Gutting Abortion Access–A Serious Attack on Women in the US

Women in the US have enjoyed the legal right to abortion since the 1973 Supreme Court ruling Roe v. Wade.

This right is being effectively gutted in numerous regions of the US. The strategy of anti-abortion activists has been to simply find ways of using creative legislation to close existing abortion clinics. The nominal right to an abortion without the ability to actually have one is plainly meaningless. This is a serious attack on women’s rights, and puts at risk over 40 years of gains in women’s right to reproductive control over their bodies.

Women in parts of Texas, for example, now have the right to an abortion, but no access to clinics or doctors to perform them. Here is the New York Times, reporting today:

The day after a federal appeals court allowed stringent new abortion restrictions to take effect in Texas, patients arrived on Friday at Whole Woman’s Health here in the Rio Grande Valley to find that they must travel 240 miles north to San Antonio to find one of the eight legal abortion clinics now in operation.

Whole Woman’s Health was one of 13 clinics across the state forced to stop performing abortions on Friday because they did not meet the building and staffing standards of a hospital-style surgery center, as now mandated by law.

Elvia Yamell Hamdan, 44, and her husband left their home in Rio Bravo, Tex., at 6 a.m. and arrived at the clinic at 9. The mother of four and grandmother of three said she did not want another pregnancy. She was surprised and puzzled by what she discovered.

“When I got here, I found out the law had changed yesterday,” she said. “I thought, ‘How is that possible?’ ”

The overwhelmed clinic staff could not see her until the afternoon, and the first appointment they could find for her at the San Antonio clinic was three weeks away. Ms. Hamdan, who said she is six weeks pregnant, said she did not want to wait any longer for an abortion, but felt she had no choice but to wait and to spend the extra gas money.

Nationally, leaders of anti-abortion groups hailed a major victory in Thursday’s decision by the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.

Under Roe v. Wade and later Supreme Court decisions, women have a right to an abortion up to the point that the fetus is viable outside the womb, often at about 24 weeks of pregnancy. States may regulate the procedure as long as they do not impose an “undue burden” on women’s access to abortions.

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Chris Hedges Discusses US Response to Gaza

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Noam Chomsky Lecture: The Anthropocene Period and Human Survival

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Famous Jews Commenting on (and critical of) Israel and Zionism

(source)

Isaac Asimov

Isaac Asimov, novelist:
“I find myself in the odd position of not being a Zionist … I think it is wrong for anyone to feel that there is anything special about any one heritage of whatever kind. It is delightful to have the human heritage exist in a thousand varieties, for it makes for greater interest, but as soon as one variety is thought to be more important than another, the groundwork is laid for destroying them all.”

Albert Einstein

Albert Einstein:
“The (Israeli) state idea is not according to my heart. I cannot understand why it is needed. It is connected with many difficulties and a narrow-mindedness. I believe it is bad.”

Sigmund Freud

Sigmund Freud:
“I concede with sorrow that the baseless fanaticism of our people is in part to be blamed for the awakening of Arab distrust. I can raise no sympathy at all for the misdirected piety which transforms a piece of a Herodian wall into a national relic, thereby offending the feelings of the natives.”

Erich Fromm, social psychologist:
“The claim of the Jews to the Land of Israel cannot be a realistic political claim. If all nations would suddenly claim territories in which their forefathers lived two thousand years ago, this world would be a madhouse.”

Rabbi Michael Lerner, editor of Tikkun Magazine:
“If a Jew today goes into any synagogue in the U.S. 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 you in and urge you to become involved. But say, ‘I don’t support the State of Israel,’ and you are likely to be labeled a ‘self-hating Jew’ or anti-Semite, scorned and dismissed.”

Richard Cohen, US columnist:
“The greatest mistake Israel could make at the moment is to forget that Israel itself is a mistake … the idea of creating a nation of European Jews in an area of Arab Muslims (and some Christians) has produced a century of warfare and terrorism of the sort we are seeing now. Israel fights Hezbollah in the north and Hamas in the south, but its most formidable enemy is history itself.”

Henry Siegman

Henry Siegman, Rabbi and director of the U.S./Middle East Project:
“Israel has crossed the threshold from ‘the only democracy in the Middle East’ to the only apartheid regime in the Western world.”

Gabriel Kolko, leading historian:
“The large majority of Israelis are not in the least Jewish in the cultural sense, are scarcely socialist in any sense, and daily life and the way people live is no different in Israel than it is in Chicago or Amsterdam. There is simply no rational reason that justifies the state’s creation.”

Noam Chomsky

Noam Chomsky:
“In the Occupied Territories, what Israel is doing is much worse than apartheid. To call it apartheid is a gift to Israel, at least if by “apartheid” you mean South African-style apartheid. What’s happening in the Occupied Territories is much worse.”

Hannah Arendt

Hannah Arendt, political scientist:
“The trouble is that Zionism has often thought and said that the evil of antisemitism was necessary for the good of the Jewish people. In the words of a well-known Zionist in a letter to me discussing the original Zionist argumentation: ‘The antisemites want to get rid of the Jews, the Jewish State wants to receive them, a perfect match.’

I.F. Stone, US journalist:
“Israel is creating a kind of moral schizophrenia in world Jewry. In the outside world the welfare of Jewry depends on the maintenance of secular, non-racial, pluralistic societies. In Israel, Jewry finds itself defending a society in which mixed marriages cannot be legalized, in which the ideal is racial and exclusionist.”

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US State Spies for Corporations

According to an important leaked report from the NSA, the US spy agency has been prepared to steal information from foreigners on behalf of US corporations. The internal document, exposed by The Intercept, explores ideas like hacking into “foreign R&D intranets” and stealing “proprietary information” in order to give the US a market and technology advantage in sectors including “energy, nanotechnology, medicine, and information technology.” Free market indeed.

Importantly, this leak exposes the US to the charge of hypocrisy when it accuses foreign countries, such as China, of spying on US corporations and stealing proprietary information. For example, CBS News reported in May 2014 that “In a landmark case, the Department of Justice announced Monday charges against five Chinese military hackers, accusing them of stealing trade secrets and other proprietary or sensitive information online.” [1]

More important than the hypocrisy of the US position is the danger to democracy represented by a state agency that has no transparency, democratic oversight, or accountability. The NSA, once again, has been caught in a bald-faced lie. Here is the email the NSA sent in 2013 to The Washington Post:

“The department does ***not*** engage in economic espionage in any domain, including cyber.”

The NSA was soon shown to have committed ample espionage. According to The Intercept,  the NSA has been exposed by documents in the Snowden archive to have spied

on plainly financial targets such as the Brazilian oil giant Petrobraseconomic summitsinternational credit card and banking systems; the EU antitrust commissioner investigating Google, Microsoft, and Intel; and the International Monetary Fund and World Bank.

The NSA then modified it’s position, according to The Intercept, and claimed instead that it did not spy for economic or corporate benefit. But this claim is now falsified by the latest leak, which shows that the NSA has internally been quite open to internally exploring the option of committing espionage aimed at keeping US corporations on top of foreign corporations.

In a key passage from an internal document, the NSA contemplates a perspective in which, by 2025, the US may not be easily dominating the world, and might be contested by an alignment of China, Russia, India, and Iran. One possible outcome contemplated is a situation where is that “the United States’ technological and innovative edge slips.” It is possible for example that “the technological capacity of foreign multinational corporations could outstrip that of U.S. corporations,” a situation that “could put the United States at a growing—and potentially permanent—disadvantage in crucial areas such as energy, nanotechnology, medicine, and information technology.” In this case, the NSA suggests a possible response in which it engages in “a multi-pronged, systematic effort to gather open source and proprietary information through overt means, clandestine penetration (through physical and cyber means), and counterintelligence.” In other words, the NSA contemplates, in internal documents, cyber and corporate espionage as a totally viable option.

