Saturday, January 31, 2009

Finkelstein on Gaza in Context

Norman Finkelstein has an excellent article that puts the invasion of Gaza in context of forty years of Israeli history. Highly recommended.

Friday, January 30, 2009

A Look Back at the Good Old Days of the Miracle Economy

Thursday, January 29, 2009

More Ridiculous Sexism from PETA

I don't take the animal rights movement seriously. There is something profoundly disgusting about a movement that consistently values the lives of chickens above those of humans. This is one more example. The article's subtitle says it all: "The animal-rights group doesn't want people to eat meat, but they don't mind treating women like it."

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Mark Ames Agrees with Me on SWPL

Those who strive can be saved; those who are content to chortle at themselves cannot. There is more honor and courage in the smelly, fat carcasse of a science-fiction nerd than in this vast horde of people who are proud not to take themselves too seriously. We say to you again: yes, even Chad Castagana is more worthy than you, chroniclers of wasted life. We say to you: The road to Hell is paved with old issues of The New Yorker.

< / capitalism >

Human costs of an economic meltdown.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Taibbi on Friedman

If Thomas Friedman had any sense of honor, integrity, or human decency, he surely would have committed seppuku by now. But since there is a void in Mr. Friedman's soul where those qualities reside in the rest of us, he continues to degrade the written word with machine-like consistency. Fortunately, Matt Taibbi has his tanto sharpened. Enjoy.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Iceland's Government Collapses!

Huzzah! The ruling Independent Party in Iceland has been forced to resign by massive protests in response to the country's economic devastation. The Social Democratic Alliance, which had been a minority partner in the government, looks poised to win the early elections scheduled for May 9th.

There are also massive protests in Eastern Europe, where many countries face the same kind of debt trap more commonly associated with the Global South. All this coming in the wake of the continent-wide protests over Israel's assault on Gaza. Which came after the "Greek Intifada." Just a few months ago the victory of the fascists in Italy and the routing of the Left in the London mayoral elections had many convinced that continent was on a rightwards drift. Things are looking up.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Does Anyone Else Find the Right Wing's Hard-on For Jack Bauer Creepy?

National Review's Jonah Goldberg goes in for a hug.

I don't get it. I guess Kiefer Sutherland is OK looking, but he's certainly no Christian Bale. Yet the right wing seems to have a dual obsession with him. First, he really puts the dill in their collective pickle. Second, they seem to think that he, a fictional character, is the best possible argument for torturing people. It reminds me of those people in college who, when I told them I was a socialist, would tell me that Lord of the Flies had shown why I had it all wrong. I liked to respond that Star Trek had proven Marx was right.

So today we have the Wall Street Journal crying JB at Obama's executive order restricting intelligence service interrogation techniques to those specified in the Army Field Manual. The Journal sniffs that the CIA would "now be required to give prisoners gentler treatment than common criminals. The Field Manual's confines don't even allow the average good cop/bad cop routines common in most police precincts." The Journal seems willfully unaware of what goes in some police precincts, but that's beside the point.

The article's main argument is same tired ticking bomb scenario. Alfred McCoy dissected the scenario expertly in 2006, and the argument hasn't changed since then. Here McCoy recounts the rather improbable sequence of events involved in the scenario:

—First, FBI or CIA agents apprehend a terrorist at the precise moment between timer’s first tick and bomb’s burst.

—Second, the interrogators somehow have sufficiently detailed foreknowledge of the plot to know they must interrogate this very person and do it right now.

—Third, these same officers, for some unexplained reason, are missing just a few critical details that only this captive can divulge.

—Fourth, the biggest leap of all, these officers with just one shot to get the information that only this captive can divulge are best advised to try torture, as if beating him is the way to assure his wholehearted cooperation.

David Rose has updated McCoy's argument recently in Vanity Fair. Rose interviewed a whole host of intelligence operatives, who uniformly told him that torture did not produce good intelligence. In fact, it tended to produce bad intelligence that caused investigators to waste resources following. Of the much hallowed waterboarding of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, one Pentagon analyst said “K.S.M. produced no actionable intelligence. He was trying to tell us how stupid we were.”

The WSJ article is useful in one respect, however: it disproves the self-righteous laments from Democrats who angrily shake their fist and cry "This never would have happened but for NADER!" Observe:

An anecdote former Clinton counterterror czar Richard Clarke recounts in his memoir "Against All Enemies" is instructive. In 1993, White House Counsel Lloyd Cutler was horrified by Mr. Clarke's proposal for "extraordinary rendition," where our spooks turn over prisoners to foreign countries like Egypt so they can do the interrogating.

While Mr. Clinton was still chewing his fingernails and seemed to side with Mr. Cutler, Al Gore arrived late to the meeting. "Clinton recapped the arguments on both sides," Mr. Clarke writes. "Gore laughed and said, 'That's a no-brainer. Of course it's a violation of international law, that's why it's a covert action. The guy is a terrorist. Go grab his ass.'"

Monday, January 19, 2009

British MP on Israel and Palestine

One of the best statements by a politician I've heard.

Getting to Know Dr. King

It's Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and, for the first time I can remember, the holiday isn't being greeted with an avalanche of cant. Yahoo News ran a good story about Dr. King's frequently forgotten commitment to economic justice, and CNN has an article interviewing SCLC leaders and King's sister. The right wing, meanwhile, which never wastes an opportunity to hijack King's legacy, has been curiously silent, with the exception of Michelle Malkin, who wants to paint King as an enemy of teacher's unions (right. he supported sanitation workers but drew the line at educators.)

Clearly, this has something to do with Obama's election, which has helped make clear the drastic changes in American racial attitudes over the past few decades. Viewing this sea change, I am reminded of Marx's appropriation of Hamlet: "Well grubbed, old mole!"

