Playing With Fire, Both Israel and Ukraine Say, “No Truce for You”

The empire is in a particularly testy and truculent mood. Two of its appendages have, virtually simultaneously, eschewed ceasefires in their respective campaigns of aggression. Both have bombarded civilian centers with airstrikes, and Ukraine has been rolling in armored vehicles, while Israel is preparing to do the same. As Jason Ditz reports:

Israeli Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovich today ruled out any ceasefire negotiations with Hamas, as the Israeli military continues to escalate airstrikes against the tiny Gaza Strip, and is building up for a ground invasion.


Having taken Slovyansk earlier this week, Ukrainian officials are increasingly bellicose about their ongoing civil war, demand unconditional, unilateral disarmament by the rebels before any future discussions. “There will be no more unilateral ceasefires” by Ukrainian troops, announced Defense Minister Valeriy Heletey, while other officials promised a “nasty surprise” for any of the eastern rebels that continue to resist their takeover. (…) “…the Ukrainian military is increasingly using not only airstrikes, but armored vehicles in its offensives.”

With Ukraine, as it always does with Israel, the U.S. government, which funds and arms both, defends its actions as “defending itself.” Propping up such merciless savagery is unbelievably reckless on the part of U.S. policymakers. It is precisely this kind of mass brutalization of Arabs that has resulted in incidents of blowback like 9/11. And now, even as the empire doubles down on this treatment of Arabs, it is so suicidally stupid as to actually extend it to Russian-speaking people, right on the border of nuclear Russia.

Demonize Putin all you want, but never forget that control over Russia’s mountain of H-bombs is, in the final analysis, in the hands of the Russian people. And it is far from impossible that the “blowback” rage and hatred to come from grinding Russian-speakers under the imperial boot will not be dissimilar from the blowback of doing the same to Arabs; only this time with potentially thermonuclear consequences. How, after all, do you think it makes Russians feel to see pictures like this, which is from a Ukrainian airstrike on Russian-speakers in early June?


And no, you hubris-addled neocons, not even regime-change against Putin would solve the problem. If anything his popularity is putting a lid on the outrage, because the Russians trust him to stand up for them, and therefore give him leeway for compromise.

Stop the madness now.

Video: Elderly Israeli Fighter Talks About 1948 Genocide

Electronic Intifada‘s Benjamin Doherty shared a video from “Nakba”-awareness group Zochrot – “Remembering” – of a former Palmach fighter who participated in the expulsion of unarmed Palestinian Arabs from their villages in Southern Israel. Amnon Neumann casually describes that he helped kill people, burn their villages, and chase off women and children. He regrets his actions but notes he is one of the few to admit his crimes; even so, he is loath to talk about the details of the atrocities.

In one grimace-inducing moment, Neumann talks of the Palestinians who didn’t quite realize they wouldn’t be coming back, who sneaked out of Gaza refugee camps at night to tend their villages’ grapevines. There, says Neumann, they were gunned down.

As late as the 50s, he notes, Arab villages were being evicted wholesale and forced to Gaza. The desert was made to bloom, it seems, only after its villages were ploughed under.

The reason for the Nakba, said Neumann, was “the Zionist ideology.” Like all ultranationalist movements, Zionism requires the murder and expulsion of a people and the destruction of all evidence of their existence. Those not destroyed must be permanently subjugated by the ethnicity in charge. It seems that for many, the tragedy of the Holocaust was that it happened to Jews. That the Nakba happened to Arabs means it’s not worth our attention — or worse, they are revised as aggressors.

“This is very clear. We came to inherit the land. Who do you inherit from? If the land is empty you inherit it from no one. The land was not empty when we inherited it.”

Christopher Hitchens’ ‘Fundamentalist’ Exemption for Zionism

In Arab culture there is a strong imperative to not speak ill of the dead, but I’m going to have to make an exception for Christopher Hitchens. Knowing Hitchens, I’m sure he’d approve. Hitchens had a tenacity and ferociousness that would not compromise for considerations of tact, tradition, or politeness. That was something I admired about him, and will pay tribute to it in the only fitting way possible.

I only met Christopher Hitchens once, on March 9th, 2006. The New York University Remarque Institute held an event entitled “What Happens Now? Israel And The Palestinians after Gaza, Sharon, And Hamas.” Hosted by the great late Tony Judt, it brought Hitchens to speak along with Lebanese novelist Elias Khoury and Israeli journalist Gideon Levy.

