Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Bad Day in Ottawa: The Platitude Express

October 23, 2014

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Of all the hysterical can’t and 24 hour over the top nonsense about the shooting in Ottawa comes the most astute comment of all from Matt Behrens

I often find it hard to feel empathy for Prime Minister Stephen Harper. But when I saw the grim picture of him talking on the phone following the end of his confinement in the locked down House of Commons yesterday, I sensed in him a vulnerability he rarely exhibits. Harper, like his fellow MPs, Parliamentary staff, media, visitors and children in the downstairs daycare, had likely hunkered down behind locked doors, no doubt traumatized by uncertainty when an armed gunman entered the building. Because no one knew who the gunman was after, all were potential targets. For half a day, everyone on lockdown no doubt felt the fear, despair, sadness and fragile sense of mortality that people in Iraq and Syria have experienced daily for decades, an extra punch of which they will soon receive at the hands of Canadian CF-18 bombers.

It’s the kind of trauma not to be wished upon anyone, and I hope all affected will get the kind of counselling and therapeutic support necessary to deal with what may emerge as multiple cases of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), otherwise known as the condition that you get denied proper treatment for when you are a returning Canadian military veteran.

Like those in Afghanistan who suffered 13 years of Canadian bombardment (upwards of a billion Canadian bullets fired), night raids, transfers to torture, and the daily indignities of life under military occupation, those Parliamentarians with the power to declare war — and send somebody else overseas to fight it for them — felt, in a relatively limited fashion, what it’s like for millions of the world’s war-weary populations. The image of a cowering John Baird or Jason Kenney hiding in a barricaded office must have proven a stark contrast to the swaggering, macho manner in which these men urged Canada to declare war on ISIS, further fuelling the flames of fear and hatred against Muslims.

Out-of-the-blue violence

Thankfully, most of yesterday’s hostages to violence in Parliament went home last night to warm houses with showers, uninterrupted electricity supply, food in the fridge, and the knowledge that this horror is unlikely to happen tomorrow and four or five times for the remainder of the month or periodically for the rest of their lives. But had this happened in Iraq, such relative safety would not be guaranteed, in part due to Canada’s role in obliterating that nation’s economy, electricity and water supply, and health-care system, first though intensive bombing in 1991, military enforcement of a decade’s worth of brutal sanctions that killed a million Iraqis, and renewed support and participation in the 2003 invasion that was made possible by Canadian weapons, technical components, navy personnel and equipment, embedded troops, and high-ranking military officials. It was also out of Iraq’s torturing prisons during the occupation that numerous ISIS leaders emerged.

The tragic murder of a young Canadian reservist and the Parliamentary shootout was all the more shocking because of its sudden, seemingly out-of-the-blue fashion. In the same way, on a daily basis in tribal areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan, in Yemen, in Somalia, children in schools, celebrants at weddings, and other individuals and families are suddenly, shockingly killed by a Hellfire missile fired from a remote control-operated drone, likely with the Canadian-built targeting camera courtesy of L-3 Wescam in Burlington, Ontario.

What is being treated as Canada’s 9/11 is a day that recalls the comments made half a century ago by the great Malcolm X, who commented that the assassination of President Kennedy was a case of “chickens coming home to roost,” a result of a “climate of hate” fostered by a U.S. political and corporate establishment regularly overthrowing governments and assassinating (or plotting against) a variety of leaders from Patrice Lumumba to Fidel Castro. At the time, Malcolm X was vilified for speaking the truth, one that America was not ready to accept, just as many Canadians may be unwilling to do now.

Indeed, how many Canadians reading that last paragraph would step back and say, “That’s them, not us”? The horrible sound of gunfire in Parliament must have sounded a small bit of like some opening moments during the Canadian-supported coup against the democratically elected Chilean government of Salvador Allende in 1973, one of many coups Canada has given support to (including more recently the coups in Honduras, Egypt, Haiti, etc.). One reporter gasped that it was simply incongruous to see SWAT teams escorting her through the Parliament in which she worked, and yet Canadian policy throughout much of the world forces her counterparts to walk that ring of heavily armed men on a daily basis.

Rather than viewing yesterday’s tragic events as a wake-up call to seriously examine Canada’s negative role on the world stage and the inevitable “climate of hate” to which we are contributing, we can expect nothing less than a ride on the Platitude Express, which embarked within minutes of the first bullets being fired.

The Platitude Express

From endless references to the “loss of innocence” to the pronouncements that “things will never be the same” (especially in the “hallowed halls” of Parliament), we are witnessing the cranking up of our self-loving myth machine into high gear.

