Category Archives: Gaza

Silencing Gaza flotilla activists in the United States

The Israeli government, with the aid of its many proxies- especially in the Jewish institutional world, is working overtime after the Mavi Mavera massacre to paint the Gaza flotilla participants as terrorists.

Apparently–jamming satellite communications, absconding with tens of thousands of dollars of equipment, confiscating every photo and video they could find, and releasing pathetically doctored “evidence” (thank you Ali Abunimah and Max Blumenthal and others) is not enough. Now groups are working to keep flotilla human rights activists out of the country.

Here’s the stunning petition the NY Jewish Community Relations Council has put together to keep activists out. Mondoweiss has audio of retired US Colonel Ann Wright, who was just in NYC, speaking about what happened. She must be the person they’re trying to keep out of the country. Good luck with that.  So much for America-first.

JCRC motto:Meeting challenges indeed. Meanwhile, Iara Lee has even more footage that she and her cameraman were able to sneak off the boat. Unlike the IDF, she has the courage to let you see it unedited and raw.

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Helen Thomas, hypocrisy here and there

It’s impossible to defend Grande Dame of White House journalists Helen Thomas’ recent off the cuff statement that Israeli Jews should go back to Germany…..or Poland. (She said Israel should get out of Palestine, but it wasn’t clear if she meant the Occupied Territories, which Israelis should get out of, or Israel behind the green line.) It was deeply offensive and wrong.

One of this country’s most important and courageous journalists said something terribly wrong, was massively criticized, apologized for it, and was forced into retirement. Exactly the way it should be, right? Wrong.

It’s hard to even chart out the hypocrisy of the whole affair. What happened in 2002 when House Republican Majority Leader Dick Armey called for the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians on MSNBC’s Hardball? An outraged response? Nary a peep. That same year Senator James Inhofe also called for Israel to permanently retain all of the Occupied Territories, “Because God said so. “  Did he quit? No. And what to make of the fact that Obama’s White House summoned infinitely more moral outrage for Thomas’ terrible but certainly not lethal remarks, than for the death of 9 people on the Mavi Marmara, including a 19-year-old US citizen shot in the head. (One prompted “deep regret”, the other was “reprehensible”. Guess which was which.)

There’s also the glass house in which Rabbi Nessenoff lives: he’s the one who recorded the Thomas gotcha video and who, it seems, has offered the world his own offensive imitation of a Mexican priest, and believes that Palestinians all belong back home…in Jordan.

Taking a short trip over to Israel we discover that the Israeli military recently created an order that, according to many human rights groups and Ha’aretz, “will enable mass deportation from West Bank.” Who had to retire because of that? Maybe because it wasn’t an off the cuff remark to suggest ethnic cleansing, but an actual military order to allow it, its authors escaped opprobrium. Wacky!

Just this week, Likud party MK, Miri Regev shouted at Hanin Zuabi, an Arab member of the Knesset from Nazareth who went on the Gaza flotilla, “Get back to Gaza, you traitor!” Sounds familiar, as though Thomas herself could have said it. Outrage meter? Zero. Then again, Israeli Interior Minister Eli Yishai wants Zuabi stripped of her Israeli citizenship, so telling her to go back to a place she is not from actually seems pretty mild by those standards.

Moshe Yaroni, who abhors what Thomas said, compares her treatment to Israel’s response to the Jerusalem Post’s Caroline Glick who is surely responsible for what will go down as one of the most morally heinous pieces of agitprop in modern history:

In Israel, the premier woman journalist in the country went a hell of a lot farther, in a premeditated, rather than an impetuous fashion. And there is hardly a peep in response in her home country.

Caroline Glick is well-known to readers of right-wing e-mail lists, and of course, of the Jerusalem Post, where she is the deputy managing editor and a regular columnist. She is also a fellow at the extremist neoconservative Center for Security Policy in Washington.

