Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Desk
05 August, 2014
The 'Moderates' On Gaza: Sowing Seeds of Hate
By Andrew Hammond
I’m a Rabbi in Mourning for a Judaism Being Murdered by Israel
By Rabbi Michael Lerner
We Will Reap the Gaza Whirlwind
By Brian Cloughley
Jews Paying Price for Zionist Experiment
By Jamal Doumani
Gaza War Stifles Democracy In Israel
By Akiva Eldar
The Real Reasons behind Israel’s War on Gaza
By Atif Shamim Syed
The Gaza War’s Violence Has Put Israel’s Soul in the Balance
By Naomi Wolf
Arabs, Let Us Start Fending For Ourselves
By Khaled Almaeena
The 'Moderates' On Gaza: Sowing Seeds of Hate
By Andrew Hammond
03 Aug 2014
In 2006, Saudi Arabia's leadership broke with convention in Arab politics by publicly blaming a self-proclaimed "resistance" force for provoking Israel to unleash a war. Rather than hold Israel to account for targeting civilians, ground invasion, air and sea blockade, Saudi Arabia took aim at Hezbollah for what it called "irresponsible adventurism" in kidnapping two Israeli soldiers.
This set the tone for a number of Arab governments during a month of war throughout which it became clear they hoped Israel would "finish off" Hezbollah, a nuisance that inflamed popular passions, leading to impossible demands on regimes who relied on western support to survive. Hosni Mubarak couldn't even bring himself to call Hezbollah by its name, referring to it famously during the Lebanon war as "thingy". Add to that, especially for Saudi Arabia, the fact that Hezbollah was an extension of Iranian power.
It was a risky game, however, since the longer the war went on, the more those Arab regimes were exposed as ineffective and collaborationist. A US diplomatic document published by WikiLeaks shows a panicked Saud al-Faisal, the perennial Saudi foreign minister, summoning then US ambassador James Oberwetter midway through the war to demand that Washington order a ceasefire, since the plans to squash resistance had failed and the resisters were becoming regional heroes.
In 2008, the same scenario played out: Egypt and Saudi Arabia blamed Hamas for Israel's month-long assault on Gaza and hoped that Israel would finish Hamas off. Egypt's foreign minister at the time Ahmed Abu al-Gheit even said that Palestinians had no need for armed resistance and weapons - another striking departure in the lexicon of not just Arab politics but post-colonial struggle generally.
Today we are witness to another episode in this new turn. Egypt under coup president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, has kept the Gaza border closed and media have adopted the Israeli line that Hamas is a force of evil. Saudi Arabia, led by a man whose media machine has presented him as an Arab nationalist ("falcon of Arabism") and leader of Islam (champion of wasatiyya, or religious moderation), went silent.
Last week former intelligence chief Turki al-Faisal was the channel for the first confirmation of the Saudi position in an article in Asharq al-Awsat that attacked Hamas as "arrogant" and conniving with Qatar and Turkey to embarrass Sisi's Egypt by rejecting a ceasefire proposal that would leave the crushing and illegal Israeli-Egyptian siege of Gaza intact.
King Abdullah, whose alleged tears over Palestine were marketed to media during the last Intifada, finally broke his silence on Friday. In an extraordinary speech which began by attacking unnamed "traitor terrorists" who sully the name of Islam, he equated the terrorism of "groups and states" in Gaza, avoiding direct mention of Israel by name while leaving the implication that he viewed Hamas as much of a terrorist group as the Islamic State.
Hamas members were, of course, feted in Riyadh and Jeddah in January 2006 after the group's Palestinian election victory, and the subsequent Saudi position towards the group is directly correlated to that of its US patron. The speech was designed to appease the Arab and Muslim street the king pretends to lead, while not offending Washington or Al Saud's new friend of recent years (at least in public), Israel.
What is interesting about the position of the so-called "Arab moderates" is that they have become even more blatant in their US-Israeli alignment than before, to the extent that their policies during Gaza 2014 are a grotesque caricature of what they were before, particularly in Egypt's case, with the vulgar anti-Palestinianism promoted by the state.
The uprisings of 2011 have clearly not by any means met the hopes of those who engaged in them, to the degree that it has become fashionable to rue the day they started. But it would be wrong to imagine that the political arena has not been fundamentally altered by those momentous events, when ordinary people dared to challenge a regional order that had created what was assumed to be an almost perfect, fool-proof system of security, media and ideological control, with the acquiescence of western powers.
The arrogance of those entrenched regimes in challenging basic tenets of decades of anti-imperial struggle was misplaced: Egypt's dissonant foreign policy was one more factor that played into the resentment that brought people onto the streets in January and February three years ago. Claims that foreign policy and Palestine specifically had nothing to do with the protests - which writers like Thomas Friedman love to bandy around - are absolutely wrong.
The ancient regime struck back ferociously in Egypt, and its policy on Gaza is almost as manically distorted as the revenge brutality of its security forces: there is a link between the two. As for Saudi Arabia, its time has not come: Al Saud have numerous factors in their favour and tools in their box to avoid mass dissent. But if and when that day arrives, foreign policy stances such as these on Gaza will be one of the many elements moving the people to reject and defy.
Andrew Hammond is a Middle East policy fellow with the European Council on Foreign Relations, former Reuters bureau chief in Riyadh and author of The Islamic Utopia: The Illusion of Reform in Saudi Arabia and Popular Culture in the Arab World.
I’m a Rabbi in Mourning for a Judaism Being Murdered by Israel
By Rabbi Michael Lerner
August 4, 2014
My heart is broken as I witness the suffering of the Palestinian people and the seeming indifference of Israelis. Tonight (August 4) and tomorrow (August 5), which mark Tisha B’av, the Jewish commemoration of disasters that happened to us through Jewish history, I’m going to be fasting and mourning also for a Judaism being murdered by Israel. No matter who gets blamed for the breakdowns in the cease fire or for “starting” this latest iteration of a struggle that is at least 140 years old, one of the primary victims of the war between Israel and Hamas is the compassionate and love-oriented Judaism that has held together for several thousand years. Even as Israel withdraws its troops from Gaza, leaving behind immense devastation, over 1,800 dead Gazans, and over four thousand wounded, without adequate medical supplies because of Israel’s continuing blockade, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu refuses to negotiate a cease fire, fearful that he would be seen as “weak” if Israel gave way to Gazans’ demand for an end to the blockade and a freeing of thousands of Palestinian prisoners kidnapped and held in Israeli jails in violation of their human rights.
Let me explain why Israeli behaviour toward Palestinians, not just during this latest assault but also throughout the past decades in which Israel militarily enforces its Occupation of the West Bank and the blockade of food and building materials to Gaza, and the cheerleading for this Israeli behaviour by Jews around the world, is destroying Judaism and creating a new kind of hatred of Jews by people who never before had any issue with Jews (not to mention strengthening the hands of the already existing anti-Semites whose hatred of Jews would continue no matter what Israel or Jews do or do not do).
All my life I’ve been a champion of Israel, proud of its many accomplishments in science and technology that have benefitted the world, insistent on the continuing need for the Jewish people to have a state that offers protections from anti-Semitism that has reared its head continuously throughout Christian and Islamic societies, and enjoying the pleasures of long swaths of time in which I could study in Jerusalem and celebrate Shabbat in a city that weekly closed down the hustle and bustle of the capitalist marketplace for a full twenty-five hours. And though as editor of Tikkun I printed articles challenging the official story of how Israel came to be, showing its role in forcibly ejecting tens of thousands of Palestinians in 1948 and allowing Jewish terrorist groups under the leadership of (future Israeli prime ministers) Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Shamir to create justified fears that led hundreds of thousands of other Palestinians to flee for their lives. I’ve also been a severe critic of those who have used criticisms of Israel as a cover for the anti-Semitism inherent in holding Jews to a higher standard than they held their own or other countries. I always told myself that the dominant humanity of the Jewish people and the compassionate strain within Torah would reassert itself once Israel felt secure.
