Why ‘give him a chance’ is not an option – November 22, 2016

originally published by Mondoweiss

Those folks who are advocating, “Let’s just wait and see” or “Every president moves to the center,” or “Give him a chance, we just need to listen to each other and respect our differences,” are ignoring some very poignant lessons of history. And there is some very recent history that is let’s just say, very instructive. I am going to call this the Israelification of US politics.

This is no longer about which tail is wagging which dog but about two canines snarling in the same kennel and plotting the control of the whole doggy universe. Netanyahu’s twin has come galloping into the White (man’s) House from that great golden golf course in you name-the-moneyed place, a great tsunami of rage, alienation, lies, and discontent.

Now, what exactly does that say about us?

First, let’s be clear, while we have a deeply polarized and unhappy citizenry, with a unique blend of racism and misogyny recently unleashed, he did not “win” the election. He “won” the Electoral College which has been corrupted by years of Koch brothers and friends building on the aristocratic insecurities and rural biases of our founding patriarchs. For decades these mostly rich white males have been gerrymandering, electing conservative school boards and judges, and plotting voter suppression/ID laws and other sinister rightwing strategies, reminiscent of the poll tax and worse, aided and abetted by lax media reporting genuflecting to the gods of ratings and profits. Add to this the massive disenfranchisement of mostly Black and Brown men who have spent some critical parts of their lives in the Drug War-induced web of incarceration and post imprisonment disenfranchisement that has left vast swaths of our society totally invisible as American citizens. This is exacerbated by the consequences of Citizens United where large corporations with armies of lobbyists and lawyers loaded with bags of money are legally empowered to tilt the scales of justice in the name of free speech for all “people,” (the little man and the big corporation person alike).

All of this has deeply corrupted the political process and the ability of every man and woman and gender dysphoric person in between to understand what and why things are happening, who can actually address their concerns, and how to be thoughtful and heard when it is comes time to be counted. And I am not referring to the currently inadequate and moneyed Democratic Party, though I do hope to live long enough to see a woman president that I can embrace with some mixture of joy and relief.

So back to Netanyahu. While there are obvious differences, the State of Israel, much like the US, shares a history of immigrants fleeing oppression, a faith in manifest destiny, a Messianic belief in the rightness and righteousness of the national cause at the expense of an indigenous and mostly ethnically cleansed native population, a can-do spirit that is a blend of hard work, determination, creativity, and a willingness to rewrite the ugly price of nationhood in the name of an inspiring national mythos. We both share a variety of progressive movements that have rarely addressed our core contradictions or challenged the assumptions that have led to our dominance in the global, industrial, and militarized world.

In 1993, after the Oslo Accords, the Israeli left took a deep sigh of relief and went home. Over the subsequent decades, fueled by a belief in a glorious ancient past, an exploding fear of Arabs at home and abroad, (see Intifada one and two, Hamas, Al Qaeda, Daesh), and a defiant expansionism into land the entire world considers occupied, the ruling class moved right, and the racism that girded the state from the start, became mainstream and more thuggish. Government officials called Arabs “snakes,” “monkeys,” “beasts,” a “cancer,” and asylum seekers “infiltrators” as Benjamin Netanyahu built a belligerent coalition of the ultraorthodox, national religious settlers, and (mostly Russian) immigrants.

He appointed an ultranationalist, fascistic Defense Minister, Avigdor Leiberman, who talked up loyalty oaths and bombing Iran, and an Education Minister, Naftali Bennett, who supports extra-judicial killings of Arabs and has stated that the inculcation of right wing religious Zionist values is his top priority. Moshe Ya’alon, a recent, now former, Defense Minister talked of managing rather than solving the conflict, discouraged criminal investigations into war crimes by the Israeli Defense Force, and suggested that the peace process is responsible for terrorism.

There is growing chatter about annexing the 65% of the West Bank known as Area C, of prioritizing Jewish rights over democratic rights, and most disastrously, of building the mythic third temple on the site of the Al Aqsa Mosque and Dome of the Rock, a move guaranteed to inflame the Muslim world until the Messiah actually shows up. More Palestinian homes have been demolished in 2016 than in any year in the past decade and the Jewish settlements are expanding like yeast on a warm summer afternoon. Israeli police officers are (officially) authorized to use live fire against stone throwers and sling shots, regardless if stones are thrown at moving cars, armored vehicles, armed security forces, or the separation wall. NGOs and human rights organizations from Breaking the Silence in Israel to the Health, Development, Information and Policy Institute in Ramallah report rising numbers of attacks, confiscations of computers, and trashing of offices. In November 2016 the Israeli Knesset members approved a bill banning the use of public loudspeakers to summon Muslims to prayer.

I will pause to refer to the Israeli Declaration of Independence that may just remind you of our own founding document (emphasis mine):

“The State of Israel will be open for Jewish immigration and for the Ingathering of the Exiles; it will foster the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; it will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; it will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions; and it will be faithful to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.”

The Israeli Medical Association is facing international criticism due to longstanding allegations of doctor participation and complicity in the torture of Palestine prisoners in Israeli jails. The Israeli military and judicial systems are under attack for their widespread arrests of Palestinian men in general and night time raids grabbing children in particular and for the extensive and prolonged use of administrative detention, no charges, no trial, and needless to say, no justice. It has been reported in the press that the fight against the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign (BDS) against Israel includes both black ops and friendly front groups in the US especially on college campuses, as well as multimillion dollar campaigns from the likes of Sheldon Adelson and colleagues.

The Israelis continue to build their eight-meter high (apartheid) wall with its barbed wire and military buffer zones and surveillance cameras mostly snaking within the West Bank on Palestinian agricultural land and water aquifers in an impressive move towards self-ghettoization. Meanwhile 20% of the Israeli population is still Palestinian and tens of thousands of mostly Palestinian men enter the country legally and illegally every year to pour concrete, pound nails, and work in the factories, trim the hedges, water the pomegranates and care for the elderly at low wages and without worker protections. And then there is the steady parade of high level officials facing trials and imprisonment for offenses ranging from rape to obstruction of justice to Bibi’s latest purchase of $1.5 billion in German submarines. He shares his personal attorney with the German sub company, but how could that be a conflict of interest?

So in what alternative universe are we living post November 8 ?

In less than two weeks, our President elect has reiterated his bromance with Netanyahu (and let’s not forget Putin). He has gloried in a mythical past when America was great and the steels mills were belching great clouds of black smoke, which has nothing to do with the melting ice caps and the risks to the 11.6 million US coastal citizens who live below a three meter elevation from the sea. In blatantly racist, Islamophobic, misogynist, anti-immigrant language, he has appealed to the fears and discontents of tens of millions of mostly white people who have found themselves at the middle to bottom of the 99% with a scattering of right wing kabillionaires thrown in. The enemy has been clearly identified: brown, hijabi, accented, coming from “terror prone nations” whatever that could possibly mean, guilty until proven innocent. Children of immigrants and their parents, the undocumented millions who spray our fields and harvest our lettuce and study in our universities, now lie awake worrying about ICE and massive deportation. Since election day, the Southern Poverty Law Center has received more than 430 reports of anti-immigrant and anti-Black behavior, most of it in elementary, middle, and high schools. Our children are listening. All of them.

And let’s review (briefly) our dear President-elect’s appointments to date (11/21):

1. Steve Bannon as senior White House strategist: former head of Breitbart News, an avid white nationalist who has promoted anti-Semitic, misogynist and anti-Muslim ideas, embracing the resurgence of the Confederate flag as a symbol of white supremacy and the old “war of civilizations,” the enlightened West against the religion of Islam.

2. General Michael Flynn as National Security Adviser: twitter post: “Fear of Muslims is RATIONAL,” Islam is a political ideology turned into a “malignant cancer.” He favors an immigration ban and registering US Muslims.

3. Senator Jeff Sessions as Attorney General: favors Muslim immigration ban, voted against laws that protect gay people and guarantee equal pay for women, supported the efforts to roll back the Voting Rights Act, believes the Justice Department should do more to crack down on illegal immigration, supported stricter enforcement of drug laws, favors waterboarding and other torture techniques as legal and effective, voted against the Detainee Treatment Act in 2005 that prohibited cruel or degrading treatment of detainees and against legislation requiring all government agencies to use only interrogation methods in the Army Field Manual.