Glick herself is an extremist, and even those who agree with her (and who would, of course, not refer to her as an extremist) would have to agree that she situates herself well to the right of the current Israeli government. And that’s all well and good; she’s an op-ed writer, and she is certainly entitled to her opinions.

But at her web site, Latma, Glick has raised her vitriol to a whole new level. In a video overflowing with racism, a group of Israelis satirize the Israeli attack on the Gaza flotilla. You can see it for yourself at the link above, if you can make it through the whole thing.

Caroline Glick with fellow travelers, Morton Klein and John Bolton

In a most contemptible fashion, almost every trope of bigotry is on display in the video, which features the contention that the massive suffering in Gaza is all an elaborate fabrication. For a quick rundown of this “fabricated” suffering, check out B’Tselem’s summary of conditions in Gaza.

This level of cruelty is truly astonishing. Even if one contends that the Gaza blockade is a necessary security measure (see my earlier article for why it has the opposite effect), it is appalling to see fellow Jews laughing about it. And don’t we know all too well the offense in denying such things?
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Stand With Us/SF Voices for Israel shout Pigs for Palestine, threaten activists in San Francisco

[Video of threats and taunts embedded above.]  On June 6th, 2010, peace activists including members of Bay Area Women in Black and Jewish Voice for Peace held a silent vigil outside the main entrance to the San Francisco Jewish Community Federation’s annual “Israel in the Gardens” celebration. The peace activists called for an end to Israel’s occupation of Palestinian Territories and an end to the siege on Gaza. Their silent, dignified march was greeted by members of StandWithUs/SF Voice for Israel and other affiliates who called them “kapos” (concentration camp prisoners who carried out Nazi orders on other prisoners) and suggested that Israel should “sink the next flotilla with you on it.”  One man made repeated explicit threats against the peace activists and their families and used a camera to take pictures. No one from StandWithUs/SF Voice for Israel intervened. Rather, they kept up their vicious and abusive chants which included, according to multiple witnesses:

“Nazi, Nazi, Nazi!” – this done as a group chant
“You’re all being identified, every last one of you…we will find out where you live. We’re going to make your lives difficult..we will disrupt your families…”, all on above video.
“Sink the flotilla—and you on it!”
“Terrorists, terrorists, terrorists.”
One man yelled (to someone who may have looked heat exhausted) “I hope you stroke out, old man!”
“Ugly bitches” said to older women.
“You’re not a Jew! you gave up your Jewishness!”
“Witches in black! Bitches in black!” (hard to tell which one it was, or whether they alternated the chant)
“You fucking…!”
“Bin Laden loves you! you support terrorism!”
“Is there a coroner in the house? Women in Black are dead!”
“Is there a doctor in the house? Women in Black are sick!”
“End the occupation of our sidewalk.”
“Remember 9/11, they were dancing in the streets.”
“Asshole!”
“Anti-Semite!”
“Bigot!”
“Sharmuta!” this was chanted for a while (means “slut” or “whore” in Arabic and which was particularly shocking for Arabic speakers to hear)
“Commit suicide!”
“Anti-women, anti-gay, why support Hamas today!”
They were also lesbian-baiting, even though they were chanting “Anti-women, anti-gay, why support Hamas today?” One guy yelled “lesbian” at me and my friend (correctly assessing our sexual identity) and maybe the same guy yelled at someone else, “When’s the last time you dated a man?”

One guy kept saying “you’re looking at real people now (meaning Stand with Israel folks); you are not people.”

Signs said: “JVP, Proud to be ashamed to be Jewish.”
and “Don’t fuck with the Jews”.

An 88-year-old woman reported being told, “You’re halfway in your grave already’.
“Jihad!” chanted repeatedly at Muslim peace activists.

They also had signs that read, “JVP cons the world”, etc.

One woman waved the end of the large stick of her Israeli flag in a very threatening manner, as if to hit one of us (it happened to me several times as i walked by her), directed especially to those of us who carried signs identifying ourselves as Jews.

