is the blessing of G-d that enriches.” R. Shimon ben Shetach said to him “I bought a donkey. I did not buy a precious stone.” He went and returned it to the Arab and the Arab said “Blessed is the G-d of Shimon ben Shetach.” (Midrash Devarim Rabbah 3:3)
R. Shmuel ben Sustrai went to Rome when the empress had lost her bracelet and he found it. A decree was proclaimed in the region that anyone who returned it within 30 days would be paid such and such; anyone who returned it after 30 days would be beheaded. He didn’t return it within 30 days but after 30 days. She said to him “Weren’t you in the region?” He replied “Yes.” She said to him “Didn’t you hear the proclamation?” He replied “Yes.” She said to him “What was it?” He replied “Whoever returns it within 30 days will receive such and such; whoever returns it after 30 days will be beheaded.” She said to him “And why didn’t you return it within 30 days?” He replied “So that you wouldn’t say that I did it because of fear of you; rather I did it out of fear of G-d.” She said to him “Blessed is the G-d of the Jews.” (Jerusalem Talmud Bava Metzia 2:5 (7a))
Talmud, Tractate Chullin 94a. Shmuel said: One may not deceive another person, even a non-Jew. This was not said explicitly by Shmuel, but was derived from the following story: Shmuel once crossed the river using a ferryboat. He told his servant to pay the ferryman. The servant gave the ferryman a non-kosher chicken, allowing the ferryman to assume that it was kosher.
The Talmudic commentator Rashi explains: Shmuel’s law explains why the Mishnah says that one may not give a non-Jew a piece of meat from which the sciatic nerve (forbidden to Jews) was not removed. The non-Jew might not notice this and may assume that the Jew is giving him valuable kosher meat. He will then feel gratitude toward the Jew, a gratitude based on a false premise.
This law is codified by Maimonides (Laws of Sale 18:3) and by the Code of Jewish Law (Choshen Mishpat 228:6).
In summary, Judaism exhorts Jews to give non-Jews fair treatment, and thereby to sanctify the name of G-d in the world by showing mankind that those who follow His laws are just and compassionate.
Rabbi E. Beck
Christian Zionists have been at the forefront of a movement which encourages Jewish people to take more and more land from territories that were set aside by the U.N. for a Palestinian state. They have been especially eager to provide funds for the illegal Israeli settlements which are clearly provocative to the Palestinian people and an impediment to a just and peaceful settlement. They are the first to depict Palestinians as anti-Semites; a violent people bent on the murder of Jews and the destruction of Israel. Narratives that tell of violence and injustice on the side of “God’s Chosen people” are ignored.Christian Zionists need to be aware of who and what they are supporting when they stand at anti-BDS protests, waving the Israeli flag. The following post was written by Richard Silverstein who writes Tikun Olam, a blog dedicated to resolution of the Israeli-Arab conflict. He also contributed to the Independent Jewish Voices essay collection A Time to Speak Out.
The article can be found at the following link.
Anatot Pogrom Victims Suffered Sexual Abuse
If all I did in this post was tell you about the suffering of Israeli peace activists who were beaten and brutalized at a pogrom at Anatot a few days ago, I would be telling you little that was newsworthy or that you didn’t know already. I’ve already reported here that senior Israeli police officers not only stood by and did nothing while bones were broken and one settler attempted to knife a protester, but that the police actually directly beat up the activists who’d come to support a Palestinian farmer whose land had been stolen by the settlement.
No, all this would be old news. But what Idan Landau has done is to focus very specifically on the level of sexual violence meted out to the female protesters by the settlers. But not just by the male settlers, by the female settlers specifically. I’ve read about the violence of which settlers are capable for years. That’s nothing new. But what Idan has collected in his blog post is new. Here is my translation (pardon the strong language which is in the original Hebrew) along with links to the original Hebrew eyewitness sources. Israeli journalist Haggai Matar quotes this victim:
“Outside [the vehicle], settlers are banging on the windows making a sign with their fingers drawn across their throats to show that they would slash my throat. They shriek: ‘Bring her outside [the vehicle]. We’ll deal with her. Give her what she has coming to her, the whore!’”
Tali Harkavy writes in Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity:
“‘Hellenist [derogatory term for Jew who betrays her religion]. Arabs f__k her in the ass.’ I want to get away. To run. I retreat quickly with my back to the path and my front to the attackers. Afraid to turn my back on them. One approaches too closely and rubs his crotch: ‘I’ll f__k you.’ He was serious.”
