Sunday, October 4, 2015

Richard Dawkins & Bill Maher Still Baffled Why So Many Liberals Think They're Bigots -- Here's Why Their moral libertarianism and attacks on Islam don't make them edgy "truth tellers".

By Adam Johnson / AlterNet October 3, 2015

Bill Maher and his good friend, Richard Dawkins, sat down on his show Real Time Friday night for the fifth time in almost eight seasons. Their discussion, per usual, was an agreeable, tedious mix of self-victimization and indignation about why so many on the left - specifically the Twitter left - think their obsession with "radical Islam" makes them bigots.

"It's so dumb, because all the people who are accused of being Islamophobes like you and me and Sam [Harris], we're liberals." Maher said perplexed. "When I was a child in my home, I was seven and my parents said 'we're for Kennedy, we're for him letting black people go to college in the south" Maher fumed, as Dawkins nodded enthusiastically along with Maher's notoriously sycophantic audience.

"Why don't liberals love us?", they ask. "We're so goddamn liberal but for some reason our critiques of Islam are seen as hateful". And while Maher is correct that he's generally good on taxes and calling out Republican bigotry, this doesn't give him a free pass on his rank Islamophobia (a term he thinks is "meaningless".)

Firstly, no one thinks "Islam is a protected species" as Maher put it. This is a typical strawman New Athiest employ. Dawkins doesn't go after "all religions" equally. Quite the opposite, he has said that Islam is uniquely sinister, referring to it as "unmitigated evil", on numerous occasions. Accusations of bigotry against Dawkins, therefore, are not selective in favor of Islam, they are a reaction to his selective, repeated highlighting of it - fair or not. Secondly, this position is dripping with libertarian false equivalency. The "I criticize all religions equally" is the close cousin to "I criticize all races equally" -- a principle that sounds cute in theory but willfully ignores the burden of history and imperialism.

To the Mahers and the Dawkins of the world, the connection between America's wars in the Middle East is cosmetic at best, and "silly liberal" relativism, at worst. That President Obama - who Maher gave $1 million to in 2012 - has bombed seven Muslim countries in as many years is seen as irrelevant. Western panic and outrage over "women in beekeepers suits" (what Maher calls burkas) is entirely divorced from the convenient "civilizing mission" of America's wars in Iraq, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. America is always the reluctant warrior who is forced to bomb, occupy, and invade those hot-headed Muslims, the inverse - that Muslims may become radicalized because of our bombing, occupying and invasions - is never truly entertained much less factored in. It was fitting that around the time their self-indulgent interview was being recorded, the US was shelling a hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, killing 19 - including three children.

Never mind this. To them, religion is seen in a historical and political vacuum in the same way crime and economic hardship is to libertarians. A moral and cultural failing separate from material forces. To them, it's the year zero, and radical religion is an ideology that must be attacked as such, rather than viewed, at least in part, as the logical byproduct of years of colonial aggression. Just last week CENTCOM spokesman Steve Warren said, after Russia had bombed a CIA-armed rebel group, that he "didn't know" if the U.S. was aligned with al Qaeda in Syria. A recently declassified DIA report casually suggested that the U.S. support Salafist elements in Syria as a means of undermining the Assad government. The US, just last week, reinforced its support for radical Wahhabists in Saudi Arabia as they continue their war of aggression in Yemen. America doesn't just incidently create radical Islamists with its bombings, it continues to fund, arm, and protect them.

What say they of this? Almost nothing. Maher and his loyal band of Twitter partisans have little to say about colonialism, and when it's brought up, as Glenn Greenwald did to him in 2013, it's dismissed as irrelevant. It's excuse-making, end of story.

The ignoring of these power dynamics is dripping with the same type of reductionist handwringing one sees among the right's obsession with "black on black" crime. It's an appeal to objective standards that willfully ignores that history did not begin in 1970 and Islam's relationship with the United States isn't limited to light panel chats with Aspen Institute-vetted token Muslims. Without directly addressing American empire and its relationship to radical Islam their analysis will invariably be superficial. Bill Maher and Richard Dawkins have walked into a game between a Division III college football team and the New England Patriots and feel good about themselves for calling holding on both sides. In a very limited, morally O.C.D. way, they're correct, both sides are technically in violation given the rules of the game. But without addressing these rules or the broader power asymmetry at work, they're party to a farce, a rigged discourse that mistakes "consistency" for fairness and posturing for principle. In doing so, they help prop up a fundamentally uneven relationship between the west and the Muslim world that in effect, if not in intent, spreads bigotry every time it ignores this imbalance.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Roger Waters Slams Bon Jovi Over Israel Concert in Open Letter "You stand shoulder to shoulder/With the settler who burned the baby," Pink Floyd co-founder writes

