Lac Megantic: More Tory Common Sense

August 21, 2014

 

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In the final report on the rail explosion that killed 47 people and obliterated a Quebec community’s downtown core, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada pointed directly to what it called a “weak safety culture” at Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway. The TSB also cited the “limited number and scope of safety management system audits” conducted by Transport Canada.

And the Tories send out Transport minister Lisa Raitt to deflect any criticism of the government responsibility for serious oversight.

Transport Canada official report

For several years, Transport Canada’s regional office in Quebec had identified MMA as a company with an elevated level of risk that required more frequent inspections. Although MMA normally took corrective action once problems were identified, it was not uncommon for the same problems to reappear during subsequent inspections. These problems included issues with train securement, training, and track conditions. Transport Canada’s regional office in Quebec, however, did not always follow up to ensure that these recurring problems were effectively analyzed and that the underlying conditions were fixed.

In addition, although MMA had developed a safety management system in 2002, Transport Canada’s regional office in Quebec did not audit it until 2010—even though this is Transport Canada’s responsibility, and despite clear indications (via inspections) that the company’s safety management system was not effective. Transport Canada Headquarters in Ottawa, meanwhile, did not effectively monitor the Region’s activities. As a result, it was not aware of any weaknesses in oversight of regional railways in Quebec, and it did not intervene.
The federal department did not follow up to ensure that “recurring safety deficiencies” at the company were corrected.

This is an age old problem with the Canadian Tories and American Republicans. Cut all “red tape” and let business do what it wants. They are our friends and major donors. There is too much regulation. Unleash that magic cure all, free market capitalism.

In Ontario we saw it with the Harris government—the late Jim Flaherty, Baird and Clement taking their assault on the common good and government responsibility to ensure our collective well being.

These people do not understand original sin.

Most businesses will continue to maximize profit and minimize public responsibility.

Ontario had a real joker as Minister of Transport, a car dealer al Palladini who became the Minister of Flying Wheels.

As usual the harris government opted out of transport oversight and allowed huge trucks to roam our highways with little supervision, very few checks. Business will police itself. Sure it will. Wheels began flying off trailers and killing Canadians. When the public screamed they finally acted and discovered 90% of these wagons posed significant danger to the public. tell that to those who lost loved ones.

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Then there was Walkerton.in May 2000 we saw The outbreak of E.coli, seven residents dead 2,300 people sick,and for 6 months the town’s 5,000 residents had to rely on bottled water and treating tap water with bleach.

Lax oversight. A Tory hack given a plum job of looking after our drinking water, simply didn’t do it. An ideological government cutting back health and safety regulations put the citizenry in jeopardy. Cutting “red tape” to them was simply “Common sense.”

Lac Megantic is just another variant of this.

Only connect: Ferguson and Gaza

August 20, 2014

 

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The structures of our society are subtly racist, for these structures reflect the values which society upholds. They are geared to the success of the majority and the failure of the minority.
Racism has been part of the social fabric of America since its European colonization….
Racism is apparent…in unemployment figures…in housing patterns…in the population in our prisons…in the attitudes and behavior of some law enforcement officials...

So wrote the US bishops 35 years ago and as a we watch things unfold in the St Louis suburb of Ferguson, nothing much seems to change. The US is still a racist society which has never come to terms with its black citizens.

After the famous riots of 1967 the Kerner Commission concluded: “Our nation is moving toward two societies — one black, one white — separate and unequal.

Well, plus ca change, plus la meme chose.

In a commentary I heard two black activists make pointed references to Gaza.

Only connect as E.M. Forster advised us.”Live in fragments no longer.”

Go to any US large city and you notice the same phenomenon, blacks are shoved into holding pens called ghettos, out of sight and out of mind to the predominant white community. The stats are shocking about the education gap, the wealth gap and any social gap you choose. The police force in this case 53 strong with only 3 black officers. The whites live out of town and do not know what the hell is going on. They live elsewhere. And when the frustration erupts in black on black crime, the people turn away, shrug their shoulders. Nothing to do with me. Same on the Reserves—as Canadians should know. The neglect of poor people is massive. Segregation is deeply injurious to a country. Human rights and human dignity have been forgotten.Capitalism is hardly big on these values.

Democracy Now reported that a new survey by the Pew Research Center finds the public reaction to the shooting of Michael Brown is sharply divided along racial lines. Eighty percent of African Americans say the case raises important issues about race that need to be discussed. Less than 40 percent of whites agree. In fact, nearly half of whites say race is getting more attention than it deserves

 

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They are both right. What nobody wishes to talk about is class. The ghettoes contain the neglected underclass of the capitalist system, the price to be paid for the unequal division of wealth. This of course has been accelerated by the 2008 financial meltdown created by the greedy largely white banksters. A small number of blacks have moved forward, brought into the inner circle and largely neglectful of “their brothers”. People point to the Colin Powells and Condaleeza Rices as proofs of successful integration. Both regarded as “Toms” by many black observers.

In Palestine we see a similar racist society. Now Palestinians are placed behind a wall as the state steals more land. But the wall acts as a real “separation barrier”. Israelis do not even want to look at their cousins. A 2006 poll indicated that two-thirds of Israelis would not live in the same building as an Arab. keep the vermin, animals, cockroaches out of sight, words all used by prominent Israelis. Segregated like american blacks, they become “the Other,” not like us. Not too dissimilar to Ferguson and other black ghettos..It is about race but also about power relations and economics.

We are dealing with systematic exclusion here both racist and classist. The police and the National Guard are simply part of the power elite.

