Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Money or democracy

April 10, 2014

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American democracy has come to this.
Last weekend a bunch of Republican hopefuls appeared before the ultra Zionist billionaire Las Vegas gamer Sheldon Adelson and in cringe-inducing acts of self-abasement proved their bona fides to the pro-Israeli hawk.
Imagine the scene, grown men summoned to Adelson’s Venetian Hotel to plead their case to the Republican Jewish Coalition which is wholly owned by the casino magnate.
Why not? Adelson and his wife gave $93 million to Republican PAC’s last year.
The notorious union buster of Wisconsin, Scott Walker brought up his father’s trip to Israel and get this, he actually put a menorah next to his Christmas tree. Wow how ecumenical. Walker also told Adelson that his Matthew’s name actually comes from the Hebrew. Double wow.
The worst beggar however was governor Chris Christie of New Jersey. In a spectacular gaffe in the eyes of Adelson, Christie actually referred to the Occupied Territories, a stupendous blunder in the eyes of the uber-Zionists. Of course, Christie had to beg forgiveness for this piece of candor.
In a scathing piece in the New York Times David Firestone said what needed to be said:
The ability of one man and his money to engender so much bootlicking among serious candidates, which ought to be frightening, has now become commonplace. Why talk directly to voters when you can get a billionaire to help you manipulate them with a barrage of false television ads, as the Koch brothers are doing with Republican Senate candidates around the country.
These Republican hacks should heed a great Jewish American, Justice Louis Brandeis:
We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.

 

Africa and Israel

April 3, 2014

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Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli PM refused to attend Nelson Mandela’s funeral. The reasons given were laughable and were even mocked in the Israeli press. A deeper story however emerged: Israel’s unflagging support for the apartheid regime. Israel had long been a proxy for US arms sales to the scorned regime. Africans saw clearly that Israel was a branch of imperialist Europe. Israel openly supported Portugal’s domination of Angola, Mozambique and Guinea-Bissau. But it was in South Africa the increasingly isolated colonial oppressor that Israel showed her true colours.
Not only did Israel support the apartheid regime with Uzis and tanks but in 1962 she was on the receiving end of a ten ton shipment of uranium which fueled their still-denied nuclear program. Israel also trained the forces of reaction in Angola as she did later in Guatemala, Salvador and Nicaragua. No love lost in Central America either for Israel.
In 1976 South African PM Vorster a fierce segregationist signed a military pact with Israel which sold patrol boats, missiles, counterinsurgency weaponry and electronic surveillance which Israel now peddles around the world. They are experts in penning up and monitoring oppressed populations as the recent history in Palestine has proven.
In 1981 the fanatic Arab hater Ariel Sharon sold Kfir jets, howitzers etc to the apartheid regime. 30 years ago the aforementioned Vorster understood and stated that israel now had its own apartheid regime. Today’s popular description of contemporary israel has a long history.
The biggest thug and looter of his own people Joseph Mobutu in Zaire (now Democratic Republic of the Congo) was an Israeli proxy who was trained there. Israel became Mobutu’s chief arms supplier. This is a man who probably stole more money than any African dictator in history. No matter as former Israeli PM , himself an ex-terrorist Yitzhak Shamir said, “We’ll sell to anybody.”
Netanyahu was wise to stay away from the funeral of Africa’s greatest symbol of freedom Nelson Mandela. Africans have long memories. Americans have none.

Roger Water’s story

March 23, 2014
 

Never againIn a piece for Salon.com Roger Waters wrote a moving commentary why he has strongly supported the BDS Movement in Israel/Palestine.

The Pink Floyd front man wrote movingly of a pacifist father killed in Italy in 1944.His amazing mother Mary Duncan Waters continued to be politically active against any type of oppression. She was a “peace and justice” woman who colored his world. He wrote:

 

After visiting Israel in 2005 and the West Bank the following year, I was deeply moved and concerned by what I saw, and determined to add my voice to those searching for an equitable and lawful solution to the problem – for both Palestinians and Jews.

Given my upbringing, I really had no choice.

