Left-wing politics from the US to Nepal, via Zimbabwe, South America and Palestine.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

We are all collaborators

Wonderful article by Amira Hass in Ha'aretz today: Can you really not see?

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Thursday, August 24, 2006

Israelis are most definitely NOT racist...

Poll done for Israeli Channel 99 (the Knesset channel) today came out with the following results:
  • 76% of Israeli Jews believe that at least half of Arabs living inside Israel supported Hizbollah during the war.
  • In actual fact, 18% of Arabs living in Israel supported Hizbollah during the war.
  • 62% of Israeli Jews would not be willing to rent a flat to an Arab.
  • 56% of Israeli Jews would be 'disturbed' if their neighbour would rent his/her flat to an Arab.
Hebrew source here. More to come later, apparently.

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Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Another translation...

Enough with the "Axis of Evil"
By Yaron Ezrahi
(Hebrew original here)

A 180-degree turnaround is needed in Israeli policy towards the Muslim world

As the only non-Muslim state in the Middle East, Israel will not be able to exist in the region for long if it continues to fulfill, in her own perception and in the perception of her neighbors, the role of front in the Western struggle against Islam. In spite of the fact that this struggle began with its focus on fundamentalist-terrorist Islam, Western and Israeli reactions have increasingly been blurring the distinctions between that and moderate Islam.

While Israel is seen as a foreign body, the globalization of the struggle against Islamic fundamentalism not only does not contribute to our security - but also puts the best of our young generation in the line of fire; this Herculean weight is placed upon the shoulders of a state that reveals such extreme sensitivity to losses and kidnappings of soldiers and citizens.

Over the years leaders were not sufficiently wise to dismantle the ticking bombs of settlements in the occupied territories, including the Golan Heights; leaders who failed to understand the accumulating dangers resulting from 'teasing' the Islamic world and who have turned Israel into the local bullhorn for overarching anti-Muslim slogans such as 'axis of evil' or 'retarded civilization', put Israel on a collision course with the entire Muslim world. For dozens of years we donated difficult pictures of the killing of civilians under occupation, of the humiliation of women, the elderly and infants at checkpoints, and of walls besieging villages. Therefore, precisely after another failed war, and after the Yom Kippur war, the Intifada, the scud missiles, the terror, the qassam rockets and the katuyshas have together proven that the price of attempts at a military solution are rejected; precisely now is the time for a sharp turnaround in Israel perception and policy towards the Muslim world.

Now is the time to position ourselves to the side of moderate Islam and to appear as the defense lawyer for Islamic civilization, that is intimately connected to Judaism through deep historical channels. My intent is not to support Arab dictators in neighboring countries, but to stand against the cultural, religious, moral and media assault on Islam, an assault that portrays the Muslim way of life as essentially violent and primitive.

Paradoxically this position, that would show Israel as a bridge over the deepening chasm between Islam and the West, would also benefit the United States. Israel as an Eastern-Western mixed culture attempting to integrate itself in the Middle East through understanding and respect for the unique elements of Muslim society and culture, would be a much more useful and convenient friend to Washington.

Likewise, we should not cooperate with US efforts to bring up Israel as a prime front against the Iranian nuclear threat against Israel, the moderate Muslim world and the West. Of course we should not look down on this threat and the Israeli army should prepare for any possibility; but a move that would turn Israel into an authentic voice in the Middle East and not a spokes-country for the West, would eventually enable a necessary historical change in our position and our security in the region.

Now, after the second Lebanon war, the country's leaders talk relentlessly about the next round. A non-conventional political imagination and much courage is needed to make the next stage a decisive turning point in the political and cultural Israeli strategy. What is needed right now is a 180-degree turn, abandoning the conventional political path that has been producing rotten fruit for years.

This change can not only rescue Israel from a unavoidable existential clash with the Muslim world and its supporters, but can also renew our cultural connections to historical Jewish-Muslim ties, that were formed during the period of joint bloom of the two religions.

Prof. Ezrahi teaches at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem

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Tuesday, August 08, 2006

From the other front - social services in Israel

From YNet today. Of course this isn't translated. Check out the (generally) insane right-wing stuff they post on their English opinion site. Yours truly providing you with what they don't want you to see: the critical opinions from inside Israel showing that their is no united rear. OK, that may be a bit over the top, but here goes anyway:

Where is the State?
By Ariana Melamed
8/8/06
(From Hebrew original)

In foul-smelling bomb-shelters sit huge numbers of citizens whom the state has privatized, left to the goodwill of aid bodies - and the state didn't even bother to tell anyone.