At an earlier demonstration last week at the consulate, there was a huge sign on the Stand with Us side (which Stand with Us later condemned). On one side it said “Until Gaza is destroyed, the job is not complete.” On the other, it said “God is great. It’s Islam that sucks.”
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Reframing myths and reality

The Israeli Ministry of Hasbara and Diaspora Affairs has started a new project to recruit Israelis traveling abroad to the cause of ‘explaining’ the kinder, gentler side of Israel. The Hebrew website (http://www.masbirim.gov.il) is called ‘masbirim,’ which literally means ‘we explain.’ The word comes from the same Hebrew root as Hasbara (explanation). For some reason, Israel translates Hasbara as ‘public diplomacy,’ but there is no diplomacy involved at all.

Hasbara (explanation) follows the misguided notion that if Israel could only ‘explain’ itself, people would understand the context for the images they see on TV and the reports they read in the press about the horrors of the attacks on Gaza and the ongoing Israeli occupation. Under this philosophy, Israel need not change its behavior one bit, just spend more resources hoping the world will finally get it.

The new ads, targeted to the Israeli public, present three theoretical myths that people are said to have about Israel. The Globe and Mail explains,

The commercials, part of an initiative called Making the Case for Israel, were first seen this past weekend, and are aimed at the large number of Israelis who travel abroad each year. One ad says people around the world think camels are a common form of transportation in Israel, another alludes to the belief that the Israeli diet consists of kabobs grilled over a primitive barbecue, while a third notes that Independence Day fireworks are often mistaken for military action.

Yuli Edelstein, Israel’s Minister of Hasbara and Diaspora Affairs explains,

“We decided to give Israelis who go abroad tools and tips to help them deal with the attacks on Israel in their conversations with people, media appearances and lectures before wide audiences. I hope we succeed together in changing the picture and proving to the world that there is a different Israel.”

Mr. Edelstein has called the Israeli tourists recruited to this campaign ‘the Israeli Public Diplomacy Forces,’ a clear reference to the Israel Defense Forces, the country’s military.

Each one of the three commercials contains a sad irony that cannot be easily explained with more Hasbara.

A special prejudice appropriation prize goes to the fake-BBC commercial, where a fake-reporter shares with you a supposed myth about Israel: “This is the camel. The camel is a typical Israeli animal used by the Israelis to travel from place to place in the desert where the live. It is the means of transport for water, merchandise, and ammunition. It is even used by the Israeli cavalry.”

Whoever heard of a myth of Israelis riding camels?

The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) on the other hand points to the “the tired stereotype of the Arab world as a place of deserts and camels, of arbitrary cruelty and barbarism,” and its consequences:

Dr. Shaheen remembers being taught in his Lebanese American home to be proud of his family’s Arab heritage. But at school, he remembers teasing, taunts and epithets: “camel jockeys,” “desert niggers,” “greasy Lebs.”

Oh, but for purposes of Hasbara, these appropriations of prejudice do not matter.

The remaining two fake commercials cannot help but remind me of Gaza.

Here’s the fake French-language newscaster: With a background of Israeli airforce planes flying above a city and leaving behind a white streak and of a multitude of fireworks noisily lighting the evening sky, the newscaster says, “We have just learned that at this moment war noises have been heard in several Israeli cities. Our special correspondents report shootings and strong explosions which can be heard throughout the whole country.”

The strong explosions being heard throughout the land bring to mind this January 10/09 witness account from Israel’s war on Gaza (Sleep hard to come by in bombarded Gaza):

At 12:15pm I’d noted and photographed the white stream of chemical clouds billowing over large expanses of eastern Gaza…

And later at 3:20 am:

In the hospital room where I tried to sleep between an ambulance shift and morning obligations, the tank shelling and firing is in the room, landing on my pillow.

It’s the shells, which crack and blast. The staccato gunfire. The drones’ whine, in menacing pitches. The fighter plane’s sudden, thundering presence.

The drone ramps up the decibels, a train wreck of disharmony.