In 2005, Palestinian civil society appealed to people of conscience all over the world to act where governments had failed. They asked us to join their nonviolent movement – for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) – which aims to end Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories, to secure equal rights for Palestinian citizens of Israel, and to uphold the right of Palestinian refugees to return to the cities and villages they were violently forced out of in 1948 and 1967.

After more than two decades of negotiations, the vulnerable Palestinian population still lives under occupation, while more land is taken, more illegal settlements built, and more Palestinians are imprisoned, injured or killed struggling for the right to live in dignity and peace, to raise their families, to till their land, to aspire to each and every human goal, just like the rest of us. The Palestinians’ prolonged statelessness has made them among the most vulnerable of all peoples, particularly in their diaspora where, as now in Syria, they are subject, as stateless, powerless refugees, to targeted violence, from all sides in that bloody conflict, subject to unimaginable hardship and  deprivation and, in many cases, particularly for the vulnerable young, to starvation.   Pretty straight forward, I think.

Our Man in Kyiv: Prayer on the Maidan

March 6, 2014

 

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Ukraine is not controlled by oligarchs, even though there are some. They make their money, much historically through the likes of Yanukovich, but the economy is dominated by the middle class which is substantial here, unlike in Russia. The oligarchs do not control the economy by a long shot.

Second, the oligarchs want integration with the EU. They, at one moment, forced Yanukovich’s hand by demanding that “their men” in his party vote against him during the current revolution. The oligarchs want EU integration to modernize factories, to enter larger markets, and to stabilize Ukraine. Any of seven countries in the EU has a bigger economy than Russia and together the EU has an economy 12 times larger. Russia has no modern technology and nothing to offer other than gas and billionaires.

The oligarchs, above all, do not want closer relations with Russia. And they are for the most part from the so-called Russian-speaking region of Ukraine, To speak Russian or to be from a Russian-speaking area says nothing about your political leanings. Ethnically, the population of Kyiv is 80% Ukrainian, but due to the educational policy of the USSR which lasted 70 years there, 70% speaks Russian as a first language. Over 80% of Kyiv has always voted against Yanukovich’s party. In the latest poll, 27% of the whole country would prefer closer ties with Russia, but it is clear on closer analysis that they want closer “political” relations with Russia, not economic union. And that percentage diminishes every year.

Finally, although it was known that Yanukovich and his closest circle were stealing massively from the budget, documentary evidence now makes it clear that they stole about $10 billion each year directly from the budget. And there is other money that comes in from corrupt schemes. There was no reason for Yanukovich and his friends to flee, if they had not broken the law. There was no threat of death or violence, he was still president and had agreed to early elections. The prime minister was bringing him four bills to sign into law when they saw that he had fled with the family jewels. His security cameras show him and his guards loading vans and two helicopters with the valuables from this palace which he built for himself with government money and fleeing in the night. What he left behind in terms of documents for where money came from and to whom it went was a detailed incrimination. On this legal basis, he and about 18 others are having their accounts frozen in Europe, Canada, and the U.S.

What follows is something I wrote lately for some people. It will give you a bit of an update.

As every hour during the whole revolution there was prayer on the  Maidan, so I think prayer remains key to this whole affair in all its  aspects. It is the “exorcizing” of corrupt government and the vestiges  of Soviet mentality. This is the first stage and I would say it has worked in Ukraine, at least for the moment. It remains to be seen how well the new government will respond to popular demands. The Maidan will remain until the presidential elections in May to ensure the establishment of fair elections and quality government. They do not want control but stewardship. It is argued on the basis of the constitutions which say that the people are the supreme authority.

Putin’s invasion, while clearly illegal and  against his own oft-repeated, public statements to the contrary, is ultimately not an act of  aggression, but an act of fear. His economy is weakening and his  hoped-for “Eurasian Union” cannot succeed without Ukraine. Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Belorussia don’t offer much.