Given the reprieve we've been granted from right wing idiocy about King, now is a perfect time to familiarize yourself with the radical Dr. King.

Brian Jones - The Martin Luther King They Won't Celebrate

FAIR - Martin Luther King and Affirmative Action

Kai Wright - Dr. King, Forgotten Radical

Brian Kelley - Unfinished Business: Martin Luther King in Memphis

Stevie Wonder also has something to say:

Friday, January 16, 2009

Epic Fail in Zionist Apologetics

Elizabeth Wurtzel's piece today in the Guardian is the single worst defense of Israel I've read this time around. I'm actually glad she's a Zionist, because frankly I'd be embarrassed to have someone writing this drivel for my side. Apparently the only possible reason people are upset with Israel is antisemitism (the "purest antisemitism since the Nazi era," in fact). Just read the piece, and revel in the fact that Israel's defenders have reached rock bottom, intellectually (they've been there morally for decades).

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Zionist Thuggery in the US

And you thought Zionists only hated Arabs. Turns out they're more than willing to use violence against American Jews who speak out against them. Adam Shapiro, founder of the International Solidarity Movement, has received death threats against him and his family from the Jewish Defense League. JDL threats are not to be taken lightly, as they have a history of following through with them.

While Haaretz and other Israeli outlets raise a tremendous hue and cry over every mean thing an Arab says about Israel in Europe, they are silent on the very real crimes of their supporters.

Max Blumenthal: My Kind of Asshole

After seeing Max Blumenthal's excellent coverage of the pep-rally for ethnic cleansing in New York, I decided to look him up on youtube and see what else he's done. Turns out the guy is hilarious. Lots of very funny stuff skewering the right wing.

However, he does occasionally get too big for his boots. Watch Nader stuff Blumenthal's blame game down his throat. (Yes I know Ralph gets wierd around immigration)

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Civilizing the Brutes in Afghanistan

Ethiopian Troops Leave Mogadishu

A glimmer of good news amidst the carnage: Ethiopian troops are finally leaving the capital of Somalia. The Ethiopian occupation has been incredibly brutal, overthrowing the only stable government the country had seen in decades and causing more than a million Somali's to become refugees. Though there has been fighting between al-Shabaab, the main resistance group, and other groups fighting the occupation, al-Shabaab controls the entire country outside Mogadishu, and now that the Ethiopians have left will probably take that quickly as well.

Protesting Police Executions

Here is a demonstration of how little they care about our lives: when the Bay Area Rapid Transit directors had a meeting with the public to discuss the murder of Oscar Grant, Director Lynette Sweet complained that the meeting was keeping people from watching the NFL playoffs. Fortunately, both San Francisco and New Orleans (responding to the murder of Adolph Grimes) residents have begun organizing to ensure that these executions will not fade quietly from public view. SF has set up the Coalition Against Police Executions, and is regularly organizing protests. In New Orleans, a group of ministers and the NAACP are pushing for an FBI civil rights investigation into the shooting. The FBI, of course, with its own illustrious history of murdering Black leaders, will probably do nothing, but it will at least keep the killing in the press.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Young Black Man Killed by New Orleans Police

Again. Did cops all around the country get a memo or something? Is this some kind of sick civilian corollary to what Jon Stewart described as Israel's "civilian carnage Toyotathan" before Obama comes to office? Are police departments all over the country getting their fill of murdering young Black men before the inauguration?

Anyway, here are the details. Adolph Grimes III was in New Orleans visiting his family for the holidays. He was waiting to meet his cousin in a rented SUV, when a narcotics force out on a sweep found him. The police claimed he fired at them, and they released a hail of 48 shots in response. Perhaps they've been watching the news and learned to follow Israel: when you shoot an innocent person, claim they shot at you first! Here's some excellent coverage of the protests Grimes' murder has sparked.

Israeli Use of Palestinian Human Shields

We hear a great deal about Hamas' use of Palestinian civilians as human shields. It is the IDF's favorite explanation for why they have butchered so many Palestinian civilians. In the fantasy world of Israeli hasbara, even those killed by IDF bombs belong in the category of "victims of Hamas." While it is undoubtedly true that Hamas' weapons are often stored in mosques, and that Hamas fighters do take shelter in civilian homes, it is nonetheless striking that the human shields claim should be offered so frequently without the slightest bit of evidence. An IDF spokesperson will somberly explain that they had to drop a one ton bomb on an apartment, and the only reason civilians died was because of Hamas using human shields.

But what of the use of human shields by Israel? The practice is widespread enough that, in 2005, the Israeli Supreme Court was forced under pressure from human rights groups to issue a ruling that banned the practice. However, the IDF has a long history of ignoring Israeli Supreme Court rulings when they conflict with the colonization of Palestine (these rulings are outliers; most of the time the court is quite happy to provide a legal rationale for whatever is needed to consolidate the occupation).

The legal status of the use of human shields has not been an exception. Indeed, here the IDF has had it both ways. As the MERIP report makes clear, the court delayed hearing a case about human shields as long as it could, even though evidence of both the practice's use and its status in international law were ample. Then, after the ruling was issued, the IDF simply adopted a lower profile in using Palestinian human shields. However, examples abound that the practice continued, see here, here, here, and here.

In 2006, the IDF used the human shields excuse with great abandon during its invasion of Lebanon. However, the hasbara took a hit when Human Rights Watch published its August report, which reported that they had found "no cases in which Hezbollah deliberately used civilians as shields to protect them from retaliatory IDF attack." Then in November Amnesty International published its report on the war, which confirmed the main points of HRW's.