And the inevitable whoosh before the explosion, an F-16 launch which erupts a crater where someone’s house, or a market, or a mosque once stood. The blast an hour ago was a market, another nurse tells me. “It was a beautiful market, sold everything, everything we need,” she says.

I have saved the Spanish-language fake commercial to the end because it tops the cake, so to speak. Here’s the fake Spanish-language newscaster: ‘In Israel in the majority of the homes there is neither electricity nor gas, so that Israelis continue using primitive cooking methods such as bbq.”

You gotta be kidding me! This looks like a bad joke, when you compare to the Palestinian reality, not the Israeli myth. From last year’s The Atlantic’s In Gaza, Eating Under Siege:

And then there’s the question of fuel for cooking. The borders sometimes allow cooking gas to enter, sometimes not. As the power facilities have been bombed several times, electricity is very sporadic. Many families have small generators, but most of the gasoline for these must also be piped in through the tunnels, which is very expensive. Faced with the frequent impossibility of finding any kind of fuel for cooking, many families have recurred to their grandmother’s memories, fashioning traditional adobe ovens on the roofs and balconies of their modern apartment buildings.

Lest you think that these were Gaza’s temporary troubles in 2009, I give you 2008:

Umm Jamal Al Baba, a 60-year-old from Rafah camp, stands visibly tired in a queue of hundreds for bread. “I can no longer make bread in my house – there is no gas for cooking, no electricity.”
Now that rice had disappeared under the siege, or priced out of the reach of most people, bread means survival for Palestinians in Gaza Strip.
In Gaza, It’s Darkness at Noon, IPS, Jan 23, 2008

and yes, 2010:

Cooking gas rationing continues…
(UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Occupied Palestinian Territory, February 2010 report)

If the commercials are bad, imagine the talking points for the Israeli traveler. Peace Now secretary-general Yariv Openheimer complained that the new Israeli government website were these videos are housed contains information that would move Jewish Israeli public opinion towards an uncompromising right. According to the JPost,

He noted that the site does not encourage advocating the two-state solution, it talks about the need to keep Judea, Samaria and the Golan Heights, and it suggests that evacuating settlers would harm their human rights.

Let’s see how these ideas are developed by the Israeli tourists who choose to join the “Israeli Public Diplomacy Forces.”

– Sydney Levy

Pogrebin on the “Israel-right-or-wrong mafia” in Moment magazine

First Jewish Week’s James Besser, and now the writer Letty Cottin Pogrebin, known to many as a feminist hero and Jewish activist, has written a groundbreaking piece in the Jewish magazine Moment. Her essay, “Jewish McCarthyism Strikes Gold(stone)”, in which she decries the shameful campaign against Richard Goldstone who investigated the war with Gaza on behalf of the UN, is remarkable because of where it appears, a respected Jewish magazine read by members of all branches of American Judaism. More evidence that the Jewish center is shifting and that the starry-eyed love-affair we American Jews have had with our fantasy of Israel is ending. Pogrebin writes:

Some weeks after the report’s release, a rabbi friend emailed me asking what I thought of it, promising me “confidentiality.” He knew how perilous it can be for a Jew to go public with an opinion that diverges from the “mainstream,” meaning the views expressed by “Jewish leaders” of “major Jewish organizations” and others who purport to speak for “the Jewish community.”

To understand the price for breaking ranks, just look at how mercilessly Judge Goldstone—a proud Jew and declared Zionist—was vilified, not by gentile anti-Semites or Arabist Israel-haters but by Jews in the Israel-right-or-wrong mafia who, rather than address the troubling issues raised in the report, resorted to character assassination to delegitimate its lead author.

Regarding Goldstone’s final report, she concludes:

I wish the document’s charges were being actively discussed and convincingly rebutted by an internal investigation, but debate has been effectively squelched. Smears and death threats have done little to erode Judge Goldstone’s prestige among those familiar with his lifelong commitment to truth and justice. But the ad hominen attacks have deeply wounded him, his wife, two daughters and four grandsons who must relate to their Jewish friends and colleagues under a cloud of McCarthyite slander.

