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'Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization.' -- Eugene V. Debs

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Whither Bono? 

July 2005. Gleneagles. It seems so long ago now:

Rockers Bob Geldof and Bono, two of the world's best known Africa fund-raisers, declared victory Friday in their campaign to push leaders at the G-8 summit to double aid to the continent.

We've pulled this off, said U2 frontman Bono.

He and Geldof praised the Group of Eight summit for pledging to double aid to Africa to $50 billion, saying the move will save the lives of hundreds of thousands of people who would have died of poverty, malaria or AIDS.

The world spoke and the politicians listened, Bono said.

In pursuit of this humanitarian agenda, Bono practiced an amnesiac anti-politics of embracing the most ignoble right wing religious and political figures:

On 3 April 2005, Bono paid a personal tribute to John Paul II and called him a street fighter and a wily campaigner on behalf of the world's poor. We would never have gotten the debts of 23 countries completely canceled without him. Bono spoke in advance of President Bush at the 54th Annual National Prayer Breakfast, held at the Hilton Washington Hotel on 2 February 2006. In a speech containing biblical references, Bono encouraged the care of the socially and economically depressed. His comments included a call for an extra one percent tithe of the United States' national budget. He brought his Christian views into harmony with other faiths by noting that Christian, Jewish, and Muslim writings all call for the care of the widow, orphan, and stranger. President Bush received praise from the singer-activist for the United States' increase in aid for the African continent. Bono continued by saying much work is left to be done to be a part of God's ongoing purposes.

Arguably, this was a marginal improvement of Bono's effusive praise for Tony Blair and Gordon Brown in 2004, when he compared them to Lennon and McCartney (the Beatles being more popular than Jesus). He justified his refusal to criticize Bush for the invasion and occupation of Iraq by saying: I work for them. If me not shooting my mouth off about the war in Iraq is the price I pay, then I’m prepared to pay it.

But there has always been Gleneagles and the pledge of the 50 billion with which to bludgeon critics . . . well, not anymore:

The world's richest nations were working on plans to reduce maternal deaths in developing countries as they sought to minimise their embarrassment over breaking aid pledges made at the Gleneagles summit five years ago.

Canada, the host nation at this year's summit, was pushing hard for an agreement that would focus assistance on preventing deaths of mothers and newborn infants, but without any commitment that the proposal would involve new money from cash-strapped western governments.

The initiative came amid signs that the summit communiqué from the G8 would omit all mention of the promises made at Gleneagles in July 2005, which involved a $50bn (£33.4bn) increase in aid by 2010, of which $25bn would go to Africa.

Until this year strong pressure from both Tony Blair and Gordon Brown at the summits that followed Gleneagles prevented countries that were failing to meet their commitments from removing any mention of the 2005 promises. David Cameron arrived in Toronto insisting that the G8 should be more than a talking shop and needed to make good on its promises, but as the final touches were being put to the communique, there was no reference to Gleneagles.

Perhaps, Bono might not have been such a useful idiot for capitalists and imperialists if he had spent just a little time talking to Naomi Klein instead of people like Larry Summers and Paul O'Neill:

AMY GOODMAN: Naomi Klein, in your piece in The Globe and Mail, you talk about the history of G20, how it was formed.

NAOMI KLEIN: Yeah, you know, the G20 is a little bit of a mysterious institution. Amy, you and I were both at an event in Toronto on Friday night, both speaking at an event organized by the Council of Canadians. It was a terrific event. And Vandana Shiva was one of the other speakers, and she had a great line. She said, Ah, the G20, so young and yet so old, referring to the fact that the ideas of the G20 are so old, so predictable. But it is a young institution. It was conceived in 1999 as a summit of finance ministers. It only became a sort of an extension of the G8 as a leaders’ summit in the past two years, and that we saw in London, and we saw it in Pittsburgh, and we have now seen it in Toronto. So this incarnation of the G20 as a leaders’ summit is very young indeed.

But yeah, ten years ago, Paul Martin, who was then Canada’s finance minister, later Canada’s prime minister, was at a meeting with Larry Summers. This is 1999, so Summers at that time was Bill Clinton’s nominee for Treasury secretary. And the two men were discussing this idea to expand the G7 into a larger grouping to respond to the fact that developing country economies like China and India were growing very quickly, and they wanted to include them into this club, and they were under pressure to do so. So, what Martin and Summers did—and this history we only learned last week. This really wasn’t a history that had been told. So this story came out in The Globe and Mail. And it turns out that the two men didn’t have a piece of paper. They wanted to—I don’t know how this would possibly be the case, but their story is that they wanted to make a list of the countries that they would invite into this club, and they couldn’t find a piece of paper, so they found a manilla envelope and wrote on the back of the manilla envelope a list of countries. And by Paul Martin’s admission, those countries were not simply the twenty top economies of the world, the biggest GDPs. They were also the countries that were most strategic to the United States. So Larry Summers would make a decision that obviously Iran wouldn’t be in, but Saudi Arabia would be. And so, Saudi Arabia is in. Thailand, it made sense to include Thailand, because it had actually been the Thai economy, which, two years earlier, had set off the Asian economic crisis, but Thailand wasn’t as important to the US strategically as Indonesia, so Indonesia was in and not Thailand. So what you see from this story is that the creation of the G20 was an absolutely top-down decision, two powerful men deciding together to do this, making, you know, an invitation-only list.

And what you really see is that this is an attempt to get around the United Nations, where every country in the world has a vote, and to create this expanded G7 or G8, where they invite some developing countries, but not so many that they can overpower or outvote the Western—the traditional Western powers. So, as this happened, we have also seen a weakening and an undermining of the United Nations. And I think that that’s the context in which the G20 needs to be understood. And that’s why a lot of the activists in Toronto this week were arguing that the G20 is an illegitimate institution and the price tag is—that we, as Canadian taxpayers, have had to take on for hosting this summit, you know, $1.2 billion, is particularly unacceptable, given that we have the United Nations, where these countries can meet in a much more democratic, much more legitimate forum, as opposed to this ad hoc invitation-only club from the back of an envelope in Larry Summers’s office.

The countries of the G-8, as well as the more recent lesser developed invitees for the larger G-20, were all too willing to allow Bono to come along for the ride, until they decided that they weren't getting anything out of it anymore, at which point they unceremoniously kicked him to the curb. If he hadn't trumpeted his illusory achievements quite so loudly, I'd feel more sympathy for him.

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Saturday, June 26, 2010

Support the Troops (Part 3) 

UPDATE: Sergeant Keith is going to miss his six month old son while killing people in Afghanistan. The propaganda effort in support of this conflict must be going poorly if the Pentagon has to resort to using infants to generate sympathy for the combatants. Apparently, Sergeant Keith wasn't fortunate enough to land an assignment directing drone attacks, which would have enabled him to remain in the US.

INITIAL POST: Next time someone says that you should support the troops, remember this:

Crouched in a field of opium poppies, a young Marine lieutenant pleaded over the radio for an airstrike on a compound where he believed a sniper was firing at his troops. Request denied. Civilians might be inside and the Marines couldn't see a muzzle flash to be absolutely sure the gunman was there.

The lieutenant's frustration, witnessed by an Associated Press journalist in February in Marjah in southern Afghanistan, points to a Catch-22 dilemma facing the NATO force: how to protect troops against an enemy that lives — and fights — among the population without killing civilians and turning the people against the U.S.-led mission.

Those complaints from the ranks are among the issues facing Gen. David Petraeus — along with relations with a weak Afghan government and jittery allies; slow and uncertain progress on the battlefield; and frayed ties to the civilian side of the mission.

But among the most sensitive and important to the troops he commands and to supporters of the military at home will be whether to continue the rules laid down by his predecessor, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, that stress saving civilian lives but sometimes leave U.S. forces at greater risk.

