July 6, 2010, Issue #160
HUDSON VALLEY ACTIVIST NEWSLETTER
firstname.lastname@example.org, P.O. Box 662, New Paltz, NY 12561
Out of the 11 articles in this newsletter, eight relate to the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. This situation is coming to a head in the aftermath of the flotilla incident and we foresee important changes ahead.
Among the articles is our four-part series titled "Israel and Palestine After the Flotilla." The series contains an assessment of the many aspects of this matter, including the relations between Israel and the U.S., Israel and the Palestine National Authority, the Palestinian split between Fatah and Hamas, the action and inaction of the Arab states, the new role of Turkey, the key importance of Iran, and the future of Washington's hegemony in the Middle East.
1. ISRAEL AND PALESTINE AFTER THE FLOTILLA
Part 1: Change is in the wind — The Netanyahu regime's attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla may lead to a transition toward substantial change for the Palestinians, Israelis and perhaps the Middle East in general.
2. ISRAEL AND PALESTINE AFTER THE FLOTILLA
Part 2: Breaking the Blockade — An analysis of the attack and Israel's denial of wrongdoing, and an assessment of the state of Israeli-U.S. relations.
3. ISRAEL AND PALESTINE AFTER THE FLOTILLA
Part 3: Two Problems for the Palestinians — The present disunity between secular PNA/PLO, and Fatah in the West Bank and Islamist Hamas in Gaza is problem number one. Problem two is that while supportive of the Palestinians in general, the Arab countries themselves are split and relatively weak, with several of them within Washington's sphere of influence.
4. ISRAEL AND PALESTINE AFTER THE FLOTILLA
Part 4: Two Wild Cards, Turkey and Iran — These two non-Arab Muslim countries may help disrupt the U.S.-Israeli game in the Middle East, and contribute toward a new era in the region.
5. IT'S TIME TO MAKE PEACE WITH OUR NEIGHBORS — Uri Avnery, the leader of Gush Shalom (the Israeli Peace Bloc) takes a geopolitical look at the declining stature of both Tel-Aviv and Washington and suggests "time is not working in our [Israel's] favor. We should deepen our roots in the world and in the region — which means making peace with our neighbors."
6. OAKLAND PROTEST BLOCKS ISRAELI SHIP — Gloria LaRiva writes that "In a historic and unprecedented action June 20, between 800-1,000 labor and community activists blocked the gates of the Oakland docks in the early morning hours, prompting longshore workers to refuse to cross the picket lines."
7. LEADING U.S. PAPERS DISTORT GAZA WAR — FAIR criticizes two of America's most influential newspapers — the New York Times and Washington Post — for biased reporting on matters pertaining to Israel-Palestine conflict.
8. U.S.-SOUTH AMERICA RIFT OVER HONDURAS — The Obama Administration, which promised a new improved era of U.S.-Latin American relations, is way off target in Honduras, writes Mark Weisbrot.
9. SHOUT OUT FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE — Maude Barlow, the leader of the progressive Council of Canadians, delivered a speech on the environmental crisis, world poverty and related matters during the protests in Toronto confronting June 25-27 summit meetings of the G8 and G20. It was an excellent speech and we print the text below.
10. CONSERVATIVE FEMINISTS? — Feminist Amanda Marcotte has written an article titled, "How Dare Sarah Palin and Other Anti-Woman Conservatives Call Themselves Feminists?" The text is below.
11. DEMOCRATIC POLITICIANS BACK ISRAEL — Washington news analyst Jim Lobe writes: "Despite the growing international condemnation and isolation incurred by the government of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, the right-wing leadership of the so-called "Israel Lobby" here is riding high in the U.S. Congress.
1. ISRAEL AND PALESTINE AFTER THE FLOTILLA
Part 1 — Change Is In The wind
By Jack A. Smith, Activist Newsletter
There are times in world politics when a relatively small incident can trigger a major chain of events, depending on circumstances. Another way of expressing this is contained in the ancient Chinese proverb, "A single spark can start a prairie fire" — particularly when conditions include a warm gusty wind and the grassland is dry.
This analogy comes to mind in the aftermath of the violent illegal interdiction by the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) of the six ships and nearly 700 people in the humanitarian Gaza Freedom Flotilla in the Mediterranean Sea over a month ago, killing nine Turkish supporters of Palestinian national rights and wounding about 50 other voyagers.
Is it possible this incident may represent the start of a transitional moment leading toward substantial change for the Palestinians, Israelis and perhaps the Middle East in general? We think yes, and the process has already begun. How far it goes, nobody knows, but conditions are ripe for change.
After three years of increasingly tightened sanctions against the 1.5 million beleaguered Palestinians resident in the Gaza Strip, Israel has been forced to ease its near-total blockade — not because of decisions by the UN and the several big powers that have been working with Israelis and Palestinians to achieve a settlement, but by the action of a people's movement.
Israel's use of brute force on the high seas against a boatload of civilians on a brave journey motivated by compassion for a suffering people swiftly sent a tidal wave of international criticism and anger crashing against Israel's shores. As always, the Jewish State sought to depict itself as the victim, but times have changed in recent years and the victim of yesterday, for whom humanity still mourns, is now perceived as an executioner of today, extracting 10, or 50, or 100 eyes for an eye.
Much of the anger directed at the Tel-Aviv government this last month began to coalesce when Israel attacked Lebanon and Gaza in the summer of 2006. It grew after Israel's vicious three-week invasion of defenseless Gaza starting in late December 2008. But it took the bungled flotilla attack for this gathering criticism to breach the levees.
Now what? In the wake of the flotilla fiasco and public disapproval, obdurate Israel is obliged to make some concessions to the so-called Quartet, which is composed of the UN, European Union, U.S. and Russia — a group formed eight years ago to resolve differences between Israel and Palestine leading to the establishment of two separate states.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will meet with President Barack Obama in Washington July 6 for their first meeting since before the May 31 killings. Each side probably will make some concessions since the main task for both leaders is to convey the impression of moving forward in cordial unity after several months of apparently strained relations.
One of the principal topics of discussion will be converting the present indirect talks between Israel and the Palestine National Authority (PNA), with American mediator George Mitchell going back and forth between the parties, into face-to-face direct negotiations. The PNA is reluctant to take part is such meetings until the Netanyahu government agrees to extend its temporary ban on building new settlements on Palestinian territory. We will discuss the other issues between Tel-Aviv and Washington throughout this article.
The Obama Administration supports Israel politically and militarily, and has raised Washington's annual subsidy to Israel to $3 billion beginning in October. It believes, however, that the Tel-Aviv regime's disproportionate violence, illegal occupation of the West Bank (with a population of 2.8 million Palestinians) and foot-dragging on facilitating a Palestinian state undermines U.S. hegemony in the Middle East, and its imperial interests worldwide.
President Obama refused to blame Israel for shooting unarmed civilians at sea, saying only that "the United States deeply regrets the loss of life and injuries." Nor has the White House used its decisive power to permanently halt the building of settlements on territory illegally seized from the Palestinians 43 years ago, much less to withdraw from the land it illegally occupies in the West Bank.
Netanyahu's governing extreme right wing and ultra-orthodox religious coalition has no desire to curtail the establishment of Jewish settlements on Palestinian lands, to end its occupation of the West Bank, or to work seriously toward the creation of a Palestinian state. Hardline religious sectors entertain the belief that Israel was "given to the Jews by God." (Were the Palestinians to make an identical claim based on equivalent evidence they would be dismissed as typical Islamic religious fanatics.)
In this four-part article, we will discuss all these matters in detail, report on the actions of President Obama and Congress, explore the role of Turkey and Iran, the split between Fatah and Hamas, the disunity within the Arab world, and anticipate possible geopolitical outcomes throughout the Middle East.
The people of the Gaza Strip are still suffering from sanctions and many other indignities, but the pain of a total blockade and virtual collective imprisonment is easing for now in this narrow 25-mile long territory on the Mediterranean coast set aside in 1949 to accommodate some of the Palestinian refugees displaced by the creation of the State of Israel.
The world's principal human rights organizations welcomed the partial lifting of the blockade, but called for it to be entirely ended. Said Amnesty International: "This announcement makes it clear that Israel is not intending to end its collective punishment of Gaza’s civilian population, but only ease it... Israel must now comply with its obligations as the occupying power under international law and immediately lift the blockade."
The UN Relief and Works Agency, which oversees the Palestinian refugee community, declared June 20 through spokesperson Christopher Guinness: "We need to have the blockade fully lifted.... The Israeli strategy is to make the international community talk about a bag of cement here, a project there. We need full unfettered access through all the crossings."
The International Committee of the Red Cross, which rarely speaks out on such matters, called for a complete end to the blockade June 14, noting that the embargo has destroyed the territory's economy and ruined its healthcare system.
This small concession on sanctions has not changed the political goals of the Israeli government. In general it seeks the destruction of Hamas (the Islamic Resistance Movement) that governs Gaza; the domination and manipulation of the PNA and Fatah (the Palestine Liberation Movement), which leads the PNA from the West Bank; the maintenance of Israeli occupation forces and illegal Jewish settlements on Palestinian land; and widening its control of Jerusalem.
Netanyahu's objective is to keep the Palestinians in a condition of neocolonial subjugation as long as possible. The real desire of the right wing government coalition is to permanently absorb as much Palestinian land as possible. The Quartet some time ago encouraged Israel to work toward establishing a two-state solution in 2012, but the current regime poses innumerable obstacles to an equitable settlement, seeking to delay an agreement for many years or forever if possible.
On June 29, neofascist Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman announced there was "no chance" of meeting a 2012 deadline. Lieberman indicated some time ago that he would consider the idea of two states if Israel's 1.3 million Arab inhabitants — second class citizens in their own land — would be uprooted and "transferred" to the Palestinian side of the border, which is hardly likely. Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu party already suggests that most Israeli Arabs are "disloyal" and should have their citizenship revoked. "No loyalty, no citizenship" was its election slogan in what Israel's supporters term "the only democracy in the Middle East."