The discussion was very interesting and intelligent, until Hitchens took the pulpit and started hyperventilating about Hamas winning the Palestinian elections. He went on for 20 minutes on the evils of religion in politics. A theocracy, he said, could never make peace with its neighbors and will always discriminate based on idiotic religious grounds. Palestinians thus deserved to be isolated and punished by the USA for choosing a religious regime.

After his talk, I took Hitchens aside and asked him why he didn’t feel the same way about the other religious fundamentalist regime in Palestine: Zionism. If he was so concerned about Hamas’s religious fundamentalism, why was he silent about the religious fundamentalism that is driving millions of Palestinians out of their homes, occupying their land and denying them freedom because of their religion? Shouldn’t America deal with Jewish fundamentalism in the same way he wants it to deal with Islamic fundamentalism?

For once, I saw him flustered and speechless. It was clear he genuinely had not thought of this and now he felt thoroughly embarrassed. He smiled, looked around, tried to find something to say, but came up with nothing. He then tried to ignore me by going back to his comfort zone and engaging in a shouting match with a Muslim and calling him a “fucking peasant.” (That man was Ashraf Laidi, a currency trader and author whose CV indicates he’s never really been a peasant.) I asked Hitchens if he’d make my point in his next talk about Palestine/Israel, and again, he had nothing to say. I ended with: “well, either tell me why I’m wrong or admit you’re wrong and that in your next speech you’ll denounce Islamic and Jewish fundamentalism in the same way.” The stupid smirk left his face, and he walked away.

This was post-2001 Hitchens. The over-riding directive of his life was to make money by pleasing American right-wingers by dressing up their idiotic nationalism, chauvinism, and jingoism with Big Words and an English accent. It was a highly rewarding career, because he sold to morons who watch Sean Hannity the illusion that they are not complete cretins, and they pay top dime for that sort of intellectual deceit.

Clearly, it was not part of the New Hitchens act to include material critical of Israel, since the awful Islamo-Fascist-Satan-Beast had to be defeated at all costs. This life-long crusader against religion had perfected his new act to the point that he had stopped noticing, entirely, that Israel was a state based on religious discrimination, and was championing its case as it went on ethnically cleansing people who came from the wrong religion. Still, I’m sure on his death bed he would have imagined that this was all worth it, since it helped Israel and George W. Bush, the two greatest forces of secularism of our time, to spread the gospel of enlightenment, freedom, rationalism and tolerance to the “fucking peasants” of the Arab world.

Palestinians Ride in the Front of the Bus

Actually, they were merely on the bus as it entered Jerusalem, which is confrontation enough. Free and democratic Israel has such a convoluted and restrictive system of permitting for Palestinians going anywhere that Arabs living in what are considered Jerusalem outskirts are not allowed to ride the Jews-only bus into town without their papers, please. For security purposes, of course.

This morning six Palestinian activists, accompanied by a phalanx of journalists, were barred from entering Jerusalem. Police ordered them off the bus, but they refused. After about an hour, they were arrested and pulled off the bus.

“My point isn’t go to jail — my point is to have the freedom to get on a bus,” said 38-year-old civil servant Badia Dwaik.

The activists call themselves “Freedom Riders” after the bus desegregation actions of the 60s in the United States, whose most well-known icon was Rosa Parks.

Palestinians are not allowed to enter the West Bank Jews-only settlements in which certain bus companies exclusively run. One settler was angry the activists had boarded: “This is our bus,” she said, adding: “Quite simply, we are afraid of them.” One wonders why, then, she moved to Palestine.

The interaction between the checkpoint policeman and Dwaik is a textbook example of the banality of evil, but also of calm courage in the face of an uncaring bureaucracy.

“I am not going to obey your discriminatory law,” Dwaik told the policeman, speaking Arabic.

“So you are detained,” the policeman said, also in Arabic.

“Fine. I am not moving.”

Peres Sabotages Abbas with Praise

Israel has always undercut any possible peace process, but its tactics are big and small. Officials don’t have to start a war in Gaza to break a truce with Hamas, they can also just say things like “Abbas is the best Palestinian leader for Israel.” Thus spake President Shimon Peres today at a Rosh Hashana ceremony with foreign diplomats.

Fresh off his rhetorical win at the UN over Palestine’s weak recognition bid, Abbas needs to be smacked back down in the eyes of the Palestinians, and what better way than for such a figure as Peres to praise him as the best man for Israel? Subtle, and possibly effective. Not that Abbas is any kind of hero. Just that this is more evidence of how Israel operates — in bad faith.

