Archive for December, 2013
Snow Job About Israel-Palestine – An Analysis (23 December 2013) by Lawrence Davidson
Part I – A Snowy Sky in Jerusalem
In our house we get the New York Times (NYT) because the Philadelphia Inquirers (that is our city paper) coverage of international affairs is very limited. Sometimes I wonder why we bother. One can find a more thorough and certainly more balanced coverage on the web. However, we still enjoy the tradition of perusing a newspaper at the breakfast table.
It is important to keep in mind that a newspaper, or any media source, really, is a reflection of the political and cultural sensibilities of its owners and managers. So you can politically and culturally peg those who run a media outlet such as a newspaper by what makes up its content as well as what is left out.
For instance, take the front page of the NYT for Saturday, 14 December 2013. There, above the fold, we find a large picture of what looks like a resort in the middle of a snowstorm. The description under the picture orients us: Under a Snowy Sky in Jerusalem, Laps in a Pool. A snowstorm around Jerusalem disrupted travel and electricity on Friday but did not deter a swimmer at the David Citadel Hotel. Beyond these few words there is no story. There is just the picture of what is an unusual climatic occurrence. Yet the photo also presents an image of Israel as a well-developed place. Some might see the photo as proof of their conviction that the Israelis really have made the desert bloom – with swimming pools.
Part II – What Is Left Out?
One thing you will not learn from the NYT is that Israeli development is always balanced by Palestinian de-development. This is the inevitable result of the fact that Israel is a nation built on property acquired through a long and ongoing process of ethnic cleansing. This consistent off-setting of development with de-development is reflected in present-day conditions in the Gaza Strip.
On the same day that the NYT put its poolside Snowy Sky in Jerusalem picture on its front page, a spokesperson for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) stated Large swathes of Gaza are a disaster area with water as far as the eye could see. … Any normal community would struggle to recover from this disaster. But a community that has been subjected to one of the longest blockades in human history, whose public health system has been destroyed and where the risk of disease was already rife, must be freed from these man-made constraints to deal with the impact of a natural calamity such as this.
The flooding in the Gaza Strip is in part a consequence of the same snowy weather depicted in the NYTs Jerusalem photo. However, it is also the consequence of Israels systematic destruction of the infrastructure of the Gaza. That process of de-development has been going on for a long time. Thus, no one should be impressed because the Israelis, responding belatedly and half-heartedly, recently permitted into Gaza two weeks worth of fuel and some pumps to help with the flooding. These were not timely gifts from a concerned neighbor. Most of these supplies were paid for by Qatar. It is to be noted that Gazas only power plant went dead months ago thanks to Israels refusal (here assisted by the blockade of Gaza imposed by the truly wretched military dictatorship in Egypt) to allow the importation of adequate fuel supplies and replacement parts for its infrastructural equipment. Gazans have been subsisting on an average of three hours of electricity per day.
On 15 December 2013 the NYT did print a piece entitled Gaza, Vexed by Floods, Gets Fuel and Power. However, reading this piece (which did not include the UNRWA statement) you get the impression that the Israelis have nothing to do with Gazas problems. The article makes it seen that the fault lies with the West Bank Palestine Authority (PA). It claims, that the PA can always ship oil to Gaza through Israel. This is a highly misleading claim, for the Israelis regulate the importation of fuel to a trickle of the populations real need. However, the article goes on to claim that the PA taxes the fuel and this contributes to its scarcity in Gaza. Laying the blame on the Palestine Authority, as awful as the organization otherwise might be, is a terrible distortion of the truth.
Part III – Rationalizations
Of course, both the Israelis and those who run the NYT have their reasons for acting as they do.
The Israeli rationale goes something like this: The Palestinians hate us and want to destroy our state. The Hamas government in Gaza even fires missiles into southern Israeli cities. We keep all the people of Gaza locked up in order to protect ourselves from their enmity.
Yes, some of this is accurate. But why deal with the situation by locking 1.6 million people up in a ghetto, reducing them to poverty, and systematically destroying their infrastructure? (A particularly ironic strategy by a state, Israel, that claims to represent a people who were themselves oppressed in ghettos.) Is it revenge for those missile attacks which are themselves revenge for Israeli aggression? Despite the fact that Israeli hatred and fear of the Palestinians quite equals that of their adversaries, I dont think the revenge hypothesis fully explains Israeli behavior.
