الخميس، 19 مارس، 2009

Must Jews always see themselves as victims?

Must Jews always see themselves as victims?

Fierce debate has been raging in 'The Independent' about Israel's conduct
in Gaza. Here, one leading Jewish thinker argues that until Jews shake off
their persecution complex, there can never be peace in the Middle East

By Antony Lerman
March 7, 2009

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/must-jews-always-see-themselves-as-victims-1639277.html

In the wake of Israel's attack on Gaza, eager voices are telling us that
anti-Semitism has returned – yet again. Eight years of Hamas rockets and
the world unfairly cries foul when Israel retaliates, they say. Biased
media are delegitimising the Jewish state. The Left attacks Israel as
uniquely evil, making it the persecuted Jew among the nations. Even
theatres keep wheeling out those anti-Semitic stereotypes, Shylock, Fagin
and the "chosen people", just to torment us. If this bleak picture were an
accurate portrayal of what Jews are experiencing today, who could deny
that suffering is the determining feature of the Jewish condition?

In most Jewish circles, if you pause to question this narrative and
suggest that it might be exaggerated, that it unrealistically implies a
level of dreadfulness and victimhood unique to Jews, you'll attract
hostility and disbelief in equal measure, and precious little public
sympathy. But in the work of Professor Salo Baron, probably the greatest
Jewish historian of the 20th century, we find powerful justification for
just such a questioning.

Professor Baron spoke out angrily against what he called the "lachrymose
conception of Jewish history", which placed suffering at the centre of
Jewish life. "Suffering is part of the destiny" of the Jews," Professor
Baron said in an interview in 1975, "but so is repeated joy as well as
ultimate redemption." Another distinguished historian, Professor Yosef
Hayim Yerushalmi, said Baron always fought against the view of Jewish
history as "all darkness and no light. He laboured mightily to restore
balance".

Baron, who was born in Poland and went to America in 1930 to teach at
Columbia University in New York, died aged 94 in 1989, perhaps one of the
most significant years in post-war Jewish history. With the collapse of
communism in Eastern Europe and the USSR, the suppression of Jewish
religious practice and cultural expression came to an end. More than two
million Jews were finally free to choose to be Jewish or not. An
astonishing number chose Jewishness and a remarkable revival of Jewish
life began. This historic moment aptly illustrates the central truth of
Baron's critique.

Twenty years on, that revival continues, but the world's response to
Israel's war on Gaza and the dramatic rise in anti-Semitic incidents in a
number of countries since the war began have led many to paint a very dark
picture of the current Jewish predicament. So, in thinking about the
accuracy of this, especially in view of the poisonous weed of
anti-Semitism that Howard Jacobson, writing in The Independent last month,
claims to find growing in practically every patch of criticism of Israel,
I wondered what light Professor Baron would have found in the current
darkness. Would he have concluded that the lachrymose conception of Jewish
history has returned and that a restoration of some balance is required?
Have we Jews succumbed psychologically to a sense of eternal Jewish
victimhood, a wholly negative Jewish exceptionalism, or is paranoia
justified?

Some pioneering research, published as Israel's bombing of Gaza began,
throws some light on this. It reveals just how much the feeling that no
matter what we do, we are perpetually at the mercy of others applies to
Jewish Israelis. A team led by Professor Daniel Bar Tal of Tel Aviv
University, one of the world's leading political psychologists, questioned
Israeli Jews about their memory of the conflict with the Arabs, from its
inception to the present, and found that their "consciousness is
characterised by a sense of victimisation, a siege mentality, blind
patriotism, belligerence, self-righteousness, dehumanisation of the
Palestinians and insensitivity to their suffering". The researchers found
a close connection between that collective memory and the memory of "past
persecutions of Jews" and the Holocaust, the feeling that "the whole world
is against us". If such a study were to be conducted among Jews in
Britain, I suspect the results would be very similar.

For Jews to see themselves in this way is understandable, but it's a
distortion and deeply damaging. As Professor Bar Tal says, this view
relies primarily on prolonged indoctrination that is based on ignorance
and even nurtures it. The Jewish public does not want to be confused with
the facts. If we are defined by past persecutions, by our victimhood, will
we ever think clearly about the problem of Israel-Palestine and the
problem of anti-Semitism?

To justify its attack on Gaza, Israel threw the mantle of victimhood over
the residents of southern Israel who have lived under the constant threat
of rocket attack from the territory since 2001. Israeli government and
military spokespeople seemed to get a remarkably sympathetic hearing in
the media when they made this argument. But history did not begin in 2001.
As the Israeli journalist Amira Hass notes, the origin of Israel's siege
dates back to 1991, before suicide bombings began. The relentless emphasis
on Israeli suffering, to the exclusion of all other contextual facts, and
the constant mantra that no other country would tolerate such a threat
posed to its citizens over such a long period provided the basis for
arguing that the military option was the only alternative. The victim is
cornered and there's only one way out.

But the popular Israeli phrase ein breira, "there is no alternative",
won't stand one second's scrutiny. There was a wealth of informed senior
military and security opinion, especially following the disaster of the
2006 Lebanon war, which argued that there is no military solution to the
problem of Islamist groups such as Hamas and Hizbollah. Even before
Lebanon, in 2004, former IDF spokesman Nahman Shai, a senior figure in the
Israeli establishment, said: "Despite all the anger, frustration, and
disgust we feel, we ought to talk to Hizbollah. We must exploit every
possibility to reach a compromise with them and gain precious time. Does
it really embody all the evil in the region? What are we waiting for? We
can always go back to fighting terrorism."

Early in January this year, Israel's former Mossad chief and former
national security adviser, Efraim Halevy, said: "If Israel's goal were to
remove the threat of rockets from the residents of southern Israel,
opening the border crossings would have ensured such quiet for a
generation." Daniel Levy, former adviser in the office of Israeli Prime
Minister Ehud Barak, shows clearly where the wrong choices were made:
withdrawing from Gaza without co-ordinating the "what next" with the
Palestinians; hermetically sealing off Hamas and besieging Gaza after the
2006 elections instead of testing Hamas's capacity to govern responsibly;
instead of building on the ceasefire, Israel was the first to break it on
4 November. In short, there were other alternatives.

