Monday, November 24, 2014

Israel and Mississippi: Racist Plans for Second Class Citizens and Religious Legislation

Truthdig Posted on Nov 24, 2014

By Juan Cole

This post originally ran on Juan Cole’s Web page.

The Guardian reports that

“A controversial bill that officially defines Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people has been approved by cabinet despite warnings that the move risks undermining the country’s democratic character.

Opponents, including some cabinet ministers, said the new legislation defined reserved “national rights” for Jews only and not for its minorities, and rights groups condemned it as racist.

The bill, which is intended to become part of Israel’s basic laws, would recognise Israel’s Jewish character, institutionalise Jewish law as an inspiration for legislation and delist Arabic as a second official language.”
Netanyahu’s measure is much worse than that of Mississippi fundamentalists who want to declare Mississippi a principally Christian state and want to celebrate the white-supremacist Confederacy as part of the state’s heritage.

I wrote earlier of this kind of development when Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was planning it out:

“So either way Netanyahu defines Jewishness, it disenfranchises substantial numbers of self-identifying Israeli Jews. If it is a matter of maternal descent, it leaves 300,000 or so out in the cold. If it is a matter of belief and observance, it leaves nearly 2 million Israeli Jews out of the club.

In addition, of course, 1.7 million Israelis, about a fifth of the population, are Palestinian-Israelis, mostly Muslim but some Christians. They are, in other words, a somewhat greater proportion of the Israeli citizen population than Latinos are of the US population (Latinos are about 17% of Americans). If current demographic trends continue, Palestinian-Israelis could be as much as 1/3 of the population by 2030.

Saying Israel is a “Jewish” state in the sense of race would be analogous to insisting that the US is a “white” state and defining Latinos as “brown.”

And saying Israel is a Jewish state in the sense of observant believers would be like asserting that the United States is a Christian state even though about 22% of the population does not identify as Christian (roughly the same proportion as non-Jews in Israel). The point of the US first amendment is to forbid the state to to “establish” a religion, i.e. to recognize it as a state religion with privileges (the colonists had had bad experiences with Anglicanism in this regard). While we can’t stop other countries from establishing state religions, we Americans don’t approve of it and won’t give our blessing to it, as Netanyahu seems to want. In fact our annual State Department human rights report downgrades countries that don’t separate religion and state.

While some countries have a state or official religion, that is different from what Netanyahu is demanding. Argentina’s constitution says Roman Catholicism is the state religion. But Argentina is not a “Catholic state” either in the sense of being mainly for people of Catholic religious faith (only 20% of Argentines are observant) or for being for persons descended from traditionally Catholic populations. Indeed, Argentina has about half a million Muslims, who are not discriminated against in Argentine law the way Palestinian-Israelis are discriminated against (their villages not ‘recognized’) in Israel. Anyway, as I said, in the U.S. we don’t approve of that part of the Argentine constitution. If all Netanyahu wanted was that Judaism be the ‘state religion’ of Israel, that could surely be achieved by a simple vote of the Knesset. He wants something much more, something that requires that outsiders assent to it.

Netanyahu’s demand is either racist or fundamentalist and is objectionable from an American point of view on human rights grounds either way (and I’m not just talking about the human rights of Palestinian-Israelis).”

Elsewhere I pointed out that Israel is moving in the opposite direction from Morocco, Tunisia and other more successful Middle Eastern states, which have new constitutions affirming citizen equality and freedom of conscience and avoiding specifying Islamic law (sharia) as the main source for law, in the way this new Israeli measure specifies Jewish law (halakha) as the inspiration for Israeli legislation. Netanyahu’s Israel looks more and more like the Muslim Brotherhood Egypt of now-deposed President Muhammad Morsi.

“Netanyahu is also moving in the opposite direction from the more positive developments in the Middle East itself. Iraq’s old Baathist Arab nationalism (qawmiya) had racialized Arabness (which is really just a linguistic group) and had excluded the Kurds, who speak an Indo-European language, from full membership in the Iraqi nation. Interestingly, many Arabic-language news items on Netanyahus speech translate his use of “national” by the Arabic qawmiya, which has overtones of extremist nationalism of a racist sort. The new Iraqi constitution rejects that kind of racist nationalism. It recognizes Kurdish as a national official language (and Turkmen and Aramaic as provincial ones). Without denying the Arab or Muslim identity of the majority, it recognizes the right of the minorities to their own ethnic identities within the nation. It doesn’t say that Iraq is only a homeland for the Arab-Shiite majority.

And Morocco suffered deep political divisions between its Arab majority and Berber/ Amazigh minority in earlier decades. But its new constitution finally recognizes Berber/ Amazigh as an official language and celebrates Amazigh identity as one of the key heritages of all Moroccans, including Arabic speakers. The constitution does say that Islam is the religion of state, while guaranteeing freedom of belief and religion to the country’s Jews and adds:

… the Kingdom of Morocco intends to preserve, in its plenitude and its diversity, its one and indivisible national identity. Its unity, is forged by the melting together of its Arab-Islamic, Berber [amazigh] and Saharan-Hassanic components, nourished and enriched by its African, Andalusian, Hebraic and Mediterranean influences.”

So could we really expect Netanyahu to say that Judaism is the religion of the Israeli state and that:

… Israel intends to preserve, in its plenitude and its diversity, its one and indivisible national identity. Its unity is forged by the melting together of its Jewish and Palestinian components, nourished and enriched by its Hebraic, Arab and Mediterranean influences.”

No. Netanyahu is talking of an indivisible national identity, but its unity is achieved by exclusion, not by melting and inclusion. He does not celebrate Israel’s Arab heritage, but wants to exclude it from any claim on the national homeland, wants to make it lesser. (Arabic is an official language of Israel, but Netanyahu’s rejection of the idea of a binational state makes it clear he thinks it is very much a de facto and unfortunate component of Israel, not something to be celebrated).

