Monday, December 6, 2010

The Israeli School of Misinterpretation

It is clear enough that the WikiLeak affair will play out differently from country to country. The establishment here is quite pleased that there are no major revelations to embarrass the government – so far. The fact that Bibi Netanyahu, the leader of the “loyal opposition” bad mouthed his own government when visiting Washington was well known. No one thought otherwise. Still, many of the specific reactions by our widely recognized “experts” are worth a look. Their ranting and raving over the WikiLeak project are barren of any insight, but they do tell us much about their own political mentality.

Two very sour apples stand out: Professor Shlomo Avineri, who has abandoned the halls of academia for the pages of Ha’aretz, and one of Ha’aretz’s prime, well-connected court scribblers, Ari Shavit. (All quotes from Shavit and Avineri are from the English edition of Haaretz, December 3, 2010). Shavit has a field day maligning Assuage and WikiLeak. This ‘gentleman’ of the press fumes with hatred and violence. He slanders WikiLeak hysterically and incites to violence against Assange, the “dangerous criminal”, “the cyberterrorist”, the “delusory anarchist”, “the uninhibited megalomaniac”. But after presenting his anti-WikiLeak credentials, Shavit decides that Assange has unwittingly performed a service for him. It seems that for all his “misanthropy”, Julian Assange has “shattered the accepted dogma… that the main problem in the Middle East is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the occupation, the settlements.”

Now this accepted dogma did reign supreme precisely among the local “analysts” who presented this version of things so as convince the public that all the Arabs want to destroy Israel, the only democratic state in the area, and that the main obstacle to peace is arbitrary Arab intransigence. Now on the basis of WikiLeak info, the Israeli establishment is intensively promoting a brand new updated, post WikiLeak line. For its own nefarious strategic political aims, the Israeli establishment wants to impose its own “interpretation” of the WikiLink revelations concerning Arab presence in the anti-Iranian coalition. The new line goes like this:

All the blather about the centrality of the Israeli-Arab conflict and the urgent need to solve the Israeli-Palestinian issue is without any base. On the level of propaganda and empty rhetoric, the “moderates” still talk about the suffering in Palestine, but they want and need Israel to protect their feeble, rotting regimes.

Even Abu Mazen and his weak Palestinian Authority know full well that they cannot survive Iranian ascendency. This is the real reason that they have pinned their fate to full scale military and strategic cooperation and integration with the United States and its allies in the Middle East. Thus, say our Israeli friends, all the story about the urgency and the centrality of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is pure twaddle and nonsense.

Now this twaddle and nonsense was precisely the way that Shavit and his buddies commented on events over the years. In fact they are the ones who built up the scenario in which about Israel, alone and isolated in the region, faced a united front of single minded Arab regimes. Now they have jumped on the emergence of a new stark game changing revelation. This so-called ‘”discovery” merely serves to verify the previous narrow minded short sightedness of the conformist Israeli and pro-Israeli media. It is Shavit and other court scribes who wanted the world to see the area in terms of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, even though they could have and should have known better.

On the left, it has been clear almost from the beginning of the conflict that developments in the Israeli-Arab conflict are the results of deeper and wider causes. These can be summarized in the following axiomatic terms. The mainspring of events in the region is the ongoing drive of the United States, acting in its imperial interests, to maintain control of the regions oil reserves and refineries and to maintain for this purpose a local configuration of “friendly” countries and forces which will defend US interests. The history of the Middle East is replete with instances where Israeli arms and/or military potential were employed for the overthrow of progressive Arab regimes or for the survival of reactionary Arab regimes, faced with popular uprisings.

The Real Contradictions

And relating to more current developments, I do not know of any serious left wing commentator, here and abroad, who has not noted the fact that the so called “moderate” Arab countries have become an integral link in the US-Israeli preparations for war against Iran. Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan are all manifestly corrupt and unpopular regimes. The existence of an alternative based on the political and economic support of Iran, Turkey, Syria and Lebanon (and a host of political groups and forces) is an extreme and immediate danger to these unpopular regimes.

Even before WikiLeak leaked the truth about the real line up in the Middle East, Israel and its powerful friends in DC have blocked whatever remained of Obama’s intentions to try the ‘Palestine before Iran gambit. Thus, Washington’s slim hope of gaining prestige and using it against Iranian interests through progress in ending the Israeli-Palestinian stand off appears to have been seriously damaged. The Israeli establishment is using the WikiLeak details and general atmosphere to explain to all the softer hearted pro-Palestinians the hard facts. Palestine and the Palestinians are of secondary interest to the “Arabs.” Israel and the “Arabs” want to take out Iran.

Bibi’s racist coalition and the fundamentalist Saudi regime are harnessed to the US war machine and hum the same chorus: on to Teheran. The goal is simple – regime change in Iran. Simply taking out a few nuclear installations, which can be rebuilt in a matter of months, is clearly insufficient. Iran must be either destroyed or occupied. This is the common and urgent message of Bibi and Abdullah, the Saudi king.

Obama Downgraded - Netanyahu Elevated

The second bit of buzz around this place is that Obama is weak and getting weaker all the time. Whether or not there is any logic in blaming Obama for WikiLeak is irrelevant. It happened on his watch. In truth there are massive indications that the United States hegemony is crumbling and that the brains that advise the US President do not have the foggiest idea about how to reverse the trend. WikiLeak is just another unpleasant affair. And according to the Israeli school of flakey interpretations, if Obama is getting weaker, then Bibi is growing stronger. If not so long ago, DC was acting as if it was trying to convince Israel to stop construction in the territories – it is clear now – post WikiLeak, that nobody really cares about the Palestinian issue. Hillary does not need to waste her energy on finishing the letter about what she and Bibi did or did not agree on in their famous seven hour meeting. Bibi could not care less. The Israelis are convinced that WikiLeak has defanged US Middle East diplomacy on Israel-Palestine, leaving DC with only one real option- the military one against Iran.

Israeli Euphoria and the Stubborn Facts

It was indeed the routine practice of Israeli politicos to present the Middle East as a battleground between Arabs and Jews for favors from Washington. The truth is that the Arab Israeli conflict was and remains a subsidiary issue in the region. We repeat that the main issues were and remain the control of Middle East oil, its production and distribution and the political and strategic configuration designed to ensure that control. Coordinated activity between Israel and the Arab “moderates” against regional indigenous forces challenging that control is an old, well known story. The punsters believe it is to their advantage at this point to use WikiLeak to expose the seamy side of the Israeli and Arab connivance so as to absolve the US of any need to exert pressure on Israel if, indeed, it had contemplated anything so radical.

But let us get things straight. If Bibi feels elevated by Obama’s inadequacy, he is like that passenger going up the elevator in a ship that has begun its final stages of listing to its side. He and his patron are thinking about starting a war that is an act of desperation. They are contemplating a throw of the dice which means gambling with the fate of perhaps millions of men, women and children. The fact that the Jewish state is blindly leading the region into a new holocaust, under US auspices, is new evidence of the horrific corruption of humanity that can result from a regime, Jewish in name, but bereft of any roots in a philosophy of justice, a regime built around chauvinism, racism and occupation.