Despite the beating the human shields excuse took in the Lebanon invasion, it is back with a vengeance in 2009. This time, apologists for Israeli terror have made a concerted effort to give the myth a scholarly veneer with the publication of "Hamas Exploitation of Civilians as Human Shields." Reading the 81 page report, one is struck by just how weak the evidence is. For example, the report repeatedly points out the placement of government buildings in densely populated areas, as if this signified some diabolical intent. More significantly, from the outset the report writes off any possibility of solidarity between Gazan civilians and Hamas. Every time civilians are found near fighting, it is an example of Hamas 'exploiting' civilians. However, Hamas is the democratically elected government of Palestine, and its support has increased throughout the Israeli assault. It is unsurprising, therefore, that ordinary Gazans would put themselves in danger to protect Hamas fighters.

The situation is similar to that of Vietnam during the American war. Fighters from the National Liberation Front enjoyed broad support in the countryside, often taking refuge in villages. Seeing this, the American military quite logically concluded that its war was against the entire population of Vietnam, and conducted the war accordingly. The same is happening in Palestine.

In addition to the genocidal logic of the assault, Israel has continued its practice of using Palestinian civilians as unwilling human shields. According to Amnesty International, Israeli fighters regularly take refuge in a civilian occupied building, and order the inhabitants to remain in the building to discourage Hamas from attacking. I wonder if we'll soon see a congressional resolution decrying this practice?

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Africa Protests Israel's Slaughter in Gaza

Check out Pambazuka's round up of African protests against Israel's invasion, from Algeria to South Africa. Given Israels history of backing settler states like South Africa and American-backed dictators like Mobutu, it's not surprising that Israeli propaganda is falling on deaf ears.

George Ciccariello-Maher on Oscar Grant's Murder

You might know George Ciccariello-Maher for his excellent writings on Chavez and Venezuela. Here he has a truly necessary piece on Oakland and Oscar Grant's murder. He goes through Oakland's foul history of police executions, and also the magnitude of outrage the murder has sparked. Well worth reading.

Joe the Plumber's First Dispatch From Israel


When Pyjamas Media asked me to be a reporter on the war in Israel my immediate reaction was "yes." But my fool mouth has got me in trouble before, so I told them I would sleep on it.

After some extra thinking I said "hell yes." You know why? Because one voice has been lacking in the midst of all this war. That is the voice of the average man.

The elites in the world think they run everything, but if I learned one thing about global politics from my 17 years as an unlicensed plumber, it's that elites just mess everything up.

Think about it. When was the last time you heard of an average guy messing up the economy? Or an average guy starting a war? Never happened. Only elites have the time to think about that stuff.

Average guys just wanna look out for their family. They don't have time for starting a war.

What would they even want to start a war about? Things are looking fine to me here in America. As long as you don't come for my guns or one red penny more of my hard-earned money or to make me join a union or get my plumber's license I got no gripe with you.

So I boarded a jet to Israel to find out the real story of the war between Israel and Gaza. It was a long flight and they served chicken with something called rice pilaf. Very interesting stuff. I will have to see if we can get it back home.

I got off the plane and my guide was a very nice guy named Moshe Ben-David. You pronounce it "moy-she." Moshe said that first he would take me to ground zero where the Gazans have been shooting rockets at Israel. Then he would drive us to a hill where I could see the fighting in Gaza.

"The attacks are frequent," Moshe said.

"How many people died?" I asked him.

"A lot of people over the many years it has been going on and recently one," Moshe said back.

I nodded sadly to him.

"So it's sort of like your 9-11?" I asked him.

"Hmm," Moshe said as he thought about my question. "I think you could say that. Yes."

Israelis struggle to recover from brutal Hamas rocket attacks.
The tragedy of the attacks for people like Moshe is that they come so suddenly. No one expects the rockets. Imagine a 9-11, only the planes could land anywhere. They could land among the family of the Israelis.

"A siren sounds and you have one minute," Moshe said. "You have to get to the shelter or your basement."

Moshe took me to a neighborhood not far from the border with Gaza and showed me some buildings that had been damaged by rockets. He pointed to a room where the rocket had blasted into the floor.

"A baby was sleeping only two rooms away and a few hours before this rocket hit. If he was still sleeping he could have been slightly injured by debris."

Moshe showed me pictures. One picture was of a child who was dusty. Another picture was of a man making a very upset face.

"What happened here?" I asked and pointed to the face.

"Oh," Moshe said sadly. "He is upset because a rocket hit his yard."

After the rocket attacks became too much to handle the Israelis were forced to act. With their airforce they used precision guided bombs to attack the rocket launchers. Some of these were situated in mosques and inside of the houses of families and at weddings and UN hospitals.

"The Hamas are monsters," Moshe said. "They use everyone as human shields. We have no choice. There are, unfortunately, some civilian casualties."

Nobody wants Gazan civilians being killed or injured, especially not the Israelis.

"We care so much," said Moshe. "We never want to hurt anyone, but we have to defend our settlements."

The hundreds of women and children killed by Israeli air strikes, artillery, tanks, and machine guns are a tragedy.

"And the UN ambulance the tank shot," Moshe added to the list.

These are all tragedies, but sometimes sacrifices have to be made in the name of security. If a serial killer grabs your wife and your baby and uses them as human shields you have to do what needs to be done.

You have to use your brain in situations likes that. You have to shoot the baby because it can't take care of itself without a wife, but with a wife you can make a new baby.

"That's a good metaphor," Moshe complimented me.

I smiled and we walked out to go to Moshe's truck. On the way out two kids and an older man with those little hats came running and said they were settlers.

"Like pioneers in America," Moshe told me.

The one teenager was named Abraham and another was named Tzabar. They were brothers. Their mother had been wounded badly by a rocket.

"Shrapnel hit her in the foot," Tzabar said in a foreign accent. "She was sitting on the couch and BOOM the rocket hit outside and shrapnel hit mama in the foot!"

They were very excited and upset. I asked them about their mother.

"She is okay now, but she is at the Marriott in Tel Aviv now."

