Showing posts with label Palestine. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Palestine. Show all posts

Friday, September 13, 2019

Representative Rashida Tlaib, Netanyahu and Trump

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, at the alleged behest of President Donald Trump, recently barred US Representatives Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar from visiting Israel and the Palestinian occupied territories. Tlaib and Omar are decidedly pro-Palestinian and pro-justice. 

The Representatives do not agree that Jewish people in Israel should have more rights than the Palestinians. It is possible that Netanyahu was going to ban them anyway and Trump just gave him political cover to do so. 

After the uproar Israel cynically agreed to allow Rep. Tlaib to visit her grandmother in the West Bank but only if she agreed in writing to not say or do anything critical of Israel during her time there. Desperate to see her grandmother, Tlaib briefly acceded to this humiliating condition, but faced with outrage by some relatives, constituents and supporters on this issue, Tlaib  stood strong and refused to adhere to Israeli speech restrictions.

"In my attempt to visit Palestine, I’ve experienced the same racist treatment that many Palestinian-Americans endure when encountering the Israeli government. In preparation for my visit, my grandmother was deciding which fig tree we would pick from together, while Palestinians and Israelis who are against the illegal military occupation were looking forward to Members of Congress finally listening to and seeing them for the first time.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Israel Attacks Gaza and Kills Palestinians: Again

As you may have read in the news the State of Israel has launched military attacks by land, air and sea against the Palestinians in Gaza. Israel claims to be trying to degrade Hamas' military capacity and prevent Hamas from launching rocket attacks against Israel. As virtually every US politician who sees himself or herself as a national figure has rushed to the nearest microphone to intone, "Israel has the right to defend itself" and "No country could accept rockets being fired into its territory". Those are true statements. What you won't hear many, if any, US politicians say is that Palestinians also have the right to defend themselves against Israel. As Palestinians are literally children of a lesser God in the view of many in the "West" the idea that they have the right to resist is something completely alien to the narrative. The other idea which is completely alien to the narrative is the idea that massive and exponentially disproportionate retribution isn't always actually a moral or even useful method to respond to violence or resistance. At the time of this writing, a little over 400 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza, most of them non-combatant men, women and children. That's what happens when people with a first rate air force, navy and army drop bombs on and shell people who lack any air force who live in an area roughly the size of Detroit. Children have been deliberately targeted while playing on a beach. Hospitals and disabled centers have been attacked.                                          
It's simply impossible to oppress, demean and humiliate a group of people without simultaneously coming up with an ideology that transforms your oppression into sober, fair minded treatment and the people being subjugated into either irrational, mindless beasts howling for blood or folks who are sadly simply culturally deprived and don't understand all the benefits your "oppression" provides them.

This is something which is true in Israel today but it bears repeating that this is something which is true across humanity in every time and place. It's exactly because we all have shared humanity that in order to brutalize another human being we have to find some sort of method of denying their status as human beings. This was true with British colonists in Kenya or French colonists in Algeria who murdered, tortured and raped indigenous people who resisted their invasions and depredations. It was true with European settlers in Australia and the Americas. It was true with White American slave owners or supporters of Jim Crow and Black Americans. It was true with Arab slave owners in Africa. It's true with Hindu caste systems. And so on. Any time someone is on top and doing their best to keep someone else on the bottom they come up with justifications. And nobody likes being dominated, humiliated or exterminated. They resist, often even when resistance seems or actually objectively is, futile. So the current "round of violence" against Palestine is thoroughly predictable. But even using that frame of "round of violence" ignores the root cause of all the violence. It's the occupation stupid! The Israelis have been occupying and/or controlling the West Bank and Gaza for longer than I've been alive. Palestinians inside those territories are regularly and routinely brutalized or killed. In Gaza, particularly, they lack access to clean water, medicine, food, housing, almost everything that makes life worth living. 

