Tag Archives: Noam Chomsky

The Occupation of the American Mind

“Over the past few years, Israel’s ongoing military occupation of Palestinian territory and repeated invasions of the Gaza strip have triggered a fierce backlash against Israeli policies virtually everywhere in the world — except the United States. The Occupation of the American Mind takes an eye-opening look at this critical exception, zeroing in on pro-Israel public relations efforts within the U.S.”

“Narrated by Roger Waters and featuring leading observers of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and U.S. media culture, the film explores how the Israeli government, the U.S. government, and the pro-Israel lobby have joined forces, often with very different motives, to shape American media coverage of the conflict in Israel’s favor. From the U.S.-based public relations campaigns that emerged in the 1980s to today, the film provides a sweeping analysis of Israel’s decades-long battle for the hearts, minds, and tax dollars of the American people in the face of widening international condemnation of its increasingly right-wing policies.”

Narrated by Roger Waters / Featuring Amira Hass, M.J. Rosenberg, Stephen M. Walt, Noam Chomsky, Rula Jebreal, Henry Siegman, Rashid Khalidi, Rami Khouri, Yousef Munayyer, Norman Finkelstein, Max Blumenthal, Phyllis Bennis, Norman Solomon, Mark Crispin Miller, Peter Hart, and Sut Jhally.

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Filed under Media, People, Uncategorized, US Policy, Video

#GoingtoGaza – August 2015

On my journey back to Gaza, I spent the summer in Baltimore with a visit to Albuquerque in August. I wish I could travel without adding to my carbon footprint.  The following entries are from August 2015. I started my journey one year earlier.

Day #332 – I shared a bit about my experience in Gaza yesterday with the Baltimore Women-In-Black group.  The lunch meeting was in a house of worship shared by 5 different congregations (including both Christian church and Jewish synagogue) and lasted until 5:00 pm because everyone was so engaged and interested in learning more. I realized that I can only share the tip of the iceberg. There is so much more to share. How?  #GoingtoGaza

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The House of God is the Home of five congregations. Rev. Carol Lynn Cook.

Day #333 – Jewish/Zionist/settlers/terrorists burned a Palestinian baby to death 2 nights ago. The Israeli collective guilty conscience is feeling a twinge of remorse. But the IDF killed 521 children (including many babies) in Gaza last summer and that was greeted by Israelis as a source of national pride. Can’t have your cake and eat it too.  Thx Mati Milstein for putting it so succinctly. #GoingtoGaza

Day #334 – While waiting and exploring options for returning to Gaza, I’ve decided Plan B is walking Camino de Santiago in northern Spain.  (500 miles – 5 weeks) Sept/Oct timeframe. #GoingtoGaza

Day #335 – My roommate and I each received emails this morning. His urged him to call Congress and tell them to defund Planned Parenthood. Mine urged me to call Congress and tell them to support Planned Parenthood.  We both made our calls and canceled each other out. Fortunately, Congress sided with me this afternoon. Abortion is an emotional issue but my roommate and I remain civil and respect each other (I think). #GoingtoGaza

Day #336 – ISIS (aka Daesh) proclaims jihad in the name of Islam. They want to establish a caliphate in the Middle East. Netanyahu and the Knesset fight terrorists (aka Palestinians) in the name of Jews worldwide. The want to establish a Homeland for the Jews in the Middle East. Simple question: What’s the difference?  #GoingtoGaza

Day #337 – Learned today of another Palestinian from Gaza who was denied a student Visa to pursue her education in the U.S. despite the fact that she had been accepted to a university and received a scholarship. Stated reason? Because the embassy officer doesn’t think she has enough ties to Gaza to ensure that she will return home! The same reason given for the denials of all the others. This reminds me of the Palestinian student who was granted a Visa and is currently studying in the U.S.  He is now seeking asylum and does not wish to return to Gaza despite having family there. I wonder if his asylum request has harmed the chances of other Palestinians who wish to study here. 😦   #GoingtoGaza

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Professor Noam Chomsky (r.) and Dr. Eyad El-Sarraj (l.) in Gaza, October 2012.

Day #338 – Recalling Noam Chomsky’s visit to Gaza in October 2012. Chomsky is a Jew. Some Americans are puzzled because of the hate-filled venom they’ve been fed by the Zionists.  Jews (not Zionists) are welcomed in Palestine. Jews (not Zionists) are treated respectfully by Hamas and other Palestinian factions. I believe Jews (not Zionists) have a secure future in the Middle East. #GoingtoGaza

Day #339 – I’m puzzled why professional journalists don’t connect the dots. This week they should’ve connected the dots between the nuclear weapons used 70 years ago, and Israel’s current threat to unilaterally and preemptively bomb Iran to prevent that country from getting nukes. Haven’t we learned any lessons? Really?  #GoingtoGaza

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Red Emma’s in Baltimore

Day #340 – Just following my heart today I ended up @ Red Emma’s in Baltimore, a self-proclaimed radical bookstore.  Pleased to see copies of “Gaza UnSilenced” on the table!   #GoingtoGaza

Day #341 – I’m seeing very little difference between the Jewish extremists/Rabbis/settlers and the Muslim extremists (aka ISIS) except for the way that the mainstream media portrays them. Oh, another difference — one acts under the cloak of legitimacy by a nation-state while the other doesn’t. Oh, another difference — one receives protection (both $$ and security) while the other doesn’t.  #GoingtoGaza

Day #342 – The Egyptian Embassy in DC informed me today that they will process my Visa application to travel through Egypt to Gaza.  Al-hamdulillah!   Doing the happy dance tonight. Of course, “process” doesn’t necessarily mean “approve”. But this is a big improvement. A few months ago, they wouldn’t even consider an application.

