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Archive for May, 2013

Israel Bombs Syria

Posted by uscsjp on May 6, 2013

First, from Democracy Now!:

Syria Calls Apparent Israeli Strikes “An Act of War”

Israel appears to be escalating military attacks on Syria after two bombings over a three-day span. A series of large explosions were seen around the Syrian capital of Damascus on Sunday, by all accounts the result of Israeli missiles. The Syrian government says dozens of elite military forces were killed in strikes on several critical army facilities. Anonymous Israeli officials have reportedly confirmed the attack, which marked the third on Syria by Israel this year. An earlier bombing on Friday hit what was alleged to be a site holding Iranian missiles meant for Hezbollah. Syria has called the strikes an “an act of war” that’s “opened the door to all possibilities.” In a statement, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged all sides to exercise “maximum restraint … and respect [the] national sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries.”

Report: U.S., Allies Discussed Syria Strikes

The New York Times reports the United States had already been discussing the launch of strikes on Syria in the days before the Israeli attack. The talks were held with Britain and France, with a proposed bombing modeled on the 2011 NATO intervention in Libya. Speaking during a visit to Costa Rica, President Obama appeared to offer tacit support by saying Israel has the right to stop weapons shipments to Hezbollah. Obama also left open the possibility of U.S. military intervention but ruled out deploying troops on the ground.

President Obama: “I’m not going to comment on what happened in Syria yesterday. I’ll let the Israeli government confirm or deny whatever strikes that they’ve taken. What I have said in the past, and I continue to believe is, is that the Israelis justifiably have to guard against the transfer of advanced weaponry to terrorist organizations like Hezbollah. With respect to the larger issue of Syria, as I said yesterday, I don’t take any options off the table as commander in chief. Circumstances can change, you never know what contingencies you have to deal with. But what I do know is that I cannot see a scenario right now in which American boots on the ground would make any sense.”

The Obama administration is reportedly set to decide in the coming weeks on options ranging from supplying weapons to Syria’s rebels to carrying out air strikes.

–Monday, 6 May, 2013

 

http://www.democracynow.org/2013/5/6/headlines#561

 

And From Znet:

Israel Bombs Syria Becomes Israel Is Only Defending Itself

An Israeli plane bombs a target in Syria. The news is passed along first to Fox News, (huh?) by someone in the Administration.

It happened on a Thursday, but we only find out about it late on Friday. The New York Times assigns three reporters to cover the story that goes up on their website in the middle of the morning on Saturday.

Earlier that day, President Obama, speaking in Costa Rica, said there will be no US ground troops on the ground in Syria. Now, the Administration says it is considering “military options.”

Saturday’s New York Times chooses this story for its first page: “ISRAEL TIGHTENS BORDER DEFENSE AS SYRIA ERUPTS.”

And so, the story is reframed with Israel pictured as the defender, not the aggressor. The bombing makes it into the third paragraph of that story on page 1 but refers only to the bombing of “a target.”

Their earlier story has now been moved by the Times deeper into the paper, to the bottom of page 10. That headline reads:  “ISRAEL BOMBS SYRIA as the US Considers Its Own Military Options.”

The report: “American officials did not provide details on the target but, instead, referenced an earlier attack attacking a Syrian military supply effort to Hezbollah.” Unmentioned is that the original report understated the extent of the damage in Syria caused by Israeli bombing.

Reuters was better informed, “Israel has carried out an air strike targeting a shipment of missiles in Syria bound for Hezbollah in neighboring Lebanon.”

The New York Times does not mention the reaction by Lebanon which issued a statement carried by BBC denouncing the attack as illegal and a violation of their air space. We had to wait until Sunday for Syria’s response reported by AP:

“Syria has condemned the Israeli airstrikes against targets around Damascus, saying the attacks aim “to give direct military support to terrorist groups” fighting the government.

The Syrian Foreign Ministry also said Sunday in a letter sent to the United Nations and the U.N. Security Council that the “Israeli aggression” killed and wounded several people and “caused widespread destruction.”

Syria’s government refers to rebels trying to topple President Bashar Assad’s regime as “terrorists.” Apparently no one has told the AP that many of the “rebels” are actually aligned with Al Qaeda.

CNN reported, “U.S. and Western intelligence agencies are reviewing classified data showing Israel most likely conducted (emphasis mine) a strike in the Thursday-Friday time frame, according to both officials. This is the same time frame that the U.S. collected additional data showing Israel was flying a high number of warplanes over Lebanon.

“One official said the United States had limited information so far and could not yet confirm those are the specific warplanes that conducted a strike. Based on initial indications, the U.S. does not believe Israeli warplanes entered Syrian airspace to conduct the strikes.