In this climate, do not expect our finest hour. Yesterday’s events will be used as the springboard to call for greater militarization of the national culture and justification for unending war against ISIL/ISIS or any other convenient enemy-du-jour. This will lead to further increases in war spending, despite the fact that the War Dept. was supposed to come up with $2 billion in cuts. The wars in Ukraine and Iraq — costs for which are being kept secret, without much protest — will easily double that. These events will also be used to attack anyone who questions Canada’s role in wars past or present.

New repressive laws

The events of yesterday will likely also have a congealing impact on Parliamentarians who, understandably, shared a trauma together. Wednesday was supposed to be the Harper government’s opportunity to unleash a new round of legislative measures designed to give CSIS and the RCMP even more freedom to trade information with torturers, monitor people overseas, take part in extraordinary rendition programs, and be completely immune from prosecution and oversight by the creation of a special class privilege that would assert the right of CSIS agents and informers not to be questioned about their activities in any court of law, public or secret.

But after yesterday, what opposition leader who wants to appear prime ministerial will feel comfortable saying no to such an agenda? The Conservatives will no doubt frame the issue with the familiar refrain, “you’re either with the terrorists or against them.”

Perhaps the most immediate impact will be felt in certain communities targeted for racial and religious profiling. While Canadian soldiers have been told to stay indoors and not show themselves in public, individuals of South Asian or Middle Eastern heritage, and certainly anyone who may be a Muslim or perceived as one, may have second thoughts about being out in public. These communities will be the subject of demands from the media and some “community leaders” to “out” radicalized young people, to call in “suspicious” behavior (undefined), and to report their neighbours to CSIS or the Mounties. They will find greater difficulty travelling, and they will learn first-hand about something called the Passenger Protect Program (or no-fly list).

This is especially so since, while we do not know much about the shooter, media have been quick to point out that although he was a Canadian, he was of “Algerian” heritage, and a recent convert to Islam. Both are completely irrelevant factors, but so commonly part of the daily anti-terror discourse that no second thought is given to the consequences of bringing it up.

The game is no longer far away

Glenn Greenwald adequately summed things up by asking why Canada, a nation that has been at war for 13 years and counting, would be shocked that someone might actually (however unjustifiably), do what he felt was needed to fight back. But as a country that wages war but has never suffered from war the way Russia or France or Syria or Iraq have, we have always been insulated against the consequences of our actions, buoyed by a mythology that allows us to wear Canadian flags on backpacking trips through Europe.

By day’s end, Harper addressed the nation, his discourse unchanged from the bellicose rumblings of last week as he rammed through a Parliamentary vote to bomb Iraq and Syria: “Canada will never be intimidated…redouble our efforts…savagery…no safe haven…”

After a long day focused on these gripping events in the nation’s capital, I have to wonder if this direct experience of fear and trauma will force us to examine our own addiction to violence as the solution to conflict. Yesterday provides us with an opportunity to reflect on our insidious contribution to the climate of hate, and the chance to disengage from our increasingly militarized culture.

Matthew Behrens is a freelance writer and social justice advocate who co-ordinates the Homes not Bombs non-violent direct action network. He has worked closely with the targets of Canadian and U.S. ‘national security’ profiling for many years.

We sure miss Tony Judt

October 20, 2014

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Tony Judt died in 2010.A towering intellectual whose book on the 20th century is required reading, he was engaged to the very end a premature demise a victim of ALS. A younger colleague, historian Tim Snyder was smart enough to realize  that one of the brightest lights was about to dim sohe sat down with Judt and let the tape recorder roll. The result was Thinking the Twentieth Century, with Timothy Snyder (2012).

An early Zionist Judt worked as a youth on a kibbutz and served in the IDF he then had an epiphany: he knew no Palestinians! There was no turning back.

In a famous article in 2003 in the NY Review of Books he saw it all too clearly:

 

The President of the United States of America has been reduced to a ventriloquist’s dummy, pitifully reciting the Israeli cabinet line: “It’s all Arafat’s fault.”

 

The very idea of a “Jewish state”—a state in which Jews and the Jewish religion have exclusive privileges from which non-Jewish citizens are forever excluded—is rooted in another time and place. Israel, in short, is an anachronism.

 

As the prominent Labor politician Avraham Burg recently wrote, “After two thousand years of struggle for survival, the reality of Israel is a colonial state, run by a corrupt clique which scorns and mocks law and civic morality.”1 Unless something changes, Israel in half a decade will be neither Jewish nor democratic.

 

He outraged fellow Jews, American Zionists.

Phil Weiss has clipped this following piece from the book exposing the frequent know nothing columnists  and Israel boosters David Brooks and Tom Friedman who were gung ho about GW Bush’s excellent adventure which has brought total chaos to the Middle East and indeed to the world.
Judt reports that in 2003 he was on Charlie Rose with Brooks and when he challenged Brooks about the effectiveness of international agencies to resolve the Kosovo crisis and by extension the Iraq crisis, Brooks said “I don’t really know anything about that.”