Russia has only oil and billionaires, but no diversified economy or middle class. 60% of its foreign trade is from oil and gas. 10% of its state budget comes directly from Gasprom. By contrast, Ukraine is the 7th largest producer of steel in the world, 6th largest exporter of wheat, and 3rd largest exporter of corn. It has a heavy-metals manufacturing sector: cars, tractors, weapons, and planes. It has a large middle class and a hard-working labour force, which Russia also does not have. And then there is the Black Sea coast which gives access to everything else. Russia’s armed forces are not big enough to invade Ukraine, which  is bigger than France and has 45 million people. In  Crimea, he has some support. It is home to the   Russian navy’s largest base with 25,000 troops and 380 ships. Without that, he could not have  hoped to land troops. It now seems, incredibly, that Yanukovich, whom he does not respect, convinced him to attack and that people would rise up in support of his invasion. He seems blinded by ambition. He could not possibly enter mainland Ukraine, unless  he is also blinded by desperation, which is possible. Nothing would unite  Ukraine more, and that is one thing he quickly discovered. A fair percentage of Crimeans support him, but others were  immediately demonstrating in the streets against him and ready to take up arms against his troops. It is not clear that he could hold even Crimea.

Crimea was never “Ukrainian”. Catherine the Great defeated the Muslim Turks and populated it with Russians. Krushchev united Crimea to Ukraine in 1954 to some local protest, but in the USSR everything came out of Moscow anyway. There was some local reaction in 1991 when Ukraine declared independence, but Crimea did not resist union in the end when given a special status. The Crimean Tatars are a significant group and they want nothing to do with Russia. There also many people of Russian descent who want Ukraine, as well as many Ukrainians who live there. Putin can make mischief, but little more.

The ruble is the  weakest currency among industrialized nations. When the Russian  Parliament voted to give Putin permission to invade, the currency fell by almost 10%.  When he actually did send troops, the Moscow stock exchange fell by over 10%. The expert calculation is that, in  one day, Russia lost 55 billion dollars. (Sochi cost 50 billion.) This is exactly what he did not want and cannot afford. Seven of the G8 leaders have  refused to attend the meeting he is to host in Sochi in June, unless he  turns everything around. Obama has said he would seek Russia’s exclusion  from the G8 completely. That would be unbearable for Russia.  Furthermore, demonstrations in former Soviet countries give Russians  courage to demonstrate against the huge injustices in Russia. Putin is paranoid about such demonstrations. He fears the overthrow of the system and he should. There were small sympathetic demonstrations there during the revolution in Ukraine but even more when he  invaded. Putin immediately had 300 Moscow  demonstrators arrested and many sentenced to two months. Among them were  opposition party leaders.

The broadest and most hopeful way of reading all these events is in two things. First, as I noted, the end of systemic corruption in Ukrainian government with the establishment of government for the people. This would end the vestiges of Soviet-style government, i.e., government for those in power, and against the people. Second, it would be the definitive death of the Soviet Union. Putin said in his second term as president that the greatest catastrophe of the 20th century was the collapse of the USSR. It would be hard to find anyone even in Russia who would agree. At the same time he said that “we” have learned something from the Americans: you conquer the world not by military might but by economics. To this he has dedicated almost 10 years of his life, trying to force the neighbouring countries into his Eurasian Union. The recent events make clear to him finally, that Ukraine will not be in his sphere, and that, therefore, his hopes for the Union (both Soviet and Eurasian) are dead. It remains to be seen how he will take the news, but he has already begun working with the current Ukrainian government.

Half of Ukraine is praying and fasting about all this during Lent, as they did during the revolution.

The author is a priest in the Ukraine.

Kiev in trouble

February 19, 2014

today from a friend in the heart of Kiev

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The Canadian news likely shows a big escalation since yesterday. Without warning, without a demand to clear the square, armed troops surrounded the square and started to push through a few barricades. As people were running from the barricades to protection, they shot at them from behind as they ran. Five were killed and their bodies left on the road. It is said that the forces have only rubber bullets. People dig up the cobblestones from the road to throw at the special forces. They burn tires to create a smoke barrier and they throw Molotov cocktails from a distance. The troops are using guns, stun guns, flare bombs, water cannons, and also Molotov cocktails. Plain clothes troops have pistols. People come running when violence flares, not to fight but to stand together. Kievans came and this is why the forces blocked all access to the square. Nonetheless, 30,000 got through. The government said there is no state of emergency, but they shut down the subway system, and closed all highways to Kyiv. People come from all over the country in solidarity when the government acts stupidly. There are lines kilometers long on the highways. No one has weapons or receives money for this. But the government knows that a large crowd ruins everything for them.

