Saturday, October 30, 2010

Guerilla Publishing Tactics

Egyptian author protests Hebrew translation of novel - Haaretz Daily Newspaper | Israel News

Alaa Al Aswany is fuming because The Israel-Palestine Center for Research and Information  translated his novel, The Yacoubian Building, against his will, and sent it as a PDF file to the 27,000 people on its email list on the grounds of "expanding cultural awareness."

The funny thing is that in the video above, Dr. Aswany, a dentist, voices how important it is for all the people of the world to cross boundaries, to exchange ideas, to understand each other. Yet although his book has been published in 29 languages, he refuses to let it be translated into Hebrew. So much for cultural dialogue. Or maybe he's sore because this move pre-empts eventual sales in Israel if 'normalization' is ever allowed.

It may be illegal, but I like it! The Egyptian intellectual class is among the most reactionary in the world. They behave in lockstep and audit each others' works so rigorously it would make Stalin proud. After all this is the same crowd that, "... expelled from its ranks the renowned Egyptian playwright Ali Salem. According to the union’s statement, Salem had "visited Israel several times and published a book on those visits, in addition to several articles supporting normalization, which contradicts the general bent of union members and the resolutions of the general assembly in several sessions." Salem had committed the sin of "normalization" —and had done so repeatedly." In 1995 they expelled the Arab world's most famous poet, Adonis, for meeting with Israeli intellectuals at a UNESCO sponsored conference in Spain.

Is it important? Yes, I think so. It is but another illustration of the inability of the Arab world to absorb the fact of Israel. And if the intellectual class cannot, why should the "Arab street" be expected to?

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Columbia Center for Palestine Studies: Israel Free/Zionism Challenged

All seems to be quiet on the Columbia Center for Palestine Studies front. A couple of astute observations by Columbia students exhibit some anxiety about the potential of the center to become an official academic bastion of anti-Israel propaganda. Otherwise very little has been written in the press about the center or its mission beyond what appeared just after its launch. 

It has felt to me that the center is the acme of the accumulating Israel delegitimization discourse. Beyond all the Middle East Studies departments throughout the US that are obliged to include some aspects of the Zionist narrative, this center will be the equivalent of Judenrein. Amanda Gutterman, a Columbia sophomore writes in the Columbia Spectator: "It does little to assuage my concern that the word Israel’ does not appear once in the Center’s 500-word mission statement, while ‘Occupied Territories' appears several times." 

A glimpse at its upcoming events reveals that the discourse of the center will be entirely devoted to the effects of Zionism upon the Palestinians. The nature of the proposed lectures evokes a Palestine that is not an it, but is entirely an other; without  agency, without internal characteristics. (Never mind what the mission statement says) There appears to be little interest in the world before Zionism. This calls into question the insistence of Palestine as an historic, national construct. 

Herewith, then, is a video of the lecture Prof. Rhashid Khalidi -- the co-director of the center -- delivered at The Jerusalem Fund just the day before the grand opening. In it he indirectly telegraphs the intentions of the center: to undermine the Zionist narrative to its ultimate end which is to remove US and Western 'protection' of Israel. A few snippets to show you what I mean:

"A number of factors played a part in cementing support for Zionism and later for the state of Israel of its two primary international sponsors: Great Britain and the United States.  As you know, each of them in its own era was the greatest power of its time.  In winning over the British and American political classes and their respective publics to the cause of Zionism and to the cause of Israel, a crucial role was played by scholarly and non-academic writings, and later by the cinema and other media. 

"I think it’s insufficiently recognized that establishing the hegemony of Zionism in the field of ideas in an Anglo-American academic and public discourse was a vital precondition for its successes in the political and diplomatic arenas. The discursive victories of Zionism preceded its triumphs in the chancelleries of the world and on the battlefields, and the latter would never have occurred, in my opinion, but for the former. In other words, in addition to being successful as an idea, as a national movement, and as a colonial settler phenomenon, political Zionism has always been a resounding public relations triumph.

"The brilliantly conceived discursive artifice, a citadel of lies, that has concealed this system of power and control for so long is actually beginning to crumble.

"I think it will be a long time before the political situation certainly will change such that we can expect an end to Israeli impunity.  Israel will continue to be protected in pretty much anything it chooses to do by our Congress and by our government. But I think the handwriting may be on the wall. I think that the system of domination and control through the calculated dosed use of violence and overwhelming power that has obtained in the Occupied Territories for over 43 years, a system based entirely on violence, and that has maintained the dispossession of the Palestinian people for 62 years, cannot be hidden forever.