Insofar as we live in a democracy, all state institutions must be kept under democratic scrutiny, fully accountable and as transparent as possible. Flat out lying to the US public by the state that is “of and by and for” the public is simply intolerable. The director of the NSA must be forced to resign, since he is clearly incompetent to the task of public service in a democracy.

[1] The New York Times pointed out the hypocrisy in the US charges against China of espionage for market and corporate purposes, given that US spy agencies interpret their mandate as not only preventing harm and violence, but also maintaining a competitive advantage: “the [US] government does not deny it routinely spies to advance American economic advantage, which is part of its broad definition of how it protects American national security.”

Beyond the hypocrisy of the charge of economic espionage, the US has also conducted outright acts of cyberwar, such as when it used cyberwar techniques to attack and Iranian infrastructure with the Stuxnet computer worm.

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Gaza Fishing Restrictions

Gaza Fishing Restrictions 2012

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Israel Destroys Gaza and Then Profits from Rebuilding It

A recent report suggests that “Israel is earning millions of euros from a de facto policy of preventing non-Israeli reconstruction aid from entering the Gaza Strip.”

Gaza’s infrastructure lays in ruins and will require substantial rebuilding. According to the report, Israel uses its military control over the Gazan economy to enforce Israel-only purchasing on materials.

No formal Israeli ban prevents the import of reconstruction materials that were not made in Israel, but EU sources speaking on condition of anonymity say that in practice, Israeli security demands present them with a fait accompli.

“If you want aid materials to be permitted to enter, they will almost inevitably come from Israeli sources,” an EU official said. “I don’t think you’ll find it written down anywhere in official policy, but when you get to negotiate with the Israelis, this is what happens. It increases construction and transaction costs, and is a political problem that has to be dealt with.” …

The source added that the policy had benefited Israel’s economy to the tune of millions of euros and was, in his view, deliberate.

The European Commission donates some €300 million in development aid to Gaza and the West Bank every year, and around €200 million in humanitarian aid.

The EU official’s allegation received backing from international agencies canvassed by EurActiv and is broadly in line with findings in a UN report due to be published later today (3 September).

The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) study will say that half of all donor assistance to Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza – who the UN body say constitute a captive market – is spent on servicing a trade deficit to Israel.

Israel’s official spokesman, Mark Regev, denied that there was any such internal policy. When pressed to give an example of non-Israel reconstruction materials being let into Gaza, he was unable to do so.

So by destroying Gaza’s factories and production facilities of, say, cement, Israel is also giving itself a de facto monopoly.

While Israel should be paying reparations to Gaza, it is instead insisting that Gaza help lift the Israeli economy.

Gaza is considered by the UNRWA to be rapidly on track to becoming “an unlivable place,” due to lack of basic resources needed for human survival, such as water. A 2012 report held that Gaza would be uninhabitable by 2020, with “virtually no reliable access to sources of safe drinking water” or reliable electricity, and atrocious levels of education and health care, with food-insecurity becoming the norm for most of the population. That was before the recent destruction of Gaza by Israel; now things are even worse.

“lf Gaza was going to be an unliveable place by 2020 – before the latest fighting – it will now be an unliveable place considerably before then,” Christopher Gunness, a spokesman for UNRWA told EurActiv, from the Gaza Strip.

“With at least 20,000 homes damaged or destroyed, with miles of water infrastructure devastated, with millions of gallons of raw sewage flowing into the sea every day, and the corrosive impacts of blockade, the sustainability of Gaza will be even more short lived,” he said.

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Walmart Transfers Costs of Supporting Its Workers to the Public

When corporations don’t pay their workers enough to keep them afloat, the public pays the cost.

From Forbes:

Walmart’s low-wage workers cost U.S. taxpayers an estimated $6.2 billion in public assistance including food stamps, Medicaid and subsidized housing, according to a report published to coincide with Tax Day, April 15.

Americans for Tax Fairness, a coalition of 400 national and state-level progressive groups, made this estimate using data from a 2013 study by Democratic Staff of the U.S. Committee on Education and the Workforce.

“The study estimated the cost to Wisconsin’s taxpayers of Walmart’s low wages and benefits, which often force workers to rely on various public assistance programs,” reads the report, available in full here.

“It found that a single Walmart Supercenter cost taxpayers between $904,542 and $1.75 million per year, or between $3,015 and $5,815 on average for each of 300 workers.”

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End of the Human Era?

Noam Chomsky has a pessimistic, but unfortunately fact-based piece in In These Times:

The likely end of the era of civilization is foreshadowed in a new draft report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the generally conservative monitor of what is happening to the physical world.

The report concludes that increasing greenhouse gas emissions risk “severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts for people and ecosystems” over the coming decades. The world is nearing the temperature when loss of the vast ice sheet over Greenland will be unstoppable. Along with melting Antarctic ice, that could raise sea levels to inundate major cities as well as coastal plains.

The era of civilization coincides closely with the geological epoch of the Holocene, beginning over 11,000 years ago. The previous Pleistocene epoch lasted 2.5 million years. Scientists now suggest that a new epoch began about 250 years ago, the Anthropocene, the period when human activity has had a dramatic impact on the physical world. The rate of change of geological epochs is hard to ignore.

One index of human impact is the extinction of species, now estimated to be at about the same rate as it was 65 million years ago when an asteroid hit the Earth. That is the presumed cause for the ending of the age of the dinosaurs, which opened the way for small mammals to proliferate, and ultimately modern humans. Today, it is humans who are the asteroid, condemning much of life to extinction.

The IPCC report reaffirms that the “vast majority” of known fuel reserves must be left in the ground to avert intolerable risks to future generations. Meanwhile the major energy corporations make no secret of their goal of exploiting these reserves and discovering new ones. …

One of the most feared consequences of anthropogenic global warming is the thawing of permafrost regions. A study in Science magazine warns that “even slightly warmer temperatures [less than anticipated in coming years] could start melting permafrost, which in turn threatens to trigger the release of huge amounts of greenhouse gases trapped in ice,” with possible “fatal consequences” for the global climate.

Arundhati Roy suggests that the “most appropriate metaphor for the insanity of our times” is the Siachen Glacier, where Indian and Pakistani soldiers have killed each other on the highest battlefield in the world. The glacier is now melting and revealing “thousands of empty artillery shells, empty fuel drums, ice axes, old boots, tents and every other kind of waste that thousands of warring human beings generate” in meaningless conflict.

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Bread Riots in 1863

…and a reminder why we have social welfare programs.

From the New Orleans Era (via NYTimes), 1863:

“On Friday, the 4th inst., the women of Mobile, rendered desperate by their sufferings, met in large numbers on the Spring Hill road, with banners on which were printed such devices as “Bread or Blood,” on one side, and “Bread and Peace” on the other, and armed with knives and hatchets, and marched down Dauphine-street, breaking open the stores in their progress, and taking for their use such articles of food or clothing as they were in urgent need of. It was, in fact, a most formidable riot by a long-sufferings and desperate population.

“Gen. MAURY, commanding at Mobile, ordered the Seventeenth Alabama regiment to put down the disturbance by force of arms. The soldiers refused to obey the order, saying that they would, if they took any action, rather assist those starving wives, mothers, sisters and daughters of men who had been forced to fight the battles of the rebellion.”

Gen. MAURY, commanding at Mobile, ordered the Seventeenth Alabama regiment to put down the disturbance by force of arms. The soldiers refused to obey the order, saying that they would, if they took any action, rather assist those starving wives, mothers, sisters and daughters of men who had been forced to fight the battles of the rebellion. Upon the refusal of the Seventeenth, the Mobile Cadets were called upon. Now, the Cadets are known far and wide as a fancy military company, organized for the purpose of holiday show and parade, which has never yet seen service in any field, and probably never will. But being made of sterner stuff than the Seventeenth, which is probably largely made up of mudsills, the Cadets undertook to force these poor, desperate wowen to retire peaceably to their homes. Quite a little scrimmage ensued, resulting in the repulse of “the gallant fellows,” who have figured in the Mobile papers for so many years as capable of material deeds. The Cadets were defeated and taught to fly in their first action, and the mob ruled the hour. Mayor SLOUGH and the Provost-Marshal now appeared, and tried their powers of persuasion. They promised the women that if they would disperse, they should have everything they required. This strategy was more successful than open force, and the rioters went home “promise-crammed.”

