Facing a Shutdown | Why Americans Hate Muslims | Falk on Jewish Ethnicity, Palestinian Solidarity | India-Israel Axis | More ..
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Facing A Possible Shutdown:
The Palestine Chronicle Calls on Its Faithful Readers to Help
Friend and readers:
Here is the bottom-line: We have enough funds to last us 4 months only. Over 17 years of never-ending contributions to the just cause of Palestine will come to an abrupt end. Just like that.
It is unfortunate, considering that our readership is in constant incline, especially following the launch of our French sister publication, Chronique de Palestine. Between both websites, two newsletters and social media platforms, we educate tens of thousands of readers on Palestine every single day.
Two officers sought me from within a crowd at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. They seemed to know who I was. They asked me to follow them, and I obliged. Being of Arab background, often renders one's citizenship almost irrelevant.
In a back room, where other foreigners, mainly Muslims, were holed for 'added security', I was asked numerous questions about my politics, ideas, writing, children, friends and my late Palestinian parents.
Meanwhile, an officer took my bag and all of my papers, including receipts, business cards, and more. I did not protest. I am so used to this treatment and endless questioning that I simply go through the motions and answer the questions the best way I know how.
My first questioning commenced soon after September 11, 2001, when all Muslims and Arabs became, and remain, suspect. "Why do you hate our president," I was asked then, in reference to Bush.
On a different occasion, I was held in a room for hours at JFK International Airport because I had a receipt that revealed my immortal sin of eating at a London restaurant that served Halal meat.
I was also interrogated at an American border facility in Canada and was asked to fill several documents about my trip to Turkey, where I gave a talk at a conference and conducted several media interviews.
A question I am often asked is: "what is the purpose of your visit to this country?"
The fact that I am an American citizen, who acquired high education, bought a home, raised a good family, paid my taxes, obeyed the law and contributed to society in myriad ways are not an adequate answer.
I remain an Arab, a Muslim and a dissident, all unforgivable sins in the new, rapidly changing America.
Truthfully, I never had any illusions regarding the supposed moral superiority of my adopted country. I grew up in a Palestinian refugee camp in Gaza, and have witnessed, firsthand, the untold harm inflicted upon my people as a result of American military and political support of Israel.
Within the larger Arab context, US foreign policy was felt on larger scale. The invasion and destruction of Iraq in 2003 was but the culmination of decades of corrupt, violent American policies in the Arab world.
But when I arrived in the US in 1994, I also found another country, far kinder and more accepting than the one represented - or misrepresented - in US foreign policy. While constantly embracing my Palestinian Arab roots, I have lived and interacted with a fairly wide margin of like-minded people in my new home.
While I was greatly influenced by my Arab heritage, my current political thoughts and the very dialectics through which I understand and communicate with the world - and my understanding of it - are vastly shaped by American scholars, intellectual dissidents and political rebels. It is no exaggeration to say that I became part of the same cultural Zeitgeist that many American intellectuals subscribe to.
Certainly, anti-Arab and Muslim sentiments in the US have been around for generations, but it has risen sharply in the last two decades. Arabs and Muslims have become an easy scapegoat for all of America's failed wars and counter-violence.
Terrorist threats have been exaggerated beyond belief to manipulate a frightened, but also a growing impoverished population. The threat level was assigned colors, and each time the color vacillated towards the red, the nation drops all of its grievances, fights for equality, jobs and health care and unites in hating Muslims, people they never met.
It mattered little that, since September 11, the odds of being killed by terrorism are 1 in 110,000,000, an extremely negligible number compared to the millions who die as a result of diabetes, for example, or shark attacks, for that matter.
'Terrorism' has morphed from being a violent phenomenon requiring national debate and sensible policies to combat it, into a bogeyman that forces everyone into conformity, and divides people between being docile and obedient on the one hand, and 'radical' and suspect, on the other.
But blaming Muslims for the decline of the American empire is as ineffective as it is dishonest.
The Economic Intelligence Unit had recently downgraded the US from a "full democracy' to a "flawed democracy". Neither Muslims nor Islam played any role in that.
The size of the Chinese economy is soon to surpass that of the US, and the powerful East Asian country is already roaring, expanding its influence in the Pacific and beyond. Muslims are hardly the culprits there, either.