4. Representative Mike Pompeo as CIA Director: “Most Islamic leaders across America” are complicit in terrorist attacks for not speaking out more forcefully. He has denounced efforts to rein in some of the most polarizing post 9/11 counterterrorism programs, advocated returning to the bulk collection of Americans’ domestic phone records, and denounced the closing of CIA black-site prisons and the requirement for government interrogators to adhere to the rules of the Army Field Manual. He has close ties to and support from the Koch billionaire brothers.

Trump has expressed his intention to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, effectively killing any pretense of a Palestinian state, and the Israeli right is cheering. Meanwhile he has been embroiled in thousands of law suits, just settled the Trump University sham for $25 million dollars, and is facing numerous questions about his legally-challenged business deals and conflicts of interests. What exactly is a blind trust when Ivanka is in charge and daddy knows exactly what she is in charge of?

Let’s be real. He is doing exactly what he promised to do. Listen up. Racist nationalism feeding on fear and economic discontent directed by an obviously-corrupted leadership with a tendency towards an optional and creative approach to truth is really dangerous. This is not the time to be patient or to normalize the fact of his presidency. Right wing nationalism is not only an Israeli or European phenomenon. The alt-right celebrating with “Heil Victory” should send shivers up our collective spines.

But we can be different. We can protest and organize like our lives and our children’s lives depend on it because this time they really do. We can upset the Republican governors on the state level and the US congress in two or four or maybe– gasp– eight years, but the Supreme Court is definitely going south (and I mean that literally and figuratively) for a generation. Think about all the things you value and struggle for that make this a tolerant, cantankerous, multicultural society, like Roe v. Wade, the ACLU, the First Amendment, Black Lives Manner, religious tolerance.

The mask is off. The hard work begins in our neighborhoods, our schools, all the way to the halls of Congress. So support your Muslim neighbor, your sanctuary city, every grassroots organization working for economic and racial justice and prison reform and solar panels; listen to Bernie Sanders and John Oliver and fact check your Facebook now and again. If you see little boys grabbing a girl on the playground or hear a woman catcalled on the street or a Mexican American trashed with some racist garbage, do not be quiet. You are next. That’s how this works.

And if they come to register your Muslim neighbors and coworkers, let the two thirds of the US population that didn’t vote for DT, all sign up to register without ambivalence. And ladies, remember to wear that sisterly hijab with pride and defiance. That is what we are going to need.

No limits – November 5, 2016

first published by Just World Educational at:

https://justworldeducational.org/2016/11/no-limits/

There is a well-known expression in Israel: “shooting and crying.” This phrase stems from a comment by the late Israeli prime-minister Golda Meir, who said (somewhere between famously baking cookies and cheering on Israeli troops during the Yom Kippur War): “We can forgive the Arabs for killing our sons, but we can never forgive them for forcing us to kill their children.”

It seems to me that this aggression-followed-by-blaming-the-victim mentality is a cornerstone of Israeli sentiment as well as propaganda, bellicosity as self-defense followed by appropriate hand wringing.

The killing and dispossession of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in Jaffa or Ramle or Lydda in 1948 was a tragic necessity for the flowering of the Zionist dream and the birth of a powerful and redemptive Jewish nation. The Israeli soldiers in Gaza who killed over 500 children in a massive, 51-day assault in 2014 proved their moral standing and relieved their guilt by announcing their grief over the tasks they were required to do to subdue the “terrorists” who– they claimed– had brought this calamity upon themselves. If only Hamas had behaved themselves, if only they had not shot those rockets into Sderot. If only they had not made me do this. In this view, there is no settler colonialism, no ethnic cleansing, no occupation, no siege, no rising humanitarian catastrophe; just the most moral army in the world forced to do the dirty work of subduing the natives who are inexplicably hopeless and hostile.

I thought of this as I read an article in the webzine Mondoweiss titled “Groping and Crying” about the recently disgraced Israeli journalist, author, and darling of liberal Zionists, Ari Shavit. Shavit is most famous for his book, My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel, in which he courageously documents the brutality and massacres committed by Israeli troops and the catastrophes that befell indigenous Palestinians in 1948– but then, after the necessary mea culpas, he celebrates the Zionist dream and the myth of the heroic, democratic, fantastical Jewish State.

Shavit has recently been accused of sexual assault. Twice. He does not deny it; in fact he has apologized, talks of a “misunderstanding,” and is now taking time off from his journalism career to rethink his behavior and attitudes, i.e., he is in the crying phase. Undoubtedly, his moral superiority will emerge intact (as opposed to someone like Trump who has no moral standing to lose or regain) and most likely he will retain his current place in society, a privileged, respected, married, educated, thoughtful, powerful white male, the sensitive macho Israeli man.

While ethnic cleansing and sexual assault are massively different kinds of affronts to human decency (though they may overlap), both behaviors involve a suspension of limits of behavior, a loss of boundaries, a belief in privilege and power over integrity and respect. I suspect that there is a connection between a long history of rising Jewish privilege and manifest destiny, a country without borders or a constitution, a sense of male entitlement that approaches women as just another conquest, and a deep lack of accountability on all fronts. Just look at the expanding Jewish settlements in the West Bank, the recent threat to make the next war on Gaza “the last one,” and the number of Israeli politicians accused of sexual assault, theft, bribery.

For a moment, I thought I might be making that last one up, so I did a quick Google search for “Israeli politicians in jail.” Wikipedia lists 27 public officials including:

  • Former President Moshe Katsav: rape obstruction of justice
  • Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert: breach of trust and bribery
  • Former Minister of Religious Services Aharon Abuhatzira: bribery, larceny, breach of trust, fraud
  • Former Minister of Health Shlomo Benizri: bribery, breach of faith, obstructing justice, conspiracy, moral turpitude
  • Former Minister of Internal Affairs Aryeh Deri: bribery
  • Former Minister of Justice Tzachi Hanegbi: perjury, moral turpitude
  • Former Minister of Finance Avraham Hirschson: theft
  • Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman: assault

The Times of Israel lists ten public officials sentenced to jail terms over the past 20 years, and Haaretz sports a screaming headline: “Israel Ranks Among Western World’s Most Corrupt Countries.”

Probably not a coincidence: Crying, shooting, groping, stealing…no boundaries.

 

 

 

 

No Way to Treat a Child, Any Child – September 24, 2016

Here are the facts. I will leave you to feel the outrage and hopefully be moved to action.

The No Way to Treat a Child conference on 9/17 sponsored by Kairos Puget Sound Coalition included 70 people who heard a powerful report from Brad Parker from the Defense of Children International (Palestine) who reviewed the lack of basic human rights protections for Palestinian children arrested, detained, and tried by the Israeli military. Jennifer Bing of American Friends Service Committee then discussed the destructive impact of military detention of children on the lives of families and communities and showed a damning film “Detaining Dreams” in which four Palestinian boys share their appalling experiences of arrest, torture, and detention. I then joined a panel which included Brad, as well as Palestinian-American social worker Amal Muammar and international lawyer John McKay.

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The afternoon ended with a call to action:

1. meet with congress people and demand an end to separate rules for Israeli Jewish and Palestinian children in the occupied territories
2. show the film “Detaining Dreams”
3. go on a delegation to Palestine
4. seek the support of your faith communities
5. get and stay educated (www.nowaytotreatachild.org)

Important facts:

500-700 Palestinian children are prosecuted in the Israeli military court system every year, ¾ experience physical violence, and psychological torture is systemic and institutionalized. They are interrogated without a lawyer or family members present.
The number of child detainees is skyrocketing, in February there were 440 children in Israeli prisons, highest number ever revealed.

Israel has renewed administrative detention against children whereby a child can be detained indefinitely without charge or trial. Children are also placed in solitary confinement.

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Children less than 18 represent 48% of the 4.68 million Palestinians under occupation. Although the age for treatment as an adult has gone from 16 to 18, this has not impacted sentencing. Stone throwing can be punished with up to 20 years of imprisonment. After release, children frequently show signs of PTSD such as bedwetting, attention disorders, cognitive and psychological deficits that lead to an inability to complete their schooling.

