An Epic #BDS Apology

A performance? A work of art?  Not an apology?   When is an apology not an apology?

https://electronicintifada.net/blogs/ali-abunimah/why-wont-norway-theater-apologize-embracing-israels-war-crimes

It is not immediately apparent that this isn’t the real thing.

But in fact, the video and a written “apology” were published as a work of art on Friday, onlineand in the national newspaper Morgenbladet.

The ambiguity was deliberate and those who didn’t pay attention to the small print might not have noticed that it was a performance.

The woman in the video is Gjertrud Jynge, a nationally renowned actor in Norway.

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Elections matter – own it!

Ballot-Box

The Palestinians are struggling to hold local municipal elections which appear to be delayed (derailed?) once again. The Washington Post had an excellent analysis yesterday of the situation.

I really feel for the Palestinians who’ve been living under Israel’s boot since 1947. The average Palestinian (especially those living in Gaza) has learned from harsh experience that he can’t protest the Israeli occupation either violently or peacefully, can’t protest against Palestinian leadership (either Fatah or Hamas), can’t protest against America’s complicity in Israel’s military offensives, can’t protest one little twit, and can’t even cast a vote.  I don’t think they’ve had a national or local election in more than 10 years.

So my bellyache about the current Presidential election in the U.S. pales in comparison. But I’m bitching nevertheless.

I explained why I’m not voting for the lesser of two evils about a month ago. Nothing has changed in the political landscape or with the candidates’ positions to change my opinion. As the drumbeat gets louder, the accusations become more strident. “Either vote for Hillary, or own your responsibility in her defeat.”

My response: The DNC needs to own its reprehensible tactics to undermine Bernie Sanders’ campaign.  The Superdelegates need to own their disgraceful and undemocratic action to tip the scales in Hillary’s favor during the primary. They not only did a huge disfavor to Sanders and to every Democrat who voted, but they put poor Hillary in the position where she is today – fighting for her political life. Finally, Hillary needs to own the results of this election. This is her election to lose. Own it folks!

A friend penned the following response to a Clinton supporter which captures my sentiments, and so I share it verbatim.  Thank you to Mike Merryman-Lotze.

“As someone who argues for a pragmatic approach to voting while pushing for more radical change I find your take on this more than troubling. The arguments that you have put forward … are perhaps the least effective and most offensive arguments that a Clinton supporter can put forward to someone who questions her from the left.

“Your argument has primarily been that it is those on the left who will be to blame if Trump wins and we must therefore vote for Clinton. This isn’t an argument that shows any real concern for the actual policy considerations that lead many of us to see Clinton as problematic. It is blackmail based on fear and that is what continues to push many away from Clinton. That is the approach that Clinton and her camp have really taken towards many on the left. That is a big middle finger to everyone who has real concerns about the mainstream positions of the democratic party.

“While Clinton may be an incredibly qualified candidate on paper, her actual policy positions are not things that many of us find inspiring. Her foreign policy is right wing and militaristic and her domestic policy is solid middle of the road, right of Obama. Yes, she has moved somewhat to the left on some domestic issues as a result of Sanders, but it is hard to take those moves really seriously.

“The bigger issue is that opposition isn’t simply a rejection of Clinton as an individual. It comes as a result of general disillusionment by many with Democratic policies which maintain the status quo. Obama didn’t bring change we can believe in. While he did bring incremental change domestically and I respect that, he maintained a deeply problematic and militarized foreign policy.

“Clinton and mainstream Democratic policy positions just don’t do it for many of us and saying that we must vote out of fear or that those of us on the left must own right wing movements in the election is incredibly insulting. If Clinton wants votes she and the Democratic party as a whole must appeal to the left. They simply have not done that up until this point. This election really is theirs to lose and if it is lost, it is the Democratic party and those who vote for an unqualified right wing nut who will need to own that reality.”   — Mike Merryman-Lotze

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Billions in Taxpayer Money to Israel: How the NYT Hides Unsavory Facts from View

What the New York Times is NOT telling us about the new aid package that American taxpayers are generously providing to Israel.

TimesWarp

Thanks to American taxpayers, Israel has been receiving $3.1 billion in direct military aid each year, and under a new agreement signed this week that amount is set to rise to $3.8 annually. This is a hefty package and major news, but The New York Times has been oddly reticent about it, running a story on page 6 of the print edition and without fanfare online.

This is not a new phenomenon at the Times. Over the past year, as the United States and Israel have negotiated a new 10-year memorandum of understanding concerning military aid, readers have seen few references to the topic, and even with the signing of a new agreement this week, the newspaper maintains its minimalist approach.