Interestingly, the Israeli left has a different objection. They mind the idea of Israeliness, of the Israeli national identity (akin to the Moroccan national identity in the constitution, quoted above) being demoted in favor of a Jewish identity. Haaretz’s Hebrew edition wrote on May 5:

“Yesterday Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu explained why he is promoting a new Basic Law: ‘The Nation State of the Jewish People’: ‘Israel’s status as the nation-state of the Jewish people is not given sufficient expression in our Basic Laws, and this is what the proposed Basic Law is meant to do’… For 66 years now ‘Israeliness’ has attempted to gain recognition and win independence, and has been rejected repeatedly by the establishment. It has been described as the ‘slivers of people-hood’ whose existence has not been proven, while at the same time, no one seeks to enact a law that will define and protect it. Again and again it is forced to bow before its ‘big sister’, the Jewish state… The creation of Israeli literature, Israeli art, Israeli music, Israeli theatre, Israeli humour, Israeli politics, Israeli sports, an Israeli accent, Israeli grief – are these not enough to speak of an ‘Israeli people’…?” [From [Hebrew language] editorial of left-of-centre, independent broadsheet Ha’aretz]. – [Trans. via BBC Monitoring]

Sunday, November 23, 2014

In Israel, Only Jewish Blood Shocks Anyone

By Gideon Levy

November 23, 2014 "ICH" - "Haaretz" - There was a massacre in Jerusalem on Tuesday in which five Israelis were killed. There was a war in Gaza over the summer in which 2,200 Palestinians were killed, most of them civilians. A massacre shocks us; a war, less so. Massacres have culprits; wars don’t. Murder by ax is more appalling than murder by rifle, and far more horrendous than bombing helpless people trying to take shelter.

Terror is always Palestinian, even when hundreds of Palestinian civilians are killed. The name and face of Daniel Tragerman, the Israeli boy killed by mortar fire during Operation Protective Edge, were known throughout the world; even U.S. President Barack Obama knew his name. Can anyone name one child from Gaza among the hundreds killed?

A few hours after the attack in Jerusalem, journalist Emily Amrousi said at a conference in Eilat that the life of a single Jewish child was more important to her than the lives of thousands of Palestinian children. The audience’s response was clearly favorable; I think there was even some applause.

Afterward Amrousi tried to explain that she was referring to the way the Israeli media should cover events, which is only slightly less serious. This was during a discussion on the ridiculous question: “Is the Israeli media leftist?” Almost no one protested Amrousi’s remarks and the session continued as if nothing had happened. Amrousi’s words reflect Israel’s mood in 2014: Only Jewish blood elicits shock.

Israeli deaths touch Israeli hearts more than the deaths of others. That’s natural human solidarity. The bloody images from Jerusalem stunned every Israeli, probably every person.

But this is a society that sanctifies its dead to the point of death-worship, that wears thin the stories of the victims’ lives and deaths, whether it be in a synagogue attack or a Nepal avalanche. It’s a society preoccupied with endless commemorations in the land of monuments, services and anniversary ceremonies; a society that demands shock and condemnation after every attack, when it blames the entire world.

Precisely from such a society is one permitted to demand some attention to the Palestinian blood that is also spilled in vain; some understanding of the other side’s pain, or even a measure of empathy, which in Israel is considered treason.

But this doesn’t happen. Aside from exceptional murders and hate crimes by individuals, there is total apathy — and the obtuseness is frightening. Killings (we dare not say murders) by soldiers and policemen will never shock Israel. The propaganda machine will whitewash everything, and the media will be its mouthpiece. No one will demand condemnations. No one will express shock. Few will even consider that the pain is the same pain, that murder is murder.

How many Israelis are willing to give a thought to the parents of Yousef Shawamreh, the boy who went out to pick wild greens and was killed by an army sniper? Why is it exaggerating to be upset by, or at least give some attention to, the killing of Khalil Anati, a 10-year-old boy from the Al-Fawar refugee camp?

Why can’t we identify with the pain of bereaved father Abd al-Wahab Hammad, whose son was killed in Silwad, or with the Al-Qatari family from the Al-Amari refugee camp, two members of which were killed by soldiers within a month? Why do we reserve our horror for the synagogue and not consider these killings disturbing?

Yes, there is the test of intent. The typical Israeli argument is that soldiers, unlike terrorists, do not intend to kill. If so, then what exactly is the intent of the sniper who fires live bullets at the head or chest of a demonstrator a distance away who poses no threat? Or when he shoots a child in the back as he’s running for his life? Didn’t he intend to kill him?

The attack in Jerusalem was a horrendous crime; nothing can justify it. But the blood that flowed there is not the only blood being spilled here murderously. The degree to which it is forbidden to say that is incredible.

The latest round of violence in Jerusalem is reminiscent of the Second Intifada, sparked by then Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's provocative visit to the Haram al-Sharif compound (Noble Sanctuary/Temple Mount) in 2000.

Neve Gordon
November 20, 2014
The Nation

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. His claims that Tuesday's attack on Jewish worshippers in Jerusalem was due to incitement by Hamas and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was rebuked by Israel's security chief.

, 10 Downing Street,

There is a feeling of déjà vu as we witness the events currently unfolding in Jerusalem. Yet, like all déjà vus, some things are fundamentally different. The latest round of violence occurred on Wednesday, when a Palestinian teenager was critically wounded by police gunfire in East Jerusalem. On Tuesday, two Palestinians wielding meat cleavers, an ax and a gun murdered five people in a synagogue—four of them while praying, along with a police officer who tried to save them—before they were shot dead by an Israeli policeman. A day earlier, a Palestinian bus driver was found hanged in his bus, and while the Israeli pathologists claimed he had committed suicide, the Palestinian pathologist disagreed, maintaining that he had been murdered.

