• All governments lie, but disaster lies in wait for countries whose officials smoke the same hashish they give out.

  • I.F. Stone

zaterdag 1 mei 2010

Derk Sauer 28


Ivo Andric: 'for we can stand everything except power.'

Mijn hele leven lang al ben ik me er sterk van bewust dat er iets ongrijpbaars aan alles is, iets waardoor alles toch anders is dan het zich voordoet en dat mij daarom dwingt me te matigen. Het maakt me ook bewust van het poetische der dingen en het intens vergeefse van het menselijk handelen. Ik beschrijf het liever dan het te veranderen, omdat de verandering altijd anders is dan men verwacht en hoopt en omdat de verandering altijd gepaard gaat met geweld. Van geweld, in de breedst mogelijke zin van het woord, word ik letterlijk misselijk. In dat opzicht verschil ik wezenlijk van mensen als Derk Sauer.

Dit verschil wordt schitterend geillustreerd in een gedicht van Nobelprijswinnaar Ivo Andric, een van de gevoeligste schrijvers van de twintigste eeuw. Hij vertelt een verhaal over een succesvolle staatgreep gepleegd door 350 Japanse samenzweerders. Wanneer de groep voor het eerst na de machtsovername bijeenkomt ontdekt men dat een van hen, de dichter Mori Ipo, niet aanwezig is. Ze besluiten een slaaf te sturen naar zijn huis om hem op te dragen te verschijnen. Wanneer de slaaf terugkomt heeft hij een brief van Ipo bij zicht. Daarin staat:

Mori Ipo sends greetings to his fellow-conspirators, at their parting!

I thank you, comrades, for our common suffering and faith and victory and I ask you to forgive me that I am unable to share victory with you as I shared the struggle. But poets -- unklike other people -- are loyal only in misfortune and they abandon those who are doing well. We poets are born for struggle, we are passionate hunters, but we do not partake of the booty. The barrier that divides me from you is narrow and invisible, but is not the blade of the sword also thin and yet it is deadly; I could not cross over it and join you without detriment to my soul, for we can stand everything except power. That is why I am leaving you, comrade conspirators, and I am going to see whether there is anywhere an idea that has not been put into practice, or an aspiration that has not been realised.

Er bestaat een wezenlijk verschil tussen een revolutionair en iemand die op macht uit is. Daarom mislukken ook alle revoluties en raakt een ieder die de macht zoekt corrupt.

Israel als Schurkenstaat 121

Nu de grote angelsaksische opniemakers steeds kritischer worden ten opzichte van de 'Joodse staat' durft de Volkskrant-correspondent wat eerlijker te berichten.

Lucas heeft een nieuwe reactie op uw bericht "Het Joods Slachtofferisme 6" achtergelaten:

Zelfkritiek gaat Israëli’s slecht af

‘De bevolking herkent het belang van democratische waarden’, zei onderzoeker Daniel Bar-Tal. Vrijheid van meningsuiting wordt in het algemeen door 98 procent belangrijk gevonden. ‘Maar wanneer het erop aan komt die toe te passen, blijkt dat de meesten bijna anti-democratisch zijn.’
http://www.volkskrant.nl/buitenland/article1374941.ece/Zelfkritiek_gaat_Israeli_s_slecht_af?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed:+laatstenieuws+(Volkskrant+Laatste+Nieuws)&utm_content=Google+Reader



Zelfkritiek gaat Israëli’s slecht af

Van onze correspondent Alex Burghoorn op 29 april '10, 21:46, bijgewerkt 29 april '10, 22:57
Israëlische soldaten vieren een feestje terwijl ze terugkeren naar Israël, na weken van strijd in de Gazastrook. (AP)

JERUZALEM - De tolerantie voor zelfkritiek neemt in Israël af. Van de Joods-Israëlische bevolking is 58 procent tegen het uiten van scherpe kritiek op de staat; in 2003 was dat nog 48 procent.

Israëlische mensenrechtengroepen die misstanden openbaren van de Israëlische bezetting van de Palestijnse gebieden moeten volgens 57,6 procent aan banden worden gelegd.

Dat blijkt uit een donderdag gepresenteerd onderzoek onder Joodse Israëli’s naar hun opvattingen over de vrijheid van meningsuiting. Het Tami Steinmetz Centrum voor Vredesonderzoek van de Universiteit van Tel Aviv hield daartoe vijfhonderd interviews. Het instituut heeft jarenlange ervaring met opinieonderzoek onder de Israëlische bevolking

Immoreel gedrag

‘De bevolking herkent het belang van democratische waarden’, zei onderzoeker Daniel Bar-Tal. Vrijheid van meningsuiting wordt in het algemeen door 98 procent belangrijk gevonden. ‘Maar wanneer het erop aan komt die toe te passen, blijkt dat de meesten bijna anti-democratisch zijn.’

Uit het onderzoek blijkt ook dat 82 procent vindt dat klokkenluiders die ‘immoreel gedrag’ van de legertop onthullen, zwaar moeten worden gestraft. Het laat zien dat er brede steun bestaat voor het optreden van justitie en veiligheidsdienst in de geruchtmakende zaak-Anat Kamm, die begin april aan het licht kwam.

De oud-dienstplichtige Kamm gaf geheime documenten aan de krant Haaretz, waaruit bleek dat hoge legerofficieren willens en wetens uitspraken van het Hooggerechtshof naast zich neer hadden gelegd. Kamm is spionage ten laste gelegd met als doel de staatsveiligheid te schenden, en kan levenlange gevangenisstraf krijgen.

‘In het onderwijs krijgen leerlingen uitleg over de overheid en verkiezingen, maar er is geen diepgaande discussie over democratische waarden en hoe die over te brengen’, zei onderzoeker Bar-Tal, hoogleraar Onderwijskunde verbonden aan de Universiteit van Tel Aviv. ‘Waarden staan te boek als een onderwerp van links.’

Linkse activisten

Het publieksonderzoek sluit vrijwel naadloos aan bij de rechtse politieke tendensen in Israël. Sinds de verschijning van het VN-rapport over de Gaza-oorlog van de commissie-Goldstone en het aantreden van de regering-Netanyahu in 2009 liggen mensenrechtenorganisaties en linkse activisten onder vuur. Ook in de media.

De krant Maariv pakte eerder dit jaar groot uit met een campagne van de nationalistische organisatie Im Tirtz. Die draaide erom dat mensenrechtengroepen die fondsen krijgen uit het Westen de motor zijn achter de slechte naam die Israël de laatste jaren juist in het Westen heeft gekregen.

In augustus riep Netanyahu zelf Europese regeringen op, waaronder die van Nederland, geen fondsen meer te verstrekken aan groepen als Breaking the Silence. Dat veteranencollectief verzamelde getuigenissen van soldaten over hun buitensporige optreden tijdens de Gaza-oorlog.

vrijdag 30 april 2010

Israel als Schurkenstaat 120

Via Anzi:

Anoniem heeft een nieuwe reactie op uw bericht "Boycot Israel 80" achtergelaten:

Hou het in de gaten, UvA!


