USC Students for Justice in Palestine

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Archive for December, 2011

Rosenberg: The real ‘invented’ people

Posted by uscsjp on December 26, 2011

It is hard to believe that anyone who defends Israel’s legitimacy as a state would buy into former Speaker Newt Gingrich’s argument that Palestine is an “invented nation”.

The singular triumph of the Zionist movement is that it invented a state and a people – Israel and the Israelis – from scratch. The first Hebrew-speaking child in 1900 years, Ittamar Ben-Avi, was not born until 1882. His father, the brilliant linguist Eliezer Ben-Yehuda, created a modern language for him to speak by improvising from the language of the Bible.

The founder of the Israeli state was Theodor Herzl (1860-1904), an assimilated Viennese writer who was convinced by the Dreyfus trial in France – and the horrendous right-wing anti-Semitism that resulted from it – that Jews had to get out of Europe.

In 1897, he wrote the book that would essentially inaugurate the Zionist movement. It was called Der Judenstaat (meaning “the Jews’ state” or “the Jewish State”), which was his proposal for moving the Jews out of Europe and into their own country.

He didn’t specify where the Jewish homeland should be. He was more concerned about quickly obtaining territory anywhere for Jews to seek refuge.

Later, he decided that Palestine made the most sense because that was where the Jewish people both began and exercised self-determination in ancient times, and where there already was a small minority of Jews. But he also spoke of finding a place in Africa or the Americas if Palestine was unavailable.

The reaction to Herzl’s idea was primarily that he was a bit crazy. Jews committed to assimilation insisted that Jews were not a nation, but a religious faith. Their nationalities were French, German, Polish, Iraqi or American – not some imaginary Jewish nationality that had not existed for 1900 years.

100 years ago: ‘just an idea’

As late as 1943, during the worst days of the Holocaust, the American Jewish Committee – which adhered to the assimilationist view – resigned from the body created by American Jews to respond to the Nazi catastrophe over its “demand for the eventual establishment of a Jewish Commonwealth in Palestine”.

Seventy-plus years later, it is impossible to argue that the Israeli nation is not as authentic and worthy of recognition as any in the world (more authentic than some, in fact).

The Hebrew language is spoken by millions of Jews and Palestinians. The Israeli culture is unique: Bearing little resemblance to any other in the world. In fact, diaspora Jews have as little in common with Israelis as African-Americans have with Africans.

Israelis are not just Jews who happen to live in Palestine, even though the concept of Israel-ness started just over a hundred years ago as nothing but an idea. They are Israelis, entitled to self-determination, peace and security in their own land.

And the Palestinians are every bit as much a nation. If the ultimate definition of authentic nationhood is continuous residence in a land for thousands of years, the Palestinian claim to nationhood is ironclad. They never left Palestine (except for those who either emigrated or became refugees after the establishment of Israel).

Those who deny that Palestinians have a nation base their case on two arguments, both of which are logically incoherent. The first is that Palestinians never exercised self-determination in Palestine; they were always governed by others from ancient times to the present day.

The answer to this is: So what?

What makes a people real?

Most nations in the world lacked self-determination for long periods of their history. The Polish nation existed between 1790 and 1918 even though the state was erased from the map – divided between Russia and Austro-Hungary. It achieved independence in 1918 only to again lose it to the Nazis, and then the Soviets from 1939 until 1989. Would anyone today argue that the Polish nation was invented?

The idea of it is ridiculous, especially when offered by Israelis or Americans (or Canadians, New Zealanders, Australians… ) whose national existence would have been unimaginable a few centuries ago.

The second argument is that Palestinians never thought of themselves as Palestinians until Jews started moving into their territory, that Palestinian nationalism is a response to Zionism.

Again, so what?

When European Jews docked in Jaffa, Palestine in the early immigration waves of the late 19th century, there were Arabs waiting at the port. When the Jews purchased land, it was Arabs who had to move out.

And if those Arabs didn’t call themselves Palestinians until the Zionist movement began, neither did the Jews call themselves Israelis. Until 1948, they were just Jews. But each of the two peoples knew who they were and who the other was.

The bottom line is that today, the Palestinian nation is as authentic as the Israeli nation – and vice versa. Those who think either is going away are blinded by hatred.

