WARNING : This site is not for you if you cannot see the otherness of other and sufferings of both sides of the party in the conflict. Security for Israel and Justice for the Palestinians are interdependent, one will not happen without the other. My view focuses on building cohesive societies where no one has to live in apprehension or fear of the other. I hope and pray a sense of justice to prevail. Amen. Website www.IsraelPalestineDialogue.com | Also Check Israel Palestine Confederation a pragmatic solution

Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Great Islamophobic Crusade

Max Blumenthal: Meet the Bizarre Cabal Behind an Increasingly Paranoid Crusade

(CBS)  Max Blumenthal is a writing fellow for the Nation Institute and author of the bestselling book Republican Gomorrah: Inside the Movement That Shattered the Party (Nation Books).  This piece originally appeared on TomDispatch.

Nine years after 9/11, hysteria about Muslims in American life has gripped the country.

With it has gone an outburst of arson attacks on mosques, campaigns to stop their construction, and the branding of the Muslim-American community, overwhelmingly moderate, as a hotbed of potential terrorist recruits. The frenzy has raged from rural Tennessee to New York City, while in Oklahoma, voters even overwhelmingly approved a ballot measure banning the implementation of Sharia law in American courts (not that such a prospect existed). This campaign of Islamophobia wounded President Obama politically, as one out of five Americans have bought into a sustained chorus of false rumors about his secret Muslim faith. And it may have tainted views of Muslims in general; an August 2010 Pew Research Center poll revealed that, among Americans, the favorability rating of Muslims had dropped by 11 points since 2005.

Erupting so many years after the September 11th trauma, this spasm of anti-Muslim bigotry might seem oddly timed and unexpectedly spontaneous. But think again: it’s the fruit of an organized, long-term campaign by a tight confederation of right-wing activists and operatives who first focused on Islamophobia soon after the September 11th attacks, but only attained critical mass during the Obama era.  It was then that embittered conservative forces, voted out of power in 2008, sought with remarkable success to leverage cultural resentment into political and partisan gain.

This network is obsessively fixated on the supposed spread of Muslim influence in America. Its apparatus spans continents, extending from Tea Party activists here to the European far right. It brings together in common cause right-wing ultra-Zionists, Christian evangelicals, and racist British soccer hooligans. It reflects an aggressively pro-Israel sensibility, with its key figures venerating the Jewish state as a Middle Eastern Fort Apache on the front lines of the Global War on Terror and urging the U.S. and various European powers to emulate its heavy-handed methods.

Little of recent American Islamophobia (with a strong emphasis on the “phobia”) is sheer happenstance.  Years before Tea Party shock troops massed for angry protests outside the proposed site of an Islamic community center in lower Manhattan, representatives of the Israel lobby and the Jewish-American establishment launched a campaign against pro-Palestinian campus activism that would prove a seedbed for everything to come. That campaign quickly -- and perhaps predictably -- morphed into a series of crusades against mosques and Islamic schools which, in turn, attracted an assortment of shady but exceptionally energetic militants into the network’s ranks.

Besides providing the initial energy for the Islamophobic crusade, conservative elements from within the pro-Israel lobby bankrolled the network’s apparatus, enabling it to influence the national debate. One philanthropist in particular has provided the beneficence to propel the campaign ahead. He is a little-known Los Angeles-area software security entrepreneur named Aubrey Chernick, who operates out of a security consulting firm blandly named the National Center for Crisis and Continuity Coordination. A former trustee of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, which has served as a think tank for the American Israel Policy Action Committee (AIPAC), a frontline lobbying group for Israel, Chernick is said to be worth $750 million.

Chernick’s fortune is puny compared to that of the billionaire Koch Brothers, extraction industry titans who fund Tea Party-related groups like Americans for Prosperity, and it is dwarfed by the financial empire of Haim Saban, the Israeli-American media baron who is one of the largest private donors to the Democratic party and recently matched $9 million raised for the Friends of the Israeli Defense Forces in a single night. However, by injecting his money into a small but influential constellation of groups and individuals with a narrow agenda, Chernick has had a considerable impact.

Through the Fairbrook Foundation, a private entity he and his wife Joyce control, Chernick has provided funding to groups ranging from the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and CAMERA, a right-wing, pro-Israel, media-watchdog outfit, to violent Israeli settlers living on Palestinian lands and figures like the pseudo-academic author Robert Spencer, who is largely responsible for popularizing conspiracy theories about the coming conquest of the West by Muslim fanatics seeking to establish a worldwide caliphate. Together, these groups spread hysteria about Muslims into Middle American communities where immigrants from the Middle East have recently settled, and they watched with glee as likely Republican presidential frontrunners from Mike Huckabee to Sarah Palin promoted their cause and parroted their tropes. Perhaps the only thing more surprising than the increasingly widespread appeal of Islamophobia is that, just a few years ago, the phenomenon was confined to a few college campuses and an inner city neighborhood, and that it seemed like a fleeting fad that would soon pass from the American political landscape.

Birth of a Network

The Islamophobic crusade was launched in earnest at the peak of George W. Bush’s prestige when the neoconservatives and their allies were riding high. In 2003, three years after the collapse of President Bill Clinton’s attempt to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian issue and in the immediate wake of the invasion of Iraq, a network of Jewish groups, ranging from ADL and the American Jewish Committee to AIPAC, gathered to address what they saw as a sudden rise in pro-Palestinian activism on college campuses nationwide. That meeting gave birth to the David Project, a campus advocacy group led by Charles Peters, who had co-founded CAMERA, one of the many outfits bankrolled by Chernick. With the help of public relations professionals, Peters conceived a plan to “take back the campus by influencing public opinion through lectures, the Internet, and coalitions,” as a memo produced at the time by the consulting firm McKinsey and Company stated.

In 2004, after conferring with Martin Kramer, a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, the pro-Israel think tank where Chernoff had served as a trustee, Peters produced a documentary film that he called Columbia Unbecoming.  It was filled with claims from Jewish students at Columbia University claiming they had endured intimidation and insults from Arab professors.  The film portrayed that New York City school’s Department of Middle East and Asian Languages and Cultures as a hothouse of anti-Semitism.

In their complaints, the students focused on one figure in particular: Joseph Massad, a Palestinian professor of Middle East studies.  He was known for his passionate advocacy of the formation of a binational state between Israel and Palestine, as well as for his strident criticism of what he termed “the racist character of Israel.” The film identified him as “one of the most dangerous intellectuals on campus,” while he was featured as a crucial villain in The Professors: The 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America, a book by the (Chernick-funded) neoconservative activist David Horowitz.  As Massad was seeking tenure at the time, he was especially vulnerable to this sort of wholesale assault.

When the controversy over Massad’s views intensified, Congressman Anthony Weiner, a liberal New York Democrat who once described himself as a representative of “the ZOA [Zionist Organization of America] wing of the Democratic Party,” demanded that Columbia President Lee Bollinger, a renowned First Amendment scholar, fire the professor. Bollinger responded by issuing uncharacteristically defensive statements about the “limited” nature of academic freedom.

In the end, however, none of the charges stuck. Indeed, the testimonies in the David Project film were eventually either discredited or never corroborated. In 2009, Massad earned tenure after winning Columbia’s prestigious Lionel Trilling Award for excellence in scholarship.

Having demonstrated its ability to intimidate faculty members and even powerful university administrators, however, Kramer claimed a moral victory in the name of his project, boasting to the press that “this is a turning point.” While the David Project subsequently fostered chapters on campuses nationwide, its director set out on a different path -- initially, into the streets of Boston in 2004 to oppose the construction of the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center.

For nearly 15 years, the Islamic Society of Boston had sought to build the center in the heart of Roxbury, the city’s largest black neighborhood, to serve its sizable Muslim population. With endorsements from Mayor Thomas Menino and leading Massachusetts lawmakers, the mosque’s construction seemed like a fait accompli -- until, that is, the Rupert Murdoch-owned Boston Herald and his local Fox News affiliate snapped into action.  Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby also chimed in with a series of reports claiming the center’s plans were evidence of a Saudi Arabian plot to bolster the influence of radical Islam in the United States, and possibly even to train underground terror cells.

It was at this point that the David Project entered the fray, convening elements of the local pro-Israel community in the Boston area to seek strategies to torpedo the project. According to emails obtained by the Islamic Society’s lawyers in a lawsuit against the David Project, the organizers settled on a campaign of years of nuisance lawsuits, along with accusations that the center had received foreign funding from “the Wahhabi movement in Saudi Arabia or… the Moslem Brotherhood.”

In response, a grassroots coalition of liberal Jews initiated inter-faith efforts aimed at ending a controversy that had essentially been manufactured out of thin air and was corroding relations between the Jewish and Muslim communities in the city. Peters would not, however, relent. “We are more concerned now than we have ever been about a Saudi influence of local mosques,” he announced at a suburban Boston synagogue in 2007.

After paying out millions of dollars in legal bills and enduring countless smears, the Islamic Society of Boston completed the construction of its community center in 2008. Meanwhile, not surprisingly, nothing came of the David Project’s dark warnings. As Boston-area National Public Radio reporter Philip Martin reflected in September 2010, “The horror stories that preceded [the center’s] development seem shrill and histrionic in retrospect.”