Those rules, issued a year ago, helped make McChrystal a hero among many Afghans because they brought down the number of civilian casualties blamed on the NATO-led force. The rules were issued at a time of a rising tide of public anger over Afghan civilians killed by mistake in airstrikes and by heavy weapons such as cannons and mortars.

Down in the ranks, however, the rules are widely perceived as too restrictive, playing into the hands of the Taliban who appear keenly aware of the regulations. Some troops believe the rules cost American lives and force them to give up the advantage of overwhelming firepower to a foe who shoots and melts back into the civilian population.

Of course, despite rank and file troop anger, the rules had limited utility in reducing casualties among the Afghan populace. Drone strikes and night raids continue to kill large number of non-combatants. But the groundswell for liberalizing rules of engagement even further in the wake of McChrystal's departure give us an insight into the blood lust that defines the US mission in Afghanistan. Consistent with historic US practice, US troops have no problem indiscriminately killing the civilian populace in order to attain their objective.

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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

US Social Forum Cancels Stand With Us Workshop 

Please see this statement from the Palestine Program at the Forum. It has also been confirmed within the last hour at the Forum's Facebook page. Congratulations to those who organized against the presence of Stand With Us and brought the matter to a successful resolution.

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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Film Notes: Payday 

Rip Torn may well be one of the most underutilized actors of the last 40 years. His eerie evocation of the banality of the evil through his performance as Richard Nixon in the 1978 TV miniseries, Blind Ambition, has been forgotten, superseded by Anthony Hopkins' subsequent characterization of him for Oliver Stone. Torn searched for the demons within, and often found them, which was not the way to attain stardom.

In Payday, Torn gave a career defining performance as an on the make country music singer, Maury Dann. Dann travels all around the country, performing in front of audiences in small to medium size cities, collecting a share of the gate and record sales. In the pre-MTV, pre-Clear Channel age, performers like Dann could make a good living for themselves and their band members in this way as they assiduously courted local DJs for promotion.

As someone who spent a fair amount of time in the Deep South that forms the backdrop for Dann's ambition to make it to Nashville, so that he can break through to the big time, I can confidently say that the period detail of the movie, filmed on location, is extraordinary. Set in the early 1970s, Dann is performing shows in southern and central Alabama as he heads north towards Tennessee, and the opportunity for national exposure that his manager has worked hard to cultivate. I visited my divorced father around this same time in nearby Macon, Georgia, and I recall a world very similar to the rural motels, restaurants, bars and four lane highways through which Dann explosively circulates. The backup band's use of an International Harvester Travelall to transport themselves and their equipment is a particularly delightful touch.

But Payday is much more than an especially vivid memorialization of time and place within the context of a specific subculture. Nor is it merely a star vehicle for an actor, Torn, who failed to become a star despite his mesmerizing performance. Payday is too merciless in its exposure of the misogyny of male celebrity and the subsequent abuses of the liberatory impulses of the 1960s within the Deep South to work as either nostalgia or hero worship. If anything, it is analoguous to the lack of sentimentality and detached anthropological perspective associated with the 1960s Japanese films of Oshima and Imamura. One can easily imagine Imamura making Payday if he had been hired by a Hollywood studio as Antonioni was for Zabriskie Point.

For Payday has two enduring central themes, the pernicious consequences of the sexual revolution and liberalized drug use within a culture in which patriarchy, and the violence associated with it, are deeply ingrained. In this, it can be truly be said to be a quintessential American film. One gets an immediate sense of this in the film's first scene, where Dann and his band are performing one of his signature songs, Country Girl, at a club. During the performance of the song, the audience consumes alcohol freely and there is an unmistakeable current of eroticism amongst the audience as well as between the audience and the band. The lyrics of the song itself, about a young woman who rejects the city for the country because of her down home values, provides a contrapuntal commentary.

Prior to leaving the parking lot after the show, Dann talks to Sandy, a young groupie, and persuades her to come into his car, where he proceeds to screw her in the backseat. There is really no other way to say it without suggesting some tenderness or affection that is totally absent. Back at the hotel, we are introduced to Dann's apparent girlfriend, Mayleen Travis, a woman with whom he shares a voracious sexual appetite in a relationship that is otherwise calculated and contentious. In the YouTube clip at the top of this post, Dann throws her out of his Cadillac while traveling to his next gig after she has complained one too many times. He replaces her with a ingenue, Rosamond McClintock. She see him as the way out of her small Alabama town.

In Payday, the sexual revolution has come to the Deep South with a vengence. The rapidly spreading libertinism of popular culture, as expressed in Payday through country music, destroys the ability of communities to enforce conservative social mores. Dann and his band strike sparks wherever they go. He summarizes his philosophy as If you can't smoke it, drink it, spend it or love it . . . . forget it, and his material conception of personal satisfaction proves irresistible. Women in the rural South find themselves liberated to be sexually consumed by men like Dann. The prospect of an erotic relationship in which both partners seek to transcend bourgeois constraints and commerce, as in loulou, is beyond the imaginings of anyone in Payday. Sandy, Mayleen and Rosamond may enjoy their sexual encounters with Dann, but Dann dictates the terms of them.

Drug use, so conspicuously a part of the rock scene, is also a major feature of the country music one in Payday. Dann and his band members smoke cigarettes and marijuana joints, drink alcohol and gobble up a frightening amount of prescription drugs, probably methamphetamines, but such consumption primarily serve the purpose of enabling them to travel long distances and perform with as little rest as possible while surviving the tedium of life on the road. There is a duality to Dann's materialism. One the one hand, sex, drugs and money are enjoyable in a transitory way, but they also enable him and his band to participate in a seemingly unending process of cultural production, a process, need it be said, that is invariably controlled by males.

Unfortunately, they, especially the drugs, render Dann emotionally unstable and prone to violent tempermental outbursts, again, as shown in the YouTube clip, while lifting him, and everyone in his orbit, away from the bonds of community and familial support that might otherwise contain them. It is this dialectic between the productive utility of sex, drugs and money and the combustible consequences of their use that constitutes the centerpiece of the film. Dann is, in effect, attempting to bust through social and class boundaries by reducing himself into a pure instrument of production and consumption. As you might expect, he fails much in the same manner of Icarus flying too close to the sun.

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Sunday, June 20, 2010

Zionists Welcome at the US Social Forum (Part 3) 

UPDATE: Statement by the National Planning Committee of the US Social Forum in Regard to the Stand with Us Workshop

My translation is that the Committee wants Stand with Us to withdraw from the Forum so that it can avoid having to decide to force them out. Interestingly, the NPC's account of a non-cooperative Stand with Us in regard to the conduct of the workshop is contrary to yesterday's USPCN/IJAN statement.

INITIAL POST: Apparently, a deal has been struck at the US Social Forum:

Dear all, Thank you very much for your statement to the NPC of the US Social Forum concerning the StandwithUs workshop.

We forwarded your statement to the NPC along with a joint USPCN/IJAN letter expressing our full and unequivocal support. We take our duty of speaking on behalf of our communities seriously, and aim to use this as a key opportunity to build long-term and sustained unity within US Social Forum leadership on the question of Zionism and Palestinian self-determination. Below is our update:

On behalf of USPCN and IJAN, both members of the US Social Forum National Planning Committee (NPC), we would like to issue the following update regarding the workshop currently scheduled by StandWithUs. This overtly Zionist organization claims to speak on behalf of LGBTQI liberation in the Middle East while at the same time actively supporting the Israeli agenda that directly oppresses these same communities. This lack of transparency is an attempt to pinkwash Zionism at the Social Forum.

StandWithUs has also been responsible for maliciously disrupting and attacking the work of Palestinians, academics, and solidarity activists across the United States. As of right now, we are still waiting a formal decision from the NPC, and want to share with you the strategy that we are leaning toward and our reasoning.

