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Forum Post: The Desert of Israeli Democracy: A Trip Through the Negev Desert Leads to the Heart of Israel’s National Nightmare

Posted 5 years ago on Oct. 14, 2013, 4:06 p.m. EST by LeoYo (5909)
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The Desert of Israeli Democracy: A Trip Through the Negev Desert Leads to the Heart of Israel’s National Nightmare

Monday, 14 October 2013 10:34 By Max Blumenthal, TomDispatch | News Analysis


From the podium of the U.N. General Assembly, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seamlessly blended frightening details of Iranian evildoing with images of defenseless Jews “bludgeoned” and “left for dead” by anti-Semites in nineteenth century Europe. Aimed at U.S. and Iranian moves towards diplomacy and a war-weary American public, Netanyahu’s gloomy tirade threatened to cast him as a desperate, diminished figure. Though it was poorly received in the U.S., alienating even a few of his stalwart pro-Israel allies, his jeremiad served a greater purpose, deflecting attention from his country's policies towards the group he scarcely mentioned: the Palestinians.

Back in November 1989, while serving as a junior minister in the Likud-led governing coalition of Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, a younger Netanyahu told an audience at Bar Ilan University, “Israel should have taken advantage of the suppression of demonstrations [at China’s Tiananmen Square], when the world’s attention was focused on what was happening in that country, to carry out mass expulsions among the Arabs of the Territories. However, to my regret, they did not support that policy that I proposed, and which I still propose should be implemented.”

Now the country’s top official, Netanyahu has updated the smokescreen strategy. While the prime minister ranted against Iran in New York City and in a meeting with President Obama in the Oval Office, his government was preparing to implement the Prawer Plan, a blueprint for the expulsion of 40,000 indigenous Bedouin citizens of Israel from their ancestral Negev Desert communities that promised to “concentrate” them in state-run, reservation-style townships. Authored by Netanyahu's planning policy chief, Ehud Prawer, and passed by a majority of the members of the mainstream Israeli political parties in the Knesset, the Prawer Plan is only one element of the government’s emerging program to dominate all space and the lives of all people between the river (the Jordan) and the sea (the Mediterranean).

Expulsions in the Desert

On September 9th, I visited Umm al-Hiran, a village that the state of Israel plans to wipe off the map. Located in the northern Negev Desert, well behind the Green Line (the 1949 armistice lines that are considered the starting point for any Israeli-Palestinian negotiations) and inside the part of Israel that will be legitimized under a U.S.-brokered two-state solution, the residents of Umm al-Hiran are mobilizing to resist their forced removal.

In the living room of a dusty but impeccably tidy cinderblock home on the outskirts of the village, Hajj al-Ahmed, an aging sheikh, described to a group of colleagues from the website Mondoweiss and me the experience of the 80,000 Bedouin living in what are classified as “unrecognized” villages. The products of continuous dispossession, many of these communities are surrounded by petrochemical waste dumps and have been transformed into cancer clusters, while state campaigns of aerial crop destruction and livestock eradication have decimated their sources of subsistence. Although residents like al-Ahmed carry Israeli citizenship, they are unable to benefit from the public services that Jews in neighboring communities receive. The roads to unrecognized villages like Umm al-Hiran are lined with electric wires, but the Bedouins are barred from connecting to the public grid. Their homes and mosques have been designated “illegal” constructions and are routinely marked for demolition. And now, their very presence on their own land has been placed in jeopardy.

Under the Prawer Plan, the people of Umm al-Hiran will be among the 40,000 Bedouins forcibly relocated to American-Indian-reservation-style towns constructed by the Israeli government. As the fastest growing group among the Palestinian citizens of Israel, the Bedouins have been designated as an existential threat to Israel’s Jewish majority. “It is not in Israel’s interest to have more Palestinians in the Negev,” said Shai Hermesh, a former member of the Knesset and director of the government’s effort to engineer a “Zionist majority” in the southern desert.

According to the website of the Or Movement, a government-linked organization overseeing Jewish settlement in the Negev, residents of the unrecognized villages will be moved to towns constructed “to concentrate the Bedouin population.” In turn, small Jews-only communities will be constructed on the remnants of the evicted Bedouin communities. They will be guaranteed handsome benefits from the Israeli government and lavish funding from private pro-Israel donors like the billionaire cosmetics fortune heir Ron Lauder. “The United States had its Manifest Destiny in the West,” Lauder has declared. “For Israel, that land is the Negev.”

When I met al-Ahmed, he described a group of 150 strangers who had suddenly appeared at the periphery of his village the previous day. From a hilltop, he said, they had surveyed the land and debated which parcels each of them would receive after the Prawer Plan was complete. Al-Ahmed called them “the Jews in the woods.”

Several hundred meters east of Umm al-Hiran lies the Yattir Forest, a vast grove in the heart of the desert planted by the para-governmental Jewish National Fund (JNF) in 1964. The JNF’s director at the time, Yosef Weitz, had headed the governmental Transfer Committee that orchestrated the final stages of Palestinian removal in 1948. For Weitz, planting forests served a dual strategic purpose: those like Yattir near the Green Line were to provide a demographic buffer between Jews and Arabs, while those planted atop destroyed Palestinian villages like Yalu, Beit Nuba, and Imwas would prevent the expelled inhabitants from returning. As he wrote in 1949, once Israel’s Jewish majority had been established through mass expulsion, “The abandoned lands will never return to their absentee [Palestinian Arab] owners."

As darkness came to the desert, I set out with my colleagues into the piney woods of Yattir. In a small car, we wound along its unlit roads until we reached a gate bristling with barbed wire. This was the settlement-style village of Hiran -- “the Jews in the woods,” as al-Ahmed had put it. We called out into the night until the gate was opened. Then we parked in the middle of a compound of trailer homes. Like a shtetl in the Pale of Settlement, the hard-bitten Imperial Russian territory once reserved for Jewish residency, the place exuded a sense of suspicion and siege.

A bearded religious nationalist stepped out of an aluminum-sided synagogue and met us at a group of picnic benches. His name was Af-Shalom and he was in his thirties. He was not, he said, permitted to speak until a representative from the Or Movement arrived. After a few uncomfortable minutes and half a cigarette, however, he began to hold forth. He sent his children, he told us, to school over the Green Line in the settlement of Susiya, just eight minutes away on an Israelis-only access road. He then added that the Bedouins were “illegals” occupying his God-given land and would continue to take it over unless they were forcibly removed. Just as Af-Shalom was hitting his stride, Moshe, a curt Or Movement representative who refused to give his last name, arrived to escort us out without a comment.



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[-] 4 points by LeoYo (5909) 5 years ago

“The World’s Biggest Detention Center”

Only a few kilometers from Umm al-Hiran, in the southern Negev Desert and inside the Green Line, the state of Israel has initiated another ambitious project to “concentrate” an unwanted population. It is the Saharonim detention facility, a vast matrix of watchtowers, concrete blast walls, razor wire, and surveillance cameras that now comprise what the British Independent has described as “the world’s biggest detention center.”

Originally constructed as a prison for Palestinians during the First Intifada, Saharonim was expanded to hold 8,000 Africans who had fled genocide and persecution. Currently, it is home to at least 1,800 African refugees, including women and children, who live in what the Israeli architectural group Bikrom has called “a huge concentration camp with harsh conditions.”

Like the Bedouins of the Negev’s unrecognized villages, the 60,000 African migrants and asylum seekers who live in Israel have been identified as a demographic threat that must be purged from the body of the Jewish state. In a meeting with his cabinet ministers in May 2012, Netanyahu warned that their numbers could multiply tenfold “and cause the negation of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.” It was imperative “to physically remove the infiltrators,” the prime minister declared. “We must crack down and mete out tougher punishments.”

In short order, the Knesset amended the Infiltration Prevention Act it had passed in 1954 to prevent Palestinian refugees from ever reuniting with the families and property they were forced to leave behind in Israel. Under the new bill, non-Jewish Africans can be arrested and held without trial for as long as three years. (Israel’s Supreme Court has invalidated the amendment, but the government has made no moves to enforce the ruling, and may not do so.) The bill earmarked funding for the construction of Saharonim and a massive wall along the Israeli-Egyptian border. Arnon Sofer, a longtime Netanyahu advisor, also urged the construction of “sea walls” to guard against future “climate change refugees.”

“We don’t belong to this region,” Sofer explained.

