Philip Weiss en One of the Most Elite Think Tanks Held Secret Panel to Counter Growing Movement Criticizing Israel <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Journalist Jeffrey Goldberg may have accidentally exposed the meeting.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> Last June, Haim Saban and Sheldon Adelson <a href="">held a secret summit in Las Vegas</a> to come up with ways of fighting the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign on college campuses. They raised a reported $50 million to do so.<p>Now the secret process seems to have moved on to far more influential turf, to Washington, D.C., and a leading liberal thinktank. Last week the Brookings Institution held a secret panel on BDS, sponsored by Haim Saban. By all appearances, the intent of the panel was to counter the BDS campaign.</p><p>The panel took place during the weekend-long annual Saban Forum, which brings Israeli leaders and US leaders together to talk about “the future for Israelis and Palestinians”—without any Palestinians in <a href="">attendance</a>. The BDS panel was among many meetings December 4-6 not mentioned on the Saban Forum’s <a href="">public agenda</a>.</p><p>On Saturday night, journalist Jeffrey Goldberg said at a public panel: “This morning at the BDS panel....” But he was promptly hushed.</p><p>“Which was off the record,” a woman’s voice says. My guess it was Tamara Cofman Wittes, the leader of the conference.</p><p>Goldberg jokingly called the BDS panel the “Dimona” of panels, a reference to Israel’s secret nuclear program, and reported on its dire mood:</p><blockquote><p>“If the BDS panel took place, there would have been a feeling that the Israeli participant in the panel was the object of a lot of yearning and anxiety from some Americans who felt as if Israel was not paying sufficient attention to what’s going on on campuses and beyond.”</p></blockquote><p>Goldberg wasn’t the only journalist at the panel. Chemi Shalev of Haaretz was there and referred elliptically to it in print when he described the mood of the <a href="">Saban forum</a> as being one of “anxiety and anguish” on the part of Americans.</p><p>I asked Shalev why he had agreed to treat a newsworthy panel as off the record, and I said I found it unseemly that Brookings was performing an “AIPAC-like function” in fighting the BDS movement, and doing so in secret. He responded:</p><blockquote><p>“The Saban inviters lay down the ground rules for the entire forum and one can either choose to accept and attend or reject and not attend. I chose the former… I don’t agree with characterization of what was going on at Saban, re ‘AIPAC like function’; in fact, I would say the opposite: criticism of Israeli government and deep frustration with its policies overwhelmingly outstripped praise or support, as I myself have written.”</p></blockquote><p>When I asked Shalev whether any supporter of BDS was on the panel, he declined to answer, but said my guess on that score was probably right. That means no one was advocating for BDS.</p><p>I wrote to Wittes, director of the Brookings Center for Middle East Policy, and to a Brookings spokesperson to ask who was on the panel and what its title was, and if any advocates for BDS were on the panel. Neither responded to my questions.</p><p>Brookings would surely defend the secret panel by saying it’s part of <a href="">a largely off-the-record conference among Israeli and American leaders</a>. Shalev described the gathering in his article as a meeting of “[Haim] Saban’s American contingent of Brookings scholars, former Democratic administration officials and members of Congress” and an “Israeli delegation of mainstream Israeli politicians, journalists and businessmen.”</p><p>Americans should be asking why such a conference is taking place behind closed doors at a leading liberal thinktank– and why it’s tackling BDS, which <a href="">Israeli leaders have termed</a> an “existential” threat to Israel.</p><p>The gathering is a reflection of the power of the Israel lobby in Washington. Saban is an ardent Zionist. Both Wittes and Goldberg referred affectionately to Israeli politicians Yitzhak Herzog and Avigdor Lieberman by their nicknames, “Boogie” and “Yvet.”</p><p>What were they talking about at the BDS panel? In the Saban <a href="">Forum transcript of Goldberg’s public </a>comments on Saturday night (<a href="">the audio </a>is a bit more inclusive), Goldberg brought up the BDS panel as evidence of the “pervasive unease on the part of many Americans” about Israel’s conduct: “trying to warn their Israeli friends that a train is coming barreling down the tracks” and they’re just standing there.</p><p>Many of those Americans are Jewish Zionists. Shalev reported that the American group at the conference were reassured by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s statement to the conference that he still favored the “two-state solution.” That might be hypocritical, Shalev observed, but it’s how the game works:</p><blockquote><p>Armed with this facade, American Jews can lobby the administration to support Israel, protest against unwarranted bias in Europe and the United Nations, and, most importantly, look themselves in the mirror.</p></blockquote><p>Brookings might defend a secret panel on BDS by pointing out that countless US politicians are opposing BDS. Many Republicans have come out against  BDS. And in her speech to the Saban <a href="">conference the day after the BDS panel, </a>Hillary Clinton asserted — laughably– that BDS is hurting the American ability to counter terrorism in the Middle East, because it is hurting our closest ally in the fight against extremism. She was surely pandering to Haim Saban. Clinton wrote<a href=""> a letter to Saban last summer that she promptly published, </a>promising to work with Republican politicians to oppose BDS.</p><p>I find the whole matter unseemly. BDS is one of the chief threats to Israel, Netanyahu has said. So a leading liberal American thinktank is aligning itself with Israel on that battle? And if it is, why can’t it do so openly? One can fairly ask if Saban’s largesse is dictating the Brookings position, and that of the Democratic Party too.</p><p>BDS is clearly coming on strong despite all these efforts. At that event on December 5, Goldberg went on about the BDS panel that dare not speak its name, and related an anecdote from his daughter’s college campus.</p><blockquote><p>Goldberg: Our oldest daughter is a freshman at a liberal arts college in New England, a pretty well-known school. And she reports to us that J Street at that street<br />represents the Zionist right–”</p><p>[Haim Saban seems to break in on Goldberg from the audience.]</p><p>“I wish it were funny, Haim. I wish it were funny. I mean, it’s funny, but it’s not funny. It could be both funny and not funny at the same time. Have you ever heard of a tragic comedy? You live in Hollywood. She reports that the largest Jewish organization — 25 percent of this campus is Jewish — the largest Jewish organization is a group called Jewish Voice for Peace, which is an Orwellian name for a group that opposes Israeli’s existence.</p><p>MR. HERZOG: We saw a huge write up it in Israel. It’s a huge BDS group.</p></blockquote><p>Goldberg then said that sentiment toward Israel in the American Jewish comunity was “radically shifting,” and asked Lieberman if he cared. Lieberman said, “To speak frankly, I don’t care.” He called for better hasbara and Zionist education.</p><p>Later a woman in the audience, evidently Jewish, implored Lieberman to care.</p><blockquote><p>you are also missing something if you think that any amount of education is going to change the fact that the millennials today do not relate to the narrative that you’re expressing. And so my question for you is simple. Do you care if we lose the young Jews in the diaspora?</p></blockquote><p>Jewish Voice for Peace is surely the fastest-growing Jewish group in the country and the largest Jewish peace and justice organization in the US. It has 200,000 supporters. It has no place at Brookings– and it wasn’t invited to the Haaretz New Israel Fund conference last weekend either.</p><p> </p> Fri, 18 Dec 2015 07:58:00 -0800 Philip Weiss, Mondoweiss 1047589 at Activism Activism bds Israel Trump’s Religion Test for Immigrants Is Standard Practice in Israel <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Israel practices many of the policies that Trump wants the U.S. to implement.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>The widespread political condemnation of Donald Trump’s call for a ban on Muslims entering the United States and for surveillance of mosques was pretty great yesterday. American leaders left and right said that such policies are unconstitutional and counter to U.S. values. “Donald Trump is a race-baiting, xenophobic religious bigot,” Senator Lindsey Graham <a class="sizeable" href="">said emphatically</a>.</p><p class="sizeable">But those leaders are strong supporters of Israel (“The pro-Israel community has been the heart and soul of my campaign,” Graham told Jewish Insider), and Israel practices many of the policies that Trump wants the U.S. to implement.</p><p class="sizeable">For instance, Israeli airport security officials <a class="sizeable" href="">routinely ask travelers what their religion is</a> and often <a class="sizeable" href="">bar Muslims as a result</a>. Last night, Chris Matthews was enraged by Trump’s recommendation that American immigration officials ask travelers if they are Muslim. But our own <a class="sizeable" href="">State Department has blasted Israel</a> for denying “entry or exit without explanation”– notably to “those whom Israeli authorities <em>suspect of being of Arab, Middle Eastern, or Muslim origin</em>.” [emphasis mine].</p><p class="sizeable">Nour Joudah, an American who was deported from Israel, explained that Israel discriminates against anyone with an Arab name, at <a class="sizeable" href="">Electronic Intifada</a>:</p><blockquote><p class="sizeable">I think it is very clear that they want as few people with Palestinian origin in what they consider Israel and the occupied territories because they don’t even want the [Palestinians] that are there. So why in God’s name would they want us returning in any form or fashion, even if it’s for a limited period or for a visit? … They consider no one’s citizenship valuable if you have an Arab name, end of story.</p></blockquote><p class="sizeable">Sadly, Israeli profiling <a class="sizeable" href="">is already being offered</a> as a model for American ports: “What’s so great about Israeli security? Profiling.”</p><p class="zn-body__paragraph sizeable">Israel also discriminates against non-Jewish refugees and immigrants. <a class="sizeable" href="">In an article titled,</a> “Trump is no more racist than mainstream Israeli policies,” +972 states:</p><blockquote><p class="zn-body__paragraph sizeable">“[I]n Israel, there is already a law banning Muslims from immigrating — the ‘Law of Return’ which gives that right to Jews alone.”</p></blockquote><p class="zn-body__paragraph sizeable">Yousef <a class="sizeable" href="">Munayyer, who was born in Israel, explains</a> that the discrimination keeps him from living with his own wife in the country of his birth!</p><blockquote><p class="zn-body__paragraph sizeable">Today, a Jew from any country can move to Israel, while a Palestinian refugee, with a valid claim to property in Israel, cannot…</p><p class="story-body-text story-content sizeable" data-para-count="386" data-total-count="1013" id="story-continues-3">[B]ecause my wife has a Palestinian ID, she cannot fly [into Israel]; she is relegated to flying to Amman, Jordan. If we plan a trip together — an enjoyable task for most couples — we must prepare for a logistical nightmare that reminds us of our profound inequality before the law at every turn.</p><p class="story-body-text story-content sizeable" data-para-count="223" data-total-count="1236">Even if we fly together to Amman, we are forced to take different bridges, two hours apart, and endure often humiliating waiting and questioning just to cross into <a class="meta-loc sizeable" href="" title="More news and information about Israel.">Israel</a> and the West Bank….</p><p class="story-body-text story-content sizeable" data-para-count="487" data-total-count="1723">Israeli law prevents my wife from living with me in Israel. This is to prevent what Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu once referred to as “demographic spillover.” Additional Palestinian babies in Israel are considered “demographic threats” by a state constantly battling to keep a Jewish majority.</p></blockquote><p class="zn-body__paragraph sizeable">Compare Netanyahu’s racist xenophobic rhetoric to Trump’s claims re Mexicans and Muslims. There isn’t much difference.</p><p class="zn-body__paragraph sizeable">P.S. A related criticism of Trump is that he is endangering American citizens because his comments fulfill extremist claims about pervasive Islamophobia in the United States. Trump is “the ISIL man of the year,” Lindsey Graham said on CNN.