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The Press and Palestine

That most illustrious of all publications, the New York Post, sounded a dire warning this week, announcing that Israel can no longer count on the unqualified support of the Democratic Party. In true, Zionist fashion, the rag said that the recent election “… could be the last US presidential election that Israelis don’t have to watch with existential dread”.

Well, we all know that just about everything is an existential threat to apartheid Israel, from the Iran nuclear deal, that regulates that nation’s nuclear advancement, to criticism by the world soccer organization.  And that is just one of the gems available in the article. As this writer is wont to do, he will look at a few more, in some detail.

  • Minnesota Representative Keith Ellison, potentially the next chairman of the Democratic National Committee, is, apparently, not admired by The Post. The article says this: “Ellison ‘has organized letters urging pressure on Israel, and was an advocate of drawing lessons from the UN Goldstone Report following the 2009 Gaza War’.”

Does this seem bizarre? Should not lessons be learned from a report issued by the United Nations? The Post mentions, of course, that Richard Goldstone eventually backtracked on some aspects of the report, but didn’t mention the political pressure he was under to do so.

  • “On a trip to Israel last summer, Ellison posted a photo of a sign in Hebron declaring Israel to be an apartheid state and land thief.”

Well, let’s see: ‘Israeli only’ roads, many of them that non-Israelis can’t even cross, let alone drive on; separate laws for Israelis and non-Israelis, with punishment for similar crimes being lenient for Israelis, and extremely harsh for everyone else; military protection of Israelis while in the act of committing crimes against non-Israelis; fostering of hatred, from elementary school on up, of anyone not Israeli. Sounds like apartheid to this writer.

And what about land theft? Well, forcing people to vacate houses they own, with no recompense or possible redress, taking the land and building new residences there that only Israelis can occupy, sounds like both land theft and apartheid. So what point, one asks, was The Post trying to make?

  • Mr. Ellison apparently adds insult to injury. The article states:  “He has also called for Israel to end the blockade on the Hamas-run Gaza Strip — despite the fact that Gaza-based terrorists have launched over 11,000 rocket attacks on Israeli civilians since Israel withdrew from the strip in 2005”.

But the article doesn’t mention the fact that during 52 days in the summer of 2014, Israel fired more rockets into the Gaza Strip that had been fired into Israel in the previous 14 years. Nor does it comment on the strength of the Palestinian ‘rockets’. Dr. Norman Finkelstein, son of Holocaust survivors and an ardent supporter of Palestinian rights, calls those ‘rockets’, “enhanced fireworks”. Israel, on the other hand, has the most powerful, deadly weaponry on the planet today, provided by the United States.

  • “Israel discovered that Hamas had built a vast system of underground tunnels from Gaza to Israel in preparation for mass terror attacks.”

With the brutal blockade of the Gaza Strip by Israel, such dangerous items as crayons and pasta have been prevented from entering Gaza. The tunnels have been a means of bringing supplies into the area.

It must also be remembered that an oppressed people, according to the United Nations, has both the right and the responsibility to resist the oppressor. Palestine has no army, no navy and no air force. Israel has the fourth most powerful military machine in the world, back by the most powerful. If one wants to discuss ‘mass terror attacks’, one might consider the 2014 Israeli bombing of schools, hospitals, UN refugee centers, houses of worship and press vehicles and buildings, that killed over 2,000 Palestinians, including over 500 children, as young a infancy.

  • The article also states the following, which seems to cause great dismay to The Post’s editors: “According to the Pew Research Center, Democrats sympathize more with Israel than the Palestinians by a 43-29 margin — but that’s far closer than just a few years ago. And among liberal Democrats, it flips: Liberals prefer the Palestinians by a 40-33 margin’. And further: Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders “…had massive support among young liberals, who are increasingly hostile to Israel”.

The fish wrapper bemoans this trend, but somehow neglects to explore why it might be. Could some of those issues mentioned above – harsh discrimination in Israel against all non-Israelis, apartheid laws, violence against defenseless people, etc.  – perhaps have something to do with this growing hostility to Israel?

The new Republican administration is almost gleeful in its disdain for the human rights struggles of the Palestinian people, and the anticipated political appointees are all Israeli cheerleaders. Hopefully, Mr. Ellison and other progressives will be able to at least prevent the complete annexation of the West Bank by Israel, and stall another aerial bombardment. In two years, it is likely that the Democrats will regain control of Congress, and while one can hardly expect them to be champions of human rights (they are only champions of their own bottom lines), at least things may revert to the conditions currently existing under President Barack Obama. And, as more progressives gain office, which will hopefully occur now that the Clinton dynasty has finally been aborted, there may be a glimmer of hope for Palestine once more. That is, of course, assuming that the damage to that country can be minimized for the next two years. That, sadly, is not a sure thing by any means.