In the West Bank, Israeli settler children who are accused of a crime are treated under civil and criminal laws and afforded rights guaranteed by a host of international laws while Palestinian children who live in the same territory are under military law with no respect for their human rights and the protections that should be afforded to all children. They are frequently arrested in the middle of the night in a terrifying night raid that shatters the entire family, blindfolded and cuffed and taken to detention centers in settlements, threatened and coerced into false confessions or collaboration with the military, and jailed in Israel which is a violation of the Geneva Conventions. The family is at risk for home demolition. This would never happen to a Jewish child or a Jewish family.

The US State Department already documents these human rights offenses in an annual report, but that is not enough. The US government must take concrete steps to hold Israeli authorities accountable and to change their behavior toward children.

go to: www.nowaytotreatachild.org

Modern Day Lynchings: An International View July 8, 2016

Yesterday sickening news screamed across social media, emails, and airwaves: a second African-American man was brutally killed by police this week.

In Minneapolis, Philando Castille, a 32 year old black man and popular school nutrition services supervisor, was stopped for a broken tail light with his girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds and four year old daughter. Minutes later, after he informed police that he had a legal license to carry a weapon and was asked for his wallet, he lay slumped forward in the car bleeding from a spray of police bullets, all documented on Diamond’s cellphone with her surreal narration, broadcast on Facebook to a horrified viral world.

Then Alton Sterling, a 37 year old black man selling DVDs and CDs in front of the Baton Rouge Triple S Food Mart, (which last I checked was not a capital offense), was shot while on the ground, tackled by two large policemen and killed at close range after someone shouted “He’s got a gun!” Louisiana has open carry gun laws, although Sterling would not have qualified due to his criminal record, which also locked him out of most legitimate employment in the state. You might say that whatever prison sentence he had already served never actually ended.

Of note, according to The New Yorker, 7/7/16, “Men with criminal records constitute a third of the unemployed males between ages twenty-five and fifty-four. Sterling earned his living the way untold numbers of men in such circumstances do: vending on the streets.” This is a world where hustling for change has replaced the possibility of legitimate employment and increased the risk of being shot by police. (see Eric Garner and loose cigarettes)

Other critical statistics include the fact that “a black man is thirteen times more likely to be murdered in this country than a white person; eighty-four per cent of the time it involves a firearm.” These statistics evoke the tragic memories of a long list of dead black people including Michael Brown in Ferguson, Eric Garner in New York, Freddie Gray in Baltimore, Keith Childress in Las Vegas, Bettie Jones in Chicago, the list is long. I suggest you sit with the 102 murdered black folks from 2015: https://mappingpoliceviolence.org/unarmed/ and think about why this is happening. Think about why unarmed black people were killed by police at five times the rate of unarmed white people. Think about the fact that almost no officers were charged and almost none were convicted. What does this say about our society?

This is clearly about racism and politics, the failures of our mental health and prison systems which unfortunately are often one and the same or at least cover for each other’s inadequacies. This is about the school to prison pipeline, our failed educational systems, and lack of opportunity for the have nots in our society. This is about the power of the gun lobbies, social stereotypes, economic injustice, and a failed “war on drugs”. It is about white police men who see black people as inherently dangerous and threatening and who act out of fear, revenge, incitement; who see their jobs less as protecting the public and de-escalating dangerous situations and more as an occupying force in our cities, particularly our ghettos and poorer neighborhoods of color. By frequently demonizing the victim and engaging in a virtual Blue code of silence, this is also about white supremacy in our country.

So why is this essay an international view? I just read that Adalah, the Israeli civil rights organization parallel to our NAACP, recently petitioned the Israeli courts for documents relating to the Israeli police live fire rules of engagement. Although this has been obvious to anyone paying attention, the document now confirms that police officers are authorized to use live fire against stone throwers, sling shots, and fire crackers thrown at officers, moving cars, armored, and armed security forces.

If you are unclear on the concept, here is the translation: Young Palestinian boys and their older brothers and sisters whose lives have been strangled by occupation, who have seen their parents and grandparents humiliated at checkpoints by 20 year old Israeli soldiers, who have watched settlers burn their olive groves and steal their water, who live in the shadows of eight meter high walls that dissect their villages and universities and agricultural lands, can now be shot and killed for throwing a stone.

It’s really as simple as that.

And this compounds the thousands of Palestinian children arrested in the middle of the night, the years of administrative detention, the steady numbers of prison hunger strikers, the growing number of isolated Palestinian youth (even as young as 14) who have been shot for threatening Israeli soldiers which sometimes really happens and sometimes does not, but we will never know since the soldier is both judge and executioner and almost never faces trial. That is how an occupying power behaves; that is how soldiers who view Palestinians as less human and less valuable than their Jewish sisters and brothers and fathers and mothers, approach the occupied and warehoused human beings struggling to survive and flourish under occupation and siege.

So why is this relevant? Since 9/11, at least 300 high ranking US sheriffs and police, FBI, US Customs and Border Protection agents have traveled to Israel to learn through the military justice system how to subdue a population under the guise of fighting terrorism. The focus is on paramilitary and counterinsurgency tactics. Thousands of US police have been trained in Israeli police and military units and it has been reported that the New York City Police Department has opened a branch in Tel Aviv. These efforts have been organized and funded by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), the American Jewish Committee’s Project Interchange, and the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs.

It is not an accident that equipment frequently used by the Israeli military for (read Palestinian) crowd control, such as tear gas grenades, triple chaser gas canisters, stun grenades and LRAD (long-range acoustic devices), are now part of the US police force armamentarium. This was all exacerbated when the Pentagon and Home Land Security offered surplus military grade equipment to local law enforcement as well. While the carnage in our cities is certainly related to our own history of slavery and modern day racism and lack of gun control, and a host of societal forces, having a police force influenced and trained by an occupying military force that sees another group of brown people (Arabs) as the enemy has certainly heightened the issue. The Israelis have exported their arms, homeland security, and policing “expertise” to places like India, Canada, and China, but the US has as always been their best customer; the parallels between white racism and Jewish supremacy flourish here and abroad.

And today I awoke to another horrific catastrophe: a peaceful protest rally in Dallas ended when snipers shot 12 police, killing five. Revealing a total and frightening ignorance to the many causes for such a tragedy, former Tea Party congressman Joe Walsh hit Twitter:

10 cops shot.
You did this Obama.
You did this liberals
You did this #BLM
Time to defend our Cops. Wake up.

OK everybody get your guns, barricade yourselves, and shoot all those do gooders and brown people destroying the country. A really sensible plan. I suspect Trump will soon be on this bandwagon.

We may learn much more about these snipers. I can only wonder if we are seeing the toxic and tragic consequences for people without adequate mental health care in a polarized, racist country awash in guns who have been brutalized by what has now become our own occupying army.

Greetings from Zimbabwe – May 11, 2016

My May 8 op ed in support of resolutions being considered at the United Methodist Church General Conference in Portland, Divestment an appropriate response to Israel’s treatment of Palestinians, https://www.oregonlive.com/opinion/index.ssf/2016/05/divestment_an_appropriate_respo.html) has provoked 63 comments to date, ranging from the supportive to the bizarre. A refugee from Nazi Germany wrote: “Israel can only be free when the occupation is ended. Zionism is a catastrophe, a racist ideology.” Another thoughtful soul commented: “Divestment from companies that profit from the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land is the moral path for the Methodist Church – and for all of us who seek a more just world.” And then there were what I can only call the delusionals: “…no international court of (sic) body has ever declared the settlements illegal, no matter how often or frequently they have criticized them” or “Christian Arabs in what she calls Palestinian (sic) have been leaving in huge numbers…not because of their treatment by Israelis but the horrible treatment they receive from their Muslim neighbors.” And so forth.

But the follow up guest columnist really boggles my mind. Leon Jamaine Mithi is a law student, “avid debater,” and author from Zimbabwe, (Zimbabwe? That’s 9,888 miles from my computer!) He wrote a piece, Calling Israel an apartheid state is an insult to black South Africans.