In the evening, however, the riot broke out again, more fiercely than ever […].”

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Salaita Case, cont’d

Excerpt from a letter today regarding the Salaita case, written by Jewish students, faculty, and alumni of U Illinois:

Your decision to fire Professor Salaita is in fact what threatens us as Jews. By pointing to anti-Semitism and anti-Judaism in an attempt to obscure politically and financially-motivated University actions, you minimize the Jewish voices of those who have resisted real and violent anti-Semitism. By conflating pointed and justified critique of the Israeli state with anti-Semitism, your administration is effectively disregarding a large and growing number of Jewish perspectives that oppose Israeli military occupation, settler expansion, and the assault on Palestine. We did not survive ethnic cleansing and carry on the legacy of our people to have our existence used to justify the genocide and ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, or their unethical treatment when they speak out against the murder, violence, and displacement of their own people.

Furthermore, we insist that you not minimize the context within which Professor Salaita’s firing has taken place. It is within Palestinian right and that of us all to express opposition to the brutality to which we are and have been bearing witness in Gaza and all of Palestine, and to do so with sharp interrogation and anger. To brand this opposition as uncivil or unsafe enough to warrant the dismissal of a faculty member is not only a violation of academic freedom, it is a clear devaluation of Palestinian existence and personhood, with implications for others whose lives similarly have been and continue to be systematically attacked through state-sanctioned violence.

Corey Robin has extensive coverage and discussion of the Salaita case, as does Phil Weiss here. The case boils down to a simple episode of McCarthyism, in which unpopular views are being silenced by people holding power within institutional structures.

This is becoming an interesting case study of how institutions function internally, how they can be pressured in both conservative and liberating directions. It is also a story of hope, since this sort of thing would almost certainly not have happened only a decade or two ago. Indeed, the denial of tenure to Normal Finkelstein followed similar lines, but in the other direction–in that case, the enforces of doctrinal orthodoxy easily and quickly prevailed, while in this instance there is a growing academic boycott of the university over its decision to censor Salaita’s viewpoint by firing him.

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Some Context for the Current Crisis in Gaza

Zeev Sternhell, an important Israeli historian, commented in 2013 that

 Israel is gradually being distanced from the family of the world’s enlightened nations – by laws being proposed in the Knesset that are founded on openly declared ethnic and national discrimination, and by the oppressive regime in the West Bank.

Gershom Gorenberg describes Jerusalem as “ripping apart” under the tensions and racism now rising to the surface. He is referring to the ruthless rage  and violent tribalism of people such as news blogger David Rubin, who, on the Israel National News site, writes the following:

Saul, the first king of ancient Israel, was removed from the throne by Samuel the Prophet because he didn’t completely obliterate the enemy’s animals, even though he did destroy virtually all of the enemy’s people.

Yes, Saul was in defiance of a specific command to obliterate the Amalekites, but the general lesson for our times is clear: When fighting a war against an enemy, the enemy must be destroyed, and decisively, without excessive concern for who is an active soldier.

However, the first step is to identify the enemy. In this case, the enemy is not just Hamas, which kidnapped and murdered the teenage boys and has been firing rockets at Israeli cities from their strongholds in Gaza for years. The enemy is also Fatah . . . .

And yes, the enemy is also the civilians who voted these two terrorist organizations into power. Not every German was an active Nazi, just as not every Gazan is an active Hamas member, and not every Arab resident of Samaria is an active member of Fatah paying the terrorists to kill Jewish children.

Nonetheless, an enemy is an enemy and the only way to win this war is to destroy the enemy, without excessive regard for who is a soldier and who is a civilian…. [1]

 The trend Sternhell describes is an increasingly explicit racism emerging at all levels of Israeli society. We should note, however, that this is not a new phenomenon. It is an extension of a long history of ethnic exclusion and racist ideology inhabiting central strains of Zionist ideology and practice.

Contempt for Arabs generally and Palestinian natives specifically has from the start been a dominant motif in political Zionism. Racist ideology tends to emerge whenever there is a need to justify racist practices: in this case, those who desired an ethnically pure state in a place that was inhabited by an unwanted ethnic group (see below) were forced to find ways of interpreting and justifying the situation. The earliest emergence of political Zionism was keenly aware of this contradiction. In the wake of the first Zionist Congress, in 1897, the rabbis of Vienna sent a fact-finding mission to Palestine. The mission struck directly at the problem: “The bride is beautiful, but she is married to another man.”

This did not bother Theodor Herzl, however. The father of modern Zionism had already reflected in his diary that to found a Jewish state, the native population would first need to be removed. Herzl notes:

We must expropriate gently . . . We shall have to spirit the penniless population across the border by procuring employment for it in the transit countries, while denying it any employment in our own country . . . Both the process of expropriation and the removal of the poor must be carried out discreetly and circumspectly. [2]

 This nationalistic vision of ethnic expulsion was shared by the Israeli state’s founders, including Ben Gurion. One of the primary instruments for the process of ethnic homogenization was the Jewish National Fund, whose purpose was to transfer property and wealth out of the hands of Arabs and into the hands of Jews. This was euphemistically referred to as “redeeming” the land. The quality or type of person owning the land was irrelevant; in this logic, only ethnicity mattered. Once in the hands of the JNF, the land was considered inalienably Jewish and was never to be sold or rented to any non-Jew, in perpetuity (more on this below).

While the operations of the JNF have been a mostly non-violent means of creating an ethnically-pure ownership class throughout Israel, there has always been a corollary of violence. Israeli commanders from the 1948 war freely talk today about having razed villages and perpetrated acts of terror in order to purge the land of its Arab inhabitants. In 2004, for example, Yitzhak Pundak, commander during the war, told Haaretz:

There were two hundred villages [in the front] and these are gone. We had to destroy them, otherwise we would have had Arabs here [namely in the southern part of Palestine] as we have in Galilee. We would have had another million Palestinians.

He reiterated these comments to IDF Radio in 2013. But this was already well-known, and freely discussed by Israeli figures of state. Moshe Dayan said in a 1969 Haaretz interview, for example,

We came to their country which was already populated by Arabs, and we are establishing a Hebrew, that is a Jewish state here. […] Jewish villages were built in the place of Arab villages. You do not even know the names of these Arab villages, and I do not blame you, because these geography books no longer exist; not only do the books not exist, the Arab villages are not there either. […] There is not one place built in this country that did not have a former Arab population.

But before the Arab towns and villages were flattened, their residents were put to flight, and not permitted to return. The IDF archives from the 1948 war supply voluminous documentation. For example, historian Benny Morris (who has offered the most authoritative accounts of the archives) cites a 1948 IDF report assessing the flight of several hundred thousand Palestinians between December 1947 and June 1948. The report concludes that “at least 55 percent of the total of the exodus was caused by our [Haganah/IDF] operations and by their influence.” [3]

This comes as no surprise, since anti-Arab terror was feature of the war effort. The Irgun command, in the wake of the Deir Yassin massacre, sent an internal message about the “wonderful operation of conquest,” saying: “as in Deir Yassin, so everywhere.” This attitude was not merely a local aberrance, but reflected sentiments from the highest places. Morris reports on a meeting in which Ben Gurion, Allon, Yitzhak Rabin, and others reflected the Hagana attack on Lydda and Ramleh. In response to Allon’s query about what to do with the towns’ 70,000 Arabs, “Ben Gurion made a dismissive, energetic gesture with his hand and said: ‘Expel them (garesh otam).” [4]

This is one example of the ethnic expulsion that took place during the 1948 war (and was extended during the 1967 war). Benny Morris summarizes thus:

During the second stage [of the 1948 war], while there was no blanket policy of expulsion, the Haganah’s Plan D clearly resulted in mass flight. Commanders were authorized to clear the populace out of villages and certain urban districts, and to raze the villages if they felt a military need. Many commanders identified with the aim of ending up with a Jewish state with as small an Arab minority as possible. Some generals, such as Allon, clearly acted as if driven by such a goal. . . .