It is probable that the Israelis would have no need to implement their ghetto strategy if they were ready to reach a just and fair solution with all of the Palestinians (the PA represents only a shrinking minority). However, they are not willing to do this, so the ghetto strategy follows naturally. As long as Israel persists in stealing Palestinian land in a process of relentless expansion, they must convince themselves of the irreconcilable nature of the conflict and persecute not only those who would resist, but the entire population of Palestinians.
How about the NYT? Why is it that its staff refuse to accurately contextualize the papers coverage of Israel-Palestine? Part of the answer is to be found in the imperatives of running a newspaper business (that is, selling advertising) in the ethnic climate of New York City. However, to this must be added the fact that most of the NYTs editors and reporters working on Israeli and Palestinian issues are just the latest generation in a long line of supporters of the Zionist movement. They probably prefer so-called moderate Zionists rather than hard-core Likud-style ones such as Benjamin Netanyahu, but in practice this does not matter. They are sufficiently dedicated to Israel as a Jewish State to support it regardless of its sins. Thus, de facto, the NYTs self-censors when it comes to Israels behavior.
Part IV – Alternative Reads
Of course, readers are not limited to the NYT or any of the mainstream media. The World Wide Web has liberated us from these sources if only we know about the alternatives and take the time to go to them. I encourage readers to consult the links at the side of the home page of my blog, www.tothepointanalyses.com, for some of these important sources. In addition I have listed below other examples of sites that give a different take on U.S. government behavior both at home and abroad:
— Electronic Intifada at http://electronicintifada.net/
— Middle East Research and Information Project at http://www.merip.org/
— Washington Report on Middle East Affairs at http://www.wrmea.org/
— Mondoweiss at http://mondoweiss.net/
— Maan News Agency at http://www.maannews.net/ENG/
— 972 Magazine at http://972mag.com/
There are many others as well. The important point is not to remain passive and, out of inertia, simply rely the mainstream media at hand. To do so is to lock yourself away in a small and easily manipulated world that, almost inevitably, will have you justifying unnecessary warlike actions against peoples whose enemy status is based more on propaganda than truth.
The real world is much larger. It deserves a bit of effort to get an accurate sense of what is happening to it, and to you.
Israel: Legitimacy and Behavior – an Analysis (11 December 2013) by Lawrence Davidson
Part I – Separating Legitimacy and Behavior
In the year 1762 the King of Prussia, Frederick II, launched an unprovoked attack on Austria with the aim of conquering the province of Silesia. One hundred and two years later, in 1864, Otto von Bismarck, then prime minister of Prussia, provoked a war with Denmark in order to seize the Danish provinces of Schleswig and Holstein. Since its founding, the United States has launched over 330 mostly unwarranted foreign military interventions around the globe. Concurrently the U.S. existed as a slave state until 1865 and then practiced institutional racism right up into the 1960s. Throughout all of this history the citizens of these countries never doubted the legitimacy of their nation-states.
This discounting of violent and inhumane policies reflects a long tradition that asserts that if a state exists, that is, if it has a government that can exercise sovereignty over territory, it is automatically legitimate. In this way the idea of legitimacy has been separated from the fact of behavior. If you think about it, this is the equivalent of saying a killer is a legitimate member of society simply because he of she is alive and occupying space. In both cases it is true that the state and the person exist, but can either really be judged legitimate members of their respective communities apart from their behavior? In the case of criminals, no society separates legitimacy and behavior. Criminal behavior leads us to try to rehabilitate the offender or segregate him or her from the population through incarceration. Dealing with states which act in criminal ways is, of course, more complicated.
Part II – The Zionist Gambit
Most Zionists play this game of separating legitimacy from behavior when they defend against those who question Israels right to be. For them, it should not matter if, like Prussia, Israel steals others land, and it should not matter if, like pre-civil rights America, Israel practices institutional racism. For most Zionists such behavior has nothing to do with Israels legitimacy as a country.
Take, for instance, Leon Wieseltier, a well-known and highly educated American Zionist, who goes down this road of separating legitimacy from behavior in support of Israel. He does this in a 24 November 2013 New York Times Book review of Ari Shavits My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel.
Here are some of the points Wieseltier makes:
— Too much of the discourse on Israel is a doubting discourse. … As if some fundamental acceptance of its reality is pending upon the resolution of its many problems … consigning it to a historical provisionality. … As if anybody has the authority to declare that the experiment has failed, and to try to do something about it. Wieseltier concludes that Israel is not a proposition, it is a country.