The current flurry of diplomatic activity only confirms this. Tony Blair's
first trip to Gaza, Hillary Clinton's talks with Israel's leaders and
stronger language on settlements and the $5bn pledged for Gaza at the
Egyptian donor conference are all discomfiting signs for Israel's polity,
now in a state of electoral upheaval. They show that the Gaza offensive
blasted open the doors to alternative diplomatic options, as well as the
possibility of a new Palestinian unity government. Instead of validating
the government's line that this was justice for Israel's traumatised
southern citizens, it only served to demonstrate to the world, and
especially to the new Obama administration, Israel's responsibility for
the injustice of the humanitarian disaster in Gaza.

It's not a political judgement to feel compassion for Israelis terrorised
by Hamas rockets, and it's just the same for Palestinians living in a
virtual prison in Gaza. But the objective predicaments of the two
populations are not the same. To convince yourself that a turkey shoot is
an act of great heroism, you need the "self-righteousness" and "blind
patriotism" Professor Bar Tal found in his study. You see yourself as
David against the Islamist Goliath. The world sees a powerful elephant and
an aggressive, rogue mouse that draws blood. The elephant hands the mouse
the power of veto over the entire Middle East peace process by demanding
that the mouse recognise the elephant's existence before any meaningful
negotiations with Palestinians can take place. All this does is send a
message of weakness: "We genuinely believe that our existence is
threatened by this mouse."

Professor Baron argued that you cannot understand the history of the Jews
outside of the histories of the societies in which Jews lived. Yet this
narrative of victimhood is sustainable only on the basis of a negative
Jewish exceptionalism which severs the Jewish experience from the
historical mainstream.

The hope and optimism which accompanied the collapse of communism and the
Jewish revival in Europe in 1989 have certainly been eclipsed by a
defensive, fearful, ethnocentric mindset, which makes a just resolution of
the Israel-Palestine conflict ever harder to achieve and casts a pall over
Jewish life everywhere. So why are we reading our own times through the
prism of a lachrymose view of Jewish history?

If you're urging me to list the faults of the enemies of the Jews, to say
it's all because of them, you might as well stop reading now. Yes, of
course our predicament is partly caused by others who wish us no good, but
before we heap blame on them, I want to hold up a mirror to ourselves, to
know what's our responsibility. The liberal historian of Zionism, Rabbi
Arthur Hertzberg, said it's "wrong to deny the Jews the dignity of having
made their own history, even its pain". Consider these five interlocking
points.

There is every reason why the Holocaust should be a constant influence on
our thinking. But by insisting on owning it, fencing it off and seeing it
as uniquely unique, we're in danger of lifting the Jewish tragedy out of
history altogether. And this process has been a conscious act. If seen as
completely unfathomable, the Holocaust is easily used to justify
extraordinary measures to ensure that it doesn't happen again. This is a
dangerous road to travel.

Being so defined by the Holocaust, Jewish leaders in Israel and elsewhere
regularly use the tragedy to dramatise Israel's position or the threats
facing Jews. So when the US Anti-Defamation League head Abraham Foxman
described the attack on the Caracas synagogue as "the scene of a
modern-day Kristallnacht" – the 9 November 1938 pogrom in Germany in which
91 Jews were killed, more than 30,000 were arrested and 191 synagogues
were set on fire – he diminished Kristallnacht. But more than this: it
perpetuates the view that we Jews are for ever the objects and never the
subjects of history. This was never more than partially true, but ever
since the establishment of the state of Israel, it has ceased to be true
at all. Israel changed everything – whether you're close to Israel or not.
Israel acts on the world stage; it calls itself a Jewish state; what it
does affects the Jewish position worldwide; it cannot pretend to
powerlessness; it's the subject of history, not the object, an
d in
being so turns Jews everywhere into subjects of history too.

This is starkly illustrated in the fact that the UK Jewish community's
defence body, the Community Security Trust, reports a dramatic increase in
anti-Semitic incidents since the beginning of the Gaza war. This is not a
new phenomenon. For some decades, incidents have increased at times of
high tension or violence in Israel-Palestine. Jewish leaders and
commentators are indignant at the implication that Jews worldwide are
responsible for Israel's actions. Don't conflate Jews and Israel, they
say. But matters are far more complicated. Most Jews support Israel; they
feel it's part of their identity; official Jewish bodies defend Israel
when it's criticised.

None of this justifies one single act of anti-Semitism against Jews
perpetrated because someone claims to be angry about Palestine. But we
can't have it both ways. If you're close to Israel, you can't just own
your connection with the country when all is quiet; you have to own it
when what Israel does provokes outrage. The consequence of this is
recognising that by provoking outrage, which is then used to target Jews,
Israel bears responsibility for that anti-Jewish hostility. If Israel were
truly concerned about Jews worldwide, it would think long and hard about
the implications of this reality.

The incongruous truth is that while we are drawing attention to
anti-Semitism more comprehensively than at any time in the past 30 years,
I sense that so much of the Jewish world is more comfortable with an
identifiable enemy that hates us than with a multicultural society that
welcomes Jews on equal terms.

Any anti-Semitism must be taken seriously, even at the best of times, but
our appetite for the apocalyptic assessment of the anti-Semitic threat
seems to know no bounds. When the Labour MP Denis MacShane writes that
"Neo-anti-Semitism is a developed, coherent and organised system of modern
politics that has huge influence on the minds of millions" and that it
"impacts on world politics today like no other ideology", can we really
take such hyperbole seriously?

It's perfectly possible to acknowledge the pain caused by increased
anti-Semitism but reject wild scenarios and counterproductive ways of
dealing with the problem – such as demonising strong criticism of Israel.
We should be able to have a dialogue about alternative ways of
interpreting what's happening and what needs to be done. Sadly, the Jewish
establishment here and other self-appointed gatekeepers of Jewish dignity
see this as traitorous and a denial of anti-Semitism.