The Palestinians have no representation, no way to address grievances, no protection against the Israeli military. That's what happens under military occupation. This is made worse by the fact that thanks to American and European diplomatic and military support Israel is convinced that it can have peace, military occupation and increasing numbers of Jewish settlements. The moribund peace process has only seen an increase in the amount of West Bank Jewish settlements. Israel has embarked on ethnic cleansing in the West Bank. Some Israeli politicians are openly calling for ethnic cleansing and genocide in Gaza. Knesset Member Moishe Feiglin is open about what he wants: 
After the IDF completes the "softening" of the targets with its fire-power, the IDF will conquer the entire Gaza, using all the means necessary to minimize any harm to our soldiers, with no other considerations.
Gaza is part of our Land and we will remain there forever. Liberation of parts of our land forever is the only thing that justifies endangering our soldiers in battle to capture land. Subsequent to the elimination of terror from Gaza, it will become part of sovereign Israel and will be populated by Jews. According to polls, most of the Arabs in Gaza wish to leave. Those who were not involved in anti-Israel activity will be offered a generous international emigration package.
Knesset Member Ayelet Shaked echoes and goes beyond Feiglin's statements by explicitly calling for the death of Palestinian mothers and the destruction of their homes. She has endorsed a call for utter war against all Palestinians, viewing them all as worthy of death. How about that idea that female leadership will lead to less war and violence? Yeah, not so much. Shaked may lack testosterone but she has no deficit of hatred and bile.
"They have to die and their houses should be demolished so that they cannot bear any more terrorists," Shaked said, adding, "They are all our enemies and their blood should be on our hands. This also applies to the mothers of the dead terrorists." "Behind every terrorist stand dozens of men and women, without whom he could not engage in terrorism. They are all enemy combatants, and their blood shall be on all their heads. Now this also includes the mothers of the martyrs, who send them to hell with flowers and kisses. They should follow their sons, nothing would be more just. They should go, as should the physical homes in which they raised the snakes. Otherwise, more little snakes will be raised there."
One would wait in vain for any prominent American politician to condemn those ugly racist statements. All they will do is bleat about how Israel has the right to defend itself and the Palestinians must accept Israeli hegemony. I see no difference between what these Knesset members called for and the insane justification for a local murder of a two year old. The Israeli brutalization of the Palestinians also requires a torturing of the English language. NJ Governor and possible Republican Presidential candidate Chris Christie, a supporter of Israel, was nonetheless compelled to apologize after he mistakenly used the term "occupied territories" when referring to the occupied territories.  Occupation supporters such as casino mogul Sheldon Adelson prefer the terms "disputed territories" and certainly won't be writing checks to any politician who doesn't use the proper terminology. So, what is the solution to this? While one prominent anti-war libertarian thinks that Israel as it exists today must be dismantled, I think that just as the Palestinians aren't going anywhere, neither are the Jewish Israelis. I think the two-state solution is dead and has been dead for quite some time. Israel has no intention of removing its hegemony from either the West Bank or Gaza. The only long term solution is one state for both Jews and Palestinians, with equal rights for all. That seems like a pipe dream now. But as the family of murdered Jewish teen Naftali Frenkel said in a statement, "There is no difference between Arab blood and Jewish blood. Murder is murder". That is the message that needs to be nurtured and grown in Israel, not the weed of Jewish supremacist ugliness. In the same way that IRA bombing attacks in England did not result in massive indiscriminate bombardment of Dublin, Israel needs to find a different way. Because morality aside, what it's doing isn't working.

The Palestinians do not currently have nor are they likely in the near future to gain the military power to break the siege of Gaza or eject the West Bank settlers. And despite the constant invocation of "tiny Israel surrounded by 300 million Arabs who hate them", it's also very unlikely that other Arab nations will be riding to the Palestinian rescue. You may have noticed that those nations have their own problems. And none of them have a military that is remotely comparable to Israel's, let alone America's. But unless Israel thinks that it can openly get away with genocide or expulsion, the Palestinians will still be there. So long term, one state with equal rights for all and special rights for none is the only way. Otherwise, sometime in the distant future, when the Israeli and West Bank Arab population has far outstripped the Jewish population, there may be a settling of accounts that might not be to Israel's benefit. Right now the US needs to enforce a cease fire. Short term, politicians in the West, particularly the US, must turn off military, diplomatic and financial aid to Israel. Stop giving them weapons. Stop letting the tail wag the dog. Stop sharing intelligence. That's the only thing that has a remote chance of making Israeli politicians see the light. It is close to being too late. My only remaining hope that if the filthy apartheid state of South Africa can reform and become an imperfect democracy for all of its people, then so can Israel. But it's going to have to be forced into doing so. Of course at a minimum that would require a President who wasn't afraid to tell Israel "No". And we haven't had that for a while. #FreePalestine.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

On the oppression of male youth in Palestine and the US

Today's guest post comes to us from Temple University graduate, Michelle Zei. Michelle is a freelance journalist who recently visited the Aida Refugee Camp in Israel. Her experience gave her a unique perspective on the turmoil surrounding the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. 