The Network Expands

This second failed campaign was, in the end, more about movement building than success, no less national security. The local crusade established an effective blueprint for generating hysteria against the establishment of Islamic centers and mosques across the country, while galvanizing a cast of characters who would form an anti-Muslim network which would gain attention and success in the years to come.

In 2007, these figures coalesced into a proto-movement that launched a new crusade, this time targeting the Khalil Gibran International Academy, a secular Arabic-English elementary school in Brooklyn, New York. Calling their ad hoc pressure group, Stop the Madrassah -- madrassah being simply the Arab word for “school” -- the coalition’s activists included an array of previously unknown zealots who made no attempt to disguise their extreme views when it came to Islam as a religion, as well as Muslims in America. Their stated goal was to challenge the school’s establishment on the basis of its violation of the church-state separation in the U.S. Constitution.  The true aim of the coalition, however, was transparent: to pressure the city’s leadership to adopt an antagonistic posture towards the local Muslim community.

The activists zeroed in on the school’s principal, Debbie Almontaser, a veteran educator of Yemeni descent, and baselessly branded her “a jihadist” as well as a 9/11 denier.  They also accused her of -- as Pamela Geller, a far-right blogger just then gaining prominence put it, “whitewash[ing] the genocide against the Jews.”  Daniel Pipes, a neoconservative academic previously active in the campaigns against Joseph Massad and the Boston Islamic center (and whose pro-Likud think tank, Middle East Forum, has received $150,000 from Chernick) claimed the school should not go ahead because “Arabic-language instruction is inevitably laden with Pan-Arabist and Islamist baggage.” As the campaign reached a fever pitch, Almontaser reported that members of the coalition were actually stalking her wherever she went.

Given what Columbia Journalism School professor and former New York Times reporter Samuel Freedman called “her clear, public record of interfaith activism and outreach,” including work with the New York Police Department and the Anti-Defamation League after the September 11th attacks, the assault on Almontaser seemed little short of bizarre -- until her assailants discovered a photograph of her wearing a T-shirt produced by AWAAM, a local Arab feminist organization, that read “Intifada NYC.” (“As AWAAM provides young women with opportunities to become active as community organizers and media producers, ‘intifada NYC’ is a call for empowerment, service, civic participation and critical thinking in our communities,” the organization explained once the controversy erupted.)

Having found a way to wedge the emotional issue of the Israel-Palestine conflict into a previously New York-centered campaign, the school’s opponents next gained a platform at the Murdoch-owned New York Post, where reporters Chuck Bennett and Jana Winter claimed her T-shirt was “apparently a call for a Gaza-style uprising in the Big Apple.” While Almontaser attempted to explain to the Post’s reporters that she rejected terrorism, the Anti-Defamation League chimed in on cue. ADL spokesman Oren Segal told the Post: “The T-shirt is a reflection of a movement that increasingly lauds violence against Israelis instead of rejecting it. That is disturbing.”

Before any Qassam rockets could be launched from Almonstaser’s school, her former ally New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg caved to the growing pressure and demanded her resignation, prompting the state’s Department of Education to fire her. A Jewish principal who spoke no Arabic replaced Almontaser, who later filed a lawsuit against the city for breaching her free speech rights. In 2010, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ruled that New York’s Department of Education had “succumbed to the very bias that the creation of the school was intended to dispel” by firing Almontaser and urged it pay her $300,000 in damages. The commission also concluded that the Post had quoted her misleadingly.

Though it failed to stop the establishment of the Khalil Gibran Academy, the burgeoning anti-Muslim movement succeeded in forcing city leaders to bend to its will, and having learned just how to do that, then moved on in search of more high-profile targets. As the New York Times reported at the time, "The fight against the school... was only an early skirmish in a broader, national struggle."

“It’s a battle that has really just begun,” Pipes told the Times.

From Scam to Publicity Coup

Pipes couldn’t have been more on the mark. In late 2009, the Islamophobes sprang into action again when the Cordoba Initiative, a non-profit Muslim group headed by Feisal Abdul Rauf, an exceedingly moderate Sufi Muslim imam who regularly traveled abroad representing the United States at the behest of the State Department, announced that it was going to build a community center in downtown New York City. With the help of investors, Rauf’s Cordoba Initiative purchased space two blocks from Ground Zero in Manhattan.  The space was to contain a prayer area as part of a large community center that would be open to everyone in the neighborhood.

None of these facts mattered to Pamela Geller. Thanks to constant prodding at her blog, Atlas Shrugged, Geller made Cordoba’s construction plans a national issue, provoking fervent calls from conservatives to protect the “hallowed ground” of 9/11 from creeping Sharia. (That the “mosque” would have been out of sight of Ground Zero and that the neighborhood was, in fact, filled with everything from strip clubs to fast-food joints didn't matter.)  Geller’s activism against Cordoba House earned the 52-year-old full-time blogger the attention she apparently craved, including a long profile in the New York Times and frequent cable news spots, especially, of course, on Fox News.

Mainstream reporters tended to focus on Geller’s bizarre stunts.  She posted a video of herself splashing around in a string bikini on a Fort Lauderdale beach, for instance, while ranting about “left-tards” and “Nazi Hezbollah.”  Her call for boycotting Campbell’s Soup because the company offered halal -- approved under Islamic law (as kosher food is under Jewish law) -- versions of its products got her much attention, as did her promotion of a screed claiming that President Barack Obama was the illegitimate lovechild of Malcolm X.

Geller had never earned a living as a journalist.  She supported herself with millions of dollars in a divorce settlement and life insurance money from her ex-husband.  He died in 2008, a year after being indicted for an alleged $1.3 million scam he was accused of running out of a car dealership he co-owned with Geller. Independently wealthy and with time on her hands, Geller proved able indeed when it came to exploiting her strange media stardom to incite the already organized political network of Islamophobes to intensify their crusade.

She also benefited from close alliances with leading Islamophobes from Europe. Among Geller’s allies was Andrew Gravers, a Danish activist who formed the group Stop the Islamicization of Europe, and gave it the unusually blunt motto: “Racism is the lowest form of human stupidity, but Islamophobia is the height of common sense.” Gravers’ group inspired Geller’s own U.S.-based outfit, Stop the Islamicization of America, which she formed with her friend Robert Spencer, a pseudo-scholar from Great Britain whose bestselling books, including The Truth About Muhammad, Founder of the World’s Most Intolerant Religion, prompted former advisor to President Richard Nixon and Muslim activist Robert Crane to call him, “the principal leader… in the new academic field of Muslim bashing.” (According to the website Politico, almost $1 million in donations from Chernick has been steered to Spencer’s Jihad Watch group through David Horowitz’s Freedom Center.)

Perfect sources for Republican political figures in search of the next hot-button cause, their rhetoric found its way into the talking points of Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin as they propelled the crusade against Cordoba House into the national spotlight. Gingrich soon compared the community center to a Nazi sign next to the Holocaust Memorial Museum, while Palin called it “a stab in the heart” of “the Heartland.” Meanwhile, Tea Party candidates like Republican Ilario Pantano, an Iraq war veteran who killed two unarmed Iraqi civilians, shooting them 60 times -- he even stopped to reload -- made their opposition to Cordoba House the centerpiece of midterm congressional campaigns conducted hundreds of miles from Ground Zero.
Geller’s campaign against “the mosque at Ground Zero” gained an unexpected assist and a veneer of legitimacy from established Jewish leaders like Anti-Defamation League National Director Abraham Foxman. “Survivors of the Holocaust are entitled to feelings that are irrational,” he remarked to the New York Times. Comparing the bereaved family members of 9-11 victims to Holocaust survivors, Foxman insisted, “Their anguish entitles them to positions that others would categorize as irrational or bigoted.”

Soon enough, David Harris, director of the (Chernick-funded) American Jewish Committee, was demanding that Cordoba’s leaders be compelled to reveal their “true attitudes” about Palestinian militant groups before construction on the center was initiated.  Rabbi Marvin Hier of the Simon Wiesenthal Center of Los Angeles, another major Jewish group, insisted it would be “insensitive” for Cordoba to build near “a cemetery,” though his organization had recently been granted permission from the municipality of Jerusalem to build a “museum of tolerance” to be called The Center for Human Dignity directly on top of the Mamilla Cemetery, a Muslim graveyard that contained thousands of gravesites dating back 1,200 years.

Inspiration from Israel

It was evident from the involvement of figures like Gravers and Spencer that the Islamophobic network in the United States represented a trans-Atlantic expansion of simmering resentment in Europe.  There, the far-right was storming to victories in parliamentary elections across the continent in part by appealing to the simmering anti-Muslim sentiments of voters in rural and working-class communities. The extent of the collaboration between European and American Islamophobes has only continued to grow with Geller, Spencer, and even Gingrich standing beside Europe’s most prominent anti-Muslim figure, Dutch parliamentarian Geert Wilders, at a rally against Cordoba House.  In the meantime, Geller was issuing statements of support for the English Defense League, a band of unreconstructed neo-Nazis and former members of the whites-only British National Party who intimidate Muslims in the streets of cities like Birmingham and London.