PNA President Mahmoud Abbas conducted a rare meeting with reporters from the Hebrew press last week in Ramallah, for three hours no less. The Jerusalem Post editorialized July 1 that the event "can be seen as an attempt — quite possibly with heavy U.S. encouragement — to reach out to the Israeli public. There was nothing particularly new in what Abbas had to say. But the general impression that the PNA head will most likely have succeeded in conveying to the Americans is that he is showing a readiness to push ahead with negotiations on the final-status issues of security and borders, while Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has proffered nothing but a wall of silence. 'We have yet to receive a sign from Netanyahu on progress,' Abbas said."
Two more moderate political parties — Kadima, which calls itself "centrist" but functions on the right, is the largest party in the Knesset (parliament); and the Labor Party, which still sports a "center-left" label but is center-right at best and rightist when it comes to the Palestinians — are more amenable to the two-state proposition. But neither has evidenced an interest in anything more than a weak, virtually dependent Palestinian state. And no mainstream Israeli party gives credence to the left idea advocated by some of transforming Israel-Palestine into a single progressive multi-ethnic, multi-religious state based on true equality and mutual benefit.
President Obama is said to be considering the idea of proposing "an independent, democratic and contiguous" Palestinian state that — "for Israel's security" — would not be allowed to have an army or enter into a mutual security pact with another country. Given the recent history of Israel's violent military incursions into neighboring states, it seems logical to inquire, what about Palestinian security?
For his part, Netanyahu evidently has learned nothing from the international criticism of Israel's harsh blockade and the attack on the flotilla. He told the Knesset recently that "they want to strip us of the natural right to defend ourselves. When we defend ourselves against rocket attack, we are accused of war crimes. We cannot board sea vessels when our soldiers are being attacked and fired upon, because that is a war crime."
Uri Avnery, the leader of the Israeli Peace Bloc, Gush Shalom, sees things differently, as he wrote June 19: "For years, now, the world sees the State of Israel every day on the TV screen and on the front pages in the image of heavily armed soldiers shooting at stone-throwing children, guns firing phosphorus shells into residential quarters, helicopters executing 'targeted eliminations,' and now pirates attacking civilian ships on the open seas. Terrified women with wounded babies in their arms, men with amputated limbs, demolished homes. When one sees a hundred pictures like that for every picture that shows another Israel, Israel becomes a monster." (Avnery's article is excerpted below.)
Commenting on the Israeli government's actions, the conservative weekly The Economist declared June 5: "Israel is caught in a vicious circle. The more its hawks think the outside world will always hate it, the more it tends to shoot opponents first and ask questions later, and the more it finds that the world is indeed full of enemies.... He [Netanyahu] does not give the impression of being willing to give ground in the interests of peace."
Time Magazine put it this way June 21: "Besides fracturing the Jewish state's relations with Turkey, its most important Muslim ally, and undermining a nascent rapprochement with the Obama Administration in Washington, its most important ally of all, the flotilla fiasco also invited fresh judgment of the kind of democracy Israel has become: a conspicuously belligerent one, reflexively disposed toward the military option whatever the problem at hand — and apt to look bad doing it."
(To be continued)
2. ISRAEL AND PALESTINE AFTER THE FLOTILLA
Part 2 —Breaking The Blockade
By Jack A. Smith, Activist Newsletter
Israel's blockade is an act of collectively punishing an entire people — outlawed in international jurisprudence — initially launched as sanctions against the inhabitants of Gaza for democratically electing the Islamic party Hamas in the legislative voting of January 2006. Both Israel and the U.S. had supported the candidates of the Palestinian National Authority, which is guided by the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), a coalition of political parties of which Fatah is the leading component.
Sanctions were transformed into a stultifying siege a year later after Hamas won a virtual civil war against Fatah in Gaza, despite Washington's gift of $60 million to Fatah for training and weapons with which to crush Hamas. Since that time Hamas has ruled Gaza, and the PNA has ruled the larger occupied Palestinian territory of the West Bank, with partial and occasionally coercive support from Washington and Tel-Aviv.
The blockade was so severe that the entire population of the Gaza Strip was in effect incarcerated within the small territory for the last three years. Though many foods were not allowed into Gaza, and the caloric intake was lowered, no one starved to death. That was the blockade's single saving grace. Paper and soap, cement, mattresses, machinery, toys and thousands of other goods have been denied the people of Gaza. Cement is especially important if the territory is ever to rebuild after the IDF has reduced many of its homes, commercial buildings, industrial plants, and government offices to rubble.
AP reported that Israel announced July 5 it was lifting the ban on nearly all consumer goods and other items but will "continue to ban most travel and exports and restrict the import of desperately needed construction materials. The new rules are unlikely to restore the territory's devastated economy or allow rebuilding of all that was destroyed in last year's war." Hamas denounced the new regulations because, despite being somewhat eased, it's still a blockade.
Israel, the military superpower of the Middle East, launched a brief and punishing war against Lebanon and Gaza in the summer of 2006, generating international criticism. World opinion was outraged again in December 2008 when the Israel Defense Force returned to unprotected Gaza, ostensibly in retaliation for rocket attacks, and slaughtered 1,417 Palestinians, overwhelmingly civilians, and wounded another 5,500. Israel lost 14 people, nearly all soldiers. (Hamas was carrying out a cease-fire for months before the attack until Israel broke the truce, which is why Tel-Aviv's justifying cry of "the rockets, the rockets," rang hollow in anti-colonial quarters — see article below: "Leading U.S. Papers Distort Gaza Role.")
The plight of the people of Gaza generated support for them from around the world. The Free Gaza Movement coalition of pro-Palestine groups organized nine attempts to challenge the Israeli blockade by sending ships with humanitarian supplies toward Gaza from August 2008 to May 31, 2010. None carried weapons of any kind. All were repelled by Israel to maintain the sanctity of mass privation as an instrument of state coercion.
This May the Free Gaza Movement was joined by the Turkish Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief (IHH) in sending six ships and 663 pro-Palestinian passengers from 37 different countries to challenge the blockade. The ships, loaded with non-military supplies, combined to form a flotilla near the Mediterranean island of Cyprus, and set a course for Gaza May 30. Many of the passengers had received training in nonviolence. They had no guns or bombs.
Israeli military vessels and helicopters interdicted the flotilla on the high seas about 60 miles from the coast of the Gaza Strip. Even if the ships managed to enter territorial waters, it would have been Palestinian, not Israeli, territory, it should be noted. Heavily armed IDF Special Forces troops illegally boarded the vessels and took command. Five of the ships were subdued quickly without deaths to passengers.
The sixth and by far largest ship, the Turkish vessel Mavi Marmara, purchased earlier this year by the IHH charity, was boarded by commandoes rappelling menacingly from hovering helicopters as navy speedboats circled the ship. A few passengers resisted the intruders, as they — in the opinion of many — had every right to do in international seas. They were brave and paid with their lives.
The commandoes shot and killed nine people — some at such close range as to suggest they were murdered. One of the slain was a U.S. citizen, Furkan Doğan, a Turkish-American youth of 19. It is probable that some of the dead and wounded were unresisting when bullets entered their bodies. One IDF sergeant, who claimed he shot six civilians, said they were all "terrorists."
The Israeli government did not plan to kill members of the humanitarian flotilla. But it created a situation where if one element of its elaborately staged act of aggression went wrong all hell would, and did, break lose.
Why didn't Defense Secretary Ehud Barak, author of the famous embellishment that the IDF was "the most moral army in the world," insist that the commandoes be instructed beforehand in how to respond rationally to the possibility of encountering non-armed resistance from a few passengers?
News of the shootings immediately subjected Israel — with its already existing human rights violations toward the Palestinians — to intense international opprobrium. In return, the Netanyahu government's propaganda apparatus subjected the world to a plethora of self-justifications — almost all untrue or at least gross exaggerations, but evidently good enough for the White House and Congress.
The world was told that the well-armed commandoes were "lynched." They were pummeled with "bats." There were 50 "Turkish soldiers" aboard the Mavi Marmara. Later, this was changed to "75 al-Qaeda mercenaries." The ship, said Netanyahu, was a "hate boat." Many defenders of Israel in the U.S. still prefer to believe these and other tall tales. One would think that if there were 75 members of al-Qaeda aboard the big Turkish ship that they would have been arrested and punished when they were brought to Israel. How odd, then, no one was arrested — not those who "lynched" the innocent commandoes, the "bat" wielders, the "Turkish soldiers," or the "terrorist mercenaries."
Perhaps the lowest blow in this entire propaganda charade is the information from Time magazine that "the stuttering official response to the flotilla fiasco" included "among the many videos featuring radio traffic that the IDF posted online, the most obviously inflammatory — in which a voice, allegedly from a flotilla radio transmission, can be heard snarling, 'Go back to Auschwitz'." It was, according to Time and several other sources, an "obviously edited" remark, interpolated into the tape by government propagandists — "PR amateurs," according to a columnist in the Tel-Aviv daily Yedioth Ahronoth, the widest circulation newspaper in Israel.
Learning of the attack by armed Israeli commandos, the well known American author and poet Alice Walker wrote in support of "defenseless peace activists carrying aid to Gaza who tried to fend them off using chairs and sticks. I am thankful to know what it means to be good; I know that the people of the Freedom Flotilla are... some of the best people on earth. They have not stood silently by and watched the destruction of others, brutally, sustained, without offering themselves, weaponless except for their bodies, to the situation."
The UN Security Council did manage to pass a resolution calling for a thorough and objective international investigation of the flotilla incident, but Tel-Aviv refused to cooperate, insisting on conducting its own probe. It is said the Obama Administration arranged a compromise: in return for a partial lifting of the embargo Israel would be permitted to conduct the investigation into its own actions without outside interference.
The Obama Administration termed an Israeli self-investigation "an important step forward" — forward toward what was left blank, but self-exoneration seems likely. Turkey’s Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu declared that "We have no trust at all that Israel, a country that has carried out such an attack on a civilian convoy in international waters, will conduct an impartial investigation."
Given the travesty of the probe carried out by Israel after its Winter 2008-2009 attack on Gaza, and its subsequent rejection — shamefully supported by Congress and the White House — of the UN's impartial Goldstone Report critical of Israeli actions, there is little doubt the new investigation, which got underway June 28, will be a whitewash unless the rules are changed. Netanyahu ventured recently that the investigation "will prove that the goals and actions of the state of Israel and the Israeli military were appropriate defensive actions in accordance with the highest international standards." That will be precisely the outcome if he has his way, but obstacles have arisen.
