Saturday, March 28, 2009

More Troops to Afghanistan

Obama announced yesterday that he'll send four thousand more troops to Afghanistan, bringing the grand total of troops he's committed to the region in his first two months in office to 21,000.

The local Herald Sun newspaper noted that "there is no timetable for withdrawal, and the White House said it had no estimate yet on how many billions of dollars its plan will cost."

In addition, ABC News has caught wind of the controversy raging in Israel over civilian casualties and the actions of the IDF in the recent siege on Gaza more generally, a significant development.

For a more in-depth report on the Israeli response, check out this article in the Times.

Friday, March 27, 2009

The Right Wing in Israel, and the Arab Israeli Response

A couple of things are happening with regard to Israel right now.

First, internationally, people are getting more and more outraged as news of barbarities committing by Israeli soldiers during the recent siege on Gaza becomes known.

Second, within Israel, as the shift to the right continues, people are fighting back. The caption for the above picture on the Financial Times website reads, "Israeli Arab protesters clash with riot police on Tuesday in Umm el-Fahm after a right wing march in the country’s biggest Arab city." At least we know that while Labor joins Netanyahu and Lieberman, those that stand to lose the most if Lieberman's plans are implemented are taking a stand.

Check out coverage of the march in the Jerusalem Post and the Washington Post in particular, which links the Israeli Arab response to this right wing march directly to fears of Israeli Arabs' future under Netanyahu and the coalition he's formed.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Labor Agrees to Form Government with Netanyahu

The New York Times is reporting that Israel's Labor party has voted to join a Netanyahu-led coalition, causing controversy within its ranks.

We should ask ourselves what the implications of this will be for Israeli politics. People have been talking about the slow rightward drift of Israeli politics more frequently in recent days. Now Labor has officially joined a coalition where Avigdor Lieberman will serve as foreign minister. (Check out our previous posts for some of his positions on "foreign affairs.")

The picture above says it all: the day after labor agrees to join the government, "clashes broke out between police and demonstrators in the northern Arab Israeli town of Umm al Fahm after a march by Israeli far-rightists." As the far right is literally on the march in Israel, labor joined one of the most right-wing governments in Israel's history.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

"Dead Palestinian Babies and Bombed Mosques"

This picture is just one example of a phenomenon in the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) that has been gaining in popularity for over a decade - the commission of "unique" shirts and slogans for various IDF units, according to a recent report entitled,"Dead Palestinian Babies and Bombed Mosques: IDF Fashion 2009," in Haaretz. Believe your eyes: it is a pregnant Palestinian woman in crosshairs with the slogan, "One shot, two kills." According to Haaretz, this particularly disgusting t-shirt is "
a sharpshooter's T-shirt from the Givati Brigade's Shaked battalion."

The article puts the shirts in the context of an increasing rightward shift we've mentioned before on this blog.

"Sociologist Dr. Orna Sasson-Levy, of Bar-Ilan University, author of "Identities in Uniform: Masculinities and Femininities in the Israeli Military," said that the phenomenon is "part of a radicalization process the entire country is undergoing, and the soldiers are at its forefront. I think that ever since the second intifada there has been a continual shift to the right. The pullout from Gaza and its outcome - the calm that never arrived - led to a further shift rightward."

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Informational Websites

For those interested in learning more about the basics of the situation in Palestine, I recommend the following websites.

Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions
B'Tselem: The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories
Palestinian Center for Human Rights

Check them out!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Zionism is the Problem

Hey folks,

it's been a minute since our last publication, and much has happened. To name only a few developments, Netanyahu is struggling to form a government with the far right and defectors from labor. The "most moral army in the world" is reeling, as accounts from Israeli soldiers indicate civilians were targeted during the recent siege on Gaza. Quote from an Israeli squad commander: “What’s great about Gaza — you see a person on a path, he doesn’t have to be armed, you can simply shoot him. In our case it was an old woman on whom I did not see any weapon when I looked. The order was to take down the person, this woman, the minute you see her. There are always warnings, there is always the saying, ‘Maybe he’s a terrorist.’ What I felt was, there was a lot of thirst for blood.”

And finally, a recent editorial in the LA Times had a title that said a thousand words, "Zionism is the Problem."

On March 31, Duke Against War is hosting Duke law professor John Dugard. He'll talk about a people-to-people foreign policy, and what boycott, divestment, and sanctions campaigns can achieve against Israeli apartheid. We hope to see everyone out there.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Israel is an Apartheid State

This week is Israeli Apartheid week. The blog Jews sans frontieres posted a number of links today about how appropriate the term "apartheid" is when applied to Israel. Since this also came up yesterday when we were fliering, it seemed like a good idea to provide the link.

An excerpt from the group "Stop the Wall" describing what Jews sans frontieres calls "the very core of the analogy" follows. Folks should check out the links provided by Jews sans frontieres for excellent information on this topic.

