Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

October 18, 2019

Our Boys

Filed under: Counterpunch,Palestine,television — louisproyect @ 9:34 pm

COUNTERPUNCH, OCTOBER 18, 2019

Last month Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called for a boycott against Israel’s channel 12 for producing the HBO mini-series “Our Boys.” He described it as anti-Semitic and slandering Israel internationally. This month I watched “Our Boys” and can recommend it not only as a docudrama but as a brutally honest retelling of how the Israeli cops apprehended 3 West Bank settlers that murdered a 16-year old Palestinian boy. They were seeking to avenge Hamas’s killing of 3 teen-aged boys who were settlers like them. What makes the show so authentic was the division of labor between Israeli and Palestinian film-makers who were determined to get the story right. The Israelis wrote the script for the Jewish characters. They were either cops or part of the West Bank settlement that bred the racism that allowed 3 men to beat a defenseless teen with a wrench until barely conscious. They finished him off by pouring gasoline down his throat and then setting fire to him.

It was left to director/screenwriter Tawfik Abu-Wael to bring the Palestinians to life. To his great credit, he has made the parents of the martyred son Mohammed Abu Khdeir two of the more fully realized Palestinian characters in any film I have seen. As the father Hussein Abu Khdeir, Johnny Arbid portrays a man being torn by two opposing forces, even to the point of splitting him in half psychologically. On one side is the Palestinian community that is mainly interested in his son being exploited as a martyr to benefit the movement. On the other is the Israeli police that needs his cooperation to help them make the arrest and prosecution of 3 settlers acceptable to most Israelis. His presence at the trial is key, even if it means defying the Palestinian political leadership. They denounce the trial in advance as being a farce that would allow the 3 to go free. His wife Suha Abu Khdeir (Ruba Blal) can accept his decision to cooperate with the police but is still distrustful enough to consider not showing up for the trial. Their drama, including the horrors of discovering what happened to their son, helps to draw you into the story.

Continue reading

August 29, 2019

Steven Salaita on academic freedom

Filed under: Academia,Palestine — louisproyect @ 12:54 pm

(Rescued from behind a paywall)

Chronicle of Higher Education Review

My Life As a Cautionary Tale

Probing the limits of academic freedom.

By Steven Salaita

Photographs by Greg Kahn for The Chronicle

August 28, 2019

Academic freedom is inhumane. Its inhumanity isn’t of the physical, legal, or intellectual variety. It is inhumane because it cannot provide the very thing it promises: freedom.

Why? Because academic freedom can do little to alter the fine-tuned cultures of obedience that govern nearly every campus. I cannot venture a comprehensive theory of freedom or know for certain in what spaces freedom may be possible, but it won’t be in selective institutions possessed of wealthy donors, legislative overseers, defense contracts, and opulent endowments.

I know this from experience. In the summer of 2014, during a war between Israel and Gaza, I took to Twitter to express my outrage. “At this point, if Netanyahu appeared on TV with a necklace made from the teeth of Palestinian children, would anybody be surprised?” I wrote. In another tweet, I wrote, “You may be too refined to say it, but I’m not: I wish all the fucking West Bank settlers would go missing.” By August, I’d been fired from my tenured position at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

After my lawsuit with the university had been settled but before I left academe, I visited another American campus to speak about academic freedom. The itinerary included a meeting with the local chapter of the American Association of University Professors, which opposes academic boycotts of Israeli universities but had intervened strongly on my side after I was fired. Rather than a discussion or even an argument about what academic freedom means for critics of Israel, the gathering ended up being a kind of inquest. The professor who had convened the roundtable read several of my tweets — without mentioning the horrors to which they responded — and then compared them against relevant sections of the AAUP manual. I confess to having been annoyed.

By that point I no longer thought about the tweets. I couldn’t recall my state of mind when I wrote them. More important, dozens of scholarly associations, various committees at the University of Illinois, labor unions, a federal judge, individual theorists of free speech, and the AAUP itself had already declared my case a clear-cut violation of academic freedom.

Listening to my words interspersed with itemized bylaws was jarring, but it helped clarify an ethic that’s normally implicit: When I make a public comment, I don’t care if it conforms to the etiquette of a speech manual. I’m instead concerned with the needs and aspirations of the dispossessed. Conditioning critique on the conventions of bourgeois civil liberties, and in deference to specters of recrimination, abrogates any meaningful notion of political independence. To ignore those conventions, to engage the world based on a set of fugitive values, will necessarily frustrate those in power in ways that require protection beyond the scope of academic freedom. The damnable comment is precisely what academic freedom attempts to protect, but it is incapable of preventing unsanctioned forms of punishment, regulation of the job market according to docility, or the increasing contingency of labor, which stands today as the greatest threat to academic freedom. Human beings are too complicated for rule books. Problem is, we’re also too unruly for freedom. In institutions like universities that reproduce social order, rule books will always win.

Academic freedom preserves democracy; academic freedom emboldens research; academic freedom facilitates faculty governance. These by now are truisms.

But academic freedom is no simple matter. We have distinct ways of understanding it, often according to class, discipline, race, gender, and ideology. At base, academic freedom entitles us, as both faculty and students, to say or investigate things that might upset others without fear of retaliation. As with any condition of speech, limits exist. And as always, complexity begins at the imposition of limits.

Many people, for example, are unwilling to protect a Nazi’s right to teach undergraduates. Others believe that the principle of free speech overrides the harm attending the Nazi’s presence. Let’s grant the argument that the Nazi has to go; we don’t want racism on campus, right? But what happens if a Jewish student says criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic, or if a white student considers affirmation of blackness a form of racial hostility? We’ve been warned again and again that limiting reactionary speech will inevitably lead to the repression of all speech, including from the left. This is the absolutist view of academic freedom — the belief that protection ought to be evenly applied across the ideological spectrum. It’s a solid view. I have no fundamental problem with it. But I do question the wisdom of allowing a civil liberty to dominate notions of freedom. 

I’m not attempting to convince you to dispose of academic freedom. But it shouldn’t be the limit of your devotion.

In the end, we have to apply value judgments to balance speech rights with public safety. In a society like America, steeped in the legacy of racism, this task is remarkably difficult. No agreement exists about what comprises appropriate speech. As a result, there’s no way to prioritize a set of beliefs without accusations of hypocrisy (or without actual hypocrisy). The easy answer is to protect speech equally and let a marketplace of ideas sort the winners and losers.

There’s a catch, though. Value judgments don’t arise in a vacuum, and discourses don’t exist in a free market. Structural forces, often unseen, always beneficial to the elite, determine which ideas get a hearing. It’s a lopsided competition. Those who humor the ruling class will always enjoy a strong advantage, something aspiring academics are happy to exploit. Sure, academic freedom is meant to protect insurgent politics, and often does, but the milieu in which it operates has plenty of ways to neutralize or quash insurgency.

I focus on radical ideas because Palestine, one of my interests and the source of my persecution, belongs to the set of issues considered dangerous by polite society. Others include Black liberation, Indigenous nationalism, open borders, decolonization, trans-inclusivity, labor militancy, communism, radical ecology, and anti-imperialism. Certain forms of speech reliably cause people trouble: condemning the police, questioning patriotism, disparaging whiteness, promoting economic redistribution, impeaching the military — anything, really, that conceptualizes racism or inequality as a systemic problem rather than an individual failing.

Academic freedom doesn’t prevent sexual violence. It doesn’t disrupt racial capitalism. It doesn’t hinder obscene inequality. Academic freedom isn’t a capable deterrent to genocide. The devotee of academic freedom will say that it’s not meant to do any of those things. This is correct. Academic freedom has humbler ambitions. The fact that academic freedom has a specific mandate doesn’t detract from its importance. I’m not attempting to convince you to dispose of academic freedom. I’m suggesting that it shouldn’t be the limit of your devotion.

So what does freedom mean in an academic economy structured to reward obedience? No thinking person buys the myth of merit. Academe is filled with mediocrities who achieved stardom by flattering the ruling class. Already, then, freedom is tenuous because livelihood is contingent on respectability, itself contingent on pleasing the ruling elite. Cultures of online exchange promise a kind of freedom, but more than anything they illuminate the preponderance of coercion. Nobody who covets white-collar stability will make a comment on social media without considering the possible fallout. Every hiring committee you’ll ever encounter staffs Twitter’s electronic panopticon.

Once a narrative about an academic’s offensive social media profile takes hold, it becomes a permanent demerit. I can’t find a single university president who will affirm my right to extramural speech. I can’t get an office job with any campus or corporation that has access to Google. I now drive a school bus.  Civil liberties can offer recourse against governmental repression, but they’re helpless against the capitalist impulse to eliminate disruptors.

Tell me, then. What opportunity? What autonomy? What freedom?

The primary muscle behind academic freedom, at least in America, are the courts and labor unions. The AAUP, for example, functions as a union on various campuses, including the American University of Beirut, where I worked for two years. Unions have a mandate to do more than observe and document violations of academic freedom. They attempt to strengthen faculty governance, which is obliged to serve the interests of underrepresented students and instructors, along with fighting the growing tide of precarity. It’s not at all clear, then, that concern with justice is beyond the purview of academic freedom.

As to the courts, they can sometimes provide recourse, but we should consider the timing of litigation and the nature of the restitution it offers. Administrators certainly consider these things. When a professor generates controversy, university leaders will undertake a cost-benefit analysis wherein they measure the damage from a broken contract or violation of academic freedom against the losses they might incur from unhappy donors and politicians.

I sued, and the courts, as the university’s leadership expected (saying so in private emails), took my side. Academic freedom provided recourse. Case closed, right? Not quite.

The fallout for me was permanent. I think about it when I’m inspecting my school bus on a 20-degree morning.

No amount of money, no legal recognition that I was wronged, will replace the loss of my academic career, to which I devoted the majority of my life. Academic freedom can’t make any university hire me, no matter how strong my CV. Everybody involved in the imbroglio at Illinois got to pick up the pieces of their vocation and move on to different pastures. I didn’t. The fallout for me was permanent. They can put the ugly situation behind them. It’s always right in front of me. I think about these things when I’m inspecting my school bus in the dark of a 20-degree morning.

It’s important, then, to avoid treating academic freedom as sacrosanct and view it instead as a participant in material politics. Academic freedom cannot function without tenure, worker solidarity, and an adequate job market, which are all in decline. “Can academic freedom be saved?” is a less pertinent question than, “Is there any longer a marketplace for academic freedom?” The corporate university is disarming academic freedom by diminishing the circumstances in which it can be effective.