We urge those interested in the building of joint struggle between the movement for justice in Palestine and other anti-racist and anti-war movements in the UnitedStates to not allow the slipping of this workshop between the cracks to undermine the Social Forum. Nothing would please StandWithUs and the Zionist network that StandWithUs is part of more then to divide the Palestinian, Palestine solidarity, Arab and anti-Zionist networks from the Social Forum and visa versa.

The inclusion of this workshop in the social forum is not a reflection of a lack of commitment to Palestinian rights and self-determination. Through the submission of a misleading description of the workshop, StandWithUs is setting up the Social Forum and attempting to divide us.

The letter from Helem, Al-Qaws, ASWAT, and PQBDS that condemned the StandWithUs workshop and requested an explanation from the Social Forum as to how this workshop made it into the program, reflects the perspectives that USPCN and IJAN have shared with our fellow US Social Forum (USSF) National Planning Committee (NPC) members. IJAN and USPCN issued the attached joint statement to the NPC.

Through conversations with the NPC, the orientation to the StandWithUs workshop will:

· Have consistency with the anti-racist, anti-homophobic and anti-colonial commitment of the NPC

· Have consistency with the NPC invitation to the US Palestinian movement to participate in the USSF planning process

· Reduce the potential for targeting of the USSF or organizations on the NPC by Zionist organizations

· Reduce the potential for Zionist organizations to divide the movement in the United States

· Reduce the potential for the Zionist movement to create antagonism toward the US Social Forum

· Act with genuine unity based on a shared understanding of the racism involved in Zionism, what anti-Semitism is and is not, and the tactics used by Zionist rganizations

· Build our unity and not allow any organizations or sectors whose interests oppose those of the USSF to divide us

· Not fall into a trap that intends to use this to attempt to delegitimize all of the justice for Palestine
work that is happening at the Social Forum.

To be clear, the presence of StandWithUs at the US Social Forum demonstrates the acute need for us all to continue making meaningful alliances and inroads with the Progressive Left in the United States. The presence of USPCN and IJAN on the National Planning Committee of the Social Forum is evidence that we have come a long way, particularly since the 2007 US Social Forum.

We are looking forward to a Palestine Track that boasts over 50 workshops, the presence of Jamal Juma'a at the international plenary session, two Palestine Tents, and three People's Movement Assemblies, one of which represents an unprecedented gathering of committed BDS activists from all over the country. However, more work needs to be done in order to institutionalize the idea of Palestinian equal rights into the US Social Forum planning process and the broader agenda of the Progressive Left.

StandWithUs was able to get one workshop on the Social Forum's agenda because they intentionally obscured the true nature of their workshop, which went under the radar due to the lack of familiarity of the USSF proposal review committee with the organization. And, thirdly, due to the lack of staffing for the US Social Forum that would make it possible for the committee to do more background checks on organizations and run the proposals by those involved in the planning that were more familiar with any given area of struggle

These are changes that USPCN and IJAN are strongly suggesting for future US Social Forums. However, they do not represent a lack of commitment on behalf of the NPC to justice in Palestine and Palestinian liberation.

In considering how to handle the fact that this workshop is included in the agenda, it feels important to consider the intention of StandWithUs, and the Zionist network they are coordinating with, in organizing a workshop as part of the social forum.

As laid out in an article that just came out in the Jewish Detroit News, StandWithUs is part of the counter-organizing in response to the success of the Palestinian, Palestine solidarity and Jewish anti-Zionist organizing happening around and at the assembly: http://djn.pressmart.com/JN/JN/2010/06/17/ArticleHtmls/17_06_2010_021_001.shtml?Mode=1

This article gives us a better sense of the extent of organizing they are doing and the context we are going to be working in:

"Locally, the JCRC, ADL and American Jewish Committee have brought Jewish groups together to inform them of the AZ conference and prepare a unified statement of support for Zionism. Conference calls have been held that include the gamut of Jewish organizations both liberal and less so - "A to Z" or "Ameinu to ZOA" is the way AJC-Michigan's Kari Alterman describes it - including the Washtenaw Jewish Federation and Ann Arbor synagogues as well as national organizations like J Street, which has a special cache with progressive groups. Ideas and information are also shared hrough an Internet discussion group. An action plan for the U.S. Social Forum still is in development."

We have to understand this workshop as an attempt to find a leverage point with which to attack the Social Forum for supporting the organizing of USPCN, IJAN and many other groups working for justice in Palestine. Currently, they have nothing but the usual empty accusations that the US Social Forum, USPCN and IJAN are anti-Semitic.

Not having the workshop there is right on principle and there is no disagreement with this on the NPC of the USSF. However, USPCN and IJAN are willing to give up the immediate satisfaction of preventing this workshop from occurring if it means not giving the Zionists the satisfaction of being able to use claims of censorship to a media all too willing to take this up at the expense of covering the challenges that the Social Forum makes to US racism, capitalism and imperialism.

We are not convinced that canceling the workshop is the best course of action in achieving the ultimate goal: to nurture, develop, and solidify a commitment to proactively defending and safeguarding the rights of Palestinians within the Progressive Left. As Palestinian and anti-Zionist activists, we feel an obligation to finding a solution that is both right and effective.

To put things in perspective, the US Social Forum has, without hesitation, supported and defended the visibility and strength of justice for Palestine across the Social Forum. StandWithUs currently has one workshop at the Forum, which was the result of a breakdown in process and lack of clarity based on the organizing we have not yet been able to do but are closer to achieving then ever.

Over the next couple of days, we look forward to developing a decisive and productive solution that reaffirms the Social Forum's commitment to the decolonization of Palestine.

We hope you will support us in the direction that we believe will bring long term broad and strong solidarity with Palestine and broader anti-imperialist movements in the region.

Yours in solidarity and struggle,
USPCN and IJAN

Very sad. Yet again, we encounter a US left that is unable to intellectually and politically separate itself from Zionism, or too spineless to do so. The notion that Stand with Us will conduct itself during the workshop according to any ground rules established by the Forum is comical. The Forum acknowledges that Stand with Us should have never been permitted to conduct a workshop, yet remains powerless of doing anything about it. But, despite this, we are supposed to believe that the Forum will forge an effective unity going forward on Palestine. Good luck with that. Meanwhile, Arabs and Muslims are dusting themselves off after having been thrown off the bus again. Sadly, they must be used to it by now.

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Saturday, June 19, 2010

Zionists Welcome at the US Social Forum (Part 2) 

UPDATE: A response from the Forum just posted on the Forum's Facebook page:

US Social Forum - Another World is Possible Hi Richard, sorry for the long delay. I'm pretty sure every member of the National Planning Committee can agree SWU's presence is absolutely not acceptable, and since they've managed to sneak into the process & disrupt the lives of those participating (this is their purpose right?) and the USSF process, how do we strategically handle this without simply reacting and playing into their hands. All 1,062 workshops submitted were accepted, and review of this happened in a 2 week frantic period- decision on workshop cancellations is just not cut & dry because USSF is not meant to be a gatekeeper and stands by principles of open space and horizontal & transparent facilitation of movement as well as anti-racism & anti-homophobia. The process for review & evaluation is and has always been public will of course be reassessed if there is ever another USSF.

World Social Forums absolutely have all kinds of protests within them and by all means, bring it to those who are against justice & liberation. We've been posting that the National Planning Committee representative groups to USSF especially take this concern very seriously and have been meeting over the phone and in person to discuss the really fragile nature of it for everyone involved and the process itself, despite criticism from our friends and bad press rolling in. And this in our most busy week where a solid 100 people are going without sleep. Much of our organizing has stopped during this very pressurized time for us because this is a priority- criticize as you may, but I hope folks can hold that and I'll say it now vulnerably because we know some out there support & believe in this process and they're owed a response as well. We've also suggested that our facebook isn't the best inlet for USSF communications, so it was suggested that folks with concerns get in contact with the co-signers of the original concern document and USSF organizers directly.