BY DANIEL KREPS October 2, 2015

Roger Waters; Jon Bon Jovi
Kevin Mazur/WireImage/Getty, Gilbert Carrasquillo/FilmMagic/Getty
Roger Waters penned a long open letter to Bon Jovi slamming the group ahead of their October 3rd concert in Tel Aviv. The former Pink Floyd bassist, long an opponent of Israel's stance toward Palestine, accused Jon Bon Jovi and his band mates of standing "shoulder to shoulder" with Israel before listing many of the casualties suffered by the Palestinians at the hands of the Israeli government in an op-ed for Salon. Waters has routinely called on his fellow artists to boycott performing in Israel.

Roger Waters Roger Waters Calls for Boycott of Israel »
"Often in the past I have written detailed, and sometimes even persuasive, letters to colleagues in the music business, encouraging them not to give succor to the Israeli government’s apartheid policies by performing in Israel," Waters wrote. "Having read Jon's comments last week in Yedioth Ahronoth, I won't waste my time drawing parallels with Apartheid South Africa and the moral stand that so many artists took then and that thousands are taking now in the face of decades of Israeli oppression of Palestinians."

In an interview with Israeli magazine Yediot this week, Bon Jovi said he "always heard what a wonderful place Israel is – the birthplace of all religions. I have been everywhere and Israel was a place that I’ve always wanted to visit, but it never worked out. This time I insisted that Israel must be on our list and it happened!"

A representative for Bon Jovi declined to comment.

In the open letter, Waters references "the soldier who shot the soccer player’s feet to bits," "the prisoner who fasted for 266 days until freedom" and "the Minister of Justice who called for genocide," providing links to each example he lists. In February, Waters similarly called out Alan Parsons – the engineer on Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon –for scheduling an Israel concert with the Alan Parsons Project.

Read Waters' entire letter to Bon Jovi below:

Dear Jon Bon Jovi, David Bryan and Tico Torres,

Often in the past I have written detailed, and sometimes even persuasive, letters to colleagues in the music business, encouraging them not to give succor to the Israeli government’s apartheid policies by performing in Israel. Having read Jon's comments last week in Yedioth Ahronoth, I won't waste my time drawing parallels with Apartheid South Africa and the moral stand that so many artists took then and that thousands are taking now in the face of decades of Israeli oppression of Palestinians.

So the die is cast, you are determined to proceed with your gig in Tel Aviv on October 3. You are making your stand.

You stand shoulder to shoulder

With the settler who burned the baby

With the bulldozer driver who crushed Rachel Corrie

With the soldier who shot the soccer player’s feet to bits

With the sailor who shelled the boys on the beach

With the sniper who killed the kid in the green shirt

And the one who emptied his clip into the 13-year-old girl

And the Minister of Justice who called for genocide

You had a chance to stand

On the side of justice

With the pilot who refused to bomb refugee camps

With the teenager who chose eight prison terms over army service

With the prisoner who fasted for 266 days until freedom

With the doctor banned from entry for saving lives

With the farmer who was cut down marching to the wall

With the legless child growing up in the rubble

And the 550 others who won’t grow up at all

Because of the missiles and tank shells and bullets we sent

The dead can't remind you of the crimes you've ignored. But, lest we forget, "To stand by silent and indifferent is the greatest crime of all."

Roger Waters


Quartet fiddles while Palestine burns

Ali Abunimah Rights and Accountability 2 October 2015

Palestinians sit outside their home after Jewish settlers daubed it with Hebrew graffiti which reads “vengeance, Henkin,” and set their car on fire in Beit Ilu village, near Ramallah, 2 October. Shadi Hatem APA images
On Thursday, two Israeli settlers were killed in the occupied West Bank.

Eitam and Naama Henkin were shot dead in their car as they traveled between Itamar and Elon Moreh, two Jewish-only colonies built on land Israel violently seized from Palestinians in violation of international law.

