Friday, October 30, 2009

Israel, sanctions and the blackness of pots

According to conventional Zionist wisdom, Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel is antisemitic. Pots are calling a kettle black; your country is worse than Israel and you say nothing; shouldn't Manhattan be returned to the Cherokee; why Israel and not Sudan, etc., etc., etc.

Do they have a point? They might if there existed some kind of obligation for all countries to focus on the most grievous human rights abuses, and if chastizing Israel were in some way unique.

But that's not the case, and one example is provided by Israel's staunchest ally. For the last 45 years, the United States has been enforcing a trade embargo on Cuba that has crippled the island's economy. US companies are forbidden to do business there, its carriers are not allowed to fly tourists to Havanna, etc. A Cuban Democracy Act was passed during the Clinton era despite the island being much more democratic than other countries the US buys like crazy from (where's the Saudi Democracy Act, or the Chinese Democracy Act?).

The American embargo of Cuba is annually condemned at the UN, as it should be. Only two countries, apart from the US itself, support that very selective punishment of a country over relatively minor human rights violations.

Are you suspecting something by now? Please confirm your hunch:

The U.N. General Assembly on Wednesday overwhelmingly condemned the U.S. trade embargo on Cuba, an annual ritual that highlights global opposition to the policy.

This year's vote was 187-3 in opposition to the embargo, up from 185-3 last year, with only Israel and the tiny Pacific island nation of Palau supporting the United States. It was the 19th year in a row that the General Assembly has taken up the symbolic measure, with Washington steadily losing what little support it once had.

Here's a query for my readers. Please check the option that best describes Israel's behavior re the Cuban embargo:

Do as I say but not as I do.
You should not do to others what you don't want to be done to you.
Of all the human-rights abusers in the world, they nit-pick a tiny country where hardly anyone has been killed. They're downright racists.
All of the above.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Former Israeli minister: "I oversaw discrimination of Arabs"

Why are Jewish towns in Israel clean and well-cared-for, while Arab towns are dirty and have open-air sewers? Because Arabs don't pay the municipal tax. If they behaved like the civilized world and accepted that they've got to give away a small fraction of their monthly wages to get services in return, their towns would look as neat as Jewish ones.

Anyway, that's the story Zionists have been telling you all along.

Repentant Israeli politician Ophir Paz-Pines, however, begs to differ -- and seems qualified to. As the interior minister in Ariel Sharon's government in 2005, he oversaw policies that were openly discriminatory of Arabs. Paz-Pines as reported by The Jerusalem Post:

"The Arab minority in Israel is structurally discriminated against and has been since the day the state was founded. I say this with great sorrow, I think it is one of Israel's biggest historical mistakes," he said.

"I think it harms the state as a whole, not only the Arabs. It harms us as Israelis. It harms integration and it harms the ability to work together. I also think it hurts the efforts for peace and harms Israel's image in the eyes of the world. But it is a fact," he said.

"The aspiration is to have a Jewish and democratic state with elements of full equality on the civil and social level. In practice we are far from it," said Paz-Pines.

He gave as an example the equalization grants worth billions of shekels that are given to local authorities according to a complicated equation that determines how much each local authority should receive.

"I quickly learned that if you took an Arab village and a Jewish village with roughly the same amount of people, you'd see that Jewish towns would usually receive more. When I examined why this happened, it turned out that the equation held a number of components that don't apply to Arab villages, for example, points given for immigrant absorption," Paz-Pines said.

Note how this debunks the Zionist discourse that the Law of Return is the sole exception to full equality between Jews and Arabs in Israel. In fact, the law itself is the top of an iceberg with myriad ramifications beneath whereby those "eligible for citizenship under the Law of Return" enjoy far more rights than the untouchables, sorry, ineligibles, often through Kafkaesque mechanisms reminiscent of a Communist dictatorship.

Thus, using names that sound neutral, the State applies the Law of Return to further discriminate against the native population. The State does not favor Jews; it favors immigrants -- which sounds very egalitarian, except that all immigrants are Jewish.

It's good that someone from that establishment is blowing the whistle. Paz-Pines is a politician to follow, although from a distance, lest you get burned by the flaming that will be undoubtedly directed against him.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Goldstone trashing modeled on Holocaust denial

The Zionist blogosphere is an example of an MPS (mutual praise society). One blogger writes a post and up come a zillion others who copy paste it. Multidirectional flattering follows and they all end up marveling at how thoroughly they've convinced each other that Israel is what keeps the world going and that the Palestinians are a piece of crap.

