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It is a given that no elected Republican government official can agree with anything President Obama says or does. Whether or not this is due to genuine philosophical differences with the president, or, more simply, because he’s of African-American descent and therefore has no business being president, is a topic for another essay. Suffice it to say, not much is getting done in the nation’s capital these days.
On the international stage, it appears that Mr. Obama has had considerably more success in negotiating with Iran than he has with the U.S. House of Representatives. He and several other nations involved in the negotiations have brokered a deal with Iran, wherein Iran will scale back its nuclear ambitions, and the west will scale back some of its sanctions.
A Pre-Conspiracy Theory: What If Our Premature Nobel Laureate President’s Having a ’63-Style Kennedy Moment?
By Dave Lindorff
I’m going to engage here in a thought experiment which may make some readers a little queasy, but bear with me.
It’s been half a century since the wrenching experience of having a charismatic young president cut down by bullets in what most Americans apparently still believe was a dark conspiracy by elements of the US government unhappy with the direction he was taking the country in international affairs.
By Norman Solomon and Abba A. Solomon
More than ever, Israel is isolated from world opinion and the squishy entity known as “the international community.” The Israeli government keeps condemning the Iran nuclear deal, by any rational standard a positive step away from the threat of catastrophic war.
In the short run, the belligerent responses from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are bound to play badly in most of the U.S. media. But Netanyahu and the forces he represents have only begun to fight. They want war on Iran, and they are determined to exercise their political muscle that has long extended through most of the Washington establishment.
While it’s unlikely that such muscle can undo the initial six-month nuclear deal reached with Iran last weekend, efforts are already underway to damage and destroy the negotiations down the road. On Capitol Hill the attacks are most intense from Republicans, and some leading Democrats have also sniped at the agreement reached in Geneva.
A widespread fear is that some political precedent might be set, undercutting “pro-Israel” leverage over U.S. government decisions. Such dread is inherent in the negative reactions from Netanyahu (“a historic mistake”), GOP lawmakers like House Intelligence Committee chair Mike Rogers (“a permission slip to continue enrichment”) and Senator Saxby Chambliss (“we’ve let them out of the trap”), and Democratic lawmakers like Senate Foreign Relations Committee chair Robert Menendez (“this agreement did not proportionately reduce Iran’s nuclear program”) and Senator Charles Schumer (“it does not seem proportional”).
Netanyahu and many other Israelis -- as well as the powerhouse U.S. lobbying group AIPAC and many with similar outlooks in U.S. media and politics -- fear that Israel’s capacity to hold sway over Washington policymakers has begun to slip away. “Our job is to be the ones to warn,” Israel’s powerful finance minister, Yair Lapid, told Israeli Army Radio on Sunday. “We need to make the Americans to listen to us like they have listened in the past.”
This winter and spring, the Israeli government and its allies are sure to strafe U.S. media and political realms with intense barrages of messaging. “Israel will supplement its public and private diplomacy with other tools,” the New York Times reported Monday from Jerusalem. “Several officials and analysts here said Israel would unleash its intelligence industry to highlight anticipated violations of the interim agreement.” Translation: Israel will do everything it can to undermine the next stage of negotiations and prevent a peaceful resolution of the dispute over Iran’s nuclear program.
Looking ahead, as a practical political matter, can the U.S. government implement a major policy shift in the Middle East without at least grudging acceptance from the Israeli government? Such questions go to the core of the Israeli occupation now in its 47th year.
Israel keeps building illegal Jewish settlements in the West Bank; suppression of the basic human rights of Palestinian people continues every day on a large scale in the West Bank and Gaza. There is no reason to expect otherwise unless Israel’s main political, military and economic patron, the United States, puts its foot down and refuses to backstop those reprehensible policies. They can end only when the “special relationship” between the USA and Israel becomes less special, in keeping with a single standard for human rights and against military aggression.
Such talk is abhorrent to those who are steeped in the notion that the United States must serve as a reliable enabler of Israel’s policies. But in every way that those policies are wrong, the U.S. government should stop enabling them.
The longstanding obstacles to such a halt stand a bit less tall today, but they remain huge. No less than before, as William Faulkner said, “The past is not dead. In fact, it’s not even past.” This certainly applies to the history of gaining and maintaining unequivocal U.S. support for Israel.
Today’s high-impact American groups such as AIPAC (which calls itself “America’s Pro-Israel Lobby”), Christians United for Israel (“the largest pro-Israel organization in the U.S., with more than a million members,” according to the Jerusalem Post) and similar outfits have built on 65 years of broad and successful Israel advocacy in the United States.
Baked into the foundation of their work was the premise of mutuality and compatibility of Israeli and American interests. Until the end of the Cold War, routine spin portrayed aid to Israel as a way to stymie Soviet power in the region. Especially since 9/11, U.S. support for Israel has been equated with support for a precious bulwark against terrorism.
Ever since the successful 1947 campaign to press for UN General Assembly approval of Palestine partition, Israel’s leaders have closely coordinated with American Jewish organizations. Israeli government representatives in the United States regularly meet with top officers of American Jewish groups to convey what Israel wants and to identify the key U.S. officials who handle relevant issues. Those meetings have included discussions about images of Israel to promote for the American public, with phrases familiar to us, such as "making the desert bloom" and “outpost of democracy.”