Of course, on the surface, such a deliberate and calculated attempt by a significant portion of the Jewish and Israeli leadership to destroy the life of another Jew, who by all accounts is not just a great human being but a true friend to Israel, makes absolutely no sense. But as we see in this older but must-read Nation article, Israeli historian Idith Zertal shows in Israel’s Holocaust and the Politics of Nationhood that the builders of the state of Israel, like Ben-Gurion, long acted as though the interests of the Zionist project far outweighed the interests of individual Jews, whether Mizrachi Jews from Arab countries or traumatized Holocaust survivors. The stories are sadly numerous: From the tragic 4,500 Holocaust survivors on the famous Exodus ship, who through Ben-Gurion’s intervention were forced to stay on the boat for 7 months (Chaim Weizmann convinced the French Prime Minister to take them in as refugees, but Ben-Gurion thought they were more useful to him if they remained on the ship and helped build sympathy for a future Israel) — to the coerced “recruitment”  of exhausted Holocaust survivors into the Haganah, the Jewish underground militia that fought the war of ’48.

Certainly anyone who has witnessed protests by elderly, poverty-stricken Israeli Holocaust survivors and their families against an Israeli government that failed to care for them would find this history believable. Or those aware of the cavalier attitudes towards Jewish life exemplified by the settlement project itself. And so on and so forth…

In that sense, Pogrebin’s piece is striking for what it doesn’t say explicitly but necessarily plants in the minds of Jewish readers: perhaps it’s long past time to assume the interests of most Jews are aligned with the interests of Israeli governments when it comes to valuing the lives of Jews, let alone our cousins, Palestinians. As a Jew essentially sacrificed at the altar of toxic nationalism, Goldstone sadly has plenty of good company.

-Cecilie Surasky
cecilie@jvp.org

B’Tselem’s Anat Biletzki: the worst thing that we do is we don’t use words at all

Chanukah has ended. As Rabbi Brian Walt reminded us, one year ago

on Shabbat Hannukah (Saturday December 27, 2008), Israel launched Operation Cast Lead. On that day, Saturday December 27, 2008, at 11:30 in the morning, a time when schoolchildren were still in school, 88 Israeli aircraft simultaneously attacked 100 preplanned targets in Gaza within a span of 4 minutes. This initial attack was followed by another attack and by the end of that Sabbath day, at least 230 Palestinians were killed and more than 700 injured. Shabbat Hannukah last year, was the day with the highest one-day death toll in the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

By its end, nearly 1,400 Gazans and 13 Israelis were dead, thousands more Gazans injured and left homeless.

Vicious character assassination, event cancellations, social isolation, and the infrequent lost job (or more frequent lost funding) all take their toll on our collective search for full equality for Palestinians and Israelis. Countless people remain silent when we could speak, bury our heads precisely at the moment we must raise them.

While we understand why this works, the truth is that there’s simply no excuse, not now, to allow ourselves to be silenced. Not when we know the price we pay is nothing compared to the price paid by millions of mostly Palestinians but also Israelis, all of whom love their children as much as we love ours. Not when we all know our silence will only lead to another Operation Cast Lead, another Jenin, another Sderot, another Mohammad Othman, another Rachel Corrie, another suicide bombing, another leg of the wall, another Yitzhak Rabin.

ABOVE: VIDEO From the vaults of Jewish Voice for Peace, B’Tselem’s Anat Biletzki poses the question, “What do we do with our voice?” She says, “Words don’t fail, it’s people who fail…We fail in using words: we misuse them, we abuse words, we do terrible things with words, but the worst thing that we do is we don’t use words at all. That we keep silent, that we don’t give voice to things that must be given voice.”

Every time you are silenced or allow yourself to be silenced, you must come back stronger and louder than ever. On this, the anniversay of the attack on Gaza, I hope you too will make a promise to speak the truth you know, to stand for full equality and humanity and against repression in all its forms, to assertively challenge someone who puts forth lies or hatred. It’s not just the humanity of Palestinians that is at stake, it’s the humanity of Israelis, and indeed, we Jews and Americans.