During the summer, most Americans probably took vague notice that peace negotiations resumed in the Middle East. “Peace in the Middle East”, a phrase often thrown around allusively with little context, and a general attitude of futility. ‘There will never be peace,’ most people might think, ‘Why even try?’

“There's war on the streets and the war in the Middle East.” Tupac said it in the 90’s and it rings true today.

But approaching any situation as an endless conflict has never helped in the past and to take it a step further seeing the ‘Israeli- Palestinian Conflict’ as continuously hopeless doesn’t garner interest from the American public. 

The conflict that is portrayed as ageless is, in fact a military occupation dating back to 1948. There are not two equal parties at war but rather an indigenous group pushed inside narrow, shrinking borders under Israel’s on-going military rule. The occupation of Palestinian land and people, like other forms of colonialism, consists of the destruction of communities and culture: crippled economies, displacement of people, separation of families, millions of refugees, and the arrest of young males without warrant. Additionally, the arrest and disenfranchisement of so many men makes families and communities struggle for unity and economic strength. Women often bare immense burdens of maintaining households and trying to raise and protect their children- to teach them pride, strength and hope in the midst of a threatening reality. 

Many young Palestinian males share rights of passage of harassment and captivity similarly to young men of color in other parts of the world, even here. The U.S. injustices rooted in displacing natives, relying on slavery for economic growth, and later administering discriminatory laws under Jim Crow have put the U.S. in a place where black men have been systemically criminalized and assumed guilty until proven innocence. 

How can these people be innocent and receive empathy in a country where they’ve been pegged as violent aggressors without historical context (that includes them being the recipients of violence for generations)? Palestinians are faced with this dilemma as well. 

Under an oppressive judicial, police or military system, these young males are presumed as a threat before they even act. Even youth are suspects; building the foundation for them to be devalued and mistreated. Legal systems set the tone for how citizens view youth and adults.

In the U.S., we have the recent examples of Kimani Gray who was shot and killed by N.Y.P.D. officers and George Zimmerman’s murder of Trayvon Martin.

Palestinian youth also receive brutality and harassment from Israeli soldiers and citizens. For example, last year Jamal Julani, a Palestinian teen was attacked by Israeli teens in Jerusalem until he was left unconscious. This year in Aida refugee camp, 13-year-old MohammedAl-Kurdi and 15-year-old Ahmed Amarin were fatally shot by Israeli soldiers in front of a community center.

The power of social media led active community members to seek justice for Trayvon Martin. A petition circulated and raised an overwhelming amount of support in favor of charging Zimmerman  and finally the state responded. Even when justice wasn’t served, adults and youth continued fighting to illuminate the legacy of racism and racial profiling- to advocate for young black men and stand in unity.

However much like Kimani Gray’s death, the deaths and imprisonment of many Palestinian youth go unreported and misunderstood in the U.S. media. We must challenge ourselves to learn the names and circumstances of those, local and internationally whose deaths and suffering never make headlines.

Minors behind bars

Just as many American activists from groups like Decarcerate P.A.  and the Youth Art & Self-Empowerment Project address issues of imprisonment and the charge of minors as adults, children as young as 12 are held in Israeli military detention without charge, for renewable, six-month periods. According to the UN, in 2011, 200 Palestinian youth were arrested per month.  

The double standard for how Palestinians are treated within the Israeli courts is just one facet of apartheid in Palestine-Israel, reminiscent of that in South Africa and Jim Crow south.

Respected figures in the civil rights movement like Alice Walker have long admonished the occupation and chosen to stand with the Palestinian people. Walker wrote Alicia Keys a letter to join the cultural boycott of Israel a couple months ago but her letter wasn’t understood or received by the public or perhaps Keys herself. 

In addition, Nelson Mandela’s friend Ahmed Kathrada who also was imprisoned for fighting against apartheid wrote a letter to Morgan Freeman, asking him to pull out of a fundraiser for HebrewUniversity.

Other public figures like Angela Davis and Lenny Kravitz have spoken out against the Israeli military occupation as well. These people recognize the importance of connecting local concerns and action to international solidarity and advocacy.

The fight for Palestinians to be recognized and have freedom is an ongoing struggle. Peace negotiations will inevitably resume at some point, with the U.S. playing referee. As American citizens, we often hear in political discourse that Israel is our biggest ally in the Middle East, a beacon of light and example of democracy. However as we know, young democracies built on the displacement of others are imperfect and in need of constant examination and changes so that more people can thrive and live in peace.