As any member of Congress is well aware, campaign donations and media messaging continue to nurture public officials cooperative and sympathetic to Israel. For the rare officeholders and office seekers who stand out as uncooperative and insufficiently sympathetic, a formulaic remedy has been applied: withholding campaign donations, backing opponents and launching of media vilification. Those political correctives have proved effective -- along the way, serving as cautionary tales for politicians who might be tempted to step too far out of line.
The mainstream American Jewish Committee decided in 1953 that for its pro-Israel advocacy, “To the utmost extent, non-Jewish and non-sectarian organizations should be used as spokesmen.” Such a strategic approach has borne fruit for the overall Israel advocacy project in the USA. It is time-tested and mature; broadly distributing messages through organizations of most political flavors; and adept at touching almost all sizable media.
This year, Israeli leaders have intensified their lurid casting of Iran as the next genocidal Third Reich, and Israel as the protector absent for Jews during the Holocaust. For some, the theme is emotionally powerful. But it must not be allowed to prevent a diplomatic resolution of the nuclear dispute with Iran.
From now till next summer, the struggle over talks with Iran will be fierce and fateful. All signs point to determined efforts by Israel -- and its many allies in the United States -- to wreck prospects for a peaceful solution.
Norman Solomon is the founding director of the Institute for Public Accuracy and the author of “War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.” Abba A. Solomon is the author of “The Speech, and Its Context: Jacob Blaustein’s Speech ‘The Meaning of Palestine Partition to American Jews,’ Given to the Baltimore Chapter American Jewish Committee, February 15, 1948.”
Veteran’s Day is over. The sparkling parades are a vague memory, and the soaring oratory has passed. The citizenry can now return to its complacency, tossing the bright, red, plastic poppies into the trash, and picking up new ones next year.
A Swiss forensic team has found that Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat was poisoned to death in 2004 with radioactive polonium.
A team of experts, including from Lausanne University Hospital's Institute of Radiation Physics, opened Arafat's grave in the West Bank city of Ramallah last November, and took samples from his body to seek evidence of alleged poisoning.
According to Qatar-based Al-Jazeera, the Swiss team discovered levels of polonium at least 18 times higher than normal in Arafat's ribs, pelvis and in the soil that absorbed his remains.
"We are revealing a real crime, a political assassination," Arafat's widow, Suha Arafat, told Reuters in Paris.
"This has confirmed all our doubts," said Suha Arafat, who met members of the Swiss forensic team in Geneva on Tuesday. "It is scientifically proved that he didn't die a natural death and we have scientific proof that this man was killed."
She did not accuse any country or person, and acknowledged that the historic leader of the Palestine Liberation Organization had many enemies.
The Israeli government, however, dismissed the Swiss report, saying that the "findings are not conclusive."
"Even if they did find traces of polonium that could indicate poisoning, there's no evidence of how that poisoning occurred," The Guardian quoted Palmor as saying. "Before the Palestinian Authority jumps to conclusions, there are many questions still to be answered."
"Israel is not involved in any way," he said. "There's no way the Palestinians can stick this on us. It's unreasonable and unsupported by facts. We will see yet another round of accusations, but there's no proof."
The Guardian also quoted Dov Weissglass, who is a former aide to Ariel Sharon, the prime minister at the time of Arafat's death. Weissglass denied any Israeli involvement in the death of the Palestinian leader.
Professor David Barclay, a British forensic scientist retained by Al Jazeera to interpret the results of the Swiss tests, said the findings from Arafat's body confirmed last year's results from traces of bodily fluids on his underwear, toothbrush and clothing.
"In my opinion, it is absolutely certain that the cause of his illness was polonium poisoning," Barclay told Reuters. "The levels present in him are sufficient to have caused death.
"What we have got is the smoking gun - the thing that caused his illness and was given to him with malice."
The Swiss scientists' report, posted in full on Al Jazeera's website, was more cautious. It concluded: "Taking into account the analytical limitations aforementioned, mostly time lapse since death and the nature and quality of the specimens, the results moderately support the proposition that the death was the consequence of poisoning with polonium-210."
The same radioactive substance was slipped into a cup of tea in a London hotel to kill defecting Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko in 2006. From his deathbed, Litvinenko accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of ordering his murder.
The British government refused to hold a public inquiry into his death after ministers withheld some material which could have shed light on Russia's suspected involvement.
Barclay said the type of polonium discovered in Arafat's body must have been manufactured in a nuclear reactor.
While many countries could have been the source, someone in Arafat's immediate entourage must have slipped a miniscule dose of the deadly isotope probably as a powder into his drink, food, eye drops or toothpaste, he said.
Arafat signed the 1993 Oslo interim peace accords with Israel and led a subsequent uprising after the failure of talks in 2000 on a comprehensive agreement.
Allegations of foul play surfaced immediately. Arafat had foes among his own people, but many Palestinians pointed the finger at Israel, which had besieged him in his Ramallah headquarters for the final two and a half years of his life.
The Israeli government has denied any role in his death, noting that he was 75 years old and had an unhealthy lifestyle.
An investigation by Al Jazeera television news channel first reported last year that traces of polonium-210 were found on personal effects of Arafat given to his widow by the French military hospital where he died.
That led French prosecutors to open an investigation for suspected murder in August 2012 at the request of Suha Arafat. Forensic experts from Switzerland, Russia and France all took samples from his corpse for testing after the Palestinian Authority agreed to open his mausoleum.
The head of the Russian forensics institute, Vladimir Uiba, was quoted by the Interfax news agency last month as saying no trace of polonium had been found on the body specimens examined in Moscow, but his Federal Medico-Biological Agency later denied he had made any official comment on its findings.