#GoingtoGaza

Day #343 – Searching for travelers’ health insurance while abroad, I came across this program online that compares different policies and prices depending on the variables you input. Travel destination is one variable. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the Palestinian Territories is a destination option in this program. I was not surprised to learn that there are absolutely no health policies available for travelers to that destination. #GoingtoGaza with or without travelers’ health insurance.

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President Jimmy Carter signing his new book

Day #344 – Learned today that Jimmy Carter has liver cancer that has spread to other parts of his body. First thought: I wish he could live long enough to see peace in the Middle East, something he’s worked tirelessly to achieve. Second thought: I wish Congress would act on my petition and request that Carter address a joint session. He deserves their respect. Third thought: I’m going to write to Jimmy Carter. THANK YOU!  #GoingtoGaza

Day #345 – Submitted my Visa application with the Egyptian Embassy in DC today.  Purchased my ticket to Cairo.  Feeling like the roller coaster ride is just beginning.  A friend asked me “Why apply to Egypt, not to Palestine, for a Visa to visit Gaza?” Answer: Gaza, Palestine does not control its own borders because it is OCCUPIED by the State of Israel. You can’t fly to Gaza. You can’t take a ship to Gaza. You can’t drive to Gaza.  Either Israel or Egypt must grant you permission to enter Gaza. #GoingtoGaza

Day #346 – I think I may understand why some Jews can’t accept the truth about Israel’s occupation of Palestine. It’s human nature to want to be right – not wrong – and to be on the winning side – not the losing side. So when Israel is committing war crimes and crimes against humanity, it’s human nature to turn eyes and hearts away from the Occupation. Just a thought. #GoingtoGaza

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Lora with the Blue Crab on the Baltimore Inner Harbor

Day #347 – On this journey as a pilgrim, I need to learn how to be grateful today and every day.  My current grade is probably D-   #GoingtoGaza

Day #348 – “He who has a why can endure any how.” ~ German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. WHY am I going to Gaza? Because my heart calls me and because Justice and Human Rights demand it. HOW am I going to Gaza?  Only Allah knows. #GoingtoGaza

Day #349 – I think I know the biggest anti-Semite of them all. It’s Netanyahu. Palestinians = Semites, and Bibi is killing them with impunity. Jews = Semites, and Bibi’s actions are delegitimizing the State of Israel, “the home of the Jews”. Yep, Netanyahu is the biggest anti-Semite today. #GoingtoGaza

Day #350 – People have preconceived notions about their neighbors hardwired into their brains. Two examples today. On Facebook, a Zionist responds to my post from an Israeli newspaper about Palestinians building new tunnels into Gaza — “Only one logical reason . . . to kill Israelis.” It never occurs to him that there may be other reasons for building new tunnels—-a military defensive measure (Gaza’s version of the Iron Dome) is one example. I’ve never seen or read any evidence that showed Palestinians used the tunnels to enter Israel to kill Civilians. But this Zionist won’t acknowledge the humanity in the “other”. Second example happened to me on the bus today. Waiting at the bus stop, I sat on the bench next to a young Native American man who appeared inebriated. I was in the sun, he was sitting in the shade. He stood up and said “Sit in the shade.” I moved over and thanked him and held out my hand to introduce myself.  He took my hand and we had a very cordial conversation until the bus came. You can imagine the stereotype I had in my head, and the reality I learned after I met him. #GoingtoGaza

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Federal Hill, Baltimore

Day #351 – I often told my Palestinian friends in Gaza, when they asked me my religion, that I simply live my life by the Golden Rule (treat others how you wish they would treat you). A fact of life – not everyone follows the Golden Rule, and I can’t expect others to treat me the same way. That’s where the challenges lie. #GoingtoGaza

Day #352 – Writing today — putting pen to paper — trying to figure out the best way to share my pilgrimage with the most # of people.  Any ideas? Thinking of sharing a sample “column” with local newspaper to see if they might be interested in a regular monthly column. #GoingtoGaza

Days #353 & 354 – A friend I hadn’t seen in 10-15 years told me yesterday that she’s very confused about the Israel-Palestine conflict. One person tells her to read about one side and avoid the other side. Another person recommends she read the other side and avoid books about the first side. I told her “Read books from ALL sides and sit quietly and meditate about the questions those authors raise inside you.” It took me 10+ years of actively reading and searching for answers before I started seeing some clarity about Israel-Palestine. #GoingtoGaza

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Delicious meal at Cyndie Tidwell’s house

Day #355 – Attended a presentation tonight at the Jewish Community Center in Albuquerque about environmental peace building in Israel & Palestine. Lots to share in a blog post soon, but the take-away message for me was: There are people (Americans, Israelis and Palestinians) working together on some exciting joint environmental projects in Israel and the West Bank (including plans for a regional sewage treatment plant, rainwater harvesting, and more.) The people on the ground want the projects, the technocrats want the projects, the politicians on both sides (Israel and the PA) do not. I asked if they had worked in Gaza, and they said “No, because we can’t get access to Gaza!” #GoingtoGaza

