Friday, November 24, 2006

Who Dunnit in Beirut

The mysterious assassination of Pierre Jumayel could have been pulled off by any number of interested parties. The nice thing about this technique of political rub-out is that anyone can use it to reinforce existing fears and suspicions. My guess is that this is a Cheney operation, performed on the basis of instructions by the Vice.

If there is any political logic to the surreptitious operation, ascribed without a shred of proof to the Syrians by Bush and the major media in the West, it is the supposition that this kind of event would prove that the Syrians really are the fourth link in the axis of evil. The murder of Jumayel by the Syrians is supposed to prove the folly of disregarding neo-conservative axioms. If indeed, it were a Syrian operation. But why in the devil would the Syrians do something that is so clearly contrary to their current interests. The Syrians are in the midst of new overtures to Damascus and on the eve of a Bakerian rehabilitation. Why would the Syrians pull off something so clearly calculated to incense and mobilize the anti-Syrian forces in Lebanon.

It is the neo-cons who fear the upcoming recommendation by Baker to stop trying to isolate the Syrians. So it is the neo-cons who are mortified by the coming Baker report. Pinning the assassination in Beirut on Damascus is designed to prove that the very idea of talking to the Syrians is ludicrous. Killing Jumayel and laying the blame on the Syrians is a clear Cheney interest. I will bet on Cheney until evidence to the contrary is on the table.

The Bush gang will fight on, even if their boss tries to appear reconciled to the will of the electorate. The assassination in Beirut can be listed as Dirty Trick #1 in the Neo-Con counter-attack. I have just as much proof for my assertion that Cheney is the logical culprit as Bush & Co. have for their charge that it was the Syrians that did it.

Everybody Wants His Blood

There is a consensus this morning in Israel–including key members in his own party - that Amir Peretz cannot remain in his job as Minister of Security. Everybody is busy settling accounts, old and new with Peretz. His role in Lebanon II was indeed sufficient grounds to send him packing, along with Olmert and the Chief of Staff, Halutz. But the typical “Peretz must go” chorus this morning, as exemplified by Ha’aretz (Editorial, November 24, 2006), is pure hawkish hogwash. Ha’aretz, divorcing the issue from its more relevant political context, wants a military figure, who will inspire the confidence of the masses. Ha’aretz smells more war, and needs a general to feel safe.

A few weeks back, Peretz was busy saving Olmert’s backside after Olmert had brought the racist, “transferist,” Lieberman into the coalition. Peretz put down a rebellion by a significant minority in his party against remaining in a government with the crypto-fascist. The immediate cause for the fury against Peretz, this week, seems to be a telephone conversation he held (or even initiated, God forbid) with the Chairmand of the Palestinian Authority, Abu Mazen, without Olmert’s approval. Thus, Peretz is receiving his just reward for forcing his party to swallow Lieberman as Minister in Charge of Strategic Issues. As the government continues to lose any vestige of prestige, despite its commanding parliamentary majority, the right, headed by Netanyahu keeps up the bluff that it has a solution for all of Israel’s urgent problems. Meanwhile, the media, encouraged by Olmert and the right are doing everything to undermine Peretz’s status and make it impossible for him to perform his duties. Though Peretz deserves little or no respect from the left, his resignation, if he is indeed forced out, will be a victory for an Olmert-Netanyahu- Lieberman war coalition in the making.

No Military Solution

The primitive home made rockets showered on Sderot are driving the military-government experts over the edge. From time to time they admit that there is no military solution to the rockets. But then, one of the experts reminds them that the most mighty military power in the region cannot admit that there is no military solution to the rockets. So they start these “secret inner cabinet” deliberations and threaten a new wide scale conquest of the Gaza strip. At this point the advocates of the massive invasion admit that even after this there will still be rockets and maybe even more of them. So even if there is no military solution, you must take action involving widespread death and destruction, because an atomic-strategic-NATO-sized army cannot admit that there is no military solution to the problem of the rockets.

Short Memory

I am not the first to notice a recent re-shift in Israel’s attitude to some key countries in Europe. When Condi Rice was busy putting together an international force for Lebanon, to establish a new reality in the region, Israel was happy that the French were coming in and the arrival of the Italians in Lebanon was a diplomatic victory. France and Italy seemed to have lost their “kashrut” stamp, last week, when they initiated along with Spain a perfectly reasonable initiative to do something about peace with the Palestinians. Europe it seems is fine for stability in Lebanon, in the north, but prone to encouraging terrorism in the south, in Gaza.

Friday, November 3, 2006

Questions That Must Be Asked

Caveat to the reader: The following article deals with a very important broad issue, the relation of progressive secularist political forces to political Islam. However, the question is examined in the highly specific and narrow context of the Israeli left. Unless the reader is highly interested in both the broad subject and its local, particular Israeli expression, he or she might find the discussion a bit dense.

Did the Israeli Communist Party Get into Bed with Hezbollah?

A recent stream of articles here in the country reflects serious differences of opinion on the left in shaping a strategy towards political Islam as represented by the Palestinian Hamas and the Lebanese Hezbollah. It is not necessary for the purpose of this first analysis to document every expression of the debate.
Activists such as members of the “Nitzotz” group and the independent journalist, Yosef Elgazi were incensed over the praise showered on Hezbollah by Il Itihad, the Arab language daily of the Communist Party during the recent war in Lebanon. The Nitzotz group even accused the CP of “getting into bed with the Hezbollah.” The main point of the criticism was to object strenuously to defining the Hezbollah role as one of opposition to imperialism. They considered it appropriate, therefore, to condemn the Hezbollah attack that ignited the hostilities and denounced the Hezbollah shelling of civilian targets in Israel. The position of the editors of Il Itihad was clear. It was Israel, with U.S. support that was waging an unjust war against Lebanon and the Lebanese people. Hezbollah’s role was basically defensive and not on par with the Israeli aggression.

I attempted to deal with the more theoretical aspects of the Hezbollah issue in my article entitled “The Emir of Afghanistan,”. The essence of my argument was the necessity to recognize that Islamic political forces struggling against U.S. imperialism do fulfill a progressive role. This is generally true despite the nature of their internal regime and their ideology.

A Case in Point – Blaming Hamas for Everything

On the basis of the review by Yosef Elgazi of Naim El-Ashab’s book on Hamas (Ha’gada Ha’smolit - Hebrew website – October 26, 2006), it is clear that the book contains much important material for understanding Hamas and its path. Even so, the book and the review – and I am certain that Elgazi interprets its content faithfully – raise some very important questions.

The contents and the reasoning of the book are presented, it seems, in a manner designed to prevent the possibility that the reader might support Hamas in the ongoing conflict with the main groupings in the Palestinian national liberation movement. But there is a problem with this methodology by which the secular leadership and/or the left are defined as “the good guys” and the Hamas are presented as the “bad guys.” Evidence mobilized to prove this simply misses the main point. The Hamas has very few supporters on the left and among secular nationalists. However, at the same time those on the left and many serious analysts are intensely interested in the reasons for the increasing strength of the Hamas, as opposed to the ongoing serious decline in the strength of the left and the Communists among the Palestinians. Of course, this phenomenon – the rise of political Islam and the dwindling strength of the left is not merely a local one. The strategic options of the left towards political Islam, especially when the latter is in opposition to a pro-imperialist government, are of general concern. This question appears in a particularly acute form in circumstances wherein the left has shown a tendency to line up with the more secular regime against the Islamic forces, as appears to be the case in Egypt.

It seems that it is appropriate to ask the very same difficult and complex question in the local arena. Why did the left lose its hold on the very social strata which were its strongest social base? Were the Communists, and/or the entire left co-opted, in fact, into the controlling bloc of the regime, led by Fatah? Or in other words, did the Communists or the entire Palestinian left, present an alternative to Fatah and its policies? Of course, for us, the positions of the left and its ideological background are closer to our own convictions, but we cannot escape the need for a serious discussion of the failures on the left and the success of Hamas.
Indeed, it is Israel which is mainly responsible for all the developments among the Palestinians under occupation. Israeli policies and machinations have a direct influence on the rising tensions between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority. But this is not the whole picture. We must, to the degree possible, closely follow the role and the “contributions” of each side to growing tensions and the inability to solve the crisis related to the establishment of a united Palestinian government. We do not have all the information required to determine the main culprit. But we can warn against superficial declarations and simplistic analysis. Here is an example of such a position:

“Today, the refusal of the Hamas government to recognize the validity of the U.N. decisions and the accords signed between the PLO and Israel cause the starvation of the Palestinian people, enable Israel to evade serious negotiations with the Palestinian side and impose unilateral actions. ” (see, Elgazi on Naim El-Ashab )
This distorted statement is a perfect alibi for Israel. This kind of convoluted reasoning is supposed to explain the lack of progress in the negotiations. Does any set of policies, for example those of the Hamas government, justify in any way the starvation of the entire civilian population? The additional claim that Hamas and the other manifestations of political Islam constitute a single reactionary, monolithic bloc is exceedingly unhelpful. Elgazi (El-Ashab) continues:
“Hamas, which wants to hang on to its rule at any price behaves like the Islamists…in Iran and Sudan and like the Taliban…changes in Hamas policy are designed to weaken the vigilance of its opponents…”

This argument to the effect that any form of moderation which is expressed by new social movements is only “tactics”, is designed to prevent new thinking and to maintain old, confrontational strategies.

I am afraid that it is not coincidental that these are exactly the basic “talking points” of Bush and his administration. This dogmatic assertion, which may be aptly termed the myth of a world wide monolithic Islam is the basis for the argument that Hamas = Taliban”. This kind of simplistic thinking ignores historical experience which anchors the various Islamic forces in concrete circumstances and stresses their specific social and political background. For example, the political horizons of Hamas are shaped by its links, and the links of its supporters, with the Palestinian national movement.

The contention that there cannot be serious changes in the policies of political Islam contradict the vital and correct arguments promoted by the peace movement, here in Israel and everywhere for that matter. The peace movement and other forces against war justly argue that wise and realistic policies can avoid deadly military confrontations and create beneficial options for cooperation and mutual respect. On the other hand, the propositions advanced by Elgazi-El-Ashb conform perfectly to the theories of a coming “clash of civilizations.” If this is indeed the situation, it is hard to see any role for the left. However, political Islam, fortunately, does not and cannot exist “outside of history.” It is not immune to positive influences, just as it is adversely affected by threats of intervention. These threats lead invariably to the enhanced strength of the most reactionary elements which tend to thrive in an atmosphere of tensions and aggression.