The French pathologists have not reported their conclusions publicly, nor have their findings been shared with Suha Arafat's legal team. A spokeswoman for the French prosecutor's office said the investigating magistrates had received no expert reports so far.
One of her lawyers said the Swiss institute's report, commissioned by Al Jazeera, would be translated from English into French and handed over to the three magistrates in the Paris suburb of Nanterre who are investigating the case.
Arafat fell ill in October 2004, displaying symptoms of acute gastroenteritis with diarrhea and vomiting. At first Palestinian officials said he was suffering from influenza.
He was flown to Paris in a French government plane but fell into a coma shortly after his arrival at the Percy military hospital in the suburb of Clamart, where he died on Nov. 11.
The official cause of death was a massive stroke but French doctors said at the time they were unable to determine the origin of his illness. No autopsy was carried out.
Barclay said no one would have thought to look for polonium as a possible poison until the Litvinenko case, which occurred two years after Arafat's death.
Some experts have questioned whether Arafat could have died of polonium poisoning, pointing to a brief recovery during his illness that they said was not consistent with radioactive exposure. They also noted he did not lose all his hair. But Barclay said neither fact was inconsistent with the findings.
Since polonium loses 50 percent of its radioactivity every four months, the traces in Arafat's corpse would have faded so far as to have become untraceable if the tests had been conducted a couple of years later, the scientist said.
"A tiny amount of polonium the size of a flake of dandruff would be enough to kill 50 people if it was dissolved in water and they drank it," he added.
The Al Jazeera investigation was spearheaded by investigative journalist Clayton Swisher, a former U.S. Secret Service bodyguard who became friendly with Arafat and was suspicious of the manner of his death.
Hani al-Hassan, a former aide, said in 2003 that he had witnessed 13 assassination attempts on Arafat's life, dating back to his years on the run as PLO leader. Arafat claimed to have survived 40 attempts on his life.
Arafat narrowly escaped an Israeli air strike on his headquarters in Tunisia in 1985. He had just gone out jogging when the bombers attacked, killing 73 people.
He escaped another attempt on his life when Israeli warplanes came close to killing him during the 182 invasion of Beirut when they hit one of the buildings they suspected he was using as his headquarters but he was not there. In December 2001, Arafat was rushed to safety just before Israeli helicopters bombarded his compound in Ramallah with rockets.
Originally Posted at AcroynmTVIn this report, Joel Northam explores the question: What happens when you condense 500 years of conquest and colonial expansion into 65 years, possess the latest high tech weaponry, sprinkle a little bit of imperialist patronage of the United States to the tune of 30 billion dollars a year in military aid, possess a vast nuclear arsenal, and gift wrap it all in a nationalist ideology that would make every fascist dictatorial regime in history proud?
An International Conference in Israel "For a Nuclear Weapons and Weapons of Mass Destruction Free Zone in the Middle East" – December 5th-6th 2013
The question of nuclear policy and the need to discuss it openly has become a cardinal issue worldwide as well as in Israel. Paradoxically, the focus of the government of Israel and its various apparatuses on Iranâ€™s nuclear policy has raised the issue of nuclear policy in the Middle East as a whole, including that of Israel itself.
The international community has recognized that the nuclear issue, as well as the issue of weapons of mass destruction generally, is not an internal affair of any state but has implications that reach beyond national and geographic borders, and hence it requires international attention. Different international initiatives for abolishing nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction derive from such insights. For example:
1 - The great progress in the issue of dismantling the arsenal of chemical weapons in Syria and the commitment to implement the Security Council resolution through cooperation with the Syrian government.
2 - The new moderate official Iranian discourse on Iran's nuclear policy, and the Iranian president Ruhani's commitment to cooperate with the international community to promote a nuclear free zone in the Middle East.
Those two developments have created favorable conditions for an effort to breach the wall of indifference erected by the Israeli establishment to block public discussion on the nuclear and WMD issue inside Israel.
There is a broad international support, including among the peoples of the Middle East and among the progressive forces inside Israel, for the immediate implementation of the UN general assembly resolution from May 2010. That resolution called to hold an international conference in Helsinki under the auspices of the UN to promote the creation of a nuclear free zone in the Middle East, which is based on having all the countries of the region – inncluding Israel – joining the Non-Proliferation Treaty and the treaty on thee banning of chemical weapons.
Israel was the only party in the ME that decided to boycott the Helsinki conference. Consequently, the conference was cancelled. In an alternative international conference, which was organized by the peace organizations in Finland last December, and attended by the Finnish foreign minister, the representative of the Haifa based Emil Touma Institute concluded: "If official Israel will not come to Helsinki, it remains the task of the peace and progressive forces, in Israel and abroad, to bring Helsinki to Israel". Hence, the idea of an international conference in Israel was born, aimed at strengthening the demand for a nuclear free zone in the Middle East. Such a conference would be a continuation of many years of activism towards this goal.
The coming together of peace and human rights organizations from abroad, and the widening support among peace and progress forces within Israel, could turn such conference into a landmark in the struggle for nuclear disarmament in the Middle East. It could be a real and viable alternative to the war plans, and to the calls for a disastrous attack against Iran.