</p><blockquote><p class="zn-body__paragraph sizeable">“We have young men and women in harm’s way around the world… The enemy will use [this rhetoric] against us… He’s putting our soldiers and diplomats at risk.”</p></blockquote><p class="zn-body__paragraph sizeable">Secretary of State John Kerry offered <a class="sizeable" href="">a similar warning: </a></p><blockquote><p class="zn-body__paragraph sizeable">“As I travel around the world, it is clear to me and how both our friends and our adversaries watch and listen to the discourse in the U.S., and I believe that comments such as those that we just heard are not constructive — and I would say that is putting it diplomatically.”</p></blockquote><p class="zn-body__paragraph sizeable">As <a class="sizeable" href="">did the Pentagon</a>.</p><blockquote><p class="zn-body__paragraph sizeable">“Anything that bolsters ISIL’s narrative and pits the United States against the Muslim faith is certainly not only contrary to our values but contrary to our national security,” [spokesperson Peter Cook] said, using another name for ISIS.</p></blockquote><p class="zn-body__paragraph sizeable">But as all these officials can tell you, Israel’s discriminatory policies are also watched closely around the Arab and Muslim world and are held against the United States. Israel’s occupation of Palestine was a factor in the terrorist slaughter of 9/11 and<a class="sizeable" href="">last January in Paris</a>. Israeli policies are said to have upset one of <a class="sizeable" href="">the San Bernardino killers</a>, too. Donald Trump’s critics would be a lot more consistent if they urged Israel to stop persecuting Palestinians and Muslims because such policies endanger its allies.</p><p class="zn-body__paragraph sizeable"><em>Thanks to Adam Horowitz for much of this post.</em></p><p>- See more at: <a href=""></a></p><p> </p> Thu, 10 Dec 2015 11:56:00 -0800 Philip Weiss, Mondoweiss 1047130 at World Belief Immigration News & Politics World donald trump Israel muslims arab immigration Like an Unrequited Lover, ‘NYT’ Confesses Itself Heartbroken Over Israel’s (Latest) Betrayal of Democracy <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Even the Anti-Defamation League says the law is &quot;unnecessary.&quot; </div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p> </p><p>You surely saw the <a href="">news</a> that the Israeli cabinet approved a bill to define Israel as “the nation state of the Jewish people.” The State Department<a href="">issued mild criticism</a> of the measure: “we would expect [Israel] to continue Israel’s commitment to democratic principles.” Israel’s centrist cabinet ministers <a href="">objected strongly to the bill</a>. And even the Anti-Defamation<a href="">League has come out against the legislation</a>, saying it’s “unnecessary.”</p><blockquote><p>But look who’s heartbroken: The New York Times <a href=";action=click&amp;pgtype=Homepage&amp;module=c-column-top-span-region&amp;region=c-column-top-span-region&amp;WT.nav=c-column-top-span-region&amp;_r=0">has a big editorial titled “Israel Narrows Its Democracy</a>,” expressing such upset over the move that you’d think that Israel was a borough of New York.</p><p>Since its founding in 1948, Israel’s very existence and promise — fully embraced by the United States and the world of nations — has been based on the ideal of democracy for all of its people.</p><p>Its Declaration of Independence, which provides the guiding principles for the state, makes clear that the country was established as a homeland for the Jews and guarantees “complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex.”</p><p>That is why it is heartbreaking to see the Israeli cabinet approve a contentious bill that would officially define Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people, reserving “national rights” only for Jews.</p></blockquote><p>The Times is unable to separate the American story from the Israeli one. It seems to regard both societies as modern democracies that are struggling toward equal rights for all.</p><blockquote><p>This is not for us just a theoretical concern. The systematic denial of full rights to minorities — principally African-Americans and disproportionately in the American South — well into the 1960s caused great harm to our own country, is not fully resolved yet and is a remaining stain on American democracy….</p><p>Having experienced the grievous legacies created when a government diminishes the rights of its people, we know this is not the path that Israel should take.</p></blockquote><p>The Times is being entirely too deferential. Israel has been taking that path for a long time. In her recent book Citizen Strangers, Shira Robinson <a href="">documented Israel’s discrimination</a> and worse against its Palestinian citizens, including its refusal to allow hundreds of thousands to come back to their homes even as it welcomed Jews into the country. “[T]he structural contradictions that are at the foundation of the state will continue to haunt the state and all of its citizens until they’re resolved,” she says. The New York Times has failed to tell its readers about that book or about Goliath, Max Blumenthal’s expose of Israel’s racist political culture. And we’re not even talking about the stain of the near-50-year-old occupation and the massacres of children in Gaza.</p><p>As for that mild criticism from the State Department? “[W]e would expect [Israel] to continue Israel’s commitment to democratic principles.” The Israeli right wing is biting back, hard, saying Bug out! Of course, Israel interferes in our politics all the time, with the complicity of the New York Times. But raise a voice in displeasure, and they let you have it. <a href="">Haaretz:</a></p><blockquote><p>Economics Minister… Naftali Bennett slammed the U.S. State Department response to the Jewish nation-state bill, saying the U.S. shouldn’t intervene in Israel’s internal issues, as politicians from Israel’s right also came out in criticism.</p><p>“I say to the Americans that the affairs of the State of Israel – we will manage [ourselves],” Bennett told Army Radio, according to <a href="">Israel National News</a>.</p><p>“At the end it is our problem,” he said. “This is an internal issue and I think that no one has the right to intervene with it.”…</p><p>Though Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded to the U.S. statement by assuring that Israel is a “model democracy,” and that’s how it will remain, other politicians on the Israeli right responded vehemently.</p><p>“We can keep the foundations of democracy even without the help of the partner over the ocean,” Coalition whip and Likud MK Zeev Elkin said following the U.S. response, according to <a href="">Yisrael Hayom</a>.</p></blockquote><p> </p> Tue, 25 Nov 2014 14:25:00 -0800 Philip Weiss, Mondoweiss 1027673 at Media World Israel new york times Jewish State anti-defamation league state department President of Israel Admits His Society Is 'Sick' and American Media Pretend It Never Happened <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Total silence in the US in response to one of the most amazing confessions you&#039;ll hear from a leader of a state. </div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>Did you hear that the president of Israel said Israel is a “sick society”? Reuven Rivlin, a Likudnik, said in late October. There’s been lots of coverage in Israel, but as AndrewSullivan <a href="">points out, the declaration hasn’t gotten much attention</a> stateside. I should think it would be viral.</p><p>The<a href="">Jewish Telegraphic Agency’s report</a>:</p><blockquote><p>“It is time to honestly admit that Israeli society is ill – and it is our duty to treat this disease,” Rivlin told the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities on Sunday at a conference titled “From Xenophobia to Accepting the Other.”</p><p>“The tension between Jews and Arabs within the State of Israel has risen to record heights, and the relationship between all parties has reached a new low,” he said. “We have all witnessed the shocking sequence of incidents and violence taking place by both sides. The epidemic of violence is not limited to one sector or another, it permeates every area and doesn’t skip any arena. There is violence in soccer stadiums as well as in the academia. There is violence in the social media and in everyday discourse, in hospitals and in schools.”</p></blockquote><p>From <a href="">the Jerusalem Post:</a></p><blockquote><p>The time has come to admit that Israel is a sick society, with an illness that demands treatment, President Reuven Rivlin said at the opening session on Sunday of a conference on From Hatred of the Stranger to Acceptance of the Other.</p><p>Rivlin wondered aloud whether Jews and Arabs had abandoned the secret of dialogue.</p><p>With regard to Jews he said: “I’m not asking if they’ve forgotten how to be Jews, but if they’ve forgotten how to be decent human beings. Have they forgotten how to converse?” In Rivlin’s eyes, the academy has a vital task to reduce violence in Israeli society by encouraging dialogue and the study of different cultures and languages with the aim of promoting mutual understanding, so that there can be civilized meetings between the sectors of society.</p></blockquote><p>JTA says that Rivlin spoke of abuse he’s received on his Facebook page. Presumably from the right, not the left. This is a country where a settler extremist assassinated a prime minister who was saying he wanted to compromise with Palestinians, 19 years ago.</p><p>Rivlin is obviously referencing the teen murders of the last summer and the chants of “Death to Arabs” that resound in the streets of Jerusalem. This is the hardline rightwing society that Max Blumenthal described in his book Goliath, that Shlomo Sand has <a href="">sought to resign from by stopping being a Jew</a>, and that <a href="">Nathan Thrall cites in</a> his takedown of Ari Shavit’s usefulness to American Jews as a liberal voice when he’s anything but. And the president of the country is saying this? A Likudnik politician? As Sulllivan says, any American who said this would be instantly marginalized and smeared as an anti-Semite. Witness Blumenthal’s blacklisting by the Times, and the fact that Sand and Thrall appear in English publications. While liberal American Jews hold on to their dreamcastle Israel, with the help of Shavit and his media posse; and the New York Times gives a platform to <a href="">wingnut Caroline Glick</a> to malign Palestinian leaders. This is a very dangerous situation. Though I imagine if there’s enough controversy over the comments, The New York Times will cover them. Chris Matthews has surely seen Rivlin’s comment but won’t touch it until safe media here have picked it up.</p><p>By the way,<a href="">in a radio discussion</a> on Open Source a month ago, I said that Zionism began in 1894 with Theodor Herzl hearing the chant, Death to the Jews, in Paris, and that it has now culminated 120 years later with nationalist Jews chanting Death to the Arabs in Jerusalem. That is the alpha and omega of political Zionism, which has failed Herzl’s own test, that the stranger will be welcome in Jewish society. Bernard Avishai responded that I was offering a “caricature” of the movement. I don’t think it’s a caricature; it’s a realistic interpretation of the failure of an ideology to create a better society. Rivlin must share something of my view, despairingly. Does he have the makings of a De Klerk, the ability to state to his fellow citizens that the project has failed and must be reimagined?</p><p>- See more at: <a href=""></a></p><p> </p> Sun, 02 Nov 2014 13:28:00 -0800 Philip Weiss, Mondoweiss 1024210 at World World Israel Reuven Rivlin palestinians Is the American Media Finally Waking Up to the Truth about Israel's Assault on Gaza? <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">There are more signs Israeli assaults on Gaza are solidifying a perception that Israeli leadership has lost its moorings.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>There are more signs that what the Israeli assault on Gaza in 2008-2009 did for the left, the latest assault is doing for the mainstream: solidifying a perception that Israeli leadership has lost its moorings, opening the floodgates of criticism. </p><p>The Israeli attack <a href="">on the UN school</a> on Wednesday followed later by <a href="">the attack on civilians in Shuja’iyyah market</a> during an announced ceasefire had an effect on public officials. The school attack at last gained a rebuke from the Obama administration, though it didn’t pin blame on Israel. At the State Department briefing, reporters expressed distress that the U.S. is not saying more.