— Wieseltier likes Shavits book because the author recover(s) the feeling of Israels facticity and revel(s) in it, to restore the grandeur of the simple fact in full view of the complicated facts. And, of course, there are plenty of reprehensible complicated facts for which both author and reviewer recognize the Zionist state’s responsibility.
For instance, Wieseltier cites Shavits narrative of the massacre and expulsion of the Arabs of Lydda by Israeli forces in the war of 1948. He sees this recounting as an example of the authors facing Israels crimes forthrightly. Yet, for Wieseltier, nation-states per se often act in a criminal fashion and so, in the end, we must accept it. He notes, with apparent approval, the following from Shavit: The choice is stark, either reject Zionism [the Zionist State of Israel] because of Lydda, or accept Zionism [the Zionist state] along with Lydda. … If need be, I will stand by the damned. Because I know that if it wasnt for them, the state of Israel would not have been born. … They did the dirty, filthy work that enables my people, myself, my daughter and my sons to live. Here Shavit has mixed up belief and fact. He does not actually know that the Israel would have not been born without filthy work such as mass murder. He just excuses the criminality by believing in its necessity.
— For Shavit, this all makes the peace process problematic. If Israel does not retreat from the West Bank, it will be politically and morally doomed. But if it does retreat it will face an Iran-backed and Islamic Brotherhood-inspired West Bank regime whose missiles could endanger Israels security.
Wieseltier agrees that this description of Israels apparent dilemma is all true even though, once again, neither he nor Shavit really know this to be so. Israel has always treated the Palestinians in a way that encourages resistance. To then declare that security-threatening resistance is inevitable is to engage in circular reasoning. If Israel were to withdraw to the 1967 border and allow for the creation of truly viable Palestinian state it probably would not get those dreaded missiles in return. The conviction that the missiles are inevitable simply serves as a justification to do the criminal thing and illegally colonize the West Bank.
As to Shavits reference to Iran, the reality is that Iran has never been a physical threat to Israel and agreements (which the Israeli leadership opposes) that allow Iran to reconcile with the West help ensure that it will not be one in the future. On the other hand, Israeli policies that promote Muslim enmity are a real source of present and future danger to Israeli citizens.
Part III – Seeing Legitimacy and Behavior as One
There is something reductive and simplistic about Wieseltiers thinking, as if the legitimate existence of the State of Israel is something completely apart from its manner of being or behavior.
Take for instance Wieseltiers insistence that Israel is not a proposition, it is a country. Actually, he is wrong not only about Israel but about all countries. Nation-states are not eternal or unchanging. They have beginnings, and sometimes abrupt and violent ends. Moreover, those that do persist are in fact evolving propositions that are usually brought, peacefully or otherwise, to conform to their changing international environments.
This means that all nation-states will periodically change from one kind of nation into another. In many cases their legitimacy depends on their adaptability. Thus, the Germany of Adolf Hitler is not the Germany of today. The South Africa that practiced apartheid is not the South Africa of today. The Cambodia of Pol Pot is not the Cambodia of today. The Chile of Pinochet is not the Chile of today. And, the United States as it existed before the civil rights movement of the 1960s is not the United States of today. In each case the earlier versions of these countries were anathema not only to their own morally aware citizens, but to much of the rest of the world. In each case there were both domestic and foreign organizations and individuals who pointed to the countrys problems and called for actions to be taken against them. Why should Israel be treated as an exception to such an historical pattern of change?
Increasingly in the contemporary world legitimacy does not simply rest on the mere fact of occupying or asserting sovereignty over territory. Today legitimacy has to do with national behavior that satisfies international norms and laws. Now that might not be the consistent opinion of governments which are prone to hypocrisy, but it is increasingly the position taken by civil society. The expression of that position is the doubting discourse Wieseltier complains of. He does not recognize that within todays international environment fundamental acceptance of [Zionist Israeli] reality is in fact provisional. It is provisional in the same sense that apartheid South Africa and the pre-civil rights U.S. evolved into a provisional status as much of the rest of the world came to see their behavior as unacceptable.
Thus, it is not those who engage in doubting discourse about Israel who defy reality, it is Wieseltier himself when he simplistically asserts that no one has the authority to declare that the experiment [that is Israel] has failed, and to try to do something about it. In truth, the entire world has that authority and, at the governmental level, it is only Israels special interest operatives embedded within the Western nations that, for the time being, keep government policy from following evolving popular opinion.