"Americans bear a very, very, very heavy responsibility in this matter.  We are the 900 pound gorilla on the Middle Eastern stage.  The United States has upheld this entire discriminatory, unjust structure ever since 1948, ever since the partition resolution of 1947. Clearly, a beginning in new direction at least in the public sphere in this country has begun. I would strongly argue that true peace with justice in Palestine for both peoples that live there depends on the continuation of this process in this country. 

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Roger Cohen Prepares Face for New Egg Attack

From l to r, Brazilian FM Amorim, Brazilian Pres.  Lula da Silva,
Iranian FM Mottaki, Iranian President Ahmadinejad, Turkish PM  Erdogan, Turkish FM Davutoglu, all joined hands after signing a nuclear fuel swap deal.

In a paean to Turkey's Iran-shilling foreign policy architect, Ahmet Davutoglu, Roger Cohen has shown himself once again to be a hubristic mis-reader of events. Davutoglu's paradigm shift towards "Zero problems with neighbors", is why Turkey's foreign policy tilted towards the Muslim and Arab world and eased its movement against Israel. For, Cohen, however, that's just fine. Frankly, I had wondered if Cohen had shared a meal with the FM because every time he dines with VIPs his views seem to be filtered through rose colored champagne glasses.

To be sure, Davutoglu's foreign policy program reads brilliantly. It works on the economic level, it has b(r)ought Turkey new friends. Yet if Turkey has no enemies, why is it spending so much on military hardware? As Burak Bekdil says today in Hurriyet Daily, “Deterrence” cannot be the explanation. Deterrence can be applicable to situations in which the country that aims to be “deterrent” suspects the other(s) of aggressive intentions. Since Turkey has no enemies in its vicinity (well, according to the government at least…) what will it do with new generation tanks and air defense systems and frigates and a landing platform dock? Which government would spend tens of billions of dollars on equipment it thinks it will not need?

Because of course, there is one enemy in the neighborhood. In a recent Newsweek interview, Davutoglu, explained the situation: "'Zero problems with neighbors' is a value. But another equally important value is to establish peace. If any actor blocks peace processes, keeps civilians under blockade, massacres civil people on international waters, the peace value could not be disregarded for the sake of “zero problems with neighbors.” These policies of Israel are a menace to regional peace. Excusing these policies that go against peace just to develop zero-problem relations is out of the question."

For Cohen all this concern about Turkey and Israel is really just nonsense. When Israel 'murdered' eight Turkish citizens -- you remember those IHH flotilla humanitarians -- he says, "Far from U.S. solidarity, Turkey got U.S. hostility. One congressman wrote to President Obama demanding that he “condemn Turkey’s reaction to the incident.” That last sentence cries out for an exclamation mark. It reflects the Turkey-equals-Iran-lover-and-Israel-hater surge in Congress. That’s the kind of cheap jingoistic nonsense that boxes in Obama’s Mideast policy and condemns it to tired failure..." 

Cohen has shown before how completely off the mark he was in describing Iranian democracy, he still prefers to belittle concerns about Ahmadinejad and is casually sanguine about the Iran-Turkey pact: "I think Turkey’s immediate recognition of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad following his violent electoral putsch of June 2009 was the low point of Davutogluism. But I also think Turkey has Iran policy about right. Isolation comforts the hard-liners. Sanctions won’t turn Iran. A Turkish-Brazilian swap deal for Iran’s low-enriched uranium, reached last May, was a means “to open the way for diplomatic negotiations.”

I guess Roger also doesn't think it's a problem that Turkey has forced the US to agree to "...Turkey’s demand that no information gathered by the (NATO’s planned missile-defense) system — whose primary goal is countering threats from Iran — be shared with Israel," and is cutting off intelligence sharing with Israel.

And we haven't even touched on the Kurdish question. Several excellent articles in Tablet's recent series seem to gather and analyse their facts with a bit more depth than Cohen's If-it's-Tuesday-it-must-be-Turkey superficiality.

Given worries about the potential Iran-induced breakdown of Lebanon, I think ol' Rog should gather a bit more intel before going out on a limb, risking pie-in-the-sky-egg-on-face assessments and giving the all-clear to Turkey's foreign policy.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Coke or Pepsi?

The Power of Brands: Vision to Reality: The Reut Blog

The Reut Blog uses as an example an article by the scurrilous writer, Stuart Littlewood, to highlight 'branding' as the apotheosis of the fact-free, Blink-world we are in wherein the message must make its point convincingly and instantaneously or lose audience share.
In a Dubai newspaper recently, Littlewood contended that Hamas will need to re-brand its image to no longer be perceived as a terrorist organization: "Hamas must do (within chosen limits, of course) whatever it takes to abolish its sinister image and make the rest of the world feel comfortable.  It must erase its ‘terrorist’ reputation, whether justified or not. It must re-brand, open the door and make itself more approachable."