The article by Peter Baker and Julie Hirschfeld Davis gives few details of the deal, instead proving a great deal of space to the state of U.S.-Israeli relations. The…

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We don’t have to choose violence

In a follow-up to my post on September 6, Choosing Violence, I’m mailing letters to the President, and my members of Congress, with a copy of the article from the Boston Review.

(L to R – President Obama, Senator Tom Udall, Senator Martin Heinrich, Congresswoman Michelle Lujan-Grisham)

September 14, 2016

An Open Letter to President Obama, Senator Tom Udall, Senator Martin Heinrich and Congresswoman Michelle Lujan-Grisham:

We need to address someone who might actually listen, even if at present they cannot hear. They might be distant, but we must believe, if our conviction is to make sense to us, that there is a real chance they will receive our message. Conviction relies on a community, real or really possible, that subscribes to different standards than those of the majority.” — Oded Na’aman in Choosing Violence (Boston Review, August 15, 2016)

This letter is about choosing a different path.

I am writing because I believe each of you may hear my message. If you can’t hear it today, I’m convinced you will in the near future because each of you has shown intelligent compassion mixed with creative thinking in actions that you’ve taken in the past.  Those are the qualities we need today more than ever before.

I’m referring specifically to the tragedy in Israel-Palestine unfolding for all sides there, but my message is just as germane in every conflict the U.S. is engaged in abroad, as well as conflicts at home.

Oded Na’aman, a Postdoctoral Fellow at Stanford University, was a soldier in the Israeli Defense Forces in the early 2000s, and he’s written an insightful article entitled Choosing Violence which I’ve enclosed and encourage you to read.

The take-away message from Mr. Na’aman’s article is that violence and war are not tragedies that befall us but rather a choice we make. We choose war as a tool to respond to difficult challenges. I’m convinced we can make other choices using our compassionate intelligence and creative thinking.

The common wisdom in the United States, in Congress, and in the mainstream media, is that we must use violence to fight the terrorists. We must defend ourselves and our values with violence. We believe that our violence, as abhorrent as we may agree it is, is not by choice but by necessity.

I’ve wondered (especially after returning from my 9-month teaching sabbatical in Gaza three years ago) whether I’m a kook for believing that we can choose another path. In 2012-2013, while I was teaching young people about climate change in Gaza, I didn’t find the terrorists that my government warned me about before I traveled. I met with Hamas officials at their offices and in their homes, and I found humans struggling to lead under a long-term siege and occupation. I found humans making mistakes, as all leaders do, but trying to make life better for their people. Hamas’ tactics might be ill-advised, just as I would argue that many of Israel’s tactics are ill-advised, but I didn’t meet any terrorists.

Certainly each side argues why its use of violence is one of necessity and is justified. I’ve heard justifications ad nauseum from people in both Israel and Palestine. The truth, however, is that regardless of which side initiates the violence or defends itself against violence – both are trapped in a cycle of violence which must stop. Neither can get off the treadmill by himself. The United States must help.

Given our significant military aid to Israel, the U.S. has leverage to hold each side accountable for choosing a different path.  Why aren’t we using our leverage?

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The MOU expected to be signed this week embodies our decision to choose violence once again by pledging to give Israel $38 billion in military aid over ten years. The agreement might speak about “security” but the weapons do not represent future security for Israel but rather prolong Israel’s illegal occupation and humiliation of Palestinians.

Israel’s “qualitative military edge” undermines the possibility of building a just and long-term peace with its neighbors. Instead, we should be helping Israel build a “qualitative peaceful edge.” Israel must remain strong militarily but even stronger as a role model for respecting human dignity and human rights. What path would the U.S. be forging if our financial aid to Israel was directed towards sustainable development projects for both Israel and Palestine?

There may be quiet, private reasons for Congress’s decision to add fuel to the fire in the Middle East. I understand the historical relationship between Israel and the United States; the powerful influence that AIPAC wields in Congress and in elections. I understand how the military aid package to Israel benefits our laboratories and jobs in the U.S., which translates into votes each election cycle. There is no justification, however, for the tremendous pain and destruction perpetrated by the violence we support.

We have a choice.  Violence doesn’t choose us, we choose violence.  

I may sound like a “deluded crank” to you, but I’m convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that true justice and the moral high ground will prove me right, hopefully sooner rather than later.

I simply ask that you step on the right side of history.  Please choose a different path away from violence.

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Filed under Hamas, IDF, Israel, Israel Defense Forces, Occupation, Politics, Uncategorized, US Policy

The path not chosen after 9/11

This message popped up on my Facebook feed this morning, the 15th anniversary of 9/11.

This is a fight between good and evil….which side do you think Hillary is on? This Zionist Jesuit Luciferian Khazarian Bush/Clinton Cabal is responsible for 9/11 of which the people had no clue about. Not radical ideologies. America has been plundering the world and committing genocide blaming a made up boogie man for their resources. The veil is lifting and Americans are beginning to awaken.

