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The following article was written by Philip Weiss of Mondoweiss website.
The Blatancy of Apartheid
I’m no stranger to Israel and Palestine, still what shocks me about coming here is how blatant the system of unfairness is. Why is this not utterly familiar to me? I wonder. Why don’t Americans see this every day in the news? What kind of fairyland image are we getting of this place, and why? Or as the Canadian Christian pilgrim said to me last night leaving Qalandiya checkpoint, “What endless humiliation. And why is it such an open secret back home?” So everything here brings me back to the American denial, our blinded media, and to American Jewish identity and the lies that American Jews have told one another for generations.
A few impressions of the blatancy. I flew into Ben Guiron from Newark and my flight was mostly Jewish. There were no Palestinians or Arabs on the flight, as far as I could see. The sense was reinforced at Ben-Gurion. I saw no women wearing hijab, the customary form of dress in this part of the world. The shuttle I rode into Jerusalem had ten passengers, mostly American Jews, two binational Israeli American girls, a Christian tourist and an international aid type. This last passenger was dropped at Qalandiya checkpoint to go on to Ramallah. “Is this a hospital?” the orthodox girl in the front row asked. A reminder that the Palestinian reality is sealed off from Israelis, and also that Qalandiya is a vast bureaucratic complex in benign disguise, a border crossing that keeps the subject population Over There. “A lot of the Arabs throw rocks, that is why they put this up,” an older Jew who fought in the 48 war explained to his wife as we passed along the wall.
After I checked into my hotel in the Old City, I ran into Jeff Halper of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions. He pointed out the flags above on a dwelling in the Muslim Quarter and said that I was witnessing the process of the Judaization of the Old City and of East Jeursalem generally, Jews cordoning off the holy city. My picture is of Muslims going to the Al Aqsa mosque to pray under these flags. They are reminded of who is boss at every turn.
I have been through Qalandiya twice in the last day and cannot convey what a dreary oppressive experience this is. Long lines of people made to walk in a wide muddy circle past the neverending re-arranged concrete walls, one of which has Fuck You as an eloquent graffiti. The soldiers stand at huge concrete cubes that the bulldozers have placed just so, a couple-hips’-width apart, and stop us at three points on our way in. Women and men are separated, in a fashion that has ghoulish echoes of the worst moments of Jewish history.
Oh but now we have power, now we are in history. This is what thrills American Jews and neocons, our moment. Powerful people do screwed up things.
But all the while my heart is with the Palestinians around me. The men are all gleaming and bathed and fresh. It is Ramadan. They wear nice clothes. They meet your eyes in a welcoming fashion but no one is ingratiating. It is too humbling for anyone to say anything, where are you from? Welcome, which they say in ordinary circumstances. While in the Old City, in the Ramadan crowds that inch packed and dangerous toward the mosque, there are always men at the side spraying water on as you walk by. Tossing it from bottles, spraying it with sprayers, to cool you down. A lovely gesture of community, in which I am included.
I know there is a strong Jewish community a few hundred yards away. It has its own beauties and fellowship and loving embrace. But pardon me if I can’t find my way there right now. I was raised as a Jewish outsider in America, and my spirit gravitates toward the outsiders here.
The largest impression of all: These people have no freedom of movement. It takes hours to make a 10 mile trip, and none of the thoughtful city planning that Jews get in West Jerusalem is extended to the Palestinians. No, they must be constrained at every turn, and choked, so they want to fly away. I would fly away. I’d move to the Gulf, I’d go to Europe, I’d give up.
And again what I find staggering is that we have so little understanding of this reality in the west. I am witnessing apartheid. I cannot think of any other term that so describes the systematic separation of people by race /ethnicity/religion, and the subjugation of one ethnicity to another. Whatever the glories of Zionism in Jewish history, a case I’m more than willing to make, this is where it ground itself out, a boot in the face of a civilized people.