Who is Behind WikiLeak?

Our Israeli ideologues, whether a distinguished professor or a noted journalist, express the insecurity of a class, which has a deep distaste and suspicion of anything that challenges the need for control and order. The ideologues explain that we simply cannot have unauthorized people running around and speaking the truth. In particular, Prof. Avineri is angry about US inability to keep its secrets, the inadequate level of intelligence gathering, sloppy reporting and the clogging of future contacts. But this is nothing compared with Avineri’s disgust with Obama’s inability to understand the region where “we are looking at a political culture a bit different from the kind taken for granted by us and the Western democracies. We desire peace with our neighbors, but this isn’t a world into which we need or want to integrate into in terms of morality and values. It isn’t pleasant to say this, but it should be acknowledged.” Avineri dislikes two-facedness, but shows his racist mindset precisely in a week when the entire world is learning, via WikiLeak that among the all the powers that be two-facedness is the rule and not the exception.

Avineri is worried because he doesn’t know Assange’s political agenda, though he is certain that something smells bad. He warns us that, ”This is a person with clear aims – although no one has figured out exactly what they are.” (!!) Professor Avineri asks, ”Are we certain there isn’t a security service behind him and his efforts? This should be on the public agenda in the next few weeks.” Avineri must know that there are not too many possibilities. Al Quaeda, with a laptop in the cave? The North Koreans battling over the leadership succession. The “inscrutable Chinese”? Really!!

If Prof. Avineri had made a minimal effort to read about Julian Assange’s work and his philosophy, he might be surprised by the fact that Assange’s main political inspiration and references are standard liberal fare. Assange quotes as his mentors people like Lech Walenska and Solzhenitsin. He is quite open regarding his motives. All the following quotes are from an address by Julian Assange at the Stockholm Freedom Forum in May 2010.

“[We must] understand that the alliance which once existed between liberals and libertarians and the military-industrial complex in opposing Soviet abuses in the Cold War - is gone. Where once upon a time, people who stood up for enlightenment values domestically, in Western countries, who stood up for human rights and freedom of the press domestically in Western countries, liberals, libertarians and the press itself were in a tacit alliance with warmongers. They were in a tacit alliance with those people who opposed the Soviet Union merely for geopolitical reasons. And that alliance was to pick up a moral stick and to beat the Soviet Union for its abuses, its terrible abuses, censorship. The government and military joined this alliance in recognition of the geopolitical value of the alliance as a moral stick with which to beat the Soviet Union for its terrible abuses in its censorship. As of 1990-91 that artificial alliance, that temporary alliance had dissipated, with reversion to a different standard, where the natural interests of authority, the natural interests of the intelligence agencies and the natural interests of the military is in stifling press reportage of abuse, and it has been reasserted in Western countries.

In this broader framework of what we do, it's to try and build a
historical, intellectual record of how our civilization actually works
in practice, now, from the inside, everywhere, in every country around the world, from the inside.

Because all of our decisions, individual decisions, our political
decisions are based on what we know, humanity is nothing but what we know and what we have. And what we have can be replaced and degrades quickly. And what we know is everything and it is our limit of what we can be. So before we can embark on any particular political stratagem we first have to know where we are. If we don't know where we are, it's impossible to know where we're going. Likewise, it's impossible to correct abuses unless we know that they're going on.

So I ask you to think about the words of Macchiavelli, think about them in their negative, when he said, "Thus it happened in matters of state when knowing afar off which is only given a prudent man to do the evils that are brewing, they are easily cured; but when for want of such knowledge they're allowed to grow until everyone can recognize them, there is no longer any remedy to be found."

For secret planning is secret usually for a reason. This is because if it's abusive it is opposed. So it's our task to find secret abuses planned and expose them where they can be exposed before they are implemented: for if they are exposed by their implementation by people suffering from that abuse, then the abuse has already occurred and it is too late. He who controls today`s Internet servers, controls the intellectual record of mankind.”

Our good professor once understood something about contradictions and the limits of power, but he has reduced himself to the role of apologist for the Israeli state. Instead of calm discussion and reasoned disagreement, he joins the pack of jackals baying for the blood of an honest liberal.

Thus, the significance of the information culled from WikiLeak is interpreted by Israel’s ideological cadre so as to further the current strategic goals of the regime: The “Arabs”, (even if only the US hirelings among them) are on our side! We can now manage Palestine without outside interference and get down to business with Iran.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Another Act in a Sad and Sick Comedy

On the face of it, it appears that these guys (Hillary and Bibi and their staffs) do not have anything to do with their time. The “negotiations” between the Israelis and the Americans, designed to convince the Israelis to stop building in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, have reached a critical point. After weeks of jockeying and a seven hour marathon between Hilary and Bibi, the Israelis are supposed to respond to a package of goodies that they will receive if they are so kind and generous to agree to a three month freeze on settlements. If Bibi and his buddies condescend to stop building on Palestinian land, they will receive advanced fighter-bombers and sophisticated weaponry, diplomatic vetoes (when required) and backing in international forums, and even the right to never hear the word freeze again until hell freezes over. These people have lost all sense of decency and go about their protracted negotiations on the fate of the Palestinians as if their combinations and consultations do not concern the Palestinians. Moreover, the Israelis were quick to announce that this US-Israeli deal does not require Palestinian approval.

You would have be a political illiterate to not understand that the US is trying to buy off Bibi by sacrificing Palestinian rights and paying him with Palestinian concessions. Now this was to be expected by all, including most Palestinians. For some indecipherable reason, this Palestinian “leadership” thought that by ingratiating itself with Washington, they could hope for a modicum of fairness. How naïve.

The Americans think that renewed Israeli-Palestinian negotiations will improve their image in the region. Indeed, everyone harbors their own set of illusions to get through the day. Logically, the U.S. should be pressuring both sides. But it does not want to put any real pressure on Israel because Israel is an important ally in the schemes for an attack on Iran. It may be that we have come to the point that it is really hard to pressure Israel because a weakened US administration has become completely scared out of its wits by the ugly AIPAC-Tea Party coalition. So what do you do? You make Palestinian concessions to Netanyahu’s annexationist government.

The Israelis claim that the deal excludes Jerusalem. The Palestinians say that this means that the freeze is non-starter. The only possible conclusion is that Hillary and Bibi believe that they will drag Abbas to the table or that they intend to lay the blame for a new failure to resume talks on Palestinian stubbornness.

This most recent expression of the US-Israeli love fest has reached a new level of perversity. This sliding scale of highly priced ‘freeze-time’ is particularly grotesque. The US, the world’s strongest and uncontested super power, buys ‘freeze time’, measured in days, from Israel in a transaction similar to many a shady bit of business. Give me 100 days of freeze-time and I will give you 20 F-35’s and a bunch of other murderous stuff and I promise never to ask for any more freeze-time and to organize full immunity from all charges and condemnation in all international forums. One can only wonder what would be the price of, say, six months of freeze time. Most curious is the object of Washington’s passion for this rare commodity called ‘freeze time.’ Both Obama and Clinton have recently stated very clearly that construction in the OPT is illegal, and this is still the official US position. Israel cannot “sell” willingness to desist from building in the OPT, because they have no such right. It seems that this is a clear case of the US
buying stolen goods.