Originally published by Counterpunch.

 

 

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‘Newspeak’, the U.S. and Palestine

In George Orwell’s prophetic novel, 1984, we are introduced to ‘Newspeak’, which can be described as speech or writing that uses words in such a way as to change their meaning, with the intent of persuading people to think a certain way. Often, the goal is to make it appear that black is white; that war is peace, or that corruption is honesty.

Mr. Orwell himself spoke of political speech, perhaps a subset of Newspeak, saying that, in our time, political speech and writing are largely used in the defense of the indefensible.

Let’s see how ‘Newspeak’ has been utilized in describing the brutal Israeli occupation of Palestine.

Rarely a day goes by that some Israeli politician isn’t screaming about an existential threat to that rogue nation. The Boycott, Divest and Sanction (BDS) movement, which includes churches, labor unions and universities voting to divest from Israeli holdings; scholars refusing to take part in academic projects with Israel, and entertainers refusing to perform there, along with the ‘rank and file’ boycotting Israeli products, is decried as an ‘existential threat’. Criticism by any nation of illegal settlements is seen as an ‘existential threat’. Palestinian resistance, that of a poorly armed, starved, occupied and blockaded population, is seen as an existential threat. The list is really endless.

The United States government, of course, owned by the Israeli lobby AIPAC (Apartheid Israel Political Affairs Committee), buys right into this, with billions of dollars of taxpayers’ money going to Israel, and laws being passed in various states banning the boycotting of Israel. How any elected official thinks such a law will ever stand up to a court challenge, and how they think such a law can be enforced, is beyond the understanding of this writer. But they all agree that these and other criticisms of Israel threaten the very existence of that country.

Now, it must be remembered that Palestine has no army, navy or air force. Its imports are severely restricted, and its exports, thanks to the occupation and blockade, are almost non-existent. Israel continually ‘confiscates’ (read: steals) Palestinian land to build huge new housing developments, all in violation of international law. Palestine faces a very real existential threat, but is seen as threatening Israel. This is certainly Newspeak.

Hanan Ashrawi, a Palestinian legislator, summed up this example of Newspeak clearly. “We are the only people on earth asked to guarantee the security of our occupier, while Israel is the only country that calls for defense from its victims”.

Newspeak does not only inhabit the halls of Congress, where that august body constantly sends billions of dollars to Israel, despite its violations of international law, and in violation of U.S. law, which predicates foreign aid on adherence to basic human rights, standards which Israel doesn’t even come close to meeting. It isn’t restricted to State Houses, where governors sign into law restrictive measures in clear violation of the Constitution. No, it even lives in the White House. When Israel was bombing the Gaza Strip in 2014, President Barack Obama said that “if someone attacked my daughters in their home, I would retaliate, too”. Newspeak at its best! He simply ignored the reality that Israeli terrorists are constantly attacking Palestinians in their homes in the West Bank; the night raids, when males as young as ten years old are dragged out of their beds and thrown into police vehicles, as their anguished mothers attempt unsuccessfully to protect them, somehow don’t count as ‘attacking children in their homes’. The bombing of the illegally blockaded Gaza Strip, where, when Mr. Obama issued that statement, nearly 300 children had been killed in their homes, somehow doesn’t count. All that counts is the fabrications that are created to please apartheid Israel.

Israel’s general excuse for bombing Gaza is ‘rocket’ fire from the Gaza Strip into Israel. Dr. Norman Finkelstein, son of Holocaust survivors and a strong proponent of Palestinian rights, calls these rockets, ‘enhanced fireworks’. The bombs from Israel, provided by the United States and including the most sophisticated, deadly weaponry on the planet, cannot be seen as ‘enhanced fireworks’. But in the Newspeak of Israel and the U.S., those ‘rockets’ from Gaza justify the carpet-bombing of homes, hospitals, mosques, press offices, and United Nations refugee centers.

It is also worth noting that in the summer of 2014, the number of bombs that Israel dropped on Gaza exceeded the number of so-called rockets that Gaza had fired into Israel in the previous fourteen years. Yet in the Newspeak of Israel and the U.S., and, of course, the corporate media, those ineffectual ‘rockets’ justified the killing of over 2000 Palestinians, nearly a quarter of whom were children, some as young as one month old.

Israel, we are told, is in great danger from Palestinian rockets. Yet the U.S. has provided Israel with the ‘Iron Dome’, which intercepts most of the rockets before they ever reach the ground. Palestine, of course, is defenseless against Israeli bombs. More Newspeak.