In Support of a Policy of Positive Neutrality

The scope and value of Amira Hass’ journalistic contributions to the exposure of the brutality of the occupation and the struggle of the Palestinian people are widely recognized. Her writing is based on a deep understanding of the broad picture and exceptional professional accuracy.

However, she tends to add on to her analysis a sort of mantra to the effect that ‘Oslo is to blame’; ‘Arafat is to blame’. Presently, the version is always the ‘corruption of the Palestinian Authority and Muhammad Abbas’. According to Hass, it is the Authority and Abbas who are to blame for the clashes with Hamas, which are ‘right out of Yassar Arafat’s book’. They also bear responsibility for the failure of the talks on a national unity government, since they are acting in the interest of the Israeli occupiers. (Amira Hass, Ha’aretz, October 4, 2006).
Thus, in direct contrast to those blaming Hamas for the continuation of the occupation, Amira Hass argues the exact opposite, i.e., that the clashes are the result of the Fatah initiative to maintain the occupation. “These armed messengers have a joint interest with Israel. To return and go back to the situation wherein a Palestinian leadership collaborates with Israel, under a pretense of negotiations, while Israel continues the occupation.” (above-quoted Ha’aretz article). My sense is that Amira Hass sides with Hamas in its dispute with Fatah, as a result of her antipathy to Fatah. But, in so doing, she ignores the fact that Hamas is not totally “innocent” of interests and its own self-centered motivations.

Dr. Maya Rosenfeld (Ha’aretz, October 24, 2006) rejects Amira Hass’ arbitrary assertion to the effect that Fatah and the Palestinian Authority have actually become out and out collaborators. Rosenfeld argues that Hass ignores the fact that despite the retreats and the difficulties, the struggle of the Palestinians for their rights continues. Rosenfeld criticizes Hass because “the Palestinian effort to establish a unity government which would receive international legitimacy is not considered an act of opposition to Israeli rule, but readiness to accept an Israeli diktak.” (see above-quoted article by Rosenfeld).

I suggest that we refrain from supporting either side in the ongoing conflict between Hamas and Fatah. It is sufficient to emphasize that nothing can justify the resort to violence by either side. Moreover, there is indeed an objective need to reach an agreement to establish a unity government based on the two main forces. It is clear that in these circumstances that Fatah alone cannot represent the Palestinian public and it should not consider ignoring the central role of Hamas. But, it is certainly impermissible for Hamas to interpret its electoral victory as evidence that it has a mandate to reject difficult political concessions and the need for flexibility. In conclusion, unity it is much more than a mere slogan. Unity is in the interest of the Palestinian people – and also in the interest of those fighting for Israeli-Arab peace.

P.S.: Back to Lebanon

As I write, the United States and Israel are preparing new intervention to prevent gains by Hezbollah in the internal Lebanese political arena. Washington is trying to convince public opinion that the crisis of the Siniora government is essentially an international conspiracy between Syria, Iran and the Hezbollah. But it is clear that the Hezbollah is doing quite well right now via a purely domestic political process. The latest version of U.S. style democracy, it appears, is to threaten military intervention when and if a pro-U.S. government is in danger of losing its parliamentary majority.

These events illustrate the hypocrisy of the demand that Hezbollah prove itself at the ballot box. Hezbollah, basing its demands for greater representation on a crisis in the Siniora cabinet is demanding a cabinet shuffle or new elections. Hezbollah, we understand, is demanding elections and as we know, this is an old terrorist trick.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Just What We Needed - Lieberman in the Government

Olmert Moves to Include Liberman in his Government

Just what we needed. The government is running hard in order to avoid the appointment of an authentic Judicial Investigative Committee, i.e., one with wide powers. Our Prime Minister is busy preparing himself for investigations into his all “too-successful” real estate deals. His popularity rating hovers at a magnificent 7%. But Olmert keeps busy. He repeatedly insists on squashing any serious expression in his cabinet supporting negotiations with Syria. He and his party have succumbed to the settler right and scrapped all plans for any unilateral withdrawals. Moreover, it is clear to all that this government doesn’t have the slightest intention of taking down, even those settlements clearly defined as illegal by Israeli law. The sense is that the government is drifting without an agenda.

On the background of this semi-paralysis, and a government without an agenda, we had a visit last week from Ms. Rice, the architect of UN Resolution 1701. It is hard to identify any lasting results of her visit. It does seem that the Secretary of State of this tremendous world power “succeeded” in convincing the Olmert government to open one of the entry points in the Gaza strip for a number of hours per day for pedestrians and sick people…

No, we do not claim that Ms. Rice actually gave Olmert an order to open negotiations for the inclusion of the racist, ‘transferist’, Liberman in his government. We know that it doesn’t work like that. Even so, there is a connection between Rice’s visit and Olmert’s advances to Liberman. Rice explained to Olmert that Washington does have an “agenda” in the Middle East and that agenda includes a new round of hostilities. In these circumstances, the addition of a racist, crypto-fascist politician and his 11 MK faction to the government is “just what the doctor ordered.”
Liberman’s racist politics are well-known. His party’s “peace plan” is based on the unilateral annexation of vast stretches of the West Bank and the transfer of many Arab towns and villages out of Israel and into the imaginary “Arab state”, envisioned in Liberman’s plans.

Destroying Democracy in the Name of Democracy

The minute the news was out that there were serious talks between Olmert and Liberman, the country was inundated with new initiatives to “improve” Israeli democracy. Liberman, it appears, was working on an agreement with Olmert for restructuring the governmental and parliamentary system. Organizations and movements to save Israeli democracy appeared like mushrooms after the rain: university presidents and popular basketball coaches, the editors of Ha’aretz, MK’s Shimon Peres, Hertzog and other remnants of Ben Gurions right- wing RAFI faction in Labor, MK’s from the Likud and last, but not least, President Katsav (who managed to take time off from his current troubles of being under suspicion for sexual harassment/rape). Everybody was running like mad to save Israeli democracy. You read the recommendations and immediately recognize the spoiled merchandise. It is “alte zakhen” in every sense. For example, “strengthening the Prime Minister” by releasing him from dependency on a parliamentary majority. For example, restricting the powers of the Knesset and distorting the will of the electorate by changes in the proportional representation system and forcing the public into a two-party model of government. Now since we do not currently have any “general on a white horse,” the establishment dispatches us to the United States in order to discover democratic foundations in and around the presidency of George W. Bush.

This Israel, in the interval “between two wars”, is not in the mood to countenance any internal opposition. The government wants to take early steps warning the Arab population and designed to ensure its passivity. The Israeli government is demanding that the Palestinian Arab population and its democratic allies in the country restrain themselves and demonstrate by their silence, tacit acquiescence to Israeli actions on behalf of Bush’s plans in the region.

The present contacts with Liberman are actually a racist demonstration against the Palestinian Arabs in Israel – and preparation for the approaching war. You have to rub your eyes. The very same Israel which claims, at least formally, that it wants dialogue and understanding with the Arab world, is considering including in the government, in a central role, an avowed racist who supports the expulsion of Palestinian Israeli citizens from their homeland.

Get this. A political movement based on new immigrants who have recently come to this country, and who call their movement “Israel Beytanu” (Israel is our Home) has the nerve to spread poisonous propaganda that this country is not the country of a million and a half Palestinians who have lived here from time and eternity. “Israel Beytanu” is not a legitimate political formation but a walking provocation which has no place in a genuine democracy.

In today’s news, we are informed, once again, that Olmert is most serious about adding new partners to the coalition and he is determined to reform the political system. It is still possible that coalition complexities will keep Liberman out this time. Meanwhile, he has been showered with compliments portraying him as a serious politician. The fact that the efforts to bring Liberman into the government are accompanied by intensive lobbying aimed at the destruction of the foundations of Israeli democracy is certainly not accidental.

College of Judea and Samaria - Academic Annexation and Expropriation

Two Councils of Higher Education

The College of Judea and Samaria (CJS) in the town of Ariel is a flourishing institution by any criterion. The College was established by an edict of the regional military governor of the occupying forces who also appointed an academic committee to supervise academic development. At a recent counting, there were more than five thousand students in a rich variety of disciplines.

There is, however, a small problem. The college is a settlement in occupied Palestinian territories, as is the town in which it is situated.
Its existence is clearly illegal by any norm. The first element of all binding international laws and conventions is the impermissibility of establishing any fixed, permanent, civilian institutions in occupied land.

Whatever its positive achievements as a vehicle of learning – all of which could of course be pursued 10 miles to the west, on the Israeli side of the green line – it is first of all a blatant example of brutal expropriation, national oppression, denial of human rights and outright thievery.

The college may parade itself as a lofty site of learning, but its very roots are rotten through and through.

Over the years, Israel has two councils of higher educations: the official and recognized Council of Higher Education (CHE), which draws its authority from Israeli law and another council, the Council of Higher Education in Judea and Samaria (CHE-JS) which draws its authority from the IDF. The relations between these two councils are cloaked in secrecy. The College of Judea and Samaria has received funding and academic recognition by way of CHE approval and endorsement. The CJS had all the cooperation that it needed to grow and develop, even if it lacked the formal recognition as an Israeli institution of higher learning.

The Israeli CHE, which is presently in a serous clash with the CHE-JS, will need to explain, earlier than later, by what right and authority it countenanced this convenient arrangement. The whole set up may yet turn out to be a serious mistake for the Israeli educational establishment, which is justly under severe scrutiny regarding accusations of its complicity in the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian occupied territories.

What Happened Now?