So a very brief rebuttal, as they say, it is hard to know where to begin so I will begin at the beginning:

LJM: Christian and Jewish faiths “irrevocably intertwined.”
Me: Irrelevant to BDS conversation.

LJM: Claim that Israel is an apartheid state and negotiations have been unsuccessful is incorrect.
Me: Nobel Peace Laureate Bishop Tutu has stated that Israeli apartheid is sometimes worse than South African apartheid. In the occupied territories, Palestinians are not only living under an oppressive occupation with separate legal and court systems and a strict system of permits and checkpoints, segregated roads, housing, land ownership, and constant humiliation, but they are also restricted in their ability to work.
As far as failed negotiations….name a successful negotiation. Just ask John Kerry.

LJM: “Apartheid is colonialism on steroids” and this cannot be true of Israel since Jews lived in the West Bank and were driven out in 1948, and Jews lived there for thousands of years, returning to build their nation, blah blah blah…
Me: Big sigh. Please read the Israeli historian, Ilan Pappe’s Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine. Very briefly, the fact that a small number of Jews lived amongst a large Christian and Muslim population in historic Palestine does not negate the political realities of British colonialists promising Palestine to the Jewish people as a homeland and disregarding the indigenous population who has suffered from displacement and death since the Zionist project (which sought to displace this population and create a Jewish only state through massive immigration) began in earnest. And by the way, the Torah is a book of religious thought, philosophy, wisdom, and a lot more contradictory stuff. It is not a real estate document.

LJM: Oppressed blacks were mostly peaceful, but Palestinians and their Arab brothers are violent. The “war zone environment sets true apartheid apart for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”
Me: I am not an expert in South African resistance to apartheid, but starting in the 1950s, activists fought against apartheid, sometimes with peaceful resistance (often met with extreme violence), sometimes more aggressively. Think Sharpeville Massacre, the armed struggle of the ANC in the face of white supremacist violence, the militant strategy of the Pan-Africanist Congress, the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP), the rising militancy of worker and youth organization in the 1970s. Not to mention the growing opposition to South African apartheid from Angola, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, and Namibia.
To describe Palestinians as violent and to ignore the role of Israeli aggression and massive military might is to be blinded to history and current reality. Palestinians have a long history of nonviolent resistance starting with tax revolts against the British and extending to the BDS campaign today. While I would condemn violence, particularly against civilians, much of Palestinian resistance occurs in response to Israeli land confiscation, settler attacks, Israeli assaults using weaponry and surveillance provided by the US, and an utter lack of progress towards a just solution. This context is critical to understanding.

LJM: BDS “shuts down discourse, isolating the opponent, trying to turn them into a pariah, is not a healthy ground for any negotiation.”
Me: The strategy of BDS came after years of UN Resolutions and reports, International Laws, International Court rulings, endless peace processes as well as Intifadas, suicide bombings and major Israeli attacks that destroyed infrastructure and killed and injured thousands of civilians. BDS is a response to the fact of a massive settlement project in the West Bank and East Jerusalem and an unrelenting siege of Gaza that has only gotten worse with years of so called dialogue in which Israeli leaders backed by the US made demands on Palestinian leaders that did not respect their history, aspirations, or rights. The BDS campaign is part of a liberation struggle.

So here is a question from me:
Mr. Mithi, how did you find out about my oped? Were you paid to write a rebuttal? Am I under surveillance by the henchmen for the Israeli propaganda machine that monitors pro-BDS speech? Or is The Oregonian under surveillance? Or the lovely Methodists attending their national conference? How on earth could you withdraw your initial support for BDS after visiting Israel and the West Bank? You actually wrote that. Where is your conscience?

To quote the eminent Bishop Tutu: “In South Africa, we could not have achieved our democracy without the help of people around the world, who through the use of non-violent means, such as boycotts and divestment, encouraged their governments and other corporate actors to reverse decades-long support for the apartheid regime,” (Jerusalem Post)

The New York Times: Read at your own risk – April 30, 2016

Reading The New York Times without developing chest pain can be challenging, but this morning I felt particularly provoked. First there was Matthew Rosenberg’s article, Pentagon Details Chain of Errors in Afghan Strike, https://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/30/world/asia/afghanistan-doctors-without-borders-hospital-strike.html?ref=todayspaper, which details a horrific bombing of a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Afghanistan in 2015 that killed 42 people and injured many more. The article describes confusion over targets, medical staff begging American commanders in Afghanistan, the Pentagon, and the Afghan Interior Ministry to stop within 11 minutes of the strike, discussion amongst servicemen suggesting bombing a hospital might be okay if Taliban were present, and the solely “administrative punishment” handed down after the devastation. Interestingly the US general in charge claimed that the airstrike was not actually a war crime because it was an unintentional mistake, (as opposed to an intentional mistake?) although folks from Human Rights Watch made it clear that “recklessness or negligence does not necessarily absolve someone of criminal responsibility under the United States military code.” General Votel did admit that “American service members ‘failed to comply with the rules of engagement in the law of armed conflict.’”

A bit more context: on April 28, 2016 a hospital in Aleppo was attacked, two of the fourteen dead were doctors. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/apr/29/aleppo-hospital-airstrike-un-syria. This article noted that attacks on medical facilities from Afghanistan to the Central African Republic to South Sudan to Yemen and Ukraine, have become commonplace, civilians and civil infrastructure are becoming acceptable targets. “Between 2012 and 2014, in just 11 countries, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) documented nearly 2,400 attacks against health workers, patients, medical facilities and transport.”

Now in case you are unclear on the concept, under international law and humanitarian law, health workers are supposed to be protected and allowed to provide care to civilians as well as combatants regardless of affiliation; this is their ethical obligation. As they say, “The doctor of your enemy is not your enemy.” In addition, when there are attacks on medical facilities and staff, an immediate impartial investigation is required.

So why the chest pain? The blooded staff, patients slaughtered in their beds, piles of rubble that were once operating rooms and pharmacies, and the endless suffering that ensues would really be enough for my cardiovascular system. But for me, there is a thunderous omission to this litany of criminal behavior and that is the behavior of the Israeli Defense Forces when it attacks Palestinians in their hospitals, clinics, schools, UN facilities, and other civilian infrastructure.

To share a particular example that I personally witnessed: On March 15, 2015 I visited El Wafa Rehabilitation Hospital in Gaza and interviewed administrative and medical staff. The only first-class modern rehabilitation hospital in this devastated strip of land six by twenty-six miles, was actually a huge pile of rubble and crumpled equipment and fragments of metal and stone nearby and we were camping out in a home for the aged now turned pieced-together hospital. On the third day of the 2014 Israeli assault, the hospital, which was well-known and clearly marked, was hit by artillery. The staff contacted responsible authorities, put out press releases in multiple languages, invited human shields to stay in the buildings, and documented the lack of militant activity. There were multiple communications back and forth, and yet, the Israeli military chose to bomb the 8,000 square meter facility to smithereens and in the massive flail of transferring patients and medicines and bits of equipment in the midst of a violent and aggressive war, refused to grant the Red Cross ambulances an escort to move patients without further danger of attack. https://alicerothchild.com/2015/03/march-30-2015-part-one-we-dont-hate-you-we-just-dont-understand-what-you-are-thinking-of-us/

This episode (and many more just like it) has been largely invisible in the Western press because the victims are Gazans and the perpetrators are Israelis and the Israeli propaganda machine controls the messaging with the help of our very unhelpful media and politicians. And this is a problem, because if there is no accountability, the war crimes will continue. (see the Goldstone Report) Snarfing around several websites for this blog, on the International Committee of the Red Cross site, I came across the essay: “Israel a role model for disaster medicine, says ICRC chief surgeon.” I couldn’t bear to read it, too much chest pain.

Then my eyes caught the NYT’s headline: As Attacks Surge, Boys and Girls Fill Israeli Jails, by Diaa Hadid, https://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/30/world/middleeast/surge-in-palestinian-youths-in-prison-tests-israels-justice-system.html?ref=todayspaper and I felt a moment of optimism, could this be an expose of the well documented practice of incarcerating Palestinian children in Israeli military jails, subjecting them to various forms of psychological and physical torture and forced confessions without adequate legal representation, the long-term trauma, bedwetting, psychological damage that these children and their families endure? Hadid did report that since October 1, the number of Palestinian prisoners under 18 has gone from 170 to 430 and 103 were 16 or younger. She did note that Israeli children are treated quite differently from their Palestinian counterparts. There was a brief mention of abuses in the prisons, but this was mostly a human interest/troubled youth/brainwashed by their leaders story, ie. Israeli hasbara.