They are advertizing that there are only terrorists on the maidan with guns and other weaponry, which no one has ever seen. No gun shot has ever been heard or seen from the side of the demonstrators. TV cameras and mobile phones record everything, every hour of the day and the night for three months. They show the demonstrators throwing cobblestones and cocktails. And they show the troops firing rifles continually, plus the stun grenades, flash bombs, and smoke bombs. And they show them physically truncheoning any demonstrators they can catch, beating them to unconsciousness. They set a building on fire which demonstrators used to get warm and store food. This is all on camera. Then they blamed the demonstrators for burning a valuable building and promise to jail them. The new key word is “terrorist”, which allows the government to use more extreme measures. They are demanding that the terrorists give up the weapons and turn themselves in to the law for punishment. They are simply not even good liars or manipulators of information. Foreign diplomats see everything, and are often on the sqaure.

About twenty people have been killed, among them 2 police officers. Yesterday evening, the government unplugged the only 24-hour news station that has its cameras on the square. The evidence is so plain. The facts undermine the government. After shutting down the network, the Ministry of Internal Affairs (police) wrote on their website that the terrorists shot their own to make the government look bad, that the troops have no guns and are not firing, and that the terrorists are trying to overthrow the government. It is hard to imagine how they can do this from a standing position on the square. The news channel found another means to broadcast and is up again this morning.

Unfortunately, the people are beginning to react with violence now. Three months of government attacks, violence, and lies. Every time there is supposed to be a discussion leading to a resolution, like yesterday’s alleged discussion about changes to the constitution, at the very same moment the government attacks. It is as though to catch the demonstrators off guard, but everyone sees the lies and manipulations. The government, which had little popular trust in the first place, has none now. Among the peaceful, some are giving up on peaceful means. It is not wanton violence but there is violence against buildings associated with the president: his party’s offices, administrative buildings under his jurisdiction across the country, some police buildings. It is far from over but the denseness, fear, and dishonesty of the president and his crew are making things worse with every decision. Even today, it would be so easy to turn things around, but, as Jesus cried at the walls of Jerusalem, these people simply cannot figure out what leads to peace. Priests are on the square with the people. There is public prayer every hour.

As an aside, during this period, about 30 still standing statues of Lenin in towns and villages have been taken down or destroyed by local people.

Say a prayer.

Be well ….

The Fords vs libraries

February 3, 2014

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Accessibility to knowledge is the font of a vibrant democracy and as Mark Twain once opined “the person who will not read is no better than the person who cannot read.” But serious reading takes time and effort, in short supply in the carnival under advanced capitalism. Too many people either do not have the time or are caught up in the diversions which surround us—like the Stupor Bowl and the low calorie fare we can get plugged into on regular basis.  The easily manipulated are cannon fodder for the hucksters. Good people can easily be propagandized by the cheap slogan or as Goebbels said, the repeated lie.

Democracy can easily be hijacked by big money as it has been in the States. The brilliant US jurist Arthur Brandeis phrased this well when he said, “we can have democracy or great wealth in the hands of the few, but we cannot have both.”

Great wealth has suborned electoral politics in the US with rabid right wingers like the Koch brothers and Adelson pouring their coin into disinformation campaigns and lies—which are consumed by the poorly informed. You can easily make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. Which brings us to the Ford brothers the deadly duo who have so embarrassed the city of Toronto.

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Nothing shows their  terrible ignorance as the fact that they were the only two city officials who voted against an increase in funding for our libraries. And why not? It is obvious that they do not use  them!

Councillor Doug Ford gained notoriety  when he stated that his Etobicoke  ward has more libraries than Tim Hortons and added this piece about library activist Margaret Atwood “Well good luck to Margaret Atwood. I don’t even know her. If she walked by me, I wouldn’t have a clue who she is,” and let’s not forget  his reference to “liberries” on a radio show.

Maureen O’Reilly of OurPublicLibrary sent this email out

We did it!

Late last night, Toronto City Council gave a huge vote of support for our public library!

