Sunday, January 31, 2010

While Goldstone Hysteria Sweeps Israel, IDF Admits Some Guilt: Too Little Too Late

Goldstone hysteria is sweeping Israel and the Jewish world.

Israel has until February 5 to report to the U.N. its response to the Goldstone report. If it doesn't do something convincing - like declare the establishment of an independent investigations committee into allegations of war crimes in last year's Gaza War - there is a realistic chance that an investigation will be opened by the International Court. This is the last thing the Israeli government wants. But at the same time, the Israeli army and the defense establishment are refusing to let any civilian body - Israeli or not - investigate its actions in the war.

What to do? ... Attack on all fronts!

On the one hand, Israel and its allies in the Jewish community are raising their level of attacks on Goldstone and anyone who supports his report. Here are just two examples from this weekend's press.

First, legal pitbull, Alan Dershowitz, let loose with a tirade worthy of the man who helped defend O.J. Simpson by helping whip up claims of ethnic injustice. In a widely quoted interview Dershovitz claims:
The Goldstone report is a defamation written by an evil, evil man. I am appalled by the report and can’t fathom how it could have been written by a Jew. It is as if a Jew would have written the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. He is using the fact that his last name is ‘Goldstone’ to substantiate the report’s defamation against the Jewish people….
Second, members of the Israeli Knesset - lead by Kadima, the "moderate" opposition party - demanded that the New Israel Fund, and its chair, ex MK Naomi Hazan, be investigated for "aiding the enemy". This because:
92 percent of the material gathered in Israel and which was used by the Goldstone Commission against the IDF and Israel, was provided by associations supported financially by the New Israel Fund.
MK Yisrael Hasson of Kadima, former deputy head of the GSS (aka the Shin Bet, the Israeli internal secret security agency) is quoted as saying in regard to the "New Israel Fund Affair" that the government "should explore the issue of organizations that promote active arrest warrants against IDF officers and contribute to activities supporting Hamas." He also revealed that the GSS has been monitoring Israeli organizations that cooperated with the Goldstone commission.

Coordinated with these statements in the Knesset, where rowdy demonstrations outside the home of New Israel Fund chair Naomi Hazan. (See photo above.) The demonstrators claimed that Hazan was aiding Hamas and "hated the army."

At the same time as it attacks Goldstone, the government is also engaged in defensive maneuvers. It is trying to show that:
a) very few bad or illegal things happened during the war,
b) the army can be trusted to do its own investigation, and therefore
c) an independant investigation is not needed.
According to Haaretz an Israeli government report, handed to the U.N. on Friday, admits that:
An Israel Defense Forces brigadier general and another officer with the rank of colonel endangered human life during last year's military campaign in the Gaza Strip by firing white phosphorous munitions in the direction of a compound run by UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency
This comes, somewhat surprisingly, after numerous prior denials by the IDF that it had used phosphorous in populated areas. In fact an official IDF commission of investigation cleared the army of all such charges last April.

(But does anyone believe that the IDF would have re-opened its investigation and issued such a finding, minimal as it is, if it hadn't been for the pressure brought to bear by the Goldstone Report and all those Israelis and Palestinians that gave it information. These are the same people who are being attacked in the Knesset and the street as being enemies of the State and disloyal to the army.)

The IDF, of course, believes that limited admissions like this will ward off pressure for a full, open and independent investigation. Hardly! The IDF is admitting to only a single incident of illegal use of white phosphorus - this two days before the war ended. Yet there are documented allegations of many such incidents spanning the entire three and half weeks of the war. The IDF has now changed its story on the use of phosphorus four times since evidence of its use first surfaced in December 2008.

The IDF also thinks that its reported "reprimanding" of the two officers, will be sufficient to quell the calls for more appropriate justice. Dozens of Palestinian civilians where severely burned by the illegal phosphorus.