Many refugees and immigrants from Palestine, like other regions of the world are now American citizens, continuing life in a place with its own contradictions and injustices. Stories of pain and persecution are more often silenced than shared. Learning more about other countries, especially where the U.S. government has a large presence is a way to better understand our country, its people and influence.

I encourage you to look into the rich history and culture of the Palestinian people, learn the names of politicians, artists, and even innocent boys whose lives have been cut short by unpunished crimes.

Friday, November 30, 2012

The UN welcomes Palestine as Observer State

As discussed the Palestinians want independence. They tried and failed to get the UN Security Council to recognize Palestine as a state. So roughly a year after this effort failed in the Security Council the Palestinian Authority led by Mahmoud Abbas tried again in the General Assembly where there is no veto. And this time despite threats of bad consequences from Israel, the United States and a few other nations, the bid for recognition as a state finally passed!

UNITED NATIONS — More than 130 countries voted on Thursday to upgrade Palestine to a nonmember observer state of the United Nations, a triumph for Palestinian diplomacy and a sharp rebuke to the United States and Israel.
But the vote, at least for now, did little to bring either the Palestinians or the Israelis closer to the goal they claim to seek: two states living side by side, or increased Palestinian unity. Israel and the militant group Hamas both responded critically to the day’s events, though for different reasons.
The new status will give the Palestinians more tools to challenge Israel in international legal forums for its occupation activities in the West Bank, including settlement-building, and it helped bolster the Palestinian Authority, weakened after eight days of battle between its rival Hamas and Israel.
But even as a small but determined crowd of 2,000 celebrated in central Ramallah in the West Bank, waving flags and dancing, there was an underlying sense of concerned resignation.

“I hope this is good,” said Munir Shafie, 36, an electrical engineer who was there. “But how are we going to benefit?”
Still, the General Assembly vote — 138 countries in favor, 9 opposed and 41 abstaining — showed impressive backing for the Palestinians at a difficult time. It was taken on the 65th anniversary of the vote to divide the former British mandate of Palestine into two states, one Jewish and one Arab, a vote Israel considers the international seal of approval for its birth.
“The question is, where do we go from here and what does it mean?” Salam Fayyad, the Palestinian prime minister, who was in New York for the vote, said in an interview. “The sooner the tough rhetoric of this can subside and the more this is viewed as a logical consequence of many years of failure to move the process forward, the better.” He said nothing would change without deep American involvement.
Susan E. Rice, the American ambassador to the United Nations, was dismissive of the entire exercise. “Today’s grand pronouncements will soon fade,” she said. “And the Palestinian people will wake up tomorrow and find that little about their lives has changed, save that the prospects of a durable peace have only receded.


Rice's contemptuous declaration is of a piece with other similar statements she's made in the past about the Palestinians and similar to what Victoria Nuland, the State Department spokeswoman, had to say about consequences for the Palestinians seeking status upgrade. "As you know we also have money pending in the Congress for the Palestinian Authority, money that they need to support their regular endeavors and support administration of the territories. So obviously if they take this step it's going to complicate the way Congress looks at the Palestinians".

In other words...Nice little shop you got here Mahmoud.You've got a wife, some kids, a good little business. Now you wouldn't want any accidents to happen, right? So you'll wise up and do the right thing, right? The Don has always thought of you as a friend.

The US, Israel and some other countries tried to prevent the Palestinian Authority from receiving observer state status and having failed to do that then tried to extort assurances from the Palestinian Authority that it would not try to join the International Criminal Court or join other UN agencies or that it would reopen negotiations with the Israelis. The Palestinian Authority turned down all of those "requests". What the US and nations who voted against the resolution failed to realize is that for better or worse the Palestinians need a win. Pride and human dignity demand it. It is simply not possible to keep people under military occupation for 45 years and not have attempts at removing the occupation. Israel has refused to stop settlements in the West Bank or Jerusalem. And at the time of this writing Israel just announced plans for expanded settlements in East Jerusalem. This is of course punishment for the Palestinian Authority's move.
A senior Israeli official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said on Friday that the decision was made late Thursday night to move forward on “preliminary zoning and planning preparations” for housing units in E1, which would connect the large settlement of Maale Adumim to Jerusalem and therefore make it impossible to connect the Palestinian cities of Ramallah and Bethlehem to Palestinian neighborhoods of East Jerusalem. Israel also authorized the construction of 3,000 housing units in other parts of East Jerusalem and the West Bank, the official said.
As we've discussed before you simply can't have a two-state solution and have ongoing settlements. They cancel each other out. I still believe that a one-state solution, which no one will like initially, remains the best way out of a bad situation. If South Africa and Rhodesia could come to accept that the state included more than whites then the Israelis and Palestinians will as well. Eliminationist fantasies on either side will need to be put down. One state, equal rights for all, and special rights for none. What's wrong with that?