Anti-Israel demonstrators reportedly attacked car following Israeli Deputy Ambassador speach at University of Manchester (UK)


Attacking the deputy ambassador’s vehicle (Photo: Joe Sheffer)

Photo Courtesy Ynetnews

Haaretz:Israeli diplomat flees British anti-Israel demonstrators

By Danna Harman, Haaretz Correspondent

Talya Lador-Fresher, Israel’s deputy chief of mission at the Israeli embassy in London, had to be shuffled out a side door and into a “get-away” car by Manchester police on Wednesday, following a lecture she was gave at the University of Manchester that was crashed by pro-Palestinian student protestors.

The lecture, on the situation in the Middle East, which was originally supposed to take place months ago, was delayed because of early security concerns at the university – but went ahead Wednesday after university officials promised Ambassador Ron Prosor that his deputy’s security would be guaranteed.

And indeed, Lador-Fresher managed to give her talk, although she was interrupted several times by students who hoisted Palestinian flags and called out anti-Israel slogans. But when she had finished speaking and was trying to head out of the auditorium, it became clear to her security that the way out was blocked by more demonstrators who had been waiting there throughout the hour-long event. The demonstrators had identified the Israeli embassy car and were surrounding it.

As such, it was decided by embassy security, together with the Manchester police, to evacuate her through a side door and drive her off campus in a police car. As she was leaving the area, demonstrators attacked the car, in an attempt, she says, to try and break the windshield. Lador-Fresher stressed that it was indeed an “unpleasant” experience which goes to highlight the decreasing lack of civility on campuses in Britain when it comes to Israel

Ambassador Prosor, in turn, commended his deputy on “her fighting spirit” and said he expected a condemnation of such behavior from the university.


http://octaskforce.wordpress.com/2010/04/29/anti-israel-demonstrators-reportedly-attacked-car-following-israeli-embassy-officials-speach-at-university-of-manchester-uk/

donderdag 29 april 2010

Israel als Schurkenstaat 119

April 28th, 2010

Variations on the Visual Trope of Totalitarianism

Posted by Lucaites in no caption needed

Screen shot 2010-04-27 at 9.11.51 PM

The scene here is Ramallah, February 2002. The tank is Israeli and the people blocking its path with their hands raised as if under arrest are Palestinians. The photograph is part of a NYT slideshow featuring the work of the recently wheel chair bound Palestinian photojournalist Osama Silwadi, who continues to photograph Palestinian life, albeit from a “new vantage.” His work, both prior to being crippled in 2006 by two bullets that shattered his spine and subsequently, is a testament to the power of photography to document the ever present tension between the tragedy and soulfulness of human life. The image that caught my attention, however, was the one above, which features the visual trope of the tank as the symbol of the totalitarian state.

Developed by the British during WWI, the tactical and strategic capacity of the tank was revolutionized by the Germans during WW II, where it became a central element of the military strategy of “lighting warfare” known as the blitzkrieg. Known for the combination of offensive and defensive mobility, as well as its strong fire power, the tank was understood to be a formidable, if not altogether unassailable, weapon of modern warfare, and its technological development was a key feature of the Cold War “arms race.” More important to the purpose here, it was during the Cold War that the “tank” took on symbolic significance as something more than just a military weapon as it was regularly featured as an emblem of state power, typically by eastern bloc nations.

The symbolic connection of the tank to totalitarian regimes in particular was marked visually not only by its size, but more importantly, by its panoptic quality: thoroughly enclosed and sealed off from any outside observation or unwanted intrusion, the arbiters of state authority residing inside of the tank are nevertheless in position to monitor and control the outside world with near invincible power. But, of course, as powerful as they are, tanks are not invincible, just as totalitarianism is not unconquerable, and so the visual trope of the tank has developed across time to call attention to the power and capacity of unarmed (and armor less) humans to challenge and even overcome totalitarian regimes, generally in the name of human rights. The first such image to make the point might well be the photograph of revolutionaries standing atop a Soviet tank in Budapest during the Hungarian Uprising of 1956, though no doubt the most famous of such images would have to be of the lone individual standing down a row of tanks in Tiananmen Square.

Screen shot 2010-04-28 at 1.17.07 AM

Silwadi’s photograph draws upon the visual trope of the tank as the signifier of totalitarianism in powerful ways, but it does it in a manner that make it importantly distinct from the famous Tiananmen Square image. Shot at a low angle, as if from the perspective of the humans beings being assaulted, Silwadi’s tank looms large, dominating both the frame and the scene it purports to represent. No faces are evident, as the tank functions as the mask of the totalitarian state, and those being imposed upon have directed their gaze away from the camera to the immediate power that challenges and confronts them. At the same time, the gun barrel is directed at the viewer in the manner of a visual demand that encourages identification with the crowd and in opposition to the authority of the tank.

By contrast, the Tiananmen Square photograph is shot from on high and at a distance, invoking an optical consciousness that James C. Scott dubs “seeing like a state.” The viewer is here insinuated as a distant observer of the scene and not an immediate participant in the drama that is unfolding. But more, note that it is a lone individual who challenges the authority of the state, and not a collectivity, and so in a sense the viewer of the image is encouraged to identify with the scene as a liberal individual. As we have argued elsewhere and extensively, the Tiananmen Square photograph activates a cultural modernism that displaces democratic forms of political display and opposition (remember that the protests in Tiananmen Square included thousands of students and nearly a million protesters in all who had organized in various groups) and plays to western conceptions of individualism and apolitical social organization. Thus, while the photograph of a man challenging a tank can function as a progressive celebration of human rights, it also risks limiting the political imagination to narrowly liberal versions of a global society.

Silwadi’s photograph confronts this logic by reinterpreting the visual trope of the totalitarian tank and reminding us that what is at stake here is not just a challenge to universal and liberalized human rights that can be observed and contested from afar, but that indeed we are all implicated in and by the presence of totalitarianism wherever it occurs … and not just as individuals but as citizens in a democratized, global public culture.

Photo Credits: Osama Silwadi/Apollo Images; Stuart Franklin/Magnum Photos

http://www.nocaptionneeded.com/

Israel als Schurkenstaat 118

Via Rene:

Tomgram: Noam Chomsky, Eyeless in Gaza

[Note for TomDispatch Readers: I’m away on vacation this week and largely off the grid, so don’t expect answers to emails or requests until the first week of May. In the meantime, here’s an excerpt adapted -- with a new TomDispatch beginning by the author -- from Noam Chomsky’s latest work, his must-read Hopes and Prospects, which can be preordered today, even as it wings its way toward local bookstores and Amazon. The book is a deep dive into the bone-chilling waters of the first years of the twenty-first century, including the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In such phenomena as the democratic wave that has swept Latin America, however, Chomsky does see hope for our collective future -- and even on the subject of Gaza and the Palestinians, he sees possibilities, long blocked unfortunately by Washington and Tel Aviv. He is, as always, a man to contend with. And be sure to check out Timothy MacBain’s latest TomCast audio interview in which Chomsky discusses the prospect of an Israeli attack on Iran, the feasibility of an Israel-Palestine two-state solution, and the concept of international law, by clicking here or, if you prefer to download it to your iPod, here. Tom]

A Middle East Peace That Could Happen (But Won’t)
In Washington-Speak, “Palestinian State” Means “Fried Chicken”

By Noam Chomsky

The fact that the Israel-Palestine conflict grinds on without resolution might appear to be rather strange. For many of the world’s conflicts, it is difficult even to conjure up a feasible settlement. In this case, it is not only possible, but there is near universal agreement on its basic contours: a two-state settlement along the internationally recognized (pre-June 1967) borders -- with “minor and mutual modifications,” to adopt official U.S. terminology before Washington departed from the international community in the mid-1970s.