Nothing illustrates better how we are in thrall to the uniqueness of our
suffering than the shocking silence from most Jewish leaders that has
greeted the rise of Avigdor Lieberman – a politician who, in Haaretz's
words, "conducted a racist campaign against Israel's Arab citizens and is
suspected of grave criminal acts" – to king-maker for the next Israeli
government. It's sickening that the leaders of Israel's three largest
parties have courted him and conferred respectability upon him, with not
the slightest hint that they might be metaphorically holding their noses.

Before we put down the mirror, the final image we see is that of Lieberman.

We are not condemned to accept the fate which the closed-minded
ethnocentricity of so many Jews dictates to us. Ameliorating our
predicament, restoring the balance, could come from acknowledging modest
but profound truths, even if we get to them through distasteful
comparisons.

I know that the siege, bombardment and invasion of Gaza were not like the
German obliteration of the Warsaw ghetto – a comparison that critics of
Israel are spreading through the internet I believe. And our need for calm
and compassionate examination of the reality of the conflict would be
greatly enhanced if we could retire such comparisons. But if we pause to
think of the suffering of a dying Jewish child in the ghetto and a dying
Palestinian child in Gaza, who would dare to suggest that their suffering
is any different. Yet, as Professor Baron seems to imply, we fall all too
easily into the trap of thinking that there is something unique about
Jewish suffering. There isn't.

Antony Lerman is the former director of the Institute for Jewish Policy
Research

Remembering Rachel on the sixth anniversary of her killing

Statement from the Family of Rachel Corrie

March 16, 2009

http://rachelcorriefoundation.org/site/2009/03/16/remembering-rachel-on-the-sixth-anniversary-of-her-killing/#more-481


We thank all who continue to remember Rachel and who,
on this sixth anniversary of her stand in Gaza, renew
their own commitments to human rights, justice and
peace in the Middle East. The tributes and actions in
her memory are a source of inspiration to us and to
others.

Friday, March 13th, we learned of the tragic injury to
American activist Tristan Anderson. Tristan was shot in
the head with a tear-gas canister in Ni'lin Village in
the West Bank when Israeli forces attacked a
demonstration opposing the construction of the
annexation wall through the village's land. On the same
day, a Ni'lin resident was, also, shot in the leg with
live ammunition.

Four residents of Ni'lin have been killed in the past
eight months as villagers and their supporters have
courageously demonstrated against the Apartheid Wall
deemed illegal by the International Court of Justice -
a wall that will ultimately absorb one-quarter of the
village's remaining land. Those who have died are a
ten-year-old child Ahmed Mousa, shot in the forehead
with live ammunition on July 29, 2008; Yousef Amira
(17) shot with rubber-coated steel bullets on July 30,
2008; Arafat Rateb Khawaje (22) and Mohammed Khawaje
(20), both shot and killed with live ammunition on
December 8, 2008.

On this anniversary, Rachel would want us all to hold
Tristan Anderson and his family and these Palestinians
and their families in our thoughts and prayers, and we
ask everyone to do so.

We are writing this message from Cairo where we
returned after a visit to Gaza with the Code Pink
Delegation from the United States. Fifty-eight women
and men successfully passed through Rafah Crossing on
Saturday, March 7th to challenge the border closures
and siege and to celebrate International Women's Day
with the strong and courageous women of Gaza.

Rachel would be very happy that our spirited delegation
made this journey. North to south throughout the Strip,
we witnessed the sweeping destruction of neighborhoods,
municipal buildings, police stations, mosques, and
schools -casualties of the Israeli military assaults in
December and January. When we asked about the personal
impact of the attacks on those we met, we heard
repeatedly of the loss of mothers, fathers, children,
cousins, and friends. The Palestinian Center for Human
Rights reports 1434 Palestinian dead and over 5000
injured, among them 288 children and 121 women.

We walked through the farming village of Khoza in the
South where fifty homes were destroyed during the land
invasion. A young boy scrambled through a hole in the
rubble to show us the basement he and his family
crouched in as a bulldozer crushed their house upon
them. We heard of Rafiya who lead the frightened women
and children of this neighborhood away from threatening
Israeli military bulldozers, only to be struck down and
killed by an Israeli soldier's sniper fire as she
walked in the street carrying her white flag.

Repeatedly, we were told by Palestinians, and by the
internationals on the ground supporting them, that
there is no ceasefire. Indeed, bomb blasts from the
border area punctuated our conversations as we arrived
and departed Gaza. On our last night, we sat by a fire
in the moonlight in the remains of a friend's farmyard
and listened to him tell of how the Israeli military
destroyed his home in 2004, and of how this second home
was shattered on February 6th. This time, it was
Israeli rockets from Apache helicopters that struck the
house. A stand of wheat remained and rustled soothingly
in the breeze as we talked, but our attention shifted
quickly when F-16s streaked high across the night sky,
and our friend explained that if the planes tipped to
the side, they would strike. Everywhere, the
psychological costs of the recent and ongoing attacks
for all Gazans, but especially for the children, were
sadly apparent.

It is not only those who suffer the greatest losses
that carry the scars of all that has happened. It is
those, too, who witnessed from their school bodies
flying in the air when police cadets were bombed across
the street and those who felt and heard the terrifying
blasts of missiles falling near their own homes. It is
the children who each day must walk past the
unexplainable and inhumane destruction that has
occurred.

In Rachel's case, though a thorough, credible and
transparent investigation was promised by the Israeli
Government, after six years, the position of the U.S.
Government remains that such an investigation has not
taken place. In March 2008, Michele Bernier-Toff,
Managing Director of the Office of Overseas Citizen
Services at the Department of State wrote, "We have
consistently requested that the Government of Israel
conduct a full and transparent investigation into
Rachel's death. Our requests have gone unanswered or
ignored." Now, the attacks on all the people of Gaza
and the recent one on Tristan Anderson in Ni'lin cry
out for investigation and accountability. We call on
President Obama, Secretary of State Clinton, and
members of Congress to act with fortitude and courage
to ensure that the atrocities that have occurred are
addressed by the Israeli Government and through
relevant international and U.S. law. We ask them to act
immediately and persistently to stop the impunity
enjoyed by the Israeli military, not to encourage it.

