Sunday 20th of April 2014

real anti-semitism .....

real anti-semitism .....

The intellectual dishonesty of Israel’s supporters is appalling. But in some odd way, it is also understandable. How else could they respond to the massively growing Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign?

When a non-violent campaign - empowered by thousands of committed civil society activists from South Africa to Sweden and most countries in between - leads a moral campaign to isolate and hold into account an Apartheid country like Israel, all that the supporters of the latter can do is spread lies and misinformation. There can be no other strategy, unless of course, Israel’s friends get their own moment of moral awakening, and join the BDS flood that has already broken many barriers and liberated many minds from the grip of Israeli hasbara.

According to their logic, and that of the likes of Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, writing in the New York Observer on Dec 12, legendary musician and human rights champion Roger Waters is an ‘anti-Semite’. In fact, according to the writer, he is an ‘anti-Semite’ of the worst type. “I’ve read some heavy-duty attacks on Israel and Jews in my time, but they pale beside the anti-Semitic diatribe recently offered by Roger Waters, co-founder and former front man of the legendary British rock band Pink Floyd.”

Of course, Waters is as far away from racism as Boteach is far away from truly representing the Jewish people or Judaism. But what has earned Waters such a title, which is often bestowed without much hesitation at anyone who dares to challenge Israel’s criminal policies, military occupation and insistence on violating over 70 United Nations resolutions, is that Waters is a strong critic of Israel. In a recent interview with CounterPunch.org, Waters stated the obvious, describing Israel as a ‘racist Apartheid regime’, decrying its ‘ethnic cleaning’ of Palestinians, and yes, refusing to perform in a country that he saw as an equivalent to the “Vichy government in occupied France.”

Boteach is particularly daring to go after Waters, a person adored by millions, and not only because of his legendary music, but also of his well-known courageous and moral stances. But once again, the panic felt in pro-Israeli circles is understandable. What Israeli officials describe as the de-legitimization of Israel is reaching a point where it is about to reach a critical mass. It is what Palestinian Gaza-based BDS activist Dr. Haidar Eid referred to in a recent interview as Palestine’s South Africa moment.

In an article in the Israeli daily Haaretz published on Dec 12, Barak Ravid introduced his piece with a dramatic but truthful statement: “Western activists and diplomats are gunning for Israel's settlements in the Palestinian territories, and if peace talks fail, the rain of boycotts and sanctions could turn into a flood.” Entitled “Swell of boycotts driving Israel into international isolation,” Ravid’s article establishes a concrete argument of why the boycott movement is growing in a way unprecedented in the history of Israel.

I am writing these words from Spain, the last stop on a European speaking tour that has taken me to four European countries: France, Switzerland, Luxembourg and Belgium. The purpose of my tour was to promote the recently published French edition of my last two books, the second being: My Father Was a Freedom Fighter, Gaza’s Untold Story (Resistant en Palestine, une histoire vrai de Gaza). But at the heart of all my talks was the promotion of what I call ‘redefining our relationship to the struggle in Palestine,’ based first and foremost on ‘moral divestment’ from Israel. Only then, can we change our role from spectators and sympathizers to active participants as human rights defenders. The main address of such activities can be summed up in the initials: BDS.

What I learned throughout my tour, well attended and also covered in French media, was even to surprise me. The BDS debate is at such an advanced stage and it has indeed surpassed my expectations. In my last European tour of 2010, many of us were attempting to push the boundaries of the debate facing much resistance, even from groups and movements that were viewed as progressive. The situation has now changed in such an obvious away that on occasions I was compelled by the audience to discuss the most effective BDS strategies, as opposed to defending the very virtue of the tactic.

And within the two weeks of my travels, there was a flood of news of western governments, companies and academic institutions either joining the boycott or deliberating the possibility of doing so. The Romanian government, for example, is refusing to allow its labors to work in illegal Jewish settlements. A few years ago, this kind of news was simply unheard of.

But what changed? In some respects, nothing, and that is the crux of the argument. The Israeli occupation is more entrenched than ever; the illegal settlements are increasing and expanding; and the so-called peace process remains a charade maintained mostly for political self-serving reasons – a cover for the colonial policies of Israel, and a condition for continued US-western financial and political backing of the Palestinian Authority – and so on. But other factors are changing as well. BDS activists have found a common strategy and are formulating a unifying narrative that is finally liberating the Palestinian discourse from the ills of factionalism, empty slogans and limiting ideology. The new platform is both decisive in its morality and objectives, yet flexible in its ability to encompass limitless groups, religions and nationalities.

