Category Archives: Government

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)

By RALPH NADER

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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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?

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Only Tina Fey and SNL call out the pandering? You’ll never believe the one place McCain is leading.

This presidential campaign seems to be so far beyond any hope for authentic discussion about the peace process and the disastrous 8 years of BushCo, that we are now simply reduced to pointing out cases of bald-faced pandering. While both presidential candidates have assiduously sought to avoid the topic of Israel and Palestine–Obama’s in particular disastrous AIPAC flip flop on sharing Jerusalem aside–the VPs did have a chance last Friday to nearly come to blows over who loves Israel more. (This kind of “love”– unconditional support for settlement expansion and militarism, the ultimate barriers to peace, is the original love that dare not speak its name. It’s the kind of love to nowhere that Israeli friends would respond to with a “thanks, but no thanks.”)

There is no small irony that the discourse here becomes increasingly jingoistic, kind of like a Palin rally, just as Israel’s outgoing prime minister Olmert “declared that Israel must give up control of East Jerusalem, the Golan Heights and virtually the entire West Bank if it hopes to achieve peace with its neighbors.”

Amen.

As many commentators have pointed out, leave it to the comedy shows to say what no one else will. In case you’re one of the 3 people who haven’t yet seen Tina Fey’s most recent Oct 4 Sarah Palin imitation, SNL did call out Palin, though not Biden, for superficial pandering.

Forward to 2:48 on embedded video:
Latifah/Ifill: Governor Pailin? What is your position on health care regulation?
Fey/Palin: I’m going to ignore that question and instead talk about Israel.
I love Israel so much, bless its heart.
There’s a special place for Israel in heaven.
And I know some people are going to say that I’m only saying that to pander to Florida voters, but from a very young age, my two greatest loves were always Jews and Cuban food. (blows a kiss)

Extremists try to kill Israeli peace advocate, Peace Now head also under protection

Israel’s Public Security Minister Avi Dichter called the pipe bomb blast that [lightly] injured Haaretz columnist and peace advocate Prof. Ze’ev Sternhell earlier today an “assassination attempt” and a “nationalistic terror attack perpetrated, in all likelihood, by Jews, which pushes our society many years backward.”">Ze\'ev SternhellIsrael’s Public Security Minister Avi Dichter called the pipe bomb blast that [lightly] injured Haaretz columnist and peace advocate Prof. Ze’ev Sternhell earlier today an “assassination attempt” and a “nationalistic terror attack perpetrated, in all likelihood, by Jews, which pushes our society many years backward.”

The LA Times reports that Israeli leftists say this isn’t about a few nuts, but is part of an escalation of attacks, linking it to increased settler violence against Palestinians.

Israeli leaders including Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Defense Minister Ehud Barak lined up to decry the attack as an affront to Israeli democracy.

A vocal critic of Israeli treatment of the Palestinians and the settler movement who also identifies himself as a super-Zionist, earlier this year he won Israel’s most prestigious honor, the Israel Prize. But it also caused an angry outcry from many in the illegal Settler movement, likely leading to this attack on his home where the bomb exploded. (Many Israelis talk openly about how the conflict with the Palestinians serves at least one important function, uniting Israelis so they can postpone confronting their own massive and growing secular/extremist religious internal divide.)

Shortly after the bombing, police found “fliers offering more then NIS 1 million to anyone who kills members of left-wing human rights organization Peace Now.” That’s about $300,000. Police are now offering protection to Peace Now head Yariv Oppenheimer.

BELOW: Video of recent settler attacks on Palestinian village of Asira, which Israeli leftists say is part of overall escalation of violent attacks, including the assassination attempt on Sternhell. The video is posted by Israeli human rights group B’Tselem, which opened its first US office yesterday.

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Judge puts kibosh on Seattle anti-occupation/anti-war ballot initiative

A Seattle judge recently declared inappropriate Divest from War’s I-97 initiative effort, requiring Seattle’s employee pension fund to divest from companies that profit from war and occupation in Iraq and the Palestinian Territories.

Plaintiffs in the case included the City of Seattle, the Washington Israel Business Council, and the right wing group, Stand With Us.