Despite the pain, we have once again felt privileged to
enter briefly into the lives of Rachel's Palestinian
friends in Gaza. We are moved by their resilience and
heartened by their song, dance, and laughter amidst the
tears. Rachel wrote in 2003, "I am nevertheless amazed
at their strength in being able to defend such a large
degree of their humanity-laughter, generosity, family
time - against the incredible horror occurring in their
lives.....I am also discovering a degree of strength
and of the basic ability for humans to remain human in
the direst of circumstances...I think the word is
dignity." On this sixth anniversary of Rachel's
killing, we echo her sentiments.


Sincerely,

Cindy and Craig Corrie
On behalf of our family

=====

Rachel Corrie Foundation for Peace and Justice
www.rachelcorriefoundation.org
(360) 754-3998
info@rachelcorriefoundation.org

Is the Israeli Lobby Running Scared?

Is the Israeli Lobby Running Scared?

Or Killing a Chicken to Scare the Monkeys

By Robert Dreyfuss
TomDispatch
March 16, 2009

http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/175046/robert_dreyfuss_the_freeman_affair

Is the Israel lobby in Washington an all-powerful
force? Or is it, perhaps, running scared?

Judging by the outcome of the Charles W. ("Chas")
Freeman affair this week, it might seem as if the
Israeli lobby is fearsome indeed. Seen more broadly,
however, the controversy over Freeman could be the
Israel lobby's Waterloo.

Let's recap. On February 19th, Laura Rozen reported at
ForeignPolicy.com that Freeman had been selected by
Admiral Dennis Blair, the director of national
intelligence, to serve in a key post as chairman of the
National Intelligence Council (NIC). The NIC, the
official in-house think tank of the intelligence
community, takes input from 16 intelligence agencies
and produces what are called "national intelligence
estimates" on crucial topics of the day as guidance for
Washington policymakers. For that job, Freeman boasted
a stellar resum??: fluent in Mandarin Chinese, widely
experienced in Latin America, Asia, and Africa, a
former U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia during the first
Gulf War, and an ex-assistant secretary of defense
during the Reagan administration.

A wry, outspoken iconoclast, Freeman had, however,
crossed one of Washington's red lines by virtue of his
strong criticism of the U.S.-Israeli relationship. Over
the years, he had, in fact, honed a critique of Israel
that was both eloquent and powerful. Hours after the
Foreign Policy story was posted, Steve Rosen, a former
official of the American Israel Public Affairs
Committee (AIPAC), launched what would soon become a
veritable barrage of criticism of Freeman on his right-
wing blog.

Rosen himself has already been indicted by the
Department of Justice in an espionage scandal over the
transfer of classified information to outside parties
involving a colleague at AIPAC, a former official in
Donald Rumsfeld's Pentagon, and an official at the
Israeli embassy. His blog, Obama Mideast Monitor, is
hosted by the Middle East Forum website run by Daniel
Pipes, a hard-core, pro-Israeli rightist, whose Middle
East Quarterly is, in turn, edited by Michael Rubin of
the American Enterprise Institute. Over approximately
two weeks, Rosen would post 19 pieces on the Freeman
story.

The essence of Rosen's criticism centered on the former
ambassador's strongly worded critique of Israel. (That
was no secret. Freeman had repeatedly denounced many of
Israel's policies and Washington's too-close
relationship with Jerusalem. "The brutal oppression of
the Palestinians by the Israeli occupation shows no
sign of ending," said Freeman in 2007. "American
identification with Israel has become total.") But
Rosen, and those who followed his lead, broadened their
attacks to make unfounded or exaggerated claims, taking
quotes and emails out of context, and accusing Freeman
of being a pro-Arab "lobbyist," of being too closely
identified with Saudi Arabia, and of being cavalier
about China's treatment of dissidents. They tried to
paint the sober, conservative former U.S. official as a
wild-eyed radical, an anti-Semite, and a pawn of the
Saudi king.

From Rosen's blog, the anti-Freeman vitriol spread to
other right-wing, Zionist, and neoconservative blogs,
then to the websites of neocons mouthpieces like the
New Republic, Commentary, National Review, and the
Weekly Standard, which referred to Freeman as a "Saudi
puppet." From there, it would spread to the Atlantic
and then to the op-ed pages of the Wall Street Journal,
where Gabriel Schoenfeld called Freeman a "China-
coddling Israel basher," and the Washington Post, where
Jonathan Chait of the New Republic labeled Freeman a
"fanatic."

Before long, staunch partisans for Israel on Capitol
Hill were getting into the act. These would, in the
end, include Representative Steve Israel and Senator
Charles Schumer, both New York Democrats; a group of
Republican House members led by John Boehner of Ohio,
the minority leader, and Eric Cantor of Virginia, the
Republican Whip; seven Republican members of the Senate
Select Committee on Intelligence; and, finally, Senator
Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, who engaged in a sharp
exchange with Admiral Blair about Freeman at a Senate
hearing.

Though Blair strongly defended Freeman, the two men got
no support from an anxious White House, which took
(politely put) a hands-off approach. Seeing the writing
on the wall -- all over the wall, in fact -- Freeman
came to the conclusion that, even if he could withstand
the storm, his ability to do the job had, in effect,
already been torpedoed. Whatever output the National
Intelligence Council might produce under his
leadership, as Freeman told me in an interview, would
instantly be attacked. "Anything that it produced that
was politically controversial would immediately be
attributed to me as some sort of political deviant, and
be discredited," he said.

On March 10th, Freeman bowed out, but not with a
whimper. In a letter to friends and colleagues, he
launched a defiant, departing counterstrike that may,
in fact, have helped to change the very nature of
Washington politics. "The tactics of the Israel lobby
plumb the depths of dishonor and indecency and include
character assassination, selective misquotation, the
willful distortion of the record, the fabrication of
falsehoods, and an utter disregard for the truth,"
wrote Freeman. "The aim of this lobby is control of the
policy process through the exercise of a veto over the
appointment of people who dispute the wisdom of its
views."

Freeman put it more metaphorically to me: "It was a
nice way of, as the Chinese say, killing a chicken to
scare the monkeys." By destroying his appointment,
Freeman claimed, the Israel lobby hoped to intimidate
other critics of Israel and U.S. Middle East policy who
might seek jobs in the Obama administration.