Day #356 – I rode my yellow bike with the cute basket all around town today.  Downtown, then up 4th Street to Menaul, back downtown, over to Rio Grande, and back to my old neighborhood. When the sun went down, my friend showed me how to turn on the flashing lights on the front and back of the bike. (I never knew how!) If we could import 1000s of bikes into the Gaza Strip, we could (1) reduce reliance on fuel, (2) reduce air pollution, and (3) improve physical health.  I wonder . . . #GoingtoGaza

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New Mexican jeweller in Old Town showing off his beautiful jewellry

Day #357 – Today I sat with an old neighbor (96 years old) and we talked. His eyesight is bad but he can hear very well, and his mind is as sharp as a tack. He lives with his daughter who has cared for him for many years. My friend and his daughter remind me of many of the Palestinians I met in Gaza. Family caring for family. He built his adobe house with his own hands just as many Palestinians build their own homes. I can sit and talk with my old neighbor for hours about my experience in Gaza, and he “gets it”. Is there wisdom with age or is it something else? #GoingtoGaza

Days #358 & 359 – This Spring an American was told by the Egyptian Embassy that he would not receive permission to travel to Gaza through the Rafah border unless he got a letter of approval from the U.S. Consulate’s office in Cairo.  But that office told him they would not issue any such letter. The typical Catch-22. Me?  The Egyptian Embassy accepted my Visa application two weeks ago and said they would process it.  No mention of needing any letter from the U.S. Consulate in Cairo. #GoingtoGaza

Day #360 – Had lunch with a long-time reporter from the local newspaper of record. She acknowledged that the industry is changing drastically. And I have serious disdain for the Editors’ politics.  Thinking about which media venue to approach with my idea for a monthly column about Palestine.  Maybe ABQ Free Press. www.freeabq.com #GoingtoGaza

Day #361 – I walked an hour for a great candidate running for Albuquerque City Council knocking on doors and telling people about why Pat Davis will serve them well. Palestinians haven’t had an election in 8 years I think. The people are stuck with the same old farts with no way to boot them out of office. Americans take our elections for granted. Most of us don’t even bother to vote.  Shame on us! #GoingtoGaza

Day #362 – Sitting in the Houston airport today watching travelers walk past me to their next flight. There’s no fear here, no despair, no humiliation, as there is in Rafah or Erez — the ONLY two checkpoints where Palestinians may travel in and out of Gaza, IF Israel grants permission. #GoingtoGaza

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Day #363 – Trying to figure out why it’s so frustrating to talk with some people with whom I disagree. 1) a very good long-time friend finds #BlackLivesMatter offensive and divisive. 2) a Zionist I’ve never met in person refuses to see the impacts of the Israeli occupation, and the Apartheid system of laws and regulations. Spending time trying to explain my position just ends in frustration. #GoingtoGaza

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“Why can’t the Palestinian leaders build a state like the Zionists did after the Holocaust?”

“Why aren’t the Palestinian leaders building a country like my parents, survivors of the Holocaust and millions like them, did with Israel, instead of building tunnels, shooting missiles and subjecting their people to untold horrors?”

I gasped when I read this question sent to me by a well-educated, university professor in Israel. It was a serious question, deserving a serious response.

Where to begin?

To dissuade my friend of any notion that Palestinians might be incapable of building a country, I’ll remind him of the cities, industry, agriculture, schools and civic life that flourished in Palestine before my friend’s parents and other Zionists arrived. Please watch this 10 minute video.

When I returned from Gaza two years ago, I wrote my layman’s version of the history of Palestine here and here. Israel’s 67 years of dispossession, ethnic cleansing, and occupation of Palestine — as well as current events, including the Palestinian resistance and Israel’s successive military operations in the West Bank and Gaza — can only be understood in the context of the Nakba. I believe my Israeli friend’s question is sincere because either he doesn’t know about the Nakba (past and present) نكبة or he has decided to ignore and minimize the ongoing impacts of the Nakba.

I credit Ilan Pappe and Noam Chomsky for opening my eyes about the Nakba.

In the late 1980s, a group of Israeli historians, including Ilan Pappe and Benny Morris, began to challenge the commonly accepted version of Israeli history based on newly declassified Israeli government documents. Morris called them the New Historians. They went head-to-head with the traditional historians who cast Israel as the peace-seeking victim in a hostile Arab world, the David-and-Goliath narrative. The New Historians shared a more nuanced history of the exodus of the Palestinians and the reasons for the persistent political deadlock with the Arab states in the region.

Professor Ilan Pappe’s book “Ethnic Cleansing” was my education about the Nakba. I hope my friend will read it. In this video, Pappe describes in great detail about the Zionists who committed the Nakba crimes. He urges us to know the names of the perpetrators, the victims, the places and events of the Nakba. Pappe also speaks about the “conspiracy of silence” by the international community in 1948. Please watch.

So . . . . . why can’t the Palestinian leaders do what the Zionists have done (are still doing) in creating the State of Israel?

  • If my friend’s parents and other Zionists had decided to live peacefully side-by-side with the indigenous population when they arrived in Palestine, as Jews, Christians and Muslims had lived for many years, we would certainly be watching very different events unfold in the Middle East today.  The footage in this short clip shows a time when Palestinians of all faiths lived and worked side by side in harmony.
  • If the Zionists believed in a democracy that values plurality rather than an apartheid regime that values Jews over non-Jews, we would certainly be watching very different events unfold in the Middle East today. Saree Makdisi explains apartheid very well here and in his book “Palestine Inside Out: An Everyday Occupation.”