Nor are Arabs responsible for the death of the 'American dream', if one truly existed in the first place; nor the election of Donald Trump; nor the utter corruption and mafia-like practices of America's ruling elites and political parties.
It was not the Arabs and Muslims who duped the US into invading Iraq, where millions of Arabs and Muslims lost their lives as a result of the unchecked military adventurism.
In fact, Arabs and Muslims are by far the greatest victims of terrorism, whether state-sponsored terror or that of desperate, vile groups like ISIS and al-Qaeda.
Americans, Muslims are not your enemy. They never have been. Conformity is.
"In this age, the mere example of nonconformity, the mere refusal to bend the knee to custom, is itself a service," wrote John Stuart Mill in 'On Liberty.' The English philosopher, had a tremendous impact on American liberalism.
I read his famous book soon after I arrived in the US. It took me a while to realize that what we learn in books often sharply contradicts reality.
Instead, we now live in the 'age of impunity', according to Tom Engelhardt. In a 2014 article, published in the Huffington Post, he wrote: "For America's national security state, this is the age of impunity. Nothing it does - torture, kidnapping, assassination, illegal surveillance, you name it - will ever be brought to court."
Those who are "held accountable" are whistleblowers and political dissidents who dare question the government and educate their fellow men and women on the undemocratic nature of such oppressive practices.
Staying silent is not an option. It is a form of defeatism that should be outed as equally destructive as the muzzling of democracy.
"One has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws," wrote Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Barring citizens of Muslim countries from travelling to the US is a great act of immorality and injustice. Sadly, many Americans report that such discriminatory laws already make them feel safe, which itself is an indication of how the government and media manipulate consent in this country to produce the desirable results.
A big fan of hating Edward Bernays' work, yet appreciating his honesty, I realize the question is not that of Trump alone. Bernays, whose writing on propaganda influenced successive governments and inspired various military coups, was versed on manipulating popular consent of Americans nearly a century ago. He perceived the masses as unruly and a burden on democracy, which he believed could only be conducted by the intelligent a few.
The outcome of his ideas, which influenced generation of conformist intellectuals, is in full display today.
America is changing fast, and is certainly not heading in the right direction. Shelving all pressing problems and putting the focus on chasing after, demonizing and humiliating brown skinned men and women is certainly not the way out of the economic, political and foreign policy quagmires which American ruling elites have invited upon their country.
"If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they don't want to hear," wrote George Orwell.
No matter the cost, we must adhere to this Orwellian wisdom, even if the number of people who refuse to hear has grown exponentially, and the margins for dissent have shrunk like never before.
- Dr. Ramzy Baroud has been writing about the Middle East for over 20 years. He is an internationally-syndicated columnist, a media consultant, an author of several books and the founder of PalestineChronicle.com. His books include "Searching Jenin", "The Second Palestinian Intifada" and his latest "My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza's Untold Story". His website is www.ramzybaroud.net.
When Israel passed a new counter-terrorism law last year, Ayman Odeh, a leader of the country's large minority of Palestinian citizens, described its draconian measures as colonialism's "last gasp". He said: "I see ... the panic of the French at the end of the occupation of Algeria."
The panic and cruelty plumbed new depths last week, when Israeli officials launched a $2.3 million lawsuit against the family of Fadi Qanbar, who crashed a truck into soldiers in Jerusalem in January, killing four. He was shot dead at the scene.
The suit demands that his widow, Tahani, reimburse the state for the compensation it awarded the soldiers' families. If she cannot raise the astronomic sum, the debt will pass to her four children, the oldest of whom is currently only seven.
Israel is reported to be preparing many similar cases.
Like other families of Palestinians who commit attacks, the Qanbars are homeless, after Israel sealed their East Jerusalem home with cement. Twelve relatives were also stripped of their residency papers as a prelude to expelling them to the West Bank.
None has done anything wrong - their crime is simply to be related to someone Israel defines as a "terrorist".
This trend is intensifying. Israel has demanded that the Palestinian Authority stop paying a small monthly stipend to families like the Qanbars, whose breadwinner was killed or jailed. Conviction rates among Palestinians in Israel's military legal system stand at more than 99 per cent, and hundreds of prisoners are incarcerated without charge.