Says the Reut blogpost, "Littlewood’s article is a good example, of what the Reut Institute terms the ‘clash of brands’ – Israel being branded an aggressor while its enemies are branded as peaceful social movements.

"The Gaza Flotilla provides an effective example of how potent this branding has become. The clash at sea between the IDF and the Mavi Marmura was also a clash of three brands. Israel’s which had been effectively associated with belligerence and a disregard for international law; Hamas’, which has been identified with social activism and resistance to the occupation; and the Delegitimization Network’s, which has been associated with the concern for a humanitarian crisis in Gaza. In this context, Israel had no chance of ‘winning’ regardless of the facts of what actually happened. Therefore, re-branding Israel and changing the values associated with it is critically important to fighting delegitimization." 
It's kind of like the Coke and Pepsi battle in the parallel universe: Israel has been 'branded' a Nazi State, an Apartheid State, a Killer of Babies, a Human Organ Thief, a Colonial/Imperialist Outpost, a Seeker of World Domination and on and on. Meanwhile the delegitimizers have somehow convinced so many that they are the Brand of Peace, Justice, Protectors of Human Rights and Freedom.

If only the Reut Institute could implement a program for the analysis it does so well.

Benny Morris: A Course on the Origins of the Refugee Problem

To accompany my reading of Efraim Karsh's Palestine Betrayed, I've been watching a five-part lecture on the origins of the refugee problem given by Benny Morris in 2008. I think it's worth watching (it's not that long). He lays out, it seems to me, the middle ground of assertions between the Zionist and Arab positions. The Zionist side's contention -- with some revision along the way -- was/is that they fled or were forced to leave by the Arabs, and the Arab side's counterclaim was -- and will forever be, as no revisionism is acceptable on that side -- that they were thrown out through a policy of expulsion.

Morris asserts: there never was a policy of expulsion. He clearly demarcates when certain types of movement occurred, from the first 75,000 who flew the coop -- the leaders, the wealthy and the professionals, then the next 300,000 regular folks who fled because of actual fighting or fear of fighting, then the 50,000 to 100,000 that were expelled in some form primarily from Lydda and Ramle and surrounding areas during very fierce fighting and finally, about 200,000 who fled from the south into Gaza. To a great extent so many fled because of the disintegration of leadership and direction given to the masses partly because so many of the leadership class fled early on.

He doesn't flinch when stating that important among the reasons Palestinians fled was fear of massacres by Jewish soldiers. Naturally, the Arabs inflated the numbers and severity of the atrocities in their 'media' campaign which helped to spread the panic. Morris wisely places the approximately 800 Palestinian civilians who were massacred during the one-year period of war alongside massacres that took place in other civil wars. Think 8,000 civilians massacred in one month in Sebernica. Think Damour, Lebanon, where close to 600 Christians were massacred by the PLO in one day. At any rate, Jewish civilians massacred by Arabs numbered about 250, but that was only because the Arabs weren't able to conquer more than a few villages in comparison to the many more that the Zionists held. It was a question of opportunity. Furthermore, Morris reminds us that it all took place just three years after the Holocaust when  fear of annihilation would have been very strong. And as far as the Jews were concerned, this was another war of extermination.

As to the persistence of the refugee problem, well, it is because of Israel's refusal to allow the return of all who left -- and now certainly not the extra millions of their descendants -- coupled with the Arab's refusal to permanently settle those refugees... ... ...

Surprisingly, I don't think that Karsh would have many problems with Morris's history despite their long-standing antipathy for each other.

Anyway, you think you know the story, but you really should watch this because Morris is very clear, very direct and may fill in some of the gaps in your knowledge.

A Particularly Female Israel Derangement Syndrome? Addendum

 Lauren Booth who converted to Islam because of the
 thrill of being up close and personal to Ismael Haniyeh?
Daphne Anson has posted an excellent piece about the ladies of the Palestinian solidarity movement. She asks, what is it about the Palestinian cause that makes women on the left, and in particular feminists, so easily abandon their values and beliefs? How is it that they can jettison ideals of equality and sexual liberation in their gushing support of Hamas, for example, and yet not see that it is in Israel that women have made the greater strides.