On Triumphs, Hysterias, and Mobs

It remains to be seen just how many "monkeys" are
trembling. Certainly, the Israel lobby crowed in
triumph. Daniel Pipes, for instance, quickly praised
Rosen's role in bringing down Freeman:

"What you may not know is that Steven J. Rosen of the
Middle East Forum was the person who first brought
attention to the problematic nature of Freeman's
appointment," wrote Pipes. "Within hours, the word was
out, and three weeks later Freeman has conceded defeat.
Only someone with Steve's stature and credibility could
have made this happen."

The Zionist Organization of America, a far-right
advocacy group that supports Israel, sent out follow-up
Action Alerts to its membership, ringing further alarm
bells about Freeman as part of a campaign to mobilize
public opinion and Congress. Behind the scenes, AIPAC
quietly used its considerable clout, especially with
friends and allies in the media. And Chuck Schumer, who
had trotted over to the White House to talk to Rahm
Emanuel, President Obama's chief of staff, later said
bluntly:

"Charles Freeman was the wrong guy for this position.
His statements against Israel were way over the top and
severely out of step with the administration. I
repeatedly urged the White House to reject him, and I
am glad they did the right thing."

Numerous reporters, including Max Blumenthal at the
Daily Beast website and Spencer Ackerman of
Firedoglake, have effectively documented the role of
the Israel lobby, including AIPAC, in sabotaging
Freeman's appointment. From their accounts and others,
it seems clear that the lobby left its fingerprints all
over Freeman's National Intelligence Council corpse.
(Indeed, Time's Joe Klein described the attack on
Freeman as an "assassination," adding that the term
"lobby" doesn't do justice to the methods of the
various lobbying groups, individuals, and publications:
"He was the victim of a mob, not a lobby. The mob was
composed primarily of Jewish neoconservatives.")

On the other hand, the Washington Post, in a near-
hysterical editorial, decided to pretend that the
Israel lobby really doesn't exist, accusing Freeman
instead of sending out a "crackpot tirade." Huffed the
Post, "Mr. Freeman issued a two-page screed on Tuesday
in which he described himself as the victim of a
shadowy and sinister 'Lobby'... His statement was a
grotesque libel."

The Post's case might have been stronger, had it not,
just one day earlier, printed an editorial in which it
called on Attorney General Eric Holder to exonerate
Steve Rosen and drop the espionage case against him.
Entitled "Time to Call It Quits," the editorial said:

"The matter involves Steven J. Rosen and Keith
Weissman, two former officials for the American Israel
Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC... A trial has been
scheduled for June in the U.S. District Court for the
Eastern District of Virginia. Mr. Holder should pull
the plug on this prosecution long before then."

In his interview with me, Freeman noted the propensity
members of the Israel lobby have for denying the
lobby's existence, even while taking credit for having
forced him out and simultaneously claiming that they
had nothing to do with it. "We're now at the ludicrous
stage where those who boasted of having done it and who
described how they did it are now denying that they did
it," he said.

Running Scared

The Israel lobby has regularly denied its own existence
even as it has long carried on with its work, in
stealth as in the bright sunlight. In retrospect,
however, l'affaire Freeman may prove a game changer. It
has already sparked a new, more intense mainstream
focus on the lobby, one that far surpasses the flap
that began in March, 2006, over the publication of an
essay by John Mearsheimer and Steven Walt in the London
Review of Books that was, in 2007, expanded into a
book, The Israel Lobby. In fact, one of the sins
committed by Freeman, according to his critics, is that
an organization he headed, the Middle East Policy
Council, published an early version of the Mearsheimer-
Walt thesis -- which argued that a powerful, pro-Israel
coalition exercises undue influence over American
policymakers -- in its journal.

In his blog at Foreign Policy, Walt reacted to
Freeman's decision to withdraw by writing:

"For all of you out there who may have questioned
whether there was a powerful 'Israel lobby,' or who
admitted that it existed but didn't think it had much
influence, or who thought that the real problem was
some supposedly all-powerful 'Saudi lobby,' think
again."

What the Freeman affair brought was unwanted, often
front-page attention to the lobby. Writers at countless
blogs and websites -- including yours truly, at the
Dreyfuss Report -- dissected or reported on the lobby's
assault on Freeman, including Daniel Luban and Jim Lobe
at Antiwar.com, Glenn Greenwald in his Salon.com
column, M.J. Rosenberg of the Israel Peace Forum, and
Phil Weiss at Mondoweiss. Far more striking, however,
is that for the first time in memory, both the New York
Times and the Washington Post ran page-one stories
about the Freeman controversy that specifically used
the phrase "Israel lobby," while detailing the charges
and countercharges that followed upon Freeman's claim
that the lobby did him in.

This new attention to the lobby's work comes at a
critical moment, which is why the toppling of Freeman
might be its Waterloo.

As a start, right-wing partisans of Israel have grown
increasingly anxious about the direction that President
Obama intends to take when it comes to U.S. policy
toward Israel, the Palestinians, Iran, and the Middle
East generally. Despite the way, in the middle of the
presidential campaign last June, Obama recited a pro-
Israeli catechism in a speech at AIPAC's national
conference in Washington, they remain unconvinced that
he will prove reliable on their policy concerns. Among
other things, they have long been suspicious of his
reputed openness to Palestinian points of view.

No less important, while the appointments of Hillary
Clinton as his secretary of state and Rahm Emanuel as
his chief of staff were reassuring, other appointments
were far less so. They were, for instance, concerned by
several of Obama's campaign advisers -- and not only
Robert Malley of the International Crisis Group and
former National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski,
who were quietly eased out of Obamaland early in 2008.
An additional source of worry was Daniel Shapiro and
Daniel Kurtzer, both Jewish, who served as Obama's top
Middle East aides during the campaign and were seen as
not sufficiently loyal to the causes favored by
hardline, right-wing types.

