Saturday, December 5, 2009

Bewtween Caracas and Delhi

Between Caracas and Delhi
It seems more than a coincidence that two important conferences of the international left took place last month, in November 2009. One, the 11th International Meeting of the Communist and Workers’ Parties was held in Delhi, India and issued the “Delhi Declaration” (DD) and the other, a World Meeting of Left Parties, met in Caracas, Venezuela and issued a document entitled the “Caracas Commitment.”(CC) There were approximately 50 organizations at each conference. I will try to relate here to some of the main issues raised by these two meetings and the calls that they issued.
There is some difficulty in comparing the two documents in that the Delhi Declaration (DD) is much shorter, about a third in length of the Caracas Commitment (CC) and much more general and less specific. In addition to listing the progressive position on the many fronts of concrete struggle, the CC suggests important international initiatives.
There are important differences between the two calls. However, it should be stressed that they are not and were not written as opposing or alternative theses. There is indeed some danger of “over analyzing” the differences many of which may have more to do with form than substance.
The general tone of both meetings reflects a desire to concretize the call for socialism. Both documents center on the analysis of the current crisis of capitalism and emphasize the need for a socialist solution to the crisis. The motivation is quite clear. The current crisis of capitalism poses the question of socialism as an urgent theoretical and political problem. The crisis is also a crisis for social-democracy, for class collaboration in the economy and a blow to the faith that things will work themselves out in the economy. One can hope that the common position of the DD and the CC on this vital question will afford a broad basis for unity and cooperation. Both conferences wish to reframe the demand for socialism and to transform it into an urgent social-political issue. It is no longer sufficient to think of socialism as an abstract perspective. If socialism means anything it must present itself as the best and most reliable solution for the present crisis.
What is Socialism?
There are important differences between the two documents in the treatment of socialism. CC talks clearly about 21st Century Socialism and Chavez has some clearly uncomplimentary things to say about the Stalinist deformation in the Soviet Union. Though Chavez and Venezuela’s Latin-American allies are in the forefront of the struggle against US imperialism, the CC clearly states that opposition to imperialism and the struggle for national sovereignty are not enough. In short, the time has come to move past the main slogan of the anti globalization movement to the effect that a “better world is possible”. The movement against capitalist globalization must transform itself into a revolutionary movement for socialism.

The DD is exceptionally cautious and restrained in its description of the current scene in Latin America. It categorizes the fight in Latin America as an essentially defensive front: ”Latin America, the current theater of popular mobilizations and working class actions, has shown how rights can be protected and won through struggle.” ( The dramatic difference between this DD description, which can be characterized as positive but cool, and the CC on this and other important strategic questions is a highly significant.

Though one can easily identify with the chief demands in the DD, it does seem a bit long on platitudes and short on specifics. There is a glaring discrepancy between the detailed and clear arguments against capitalism in the DD and the rather unclear role of the category of socialism in the very same document. Precisely, in the light of a new priority granted to the advance of socialism to a higher place on today’s agenda, the absence of a deeper analysis, historical and contemporary, on the outlines of the socialist alternative is sorely felt. No one could demand a single, one-size- fits all formula for socialism today from the DD. But this is a not a reason to ignore differences on the subject and the need for detailed analyses on the multiple paths to socialism. It is, of course, a fact that there are different ideological trends and political approaches on this key question in the Communist movement. If socialism is indeed to be on the agenda, the discussion of these trends and their significance cannot be suppressed.

The DD states correctly that “Imperialism,[has been] buoyed by the demise of the Soviet Union…and that the achievements and contributions of socialism in defining the contours of modern civilization remain inerasable.” ( However, nothing in the least critical is said of the Soviet project. There is something very problematic in the total evasion of any discussion regarding the weaknesses of Soviet socialism and its sad collapse. This is a serious weakness and silence on this matter would seem to open the door to attack by many enemies of the very idea of socialism. Moreover, for many serious progressives, the thinking of Communists on this question is of genuine interest.

The Bolivarian Revolution on the Move
The immediate historical background of the CC is the 2005 declaration by Chavez to build “21st Century Socialism” and the creation of a new, mass revolutionary party in Venezuela. It is important to add here the growing consolidation of the Bolivarian revolution in Venezuela, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Bolivia and Paraguay and its historical link with revolutionary and independent Cuba.
The constant machinations by US imperialism to undermine and isolate the Bolivarian revolution by military, political, and economic means are convincing proof that this arena is presently the flash point of the battle against imperialism.
The CC does not, unlike the DD, stop at recommending general positions and ideas. It offers detailed plans for the creation of new platforms of joint action by the left, including (1) Establishment of a “Temporary Executive Secretariat (TES) that allows for the coordination of a common working agenda” on agreed policies; (2) Organization of a World Movement for Peace; (3) Special instruments to advance public communication and win the battle of the media.
All of the above, if properly implemented, could impart new vigor and enthusiasm to the fight for peace and socialism. But Chavez and the Venezuelan leadership have also moved far past the above initiatives, and presented a new, bold proposal for the establishment of a Fifth International.
“The international encounter of Left-wing Political parties held in Caracas on November 19, 20 and 21, 2009, received the proposal made by Commander Hugo Chavez Frias to convoke the V Socialist International as a space for socialist-oriented parties, movements and currents in which we can harmonize a common strategy for the struggle against imperialism, the overthrow of capitalism by socialism and solidarity based economic integration of a new type.” (
Diversity and Controversy on the Way to a New International
Leftists and students of the modern era are cognizant of the complex issues involved in the conception, goals and practice of Marxist internationalism and its main tool, the international, which it established to create a material and organizational foundation for its ideals.
Chavez considered it important to outline from the outset of the discussion on a new international his own understanding of the historic outcome of previous attempts. These views were summarized in a report by Kiraz Janicke of his speech at the Caracas conference and published in an official Venezuelan website: “During his speech, Chavez briefly outlined the experiences of previous “internationals,” including the First International founded in 1864 by Karl Marx; the Second International founded in 1889, which collapsed in 1916 as various left parties and trade unions sided with their respective capitalist classes in the inter-imperialist conflict of the First World War; the Third International founded by Russian revolutionary Vladimir Lenin, which Chavez said “degenerated” under Stalinism and “betrayed” struggles for socialism around the world; and the Fourth International founded by Leon Trotsky in 1938, which suffered numerous splits and no longer exists, although some small groups claim to represent its political continuity. Chavez said that a new international would have to function ’without impositions’ and would have to respect diversity.” (
It is of course far too early to jump to any kind of conclusions regarding the Chavez proposal on the basis of the above outline or the results of the first responses from various organizations. While it would be unwise to disregard the historical “hints” in Chavez’s outline, my reading of the proposal is that we are not going to be asked to return to an international based on “democratic centralism.” The idea of the international was associated historically with some sort of centrally disciplined world- wide party. It is important to stress that Chavez seems to understand his proposal as suggesting a new form of international built around the concept of unity in diversity.
At any rate, the Chavez project is a political thunderbolt and should initiate new and broad discussion of the role of internationalism in the struggle against imperialism and for socialism. Such a discussion can only contribute to our ideological and political consciousness. We are at the very beginning of a process and it would be wise to reserve any tendency to hasty judgment.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Shalit Circus

From the desk of Reuven Kaminer November 25, 2009
Bibi’s Bathosphere
The media circus around the negotiations between Hamas and Israel on the prisoner swap to free the Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, grinds on and on, defying any vestige of proportionality. The media fuels artificial tension by trying to keep us guessing as to whether a deal is on or off. However, it should be understood that there are important ramifications of these lengthy negotiations independent of their final outcome.
You may have noticed that the Shalit show has just now returned to center stage, for the n’th time. Once again, there is tremendous discrepancy between endless volumes of coverage and the very sparse evidence of any factual developments. More and more irrelevant “activity” is reported even though it has nothing to do with facts on the ground. There appears to be some formula at work that makes this story serve the interests of both these bitter enemies. Meanwhile there is lots of noise and very little movement.
Some of the “noise” is almost hilarious. Israeli spokespersons, from the top down, grant lengthy interviews explaining why they cannot address the matter. It’s ”so sensitive” and any superfluous statement can cause irrevocable harm at this point of the negotiations.
Looking Good
But the main achievement of the Israeli role in this tawdry affair is to make Israel look good. We are to believe that those who train Israeli youth to kill and to die willingly to achieve Israel’s current strategic objective really care about each and every one of its soldiers. But it is common knowledge that the Israeli military, asides from the nefarious policies that it devotedly serves, has more than its share of serious fuck-ups which cost the lives of many a young person. There may be a middle class element here in that the more affluent and educated parents seem to want all the relevant details of the military action that cost them their child. As often as not, they know someone who knows someone.
Mentally they understand that war means death, but they would like to believe that in contradistinction to all relevant indications, the military and those that give the orders really care about the lives of their children. It often happens that bereaved parents go beyond regular channels in the search of details. The same channels are brought to bear when an Israeli soldiers falls into captivity. So if there is an opportunity – really a golden one - to demonstrate that the government and the army company really care about the fate of each and every soldier, then it is wise to exploit it fully. The regime scores points by being attentive to the parental pleas to ransom up the youngster. The story can even make Netanyahu look good.
The Israeli establishment loves to pose. One favorite pose is being in a dilemma between the head and the heart. The head rejects the very idea of freeing “hundreds of vicious murderous barbarians” but “how can we face the anxious parents without doing everything to bring their son back to them?” Can there be any better light in which to present our leadership than it being afflicted with a serious moral dilemma.
There once was a time when it was great fun to mock the left when it said that the main function of much ongoing public discourse and media coverage was to divert attention from more important matters. However, it seems that Bibi and Co. appreciate the diversionary value of the Shalit affair. Casting Netanyahu as the guardian of warrior solidarity does help to remove the glaring focus on the fact that the government is squandering what might have been the last chance of peace.
Talking about diversions, there is a list of burning issues before Israel that are really more decisive than endless negotiations on the Shalit issue. The peace process has been snuffed out by Israeli obstinacy and Washington’s clumsiness. Abu Mazen, Israel’s only potential “partner,” is barely hanging on to a shred of legitimacy. The settlers and their allies who seem to be multiplying in the IDF ranks and its young officer corps are fast achieving veto power over any “unfriendly” use of the IDF against the settlements.
Moreover, the talk about a possible swap and the price involved obscures the reality of some 10,000 Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli prisons. The Israeli attempt to criminalize these people, or to incite against them because they have “blood on their hands”, is really an attempt to hide the fact that these men and women answered the call of legitimate Palestinian leadership to fight for the rights of their people. Again and again the Israeli public must supposedly weigh the pros and the cons of releasing literally hundreds of “dangerous, blood thirsty, terrorist murderers to get Gilad back home. You get the point. We are so devoted to our soldiers that we are even considering this kind of dangerous concession to the terrorists.
Admittedly, there is intrinsic drama in the Shalit case, but there is also intrinsic drama in the case of every one of the 10,000 Palestinians and their families. It is fine to recognize the pain and suffering of Shalit’s parents. Remember though, that Shalit, the prisoner, has a face, while ten thousand Palestinian women and men prisoners remain faceless.
I, for one, do not believe that there is a real chance of a done deal with Hamas. We are still, despite the media blitz, far from an agreement. Bibi will still have many opportunities to scuttle the deal and he may even chose to stage a “retreat under popular pressure,” especially after the media starts detailing the “crimes” of the candidates for release.
Talking with Hamas
The Shalit negotiations are a serious boost for Hamas’s Arab and international standing. Islamic radicals, we learn, are just as amenable to diplomacy and hard bargaining as anyone else. The walls of isolation around Hamas are crumbling, as even Israel by virtue of these negotiations, extends de facto recognition. If Israel enjoys its role losing sleep over a single captured soldier, Hamas enjoys showing the only practical way to deal with Israel is by having something that Israel wants very much.
And if Hamas bends at any stage and approves a proposed deal, there is a thick Israeli Shin Bet file which contains any number and variety of documented proofs that it precisely Hamas which scuttled the deal to release Gilad Shalit.” Any fabricated accusation that Hamas is to blame that the deal fell through will be good enough for the Israeli public. And a failed deal should not disturb the flow of oil out of the region.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Who Killed Abu Mazen