Council voted to increase the budget for our public library in 2014 and to launch a study to explore opportunities to re-invest in our library!

It was almost unanimous – only the Ford brothers voted against.

Thanks to you and thousands of vocal library supporters, our public library can move forward with confidence and stability and hope for the future.

I am humbled by your support for our public library and delighted with last night’s result!

Thanks to you, we stood up to those who would diminish our public library and we won!

Best regards,

Maureen O’Reilly

OurPublicLibrary.to

OurPublicLibrary.to is a network of people dedicated to preserving the integrity of one of the world’s greatest public library systems, the Toronto Public Library and is sponsored by the Toronto Public Library Workers Union.

 

Seeger supported the boycott movement of apartheid Israel

February 1, 2014

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The recently deceased American folk music legend Pete Seeger  joined the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, a Palestinian movement which seeks to put economic and political pressure on Israel.

This fact you will not find in most obits.

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According to the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD), the American musician expressed regret for his previous support of an event sponsored by the Jewish National Fund (JNF) and threw his support for the BDS movement at a meeting in New York last month.

“I support the BDS movement as much as I can,” according to ICAHD.

ICAHD Coordinator Jeff Halper said in a press release that Seeger has “for some time” donated a portion of the royalties from his 1960s song, “Turn, Turn, Turn,” to ICHAD and that the singer “read historical and current material and spoke to neighbors, friends, and three rabbis before making his decision to support the boycott movement against Israel.”

Seeger’s donations to ICAHD went to rebuilding Palestinian and Arab homes demolished by Israeli authorities, according to the organization.

Shulamit Aloni “one of the last remaining Jews” in Israel dies

January 31, 2014

 

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Shulamit Aloni, age 86,  died last week in Israel, the former leader of the Meretz Party and Minister of education  was a woman unknown even in the Jewish diaspora but she deserved to be lauded. ”Shula” as she was known, was a lifelong “activist” refusing to be silent on civil rights, human rights, the occupation, gay rights, the role of women.

Aloni and thousands  of others are the reason  I still think Israel has a chance to reverse its disastrous course of Occupation.

Aloni would have been booed out of most synagogues in Canada. She would hardly be invited to bring her prophetic message that to be a Jew is foremost to be a moral human being. Although a non-believer she believed in the ethical humanism the prophets preached and was deeply pained when the country she loved so obviously transgressed those demanding norms. The following is typical Aloni

I cannot live with the fact that our sharpshooters are killing people. I cannot live with the way we continually wail that we are the victim, and do not examine our own morality. It’s important to realize that appalling as suicide bombings are, aerial bombardment kills more. While we feel the pain of our 900 dead, we tend to forget that we have murdered 3000 Palestinian civilians. We are the violent ones; we are the cheats. Our very foundations have been undermined by our adulation of force, and all this is called a democracy. There cannot be democracy when we rule over three million people who have no voice. We simply have to get out of there. We do not even try to understand that what the Palestinians want is sovereignty and human rights.”

This brave woman pulled no punches. Contrast her candour (below) with the hissy fit in 2006 that  the media darling from  the Munk Centre  of Global Affairs, Janice Stein threw on Steve Paikin’s Agenda  slamming Jimmy Carter’s honest appraisal of Israel:

Jewish self-righteousness is taken for granted among ourselves to such an extent that we fail to see what’s right in front of our eyes. It’s simply inconceivable that the ultimate victims, the Jews, can carry out evil deeds. Nevertheless, the state of Israel practices its own, quite violent, form of Apartheid with the native Palestinian population.

The US Jewish Establishment’s onslaught on former President Jimmy Carter is based on him daring to tell the truth which is known to all: through its army, the government of Israel practices a brutal form of Apartheid in the territory it occupies.

Jerry Haber, an Orthodox professor who teaches both in Israel and the USA  is one of my favourite chroniclers of Israeli life. This is what he had to say about Aloni:

Aloni lived long enough to see the creation of the amoral Jew as an ideal, the proud Jewish nationalist who saw morality as a luxury that a besieged people like the Jews could little afford. She cried out repeatedly against this trend. Like many of her generation, she saw the rise of religious fundamentalism and ultra-nationalism as a threat to what had been the redeeming features of a society that she felt had much to repent for. She did not go into politics to make money and taste the high life, as so many of the Israel’s recent leaders have done. Not a suggestion of corruption was ever associated with her.

