Monday, May 14, 2012

Correspondence with Doug Vaughan about Harriet Feinberg's letter and my response

My friend Doug Vaughan who has been instrumental along with others in organizing the statewide conference May 12 against war with Iran – a rather striking, planning event about which I will write more soon - sent me an eloquent commentary on Harriet Feinberg’s essay and my comment on "What might a regional Middle East and Mediterranean look like?" here. Doug is right to quarrel with my tossed off line “Note: Finns are still Finns, Spaniards Spanish." As he suggests, there are relatively few encompassing from Madrid to Andalucia who speak Castillian; in Mallorca and Barcelona, people speak Catalan (Mallorquin), in the Basque country, Euzkerra. Catholic Spain once brutally conquered the world, particularly indigenous people in South and Central America and achieved an empire “on which the sun never set”

I learned this - I had thought the phrase an English pomposity - from a nationalist/Francoist tour guide when I was going with a group of students who would study the First Renaissance [the Arab one in Cordoba and Granada] in Granada. The guide, doing perhaps something common, offered a kind of reactionary rap presenting what others more aptly call the dark Spain (Espana negra) to students who often come to study languages and nothing else. The guide also thought that Opus Dei was a “conservative organization”; I said “fascist”; he argued for a moment, but when I reminded him that it supported Franco inter alia, he conceded. On Franco's exterminism - his violence against modernity was often grotesque - see Paul Preston's new book on the Spanish holocaust here. The guide then offered that very few Jews were burned in the Inquisition. My older student Marcia Shpall hung him out to dry on that claim; and Doug reminds us about conversos who have journeyed to New Mexico, joined the army as Chicanos and discovered, meeting an occasional jew, that family traditions of eating matzohs come from somewhere else.

Ironically, Spain itself is not unified despite having spread Spanish – through conquests and genocides - into a great international tongue, but fragmentary (and much of it, as Doug suggests, colonized/dissident).

But I made the remark about Spaniards in the slightly mad context of Israel. The hunger for an authoritarian and racist Greater Israel is great, backed recently by the “Republican” – imperial authoritarian, not conservative – party. Gingrich’s talk of Palestinians as an “invented people” is a particularly odious example – and now representative Joe Walsh’s call in the Washington Times for an explicit Greater Israel eating the occupied territories, Palestianian-“Israelis” subject to a limited vote compared to their Jewish "betters" and expulsion. See below. In a typical colonialist vein, he suggests that Palestinian “children” need Israeli tutelage to have a flourishing economy: no more two state pretence. The Israeli government, and one wants to say their obsequious Republican and Democratic satellites in the US are giving up this stall while they expand in this way: Walsh let the cat of the bag.

As Chomsky has pointed out, however, the tail does not wag the dog* (the loud Romney, proclaiming war here and there on the basis of his experience with organizing the Olympics, was a colleague of Netanyahu at Bain Capital - Netanyahu is privatizing the Israeli economy and impoverishing many Israelis; the housing demonstrations this past summer - analogously to what Occupy is fighting in the US - illustrate this. Romney says he won't adopt a policy for Israel without listening to Netanyahu - a pretty dim way to run a foreign policy especially since the Greater Israel expansion harms most Jews economically and militarily, i.e. they are caught in murderous and dangerous occupations and wars. If Netanyahu bombs Iran, the resulting regional war has very threatening consequences to the Middle East and over time, humanity. Of course, such policies also harm the interests of most Americans - and a common good or national interest - but why should this bother the representative of the 1/10th of 1%?

Now the American empire has gained a lot in bases and control of oil from this special relationship in the Middle East. But the U.S., under Bush, Cheney and the neo-cons has waged recent aggressions which have stalemated American militarism - it has trillion dollar budget and 1280 bases abroad, but cannot win unending wars - it is beginning to lose out in the shift to drones instead of occupations - and has collapsed the economy. The elite thrashes; most people suffer.

Walsh now names Israel officially an apartheid state. Robert Wright has a good response (below) though there is no “soft” ethnic cleansing,” except for drowsy American consumption, in what the Netanyahu regime and previous ones have been doing.