The basic principles have been accepted by virtually the entire world, including the Arab states (who go on to call for full normalization of relations), the Organization of Islamic States (including Iran), and relevant non-state actors (including Hamas). A settlement along these lines was first proposed at the U.N. Security Council in January 1976 by the major Arab states. Israel refused to attend the session. The U.S. vetoed the resolution, and did so again in 1980. The record at the General Assembly since is similar.

There was one important and revealing break in U.S.-Israeli rejectionism. After the failed Camp David agreements in 2000, President Clinton recognized that the terms he and Israel had proposed were unacceptable to any Palestinians. That December, he proposed his “parameters”: imprecise, but more forthcoming. He then stated that both sides had accepted the parameters, while expressing reservations.

Israeli and Palestinian negotiators met in Taba, Egypt, in January 2001 to resolve the differences and were making considerable progress. In their final press conference, they reported that, with a little more time, they could probably have reached full agreement. Israel called off the negotiations prematurely, however, and official progress then terminated, though informal discussions at a high level continued leading to the Geneva Accord, rejected by Israel and ignored by the U.S.

A good deal has happened since, but a settlement along those lines is still not out of reach -- if, of course, Washington is once again willing to accept it. Unfortunately, there is little sign of that.

Substantial mythology has been created about the entire record, but the basic facts are clear enough and quite well documented.

The U.S. and Israel have been acting in tandem to extend and deepen the occupation. In 2005, recognizing that it was pointless to subsidize a few thousand Israeli settlers in Gaza, who were appropriating substantial resources and protected by a large part of the Israeli army, the government of Ariel Sharon decided to move them to the much more valuable West Bank and Golan Heights.

Instead of carrying out the operation straightforwardly, as would have been easy enough, the government decided to stage a “national trauma,” which virtually duplicated the farce accompanying the withdrawal from the Sinai desert after the Camp David agreements of 1978-79. In each case, the withdrawal permitted the cry of “Never Again,” which meant in practice: we cannot abandon an inch of the Palestinian territories that we want to take in violation of international law. This farce played very well in the West, though it was ridiculed by more astute Israeli commentators, among them that country’s prominent sociologist the late Baruch Kimmerling.

After its formal withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, Israel never actually relinquished its total control over the territory, often described realistically as “the world’s largest prison.” In January 2006, a few months after the withdrawal, Palestine had an election that was recognized as free and fair by international observers. Palestinians, however, voted “the wrong way,” electing Hamas. Instantly, the U.S. and Israel intensified their assault against Gazans as punishment for this misdeed. The facts and the reasoning were not concealed; rather, they were openly published alongside reverential commentary on Washington’s sincere dedication to democracy. The U.S.-backed Israeli assault against the Gazans has only been intensified since, thanks to violence and economic strangulation, increasingly savage.

Meanwhile in the West Bank, always with firm U.S. backing, Israel has been carrying forward longstanding programs to take the valuable land and resources of the Palestinians and leave them in unviable cantons, mostly out of sight. Israeli commentators frankly refer to these goals as “neocolonial.” Ariel Sharon, the main architect of the settlement programs, called these cantons “Bantustans,” though the term is misleading: South Africa needed the majority black work force, while Israel would be happy if the Palestinians disappeared, and its policies are directed to that end.

Blockading Gaza by Land and Sea

One step towards cantonization and the undermining of hopes for Palestinian national survival is the separation of Gaza from the West Bank. These hopes have been almost entirely consigned to oblivion, an atrocity to which we should not contribute by tacit consent. Israeli journalist Amira Hass, one of the leading specialists on Gaza, writes that

“the restrictions on Palestinian movement that Israel introduced in January 1991 reversed a process that had been initiated in June 1967. Back then, and for the first time since 1948, a large portion of the Palestinian people again lived in the open territory of a single country -- to be sure, one that was occupied, but was nevertheless whole.… The total separation of the Gaza Strip from the West Bank is one of the greatest achievements of Israeli politics, whose overarching objective is to prevent a solution based on international decisions and understandings and instead dictate an arrangement based on Israel’s military superiority.…

“Since January 1991, Israel has bureaucratically and logistically merely perfected the split and the separation: not only between Palestinians in the occupied territories and their brothers in Israel, but also between the Palestinian residents of Jerusalem and those in the rest of the territories and between Gazans and West Bankers/Jerusalemites. Jews live in this same piece of land within a superior and separate system of privileges, laws, services, physical infrastructure and freedom of movement.”

The leading academic specialist on Gaza, Harvard scholar Sara Roy, adds:

“Gaza is an example of a society that has been deliberately reduced to a state of abject destitution, its once productive population transformed into one of aid-dependent paupers.… Gaza’s subjection began long before Israel’s recent war against it [December 2008]. The Israeli occupation — now largely forgotten or denied by the international community — has devastated Gaza’s economy and people, especially since 2006…. After Israel’s December [2008] assault, Gaza’s already compromised conditions have become virtually unlivable. Livelihoods, homes, and public infrastructure have been damaged or destroyed on a scale that even the Israel Defense Forces admitted was indefensible.

“In Gaza today, there is no private sector to speak of and no industry. 80 percent of Gaza’s agricultural crops were destroyed and Israel continues to snipe at farmers attempting to plant and tend fields near the well-fenced and patrolled border. Most productive activity has been extinguished.… Today, 96 percent of Gaza’s population of 1.4 million is dependent on humanitarian aid for basic needs. According to the World Food Programme, the Gaza Strip requires a minimum of 400 trucks of food every day just to meet the basic nutritional needs of the population. Yet, despite a March [22, 2009] decision by the Israeli cabinet to lift all restrictions on foodstuffs entering Gaza, only 653 trucks of food and other supplies were allowed entry during the week of May 10, at best meeting 23 percent of required need. Israel now allows only 30 to 40 commercial items to enter Gaza compared to 4,000 approved products prior to June 2006.”

It cannot be too often stressed that Israel had no credible pretext for its 2008–9 attack on Gaza, with full U.S. support and illegally using U.S. weapons. Near-universal opinion asserts the contrary, claiming that Israel was acting in self-defense. That is utterly unsustainable, in light of Israel’s flat rejection of peaceful means that were readily available, as Israel and its U.S. partner in crime knew very well. That aside, Israel’s siege of Gaza is itself an act of war, as Israel of all countries certainly recognizes, having repeatedly justified launching major wars on grounds of partial restrictions on its access to the outside world, though nothing remotely like what it has long imposed on Gaza.