So yes I blame the media. I blame the Times for running Richard Goldstone’s farcical claim that apartheid is a slander rather than Stephen Roberts’s clear-eyed piece in the Nation that this is apartheid on steroids. I blame the Israel lobby for enforcing blindness to these conditions, I blame the politicians for accepting the blinders. I blame the Philadelphia Inquirer for saying the other day that a one state future is “untenable,” when what is happening before our eyes is atrocity on atrocity. I blame the Jewish community for lying about what is happening here endlessly, destroying our intellectual inheritance, in the belief that it is good for the Jews. It is a disaster for Jews. It is a disgrace that Americans will one day have university courses and museum exhibits to try to explain to one another when the next generation wakes up to this madness and responds with appropriate fury
While at times I can find no end to the number of things that I find distasteful about the colonialist Zionism of the State of Israel, I can’t help but be inspired by an equal number of things that the real traditions of Orthodox Judaism possess, which I believe have influenced secular Jewish thinking, including Zionism. It is in an appeal to these traditions (and recognition of the many diverse journeys of Jewish people) that I find a way, perhaps the only way, to have real dialogue with Jewish supporters of Israel. Christian Zionists could care less!
The following article, by Philip Weiss, help remind us of the influence of the great ethical traditions of the Jewish people. Traditions that many cultures share and hence are are a way for us to move forward together.
The gift of the Jews
Dec 26, 2011 08:48 am | Philip Weiss
The young Lessing
For the last few months I’ve been reading a classic of philosemitism: the “Martha Quest” novels of Doris Lessing. Set in Southern Rhodesia in 1936-1949 and published in England in the 1960s, the first four of these books trace the youth of a fiercely independent child of British colonials born, as Lessing was, in 1919.
Lessing is famous as a “kaffir-lover,” to use the racist slang hurled against her; her hatred of the color bar resulted in her leaving Rhodesia for England in 1949 and culminated in her winning the Nobel Prize four years ago. But there are no major black characters in these novels, and really Martha Quest is a Jew lover. Determined to overcome her parents’ anti-Semitism, she gravitates to the Jews in the provincial capital of Salisbury (now Harare, Zimbabwe).
A fatherly Jewish lawyer gives Martha a job so that she can leave her parents’ farm and move to the city. There Martha loses her virginity to one Jew (Eastern European “scum,” he says), marries another (German Communist refugee), and has an intense affair with a third (Zionist Communist). A Jewish doctor prescribes contraception and tells her she’s too far along for an abortion. Martha’s Jewish friend Stella sets the bar on fashion and decoration, while Jasmine Cohen sets the bar on politics. Jasmine’s cousin Abraham dies fighting in Spain– and Jews are all over the small Communist party group Martha joins. (In her actual autobiography, Lessing has said that the Jewish mentors in these books were based on real people.)
But my business here is not to count the many Jews in these books. It is to express pride in my inheritance as it was perceived by a non-Jew. The sense pours through these books that were it not for the Jews of that generation and their “ancient culture,” Doris Lessing could never have become Doris Lessing. As brilliant a writer as she is, Lessing needed to break out of the thick racist porridge of the land-based cultures that surrounded her—the British colonials with their “Sports Club” snobbery and the Dutch Afrikaaner men with thighs like “pillars”—and to do so she threw herself on intellectually-sophisticated Jews.
At the beginning of the Martha Quest story, there are the Cohen boys, Joss and Solly, the “brilliant” sons of a shopowner in the small town of Banket, who recognize adolescent Martha’s intelligence and send packages of books to her every week or two. From the books of Communism and psychology, “Martha had gained a clear picture of herself, from the outside.” This becomes her greatest “weapon” in life, literary consciousness:
“She was not only miserable, she would focus a dispassionate eye on that misery. This detached observer, felt perhaps as a clear-lit space situated just behind the forehead, was the gift of the Cohen boys at the station….”
The Cohen boys in their Kosher household–Solly a Trotskyite Zionist, Joss a Marxist–are exact cousins of the Jewish intellectuals at City College in the 1930s.
At the other end of the Rhodesian books is Martha’s tormented lover Thomas Stern, a paranoid refugee from Poland who has lost his sisters in the Holocaust and veers self-destructively from Communism to business, from Jewish terrorism in Palestine to human rights work on behalf of blacks. By scoffing at Martha’s urging that he renounce violence, Stern gives the Martha Quest books their title: The Children of Violence series. But Stern is not only called to violence, he’s called to retail:
“So you see how hard it is to escape one’s fate, Martha? In Poland, middle-men, money-makers—the Stern Brothers. And here? My brother’s a rich man already, and we left Poland with what we had on our backs, eight years ago.”