On June 16, the cabinet . . . resolved to bar the return of [Arab] refugees. The IDF general staff ordered its units to stop would-be returnees with live fire. At the same time the army, the settlements, and the JNF Lands Department took a number of initiatives designed to obviate a return [of Arab refugees to their former homes]. Abandoned villages were razed or mined or, later, filled with new Jewish immigrants, as were abandoned urban neighborhoods; fields were set alight, and landowners still in place were urged to sell out and leave; and new settlements were established on Arab sites and began to cultivate the abandoned fields. (256-57.) [5]

The ideological groundwork for the violence of expulsion had been laid in the decades prior to the war. Pre-state Zionists had developed a consensus that the native Arab population would need to be expelled in order to make room for an ethnically pure Jewish state. Among the most telling documents on this subject is Ben Gurion’s diary. In a 1937 entry, Ben Gurion wrote:

 With the evacuation of the Arab community from the valleys we achieve, for the first time in our history, a real Jewish state [. . .] We achieve the possibility of a giant national settlement, on a large area that is all in the hands of the state [. . .]. As with a magic wand, all the difficulties and defects that preoccupied us until now in our settlement enterprise [will vanish]. [. . .] We are given an opportunity that we never dreamed of and could not dare dream of in our most daring imaginings. [. . .] A continuous block of two and a half million dunams [. . .] the possibility of the new settlement of fifty or one hundred thousand families [. . .] when we have a Jewish state in the country and [outside] a Jewish people 16 million strong we must first of all cast off the weakness of thought and will and prejudice that [says that] this transfer [of the Arab population] is impracticable.”

 [. . . ] Any doubt on our part about the necessity of this transfer, any doubt we cast about the possibility of its implementation, any hesitancy on our part about its justice may lose [us] an historic opportunity that may not recur.”

 [. . .] There are a number of things that [we] struggle for now [but] which we cannot achieve now. For example the Negev. [On the other hand] the evacuation [of the Arabs from] the [Jezreel] Valley we shall achieve now–and, if not, perhaps we will never achieve it. [. . . ] This thing must be done now–and the first step–perhaps the crucial [step]–is conditioning ourselves for its implementation. [6]

The mind frame of one of Zionism’s central players comes across clearly. One month later, Ben Gurion would make the following statement to the 20th Zionist Congress, convened in Zurich:

We do not want to expropriate, [but] transfer of population has already taken place in the [Jezreel] Valley, in the Sharon [Plain] and in other places. You are aware of the work of the Jewish National Fund in this respect. Now a transfer of wholly different dimensions will have to be carried out. In various parts of the country new Jewish settlement will not be possible unless there is a transfer of the Arab fellahin . . . The transfer of the population is what makes possible a comprehensive settlement program. . . . The growing Jewish power in the country will increase our possibilities to carry out a large transfer. [7]

Note again euphemism “transfer” for what we would now call expulsion, ethnic homogenization, or ethnic cleansing. Ben Gurion continued promoting the idea of expelling Arabs from the land, stating in 1938: “I support compulsory transfer. I don’t see in it anything immoral.” [8] There was, according to Morris, a consensus on the matter within the nascent state. The director of the Jewish Agency’s immigration department (Eliahu Dobkin) would say, for example, that “There will be in the country a large [Arab] minority and it must be ejected. There is no room for our internal inhibitions . . . .” [9] These views express an internal consensus within the nascent Israeli state to expel the Arab population from desired territory in Palestine. These views have been copiously documented by during the last three decades, and quotes like those above can be extended considerably.

During the 1948 war, the ideology of expulsion outlined above translated operationally into a strategy of terrorism designed to produce the desired flight of the local population. Morris summarizes thus:

Almost all the massacres followed a similar course: a unit entered a village, rounded up the menfolk in the village square, selected four or ten or fifty of the army-age males (in some cases according to prepared lists. . .), lined them up against a wall, and shot them. Some of the massacres were carried out immediately after the conquest of the village by the assaulting troops, though most occurred in the following days. In some cases (as in Majd al Kurum on 5 or 6 November) the massacres occurred ostensibly as part of the unit’s efforts to forces the villagers to hand over hidden weapons, though more often it seems to have been connected to a process of intimidation geared to provoking the villagers into flight. (as in Ilabun, Jish, etc.). (2007, 55.)

 The systematic discrimination against the Arab population of Israel and Palestinian Territories has been codified into law from the start. Embedded in the JNF’s charter is a notion of explicit ethnic discrimination, such that Jews, and only Jews, may access lands acquired by the JNF. The Israeli state has used this agency as a mechanism for systematically transferring land and property into Jewish-only hands. A 2014 Haaretz editorial reports that

 The JNF owns 13 percent of the regulated lands in Israel, and wields governmental authorities like the power to confiscate lands (purchasing them for public needs). It has signed deals with the state including land swaps and money transfers estimated in the billions of shekels. In 1961 the JNF signed a pact with the state stipulating that JNF lands would be passed to the Israel Land Authority, which would pass the income from the lease-holders and tenants back to the JNF.

After the establishment of Israel, the state sold the JNF lands it had confiscated from Palestinians. In 2009 the state and the JNF signed an “agreement on principles” aimed at giving those who leased JNF lands full ownership of them.

A report by Human Rights Watch outlines the ethnic discrimination at the heart of the JNF’s mission:

 The JNF has a specific mandate to develop land for and lease land only to Jews. Thus the 13 percent of land in Israel owned by the JNF is by definition off-limits to Palestinian Arab citizens….

The JNF acquired approximately 78 percent of its land holdings from the state between 1949 and 1953, much of it the land of Palestinian refugees from the 1948 war that the state confiscated as “absentee property.”

. . . The Jewish National Fund was established in 1901 with the aim of acquiring land in Israel for the settlement of Jews. Under Israeli law the JNF enjoys a special status and is granted the privileges of a public authority. The 1961 Memorandum and Articles of Association of the JNF state that the ILA will administer all JNF-owned lands and that the objectives of the JNF remain to acquire property in Israel “for the purpose of settling Jews on such lands and properties.” The JNF interprets the Memorandum as prohibiting the allocation of its lands to “non-Jews.”

While the JNF’s activities are explicitly discriminatory, Israel’s Basic Laws regarding land fare no better, though they are less explicit in their rhetoric about ethnic-based discrimination. A 2013 report appearing in Haaretz (‘Discrimination Against Israeli Arabs Still Rampant, 10 Years On’) on the legacy of the [Justice Theodore] Or Commission describes the situation as follows:

Based on our organization‘s [i.e., the State Commission of Inquiry] ongoing monitoring of government policy toward Arab citizens, we see that 10 years after the report, not only has there been no redistribution, but the ongoing allocation of resources in almost all spheres is still very unequal. The result is acute inequality in all areas of life.

. . . specifically in the important sphere of land allocation, there has been almost no improvement in the past 10 years.

In order to demonstrate the depth of discrimination we can point out that since the foundation of the state until this day, the two groups – Arabs and Jews – have grown at similar rates (eight to tenfold), but that the state has established 700 (!) new communities for Jews (including new cities) – and not a single one for Arabs, with the exception of permanent towns for Bedouin citizens who were removed from their homes.

