Thursday, July 30, 2009

How comfortable is your god with ethnic cleansing?

This kind of profile of Jewish settlers brings me back to an old entry about scenarios that can only lead to death.

If you're still having trouble understanding this conflict at this point, look at a quote (from the NYT article) from Noam Rein, a father of 10, looking at Ramallah, a major Palestinian city which he calls “temporary:
“The Torah says the land of Israel is for the Jewish people. This is just the beginning. We will build 1,000 homes here. The Arabs cannot stay here, not because we hate them, but because this is not their place.”
You agree with that? Then you believe in ethnic cleansing. End of the story. I don't care much whether you support ethnic cleansing because of your beliefs in the Torah, Hashem, Jesus, the Bible, the Quran, Enlightenment, the US Constitution, the Tooth Fairy, or just because you're racist.

You believe in ethnic cleansing? You are part of the evil of this world which I must stand against--even if you're really nice to your pets, even if your grandfather was a victim of no matter what, even if you once met 'someone from a lesser race' and were nice to her, and even if you have a plan for a nicer softer form of ethnic cleansing. It may well be that trauma from the past, personal or collective, has negatively influenced your view of the world. It's also possible that President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan was not breastfed enough as a baby. And if there's a way to deal with him and you that is more charitable, God bless the Peacemakers! But let's be clear: you are for ethnic cleansing? Then you are an enemy of your human brothers and sisters, you are the enemy of your neighbor, you are a dangerous person, your actions and your intentions are evil and must be opposed.

I'll add one thing: the god you worship is an ethnic god, a mere idol or figment of your self-centered fears and arrogance.

The issue Mr Obama must deal with is not the freeze of settlements, it's their removal or their integration within a Palestinian state (waiting for settlers to raise their hand to volunteer for that).


Clear here for the NYT article.

Photo: Givat Egoz, near the Neria settlement, was inaugurated as American emissaries visited the region.
Rina Castelnuovo for The New York Times

Thursday, July 16, 2009

A couple necessary reads

First recommended reading with a tinge of irony from David, called "A Quick and Snarky Guide to Food Security in Palestine." David put a few miles on his sneakers working in Jerusalem and the West Bank. In addition to some humor, his piece is also full of realism, links and references.
Have a look - click on this link. (And see blog links for other pieces from David's.)

Second must-read: testimonies from Israeli soldiers involved in the war in Gaza keep coming and confirming what first hand witnesses have told us from Day 1. The fact that these soldiers are speaking out is an indicator that all of us--even when pushed to the worst extremities and horrors--yearn at heart to be moral people. The fact that these soldiers did what they did, shows that you can turn people who want to me moral into pegs and tools of an immoral destruction machine.

And in case you are tempted to ask me: "what about the Qassam rockets and the suicide bombers?"
I will say,
"you are absolutely right to raise the question, and thus acknowledge that, between Hamas and Djihad sending teenagers to blow themselves up (to fight an occupation, but still) and the Israeli government sending teenagers in uniform to kill an occupied civilian population, we are dealing with immoral endeavors.* Indeed. Thanks for bringing this up. Now, how do we make progress and change this?"
Read here.


* What "moral equivalency" means, I'm not sure and it's a pointless question. It's like asking if you'd prefer being shot twice in one leg or once in each leg. Stupid pointless and sophistic arguments. I'd rather we deal with the morality of each action and try to fix the world we have to live in.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Aid must come with an apology

I heard yesterday that there's a UN project to help Gaza remove the rubble of the war -- the houses, schools, mosques, even a few clinics that were turned to dust. (The Near East Council of Churches saw one of its clinics pulverized.) Last April when I was there, some of the destroyed houses still had the bodies underneath.

I'm not bashing the UN at all, but I just need to say that, whatever amount of our taxes go to fund the UN and this "humanitarian" project should go with a label.

"Branding" has become big in the humanitarian and development worlds. "From the American People" here, and the incessant UN Agency "my logo is bigger than yours" battles for the rest. The message is: 'Here's some help. We'd like you to know where it comes from and maybe see us in a positive light at some point.' All good and well.

But I do think that for Gaza the assistance should come with a different label. Maybe a bit like German Euros have been spent to support Israel: without a lot of bragging and with a little sense that this may be restorative assistance for past ills, even if they remain unspoken.