In an analysis entitled, "Why Feminism is AWOL on Islam", Kay S. Hymowitz believes that a big part of it is the entrenchment of postcolonialist theory within the left:

Postcolonialists, "... have their own binary system, somewhat at odds with gender feminism—not to mention with women’s rights. It is not men who are the sinners; it is the West. It is not women who are victimized innocents; it is the people who suffered under Western colonialism, or the descendants of those people, to be more exact. Caught between the rock of patriarchy and the hard place of imperialism, the postcolonial feminist scholar gingerly tiptoes her way around the subject of Islamic fundamentalism and does the only thing she can do: she focuses her ire on Western men." 

The postcolonial feminist, Hymowitz writes, " believes that the Western world is so sullied by its legacy of imperialism that no Westerner, man or woman, can utter a word of judgment against former colonial peoples. Worse, she is not so sure that radical Islam isn’t an authentic, indigenous—and therefore appropriate—expression of Arab and Middle Eastern identity."

The two wildly brilliant and courageous Muslim writers, Ayaan Hirsi Ali (top) and Irshad Manji (below) get almost no respect from feminists, and from postcolonial female Islamist-apologists like Laila Lalami  they get only contempt. In her opinion, calls for greater equality in the Muslim world is actually a right-wing phenomena: 

"These days, being a Muslim woman means being saddled with what can only be referred to as the 'burden of pity.' The feelings of compassion that we Muslim women seem to inspire emanate from very distinct and radically opposed currents: religious extremists of our own faith, and evangelical and secular supporters of empire in the West."

Hirsi Ali counters: "When Muslim women face not just oppression but violent death, why aren’t the feminists out protesting these abuses? Where are the great European and American campaigners who powered the contemporary movement for women’s equality in the West? Where, to take just one example, is Germaine Greer, author of such classics of Western feminism as “The Female Eunuch”? Greer believes the genital mutilation of girls needs to be considered in context. Trying to stop it, she has written, would be “an attack on cultural identity...Because Western feminists manifest an almost neurotic fear of offending a minority group’s culture, the situation of Muslim women creates a huge philosophical problem for them."

Manji who is sometimes accused of Islamophobia is critical of the,"...reflexive identification some Muslims in the West unthinkingly offer to groups like Hamas or the Taliban. I met one person [like that] at Oxford University last night. I asked, 'Do these women realise that the very groups and individuals whom they are defending are the very people who, if they were in power here, would frankly their daughters particularly of their right to be at Oxford at all?'"

To me it is fascinating that both Ali and Manji are attacked by the left and have had to find a home somewhere to the right. Whereas the apologists of Muslim misogyny are invariably on the left. Is it time to throw out these categories and simply call things as they are?

Breaking News: A certain Useful Idiot, Julie Webb-Pullman a member of the Viva Palestina convoy that just recently drove into Gaza via Egypt has reported about her meeting with Prime Minister Haniyeh and the Deputy Prime Minister in scarily gushing tones reminiscent of teenage girls thrilling to Justin Bieber. In an earlier, now corrected, version of her post she mistook the name of the Deputy Prime Minister, calling him Dan Meridor -- swear to G-d. 

She also posts photos of her souvenir scarf autographed by Haniyeh and foreign minister Zahar -- think Elvis throwing his sweat soaked scarf into the all-female audience at his Las Vegas show -- and ends her post with:

"The convoy women are now excitedly awaiting the opportunity to find out more about Palestinian women's participation in the process of building - and rebuilding - a fair, free and open Gaza. Viva Palestina! 

Viva Ismail and Mahmoud! Viva women!!!"

Who said these girls weren't properly feminist?

(H/T:: Harry's Place)

Gaza War Civilian Casualties: Not So Disproportionate After All?

From the BBC: As Israeli troops surrounded a mosque in Beit Hanoun to force out gunmen,
scores of women answered a Hamas call to form a human shield.
Evelyn Gordon, knows how to read the newspaper. She mined a very important statistic in the last paragraph in last week's NY Times article on the WikiLeaks Iraq War log on civilian deaths. Interpolating from this statistic, one sees that the Gaza War civilian casualties were not dispropotionately out of the norm. In fact they were on the low side, especially considering Hamas' use of civilians as human shields. Try telling that to the Israel Deligitimization Committee.