Four weeks into the war, after we got rid of the slogan "hug a northener" and the sickening sweetness of that expression, I'm hereby asking to bury "strength of the rear" too - the greatest PR lie of this nameless war.

I have no idea what antiquated memory banks this expression was pulled out from, from which war movies about productive and optimistic citizens who "contribute to the drive" far away from the fields of battle. But I know well who this false image serves: the institutions of a state that has almost completely evaporated and disappeared from the citizens' front. The state whose poor, elderly and needy have been abandoned as lame ducks without any assistance, without proper shielding, without elementary concern for the most essential basics that would enable them, at this time, to live as human beings.

In foul-smelling bomb-shelters, in noisy cities, in villages and kibbutzim along the new front line, sit thousands of citizens whom the state has privatized. It didn't bother to tell them in good time that it is ridding itself of any responsibility for their welfare. They were handed over - not in any orderly or planned way - to the goodwill of masses of other citizens and charitable bodies whose good-heartedness is much greater than their ability to act, while the establishment continues to string together empty slogans and does nothing.

No one living in the range of the katyushas is a 'rear'. They are all a type of front in the war that will be remembered - if we will have the strength to remember - as an institutional shame, as the greatest civil failure in the history of a state that once knew how to care for its citizens and later was only politely interested in their well-being, and finally stopped pretending it cares.

In the first days of the war, the ministers could have, if they had wanted to, disconnect for a moment from the wholesale manufacture of idle chatter on foreign TV networks and concentrate their intellectual efforts on checking the condition of bomb-shelters and physical protection: on thinking and planning for the coming days in the lives of a civilian population under fire. But they didn't want to. They stuck to the idiotic bureaucratic mantra that that is the job of the heads of local councils. The heads of local councils certainly could not take on that load. All the civil aid bodies cannot either, in the absence of a concentrated, calculated national program, designed specifically for situations such as these.

Shortly after the great earthquake in Turkey, I visited the exemplary village that the State of Israel knew to create overnight for the people whose houses had been destroyed, and I saw the impressive organizing ability of the establishment for a humanitarian project worthy of every praise. What happened since then to that ability? What has the state given so far to the humanitarian welfare of its [citizens] on the front line, apart from the vague promise to establish an "[investigative] commission"?

And in the meanwhile, amongst the stink of urine that is the primary, miserable smell of the civil front line in the bomb-shelters, we can remember with longing and rage how once the small and poor institutions of a state knew how to send supplies to besieged cities; and later knew how to manage entire cities of tents of new immigrants who arrived suddenly; and once there were warehouses of goods for emergencies that were intended to ensure that even during the hardest of times citizens would not be required to rely on the charitable food-donations of other citizens; and once there were teacher-soldiers who sat with children in bomb-shelters and kept them busy while their parents strained to move the wheels of routine; and once there was a state here that did not leave its citizens, strong and weak, in bomb-shelters with no electricity, without running water, without basic sanitation. I don't know where all those have gone. I have not yet heard a single wise commentator who could explain where they are hiding and why they are hiding.

In one of the flickering advertisements on TV I saw the mayor of Karmiel thanking, with emotive words, the goodness-of-heart of the 'Supersal' supermarket chain that is feeding the residents of his city. He who seeks the unpleasant truth behind these words will find a state that has turned its citizens at their time of need to beggars against their will. My motherland, beautiful destitute land, all her beggars brothers [1]? No. Very much not. Only those who need the state the most have turned to desperate beggars. The stronger know how to access the right channels. The stronger still wrap themselves in the lie of resilience. That lie continues to serve them well, since they know that when the war ends, the needy of the [civil] front will no longer have the strength to shout and to protest - nor to create change.