In that single sentence, he distilled the logic of Israel’s system of ethnocracy. The maintenance of the Jewish state demands the engineering of a demographic majority of nonindigenous Jews and their dispersal across historic Palestine through methods of colonial settlement. State planners like Sofer refer to the process as “Judaization.” Because indigenous Palestinians and foreign migrants are not Jews, the state of Israel has legally defined most of them as “infiltrators,” mandating their removal and permanent relocation to various zones of exclusion -- from refugee camps across the Arab world to walled-off West Bank Bantustans to the besieged Gaza Strip to state-constructed Bedouin reservations to the desert camp of Saharonim.

As long as the state of Israel holds fast to its demographic imperatives, the non-Jewish outclass must be “concentrated” to make room for exclusively Jewish settlement and economic development. This is not a particularly humane system, to be sure, but it is one that all within the spectrum of Zionist opinion, from the Kahanist right to the J Street left, necessarily support. Indeed, if there is any substantial disagreement between the two seemingly divergent camps, it is over the style of rhetoric they deploy in defense of Israel's ethnocracy. As the revisionist Zionist ideologue Ze’ev Jabotinsky wrote in his famous 1923 “Iron Wall” essay outlining the logic of what would become Israel’s deterrence strategy, “there are no meaningful differences between our ‘militarists’ and our ‘vegetarians.’”

During the Oslo era, the time of hope that prevailed in mid-1990’s Israel, it was the “dovish” Labor Party of Yitzhak Rabin and Ehud Barak that began surrounding the Gaza Strip with barricades and electrified fencing while drawing up plans for a wall separating the West Bank from “Israel proper.” (That blueprint was implemented under the prime ministership of Ariel Sharon.)

“Us over here, them over there” was the slogan of Barak’s campaign for reelection in 1999, and of the Peace Now camp supporting a two-state solution at the time. Through the fulfillment of the Labor Party’s separationist policies, the Palestinians of Gaza and the West Bank have gradually disappeared from Israel’s prosperous coastal center, consolidating cities like Tel Aviv as meccas of European cosmopolitanism -- “a villa in the jungle,” as Barak said.

With the post-Oslo political transition that shattered Israel’s “peace camp,” ascendant right-wing parties set out to finish the job that Labor had started. By 2009, when Israel elected the most hawkish government in its history, the country was still full of “infiltrators,” the most visible of whom were those African migrants, deprived of work permits and increasingly forced to sleep in parks in south Tel Aviv. According to a report by the newspaper Haaretz on a brand new Israel Democracy Institute poll on Israeli attitudes, “Arabs no longer top the list of neighbors Israeli Jews would consider undesirable, replaced now by foreign workers. Almost 57% of Jewish respondents said that having foreign workers as neighbors would bother them.” Unrestricted by the center-left’s pretensions to tolerance, rightist members of the government launched a festival of unprecedented racist incitement. Interior Minister Eli Yishai of the Shas Party (replaced after the 2013 election), for example, falsely described African asylum seekers as infected with “a range of diseases” and lamented that they “think the country doesn’t belong to us, the white man.”

“Until I can deport them,” he promised, “I'll lock them up to make their lives miserable.”

At a May 2012 anti-African rally in Tel Aviv, on a stage before more than 1,000 riled up demonstrators, Knesset member and former Israeli army spokesperson Miri Regev proclaimed, “The Sudanese are a cancer in our body!” Incited into a violent frenzy, hundreds of protesters then rampaged through south Tel Aviv, smashing the windows of African businesses and attacking any migrant they could find. “The people want the Africans to be burned!” they chanted. As during other dark moments in history, eliminationist cries booming from an urban mob against a class of outcasts signaled a coming campaign of ethnic purification. And following the night of shattered glass, the cells of Saharonim continued to fill up.

Going South

Just as Western media consumers will find details about the Prawer Plan and the Saharonim camp hard to come by, casual visitors to the Negev Desert will find little evidence of the state’s more disturbing endeavors. Instead, highway signs will direct them to a little museum at Sde Boker, the humble kibbutz that Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben Gurion, called home.

In Ben Gurion’s memoirs, he fantasized about evacuating Tel Aviv and settling five million Jews in small outposts across the Negev, where they would be weaned off the rootless cosmopolitanism they inherited from diaspora life. Just as he resented the worldly attitude of Jews from Tel Aviv and New York City, Ben Gurion was repelled by the sight of the open desert, describing it as a “criminal waste” and “occupied territory.” Indeed, from his standpoint, the Arabs were the occupiers. As early as 1937, he had plans for their removal, writing in a letter to his son Amos, “We must expel Arabs and take their places.”

Ben Gurion’s house is an austere-looking, single-story structure, sparsely furnished and poorly lit. The separate, spartan bedrooms he and his wife slept in are impeccably preserved, as though they might return home at any time. Nearby is a compact, somewhat shabby museum commemorating his legacy in a series of exhibits that do not appear to have been updated for at least a decade.

The site is a crumbling remnant of a bygone era that the country has left in the dust. The enlightened public of Israel’s coastal center has turned its back on the desert, preferring instead to face toward the urbane capitals of Europe, while the rest of the country draws increasing energy from the religious nationalist fervor emanating from the hilltops of the occupied West Bank. In the Negev, perhaps all that endures of Ben Gurion's legacy is the continuous expulsion of the Bedouins.

On a gravelly path leading towards his home, a series of plaques highlight tidbits of wisdom from that Israeli founding father. One quote stands out from the others. Engraved on a narrow slab of granite, it reads, “The State of Israel, to exist, must go south.”

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[-] 2 points by gmxusa (274) 5 years ago

Is it Really Israel’s New Racism?

OCTOBER 23, 2013 AT 6:17 AM

By Gilad Atzmon.

This must-see short documentary by David Sheen and Max Blumenthal is about the appalling treatment of African migrants in Israel.

The film reveals a most ugly manifestation of Jewish ethnocentrism, exclusivism and bigotry, but you may notice that none of the Israeli racists in the film identifies as a ‘Zionist’ or showed any concern for the Zionist nature of Israel.

Instead they, and without exception, express their deep concern with the ‘Jewish State’ its ‘Jewish character’ and matters pertaining to the Jewish religion and Jewish ‘purity’.

We see MK Ben Ari on camera saying “We are not an immigration State,.. our state is different – it is a Jewish State.. for me the Jewish people are precious…this is our only Jewish state”, and PM Benjamin Netanyahu speaks about demographic fears and the ‘Jewish character’ of Israel.

For over a decade now, I have been suggesting that Israeli racism is driven by Jewish supremacism rather than any Zionist ideology. I have argued that Zionism, largely, a foreign notion to most Israelis, is just one symptom of Jewish exclusivism – and for saying it, I have been denounced, harassed and smeared by most Jewish Left organisations and even a few Palestinians.

But this documentary actually proves that, all along, I was right. For the Israeli, Jewishness rather than Zionism, is the guiding political signifier. This film is not about Zionist abuse or Israeli ‘new racism’, it is actually about Goy-hatred that is intrinsic to the Jewish political discourse.

So here are some questions that demand immediate attention: For many years we have been hearing about the heroic Jewish involvement in the Civil Rights Movement, we have also learned (from Jewish progressives) about Jewish ‘caring for the Other’, for ‘justice’ and for ‘equality’.

How then, do we explain the clear discrepancy between the clear racism of the Jewish state and this Jewish ethical impulse?

Furthermore, how can we explain the fact that Jewish Diaspora political institutions are amongst the leading advocates of pro-immigration policies yet, Israel. as MK Ben Ari states, is “not an immigration state” - it is actually an anti-immigration apparatus.

Here, we detect a clear discrepancy between the Jewish Diaspora phantasmic, progressive mantra which attributes humanist and universal ethics to Jewish politics, and the reality of the Jewish state that is, itself, racist to the bone.

It is understandable that Max Blumenthal, David Sheen and many Jewish Left persons and organisations are devastated by the scale of ‘new’ racism in Israel.

But I ask myself, how would progressive Jews-only organisations such as JVP or IJAN react to 100.000 Sudanese attempting to join their ranks. Would they accept them? I think we all know the answer to that. If Jews want to really oppose racism, they may want to consider cleansing their own political culture of any trace of exclusivism.

But my guess is that, by the time they get round to this, they won’t be Jews anymore – they would have become ordinary people, they might even accomplish the early Zionist dream and become people like all other people.