To put it simply, the first part of the phrase self-determination is the word self. Both nations have the absolute right to define themselves as two nations which, hopefully, will evolve into two states. The alternative is national catastrophe not for one nation, but for two.
But why would Newt Gingrich care about that?

MJ Rosenberg is a Senior Foreign Policy Fellow at Media Matters Action Network. The above article first appeared in Foreign Policy Matters, a part of the Media Matters Action Network.

–Al Jazeera English, 24 December, 2011


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The neocons have finally snapped

Posted by uscsjp on December 10, 2011

Washington, DC – Any doubt we might have that the Israeli right has lost its mind should be eliminated by the latest column from one of its most prominent media figures, Caroline Glick of the Jerusalem Post.

Glick, a dual citizen of the United States and Israel, has flipped out over some remarks (which we’ll get to later) made last week by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Secretary of Defence Leon Panetta, and Ambassador to Belgium Howard Gutman. And here is how she explains those remarks.

Her first explanation is that “the Obama administration is an ideological echo chamber in which only certain positions are permitted”.

“Restrained by ideological thought police that outlaw critical thought about the dominant forces in the Islamic world today, US officials have little choice but to place all the blame for everything that goes wrong on the one society they are free to criticise – Israel.”

That, in itself, borders on hilarious.

Blaming Israel

Anyone who pays even a modicum of attention to the Middle East knows that rather than “place all the blame for everything” on Israel, the Obama administration blames Israel for nothing while providing more foreign aid to Israel than to any other country, supporting it on every issue at the United Nations – often against the US’ own interests – and never, ever attaching any conditions to our aid or support (as we do with every other country in the world).

The only thing President Obama has asked of Israel during his entire term is for a three-month settlement freeze, to which Israel said no. (Prime Minister Netanyahu himself says Obama has earned a “badge of honour” for his uncritical support for Israel.)

It is Glick’s second explanation of the Obama administration’s attitude toward Israel that demonstrates the mindset of those whose ardor for maintaining the occupation of the West Bank and blockade of Gaza trumps the security of Israel. Get ready.

“The second possible explanation for the administration’s treatment of Israel is that it is permeated by anti-Semitism. The outsized responsibility and culpability placed on Israel by the likes of Obama, Clinton, Panetta and Gutman is certainly of a piece with classical anti-Semitic behavior.”

They are anti-Semites! Who would have thought?

Not only are Obama, Panetta and Clinton anti-Semites, but they are, she writes, from the “classical” school (by which she means, I guess, that their antipathy toward Jews comes from reading The Merchant of Venice and Oliver Twist).

I’ll leave Gutman out for now because he is Jewish, which means that he cannot be a  “classical” anti-Semite.

I am not going to address the absurdity of calling any of these people anti-Semites, a term that refers not (take note, Abe Foxman) to disagreeing with policies of the state of Israel, but to disliking Jews, discriminating against them, and, at worst, doing them bodily harm.

Disliking Israel or its policies does not make one anti-Semitic any more than disliking Saudi Arabia or its policies makes one anti-Muslim.

Yes, some people who dislike Israel and/or its policies are anti-Semitic, but, by the same token, so are many (in the Christian right, in particular) who profess love for Israel and defend every one of its policies.

Of course, none of the people Glick calls anti-Semitic are remotely anti-Israel, let alone anti-Semitic.

Under President Obama, strategic military cooperation between Israel and the US has reached an all-time high; even Obama-hater and neocon Elliot Abrams agrees.

‘Unshakeable bond’ with Israel

Secretary of Defence Panetta said last week that the US’ “unshakeable bond” with Israel is the first of the “three pillars” on which US policies in the Middle East stand and will remain so as long as he is Defence Secretary.

As for Secretary of State Hillary, her support for Israel and for progressive and Jewish causes during her years as First Lady, senator from New York, and now Secretary of State has made her one of the most popular political figures in the American Jewish community.


Glick reminds me of the truth of philosopher August Bebel’s statement that “anti-Semitism is the socialism of fools”. If he were alive today and read Glick and other neocons like her, he’d surely say that “invoking anti-Semitism is the Zionism of fools”.

But enough about Glick.

What about those statements by administration figures that got the neocons so bent out of shape?

First, there was Panetta’s.