The older man was Sol Rozen. He lived near the boys and he saw another rocket hit a dog.

"One second it was standing there just fine," Sol described to us. "The next second there was no dog. I looked around and around and then I saw him up in the tree. He was okay, but he was very scared. He did not know how he got up in that tree. Damn them!"

It was good to meet with the average Israelis I had requested. I shook their hands and wished them luck.

Moshe drove his truck to a hill. From the hill we could see explosions in Gaza. There was smoke and helicopters. I could also see some tanks driving around.

"Watch there," Moshe said.

I took this one with my camera phone. Surprisingly, Sbarros in Israel look similar to those in malls in America. The pizza tastes just as delicious too!
He handed me some binoculars and pointed. I heard a jet overhead and then there was this big flash of light and then like a full second later there was this boom that shook my head.

"Wow!" I shouted. "That's a huge fireball!"

There was a huge fireball forming. It looked like a mushroom cloud it was so big. It wasn't a nuke though, just a really big bomb.

We had to go after a little bit because the tanks were driving into a school for the deaf and Moshe said he didn't want me to get stressed out.

"Come on, bro-heem," he said. "I'll buy you a slice of pie."

He meant Sbarro pizza. They call pizza "pie" in Israel. We went to the Sbarro and I got a pepperoni pizza slice and Moshe got one with black olives.

I wanted to talk to some average Gazans about what was going on, but Moshe said it was too dangerous.

"Maybe after all the rocket launchers have been destroyed," Moshe said. "Then it will be safe to go to Gaza."

That is my report from Israel. Stay strong America.

The End.

- Joe "The Plumber" Wurzelbacher

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Spotlight: Attempted Smear on Pro-Palestinian Doctor Mads Gilbert by Fox News

If you've been watching the international media coverage of Israel's assault on Gaza for the last week or so, you've probably seen some clips of Dr. Mads Gilbert, a Norwegian physician working in Gaza City's beleaguered Shifa Hospital. Dr. Gilbert has been an outspoken and courageous voice in the Anglophone media for Palestinian rights and humanity during the slaughter.

Apparently, the Fox News apparatchiks decided that something must be done. They turned to NGO Monitor, a right wing Israeli group that specializes in putting out press releases explaining why Amnesty International is full of anti-semites. (The liberal Zionist magazine the Forward has a pretty devastating take down of NGO-M's disregard for anything factual, available here.) NGO Monitor has done some digging and discovered that Dr. Gilbert is - horror of horrors! - a Marxist activist with the Norwegian "Red" party, a Maoist group.

Besides this, NGO Monitor has unearthed some statements Dr. Gilbert made about Sept. 11th, which assert that terrorism is justified in the context of oppression. Given Fox News' strident cheerleading of terror by those aren't oppressed (Israel and the US), I'm not sure what they're complaining about.

My favorite part of the article is the last part, where the head of NGO Monitor, Gerald Steinberg, pontificates on Dr. Gilbert's supposed violations of the Hippocratic Oath (Dr. Steinberg is a professor of political science). Then an actual medical ethicist informs us that having a political viewpoint does not necessarily disqualify one from practicing medicine.

If this is the best they can do, our side is doing better than I thought.

Harry's Place has also taken up the cudgels against Gilbert. They add nothing to the Fox News article besides copious baiting for his Maoism.

Great Footage of Israeli Protest in Tel Aviv

Police Executions

With the spate of recent attempts on Black men's lives by police officers, I thought I'd post a few songs on the subject.

Another (!!!!!!!) Young Black Man Shot by Police

Thankfully, Robbie Tolan survived the assault. He will live the rest of his life with a bullet embedded in his liver, however. Tolan, 23, was shot in his driveway in Bellaire, Texas, by a police officer who accused him of stealing a car. Bellaire is a mostly white suburb of Houston. Get this: the officer who shot him is named Jeffrey Cotton.

Riots and Demonstrations in Oakland Over Oscar Grant's Murder

Oscar Grant's murder has sparked some serious outrage in Oakland against police brutality. Socialist Worker has excellent coverage of the demonstration, while the Oakland Tribune has surprisingly good coverage of the riot:

The protesters were "calling attention to something that is a systematic problem, which won't go away with an apology," said a 29-year-old who identified himself only as B. Rex. He was arrested and taken by police in a squad car soon after.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The Murder of Oscar Grant

There is no reasonable doubt here.

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Jon Stewart on Gaza

Jon Stewart with a very funny and quite savvy bit on Gaza and Israel. The guy is on a roll.

Amira Haas on Gaza

Amira Haas has been an incredibly courageous voice for humanity in the face of Israeli barbarism. Check out her latest column.

Racist Cops in Oakland Execute a Black Man

From Socialist Worker:

ON NEW Year's Eve, as scores of horrified people looked on, Oakland transit police forced 22-year-old Oscar Grant to the ground, kneeled on his head and then shot him in the back.

Grant, an African American father of a 4-year-old daughter and an Oakland grocery story worker, died several hours later. The bullet entered his back, ricocheted off the concrete floor and punctured his lungs.

Police attempted to confiscate cell phone videos taken by Bay Area Rapid Transit passengers and initially claimed that security cameras didn't record the incident. However, in the last two days, they have been forced to admit that the security cameras did capture the assault.

Additionally, one especially graphic video taken by a passenger was released by the Bay Area television station KTVU. It shows an unarmed and unresisting Grant, lying face down, shot at point-blank range by an officer as his horrified friends and onlookers watch.

Thomas Friedman is a Raging Fucktard

A raging, monumental fucktard. I first became acquainted with Friedman in my capacity as a shelver at a library where I worked. I liked to read reactionary books while on the clock, because I was less likely to lose the track of the argument if interrupted than with serious books. I remember reading one of his books (the World is Flat, maybe?) and coming across the phrase "I thought the Second Intifada was a dumb idea." I closed the book, secure in my knowledge that this man could not possibly have anything useful to say.