The CJS enjoys serious political clout (the entire right) and enthusiastic support from prestigious academicians on the right. It is some sort of diamond in the crown of the settlement project. It wants to translate that support into an official and authoritative act of recognition as a university by the CHE. It seems that colonels can establish a college, but a university launched and sponsored by the Israel Defense Forces would seem to be a bit too much and cause some academic brows to furrow up a bit. The Sharon government tried to declare the CJS a university, back in 2005, but was reminded by the CHE that this was the sole province of the Council.
For reasons totally unconnected to the Judea – Samaria complications, the Israel CHE has decided to reject a number of requests from regional colleges in the country to become full-fledged research universities. But while, the all powerful Budget Committee of the CHE was keeping its finger in the dike, the CHE-JS passed a resolution in August setting out a number of steps to be taken by the CJS, and which, upon completion, would automatically convey on it full university status.

The CHE Gets Angry

The Israeli academic establishment slept quite well, over the years, while the CJS grew and developed the local form of academic annexation. But when the “bastard” offspring came to it with a number of Israeli professors as their academic sponsors for opening the path to university status, the CHE was, to say the least, very angry. Angry, but not too wise. The CHE decided that all of its members, and not only the select few serving on the CHE-JS were, ipso facto, now members of the CHE-JS. This seemed to be necessary to nullify the decision about opening the way to university status for the CJS. At this point everyone is calling their lawyers, in order to figure out who has the authority to do what.

Possible Ramifications

Given Israel’s justifiably questionable status in intellectual and academic circles abroad, there are at least two important questions that will inevitably demand attention.

1) What were the relations over the years between the CHE education in Israel and the IDF-created CHE-JS? Did the CHE in Israel aid, abet or assist in any form or manner the development of the CJS?
2) Even if an institution answers the standard requirements for recognition as an institution of learning, can the international academic community ignore the illegal foundations of the institution and its role in the annexation of the land of a dispossessed nation?

Saturday, September 16, 2006

The Emir of Afghanistan

Current international realities have repeatedly posed the question of the relationship of the peace movement and the left to clearly reactionary regimes that have fallen victims to aggression by the United States and its proxies. It is not an uncommon occurrence that reactionary ruling circles, especially in what we are accustomed to call the third world, come into conflict with the major imperialist powers.

The story of the Emir from Afghanistan who back in the twenties of the previous century led a struggle for independence, mainly against the British, is the classic example. Many social democrats (or a better term would be social chauvinists) denied the justice of that struggle because of the terrible backward and reactionary nature of the Afghan feudal society.

Without in any way ignoring the nature of Afghan society, progressives acknowledged that the anti-imperialist struggle of the Emir of Afghanistan was basically progressive and objectively a just war against imperial domination.
Internationalists and supporters of peace must make a distinction in this complex international situation between the internal politics of a given country and the way it defends its national integrity. The willingness to oppose U.S. intervention against countries small and big with progressive and or reactionary internal politics is a basic element of progressive politics.

This fundamental insight, which seems paradoxical, but which is not, has become acutely relevant in the evaluation of current events. Two major wars of aggression presently conducted by the United States against Afghanistan and Iraq are at the center of world politics. Both Iraq and Afghanistan were under reactionary domination when the United States attacked. Moreover, both these wars are direct results of the present stage in U.S. imperial policy and exemplify the tendency of the United States to relying more and more on the use of force to solve major international issues.

The Descent of U.S. Hegemony

One might ask why the United States, with its tremendous political and economic power must resort to armed aggression and use its very own troops against such paltry political formations. The most reasonable explanation for the current adventuristic and militaristic policies of the United States is that the United States is in serious trouble. The essence of the matter is that the U.S. has lost and is losing constantly the ability to subjugate the countries of the world by economic and political means. Hence, the resort to war, as in Afghanistan and in Iraq, is evidence of a deepening political and economic weakness that tries to overcome its limitations by the use and threat of force. Despite its astonishing military superiority, the United States is bogged down in Iraq with no chance of pacifying the country. Afghanistan witnesses a constant increase in the strength and the prestige of the Taliban and a continual rise in violence, not to speak of the expanded volume of the drug trade.

The eminent historian, Immanuel Wallerstein, expressed the opinion of many international analysts in locating the source of the present U.S. aggressiveness in the descending political and economic strength of the United States. The United States had interpreted the fall of the Soviet Union as the harbinger of a new era, the American century, in which absolute US hegemony in all fields would be assured for decades and decades.

But with the emergence of Europe, the rise of China and other Asian forces a new surge for national independence, sovereignty and self- determination spread throughout the globe. The specific circumstances of this world wide tendency differ from country to country. The local leaderships that dare to defy US hegemony often represent vital progressive and anti-imperialist movements, but we can also be speaking about reactionary, clericalist and tyrannical governments. In between these two polar phenomena there are a multitude of intermediate positions and policies. Many countries cannot dare to go up against U.S. imperialism, but also refuse to go along with U.S. attempts to isolate its “enemies” or even destroy them by war. See in this respect the interview with Samir Amin at the current meeting of the non-aligned countries in Cuba on the Hagada Ha’smolit website.

Our thesis must be elaborated simply and clearly. The clearly reactionary and oppressive regimes of the Taliban or the Iraqi Ba’ath do not change the basic political facts that the wars by the United States against these regimes are unjust and aggressive in their nature and that the resistance by peoples of these countries against the U.S. invasion is wholly and unqualifiedly justified.

Democrats and supporters of peace must make a distinction in this complex international situation between the internal politics of a given country and the way it defends its national integrity. The willingness to oppose U.S. intervention against countries small and big with progressive and or reactionary internal politics is a basic element of progressive politics.

The struggle for national independence, sovereignty and the right of each and every people to dispose of its own natural wealth and resources is a cornerstone of peace and international stability. The United States, under Bush, is waging a fierce ideological campaign that denies the importance of respecting sovereignty and makes national independence subservient to fitness qualifications defined by the U.S. government. Countries are categorized as terrorist or assisting terrorism, as democratic or non-democratic according to bureaucratic whims in D.C. Of course, the contradictions and the hypocrisy in this categorization reveal that entire process is a travesty, nothing more than supplying a license for intervention and aggression.

The Iranian Case

The battle against aggression by the United States or one of its proxies is an easier and less complicated matter when the object of aggression is a regime which enjoys some degree of international prestige. The struggle against US aggression in Vietnam was facilitated by the widespread, though far from universal, understanding that Vietnam was on the road to progressive social transformations. Similarly, the battle against U.S. aggression against Cuba draws much inspiration from the progressive nature of the Cuban regime. Even so, it was vital, in these relatively “easy” circumstances to mobilize and include in the peace movement different groups and individuals who, though they opposed U.S. policies, wished to disassociate themselves from the internal regimes in those countries.
Returning to our region, one can discern similar disputes regarding the way progressives and members of the peace movement relate to the Hezbollah and Iran. For our present purpose, Iran is the best “test case.”

The present leadership of the regime in Iran is surely the worst that we have seen, even among the fundamentalist and clericalist forces in that country. This regime which has managed to increase its isolation by inflammatory anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli drivel, has a horrendous record in terms of human and democratic rights. An imprisoned Iranian student leader died recently at the hands of his jailers. Ahmadinijad, who seems to have a proven record of strike breaking in Teheran, and his people, are presently leading a purge of the universities of teachers and cultural figures that oppose their fanatic fundamentalism.

Wars are packed with events and counter-events, declarations and counter declarations, and you can pick out almost any combination to prove that one side or the other was right, or that both sides were wrong or even that the whole thing was a misunderstanding. But this one is not too complicated. Some friends may have forgotten, but wars are a continuation of politics by other means: Lebanon II was a war of aggression by a U.S. proxy, Israel designed to reshape the internal balance of political forces within Lebanon in favor of the pro- U.S. coalition, to remind Syria of the immanent dangers involved in its practical alliance with Iran and Hezbollah and to strengthen U.S. pressure and threats against Teheran with the possibility of an attack (even a nuclear one) by Israel.

Our Patriotic Duty

Why is our analysis of Iranian realities and U.S. intentions so important? The forces of peace and the left are not calling on the people of Israel to oppose U.S. imperialist schemes and come to the aid of Iran and/or Hezbollah. We are saying something totally different. Bush and his gang represent only a section of the U.S. ruling circles, and this section is presently on the defensive even in the United States. In its desperation, Bush’s coterie can come up with ideas for new adventures and dirty tricks. One of these tricks might be to play the Israeli card against Iran as a surrogate for a needed U.S. bit of action. We are fulfilling a supreme national and patriotic duty when we tell the people of Israel that we can and must stay out of this kind of madness which puts Israel and Iran on a collision course in the interests of the Bush administration.

Some might suggest that support for Iran versus the United States might facilitate the existence of the worst kind of dictatorship in that country.

There is such a danger and therefore it is vital that progressive forces articulate their stand on the most detailed and exact level. It is wrong, in the name of solidarity to ignore, even for a minute, the ugly and repressive nature of the internal Iranian regime. We must be clear on this, even as we mobilize against US imperial designs on Iran and its resources.

It is often the case that external pressures increase the strength of reactionary and chauvinist elements. In this sense, the international campaign for the peaceful solution of the Iranian nuclear problem is important in preventing the imposition of reactionary internal laws and policies designed to crush what can be made to appear as the internal co-conspirators with the external enemies.

In general, the propaganda against third world opponents suggests that these regimes are monolithic and driven primarily by pure ideological motives. Radical Islam is almost always framed in these terms. We are supposedly dealing with a unified and highly coordinated worldwide conspiracy. This presentation is designed to hide the fact that each and every single movement, howsoever opposed to the U.S, is of a distinct nature, with its own history and separate goals and interests. The existence of a world wide conspiracy of radical Islam is a figment of the Bush people’s feverish imagination, but it serves them well, nevertheless, as a rallying cry similar to that employed against the world wide communist threat, which was certainly not monolithic and much less of a threat than that presented to the public for mass consumption.

Olmert and his government, with no little inspiration from Washington, inculcated a general perception that the end of Lebanon 2 meant nothing more than the beginning of a waiting period for the next war. The public was made to believe that war was inevitable between the radical Islamic alliance – Iran, Hezbollah and Syria and between Israel. Things have cooled down a bit in the last month, but nothing has been said or done to dispel the belief that the present is only an interval between wars.