Their four young children were left unharmed by the assailants who reportedly fled in their own vehicle.

The killers remain unknown, though Israeli occupation forces are carrying out widespread raids in the Nablus area.

Meanwhile, settlers have been free to rampage and attack Palestinians and their property in what even Israel’s Ynet termed a “night of price tag attacks.”

Palestinians have been defending their communities against ongoing settler retribution.

The Israeli army and settler assault against Palestinians following yesterday’s killings are in sharp and depressingly predictable contrast to the situation in August, after Israeli settlers burned alive the Dawabsha family in the village of Dura.

Israel’s defense minister Moshe Yaalon recently admitted that occupation authorities know who the killers of baby Ali Dawabsha and his mother Riham and father Saad are, but has decided not to arrest them.

It seems entirely plausible that the killing of the Henkins was intended as a revenge attack. Their children, like Ali’s severely injured 4-year-old brother Ahmed, are now orphans.

Israel remains responsible for all these horrific and avoidable deaths; its occupation constitutes brutal and systematic round-the-clock violence and terror against every Palestinian man, woman and child.

As for the Henkins, they and other settler families are, in the eyes of Israeli top officials like Deputy Prime Minister Silvan Shalom, “the bullet-proof vest of the State of Israel” – fodder to be used for land grabs.

The systematic impunity and protection Israel affords settlers who destroy and steal Palestinian land and property and who burn Palestinians alive, sends the chilling message that Palestinians have no protection from a regime of occupation whose ministers and clerics incite genocide against them.

Lethal attacks on settlers are relatively rare compared to Israel’s routine murders of Palestinians. But in the brutal and lawless reality of settler-colonialism and occupation, such violence takes on a grim logic of its own, as the long and bloody conflict in Northern Ireland also showed. There, only a political settlement that enjoyed broad legitimacy could bring the violence to an end.

Many have warned that the gradual escalation in violence – especially in Jerusalem – provoked by Israel’s aggressive colonization and attempts to takeover al-Aqsa mosque, risks exploding into something even worse than we’ve already seen.

Yet as Israel’s behavior becomes more brazen and unrestrained, international neglect seems only to harden.

A case in point is the statement issued by the so-called Quartet, the ad hoc group of representatives of the UN, EU, the United States and Russia that purports to manage the “peace process.”

Its most senior officials met in New York this week, at the margins of the UN General Assembly.

The statement they issued is so replete with empty clich├ęs it could have been machine-generated.

“The Quartet reaffirmed its steadfast commitment to achieving a two-state outcome that meets Israeli security needs and Palestinian aspirations for statehood and sovereignty, ends the occupation that began in 1967 and resolves all permanent status issues in order to end the conflict,” it says.

This is a steadfast and delusional commitment to ignore the reality that if a “two-state solution” were ever possible, Israel has made it impossible with its relentless colonization.

Moreoever, Israel’s top diplomat, Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely, recently admitted openly what everyone knows: Israel has no intention ever of withdrawing from one inch of the West Bank, which Israel calls “Judea and Samaria.”

“[Handovers of] Judea and Samaria aren’t even on the list of options we’re offering the Palestinians,” Hotovely said.

The Quartet did express its “serious concern that current trends on the ground – including continued acts of violence against Palestinians and Israelis, ongoing settlement activity, and the high rate of demolitions of Palestinian structures – are dangerously imperiling the viability of a two-state solution.”

It said absolutely nothing, though, about following up on the independent UN inquiry that called for perpetrators of war crimes in Gaza to be brought to justice.

But what about any other action? The statement makes clear in masterful diplospeak that there will be absolutely none:

“The Quartet envoys will engage directly with the parties in order to explore concrete actions both sides can take to demonstrate their genuine commitment to pursuing a two-state solution, including encouraging efforts to agree on significant steps, consistent with prior agreements, that benefit Israelis and Palestinians.”

The phrase “both sides” appears throughout the statement, perpetuating the fiction that Palestinians and Israelis are equal in power and therefore in responsibility and ability to act.

The result is to absolve Israel, the occupying power, and the violator of dozens of UN resolutions, of any accountability.

When you peel away the nonsense, the Quartet statement amounts to a firm resolve to watch from the sidelines as Palestine burns.