A more canny US and Israel would have welcomed a Palestinian "state" on the West Bank since as is obvious such a state would be one in name only. But the need to continually humiliate Abbas and the Palestinian Authority meant that Abbas had nothing to lose by going to the UN. This was especially important in recent times as the Palestinian Authority had nothing to show for "good behavior" except more settlements while Hamas was seen to be fighting back. If you tell people they're going to lose no matter what, often people would rather go down swinging. 

So what does this all mean? As new announcements of settlements show, not a whole lot right now. But whether it's through violence or non-violence, the Palestinians intend to resist the narrative that they don't matter or that they should just fade into irrelevance. There will be renewed spotlight on the occupation and increasing diplomatic pressure to create some sort of solution. The US has done itself a disservice by continuing to enable the most right-wing elements of the Israeli body politic. The Palestinian Authority will seek to make the occupation cost Israel more than it has in the past. Will they be successful? The future's a devious thing to predict. But things that can't go on forever don't. And the occupation is one of those things.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Israel Attack on Gaza: Same Story Different Day in Palestine

BBC correspondent Jihad Misharawi holds his son's body
There are some elements which are wholly predictable in the world. Israeli-Palestinian violence is one of those things. Israel recently assassinated the military head of Hamas, Ahmed Jabari, in the Gaza Strip. This of course led to a coordinated violent response from Hamas which in turn caused an even more violent response from Israel. There has been the normal kabuki dance in which Israeli political leaders say that they won't tolerate acts of violence from Palestinians and reserve the right to defend themselves. And US political leaders have condemned violence from Hamas, and also strongly defended Israel's right to defend itself, while insulting Hamas as cowardly. It is totally predictable that the US mainstream media has wholly accepted the Israeli point of view about the latest violence, which is that Israel was peaceably minding its own business when out of nowhere a bunch of anti-semitic religious nutball Third World savages started to shoot rockets into Israel. And anyone who doesn't conform to that pov will be attacked as anti-semitic or biased. 

Well I have no plans to join any mainstream media or think tanks anytime in the near future. So I can write what I like. And you can call me what you like. As I have written before I think the only fair and possible long term solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is an unitary state with equal rights for all and special rights for none. That's not perfect, as South Africa is discovering, but given the circumstances I think it's a baseline. That that solution is becoming less and less likely is a tragedy not only for Palestinians but for Israelis and ultimately Americans who are currently wedded to a bipartisan foreign policy that supports the most right-wing elements of Israeli politics no matter what.

Israel, as its leaders and US partisans emphasize, does have the right to defend itself. If I lived in Texas and Mexicans were constantly lobbying rockets over the border I would expect the US military to show them a little love. But, and you will never ever ever see this concept expressed in any mainstream media or government statement, Palestinians also have the right to defend themselves. If I lived in Mexico and US aircraft were constantly bombarding me I would hope that the Mexican military, no matter how understaffed, inept and outgunned, would try to fight back.
So let's just not freeze frame the last week and look at what Hamas does. You have to look at the past months and even years. There was an informal truce between Israel and Hamas, brokered by Egypt. I'm going to bet that you may not have heard about these events, which are the proximate cause for the latest violence.

On November 4, Israeli soldiers killed an unarmed, possibly mentally ill man who was allegedly walking too close to their buffer zone. On November 8, during another Israeli incursion in the Gaza strip, Israeli soldiers killed a 13 year boy playing soccer near his home. The following day there were rockets fired into Israel. There was another Israeli incursion which resulted in the deaths of Palestinian women and children and the path of escalation was set. One final attempt at a truce was set. Jabari actually received a peace proposal but evidently it was simply a ruse to lure him out into the open. Hamas can not win a military confrontation with Israel. Israel knows this. And despite the bluster about "opening the gates of hell" (Does that sound better in Arabic? Who talks like that???)  Hamas knows it too which explains its attempts to hold to a truce. Of course when you put people in a position where they have literally nothing to lose they will lash out. Gaza is a blockaded hellhole of 1.5-1.6 million impoverished refugees. Noam Chomsky recently visited and described it as an open air prison. This isn't surprising given that a survey showed that a majority of Israelis want preferences for Jews over Arabs in jobs, and would not be in favor of letting West Bank Arabs vote if Israel formally annexed the West Bank.