While these were just the most recent casualties in the Holy City, it is crucial to remember that other structural forms of violence directed against its Palestinian residents have been deployed without restraint over the past weeks. Jewish settlers have embarked on yet another round of expansionist real estate schemes in Arab East Jerusalem, taking over Palestinian houses. Simultaneously, Palestinian neighborhoods in the city have been blockaded, restricting the movement of thousands of residents, as the Israeli government decided yet again to build new apartment units on expropriated Palestinian land. The old British Mandatory practice of demolishing homes belonging to the families of suspected terrorists has been reinstituted as a form of deterrence. And, perhaps most importantly, Members of the Knesset and right-wing groups have launched a concerted campaign to nullify the existing status quo on the Temple Mount—whereby Jews pray at the Wailing Wall and Muslims at the Haram al-Sharif—by allowing Jews to assert their sovereignty over this sacred Muslim site.

This last bit is crucial for understanding one of the alarming transformations taking place in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. One might recall that the second intifada erupted immediately after Ariel Sharon’s provocative visit to the Haram al-Sharif compound in late September 2000. At the time, Palestinian demonstrators hurled stones at Israeli police, who fired back tear gas and rubber-coated metal bullets. Demonstrations rapidly spread to the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and it took several years and thousands of fatalities before Israel managed to quell the popular uprising.

This time around, events are influenced by other theaters of violence in the Middle East. Put differently, the nationalist discourse of Sharon—as well as Yasir Arafat—is now being successfully hijacked by a religious rhetoric. Members of ISIS are threatening to smash all national borders until they reach Jerusalem, while in our neck of the woods, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is invoking religious tropes to condemn Israeli efforts to change the status quo at Jerusalem’s holy sites in the hope of garnering support among a constituency that has become more religious over the years.

Naftali Bennett, the right-wing economy minister in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Cabinet, retorts by calling Abbas “a terrorist because he said that Jews are contaminating the Temple Mount.” Bennett and his allies in government are thus playing into fears of Muslim fundamentalism in the West, even as they present Jewish fundamentalism as innocuous.
This transformation is dangerous not necessarily because nationalist struggles are less bloody than religious ones—they are not—but because it is fueling extremism on both sides.

This, it should be stressed, is precisely what the Israeli government wants. It would like to present the conflict as a clash of civilizations à la Samuel Huntington, rather than as a Palestinian struggle against colonial domination. Alongside the government’s attempt to pit fundamentalist Jews against Palestinians, most Israeli politicians on the right, which now dominates the country’s electoral landscape, have been working overtime to bolster the “no partner for peace” myth as another justification for their ongoing refusal to resume negotiations with the Palestinian leadership. The Palestinians are not only part of a different and barbaric civilization, they claim, but their leaders are terrorists, or at the very least support terrorism.

A few hours after the synagogue massacre, Netanyahu maintained that the attack was “a direct result of the incitement lead by Hamas and Abu Mazen [President Mahmoud Abbas].” And in a televised address that echoed Bennett, he averred that the Palestinian leaders are “saying Jews are contaminating the Temple Mount, that we intend to destroy the holy sites and change the prayer routines there. These lies have already exacted a very heavy toll.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman added that “Abbas has intentionally turned the [Israeli-Palestinian] conflict into a religious one between Jews and Muslims, and the systematic incitement he leads against Jews—who he says cannot visit the Temple Mount because they are ‘impure’—is the ‘go-ahead’ for these despicable terror attacks.” Bennett concluded that “Abbas, one of the biggest terrorists to have arisen from the Palestinian people, bears direct responsibility for the Jewish blood spilt on tallit and tefillin while we were busy with delusions about the [peace] process.

This is the moment when the déjà vu becomes most apparent. Arrows just like these were shot at Arafat in the years and months before his mysterious death a decade ago. This time around, however, there was an unexpected intervention that exposed the lie behind the demagogic scare tactics: Yoram Cohen, the head of Israel’s secret services, also known as the Shabak, weighed in against Netanyahu and his cabinet members.

On the day of the attack on the synagogue, Cohen asserted that no one among the Palestinian leadership is calling for violence. “Abu Mazen is not interested in terror,” he explained, “and is not leading [his people] to terror. Nor is he doing so ‘under the table.’” The head of Shabak went on to blame the Israeli leadership for the religious turn. He warned that the Palestinian reactions in East Jerusalem were exacerbated due to “a series of confrontations centering around the Temple Mount—including the ascent to that holy site by MKs [Knesset Members], as well as proposed legislation that would change the status quo in the compound.”

Wittingly or not, Israel’s top security officer thus accused the prime minister and his comrades of incitement and spreading lies, exposing how these political leaders are fueling religious tensions as well as producing the “no partner” myth in order to sustain the strife. This is not a minor event, since it is the first time in Israel’s history that the head of the secret services—during his tenure in office—has contradicted the prime minister and has publicly revealed his duplicity. 

If even the Shabak, the organization responsible for torturing and assassinating Palestinians during forty-seven years of occupation, thinks the Israeli leadership has gone too far, then matters are becoming really scary. Yes, there is a sense of déjà vu, only this time it seems that Israel’s political entourage has already fallen into the abyss.

[Neve Gordon is the author of Israel’s Occupation (2008) and recently completed, with Nicola Perugini, The Human Right to Dominate (forthcoming from Oxford University Press). Copyright c 2014 The Nation. Reprinted with permission. May not be reprinted without permission. Distributed by Agence Global. Please support the Nation's journalism. Get a digital subscription to The Nation for just $9.50!]