Let’s not shy away from the complicity of the tenured professoriate in this sorry state of affairs. Tenured positions are down. Government funding has decreased. The managerial class is a bloated monstrosity. Some instructors work multiple jobs without adequate benefits. Sexual violence is common. Racism appears poised for another golden age. The humanities are barely surviving. Student debt is outrageous. And those with job security did little to prevent any of it.

This is the kind of comment that gets me into trouble. “What evidence is there for the claim?” tenured faculty will want to know. Well, my evidence is simple: Everything occurred while you were on the clock. This fact creates a paradox for anybody who would disavow responsibility. You either claim helplessness, in which case academic freedom is unnecessary, or you acknowledge that academic freedom is a limited commodity available to those who enjoy some level of institutional power.

I was a tenured faculty member for 12 years and count myself among the complicit. I didn’t do nearly enough to support my contingent comrades — because I didn’t properly see them as comrades, something my position informally demanded.  We all know, in personal moments of brutal honesty, that radical devotion to lesser classes is almost always just professional branding — that deep down we’re scared of the punishment that awaits if we offend the wrong people. Academic freedom doesn’t take away the fear because we know that management can always find ways around it. 

The problem ultimately isn’t only individual. Professional associations talk a lot about this crisis or that emergency but do little to organize their members. Departments and colleges consent to divide and conquer strategies rather than uniting across disciplinary boundaries. Prestige triumphs over solidarity. The damage may be irreversible.

I can be accused of speaking from a sense of pessimism cultivated by ostracization. I accept that criticism. I’d respond by pointing out that useful critique often comes from people who suffer the worst tendencies of a culture or profession. I can’t feign objectivity or claim to speak for any collective. Academe is a large profession, with thousands of disciplines and subcultures. Its inhabitants have vastly different experiences and impressions.

But this much I know: My ouster from academe brought into focus problems I scarcely noticed when I was still on the inside. College students often talk of unlearning the dogmas they internalized from their homes, secondary schools, and places of worship. I’m constantly unlearning the strictures of being learned, exorcising the finely tuned customs of obedience into which I was so carefully socialized. Now I instantly recognize when putatively radical scholars reproduce the imperatives of power through a compulsion to find nuance where old-fashioned outrage is more appropriate.

I didn’t do nearly enough to support my contingent comrades — because I didn’t properly see them as comrades.

Academic freedom is critical to a functional university. But it shouldn’t be an end in itself. It is only one instrument among many that can help us realize a world unlimited by the stagnant doctrines of pragmatism.

Let us then imagine what a truly free campus in a free society would look like. Let us not wait for institutions to authorize our imagination. Let us redefine disrepute. Let us harbor intellectual fugitives.

Let us, above all, embrace the painful but liberating recognition that optimizing our humanity depends upon the obsolescence of civil rights, for they are necessary only in societies that profit from repression.

For five years, I’ve had to consider whether my sharp criticism of Israel and subsequent recalcitrance — my unwillingness to grovel my way back into academe’s good graces — were worth it. I wouldn’t change anything, nor do I entertain regret. I endure the punishment not because I’m a sucker or a martyr — I have no illusions about the ruthlessness of capital, and I despise the lionization of public figures — but because I want the vision of freedom ubiquitous among the dispossessed to survive. 

That’s how we win. That’s how the downtrodden have always won. By defying the logic of recrimination. By depleting its power through unapologetic defiance. We have to be willing to drive buses, sweep floors, stock groceries, wait tables, whatever allows us to feel intellectual freedom.

They took my career. They took my health insurance. They forced me into hourly labor. What do I have left? The one thing they can’t extinguish: a fixation on equality, recorded in steady rhythms with an uncapped pen. In other words: freedom.

Steven Salaita is the author of Uncivil Rites: Palestine and the Limits of Academic Freedom (Haymarket Books, 2015). This essay is adapted from his 2019 TD Davie Memorial Lecture, delivered in August at the University of Cape Town.

May 18, 2018

Ann Coulter on Syria and Gaza

Filed under: Palestine,Syria — louisproyect @ 2:07 pm

E.M. Forster: “Only Connect” (epigraph to Howard’s End)

April 29, 2018

Palestine and Israel

Filed under: Brian A. Mitchell,Palestine,zionism — louisproyect @ 10:44 pm

Palestinians fleeing their homes during the 1948 Nakba – ‘the great catastrophe’

A Brian A. Mitchell guest post.

The power and importance of original quotes cannot be stressed enough. It is most revealing and undeniable, especially to the incredulous, to let Presidents, Prime Ministers and military leaders speak for themselves. Through tutoring, speaking, articles, debates and general argument, I have always found that original quoted statements have the most powerful impact; far more than any dialogue from me or any journalist or academic could ever have; and were an integral part of my political education. Many of these quotes are not widely known, some not at all. So please do spread them widely so that many more people can know what really goes on in this troubled world in our name. Although some of the quotes may be dated, the ideology of capitalism remains more inhuman, predatory, warlike, not only murderous but more genocidal every day.

Why You Will Not Find Israel On Any Pre 1948 Map: How the US Stole Palestine.

Ever wondered how Palestine became Israel? If a religion can claim a homeland, a state; I am atheist but was brought up and educated a Roman Catholic, so where is my homeland? Perhaps Rome or the southern half of Italy? And what about Buddhists, Hindus, Moslems, Baptists, Anglicans, Confucians or Rosicrucians, where are their homelands or states? If a foreign peoples came to occupy your country with “proof” of ownership from ancient papyrus scrolls, wouldn’t you resist them with all means at your disposal? As for the Bible: (the Red Sea parting so the Jews could return to their homeland, not mentioning how they crossed in the first place): if in thousands of years time, archaeologists digging in what was Hollywood find Walt Disney’s manuscripts, is that proof that Mickey Mouse existed?

Zionists considered settling various countries as a Jewish homeland or state since the first Zionist Congress in Basle in 1897, including British East Africa, Madagascar, British Guiana and Birobijan. Palestine was chosen under US pressure and is undoubtedly less a state, more a large piece of US military real estate (Israel has nuclear weapons) on the edge of all the oil of the Middle East and North Africa, and that is why Israel was created. After all, look who consumes the largest amount of the world’s oil resources.

Isreal was then settled by millions of Jews from all over the world, mainly the US, USSR and Europe. Israel’s Right of Return law (aliya) permits any Jew or anybody who becomes a Jew anywhere in the world Israeli citizenship. This is remarkably similar to Nazi Germany’s Blood Law permitting anyone in the world regardless of nationality German citizenship. Isreal ignores UN Resolution 194 which stipulates that refugees can return to their land and compensation for loss or damage of property to those choosing not to return. But Palestinians who were expelled from their land do not have any right of return. Israel has only to declare any Palestinian land a closed military zone and confiscates the land. It is a demand of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that Palestinians recognise Israel as a “State of the Jewish People.”)

NOTE that it is essential to be aware that any support for the Palestinians and anything said against Zionism (the creation of Israel) is erroneously claimed to be anti-Semitic (meaning only anti Jewish) by over defensive Zionist apologists, ignorant or more likely deliberately distortive of history, anthropology, palaeontology, ethnology, languages and culture. Anti Zionism is not anti Jewish or anti Semitic. For a start, the Semitic peoples included Caucasians, Arabs, Sumerians (Iraq), Hebrews, Assyrians, Phoenicians (Lebanon, then part of Turkey and previously the former Ottoman Empire), Syrians, Persians, Jordanians, Ethiopians, Egyptians and other Middle Eastern and Northern African peoples. The Semitic languages are part of the Afro-Asiatic group of languages. In some cases the Semitic peoples and languages even precede the Bible, Christianity, the Torah and any Jewish religion.

Elected to my college Student Union because I was popular with foreign students, among them Palestinians, Israelis, Jews, non-Jews and atheists; who worked together in an anti Zionist organisation, all agreed that Israel was created for US geo-political-military purposes to control Middle Eastern oil resources. These quotes are all thoroughly verified and almost all are from Zionist, Israeli or Jewish politicians and authors.

See especially:

“Israeli Apartheid. A Beginner’s Guide.”
(Ben White. Pluto Press, London and New York.)

“Against Our Better Judgement. The Hidden History of How the U.S. Was Used to Create Israel.”
(Alison Weir. Published by If Americans Knew )

“The Invention of the Land of Israel.”
(Tel Aviv University Israeli Emeritus Professor Shlomo Sand. Verso. London and New York.)


How to Steal A State: First Find “God’s Promised Land” in an Ancient Manuscript, Then Occupy It as Quickly as Possible and Eliminate the Existing Arab Population.

“This country exists as the fulfillment of a promise made by God Himself. It would be ridiculous to ask it to account for its legitimacy.”

(Golda Meir, Le Monde, 15 October 1971,)


“The Oslo agreement is very important for the Palestinians since it is the only official agreed-upon document they got. We have another document, a much older one … the Bible.”

(Ariel Sharon, speaking at a Washington symposium, 8 May 1998.)


“When we occupy the land, we shall bring immediate benefits to the state that received us. We must expropriate gently the private property on the estates assigned to us. We shall try to spirit the penniless population across the border by procuring employment for it in the transit countries, while denying it any employment in our country. … Both the process of expropriation and the removal of the poor must be carried out discreetly and circumspectly. Let the owners of immovable property believe that they are cheating us, selling us something far more than they are worth. But we are not going to sell them anything back.”

(Hungary born World Zionist founder Theodor Herzl, in his diary June 12 1895.)


“Palestine is a country without a people, the Jews are a people without a country. … If you wish to give a country to a people without a country, it is utter foolishness to allow it to be the country of two peoples. … The Jews will suffer and so will their neighbours. One of the two: a different place must be found either for the Jews or for their neighbours. … We must be prepared either to drive out by sword the Arab tribes in possession as our fathers did or to grapple with the problem of a large alien population, mostly Mohammedans [Muslims].”

(British Zionist leader Israel Zangwill.)


“The settlement of the Land of Israel is the essence of Zionism. Without settlement, we will not fulfil Zionism. It’s that simple.”

(Israeli Prime minister Yitzhak Shamir.)


“At Basle, I founded the Jewish state… If not in five years, then certainly in fifty, everyone will realize it.”

(Hungary born World Zionist founder Theodor Herzl, in his diary September 3 1897.)


“His Majesty’s Government views with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which shall prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by the Jews in any other country.”

(British Foreign Secretary Lord Arthur Balfour, in a letter called the Balfour Declaration, (not to be mistaken for the Balfour Memorandum, below) to billionaire Lord Walter Rothschild and the Zionist Federation of Great Britain, November 2 1917; supporting Zionism – the creation of Israel as a state in Palestinian land.)