[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 5 years ago

Israeli Claim of Iranian ICBM Exploits Biased US Intel

Monday, 14 October 2013 12:14 By Gareth Porter, Inter Press Service | Report


Washington - In an effort to provoke any possible opposition in U.S. political circles to a nuclear deal with Iran, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has returned to exploiting an old claim that Iran is building intercontinental ballistic missiles that could hit the United States.

The Netanyahu claim takes advantage of the extreme position that has been taken on the issue by Pentagon and Air Force intelligence organisations but goes even further.

In an Oct. 1 interview with Bob Schieffer of CBS News, Netanyahu said Iranians are “building ICBMs to reach…the American mainland within a few years”. And in an interview with Charlie Rose a week later, he said the Iranians “are developing ICBMs – not for us, but for you.”

Netanyahu added, “The American intelligence agency knows as well as we do that Iran is developing ICBMs.”

Independent specialists on the issue say, however, that no evidence supports Netanyahu’s claim.

Michael Elleman of the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies, the author of an authoritative study on Iran’s missile programme, told IPS, “I’ve seen no evidence of Iranian ICBM development, let alone a capability.”

Elleman said Iran would need to test a missile at least a half dozen — and more likely a dozen times — before it would have an operational capability for an ICBM.

Thus far, however, Iran has not even displayed, much less tested, a larger version of its existing space launch vehicle that would be a necessary step toward an ICBM, according to David Wright, co-director of the Global Security Programme at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Iran has only tested a space launch vehicle that can put a very small satellite into orbit, Wright told IPS.

“The fact that it’s not happening suggests something is holding them back,” said Wright. “Clearly we’re not seeing them moving very fast in that direction.”

The highly politicised nature of U.S. intelligence assessments on the Iranian ballistic missile programme has given Netanyahu the opportunity to make the claims of an incipient Iranian ICBM without fear of being called out.

Pentagon and industry interests pushing the idea of an Iranian ICBM threat to get support for spending on a missile defence system have long had a deep impact on intelligence assessments of the issue. Netanyahu actually began warning of Iranian ICBMs targeting the United States 15 years ago, after a commission on foreign ballistic missile threats led by Donald Rumsfeld had warned in mid-1998 that Iran and North Korea “could” threaten the United States with ICBMs within five years.

The Rumsfeld Commission, which was organised to pressure the Bill Clinton administration to approve a national missile defence system, arrived at its five-year timeline by inviting the four major military contractors to suggest how Iran might conceivably succeed in testing an ICBM.

It also rejected the normal practice in threat assessment of distinguishing between what was theoretically possible and what was likely.

Since 2001, the U.S. intelligence community has been saying that Iran “could” have the capability to test an ICBM by sometime between 2012 and 2015, if it was given enough foreign – meaning Russian – assistance.

But it was generally recognised that the Russian government was unlikely to assist Iran in building an ICBM. And as the report on the issue published by the National Intelligence Council in December 2001 explained, “We judge that countries are much less likely to test as early as the hypothetical ‘could’ dates than they are by our projected ‘likely’ dates.”

In other words, “could” actually meant “is unlikely to”. But that fact was never covered in news articles, so it remained unknown except among a few policy wonks.

By 2009, it had become obvious to most of the intelligence community that the 2015 date could no longer be defended, even with the misleading “could” formulation. A National Intelligence Estimate that year, which was never made public, reportedly said Iran couldn’t achieve such a capability until sometime between 2015 and 2020.

Intelligence organisations connected with the Pentagon and the Air Force, however, never gave up the 2015 date. The Air Force’s National Air and Space intelligence Centre and the Defence Intelligence Agency published a paper that repeated the mantra: “With sufficient foreign assistance, Iran could probably develop and test an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capable of reaching the United States by 2015.”

In April 2010, the Pentagon quoted that statement word for word in a report to Congress.

When Netanyahu wanted to turn the heat up on the Iran nuclear issue in February 2012, his close allies cited that military estimate in support of an even more extreme claim. Strategic affairs minister Moshe Yaalon said Iran was developing a missile with a 6,000-mile range, which would allow it to reach the east coast of the United States.

Israeli Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz went even further. “We estimate,” he said, “that in two or three years they will have the first ICBMs that can reach the east coast of America.”

Steinitz said the Israeli assessment was in line with the assessment of the Pentagon. But even the military estimate doesn’t say that Iran would have such an ICBM. It said only that Iran could test an ICBM, which would still leave Iran several years away from having an operational ICBM.

In July 2013, the Air Force National Air and Space intelligence Centre, DIA and Office of Naval Intelligence issued a new report on “Ballistic and Cruise Missile Threat” that states flatly, “Iran could develop and test an ICBM capable of reaching the United States by 2015.”

That language omitted any reference to foreign assistance, which had always been a key element in the formula that had been adopted to satisfy missile defence interests.

But those interests were obviously pressing for even stronger language. Missile defence advocates have been pressing Congress to approve a missile defence site on the East Coast, making an Iranian ICBM threat even more important politically.

Iran, meanwhile, has said it is not interested in ICBMs at all. Defence Minister Ahmad Vahidi said in April 2010 that Iran “has no plans to build such a missile”.

And Brig. Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh, commander of the Aerospace Division of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), which has guided Iran’s missile programme for decades, said in 2011 that Iran had no intention of producing missile with ranges beyond 2,000 km. Iran was only interested in missiles that targeted U.S. bases in the region, Hajizadeh said.

Iran had a good strategic reason for its disinterest in an ICBM, according to a team of U.S. and Russian specialists who analysed the Iranian missile programme in May 2009. Iran would have to use rocket motor clusters, the U.S.-Russian team observed, and longer-range missiles based on that technology would have to be launched from above ground.

It would take days to prepare for launch and hours to fuel – all of which would be clearly visible to spy satellites, according to the team.

Visit IPS news for fresh perspectives on development and globalization.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 5 years ago

It's Time to Put an End to Israel's "Don't Ask-Don't Tell" Nuclear Policy

Saturday, 19 October 2013 11:46 By Pam Bailey and Medea Benjamin, PinkTank | News Analysis


The negotiations this week in Geneva between Iran and the “P5+1” (the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council — Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States — plus Germany) offer a promising vehicle for avoiding another destructive war. The talks came on the heels of a virtual uprising by the American people that stopped President Barack Obama’s plan to attack Syria, clearly demonstrating their desire to solve conflicts at the negotiation table rather than at the point of a gun.

However, Israel and its allies in the U.S. Congress continue to lobby against a deal that would meet Iran in the middle, insisting on a “zero-enrichment” policy that is a deal-breaker for Iran.

The Israeli cabinet said in a statement Tuesday that “Israel does not oppose Iran having a peaceful nuclear energy program. But as has been demonstrated in many countries, from Canada to Indonesia, peaceful programs do not require uranium enrichment or plutonium production. Iran’s nuclear weapons program does.”

The ‘elephant in the room’: Israel and the bomb

The Israeli cabinet’s statement is more than ironic, in light of Israel’s own nuclear-weapons program — often called the world’s “worst-kept secret” because of the taboo surrounding any public discussion of its existence.

The Washington Post’s Walter Pincus is one of the few journalists openly questioning this obvious hypocrisy. He writes, “When the Israeli prime minister asked (at the UN), ‘Why would a country that claims to only want peaceful nuclear energy, why would such a country build hidden underground enrichment facilities?’ I thought Dimona.”

Israel’s nuclear facility at Dimona, a city in the Negev desert, reportedly has six underground floors dedicated to activities such as plutonium extraction, production of tritium and lithium-6, for use in nuclear weapons.

Whereas Iran signed the Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), giving the international community the right to demand inspections and controls, Israel has not — and is therefore not subject to external oversight.

According to Avner Cohen, author of “Israel’s Bargain with the Bomb,” David Ben-Gurion began planning how to arm Israel with a nuclear shield even before the creation of the Jewish state, soon after the United States dropped its own atomic payload on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The first president of Israel took action to initiate a nuclear-development project by the end of the new state’s first decade, with its successful “birth” on the eve of its 1967 occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

The U.S. government got wind of the project and objected strenuously. But when the Israelis brought it to fruition regardless and refused to give up their new arsenal, a covert agreement was struck between Prime Minister Golda Meir and President Richard Nixon – rather like the old U.S. policy of “don’t ask, don’t tell” for gays in the military. The Israelis agreed to keep their newfound strength under wraps, and the Americans pledged to pretend it didn’t exist.