“…The Lebanese army website listed 16 flights by Israeli warplanes penetrating Lebanon’s airspace from Thursday evening through Friday afternoon local time.”

The Times of Israel later confirmed the air strike, adding, “The officials said the shipment was not of chemical arms, but of “game changing” weapons bound for the terror group Hezbollah. One official said the target was a shipment of advanced, long-range ground-to-ground missiles.

A day later, on Saturday, Iran suddenly was dragged into this with the New York Times reporting: “?Israeli aircraft bombed a target in Syria on Thursday to disrupt the pipeline of weapons from Iran to Hezbollah.”

On Sunday, a new raid was reported: A Syrian news agency says the missiles targeted a site near Damascus. Other sources reported many attacks.

The Obama Administration may have encouraged the Israeli attacks when President Obama in what is now said to have been an unexpected “off-the cuff” remark supporting the idea that Syria may have crossed a certain “red-line” despite an admitted lack of evidence.

This “mistake”—a blatant acceptance of the Israeli line — is now being blamed on the front page of the New York Times for “putting the US in a bind,” limiting our options.

Translation: The President “misspoke.” Further unstated translation: it was a fuck-up!

After the last Israeli bombing of Syria on January 31, Iran warned: “Israel will regret its attack against Syria. The Telegraph reported, “Iran’s deputy foreign minister warned of grave consequences for Tel Aviv.”

Already, American right-wing politicians began cheering on the story.

Politico reported, “South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham told a crowd here Friday night that Israel has bombed Syria.”

Graham, a Republican who serves on the Senate Armed Services Committee, was addressing the South Carolina Republican Party’s annual Silver Elephant fundraising dinner. He mentioned the attack in passing, amid a longer discourse on U.S. national security policy.

“Israel bombed Syria tonight,” Graham said flatly, before moving on to a longer, dire discourse on the threat of a nuclear Iran.”

You can just smell the aroma of more escalations and of a wider war to come. US news organizations are waffling but accepting Israel’s version even as Israel seems to be leaking it, rather than fully disclosing it.

There are two important aspects of this: what the real endgame is—and why it seems to be more about preparing for war on Iran rather than on Syria?

In 2007, Seymour Hersh wrote about what he called a “redirection” of Israeli strategy:

“To undermine Iran, which is predominantly Shiite, the Bush Administration has decided, in effect, to reconfigure its priorities in the Middle East. In Lebanon, the Administration has cooperated with Saudi Arabia’s government, which is Sunni, in clandestine operations that are intended to weaken Hezbollah, the Shiite organization that is backed by Iran. The U.S. has also taken part in clandestine operations aimed at Iran and its ally Syria. A by-product of these activities has been the bolstering of Sunni extremist groups that espouse a militant vision of Islam and are hostile to America and sympathetic to Al Qaeda.”

Adds Tony Cartalucci on ICH:Indeed, Israel’s explanation as to why it struck neighboring Syria is tenuous at best considering its long, documented relationship with actually funding and arming the very “terrorist groups” it fears weapons may fall into the hands of.”

The second concern is the question of the reliability of news reporting, including accounts by human rights groups who may be under pressure from funders to go easier on Israel than Syria. Scott Long, a former manager at Human Rights Watch explains the nature of the bias in a recent report.

Notes the Electronic Intifada: “Long’s account indicates that HRW observes a sort of fake balance in which it must artificially generate criticism of Palestinians just in order to offset criticism of Israel’s much greater and more frequent human rights abuses and crimes.”

Writes Long: ”Human Rights Watch, where I worked for many years, strains all its muscles to be completely objective on Israel/Palestine — an effort that has never gotten it a scintilla of credit from the militant pro-Israel side. Its releases on Israel and Palestine are the only ones in the entire organization that are routinely edited by the executive director himself. An informal arithmetic dictates that every presser or report criticizing Israel has to be accompanied by another criticizing the Palestine Authority or Hamas — or, if that isn’t possible (the PA barely retains enough authority to violate anybody’s rights) at least one of the surrounding Arab states.

A mathematical approach to objectivity may help accountants detect embezzlement or captains keep ships afloat, but that kind of balance looks ridiculous in the political world, where the incessant fluidity of action disrupts the illusions of double-entry bookkeeping. (The call for an “embargo on arms” to “all sides” is an excellent example of “objectivity” that benefits one side much more than the other.”)

So there you have it: a breaking story, confused stories partial to Israel, and news that is filtered to keep the outrage focused on alleged human rights abuses by countries Washington dislikes.