One important element in avoiding the “war with Teheran is inevitable” trap is a deeper understanding of how the possible outbreak of hostilities with Teheran “fits” into the Bush-Cheney plans. The demonization of the Hezbollah is an important element in the propaganda war. As a terrorist organization, the Hezbollah has not been very active in attacking civilians. One report from Washington notes that Hezbollah has not performed any terrorist acts since 1994. It does seem that Hezbollah has a propensity for getting into fights with the IDF, and capturing soldiers, a rather provocative and dangerous sort of thing to do – but this doesn’t really fit the terrorist definition. Some people on the left thought it necessary that it was important to criticize Hezbollah for its actions during the way. One friend thought it necessary to remind us that Hezbollah does not meet the criteria for being a revolutionary organization in that it failed to present a reasonable alternative of coexistence with Israel. However, the political and ideological distance between the authentic left and the Hezbollah is such that it never occurred to us to criticize the Hezbollah as a force of the left. It never occurred to us on the left to demand revolutionary strategy from an Islamic fundamentalist organization.

This does not mean that we thought it logical to censure Hezbollah for fighting back with relatively ineffective missiles when faced with a massive attack on Lebanon and its people from Israel’s U.S.-equipped armada. We did what every decent and honest peace loving person would do: we demanded a complete cease fire from all concerned.
Now have we already forgotten who was ready to agree and why and how the demand for a cease fire was frustrated as Lebanon was being raped?

On any given day, we on the left will be ready to condemn Hezbollah’s denial of the right of Israel to exist alongside an independent viable Palestinian state. But we are painfully aware that Israel and its major ally cannot be exempted from their share of responsibility. The left demanded recognition of the rights of the Palestinians to their own state in Palestine well before the Palestinian Liberation Organization decided in 1988 to recognize ‘ in principle, the right of Israel to exist. We did this then when the PLO was commonly considered a terrorist organization and still refused any constructive solution to the Jewish community in Palestine.

In fact, the PLO was the political expression of the Palestinian national movement and the strategy of armed struggle that did not exempt citizens was a serious weakness. But it did not cancel the progressive nature of the Palestinian cause. Can the international community and especially the U.S. and Israel wash their hands from the responsibility that the Palestinians in their move away from terrorism and towards willingness for mutual recognition were “rewarded” with unending degradation and suffering for their forward looking realism. The scene did become more and more conducive to the rise of Islamic fundamentalism to hegemony in the Palestinian community. Yes, we are firmly and unremittingly against all forms of terrorism. Yes, it is also clear that cluster bombings are sowing terrorists all over the place. There is very little use for the repeated mantra about how we oppose terror as long as the cluster bombs keep coming down, as long as hundreds of thousands in Gaza are hungry.

Bush and company want us to believe their demonic accusations against radical Islam, falsely presented as a world wide conspiracy which can only pursue insane policies of world domination. This is a vulgar and superficial analysis designed to unleash again and again the dogs of war.

Each day brings new evidence that forces such as Hamas, Hezbollah and the Iranian regime have their own practical interests and needs. There is almost daily evidence that these forces are subject to the universal laws of political differentiation. Each group contains forces of reason and realism, and these will respond to a genuine politics of peace and compromise. That kind of politics, which rejects all forms of demonization and is based on the rational analysis of all options, is the key to preventing the next war.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Chief Justice Barak Goes

Liberal, But Only on the Inside

Despondent Israel has found something to celebrate this week, something which is supposed to unite people and give them a sense of accomplishment. Chief Justice of the Israeli Supreme Court, Aharon Barak, is retiring amidst accolades of praise. The tributes center on Barak’s imprint on the Israeli legal system, which is undeniable and extol him for advancing human rights within Israel as a Jewish and democratic society, an achievement that leaves, to put it mildly, much to be desired. .
Barak was an accomplished legal technician and was recognized as an expert in the sensitive field of legal interpretation. However, the praise showered on him was based on something totally different. Barak was the chief architect of the legal separation between the appearances of a functioning democracy in Israel proper and the simultaneous administration of systematic brutal “military justice” against the Palestinian people in the occupied territories.

Barak carefully erected a legal wall between the two systems of “justice” long before Israel decided on the infamous separation wall of institutionalized apartheid within Palestinian territory. Basically, Barak accepted all the arguments by the military as to the ‘reasonableness’ of the vicious and brutal deportment of the military and security forces, first as Israeli Attorney-General and then for the last 28 years, with 11 of them as Chief Justice in the Supreme Court.

Barak is directly responsible for the “legal arrangements” that permit Israel to hold some 10,000 Palestinians in prison while the region is in a turmoil over three Israelis captured by the Hezbollah and Hamas. Indeed, Barak was responsible in his capacity as the leader of the High Court of Justice for many decisions slapping the military on their wrists, but these were carefully selected cases to remind the army officers that they must remain within legal frameworks, which anyway grant them almost absolute discretion. In short, Barak made it look as if there were real restrictions on the military, when in real life these were exceptional instances which never touched the prevailing dynamic of arbitrary use of absolute power against the Palestinians.

Barak leaves the High Court…lots of establishment people toasting and kissing each other, but no real justice.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Who Won, Who Lost and Why?

For anyone confused about the results of the war in Lebanon, what with both Israel and the Hezbollah claiming victory, the following rule of thumb should be helpful. Those claiming an Israeli victory and a Hezbollah defeat are basing themselves on things that are supposedly going to happen in the future. George W. is the most prestigious representative of the “Israel won” school of thought. He said this. “How can Hezbollah claim victory when they are going to be replaced?” Georgie, losing still another battle with the English language, must have meant “displaced.” Experts on GWB explain that he quite often confuses things that he wants to happen with things that are actually happening.

Those, who state that Israel lost and Hezbollah won, base themselves on what happened, and this is of course, the only reliable basis for analysis.
The extent of the loss and the significance of the Israeli defeat are, of course, open to discussion.

And now, I have to make a confession. A few days back I wrote an article for our Hebrew website, “Hagada Ha’smolit” [Left Bank]. Pained and disgusted at the war and the steady stream of the official lies, I said some very unpleasant things about the state of Israeli society. The key motif of that article was that even the most consistent opponents of Israeli policy over the years could not have known the depths to which Israeli society had sunken. The blistering indictment that I presented there is so severe as to pose the question as to whether there are still some redeeming features in Israeli society. Fearing to be misunderstood on so critical an issue, I wanted to rewrite the English text, though I knew that, eventually, I would have to come clean and write the sad and bitter truth for my English readers. I had simply hoped that I could find a way to balance the indictment by finding a few just people and events in Sodom. If you have not noticed we are in Sodom and Gomorrah.

Three items in the news yesterday showed me that I was silly and naïve.
Item one revealed that Dan Halutz, the IDF Chief of Staff had called his bank at 12:00, three hours after the July 12 incident, in order to sell all his stocks. The Attorney- General decided that very morning to file charges against Ha’negbi, one of the leaders of Kadima and the present chair of the powerful Knesset committee on Security and Foreign Affairs, for handing out civil service jobs to party hacks. On the same morning, the police requested the Attorney-General to file charges against Haim Ramon, the Minister of Justice (!), for sexual harassment.

Of course, these gentlemen richly deserve the anguish and humiliation that they should be feeling (but do not be certain they do feel anything of the sort). Moreover, this is just one more instance of some flotsam and jetsam being expunged from dark and deep currents.

The plain fact of the matter is that, even as consistent political and moral opponents of the Israeli regime, we did not and could not have known that the rot and the decay in the interstices of Israeli society had proceeded to a level that challenges the imagination.

Of course, we are not concerned with the peccadilloes of this or that politician or general. We are concerned with the recent formation of a national consensus enthusiastically supporting a war that should have been seen immediately as a wild and irresponsible project launched by irresponsible politicians and arrogant generals. There is no need to repeat here all the aspects of this debacle, recognized as such by almost every part of Israeli society. The details of the disaster are becoming clearer day by day. But it our duty to ask the more basic question of WHY this happened! There is a sickness in this land and those who cherish the land and its people, those who see it as their homeland, cannot avoid facing the whole truth.

Root Causes – Real Ones

These, in broad outline, are the root causes of the deep and abiding crisis in Israeli society.

One: Israeli politics have been thoroughly militarized to the point that all major issues are analyzed exclusively in military terms and the employment of brute power. The military and its thought patterns has permeated the body politic and the civilian echelon rendering civilian control of the armed forces a sad joke.
The public is led to believe that all problems and difficulties can be resolved only through the use of force. The assumption is that the IDF, were it released from moralistic considerations and political wimps could take care of business. Thus, the persistence of unresolved difficulties is understood by public as a result of lack of will on the part of the civilian echelon. In times of tension or military operations, the first concern of the government is to convince the public that it has given the military a free hand. The politicians are in mortal fear that any general accuse the government that prevented the army from reaping the fruits of victory. All the government has to do is to “Let the IDF win!”

Two: The pre-existing special alliance between the United States and Israel has been upgraded. Israel has become a full scale operational partner in the “war on terror” and has been assigned specific targets in the crusade of the Bush administration against the axis of evil. Most Israelis are convinced that they are receiving fantastic diplomatic, military and logistical support for doing something that they would have to do anyway. Indeed, how could Israel not respond with a deep sense of gratitude and solidarity when the only major superpower deepens the special alliance and converts it to a mutual interest in battling “Islamo-Fascism.” Israel believes that, with the security of the U.S. commitment, its existential problems are over.
The political and military elites, including the intellectuals, who should know something about the reliability of the United States, have enrolled Israel in a project that might well end in a major catastrophe. Israel is quite satisfied with itself about lining up with Bush, though it does not have the faintest idea of the objectives and the chances of reaching them.

Three: It is impossible to oppress an entire people for 40 years and not to succumb to the ultimate rationalization for such action. Anti-Arab racism is endemic in Israeli society. This racism is so pervasive that it covers the political landscape like a cloud and infects all the thinking and the attitudes of the overwhelming majority of Israelis. There are endless variations on the never ending litany of the faults of the Arabs – some more sophisticated for the more educated strata and more vocal and vicious for the masses.

Four: In a society busily engaged in privatizing its very soul, the concept of dedicated public service becomes anachronistic. Everyone is involved in his/her own career, looking out for advancement and pursuing more monetary reward. If you are smart, you understand the value of public relations. If you want recognition you will find your way to the media. Truth is irrelevant, and everyone knows that what counts is what gets to the media.