Though it may seem like a no brainer and simple step to do what folks are calling for and cancel the workshop, it's not an easy decision and we have to trust in the process of the National Planning Committee, which also involves directly affected communities. I hear IJAN & USPCN have drawn up a statement for the NPC and those who expressed direct concern, but it has not reached anyone from our facebook volunteer team. At this point, whatever decision is taken, USSF is going to get blasted for it. USSF organizers will of course take responsibility for the very slow response and mistakes we make. Thank you for speaking your truth.

I feel for the Forum's Facebook volunteer team. Someone or some people need to step up to the plate and get them out of the middle of this situation.

INITIAL POST: As described here on Thursday, the US Social Forum, a diverse domestic political and cultural gathering in emulation of the World Social Forum with the objective of developing alternatives to neoliberalism, scheduled a June 24th workshop on LGTBQI Liberation in the Middle East. But there was a problem. The workshop will be conducted by Stand With Us, an American Zionist organization known for its support of an attack upon Iran, the siege of Gaza and the harassment of anti-Zionist academics and activists. More practically, Stand With Us purports to speak for Arab and Muslim LGTBQI people for which it otherwise directs hatred and contempt.

On Wednesday, someone from the Forum posted a brief comment to the Forum's Facebook page to the effect that a statement would soon be issued, after the posting of the statement. It is now Saturday, three days before the start of the Forum, and no statement has yet been publicly released. Instead, the Forum has engaged in hedging by process, inquiring of people who have raised objections as to whether they have been in direct contact with ussf organizers or the co-signers of the original letter of concern from Helem, ASWAT, Palestinian Queers for BDS, and Al-Qaws. There has, however, been a lively discussion about the participation of Stand With Us, with numerous comments in opposition posted in the last few days.

Yesterday, Nada Elia, a person who has been quite persistent in expressing the opposition of Arab queers to the presence of Stand With Us, may have provided some insight into the opaque decisionmaking processes of the Forum in regard to this issue in following comment on the Arab Queers say NO to Pinkwashing at the US Social Forum Facebook page:

The USSF organizers explained that the SWU workshop was accepted by unfortunate mistake. It was worded fraudulently, and the proposal reviewers were clueless. So we educated them about the true nature of SWU, and now they know. What are they gonna do? Looks like they would rather offend us, than risk being accused of anti-Semitism.

In other words, more hedging, an attempt to protect the right of Stand with Us to speak for Arab and Muslim LGTBQI people at the Forum by means of a strategic apology. Yet again, in what I would have considered the most unlikely of places, we come face to face with the problematic relationship of the American left with Zionism. Consider, for example, my brief dialogue with Sam Molnar on the Forum's Facebook page:

Sam Molnar Dont you people see that zionism is a distraction? The true imperialists in the middle east are the Americans. The Israeli state was founded by the west so that the west could continue to scapegoat Jews for their own wrong doing in the world. The more we focus on zionism the less attention we pay to the true imperialist forces in the world. Focusing on Zionism as the cause of problems in the middle east is exactly what the imperialists want us to do. It is the United States that has invaded two sovreign nations.

Richard Estes With all due respect, Sam, this is a red herring. The question is whether a Zionist organization, "Stand with Us", should be allowed to conduct a workshop at the Forum and speak for those for which they direct hatred and contempt, Arab and Muslim LGBTQI people. "Stand with Us" is also an organization that supports the siege of Gaza and actively promotes an attack upon Iran. If it does, let me be among the first to say that the Forum will have done irreparable harm to itself.

But, as to your remarks, no, Zionism is not a "distraction", it is a central component of US domination of the Middle East. They are not mutually exclusive, they are complimentary. And, no, "the West" did not create Israel, Zionists did, in the face of quite a lot of opposition from "the West". Zionists are actively abusing and killing Palestinians every day, while dispossesing them, as they have done for decades, with US support. Perhaps, you have forgotten that Zionists have also launched extremely violent military operations in the West Bank, Lebanon and Gaza in the last 10 years, targeting civilians in large numbers. The US did not make them do that, even if it supported these actions after the fact, they did it independently. Focusing on Zionism is precisely what imperialists DON'T want us to do. If we prevail over Zionism, we also achieve a great victory over US imperialism as well.

If a significant number of US leftists and progressives think like Sam Molnar, it is no wonder that the American political scene lacks any vitality on the left:

Brandy Baker "It should have been excised as soon as people pointed it out to the organizers."

The United States Left is very, very squeamish in general, especially on matters like this (and in other ways, electorally, not breaking from the Democratic Party, but that is a whole other topic for another time). I have seen all kinds of nonsense take place in conferences and meetings because the organizers do not want to take a stand and tell anyone what to do, and they do not have the guts to call people out and throw those people out.

But the idea that a group like this would be allowed into the forum does strike me as outrageous, considering that the USSF is unapologetically Left-wing and does have at least one pro-Palestine group on its national planning committee.

The American anti-war Left (some) are quite squeamish about Palestine and on the idea of unapologetically defending Palestine and it is one of the factors that has hurt the movement and put it into such a torpid state. I hope that the USSF will not make the same mistakes and wind up alienating very good people and lose energy and focus as a result of not getting this group the hell off of the USSF agenda.

Unfortunately, it looks like the Forum is going to do precisely what Baker fears, and evolve into yet another aggregation of leftists and progressives that serves therapeutic purposes instead of political and social ones. With my family obligations, I have not been able to attend the Forum, but I did hope that it would play a significant role in organizing a left opposition in the US. But any organization that allows militant Zionists like Stand with Us to participate has no future other than as an organizer of activist vacations. Perhaps, the Forum can invite the Minutemen to conduct a workshop on the dangers faced by undocumented people in Arizona at its next event.

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Thursday, June 17, 2010

Zionists Welcome at the US Social Forum (Part 1) 

From beeksoos.com, a queer Arab Internet magazine:

We, the undersigned queer Arab organizations, are appalled by the US Social Forum’s decision to allow Stand with Us to utilize the event as a platform to pinkwash Israel’s crimes in the region. Stand with Us is cynically manipulating the struggle of queer people in the Middle East through its workshop entitled LGBTQI Liberation in the Middle East.

Stand with Us is a self-declared Zionist propaganda organization which describes itself as an international education organization that ensures that Israel’s side of the story is told in communities, campuses, libraries, the media and churches through brochures, speakers, conferences, missions to Israel, and thousands of pages of Internet resources.

Stand with Us has no connection with the LGBT movement in the Middle East apart from ties to Zionist Israeli LGBT organizations, yet it claims to speak for and about our movements. It has no credibility in our region, and as organizations working in and from the Middle East, we condemn its attempt to use us, our struggles, our lives, and our experiences as a platform for pro-Israeli propaganda.

Since Israel’s brutal wars on Gaza and Lebanon in 2006 and particularly after the recent unprovoked attack on the flotilla of activists going to Gaza, the Israeli government has found itself increasingly marginalized by international condemnations and weakened through the growing success of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign. To remedy this, it has launched a massive PR campaign using organizations such as Stand with Us to convince the world that Israel is not a brutal settler-colony state, but rather a free democracy where human rights in general, and LGBT rights in particular, are respected and upheld. Stand With Us deceptively uses the language of LGBT and women’s rights to obscure the fact that institutionalized discrimination is enshrined within the state of Israel.

Our struggle is deeply intertwined with the struggle of all oppressed people, and we cannot accept that we are being used as a tool to discredit the Palestinian cause. Stand with Us would have everyone believe that the Palestinian cause is an unworthy one because of the homophobia that exists within Palestinian society, as if homophobia does not exist elsewhere, and as if struggles for justice are predicated on some sort of inherent goodness of the oppressed, rather than on the principles of freedom, justice, and equality for everyone, everywhere. Stand with Us would have us all compartmentalize our beliefs, lives, and identities so that solidarity with the queer struggle would preclude solidarity with others.