So why would Israel ignore a truce and then assassinate an opposition's leader, knowing that this would likely lead to an escalation? I think there are a couple of reasons. 
There are upcoming Israeli elections in January 2013. Certainly Netanyahu wants to ensure his party can form a government and outflank any more right-wing parties (or ministers).The other reason is that, as pointed out by the Tehran bureau chief for the NYT , this new violence will greatly complicate any attempt by the US and Iran to reach some consensus on Iran's nuclear program as neither the US nor Iran will want to make deals or even be talking to each other while their proxies are killing and dying. Could a deal with Iran have been possible? Maybe, maybe not. But this report of deals and concessions with Iran certainly would have irritated and worried some of the more right-wing elements in the Israeli body politic. And with the US under President Obama having turned to a kill list and enthusiastically supported the illegal tactic of extrajudicial assassinations there is no way that the US President could do anything other than support the Israeli Prime Minister, even if Israeli actions run counter to US interests. There is a piece by dissident US journalist and civil libertarian Glenn Greenwald that is a must read.

Mira Scharf and family
The latest round of Hamas rocket attacks on Israel have revealed a disturbing (from an Israeli POV) capacity and one that though still militarily pathetic have killed Israeli citizens, including a pregnant woman. So what's the answer? The only short term solution is for the UN security council to force Israel and Hamas to stand down. Beyond that there would need to be UN armed observers in the West Bank and Gaza. But since the UN security council will never act to condemn or restrain Israel I expect that the region will suffer continued. It is ironic that while Israel is bombing people who in the US mindset, do not have the right to defend themselves, Syria is bombing people, who despite having turned to violence in an attempt to overthrow a dictator, have every right to defend themselves. The Syrian rebels have committed some ugly massacres and human rights violations but they (unlike Hamas) happen to be fighting against someone that the US and its European allies don't like. They are thus eligible to receive US support under the table . They've received French recognition and may soon receive open French and US direct arms shipments.
The moral of this story is choose your enemies wisely.


1) How would you fix this latest mideast crisis?

2) Is there a long term solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict?

3) Should the US stop supporting one side?

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Romney in Israel: Palestinian Culture, Occupation, Racism and Providence

*This was going to be a much longer post and one with a slightly different emphasis but as often happens work and other events intervened and required me to abbreviate it greatly. Hopefully that will be a good thing as I am always seeking to write more concisely anyway.

So boring apologia aside you may have heard that Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney made a bit of a gaffe recently when he made remarks that could be construed as insulting  by comparing the Israeli culture to that of the Palestinians and suggesting that not only was the Israeli culture superior but also that the Israelis were blessed by God and that these two things explained the difference in economic success between the two peoples. Needless to say, this did not go over very well with the Palestinians, who blasted the statements as ignorant and racist. 

Mitt Romney told Jewish donors Monday that their culture is part of what has allowed them to be more economically successful than the nearby Palestinians, outraging Palestinian leaders who called his comments racist and out of touch.
"As you come here and you see the GDP per capita, for instance, in Israel which is about $21,000 dollars, and compare that with the GDP per capita just across the areas managed by the Palestinian Authority, which is more like $10,000 per capita, you notice such a dramatically stark difference in economic vitality," the Republican presidential candidate told about 40 wealthy donors who breakfasted around a U-shaped table at the luxurious King David Hotel.**
"And as I come here and I look out over this city and consider the accomplishments of the people of this nation, I recognize the power of at least culture and a few other things," Romney said, citing an innovative business climate, the Jewish history of thriving in difficult circumstances and the "hand of providence."

Of course Palestinians are not a key source of funding for Romney's campaign so Romney had no problem doubling down on his statements in a National Review editorial. Picking a fight with people who have virtually no representation in the Western media on behalf on people who have immense representation in the Western media would not seem to be a particularly brave thing to do but then again Romney never claimed to be a profile in courage. I do think however that he and his advisers, including the neo-con Dan Senor, really are being honest about their understanding of the difference in economic output between Israel, or more precisely, Jewish Israelis, and Palestinians, whether they live within the 1967 Israeli borders or in the occupied West Bank and restricted Gaza Strip. This honesty is useful. But it's not restricted to the Israeli-Palestinian issue. It's something that we see time and time again whenever one group of people have conquered or subjugated another one.