Yet here we are, years later, and his pie-hole still flaps. Once more, Friedman has turned his gaze to the Palestinians. As is his wont, he has employed an asinine metaphor to explain the situation to us.

The fighting, death and destruction in Gaza is painful to watch. But it’s all too familiar. It’s the latest version of the longest-running play in the modern Middle East, which, if I were to give it a title, would be called: “Who owns this hotel? Can the Jews have a room? And shouldn’t we blow up the bar and replace it with a mosque?”
650 Palestinians are dead, and Friedman is playing Max Bialystock.
That is, Gaza is a mini-version of three great struggles that have been playing out since 1948: 1) Who is going to be the regional superpower — Egypt? Saudi Arabia? Iran? 2) Should there be a Jewish state in the Middle East and, if so, on what Palestinian terms? And 3) Who is going to dominate Arab society — Islamists who are intolerant of other faiths and want to choke off modernity or modernists who want to embrace the future, with an Arab-Muslim face? Let’s look at each.
The great struggle for hegemony over the middle east hasn't been between Egypt and Saudi Arabia. It's been between the United States, France, Great Britain, and the Soviet Union. The 1956 Suez War? England, France, and Israel against the United States. 1967? The US vs. the Soviet Union. The struggle for national self-determination in mideastern countries has, in the twentieth centuries, been waged in the context of imperialism. Egypt's rise under Nasser was less about Egyptian hegemony than Arab nationalism and anticolonialism. Erasing the history of colonialism in the Middle East allows Friedman to construct a ridiculous mythology in the rest of the column.
WHO OWNS THIS HOTEL? The struggle for hegemony over the modern Arab world is as old as Nasser’s Egypt. But what is new today is that non-Arab Iran is now making a bid for primacy — challenging Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Iran has deftly used military aid to both Hamas and Hezbollah to create a rocket-armed force on Israel’s northern and western borders. This enables Tehran to stop and start the Israeli-Palestinian conflict at will and to paint itself as the true protector of the Palestinians, as opposed to the weak Arab regimes.
This first sentence is a typical Friedmanism. It is either nonsensical or utterly banal. The struggle for control over "the modern Arab world" was going on long before Nasser arrived on the scene. What was the Balfour Declaration but a means by which the British sought to assert their dominance over the Levant? Dating the struggle to Nasser simply allows Friedman to forget that hegemony requires a hegemon. On the other hand, one could be charitable and say that Nasser signaled the rise of the modern Arab world. In this case, Friedman is simply being banal and saying that the struggle over the modern Arab world started when the modern Arab world did.
“The Gaza that Israel left in 2005 was bordering Egypt. The Gaza that Israel just came back to is now bordering Iran,” said Mamoun Fandy, director of Middle East programs at the International Institute of Strategic Studies. “Iran has become the ultimate confrontation state. I am not sure we can talk just about ‘Arab-Israeli peace’ or the ‘Arab peace initiative’ anymore. We may be looking at an ‘Iranian initiative.’ ” In short, the whole notion of Arab-Israeli peacemaking likely will have to change.
Another typically Friedmanesque attack on rational thought. The man can barely contain his boundless euphoria every time he is allowed to utter something to the effect that "everything has changed!!!!!" In this case, it's a rather bizarre assertion. Iran has pointedly remained quiet on Israel's slaughter in Gaza. In fact, Lebanese politicians are saying that Iran has pledged that Hezbollah will not interfere.
CAN THE JEWS HAVE A ROOM HERE? Hamas rejects any recognition of Israel. By contrast, the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority, which controls the West Bank, has recognized Israel — and vice versa. If you believe, as I do, that the only stable solution is a two-state one, with the Palestinians getting all of the West Bank, Gaza and Arab sectors of East Jerusalem, then you have to hope for the weakening of Hamas.
"Hamas rejects any recognition of Israel." Or is it the other way around? After all, as Avi Shlaim reminds us, it was Israel that rejected recognition of a Hamas-Fatah unity government in March of 2007. Moreover, what does recognition actually mean? Jonathan Cook argued lucidly in 2006 that recognition is a trap. Israel refuses to determine its borders, so recognition of the Israeli state means recognizing the territorial claims of a nebulous entity bent on seizing control of as much of the West Bank as possible. It means, in effect, abandoning those parts of the West Bank currently under Israeli control. So while avoiding "recognition," Hamas has repeatedly signalled its willingness to agree to peace within the pre-1967 borders.
Why? Because nothing has damaged Palestinians more than the Hamas death-cult strategy of turning Palestinian youths into suicide bombers. Because nothing would set back a peace deal more than if Hamas’s call to replace Israel with an Islamic state became the Palestinian negotiating position. And because Hamas’s attacks on towns in southern Israel is destroying a two-state solution, even more than Israel’s disastrous and reckless West Bank settlements.
Here we have nothing more than a paragraph of mythology. Death cult? As lenin points out in his excellent book, when you construct a subject as totally irrational, it means you don't have to aim very high in your explanations of its actions. And if Israel really wanted to stop the rockets, all they would have to do is agree to another ceasefire.
Israel has proved that it can and will uproot settlements, as it did in Gaza. Hamas’s rocket attacks pose an irreversible threat. They say to Israel: “From Gaza, we can hit southern Israel. If we get the West Bank, we can rocket, and thereby close, Israel’s international airport — anytime, any day, from now to eternity.” How many Israelis will risk relinquishing the West Bank, given this new threat?
Hamas has proven that it can and will stop rocket attacks, even in the context of a ceasefire whose agreements Israel refuses to honor. This talk of the West Bank is also bizarre. Given that, in the context of a ceasefire, virtually no rockets were launched from Gaza (those that were launched came from groups like Islamic Jihad, which Hamas has tried to stop), a similar approach would seem to be apt for the West Bank.
SHOULDN’T WE BLOW UP THE BAR AND REPLACE IT WITH A MOSQUE? Hamas’s overthrow of the more secular Fatah organization in Gaza in 2007 is part of a regionwide civil war between Islamists and modernists. In the week that Israel has been slicing through Gaza, Islamist suicide bombers have killed almost 100 Iraqis — first, a group of tribal sheikhs in Yusufiya, who were working on reconciliation between Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds, and, second, mostly women and children gathered at a Shiite shrine. These unprovoked mass murders have not stirred a single protest in Europe or the Middle East.
This last sentence is one of the worst Friedman has ever penned. What on God's green earth does he expect a European protest against suicide bombing would accomplish? Who is the target of such an action? Global protests against Israel's slaughter have clear targets; they encourage whatever country they are in to side with Palestinian self-determination in the "international community." Suicide bombers don't exactly look for legitimacy the way Israel does. Basically, Friedman is wagging his finger at Europeans and asking them why they are not as ineffectually self-righteous as he.
Gaza today is basically ground zero for all three of these struggles, said Martin Indyk, the former Clinton administration’s Middle East adviser whose incisive new book, “Innocent Abroad: An Intimate Account of American Diplomacy in the Middle East,” was just published. “This tiny little piece of land, Gaza, has the potential to blow all of these issues wide open and present a huge problem for Barack Obama on Day 1.”
Just one thing here. The provenance of Indyk's book title is Mark Twain's 1869 travelogue "Innocents Abroad" (clearly Indyk is a very creative man). "Innocents" was a fairly typical American travelogue of the nineteenth century, when the "holy land" became an object of wild fascination among Americans. However, Twain would soon became a principled anti-imperialist, who wrote scathingly about American and European efforts to dominate the globe. That the work of a sterling anti-imperialist such as Twain can be appropriated by an imperialist like Indyk is just gross.
Obama’s great potential for America, noted Indyk, is also a great threat to Islamist radicals — because his narrative holds tremendous appeal for Arabs. For eight years Hamas, Hezbollah and Al Qaeda have been surfing on a wave of anti-U.S. anger generated by George W. Bush. And that wave has greatly expanded their base.