 
Here we had the public intellectual who now occupies not only prominent television space but also op-ed pages of the most influential newspapers in the English-speaking world: and he knows nothing.

 

 
Men like Brooks know, literally, nothing. So I encountered in those troubled months a combination of catastrophic acquiescence in authority and plain, old-fashioned dumb ignorance masquerading as commentary. These were the circumstances which allowed a criminal political action to be pushed through the public space with very little opposition.

 

 
Something else to remember, though, is that the people who did know something just rolled over. I’m thinking of Michael Ignatieff, or David Remnick, or Leon Wieseltier, or Michael Walzer. Instead of asking questions, they all behaved as though the only function of the intellectual was to provide justification for the actions of non-intellectuals. And I just remember being profoundly shocked and also feeling very lonely. Not that I felt comfortable with the isolationists either…

 

 
Brooks is an interesting case because it’s all done with mirrors–there is no expertise. The apparent expertise consists of the capacity to talk glibly each week about any public event in a way that readers have gotten used to as a sort of enlightened commentary. Thomas Friedman, another prominent contemporary “expert,” trades on a slightly different notion of expertise. Notice that pretty much every Friedman column includes a reference to som famous person he’s spoken to. So he makes explicit the notion that your expertise is a function of your contacts… It doesn’t really matter, actually, who it is. It’s the notion of access to something special.

 

 
In Friedman’s case, access to information is very carefully recalibrated as the acceptable middle ground on any given policy issue. And Friedman’s position on the Iraq War was contemptible. Not only did he run along with everyone else, but he actually probably slightly misread the tea leaves and ran along a little too fast on the anti-French, anti-European thing. It was Friedman who ran a column that said that France should be kicked out of the U.N. Security Council for having the chutzpah to oppose the United States on such an important issue.

 

 
Gee, we miss Judt now and the NYT keeps printing folderol from Friedman and Brooks.

Suicide in the IDF: war as a daily diet

October 6, 2014

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War destroyes the oppressor too

The last time I was in israel i was at a friend’s house for dinner. His 22 year old son was recently demobbed from the IDF. His daughter, visibly nervous, was a bout to do her two year stint.

I’ll  never forget the son’s comment.

“What kind of a government  gives a mill;ion dollar tank to a 20 year old kid.”

 

What kind of a government asks young impressionable kids  to betray their humanity on a daily basis and  humiliate another people? It is no wonder that young Jews in the diaspora are bailing out of synagogues when silence becomes the sickening norm, when spiritual leaders are ruled by “cheque book Judaism” and refuse to speak truth to power, in this case an out of control Israeli state.

 

Israeli Defense Forces soldiers have historically had a very high rate of suicides, in spite of the fact that this rate had been improving recently. That improvement, however, took a turn for the worse after the latest IDF military operation in Gaza.

 
Now, the Israeli military police have opened an investigation into what is casing the recent spike in IDF suicides. Three members of an elite military unit recently committed suicide.

 
The soldiers were members of the Givati Brigade, who were directly involved in the Gaza ground operation during the recent War on Gaza.

 

 

One after another, the Givati soldiers began committing suicide after the Israeli operation ended.

 
The Israeli daily news Maariv explained that these were all cases of self-inflicted gunshot wounds, with two of the soldiers shooting themselves near the border with Gaza.

 
Gazans say that they are not surprised, as the brutality that they witnessed from IDF brigades would have, according to Gaza City resident M.A. Hussein, “been impossible for anyone with a conscience to live with.”

 

Stephen Harper ecological outlaw

September 21, 2014

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So there is Barack Obama and UK PM Cameron fresh from the Scottish referendum and isn’t that France’s Francois Hollande—and 150 other leaders in New York City for the UN Secretary-General’s Climate summit. 150,000 are expected to send a serious message to world leaders that their performance on this pressing moral issue is woefully inadequate.

 

And missing in action the international climate scofflaw Canada’s Stephen Harper who is sending his environmental minister the hapless Leona Aglukkaq to the deliberations, She is just the latest  environmental minister sent by the climate denying PM to stall any serious change.

 
The Council of Canadians climate voice Andrea Harden-Donahue, nailed it: “ Our federal government has transformed Canada into a climate criminal. Canada has the worst climate policy of all so-called developed countries – including no plans to curb emissions from the oil and gas sector, despite promising this for years… We can have a livable world or tar sands expansion, not both. It is a key reason why we need to be present in this historic march, to represent the opposition that exists to the Canadian government’s complete failure to address climate change.