Believing that now is the time to step up the Israel-based campaign for WMD disarmament in the region, we have rallied together a broad spectrum of activists and representatives from peace forces, human rights groups and civil society organizations. Believing that now is the time to intensify the campaign in Israel on matters of Nuclear Weapons and WMD disarmament, and believing that the security of the citizens of Israel and the peoples of the region will not be met by the stockpiling of nuclear bombs and WMDs, and not by disastrous wars - but rather by disarmament, and just peace, we have announced the formation of a preparatory committee for an International Conference in Israel proper (Haifa) with the title "For a Middle East Free of Nuclear Weapons and Other Weapons of Mass Destruction".
A preparatory committee for the conference composed of prominent figures in Israeli civil society has been assembled.
The committee decided to hold the conference in Haifa, on December 5th-6th, 2013 in English and Hebrew with simultaneously translation.In addition a possibility of a second session on December 7th, to be held in Ramallah, where Palestinian and Arab organizations from all over the region could take part, is being considered. A detailed program will follow in due time. We have initiated contact with several well-known figures to attend this event or to address it via video. These include Nobel Prize winner Prof. Ada Yonath, Prof. Noam Chomsky, President Carter and Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
The policy of the preparatory committee regarding speakers and participants is to be as inclusive as possible and will embrace any Israeli or international figure who supports disarmament of WMD in the Middle East regardless of their political orientation. We have issued a call for peace and human rights organizations, members of the anti-nuclear movement and all those who oppose WMD in the world in general and in Israel in particular, to support the conference and to participate it. We take these steps out of grave concern for the security and the future of all the peoples of the region, including all citizens of Israel.
So far, the response has been heartening. We have already succeeded to bring together a wide range of peace activists and representatives of civil society organizations as well as known public figures and Israeli academicians who expressed their willingness to participate in the preparatory committee of this international conference and in the conference itself.
We would be more than glad if your organization could be an active and integral partner in the preparations of this conference and help us meet some of the great expenses involved in the process.
Chairperson of Emil Touma Institute
For Palestinian and Israeli studies
On behalf of the preparatory Committee for the International Conference in Israel "For a Nuclear Weapons and Weapons of Mass Destruction Free Zone in the Middle East":
MK Dr. Dov Khenin , former MK Pr. Naomi Chazan , Pr. Colman Altman, Dr. Ruchama Marton, head and founder of Physicians for Human Rights-Israel (PHR I), Dr. Hatim Kanaaneh,(PHR I), Gideon Spiro, journalist and veteran activist for a ME free of nuclear , chemical and biological weapons ,Aida Touma,director of Women Against Violence(WAV), editor of chief of Al Etihad newspaper, Sharon Dolev, activist in nuclear disarmament organization , Dr. Dani Filc, Dr. Ahmad Masarweh, (PHR I), Dr. Asher Davidi , Dr. Ofer Cassif , Dr. John Assi,( international Law), Michael Warshivsky, former MK Mossi Raz, former Speaker of the Knesset Avraham Burg and former MK Issam Makhoul , Chairperson of Emil Touma Institute for Palestinian and Israeli Studies.
Max Blumenthal is an award-winning journalist and bestselling author whose articles and video documentaries have appeared in The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Daily Beast, The Nation, The Guardian, The Independent Film Channel, The Huffington Post, Salon.com, Al Jazeera English and many other publications. His new book, Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel, is in stores now. His 2009 book, Republican Gomorrah: Inside The Movement That Shattered The Party, is a New York Times and Los Angeles Times bestseller.
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A Trip Through the Negev Desert Leads to the Heart of Israel’s National Nightmare
By Max Blumenthal, TomDispatch
From the podium of the U.N. General Assembly, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seamlessly blended frightening details of Iranian evildoing with images of defenseless Jews “bludgeoned” and “left for dead” by anti-Semites in nineteenth century Europe. Aimed at U.S. and Iranian moves towards diplomacy and a war-weary American public, Netanyahu’s gloomy tirade threatened to cast him as a desperate, diminished figure. Though it was poorly received in the U.S., alienating even a few of his stalwart pro-Israel allies, his jeremiad served a greater purpose, deflecting attention from his country's policies towards the group he scarcely mentioned: the Palestinians.
Back in November 1989, while serving as a junior minister in the Likud-led governing coalition of Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, a younger Netanyahu told an audience at Bar Ilan University, “Israel should have taken advantage of the suppression of demonstrations [at China’s Tiananmen Square], when the world’s attention was focused on what was happening in that country, to carry out mass expulsions among the Arabs of the Territories. However, to my regret, they did not support that policy that I proposed, and which I still propose should be implemented.”
Now the country’s top official, Netanyahu has updated the smokescreen strategy. While the prime minister ranted against Iran in New York City and in a meeting with President Obama in the Oval Office, his government was preparing to implement the Prawer Plan, a blueprint for the expulsion of 40,000 indigenous Bedouin citizens of Israel from their ancestral Negev Desert communities that promised to “concentrate” them in state-run, reservation-style townships. Authored by Netanyahu's planning policy chief, Ehud Prawer, and passed by a majority of the members of the mainstream Israeli political parties in the Knesset, the Prawer Plan is only one element of the government’s emerging program to dominate all space and the lives of all people between the river (the Jordan) and the sea (the Mediterranean).
Expulsions in the Desert
On September 9th, I visited Umm al-Hiran, a village that the state of Israel plans to wipe off the map. Located in the northern Negev Desert, well behind the Green Line (the 1949 armistice lines that are considered the starting point for any Israeli-Palestinian negotiations) and inside the part of Israel that will be legitimized under a U.S.-brokered two-state solution, the residents of Umm al-Hiran are mobilizing to resist their forced removal.