But unfortunately, it can be said that not only was there no progress in this sphere, but in recent years a very dangerous political trend is on the rise: Groups on the extreme right, which are members of the governing coalition and even the ruling party, are conducting a political campaign against the rights of Arab citizens. In the previous Knesset, we saw many anti-Arab legislative initiatives, some of which received broad support and, unfortunately, led to new discriminatory laws.

Historian Ilan Pappe summarizes the effect of the ethnic discrimination embedded in Israel’s land laws:

The bottom line of this almost two-decade-long bureaucratic process (1949-1967) was that the legislation regarding the JNF, barring the selling, leasing and sub-letting of land to non-Jews, was put into effect for most of the state lands (more than ninety per cent of Israel’s land) . . . .  [Hence] the Palestinian minority in Israel, seventeen per cent of the total population . . . has been forced to make do with just three per cent of the land. They are allowed to live on only two percent of the land; the remaining one per cent was defined as agricultural land which cannot be built upon. In other words, today 1.3 million people live on that two per cent. (2006, 222.)

 It is in light of this pervasive discrimination and the desire for ethnic purity at the center of Israeli state power that we should assess the current situation in Gaza and the intentions of the present Israeli administration.

Returning to the comments by Zeev Sternhell, he concludes that the racism now emerging in force in Israeli society [10] is a function of the ethnic discrimination at the heart of the state and its Zionist ideology. For Sternhell

 The source of the problem is to be found in [Israel’s] culture, in the concept of the nation as a tribe and in the problematic definition of Jewish identity. It is even harder to avoid the conclusion that the Israeli right – from the Likud and Yisrael Beiteinu to Habayit Hayehudi – is very far to the right of [French far-right leader] Marine Le Pen’s National Front. Compared to most of the cabinet ministers and Knesset members, Le Pen looks like a dangerous leftist.

The path forward, for Sternhell, is clear. Nothing less than an utter rejection of the forms of thinking that lead to ethnic violence, extermination, and prejudice. His assessment is that

In the situation currently prevailing in Europe and Israel, those who do not wage an all-out war on xenophobia and racism are, in effect, making peace with the existence of the most destructive phenomenon in modern history. Ultimately, one must ask whether the current wave of xenophobia is not in principle similar to the anti-Semitism that, in the 1930s, confronted the Jews who lived in western Europe or immigrated there. In other words, is “Islamophobia” today replacing anti-Semitism as a social ill?”

If Sternhell is right, if the regular mass slaughter of Palestinian Arabs and the systematic discrimination against Israeli Arabs is tolerated, if the social categories for success and opportunity thriving on one hand, for suffering and violence–or the very ability to remain alive–on the other, are parsed along ethnic or religious principles, then the true tragedy is that the great lessons of the 20th century’s greatest horrors will not have been learned. If state power is permitted to sort out the forms of life that will be permitted to flourish and those that will be discarded, if the notions of equality before the law and the universality of rights are to remain meaningless in the face of tribal hatred and bloodshed, then civilization will not have advanced beyond those years of horror that formed one bookend of the Israeli state. Rabbi Henry Siegman, born in 1930 in Frankfurt, Germany and escaping Nazi-occupied Europe in 1942, former head of the American Jewish Congress, summarized this point in a recent interview: “The great lesson of the Holocaust is that decent, cultured people, people we would otherwise consider good people, can allow such evil to prevail.” For Siegman, if we are free, and privileged, and live in a democratic society, we have not only the freedom to act, but the responsibility. “The point isn’t, you know, what exactly [the Nazis] did, but the point is the evidence that they gave that decent people can watch evil and do nothing about it. That is the most important lesson of the Holocaust, not the Hitlers and not the SS, but the public that allowed this to happen.”

*

[1] As horrific as Rubin’s comments are, they are par for the course among bloggers on the Israeli National News site. For a grasp of the pervasive dehumanization of Palestinians that has become normalized in right-wing Israeli discourse, see the site’s political cartoons (example) or other bloggers on its Zion’s Corner blog, like William Levinson’s stunningly toxic piece, in which “the entire civilized world” is invited to realize that Islam is equivalent to Nazism, and the prophet Muhammad to Hitler; followers of Islam being “worse than rabid animals (no mammal would choose to get this horrific disease)” and extermination being the only remedy, since “Islamism is a mental disease every bit as deadly as Ebola or the Black Plague.” One might normally assume that fellows like Rubin and Levinson are extreme outliers, except that one hears similar comments, regularly now, coming from the Knesset itself, and anti-Arab mob beatings or lynch attempts have become weekly occurrences in both Jerusalem and the West Bank.

[2] Theodore Herzl, The Complete Diaries of Theodor Herzl, Raphael Patai, ed., 1960, vol. I, 88 (June 12, 1895).

[3] “The Emigration of the Arabs of Palestine in the Period 12/1/1947-6/1/1948.” Benny Morris, 1948 and After, 1990. Cited by Mark Tessler, A History of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, 2009, 297.

[4] Cited in Tessler, 297. Morris summarizes the Dair Yassin massacre’s planning in the following terms:

 “The IZL men . . . [informed the Haganah that they were] interested in mounting a separate, independent operation. Deir Yassin was targeted. In the planning meetings between IZL and LHI officers, they agreed to expel the inhabitants. The LHI men proposed that villages who did not run away should be killed in order to terrify the country’s Arabs.”

 “. . . [T]he news of what had happened . . . had a profoundly demoralizing effect on the Palestinian Arabs and was a major factor in their massive flight during the following weeks and months. The IDF Intelligence Service called Deir Yassin “a decisive accelerating factor” in the general Arab exodus.” (1999, 207-209.)

 [5] Note the euphemism “abandoned” in place of emptied, cleared, or evacuated. Note as well that  Morris’s conclusion that “there was no blanket policy of expulsion” is not shared by other important historians, such as Walid Khalidi, Ilan Pappé, Simha Flapan, and Avi Shlaim, who do find evidence of a blanket policy of expulsion (i.e., Plan Dalet). Morris acknowledges the expulsion plan’s existence. Morris came under fire for his exclusive use of Israeli state sources, and failure to acknowledge Arab sources. In more recent work (2007) he has admitted that the situation is more “ambiguous” than he had claimed (55).

[6] My emphasis. Cited by Morris, “Revisiting the Palestinian Exodus of 1948,” in Rogan and Shlaim, ed., The War for Palestine, 2007, 41-43.)

[7] Cited by Morris, 2007, 43.

[8] Morris, 2007, 44.

[9] Morris, 2007, 47.

[10] Besides the instances referenced above, see this 2012 survey reported by Haaretz, finding that “A third of the Jewish public wants a law barring Israeli Arabs from voting for the Knesset”; “Almost half the Jews, 49 percent, want the state to treat Jewish citizens better than Arab ones; 42 percent don’t want to live in the same building with Arabs and 42 percent don’t want their children in the same class with Arab children.”

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In Gaza, a War on Children

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Stop the Slaughter in Gaza

The video below, of the Shejaiya massacre (July 17) is worth watching in order to see what the conflict looks like close up.

There can be no justification for Israel’s assault, which has now claimed the lives of over 1,000 Gazans, most of them (77%) civilians, as of July 27. Over 150 children have been killed.

Israel first claimed that its attack on Hamas was related to the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli youths in the West Bank (“Hamas is responsible and Hamas will pay,” Netanyahu said to justify Israel’s massive repression during “Operation Brother’s Keeper”.) No evidence was ever adduced to support the claim, which reeked of opportunism (hundreds of Hamas operatives were kidnapped and arrested by Israel in a matter of days), and now Israeli officials have admitted it was false (NY Daily Mag: “But now, officials admit the kidnappings were not Hamas’s handiwork after all.”)