Notes:
[1]: The expression "My motherland, beautiful destitute land, all her beggars brothers" comes from a poem by Jewish poet Leah Goldberg. It was written not about Israel, but about her homeland, Lithuania. Every Israeli knows this poem, entrenched as it is in collective national memory. It is often used to harden solidarity in hard times. This was, of course, far more applicable in the initial period of pseudo-socialist agricultural development in the 50's and 60's, when some semblance of solidarity still existed here. The previous paragraph hearkens to this period. In my opinion, that view is tinted by rose-colored glasses. That solidarity did exist, but only if you happened to be white, of European origin. Those in development towns out on the periphery were never taken care of, they were left in atrocious conditions back then too. The 'cities of tents' spoken of were desperate places, not well-supplied by the state, surrounding much wealthier towns, populated chiefly by Jews of European origin.

Having said that, Israel did once have a welfare system that actually took care of a lot of people. That has been almost entirely dismantled since the early 90's.

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Monday, August 07, 2006

From Beirut...to those who love us

I cannot comment on this. Watch it.


Originates from here. Made by these people.

Locations in Lebanon bombed by Israel, as of August 5th, 2006

Lebanese transport and vital sites bombed, as of August 4th, 2006

Both those originate here.

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Sunday, August 06, 2006

It's the end of the world!

So I promised myself I'd never get into the trend of posting Daily Show clips, but then I also said I'd do some work.

Oh well, here's some Daily Show on the war:

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Thursday, August 03, 2006

Human Rights Watch report on Lebanon

Damn, they're quick. A 51-page report on the war, including Qana, available here.

Some selected quotes:
"The Israeli government claims that it targets only Hezbollah, and that fighters from the group are using civilians as human shields, thereby placing them at risk. Human Rights Watch found no cases in which Hezbollah deliberately used civilians as shields to protect them from retaliatory IDF attack. "
Got that? NO HUMAN SHIELDS. None. Zero. Zilch. Nada.

Fuck the Israeli army.
"By consistently failing to distinguish between combatants and civilians, Israel has violated one of the most fundamental tenets of the laws of war: the duty to carry out attacks on only military targets. The pattern of attacks during the Israeli offensive in Lebanon suggests that the failures cannot be explained or dismissed as mere accidents; the extent of the pattern and the seriousness of the consequences indicate the commission of war crimes."
Got that? War crimes, no more, no less.
"The report breaks civilian deaths into two categories: attacks on civilian homes and attacks on civilian vehicles. In both categories, victims and witnesses interviewed independently and repeatedly said that neither Hezbollah fighters nor Hezbollah weapons were present in the area during or just before the Israeli attack took place."
No fighters, no weapons. Israel is targetting civilian areas:
"In the cases documented in this report [...] the IDF consistently tolerated a high level of civilian casualties for questionable military gain. "
But they had a chance to run away, right? I mean, they were warned by the generous Israeli Air Force dropping leaflets, rights?
"Others [sic] civilians came under attack in their cars as they attempted to flee the fighting in the South. This report alone documents twenty-seven civilian deaths that resulted from such attacks. The number is surely higher, but at the time the report went to press, ongoing Israeli attacks on the roads made it impossible to retrieve all the bodies. "
"Tens of thousands of Lebanese fled their homes to the city of Tyre (itself south of the Litani and thus within the zone Israel ordered evacuated) or further north to Beirut, many waving white flags. As they left, Israeli forces fired on dozens of vehicles with warplanes and artillery."
But at least they were able to flee the bombing, yes?
"Some chose to stay, but the vast majority, Human Rights Watch found, was unable to flee due to destroyed roads, a lack of gasoline, high taxi fares, sick relatives, or ongoing Israeli attacks. Many of the civilians who remained were elderly, sick, or poor."
But hey, Hizb'Allah is using those roads to transfer arms, right?
"none of the evidence gathered by Human Rights Watch, independent media sources, or Israeli official statements indicate that any of the attacks on vehicles documented in this report resulted in Hezbollah casualties or the destruction of weapons."
Some quotes from the 'most moral army in the world' and some ministers in charge of it:
  • "in the center of Beirut there is an area which only terrorists enter into." - Eliezer Shkedi, the Israeli Air Force Commander
  • "the hits were devastating, and this area, which was a Hezbollah symbol, became deserted rubble." - Moshe Kaplinski, Israeli army deputy chief of staff
  • "All those now in south Lebanon are terrorists who are related in some to Hezbollah" - Haim Ramon, 'Justice' minister
(See original report for attributions)

Enough for now. Go read the report.

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Caricature on YNet today

Olmert, for those of you who don't recognize the bastard. Yesterday, he declared victory in the war. Anyone want to tell me why there are still a ton of soldiers there if Israel's already won?