Take, for instance, Yaacov Lozowick's piece of yesterday. It was immediately transcribed verbatim by Elder of Ziyon, with the customary commendation, and from then on it seems to have gone viral. In due time, Lozowick will approvingly reproduce a post by Elder of Ziyon and the masturbatory cycle will be completed.

The post is part of a massive Zionist effort to trash the Goldstone Report, the document produced by an inquiry mission sent to Gaza to investigate Israeli and Hamas war crimes during Israel's invasion of the Strip in early 2009. The strategy of the whole effort is disturbingly reminiscent of Holocaust denial techniques. The Zionists pick on this or that minor detail that may be wrong, just like the deniers point to several inconsistencies in the stories of Holocaust survivors, and they conclude that there were no Israeli war crimes, just like the deniers conclude that there was no Holocaust. Let's quote it in full to see how it works:

On page 200 of the Goldstone Report we find this sentence:

706. The Israeli ground offensive from the east reached al-Samouni neighbourhood around 4 a.m. on 4 January 2009. In addition to the ground forces moving in from the east, there were, in all likelihood, heliborne398 troops that landed on the roofs of several houses in the area.

Should you wonder what that means, heliborne troops (and how would the Commission members have known?), you can follow footnote 398:

One witness told the Mission that on 5 January 2009, walking on Salah ad-Din Street towards Gaza, he saw by the roadside parachutes Israeli troops had used to land in the area.

Israel has not used parachutes in battle since 1956. I've never heard of parachutists in any army jumping from helicopters, because the two methods contradict one another. Parachutists jump from mid-altitude airplanes, and aim at large areas since they cannot be guided to precise points. Helicopters land troops on precise points; the troops jump out from a height of a foot, or three.

I haven't heard of Israeli troops being flown by helicopter into battle in Gaza, but who knows? Maybe it happened. If so, eyewitnesses would be able to tell about it in one, very clear case: if they saw the helicopters coming in, effectively landing, and then leaving troops behind them. It's that simple.

The story told by the witness is straight from some Arabian tall tale. I am totally at loss for an explanation as to why the fact finders would have wished to cast themselves as giving the time of day to such fabulists, but I'm at loss for an explanation about lots of things in their report. Keep in mind, however, that one of the four members was chosen for being a military man, and some of their staff were hired for their military expertize, so it's not that they didn't know better.

Unfortunately for Lozowick, he can't rein his own troops in, and his followers, unable to refrain from boasting their own expertise, comment:

I had a friend who served in the US green berets who told me that during training they used to jump with small parachutes from the heights of around 10 meters. Ussually such jumps are necessary for cases where the surface doesn't allow the helicopter to land or where rapid dislodge is needed.(Anonymous)

I remember reading similar accounts from Soviet Spetsnaz - 50 meter parachute descents - but we're talking special forces jumping out of a ultra-low flying aircraft attempting to evade radar. (Victor)

Although the reader then adds "There is simply no need for this kind of drama in Gaza," it's clear from the start that Lozowick is no expert in what he so authoritatively talks about.

But that's not the main point here. The main point is that from Lozowick's post it would seem that how the troops arrived to the site is essential to the war crime being described, and that if ground vehicles were used instead of helicopters the whole accusation will be debunked.

And that's not the case. The paragraph cited is the introduction to a story called "The killing of Ateya al-Samouni and his son Ahmad," which describes the murder of a man who was shot at point-blank range while he was with his arms raised, and of his 4-year-old son, who was denied medical attention after having sustained critical wounds from shots fired by the soldiers occupying the al-Samounis' house.

Now while the parachutes by the roadside are hearsay, the crime itself is not hearsay. There are names and death certificates, and a forensic examination of the corpses can be demanded. By making an enormous deal of a minor and thoroughly peripheral detail, the Zionists make an attempt, not very successful, at planting a red herring that will divert attention from documented deaths that appear to have taken place outside of a combat situation.

The world, however, knows better than that, and understands that a (possibly) inaccurate claim about troop transportation or a misplaced semicolon do not alter the general picture of lots of unwarranted deaths. That's why some top Israelis are beginning to regret that Israel chose to boycott Goldstone: Israel could have described exactly what happened to the al-Samounis if it had collaborated with the mission. Although, from another perspective, maybe it's precisely because it would have had to that it didn't.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Reflections on the Nobel Prize

No, not Obama's. Israeli scientist Ada E. Yonath's.