In an apparent attempt to further impress the world with the thoroughness and toughness of its internal investigation, the IDF claims that its military police have probed into about 150 alleged incidents of improper conduct on the part of soldiers involving civilians and Palestinian property during the Gaza campaign. Twelve of these incidents were raised for the first time in the Goldstone Commission report. In the course of the IDF investigations, the army claims that about 500 soldiers were questioned and nearly 100 Palestinian civilians were interviewed at the Erez checkpoint on the Israel-Gaza border. As a result of the IDF's investigations, 36 investigation files have been opened so far. However, "criminal legal proceedings have so far been opened in only one case, in which two Givati brigade soldiers were convicted of stealing a Palestinian civilian's credit card."

That it! One year after the war, the only thing the IDF has found wrong with the conduct of the war is two officers who in a single incident, ordered illegal use of phosphorus, and two soldiers who stole a Palestinian's credit card.

Who do they think they are kidding ?

Too little too late is an understatement. The IDF cannot be trusted to investigate itself.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Who Died and Made You King?

The Israeli government continues to try to co-opt Judaism and world Jewry to its purposes. This is nothing new. But never has an Israeli PM been as chutzpadik in this regard as the current Israeli PM. He is now claiming to be the official Leader of the Jewish People.

As reported by the French news agency AFP, Netanyahu made the claim in a recent speech at Auschwitz, on the occasion of International Holocaust Memorial Day.

Sirens wailed as Auschwitz survivors, Soviet veterans and leaders including Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday marked the 65th anniversary of the notorious Nazi German death camp's liberation.

"From this place, I swear as the leader of the Jewish people, never again shall we allow evil to hurt our people," Netanyahu said in a keynote address at the commemoration.

This conflating of Israel with World Jewry, and of political Zionism with Judaism has been gaining traction - both among the Zionist right and the anti-Zionist left. In the end it can only lead to antisemitism from without and an erosion of Jewish values from within. And, of course it is used to justify and re-enforce the discrimination against non-Jews within Israel and under her control.

The last three people who made claim to be the leader of the Jews - Shabtai Zvi, Shimon Bar Koziva, and Jesus Christ - all brought disaster on the Jewish people. Let's hope Netantahu is not as effective.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

They're Ruining Another Good Holiday
And Telling the PA to F*** Off

First the Israeli Government tried to ruin Hannukah, by starting the Gaza War during the holdiday and naming it "Cast Lead" after a line in popular Hannukah song.

Now they are trying to ruin Tu B'Shvat by using the "New Year of Trees" to plant trees in West Bank Settlements, while declaring that these settlements are:
... an indisputable part of Israel forever. This is an idea that is accepted by the majority of Israelis and is part of international agreements [sic!]
On Sunday, Prime Minister Netanyahu traveled to Gush Etzion and Ma'aleh Adumim to plant trees. In Ma'aleh Adumim, at a ceremony with city officials and the Jewish National Fund, Netanyahu once again reaffirmed Israel's ties with the settlement blocs and with Ma'aleh Adumim.
We will build here as part of greater Jerusalem. I came here from Gush Etzion, which is Jerusalem's southern gate. Now we're in Ma'aleh Adumim which is Jerusalem's eastern gate. Close to Tu Bishvat I will plant a tree in Ariel, just as we planted a college there which has turned into Ariel University.
It should be noted that none of these settlements are within or border the municipality of Jersusalem - not even the enlarged annexed municipality that includes East Jerusalem, itself carved off from the West Bank unilaterally by the Israelis.

Since the Palestinians have made it clear that they will not agree to a peace that leaves their future state carved into Bantstans by Maaleh Adumin and Ariel, both of which are deep within the West Bank, Netanyahu has effectively told both the peace process and the PA to take a hike.

It is also interesting to note, that in the construction Maaleh Adumim alone, it is estimated that 1000 olive trees belonging to Palestinian farmers were uprooted. And Netanyahu tries to build support for this by coopting a holiday whose symbolism is of restoring nature, and the environment, and of being good stewards of the Land.

Thus we see, yet again, how the occupation not only oppresses and dispossesses the Palestinians, it is ruining the Jewish religion and perverting our culture.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Democracy in America: RIP

Today the U.S Supreme Court may have ended democracy in America.

In its Thursday ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, the court basically overturned federal laws, dating back to 1907, that limit spending by corporations on political advertising. By implication it rules similar state laws are also unconstitutional and violate corporations rights [sic] to free speech.