Many influential Israelis were dubious about a self-investigation, and there was widespread media criticism in Israel about how the probe will be conducted — far more than in the U.S. media, which is usually uncritical of anything the Israeli government does. In the words of the Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz, the investigation seems "more and more like a farce." Gush Shalom, the Peace Bloc, has petitioned the court system to broaden the investigation and its mandate.
Then, according to Haaretz June 30, retired justice Yaakov Tirkel, who was named to head the investigation, "told the government the committee could not do its job without expanded investigative powers." He "wants to turn it into a full-fledged governmental inquiry committee with real teeth. That would allow it to subpoena witnesses and documents, warn those who testify before it that the panel's findings could harm them, and hire outside experts in relevant fields." On July 4 Netanyahu's cabinet agreed to a limited number of changes. They included adding two experts to the panel, and said it now agreed to placing witnesses under oath. The investigation is still an in-house affair with notable restrictions, such as not being allowed to question the IDF commandoes who attacked the Mavi Marmara.
The flotilla affair did nothing to improve Netanyahu's problematic relations with Washington, which is one of the reasons he is anxious to make a good impression when he meets Obama, and this means offering a little "give" instead of the usual "take."
Israel has claimed to be the victim of several different "existential" threats over the years, the latest being from Iran, but as we have noted before, the Zionist State faces only one existential threat —losing Washington's support. Knowing this, Israel and its dedicated American supporters invest a huge amount of time, effort and money courting American public opinion, working diligently to elect pro-Israel politicians, and assiduously cultivating its backers in the White House and Congress.
Despite the American government's unceasing support for Israel, the majority of the Israeli population is wary of the Obama Administration, though American Jews are generally supportive. For instance, according to a June poll conducted on behalf of the B’nai B’rith World Center in Jerusalem, "65% of Jewish Israelis say U.S. Jews should criticize Obama's Mideast policy." This is based in large part on an incorrect analysis of the Obama Administration's policy toward the Muslim world, its willingness to "talk" to Teheran, and some signs of impatience with Netanyahu. Here's our view of these three matters:
1. It is obvious that President Obama's overture to the Muslim world during his Cairo speech a year ago was a public relations gesture representing no substantial change American policy, other than in rhetoric. The purpose was to deflect mounting criticism of the U.S. from the global Islamic religious community of over a billion adherents while he wages and widens wars in several Muslim countries. The objective, to speak frankly, was to strengthen imperialism, not weaken Israel.
2. Obama's tone toward Iran is less belligerent than that of his predecessor, but his policies (such as the new sanctions) rival those of President George W. Bush. Indeed, they seem to be worse, judging by the dangerously increased U.S. Navy activity in the Persian Gulf and nearby waters, plus the grave buildup of war supplies at the U.S. base in the Indian Ocean, (See part 4 for the threats facing Iran.)
3. Obama expects at least small concessions from Netanyahu, on settlements for example, in return for Washington's unstinting protection — the purpose being to strengthen America's hold over the Arab states.
The Israeli government is also furious at Washington because the final document emerging from the month-long review meeting at the United Nations in May on the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) (1) urges Israel to sign the NPT treaty and (2) set a 2012 date for a regional conference on establishing the Middle East as a nuclear free territory. When the issue of Israel came up at the 2005 NPT review one of the reasons there was no final report was because the Bush Administration refused to sign any document that mentioned Israel.
Here is Israel's problem: By signing the NPT Israel would have to acknowledge it possesses a large supply of nuclear weapons or be held in noncompliance, thus revealing its many denials were lies to the entire world. Further, the 2012 conference of Middle East nations will no doubt agree to ban nuclear weapons from the region — obliging Israel to dismantle its weapons, which is hardly likely, or expose itself as a nuclear outlaw. There was simply too much at political stake in the nuclear conference for the United States to once again seek to scuttle the talks, especially on one of its main issues — proliferation. The Israelis were perturbed, so the U.S. issued a statement critical of the meeting for not condemning Iran, which of course does not have nuclear weapons.
Not only the White House but both Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate overwhelmingly support Israel and many show contempt for the oppressed Palestinians.
In a mid-June article published in Foreign Policy in Focus, Stephen Zunes wrote: "Democratic congressional leaders were lining up alongside their Republican colleagues to defend the Israeli assault. Countering the broad consensus of international legal scholars who recognize that the attack was in flagrant violation of international norms, prominent Democrats embraced the Orwellian notion that Israel’s raid... was somehow an act of self-defense. The offensive by the Democratic leadership has been led by Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-N.Y.), who serves as House Democrats’ unofficial spokesman on Middle East policy.... According to Ackerman, the killings were 'wholly the fault and responsibility of the organizers of the effort to break through Israel and Egypt’s legitimate closure of terrorist-controlled Gaza.'"
Nearly all our New York State members of Congress have issued statements supporting the ultra-right Netanyahu regime during the flotilla affair. New York Rep. Jerrold Nadler commented: "It has been absolutely galling to watch the hypocrisy and the fury, the undeserved fury directed at Israel for taking a step in its own self defense." Said the Hudson Valley's Rep. John Hall: "I will keep working hard in Congress to ensure that Israel continues to have the full support and backing of the United States."
In late June, 87 out of 100 Senators and 307 out of 435 Representatives signed a letter to President Obama about the flotilla attack, declaring "We fully support Israel’s right to self-defense," arguing that "the Israeli commandos who arrived on the sixth ship [the Mavi Marmara]... were brutally attacked with iron rods, knives, and broken glass. They were forced to respond to that attack and we regret the loss of life that resulted."
The letter also commended Obama for the "action you took to prevent the adoption of an unfair United Nations Security Council resolution, which would have represented a rush to judgment by the international community."
Three Congressmen in particular took strong stands against the Israeli attack — Rep. Brian Baird (D-Wash.), Rep. Keith Ellison (DFL-Minn.), and Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio). Kucinich wrote a letter to President Obama saying "The United States must remind Israel... it is not acceptable to repeatedly violate international law... [or] to shoot and kill innocent civilians... [or] to continue a blockade which denies humanitarian relief."
In April, according to an article by Ben Smith in Politico, 76 Senators and 333 Representatives "signed on to a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton implicitly rebuking the Obama Administration for its confrontational stance toward Israel," as though the White House had not backed down virtually every time Netanyahu waved a disapproving finger in Obama's face, or publicly embarrassed visiting Vice President Biden. The Congressional letter blamed the Palestinians for the breakdown in talks and the lack of progress in solving key issues, noting "by contrast Israel’s prime minister stated categorically that he is eager to begin unconditional peace negotiations with the Palestinians."
Israel's unwillingness to work toward a genuine two-state settlement (or a one-state agreement with equality for all), and Washington's one-sided political, economic and military support for Israel, constitute the primary obstacles to peace between the two sides. But there are two other significant problems confronting the Palestinians as well.
(To be continued)
3. ISRAEL AND PALESTINE AFTER THE FLOTILLA
Part 3 — Two Problems for the Palestinians
By Jack A. Smith, Activist Newsletter
Israeli domination and the right wing government's unwillingness to compromise are the biggest problems confronting the Palestinians. But there are two other big problems.
The first is the present disunity between secular PNA/PLO, Fatah in the West Bank and Islamist Hamas in Gaza. The two sides are far apart politically as well as geographically — a fact exploited by Tel-Aviv and Washington. The second problem is that while supportive of the Palestinians in general, the Arab countries themselves are split and relatively weak, with several of them within Washington's sphere of influence.
Israel and the U.S. do not recognize or speak to the Hamas leaders, including Ismail Haniyeh who became Prime Minister after the January 2006 democratic election for the Palestine National Authority's Legislative Council — which Fatah previously dominated. Hamas gained 74 seats to Fatah's 45 in the 132-member body. Four other parties gathered the remaining seats. The Bush Administration immediately joined the Israeli government in discrediting the voting, which Jimmy Carter and other election monitors said was completely honest, and in seeking to subvert or overthrow Hamas, with which Israel considers itself to be at war.
The next year, as a consequence of a virtual civil war between Fatah and Hamas, PNA President Abbas — a former Fatah leader who is also is chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization— dismissed Haniyeh as Prime Minister. (The PLO has long been recognized internationally and by Israel as the "sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people.")
The Hamas leader contested the firing as illegal and continues to function as Prime Minister in Gaza only, legally backed by the Legislative Council. Abbas, who announced recently that he does not plan to run for reelection in January because of a lack of progress in negotiations, named Salam Fayyad Prime Minister. Fayyad functions in that capacity in the West Bank, without legislative approval and presumably without legal authority. He is considered to be friendly to the United States, where he lived as a student at the University of Texas in Austin while obtaining a PhD in economics — a field in which he is said to excel.
Over the years Israel has jailed dozens of elected Hamas legislators, mostly on spurious charges. At least 10 from Hamas remain locked up in Israeli prisons. According to a June 29 report by a Palestinian researcher, 7,300 Palestinians are presently held in some 20 Israeli prisons, including 17 legislators, two former ministers, and some 300 children.
The U.S. and Israel treat only with Abbas, Fayyad and the PNA government. They are aware that these Palestinian partners are weaker today compared to the mass support enjoyed by the organization when it was led by the legendary Yasser Arafat until his death six years ago. And President Abbas, of course, is more amenable to making concessions to Israel and the U.S. than Hamas.
The reasons for the split between the two sides are complex. It cannot be forgotten that in earlier years Israel encouraged the growth of Hamas as an alternative to the secular and leftist Fatah led by Arafat. Fatah has lost some support from a portion of the Palestinian people for various reasons, not least being the internal contradictions, rivalry, and alleged corruption within the organization. Hamas offers an extensive and popular program of social welfare, and is said to fight corruption and favoritism. As such it has gained considerable support.
Much to Tel-Aviv's regret, given its earlier hopes, Hamas turned out to be as dedicated to the national struggle as Fatah and the PLO. Unlike the PLO, Hamas refuses to recognize Israel, but has let it be known it is not inflexible when it comes making a balanced and sustainable deal. Fatah does not recognize Israel, either. In reality, whether or not a political party "recognizes" a state has no legal significance. Recognition is a state to state affair. It's fairly certain that an eventual Palestinian state will exchange mutual recognitions with Israel.