Who Killed Abu Mazen? Who Caused His Death?

Hillary Clinton killed Abu Mazen. Barack Obama set him up last June in his Cairo speech and Hillary killed him dead. Her repeated declarations last week regarding “unprecedented concessions” by Netanyahu on the settlement issue completed the job.
Are we exaggerating? Is Abu Mazen still alive? One would hope that as just another pensioner, Abu Mazen, will enjoy a healthy and vigorous private retirement. But politically he has become, despite illustrious chapters in his younger years, a political corpse. He simply bet everything on the U.S. And when it turned out that all the services he rendered to the U.S. were used and exploited by Obama to increase pressure against his own people, he was forced to understand that the game was over.

Abu Mazen was not born to deceive his people. But he (and many others) deceived themselves regarding Clinton, her boss and her associates. Is it clinically possible that Abu Mazen died of shame?

Of course, Clinton is a highly regarded figure. But the Clinton aura is just another trap. For her own convenience, she can turn the most faithful ally into a political non-entity. Abu Mazen began the descent to his own elimination last month when he issued orders to connive with Clinton to prevent the UN Human Rights Council from discussing the Goldstone Report. And now, Ms. Clinton, speaking words of adoration for Bibi, in her recent trip to the ME, finished him off.

There are three major lessons here, if you will. The first is the danger and the illusions of the theory which holds that since we live in a unipolar world, nothing can be done without an alliance with the US, which supposedly holds all the cards. Let the case of Abu Mazen be a lesson to all that hitching your wagon to the US train is the best way to go nowhere.
The second lesson is that Clinton’s knife in Abu Mazen’s back may well be a faithful reflection of US policy and practice all over the place. Obama’s rhetoric notwithstanding, his administration, so far, is a continuation of Bush’s. Obama is indeed under tremendous pressures and he may well decide on an orderly retreat. But so far, things gets worse and worse and the waters of the Potomac get muddier by the day. Hope, yes – illusions, no.
The third lesson is that Abu Mazen sealed his fate at least two years ago when he introduced a permanent U.S. military delegation into the West Bank. Headed by General Dayton, the US units were involved in an operation to establish “law and order.” Interestingly enough, this involved military and intelligence coordination between Jordan, the Palestinian forces and the Israeli Defense Forces, under General Clayton’s aegis. A lot of Abu Mazen’s friends would have served him well if they had told him loud and clear back then that this meant, in fact, an end to his political independence.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Obama Spurned

September 18, 2009

Obama Spurned
There are some encouraging signs that Obama and his people are mixing his disastrous “rule-from-the-center” strategy with some more realistic steps, such as agreement to talks with North Korea and Iran, and modification of the missile program in Poland and the Czech Republic. If this is psychological preparation for a retreat from Afghanistan and Iraq, something significant is happening. But if Obama is just trying to “shorten the lines” in order to continue those wars, any realistic steps on different fronts will count for little.
Here, in the region, the Obama team has engineered a horrendous flop for U.S. prestige. Mitchell, who returned to the US empty handed after weeks of negotiations, achieved only the elevation of Netanyahu into a national hero, able to veto the designs of the U.S. President. One has to ask, what were the Obama people thinking? This looks like another total farce. If the U.S. apparatus had any sense of the objective situation, they would not have wandered into such an abject failure. The U.S. looks weak and confused, the Netanyahu government appears strong and competent. The only U.S. response so far, after Mitchell’s departure from the area, is to rush to the support of the Israeli government against the Goldstone report…
High Quality of Life in a Rare Environment
The moral, political and economic disintegration of the kibbutz and the kibbutz movement is for your correspondent some sort of personal obsession. This is the reason that I posses a busting file of clippings on events linked to the ongoing kibbutz crisis. It appears, unfortunately, that I will never get around to working this information into a comprehensive analysis of what Martin Buber called the “experiment in socialism that didn’t fail.”
I have, of course innumerable reasons, for not doing many of the things that I will not do. Here, the main reason for abandoning any extended projects on this subject is that the kibbutz is truly irrelevant to any central process in Israel today. It is interesting and instrumental to observe any social process, but alas, the kibbutz, is today really not that important. This being objectively true, I remain with my personal obsession on the subject. It may just happen that some of my friends and acquaintances will find sentimental interest in some of the material I have gathered and my comments on this sad, sad transition of the kibbutz as it morphs from collectives of devoted idealists who wanted, in their own fashion, to storm the gates of heaven into disparate and desperate groups trying to salvage economic remnants necessary for individual survival in a neo liberal wasteland.

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Growing Stature of a Rejected Poet
The Hebrew Poet Avoth Yeshuron
Those that know my background will understand that I do not have the slightest intention of presuming expertise in any subject connected to Hebrew literature. But any reader of the literary pages and supplements will have learned about the intriguing life and work of Avoth Yeshuron (1904-1992).
Ranked with the giants of Israeli poetry such as Alterman, Shlonsky and Uri Tzvi Greenberg, he was scorned and ostracized by the Labor party hacks in the fifties and deserted friends in the established literary circles. The event, that touched off waves of hysterical attacks related to a poem by Yeshuron in 1952, in which he dared to make a stark comparison between the plight of Jewish refugees in Europe and Arab refugees from Palestine.
A new collection of poems was the occasion for a major article (Ha’aretz, 18 September, 2009) devoted to the radical eccentric who started a long climb into the Israeli poetical canon from the Yom Kippur war in 1973 onwards. His daughter, Helit Yeshuron, told the critic, Maya Sela: “Yeshuron saw the Palestinian catastrophe, the Palestinian Arabs who were forced to flee, at a time when it was not customary to see them in the Israeli discourse. He was rejected both because of his Hebrew style and because of his attitude to the Arabs, said Helit Yeshuron… “Those were hard years. His comrades betrayed him…he was accused of the most horrible crime…hatred of the Jewish people, betrayal of the Jewish people.”
“In 1956, Yeshuron stated that the holocaust of the Jews and the holocaust of the Arabs were the holocaust of the Jewish conscience..he was not making comparisons but stated that what happened to the Arabs was a holocaust and that alone was desecration of the holy. He believed that we, the Jews, as a result of historical development caused a catastrophe to another people, and for us, as Jews, it was forbidden to happen.”
Yeshuron received the Israel Prize after his death in 1992.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Obama in the Center