 

Last week at the G-8 meeting in L’Aquila, Italy, Canada was dead last in reducing its production of the greenhouse gases that cause global warming.

 

 

Here’s Germany which has 25% of its electricity produced by renewable energy and here’s Stephen Harper, defending the biggest scar on nature the Tar Sands.

 
Sadly the PM never understood the fact that the Great Economy is the natural world which sustains everything not what we extract from the bowls of the earth. Real leaders and serious stewards understand this but in a capitalism run amok, greed trumps everything.

 

 

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A rising tide of citizen activism marches through the streets of New York bearing the message ‘People, Planet, Peace over Profit but Canada’s Prime Minister is missing in action.

Zionism and the holocaust

September 15, 2014

 

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In fact very many orthodox Jews not only in Palestine but all over the world view with the deepest misapprehension, not to say dislike, this principle of a Zionist home in Palestine…The scheme of of a Zionist Home seems to make Zionist political predominance effective in Palestine by importing into the country extraneous and and alien Jews from other parts of the world..
Lord Islington in the British House of Commons June 21, 1922

 
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.

Allan C Brownfeld, the American Council for Judaism,
Aug 9, 2014

 

It is commonly accepted that knowledge of the Nazi holocaust had a profound psychic effect on people after the end of World War ll. Before television carried horrific images at breakneck speed around the world, people relied on radio, newsreels and the printed word Even then most people were staggered by reports of Nazi cruelty. Such monumental evil seemed beyond category. It simply exploded our mental horizons. News of Hiroshima had the same effect.How could humans act like this?
The death of so many however was a boon to Zionism. Three million Jews remained in Europe after the war, many having been saved by decent people. Various governments responded to the calamity and were prepared to aid the struggling remnant.

 
In this period Zionism hardly distinguished itself. Another “new historian” Tom Segev unearthed this embarrassing fact. It seemed that Ben Gurion was more committed to Jewish sovereignty in Palestine than rescuing Jews caught in the Nazi net. This infamous clinical attitude was best summed up in the Zionist leader’s famous 1938 remark:

 

If i knew that it was possible to save all the children of Germany by transporting them to England but only half by transporting them to Palestine I would choose the second-because we face not only the reckoning of those children but the historical reckoning of the Jewish people.

 
Was Ben Gurion that cold hearted? Hardly but he had committed his whole life to the formation of the Jewish state in Palestine. He was never interested in a mere “homeland”. He would never be satisfied with anything but a state with no room for the Palestinian people.

 
After the Peel Commission (1937) recommended partition as the only solution to the growing Palestinian resistance, the wily leader accepted this as a mere stop gap to Jewish sovereignty. He fully understood that the Palestinians “had legitimate fears and grievances”. He stated to party members in 1937:
We will abolish partition and expand to to the whole of Palestine. I do not see partition as the final solution of the Palestine question…it is not the end but the beginning…we will expel the Arabs and take their place.

 
One must be aware that the deepening global understanding of the Zionist endgame and its hypocritical face to the rest of the world slowly come about through the pioneering work of the humanist Israeli historians. They have unearthed what so long has been covered up.

 

 

As it was becoming obvious in the mid 40s that Nazism was headed for a catastrophic defeat the American president Franklin Roosevelt sent his close fiend, a New York Jewish lawyer Morris Ernst around the USA to galvanize support for the rescue of broken European Jewry. Ernst was stunned at the lack of support of Jewish leaders. He discovered to his great chagrin that almost to a person They were committed not to a Jewish homeland but a Zionist state.

 

 

Getting the Jewish survivors to emigrate to Palestine would have filled the Yishuv with much needed recruits in filling the country. No Jew would be forced to go anywhere much less to Palestine. Ernst again was shocked at the response he received. ”I was thrown out of parlors of friends,” he wrote. ”They said, Morris you are undermining the Zionist movement.”

 
It turned out that the sophisticated Roosevelt understood the Jewish community better than his bosom friend. He had predicted to Ernst

 
They (Zionists) know they can raise vast sums for Palestine by saying to donors ”there is no other place this poor Jew can go.” But if there is a world political asylum for all people irrespective of race, creed or color, they cannot raise their money. Then the people who do not want to give the money will have no excuse to say “What do you mean there is no place they can go but Palestine?They are the preferred wards of the world.”

 

Ernst many years later later said that everywhere he found “ a deep genuine often fanatically emotional vested interest in putting over the Palestinian movement” in men “who are little concerned about human blood if it is not their own.”

 

Roosevelt and Ernst were universalists. They had met their match in men who were tribalists. The progressive values of the early idealists were gradually being trumped by a movement whose core belief rested on land, and nationalism. They had little understanding of the moral . price to be paid. In their enthusiasm they were unable to see what would happen when Torah was replaced by an Israeli flag.