For example, let's say you are taking a shortcut off the expressway from one suburb to another and temporarily wind up in Inner City USA. You're going to notice that the houses and stores (if they exist) are not as new or as clean as in your area. You're going to notice that the people are demographically much different. You may find it prudent to lock your doors and windows.
You may not see a lot of economic activity.
Or let's say that you visit an Indian reservation. You will probably find a number of people who are suffering from alcoholism or unreported sexual assaults or obesity and diabetes. Again, chances are you won't find a huge number of new clean supermarkets.
You could repeat the same scene in a Brazilian favela or a number of Indian cities and so forth and so on.

Now if you lack curiosity or interest in what's going on around you and you REALLY don't want to know that people that look like you might have had something to do with those situations, it would be much easier on your ego to state that those people just have an inferior culture. They have chosen to make bad decisions and that's why they're where they are. It's too bad but unless and until they decide to be more like me, chances are they'll be in the same spot. I'm no racist but why don't they just do blah, blah, blah.. and so on.

On the other hand if you are historically curious or even slightly open to the idea that people aren't all THAT different and few people WANT to be impoverished or poor you might do some research and find out that the black people in the inner city are generally descended from people who had to work for free for over 250 years and were non-citizens for another 100 years. They also had their cultures, languages and religions erased and replaced with an ideology that told them they were the lowest of the low and God didn't look like them or love them. It's only in the past 40-50 years that some of that has started to slowly and fitfully change.

You might do some research and learn that those people you see on the "reservation" had and have a vibrant culture but were defeated in battle, slaughtered en masse and virtually exterminated from the continent. The reservations are almost always located in undesirable places that the larger society doesn't want and are both beyond many local legal protections and often subject to dictates from the Federal government.

Or were you Romney, you might do some basic research and discover that those Palestinians once had the majority of what is today Israel but like the American Indians, have fallen victim to a militarily superior group of people, who having ethnically cleansed much of Israel from Palestinian presence, are stubbornly continuing a policy of occupation, colonization and displacement in the West Bank and Gaza. The Palestinians have been under military occupation longer than I've been alive. One of the critical things about military occupation is that it's rather difficult to build an independent functioning economy. EVERYTHING that a business or entrepreneur would need to build or expand his business can be revoked in the twinkling of an eye by a bully with a gun. Think you'll expand your factory in the next lot? Sorry, the IDF just took that lot over for artillery practice. Considering opening an olive supply business? Too bad, the army and settlers decided to uproot your olive grove for a new road for Jewish settlers. Want to open a pizza delivery business? Well you can forget about 30 minutes or less delivery as there are roadblocks and delays all over your area and even if there weren't, again any soldier who's in a bad mood can arbitrarily decide to prevent you or your drivers from traveling the next 5 miles-for no reason other than she feels like it.

I don't deny that cultures differ nor do I deny that some individuals need a kick in their a$$. Many of us know the uncle or friend who always has his hand out for a loan but avoids job interviews like a vampire avoids sunlight, the sister-in-law who always has the latest cell phone and apps but can't seem to plan for her mortgage, or the ne'er-do-well nephew who has big get rich quick plans that require your financial underwriting. It's precisely because we know these individuals that as individuals we can feel comfortable in saying "Get a job" or "No I'm not giving you any money" or "What you really need to do is blah, blah, blah".

But to generalize to a whole group of people and claim that their problem is their culture seems a bit much. You have to look at the whole picture. That picture is going to include ugly things like racism, genocide, self-hatred, and OCCUPATION. We might even flip the script, as Martin Luther King once suggested, to do an intensified study on the dominant group to ask what is the problem with THEIR culture?

There are several countries with higher per capita GDP than Israel. Would Romney suggest that those countries have a superior culture?
Romney ignored the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and its unceasing land theft because those ugly little facts might have a little more to do with Palestinian economic growth than God not loving them or their deficient culture. Of course the Palestinians could have a bad culture that inhibits growth. To be sure, at the very least we would need to run an experiment in which the Palestinians put the Israelis under military occupation for multiple decades, imprison thousands of Israelis without trial or charges, and take more and more land.  Maybe even under those conditions the Israelis would be more economically productive than the Palestinians are today. Only one way to find out!!!