According to neocon blogger (and Caroline Glick sidekick) Jennifer Rubin at the Washington Post, Panetta was being “antagonistic” to Israel when he said that Israel’s security would be enhanced if it would “reach out and mend fences with those who share an interest in regional stability – countries like Turkey and Egypt, as well as Jordan. This is an important time to be able to develop and restore those key relationships in this crucial area”.

As Rubin – an ardent and outspoken Mitt Romney supporter – explains, calling on Israel to “reach out” was typical of Panetta’s view that everything bad in the Middle East is “Israel’s fault” when, as she continuously argues, absolutely nothing is.

Then there was Hillary, who decried the effort in Israel to ban international funding for progressive Israeli NGOs (non-governmental organisations) that work in Israel on democracy building, civil rights, protecting minorities, environmental issues, and gay and women’s issues, to name a few.

Hillary pointed out that she goes around the world promoting acceptance of NGOs and their empowerment, and the Israeli right was trying to shut them down with the support of the Netanyahu government.

The right-wing Commentary website called Hillary’s remarks an “anti-Israel” broadside, although thankfully not classical anti-Semitism. Of course, that would require calling the Anti-Defamation League anti-Semitic, because it shares Hillary’s views on the NGO law.

I’ll devote the least space to Ambassador Gutman’s remark because, although it stirred the most outrage among the usual suspects, the hysteria is transparently ridiculous.

Gutman’s truth-telling

Gutman said that what he calls Muslim anti-Semitism “stems from the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinians”. This rather obvious statement caused a brouhaha because, as Jeff Goldberg tells us, anti-Semitism comes from the air and is in no way connected to anything Israel does.

Goldberg writes: “Jews do not cause anti-Semitism; blacks do not cause racism; gays do not cause homophobia. Hatred is a mental and spiritual illness, not a political position.”

Well, sometimes it is and sometimes it isn’t, as Israeli writer Yossi Gurvitz points out.

Muslim-baiting in this country stems from the misconception that Muslims, as a people, were responsible for 9/11. Anti-Japanese hysteria in the US reached fever pitch because of Pearl Harbour. And Muslim antipathy toward Jews is, as everyone knows, directly connected to the history of Palestine since the Zionist movement began.

We may not like it. We may wish it wasn’t so. But all it takes is talking to a Muslim (whether from Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia or anywhere else) to discover that yes, the displacement of the Palestinians is at the root of any antipathy that exists. (Much like Israeli antipathy toward Palestinians has something to do with terrorism.)

The good news is that Gutman’s truth-telling is not costing him his job – a sign, I guess, that the classical anti-Semites are really in charge!

It’s insane. But less insane than this crowd’s current big project: war with Iran.

Question: If Israel bombs Iran, how will Jeff Goldberg explain the world’s rage toward Israel? Will fury over the attack stem from the fact that it plunged the region into war and crashed the world economy or will it just be another result of some “mental or spiritual illness”?

You know the answer.

MJ Rosenberg is a Senior Foreign Policy Fellow at the Media Matters Action Network. This article first appeared in Foreign Policy Matters, a part of the Media Matters Action Network.

Follow him on twitter: @MJayRosenberg


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Is Israel Guilty of Apartheid?

Posted by uscsjp on December 5, 2011

“…In the article almost ludicrously Goldstone wrote, ‘In Israel, there is no apartheid. Nothing there comes close to the definition of apartheid under the 1998 Rome Statute. “Inhumane acts… committed in the context of an institutionalised regime of systematic oppression and discrimination”…’ Really! The list of discriminatory laws, the dual administration of settlements and Palestinians, the checkpoint treatment of Palestinians, the settler only roads, the non-protection of Palestinians living under occupation, the midnight abusive arrests of children certainly suggest a pattern of inhuman acts even to an uninformed mind!

Without naming the participants, among whom were a death camp survivor, Stephane Hessel, a former member of Mandela’s cabinet – Ronnie Kasrils, a world renowned author – Alice Walker, a distinguished English barrister – Michael Mansfield, QC, and a former American congresswoman – Cynthia McKinney, Goldstone calls them “critics whose harsh views of Israel are well known”. The question, of course, is not whether these outstanding personalities have strong opinions on the matter at issue, but whether they have credibility based on their reputation for bearing witness truthfully and effectively…”

–Ricahrd Falk, Al Jazeera English, 5 December, 2011

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