Yearly Archives: 2008

International law expert Richard Falk denied entry into Israel

Richard Falk explains his view on BBC\'s Hard Talk

Richard Falk, professor emeritus of international law at Princeton, may be able to make Aliyah in Israel should he choose to exercise his right to return as a Jew, but he can’t actually enter the country in his role as the UN’s special human rights rapporteur for the Occupied Palestinian Territories. BBC says this about the deportation of one of the world’s most respected experts in his field:

Mr Falk was stopped at Tel Aviv airport on Sunday and sent back to the United States on Monday morning.

An official accused him of following a distorted, anti-Israeli mandate.

“[He] does not try to advance human rights, but instead comes with his conclusions ready and those conclusions are of course extreme, methodic criticism of Israel and only of Israel,” said foreign ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor.

A spokeswoman for the interior ministry spokeswoman said the former Princeton University international law professor had been told he would be turned back if he flew to Israel.

Falk’s essay Slouching Toward a Palestinian Holocaust, has raised the ire of many who accuse him of comparing the Israelis to Nazis. Falk explained in an interview in The Nation earlier this summer:

The references to the Holocaust and to the Nazi policies were not meant to be literal comparisons but were intended to show that the policies being pursued, in Gaza in particular, had holocaustal implications if they were not changed. And the mind-set of holding an entire people responsible for opposition and resistance embodies a kind of collective punishment psychology that was very characteristic of the way the Nazis justified what they did to the Jewish people. But my intention was based on the feeling that you have to shout to be heard, and perhaps that was not the best way to make the argument. I would be quite prepared to abandon that terminology but not prepared to alter my concern about the character of the policies being pursued.

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Jimmy Carter should be “un-dissed” by the Obama Administration

Ralph Nader writes in Counterpunch that the censoring of Jimmy Carter at the Democratic National Convention was a mistake (reported here previously).   After much behind the scenes machinations, he and Rosalyn only got a walk-on part although former president Carter has tirelessly worked for peace in the region since his brokering of the Israeli-Egyptian Camp David agreement in 1979.  In 2006, his  book “Peace, Not Apartheid” caused a great deal of controversy by simply mentioning apartheid in the title while moderately talking about possible solutions to the Israel-Palestine conflict.  Although causing a firestorm in the US, such discussions of apartheid have been occurring frequently in the Israeli press.  In the US, such words caused a former president of the US to not get a traditional speaking gig at the convention. Nader argues that Obama will need to get past such small-minded, narrow identity politics to achieve a stable peace in the region.

The Democrats Owe Jimmy Carter an Apology

Don’t Suppress Carter (or the Opportunities for Middle East Peace)


Now that the season of electoral expediency is over, Barack Obama owes Jimmy Carter an apology.

At the Democratic National Convention in Denver, the Party denied Jimmy Carter the traditional invitation to speak that is accorded its former presidents.

According to The Jewish Daily Forward, “Carter’s controversial views on Israel cost him a place on the podium at the Democratic Party convention in late August, senior Democratic operatives acknowledged to the Forward.”

Silencing Carter, who negotiated the Israeli-Egyptian peace agreement, involved behind the scenes tensions between supporters of the hard-line AIPAC lobby and those Democrats who argued both respect and free speech to let Carter join Bill Clinton on the stage and address a nationwide audience.

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No breaks for academics: Joel Beinin and Yasir Qadhi

Stanford Middle East Studies professor Joel Beinin, a world-class scholar who wrote, among other things, the definitive book about the dispersion of the Jews of Egypt, was long ago declared trayf by some for his critical views of Israeli policy. Beinin, who once lived on a kibbutz, has had more than his share of cancellations and attacks from groups like Campus Watch. Willamette Week has the latest about Beinin’s decision to remove himself from consideration for a tenure-track position at Portland State University after being politically vetted by one of the interviewers. This was not his first experience with unprofessional political vetting at PSU. In a leaked email, Joel wrote:

…Tom Luckett asked me a highly inappropriate political question during my private meeting with him. He too, was unaware of the impropriety of this line of discussion. And when I mentioned, as light heartedly as I could, to Marvin Kaiser that I had been politically vetted by Michael Weingrad, his response was, “Of course.” It appears then, that at all levels at PSU there is a serious lack of appreciation for academic freedom. This is especially unfortunate for a public institution

Muslim academic Yasir Qadhi, a vocal advocate for religious coexistence and moderation, and a critic of terrorism, is working on his doctorate in Islamic Studies at Yale. He tells an all too typical story about the impossible standards to which Muslims are selectively held. In a refreshingly honest piece, he acknowledges making some dumb comments in a lecture years ago that even then, did not amount to Holocaust-denial. But years later, thanks to the hysterical right wing Frontpage Magazine, he is denounced by a leading British politico from the stage of the Global Peace and Unity event for just that reason. (Meanwhile, real anti-Semites like Pastor John Hagee get to be keynote speakers at AIPAC conferences…) Qadhi writes:

People change over time. Views develop, are modified, or discarded outright. Simplistic notions, especially those held in younger years, are typically shown to be stereotypical and false. And this is exactly what happened in this case as well, and I have no qualms admitting my mistakes, even as I criticize the exaggerated response it generated.

One final point of advice to speakers out there: realize that you never know when and how something you say may be used against you. When I gave that lecture, so many years ago, I was a completely unknown nobody. I honestly had no idea that one day I would be as recognized as I am today, so much so that the Shadow Home Secretary of the UK feels compelled to dissociate himself from the likes of me! I gave that lecture in a local masjid, to a small audience, and it was only recorded on audio cassette. To hear such material – a passing comment made so many years ago – exaggerated to the level that it has been, causing such a large scandal, is really quite amazing. I wonder how such people discovered my blunder. Did someone actually compile all of the thousands of hours of my recorded material, including these audio cassettes, and sift through it with a fine-toothed comb, or was it an accidental ‘discovery’? And why did no one – and I mean no one - attempt to contact me to clarify my current stance?

VIDEO: CNN’s Rick Sanchez and going for the scared-Jewish vote.

In a follow-up to yesterday’s amusing yet scary interview with McCain spokesman Mike Goldfarb, CNN’s Rick Sanchez parried at length today with right-wing radio host Ben Ferguson about Obama pal and mysterious “anti-Semite” #2, Jeremiah Wright.

This is part of McCain strategy #273, painting Obama as a Jew-hater.

Sanchez asked, “Why is being against Israel’s policies being against Jews when in fact there there are Jews who live in Israel who are against Israel’s policies?” He went on to say, “The question is, isn’t it a huge deductive leap to think those people who think of…Israel and criticize their policies…are anti-Semites? It means they hate Jews!”

After showing Ferguson the equivalent of a papal dispensation for Wright, a statement from the Anti-Defamation League saying that they do “not consider Reverend Wright anti-Semitic,” Ferguson responded, “Those people [Obama's close friends] do not like Israel, and they have very bad things to say about Jewish people in general.”

Meanwhile, an entertaining new video from the National Jewish Democratic Council assures voters that Obama has “a perfect voting reord” on Israel.

VIDEO: “Obama hangs out with anti-Semites”

This video of McCain spokesperson Michael Goldfarb on CNN today is almost–but not quite– funny. CNN’s Rick Sanchez tries to pin Goldfarb on his accusation that Obama hangs out with anti-Semites. Goldfarb draws a blank. But, inexplicably, Sanchez “gives” Goldfarb his assertion that respected Columbia Middle East Studies professor Rashid Khalidi, compared yesterday by McCain to a neo-Nazi, is, in fact an anti-Semite. Huh? Based on what exactly? No one bothers to say because, apparently, as a Palestinian who asserts a right to self- determination, Khalidi’s anti-Semitism is self evident.