Later, Israel claimed it was attacking Gaza because in order to stop Hamas from firing rockets over the border at Israeli cities. But, in fact Hamas had dutifully kept the ceasefire until Israel broke it (see Times of Israel, 6/30/14, admitting that rockets fired toward Israel for “the first time in years” were “in revenge” for an Israeli airstrike several hours earlier, making clear that Israel, not Hamas, had broken the ceasefire: “Hamas hasn’t fired rockets into Israel since Operation Pillar of Defense ended in November 2012”; the break in the ceasefire was “probably … in revenge for an Israeli airstrike several hours earlier which killed one person and injured three more.)”

Given that Israel could have continued the ceasefire agreement, which had successfully prevented rocket attacks for “years” according to the Times of Israel (cited above), we can dismiss the claim that Israel’s attack on Gaza is intended to prevent rocket attacks. (In fact, it has precisely the opposite effect. Prior to the current Israeli operation, there were no rocket attacks by Hamas on Israel; in response to the Israeli slaughter of Gazans and the mass arrests of Hamas operatives, there have now been hundreds of rockets fired toward Israel. If Israel really wanted to eliminate rocket attacks, it would have kept the ceasefire instead of launching an unprovoked terror attack on Gaza, and it would have sought to make the ceasefire permanent by negotiating a just peace.)

Finally, Israel complains that Hamas is building tunnels, and that these must be shut down. Here, Israel truly has no leg to stand on. Hamas is indeed building tunnels, but that is because Gaza is under an illegal and brutal siege. Israel is in flagrant violation of international law by its imposing collective punishment on the 1.8 million people living in Gaza, whose calories are restricted by Israel, with state actors literally describing plans to “put the Palestinians on a diet” by restricting their access to food [1]; who are not allowed to build or import cement, whose water and sewage plants are regularly destroyed by Israel, and who are not permitted to engage in international commerce, to fish off their own coast, or to leave their country. Israeli officials have made clear in leaked documents that they have designed policies intended to keep Gaza’s economy “on the brink of collapse” (Haaretz, 1/5/11), intensifying what scholar Sara Roy has called the intentional “de-development of Gaza.” Leaked US cables from 2008 cite the following, according to Haaretz:

As part of their overall embargo plan against Gaza, Israeli officials have confirmed to (U.S. embassy economic officers) on multiple occasions that they intend to keep the Gazan economy on the brink of collapse without quite pushing it over the edge.”

… Israel wanted the coastal territory’s economy “functioning at the lowest level possible consistent with avoiding a humanitarian crisis”, according to the Nov. 3, 2008 [US] cable.

To give an idea of  the level of control Israel exercises over Gaza, see this excerpt pulled at random from a 2010 update on the blockade:

On 20 June 2010, Israeli Authority alleviated the imports restrictions for some commercial goods. The new list comprise mainly consumer goods, such as: new type of fruits (e.g. coco‐nut), jam, halawa, chips, ketchup and mayonnaise, chocolate, cacao, biscuits, nuts, vinegar, shaving brush and cream, razor blades, perfume and other cosmetic products, agriculture materials, kitchen kits,  stationary, paper rolls, toys, mattresses, towels, thread, tape recorders, garden carts. Earlier in June 2010, the following items were allowed to enter into the Gaza  Strip through the official  crossing: soft  drinks,  furniture, some  construction tools, paints, washing machines, fridges, electrical wire, sanitary towels and toilet equipments.

A UNRWA spokeman in 2009 complained that “Two hundred and twenty-one schools for 200,000 children only have 40 percent of their books because we can’t get paper and glue into Gaza.”

Given that Gaza is not permitted to export its produce or manufacture (Gisha: “Overall yearly export from Gaza is now at 2% of what it was prior to the closure”), that the import of items like ketchup and soft drinks is restricted at will by Israel, and that even the resources for construction, such as cement, and for water purification and sewage treatment are regularly barred from entering Gaza, one understands why the Strip is sometimes referred to as the world’s largest open-air prison.

In sum, this is the very definition of collective punishment. You cannot legitimately punish children for their parents’ offenses; nor can you punish a civilian population when you disapprove of the activities of its government. International law is crystal clear on this, meaning that Israel is acting as a criminal state.

Given that Israel is an occupying force imposing a criminal blockade on a defenseless population, and that it regularly brutalizes, dismantles, and destroys Palestinian society, it has no moral standing from which to accuse Hamas of launching rockets out of Gaza. If I am on the sidewalk and my neighbor kicks me, I might legitimately complain. But if I invade my neighbors house and hold him at gunpoint, then he kicks me, I have no grounds for any kind of complaint. The moral logic here is straightforward: if you are involved in egregiously criminal behavior, you have no standing for complaining about the methods of your victims’ resistance. Law professor George Bisharat describes the situation from the viewpoint of international law:

Israel still exercises effective control over the region by controlling its airspace, coast and territorial waters, land borders (with Egypt), electromagnetic fields, electricity and fuel supply. Accordingly, Israel remains an occupying power under international law.

…self-defense cannot be claimed by a state that initiates violence, as Israel did in its crackdown on Hamas in the West Bank, arresting more than 400, searching 2,200 homes and other sites, and killing at least nine Palestinians. There is no evidence that the terrible murders of three Israeli youths that Israel claimed as justification for the crackdown were anything other than private criminal acts that do not trigger a nation’s right of self-defense (were an American citizen, or even a Drug Enforcement Administration agent killed by drug traffickers on our border with Mexico, that would not entitle us to bomb Mexico City).

Hamas and other groups began to intensify rocket fire only after Israel’s provocation. Prior to that, Hamas had proved itself a reliable partner for calm along the Gaza border, withholding rocket fire for nearly two years and largely curbing attacks by other groups.

Israel has accused Hamas of acting as a terrorist organization. But if terrorism means anything at all, it means the targeting and harming of civilians to achieve political goals. By this rubric, Hamas has indeed committed terrorist acts–but at only a tiny fraction of the level of Israel’s own actions. Simple statistics demonstrate this with the utmost clarity. In the last two weeks, zero Israeli children have been killed, while over 150 Palestinian children have been killed by the Israeli military. The killing of Palestinian children by Israel has been a long-term trend, according to a recent Haaretz report. Since 2000, “1,520 Palestinian children have been killed and approximately 6,000 injured by the Israeli military in the past 14 years”, the equivalent of one child every three days, with 10,000 arrested since 2000 and around 200 presently being held in custody, often in deplorable conditions. Save the Children, the UN Children Fund and B’Tselem have regularly issued reports condemning Israel’s conduct toward Palestinian children.

These are just the facts regarding children, however, all forms of Palestinian civilian life suffer massively under Israeli occupation. This underscores the point that Israel targets civilians enormously to achieve its political objectives, and therefore has no principled grounds from which to accuse Hamas or any other group of terrorism. That Israel can in one breath condemn the blind firing of 20-lb. Hamas rockets over the wall and then in a single night drop 100 tons of bombs on Gazan civilians should make clear the level of hypocrisy in Israel’s claim to be against terrorism. [2]

Note that the US gives Israel $3 bill./year in aid. Besides the question of why the US puts Israel on welfare when it has its own problems to deal with at home, the larger issue is that the US is supporting criminal activity. Insofar as the US is democratic, US citizens are also complicit in Israel’s crimes. During the Nuremberg Tribunals in the aftermath of WWII, the US prosecutor, Justice Jackson, described international law in these terms:
“We must never forget that the record on which we judge these defendants today is the record on which history will judge us tomorrow. To pass these defendants a poisoned chalice is to put it to our own lips as well.”

In passing judgment on Nazi crimes, the US was willing to establish the moral principles by which all states should be judged. The great event of the Nuremberg Tribunals was the codification of moral principle into law on an international platform, and the precedent of holding states accountable for crimes against humankind. If the US wishes to be in line with these principles, and to participate in the civilizing processes of the world, then US citizens must pressure their state into compliance with international law and support for basic human rights.