</p><p>[Update: The U.S. government has now concluded that Israeli shells hit the school. The White House has called the attack "indefensible." Reporters in the State Department this afternoon asked again and again why the U.S. is supplying arms to Israel given massive civilian casualties. Why is this different from when we cut off arms to Egypt after it fired on its citizens? two reporters have asked.]</p><p>And some of our leading MSM voices are letting their outrage show: Ayman Mohyeldin of NBC and Erin Burnett of CNN have shown humanity and courage. Burnett has tee’d up the obvious question: Why are Americans funding Israeli carnage?</p><p>The US has finally condemned Israel implicitly, by condemning the shelling of the UN school. AP <a href="">on twitter</a>:</p><blockquote><p>It’s the sharpest criticism the U.S. has leveled at Israel over the more than three weeks of fighting</p></blockquote><p>The White House did call for “a full, prompt and thorough investigation.” Here’s the White House’s equivocal statement, <a href="">from Eric Schultz to the press</a>:</p><blockquote><p>the United States does condemn the shelling of a U.N. school in Gaza which reportedly killed and injured innocent Palestinians, including children and U.N. humanitarian workers….We also condemn those responsible for hiding weapons in the United Nations facilities in Gaza.  All of these actions violate the international understanding of the U.N.’s neutrality.</p><p>As you know, we first and foremost believe in Israel’s government — in the Israeli government’s right to and obligation to defend their citizens.  They’ve chosen to take military action to provide for that protection.  But as you also note, we’ve been very clear that Israel needs to do more to live up to its own standards to limit the civilian casualties.</p></blockquote><p>At the <a href="">State Department briefing</a>, Matt Lee of the Associated Press dared to wonder about “consequences” if the U.S. ever were to determine that Israel hit the U.N. school, and another reporter asked about U.S. munitions involved in these assaults on civilians. Throughout the briefing, reporters asked about the overwhelming nature of the Israeli assault; and State condemned the school attack again and again, without blaming Israel, and expressed “concern” about the number of civilian casualties.</p><p>Excerpts of <a href="">the reporters’ questions</a>, along with Marie Harf’s occasional response:</p><blockquote><p>Question: According to UNRWA, this is the sixth time that one of their schools has been hit. Israel has, in the past, said that it regrets any civilian casualties, says that it’s doing its best not to – or to mitigate collateral damage. You have said in the past that you think Israel needs to do more to live up to its own very high standards. This keeps happening, though, and I’m wondering, these mistakes or these – I don’t know if you – I don’t know if “mistakes” is the right word, but this seems to happen over and over again. Are you concerned that Israel is not attempting to live up to its own very high standards, or do you believe that they are trying to but are falling short in these cases?</p><p>MS. HARF: Well, I do believe that they are trying to live up to the high standard they set for themselves…</p><p>If you know that there are hundreds, if not thousands, of innocent civilians in any target, whether it’s a UN facility or anything, do you think that that is a legitimate target?…</p><p>Marie, are you aware of the number of Palestinians that are in UNRWA schools?</p><p>MS. HARF: I don’t have a number for you, Said. They may have one…</p><p>this is becoming a daily ritual. I mean, the Israelis drop leaflets telling the Palestinians to evacuate, they take shelter in these facilities, then they are targeting. Parks are targeted, hospitals are targeted, and all these things are targeted. Pretty soon you’re not going to have any space where they are going to go. Where should they go?…</p><p>Marie, you just said that – again, that you’re – you stand with Israel and, quote, “We are proud to do so.”</p><p>MS. HARF: We are.</p><p>QUESTION: Even after an incident like today which you have condemned without blame, but even after calling – saying that Israel has not lived up to its own high standards, you’re … comfortable with Israel not living up to its own high standards?</p><p>MS. HARF: I didn’t say that.</p><p>QUESTION: But using weaponry that’s been supplied by the United States, is that correct?</p><p>MS. HARF: We have a very broad relationship with Israel to help it defend itself. I will check on the specifics about the resupply. But yes, we are very committed to their security.</p></blockquote><p>Pierre Krahenbuhl, commissioner general of the UN Relief and Works Agency, said we’ve moved into the realm of “accountability.” There must be legal action against Israel:</p><blockquote><p>Last night, children were killed as they slept next to their parents on the floor of a classroom in a UN designated shelter in Gaza. Children killed in their sleep; this is an affront to all of us, a source of universal shame. Today the world stands disgraced….</p><p>We are in the realm of accountability. I call on the international community to take deliberate international political action to put an immediate end to the continuing carnage.</p></blockquote><p>What is the appropriate response to the Israeli massacre? Many folks have passed along this incredible video of Chris Gunness of UNRWA breaking down over the latest atrocity during an interview– in evident despair over the world’s disdain for Palestinian life. I see <a href=";_r=0">that it is in the New York Times</a> today. And posted <a href=";">by Hamas</a>.</p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="360" src="//" width="480"></iframe></p><p>US officials haven’t cracked. Chuck Hagel’s<a href=""> expression of concern</a> for civilian casualties and unwavering support for Israel is soldierly and shameful.</p><p>But here is one sign of US political breakage. <a href="">Defense News</a>:</p><blockquote><p>A top Senate Republican is breaking with other party leaders by opposing the use of emergency funding to assist Israel in its fight against Hamas.</p></blockquote><p>Roy Blunt of Missouri says Israel can wait for the regular Senate appropriations. And Defense News goes right to the Jewish vote:</p><blockquote><p>“I’m a big fan of the Iron Dome, and the information we can share through Iron Dome [with Israel],” Blunt said during a brief interview. “There’s Iron Dome funding in the regular [defense] appropriations bill. I think that’s the place to do that.”</p><p>Missouri’s Jewish population makes up only 1 percent of the state’s total population, according to the US Census Bureau.</p></blockquote><p>Maybe the media will give these officials more cover to begin to criticize. Erin Burnett’s coverage on CNN last night was excellent. She focused on the attack on the Shuja’iyyah market, <a href="">showing this disturbing video</a> of terrorized civilians. My wife had to leave the room; Burnett said, “Tough to watch.”</p><p>Her questions to former Israeli ambassador Dore Gold were just this side of withering. “That’s my question: where is ‘there?’” she pressed him, as he said that civilians could escape Israeli attacks.</p><p>When Maen Rashid Areikat of the PLO came on and grew angry about questions of Israeli responsibility/Hamas’s responsibility for the latest massacre, Burnett let him go on, from the heart. <a href="">The CNN headline says it all</a>: “The world has to wake up, the United States has to wake up.”</p><p>Burnett then did a segment on U.S. support for these atrocities. Her twitter feed indicates her attitude:</p><blockquote><p>The U.S. is resupplying #Israel w/ ammunition…. the story of unilateral support for Israel’s military ops.</p><p>“If U.S. really wanted the fighting to stop, wouldn’t they do something about it?” @ErinBurnett w/ that question to @aarondmiller2</p></blockquote><p>She pointed out this <a href="">horrifying editorial by Michael Oren</a>:</p><blockquote><p>“more civilians will suffer, but by ending the cycle once and for all thousands of innocent lives will be saved.”</p></blockquote><p>and <a href="">promoted</a> the response to it on her show, from James Zogby:</p><blockquote><p>“It’s a shocking and horrific statement, and an immoral statement.” James Zogby re: Michael Oren’s #WaPo article</p></blockquote><p>We can only hope that Burnett follows up this coverage by going to Gaza herself after this onslaught ends, and seeing what the open-air prison, as Areikat put it, looks like. Seeing the occupation in the West Bank, too.</p><p>Andrea Mitchell of NBC is also evidently upset. She <a href="">asked the Israeli ambassador Ron Dermer</a> if “Israel may be losing its soul, may be losing the war because of the political impact of what is happening on the ground.” He said it isn’t:</p><blockquote><p>“We are upholding our values under the most extreme circumstances.”</p></blockquote><p>Ayman Mohyeldin continues to let his feelings show. Last week he reported on the miraculous birth of a baby whose mother had been struck by Israeli arms. <a href="">Well, the girl died</a>.</p><blockquote><p>Good Night Shayma’…Humanity has let you down. </p></blockquote><p>Mohyeldin retweeted Ken Roth’s judgment on the Israeli attack on the UN school:</p><blockquote><p>“Nothing is more shameful than attacking sleeping children.” “All available evidence” points to <a data-query-source="hashtag_click" dir="ltr" href=""><s>#</s>Israel</a>: Ban Ki-moon.<a data-expanded-url="" dir="ltr" href="" rel="nofollow" target="_blank" title=""> </a></p></blockquote><p>He has tweeted an <a href="">image of that mosque that Israel destroyed</a> yesterday, toppling the minaret</p><blockquote><p>Shati Refugee Camp, Gaza. Israel destroyed this mosque. In doing so, the blast severed the towering several-ton minaret structure which collapsed into, and destroyed the residential building across the street that had already been damaged by the explosive blast. Even if Israel is using surgical strikes, it’s the civilian population that – may have no idea what is happening in a mosque across the street – that is paying the price.</p></blockquote><p>And here’s Mohyeldin’s <a href="">tweet about</a> John Kerry’s protestations yesterday, subtly mocking the Israel lobby:</p><blockquote><p>Facing criticism Sec Kerry defends his senate record saying he had “a 100% voting record pro-Israel” &amp; he’s 2nd to none in defending Israel</p></blockquote><p>Kerry’s <a href="">remarks</a>:</p><blockquote><p>I’ve spent 29 years in the United States Senate and had a 100 percent voting record pro-Israel, and I will not take a second seat to anybody in my friendship or my devotion to the protection of the state of Israel. But I also believe, as somebody who’s been to war, that it is better to try to find a way, if you can, to solve these problems before you get dragged into something that you can’t stop. And it seems to me that this is a reasonable effort, fully protecting Israel’s rights, fully protecting Israel’s interests, and Prime Minister Netanyahu himself said to me: Can you try to get a humanitarian cease-fire for this period of time? And if it weren’t for his commitment to it, obviously, the President of the United States and I would not be trying to make this effort. Now, either I take his commitment at face value, or someone is playing a different game here, and I hope that’s not the fact.</p></blockquote><p>Some things never change.</p> Sat, 02 Aug 2014 17:41:00 -0700 Philip Weiss, Mondoweiss 1013974 at Media Media World Israel palestine gaza mainstream media Gaza Is a Concentration Camp, And It's an American Delusion Not to Recognize That—Weschler <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Prestigious, mainstream journalist says what others are afraid to.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>Lawrence Weschler, a writer of considerable mainstream prestige, is sick of prevaricating about Israel. It’s rabid. It has rabies. And Gaza is a concentration camp. Weschler has let loose chiefly because of the “remorseless” and “repetitively compulsive” aspect of Israeli violence. I believe that understanding is now widely shared in the liberal mainstream, and interventions like Weschler’s make it easier for others to speak up. <a href="">From Truthdig</a>:</p><blockquote><p>I know, I know, and I am bone tired of being told it, when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, there is plenty of blame to go around, but by this point after coming on almost 50 years of Israeli stemwinding and procrastinatory obfuscation, I’d put the proportionate distribution of blame at about the same level as the mortality figures—which is, where are we today (what with Wednesday morning’s four children killed while out playing on a Gaza beach)? What, 280 to 2?