At this stage the two Palestinian factions remain enemies, though they agree on many issues. There have been reports in recent months that both sides have been contemplating terms for a possible reconciliation. Abbas said he was willing to send a Fatah delegation to Gaza for talks, but Hamas evidently rejected the bid. The Arab League has been pressuring the factions to work toward unity.
Some kind of unity between Fatah and Hamas, within the context of the PNA and PLO, appears to be required if the Palestinian people are to achieve their goals. Eventual necessity may bring them into a working relationship, especially if serious negotiations begin to bring an independent state closer to reality.
The second big problem for the Palestinians is the lack of unity and purpose in the Arab world. Israel has worked to split the Palestinians. The U.S. has worked to split the Arabs — or rather to reunite them within Washington's superpower sphere of influence, a process that seems to be succeeding so far.
A main purpose of Washington's strategy is to assure success for the U.S. government's principal goal of controlling the Middle East. At this point it seems the U.S. wants to reduce the Israel-Palestine irritant to manageable proportions to secure Tel-Aviv as America's surrogate at the eastern end of the Mediterranean, proximate to the strategic Persian Gulf with its oil reserves to the east, and North Africa including the Suez Canal to the west.
We will here briefly discuss the relationship between some key Arab states and the Israel-Palestine conflict, which has been going on for over six decades.
All the Arab countries give backing to the Palestinians rhetorically and some do materially as well. But very few these days — two decades after the collapse of the first global socialist project, which supported Palestinian aspirations — are willing to take political risks for Palestinian national liberation, given the probability of incurring Washington's wrath in a unipolar world. Only two Arab countries maintain diplomatic relations with Israel — Egypt and Jordan, both of which are adjacent to Palestinian territory. In most cases relations between the other Arab countries and Israel are more distant but no longer antagonistic.
It may be of interest to note that the U.S. provides annual subsidies to both Arab countries that recognize Israel. Egypt gets $1.3 billion this year; smaller Jordan receives $540 million.
Egypt is the most powerful Arab country with a population of just over 80 million, and it remains influential in the region. But the days when the Cairo government sought to lead the Arab nations behind an anti-colonial and pan-Arab banner are gone with the desert winds of yesteryear, along with Egypt's once significant military forces.
Cairo today is well within Washington's orbit — and by extension, Tel-Aviv's as well. The regime of President Hosni Mubarak despises Hamas because it is ideologically associated with its own principal internal enemy, the Muslim Brotherhood. It has thus joined Israel's blockade of Arab Gaza.
Egypt had little option in the aftermath of the flotilla debacle but to finally open the Rafah Border Crossing just before Israel announced it was going to open some crossings of its own as part its partial easing of the blockade. These crossings are the only means for people or supplies to enter and exit Gaza. Access by sea remains prohibited by the Israeli navy.
President Mubarak is now 82 and he has held office for nearly 29 years, all of them under a continuing state of emergency granting him such extraordinary powers that he has been reelected routinely without challenge. The next presidential election is in 2011 and he has not yet declared his candidacy. Mohamed ElBaradei, who retired last year as head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, may enter as a candidate. He is not favored by Washington or Tel-Aviv, who wanted him to be much tougher on Iran. Mubarak is rumored to be grooming his son Gamal to succeed him in power. It's doubtful the election will produce changes in Egypt's relationship to Israel, but nothing's ever certain.
Jordan with its large Palestinian population is in Uncle Sam's pocket because it is small, weak and insecure about both Fatah and Hamas. The ruling Hashemite Kingdom dramatically crossed swords with the PLO by cracking down on militant Palestinian groups in September 1970 (known to Palestinians as Black September). By July 1971 the various organizations within the PLO were ousted from Jordan, with many finding refuge in Lebanon, where they were besieged again when Israel invaded that country in 1982. Jordan's King Abdullah II may fear that either a secular democratic or an Islamic neighboring Palestinian state will ultimately undermine the monarchy. King Abdullah worked with Obama on developing the concept of a Palestinian state without military forces.
The kingdom of Saudi Arabia has received U.S. protection since the end of World War II in return for reliable access to petroleum, insuring the survival of the royal family with its particular form of Sunni Islam, Wahhabism. The Saudi government has helped the Palestinians financially and supports many of the PLO's political positions, but its close association with Washington makes it an inconsistent friend of Palestinian liberation. The Saudis do not have formal diplomatic ties with Israel but the relationship is cooperative and friendly. A strong independent and modern Palestinian state, either under the secular leadership of Fatah or Islamic governance of a different Sunni type, is problematic for the House of Saud and constrains its support.
The oil-rich Arab Gulf States, now including post-Ba'athist Iraq (which before Washington's 2003 invasion was strongly supportive of Palestinian goals), all give a nod to the Palestinian cause but bend the knee to Washington's global power.
Syria strongly supports the Palestinians in many ways and maintains cordial relations with both Fatah and Hamas, but it is no match for Israel's regional military supremacy and America's demanding presence and keeps a relatively low profile. President Bashar al-Assad's main interest is in negotiating a peace treaty with Israel leading to the restoration of the occupied Golan Heights to Syria, and in retaining its historic influence in Lebanon. He strongly opposed Israel's invasion of Lebanon in 2006 and expressed admiration for the resistance waged by Hezbollah, the Shi'ite people's organization supported by Iran.
Sophisticated and small Lebanon has too often been an Israeli battlefield for it to invite Tel-Aviv's ire. However, some observers believe Israel will discover a pretext to invade once again to crush Hezbollah, the non-government Shi'ite Muslim defense force, after its failure to accomplish this objective in 2006. Israeli militarists are still smarting over the failure to destroy Hezbollah, which is essential to bring all Lebanon under its control. Israel's invasion cost the lives of 1,183 Lebanese civilians; some 4,000 were wounded, and over 30,000 family homes were destroyed or severely damaged. Throughout the month of warfare, Hezbollah sent thousands of largely ineffective though frightening unguided rockets into Israel killing 36 civilians. Hezbollah's death toll is unknown. Israel also lost 118 soldiers.
The rest of the Arab countries, including one time radical states such as Libya, continue to back Palestinian hopes and vote correctly at Arab League meetings, but do little else to promote the cause.
(To be continued)
4. ISRAEL AND PALESTINE AFTER THE FLOTILLA
Part 4 —Two Wild Cards, Turkey and Iran
By Jack A. Smith, Activist Newsletter
This leaves two wild cards in the region — neither of which are Arab — that are capable of complicating the U.S.-Israeli game in the Middle East.
One is Turkey, the militarily strong, largely Westernized, secular democratic republic of nearly 78 million people, with a large Sunni Muslim population. The other is Iran, a largely modernized Islamic republic of just over 67 million people, mostly Shi'ite Muslims. Both are mature societies that have at one time controlled empires — Ottoman and Persian respectively. Both are strategically situated, Turkey between Europe and Asia, Iran between Central Asia and the Middle East.
Turkey, a NATO member and long time close ally of Israel and the United States, has kept to itself for many years. Then in early 2009 the Ankara government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan abruptly stormed onto the regional stage when it sharply condemned Israel's calculatedly cruel invasion of Gaza.
A few months ago Turkey unexpectedly strode onto the international stage along with partner Brazil, announcing that they had obtained a nuclear fuel swap agreement with Iran that obviated the need for additional U.S.-UN sanctions. They believed, evidently correctly, that they had President Obama's backing for this independent mission. But when they brought back a deal that was virtually identical to what Obama originally sought, the White House backed off and treated the unofficial intermediaries like unwelcome busybodies.
In our view, what the Obama-Netanyahu cohort really wanted was intensified sanctions, not a nuclear agreement that would remove the pretext for demonizing Iran, probably in preparation for near-future aggression.
Last month — after Israeli commandoes cut down nine Turkish members of the humanitarian flotilla — relations between Tel-Aviv and Ankara deteriorated further, and a furious Erdogan withdrew Turkey's ambassador but did not break diplomatic ties. He called on Israel to apologize for the killings and pay compensation to the nine families involved, but Tel-Aviv has refused, claiming the commandoes were defending themselves. Erdogan announced that "If the entire world has turned its back on the Palestinians, Turkey will never turn its back on Jerusalem and the Palestinians," and took some modest steps such as banning Israeli military aircraft from its airspace.
An interview with Prime Minister Erdogan was aired June 29 on the PBS Charlie Rose program. He called Netanyahu "the biggest barrier to peace," an obvious truth about which the Obama Administration must be abundantly aware, though publicly silent. Most importantly, Erdogan also added that Turkey remained "a friend to Israel," but Ankara soon announced that it would break diplomatic relations with Israel unless Tel-Aviv apologized for the flotilla killings or accept the conclusion of an international inquiry.
The next day, Foreign Minister Davutoglu met secretly in Zurich with Israeli Trade and Labor Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer to discuss reducing tensions. Notice of the meeting was leaked by an Israeli TV station. There was no report about the outcome of the conference. Recognizing that he was intentionally kept in the dark by Netanyahu about this important event where he logically should have presided, Foreign Minister Lieberman publicly excoriated his boss for excluding him.
Netanyahu is under pressure from Washington to seek a reconciliation with Erdogan in order to keep strategic Turkey in Washington's political enclosure. Loud mouth Lieberman probably would have exacerbated tensions had he met with Davutoglu. Netanyahu needs Lieberman's Yisrael Beiteinu party in his coalition to remain in office, which is the only reason such a hothead became Foreign Minister. Discussing the latest contretemps, the Jerusalem Post opined July 1 that "it is yet another indicator that Israeli diplomatic policy is dysfunctional."
At this point, no one really knows the extent of Ankara's geopolitical ambitions, which may determine how far Turkey will distance itself from Israel, and perhaps the U.S. as well. There's certainly a lack of dynamic leadership in the Middle East that Turkey, which seems to have good relations with all the Muslim countries, might seek to provide.
If Turkey confines itself to supporting the Palestinians and criticizing Israel, that will have an important regional impact — perhaps sufficient to galvanize the Arab countries to take more action on Gaza's behalf, to give Tel-Aviv pause, and to induce Washington to finally get serious about ending the colonial status of the Palestinian people.