Friday, November 21, 2014

Mexicans Have Had Enough of U.S.-Backed Violence and Exploitation

Sonali Kolhatkar
Posted on Nov 20, 2014

By Sonali Kolhatkar

Demonstrators march in Mexico City on Oct. 22 in protest of the disappearance of 43 students from the Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers’ College. AP/Marco Ugarte

Mexico’s nationwide general strike on Thursday, Nov. 20 is a unified rallying cry to end the corruption, crime and violence that have plagued the country for decades and are symbolized most recently by the apparent slaying of 43 students in Ayotzinapa, Guerrero. But, lest we Americans consider ourselves outsiders, observing another nation’s mayhem with detachment, it is important to clarify that Mexico’s problems are in large part our doing.

Communities in Guerrero, Chiapas and other states in Mexico have seen their lands stripped of resources to appease the lure of foreign investment via the North American Free Trade Agreement, championed by the U.S. under various presidents starting with Clinton. Concurrent with the rise of poverty caused by free trade has been a steady increase in organized crime and narco-trafficking. The U.S. funding of a “war on drugs,” which was supposed to take aim at the traffickers, has instead largely fueled collusion between law enforcement, politicians and criminal syndicates.

The students at the heart of today’s crisis are the victims of this wretched collaboration. Here is the story that has emerged so far: The 43 men were studying at a teacher training school called the Raúl Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers’ College in Ayotzinapa. They had traveled to the nearby town of Iguala to protest what they saw as discrimination in hiring practices and also to raise funds for their school. Iguala Mayor Jose Luis Abarca, fearing that they would interrupt a speech that his wife was giving at a conference, ordered the police to round them up. The police apparently turned the students over to a local drug cartel called Guerreros Unidos that is said to count the mayor and his wife as high-ranking members. Some of the gang members arrested in connection with the missing students claim they killed all 43 men and incinerated their bodies.

If politicians, police and criminals are working together to disappear people, what measure of a civilized and democratic society remains? In answer to that question, communities have organized themselves to provide for their own security as best as they can.
Roberto Flores is a professor of Chicano studies at Cal State Los Angeles and the founder of Eastside Cafe, a space in El Sereno, Calif., that was in part inspired by the Zapatista movement in Chiapas. In an interview Monday on “Uprising,” he stated, “What’s happened in Ayotzinapa ... and the response to it, cannot be understood without understanding the influence and impact of Zapatismo from 20 years ago.” What Flores is referring to is the moral force behind the Zapatista Army of National Liberation, which first emerged in the indigenous communities of the state of Chiapas on Jan. 1, 1994, the same day that NAFTA went into effect. The Zapatistas armed themselves, confident of their own ability to provide security and stability in a community they consider “autonomous.”

In cities like Ayotzinapa, a similar sense of autonomy has taken root in response to state violence, and inspired to an extent by Zapatismo. A model of what is known as “community policing” has reportedly spread to nearly 80 towns and villages in Guerrero. Flores explained that “the development of an autonomous community with its own security system is a way to move in the direction of independence and the beginnings of a resolution to the whole narco-state.”

Antonio Arias is a Los Angeles-based activist who works closely with local autonomous communities in Guerrero. Speaking alongside Flores in the interview, he contextualized the case of the missing students, saying, “Just a year ago, the Mexican minimum wage was comparable to Haiti’s, so the attacks on communities by the elite is pretty severe. Add to that the mass killings all over the country. [All that was needed] was just one thing that would set it off.” I asked if the story of the missing students was the proverbial “straw that broke the camel’s back,” to which he responded, “it was a pretty big straw.”

Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, a strong U.S. ally, faces the biggest challenge of his short tenure in the protests that have erupted. So far he is not handling the situation well. When protesters burned the door to the National Palace in Mexico City during angry demonstrations, Nieto responded, “Mexican society says no to violence. ... We say yes to justice, order, harmony, tranquility, and we say yes to the application of justice.”

Flores said those statements were “the height of hypocrisy” and “sophistry to the max. It’s amazing that he can even say that when we know that what he means by justice is violence, brutality, terrorism—it’s fascism.” Arias explained, “This government has no place to hide. Its only way out is violence. They’re pretty cornered.”

Nieto is also facing severe criticism for being out of the country last week during the height of the protests. He was at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum and defended his travel plans, saying, “two out of every three dollars of wealth” in Mexico depends on foreign trade. But that is precisely part of the backdrop against which the case of the missing students ought to be viewed. Flores asserted, “Just because it’s a narco-state, it does not mean it’s not part of the global economy. As a matter of fact the narcos go hand in hand with it,” given that the drug war and its consequences have coincided with the opening up of Mexico’s economy to foreign investment and flourished within the resulting chaos of poverty and lawlessness.

Flores shared some grim figures that underscore U.S. responsibility: “There’s been $3 billion transferred to the Mexican army from U.S. taxpayers, through Plan Merida, supposedly to fight drugs.” He added, essentially, “you’re giving the drug lords money to fight drugs.” The Merida Initiative, in the words of the State Department, “is an unprecedented partnership between the United States and Mexico to fight organized crime and associated violence.” But as Mexicans have witnessed firsthand, it has only fueled crime and violence.

Estimates place the number of Mexico’s disappeared at 22,000. The number of dead whose bodies are accounted for total a whopping 60,000 since 2006 alone, when then-President Felipe Calderon launched the “War on Drugs” with U.S. funding and pressure. The majority of Mexicans have in some way been touched by the pain of a missing or killed family member, friend or loved one. Mass graves dot the landscape with full knowledge of police agencies, so much so that the search for the 43 missing students has unearthed graves containing dozens of unrelated bodies. Violence against Mexican women, linked to the U.S.-backed drug war, has reached “pandemic” proportions. The 43 missing students have become a symbol for everything that people see is wrong with the current system in Mexico.