*

[1] On Israel’s intentionally-imposed malnourishing of Gazan children, see also Juan Cole, The Guardian, Jonathon Cook, and Electronic Intifada. On the effects on children, see the data and resources here.

[2] According to a Guardian report, “about 3,000 tons of explosives have been dropped on Gaza in the first 15 days of the conflict.”

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FURTHER RESOURCES ON RECENT EVENTS

Muhammed Omer, NYTimes, 7/22/14, A first-hand account:

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/23/opinion/gaza-under-israels-onslaught.html

Nights are the worst. That is when the bombing escalates. Nowhere is safe. Not a mosque. Not a church. Not a school, or even a hospital. All are potential targets.

On Monday, the Israeli military fired artillery rounds at Al Aqsa hospital in Deir al-Balah, central Gaza, claiming to target a cache of anti-tank missiles. Dr. Khalil Khattab, a surgeon, was operating on a patient when the first shell struck. He ran to the floors below to discover at least four dead and dozens of colleagues — doctors, nurses, orderlies and administrators — injured. The medical staff had become patients.

The Gaza Strip — a little less than half the size of New York City — is home to 1.8 million people, mainly Muslims, with a small Christian minority. Its population is cut off from the world, living under the blockade imposed by Egypt and Israel in 2007. For anyone over the age of 7, this is the third time they’ve lived through a sustained attack.

In two weeks of bombing and shelling, more than 600 Palestinians have been reported killed. Since the Israeli ground invasion began, 28 Israeli soldiers have died; the conflict has also claimed the lives of two Israeli civilians.

Here in Gaza City, the electricity was gone; it was dark everywhere. The water supply was foul, food was rancid, and fear permeated the summer night.

*

First-hand accounts of Gaza assault by UNRWA official and reporter Sharif Abdul Kouddous:

http://www.democracynow.org/2014/7/25/no_safe_place_after_deadly_attack

UNRWA official:

Gaza has a fence around it. It’s unique in the annals of contemporary warfare in being a conflict which has a fence around it, so there is nowhere to run. But even within Gaza, there is no safe place. If the parties to this conflict have shown themselves callous enough to be able to hit a clearly designated, clearly marked U.N. compound, where hundreds of people have come to take safe sanctuary, we cannot guarantee anymore the safety, the safe sanctuary of our installations. It is utterly appalling that in a war zone today, with so many United Nations-assisted beneficiaries, so many U.N.-designated safe shelters, that this sort of thing is happening. It is appalling.

*

http://www.democracynow.org/2014/7/21/sharif_abdel_kouddous_on_israels_gaza

I’ve come from the site of yet another massacre. Twenty-four members—at least 24 members of the same [Abu Jamaa] family were killed in their own home in an F-16 strike in Khan Younis. This happened last night at around Iftar, during the sunset call to prayer, the time that Muslims sit to break their fast. And an F-16 missile strike hit this family in their home as they were sitting down to eat. A grandmother, her three sons, their wives and all their children were killed. I went to the site where the house was. The house is completely gone. There’s only a crater left. The family says—the surviving family members said that they used two cranes and a bulldozer, working for 12 hours throughout the night, to retrieve all the bodies out.

At the hospital morgue, it was really a very difficult scene. One of the dead was less than one years old. She was still, you know, in her Pampers, dead. A father of one of the women killed said that the bodies were dispersed between two hospitals in Khan Younis—14 in one and 10 in the other. And the father had to go to two hospitals to pick up one of his daughters’ bodies, because half of her was in one hospital and half of her was in the other.

This is the kind of tragedies that we hear almost on a daily basis here in Gaza. Families are being wiped out in such massive numbers. There’s the al-Batsh family who lost 18 members in an airstrike last week. I went to near Beit Hanoun in the north the other day where a family—eight of them were killed while they were sitting, watching TV when a tank shell, an artillery shell, hit their home, so—while they were watching TV. So this is a very—this is a war on civilians.

IMAGES

crater crater crater3 crater4

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Incitement and Violence against Arabs in Israel Today

Benjamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister of Israel, in context of the kidnapping of three Israeli youths (6/30/14):

 “Vengeance for the blood of a small child, Satan has not yet created.”

 Rabbi Noam Perel, secretary-general of Bnei Akiva (worldwide Jewish youth movement) (Haaretz, 7/2/14):

“An entire nation and thousands of years of history demand revenge,” Perel posted on his Facebook page, shortly after the bodies were found.

 “The government of Israel is gathering for a revenge meeting that isn’t a grief meeting. The landlord has gone mad at the sight of his sons’ bodies. A government that turns the army of searchers to an army of avengers, an army that will not stop at 300 Philistine foreskins,” Perel wrote, alluding to the biblical tale of David, who killed 200 Philistines and gave their foreskins to King Saul as the bride price for his daughter.

 “The disgrace will be paid for with the blood of the enemy, not with our tears,” Perel concluded.

 Ayelet Shaked, Knesset member (Jewish Home party [Habeyit Hayehudi]), chairwomen of My Israel (Zionist activist organization) (7/7/14):

 “The Palestinian people has declared war on us, and we must respond with war.”

 “This is a war between two people. Who is the enemy? The Palestinian people. Why? Ask them, they started.”

 “The morals of war accept as correct in principle, not only politically, what America has done in Afghanistan, including the massive bombing of populated places, including the creation of a refugee stream of hundreds of thousands of people who escaped the horrors of war, for thousands of whom there is no home to return to.”

 “And in our war this is sevenfold more correct, because the enemy soldiers hide out among the population, and it is only through its support that they can fight. Behind every terrorist stand dozens of men and women, without whom he could not engage in terrorism.”

 “Now this also includes the mothers of the martyrs, who send them to hell with flowers and kisses. They should follow their sons, nothing would be more just. They should go, as should the physical homes in which they raised the snakes. Otherwise, more little snakes will be raised there.”

 WHAT YOU GET FOR BEING ARAB IN ISRAEL TODAY

 You can get shoved into a pool by a stranger for appearing Arab (7/5/14):

“When asked in a comment if the woman she shoved was elderly, she responded, ‘No just some effing Arab, 30 years old tops.’

  You can get severely beaten for being Arab:

7/4/14:

“A video that emerged on Thursday shows three Border Police officers hitting a Palestinian detainee who is cuffed and is lying on the floor. One of the officers appears to be sitting on the youth while his colleague is kicking and punching him. Another video of the incident, filmed from a different angle, shows the officers dragging the unconscious detainee away.”

And here, here.

And: 7/5/14.

 You can get burned alive for being Arab (7/5/14):

 “Muhammad Abu Khdeir, the 16-year-old Palestinian whose body was found in a Jerusalem forest last Wednesday, was burned alive, according to Palestinian Attorney General Muhammad Abd al-Ghani Uweili.

“Palestinian independent news agency Ma’an quoted Uweili as saying that a preliminary autopsy report showed soot in the victim’s lungs and respiratory tract, indicating he was alive and breathing while he was being burnt.”

And here.

You must fear for your life at times for being Arab:

7/5/14: “Hundreds, maybe thousands are banging on the windows of the train. “Death to the Arabs”, they are chanting. I am scared. I hide behind my sunglasses. I pray that they will not recognize my nationality.”

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State Surveillance Debate: Glenn Greenwald v. Former NSA Chief

In Canada, Glenn Greenwald and Reddit founder Alexis Ohanimoves debated against former NSA chief Michael Hayden and Alan Dershowitz. It’s a great debate.

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Drones–A Closer Look (Documentaries and Testimony)

The documentary below is useful for its close-up look at drones. It’s obviously made in complicity with the US military, which must have come with plenty of strings attached.

The other material below sheds light on the US military’s claim that it does not target civilians except in extremely rare circumstances, and on the notion that it abides by international law in regard to the use of military force by targeting only legitimate targets within a declared war zone.