In terms of Israel how can you explain such depressing,massive state violence visited on fellow humans? When another people become “not like us” it is a short step to massive dehumanization.

Bishop Tutu calls for Global Boycott of Israel

August 19, 2014

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The past weeks have witnessed unprecedented action by members of civil society across the world against the injustice of Israel’s disproportionately brutal response to the firing of missiles from Palestine.

If you add together all the people who gathered over the past weekend to demand justice in Israel and Palestine – in Cape Town, Washington, D.C., New York, New Delhi, London, Dublin and Sydney, and all the other cities – this was arguably the largest active outcry by citizens around a single cause ever in the history of the world.

A quarter of a century ago, I participated in some well-attended demonstrations against apartheid. I never imagined we’d see demonstrations of that size again, but last Saturday’s turnout in Cape Town was as big if not bigger. Participants included young and old, Muslims, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, agnostics, atheists, blacks, whites, reds and greens … as one would expect from a vibrant, tolerant, multicultural nation.

I asked the crowd to chant with me: “We are opposed to the injustice of the illegal occupation of Palestine. We are opposed to the indiscriminate killing in Gaza. We are opposed to the indignity meted out to Palestinians at checkpoints and roadblocks. We are opposed to violence perpetrated by all parties. But we are not opposed to Jews.”

Earlier in the week, I called for the suspension of Israel from the International Union of Architects, which was meeting in South Africa.

I appealed to Israeli sisters and brothers present at the conference to actively disassociate themselves and their profession from the design and construction of infrastructure related to perpetuating injustice, including the separation barrier, the security terminals and checkpoints, and the settlements built on occupied Palestinian land.

“I implore you to take this message home: Please turn the tide against violence and hatred by joining the nonviolent movement for justice for all people of the region,” I said.

Over the past few weeks, more than 1.6 million people across the world have signed onto this movement by joining an Avaaz campaign calling on corporations profiting from the Israeli occupation and/or implicated in the abuse and repression of Palestinians to pull out. The campaign specifically targets Dutch pension fund ABP; Barclays Bank; security systems supplier G4S; French transport company Veolia; computer company Hewlett-Packard; and bulldozer supplier Caterpillar.

Last month, 17 EU governments urged their citizens to avoid doing business in or investing in illegal Israeli settlements.

We have also recently witnessed the withdrawal by Dutch pension fund PGGM of tens of millions of euros from Israeli banks; the divestment from G4S by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; and the U.S. Presbyterian Church divested an estimated $21 million from HP, Motorola Solutions and Caterpillar.

It is a movement that is gathering pace.

Violence begets violence and hatred, that only begets more violence and hatred.

We South Africans know about violence and hatred. We understand the pain of being the polecat of the world; when it seems nobody understands or is even willing to listen to our perspective. It is where we come from.

We also know the benefits that dialogue between our leaders eventually brought us; when organizations labeled “terrorist” were unbanned and their leaders, including Nelson Mandela, were released from imprisonment, banishment and exile.

We know that when our leaders began to speak to each other, the rationale for the violence that had wracked our society dissipated and disappeared. Acts of terrorism perpetrated after the talks began – such as attacks on a church and a pub – were almost universally condemned, and the party held responsible snubbed at the ballot box.

The exhilaration that followed our voting together for the first time was not the preserve of black South Africans alone. The real triumph of our peaceful settlement was that all felt included. And later, when we unveiled a constitution so tolerant, compassionate and inclusive that it would make God proud, we all felt liberated.

Of course, it helped that we had a cadre of extraordinary leaders.

But what ultimately forced these leaders together around the negotiating table was the cocktail of persuasive, nonviolent tools that had been developed to isolate South Africa, economically, academically, culturally and psychologically.

At a certain point – the tipping point – the then-government realized that the cost of attempting to preserve apartheid outweighed the benefits.

The withdrawal of trade with South Africa by multinational corporations with a conscience in the 1980s was ultimately one of the key levers that brought the apartheid state – bloodlessly – to its knees. Those corporations understood that by contributing to South Africa’s economy, they were contributing to the retention of an unjust status quo.

Those who continue to do business with Israel, who contribute to a sense of “normalcy” in Israeli society, are doing the people of Israel and Palestine a disservice. They are contributing to the perpetuation of a profoundly unjust status quo.

Those who contribute to Israel’s temporary isolation are saying that Israelis and Palestinians are equally entitled to dignity and peace.

Ultimately, events in Gaza over the past month or so are going to test who believes in the worth of human beings.

It is becoming more and more clear that politicians and diplomats are failing to come up with answers, and that responsibility for brokering a sustainable solution to the crisis in the Holy Land rests with civil society and the people of Israel and Palestine themselves.

Besides the recent devastation of Gaza, decent human beings everywhere – including many in Israel – are profoundly disturbed by the daily violations of human dignity and freedom of movement Palestinians are subjected to at checkpoints and roadblocks. And Israel’s policies of illegal occupation and the construction of buffer-zone settlements on occupied land compound the difficulty of achieving an agreement and settlement in the future that is acceptable for all.

The State of Israel is behaving as if there is no tomorrow. Its people will not live the peaceful and secure lives they crave – and are entitled to – as long as their leaders perpetuate conditions that sustain the conflict.

I have condemned those in Palestine responsible for firing missiles and rockets at Israel. They are fanning the flames of hatred. I am opposed to all manifestations of violence.

But we must be very clear that the people of Palestine have every right to struggle for their dignity and freedom. It is a struggle that has the support of many around the world.