"The New York Times tucked a remarkable statistic into the tail-end of an article on WikiLeaks’s latest document dump, one with ramifications for the ongoing delegitimization campaign against Israel: for most of the last century, the normal civilian-to-combatant wartime fatality ratio has been 10:1.
Civilians have borne the brunt of modern warfare, with 10 civilians dying for every soldier in wars fought since the mid-20th century, compared with 9 soldiers killed for every civilian in World War I, according to a 2001 study by the International Committee of the Red Cross.
This elicits an obvious question: if civilians routinely account for 90 percent of all casualties in modern warfare, why is the world up in arms about the civilian casualty rate in last year’s Israel-Hamas war in Gaza — which, by even the most anti-Israel account, was markedly lower?
If one accepts the Israel Defense Forces’ statistics, then noncombatants accounted for only 39 percent of Palestinian fatalities — less than half the standard 90 percent rate noted by the ICRC. Nongovernmental organizations obviously cite a much higher civilian casualty rate. But even they put it below 90 percent.
According to B’Tselem, the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, Israeli forces killed 1,390 Palestinians in the war, including 759 noncombatants, 349 combatants, 248 Palestinian policemen, two in targeted assassinations (bizarrely, these aren’t classified as either combatants or noncombatants), and 32 whose status it couldn’t determine. The policemen are listed separately because their status is disputed: Israel says the Hamas-run police force served as an auxiliary army unit; Palestinians say the policemen were noncombatants.
Omitting the 34 whom B’Tselem didn’t classify, these figures show civilians comprising 74 percent of total fatalities if the policemen are considered noncombatants, and 56 percent if they’re considered combatants. Either way, the ratio is well below the 90 percent norm."

Please read the rest of her post, but don't get your knickers in a twist about which publication she writes for:
The NYT article:

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Palestine Betrayed Redux

Many of you have probably read Efraim Karsh's book but I've just spent every free minute of the last three days devouring it and must pass on my recommendation to those who haven't yet read it. I find it unputdownable, biased in exactly the way I like my biases, and finally a very chilling reminder of where (some of us believe) it all went wrong. Actually, it is a welcome corrective to the revisionist history that is now ubiquitous in the academic, political and media arenas. I'm sure that somewhere between these poles -- they fled/they were expelled -- there is a story that all parties will agree on...when pigs start to fly.

I've also read most of the reviews available online. Interestingly the vast majority of those published were written from the pro-Israel side. Apart from one slightly snarky, inside baseball, review by Benny Morris -- who found a bunch of inaccuracies but ultimately agreed with the main theses of the book -- the only negative, anti-Zionist review I could find was posted on pretty much all the solidarity sites out there. It was written by one, Jim Miles, not an historian, but a self described "Canadian educator and a regular contributor/columnist of opinion pieces and book reviews for The Palestine Chronicle. Miles' work is also presented globally through other alternative websites and news publications." 

He concludes that Karsh's analysis is the betrayal: "Karsh’s writing is a betrayal - a betrayal of truth, morality, and reality. Yes, the Palestinians were betrayed, yes they were betrayed by their own self-proclaimed leaders, but they were also betrayed by the presumption of Zionist moral superiority, by the British, the French and just about anyone else they came in contact with. That betrayal continues today, with the ignorance and arrogance of U.S. support for a militant, unforgiving, immoral occupation of a people who had little say in their own destiny as the imperial overlords fought to control and colonize their lands, farms, fields, towns, and villages, and to expel them in order to create a “pure” Jewish state.

Palestine Betrayed” is a hoax - one that speaks the truth, yet conceals much more than it reveals, and creates a ’neo-revisionist’ canard about the Palestinian expulsion. In his own words, “rather than unearth new facts or offer novel interpretations”, Karsh has “recycled the standard [Zionist/Israeli] narrative of the conflict.” 
I find fascinating that the book has not received more attention from those who would want to rubbish it. Where is Avi Shlaim's, Ilan Pappe's, etc., etc.? I suspect they either didn't want to give the book more prominence or are too busy to respond because they're burrowing through the British archives in order to contest some of Karsh's quotes revealing the Brits' collusion with the Arab side as well as the collapse of Palestinian morale mostly due to the Mufti of Jerusalem's blind hatred and intransigence.
Here are a few 'good' reviews to whet your appetite:

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Right of Return, Inc.

In Claude Lanzmann's extraordinary film, Shoah, there are several episodes where Lanzmann and his translator visit Polish towns that once were homes to large numbers of Jews. Sometimes their local guides evince a certain discomfort when pointing out that this house was 'Jewish', or that store was 'Jewish', or that street was 'Jewish'. Of course, all these establishments are now occupied by Poles. Of course, there were never any suggestions that those Jews would one day return to reclaim their house/shop/street. Of course, the vast majority of those Jews were murdered in the Holocaust and the very few who did return (or survived) would have been subjected to pogroms like the one that occurred in Kielce in 1946. Of course, idiots like Helen Thomas, don't care to know about such things.