That is remarkably reckless because as Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov observed in a UN press conference this week, the situation in Palestine remains one of the key factors fueling violence and extremism across the region.

But while attention is focused elsewhere, Israel will continue to occupy, colonize and terrorize Palestinians, with the certain and tragic result that more families – Palestinian and Israeli – will be mourning their loved ones.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Interfaith bullying with a dose of racism

Donald Wagner The Electronic Intifada 25 September 2015

Reverend Graylan Hagler in Rochester. (Linc Spaulding/Flickr)
Organizations or individuals who dare challenge the pro-Israel narrative, whether in the media, academia, church or synagogue, are destined to face considerable blowback, ranging from censorship and personal attacks to outright dismissal.

The recent case of my friend, Reverend Graylan Hagler, is only the latest example, but this time those attempting to silence him supplemented the familiar interfaith bullying with a heavy dose of racism.

Hagler was invited to speak at the Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School on 24 September by the Rochester, New York, chapter of my organization, Friends of Sabeel—North America.

But days before he was due to travel there he was disinvited.

Hagler told Mondoweiss this week that pro-Israel groups pressured the divinity school to cancel his engagement. The veteran of the civil rights struggle also said he received death threats by phone and email.

He said some of those making the threats identified themselves as members of Christians United for Israel (CUFI), the Christian Zionist organization founded by Pastor John Hagee. Hagler, senior minister at Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ in Washington, DC, traveled to the occupied West Bank in January 2014 as a member of an African American delegation. He witnessed first-hand the kinds of abuses Palestinians face under Israeli occupation.

He has compared them to what African Americans experienced in the days of Jim Crow.

He is a signatory of the historic statement of solidarity with Palestine endorsed last month by more than 1,000 Black activists, artists, scholars and organizations.

In the case of Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School, we should not blame them for canceling the lecture; they were simply providing a room and there was a misunderstanding over security. But there would never have been an issue without pressure from pro-Israel groups, and security would not have been a concern without the threats that Reverend Hagler reported receiving.

That clearly had an impact. In justifying the cancelation, the school’s president, Marvin McMickle, admonished the organizers for not “vetting” Hagler sufficiently, and even cited the proximity of the Jewish holiday Yom Kippur for not going ahead with the event.

Whenever the Christian organization I work for arranges a conference or lecture, we anticipate threats and various forms of pressure from the pro-Israel Jewish establishment and certain pro-Israel Christian groups.

Three years ago, Friends of Sabeel—North America held a conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

But our venue had to be moved from the city’s Episcopal Cathedral after the local Jewish Federation met with church leaders and told them there would be violence in their sanctuary, and that our organization is an anti-Semitic hate group.

Rabbis from the Federation proceeded to harass several speakers, including a local Roman Catholic priest, who were simply coming to open the conference with prayer.

The conference was hosted at a Presbyterian church instead. The priest held his ground and offered his prayer, and I wrote an article in a local newspaper urging an end to what I called interfaith bullying.

The conference was remarkable: registrations tripled and the host pastor was thrilled. There was not a single act of violence or any verbal insults.

And this summer, Mubarak Awad, the well-known Palestinian nonviolence advocate, was disinvited from a conference at Trinity Lutheran Seminary in Columbus, Ohio, titled “Seeking Peace in the Holy Land.”

His exclusion, under pressure from the local Jewish Federation, meant that the only Palestinian speaker scheduled to be on the formal program was removed. Today in Rochester, we see a similar pattern, with the Jewish Federation, the local pro-Israel group Roc4Israel and CUFI combining efforts to silence and smear Reverend Hagler before he even had a chance to be heard by the community.

Patti Munter, a co-founder of Roc4Israel, took pride in the pressure her group and others brought to cancel the event, as she told The Rochester Democrat & Chronicle: “We were instrumental to what happened.”

Raising the stakes
The fact that Hagler is both an outspoken Black pastor and longtime advocate for justice in Palestine led him to title his lecture “Connecting the Dots: From Ferguson to Palestine.”

In so doing, he made a conscious link between the struggles for dignity and justice in Palestine and here in the United States. This is a connection the organized pro-Israel community would prefer to keep out of the public discourse.

Hagler has raised the stakes. And while not the first to do so, his decades of experience in the struggle for civil rights, his work to end apartheid in South Africa and his prophetic courage to speak truth to power made his presence not only uncomfortable for some, but something to be blocked altogether.