While Stand With Us is quick to point out the oppression of queer Palestinians under the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, it conveniently forgets that those same queers are not immune to the bombs, blockades, apartheid and destruction wrought upon them daily by the Israeli government, and that Israel’s multi-tiered oppression hardly makes a distinction between straight and gay Palestinians.

We refuse to be instrumentalized by anyone, be it our own oppressive governments or the Zionist lobby hijacking our struggle to legitimize the state of Israel and its policies, thus providing even more fodder for our own governments to use against us. If you want to learn about our movements and struggles, engage with us, rather than with those who will use us as pawns in Israel’s campaign to pinkwash its crimes.

The inclusion of Stand With Us at the USSF is an egregious oversight on the part of the forum. We ask the forum to justify this inclusion given that it violates its own principles of anti-racism, uniting oppressed communities, prioritizing marginalized voices, and opposing US foreign policy. The USSF should be held accountable to its own standards. We look forward to hearing its plans to address the situation.

Helem, Lebanese Protection for LGBT

Al-Qaws, For Sexual and Gender Diversity in Palestinian Society

ASWAT, Palestinian Gay Women

Palestinian Queers for BDS, pqbds.wordpress.com

Let's compare the event description with the avowed purpose of Stand with Us:

Event Date: Thu, 06/24/2010 - 10:00am - 12:00pm

Event Location: WSU Manoogian: 112

Full Description:
The purpose of this workshop is to expose the underground LBGTQI Liberation movements that currently exist across the Middle East. We will seek to explore the cultural context of the status of the LGBTQI community across time and the vast mosaic of cultures that make up the region. After establishing a historical context, we will introduce participants to the stories of young people from across the region striving for acceptance. Some stories are harrowing and gut wrenching, while others are triumphant, but all are inspirational. The end goal is to engage the participants in supporting the cause of LGBTQI Liberation, and to connect them with outlets through which they can offer their support. We plan on having information available on how to connect with the offices of different Middle Eastern LGBTQI non-profits, and will offer material produced by StandWithUs which uses information collected by such organizations as Amnesty International for participants to walk away with so that they can better educate their own communities about the realities of the Middle East

Organizer Name: Brett Cohen

Organizer Email: brett.cohen@standwithus.com

First Sponsoring Organization Name: StandWithUs

Language(s): English

Tracks:
Democracy and Governance
To the Left: building a movement for social justice: intersections and alliances across race, class, gender, sexuality, age, ability . . .

Now, here's how Stand With Us summarizes some of its activities:

SWU Protests Durban II - April 2009

» Ready For Durban III
Jerusalem Post front page editorial by Michael Dickson, director Israel office who attended Durban II. April 26, 2009

SWU Support Israel - HAMAS War!

» New Wave of Pro-Israel Action Hits The Streets
Jewish Daily Forward. Jan. 8, 2009 by Rebecca Spence

» Israel Activists Blending New, Traditional Tactics in PR Battle
Jewish Telegraphic Agency. Jan. 13, 2009 by Ben Harris and Joshua Spiro

» IDF soldiers give testimonies to counter Gaza war crimes claims
Haaretz, July 16, 2009 by Cnaan Liphshiz on www.soldiersspeakout.com

SWU Responds to Anti-israel Campus Activities

» StandWithUs Stands Against Campus Anti-Zionism
Arutz Sheva by Shauna Naghi November 23, 2007

» Fighting Back
JTnews, February 24, 2010 report on SWU Northwest Regional Campus Israel Advocacy Conference

» Fighting "Apartheid" accusations on campus
SWU fights IAW in The Jewish State, March 5, 2010, by Alexander Traum

Sounds like a perfect fit for the US Social Forum. Fits right with the purpose of the Stand with Us event as consistent with the Forum's objective of building a movement for social justice: intersections and alliances across race, class, gender, sexuality, age, ability . . . , doesn't it? After all, what better way to address the the perils of Arab and Muslim LGBTQI people than through a Zionist organization? Maybe, at the conclusion of the event, the participants can put forward a resolution in support of IDF military intervention in support of oppressed LGBTQI people for approval, especially those in Iran who will be liberated through an air strikes on Iranian nuclear research facilities.

And, by the way, did I mention that Stand with Us is playing a prominent role in harassing anti-Zionist academics in the US? Maybe next year, the Forum can invite someone from AIPAC to speak on non-violent methods for resisting US and Zionist imperialism. If not, David Horowitz would be a good alternative, and he loves the limelight. If you want to communicate with the Forum about this situation, go here.

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Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Petraeus Fainting... 

Was reading this article this morning, and was reminded of the same thing happening to that Mark Kimmitt several years ago, actually more than half a decade ago (Jesus!)... which I remember because I wrote about it on this blog -- strange how blogs do that to the mind: I can remember the most miniscule bits of trivia if I posted about it here. Anyway, what's the deal with these guys who run our colonies always passing out?

Personally, I think it's because these military guys are all a bunch of raging Provigil™ fiends and inevitably crash. Just kidding (sort of) ...

Friday, June 11, 2010

The 21st Century Pentagon Papers? 

UPDATE: Daniel Ellsberg believes that Assange could be assassinated or otherwise physically harmed by the US:

SHENON: Yeah, he [Assange] said last week, at this New York gathering that he had been instructed by his lawyers not to return to the United States.

ELLSBURG: You know, may I say, the expression he used, I was supposed to do a dialogue with him at that conference, that’s why I went to New York. And he explained, the explanation he used was that he was understood that it was not safe for him to come to this country. And then later he explained now when the Bradley Manning arrest was announced, he said now you understand why I didn’t come. I think it’s worth mentioning a very new and ominous development in our country. I think he would not be safe, even physically entirely, wherever he is. We have after all for the first time, that I ever perhaps in any Democratic country, we have a president who has announced that he feels he has the right to use special operations operatives against anyone abroad, that he thinks is associated with terrorism. That he suspects of it. And that includes American citizens. One American citizen has even been named. Now Assange is not an American citizen. But I listen to that with a special interest. Because I was in fact the subject of a White House hit squad in November on May 3rd, 1972. A dozen Cuban assets were brought up from Miami with orders, quote, quoting the prosecutor, to incapacitate Daniel Ellsberg totally. on the steps of the capital, it so happens when i was in a rally during the vietnam war. And I asked the prosecutor, what does that mean, kill me? And he said, the words were “to incapacitate you totally.” But you should understand, these guides, meaning these c.i.a. operatives never use the word “kill.” i actually think it was to silence me at that particular time. For worries they had that I would leak president Nixon’s nuclear threats, which he was making at that precise time in 1972. Now as I look at Assange’s case, they’re worried that he will reveal current threats. I would have to say puts his well-being, his physical life, in some danger now. And I say that with anguish. I think it’s astonishing that an American president should have put out that policy and he’s not getting these resistance from it, from congress, the press, the courts or anything. it’s an amazing development that I think Assange would do well to keep his whereabouts unknown.

INITIAL POST: From the The Daily Beast:

Pentagon investigators are trying to determine the whereabouts of the Australian-born founder of the secretive website Wikileaks for fear that he may be about to publish a huge cache of classified State Department cables that, if made public, could do serious damage to national security, government officials tell The Daily Beast.

The officials acknowledge that even if they found the website founder, Julian Assange, it is not clear what they could do to block publication of the cables on Wikileaks, which is nominally based on a server in Sweden and bills itself as a champion of whistleblowers.

We’d like to know where he is; we’d like his cooperation in this, one U.S. official said of Assange.

American officials said Pentagon investigators are convinced that Assange is in possession of at least some classified State Department cables leaked by a 22-year-old Army intelligence specialist, Bradley Manning of Potomac, Maryland, who is now in custody in Kuwait.

And given the contents of the cables, the feds have good reason to be concerned.

As The Daily Beast reported June 8, Manning, while posted in Iraq, apparently had special access to cables prepared by diplomats and State Department officials throughout the Middle East, regarding the workings of Arab governments and their leaders, according to an American diplomat.