Cohen uses the Hebrew term amimut (opacity) to describe the taboo that developed within Israel around any sort of public acknowledgement of its nuclear arsenal – which estimates peg at up to 200 warheads. To this day, there is total censorship within Israel of any mention that the weapons exist, and the United States actively plays along.

Edward Snowden’s predecessor

In fact, there is an eerie similarity between the stories of Israeli whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu, a nuclear technician who revealed details of Israel’s nuclear weapons program to the British press in 1986, and Edward Snowden. Both held junior positions in organizations serving the defense industry, in which they had access to sensitive national secrets. Both became convinced their employers were responsible for immoral acts and decided to violate their oaths of secrecy to tell the world about them. They both shared what they learned with a British newspaper and set off an international storm. And both have been persecuted since then by their governments, in retaliation for their leaks.

While Snowden has so far evaded capture by his government, Vanunu spent 18 years in prison, including more than 11 in solitary confinement. Although released in 2004, he has been subjected to a broad array of restrictions on his speech and movement, including several re-arrests for giving interviews to foreign journalists and attempting to leave Israel. Yet, just as activists, foreign governments and others would never have known the U.S. government is tapping their emails and phone calls without Snowden, the world would have known very little – if anything – about Israel’s weapons of mass destruction without Vanunu.

‘Blowback’ from Israel’s nuclear lead

Although Israel, the United States and its European allies continue to dance around the subject, Israel’s nuclear capacity is widely known and has changed the dynamics in the region in dangerous ways. On Sept. 19, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said that “Syria came into possession of chemical weapons as an alternative to Israel’s nuclear weapons.” (It’s also worth noting that while Israel was one of the first countries to sign the Chemical Weapons Convention in 1993, it remains one of only six countries that has not ratified it.)

Some analysts believe that Israel’s insistence on zero enrichment for Iran is designed to ensure that no deal is struck at all – allowing Israel to maintain its military superiority in the region. “Netanyahu ultimately fears the success of diplomacy, not its failure,” explains Trita Parsi, founder and president of the National Iranian American Council, in Foreign Affairs. “Israel…understands that a resolution to the nuclear standoff would significantly reduce U.S.-Iranian tensions and open up opportunities for collaboration between the two former allies. This is what Israelis refer to as the fear of abandonment — that, once the nuclear issue is resolved or contained, Washington will shift its focus to other matters while Israel will be stuck in the region facing a hostile Iran, without the United States by its side.”

Neither the world, nor Israel, is served legally or morally by continuing to condone a practice of don’t ask-don’t tell for an issue that is so central to global security and safety. As long as Israel refuses to acknowledge its possession of nuclear weapons or even that it has produced weapons-grade materials, it is difficult, if not impossible, to engage it in any meaningful arms control or other nuclear-related diplomacy. It certainly makes it impossible to move towards a nuclear-free Middle East—a goal to which the entire international community should aspire, and that has been endorsed by the new Iranian president.

Isn’t it time for the world to start asking, and for Israel to tell?

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 5 years ago

Toward a WMD-Free Middle East: The Israel Hurdle

Saturday, 02 November 2013 00:00 By L Michael Hager, Truthout | Op-Ed


Since first proposed by Egypt in 1990, the vision of a WMD-free Middle East has attracted various proponents, including most recently Finland, which had offered to host a conference on the subject in 2012. That initiative, like the ones before it, failed - largely because of Israel's refusal (backed by the United States) to participate.

Why is the elimination of nuclear (and chemical and biological) weapons important, and what can be done to secure Israel's participation in a conference to create a WMD-free zone for the Middle East?

Eliminating all weapons of mass destruction would benefit every country in the region. It would reduce tensions caused by the mere presence of doomsday devices and substances. It would defuse pressures for a regional arms race and encourage greater reliance on international diplomacy to resolve conflicts.

Why is the WMD topic urgent?

Suddenly we have a chance to eliminate nuclear, chemical and biological weapons from the highly volatile Middle East. Syria's undertaking to decommission its chemical weapons and Iran's new willingness to negotiate limits on its nuclear program present an unprecedented opportunity to create a WMD-free zone. For a region beset by continuing confrontation and violent conflict, such an opportunity is too important and too urgent to dismiss out of hand. Notwithstanding the ongoing civil war, Syria has begun to implement its Russia-brokered agreement to eliminate its chemical weapons. UN inspectors confirm that the dismantling of chemical weapons is on schedule. Already a signatory of the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty, Syria has now signed and ratified the Chemical Weapons Convention.

Iran's new president, Hassan Ruhani, has abandoned the bellicose tone of his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. In his speech to the UN General Assembly on September 24, 2013, Ruhani said his country is "prepared to engage immediately in time-bound and result-oriented talks to build mutual confidence and removal of mutual uncertainties with full transparency." Negotiations already have begun. A spokesman for Iran's chief negotiator believes it can conclude an agreement over its disputed nuclear program within a year. Iran is a signatory of the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty (under which there are implementation issues) and the Chemical Weapons Convention.

While Israel has never acknowledged its WMD assets, Western intelligence assessments have cited active programs for nuclear and biochemical weapons. As early as 1960, the CIA learned of Israel's ambitious nuclear project underway at Dimona, in the Nagev desert. On December 7, 1960, the State Department asked Israel for an explanation. Yet the US government never breached Israel's veil of secrecy. It was an Israeli nuclear technician (Mordechai Vanunu), who, like today's Edward Snowden, blew the whistle. In 1986, he furnished the media with detailed information and photos of the Dimona facilities, although it cost him 18 years of imprisonment, including 11 years in solitary confinement. The intelligence reports and the Vanunu disclosure failed to stop successive Israeli governments from maintaining a curtain of ambiguous silence regarding its WMDs.

Israel is one of only four UN member states that have not joined the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty (the others are India, Pakistan and South Sudan). Although Israel signed the Chemical Weapons Convention, it has never ratified it.

Israel may regard nuclear deterrence as central to its long-term security strategy - a necessary addition to its well-equipped but outnumbered armed forces. However, in a post-Arab Spring Middle East, the elimination of weapons of mass destruction would enhance peace prospects by reducing arms race tendencies.

In the wake of developments in Iran and Syria, Israel is facing increasing pressure to disclose its WMD assets and to participate in an international conference to eliminate such weapons throughout the region. That pressure will only increase if Israel continues to maintain its secret reliance on a WMD arsenal. Syria and Iran have taken the initial steps forward. Now its Israel's turn to reciprocate. What if Israel were to agree to decommission its WMDs in line with similar actions by Syria and Iran? Such an offer would go far to defuse regional hostilities and move the peace process beyond just Israel and Palestine.

If Israel insists on maintaining the Netanyahu government's secret reliance on its doomsday weapons, the United States should use its influence to persuade Israel to participate in an international conference on banning WMDs.

Copyright, Truthout.

[-] 1 points by LeoYo (5909) 5 years ago

Author Blumenthal Offers Unfiltered View Into Israel's Commitment to Jewish Supremacy

Sunday, 27 October 2013 10:09 By Rania Khalek, Truthout | News


In his new book, Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel, award-winning journalist Max Blumenthal goes deep inside Israeli society, offering a rare and unfiltered lens into the hideous implications of Israel's commitment to Jewish supremacy.

With his fearless brand of uncompromising honesty, Blumenthal exposes Israel as a racist colonizer that more closely resembles the American Jim Crow South and Apartheid South Africa than a modern-day democracy. In one gripping scene after another, Blumenthal shows Israel to be a nation infused with nationalistic fervor, where mainstream political leaders routinely incite hatred against non-Jews and use the Holocaust to justify violence and discrimination against Palestinians and African migrants, a far cry from the picturesque "Jewish and democratic state" revered in the establishment press.

Meanwhile, daily life for Palestinians between the river and the sea has deteriorated to levels of epic misery, as Israel continues its illegal campaign of dispossession and ethnic cleansing inside and outside the green line, all in the name of maintaining its demographic imperative as a majority Jewish state. Even those who disagree with Blumenthal's analyses will come away shocked at just how far mainstream Israeli culture has descended into fascism, the inevitable outgrowth of a national identity based on ethnic purity.

I recently caught up with Blumenthal, who was kind enough to participate in a lengthy interview about racism in Israel, US media bias, Holocaust exploitation and his own Jewish privilege, with bits of charming humor mixed in. Blumenthal's expertise provides a refreshing and desperately needed break from US mainstream discourse on the Israel-Palestine crises.

