Friday, July 31, 2015

Why Chris Hedges rightly supports BDS

    Chris Hedges is the author of a remarkably powerful account of war, the fascinations, often unto death, of war journalism, the drug of violence and retaliation, War is a Force that gives us Meaning,  published in 2003. He is a classicist (knew Greek and studied Latin on a Niemann fellowship), and the book has a spiritual depth which, in recent literature, is unique.  I teach it regularly in a summer class on "Ethics and International Affairs," driving home the blowback (see Chalmers Johnson's Blowback) or anti-democratic feedback (see my Must Global Politics Constrain Democracy?) which comes from tyranny abroad.  Hedges underlines this in the Malvinas war in Argentina (trade union leaders, tortured by the generals, were dragged up from their cells to endorse enthusiastically the war; Chris, who is blond, had to pretend to be German to avoid being beaten by a mob - pp. 42-44).


       Today, Hedges gets this point even more clearly: the current Israel, he says below  is a symbol of the dystopian, militarized, inegalitarian future being prepared for us most obviously by Jeb Bush and the rest of the Republican field (Rand Paul, though despicable domestically toward the poor and disabled, is, of course, rightly critical of the American undermining of rights - Pentagon equipment in cities for the domestic police - as well as foreign policy except about Israel...).


    In the 1990s, Chris had been the New York Times Middle East editor and had seen, in occupied  Khan Younis, Israeli troopers baiting children by defaming their mothers in Arabic and shooting down with silencers 10 years olds who had thrown rocks which did not hit Israeli tanks and were running away...Even in Salvador (another US-sponsored tyranny), Chris says, he had not seen soldiers shooting children "for sport" (pp. 92-99). To emphasize the cycle of retaliation, Chris underlined Palestinian martyrdom (by Hamas at the time; Hamas is now interestingly drifting to Saudi Arabia and thus undercutting the dangerous Washington myth about the ostensibly dangerous "Iran".  But Chris left out (and in an article in Harper's as well), who was illegally occupying and starving whom...


     Some 12 years later, Chris supports the BDS movement below.  One of the most unattractive features of Israel is its central export of militarism to the US and Canada, the testing on the bodies of Palestinians especially in Gaza as Chris relates below, of new weapons.  Jeff Halper - head of the Israeli Committee against Housing Demolition) also emphasizes this theme.  Israel has now placed itself in the center of the weaponizing of American and, to a lesser extent,  Canadian police - hence, Hedges is absolutely right to bring up the murder of Michael Brown in Ferguson - and Black Lives Matter! is at the forefront of fighting this in today's news down to the murder, the officer just arrested, of  Samuel Dubose in Cincinnati - see here - and Sandra Bland - see here and here - and the Choctaw activist Rexdale Henry - see here and here - the list goes on and on.


   Speaking as a jew, that the state of Israel should have become involved in wanton police murder - militarized racist policing here and in Israel - is particularly sickening.


     Boycott and Divestment is a nonviolent movement against the racism of the State of Israel, its attempt to "transfer" Palestinians and build ever new gleaming pink settlements for more than 500,000 often extreme racists. Every one of the settlements is illegal and immoral: a second Occupation of Palestine  (the initial occupation, using violence, created a homeland for those expelled through genocide from Europe; they expelled, however, Palestinians who  had done them no wrong... 

   While some political arrangement that protects the human rights of ordinary Israelis is very important, fighting for justice for ordinary Palestinians - whom I often call "the Jews of the Occupied Territories" and their oppressors the "European racists/Orientalists" - and ending Israeli Occupation is now far more important. Genuine security for Israelis cannot coexist with callous exploitation and murder of Palestinians. 


     The Boycott and Divestment movement deserves participation and support, and I would underline that many young Jews, particularly in Jewish Voice for Peace, are playing a leading role, allied with Palestinians and many others, in education and action on American campuses.


   Now the citizens of Israel also need protection  from mad (US) aggression against Iran.  Propaganda for this in the commercial press is but a creepy attempt by the Israeli elite, embodied in the feverishness/ugliness of Netanyahu, to divert attention from the Israeli jackboot on the neck of Palestinians.   