So here is my question. Why doesn’t anyone ask why a child might (since I do not trust the Israeli military courts which deliver a conviction in 99% of cases against Palestinians according to the IDF) be driven to attack a soldier? Where is the mention of occupation, home demolitions, endless hours waiting at checkpoints, watching grandparents humiliated by 18 year old macho soldiers trained to think every civilian is a terrorist, Israeli tanks in the streets, refugee camps with no green space and no hope, brothers grabbed from their beds in the middle of the night by heavily armed Israeli soldiers, peers turned collaborators out of fear of retribution and further arrests, rising suicide rates, children whose only contact with a Jewish Israeli soldier is at the other end of a gun. Where is the context and where is the international outrage?

Not in The New York Times.

Into the fray: Another interview on Israeli TV – April 18, 2016

In February I received an email from an Israeli TV editor and Ethiopian civil rights activist working for Channel 10, a mainstream Israeli TV outlet. He was working on a short documentary series exploring the Palestinian struggle and those who express solidarity with Palestinians. He wanted to interview me particularly around the issue of boycott, sanction, and divestment, to challenge “the Israeli media’s coverage of the Palestinian struggle.” He stated that Channel 10 sometimes airs reports that “fall outside of the mainstream consensus.” He was planning to speak with students from J Street and Noam Chomsky (pronounced with a guttural “ch”) as well. I decided to take a chance.

I was intrigued by the opportunity to speak directly to Israelis (despite my attack interview on Channel 2 a few months earlier https://www.alternet.org/media/what-happened-when-i-was-grilled-israeli-media-about-sanction-movement-against-israel) and soon found myself sitting in my kitchen, talking with his partner Omri, as the cameraman circled around us. The series aired last week, opening with a blond newscaster talking about American Jewry, the growing BDS movement, and the threat to the relationship between the US and Israel. Standing on a bridge over the Charles River, Omri reflected on those “between the hammer and the anvil,” liberal Jews who support minority rights and demands for equality and freedom, who choke on the Israeli occupation and increasingly turn their backs on the country they once loved. This was followed by a series of thoughtful as well as agonized comments from Chomsky, a UCLA professor, Miko Peled, students from J Street, Jewish Voice for Peace, and Students for Justice in Palestine highlighting (with a dab of ominous music) the loss of “religious glue” and undying support for Israeli policy in view of the ongoing occupation of Palestinian territories and the varying levels of support and discomfort with BDS. There was one campus event of the Israeli brainwashing/hasbara variety led by a woman who post-IDF enlisted in her most important Zionist mission, connecting the young generation of American Jews to their community and to the State of Israel. The voiceover noted that her efforts were failing to stop support for BDS. Omri expressed concern that the BDS movement was using unwitting Jews to promote anti-Semitism.

Soon the camera panned to my front porch and walked into my kitchen. Refreshingly, Omri let me talk without much interruption and I elaborated on the clash between progressive Jewish values and history in the US and the indefensible occupation and the humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza that I had personally witnessed in 2015 and on annual visits since 2004. I explained that BDS is a response to Israeli policy, growing racism in the society, and the death of a functional peace movement. I explained that the core issue is that Israel is the last colonial project in a post-colonial age, that having a country symbolized by a tank with Star of David is dangerous for Israelis (Jews and Palestinians) as well as our respective Diasporas.

The narrator ended the episode reflecting on the changes between older Zionist families and their children and grandchildren and expressed astonishment that there appeared to be a connection between blacks and minorities in the US and Palestinians. Who would believe this could happen? Perhaps this is the new audacious cool thing to do? As usual, Israelis were described more as passive victims than active participants in whatever was happening. So maybe Omri didn’t really get it, which is of course why I support the strategy of BDS.

As soon as the piece aired (https://news.nana10.co.il/Article/?ArticleID=1184467&sid=126), the hate mail from Israeli viewers appeared on my Facebook page.
• There was the, we are always living in the next Holocaust variety: “…you are no more than a Jew living on borrowed time. But remember that All your activities against your own people might, in the best situation, give you a better seat on the train.”
• The complete ignorance of Middle East history, the Nakba, occupation, Muslims: “it is sad to say how misinformed you are. Have you ever asked yourself why there are no Jews living in Muslim countries, or why there are no Jews in the Palestinian government? How about the fact that a Jew can never be treated in a Palestinian hospital, when the reverse isn’t true in Israel? It’d be ironic if an angry Muslim killed you.”
• Taunting: “You are as ugly on the outside as you are on the inside, you are one vile looking creature. Only god knows why you were put on this earth, what purpose might an ugly looking “woman” like yourself be doing on earth.” “I would tell you to get raped by 10000 Arabs, but you would probably enjoy that….guaranteed you are not married, you vile woman.”
• Self-hating Jew: “I was shocked how misinformed you were about the reality of what is happening here in Israel. I haven’t come across such ignorance in a long time and in order that you don’t continue to embarrass yourself, your family and the Jewish community around you, I suggest that you get some serious education about Israel and Israeli history and learn some of the basics regarding the Arab Israeli conflict. If you are not up for doing this then perhaps you should just convert to Islam as you are an embarrassment to the Jewish people with your antisemitic remarks you are obviously a self-hating Jew with a lot of hidden anger.”
• Paranoid rant: “I just watch u on the Israeli news I disgusted by ur work and what u represent. We are in Israel don’t need ur money and ur trees. Shame on u. I lived in the USA for 14 years. As a Jew I couldn’t live safely no where in the world if Israel wasn’t excited. [sic] I’m sure ur family were in the holocaust my too, they died for them been Jewish and they wouldn’t b dead if we had a country like Israel. Shame. On u!!
At least this time there were no death threats.

Two emails from more civilized agonized liberal Israelis wanted to engage in dialogue and discussion of constructive ideas. One wrote of wanting to change the situation like two good neighbors, “but my greatest fear is the definition of Israel as an apartheid state and the consequences that ultimately will come upon us and that will take generations to repair them.” This Israeli wanted to sit down and talk, “Despite all our shortcomings, we are still a democracy and should be the way to change the discourse in society and abroad to promote the solution.” He feared the boycott and the “economic and psychological destruction of citizens.”

The second emailer identified as a member of “the Israeli Peace Camp” and agreed that the “government’s policy is both morally wrong and suicidal, but supporting the BDS is not the answer. You say there is no Israeli Left, no peace camp. This is not true. as the last election showed. Almost a half – unfortunately not more than that – voted for parties identified with the peace camp. The realities of Israeli coalition politics mean that their influence is not felt sufficiently.” She cited the active groups like Peace Now, Tag Meir, ACRI who “build bridges and promote coexistence…Why not try to support them if you care what happens to those of us in Israel who love our country and understand that the occupation is destroying it, and care deeply about human rights?” She talked about how hard BDS is on the Israeli left and “victims” of the academic and cultural boycott who “are almost always identified with the peace camp. Arguing against the occupation, we are told by the Israeli Right that we are aiding those who deny Israel’s right to exist, which is not our aim.” She also took issue with the symbol of Israel as a tank with the Star of David. “I do not know where you got this idea. It is totally false. The symbol of Israel is a menorah surrounded by olive leaves.”

So, here is my response to my cousins in the Levant. I know that the US and the American Jewish community are utterly complicit in the status quo and we have our Trump, Cruz, (and Hillary) supporters and shock radio spouting all sorts of propaganda, talking points, lies, and vicious trash talk. Enough said.

Now to the serious conversation. The let’s be two good neighbors and just talk about this ignores the nearly 50 years of unsuccessful dialoguing, the occupier/occupied, power/control dynamic, and the role of US and global military industrial corporations. Dialogue does not work when one of the parties is a highly militarized world power who will only settle for a surrender agreement, where Israeli policy has enforced an increasingly restrictive occupation with arbitrary detention, well documented torture, theft of land and water, continued massive settlement building, etc, etc. Palestinians, (with all of their aspirations, trauma, mistakes, resilience, poetry) are fighting a liberation struggle for their survival, which is inextricably entwined with yours.