One crucial element of Israel’s criminal siege, little reported, is the naval blockade. Peter Beaumont reports from Gaza that, “on its coastal littoral, Gaza’s limitations are marked by a different fence where the bars are Israeli gunboats with their huge wakes, scurrying beyond the Palestinian fishing boats and preventing them from going outside a zone imposed by the warships.” According to reports from the scene, the naval siege has been tightened steadily since 2000. Fishing boats have been driven steadily out of Gaza’s territorial waters and toward the shore by Israeli gunboats, often violently without warning and with many casualties. As a result of these naval actions, Gaza’s fishing industry has virtually collapsed; fishing is impossible near shore because of the contamination caused by Israel’s regular attacks, including the destruction of power plants and sewage facilities.

These Israeli naval attacks began shortly after the discovery by the BG (British Gas) Group of what appear to be quite sizeable natural gas fields in Gaza’s territorial waters. Industry journals report that Israel is already appropriating these Gazan resources for its own use, part of its commitment to shift its economy to natural gas. The standard industry source reports:

“Israel’s finance ministry has given the Israel Electric Corp. (IEC) approval to purchase larger quantities of natural gas from BG than originally agreed upon, according to Israeli government sources [which] said the state-owned utility would be able to negotiate for as much as 1.5 billion cubic meters of natural gas from the Marine field located off the Mediterranean coast of the Palestinian controlled Gaza Strip.

“Last year the Israeli government approved the purchase of 800 million cubic meters of gas from the field by the IEC…. Recently the Israeli government changed its policy and decided the state-owned utility could buy the entire quantity of gas from the Gaza Marine field. Previously the government had said the IEC could buy half the total amount and the remainder would be bought by private power producers.”

The pillage of what could become a major source of income for Gaza is surely known to U.S. authorities. It is only reasonable to suppose that the intention to appropriate these limited resources, either by Israel alone or together with the collaborationist Palestinian Authority, is the motive for preventing Gazan fishing boats from entering Gaza’s territorial waters.

There are some instructive precedents. In 1989, Australian foreign minister Gareth Evans signed a treaty with his Indonesian counterpart Ali Alatas granting Australia rights to the substantial oil reserves in “the Indonesian Province of East Timor.” The Indonesia-Australia Timor Gap Treaty, which offered not a crumb to the people whose oil was being stolen, “is the only legal agreement anywhere in the world that effectively recognises Indonesia’s right to rule East Timor,” the Australian press reported.

Asked about his willingness to recognize the Indonesian conquest and to rob the sole resource of the conquered territory, which had been subjected to near-genocidal slaughter by the Indonesian invader with the strong support of Australia (along with the U.S., the U.K., and some others), Evans explained that “there is no binding legal obligation not to recognise the acquisition of territory that was acquired by force,” adding that “the world is a pretty unfair place, littered with examples of acquisition by force.”

It should, then, be unproblematic for Israel to follow suit in Gaza.

A few years later, Evans became the leading figure in the campaign to introduce the concept “responsibility to protect” -- known as R2P -- into international law. R2P is intended to establish an international obligation to protect populations from grave crimes. Evans is the author of a major book on the subject and was co-chair of the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty, which issued what is considered the basic document on R2P.

In an article devoted to this “idealistic effort to establish a new humanitarian principle,” the London Economist featured Evans and his “bold but passionate claim on behalf of a three-word expression which (in quite large part thanks to his efforts) now belongs to the language of diplomacy: the ‘responsibility to protect.’” The article is accompanied by a picture of Evans with the caption “Evans: a lifelong passion to protect.” His hand is pressed to his forehead in despair over the difficulties faced by his idealistic effort. The journal chose not to run a different photo that circulates in Australia, depicting Evans and Alatas exuberantly clasping their hands together as they toast the Timor Gap Treaty that they had just signed.

Though a “protected population” under international law, Gazans do not fall under the jurisdiction of the “responsibility to protect,” joining other unfortunates, in accord with the maxim of Thucydides -- that the strong do as they wish, and the weak suffer as they must -- which holds with its customary precision.

Obama and the Settlements

The kinds of restrictions on movement used to destroy Gaza have long been in force in the West Bank as well, less cruelly but with grim effects on life and the economy. The World Bank reports that Israel has established “a complex closure regime that restricts Palestinian access to large areas of the West Bank… The Palestinian economy has remained stagnant, largely because of the sharp downturn in Gaza and Israel’s continued restrictions on Palestinian trade and movement in the West Bank.”

The World Bank “cited Israeli roadblocks and checkpoints hindering trade and travel, as well as restrictions on Palestinian building in the West Bank, where the Western-backed government of Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas holds sway.” Israel does permit -- indeed encourage -- a privileged existence for elites in Ramallah and sometimes elsewhere, largely relying on European funding, a traditional feature of colonial and neocolonial practice.

All of this constitutes what Israeli activist Jeff Halper calls a “matrix of control” to subdue the colonized population. These systematic programs over more than 40 years aim to establish Defense Minister Moshe Dayan’s recommendation to his colleagues shortly after Israel’s 1967 conquests that we must tell the Palestinians in the territories: “We have no solution, you shall continue to live like dogs, and whoever wishes may leave, and we will see where this process leads.”

Turning to the second bone of contention, settlements, there is indeed a confrontation, but it is rather less dramatic than portrayed. Washington’s position was presented most strongly in Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s much-quoted statement rejecting “natural growth exceptions” to the policy opposing new settlements. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, along with President Shimon Peres and, in fact, virtually the whole Israeli political spectrum, insists on permitting “natural growth” within the areas that Israel intends to annex, complaining that the United States is backing down on George W. Bush’s authorization of such expansion within his “vision” of a Palestinian state.

Senior Netanyahu cabinet members have gone further. Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz announced that “the current Israeli government will not accept in any way the freezing of legal settlement activity in Judea and Samaria.” The term “legal” in U.S.-Israeli parlance means “illegal, but authorized by the government of Israel with a wink from Washington.” In this usage, unauthorized outposts are termed “illegal,” though apart from the dictates of the powerful, they are no more illegal than the settlements granted to Israel under Bush’s “vision” and Obama’s scrupulous omission.

The Obama-Clinton “hardball” formulation is not new. It repeats the wording of the Bush administration draft of the 2003 Road Map, which stipulates that in Phase I, “Israel freezes all settlement activity (including natural growth of settlements).” All sides formally accept the Road Map (modified to drop the phrase “natural growth”) -- consistently overlooking the fact that Israel, with U.S. support, at once added 14 “reservations” that render it inoperable.