     Obama's courageous agreement with Iran, one that offers an alternative to unending war in the Middle East which would back into a corner the sole nuclear power in the area, Israel, helps ordinary Israelis as well as everyone else.  This is the most detailed disarmament agreement ever, and is realistic in terms of actual, that is, limited American power, i.e. not trying crazily to reshape the world solely by war


    The Obama administration's statements about Iran, however, are often demonizing and false; the regime is reactionary, but its "Supreme Leader" forbade use of chemical weapons against the US ally Iraq in the Iran-Iraq war and has similarly forbidden use (and even production) of nuclear weapons.  Neocons cannot have it both ways that the Iranian regime is an oppressive religious regime - true enough - and then, that its religious strictures are to be ignored to sanctify American aggression (the campaign for belligerence is neocon/Democratic/Sheldon Adelson ignorance or clownishness).

     The nuclear agreement and the deescalation of militarist fever in the American elite against Iran makes Netanyahu's latest declaration of building settlements (an Israeli court ruled against one such effort) stand out in sharp relief.  


    Settler fascists - think the KKK or the Stormtroopers - just burned Palestinian homes in "revenge" and murdered a toddler.  Listen to Rabbi Arik Ascherman, Rabbis for Human Rights. on BBC Newshour herehere and here; "Defence" Minister Yaalon has announced it will investigate this "act of terrorism," but unfortunately, the track record is very bad...Nonetheless, the eyes of the world, including many Americans,  are increasingly on the Occupation and that is hopeful.  


     If "Iran" is not the great danger to peace in the area and does not, even in imagination (or one might say, rather, only in imagination; one country has aggressed in the two countries surrounding Iran, that is Iraq and Afghanistan - the United States - and Iran has invaded no one in the modern era...) threaten destruction of Israel and the Middle East, what highly weaponized, aggressive power might be?


     BDS is an international component of a nonviolent alternative to feeble, murderousness, counterproductive (strengthens the much more violent Israeli oppressors) Hamas violence.  


     BDS and nonviolent activists in the Palestinian villages and Sami Awad (the Holy Land Truest), Anarchists against the Wall (jews who courageously demonstrate every Friday with Palestinians against the Occupation, among others, are central components to a broad movement to free/recognize the human rights of Palestinians and shake the curse of the bully, a murderous militarized and war/weapons-exporting Israel. A solution advancing the rights of Palestinians and preserving the human rights of ordinary Israelis  - one avoiding nuclear war which is a grave danger in any larger conflict there; radiation travels... - is as important a political question as exists in this world (a democracy with equal rights for each citizen would be best, but a two state solution, if still possible,  might head off the danger of wider war...).


      Here are Chris's words:

Why I Support The BDS Movement Against Israel

 Smoke and fire from an Israeli strike rise over Gaza City in July 2014. (Hatem Moussa / AP )
The Palestinians are poor. They are powerless. They have no voice or influence in the halls of power. They are demonized. They do not have well-heeled lobbyists doling out campaign contributions and pushing through pro-Palestinian legislation. No presidential candidate is appealing to donors—as Hillary Clinton did when she sent a letter to media mogul Haim Saban denouncing critics of Israel—by promising to advance the interests of the Palestinian people. Palestinians, like poor people of color in the United States, are expendable.
Justice for Palestine will never come from the traditional governmental institutions or political parties that administer power. These institutions have surrendered to moneyed interests. Justice will come only from us. And the sole mechanism left to ensure justice for Palestine is the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel. Sanctions brought down the apartheid regime of South Africa. And they are what will bring down the apartheid regime of Israel. BDS is nonviolent. It appeals to conscience. And it works.
All Israeli products including Jaffa citrus fruits, Ahava cosmetics, SodaStream drink machines, Eden Springs bottled water and Israeli wine must be boycotted. We must refuse to do business with Israeli service companies. And we must boycott corporations that do business with Israel, including Caterpillar, HP and Hyundai. We must put pressure on institutions, from churches to universities, to divest from Israeli companies and corporations that have contracts with Israel. The struggle against apartheid in South Africa was long and hard. This struggle will be too.
Gaza, a year after Israel carried out a devastating bombing campaign that lasted almost two months, is in ruins. Most of the water is unsafe to drink. There are power outages for up to 12 hours a day. Forty percent of the 1.8 million inhabitants are unemployed, including 67 percent of the youths—the highest youth unemployment rate in the world. Of the 17,000 homes destroyed by Israel in the siege, not one has been rebuilt. Sixty thousand people remain homeless. Only a quarter of the promised $3.5 billion in aid from international donors has been delivered—much of it diverted to the Palestinian Authority, the Israeli puppet regime that governs the West Bank. And no one in Washington—Republican or Democrat—will defy the Israel lobby. No one will call for justice or stay the Israeli killing machine. U.S. senators, including Bernie Sanders, at the height of the Israeli bombardment last summer voted unanimously to defend the Israeli slaughter of a people with no army, navy, air force, mechanized units, artillery or command and control. It was a vote worthy of the old Soviet Union. Every senator held out his or her tin cup to the Israel lobby and chose naked self-interest over justice.{Sanders is more complicated than this indicates and spoke out forcefully against the Occupation during the Jesse Jackson campaign long ago - see here)
Israel, like the United States, is poisoned by the psychosis of permanent war. It too is governed by a corrupt oligarchic elite for whom war has become a lucrative business. It too has deluded itself into carrying out war crimes and then playing the role of the victim. Israeli systems of education and the press—again mirrored in the United States—have indoctrinated Israelis into believing that they have a right to kill anyone whom the state condemns as a terrorist. And Israel’s most courageous human rights campaigners, intellectuals and journalists are slandered and censored in their own country, just as American critics such as Norman FinkelsteinMax Blumenthal and Noam Chomsky are in the United States.
Those who become addicted to the wielding of the instruments of war, blinded by hubris and a lust for power, eventually become war’s victims. This is as true for Israel as for the United States.
Israel’s goal is to make life a living hell for all Palestinians, ethnically cleansing as many as it can and subduing those who remain. The peace process is a sham. It has led to Israel’s seizure of more than half the land on the West Bank, including the aquifers, and the herding of Palestinians into squalid, ringed ghettos or Bantustans while turning Palestinian land and homes over to Jewish settlers. Israel is expanding settlements, especially in East Jerusalem. Racial laws, once championed by the right-wing demagogue Meir Kahane, openly discriminate against Israeli Arabs and Palestinians. Ilan Pappec alls the decades-long assault against the Palestinian people “incremental genocide.”
In Gaza, Israel practices an even more extreme form of cruelty. It employs a mathematical formula to limit outside food deliveries to Gaza to keep the caloric levels of the 1.8 million Palestinians just above starvation. This has left 80 percent of the Palestinians in Gaza dependent on Islamic charities and outside aid to survive. And the periodic military assaults on Gaza, euphemistically called “mowing the lawn,” are carried out every few years to ensure that the Palestinians remain broken, terrified and destitute. There have been three Israeli attacks on Gaza since 2008. Each is more violent and indiscriminate than the last. Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has said that a fourth attack on Gaza is “inevitable.”
During its 51-day siege of Gaza last summer Israel dropped $370 million in ordinance on concrete hovels and refugee camps that hold the most densely packed population on the planet. Two thousand one hundred four Palestinians were killed. Sixty-nine percent—1,462—were civilians. Four hundred ninety-five were children. Ten thousand were injured. (During the attack six Israeli civilians and 66 soldiers were killed.) Four hundred Palestinian businesses were wiped out. Seventy mosques were destroyed and 130 were damaged. Twenty-four medical facilities were bombed, and 16 ambulances were struck, as was Gaza’s only electrical power plant. Israel tallied it up: 390,000 tank shells, 34,000 artillery shells, 4.8 million bullets. Most of the civilians who died were killed in their homes, many of the victims torn to shreds by flechette darts sprayed from tanks. Children were burned with white phosphorous or buried with their families under rubble caused by 2,000-pound iron fragmentation bombs. Others died from dense inert metal explosive, or DIME, bombs—experimental weapons that send out extremely small, carcinogenic particles that cut through both soft tissue and bone. The Israel Defense Forces, as Amira Hass has reported, consider any Palestinian over the age of 12 to be a legitimate military target. Max Blumenthal’s new book, “The 51 Day War,” is a chilling chronicle of savage atrocities carried out by Israel in Gaza last summer. As horrible as the apartheid state in South Africa was, that nation never used its air force and heavy artillery to bomb and shell black townships.
A report by Action on Armed Violence (AOAV) found Israel killed and injured more civilians with explosive weapons in 2014 than any other country in the world. Hamas’ indiscriminate firing of wildly inaccurate missiles—Finkelstein correctly called them “enhanced fireworks”—into Israel was, as a U.N. report recently charged, a war crime, although the report failed to note that under international law Hamas had a right to use force to defend itself from attack.
The disparity of firepower in the 2014 conflict was vast: Israel dropped 20,000 tons of explosives on Gaza while Hamas used 20 to 40 tons of explosives to retaliate. Israel’s wholesale slaughter of civilians is on a scale equaled only by Islamic State and Boko Haram. Yet Israel, in our world of double standards, is exempted from condemnation in Washington and provided with weapons and billions in U.S. foreign aid to perpetuate the killing. This is not surprising. The United States uses indiscriminate deadly force in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia that outdoes even Israel, leaving behind civilian victims, refugees and destroyed cities and villages in huge numbers.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who during his last election campaign received 90 percent of his money from U.S. oligarchs such as Sheldon Adelson, has internally mounted a campaign of state repression against human rights advocates, journalists and dissidents. He has stoked overt racism toward Palestinians and Arabs and the African migrant workers who live in the slums of Tel Aviv. “Death to Arabs” is a popular chant at Israeli soccer matches. Thugs from right-wing youth groups such as Im Tirtzu routinely beat up dissidents, Palestinians, Israeli Arabs and African immigrants in the streets of Tel Aviv. It is a species of Jewish fascism.
Israel is not an anomaly. It is a window into the dystopian, militarized world that is being prepared for all of us, a world with vast disparities of income and draconian systems of internal security. There will be no freedom for Palestine, or for those locked in our own internal colonies and terrorized by indiscriminate police violence, until we destroy corporate capitalism and the neoliberal ideology that sustains it. There will be no justice for Michael Brown until there is justice for Mohammed Abu Khdeir. The fight for the Palestinians is our fight. If the Palestinians are not liberated none of us will be liberated. We cannot pick and choose which of the oppressed are convenient or inconvenient to defend. We will stand with all of the oppressed or none of the oppressed. And when we stand with the oppressed we will be treated like the oppressed.