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Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Special forces attack on apartment

Last week, on the 25th, I was at a local hospital helping a young girl get transferred for better treatment when we were informed about the presence of Israeli special forces in Ramallah. We went down to the scene to discover around eight jeeps and hummers, plus a huge prison truck and around eighty soldiers.

After talking to some people, we found out that the soldiers were targetting a single apartment in the 5-storey building and had told all the rest of the residents to leave. Some had been forced out at only a moment's notice. We stood at a safe distance from the building, watching jeeps chase down kids throwing stones and trying to take photos in the dark.

Around an hour after we had arrived, soldiers opened fire on the apartment. Initially they used standard automatic weapons, but this was followed somewhat later by some high-explosive projectiles that blew out the apartment's windows. The sound of bullets and projectiles hitting the building and echoing all around the neighborhood rather scared us, despite the knowledge that we were not in danger.

After the soldiers had left (around three hours after we arrived), we went into the building with a large mass of Palestinians to survey the damage. The state of the apartment was horrific: bullet holes riddled the kitchen, the fridge, the appliances; furniture and glass were scattered everywhere. On our way back downstairs, we noticed streaks of blood on the walls and the floor. The army had clearly achieved its target, whatever that may have been.

Some pictures:
Soldiers exit their jeep to run after some kids throwing stones. We were very close to this lot, but they ignored us completely.

The soldiers forced around twenty Palestinians into this store we starting next to. They then closed the shutters in a lame attempt to keep them in. Didn't help much, as they opened the shutters and came out around five minutes later...

The blown out windows can be seen from near the store.






No comment needed, I suppose...


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Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Ha'aretz Blog: Kufr Qana as a Kitch of Oy-Oy-Oy

Essential reading this from one of the very few sane Israelis writing at the moment. Check it out. Hebrew original here.

Kufr Qana as a Kitch of Oy-Oy-Oy
By Benny Tsiper

Kufr Qana doesn't make us less right, simply because from the beginning we were not right. As opposed to all sorts of blockheads from the left and the right as one, who are walking around mortified after the bombing of Kufr Qana, amazed at how can it be that such a screw-up that presents us as monsters in the eyes of the world could happen, I'm not at all impressed. Because one has to be a complete idiot in order to not know that a war doesn't become more or less justified to the number of civilians killed in it. By that scale - and Netanyahu said as much yesterday on CNN, justifiably - that the Allies were less justified than Nazi Germany during the Second World War, since they bombed Dresden and killed hundreds of thousands of citizens, to not even mention that they dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Of course, the fact that the Allies did so does not in any way change the fact that they were in the absolute right in the war.

So all these kitchy arguments such as 'oh no, what have we done', and 'how do we look to the world' are absurd. What I think is that this war in Lebanon is not justified, not because of Kana, but because it wasn't just in the first place, because it is not justifiable to go to war because of two kidnapped soldiers, and that this is the behaviour of a neighborhood bully and not a proper state.

By the same measure, by the way, I don't accept that what is called 'terrorism' is unjustified just because it hurts civilians. Of course it will hurt civilians. But in what other way can oppressed peoples rise up and attempt to change their fate if not by hurting civilians? Sartre justified terror in his time, and so did Nelson Mandela in South Africa. Where would South Africa be today without terror? Also this business that everyone jumps up and shouts 'oy oy oy' when they hear the word terror is ridiculous. And anyway, what is the big difference between Palestinian terror and the acts of our army?

In short, enough with this mantra of 'oy-oy-oy', and let's start to understand that the one who acted like a terrorist in this war in Lebanon was none other than Israel, and that we were just pretending to be worried about the re-armament of Hizb'Allah, and that we are pretending that that gives us the right to destroy Lebanon: OK, so we were also re-arming in the recent past, so by the same logic, we deserve to be destroyed too.

I am so angry because it seems to me that Israeli are mostly blind, including what is called the 'left', and refuse to see things as they really are, so angry that yesterday I got into a pointless argument with a collegue, who signed a petition on YNet against the war in Lebanon, and who walked around all proud about the great deed he had done, as if he was at the very least a member of a resistence group. His assertion that was that sometimes signing petitions is very powerful, and brought up the example of the signatures of the founders of the Whole Israel movement that had serious consequences for Israeli history in their time. Long live small differences: I guarantee that the petition on YNet, even if Shai Agnon and Natan Alterman signed it, won't move a single hair on Peretz's mustache, simply because the entire mood in Israel, including within those falsely called the 'intellectuals' and the 'leftists', is that the war in Lebanon is completely justified, and that Israel had all the right in the world to extert all its destructive force against Hizb'Allah. And no petition will change that mood.