In addition, the trans-Atlantic Islamophobic crusade has stretched into Israel, a country that has come to symbolize the network’s fight against the Muslim menace. As Geller told the New York Times’ Alan Feuer, Israel is “a very good guide because, like I said, in the war between the civilized man and the savage, you side with the civilized man.”

EDL members regularly wave Israeli flags at their rallies, while Wilders claims to have formed his views about Muslims during the time he worked on an Israeli cooperative farm in the 1980s. He has, he says, visited the country more than 40 times since to meet with rightist political allies like Aryeh Eldad, a member of the Israeli Knesset and leader of the far right Hatikvah faction of the National Union Party.  He has called for forcibly “transferring” the Palestinians living in Israel and the occupied West Bank to Jordan and Egypt. On December 5th, for example, Wilders traveled to Israel for a “friendly” meeting with Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, then declared at a press conference that Israel should annex the West Bank and set up a Palestinian state in Jordan.

In the apocalyptic clash of civilizations the global anti-Muslim network has sought to incite, tiny armed Jewish settlements like Yitzar, located on the hills above the occupied Palestinian city of Nablus, represent front-line fortresses. Inside Yitzar’s state-funded yeshiva, a rabbi named Yitzhak Shapira has instructed students in what rules must be applied when considering killing non-Jews. Shapira summarized his opinions in a widely publicized book, Torat HaMelech, or The King’s Torah. Claiming that non-Jews are “uncompassionate by nature,” Shapira cited rabbinical texts to declare that gentiles could be killed in order to “curb their evil inclinations.” “There is justification,” the rabbi proclaimed, “for killing babies if it is clear that they will grow up to harm us, and in such a situation they may be harmed deliberately, and not only during combat with adults.”

In 2006, the rabbi was briefly held by Israeli police for urging his supporters to murder all Palestinians over the age of 13. Two years later, according to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, he signed a rabbinical letter in support of Israeli Jews who had brutally assaulted two Arab youths on the country's Holocaust Remembrance Day. That same year, Shapira was arrested as a suspect in helping orchestrate a rocket attack against a Palestinian village near Nablus.

Though he was not charged, his name came up again in connection with another act of terror when, in January 2010, the Israeli police raided his settlement seeking vandals who had set fire to a nearby mosque. One of Shapira's followers, an American immigrant, Jack Teitel, has confessed to murdering two innocent Palestinians and attempting to the kill the liberal Israeli historian Ze'ev Sternhell with a mail bomb. 

What does all this have to do with Islamophobic campaigns in the United States?  A great deal, actually. Through New York-based tax-exempt non-profits like the Central Fund of Israel and Ateret Cohenim, for instance, the omnipresent Aubrey Chernick has sent tens of thousands of dollars to support the Yitzar settlement, as well as to the messianic settlers dedicated to “Judaizing” East Jerusalem. The settlement movement’s leading online news magazine, Arutz Sheva, has featured Geller as a columnist.  A friend of Geller’s, Beth Gilinsky, a right-wing activist with a group called the Coalition to Honor Ground Zero and the founder of the Jewish Action Alliance (apparently run out of a Manhattan real estate office), organized a large rally in New York City in April 2010 to protest the Obama administration’s call for a settlement freeze.

Among Chernick’s major funding recipients is a supposedly “apolitical” group called Aish Hatorah that claims to educate Jews about their heritage. Based in New York and active in the fever swamps of northern West Bank settlements near Yitzar, Aish Hatorah shares an address and staff with a shadowy foreign non-profit called the Clarion Fund. During the 2008 U.S. election campaign, the Clarion Fund distributed 28 million DVDs of a propaganda film called Obsession as newspaper inserts to residents of swing states around the country. The film featured a who’s who of anti-Muslim activists, including Walid Shoebat, a self-proclaimed “former PLO terrorist.” Among Shoebat’s more striking statements: “A secular dogma like Nazism is less dangerous than is Islamofascism today.” At a Christian gathering in 2007, this “former Islamic terrorist” told the crowd that Islam was a “satanic cult” and that he had been born again as an evangelical Christian. In 2008, however, the Jerusalem Post, a right-leaning newspaper, exposed him as a fraud, whose claims to terrorism were fictional.

Islamophobic groups registered only a minimal impact during the 2008 election campaign. Two years later, however, after the Republicans regained control of the House of Representatives in midterm elections, the network appears to have reached critical mass. Of course, the deciding factor in the election was the economy, and in two years, Americans will likely vote their pocketbooks again. But that the construction of a single Islamic community center or the imaginary threat of Sharia law were issues at all reflected the influence of a small band of locally oriented activists, and suggested that when a certain presidential candidate who has already been demonized as a crypto-Muslim runs for reelection, the country’s most vocal Islamophobes could once again find a national platform amid the frenzied atmosphere of the campaign.

By now, the Islamophobic crusade has gone beyond the right-wing pro-Israel activists, cyber-bigots, and ambitious hucksters who conceived it. It now belongs to leading Republican presidential candidates, top-rated cable news hosts, and crowds of Tea Party activists. As the fervor spreads, the crusaders are basking in the glory of what they accomplished. “I didn’t choose this moment,” Geller mused to the New York Times, “this moment chose me.”

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

Israel and the rule of law

Ex-Israeli President Katsav convicted of Rape. Prime Minister Netanyahu shared a thoughtful comment for a change. "This is a sad day for the State of Israel and its residents,” Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement after the verdict. "Today, the court conveyed two clear-cut messages -- that all are equal before the law and that every woman has exclusive rights to her body." 

Indeed, it is the rule of law that needs to be admired about the state of Israel.

However, I will go back to our own history when the founding fathers declared, “All men are created equal” but it’s emancipation took a century to treat “African Americans equal” and about 150 years to recognize that “women are equal members of the society” and finally the Civil rights acts legally gave the full meaning to the idea of “all men are equal”.

The State of Israel is where America was two centuries ago. The words by Prime Minister Netanyahu “that all are equal’ are without any depth to it.  The few right wingers that run the state are getting away with its apartheid policies towards Palestinians against the Jewish public wishes. A Martin Luther King Jr. is needed in Israel to bring fruition to the universal idea of “all are equal before the law” It will lift a huge spiritual burden off the conscience of the ordinary Israelis and the Jewish people around the world.

A few years ago, a Jewish educator friend had had cut off talking with me and retuning my emails. When I accidentally ran into him in a conference, all he had to say was, “ I have nothing to do with you” on my ‘why’ question,  he blurted,   “You have written about  that lousy Jimmy Carter and his book on your website who is anti-Israel, and that does not go well with me”. I know he was not speaking for the Jewish people. I do hope some one will wake up and address the anguish of the ordinary Jewish folks and ease the burden of mistreating Palestinians for their own peace of mind.

Things will not change, unless the silent majority of Jewish people speak up.

Mike Ghouse is a speaker, thinker and a writer on Pluralism and Islam offering
pluralistic solutions to the media and public on issues of the day. His blogs and sites are listed at www.MikeGhouse.net

JTA News Alert
Dec. 30, 2010

Ex-Israeli president Katsav convicted of rape

JERUSALEM (JTA) -- Former Israeli president Moshe Katsav was found guilty of rape and sexual assault, more than four years after he was first accused.
The unanimous verdict of the three-judge panel was announced in Tel Aviv District Court on Thursday.
Katsav, 65, was convicted of raping and sexually assaulting A., a former employee of the Tourism Ministry. He was also convicted of sexually harassing H. and of sexually abusing and harassing L., both employees of the President's Residence, and of obstruction of justice. The incidents occurred when Katsav was serving as Israel's president and tourism minister. The victims' names have been kept in confidence by the courts.
Katsav was accompanied to court by his lawyers but not by his wife, Gila, who previously had stood by his side throughout the proceedings. Katsav's attorneys said they would appeal the verdict to the Supreme Court.
The trial lasted for one year. Two years ago, Katsav declined what was seen as a lenient plea bargain -- one that dropped the rape charges for lesser charges and likely would have left him with a suspended sentence -- saying that he wanted to clear his name in court. Most of the trial was held behind closed doors to protect the identities of the accusers.
A sentencing date has not yet been set. A rape conviction carries a minimum prison sentence of four years and a maximum of 16 years.
Katsav, who immigranted to Israel from Iran in 1951, became president when the Knesset elected him in 2000, upsetting candidate Shimon Peres. Peres became president in 2007 after Katsav resigned in the wake of the allegations, shortly before the end of his term. 
"This is a sad day for the State of Israel and its residents," Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement after the verdict. "Today, the court conveyed two clear-cut messages -- that all are equal before the law and that every woman has exclusive rights to her body."
Check back at JTA for more details and updates on this story.
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Monday, August 16, 2010

Fatal Embrace - book by Braverman


Mark Braverman on Israel and Palestine in his book "fatal embrace". The story is same with right winger Jews, Muslims, Christians and Hindus - Their solution to the problem is just annhilating the others and not peace. Peace can be had if the if the moderates speak up. Mark Braverman' take is similar to mine. Their aggre...ssiveness aggravated the problem rather than paves the way for peace.