Israeli legislation is set to seize $280 million - a sum equivalent to the total stipends - from taxes Israel collects on behalf of the Palestinian Authority, potentially bankrupting it.
On Wednesday Israel loyalists will introduce in the US Senate a bill to similarly deny the PA aid unless it stops "funding terror". Issa Karaka, a Palestinian official, said it would be impossible for the PA to comply: "Almost every other household ... is the family of a prisoner or martyr."
Israel has taken collective punishment - a serious violation of international law - to new extremes, stretching the notion to realms once imaginable only in a dystopian fable like George Orwell's 1984.
Israel argues that a potential attacker can only be dissuaded by knowing his loved ones will suffer harsh retribution. Or put another way, Israel is prepared to use any means to crush the motivation of Palestinians to resist its brutal, five-decade occupation.
All evidence, however, indicates that when people reach breaking-point, and are willing to die in the fight against their oppressors, they give little thought to the consequences for their families. That was the conclusion of an investigation by the Israeli army more than a decade ago.
In truth, Israel knows its policy is futile. It is not deterring attacks, but instead engaging in complex displacement activity. Ever-more sadistic forms of revenge shore up a collective and historic sense of Jewish victimhood while deflecting Israelis' attention from the reality that their country is a brutal colonial settler state.
If that verdict seems harsh, consider a newly published study into the effects on operators of using drones to carry out extrajudicial executions, in which civilians are often killed as "collateral damage".
A US survey found pilots who remotely fly drones soon develop symptoms of post-traumatic stress from inflicting so much death and destruction. The Israeli army replicated the study after its pilots operated drones over Gaza during Israel's 2014 attack - the ultimate act of collective punishment. Some 500 Palestinian children were killed as the tiny enclave was bombarded for nearly two months.
Doctors were surprised, however, that the pilots showed no signs of depression or anxiety. The researchers speculate that Israeli pilots may feel more justified in their actions, because they are closer to Gaza than US pilots are to Afghanistan, Iraq or Yemen. They are more confident that they are the ones under threat, even as they rain down death unseen on Palestinians.
The determination to maintain this exclusive self-image as the victim leads to outrageous double standards.
Last week the Israeli supreme court backed the refusal by officials to seal up the homes of three Jews who kidnapped Mohammed Abu Khdeir, a 16-year-old from Jerusalem, in 2014 and burnt him alive.
In May the Israeli government revealed that it had denied compensation to six-year-old Ahmed Dawabsheh, the badly scarred, sole survivor of an arson attack by Jewish extremists that killed his entire family two years ago.
Human rights group B'Tselem recently warned that Israel has given itself immunity from paying compensation to all Palestinians under occupation killed or disabled by the Israeli army - even in cases of criminal wrongdoing.
This endless heaping of insult upon injury for Palestinians is possible only because the west has indulged Israel's wallowing in victimhood so long. It is time to prick this bubble of self-delusion and remind Israel that it, not the Palestinians, is the oppressor.
(A version of this article first appeared in the National, Abu Dhabi.)
- 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 website is www.jonathan-cook.net.
Jewish Ethnicity, Palestinian Solidarity, Human Identity - Interview with Richard Falk
By Richard Falk
[The following interview with Abdo Emara, an Arab journalist was published in Arabic; it is here republished in slightly modified form. The changes made are either stylistic or clarifying. There are no substantive changes from my earlier responses. I think it worthwhile to share this text because the questions asked by Abdo Emara are often directed at me in the discussion period after talks I have given recently.]
Many believe that all Jews are completely biased in favor of Israel. Since you are Jewish this raises some questions. Why have you supported the grievances of the Palestinians? And why does not Israel welcome you on its territory since you are a Jew?