“Apartheid” isn’t just a term of insult; it’s a word with a very specific legal meaning, as defined by the International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid, adopted by the U.N. General Assembly in 1973 and ratified by most United Nations member states (Israel and the United States are exceptions, to their shame).

apartheid wall

  • If Israel had not waged three military campaigns in Gaza over the past six years, Operation Cast Lead (2008-2009), Operation Pillar of Defense (2012) which I witnessed first hand from the ground in Gaza, and the most recent Operation Protective Edge (2014), and if Israel lifted the multi-year siege and blockade of Gaza, and if Israel allowed Palestinians in Gaza to travel freely to pursue educational opportunities, visit family, accept jobs, seek medical attention, etc., — if none of these inhumane actions had occurred and were still occurring — we certainly would be witnessing a vibrant economy in Gaza with the next generation of Palestinians living in hope, not despair. Instead, the U.N. is predicting that Gaza will be uninhabitable by 2020. Some of my blog posts from Operation Pillar of Defense are here, here and here.

I can hear your retort now, my friend.  It sounds something like this.  (I hope you are not offended, but I’ve heard the same words spoken seriously by many, many Jews.)

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So long as the Zionists maintain the brutal occupation and dehumanization of the Palestinians, as they have for decades, resistance will continue.  Resistance in the form of political resistance at the United Nations, resistance at the International Criminal Court, cultural resistance such as teaching the next generation the Palestinian traditions, economic resistance, non-violent resistance in Budrus, resistance with the pen, and violent resistance.

I’ll conclude with Noura Erakat’s well-reasoned explanation of why Israel’s occupation is illegal. As an attorney yourself, I hope you will give Ms. Erakat the time and respect she deserves by reading her paper.

I appreciate your question which initiated this blog post, and I hope we will continue this discussion. Even more, I hope the occupation and dispossession of Palestinians from their land, which your parents and other Zionists started so many years ago, will come to an end very soon.

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Filed under Gaza, Hamas, IDF, Israel, Israel Defense Forces, Nakba, nonviolent resistance, Occupation, Peaceful, People, Politics, Settlers, United Nations, US Policy, Video

Day #32 – August 7, 2014 – “A Hideous Atrocity”

Professor Noam Chomsky was Amy Goodman’s guest on Democracy Now, on this date one year ago.  He spoke about Israel’s assault on Gaza.

Watch the video and/or read the transcript from that interview.

Professor Noam Chomsky (r.) and Dr. Eyad El-Sarraj (l.)

Professor Noam Chomsky (r.) and Dr. Eyad El-Sarraj (l.) in Gaza – October 2012

I met Noam Chomsky in October 2012, not at MIT where he is Professor Emeritus, not in Santa Fe at the Lensic Arts Center, nor in any of his many speaking engagements around the country.

I met Noam Chomsky in Gaza.  He was invited to speak at a conference held at the Islamic University of Gaza. Mohammed Awad, one of my first friends in Gaza, alerted me to Chomsky’s arrival and we both attended two of his talks.  I wrote about it here on my blog.

Mohammed Awad

Mohammed Awad

Two years earlier he had been invited to lecture in the West Bank by a Palestinian university, but Israel refused him permission to travel to the West Bank. Disgraceful!

When I remember that incident, I swing from anger at — to embarrassment for — the State of Israel.  No one does a better job at “delegitimzing” the State of Israel in the eyes of the community of nations, than Israel herself.

Professor Chomsky also spoke to a smaller group in Gaza at the House of Wisdom. Although it was difficult for me to hear him, he speaks so quietly, I was impressed with how well he listened to the young people and responded to them directly.

Chomsky speaking at House of Wisdom in Gaza

Chomsky speaking at House of Wisdom in Gaza

Professor Chomsky listening to young Palestinians.

Professor Chomsky listening to young Palestinians.

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I listened but did not engage in the conversation at The Wisdom House. I had a good chuckle when a participant asked me if I was Noam Chomsky’s wife.  (I was the only female Westerner in the room).

The House of Wisdom in Gaza

The House of Wisdom in Gaza

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Noam Chomsky – Prospects for Palestine (May 2014)

Professor Chomsky spoke at MIT on May 6, 2014 about the collapse of the ‘peace talks’ and much more. Even if you don’t have time to listen to the entire 1 hour and 9 minutes, you’ll get the gist of the absurdity of the ‘peace talks’ in the first 10-15 minutes.

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June 6, 2014 · 5:22 pm

Dr. Eyad al-Sarraj

My introduction to Gaza in 2004 came with a purpose — to deliver an international award to Dr. Eyad al-Sarraj.  I was only “going along for the ride” with my friend from Baltimore, a psychologist.  I had never heard of Dr. al-Sarraj or the Gaza Community Mental Health Programme that he founded.  The GCMHP’s website notes:

We strongly believe that there is a correlation between human rights and mental health, because sound mental health cannot be gained under violent circumstances, and human rights will not be respected in a society exposed to ongoing trauma.

Dr. al-Sarraj’s work was obviously very important and his peers around the world wanted to acknowledge him.

Israel refused to let him travel to Australia to accept the award in person. That was my first clue that the Israeli occupation might not be all that the western media portrayed it. What reason could Israel possibly have for rejecting this man’s travel plans? My curiosity was piqued.

Upon our arrival at Ben-Gurion airport in Tel Aviv in 2004, my friend and I were placed in separate rooms by Israeli security officials and questioned about our plans to travel to Gaza. “It’s a dangerous place,” I was told. “You shouldn’t go there.”