That belief that Israeli goodness would ultimately prevail began to wane in the past eight years when Israel ignored the Saudi Arabian led peace initiative, refused to stop its expansion of settlements in the West Bank, and imposed an economically crushing blockade on Gaza. All this was done in spite of the fact that the Palestinian Authority was promoting nonviolence, actively cooperating with Israeli security forces to prevent any attacks on Israel, and seeking reconciliation and peace.
The Saudi Arabian led peace initiative, never even responded to by Israel, would have granted Israel the recognition it has long sought, ended the hostilities, and given Israel a recognized place in the Middle East (though it had some imperfections, it was a generous first step toward a realistic peace accord with all the Arab states of the region). Even Hamas, whose hateful charter called for Israel’s destruction, had decided to accept the reality of Israel’s existence, and while unable to embrace its “right” to exist, nevertheless agreed to reconcile with the Palestinian Authority and in that context live within the terms that the PA would negotiate with Israel. All this was ignored by most Israelis who were content to ignore the suffering of Palestinians under occupation or the Gazans slowly being reduced to penury from Israel’s blockade; with no violence Israelis turned their attention to becoming the Silicon Valley of the Middle East, and electing a right-wing government that could charm Israel’s American based cheerleaders among Christian Zionists and the American Jewish community and a super-compliant and fawning U.S. Congress with each major political party competing with the other on which could be seen as most hawkish.
Far from embracing the new possibility for peace that the reconciliation between the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Hamas provided—after all, for years the Israeli government had downplayed the importance of negotiating with the PA precisely because a peace agreement with them would still have left Hamas to carry out its war plans—the Israeli government used that as its reason to completely break off the peace negotiations, and then, in an unbelievably cynical move, let the brutal and disgusting murder of three Israeli teens (by a rogue element in Hamas that itself was trying to undermine the reconciliation-with-Israel factions of Hamas by creating new fears in Israel) become the pretext for a wild assault on West Bank civilians, arresting hundreds of Hamas sympathizers, and escalating drone attacks on Hamas operatives inside Gaza. When Hamas responded by starting to send its missiles (which were rendered ineffective and hence mostly symbolic by Israel’s Iron Shield) toward civilian targets in Israel, the Netanyahu government used that as its excuse to launch a brutal assault on Gaza.
But it is the brutality of that assault which finally has broken me into tears and heartbreak. While claiming that it is only interested in uprooting tunnels that could be used to attack Israel, the IDF has engaged in the same criminal behaviour that the world condemns in other struggles around the world: the intentional targeting of civilians (the same crime that Hamas has been engaged in over the years in its bombing of Sdeyrot and its current targeting of Israeli population centres, thankfully unsuccessfully, which correctly has earned it the label as a terrorist organization).
Using the excuse that Hamas is using civilians as “human shields” and placing its war material in civilian apartments, a claim that a UN human rights investigatory commission found groundless when it was used the last time Israel invaded Gaza in 2008-2009 and engaged in similar levels of killing civilians), Israel has managed to kill over 1,500 Palestinians and has wounded over 8,000 thousand more.
The stories that have emerged from eye-witness accounts of hundreds of children being killed by Israel’s indiscriminate destructiveness, the shelling of United Nations’ schools and public hospitals, and finally the destruction of Gaza’s water and electricity guaranteeing deaths from typhoid and other diseases as well as widespread hunger among the million and a half Gazans, most of whom have had nothing to do with Hamas, highlights to the world an Israel that is rivalling some of the most oppressive and brutal regimes in the contemporary world. Israel does not intentionally target civilians, but it has full reason to know that its targets will inevitably kill huge numbers of civilians. We who rejected the excuse that Viet Cong were hiding in Vietnamese villages as the rationale for U.S. forces wiping out hundreds of such villages and ultimately causing millions of Vietnamese deaths in the Vietnam war will not accept a similar rationale for what is a de facto Israeli war on Palestinian civilians. Fine, destroy tunnels potentially used to infiltrate Israel; but it is a crime against humanity to destroy housing compounds, schools, and hospitals.
In my book Embracing Israel/Palestine (www.tikkun.org/eip) I argue that both Israelis and Palestinians are victims of post-traumatic stress disorder. I have a great deal of compassion for both peoples. Members of the Jewish people have been the victims of 1,600 years of oppression in European countries and hundreds of years of apartheid-like conditions in Muslim countries, and faced a world that mostly refused to help us or open its doors to us as refugees when we were the victims of genocide. The traumas of that past still shape the consciousness of many Jews today. Jews deserve compassion and need healing. Similarly, the Palestinian people’s expulsion from their homes in the process of the founding of the State of Israel, remembered as the great catastrophe Al Nakba, continues to shape the consciousness of many Palestinians sixty-six years later. But those traumas don’t exonerate Israel’s behaviour or that of Hamas, though they are relevant for those of us seeking a path to social healing and transformation.
Yet that healing is impossible until those who are victims of PTSD are willing to work on overcoming it.
And this is precisely where the American Jewish community and Jews around the world have taken a turn that is disastrous—turning the Israeli nation state into “the Jewish state” and making Israel into an idol to be worshipped rather than a political entity like any other political entity, with strengths and deep flaws, a political entity which should be held to account for its systematic violations of human rights.
Sadly, too many Jews relate to Israel not as a state but as some holy reality. Despairing of spiritual salvation after God failed to show up and save us from the Holocaust, increasing numbers of Jews have abandoned the religion of compassion and identification with the most oppressed that was championed by our Biblical prophets, and instead come to worship power and to rejoice in Israel’s ability to become the most militarily powerful state in the Middle East. If a Jew today goes into any synagogue in the United States or around the world and says, “I don’t believe in God or Torah and I don’t follow the commandments,” most will still welcome her in and urge her to become involved. But if the same person says, “I don’t support the State of Israel,” she is likely to be labeled a “self-hating Jew” or anti-Semite and scorned and dismissed. As Aaron said of the Golden Calf in the Desert, “These are your Gods, O Israel.” The idolatrous view that God is working through the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) has led some Jews to believe that this powerful army is “the most moral army on earth,” and no amount of senseless killing of civilians breaks through this religious worship.
The worship of the state makes it necessary for Jews to turn Judaism into an auxiliary of ultra-nationalist blindness. Every act of the State of Israel against the Palestinian people is seen as sanctioned by God. Each Sabbath Jews in synagogues around the world are offered prayers for the well-being of the State of Israel but not for our Arab cousins. The very suggestion that we should be praying as well for the Palestinian people’s welfare is seen as heresy and proof of being “self-hating Jews.”
The worship of power is precisely what Judaism came into being to challenge. We were the slaves, the powerless, and though the Torah talks of God using a strong arm to redeem the Israelites from Egyptian slavery, it simultaneously insists, over and over again, that when Jews go into their promised land in Canaan (now Palestine) they must “love the stranger/the other,” have only one law for the stranger and for the native born, and warns “do not oppress the stranger/the other.” Remember, Torah reminds us, “that you were strangers/the other in the land of Egypt” and “you know the heart of the stranger.” Later sources in Judaism even insist that a person without compassion who claims to be Jewish cannot be considered Jewish. A spirit of generosity is so integral to Torah consciousness that when Jews are told to let the land lie fallow once every seven years (the societal-wide Sabbatical Year), they must allow that which grows spontaneously from past plantings to be shared with the other/the stranger.