Inventing Palestinian Bigotry for Political Gain

Last week, Jamie Weinstein of the conservative Daily Caller, who I tangoed with over the motivations behind 9/11, wrote a scandalous piece entitled, “Palestinian ambassador reiterates call for a Jew-free Palestinian state.” The ambassador in question was Maen Rashid Areikat. At a press conference he responded to Weinstein who asked whether he imagined that Jews could have a political role in a future Palestinian state. In the context of the upcoming bid for statehood based on the 1967 borders, Areikat said the following:

“Well, I personally still believe that as a first step we need to be totally separated, and we can contemplate these issues in the future,” he said when asked by The Daily Caller if he could imagine a Jew being elected mayor of the Palestinian city of Ramallah in a future independent Palestinian state. “But after the experience of 44 years of military occupation and all the conflict and friction, I think it will be in the best interests of the two peoples to be separated first.”

Josh Rogin at Foreign Policy followed up in an important post in which Areikat is quoted as saying the headline was a”total fabrication”:

The Daily Caller headlined the story, “Palestinian ambassador reiterates call for a Jew-free Palestinian state,” and a similar story in USA Today was entitled, “PLO ambassador says Palestinian state should be free of Jews.” The comments also evoked condemnations from top Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who accused the Palestinian Authority of adopting a Judenrein policy, referring to the Nazi drive to cleanse Germany of any Jews.

“It’s not a misquotation or out of context, it’s a total fabrication,” Areikat said in an interview today. “I never mentioned the word ‘Jews,’ I never said that Palestine has to be free of Jews.”

Areikat said that he stands by his call for “separation,” but that he intended to refer to the separation of the Israel and Palestinian peoples, not the members of the two religions. Areikat also said that the idea of “separation” is an Israeli idea and that Israeli officials including Defense Minister Ehud Barak have endorsed it.

“Israeli people includes Christians, Jews, Muslims, Druze… When I say the Israeli people, I mean everybody. This is not a religious conflict, this is not against Jews. We want to be a secular state,” Areikat said.

A fair explanation. And in fact, Palestinian officials have come out publicly to address this, confirming that a Palestinian state would be secular and welcome to Jews, Christians, and Muslims alike.

Palestinian officials are rolling out the welcome mat for Jews to come to a new Palestinian state.

…“The future Palestinian state will be open to all its citizens, regardless of their religion,” Habbash said, according to USA Today. “We want a civil state, which in it live all the faiths, Muslim, Christian and Jews also if they agree, (and) accept to be Palestinian citizens.”

“It was a set-up to try to say something on my behalf I didn’t even say I did not mention the word Jews in my answer. I did not allude to that at all,” Areikat said. “We have never said this is a religious conflict.”

And no, this is not a media maneuver to counter the nasty headline claiming Palestinians won’t accept Jews in Palestine. This is an old position, as a 2009 Haaretz interview with “key Fatah figure Ahmed Qureia” who headed the Palestinian negotiating team with Israel, headlined “PA: Settlers can become Palestinian citizens” reveals. Palestinian officials would welcome Jews in Palestine.

Do you believe Israel would agree to evacuate Ma’aleh Adumim’s 35,000 residents?

Qureia: “[Former U.S. secretary of state] Condoleezza Rice told me she understood our position about Ariel but that Ma’aleh Adumim was a different matter. I told her, and Livni, that those residents of Ma’aleh Adumim or Ariel who would rather stay in their homes could live under Palestinian rule and law, just like the Israeli Arabs who live among you. They could hold Palestinian and Israeli nationalities. If they want it – welcome.

It’s clear if you read the entire interview, that Palestinian negotiators might accept Jewish settlements, although illegal under international law, along the border with Israel into a Palestinian state (although illegal settlements deep within the West Bank, like Ariel, could pose problems). Contiguity – along the internationally recognized border – is what’s important for them in terms of territory.

Either way, it seems fair to say that the initial Daily Caller piece was irresponsible at best. It has long been one of the primary rhetorical slights against a Palestinian state that they would insist upon 100% Arab Muslims as citizens and would somehow discriminate against Jews. Weinstein’s piece added to that myth. It is clearly not the case. And surely not the last falsity we’ll hear from those who wish to deny Palestinians a state of their own.

Contrast this with the incessant demand that Palestinians recognize Israel as a “Jewish state,” with the latest of these demands as recent as this past weekend. Yes, Arabs live in Israel, in some cases quite comfortably. In other cases, not so. Recently, moves have been made that put treatment of Israeli Arabs in serious question. The intent of the Israeli state for these Israeli Arabs can be quibbled about. The position of the Palestinian leadership regarding ethnic and religious diversity, apparently, cannot.