Rania Khalek: Challenging the pro-Israel narrative, as your book does, isn't the most lucrative career move for an American journalist. With that in mind, why did you write this book?

Max Blumenthal: I was following a really successful book called Republican Gomorrah that got me on MSNBC, Air America [and] NPR, and I had a big liberal Democrat-oriented audience who were eager for my analysis of the radical right. I could've leveraged that into another book deal about Republican racism, made loads of money and sold tons of books. But this isn't why I'm in journalism. I don't look at journalism as a career. I look at it both as a profession and a craft and also as a means for exposing injustice. I've been watching the increasing violence and racism of Israeli society for most of my adult life, especially in their treatment of Palestinians. Having been born in 1977, I came of age during the First Intifada and then watched during the Second Intifada as Israel destroyed the Jenin Refugee camp. And then the Second Lebanon invasion happened. Israel basically carpet-bombed southern Lebanon, turning one-quarter of the country into refugees. Then there was Operation Cast Lead, the three-week assault on the besieged Gaza Strip that left 1,400 dead. It was so hard to watch, and it occurred after Barack Obama had been elected, someone I was deeply skeptical of. During the slaughter, I went to midtown New York and filmed a few hundred Jewish-Americans celebrating the attack. They were dancing a hora line outside the Israeli consulate and offering very clearly genocidal statements about the need to eradicate the cancer in Gaza. I put this online as a video, and it went viral. Before long, I was contacted by all kinds of people from across the Middle East who are directly affected by the Israel-Palestine crisis, inviting me to come there to see the situation on the ground. I agreed, and I put a lot of my book advance into the first extended reporting trip there in May 2009. That's what led to me getting the deal to write Goliath and to spending the last four to five years of my life writing about this situation. It definitely changed my life in a lot of ways that I never expected, and I don't think I'll ever be able to see things the same way again.

RK: Goliath came out October 1. What has the reception been like so far, compared with that for Republican Gomorrah?

MB: Pro-Israel partisans in the US typically get hysterical about books like this because the real Israel is really impossible for them to grapple with. It shatters the dream castle Israel that goes to the heart of their identity as tribalistic, secular American Jews. I really believe that they are determined to ignore this book for as long as they can. It may take me going on national TV with one of those foam giant fingers and twerking on Abe Foxman for them to pay attention. The other more obvious and salient reason why I'm not getting the same mainstream attention I got with Republican Gomorrah is because people like Rachel Maddow and Terry Gross, who can really move books, are simply afraid of the Israel issue and what it can do to their careers and the kind of pushback they'll get from pro-Israel partisans behind the scenes. What we're seeing is cowardice at the top of a hollow media establishment that extends into public radio. I think if shows like "Fresh Air" were to host me about Goliath, the response would be massive and mostly positive because I'm presenting the facts on the ground. Even people who don't agree with my conclusions about what should happen in Israel-Palestine are hungry for this kind of information.

RK: American discourse on Israel-Palestine tends to focus on the seemingly endless peace process, but your book goes beyond that and gives readers a lens into the daily realities on the ground, exposing a lot of ugly truths about Israeli society. Were you prepared for just how ugly it would be?

MB: Having covered the radical right in this country and attended white nationalist conventions, I was emotionally and psychologically prepared for a lot of the scenes I would witness and the statements people would make to me in interviews. But one of the things that was surprising to me was the extent to which groups and figures, remarkably similar ideologically and psychologically to the radical right in the US and to neo-fascist movements across Europe, controlled the heart of Israeli society and the Israeli government. I was surprised at how far right the Israeli government had gone and how strong a base this government had within Israeli society at large. For example, I present many scenes in my book where I'm hanging out at nationalist rallies where people are calling for the expulsion of Arabs from their neighborhoods and for the expulsion of African asylum seekers just south of Tel Aviv, calling them a cancer, chanting "nigger, nigger, you're a son of a bitch," while members of the Knesset, Israel's deliberative body, are on stage inciting them.

RK: There are plenty of mainstream US journalists stationed in Israel, yet the vicious and open hostility toward equality that's reflected in your book is rarely covered in the establishment press. How is that possible?

MB: The New York Times has definite ideological blinders when it comes to this situation. I mention in my book that their Jerusalem bureau is in the former home of the Karmi family, a family of Palestinian aristocracy who were ethnically cleansed in 1948. Thomas Freidman purchased their house in the 1980s, when he was the Jerusalem correspondent. I don't understand why the Times feels compelled to fill its Jerusalem bureau with exclusively Jewish correspondents. You can't tell me that these are purely objective people. When you grow up Jewish in the US, you're called on by Zionism in one way or another. Until recently, the Jerusalem bureau chief was Ethan Bronner, who had a son in the Israeli army. He has since been replaced by Jodi Rudoren, who was an education reporter in New York but whose husband, Gary, is pretty open about being a Zionist and has deeply assimilated himself in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem society. Jodi Rudoren doesn't seem to feel as connected to Palestinians as she does to the Ashkenazi elite of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. That was reflected in her story about stone throwing in Beit Ommar, a Palestinian village. She discussed Palestinian boys as though they were throwing stones to kill time due to a cycle of violence and poverty, rather than the result of legitimate grievances. This is reminiscent of her reporting on African-American youth in American cities. Their other reporter is Isabel Kershner, whose husband, Hirsh Goodman, is a fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS), an Israeli think tank closely linked to the Israeli Ministry of Defense. She's sharing a bed with this person, and that does matter. It is a conflict of interest. The deputy editor of The New York Times Jerusalem Bureau is Myra Noveck, the wife of Gershom Gorenberg, who is a liberal Zionist Israeli pundit and writer. Their child has been in the Israeli Army, and I'm fairly sure, and this needs to be investigated, that they have a child who is currently in the Israeli Army.

This is just The New York Times, and they rely on all kinds of Palestinian stringers in the Gaza Strip and West Bank who never get credited. The Washington Post just hired Ruth Eglash as their Jerusalem correspondent, and her husband is a professional Israeli propagandist who is paid to promote the state of Israel abroad through various deceptive means.

As much as I can blame the mainstream papers for their hiring policies, they're also dealing with structural Israeli racism and the limitations on Palestinians and Arabs to travel in territories controlled by Israel. Even if they were to hire Palestinians, the policies of the state of Israel are so institutionally racist toward Palestinians, Arabs and even Arab-Americans that there's no guarantee they could get their reporters through the airport.

[-] 1 points by LeoYo (5909) 5 years ago

RK: Do you think an Arab or Palestinian could have written this book?

MB: This book is the product of Jewish privilege. One of my Arab-American friends in New York or Washington would not have been able to write this book even if they had the same intentions and talents or were more talented than I am, and many of them are more talented than I am. I just can't imagine them getting through the airport, where you're given a number from one to six, one being the lowest security threat, based on your ethnicity. Because I have J-positive blood, I usually get a number one or two, and I'm quickly waved through. And my passport has a special little pen mark that says I'm eligible for return. In other words, I can return to this place that I was supposedly in three or 4,000 years ago when I was chilling with Methuselah, Shim, Ham and Japath, drinking St. Ides on the corner with Aaron and Moses. It's absurd.

RK: In your book, Israel's unrelenting efforts at silencing recognition of the Nakba reminded me of the whitewashing and erasure of Native American history in the US. Do you see parallels between the treatment of indigenous people in America and Israel?

MB: The parallel with the dispossession of Native Americans is profound and needs to be explored more widely, especially on campuses across the US. The new generation of native academics and intellectuals needs to be incorporated more strongly into the Palestine solidarity movement, which is actually happening in the Southwest, where these bonds of solidarity are building nationally against border militarization.

One of the strongest parallels is the situation of the Palestinian Bedouins of the Negev desert in the south of Israel. The state of Israel has built seven towns for Bedouins that are remarkably similar to Indian reservations. The Israeli government-affiliated organization that administers these towns, called the OR movement, openly states on its website that these Bedouin towns are designed to "concentrate" the Bedouin populations. They're using the language of "concentration," which has dark resonance in Jewish history but also in Native American history, when they were taken off their land and concentrated on Indian reservations.