Mexican celebrities have also been speaking out. The country’s top three directors, acclaimed on an international stage for their work—Guillermo del Toro, Alfonso Cuarón and Alejandro González Iñárritu—issued a joint statement Nov. 10, saying, “We believe that these crimes are systemic and indicate a much greater evil—the blurred lines between organized crime and high-ranking officers in the Mexican government.” Popular actor Gael García Bernal reflected the rage of the Mexican public in an interview in Latin Times on Monday, saying, “We are ashamed, sad, angered, we’re fed up, we’re … I don’t know, it’s just incredibly terrible.”


People are too angry to sit back anymore. Hundreds of thousands have marched in cities across Mexico relentlessly. Organizers have blocked streets, been arrested, burned down government buildings and clashed with police. Arias put Mexico’s uprising into a global context, saying it was part of the trajectory that includes “the indignados in Spain and the Arab Spring.” People’s “consciousness,” he said, “is trying to explode, to find its way through society.”
Activists have launched social media campaigns playing up the words of government officials such as Attorney General Jesus Murillo Karam, #YaMeCanse, which translates as “I am tired.” That sentiment, perhaps better than any other, expresses just how frustrated Mexicans are with the status quo.

US media erase Israeli state and settler violence

from Electric Intifada

Submitted by Rania Khalek on Thu, 11/20/2014 - 15:09

As Tuesday’s grisly murder of five Israelis in a Jerusalem synagogue by two Palestinian assailants continues to dominate headlines, major media outlets are actively erasing the Israeli violence that preceded the attack and the surging anti-Palestinian assaults that have followed.

In typical fashion, The New York Times buried information alluding to Palestinian death and suffering in the fourteenth paragraph, while CNN disappeared Palestinians from the discussion entirely.

The Washington Post went even further, using the synagogue attack as an opportunity to erase Israeli violence against Palestinians both past and present.

Noting that the attack site is located in what used to be Deir Yassin — a Palestinian village destroyed in 1948 after Zionist militias deliberately executed more than one hundred of its inhabitants, including children — the Post rendered the massacre an unproven accusation against Israel.

Following an uproar on social media, the Post quietly removed the reference to Deir Yassin from the piece without issuing an explanation or correction.

These same media outlets are gleefully painting Palestinians in the besieged Gaza Strip as heartless monsters based on a marginal celebration that took place in Gaza City.

“Residents of the Gaza Strip paraded in the streets singing victory songs, giving out candy, waving flags,” declared The New York Times, eliciting images of widespread jubilation.

An earlier New York Times piece claimed that in Gaza City, “praise for God and the attackers poured from mosque loudspeakers.” That paragraph appears to have been quietly scrubbed without explanation, but not before Zionist ideologues had a chance to exploit it.

Speaking from Gaza where he is currently stationed, journalist and Mondoweiss contributor Dan Cohen told The Electronic Intifada that there was indeed a celebratory rally organized by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine in Gaza City but the celebrations were far from widespread.

“A small minority celebrated. That’s what being besieged and bombed does to people,” said Cohen, adding that it was hardly representative of the sentiment in Gaza, where residents are desperately preoccupied with escaping what he calls the “catastrophic” deterioration of conditions in the rubble-cluttered enclave.

Cohen also rejected The New York Times’ claim that celebratory praise for the synagogue attack rang out from mosque loudspeakers. There were a couple of cars driving around with megaphones that could be heard expressing joy for the attack, said Cohen, but that’s all. Gaza resident Mohammed Suliman and journalist Jehad Saftawi, who were with Cohen when we spoke, concurred.

While fringe celebrations among Palestinians have been widely reported, the more commonplace right-wing Israeli demonstrations agitating for greater violence and “death to Arabs” have been conspicuously absent from establishment media coverage, even though mainstream reporters are clearly aware of these rallies.

This follows a longstanding pattern that was most apparent during Israel’s recent assault on Gaza, which killed nearly 2,200 Palestinians, most of them civilians, including more than five hundred children.

As Israel mercilessly targeted civilians in the densely populated coastal enclave, western media outlets published scandalous justifications for the mounting atrocities, frequently blaming Palestinians for their own slaughter.

Under this convoluted paradigm, racist Israeli mobs joyfully singing “In Gaza there’s no studying, No children are left there” were virtually ignored in the mainstream press, as was the rampant genocidal incitement in Israeli social media and from high-level Israeli lawmakers.

Amid a rising tide of Israeli fascism, the mainstream media narrative of an Israel under constant and unrelenting attack from wildly violent and murder-celebrating Palestinians is more than just dishonest. It is dangerous propaganda that shields Israel’s unchecked extremism from scrutiny, guaranteeing and inciting further atrocities against the defenseless and disenfranchised Palestinian population, some of whom will respond with violence.

Profiles of the Jewish victims killed in the synagogue attack have appeared in one media outlet after another, interspersed with quotes from heartbroken loved ones. The same cannot be said of the countless Palestinians attacked, maimed and killed by Israeli violence, whose names and photos rarely make it into mainstream news accounts.

Here are some of their harrowing stories from the last two weeks alone, stories that will be replicated thanks in no small part to a mainstream media that sees them as unworthy victims.

Israeli bullet to the face blinds 11-year-old boy

On 13 November, Israeli police shot eleven-year-old Saleh Samer Attiyeh Mahmoud between the eyes at close range with a sponge-tipped bullet in Issawiyeh — a village in occupied East Jerusalem — permanently blinding him in his left eye and severely damaging the vision in his right.