Proponents, who were well on their way to collecting sufficient signatures to get the prop on the ballot, must now figure out how they will continue their campaign.

Campaign and Phinney Neighbors for Peace member Karen Jones said

This is a blow to grassroots democracy in the city of Seattle. This ruling says that there is one
aspect of city operations that is not subject to legislative oversight, giving way too much
power to the pension board. However, this campaign is in no way over.

This does not appear to be an obvious case of muzzling. Apparently, state law says only the city’s retirement board gets to make decisions regarding investments. That means even a ballot initiative can’t trump the board. Yet, Seattle’s city council once passed a resolution which got the city to pull stocks from companies profiting from South African apartheid. And a current councilman has asked the pension fund’s managers to consider a Darfur-related proposal.

Still, when voters are being given the right to have a say over everything from who can and can’t marry, to who can have abortions, one has to wonder who exactly is defining the term “appropriate.” Since it is taxpayer money, an initiative giving citizens some say about how their monies are spent seems entirely appropriate.

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Jon Stewart on ability to talk openly about Israeli policies

[CONSPIRACY THEORY UPDATE- SEE BELOW}

Watch The Daily Show’s Indecision 5768 on Clinton, McCain and Obama speaking at AIPAC.

Stewart says:

One part of being a good friend to Israel is constructive criticism of any of its polices that may not be in the best interest of the world, so lets hear the candidates critiques of current Israeli policy… [silent video of candidates.)

Oh I forgot! You can’t say anything remotely citical of Israel and still gete elected president. Which is funny, because you know where you can criticize Israel? Uh Israel.

June 11 UPDATE: DID THE DAILY SHOW SELF CENSOR?

We’ve been getting emails from people who said the links to the infamous Indecision 5678 segment are now dead. The direct link we have above still works fine. But it’s also true that if you don’t happen to have the direct link, it’s now impossible to find using various search mechanisms on The Daily Show website. In fact, all video segments going back to May 28 are no longer searchable on the timeline. The segment doesn’t show up in direct search, or using tags either. The entire June 5 episode is available, however, on the front page. But you’d have to know it was there to find it. It’s the Adam Sandler episode.

Accidental or deliberate? You decide.

One thing is certain, with 251,884 viewers, Indecision 5678 has proved to be one of The Daily Show’s most popular segments ever.

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NYT op-ed: American Jewish organizations are the obstacle to peace

I don’t exactly see the world the way Jeffrey Goldberg does, but on these points I couldn’t agree with him more. His Sunday NYT op-ed, in a special issue looking at 60 years of Israeli independence, insisted that hope for an independent Palestinian state requires not just the ending of but the “reversal of the West Bank settlement project.” On this, pretty much the entire world, including many Israelis, agree. But why hasn’t it happened? Why isn’t the United States demanding the removal of settlements, instead of issuing half-hearted useless warnings while Israel continues to build more and more settlements each day on land that does not belong to it?

(One can only imagine the groans of contempt in the audience this week as President Bush excoriated Arab leaders for their closed systems and violations of human rights, only days after the love-fest at the Knesset where he conveniently overlooked Israel’s role in degrading human rights in the region. )

Goldberg says the problem is American Jewish organizations, who through some fantasized world of their own making, insist on taking positions to the right of even Olmert. The relationship between most American Jews and Israel has always been mediated through fundraisers for the state. Jews have been sold a heady mix of heroic myth-making and vicarious pride. And until now, it has worked, if you don’t actually pick up a newspaper or go to Israel and step out of the carefully scripted tours to see the complex reality. (Yes, just like the US is a much more complex reality than the one-dimensional “patriotic” pablum we are often asked to ingest.)

But Israelis don’t need “friends” who promote a fantasy-based idea of who they are and what they need. They need friends who know how to say, enough is enough. You are destroying yourselves and taking everyone with you. As Goldberg observed,

…by the standards of rhetorical correctness maintained by such groups as the Conference of Presidents and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or Aipac, Mr. Obama is actually more pro-Israel than either Ehud Olmert or Ehud Barak. (To say nothing of John McCain and President George W. Bush, who spoke to the Knesset last week about external threats to Israel’s safety but made no mention of the country’s missteps.)