If Obama were at all serious about opposing settlement expansion, he could easily proceed with concrete measures by, for example, reducing U.S. aid by the amount devoted to this purpose. That would hardly be a radical or courageous move. The Bush I administration did so (reducing loan guarantees), but after the Oslo accord in 1993, President Clinton left calculations to the government of Israel. Unsurprisingly, there was “no change in the expenditures flowing to the settlements,” the Israeli press reported. “[Prime Minister] Rabin will continue not to dry out the settlements,” the report concludes. “And the Americans? They will understand.”

Obama administration officials informed the press that the Bush I measures are “not under discussion,” and that pressures will be “largely symbolic.” In short, Obama understands, just as Clinton and Bush II did.

American Visionaries

At best, settlement expansion is a side issue, rather like the issue of “illegal outposts” -- namely those that the government of Israel has not authorized. Concentration on these issues diverts attention from the fact that there are no “legal outposts” and that it is the existing settlements that are the primary problem to be faced.

The U.S. press reports that “a partial freeze has been in place for several years, but settlers have found ways around the strictures… [C]onstruction in the settlements has slowed but never stopped, continuing at an annual rate of about 1,500 to 2,000 units over the past three years. If building continues at the 2008 rate, the 46,500 units already approved will be completed in about 20 years.… If Israel built all the housing units already approved in the nation’s overall master plan for settlements, it would almost double the number of settler homes in the West Bank.” Peace Now, which monitors settlement activities, estimates further that the two largest settlements would double in size: Ariel and Ma’aleh Adumim, built mainly during the Oslo years in the salients that subdivide the West Bank into cantons.

“Natural population growth” is largely a myth, Israel’s leading diplomatic correspondent, Akiva Eldar, points out, citing demographic studies by Colonel (res.) Shaul Arieli, deputy military secretary to former prime minister and incumbent defense minister Ehud Barak. Settlement growth consists largely of Israeli immigrants in violation of the Geneva Conventions, assisted with generous subsidies. Much of it is in direct violation of formal government decisions, but carried out with the authorization of the government, specifically Barak, considered a dove in the Israeli spectrum.

Correspondent Jackson Diehl derides the “long-dormant Palestinian fantasy,” revived by President Abbas, “that the United States will simply force Israel to make critical concessions, whether or not its democratic government agrees.” He does not explain why refusal to participate in Israel’s illegal expansion -- which, if serious, would “force Israel to make critical concessions” -- would be improper interference in Israel’s democracy.

Returning to reality, all of these discussions about settlement expansion evade the most crucial issue about settlements: what the United States and Israel have already established in the West Bank. The evasion tacitly concedes that the illegal settlement programs already in place are somehow acceptable (putting aside the Golan Heights, annexed in violation of Security Council orders) -- though the Bush “vision,” apparently accepted by Obama, moves from tacit to explicit support for these violations of law. What is in place already suffices to ensure that there can be no viable Palestinian self-determination. Hence, there is every indication that even on the unlikely assumption that “natural growth” will be ended, U.S.-Israeli rejectionism will persist, blocking the international consensus as before.

Subsequently, Prime Minister Netanyahu declared a 10-month suspension of new construction, with many exemptions, and entirely excluding Greater Jerusalem, where expropriation in Arab areas and construction for Jewish settlers continues at a rapid pace. Hillary Clinton praised these “unprecedented” concessions on (illegal) construction, eliciting anger and ridicule in much of the world.

It might be different if a legitimate “land swap” were under consideration, a solution approached at Taba and spelled out more fully in the Geneva Accord reached in informal high-level Israel-Palestine negotiations. The accord was presented in Geneva in October 2003, welcomed by much of the world, rejected by Israel, and ignored by the United States.

Washington’s “Evenhandedness”

Barack Obama’s June 4, 2009, Cairo address to the Muslim world kept pretty much to his well-honed “blank slate” style -- with little of substance, but presented in a personable manner that allows listeners to write on the slate what they want to hear. CNN captured its spirit in headlining a report “Obama Looks to Reach the Soul of the Muslim World.” Obama had announced the goals of his address in an interview with New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman. “‘We have a joke around the White House,’ the president said. ‘We’re just going to keep on telling the truth until it stops working and nowhere is truth-telling more important than the Middle East.’” The White House commitment is most welcome, but it is useful to see how it translates into practice.

Obama admonished his audience that it is easy to “point fingers… but if we see this conflict only from one side or the other, then we will be blind to the truth: the only resolution is for the aspirations of both sides to be met through two states, where Israelis and Palestinians each live in peace and security.”

Turning from Obama-Friedman Truth to truth, there is a third side, with a decisive role throughout: the United States. But that participant in the conflict Obama omitted. The omission is understood to be normal and appropriate, hence unmentioned: Friedman’s column is headlined “Obama Speech Aimed at Both Arabs and Israelis.” The front-page Wall Street Journal report on Obama’s speech appears under the heading “Obama Chides Israel, Arabs in His Overture to Muslims.” Other reports are the same.

The convention is understandable on the doctrinal principle that though the U.S. government sometimes makes mistakes, its intentions are by definition benign, even noble. In the world of attractive imagery, Washington has always sought desperately to be an honest broker, yearning to advance peace and justice. The doctrine trumps truth, of which there is little hint in the speech or the mainstream coverage of it.

Obama once again echoed Bush’s “vision” of two states, without saying what he meant by the phrase “Palestinian state.” His intentions were clarified not only by the crucial omissions already discussed, but also by his one explicit criticism of Israel: “The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements. This construction violates previous agreements and undermines efforts to achieve peace. It is time for these settlements to stop.” That is, Israel should live up to Phase I of the 2003 Road Map, rejected at once by Israel with tacit U.S. support, as noted -- though the truth is that Obama has ruled out even steps of the Bush I variety to withdraw from participation in these crimes.

The operative words are “legitimacy” and “continued.” By omission, Obama indicates that he accepts Bush’s vision: the vast existing settlement and infrastructure projects are “legitimate,” thus ensuring that the phrase “Palestinian state” means “fried chicken.”

Always even-handed, Obama also had an admonition for the Arab states: they “must recognize that the Arab Peace Initiative was an important beginning, but not the end of their responsibilities.” Plainly, however, it cannot be a meaningful “beginning” if Obama continues to reject its core principles: implementation of the international consensus. To do so, however, is evidently not Washington’s “responsibility” in Obama’s vision; no explanation given, no notice taken.

On democracy, Obama said that “we would not presume to pick the outcome of a peaceful election” -- as in January 2006, when Washington picked the outcome with a vengeance, turning at once to severe punishment of the Palestinians because it did not like the outcome of a peaceful election, all with Obama’s apparent approval judging by his words before, and actions since, taking office.

Obama politely refrained from comment about his host, President Mubarak, one of the most brutal dictators in the region, though he has had some illuminating words about him. As he was about to board a plane to Saudi Arabia and Egypt, the two “moderate” Arab states, “Mr. Obama signaled that while he would mention American concerns about human rights in Egypt, he would not challenge Mr. Mubarak too sharply, because he is a ‘force for stability and good’ in the Middle East… Mr. Obama said he did not regard Mr. Mubarak as an authoritarian leader. ‘No, I tend not to use labels for folks,’ Mr. Obama said. The president noted that there had been criticism ‘of the manner in which politics operates in Egypt,’ but he also said that Mr. Mubarak had been ‘a stalwart ally, in many respects, to the United States.’”