Obama Ruling from the Center
Obama supporters are justly aghast at the vicious attacks by the US ultra-right on the President. The natural response is to assume that Obama is being attacked because of decent, liberal policies at home and abroad. But any objective analysis of the record shows that Obama is carefully following suicidal neo-liberal policy recipes in DC and doing even worse abroad, where he seems to be working overtime to achieve his own “Vietnam” in Afghanistan.
The intensity of the attacks from the right stems from the inability of Obama to come up with serious alternative policy initiatives. Obama looks less and less like he knows what he is doing, and this is tragic for a person with his intelligence. But he is growingly confused and frustrated. The ultra-right senses a chance to move into the political vacuum and goes of course for the jugular vein. By insisting that he will rule from the center, Obama has moved the entire scene to the right. Sad, very sad.
There is a parallel phenomenon here in Israel. Nothing remains of the sense of shock and urgency after Obama’s Cairo speech. But Netanyahu senses that Obama is really not that serious and Israel commences the big stall on settlements. If the settlement issue regarding which the U.S. has a clear declared policy is a tough nut to crack for Obama and Mitchell, then you can forget about any serious US pressure to advance peace. Netanyahu, who proves to that he knows how to snub Obama, looks good to the Israelis who admire this sort of thing. Obama’s weakness emboldens the settler right which starts telling Bibi that he should simply tell Obama to keep his nose out of “our business,” without the diplomatic niceties required from the Prime Minister.
Idiots of the Thomas Freedman genre get all excited by the pockets of prosperity in a few Palestinian cities heavily patrolled by the U.S. – Jordanian trained Palestinian peace forces. The new money being spread around is just another method of splitting the Palestinians. Now the social gap widens in addition to the geographic and religious divisions. The Palestinian leadership, which reflects the nouveau riche has forgotten how to say no for a long time. One might assume mistakenly that the Palestinian situation is hopeless if one just could ignore the fact that the basic rights of a people are at stake. The Palestinians have has arisen from abject defeat e in the past and the present dire straits and hardships can only delay but not eliminate the day of reckoning for those who believe that the Palestinians have been outfought, outwitted and eliminated from the historical equation.
We are on the eve of a new set of seemingly dramatic events in the region. But instead of hope, all the moves and their futility are nauseatingly familiar. Meanwhile Netanyahu flaunts his refusal to cease settlement activity and issues demands for immediate acts of normalization by the Arab world. Instead of real pressure on Israel, Washington is scouting its Arab allies for help in meeting normalization (before peace) promises to Israel. The “Iran first and Palestine later” line promulgated by Israel achieves de facto acceptance in DC because a rapidly weakening Obama seems less and less willing or able to take on Israel and its AIPAC buddies.
Obama is knee deep in the muddy of US orthodox diplomacy. Fearing even the slightest confrontation with Israel, the US is trying to fashion a game plan to unite the region against the “extremists.” All this smells of Afghanistan as we rapidly approach the moment when Afghanistan becomes the issue in Washington. All the real action is along the Pakistan-Afghanistan-Iran-Iraq axis. The U.S. is in a frantic search of partners and allies in the fight against the Taliban. Obama believes, in opposition to all logic and diplomatic savvy that he can and must win this war. If he persists, he may lose much more than a war on the outlying borders of the U.S. empire.
Meanwhile Israel arrogates the right to unilaterally announce all the important dates. According to Israel, the Iranians must satisfy U.S. expectations by this September or suffer the first round of sanctions. Israel has announced that the talks with the Palestinians will resume in September. The need for a good photo-op in Washington will be enough to overcome Palestinian reticence. For those watching the scene carefully, the resumption of the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks will be final proof that nothing is happening on the Palestinian issue, but that Obama and Co. need to save face.

Dr. Niv Gordon Speaks Out
In a reasoned and coherent matter, Gordon made the argument, in a recent op-ed peace in the LA Times that only serious international pressure can save Israel from clinging to its chauvinist path to moral degradation and eventual political isolation. To reach peace, in the form of a two- state solution, Gordon favors pressure on Israel through boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israeli policy.
It is difficult to decide which element in the BGU’s President’s response is more dangerous: Prof. R. Carmi’s dangerous McCarthyite impulses or her ignorance of the politics regarding Israel in the international academic community. Carmi has no legal right or status regarding Dr. Gordon’s opinions or their form of expression. Her “coy” suggestion that Gordon should leave the country because of his views is a kind of sick jingoism which most university presidents would have the sense to avoid. However, the fact that Carmi demonstrates a total inability to understand the nature of Gordon’s views and their political meaning is no less disturbing. Gordon represent a more moderate view in academic circles in that he is striving to rescue Israel from its moral degeneration. Whereas thousands of serious academicians who follow the conflict contend that the occupation is only a single aspect of Israel’s colonial nature, Gordon tosses a life-line to serious Israelis showing them a path away from the Apartheid destroying Israel’s soul. Carmi should stop reviewing politics about which she understands absolutely nothing. In any event it is not the role of the University President to pass judgment on the views of the faculty.
Boycott is Legitimate
In judging the work of the movement for Boycott, Divestment, Sanction inspired by the Ramallah initiative it is important to stress the principle that all non-violent activity against the occupation and the denial of the rights of the Palestinians is moral and legitimate. The occupation is built of steel, weapons, firepower, prisons, walls, and dungeons. The right of peaceful protest against its daily implementation is natural and elementary. Every positive response to the call for boycott, etc., is welcome.
Even so, on the strategic level, the exact goals of the boycott activity according to the BDS are often rather unclear. There seems to be some confusion as to whether the object of the protest is ending the Israeli occupation of the occupied Palestinian territories, or whether the protest is directed against the very existence of Israel. There is a well known thesis that argues that all of Israel is essentially occupied Palestinian land and that all Palestinians suffer from a common set of repressive measures. Whatever the opinion on these distinctions, it should be clear that they have clear strategic implications for the movement against Israeli policy and practice. It should be clear that there are large constituencies for whom this distinction is critical in that they support boycott aimed against the occupation but insist that their activity does not undermine the existence of Israel.
Moreover, with all due respect for the Ramallah initiative, it is the local protest movements all over the world that must integrate the different considerations of “context, time and place”. It seems that the BDS people have a tendency to issue superfluous “encyclicals” dealing with fine distinctions of when and how to boycott and divest tactics.
In any event Dr. Niv Gordon has seized the moral high ground. Israel is becoming a pariah state. Every activity that points this out by boycott, divestment and sanctions is doing the Israelis a favor, whether they understand this or not.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Family Affairs

July 28, 2009
Family Affairs
Obama’s ostensibly more realistic and sophisticated positions regarding foreign relations, which were supposed to have replaced US arrogance under Bush, are quickly dissipating. No sooner does Obama embark on steps designed to improve the US image abroad, than key people in his administration such as Clinton and Biden come out with declarations echoing the “cold war” policies of the previous administration.
Here in the ME, Obama is losing positive momentum created by his Cairo speech. His team, despite the addition of a “realist” diplomat here and there, is still the same old cluster of people whose main expertise is in organizing a peace process which is bereft of any substance at all. Since Obama’s real policy towards the Israeli-Palestinian issue is far from clear , there is room for endless diplomatic procrastination and bickering. How far can Obama go along the road to peace when he and his administration take care to remind us on every possible occasion that any differences with Israel are “in the family.”
In a recent statement at the beginning of the month, Xavier Solana, the retiring EU Minister of Foreign Affairs and a pro-US, pro-NATO politician if there ever was one, proposed a serious alternative to the current “piece by piece” technique. Solana’s proposal demonstrated the gap between the Mitchell mission and real action on the Israel-Palestinian issue. Solana merely suggested moving the whole issue to the UN Security Council, including setting a tangible date to work out a clear compromise on the final status agreement. Of course, Israel rejected the idea in less than 24 hours.
Meanwhile, the US and other important players on the international scene are busy expressing their displeasure at Israel’s continuing settlement provocations beyond the Green Line (the June 1967 borders). While it is a pleasant diversion to watch the Israeli establishment writhe and squirm in the July heat, one fears that Obama is helping Bibi on the tactical level and falling into the old “piece by piece” trap.
It is hard to describe the paroxysms of simulated righteous indignation which seize Israeli leaders over U.S. “intervention” in Israel’s “internal affairs.” Since holy Jerusalem was involved, the local media got busy declaring a new Israeli consensus supporting Netanyahu:
‘The US position which challenges our sovereign rights in Jerusalem is totally unreasonable and simply unacceptable. Jerusalem was ours long before DC was built. It is impossible to understand that the US cannot understand this.’
Though it is clear to any serious observer that the excitement in Bibi’s outfit is pure hypocrisy, the U.S. behavior is actually helpful to Netanyahu on the tactical level. The demand for cessation of building, even in East Jerusalem, seems to the average Israeli as a concession, unless it appears as an element in real, practical negotiations on peace with the Palestinians. Serious, active negotiations are what are needed to convince public opinion that it is worth compromising to reach peace.
At this point, every diplomatic meeting here begins and ends with ritual declarations by the U.S. that Israel is our faithful ally, with common goals and interests. This catechism of “kutzenyu, mutsenyu” (intimate familiarity) merely increases Bibi’s credibility when he claims that there are no real problems in the “special alliance.” However, the U.S. is only fooling itself when it pretends that direct, genuine, productive negotiations in the region are possible while Bibi is in the Israeli driver’s seat.
In truth, the U.S. could get rid of Bibi or cut him down to size with relatively little effort. A demand for vigorous actions against the outposts would meet with general approval here and suffice to shatter Bibi’s coalition. The U.S. reticence to do some of the vital work to clear Israel’s political swamp is another indicator that Washington is still far from being serious about real action for peace in the region.
It may be that Washington thinks that it has plenty of time to weaken Bibi’s power and prestige. This is another dangerous illusion. Cheap little chauvinist politicians like Bibi Netanyahu usually cultivate a gang of military strategists whose fondest dreams are to launch adventurous mega-provocations with gigantic destabilizing effects - perfectly designed to scuttle any possibilities for diplomatic progress. Uzi Arad, the Israeli choir master of the Dr. Strangelove disciples of the absolute deterrent, is only the tip of the non-conventional iceberg. The present Israeli coalition would prefer destabilization and chaos over the imposition of a just peace.
As George Mitchell, Bill Gates and James Jones come and go an eerie queasiness descends on the region. Is it really the case that Israeli-Palestinian peace is not urgent? Is it the least important element in this endless churning? One is tempted momentarily to believe that with all this motion something important must be happening on the peace front. However, despite al the diplomatic flurry, watching Bibi Netanyahu smirking at the head of a stable Israeli government should help to dispel any illusions.