No human-made problems are intractable when humans put their heads together with the earnest desire to overcome them. No peace is impossible when people are determined to achieve it.
Peace requires the people of Israel and Palestine to recognize the human being in themselves and each other; to understand their interdependence.

Missiles, bombs and crude invective are not part of the solution. There is no military solution.
The solution is more likely to come from that nonviolent toolbox we developed in South Africa in the 1980s, to persuade the government of the necessity of altering its policies.

The reason these tools – boycott, sanctions and divestment – ultimately proved effective was because they had a critical mass of support, both inside and outside the country. The kind of support we have witnessed across the world in recent weeks, in respect of Palestine.

My plea to the people of Israel is to see beyond the moment, to see beyond the anger at feeling perpetually under siege, to see a world in which Israel and Palestine can coexist – a world in which mutual dignity and respect reign.

It requires a mind-set shift. A mind-set shift that recognizes that attempting to perpetuate the current status quo is to damn future generations to violence and insecurity. A mind-set shift that stops regarding legitimate criticism of a state’s policies as an attack on Judaism. A mind-set shift that begins at home and ripples out across communities and nations and regions – to the Diaspora scattered across the world we share. The only world we share.

People united in pursuit of a righteous cause are unstoppable. God does not interfere in the affairs of people, hoping we will grow and learn through resolving our difficulties and differences ourselves. But God is not asleep. The Jewish scriptures tell us that God is biased on the side of the weak, the dispossessed, the widow, the orphan, the alien who set slaves free on an exodus to a Promised Land. It was the prophet Amos who said we should let righteousness flow like a river.

Goodness prevails in the end. The pursuit of freedom for the people of Palestine from humiliation and persecution by the policies of Israel is a righteous cause. It is a cause that the people of Israel should support.

Nelson Mandela famously said that South Africans would not feel free until Palestinians were free.

He might have added that the liberation of Palestine will liberate Israel, too.

Israel style repression in Ferguson, Missouri

August 17, 2014

 

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Thanks to the Daily Beast who unearthed the connection between Israel and the ugly standoff in the St.Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri. You can bet precious few North American papers would make the connection. As newspaper ownership has moved into predictable Murdoch like hands, many people are relying on online journals to get to the truth.

Since the killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown by Ferguson police in Missouri last weekend, the people of Ferguson have been subjected to a military-style crackdown by a squadron of local police departments dressed like combat soldiers, prompting residents to liken the conditions on the ground in Ferguson to the Israeli military occupation of Palestine.

And who can blame them?

The dystopian scenes of paramilitary units in camouflage rampaging through the streets of Ferguson, pointing assault rifles at unarmed residents and launching tear gas into people’s front yards from behind armored personnel carriers (APCs), could easily be mistaken for a Tuesday afternoon in the occupied West Bank.

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And it’s no coincidence.

At least two of the four law enforcement agencies that were deployed in Ferguson up until Thursday evening — the St. Louis County Police Department and the St. Louis Police Department — received training from Israeli security forces in recent years.
Brute force

It all started when a yet to be named Ferguson police officer killed Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager. According to witnesses, Brown was attempting to surrender with his hands up when a Ferguson police officer emptied his clip into Brown’s body, shooting the teen up to ten times.

For hours police left Brown’s lifeless body sprawled in the street uncovered as a growing number of residents gathered nearby demanding answers from authorities. Police responded by deploying K-9 units and riot squads to crush the crowd, predictably inciting a riot, which police used to justify more brute force.

But the people of Ferguson refuse to submit and have mobilized every single day to demand justice for Brown and an end to the racist undemocratic regime they live under.
Sounds like Palestinians.
“Hands up, don’t shoot” has become their rallying cry, a symbol of Brown in his last moments and what it means to be black in America, where every 28 hours an African-American is killed by a self-styled vigilante, security guard or police officer.
Still, police did not relent, prompting one Ferguson protester to shout at a row of military-style tactical vehicles, “You gonna shoot us? Is this the Gaza Strip?”
“Will we as a people rise up like the people of Gaza? Will our community be bombed like last night with tear gas? That was a terrorist attack,” remarked another Ferguson protester to The Daily Beast.
Meanwhile, journalists were manhandled and detained. Police were caught on video deliberately firing tear gas at an Al Jazeera America film crew as they were setting up their equipment.
While there is a wealth of scholarship on police militarization in the US, there has been little to no examination of the ways Israel’s security apparatus facilitates it. 

Decades of testing and perfecting methods of domination and control on a captive and disenfranchised Palestinian population has given rise to a booming “homeland security industry” in Israel, that refashions occupation-style repression for use on marginalized populations in other parts of the world, including St. Louis.

Under the cover of counterterrorism training, nearly every major police agency in the United States has traveled to Israel for lessons in occupation enforcement, a phenomenon that journalist Max Blumenthal dubbed “the Israelification of America’s security apparatus.” Israeli forces and US police departments are so entrenched that the New York City Police Department (NYPD) has opened a branch in Tel Aviv.
In 2011, then St. Louis County Police Department chief Timothy Fitch attended the Anti-Defamation League’s (ADL) National Counter-Terrorism Seminar, an annual week-long Israeli training camp where US law enforcement executives “study first hand Israel’s tactics and strategies” directly from “senior commanders in the Israel National Police, experts from Israel’s intelligence and security services, and the Israel Defense Forces,” according to the ADL’s website. The ADL boasts of sending over 175 senior US law enforcement officials from 100 different agencies to the seminar since 2004, which are “taking the lessons they learned in Israel back to the United States.”
The ADL is just one of several pro-Israel groups forging close ties between US cops and Israel’s security and intelligence apparatus.
Another is the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA), a neoconservative think tank that claims to have hosted some 9,500 law enforcement officials in its Law Enforcement Exchange Program (LEEP) since 2004.
LEEP “takes delegations of senior law enforcement executives to Israel to study methods and observe techniques used in preventing and reacting to acts of terrorism” and “sponsors conferences within the United States, bringing Israeli experts before much larger groups of law enforcement leaders,” according to JINSA’s brochure.
Former St. Louis Police Department police chief Joseph Mokwa is listed as having traveled to Israel as part of a LEEP conference in February 2008.