While still leaving some doubt as to the legality of laws banning direct corporate donations to candidates, it completely and absolutely removed any and all limits on corporate donations to independent groups spending before prior or during elections. It also allows, for the first time since 1947, direct and unlimited spending by corporations on political advertising.

Thus , for instance, there is nothing any longer preventing health insurance companies from spending billions on advertising against health care reform - or against Senators and Representatives who might support it. Massive grassroots fund raising - something that helped propel Obama to victory - can now be drowned out by a single multi million dollar check by a corporation.

(This, by the way is the exact opposite direction from that taken by Canada in the last few years that has completely banned corporate advertising in politics and severely limited the size of individuals to political campaigns. The only way to effectively raise political money in Canada now, is from many small donations, not from a few big givers.)

If the American Congress does not come up with a new and creative way to limit corporate control of politics through its deep pockets: one that can be effective while not running afoul of this new Supreme Court ruling; and if it can not pass this work-around into law before next years midterm elections, then democary in America will likley be lost.

America will come to be (now more than ever) ruled by
Government of the People, By the Lackeys, For the Rich.

If Obama and the Democrats can do any good at all over the next year, it would be to rally the American people against this corporate coup-d'etat, and to quickly find a way around this devastating attack on democracy. Left unchecked this ruling may be the most far reaching change to American politics (and for the worse) in 100 years.

* * *

In case you think I am being overwrought, I quote from the dissenting opinion of Justice Stevens:

...In the context of election to public office, the distinction between corporate and human speakers is significant. Although they make enormous contributions to our society, corporations are not actually members of it. They cannot vote or run for office. Because they may be managed and controlled by nonresidents, their interests may conflict in fundamental respects with the interests of eligible voters. The financial resources, legal structure,and instrumental orientation of corporations raise legitimate concerns about their role in the electoral process. Our lawmakers have a ... democratic duty, to take measures designed to guard against the potentially deleterious effects of corporate spending in local and national races. ...

The majority’s approach to corporate electioneering marks a dramatic break from our past. Congress has placed special limitations on campaign spending by corporations ever since the passage of the Tillman Act in 1907, ... The Court today rejects a century of history when it treats thedistinction between corporate and individual campaign spending ...

The Court’s ruling threatens to undermine the integrity of elected institutions across the Nation. ...

Going forward, corporations ... will be free to spend as much general treasury money as they wish on ads that support or attack specific candidates, whereas national parties will not be able to spend a dime of soft money on ads of any kind. The Court’s ruling thus dramatically enhances the role of corporations ... —and the narrow interests they represent—vis-à-vis the role of political parties—and the broad coalitions they represent—in determining who will hold public office. ...

President Roosevelt, in his 1905 annual message to Congress, declared:
“‘All contributions by corporations to any political committee or for any political purpose should be forbidden by law; directors should not be permitted to use stockholders’ money for such purposes; and, moreover, a prohibition of this kind would be, as far as it went, an effective method of stopping the evils aimedat in corrupt practices acts.’” ...

The fact that corporations are different from human beings might seem to need no elaboration, except that the majority opinion almost completely elides it. ... Unlike natural persons, corporations have “limited liability” for their owners and managers, “perpetual life,” separation of ownership and control, “and favorable treatment of the accumulation and distribution of assets . . . that enhance their ability to attract capital and to deploy their resources in ways that maximize the return on their shareholders’ investments.” ... Unlike voters in U. S. elections, corporations may be foreign controlled....
“‘[T]he resources in the treasury of a business corporation,’” furthermore, “‘are not an indication of popular support for the corporation’s political ideas.’” ...

It might also be added that corporations have no consciences, no beliefs, no feelings, no thoughts, no desires. Corporations help structure and facilitate the activities of human beings, to be sure, and their “personhood” oftenserves as a useful legal fiction. But they are not themselves members of “We the People” by whom and for whom our Constitution was established. ...