The cables, which date back over several years, went out over interagency computer networks available to the Army and contained information related to American diplomatic and intelligence efforts in the war zones in Afghanistan and Iraq, the diplomat said.

Hopefully, Assange has gone underground, as Ellsberg did during the publication of the Pentagon Papers by the New York Times. But times have changed. If Assange gave them over to the Times today, the Grey Lady wouldn't touch them. Fortunately for us, he can now publish them on the Internet, if Wikileaks really has them as there is some doubt about it. If the material has been accurately described, the release has the potential to expose the concealed hypocrisies of the governments involved in the so called war on terror, both overt and covert, just as the Pentagon Papers revealed that the US government had deliberately lied to us about our involvement in Vietnam.

But, if Assange did release them over the Internet, one wonders whether the US, like the Chinese government that is so frequently condemns, would seek the cooperation of internet service providers to prevent us from reading them. As with the suppression of photographs of torture at Abu Ghraib, the real purpose of such suppression is to preserve our ignorance. And, then, of course, there is Bradley Manning, the brave man who set all of this in motion. Hopefully, Daniel Ellsberg and others are working to put together an effort to protect him.

Finally, there is the question as to why there is such urgency in hunting down Assange and preventing the release of the records, beyond the political consequences already noted. Could it, perchance, have something to do with a possible attack upon Iran? Just imagine what might happen if numerous confidential US military and diplomatic communications related to the US effort to bring about regime change in Iran were publicly released. If so, we can only urge Assange to immediately get them out in the public domain. It may be our last chance to prevent another conflagration.

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Thursday, June 10, 2010

Carry on the Campaign for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Until the Palestinians are Free 

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

BOOK REVIEW: Summer Will Show 

The New York Review Books publishes some wonderful literature. The editors keep a lot of compelling works in the public view that would otherwise disappear. Examples include Jean Genet's Prisoner of Love, Victor Serge's Unforgiving Years and Andrey Platonov's Soul. Most impressively, as indicated by these titles, the effort is internationalist in scope, if admittedly eurocentric.

Last year, the NYRB released a new paperback edition of Summer Will Show, a 1936 novel written by the now largely forgotten English novelist and poet Sylvia Townsend Warner. Written in the Victorian style, and reputedly referencing Great Expectations at various points in the narrative, Warner relates the extraordinary experiences of an English gentlewoman, Sylvia Willoughby, in the momentous year of 1848. Willoughby resides alone with her children on her family's Blandamer estate while her husband, Frederick, carouses about London and the continent with various women. She is an example of a daughter of the nobility who embraces the muscularity of country life, possessing all those qualities of independence and self-reliance considered desirable in a male heir. She doesn't suffer very much from her husband's frequent absences and administers the estate quite well. Her daughter displays similar qualities, while she is disconcerted by her mild mannered son.

But, as invariably appears to be the case in the Victorian novel, tragedy strikes when Willoughby's children die of smallpox and the village learns of Frederick's most recent affair with, horror of horrors, a Jewish storyteller in Paris, Minna Lemuel. While writing the novel, Warner's life was centered around two things, her lesbian relationship with Valentine Ackland and their support for the Republican cause in Spain. According to Claire Harman, who wrote the introduction to the novel, Willoughby resembles Ackland, while Minna is somewhat of a self-portrait. In marked contrast to Sylvia, Minna, having grown up as a Lithuanian Jew, had lived a life of hardship and persecution, related through her stories, that necessitated role playing as a means of survival. By highlighting the public appetite for Minna's stories, Warner anticipates the contemporary desperation for expressions of purportedly real experiences in a world increasingly perceived as artificial. Upon gravitating to Paris, Willoughby and Minna improbably fall in love as the revolution of 1848 erupts around them.

I must concede that I found the novel tough going at first, because I cut my teeth on the modern novel, spending my time in high school reading Heller and Vonnegut for my Contemporary American Literature class, with Solzhenitsyn on my free time. I grew up with an appreciation for the sharp, non-romanticized linguistic precision of many contemporary novels, frequently written in the idiom of their protagonists. I consciously avoided what I perceived to be the tedium of the Early American Literature one where I would have been subjected to Nathaniel Hawthorne. To my juvenile mind, there was nothing more irrelevant in the late 1970s than a novel about adultery. Instead, I went farther back in the time and focused on Shakespeare, who struck me as much more entertaining, even in the abridged high school versions of his plays. I still regret not having read Moby Dick, though, and have, much like Gravity's Rainbow, unsuccessfully tried to read it twice without success.

But, in this instance, I stayed with it, and Summer Will Show has ample rewards for one patient enough to read it through to its conclusion. Most others will probably read it quite easily. Of course, the centerpiece of the novel is the personal transformation that Minna ignites in Sylvia. Forced to choose between Frederick and Minna, she chooses Minna, which results in some unpleasant discoveries about gender inequality in the 19th Century, even for someone as privileged as Sylvia. Through Minna, she experiences the revolution and its chaotic aftermath, without abandoning her Tory social perspective. In this respect, much of the novel has more of a feminist sensibility than a Marxist one. By living with Minna, she casts off the husk of her life among the nobility, exhilarated by her uncertain daily life among the artists, the radicals, and the proletarians, or, more accurately, the sans culottes.

Meanwhile, Minna, along with the rest of her bohemian friends, struggle as they discover that they were financially dependent upon the class that they wished to see overthrown. Both Minna and Sylvia are fatalistic about the ultimate outcome of the revolution, but whereas Minna is frequently contradictory and self-absorbed, Sylvia becomes more and more bonded with the workers and shopkeepers in their district. Her practicality serves her well during a time of scarcity. Conversely, Minna identifies with the revolution as a form of artistic expression, but has difficulty integrating it into her personal experience of persecution as a Jew. Here, we encounter an important subterranean theme of the novel, the difficulty of mobilizing a revolutionary movement in Europe that encompasses the histories of Jewish oppression and working class exploitation.

Ultimately, Warner determines that it is through collective resistance that Sylvia's Toryism and Minna's Jewishness will cease to serve as barriers to working class solidarity, as they join the workers on the barricades in a futile attempt to resist the counter-revolution. If anything, this is a rather anarchistic orientation towards revolution and social transformation, with direct action melting away social inhibitions. But, a Marxist-Leninism remains. After all, the resistance failed, perhaps implying that more effective forms of social organization are required to succeed in the future. Such is the implication of the novel's concluding passages, along with a truly radical assertion that we retain the individual capacity to align ourselves with the working class as part of a larger liberatory enterprise. Whether it is capable of accomodating the feminist urgencies of people like Sylvia and Minna goes unanswered.

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Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Cluster Bomb Strike in Yemen 

The war on terror expands to Yemen, with predictable results:

A US cruise missile carrying cluster bombs was used in an attack in Yemen that killed 55 people, most of them civilians, Amnesty International has said.

The London-based rights group released photographs yesterday that it said showed the remains of a US-made Tomahawk missile and unexploded cluster bombs that were apparently used in the attack on December 17 on the rural community of Al-Maajala in Yemen's southern Abyan province.

Amnesty International is gravely concerned by evidence that cluster munitions appear to have been used in Yemen, said Mike Lewis, the group's arms control researcher. Cluster munitions have indiscriminate effects and unexploded bomblets threaten lives and livelihoods for years afterwards.

And, you wonder why the US has no problem with the attack on the Gaza flotilla?

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Saturday, June 05, 2010

Execution Style Slayings Aboard the Mavi Marmara? 