** I just have to mention the horrible irony of Romney giving his speech at the King David Hotel. This was the scene of a horrible terrorist attack by members of the hardline Irgun Jewish group. It killed over 90 people and has never quite been forgiven by the British or repudiated by the Israelis. In fact some Irgun members later became Israeli political leaders. One man's terrorist really is another man's freedom fighter.

What are your thoughts?

Were Romney's statements bigoted?

Does culture impact a society's economic success? If so how much?

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Israeli Settler Violence: Double Standards

Everyone has double standards. It's part of being human, unfortunately. If someone who's not on our team does something dirty we scream in horror and call for penalties. If someone who's on our team does the same action, we chuckle and say hey the guy's a bit aggressive sure, but ultimately he's a good fellow.

Although this might be par for the course it's really not a good thing. It's actually something humans need to strive to eliminate actually, especially when it comes to justice. You may not have heard about this but in the West Bank Israeli settler movement there is a subgroup of settlers who take what they call "price-tag" attacks on Palestinian homes, farms, churches, mosques and well Palestinians themselves. Occasionally these are in response to Palestinian attacks but are more usually done in response to "provocations" like the Israeli closing of a settlement outpost or other political moves. Settlers also seem to enjoy such fun date night activities as random beatings of/shootings at Palestinians, destruction of Palestinian olive groves and farmlands and just general harassment such as calling your mother all sorts of foul names.

Despite the violence of these attacks and the harm they cause the Israeli government has more or less turned a blind eye to the settler movement's violence against Palestinians. Settlers have had government support. Well the problem with double standards is that quite often they come back to bite you in your tuchus. 
Some 50 settlers and right-wing activists entered a key West Bank military base early Tuesday morning and threw rocks, burned tires, and vandalized military vehicles. The settlers were acting in response to a rumor that the IDF would act to evict a West Bank settlement in accordance with an August Supreme Court rulingIn the attack on the Efraim Regional Brigade's base near the West Bank city of Qalqilya, right-wing activists threw stones at region's brigade commander and his deputy after forcefully opening the door to their jeep. The brigade commander was lightly wounded after a stone hit his head.

No arrests were made. Now it's pretty obvious or should be what would have happened if a wild bunch of Palestinians had invaded an Israeli military base to throw rocks, burn tires and vandalize military equipment. You would have been reading the next day about a bunch of dead Palestinians. Period.
This has embarrassed the IDF to an extent. After all no matter whose side they're on, no army wants people to get the idea that they can just roll up to a military base and pimp-slap soldiers willy-nilly. So they are trying to find a way to deal with settler violence-settler violence directed at the army anyway. They could care less about settler violence directed at Palestinians.
The IDF is holding discussing on ways of handling future cases of settler violence following the raid on the Ephraim Brigade base and the attack on the brigade commander on Tuesday. The army is considering taking a firmer hand against rioters targeting the IDF.
Among the options being explored is the use of crowd dispersal means such as shock or gas grenades, water canons and in cases of mass riots more advanced tools such as odor and noise weapons.
The IDF is also revisiting fire protocols in cases where soldiers' lives may be in danger which involve the hurling of stones or glass bottles. IDF forces refrained from using weapons in previous clashes with Jewish rioters and physically blocked the assailants. Ephraim Brigade deputy commander Lt. Col. Tzur Harpaz did just that on Tuesday when he left his weapon in the jeep before being hit with a stone in his head.
I see this just as chickens coming home to roost. You can not lovingly give a bunch of insane chauvinists guns, tax-exempt donations from the US, turn a blind eye to their violent rhetoric and actions against Palestinians and then be surprised when they decide that the Palestinians aren't the only people that might need to be punched in the face. Settlers across the world have often turned against their own government-whether it be Algeria, South Africa, Kenya or elsewhere. The increasing violence of some settlers and their disdain for political authority was thoroughly predictable. The Israeli political leadership finally decided to state that violent settlers would be subject to administrative detention though Prime Minister Netanyahu still refused to call them terrorists. 

I think that this will just be a road bump. In the short term both sides will do their best to contain their ire at each other and instead take it out on the hapless Palestinians. It's not in either side's interest to raise the level of violence even further. The long term question is that since much of the settler movement believes that God gave them the West Bank and no politician has any right to remove them, is it even possible for any sort of two-state solution to go forward-especially since settlements in the West Bank and Jerusalem are still continuing. I say no.

1) What should the Israeli government do with the settler movement?
2) Why didn't the IDF soldiers defend themselves against the settler attack?
3) Do you think a two state solution is still possible or desirable?
4) Why is the US allowing tax breaks for settlement donations?