In the Middle East, there are houses and shops and towns that were once populated by Jews. They cannot return to reclaim their confiscated property. About 600,000 of the 800,000 of those Arab Jews who fled -- ethnically cleansed -- were taken in by Israel where they were helped to settle, and ultimately, after unquestionable difficulties, made decent lives for themselves.

For the majority of the 4 to 5 million Palestinians who descend from the original (high estimate) 800,000 who fled/expelled, the dream that they will return to their house/shop/village is very much alive -- a teenager born in Lebanon will tell you that he wants to return to his family's home in Jaffa -- despite the fact that this will never happen. As Khaled Abu Toameh says, "No Arab or Palestinian leader has ever dared to confront the refugees with the truth, namely that they are not going to move into Israel. On the contrary, Palestinian and Arab leaders continue to tell these people that they will go back to their former villages and towns.

Arab and Palestinian governments are lying to the refugees because they want to avoid any responsibility toward their plight. The Arab governments hosting the refugees have done almost nothing to improve the living conditions of the refugees.

On the contrary, Palestinian refugees living in Syria, Lebanon and Jordan have long been subjected the victims of racism and other repressive and unjust measures and laws that deprive them even of basic rights. Governments such as Jordan receive a payment for each refugee, turning the refugees into nothing more than property, like stocks on Wall Street."

Worse, organizations of the international Palestinian solidarity movement are helping to keep those useless dreams alive by maintaining the Right of Return as a first principle of their 'struggle for peace and justice'. 

They irresponsibly fetishize and aggrandize dreams of home to the exclusion of fighting for a better life in the here and now. If you squint, it could almost look like religious devotion, a kind of mirroring of Judaism's 3,000 year longing for the return to Israel. I am not talking here about historical memory as a right of any people, I am talking about the charlatan exploitation of memory for deliberate political ends. It should not have to be said that insistence on a return is antithetical to a two state solution and would destroy Israel as a home for the Jewish people. These organizations know this, promote this, yet seem to find an audience that is only asking for peace.

Holding the keys to the house from which he fled, this
Palestinian is the 'mascot' of
One such organization, Zochrot, is Israel based with a leadership of Jewish activist-academics. They participated in the 2008 Right of Return conference in Haifa along with such legendary Jewish anti-Zionists as Ilan Pappe and Uri Davis. Zochrot -- feminine for memory -- presented a paper, "Thinking Practically about the Return of the Palestinian Refugees," which gives detailed specifications for how the return should proceed and is worth reading if only for the parallel-universe-preposterousness of it. Here is how they introduce the paper:

"Every person who was expelled in 1948, and their descendants, has a right to return; it’s a right that is personal as well as collective.  This means that each refugee and his or her descendants have a right to choose among alternatives: returning to their former home (or nearby, if it no longer exists), receiving compensation, or resettlement in the original locality or elsewhere.  Implementation of the right of return does not necessarily mean, as people mistakenly suppose, that the refugees will actually come back.  Very often people ask, How long will the descendants of Palestinian refugees be themselves considered refugees?  How many more generations of refugees will be born?  We believe that the answer is – until the refugees and their descendants are given the opportunity to choose whether to return; in other words, until their right of return is implemented.  Their freedom to choose where, and with whom, to live – and to gain the full rights of citizenship – is their road to liberation from the difficult condition of being a “refugee.”"

Nice. If only all the world's refugees had such a gold-standard resettlement plan. If only such consideration were given to the Palestinian refugees in the actual countries where they were settled, to have lived in dignity for the past 63 years, and to live in dignity the rest of their lives.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

My So-Called Enemy

Go see this film. It is being screened in film festivals throughout the country. It shows the reconcilable and irreconcilable differences between Israelis and Palestinians through the eyes of young women who got together for a Building Bridges to Peace week in the United States. It doesn't try to make nice, it doesn't offer solutions, but does show that women have that special something that can bore through concrete walls and reveal the human being inside.

Check the website for upcoming screenings:
About the program:

Monday, October 18, 2010

Palestinian Cultural Expropriation

Somehow, I missed the Canadian Dead Sea Scroll exhibit controversy when it happened at the beginning of the year, but since I've been doing alot of thinking and reading lately about all the various strands of the Israel Delegitimization Movement (IDM?) I came upon the news stories surrounding the Palestinian and Jordanian complaints to the Canadian Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Israel's 'theft' of the Dead Sea Scrolls and their demand that the exhibition, "Words that Changed the World", be cancelled.