 

 

See below video on drone operators, 0:00-4:35:

 

Farea Al-Muslimi, testimony before Congress

 

Brandon Bryant, US air force drone operator

GQ interview:

http://www.gq.com/news-politics/big-issues/201311/drone-uav-pilot-assassination

Video testimony: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i_l6ec62l6I

Malala Yousafzai, meeting with President Obama

Malala was 16 when she was shot in the head by the Taliban for her activist work supporting girls and women in education. During her trip to the US, she was allowed to meet with Obama.

She basically said that while the Taliban are trying to kill her for activism, the US is killing people like her all the time as well with its drone program.

Washington Post:

The Obamas welcomed Yousafzai to the Oval Office “to thank her for her inspiring and passionate work on behalf of girls education in Pakistan,” according to a statement issued by the White House. …

“I thanked President Obama for the United States’ work in supporting education in Pakistan and Afghanistan and for Syrian refugees,” Yousafzai said in a statement published by the Associated Press. “I also expressed my concerns that drone attacks are fueling terrorism. Innocent victims are killed in these acts, and they lead to resentment among the Pakistani people.

What it’s like to get hit by a drone strike:

gawker:

This excerpt concerns the January 23, 2009 drone strike, which led to a substantial number of civilian casualties—among them 14-year-old Faheem Qureshi, who suffered a skull fracture and lost and eye. …

“The missiles fired from drones kill or injure in several ways, including through incineration, shrapnel, and the release of powerful blast waves capable of crushing internal organs,” the report says. “Those who do survive drone strikes often suffer disfiguring burns and shrapnel wounds, limb amputations, as well as vision and hearing loss.” As this account begins, a group of guests and relatives are gathered in the home of village elder Mohammed Khalil. …

At about 5:00 that evening, they heard the hissing sound of a missile and instinctively bent their heads down. The missile slammed into the center of the room, blowing off the ceiling and roof, and shattering all the windows. The immense pressure from the impact cracked the walls of the attached house, as well as those of the neighboring houses. …

In the moments after the strike, Faheem said he “could not think.” “I felt my brain stopped working and my heart was on fire,” stated Faheem. “My entire body was burning like crazy.” …

doctors operated to remove shrapnel from his abdomen and repair damage to his leg, arm, and eyes. Following the surgery, Faheem was transferred to a private hospital in Peshawar, where he remained for at least 23 days. In the end, Faheem lost his left eye, which has since been replaced by an artificial one; he also lost his hearing in one ear as a result of damage to his eardrum. His vision in his right eye is still blurred, requiring ongoing treatment, and he now has only limited mobility. …

Ejaz Ahmad, who lives just a few kilometers away, did not attend the gathering in the hujra that evening, and was instead at a friend’s home. He discovered the next morning that his paternal uncle, Khush Dil Khan, in whose hardware store Ejaz worked, died in the strike. “The bodies were completely destroyed,” Ejaz stated. “All we could retrieve was the torso and upwards.”

Glenn Greenwald comments:

All the way back in 2004, the Rumsfeld Pentagon commissioned a study to determine the causes of anti-US terrorism, and even it concluded: “Muslims do not ‘hate our freedom,’ but rather, they hate our policies.” Running around the world beating your chest, bellowing “we’re at war!”, and bombing multiple Muslim countries does not keep one safe. It manifestly does the opposite, since it ensures that even the most rational people will calculate that targeting Americans with violence in response is just and necessary to deter further aggression.

A one-day attack on US soil eleven years ago unleashed a never-ending campaign of violence around the world from the target and its allies. Is it really a challenge to understand that continuous bombings and civilian-killing assaults over many years, in many Muslim countries, will generate the same desire for aggression and vengeance against the US?

Time and again, those who have attempted to perpetrate attacks on US soil have cited the Muslim children and other innocent human beings extinguished by Obama’s drones. Recall the words of the attempted Times Square bomber, Pakistani-American Faisal Shahzad, at his sentencing hearing when the federal judge presiding over his case, Miriam Goldman Cedarbaum, asked incredulously how he could possibly use violence that he knew would result in the deaths even of innocent children — as though she were literally unaware that her own government continuously does exactly that:

“‘Well, the drone hits in Afghanistan and Iraq, they don’t see children, they don’t see anybody. They kill women, children, they kill everybody. It’s a war, and in war, they kill people. They’re killing all Muslims’ . . . .

“‘I am part of the answer to the U.S. terrorizing the Muslim nations and the Muslim people. And, on behalf of that, I’m avenging the attack. Living in the United States, Americans only care about their own people, but they don’t care about the people elsewhere in the world when they die.'”

Perhaps most importantly, the report documents the extreme levels of propaganda used by the western press to deceive their citizens into believing pure myths about the drone campaign. As I’ve argued before, the worst of these myths is the journalistic mimicry of the term “militants” to describe drone victims even when those outlets have no idea who was killed or whether that term is accurate (indeed, the term itself is almost as ill-defined as “terrorist”). This media practice became particularly inexcusable after the New York Times revealed in May that “Mr. Obama embraced a disputed method for counting civilian casualties that did little to box him in. It in effect counts all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants.” …

As the LA Times summarizes the study’s findings today: “Far more civilians have been killed by U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan’s tribal areas than U.S. counter-terrorism officials have acknowledged.”

Tiny drones, the size of birds or butterflies, that can see through walls:

 

The Death Lists:

Drones in Yemen Drones Yemen 2Pakistan:

Pakistan4Pakistan5Pakistan3

Pakistan1Pakistan2

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“Environmental Extremism”

 

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“Most Dangerous Woman in America”–Emma Goldman

One highlight at 58:50–1:03:00, below.

Goldman gets literally thrown out of the country (in 1918) for saying the wrong things. Free speech country? Not at that time.

Emma Goldman was arrested in 1916 for speaking about women’s contraception. Free speech nation indeed. Later, she served was arrested, fined $10,000, and finally served two years for publicly opposing the WWI draft. She pointed out in court that it was something of a contradiction for America to be putatively fighting for democracy abroad, when there was so little democracy and free speech at home, her arrest as a case in point. The jury took one hour to deliver a guilty plea.

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Goldman was initially enthralled at the Russian Bolshevik overthrow of the Tsarist state. Welcome to a Workers’ Democracy, she thought. But after over a year there witnessing tyranny and starvation, and after observing the fate of the Kronstadt Revolt, she saw what an authoritarian turn the Russian Revolution had taken. She soon published her condemnation of the Bolsheviks in her pamphlet My Disillusionment in Russia.

Goldman is an interesting symbol for the fate of one strain of radical thought in America. It was destroyed, under Palmer and Hoover, by state violence. Goldman died in exile, at age 70, in 1940.

Here is an interview from Goldman when she was 25.

Here is her arrest record.

 

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Socialism Misunderstood–It Means More Democracy, Not Less

Socialism is poorly understood in the US. What is crucially missed is that socialism means more democracy and freedom, not less.

Socialism, classically, means submitting the means of production to democratic control. If one wants to avoid the term “socialism,” because of its negative connotations in the US and elsewhere, one can simply refer to a Workers’ Democracy. As a writer in the Lowell “factory girls” publication Voice of Industry (1848) once put it, “They who work in the mills ought to own them” [1].

Nearly a century’s worth of state propaganda regarding socialism emanating from the US and the USSR has intensely distorted the public understanding of the concept. Many associate it with state monopoly, authoritarian central planning, and a police state. If socialism meant any of these things, it should justly be discarded in the waste bin of history.imagine

But outside of state-issued propaganda, socialism has traditionally meant the opposite of these things: it has meant worker freedom and worker democracy. This is in contrast to both state and private authoritarianism, whether it goes under the propaganda labels of “democratic,” “capitalist,” or “socialist.”

For further discussion of this issue, see the interview of the editors of a new book on this matter, Imagine Living in a Socialist USA.

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[1] Norman Ware, The Industrial Worker, 1990 (1924), 79.

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