Hat tip to SAM for letting us know about Jewish Telegraphic Agency’s Ron Kampeas article tearing down the McCain assertion that Khalidi was ever a spokesperson for the PLO.

McCain palling around with Palestinian “Neo-Nazi”?

Because calling him a Communist isn’t working…

In the waning days of the presidential race, raising questions about Obama’s friendship with Columbia University’s Rashid Khalidi, and Obama’s association with people who associated with people who associated with groups like Jewish Voice for Peace and Not In My Name (now also a JVP chapter), has become the last hope for the McCain-Palin ticket.

The LA Times reports that the McCain campaign wants the video:

Sen. John McCain today compared the director of Columbia University’s Middle East Institute to a “neo-Nazi” and called on the Los Angeles Times to release a video of a 2003 banquet at which Sen. Barack Obama talked about the professor, Rashid Khalidi, a leading Palestinian American scholar and friend of Obama’s from Chicago.

“What if there was a tape with John McCain with a neo-Nazi outfit being held by some media outlet?” McCain asked in an interview with a Cuban radio station Wednesday morning. “I think the treatment of the issue would be slightly different.”

If Khalidi, a respected academic, is so evil, then why did John McCain give him hundreds of thousands of dollars in the nineties? Does that mean McCain is palling around with neo-Nazis?

Taboo-breaking books look at Israeli occupation and the Holocaust

A Time to Speak Out: Independent Jewish Voices on Israel, Zionism and Jewish Identity is a must-read new book featuring thought-provoking essays on a range of topics.

In “The ‘Arab Nazi’ and the ‘Nazi Jew’”, British sociologist Anne Karpf has written a nuanced exploration and condemnation of the ways in which the terms “The Holocaust” and “Nazis” have been nearly emptied of meaning through their political exploitation in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. (Glenn Greewald has written about the freewheeling use of these images on Fox News to condemn liberals.) While Karpf documents the myriad ways in which Jewish and Israeli leaders have invoked this imagery to characterize Arabs and Palestinians, Karpf also looks at how Arab and Muslim leaders have characterized Israelis as Nazis and Palestinians as Jews, wondering how this comports with a policy Holocaust denial.

While Karpf largely considers the issue of name-calling and explosive imagery, we should also ask if there is a place for a thoughtful historical, political and even personal consideration of the relationship between the dehumanization practiced by the National Socialists, and that which is practiced by the Israeli military? In this country, self appointed thought police like the Anti-Defamation League would say no.

Hajo Meyer, a Dutch physicist from Germany who survived 10 months in Auschwitz in 1944, has answered this question with a resounding YES in his absolutely captivating memoir: The End of Judaism. An Ethical Tradition Betrayed. With tremendous love for the Jewish tradition he knew as a child, Meyer’s morally challenging and well documented book is not the kind that makes hyperbolic charges of equivalency between the gas chambers and Israel’s occupation that we have come to expect from the fringes. Far from it.

Rather, he poignantly describes the many years, prior to the mass murder of some 6 million Jews and 5 million others, of his own family’s experiences of dehumanization and humiliation at the hands of other Germans. He is fearless about making the connection to the callousness he sees displayed by many Israeli soldiers in the territories:

We are all too familiar with photographs of Germans in their immaculate uniforms making fun of destitute and frightened Jews. Jews in Germany could count on such humiliation at the hands of the authorities and their fellow citizens. The intimidation and harassment at Israeli checkpoints is not much different from what I experienced in my youth. I will never forget what I went through in this regard, even though it is no longer particularly painful. What I do find painful, however, is the knowledge that the Jews, who are my own people, are involved in similar humiliation of Palestinians.

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The Forward has no sense of irony.

The Forward recently editorialized on the ill-conceived efforts of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, an association of Muslim nations in the United Nations, to call “for a ban on published material that defames or promotes disrespect for religion.” As the Forward points out, “The measure purports to defend all religions, but the only one cited by name is Islam.”