</p><p>For the single overriding fact defining the Israeli-Palestinian impasse at this point is that if the Palestinians are quiescent and not engaged in any overt rebellion, the Israelis (and here I am speaking of the vast majority of the population who somehow go along with the antics of their leaders, year after year) manage to tell themselves that things are fine and there’s no urgent need to address the situation; and if, as a result, the endlessly put-upon Palestinians do finally rise up in any sort of armed resistance (rocks to rockets), the same Israelis exasperate, “How are we supposed to negotiate with monsters like this?” A wonderfully convenient formula, since it allows the Israelis to go blithely on, systematically stealing Palestinian land in the West Bank, and continuing to confine 1.8 million Gazans within what might well be described as a concentration camp.</p><p>Note, incidentally, I say “concentration camp” and not “death camp.” I am not comparing Gaza to Auschwitz-Birkenau, but one cannot help but liken the conditions today in Gaza to the sorts of conditions once faced by Japanese-Americans during World War II, or the Boers in South Africa during the Anglo-Boer War, or the black South Africans years later in such besieged townships as Soweto, or for that matter Jews and gays and gypsies at Dachau and Theresienstadt in the years before the Nazis themselves settled on their Final Solution.</p><p>And it is quite simply massively self-serving delusion that Israelis (and their enablers and abettors here in America, among whom incidentally I count a steadily declining number of American Jews) refuse to recognize that fact.</p></blockquote><p>Weschler goes on to say that support for Israel is strongest in the U.S. among evangelicals. This is a standard dodge, employed by liberals, to avoid the hard reflective work of considering the power of the reactionary Jewish establishment. Does Obama care a fig about evangelicals when it comes to gay marriage or abortion? No. But here there is a unity of interest, and the power is in the Jewish establishment. Israel calls on Jews to recognize what Avram Burg said <a href="">a few years back at the NY Public Library</a>, that Jews created two structures in the wake of the Holocaust, a Jewish state and an American Jewish leadership.</p><blockquote><p>For me Zionism was the scaffolding… that was supposed to help the Jewish people to rebuild, to restruct [sic] itself from an exilic reality to sovereignty. And the structure went on and on and on and on, and and now 150 and 100 and some years later, when you look around the Jewish existential reality, you realize that actually the Jewish people built two structures. One is the semi-autonomous American Jewry, which was not here 150 years ago– powerful influence, access to the corridors of power, impact on the culture, and civilization… plus the infrastructure of the community of solidarity and fraternity and support system and education etc and also the sovereignty over there in the Middle East.</p></blockquote><p>Thanks <a href="">to Ed Moloney</a>.</p> Mon, 21 Jul 2014 11:39:00 -0700 Philip Weiss, Mondoweiss 1012193 at World Media News & Politics World Lawrence Weschler gaza Israel American evangelical support for Israel Israeli aggression Preventing a Mainstream Debate on Israel: Why We Were Smeared In The Atlantic <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Armin Rosen&#039;s attack on Mondoweiss is about nothing more than policing the discourse on Israel.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="" alt="" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p> <em>​Editor's note: Last weekend, a writer in the Atlantic attacked Alex Kane in an article that claimed that Peter Beinart's blog on The Daily Beast was "mainstreaming" anti-Semitism because two pieces by Kane were published there. Kane, who is also the World editor at AlterNet, responds below with the editors of Mondoweiss:</em></p> <p> Armin Rosen's attack on Mondoweiss on <a href="">the Atlantic website</a> is about nothing more than policing the discourse on Israel. Rosen’s article on alleged anti-Semitism is a shoddy attempt at smearing Alex Kane, Mondoweiss and <a href="">Peter Beinart</a>. It was sparked by the fact that a mainstream publication, The Daily Beast(on Beinart’s Open Zion blog), had the audacity to publish two articles by Alex that speak in favor of the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement. </p> <p> Rosen argues The Daily Beast should never publish someone associated with Mondoweiss (or, we're sure, with the Electronic Intifada, or any other website that pushes the boundaries of our lacking discourse on the Middle East). Why? Because Mondoweiss "often gives the appearance of an anti-Semitic enterprise," and thus "by vilifying and dehumanizing one side of the conflict, the poison of anti-Semitism makes a constructive, forward-looking discourse far more difficult to achieve." This coming from someone who defended the term "<a href="">Islamo-facism</a>." Usually we’d ignore the kind of shallow and unsubstantiated attack on this website, but the piece appeared in the Atlantic, and Rosen is an Atlantic fellow, so we will meet fire from this quarter with a strong defense.</p> <p> On Twitter, Rosen promised the "<a href="">definitive bitch-smacking of Mondoweiss</a>." You’d think that in order to characterize someone as anti-Semitic (which is actually a libelous accusation, when unsupported), you’d have to really bring the goods. Here are Rosen’s charges as to why Alex Kane should not be published by The Daily Beast:</p> <ul><li> Phil Weiss wrote an article for the American Conservative which has been associated with Pat Buchanan </li> <li> Phil Weiss writes about the Israel Lobby</li> <li> Mondoweiss published a piece from Refaat Alareer a writer in Gaza that questioned the role the Israeli government could have played in the death of Vittorio Arrigoni</li> <li> Mondoweiss published a piece by Max Ajl which puts the deaths of the Fogel family in the Itamar settlement in the context of the violence of the occupation</li> <li> Mondoweiss published a piece by Jack Ross (who Rosen implies is a Holocaust denying Nazi sympathizer)</li> <li> Mondoweiss claims "Iran has never officially denied the Holocaust," which Rosen admits is factually true</li> <li> Phil Weiss writes about the role of American Jews in the establishment</li> </ul><p> Notice any criticism of Alex? No? Well, Rosen still holds Alex responsible because "publicly he does not challenge the site's lunacy." If that is not the epitome of  McCarthyite guilt by association, then we don't know what it. </p> <p> This isn't the first time Rosen has offered himself as an attack dog. He distinguished himself during his time in a joint Jewish Theological Seminary/Columbia University program by being <a href="">an especially shrill voice</a> in the campaigns to deny Joseph Massad tenure at Columbia  Although Massad was far from the only professor Rosen disapproved of. He also had issues with <a href="">Mahmoud Mamdani</a> and <a href="">Hamid Dabashi</a> -- notice a trend?</p> <p> Rosen’s conduct toward Massad is similar to his conduct with us. He’s namecalling in an effort to establish a redline in the discourse. He doesn’t want our voices granted any legitimacy. And the reason is obvious. We are unremitting critics of what Israel looks like today and what Zionism had produced for Palestine, the US and American Jewish life; and because Americans are opening themselves up to these ideas, we are getting more attention from the mainstream. Rosen is doing his utmost to shut the door on us. </p> <p> Alex Kane's work stands on its own. While Rosen admits he is not responsible for what other people write, his entire article is based on that very premise. He should actually take the time to read Alex's work--in The Daily Beast, in Mondoweiss and in other publications. Alex has an extensive record by now of writing on this issue, and anyone who wants to show that he's an “anti-Semite” has material to comb through. But there’s nothing anti-Semitic about his work.</p> <p> Ultimately, this is not about Alex or Mondoweiss. It is about the larger issue of policing the discourse on Israel in this country. It is about the routine use of smears to discredit your opposition. It is about the tired use of the word “anti-Semitism” to shut down debate over Israel--a use that has cheapened that word to mean “anyone who critiques Israel.” And as for Rosen's issue with Phil's examination of Jewish privilege, read Marc Ellis’s meditation on Jewish empowerment, or Liz Shulman on the issue of male Jewish privilege, or Avraham Burg on Jewish wealth and access and of course Peter Beinart who grounds his critique in the admission "we live in an age not of Jewish weakness, but of Jewish power." We live in an unprecedented moment of Jewish history; our intellectuals, and not just Jewish ones, have a right and responsibility to reflect on these questions.  </p> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->Alex Kane is AlterNet's New York-based World editor, and a staff reporter for <a href="">Mondoweiss</a>. Follow him on <a href="">Twitter @alexbkane.</a> Philip Weiss is the author of <a href="">American Taboo: A Murder in the Peace Corps</a>. Adam Horowitz is the co-editor of </div></div></div> Wed, 18 Jul 2012 03:00:01 -0700 Philip Weiss, Alex Kane, Adam Horowitz, Mondoweiss 671727 at World World israel palestine The Goldstone Report Now Belongs to the World <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Richard Goldstone&#039;s recent op-ed stirred controversy, but it can&#039;t undo the powerful effect his report has had on the international discourse on Israel-Palestine.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="" alt="" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->In the wake of Judge Richard Goldstone's <a href="">op-ed in the Washington Post</a> "reconsidering" one part of the United Nations report on the Gaza conflict that he co-authored, many have tried to write the obituary for the Goldstone Report. The truth is that the Report is more alive than ever. The ferocious debate ignited by Judge Goldstone's op-ed has demonstrated that the world refuses to forget those 22 days in the winter of 2008-2009, when Israel pummeled the Gaza Strip, killing more than 1,300 people, including over 300 children. And it has shown that the 450 pages of the report have lost none of their power to shock and galvanize.<br /><br />“The court of world opinion has accepted that the Report is credible and that the events it described occurred,” Desmond Travers, a member of the Gaza fact-finding mission along with Goldstone, and a retired colonel in the Irish army, told us yesterday. “People saw on their TV screens that unacceptable levels of terror were brought down on a defenseless city. And then a report came out and confirmed that understanding.”<br /><br />As many others have pointed out, Goldstone's op-ed does not stand as a recantation of the Goldstone Report. Even if one accepts Judge Goldstone’s claim that Israel did not intentionally target civilians during Operation Cast Lead – a position that the U.N. Committee of Experts, the official body charged with monitoring Israeli and Palestinian investigations into Cast Lead, does not support – the vast majority of the report stands as written. As Judge Goldstone has said himself in an interview with the Associated Press, "I have no reason to believe any part of the report needs to be reconsidered at this time."<br /><br />This means that Judge Goldstone still believes that Israel and the Palestinian authorities committed war crimes during the conflict, that Israel intentionally targeted Gaza's civilian infrastructure and used "deliberately disproportionate force designed to punish, humiliate and terrorize the civilian population." These are the damning charges that remain unchallenged and that demand international action.<br /><br />Beyond the specific charges leveled by Goldstone’s fact-finding mission, perhaps the true legacy of the Report is the way it reconfigured the world's understanding of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Goldstone Report helped “to reframe the Israeli-Palestinian debate around the world,” the LA Times editorialized. Instead of a superficial political debate about a stagnant peace process, the Goldstone Report introduced the concepts of international law and human rights into the discourse. It gave us a new language with which to describe the atrocities of Operation Cast Lead – and not just Operation Cast Lead, but the decades of Israeli occupation – and in giving us this language, it held out a solution to the “crisis of human dignity” that has perpetuated violence in the region for so long.<br /><br />As Naomi Klein writes in the introduction to <a href=""><em>The Goldstone Report: The Legacy of the Landmark Investigation of the Gaza Conflict</em></a>: "The Goldstone Report, with its uncompromising moral consistency, has revived the old-fashioned principle of universal human rights and international law—a system which, flawed as it is, remains our best protection against barbarism. When we rally around Goldstone, insisting that this report be read and acted upon, it is this system that we are defending."