News Dissector Danny Schechter edits Mediachannel.org. He blogs for Newsdissector.net. Comments to dissector@mediachannel.org

 

–Znet!, 6 May, 2013

 

http://www.zcommunications.org/israel-bombs-syria-becomes-israel-is-only-defending-itself-by-danny-schechter

Posted in Analysis, News, Opinion/Editorial | Leave a Comment »

“As Jews we say ‘Birthright’ trips must end”

Posted by uscsjp on May 4, 2013

As the summer months approach, thousands of young Jews from more than 60 countries prepare to participate in the Taglit-Birthright program. Since 1999, Birthright has brought 340,000 young Jews to Israel on free ten-day trips. In the midst of the fervor to sign up for this bi-annual program, we have launched the website Renounce Birthright (renouncebirthright.org) with the aim of providing a space for potential participants to engage with critiques of Birthright and of Zionism.

We are non-Israeli Jews who oppose the program because it promotes and supports Israel’s ongoing colonialism and apartheid policies, and marginalizes Jewish experiences in the diaspora. We are calling for the end of the Birthright program, and encourage individuals to boycott the trips.

Birthright was created in response to concerns over increasing rates of intermarriage, the perceived “crisis of continuity” and the weakening of Jewish communal ties. Over the course of the last decade, the program has worked to create and maintain commitment to Zionism and Israel on the part of non-Israeli Jews.

Exclusive ideology

Birthright’s mission, according to the organization, is to “diminish the growing division between Israel and Jewish communities around the world; strengthen the sense of solidarity among world Jewry; and strengthen participants’ personal Jewish identity and connection to the Jewish people.”

The idea of strengthening “solidarity among world Jewry,” “personal Jewish identity,” and Israel’s “connection to the Jewish people” through trips to Israel is based on a conflation of Judaism with Zionism. Judaism is a religion. Political Zionism is a movement based on the belief that Jews have a right to settle in modern-day Israel, to the exclusion of the indigenous Palestinians.

The term “Birthright” itself is telling. Like its American counterpart, the ideology of manifest destiny, it operates under the premise that all Jewish people have an exclusive “right” to Palestinian land. In both the American and Israeli contexts, the only way to secure that “right” is through violence, land theft and displacement.

Settler-colonialism must be opposed, no matter where it takes place. For non-Israeli Jews living in other settler-colonial countries, we must also be accountable to other processes of de-colonization. No group of people have the right to live anywhere that mandates the explicit exclusion of anyone else.

The establishment of the Israeli state, and the alleged Jewish “birthright,” involved the violent displacement of several hundred thousand indigenous Palestinians, and the destruction of hundreds of Palestinian villages. A Palestinian refugee population of nearly 7 million people is to this day excluded from returning to their lands by Israeli state discrimination.

In contemporary Israel — where approximately one-fifth of the population is Palestinian — the rights of citizenship (ezrahut) and nationality (le’um) are intentionally distinct. Palestinians born within the 1949 armistice line are considered citizens (and not nationals). Meanwhile a Jew born and raised in New York has a “birthright” to the Israeli state in Palestine, is considered a national, and can almost immediately become a citizen upon emigrating.

Maintaining a myth

Birthright in particular — as a part of the Zionist project — relies on the belief that non-Israeli Jews are national-citizens-in-waiting, a reality from which Palestinian refugees are forever excluded.

We would have no “Birthright” without Israeli occupation and apartheid — it is how Zionism sustains the myth of “a land without a people, for a people without a land.”

Birthright has spent more than $600 million since its inception in 1999. The organization has three major sources of funding: the Israeli government (which committed another $100 million to Birthright in 2011), wealthy donors such as Charles Bronfman, and Jewish federations across North America (“The romance of Birthright Israel,” The Nation, 15 June 2011).

In a 2012 speech delivered to Birthright participants, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said: “So when you go out and people tell you things about Israel, tell them about what you saw. Make sure when you go back home, tell them about the real Israel” (“PM Netanyahu’s speech at Taglit-Birthright Israel mega-event”).

Convincing non-Israeli Jews to defend Netanyahu’s “real Israel” is an integral part of Birthright, and helps explain the government’s investment in the program.

The program’s largest financial supporter, billionaire Sheldon Adelson — who has provided $140 million to the program — was described in The New York Times last year as having “disgust for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict” (“What Sheldon Adelson wants,” 23 June 2012).

Beyond individual donors, non-Israeli Jewish community organizations and institutions — such as the Jewish Federations of North America and the Jewish Agency for Israel — support Birthright economically and politically.

Apolitical?

In the name of diasporic Jewish communities, these organizations invest millions of dollars into the promotion of Birthright’s political Zionism, rather than in local projects.

Despite all this, Birthright claims to be apolitical. In 2006, Birthright Director of Marketing Gidi Mark said: “I don’t think it’s political for Jews to support Israel” (“Come, see Palestine!” Salon.com, 5 June 2006).