The idea among those “Zionists” who support this – Harriet of course has no truck with it – is that Israel cannot “survive” without more ethnic cleansing against Palestinians. Having occupied the territories illegally and subjected those occupied to death (in the January, 2009 Gaza war, 400 Palestianian children were killed by the Israeli occupiers, 1 Israeli child was murdered by a Palestinian rocket) and oppression, the leadership of Israel and many of its sycophants see resistance from below as the main danger, have the chutzpah to suggest that Palestinians and “Arabs” are violent (recall the death figures from "Operation Cast Lead"). This is projection.

"Wrongfooting" the Israeli government's violence, however, Palestinians have turned instead to nonviolent resistance (some previous resistance, notably suicide bombing, killed innocents and thus also strengthened Israeli reaction; but the first intifada also, it should be noted, was mainly nonviolent). The violence of the occupation along with attacking Iran is a blueprint for the increasing tribalism of Israel and through war its possible destruction (and of course in a larger regional war, vast further destruction in the Middle East, including possible escalation, say over 10 years, to nuclear war) and harm to most Jews. This is my point about the antidemocratic feedback of global politics in Must Global Politics Constrain Democracy? with a vengeance. In fact, the whole issue of attack on Iran was successful in diverting American attention from Israeli oppression of Palestinians, especially the settlements, and increasing impoverishment in Israel itself.

There is no future for humanity in this course…

But Harriet’s regional unions – I meant to suggest this with my remark and no more - permits some retention of identity for Israelis and Palestinians (of the same sort that distinguishes, by and large, Danes from Spaniards). For many Jews are especially concerned to maintain an Israeli identity. A decent settlement and a cooperative union, however, permits this kind of nationalism in Europe (not genocidal and warlike like that of 70 years ago) though that nationalism is still often atrocious in its racism toward Moroccans, Algerians, Senegalese, Turks and other immigrants (or Arab Israelis within Israel, which has, sadly, a more bellicose nationalism).

To head off a regional war launched by the new coalition government against Iran (or Romney getting to cut off the hair of a whole people as he sees it, not just “not remembering” assaulting and cutting off the hair of John Lauber for being gay and “out of order") is something that many Israelis (even intelligence chiefs like Dagan have spoken out against it) and many others need to join. Consider Saturday’s conference against aggression against Iran in Colorado and Tom Mayer's report here.

Doug refers to socialism in the occupied territories as an important cause. What will become of an Arab spring in Palestine and Occupy remains to be seen (something other than the current predatory capitalism is plainly needed everywhere). But ending the occupation and the constant agitation for wars in the Middle East is key. In the American case, the purposes of such wars are to “secure” military bases and oil - Halliburton and Kellogg Brown and Root made out like bandits, but the Chinese got the first oil contract - and to sanctify militarism. This has all proven futile and counterproductive for the American military and government, however. In addition, such wars aim secondarily to protect/enhance Israel, while, in fact, having the opposite impact on ordinary Israelis. We need a movement - Occupy, take note - to convert the vast militarism of the United States, the war complex and the enormous inequalities into the plowshares of environmental jobs, health care, guaranteed public education through college parallel to Europe and America even of the 1980s,** an outlawing of bank speculation in college loans as well as in the derivatives and collateral debt obligations market, and a radical readjustment of mortgage debts to prevent foreclosure.

In addition, Doug’s conjuring of the hopes of the kibbutzim once upon a time and satire of what many current Israelis are becoming seems sadly telling.

“Dear Alan,

fine essay by HF, and commentary by you... will distribute again.

but enlighten me of this bothersome bit of toss-off: "Note: Finns are still Finns, Spaniards Spanish."

Well, not so fast: Not all Finns are Finns. Are Lapps also Finns, or do they merely reside in the northern, Arctic territories, a homeland only they recognize, bestride what the rest of the world inconveniently dub Finland and Sweden? With the recession of the polar ice-cap, a scramble over the Arctic has ensued with the US, Canada, Russians and Nordics trying to figure out what to do with Ninivit and Inuit and Lapp. National borders are recent imaginings with real consequences, making some Lapps Finns, making some Spanish-speakers citizens of Spain, or not. They and the borders can be shifted to move oil from something called Sudan to a new, improved, ethnically and religiously more pure (animist, christian, Black) "South Sudan" today and tomorrow Nubia, Blue Nile, Darfur, released from the grip of marauding janjaweed in the pay of an Arabic-speaking ruling elite, a combined military-bureaucratic-managerial-comprador kleptocracy with roots in the movement that righteously drove Gordon from Khartoum in the name of independence, thanks to the humanitarian interventions of George Clooney, Don Cheadle and a host of well-intentioned hell-pavers in the roadless but mineral-laden reaches of the once-dark continent. As a correspondent in Central America, we called them parachuters, leaving behind, like Willy Loman, a smile and a handshake, and maybe a bag of rice for the famine-stricken. A morality play called Somalia, or Death of A Salesmanship.