These broad and far reaching developments: rampant militarism, abject subservience to Washington, deep seated racism and careerism are the deeper reasons why Israel embarked on the recent adventure in Lebanon. Despite the tremendous sigh of relief all over the country after the cease fire went into place, the hawks, the generals and their stooges are already explaining that the next round is inevitable and it won’t take long in coming.

The Risks of Leadership

With a slight nuance here and there, the Zionist left rallied to the flag of national unity when Olmert and Peretz blew the bugle. However, from the very beginning there were some brave souls who disassociated themselves from their leadership by showing up at the demos by thousands of the militant left which opposed the war from day one.

At a meeting of Peace Now activists on July 24, 2006, there was a clear division between supporters and opponents of the war. Supporters of the war rejected a suggestion that Peace Now, at the least, come out in support of a cease fire. The movement leadership argued that its supporters would not understand such a position and that it was impossible to know whether the demand for a cease fire might not help Hezbollah.(!?)

Public opinion counted Peace Now with those sections of the left who had seen the light and returned to the fold of the nation. But as the war dragged on and there were signs that victory would be evasive or not be achieved at all, three central figures of the Zionist left (Amos Oz, A.B. Yehushua and David Grossman) came out in support of a cease fire on Sunday, August 6. In parallel development, Peace Now and MERETZ activists called, in open defiance of their leaderships, for a demonstration on Thursday, August 11, supporting the demand for a cease-fire. As the week went on, pressure was building on the recalcitrant leaderships to take a position. By Thursday morning, the break away, grass roots initiative had been adopted by both leaderships as an official movement activity calling for quick end to the war .
During the week, there were insistent rumors that Israel was going to launch a mass land offensive drive to the Litani River, any minute. This had the effect of uniting all sections of the Zionist left, which recognized the move as nothing more that a costly attempt by the IDF to bolster its sagging prestige.

There are two ways to respond to these events in the peace movement.
One could say, well, better late than never. Another way of looking at this is to ask what kind of leadership has to be dragged by its rank and file to the street in order to protest against a government that is blatantly ignoring the human costs of an imbecilic war?

Wednesday, August 9, 2006

Amos Oz, A.B. Yehoshua and David Grossman Go To War

Three prominent Israeli writers, David Grossman, A.B. Yehushua and Amos Oz have published a statement (Ha’aretz, August 6, 2006) in which they reiterate their total justification of the Israeli military action, but call at this point on the Israeli government to agree to a mutual cease-fire.
The three were obviously trying to put some distance between themselves and the rampaging Israeli war machine. Basically, this was another of those “too-little and too late” responses designed for no other reason than to calm a very uneasy conscience. But the text of three such distinguished figures deserves careful study. The opening paragraph must be quoted verbatim. And it is a source of deep concern.

“The aggression by the Hezbollah against Israel which was carried out in Israeli territory and included the killing and kidnapping of soldiers and the shooting of missiles on civilian population centers, required Israel to carry out a wide ranging military action in its defense against both Hezbollah and against the Lebanese authorities who grant full backing and assistance to this murderous organization, which calls for the destruction of the state of Israel.”

It is astonishing that the three writers still adhere, at this late date, to the official version of the outbreak of the war. The more serious sections of the local media, including those who support the war, have no problem in admitting that the kidnapping incident was a pretext. They admit, quite openly and convincingly, that Israel was searching for an excuse to attack Lebanon in order to destroy the massive stockpiles in the hands of Hezbollah. This is the generally accepted and unabashed explanation for why Israel went to war. This more sophisticated explanation (which is an open admission of support for preventive war) replaces the cheap propaganda version to the effect that “Israel had to respond as it did.” The more sophisticated argument has the virtue of, at least, relating to the real problems, to questions linked to the substance of the struggle between Israel and the Hezbollah.

It is also astonishing that intelligent observers could treat the “Lebanese authorities” as “full backers” of the Hezbollah. This is a gross and misleading misrepresentation of Lebanese political realities. These realities, including the limited capacity and stability of the Lebanese government are well-known and not unconnected to Israel’s historic and current role in the region and its tendency to intervene in Lebanese politics.

The authors evade their chief responsibility which is to ask and reply to the hard questions: a) Could Israel have taken serious steps to reduce tensions and danger by diplomatic initiatives? b) What is the source of Hezbollah’s growing political and strategic clout? c) Is an armed attack on Lebanon, its population and its infrastructure an effective means to reduce Hezbollah’s standing and prestige in Lebanon and the Arab world?; Instead of dealing with the real questions on the agenda, the three opted to parrot the official version to the effect that Israel “had to carry out a wide ranging action.”

We cannot leave the text without relating to the following argument presented by the three, wherein and whereby they attempt to whitewash Israel’s horrible human rights record: “Even though, in this action, many civilians of the enemy country were, to our sorrow, harmed, its aim was not the killing of civilians for its own sake, as opposed to the Hezbollah…”.

Israel has forced more than three quarter of a million people out of their homes and made them refugees in their own land, destroyed the infrastructure, roads, bridges, and vital services of an entire country. It is preventing or delaying urgent humanitarian aid. A thousand civilians have been killed by now and many thousands more wounded.For our authors, the main thing is that this is all unintentional. It is the old story. These horrific developments are what is called “collateral damage.” War, you understand, involves collateral damage. Remember Vietnam yesterday and Iraq today. So there is “lots” of collateral damage today in Lebanon. We have heard the collateral damage argument before, but we do not remember any writers of status who used it to attempt to justify the results of totally unjustifiable military operations.

Monday, August 7, 2006

The French Connection

If you have not noticed, French diplomacy over the Lebanon crisis has achieved for France the questionable status of co-conspirator with the United States. The moral bankruptcy of French foreign policy consists in lending a shred of credibility to Madam Rice’s argument that it is necessary to delay the imposition of an immediate and unconditional cease-fire. Rice’s argument that political agreements and accords must be reached before any cease fire so that the status quo ante will not return is puerile in the extreme.

I hope Madam Rice doesn’t find herself in a situation where she and her family are in urgent need of emergency medical services. One family member is dying, others are seriously wounded, still others are in a state of shock. The family is refused admission and care since the hospital policy is not to attend victims of circumstances until it ascertains the [root] causes of the accident and takes effective steps to prevent its reoccurrence.

France by giving credence to the U.S. stalling operation, attempts to evade its clear moral and political duty to work for an immediate, unconditional cease fire. The argument that the French diplomats will surely concoct about “effectiveness” is crude and irrelevant. The delay in implementing the cease fire is a clear prize to Israel’s war plans and is designed to enable the IDF to carry out additional operations. France, which has decided to enable Bush and Rice to hide behind it, has entered the conspiracy. As usual, everyone will be astounded when it is learned how cheaply France has sold its honor.

The Israeli Right Bares its Fangs

In a recent interview with the foreign press corps, Olmert remarked that Israel will be glad to return to its pre-war political agenda which includes plans for additional unilateral withdrawals in the West Bank.

The Israeli right is naturally overjoyed over the recent Israeli offensive and has snapped to attention as the most loyal and devoted section of the ranks of national unity. But this remark touched off a flurry of furious reactions. They seized convincingly on every single one of the government sponsored rationales for the current invasion of Lebanon as convincing proof that the “convergence plan,” should be dead and has no public backing today. The establishment journalists ran to the side of the ‘insulted” right-wing politicians and censured Olmert for not understanding the newly emerging political map. There was even an incipient rebellion of right wing settlers in the IDF. Right-wing politicians sensing the possible damage to the right’s image quieted the upset settler-soldiers.

Olmert and Peretz appear more and more in the Israeli media as the first potential political victims of the present nefarious adventure. They are about to learn that the initiators of a stupid, brainless war are apt to fall as victims of the political logic that they enhanced in the broad public.The center (Sharon’s legacy and party) will be branded for giving up territory (the retreat from Gaza and the retreat in 2000 from Lebanon). The public mood at this point is that even if Israel “wins”, Olmert and Peretz will lose, and if Israel doesn’t win, and even loses, then Olmert and Peretz certainly will lose. The trouble is that they stand to be succeeded by right- wing politicians who are hysterically demanding to carry the war to the “real” enemies, Syria and Iran. These enthusiastic warriors in the war of civilizations will call on Israelis to keep on fighting and to put their fate in the hands of their Maker, Bush, Rumsfield and Rice, not necessarily in that order.

Listen Mr. Ahmadinijad

The intolerable stream of vituperation which characterizes many of your public statements should not be ignored, especially by foes of U.S. imperial policies in the Middle East. As a rule you have not denied insistent reports as to your call for the destruction of Israel and other scurrilous statements relating to the Holocaust. We would not put it past some news sources to try and distort your exact wording. However, the Prime Minister of Iran has sufficient means at his disposal to issue faithful accounts of his statements and his intentions. The latest recent statement to the effect that Iran supports a cease fire in the first place and the destruction of Israel afterwards is pure grist to the mill of Israeli propaganda. This kind of irresponsible and inflammatory talk is in effect ammunition for the same forces attacking Lebanon and preparing its dismemberment. The resentment of the people of Iran against Israeli policies is understandable, but you have no legitimate reason to manipulate that resentment and convey yet another message of death and destruction in the region. This kind of talk serves the enemies of peace in the region. It also damages the best interests of Iran and its people. Iran has powerful enemies, why help them?

Wednesday, August 2, 2006

Scaling the Heights of Perverted Logic

The bleary-eyed crowd of pro-war analysts and commentators are mourning the fact that time is running out on the Israeli offensive with no evidence that any of the stated Israeli war objectives will be reached. The objectives, it will be recalled, were the annihilation of Hezbollah as a military-political force, the return of the captured soldiers and the replacement of Hezbollah by a military force (Lebanese, international or both) along the Israeli-Lebanese border designed to enhance Israel’s strategic and tactical position in the area. The strongest army in the Middle East backed by the strongest power in the world is bogged down in the Lebanese quagmire. Oh, how much arrogance and stupidity is required to create a new quagmire on dry land in the middle of the summer.