Apartheid was known as “colonialism of a special type” because of the fact that it was a colonial project in which the colonizer sought to permanently settle in the colonized land and replace the indigenous population, and where the “ruler” was not somewhere in Europe but occupying the same territory. The Zionist project is a European construct, born out of European nationalism expressed in nation-statehood during the era of colonialism. The Palestinian struggle for liberation is in essence an anti-colonial struggle. Inherent within any colonial project is a racist, Euro-centric worldview; but the racism is magnified in this “special” kind of colonialism, or Apartheid. Denying the very human existence of Palestinians with the Zionist adage of “a land without a people for a people without a land”, Zionist racial separation intends to use intolerant xenophobic policies and practice as a means to expel Palestinian Arabs from their homeland, defining them as a “demographic threat.” Racism under the Jewish State is both by law and by practice. Envisaged as a state for Jews, that is, a state of which every Jewish individual throughout the world would be a potential citizen, it became imperative for its legislative body, the Knesset to immediately define in law those persons who would qualify as actual or potential citizens, and those who would be excluded - that is, non-Jews in general, and Palestinian Arabs in particular. In 1950 the Israeli Knesset passed two laws: the Law of Return, defining the boundaries of inclusion ('every Jew has the right to immigrate into the country') and the Absentee Property Law, defining the boundaries of exclusion ('absentee'), i.e. Palestinians. Under these laws, every Jew throughout the world is legally entitled to become a citizen of the “state of Israel” upon immigration into the country. In 1952, the Knesset passed the World Zionist Organization-Jewish Agency (Status) Law, which gave exclusive rights to Israelis of "Jewish nationality," including the right to purchase land. Jewish institutions such as the Jewish National Fund were prohibited by law to sell the land they “owned” in “Israel”-some 97 percent-to non-Jews and were enjoined to hold all land "for the whole Jewish people." Today the Jewish National Fund, a member of the World Zionist Organisation, administers 93% of the “land of Israel” the vast majority of which was Palestinian-owned property that was gradually confiscated in the years since 1948. Such laws parallel to the Apartheid South Africa Natives Land Act, No 27 of 1913 and The Natives (Urban Areas) Act of 1923, making it illegal for blacks to purchase or lease land from whites except in reserves and restricting black occupancy to less than eight per cent of South Africa's land. The Jewish State issuance of identity cards based on race—their defining and indicating race in the ID and basing the ID policy on racial classification, is similar to the Apartheid South African Population Registration Act, Act No 30 of 1950 where a national register was created in which every person's race was recorded. A Race Classification Board took the final decision on what a person's race was in disputed cases. Natives (Abolition of Passes and Co-ordination of Documents) Act, Act No 67 of 1952, commonly known as the Pass Laws, forced black people to carry identification with them at all times. A pass included a photograph, details of place of origin, employment record, tax payments, and encounters with the police. It was a criminal offence to be unable to produce a pass when required to do so by the police. No black person could leave a rural area for an urban one without a permit from the local authorities. The idea of “two races” or “two people” is one of the basic components of the racist colonial project, as the establishment of a “Jewish People” is a construct and tool of the Zionist project to legitimize it and to define the very real target of its racism.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Liberal Profile of Avigdor Lieberman

Chris Hitchens recently wrote a profile of Avigdor Lieberman for the online magazine Slate. He is quick to point out the racist nature of Lieberman's party, Yisrael Beitenu, noting that Lieberman has called for the execution of Arab members of Parliament that meet with Hamas, has demanded that Palestinian prisoners be drowned in the Dead Sea, and whose supporters have chanted "Death to Arabs" at rallies.

In addition, Hitchens notes how Lieberman's position undermines the notion of an exclusive Jewish right to the land of Palestine. He says, "Avigdor Lieberman's essentially totalitarian and Inquisitionist style, though, may be even more manifest in his insistence that non-Zionist haredim, or pious Jews, also either take an oath of loyalty or forfeit their citizenship. This takes the ax to the root of the idea that Jews have a presence in Jerusalem from time immemorial and that their resulting rights are not derived from, or dependent on, any state or any ideology."

In other words, Lieberman's position distinguishes not between Jews and non-Jews, but between Zionists and non-Zionists. Jews that do not support the state and ruling class of Israel (a working definition of Zionism) should be denied citizenship. This implies that non-Jews that do support the state of Israel, like the notorious anti-Semite Jerry Falwell, have more of a claim to citizenship than Jews. Needless to say, such sentiments smash the notion of a Jewish-only state to pieces.

As we have said before, Lieberman's position is no aberration, though Hitchens might wish it was. Rather, it is a natural outgrowth of a slow rightward drift that has occurred in Israeli politics over the past 15 or more years. While Hitchens might wish to return to a "kinder, gentler" version of liberal Zionism, liberal Zionism began not with a position justice for the Palestinian people, but of the right to elect their own prison wardens (the Oslo process).

In conclusion, the choice between liberal Zionism and Avigdor Lieberman is a false one. We need not choose either. Rather, we may choose a people-to-people foreign policy, where local movements for justice, liberation, and democracy intersect with international movements for the same.