Monday, July 13, 2009

Tough Love and Strange Love

From the desk of Reuven Kaminer July 13, 2009

Tough Love and Strange Love

If you would know the historical roots of Israel’s current political strategic thinking under the Netanyahu administration, follow me into the not too distance past. Those were the days, when the Rand Corporation, really a think tank launched and funded by the U.S. Air Force, was explaining to John Foster Dulles that he was neglecting U.S. security. Dulles, it appears, did not understand that it was all important to prepare a second strike capacity to nuke the Russians after they, the Russians nuked the U.S., which had already nuked them the first time, because of a serious case of Soviet aggression against some vital U.S. interest somewhere on the globe. One of the geniuses who worked on explaining the necessity for being ready to launch nuclear war, with at least a double barrel was a dazzling young intellectual named Herman Kahn. Kahn made it clear that deterrence involved readiness to include, and plan for the possibility of a full scale nuclear counter-attack on the United States – after the first US nuclear attack on the USSR. If you were bright back then, you built yourself a well stocked nuclear-proof bomb shelter. Kahn advised digging deep into the rock under Manhattan, for one-big public shelter. One of the brightest ways to prevent war was to convince the Russians that the US had some sort of Doomsday Machine that would go off automatically and destroy the whole of the USSR, in case of a Russian counter-attack after a US attack. To package this bright idea, Kahn and his associates worked overtime to convince the US public that nuclear war was winnable and squeamishness about doing everything to survive meant certain death and annihilation.
The Current Israeli Disciple
Uzi Arad is Israel’s national security adviser and a close confidant of Netanayhau. Uzi came up in the ranks, after serving in the Mosad for twenty years. He became an expert in nuclear strategy via advanced study at Princeton and was recruited by the Hudson Institute outfit, where he became, by his own admission a devotee of Herman Kahn.
.” But above all I was drawn to Herman Kahn, with whom I worked at the Hudson Institute. Kahn is the original Dr. Strangelove. He was a Jewish-American genius who was a salient nuclear hawk and dealt with the planning and feasibility of nuclear wars. Kahn was a towering figure. He was a beacon of intelligence, knowledge and pioneering thought. He combined conceptual productivity, humor and informality. He attracted a group of devotees of whom I was one in the 1970s. But he also had bitter rivals who criticized him for even conceiving of the idea of a nuclear war. In the Cold War it was precisely those who talked about defense and survival who were considered nuclear hawks. The doves talked about "mutual assured destruction," which blocks any possibility of thinking about nuclear weapons… Like Kahn, I was one of the hawks.
On the face of it, what is the point of this? Why execute the enemy after deterrence has failed? But according to [Yeheskel] Dror (an Israeli political scientist of similar views – RK) , it is important to ascertain that the deterrence will work, even if you yourself have been destroyed. He sees this as a contribution to the repair of the world [tikkun olam]. (See Ha’aretz Magazine, July 10, 2009 pp. 8-11)
Eventually this kind of academo-paranonia, dressed up with a lot of “game theory”’ and claiming to improve on MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction), which was deemed by Kahn to be too timid, became the object of ridicule and repugnance. The rejection of this kind of nuclear voodoo found expression in the famous, classic and highly regarded movie, directed by Stanley Kubrick, “Dr. Strangelove” (1964). Dr. S is a former Nazi, who has become a top advisor to the U.S. president. When nuclear war breaks out after a long series of stupidities, and not a few misunderstandings, Dr. S. starts instructing the government just what must be done to save at the least some Americans, in order to renew the battle, after the current round of mass death and destruction.
It may help observers of the scene here in Israel to understand that theories long repudiated even by the US strategic military establishment have become the current fashion here. In the long and detailed interview, Arad who is a government official reminds the reader that the views expressed are his own. This is a rather strange procedure for a high ranking government official in a super sensitive job. Arad, it is clear wants to lead the team and not just be a part of it. Ari Shavit, one of the more important “new -right” journalists stresses Arad’s importance:
“Arad holds tremendous power. He holds the Iranian portfolio, he conducts the sensitive dialogue with the United States, and he is the closest person to the Prime Minister.” (Ibid)
Lieberman, by comparison, is half racist buffoon and half shrewd ethnic politician. Though he is less of a fool than he seems, he is not in Arad’s class. On most issues, Arad is a bit more explicit (and embarrassing, for his boss), in explaining government policy. On the Palestinian front, he claims that there is no Palestinian partner for a true peace. “There are no true peace leaders among the Palestinians.” And…”even the moderates among them do not really want a settlement.” On the Syrian front: “The Syrians are certainly aware that the Netanyahu government and the majority of the public will not leave the Golan Heights.” He is certain that “the new U.S. administration is very realistic regarding the Syrian sector,” and that, in contradistinction to the Palestinian issue, “there are no comparable declarations.” We must deal with the Iranian issue first because “if Iran goes nuclear, everything that will be achieved with the Palestinians will be swept away in tidal wave.” He launches a tirade against the previous Israeli government whose concessions have left Netanyahu with “scorched earth.” He claims that “It is clear that they [the settlements] are not the most important or urgent problem.” The international attitude to Israel is “extremely unfair.” [All quotes are from the interview].
This not quite the brunt style used by the Israeli government people when speaking with the U.S. and other international parties, but this is the indisputable substance of Israeli policy, at least as long as Arad is around.
100 % Absolute Deterrence!
When talking about Iran, Arad explains, with coy modesty, that he is not at liberty to tell us “what the government of Israel thinks. Nor will I tell you what the U.S. government thinks.” Of course, after the caveat, he proceeds directly and immediately to expresses current Israeli positions. Israel should be the spokesperson for concerns and warnings to prevent the emergence of a multi-nuclear Middle East. According to Arad, Netanyahu is brilliant for avoiding any direct call to bomb Iran. Economic pressure, according to his boss, is the way to go and the best method would be a total maritime blockade on Iran. Of course, if the Iranians do not understand the message and react irresponsibly, then the time has come to ready the “military option” whose preparation is vital in any event. In fact, a sound military option would help the Iranians to understand their situation. Having a military option on the table increases the possibility that it will not be needed. So the strategy of provoke and bomb is, in essence, just the same, thinly disguised, hawkish rubbish. In all of this, Arad is just another neo-con.
The Really Scary Stuff
Arad is looking for a pretext to attack Iran, though he appreciates the importance of finding a way to keep the US in the picture. The classic Dr. Strangelove thinking is still around: “A situation of mutual armament is safer than a situation of mutual peace…the main reason for this is that in a situation of mutual peace, if one of the sides cheats it wipes you out. You have no means to deter them. So game theory pushes you into the corner of “both for us and them. I am not at liberty to discuss these issues explicitly…” So Arad refers us once more to Prof. Yehezkel Dror, and quotes him about “hard absolute deterrence…superb deterrence that will ensure that, even if the country is itself destroyed, the country that attacks it will be annihilated.” If you did not get the message, it is simple. Israel must involve itself in an arms race that can never end until Israel is certain – absolutely certain – that our current enemy, whomsoever it is, has interiorized that any kind of over reaction to Israel aggression– another unknown quantity - will touch off a fatal attack by Israel. The soul of Israel must torment itself, until it has convinced itself that its enemy(ies) are convinced that Israel, which no longer exists, at that point for all practical purposes, will press the button insuring that the destruction is indeed mutual.
Stay with us as we continue to analyze this zany stuff. Arad: “On the face of it what is the point of this? Why execute the enemy after deterrence has failed? But according to Dror, it is important to ascertain that the deterrence will work, even if you yourself have been destroyed.” This is for Arad nothing but simple defensive strategy.
Ha’aretz reported yesterday that the National Security Council, headed by Arad has become, because of Netanyahu’s trust, a much more significant factor in decision making. (Ha’aretz, July12, 2009). Today, there is quite a bit of fall out in the wake of the interview because many of those lambasted are still in prominent positions.
Tough Love or Strangelove
Well meaning people suggest that the Obama administration respond to the Israeli refusal to negotiate for peace in good faith with tough love. Anyone with the faintest acquaintance with Israeli politics can tell you that the Israelis will not respond to tough love. They have rising hopes that the Obama is a One Term President, and are willing to help realize this goal. A few weeks back, the Obamaites assured us that the prez is too smart to be outwitted and out-maneuvered by the Netanyahu government and the pro-Israeli lobby. But the Israeli policy of procrastination, endless discussion, claims they want to do something about the outposts and the settlements but they simply cannot, does seem to be blunting Obama’s initiative. Mitchell is running hard, going nowhere, and Obama is busy picking up after Joe Biden. Israel and its friends are watching Obama getting involved more in protracted negotiations in other areas that lead no where. Obama, was cool and calm in Cairo last month, but appears today more becalmed than calm. You may want to move the Israeli leadership with “tough love”, but Israel’s hero is, to this very day, Dr. Strangelove.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Exporting Utopia (Sasa) and Public Relations for Torture