Residents in Issawiyeh had been demonstrating against Israel’s closure of three of the village’s four entrances when they were met with brute police force, now an everyday occurrence accross East Jerusalem neighborhoods inhabited by Palestinians who dare to push back.

Lining the Israeli police arsenal in this area are “sponge rounds” that “are made of high-density plastic with a foam-rubber head, and are fired from grenade launchers,” according to the Ma’an News Agency. “Israeli police have been using them in Israel and occupied East Jerusalem since the use of rubber-coated metal bullets was prohibited, but protocol explicitly prohibits firing them at the upper body,” adds Ma’an.

Yet the upper body is exactly where Israeli police are aiming this weapon, especially at child targets.

On 31 August, Israeli police shot sixteen-year-old Muhammad Sinokrot in the head at close range with a sponge-tipped bullet as he chatted on his cell phone while making his way to mosque for night-time prayers in East Jerusalem’s Wadi al-Joz neighborhood. He died days later.

Even then Israeli police insisted that they shot him in the leg, causing him to fall and hit his head. This was exposed as a lie after an autopsy determined that the teen was shot in the head, as his family had stated.

Cracking the skull of a 10-year-old girl

On Friday, 14 November, Mayar Amran Twafic al-Natsheh, ten years old, was riding in her grandfather’s car near the Shuafat refugee camp checkpoint when Israeli forces opened fire on their vehicle, striking Mayar in the face with a rubber-coated steel bullet that penetrated and shattered the car window.

Adding insult to injury, Israeli police detained Mayar’s father as she lay in a hospital bed recovering from a fractured skull.

Ten-year-old Gaza boy shot in the neck for “loitering”

On 16 November, Israeli forces from the Nahal Brigade opened fire on a ten-year-old Palestinian boy for walking too close to the southern fence of the Kissufim checkpoint between present-day Israel and Gaza.

The Israeli army defended the soldiers’ actions, arguing that because loitering is prohibited in the area, the soldiers “followed protocol by shooting into the air, shooting the lower body, then … it was decided to follow the procedure by shooting the center of the body.”

Critically wounded by a bullet to the neck, the child was flown out by helicopter for treatment at Soroka University Medical Center in Bir al-Saba (Beersheva), a city in the Naqab (Negev) region of present-day Israel.

To justify shooting a small unarmed child, the Israeli army asserted with zero evidence that “the boy was sent as a scout by one of Gaza’s terror factions to test the troops’ level of alert and response times.”

Settlers attack with knives and bullets

On Tuesday, 18 November, in the aftermath of the synagogue attack, a Palestinian teenager identified by Ma’an News Agency as sixteen-year-old Ibrahim Mahmoud was shot by an Israeli settler following a settler riot near Beitin village in the West Bank.

Ibrahim was one of several Palestinians attacked that day.

While walking in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Kafr Aqab, 22-year-old Fadi Jalal Radwan was stabbed in the legs and back by a gang of Israelis after they asked him for a light.

Over the summer, as Israeli lynch mobs roamed the streets in search of Palestinians to attack, they would ask their potential victims for a cigarette or the time to determine, based on the accent in their response, if they were Arab.

Mysterious and forgotten lynching-style deaths

Almost immediately after 32-year-old Yousuf Hasan al-Ramouni, a Palestinian bus driver, was found hanged to death in his bus at a terminal in West Jerusalem, where anti-Arab sentiment is alarmingly palpable, Israeli police labeled it a suicide, insisting there were “no signs of violence on the body.” This was contradicted by photos of al-Ramouni’s lifeless body that surfaced on social media, revealing bruises along his torso.

Al-Ramouni’s colleague, Muatasem Fakeh, disputed the suicide claim.

“We saw signs of violence on his body,” he told AFP. “He was hanged over the steps at the back of the bus in a place where it would be impossible to hang yourself alone.”

Al-Ramouni’s family adamantly rejects the Israeli line as well, maintaining that he was a happy father and husband who would not take his own life.

The police have since cited an Israeli autopsy report that ruled al-Ramouni’s death a suicide as proof that their initial assessment was accurate. But Saber al-Aloul, a Palestinian pathologist who participated in the autopsy, suspects al-Ramouni was murdered and believes further forensic tests will prove this to be the case.

While anything is possible, the Israeli authorities have a history of promoting false narratives to cover up hate crimes committed by Jewish Israelis against Palestinians.

After sixteen-year-old Muhammad Abu Khudair was forced to drink gasoline and burned alive by three Jewish extremists, Israeli police planted the nasty rumor that Abu Khudair was murdered by his family in an anti-gay honor killing.

According to data compiled by Yesh Din, an Israeli legal advocacy group, from 2005 to 2014 Israeli police failed to properly investigate 83 percent of settler hate crimes against Palestinians in the West Bank.

Israeli police have demonstrated a similar lack of interest in getting to the bottom of attacks on Palestinians inside Israel.

Shot dead and deliberately set on fire

On 11 November, Nihad Mufid Ahmad Nalowa, a 35-year-old Palestinian worker from the West Bank, was shot dead by an identified gunman in Zemer, a Palestinian town located inside Israel.

Days earlier, on 8 November, Mahmoud Kamel Qalalweh, a 23-year-old Palestinian worker, was critically injured when unidentified assailants deliberately set his body on fire in Tamra, a Palestinian village in northeastern Israel.

Neither case elicited much attention. Nor is it clear whether Israeli police are investigating the incidents.

Inciting vigilante violence against Palestinians

Israel’s Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch was accused of inciting vigilante violence after applauding the swift police execution of the Palestinian driver responsible for a vehicular attack in Jerusalem on 5 November.