Hillary and Bibi worked a bit on wrapping up this new bargain. As part of the deal, the US will do all sorts of things that it does anyhow like arming Israel, pressuring Iran, covering Israel’s “rear” in the UN and the International Atomic Energy Commision. Does anyone believe that US follow-through on this “package” of goodies for Israel depends on Israeli agreement to a three month construction freeze?

There does appear to be a single element of importance in all this yada, yada, yada. This is the proposal to concentrate on the delineation of the borders between Israel and Palestine. Some “brilliant” people figured out that if the borders are clearly marked, then everybody will agree as to where Israel can or cannot build. So the US is talking about the border issue being the main one and the most urgent. But this is just another case of the US maintaining the status-quo while promoting the illusion that some real negotiations are feasible. In fact, the Palestinians and the Israelis are still miles apart on this issue. Israel wants borders based on its annexations and settlements in the entire West Bank, including Jerusalem. No legitimate Palestinian representatives could agree. The US, in a desperate search for new subterfuges, touts the idea that a different, new agenda centering on the territorial issue will jump start the talks. But nobody really believes this. It is like suggesting that changing the language of the discussion will help to overcome or bypass the basic issues in dispute.

Palestinians Are Up a Blind Alley

It seems that the Palestinian leadership of Mahmoud Abbas is laboring under a serious misconception of the ME role of the United States and its ability to make a major contribution to Israeli-Palestinian peace. The US has little or no success in the successful solution of international conflicts. It does, however, have a lot of success, in subverting national and local leaderships. This is done by substituting material assistance (money), and military cooperation (police and special troops) for clear cut, principled political and diplomatic support. As time goes by, national and local leaderships comfort themselves by arguing that there is a lack of any other major power alternatives. The claim is that the U.S. is no better or worse than the other players of the international diplomatic game. The assistance supposedly designed to develop the struggle for real independence, turns out to be valuable in order to repel internal opposition. Meanwhile, the local leadership looses prestige and fractures as it becomes clear that it has “painted itself into a corner.” The connections with the US have become the only option. Even with partial autonomy, bills must be paid as if you are a full fledged sovereign country, even if you could not dream of a sovereign fund.

The most consistent supporters of the Palestinian cause cannot ignore the dangerous dependency of the Palestinian Authority on the United States. It is not only the fact that the US will not or cannot act as an “honest broker” regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Under the pretext of including the Arab world in the negotiations for peace, the Palestinian Authority has requested backing by the Arab states. These turn out to be the narrowing group of pro-US moderates, presently engaged in intensive maneuvering to join the US-Israeli axis of aggression against Iran. Egypt is the major operator in this context. Their diplomats are also involved in suggesting modifications undercutting the Palestinian positions in the negotiations. With friends like these, who needs enemies?

The World’s Worst Play

The extreme right elements in Bibi’s coalition, spearheaded by the settlers, are on the warpath. Bibi’s internal enemies sense blood and are out to prove that Netanyahu is no real leader. A possible agreement for a three months freeze is portrayed as the end of Zionism and the betrayal of its goals. Everyone knows that you can tell Obama where to go, but Bibi reveals his fatal weakness when he has to tell the Hussein Obamites not to mess with Israel.

The US two-faced policy cannot do anything about Israeli lack of consideration for US sensitivities (including those in the entire Arab world) because the first sacred objective is to arm this country to the teeth and to reiterate US commitment to Israeli security. After demonstrating that these bedrock commitments are the cornerstone of US policy and that US support is absolute and unconditional, is it any surprise that a legion of cheap politicos can convince the public that the US can be easily rebuffed if Israel stands pat. The local cynics are not wrong when they argue that US diplomacy might attempt to simulate an occasional bark, but there is no way to hide the fact that there is no real bite. I guess that this is a comedy, but a sad and ugly one.

Monday, September 13, 2010

PACBI – Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel Criticizes the Boycott by Israeli Theater People on Ariel*

As we know, some 60 Israeli theater people came out a few weeks back with a declaration that they will refuse to appear at the Ariel “Culture” Hall located in the occupied territories. It is important to stress that actors-artists are employees subordinate to the administrative and financial owners of the theater who are their employers in every sense. So, we are not speaking only of taking a courageous stand, but an act which puts the actor on a collision course with his boss. And we are not speaking of any kind of profession. An actor, without the theater, cannot work, create or make a living. Therefore, most honest people tend naturally to honor and applaud the brave tens of theater people for their act of protest.

It is also natural that the Israeli theater people received support from abroad. Indeed 150 central cultural figures, mainly from the US and the UK expressed their admiration for the courageous stand of the Israeli theater people.

This chain of events is yet another component in a broad movement in Israel and abroad serving to delegitimize the occupation regime and overall Israeli policies. It is important to note that this movement is itself composed of a variety of various, independent, groups and organizations, each of which has a record of long and difficult struggle against the occupation and its evils.

Boycott in Principle
For quite a while a serious debate has been taking place in our circles and in the broad public as to whether the boycott is an appropriate instrument for our struggle. There are those who argue that any boycott against Israel is unjust, really an act of anti-Semitism. But this is a rather naïve position of those who refuse to recognize the suffering and the deprivation of the Palestinian under Israel occupation. Those who support peace and are struggling against the occupation cannot reject any non violent activity aimed at advancing the struggle against the occupation. It is necessary to add that by virtue of its emotionally charged nature, boycott is never a simple affair. It is always a complex mechanism and should be employed with caution and wisdom. Boycotts should be aimed at a definite goal and should be accompanied with detailed political explanation on the cause and the goals of the boycott.

In general, the left in Israel supports boycott activity that conforms to the aforementioned reservations.

PACBI - The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel
Those who follow Palestinian politics know that we are talking about a small and energetic group of activists who have a very explicit political agenda. They see in boycott activity a political instrument with a clear and definite message. This message is revealed in the first statement of their program, which declares the purpose of the boycott: “the elimination of the colonization of all Arab lands.” (see here). This formulation expresses the position of the group, which negates the existence of the state of Israel. In of itself, there is nothing illegitimate about this position. We are talking about leading intellectuals who are members of a nation oppressed by Israel for decades. Difficulties arise on the strategic level. Within the framework of BDS activity, the PACBI people represent a determined line, which demands that boycott activity should conform to their principled position. It is worth being clear on this question from the onset: they do not support activity against the occupation in and of itself because they see such activity as a diversion from the main issue. Their hard-line interpretation that all Israel must be considered territory under occupation brought them into conflict with important leaders of the peace movement such as Noam Chomsky and Norman Finkelstein.