 

Meanwhile, the scope of Israel’s influence on US law enforcement remains virtually ignored by the media despite the troubling implications of emulating an apartheid regime actively engaged in ethnic cleansing and war crimes.
The culture of racism and impunity that has long plagued American policing is deadly enough as it is. Adding Israeli-style repression to an already dangerous mix guarantees disaster.

God weeps, the church is silent

August 16, 2014

 

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Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. Matt 16;24

Christianity is a tough proposition, a road less travelled. In the west it has been sapped by advanced capitalism. The dynamite which caused a world revolution has been replaced by the equivalence of a “happy meal”, attendance at your local church and it must be said, often by very kind personal acts of charity at the interpersonal level. Biblical discipleship of course is not about charity. it is about justice, right relationships. As the great German theologian Johann Metz said, “danger lights up every page of the of the New testament” and it is dangerous to get close to the itinerant rabbi of Galilee. If you do you might share the same fate. Inevitably there will be a cross for you because of the options you have chosen.

 

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The Anglo Irish priest therapist Diarmuid Omurchu puts it this way:

We have come a long way from the fiery prophetic figure Jesus of Nazareth who shocked and disturbed the conventions of his day in the name of justice and liberation. Our respectability has taken a terrible toll on the authentic calling of Christian life.

We have lost sight of the deeper vision and lost heart for the passion and enthusiasm of God’s New Reign. The following of Jesus is not a respectable religion.

That wonderful British Dominican Herbert McCabe has an ironic twist on this:

The Christian message—If you don’t love. you won’t really be alive. If you do love and do it effectively, you’ll be killed.

One looks in vein for any North American bishop who would dare utter the prophetic denunciation you are about to read. It comes from a man whose Presbyterian minister father was a beacon in his life. I refer to the amazing Pulitzer prize journalist Chris Hedges.

Sadly as Catholics we no longer look for the prophetic among the so-called leaders, though the present pope moves gingerly in that of these John Paul bishops are managers and administrators. We look in vain for the Jesus wild card, the disturbers of the status quo in the Hebrew bible, men like Jeremiah and Isaiah. The rabbinate in North America is no better.

Allan C Brownfeld of the American Council for Judaism in a letter( Aug.9,2014) to the Wall Street Journal made this point:

Judaism has been corrupted by its politicization.  For some, a form of idolatry seems to have been embraced, making Israel an object of worship, much like the golden calf in the Bible.  It is not only Palestinians who have been the victims of this enterprise, but Jewish moral and ethical values as well.

Sadly, there are few Abraham Heschels among today’s rabbis.

Yet the prophetic never dies—because God is still alive, mainly on the margins and outside the walls of of official religion especially when it comes to israel. Cultural Jews like world renowned Noam Chomsky are fearless.The latest atrocities in Gaza—1994 deaths, 1657 civilians and 468 children cry to heaven for advocates. Chomsky calls this savagery “a hideous atrocity, sadistic, vicious, murderous, totally without any credible pretext.

And this brings us to the authentic prophet Chris Hedges. His whole article can be read on http://www.truthdig.com/

God’s covenant in the Promised Land was not made with those who pilot F-16 fighter jets that drop 1,000-pound iron fragmentation bombs over the concrete hovels of Gaza. It was not made with those operating Apache or Cobra attack helicopters that unleash lethal fire over crowded refugee camps. It was not made with drone operators that clinically kill children … outside mosques. It was not made with M-60 tank units and artillery crews that murder families huddled in terror in their homes. It was not made with those on gunboats that slaughter boys playing on a beach. It was not made with those that fire Sidewinder missiles and drop 250-pound “smart bombs” on apartment blocks. It was not made with snipers from the Golani Brigade that gun down unarmed men and women for sport. It was not made with occupiers that reduce an entire people to a starvation diet—indeed count the calories to keep them barely alive—or to those who use words like “mowing the lawn” to justify the indiscriminant slaughter of innocents.
God’s covenant in the Promised Land was not made with politicians—including every member of the U.S. Senate—that mouth words for peace and perpetuate war, that call for justice and perpetuate injustice, that refuse to stand up for the rule of law and the right of a captive people to be free.


God’s covenant in the Promised Land was not made, finally, with any race or religion. It was not made with the Jews. It was not made with the Muslims. It was not made with the Christians. God’s covenant—in the Bible and the Koran—was made with the righteous. When Ibrahim asked in the holy Koran if the covenant could be inherited, he was told bluntly: “My covenant is not given to oppressors.” And God’s iron requirement to stand with the oppressed occurs as well in the Hebrew and Greek bibles. Those who turn away from righteousness—be they Jew, Christian or Muslim—violate that covenant. They are not God’s people.