During the endless peace process/dialogue, Jewish settlements in territory that is internationally recognized as occupied, grew relentlessly and Palestinians were left with apartheid/bantustans while Israeli society moved increasingly anti-democratic and right wing. A poll in the US in 2015 revealed that 47% of Democrats and 1/3 of US citizens think Israel is a racist state. In 2016 only 31% of Americans thought Israel was a democracy, 38% thought Israel was making a sincere effort for peace, 44% thought settlements hurt Israeli security. This is how you look to us. You should not be afraid that Israel is defined as an apartheid state, you should be afraid that Israel IS an apartheid state and that description is used by diplomats, politicians, mainstream Jewish leaders, writers, as well as political activists.

I also find it painfully delusional for Israelis to believe “We are still a democracy.” By definition a democracy is a state of equal citizens, or more honestly, a state that strives for universal equality of its citizens, as democracy is actually a constant work in progress. But in Israel, Jewish privilege is institutionalized in the legal system, housing, opportunity, universities, hospitals. How do you think it feels to sing Hatikvah when your family was expelled from Jaffa and your history, grief, and yearning is invisible in the educational system and cultural mythos? A democracy maybe for white Ashkenazi Jews and maybe some Jews of color. Maybe.

This is the first I have heard of a living breathing peace camp in a while. Certainly there are excellent humanitarian/civil rights/antimilitary organizations in Israel, under severe attack from the right, and these groups are to be celebrated and supported. That is different from an organized political effort that is struggling with the consequences of Zionism which are the core issues that date back to pre-1948. Until Israelis are willing to confront Jewish exceptionalism, then Jim Crow in Israel, (segregated towns and cities and schools and opportunity), and apartheid everywhere else, will continue. And I missed the blossoming of peace, love and understanding in the last election. Yes, Israel has a parliamentary system and yes small right wing parties have a disproportionate amount of power, but every analysis I have read reveals a society moving to the right. Last I checked, a majority of Israeli Jews supported the soldier who executed the wounded Palestinian lying in the street in Hebron. In the last 15 years, Israeli soldiers have killed more than 5,500 Palestinians and ten foreign nationals (excluding war casualties) and no soldier has been charged with homicide. Amnesty International issued a report in 2013 titled: Trigger-happy: Israel’s use of excessive force in the West Bank. There is a growing number of children who are murdered by Israeli soldiers with little to no provocation. Where are the outcries from the peace camp?

With regard to the academic boycott, some leftist academics may be hurt, but this is a larger struggle focused on institutions. Think about the universities built on destroyed Palestinian villages, the campuses located in Jewish settlements, the huge alliances between the military and security industries and academic departments, the special relationships with US institutions that are well funded efforts at Israeli hasbara. Ask yourself how many Jewish academics are seriously questioning the underpinnings of Jewish exceptionalism, promoting Palestinian scholars in their departments, crying out for their academic peers in the occupied territories who cannot get to work, cannot travel abroad to conferences, cannot get funding for their research. How many of these liberal academics condemn the IDF when it invades Al Quds University or Birzeit wreaking buildings and arresting students?

Lastly, some factual information. The BDS movement does not question Israel’s right to exist, it questions Israel’s right to exist as an occupying force that maintains second class citizenship in ’48 Israel and does not recognize the Nakba and its role in the creation of the Palestinian refugee crisis. So yes, we are calling on Israel to change and this call is growing. Bernie Sanders has shown that it is possible to take note of Palestinian suffering and to put some daylight between himself and Netanyahu, and the sky does not fall. 49% f Democrats support imposing economic sanctions or more serious actions against Israel over settlement construction. This is no longer political suicide, pay attention. And as far as the tank with the Star of David, I am sorry. This iconic reference appears in political cartoons, graphic novels, and it is an easily recognized internationally understood symbol of Israel. The symbol of Israel as a menorah surrounded by olive leaves may be the official photo op, but at this point it feels almost laughable if it were not so tragic.

So brothers and sisters, I am begging you to awaken from your stupor and to see what is happening. You are not passive victims but active participants, as am I. That is why I am part of an international actively anti-occupation, pro-democracy BDS movement. We are doing this because our Palestinian brothers and sisters are asking this of the international community and because we honor the idea of equal rights and justice which are ironically beautifully described in your Declaration of Independence. Check it out, you might learn something.

“The State of Israel will be open for Jewish immigration and for the Ingathering of the Exiles; it will foster the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; it will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; it will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions; and it will be faithful to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.”
https://israelipalestinian.procon.org/sourcefiles/1948-Israeli-Decalaration-of-Independence.pdf

published by Mondoweiss 4/23/16
https://mondoweiss.net/2016/04/another-interview-on-israeli-tv/

The Execution March 25, 2016

At first I didn’t watch the video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S8WK2TgruMo) because I didn’t think I could stand it. “Israeli soldier filmed executing wounded Palestinian man.” I finally realized I needed to bear witness, despite the sickening revulsion the film would evoke, which it did in spades. So here it is: a cluster of Israeli soldiers in Hebron, a man with a kippah in civilian clothes carrying a large gun, probably a Jewish settler, a scrum of ambulances, tzizzit dangle from some of the soldier’s shirts, a man, an Israeli soldier, is being loaded into one of the ambulances, sitting up in no obvious distress. And throughout this episode, another man, (it turns out he is 21-year-old Abd al-Fattah Yusri al-Sharif), lies on the ground barely moving, when suddenly an Israeli soldier aims and shoots him in the head. BAM. That’s it. Dark blood oozes onto the road. No one responds. The ambulances circle around and drive off. I am told that before taking aim, a voice yelled in Hebrew, “Is the dog alive?” The man is alleged to have stabbed a soldier.

For starters, I do not support stabbing soldiers ever, but I also do not support imprisoning an entire city, especially so the Jews can celebrate Purim at the Ibrahimi Mosque without those hostile Arabs in their way. I do not support crushing the local economy, seizing Palestinian lands and property for Jewish settlers, throwing garbage down on Palestinian shoppers and markets, settlers attacking local Palestinian farmers, destroying thousand-year-old olive trees, Israeli soldiers breaking into Palestinian homes in the middle of the night and dragging children off to jail. In other words, people do crazy, desperate, hopeless things, (if indeed the stabbing accusations are correct which sometimes they are and sometimes they are not) for crazy, desperate, hopeless reasons. And history proves that there is only a certain amount of crazy, desperate, hopelessness that anyone can tolerate and we seem to have reached the limit.

That said, there are still internationally recognized medical and human rights rules of behavior and abandoning them not only dooms the injured left to bleed to death on a street in the Old City of Hebron but also the soldier turned racist/fascist who makes that call, feels OK about it, and goes home to his wife and children and a night at a bar in Tel Aviv or davening in a lovely old synagogue in Jerusalem.

I speak as a physician. Internationally recognized protocols for triage of injured and wounded people require treatment first of those most severely injured, no matter who they are. The (19-year-old?) soldier does not get to be shooter, judge, and jury, at least not until the accused appears before a military tribunal. But I keep coming across a growing sentiment amongst Israeli soldiers, medical personnel, government officials, and religious leaders that Jews get treated first, no matter the level of harm, and that suspected attackers should be summarily shot whenever possible. While an Israeli military spokesperson claimed that this is not official policy, and Netanyahu wrang his blood drenched hands, the policy of summary executions is reported to be a directive from high level political and military leadership and is happening with distressing frequency.

Examples:
Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon stated, “Right now it is required to respond quickly to any local attack to eliminate the terrorist stabber or the perpetrator stone thrower and the like, immediately, on the spot.”

The Chairman of the Yesh Atid Party, Yair Lapid, stated, “Whoever takes out a knife or a screwdriver, or whatever it may be, the directive needs to be shoot in order to kill. Not to hesitate. There will be full legal backing. The state gives full legal backing.”