The Jews are not unique in this. The basic reality is that most of humanity has always heard a voice inside themselves telling them that the best path to security and safety is to love others and show generosity, and a counter voice that tells us that the only path to security is domination and control over others. This struggle between the voice of fear and the voice of love, the voice of domination/power-over and the voice of compassion, empathy and generosity, have played out throughout history and shape contemporary political debates around the world.
Almost every single one of us hears both voices. We are often torn between them, oscillating in our communal policies and our personal behaviour between these two worldviews and ways of engaging others.
As the competitive and me-first ethos of the capitalist marketplace has grown increasingly powerful and increasingly reflected in the culture and worldviews of the contemporary era, more and more people bring the worldview of fear, domination and manipulation of others into personal lives, teaching people the rationality of the marketplace with its injunction to see other human beings primarily in terms of how they can serve our own needs, rather than as deserving care and respect just for who they are. This ethos has weakened friendships and created the instability in family life that the Right has so effectively manipulated (a theme I develop most fully in my 2006 national best-seller book The Left Hand of God: Taking Back our Country from the Religious Right based on a study I conducted during my years as a psychotherapist and principal investigator of an National Institute of Mental Health study of stress and the psychodynamics of daily life in Western societies). Every religious and secular worldview, including Marxism, feminism, liberalism, psychoanalysis, and the various ideologies that predominate in universities hiding under the guise of a pseudo-scientism, has had partisans of both worldviews contending with each other—because every religion and secular worldview reflects this conflict within the psyche of the human beings who have articulated them.
No wonder that Jews and Judaism have had these conflicting streams within our religion as well. Those compilers of the Torah who heard God’s voice commanding the Israelites to wipe out the inhabitants of the promised land in order to start afresh were explained away some 2,000 years ago by subsequent interpreters who emphasized that those peoples referenced in Torah no longer existed, so the command to love the “other” was the only relevant guide for our lives as Jews. Yet subsequent generations facing the frequent assaults on Jews by the majority populations in the Diaspora found it hard to keep the command to “love the stranger/other” even as those others were killing, raping, and robbing us, so some sought to reinterpret the word “stranger/other” (the Hebrew word Ger) in a more tame way—saying it only meant “convert to Judaism” (an interpretation that flew in the face of the Torah statement “remember you were the Ger in the land of Egypt).
In the two thousand years of relative powerlessness when Jews were the oppressed minorities of the western and Islamic societies, the validation of images of a powerful God who could fight for the oppressed Jews was a powerful psychological boon to offset the potential internalizing of the demonization that we faced from the majority cultures. And the practice of demeaning the “other” while embracing a notion of Jews as “chosen by God,” rather than responding with love to our oppressors, was arguably a brilliant psychological strategy for refusing to internalize the demeaning rhetoric of our oppressors and fall victim to self-hatred.
But in this moment, when Jews enjoy military power in Israel, as well as economic and political power in the United States and to some extent in many other Western societies, one would have expected that the theme of love and generosity, always a major voice even in a Jewish people that were being brutalized, would now emerge as the dominant theme of the Judaism of the twenty-first century. Trusting not in love and kindness and the possibility of transforming (tikkun-ing) our world, but instead believing that we must always be on the defensive and rely not in trusting our fellow human being but relying on power and military might—this is the tragic victory of Hitler over the consciousness of the Jewish people who are increasingly unwilling to continue to embrace the worldview of hope and possibility that Judaism originally emerged to affirm and popularize.
No wonder, then, that I’m heartbroken to see the Judaism of love and compassion being dismissed as “unrealistic” by so many of my fellow Jews and rabbis. Wasn’t the central message of Torah that the world was ruled by a force that made possible the transformation from “that which is” to “that which can and should be”? And wasn’t our task to teach the world that nothing is fixed, that even the mountains can skip like young rams and the seas can flee before the triumph of God’s justice in the world?
Instead of preaching this hopeful message, too many rabbis and rabbinical institutions are preaching a Judaism that places more hope in the might of the Israeli army than in the capacity of human beings (including Palestinians) to transform their perception of “the other” and overcome their fears. Even in the darkest days of our oppression, most Jewish thinkers believed that all human beings were created in the image of God and hence were capable of transformation to once again become embodiments of love and generosity. As the prayer for Yom Kippur says, “Till the day of their death, YOU (God) wait for them, that perhaps they might return, and YOU will immediately receive them.”
In contrast, today’s rabbis are more like the set of past-era Protestant theologians who used to emphasize human sinfulness as almost impossible to overcome and hence rejected any hope of social transformation. They scoff at the possibility which we at Tikkun magazine and our Network of Spiritual Progressives have been preaching (not only for the Middle East, but for the United States as well) that if we act from a loving and generous place, seeking to overcome behaviors that were previously perceived as disrespectful and humiliating, that the icebergs of anger and hate (some of which our behavior helped to create) can melt away and people’s hearts can once again turn toward love and justice for all. Our call for the United States to develop a Global Marshall Plan and a strategy of generosity toward the developing world (see www.tikkun.org/gmp) and for Israel to develop a Marshall Plan to rebuild Gaza and the West Bank so that it can easily accommodate the millions of Palestinians still stuck in refugee camps around the Arab world get ignored because in both the United States and Israel the belief in “homeland security through domination” leads people to dismiss the religious call (in Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and Buddhism, as well in some secular humanist communities) for security through generosity and open-hearted reconciliation. I’ve applied these principles to develop a detailed plan for what a peaceful resolution of the conflict would look like in Embracing Israel/Palestine.
In an America which at this very moment has its president calling for sending tens of thousands of children refugees back to situations they risked their lives to escape, in an America which refused to provide Medicare for All, in an America which serves the interests of its richest 1 percent while largely ignoring the needs of its large working middle class, these ideas may sound naively utopian. But for Judaism, belief in God was precisely a belief that love and justice could and should prevail, and that our task is to embody that message in our communities and promote that message to the world.
It is this love, compassion, justice, and peace-oriented Judaism that the State of Israel is murdering. The worshippers of Israel have fallen into a deep cynicism about the possibility of the world that the prophets called for in which nation shall not lift up the sword against each other and they will no longer learn war, and everyone will live in peace. True, that world is not already here, but the Jewish people’s task was to teach people that this world could be brought into being, and that each step we take is either a step toward that world or a step away from it. The Israel worshippers are running away from this world of love, making it far less possible. And yet they call their behaviour “Judaism” and Israel “the Jewish state.” If Judaism’s call for a world based on social justice, peace, and love for “the other” is dismissed as impossible under current conditions, the least we could ask of Israel is that it describe itself as “a State with many Jews” rather than as “a Jewish state” since the latter implies some connection to Judaism and its prophetic tradition.
No wonder, then, that I mourn for the Judaism of love, kindness, peace, and generosity that Israel worshippers dismiss as utopian fantasy. To my fellow Jews, I issue the following invitation: use Tisha B’av (the traditional fast-day mourning the destruction of Jewish life in the past, and starting Monday night August 4 till dark on August 5) to mourn for the Judaism of love and generosity that is being murdered by Israel and its worshippers around the world, the same kind of idol-worshippers who, pretending to be Jewish but actually assimilated into the world of power, helped destroy our previous two Jewish commonwealths and our Temples of the past.