Sarah Benninga writes in Sheikh Jarrah:
“When the wives of the male attackers saw their husbands hitting male and female protestors alike, they [the settler women] applauded and spat at me: ‘Traitor,’ ‘You deserve it.’ And when they heard their husbands threaten us: ‘We’ll f__k you in the ass,’ they suddenly turned into men themselves, applauding their husbands’ sexual conquests as if they were one of the boys.”
Tal Konig reports in HaOketz:
“Three went to the hospital. Among them, Yassine [the Palestinian farmer originally attacked] with an open head wound, his wife over whose head they broke a broom handle, after which they abused her sexually.”
“The settlers actually stripped me naked. I tried to calm myself. History will bury them and their evil apartheid in blood.”
Landau interprets the language of the settlers as their means of revenge and redemption of their self-respect. Through rape, sodomy and other physical and verbal acts the honor of the tribe is upheld. It’s primitive, brutal, bestial, but alas all too human. We think we are Jews, that we don’t do such things, that we are civilized, that we have our sacred books and traditions that raise us above such brutalism. Alas, violence like this reminds us that we are only those things in our best moments. In our worst, we are no different. And when we are no different, we have betrayed those traditions which we like to think set us apart or above the worst humanity has to offer.
Finally, a word about the image Idan features in his post. Note that the face of the victim has been literally defaced. She is no longer a human being. She is in Hebrew a “SmolaNazi” (“Nazi leftist” or the equivalent of “Islamonazi”). This is the face of the Occupation. This is the dehumanization that settlements and oppression of another people do to Israel. And keep in mind that, as I’ve written before, Anatot is not Yitzhar; it isn’t the worst of the settlers, the ones harboring the real Jewish terrorists willing to put a bullet in an Arab’s back just for looking at ‘em. Anatot is known for being an average settlement where Israelis moved for improved quality of life and for inexpensive housing giving them more house for their money. These are the economic settlers, not the ideological settlers. If Occupation can turn these people into beasts it can do this to anyone, even the best of us.
So far, not a peep from the Israeli government about an investigation of this incident or prosecution of the criminal acts that took place. Really, they can’t. 70% of the residents of Anatot are police officers. Can they try ten or fifteen police officers for serious crimes without the entire national police force rising up as one in protest? These criminals are, in effect, the state. Can the state arrest and try itself?
If Israelis themselves won’t pressure to investigate, perhaps you can contact the Israeli embassy or consulate nearest where you live and protest this brutality and demand that they take action. Tell them that actions such as these are a disgrace to Israel’s reputation and bring ignominy upon it. That may get them to take notice.
And once again, I warn that the U.S. government is allowing American Jews to send tens of millions of dollars to brutal, violent settlers and settlements just like this one, tax-free. We Americans and the Obama administration are colluding in this brutalization through our tax-deductible contributions.
The supporters of Israel see nothing provocative in the U.S. withholding $200 million in aid to Palestine while giving some $7 billion to Israel (officially a developed nation according to the United Nations) unconditionally. The U.S. once again shows that they consider economic and strategic interests above human rights every time. Adam Horowitz published the following article on the Mondoweiss website on October 1st 2011.
US withholds $200 million from PA for punishment over statehood bid
Oct 01, 2011 09:21 am | Adam Horowitz
The United States Congress has blocked nearly $200m in aid to the Palestinians, the U.K’s Independent newspaper reported on Saturday.
The aid, which was destined for projects related to food aid, health care, and state building efforts, was to have been transferred to the Palestinian Authority during the U.S. fiscal year that ends today, according to the report.
However, following what the Independent described as an “unpublicized block” imposed on funding to the Palestinians since August this year, in response to the Palestinian bid for statehood at the UN, the remainder of the aid allocated to the Palestinian Authority for the current financial year will not be transferred.
The Independent reported that the block by three Congressional committees has been in force since August 18, when it was formally notified that USAID, the U.S. government aid agency, wanted to transfer the remaining $192m funding for the current fiscal year.
Obama’s administration is unable to commit further funding to the Palestinian Authority unless it persuades Congress to lift the freeze, according to the report.
The Independent report adds:
Former President Bill Clinton, among others, this month warned legislators to leave the issue of aid to the administration, adding: “Everybody knows the US Congress is the most pro-Israel parliamentary body in the world. They don’t have to demonstrate that.”