So what does "independence" -- national sovereignty within clearly defined, mutually respected borders -- really mean in an imperialist order where capitalism and its technics and relations have penetrated the farthest reaches?

Ask the "Spaniards" if you can find them: But first, behind the Castillian imposed by the Christian Visgoth kings in the Reconquest, hear the Arabic inflections of the old Moorish realms of al-Andaluz (the "tragedy" denounced by Bin Laden in his first call to war against "crusaders and jews"), and the ancient tongue of the Sephardic Jews who cling to the old quarters of Cordoba, with which you are familiar, its old Mesquite enclosing a christian chapel a stone eagle sinks tooth and talon into a pagan bull, or down the road past Ronda, true home of the matador, and the cliffside pueblos blancos even as they deny or hide their religion and ethnicity, let alone their mediterranean heritage old as the minotaur, like the conversos at swordpoint who became "cryptojews" of our San Luis Valley, refugees from the Inquisition when it arrived in what those same newly formed Spaniards called first the Indies, then the New World, now more "Hispanic" than Usted; and hear too the vibrant Catalan in the streets of Barcelona, the Celtic lilt of Galicia, accompanied by Ulian harps as in Ireland and Brittany (listen to Alan Stivell's "Before Landing" concert in Eire not so long ago, and tell me there is not a living Gaellic diaspora longing still for its homeland and language), then the still more ancient Euzkerra of the Basques, beaten in the dirty war against Euskadi independence but still demanding a homeland where their rights, language will be respected, taught, batasuna, encouraged rather than suppressed. No, according to the Cervantes society, ignoring their master's voice and ear, all of Spain must unite in the name of La Hispanidad (a marvelous subversive history of which imperial idea I saw last year in Madrid) to pay the IMF, the banks, the predators to allow them to put their shoulders to the wheel of Capital yet a few more lifetimes.

Is this Spanish a "national" culture? I submit no, the only cultures that will not soon die are those that vigorously assert themselves in self-defense in resistance. Not to go all Nietzsche on you, but there is something willful about such assertions, and not always for the better of their neighbors. Hence "Deutschland uber alles" as you well know.The fascists now proclaim Spain for the Spanish against Moors, whose mercenaries fought with Franco, while the Germans bombed Guernica, Picasso's bull writhing in the fires of hell.

No, a Basque independence from Spain is not permissible, but an autonomous region within a European Community, scarily resembling the New Order proposed by You-know-who, is perfectly allowable now. No more than the idea of an independent Sahara freed from Morrocco, or separating South and North Yemen, or whataver redivision and redrawing of borders by imperial diktat is convenient to the money-center banks and their military-corporate satrapies. No, instead, we get the horror of the Balkans, the redivision of multinational Yugoslavia, now "independent" states totally dependent on their old masters in Germany, Austria, Italy...But, following out the implications into the real world, I digress:

More a mistaken than mysterious conflation of national identity, your flippant note is troubling precisely because it dismisses how the Spaniards became Spaniards, how the nation-state recognized as such got that way, and what lies inside it, and behind it. Short-hand formulas, verbal short-cuts in naming people and things, especially groups of people, as reified entities rather than floating processes in time, can be deadly. A phrase takes the long route home by circumlocution, behind which too often lies a history of genocide -- and lies. Not all Spaniards are Spaniards, and not all speak Spanish. As for Americans, well, here we are. But who exactly are we? And how did we get here? (Don't ask the Mormons! I'll spare you what the angel Moroni appearing from under a rock in the galde north of my aunt's house in the form of a white salamander, told the founding patriarch. But Indians as a Lost Tribe of Israel? As a friend used to wag, beware any religion started by a guy named Joe Smith.)