-Cecilie Surasky

Anne Bayefsky is an anti-Semite and a hypocrite, attacks on Goldstone cross the line

In the embedded video (after 25 second ad, go to 6:10), The Hudson Institute’s wacky Anne Bayefsky couldn’t be clearer. She spells out her strategy of turning Israel into a perpetual victim to divert world attention from the serious charges in the Goldstone report, the UN’s human rights investigation of Gaza:

I think that the world of human rights has developed a weapon, I call it the ‘human rights weapon’. It’s one which inverts victim and perpetrator. It’s one which is designed to deflect attention from the human rights abuses by those who violate human rights. It is intended to circle the wagons, to invoke mass hysteria which suggest to people that they are under threat, which is in fact, imaginary. And to develop excuses for hatred and for terrorism. It’s a tried and trued formula after all isn’t it? To create imaginary enemies, to exaggerate what is a kernel of truth and to divert attention from the real violations in our midst.

Oops, she’s actually referring here to what she calls “the phenomenon that surrounds the rise of allegations of Islamophobia,” not, amazingly to the rise in allegations of anti-Semitism against all critics of Israel.

She and her friends at the American Jewish Committee’s UN Watch and NGO Monitor are some of the world’s top practitioners of this technique. They do everything they can to weaken and destroy the international human rights infrastructure so that Israel is never held accountable for its illegal occupation, siege of Gaza and more. And, just as she describes above, they do it through elevating the anti-Semitism threat level to HYSTERICAL RED! everywhere, all the time.

(Let’s be clear: The UN Human Rights Council unfairly targets Israel for opprobrium- that’s simply a fact. But the mission of these groups isn’t to restore balance; it’s to make sure Israel is never held accountable for its ongoing illegal behavior, which, it should be obvious to anyone, makes them the worst kinds of “friends” Israel could have. And their preferred method of achieving this goal is to use charges of anti-Semitism to vilify good human rights workers and institutions, peace activists, and from what I’ve seen with my own eyes, Islam and nearly all of its adherents.)

But back to Bayefsky’s talk from the video. “Imaginary enemy” #1 of the Jewish people? According to Bayefsky, in “UN report a 21st century blood libel, scholar says in Geneva,” it is none other than world-respected-jurist, friend-of-Israel, Hebrew University-board-of-governors-member Richard Goldstone.

South African jurist Richard Goldstone exploited his Judaism to endanger the State of Israel, the Hudson Institute’s Anne Bayefsky charged on Tuesday, slamming the chief author of the controversial UN report on the IDF incursion into Gaza in January.

“Richard, how does it feel to have used your Jewishness to jeopardize the safety and security of the people of Israel and to find yourself in the company of human rights abusers everywhere?” Bayefsky asked.

She was one of the few pro-Israel speakers to address the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, which spent the entire day debating the report commissioned by the council, a draft copy of which was released two weeks ago.

Bayefsky compared the Goldstone Report to the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

“The Goldstone mission will go down in history as the 21st century’s equivalent,” said Bayefsky, a senior fellow of the Hudson Institute in New York and an outspoken critic of the UN’s stance on Israel.

“At its core, the Goldstone Report repeats the ancient blood libel against the Jewish people – the allegation of bloodthirsty Jews intent on butchering the innocent,” she said.

With this report, the UN has rendered the right of the Jewish people to self-defense a “crime against humanity,” she continued.

Someone has to finally call this kind of viciousness what it is and stop putting up with it- she’s an anti-Semite. The peculiarly epic charges she wields against Goldstone are clearly reserved for that most evil entity, in Bayefsky’s eyes, another Jew willing to take a clear-eyed look at Israel’s undeniable human rights violations. That level of demonization, in the context of a continued rise in violent religious zealotry, means she is literally willing to sacrifice him.

But he’s also a proxy. She hates Jews like Goldstone, but also Jews like Philip Weiss, Jews like Naomi Klein, Jews like Sara Roy, Jews like Norman Finkelstein.