I confess that I am not enthused about getting into a critical discussion about PACBI. I have no doubt regarding the noble intentions of members of the group and their devotion to non-violent struggle against the occupation as they perceive it. However, when they decide to deride the brave struggle of Israeli members of the peace movement and at the same time demonstrate their lack of understanding of our conditions, it is necessary to comment on this. Precisely out of concern for the campaign of the Israeli left against the occupation it is necessary to come out clearly against Palestinian friends who desire to insult with callousness and derision courageous and effective protest.

PACBI Against the Theater People and their International Supporters
We cannot know why PACBI issued, in the space of two days, two separate declarations that deal with the Israeli protest action against the “Cultural” Hall in Ariel. We will deal first with the declaration dated 7th of September (see here). There is nowhere in this text a good word about the activity of the Israeli theater people, and the declaration gives us a detailed and lengthy explanation for this. “While we welcome acts of protest against any manifestation of Israel's regime of colonialism and apartheid, we believe that these acts must be both morally consistent and anchored in international law and universal human rights.” These words serve as an introduction to a text in which PACBI explains that the action by the theater people does not meet these criteria.

These are the faults in the behavior of the theater people:
“First, we believe that the exclusive focus on settlement institutions ignores and obscures the complicity of all Israeli academic and cultural institutions in upholding the system of colonial control and apartheid under which Palestinians suffer. PACBI believes there is firm evidence of the collusion of the Israeli academic and cultural establishment with the major oppressive organs of the Israeli state. Focusing solely on obviously complicit institutions, such as cultural centers in a West Bank colony, serves to shield mainstream Israeli institutions from opprobrium or, ultimately, from the growing global boycott movement that consistently targets all complicit institutions. Furthermore, the cherry-picking approach behind targeting a notorious colonial settlement in the heart of the occupied West Bank diverts attention from other institutions built on occupied land. Supporters of this peculiarly selective boycott must be asked: is lecturing or performing at the Hebrew University, whose Mount Scopus campus sits on occupied Palestinian land in East Jerusalem, acceptable?

The PACBI people go on to submit a list of “test questions” to the theater people: why did they refrain from taking a position against the suffocation of Palestinian cultural institutions in conquered Jerusalem? The PACBI people continue the test questions: “If the artists' and intellectuals' role as voices of moral reason is behind this most recent call to boycott Ariel, where were these voices when academic and cultural institutions were wantonly destroyed in Israel's war of aggression on Gaza in 2008-2009?”

In all seriousness, there is no sincerity and no honesty in referring these questions to these people in these circumstances. The theater people under discussion were never a separate and organized movement but only an ad hoc formation. At the same time, among the theater people there are indeed those who protested the war on Gaza, against the occupation of East Jerusalem and the like. In any event, the “cross examination” style is not appropriate here.

The Second Document
As we have noted PACBI published a second declaration on this subject (see here). The second document, issued two days after the first, is different in that it is in the form of an open letter to the American and English cultural figures who cam out in support of the cultural boycott against the Israeli settlement of the West Bank. Their letter praises and commends the theater, film and television people following their declaration of support of those boycotting Ariel. Reasonably, PACBI calls on the artists abroad to deepen and expand their steps for yet a more comprehensive boycott. However, it is a bit strange to praise and to commend people abroad on their declared support for peace-loving Israelis, while the Israeli activity in itself is not considered worthy in PACBI eyes.

The explanation for this is contained in a paragraph which presents a set of “test questions” similar to those addressed to the Israeli theater people. PACBI wants to know why the cultural figures abroad refuse to act in good time: “In light of this inspiring history, we cannot but ask, why haven't you taken your taboo-breaking position in response to appeals by the overwhelming majority of Palestinians, including almost all leading artists? Why did you have to wait for a relatively small number of dissenting Israeli artists and academics to initiate a boycott, a peculiarly selective and morally-inconsistent one at that? Do authentic voices of the oppressed, especially those in the besieged Gaza Strip, incarcerated in the world's largest open-air prison, also count?” PACBI concludes its letter to the artists abroad that they act according to the spirit of its positions.

In Summary
PACBI, as important as it is, is not the only political factor in Palestinian society, but only one of many Palestinian organizations. While all Palestinians support, in principle, actions against the occupation and against Israeli policies, there are discussions and debates all about the vital issue of strategy and tactics. PACBI represents a version that causes unnecessary difficulties for building the unity of all peace loving forces, who support the Palestinian right of self determination. The recent appearance of an important coalition built on the parties of the Palestinian left and on the political initiative of a grouping around Dr. Mustafa Barghouti is of tremendous importance. This group has criticized the defeatism of Abu Mazen and his people while continuing its support for a just peace. And in respect to our concern here it is important that this coalition supports cooperation on the basis of mutual respect between themselves and the democratic and peace forces in Israel. Solidarity can only be constructed on the basis of mutual respect and a deep understanding of the difficulties of the left opposition in both nations.

*This article was written and published originally in Hebrew. I was concerned that its publication in English might needlessly intensify the debate. However, a number of good friends, who are sincerely devoted to BDS activity, requested an English translation, and convinced me of its value.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

A New Gimmick - Occupation With Equality

No serious observer of the Israeli political scene ascribes any significance whatsoever to a new highly publicized flurry of publications emanating from right wing circles. For the journalist, ever in search of a new angle, these circles are supposed to represent a sea change in basic attitudes regarding the rights of the Palestinians in the occupied Palestinian territories. The evidence for this is that a number of right wing politicians came out for a one state solution based on equal rights for the Palestinians. Of course, there is no real program, and not even the semblance of an organization. Just a rather quaint list of right wingers who seem to be willing to make some limited concessions on their way to the imposition of complete, sovereign, control of all of the land of Palestine, the Land of Israel.

The best guess as to the reason for this wave of sensitivity among right wing annexationists for “equal rights for the Palestinians” appears to be linked to the ‘legitimacy crisis”. The existence of such a crisis is now part of the received wisdom of Israeli political discourse. Many semi-official experts (PR people, pollsters, analysts) have joined forces to impress the public that the deligitimization of Israel is the greatest threat, bar none, to the very existence of Israel. This is of course a rather superficial way of looking at matters, but even so, anyone can see that there is some truth to it. Israeli policy and actions have destroyed the last vestiges of sympathy for Israel the whole world over. But official Israel would have Israel’s growing isolation seen as matter of imagery, public relations and unfair coverage.

There are some annexationist politicians intelligent enough to understand that they need some sort of answer to the obvious objection that they meet with regularly. People have asked them what is supposed to happen after the annexation of the territories. Therefore, it has occurred to some of them that they need an answer to the objections against pure Israeli control, and so they came up with the idea of Israeli citizenship for all. None of them see any need to grapple with the fact that they have turned their back on the principles of democracy and equality absolutely essential in addressing the basic rights of the Palestinians. The individuals concerned (a few leading lights of the right, several MK’s and a former minister) reject, without exception, any solution of the Palestinian refugee problem or the inclusion of Gaza and its people as part of the new one state entity. None of these people have ever uttered a word of compassion and regret regarding the imposition of decades of suffering and degradation on the Palestinians under occupation. You do not even have to read the fine print. It’s a gimmick from the beginning to the end and almost all readers’ responses noted that the “plan” is based on the unilateral imposition of a new form of occupation. One can be certain that the inevitable resistance to the ‘approaching unilateral generosity’ will be suppressed with the full might of the Israel Defense Forces.