Kibbutz “Heh” – i.e., the fifth letter in the Hebrew alphabet – was the name given way back in 1943 by the Ha’shomer Ha’tsair (Young Watchman) socialist- Zionist movement in the United States because it was the fifth such group organized for the purpose of emigration, or aliyah, from North America. In 1949, the group eventually established a new settlement in the former Arab village of Sasa whose indigenous residents were forced to flee during the 1948 war.
The youngsters from the US had an exceptionally rough time in the rocky fields of the upper Galilee, close to the Lebanon border. Many left over the years but the U.S. “kernel” or garin received reinforcements over the years from Israeli and European members of the same youth movement. It turned out that the place had potential that enabled it to become over the years the wealthiest kibbutz in Israel.
The kibbutz movement in Israel is presently in the throes of a vicious wave of privatization that has engendered a severe moral, social and economic crisis of serious dimensions. Paradoxically or not, a few of the more prosperous kibbutz settlements, have remained full scale producer-consumer cooperatives and escaped the vicissitudes of a process of long and continued degradation. Be that as it may be, our Sasa is still a kibbutz in every sense. But alas, its role in the long and arduous path of humanity to utopia has become a bit problematic.
Working for the Yankee Dollar
Our kibbutz is still a full scale kibbutz, but you have to make a living some how. Well, with a bit of business savvy, Sasa converted its plastic factory into an industrial plant specializing in the production of technology for the reinforcement of military vehicles. The technical term is “add on armor sytems.” It appears that the company, Plasan Sasa (see Google ) has just what the United States Army needs, technology to minimize the damage when its vehicles are blown up. And so business is booming. Sasa which has found itself unable to create a just society in Israel has decided to help the US forces establish a utopia in Afghanistan. Sales in 2008 reached I.S. 2.8 billion, and that’s a lot of money even in shekels – about 700 million dollars. Seven hundred workers in Israel and another 400 in France and the U.S. are employed. This, in these quarters, passes somehow for success in advancing the cause of “socialism”, though there is a bit of suspicion about the means chosen. The pioneers had other, better dreams when they came to build a commune in Sasa in 1949. It may well be that when they closed their eyes to the fate of the Palestinians who lived in Sasa before them, only to become refugees over the border, they began to develop Sasa’s current case of myopia. (For information on the business success of Sasa, see the The Marker, Economic Supplement Ha’aretz, July 5, 2009)
Public Relations for Torture
The people who talk to the media on behalf of torturers are not usually endowed with a surplus of intelligence. This might explain the distasteful sense of excessive pride evident in their declarations to Ha’aretz (July 3, 2009) by Fatah and Palestine Authority spokespeople bragging that they already have “detailed confessions” regarding a recent plot to kill Mahmoud Abbas. A report on the break-up of Hamas cell by Ha’aretz correspondent, Avi Issaarcharof, is based on information received from Fatah spokesman, Fahmi Zarir and a statment by PA Secretary, Taib Abd-Arahim. The two were eager to trumpet the success of the PA security forces in foiling a plot by Hamas conspirators “to assassinate Abbas and sow confusion in the West Bank with the intention of disrupting unity talks between Hamas and the PA held in Cairo.” Conveniently, the Hamas activists were caught with weapons, maps and photos of senior Fatah people including Abbas. Even more conveniently, it is reported that “the Palestinian security forces have detailed confessions.” Desiring to “save” what sounds like a fishy story, Issacharoff comments that “if this is true, it is evidence not only of Hamas’ intention to scuttle reconciliation with Fatah, but also to stage a coup of sorts against the PA.” This probability of a “coup of sorts” is a bit far fetched, so the reporter informs the reader that the culprit is the “Hamas military wing that has an extremist agenda, while the Hamas political leadership …is thought not to have been aware of the plot.” Issacharoff filed the story, but implies that things are a bit more complicated than the information he received from his sources. (Ha’aretz, July 3, 2009, p.A3)

Getting Detailed Confessions
A recent report, dated July 1, 2009 from the Israeli human rights group, B’tselem, shows the way to achieve “detailed confessions” such as those mentioned above:
On 11 June 2009, Palestinian Authority security forces in the West Bank detained Haitham ‘Amru, 33, a resident of Beit a-Roush al-Fauqa, a village in Hebron District. ‘Amru, who was married with three children and worked as a nurse, belonged to Hamas and was a board member of the Islamic Charitable Society. He was taken to the detention facility of the General Intelligence Service (GSS) in Hebron, and PA officials denied his family’s requests to visit him there. On 14 June, at night, ‘Amru was taken, in critical condition, from the detention facility to ‘Aliyah Hospital in Hebron, and was pronounced dead within a few hours of arrival. His body was taken to the Abu Dis Forensic Institute for an autopsy.
A fieldworker for the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, who saw the corpse before it was buried, reported that there were signs of severe injury all over the body. These signs, clearly evident in photographs obtained by B'Tselem and in a video broadcast on Al-Jazeera, raise concern that ‘Amru died as a result of torture he sustained at the GIS’s interrogation facility.
At first, GIS officials told the media that ‘Amru had jumped from the second floor of a building in an attempt to escape from the detention facility…(
For the record, we have seen reliable reports of parallel criminal acts against human rights by the Hamas authorities in Gaza. This kind of behaviour, whosoever the perpetrator, is not only a violation of the International Declaration of Human Rights, it is a crime against the Palestinian people and its unity.

Monday, June 29, 2009

A Battle on Two Fronts

The polarization in the ranks of the left regarding recent events in Iran is natural and understandable but it stems from a certain narrowness of approach which can and should be avoided.
Iran was and is under threat of aggressive intervention because of the positive elements of its foreign policy and its international position. This truth must not obscure the reactionary nature of the regime and the Iranian leadership. The positive elements in Iranian policy stem from the refusal of the Iranian leadership to succumb to the economic and political pressures by the US and Europe in regards to the exploitations of its major resource, oil. It might be useful to employ an old but quite valid conceptual tool. There is a major, basic contradiction between the whole of the Iranian people and the US-European alliance which aims for the domination of Iranian resources.
At the same time, Iran is a class society dominated by reactionary clericalist circles, which have parleyed their past prestige into a dictatorial system for the repression of all and any challengers to the regime and the leadership. There exists a complex series of internal contradictions between the regime and the popular forces in Iranian society. The social-economic struggle of the workers and the peasants is foremost, but the role of the battle for democratic rights is increasingly important along with the battle of Iranian women and youth against the repressive nature of the Islamic Republic.
I have had recourse in previous communications whose main purpose was to denounce Israeli and US threats against Iran, to be absolutely clear as to the nature of the regime. The strategy of the left must encompass all the elements in Iranian reality. The Iranian policy of national independence is a serious contribution to the frustration of imperial design and must be supported. The battle by popular sections of the Iranian people for their rights must be supported.
No formula, howsoever correct can or should try to evaluate all elements in a particular crisis. But the two elements, i.e., international role and democratic rights are both of equal intrinsic importance. In fact, the left has had a wealth of experience with these two contradictory pressures in many national circumstances. Under the ruse of proletarian internationalism, the Soviet Union and its supporters determined the left position on the basis of “reasons of state” or in simple terms, the state interests of the Soviet Union. On the other side of the coin, the various human rights movements traditionally negate any considerations relating to the battle for independence vis a vis the imperial powers.
In the various responses to the Iranian crisis, one can usually discern the guiding motive for this or that political position. Those who wish to emphasize Iran’s international role can come up with contorted analyses defending the regime and the legitimacy of the recent electoral process and hurry to brand democratic mass movements for democracy as the tools of imperialism. On the other hand, opponents of the international role of Iran will do everything to minimize the importance of the Iranian struggle for independence. The resulting polarization on the left sows confusion and avoidable tensions.
But there is a pronounced historical tendency to reproduce these contradictions – progressive foreign policy and reactionary domestic policy, and they will surely reoccur. We can never be apologists for mass repression, nor should we ever forget the relevance of the battle for national independence.
Naturally, there is a flood of responses (still) coming in via the internet. Most of these express the unfortunate tendency to come down on one side of the question. But one position paper expressed my feelings exceptionally well. It was issued by a progressive group, Stop War, in Vancouver, Canada. The statement is balanced and clear:
STOPWAR COALITION (Vancouver, Canada)
Statement on the Iran crisis
[The Vancouver antiwar coalition StopWar adopted the following statement at its June 24 monthly membership meeting.]
StopWar, the broad-based anti-war coalition which has been active in the Vancouver area since 2002, sends warm greetings and solidarity to all those who are rallying for democracy and justice in Iran and abroad this week. We share your commitment to a peaceful and just resolution of the disputes brought to the surface by the recent presidential election in Iran, and your desire for Iranians themselves to determine the future of their country.
We condemn the regime’s killing of protesters and we join with others in demanding the right to organize, strike and protest, and to free speech and assembly for all Iranians. We demand the release of all arrested workers, students, and political prisoners.
We condemn any attempt by pro-war forces in the United States, Canada, and other countries to take advantage of this situation to push for ‘regime change’ imposed by outside powers. The drumbeat of threats against Iran should remind all peace-loving people of the build-up for war against Iraq seven years ago, which brought a terrible tragedy to that country without advancing the rights of the Iraqi people.
StopWar expresses our full confidence that the people of Iran will achieve their goals without the interference of governments such as that of Canada, which has only hindered genuine progress towards democracy, social justice and gender equality with the ongoing military mission in Afghanistan.
* * * * *
Clear thinking from Vancouver.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Notes on Obama-Netanyahu Meeting

The unending torrent of news items and rivers of commentary tend to obscure, more than reveal, the real state of affairs after the meeting between Obama and Bibi. There is no sense in tiring my readers regarding Netanyahu, who has prepared the meeting with Obama with an intensive series of provocative, chauvinist actions and declarations. Netanyahu is preparing for a full scale propaganda battle with the White House. When he considers it necessary, Bibi is ready to launch a campaign to prove that Obama is grossly insensitive to the threat of a new Holocaust and that Jerusalem and not Washington is the locus of the really serious decisions. For now, regarding the Palestinian issue, the big stall is on, and Obama can forget about any progress there. If Obama accepts this set of affairs he will signal weakness that he can ill afford. This is especially obsequious, because he has the ready means to topple Bibi’s government by merely slowing down the flow of funds and guns - until Netanyahu starts taking down settlements. How many settlements? Enough settlements among those designated as “outposts” or illegal by the Sasson report, so as to create pressure from the settler right to destabilize his coalition.
If Bibi stands pat and refuses, Barak will start complaining that Bibi is starving the IDF to keep feeding the settlements. Livni’s Kadima, in the name of the alliance with the US, will reissue its demand for rotating Bibi out of power. Bibi’s coalition will be in tatters.
Israel is susceptible to the mildest forms of US pressure. Bibi’s only ammo is the threat to designate Obama as the latest candidate for the Amalek slot in Jewish history. If Obama does not call this bluff clearly and quickly, he can save the expenses of the trip to Cairo. Putting it simply, can Obama, on the basis of the US own’s commitments, force Bibi to take down a few illegal settlements in occupied Palestinian territory?
It has been suggested that forcing Bibi to take down settlements would force him to commit political suicide. Does Barak Obama, with all his concerns really have to worry about this…