In many countries, an assailant with a knife is disarmed in a variety of ways. In the U.S. and Israel, being armed isn’t necessary to be threatening. In both nations, unarmed people are routinely killed by what is euphemistically called ‘law enforcement (more Newspeak), with the perpetrators being immune from prosecution. In the U.S., unarmed black men are fair game for any police office with an itchy trigger finger, and in Israel, any Palestinian, male or female, from children to the elderly, is fair game for IDF (Israeli Defense Forces; Israel’s state terrorists), if they are simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. And minutes earlier, that might not have been the wrong place; it’s all up to the whim of the Israeli terrorists controlling the area.

Israel is now arresting and prosecuting anyone in Israel or Palestine who posts anything on social media critical of Israel. Big Brother is certainly alive and well in Israel. And it wasn’t so long ago that whistleblowers disclosed how the U.S. government was spying on millions of its own citizens.

In this election year, the U.S. is faced with two candidates who are fluent in Newspeak. Democrat Hillary Clinton declares her dedication to the 99%, when all her actions favor the super-rich. Republican Donald Trump proclaims the threat of Islam, a peaceful religion, the radical element of which is no more representative of it than the so-called Religious Right in the U.S. is of Christianity. And one of them will be the next president of the most powerful imperial nation in recent history.

Like Oceania in 1984, constantly fighting either Eastasia or Eurasia, the U.S. will wage deadly war in the Middle East and wherever else it invents an enemy. And like the people in Mr. Orwell’s Oceania, U.S. citizens will cheer with each death of an innocent victim, and take great pride in the might of their nation. They will boast of U.S. military strength; will ‘stand with Israel’, despite its unspeakable crimes against humanity, and will, in their own ways, proclaim their love for Big Brother.

In 2016, Mr. Orwell’s 1984 has arrived.

 

Originally published in Counterpunch.

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Apartheid South Africa And Apartheid Israel: One Was Shunned, The Other, Embraced