I urge Jews who agree with the perspective in this article to go to High Holiday services this year and publicly insist that the synagogue services include repentance for the sins of the Jewish people in giving blind support to immoral policies of the State of Israel. Don’t sit quietly while the rabbis or others give talks implying that Israel is wholly righteous and that the Palestinians are the equivalent of Hitler or some “evil other.” Pass out to people the High Holiday “For Our Sins” workbook that Tikkun has developed and that will be on our website in early September. Write to your synagogue beforehand to ask them to include that list of sins among those that are traditionally read on Yom Kippur. That reading will be certain to generate a new aliveness in your synagogue and make Yom Kippur more spiritually real and deep than passively sitting through a service that is ignoring some of the central issues for which we should be atoning. Whether or not you go to synagogue on the High Holidays, please donate to Tikkun to keep our voice alive (the organized Jewish community and many Jews who are liberal on every other issue still refuse to support or read Tikkun precisely because we touch this issue—just ask the social justice-oriented Jewish groups you know about why they are not speaking up about Israel and you’ll see why it is so important to support Tikkun). And please: join our interfaith and secular-humanist-welcoming Network of Spiritual Progressives and help us create local chapters to get out the message that the Judaism being preached in many synagogues is antithetical to the highest values of our people and our Jewish tradition (even while acknowledging that there have always been within that tradition contradictory and pro-domination voices as well).
Please don’t be silent when rabbis refuse to acknowledge their idol-worship and their blind support for Israeli policies. Insist that they take into account when judging Palestinians the psychologically and ethically destructive impact of living under Occupation. Ask them to choose between demanding that Israel immediately help the Palestinian people to create their independent state without an occupying Israeli army or demanding that Israel give all the Palestinians the same rights that Americans fought for in our own revolution and that we demanded for Africans in South Africa and African Americans in the South—one person, one vote (in the Israeli Knesset elections).
We may have to renew our Judaism by creating a liberatory, emancipatory, transformative love-oriented Judaism outside the synagogues and traditional institutions, because inside the existing Jewish community the best we can do is repeat what the Jewish exiles in Babylonia said in Psalm 137, “How can we sing the songs of the Transformative Power YHVH in a strange land?” And let us this year turn Yom Kippur into a time of repentance for the sins of our people who have given Israel a blank check and full permission to be brutal in the name of Judaism and the Jewish people (even as we celebrate those Jews with the courage to publicly critique Israel in a loving but stern way). Doing so does not mean obscuring the immorality of Hamas’ behavior. But the High Holidays is meant to be a time to focus on what our sins are, not the sins of others. Isn’t it time that we stopped hiding behind the distortions in others to avoid our own distortions?
For our non-Jewish allies, the following plea: do not let the organized Jewish community intimidate you with charges that any criticism of Israel’s brutality toward the Palestinian people proves that you are anti-Semites. Stop allowing your very justified guilt at the history of oppression your ancestors enacted on Jews to be the reason you fail to speak out vigorously against the current immoral policies of the State Israel. The way to become real friends of the Jewish people is to side with those Jews who are trying to get Israel back on track toward its highest values, knowing full well that there is no future for a Jewish state surrounded by a billion Muslims except through friendship and cooperation.
The temporary alliance of brutal dictatorships in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and various Arab emirates that give Israel support against Hamas will ultimately collapse, but the memory of humiliation at the hands of the State of Israel will not, and Israel’s current policies will endanger Jews both in the Middle East and around the world for many decades after the people of Israel have regained their senses. Real friends don’t let their friends pursue a self-destructive path, so it’s time for you too to speak up and to support those of us in the Jewish world who are champions of peace and justice, and who will not be silent in the face of the destruction of Judaism. One concrete step: join the Network of Spiritual Progressives and help us get the messages I’m articulating here into the public arena in the U.S. With 57 percent of the American public polling support for Israel’s assault on Gaza, the most important task we have is to shift mass consciousness toward a more nuanced position that is both pro-Israel and pro-Palestine.
And, on the other hand, to our non-Jewish friends, please don’t be angry at all Jews for the distorted behavior of a state that calls itself “the Jewish State” and that acts in an arrogant, provocative, and disrespectful way, making itself the neighborhood bully of the Middle East. That state did not consult most Jews about its policies. And please recognize that the anti-Semitic outbreaks that we’ve seen recently in France, Belgium, and other European countries are no different than other kinds of racism: blaming all people of a particular group for evil behavior of some.
And that gets to my last point. Younger Jews, like many of their non-Jewish peers, are becoming increasingly alienated from Israel and from the Judaism that too many Jews claim to be the foundation of this supposedly Jewish state. They see Israel as what Judaism is in practice, not knowing how very opposite its policies are to the traditional worldviews most Jews have embraced through the years. It is these coming generations of young people—whose parents claim to be Jewish but celebrate the power of the current State of Israel and never bother to critique it when it is acting immorally (as it is today in Gaza)—who will leave Judaism in droves, making it all the more the province of the Israel-worshippers with their persistent denial of the God of love and justice and their embrace of a God of vengeance and hate. I won’t blame them for that choice, but I wish they knew that there is a different strand of Judaism that has been the major strand for much of Jewish history, and that it needs their active engagement in order to reestablish it as the twenty-first-century continuation of the Jewish tradition. That I have to go to non-Jewish sources to seek to have this message circulated is a further testimony to how much there is to mourn over the dying body of the Judaism of love, pleading for Jews who privately feel the way I do to come out of their closets and help us rebuild the Jewish world in which tikkun (healing and transformation) becomes the first agenda item.
Above all else, I grieve for all the unnecessary suffering on this planet, including the Israeli victims of terrorism, the Palestinian victims of Israeli terror and repression, the victims of America’s misguided wars in Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq, the victims of America’s apparently endless war on terrorism, the victims of so many other struggles around the world, and the less visible but real victims of a global capitalist order in which, according to the UN, between 8,000 and 10,000 children under the age of five die every day from malnutrition or diseases related to malnutrition. And yet I affirm that there is still the possibility of a different kind of world, if only enough of us would believe in it and then work together to create it.
Rabbi Michael Lerner is editor of Tikkun, chair of the interfaith and secular-humanist-welcoming Network of Spiritual Progressives, and rabbi of Beyt Tikkun Synagogue-Without-Walls in San Francisco and Berkeley, California. He is the author of eleven books, including two national bestsellers—The Left Hand of God and Jewish Renewal: A Path to Healing and Transformation. His most recent book, Embracing Israel/Palestine, is available on Kindle from Amazon.com and in hard copy from tikkun.org/eip. He welcomes your responses and invites you to join with him by joining the Network of Spiritual Progressives (membership comes with a subscription to Tikkun magazine). You can contact him at email@example.com.
We Will Reap the Gaza Whirlwind
By Brian Cloughley
August 04, 2014
Gaza is in ruins as the merciless Israeli blitz has furthered Tel Aviv’s objective of eventual annihilation of all these bothersome Arabs who have the temerity to claim the land of Palestine which they own. The international media, or at least some of it – excluding most of the influential US TV stations and newspapers and most British newspapers – has shown the most appalling scenes of carnage.
The pictures of the corpses of little Arab children who have been slaughtered by Israeli missiles, tank shells, aircraft rockets, naval gunfire (Yay! let’s have a round of applause for the gallant Israeli navy whose intrepid mariners killed four kids playing on a beach), and sundry other explosive terrors are truly heart-wrenching. Not to Israelis, of course, because most of them seem to be utterly heartless: but they are emotionally distressing to anyone who is normal and not intent on genocide.
One first-hand description of the carnage was by a Palestinian writer who describes his experiences unemotionally and with stark resonance. “On Friday night, my friend Hisham, who works at Beit Hanoun Hospital, phoned to say that they had been bombed. Shells struck the x-ray room and the operating theatre. People, patients, doctors, and nurses were all terrified ... Old women sit helplessly in the debris of their homes. A few kids can be seen searching for toys. Ambulances and medical teams work through the day to find people still alive under these ruins. Today, some 151 corpses have been found in this rubble. Some of them have started to decay already. You can smell the dead bodies on every corner...One of the corpses found were of a woman: she had been carrying both her children, one in each arm, when the tank shell hit her home. It seems she was simply trying to protect them. She held them tight to her chest, and despite the weight of the masonry she never let go. What they found under all that concrete was like a still life, apparently a photograph, a perfect composition.”