Quickly, I absolutely disagree with this sentiment and have no clue who the person is, certainly not a “friend” of mine. But it makes the point that I was hoping to make better than I could.

Fifteen years since 9/11 and what have we (Americans) learned from that fateful day? I fear many of us have learned the wrong lessons.

Wrong Lesson #1: President George W. Bush epitomized the binary thinking with his infamous “fight between good and evil” rhetoric.  Remember, “you’re either with us or against us!”

Correct Lesson #1:  I wish we had learned a greater appreciation for compassion and loving our neighbor. Following 9/11, we should have been asking “how can we help those less fortunate than us in other parts of the world?”  “How can we show our strength and resolve through love and compassion, rather than by violence and fear?”

Wrong Lesson #2: Synthesizing complex issues and relationships into simple taglines and labels is so much easier than using our critical thinking skills.  “Zionist Jesuit Luciferian Khazarian Bush/Clinton Cabal” is the mother of all labels. LOL. Unfortunately, President Bush was masterful at putting complex ideas into simple boxes.  Or maybe he was just a simpleton.

Correct Lesson #2:  I wish we could have developed a new organ in our brain after 9/11.  An organ capable of holding conflicting ideas at the same time, of suspending disbelief and really listening to the other. The tragic events of 9/11, followed by the countless tragic events in Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay, Paktika, Aleppo, and on and on, seem to have divided us into the home team vs. all those others. Instead, we should have learned that we’re all one.WeAreOne-Med

Wrong Lesson #3: “Radical ideologies” = them, not us. Terrorists are them, not us. Our drone kills are legitimate; their suicide bombers and beheadings are illegitimate.  Many Americans (including both major party candidates for President) blame radical ideologues abroad for the 9/11 attack and the war on terror we are fighting today. While others (as exemplified by the quote above) blame the U.S. or Israel or the Zionists.  

Correct Lesson #3: Truth be told, there are radical ideologues on both sides of the ocean, in every corner of the planet, including in Congress and the Executive Branch. “Radical ideologue = an adherent of an extreme or drastic ideology, especially one who is uncompromising and dogmatic.” 

While we need to be cautious, especially with radical ideologues who wish to perpetrate violence, 9/11 should have taught us how to recognize the danger signs of radical ideologues within our midst. Instead, it appears that we’ve learned how to nurture them.  

I believe the U.S. government and many Americans have learned the wrong lessons from 9/11 and are following the wrong path fifteen years later as a result.  I wonder if we could choose another path.

this-way-that-way-signpost

 

 

 

 

 

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Facebook share

 

 

A pet peeve of mine is the vomit I see on social media.

facebook-share-icon

OK, that might sound harsh, but it got your attention and there’s a bit of truth in that description.

Facebook’s “SHARE” button is just too easy and some of us hit it without thinking, almost reflexively, again and again and again.

Maybe we think we’re doing the world a service, sharing interesting articles and “news” items that pop-up in our timeline. But when we fail to do our due diligence, and fail to check the veracity of the material we find interesting, and don’t question the source, and don’t add our own two cents to the post, we are abdicating our critical thinking skills.

Some acknowledge that they aren’t “vouching for the accuracy” of the material they share. They want their “friends” to sift through their voluminous posts and make their own determination of what’s valuable and what’s not.

Posts are a reflection of the poster. I know which friends like cute animal videos, who appreciates good cooking, who is keen about politics, and who appreciates a good laugh. Our posts reflect something about us.  And the vomit reflects very poorly on the poster. Is he/she just lazy, or unwilling to use critical thinking skills, or self-absorbed in the power of the “SHARE” button?

Frankly, I’m as guilty as the next guy in spewing junk on Facebook. I’ve been hoodwinked into believing BS without verifying.

I’ll never forget the photo I posted years ago on Facebook showing thousands of people marching across the Golden Gate Bridge in protest of ‘something or other’. The protest march was something I agreed with and I was pleased that so many agreed and were taking action.  A Facebook friend asked me if I really believed that many people would march across the bridge? I checked and learned the picture had been photoshopped. I was humbled and contrite, but it taught me a good lesson.

Since then I’ve learned about confirmation bias, and I’ve tried to avoid making the same mistake.

My advice to Facebook friends:

  • Do your own due diligence and don’t cop out with the excuse that you don’t vouch for anything you post.
  • Think twice, thrice before hitting the SHARE button. The Facebook algorithim might have posted the same material on many of your friends’ walls.
  • Add your own thoughts to the post to show others why you think this article might interest them.
  • Remember, your posts reflect on your critical thinking skills. If you value such skills, use them.