When a politician uses the word “folks,” we should brace ourselves for the deceit, or worse, that is coming. Outside of this context, there are “people,” or often “villains,” and using labels for them is highly meritorious. Obama is right, however, not to have used the word “authoritarian,” which is far too mild a label for his friend.

Just as in the past, support for democracy, and for human rights as well, keeps to the pattern that scholarship has repeatedly discovered, correlating closely with strategic and economic objectives. There should be little difficulty in understanding why those whose eyes are not closed tight shut by rigid doctrine dismiss Obama’s yearning for human rights and democracy as a joke in bad taste.

Noam Chomsky is Institute Professor emeritus in the Department of Linguistics and Philosophy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is the author of numerous books, including the New York Times bestsellers Hegemony or Survival and Failed States. His newest book, Hopes and Prospects, is out this week from Haymarket Books.

[Note: All material in this piece is sourced and footnoted in Noam Chomsky’s new bookHopes and Prospects.]

http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/175239/tomgram:_noam_chomsky,_eyeless_in_gaza___/#more

woensdag 28 april 2010

Egypte

From the Huffington Post...

Egypt: the next vulcano?

by Eric Margolis
Egypt is facing a potential political eruption that could rock the entireMideast and seriously undermine US domination of the strategic region.

This threat comes as tensions in the Mideast are already extremely high.Threats of war involving US, Israel, Syria, Lebanon, and Iran are flying fastand furious.

President Husni Mubarak, the US-supported strongman who has ruled Egypt with aniron hand for almost 30 years, is 81 and in frail health. Amazingly, he has nodesignated successor. No one knows who will take over Egypt when he dies.

For Mubarak, it may be "après moi, le deluge." Dealing with elderly dictatorsis always an extremely tricky business.

Mubarak, an air force general, was put into power with US help after theassassination of President Anwar Sadat by nationalist soldiers in 1981. Sadathad been a CIA "asset" since 1952.

My sharp-tongued mother interviewed Sadat in the 1950's and described him as a"clown." Sadat was a hero in the US and Israel, but Egyptians hated him andgreeted his killing with jubilation.

Egypt, with 82 million people, is the most populous and important Arab nation.Cairo has long been the cultural center of the Arab world. It is also anovercrowded madhouse with eight million people (12 million in the great Cairoarea) crammed into an early 20th century colonial city built for 500,000.Cairo's population has tripled since I lived there as a boy in 1957.

About 28% all Arabs are Egyptians. Deduct North Africa, known as the Maghreb -and not traditionally part of the Arab heartland - and Egypt counts for a thirdof all Arabs. The Nilotic Egyptians are quite different ethnically from theArabs of Arabia, Syria and Iraq, but they all share a mostly common language,religion, and sense of pan-Arab identity.
Egypt was once the heart and soul of the Arab and Muslim world. Under Sadat'spredecessor, the widely adored nationalist, Gamal Abdel Nasser, Egypt led theArab world. By contrast, Egyptians despised successor Sadat as a corruptWestern toady, and sullenly accepted Mubarak.

After three decades under Mubarak, Egypt has become a political and culturalbackwater, and a virtual American protectorate. Its political, intellectual,and religious life have been hand-cuffed by the security police.

In a very telling incident, Mubarak recently flew to Germany for gall bladderand colon surgery. After some $85 billion in US aid, Mubarak could not eventrust a local hospital in the Arab world's leading nation to perform hisoperation.

The US gives Egypt $1.3 billion annually in military aid to keep the generalscontent, and about $700 million in economic aid, not counting large but secretCIA stipends to key generals, high officials, intelligence chiefs and Egypt'smedia. A small business elite attached to Mubarak has grown wealthy while therest of Egypt remains mired in poverty, with a per capita national incomearound $1,600 per annum.

Egypt does not have enough arable land to feed its growing population, and mustimport 50% of its foodstuffs, mostly subsidized, low-cost US wheat. This foodaid, on which Egypt depends for sustenance, is appropriated each year by the USCongress.
Washington's powerful Israel lobby, which dominates Congress, could choke offUS food aid to Egypt. Sadat and Mubarak gave Israel decisive influence overEgypt's policies in exchange for food aid and billions of dollars, a fact thatenrages Egypt's Islamists and nationalists.

Mubarak's Egypt is the cornerstone of America's Mideast Raj (dominion). Egypt's469,000-man armed forces, 397,000 paramilitary police, and ferocious secretpolice keep the regime in power and crush all dissent.

Though large, Egypt's military is starved by Washington of modern weapons,ammo, and spare parts so it cannot war against Israel. Its sole function iskeeping the US-backed regime in power.

Mubarak has long been a key ally of Israel in battling Islamist and nationalistgroups. Egypt and Israel collaborate on penning up Hamas-led Palestinians inGaza. Hamas is a militant offshoot of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, and thusgreatly feared by Cairo for its calls to root out corruption, share nationalwealth, impose Islamic justice, and cease automatic obedience to US policies.

Egypt is now building a new steel wall on the Gaza border with US assistance.Mubarak's Wall, which will go down 40 feet, is designed to block tunnelsthrough which Gaza Palestinians rely for supplies. Egypt and Israel claimMubarak's wall is to prevent arms from being smuggled into Gaza. The EastGerman regime also claimed its notorious wall was for security reasons.

While Washington fulminates against Iran, Burma, and China over human rights,it says nothing about client Egypt, where all elections are rigged, regimeopponents brutally tortured, and political opposition liquidated.

Washington could quickly impose real democracy to Egypt, where it pulls all thestrings, if it wanted. But it does not. In 1991-92, the Arab world's firsttruly free election was held in military-run Algeria. The Islamist oppositionwon a landslide. Algeria's generals, urged on by France and the US, annulledthe vote and arrested opposition leaders. The Arab world's second free vote washeld in Palestine, and resulted in a landslide for Hamas. The US, Israel andEgypt immediately moved to annul the election and pen up Hamas in the open-airprison of Gaza.

Ayman Nur, the last man who dared run in an election against the eternalMubarak - "pharaoh" to Islamist opponents - was arrested and tortured.Washington only issued a few mild tut-tuts.

Now, as Mubarak's health fails, the US and Israel are increasingly alarmed hisdeath could produce a political eruption in long-repressed Egypt.

Mubarak has been trying to groom his son, Gamal, to succeed him. But Egyptiansare deeply opposed. The powerful 72-year old intelligence chief, Gen. OmarSuleiman, an ally of the US and Israel, is another possible strongman. CIA willalso be grooming other army or air force generals for the job.

Egypt's secular political opposition barely exists. The regime's real opponentremains the relatively moderate, popular, Islamic Brotherhood. It would win afree election hands down. But the Brotherhood's leadership is old and tired.Younger, more dynamic leaders have all been jailed or bought off. Half ofEgyptians are under 20.