The Prawer Plan, which was just been passed in the Knesset by mainstream and right-wing Israeli parties, seeks to remove Bedouins from their ancestral grazing lands and put them in these Indian reservation-style cities, where they will be transformed into an urban proletariat to basically serve the Jewish population as "hewers of wood and drawers of water" for the chosen people, as former Israeli politician Uri Lubrani said. The Prawer Plan calls for the removal of 40,000 of the 80,000 Bedouins who live in unrecognized villages, where they're unable to connect to the state water supply or electricity grid, even though electrical wires run directly over their villages. They can't have public medical clinics or public schools in their villages either. They are basically left to fend for themselves because they're not Jews. And their villages will be replaced by small Jews-only communities that will provide cheap housing for former soldiers, reservists and religious nationalists who send their children to school inside the occupied territories, over the green line. We constantly hear about settlement activity and illegal occupation, but this is happening inside the green line, the part of Israel that will be legitimized under a two-state solution, which will force the Palestinians to recognize Israel as a Jewish state where Jews enjoy superior privileges and rights over all others.

This is a classic settler-colonialist project that we're seeing play out before our eyes. The difference is that Native Americans were dispossessed and slaughtered en masse before the era of international law, before World War II and the Holocaust, before the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Israel is operating in the era of international law, so it has to do things in a much more gradual way. It's also operating in the Internet era, where everyone has cellphone cameras and acts of hideous violence can be recorded and quickly transmitted around the world. Israel is having a much harder time carrying these policies out, which are essential to the maintenance of an exclusively Jewish state. So it finds itself in a quandary. The BDS movement has gone a really long way toward at least slowing this process down and obstructing it.

RK: You also make comparisons between Israel and the Jim Crow South.

MB: One of the darkest chapters in American history is the lynching of Emmett Till, who was accused of whistling at a white woman. In Zion Square, the heart of central Jerusalem, where I lived for several months, there was a 19-year-old Palestinian guy named Jamal Julani. He was walking through occupied East Jerusalem, which has a large Palestinian population, and he was set upon by a mob of Jews chanting "death to Arabs." They started beating him because a 15-year-old girl had spread rumors that he had made a pass at her, which turned out to be false. They beat him into critical condition. Zion Square is constantly crowded. There were many bystanders that stood by and did nothing. Some of the kids were caught, and they were unrepentant at their trial. They said they would do it again because they were proud of what they did. This goes to the heart of how Jewish youth are being educated in Israel and how reminiscent it is of the way Southern whites were educated and cultivated during the Jim Crow era.

There is a massive anti-miscegenation movement in Israel led by a group called Lehava. It's founder, Benzi Gopstein, who is a member of the Kach terrorist group, was outside the courtroom where the kids who had beaten Julani were put on trial, and he praised them. Gopstein has organized anti-miscegenation coast guards who go to beaches and warn Jewish women not to date Arabs, who will kidnap them, beat them and make them prisoners to their primitive culture. They have a sister organization called Hemla, which runs a home for Jewish women who have supposedly fled relationships with Arab men. Hemla has received hundreds of millions of shekels in state support. Gopstein sits on the board of Hemla, so the anti-miscegenation campaign basically receives state support.

On my last trip to Israel, in September, Phil Weiss of Mondoweiss and me met some Jewish teens right off Zion square, where Palestinians are routinely attacked. They told us how in their high schools they're given sex-ed type classes on relationships where they're [told] that it's very corrosive for Jewish women to date Arabs, not only because their kids might not be raised as Jews but because Arabs are primitive and endemically abusive.

There's also an organization called Yad L'Achim, which is a commando force that works with the Israeli army and supposedly stages raids on Arab villages across Israeli and Palestinian towns in the occupied territories to rescue Jewish women. This is classic Jim Crow-era morality crusading. What the Ku Klux Klan did to win the support of the middle class as an organization that drew from the working class and lower class in the South was to stage morality crusades, where they would claim to be rescuing white women from the predations of black men. Of course there's still massive racism in the United States today that is rooted in sexual fears, but it's at least considered unacceptable. In Israel it's a mainstream phenomenon that's encouraged and supported by the state because it supports Israel's demographic imperative in its ethnocratic political structure.

[-] 1 points by LeoYo (5909) 5 years ago

RK: There's a tragic irony in watching President Obama, the nation's first African-American president, unconditionally embrace a nation engaged in such blatantly racist practices, especially in light of the horrific treatment of African migrants inside Israel. What do you make of that?

MB: I don't know how Barack Obama feels and whether he understands what's really happening there or if he manages to compartmentalize the reality on the ground from the whitewashed, absurd rhetoric he spouts about Israel. On his trip to Israel, they introduced him to the Ethiopian Ms. Israel, who was clearly chosen for propaganda purposes. They didn't introduce him to the thousands of African asylum seekers who were sleeping in parks in Tel Aviv because they'd been denied work permits. After fleeing the Janjaweed in Darfur, horrific torture and abuse and persecution in Eritrea and poverty and genocide in Congo, they're now facing a new nightmare. They've been targeted as a "cancer" by Miri Regev, a member of the Knesset. They've been arrested and held without charge or trial at a detention facility in the Negev desert called Sahronim, which The Independent called the world's largest detention center and which the Israeli architectural collective calls a concentration camp. There have been routine attacks on the African migrant community in south Tel Aviv. Israeli activists have had to chaperone African children on their way to school to prevent attacks by roving gangs of racists, the same tactics that have been used to protect Palestinian children on their way to school in Hebron from settler attacks.

There was one night, which I call "the night of shattered glass," where Israeli lawmakers stood on stage before a crowd of thousands inciting against African migrants in Tel Aviv. The crowd chanted "nigger, nigger, you're a son of a bitch,""deport them all," "Sudanese to Sudan" and then rampaged through the neighborhoods where African migrants were living in Tel Aviv, smashing windows of businesses and attacking anyone they could find while they chanted, "the people want to burn the Sudanese." Africans are being targeted not necessarily because they're outsiders but because they're not Jews. They've been identified as a demographic threat just like Palestinians. Netanyahu has said they threaten the Jewish character of the state, and he's proposed harsh solutions. This is different than the anti-immigrant nativism and xenophobia that we see in the United States, because Israel has a clear definition of who can and cannot be a citizen. Anyone who doesn't fit the ethnic criteria who is currently residing inside the frontiers controlled by Israel can be defined legally as an infiltrator and will face harsh consequences.

Barack Obama, the son of Africa, has been humiliated more than any other president by the small state of Israel in being forced to make absurd unsupportable statements, like Israel does not exist because of the Holocaust, it exists to insure "a Holocaust will never happen again."

RK: You devote several chapters to the exploitation of the Holocaust and anti-Semitism and the effect it has on the Israeli psyche. What are the dangers of this mindset?

MB: If you listen to the rhetoric of Benjamin Netanyahu, the Holocaust is always present when he's talking about threats to the state of Israel. He recently gave an address at Bar-Ilan University, where he spent much of his speech accusing the Palestinians of having a direct role in the Final Solution, which is false. They weren't responsible for any Jewish deaths in Europe. You can imagine how Israeli teens who are entering the army are going to play this out. It's pure incitement, but it falls on really fertile soil. Many Israeli dissidents I interviewed told me that they, as youth growing up in Israel, lived out the Holocaust every day. They told me that one of the hardest things to overcome in their process of deprogramming from years of constant indoctrination they received in Israeli schools and all of the key institutions in Israeli life was to accept that the whole world wasn't against them as Jews, that a second Holocaust was not imminent and that the Nazis did not have heirs in the Palestinian national movement.

RK: One of the most upsetting aspects in your book, at least for me, was the indoctrination in the Israeli school system.

MB: In my book, I talk about a preschool in Holon, a suburb of Tel Aviv, where children were seated before a diagram, which asked them, "Who wants to kill us?" followed by an arrow that points to "Pharaoh," "Nazis," "Arabs," etc. From there, an arrow pointed to the question "What do we need?" and then another arrow pointed to the answer, "We need a state." These children, who are not quite able to form coherent sentences, are being taught to fear the outside world, to hate Arabs and to see them as Nazis dedicated to Jewish genocide. The process continues throughout the rest of their lives as they're raised to become not necessarily good citizens, but good soldiers who will engage in the project of controlling Palestinians.

RK: And this continues into high school?