And if Turkey seeks a larger role in regional affairs beyond the Palestinian issue, perhaps in league with a couple of other regional players, this could possibly alter the balance of power in the Middle East, which is now tilted steeply toward the Washington/Tel-Aviv axis.
And where does the other wild card, Iran, fit into this scenario? Various commentators have speculated that the Islamic republic seeks to dominate the Middle East or that it wants to impose Shi'ite beliefs throughout the region, or that it seeks to destroy Israel, among other absurd speculations.
Any objective appraisal of the conditions confronting Teheran today would show that its first priority and nearly total preoccupation is national security, and its military strategy is defensive, not offensive, as Washington and Tel-Aviv are well aware. Consider this:
• According to news reports, an armada of 11 U.S. Navy warships and one Israeli ship, led by the USS Harry Truman aircraft carrier and its Strike Group of 60 fighter-bombers, passed through the Suez Canal June 18 heading for the Persian Gulf, where they will join other ships positioned near Iran. Navy battle fleets with Cruise and Tomahawk missiles and air wings roam the Arabian Sea, Mediterranean Sea, Gulf of Oman, and Indian Ocean, as well as the Persian Gulf.
• The immense U.S. base of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean is being stocked for possible war against Iran, including nearly 400 so-called bunker-busters for deep ground penetration.
• The U.S. Air Force is at the ready to quickly thrash Iran when the signal is given.
• Israel is continually threatening to attack Iran.
• The American military machine is camped on Iran's western border (Iraq), and on its eastern border (Afghanistan). The Pentagon's Special Forces troops have been probing Iran from both directions, looking for vulnerabilities, and getting the lay of the land.
• For several years during the Bush Administration, news analysts were predicting an imminent attack by the U.S. It didn't occur, probably because of the quagmire leading to a military stalemate in Iraq. But Teheran knows it likely faces a greater danger today than during the Bush years.
• Iran is under 24-hour surveillance from U.S. satellite spying and eavesdropping technologies throughout the country that can "see" every part of the country and "hear" every phone conversation, not to mention spies on the ground.
• Iran has been laboring under ever-tightening U.S. economic and trade sanctions for several decades after the Islamic revolution dispatched Washington's puppet potentate in Tehran, the dreaded Shah.
• Iran's big power friends, Russia and China, just joined the U.S. in imposing the latest UN sanctions, after diluting them (but knowing Washington would add additional sanctions of its own to compensate). This shocked and worried Teheran, though both countries are still considered allies and are not expected to abandon Iran.
• For the last decade — at least — Washington has been providing material support and encouragement to the anti-regime dissident movement, and the Obama government is no doubt continuing the practice.
• Washington is trying to create an anti-Iranian coalition composed of several Sunni Arab states, exacerbating ethnic and religious tensions in order to better divide and conquer.
• America's medium and long range missiles, with both conventional and nuclear warheads, are on the alert — patiently awaiting the signal.
For its part, Teheran is continuing to support the Hezbollah Shi'ites in Lebanon and Sunni Hamas in Gaza. Hezbollah — a political movement that leads the second largest electoral coalition in Lebanon — criticizes Tel-Aviv as colonialist but its guerrilla defenders usually fight against Israel when it invades Lebanon. Hezbollah fighters were largely responsible for Israel's decision to withdraw its military forces in May 2000 after a nearly two-decade occupation of Lebanon, and for a second humiliation of the IDF when it returned in 2006 with guns ablaze.
Hamas is a political organization dedicated to liberating the Palestinian people from colonial domination. It is without heavy weapons, tanks or planes to employ in its liberation struggle against the IDF so it propelled relatively primitive unguided rockets into Israel and killed up to 10 civilians over the last several years. Israel, of course, killed many thousands of Palestinians during that time.
The U.S. and Israel identify both groups as "terrorist" and Iran as "terrorist" for supporting them. In the opinion of many leftists and numbers of people in the developing (third) world, they are resistance fighters against colonial and imperialist oppression.
The government of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad denies building nuclear weapons and declares its efforts are directed at producing energy for peaceful purposes, not bombs. Even with all the spy techniques at Washington's command, there is still no evidence to convict Iran on this charge. Yet Israel — which is said to possess some 200 nuclear weapons in defiance of the NPT — poses as Iran's intended victim. Iran has not engaged in an aggressive war since the first half of the 1800s (a short-lived incursion over the Afghan border), and is absolutely in no position to do so now.
Neither the U.S. nor Israel is actually worried that Iran will in effect commit national suicide by preparing to attack, or actually attacking, the Jewish State — thus triggering a preemptive offensive or instant mass retaliation from Tel-Aviv, with the U.S. near at hand to help out.
There are two other regional concerns for the U.S. and Israel to think about over the longer term:
• One is the possibility Shi'ite Iran and majority Shi'ite Iraq eventually may bloc together in one type of close relationship or another several years hence. They share a number of interests in addition to their compatible branch of Islam — a minority often held down in Sunni-dominated lands. They both want to be independent of U.S. threats and violence and may conclude that unity enhances their defenses. As a team they could more profitably exploit their extraordinarily huge petroleum reserves. And they are both concerned about the Kurdish independence movement, among other factors. Washington will do its best to keep Baghdad and Teheran apart. It plans to retain considerable influence in Iraq after most of America's foreign legion departs for other battlefields, but the era of puppet governments and colonial masters, despite remnants here and there, is fading into history.
• The other, perhaps even more nettlesome long term concern for Uncle Sam, is the possibility Iran might bloc with Turkey and Syria to oppose U.S. domination of the Middle East. If Iraq joined in, the four countries would stretch some 2,200 miles from the Dardanelles in the Mediterranean to the Arabian Sea. This might even induce Egypt to get moving again. It's a long shot, of course, but a potential game changer in the Arab world — which is due for a change.
The Middle East often looks static, with the Americans ruling the roost, but that's deceptive. No one knows what is going to happen in the next couple of decades with any of the many possibilities for change that are swirling around the Middle East today, particularly as other world nations rise while the U.S. engages in what appears to be the start of a long decline.
Those bold volunteers who took part in the recent humanitarian flotilla have through their deeds obliged Israel to weaken the blockade of Gaza. That's an important change. And their efforts focused a bright light on the misdeeds perpetrated upon the Palestinians by Israel and its superpower enabler.
That's a good start toward further change, and may become a transitional moment that in time results not only in fruitful outcomes for the oppressed Palestinian people, but also for the entire region. (End)
5. IT'S TIME TO MAKE PEACE WITH OUR NEIGHBORS
[Editor's Note: Following are excerpts from a June 19 article by Uri Avnery, a leader of Gush Shalom (Peace Bloc) in Israel. In the article, originally titled "A Flash of Lightning," the author addresses the Israeli attack on the Gaza humanitarian flotilla May 31 from the geopolitical perspective of Israel's — and America's — declining stature in the world.]
By Uri Avnery
.... In all the tumult this [flotilla] affair has caused throughout the world, the Holocaust was not even mentioned. True, in Israel there were some who called [Turkish Prime Minister] Recep Tayyip Erdogan "a new Hitler," and some who call criticizers of Israel "Israel-haters" talked about the "Nazi attack," but the Holocaust has practically disappeared.
For two generations, our foreign policy used the Holocaust as its main instrument. The bad conscience of the world determined its attitude towards Israel. The justified guilt feelings — either for atrocities committed or for looking the other way — caused Europe and America to treat Israel differently than any other nation —- from nuclear armaments to the [illegal] settlements. All criticism of our government's actions was branded automatically as anti-Semitism and silenced.
But time does its work. New tragedies have blunted the world's senses. For a new generation, the Holocaust is a thing of the remote past, a chapter of history. The sense of guilt has disappeared in all countries, except Germany.
The Israeli public did not notice this, because in Israel itself the Shoah [calamity] is alive and present.... Therefore, the Israeli public is shocked to see that the Holocaust has lost its power as a political instrument. Our most valuable weapon has become blunt.
The central pillar of our policy is our alliance with the United States.... For many years, this alliance has kept us safe from all trouble. We knew that we could always get from the U.S. all we needed: advanced arms to retain our superiority over all Arab armies combined; munitions in times of war; money for our economy; the veto on all UN Security Council resolutions against us; automatic support for all the actions of our successive governments. Every small and medium country in the world knew that in order to gain entrance to the palaces of Washington, the Israeli doorkeeper had to be bribed.
But during the last year, cracks have appeared in this pillar. Not the small scratches and chips of wear and tear, but cracks caused by shifts of the ground. The mutual aversion between Barack Obama and Binyamin Netanyahu is only one symptom of a much deeper problem.
The Chief of the Mossad told the Knesset last week: "For the U.S., we have ceased to be an asset and become a burden."
This fact was put into incisive words by Gen. David Petraeus, when he said that the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict is endangering the lives of American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. The later soothing messages did not erase the significance of this warning. (When Petraeus fainted this week at a Senate hearing, some religious Jews viewed it as divine punishment.)
It is not only the Israeli-American relationship that has undergone a fateful change, but the standing of the U.S. itself is changing for the worse, a bad omen indeed for the future of Israeli policy.
The world is changing, slowly and quietly. The U.S. is still by far the most powerful country, but it is no longer the almighty superpower it had been since 1989. China is flexing its muscles, countries like India and Brazil are getting stronger, countries like Turkey — yes, Turkey! — are beginning to play a role.
This is not a matter of one or two years, but anyone who is thinking about the future of Israel in 10, 20 years must understand that unless there is a basic change in our position, our position, too, will decline.
If our alliance with the U.S. is one central pillar of Israeli policy, the support of the vast majority of world Jewry is the second.
For 62 years, we could count on it with our eyes shut. Whatever we did — almost all the world's Jews stood at attention and saluted. In fire and water, victory or defeat, glorious or dark chapters — the world's Jews did support us, giving money, demonstrating, pressuring their governments. Without second thoughts, without criticism.
Not anymore. Quietly, almost silently, cracks have appeared in this pillar, too. Opinion polls show that most American Jewish young people are turning away from Israel. Not shifting their loyalty from the Israeli establishment to Israel's liberal camp — but turning away from Israel altogether.
This will not be felt immediately either. AIPAC continues to strike fear into Washingtonian hearts. Congress will continue to dance to its tune. But when the new generation comes to [staff] key positions, the support for Israel will erode, American politicians will stop crawling on their bellies and the U.S. administration will gradually change its relations with us.