<br /><br />This is a cause that was taken up around the world following the original publication of the Goldstone Report, and it remains today in the outrage and confusion surrounding Judge Goldstone's op-ed.<br /><br />As editors of <a href=""><em>The Goldstone Report</em></a>, we recognize and honor the work that Judge Goldstone has done to help bring the report to fruition. But we also believe that now the report stands apart from him. It is no longer his report, or even the UN's report, but it is our report.<br /><br />“Richard and I ceased to have any connection to the report when we turned it in and it was accepted by the Human Rights Council,” Colonel Travers says. International civil society has seized the call for justice and transformed the Goldstone Report from a simple document to a powerful tool for truth-telling and accountability.<br /><br />No doubt there will be many people who will attempt to exploit this moment to bury the report once and for all. The Israeli government has been working overtime to press the United Nations into voiding, or at least qualifying, the original document, while longtime Goldstone Report critics have been gleefully pressing the line that the whole report is now mortally flawed. But the process the report started can’t be so easily undone. It has permanently transformed the landscape of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and will not be unraveled by a single op-ed.<br /><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->Adam Horowitz, Lizzy Ratner, and Philip Weiss are editors of <i><a href=""><em>The Goldstone Report: The Legacy of the Landmark Investigation of the Gaza Conflict.</em></a></i> </div></div></div> Mon, 11 Apr 2011 13:00:01 -0700 Lizzy Ratner, Philip Weiss, Adam Horowitz, Mondoweiss 665953 at World World News & Politics israel palestine gaza goldstone Why the Deadly Attack on the Freedom Flotilla Was the Breakthrough That Made the World See Israel's Cruelty in Gaza <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">This excerpt from the new book, &quot;Midnight on the Mavi Marmara,&quot; explains how the world is now forced to reconsider what Zionism has actually built in the Middle East.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="" alt="" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p><em>The following is an excerpt from the just-released book,</em><a href=""><em>Midnight on the Mavi Marmara</em></a><em>, edited by Moustafa Bayoumi (O/R Books, 2010).</em></p> <p>The Freedom Flotilla was not able to deliver its 10,000 tons of humanitarian aid to the besieged Gaza Strip, but it accomplished something more important -- it finally broke the blockade on the world's understanding of the Gaza crisis. The Israeli attack on the flotilla must be seen alongside the Israeli attack on Gaza in the winter of 2008-2009 as marking the period in which the world's understanding of the Israeli occupation irrevocably shifted. In this opening, the brutality of the Israeli occupation came into full view and the issue of Palestinian persecution was placed on op-ed pages and even legal briefs. In the end, these events may mark when the age of Israeli impunity came to an end.<br /><br /> In a generational sense, Operation Cast Lead and the flotilla attack can be understood as the anti-1967 war. It was the 1967 war that helped solidify Israel's image in the eyes of the world, and in particular of American Jewry, as the scrappy underdog beating the odds. That image has now changed forever, and the ongoing siege of Gaza has caused many to consider what Zionism has built in the Middle East. The Goldstone report stands as the defining indictment of this era.<br /><br /> The report, which found that both Israel and Hamas committed war crimes and possible crimes against humanity, specifically includes the persecution of Gaza, highlighting cases where Israel intentionally attacked civilian infrastructure, including water wells, chicken farms, and the last operating flour mill in the Strip. Not surprisingly, the report and Goldstone himself became the targets of unrelenting criticism and vitriol because it pulled back the curtain on Israeli actions.<br /><br /> For those who harbored doubts about the Goldstone report's findings, those doubts were dispelled by the flotilla attack. The killings on the <i>Mavi Marmara</i> vindicated Goldstone's reading of Israeli methods. And note that the Israeli defense of its actions is exactly the same as its defense of its actions in Gaza: We had a right to cross international lines, we got severe provocation, supposed civilians were actually combatants, no country would permit this situation to endure, we defended ourselves, just look at the video. In Gaza the Israelis killed 1,200-1,400 with minimal loss of life on the Israeli side; and the numbers were imbalanced on the <i>Mavi Marmara</i> as well.<br /><br /> And now the efforts to smear the activists on the boats as jihadists, which the <i>Washington Post</i> and other American outlets have taken up with energy, recall the efforts to portray the Gazans as a crazed, extremist population.<br /><br /> The vindication for Goldstone is that anyone with eyes in her head knows that there was something terribly wrong with the flotilla action--as anyone with eyes knew that there was something wrong about the Gaza onslaught. But at that time the West was still in denial, and the Israeli-American dismissal of the Goldstone report can now be seen as a defensive effort to cover up atrocities. Who can question Goldstone's conclusions now: that Israel targeted civilian infrastructure disproportionately, and without distinction between civilians and resisters? Israel has once again shown us the playbook.<br /><br /> This awareness was seen in a shift in the discourse surrounding the flotilla attack, especially online as Internet journalists, led by Ali Abunimah, repeatedly exposed Israeli hasbara. The awareness even penetrated the establishment media; at the <i>New York Times</i> website, Robert Mackey's Lede blog cataloged the work of those discrediting Israeli spin. He highlighted Max Blumenthal's reporting on doctored IDF audio of the attack and Noam Sheizaf 's work on Turkish photos of the <i>Mavi Marmara</i> attack that contradicted IDF claims. Other significant reporting includes Lia Tarachansky and Blumenthal's work disproving the IDF's claim that the flotilla was linked to Al Qaeda, Jared Malsin's work confirming the doctored audio, and Abunimah's reconstruction of the path of the <i>Mavi Marmara</i> to show that it was actually fleeing at the time of the Israeli attack.<br /><br /> Despite the Israeli Foreign Ministry's best efforts, these Internet journalists were able to shape the story and fill crucial voids in the narrative of the attack that persisted in large part because Israel refused to share the entirety of the video and still footage it confiscated from flotilla passengers. In the past, Israel's control of the story of the conflict, especially in the West, has been an enormous source of power. Now we see that power breaking down at an incredibly swift rate. The one "success" in their <i>hasbara</i> effort has been a racist "we are the world" knock-off video that really only confirmed how absolutely tone-deaf many Israelis were to feelings around the world.<br /><br /> In another age, novelist Leon Uris helped supply a narrative of the Israel/Palestine conflict that survived for generations, but today the story is being told firsthand over the Internet. Portions of the attack on the <i>Mavi Marmara</i> were broadcast nearly live over a live-stream video channel online. In addition, several filmmakers onboard were able to smuggle footage off the boat, most notably Iara Lee from the Cultures of Resistance project, whose footage helped contradict the official Israeli version of events. So far, Israel has not found an effective response to this democratization of the media. And who knows, before long, people may talk about how the Gazans ended up in Gaza in the first place, the Nakba of 1948. Who's going to believe "a land without people, for a people without a land" when there are ten You- Tube videos to prove you wrong?<br /><br /> We say that the age of Israeli impunity may be coming to an end because of the surge in international grassroots eff ort to hold Israel accountable. The global boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) was catalyzed by the Israeli assault on Gaza, and the fl otilla attack only added fuel to the fi re. In the week following the attack a fl urry of boycott activities spread the globe from dockworkers in Sweden refusing to unload Israeli ships, to Britain's largest Union, UNITE, deciding to promote an Israeli boycott, to the popular band the Pixies refusing to play Tel Aviv. In addition, Ecuador, Turkey, and South Africa recalled their ambassadors from Israel, and over fifteen other countries summoned the resident Israeli ambassadors to express their outrage. This anger seems to have coalesced at the United Nations, where Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is pressing forward with plans for an international investigation into the flotilla attack despite an Israeli attempt to derail the effort with a domestic inquiry.<br /><br /> Some are already referring to this new U.N. investigation as "Goldstone II." Palestinian commentator Ali Abunimah pointed out on the Al Jazeera English website that if the attack on Gaza moved the world's people, it seemed the flotilla attack moved its governments. He pointed to the international composition of the flotilla and wrote, "It was the day the whole world became Gaza. And like the people of Gaza, the world is unlikely to take it lying down." And so the Gaza flotilla raid may one day prove to be a hinge of modern history.</p> <p><em>Reprinted with permission from O/R Books, All Rights Reserved -- 2010</em>.</p> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->To order: <a href="">Midnight on the Mavi Marmara, edited by Moustafa Bayoumi (O/R Books, 2010).</a> Philip Weiss and Adam Horowitz are co-editors of the site <a href="">Mondoweiss</a>, a news website devoted to covering American foreign policy in the Middle East, chiefly from a progressive Jewish perspective. </div></div></div> Wed, 11 Aug 2010 14:00:01 -0700 Philip Weiss, Adam Horowitz, O/R Books 663231 at World World israel palestine turkey gaza flotilla mavi mara 1967 An Historical Shift: American Jews Rethink Israel <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The Jewish push for peace is surging through the grassroots, but leaders and policy-makers are still turning a deaf ear.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="" alt="" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>This year has seen a dramatic shift in American Jews' attitudes toward Israel. In January many liberal Jews were shocked by the Gaza war, in which Israel used overwhelming force against a mostly defenseless civilian population unable to flee. Then came the rise to power of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, whose explicitly anti-Arab platform was at odds with an American Jewish electorate that had just voted 4 to 1 for a minority president. Throw in angry Israelis writing about the "rot in the Diaspora," and it's little wonder young American Jews feel increasingly indifferent about a country that has been at the center of Jewish identity for four decades.</p> <p> </p> <!-- /end .inset --> <p>These stirrings on the American Jewish street will come to a head in late October in Washington with the first national conference of J Street, the reformation Israel lobby. J Street has been around less than two years, but it is summoning liberal--and some not so liberal--Jews from all over the country to "rock the status quo," code for AIPAC (the American Israel Public Affairs Committee).</p> <p>Sure sounds like a velvet revolution in the Jewish community, huh? Not so fast. The changes in attitudes are taking place at the grassroots; by and large, Jewish leaders are standing fast. And as for policymakers, the opening has been slight. There seems little likelihood the conference will bring us any closer to that holy grail of the reformers: the ability of a US president, not to mention Congress, to put real pressure on Israel.</p> <p>First the good news. There's no question the Gaza conflict has helped break down the traditional Jewish resistance to criticizing Israel. Gaza was "the worst public relations disaster in Israel's history," says M.J. Rosenberg, a longtime Washington analyst who reports for Media Matters Action Network. For the first time in a generation, leading American Jews broke with the Jewish state over its conduct. <i>New York Times</i> columnist Roger Cohen said he was "shamed" by Israel's actions, while Michelle Goldberg wrote in the <i>Guardian</i> that Israel's killing of hundreds of civilians as reprisal for rocket attacks was "brutal" and probably "futile."