NOW my curiosity was really piqued!

A few days later, we sat in Dr. al-Sarraj’s office with several of his board members and colleagues. My friend shared a few words of congratulations as I snapped pictures. Dr. al-Sarraj didn’t strike me as a dangerous extremist, he reminded me of my grandfather, both in appearance and temperament.

We were introduced to some of the GCMHP projects — the one I best remember trained Palestinian women to make handicrafts for sale to help support their families. Dr. al-Sarraj believed that mothers are the key to the future stability of the community and of their families.

Dr. al-Sarraj didn’t speak about politics or Israel with us. His concern was the mental health of people (especially children) living under occupation. It wasn’t until much later that I learned how amazing this man is … was.

He died Tuesday, December 17, at the age of 70 of leukemia. The New York Times remembered his accomplishments the following day in this piece.

Rising to prominence during the first Palestinian uprising against Israeli military occupation, in Gaza in the late 1980s, Dr. al-Sarraj focused in particular on the traumatic effects of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on children.

He described those effects in an Op-Ed article for The New York Times in 2009 during a three-week offensive by Israeli forces in Gaza after years of rocket fire from there against southern Israel.

“Many children in Gaza are wetting their beds, unable to sleep, clinging to their mothers,” he wrote. “Worse are the long-term consequences of this severe trauma. Palestinian children in the first intifada 20 years ago threw stones at Israeli tanks trying to wrest freedom from Israeli military occupation. Some of those children grew up to become suicide bombers in the second intifada 10 years later.”

He added, “It does not take much to imagine the serious changes that will befall today’s children.”

I’ve been reading many of the tributes to Dr. al-Sarraj published this week — including here, here and here. He published regularly on the GCMHP website, and after returning home after that first trip to Gaza, I regularly checked in to see what he was writing.  The Gaza Community Mental Health Programme’s website was my first portal into Gaza, giving me some insights about the conditions there.  His letter to his stepdaughter in January 2009 — A 14-year-old in Gaza has one question: Why? — hit me in the gut when I first read it, and again on re-reading it tonight.

In the Spring of 2012, Dr. al-Sarraj talked about the impact of war on the children of Gaza, looking toward the future for those children. The video was produced by Pam Bailey for the “Child’s View from Gaza” art exhibition. (17 minutes)

I last saw Dr. al-Sarraj in Gaza in October 2012 during Noam Chomsky’s visit. I went up to shake his hand after the talk, and mentioned that I had met him 8 years earlier. He said he remembered. I was shocked and blurted out something like “You couldn’t!” He smiled and nodded his head. Great diplomacy or a photographic memory? I didn’t know.

I miss him, as I know many people do whose lives he touched. My condolences to his family, friends and colleagues. I hope Dr. al-Sarraj has a special place in heaven.

Dr. Eyad al-Sarraj (l) and Professor Noam Chomsky (r) in Gaza October 19, 2012

Dr. Eyad al-Sarraj (l) and Professor Noam Chomsky (r) in Gaza October 19, 2012

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Samid – a steadfast one

Professor Noam Chomsky visited Gaza in October 2012, shortly before Israel launched its massive assault and bombardment.  He wrote about his impressions of Gaza in this piece published November 4, 2012.

Gazans have been selected for particularly cruel punishment. It is almost miraculous that people can sustain such an existence. How they do so was described thirty years ago in an eloquent memoir by Raja Shehadeh (The Third Way), based on his work as a lawyer engaged in the hopeless task of trying to protect elementary rights within a legal system designed to ensure failure, and his personal experience as a Samid, “a steadfast one,” who watches his home turned into a prison by brutal occupiers and can do nothing but somehow “endure.”   [I’m trying to find a copy of Shehadeh’s The Third Way.] 

The word “Samid” has taken on new meaning for me as I watch University graduates in Gaza looking for jobs or opportunities for graduate education abroad, and professors attempting to get books for their students, and doctors searching for alternatives to keep the kidney dialysis units running when the electricity is cut, and mothers putting food on the table by candlelight while the young children do their homework by that same candlelight. Each is an example of Samid.

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Chomsky: Don’t Be Distracted by One-State/Two-State ‘Debate’ on Israel — Something Much More Nefarious Is Going On

On November 4, 2013, Professor Noam Chomsky published an important piece in Mondoweiss — uncovering the ugly truth.

I have copied it verbatim below with my highlights.

Chomsky: Don’t Be Distracted by One-State/Two-State ‘Debate’ on Israel — Something Much More Nefarious Is Going On.

Israel is systematically expanding with US support.  (Alternet)

Noam Chomsky

Noam Chomsky

In July 13, former Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin issued a dire warning to the government of Israel: either it will reach some kind of two-state settlement or there will be a “shift to a nearly inevitable outcome of the one remaining reality — a state ‘from the sea to the river’.” The near inevitable outcome, “one state for two nations,” will pose “an immediate existential threat of the erasure of the identity of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state,” soon with a Palestinian-Arab majority.

On similar grounds, in the latest issue of Britain’s leading journal of international affairs, two prominent Middle East specialists, Clive Jones and Beverly Milton-Edwards, write that “if Israel wishes to be both Jewish and democratic,” it must embrace “the two-state solution.”

It is easy to cite many other examples, but unnecessary, because it is assumed almost universally that there are two options for cis-Jordan: either two states — Palestinian and Jewish-democratic — or one state “from the sea to the river.” Israeli commentators express concern about the “demographic problem”: too many Palestinians in a Jewish state. Many Palestinians and their advocates support the “one state solution,” anticipating a civil rights, anti-Apartheid struggle that will lead to secular democracy. Other analysts also consistently pose the options in similar terms.