“We Decided” – “He Said” – “We Agreed” – Bibi “Interprets” Obama
Since he walked out of the White House, Bibi has been working overtime to soft pedal the differences that were the central aspect of the meeting. But he seems to speak with authority of gaining full US support on a number of critical issues. Netanyahu plays the media well and more often than not everything he says about what Obama said is accepted as fact. So this leaves much of the media to depend on Bibi’s purposefully distorted rendition of what happened. The absence of a joint statement by the two leaders is indeed an indication of serious differences. But it opens space for Netanyahu’s maneuvers. Bibi is playing hard ball, while Obama’s people are just standing around and hoping that the unpleasant noise will end or recede to Jerusalem.
Two salient examples: Bibi says that Obama and he agreed that the Arab moderate countries must be brought into the negotiations picture immediately and a program of mutual concessions must be worked out between Israel and the Arab countries. And until this is worked out and cleared up, and the first steps are taken, then we are all back to square one.
If Obama agreed to anything like this, he did not have, with all his skill, the faintest idea of what he was talking about. It is most unlikely that even the moderates Arab countries agreed to anything of the kind. Any such agreements would simply prove Bibi’s thesis that the Palestinian question can be indefinitely sidetracked. But suppose Bibi is right, and Obama and his advisors were napping at one stage of the proceedings, it is clear that the White House has to get out an urgent clarification that they were not linking additional concessions to Israel at this stage to progress on the Palestinian issue. Such a declaration may be in the offing, but it is the height of sloppy inefficiency to allow Netanyahu to assume the mantle of Obama’s spokesperson while Obama runs off to deal with another subject.
The Crucial Iranian Issue
Bibi Netanyahu is smirking with satisfaction while he reports “agreement in principle” between the US and Israel to the effect that Iran must not be allowed to possess nuclear weaponry. Going in and coming out of the White House, Bibi declared that Israel reserves the right of self defense regarding Iran, which is a clear justification and threat of preventive war. Bibi is able to claim that Obama and he agree that Israel has the right to self defense regarding the Iranian threat. The fact that Obama did not relate clearly to this kind of saber rattling is in itself alarming. If you think that he is assuming that Israel could not and wouldn’t act alone, then you are dead wrong. Just two weeks ago, he sent CIA Director Leon Panetta to Israel on a stealth mission to warn the Israeli’s against such an attack. You do not rush the Director of the CIA to Jerusalem unless you are damned worried that Bibi is gearing up for action.
Washington should, according to its own declared policy, clearly and openly disassociate itself from the Israeli threat of preventive war against Iran and desisting from doing so is the height of folly. If the leader of the United States buries his head in sand while Bibi exploits his alliance with Obama to consecrate the goals and purposes of the attack on Iran, it must be assumed that Obama believes, mistakenly, that he can use Bibi’s clout to soften up the Iranians. Thus, Netanyahu has chipped away at the US initiative for dialogue and engagement.
The Netanyahu people are ready to fight Obama, if need be, but they are still hoping that he can be convinced that the easiest and best option is to leave the ME to the care of the loyal Israeli ally.

Triumphant PM Returns
Bibi just arrived back in the country, propaganda guns blazing. The communiqués supply evidence that the Prime Minister, covered in glory, has rejected spurious demands and gained support for Israel’s really important goals. On landing, Netanyahu’s people have cooked up a very interesting revelation for the media to the effect that anyone who believes in the two-state solution is “stupid and childish.” This appears to be the main thing that the Israelis learned in Washington.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Obama’s Low Rating with Netanyahu’s New Government

Universally respected, even loved in many quarters, and still the embodiment of hope for many of the simple folk and the downtrodden, Barak Obama is not doing very well with the new government of Israel. Obama sounds well intentioned when he talks of peace in the area. But Obama, as shrewd a gentleman as he is supposed to be, is in no way prepared to handle the weird mix of arrogance and insult originating from Netanyahu and Lieberman and flooding the Israeli media.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Avigdor Lieberman, ignores the hints by many of the pundits that he may be embarrassing his boss, Bibi Netanyahu. Thriving on media attention, Lieberman keeps up a barrage of inanities like his statement in an interview to a Russian publication to the effect that “the US will do what we tell it to do.” Despite his appearance as a thug and a buffoon, Lieberman has a broad geo-political agenda and even presumes to explain to Obama that Pakistan and Afghanistan and not Iran are the chief problem. Lieberman is working on his very own contribution to world security by pushing the idea of a USA-Russia alliance against the Islamic world (civilization) to be brokered by…you guessed it…Israel and its foreign minister. There are people out there who take the clash of civilizations seriously. Just what we need – a Judeo-Christian alliance for the preservation of Western values.
Lieberman is no genius but he can pick up on a racist strain in US-European thinking. Bibi is a bit more elegant, but he is following the very same scenario as his buddy. This policy must be characterized as the right wing-extremist line of the more aggressive and adventurous elements in the US administration. These forces dislike Obama’s “moderate” style even when it is seen purely as a matter of form. They know the hard facts of imperial power and will exploit every element to wear down Obama, who has hitherto been simply unable to elaborate a coherent alternative to traditional hegemonic thinking.
Israel sees itself a pioneer in the war of civilizations. From its forward position it looks back at Obama and reminds him that, in the light of the conceptual continuity of US foreign policy, respect and consideration are due to the pioneers watching the fort.
Obama and the U.S. are in a particularly sensitive situation in the ME. Netanyahu has effectively scuttled the peace process, as faint and unconvincing as it was. Iran is exerting greater influence in the ME where the moderate Arab regimes are reduced to depending on Israel muscle to protect themselves from the fall out resulting from their collaborationist betrayal of the Palestinians. Odds and increasing signs on the ground indicate that the departure and the redeployment of US troops will have a destabilizing effect in Iraq. There are increasing signs that the present leadership in Baghdad might take a hike to Teheran. The US leadership has figured out it needs some secular horses in the Iraqi race and is busy trying to resurrect Sadaam Hussein’s old party. You see, this is the Middle East.
Meanwhile, for the last few weeks, Bibi Netanyahu has been working overtime to kill off any chance whatsoever for any solution to the Israeli-Palestinian and the Israeli-Arab conflict. He has already demonstrated clearly and unequivocally that, when and if he deigns to be so kind to his US buddy as to agree to go back to the negotiating table, he will talk only exclusively to a waterboarded Palestinian delegation that will kiss the whip after being thoroughly inundated by a flood of new unconditional demands.
Israel now demands that the Palestinians must not only recognize Israel and undertake peaceful coexistence with it, the Palestinians must recognize Israel as the state of the Jewish people. This recognition is to be interpreted by Israel, inter alia, as a clear renunciation of the demands for the rights of the Palestinian refugees. You see, Israel seeks closure.
The plain fact of the matter is that while Obama’s advisers’ limit him to bland generalities such as “Let’s have two states,” and “Everybody should behave well,” Lieberman and Netanyahu are hard at work. They are ostensibly reviewing their policy options, but really making sure that by issuing a slew of new demands, one more outrageous than the other, there will not be a Palestinian in sight who will dare to sit down to discuss “Two-states.”
Washington is stupefied and fails to react. Netanyahu says that Israel has just as much right to build in the occupied territories as the Palestinians and that the status of the land in the territories is “disputed land.” Washington is stupefied and fails to react. Netanyahu wants it clear right now that Palestine will never have any sort of army, and accept all kinds of limitations regarding water and elctro-magnetic fields on its truncated sovereignty. Washington is stupefied and fails to act.
Some wise guy pundit here called this new list of demands, Netanyahu’s shopping list for Obama. Obama has scheduled a full and frank discussion with Netanyahu for the 18th this month. Hilary Clinton is looking forward to hear about new developments in Israeli policy and hopes to explain to Netanyahu the danger of alienating the moderate Arab regimes. But Netanyahu is smart enough to exploit any opening given him in D.C. to present a new agenda of unlimited complications. Obama and Clinton may want to play dumb but if they allow Netanyahu to participate in shaping the agenda, they are selling the Palestinian down the river…again.
Netanyahu is not without friends and connections in D.C. within the present administration which is still in the grips of the political ideas and anti-Iran hysteria of its predecessor.
Making War for Peace or Making Peace for War
Everybody watching Bibi here knows how he is preparing himself for the coming meeting with Obama. The war on terror he says trumps peacemaking in the region. With Ahmadinajad on the loose, how could you conceivably talk to us about concessions affecting our vital rights. First lets take out Iran and then I will have time and patience to talk with you about Palestine. The hawkish, militarist, chauvinist boss here is telling Obama, no peace with Palestine without war on Iran.
Hilary Clinton was unable to understand that she was trailing far behind the discussion when she suggested that Netanyahu should desist from alienating the moderate Arab by making peace with the Palestinians. Despite the rumors that Lieberman is spitting in the soup, the Israeli-Egyptian love fest is on again. The Israeli government and the head of Egyptian intelligence, meet personally on a regular basis to work out the details of the siege and isolation of Gaza. When he has a chance, Bibi will explain to Hilary Clinton that he has the moderate Arab regimes in the palms of his hands. The moderates fear, more than anything else, political confrontation with Arabs and Muslims who have their very own ideas as to the disposition of their own oil. They, the “moderates”, are simply too busy defending their own privileges to be bothered by the fate of Palestine.
Even so, Obama and Hilary will tell Netanyahu that progress in the Palestinian talks is absolutely necessary to isolate Iran either for heavy sanctions or eventually a full sale attack. We must have peace they will explain before we can make war. Netanyahu, if it appears that he cannot really get his war (with Iran) for promising peace (with the Palestinians) will make the “ultimate concession” and agree to renew talks with the Palestinians. Obama will fake a victory, the “moderate” Arab countries will marvel at US diplomatic and the US will proceed on its mission to Teheran. The US will ostensibly have moved in the direction of dialogue but will brandish the Israeli sword in the face of the recalcitrant Iranians to keep them up to speed. With all this jockeying hither and thither very few bright people will be fooled into forgetting the name of the game. This region is oil country and it is the United States and it alone which wants it hands on the spigot. Iran with its reactionary regime and crude and clumsy leadership has the weird idea that it should decide how to dispose of its own oil, a crime punishable by death and invasion in the US playbook.
Barak Obama Really Seems Like a Nice Guy
I wish to avoid the full scale debate on the significance of the Obama presidency. Suffice it to say that even the most enthusiastic of Obama’s admirers on the left understand that he is the man responsible for tending store for the US empire and its interests. He himself has chosen to surround himself especially in foreign affairs by circles that represent continuity while he must rely on a state apparatus which honors the “virtues” of continuity above all else. Meanwhile, the US is in full retreat in the Middle East, where Iran and its allies enjoy a spurt of prestige for their support for the forsaken Palestinians. And now South Asia is falling apart. It is worth believing that the nuclear warehouse in Pakistan is in safe hands, but nothing else is safe and no where else is the area secure. Iraq is evermore inherently unstable, and the latest news is that the US is trying to resurrect Saadam Hussein’s party in order to balance the Shi’ite predilection for friendship in Teheran. Unless it is ready to radically increase its military activity, directly or by proxy, in these regions, the US must come up with a serious shift in policy and the cosmetic stuff is just not enough. In short, the US must demonstrate a serious willingness to recognize Iran’s legitimate interests and get rid of the “axis of evil” baggage.
And now back to Bibi and his plans for war. As long as the hard line Israeli policy and the softer line US policy are supposed to advance the same goal of thwarting and obstructing Iranian influence, as long as Washington buys the Israeli propaganda that Israel is in danger of a new Auschwitz and Ahmadinajad is a new Hitler (like Nasser and Arafat figured in previous Israeli narratives), there is a danger that Israel will attack. Equivocation in DC can easily translate to Israeli provocation in Boshir.
Our condemnation of the US-Israeli alliance in the ME does not mean that we have any sympathy whatsoever for the reactionary Islamic Republic and its leadership. Ahmadinajad seems totally unable to understand that his sloppy loose and crude formulations regarding Jewry and Israel are just what Bibi and Lieberman ordered. However, recent experience has shown that US intervention, direct or sponsored, will only strengthen a vicious regime, while spreading untold death and destruction among the people of Iran.