A lot of my writing on this site is critical of the Jewish political presence in modern America. But I have a chauvinist streak of my own, and Lessing’s non-Jewish eye confirms it in me. The Jewish gift helped to form Doris Lessing as a young writer: the cerebral, text-bound life of persecuted Jews gave her awareness of the world and encouraged her to deliver the savage-sympathetic portrait of white colonial society that would make her name in England in the 1950s. That life is the Jewish culture that I was born into– outsiders, people of the book, harsh critics of the social structure.
[Joss Cohen] fired the following questions at her, in the offhand indifferent manner of the initiate to a breed utterly without the law:
‘You repudiate the colour bar?’
‘But of course.’
‘Of course,’ he said sardonically. And then: ‘You dislike racial prejudice in all its form, including anti-Semitism?’
‘Naturally’—this with a touch of impatience.
‘You are an atheist?’
‘You know quite well that I am.’
‘You believe in socialism?’
‘That goes without saying,’ she concluded fervently; and suddenly began to laugh, from that sense of the absurd which it seemed must be her downfall as a serious person. For Joss was frowning at the laugh, and apparently could see nothing ridiculous in a nineteen-year-old Jewish boy, sprung from an orthodox Jewish family, and an adolescent British girl, if possible even more conventionally bred, agreeing to these simple axioms in the back room of a veld store in a village filled with people to whom every word of this conversation would have the force of a dangerous heresy.
Doris Lessing was an early adopter. Her philosemitism parallels the philosemitism of non-Jewish intellectuals in the States in the 40s and 50s, Edmund Wilson for instance, and anticipates by a generation or two full-blown American philosemitism of the meritocracy– when the White House was loaded with Jewish advisers, when Clinton put two Jews on the Supreme Court, when Jews became university presidents and started google and facebook and craigslist, and neocons guided our foreign policy.
American philosemitism reflects the Jewish contribution to this society. Recently I was told that the world still envies the U.S. because of four industries we have that no one else has (universities/research, film/media, software, and finance), and all these industries are as full of Jews as Doris Lessing’s early novels were. As Scott McConnell, who had something of Doris Lessing’s own Jewish-engendered intellectual awakening when he joined the Commentary neoconservative crowd in the 1980s, has told me, America is thankful to Jews because they are driving the economy. I think this recognition pervades Establishment culture. When I fault Chris Matthews for never talking about the Israel lobby, I must be aware that the network that gives him his salary was built and is now owned by Jewish entrepreneurs in the new global economy. When we try and explain the dismissal of Ron Paul, it is because he above all candidates is representative of an Establishment structure that has no truck with Jews– as opposed to Romney with his neoconservative advisers, Gingrich with his Sheldon Adelson money and Barack Obama with his Axelrods and AIPACs and Crowns. When I marvel that Robert Kagan works for Romney and his wife works for Obama without anyone raising an eyebrow, or that Stuart Levey the former Under Secretary of Treasury worked for Bush and Obama without a hitch—again, this is a measure of the large Jewish presence in the Establishment. Jewish gifts have propelled the new economy, such as it is. And when people accuse Occupy Wall Street of anti-semitism, it is in part because Occupy are critics of the new economy, and much of that economy was built by Jews.
Back when we were outsiders, Hannah Arendt warned Jews about reverence for wealth: liberal Zionists, she wrote, “failed to… attack the role of Jewish finance in the political structure of Jewish life.”
That same warning is sounded in the Martha Quest books, from the restless Communist Zionist Thomas Stern:
“Unlike you, when I work, I think in terms of money. I’m learning that it’s terrifyingly easy to make money.”
“I don’t want you to laugh about money. I’ve got to outwit it. I’ve got to find a way of not becoming Thomas Stern, rich merchant of this city.”
The beauty and tragedy of the Children of Violence series is that Thomas Stern does outwit that fate, at the cost of his own life. But modern American Jews are still stuck with Stern’s contradictions. We’re Zionists, and we’ve been incredibly successful. With the success has come something that none of the provincial Jews in Lessing’s philosemitic saga ever dreamed of having: power, which has eroded our outsiderness and endangered our detachment—that dispassionate eye on misery, that clear-lit space situated just behind the forehead.