Where is the Judaism of my youth? Not an hour, not a day, not a minute goes by without the cold-hearted trampling of human rights in Israel.  Land is stolen, refugees are round up and thrown into prison, and all in the name of what? Jewish survival?

Hello, are there any Jews left?

Well, yes there is the surviving remnant, and the list is not short. They are the human rights activists harassed on the West Bank, the citizenship teachers hauled up before committees after right wing students complain that they are being political, the defenders of Africa refugees rights, the educators of Jewish values. Real Jewish values.  The children of Aloni.

We are left orphaned by the passing of a hero of Israel. May the memory of this tzadeket/righteous person be for a blessing.

 

 

Sharon’s War against the Palestinian people

January 15, 2014

 

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Baruch Kimmerling was one of those brilliant Askenazik Jews, one of the “New Historians”  who flowered in Israel in the last 30 years. A Romanian Jew he arrived in Israel with his family in 1952. Born with cerebral palsy which confined him to a wheel chair for his last 30 years, he nevertheless scaled the heights of academia and was a  professor of sociology at Hebrew University and in his later years he had a joint posting at the U of T. He was among the first to challenge the official Zionist narrative of the founding of israel and the disposession of the Palestinians. Israel for Kimmerling “was built on the ruins of another society”.

I interviewed him in 2003 (he died in 2007) when his book Politicide: Ariel Sharon’s War  Against the Palestinian People (Verso) was published. This is my  review which incorporates some of our discussion.

Catholic New Times November 30, 2003 

Ariel Sharon’s war against the Palestinians

By Ted Schmidt

It was the witty remark of former Israeli ambassador to the UN, Abba Eban that the Palestinians never miss a chance to miss a chance (at making peace). The same unfortunately can now be said of the present prime minister of Israel, Ariel Sharon. The Second Intifada (also called the al-Aqsa Intifada) began, as many will recall, with Sharon’s provocative walk to the Temple Mount adjacent to the Arabic holy shrine in September, 2000. Since then, and during Sharon’s tenure as prime minister (since Feb. 6, 2001) 244 suicide attacks have been carried out, thousands of houses demolished, hundres of trees uprooted and 2,200 Palestinian deaths up to April 4, 2003. There have been 22,308 injured, with 691 Israeli deaths and 498 injured Often, as things were starting to quiet down and a hudna (ceasefire) was implemented by Palestinians in early August, it was Sharon who once again threw kerosene on the smoldering conflagration. With his preemptive strikes and extra-judicial executions, the lifelong Arab-hater followed his predictable pattern.

On October 30 of this year Israel’s army chief, Lieutenant-General Moshe Ya’alon, stated the obvious: Sharon’s hardline treatment of Palestinian civilians is counter-productive and his policies simply intensify hatred and strengthen terror organizations. To anybody with the slightest familiarity with Sharon’s career, this is entirely true to form, as was his hysterical rejection of the recent Geneva Accord and his construction of recent and notorious Wall through the West Bank, which in effect ended the American Road Map to Peace. Nobody is in a better position to analyze Sharon’s tumultuous career than Israeli academic Baruch Kimmerling, the distinguished research professor at the Department of Sociology at the University of Toronto and the George S. Wise Professor of Sociology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Professor Kimmerling’s book is Politicide: Ariel Sharon’s War Against the Palestinians. Kimmerling outlines Sharon’s shameless career of opportunism which, to be fair, has also included fierce bravery in war. For him, “Israel under Sharon has become an agent of destruction … its domestic and foreign policy oriented toward one major goal: the politicide of the Palestinian people.” Politicide means the dissolution of the Palestinian people’s existence “as a legitimate social, political and economic entity.” The major tools of this policy are murders, localized massacres, the elimination of leadership and elite groups, the physical destruction of public institutions and infrastructure, land colonization, starvation, social and political isolation and partial ethnic cleansing.” For Kimmerling, this did not start with Sharon. Historian Benny Morris’ work shows how deep ethnic cleansing (“population transfer”) went in Zionist thinking. The first politicide was during the 1948 war which according to the author “is not yet common knowledge in Israel.”