“The action of the border police officer who chased the terrorist and quickly killed him is the right and professional action, and that is the way I would like these incidents to end,” said Aharonovitch. “A terrorist who strikes civilians should be killed.”

Many understood this as a call for police and armed civilians to act as judge, jury and executioner against perceived “terrorists” — which seems to be interchangeable with “Arabs” in the Israeli lexicon.

The Association for Civil Rights in Israel and the Adalah Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights linked Aharonovitch’s incitement to the police murder of 22-year-old Kheir Hamdan days later.

On 9 November, in the Galilee village of Kufr Kana, Israeli police shot Hamdan after he banged on their vehicle with an unidentifiable object.

CCTV footage of the killing reveals that, contrary to the police version of events, the officers shot Hamdan at close range without warning as he ran away and then shot him again after he was injured and bleeding on the ground.

Nevertheless, in the immediate aftermath of the synagogue attack, Aharonovitch announced that he would seek the easing of gun restrictions for Israelis. In a society increasingly gripped with genocidal hatred of its indigenous inhabitants, such a move could prove disastrous.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Salaita sues Univ. of Illinois for refusing to release emails related to firing

from the Electric Intifda
Submitted by Ali Abunimah on Tue, 11/18/2014 - 17:44

The University of Illinois’ decision to fire Steven Salaita this summer has gathered national and international attention. (Jeffrey Putney/Flickr)
Steven Salaita is suing the University of Illinois for its refusal to release emails related to administrators’ decision to fire him last summer.

Salaita had been hired by the university for a tenured position in the American Indian Studies program, but he was fired after an outcry by pro-Israel donors and activists over his tweets critical of Israel’s massacre in Gaza.

Attorneys at the Chicago law firm Loevy & Loevy filed suit in the Circuit Court of Champaign County in Illinois on Monday alleging that the university is in violation of the Freedom of Information Act.

The lawsuit asks the court to order the university to release thousands of emails and pay unspecified civil damages and legal costs.

“The University of Illinois, after firing Professor Salaita for his tweets critical of Israel, is refusing to produce the emails of administrators involved in that decision,” Maria LaHood, staff attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights, told The Electronic Intifada. “So we have been forced to sue the university for public records that it is required to release under Illinois’ Freedom of Information Act.”

The Center for Constitutional Rights is representing Salaita along with Loevy & Loevy.

Willful, intentional and in bad faith

The lawsuit states that last September, Salaita requested “a variety of records concerning the decision to terminate him, and concerning academic freedom and faculty governance issues more generally at the university.”

The university rejected that request on the grounds that it was “unduly burdensome.”

But, the lawsuit notes, the Freedom of Information Act allows public bodies to refuse to produce records only if the burden outweighs the public interest in disclosing them.

It argues that the massive national and international coverage of the case and the boycott of the university by thousands of scholars are ample evidence of public interest in the case which relates directly to constitutional free speech rights, faculty governance and academic freedom.

This writer signed a declaration included as an exhibit with the lawsuit asserting The Electronic Intifada’s interest in the records for its news reporting on the Salaita case. There are similar declarations from Mondoweiss editor Philip Weiss, and Jerome McDonnell, host of the Worldview program on Chicago Public Radio.

The lawsuit describes extensive efforts by Salaita’s lawyers to narrow down the requests to make them more practicable, but alleges that ultimately the university failed to respond in the manner required by the law.

Salaita’s lawyers say that the university’s claim that sorting an estimated 8,000-10,000 emails would be too much trouble are not credible and that the university and its outside lawyers have the tools available to do this within “a week or two.”

Thus, the lawsuit concludes, the university’s refusal to release the records is “willful, intentional and in bad faith.”

The Electronic Intifada’s “declaration”

The Electronic Intifada’s declaration notes that the emails Salaita is seeking are critical to media coverage of the matter and “extremely important to our readers.”

The declaration notes that The Electronic Intifada has also faced difficulties obtaining records related to the Salaita case from the University of Illinois.

In September, the university failed to produce a “two-pager” on Steven Salaita handed to Chancellor Phyllis Wise by a pro-Israel donor. That matter is now under review by the Illinois attorney general’s office.


Talk of a Third Intifada: Where to from Here, Palestine?

from The Palestine Chronicle

Nov 19 2014 / 2:47 am
Only the Palestinian people can tell us when they are ready for an intifada.
By Ramzy Baroud

When a journalist tries to do a historian's job, the outcome can be quite interesting. Using history as a side note in a brief news report or political analysis oftentimes does more harm than good. Now imagine if that journalist was not dependable to begin with, even more than it being "interesting", the outcome runs the risk of becoming a mockery.

Consider the selective historical views offered by New York Times writer Thomas Friedman - exposed in the book "The Imperial Messenger" by Belen Fernandez for his pseudo- intellectual shenanigans, contradictions and constant marketing of the status quo.

In an article entitled, The Third Intifada, published last February, Friedman attempts to explain two of the most consequential events in the collective history of the Palestinian people, if not the whole region: "For a while now I've wondered why there's been no Third Intifada. That is, no third Palestinian uprising in the West Bank, the first of which helped to spur the Oslo peace process and the second of which - with more live ammunition from the Israeli side and suicide bombings from the Palestinian side - led to the breakdown of Oslo."

Ta-da, there it is: Palestinian history for dummies, by, you know, Friedman. Never mind that the consequences that led to the first uprising in 1987 included the fact that Palestinians were rebelling against the very detached elitist culture, operating from Tunisia, which purported to speak on behalf of the Palestinian people. It was a small clique within the PLO-Fatah leadership that were not even living in Palestine at the time who signed a ruinous, secret agreement in Olso in 1993. And, at the expense of their people's rightful demands for freedom, this arrangement won them just a few perks. The uprising didn't help "spur the Oslo peace process"; the 'process' was rather introduced, with the support and financing of the United States and others, to crush the intifada, as it did.