That said, I support the Palestinian claim to a homeland. We once clamored for a democratic, secular (and socialist) state but the Zionists would have none of it, as N. Finkelstein reminded us last year. Instead, they gave us (or we gave them the guns and bombs to take) an expansionist Greater Israel whose more bloodthirsty claimants, singing the theme-song to the movie Exodus as an esratz national anthem made in Hollywood, "This land is mine, God gave this land to me," add chorus upon chorus: "and this and this, too, and this as long as I'm at it." The smarter Zionists recognize this land-grabbing impulse as an invitation to retaliation, a threat to Jews the world over, a hysterical call for war in the name of self-defense that is perversely, a portent of mass suicide that sullies the memory of the European genocide of the Jews, and worse, in the name of "Never Forget". Contrary to legend and myth, even the lemings know better than to rush off cliffs in Lappland. Dershowitz, Netanyahu, Lieberman, on the other hand...But the Islamist regime that will inevitably arise in the former Palestine is no comfort to anyone who expects a religious devotion to respect human rights. Will the last kibbutznik please shut off the lights on the way out. Oh, sorry, he owns a software firm in Herzaliya, his cousin has a vegetable farm out there in Occupied Territory, with labor recruited from the other side of a wall, water diverted from the Golan Heights, and his kids study business, and his wife has a maid who must lift her skirts so a young Israeli guard can feel around for grenades. And they'll fight to the last Jew, Israeli Arab, even American to keep it. After 64 years, it's home if not a homeland. Real world, it's a bitch. Meanwhile, NO Attack on Iran!

All the best,

WALSH: Myth of a two-state solution
Palestinians fighting Israel and each other put peace out of reach
By Rep. Joe Walsh

Washington Times
Thursday, May 3, 2012

It has been 64 years since the United Nations General Assembly approved the Partition Plan for Palestine and the struggle to implement a "two-state solution" began. Today, we are no closer to that end. That reminds me of the definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results [this is an air-headed Tea-Party talking point misappropriated from Einstein and repeated again and again]. By that definition, everyone who continues to cling to the delusion of a two-state solution is insane. There is no such thing as a two-state solution. It cannot work, it has not worked, and it will not work.

The only viable solution for the Middle East is a one-state solution: one contiguous Israeli state from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea. There will not and cannot be lasting peace in the Middle East until then.

Ever since the Palestinians and Arab countries refused to accept the Mandate for Palestine in the 1920s, the original two-state solution, the international community has been catering to Palestinian and Arab demands for a divided Israel. The Palestinians and Arabs, however, repeatedly have rejected those proposals, including the 1947 U.N. Partition Plan, which they are using to justify their demands for a divided Israel. Enough is enough. Why is the international community continuing to kowtow to these demands when, for 64 years, the Palestinians and Arabs have worked against peace? Israel is the only country in the region that has shown that it wants and will work toward peace. Since 1947, the Palestinians and Arab countries have fought more than five wars against Israel over territory, and at each opportunity, a victorious Israel has returned land it acquired in exchange for peace.

The Palestinians have broken their word again and again. They continue to fire rockets directly at innocent Israeli families and children, and they have betrayed the fundamental tenet of the two-state solution they tout by cutting Israel out of negotiations and going directly to the United Nations. Moreover, the Palestinian Authority (PA) continues to incite violence against Israelis. It pays the salaries of imprisoned terrorists convicted of killing Israelis and glorifies suicide bombers at public events. The PA's magazine Zayzafuna recently presented Hitler as a role model for Palestinian youth because of all the Jews he killed.

Most important, how can a people divided between radically different and violently opposed factions possibly govern a single state overnight? Right now, the Palestinians are divided between Hamas in the Gaza Strip and Fatah in the West Bank. Those factions fought a civil war no more than five years ago and are fundamentally irreconcilable. Who would govern a unified Palestinian state?

The two-state solution can never work when one of the domains, the Palestinian state, does not even acknowledge the other state's (Israel's) right to exist and has as its entire purpose in life wiping Israel off the face of the earth. Never will peace come when one side possesses such hate and routinely expresses that hate through violence and blood. It is time to let go of the two-state-solution insanity and adopt the only solution that will bring true peace to the Middle East: a single Israeli state from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea. Israel is the only country in the region dedicated to peace and the only power capable of stable, just and democratic government in the region.