“For in Palestine we do not propose even to go throught the form of consulting the wishes of the present inhabitants of the country… Zionism, be it right or wrong, good or bad, is rooted in age-long traditions, in present needs, in future hopes, for far profounder import than the desires and prejudices of the 700,000 Arabs who now inhabit that ancient land.”

(British Foreign Secretary Lord Arthur Balfour in a private memo to Lord Curzon (called the Balfour Memorandum, not to be mistaken for the Balfour Declaration, above), August 11 1919; supporting Zionism. What part of humanity is it that can support something seen as “right or wrong,” “good or bad,” just because it is “rooted in age long traditions,”?)


“Accept my congratulations on this splendid conquest… We are all proud of the excellent leadership and the fighting spirit in this great attack… you have made history in Israel … Continue thus until victory. As in Dier Yassin, so everywhere, we will attack and smite the enemy. God, God, Thou hast chosen us for conquest.”

(Zionist terrorist group leader and first Prime Minister of Israel David Ben Gurion. The Irgun under its leader Menachem Begin bombed the King David hotel in Jerusalem which was the British army headquarters in 1946. Over 200 Arabs were massacred in Deir Yassin in 1948.)


“The past leaders of our movement left us a clear message to keep Eretz [Biblical] Israel from the Sea to the River Jordan for future generations, for the mass aliya [Jewish immigration], and for the Jewish people, all of whom will be gathered into this country.”

(Former Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, November 1990.)


“The Promised Land extends from the River of Egypt to the Euphrates. It includes parts of Syria and Lebanon.”

(Jewish Agency for Palestine member Rabbi Fischmann to UN, 1947.)


“For thousands of years, we Jews have been nourished and sustained by a yearning for our historic land… I believed and to this day still believe in our people’s eternal and historic right to this entire land.”

(British Mandate Palestine born Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.)


“If I were an Arab leader, I would never sign an agreement with Israel. It is normal; we have taken their country. It is true God promised it to us, but how could that interest them? Our God is not theirs. There has been Anti-Semitism, the Nazis, Hitler, Auschwitz, but was that their fault? They see but one thing: we have come and we have stolen their country. Why would they accept that?”

(Zionist terrorist group leader and first Prime Minister of Israel David Ben Gurion.)


“Jerusalem was and will for ever be our capital. Eretz Israel will be restored to the people of Israel. All of it. And for Ever.”

(Menachem Begin, on the UN vote to partition Palestine.)


“Here, in the Land of Israel, we returned and built a nation. Here, in the Land of Israel, we established a State. The Land of the prophets, which bequeathed to the world the values of morality, law and justice, was after two thousand years, restored to its lawful owner, the members of the Jewish People. … we have built an exceptional national Home and State.”

(British Mandate Palestine born Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. So before the “prophets” humanity had no values or morality, law or justice?)


“Jordan is a part from Eretz Israel in history.”

(Israeli Prime minister Ariel Sharon, 2000.)


“We should prepare to go over to the offensive. Our aim is to smash Lebanon, Trans-Jordan, and Syria. The weak point is Lebanon, for the Moslem regime is artificial and easy for us to undermine. We shall establish a Christian state there, and then we will smash the Arab Legion, eliminate Trans-Jordan; Syria will fall to us. We then bomb and move on and take Port Said, Alexandria and Sinai.”

(Zionist terrorist group leader and first Prime Minister of Israel David Ben Gurion, May 1948. So the Moslem regime is artificial but the Israeli regime is not?!)


”The present map of Palestine was drawn by the British mandate. The Jewish people have another map which our youth and adults should strive to fulfill – From the Nile to the Euphrates.”

(Ben Gurion.)


 

Occupying the Palestinian Land.

“A partial Jewish State is not the end, but only the beginning. I am certain that we can not be prevented from settling in the other parts of the country and the region.

(First Prime Minister of Israel David Ben Gurion, in a letter to his son, 1937.)


“…there can be no stable and strong Jewish state so long as it has a Jewish majority of only 60 per cent.”

(Irgun terrorist group leader and first Prime Minister of Israel David Ben Gurion, speech, December 3 1947, in his book “As Israel Fights.”)


“If the Arabs in Israel form 40 per cent of the population, this is the end of the Jewish state. But 20 per cent is also a problem… If the relationship with these 20 per cent becomes problematic, the [Israeli] state is entitled to employ extreme measures.”

(Tel Aviv born Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth, December 17 2003.)


“During the last 100 years our people have been in a process of building up the country and the nation, of expansion, of getting additional Jews and additional settlements in order to expand the borders here. Let no Jew say that the process has ended. Let no Jew say that we are near the end of the road.”

(Ottoman Empire born Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Dayan.)


“If there are other inhabitants there, they must be transferred to some other place. We must take over the land.”

(Russia born Zionist leader and Jewish National Fund chairman Abraham Ussishkin, 1930.)


“I don’t mind if after the job is done you put me in front of a Nuremberg Trial and then jail me for life. Hang me if you want, as a war criminal. What you don’t understand is that the dirty work of Zionism is not finished yet, far from it.”

(Ariel Sharon to Amos Oz, editor of Davar, Dec. 17 1982.)


“One certain truth is that there is no Zionist settlement and there is no Jewish State without displacing Arabs and without confiscating lands and fencing them off.”

(Israeli journalist Ben Porat, in Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth, July 14 1972.)


“after we become a strong force, as a result of the creation of a state, we shall abolish partition and expand into the whole of Palestine.”

(Irgun Zionist terrorist group leader and first Prime Minister of Israel David Ben Gurion, 1938.)


“Ben Gurion was right … Without the uprooting of the Palestinians, a Jewish state would not have arisen here.”

(Israeli historian in Ben Gurion University Benny Morris, in Israeli newspaper Haaretz, January 9 2004.)


“This is only a stage in the realisation of Zionism and it should prepare the ground for our expansion throughout the country … The state, however, must enforce order and security and it will do this not by moralising and preaching ‘sermons on the mount’ but by machine guns, which we will need. … If we will receive in time the arms we have already purchased, and maybe even receive some of that promised by the UN [US dominated], we will be able not only to defend but also to inflict death blows on the Syrians in their own country, and take over Palestine as a whole.”

(Irgun terrorist group leader and first Prime Minister of Israel David Ben Gurion, 1938. The arms were supplied largely by Britain and the US.)


“The transfer of the Arab population from the area of the Jewish state does not serve only one aim, to diminish the Arab population. It also serves a second, no less important aim, which is to evacuate land presently held and cultivated by the Arabs and thus to release it for the Jewish inhabitants.”

(Jewish National Fund director Joseph Weitz, to the Committee for Population Transfer, 1937.)


“Everybody has to move, run and grab as many (Palestinian) hilltops as they can to enlarge the
(Jewish) settlements because everything we take now will stay ours… Everything we don’t grab will go to them.”

(Israeli Foreign Minister Ariel Sharon, to a meeting of the Tsomet Party, Agence France Presse, Nov. 15, 1998.)


“If I were a Palestinian, I would be a terrorist.”

(Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak.)


“Let us not ignore the truth among ourselves … we are the aggressors and they defend themselves… The country is theirs, because they inhabit it, whereas we want to come here and settle down, and in their view we want to take away from them their country.”

(Zionist terrorist group leader and first Prime Minister of Israel David Ben Gurion. [Only in their view?!])


“Israel is the Jews’ land… It was never the Arabs’ land, even when virtually all of its inhabitants were Arab. Israel belongs to four million Russian Jews despite the fact that they were not born here. It is the land of nine million other Jews throughout the world, even if they have no present plans to live in it.”

(British Mandated Palestine Zionist Israel Eldad.)


“Before (the Palestinians) very eyes we are possessing the land and the villages where they and their ancestors have lived. We are the generation of colonizers and without the steel helmet and the gun barrel we cannot plant a tree and build a house.”

(Ottoman Empire Palestine born Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Dayan.)


“By a Jewish national home, I mean the creation of such conditions that as a country is developed, we can pour in a considerable number of immigrants and finally establish such a society in Palestine that Palestine shall be as Jewish as England is English…”

(Zionist leader and first President of Israel Chaim Weizmann. Ignoring the obvious fact that the word Jewish refers to a religion, not a nationality, that English is a nationality, not a religion, nor is a country a race, and if England is English, then the nation Palestine is therefore Palestinian.)


“Jews have been entitled to simply show up and declare themselves to be Israeli citizens … Essentially all Jews everywhere are Israeli citizens by right.”

(Israel’s Law of Return (Aliyah), Jewish Agency, July 1950.)


 

An Israeli Genocide: Eliminating the Existing Palestinian Population.

“Between ourselves it must be clear that there is no room for both people in this country. We shall not achieve our goal if the Arabs are in this small country. There is no other way than to transfer the Arabs from here to the neighbouring countries, to transfer all of them; not one village, not one tribe should be left.”

(Director of the Jewish National Fund, head of the Jewish Agency’s Colonization Department, the Zionist agency charged with acquiring Palestinian land, Yosef Weitz in his diary, 1940.)


“It is the duty of Israeli leaders to explain to public opinion, clearly and courageously, a certain number of facts that are forgotten with time. The first of these is that there is no Zionism, colonialization or Jewish State without the eviction of the Arabs and the expropriation of their lands.”

(Yoram Bar Porath, Yedioth Ahronoth, July 14 1972.)


“Our thought is that the colonization of Palestine has to go in two directions: Jewish settlement in Eretz Israel and the resettlement of the Arabs of Eretz Israel in areas outside the country. The transfer of so many Arabs may seem at first unacceptable economically, but is nonetheless practical. It does not require too much money to resettle a Palestinian village on another land.”

(Ukraine born World Zionist Congress leader Leo Motzkin, 1917. Eretz Israel is loosely the region of Jordan, Palestine, Cyprus, Syria, Lebanon, and part of Sinai. Zionists claim it is Biblical Israel, that is if you believe the Dead Sea Scrolls
(the Bible), written by several people over many ancient historical periods, and which was never the title deeds to Palestine.)


“The most spectacular event in the contemporary history of Palestine – more spectacular in a sense than the creation of the Jewish state – is the wholesale evacuation of its Arab population which has swept with it also thousands of Arabs from areas threatened and/or occupied by us outside our boundaries.”

(Israeli Foreign Minister Moshe Shertok, in a letter to Chairnam of the World Jewish Congress Nahun Goldmann, June 15 1948.)


“There is a need now for strong and brutal reaction. We need to be accurate about timing, place and those we hit. If we accuse a family, we need to harm them without mercy, women and children included. … there is no need to distinguish between guilty and not guilty.”

(Zionist terrorist group leader and first Prime Minister of Israel David Ben Gurion, in his diary, January 1 1948.)