In our immediate neighborhood, too, profound changes are underway, some of them beneath the surface. The flotilla incident has exposed them.
The influence of our allies is decreasing constantly. They are losing height, and an old-new power is on the rise: Turkey.
[Egypt's] Hosni Mubarak is busy with his efforts to pass power to his son, Gamal. The Islamic opposition in Egypt is raising its head. Saudi money is trumped by the new attraction of Turkey. The Jordanian king is compelled to adapt himself. The axis of Turkey-Iran-Syria-Hezbollah-Hamas is the rising power, the axis of Egypt-Saudi Arabia-Jordan-Fatah is in decline.
But the most important change is the one that is taking place in international public opinion....
The present generation of idealistic youngsters from all over the world, male and female, who would once have volunteered for the kibbutzim, can now be found on the decks of the ships sailing for downtrodden, choked and starved Gaza, which touches the hearts of many young people. The pioneering Israeli David has turned into a brutish Israeli Goliath.
Even a genius of spin could not change this. For years, now, the world sees the State of Israel every day on the TV screen and on the front pages in the image of heavily armed soldiers shooting at stone-throwing children, guns firing phosphorus shells into residential quarters, helicopters executing "targeted eliminations," and now pirates attacking civilian ships on the open seas. Terrified women with wounded babies in their arms, men with amputated limbs, demolished homes. When one sees a hundred pictures like that for every picture that shows another Israel, Israel becomes a monster. The more so since the Israeli propaganda machine is successfully suppressing any news about the Israeli peace camp....
In many respects, Israel is still a strong country. But, as the sudden illumination of the flotilla affair has shown, time is not working in our favor. We should deepen our roots in the world and in the region — which means making peace with our neighbors....
6. OAKLAND PROTEST BLOCKS ISRAELI SHIP
By Gloria La Riva
OAKLAND, Calif.: In a historic and unprecedented action June 20, between 800-1,000 labor and community activists blocked the gates of the Oakland docks in the early morning hours, prompting longshore workers to refuse to cross the picket lines where they were scheduled to unload an Israeli ship.
From 5:30-9:30 a.m., and then again later in the day, a militant and spirited protest was held in front of four gates of the Stevedore Services of America, with people chanting non-stop, "Free, Free Palestine, Don’t Cross the Picket Line, and "An injury to one is an injury to all, the apartheid wall is going to fall."
Citing the health and safety provisions of their contract, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union workers refused to cross the picket line to report for duty.
Between 8:30 -9 a.m., an emergency arbitration was conducted at the Maersk parking lot nearby, with an "instant" arbitrator called to the site, to rule on whether the workers could refuse to cross the picket line without disciplinary measure.
At 9:15 a.m., after again reviewing the protests of hundreds at each gate, the arbitrator ruled in favor of the union that it was indeed unsafe for the workers to enter the docks.
To loud cheers of "Long Live Palestine!" Jess Ghannam of Free Palestine Alliance and Richard Becker of the ANSWER Coalition (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism) announced the victory. Ghannam said, "This is truly historic, never before has an Israeli ship been blocked in the United States!"
The news that a container ship from the Zim Israeli shipping line was scheduled to arrive in the Bay Area today has sparked a tremendous outpouring of solidarity for Palestine, especially in the aftermath of the Israeli massacre of volunteers bringing humanitarian aid to Gaza on May 31.
With 10 days advance notice of the ship’s arrival, the emergency "Labor/Community Committee in Solidarity with the Palestinian People" was set up. On Wednesday, 110 people from unions and community came to help organize logistics, outreach and community support. Initiating organizations included the Al-Awda Palestine Right to Return Coalition, the ANSWER Coalition, the Bay Area Labor Chapter of USLAW, and the Bay Area Labor Committee for Peace and Justice.
This week, the San Francisco Labor Council and Alameda Labor Council passed resounding resolutions denouncing Israel’s blockade of Gaza. Both councils sent out public notices of the dock action.
The ILWU has a proud history of extending its solidarity to struggling peoples the world over. In 1984, as the Black masses of South Africa were engaged in an intense struggle against apartheid, the ILWU refused for a record-setting 10 days to unload cargo from the South African "Ned Lloyd" ship. Despite million-dollar fines imposed on the union, the longshore workers held strong, providing a tremendous boost to the anti-apartheid movement.
Among the many solidarity statements that came in anticipation of the protest were those of Palestinian and Cuban workers. The Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions said, "Your action today is a milestone in international solidarity from honest and brave U.S. workers and trade unionists. Greetings to you from the trade unionists and workers of Palestine … from the trade unionists and workers trapped in Gaza."
The Central Union of Cuban Workers (CTC) wrote: "Our people have lived for 50 years of an unjust and abominable blockade by the U.S. government, so we understand very well how the Palestinian people feel and we will always be in solidarity with their just cause. Today we send you our most sincere support. Long live the solidarity of the working class! End the Blockade of Gaza! Respect and justice for the people of Palestine!"
Today’s Oakland action, in the sixth largest port in the United States, is the first of several protests and work stoppages planned around the world, including Norway, Sweden and South Africa. It is sure to inspire others to do the same.
— This article originally appeared on the PSL website at http://www.pslweb.org/site/.
7. LEADING U.S. PAPERS DISTORT GAZA WAR
By Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting
In the aftermath of Israel's May 31 raid on the Gaza humanitarian aid flotilla that killed nine activists, the Washington Post and New York Times have propagated an inaccurate historical context that serves to bolster Israeli claims.
The conventional rendition is that Israel invaded Gaza Dec. 27, 2008-Jan. 18, 2009 in order to stop a near-constant stream of rockets fired by Hamas. This history signals to readers that Israel was merely reacting to intolerable and persistent acts of violence.
But that is wildly misleading. For much of the second half of 2008, a truce between Hamas and Israel largely eliminated rocket fire from the Gaza Strip into Israel; the remaining handful of rockets were launched by rival Palestinian groups. That cease-fire was essentially shattered on Nov. 4, when an Israeli incursion killed several Hamas members. Efforts to renew the cease-fire failed, and the ensuing violence culminated in the full-scale Israeli invasion.
But the papers' revisionist history has been common throughout the flotilla coverage:
"... Israel's three-week military campaign in Gaza, which began in late December 2008, after years of rocket fire against southern Israel." (New York Times, 6/18/10). On June 22, an editorial in the "newspaper of record" argued that Israel cannot abandon its sea blockade "until Hamas stops rocketing Israeli cities and towns.
"Hamas and other groups fired rockets from the territory toward Israeli towns until Israel launched a large-scale offensive against the strip in December 2008, an operation that killed more than 1,000." (Washington Post, 6/16/10)
"Israel... invaded in late 2008 to stop a flow of rockets and destroyed thousands of buildings." (New York Times, 6/11/10)
What's most interesting is the fact that their current reporting contradicts the papers' coverage of the rockets just before Israel's assault on Gaza. On Dec. 19, 2008, the Times' Ethan Bronner reported that Hamas had been "largely successful" in seriously curtailing rocket fire from Gaza, adding that "Hamas imposed its will and even imprisoned some of those who were firing rockets." And the Washington Post editorialized on November 2, 2008, that thanks in part to "a cease-fire deal with Hamas, Israel has been more peaceful in recent months than it has been in years."
So why do outlets that have previously reported these facts accurately no longer recall them? Part of Israel's strategy of defending its attack on the humanitarian flotilla has been to stress the dangers posed by Hamas rule in the Gaza Strip; those PR efforts should not persuade news outlets to rewrite relevant history.
Take action! Ask the New York Times and the Washington Post to correct their inaccurate reporting on the cause of the Gaza War. Contact the New York Times Public Editor at email@example.com; and reach Andrew Alexander, Ombud, Washington Post, firstname.lastname@example.org.
8. U.S.-SOUTH AMERICA RIFT OVER HONDURAS
By Mark Weisbrot
At dawn one year ago, on June 28, soldiers invaded the home of Honduran President Mel Zelaya and flew him to Costa Rica. It was a frightening throwback to the days when military men, backed by a local oligarchy and often the United States, could overturn the results of democratic elections.
It would also turn out to be a pivotal moment for relations between the United States and Latin America - especially South America, where a new generation of left-of-center governments in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Venezuela were all hoping for a new relationship with Washington. This new American president, a former community organizer, had come to Trinidad just a few months earlier and shook hands with President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, and actually listened to his southern neighbors. He was more like us, they thought - former trade unionists, two women, an indigenous leader, a progressive catholic bishop, political outsiders for the most part.
But it was not to be. The first signal came when, on the day of the coup, the White House did not condemn it, merely calling on "all social and political actors" to respect democracy. The White House later joined other countries in condemning the coup, but there was a noticeable difference: while the OAS, the United Nations, and other international organizations called for the "immediate and unconditional" reinstatement of President Zelaya, no U.S. official would ever utter those words over the next five months.
Nor would U.S. officials join human rights organizations from throughout the hemisphere and the world in condemning the violence and repression of the Honduran dictatorship. Its security forces raided and shut down independent radio and TV stations, and beat and arrested thousands of peaceful demonstrators. There were reports of torture and some opposition activists were killed in circumstances that implicated the government. Since this took place during the official campaign period for the fall elections, it made free elections impossible. The Obama administration's silence was deafening.
President Zelaya traveled to Washington six times during his exile, but President Obama refused to meet with him. Meanwhile, Washington blocked the Organization of American States from taking stronger actions against the Honduran dictatorship.
The United States then supported elections under the dictatorship. The OAS and European Union refused to send observers. The vast majority of the hemisphere, including Brazil, Argentina, and Chile, were vehemently opposed to the elections. The Rio Group, which includes all of Latin America, signed a statement saying Zelaya's immediate restitution to the presidency was "indispensable" to the recognition of elections. Even the right-wing governments of Panama and Colombia, and Peru — Washington's closest allies in the region — felt obliged to sign on to the statement.
This created a rift that remains today: U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has recently been campaigning for recognition of the Honduran government, but has so far found few takers. In South America, it is only Peru and Colombia that recognize the Lobo government - the official position of the 12-member Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) is still non-recognition.