This solution is the best for everyone, especially the Palestinians. They will trade their two corrupt and inept governments and societies for a stable, free and prosperous one. Those Palestinians who wish to may leave their Fatah- and Hamas-created slums and move to the original Palestinian state: Jordan. The British Mandate for Palestine created Jordan as the country for the Palestinians. That is the only justification for its creation. Even now, 75 percent of its population is of Palestinian descent. Those Palestinians who remain behind in Israel will maintain limited voting power but will be awarded all the economic and civil rights of Israeli citizens. They will be free to raise families, start businesses and live in peace, all of which are impossible under current Arab rule.

The two-state solution has failed. Only a one-state solution - a single, undivided Israel - will bring peace, security and prosperity to Israelis and Palestinians alike. It's time for the United States to lead toward this. For more than 60 years, though peace has been the goal, common sense and basic human morality have been ignored. So peace has never come. We've had it backward all these years: The goal should not be peace at all costs. The goal should be a strong, free and prosperous Israel. The United States should not be some honest broker between two sides, but rather should stand publicly with one side - Israel. Then, and only then, will real peace truly come.
Rep. Joe Walsh is an Illinois Republican.

Congressman Endorses Apartheid, Ethnic Cleansing for Palestinians
By Robert Wright

In a Washington Times op-ed, Rep. Joe Walsh, a Tea Party Republican from Illinois, unveils his new plan for solving the Israel-Palestine problem:

1) Make the occupied territories part of Israel;
2) Give Palestinians who live in those territories "limited voting power" in the new, bigger Israel that they'll have suddenly become residents of. (Walsh doesn't define his euphemism, but no doubt the idea is that Jews get one-person-one-vote and Palestinians get something less, so that Israel can remain a Jewish state.)
3) Palestinians who don't like having "limited voting power" can move to Jordan.

There are, of course, people who say that Israel already practices apartheid. Their argument: Israel has ruled West Bank Palestinians for 45 years, shows no signs of ending the occupation (and indeed keeps expanding the settler population), and doesn't let these Palestinians vote in Israeli elections even though Jewish settlers in the West Bank do get to vote. The counter-argument is that, since the West Bank isn't part of Israel, the policies that prevail there can't make Israel an apartheid state. Joe Walsh's plan would end the argument once and for all, making apartheid official Israeli policy.

As for whether this plan would also constitute ethnic cleansing: Well, when you (1) tell members of an ethnic group that the land they live on is being given to another nation; (2) tell them that neither they nor their descendants will be allowed to vote in that nation's elections, even though next-door neighbors of a different ethnicity can; (3) tell them that the only way to avoid this fate is to go to another country--yeah, I'd call that ethnic cleansing, at least of a "soft" variety. (The harder variety, involving physical intimidation, is already practiced by the more extreme settlers--with little success thus far, though it could no doubt work in powerful synergy with Walsh's subtler approach.)

Offhand, I don't recall a member of Congress in my lifetime saying anything so grotesquely at odds with American ideals about ethnic relations and for that matter basic human rights. Will the Anti-Defamation League denounce Walsh? Will the American Jewish Congress? Will AIPAC have anything to say about the congressman whose strongly pro-Israel views its newsletter approvingly highlighted? If not, why not?

*The US government has used Israel - consider its enormous military aid to Israel - in enforcing its control of/influence over Middle East oil through policies of divide and rule for the last half century (it also cultivates reactionary regimes among Sunnis like the Saudi government - allied with Israel against Iran - and has given aid to the worst dictators in the Middle East against reformers from below (support for the Shah, Mubarak and Saddam being but three examples).

**At Metro, a state funded school in Denver, student debt runs around $25,000 on average (probably more for blacks and chicanos). The point of public education and community colleges was to guarantee a democratic education. That capitalism, particularly the newest and most bizarre stage of American capitalism (of the 1/10 of 1%, by the 1/10 of 1%, for the 1/10 of 1%), is the enemy of democracy is visible in these changes which ensure long term debt slavery for students while trying to seize and destroy social security and pensions: work, if you can find a job, to pay off student debt, don't buy a house, get married or have kids, break even by 50 or 55, eat dog food in your old age...The disappearance of the middle class and the denial of a decent life to ordinary people in the United States continue apace. See "A Generation Hobbled by the Soaring Cost of College" from the front page of the New York Times Sunday here.

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