MB: The militarization of education blurs into holocaust indoctrination. By the time Israeli youth begin pre-army training at age 17, thousands of Jewish Israeli teens are sent to Auschwitz for the annual "March of the Living," where they participate in ceremonies alongside uniformed Israeli soldiers and generals. They come in skeptical about army life, but the process leads them through a frightening experience where they're brought into contact with the history of Jewish genocide. They're eventually brought into a darkened gas chamber at the end of the ceremony and they're asked to take on the personas of Jewish children who were slaughtered in Auschwitz. By that point they break down one after another. Poll after poll shows that these trips to Auschwitz immediately heighten levels of nationalism in Jewish teens and improve their opinion of the Israeli Army. But there's one other poll I cite in Goliath, which is fascinating to me. It was a poll of Israeli Army veterans sent to Auschwitz on a separate program. And after seeing the exhibitions, their nationalist sentiments were shattered and they immediately developed anti-Israel responses to questions in the poll. The researchers couldn't understand why this was, but the reason is pretty obvious. They began to see the Palestinians in the Jews who were ghettoized in Europe whose future was destroyed by a movement dedicated to ethnic purity.

I'm certainly not comparing Israel to the Nazis, but many Israelis often do this, including people I interviewed in the book. Many members of Israel's founding generation have openly declared that Israel is a fascist state.

RK: Why should Americans care about what happens in Israel-Palestine?

MB: Everything that I've described is made possible only because of American financial and political support. It's not just the $30 billion in taxpayer money the US has pledged to give to Israel, but also the weapons, the political cover at the UN, Congress. The world's only superpower will give anything to support Israeli occupation and dispossession. Meanwhile, the consequences of US support are not relayed back to the taxpayers, who are being billed for it. This isn't just an issue for Jews and Palestinians to be interested in. All Americans have a right to be informed, speak out about it and to pressure their public officials to end this aid until Israel abides by international law.

Copyright, Truthout.


[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 5 years ago

DB: Let’s talk about the book now. You refer to Netanyahu as a transferist (someone who favors expelling Palestinians from Israeli-controlled territory). What does that mean? Is it hyperbole? What is the documentation?

MB: That is a serious allegation, and I wouldn’t make it if I couldn’t prove it. I think it’s stunning that Netanyahu’s real history hasn’t been exposed in the U.S. My book may shock readers about how extreme he’s been and how far he’s gotten. Back in 1989 when the religious nationalist movement had ascended, but had not yet reached its power, Netanyahu was a junior minister in the government of Yitzhak Shamir. Netanyahu was looking at China, and its Tiananmen Square demonstrations. The world was paying attention to Tiananmen Square.

Netanyahu, in a speech, said “Israel should have taken advantage of the suppression of demonstrations in China to carry out mass expulsions of Palestinians in the territories. However, to my regret, they did not support the policy I proposed and still propose should be implemented.” This quote has been buried, but perfectly explains Netanyahu’s attitude.

A transferist is somebody who favors the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, removing the indigenous population from their homes, to another location, specificallyBut there is a silent transfer happening in the West Bank. In Area C, which is most of the West Bank, and which Israel controls, families are having their houses demolished and forced into Area A, which is a ghettoized bantustan, under the control of the Palestinian Authority. I was just in the West Bank and there were several demolitions in Area C outside occupied Hebron.

Netanyahu has been presiding over this since negotiations began with the Palestinian Authority. And Secretary of State John Kerry explicitly acknowledged that Israel will build more settlement units during negotiations – but the negotiations must go on. That’s why Netanyahu has said he’s committed to peace talks. He’s not committed to peace, but he’s committed to talks, because the longer he keeps talking, the Palestinian Authority is locked into this timeline so they can’t do anything – not that they would do anything – about the kinds of crimes that are being committed in the occupied territories. Netanyahu looks for diplomatic cover so Israel can continue its colonial project.

Another thing Netanyahu has attempted to focus the world’s attention on is Iran. He mentioned Iran dozens of times in his speech to the U.N. General Assembly. I think he mentioned Palestinians five times, and peace, I think three times. That is better than his speech at AIPAC in 2011 … where he used the word Palestinians zero times. I talk about that speech in my book, how it was a public relations coup for Netanyahu.

He is the master of public relations. He’s been familiar with the U.S. media environment for decades. That’s one reason he is popular in Israel. To Israel, the term strategy is based on maintaining this direct line with Washington. I quote from his book, A Durable Peace, his 1993 manifesto, when he was emerging on the political and international scene, which also explains his mentality: “Contrary to conventional wisdom, the issue here is not just what kinds of pictures will flicker across the TV screen. I found over the years that occasionally one word can be worth 1,000 pictures, rather vice versa.”

He means words like occupation, or the expression homeless people, or Arab Land, or land for peace. He said that Israel needs to devote intellectual resources to framing the argument in a way that it doesn’t frame Israel. So Netanyahu, who is obsessed with public relations and reframing the discussion in Israel’s favor, knows these crimes are being committed. He is seeking any way to distract the world from it, and that’s another reason why he’s focused on Iran. He’s actually succeeded by getting the U.S. media to totally forget about the Palestinians and the negotiations, and to focus its own coverage on Israel and Iran.

DB: This book is so important because of the level of censorship that occurs in the U.S. corporate media, and a lot of the alternative media too, when it comes to telling the truth about the various aspects of illegal Israeli occupation. To be clear, based on Netanyahu’s own statement, he believes he is an active supporter of ethnic cleansing. I thought that is what people get prosecuted for in various international courts. It’s fairly shocking, and we can’t get all the liberals (so called) in the U.S. press, to talk about it.

MB: I’m having trouble getting alternative media to talk about it. It takes a lot of courage, even on the Left, to bring up this issue. I was just in Israel/Palestine, and visited the Negev desert, which is inside the green line, in Israel proper, in the part of Israel that would be legitimized in a two-state solution. There are about 80,000 indigenous Bedouins, living there in unrecognized villages and under the designs of the State of Israel. They are not allowed to be hooked up to the electricity grid, and they don’t have public schools or health clinics, because they are not Jewish.

Netanyahu has initiated a plan, supported across the spectrum, voted for in the Knesset by an array of parties that aren’t just right-wing parties, called the Prawer Plan, which will ethnically cleans 40,000 Bedouins off their land. I visited a fairly sizeable village called Uxmal Hiram, in the Negev Desert, and had most of its land taken by the state of Israel and it existed well before the formation of the state of Israel.

Most of its structures are marked for demolition and will be wiped off the map according to the plan. Its residents will be forced to live in what are known as development towns for the Bedouins, like the city of Rabat, built by the state of Israel. There is language on the government website about the Prawer plan to concentrate the Bedouin population. The word concentration has dark resonances in history.

Then I visited a small compound of Israeli Jews living in trailers nearby. They named their town Heron and went into the Bedouin village the day before to stake out the plots they wanted after the Bedouins’ leave. One of the community leaders explicitly told me that the Bedouins were the real occupiers because they were criminals – they were building illegal structures. The problem is that the Bedouins are not allowed to build legal structures. Because they are not Jewish in Israel, they are not able to get permits to build anything. The Israeli government has an open plan, called the Prawer Plan, which is not being addressed by negotiations for a two-state solution. It will be the largest project of ethnic cleansing since 1948, when Israel expelled 750,000 indigenous Palestinians. It’s not being discussed in the U.S. media. It is completely swept under the rug. One of the conditions for Palestinian Authority negotiation is that it must recognize Israel as a Jewish state, not just recognize Israel, but Israel as a Jewish state, which consolidates the discriminatory policies Israel has towards non-Jews. Imagine recognizing the U.S. as a white Christian state – no Jewish person would in the U.S. It means that if they agree to that, they legitimate the Prawer Plan and the ethnic cleansing that’s happening behind the green line.

I talk about this extensively in my book – what’s happening in the Negev Desert, a village called al-Akarib, where I recognized the third demolition of the Bedouin village, which Israel is trying to wipe off the map. At this point, the village has been demolished 54 times, and has won the world record for demolitions. They keep rebuilding their homes. They had their cemetery demolished, and they keep putting up their gravestones. Nobody is doing anything for them. Nobody is talking about them here, and I wrote my book to talk about the facts on the ground.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 5 years ago

DB: This is one of the most, if not the most, censored subjects in the U.S. The liberal press is perhaps worse than the conservative press. We talked before about Rachel Maddow. Chris Matthews has a new book and will be on Fresh Air with Terry Gross. Has NPR reached out to you yet? Morning Edition? Are any of these folks interested in this censored subject?

MB: I’m glad you asked that. In my last book tour for Republican Gomorrah: Inside the Movement that Shattered the Party, I got books for Fresh Air and Terry Gross. I didn’t understand the significance of the show until my interview aired. She actually let me give my analysis uncensored on the Christian right and the Republican Party. Within five minutes of the show airing I went onto the Amazon page for my book and was number eight overall for books on Amazon. I was beating Glenn Beck, whose book was being bulk bought by conservative organizations.