The Link

Activist Reveals Hidden Military Ties Between Canada and Israel

  • 2006 Nobel Peace Prize Nominee Jeff Halper (centre) spoke in front of a group of Concordia students and professors about Israel’s occupation of Palestine and its effects in Canada. Photo Brandon Johnston
    “We’re all Palestinians.” 
    These are the words of Jeff Halper, one of 191 Nobel Peace Prize nominees in 2006. Not only a sentiment of solidarity, this statement reflects the effects of Israeli military research on civil liberties in Canada, according to the Israeli academic and peace activist. He led a discussion with students and professors at Concordia Monday afternoon. 
    “Where certain parts of universities are getting closed down, departments of universities that feed into military research have greater budgets,” Halper told The Link. “The closer [ties] to the military, the better funded you are.”
    Universities like Concordia and McGill collaborate on projects like developing the weaponization of nanotechnology with Israeli schools such as Technion, the Israel Institution of Technology in Haifa, according to the Independent Jewish Voices of Canada. Halper claims Canada benefits when Israeli researchers use Palestinians as “guinea pigs” for its weapons and systems and their exportation.
    “Israel is involved in your prison systems. It’s involved in training the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. It’s involved in your airport security,” Halper said of Canada’s use of Israeli security tactics.
    As the director of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolition, he referred to how austerity measures in countries like Canada is leading to cuts everywhere except the military and police.
    “It’s getting to a point where, if you don’t fall in line to the powers at be, you’re a terrorist,” he said about the West’s increased police militarization. “The whole word is being corrupted; it’s delegitimizing all resistance.”
    Halper used the term “pacification” multiple times to describe the current political climate. Protests are becoming more controlled and nullified, according to the Israeli academic. When prompted by a Demilitarize McGill representative in the audience for advice about how to further their cause, Halper suggested asking professors involved in military research to cease operations, and, if they refuse, to publicly out them. 
    During the Concordia Student Union by-elections last semester, students passed a referendum allowing the CSU to support the global Boycott, Divest and Sanction movement against Israel. The exact terms of how Concordia will enact BDS is yet to be determined, but Halper’s suggestions may be useful. 
    Born in the U.S., Halper emigrated to Israel in 1973. As both countries pushed anti-Palestinian rhetoric, the activist credited his upbringing in the 1960s and non-belief in government propaganda for his critical thinking. 
    “From the very beginning, I linked up with the Israelis who themselves are critical of the occupation,” he said. “There are some connections also with Palestinians so that was the circle that I got into.”
    While he made Israeli friends with similar opinions and co-founded ICAHD in Israel, Halper said that segregation from Palestinians means Israelis can live their lives in relative safety and a prosperous economy, without encountering a Palestinian or going to the West Bank. 
    “The occupation is becoming a non-issue,” he continued. “Less and less people are concerned about it.”
    In Israel, the Noble vs. The UglyJULY 7, 2010 
    Nicholas Kristof

    JERUSALEM Israel goes out of its way to display its ugliest side to the world by tearing down Palestinian homes or allowing rapacious settlers to steal Palestinian land. Yet there’s also another Israel as well, one that I mightily admire. This is the democracy that tolerates a far greater range of opinions than America. It’s a citadel of civil society. And, crazily, it’s the place where some of the most courageous and effective voices on behalf of oppressed Palestinians belong to Israeli rabbis — like Arik Ascherman, the executive director of Rabbis for Human Rights.Rabbi Ascherman — 50, tall, lean and bearded with mournful eyes (if central casting ever needed a Prophet Jeremiah type, he’d be it) — grew up in Erie, Pa. He fell in love with Israel on a brief visit between high school and college and moved here in 1994. At Rabbis for Human Rights, he presides over 20 staff members and hundreds of volunteers who sometimes serve as human shields to protect Palestinians — even if that means getting arrested or beaten.