UPDATE: From lenin at Lenin's Tomb:

And here's the punchline. The blockade has left most Gazans wholly or partially dependent on food aid. However, the blockade has also placed a stranglehold on the amount of aid actually getting to Gaza. The amount entering Gaza in mid-2009 was 25% of that entering in 2007. This has resulted in nine out of ten residents living below the poverty line of a dollar a day. Even such aid as is devoted to Gaza can't be spent because of the blockade, according to Amnesty and the ICRC. Israel has consistently blocked food shipments, only allowing them through when it became an embarrassing political incident. It has held up medicines until they have expired. 80% of all imports to Gaza come through the tunnels. Israel has deliberately turned Gaza into a ghettoised economy, dependent on smuggling from outside fences, walls, and boundaries enforced by military violence. The tunnels, of course, are routinely attacked by aerial bombardment, on the pretext that they are being used to smuggle weapons - because Gaza, this tiny land mass with no navy or standing army, might get a few guns to defend itself the next time Israel decides to invade.

INITIAL POST: From the Guardian:

Israel was tonight under pressure to allow an independent inquiry into its assault on the Gaza aid flotilla after autopsy results on the bodies of those killed, obtained by the Guardian, revealed they were peppered with 9mm bullets, many fired at close range.

Nine Turkish men on board the Mavi Marmara were shot a total of 30 times and five were killed by gunshot wounds to the head, according to the vice-chairman of the Turkish council of forensic medicine, which carried out the autopsies for the Turkish ministry of justice today.

The results revealed that a 60-year-old man, Ibrahim Bilgen, was shot four times in the temple, chest, hip and back. A 19-year-old, named as Fulkan Dogan, who also has US citizenship, was shot five times from less that 45cm, in the face, in the back of the head, twice in the leg and once in the back. Two other men were shot four times, and five of the victims were shot either in the back of the head or in the back, said Yalcin Buyuk, vice-chairman of the council of forensic medicine.

Sound familiar? Well, sort of. But it turns out that US Special Forces do this sort of thing more cleanly and efficiently:

The two helicopters swooped low over a cluster of mud homes, whirling in the cold night sky before landing in a wheat field on the edge of the small Afghan village.

From his home nearby, 23-year-old Najibullah Omar strained his eyes in the darkness as he made out the faint shapes of armed men pouring from the helicopters’ bellies.

A third helicopter circled menacingly in the moonless sky above the village of Karakhil in Wardak province, southwest of Kabul.

Then a loud explosion shook the ground and a plume of smoke rose from his cousin Hamidullah’s house 20 yards away. Its guest room caught fire. Omar heard a burst of gunfire before all went quiet.

His worst fears were confirmed the moment he walked through the compound gate at first light.

The body of his cousin, a 32-year-old construction engineer who had taken a break from his job in a far-off province to visit his family, lay sprawled next to those of his wife and their seven-year-old son. Blood ran in dark pools on the mud floor of the terrace outside their door.

The wife and son had been shot in the head, each with a single bullet. The engineer had died from a shot to the chest. The precision of the killings, coupled with his failure to find any bullet casings after the raid, led Omar to believe that his cousin was murdered either by US special forces or by an intelligence agency.

No wonder that Vice President Biden was mystified over the furor that has erupted as a result of the Israeli assault, exclaiming: So what's the big deal here?

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Thursday, June 03, 2010

Facebook: A Social Networking Site for Zionist Assassins 

UPDATE: Zuabi's reception in the Knesset

INITIAL POST: From the Guardian:

While other activists from the Gaza aid flotilla have returned home, one is left facing death threats and abuse in Israel. Haneen Zuabi, a Palestinian member of the Israeli Knesset who was aboard the Mavi Marmara, is now under armed protection after nearly 500 people signed up to a Facebook page calling for her execution.

During a heated parliamentary session yesterday Zuabi was sworn at and then shoved out of the chamber amid shouts of Go to Gaza, traitor.

The 41-year-old member of the Arab nationalist party Balad has also received death threats by phone and mail. "I am not scared," she said, speaking from her home town of Nazareth in northern Israel. This is inherent here, it is not something that started yesterday. It is just harder and harsher now.

Amazing. Can you imagine what would happen in most other places if this happened? There would be a more assertive response than just placing the threatened individual under armed protection. And, does anyone know if Facebook has taken the page down or not?

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Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Like Another Bad Penny 

UPDATE: Quick, someone tell Grossman:

Statements by senior Israeli military commanders made in the Hebrew media days before the massacre revealed that the raid was planned over a week in advance by the Israeli military and was personally approved by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Minister of Defense Ehud Barak. The elite Israeli commando unit known as Unit 13 was tasked with carrying out the mission and its role was known by the Israeli public well before the raid took place. Details of the plan show that the use of deadly force was authorized and calculated. The massacre of activists should not have been unexpected.

INITIAL POST: More liberal rationalizations of Israeli brutality by David Grossman, even as he engages in a pretense to the contrary:

No explanation can justify or whitewash the crime that was committed here, and no excuse can explain away the stupid actions of the government and the army. Israel did not send it soldiers to kill civilians in cold blood; indeed, this is the last thing it wanted. And yet, a small Turkish organization, fanatical in its religious views and radically hostile to Israel, recruited to its cause several hundred seekers of peace and justice, and managed to lure Israel into a trap, precisely because it knew how Israel would react, knew how Israel is destined and compelled, like a puppet on a string, to react the way it did.

How insecure, confused and panicky a country must be, to act as Israel acted! With a combination of excessive military force, and a fatal failure to anticipate the intensity of the reaction of those aboard the ship, it killed and wounded civilians, and did so – as if it were a band of pirates – outside Israel’s territorial waters. Clearly, this assessment does not imply agreement with the motives, overt or hidden, and often malicious, of some participants in the Gaza flotilla. Not all its people are peace-loving humanitarians, and the declarations of some of them regarding the destruction of the State of Israel are criminal. But these facts are simply not relevant at the moment: such opinions, so far as we know, do not deserve the death penalty.

Israel was lured into a trap? Israel, the powerless victim of a Turkish conspiracy? Pure nonsense, as Norm Finkelstein recognized the other day:

What happened with the Gaza flotilla was not an accident. You have to remember that the Israeli cabinet met for fully a week. All the cabinet ministers discussed and deliberated how they would handle the flotilla. There were numerous reports in the Israeli press, numerous suggestions, numerous recommendations about what to do. At the end of the day, they decided on a nighttime armed commando raid on a humanitarian convoy. Israel is now a lunatic state. It's a lunatic state with between two and three hundred nuclear devices. It is threatening war daily against Iran and against Hezbollah in Lebanon. Hezbollah in Lebanon has already stated on several occasions: if Israel attacks it will retaliate in kind. Things are getting out of control.

Furthermore, it is essential to observe that the subject of concern in Grossman's article is Israel, and even more specifically, the IDF soldiers that were ordered to carry out the raid. He has perfected a style of literary expression that appears, at first glance, to recognize the autonomy of the Palestinians, but, upon closer inspection, subordinates them to the urgencies of the Zionist project at every turn. Like a kindly therapist, he seeks to identify the neurosis purportedly manipulated to such tragic ends by the Turks and propose appropriate treatment, in this case, the end of the siege of Gaza:

Israel’s actions yesterday are but the natural continuation of the shameful, ongoing closure of Gaza, which in turn is the perpetuation of the heavy-handed and condescending approach of the Israeli government, which is prepared to embitter the lives of a million and a half innocent people in the Gaza Strip, in order to obtain the release of one imprisoned soldier, precious and beloved though he may be; and this closure is the all-too-natural consequence of a clumsy and calcified policy, which again and again resorts by default to the use of massive and exaggerated force, at every decisive juncture, where wisdom and sensitivity and creative thinking are called for instead.

Admittedly, Grossman acknowledges that the populace of Gaza is innocent, but the issue of most pressing concern for him is that they will be even further embittered towards Israel because of the siege. There is a nationalistic narcissism on display here, wherein he hopes to relegitimize Israel, and, by extension, Zionism, as both a physical place and an abstract principle for ordering society, enabling people to wholeheartedly identify with them again: I would like to believe that the shock of yesterday’s frantic actions will lead to a re-evaluation of the whole idea of the closure, at last freeing the Palestinians from their suffering, and cleansing Israel of its moral stain.