“A perfect composition.” Yes, that sums it all up. Perhaps a sculptor could take up this idea, because a statue – a monument – a massive shrine – depicting that murdered trio of innocents could stand forever as memorial to the evil that is Israel and the unfulfilled hope of a free Palestine.
US official policy, made clear by a White House statement, is that while Obama “reiterated the United States' serious and growing concern about the rising number of Palestinian civilian deaths and the loss of Israeli lives, as well as the worsening humanitarian situation in Gaza,” he offered “strong condemnation of Hamas’ rocket and tunnel attacks against Israel and reaffirmed Israel's right to defend itself.”
‘Defend itself’? – By setting in motion a shattering blitzkrieg that has killed over twelve hundred people? As I wrote these words I went to check on the number of deaths and read on Euronews that “As many as nine Palestinian children and one adult have been killed following a missile strike on a refugee camp in Gaza. The children were playing on swings in a play area at the Beach Refugee camp when the missile hit.”
It is officially recognised that “Israel is the largest cumulative recipient of US foreign assistance...In 2007, the Bush Administration agreed to a $30 billion military aid package for the period from FY2009 to FY2018. During his March 2013 visit to Israel, President Obama pledged that the United States would continue to provide Israel with multi-year commitments of military aid.”
Washington could halt the Gaza carnage instantly if it wished, by cutting off all contact with Israel and stopping every cent of its massive aid. But it won’t do so. On June 30, immediately after the White House lamely complained about the Israeli shelling of a UN Relief Agency facility that killed 15 innocent people the Pentagon announced it was resupplying Israel with ammunition. The US is supporting the war on Gaza.
America doesn’t dare take any action of any sort against Israel’s evil campaign of genocide because almost all federal politicians in the US are recipients of donations from various pro-Israel lobby groups and live in fear that if they support UN Security Council resolutions censuring Israel for breaking international law, then they will lose votes at the next election.
But give them an easy target, like “reaffirming Israel’s right to defend itself” by killing lots of kids on swings, then they’re right up there with the donors. (No; not blood donors.) Like the former mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg (Jewish) who flew to Tel Aviv last week to “show solidarity with the Israeli people,” and the present holder of that distinguished office, Bill de Blasio, who declared “it's not only normal and natural [to support Israel], I consider it my responsibility to stand up for the state of Israel.” His moral stance is taken, of course, because “I am the mayor of the city with the largest Jewish population anywhere on this earth.” Money talks and votes talk even louder, as they do to the Governor of New York State, Andrew Cuomo, who pronounced that “the people of New York stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the people of Israel.” (Do they really? All of them?)
Then the Jerusalem Post recorded that “members of the US House of Representatives, including the ranking member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs Eliot Engel (D-NY), blasted the UN for suggesting Israel had committed and should be held accountable for war crimes.” Then Representative Steve Israel (D-NY) declared that if the United Nations was “thinking of investigating Israel for alleged war crimes, give that up. Give that up.”
One wonders where the final allegiance of such as Mr Engel and Mr Israel might lie. Is it with the United States of America or with the State of Israel? The population of New York State is 20 million. What about other legislators representing America’s 320 million people?
On July 18 it was reported that “Following a similar resolution passed last week by the US House, the US Senate voted to support Israel’s ongoing invasion of the Gaza Strip. No dissenting vote was cast...” There was not a mention of Arab deaths or of the almost total destruction of Gaza, never mind the kid-killing jamborees of the putrid Israeli tank crews, F-16 jet-jockey cowboys and seaborne savages of naval gunfire support.
Given the vociferous approval of Israel’s genocidal terrorism by the entire US Senate there is no hope that Gaza, the Palestinian nation and Arabs of the region can expect justice concerning their plight. The nation of Palestine will never be allowed to exist, which is exactly what Tel Aviv and Washington want. All the UN Security Council resolutions demanding that Israel return Arab lands to Arabs and cease building illegal settlements will continue to be ignored, as they have been for decades.
There is little wonder that young Arabs in Gaza and Palestine are full of hatred for Israel and willing to die for revenge. They have been given good reason to detest America. They have no future in the scattered rubble of their squalid ghettoes. They have no chance to rise out of their enforced apartheid. In their own homeland they are regarded as ‘untermenschen’ – what the Nazis called ‘inferior people’ in Europe. Now, in the eastern Mediterranean, in Palestine, the Israelis are not only the Chosen People (as described in ancient texts) but the superior race which is intent on eradicating those who lived there peacefully for centuries. The young Arabs whose parents and grand-parents the Zionists have dispossessed and cast into poverty see no alternative but to join in the fight against what they regard as evil.
Israel and America have forged a mighty revolution and inspired hatred not only in Palestine but far beyond it. Many more innocents will die around the world, many thousands, possibly, in ghastly versions of the New York 2001 atrocities, murdered by fanatical young men who were never given the chance to grow up as normal people – because they were denied justice, decency and humanity. Israel and America have sowed the wind and will reap the whirlwind. But the rest of the world will pay too – for their arrogance and barbarity.
Brian Cloughley is a South Asian affairs analyst. Website: www.beecluff.com
Jews Paying Price for Zionist Experiment
By Jamal Doumani
4 August 2014
In the midst of the unspeakable carnage inflicted on Gaza, in the midst of those gut-wrenching images of bloodied children with severed limbs being wheeled into woefully understaffed hospitals, and in the midst of diplomatic babble in Washington about “Israel’s right to defend itself” that presumably includes the right to bomb a UN school sheltering unarmed refugees, one may ask the question: What price Israel?
No, not the price that Arabs have had to pay for the establishment of Israel in Palestine. We know how horrendous that price was in 1948, and how heavy it continued to be in subsequent years.
Rather, the question is what price the Jews themselves have had to pay to see the Zionist experiment triumphant — an experiment articulated by the movement’s founder, Theodore Herzl, in 1896, formalized the following year by the First Zionist Congress in Basle, Switzerland.
The ostensible goal of Zionism was to establish a Jewish state in Palestine that Zionists were convinced was a land without a people. This they thought would act as a haven for Jews — safe from anti-Semitic assault in European countries where they were putatively “inassimilable.”
They would have a “state like any other” in which every Jew from anywhere around the world would be welcome in the “Jewish haven” called Israel. So abandon your homelands, all ye Jews, and come to Israel. There, all is safe, all is secure, and leave the taunts of anti-Semites behind.
Well, guess what? The Zionist experiment has failed miserably. If it had succeeded in doing anything at all, it succeeded in doing harm to all Jews, all around the world, which clearly is the very opposite of its intended goal.
Look at it this way: The only place in the world today where Jews are not safe is in Israel. They are safe everywhere else. Jews have prospered in the US, where they represent its vanguard in the world of literature, academe, art, music, media, politics and jurisprudence, and, after the WWII, in Western Europe as well. No one can claim they are under threat there. Israel, their purported “haven,” on the other hand, is a hellhole reviled by virtually the whole of humanity for its brutalities, and repudiated by the UN for its disregard of, even contempt for, international law.
Then we have the issue of anti-Semitism, a venomous ideology that the world was beginning to leave by the wayside well over half a century ago, which Israel was directly responsible in recent years for stoking. Because Israel has always insisted on defining itself as the ultimate “Jewish state,” the arbiter of Jewish values and the embodiment of the “Jewish identity,” then every time that entity committed an outrage over the years, it triggered the re-emergence of long-banished anti-Semitic ghosts. The inevitable argument would go: What Israelis are doing is evil, Israelis are Jews, ergo Jews everywhere are evil.
In the wake of Israel’s savageries in Gaza in recent weeks, where its military forces have killed and maimed countless civilians, bombed homes and gutted entire neighborhoods, anger against Israel has reverberated as anti-Semitism. Across Europe, all the way from Greece to Germany and from Spain to Britain, the conflict in the Strip has generated a backlash not just against Israel itself but against Jews in general — hardly what Theodore Herzl would have anticipated.