Thus Olmert, staring failure in the face, has decided to declare victory and preparing to get out.
Speaking at the National Security College in Tel Aviv, Olmert gave one of those speeches replete with profound ideas like “we will win because we must win.” Yesterday, he came out with the eerie declaration that Israel has already won the war. This is a strange statement from somebody who is desperately lobbying the international community to extend Israel’s license to hunt and kill in Lebanon for another week or ten days. Olmert speaks of the achievements of the Israeli attack in glowing terms of “nearly unprecedented success” and “even today, it may be said that the face of the Middle East has changed following the great achievement of the State of Israel.” The success is so great that “In no way can this war be measured by the number or range of missiles still being fired at us…we did not promise that there would be no more missiles” and “each day is weakening the enemy’s resolve…” (Ha’aretz, August 2, 2006). The Ha’aretz correspondent felt it necessary to explain that Olmert spoke off the cuff.

This morning, newspaper readers were reading Olmert’s rosy assessment of the situation when the heaviest of salvos – more than 150 rockets - smashed into the north of Israel. Pity Olmert who had just explained that success cannot be measured by the number of missiles still being fired on us. Pity poor Chief of Staff, Halutz, whose press conference this morning was interrupted again and again by announcements calling on people to go down into the shelters. Halutz was explaining that no one ever promised that there wouldn’t be any more missiles and trying to cheer up the Israeli public with the news that Israel had successfully raided a hospital (!) in the sensitive Baalbek area close to the Syrian border. Halutz also took pride in the fact that the IDF had killed 300 Hezbollah fighters in recent battles.

May I say a word to friends who have been convinced of the justice of the Israeli reaction on July 12, 2006. The debate on this issue will, of course, continue. Meanwhile, it is clearer, day by day, that Israel is in the hands of totally irresponsible and incompetent politicians and generals. This particular sense of what is happening is spreading through all sections of the informed public. This can be verified by careful monitoring of the Israeli media. There is a growing evidence s that both the Prime Minister and the C. of S. are in a state of disconnect. It simply had not occurred to the two of them that it is harder to get out of a war than to get into one. Now they are finding this exit especially hard to find since their political hides and careers are on the block. In these growingly dangerous circumstances, cannot we all unite on a clear and urgent demand to stop the fighting, before it is too late??

Israel Does Have Some “Achievements”!
The list of Israeli “achievements” is impressive:

a) Israel has considerably improved the status and the prestige of Hezbollah in Lebanon, and in the entire Arab and the Muslim world.

b) Israel has recast Hezbollah’s role un Lebanon from that of an important, but minor player in Lebanese politics, into a major player whose influence will play, in the near future, an even greater role in internal Lebanese politics.

c) Israel seems to have tipped the scales and isolated the more rabid anti-Syrian circles in Lebanon. Syria will be less isolated and more influential than before in Lebanese politics.

d) Israel has exposed the true nature of the “moderate” Arab regimes, such as Egypt and Jordan and revealed their disloyalty to the cause of an independent Palestine and a free Lebanon.

e) Israel has helped to begin to heal the open wounds in the tensions between Sunnis and Shi’ites.There is nothing more dangerous to the United States today in Iraq than potential Sunni-Shi’ite unity. Israel may do the impossible and unify these bitter enemies.

f) Reports from Teheran observe that the Israeli attach has hurt reformists and strengthened the hard-liners. g) Israel has disproved (for the n’th time) the myth that air power, even uncontested, can win a war and once more, it is clear that victory depends on “boots on the ground.” This myth persists because the air power gurus play on the anxieties of the cheap politicians in advanced Western countries. The generals promise victory by virtue of smart bombs, laser, etc. and all the impressive technology. The politicians buy the story because they want a war without casualties from among their constituents. Invariably, the win by air power formula turns out to be quite airy.

Admittedly, during a war, things can still change. Even so, the above “achievements” are clearer and more certain than the dubious and murky achievements which Olmert claims for Israel in the “new Middle East.”

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Notes from the Propaganda War

Nothing Less than Clear and Decisive Victory

Some important critics of the Israeli attack on Lebanon are lowering their voices and joining the government’s insistence on victory at all costs.Ha’aretz is the arch-type for this kind of twisting and turning. At the outset of the hostilities, when it seemed that a quick and overwhelming Israeli victory was in the cards, Ha’aretz and other similar trends did permit themselves to ask some serious questions about the whole idea. However, with the spectre of a possible Israeli defeat (and a cease-fire at this stage might well be considered as defeat), the ruling circles in this country are lining up with the most hysterical hawks and crazed militarists. Ha’aretz, and those who think along the same lines, fear that anything less than a full and unqualified victory, will seriously undermine Israel’s status as a regional super power. They may be right. Their logic is that if Bush and the U.S. are so happy about all this, it could not be so terrible. Many moderates, not having the faintest idea of how to get off the train, have started stoking the Olmert engine.

We Suspected As Much

Amir Oren, Ha’aretz, is one of the journalists who remained clear headed from the beginning of this wretched foray. Last week, Oren broke the Eyland scoop. The head of the Israeli National Security Council, Gen. Giora Eyland, revealed that he had submitted a comprehensive political plan to deal with the tensions between Israel and Lebanon, and had received a green light from UN sources and a wide variety of other countries, as well as important parties and persons in Lebanon. All of these informed Eyland that they are willing to consider action on the document, on the condition that Eyland had a green light from Sharon (back then) or Olmert. No Israeli response was forthcoming. See Ha’aretz, July 21, 2006 – Hebrew edition (English edition incomplete).

Oren has got his own take on the Bush-Olmert venture: “”Because this is the true surprise – a surprise of statesmen and not of intelligence – of the campaign in the north: no American red light, no flashing orange light, and not even a mere green light, but the blaring siren of the sheriff’s car sitting behind the hesitant driver at the intersection urging him to get moving. The global cop is recruiting Israel as a regional cop to impose UN Security Council Resolution 1559 on the government of Lebanon and dismantle the Hezbollah army.” Ha’aretz, 28.7.2006

Hezbollah Is Hiding Among Civilians

“The kibbutz where the Golani Brigade has set up its command center, very close to the Lebanese border appeared, almost empty of civilians this week. The small pool was closed….” “Since Golani took over the kibbutz, it has taken on the appearance of an improvised army base. Soldiers run around, military vehicles rush off with a squeal.” Harel and Issacharoff, Ha’aretz 28.7.06Ha’aretz

The Katrina Effect

Natural and man-made catastrophes tear up the social fabric. One stark effect of the subsequent revelations is that social inequality and class status has everything to do with chances for survival. Rich people tend to get out and survive. Poor people have to stay behind and pay with suffering and even, in many instances, their very lives.

Among the residents of the north, who is in the shelter in the north, and who is on the beach in Eilat? Who is in Nahariya, near the Lebanese border, and who is in Crete? The government and the media are portraying the “home front” in the North as a source of steadfastedness. Well, the people in the shelters in the North, the people huddled in the “security rooms” or in the safer “interior windowless spaces” are the people who do not have the money to move southwards. They are steadfast because they are poor. Since the “home front” is so important, why not rotate the privilege - pleasure of living in a shelter for weeks, among the various sections of the population. Those, now in the shelters from Haifa (and to the north) will relocate to the hotels in Tel Aviv (and southwards). Those, especially the myriads of Israeli bureaucrats, who wish to strengthen the “home front,” will then find room in the shelters.

The Peace Movement and Radical Islam

In any normal set of circumstances, Radical Islam, in general, and Hezbollah, in particular, would encounter in the millions who make up the ranks of the peace movement, implacable political and ideological foes. Despite this, the peace movement will not lower its flags or desert its duty because of the unattractive or even repelling nature of the present victim of U.S. aggression, or even because of the sad fact that Hezbollah shares many core values with those who are attacking it.

The lessons of Iraq are still fresh in our minds. The dictatorial regime of Saddam Hussein, as unsavory a character as you can find, was not the cause of the United States aggression. It appears, that despite its failure in Iraq, or because of it, the United States, is preparing a new campaign for regime change in Iran. It is not the nature of Iran’s internal regime that disturbs Washington, but the reasonable Iranian desire to use its oil to its own best advantage.

Radical Islam, in the broadest terms, is the product of poverty and social repression, and the almost inevitable result of huge unsolved social problems. When U.S. backed repressive regimes attacked and destroyed authentic forces for change represented by the left, the mosque became the only possible site for independent organization and protest.

The global interests of the United States are the determining factor in the latest crisis in the Middle East. While it is important and even necessary to research the reasons for the rise of forces such as radical Islam, the main issue was and remains the United States drive for exclusive political, economic and strategic domination. As we have seen in Iraq, The United States cannot solve any real local or regional problem, nor is it particularly interested in doing so. It can unleash the dogs of war against anyone who dares to refuse to surrender to its demands. We express solidarity with that natural and understandable refusal, and go to the streets against United States policy. This is the only way to give peace any chance. This subject – the contradictions between the peace movement and Hezbollah requires, of course, deeper and more extensive analysis. But that will have to wait.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Extortion is the Name of the Game

Ms. Rice is in the Neighborhood - Extortion is the Name of the Game

Let us try and figure out how this is “playing out.” Mrs. Rice wants some changes made in the area, especially in Lebanon and on its border with Israel. According to her, a cease fire is senseless without these changes. In the absence of the cease fire an entire nation is being destroyed. Mrs. Rice will talk abut the desired changes with an array of governments and political forces. There is a strange, weird aspect to these meetings. Mrs. Rice is actually saying the following to her interlocutors: We think that such and such should be done. Everyone, who meets with Mrs. Rice, must understand that her wishes and request are backed up with a determination to condone, and actually encourage Israel to continue and even broaden its offensive. Are we getting this? Suppose you represent a country and Mrs. Rice says to you: “Let’s take these steps. This and that must be done.” If you do not agree, you are given to understand that you are preventing the cease-fire, and the responsibility for the continued slaughter of innocents in Lebanon has, as it were, been transferred to you. Even if this is done in the diplomatic sphere, it is extortion, plain and simple.

Supposing, Just Supposing

Cassius Clay’s backers were looking for a warm-up fight for the champ.The fight was to impress everyone with that CC’s clout had not diminished over time. They found some duffer for this very purpose. CC was to put away the unfortunate volunteer in a round or two, at the most.