 
The brilliant Orthodox scholar Yeshayahu Leibowitz (d.1994) put it this way:

 

 

The historical Jewish people, despite all its contradictions and despite all the division that arose within it never considered the state apparatus—that is the force of organized power under which the people live—as one of the constitutive elements of its national essence. The same holds true with regard to the land…In its historical consciousness the people existed outside outside all territorial attachments…Its national identity is incarnated in one specific, immanent element—Judaism.

 
Ben Gurion was a secular Jew whose prime aim was to was to convert Jews to become members of a secular nation. He needed bodies fast to fill the country. For him the historical Judaism of mercy, charity, compassion and introspection was dead. Zionism needed strength, self-affirmation and power. Brilliant tactician that he was, Ben Gurion sent out his operatives into the DP camps to basically force these survivors to come to Palestine. Soldiers were needed for the upcoming battle. Many of course did not want to go. America not Israel was the goldene medine (the promised land). The same holds true for American Jews today. Israel has turned out to be no safe haven at all.It is the most dangerous place in the world for Jews.

 

Less than half of the European Jewish remnant came to Israel. One can understand why so many resisted the often crude pressure of the Zionists. What could Palestine offer them? It was not even a country with a highly developed infrastructure. Many had been coerced into coming to a strange land. Zionists had seized control in these holding camps and they did everything in their power to steer people to Palestine.

 
How things would have been different had Zionists simply agreed to a homeland. The land could have been shared but the age-old virus of nationalism, so foreign to Judaism won the day and we see the tragic results today.

Palestinian Humiliation and Terrorism

September 12, 2014

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We in the West paid no attention to the massive injustice done to the Palestinian people in years after the founding of the Jewish state (May 15,1948). There were many reasons for this. The first was the widespread feeling that after the holocaust and suffering of European Jewry a homeland was owed to the Jewish people. The fact that it was in an area called Palestine populated for 12 centuries by largely Muslim citizens seemingly did not register. Then in 1967, 750,000 Palestinians were ethnically cleansed from their homes. These people who had nothing to do with the European massacre were made to pay the price. While few argued against finding a refuge for the war-torn Jews of Europe was necessary the idea of founding a state in the midst of the Arab world and displacing the indigenous population was a fundamental error.It is now only coming to be understood as a historical wrong.

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In the post-war period the Arab countries of course were incensed at the Zionist coup but they were never any match for the powerful military of the new state, built up by largely American support. The two major wars led by Egypt ended in defeat and humiliation for Arabs of the Middle East. Often these countries were at each others throats and were never united enough to win the land back or demand the return of refugees despite the resolutions (242, 93) of the newly formed United Nations.It is now known despite the massive propaganda that Israel was never in at risk in being defeated. As Mordecai Bentov a member of the israeli government candidly admitted,”The entire story of the danger of extermination was invented in every detail exaggerated a posteriori to justify the annexation of of new Arab territory.”

The United States came out of World War ll as a colossus. It had 50% of the world’s wealth and only 6% of its population. Europe was in ruins and most importantly within the republic American Jews were formidable actors in the defense of Israel. The Arab voice in America was negligible. All US presidents from Truman on toed the Israeli line . The USA  so accommodating to Jewish refugees showed no interest in alleviating Palestinian suffering. No people likes to be disappeared treated as the disposable flotsam and jetsam of history so the inevitable happened. Palestinians reached for the gun and resorted to terror like the Israelis had before them—kidnappings, hijackings and assassination. It had worked for the Zionists and they figured it would work for them.

On May 5,1974, 26 years to the day that Israel was declared a state, three fedayeen( guerillas), members of the Popular Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PDFLP) stormed a school in Ma’alot (formerly the Arab village of Tarchiha) on the Lebanese border. They wished to enact a prisoner exchange. Rather than wait for the 6 o’clock curfew the Israeli Defense Force stormed the school and in the chaos 16 young people were killed either by Palestinian grenades or Israeli bullets. The PDFLP spokesman later stated that no harm would come to them if the demands were met. American public opinion stoked by Israeli propaganda went wild. In Israel another picture unseen in in the west was seen. The IDF leader Moshe Dayan was attacked by the Ma’alot Council Chairman Eli ben Yaacov who screamed at him “You have made us the stepchildren of Israel—because most of us are from Morocco.” This was a reference to the well known discrimination against Jews from Arabic countries. The very next day the Israeli air force killed 52 civilians in a reprisal raid on an impoverished refugee camp. 36 American supplied Phantom jets had efficiently done their work.

The day before the Ma’alot disaster a young 25 year old Palestinian was interviewed in Beirut and he made the point of this article: I am a Palestinian and I am not concerned with world opinion including american which has done nothing for our very fair cause through more than 26 years. The world can respect you only when you are strong enough to stand in the face of the world and fight for your cause.