Friday, August 6, 2010

Book: Israel and Palestine, how it all began

The Life of Zion

How the story of Israel came to look a lot like 'Lawrence of Arabia.'
Rex USA / Courtesy of Everett Collection

Colonel T.E. Lawrence, also known as Lawrence of Arabia, helped lead a revolt against the Ottoman Empire.

In a way, Israel owes its existence not just to the homicidal anti-Semites of Central and Eastern Europe but to the much more gentle and genteel ones of Britain. The latter did not so much hate Jews as fear them, admire them, loathe them, and in other ways consider them to be a people apart—immensely powerful and rich, never mind their almost absolute powerlessness and widespread poverty. It was to curry the favor of these people—a kind of madness, if there ever was one—that accounts for why Britain announced in 1917 that it favored the establishment of a "national home for the Jewish people." That home would be in Palestine, an amorphous entity regrettably located in the midst of millions of puzzled and hostile Arabs. It was a decision not without some consequence.

The story of how Britain decided to throw its considerable prestige behind a relative handful of Zionists—most English Jews were not Zionists, and some, the very rich in particular, viewed Zionism with horror—is the great and rambunctious tale that drives Jonathan Schneer's new book, The Balfour Declaration: The Origins of the Arab-Israeli Conflict. It involves some extraordinary figures—Winston Churchill, Lawrence of Arabia, King Hussein of the Hejaz—and some more ordinary ones with extraordinary names: Lancelot Oliphant, for instance, or the incomparable Marmaduke Pickthall. Among the more forgettable ones was in fact Arthur James Balfour, who, fortunately for his posterity, happened to be foreign minister when the government of Prime Minister David Lloyd George decided to enlist the support of world Jewry in Britain's fight with the German and Ottoman Empires. Balfour had been prime minister himself once (1902–06), but in all other ways he was a run-of-the-mill, upper-class Englishman, which usually meant a fondness for horses and an antipathy toward Jews.

Into this milieu entered the astonishing Chaim Weizmann. Born in the squalid and oppressive Pale of Settlement—that area of the vast Russian Empire where Jews were compelled to live—he managed by dint of a heroic self-discipline, stunning intellect, and, above all, phenomenal charm, to make the case for Zionism in the chancelleries and drawing rooms of Europe, particularly England. Weizmann was born lower than a serf, but he wound up president of the very country he helped create.

Weizmann was a man of many talents—not the least of them being the ability to harness the raw power of bigotry and enlist it in his cause. If Christians believed in vast Jewish wealth, he would not argue. If they believed in the immense and unseen power of this ancient tribe, so be it. If they believed that the Jews could somehow bring the First World War to an end—they were rumored to be the hidden power behind the Young Turks and have immense influence in the Kaiser's Germany, and could yank Russia out of the war if it suited them—then why would Weizmann disabuse them of such idiocy? Robert Cecil, son of one prime minster (Salisbury) and cousin to another (Balfour), put it best: "I do not think it is easy to exaggerate the international power of the Jews." Somehow, he managed.

Of course, given the era, anti-Semitism was a relatively minor madness. The world was at war, and by the time it was over, the Russian, Ottoman, and Austro-Hungarian Empires were gone, and the Prussian one assembled by Otto von Bismarck had not only turned into a democracy but was greatly reduced in size. As a result, the British Foreign Office was a busy place. The machinery of diplomacy was in overdrive, amply lubricated by buckets of duplicity. At the very time Britain was telling Weizmann and others Jews that next year they might really be in Jerusalem, it was also promising much of the Arab world to Hussein Ibn Ali, sheriff of Mecca and a trusting soul. All the while, behind the collective backs of Arab and Jew, the Brits and the French were divvying up the Middle East, signing the notorious Sykes-Picot Agreement, a closed covenant very closely arrived at.

In the end, much of what Sir Mark Sykes of Britain and Fran├žois Georges-Picot of France agreed upon came a cropper. The French could hold neither Syria nor Lebanon. Hussein, given the boot by a tribal chieftain named Ibn Saud from up Riyadh way, decamped for exile. In compensation, Britain drew some lines in the sand and created Transjordan for one of Hussein's sons, Abdullah, while placing another, Faisal, on the throne of Iraq. That didn't last, either.

If some of this sounds like a recap of Lawrence of Arabia, it is because some of it is. The story of Balfour and his declaration is really the creation myth of the Middle East. It is an enormous, cinemascopic epic, hard to contain in a single book. Alas, Jonathan Schneer doesn't even try. The book sprawls, the consequential and the inconsequential getting equal time, its margins sprouting invocations, imprecations, and pleas from a vexed me: Stop! Enough already! Schneer tells you of meetings that didn't matter, the address of the houses where they occurred, and what might or might have been served for breakfast ("When Lloyd George, perhaps leaning over eggs, bacon, toast and coffee, informed…"). He speculates repeatedly on why something did or did not happen and when, unaccountably, he takes you into the desert with Lawrence of Arabia, it's the reader who wanders aimlessly, parched for relevance. Lawrence made it out; I barely did.

Still, this is a work of impressive research and scholarship. Its relevance is obvious. It rebuts the canard, so comforting to Israel's critics, that the Zionists never took the Arabs into consideration—"a land without people for a people without land," is the formulation often cited. But while the Jews never thought that Palestine was one big, empty place, and no one of importance urged genocide or anything even approaching it, they did think that the people who lived there did not matter much. This, after all, was an era when "white European" was not a description but a statement of entitlement, and the Arabs, at any rate, were not their own masters. Palestine was a part of the Ottoman Empire, later given to Britain by the League of Nations, and coveted by others, besides Jews. The Arab world was just coalescing, tottering on fledging ideologies and nationalisms, considered incapable of governing by the European powers and, to the fury of its own progressives, riven by tribalism, sectarianism, and a still-coalescing political geography. Syria was anything it said it was. Hussein in Mecca claimed Damascus in Syria. In this Wild East, anyone could stake a claim.

Lord Balfour went from being a gentleman anti-Semite to a lover of the Jews, reduced to tears by Chaim Weizmann's account of Jewish suffering. He slipped into history as an appendage to his much-more-famous declaration, and even that, like the papal bulls assigning various lands to Spain or Portugal, was nullified by reality. Soon enough, the declaration produced a colossal case of seller's remorse. The Jews had an emotionally compelling tale—for so many Englishmen, Bible tales come to life—but the Arabs had all that oil, the approaches to the Suez Canal and, not incidentally, the wholly understandable conviction that the land was theirs. By the late 1930s, the Balfour Declaration was a dead letter, and Britain had gone wobbly on the Jews. A royal commission had even suggested a division of the country—the so-called two-state solution that every so often comes around like a diplomatic Halley's comet and gets excitedly greeted as something new. By the late 1930s, though, the Jewish presence in Palestine had been established: a university, a symphony orchestra, a Bauhausian metropolis (Tel Aviv), and an increasingly effective militia, the Haganah. What had been an indifference to Zionism among European Jews turned hurriedly into a frantic enthusiasm as Hitler set out to murder them all. A Jewish state, as Zionism's founder, Theodor Herzl, had foreseen, had become a necessity. The Zionists would have liked Britain's support, but since that had been withdrawn, they wanted its departure. In 1948 a weary and bloodied Britain complied, struck its colors, and left. Within moments, Israel was born and war commenced. It has yet to end.

Cohen is a columnist for The Washington Post and the author of a forthcoming book on Israel.


Friday, July 9, 2010

Muslim acts of heroism during Holocaust

If I were to define Islam in another word, it would be justness or justice. The Muslims in Dallas have taken the initiative to commemorate and reflect on Holocaust and Genocides for three years now. www.HolocaustandGenocides.com

Mike Ghouse

July 7, 110 Wednesday 4 Av 3870 10:31 IST

Photo by: Courtesy
New booklet reveals Muslim acts of heroism during Holocaust

"The Role of Righteous Muslim Persons," initiated by Faith Matters, an interfaith organization.

LONDON – A new publication highlighting Muslim acts of heroism during the Holocaust will be published on Wednesday, chronicling the role played by Muslims who defended Jews during World War II.

The 34-page booklet, titled "The Role of Righteous Muslim Persons," was initiated by Faith Matters, a London-based interfaith organization that works toward reducing extremism and fostering social cohesion in the UK. The aim of the booklet is to inform religious communities and the general public about the littleknown stories of courageous Muslims who stood up against injustice, protecting Jews during the Holocaust.

Guided by their Muslim faith and personal desire to do what was right, they protected and saved the lives of many potential victims. The publication also aims to counter the narrative that no Muslims played a part in the defense of Jewish communities during the War.

The work focuses on people deemed "Righteous Gentiles" by Jerusalem's Yad Vashem and highlights the role played by individuals, families and communities in countries such as Albania, Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco, Turkey, Croatia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

In Albania, Jews were not victims of the Nazis because of a national code of honor called "Besa," a desire to help those in need, even those of another faith or origin.