It is an interesting question “who” is even speaking when a business corporation places an advertisement that endorses or attacks a particular candidate. Presumably it is not the customers or employees, who typically have no say in such matters. It cannot realistically be said to be the shareholders, who tend to be far removed from the day-to-day decisions of the firm and whose political preferences may be opaque to management. Perhaps the officersor directors of the corporation have the best claim to be the ones speaking, except their fiduciary duties [technically at least] prohibit them from using corporate funds for personal ends. Some individuals associated with the corporation must make the decision to place the ad, [but who?] ...

In addition to [the] immediate drowning out of non-corporate voices, there may be deleterious effects that follow soon thereafter. Corporate “domination” of electioneering, ... can generate the impression [sic] that corporations dominate our democracy. When citizens turn on their televisions and radios before an election and hear only corporate electioneering, they may lose faith in their capacity, as citizens, to influence public policy.
A Government captured by corporate interests, they may come to believe, will be neither responsive to their needs nor willing to give their views a fair hearing. The predictable result is cynicism and disenchantment: an increased perception that large spenders “‘call the tune’” and a reduced “‘willingness of voters to take part in democratic governance.’” ...
To the extent that corporations are allowed to exert undue influence in electoral races, the speech of the eventual winners of those races may also be chilled. Politicians who fear that a certain corporation can make or break their reelection chances may be cowed into silence about that corporation.On a variety of levels, unregulated corporate electioneering might diminish the ability of citizens to “hold officials accountable to the people,” ...

The majority’s unwillingness to distinguish between corporations and humans similarly blinds it to the possibility that corporations’ “war chests” and their special “advantages” in the legal realm, ... may translate into special advantages in the market for legislation. When large numbers of citizens have a common stake in a measure that is under consideration, it may be very difficult for them to coordinate resources on behalf of their position. The corporate form, by contrast,“provides a simple way to channel rents to only those who have paid their dues, ... "

If individuals in our society had infinite free time to listen to and contemplate every last bit of speech uttered by anyone, anywhere; and if broadcast advertisements had nospecial ability to influence elections apart from the merits of their arguments (to the extent they make any); and if legislators always operated with nothing less than perfect virtue; then I suppose the majority’s premise might be sound. In the real world, we have seen, corporate domination of the airwaves prior to an election may decrease the average listener’s exposure to relevant viewpoints, and it may diminish citizens’ willingness and capacity to participate in the democratic process. ...

The Court’s blinkered and aphoristic approach to the First Amendment may well promote corporate power at the cost of the individual and collective self-expression the Amendment was meant to serve. It will undoubtedly cripple the ability of ordinary citizens, Congress, and the States to adopt even limited measures to protect against corporate domination of the electoral process. ...

In a democratic society, the longstanding consensus on the need to limit corporate campaign spending should outweigh the wooden application of judge-made rules. ... At bottom, the Court’s opinion is thus a rejection of the common sense of the American people, who have recognized a need to prevent corporations from undermining self government since the founding, and who have fought against the distinctive corrupting potential of corporate electioneering since the days of Theodore Roosevelt. It is a strange time to repudiate that common sense.

While American democracy is imperfect, few outside the majorityof this Court would have thought its flaws included a dearth of corporate money in politics.
* * *


Justice Stevens dissenting opinion starts on page 88.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

It Comes Once And Then It's Over

Kate McGarrigle died yesterday at 63.

Too young.

How many songs not written; how many gifts not given?

Sunday, January 17, 2010

IDF Officer Makes Things Clear

The video above was broadcast last week on Israel Channel 10 news.

What is shown should be no surprise. Every Friday there are more and more demonstrations against the expropriation of Arabs lands and properties for exclusive use by Jews. What started in Bilin (against land expropriated by the wall) has now spread to Nili'in, Sheik Jarrah, Nebe Salakh, and several other places. What is new (well, not so new - but it is finally getting attention), is that these are peaceful - but persistent - mass demonstrations against specific acts of injustice. The Israeli government seems determined to put these down by force.