From then on until the work of the New Israeli Historians the Palestinians to our way of thinking were nothing but terrorists.. They had sprung seemingly full-blown out of Medusa’s head for no earthly rhyme or reason. One of the reasons we must have hope in Israel is that there have always been sterling Jews of conscience who understood at a deep level the historical plight of the Palestinian people..One of the many was Ya’acov Talmon(d.1980) the Polish-born a professor of Modern History at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Talmon

In 1969 Talmon wrote a letter to the Minister of Information Yisrael Galili. Talmon noted that the Jewish national home had been imposed on the Arabs by the great power. He told the minister that he did not recognizethe Arabs of Palestine as a moral or legal entity in Palestine. Why should you therefore wonder when the Arabs or other describe you as colonizers and claim that they cannot reach and agreement with you because you do not recognize the principle of mutual respect but look only toward expansion…and I ask you in your capacity as Minister of Information what shall I answer the thinkers and educated people of other nations when they ask me why should not the Arabs join the ranks of freedom fighters when he hears the words of Galili?You deprive him of the right of his right to national existence and self-determination. When the British attempted to do the same to with you didn’t he Haganah, the Irgun and the Stern gang resort to terror and violence. Yes, Mr. Minister what do you expect my answer to be?”

The other Exodus

September 9, 2014

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Above all, let me reiterate, the refugee problem was caused by attacks by Jewish forces on Arab villages and towns and by the inhabitants’ fear of such attacks, compounded by expulsions, atrocities, and rumors of  atrocities, and by the crucial Israeli Cabinet decision in June 1948 to bar a refugee return.

Benny Morris, “Revisiting the Palestinian Exodus of 1948

We came and turned the native Arabs into tragic refugees. And still we have to slander and malign them, to besmirch their name. Instead of being deeply ashamed of what we did and trying to undo some of the evil we committed…we justify our terrible acts and even attempt to glorify them”
Nathan Chofshi, Jewish Newsletter, New York, 9 February 1959, cited in Erskine Childers, ‘The Other Exodus’ in Spectator, London, 12 May 1961

After WW ll the world recoiled at the plight of European Jews. At that time there was no television, internet or instant graphic reproductions of human suffering. There were however radio newspapers and newsreels and all justifiably recorded the fact of the Shoah. It permeated Western consciousness and created waves of sympathy and compassion for the bedraggled remnant of survivors. It also paved the way for the creation of the Jewish state, Israel.

For all intents and purposes, the Palestinians became invisible. As Israel was declared a state on May 14,1948 and as 750,000 indigenous people were expelled from their homeland with their property confiscated, the world shed few tears for Palestinian refugees living in tents, wards of the United Nations. They seemed absolutely impotent in pleading their just cause as Zionists had for Jewish refugees.

Immediately the hasbara began. Hasbara a common Hebrew word meaning explanation,public relations or advocacy>the modern state of Israel is masterful at this, employing thousands particularly in North America to put the most positive spin on Israel’s actions. after the latest massacre in Gaza, israeli diplomats are fanning out and lobbying Canadian MPs.

In 1945, there was little competition to the hasbara.The Palestinians were stunned, unorganized, trying to survive after the Nakba, the Arabic word for catastrophe.

The world bought the line that Palestinians left of their own accord thinking they would return when Arab armies would liberate them. It took decades for the truth to emerge but with the rise of the new historians in the 70s and 80s the facts were clear. The Palestinians were terrorized into retreat and two of the biggest terrorists were former PMs Menachem Begin (Irgun) and Yitzhak Shamir (Stern Gang).

Just before the state was proclaimed in May, on April 9 1948 91 men, women and children were murdered i the small village of Deir Yassin. Most of the men were working in Jerusalem when the attack came and when Jacques de Reynier of the Red Cross arrived he found many bodies tossed into a cistern and about others thrown to the side. 30 babies wee among the murdered which today after much research is considered to be 93. The survivors were stripped and paraded in open trucks on King George V Avenue in Jerusalem. Further indignities awaited them.

So shocking was this brutal event that the future PM Ben Gurion apologized to King Abdullah of Jordan. “Now Jews too have behaved like Nazis and my entire being is shaken” said agriculture minister Aharon Cizling in November of that year. There was no doubt however of the psychological import of the massacre. According to the brilliant Hungarian-British writer Arthur Koestler this bloodbath was “the decisive factor in the exodus of Arab refugees.” Israel historian Ilan Pappe (The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine) reiterated the same analysis(The has meticulously recorded 31 massacres, from December 1947 to January 1949.