The booklet also tells the story of Muslim lawyer Khaled Mahameed, founder and curator of the first Arab Holocaust museum in Nazareth, who believes that by understanding such atrocities, one can stand up for justice and equality.

"This booklet is needed now more than ever, especially when there is very little in the public domain about the role that Muslim communities played in the Holocaust, as well as numerous articles and Web sites which repeat the mantra that Muslim communities are overwhelmingly negative in their thoughts and views about the Holocaust," said Fiyaz Mughal, founder of Faith Matters and editor of the booklet.

"It highlights the noble deeds and courageous acts carried out by Muslims towards their Jewish neighbors, and I hope that faith communities will use the booklet as a tool to encourage greater understanding and respect towards each other," he added.

"It is important to remember and learn from the actions of brave people who risked their lives to save others during the Holocaust," said Karen Pollock, chief executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust. "These stories of individuals who faced great dangers to help Jewish people are inspirational."

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Obama to placate Israel's right-wing leaders

The right winger among Jews create insecurity for Jews and the people of Israel, they pretend to work for the security of Jews and Israel, in reality they do the opposite. When are the moderate Jews going to wake up and take charge of their nation?

Unless there is justice for every one, peace become a forlorn hope.
When we keep threatening others, we are becoming less safer.
It is a shame the right wingers do not understand this and
get out of the way peace.

Mike Ghouse

MJ Rosenberg shows just how far Obama has gone to placate Israel's right-wing leaders. Plus Ha'aretz says Talk to Hamas! Amira Hass analyzes Israel's move to expel residents of Jerusalem affiliated with Hamas.

IF you prefer to read this on-line, go to www.tikkun.org and read our Current Thinking on the home page.If you prefer never to hear from us again, simply write Unsubscribe in the subject line and send that back to Natalie@tikkun.org. If you want to support our work, please subscribe to Tikkun magazine at www.tikkun.org, join our interfaith (including secular people who have a spiritual consciousness) Network of Spiritual Progressives at www.spiritualprogressives.org--or make a tax deductible contribution by clicking here

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said it best at his joint press conference with President Barack Obama yesterday. Speaking of the urgency of beginning talks with the Palestinians, he said "we need to begin negotiations in order to end them."

One has to wonder if it will even get that far. After yesterday's meeting of the Obama-Netanyahu Mutual Admiration Society, it does not appear that the Israeli leader is under any pressure to begin serious negotiations anytime soon. Or freeze settlements. Or do much of anything except express dedication to the concept of peace.

Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank summed it up:

A blue-and-white Israeli flag hung from Blair House. Across Pennsylvania Avenue, the Stars and Stripes was in its usual place atop the White House. But to capture the real significance of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's visit with President Obama, White House officials might have instead flown the white flag of surrender. [Emphasis mine]

In fact, Netanyahu may have gotten more from Obama than he had even hoped for.

In the joint statement issued by the two governments after the meeting, the United States agreed that anything Israel does in the name of its own security (as it sees it) is fine with us:

The President told the Prime Minister he recognizes that Israel must always have the ability to defend itself, by itself, against any threat or possible combination of threats, and that only Israel can determine its security needs. [Emphasis mine]

The point here is that the United States has no right to tell Israel what to do on security issues which, for Netanyahu, of course, include maintaining the occupation, blockading Gaza, and "preempting" any adversary by attacking whenever and whomever. Most troubling, the United States agreed that Israel will continue to be exempted from the requirements of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

Here's Obama:

Finally, we discussed issues that arose out of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Conference. And I reiterated to the Prime Minister that there is no change in U.S. policy when it comes to these issues. We strongly believe that, given its size, its history, the region that it's in, and the threats that are leveled against us -- against it, that Israel has unique security requirements. It's got to be able to respond to threats or any combination of threats in the region. And that's why we remain unwavering in our commitment to Israel's security. And the United States will never ask Israel to take any steps that would undermine their security interests. [Emphasis mine]

In other words, Israel is exempt from the nonproliferation requirements we impose on every other country because of its "unique security requirements." Of course, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia and a host of other countries have (as they see it) "unique security requirements." This exemption, pretty much unspoken until now, blows a hole in our nonproliferation policy.

It is clear that the President has no intention of putting any pressure on the Prime Minister. Despite the fact that Israel continues to expand settlements, continues to evict Palestinians from their homes, and has announced that after September any semblance of a settlement freeze will be replaced with more settlers everywhere, Obama still praised Netanyahu to the skies. So why would Netanyahu engage in serious negotiations?

Netanyahu must be ecstatic. He told his political allies and adversaries back home that in an election year, no President of the United States would dare pressure him. And so Netanyahu won big time yesterday.

But Israel lost. So did the United States (which looks less like a superpower and more like a paper tiger). And obviously, so did the Palestinians.

The amazing thing is that while the president gave Netanyahu everything he wanted (which was primarily a lovey-dovey photo op and threatening statements on Iran), Netanyahu got away with offering nothing. He simply said "we want to explore the possibility of peace." The possibility?

One could go on and on. But why bother? The Netanyahu-Obama summit was not a serious event but a purely political one. Each leader accomplished what he needed: Netanyahu goes home looking far stronger than when he departed and without making any compromises that would offend his right flank. Obama can inform the chairs of the House and Senate campaign committees that they can tell disgruntled donors that his relations with Netanyahu are good as gold.

And "pro-Israel" Democrats can proclaim Obama to be "the most pro-Israel President ever." (The last President to hold that title was George W. Bush.)

It just makes you proud.

Ha'aretz Editorial: July 7th

The writer David Grossman called on the government of Israel in these pages yesterday to cease its preoccupation with the number and identity of Palestinian prisoners who would potentially be swapped for captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. Grossman believes Israel should make Hamas a broader offer that would involve "a total cease-fire, an end to all terror activities from Gaza and a lifting of the siege." The start of such negotiations would see Shalit and the prisoners exchanged.

The proposal deserves serious consideration as the basis for a new policy. It is unfortunate that four years have been wasted and something along these lines was not adopted soon after Shalit's abduction in 2006. There is no certainty, however, that Hamas would have agreed to the proposal then, or that it will do so now. It is also worth examining the impact such a deal would have on the Palestinian Authority, Egypt and Jordan. But the point of departure is that there is no sense in allowing the existing situation to continue.

A few days after the abduction and the failure of operation "Southern Shalit" to locate and rescue the soldier, astute voices from the top ranks of the Israel Defense Forces reached the conclusion that if Shalit was to be brought back, a new policy was necessary. These voices, which apparently reflected the position of GOC Southern Command Yoav Galant and then chief of staff Dan Halutz, sought to recognize the reality that had been created in Gaza following the Hamas victory in the PA elections four months earlier, and the establishment of the Ismail Haniyeh government (Hamas' violent takeover of the Strip only took place in June 2007 ).

The IDF wanted to pose the following option to Hamas: Preserve your rule of power or continue your violent struggle against Israel. A proposal to seek a broad agreement on Israel-Hamas relations was drafted - which was to include a cease-fire, an end to terrorist attacks and the launching of Qassam rockets, an end to efforts to acquire more weapons for use against Israel and the release of Palestinian prisoners in exchange for Shalit. A report on this attitude held by the IDF, published by Haaretz, angered then-prime minister Ehud Olmert, who opposed a prisoner exchange deal. He shelved the idea and subsequently rejected similar ones raised during Operation Cast Lead.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is not bound by Olmert's objections. He should revive the idea and challenge Hamas. Israel needs to embark on an initiative that would fundamentally alter the situation along the southern border, without fearing dialogue with Hamas. It must not regard the current situation as simply fate.

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Published 01:42 07.07.10
Latest update 01:42 07.07.10
Disloyalty on the part of the occupied
Were it not for Mohammed Abu Tir's red beard, this would perhaps be only a marginal news item: Israel is working to expel four Palestinian residents of Jerusalem affiliated with Hamas from the city of their birth.
By Amira Hass
Were it not for Mohammed Abu Tir's red beard, this would perhaps be only a marginal news item: Israel is working to expel four Palestinian residents of Jerusalem affiliated with Hamas from the city of their birth.

There are those who see this expulsion as demonstrating a proud national stance, but it is already turning out to be a political boomerang. Abu Tir is under arrest, because he did not leave Jerusalem on June 19. His colleagues - Khaled Abu Arafa, formerly the Jerusalem affairs minister in Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh's government, and Ahmed Atun and Mohammed Totah, both members of the Palestinian Legislative Council on behalf of an Islamic list identified with Hamas - have moved into the Red Cross office in East Jerusalem.

Four years ago, then-interior minister Roni Bar-On (Kadima ) revoked their status as Jerusalem residents on the grounds that they had violated their minimal obligation of loyalty to the state of Israel, its citizens and its residents. After that, they were arrested, released and defined as illegals obligated to depart from "Israel's borders."

Since the end of 1995, the Interior Ministry - headed first by Haim Ramon (Labor ) and subsequently by Eliyahu Suissa (Shas ) - has pursued a policy of mass revocation of residency (with a brief hiatus under Natan Sharansky of Yisrael B'Aliyah, and even that only after an intense public struggle ). The record was set in 2008, when 4,577 men and women were stripped of their right to reside in their own city by the Interior Ministry, then headed by Meir Sheetrit (Kadima ).