The analysis is almost universal, but crucially flawed. There is a third option, namely, the option that Israel is pursuing with constant US support. And this third option is the only realistic alternative to the two-state settlement that is backed by an overwhelming international consensus.

It makes sense, in my opinion, to contemplate a future binational secular democracy in the former Palestine, from the sea to the river. For what it’s worth, that is what I have advocated for 70 years. But I stress: advocated. Advocacy, as distinct from mere proposal, requires sketching a path from here to there. The forms of true advocacy have changed with shifting circumstances. Since the mid-1970s, when Palestinian national rights became a salient issue, the only form of advocacy has been in stages, the first being the two-state settlement. No other path has been suggested that has even a remote chance of success. Proposing a binational (“one state”) settlement without moving on to advocacy in effect provides support for the third option, the realistic one.

The third option, taking shape before our eyes, is not obscure. Israel is systematically extending plans that were sketched and initiated shortly after the 1967 war, and institutionalized more fully with the access to power of Menahem Begin’s Likud a decade later.

The first step is to create what Yonatan Mendel calls “a disturbing new city” called “Jerusalem” but extending far beyond historic Jerusalem, incorporating dozens of Palestinian villages and surrounding lands, and furthermore, designated as a Jewish City and the capital of Israel. All of this is in direct violation of explicit Security Council orders. A corridor to the East of this new Greater Jerusalem incorporates the town of Ma’aleh Adumim, established in the 1970s but built primarily after the 1993 Oslo Accords, with lands reaching virtually to Jericho, thus effectively bisecting the West Bank. Corridors to the north incorporating the settler towns of Ariel and Kedumim further divide what is to remain under some degree of Palestinian control.

Meanwhile Israel is incorporating the territory on the Israeli side of the illegal “separation wall,” in reality an annexation wall, taking arable land and water resources and many villages, strangling the town of Qalqilya, and separating Palestinian villagers from their fields. In what Israel calls “the seam” between the wall and the border, close to 10 percent of the West Bank, anyone is permitted to enter, except Palestinians. Those who live in the region have to go through a highly intricate bureaucratic procedure to gain temporary entry. Exit, for example for medical care, is hampered in the same way. The result, predictably, has been severe disruption of Palestinian lives, and according to UN reports, a decrease of more than 80% in number of farmers who routinely cultivate their lands and a decline of 60% in yield of olive trees, among other harmful effects. The pretext for the wall was security, but that means security for illegal Jewish settlers; about 85 per cent of the wall runs through the occupied West Bank.

Israel is also taking over the Jordan Valley, thus fully imprisoning the cantons that remain. Huge infrastructure projects link settlers to Israel’s urban centers, ensuring that they will see no Palestinians. Following a traditional neocolonial model, a modern center remains for Palestinian elites, in Ramallah, while the remainder mostly languishes.

To complete the separation of Greater Jerusalem from remaining Palestinian cantons, Israel would have to take over the E1 region. So far that has been barred by Washington, and Israel has been compelled to resort to subterfuges, like building a police station. Obama is the first US president to have imposed no limits on Israeli actions. It remains to be seen whether he will permit Israel to take over E1, perhaps with expressions of discontent and a wink of the eye to make it clear that they are not seriously intended.

There are regular expulsions of Palestinians. In the Jordan Valley alone the Palestinian population has been reduced from 300,000 in 1967 to 60,000 today, and similar processes are underway elsewhere. Following the “dunam after dunam” policies that go back a century, each action is limited in scope so as not to arouse too much international attention, but with a cumulative effect and intent that are quite clear.

Furthermore, ever since the Oslo Accord declared that Gaza and the West Bank are an indivisible territorial unity, the US-Israel duo have been committed to separating the two regions. One significant effect is to ensure that any limited Palestinian entity will have no access to the outside world.

In the areas that Israel is taking over, the Palestinian population is small and scattered, and is being reduced further by regular expulsions. The result will be a Greater Israel with a substantial Jewish majority. Under the third option, there will be no “demographic problem” and no civil rights or anti-Apartheid struggle, nothing more than what already exists within Israel’s recognized borders, where the mantra “Jewish and democratic” is regularly intoned for the benefit of those who choose to believe, oblivious to the inherent contradiction, which is far more than merely symbolic.

Except in stages, the one-state option is an illusion. It has no international support, and there is no reason why Israel and its US sponsor would accept it, since they have a far preferable option, the one they are now implementing; with impunity, thanks to US power.

The US and Israel call for negotiations without preconditions. Commentary there and elsewhere in the West typically claims that the Palestinians are imposing such preconditions, hampering the “peace process.” In reality, the US-Israel insist upon crucial preconditions. The first is that negotiations must be mediated by the United States, which is not a neutral party but rather a participant in the conflict. It is as if one were to propose that Sunni-Shiite conflicts in Iraq be mediated by Iran. Authentic negotiations would be in the hands of some neutral state with a degree of international respect. The second precondition is that illegal settlement expansion must be allowed to continue, as it has done without a break during the 20 years of the Oslo Accord; predictably, given the terms of the Accord.

