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Tuesday, November 30, 2004

myths, facts and analysis

part of my goal in this blog is to present responses to the zionist propaganda of alan dershowitz, mitchell bard, and others. their propaganda is often cleverly done and is well-promoted, but in most cases, an informed person with a web connection and a few minutes for reflection is able to see that they are either false, or because of ideological presuppositions they do not contribute to a better understanding of the conflict, nor do they promote justice or reconciliation. i'm somewhat well-informed, have a fast connection and i'm willing to make the time, so you'll be seeing discussion of zionist propaganda in this blog. hopefully the responses will be thoughful, analytical, and supportive of a good and just understanding of the conflict. and if i slip up and refer to dershowitz as "dershy the clown", or remark upon the appropriateness of the possessor in mitchell bard's "the complete idiot's guide to middle east conflict", you can chalk it up to my saucy nature, or the frustration of challenging a dominant narrative.

a note about my use of terms like "zionist", "anti-zionist" and "zionist propaganda": i am very aware that these are signifiers that tend to mark their users as dogmatic, conspiratorial and maybe antisemitic. this is in part due to the many dogmatic, conspiratorial, sometimes antisemitic crazies who have abused the term; in another part, it reflects the success of zionist propagandists in hijacking all discourse about israel and palestine, to the point that to focus on zionism as a concept, or to look at the action of zionists, or to consider zionism an ideology that could give rise to a specific form of propaganda, is outside the bounds of reasonable discourse, hence in "crazy" territory. part of why i'm using this term is precisely in order to attack this signification - to return "zionism" to the list of words that can be used neutrally in a political analysis.

i will probably attack the myths one by one, without being systematic - disciplined systematicity is one thing i'm really bad at. but i will begin at the beginning, with myth one in mitchell bard's "myths and facts":

“The Jews have no claim to the land they call Israel.”

that post coming up.


creative protest at berkeley

it must be something in the northern california waters. palestine solidarity protests in the bay area are often among the most creative. students for justice in palestine at berkeley pioneered the mock checkpoint; yesterday they unveiled the mock bypass road.

bypass roads are one of the many overt expressions of israeli apartheid in the occupied territories. israel doesn't have jews-only bathrooms, but these roads are essentially jews-only highways: off-limits to the palestinians living in the occupied territories, they are primarily used by residents of the illegal jewish colonies in the west bank. they're also a key part of the geographical carve-up of palestine that's intended to prevent a contiguous palestinian state, even if israel agrees to return to the negotiating table. see jeff halper's well-known article the matrix of control.

and speaking of the bay area and creative protest, one of my absolute favorite organizations is QUIT - queers undermining israeli terrorism. check out the starbucks takeover especially.


Monday, November 29, 2004

Chomsky on Election 2004

a little off the narrow topic of this blog, but worth the diversion: noam chomsky has written a gem-studded piece on the lessons of the 2004 elections - or rather, on the futility of trying to draw conclusions about the "national mood" from the election results, and the usefulness of the public opinion polls that have been suppressed in assessing opportunities for organizing. the findings: americans strongly support the progressive agenda. the essay can be viewed here:

some excerpts:

As usual, the electoral campaigns were run by the PR industry, which in its regular vocation sells toothpaste, life-style drugs, automobiles, and other commodities. Its guiding principle is deceit. Its task is to undermine the "free markets" we are taught to revere: mythical entities in which informed consumers make rational choices... (businesses) seek to delude consumers to choose their product over some virtually identical one.


In 2000, "issue awareness" – knowledge of the stands of the candidate-producing organizations on issues – reached an all-time low. Currently available evidence suggests it may have been even lower in 2004. About 10% of voters said their choice would be based on the candidate's "agendas/ideas/platforms/goals"; 6% for Bush voters, 13% for Kerry voters (Gallup). The rest would vote for what the industry calls "qualities" or "values," which are the political counterpart to toothpaste ads.


In some polls, "when the voters were asked to choose the most urgent moral crisis facing the country, 33 percent cited `greed and materialism,' 31 percent selected `poverty and economic justice,' 16 percent named abortion, and 12 percent selected gay marriage" (Pax Christi). In others, "when surveyed voters were asked to list the moral issue that most affected their vote, the Iraq war placed first at 42 percent, while 13 percent named abortion and 9 percent named gay marriage" (Zogby).


A large majority of the public believe that the US should accept the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court and the World Court, sign the Kyoto protocols, allow the UN to take the lead in international crises, and rely on diplomatic and economic measures more than military ones in the "war on terror."


Few if any commentators noted that Spanish voters last March were taking about the same position as the large majority of Americans: voting for removing Spanish troops unless they were under UN direction. The major differences between the two countries are that in Spain, public opinion was known, while here it takes an individual research project to discover it; and in Spain the issue came to a vote, almost unimaginable in the deteriorating formal democracy here. These results indicate that activists have not done their job effectively.


overwhelming majorities of the public favor expansion of domestic programs: primarily health care (80%), but also aid to education and Social Security.