In all cases, the pattern is similar. The Israeli authorities expropriate land from Arabs for the benefit of Jews. Arabs are evicted from properties they have used for decades (often centuries), and the land is given over to exclusive use by Jews. Arabs along with a few Jewish allies begin to protests. The army and/or the police are called in to enforce the evictions, and quell the protests. Protests are never allowed to continue peacefully. They are always broken up by the authorities, often using extreme violence. (Protestors have been killed and permanently disabled at Nili'in and Bilin.) Often the settlers who have benefited from the expropriations, join the police in harassing or beating the demonstrators. Often the Jewish settlers take the initiative in harassing and/or attacking Arabs and Arab property. Rarely do the police or army ever arrest a Jewish attacker or counter demonstrator. Arrests among the Arabs - both at the demonstrations and afterwards of their leadership - is common.

All the forces of the State are marshaled to advance the interests of the Jews. If Palestineans object, they are treated as obstacles on the road - to be removed; not as residence with legal and moral rights.

This is clear to anyone who has been paying attention. But Israel maintains a facade of legality and fairness. In this video a young officer is foolish enough to tell the truth. The army (and by extension the State) exists to protect the Jews and Jewish interests, not the Arabs and their interests. Anyone defending the rights of Arab is a traitor. Jews who attack Arabs are immune from punishment. The idea of the state as impartial arbiter of disputes, or upholding and balancing the rights of all its residents, of impartially upholding a "colour blind" law - is non-existent.

At the very end - the IDF spokesperson, says that the words of this officer do not accord with the "spirit of the IDF". Funny, I heard almost the exact same words and sentiments coming from young officers and NCOs when I served in the IDF in the West Bank back in the 1980. Nothing has changed except the intensity. Nothing was done to root out such opinions and actions in the 1980s and nothing is being done now. Nothing will happen to this officer, and next week the charade of "imposing order", "enforcing the law" will continue. So will the expropriations and the violent suppression of non-violent demonstrations.

Below is a transcript of the video: The translation is mine. It is more literal than literary. But you should be able to get the drift.

* * *

Title on screen: Friday 8/1/10, Nebe Salakh, Handling Settlers

Text on screen: The demonstration at Nebe Salakh, day before yesterday

Crowd: Hey Hey

Voice-over: To the centers of regular weekend violence in the territories, in the villages of Nili’in and Bilin, has been added a new location: the village of Nebe Salakh. To this village in the area of Ramallah, arrived on Friday dozens of Palestinean protesters. The demonstration is against the expropriation of lands by the neighboring settlement Neve Tzuf-Halamish

Male voice with Arabic accent (and in subtitles): This is my land! Why? Why am I not allowed? This is my land!

Voice-over: Soldiers of the IDF and the Border Police attempt to disperse the non-violent demonstration with all their force: tear gas grenades, stun grenades, rubber bullets at point blank range, and sometimes - rifle butts. After a while, the party is joined by a group of settlers from the Neve Tzuf-Halamish …

Unidentified male voice (and in subtitles): You see?! You see ?! You see?!

Voice-over: … who situate themselves on a high terrace and begin throwing rocks at the Palestinians below. Some are masked, out of fear of the cameras.

Male voice, no Arabic accent (and in subtitles): Ehud, come here, come here.

Voice-over: The steady stream of rocks continues, and the soldiers and border police do - that’s right - nothing at all. So many committees of enquiry have reported on the casualness with which the law is circumvented in the territories. Nothing helped. The soldiers and border police do nothing to stop this barrage of rocks by the settlers. There are zero Jews arrested at the end of these violent incidents.

Male voice with Arabic accent (and in subtitles): You are protecting the settlers, no?

Soldier (and in subtitles): That’s right. That’s right. Who should I protect? You?

Protestor – female voice, no Arabic accent (and in subtitles): Isn’t your job is to protect the Palestinian residents too?

Soldier (and subtitles): No! All of a sudden? [Israeli idiom for “Are you kidding?”]

Female voice, no Arabic accent (and in subtitles): No?! That’s NOT your job?!

Soldier (and in subtitles): No. My job is to protect my nation. I’m not like you – who betrays it. My job is to defend my people.

Female voice, no Arabic accent (and in subtitles): Aha, OK

Soldier (and in subtitles): You should be ashamed of yourselves.