It is not that Jews are incapable of that detachment. Many are. But the Cohen boys shared that gift a long time ago, and it is no longer just ours.
Recently, the former Australian Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer, wrote an article for the Adelaide Advertiser newspaper commenting on the “daily violence” that Israelis must put up with from terrorist actions. Downer habitually omits the daily violence committed by the IDF and Israeli settlers on Palestinian civilians. Downer seems to forget that no Israelis have to deal with Palestinian bulldozers that turn up to destroy Israeli homes. No Palestinian tanks routinely charge up and down Israeli towns and suburbs. No Palestinian check-points exist within Israel (or any where else for that matter) to hold up and harass Israelis on their way to school, work or just home. No walls (built by Palestinians) divide Israeli communities from their homes, lands and places of work and education. No Palestinian settlements (deemed illegal by the overwhelming majority of the international community) exist within greater Israel. Nowhere in Israel can you see Palestinian extremists marching around in broad daylight carrying automatic weapons without a blink from the authorities. Nowhere can you find water wells and olive groves in Israel (owned by Israelis) that have been pulled up and destroyed by Palestinian settlers who are on Israeli land illegally. No Israeli refugee camps exist anywhere. the list could go on and on…
The following article from the Mondoweiss website tell of yet more violence in the Israel-Palestine conflict. Violence, the type of which is a daily occurrence to Palestinians, not Israelis.
Israeli soldier shoots protester in face at close range with teargas canister
by Alex Kane and Philip Weiss on December 9, 2011
Violence rocked the occupied Palestinian territories today, as a demonstrator in Nabi Saleh was critically injured and Gazans continued to brace Israeli air attacks. Four Gazans were killed in the attacks, including at least one civilian.
Mustafa Tamimi, a 28-year-old resident of the village of Nabi Saleh, was shot in the face by an Israel Defense Forces (IDF) tear-gas canister after apparently throwing stones at an Israeli army vehicle. News of the injury quickly came in through Twitter:
“He was throwing rocks at the jeep, the door opened and the canister was fired with precision and intent straight in his face.” # nabisaleh
Other Twitter users on the ground in Nabi Saleh claimed that at first, the Israeli army was not allowing them to take Tamimi to the hospital. But their troubles weren’t over when the Israeli army allowed Tamimi to go. A tweet sent from the account of the Active Stills photography collective reported: “One of our photographers and 2 friends of Mostafa Tamimi are detained by Security guards in Beilinson hospital.”
The Popular Struggle Coordination Committee (PSCC) has more on what happened:
Mustafa Tamimi, a 28 year old resident of Nabi Saleh, was shot in the face today, during the weekly protest in the village of Nabi Saleh. He sustained a severe injury to his head, under his right eye, and was evacuated to the Belinson hospital in Petah Tikwa. He is currently anesthetized, breathing through tubes, and his condition is described as serious. Tamimi is undergoing treatment in the trauma ward of the hospital, and is expected to undergo surgery later tonight…
The incident took place in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh today, when dozens gathered for the weekly demonstration in the village, protesting the theft of village lands by the adjacent Jewish-only settlement of Nabi Saleh. After the army dispersed the peaceful march, minor clashes erupted followed by a severe response by Israeli forces. Several people were hit with rubber-coated bullets and directly shot tear gas projectiles. Three were evacuated to the Ramallah hospital for further treatment. One protester was arrested.
The demonstrations, which have been held regularly for the past two years have seen hundreds of injuries to protesters by Israeli forces as well as dozens of arrests carried out with the aim of supressing dissent.
The PSCC posted this video of the aftermath of the shooting. Warning to viewers: It is extremely graphic and disturbing.
An IDF spokesperson, Avital Leibovich, tweeted a photo of a slingshot Tamimi was allegedly using to explain the Israeli army’s actions.
Meanwhile, there has been an escalation in violence in the Gaza Strip. This latest flare-up was sparked by an Israeli air strike in Gaza that killed Palestinian fighters who Israel says were involved in attacks on Israel originating from Egypt’s Sinai.
Prime Minister in Gaza Ismail Haniyeh said Friday that his government was holding intensive talks with regional and international parties to stop Israel’s escalation in attacks on the enclave.