It is a rather well kept secret that from the very outset of the Zionist movement there were many Jews, including some who were prominent in their countries who opposed or strongly criticized Zionist ideology, as well as the way Israel was established and subsequently developed. After 1948, and even more so, after 1967, Israeli supporters, strongly encouraged by Zionist leaders and Israeli diplomats, have increasingly claimed that the Israeli government speaks for all Jews regardless of whether or not they reside in Israel. If this claim of universal representation is denied or resisted that person will be identified by Zionists/Israelis either as an anti-Semite or as bad, a self-hating Jew, or some combination of the two. I have increasingly supported the grievances of the Palestinian people from two perspectives, in my capacity as an international law specialist and as a human being opposed to the oppression and suffering of others regardless of whether or not I share the ethnic and religious background of such victims of abuse. I have taken these positions without any feelings of hatred toward Jews or alienation from the Jewish people, or toward any people due to their ethnicity or brand of faith. My understanding of identity is much more bound up with common humanity and action in solidarity with victims of abuse than with worrying about whether or not they happen to be Jewish. I have drawn wisdom and insight from Jewish traditions, especially by heeding Old Testament biblical prophets, but as well from contact with the great texts of Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam. At the same time I am appalled by some passages in the OT that appear to counsel and even celebrate genocidal onslaughts against the ancient enemies of the Jewish people.
How is the pretext of anti-Semitism used to silence critical voices in Israel and throughout the Western world? And what are the most influential institutions that try to silence and discredit academic voices that reject Israel's repressive policies?
With the support of Israeli lobbying groups and ultra Zionist pressure groups and activists, there is a concerted campaign in Europe and North America to defame critics of Israel by calling them 'anti-Semites.' Especially since the Nazi genocide, to be called an anti-Semite whether or not there is any responsible basis for such accusations has become one of the most effective ways to discredit and distract. Even when accusations do not silence a critic, as in my case, they have detrimental and hurtful effects. Above all, they shift the conversation from the validity of the message to the credibility of the messenger. In the Israel/Palestine context this takes attention away from the ordeal experience by the Palestinian people on a daily basis. Thus, allegations of anti-Semitism function as both sword (to wound the messenger) and shield (to deflect and inhibit criticism and opposition).
How do you interpret the Egyptian policies toward Gaza since the Sisi coup? How can these policies be changed? What is their legal status?
I interpret Egyptian policies toward Gaza since the Sisi coup of 2013 as primarily an expression of renewed collaboration with Israel with respect to Gaza as intensified by the Cairo view that Hamas is inspired by and affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood, which is enemy number one of the current Egyptian government. I am not familiar with the details of the Egyptian policy toward Gaza, although I know it imposes arbitrary and hurtful restrictions on entry and exit. Egyptian policies toward Gaza seem clearly to involve complicity with Israel's worst abuses in Gaza, and entail potential criminal responsibility for Egyptian leaders and implementing officials. Israel seems clearly guilty of inflicting collective punishment on the civilian population of Gaza and for aiding and abetting the implementation of the unlawful blockade of Gaza that has been maintained by the state of Israel since 2007 with many cruel consequences for the Palestinians, including those needing to leave Gaza for lifesaving medical treatments.
How do you evaluate Hamas' new policy document?
I believe the Hamas document moves toward the adoption of a political approach to its relations with both Israel and Egypt. By a political approach I mean a willingness to establish long-term interim arrangements for peaceful coexistence with Israel and normalization with Egypt. Hamas expresses this willingness by indicating a readiness to allow the establishment of a Palestinian state on territory occupied by Israel since the end of the 1967 War. Such a shift by Hamas does not acknowledge the legitimacy of Israel as a state nor does it involve a repudiation of the 1988 Hamas Charter, although it does abandon the anti-Semitic rhetoric and seems more disposed to pursue its goals diplomatically and politically rather than by reliance on armed struggle, without giving up in any way rights of resistance, including armed resistance.
Did it became impossible for Palestinians to obtain their legitimate rights throughout international organizations in the light of the latest UN refusal of UN ESCWA report your good-self drafted?
The reaction to our ESCWA report, "The Practices of Israel Toward the Palestinian People and the Question of Apartheid," did reveal a lack of independence and objectivity within the UN when placed under severe geopolitical pressure by the United States Government. It seemed clear that when the UN Secretary General ordered ESCWA to remove our report from their website, he was succumbing to pressure exerted by the United States, whose ambassador to the UN denounced the report without giving reasons as soon as it was released, presumably without it ever being read, and demanded its repudiation. Of course, the outcome was mixed. On the positive side, Rima Khalaf, the highly respected head of ESCWA resigned on principle rather than follow the directives of the SG, and the firestorm generated by the release of the report resulted in the text being far more influential and widely read than it might otherwise have been if treated appropriately. On the negative side, was the strong evidence that the UN is often unable to act effectively in support of the Palestinian people and their long struggle for their basic rights. The UN is geopolitically neutralized as a political actor even when Israel acts in flagrant and persisting defiance of international law and its own Charter.