</p> <p>Even devoted friends of Israel Leon Wieseltier and Michael Walzer expressed misgivings about the disproportionate use of force, and if Reform Jewish leaders could not bring themselves to criticize the war, the US left was energized by the horror. Medea Benjamin, a co-founder of Code Pink, threw herself into the cause of Gazan freedom after years of ignoring Israel-Palestine, in part out of deference to her family's feelings. In <i>The Nation</i> Naomi Klein came out for boycott, divestment and sanctions; later, visiting Ramallah, she apologized to the Palestinians for her "cowardice" in not coming to that position earlier.</p> <p>These were prominent Jews. But they echoed disturbance and fury among Jews all around the country over Israel's behavior. Rabbi Brant Rosen of Evanston, Illinois, describes the process poetically. For years he'd had an "equivocating voice" in his head that rationalized Israel's actions. "During the first and second intifadas and the war in Lebanon, I would say, 'It's complicated,'" he says. "Of course, Darfur is complicated, but that doesn't stop the Jewish community from speaking out. There's nothing complicated about oppression. When I read the reports on Gaza, I didn't have the equivocating voice anymore."</p> <p>In the midst of the war, Rosen participated in a panel at a Reconstructionist synagogue in Evanston organized by the liberal group Brit Tzedek v'Shalom and read a piece from a local Palestinian describing her family's experience in Gaza. "It was a gut-wrenching testimonial. It caused a stir in the congregation. Some people were very angry at me; others were uncomfortable but wanted to engage more deeply," Rosen says. The rabbi has gone on to initiate an effort called Ta'anit Tzedek, or the Jewish Fast for Gaza. Each month over seventy rabbis across the country along with interfaith leaders and concerned individuals partake in a daylong fast in order "to end the Jewish community's silence over Israel's collective punishment in Gaza."</p> <p>Grassroots Jewish organizations have experienced a surge in interest since the Gaza war. The Oakland-based Jewish Voice for Peace has seen its mailing list double, to 90,000, with up to 6,000 signing on each month. Executive director Rebecca Vilkomerson says JVP is finding Jewish support in unlikely places, like Hawaii, Atlanta, South Florida and Cleveland.</p> <p>Jewish youth have played a key role. A group of young bloggers, notably Ezra Klein, Matt Yglesias, Spencer Ackerman and Dana Goldstein, have criticized Israel to the point that Marty Peretz of <i>The New Republic</i> felt a need to smear them during the Gaza fighting, saying, "I pity them their hatred of their inheritance." Rosenberg is overjoyed by the trend. "None of them, none of them, is a birthright type or AIPAC type. You'd think that one or two would have the worldview of an old-fashioned superliberal on domestic stuff, pure AIPAC on Israel. But they are so hostile to that point of view."</p> <p>Dana Goldstein personifies this spirit. A 25-year-old former writer and editor for <i>The American Prospect</i>, she grew up in a Conservative community with close ties to Israel and has made her name doing political journalism. Years ago she vowed never to write about the Middle East; it was a thorny topic, and she felt nothing was to be gained by addressing it. But when Gaza happened, she felt she had to speak out. "The Israeli government is doing little more than devastating an already impoverished society and planting seeds of hatred in a new generation of Palestinians," she wrote in <i>TAP</i>. Gaza was especially dismaying to her because Barack Obama's election had felt like a new moment. "The Jewish community helped elect Obama, and Obama had a different way of talking about the Middle East," she says. Mainstream Jewish organizations' steadfast support for Israel's assault seemed very old school to her.</p> <p>In this sense, Gaza is the bookend to the 1967 war. Israel's smashing victory in six days ended two decades of American Jewish complacency about Israel's existence; many advocates for the state, including neoconservative Doug Feith and liberal hawk Thomas Friedman, found their voices as students at around that time. In the years that followed, American culture discovered the Holocaust, and the imperative "Never again!" gave rise to the modern Israel lobby: American Jews organized with the understanding that they were all that stood between Israel and oblivion.</p> <p>"Younger people don't have the baggage of 1967," says Hannah Schwarzschild, a founding member of the new organization American Jews for a Just Peace. "They are applying what they've been taught about human rights, equality, democracy and liberal American Jewish values to Israel," she adds, "and Israel-Palestine is moving to the center of their political world."</p> <p>The shift is most pronounced on campuses, where being pro-Palestinian has become a litmus test for progressive engagement. Last winter a battle over divestment from the Israeli occupation rocked Hampshire College, and many students spearheading the movement were Jewish. One of them, Alexander van Leer, explained his support for divestment in a YouTube video: "I spent last year in Israel, where I firsthand saw a lot of the oppression that was going on there. And it hurt me a lot coming from a Jewish background, where I've been taught a lot of the great things about Israel, which I know there are, but I was saddened to see the reality of it."</p> <p>The Hampshire students are part of an international boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement that demands Israeli accountability for human rights violations. "Gaza gave BDS a huge boost," says Ali Abunimah, author of <i>One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse</i>. "It is shifting power between Israel and Palestinians. It shows there is a price for the status quo."</p> <p>The growing impact of the BDS movement can be glimpsed in several recent events. Palestinian activists and Code Pink pressured the international human rights organization Oxfam to suspend the actress Kristin Davis (<i>Sex and the City</i>), who had been serving as a goodwill ambassador, over her sponsorship of Ahava, a beauty products company that uses materials from the occupied West Bank (Davis's commercial relationship with Ahava came to an end soon thereafter). Under similar pressure, a Brazilian parliamentary commission said Brazil should have no part in a proposed agreement that would bring increased trade between Israel and several South American countries until "Israel accepts the creation of the Palestinian state on the 1967 borders."</p> <p>Then there was the Toronto International Film Festival in September, at which a number of prominent figures, including Jane Fonda, Viggo Mortensen, Danny Glover, Julie Christie and Eve Ensler, signed a declaration opposing the festival's association with the Israeli consulate and a city-to-city program featuring Tel Aviv as part of a campaign by the Israeli government to "rebrand" itself after the Gaza conflict. The declaration read, in part, "especially in the wake of this year's brutal assault on Gaza, we object to the use of such an important international festival in staging a propaganda campaign on behalf of what South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, and UN General Assembly President Miguel d'Escoto Brockmann have all characterized as an apartheid regime."</p> <p>Not so long ago, "apartheid" was a hotly disputed term when applied to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Now even advocates for Israel, such as entertainment magnate Edgar Bronfman and former Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert, have warned that Israel faces an antiapartheid struggle unless it can get to a two-state solution, and fast. Nadia Hijab, a senior fellow at the Institute for Palestine Studies, says such statements are a sign that the BDS movement is gaining traction. "The Palestinian national movement does not have power," she says. "BDS is the only source of nonviolent power and is leading to an increasingly sophisticated discourse, but it's early days yet." Vilkomerson of JVP sees hope: "I think [the sanctions movement] will lead Israelis to shift. People do not want to be pariahs."</p> <p>In short, the change in the liberal-left discourse has been remarkable. Illinois writer Emily Hauser says she sees it in her synagogue. People once turned their backs on her after she published op-eds assailing Israel over its actions during the second intifada. Today many thank her for voicing their concerns. "The suffering of the [Palestinian] people there is a very, very powerful thing for people to be talking about. The community as a whole is far less likely to throw you out," she says.</p> <p>What does all this mean for the US political institutions that affect Middle East policy?</p> <p>There are signs Washington is feeling the changes. Several members of Congress visited Gaza, and some dared to criticize Israel. After Democrats Brian Baird, Keith Ellison and Rush Holt returned, they held a press conference on Capitol Hill led by Daniel Levy, a polished British-Israeli who has played a key role in the emergence of J Street. The Congressmen called for Israel to lift the blockade. After first-term Representative Donna Edwards visited Gaza and called for a vigorous debate about the conflict here, old-line lobbyists came out against her. But J Street rallied to her side, raising $30,000 for her in a show of support.</p> <p>Alas, those are the highlights. There have been few other courageous profiles. President Obama tried to change the game by speaking of Palestinian "humiliations" in his June speech in Cairo and calling for a freeze in Israeli settlement growth as a condition for progress toward a two-state solution. But the Israeli government has defied him, secure in the knowledge that Jewish leaders in Washington will back it. Dan Fleshler, an adviser to J Street and author of <i>Transforming America's Israel Lobby</i>, says he's frustrated by the lack of movement. "What I predicted in my book--that Obama could lay out an American policy and if Israel was recalcitrant about it, and if he took Israel to task in a serious way, he would get enough political support--well, he hasn't tried it yet." Fleshler is hopeful that the call for a settlement freeze isn't the last test. "Other tests are coming up."</p> <p>Another longtime observer of Jewish Washington says the only thing that's really changed is the presidency. That's big, but it's not everything. "Obama is strong and popular (still). He has a majority in Congress. Many in Congress feel that their political fate depends on his success. That is what generates the change in atmosphere here. So yes, there is significant change. But I think it has to do more with the atmosphere created by Bush's departure and by the new policies of Obama than with generational shifts in the way Jews view Israel or talk about Israel."</p> <p>And so when Obama has seemed to lose his nerve--say, when he helped to bury the UN's Goldstone report, which said Israel committed war crimes in Gaza--there has been very little resistance in the Jewish community to his capitulations. When Netanyahu was reported to have maligned Obama aides David Axelrod and Rahm Emanuel as "self-hating Jews," there was little outcry in the American Jewish community. And when we asked Representative Steve Rothman, a liberal Democrat, whether he welcomed J Street, he said he didn't know enough about the group to say, before reciting the same old mantras about the "Jewish state": "It's always good for more people to get involved to support America's most important ally in the Middle East.... As our president and vice president have said, Israel's national security is identical to America's vital national security."</p> <p>This is the treacherous landscape that J Street has stepped into, where it has been outflanked on occasion by both the right and the left. During the Gaza conflict, it issued a statement condemning not only Hamas but Israel, too, for "punishing a million and a half already-suffering Gazans for the actions of the extremists among them." It was a brave stance for a fledgling Jewish organization trying to build mainstream support, and it brought down the wrath of community gatekeepers. Rabbi Eric Yoffie, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, wrote in the <i>Forward</i> that the statement displayed "an utter lack of empathy for Israel's predicament," calling it "morally deficient, profoundly out of touch with Jewish sentiment and also appallingly naïve." Ouch.