In the early years of the occupation the US joined the world in regarding the settlements as illegal, as confirmed by the UN Security Council and the International Court of Justice. Since Reagan, their status has been downgraded to “a barrier to peace.” Obama weakened the designation further, to “not helpful to peace,” with gentle admonitions that are easily dismissed. Obama’s extreme rejectionism did arouse some attention in February 2011, when he vetoed a Security Council resolution supporting official US policy, ending of settlement expansion.

As long as these preconditions remain in force, diplomacy is likely to remain at a standstill. With brief and rare exceptions, that has been true since January 1976, when the US vetoed a Security Council resolution, brought by Egypt, Jordan, and Syria, calling for a two-state settlement on the internationally recognized border, the Green Line, with guarantees for the security of all states within secure and recognized borders. That is essentially the international consensus that is by now universal, with the two usual exceptions – not just on Middle East issues, incidentally. The consensus has been modified to include “minor and mutual adjustments” on the Green Line, to borrow official US wording before it had broken with the rest of the world.

The same is true of the negotiations that may take place soon in Washington. Given the preconditions, they are unlikely to achieve anything more than to serve as a framework in which Israel can carry forward its project of taking over whatever it finds valuable in the West Bank and Syrian Golan Heights, annexed in violation of Security Council orders, while maintaining the siege of Gaza. And doing so throughout with the critical economic, military, diplomatic and ideological support of the state running the negotiations. One can of course hope for better, but it is hard to be optimistic.

Europe could play a role in advancing the hopes for a peaceful diplomatic settlement, if it were willing to pursue an independent path. The recent EU decision to exclude West Bank settlements from any future deals with Israel might be a step in this direction. US policies are also not graven in stone, though they have deep strategic, economic, and cultural roots. In the absence of such changes, there is every reason to expect that the picture from the river to the sea will conform to the third option. Palestinian rights and aspirations will be shelved, temporarily at least.

If the Israel-Palestine conflict is not resolved, a regional peace settlement is highly unlikely. That failure has far broader implications — in particular, for what US media call “the gravest threat to world peace,” echoing the pronouncements of President Obama and most of the political class: namely, Iran’s nuclear programs. The implications become clear when we consider the most obvious ways to deal with the alleged threat, and their fate. It is useful, first, to consider a few preliminary questions: Who regards the threat as of such cosmic significance? And what is the perceived threat?

Answers are straightforward. The threat is overwhelmingly a western obsession: the US and its allies. The non-aligned countries, most of the world, have vigorously supported Iran’s right, as a signer of the Non-proliferation Treaty, to enrich Uranium. In the Arab world, Iran is generally disliked, but not perceived as a threat; rather, it is the US and Israel that the population regards as a threat, by very large margins, as consistently shown by polls.

In western discourse, it is commonly claimed that the Arabs support the US position regarding Iran, but the reference is to the dictators, not the general population, who are considered an irrelevant annoyance under prevailing democratic doctrine. Also standard is reference to “the standoff between the international community and Iran,” to quote from the current scholarly literature. Here the phrase “international community” refers to the US and whoever happens to go along with it; in this case, a small minority of the international community, but many more if political stands are weighted by power.

What then is the perceived threat? An authoritative answer is given by US intelligence and the Pentagon in their regular reviews of global security. They conclude that Iran is not a military threat. It has low military expenditures even by the standards of the region, and limited capacity to deploy force. Its strategic doctrine is defensive, designed to resist attack. The intelligence community reports no evidence that Iran is developing nuclear weapons, but if it is, they conclude, that would be part of Iran’s deterrence strategy.

It is hard to think of a country in the world that needs a deterrent more than Iran. It has been tormented by the West without respite ever since its parliamentary regime was overthrown by a US-British military coup in 1953, first under the harsh and brutal regime of the Shah, then under murderous attack by Saddam Hussein, with western support. It was largely US intervention that induced Iran to capitulate; and shortly after, President George Bush I invited Iraqi nuclear engineers to the US for training in advanced weapons production, an extraordinary threat to Iran. Iraq soon became an enemy, but meanwhile Iran was subjected to harsh sanctions, intensifying under US initiative to the present. It constantly subjected to the threat of military attack by the US and Israel — in violation of the UN Charter, if anyone cares.

It is, however, understandable that the US-Israel would regard an Iranian deterrent as an intolerable threat. It would limit their ability to control the region, by violence if they choose, as they often have. That is the essence of the perceived Iranian threat.

That the clerical regime is a threat to its own people is hardly in doubt, though regrettably it is hardly alone in that regard. But it goes well beyond naiveté to believe that its internal repression is much of a concern to the great powers.

Whatever one thinks of the threat, are there ways to mitigate it? Quite a few, in fact. One of the most reasonable would be to move towards establishing a nuclear weapons-free zone in the region, as strongly advocated by the Non-aligned movement and particularly by the Arab states, and indeed most of the world. The US and its allies voice formal support, but have hardly been cooperative. That is once again clear right now. Under NPT authority, an international conference was to have been held in Finland last December to advance such plans. Israel refused to attend, but to the surprise of many, in early November Iran announced that it would take part, without conditions. The US then announced that the conference was cancelled, repeating Israel’s objections: that a conference is premature before regional security is established. The Arab states, Russia, and the European Parliament called for immediate renewal of the initiative, but of course little is possible without the US.

Details are murky. Little documentary evidence is available, and all of this has passed without inquiry. In particular, the US press has not inquired, or in fact even published a single word on the most reasonable and practical efforts to address what it reports as “the gravest threat to world peace.”