So what has Zionism, this movement born at a time when colonial projects proliferated, that is, when colonial settlement of land belonging to men of color was considered the white man’s privilege, done for the Jews? Instead of establishing for them a “haven” where they would be safe, it dragged them to a land where they found themselves the only Jews in the world where they were least safe. Then, by its resort to the infliction of violence on its victims, a practice that became its trademark, it succeeded in resurrecting all the hateful myths about Jews everywhere as a vile people, regardless of where these Jews lived and what political values they espoused.
Even in Germany, a country whose people have every reason to be overly concerned about accusations of anti-Semitism directed at them, where atonement for their Nazi past is encoded in the laws of modern society, a wave of anti-Israel sentiment has swept the country, a sentiment that has facilely degenerated into outcries against Jews. And it’s not easy for any of these Jews, who deplore Israel’s practices, to plausibly say, “Hey, I’m not my brother’s keeper.”
Last Saturday, Mellissa Eddy, the New York Times correspondent in Germany, filing a report from Berlin, quoted a distraught elementary school principal, a long-time Jewish resident of the city, as saying: “We have all always felt latent anti-Semitism here. But what we have experienced in recent weeks and days, not only in Germany but across Europe, is a prevailing mood of outward anti-Jewish sentiment in the streets.”
That’s the price that Jews have had to pay for the Zionist experiment in Palestine, the mother of all failed experiments anywhere around the world. As for the price Arabs have had to pay, well, ask Gazans today, the overwhelming majority of whom are refugees, or the descendants of refugees, who were kicked out of their homes and homeland in 1948 in order to make room for the grafting of Israel on their land, the most destructive vanity project in the whole history of humanity.
And these are the very Gazans, according to the White House, whom Israel has every right to “defend” itself against. Yes, you heard it right: Israel is defending itself against the very people it had robbed of their land, and then rendered destitute and stateless.
Gaza War Stifles Democracy In Israel
By Akiva Eldar
August 4, 2014
The way things look today, Aug. 3, the military investment in the Gaza war failed to result in any diplomatic dividends to either of the two sides. Israel did not achieve its long-term objective, as expressed by the prime minister, i.e., the demilitarization of Gaza from fighting means, and Hamas failed to force Israel into lifting its lengthy siege of the Gaza Strip. The Palestinian Authority (PA), based in Ramallah, was left out of the political game altogether, just as it was during the unilateral disengagement from Gaza in 2005 and Israel’s previous assaults. Even in the best-case scenario, the only partner with whom Israel might have reached a long-term arrangement in the occupied territories has been found irrelevant. In the worst-case scenario, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has been portrayed to his constituents as a collaborator with Israel. Negotiations over a two-state solution now seem even more remote than they did on the eve of Operation Protective Edge.
At the same time, the hail of rockets aimed at the civilian population and the apocalyptic scenarios about the tunnels, have pushed peaceful dialogue and coexistence to the remote margins of Israeli society. According to a Channel 10 survey published on July 28, the vast majority of Israeli Jews (87%) supported a continuation of the fighting. Hamas can therefore take credit for a worrisome shutting of the hearts and minds of Israel’s Jews. Over the past few weeks, expressions of identification with the suffering of civilians in Gaza and voices protesting the killing of women and children have been met with vitriol and even with violence. It is true that Hamas is a brutal fascist group, for whom the lives of children — including Palestinian children — are a legitimate tool to fulfill its political and ideological agenda. Yes, the criminals of Hamas have turned schools, hospitals, homes and mosques into weapons depots and used them to conceal the entrances to assault tunnels. Hamas thugs forced helpless civilians to serve as human shields. Nevertheless, do these monstrous ethical standards justify the killing of more than 700 of the organization’s Palestinian hostages?
After the massacre in Sabra and Shatila in Lebanon in September 1982, over 200,000 Israelis gathered in Malchei Yisrael Square in Tel Aviv to demand the creation of an official commission of inquiry. Late Ariel Sharon, who was then the defence minister, was forced to resign after the commission found that he failed to prevent the murder of over 700 Palestinians by Christian Phalangists. Today, Sabra and Shatila have been replaced by the Gaza neighborhoods of Rafah and Shajaiya. This time, however, Israel Defense Forces (IDF) soldiers are not silent witnesses to the deeds. They are actually implementing it upon the orders of their government and with overwhelming public support. Although Palestinian civilians are now being killed by Israeli fire, the number of participants at a more recent demonstration in Malchei Yisrael Square (since renamed the “Rabin Square”) was fewer than 10,000. Dov Khenin is the only Jewish member of the Knesset who dares to appear at anti-war demonstrations. As the largest opposition party, the Labour Party has thrown its full support behind the military operation, with some of its members even outflanking Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from the right.
Palestinian citizens of Israel who protested the war have been arrested en masse. According to one investigation conducted by Knesset member Ahmed Tibi, their number has already reached 680, and that does not include hundreds of additional demonstrators from East Jerusalem. Talking to Al-Monitor, Tibi said that these mass arrests were intended to deter the Arab public from making itself heard. At the same time, the patriotism of the Israeli news site Walla, with its slogan ''Israeli, first of all,'' did not benefit their reporter, who was arrested while covering the left-wing demonstration in Rabin Square. The police are also unable to ensure the safety of Arab citizens facing violence at the hands of racist gangs. That leaves Arab citizens in mixed cities like Jerusalem and Jaffa to sometimes lock themselves in their homes fearing for their safety. Left-wing activists in Jerusalem told Al-Monitor that some Arab students who registered for the coming academic year at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem have withdrawn their applications.
On another occasion, a senior Bar Ilan University lecturer was requested to apologize on July 28 over an email he sent to his students, in which he referred to victims on both sides of the Gaza war. Professor Hanoch Sheinman wrote that he hoped his message ''finds you in a safe place, and that you, your families and those dear to you are not among the hundreds of people that were killed, the thousands wounded, or the tens of thousands whose homes were destroyed or were forced to leave their homes during, or as a direct result of, the violent confrontation in the Gaza Strip and its environs.” Some of the students complained to the faculty dean, Shahar Lifshitz, that the letter hurt their feelings. Following the complaint, the dean issued a statement, saying that he was ''shocked'' by Sheinman's letter, and that he apologizes for it ''in his name and the name of the faculty.'' He promised that the matter will be handled with ''the appropriate seriousness.” He stated that the letter stands in contrast with the university's values, and that it ''constitutes the inappropriate use of the power given to a lecturer to exploit his platform as a law teacher to convey messages reflecting his positions, in a way that, as noted, seriously offended the students and their families.
Politicians and journalists once considered to identify with the “center” of the political spectrum have all adopted the same patriotic, militaristic jingoism. They compete with one another over who can issue the most forthcoming compliments to the public for its “resilience” and “tenacity.” Indeed, along the streets and highways of Israel are posters in support of the IDF, largely accompanied by Israeli flags. And yet, despite all that, the rocket attacks have taken a toll on Israeli democracy. Freedom of expression lies at the heart of any democratic society, but in Israel it has become a matter of controversy. Demonstrators are exposed to violence by radical right-wing phalanges. In at least one case, these thugs actually followed a female demonstrator back from a protest rally and beat her up at the entrance to her home. Meanwhile, social networks are crammed with crude, racist responses and threats.
One extreme example of the malady that has overwhelmed Israeli democracy is the unprecedented decision by the Knesset’s ethics committee to suspend an Arab elected official, Knesset member Haneen Zoabi, from the legislature for half a year. Zoabi is being punished for saying that the murderers of the three teens abducted near Hebron were not terrorists and for speaking out on behalf of a popular resistance against the Israeli occupation.