Goldberg knows the settlements are the main obstacle to peace, and that the US, and anyone who wants to be president of the US, refuses to hold the Israeli government accountable.

So why won’t American leaders push Israel publicly? Or, more to the point, why do presidential candidates dance so delicately around this question? The answer is obvious: The leadership of the organized American Jewish community has allowed the partisans of settlement to conflate support for the colonization of the West Bank with support for Israel itself.

Goldberg argues that “unthinking American support does hurt Israel.” And it does. But why can’t our presidential candidates actually say what they think, and have an honest conversation about blind US support for terrible Israeli policies?

They should be able to talk, in blunt terms, about the full range of dangers faced by Israel, including the danger Israel has brought upon itself.

But this won’t happen until Aipac and the leadership of the American Jewish community allow it to happen.

It’s time for this older generation of leaders to step out of the way and allow a different generation to take the reins.

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Congressional lawmakers go after Jimmy Carter

The Jewish Telegraphic Agency reports:

Two Republican congressmen introduced legislation that would deny the Carter Center federal dollars.

Two Republican congressmen introduced legislation that would deny the Carter Center federal dollars.

U.S. Reps. Joe Knollenberg (R-Mich.) and Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) introduced the Coordinated American Response to Extreme Radicals Act , or CARTER Act, last week in the wake of former President Jimmy Carter’s recent outreach to Hamas.

“America must speak with one voice against our terrorist enemies,” Knollenberg said in a statement. “It sends a fundamentally troubling message when an American dignitary is engaged in dialogue with terrorists. My legislation will make sure that taxpayer dollars are not being used to support discussions or negotiations with terrorist groups.”

The Zionist Organization of American praised the legislation.

Carter’s Atlanta-based center focuses mostly on international development. The former president met with Hamas officials against the advice of the Bush administration. He defended his meetings as his attempt to help bring an end to the violence on the Israel-Gaza Strip border.

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State Department on anti-Semitism; Occupation 101 Canceled; New Yorker on academic witch hunt

_statedeptreport.jpgCheck out the State Department’s new report on global anti-Semitism. (Download it here.)

Paul Kujawsky, writing in Los Angeles Jewish Journal, likes it because

…it rejects the purported distinction between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism: Denying the Jewish people its right of national self-determination (the essence of Zionism) is a sort of anti-Semitism. Describing anti-Zionism as “the new anti-Semitism,” the report states that it “has the effect of promoting prejudice against all Jews by demonizing Israel and Israelis and attributing Israel’s perceived faults to its Jewish character.”

Kujawsky criticizes the report because it remains relatively silent on Palestinian anti-Semitism.

I haven’t had a chance to read the report yet, so I’ll just state the glaringly obvious: to even begin to have a conversation about alarming acts of anti-Semitism, anywhere in the world, while rendering completely invisible Israel’s human rights record, as a self-identified Jewish state, is pathological. Rather than blaming and pathologizing everyone else, Israel and the US could just once have a conversation about how they feed the problem and fuel anti-Semitism through their actions.

Exterminate Muslims

The photo on the cover of the State Department report reminded me of the graffiti throughout Hebron in the West Bank, as shown in the image above, where extremist Jewish settlers have taken over the old city and harass Palestinians with impunity, thanks to the protection of the IDF (I and thousands of others have seen this with our own eyes, Israeli soldiers with Breaking the Silence have written about their devastating service there.) This needs to be part of the discussion rather than denied.

Cancellation of Occupation 101 film at Canadian University

The Windsor Star reports about the cancellation of a well-known anti-occupation film, which incidentally features a number of Jewish critics of occupation, amidst charges that it is anti-Semitic.(You can watch the film here, or the trailer.)

An event meant to shed light on the “crisis in Palestine” was cancelled at the University of Windsor on Tuesday following complaints that it would incite anti-Jewish and anti-Israeli bigotry.