KITCHENER, Ontario — (Analysis) In 1948, the same year as the founding of the state of Israel, South Africa made a policy of apartheid the law of the land. This policy of racial discrimination would remain in place for 55 years, causing untold suffering for millions of people.
Conditions under apartheid in South Africa may not be widely known or understood. It meant separate and inferior public services, benches and building entrances for anyone who was not white (European). Writing for The Associated Press, Michelle Faul described life in apartheid South Africa: Train carriages for black people (Africans) and people of mixed race or other non-white ethnicity (colored) were “decrepit,” and while gas stations would sell fuel to non-white drivers, these drivers were not allowed to use the restrooms.
But that was certainly not the extent of it. Under this racist policy, the non-white population was stripped of citizenship, and any and all non-white political representation was abolished, thus depriving the majority of the population of having any voice in the government.
Under apartheid, the minority white population (4.5 million people) owned 87 percent of the property, while the majority non-white population (19 million people) owned the remaining 13 percent.
Additionally, non-whites were forced into bantustans, where water was hard to come by and sanitation almost unheard of. As a result, it is estimated that 15 million South Africans were without safe water and 20 million without sanitation. Meanwhile, the white majority had all the water they wanted, and sanitation was not a problem for them.
Deciding the race of an individual was hardly scientific. One test was to see if a pencil would stay in a person’s hair. If the pencil slid through, the person was considered white.
“Under such rules of apartheid, Chinese were classified colored despite their straight hair; Japanese were white,” Faul wrote. “Blacks who wanted to be reclassified as colored also could undergo the pencil test: if it fell out when you shook your head, you could be become colored.”
It was not unusual for families to be separated due to such tests, including the removal of children from their parents.
 Violence against the non-white population was endemic. Random shootings by white police of non-whites, kidnapping of non-whites, despite having the necessary paperwork that identified them, and rampant torture were all part of life in apartheid South Africa.
Boycotting South African apartheid
This system of apartheid didn’t sit well with the international community. In 1962 the UN General Assembly passed Resolution 1761, which declared apartheid to be a violation of South Africa’s obligations under the UN Charter and a threat to international peace and security. Member states were asked to voluntarily boycott South Africa and break diplomatic relations. Though initially ignored by most nations, this action, along with the creation of the U.N. Special Committee Against Apartheid, greatly encouraged the growing civil society-based, international solidarity campaign.
An academic boycott, begun in 1965, empowered principled academics from around the world to refuse invitations to South Africa to lecture and to pass on collaborating on scholarly projects with South African academics.
Athletics are an important component of South African society, and the sports boycott, begun in 1961 with South Africa’s expulsion from FIFA, the international soccer governing body, proved effective. South Africa was excluded from many international rugby and cricket competitions, not to mention the 1964 Olympics. After nearly 50 countries threatened to boycott the 1970 Olympics in protest of possible involvement by South Africa, the country was expelled from the Games.
Starting from the mid-1980s, the European Community and Commonwealth countries imposed some trade and financial sanctions. In the United States, President Ronald Reagan opposed sanctions, but, to appease Congress, did agree to a limited ban on exports. (It must be remembered that the U.S., never at the forefront of human rights when power or economic strength may be compromised, considered Nelson Mandela, the longtime leader of efforts to overturn South African apartheid, a terrorist. Indeed, Mandela was on a “terrorism watch list” as late as 2008, decades after some semblance of democracy had been initiated in South Africa.)
Another major effort was the grassroots campaign to encourage institutional investors to withdraw all investment from countries based in South Africa. American university campuses became a focal point for such efforts.
Now and then
Apartheid in South Africa officially ended with the 1994 elections in which members of all races were allowed to vote.
Yet the ugliness of apartheid still exists elsewhere, most notably in Israel. A few examples highlight the similarities of South African apartheid and Israeli apartheid:
Capture
Congress condemned apartheid in South Africa, even overriding a presidential veto to sanction that country, but Congress cannot seem to praise Israel enough. What is different now than it was 30 years ago?Although there are stark similarities, conditions for Palestinians under Israeli apartheid are considered far worse than they ever were for non-whites under South African apartheid. Yet there does not appear to be the same international outcry against Israeli apartheid as there was against South African apartheid.
One hates to sound cynical, but, as with so much in U.S. governance, it all seems to come down to money. Between April 1, 2009 and March 31, 2015, Israel lobbies contributed $12.6 million to U.S. senators for election, re-election and presidential campaigns. From April 13, 2013 to March 31, 2015, Israel lobbies contributed $4.3 million to members of the House of Representatives for election, re-election and presidential campaigns. A 2013 report indicates that, at that time, winning a senate seat in the U.S. cost about $10.5 million, while a seat in the House of Representatives cost about $1.7 million. It is much easier, certainly, to obtain a single contribution of tens, or perhaps hundreds, of thousands of dollars, than to collect that amount with donations of $5 or $10 from working people.
The impact of the Israel lobby on American politics is nothing new, though. In 1984, incumbent Sen. Charles Percy of Illinois was defeated for re-election by Paul Simon. Mr. Simon was tapped by the American Israel Political Affairs Committee to run against Mr. Percy, who had acknowledged not on
ly the existence of the Palestinians, but also that they had rights. This was untenable in a U.S. senator, and with backing from the powerful AIPAC, Mr. Percy was defeated. Congressional dissent from the AIPAC party line will not be tolerated.
At the recent AIPAC convention, GOP presidential candidate and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who, during the six-year period mentioned above received $100,354 from Israel lobbies, actually told his receptive audience that “Palestine has not existed since 1948.” This was perhaps the most extreme statement made to AIPAC audience by anyone seeking the U.S. presidency this year.
Money and fear fuel support for Israel
In February of 1986, Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme participated in “The Swedish People’s Parliament Against Apartheid,” during which he described apartheid as “this despicable, doomed system.” He was assassinated one week later. After Sweden officially recognized Palestine in 2014, Sweden’s foreign minister, Margot Wallström, received numerous death threats.
France and Belgium are two additional countries that seem, at least in some regards, favorable to Palestine, and there has been talk in both nations about recognition of Palestine. Some pundits note that it is, at best, an odd coincidence that each experienced a “terrorist” attack after making known their intentions about recognizing Palestine.
So it appears that money and fear play a significant role in global support for Israel, but that support is quickly fading, as more countries recognize Palestine and condemn Israel. Steps by the European Union requiring appropriate labeling of Israeli goods produced on occupied land; the increasing academic, economic and entertainment boycott of Israel; and even the U.S., Israel’s main financier, approval of the Iran nuclear agreement that Israel spent as much as $40 million opposing, all point to a major change in world opinion.
Today, with the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement gaining traction at universities, religious organizations and labor unions, the same methods that ended apartheid in South Africa are being implemented to accomplish the same thing in Israel.
Frederick Douglass, who fled slavery and went on to become a leader in the abolitionist movement and American statesman, once said, “Power never concedes anything without a demand; it never has and it never will.” The world is now demanding that Israel surrender its power over Palestinians. Israel is resisting, as it has for decades, but as the weight of the demand increases, Israel will eventually bow beneath it.
Originally published by MintPressNews.

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