In the living room of a dusty but impeccably tidy cinderblock home on the outskirts of the village, Hajj al-Ahmed, an aging sheikh, described to a group of colleagues from the website Mondoweiss and me the experience of the 80,000 Bedouin living in what are classified as “unrecognized” villages. The products of continuous dispossession, many of these communities are surrounded by petrochemical waste dumps and have been transformed into cancer clusters, while state campaigns of aerial crop destruction and livestock eradication have decimated their sources of subsistence.
Although residents like al-Ahmed carry Israeli citizenship, they are unable to benefit from the public services that Jews in neighboring communities receive. The roads to unrecognized villages like Umm al-Hiran are lined with electric wires, but the Bedouins are barred from connecting to the public grid. Their homes and mosques have been designated “illegal” constructions and are routinely marked for demolition. And now, their very presence on their own land has been placed in jeopardy.
Under the Prawer Plan, the people of Umm al-Hiran will be among the 40,000 Bedouins forcibly relocated to American-Indian-reservation-style towns constructed by the Israeli government. As the fastest growing group among the Palestinian citizens of Israel, the Bedouins have been designated as an existential threat to Israel’s Jewish majority. “It is not in Israel’s interest to have more Palestinians in the Negev,” said Shai Hermesh, a former member of the Knesset and director of the government’s effort to engineer a “Zionist majority” in the southern desert.
According to the website of the Or Movement, a government-linked organization overseeing Jewish settlement in the Negev, residents of the unrecognized villages will be moved to towns constructed “to concentrate the Bedouin population.” In turn, small Jews-only communities will be constructed on the remnants of the evicted Bedouin communities. They will be guaranteed handsome benefits from the Israeli government and lavish funding from private pro-Israel donors like the billionaire cosmetics fortune heir Ron Lauder. “The United States had its Manifest Destiny in the West,” Lauder has declared. “For Israel, that land is the Negev.”
When I met al-Ahmed, he described a group of 150 strangers who had suddenly appeared at the periphery of his village the previous day. From a hilltop, he said, they had surveyed the land and debated which parcels each of them would receive after the Prawer Plan was complete. Al-Ahmed called them “the Jews in the woods.”
Several hundred meters east of Umm al-Hiran lies the Yattir Forest, a vast grove in the heart of the desert planted by the para-governmental Jewish National Fund (JNF) in 1964. The JNF’s director at the time, Yosef Weitz, had headed the governmental Transfer Committee that orchestrated the final stages of Palestinian removal in 1948. For Weitz, planting forests served a dual strategic purpose: those like Yattir near the Green Line were to provide a demographic buffer between Jews and Arabs, while those planted atop destroyed Palestinian villages like Yalu, Beit Nuba, and Imwas would prevent the expelled inhabitants from returning. As he wrote in 1949, once Israel’s Jewish majority had been established through mass expulsion, “The abandoned lands will never return to their absentee [Palestinian Arab] owners."
As darkness came to the desert, I set out with my colleagues into the piney woods of Yattir. In a small car, we wound along its unlit roads until we reached a gate bristling with barbed wire. This was the settlement-style village of Hiran -- “the Jews in the woods,” as al-Ahmed had put it. We called out into the night until the gate was opened. Then we parked in the middle of a compound of trailer homes. Like a shtetl in the Pale of Settlement, the hard-bitten Imperial Russian territory once reserved for Jewish residency, the place exuded a sense of suspicion and siege.
A bearded religious nationalist stepped out of an aluminum-sided synagogue and met us at a group of picnic benches. His name was Af-Shalom and he was in his thirties. He was not, he said, permitted to speak until a representative from the Or Movement arrived. After a few uncomfortable minutes and half a cigarette, however, he began to hold forth. He sent his children, he told us, to school over the Green Line in the settlement of Susiya, just eight minutes away on an Israelis-only access road. He then added that the Bedouins were “illegals” occupying his God-given land and would continue to take it over unless they were forcibly removed. Just as Af-Shalom was hitting his stride, Moshe, a curt Or Movement representative who refused to give his last name, arrived to escort us out without a comment.
“The World’s Biggest Detention Center”
Only a few kilometers from Umm al-Hiran, in the southern Negev Desert and inside the Green Line, the state of Israel has initiated another ambitious project to “concentrate” an unwanted population. It is the Saharonim detention facility, a vast matrix of watchtowers, concrete blast walls, razor wire, and surveillance cameras that now comprise what the British Independent has described as “the world’s biggest detention center.”
Originally constructed as a prison for Palestinians during the First Intifada, Saharonim was expanded to hold 8,000 Africans who had fled genocide and persecution. Currently, it is home to at least 1,800 African refugees, including women and children, who live in what the Israeli architectural group Bikrom has called “a huge concentration camp with harsh conditions.”
Like the Bedouins of the Negev’s unrecognized villages, the 60,000 African migrants and asylum seekers who live in Israel have been identified as a demographic threat that must be purged from the body of the Jewish state. In a meeting with his cabinet ministers in May 2012, Netanyahu warned that their numbers could multiply tenfold “and cause the negation of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.” It was imperative “to physically remove the infiltrators,” the prime minister declared. “We must crack down and mete out tougher punishments.”