Despite the controversy, leaders of Muslim and Jewish student groups said the cancelled event became a positive thing by inspiring dialogue. “Our goal was in no way to intimidate or to scare or to make anyone uncomfortable,” said Osama Iqbal, president of the Muslim Students Association.

Organized by the MSA, the event was to feature the screening of a film called Occupation 101: Voices of the Silenced Majority.

The documentary film depicts Palestinians recounting abuse at the hands of Israeli soldiers.

Posters promoting the event included the sentence: “Say NO to these atrocities NOW and learn the FACTS.”

In responding to charges that the film is anti-Semitic, and feeds anti-Jewish stereotypes by showing the victimization of Palestinians at the hands of Israel soldiers:

Iqbal said he wasn’t aware the film was so problematic, and the MSA wasn’t trying to inflame political or religious differences. He said the intent of the event was to focus on the humanitarian aspects of the situation in Palestine.

“It was basically anti-occupation, and not anti-Israel,” Iqbal said. “Actually, we were going to have an introduction, a briefing emphasizing that.”

Along with the film, the event was to include a lecture by Abdel Qadir Tayebi of the Windsor Islamic Association — described by Iqbal as the MSA’s chaplain or spiritual adviser.

On the day of the event, Iqbal said he was approached by the university’s international students adviser, and he made the decision to cancel once he realized how Jewish students felt.

New Yorker’s Jane Kramer has in-depth piece on the campaign against Barnard anthrolpologist Nadia Abu El-Haj

We covered this story extensively at Muzzlewatch. It’s great to see the New Yorker do its typically thorough in-depth reporting on the phenomenon of outside, ideological intervention in academia in the context of Israel-Palestine politics. Richard Silverstein of Tikun Olam, who is mentioned in Kramer’s article, has a copy here . Kramer begins:

Like other American anthropologists of her generation, she was interested in epistemology; she wanted to examine knowledge as a social construct, strongly connected to time, place, politics, and identity, and she wanted to do it in a culture where the status of common knowledge was being contested, even violently contested. She considered working on Palestineher father was born therebut she ended up in Israel, learning Hebrew, poring over British-mandate and Israeli archives, and eventually moving into the ?eld to document, and in many ways challenge, the claims and practices of Israeli archeology in the creation of the countrys historical imagination and its contemporary self-description. She was not the ?rst anthropologist to do this. Israeli social scientists had been debating the politics of archeology for years. But she was arguably the ?rst with a name like Abu El-Haj.

You can guess the rest, or read about it here. And in the end, by the way, El-Haj did get tenure.

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Eric Alterman on Obama’s Jewish problem

In (Some) Jews Against Obama, the Nation’s Eric Alterman has the most in-depth roundup I’ve seen yet of charges leveled against Obama by various American Likudnik Jewish leaders including Mort Klein of the the Zionist Organization of America, Malcolm Hoenlein of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, and a counsel at the American Jewish Committee.

During the past few months a small group of neoconservative Jews, many of whom hold key positions in the world of official Jewish institutions, have been working to undermine the presidential candidacy of Barack Obama with a series of carefully planted character assassinations and deliberately misleading innuendo.

Alterman quotes Matthew Yglesias:

“First Obama was an anti-Semite because Zbigniew Brzezinski is an anti-Semite. Then Obama was an anti-semite because Robert Malley is an anti-semite. And now according to [Commentary's Noah] Pollack [sic] it’s Samantha Power who’s tainted by Jew-hatred.”

As usual, attempts at painting Obama as anti-Israel have had almost no traction with the majority of American Jews, whose liberal views comport with Obama’s with quite nicely.
What exactly are they so scared of? Alterman writes:

Perhaps it is honesty about the issue. Speaking to a largely Jewish audience in Cleveland, Obama explained, “There is a strain within the pro-Israel community that says unless you adopt an unwavering pro-Likud approach to Israel, you’re anti-Israel and that can’t be the measure of our friendship with Israel.” Then came his kicker: “One of the things that struck me when I went to Israel was how much more open the debate was around these issues in Israel than they are sometimes here in the United States.” No wonder he scares them so…

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