After all, Gazans really don't need "assistance" to get the rubble out. They need to be allowed to buy bulldozers, trucks, gasoline, pay their workers and use their land-- like some of the landfills of the West Bank currently used by illegal Israeli settlements. The only reason Gaza "needs" the UN to have a rubble removal project is because we--we the international community--have decided that Gaza is not entitled to the basic liberties promised by the rules of international law. So, I think all this humanitarian assistance should come with a label that would say something like:
With the apologies of the free nations of the world. We're so sorry that you have to pay the price of our ancestors' crimes (for Europeans) and our current spinelessness; and we also regret that we just find it more expedient to give carte blanche to Israel to continue your occupation (with the required hardware; that's for Americans). Please, remember we do care about human rights and the international rule of law we've tried to build. It's just that, well ... in your case ... it's not convenient. Don't take it personally -- there are others we are neglecting and you get more money than most. It's just that we also have to keep paying for the drones that pulverize your homes into dust. Sorry about the kids. Have some more milk and biscuits (notice the extra Vitamin A by the way!). Enjoy the trickle down per diems too. Please remember Gandhi and MLK and don't get angry.
We'll have to think of a nice logo to go with it.


Post-Scriptum: It's worth visiting the website of Dr Izzeldin Abulaish, read his words and share a memory of his three beautiful daughters. You can choose English, Arabic or Hebrew. Click here.

Picture source:

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Falk, Jewish UN humanitarian law expert on Free Gaza ship hijacking

I think I mentioned the Free Gaza movement at least once. More news today about the hijacking of the 7th of these ships who break the Israeli illegal blockade (I had the pleasure of being there for the arrival of the 3rd -- breath of fresh air and hope.)

UN's Richard Falk: IDF seizure of Gaza-bound ship is 'criminal' [Reuters. In Haaretz today]

A United Nations human rights investigator on Thursday called Israel's seizure of a ship carrying relief aid for the Gaza Strip "unlawful" and said its blockade of the territory constituted a "continuing crime against humanity". Israeli authorities on Tuesday intercepted the vessel, which was also carrying 21 pro-Palestinian activists, and said it would not be permitted to enter Gaza coastal waters because of security risks in the area and its existing naval blockade. Richard Falk, an American Jew and the United Nations special rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territories, said the move was part of Israel's "cruel blockade of the entire Palestinian population of Gaza" in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention prohibiting any form of collective punishment against "an occupied people".

Falk, who is an expert on international law, said Israel's two-year blockade of Hamas-ruled Gaza restricted vital supplies such as food, medicine and fuel to "bare subsistence levels". The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said in a report this week that Israel was also halting entry to Gaza of building materials and spare parts needed to repair damage from its 22-day invasion late last December. "Such a pattern of continuing blockade under these conditions amounts to such a serious violation of the Geneva Conventions as to constitute a continuing crime against humanity," Falk said in a statement released in Geneva. Prior to leaving Cyprus, the ship was inspected by Cypriot authorities in response to Israeli demands to determine whether it carried any weapons, according to the UN investigator. "None were found and Israeli authorities were so informed." "Nonetheless, the 21 peace activists on the boat were arrested, held in captivity and have been charged with 'illegal entry' to Israel even though they had no intention of going to Israel," Falk added.


The article goes on to give the retort of Israel's Ambassador to the UN, which contends that:
"Clearly the purpose of that ship was to create a buzz and serve as a propaganda vehicle against Israel"
That is called chutzpah, as the only reason the ship draws attention is because Israel not only kidnapped the people on the ship, but is choking Gaza and strangulating it. Let's remember one simple fact here: the ship left Cyprus, sailed international waters, with passengers as dangerous as a Nobel Prize Laureate, and tried to sail into a territory on which Israel has no claim, a.k.a. Gaza.

Oh - and it carried humanitarian goods - maybe some pasta, which Israel deems--in its wisdom as the 'natural' rulers of Arabs in Palestine--cannot be entrusted to the Palestinians of Gaza.

If you want another piece of irony, after hijacking and kidnapping the passengers of the ship and bringing them against their will to Israel, Israel charged them with "illegal entry."

If Iran did stuff like this, we would be SCREAMING and saying they are breaking international law, are trespassing beyond their national authority, they are a pariah state and must be brought to abide by the rules of human civilization.