Monday, April 13, 2009

April 12, 2009

Ha’aretz: The Wish is the Father of the Thought
The dovish Ha’aretz is busily engaged in advancing the thesis that Obama and Netanyahu are on a collision course. Last week, it published a (hitherto unconfirmed) scoop that Obama is to visit Israel at the beginning of June. It also reported an intensive ongoing campaign by Obama’s people in DC to prepare Congress for confrontation with a recalcitrant Israeli government.
One senses that these reports are more wishful than factual. At any rate, Lieberman’s deputy minister of Foreign Affairs, Danny Eilon, former Israeli ambassador to the U.S., insists that relations are just fine. The assumption here is that Netanyahu will presently be invited to the White House to demonstrate the vigor of the ‘special relationship’.
As Obama repeats vague ‘two-states’ Bushisms, Lieberman says ‘nyet’ and Netanyahu smiles since he is, of course, willing to work out a compromise between Obama’s pious wishes and Lieberman’s populist stubbornness. When Lieberman said no to Annapolis, Obama answered yes to Annapolis. Thus, the President of the US is reduced to exchanging barbs with a local Israeli racist criminal. This is, in the inimitable words of Hilary about Israeli house demolition in the East Jerusalem, simply “unhelpful.”
Mitchell is coming again but it appears that Washington is unable or unwilling to actually say anything of importance regarding the final status talks. This being so, the best bet is that the game plan in DC is to have Obama pull off some symbolic, but totally empty gesture, like the renewal of negotiations. This would be a pleasant sound byte for the uninitiated, but reveal to everybody else that Obama is clueless about how to proceed. So far, Netanyahu hides behind Lieberman while Obama has been reduced to holding an indirect, but easily discernable conversation with Lieberman, who has duly explained to the US President that Obama must wait until the Israeli government exercises its natural right to reevaluate its policies. Netanyahu, it appears operates in a higher sphere, therefore, really cannot be bothered to declare that Israel accepts the two-state solution. It is quite probable that Netanyahu is saving his possible agreement to participate in negotiations with the PA as a “major concession.” However, the ME has already ‘been there and done that’, having already witnessed many rounds of empty, meaningless talks that lead nowhere…

European Hypocrisy

People are discussing the possible effect of the economic crisis on income of many of the NGO’s in the country which are dependent on the European Union. The impression is that, after a period of doubts and tension about future budgeting, the EU is still very much in the NGO business. It is interesting that Europe faced with a mounting financial crisis and slashing social benefits continues to attach great importance to the NGO efforts. Considering the economic picture and the level of waste and ostentation in the NGO area, one assumes that Europe feels that it is getting a good return on its money. Europe, with its complete support for US policies bears full responsibility for the ongoing tragedy of the Palestinian people and the stalled peace process, likes to point to the NGO’s as their contribution to peace and justice. This is much easier than openly confronting Israel on the inter-state level. The recipients of these funds usually refrain from censuring European hypocrisy. After all it is neither polite nor wise to bite the hand that feeds you.

Time for Reexamination

Philanthropy is a complex affair. After all is said and done it is mainly a method for transferring social issues which should be dealt with on a state level to the private sector. In the final analysis this is also true of the NGO complex.
We know that hundreds of devoted and conscientious people work in Israeli and Palestinian NGO’s. Some NGO’s are doing valuable, even dangerous work. However, the stated goals, the funding, and the organization of these institutions are highly problematic. It is increasingly clear that they are not a satisfactory alternative to openly political groupings on the left. However, for many, they seem mistakenly to fulfill this kind of role.
As these organizations increase their paid staff and develop hierarchies, they tend to develop a style and mentality more similar to that of the for-profit sector. Whatever their contribution, they are a sorry surrogate for a militant left with clear cut political goals.

Monday, March 23, 2009

March 23, 2009

The Rosa Luxemburg Foundation Expands its Activities in Israel

Most of those on the left here in Israel welcomed the foundation and the growing success of the party of the German left, “Die Linke.” The party was created two years ago with the unification between the PDS (Party of Democratic Socialism), which rose in East Germany after the collapse of the Communist regime, and a radical wing of the Social Democrats which left their parent party. The unified party appears to be doing quite well and it is expected to earn some 10% (or more) of the vote in the next elections to the Bundestag.
Each of the two components is a story in itself, but, at this point, a few comments on the PDS may be helpful. The PDS established its own identity after the “fall” managing to break with Communist East German orthodoxy but insisting on the need to find its own path to the left of the cold-war Social Democrats. For a combination of strange historical factors, the PDS became a major party in the regions of the former German Democratic Republic. One of the important elements in its success was the task of exposing the hypocrisy of the German Federal Republic establishment which neglected and spurned the needs of the region, while waxing sentimental about the reunification miracle. The PDS continued over the years to do well in the eastern regions but had little or no presence in the other regions of the Federal Republic of Germany. This changed radically for the better after the unification with the breakaway Social-Democratic formation.
According to German law, each faction in the Bundestag (which must meet the 5% minimum for representation), receives in proportion to its strength, an allocation for cultural and educational activity conducted both within Germany and abroad. Here in Israel, we are familiar with the long active Adenauer, Ebert and Heinrich Boel foundations linked to the Christian Democrats, the Social Democrats and the Greens, respectively.
The Rosa Luxemburg Foundation, which has been active in Israel for a number of years has recently upgraded its level of representation and activities, including the establishment of two new offices in Tel Aviv and Ramallah. It sponsored on March 11, 2009 in Tel Aviv a very impressive full day seminar devoted to Rosa Luxemburg and relations between the Israeli and the German left. It is almost superfluous to note here that the Polish, German, Jewish revolutionary Rosa Luxemburg, was one of the giants of revolutionary socialism, an important theoretician, and an indefatigable proletarian leader. Luxembourg was murdered in 1918, a few days after she was released from prison where she was held because of her consistent opposition to the war.