No doubt, Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran are hoping that they can use the Gaza conflict to turn Obama into Bush. They know Barack Hussein Obama must be (am)Bushed — to keep America and its Arab allies on the defensive. Obama has to keep his eye on the prize. His goal — America’s goal — has to be a settlement in Gaza that eliminates the threat of Hamas rockets and opens Gaza economically to the world, under credible international supervision. That’s what will serve U.S. interests, moderate the three great struggles and earn him respect.
Dear god, when will it end?! Here, thankfully. Friedman concludes his piece on the typical imperial liberal note that they brought this on themselves. Friedman's tone is different, however, in that he apparently believes that Arab leaders enjoy being bombed by bellicose Westerners, since it allows them to stoke anti-Western feelings among "the masses." It's worth noting, in passing, the perversity of Friedman blaming Bush for hatred of the West, when he was an enthusiastic cheerleader for virtually all of Bush's major initiatives in the region.

Friedman is a clown, a court jester in the imperial thrown room. He deserved this.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Israel Rearms

One of the most familiar canards used by imperialist running dogs to explain the futility of ceasefire with Hamas is that the eeeeeeeeeeeevildoers will only use the opportunity to rearm. As if during the ceasefire Israeli generals were out picking daisies.

Quite the opposite, as we now know. In fact, Israeli generals were planning the current attack on Gaza over six months ago, at the very time they were negotiating the ceasefire of June 19th. Haaretz reports:

Sources in the defense establishment said Defense Minister Ehud Barak instructed the Israel Defense Forces to prepare for the operation over six months ago, even as Israel was beginning to negotiate a ceasefire agreement with Hamas. According to the sources, Barak maintained that although the lull would allow Hamas to prepare for a showdown with Israel, the Israeli army needed time to prepare, as well. Barak gave orders to carry out a comprehensive intelligence-gathering drive which sought to map out Hamas' security infrastructure, along with that of other militant organizations operating in the Strip.

This intelligence-gathering effort brought back information about permanent bases, weapon silos, training camps, the homes of senior officials and coordinates for other facilities.
It is one thing for Hamas to build more qassams; it is quite another for Israel to construct detailed plans for invading Gaza and assassinating political leaders. We hear so much about Hamas' duplicity in rearming itself. Why nothing about Israel's deep cynicism in agreeing to a ceasefire while planning for war?

Israel also did more than plan. It was busy rearming as well. Here's a summary of press releases from the Defense Security Cooperation Agency, which must make public notice of every arms sale by a US corporation to a foreign state:

July 15th - Four Littoral Combat Ships - 1.9 billion dollars. Littorals are a next generation surface engagement vessel. They are meant to engage ground targets from the sea - precisely the kind of ships attacking Gazan fishing boats and attacking civilians on beaches.

July 15th - 1.5 billion dollars of jet fuel, diesel, and gasoline. "The proposed sale of the JP-8 aviation fuel will enable Israel to maintain the operational capability of its aircraft inventory. The unleaded gasoline and diesel fuel will be used for ground forces’ vehicles and other equipment used in keeping peace and security in the region."

July 30th - 9 Lockheed Martin C-130J-30 Hercules Transport aircraft. 1.9 billion dollars.

Sept. 9th - 1,000 GBU-39 Small Diameter Bombs (SDB1), 150 BRU-61/A SDB1 Mounting Carriages, 30 Guided Test Vehicles, 2 BRU-61/A SDB Instrumented Carriages, 7 Jettison Test Vehicles, 1 Separation Test Vehicle, 2 Reliability and Assessment Vehicles, 12 Common
Munitions BIT and Reprogramming Equipment with Test Equipment and Adapters, 3 SDB1 Weapons Simulators, and 2 Load Crew Trainers. The GBU-39 has those braying for war with Iran creaming their pants. 77 million dollars.