“I don’t know something called International Principles. I vow that I’ll burn every Palestinian child
(that) will be born in this area. The Palestinian woman and child is more dangerous than the man, because the Palestinian child’s existence infers that generations will go on, but the man causes limited danger.”

(British Mandate Palestine born Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.)


“But the leaders … had foreseen this difficulty at the outset of the Zionist project in Palestine. The solution as they saw it was the enforced transfer of the indigenous population, so that a pure Jewish state could be established. On 10 March 1948, the Zionist leadership adopted the infamous Plan Dalet, which resulted in the ethnic cleansing of the areas regarded as the future Jewish state in Palestine.”

(Israeli historian Professor Ilan Pappe. Dalet was the Israeli equivalent of the Nazi holocaust.)


“We walked outside, Ben-Gurion accompanying us. Allon repeated his question, ‘What is to be done with the Palestinian population; Ben-Gurion waved his hand in a gesture which said ‘Drive them out!’?

(Yitzhak Rabin, New York Times October 23 1979.)


“Israel should have exploited the repression of the demonstrations in [Tiananmen Square] China, when world attention focused on that country, to carry out mass expulsions among the Arabs of the territories.”

(Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu, in Israeli magazine Hotam, November 24 1989.)


“We declare openly that the Arabs have no right to settle on even one centimeter of Eretz Israel… Force is all they do or ever will understand. We shall use the ultimate force until the Palestinians come crawling to us on all fours.”

(Chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces Rafael Eitan, in Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth, April 13, 1983, and New York Times, April 14 1983.)


“We must expel Arabs and take their places and if we have to use force, to guarantee our own right to settle in those places – then we have force at our disposal.”

(First Prime Minister of Israel David Ben Gurion, 1937.)


“Even today I am willing to volunteer to do the dirty work for Israel, to kill as many Arabs as necessary, to deport them, to expel and burn them…”

(British Mandate Palestine born Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.)


“We must do everything to insure they (the Palestinians) never do return. … The old will die and the young will forget.”

(First Prime Minister of Israel David Ben Gurion, in his diary, July 18 1948.)


“There is no such thing as a Palestinian people… It is not as if we came and threw them out and took their country. They didn’t exist.”

(Ukraine born Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir, Sunday Times June 15 1969.)


“There is no more Palestine. Finished.”

(Ottoman Empire Palestine born Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Dayan.)


“What cause have we to complain about their fierce hatred for us? For eight years now they sit in their refugee camps in Gaza, and before their eyes we turn into our homestead the land and villages in which they and their forefathers have lived.”

(Ottoman Empire Palestine born Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Dayan, 1955.)


“We are obliged to remove the Arabic names for reasons of state. Just as we do not recognise the Arab’s proprietorship of the land, so also do we not recognise their spiritual proprietorship and their names.”

(Zionist terrorist group leader and first Prime Minister of Israel David Ben Gurion, 1949. An Israeli government department Naming Committee has the sole purpose of “Judaising”
(renaming or Biblifying) Arab land and villages in order to hide their Arab origins.)


“We came here to a country that was populated by Arabs and we are building here a Hebrew, a Jewish state; instead of the Arab villages, Jewish villages were established. Jewish villages were built in the place of Arab villages. You do not even know the names of these Arab villages, and I do not blame you because geography books no longer exist. Not only do the books not exist, the Arab villages are not there either. … There is not a single place built in this country that did not have a former Arab population.”

(Ottoman Palestine born Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Dayan, to Technion University March 19 1969, in Israeli newspaper Haaretz, April 4 1969.)


“200 ARABS KILLED, STRONGHOLD TAKEN. Irgun and Stern [terrorist] Groups Unite to Win Deir Yassin …Jerusalem. April 9. A combined force of Irgun Zvai Leumi and the Stern group, Jewish extremist underground forces captured the Arab village of Dier Yassin on the western outskirts of Jerusalem today. In house to house fighting the Jews killed more than 200 Arabs, half of them women and children.”

(New York Times, April 10 1948.)


“[Israeli] terrorist bands attacked this peaceful village [Dier Yassin], which was not a military objective in the fighting, killed most of its inhabitants, 240 men, women and children, and kept a few of them alive to parade as captives through the streets of Jerusalem. Most of the Jewish community was horrified at the deed… But the terrorists, far from being ashamed of their act, were proud of this massacre, publicised it widely, and invited all the foreign correspondents in the country to view the heaped corpses and the general havok of Dier Yassin.”

(Letter from Albert Einstein and 27 other Jews, in New York Times, December 4 1948.)


“How can we return the occupied territories? There is nobody to return them to.”

(Ukraine born Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir, March 8 1969.)


“Israel’s policy – in the last 60 years – stems from a racist hegemonic ideology called Zionism, shielded by endless layers of righteous fury. Despite the predictable accusation of anti-Semitism … it is time to associate in the public mind the Zionist ideology with the by now familiar historical landmarks of the ethnic cleansing of 1948, the oppression of the Palestinians in Israel during the days of the military rule, the brutal occupation of the West Bank and now the massacre of Gaza.”

(Israeli historian Professor Ilan Pappe.)


“A voluntary reconciliation with the Arabs is out of the question either now or in the future. If you wish to colonize a land in which people are already living, you must provide a garrison … for without an armed force … colonization is impossible, … Zionism is a colonization adventure and therefore it stands or falls by the question of armed force. … The Islamic soul must be broomed [swept] out of Eretz Yisrael. … it is even more important to be able to shoot … This is our policy towards the Arabs.”

(Russian born Zionist leader, Haganah founder and Irgun leader Vladimir Jabotinsky, 1923. The Irgun and Haganah were both Zionist terrorist organisations.)


“The state… must see the sword as the main if not the only, instrument with which to keep its morale high and to retain its moral tension. Toward this end it may know it must invent dangers, and to do this it must adopt the method of provocation and revenge… And above all, let us hope for a new war with the Arab countries so that we may finally get rid of our troubles and acquire our space.”

(First Israeli Foreign Minister Moshe Sharett in his diary,)


“It lies upon the people’s shoulders to prepare for the war, but it lies upon the Israeli army to carry out the fight with the ultimate object of erecting the Israeli Empire.”

(Moshe Dayan (Israel Defense and Foreign Minister), Radio Israel, February 12 1952.)


Israeli Racism Against the Arabs – No Different From Nazism and Apartheid.
“Zionism [the creation of the Israeli state] is a form of racism and racial discrimination.”

(United Nations General Assembly Resolution 3379, November 1975. In 1991 Israel threatened non-participation in the Israel Palestine Peace Conference and under severe US pressure, the UN revoked Resolution 3379.)


“Hitler’s legal power was based upon the ‘Enabling Act’, which was passed quite legally by the Reichstag and which allowed the Fuehrer and his representatives, in plain language, to be what they wanted, or in legal language, to issue regulations having the force of law. Exactly the same type of act was passed by the Knesset (Israeli Parliament) immediately after the 1967 conquest granting the Israeli governor and his representatives the power of Hitler, which they use in Hitlerian manner.”

(Dr. Israel Shahak, Chairperson of the Israeli League for Human and Civil Rights, and a survivor of the Bergen Belsen concentration camp, Commenting on the Israeli military’s Emergency Regulations following the 1967 War. Palestine, vol. 12, December 1983.)


“The Palestinians are like crocodiles, the more you give them meat, they want more.”

(Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, August 28 2000, in the Jerusalem Post August 30 2000.)


“When we have settled the land, all the Arabs will be able to do about it will be to scurry around like drugged cockroaches in a bottle.”

(Chief of Staff of Israeli Defence Forces Raphael Eitan, New York Times April 14 1983.)


”We say to them from the heights of this mountain and from the perspective of thousands of years of history that they are like grasshoppers compared to us.”

(Isreali Prime Minister Yitshak Shamir to Jewish settlers, New York Times April 1, 1988.)


“We shall reduce the Arab population to a community of woodcutters and waiters.”

(Israeli Prime Minister Ben-Gurion’s special adviser on Arab Affairs Uri Lubrani, 1960.)


“Israeli lives are worth more than Palestinian ones.”

(British Mandate Palestine born Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.)


“The difference between a Jewish soul and souls of non-Jews … is greater and deeper than the difference between a human soul and the souls of cattle.”

(First Chief Rabbi of British Mandatory Palestine Abraham Kook.)


“The killing by a Jew of a non-Jew, i.e. a Palestinian, is considered essentially a good deed, and Jews should therefore have no compunction about it.”

(American born Israeli Rabbi Yitzhak Ginsburg.)


“There is a huge gap between us [Jews] and our enemies – not just in ability but in morality, culture, sanctity of life, and conscience. They are our neighbours here, but it seems as if at a distance of a few hundred meters away, there are people who do not belong to our continent, to our world, but actually belong to a different galaxy.”

(Israeli president Moshe Katsav. The Jerusalem Post, May 10, 2001.)


“Jewish blood and a goy’s (gentile’s) blood are not the same.”

(Israeli Rabbi Yitzhak Ginsburg, Inferring that killing isn’t murder if the victim is Gentile. Jerusalem Post, June 19,1989.
(Goy: Goyim, Gentile Christian or non Jew.))


“Israel may have the right to put others on trial, but certainly no one has the right to put the Jewish people and the State of Israel on trial.”

(British Mandate Palestine born Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.)


“Let us not be too familiar with the Arab Fellahin lest our children adopt their ways and learn from their ugly deeds. Let all those who are loyal to the Torah [Jewish scripture] avoid ugliness and that which resembles it and keep their distance from the fellahin and their base attributes.”

Haganah (Zionist terrorist group) commander Moshe Smilansky. Fellahin is a derogatory name for the original Palestinian inhabitants, meaning labourers or peasants, who collectively owned and farmed the land.)


“If I knew that it was possible to save all the children of Germany by transporting them to England, and only half by transferring them to the Land of Israel, I would choose the latter, for before us lies not only the numbers of these children but the historical reckoning of the people of Israel.”

(David Ben-Gurion.)


”If the General Assembly were to vote by 121 votes to 1 in favor of “Israel” returning to the armistice lines–
(pre June 1967 borders) Israel would refuse to comply with the decision.”

(Israeli Foreign Minister Aba Eban, New York Times June 19, 1967.)


“Among the most disturbing political phenomena of our time is the emergence in the newly created State of Israel of the Freedom Party (Herut), a political party closely akin in its organization, method, political philosophy and social appeal to the Nazi and Fascist parties.”

(Albert Einstein and other well known Jewish Americans, New York Times, December 1948.)


“Israel and South Africa have one thing above all else in common: they are both situated in a predominantly hostile world inhabited by dark peoples.”