In an interview with CNT Kimmerling ridiculed “the completely false and historically baseless book of Joan Peters, From Time Immemorial, the second bible of diaspora Jews. Jews want to look at Israel not as a real political and social entity, but mainly as a Utopian dream where everything is pure and right. They know it is not so but feel a ‘Jewish responsibility’ to defend the Jewish state. No one doubts Morris’ findings.” Sharon’s history Kimmerling details Sharon’s unhappy childhood 15 miles, north of Tel Aviv, as a mediocre student with a violent temper, one who picked up his basic attitudes toward Palestinians from his parents: “anxiety and scorn.” In the 1948 war, Sharon caught the eyes of two colonels, Yitzhak Rabin and Moshe Dayan who were both impressed with the 20-year-old. Yet they had to intervene to mitigate what would become a lifetime description of Sharon’s tendencies — “irresponsible, adventurous and imprecise reports.”

Sharon then made his mark in Unit 101 in 1953, a small secret commando unit formed to handle reprisal actions. On August 28, 1953 in the refugee camp called Al-Bureji, Sharon engineered a massacre of 43 Palestinian refugees, including seven women. So, began a career described by Egyptian journalist Azmi Bishara in these terms: “Kill unarmed civilians then lie through your teeth. Sharon’s been doing it for half a century.” Sharon’s defence was that the women were whores who served the murderers. As a reprisal, on October 15, 1953 Sharon blew up 45 houses in Qibya, the inhabitants inside. Sixty seven men, women and children died. In the investigation, Sharon maintained that he ordered his men to check every house and order everybody to leave. His soldiers denied any such order: “Kill unarmed civilians and lie through your teeth.” It was during this period that Sharon became a hero —“Arik, King of Israel” — among the Israeli military and the young, but always at a price. After Suez (1956), he was accused by fellow officers of grandstanding for personal fame, 28 soldiers having been killed and 100 injured in what many saw as pure opportunism, needless and unnecessary.

After the Six Day War Sharon moved into Gaza (1967-1970) with his brutal tactics, ripping up citrus groves, planning extra-judicial executions, both war crimes which made his cohorts uneasy. In 1977, as Minister of Defense Sharon became the main patron of the illegal settlers, developing the plan to create “facts on the ground,” which would make it impossible to remove Jewish control over the territories — still the major sticking point in peace negotiations.

Politicide #2 

Kimmerling then describes the second attempt at politicide, the brutal 1981 dismantling of PLO infrastructure in southern Lebanon. The resultant disaster should have ended Sharon’s career. As Minister of Defense he was responsible for the massive bombardment which killed, according to journalist Robert Fisk, over 18,000 civilians between March and July 1981. Then came Sabra and Shatila, the notorious massacre which outraged world opinion and put 400,000 Israelis in the streets demanding an inquiry. The national uproar, de facto, ended the career of Menachem Begin and the enquiry (Kahan Commission) found that Sharon bore a major part of the responsibility. As the author states, “Sharon was considered to be political dead wood from a moral and even a legal point of view.”

Had the Commission gone deeper as it should have, Kimmerling maintains “a wide spectrum of the Israeli leadership would, from a moral point of view would have been found to be war criminals, guilty not only of crimes against the Palestinians and Lebanese but against the Jewish people of Israel.” Sharon was unrepentant. Speaking to noted Israeli writer Amos Oz, he said, “Even if you prove to me the war in Lebanon is a dirty war, I don’t care. I am willing to volunteer to do the dirty work for Israel to kill as many Arabs as necessary, to deport, to expel and burn them, to have everyone hate us. Hang me if you want as a war criminal.”

Politicide #3 

The final attempt at politicide was Operation Defense Shield (April, 2002). Operating under the terrorist discourse of 9/11 and with the tacit approval of a weak U.S. president whom Sharon claimed he owned, the sheer wanton destruction in places like Jenin and Ramallah appalled many. To unbiased observers, such as UN envoy Terje Roed-Larsen, it was “horrifying beyond belief — forever a blot on the state of Israel. No military objective could justify such suffering by a civilian population.” It was the cynical destruction of computers in the Palestinian department of education, the razing of civilian institutions like universities, schools, clinics and infrastructure which proved the real intent of “the homicidal Sharon,” Edward said.