In short order, the Knesset amended the Infiltration Prevention Act it had passed in 1954 to prevent Palestinian refugees from ever reuniting with the families and property they were forced to leave behind in Israel. Under the new bill, non-Jewish Africans can be arrested and held without trial for as long as three years. (Israel’s Supreme Court has invalidated the amendment, but the government has made no moves to enforce the ruling, and may not do so.) The bill earmarked funding for the construction of Saharonim and a massive wall along the Israeli-Egyptian border. Arnon Sofer, a longtime Netanyahu advisor, also urged the construction of “sea walls” to guard against future “climate change refugees.”
“We don’t belong to this region,” Sofer explained.
In that single sentence, he distilled the logic of Israel’s system of ethnocracy. The maintenance of the Jewish state demands the engineering of a demographic majority of nonindigenous Jews and their dispersal across historic Palestine through methods of colonial settlement. State planners like Sofer refer to the process as “Judaization.” Because indigenous Palestinians and foreign migrants are not Jews, the state of Israel has legally defined most of them as “infiltrators,” mandating their removal and permanent relocation to various zones of exclusion -- from refugee camps across the Arab world to walled-off West Bank Bantustans to the besieged Gaza Strip to state-constructed Bedouin reservations to the desert camp of Saharonim.
As long as the state of Israel holds fast to its demographic imperatives, the non-Jewish outclass must be “concentrated” to make room for exclusively Jewish settlement and economic development. This is not a particularly humane system, to be sure, but it is one that all within the spectrum of Zionist opinion, from the Kahanist right to the J Street left, necessarily support. Indeed, if there is any substantial disagreement between the two seemingly divergent camps, it is over the style of rhetoric they deploy in defense of Israel's ethnocracy. As the revisionist Zionist ideologue Ze’ev Jabotinsky wrote in his famous 1923 “Iron Wall” essay outlining the logic of what would become Israel’s deterrence strategy, “there are no meaningful differences between our ‘militarists’ and our ‘vegetarians.’”
During the Oslo era, the time of hope that prevailed in mid-1990’s Israel, it was the “dovish” Labor Party of Yitzhak Rabin and Ehud Barak that began surrounding the Gaza Strip with barricades and electrified fencing while drawing up plans for a wall separating the West Bank from “Israel proper.” (That blueprint was implemented under the prime ministership of Ariel Sharon.)
“Us over here, them over there” was the slogan of Barak’s campaign for reelection in 1999, and of the Peace Now camp supporting a two-state solution at the time. Through the fulfillment of the Labor Party’s separationist policies, the Palestinians of Gaza and the West Bank have gradually disappeared from Israel’s prosperous coastal center, consolidating cities like Tel Aviv as meccas of European cosmopolitanism -- “a villa in the jungle,” as Barak said.
With the post-Oslo political transition that shattered Israel’s “peace camp,” ascendant right-wing parties set out to finish the job that Labor had started. By 2009, when Israel elected the most hawkish government in its history, the country was still full of “infiltrators,” the most visible of whom were those African migrants, deprived of work permits and increasingly forced to sleep in parks in south Tel Aviv. According to a report by the newspaper Haaretz on a brand new Israel Democracy Institute poll on Israeli attitudes, “Arabs no longer top the list of neighbors Israeli Jews would consider undesirable, replaced now by foreign workers. Almost 57% of Jewish respondents said that having foreign workers as neighbors would bother them.”
Unrestricted by the center-left’s pretensions to tolerance, rightist members of the government launched a festival of unprecedented racist incitement. Interior Minister Eli Yishai of the Shas Party (replaced after the 2013 election), for example, falsely described African asylum seekers as infected with “a range of diseases” and lamented that they “think the country doesn’t belong to us, the white man.”
“Until I can deport them,” he promised, “I'll lock them up to make their lives miserable.”
At a May 2012 anti-African rally in Tel Aviv, on a stage before more than 1,000 riled up demonstrators, Knesset member and former Israeli army spokesperson Miri Regev proclaimed, “The Sudanese are a cancer in our body!” Incited into a violent frenzy, hundreds of protesters then rampaged through south Tel Aviv, smashing the windows of African businesses and attacking any migrant they could find. “The people want the Africans to be burned!” they chanted.
As during other dark moments in history, eliminationist cries booming from an urban mob against a class of outcasts signaled a coming campaign of ethnic purification. And following the night of shattered glass, the cells of Saharonim continued to fill up.
Just as Western media consumers will find details about the Prawer Plan and the Saharonim camp hard to come by, casual visitors to the Negev Desert will find little evidence of the state’s more disturbing endeavors. Instead, highway signs will direct them to a little museum at Sde Boker, the humble kibbutz that Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben Gurion, called home.
In Ben Gurion’s memoirs, he fantasized about evacuating Tel Aviv and settling five million Jews in small outposts across the Negev, where they would be weaned off the rootless cosmopolitanism they inherited from diaspora life. Just as he resented the worldly attitude of Jews from Tel Aviv and New York City, Ben Gurion was repelled by the sight of the open desert, describing it as a “criminal waste” and “occupied territory.” Indeed, from his standpoint, the Arabs were the occupiers. As early as 1937, he had plans for their removal, writing in a letter to his son Amos, “We must expel Arabs and take their places.”
Ben Gurion’s house is an austere-looking, single-story structure, sparsely furnished and poorly lit. The separate, spartan bedrooms he and his wife slept in are impeccably preserved, as though they might return home at any time. Nearby is a compact, somewhat shabby museum commemorating his legacy in a series of exhibits that do not appear to have been updated for at least a decade.