When the fight dragged on and the duffer was still on his feet going in to the tenth, eleven round, the smart money had already decided that however this ends it won’t go down as a victory for CC. A victory on points, in these circumstances, is no victory. Even worse, the fight was to demonstrate CC’s deterrent capacity and it demonstrated just the opposite.

Rejecting the Call for an Immediate Cease Fires is Condoning Rape

Bush and Olmert are raping Lebanon. I have been told that there are some liberal and progressives in the U.S. who have joined the chorus chanting: stick it to her, boys.

It Will All Come Out in the Dirty Wash

Ben Gurion University Professor, Yagil Levy (Ha’aretz, July 24, 2006) launches a scathing attack on the government for going to war on the IDF general’s recommendation, without ever seriously considering the alternatives. The situation has been defined here more than once: Israel is not a country with an army, but an army with a country.

Yagil offers the readers a very intriguing bit of information:“The lack of time [to consider alternatives] also prevented the possibility of looking into the diplomatic option of the “package deal” for implementing U.N. Security Council Resolution No. 1559: this option was proposed by the UN a few months earlier, and included a deployment of the Lebanese Army in the south in exchange for Israeli concessions.”

The Israeli government, it appears, did not want to be bothered. But the reason for not looking into this option is worth looking into….

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Lebanon Burns - But Bush and Rice Have All the Time in the World

On the Road to Defeat or Escalation?

According to the most conservative estimates a half million people have been driven from their homes in Lebanon; many hundreds have been killed and thousands wounded. Tens of thousands are stranded on the roads. The sufferings of an entire people are to continue. Israel must be allowed to complete its mission in Lebanon and a ‘new set of rules’ have to be in place, before Ms. Rice will tell her ally that this is enough, for now.

It takes a lot of nerve to claim that you are working to minimize civilian suffering when you are actually involved in the Israeli strategy of war to the end, war until victory. It appears that the United States is willing to sacrifice the lives of hundreds of thousands of Lebanese citizens to help Olmert and Co. to “change the rules of the game.”

Graphic evidence of the Israeli role in continually expanding the humanitarian crisis comes from no less a source than Ha’aretz senior military analyst, Ze’ev Schiff. Schiff, the doyen of military analysts in the country can usually be relied on to back official IDF thinking. But this time he has openly expressed serious reservations regarding Israel’s battle operations.

Schiff writes under a front page heading - Expelling Lebanese, A Strategic Mistake: “In summing up the seventh day of the war against Hezbollah, there is no avoiding the conclusion that things are getting complicated. The best evidence of this is the decision to drive hundreds of Shi’ites from villages in Southern Lebanon merely because Hezbollah hid missiles in them. This would be a strategic mistake and would mark the first time that Israel could justifiably be accused of disproportionate military response.” (Ha’aretz, July 20, 2006).

The IDF has blatantly rejected Schiff’s advice and is forcing the evacuation of hundreds of villages in South Lebanon in order to incite a mass exodus, which the IDF hopes might create political and logistic difficulties for the Hezbollah. Leaflets have been dropped with the simple message - leave your homes or die.

It is clear that the United States can stop the slaughter in Lebanon immediately by informing Israel that it can no longer provide political cover for these actions. But, let us honor Mrs. Rice by examining the reasons that she gives against an immediate cease fire. Not surprisingly, they are identical to the Israeli objectives.

Israel promises to keep on bombing Lebanon until it achieves its objectives. These are 1) the return of its captured soldiers; 2) absolute control of the Lebanese side of the Israeli-Lebanese border by the Lebanese army and the creation of a new international military force to be stationed on the border; 3) the dissolution of Hezbollah, or at the least its disarmament. Since Israel holds that these goals can be achieved by continually bombing Lebanon, it has requested and received from the United States permission to continue bombing, without any clear limitation.

And if the Bombs Are Not Enough?

Israel has permission to bomb indefinitely. But what if nothing significant happens – except the mounting toll of civilian deaths? Israel has demonstrated superior strength, but the prisoners are tucked away somewhere, the Lebanese army cannot get to its southern border for political reasons (no mandate) and for logistic reasons (local resistance). Just a very few Hezbollah fighters can make this move impossible. Hezbollah can, if it chooses, lower its profile and even go underground. It will continue to exist and constitute a constant threat. No one will be able to promise Israel the peace and calm it demands.

What will happen in the event that the fighting nears its end and Israel has no prisoners, no safe border, has not eliminated Hezbollah. What happens then? This question is especially pertinent since despite its might and military prowess it is still hard to see how Israel will achieve its stated objectives. We are in the tenth day of war and there is increasing evidence of “complications.” In this case, Israel, with no tangible achievements to its credit, will either have to admit defeat or ‘discover’ a major obstacle on the path to victory. This obstacle can only be the intervention of Syria or Iran, which will reach, according to official Israeli intelligence sources, new and unprecedented proportions. If Israel has to choose between the admission of failure or escalation, it will, in all likelihood, opt for escalation – if it has the choice.

The bleak chances for the success of the latest stage in U.S. diplomacy, presaged by Rice yesterday evening, is due cause to fear that the United States is reaching new levels of recklessness. The latest reports on a new express shipment of “bunker-bombs” to Israeli is a further indication that the United States could conceivably back Israel on an additional adventure – an attack on Syria. This, of course, would take the region one step closer to war with Iran. The United States may be tempted to use the present juncture to eliminate the Iranian nuclear option. Even so, at this stage, it is still more likely that the United States will conclude that they have squeezed all the possible advantages that they can get out of the Israeli offensive. The U.S. administration enjoyed itself as Israel pulverized a close Iranian ally, but it is still wary of being drawn into direct intervention, that might well result from an Israeli-Syrian-Iranian showdown. Hopefully, Washington may begin to take notice of the growing international rage over the events in Lebanon and its sponsorship of the Israeli attack.

It is, therefore, still more than likely, Israel will have to cut its losses in Lebanon and comfort its citizens with the information that Israeli cooperation with the United States has reached an unprecedented level. After all, U.S. commitments, it will explain to its citizens, to help in the prisoner exchange, to get the Lebanese army to redeploy, and to declare the Hezbollah an international outlaw are almost as good as the real thing, or are they?

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Sharon is to Blame for this War

The War as a Result of Sharon’s Irresponsible Negligence

Despite the government’s almost totalitarian manipulation of the media and local news sources, more and more questions and doubts appear in Israeli discourse. Increasingly, questions are being asked about the attainability of Israel’s war goals and more reminders are appearing regarding the inherently limited efficacy of military means in changing political reality, especially in Lebanon. And of course, the lunatic fringe chimes in demanding that everybody admit that they were right all the time.

Professor Moshe Arens is about the closest you can get to the Israeli version of Dr. Strangelove. Thrice Minister of Defense, and one of the most hawkish ideologues in the right-wing Likud party, Arens who is always ready with some advice as why it is necessary to go to war, without delay, writes an occasional column for the Ha’aretz. These days, his current high sounding title is Chairman of the Board of the College of Judea and Samaria, the manifestly illegal B.A. factory operating on Palestinian occupied territory in the town of Ariel on the West Bank.

Israel, at war, is now the land of hype and every conceivable argument in support of the present operation in Lebanon is dragged out of the cupboard and presented to the faithful as wisdom incarnate.

The first official version was that Israel went to war after the July 12, 2006, attack by Hezbollah on one of its patrols, and the resulting capture of two soldiers and the death of three others. There are a number of problems with this flimsy version. Minimal routine vigilance by the vaunted IDF forces would have been enough to frustrate or even completely cancel the attack. Can anyone believe that Israel went to war because of an incident that almost never happened? Would Israel have desisted from the present attack without the Hezbollah provocation? Who can believe that the entire Israeli operation is so chancy and casual an affair? One would have to have a mind warped by all the chauvinist poison in the air to accept uncritically the “they attacked – so we responded.” explanation for the current violence.

And of course, there is the question of proportion. This basic rule of civilized behavior, that the response, even to a clearly illegal action must bear some relation to the character and the dimension of the provocation, is the cornerstone of every system of law and morality. This is no small matter. Eliminating any sense of proportion opens the floodgates to even more violence and brutality.

So, the government changed its original version, and the latest hype is that this is a preventive action against the existence of thousands of rockets in the hands of the Hezbollah. Now we are getting somewhere. Israel claims that it refuses to live under this kind of threat for one minute. And it is its right and duty to eliminate this threat. And Israel claims that very nature of the threat constitutes a clear and indisputable causus belli. This is the most up to date justification for the Israeli attack.

Enter Prof. Arens. Arens accuses Arik Sharon (Ha’aretz, July 18, 2006) of ‘falling asleep on the job,” by failing to stop the massive missile build up by Hezbollah. This severe accusation is totally convincing for those who accept Olmert’s claim that Israel has the right and the duty to attack and to remove the missiles. Sharon, unlike Olmert, saw the missile build up and refused to start a war.

We are not great fans of Sharon and Barak (also accused of negligence), but something is wrong somewhere. Olmert and Peretz saw dangers that Barak and Sharon did not even notice? Olmert and Peretz are more militant and have a deeper strategic understanding than that of Barak and Sharon, who shunned the idea of a preventive attack on Hezbollah?

Indeed, something is wrong here. Either the citizens of the this country must praise the vigilance of Olmert-Peretz, thus proving that Arens attack on Sharon and Barak is absolutely on the mark or there is something totally wrong in the government justification for the attack.

These are the only possibilities, even though they might sound a bit speculative. There must be a clear difference of opinion between Sharon-Barak and Olmert-Peretz in the evaluation of the threat posed by the Hezbollah arsenal. Sharon-Barak saw Hezbollah as serious enemies. They must have been concerned at having all these rockets pointed in Israel’s direction. But it is a fact that Sharon and Barak did not get hysterical over the fact that Hezbollah has all these rockets because of the simple reason that they did not, in any way, constitute a serious threat to Israel’s existence or basic interests. Additionally, Israel has at its disposal enough retaliatory clout to negate the effects of any surprise attack. And this is most important: any attempt to solve the Hezbollah problem by force of arms seals off existing opportunities for peace with Syria, blocks all negotiations in the immediate future and sets the region, with Israel in the middle, on the path to a spiral of violence that can indeed threaten Israel’s existence. Olmert can drag Israel into this war, only by suggesting that Sharon and Barak, had been derelict in their duty, but it is more likely that they knew how to read Middle East maps a lot better than Olmert-Peretz, and were simply more careful and cautious.
(This is not to say, that Sharon would have rejected any U.S. sponsored military initiative, but he most probably would have demanded to understand the scope of the ‘game’ and asked about how all this is to end.)