(Republic of South Africa Year Book, 1977, during apartheid.)


“The Jews took Israel from the Arabs after the Arabs had lived here for a thousand years. Israel, like South Africa, is an apartheid state.”

(South African Prime Minister Hendrick Verwoerd, 1960s.)


“The Intifada is the Palestinian’s people’s war of national liberation. We [Israel] enthusiastically chose to become a colonialist society, ignoring international treaties, expropriating lands, transferring settlers from Israel to the Occupied Territories, engaging in theft … we established an apartheid regime.”

(Attorney General of Israel Michael Ben-Yair.)

Brian was born in the bombed out wartime East End of London and developed an interest in political books early on. He worked in various technical fields for 20 years, all of which thoroughly bored him. He entered academic life (History and Classical Economics) and became an independent journalist, worked for the ANC (secret at the time) until the end of apartheid, and was a trade union representative in a large hospital. He is now retired and still works (when able) as an independent journalist.

 

April 13, 2018

The Judge

Filed under: Film,Palestine — louisproyect @ 10:17 pm

Like Pavlov’s dogs going into a salivating frenzy at the sound of a bell, nothing has the same effect on Islamophobes, including the Assadist left, except the word sharia. For them, this means ISIS trying people for smoking and then handing out a death sentence.

The documentary “The Judge” that opens today at Cinema Village in NYC will not only provide a different perspective on sharia law but on the social dynamics of Palestinians living in the West Bank. The judge referred to in the title is Kholoud al-Faqih, the first woman to serve on a sharia court in the Middle East. In the West Bank, there are two types of courts. One is a civil court that tries criminal cases such as theft, assaults, etc. The sharia court functions in the same way that family court functions in the USA and other secular societies. We see Khouloud weighing in on divorces, child custody, alimony payments, etc., all within the framework of Quranic scriptures. In a way, it reminds me of how Hasidic courts settle such matters in Brooklyn except that Hasidic society is far more patriarchal than the West Bank Islamic world. Indeed, a woman would never been selected to serve on a Hasidic court.

It was not that easy in the West Bank either. In 2009, Kholoud al-Faqih and another woman trained as a lawyer were appointed to serve by Sheikh Tayseer al-Tamimi after she pressured him to see beyond centuries old prejudices that had nothing to do with Islam. Al-Tamimi is interviewed throughout the film and comes across as an enlightened soul. Although the film gives no background on him, it is worth mentioning that he was a reformer across the board. He was drawn into a conflict with the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem for changing the sharia codes that allowed a woman to be married once she reached puberty. He thought that 18 should be the legal age. In keeping with the new directions represented by al-Tamini, al-Faqih’s judgements are completely opposed to what you’d expect from Islamic courts. In her own faith-based manner, al-Faqih is a strong feminist who will not allow patriarchal attitudes seep into her hearings.

Al-Tamimi was a hardline nationalist appointed by Arafat in 1994. It is not surprising that after he was replaced by a man selected by Mahmoud Abbas who ruled that women would no longer sit in judgement in sharia courts but only handle peripheral administrative tasks.

“The Judge” is very minimal in cinematic terms and mostly depicts Kholoud Al-Faqih at work and at home making dinner for her family as director Erika Cohn follows her about with a hand-held camera. Cohn met Kholoud Al-Faqih when the director was studying Islamic feminism and teaching film in Israel and Palestine. Her work is very important for  understanding Palestinian society today and where the progressive strands of renewal might be gestating.

January 5, 2018

In Between

Filed under: Film,Palestine — louisproyect @ 9:51 pm

Opening at both Landmark Theaters in N.Y. (57th and East Houston) today, “In Between” is a compelling drama about three Arab women sharing and apartment as well as the struggle against patriarchy. Comparable in some ways to women in hipster Brooklyn, they are intelligent, resourceful, and bold. They fall along a spectrum of feminism, however.

Leila, an attorney, (Mouna Hawa) is the most willing to challenge sexism outright. She meets a man at a wedding party who invites her out to a terrace to smoke a joint, which she accepts eagerly. After they smoke, he makes a pass at her only to hear her laugh and say, “Are you kidding?”

Salma (Sana Jammelieh) is a lesbian who works different jobs endemic to the gig economy. Her preference is for DJ’ing but she is not above bartending or working in a kitchen. Still in the closet to her traditional-minded family, she likes to hang out with Leila. Every night is a party. They go to dance clubs, score weed, drink beer out of a bottle and pal around with male buddies including a gay man.

One day, Leila and Salma learn that the daughter of a family friend is going to rent the spare bedroom in their capacious apartment. When Noor (Shaden Kanboura) rings the downstairs buzzer, they let her in and open the door to watch her coming up the stairs. To their surprise, she is wearing a hijab and the long flowing robe that is the uniform of women living in the Arab countryside. What sets her apart from other such women is her determination to get a degree in computer science, no matter what it takes. Even if that means defying her fiancé Wissam (Henry Andrawes) who is an appalling sexist pig.

What gives this tale a different dynamic than what you might expect from the description above is that all three women are Palestinians living in Tel Aviv.

Except for two brief moments, Israelis do not figure in the film at all. When Salma is in the kitchen, a chef asks her to bring her a couple of lemons as if her job was to be his flunky. Clearly busy with chopping onions, she picks up a lemon and throws it across the room to him with it barely missing his head. As they begin to bicker with each other in Arabic, the owner enters the kitchen and warns them against speaking in their native tongue since it might upset the customers. Without hesitation, Salma removes her apron, folds it up and hands it over to the boss.

Smoking a cigarette outside the courthouse, Leila is approached by an Israeli attorney who is prosecuting her Palestinian client. In haggling over a possible plea bargain, it is clear that the Israeli is trying to hit on her for the hundredth time. Can’t they discuss the case over dinner? She smiles and advises him that she would be too much for him to handle.

The real drama involves Noor attempting to carve out a life as an independent woman, even if that means sharing an apartment with two women who are challenges to the strictures of Islam. Smoking, drinking, taking drugs, and lesbianism are not acceptable to Wissam but his demands that she move into another apartment are not acceptable to her. Slowly but surely under the influence of the two freedom-loving roommates, Noor becomes liberated even if that means continuing to wear a hijab at a rave.

“In Between” is directed by Maysaloun Hamoud, a Palestinian woman who was born and raised in Budapest. Palestinian religious leaders have called for a boycott against the film and earned her the first fatwa to be issued in Palestine since 1948. While clearly understanding the need for Palestinian identity as demonstrated by the kitchen scene as well as her 2010 film “Sense of Morning” that was based on a novel by the Palestinian national poet Mahmud Darwish, Hamoud told the Guardian that she had another need to fulfill in making this beautiful and inspiring film:

Western audiences seem to want to feel they are better, that their hopes and dreams are unique and different and authentic to ours. It is not true. We are human beings with the same stories, same dilemmas, we have the same feelings. Every big city has the underground culture I show – we hear the same music, there are the same drugs, in each country. The film is successful all over the world because people can relate.

 

 

September 23, 2016

Ruins of Lifta; Seed

Filed under: Ecology,farming,Film,food,Palestine — louisproyect @ 11:51 pm

Within the first minute of “Ruins of Lifta”, I immediately recognized the co-director and principal subject of the documentary about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that opened today at the Lincoln Plaza Cinemas. It was Menachem Daum, a religious Jew from Brooklyn who was likewise the co-director and principal subject of “Hiding and Seeking”, a film I reviewed in 2004 that chronicled Daum’s visit to Poland with his teen-aged sons in an effort to combat the stereotype common among Jewry, including his sons who were studying in a yeshiva, that the Poles were almost genetically disposed to anti-Semitism like the Germans were according to Daniel Goldhagen. From my review:

“Hiding and Seeking” opens with director Menachem Daum playing a tape for his two sons, who are both Orthodox Jews like him. It is a recording of a Brooklyn rabbi instructing his followers that the “only good goyim is a dead goyim”. (A goyim is a non-Jew.)

 Daum asks them for their reaction and is disappointed but not surprised to discover that they sympathize with the rabbi, while viewing their own relationship to the outside non-believing world more in terms of a desire for isolation rather than one based on animosity. Daum not only tells them that this clashes with his own vision of Judaism, but proceeds to spend the rest of this powerful documentary demonstrating that there is goodness in all human beings and that Jews must engage with rest of humanity with compassion.

 He leads them on a spiritual trek to the Polish countryside where his wife’s father and two uncles were hidden in a barn from the Nazis for over two years by Christian farmers. He wants to prove to them that ethical behavior can still be found in the face of general depravity. As long as that spark exists, there is hope for humanity. His sons, who are religious scholars living in Israel, treat the trip as a complete waste of time and speak directly to the camera about how foolish their father is.

This new film was made in the same vein but with a somewhat different dynamic. It is relatively easy for a father to wise up his kids about the Poles, especially when he introduces them to those that saved the lives of Jews during WWII but the goal in “Ruins of Lifta” is unrealizable—namely to break down the enmity between Jews and Palestinians. The reason for this is obvious. As long as Palestinians remain the dispossessed victims of the Nakba, there cannot be true reconciliation.

The Lifta referred to eponymously is a small Palestinian town that has not been lived in since 1948 when all of the inhabitants were ethnically cleansed. Now merely a collection of stone houses missing walls and roofs, it is located on the outskirts of Jerusalem where developers plan to tear them down and erect luxury high-rises. It was Daum’s intention to show solidarity with the Palestinians who hoped to preserve the ruins as a kind of recognition of what they lost. Much of the film consists of Daum touring the ruins with a former dweller named Yacoub Odeh who is a leader of the Coalition to Save Lifta. Daum keeps trying to persuade Odeh that the Jews had no other option except to create a state of their own but he responds quite logically that it was the Nazis who exterminated the Jews, not the Palestinians. It reminded me of Trotskyist leader George Novack’s observation that Jews were like people jumping out of a burning house but falling toward the sidewalk injured Palestinians walking innocently on the sidewalk beneath them.

Daum’s family was representative of the experience described by Novack. He lost many relatives in the holocaust and had a great-uncle from Poland who joined the Stern Gang. Toward the end of the film, he introduces his great-aunt survivor to Odeh and the same arguments ensue with her harping on Jewish entitlement to Israel because of the Bible and Hitler, an article of faith for Zionists. When Daum, his great-aunt and Odeh stroll through Lifta, it finally begins to dawn on her that real people were driven out of real homes and there is a spark of humanity.