It runs against the efforts of pro-Israel groups to portray Israel as a democratic island in a sea of barbarity if people learn about what Israel is really doing to Palestinians and to refugees from African states seeking asylum.

It defies the efforts to whitewash Israel’s image if Americans begin to see the role Israel plays in equipping, advising and training urban police forces all over the United States, including in St. Louis, Missouri.

How ironic that some of the Jewish organizations said they were offended that Hagler would be addressing these issues during the Jewish high holy days.

When Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb, a member of the Jewish Voice for Peace Rabbinical Council, learned about the attempt to silence Reverend Hagler, she told me, “this is what we Jews need to be doing, applying our love of God and neighbor to these difficult situations, like the race question in this country.”

Gottlieb noted the role that major communal organizations including the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Committee and the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs play in sponsoring all-expenses-paid trips for hundreds of top US police officials to Israel. The visitors are often shown Israel’s apparatus of occupation and oppression in the West Bank, including Jerusalem, and told it is the right model to apply back home in the US.

Israel, along with other repressive, US-allied governments, has also touted its wares at Urban Shield, an annual police trade show strongly protested by activists seeking an end to police brutality and militarization.

“To ignore this information or claim that it is anti-Semitic mocks the values of traditional Jewish life and ignores the direct connection between US and Israeli militarization policies,” Gottlieb said. “Jews and the rest of us need this information to understand how to combat racism at home and abroad.”

In this context, Gottlieb sees it as another sign of racism that Hagler, a prominent African American, was disinvited.

Despite the disinvitation, Hagler did go to Rochester and spoke at an alternative venue — the Historic German House — where he received a warm welcome. But this was only after the fierce campaign to discredit him.

Still, let this be a beginning to the difficult process of justice and eventual truth and reconciliation. As our South African friends experienced this process, there is no reconciliation without truth and justice, and even then the road remains hard and uncertain.

The prophet Isaiah, in chapter 58, reminds those honoring Yom Kippur and the rest of us, that the fast and repentance God demands of us is “to loose the bonds of injustice, to let the oppressed go free.”

May we be faithful to this difficult and rewarding path, even when it makes us uncomfortable.

Donald Wagner is national program director of Friends of Sabeel—North America.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

It’s Time to Break With Saudi Arabia’s ‘Kingdom of Horrors’

Stanley Heller
September 15, 2015

It is long past time for a campaign to end the U.S. alliance with Saudi Arabia and all of the cruel grasping hereditary dictatorships in the Persian Gulf. While U.S arms merchants are making billions selling weapons to these dictatorships, U.S. taxpayers are underwriting the expenditure of trillions of dollars on military bases, troops, contractors, weapons systems, and fleets, all in support of tyrannical regimes, unending wars and cruel occupations.

Saudi King Salman decided that a 10-vehicle motorcade in Washington, D.C., was too small for his needs, so his people rented 400 black Mercedes S-class automobiles to make it bigger. There was no place to put them all, so the White House housed them at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland until they were needed. Wall Street Journal correspondent Carol Lee snapped a picture. Salman was in D.C. earlier this month for a meeting with President Obama. To house his retinue, he rented the entire Four Seasons hotel in Georgetown. The lavish hotel evidently wasn’t decorated up to his standards, so gold furniture and red carpets had to be wheeled in to spruce it up.

Salman does live large. At the end of July he vacationed on the French Riviera at his royal villa in Vallauris. The public beach was fenced off for the occasion and a temporary elevator built to bring the 79-year-old ruler down to the sand. As big as the mansion was, it couldn’t contain his entire retinue. Forbes reported that the 1,000-strong collection of officials, aides, “courtiers, hangers-on, and wannabes” had to be housed elsewhere.

In Yemen, where the monumental vanity of the Saudi regime caused it to interfere and invade, conditions are far less opulent. UNICEF said in August that 10 million children need urgent humanitarian assistance. “Ten million children” is an abstraction, hard to understand. Instead think about one child crying all night in pain or hunger and multiply the sound 10 million times.