When Spain invited Pepe Lobo to Madrid for the EU-Latin America and Caribbean Summit in May, Ecuador, representing UNASUR as chair at that time, protested; so did other countries including Brazil, Argentina, and Venezuela. Lobo was forced to cancel his visit.
Washington's campaign to legitimize the government that was elected under a dictatorship accelerated with the inauguration of Lobo in January. A few days after the inauguration Hillary Clinton announced that the Honduran "crisis" had been "managed to a successful conclusion" and this "was done without violence." Two days later Clinton announced that the U.S. was restoring all assistance to Honduras despite a letter sent to her the day before by Democratic members of Congress asking her to "send a strong unambiguous message that the human rights situation in Honduras will be a critical component of upcoming decisions regarding the further normalizations of relations, as well as the resumption of financial assistance."
The repression in Honduras has continued and perhaps worsened since the November election, with dozens of opposition activists and nine journalists murdered. On June 24, 27 members of the U.S. Congress, including some of the Democratic leadership, wrote a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: "Members of social movements who oppose or criticize the government have been victims of violence and subject to ongoing intimidation . . .Violations of human rights and democratic order persist in Honduras on [President Lobo's] watch."
There is impunity for those who carried out the coup and the repression, and the government has established a "Truth Commission" that appears set to sweep all these crimes under the rug. The general who headed the armed forces during the coup was put in charge of the state telecommunications company. He then stated that he would use his new position for intelligence gathering.
Presidents like Lula da Silva of Brazil, and Michele Bachelet — who was president of Chile when South America had to fight with Washington over Honduras — take the threat of military coups seriously. They both did prison time under military dictatorships. Most of the hemisphere feels the same way. It's about time that the United States join them, and support the rights of Hondurans who are fighting for democracy, instead of fighting to legitimize a repressive regime.
[According to a report by Peter Lackowski, the Obama Administration "has renewed military aid to Honduras with a donation of 25 heavy trucks valued at $812,000. And on June 18, Ambassador Hugo Llorens announced that the Washington would give Honduras $75 million through USAID for various development projects and $20 million as part of the Merida Program to enhance security."
[In addition, he writes in upsidedownworld.org, "a determined nonviolent resistance movement has mobilized millions of Hondurans and united activists from many diverse struggles: labor, human rights, campesinos [agricultural workers], gay rights, anti-mining, indigenous rights and others. Meanwhile, intense repression, reminiscent of the U. S. trained death squads of the 1980s, has taken the lives of hundreds of Hondurans.]
Mark Weisbrot is Co-Director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C. He is also president of Just Foreign Policy [http://www.justforeignpolicy.org/]. This article was published June 30 in the Guardian.
9. SHOUT OUT FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE!
[Editor's Note: Following is the text of an extremely important speech by Maude Barlow, the National Chairperson of the influential and progressive Council of Canadians, to an audience of several thousand social activists June 25 in Toronto's Massey Hall. The meeting, with various other speakers, was titled, "Shout Out for Global Justice." Her talk took place during the June 25-27 summit meetings of the G8 and G20 nations.
[About 25,000 Canadians and some Americans participated in a peaceful mass march earlier June. 25, protesting the refusal of the world's leading nations to work seriously toward resolving problems of inequality, war, and looming environmental catastrophe. The mass media preferred to concentrate on a couple of smaller demonstrations that contained some vandalism. Authorities arrested some 900 people over the days — and there were numerous reports of police brutality and suspicions that government agents provoked some violence. The Canadian government spent well over a billion dollars to host the international gatherings, mostly on security matters, and many Canadians considered this absurdly expensive.
[The G8 is an economic council composed of the leaders of the eight richest and/or most powerful countries in the world. The G20 consists of the finance ministers and central bank governors of 19 countries and the European Union. The 8 are also members of the 20. More information about Barlow is included at the end of her talk.]
By Maude Barlow
On the eve of the G20 gathering, let’s look at some facts:
Fact #1: The world has divided into rich and poor as at no time in history. The richest 2% own more than half the household wealth in the world. The richest 10% hold 85% of total global assets and the bottom half of humanity owns less than 1% of all the wealth in the world. The three richest men in the world have more money than the poorest 48 nations.
In 1960, the wealthiest 20% of Americans made 20 times more money than the bottom 20%; five decades later, they make 75 times more. The top 10% own two thirds of the wealth while leaving the rest to share the remaining one-third. Almost 90 million Americans are "twice poor," meaning they live in households with income less than two times the poverty threshold. California is on the verge of implosion, unable to care for its citizens or its run its affairs.
Fact #2: While those responsible for the 2008 global financial crisis were bailed out and even rewarded by the G20 governments gathering here, the International Labor Organization says that in 2009, 34 million people were added to the global unemployed, swelling those ranks to 212 million, the highest ever recorded. Another 200 million are at risk in precarious jobs and the World Bank reports that another 64 million will lose their jobs in 2010.
By 2030, more than half the population of the mega cities of the global South will be slum dwellers with no access to education, health care, water or sanitation.
Fact #3: Global climate change is rapidly advancing, claiming at least 300,000 lives and $125 billion dollars in damages every year. Called the "silent crisis," climate change is melting glaciers, eroding soil, causing freak and increasingly wild storms, and displacing untold millions from rural communities to live in desperate poverty in urban slums. Almost every victim lives in the global South, in communities not responsible for greenhouse gas emissions and not represented here at this summit. The atmosphere has already warmed up almost a full degree in the last several decades and is on course to add another 2 degrees by 2100.
Fact #4: Half the tropical forests in the world — the lungs of our ecosystem - are gone; by 2030, at current rate of harvest, only 10% will be left standing. 90% of the big fish in the sea are gone, victim to wanton predatory fishing practices. Says a prominent scientist studying their demise, "there is no blue frontier left." Half the world’s wetlands — the kidneys of our ecosystems — were destroyed in the 20th century. Species extinction is taking place at a rate one thousand times greater than before humans existed. According to a Smithsonian scientist, we are headed toward a "biodiversity deficit" in which species and ecosystems will be destroyed at a rate faster than Nature can create new ones.
Fact #5: We are polluting our lakes, rivers and streams to death. Every day, 2 million tons of sewage and industrial and agricultural waste are discharged into the world’s water, the equivalent of the weight of the entire human population of 6.8 billion people. The amount of wastewater produced annually is about six times more water than exists in all the rivers of the world.
We are mining our groundwater far faster than nature can replenish it, sucking it up to grow water-guzzling chemical fed crops in deserts or to water thirsty cities who dump an astounding 700 trillion liters of land-based water as waste in the oceans every year. [1 liter of water equals 2.2 pounds of water.] The global mining industry sucks up another 800 trillion liters which it also leaves behind as poison and fully one third of global water withdrawals are now used to produce biofuels, enough water to feed the world.
Nearly 3 billion people on our planet do not have running water within a kilometer [0.62 of a mile] of their homes and every eight seconds, a child dies of water-borne disease. The global water crisis is getting worse with reports of countries such as India, Pakistan and Yemen facing depletion. The World Bank says that by 2030, global demand for water will exceed supply by 40% - an astounding figure foretelling of terrible suffering.
Fact #6: Knowing there will not be enough food and water for all in the near future, wealthy countries and global investment, pension and hedge funds are buying up land and water, fields and forests in the global South, creating a new wave of invasive colonialism that will have huge geo-political ramifications. Rich countries faced by a food shortage have bought up an area double the size of the United Kingdom in Africa alone.
I don’t think I exaggerate if I say our world has never faced a more pressing set of threats and issues than it does today. So what are the 20 leaders here going to talk about at their million-dollar-a-minute summit? By the way, this summit will likely cost close to $2 billion in the end [including immense 'security' costs] — the entire budget of the UN for one year. I assure you, they are not going to tackle the above issues in any serious way. The declarations have already been drafted, the failures already spun.
Instead, this global royalty, who have less and less in common with their people and more and more with their class, are here to advance a status quo that serves the interests of the elite in their own countries and the big business or "B20" community that will get private and privileged access to advance their free market solutions to the eager leaders.
This agenda is more of the same medicine that made the world sick in the first place: environmental deregulation, unbridled financial speculation, unlimited growth, unregulated free trade, relentless resource exploitation, tax cuts for the wealthy, cuts to social security, and a war on working people. In other words, savage capitalism.
Let’s look at our own country here and the assault that has been launched against the work of generations of Canadians toward a just society. [Prime Minister] Steven Harper’s [Conservative Party] government has cut the heart out of any group that dissents: women, First Nations, international agencies like KAIROS [a progressive welfare agency supported by Canadian churches], Alternatives, and the Canadian Council for International Cooperation. He stands silent while some try to kill our precious public health care system by the death of a thousand cuts. He has gutted the environmental assessment rules, turned over regulatory oversight to the mining, oil and gas and pulp and paper industries, and allowed an amendment to the Fisheries Act that permits perfectly healthy lakes to be renamed "tailing impoundment areas"and destroyed by mining companies.
Canada is the only country in the world that ratified the Kyoto Protocol and then officially abandoned it.... Under this government, Canada has also retreated from its former stellar international stand on human rights. Canada voted against the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and has been the most vocal opponent of the right to water at the UN as well. Let’s face it: Canada under the Harper government is increasingly seen as a human rights-denying [ecological] outlaw.... I love my country and cannot believe I would ever say such a thing but I think that, based on the Harper government’s record, the UN should deny Canada the seat on the Security Council it is seeking this fall....
Well they promised you leaders at this summit and leaders we have seen on this stage tonight. It is clearly time for the rise of the biggest civil society movement ever if we are to tackle these issues these leaders have so clearly failed to touch. This weekend, civil society won’t spend millions to build a fake lake - we will work tirelessly to save many [lakes]. Civil society won’t build a security fence [as Toronto did for the G20 gathering] — we will bridge divides. Civil society won’t hide its head in the tar sands — we will point our finger squarely at those who would trade away our future for dollars or power today and say, "Enough!"
Let us end this wonderful evening on a note of hope. When President Evo Morales called the global climate justice movement to Cochabamba two months ago, he expected 7,000 people. Instead 35,000 of us came from all over the world and worked tirelessly for four days to put together a peoples’ agenda for climate and water justice — this was also a Shout Out for Global Justice! Many exciting things came from this gathering but for me, the most exciting is a draft of a Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth which recognizes that our human rights come from a living ecosystems without which we would not survive.