Part IV – Israel Must Change
Wieseltier also fails to recognize that central to today’s “doubting discourse” is the fact that the Israel of Lydda is still the Israel of today. It is clear from his review that he thinks todays Zionist Israel is the only possible Israel, and the world just has to accept it. It is easy to see why one might get this idea. Listen to Prime Minister Netanyahus warmongering over Iran, itemize the racist legislation coming out of the Knesset, count the number of Palestinian homes destroyed by the Israeli government, list the terroristic acts committed with impunity by violent Zionist settlers, etc., etc., and the Zionist Israel of the present – a racist state openly engaged in a process of ethnic cleansing – seems solidly established. Yet it is just this established behavior that moves millions of people to assert its illegitimacy. Wieseltiers feared doubting discourse is not going away. It is spreading. If you want proof of this take a look at the Boycott Diversity and Sanctions (BDS) movement webpage listing accomplishments achieved just in the last few months. It is impressive, and topped off by the esteemed American Studies Associations recent decision to endorse the call for a boycott of Israeli academic institutions.
Will there come a time when Zionists like Wieseltier understand that the growing condemnation and evolving isolation of Israel will not cease unless that nation-state changes in fundamental ways – that is, becomes a different Israel? Will they also come to realize that the pressure for change is not a function of some new anti-Semitism but rather a reaction to the unchanging behavior of the Israel of Lydda?
In the end just existing, just possessing facticity, as Wieseltier puts it, will not confer legitimacy on Israel, just as merely being a living person does not confer a normal status in society to a criminal. What is important is being plus behavior. At this point in history the ideology that guides Israeli behavior, the ideology of Zionism, leads it to behave in a racist, expansionist fashion. So, just like the criminal, the choice is rehabilitation – which means a non-Zionist Israel wherein all its citizens are equal before the law – or segregation from the society of nations. Like Ari Shavit, Wieseltier must make a choice. Does he want to see Israel a just and humane place, or does he also choose to stand by the damned?
A Victory for Diplomacy – An Analysis (2 December 2013) by Lawrence Davidson
Part I – The Diplomatic Deal with Iran
By now most readers know that the five permanent member nations of the UN Security Council – the United States, China, France, Russia and the United Kingdom – plus Germany, (referred to as the P5+1) have reached a six-month interim diplomatic settlement with the Islamic Republic of Iran. Within this six-month period the P5+1 powers and Iran will seek to conclude a permanent and comprehensive agreement. Readers may also know what Iran has to do according to the agreement, because most of the Western media have repeatedly listed those terms. Either skimmed over or skipped altogether are those things the P5+1 have to do for Iran. Here is a brief synopsis of the agreement:
For the next six months Iran has undertaken to:
– Limit its uranium enrichment program to the 5% level – the level suitable for nuclear power plant fuel – while diluting its stockpile of 20% enriched uranium to below the 5% level. The 20% enriched uranium was used by Iran for medical treatment and research, but the paranoia of the Western powers caused it to be seen as fuel for nuclear weapons.
– Hold to present level the size of its low-enriched (5%) stockpile.
– Halt efforts to produce plutonium (a particularly efficient nuclear weapons material).
– Limit its use of present centrifuges and not construct future ones. The centrifuges are the devices that take “uranium gas” and concentrate it into nuclear fuel. It is the through calibration of the centrifuges that the percentage of enrichment is determined.
– Allow daily inspections of its nuclear facilities.
There are other obligations as well, but these are the principal ones. All of these demands are a reflection of the obsessive conviction of influential and noisy elements in the West, and particularly on the part of the Zionist-influenced U.S. Congress, that Iran is determined to produce nuclear weapons. This obsession has persisted even though Western intelligence agencies repeatedly testified that there was and is no evidence for this assertion. Essentially, this entire affair is the product of unsubstantiated right-wing Zionist anxiety, which in turn has infected pro-Zionist elements in the West.
The fact that this suspicion of Iran has been built up around a fantasy made it easier for the Islamic Republic to agree to the present deal. They never did plan to build a bomb, so giving up the imaginary program was giving up nothing. On the other hand, what Iran is worried about are matters of principle. For instance, as a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, it has a legal right to enrich uranium. It wants that right recognized. Accepting an enrichment process to the 5% level appears sufficiently face-saving for Tehran to agree to the interim settlement.
So what did Iran get in return? For the next six months the P5+1powers and particularly the United States have undertaken to:
– Impose no new sanctions on Iran.