To Daum’s credit, he speaks to Israeli historian Hillel Cohen toward the end of the film about his mission. Cohen explains to him that Palestinian hatred is to be expected. You cannot reconcile with the people you have victimized in the Nakba and continue to dominate. Cohen is a historian to be reckoned with on Israeli history in light of his “Year Zero of the Arab-Israeli Conflict” that was published last year. The book hones in on the street battles between Jews and Palestinians in 1929, seeing it as a harbinger of future disasters. In a Los Angeles Review of Books review, Arie Dubnov writes:

Departing from the “official” Zionist narrative that portrays all killings committed by Jews as acts of self-defense, he treats Simha Hinkis, the Jewish policeman from Jaffa, harshly: a murderer of innocents, using killing as an instrument of vengeance.

The film was co-directed by Oren Rudavsky, who also co-directed “Hiding and Seeking”. The two also were responsible for “A Life Apart”, a documentary about the Hasidic Jews that was co-narrated by Leonard Nimoy and Sarah Jessica Parker (a couple of Jews if you hadn’t noticed) and short-listed for an Academy Award in 1997. I haven’t seen it but on the basis of the films reviewed above, I assume that it is very good.

Today I was stunned to learn that Libertarian Party presidential candidate told a National Press Club luncheon that “In billions of years, the sun is going to actually grow and encompass the Earth, right? So global warming is in our future.” That encapsulated for me the utter indifference that capitalist ideologues and the plutocrats they serve to humanity’s future. If it isn’t relevant to the next quarterly earnings report, they can’t be bothered.

As I watched the superb documentary “Seed” that opened today at the Cinema Village in New York, I could not help but think of the threat to our lives and that of future generations posed by the capitalist class, with the libertarians such as Johnson and the Koch brothers representing its shock troops.

Despite the familiarity I have with the environmental crisis, I was startled to learn at the beginning of the film that in the last century 94 percent of our seed varieties have disappeared. For example, there used to be 544 varieties of cabbage; now there are 28. The numbers for cauliflower are 158 and 9. Such a loss of diversity is alarming as it is for the animal kingdom. With panda bears and condors facing extinction, life will go on although in an impoverished manner. But with the loss of native species and their replacement by GMO monoculture crops, we threaten our own existence since such crops are tied inextricably to the use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers that are destructive to the environment, not to speak of our own health. While eating genetically modified corn might not kill you, the weed-killing glyphosate that Monsanto sells certainly can.

Furthermore, the corn that is produced on factory farms in the USA today wreaked havoc on small farmers who could not compete with a commodity dumped into the Mexican market below the local market rate. It was especially devastating to the people of Oaxaca, a state where corn first began to be grown 8000 years ago and that enabled class societies such as the Aztecs to develop. What the conquistadores began to destroy in the 16th century came to a devastating climax in 1994 when NAFTA allowed the USA to sell its corn in Mexico. The ruin of Mexican farmers was not only accompanied by a loss of biodiversity but conceivably the explosion of the drug industry as poor people were forced to break the law in order to survive.

“Seed” is a moving portrait of men and women, including many from indigenous society in the Americas, who are committed to the preservation of seeds that in some ways makes them the counterpart of Noah. Instead of leading animals two by two into the ark, they go around the world tracking down food sources and collecting their seeds to be preserved for posterity. Some of them have the raffish charm of 60s hippies although their work is deadly serious.

The film interviews experts in the field such as Vandana Shiva who sees herself continuing in the tradition of Mahatma Gandhi. Among the most interesting are scientists who work with the Center for Food Safety, a group I was unfamiliar with. They are deeply involved with the struggle against Monsanto in Hawaii that is a threat to native crops as well as the health of the people who live on the islands and have become ill from the indiscriminate spraying of pesticides by Monsanto with no consideration for the well-being of the islanders. When an elected official moved to curtail their use, Monsanto filed suit against his county. Every time I hear about Monsanto in one of these films, I fantasize about their top officers standing on trial some day after the fashion of Nuremburg.

In addition to the essential information contained in the film, it is visually stunning. As one of the protagonists points out, the seeds for various kind of beans are as beautiful as jewels.

The film was co-directed by Taggart Siegel and Jon Betz who worked together on “Queen of the Sun: What are the bees telling us?”, a film I reviewed in 2011:

In 2007 the media was all abuzz (excuse the pun) over disappearing honey bees, something that was posited as a kind of mystery. After seeing the powerful documentary “Queen of the Sun: What the Bees are Telling Us?”, the only mystery will be why the mainstream media could not have uncovered the source of the looming disaster without delay. Its failure to do so reminds us of the need for alternative sources of information, starting with the experts and activists who are featured in this film directed by Taggart Siegel. Featured prominently in “Queen of the Sun”, beekeeper Gunter Hauk states that the crisis of the disappearing bee is “More important than global warming. We could call it Colony Collapse of the human being too.”

As opposed to corporate shills like Gary Johnson, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, is there any candidate who cares about these looming threats?

Protect Mother Earth:

Lead on a global treaty to halt climate change. End destructive energy extraction: fracking, tar sands, offshore drilling, oil trains, mountaintop removal, and uranium mines. Protect our public lands, water supplies, biological diversity, parks, and pollinators. Label GMOs, and put a moratorium on GMOs and pesticides until they are proven safe. Protect the rights of future generations.

That’s Jill Stein for you!

October 9, 2015

Uncivil Rites

Filed under: Academia,Counterpunch,Palestine — louisproyect @ 5:09 pm

The End of Academic Freedom in America: the Case of Steven Salaita

As such my attention has been riveted on the trials and tribulations of Steven Salaita who was unfortunate enough to be the victim of a combined assault by the Israel lobby and a university officialdom that was determined to make him pay for telling the truth, no matter how bitter that truth. Since I am very close to some tenure-track professors, I have a better handle than most on what it means to be robbed of a tenured position. Getting tenure nowadays is almost like winning the American Idol contest, so the very idea of being denied a position and thrown to the wolves (no offense meant to a member of the animal kingdom far more noble than the University of Illinois mucketymucks) struck me as a wantonly destructive act—all the more so since it was defended in Pecksniffian terms by the likes of Cary Nelson.

read full article

October 6, 2015

Steven Salaita: why I was fired

Filed under: Academia,Palestine,repression,zionism — louisproyect @ 12:51 pm

(Just got a copy of his book from Haymarket. This is an excerpt.)

THE CHRONICLE REVIEW
Why I Was Fired
By Steven Salaita OCTOBER 05, 2015

In August 2014, I was fired from a tenured position at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The firing made me a free-speech darling — or the world’s most violent person since Stalin, depending on your perspective. It also sparked a debate about academic freedom, faculty governance, the Israel-Palestine conflict, and the role of social media in university life. That debate rages with no resolution in sight.

The story of my notoriety begins on July 21, 2014, when The Daily Caller ran an article about me titled “University of Illinois Professor Blames Jews for anti-Semitism.” With the brio and wisdom for which right-wing websites are known, the piece begins, “The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has continued its bizarre quest to employ as many disgusting scumbags as possible by acquiring the services of Steven Salaita, a leading light in the movement among similarly obscure academics to boycott Israel.”

The article, and subsequent coverage, focused on several tweets I wrote in the summer of 2014. One tweet read: “At this point, if Netanyahu appeared on TV with a necklace made from the teeth of Palestinian children, would anybody be surprised?” In another, I wrote, “You may be too refined to say it, but I’m not: I wish all the fucking West Bank settlers would go missing.”

It has since become popular to call me uncivil. Or intemperate. Or inappropriate. Or angry. Or aggressive. It’s unseemly to describe myself, but because “unseemly” is an improvement over what many people now call me — why not? I am a devoted husband and a loving father. I never talk out of turn. I deliberate for long periods before making significant decisions. As is normal for somebody born and raised in Southern Appalachia, I call everybody “sir” or “ma’am.” I do not raise my voice at people. I am deeply shy and chronically deferential. That is to say, I am civil to a fault.

This exegesis on my disposition probably seems unnecessary, but it’s important to distinguish between somebody’s persona and his personhood, though in most cases one informs the other. This is the extent of my feelings on the matter: It is precisely because I am a loving person that I so adamantly deplore Israel’s behavior.

My tweets might appear uncivil, but such a judgment can’t be made in an ideological or rhetorical vacuum. Insofar as “civil” is profoundly racialized and has a long history of demanding conformity, I frequently choose incivility as a form of communication. This choice is both moral and rhetorical.

The piety and sanctimony of my critics is most evident in their hand-wringing about my use of curse words. While I am proud to share something in common with Richard Pryor, J.D. Salinger, George Carlin, S.E. Hinton, Maya Angelou, Judy Blume, and countless others who have offended the priggish, I confess to being confused as to why obscenity is such an issue to those who supposedly devote their lives to analyzing the endless nuances of public expression. Academics are usually eager to contest censorship and deconstruct vague charges of vulgarity. When it comes to defending Israel, though, anything goes. If there’s no serious moral or political argument in response to criticism of Israel, then condemn the speaker for various failures of “tone” and “appropriateness.” Emphasis placed on the speaker and not on Israel. A word becomes more relevant than an array of war crimes.

Even by the tendentious standards of “civility,” my comments on Twitter (and elsewhere) are more defensible than the accusations used to defame me. The most deplorable acts of violence germinate in high society. Many genocides have been glorified (or planned) around dinner tables adorned with forks and knives made from actual silver, without a single inappropriate speech act having occurred.

Academics are usually eager to contest censorship. When it comes to defending Israel, though, anything goes.
In most conversations about my termination, Israel’s war crimes go unmentioned, yet it is impossible to understand my tweets without that necessary context. My strong language — and I should point out that much of my language is also gentle — arises in response to demonstrable acts of brutality that in a better world would raise widespread rancor. You tell me which is worse: cussing in condemnation of the murder of children or using impeccable manners to justify their murder. I no more want to be “respectable” according to the epistemologies of colonial wisdom than I want to kill innocent people with my own hands. Both are articulations of the same moral rot.

In 11 years as a faculty member, I have fielded exactly zero complaints about my pedagogy. Every peer evaluation of my instruction — the gold standard for judging teaching effectiveness — has been stellar. Student evaluations ranked higher than the mean every time I collected them. Yet people affiliated with the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have impugned my ability to teach.

Students are capable of serious discussion, of formulating responses, of thinking through discomfort. They like my teaching because I refuse to infantilize them; I treat them as thinking adults. I have never disrespected a student. I have never told a student what to think. Nor have I ever shut down an opinion. I encourage students to argue with me. They take me up on the offer. I sometimes change my viewpoint as a result. My philosophy is simple: Teach them the modes and practices of critical thought and let them figure out things on their own.

The hand-wringing about students is pious, precious claptrap, a pretext to clean the stench from a rotten argument raised to validate an unjustifiable decision.