The site is a crumbling remnant of a bygone era that the country has left in the dust. The enlightened public of Israel’s coastal center has turned its back on the desert, preferring instead to face toward the urbane capitals of Europe, while the rest of the country draws increasing energy from the religious nationalist fervor emanating from the hilltops of the occupied West Bank. In the Negev, perhaps all that endures of Ben Gurion's legacy is the continuous expulsion of the Bedouins.
On a gravelly path leading towards his home, a series of plaques highlight tidbits of wisdom from that Israeli founding father. One quote stands out from the others. Engraved on a narrow slab of granite, it reads, “The State of Israel, to exist, must go south.”
Max Blumenthal is an award-winning journalist whose work has appeared in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Daily Beast, the Nation, the Huffington Post, the Independent Film Channel, Salon.com, Al Jazeera English, and other publications. He is the author of the bestselling book Republican Gomorrah. His new book, just published, is Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel (Nation Books)
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Copyright 2013 Max Blumenthal
There are two kinds of countries or societies or places to live. In the first kind, decent, fair, kind, and respectful treatment of every person takes precedent over anyone's preferences for how a culture changes or how much effort is expended trying to slow the change of a culture, or which cultures mix with each other, or which groups intermarry. In this first type of society — admittedly a nonexistent ideal — people identify with humanity and welcome any member of humanity into their group of associates, their neighborhood, and their family. Desire to keep some corner of the globe inhabited by people with a particular skin color or language isn't just slightly outweighed by diligent observance of individuals' rights. Instead, such sectarian or tribal desire doesn't exist. And its absence leaves room for concern over war, environmental destruction, hunger, poor healthcare, illiteracy, and all sorts of problems not involving the exclusion of some people from a group.
In the second kind of society, importance is placed on creating or maintaining a population that is exclusively or predominantly of a particular appearance or background, religion or ethnicity. Such a society strays, mildly or moderately or extremely, from democracy, as its demographic project conflicts with people's rights to immigrate, marry, practice or abandon religion, and speak and behave as they choose. Valuing some types of people over others leads toward anti-democratic positions and leaves a society open to easy manipulation through fear and prejudice, distracting energy away from real problems that might appear harder to solve. In extreme cases, this type of society becomes fascist. Hatred and violence become admirable. Lynchings and apartheid and Jim Crow and mass incarceration and sadistic punishment follow.
The nation of Israel claims to be both a democracy and a Jewish state. It can't be. Similarly, the United States cannot be a Christian nation or a white nation and a democracy. A poll in Israel in 2012 asked, "Israel is defined as both a Jewish and democratic state. Which is more important to you?" 34% said Jewish, while 22% said democratic, but 42% said that both were equally important. People in that 42% misunderstand the necessity to choose, as they no doubt do choose every day. The same poll asked, "Speakers should be prohibited from harshly criticizing the State of Israel in public ... ," and 20% agreed, while another 29% strongly agreed. Hmmm, is that the democracy or the Jewish state talking?
Max Blumenthal's new book, Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel, is 400 pages of fascistic horrors, a dystopian vision of where the United States or most any other country could go and where Israel has gone. Of course, Israel uses World War II to justify its outrages, just as the United States uses World War II to justify its military presence in 177 other nations. The United States arms Israel and protects it from legal consequences for crimes. U.S. companies and individuals and universities and churches fund and take part in Israel's brutality. U.S. Congress members listen to Israeli war propaganda as attentively as do Knesset members. So, there are perhaps extra reasons for those of us in the U.S. to pay particular attention to Israel's fascistic tendencies.
And what do these consist of? Well, permanent war, permanent crisis, fear-mongering, racism, legal and popularly imposed segregation and harassment. False beliefs about past and current crimes of the Israeli military are so openly willful that Israel has a contest show on television for amateur propagandists. Crimes by soldiers or civilians go unpunished or lightly punished when the victims are non-Jews. These crimes include lynchings, assaults, torture, harassment, humiliation, eviction, home destruction, job discrimination, and constant traumatization. Soldiers always nearby. Drones always buzzing overhead. Artificial sewage called Skunk sprayed through open windows of homes. The star of David painted on homes and businesses destroyed to intimidate non-Jews. Crowds gathered on a hill to watch and cheer for the bombing of Gaza like Washingtonians picnicking in Manassas to watch a civil war slaughter. Israeli soldiers openly describing themselves as fascists. Trials with pre-determined outcomes. Incarceration of masses of people in concentration camps.
Blumenthal's portrait of Israel is a partial one to be sure, but a terrifying one nonetheless. He contrasts the relentless hatred and abuse he documents with brief moments of imagining something else. At a restaurant in Haifa, writes Blumenthal, "seated at a long table in Fatoush's outdoor garden, listening to a mélange of English, Arabic, and Hebrew amid a crowd of Palestinians, Jews, and internationals, it is sometimes possible to imagine the kind of place Israel could be if it ever managed to shed its settler-colonial armor."
That place is not a Jewish democracy or a white democracy or a European democracy. That place is a democracy, and a democracy is a place where you're happy for your son or daughter to get married because they're in love, not because of the ethnicity of their beloved.
Israeli Claim of Iranian ICBM Exploits Biased U.S. Intel
By John Grant
All we are saying is give peace a chance
- John Lennon
Whether war or cooperation is the more dominant trait of humanity is one of the oldest questions in human discourse. There are no satisfying answers for either side exclusively, which seems to suggest the answer is in the eternal nature of the debate itself.