Come again? Lifting the siege will free the Palestinians from their suffering? While settlement activity proceeds apace, and thousands of Palestinians remain detained within Israel? While settlers run amok in the West Bank, supported by millions of dollars of Israeli and American assistance, abusing an indigenous populace that lives in poverty? Paradoxically, it appears that Grossman craves a sort of special forces approach to the Palestinian problem, one that involves covert actions out of sight and out of mind even as he condemns such an action in the Mediterranean.

Beyond this obvious material aspect, there is the implicit characterization of the Palestinians as an inferior people only capable of achieving a live without suffering, like, say, feudal peasants, while the people of Israel, associated with the higher calling of Zionism, aspire to an attainment of moral perfection. Hence, Israelis are full bodied people, possessing all the human frailties of self-interest, morality and human agency. By contrast, Palestinians are merely passive participants who are either abused by Israelis as they play out their larger than life ambitions as the master builders of Palestine or irrational perpetrators of violence in response to these abuses. In short, they lack the capacity for self-determination.

But we shouldn't be surprised. He was more odious, lacking in any of the subtlety of expression encountered here, when speaking about the Israeli attack upon Lebanon in 2006, as related here and here. We should, however, be appreciative that, while he considers anti-Zionism a criminal offense ( . . the declarations of some of them regarding the destruction of the State of Israel are criminal . . ), he doesn't consider violations as warranting the death penalty. Perhaps, only 6 months county jail or work project, maybe he can elaborate in his next pronouncement. Fortunately, I live in the US, and for all of its obvious faults, it hasn't criminalized public expressions of anti-Zionism.

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Tuesday, June 01, 2010

The Pathology of Zionism 

UPDATE 2: Yesterday, there was yet another example of how Israel deals with non-violent protest:

An American solidarity activist was shot in the face with a tear gas canister during a demonstration in Qalandiya, today. Emily Henochowicz is currently in Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem undergoing surgery to remove her left eye, following the demonstration that was held in protest to Israel’s murder of at least 10 civilians aboard the Gaza Freedom Flotilla in international waters this morning.

21-year old Emily Henochowicz was hit in the face with a tear gas projectile fired directly at her by an Israeli soldier during the demonstration at Qalandiya checkpoint today. Israeli occupation forces fired volleys of tear gas at unarmed Palestinian and international protesters, causing mass panic amongst the demonstrators and those queuing at the largest checkpoint separating the West Bank and Israel.

They clearly saw us, said Sören Johanssen, a Swedish ISM volunteer standing with Henochowicz. They clearly saw that we were internationals and it really looked as though they were trying to hit us. They fired many canisters at us in rapid succession. One landed on either side of Emily, then the third one hit her in the face.

UPDATE 1: We Are All Gazans Now

INITIAL POST: From Max Ajl of Jewbonics, reporting from Gaza:

Before the attack, Israeli spokespeople and statesmen had sedulously tried to paint the flotilla in the colors reserved for scoundrels and terrorists. "Israel … invited the flotilla organizers to use the land crossings ... however, they're less interested in bringing in aid than promoting their radical agenda and playing into the hands of Hamas provocations…. [The organizers have] wrapped themselves in a humanitarian cloak, but engage in political propaganda," said Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor. Avigdor Lieberman, the Israeli foreign minister, said that "the flotilla is an attempt at violent propaganda against Israel, and Israel will not allow a violation of its sovereignty at sea, in the air or on land." The flotilla carried hundreds of wheelchairs for crippled Gazans and a dental clinic for Al-Shifa Hospital.

The pattern of mind is one that views resistance as terror, self-defense as murder and pacifism as violence. Such a mindset cannot admit to the possibility of a legitimate or just challenge. So nonviolent sailing ships transmute to violent propagandists, "an Armada of hate and violence," as Ayalon described the Freedom Flotilla. International Solidarity Movement activists become human shields for bomb-planters, and the Palestinian resistance gets locked up in prison - there are about 7,000 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails; they make up 50 percent of the prison population. There are hundreds more in administrative detention. Israeli Arab lawmakers who contest Israeli apartheid are bludgeoned with politically motivated indictments and forced into exile, as Azmi Bishara was. Palestinian lawmakers and civil society leaders are locked in penitentiaries and tortured there, as Ameer Makhloul, the chairman of the Popular Committee for the Defense of Political Freedoms and the director of Ittijah, an umbrella group of hundreds of civil society organizations, has reportedly been. The tacit presumption is that Palestinian resistance is inherently illegitimate. The corollary is that Palestinians and their supporters have no right to resist Israeli actions. So when they defend themselves from corsairs intent on commandeering their ships, "They are directly responsible for the violence and the deaths that [occur]," as Israeli army spokesman Mark Regev comments. They should just take it.

Ajl has written an excellent article for Truthout that should be read in its entirely.

Perhaps, the attack upon the aid convoy provides some insight as to why liberal exhortations for a Palestinian Gandhi are so naive and condescending:

We Palestinians are often asked where the Palestinian Gandhi is and urged to adopt nonviolent methods in our struggle for freedom from Israeli military rule. On April 17 [2009], an Israeli soldier killed my good friend Bassem Abu Rahme at a nonviolent demonstration against Israeli confiscation of Palestinian land. Bassem was one of many Palestinian Gandhis.

One month prior, at another demonstration against land confiscation, Israeli soldiers fired a tear-gas canister at the head of nonviolent American peace activist Tristan Anderson from California. Tristan underwent surgery to remove part of his frontal lobe and is still lying unconscious in an Israeli hospital. In 2003, the Israeli military plowed down American peace activist Rachel Corrie with a Caterpillar bulldozer as she tried to protect a civilian home from demolition in Gaza. Shortly thereafter, an Israeli sniper shot British peace activist Tom Hurndall as he rescued Palestinian children from Israeli gunfire. He lay in a coma for nine months before he died.

Despite the killing of these unarmed civilians and documented evidence of systematic human-rights abuses, the U.S. continues to supply Israel with approximately $3 billion in military aid annually, allowing Israel to continue abusing Palestinians and preventing any meaningful resolution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

The Israeli government orders the confiscation of Palestinian land for one of two main purposes: to build or expand illegal colonies or to construct the Wall that the International Court of Justice ruled illegal in 2004. In the case of Bassem's village of Bil'in, even the Israeli Supreme Court ordered the Israeli government to change the route of the Wall, though Israel has yet to comply. Consequently, Palestinian farmers cannot reach their crops and they are devastated economically. Israel's policy is intended to force Palestinians to give up and leave in order to survive.

When village residents gather weekly to protest, they use various creative methods of nonviolent resistance, including carrying mirrors up to the soldiers to show them "the face of occupation" or dressing as various politicians and wearing blindfolds to symbolize the world's blind eye to their struggle. The Israeli military meets them and their Israeli and international supporters with tear gas, grenades, and bullets.

Of course, one of the necessary preconditions for a successful campaign of civil disobedience is the prospect that people around the world will respond to any violence used against the participants and compel the perpetrators to acknowledge their demands. To date, that response has been absent, and Israel is a country where much of the populace celebrates the use of violence as a means of asserting their social identity, as is now happening in response to the attack. Such a celebration is quite tragic for the Israelis as well, but, for now, the primary victims of it are the Palestinians, as they have always been.

If there is a contemporary nation state that readily confirms the anarchist condemnation of them, it is Israel and, of course, the US, which has a similar public relationship to the uses of violence for the purpose of achieving social cohesion. To lecture the Palestinians about how they would have already obtained their own state over 20 years ago, as Michael Tomasky does in the article linked above, is not only comical, but an insult to a people that have been subjected to extreme military violence every time that they have dared to organize collective resistance. No doubt the state that he envisions is one in which every important decision related to Palestinian life is one that must be pre-approved by Israel.

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