The Forward rightly condemns this effort which enables the silencing of critics of human rights violations done in the name of Islam. But they do so- amazingly- without once acknowledging the extent to which across the board anti-Islamic demonization has reached toxic levels and near total acceptance in the American political discourse. Clearly, leadership on this is badly needed, but passing such a resolution in the UN General Assembly, especially one pushed by countries with terrible human rights records, is not the answer:

Supporters of this initiative tout it as a defense of religious freedom. What it entails, however, is actually the opposite of freedom as understood in the West. It does not seek to defend the rights of individuals to believe and practice as they choose. Rather, it safeguards a faith community’s right to avoid insult or criticism by limiting other people’s’ rights of free expression. It is, in fact, a direct assault on a fundamental Western value, in defense of a different value: namely, protecting an existing doctrine from free inquiry and debate — the sort of thing that the West long ago rejected.

The Forward goes on, without the slightest sense of irony:

Sponsors say their overall goal is to ban speech that mocks or criticizes Islam. It is meant to counter what many Muslims see as a wave of anti-Islamic prejudice in the West in the wake of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. But clear-eyed Westerners see something more subtle and sinister. In the first instance, it is an effort to suppress criticism of Islam, making it more difficult for Western societies to conduct public debate on the challenges posed by radical, fundamentalist Islam. In that sense, it is a counter-thrust against those who call for an Islamic soul-searching or reformation, and those who demand that Islam confront its violent radicals.

Indeed. Here is a terrific object lesson on the evils of religious extremism, of all kinds.

While Israel is not a theocracy per se, but rather an ethnic-preferential state with some theocratic elements, it is precisely this same form of cloaking human rights violations in some kind of sacred veil that makes, to quote the Forward, “free inquiry and debate” as well as “soul-searching or reformation” about Israeli human rights violations nearly impossible in this country.

Neither Muslim states nor the Jewish state are above being held accountable for violating fundamental human rights standards.

Jewish solidarity group urges Canadian gov’t to reverse decision to boycott Durban Review Conference

We wrote earlier about some of the controversy over the upcoming follow-up to the UN conference on racism, otherwise known as Durban II. Canada, the US and Israel have said they will likely boycott the event in Switzerland this Spring.

Earlier today, Canada’s Independent Jewish Voices’ Coordinator Diana Ralph spoke at the Preparatory Committee for the Durban Review Conference (Durban II) to advocate for Canadian participation:

“Unfortunately, there has a systematic attempt to portray Durban I was an ‘anti-Semitic hate-fest’,” Ralph pointed out. “This stems from the fact that at Durban some NGO participants and governments challenged Israel’s racist policies. Instead of addressing the substance of these charges, the government of Israel and those who back it unconditionally chose to brand those who levelled criticism of Israel at Durban as ‘anti-Semitic’,” she noted.

“As Jews, we assert that it is entirely legitimate, not anti-Semitic, to criticize Israeli policies that discriminate against Palestinians – not to mention occupying, torturing, assassinating, and collectively punishing them. Those who have been so critical of the Review appear intent upon discrediting criticism of racist Israeli policies and practices – and to prevent the governments of the US, Canada, and EU countries from being pressured to redress historic and ongoing racist practices,” Ralph continued.

Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting on Islamophobia: tip toes to the edge but won’t jump in

FAIR\'s Smearcasters report now available

Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) has done us all a service by publishing this important downloadable report, Smearcasters: How Islamophobes spread fear, bigotry and misinformation. It is filled with a familiar right-wing cast of characters like self-styled “terrorism expert” Steve Emerson, inveterate Muslim-basher Daniel Pipes, David Horowitz “the Islamophobia movement’s premier promoter”, and Fox talking heads Sean Hannity and BIll O’Reilly.

So what’s wrong with the report? While FAIR documents numerous examples of false reporting, hyperbole, McCarthyite innuendo and pure hate promulgated by these people, they seem to self-censor and deliberately avoid the obvious: the central role played by US-based Likudnik groups in funding and promoting much of this anti-Muslim hysteria.

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