In case you're not aware, Yonath got the 2009 Nobel Prize for Chemistry (shared with Thomas Steitz and Venkatraman Ramakrishnan, although you wouldn't learn that from The Jerusalem Post's story) for her work on proteins at the Weizmann Institute in Israel.

This has been exploited by Zionists in a twofold way. First, it has been used as evidence of how great the Jewish State is. Resource-poor and embattled Israel, always on the verge of destruction at the hands of the 250 M Arabs, not to mention the 70 M nuke-seeking Iranians, somehow manages to produce world-class science that improves mankind.

I prefer, however, to see the half-empty glass. Yonath's prize proves what a failure Israel is, at least in the context of its aspiration to be the place where Jews realize their full potential. The award given to her is news because she's Israeli, not because she's Jewish. In fact, of the 105 Nobel prizes in sciences awarded to Jews since Israel was founded, just 3 went to Israelis -- even when Israel concentrates about half of all the world's Jews. It can be confidently said that if all Jews had heeded the call of Zion, Judaism would have much, much less to be proud of. The Diaspora, the despised Diaspora, called by leading Israeli writer A. B. Yehoshua "masturbation, not the real thing," is the place where the Jewish people's foremost creative enterprises have been and continue to be undertaken.

The other way Zionists are trying to exploit Yonath's prize is as a tool to fight the BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel) movement. They claim that BDS proponents should boycott all Israeli scientific advances (for instance, those produced at Weizmann), or that they should boycott proteins, and that if they don't they're intellectually dishonest or something like that.

This is very telling of the perception Zionists have of anti-Zionists, unsupported by any document or statement from the latter. In fact, Zionists seem to think that the BDS movement is driven by the belief that all things Israeli (or even all things Jewish) are intrinsically evil and that's the reason they should be boycotted. If this were the case, it would indeed be dishonest to use Israeli science or inventions. But of course, that's not what BDS proponents assert. What they posit is that Israel can be coerced through economic sanctions into dropping their oppression of another people, just like South Africa was during the Apartheid era. They propose to boycott enough of Israel's production to cause a significant damage to its economy; they don't propose that the rest of the world should damage itself by not using technologies already developed by Israel, anymore than the nations that boycotted South Africa proposed that the rest of the world should stop performing heart transplants, a technique developed by a white South African doctor at the height of Apartheid.

In short, a boycott of Israel is proposed not on moral grounds, but on practical ones. This is different from, say, Israel's boycott of Wagner, which is moral (he's boycotted because he was an antisemite, not to achieve a desired political result). Zionists should be happy, not angered, that Israeli scientific advances are not boycotted, because this shows that BDS is not irrational. But it's easier to comfort oneself thinking that the people one doesn't like are simply crazy.

Monday, October 5, 2009

On the ambiguity of outsideness

What happens if an Israeli soldier hits or otherwise abuses a Palestinian in the West Bank? The short answer is nothing. A complaint is filed by the affected person, the IDF ostensibly starts an investigation and it is "found" that the soldier didn't act improperly. The exception, of course, is when the incident is caught on tape, in which case someone may end up being given a few weeks' community service, or transferred to a training position in Israel proper.

The problem is that sometimes the Palestinians not only complain, but also sue for physical injuries or property damage. In that case, the lawsuit is also dismissed, but it's a costly process. The Israeli state is trying to diminish that cost by limiting the instances in which a soldier is civilly liable for his actions.

Up to now, Israeli legislation states that the country is not liable for a military operation executed in a situation of war. Such situations are defined as those in which the soldiers' lives are endangered.Thus, for instance, the soldier who killed a protester with a tear gas canister last July is civilly liable, because the protest was peaceful and his life was not at risk.

That is about to change under a proposed new bill, which will dramatically reduce the Palestinians' ability to sue the State. But the grounds for doing so are quite interesting. According to the Jerusalem Post:

Under the current law, any soldier, whether operating in Israel or in the West Bank or a foreign country, must prove that his life was in danger for his actions to be considered a military operation.

According to the state's new proposal, that obligation would not apply to soldiers in the West Bank or foreign countries because the law assumes that the lives of soldiers operating outside Israel are inherently in danger.

The West Bank is, thus, considered outside enough for the lives of soldiers serving there to be deemed in danger --in a danger they would not face inside Israel--, but not enough not to build settlements there. Now this is not a Freudian slip; it's just yet another instance of cyinical Israeli equivocation.

If and when Israel returns any significant portion of the West Bank to the Palestinians (and it's a big "if" and a big "when") , the country will not be making any generous, much less painful, concession. It will just be giving back a territory that is, by its own admission, outside its borders.