She makes my family less safe because she cheapens the charges of anti-Semitism, which in itself is a form of Jewish hatred and contempt. And she makes my Muslim and Palestinian friends less safe because the only way she can make her case it to demonize them.

I first encountered Bayefsky at the UN’s Durban Review Conference in Geneva, where she put together a panel of all-stars like Elie Wiesel, Alan Dershowitz (who actually called Goldstone “some Jew” while on the panel) and (a clearly not entirely there) Jon Voight, only too willing to serve their purpose of demonizing and dehumanizing Palestinians, and all other Muslims for good measure. One Palestinian friend who was also there called it, “the worst two hours” of his life.  I could barely believe that people displaying this kind of outrageous racism- at an anti-racism conference no less-could be taken seriously.

No one should take her seriously now, except as a dangerous bigot, willing to sacrifice not just Palestinians and Muslims, but now at least one Jew named Goldstone, by all accounts a good and decent man, to achieve her objectives of making sure that Israel remains above the law.

It’s entirely likely that Goldstone, who cares deeply about Israel, and who also condemned Hamas for their well-documented war crimes, understands the danger (to Israel) of wanting it to be above the law. If only Bayefsky and her friends did.

UN Report on Cast Lead, Jewish Self-Hatred and Spin

The recent release of the UN study headed by the South African jurist Richard Goldstone is a watershed of sorts in the diplomatic history of Israel. An ardent supporter/friend of Israel with family living in Israel, Goldstone’s report is sober yet scathing regarding Israel’s actions in Gaza. The report details not just the slaughter of civilians but the seemingly planned destruction of civilian infrastructure that could, in no way, be considered militarily related (unless the futile goal was to make the bombed civilians turn against Hamas). The report also unequivocally condemns Hamas for the war crime of firing on civilian populations in Israel, and likely for that reason, both Israel and Hamas were finally able to agree on one thing, their condemnation of the report.

Further, the report goes on to describe Israeli governmental censorship efforts as well as government efforts to suppress dissent within Palestinian Israeli populations (obvious Muzzlewatch concerns) . Perhaps most importantly, the report goes into detail describing the effects of the occupation in the West Bank as well as the siege of Gaza. This contextualization is particularly damning and frequently completely missing from mainstream analysis. The fact that such a high profile report seamlessly includes this context is refreshing from the point of view of those working to stop the occupation, and conversely, quite galling for those who seek to keep the status quo.

The war crimes committed by Hamas, are deplorable and also described in the report, but they are also placed within the context of a people trying to fight occupation. Israel’s actions are allowed no such context. Israeli maximalist existentialist fears, whether heartfelt delusion or cold eyed cynicism, are simply not treated. Thus most of the responsibility, as it should be, is placed on the shoulders of Israel, whose firepower, and the resulting death toll, utterly dwarfed that of Hamas. (One is left to conclude, logically, that a government seeking to protect the citizens of Sderot and Ashkelon, as it should, would do so by ending the illegal siege of Gaza, not by making life even more intolerable for people who would, like Jews or anyone else in the same situation, fight back.)

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Netanyahu’s attempts to silence Breaking the Silence

Netanyahu has asked Spain, Britain and The Netherlands to stop directly funding the Israeli human rights group Breaking the Silence (BTS).  BTS has been releasing IDF soldier testimony on the invasion/massacre in Gaza.  The accounts by the soldiers are harrowing and document war crimes.  The Israeli government claims that governmental support of “politicized” NGOs undermines democracy in the Jewish state.  Netanyahu is    “contemplating legislation that would ban foreign government funding for groups such as Breaking the Silence.”   The main argument is that foreign governmental funding of non-governmental institutions that are ostensibly working “against” the interests of the duly elected government are undemocratic.  Ron Dermer, Netanyahu’s senior political adviser, was quoted as saying that funding from foreign embassies for the group amounted to “blatant and unacceptable” intervention in Israel’s internal affairs.