God’s covenant is made with those who love mercy and do justice, with those who care for the stranger, the orphan and the widow, with those who frustrate the ways of the wicked, with those who bring good news to the oppressed, who bind up the brokenhearted, who proclaim liberty to the captives and release to all those in prison, including those imprisoned in Gaza. God’s covenant is with those men and women—Jews, Christians and Muslims, believers and nonbelievers—who say, “Let my people go, oppressed so hard they could not stand. Let my people go.” And God calls these people oaks of righteousness. And they are God’s people.
Why does God weep in the Promised Land?
God weeps because families, huddled in terror in their homes, are dismembered and killed by Israeli bombs. God weeps because mothers howl in grief over the bodies of their children in U.N. schools hit by Israeli shells. God weeps because the old and disabled, who could not flee the deadly Israeli advance, died helpless and afraid. God weeps because the powerful, here and in Israel, lie and dissemble to justify murder. And God weeps for all those who stand by and do nothing.

God weeps because the assault on Gaza is not about Israel’s right to self-defense or about removing Hamas from power. It is not about achieving peace. God weeps because the assault on Gaza is about the decades-long campaign to destroy and ethnically cleanse the Palestinian people from their land. God weeps because Israel is constructing squalid, lawless and impoverished ghettos where life for Palestinians is barely sustainable. God weeps because Israel restricts or shuts off movement, food, medicine and goods to accentuate the human misery. God weeps because Israel has turned Gaza, now largely without power, running water and sewage [systems], into a vast gulag.

God weeps because the failure to condemn Israeli war crimes by our political establishment and our compliant media betrays the memory of those killed in other genocides, from the Holocaust to Cambodia to Rwanda to Bosnia. God weeps because we have failed to learn the fundamental lesson of the Holocaust, which is not that Jews are unique or eternal victims, but that when you have the capacity to stop genocide, and you do not, you are culpable. And we [Americans], who provide 95 percent of Israel’s weapons, are very culpable.

Signs of fascism says israeli prof

August 15, 2014

 

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“Signs of fascism in Israel reached new peak during Gaza op, says renowned scholar,” so read an article in Haaretz on August 13. In this piece Israel Prize laureate and renowned scholar Zeev Sternhell discussed the potential collapse of Israeli democracy. The trend lines are not too promising. Sternhell himself,a 79 year old former Polish refugee has long been a thorn in the side of what Ilan Pappe calls Neo-Zionism.

The original Zionist narrative was that persecuted Jews around 1900 came to Palestine which was empty at the time. It was a national movement of redemption resulting in a free peopl creating a modern agricultural miracle. For some bizarre reason Palestinians who had been living there and were a majority did not appreciate the gradual theft of their land. With the catastrophic holocaust of nearly 6 million European Jews partition occurred in 1947 and in 1948 Israel defeated and expelled 750,000 natives who it was said left on their own accord.

Post Zionist scholars int he 80s and early 90s blew this idealized founding myth to smithereens. Ugly truths about Jewish terror and the nullification of Palestinians were unearthed by these new historians. Now there was no denying the facts of the Nakba and the terrible injustice done to Palestinians. Thousands of Jews leapt out of a burning building only to land on the backs of a people who had nothing to do with their appalling treatment.

After the 6 Day War of 1967 Israel continued to populate the West Bank with illegal settlers. With incontrovertible documents noted above Palestinians suddenly appeared and were added to the post Zionist narrative of the 90s.

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With the increased freedom to publish, ugly scenes of repression and cruelty appeared in both Israeli and national media. Unconventional thinking began to seep into the former Zionist narrative. Writers like Gideon Levy and Amira Hass who lived for 3 years in Gaza made Israelis aware of the harsh life under military rule and occupation. They consistently pointed out that the state was hardly a shining example of democracy. There was less fredom however in the visual media. They were loathe to show the world the ugly face of Israel’s brutality. Yet disturbing images began to seep into the Israeli conscience. The founding lmyth though wobbly continued to stand despite the new historians. Most Israelis wanted to believe they lived in a modern liberal state and it was “the objective environment” (read Palestinian resistance to ongoing repression and humiliation) which forced the state to stint on human rights.

In the end as T.S. Eliot famously wrote “humankind can not bear very much reality” and rather deal with the new facts israelis regressed to the default position of noble zionism. The arrival of Likud and its successors has shown the world the awful results—moral midgets as leaders begin, Shamir, Sharon and now Netanyahu. Thus the fear of Professor Sternhell. himself almost killed in 2008 by a bomb of another wacky settler,a former informer for the security police the Shin Bet. Jack Teitel the perpetrator was sentenced to 12 life terms and Professor Sternhell the renowned scholar kept speaking. Of such men Israel can be proud. More tomorrow.

The Lies keep coming

August 8, 2014

 

ORI_0365-640x425-580x385The Lies
by Buff Whitman-Bradley

The lies rise early

To shower and shave

And don their heroic flight suits

(The lies are nothing
If not clean-cut
A

and smartly turned-out

 

At breakfast the lies

Playfully mock each other

And make light

Of the dangers of their upcoming mission

Over enemy territory

(The lies are nothing

If not courageous

 

During their preflight briefing

The lies receive

Aerial photographs

And location coordinates

For surgical strikes

Against terrorist targets

(The lies are nothing

If not precise)

 

In the cockpits of their F16s

The lies crack jokes

Over their crackling radios

About mowing down “future terrorists”

(The lies are nothing
If not witty)

 

When they return to base

The lies meet over a few beers

To review their day’s work

And pledge allegiance once again

To the founding myths

While on enemy ground

Countless small truths

Bleed into soil and sand

 

This poem was originally published at The New Verse News, a Buff Whitman-Bradley is the author of four books of poetry,

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Israel PR has always been good—lies,of course, but effective Mark Regev the dulcet Australian spindoctor in chief is very good at his lies. Always polite and always wrong, a bold faced liar.
Formerly Mark Freiberg, he changed his name (too Germanic) to the more acceptable Regev when he emigrated from Melbourne in 1982.