What a collection of heroes the Saudis have gathered to make war on Yemenis! It includes Persian Gulf monarchs whose construction and domestic work is done under conditions of near slavery, the Egyptian dictator who holds the one-day record for slaughter at a sit-in and the Sudanese president whose travel options are limited because he’s under indictment for genocide and crimes against humanity (think Darfur). Let’s not leave out the U.S president, who has kill notches on his Nobel Peace Prize for missions ranging from Libya to Pakistan.

As Barack Obama met the Saudi king, scores of protesters stood in front of the White House with signs and banners. Among them was a man in striped prison garb with a King Salman mask. The activists were mostly Yemenis residing in the U.S and members of the anti-war group Code Pink. Some had signs displaying the hashtag #KefayaWar, meaning “Enough War.” One photo shows the man masked as Salman giving a mock flogging, a favorite regime punishment. In June, blogger Raif Badawi’s 1,000-lash sentence was upheld by the Saudi Supreme Court. (My interview with Medea Benjamin of Code Pink about the weekend protests are on YouTube.)

The demonstration took place at a time when an effort has started to end the 70-year U.S.-Saudi alliance. A new website was unveiled with that demand on its home page. The initial sponsors of the campaign are the Institute for Gulf Affairs, Code Pink, Massachusetts Peace Action and the Middle East Crisis Committee (which I chair). The site links to a simple petition that says: “The U.S. has spent trillions on military forces in the Persian Gulf. Washington supports tyrannical regimes, wars and cruel occupations without making us safe. Close the U.S. bases and bring the fleet home NOW.”

That phrase “spent trillions” may be surprising. It’s well known that the U.S. sells the regime immense amounts of weapons. Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir told Reuters that Obama and Salman had discussed “fast-tracking of the release of American military technology and weapons systems” at their White House conclave. Arms sales bring in money to the U.S. (or at least to merchants of death who own U.S. weapons factories). However, there’s also the cost to U.S. taxpayers that for some reason is rarely mentioned. Back in 2011, Princeton University professor Roger Stern estimated that since the time of Jimmy Carter the U.S. had spent more than $8 trillion on military measures in the Gulf. An earlier study by the University of California at Davis said that if there was no oil in the Persian Gulf, “defense expenditures might be reduced in the long run by roughly $27-$73 billion per year [in 2004 dollars].” Military bases, soldiers, sailors, contractors, weapons system, fleets, CENTCOM—they’re all financed by a flood of dollars. Without the Saudi-U.S. alliance, there could be an enormous peace dividend.

Yemen is the most obvious location of Saudi troublemaking, but its money-fueled ambitions are regionwide and beyond. It supports the most extreme sectarian forces in Syria and the thousands of volunteers who rally to their call. At a crucial moment after the 2013 Egyptian coup led by Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi—when Western nations temporarily cut off funding—the Saudis gave the general a cool $12 billion in aid. They sent tanks into Bahrain in 2011 to help the Sunni king there continue to oppress the majority Shiites. In 2010 The Times of London reported that the Saudi air defense system had practiced procedures to allow Israeli jets free passage over the Saudi heartland in order to blitzkrieg Iran. The Jerusalem Post reported on the claim with the headline “Saudi airspace open for Iran attack.” Saudi plans go beyond the Middle East, however. The kingdom’s funding for Wahhabi madrassas worldwide is notorious.

Breaking the U.S. alliance with the Saudis would also free Americans from the stain of being partners with a hideous human rights abuser, nicknamed the Kingdom of Horrors. Its executions by decapitation often occur in public spaces for public edification (or gruesome amusement). In a new report, Amnesty International says at least 175 people were executed by the Saudis between August 2014 and June of this year. The list of crimes that result in capital punishment is long and includes drug offenses, witchcraft and sorcery. Its farcical ban on female driving is well known, but its fanatical devotion to “female modesty” practically knows no bounds. In 2002, morality police blocked a rescue of girls in a school fire because the girls were “not wearing the headscarves and abayas [black robes]”. Fifteen burned to death in the school.

Obviously, trying to break a longstanding alliance is a major, major battle, but it’s not hopeless. Just before Salman’s visit, New York Times pundit Tom Friedman wrote a column calling the Saudis the main purveyor of radical Islam in the world. Forbes magazine followed with a piece calling the kingdom “the world’s most un-American country” and suggested that “thanks to the oil glut President Obama need not kowtow to King Salman.” The Washington Post had a piece about the near-identical views on justice held by the Saudi regime and Islamic State at the start of this year. Even among the establishment, there’s unease with the alliance.