Many senior journalists have participated in this call to limit freedom of expression. Erel Segal wrote for Al-Monitor: “Now, however, with Israel at war, when the best of our children are putting their lives on the line in the battle against an Islamo-fascist organization, which is hiding behind women and children, it is time to put limits on freedom of expression.” He goes on to argue that Zoabi’s opinion, as she expressed it in an interview with Al Jazeera on July 19, crossed the boundaries of acceptable discourse in a democracy forced to defend itself. In that interview, she said that the Israeli home front could not withstand a drawn-out conflict and complimented Hamas for its tenacity.
For Matti Golan, the author of a prominent column for the Israeli daily financial paper Globes and the former managing editor of Israeli daily Haaretz, simply suspending Zoabi from the Knesset does not go far enough. Instead, he suggests on July 20 that she be arrested immediately, without a trial, and that she be held until the end of the war. Only then, writes Golan, should the authorities decide whether she should stand trial at all. And Golan recommends the same treatment for Haaretz journalist Gideon Levy, who refuses to adopt the line of, “Quiet! We’re shooting here,” and even dared to publish an article critical of the Israeli air force’s pilots, under the headline “The Worst Become Pilots” (playing on an old slogan, “The best become pilots”). He was attacked by passersby and his life was threatened before the management of Haaretz decided to provide him with a body guard. This is democracy defending itself. The photo of Levy with his security guard could even be the victory photo of this war, if the victor is violence and fascism.
The Real Reasons behind Israel’s War on Gaza
By Atif Shamim Syed
August 02, 2014
Israel is facing serious resistance from Hamas and is suffering unexpectedly heavy losses. Hamas is proving itself to be a well-organised movement that cannot be overcome easily
Palestine is witnessing a new round of violence, one that has cost nearly 1,300 Palestinian lives and has maimed thousands of others. World opinion is unfairly tilted towards Israel. Most commentators, politicians and journalists in the west blame Hamas for the escalation. They argue that Hamas provoked Israel with its rocket attacks to a point where the latter had no choice but to retaliate in self-defence. Things are, however, not so simple.
The current violence is the result of a series of events that happened before the situation exploded. On June 2, 2014, a unity government was formed in Palestine that sought to end hostilities between Fatah and Hamas. The unity government was supposed to strengthen the Palestinian leadership so that it could present a unified front in its fight for self-determination. To Israel’s utter disbelief, the US and the EU showed their willingness to engage with the new unity government in Palestine. Only 10 days later, three Israeli students were kidnapped in Hebron. This offered Jerusalem an opportunity to do away with the nascent unity government in Palestine. Despite having confirmation of the death of the kidnapped students, the Israeli government launched a mock search operation — Operation Brother’s Keep — in order to rescue them. As part of this operation, the Israelis killed at least 10 Palestinians and arrested around 600 including the entire leadership of Hamas in the West Bank. Several Palestinian homes were also destroyed. The aim of the phony search operation was to wipe out Hamas in the West Bank and, thus, obliterate the unity government.
On the night of July 6, 2014, seven members of the Hamas movement were killed in an Israeli airstrike. In response, Hamas fired rockets into Israel. As the violence escalated, Israel bombed several sites in Gaza. Hamas demanded that Israel immediately stop its bombing campaign, release its members and lift the blockade on Gaza that has locked two million Palestinians into a tiny area, condemned by Israel and the international community to hunger, poverty and desperation. On July 8, 2014, Israel unleashed Operation Protective Edge on the people of Gaza that, until now, has claimed more than 1,300 Palestinian lives. Most of the people targeted by Israel are civilians including women and children. More than 100,000 have lost their homes.
In retrospect, the seeds of the current violence were sown in 2005 by Ariel Sharon when he withdrew Israeli settlements from Gaza. It was a calculated move in order to delay a final peace settlement with the Palestinian Authority and continue the occupation of Gaza from afar. Israel controlled the borders of Gaza, its waters and the movement of its residents. This tactical move weakened the comparatively moderate Fatah while strengthening the radical Hamas movement. The situation became intractable just like the Israelis wanted.
The main objective of Operation Protective Edge is not to root out terrorism, as argued by the Israeli government. Rather, it is to break up the national unity government with which everyone, including the EU, UN, US, China, India, Turkey and Russia, had agreed to work. Israel and its supporters argue that the current operation is the result of the abduction of Israeli youths. Israel blames this incident on Hamas. However, until now, no proof has been offered by the Israeli authorities to support this claim. Hamas, on the other hand, categorically denied any involvement in the abduction.
Despite an overwhelmingly supportive western media, the Israeli narrative has not been fully accepted by the world. Moreover, Israel is facing serious resistance from Hamas and is suffering unexpectedly heavy losses. Hamas is proving itself to be a well-organised movement that cannot be overcome easily. The relatively high Israeli death toll attests to this fact.
It is said that truth is the first casualty of war. While Israeli planes shower death and destruction on helpless Palestinians, the western media blames Hamas for the carnage. The Israelis have a clear plan of action that is followed to the letter when they are dealing with Palestinian casualties: show empathy, express remorse and blame Hamas. An example of this approach can be found in the incident on July 16, 2014 when Israel killed four innocent boys on Gaza beach. The Israelis acknowledged the tragedy but blamed the Palestinians. The US media fell in line and repeated the Israeli account. The spokesperson of the US State Department Jen Psaki’s response could be matched word-for-word with the Israeli narrative.
The cold-blooded murder of four Palestinian boys was witnessed by Ayman Mohyeldin who works for NBC. Mohyeldin’s coverage was carried by NBC but he was swiftly recalled from Gaza without giving any reason. Another CNN journalist, Diana Magmay, watched Israelis cheer in ecstasy while their airplanes bombed helpless Palestinians. She was horrified and immediately reported the fact that she was appalled by the scene. She immediately began receiving threats, including bombing her car if she said “even a single wrong word”. CNN recalled her from Gaza.
The above cases, as well as several others that have not come to the fore, have made it clear that Israel’s is waging two wars on the Palestinians: military and propaganda. In both cases, it seems to be winning. While everyone in the west is blaming Hamas for its amateur homemade rockets that have, until now, failed to cause any harm to Israel and its citizens, there is no mention of salvaging the unity government, which, in the opinion of this writer, is the main reason for the Israeli aggression. The unity government could not only have united the Palestinian factions, it could also have helped them achieve their eventual goal of statehood.
The Gaza War’s Violence Has Put Israel’s Soul In The Balance
By Naomi Wolf
Aug. 02, 2014
As the bombardment of Gaza continues, and the civilian death toll rises above 1,400 – with children comprising one-quarter of the victims – the world has become polarized. Supporters of Israel’s actions invoke its right to protect its citizens from terrorist attacks. Opponents argue that nothing justifies the mass killing of civilians and the destruction of essential infrastructure.Unsurprisingly, Israeli society is polarizing as well. Even as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government has fully mobilized hasbara (“public diplomacy” or “spin,” depending on your point of view) and hardens its position, peace activists are taking to Israel’s streets. Israelis from all walks of life, and increasing numbers of diaspora Jews, are speaking out, rejecting what they call Israel’s frequent violation of international law and the injustice of what they describe as a two-tier system of citizenship and law.
In fact, once-unthinkable positions are emerging. Recently, for example, more than 50 Israeli reservists signed a petition declaring their refusal to serve, citing many forms of oppression but naming specifically the dual legal system that discriminates against Palestinians, and the “brutal” nature of the military occupation. They join a growing number of other former Israeli soldiers who have described in detail the daily injustice and humiliation to which Palestinians are subjected.