Though it is natural for doctrinal systems to try to induce pessimism, hopelessness and despair, the real lessons are quite different. They are encouraging and hopeful. They show that there are substantial opportunities for education and organizing, including the development of potential electoral alternatives. As in the past, rights will not be granted by benevolent authorities, or won by intermittent actions – a few large demonstrations after which one goes home, or pushing a lever in the personalized quadrennial extravaganzas that are depicted as "democratic politics." As always in the past, the tasks require day-to-day engagement to create – in part re-create – the basis for a functioning democratic culture in which the public plays some role in determining policies.


international day of solidarity

today, november 29, is the international day of solidarity with the palestinian people. on this day in 1947 the united nations general assembly voted to support a proposal to partition palestine into two states. much nonsense has been propagated about the resolution and subsequent events, and unfortunately is not often rebutted. the best summary that i know is in simha flapan's very readable book "the birth of israel: myths and realities", now lamentably out of print. the barest essence of the seven myths and flapan's responses to them can be found here. a more extensive summary for the world wide web is begging to be written.

the US campaign to end the israeli occupation - a worthwhile effort to create a nationwide grassroots campaign around a broad set of demands - has proclaimed nov. 29 a day of action. a list of local activities across the USA can be seen here.


Saturday, November 27, 2004

remembering palestine

memory is political. which parts of history are remembered and which are forgotten have an important impact on how we view ourselves and others, and consequently how we might treat ourselves and others. two excellent books by james loewen - "lies my teacher told me", and the better but less well-known "lies across america" - look at the politics of memory by examining history textbooks and historic sites, respectively.

when it comes to the history of israel/palestine, the dominant zionist discourse tends to exclude the tragedy suffered by palestinians in 1948 as a significant historical fact, obscure the fact of palestinian presence on the land before 1948, and even distort palestinian grief, interpreting it as a provocation. as eytan bronstein of the israeli group zochrot writes:

"Many monuments and road signs point out the loss of Jewish soldiers in wars, yet no indication of the destruction of Palestinian life may be found at all on our cultural and geographical landscape. The heavy price paid by the Palestinians-in lives, in the destruction of hundreds of villages, and by being uprooted from their homes-receives no public recognition. Demolished Palestinian villages are never commemorated, their names often Hebraicized and bestowed upon the new settlements established in their place. These villages are invisible spots on Israel's landscape; only the obstinate sabra bushes serve as their silent monuments.

Palestinian pain, too, is illegitimate; all expressions of pain are considered hostile and threatening. Israel regards its Arab citizens' grief as a threat to Jewish existence here and now."

palestine remembered is an online project that tries to preserve the memory of palestine before the naqba, the 1948 catastrophe in which 4/5 of the palestinian population of what became israel was ethnically cleansed and the depopulated villages destroyed. though i don't agree with all of the material in the FAQs and quizzes, i find it a very worthwhile project.

zochrot, literally "(we/you/they) remember", is an israeli organization dedicated to changing the discourse in israel to be more inclusive of palestinian memory, with the aim of transforming israeli culture and politics.


Friday, November 26, 2004

leibowitz on divestment

"As a young soldier serving in the Israeli army, I was ordered to commit war crimes in the Palestinian Occupied Territories. My platoon meted out collective punishment on whole Palestinian communities, shot live ammunition at unarmed civilians, killed women and children, enforced prolonged curfews, creating humanitarian disasters, arrested and detained Palestinians without charge, demolished their homes, and arbitrarily destroyed crops and property."

this is shamai leibowitz - orthodox jew, former gunner in the israeli tank corps, and grandson of the late, great philosopher yeshaayahu leibowitz - speaking to somerville, MA city council in support of a resolution to selectively divest from israel. the full text of his speech is here.

and while we're on the topic of the philosopher leibowitz, let me digress a little with regard to his first name. it's "yeshaayahu" or at least "yeshayahu", but certainly not "yehoshua". that is, it is the hebrew name corresponding to "isiah", not to "joshua". i must have heard this mistake made a dozen times, and as i have a personal stake in the correct pronunciation of this name, i cannot emphasize it enough.


let's get it started

here we go. post number one. a test post if you will.

about me: a young jewish american man, raised on right-wing zionist mythology, which i fervently believed up to age 15. for a few of those years i lived on two israeli colonies ("settlements"), one in east jerusalem and one in the west bank. since then, my commitment to racial justice has led me to a more or less 180-degree turnaround, to a position of support for israeli-palestinian coexistence in israel/palestine, with equal rights for all. i see israel and the united states as being the main obstacles to peace in the middle east. among other purposes, i hope to use this blog to counter the propaganda machine that seeks to blame the victim for her status.


Yesh Gvul
Courage To Refuse
Free The Five
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Refuser Solidarity Network