Sephardic Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef said it would be a “mitzvah” to kill armed Palestinians and Rabbi Uri Sherki, head of the Machon Meir yeshiva said, there is an “obligation for Jews to kill terrorists before they kill us.” Safed Chief Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu said, “It is forbidden to leave a murderer alive.”

It also has been reported by the Israeli Democracy Institute that 53% of Jewish Israelis favor killing alleged attackers immediately, even if they are arrested and pose no further damage. Israeli civilians have also urged soldiers and police to perform summary executions, (see killings of Fadi Allound and Bashar Massalha).

The Israeli Medical Association’s ethics guidelines, contrary to the international principles of medical neutrality, had called for treating victims before alleged perpetrators, but reversed those guidelines in December, 2015. Now paramedics are supposed to treat according to the severity of injury, as developed in guidelines by the remarkably sane Physicians for Human Rights – Israel. Avigdor Lieberman, the former foreign minister, was so incensed by these changes he called on the IMA director to resign and ZAKA, Israel’s volunteer emergency services, has rejected these new principles.

Now imagine the 19-year-old soldier and the immoral universe in which he has been trained and the 19-year-old Palestinian who has faced endless checkpoints and humiliations and land confiscations and the loss of hope and a future worth living. This is more than children killing children. This is one society that has been brought to its limits by an increasingly brutal and oppressive occupation and another society that has given its children permission to do the unspeakable.

To be personal about this, a lovely Palestinian medical student stayed at my home last year. She was unusually smart, motivated, and extremely competent during her rotations at a variety of Harvard Hospitals. She comes from a large family near Hebron, accomplished, educated, devout; her father is a physician. Recently her 18-year-old brother allegedly attacked Israeli soldiers and was shot dead. The family is in shocked, horrified mourning and I fear that next, as is the custom after many attacks, their home may be raised to the ground in some kind of sick Israeli policy of “deterrence” and collective punishment. I am consumed by fear and I am reminded of the statistic that half of suicide bombers had their homes demolished as children. Tragedy upon tragedy. Trauma upon trauma.

It is way past time to stop. For everyone’s sake.

Thanks to Electronic Intifada, Mondoweiss, and B’tselem

Trump Bellows, AIPAC Squirms March 21, 2016

I feel compelled to comment on the frenzied political dance that has engulfed the 2016 AIPAC Policy Conference. The Presidential wanna bees are buzzing the hive (without Bernie, the only Jewish candidate FYI) and the media is all TRUMP. But the messaging strikes me as slightly schizophrenic. On the one hand, rabbis are threatening to walk out on the Donald (who has a Jewish son-in-law) harangue on the grounds that he is too racist, Islamophobic, and hateful for AIPAC standards and at the same time he is not loyal enough to the AIPAC Stand-with-Israel line which is grounded in…. racism, Islamophobia and hatred towards Palestinians and just about everyone else in the region. According to the just posted article in The New York Times, even Hillary was not reliably fawning enough for the Lobby which is a dizzying thought this early in the morning.

And in fact while the Trump has been espousing the muzzling of the press and the appropriateness of roughing up and sucker punching those who raise questions, AIPAC has been involved in national and local legislation to criminalize the (nonviolent) call for boycott, divestment, and sanction of Israeli companies and institutions until things like the occupation and the second class status of Palestinians with Israeli citizenship ends and Palestinian refugees have a resolution to their 68-year-old history of neglect and injustice. Last I checked, we still had freedom of speech in America, but that is clearly under attack from a number of very public and more stealth-like efforts. FYI it is already a civil offense to espouse boycott in Israel, our very trendy little sister.

And another weirdness, as T (I hate to keep using his name) calls for egregious policies towards Muslims, immigrants, and the building of walls to keep out all those rapists and criminals, the Netanyahu et al gang already privileges one religious group (Jews) over everyone else in housing, schools, work opportunities, etc, in the great democratic State of Israel. They have demonized and imprisoned asylum seekers from Africa as well Palestinian refugees and for that matter the spouses of Palestinians with Israeli citizenship who just want to live with their honeys in a decent apartment in Haifa. And let’s not forget the infamous separation/apartheid wall which is actually a massive land grab (85% of it is in the West Bank) sweeping Jewish settlements into the Israeli fold and dividing Palestinian villages and families from each other and their agricultural lands, universities, businesses….FYI this is not about security but it is about walls as foreign policy.

Given the media focus and the quirkiness of this presidential campaign, you would never know that 47% of Democrats say they think Israel is a racist state, and 49% support imposing economic sanctions or other punitive measures against Israel’s continued settlement building. Other polls show that less than one-third of American Jews believe Israel is a democracy.

So just for the record:

Trump and AIPAC deserve each other and I feel a certain amount of glee watching the Israel Lobby squirm around another bully.

The press refers to AIPAC as if it is an organization that speaks for the Jews of America and ALERT ALERT, AIPAC does not speak for most of us slogging in the trenches, trying to apply what we learned in high school civics class about democracy, tolerance, free speech, and fairness to the increasingly disturbing trends in Israeli society.

The danger to Hillary – March 14, 2016

Word is out, Hillary Clinton will join the list of prostrating luminaries at the March 2016 AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) Convention, a love fest for the powerful Israel Lobby and its diverse and frenzied supporters. The website boasts attendance by 15,000 “pro-Israel” Americans, (a term I use guardedly since support of the current Israeli government could be considered a relatively suicidal action if you consider the intolerant bordering on fascistic trends in the country. I’m thinking of polls showing major support for taking away the vote from Palestinians with Israeli citizenship, “compatibility committees” that keep Arabs out of Jewish towns, an education minister who refers to Arabs as monkeys, and so forth. Real friends (as opposed to enablers) might actually be the folks who are trying to steer the country away from leaping off that ugly cliff, but that I suppose is a long and painful semantic conversation). And the other attendees include more than two thirds of our less-than-thoughtful congress including Speaker of the House Ryan, 3,600 students from 630 campuses, 283 student government presidents from all 50 states and 275 synagogue delegations. I can only wonder who foots the bill for all of those flights and hotel rooms and lox and Pinot Grigios. Mr Saban and Mr Adelson, have you written your checks yet? I mean, of course, after the checks for Hillary and the wide selection to her right.

Netanyahu is reportedly appearing via live satellite; I suspect he wants to get in his last snub of the Obama administration, despite the more than $3 billion per year that continues to flow his way and the endless hasbara junkets (check out the gift packages for the Oscars this year), and the thousands of US police men and women training with the Israeli military in our mutual “fight against terror,” and the trade deals with our start up nation little sister. It is the details that really count here.

Hillary will join VP Biden and The Donald on the speakers roster, so what’s the risk of singing kumbaya with all of those liberals who don’t see the racism in Jewish exceptionalism, the suffering of 1.9 million Gazans living in an ongoing humanitarian catastrophe, the injustice of 50 years of occupation, and the neoconservatives and evangelicals who actually think this is all a good idea?

I would suggest that despite the power of what many call “the Jewish vote,” (all 8 million of us in a population of 322,762,018 give or take) while mainstream Jewish organizations march with Hillary, the actual voters have much more independent minds and I would remind you, actual voters are the ones who actually vote. I am fully aware, particularly since Citizens United, that elections are largely bought, but consider the following:

Increasing numbers of younger Jews are challenging their fathers and mothers around their uncritical stand with Israel due to concerns about the lack of democracy, the intolerance, racism, and Islamophobia that undergirds the current state of the state.

The Boycott, Divestment, and Sanction movement is growing in power despite the multi-million dollar efforts to destroy it and the spreading legislative efforts to criminalize the advocacy of BDS in the US as a strategy against Israeli policy. Look at the recent victories: Ahava, Veolia, G4S. Even Airbnb’s rentals in Israeli settlements got hit this week with the headline: “Airbnb’s profits on Israeli settlements” with five supportive letters in the San Francisco Chronicle. A poll in November 2015 found that 49 percent of Democrats support either imposing economic sanctions or engaging in some other form of action against Israel over settlement construction. In more than 25 colleges and universities, resolutions have passed calling for divestment from Israeli and other companies that profit from the Israeli occupation. The Presbyterian Church (USA) and the United Church of Christ have voted to divest from corporations implicated in the Israeli occupation and the United Methodist Church divested its pension fund from several Israeli banks over their ties to settlements. Human Rights Watch recently released a report advising businesses to end operations in the settlements and the European Union is demanding that settlement products be labeled as such. This is not a marginal political campaign, and in fact, given the long and slow death of the famed “peace process,” it is one of the few campaigns that is actually having an impact.