In another arena, a conference to be held in November at London’s School of Oriental and African Studies, called “Challenging the Boundaries: A Single State in Israel/Palestine,” will advance the idea of a secular, democratic, diverse society along the lines of post-apartheid South Africa. This is a vision that younger progressive Israelis, Diaspora Jews and Palestinians have taken up with increasing interest and hope. If it is not yet a solution, at least it is a new conversation – one that poses a direct challenge to the right-wing Israeli establishment and its supporters abroad.
It is a challenge that the Israeli establishment would prefer to ignore. Following one of the most lethal nights of Israel’s “Operation Protective Edge” in Gaza – and what many human-rights defenders have called a massacre – police, citing “security concerns,” sought to prevent an estimated 10,000 people from gathering in the streets of Tel Aviv to oppose what organizers described as an illegal occupation and military campaign against the Palestinians. The protest went ahead, without violence.
Palestinians demonstrating at the same time in the West Bank were not so fortunate. Protesters there reported that Israeli police and soldiers confronted rallies with live bullets; by the end of the day’s demonstrations, five Palestinian protesters were dead.
Despite the obstacles that Israeli peace activists face – including intimidation and violence by right-wing nationalists – their movement has persevered. Nonetheless, it is often easier for people trained to hate one another to connect in cyberspace rather than to come together in real-life settings. On Facebook, the page IsraelLovesPalestine, which has nearly 26,000 “likes,” documents rallies, meetings, and other actions in support of Palestinians and in opposition to perceived Israeli injustices. The page PalestineLovesIsrael – with banner headlines reading “ENOUGH! STOP THE WAR” – has almost the same number of “likes.”
But an active peace movement, in which Israelis and Palestinians recognize common interests and forge new discussions aimed at ending the decades-long conflict, may not be enough to stem growing extremism, particularly on the Israeli side. According to an opinion poll carried out in July by the Israel Democracy Institute and Tel Aviv University, more than 95 percent of Jewish Israelis believe that Operation Protective Edge is warranted, while less than 4 percent believe that Israel has used excessive force. Indeed, nearly 50 percent of respondents said that they thought that insufficient force had been used.
Here, it is crucial to note the disturbing turn in the rhetoric used by some Israelis and diaspora Jews to justify the military offensive in Gaza, examples of which are legion. A right-wing member of Israel’s Knesset asserted that civilians in Gaza should be “erased,” on the grounds that no one there was innocent. The American comedienne Joan Rivers defended in crude terms the bombing of Gazan civilians. Tomer Siyonov, a friend of a dead Israeli soldier, recently told the Guardian that everyone in Gaza must be killed.
Just how dangerous is such talk? According to the Israeli historian Michael Oren, a former Israeli ambassador to the United States, “In classic dehumanization scenarios, whether in Nazi Germany or in Rwanda before the genocide, you refer to the enemy as rats and cockroaches, and that enables you to kill them on a large scale.” Oren then adds, “We’re not calling Palestinians cockroaches.”
But it is not the choice of epithets that can lead people to endorse the mass killing of civilians. What matters is whether the rhetoric used by political leaders and major media outlets is framed in the context of a narrative that portrays the “other” as posing an existential threat. Hutus slaughtered close to a million Tutsis in 1994 not because they thought of Tutsis as “cockroaches,” but because they were led to believe that the Tutsis would kill them first.
Such turning points in language both reflect and facilitate acceptance of the wholesale bombing of neighbourhoods, hospitals and schools. Someday, the details of Operation Protective Edge will be investigated and history will be written. But, before that happens, Israel has two moral paths open before it. One path, to be taken with all those committed to a just peace, leads to a higher form of community; the other leads to a very dark place. The soul of a nation is in the balance.
Naomi Wolf is a political activist and social critic whose most recent book is “Vagina: A New Biography.” THE DAILY STAR publishes this commentary in collaboration with Project Syndicate © (www.project-syndicate.org).
Arabs, Let Us Start Fending For Ourselves
By Khaled Almaeena
3 August 2014
The carnage in Gaza goes on uninterrupted. A mad man rules Tel Aviv ordering wave after wave of freely supplied American warplanes and rockets to hit at a defenseless population. His ammunition depleted, a willing Congress supplies him with more.
While the Arab masses seethe with anger and frustration there is a deafening silence within the halls of Arab governments. The helplessness of the Arab states has surprised even the enemy.
Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah in his address to the nation on Friday pointed to the fact that the world’s silence over Israeli "war crimes" in the Gaza Strip was "inexcusable".
Tweets asking why there is no diplomatic offensive, questioning the closure of the Gaza crossing and the prevention of basic life-sustaining materials to the besieged women and children, are flooding the Twittersphere.
This Is About Humanity
Even Pope Francis wept as he appealed for peace. Marches by Jews, Christians and Hindus were held across the world to highlight the tragedy of Gaza and its children who are being blown apart every minute. This is not about Palestinians. This is about humanity.
Kindergarten schools, hospitals, orphanages and shelters are being deliberately targeted as I write this and the attacks will intensify as you read on.
The Arab world, caught in its own web of infighting and treachery, has yet to act.
Some states (not Arab of course) have withdrawn their ambassadors from Israel. Argentina has issued a directive that anyone of its citizens joining the Israeli army will be stripped of his citizenship. Bolivia declared Israel a "terrorist state".
This is not a question about Hamas, which some writers in their narrow-minded view of its ideology blame it for initiating the conflict. Some Arab quislings too parrot the Zionist lie that Hamas rockets provoked this action.
It is about a whole nation trapped in an open prison, blockaded, humiliated, deprived of their human and God-given right to live as free people.
It is about colonialism, oppression and subjugation by an evil ideology; racist and inhumane in nature.
It is about a powerful and cold-hearted "super power" that is oblivious to the aspiration of a people yearning to live — a power that cringes, grovels and whimpers at the feet of the Israelis, whose prime minister openly browbeats its Secretary of State John Kerry.
It is about a war between a country equipped freely with the best weapons of human destruction and a hapless people. It is about Cluster bombs, gas bombs and an array of other death seeking missiles against a defenseless people. It is not even a war but a slaughter.
Then, of course, there are the Camerons, Hollandes and Merkels for whom a rebuke of Israel is tantamount to worse than blasphemy.
As the crimes against humanity continue, I would like to recall a brief conversation I had with a Palestinian, whose take on the ongoing carnage is illuminating.
"As a Palestinian all I want to do is live in peace and dignity, but I am being denied both. I am also deeply disappointed with the world's stand, for mouthing platitudes when a river of blood is in spate.
"But far worse than that is I am sick and tired of hearing the oft-repeated phrase that children and women are being used as human shields, by the same people who are condoning the merciless bombing of the Palestinian people."
For the Arabs there is no one. We cannot live on the kindness of strangers forever. Begging and pleading as we have been doing for years. There has to be a struggle for survival. To do that we have to put our own house in order.
You can get help from the United States to attack and invade another Arab country but you cannot get an ounce of political or diplomatic empathy at the United Nations.
Right now, as many honest and patriotic Arabs see it, we are all alone. Let us start fending for ourselves!
Khaled Almaeena is a veteran Saudi journalist, commentator, businessman and the editor-at-large of the Saudi Gazette. Almaeena has held a broad range of positions in Saudi media for over thirty years, including CEO of a PR firm, Saudi Television news anchor, talk show host, radio announcer, lecturer and journalist. As a journalist, Almaeena has represented Saudi media at Arab summits in Baghdad, Morocco and elsewhere. In 1990, he was one of four journalists to cover the historic resumption of diplomatic ties between Saudi Arabia and Russia. He also traveled to China as part of this diplomatic mission. Almaeena's political and social columns appear regularly in Gulf News, Asharq al-Aswat, al-Eqtisadiah, Arab News, Times of Oman, Asian Age and The China Post.