Troublesome assumptions underlie accusations about my fitness for the classroom. It is impossible to separate questions about my “civility” from broader narratives of inherent Arab violence. This sort of accusation has been used to discredit people of color (and other minorities) in academe for many decades. Administrators and the public monitor and scrutinize our actions in a manner to which our white colleagues are rarely subject. It is crucial to train us in the ways of civility lest our emotions dislodge the ethos our superiors hold so dear.

When it comes to opposing colonization, there is no need for dissimulation, which is the preferred vocabulary of the cocktail party and committee meeting. I could make a case that dissimulation is immoral. It is undoubtedly boring. When I say something, I have no desire to conceal meaning in oblique and wishy-washy diction. This is especially so when I respond to the various horrors of state violence and the depravity of those who justify it. On campus, such forthrightness is unconventional.

But no tenet of academic freedom considers failure to adhere to convention a fireable offense.

Professors are often punished for disrupting convention in informal ways, however. My case is interesting because administrators ignored the de facto standards that regulate our behavior and exercised their power directly. This should be worrisome to any scholar who isn’t a sycophant.

People with doctorates who make claims unsupported by evidence and who uncritically repeat terms like “incivility” as if it describes anything other than their own dull prejudice are the ones most unfit to teach college.

Being called an anti-Semite is deeply unpleasant. Those who make the accusation should be responsible for providing evidence, yet it is I who has been saddled with the impossible task of disproving a negative.

The rhetorical incoherence of my critics is evident in their ever-evolving justifications for my firing. First I was anti-Semitic. Then I was uncivil. Then I was a bad teacher. Then I was too charismatic. Then I was too angry. Then I was too profane. Then I was too radical. Then I was too unpatriotic. Then I wasn’t really hired. Then I was unqualified in the field of American Indian studies. Then I benefited from nepotism. Then I was a poor scholar. Then my colleagues were incompetent. Then my colleagues were deceitful. Then my colleagues were ignorant. Then the American Indian-studies program required special guidance. Then the decision to hire me was solely based on politics. Then indigenous studies was illegitimate. Then the entire damn field needed to be shut down.

Part of our charge as educators is to encourage students to find the language that will help them translate instinct into concrete knowledge. It’s the kind of preparation we all need to survive the capitalist marketplace. While antiauthoritarianism may start as an attitude, it has infinite capacity to develop into an ethic.

Distrusting the motivation of institutions and their managers often means demotion or recrimination. But there is reason to distrust authority on campus. Universities are lucrative spaces; nothing is lucrative without also being corrupt.

As Thomas Frank put it in an essay in The Baffler:

The coming of “academic capitalism” has been anticipated and praised for years; today it is here. Colleges and universities clamor greedily these days for pharmaceutical patents and ownership chunks of high-tech startups; they boast of being “entrepreneurial”; they have rationalized and outsourced countless aspects of their operations in the search for cash; they fight their workers nearly as ferociously as a 19th-century railroad baron; and the richest among them have turned their endowments into in-house hedge funds.

Frank later pinpoints the reason for campus authoritarianism:

Above all, what the masters of academia spend the loot on is themselves. In saying this, I am not referring merely to the increasing number of university presidents who take home annual “compensation” north of a million dollars. That is a waste, of course, an outrageous bit of money-burning borrowed from Wall Street in an age when we ought to be doing the opposite of borrowing from Wall Street. But what has really fueled the student’s ever-growing indebtedness, as anyone with a connection to academia can tell you, is the insane proliferation of university administrators.

Universities are lucrative spaces; nothing is lucrative without also being corrupt.
The numbers validate Frank’s observation. Benjamin Ginsberg points out that in the past 30 years, the administrator-to-student ratio has increased while the instructor-to-student ratio has stagnated. The rise of untenured, or non-tenure-track, faculty exacerbates the problem; a significant demographic in academe lacks job security or the working conditions that allow them to maximize their pedagogical talent. Over a recent 10-year period, spending on administration outpaced spending on instruction. At American universities, there are now more administrators and their staffers than full-time faculty. In the past 10 years, administrative salaries have steadily risen while custodians and groundskeepers suffer the inevitable budget cuts — as do the students whose tuition and fees supplement this largess.

When so much money is at stake, those who raid the budget have a deep interest in maintaining the reputation of the institution. Their privilege and the condition of the brand are causally related. The brand thus predominates. Its predominance often arrives at the expense of student well-being.

Take the matter of sexual assault. Reporting rates have recently risen, but all versions of sexual assault remain woefully underreported. There are numerous reasons why a victim chooses to keep silent. One reason is that she may expect a wholly inadequate, or even hostile, response from her own university. In 2014, Columbia University fielded 28 federal complaints claiming the university had inadequately investigated reports of sexual assault. Florida State University, with the help of the Tallahassee Police Department, orchestrated a clumsy cover-up of a rape allegation to protect the star quarterback Jameis Winston. A different category of sexual assault infamously occurred at Pennsylvania State University, where the onetime defensive coordinator of the football team, Jerry Sandusky, was found to have molested various children, some of them on campus. The university’s complicity is but an extreme instance of a common phenomenon.

In this era of neoliberal graft, universities barely pretend to care about the ideals upon which higher education was founded. Sure, administrators and PR flacks still prattle about dialogue and self-improvement and the life of the mind, but not even impressionable 18-year-olds believe that claptrap. They know just as well as their superiors that college is really about acquiring the mythical-but-measurable status conferred to them by a crisp sheet of cotton-bond paper.

As universities more and more resemble corporations in their governance, language, and outlook, students have become acutely brand conscious. Guardianship of the brand thus predominates and overwhelms the primacy of thought and analysis to which the academy is nominally committed. Students no longer enter into places of learning. They pay exorbitant prices to gain access to the socioeconomic capital of affiliation with the most recognizable avatars, adorned magisterially with armor and pastoral creatures and Latin phrases.

Take that most sacred element of pedagogy, critical thinking. Many faculty don’t know how to do it, never mind imparting instruction in the practice to those trying to learn it. (My conception of “critical thinking” includes acting in some way on the knowledge it produces, if only in the formulation of a dynamic ethical worldview.) One of the greatest skills critical thinking provides is the ability to recognize and undermine bunk. In short, if critical thinking is to be useful, it must endow a reflexive desire to identify and understand the disguises of power.

This sort of focus is low on the list of what universities want from students, just as critical thinking is a terribly undesirable quality in the corporate world, much more damning than selfishness or sycophancy. Let us then be honest about critical thinking: On the tongues of cunning bureaucrats, it is little more than an additive to brand equity, the vainglorious pomp of smug, uptight automatons who like to use buzzwords in their PowerPoint presentations.

Critical thinking by faculty is even more undesirable. In research institutions, we are paid to generate prestige and to amass grant money; in teaching-centered colleges, we enjoy excess enrollments according to fine-tuned equations that maximize the student-teacher ratio. (In elite liberal-arts colleges, we pamper the kids with simulations of parental affection.) Critical thinking is especially harmful to adjuncts, reliant as they are for income on the munificence of well-paid bosses who cultivate a distended assemblage of expendable employees.

Nowhere in our employment contracts does it say, “Challenge the unarticulated aspirations of the institution, especially when it acts as a conduit and expression of state violence; and please try your best to support justice for those on and off campus who are impoverished by neoliberalism.” If we practice critical thinking, though, it is difficult to avoid these obligations.

Because of their high-minded rhetoric, it is tempting to believe that university managers care about ethics or maybe even about justice, but most managers care about neither. The exceptions, of course, deserve our praise — just don’t poke around the highly ranked schools if you want to find them. The key to a successful managerial career isn’t striving to be a good person, but developing enough instinct to cheat and charm at opportune moments.

Whatever independence can be acquired in academe requires a fundamental distrust of authority, be it abstract or explicit. There never have been pure epochs of uncorrupted democracy, but increasing corporate control disturbs greater sectors of American life, particularly on campus. There has to be a better way to conduct the practices of education.

What to do about injustice? I hear this question a lot since I was fired. I have no solid answer. My instinct, which I fully understand isn’t actually instinctive, is simply to tell people to do what they feel comfortable doing. I’m not big on demands or injunctions. Yet I recognize that as somebody who now exists in a public position I am summoned to analyze a set of dynamics in which I and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign are embroiled. These dynamics are especially important to folks in academe who wish to pursue material commitments alongside theoretical and philosophical questions.

Graduate students and prospective graduate students are especially anxious these days. They are right to be. Decent humanities jobs are in decline. Grad-school slots have become more competitive. Any advantage is a great asset. Being deemed a troublemaker or a radical is no advantage.

Making trouble is precisely the function of the intellectual, though. And being radical is a solid antidote to boring work.

There’s always been repression and recrimination in academe. Anybody with an eye toward a career as a scholar has to internalize this reality. Aspiring and established scholars should not abdicate intellectual commitments in order to please the comfortable. This would be careerism, not inquiry.

And that’s the point. If we don’t examine relationships of power and highlight the disjunctions of inequality, then we’re not doing our jobs. (We will be according to the preferences of the managerial class, but pleasing its functionaries isn’t generally the mark of an interesting thinker.) Upsetting arbiters of so-called common sense is an immanent feature of useful scholarship.

“What can/should we do?” is not a universal question. Consider that the labor of minority scholars is already politicized. We have to publish more. It’s risky to be introverted because so many white colleagues cannot tolerate a minority who doesn’t pretend to like them. We have to act as diversity representative on all sorts of committees. We cannot be mediocre because our tenure and upward mobility rely on senior colleagues who reward only their own mediocrity. It’s hazardous for us to show emotion because we’re aware of the possibility of confirming to others our innate unreason. Adding “activist leader” to this list of tasks is a heavy undertaking. In many ways, simply deciding not to appease power is an active form of advocacy. It is the activism of survival.

Getting fired doesn’t make me an expert on anything. I’m doing my best to make sure something productive comes of it, though. My having a job changes nothing if the system that orchestrated my ouster remains intact. I am merely a symbol of the stark imperatives of the wealthy and well connected. We all are, really. Unless the system changes at a basic level, everybody is merely buying shares in a corporation with the power to dissolve our interests the moment we become an inconvenience.

Steven Salaita holds the Edward W. Said Chair of American Studies at the American University of Beirut. This essay is adapted from his new book, Uncivil Rites: Palestine and the Limits of Academic Freedom, just out from Haymarket Books.

September 22, 2015

Israel joins the axis of resistance

Filed under: Palestine,Syria,zionism — louisproyect @ 8:47 pm

As I pointed out in my post on Hungary last week, anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss had a profound insight into the way we think. Homo sapiens is susceptible to binary oppositions on any number of questions from good and evil to light and darkness. That is probably what explains the lingering appeal of Platonic idealism on the left, most particularly around the question of imperialism versus anti-imperialism.