While there is some truth to the fact that the second uprising led to the breakdown of Oslo, Friedman's logic indicates a level of inconsistency on the part of the Palestinian people and their revolts - that they rebelled to bring peace, and they rebelled again to destroy it. Of course, his seemingly harmless interjection there of Israel's use of live ammunition during the second uprising (as if thousands of Palestinians were not killed and wounded by live ammunition in the first), while Palestinians used suicide bombings - for the uninformed reader, justifies Israel's choice of weapons.

According to the Israeli rights organization B'Tselem, 1,489 Palestinians were killed during the first intifada (1987-1993) including 304 children. I85 Israelis were reportedly killed including 91 soldiers.

Over 4,000 Palestinians were killed during the second intifada, and over a 1,000 Israelis. However, according to B'Tselem, the high price of death and injury hardly ceased when the second Intifada was arguably over by the end of 2005. In "10 years to the second Intifada," the Israeli organization reported that: "Israeli security forces killed 6,371 Palestinians, of whom 1,317 were minors. At least 2,996 of the fatalities did not participate in the hostilities when killed. .. An additional 248 were Palestinian police killed in Gaza during operation Cast Lead, and 240 were targets of assassinations."

There are other possible breakdowns of these numbers, which would be essential to understanding the nature of popular Palestinian revolts. The victims come from diverse backgrounds: refugee camps, villages, small towns and cities. Until Israel's devastating war on Gaza, 2008-09, the numbers were almost equally divided between Gaza and the West Bank. Some of the victims were Palestinians with Israeli citizenship. Israeli bullets and shells targeted a whole range of people, starting with bystanders, to un-armed protesters, stone throwers, armed fighters, community activists, political leaders, militant leaders, men, women, children, and so on.
In some tragic way, the Israeli responses to Palestinian uprisings is the best validation of the popular nature of the intifada, which goes against every claim made by Israeli leaders that say intifadas are staged and manipulated for specific political ends.

For years, many journalists have busied themselves asking or trying to answer questions regarding the anticipated Third Intifada. Some did so in earnest, others misleadingly, as in the NBC News report: Palestinian Violence Targets Israelis: Has Third Intifada Begun? Few took a stab at objectivity with mixed results as in CNN's: In Jerusalem, the 'auto intifada' is far from an uprising.

But most of them, using a supercilious approach to understanding the Palestinian collective, failed to understand what an uprising is in the first place. Friedman's failure is particularly important because, being the 'emperor's messenger', he could only think of the impact of popular phenomena on the classes of political elites. He rarely concerns himself with such small matters as millions of people fighting for their freedom, dignity, and, sometimes, very survival. That disconnected mindset often defines the analytical approach of US media in general: operating from a faraway continent armed with a stereotypical, if not chauvinistic approach towards the Middle East.

NBC's understanding is equally erroneous, but typically mainstream, where an intifada mechanically means "Palestinian violence that targets Israelis." It is rather a bewildering understanding considering the huge gap between Palestinian and Israeli casualties that often resulted from previous intifadas.
Even the somewhat sensible approach that explains an intifada as popular outrage resulting from the lack of political horizon can, although at times unwittingly, seem distorted.

It is interesting that hardly any had the astuteness to predict previous uprisings. True, violence can be foreseen to some degree, but the collective course of action of a whole nation that is separated by impossible geographical, political, factional and other divides, is not so easy to analyze in merely a few sentences, let alone predict.

There were numerous incidents in the past that never culminated in an "intifada", although they seem to unite various sectors of Palestinian society, and where a degree of violence was also a prominent feature. They failed because intifadas are not a call for violence agreed upon by a number of people that would constitute a critical mass. Intifadas, although often articulated with a clear set of demands, are not driven by a clear political agenda either.

Palestinians lead an uprising in 1936 against the British Mandate government in Palestine, when the latter did its most to empower Zionists to establish a 'Jewish state', and deny Palestinians any political aspiration for independence, thus negating the very spirit of the UN mandate. The uprising turned into a revolt, the outcome of which was the rise of political consciousness among all segments of Palestinian society. A Palestinian identity, which existed for generations, was crystallized in a meaningful and much greater cohesion than ever before.

If examined through a rigid political equation, the 1936-39 Intifada failed, but its success was the unification of an identity that was fragmented purposely or by circumstance. Later intifadas achieved similar results. The 1987 Intifada reclaimed the Palestinian struggle by a young, vibrant generation that was based in Palestine itself, unifying more than the identity of the people, but their narrative as well. The 2000 Intifada challenged the ahistorical anomaly of Oslo, which seemed like a major divergence from the course of resistance championed by every Palestinian generation since 1936.

Although Intifadas affect the course of politics, they are hardly meant as political statements per se. They are unconcerned with the belittling depictions of most journalists and politicians. They are a comprehensive, remarkable and uncompromising process that, regardless of their impact on political discourses, are meant to "shake off", and defiantly challenge all the factors that contribute to the oppression of a nation. This is not about "violence targeting Israelis", or its collaborators among Palestinians. It is the awakening of a whole society, joined by a painstaking attempt at redrawing all priorities as a step forward on the path of liberation, in both the cerebral and actual sense.

And considering the numerous variables at play, only the Palestinian people can tell us when they are ready for an intifada - because, essentially it belongs to them, and them alone.

- Ramzy Baroud is an internationally-syndicated columnist, a media consultant, an author and the founder of His latest book is My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza's Untold Story (Pluto Press, London).