Mohammed el- Baradai, the intelligent, highly respected Egyptian former UNnuclear chief, is calling for real democracy in his homeland. He presents themost attractive candidate to lead post-Mubarak Egypt. But the regime hasalready begun moving against him.
Washington would do well to back the popular el-Baradei, even if he refuses totoe the line. Better having independent-minded moderate allies with a popularmandate than more despots or military oligarchs. Have we learned nothing fromIran?

Washington hopes it can ease another compliant general into power and keep thesecurity forces loyal before thirty years of pent-up fury at Mubarak'sdictatorship, Egypt's political emasculation, thirst for change, and direpoverty produce a volcanic eruption on the Nile.
If Egypt erupts, the US-backed regimes of Jordan, Morocco, Tunisia and SaudiArabia could be next.

****************
"If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of
the oppressor" - Archbishop Desmund Tutu


Personal website: www.monabaker.com

Derk Sauer 27



28 maart vorig jaar kreeg Jan Marijnissen, grote vriend van SP-multimiljonair Derk Sauer, van de NRC de volle ruimte om dit te beweren:

De slippendragers van de macht groeien ten koste van de frontsoldaten van de waarheid.

Ik herhaal:

De slippendragers van de macht groeien ten koste van de frontsoldaten van de waarheid.


Jan Marijnissen: All dressed up and nowhere to go.

Wie verdient hier aan wie?

Boycot Israel 80

http://www.maannews.net/eng/ViewDetails.aspx?ID=280198

University students commit to sweeping boycotts
Published today (updated) 28/04/2010 18:00

Bethlehem - Ma'an - In anticipation of Nakba commemoration day next month, Palestinian student and youth groups across the West Bank and Gaza signed a memorandum enacting a massive boycott of Israeli products and programs.

The document calls for a halt to any activities that could normalize relations between Palestine and Israel.

"Economic, political, cultural and institutional normalization legitimize Israel's oppression of the Palestinian people by giving the appearance of normalcy to the relationship between oppressor and oppressed. This relationship is hardly one between equals as Israel continues to violate our inalienable rights, steal our land, and prevent refugees from our right of return in contravention of international law and numerous UN resolutions," a statement from the student groups said.

The memorandum went on to describe a series of measures the students intended to apply on or before 15 May, when Palestinians commemorate the 1948 expulsion of hundreds of thousands from their homes that lead to the declaration of an Israeli state.

More than list the elements of the boycott, the students asserted "our right to resist Israel's oppression of the Palestinian people through all forms of resistance and in accordance to international law, including forms of civil resistance such as demonstrations, sits-ins and, boycotts of Israel."

The students declared adherence to the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI), the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BDS) and said they would reject "any Israeli-Palestinian meetings that do not recognize our inalienable rights, and explicitly aim to resist Israel's occupation, colonization and apartheid."

The student statement said the participating groups would "refuse to take part in whitewashing Israel's public image," and that "meetings that are not committed to such principles give a false picture of equality between the two parties by ignoring and legitimizing Israel's oppression of the Palestinian people."

The petition was endorsed by the following university councils:

Birzeit University's student council
An-Najah University's student council and the majority of student blocks on campus
Hebron University's student council
Bethlehem University's student council
Arab American University in Jenin' student council
Al-Quds University's student council
Palestine Technical College's student council -Aroub
Al-Quds Open University's student council-Tulkarem
Al-Quds Open University's student council-Qalqiliya
Palestine Technical College's student council - Khadouri
The Palestinian Student Campaign for the Academic Boycott of Israel (PSCABI)
Progressive Student Union Bloc-Gaza
Fateh Youth Organization- Gaza
Progressive Student Labor Front-Gaza
Islamic Bloc-Gaza
Islamic League of Palestinian Student s- Gaza
Student Unity Bloc-Gaza
Union of Youth Activity Centers in Palestinian Refugee Camps
Palestinian Youth Network-all branches
General Union of Palestinian Students (GUPS) -Chile
General Union of Palestinian Students (GUPS) -Colombia
General Union of Palestinian Students (GUPS) -France
General Union for Palestinian Youth
Palestinian Federation -Chile
Palestinian Federation- Argentine
US Palestinian Communities Network (USPCN)
Palestinian Community of Catalonia

And the following youth groups:

Center for Argentinean - Palestinian Friendship- Rosario/Argentina
Arab Youth for Palestine Valdivia/ Chile
Arab Youth for Valparaiso - Via Del Mar/Chile
Arab Youth of Concepcion - Concepcion /Chile
The youth group of the Evan Lutheran Church - Beit Sahour
Sheppard's Scouts Troup - Beit Sahour
The Papal Scout Troop - Beit Jala
Student Council of the Evangelical Lutheran School - Beit Sahour
Student Council of the Evangelical Lutheran School - Ramallah
Student Council of the Friends Boys School - Ramallah
Student Council of the Arab Evangelical Episcopal School - Ramallah
Student Council of St. Joseph's School - Ramallah
Jafra Palestinian Youth Center-Al-Yarmouk Refugee Camp
Joint Advocacy Initiative - The East Jerusalem YMCA and YWCA of Palestine


Israel als Schurkenstaat 117

The Israel Lobby's Big Problem:
People Aren't Afraid to Criticize Israel Anymore
By Ira Chernus
AlterNet
March 27, 2010
http://www.alternet.org/story/146197/

I just ran across a couple of noteworthy quotes from members of AIPAC— the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the most powerful organization in the much-dreaded "Israel lobby" — which began its annual meeting in Washington on Monday:

"We were never exposed to anti-semitism, but we heard about anti-Israel campaigns in colleges, and next year we are going to college, and we want to have the tools to deal with that," said a high school senior, one of some 1300 students and youth at the meeting, according to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz.Note how effortlessly this kid moves from "anti-semitism" to "anti-Israel."

That's how AIPAC has always recruited youth: Take Americans who have never experienced anti-semitism personally and make them believe that, even if they haven't seen any enemies, those enemies are out there, lurking everywhere, disguised as "critics of Israel," just waiting to pounce on poor, unsuspecting Jews.But times are changing.

Even AIPAC no longer tries to keep up the old fiction that criticizing Israel is, in and of itself, an anti-semitic act. There are too many Israeli Jews, who are obviously loyal to their nation, criticizing their government for that old canard to stick.So now the right-wingers have come up with a more sophisticated version: "Soft" critics of Israel are OK — those who don't go too far in their criticism — but "hard" critics of Israel are obviously anti-semites. And of course AIPAC and its right-wing partners in Israel gets to decide what counts as going too far.