However, the establishment and maintenance of an exclusively Jewish Israel — through forcible displacement, land theft, occupation, segregation, institutionalized racism and systemic discrimination — is political at its core, and is both supported and reinforced by the Birthright program.

For instance, during the trip, approximately 10,000 Birthright participants visit the Ahava cosmetics factory each year; Ahava is located in the illegally-occupied West Bank settlement of Mitzpe Shalem. Ahava directly profits from the exploitation of Palestinian Dead Sea resources.

Moreover, disturbing accounts of explicit racism have arisen in recent years; former participants often recount how the language used by Birthright personnel demonizes Palestinians. One past attendee said her Birthright tour guide told her group that “Arabs have wanted to kill Jews forever, that they are ‘like mosquitoes’ we must swat away” (“So you’re thinking of Birthright,” Mondoweiss, 20 December 2012).

Zionism is a political project, and Birthright is perhaps the most tangible manifestation of that political project outside Israel. As such, we must recognize our engagements with Birthright as a question of politics, and not just “a free vacation.”

Narrow confines

In reinforcing the belief that what it means to be Jewish is to be Zionist (particularly for non-Israeli Jewish youth), Birthright perpetuates a single narrative about what it means to be Jewish outside of Israel, and who can be a Jew.

Jewish people speak and have spoken an array of languages, live and have lived across the world, and possess different histories that extend beyond the narrow confines of political Zionism and the nation-state of Israel.

It is contemporary political Zionism that has “othered” Mizrahi/Arab-Jews, as New York University professor Ella Shohat explains, by urging Arab Jews “to see their only real identity as Jewish,” such that their “Arabness, the product of millennial cohabitation, is merely a diasporic stain to be ‘cleansed’ through assimilation” (“The invention of the Mizhahim,” Journal of Palestine Studies, Volume 29, No. 1, Autumn 1999).

Further, Israel’s policy towards Ethiopian Jews in recent years demonstrates how the limits of Jewishness are often defined through Zionism. There is a clear tension between Birthright’s claim to promote diasporic life, and the fact that it the program is so deeply rooted in Zionism, an ideology that homogenizes the experiences and identities of Jews.

Our alleged Birthright can only exist through the suppression and erasure of many Jewish identities, histories and experiences.

Liberation in Palestine is a question of land, colonialism and apartheid — not religion. The work of Jewish and Israeli organizations and collectives such as Zochrot, Boycott from Within, the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network, and Israeli Queers Against Apartheid attests to this fact.

As scholar Judith Butler has explained: “there have always been Jewish traditions that oppose state violence, that affirm multi-cultural co-habitation, and defend principles of equality, and this vital ethical tradition is forgotten or sidelined when any of us accept Israel as the basis of Jewish identification or values” (“Judith Butler responds to attack,” Mondoweiss, 27 August 2012).

No right to apartheid

We have founded Renounce Birthright because Birthright demands our complicity in two intersecting (but distinct) forms of violence: first, the occupation of Palestine and the Israeli government’s brutal regime of apartheid and second, the erasure and suppression of diverse Jewish experiences and communities across the world.

In organizing for Palestinian liberation, we are deeply committed to the belief that Jewish experiences and narratives — particularly North American Jewish experiences, including our own — should not be centered.

As Mezna Qato and Kareem Rabie explained in their recent article for Jacobin magazine: “the left often neglects these anti-colonial principles and seeks out Jewish voices to validate Palestinian claims. In turn, it privileges Jewish discourse, anxieties, and histories in ways that marginalize Palestinians in their own struggle” (“Against the Law,” Spring 2013).

We recognize that our struggles are greatly distinct yet related, and are engaged in this project first and foremost from a position of solidarity.

We call on non-Israeli Jews across the diaspora to join us in renouncing Birthright— and our privileged legal relationship to the Israeli state — because we have no right to apartheid and colonialism.

Aviva Stahl grew up in New Jersey and now lives in London; she is the US researcher for CagePrisoners and a collective member of Bent Bars. She can be followed on Twitter @stahlidarity.

Sarah Woolf is an editorial intern at The Nation magazine. Hailing from Montréal, she currently lives in New York City.

Sam Elliott Bick is from Montreal, Québec. He is a member of the Tadamon! collective, and organizes at the Immigrant Workers Center. He can be followed on Twitter @sam_Bick.

The authors can be contacted by email: renouncebirthright@gmail.com.

 

–The Electronic Intifada, 29 April, 2013

 

http://electronicintifada.net/content/jews-we-say-birthright-trips-must-end/12413

Posted in Activism/Divestment, Opinion/Editorial | Leave a Comment »