I will do my best to follow my own advice because I know the lure of the SHARE button blinds me as well.

 

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Choosing Violence

Sometimes, the best laid plans get side-tracked when something more pressing comes along. That happened today when a friend shared an article with me from the Boston Review.  Choosing Violence by Oded Na’aman (August 15, 2016). I dropped everything, read it from beginning to end, more than once, and then printed several copies to send to friends and to my members of Congress.

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Oded Na’aman

The author, Oded Na’aman, is a Jewish Israeli who grew up in Israel and served in the Israeli Defense Forces in the early 2000s. My hunch is that his insights are shared by many more veterans, certainly by the Israeli soldiers in Breaking the Silence.

As the title suggests, Mr. Na’aman believes that Israel chooses violence, rather than the common ethos that violence chooses Israel. He writes:

I believe that we, Israelis, did and do have choices. But how might a whole society be mistaken about such a fundamental aspect of its existence? Conversely how can individual members of society, such as me, come to doubt widespread, deeply seated belief? Sometimes actions most see as entirely reasonable are, in fact, abhorrent. At times, imperatives to which whole societies subscribe amount to mere prejudice; communities commit grave injustices while fully believing they are in the right.

These questions, perhaps not stated quite so clearly, have been rummaging around in my head ever since I returned from Gaza in May 2013.

How could my previous assumptions and understanding about the “conflict” between Israel and Palestine be so wrong? How did I come to doubt the “truth” that my country’s leaders, my family and many colleagues, and most everyone in the U.S., have absorbed as easily as the sun’s rays on a beautiful afternoon?

Am I a kook? ———- Seriously, I have wondered sometimes.  Oded Na’aman writes:

How, then, could men and women who face moral isolation tell whether they are, to use [Bernard] Williams‘s phrase, solitary bearers of true justice or, instead, deluded cranks? Put another way, how might such persons be not only just but sane, not only moral but reasonable?

He doesn’t actually answer his question —- my question —- but I’m rejoicing that someone has so eloquently given voice to my fear.  And I know I’m not a kook.

Please read his article.

Consider Israel’s ongoing campaign in Gaza, which continue to escalate in spite of obvious errors. Any reasonable review of these engagements reveals a consistent, perhaps obsessive, repetition of mistaken estimates, failures of foresight, unjustified use of force, and lack of clear objectives. If anything, strategic mistakes and moral failures have worsened with every campaign. The number of casualties illustrates this most poignantly. In the Gaza War (December 2008 – January 2009), more than 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis were killed. During the last campaign, the 2014 Israel-Gaza Conflict (July – August 2014), more than 2,200 Palestinians and 72 Israelis were killed. A comparison helps to clarify just how disproportionate Israeli actions were: in the first three weeks of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the American military destroyed 1,600 armored vehicles; in Gaza in 2014, Hamas had no armored vehicles, yet, on average, an Israeli tank fired seven times more shells per day than did an American tank in the invasion of Iraq. Israeli helicopters loosed twiced as many Hellfire missiles as American helicopters did in those three weeks of 2003. Yet no one in Israel doubts that another war in Gaza, probably harsher than the last, is in the offing.

I read those words and my heart rate jumps, I feel a silent scream rising inside, and I want to shake everyone out of their complacency.

Indifference to pain and loss — one’s own and others’ — is a prerequisite to war. Entire societies must grow numb to suffering.   … [War] punishes sanity and rewards insanity.

In the second half of his article, Mr. Na’aman writes about conviction, and maybe that IS the answer I’m looking for.

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a-Shuhada Street in Hebron, also called Apartheid Street.

He shares a true story of an incident when he and two of his friends were walking late at night up a-Shuhada Street in Hebron towards the home of a Palestinian friend. They passed a group of Jewish teens who asked them where they were going. They replied “Tel Rumeida” – the Jewish neighborhood next to their friend’s home – and walked on. One of them yelled, “Are you crazy? What are you doing walking here, in Hebron, in the middle of the night, without any protection? The Arabs will kill you! You will be slaughtered!”

They were not worried and continued walking. Observing the reaction, the kid turned to his friends and exclaimed victoriously, “I told you they are leftists!”

You see, as young as he was, the boy understood that, within Israeli society, only settlers and activists know Hebron for what it really is. Neither group subscribes to the Israeli ethos of necessary violence. The settlers condone violence and choose violence in the service of religious and ethnic causes; the activists condemn and reject it for moral and religious reasons. But both settlers and activists act from conviction rather than fear. For only conviction—the inward and full persuasion of the mind—can withstand the capriciousness of politics.

I must find a way to give voice to my conviction that the violence we see in the Middle East — Israel and Palestine — in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere — is and has always been a violence of choice. And we can choose another path. I’m convinced.

 

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