From The Independent:
Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu will tomorrow try to foil Iran’s moves towards rehabilitation in the international community during a speech at the UN General Assembly aimed at reversing the diplomatic and public opinion gains made by the new Iranian president Hassan Rouhani.
In remarks late on Saturday before departing for the United States, where he will meet US President Barack Obama later today, Mr Netanyahu signalled that as far as Israel is concerned, nothing has changed but the rhetoric from the years of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who denied the Holocaust and spoke of Israel’s removal. Above all, Mr Netanyahu will stress that Iran is still intent on attaining a nuclear bomb, something Israel views as an existential threat.
Today, President Barack Obama addressed the United Nations. Much of his talk concerned the current situation in Syria, but he also touched on the Israeli occupation of Palestine.
Yet even Mr. Obama’s pretty words and soaring oratory were unable to camouflage his extreme pro-Israel bias, as he spouted nonsense that he and his predecessors have all said before. A look at just a few of his statements is informative.
- “I’ve made it clear that the United States will never compromise our commitment to Israel’s security, nor our support for its existence as a Jewish state.”
This apparently means that, unlike Syria, which isn’t allowed by the U.S. to use chemical weapons, the U.S.’s commitment to Israel is unconditional: Israel can commit the most shocking and brutal human rights violations, and the U.S. will still continue to give it billions of dollars every year.
Israel's Nuclear, Chemical and Biological Weapons Threaten World Peace
by Stephen Lendman
Syria threatens no one. It hasn't used chemical weapons against insurgents or its own civilians. Claims otherwise are fabricated.
In contrast, Israel is nuclear armed and dangerous. It maintains large chemical and biological weapons arsenals. More on that below.
Testimonies Prove Israel Tortures Palestinian Children
by Stephen Lendman
On August 22, B'Tselem headlined "Abuse and torture in interrogations of dozens of Palestinian minors in the Israel Police Etzion Facility."
Nobel Laureate president defends unprovoked war against Syria: Obama Offers No Evidence Assad Ordered Syria Poison Gas Attack
By Dave Lindorff
In what NPR called “perhaps President Obama’s last best chance” to make his case for launching a war against Syria, the president tellingly didn’t make a single effort to present hard, compelling evidence to prove that Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad had been behind the alleged Sarin Aug. 21 attack on residents of a suburb of Damascus.
Not one piece of evidence.
By John Grant
Responses to wrongdoing must not exacerbate problems.
- Jonathan Granoff, President, Global Security Institute
Watching news coverage of the debate over bombing Syria, one realizes there’s more going on than Barack Obama or John Kerry are telling Congress and the American people. Kerry may have sworn to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee -- but that doesn’t mean he has to tell the whole story.
Harsh Criticism of Israeli/Palestinian Peace Talks
by Stephen Lendman
A Palestinian Human Rights Organizations Council (PHROC) position paper offered straight talk on what's ongoing. It did so responsibly.
What democracy? What rule of law?: Americans Oppose Criminal US Syrian Attack, But Obama is Set to Launch It
By Dave Lindorff
Israel Attacks Palestinians During Peace Talks
by Stephen Lendman
Doing so exposes the sham process. So do many other similar incidents. Daily violence persists. Dozens of weekly incursions terrorize Palestinian communities.
Violence and arrests follow. So do detentions, interrogations and torture. Israel's no peace partner. Palestinians don't have one. They never did. For sure they don't now.
By John Grant
Here we go again.
Polls suggest the American people are fed up after two full-bore wars and the killing of an ambassador in Benghazi following our escapade in Libya. Yet, the Obama administration seems poised to launch another war in Syria.
“We can’t do a third war in 12 years!"
Duplicitous Peace Talks Resume
by Stephen Lendman
Global activists oppose them. They do so for good reason. They're dead on arrival. They're fake like all previous times.
They're ongoing secretly. Doing so conceals manipulated injustice. It diverts attention from what's important.
Israel Behind Egypt's Coup?
by Stephen Lendman
Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan blames Israel for ousting Morsi. It wouldn't surprise. He claims he has proof. More on that below.
He's the last one to point fingers. He rules repressively. He's more despot than democrat.
The Illusion of Israeli/Palestinian Peaceful Conflict Resolution
by Stephen Lendman
Peace talks are more pretense than real. They've been that way for decades. Initiatives were always stillborn. They reflect the greatest diplomatic scam of all time.
It's no different now. Peaceful conflict resolution's a convenient illusion. It's guaranteed. Chances for success are ZERO. Smart money knows but won't say.
Dispossessing East Jerusalem Palestinian Residents
by Stephen Lendman
Israel plans Judaizing Jerusalem entirely. It wants it exclusively Jewish. It's an international city. It's under a UN trusteeship. It doesn't matter.
Ethnic cleansing is official Israeli policy. Palestinian owned land is seized. Homes are demolished. Dispossessions follow.
Sham Peace Talks Resume
by Stephen Lendman
Why bother. Talks are doomed to fail. So did multiple previous rounds. Israel wants things its way. Demands masquerade as give and take.
According to one PLO official, "Israel will dodge, evade and propose unachievable demands to promote a conclusion that negotiations are futile, and so Israel will continue to steal lands as they are doing now."
Spinning the Israeli/Palestinian Peace Process
by Stephen Lendman
New York Times editors, correspondents and contributors do it as well as anyone. They deceive regular readers in the process.
Illusions substitute for facts. Pro-Israeli bias reflects longstanding Times policy. The worst of occupation harshness goes unreported. Settler violence is ignored. Palestinians are blamed for Israeli crimes.