On one hand you have NATO, the IMF, the EU and the White House—the guys in black hats. And on the other you have the Russian military, the BRICS Development Bank, the Eurasian trading bloc, and the Kremlin—all in white hats. This kind of binary thinking is poorly suited to explaining why a filthy, racist demagogue like Viktor Orban can line up with the Kremlin. If the criterion is opposition to the West, Orban is a “good” leader while Ukraine’s Poroshenko is “evil”.

But the difficulties reach a breaking point when it comes to Benjamin Netanyahu, who next to Barack Obama, is the most nefarious politician in the world according to the binary brigade. Just a day ago, I learned that Netanyahu and his top military advisers were making a trip to the Kremlin in order to discuss security concerns with Putin and his warmakers. Generally, this has been reported as the two leaders getting together to address Israel’s concerns that the latest shipment of Russian arms flowing into Syria will not get into the hands of Hezbollah, supposedly Israel’s mortal enemy as well as the continuing presence of Iranian troops.

The “anti-imperialists” have told us over and over that Israel is using the jihadists as a battering ram against Syria, which is supposedly the best friend of the Palestinians in the region. Every few months there is a new talking point like in June when wounded al-Nusra front “takfiri” were alleged to being transported to Israeli hospitals and returned afterwards to the Golan Heights battlefields after a full recovery. It did not matter to the Baathist amen corner that none of this could be documented.

Asa Winstanley, one of the Assadiist tools who write for Jacobin, went so far as to tell its readers that Israel was for an ISIS victory in the region:

Michael Oren, the former Israeli ambassador to the US, stated in an interview almost a year ago that Israel wants to “let the Sunni evil prevail” over the greater “evil” of Iran and its regional proxies. Speaking in the context of a massacre of Iraqi soldiers, he seemed to argue that Israel should allow the “Islamic State” to win.

Oren isn’t alone among the Israeli elite. Gilad Sharon — the son of the late Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon, who once called for Israel to “flatten all of Gaza” — stated last month that Israel may actually prefer the “Islamic State” terror group (whose origins lie with the al-Qaeda in Iraq group) to Assad and its Hezbollah and Iranian allies.

Now that Israel is coordinating intervention in Syria with Russia, people like Asa Winstanley will have a major job on their hands explaining this but I assume that he is cynical enough to justify anything. Such people seem to be channeling the CPUSA’s support for the Hitler-Stalin non-aggression pact. That, of course, is what happens when you are reduced to cheap propaganda rather than radical journalism of the John Reed variety.

What makes a political pirouette all the more difficult for Winstanley and company is Israel’s apparent acceptance of the ongoing Russian-American-Syrian bombing campaign against ISIS, one that Russia and Israel have already begun coordinating as the Jerusalem Post reports:

In Russia, Eisenkot met with his Russian counterpart, General Valery Vasilevich Gerasimov – the first time chiefs of staff from Russia and Israel held a direct meeting. Eisenkot also participated in part of the meeting held between Netanyahu and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Afterward, the two sides agreed to set up a joint working group led by the deputy chiefs of staff from each country. The first meeting will occur in two weeks, and the location will be decided in the coming days.

“It will coordinate air, naval, and the electromagnetic arenas,” the source said. The full composition of the working group has not yet been determined, he added.

“Everything will be raised there. The meetings in Russia were held in a good atmosphere,” the senior source said.

Nice to hear that there was a good atmosphere. I can just see the military brass from each side sharing vodka and pickled herring.

Haaretz, the liberal Zionist newspaper that tends to be less ideological than the Likudist press in Israel, had a shrewd assessment of the Netanyahu-Putin powwow:

And although Netanyahu only last week said “commentators” were wrong when they warned of a collapse of ties between Israel and the United States in light of the Iran nuclear deal, Netanyahu’s current visit to Moscow could be seen as an Israeli jab at Washington. The visit seems to reflect Netanyahu’s lack of faith in the ability or the intent of the United States to protect Israel’s security interests.

The visit cannot be considered good news in Washington, which led a campaign of condemnation and sanctions against Moscow over its involvement in the war in Ukraine last summer. (Israel did not take a position on that conflict and was duly rewarded by Russia which issued a moderate response to Israel’s actions in the war on Gaza shortly thereafter.)

The reference to Gaza is likely tied to Russian opposition to the Goldstone Report being taken up by the Security Council in 2009, a document that charged Israel with war crimes. Russia had voted to approve the report in the Human Rights Committee of the UN but shrewdly decided that relations with Israel should not be compromised by putting teeth into a report that might have led to Netanyahu and company suffering the same fate as Milosevic. In explaining their refusal to take up the Goldstone Report on the Security Council, the Russians made that connection clear:

Many of the recommendations of the report, including criticisms of the actions of Hamas-controlled security forces, as well as provisions relating to the observance of international human rights law and international humanitarian law in general, appear justified. However, a number of proposals in the document go beyond the scope of the mission. This applies particularly to the recommendations addressed to the UN Security Council and the International Criminal Court and the call upon states to prosecute the perpetrators of war crimes during the conflict in Gaza, under universal jurisdiction.

We oppose the referral of the report to the UN Security Council. We believe that it is the UN Human Rights Council that constitutes the platform in the format which this report should be considered. Nor do we believe it is advisable to draw international judicial bodies into the investigation.

So Benjamin Netanyahu’s worse fears were averted. There was no need to hire a lawyer to defend him against war crimes even if Ramsey Clark were still available. Bully for the most fearsome enemy of the West on the BRICS front.

So when did Russia make a “turn” toward Israel disavowing the “anti-imperialist” stance that had endeared it to people like Mike Whitney and Andre Vltchek? Unless you are victim to your own propaganda, the evidence was there from the beginning that the Kremlin considered Israel its good friend.

Keep in mind that Russia and Israel share a loathing for what they call Islamic jihadists. In 2000 when Russia was using the same scorched earth military tactics and the same “war on terrorism” rhetoric now being used in Syria, Israel’s foreign minister, the ultrarightist Natan Sharansky, stood behind Putin, comparing his struggle with Israel’s against the Palestinians. The Washington Post editorialized on the Russian-Israeli commonality of interests on April 29, 2002:

Ever since Sept. 11, Putin and Sharon have tried to convince the world that the Muslim national movements seeking to end the military occupations by Russia of Chechnya, and by Israel of the West Bank and Gaza, are indistinguishable from the terrorists of Osama bin Laden and deserve the same treatment. Both have had some luck — Sharon seems to have persuaded most of Congress and half of the Bush administration. But as a season of summits among Russia, the United States and Europe approaches, only Putin seems to have successfully merged the war on terrorism with his own scorched-earth assault on national sovereignty.

Finally, we must say something about whether Israel ever perceived Syria as a mortal threat to its interests, to the point that Asa Winstanley’s ravings could make sense.

Early on Israel took the position that Assad was the “lesser evil”, referring to him as “the devil you know” as opposed to the rebels who were an unknown quantity. As the war dragged on, however, Israel began to see the wisdom of imperialist intervention against ISIS and al-Nusra whether from the White House or the Kremlin.

A more important question is how Syria viewed Israel and the Palestinians. Despite Baathist rhetoric about solidarity with the Palestinian struggle, there is at least one Palestinian who does not buy the bullshit. I refer you to Tariq Al-Faluji, a Palestinian college student who describes himself as “raised to stand up for what’s right, whether it is in Palestine, Syria, Bahrain, or anywhere in the Arab World.” In an April 28, 2013 article for “Beyond Compromise”, he addressed the problem of Palestinian support for the Assad head-on:

First of all, the Assad family is no friend of Palestine. Before Hafez even became president of Syria, he was a commander of the Syrian Air Force. In 1966, when Salah Jadid took over leadership in Syria in a military coup, he was appointed a Defense Minister, effectively becoming the country’s second in command. In 1970, in the wake of Black September, Syria sided with the Palestinians, sending in armored divisions into Jordan. This marks the first occasion of Assad betraying the Palestinians. As commander of the Air Force, he refused to provide the air cover necessary for the Syrian aid to reach the Palestinians. Because of this, the Syrian forces were re-routed and the Palestinians suffered the consequences of losing. Assad used this particular defeat to discredit Jadid and take over via military coup.

That particular instant is not the first occasion and is certainly not the last. In 1976, at the height of the Lebanese Civil War, the Syrian army aided the Phalangist militia in besieging the Palestinian Tel Al-Zaatar refugee camp in Lebanon. After the Syrians and their Lebanese allies shelled the camp, 3000 Palestinians died. The Syrian army was instrumental in the siege of Palestinian refugee camps by the Amal movement, which left several thousand Palestinians dead. The Syrian role in the Lebanese Civil War would lead to many more Palestinian deaths. It should be telling of the nature of the Assad Regime; psychopathic killers with no friends.

Not to mention, Syria has been a perfect “enemy” to Israel for decades. Since 1973, the Syrian army has fired an illustrious zero bullets into Israel. Even with their territory occupied, they remained quiet even when Israeli planes went as far as flying over Assad’s palace in 2006. This illusion that the Syrian regime is the only regime fighting Israel is simply that, an illusion. There is no question that Assad is not by any means a friend of the Palestinian people.

Additionally, what is happening in Syria is a crime against humanity. Thousands are dying, the country is destroyed beyond repair, and millions are refugees. Which is why it is enraging to find Palestinians who support Assad. As a people, we Palestinians know exactly what it is like to be killed in the thousands, lose our country, and have to live our lives as refugees. A Palestinian who can’t see the parallels between what Israel did to Palestinians and what Assad is doing to his own people is simply blind.

If we as a people can be comfortable with the idea that Assad can get away with the murder of his people, then our 65 years under occupation have taught us nothing. Palestinians should be at the forefront of support for any people who are facing killing, forced to leave their country, and being repressed in the most brutal ways possible. The hypocrisy of a Palestinian who spends hours talking about the injustice in Israeli jails while simultaneously supporting a regime that has kept tens of thousands in much worse imprisonment conditions is astounding. How can we be taken seriously as advocates of freedom when we only advocate it when it suits our own purposes? How can anyone talk about Israel killing Palestinians while accepting and condoning the killing of Syrians? The answer is simple. Those two positions simply cannot coexist without hypocrisy.

I imagine sympathy for such an analysis among Palestinians explains why 315 of their number have been tortured to death in Syrian prisons to this point. It is an abomination that the Baathist amen corner tries to turn such murdering beasts into “anti-imperialist” heroes.

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