Apparently it's those "hard critics" who mount the "anti-Israel campaigns in colleges," and they're the ones this AIPAC high-schooler has learned to be afraid of. Well, AIPAC has to have some anti-semites out there to pursue its double-barreled strategy: Incite fear to rally the troops while justifying everything the Israel government does as necessary for Jew survival, and therefore morally justified.But what if American Jews stopped being afraid and stopped justifying outrageous Israel actions, like the recent announcement (while Vice-President Joe Biden was visiting the country) of 1600 new Jew housing units in the occupied territory of East Jerusalem?Which brings me to the other noteworthy quote, a rather blunt one from AIPAC attendee Donell Weinkopf of New York:

"I would not say that I am disappointed by the Netanyahu government. But I feel like shit. Israel did something stupid by declaring this construction. … I think that the time has come for Israel to stop biting the hand of a friend."Weinkopf probably tracked the incident closely.

So he knows that no one has been able to turn up evidence to refute Israeli Prime Minister's Bibi Netanyahu's claim that the announcement, made by a far right cabinet minister, came as a surprise to him. Let's assume it did. But Weinkopf also knows that Bibi could have reversed the decision and immediately healed any rift with the U.S. Instead, though, he merely offered Biden a meaningless apology for "bad timing" and boasted that the building project would go ahead anyway.

Then Israel's PM came to Washington, where Weinkopf and all the other AIPAC'ers heard him deliver a seemingly defiant speech. The journalist who got the two rich quotes at the AIPAC meeting heard it too and described it this way: "Unsurprisingly, his speech included every possible cliche: Death camps, the relentless persecution the Jew people have suffered throughout history, the powerful bond between the Jews and the land of Israel and, of course, Jerusalem. … Far from being a conciliatory effort, Netanyahu's speech was riddled with borderline provocation. … He did not present a real vision for peace or compromise."

And the very next day, as Netanyahu prepared to meet with Obama at the White House, news came of yet another provocation: approval of a new apartment building for Jews in the hotly-contested Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of Jerusalem, a project that has already been criticized by the U.S. government.

It seems likely that the move was intentionally timed by right-wingers to offset any possible image of Netanyahu compromising with Obama. Bibi "is planting the seeds for the next crisis," one of his political opponents charged.

However, outright defiance of the U.S. could get Bibi in bad trouble politically at home. So behind the scenes he is backing down a bit in the face of Obama administration criticism (which was repeated by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton when she addressed the AIPAC gathering).

One Israeli journalist, citing unnamed "analysts," says that the harsher tone from Washington "stems not from the decision to build in Ramat Shlomo, but because Netanyahu broke an earlier pledge to improve governmental oversight in order to prevent the Interior Ministry coming out with announcements of the kind that sparked this crisis."

It's probably no coincidence that, precisely as Netanyahu was spending several hours at the White House, the Jerusalem District Planning and Construction Committee decided to freeze all discussion of expanding Jew construction in Jerusalem "until further notice"(though the one new building in Sheikh Jarrah will proceed).

And according to Israel's Interior Ministry, "the prime minister has decided to form a committee of chairmen to improve the coordination between the various government offices over all matters relating to construction and building permits."

The prime minister had already demanded a list of all plans for large projects in Jerusalem's Arab neighborhoods, including Ramat Shlomo.

No, it's not any huge breakthrough. But it's one of those little pieces of evidence that point to Netanyahu's larger strategy. He talks tough and plays the fear card. Quietly, though, he is giving the Americans at least some of what they want. "I can imagine that there will be little building for Jews in Arab neighborhoods," a consultant to the Israeli government told the Times, and "on Ramat Shlomo I imagine the prime minister gave assurances that nothing would be built for some years." Other Jerusalem insiders disagree, believing that Bibi won't give way very much at all.

Which way the Israelis go depends largely on how much pushback they get from the Obama administration. That's still an open question.However, it's clear that Israel can no longer count on U.S. support no matter what it does, because the political atmosphere here is changing so fast. There are countless thousands of Donell Weinkopfs throughout the United States, Jews who would not have dreamed of criticizing Israel a few years ago, but are now thinking for themselves rather than offering knee-jerk praise.

Some of them were surely among the respondents to the latest poll of American Jew opinion. A few of the most striking findings:· 82% want the U.S. to "play an active role" in the Israel-Palestine peace process·

71% want the U.S. to exert pressure on both sides to make compromises for peace·

Fully half stick want U.S. involvement even if it means the U.S. exerting pressure on Israel alone to make compromises·

Asked whether U.S. criticisms of Israel should be made in public, more Jews say "yes" than "no"·

69% voted for Obama and 62% still approve of the job he's doing (far higher than the overall public's rating of the president)· Obama's favorable rating is 15 points higher than Netanyahu's.

It's also worth noting that Israel and Judaism are not very central in the lives of this sampling of American Jews:·

Asked to name the TWO most important issues facing our country, only 10% put Israel on their short list·

Well over half said they did not follow the controversy surrounding Biden's visit to Israel closely or at all·

Only 23% attend synagogue services more than a few times a year, and only 39% attend activities of other Jew groupsThat does not sound like a community ready to use its political clout to "stand with Israel" no matter what the Jew state does. It sounds like a community that identifies as American more than as Jew, is split by internal conflict on the question of Israel (when it bothers to think about that question at all), and may well be open to supporting Obama and his Middle East policies, even when they involve pressure on Israel.So AIPAC knows that its old fear-based tactics may still work, but not nearly as well as they once did. Netanyahu knows it too. So does Obama. That's why the rules of U.S. – Israel relations are changing, even if only slightly thus far.But Obama has his own fears.

He and his party face an uphill political fight this year. He cannot know for sure how far he can push the Israelis without triggering a backlash — not only among Jew voters but among the many Christians who support Israel for their own reasons, and among a general public long conditioned by the media to see Israel as an underdog oppressed by Muslim "evildoers." Already Republican candidates are burnishing their "pro-Israel" credentials as a way to attack the Democrats.On the other hand, if Obama does not pressure Israel enough he could trigger a backlash from another powerful quarter: the Pentagon, which is now pushing for an Israeli-Palestinian settlement as a way to ease anger against U.S. troops in the greater Middle East. Democratic presidents who have never served in the military will go to great lengths to avoid alienating their own military leaders, especially if they hope to make good on a controversial pledge to give gays equality in the military.

More to the point, perhaps, Obama has also publicly pledged to move the Israel-Palestine conflict some significant steps toward resolution. He cannot do that unless he puts enough pressure on Israel.

Without sufficient pressure, his fears of failure on his boldest foreign policy promise are likely to come true.Now the president has a chance to send a clear signal.

But no one can say for sure what signal he will send. And that's precisely what made this week's AIPAC meeting different from any in recent memory.Right-wingers in Jerusalem keep getting more and more outrageous. But the political climate in Washington can no longer be predicted, much less taken for granted. So there's far less reason than before to stand in dread and awe of AIPAC or the "Israel lobby."

There's far more reason to think that countervailing pressures from the left can make a real difference, giving the administration the safety belt it needs to act decisively. Perhaps that's what made Donell Weinkopf — and plenty of other AIPAC members, including its top leadership, I suspect — feel like s--t.

Ira Chernus is Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Read more of his writing on Israel, Palestine, and American Jews on his blog:
http://chernus.wordpress.com.© 2010 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.

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