This being clearly the situation, it was rather strange to see that a number of Palestinians and their friends rose to take the bait. One outstanding example is Ali Abunima*, the editor of the Electronic Intifada. Abunima makes almost every conceivable mistake as he totally misreads the map and the significance of the latest gimmick. Believe it or not, for Abunima, the print splashed on a weekend supplement is, no more and no less than an important sign that the Israeli occupation is crumbling. Not only the occupation, but the entire Zionist edifice is shaking to its foundations.

“This awakening can be likened to what happened among South African whites in the 1980s. By that time it had become clear that the white minority government's effort to "solve" the problem of black disenfranchisement by creating nominally independent homelands -- bantustans -- had failed. Pressure was mounting from internal resistance and the international campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions.

By the mid-1980s, whites overwhelmingly understood that the apartheid status quo was untenable and they began to consider "reform" proposals that fell very far short of the African National Congress' demands for a universal franchise -- one-person, one-vote in a nonracial South Africa.”*

This attempt at a parallel interpretation of current events and South Africa before the end of Apartheid is so far off base as to almost eliminate any need for rebuttal. First of all, it exhibits a total and complete misunderstanding of Israeli politics and the power structure in the country. Secondly, it shows a strange inability to analyze current reality. The South African ANC was basically united and enjoying international prestige and respect. Unfortunately, the movement for Palestinian national liberation is deeply divided, in a deep crisis and the Palestinian Authority has lost all authority. Part of the Palestinian cause has been literally taken over by the military and economic direct control and influence of the United States, which also acts as a surrogate for Israeli interests. The US and Europe in its wake refuse to impose any genuine curbs on Israeli control and expansion. I could go on and on, but Abumima’s entire conception is obviously dictated by wishful thinking. He is so enthusiastic over the meager incomplete reflections of a handful of chauvinist politicians that he is close to declaring victory. Sadly, he is hopelessly wrong and conceptual narrowness has led him far astray from genuine contact with political reality.

Abunima goes on to define this week end supplement gimmick as a major development furthering the cause of a one state solution.

You see, the Israeli right and the militant Palestinians really want the same thing. It is only a question of terminology.

“The proposals from the Israeli right-wing, however inadequate and indeed offensive they seem in many respects, add a little bit to that hope. They suggest that even those whom Palestinians understandably consider their most implacable foes can stare into the abyss and decide there has to be a radically different way forward.

We should watch how this debate develops and engage and encourage it carefully. In the end it is not what the solution is called that matters, but whether it fulfills the fundamental and inalienable rights of all Palestinians.”

One is left with deep concern that our “one staters” have become the last bulwark of sterile dogmatism. If Abunima sees the statements of this almost random collection of Israeli annexationists as a serious political development, he will be sorely disappointed. One has the impression that his opposition to a two state solution and his dislike of the Zionist left has seriously impaired his critical faculties.

*Ali Abunimah is co-founder of The Electronic Intifada and author of One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse. This article first appeared on Al-Jazeera English and is republished with permission.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Pearlman Affair

The GSS (General Security Services), or the Shin Bet, is the Israeli intelligence service apparatus devoted to the formulation and the execution of policies designed to perpetuate the repression against Palestinian Arabs, especially in the occupied Palestinian territories. However, the Palestinian Arabs, citizens of Israel, who comprise a fifth of the Israel’s population, are also objects of the GSS attention.

Israeli expansion, annexation and expropriation have been at the heart of government practice since the establishment of Israel in 1948. Even so, there have always been dangerous, extremist circles which operated to the right of the government. These circles constantly attacked the various governments for not being consistent in ousting the Palestinians. The settler right argued that the ruling circles do not have the courage of their Zionist convictions. In short, the government was faulted for hesitating to carry out the full maximum program – a land of Israel, without Arabs.

Since 1967, there has been a consistent increase in the numbers and varieties of right-wing extremist groups. Their main base is in the settlements, where they are routinely issued guns and other military equipment, for the ostensible reason of “fighting terror.” Some of them are distinguished writers and academics while there is no shortage of activists who are clearly as nutty as a fruit cake. Many are “nice” souls trying to implement values with which they have been imbued from childhood. But, the main point is that they are all convinced that full redemption is just around the corner - if the regime and the citizenry would only dare to get on with the job.

There are two matters that require our attention at this point. Firstly, the settlement framework means that there are literally thousands of gun toting fanatics who believe that the redemption is right around the corner. Most of them are deep within the interstices of the IDF and the settler communities. They are not law abiding citizens but an angry constituency who fears that even Netanyahu could sell them down the river. Secondly, what they are saying is not too far from the core beliefs of Israeli society. There may be tactical differences with the establishment, but the settlers have a surefire technique how to easily overcome mainstream hesitation. The settler vanguard knows that in case of any serious clash between the Arabs and the settlers, the majority of Jews will ignore the real causes, as they line up with their Jewish brethren fighting the good fight for “our” land.

Now, any government that does not want the settlers to be the ones to set the time to embroil it into a major confrontation is advised to keep its eyes and ears open. This is why we are all protected here in Israel, in addition to our nuclear devices and our NATO size army, by the GSS in general and specifically by its Jewish division (GSS-JD). In order to feel really secure and safe, let us recall that it was the criminal negligence of the security pros in this unit who "guarded" Yitshak Rabin in a fashion that made him easy prey for assassination by a right wing fanatic back in 1995.

Ha’aretz military correspondent, Amir Oren, informed his readers this week that the current head of the Jewish division of the GSS makes his home in a settlement on the east side of the green line.

This helps me to illustrate that there may be differences between the GSS detachment monitoring the Jewish extremists in matters of form, and style and discourse, but there is a lot of spiritual symbiosis between the Jewish division and the objects of its attention. It is this mutuality of goals and aspirations that is at the heart of the inability of the Jewish division to function with a semblance of efficiency. Again and again, their operations tend to end up in a farce and a debacle.

The main strategy of the ultra-right is to find and exploit every opportunity for violence, open or hidden, to attack, maim or even murder Palestinians who are guilty of being Palestinians. So the announcement at the end of last week that the GSS was holding one, Chaim Pearlman, for a number of murders and attempted murders might have been greeted with some satisfaction. But it became clear right from the start that the GSS-JD just cannot get anything straight. Pearlman it turns out is fully prepared for the arrest. He has the services of on call legal counsel and his experienced buddies have prepared him with a bag of tricks to counter attack. Chaim, it appears, is well known to the GSS. He has worked for them, and received money. His line of defense is ready; he is being persecuted and falsely charged because he has rejected GSS overtures to continue to work for them.