 

Margalit Toledano, an Israeli writer who has written on Israel’s PR pretty well nails him “Effective professional spokespeople should also advise governments, not just deliver their messages. Regev doesn’t seem to provide good advice about the content of the message. There is rarely a credible apology or expression of empathy with Palestinian victims. Nor is there any mention of an alternative way for dealing with the conflict.”

In a piece for the London  Observer on 6 June 2010, Ruth Sutherland wrote the following.

If the men from Mars ever wanted to manufacture a PR man, they would model their robot on Regev. No matter how formidable the interviewer, or how aggressive the questioning, he never buckles under pressure he almost lulls listeners into overlooking his aggression. He is always regretful about death and horror – he regrets that the non-Israeli victims brought their fate on themselves. Viewers are reduced to a trance of slack-jawed amazement at what he is prepared to say with a straight face. He is unlikely to win sceptics to Israel’s cause, but as a PR performer he is horribly compelling.”

Anybody who has watched this guy must agree. but for the noted British journalist Alan Hart, he is only compelling to “

Listen to him–it’s always Hamas, rockets, tunnels.Israel is always the aggrieved, the innocent ones who are desperately seeking peace.War is Peace as Orwell said.

On the cjarm offensive we had to endure the latest full page Globe and Mail ad which trotted out Elie Wiesel (hint, hint it’s the Holocaust and Jews are always innocent. Hamas now “ are guilty of sacrificing children.”.Even the London Times rejected this piece of folderol. Wiesel of course says nothing about lifting the siege of gaza and the festering Occupation

Jewish Theologian Marc Ellis was closer to the mark about Wiesel:

Of course, it’s also about the Holocaust, that vast swathe of traumatized Jewish identity that keeps breaking open even as Israel’s occupation regime and war machine go haywire.
The veterans of Holocaust discourse are older now, all in their eighties, but periodically they’re trotted out to support Israel – especially when there isn’t any viable way of doing so.
Call it the Holocaust trump card. Elie Wiesel’s wild.

Elie Wiesel can’t help himself. If he hasn’t debased himself and his cause enough on the subject of Israel in recent years, his latest is a stunner.

Teaming up with Shmuley Boteach, a rabbi whose book on Kosher sex made a splash some years ago and has been gaming right ever since, Wiesel has just penned a paid statement making the rounds of major newspapers and other media outlets.

When will intelligent people see through the lies?

Truman’s tragic decision

August 7, 2014

 

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When a stranger resides with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt; I am the Lord your God..

Leviticus 19:33,34

Zionism is the most stupendous fallacy in jewish history.It is wrong in principle and impossible in realization;it is unsound in its economics, fanatical in it its politics and sterile in its spiritual; ideas.I speak as a Jew.
Henry Morgenthau Sr. 1921

One should never expect anything more than realpolitik from any government. In The USA domestic political considerations once again has trumped principled foreign policy  based on UN resolutions and a sense of justice. Consider the loss of Congressional and senate seats, the drying up of abundant Jewish American money like the Koch Brothers and Sheldon Adelson, the power of AIPAC and its allies and the lingering fear of being dubbed antisemitic. All of these have turned so-called leaders into timorous statesmen and women both in Canada and the United States.

Ever was it thus in America. The president Harry S Truman set the United States on a disastrous path in 1947 when he ignored the advice of the man he considered the “greatest living American of his generation”, Secretary of State,General George C. Marshall. The latter was adamant that the question of Palestine must be taken out of the realm of domestic politics. If it wasn’t Marshall concluded, “the great dignity of the office would be seriously diminished.” By this time it was widely understood that partition would become a catastrophe. Truman sadly succumbed at the last minute to the pressures of the  Zionist lobby thereby undercutting and humiliating his delegates at the UN. On the  floor of the General Assembly delegates were shocked at the volte face of American policy. Trusteeship and the internationalization of Jerusalem were now off the table. Worse, the standing of the United States had received a body blow from which it has never recovered.

Truman was a decent man, sensitive to the sufferings in the holocaust but as historian Arnold Toynbee wrote,”untempered by by any sensitive awareness that he was thereby abetting the infliction of wrongs and sufferings of the Arabs.” He simply did not have the experience or emotional temperament to rise to the occasion. He prefigured the craven politics of Barack Obama and John Kerry, modern victims of domestic politics.

In the post-war period there was incredible sympathy for the Jewish victims of the Nazis but also  a great deal of ignorance about the Palestinian community and Arabs in general. Firstly arabs were invisible in the United states  but its ally Great Britain had a long history  with the Arab peoples particularly after the infamous Balfour Declaration of 1917 which “looked favourably” on the establishment of a Jewish “homeland”. A homeland but not a state. The camel’s nose was now under the tent. Zionist leadership never would accept ” a corner of Palestine, a canton” as the brilliant Odessa born  Zionist theorist Vladimir Jabotinsky (d 1940) stated.The fact that 93% of the population in this part of the Ottoman Turkish  Empire was Christian or Muslim Arab was hidden from the British people. It was  a recipe for disaster. The signs were  ominous as the riots of 1920 and 1936 proved. Arab resentment was smoldering.