It would be many years before Palestinians recovered from their catastrophic expulsion from their homeland. It would be 30 years before the Israeli historians uncovered the lie of Palestinians voluntarily leaving their homes.

There seemed but one way out, one sure way that people would sit up and take notice. That was the age old tactic of all liberation movements:terror. the age old tactic of resistance to such an intolerable situation. Others of course called this terrorism. Palestinians were driven to neighbouring countries like Jordan (almost 1 million) the West Bank(700,000) and adjacent Arab countries. The USA so accommodating to Jewish refugees showed no interest in alleviating Palestinian suffering. There simply was no domestic counter valence to the fact of the holocaust and Jewish American political clout.

The powerful western media had virtually disappeared Palestinian suffering. Sadly the only force which makes people sit up and take notice is terror and that was what captured global media attention.

This next move was aptly phrased by a young Palestinian Maher Yamani who hijacked an airliner in Athens

What could we do? We tried all ways possible, until we found the way of the gun…we Palestinians cannot accept a piece of our own land as charity from another country.”

Catholics and Zionism

September 5, 2014

 

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We seemed to have thought of everything except the Arabs
Judah Magnes

In London deranged thug attacked British MP George Galloway in broad daylight breaking his jaw al the while screaming about Hitler and the holocaust. The kicker is the assailant identified himself as a Catholic Zionist.

I was one once. Right after the war and into the 60s you couldn’t help being a Zionist. At that time Catholics did not have language for our support for the little country in the Middle East which was founded to be a safe haven for Jews.

In my case it was natural. Growing up as I did in a largely Jewish area of downtown Toronto, Jews were my friends and team mates. With the exception of the eastern European accents of their parents they were no different than others in the great stew I found myself in.

In retrospect I was blind to the plight of the Palestinians and the tragedy of the Nakba, their shocking dispossession from their historic homes. They were as invisible to me as they were to the early Zionists of the dawn of the 20th century.

By pure happenstance by geography and upbringing my life trajectory was steered in the right direction. At an early age I became aware of antisemitism and racism. It formed my worldview and I naturally carried it into my teaching. I wrote about this in my memoir Never Neutral: A Teaching Life. I thought Catholics should know about the holocaust and as an act of reparation and of deep gratitude I exposed my students to the holocaust and its lessons.

It took sometime however for the scales to fall from my eyes. One of the main reasons I suspect was that Arabs in general were off my radar. Like most people in Anglo Toronto I saw them as kind of exotic creatures, desert nomads. They were a total abstraction, devoid of any history. Jews I knew but who knew Palestinians or Arabs?

The world was legitimately enthralled by the portraits of Jews building a new home in this small country after the ravages of Nazism. Let nobody stand in their way. Sadly the Palestinians who bore no responsibility for the Jewish tragedy subconsciously became the new enemy.

We had no understanding of the early years of Zionism (1882 and on) when the population of Palestine was 96% Palestinian and Muslim. In 1945 the Jewish population of this same area was less than 7% of the total. we had no idea that Jerusalem for example had been overwhelmingly Arab since the seventh century. For us true believers Zionism had the exclusive right to this patch of land. Facts of the incremental dispossession of the indigenous people were seldom heard in the West. So powerful was the dream of Zionism and fellow supporters like myself. We were literally caught in a romantic trance. In the 60s and 70s we could have easily reiterated the words of The Zionist founder Theodore Herzl’s good friend Max Nordau who one day in 1897 exclaimed to him,”But there are Arabs in Palestine. I did not know that!”

This slowly began to change.

Sad to say it the reason for the change was the sudden appearance of Arabs on the screen and in the news.

The Catholic Zionist

September 4, 2014

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Your honour we present to you. Mr Neil Masterson, age 39.He is accused of attacking the Honorable George Galloway, six time elected MP (Bradford West) of the Respect Party.

In a bizarre assault the 39 year old Masterson put the boots to the 61 year old Galloway in the Notting Hill district of London on Friday Aug 29. Even with a broken jaw Galloway got up and followed the thug and pointed him out to police.

Interviewed later Galloway said that his assailant wore an Israeli Defence Force t-shirt and was “shouting support for Israel and opposition to my views on Israel” as he unleashed a “torrent of punches and kicks.”

Ironically, Masterson whose rage sent Galloway to the hospital overnight was charged with “religiously aggravated assault” as well as common assault on a passerby who jumped into the fray.
Masterson will appear as Hammersmith magistrate Court next Monday.

Now the term “religiously aggravated” appears to fit the assailant as he described himself as a Catholic Zionist and Anti Islamic. He threatened to slit Galloway’s throat on his Facebook page. As he beat on the face of the well known critic of Israel’s policies, Masterson ranted about Hitler and the Holocaust.