The left is generally quiet about all this. Even after it saw warm relations develop between Israel and the kingdom, not much was said. The muted reaction is no doubt motivated by fear of helping those who try to spread hatred for Islam. Yet the fear is misplaced. Take a look at hater sites like that of Pamela Geller and you see that they don’t go after the Saudis at all. The bigot sites are not going to criticize allies of Israel.

So there’s no reason to hold back. It’s time for an unrelenting campaign to break with the cruel and grasping Gulf hereditary dictatorships.

Postscript: On Sept. 8 we learned that Saudi Arabian authorities banned the August issue of National Geographic’s Arabic version. The cover has Pope Francis standing in the Sistine Chapel, and this was deemed an offense for “cultural reasons.” Kooky, but not so surprising in a country where the grand mufti has called for the destruction of all churches on the Arabian Peninsula.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

America’s Jewish Establishment Is Out of Touch with US Jews

Harold Meyerson
September 11, 2015
Washington Post

With disproportionate financial support from Orthodox and politically conservative Jews, much of the American Jewish establishment has aligned itself with Netanyahu against not just the Iran deal but also President Obama and American liberalism, too. In the process, it has also aligned itself against a clear majority of American Jews.

Most of the organizations that make up the American Jewish establishment have opposed the nuclear arms control agreement that the Obama administration and the governments of five other nations negotiated with Iran. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee and its affiliates have spent tens of millions of dollars to persuade Congress not to ratify it.

And today, on the eve of the vote, eight of the 10 Jewish members of the Senate, and 12 of the 19 Jewish members of the House, have announced their support for the deal. Just two of the senators and seven of the House members oppose the deal.

If that leads you to conclude that the American Jewish establishment has lost touch with the American Jews it purports to represent, you’ve concluded right. The American Jewish community, like the United States itself, has seen the split dividing its left and right widen to a gulf. Most American Jews, including most of those in Congress, stand on the left side of that chasm. Most of the American Jewish establishment stands, defiantly or uneasily, on the right.

In late August, the Pew Research Center released a highly illuminating guide to the gulf that divides the Jews. Based on interviews with 3,475 Jews across the nation, the report concluded that the 10 percent of U.S. Jews who are Orthodox — 3 percent of them “Modern Orthodox” and 6 percent of them the “Haredi” who dress and lead lives much like the sects that arose in Eastern European shtetls — hold political beliefs increasingly at odds with the 90 percent of their co-religionists who are either affiliated with the Reform or Conservative wings of Judaism, or who aren’t affiliated at all.

Fifty-seven percent of the Orthodox, for instance, either are or lean Republican, while just 18 percent of other Jews claim GOP affinities. Fifty-eight percent of the Orthodox say homosexuality should be discouraged; a scant ?8 percent of other Jews agree. (Like fundamentalists everywhere, many of the Orthodox refuse to distinguish between the Scriptures’ enduring moral principles and their 2,000-year-old superstitions and hatreds.)

These divisions extend to Israel as well: 61 percent of the Orthodox (and 77 percent of the Modern Orthodox) say they are very emotionally attached to Israel, while just 27 percent of other Jews affirm such attachments. And the divisions also have a behavioral dimension: 84 percent of the Orthodox say that all or most of their friends are Jewish, while just 26 percent of the other American Jews say the same.

The geographic clustering of the Orthodox clearly played a role in the decisions of Jewish members of Congress on the Iran deal. Fully 79 percent of the Orthodox, and 89 percent of the Haredi (some of whom bloc-vote based on the guidance of their rebbes) live in the Northeast, chiefly around New York and New Jersey. The other 90 percent of Jews are diffused far more evenly across the nation. Four of the five Jewish House members from the New York area oppose the deal, while just one of the four Jewish House members from Southern California — home to the second-largest concentration of U.S. Jews, but with far fewer Orthodox — oppose it. Three of the four Democratic senators who oppose the deal — two of them Jewish — come from the Northeast.