 

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Earlier n 1919  the idealist  president  Woodrow Wilson mused that “he had never been able to see by what right France and Great Britain gave this country away (Syria) to anyone…It is not true that Palestine  is the national home of the Jewish people and no others.” Zionism for him was “a crime against the triumph of the whole past history world embracing visions of their great prophets.”

Wilson sent Oberlin College president Henry King and industrialist Charles Crane as American reps to the International Commission on the Mandates in Turkey.

In 1922 the Commissioners reported:”No British officer consulted believed that the zionists program could be carried out except by force of arms…a national home is not equivalent to making Palestine into a Jewish state…this will create the gravest trespass upon the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities.’

Zionism in this period between the  wars had come under the radical suasion of the brilliant revisionist thinker, the aforementioned Jabotinsky, the spiritual godfather of Menachem Begin, Ariel Sharon and Bibi Neatanyahu, all territorial maximists and total believers in Jabotinsky’s Iron Wall.

Above all the latter was brutally honest:” It has been necessary to carry on colonization against the will of the Palestinian Arabs…all colonization must continue if defiance of the native population…it can continue and develop only under the shield of force which comprises the iron wall which the population can never break through. Zionism is a colonizing adventure and therefore stands or it falls on the question of armed force.”

Gaza is simply the manifestation of this.

Real Jews

Rabbi’s heart broken by Israel

August 6, 2014

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I’m a rabbi in mourning for a Judaism being murdered by Israel writes the well-known rabbi editor of Tikkun. In a long piece on Salon,com Lerner expands on his inner turmoil. The author has always been a champion of Israel, proud of its many achievements that have benefitted the world. He even had a son serve in the IDF.

Lerner like many of us Lovers of Zion in the goyische community always believed that the dominant humanity of the Jewish people,”and the compassionate strain within Torah” would win the day. While the author never mentions the corrosive ability of advanced capitalism to subvert even the best dreams I am sure he would agree.

The rabbi, given his attachment to Israel knows his history—how Israel radically regressed under the brutal leadership of Arab haters like Sharon and Netanyahu. Both were promoters of “greater Israel” that is the maximization of territorial theft. They simply ignored the Saudi Peace Initiative which granted Israel recognition(even accepted by Hamas) and continued to gobble up more territory. And now Gaza with its brutal assault.

Lerner argues that both communities are victims of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) which has distorted future generations.

Dr.Jesse Ghanam ciinical professor of psychiatry and global health sciences at the University of California described PTSD among Palestinian children,

Even before the current military offensive, young Gazans bore the mental scars of years under siege and previous episodes of bombardment. After the 2012 war, the rate of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among children in Gaza doubled, according to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, which provides assistance for Palestinian refugees. Mental health experts fear that the latest bombardment may create detrimental repercussions too difficult for children to overcome.

Palestinian children in Gaza are exposed to more violence in their lifetime than any other people, any other children, anywhere in the world. If you look at children right now who are 10 years old, they’ve been through Cast Lead in 2008 and 2009, the invasion in 2012 and now the invasion and destruction in 2014, in addition to the siege. If you look at the statistics, for example, even before Cast Lead, 80 percent of Palestinian children in Gaza have witnessed some sort of violence against them, a friend or a family member. And now you’re getting to the point where probably close to 99 percent of children in Gaza are being exposed to a level of violence where they have seen family members be killed, murdered, burned alive. There’s nothing like the levels of traumatic exposure that any child in the world has ever been exposed to on a chronic and daily basis.

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What distinguished Lerner’s critique is his role as a rabbi, a defender of universal Torah values. Like Henry Siegman, also am ordained rabbi, Lerner is disillusioned by the American Jewish community. He rails against idolatry.

Jews around the world have taken a turn that is disastrous, by turning the Israeli nation state into “the Jewish state” and making Israel into an idol to be worshiped rather than a political entity like any other political entity, with strengths and deep flaws. Despairing of spiritual salvation after God failed to show up and save us from the Holocaust, increasing numbers of Jews have abandoned the religion of compassion and identification with the most oppressed that was championed by our biblical prophets, and instead come to worship power and to rejoice in Israel’s ability to become the most militarily powerful state in the Middle East. If a Jew today goes into any synagogue in the 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. As Aaron said of the Golden Calf in the Desert, “These are your Gods, O Israel.”

The worship of the state makes it necessary for Jews to turn Judaism into an auxiliary of ultra-nationalist blindness. Every act of the State of Israel against the Palestinian people is seen as sanctioned by God. Each Sabbath Jews in synagogues around the world are offered prayers for the well-being of the State of Israel but not for our Arab cousins.  The very suggestion that we should be praying for the Palestinian people’s welfare is seen as heresy and proof of being “self-hating Jews.”

The worship of power is precisely what Judaism came into being to challenge. We were the slaves, the powerless, and though the Torah talks of God using a strong arm to redeem the Israelites from Egyptian slavery, it simultaneously insists, over and over again, that when Jews go into their promised land in Canaan (not Palestine) they must “love the stranger/the Other,” have one law for the stranger and for the native born, and warns “do not oppress the stranger/the Other.” Remember, Torah reminds us, “that you were strangers/the Other in the land of Egypt” and “you know the heart of the stranger.”  Later sources in Judaism even insist that a person without compassion who claims to be Jewish cannot be considered Jewish. A spirit of generosity is so integral to Torah consciousness that when Jews are told to let the land lie fallow once every seven years (the societal-wide Sabbatical Year), they must allow that which grows spontaneously from past plantings be shared with the Other/the stranger.