Mouth of the cave at Qumran.
Who speaks for the Scrolls?
Because the scrolls were found in Qumran, they claimed that Israel does not have the right to their ownership. The Palestinians made a formal request to the Canadian PM, Stephen Harper, to not allow the exhibition to take place. Hamdan Taha, Director of the Palestinian Antiquities and Cultural Heritage Department, asserted that, "These scrolls are of course Palestinian because they were found in Qumran which is located in the West Bank. They are an integral part of Palestinian heritage, its Jewish heritage. Palestine doesn't represent one layer but a multicultural history, that includes the Roman and other periods," Taha said. "Israel should be pleased that the Palestinians are showing concern for this period of our past."

Call me naive, but on the one hand aren't Palestinian academics and their friends busy challenging Zionist archeologists' evidence of the Jewish past, but on the other hand 'appropriating' and thereby confirming the evidence of the Jewish past? Is this what is meant by having your cake and eating it too? We don't even need to get into the controversy over the Temple Mount and Arafat's famous words about the lack of any evidence that there had ever been a Jewish presence in Jerusalem and, of course the claims that Israel is de-Arabizing/Judaizing Jerusalem.

But we don't have to look to the Palestinians themselves to do the work of decoupling Jewish history from the land. Here is the intro to a paper published by two Cambridge architectural historians on the City of David: "This paper explores Israeli settlers’ ideological and physical uses of heritage sites in the ‘Historical Basin’ of Jerusalem. It focuses on the ‘City of David’ archaeological park, at the foot of the Old City, as a prime example of far right settler associations’ increasing influence over the transformation of Jerusalem’s dense topography of historic sites. It investigates how the settler organisation El-Ad uses a wide array of tourist and heritage practices as ways of extending the infrastructure of expropriation and occupation in East Jerusalem. The ‘City of David’ highlights how the instrumentalisation of varied architectural and visual resources are critical to settler’s exclusivist and antagonistic heritage stewardship."

It seems that there is no difference now between official Israel and 'far-right settlers. In other words the whole enterprise is suspicious; all archeological research in the hands of Zionists is potentially illegitimate.

Elder of Ziyon has a very funny post about the scrolls controversy.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Irony of the Day: Hezbollah's Independence

The Devil is in the Context

It has been a very busy week and today promises to be very busy so I haven't had much time to focus on this blog, but this morning as I read the NY Times, I chanced upon a letter in the book review and post it in full with additional links to more from its author, William O. Beeman, Professor of Anthropology at University of Minnesota. Since most readers will interpret this letter as the reasoned opinion of an expert, I thought it would be important to contextualize it within the Professor's world-view.                                                                
To the Editor:
Joe Klein, in his review of “A Privilege to Die,” by Thanassis Cambanis (“The Hezbollah Project,” Oct. 3), says Mr. Cambanis fails “to put Lebanese Hezbollah in the context of Iran’s larger terrorist network.” However, Mr. Cambanis is correct in his presentation; the idea that Hezbollah today has a place in Iran’s “larger terrorist network” is ill-informed. Hezbollah has not been under Iranian political or military control for nearly a decade. It is now an organization operating on its own recognizance, although it continues to receive a fraction of its operating funds from Iran — much of it in the form of religious charitable contributions from its Shia brethren.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Ahmadinejad: Checking On His investment Postscript*

Lebanon news - NOW Lebanon -New Opinion: Checking on his investment

The Boss is in town
Such a brilliant headline to this editorial in Now Lebanon and so surprisingly candid:

"All pretty tame you might think," says the editorial remarking on, "Ahmadinejad's speech delivered during a lunch at the Presidential Palace in Baabda on the day he arrived when he spoke of the, 'Deep-rooted historical and cultural relations between Iran and Lebanon.'
"But that was just a warm up for the main event, staged in Beirut’s southern suburb on Wednesday night, when Ahmedinajad addressed legions of adoring followers. It was clear from the crowd’s reaction that the Iranian president was more than just a visiting head of state and he knew it. Here was a man checking on his investment," or like a landlord checking on his domain as an Israeli spokesman said, "and his speech was nothing short of a rallying to arms for the decades-old struggle with Israel and an unashamed show of support for his allies in Hezbollah who may or may not be indicted by the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL), the court established to bring to justice the killers of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and other victims of political terror."

He sidelined Hariri's pathetic son Saad, the current Prime Minister: "...the main event, which was hosted by Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah – a man who holds no public office – was nothing short of a snub to the Lebanese people and a clear indication from the Iranian leader as to whom he sees as the most influential man in Lebanon.""