It's enough to watch the television in the last few days to see that while many anti-war representatives are invited to express their angry opinion in the various TV studios, their visits are always seen as comic relief, and to serve as an opportunity for some general in retirement to sigh and say: "so, that's our nation, there will always be some people in it who shame us".

In the end, the only influence of these refined war objectors, who express their soft objections with petitions or sad and thin demonstrations, will be in twenty years, when the TV will want to put out a special broadcast on the 2006 Lebanon war, someone will dig up the text of the petition in some archive and find a small piece of a video from the demonstration, and this future director will use these to decide that the Tel Aviv intellectual left was against the war. And if someone will come and assert that that was not the way it was, and that the protest in summer 2006 was totally marginal, if not ridiculous, they will say of him that he is senile or has Alzheimer's.

I think that signing a petition against the war is a banal and obvious thing to do, and thus a bit useless. I would like to see that same petition-signer forcing himself to get up on Saturday [sic] morning and to go demonstrate against the wall in Bil'in and to really confront the army there, or to stand at checkpoints and watch over - as the people of Machsom Watch do - the daily humiliations of OPT Palestinians. I would also like him to admit the connection between what is happenning in Lebanon and the Occupation. As for me, I was amazed to hear a well-respected author tell me with all seriousness that she doesn't understand the connection between Hizb'Allah, the OPT and the Palestinians. If only I could have slapped her at that moment so she would wake up. How did this whole business in Lebanon start if not by a response of Hizb'Allah on the horrors that the Israeli army perpertrates - and continues to perpertrate - in Gaza? We prefer to completely ignore that, and that includes people like Amos Oz ['left-wing' Israeli writer], who wrote an English article I was forwarded by email yesterday about how the war in Lebanon is just and all that bullshit.

I want to throw up, in all seriousness, from the fact that we always present ourselves as wretched, exactly when the exact opposite is true. Woaaaaaah! The Hizb'Allah re-armed in the last few years. So what? One could think that we didn't re-arm. And then, the kidnapping of the soldiers lands on us like lightning on a cloudless day, as if we are innocent saints that never did anything bad to anyone, and everyone is just picking on us. People, we have an oppressed people to our side, that we wear it down non-stop, and we use any excuse of the tail of a Qassam rocket to to continue to repress it and kill its people, and then we are surprised that someone steps forward to help this same oppressed people and to fight against us in its name. Immediately we assert that that someone is in fact an arm of Iran and Syria and forget the real reason behind this, that is the Palestinian reason.

But what will it help me to shout? And you know what? The truth is that I am fed up with being a fixer of the world. Whoever wants to sign petitions, all health be to him, who whoever wants to just cry about the misfortune of the Israeli nation, that Hizb'Allah has risen to annihilate us, let him cry to his health. I have a family to fund and children (grown-up, it has to be said) to feed and to take care of their neers. And sometimes I dream of having a spare moment to write my next book. To tell the truth, I started it a few times and stopped, perhaps because my blog is taking up all my energies. But I don't care, at least I feel I have some influence, that I am giving my all to something that is not literary and won't remain long after me, but rather something that wants to play on the strings of readers' awareness here and now. In my view, this is preferable over those who play the role of silent and passive protestors but who give very little of themselves for their lofy ideas.

Another small confession: last night I dreamt, probably influeced by the sights on the TV, that Ra'anana was being attacked by an Arab army. My wife and I hide in the basement and feel the vehicles of war coming closer and closer to us. My wife says to me "we cannot do anything, at least we will die together", and then we kiss and the bomb that is supposed to fall on our house is about to fall. And then I woke up and smiled to myself when I understood it was only a dream. But I thought about it, that if planes were really dropping leaflets from the sky telling us to leave our houses - just as the Israeli army did in South Lebanon - I would stay at home and not move. And by the way, I don't think that dropping such leaflets makes us any more humanistic, but rather more barbaric.

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