Sept. 9th - 28,000 M72A7 66mm Light Anti-Armor Weapons. 89 million dollars.

Sept. 29th - 25 F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Aircraft. 15.2 billion dollars.

Israel has certainly been a busy little 'peace loving country' during the ceasefire, no? Hamas can hardly be blamed for following its occupier's example in treating the ceasefire as a preparation for further fighting.

Jonathan Cook on Children in Gaza

We hear a lot about the traumatization of children in Sderot. What about Palestinian children? Jonathan Cook provides an excellent survey of studies on children living in Gaza:
- Every child in Gaza has been exposed to at least nine "shocking events."
- 95% of heard explosions or shelling.
- 45% have seen Israelis beating or insulting relatives.
- More than 80% are suffering from moderate or major post-traumatic stress disorders.

Why should Gazans be forced to tolerate this?

Monday, January 5, 2009

Death Cults

William Kristol says Hamas is a death cult. What do you think?

We All on Punk'd With No Ashton Kutcher

Like Boots said. Only this time, it's Shinn Bet, the Israeli FBI, that gets punked. Someone from Electronic Intifada called in response to fliers asking for information on terrorists in Gaza. When asked to name the terrorists, he said Ehud Barak, Tzipi Livni, and Ehud Olmert.

Abortion in an Anti-Choice Culture

The New York Times has an interesting article today on the growing use of ulcer medications to induce abortion. The article, which focuses on Dominican women in Washington Heights, is tinged with liberal racism, explaining that Dominican culture is socially conservative and pro-life. Two responses. First, American culture is socially conservative and pro-life (Knocked Up, anyone?). Particularizing this pathology to Dominican culture is absurd in a country that can barely say the word abortion on television. Second, it's worth questioning just how "socially conservative" Dominican culture actually is when women can walk into a pharmacy, say they need to bring down their period, and pharmacists will know they are asking for abortificants. This sounds to me like a widespread understanding and acceptance, on a subterranean level, of the practice of abortion. Maybe Dominican culture is actually complicated and can't simply be described as socially conservative?

This kind of essentialism aside, the article highlights a number of important facts. The first is that even in a culture which officially disproves of abortion and stigmatizes those that seek it, women will continue to terminate their pregnancies. It also shows that the stigmatization and criminalization of abortion hurts women, who, when denied safe medical care, will use other means, even at the risk of substantial self-injury. Finally, the article shows how abortion is a positive experience in many women's lives. The caption of the photo on the first page speaks directly to this - “It’s cheap but dangerous. Certain people are more delicate than others. But afterwards, I felt relief.” While liberals go on about reducing the number of abortions and how it's sad and tragic, they ignore the fact that for millions of women every year, an abortion is a victory in the struggle for control of their bodies.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

The Gaza Ghetto Uprising

Joseph Massad explains the relationship of Israel to Arab ruling classes:

While Hashemite-Zionist relations and Maronite Church-Zionist relations have always been known and documented, there has been less documentation of the services that Israel has provided and continues to provide to Arab regimes over the decades. It is now recognized that Israel's 1967 invasion of Egypt aimed successfully to destroy Gamal Abdul-Nasser, the enemy of all US dictatorial allies among the Arab regimes, whom the US and before it Britain and France had tried to topple since the 1950s but failed. Israel thus rendered a great service to Arab monarchies (and a few republics) from "the ocean to the Gulf," whose survival was threatened by Nasser and Nasserism. Israel's subsequent intervention in Jordan in 1970 to help the Jordanian army destroy Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) guerrillas and its final crushing of that organization in its massive invasions of Lebanon in 1978 and 1982 were also important services it rendered to these same regimes threatened by the PLO's "revolutionary" potential and its sometimes recalcitrant positions. Israeli intelligence has also provided over the decades crucial information to several Arab regimes enabling them to crush their political opposition and strengthen their dictatorial rule. Prominent examples among recipients of Israeli intelligence largesse include the Moroccan and the Omani dictatorships.

Galloway on Gaza

Pity and Patronizing

Adi Dvir sez "don't pity the Palestinians." Why? Because "To pity the people of Gaza is to patronize them." What should be the proper attitude? Belligerently backing their slaughter at the hands of the IDF, of course!

This is a common trope in reactionary thought. There is no greater crime in human relations than to patronize someone (that such things can issue from the mouths of the very same people who described Muntadar al-Zaidi's protest as demonstrative of Iraqi freedom is only the tip of the ironic iceberg.) I think a strong case could be made that callousness in the face of suffering (described by Baldwin as the only way to be "truly despicable") is a far more grievous offense.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Imperial Liberals and Gaza: Or, the Myth of "They Brought This on Themselves."

The moans of pity that emanate from the corridors of imperial liberalism are a sound that never ceases. Whether their gaze rests upon Bosnia, Darfur, or even Iraq, these veteran consciences of empire can always find a suffering victim in need of pity. Never is their grief so somber, their hearts so heavy, as when they can find victims Who Brought it on Themselves.

The imperial liberals have judged this to be the case with Israel's latest assault on Gaza. Hillel Schenker at The Nation coolly informs us that

In many respects, Hamas brought this war on itself by declaring on December 19 that it was not renewing the cease-fire (tahadiya) and by renewing rocket fire even as it maneuvered for a "better cease-fire" from its point of view--primarily, the lifting of the international blockade. It should be noted, though, that lifting the blockade was a part of the June cease-fire agreement that was not implemented by Israel and the international community.
The generally readable Robert Dreyfuss even insinuates that Hamas' supposedly implacable rejectionism was a ploy to provoke an Israeli attack and thus reverse its flagging popularity:
Writing in the Washington Post, Palestinian journalist Daoud Kuttab points out that, before the latest crisis, Hamas was in sharp decline. The headline on his thoughtful piece is: "Has Israel Revived Hamas?" He says: "Israel appears to have given new life to the fledging Islamic movement in Palestine."