From the NY Times we have a surprisingly ironic news story by Robert Worth. It seems no one can keep from satirizing this man, but he is a star with a gigantic following. The more idiotic he seems to us, to more beloved he is in the ME :

Quoting what Uzi Landau, the minister of national infrastructure, told Israel Radio, “The lesson we should learn from Ahmadinejad’s visit is that Iran is on the northern border of Israel," Worth comes full circle with the words of one of the crowd welcoming Ahmadinejad in Southern Lebanon, “It’s a historic day,” said Hussein Awada ... “We have Ahmadinejad on the border of Palestine. Yes, this is Palestine, not Israel, and God willing, Israel will soon vanish with the blessing of this man.”

Lebanon's Shiites are thrilled to have him, but what about everyone else? Is this visit going to reinforce Hezbollah's grip on Lebanon? Oh yeah. And how is Obama going to react to this? With a lecture, probably. I hope he doesn't take Flynt and Hillary Mann Levertt seriously in their belief that Ahmadinejad is deploying 'soft power' to win over Lebanon, when the threat, that Hezbollah would be ready to tear the country apart again, is his real 'selling' point.

*Postscript: As highlighted in Just Journalism today, my favorite Brit-gone-native-in-Lebanon reporter Robert Fisk of The Independent says this of the visit: "‘All in all, then, it’s a bit of propaganda, flagrant for the Israelis – who are waiting for next spring’s war with the Hezbollah – and a bit of propaganda for the Hizbollah, which is also waiting for next spring’s war with the Israelis.’" 

I see: it's a flagrant bit of propaganda for Israel, but just a bit of propaganda for Hezbollah.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Other Hitchens Visits PA and Gaza

Gaza Strip: Lattes, beach bbqs and dodging missiles in the world's biggest prison camp | Mail Online
The Brothers Hitchens: Christopher and Peter

Peter Hitchens has been visiting the West Bank and Gaza and has written a balanced portrait of what he has seen and heard there. Of course, because it is published in the Daily Mail it will probably be perceived as right-wing propaganda:

"Don't, please, accuse of me of complacency or denying the truth. I do not pretend to know everything about Gaza. I don't think it is a paradise, or remotely normal. But I do know for certain what I saw and heard.

There are dispiriting slums that should have been cleared decades ago, people living on the edge of subsistence. There is danger. And most of the people cannot get out. 

But it is a lot more complicated, and a lot more interesting, than that. In fact, the true state of the Gaza Strip, and of the West Bank of the Jordan, is so full of paradoxes and surprises that most news coverage of the Middle East finds it easier to concentrate on the obvious, and leave out the awkward bits.

Which is why, in my view, politicians and public alike have been herded down a dead end that serves only propagandists and cynics, and leaves the people of this beautiful, important part of the world suffering needlessly. 

For instance, our Prime Minister, David Cameron, recently fawned on his Islamist hosts in Turkey by stating Gaza was a 'prison camp'. This phrase is the official line of the well-funded Arab and Muslim lobby, who want to make sure Israel is seen by the world as a villainous oppressor."

More importantly, I think, Hitchens also has alot to say about the false charge raised against Israel that it is the cause of the Christian exodus from the West Bank. Apparently, according to Time Magazine,"...the creation of Israel has been a disaster for Christians in the Middle East." Come Christmas time, we will no doubt be reading about how Israel has driven the Christians out of Bethlehem. The libel is spread by the likes of Dr. Naim Ateek who peddles "Replacement Theology" through his work at Sabeel the Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center in Jerusalem and whose 'mission' is to demonize Israel out of existence. 

More from Hitchens: "... I feel all of us should be aware of – (is) the plight of Christian Arabs under the rule of the Palestinian Authority. More than once I heard them say: 'Life was better for us under Israeli rule.'One young man, lamenting the refusal of the Muslim-dominated courts to help him in a property dispute with squatters, burst out: 'We are so alone! All of us Christians feel so lonely in this country.'

This conversation took place about a mile from the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, where tourists are given the impression that the Christian religion is respected. Not really.I was told, in whispers, of the unprintable desecration of this shrine by Palestinian gunmen when they seized the church in 2002 – 'world opinion' was exclusively directed against Israel. I will not name the people who told me these things.

I have also decided not to name another leading Christian Arab who told me of how his efforts to maintain Christian culture in the West Bank had met with official thuggery and intimidation.My guide and host reckons there are 30,000 Christians in the three neighbouring municipalities of Bethlehem, Beit-Sahour and Beit- Jala. 

Soon there will be far fewer.He has found out that 2,000 emigrated between 2001 and 2004, a process which has not stopped. What is most infuriating about this is that many Christians in Britain are fed propaganda blaming this on the Israelis."

It's nice to see that at least one of the Hitchens brothers isn't as equivocal about Israel as the other.