    Rabbi Arik Ascherman, executive director of Rabbis for Human Rights.
    Nicholas D. Kristof/The New York Times 

    I watched the ugly side of Israel
     collide with its more noble version, 
    as Rabbi Ascherman and I visited a 
    rural area in the northern West Bank 
    where Jewish settlers have taken over 
    land that Palestinian farmers say is theirs.
    “If we try to enter our land, settlers will be waiting, 
    and we will be beaten,” said Muhammad Moqbel, 
    a 71-year-old Palestinian from the village of 
    Qaryout who pointed to fields that he said 
    had been stolen by settlers. Last year, he said, 
    he was hospitalized with a broken rib after 
    settlers attacked while he was picking his own olives.
    Rabbis for Human Rights has helped Palestinians 
    recover some land through lawsuits in Israeli courts. 
    And Rabbi Ascherman and other Jewish activists
     escort such farmers to protect them. The 
    settlers still attack, but soldiers are more likely to
     intervene when it is rabbis being clubbed.
    As Mr. Moqbel and Rabbi Ascherman were 
    explaining all this to me, a settler vehicle 
    came down to confront us. And then another. 
    The settlers photographed us. We photographed 
    them. I asked them if they would agree to be 
    interviewed. They refused to respond to my

    “They’re just trying to intimidate us,” Rabbi 
    Ascherman said.

    As was the case in the American civil rights 
    movement, the activists here often become
     targets. Palestinian youths have stoned 
    Rabbi Ascherman’s car, and he has been 
    arrested and beaten up by security forces 
    and settlers alike. (His car is almost as 
    ancient as Jerusalem, and he has to lift t
    he hood and fiddle with wires to get it 
    started, which impedes fast getaways.)

    Yet shared beatings also break down malevolent
    stereotypes of Jews among Palestinians.Once, he
    says, he got a call that a 13-year-old Palestinian kid was
    being beaten by Israeli soldiers and rushed to the scene.
    Then he was himself tear-gassed, head-butted and
     Arrested by the soldiers. The boy later recounted
    wonderingly that a tall Jewish stranger had run to his
    rescue and, in the process of being arrested, comforted him
    by saying: “Don’t be afraid.” [Check out Anarchists
    against the Wall, a wonderful, courageous organization
    which demonstrates with Palestinians  every Friday...]

    The other Israel” extends far beyond Rabbis for Human Rights. The most cogent critiques of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians invariably come from Israel’s own human rights organizations. The most lucid unraveling of Israel’s founding mythology comes from Israeli historians. The deepest critiques of Israel’s historical claims come from Israeli archeologists (one archeological organization, Emek Shaveh, offers alternative historical tours so that visitors can get a fuller picture). This more noble Israel, refusing to retreat from its values even in times of fear and stress, is a model for the world.

    In the Middle East, on all sides, the most religious people are sometimes the most hateful. By challenging religious extremism, Rabbis for Human Rights redeems not only Israeli values, but also Jewish ones.

    Rabbis for Human Rights has had strong support
     from North American Jews, and some American 
    children participate in the classic Zionist gesture — 
    planting a tree for Israel — by sending money
    so that the rabbis can replant an olive tree for 
    a Palestinian whose grove was uprooted by settlers.
    Not everyone finds Rabbi Ascherman inspiring. 
    He gets death threats, and hard-line Israelis see
     him as a naïve traitor.

    He responds that he is struggling to uphold 
    his religious and moral values. But he also
     argues that building bridges between Jews 
    and Palestinians helps make Israel a safer 
    place for his children. “In the long run, we’re 
    going to live here together,” he says, “or we’re
     going to die here together.”

    When we get the death threats and people 
    say we’re traitors and anti-Israel, I think, 
    ‘Who is really doing more for Israel’s physical 
    survival?’ ” he says. “ ‘Those who demolish 
    homes and uproot trees, or those who rebuild 
    homes and replant trees?’

    No comments:

    Post a Comment