Nevertheless, by revoking the residency of these three parliamentarians and one former cabinet minister, Israel has set a record of a new sort: Until now, Jerusalem residency had been revoked exclusively on the basis of administrative pretexts, such as prolonged stays outside the city.

These wicked pretexts derive from the liberty Israel has taken of applying the Entry to Israel Law - used primarily to grant residency permits to non-Jewish immigrants - to residents of occupied and annexed East Jerusalem. But the inhabitants of East Jerusalem did not decide to "come" to Israel; it is Israel that "came" to them.

The current case, however, is the first time Israel has denied Jerusalem residency on political grounds.

The United States and Europe urged Israel to let the Palestinians hold elections in 2006. The participation of an Islamic list affiliated with Hamas was a well-known condition for enabling these elections to take place, including in Jerusalem.

Yet the moment that list won a sweeping victory, Israel embarked on a campaign of punishment against its members, and especially the Jerusalemites among them, for "serving" in the Palestinian Authority.

This, in and of itself, represented a new peak of political cynicism (and another slap in the face to PA President Mahmoud Abbas ). It has been exceeded in its cynicism only by Israel's demand that the occupied evince loyalty to the occupier, lest he be banished.

With this expulsion order, Israel has managed to unite the entire Palestinian arena. The protest tent the three men set up in the courtyard of the Red Cross office has become a pilgrimage site. And Abbas has met twice with those slated for banishment.

Time will tell whether his promise to have the decree rescinded can be kept. In the meantime, however, the political movement that is his main rival is again becoming the symbol of the national struggle and of steadfastness in waging it.

Even those who, for political and cultural reasons, are sworn opponents of the Palestinian Islamic movement know that Israel is setting a precedent.

Today, people affiliated with Hamas are being expelled from Jerusalem. Tomorrow, if the PA falls apart or dares to reject Israel's dictates, it will be known Fatah activists who will be stripped of their residency due to "disloyalty to the occupation."

Following the flotilla raid, the expulsions from Sheikh Jarrah and the royal plans for Silwan, this is yet another match that Israel is tossing into the tinderbox. And it is one that even its friends will find it hard to ignore.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Re: Jews to Hold Memorial For Those Slain in Attack on Gaza Flotilla--across ...

This must be the goal of humanity, to work on healing. When we initiated the Holocaust commemoration and later Holocaust and Genocides, (www.HolocaustandGenocides.com) it is give hope to humanity that there are people willing to stand up for other's rights and as Muslims, we wanted to tell the Jews that they are not alone, we are with them in their suffering.
Now Rabbi Lerner is taking the mantle and telling the world, that "we Jews stand for peace and justice." It is time for the moderate Jews and Moderate others to join him in the prayers. Right wingers are always welcome to be good decent humans and join for peace. 
I wish I could join, but am joining in my spirit.
To be religious is to be peace makers, to mitigate conflicts and nurture goodwill.  That is what it is to be a Jew, Muslim, Christian or....any faith.
Mike Ghouse

Jews to Hold Memorial Service for Those Killed in Gaza Aid Flotilla

Sunday, June 13, 1 p.m. across from the White House in Lafayette Park.


We will also extend the memorial to cover all the thousands and thousands of Israelis and Palestinians killed or displaced from their homes since the beginning of this Israel/Palestine struggle. Plus healing prayers for those hurt or wounded in the Israeli assault on the boats plus prayers for release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit held by Hamas and for the release of thousands of Palestinians held by Israel in their jails and outdoor detention camps.


Rabbi Michael Lerner and Rabbi Arthur Waskow will conduct healing prayers in the Jewish tradition for those hurt or wounded, and a traditional Jewish memorial service for those killed when Israeli troops assaulted a flotilla of ships bringing aid to Gaza last Monday. The Muslim community will be represented by Dr. Sayyid M. Syeed , the National Director for the Office of Interfaith & Community Alliances for the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), and the Christian community by United Church of Christ pastor Rev. Ama Zenya and Rev. Graylan Hagler of the Plymouth Congregational Church of Christ in D.C. Other clergy are invited to join in offering prayers.


The services will take place on Sunday, June 13, at 1 p.m. opposite the White House in Lafayette Park, as part of a conference sponsored by the interfaith Network of Spiritual Progressives Friday, June 11-Sunday June 13 at the Lutheran Church of the Reformation, 212 E. Capitol St., NE.  The focus of the conference is: Strategies for Secular and Religious Progressives in the Obama Years. People not registered for the conference are welcome at the rally starting 11 a.m. at Lafayette Park facing the White House from 11 a.m. to 2 p..m. Sunday June 13.  But it's not too late to register for the conference (and if money is the problem we will reduce your registration fee to whatever you can afford if you register in advance before Wednesday afternoon: info and details at www.spiritualprogressives.org/conference . If you can't come--you can still help: by insisting that national media and your local media and the progressive media as well cover this event--it's a way of making clear that the entire Jewish people should not be blamed for this morally distorted action on the part of Israel--and you don't have to be Jewish to make that point to the media. If you want help in finding national media to contact, go to www.spiritualprogressives.org/article.php/media where we have phone numbers and snail mail addresses of many important media figures whom you contact. Snail mail (ground mail) makes the biggest impact, phone calls next, and finally emails or faxes which are the least effective because rearely read).


The conference is co-sponsored by Tikkun www.tikkun.org the Network of Spiritual Progressives (www.spiritualprogressives.org),  Common Cause, the Interfaith Alliance, The Nation magazine, Progressive Democrats of America, the Washington Peace Center, Tikkun magazine, The Shalom Center, and Peace Action. Among the conference speakers: Rev. Brian McLaren, Rev. James Forbes, Rev. James Winkler, Benedictine Sister Joan Chittister, Buddhist author Robert Thurman, John Dear, S.J., Congressman Keith Ellison, environmentalist activist and theorist Bill McKibben, Heather Booth, David Korten, Rabbi Arik Asherman, and more. More information on the conference:



"The overwhelming majority of American Jews," said Rabbi Lerner, chair of the Network of Spiritual Progressives and editor of Tikkun Magazine, "are saddened at the killings and wounding that took place on the high seas on May 31st, and want to make clear that this kind of behavior is not a morally acceptable or politically effective way for Israel to achieve security. We are holding this service in part to express our condolences to the families of the slain and our prayers for those who have been hurt or wounded. We stand with Israel in support of its right to security, and with the Palestinian people in support of their right to justice and national self-determination in a secure Palestinian state that encompasses all of the West Bank and Gaza and sharing Jerusalem with Israel.


"The violence against the Gaza Aid flotilla is microcosm of the violence that those non-violent peace activists have consistently experienced when attempting to use tactics of non-violence in challenging the Israeli occupation of the West Bank. The daily structural violence of the Occupation and of the blockade of Gaza are usually ignored by the media, hence making overt acts of human rights abuses by Palestinians who revert to acts of terror or Hamas which allows shelling of Israeli towns to appear as though they are a product of hatred of Israel rather than as responses to Israel's on-going violence. Yet the continued refusal of Hamas to acknowledge the existence of Israel and to look to Iran, whose leadership has called for the destruction of Israel, gives plausibility to the Israeli claim that Hamas and the militants among Palestinians do not seek "justice for Palestinians" but rather "an end to the existence of Israel itself with uncalculated horro to the Israeli people." So while we memorialize those killed in Gaza, we condemn violence of Palestinian terrorists and of Hamas, even as we find hope in the commitment of leaders of the Palestinian Authority to embrace the path of non-violence and cooperation with Israel. The violence on all sides must cease, Gilad Shalit must be freed by Hamas,  the blockade of Gaza and the Occupation of the West Bank must be stopped, and all the thousands of Palestinians in Israeli prisons and outdoor detention camps must be freed.


"We also believe that the best path to peace is a new spirit of open-hearted contrition and atonement, leading to a strategy of generosity to replace the current strategy of military power and domination by Israel and acts of violence or terror by Palestinians. Both sides have co-created this larger struggle, and both sides need to turn to the other in a spirit of contrition and genuine recognition of the legitimacy of the other side's narrative, difficult as that may be for each side to do. It is not power of military prowess nor mobilization of outrage that will solve this struggle, but rather an attitude of love and generosity of spirit that will break the cycle of violence and make possible a rapid solution to the larger conflict. The only alternative to this is for the world to assemble a global conference of the countries which voted for the creation of Israel in 1949 and now take steps to impose a fair, just and lasting peace on th sides of the conflict."   Not all speakers or participants at this Memorial service agree with this statement (or at least we didn't have time to check), but they do agree that the needless deaths of those on the flotilla need to be mourned and the victims of violence deserve our prayers.


Rabbi Michael Lerner is editor of Tikkun Magazine, author of 11 books including The Politics of Meaning Healing Israel/Palestine,  The Left Hand of God: Taking Back our Country from the Religious Right, and The Socialism of Fools: Anti-Semitism on the Left. He is Rabbi of Beyt Tikkun in Berkeley, California and chair of the interfaith Network of Spiritual Progressives.