Voice-over: This is how an officer of rank first-lieutenant, named Atsael, explained exactly what should be done to the people of Betzelem [Israeli human rights group] who document the demonstrations.

Lt. Atsael (and in subtitles): Do you know there is the death penalty in Israel only for one thing?

Male voice, no Arabic accent (and in subtitles): For what?

Lt. Atsael (and in subtitles): Treason to the State.

Male voice, no Arabic accent (and in subtitles): Are you the traitor?

Lt. Atsael (and in subtitles): No. You are the traitor!

Male voice, no Arabic accent (and in subtitles): Are you a soldier?

Lt. Atsael (and in subtitles): I am a soldier in the Israeli Defense Forces.

Male voice, no Arabic accent (and in subtitles): And you allow yourself to talk like this? !

Lt. Atsael (and in subtitles): I am very proud of it. And I am not just a soldier. I am an officer in the army. I am very proud of it.

Male voice, no Arabic accent (and in subtitles): Are you allowed to talk like this?

Lt. Atsael (and in subtitles): Why not?

Male voice, no Arabic accent (and in subtitles): You are forbidden to express political opinions.

Lt. Atsael (and in subtitles): I … The ends justify the means. First I have my mission. Then I look at the obstacles on the path …

Female voice, no Arabic accent (and in subtitles): He said “traitors” !!

Voice-over: Thus the IDF is struck in this policing operation, in the middle. The police are too weak and ineffective. The problem is, that in restoring order, someone forgot to tell them, that order must rule in both directions [be imposed on both sides.]

On screen commentator: The IDF spokesman says, in response, that the IDF disassociates itself from the words of the officer, which where his personal opinions only and which contradict the spirit of the IDF.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Ain Din v'Ain Dayan

Ain din v'ain dayan ...

Unless we step in to create a bit of justice.

To paraphrase Pirke Avot 2:5,
In a place where there is no God, you should strive to be like God.

You can donate to Haitian relief in many places, including

Sunday, January 10, 2010

The Yoke of the Kingdom of Heaven

"S'iz shver tzu zein a yid": Its hard to be a Jew.

I just came across this in Tractate Shabbat 54b

Every person who can protest to the members of his household [to warn them against sin], and did not protest, – is held responsible for his household members’ [sins.]

[If he can, and failed to protest] to the people of his city – he is held responsible for the [sins of the] people of the city.

[If he can, and failed to protest] to the entire world, – he is held responsible for [the sins of] the entire world.

Rav Pappa said: Therefore the Excilarcs [heads of the Jewish Community in Babylon] are held responsible for [the sins of] the entire world.

As is was said by Rabbi Hannina: “Why is it written, (Isaiah 3) ‘God will come in judgment against the elders of his people and their officers [ministers/princes/leaders.]’? If the officers sinned – what is it the fault of the elders? Rather, its is because the elders failed to protest to the officers.

Now what do we do?

sigh ...

Question of the Day

The image above shows the results of an online survey posted on the web site of the Israeli TV network Keshet. The question asked was: "What do you think of Iron Dome" (Iron Dome is the Israeli military's new short range anti-missile system designed to shoot down Kassam (and other short range rockets) launched from Gaza into southern Israel. It was recently tested successfully, and is to be operationaly deployed over the next few months.)

The results shown are:
Its About Time: 27.7%
Don't Count On It: 13.6%
Negotiations Are Better: 6.1%
Destroy Gaza: 52.6%

Imagine if Iranian or Hamas TV had asked their viewers about options for dealing with Israel, and 52% had chosen "Destroy Israel."

To be fair, we don't know if the number of respondents is statisticly significant and truly represents Israeli public opinion. But the very fact that a large media outlet would present such an option on a survey, tells us how far gone things are. This kind of talk is no longer the purvue of the "loony right"

Monday, January 04, 2010

You Can't Make This Stuff Up!

Ah! The demographic threat. And now the answer.

This ad appeared in the online edition of Haaretz and the Jerusalem Post. Similar ads have run in the Hebrew papers.

Just lie back, close your eyes, and think of Moshe Rabbenu.