The Jews are not unique in this. The basic reality is that most of humanity has always heard a voice inside themselves telling them that the best path to security and safety is to love others and show generosity, and a counter voice that tells us that the only path to security is domination and control over others. This struggle between the voice of fear and the voice of love, the voice of domination/power-over and the voice of compassion, empathy and generosity, have played out throughout history and shape contemporary political debates around the world.

Where are the prophets?

August 5, 2014

 

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But there is worse…a spiritual corruption at the hands and lies and hypocrisy that borders on blasphemy, in the fact that a people could make use of the Torah to strengthen its national pretensions…This is a kind of prostitution of the values of Judaism…If there exists jew willing to join the national occupationist trend, making “greater israel”…the essential element of their faith a religious commandment, well then these people have become the heirs of worshippers of the golden calf..it too may be called “nation”, “and, “state.”

After the six day War (1967) Yeshayayu Leibowitz,(d.1994) the Israel polymath and Orthodox believer smelled out early, the price that Israel would pay as a nation. Like a Cassandra, he saw too clearly continual perpetual war and the undermining of Jewish values all in defense of nationhood, a concept foreign  to Judaism. He correctly saw the coming of the police state and the penning in of Palestinians. In many ways Leibowitz was a contemporary Jeremiah.He spoke as a religious Jew.

Few North American Jews ever heard of him.They much prefer the writings of” blind guides” and Israel firsters.

Chris Hedges writes as the Pulitzer Prize winning journalist who was stationed in israel/palestine. He should know. He’s been there, seen it up close. No armchair quarterback here. No tribal pundit. He’s another Groucho Marxist—who do you believe me or your eyes?

All governments lie, as I.F. Stone pointed out, including Israel and Hamas. But Israel engages in the kinds of jaw-dropping lies that characterize despotic and totalitarian regimes. It does not deform the truth; it inverts it. It routinely paints a picture for the outside world that is diametrically opposed to reality. And all of us reporters who have covered the occupied territories have run into Israel’s Alice-in-Wonderland narratives, which we dutifully insert into our stories—required under the rules of American journalism—although we know they are untrue.

So writes Hedges n his latest dispatch on Trurthdig.

The latest whopper or “official lie” is “Mission accomplished” in Gaza. after 1938 were massacred,1626 civilians and 460 children 792 Gazans injured, mosques, schools and power plants destroyed and now this from the spin doctors: “Indications from Israeli officials were that the accomplishment of their mission—and not outside pressure to end the assault on Gaza—was the primary reason for agreeing to the deal and the withdrawal of troops. And the IDF tweet:
“Mission accomplished: We have destroyed Hamas’ tunnels leading from Gaza into Israel. All of Israel is now safer.”

You see its about the tunnels.

No it’s about the revulsion of the civilized world and  Israel’s biggest ally the USA finally saying “Enough”. It’s about an incredible number of Israeli soldiers   killed in this unholy combat. 64 beautiful young people like their Palestinian victims whose lives have been needlessly aborted. In a small country which mourns the death of its military this is an extraordinary number. It is because of this very high numbers that PM Netanyahu in a fit of rage unleashed even more firepower on Gaza.

How long, O Lord will israel continue to produce leaders like this?

So now a 72 hour time out so decent people can give their heads a shake.

Hedges addresses Israeli supporters:

And since most supporters of Israel do not have a desire to know the truth, a truth that would force them to examine their own racism and self-delusions about Zionist and Western moral superiority, like packs of famished dogs they lap up the lies fed to them by the Israeli government.
The Big Lie makes it clear to the Palestinians that Israel will continue to wage a campaign of state terror and will never admit its atrocities or its intentions. The vast disparity between what Israel says and what Israel does tells the Palestinians that there is no hope. Israel will do and say whatever it wants. International law, like the truth, will always be irrelevant. There will never, the Palestinians understand from the Big Lie, be an acknowledgement of reality by the Israeli leadership.

There are so many incredible Israelis who have had it with the violence. I have met them. They need to grow to mitigate the lies of one military government after another. They know nothing but the arrogance of power. Holocaust theology has run its course .As  American Jewish theologian Marc Ellis writes.

”Playing the Holocaust trump card isn’t working anymore. Few respond to their Holocaust pleadings as they did almost reflexively decades ago.
Call if cognitive dissonance – using Jewish suffering as a rallying call while Jews causing suffering to others in the name of that suffering is too confusing for most folks. Say the Holocaust and people think Gaza. It isn’t a comparison. It’s a deep revulsion to violence in the name of innocents suffering.”

Hamas, itself the creation of Israel, is the predictable and pathetic revolt against the barbarism of state terrorism. Of course it is futile; of course those rockets as puny as they are are war crimes. Hanas represents the defiance of a besieged people who can no loner stomach such continual oppression and abject humiliation. The end of  occupation, the end of blockades and sieges will be the end of Hamas.

I fear however that the worst siege is the siege mentality of Israel and diaspora  Judaism. Are there no Judah Magnes, Martin Buber, Abraham Heschels on the horizon?Is the voice of biblical prophecy totally dead?

Abraham Burg, the former speaker of the Knesset and an Orthodox view says,”Israel must understand that genetic Judaism has to end. We have to connect to the Judaism that shares a common fate and values with others.”

That road of necessity leads through the people Israel shares a country with. A vibrant Judaism is never about land. it is about texts. It is about Torah, Talmud and their universal meaning. It is about reconciliation. And here the onus is always on the powerful and their international enablers.

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