Since the election, many lobby members have viewed a
number of Obama's top appointments, including Shapiro,
who's taken the Middle East portfolio at the National
Security Council, and Kurtzer, who's in line for a top
State Department job, with great unease. Take retired
Marine general and now National Security Advisor James
L. Jones, who, like Brzezinski, is seen as too
sympathetic to the Palestinian point of view and who
reputedly wrote a report last year highly critical of
Israel's occupation policies; or consider George
Mitchell, the U.S. special envoy to the Middle East,
who is regarded by many pro-Israeli hawks as far too
level-headed and even-handed to be a good mediator; or,
to mention one more appointment, Samantha Power, author
of A Problem from Hell and now a National Security
Council official who has, in the past, made comments
sharply critical of Israel.

Of all of these figures, Freeman, because of his record
of blunt statements, was the most vulnerable. His
appointment looked like low-hanging fruit when it came
to launching a concerted, preemptive attack on the
administration. As it happens, however, this may prove
anything but a moment of strength for the lobby. After
all, the recent three-week Israeli assault on Gaza had
already generated a barrage of headlines and television
images that made Israel look like a bully nation with
little regard for Palestinian lives, including those of
women and children. According to polls taken in the
wake of Gaza, growing numbers of Americans, including
many in the Jewish community, have begun to exhibit
doubts about Israel's actions, a rare moment when
public opinion has begun to tilt against Israel.

Perhaps most important of all, Israel is about to be
run by an extremist, ultra right-wing government led by
Likud Party leader Bibi Netanyahu, and including the
even more extreme party of Avigdor Lieberman, as well
as a host of radical-right religious parties. It's an
ugly coalition that is guaranteed to clash with the
priorities of the Obama White House.

As a result, the arrival of the Netanyahu-Lieberman
government is also guaranteed to prove a crisis moment
for the Israel lobby. It will present an enormous
public-relations problem, akin to the one that faced ad
agency Hill & Knowlton during the decades in which it
had to defend Philip Morris, the hated cigarette
company that repeatedly denied the link between its
products and cancer. The Israel lobby knows that it
will be difficult to sell cartons of menthol smooth
Netanyahu-Lieberman 100s to American consumers.

Indeed, Freeman told me:

"The only thing I regret is that in my statement I
embraced the term 'Israel lobby.' This isn't really a
lobby by, for, or about Israel. It's really, well, I've
decided I'm going to call it from now on the [Avigdor]
Lieberman lobby. It's the very right-wing Likud in
Israel and its fanatic supporters here. And Avigdor
Lieberman is really the guy that they really agree
with."

So here's the reality behind the Freeman debacle:
Already worried over Team Obama, suffering the after-
effects of the Gaza debacle, and about to be burdened
with the Netanyahu-Lieberman problem, the Israel lobby
is undoubtedly running scared. They succeeded in
knocking off Freeman, but the true test of their
strength is yet to come.

Robert Dreyfuss is an independent investigative
journalist in Alexandria, Virginia. He is a regular
contributor to Rolling Stone, the Nation, the American
Prospect, Mother Jones, and the Washington Monthly. He
is also the author of Devil's Game: How the United
States Helped Unleash Fundamentalist Islam (Henry
Holt/Metropolitan). He writes the Dreyfuss Report blog
for the Nation magazine.

[This article first appeared on Tomdispatch.com, a
weblog of the Nation Institute, which offers a steady
flow of alternate sources, news, and opinion from Tom
Engelhardt, long time editor in publishing, co-founder
of the American Empire Project, author of The End of
Victory Culture, and editor of The World According to
Tomdispatch: America in the New Age of Empire.]

US Eyewitness in Gaza

US Eyewitness in Gaza: 'The reality of a very real bloodbath set in...'


By Roxe Mishaan

It took me a month to write this email. In that month, I've been through a
whirlwind of emotions, trying to find away to process the things that I
saw. I still haven't figured it out.

I went to Gaza with a group of lawyers to investigate violations of
international law. We crossed into Gaza through the Egyptian border
crossing at Rafah. At first we were fairly convinced we wouldn't get
through. We had heard different stories of internationals trying to get
through and then getting turned away -- they didn't have the proper
credentials, they didn't have a letter from their embassy, etc. It made it
all the more anti-climactic when we got through with no problem. just a
minor 7-hour detainment at the border, which was really nothing at all.
they said we were free to go. so we boarded a bus and drove the half-mile
to the Palestinian side of the crossing. when we got there, we went
through the world's one and only Palestinian Authority border crossing. we
were the only ones there. they stamped all our passports and gave us a
hero's welcome -- invited us to sit down for tea and have some desserts.
they could not believe an American delegation was there, in Gaza.
as far
as we learned, we were only the second American delegation to enter Gaza
since the offensive -- after a delegation of engineers. We were certainly
the first and only delegation of American lawyers. while we were trying to
avoid the mandatory Palestinian shmooze time with tea and snacks, waiting
for our cabs to arrive to take us to our hotel, we felt a bomb explode. to
our unexperienced senses, it felt like it was right under us. i got
immediately anxious and decided we need to get out of there. our
Palestinian hosts laughed at me kindly and said "don't worry this is
normal here". somehow, not that comforting. we got in our two cabs and
starting heading from the border to our hotel in Gaza City. the ride from
Rafah to Gaza City was about 40 minutes. as soon as we left the border
gates, we began to see the bombed out buildings. one of my companions
yelled out "holy shit!" and we looked to where she was pointing and saw
the giant crater in the building. then my other travel comp
anion
turned to her and said "you can't yell 'holy shit' every time you see a
bombed out building. we'll all have heart attacks." and she was right. the
entire 40-minute drive to Gaza City, our cab driver pointed out the sights
around us. he explained what each bombed out building was, who was living
there and what had been a big story in the news. all we saw was
decimation. one building after another collapsed into rubble.