People were eating it up, because they finally heard an analysis, even about the Republican Party, that had been sort of off-limits in the mainstream media. My publicist has tried to book me on Terry Gross again. If people hear my analysis, I think they are hungry to hear about my journalism and experiences. Terry Gross’s producer has flat out rejected it. I have not gotten onto any mainstream media.

DB: Do they say why they aren’t interested?

MB: I was asked to submit something by the New York Times op docs, a new section on the website that published short video documentaries. I am known for short video documentaries about the right wing in the U.S, and extremism in Israel. They solicited a video from me, and when I didn’t produce it in time, they called me for it, saying they wanted it. So I sent them a video I produced with my colleague, David Sheen, an Israeli journalist who is covering the situation of non-Jewish Africans in Israel more extensively than any journalist in the world.

We put together some shocking footage of pogroms against African communities in Tel Aviv, and interviews with human rights activists. I thought it was a well-done documentary about a situation very few Americans were familiar with. We included analysis. We tailored it to their style, and of course it was rejected without an explanation after being solicited. I sent it to some other major websites and they have not even responded t me, when they had often solicited articles from me in the past.

It is clear what is going on here. Luckily, the Nation magazine will show this documentary later this month, appearing with an excerpt from my book. There are some brave people out there who are willing to allow me to have an audience, but that’s what’s going on with this subject. There are so many great journalists who are doing such a better job than the mainstream correspondents posted in Jerusalem. Many of these journalists are Palestinian. Others, like Nora Barrows-Freedman, who works with the Electronic Intifada, are denied a mainstream audience. It’s not like you are attacked - it’s that you are denied an audience. There is a curtain of silence around this issue. What I am trying to do is break though that curtain.

DB: The book, certainly, and other work you are doing, are very significant in that regard. Every time there is a new manager here at KPFA, they get a visit from the Israeli consulate. Inevitably my name comes up because they are complaining about my bias. I am anti-Israel, and don’t give both sides of the story. Have you ever heard that?

MB: Of course, lack of balance. You must balance human rights with apartheid sometimes, Dennis, don’t you get it?

DB: I don’t get it. You point out that many world leaders, at least in private, have had a problem with Bibi Netanyahu. You have an interesting few quotes that come from the G-20 conference in 2011. Can you talk about what former [French] President Sarkozy and [U.S. President] Obama (who seems to love meeting with Netanyahu) said about meeting with the guy?

MB: This was a fascinating and overlooked episode that upset the Israeli embassy in the U.S. It upset Netanyahu and Sarkozy. They [Sarkozy and Obama] were caught on open mike at the G-20. Sarkozy said to Obama, “I can’t stand Netanyahu. He’s a complete liar.” Obama said, “You think you can’t stand him? I have to deal with him every day.”

Obama wasn’t exaggerating. He’s had to meet with Netanyahu more times than any other foreign leader. Netanyahu is the Prime Minister of a country with about seven million, compared to the U.K. which is an international power with a special relationship with the U.S. When Netanyahu’s father died, Benzion Netanyahu, Obama issued an effusive press release praising this character who had himself called for the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, made racist statement after racist statement about Arabs, calling them desert people who are primitive by nature.

When the father of David Cameron, the Prime Minister of the U.K. died, Obama issued no press release – nothing was said. It is clear what is going on here. He can’t stand him but must constantly meet with him. Netanyahu is back in the White House again to demand more sanctions against Iran from Obama.

This week, Obama must deploy endless resources, hours, to babysit Netanyahu. Obama should be called the Bibi sitter. This goes back to Netanyahu’s relationship with the press. You brought up the intimidation and pressure you get. Time magazine hired a good correspondent, Karl Vick, who I know from Israel, is one of the few decent correspondents out there. He did a story about Netanyahu and whether Israel wants peace. He said why Israel doesn’t want peace. Netanyahu has pretty clearly come out and said Israel doesn’t seek a comprehensive solution with the Palestinians. He says they need to keep the conflict at low ebb, to maintain the occupation and manage it.

Conflict management is Netanyahu’s open strategy. Karl Vick talked about that and how Tel Aviv is doing quite well, while Palestinians might be mired in increasing levels of misery. Why does Israel need a two-state solution if Tel Aviv is doing so well? Netanyahu’s people were furious about this article. I know from a source at Time magazine, that people at Time-Warner, the parent company of time, were furious about the article, and they exert a lot of pressure on Time because these are pro-Israel donors and they have big connections with Netanyahu.

So Time magazine sent its managing editor, Richard Stengel, in May 2012 to meet with Netanyahu. He arrived ready to relay a heavy dose of “Bibi-think” to the American public. The result of the interview that Richard Stengel returned with was a bizarre article, a fawning profile of Netanyahu arguing with god, who dubbed Netanyahu “King Bibi” who conquered Israel and god said will, Netanyahu now make peace or war? This was on the cover of Time -the same exact cover Time ran when Netanyahu was Prime Minister 16 years before asking, can he make peace?

You can’t take Netanyahu at his word when he says he doesn’t want to make peace. It’s these pressures inside the U.S. that prevent it from happening. Some journalists are sent to Israel to write press releases for Netanyahu, and others who are doing their job reporting the facts on the ground are themselves intimidated and punished. Luckily Karl Vick is still there doing a decent job. Consider this quote from Netanyahu: it sums up the Israeli public relations operation in two lines. ”It doesn’t matter if justice is on your side. You have to depict your position as just.” So that’s what they are doing.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 5 years ago

DB: Finally, the big fear, when we talk about the [Israeli] boycott campaign and the parallel with South Africa, and imagining a notion of a two-state solution. One state is Israel, and the other is only a state of mind, which is where the Palestinians will have a state. This one person, one vote, is the big fear that Israel and Netanyahu have, right?

MB: The biggest fear is not rockets from Hezbollah or rockets from Hamas or Iran. It’s a fear of Arab babies. Netanyahu has said that himself, that if Israel allows control to over 30 percent Arabs, non-Jews, it will be a bi-national state. That’s why they need to keep the negotiations going on forever. Israel currently controls all space between the river and the sea, and Jews are a minority in that overall space.

In 2012 Netanyahu authorized a special commission, the Levy Commission, to examine the annexation of 60 percent of the West Bank. The Commission said Israel should immediately annex that part of the West Bank. Netanyahu came under enormous pressure both from his left and from the U.S. to scrap the report. He had to do it. If Israel officially took control of the 60 percent that Israel controls through occupation, militarily, the Jewish minority would be exposed. The demographic problem of Israel would be exposed. Ethnocracy would be exposed. Therefore, apartheid would be exposed. That’s the crisis Netanyahu faces. His economy minister, Bennet, one of the rising stars in Israeli politics, favors annexing the West Bank and giving Jordanian citizenship to Palestinians. The goal of Netanyahu is increasingly occupying the political center in Israel as his dominant Likud party goes off the rails filled with people in their 30’s and 40′s, younger politicians who all favor annexing the West Bank. They favor open apartheid.

His goal is to keep negotiations going for as long as he can, to buy time for as long as he can, so Israel doesn’t officially control the West Bank, and therefore the alarm clock on apartheid never officially rings.

In this country, we have organizations like J Street who are playing Netanyahu’s game and he is fully supporting their efforts, even though they are not from his Likud Party, because they are helping these endless negotiations go so that alarm clock never rings. They just keep turning back the alarm clock on apartheid, when the situation is already a one-state reality. That’s when the BDS movement to boycott, divest and sanction has already sounded the alarm on apartheid and is creating a lot of political space through its pressure campaigns, while the U.S. and liberal groups like J Street dither and play into Netanyahu’s hands.

DB: This book is a devastating book about Israel – an anatomy of the extremist takeover of the nation. It is a country overrun by extremists, the Jewish right, which has hijacked constitution. I don’t know how many even alternative institutions are going to cover this book, and let this person stand up against the great wall of censorship that gets in the way, and undermines and threatens any voice, person, who dares to effectively systematically tell the truth about this endless illegal occupation of a people fighting for so many years to be free. Netanyahu was sitting in the White House while Congress couldn’t get a bill passed to stop the government shutdown. There is even a battle to keep this information on this radio station.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.



[-] 0 points by LeoYo (5909) 5 years ago

That was very eye opening for me.

[-] -1 points by HCHC4 (-28) 5 years ago

Democracy in 'Murika.