One of the most striking, but not surprising, results of the Pew Research Center survey is the disenchantment that many, perhaps most, American Jews feel toward Israel. No nation can control another people and occupy its land for 48 years, as the Israelis have the Palestinians, without brutalizing and coarsening themselves, eroding many of the high moral hopes that American Jews once invested in Israel. Some older Jews are still attached to the Israel of 1948, to the scrappy but long-vanished Israel of kibbutz egalitarianism — one reason, perhaps, that three Jewish members from Florida, home to so many Jewish retirees, oppose the Iran deal. Under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, however, Israel’s values have become less universal and more dangerously tribal — appealing to the more tribal and self-segregating sensibilities of America’s Orthodox, and less and less to the more liberal and cosmopolitan sensibilities of the American Jewish majority. Most American Jews still feel what Catholics term a preferential option for the poor, for immigrants, for minorities. They don’t see such values in today’s Israel — or in American Jewish orthodoxy, either.

With disproportionate financial support from Orthodox and politically conservative Jews, much of the American Jewish establishment has aligned itself with Netanyahu against not just the Iran deal but also President Obama and American liberalism, too. In the process, it has also aligned itself against a clear majority of American Jews.

Harold Meyerson writes a weekly political column that appears on Thursdays and contributes to the PostPartisan blog.

Israeli defense minister says government knows who was behind Duma attack, but won’t prosecute

Allison Deger on September 11, 2015

Six weeks after settlers torched a Palestinian home in the West Bank hamlet of Duma killing three—Ali Dawabshe, 18-months, Sa’ad Dawabshe, 32, and Riham Dawabshe, 27—no one has been charged for the crime. Now, Israel’s defense minister says he knows who is behind the arson attack but is refusing to indict, because doing so could expose government intelligence sources.

“We know who is behind the killing of the Dawabshe family, but we will not prosecute,” Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said Wednesday at an event for the Likud youth movement, a wing of the Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s political party. Ya’alon went on, he feared a trial could “reveal the intelligence sources” who investigated the criminal parties.

The following day Ya’alon confirmed he knew who was responsible for the attack, when speaking to Israel’s military reporter.

”The perpetrators of the Duma attack are known to the Israeli security services and some are locked up,” AFP reported Ya’alon said after the meeting, ”We have not brought charges for the time being so as not to divulge our sources, but we are continuing our efforts to bring them to justice.”

Oddly, most leaders in the Israeli government did not respond to Ya’alon’s statement–the Duma attack is the most high profile case of settler violence against Palestinians in two decades. Even so, the revelation of heel-dragging sent shockwaves through the Joint Arab List, Israel’s third largest faction.

“Ya’alon’s statement reveals the system’s tolerant attitude towards settlers’ terror, thus authorizing the next murder. Ya’alon and the system he is heading are fully responsible for the atrocious murder of the Dawabshe family and for the ongoing settlers’ terror against Palestinians,”Knesset member Aida Touma-Sliman said yesterday.

A spokesperson for Ya’alon was reached for comment. He directed Mondoweiss to an interview the defense minister gave yesterday to the Israeli daily Walla.

“Unfortunately we are convinced that Jews did the Duma attack,” Ya’alon told Walla, painting a grave picture of the possibility of further acts of settler violence, “It’s a radical group who wants to start problems on the ground and hurt many people. It’s way beyond the price tag events that we have encountered.”

When asked directly about the three Israelis held in administrative detention, arrest without charge, Ya’alon was vague. “Let’s wait and see,” he said to Walla, adding “We have estimates about who carried out the attacks, and so we have taken steps.”

On July 31st arsonists firebombed the Dawabshe home as the family slept, burning two apartments. Eighteen-month old Ali Dawabshe died in the attack. Weeks later his father Sa’ad Dawabshe succumbed to wounds, and days ago his wife Riham died as well. Sa’ad Dawabshe was a construction worker and built homes in Israel’s West Bank settlements. Riham was a math teacher at a girls school. The family is survived by their four-year old son Ahmad Dawabshe who is hospitalized in Israel where he is being treated for second degree burns on 60% of his body.

Follwing the Duma attack Ya’alon announced Israel would employ emergency powers to detain without charge those involved in the attack. Three suspects remain in police custody, while nine were detained and later released. An additional 10 were issued restricted movement orders with some under house arrests and others barred from entering the West Bank.

Of the three imprisoned–Meir Ettinger, Evyatar Slonim and Mordechai Meir–Israel has not indicated if they are being held for the Duma attack, or involvement in related violent crimes against Palestinians.

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