But Don Futterman (program director, Israel, of the Moriah Fund, a private American foundation working in Israel to support civil society and democracy, immigrant absorption and education.) has a different take,

“If our defense minister (Avigor Lieberman) wants us to live up to the claim that the IDF is “the most moral army on earth,” he should welcome soldiers who speak out about illegal acts that they have witnessed or were asked to perform. In our post-war rush to elections, we unfortunately – and perhaps, conveniently – skipped over any discussion concerning the morality of what the army has done. But even our fears of one-sided international condemnation of our actions in Gaza cannot justify official attempts to silence the messenger, especially when that messenger is us.”

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More controversy about Rachel Corrie’s mother at San Francisco’s Jewish Film Fest

There’s something so deeply, deeply depressing about the attack against Cindy Corrie by J Weekly, the Bay Area’s Jewish newspaper. True, it’s just one of countless examples of the moral malaise that plagues the institutional Jewish world when it comes to Palestinians, but on this day, this day when I am fresh back from Gaza, from Hebron, from Silwan, it has gotten to me.

I’m not sure which is worse- the possibility that the J’s editorial writer actually believes the morally groundless drivel he or she is writing? Or the possibility that they know full well that the moral outrage that is the Israeli treatment of Gazans is an affront to all Jews and feeling people, but that they care more about keeping advertisers happy.

While acknowledging the right of the SF Jewish Film Festival to air the film Rachel, a documentary made by Jewish-Israeli filmaker Simone Bitto , the Bay Area’s Jewish magazine has condemned in an editorial the decision to invite Cindy Corrie. Cindy is the mother of  the subject of the film, Rachel Corrie, who was killed by an Israeli Defense Forces bulldozer while protesting home demolitions in Gaza.

As a grieving mother, Cindy Corrie has our sympathies. No parent should ever have to bury a child. But as an echo chamber of her daughter’s repulsive opinions, this woman has no business attending and speaking at a Jewish event like the film festival.

We are all for free speech. We are all for scheduling controversial films. But Cindy Corrie’s appearance crosses a line. The Jewish Film Festival is under no obligation to offer a microphone to Israel-bashers.

Israel-bashers? Repulsive opinions? For free speech? Oh to have just one hour to take the J editors to Gaza to see for themselves that which the Corries have so rightfully denounced. I just returned from there, and yet again, I have never been so confronted with the fact of meaningless, cruel and vindictive suffering. This has nothing to do with Israel-bashing. In fact, if you care about Israel, and only Israel, you still will come down on the side of the Corries, for it’s nearly impossible to see a decent future for Israelis if the country continues to harm and radicalize Gazans through illegal blockades and incursions and war.

Rabbi Brian Walt has clearly been to Gaza. He knows Cindy Corrie (As do I, and I agree with every single word he says about her). He gets it:

In my position as Executive Director of Rabbis for Human Rights-North America,  I have worked with Cindy and Craig, Rachel Corrie’s parents.  They are extraordinary human beings who generously support the work of Rabbis for Human Rights and other Israeli human rights and peace groups. They have visited with Rabbi Arik Ascherman, the Executive Director of RHR in Israel, and others in the RHR office in Jerusalem and have consistently supported our work.  I have been moved in my conversations with them, by their integrity and their deep commitment to a just peace.  If I were in their situation,  I would imagine that the temptation to hate  those who killed my daughter would be hard to resist.  (Forman points out that the details of Rashel’s death are disputed.  He doesn’t mention that it was Israel’s refusal to agree to an impartial investigation that prevented us from knowing the truth.  In a very similar action,  Israel recently refused to cooperate with the Goldstone Commission into the Gaza war, even though Judge Goldstone is a committed Jew and made it clear that he would be investigating violations by both sides.)  Despite their daughter’s tragic death, the Corries have never spoken in a hateful  way towards Israel or Jews.  On the contrary, they are deeply committed to peace and to the security of all people in the conflict, Israelis and Palestinians.