Four Palestinians have been killed since Wednesday and at least 20 injured in a series of airstrikes on Gaza City. The Israeli army expressed regret that civilians were hurt in the attacks, which injured at least seven children.
Speaking after Friday prayers in Gaza City, Haniyeh said Israel’s latest flare up in aggression was preceded by threats of a new military action by Israeli leaders.
About Alex Kane and Philip Weiss
Alex Kane is a staff reporter for Mondoweiss. Follow him on Twitter @alexbkane.
One Friday evening while at the BDS protests here in Adelaide, South Australia, I noticed one of the Christian Zionist counter protesters was holding a small sign calling for the immediate release of an Israeli soldier , Gilad Shalit, held prisoner by Hamas for the last five years. The torture that Gilad’s parents must be going through should touch the hearts of all who seek justice and peace in the Middle East. What should also not evade our hearts is the torture endured by the thousands of Palestinian parents whose loved ones are routinely held captive in the West Bank by the Israelis, sometimes for years without formal charges or trial. But their suffering is not allowed to be felt by us. Their sorrow is not to be felt by westerners. Our government and media sees to that. And when the Christian Zionist protesters get in touch with their “righteous” anger over the murder of a Jewish settler family in the West Bank, the last thing our media would want is to remind the supporters of Israel and the average Australian, that Palestinians are murdered by Jewish settlers and members of the IDF on an almost daily basis. The following article appeared on the Mondoweiss website on September 30th 2011.
Why isn’t Kusra killing on the front page of our newspapers?
Sep 30, 2011 02:10 pm | Philip Weiss
Imagine for a moment that on the day of the fancy speeches at the U.N. last Friday an Israeli father had been killed by a rocket out of Gaza. You know that the killing and the funeral would have been big news in the States. I bet we would have seen a photo of the grieving family and village on the front page of the Times– alongside of Abbas, asking the world for a Palestinian state. The nightly news would have had some footage.
Well last Friday morning — as Mahmoud Abbas later stated in his speech that day at the U.N.– Israeli soldiers killed a Palestinian father of 7 in the little village of Kusra in the northern West Bank. Issam Badran was 35.
A group of Israeli settlers came to tear down the village’s olive trees. They had set fire to its mosque earlier this month. And the village is resisting in its way. Three hundred people from the village went out to protect their lands last Friday.
Israeli soldiers came between the settlers and Palestinians. And who did they attack– the villagers! They shot Badran in the neck. Here is the best account I’ve seen: link to www.palestinemonitor.org
And Morgan Bach of Seattle, Washington, a 24-year-old volunteer teacher in another village near Nablus, gave this report of Badran’s funeral.
I see nothng in the New York Times or Washington Post.
Yesterday Haaretz had a report on the killing by its military correspondent Amos Harel. An IDF investigation faults the soldiers’ conduct. link to www.haaretz.com
But note this astonishing report from the army that Harel parrots:
The remaining soldiers came under attack with rocks thrown by villagers, and most of them suffered injuries, most of them light. At that point a company commander and three other IDF troops rescued the besieged soldiers, but then they, too, came under a hail of rocks from short range. It was only when the use of tear gas failed to disperse the crowd that an order was made to use live weapon fire.
According to the interim findings of the investigation, a soldier directed two shots at the lower part of the body of the Palestinian who was shot in the incident after he ws identified as the leader of the crowd. He was hit around the hips, but the bullet exited from his neck and he died.
Is this believable? It is Palestinian boys who throw stones, not 35-year-old fathers, by and large. Most of the soldiers were injured? They used live weapon fire???! And a bullet fired at the hips kills a man in the neck? What is going on here?
I know why Harel parrots. He’s an Israeli covering the government. And the state of Israel tolerates marauding rightwing colonists as they torch a village’s mosque and make for its olive trees. No one is protecting these villagers, except international volunteers. Morgan Bach is protecting a village not far away, with her presence.
In the 60s the New York Times was factchecking the Jim Crow accounts. This time around the White House is afraid to criticize the settlers, and we must rely for American reports on a 24-year-old idealist from Seattle to tell us what is going on.
If you wonder why our politics are broken on this issue, and why American public opinion is stuck, a big part of the answer is that American reporters are not going to Kusra.