Indeed, there is no room for racism or hate speech in BDS platforms. What is equally as important is that there can also be no space for gatekeepers who are too sensitive about Israel’s racially-motivated sensibilities, or those ever-willing to manipulate history in such a clever way as to prevent a pro-active strategy in being advanced. The ship has sailed through all of this, and the boycott is vastly becoming the new and permanent address of the international solidarity with the collective resistance and struggle of the Palestinian people.

Of course, when Roger Waters took the stances that he did, he knew well of the likes of Boteach who would immediately denounce him as ‘anti-Semite.’ The fact is, however, the number of ‘Roger Waters’ out there is quickly growing, and the power of their moral argument is widely spreading. Israeli smear tactics are not only ineffective but also self-defeating.

Ramzy Baroud is an internationally-syndicated columnist, a media consultant and the editor of PalestineChronicle.com. His latest book is “My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story” (Pluto Press, London).

BDS: Permanent Address For Palestinian Solidarity

 

Open Christmas Letter To Pope Francis On Gaza …..

from our friend, Dr Vacy Vlazna …..

Your Holiness,

In desperation, in December a campaign was launched appealing to you to help release the suffering people of Gaza from the genocidal strangulation of the Israeli seven year blockade.

There is no world leader other than yourself who possesses the moral strength, the political freedom and the spiritual imperative to help Gaza. There is no-one of global influence to whom the Gazans can turn except Your Holiness.

Through your words and actions, we see the same star that heralded the advent of Gandhi, of Mandela, of Jesus. It’s light - the spiritual simplicity of love for the human family, for the oppressed, for the poor, is again penetrating human hearts and consciences.

It shone bright when you went to Lampedusa, the refugee purgatory, drawing world attention to the “globalization of indifference”

“We are a society that has forgotten the experience of weeping, of "suffering with": the globalization of indifference has taken from us the ability to weep!.....We are accustomed to the suffering of others, it doesn't concern us, it's none of our business.....Herod sowed death in order to defend his own well-being, his own soap bubble. And this continues to repeat itself.” (Lampedusa Homile,)

Today’s Israeli Herods have systematically made Gaza a hell on earth by imposing a blockade in violation of international law that has made Gaza an open air concentration camp imprisoning 1.7 million innocent people, half of whom are children.

As the world makes merry this festive season, the people of Gaza have deliberately been deprived of fuel by Israel for two months: they suffer in freezing temperatures, with no electricity, no light, no heat, scarcity of food, no essential services, when the waste water treatment plant stopped functioning sewage flooded the streets- then kicking families while they are down so low, Israel opened dams east of Gaza drowning hope and the last vestiges of normal life.

Imagine truly if this Christmas you were were in Gaza, ‘suffering with” Gazan families, and you have no place to run, can’t get medical help for your hungry and cold children, can’t cook, clean their clothes, keep them dry, warm, safe, happy.

Meanwhile the Christian kings of the ‘free world’, Obama, Cameron, Merkel, Hollande, Abbott will attend Christmas mass under a blaze of cameras and their own cruel hypocrisy in full knowledge that the Gaza humanitarian disaster, unlike the Philippines, is man-made. Herod-made. Nor they will lift a finger to bring the gifts of justice, compassion and love to Gaza’s immiserated manger.

Speaking of ‘manger’, doesn’t it strike you as bizarre and unChristian that Christians have for decades overlooked or tolerated that Bethlehem, the birthplace of the Divine Child, is in illegal occupied territory and surrounded by the illegal Annexation/Apartheid wall enforced by the Israeli military?

And speaking of Palestine’s military occupier, unconscionably, Israeli Herods sow death to raise the profits of Israel’s armament juggernaut. In his recent shocking documentary, The Lab, Yotam Feldman exposes how Palestinians have been dehumanised as sacrificial guinea pigs:

I think the main product Israelis are selling, especially in the last decade, is experience… the testing of the products, the experience is the main thing they [customers] are coming to buy. They want the missile that was shot in the last operation in Gaza or the rifle that was used in the last West Bank incursion.