Immediately a drive to cover Masterson’s costs raised $4,000.

In Today’s Telegraph,a Conservative paper, political commentator Peter Oborne took the very high road and made some very salient points:

There is something very disturbing about the response to this event by the mainstream British political establishment. Mr Galloway has received no public message of sympathy from a single MP from any party – nothing from Speaker Bercow, from the Prime Minister, or from any of the other elected political leader.

I know that Mr Galloway is a very controversial figure and that many people, for honourable reasons, disagree very strongly with his views. Yet that is irrelevant. The attack on Mr Galloway is beyond doubt an attack on British democracy itself.

It is a basic principle of our political culture that men and women must be able to speak up for the causes they believe in without threats or violent reappraisal. Had an MP been attacked by some pro-Palestinian fanatic for his support of Israel, I guess there would have been a national outcry and rightly so. Why then the silence from the mainstream establishment following this latest outrageous assault on a British politician?

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When I read all of the above, I mused that I too was a Catholic Zionist when I was Masterson’s age. This was before I became a Groucho-Marxist and believed what I saw rather than what was fed to me by books like Leon Uris’s Exodus which I devoured in 1958. That was before I understood the meaning of the biblical Exodus, the exegesis of which has totally escaped the illiterate Catholic Zionist, Neil Masterson.

Nobel peace prize for Harper? Not!

September 3, 2014

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On Friday, Augst 29 the head of B’nai Brith Canada announced his intention to put forward Harper’s name for the world’s most prestigious peace prize, for his “outstanding moral leadership” in support of Israel during its conflict with Hamas militants in Gaza.

“Moral clarity has been lost across much of the world, with terror, hatred and antisemitism filling the void,” said Frank Dimant, CEO, B’nai Brith Canada, in a statement.

“More than any other individual, he has consistently spoken out with resolve regarding the safety of people under threat — such as opposing Russian aggression and annexation of Ukrainian territory — and has worked to ensure that other world leaders truly understand threat of Islamic terrorism facing us today,” Dimant added.

Now you have to know Dimant is a lifer inside this organization, typical of the Jewish groups who have lost the young people by their failure to wsee the former ground vanish below them. As Peter Beinart, a  disillusioned  Zionist recently wrote “It’s hard to sell occupation in a post-colonial age.” Now the most popular leader in Israel ahead of Netanyahu is Naftali Bennet whose main policy is annexation of all West Bank lands. And you wonder why more and more young diaspora Jews are cutting ties with Israel and  Revisionists like Dimant.

Dimant’s sad nomination is simply part of the last gasp of the older generation of idolators of Israel who said little as the state degenerated from its liberal principles it enshrined in its Declaration of Independence May of 1948 viz that “the new state would ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex, and guaranteed freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture.” That horse left the stable in 1977 when the ex-terrorist Menachem Begin became Prime Minister.

30 years earlier Albert Einstein inter alios signed a letter in the NY Times (Dec,4,1948) warning American Jews about the current visit of Begin to the USA. Many had lent their names to his welcoming. Did they know what they were signing and who they were championing?

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The signators (which included Hannah Arendt) warned Americans to ignore the Freedom party’s talk of “freedom, democracy and anti-imperialism.” Judge them by their deeds.Remember the slaughter of the innocents on April 9 in the village of Deir Yassin (which still burns in Palestinian memory).This is Begin’s handiwork. At this time In the new state the Jewish Agency sent a telegram of apology to King Abdullah in Jordan.

Begin and his gang did not fool many perceptive American Jews.Deir Yassin “exemplifies their character. Within the Jewish community they have preached an admixture of ultranationalism, religious mysticism, and racial superiority.”
For Einstein and friends, Begin’s tribe, “bears the unmistakable stamp of a Fascist party for whom terrorism (against Jews, Arabs, and British alike), and misrepresentation are means, and a “Leader State” is the goal.

With the arrival of the Likudniks in 1977 Israel  defaulted on its rather grand vision. Revisionist Zionism, supremacist and racist simply could not be reconciled with the liberal and progressive values of Zionism’s earlier iteration I.t has taken way too long for diaspora Jewry to grasp this fact. To their credit idealist Zionists are funally breaking the code of silence. And poor dDmant is going in the opposite direction.

Dimant’s nomination of Harper for a Nobel Prize should be seen as a comedic jest particularly after the burning children of Gaza was defended by the Prime Minister.

The American prophets ended  their letter with an eerie warning: it is imperative that the truth about Mr. Begin and his movement be made known in this country. It is all the more tragic that the top leadership of American Zionism has refused to campaign against Begin’s efforts, or even to expose to its own constituents the dangers to Israel from support to Begin.

Now many Zionists are raising  a similar warning flag.

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