When we got to our hotel in Gaza City, I was surprised. It was standing --
no bomb craters, no burnt out sections. and it was still in business. we
checked in and we had running water and electricity -- both things that i
was unsure about before coming to Gaza. that first night we arrived we met
with two United Nations representatives: one with the UN Office of the
High Commissioner for Human RIghts and one with the UN Refugee and Works
Agency for Palestinian Refugees. John Ging, the director of UNRWA in Gaza
was clearly upset at the recent offensive. A well-spoken man with a strong
commitment to human rights and international law, he told us about the UN
schools that were hit during the onslaught. He kept saying that the "rule
of law means you apply it to everyone equally". He badly wanted to see an
end to Israeli impunity. We got a tour of the facility that was shelled
during the offensive. We saw the hollowed out warehouse after it was
shelled with white phosphorous and everything
inside was destroyed -- medicines, food, spare automobile parts to keep
their vehicles up and running (pictured above). John Ging told us about
how the UN had called the Israelis after the first shell and told them not
to target the UN compound, that there were gasoline tanks on the property.
they received assurances that they would not be targeted. Moments later
the Israelis shelled the exact area where the gas tanks were located with
white phosphorous. the phosphorous hit the warehouses and UN staff risked
their lives to move the gas tanks before the fire reached them, avoiding a
massive explosion.

That first night in Gaza was almost surreal. It was so quiet, almost
deafening. I was convinced that any moment a missile would come screeching
through the air and shatter the night. there was a sense of waiting for
something to happen. but nothing did. the night gave way to morning and I
awoke in Gaza for the first time in my life.

The things we saw that morning would turn out to be the hardest. We went
to Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City. In the parking lot we saw bombed out,
twisted skeletons of ambulances before we were hurried into the building
to meet with doctors. Standing in the middle of a care unit, I saw a
little boy, about 5 years old, hobble down the hallway, holding his
mother's hand. He had a leg injury and looked in pain. The doctors wanted
to show us the white phosphorous cases, since we had asked about that. The
doctor pointed to two rooms with patients we could talk to. There were two
women in the first one. The one closest to the door just stared at us
blankly, not saying anything. It turns out she lost her whole family
during the assault. A few of us went into the next room. There we found
Mohammad lying in bed -- heavily bandaged, missing his left eye. He told
us the story of how his whole family was burned to death when two white
phosphorous shells hit their family car. He was lucky
enough
to
have been knocked out of the car by the first shell. He lay unconscious
and burning on the ground, while several neighbors pulled him away. He
didn't see his family die -- both parents, his brother, and his sister.
they were in their car driving to a relative's house to get away from the
shelling in their neighborhood. it was during what was supposed to be a
3-hour ceasefire. Their car only made it 70 meters. He and his brother
were both in college. His brother was going to graduate this year. As he
told us that, a fellow delegate, Linda, who had been translating, suddenly
burst into tears. Mohammad grabbed her hand and told her it was ok.
Strange how people ended up comforting us. The doctor came in and told us
they were changing a child's dressing if we wanted to come see. We walked
into a room to see a baby -- about 2 years old -- lying on a table. She
suddenly sat up and I saw that one whole side of her face and head were
severely burnt. I had assumed she was hit with a w
eapon of
some kind, but it turns it was a classic case of "collateral damage": she
had run up to her mom when they started bombing near the house, while her
mom was cooking. Then a bomb exploded nearby and the burning oil in her
mother's pan spilled all over this young girl's face. While we stood
there, she just cried and called for her mom. We all stood watching,
feeling helpless and guilty.

We left the hospital and went to Al-Zeytoun, a farming community on the
southern outskirts of Gaza City. It was one of the hardest hit areas at
the beginning of the ground invasion. The neighborhood was almost entirely
inhabited by members of the extended Sammouni family. The town was in the
news a lot after soldiers evacuated home after home of Sammounis into one
house, that they then shelled, killing dozens of people. We walked up the
dirt road and saw the rubble. Only one or two buildings left standing; the
rest were completely decimated. Scattered tents served as makeshift
shelters. We split up into teams of two and began interviewing survivors.
We found two women sitting silently in front of the rubble that used to be
someone's home. One of the women, Zahwa, described the night where she saw
her husband executed in front of her with his hands above his head (Zahwa
Sammouni is pictured above sitting in front of a tent. Her house was
destroyed the night the soldiers came t
hrough
the neighborhood). She then huddled with her children in a back room of
the house as soldiers shot through the two windows above them. She showed
us the bullet holes in the wall of the house, the heap of rubble that used
to be her house, and the wounds in her back from being grazed with bullets
while she hunched over her children. Her 10-year-old son showed us the
shrapnel wounds in his leg and proudly displayed the large piece of
shrapnel that he single-handedly pulled out of his chest that night. His
cousins then gave us a tour of one of the few houses left standing -- one
that the soldiers had used as a base, after they rounded up all those in
the neighborhood and demolished all the other houses. The house was a
mess. All the family's possessions were thrown around the outside
perimeter. Bags of feces from the soldiers were strewn around outside. The
inside was ransacked. The soldiers had covered nearly every surface with
graffiti: "death to the Arabs", "if it weren't for
Arabs,
the world would be a better place", "kill Arabs". I feverishly took notes
and photographs of the stories of Zeytoun, knowing I did not want to stop
and think about what had happened here.

Throughout the day, we felt distant bomb blasts. I still gave a little
jump when I heard the tremors and I can't say they didn't make me nervous.
But the Palestinians we were meeting with didn't bat an eyelid. They knew
when they were in danger and they knew when it didn't matter. "Oh, they're
just bombing the tunnels" or "that's all the way in the north" people
would say. Cold comfort.

We met with paramedics from the Palestine Red Crescent Society. They
described how they were shot at, and sometimes hit, while trying to reach
injured people. We met with human rights organizations who described the
difficulties of trying to collect accurate information and trying to help
everyone when there was such widespread devastation. We met with a
psychiatrist in Gaza City who ran one of very few mental health centers
there. He wondered how to treat a population of 1.5 million who were all
suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. "Listen to the kids tell
their stories" he told us. "They tell it like it happened to someone
else". That's one of the symptoms of PTSD apparently. and we saw it again
and again. Whether it was the little boy describing his father's execution
in front of him, or kids showing us the shrapnel they pulled out of
themselves and their dead relatives, or a little girl talking about how
her house was destroyed -- none of them broke down, none o
f them
cried, none of them seemed scared. There was complete detachment from the
horror they were living and their identification with it. A scarred
generation that will inherit this conflict.