– Suspend present sanctions on (a) gold and precious metals (b) Iran’s auto sector, and (c) Iran’s petrochemical exports. This should give Iran up to $1.5 billion in revenue.
– Cease interference with Iranian oil exports at their present levels.
– Allow for safety-related repairs and inspections for Iranian airlines.
– Release frozen Iranian funds earmarked to pay the tuition of Iranian students attending colleges in third countries.
– Facilitate humanitarian transactions (such as Iran’s importation of medicine), which, even though not covered in the sanctions, had been periodically made difficult by U.S. government bureaucrats.
It is a sign of just how malicious the West can be that they are willing to make difficult for Iran such things as airline safety, education and medicine.
Part II – The Managed Reporting of the Deal
One of the remarkable things about the Western reporting of this very significant diplomatic achievement – after all the U.S. and Iran have had no formal relations for some 33 years – is that it largely ignores Western obligations under the agreement. Even al-Jazeera America’s coverage was scanty in this regard. Why would this be so?
One can only assume that having harped on Iran as a danger to the West for 33 years, and created the an irrational fear of a nonexistent Iranian nuclear weapons program, the U.S. government and its media partners had to frame the agreement in a way that put the onus on Iran.
The Obama administration is stuck with the consequences of those 33 years. Iran has long been the centerpiece in a near-hysterical campaign by Zionists and neoconservatives that portrays the Muslim world as the successor to the old Soviet Union. Communism has been replaced by Islam, and now that the U.S. is supposedly the only real superpower in the world, the message of this campaign is that the United States should act in a preemptive way and use its military and economic power to stamp out alleged real and potential threats. This was the doctrine of the George W. Bush administration, and it led to the disastrous invasion of Iraq. This is the doctrine of the American Zionists who are interested in destroying any Muslim power that may someday challenge Israel.
President Obama’s failure to follow this doctrine, at least in the case of Iran, has made him a target for these warmongers. Reporting the interim agreement with Iran in way that emphasizes Iranian obligations while playing down those of the United States and the West is a tactic to counter the hysteria on the right.
And hysteria is the operative word here. It betrays itself in ridiculous historical comparisons and vicious name-calling. Take for example the hyperbole of Daniel Pipes. Pipes is president of the Middle East Forum and publisher of the Middle East Quarterly, both sounding boards for the Zionist worldview. In an article appearing in the right-wing National Review Pipes writes, “This wretched deal offers one of those rare occasions when comparison with Neville Chamberlain in Munich in 1938 is valid.” This is utter nonsense.
In 1938 the populations of Britain and France wanted peace and their politicians were willing to allow Hitler to act in warlike fashion toward a third party, Czechoslovakia, in order to get what they thought was “peace in our time.”
Today the Western populations have been brought to a state of high suspicion of Iran which is just barely countered by their being sick and tired of war in the Middle East. That is one of the reasons the Iran deal is proceeding in steps.
There is absolutely no basis for comparison between Munich and the deal just made with Iran. At Munich, Germany was turned loose. In the present deal Iran is not let loose but constrained. After Munich there were no inspectors running around Nazi Germany checking on things. In Iran there is now a small army of inspectors. After Munich no one was telling Hitler that if he didn’t behave, the alternative was war. That is what Obama’s speeches imply. The present deal is, in these ways, the complete opposite of Munich.
What sort of world does Pipes live in that he misreads the situation so dramatically? It is an Orwellian world warped by Zionist ideology.
Since these ideologues have opened the door to ugly comparisons, let’s get something straight here. It is not the case that Barack Obama is like Neville Chamberlain. It is, however, the case that the neocons and their ilk remind one of Adolf Hitler, at least when it comes to manufacturing false scenarios for war and then relentlessly selling them to the public. Then, when they are checked, they display the same exaggerated, temper tantrum-like hysterics as did the fascist leaders of the 1930s. So, if anyone is looking for the real threat to Western or Israeli security (existential or otherwise), it is these ideologically blinkered neoconservatives and Zionists along with their media allies.
Part III – Conclusion
The interim deal with Iran is an act of sanity, and the present American administration, whatever other foreign policy shortcomings it has displayed (and there have been plenty) deserves praise for defying the radical right and pushing it through. As to the deal’s detractors in and out of Congress, they are the warmongers among us and deserve to be exposed as such. They are a danger to the world and to their own country. Keep in mind the words of James Madison: “if tyranny and oppression come to this land it will be in the guise of fighting a foreign enemy.”