A Complex and Sensitive Mission
Representing the German Left in Israel is a complex and sensitive mission. The relations between the German people and the Jewish people are suffused with painful memory and fraught with tensions on the background of the Holocaust, after the horrendous murder of a third of the Jewish people. Matters become more complex when one remembers that the “return of Germany to the family of nations” after the WWII was facilitated by a budding Israeli-German romance. Back then Germany was being transformed into the faithful ally of the United States and a major force in NATO. On this background, Israel, led by David Ben Gurion, initiated the historic reconciliation which included the (in)famous reparations agreement, thus granting major assistance to restoring the moral stature of the “new” Germany.
There are those on the German Left who believe that the traumas of the past dictate a common German position in favor of Israel, which includes special consideration for all and any of Israel’s actions. Gregor Gysi, a central political figure in the German “Die Linke” is a typical representative of this current of thought. In an important speech, marking the 60th anniversary of Israel (“The Position of the German Left Towards Israel ”-April 14, 2008) Gysi calls on the German left to maintain its embrace of the “pro-Israeli” approach of the German establishment. The practical effect of this approach is to render Israel immune to any serious criticism. With all due respect, this approach to the matter is unacceptable in terms of its content and its political implications. According to Gizi’s approach, Israel is the direct and legitimate heir of all the victims of Nazism. It is Israel which represents them and is authorized to act in their name. Therefore, all the governments of Israel must receive special consideration in every area, and this includes, of course, the Israeli-Arab conflict.
In the Israeli left, we are quite familiar with this thesis, according to which Israel is the authentic expression of all Jewish aspirations, past and present and that Israel’s establishment is in some way compensation for the crimes by Nazism against the Jewish people. It is obvious why the Israeli establishment adopted and energetically advanced this thesis which became over time an important ideological weapon in rationalizing its behavior in the Middle East conflict. But there is no basis in fact for this thesis in historical reality.
Gysi does try to be honest and objective, but one senses that feelings of guilt have taken precedence over political logic. This is clear from the extreme credibility that he extends to claims by the Zionist establishment and Israeli governments according to which Israel is “surprisingly democratic” and “forced to act” as it does.
The editors of the Israeli publication of Gysi’s speech did well to cite the fact that the speech is not an official party position, but a contribution to a discussion which evoked stormy and excited discussion.
With all the appreciation for the goals of the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation, one must express some apprehension that its efforts may be over responsive to current official German positions, especially in the light of the mutual admiration interaction governing relations between Israel and Germany. Any tendency to equate criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism must encourage apologetics for actions by Israel. It is well known that Israel makes every effort to brand justified criticism of its actions as anti-Semitism. In such circumstances, why should Germany (and Europe) make life easier for Israel by indulgence and leniency towards actions by Israel which would be defined as clearly criminal if perpetrated by anyone else. Does Israel deserve this kind of forgiveness as it operates as a regional power in close alliance to US interests in the region?
It is to be hoped that the Foundation and its staff, who are democrats and socialists, will be discerning regarding the attempts by the Israeli establishment to exploit any tendency to leniency regarding the realities of the occupation and war crimes against the Palestinians. The Israeli establishment is quite adroit at exploiting the crimes of the past against the Jewish people as a blanket justification for its policies. It is suggested that the German Left, instead of any rapprochement with the Israeli establishment, might well cultivate and deepen relations of mutual understanding and solidarity with those in Israel who are fighting for peace and democracy, and with the Palestinian population in Israel. It is the view of the Israeli Left that the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation will fulfill its goals successfully if it refrains consistently from any whitewash of the sins and crimes of Israel and its policies. This is particularly true according to the legacy of Rosa Luxembourg who castigated all forms of militarism and unjust war. Her legacy continues to be a guideline for every democrat and every partisan of peace who recognizes the horrors of militarism in general and in its local and contemporary version, in particular.
The Real Rosa
It is quite normal that the authentic meaning of past legacies is subject to differences of opinion. Everyone is permitted to quote those passages that seem most important and characteristic in the legacy of this or that historical figure. But there is cause for concern that there are those who might forget, even though unintentionally, the most all important element in Luxemburg’s legacy: revolutionary theory and practice. The essence of her political life was devoted to elaborating revolutionary thought and practice. Here we have a problem – the interpretation of Luxemburg for those who operate in non-revolutionary periods and circumstances. This problematic is known in Marxism as “revolutionary practice in non-revolutionary circumstances”. It is therefore not totally surprising that those operating in a non-revolutionary period will try to “round off” some of Luxemburg’s “rough edges” and to emphasize those elements that tend to gloss over the tremendous contradiction between her position and reformism. It was precisely Luxemburg who delved deeper than anyone else into the roots of the conflict between revolution and reform.
One could argue that the lack of real revolutionary perspectives explained the surrender of reformism to the capitalist regime. But nothing can justify the faithful and blind support by social democracy for the imperialist project of their own ruling classes. In England, Germany, Holland and Belgium, among others, reformism enthusiastically supported the project of colonialist exploitation, whose dimensions approached that of a holocaust. It is worth recalling that the roots of the Holocaust of the Jewish people appeared and developed in the dark depths of racism which served so well the arguments for colonial expansion. Thus, Rosa Luxemburg should properly be seen as an opponent of all forms of imperial domination. In this sense, Luxemburg’s legacy would symbolize, more than anything else, solidarity with the victims of the Israeli occupation and with the workers and the down trodden here in Israel.

A Source For Concern
Hermann Dierekes, an activist in the German Left was a representative of the Die Linke in the Duisberg City Council and also a candidate of his party for mayor. Dierekes participated recently in the World Social Forum in Belem, Brazil and wanted to relay the decisions of the Forum to the German public. After Dierekes granted an interview to a conservative paper in Essen he was viciously attacked in a number of right-wing papers in Germany. But this was not enough, according to information at our disposal, Dierkes was severely attacked by central figures in the Linke and forced out of the party. This version of events is from Palestinian sources, but we were unable, despite our attempts, to find a different or an official version from Die Linke. We cannot be responsible for any Dierekes’ formulations, but it seems quite clear that he was a victim of those in the Die Linke who do not accept the very idea that it is possible and necessary to criticize Israel. How did Rosa put it? “Freedom is only the freedom for those who think differently.”

1) This article is based on, but not identical to an article by the writer published last week in Hebrew on the “Ha’gada Ha’smolit” website.
2) My arguments with certain tendencies in the German left which want to render exceptional consideration to Israel are part of a “family” dispute. I do appreciate the bitter hatred of anything remotely fascist or anti-Semitic in the German left. I am convinced that the motive on the left for avoiding sharp controversy over Israel is usually a noble one. However, bending over backwards to avoid confrontation with Israel’s actions may result in a dangerous lack of clarity on this and related issues and make it that much harder to distinguish between Israel’s state apparatus, on one had, and Jews and the Jewish people, on the other, such a distinction being basic to understanding events.
3) This actually happened one day during the eighties of the previous century. We were shopping at the local super in Jerusalem when a young woman came up and informed us (in complete innocence): “You are lucky, we have a special sale today on soap from Germany.”

Monday, March 9, 2009

March 9, 2009

Pure and Unadulterated Racism

It might be difficult for the uninitiated observer to accept the fact that a racist, crypto-fascist politician is on his way to becoming the second most important figure in the Israeli political arena. It is, therefore, worth re-establishing the factual basis of the charge that we are dealing with the truly ugly face of racism, pure and unadulterated. Avigdor Lieberman is on his way to becoming the Minister of Foreign Affairs in Netanyahu’s new government.
It is clear that the person who shouts “fire” in a crowded theatre cannot claim the privilege of free speech and is responsible for the results of his action. Compare this with the prominent political figure, Avigdor Lieberman, who in Israel centered his recent electoral campaign on the slogan: No citizenship without loyalty.
The slogan, which is only one of the many items in Lieberman’s racist arsenal, is a clear provocation directed against Israel’s Arab population which comprises one fifth of Israeli citizens. Lieberman asserts that Israeli Arab citizens must be assumed to be insufficiently loyal to the state since they refuse, naturally enough, to support Israeli consensual policies on major political issues. Lieberman’s justification of his plan is also revealing. The loyalty oath is not racist, he argues, because it will be administered to all Israeli citizens. But only those who do not pass the test will have their citizenship revoked.
It should be clear to any objective observer that Lieberman’s program is a declaration of war against Israel’s Palestinian minority which comprises a fifth of the population. In our society, which lives on from one war to the next, in a sickening atmosphere of seething hatred and hostility one can, it has been proven, win many votes by calling for the disenfranchisement of 1.5 million Israeli Palestinians. It should be clear that what comes after disenfranchisement is ethnic cleansing…
Kingmaker Pogromchik
Avigdor Lieberman, as a senior partner in the new cabinet, is Netanyahu’s certain choice for Minister of Foreign Affairs. Lieberman, who happens to be officially a prime candidate for indictment in pending corruption cases, also gets to choose the Minister of Police and the Minster of Justice. The media, basing itself on the “verdict” of the election results is warming up to the idea that Lieberman is just another legitimate politician in the local arena. However, enlightened public opinion, here and abroad will not accept the fact that a racist, neo-fascist politician has Israel’s government in his pocket. No amount of votes and mandates can legitimize racism and chauvinism.
Maybe Ms. Clinton Did Not Notice
Clinton did try and restore a bit of enthusiasm for peace prospects in the region during her recent trip to the region. She said that “no time should be wasted” and that “a new and creative approach is necessary.”(Ha’aretz, March 4, 2008). The difficulty is that we have been down this path before and know something about its twists and turns. We have become a bit immunized to statements like this: “It is our assessment that eventually the inevitability of working towards a two-state solution is inescapable.” (ibid)
Sticking strictly to protocol, Ms. Clinton made it very clear that the United States would not conceive of interfering in the ongoing negotiations to form the Israeli coalition. She and Netanyahu came out of their meeting, both smiling from ear to ear. As long as Bibi is smiling, one can be sure that no progress is being made on the Palestinian issue. Moreover, it seems that the two were kindred souls regarding the danger from Teheran. Clinton was almost apologetic to the present and future leaders of the Israel, stressing that the US was proceeding with further sanctions against Teheran to limit the range of Iranian missiles. While Clinton was being nice to the Israeli leadership, the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, came up with a really profound suggestion – to eliminate all nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction from the ME. Ms. Clinton might ponder the fact that the “inevitability” of discussing such a ban is also “inescapable.”
Clinton proved that she knows how to tread softly where Israeli interests are involved. She reached the area after Egyptian diplomacy had just overcome serious difficulties in hammering out a deal between Israel and Egypt on the border crossing issue, only to see the agreement sabotaged by Olmert who decided to surprise everyone including his own people by an ultimatum to include the prisoner swap as part of the border crossings agreement. Olmert, once again was trying to convince everyone that Hamas was on the verge of collapse, but managed to come out of another confrontation with empty hands. Clinton, with a minimum of responsibility, was clearly obligated, out of loyalty to the Egyptians who were carrying the ball for them to calm Olmert down. Instead she went back to the “Israel has the right to defend itself” mantra when the agreement scuttled by Olmert was the real cause for renewed tensions.
Instead of making an effort to save the border crossing agreement – the most effective way to stop the rockets, Clinton tried to expand the list of permitted items on the humanitarian supply. Olmert and Co. were not worried by the visit. They kept up with house demolitions in East Jerusalem and admitted the existence of immediate plans for settlement expansion. Clinton said that this was “unhelpful.”
But regarding Palestinians, where efforts are going on to restore a unity government, Clinton threw protocol to the wind and announced her opposition to the future participation of Hamas in a reconstituted Palestinian government. If this is indeed the US position it is worse than that of the previous Bush administration. A compromise had been worked out whereby Hamas, without changing its own ideological reservations, would agree to participate in a Palestinian government which would proceed on the basis of previous commitments. It may be helpful if she consults George Mitchell who knows all the fine points on this.
It should be appreciated that the Obama administration is conducting some sort of overall review of US foreign policy. But it is unnecessary, even completely “unhelpful” to conduct a visit to Israel according to the old Bush scenario and to signal a neurotic fear of offending Israel’s anti-peace coalitions. One thing is true about Israeli leaders. They have a sixth sense of when Washington is just not serious.