Rabbi Lerner welcomes your responses (RabbiLerner@Tikkun.org) , and encourText Contentages you to send this message to friends in the East Coast who might come down to DC for this rally and then the Memorial Service, and urges you to contact local media and ask them to alert their readership or listenership about the conference and about the Memorial Service. The rally before the Memorial Service will also deal with issues concerning the US wars in the Middle East, the problems of environment, social justice, and healing of the wounds in American society and globally.


 For the full program of the conference, read www.spiritualprogressives.org/conference.

More info: James Lee, conference coordinator 410 262 8365 or Will Pasley 510 644 1200.

Re: Uri Avneri assaulted by Right Wing Zionists after speaking at peace reall...

Where are the moderate Jews?

The right wingers will jeopardize everything, they do not understand peace and co-existence, their capacity to comprehend is annihilation and existence,  it will never happen, resulting in chaos and fear for every one, including them.

The right wingers do not represent Jews or Judaism, they represent money and anarchy.

Mike Ghouse

Editor's Note: Shortly after writing the article below, Uri Avnery, leader of the Israeli peace movement Gush Shalom, was assaulted by Right-wingers in Israel. The full account appears after his analysis, which he'd prefer you to read first.  Avnery is a frequent contributor to Tikkun Magazine and a member of the Editorial Advisory Board.

       We also are sending a few more articles on the Gaza flotilla and a reminder that it's not too late to plan to urge media to cover the Tikkun/NSP (Network of Spiritual Progressives) conference in D.C. and our Memorial for those killed during that assault. In interest of exposing our constituency to the balance lacking in most presentations, we now have posted at www.tikkun.org several articles by right-wingers explaining why they think that Israel was justified in its attack. While we strongly disagree with these arguments, we think that it prudent and useful to explore the arguments of those with whom we disagree, to learn from them, and at times even alter our own understanding of any given issue by opening our minds to other perspectives, and when appropriate, changing our own ideas in light of that exposure to other ideas. And when, having exposed ourselves to other perspectives,  we don't feel called upon by the power of their arguments and new ways of thinking about a given reality  to change our minds, our  ability to defend our own positions is strengthened by knowing the logic and reasoning behind those with whom we continue to disagree. We normally don't do that, however, because the positions we are critiquing tend to get over-exposure in the mainstream media and don't need our help gettng known--most frequently it is our position that is barely heard in the media, so people don't need to be reminded of that perspective, because they can barely avoid hearing it being hammered into their heads by the media, the politicians, etc. In this case, and for the first time, the media is a bit more balanced, so we feel that we ought to present perspecives with which we disagree and to which you may no have been fully exposed--at www.tikkun.org in the "Current Thinking" categories on the home page. Now on to Avery and others


Uri Avnery

June 5, 2010
                                                Kill a Turk and Rest

ON THE high seas, outside territorial waters, the ship was stopped by the navy. The commandos stormed it. Hundreds of people on the deck resisted, the soldiers used force. Some of the passengers were killed, scores injured. The ship was brought into harbor, the passengers were taken off by force. The world saw them walking on the quay, men and women, young and old, all of them worn out, one after another, each being marched between two soldiers…

The ship was called "Exodus 1947". It left France in the hope of breaking the British blockade, which was imposed to prevent ships loaded with Holocaust survivors from reaching the shores of Palestine. If it had been allowed to reach the country, the illegal immigrants would have come ashore and the British would have sent them to detention camps in Cyprus, as they had done before. Nobody would have taken any notice of the episode for more than two days.

But the person in charge was Ernest Bevin, a Labour Party leader, an arrogant, rude and power-loving British minister. He was not about to let a bunch of Jews dictate to him. He decided to teach them a lesson the entire world would witness. "This is a provocation!" he exclaimed, and of course he was right. The main aim was indeed to create a provocation, in order to draw the eyes of the world to the British blockade.

What followed is well known: the episode dragged on and on, one stupidity led to another, the whole world sympathized with the passengers. But the British did not give in and paid the price. A heavy price.

Many believe that the "Exodus" incident was the turning point in the struggle for the creation of the State of Israel. Britain collapsed under the weight of international condemnation and decided to give up its mandate over Palestine. There were, of course, many more weighty reasons for this decision, but the "Exodus" proved to be the straw that broke the camel's back.  

I AM not the only one who was reminded of this episode this week. Actually, it was almost impossible not to be reminded of it, especially for those of us who lived in Palestine at the time and witnessed it.

There are, of course, important differences. Then the passengers were Holocaust survivors, this time they were peace activists from all over the world. But then and now the world saw heavily armed soldiers brutally attack unarmed passengers, who resist with everything that comes to hand, sticks and bare hands. Then and now it happened on the high seas - 40 km from the shore then, 65 km now.

In retrospect, the British behavior throughout the affair seems incredibly stupid. But Bevin was no fool, and the British officers who commanded the action were not nincompoops. After all, they had just finished a World War on the winning side.

If they behaved with complete folly from beginning to end, it was the result of arrogance, insensitivity and boundless contempt for world public opinion.

Ehud Barak is the Israeli Bevin. He is not a fool, either, nor are our top brass. But they are responsible for a chain of acts of folly, the disastrous implications of which are hard to assess. Former minister and present commentator Yossi Sarid called the ministerial "committee of seven", which decides on security matters, "seven idiots" - and I must protest. It is an insult to idiots.

THE PREPARATIONS for the flotilla went on for more than a year. Hundreds of e-mail messages went back and forth. I myself received many dozens. There was no secret. Everything was out in the open.

There was a lot of time for all our political and military institutions to prepare for the approach of the ships. The politician consulted. The soldiers trained. The diplomats reported. The intelligence people did their job.

Nothing helped. All the decisions were wrong from the first moment to this moment. And it's not yet the end.

The idea of a flotilla as a means to break the blockade borders on genius. It placed the Israeli government on the horns of a dilemma - the choice between several alternatives, all of them bad. Every general hopes to get his opponent into such a situation.

The alternatives were:

(a) To let the flotilla reach Gaza without hindrance. The cabinet secretary supported this option. That would have led to the end of the blockade, because after this flotilla more and larger ones would have come.

(b) To stop the ships in territorial waters, inspect their cargo and make sure they were not carrying weapons or "terrorists", then let them continue on their way. That would have aroused some vague protests in the world but upheld the principle of a blockade.

(c)  To capture them on the high seas and bring them to Ashdod, risking a face-to-face battle with activists on board.

As our governments have always done, when faced with the choice between several bad alternatives, the Netanyahu government chose the worst.

Anyone who followed the preparations as reported in the media could have foreseen that they would lead to people being killed and injured. One does not storm a Turkish ship and expect cute little girls to present one with flowers. The Turks are not known as people who give in easily.

The orders given to the forces and made public included the three fateful words: "at any cost". Every soldier knows what these three terrible words mean. Moreover, on the list of objectives, the consideration for the passengers appeared only in third place, after safeguarding the safety of the soldiers and fulfilling the task.

If Binyamin Netanyahu, Ehud Barak, the Chief of Staff and the commander of the navy did not understand that this would lead to killing and wounding people, then it must be concluded - even by those who were reluctant to consider this until now  - that they are grossly incompetent. They must be told, in the immortal words of Oliver Cromwell to Parliament: "You have sat too long for any good you have been doing lately... Depart, I say; and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go!"

THIS EVENT points again to one of the most serious aspects of the situation: we live in a bubble, in a kind of mental ghetto, which cuts us off and prevents us from seeing another reality, the one perceived by the rest of the world. A psychiatrist might judge this to be the symptom of a severe mental problem.

The propaganda of the government and the army tells a simple story: our heroic soldiers, determined and sensitive, the elite of the elite, descended on the ship in order "to talk" and were attacked by a wild and violent crowd. Official spokesmen repeated again and again the word "lynching".

On the first day, almost all the Israeli media accepted this. After all, it is clear that we, the Jews, are the victims. Always. That applies to Jewish soldiers, too. True, we storm a foreign ship at sea, but turn at once into victims who have no choice but to defend ourselves against violent and incited anti-Semites.

It is impossible not to be reminded of the classic Jewish joke about the Jewish mother in Russia taking leave of her son, who has been called up to serve the Czar in the war against Turkey. "Don't overexert yourself'" she implores him, "Kill a Turk and rest. Kill another Turk and rest again…"

"But mother," the son interrupts, "What if the Turk kills me?"
"You?" exclaims the mother, "But why? What have you done to him?"

To any normal person, this may sound crazy. Heavily armed soldiers of an elite commando unit board a ship on the high seas in the middle of the night, from the sea and from the air - and they are the victims?

But there is a grain of truth there: they are the victims of arrogant and incompetent commanders, irresponsible politicians and the media fed by them. And, actually, of the Israeli public, since most of the people voted for this government or for the opposition, which is no different.

The "Exodus" affair was repeated, but with a change of roles. Now we are the British.

Somewhere, a new Leon Uris is planning to write his next book, "Exodus 2010". A new Otto Preminger is planning a film that will become a blockbuster. A new Paul Newman will star in it - after all, there is no shortage of talented Turkish actors.