As "Wild Law" author and human rights advocate Cormac Cullinan explains, "The day will come when the failure of our laws to recognize the right of a river to flow, to prohibit acts that destabilize the Earth’s climate, or to impose a duty to respect the intrinsic value and right to exist of all life will be as reprehensible as allowing people to be bought and sold." Evo Morales calls this "living well"[as opposed to living] better than others — rather to share and protect the bounty of our collective commons in a just and equitable way.
Weeks later, I was honored to be part of a delegation to the G77 and UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon. It is my firm belief that the Universal Declaration on the Rights of Mother Earth will one day take its place alongside the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights as proof that the human species can in fact advance and that in true fact, another world is possible.
There is another fact. I have four grandchildren I love like life itself. At one and the same time I worry about them coming into this world I have just described. But I travel a great deal and, at the same time, I see the privilege they have being born here in Canada with our bounty and their potential. Once a small child in Chiapas Mexico tugged at my skirt as I was walking by and said, "What about me?" Her words haunt my dreams. What about her? What about a better, more just and sustainable world? Why can we not build this? I say we can and pledge here tonight
to stay with this struggle. Another world? I already feel it in this room.
To paraphrase Arundhati Roy, "Not only is another world possible, it is under construction. On this special evening, I can hear her breathing.”
— In addition to leading the Council of Canadians, Maude Barlow chairs the board of Washington-based Food and Water Watch. She is also an executive member of the San Francisco—based International Forum on Globalization. She is the recipient of 10 honorary doctorates as well as many awards, including the 2005 Right Livelihood Award (known as the "Alternative Nobel”). Barlow is the best-selling author or co-author of 16 books, including "Blue Covenant: The Global Water Crisis and The Coming Battle for the Right to Water."
10. CONSERVATIVE FEMINISTS?
[Editor's Note: Right wing New York Times columnist Ross Douthat wrote June 14 that the election of conservative women to political office is a positive "happy consequence" of the struggles conducted by the feminist women's movement. (Link below.) Earlier, Sarah Palin referred to right-wing GOP women politicians as true feminists.
[The following article, circulated by AlterNet, was titled "How Dare Sarah Palin and Other Anti-Woman Conservatives Call Themselves Feminists?" It was written June 14 by Amanda Marcotte, and criticizes Douthat's column. She co-writes the blog Pandagon, and is the author of "It's a Jungle Out There: The Feminist Survival Guide to Politically Inhospitable Environments."]
By Amanda Marcotte
It’s a debate that’s been raging ever since Sarah Palin made her absurd "mama grizzlies" comments [in mid-May] praising conservative women as the "real feminists." Palin’s disingenuous claim that women can be feminists while opposing basic feminist ideas kick-started a surge of conservative, anti-feminist women insisting that feminists unfairly exclude conservative women from feminism.
And now Ross Douthat is wading into the fight, insisting that if conservatives can’t be feminists, then at least feminists should be happy to see so many women running for office, even women who oppose all our policy concerns. Insisting instead on the traditional definition of feminism -- "advocating the social, political, and all other rights of women equal to men" -- is, according to conservatives, a nasty, mean-spirited thing to do.
As Douthat details, this debate has risen after the surge of conservatives insisting that their new-found willingness to elect women to office is enough to get them into the feminist club (so they can set it on fire and burn it to the ground, no doubt). While Douthat punts the question of whether there can be such a thing as “conservative feminism,” he clearly sympathizes with the argument that taking advantage of feminist gains should be enough to get you into the club, even as you oppose feminist demands for future progress. His argument is quite a bit like suggesting we should hear someone out who claims to be an architect because he climbs stairs designed by someone else.
Real feminists find themselves unimpressed with the notion that there can be a feminism based around rich, powerful women passing policies that destroy the possibility of equality for all other women in the country. Nowhere in the centuries-old definition of feminism is there a phrase explaining that equality is only for rich, white, straight, married mothers with conservative politics. That Michele Bachmann has the same right as James Inhofe to trot out a particularly loony kind of right-wing nuttery doesn’t do much for the vast majority of American women, who have the same needs they always did for equal pay, equality at home, bodily autonomy and freedom from violence.
Even ignoring the dictionary definition issues at stake, there’s no real reason to think Douthat is correct that conservative “feminism” should be taken seriously as a new kind of feminism that will throw the world of feminism into chaos. The penchant for rewriting history that underpins the anti-feminist claims to feminism should be enough to preclude any need to take them seriously. For instance, anti-feminists have aggressively misrepresented the history of the suffrage movement, trying to imply that the women who supported “voluntary motherhood” would be hostile to modern methods of family planning. If you’re willing to do that, nothing is sacred.
In fact Douthat misrepresents basic American history:
"In this environment, it isn’t a surprise that women in the public square now disagree about everything from abortion to health care to foreign policy. If anything, it’s a sign that feminism may be returning to its fractious, ideologically unpredictable roots."
His assumption that American women have walked in lockstep since the 19th century and are only now beginning to find disagreement is demonstrably false.
As I detailed at Slate, as long as there have been feminists, there have been women who loudly reject feminism. Plenty of women resisted the vote, resisted anti-discrimination legislation, resisted equal education, and even resisted the fight against rape and domestic violence. And they’ve been amply rewarded for it by men who want to hear women say they don’t want silly things like rights. Douthat owes Phyllis Schlafly an apology for insinuating that this new crop of anti-feminist women is doing something new.
It is true that 19th-century feminism was disorganized and fractious compared to modern-day feminism, but that’s because early feminists hadn’t had nearly two centuries of experimentation to figure out the best ways to achieve the goals laid out at Seneca Falls. (It’s worth noting that modern anti-feminists claiming to be feminists still disagree with some of the Seneca Falls demands, especially in terms of ending male dominance at home and in church, as well as ending the sexual double standard.) The demands of modern feminists for reproductive rights and health care stem not from blind loyalty to some arbitrary liberal platform, but because we actually see how these policies will further our goal of equality for all women.
Douthat is right about one thing. The current crop of female conservative leaders does owe a great deal to the modern women’s movement. But anti-feminist women taking advantage of feminist gains without so much as a thank-you has been the pattern throughout history. Women who opposed the vote or equal pay happily took these things on for themselves after they failed to stop progress. The new crop of conservative women will happily gobble up the rights won for them by others, while insisting that no one else gets to join the party. Sorry, Ross, but that doesn’t make them feminists. It just makes them greedy.
Marcotte's article is at http://www.alternet.org/story/147201/
Douthat's article, titled "No Mistique About Feminism," is at http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/14/opinion/14douthat.html
11. DEMOCRATIC POLITICIANS BACK ISRAEL
[Editor's Note: The Obama White House and the Democratic Congress — with eyes on the November congressional election — are asserting their pro-Israeli credentials, according to a June 23 dispatch from Inter Press Service by Jim Lobe. Here are excerpts.]
By Jim Lobe
Despite the growing international condemnation and isolation incurred by the government of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, the right-wing leadership of the so-called "Israel Lobby" here is riding high in the U.S. Congress.
So far this week, it has chalked up a key victory on Capitol Hill in its longstanding effort to impose "crippling sanctions" against Iran.
It also succeeded in getting a large majority of U.S. lawmakers to fire a shot across the bow of the government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, which has led the international chorus of criticism against the Jewish state since the deadly Israeli seizure in international waters of a Turkish vessel carrying humanitarian supplies to Gaza.
While privately critical — often scathingly so — of Israel’s recent behavior, especially the May 31 commando raid, top officials of the administration of President Barack Obama are increasingly reluctant to air their complaints in public lest they harm Democratic prospects for retaining control of both houses of Congress after the mid-term elections in November.
Indeed, Obama will himself host Netanyahu at the White House in what is being billed as a "kiss-and-make-up" session Jul. 6 designed to reassure Jewish voters, in particular, that the two leaders’ contretemps over Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem earlier this spring has been put behind them.
Obama, according to some reports circulating here, hopes to receive a return invitation from his guest to visit Israel in October, a month before the November elections here.
Despite their relatively small number — about 2% of the total U.S. population and about 3% of voters in most elections, Jewish Americans are major donors to political campaigns, accounting for as much as 25% of all financial contributions to national campaigns and as much as 40% of all contributions to Democratic candidates, in particular.
They are also widely — if often mistakenly — seen by political candidates as virtually unconditional supporters of Israel prepared to reward or punish candidates based on their positions on the Jewish state.
"Every Democrat assumes that the biggest discernible group that contributes to their campaign is Jews," according to M.J. Rosenberg, a Middle East analyst who worked for the most powerful Lobby group, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), in the 1980s. "If a donor has a Jewish name, or is known to be Jewish, the assumption is that he or she is pro-Israel and will be offended by any deviation from the [Lobby's] line," he said.
At the same time, harsh criticism of Israel by the administration risks mobilizing the Christian Right, a major constituency of the Republican Party, whose support for Israel’s ruling Likud Party and Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem and the occupied territories is based primarily on its theological views.
Thus, with the mid-term elections less than five months away and a succession of polls predicting major gains for Republicans in both houses, Obama and senior Democrats appear eager to avoid clashing with Israel, an impression that AIPAC and its allies are using to maximum advantage on Capitol Hill.
Under pressure from the Lobby, the Democratic leadership in Congress June 21 approved sweeping sanctions legislation aimed at third-country companies that do business with Iran without granting Obama the kind of flexibility in implementing the sanctions — particularly as they apply to Russia and China — that he had sought. While the White House indicated June 22 that it still hopes to work out some changes in the bill before Obama agrees to sign it, the fact that the administration’s own lobbying efforts had failed to bring along top Democratic leaders on the issue marked a major victory for AIPAC and its allies....
In what many observers saw as a similarly impressive display of the Lobby’s strength, 87 of the 100 senators signed an AIPAC-backed letter to Obama that not only supported Israel’s blockade of Hamas-controlled Gaza, but also defended Israel’s efforts to enforce it, specifically its attack on the Turkish vessel [which resulted in the deaths of nine Turkish activists, including one who was a U.S. citizen].... Indeed, some lawmakers most closely associated with the Lobby have since called for the administration to suspend military ties with Turkey or to seek its expulsion from NATO.