Olmert, wishing to prove his clout, was egged on by the IDF generals. So far, he is getting away with the Lebanese operation, because George Bush and his crew believe are enthusiastic over the chance of bloodying their enemies’ noses, on the cheap. It is just fine with George W. that Israel has volunteered for the job and he is, therefore, giving Olmert all the rope he needs to play cowboy. In fact, whether he understands this or not, Olmert has volunteered Israel to serve as the Western battering ram against Iran. He thinks that the U.S. is doing him a favor…
The Hezbollah presence and its armed strength is a problem that demands political and diplomatic resourcefulness and initiative. But once again there are more signs than ever that there is no military solution.

The New Crusade

It will turn out very sad indeed if it is the Jews in Israel who are to lead the Christian (”civilized”) world on a the next crusade against radical Islam. Of course, the battle in Lebanon is more and more a proxy struggle between the United States (and its dwindling number of allies) and Iran which rejects U.S. hegemony. The United States had been considering going it alone on a military attack on Iran. It hesitates because of its dismal record in Iraq and fears of growing political isolation. Though momentarily stymied in its plans of aggression against Iran, the United States has decided to enjoy the Israeli pulverization of Iran’s ally in Lebanon, and to utilize it as a warning to Teheran. It is U.S. arms and military technology that are smashing Lebanon, just as it is Iranian and Syrian military supplies which endow Hezbollah with its strength. The Olmert government is crowing with delight that it has found a “window of opportunity” in Washington, allowing it to demonstrate its technological wizardry. Hezbollah’s supply base is more limited and fragile while Israel sits in the sky and bombs at will. However, it is always the political results of the military clash that really matter, and the political results are – especially in this area – often at great variance to the military results. When the Israeli government comes down to earth, it is going to be surprised at how little has changed on the ground.

There are already ripples of doubt in the military and the media that Israel can succeed without a “major ground offensive.” Back in 1982, Israel believed it could determine the future of internal Lebanese politics.

It actually did this – but not the way it wanted to do it. It created the conditions of occupation that created a new political force in Lebanon, called Hezbollah.

Thomas Friedman - Hustling Democracy

Thomas Friedman warns us in a recent column (IHT – July 15-16, 2007) that “what we are seeing in Lebanon, Palestine and Iraq is an effort by Islamist parties to use elections to pursue their long-term aim of Islamizing the Arab-Muslim world.” Democracy, you must understand, is being highjacked. Friedman admits that in these cases, the Islamacists have had impressive electoral victories. Any honest observer would ask himself, at this point, as to the nature of the outstanding social and political problems that imparted so much prestige and popularity to these parties.

Instead, Friedman proceeds to delegitimize these authentic mass movements because they do not play by rules that Friedman has imported from the United States.

The biggest complaint is about the private Islamic parties. Yes, this is a problem. Hamas’ fighting force is a product of the split between Palestinian factions during the battle against the Israeli occupation. The Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories, implemented with U.S. complicity, meant unlimited military repression sponsored by two ostensibly democratic governments. According to classic democratic values, a people has the right to rebel when subject to arbitrary and brutal dictatorship. The military wings of the Palestinian movement were born in this struggle. They will not disappear until the basic demand of the Palestinian national movement for an independent viable state is met by Israel and the international community. Friedman doesn’t like to hear authentic voices that accuse the United States of its crimes; but at the least he should try and understand why people vote to empower those voices.

His attack on the Shi’ites in Iraq is mind-boggling, some sort of record in cynical distortion: “…and so too are the Iranian backed- Shi’ite parties and militias in Iraq [pulling all the strings].” (Incidentally the text here is convoluted and a literal reading would be that the Iraqi Shi’ites are pulling all the strings of Palestinian politics.) Shi’ite terrorists, then, are according to Friedman, pulling all the strings in Iraq.

Its rather clear to all that the Shi’ite parties, double as ethnic terrorist organizations and that it is impossible to know where their political functions end and where the political groups operate as cover for Shi’ite death squads. Yet once again, the private armies developed directly from U.S. attempts to colonize and divide the Iraqi people into friends and foes.

Once more, this time in Lebanon, the private army phenomenon has clear parentage in the Israeli occupation. Not so incidentally, private ethnic armies have been the rule and not the exception in Lebanon’s history. Over the years, almost every ethnic group had their private armies, except the Shi’ites who were the poor and degraded underclass of Lebanese society. How did they get a private army? When the continued Israeli occupation of Southern Lebanon made a mockery of Lebanese sovereignty and democracy, the Shi’ites under occupation created a fighting force – Hezbollah.

How very strange! The Arabs had to fight tooth and nail for their freedom and independence against so-called democratic forces. In so doing they created fighting forces that enjoyed the confidence and the admiration of the popular masses – who are the basis for any democratic society. If there is any pretext of democracy, the fighters will get votes.
Instead of this, Friedman would like to limit voting rights to people who agree with him – and he wants us to thinks he is speaking in the name of democracy.

Private armies do not drop from the skies. They are either indirect tools of former colonial control or instruments of mass struggle against foreign domination. Is it undemocratic for the Islamic voter, in the voting booth, to remember and to distinguish between those who betrayed their interests and those who were willing to die for their freedom?

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Thomas Friedman “Is There” for Ehud Olmert

The Israeli right continues to exploit the increasingly bitter sense of frustration in Israel over the sad results of the July fiasco, cooked up by Olmert and Bush. Israel wants to know what happened, how and why. Unfortunately, it has still not yet dawned on broad sections of the public that the cardinal question was and remains that of policy and not performance.

Meanwhile, Olmert is trying to weather the latest storms. A vicious “battle of generals” has erupted, and instead of serious analysis of the strategic and tactical flaws that marred the IDF efforts, the big boys are playing a very rough version of the old blame game. General “A”, head of the Northern command, broke rank with a public letter of resignation arguing that his boss, the chief of staff, Halutz and the Minister of Defense, Peretz, and not him, were responsible for the failure of the ground operations. Then, Halutz’s immediate predecessor, “Boogey” Ya’alon, came out, guns blazing, blasting the war and everything connected with it.

Ya’alon on Olmert: “Going to war was scandalous, and he is directly responsible for that. The war’s management was a failure and he is responsible for that.”
Ya’alon on Halutz: “The chief of staff failed in the management of the war. He gave the political echelon the feeling that he had the capability, which in practice he did not have, to bring about a political achievement by means of an extremely aggressive military operation.”

Ya’alon on the ground operation at the end of the war: “That was a spin move. It had no substantive security-political goal, only a spin goal. It was meant to supply the missing victory picture. You don’t do that. You don’t send soldiers to carry out a futile mission after the political outcome has already been set. I consider that corrupt.” (Ari Shavit, Ha’aretz, September 14, 2006)

Enter Thomas Friedman with his Head in the Dyke

One important observer has some advice for Israel. Friedman tells the Israelis to “get a grip.” Friedman is tough: Stop whining, you won the war. “Nevertheless, Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, did a better job under the circumstances, than he is being credited with, and more important, the situation evolving in South Lebanon now has the potential to offer a whole new model for peacemaking.” (International Herald Tribune, September 14, 2006

Friedman is so enthralled by the new model for peacemaking that he suggested it for the Israeli-Palestinian (non-existent and non-recognized) borders. Friedman wants us to believe that peace is absent because the Palestinians are unable to control territory which Israel has left. He ignores the need for anything so elementary as negotiations and an agreement on the establishment of an independent, viable Palestinian state.

Unfortunately, Friedman’s pals in Israel shot the whole idea – the new model for peacemaking - down before it could get off the ground. Tom is there for Ehud, but Ehud is not there for Tom.

UN Security Council Resolution 1701 – Fact and Fantasy

This resolution which is supposed, according to its main sponsors to establish a new reality in the Middle East, does nothing of the sort. Characteristically, Thomas Friedman’s sales pitch for the resolution is just another example of the wish being the father of the thought. Phrases, noble or base, rarely shape reality. Basically, the resolution contains two operative elements: the imposition of a cease-fire on Hezbollah and Israel and the provision for the introduction of strong U.N military presence in South Lebanon.

The new edition of the fresh UNIFIL mandate is an extraordinary document whose origins have little to do with Lebanon proper. The idea for an international force is in one respect a product of internal struggle in the U.S. ruling circles. Condoleezza Rice exploited the recent crisis to promote a revision of the Rumsfield-Cheney demand for exclusive U.S. hegemony as a condition for any international cooperation. The miserable results of the basically unilateral invasion of Iraq inspired Rice’s attempt to sponsor a counter model of diplomatic and military action.

Rice had hoped that successful Israeli military action would make the picture easier to manipulate. But the Israeli attack failed to come close to breaking Hezbollah and actually strengthened it politically. The new edifice that was supposed to be put in place to “prevent the return to the status quo anti” did nothing of the sort.

What it did do was to create a UN military force in South Lebanon which is nothing more than a base for diplomatic jockeying by the countries represented. In truth, France entered the fray to reestablish its traditional links with Lebanon, the Europeans wanted to give Condi a leg up in her battle against Rumsfield-Chyney and a number of Asian countries are interested in religious and economic links in the region. None of these countries is the least bit serious about their troops fighting anyone, least of all Hezbollah.

Everyone is agreeing to 1701 because everyone understands that nothing has been decided and hopes that nothing will have to be decided. Bush’s brainstorm to let Israel lead the battle to realign Lebanese politics did not quite work out. Washington and Jerusalem did impress everyone that they are trigger happy and ready to use their technological arsenals to unleash death and destruction, but they also need to recuperate from the recent fiasco. Teheran is busy with the nuclear negotiations. Damascus and Hezbollah are tip-toeing in order to consolidate their gains. And Israel is having more and more trouble convincing itself that 1701, that reads well but has very little or no impact on reality, proves that it has won the war.