Pearlman’s backers, the well known Meir Kahana disciples, Baruch Marzel and Itamar Ben Gvir, began immediately to distribute videos to the media. They had in their possession a lengthy video of a GSS representative, disguised as a right wing militant, trying to convince Pearlman to perform specific acts of violence. Pearlman, aware that everything was being taped, lectures the GSS-JD agent about how he restricts himself to legal political work. At one point, the representative of the GSS, unaware, of course, that he was being filmed and staring right into the camera, tries to convince Chaim to carry out a joint project with him in which they would assassinate Sheikh Ra’ad Saleh. Saleh just happens to be the head of the northern section of the Islamic movement and probably the most influential individual in the Palestinian community in Israel.

The media are still sitting on this bombshell and waiting to see if the GSS will get an indictment. This is quite a technique that the GSS is employing. You try and entrap a terrorist suspect by enticing him into murdering a prominent Palestinian figure who enjoys the respect and admiration of tens if not hundreds of thousands of Palestinians. Pearlman was free and on the loose at the time of the interview and could have conceivably tried to do something important for the cause. And the GSS feeds Pearlman with the idea of a project to murder a prominent Israeli Palestinian Islamic leader.

At this point Pearlman is being held on the basis of a court order, remanded while the GSS lawyers work on an indictment. But the clumsiness and ineptitude of the GSS has made the whole operation seem ridiculous. One can evaluate GSS efficiency from the fact that the three murders ascribed to Pearlman occurred as far back as 1998! There were, it seems some more murders and attempted murders between 1998 and 2004. The GSS which fell down on the job for years and years is now made out to appear vindictive since the arrest comes after Perlman refused to go to work for them and simply stated, the fascists are having a field day making a mockery of the GSSJD.

The left, for its part, is hardly surprised that the regime is so confused and disorganized when it comes to imposing the rule of law against the ultra-right. There is simply no clear line between principles commonly held by the extreme right and between the core political beliefs of many ranking GSS officers who are, supposedly, combating their illegal activities. In their arguments with the GSS apparatus, the theorists of the radical right sense that they hold the moral high ground. It is not hard to understand why the armed settlers roam the occupied territories with the sense that “God is on our side!” Unable to employ the brutal methods that are standard operating procedure against Palestinians, the Jewish Division flounders and bungles on with inefficiency and deadly negligence.

There are reliable accounts to the effect that the GSS has violated constitutional rights of many of the right wing activists. In principle, the left could deem itself obliged to denounce such violations as, per example, the denial of the rights of the defendant to meet with his or her lawyer. The same methods and many more are commonly used against Palestinians. The difficulty lies in the fact that more often than not, the clash between the radical right and the GSS is a chapter in an ongoing sham. We do not have even the most minimal information on the active network of connections and ongoing manipulation that characterize the constant large scale cooperation and mutual understanding between the two forces who work together against the Palestinians and their most basic rights. In this nether world of hatred and oppression first and foremost against Palestinians as Palestinians, much of what transpires as antagonism between the right and the GSS is far from being what it appears to be. The overall impression is that any crack down by the GSS, when and if it occurs has something to do with settling accounts. Though civil rights people will find it necessary to condemn certain high handed and even brutal practices, employed here and there against the radical right, it would be naïve to believe that we have the full and complete picture that would enable us to determine exactly the sources of these clashes. But both these operations are different arms of the same ruling regime. The GSS and the organized fundamentalist radical right thrive on deceit and prosper on lies. And more often than not their resources are pooled in coordinated efforts. Very few, if any, democratic principles are involved.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Solidarity with Iran Facing Aggression and the Nature of the Regime

Fidel Castro, as is his custom, published his views on current developments in his June 26, 2010 column entitled Reflections. The thrust of Castro’s Reflections, printed last week, is crystal clear. Castro describes in detail the recent ongoing United States- Israeli naval build up in the Middle East, stressing that it is, “now a matter of calculating when the American and Israeli naval forces will be deployed off the coasts of Iran joining there the aircraft carriers and other US military ships already on watch in the region.”

In a matter of importance related to our discussion, Castro also makes short shrift of the opposition to the regime in Iran, exposing its class nature: “The US administration worked out a plan to promote a political movement that, based on capitalist consumerism, would divide the Iranians and overthrow the government. Such hope is now harmless.”

The Anti-imperialist Left
Even in the West, with all the weaknesses of the socialist movement, there fortunately persists a current of critical thought, best defined as the anti-imperialist left (AIL). The essential position of the anti-imperialist left is based on the contention that the United States acts as the global hegemonic force, imposing regimes of subservience and exploitation over great sections of the globe – wherever it can and for as long as it can.

As my reader might guess, the AIL is hardly a monolithic affair. As a matter of fact, Castro reignited a serious debate over important issues related to Iran, already the source of much acrimony and friction in the left.

The crux of the often heated debate involves the relation between the growing danger of US-Israel aggression against Iran and the serious charges regarding the reactionary and dictatorial record of the regime in that country.

The two opposing trends here are realists who stress the decisive importance of Iran’s international role and the democrats who call on the AIL to confront the Iranian regime’s record of repression. Naturally enough, there are shades and nuances both in theory and in practice. Even so, the opposing trends are quite recognizable in day to day political discourse.

Precisely, in the heat of the debate, it is vital to stress that all sections and streams in the AIL vigorously oppose US threats and preparations of war against Iran. It is important not to lose sight of this fact both on the theoretical level and in practical politics.

In practical day to day politics, the democrats are heavily engaged in exposing dictatorial repression in Iran and mobilizing support for the human and political rights of the opposition. The democrats insist on placing the issue of repression in Iran high on the public agenda.

The realists deny the progressive nature of the opposition in Iran and consider it linked, formally or not, to the interests of Iran’s enemies. For the realists the main objects of repression are linked to the opposition, which is mainly subversive.

The democrats argue that criticism of the regime and internal changes may be necessary to improve the capacity of the country to repel and overcome aggression. The weaknesses and repressive nature of the regime may even impair its ability to mobilize international sympathy and support.

Weaknesses in the Democratic Approach
This argument, lofty in intent, is essentially a matter of speculation. Even if we knew much more about Iranian society than we know, it is impossible to know the effects of this or that development on the overall strength and viability of the regime, especially in regards to its ability to resist provocations and foreign aggression.

We have no real evidence, as many democrats argue that U.S. intelligence prefers Ahmadinejad and the present rulers of Iran over the opposition, an accusation bandied about by people in the solidarity movement with the Iranian opposition. It is, of course, reasonable to assume that the Iranian opposition is a heterogeneous affair. But it would be naïve to doubt that it must include a major component of forces seeking to overthrow the present regime towards a rapprochement with the U.S. But it is also true that the opposition includes many noble, dedicated women and men of the radical left.

Even though it is correct to say that “in the long run” it is the internal dynamic that would determine Iran’s path. In the real world, here and now, the two fronts, the internal or the external front, are two separate arenas, much less interrelated than they would appear to be, especially in matters related to Iran’s ability to resist U.S.-Israeli aggression. Of course, the “home front” is important but that importance does not match the vital and all embracing importance of the international role of the regime, its will and ability to resist imperialism machinations. Of course, we cannot ignore the eventual significance of the internal dynamic, but we do argue that consistency and determination on the international front can create historical space for advancement on the internal domestic front, for greater democracy and human rights.