MORE THAN 200 years ago, Thomas Jefferson declared that every nation must act with a "decent respect to the opinions of mankind". Israeli leaders have never accepted the wisdom of this maxim. They adhere to the dictum of David Ben-Gurion: "It is not important what the Gentiles say, it is important what the Jews do." Perhaps he assumed that the Jews would not act foolishly.

Making enemies of the Turks is more than foolish. For decades, Turkey has been our closest ally in the region, much more close than is generally known. Turkey could play, in the future, an important role as a mediator between Israel and the Arab-Muslim world, between Israel and Syria, and, yes, even between Israel and Iran. Perhaps we have succeeded now in uniting the Turkish people against us - and some say that this is the only matter on which the Turks are now united.

This is Chapter 2 of "Cast Lead". Then we aroused most countries in the world against us, shocked our few friends and gladdened our enemies. Now we have done it again, and perhaps with even greater success. World public opinion is turning against us.

This is a slow process. It resembles the accumulation of water behind a dam. The water rises slowly, quietly, and the change is hardly noticeable. But when it reaches a critical level, the dam bursts and the disaster is upon us. We are steadily approaching this point.

"Kill a Turk and rest," the mother says in the joke. Our government does not even rest. It seems that they will not stop until they have made enemies of the last of our friends.

(Parts of this article were published in Ma'ariv, Israel's second largest newspaper.)


"The Government Is Drowning Us All"

Uri Avnery attacked by rightist thugs

A disaster was averted yesterday (June 5)  at Tel-Aviv's Museum Square, when rightists threw a smoke grenade into the middle of the protest rally, obviously hoping for a panic to break out and cause the protesters to trample on each other. But the demonstrators remained calm, nobody started to run and just a small space in the middle of the crowd remained empty. The speaker did not stop talking even when the cloud of smoke reached the stage. The audience included many children.

Half an hour later, a dozen rightist thugs attacked Gush Shalom's 86 year old Uri Avnery, when he was on his way from the rally in the company of his wife, Rachel, Adam Keller and his wife Beate Siversmidt. Avnery had just entered a taxi, when a dozen rightist thugs attacked him and tried to drag him out of the car. At the critical moment, the police arrived and made it possible for the car to leave. Gush spokesman Adam Keller said: "These cowards did not dare to attack us when we were many, but they were heroes when they caught Avnery alone."

The incident took place when the more than 10 thousand demonstrators were dispersing, after marching through the streets of Tel Aviv in protest against the attack on the Gaza-bound aid flotilla.

Not only was this one of the largest peace demonstrations for a long time, but also the first time that all parts of the Israeli peace camp - from Gush Shalom and Hadash to Peace Now and Meretz - did unite for common action

The main slogan was "The Government Is Drowning All of Us" and "We must Row towards Peace!" - alluding to the attack on the flotilla. The protesters called in unison "Jews and Arabs Refuse to be Enemies!"

The demonstrators assembled at Rabin Square and marched to Museum Square, where the protest rally was held. Originally, this was planned as a demonstration against the occupation on its 43th anniversary, and for peace based on "Two States for Two Peoples" and "Jerusalem - Capital of the Two States", but recent events turned it mainly into a protest against the attack on the flotilla.

One of the new sights was the great number of national flags, which were flown alongside the red flags of Hadash, the green flags of Meretz and the two-flag emblems of Gush Shalom. Many peace activists have decided that the national flag should no longer be left to the rightists.

"The violence of the rightists is a direct result of the brainwashing, which has been going on throughout the last week," Avnery commented. "A huge propaganda machine has incited the public in order to cover up the terrible mistakes made by our political and military leadership, mistakes which are becoming worse from day to day."

Lying About The Gaza Flotilla Disaster

It's been one lie after another in the US media about the Israeli attack on the Gaza-bound relief flotilla.  No matter that the Israeli media views the whole incident as a debacle for Israel, in this country the Israel-can-do-no-wrong crowd is on overdrive defending the operation.  As usual, facts don't matter to them.
Except they do.
The first thing you need to know about the Gaza flotilla disaster is that the intention of the activists on board the ships was to break the Israeli blockade.  Delivering the embargoed goods was incidental.
In other words, the activists were like the civil rights demonstrators who sat down at segregated lunch counters throughout the South and refused to leave until they were served.  Their goal was not really to get breakfast.  It was to end segregation.
That fact is so obvious that it is hard to believe that the "pro-Israel" lobby is using it as an indictment.
Of course the goal of the flotilla was to break the blockade.  Of course Martin Luther King provoked the civil authorities of the South to break segregation.  Of course the Solidarity movement used workers' rights as a pretext to break Soviet-imposed Communism.
The bottom line is that the men and women of the flotilla had every right to attempt to destroy an illegal blockade that Israel had no legal standing to impose and which was designed to inflict collective punishment on the people of Gaza. (There is no truth to the story that Israel would have delivered the goods on the ships to Gaza if asked; the Israelis never made that offer and, judging by years of precedent, would have blocked any delivery).
As for the Israeli argument that its soldiers were attacked, that is ridiculous. Israeli commandos were ordered to board a civilian ship in international waters and the government that sent them claims that the resisting passengers attacked them without provocation.  This is like a carjacker complaining to the police that the driver bashed him with a crowbar that was under the seat.  Neither carjackers nor hijackers should expect their victims to acquiesce peacefully.
Here are the facts about life in Gaza today -- facts that only can be changed by breaking the blockade.  These data come from the American Near East Relief Association (ANERA), which provides relief to Gazans to the extent permitted by the Israeli (and American) authorities.  ANERA is neither "pro-Israel" nor "pro-Palestinian."  It has no political agenda at all.  It merely determines what human needs are and tries to respond to them.
8 out of 10 Gazans depend on foreign aid to survive.

The World Food Program says Gaza requires a minimum of 400 trucks a day to meet basic nutritional needs - yet an average of just 171 trucks worth of supplies enters Gaza every week,

Clothes that were held in the port of Ashdod for over a year were released into Gaza but arrived covered with mold and mildew, unusable.

95% of Gaza's water fails World Health Organization standards leaving thousands of newborns at risk of poisoning.

Anemia for children under the age of 5 is estimated at 48%.

75 million liters of untreated sewage are pumped into the Mediterranean Sea every day - because piping and spare parts are not permitted.

During the 2009 bombing:

More than 120,000 jobs were lost as Gaza's industrial zone was destroyed... 15,000 homes and apartments were damaged or destroyed... 1/3 of all schools were destroyed.

None of these can be rebuilt, because construction supplies are kept out by the Israeli authorities.

Also, check this out from The Economist.  It is a partial list of commodities allowed into Gaza and commodities banned.  

So what is the blockade about?
It is not about stopping terrorism.  Hamas has repeatedly offered Israel an indefinite cease-fire in exchange for lifting the blockade.  And, on a half dozen occasions, Israel accepted the deal but did not live up to its side of it.  In fact, the 2009 war began after Israel ignored its commitments under the Gaza cease-fire agreement, continued the blockade, and then provoked the resumption of attacks on Sderot through a series of targeted assassinations of Palestinians (Israel claims that no cease-fire agreement curtails its right to kill any Palestinian it deems to be a terrorist).
Israel asserts that it will not accept any long-term cease-fire agreement with Hamas because Hamas does not recognize its right to exist.
But Israel does not need the permission of anyone -- let alone Hamas -- to exist.  All it needs from Hamas is an end to violence and that is precisely what Hamas is offering, in exchange for lifting the blockade.
This is not to say that Hamas need never recognize Israel.  It should.  But it is ridiculous to insist on recognition as a precondition for anything.  Recognition would be the end result of negotiations, not a precondition for it.
But that is not what Israel wants.  It wants to destroy Hamas because it is a terrorist organization.  And that makes sense until one realizes that the African National Congress, Sinn Fein, the Israeli Irgun, the Algerian FLN and a host of other resistance movements were called terrorist organizations before negotiations brought them to power.  Former Israeli Prime Ministers Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Shamir were both unabashed terrorists prior to their entrance into respectable politics.  And so what?  If dealing with terrorists -- as Israel has repeatedly done with Hezbollah -- will help achieve a worthy goal, why not do it?  After all, if negotiations fail, one can always walk away.
But Israel will not change its self-defeating policies until we change ours.  And there is no evidence that is happening (at least, not until after the November elections, for obvious reasons).
For now, our policies are joined at the hip with Israel's.  We support the blockade of Gaza.  We oppose any efforts at reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas.  We even back Israel's opposition to the Arab Peace Initiative, which offers Israel full peace and normalization of relations with every Arab country in exchange for the creation of a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem.
Enough is enough.  The Obama administration needs to join the rest of the world in demanding an end to the Gaza blockade as a first big step toward the resumption of negotiations.
The attack on the flotilla was one of the most disastrous blunders in Israel's history.  At last, the whole world sees Israel's policy of collective punishment for what it is -- a means to perpetuate the occupation forever. Only the United States government has chosed to close its eyes.
The occupation is killing Israel.  And we are on the sidelines letting it happen.  Some ally