Talk about the Trump-sponsored Century Deal between Palestinians and Israelis is increasing now ... what are your expectations for such a deal? Will include what is said to be a "resettlement" of the Palestinians in Gaza and Sinai ?
Nothing positive for the Palestinian people can emerge from the wave of speculation that Trump will soon broker the ultimate peace deal. Israel is content with managing the status quo while gradually increasing its territorial appropriations via settlements, wall, security claims, and various demographic manipulations. Palestine lacks credible leadership capable of representing the Palestinian people. This partly reflects the low credibility and poor record of the Palestinian Authority and partly the deep split between Hamas and Fatah. Palestinian unity and credible leadership is a precondition for the resumption of genuine diplomacy. Geopolitical pressure should not be confused with diplomacy, and will not produce a sustainable peace even if the PA is force fed a one-sided outcome favorable to Israel that is disguised as a solution.
How does Israel see the current Egyptian regime? and to what extent did it feel comfortable towards Mohamed Morsi?
Israel seems quite content with the current government in Egypt, and the policies that Cairo is pursuing at home and in the region. This contrasts with its thinly disguised dislike of and anxiety about the Morsi government, and worries that Morsi's Egypt would increasingly challenge Israel's treatment of the Palestinians, especially in Gaza, and possibly alter the balance of force in the region in ways contrary to Israel's interests.
Does Israel hate the existence of a democratic regimes in the Arab region, especially the neighboring countries? And why?
Israel opposes the emergence of democracy in the Middle East for several reasons. The most obvious reason is that Arab governments to the extent democratic are more likely to reflect in their policies, the pro-Palestinian sentiments of their citizenry. As well, Arab governments that adhere to democratic values are more likely to act in solidarity with the Palestinian struggle. Also, it is easier for Israel to work out pragmatic arrangements with authoritarian leaders who have little accountability to their own people and have demonstrated a cynical readiness to sacrifice the Palestinians for the sake of their own national strategic interests. This has become most evident in the kind of diplomacy pursued by the Gulf monarchies in recent years, dramatically evident during the three massive attacks on Gaza by Israel during the past decade that have devastated a totally vulnerable civilian population.
Why do the far right think tanks- like Gatestone Institute and Middle East Forum which is known by its absolute support of Israel praise President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, Why do these centers deeply praise him?
My prior responses make it clear that the Israeli policy community is pleased with Egypt governed by an authoritarian leader who adopts an agenda giving priority to the suppression of political Islam, taking the form in Egypt of the Muslim Brotherhood. Egyptian governance under Sisi is precisely what Israel would like to see emerge throughout the region, and if not, then the second option, is prolonged chaos of the sort that exists in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen. As well, the reinforced sectarianism of Saudi Arabia is consistent with Israel's view that Iran poses the most dangerous threat, not so much to its security, but to its agenda of regional influence.
In your opinion, what is the most Arab country supporting the Palestinian issue?
I would say that none of the Arab countries is genuinely supportive of the Palestinian struggle at the present time. With a note of irony the most supportive countries in the region are non-Arab: Turkey and Iran, and their support is extremely limited. It is a sad commentary on the drift of regional politics that the Palestinians are without governmental support in the Arab world, a reality magnified by the fact that if the publics of these countries were in a position to make policy, the Palestinians would be strongly supported. In this regard, including in the West, Palestinian hopes for the future are increasingly tied to the interaction of their own resistance in combination with a growing solidarity movement in Europe and North America. The UN and traditional diplomacy, as practiced within the Oslo framework for more than 20 years have proved to be dead ends when it comes to protecting Palestinian rights.
- Richard Falk is Albert G Milbank Professor Emeritus of International Law at Princeton University and Research Fellow, Orfalea Center of Global Studies. He was also the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Palestinian human rights. Visit his blog.