</p> <p>More recently J Street has tacked in the other direction. During the Toronto festival it quietly began collecting signatures for a letter blasting the protest as "shameful and shortsighted." Although never released as a letter, the initiative didn't endear J Street to the growing grassroots movement. Which is not to say that progressives are not hopeful about its emergence. Rosenberg points out that in its more than fifty-year existence, AIPAC never got the positive publicity J Street got after just one year--a long, favorable portrait in <i>The</i> <i>New York Times Magazine</i>. "All the constellations are coming together. [Executive director] Jeremy Ben-Ami and Daniel Levy have a plan and a message, and they know how to work the media," he says.</p> <p>J Street is trying to position itself so that it is the only game in town for liberal Jews, affording Jewish advocates for the two-state solution the big political tent they've been lacking to this point. Rabbi Yoffie, for instance, will be addressing the J Street national conference, overlooking his ferocious criticism of the organization in January. "Let's have a broad and generous definition of what constitutes pro-Israel," he told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, in explaining his pragmatic shift.</p> <p>The conference is sure to combine culture, youth and politics in such a way as to make AIPAC look about as à la mode as the former Soviet Union. "This is a watershed moment in terms of how people look at institutions," says Isaac Luria, J Street's campaigns director. "The old legacy institutions are dying." Nadia Hijab says this has been J Street's main achievement, transforming the terrain for left-leaning Jewish groups by taking on the traditional lobby in the mainstream political arena, mobilizing money and message. "J Street is a positive development as an alternative to AIPAC," Hijab says. "It's not comparable to AIPAC yet, but in the American context it is very smart."</p> <p>Political dynamism is precisely what J Street hopes to display at its policy conference. Expected speakers include Senator John Kerry and former Senator Chuck Hagel; 160 members of Congress will serve as hosts for J Street's first annual Gala Dinner. It might not rival the famous "roll call" of luminaries attending AIPAC's annual conferences (more than half of Congress showed up last May), but it is an impressive show of firepower all the same.</p> <p>The ultimate issue is whether J Street will have any effect in bringing about a two-state solution, an idea that, despite official support, has been neglected in Washington nearly to the point of abandonment. Dana Goldstein is thrilled by the possibility that the rubber will finally meet the road. "J Street has had a great influence on intellectual progressives in DC," she says. "There is now a lobby group that engages ideas that have been out there without political will. They are the political arm to this movement."</p> <p>Some critics on the left argue that conditions on the ground have already made the two-state solution unreachable. There are more than 500,000 Israeli settlers occupying the West Bank and East Jerusalem, with more arriving every day, and Gaza remains under siege. Add to this the political scene inside Israel, where Netanyahu has balked at Washington's request for a settlement freeze, and you could say that in the sixteen years since the Oslo Accords were signed, the possibility of two states in historic Palestine has never been as far off as it is today.</p> <p>Abunimah sees the new organization as having little impact. "A kinder and gentler AIPAC does not represent serious change," he says. "J Street is supposed to represent a tectonic shift, but it operates within the peace process paradigm and doesn't challenge it at all." Still, J Street has clearly panicked conservative Jews. And the Israeli embassy fired a warning shot across J Street's bow in October, when it warned that the lobby group was working against Israel's interests.</p> <p>For its part, J Street knows these are desperate times for the liberal goal of a two-state solution. As Israel becomes more and more isolated globally, the Israeli government and the traditional lobby have only gotten more intransigent. At the AIPAC policy conference last spring, its executive director warned that Israel's enemies were establishing a "predicate for abandonment" that only AIPAC's faithful could reverse. Don't expect such hysteria at the J Street conference, but behind all the hoopla, the organization will similarly be trying to preserve the old ideal of a Jewish state. "Getting Israel another thirty F-16s won't help us combat the legitimacy issue [with] people who are trying to undermine the right of Israel to have a state." Luria says. "Jews need a state. And that legitimacy window--the cracks in that window are getting wider. They're dangerous. Dangerous."</p> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->Philip Weiss is the author of <a href="">American Taboo: A Murder in the Peace Corps</a>. </div></div></div> Thu, 22 Oct 2009 21:00:01 -0700 Philip Weiss, Adam Horowitz, The Nation 658841 at World News & Politics World israel jews public opinion progressive opinion Rachel Corrie: Too Hot for New York <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Why has a New York theater company backed off from producing a celebrated play about the moral awakening of a young American activist?</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="" alt="" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->The slim book that was suddenly the most controversial work in the West in early March was not easy to find in the United States. Amazon said it wasn't available till April. The Strand bookstore didn't have it either. You could order it on Amazon-UK, but it would be a week getting here. I finally found an author in Michigan who kindly photocopied the British book and overnighted it to me; but to be on the safe side, I visited an activist's apartment on Eighth Avenue on the promise that I could take her much-in-demand copy to the lobby for half an hour. In the elevator, I flipped it open to a random passage:<blockquote>I can't cool boiling waters in Russia. I can't be Picasso. I can't be Jesus. I can't save the planet single-handedly. I can wash dishes.</blockquote>The book is the play <a href="””">My Name Is Rachel Corrie</a>. Composed from the journal entries and e-mails of the 23-year-old from Washington State who was crushed to death in Gaza three years ago under a bulldozer operated by the Israeli army, the play had two successful runs in London last year and then became a cause celebre after a progressive New York theater company decided to postpone its American premiere indefinitely out of concern for the sensitivities of (unnamed) Jewish groups unsettled by Hamas's victory in the Palestinian elections.<br /><br />When the English producers denounced the decision by the New York Theatre Workshop as "censorship" and withdrew the show, even the mainstream media could not ignore the implications. Why is it that the eloquent words of an American radical could not be heard in this country -- not, that is, without what the Workshop had called "contextualizing," framing the play with political discussions, maybe even mounting a companion piece that would somehow "mollify" the Jewish community?<br /><br />"The impact of this decision is enormous -- it is bigger than Rachel and bigger than this play," Cindy Corrie, Rachel's mother, said. "There was something about this play that made them feel so vulnerable. I saw in the Workshop's schedule a lesbian play. Will they use the same approach? Will they go to the segment of the community that would ardently oppose that?"<br /><br />In this way, Corrie's words appear to have had more impact than her death. The House bill calling for a U.S. investigation of her killing died in committee, with only seventy-eight votes and little media attention. But the naked admission by a left-leaning cultural outlet that it would subordinate its own artistic judgment to pro-Israel views has served as a smoking gun for those who have tried to press the discussion in this country of Palestinian human rights.<br /><br />Indeed, the admission was so shocking and embarrassing that the Workshop quickly tried to hedge and retreat from its statements. But the damage was done; people were asking questions that had been consigned to the fringe: How can the West condemn the Islamic world for not accepting Muhammad cartoons when a Western writer who speaks out on behalf of Palestinians is silenced? And why is it that Europe and Israel itself have a healthier debate over Palestinian human rights than we can have here?<br /><br /><b>The death of a writer</b><br /><br />When she died on March 16, 2003, Rachel Corrie had been in the Middle East for fifty days as a member of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), a group recruiting Westerners to serve as "human shields" against Israeli aggression -- including the policy of bulldozing Palestinian houses to create a wider no man's land between Egypt and then-occupied Gaza. Corrie was crushed to death when she stood in front of a bulldozer that was proceeding toward a Palestinian pharmacist's house. By witnesses' accounts, Corrie, wearing a bright orange vest, was clearly visible to the bulldozer's driver. An Israeli army investigation held no one accountable.<br /><br />Corrie's horrifying death was a landmark event: It linked Palestinian suffering to the American progressive movement. And it was immediately politicized. Pro-Israel voices sought to smear Corrie as a servant of terrorists. They said that the Israeli army was merely trying to block tunnels through which weapons were brought from Egypt into the occupied territories -- thereby denying that Corrie had died as the result of indiscriminate destruction. Hateful e-mails were everywhere. "Rachel Corrie won't get 72 virgins but she got what she wanted," said one.<br /><br />Few knew that Corrie had been a dedicated writer. "I decided to be an artist and a writer," she had written in a journal, describing her awakening, "and I didn't give a shit if I was mediocre and I didn't give a shit if I starved to death and I didn't give a shit if my whole damn high school turned and pointed and laughed in my face."<br /><br />Corrie's family felt it most urgent to get her words out to the world. The family posted several of her last e-mails on the ISM website (and they were printed in full by the London Guardian). These pieces were electrifying. They revealed a passionate and poetical woman who had long been attracted to idealistic causes and had put aside her work with the mentally ill and environmental causes in the Pacific Northwest to take up a pressing concern, Palestinian human rights. Thousands responded to the Corries, including a representative of the Royal Court Theatre in Sloane Square, London, who asked if the theater could use Rachel's words in a production -- and, oh, are there more writings? Cindy Corrie could do little more than sit and drink tea. She had family tell the Royal Court, Give us time.<br /><br />It was another year before Sarah Corrie dragged out the tubs in which her sister had stored her belongings and typed passages from journals and letters going back to high school. In November 2004 the Corries sent 184 pages to the Royal Court.<br /><br />It had been the intention of the two collaborators, Alan Rickman and Katharine Viner, a Guardian editor, to flesh out Rachel Corrie's writings with others' words. The pages instantly changed their minds. "We thought, She's done it on her own. Rachel's voice is the only voice you had to hear," Viner says. The Corrie family, which holds the rights to the words, readily agreed. Rachel Corrie was the playwright. Any royalties would go to the Rachel Corrie Foundation for Peace and Justice. The London "co-editors" then set to work winnowing the material, working with a slender blond actress, Megan Dodds, who resembles Corrie.<br /><br />A year ago the play was staged as a one-woman show in a 100-seat theater at the Royal Court. The piece was critically celebrated, and the four-week run sold out. Young people especially were drawn to the show.<br /><br />My Name Is Rachel Corrie -- the title comes from a declaration in Corrie's journal -- is two things: the self-portrait of a sensitive woman struggling to find her purpose, and a polemic on the horrors of Israeli occupation.<br /><br />The work is marked by Plath-like talk about boys -- "Eventually I convinced Colin to quit drowning out my life" -- and rilling passages about her growing understanding of commitment: "I knew a few years ago what the unbearable lightness of being was, before I read the book. The lightness between life and death, there are no dimensions at all…. It's just a shrug, the difference between Hitler and my mother, the difference between Whitney Houston and a Russian mother watching her son fall through the sidewalk and boil to death…. And I knew back then that the shrug would happen at the end of my life -- I knew. And I thought, so who cares?… Now I know, who cares…if I die at 11.15 p.m. or at 97 years -- And I know it's me. That's my job…" As the work grinds toward death, Corrie's moral vision of the Mideast becomes uppermost. "What we are paying for here is truly evil…. This is not the world you and Dad wanted me to come into when you decided to have me."