Inevitably, the profits soared in 2009/10 after surgical strikes by F16s, attack helicopters drones, and phosphorous bombs slaughtered 1400 Gazans, one third of whom were children and again in November 2012. The blood and the weeping never dries up in the Gazan soul.

The blockade of Gaza is the crime of the 21st century and is integral to Israel’s 65 years of war crimes, crimes against humanity, apartheid polices, state terrorism and illegal colonisation perpetrated against the indigenous people of Palestine. Gaza/Palestine is also the great lament in the sacred heart of humanity. It is crying out. Will you respond? Please.

In your Lampedusa homily, you pose two questions that call our spirit to live in solidarity with the poor, with the oppressed, "Adam, where are you?" "Where is the blood of your brother?". These questions are versions of the quintessential question, Who am I?

And in this instance who is Pope Francis? Whose shoes do you step into - The Fisherman’s or caesar’s?

The signs of your papacy are hope-filled.

The 1968 film, The Shoes of the Fisherman, based on Morris West’s novel, portrays a spiritually pragmatic pope of profound compassion who sells off the Vatican treasures to alleviate the lethal poverty of Communist China.

The film also drew inspiration from the Archbishop of Venice, the beloved Albino Luciani, who later became, for a shimmer of time and light, Pope John Paul I. Over the years, Luciani had condemned “the hypocrisy of the Vatican treasures”. (White Light, Dark Night, p144, Lucien Gregoire)

Of Luciani and Wojtyla ( Pope John Paul II), Gregoire writes,

During the twenty years they served as bishop and cardinal, each of their countries suffered from an immense orphan problem - about two million in each country. During that time Wojtyla built and dedicated fifty-three churches and not a single orphanage. Luciani, on the other hand, built and dedicated forty-four orphanages and not a single church.” (p 141)

Like Luciani, you, Pope Francis, mingle with your flock and criticise the ‘idolatry of money’ and the ‘new tyranny’ of capitalism.

Unlike the ultraconservative John Paul II and Benedict, who between them destroyed Latin American liberation theology and plunged the Church into the dark ages of Opus Dei fascism, you are rebuilding the church as a ‘house of joy’ and taking a path never travelled by previous popes.

Gandhi fasted and marched with humility for justice. Mandela, with humility, sacrificed 27 years for justice. So when you see the glittering lights of the Christmas tree in St Peter’s Square, may you reflect on the wretched darkness in Gaza and know that peace on earth doesn’t exist without peace in Gaza and all of Palestine. Peace for Palestinians is your and our business.

Gaza doesn’t need Vatican treasures, it needs liberation to live fully and humanly.

We, who respect justice and human dignity, have just lost the presence of Mandela but, Inch’Allah and God Willing, we have gained you, Pope Francis.

Dr. Vacy Vlazna is Coordinator of Justice for Palestine Matters. She was Human Rights Advisor to the GAM team in the second round of the Acheh peace talks, Helsinki, February 2005 then withdrew on principle. Vacy was coordinator of the East Timor Justice Lobby as well as serving in East Timor with UNAMET and UNTAET from 1999-2001. 

Open Letter To Pope Francis On Gaza

from trickery to betrayal ....

Nazareth: In recent days, US and European diplomats have been engaged in a frenzy of activity on the Israeli-Palestinian front, before they settle down for the usual two-week Christmas hibernation.

A sense of urgency looms because Washington is supposed to unveil next month its so-called “framework proposal” for the creation of a Palestinian state, in a last desperate effort to break the logjam in negotiations. For this reason, the outlines of the US vision of an agreement are finally coming into focus. And, as many expected, the picture looks bleak for the Palestinians.

John Kerry, the US secretary of state, who has invested much of his personal standing in a successful outcome, has grown increasingly forthright that an agreement hinges on satisfying Israel’s security concerns, however inflated.

During a speech to the Saban Forum in Washington this month, Kerry said President Barack Obama’s highest priority was Israel’s “ability to defend itself, by itself”. Shortly afterwards, Kerry headed back to the region to show Israeli and Palestinian officials what he meant.

Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, was reportedly “boiling mad” by the US proposal. In recent days PA spokesmen have accused Kerry of “appeasement” and of failing to be “a neutral mediator”.

The criticism looks more than justified. Under cover of a vision for peace, the US secretary of state is offering an Israeli security plan at the expense of meaningful Palestinian statehood.

That is not entirely surprising given that the plan was drafted by John Allen, a general formerly in command of US forces in Afghanistan, who has spent months quietly liaising with Israeli counterparts.

The main sticking point is the Jordan Valley, an area that was expected to comprise nearly a quarter of a future Palestinian state. Allen has indulged an Israeli demand that it be allowed to continue a long-term “military presence” in the Jordan Valley, of at least 10 years. 

Not only this but, according to a memo sent by Abbas to Obama, which the Haaretz newspaper revealed this week, the US plan would condition an eventual Israeli withdrawal on the Palestinians meeting a “test of implementation. Abbas rightfully believes that this would give Israel an effective veto on ever leaving the Jordan Valley.

That is a big retreat from Washington’s earlier commitment, made at the Annapolis talks of 2007, that no Israeli soldiers would be stationed in the West Bank following an agreement. Security guarantees were to be provided instead by Nato troops, under US command.

The new proposal should be a deal-breaker. The valley is a vital resource for the Palestinians, one they have been effectively stripped off for decades by Israel’s exaggerated “security needs”.

The Jordan Valley offers the only land border in the West Bank that would be potentially under Palestinian control. It is one of the few remaining undeveloped areas, making it a possible site to which hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees could return. And its lands are fertile and warm all year round, making it highly productive and a likely engine for the Palestinian economy.

According to Allen’s plan, Israel’s security also requires that Palestinian security forces be only lightly armed, that Israel has control over the airspace and all borders, and that the US install spying technology – euphemistically called “early warning systems” – throughout the West Bank.

In other words, the US vision of a Palestinian state looks remarkably like the model Israel has already implemented in Gaza.

One need only listen to the words of Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, from a decade ago to understand his role in this new plan.

In 2001 Netanyahu spoke to a group of settlers in the West Bank at a meeting that was secretly filmed. There he boasted that during his earlier premiership, in the late 1990s, he had halted the peace plan of that time, the Oslo Accords, through what he termed a “trick”.

He foiled a Palestinian state’s creation by agreeing to limited withdrawals from Palestinian land while insisting on the retention of the most significant areas, especially the Jordan Valley, by classifying them as a “specified military site”.

Netanyahu told the settlers: “America is something that can be easily moved. Moved to the right direction.” Those words now seem prophetic.

In rejecting the US plan, Abbas appears to have the backing of his people. A poll published this week showed only 19 per cent believed the talks would lead to an agreement.

So, given the essential conflict between Israel’s “security” requirements and the Palestinian demand for statehood, how does Kerry intend to proceed?

That too is becoming clear. The task of making Israel and the Palestinians play ball is being subcontracted to the European Union. That makes sense because, as the main subsidiser of the occupation, the Europeans have major financial leverage over both parties.

Earlier this month the EU brandished its stick. It warned that it would stop financing Abbas’ Palestinian Authority if no agreement had been reached by the end of the talks.

Though widely seen as a threat directed towards Abbas, whose political power base depends on EU money paying tens of thousands of PA workers each month, it was equally aimed at Netanyahu. Were the PA to be wound up, the huge costs of running the occupation would again fall to Israel.

The 28 European member states have also warned Israel that should it carry on building settlements in the coming months, they will officially blame it for the talks’ failure.

On Monday, Europe unsheathed its carrot. It is offering both Israel and the Palestinians a major aid package and an upgrade in economic relations to the EU, conferring on them a status of “special privileged partnership”. This would reportedly bring each side huge trading and security benefits.

However vigorous the EU’s arm-twisting, the reality is that the Palestinian leadership is being cajoled into an agreement that would destroy any hopes of a viable Palestinian state.

Abbas is said to have viewed the US plan as “worse than bad”. His agreement to it would be worse than disastrous.

Jonathan Cook won the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His latest books are “Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East” (Pluto Press) and “Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair” (Zed Books). His new website is www.jonathan-cook.net.

A version of this article first appeared in The National, Abu Dhabi.

US Plans "Gazafication" Of The West Bank