Chomsky Backs Fidel
An article published by Noam Chomsky two days after Fidel’s Reflections fully verifies Fidel’s analysis of the approaching storm. Of course, in his own inimitable fashion, Chomsky mobilizes overwhelming evidence for his central point. Iran is in danger of death and destruction not because it is a “terrorist entity,” but because of its deepening political influence in the region. No one could consider Chomsky, with his sensitivity to human rights issues, a friend of the Iranian regime which many have characterized as a regime in war with its own people.

I think that we in the independent left operating in circumstances of severe public debate, dominated by the imperial media monopoly on the prevailing discourse, must develop our own nuanced approach to the question at hand. It would be a crucial mistake if we fail to understand the justifiable reasons for Fidel’s blanket denunciation of the Iranian opposition and his characterization of it as ”a political movement based on capitalist consumerism.” On the other hand, there is an additional dimension, that on the level of human and civil rights, which demands a measured, serious response.

Fidel is telling us what we should already know. It is the duty of any progressive regime to identify in any given circumstances the forces with which it can develop cooperation and mutual advantage. Given the historical hegemony of imperialism over the years, it must be understood that this is a legitimate historical approach and a means of resistance. The principle is simple: the regime (our regime) must do and will do that which is essential to prevent isolation, to ensure security, to put bread on the table of its citizens. It must utilize all these opportunities as a matter of course.

I myself, and others of similar irrepressible sensitivities witness in Iran a series of sickening actions that jar the core our own values and political needs, legitimate in and of themselves. This might create false hope for the emergence of an opposition more to our taste. But is it so hard to understand, that Castro having seen the role of capitalist consumerism in the fall of the USSR, and on the basis of his own analysis of Cuban reality, sees the dreams of Westernized middle class for a “freer” society as one big trap? The U.S. is, as we know, ever ready to assist regime change, more democratic elections, a new lease on life for civil society – all for free.

Castro’s dismissive description of the Iranian opposition may be the basis of Cuban politics on this issue, and it may be basically correct, but it cannot serve all the requirements of those fighting against U.S. aggression in the heartlands of imperialism and its allies. The issue of human and civil rights, the protection against arbitrary arrest, torture and punishment cannot be ignored by the left, even in the rarified and tense atmosphere of an international campaign against the Iranian people and its leadership. Many things are happening which cannot be countenanced.

Strategy and Tactics on the Iran Issue
When we unavoidably relate to the glaring crimes of the Iranian regime, we are faced, whether we wish so or not, with a number of urgent practical and strategic questions. Since silence on this issue is not an option, but since we also refuse to reduce in any way our iron clad obligation to work with the forces in opposition to U.S.-Israeli aggression, we face the challenge of integrating the two elements, of conveying some sense of proportion between the importance of the two issues, and the choice of partners in the day to day political battle. There is, of course, no easy formula, but there are certain guidelines that might prevent serious distortions from the policy we seek.

The main front is the fight against U.S.-Israeli aggression, as long as the real danger persists. It is here that we are interested in the establishment of the widest possible front. The internal Iranian front is a secondary battle. We cannot prove this, but our instinctive sense is that the danger of war increases domestic chauvinism and disregard for human rights. An eventual relaxation in tension over a broad period should open the way for more respect for the rights of Iranians in all spheres. And as long as the danger of war is there, our main duty, is opposition to the war, which is in the final analysis the best thing that we can do for the people of Iran, including victims of repression in Iran.

Knowing that there is at the least some truth in the Castro point regarding the nature of the opposition, we should desist from undifferentiated, overall support for the opposition on the basis of liberal principles and democratic rights. We should support analytical and documentary reports to expose regime brutality. But we are not “fans“ of an entity identified in the media as the “democratic opposition” nor do we believe that the forces identified with the “democratic opposition” are a more humanitarian and just alternative.

Two categories: Iran’s international status, and Iran’s internal regime – reflect two important interrelated aspects of Iran’s existence. But they are not two dimensions of equal import and impact. The decisive axis of development, the major impact and influence stem from the first category, Iran’s international status. The Iranian issue has long lost any vestige of localism, of involvement in mere local interests. The battle around Iran has taken on immense importance as a critical stage in the weakening of U.S. hegemony in the Middle East and even on a wider scope.

For the above reasons, we reject the simple formula often suggested in thorny issues like this one, i.e., Fight aggression against Iran without relating to the character of the regime in that country and fight against the regime, as if there were no danger of aggression. However, the two issues, both admittedly important, are not on the same scale of importance and influence on the course of events.

An Echo from the Past
Marxist theory on the issue suggests that it may seem as if this is some sort of “replay” of past disputes. But it isn’t. The material conditions obtaining today and their political ramifications are simply vastly different. The communist movement no longer exists as an international force, and Trotskyism has no role in presenting an alternative to the communist option. Moreover the theories associated with Stalin and/or Trotsky no longer possess, without further contemporary development, a degree of internal consistency that can supply answers to any strategic dilemma. Inevitably, they have become, on the theoretical level, historical schools of thought, which do inspire different and often conflicting approaches to the very same issue. In short, the dispute that we are dealing with is not based on the different theories of Stalin and Trotsky.

Realists, who have experience with the various oppositions against authoritarian governments which chose to set out on an anti-U.S. path, have reason to be highly suspicious. The pressures in the opposition to be drawn into the vortex of US support are tremendous. Orange, velvet, yellow or green oppositional forces do tend to go the way of U.S.-sponsored “democracy”, even when they set out to do battle on the basis of the most sincere and naïve basis. The realist challenge to the democrats centers, more than on anything else, on the question of the real nature of the Iranian. Their approach is that the opposition grew and developed on the basis of U.S. spiritual and ideological foundations, with the hope for a more material equivalent not too far off in the future. My impression is that the realists, in rallying to the defense of Iran, are not so much in sympathy with its rulers as motivated by anxiety over the negative repercussions of the possible downfall of the present leadership.

Between Two Worlds
One of the more intelligent attempts, from a friend in Europe, to come to grips with the two different approaches argues that –

“Fidel stands for the raison d’état, like Chávez, by the way. Both Cuba and Iran are harassed by the US, and both suffer the effects of an embargo. Whether this implies to embrace the regime in Iran is another story. Neither Chomsky nor myself have interests of state which might blind our critical approach. Therefore my position is that as citizens, and this extends to the civil society at large, we may not support a reactionary theocracy, a clerical and military regime based on crony capitalism.

Any approach to Iran from the civil society should stress this paradox: Iran has the right to development but also to freedom, and a set of political liberties may be set aside temporarily on behalf of development, when the improvement of the people is delivered (like in China), and social and cultural overtures are promoted, and legal equality for all citizens is guaranteed.”