Over the past two years, Kuttab notes, Palestinian support for Hamas -- an ultrareligious, terrorist-inclined wing of the fanatical Muslim Brotherhood movement -- has declined sharply, from a 30 percent in 2006 to 22 percent in August, 2007, to just 17 percent in 2008 -- compared to 40 percent for Fatah, the mainstream, secular nationalist wing of the Palestinian body politic. Kuttab points out that Hamas has "turned down every legitimate offer from its nationalist PLO rivals and Egyptian mediators." Now, he says, the attacks are a "bonanza for Hamas" and says that Israel's assault will achieve "results exactly the opposite of its publicly proclaimed purposes."
That Israel's actions will only strengthen icky Islamists like Hamas is a favored leitmotif in the imperial liberal chorus. If only the hegemon had a brain, all this could be avoided...

The myth of Hamas rejectionism is a significant point of agreement between unabashed warmongers like Bret Stephens and liberal imperialists like Schenker. Hamas' refusal to renew the ceasefire, a typical manifestion of their inner drive towards Judeocide for the warmongers, becomes for the liberals a tragic manifestation of the organization's irrationality. For both, December 19th was a key turning point.

Yet the importance of December 19th is far from self-evident. As Uri Avnery points out, Israel had broken the cease fire more than a month earlier in an attempt to provoke Hamas into providing an excuse for the slaughter:
Then there came the small provocations which were designed to get Hamas to react. After several months, in which hardly any Qassam rockets were launched, an army unit was sent into the Strip “in order to destroy a tunnel that came close to the border fence”. From a purely military point of view, it would have made more sense to lay an ambush on our side of the fence. But the aim was to find a pretext for the termination of the cease-fire, in a way that made it plausible to put the blame on the Palestinians. And indeed, after several such small actions, in which Hamas fighters were killed, Hamas retaliated with a massive launch of rockets, and – lo and behold – the cease-fire was at an end. Everybody blamed Hamas.
It was Israel that rejected the cease-fire, not Hamas. This rejection goes all the way back to the agreement's origin in June, when, as Dreyfus points out, Israel agreed to lighten the blockade, which it subsequently refused to do. Hamas, meanwhile, ceased its own rocket attacks and dramatically lessened those launched by other groups. See the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs own graphs on the subject.


While Hamas very nearly eliminated rocket fire from Gaza, Israel continued its siege and engaged in a series of provocative actions designed to goad Hamas into rejecting the ceasefire. Hamas' leadership, far from being irrational rejectionists, saw clearly that the ceasefire had gained them nothing since Israel routinely violated it, and announced that it would not be renewed.

As the song goes, "we want no condescending saviors." What Palestinians need now is solidarity, not finger wagging. Imperial liberals do little except muddy the waters with their repetition of right wing narratives. That they score these stories in a minor key does nothing to change the essentials.

The one fortunate thing about the imperial liberal construction of Hamas as a subject that cannot comprehend its own interests is its strong tendency towards inaction. Mourning the irrationality of the oppressed doesn't beget any clear strategy for change. While they may be allowed disproportionate representation in liberal publications like The Nation, their total lack of a way forward allows those of us organizing solidarity actions an important advantage on the streets. Let's make sure we use it.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Israeli Foreign Minister: "There is No Humanitarian Crisis in Gaza"

Yup. That's right. This is the kind of blank-faced denial of reality one usually hears from tin-pot dictators, but now it's coming from one of the most powerful politicians in the world. Tzipi Livni, despite her reputation as a 'moderate,' has always been a warmonger, but in the context of a barbaric siege and indiscriminate bombing campaign, she has outdone herself.

Lies such as this are a special sort. China Mieville has pointed out that some lies told by the ruling class are simply not meant to be believed. Instead, their purpose is to muddy the waters of debate. Livni doesn't want the argument to be about why Israel is rejecting a humanitarian ceasefire offer, but whether such an offer is needed.

To be clear, Israel is rejecting the ceasefire because the target of this offensive is the civilian population of Gaza. Israeli defense analysts are remarkably frank on this point, comparing "Operation Cast Lead" to "Operation Shock and Awe" in Iraq. One Haaretz analyst was quite blunt about it:

"Like the U.S. assault on Iraq and the Israeli response to the abduction of IDF reservists Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser at the outset of the Second Lebanon War (the "night of the Fajr missiles," a reference to the IAF destruction of Hezbollah's arsenal of medium-range Fajr missiles), little to no weight was apparently devoted to the question of harming innocent civilians."
Just as Shock and Awe's purpose was to terrorize the population of Iraq until they understood that resistance was futile, so Operation Cast Lead is designed to punish the population of Gaza until they reject Hamas in favor of leadership more willing to grovel in front of Israel.

Israel's success on this front has been mixed. To be sure, the blockade has reduced the standard of living of Palestinians so drastically that many are inclined to look with favor upon the period of Israeli occupation, when at least there was food. However, the air strikes, and probable ground invasion, increase support for resistance by whatever means necessary and unify the population of the West Bank, under Fatah rule, with that of Gaza.

The siege has already reduced Gaza to a state of near-famine (as Brecht says, famines under capitalism don't just happen; they're organized). The air strikes have crippled government infrastructure and overloaded barely functioning hospitals. A ground invasion will in all probability destroy any significant institution of Palestinian civil society. Given the paucity of Hamas' military ability, if this barbarism has any chance of being halted it's going to come through the actions of people around the world demanding actions like the boycott of all Israeli institutions.