With all due respect, I say the same goes for Israel. Period. It's not more complicated than that. Don't give me any incoherent security ramblings and justifications. This is a clear case of unlawful oppressive behavior.(1)

This conflict is not all that complicated once you look at things as they come.
I--for one--would like to see the US Ambassador to the UN call for the end of such behavior.

Period. The US will have no credibility in the Middle East until it does so -- apart from that of dollars, which I hear might run out if Beijing calls it off, and that of the gun.

If you are priviledged enough to be a citizen of a free country with some international clout, consider writing to your elected officials and asking them to respond to this outrageous action. (For US citizens, it's really easy by going to

Peace, one day. Happy July 4th to the Americans- hoping Palestinians can soon know in-dependence.


(1) Of course I have a hidden agenda. It's not so much the fate of internationals on a goodwill mission that worries me. If we taken on that battle, and the next and the next and the next, pretty soon it's the entire premise of the subjection of the Gazans to the capriciousness of Israel that we want to take down. We don't want to improve the conditions in which an entire population is held hostage. We want the occupation to end. (And if you don't know that Gaza is occupied, you haven't been reading.)

ps: Those of you who visit somewhat regularly this site are of multiple origins and background: Humanist, Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, even a few goold old Leftists, and yes even a few Conservatives who deserve a medal for coming. For those of you enclined to believe we need a "Higher Power" to get us out of that mess while we try our best, "people of faith" [in the commonly accepted sense, which is a misnommer as I think more people are "of faith" than is accounted for], there's a site (Christian site) trying to encourage prayer for peace--for a real peace. Here's a plug for it:

Thursday, July 2, 2009

The most moral army in the world

This video was shot about a year ago, and a judgement finally came through.

Watch it here in raw footage, or whatch on youtube with commentary.

The point is not this incident. The point is that it is not a rare event. It is the reflection of the concept of "damam mutar" ("permissible blood") in Hebrew. In this case, the point seems to have been only to "teach a lesson." How do you think that philosophy translated when troops (aka kids with guns) were sent into Gaza in December. Yes - nearly 1,400 deaths.

When a person, a recognized human being, goes crazy and gets violent, the police arrests him.
When an Arab demonstrates against illegal actions by Israel, he gets shot by rubber bullets.
If an Arab gets violent, the police, army, or any rambo with a gun simply kill him.
If a Palestinian reacts to settler violence, the army and police turn on him or let armed settlers settle the account.
Sometimes, you don't have to do anything to get killed.

Israel thinks that as long as it can avoid moral equivalency debates about Apartheid (we're way past this) or Nazi Germany (the forbidden comparison), it can hold its moral ground.
My view is that, no--Nazi policies and Israeli policies are clearly not the same. Genocide motivated by racial hatred is not the same as the conquest of land. The problem as I see it, is that ultimately to maintain the momentum for conquest, the control of the people, you cannot avoid drifting into racial hatred. It simply would be unbearable if an Arab were a person, with full rank and rights, created in the same divine image. And so, a group of people have to become less than human, so the conquest can continue. Their blood has to become acceptable collateral. And pretty soon your young people in uniform, or your colonists in their beards, simply don't see why they shouldn't shoot, or grab a rock to break a leg, humiliate or kill one of these lesser people. Look at the video - it's not the most horrible crime ever. But it is so cold-bloodedly calculated and implemented. You simply cannot do that to your equal.

So, genocide is not conquest of land. But guess what, racial hatred is racial hatred--under any sky. A bullet in the leg--a bullet in the head-- do the same thing to an Arab, a Jew, or a Goy.

And forgive me for saying this, but... we are talking about a political and national movement which claims its roots in the Jewish faith - not in national socialism! Since when is Judaism satisfied to simply not be morally equivalent to one of the most abject and inhuman political philosophies of history? We've come a long way down this road of perdition.

There's a key Jewish concept that comes to mind when I think of this, or when I rewatch this video. The concept is simple, it is called 'repentance.'


ps: If you're going to reply that the Israeli judgement of this crime is sign that things are not perfect but that there is a justice, I'll ask you how many news from exactions of settlers you have read in the last 10 days? How many deaths in Ni'ilin in the last 3 months? How many home demolitions? What about Tristan Anderson? How about the number of lethal gun shots inflected by police and army? And finally -- do you think there would have been a trial had there not be a video camera?