I left Gaza by hitching a ride with a car full of BBC journalists. We
headed in the Land Rover, with "TV" painted on the hood, down the coastal
road that winds the length of Gaza. It was my first time seeing the Sea in
Palestine, I remember thinking. what a strange feeling. To be in a country
i knew so well, and yet be somewhere so completely unfamiliar. The
privilege of having a chance to go there and the utter relief at being
able to leave were competing in my head. The crossing back into Egypt was
short and painless. But as soon as i saw the other side of Rafah again, i
felt a deep ache of regret and guilt that didn't let up for weeks. Regret
at having left before my work was done and guilt that I had wanted to get
out of there.

Gaza was like nothing I'd ever seen. The reality of a very real bloodbath
set in. I saw what this onslaught did to people -- real people. i looked
into their eyes and heard their stories and saw their wounds. It made war
realer than i ever wanted it to be. There still isn't yet a day that goes
by that I don't think about what i saw and heard, and feel guilty about
leaving, and sad that people are still living with such pain, fear, trauma
and loss. I think the hardest part is knowing that as a world, we utterly
failed the Palestinians of Gaza. We stood and watched them die and
justified our own inaction. It is something that should bring a little
shame to us all.

اللاجئون الفلسطينيون في لبنان

بيان ختامي لورشة العمل حول "اللاجئون الفلسطينيون في لبنان: مقاربات في السياسة والديبلوماسية وحقوق الإنسان والأمن "، برمّانا في 21/2/2009
عقد مركز "قدموس" (مركز دراسة النزاعات وسبل حلّها) ورشة عمل مصغّرة ومغلقة في فندق "برنتانيا" برمّانا (20/21/2009) تحت عنوان: "اللاجئون الفلسطينيون في لبنان: مقاربات في السياسة والديبلوماسية وحقوق الإنسان والأمن"، وذلك برعاية لجنة الحوار اللبناني-الفلسطيني، وقد تمحور النقاش حول محاور أربعة:
1- اللاجئون الفلسطينيون في لبنان وحقوق الإنسان
2- اللاجئون الفلسطينيون في لبنان وسيادة الدولة وتلاقي الشرعيّتين
3- اللاجئون الفلسطينيون في لبنان: حقّ العودة: أي رؤية ديبلوماسية لبنانية ؟
4- اللاجئون الفلسطينيون في لبنان: خلاصات في السياسة الداخلية اللبنانية
شارك في ورشة العمل ممثلون عن أحزاب وتيارات لبنانية(المستقبل، الكتائب،القوات،الاشتراكي،التيار الحر،وتغيب ممثلو أمل وحزب الله بعد تأكيد الحضور) واختصاصيون في قضيّة اللاجئين الفلسطينيين (السفير سمير خوري،د.نديم شحادة،د.سعود المولى،زياد الصايغ) وديبلوماسيون سابقون(سيمون كرم) .
افتُتحت ورشة العمل بكلمة للمدير التنفيذي لمركز قدموس د. أمين لبّس، فكلمة لرئيس لجنة الحوار اللبناني– الفلسطيني السفير خليل مكّاوي، وبحصيلة المداولات توصّل فريق عمل قدموس إلى اعتماد التوصيات التالية (التي وافق عليها معظم الحاضرين باستثناء التيار الوطني الحر وتغيّب ممثلو أمل وحزب الله حتى لا يواجهوا هذا الموقف)(تعليق من سعود المولى)
1- أهمية إجراء أبحاث ودراسات لعدد الفلسطينيين وأوضاعهم في لبنان في كل المجالات الديمغرافية والقانونية والاقتصادية، لبلورة موقف لبناني يؤكد رفض التوطين ويدعم حق العودة
2- منح اللاجئين الفلسطينيين حقوقهم الإنسانية كاملةً بما لا يتعارض مع ما ورد في الدستور اللبناني حول مبدأ رفض التوطين. فهذه الحقوق غير خاضعة لأي مبدأ مقايضة أو مفاوضات، وهي تسهم في استقرار لبنان وتعزيز صورته لجهة احترامه حقوق الإنسان، هو البلد العضو المؤسس في جامعة الدول العربية والأمم المتحدة، والمشارك في صياغة شرعة حقوق الإنسان.
3- التأكيد على مبدأ سيادة الدولة اللبنانية على جميع أراضيها، سيادة لا يكون لا تجزئة فيها ولا انتقاص منها، ووجوب تنفيذ قرارات هيئة الحوار الوطني المتعلقة بنزع السلاح الفلسطيني خارج المخيّمات وضبطه وتنظيمه داخل المخيّمات تحت سيادة الدولة اللبنانية.
4- إنَّ حق العودة هو حق مكرّس في قرارات الشرعية الدولية وتحديداً في القرار 194 الصادر عن الأمم المتحدة وهو متلازم مع حلّ الدولتين ولبنان يلتزم قرارات الشرعية الدولية والمبادرة العربية للسلام، ويتمسّك بهذا الحّق وهو يدعو المجتمع الدولي وجامعة الدول العربية إلى تحمّل مسؤوليّاتهما في هذا الإطار كما يدعو وتحمُّل الدولة اللبنانية مسؤولياتها ديبلوماسياً وقانونياً في الإعداد لأي مفاوضات مستقبلية حول قضيّة اللاجئين الفلسطينيين، وتحصين الإجماع الوطني المنصوص عنه في الدستور حول رفض التوطين.
5- من الأهمية بمكان إخراج قضيّة رفض التوطين من البازارات السياسية الداخلية.
6- لا بدّ من إعادة ترميم العلاقات اللبنانية الفلسطينية على قاعدة المصارحة والمصالحة المتبادلة، واحترام سيادة واستقرار واستقلال لبنان كما الحقوق الإنسانية للاجئين الفلسطينيين والتزام لبنان بالشراكة مع المجتمع الدولي تأمين حياة كريمة للاجئين الفلسطينيين حتى عودتهم، وذلك تحت مظلّة الشرعيّتين اللبنانية والفلسطينية.
- متابعة جدّية للموضوع من قبل كل الأفرقاء المعنيّين
- إضافة بند أول: مصلحة الدولة، حق العودة، احترام الدستور.....