This is a fascinating study of Ariel Sharon, the man whom a frightened populace thought could bring peace. The results speak for themselves. Kimmerling describes Israelis as amnesiac as North Americans. “Many are young and new to Israel, the 1982 debacle is simply so much history. Many do not regard his prior history as sins. His fairly honest autobiography (2001) has never been published in Hebrew.” To my question is Israel’s culture “addicted to power, a militarist culture?” Kimmerling replied, “Israel is run by a junta of three generals Sharon, Mofaz and Yaalon. All decisions are taken by these military minded powerful holders. The parliament and civilian branches are completely neutralized. All this is aggravated by the deep economic crisis. It is easier to rule a people preoccupied by daily financial subsistence.” Kimmerling, like many Jewish humanists has no time for the accusations of anti-Semitism levelled against critics of Israel “used by North American Jewish organizations and functionaries as well as conservative intellectuals.” What he does have time for are the many brave Israelis to whom he dedicates his book, people like “all the brave Israeli women who stand before checkpoints in the early morning hours to prevent Palestinian laborers from being harassed.” These are the people who “better reflect the spirit of humanism and non-violent and active resistance against this bad regime which has hijacked the Israeli political culture. They have paid a high personal price for their conviction and give me hope for the future.” Politicide is an engrossing portrait of Ariel Sharon’s career, one which leaves little doubt that “Arik the King of Israel” is a major stumbling block to peace in the Middle East. http://www.versobooks.com

Ariel Sharon and Torah

January 14, 2014

 

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Our nation only exists in Torah.

Saadia Gaon, legendary Egyptian rabbi 10th CE

The  danger is that national identity be transformed into statism and will to power.

Yeshayahu Leibowitz

Ariel Sharon was the  classic “tough Jew” who came to prominence after the creation of the Jewish state in 1948. Zionism was a secular movement whose apotheosis came after the Nakba, the ethnic cleansing of 800,000 native Palestinians. No more soft Jews who were seen to be too compliant as the Nazis raged through the shtetls of eastern Europe. No more luftmenschen, scholars and Talmudists who had their heads in the clouds (the meaning of the Yiddish phrase) and walked into the death camps. Zionism wished to decouple itself from Torah, a catastrophic move away from the ethical heart of Judaism. Many prominent Jews such as Martin Buber  and the Orthodox thinker Yeshayahu Leibowitz  saw this as a betrayal. The moving Israeli national anthem  Ha-tikva alludes to this shift “to be a free people  on our land”—and free of Torah commitment.

Most Israelis came from eastern Europe and lived under the Tsars. They found it difficult to assimilate in a virulent antisemitic culture living as they did in densely compact areas, but under the new enlightenment (haskala) these forebears of Sharon et al surrendered the religious dimension of their lives. A new secular identity was born devoid of Judaism.

Many Israelis Hebraicized their names to symbolize the fact that they were new Jews. Sharon’s parents like Netanyahu’s, were Lithuanian. It is important however to stress that  these were not people of Torah Judaism. A new nationalism usurped those values.  The legendary Judaic prominence of compassion, introspection , deep learning and humility was sacrificed on the altar of nationalism and egotism. But then 1948 became 1967 and the Six Day  War with the capture of the new territory we call the West Bank unleashed  a still greater national chauvinism.

In Toronto it broke the heart of perhaps the greatest Canadian rabbi of the 20th century, Reuben Slonim. He looked out on his downtown congregation and noticed  a profound change  “The Six Day War (1967)  had plunged them   into an orgy of chauvinism from which they never recovered…messianic faith has become  intermingled with fanatical nationalism…the years went on and Israel won more wars but lost every peace…” he wrote in his autobiography To Kill a Rabbi.

As secularism corroded most faiths, for Jews in Israel, the military victories overwhelmed the ancestral faith and at the heart of those wars was the racist figure of Ariel Sharon  bent on Politicide-the destruction of the Palestinian people.

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