But despite the nature of the regime - a reactionary theocracy, a clerical and military regime based on crony capitalism - This doesn't allow imperialist intervention to change the regime, as the only consequence it brings is chaos, civil strife, and political and economic subjugation. Iran is living out very interesting contradictions, but they are internal, and Iranians must be left alone in order to experience their own autonomous resolution.”

Our friend is mindful of the source of the different views on the issue and he tends to justify both, depending on the level of the discourse. But this solution, despite the penetrating analysis of the difference in the circumstances of states on one hand and actors in civil society, is still quite unsatisfactory. There is something both wrong and inadequate in the attempt to separate the worlds of power and interests on one hand and that of critical minded activists, on the other. There is some faulty, rather quaint logic here that implies that we would have to change our position if, God forbid, state power would be thrust upon us. But, to be practical, the distinction, between the two worlds, though tempting, is not really viable. If we accept the validity of the “reasons of state,” we are not and cannot remain indifferent to the intense political struggle regarding the actions of those countries which enter into alliances with Iran. This means on our part the active defense of Cuba, Venezuela, etc precisely on the Iranian issue. This calls for active support for Iran trying to break out of isolation imposed by the US. “Reasons of state,” when the state involved is struggling against suffocation by the still very powerful hegemonic force, are valid political currency in the real political battles.

Human Rights – Yes! Alternative Regime – No
I do not sense that there is any serious contradiction between full support for Iran versus the United States plans for aggression and refusing, at the very same time, to condone many of the ugly violations of human rights and dignity.

But there is a contradiction between support for Iranian resistance and the claim that there exists a completely satisfactory alternative to the given regime in the form of a democratic opposition which could with sweep of its hand, as it were, enhance Iran’s prestige as a democratic entity – thus erecting a moral barrier to aggression against the country. With all due respect, the orientation on an alternative regime means faith in a new formation that would emerge rather quickly as the true and tested ally of the United States. Aggression might be avoided in the new circumstances precisely because now that we have pro-Western government, it has been rendered superfluous. The country and its assets would be in safe hands, just like Iraq today.

Castro and Chomsky have made the dangers crystal clear indeed. The bloody war in Iraq is far from being over. Afghanistan is a quagmire of quicksand. Turkey is opting for neutrality. Syria and Lebanon insist on their independence. Obama and the U.S. are running out of money and corporate U.S. has barred governmental access to the mint. Faced with significant, multiple regional defeats, the United States entertains dreams of a military fix that might reverse the trends. Israel is pinning its hopes on confrontation. War to protect the edifice of a crumbling hegemony seems to be, for the rulers of the U.S., a way out of the swamp.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Against An Imposed Peace

Two important voices for peace have come out openly in support of an imposed solution to the conflict: Uri Avneri and Professor Zev Shternhal. Their logic is that such a development, an imposed peace, is preferable to another war. However, this kind of argumentation has a number of serious drawbacks.
Firstly, the fact that peace must be imposed enables the diehard warmongers to claim that they are acting on the basis of democratic principles and that they enjoy the support of the people.

Secondly, public opinion in Israel may be faced in the wrong direction, but this is in large part due to the fact that the United States has been in the past and is still locked into an unholy alliance with the leaders of Israel. Public opinion forms its “rational mistakes” on the basis of the assumption that Obama and Washington are really not serious about changing their policies.

There is no reason to impose peace – to force Israel to adopt policies unacceptable to the majority of its citizens. The shoe is really on the other foot. It is incumbent on Obama to announce and put into action US policies for peace and against war in the region. He and the US administration remain responsible to this very day for the disorientation of the Israel public and the various addictions developed by the Israeli body politic. Instead of demanding the imposition of peace, let us suggest with all due respect that Washington impose on itself policies for peace. There is no cause for the use of force. If Obama and the U.S. conduct a clear, unequivocal policy on behalf of peace, the majority of the people of Israel will shed their illusions at record speed. In those circumstances, there will be know need to bypass democratic process and only a small minority of Israelis would opt for a Wissotzky tea party. All this is a bit academic, but in fact and in theory if peace is given a fair chance, peace will be the option of choice.

How Will We Know if Obama is Serious?
The hot political topic at social meetings over the Passover holiday is whether or not Obama is really going to wean Israel away from its addictions to annexation and aggression. I would not bet on it, but for assistance to friends I have worked out a few criteria to help them follow events. Not in order of their importance,
(1)Something will be really happening when Hilary Clinton calls in Dennis Ross and suggest that, instead of being on at least two payrolls, Dennis Ross starts getting his salary paid openly and directly from AIPAC.
(2) Something will be really happening when Barack Obama mentions the danger of Iranian and Israeli nuclear weapons in one sentence.
(3) Something will be really happening when the US Ambassador in Israel will enquire re Marwan Bargouti’s conditions of imprisonment and request a meeting with him.
(4) Something will be happening when Mitchell refuses to come to Israel without a guarantee that he will not receive the Biden treatment for the nth time.
(5) When Obama speaks to an “AAPAC – Arab-American Palestinian Action Committee” and promises that his commitment to Palestinian rights and security is eternal and rock solid.
(6) When the shipments of the “you know what thigamajigs” start falling behind schedule.
(7) When the four members of the Quartet ask each other if any one knows exactly what Tony Blair has been doing in the ME.
(8) When the settlements are classified as terrorist bases and Lieberman is classified as a terrorist agent by the US State Department.
(9) When the US State Department orders its people at the UN to at least read the draft proposals before vetoing them.

Local Boy Makes Good?
We should be able to congratulate Avishai Margalit as a perfect example of a local boy who made good in the tough competition of the academic world. Presently holding a chair at the Princeton Institute of Advanced Studies, Margalit is slated to receive an Israeli Prize within the approaching Independence Day festivities. He seems to have earned this prize by a slavish conformism to the mainstream of Israeli policies of aggression and annexation.

He has known better days and at one stage of his career was involved in an attempt to create a left-wing substitute for MAPAM, the then major force in Left Zionism. In and around Peace Now, Margalit would raise his voice now and then in the eighties against some of the most nauseating events in Israel’s descent to legalized barbarism.

Margalit was too busy gathering academic laurels to come out either against the Second Lebanon War or Operation Cast Lead. He was involved together Michel Walzer in a strange and obscure exchange of letters (New York Review of Books) in which he criticized the position of the IDF official philosopher, Asa Kasher, on some peripheral matter. Margalit and Walzer both “forgot” to take a position against the war. But they saw it important to challenge the IDF practice of totally disregarding the lives of Palestinian civilians in circumstances which may lead to IDF casualties. Interesting, but what about the character of the war? Margalit, in close association with Walzer, a presumed “expert” on “Just Wars” never came out against the Israeli operation.

Another sad aspect of the Israel establishment laureate’s role is the fact that his field is Moral Philosophy and he specializes, of all things, in Political Philosophy. There is no reason to spend too much time and effort to relate to Margalit’s work. My impression is that it is a repetition of barely warmed up liberal gruel, being specially re-cooked this time to ride the recent wave of Fascism = Communism and