If there is a consistent message from the befuddled and reactive electorate these days it revolves around anger that the old ways of doing things have not worked, that the rich and powerful only get richer and more powerful, leaving the rest of us voiceless and covered in proverbial dust. It may just be that more and more folks are finding the old ways of doing US foreign policy (translation: defending capitalism and the profits of powerful multi-national companies and military interests) unacceptable, that kissing Netanyahu’s you-know-what despite his temper tantrums and willingness to humiliate and berate our leaders, not to mention his hysterical advocacy for attacking Iran, seems like a really bad idea, that despite the glittering fanfare at the AIPAC convention more and more people are noticing that the emperor is not wearing much of anything.

So yes, Hillary, there are minefields here. Bernie, are you listening? Did anyone notice that this old Jewish guy from Brooklyn got the “Arab vote” in Michigan and won? Who knows what will happen next?

The state of two states – February 14, 2016

I was recently asked (for perhaps the thousandth time) if I am a “one stater” or a “two stater,” ie., do I support a one-state solution or a two-solution as the preferred resolution to the ongoing catastrophe in Israel/Palestine. Not only does this imply that there is a desired outcome, but that we should all be working towards that outcome. So let’s examine a bit of history here.

When I started learning about the complex history and politics of Israel/Palestine in the 1990s, the idea of a two state solution, a Jewish and an Arab state, was considered a radical concept. This all changed with the Oslo Accords in 1993 which was ostensibly an interim “land for peace” deal with a commitment to solve the more challenging issues within five years. The PLO was accepted as the official Palestinian negotiating partner and the West Bank was divided into Area A (18% of the West Bank, primarily Palestinian cities) under Palestinian Authority control, Area B (22% of the West Bank) under PA civil control and Israeli military control, and Area C (60% of the West Bank) under Israeli civil and military control, although the entire region remained ultimately under military occupation. Many Israelis in the “peace camp” optimistically felt their work was completed with the Oslo Accords and Diaspora Palestinians flocked home, eager to build their new nation.

But this was not to be. Since the 1967 War and the capture of East Jerusalem, the Golan Heights, West Bank and Gaza, the Israeli government has annexed East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights and occupied the West Bank and Gaza. East Jerusalem and the West Bank have been the site of an aggressive settlement and Judaization project and there are now 650,000 Jewish settlers living in what was supposed to be the future Palestinian state and its capital. In addition, the West Bank has been compartmentalized into Jewish and Palestinian areas through bypass rounds, checkpoints and a vigorous permitting system that limits the movement of Palestinians and cripples the economy. The Israelis have also claimed the Jordan Valley as a closed military zone, isolating the few remaining Palestinian communities. Gaza has been subjected to repeated devastating military attacks and is withering under a severe military and economic siege, 1.9 million people without hope or a future.

In response to the obvious ongoing injustices, the violence of the Israeli military machine and the Israeli military court system, and the lack of a real movement towards liberation and peace, there has been an ongoing Palestinian resistance movement, mostly non-violent but sometimes violent in nature. Palestinians also demand a resolution of the refugee crisis created in 1948 and 1967 and a just resolution to their right of return. The Jewish Israeli populace, some frightened by Palestinian resistance and some imbued with a toxic mix of religious entitlement and Islamophobia, has moved to the right and successive governments have become more racist and less willing to negotiate.

In what is often referred to as Israel ’48, 20% of the population is Palestinian and they live in mostly segregated areas and attend a largely segregated school system. There are over 50 laws that disadvantage Palestinian citizens over Jewish citizens and there is a well-documented policy of institutional racism towards non-Jewish inhabitants.

All of these realities lead many analysts including myself, to declare that the two state solution, if it was ever possible, was destroyed by Israeli policies, especially the massive Israeli settlement project and takeover of Jordan Valley as a closed military zone. The metaphor has always been: endless negotiations over how to divide the pizza while Israeli negotiators are busily eating that same pizza. Realistically and honestly, a one state exists now, from the river to the sea, grounded in injustice and control of the Palestinian population by a powerful Israeli Jewish government and military that has no intention of treating Palestinians in Israel ’48 or the occupied territories as equal human beings with rights, aspirations, mistakes, traumas, and a history that needs to be honored.

I have been asked, but what about all the generous offers and percentages that Israeli negotiators have proffered? First, given the realities on the ground, generous is quite a euphemism while Israeli forces continue under every Israeli administration to forcefully grab land and water and to aggressively Judaize East Jerusalem. Refusing to acknowledge the refugee crisis, now in its third generation, also ignores the rights and realities of some 6.5 million people whose fates were sealed with the creation of the Jewish state. Not only is this a grave injustice but this creates a source of tremendous humanitarian and political instability that ultimately has to be addressed for a viable peace to ensue.

The various percentages that negotiators have cited are always deceptive. Even if Palestinians were to have control over a significant percentage of the occupied territories, (ie all the rooms in the prison), the Israelis will maintain control of all the hallways, doorways, gates…ie ultimately everything. There is also growing evidence that Israel wants permanent control of all of Area C (60% of the West Bank and the location of Jewish settlements), frequent talk of outright annex, and the Israeli military has always claimed the need to control all the borders (such as the Jordan Valley). This is not the prescription for a viable, cohesive Palestinian state. In addition, there is an economic component to occupation. Not only is the West Bank a captive market for Israeli products, but Israel looks to fertile areas like the Jordan Valley for economic benefit. Settlements also all come with infrastructure (military, roads) and expansion areas that are a much larger footprint than they initially appear. There are massive industrial parks in settlements and internationally funded industrial zones that allow Israeli industries (supported by global corporations) to treat the Palestinian population which is desperate for work as a pool of third world labor, poorly paid and unprotected.

Interestingly, even the liberal Jewish Zionist establishment is starting to recognize and admit these realities. Thomas Friedman in a recent column in The New York Times, boldly proclaimed that the two state solution is over, the peace process is dead. While he puts some of the blame on Hamas and Mahmoud Abbas, he puts a larger share of the blame on the Israel Lobby (AIPAC and the Christian right), the cowering US Congress, right wing Jewish billionaires like Sheldon Adelson and Haim Saban (funder of Hillary), the Israeli settler movement, and Netanyahu (and his right wing coalition’s) racist megalomania.

What this all means to me is that this is no longer a struggle for one or two states, (or perhaps three given that Gazans have been virtually cut off from their cousins in the West Bank- the “bad, non-compliant” Palestinians versus the “good compliant” Palestinians). This is now a struggle for human and civil rights for all of the people between the river and the sea. Admittedly this is a messy, historically charged, traumatized place dominated by outside interests and surrounded by various levels of discord, Shia/Sunni conflicts, ISIL, civil wars, and dictators that all use Israel/Palestine to inflame the passions of their respective populations.

All the more reason to press forward with a principled and universalist approach. The first step is always grappling honestly with the realities on the ground rather than living in an endearing but dangerous fantasy, whether it be the benign intentions of a Jewish state or the previous successes of the US and its buddies bombing people into democracy. We and a collection of colonial powers are responsible for much of this disaster. It also seems evident to me that a host of UN Resolutions, International Court decisions, wars, suicide attacks, and “peace processes” and politicians from all sides have failed miserably and it is time for a new strategy to pressure the Israeli government and to support nonviolent resistance in Palestine.

This is why I find the boycott, divestment, and sanction movement begun by Palestinian civil society activists a source of inspiration and hope. With active campaigns against egregious companies like Veolia, G4S and Caterpillar, and consumer, cultural, and academic boycotts, many more people locally and internationally are engaging in a struggle to change the conversation and to build a human rights based movement. This is not a battle over religion or history or opposing cultures, it is a difficult, painful struggle for Jews and Palestinians to share the bounty of historic Palestine as equals with full respect for the legacies of trauma, loss, victories, and hopes that each brings to this overflowing table. They need our full support.