It is quite clear, however, that Arab states and others call for moves to eliminate weapons of mass destruction immediately, as a step towards regional security; while the US and Israel, in contrast, reverse the order, and demand regional security — meaning security for Israel — as a prerequisite to eliminating such weapons. In the not-very-remote background is the understanding that Israel has an advanced nuclear weapons system, alone in the region; and is alone in refusing to join the NPT, along with India and Pakistan, both of whom also benefit from US support for their nuclear arsenals.

The connection of Israel-Palestine conflict to the alleged Iranian threat is therefore clear. As long as the US and Israel persist in their rejectionist stance, blocking the international consensus on a two-state settlement, there will be no regional security arrangements, hence no moves towards a establishing a nuclear weapons-free zone and mitigating, perhaps ending, what the US and Israel claim to be the gravest threat to peace, at least to do so in the most obvious and far-reaching way.

It should be noted that along with Britain, the US has a special responsibility to devote its efforts to establishing a Middle East NWFZ. When attempting to provide a thin legal cover for their invasion of Iraq, the two aggressors appealed to UNSCR 687 of 1991, claiming that Saddam violated the demand to end his nuclear weapons programs. The Resolution also has another paragraph, calling for “steps towards the goal of establishing in the Middle East a zone free from weapons of mass destruction…”, obligating the US and UK even more than others to undertake this initiative seriously.

These comments naturally only scratch the surface, and leave out many urgent topics, among them the horrifying descent of Syria into suicide and ominous developments in Egypt, which are sure to have a regional impact. And indeed a lot more. This is how some of the core issues appear, to me at least.

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“Material assistance to terrorism”

I came to Gaza in September to teach environmental engineering students about climate change.  In two weeks, I will be leaving Gaza and I’m feeling very sad.

I have made many new friends; experienced Israeli bombardment for 8 days in November; and witnessed the human suffering, physical destruction and the environmental damage in this conflict zone.   This summer I plan to write about it all.  InshAllah!

During my time in Gaza I have met with government officials who are interested in learning about the challenges they face in this new era of climate change.  Some responded that “Allah will take care of it.”  I guess those people are the climate deniers, like the ones we have in the USA.

Others said that “the Israeli occupation and siege force us to look at more immediate crises.  How can we turn our attention to climate change?”  And some have ideas about the next steps (adaptation to climate change) that they should take to prepare their citizens for what is surely coming.

Gaza is in the cross-hairs of three major crises, any one of which would be devastating, but combined, they are unimaginable.

(1) The dire consequences of occupation and a multi-year economic, political and cultural siege that has no end in sight.

(2) The enormous environmental threats — water and air pollution at the top of the list.

(3) Climate change!

It doesn’t seem fair that 1.7 million Palestinians caught in the world’s largest open air prison should have to even think about climate change.

But life isn’t fair.

And now on my return to the States, I wonder if I’ll be greeted at the airport by my family or by federal agents.

And what rights will I have if the federal agents detain me?

You think I’m crazy?    Read this current interview with Noam Chomsky about the erosion of our civil rights.

[Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project] was a law group that was giving legal advice to groups on the terrorist list, which in itself has no moral or legal justification; it’s an abomination. But if you look at the way it’s been used, it becomes even more abhorrent (Nelson Mandela was on it until a couple of years ago.) And the wording of the colloquy is broad enough that it could very well mean that if, say, you meet with someone in a terrorist group and advise them to turn to nonviolent means, then that’s material assistance to terrorism. I’ve met with people who are on the list and will continue to do so, and Obama wants to criminalize that, which is a plain attack on freedom of speech. I just don’t understand why he’s doing it.

If an American meets with officials in Gaza, undoubtedly Hamas officials, to discuss climate change, is she providing “material assistance to terrorism“?

I’ll tell you who is materially assisting terrorism!  American taxpayers who are funding the Israeli occupation to the tune of $3 billion each year.

In any case, I know I’m in good company.  Noam Chomsky visited Gaza last November days before the bombardment and met with Hamas officials.

If my blog posts are interrupted for more than a week, call media and tell them to check Quantanamo.   That’s probably where you’ll find me.

Noam Chomsky

Noam Chomsky

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Filed under Climate Change, Gaza, Hamas, Occupation, US Policy

Put Israel’s assault in Gaza in context

Some folks on Twitter are chastising me for my posts about Israel’s assault on Gaza.  Since I’m sitting in the middle of Gaza City, I wonder where these critics are sitting.

They say I should put things in context …. that Israel must defend herself against the hundreds of rockets launched by Palestinian militants into southern Israel.

Yes, I agree.  Lets put things into context.  Starting with the OCCUPATION.  Are any news media even mentioning the occupation?

And I thank Col. Ann Wright for putting recent events in Gaza into context.  She writes:

“Gaza is getting attacked again by Israel, but our US press does NOT report the real story: The chronology of events of the recent flare-up began on November 5, when an innocent, apparently mentally unfit, 20-year old man, Ahmad al-Nabaheen, was shot when he wandered close to the border. Medics had to wait for six hours to be permitted to pick him up and they suspect that he may have died because of that delay. Then, on November 8, a 13-year old boy playing football in front of his house was killed by fire from the IOF that had moved into Gazan territory with tanks as well as helicopters. The wounding of four Israeli soldiers at the border on November 10 was therefore already part of a chain of events where Gazan civilians had been killed, and not the triggering event.”

The “reprehensible” news coverage  of Gaza must be corrected.

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Filed under Gaza, Israel Defense Forces, Media, Occupation