<br /><br /><b>'Mollifying' the opposition</b><br /><br />The show returned last fall to a larger theater at the Royal Court, and sold out again. Most viewers tended to walk off afterward in stunned silence, but some nights the theater became a forum for discussions. Rickman or Viner or Dodds came out to talk about how the show had come about.<br /><br />The Royal Court got bids from around the world, including a theater in Israel, seeking to stage the production. But the priority was to bring the show to "Rachel's homeland," as Elyse Dodgson, the theater's international director, says. At bottom, Corrie's story feels very American. It is filled with references that surely escaped its English audience -- working at Mount Rainier, swimming naked in Puget Sound, drinking Mountain Dew, driving I-5 to California.<br /><br />The New York Theatre Workshop agreed to stage the show in March 2006. But by January the Royal Court began to sense apprehension on the Workshop's part. "I went to New York to meet them because I didn't feel comfortable about what they were saying," Dodgson says.<br /><br />The Workshop was evidently spooked. Its artistic director, James Nicola, spoke of having discussions after every performance to "contextualize" the play, of hiring a consultant who had worked with Salman Rushdie to lead these discussions and of hiring Emily Mann, the artistic director of the McCarter Theatre in Princeton, New Jersey, to prepare a companion piece of testimonies that would include Israeli victims of Palestinian terrorism.<br /><br />"We've had some brilliant discussions, we told them, but the play speaks for itself," Dodgson says. "It is expensive and unnecessary to have that after every single performance. Of course we knew some of the hideous things that were said about Rachel. We took no notice of them. The controversy died when people saw that this was a play about a young woman, an idealist."<br /><br />Dodgson was further upset when a Workshop marketing staffer, whom she won't name, used the word "mollifying." "It was a very awkward conversation. He said, 'I can't find the right word, but "mollifying" the Jewish community.' It shocked me."<br /><br />Corrie's connection to the International Solidarity Movement was politically loaded. The ISM is committed to nonviolence, but it works with a broad range of organizations, from Israeli peace activists to Palestinian groups that have supported suicide bombings, which has been seized on by those who want it to get lost.<br /><br />At the heart of the disagreement was an insistence by supporters of Israel that Corrie's killing be presented in the context of Palestinian terror. And that specifically, the policy of destroying Palestinian homes in Gaza be shown to be aimed at those tunnels -- even though the pharmacist's house Corrie was shielding was hundreds of yards from the border and had nothing to do with tunnels. One person close to NYTW, who refused to go on the record, elaborates: "The fact that the Israelis and such were trying to bulldoze these houses was not due to the fact that they were just against the Palestinians, but the underground tunnels, ways to get explosives to this community. By not mentioning it, the play was not as evenhanded as it claims to be." Another anonymous NYTW source said that staffers became worried after reading a fall 2003 Mother Jones profile of Corrie, a much disputed piece that relied heavily on right-wing sources to paint her as a reckless naif.<br /><br />Just whom was the Workshop consulting in its deliberations? It has steadfastly refused to say. In the New York Observer, Nicola mentioned "Jewish friends." Dodgson says that in discussions with the Royal Court, Workshop staffers brought up the Anti-Defamation League and the mayor's office as entities they were concerned about. (Abe Foxman of the ADL visited London in 2005 and denounced the play in the New York Sun as offensive to Jewish "sensitivities.") By one account, the fatal blow was dealt when the global PR firm Ruder Finn (which has an office in Israel) said it couldn't represent the play.<br /><br />In its latest statement, the Workshop says it consulted many community voices, not only Jews. These did not include Arab-Americans. Najla Said, the artistic director of Nibras, an Arab-American theater in New York, says, "We're not even 'other' enough to be 'other.' We're not the political issue that anyone thinks is worth talking about."<br /><br />The run had been scheduled for March 22-May 14. Tickets were listed on Telecharge in February. But the Workshop had not announced the production. According to the Royal Court, Nicola at last told them he wanted to postpone the play at least six months or a year to allow the political climate to settle down and to better prepare the production. The Royal Court took this as a cancellation. The news broke on February 28 in the Guardian and the New York Times.<br /><br />The Times article was shocking. It said the Workshop had "delayed" a production it had never announced, and reported that Nicola had been "polling local Jewish religious and community leaders as to their feelings." Nicola was quoted saying that Hamas's victory had made the Jewish community "very defensive and very edgy…and that seemed reasonable to me."<br /><br />The Red Sea parted. Or anyway the Atlantic Ocean. The English playwright Caryl Churchill, who has worked with both theaters, condemned the decision. Vanessa Redgrave wrote a letter urging the Royal Court to sue the Workshop. At first, the New York theater community was quiet.<br /><br />Enter the blogosphere, stage left. Three or four outraged theater bloggers began peppering the Workshop's community with questions. Whom did the Workshop talk to? Why aren't theater people up in arms? Garrett Eisler, the blogger Playgoer, likened the decision to one by the Manhattan Theater Club to cancel its 1998 production of Corpus Christi, a play imagining Christ as a gay man -- a decision that was reversed after leading voices, including the Times editorial page, denounced the action.<br /><br />The playwright Jason Grote circulated a petition calling on the Workshop to reverse itself. Signers included Philip Munger, a composer whose cantata dedicated to Corrie, The Skies Are Weeping, also had experienced politically motivated cancellations. The young playwright Christopher Shinn spoke out early and forcefully, saying the postponement amounted to censorship. "No one with a name was saying anything," says Eisler. "And Chris Shinn is not that big a name, but he is a practicing theater artist whose name gets in the New York Times."<br /><br /><b>A 'ghastly' situation</b><br /><br />By the time I visited the Workshop, a week into the controversy, it was a wounded institution. Linda Chapman, the associate artistic director, who had signed Grote's petition, said she couldn't talk to me, because of the "quicksand" that any statement had become. The Workshop had posted and then removed from its website a clumsy statement aimed at explaining itself. Playgoer was demanding that the opponents of the play come forward and drumming for a declaration from Tony Kushner, who has staged plays at the Workshop, posting his photo as if he were some war criminal.<br /><br />In an interview with The Nation, Kushner said that he was quiet because of his exhaustion over similar arguments surrounding the film Munich, on which he was a screenwriter, and because he kept hoping the decision would be made right. He said Nicola is a great figure in American theater: "His is one of the one or two most important theaters in this area -- politically engaged, unapologetic, unafraid and formally experimental." Never having gotten a clear answer about why Nicola put off the play, Kushner ascribes it to panic: Nicola didn't know what he was getting into, and only later became aware of how much opposition there was to Corrie, how much confusion the right has created around the facts. Nicola felt he was taking on "a really big, scary brawl and not a play." Still, Kushner said, the theater's decision created a "ghastly" situation. "Censoring a play because it addresses Palestinian-Israeli issues is not in any way right," he said.<br /><br />The Royal Court came out smelling like a rose. It triumphantly announced that it was moving the Megan Dodds show to the West End, the London equivalent of Broadway, and that it couldn't come to New York till next fall.<br /><br />The Grote petitioners (519 and counting) want that to happen at the Workshop, which itself was reaching out with another statement on the matter, released on the eve of the anniversary of Corrie's death. "I can only say we were trying to do whatever we could to help Rachel's voice be heard," Nicola said. The cut may be too deep for such ointment. As George Hunka, author of the theater blog Superfluities, says, "This is far too important an issue for everyone to paper it over again, with everyone shaking hands for a New York Times photographer. It's an extraordinarily rare picture of the ways that New York cultural institutions make their decisions about what to produce."<br /><br />Hunka doesn't use the J-word. Jen Marlowe does. A Jewish activist with (which is staging a reading of Corrie's words on March 22 with the Corrie parents present), she says, "I don't want to say the Jewish community is monolithic. It isn't. But among many American Jews who are very progressive and fight deeply for many social justice issues, there's a knee-jerk reflexive reaction that happens around issues related to Israel."<br /><br />Questions about pressure from Jewish leaders morph quickly into questions about funding. Ellen Stewart, the legendary director of the theatrical group La MaMa E.T.C., which is across East 4th Street from the Workshop, speculates that the trouble began with its "very affluent" board. Rachel's father, Craig Corrie, echoes her. "Do an investigation, follow the money." I called six board members and got no response. (About a third appear to be Jewish, as am I.) This is of course a charged issue. The writer Alisa Solomon, who was appalled by the postponement, nonetheless warns, "There's something a little too familiar about the image of Jews pulling the puppet strings behind the scenes."<br /><br />Perhaps. But Nicola's statement about a back channel to Jewish leaders suggests the presence of a cultural lobby that parallels the vaunted pro-Israel lobby in think tanks and Congress. I doubt we will find out whether the Workshop's decision was "internally generated," as Kushner contends, or more orchestrated, as I suspect. What the episode has demonstrated is a climate of fear. Not of physical harm, but of loss of opportunities. "The silence results from fear and intimidation," says Cindy Corrie. "I don't see what else. And it harms not only Palestinians. I believe, from the bottom of my heart, it harms Israelis and it harms us."<br /><br />Kushner agrees. Having spent five months defending Munich, he says the fear has two sources: "There is a very, very highly organized attack machinery that will come after you if you express any kind of dissent about Israel's policies, and it's a very unpleasant experience to be in the cross hairs. These aren't hayseeds from Kansas screaming about gays burning in hell; they're newspaper columnists who are taken seriously." These attackers impose a kind of literacy test: Before you can cast a moral vote on Palestinian rights, you must be able to recite a million wonky facts, such as what percentage of the territories were outside the Green Line in 1949. Then there is the self-generated fear of lending support to anti-Semites or those who would destroy Israel. All in all, says Kushner, it can leave someone "overwhelmed and in despair -- you feel like you should just say nothing."<br /><br />Who will tell Americans the Middle East story? For generations that story has been one of Israelis as victims, and it has been crucial to Israeli policy inasmuch as Israel has been able to defy its neighbors' opinions by relying on a highly sympathetic superpower. Israel's supporters have always feared that if Americans started to conduct the same frank discussion of issues that takes place in Tel Aviv, we might become more evenhanded in our approach to the Middle East. That pressure is what has stifled a play that portrays the Palestinians as victims (and thrown a blanket over a movie, Munich, that portrays both sides as victims). I've never written this sort of thing before. How moving that we have been granted that freedom by a 23-year-old woman with literary gifts who was not given time to unpack them. <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->Philip Weiss is the author of <a href="">American Taboo: A Murder in the Peace Corps</a>. </div></div></div> Fri, 17 Mar 2006 21:00:01 -0800 Philip Weiss, The Nation 633709 at WireTap Media WireTap