Archive for category Palestinian Struggle for survival
Panetta to Netanyahu: Israel May Not Survive the Current Arab/Islamic Awakening
By Franklin Lamb
October 10, 2011 “Information Clearing House” — – Beirut — Three weeks after being named by President Obama in January 2009 as the 19th Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and during his first day on the job which was February 12, 2009, Leon Panetta, now US Secretary of Defense, signed off on a March 2009 “eyes only” CIA Report that had just been completed by his new agency.
As reported at the time, the CIA Report predicted the demise of Israel within 20 years, if present political trends in the region continued. The CIA intelligence analysts concluded that it was unlikely that Israeli leaders would grant even minimal concessions in order to achieve a settlement with their neighbors, which comprise increasingly disillusioned and rapidly growing dignity and justice seeking populations.
The CIA Report noted that Israeli officials felt emboldened in taking Palestinian land by the myriad support Israel was receiving from the leadership of Egypt, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Jordan and three other Arab leaders.
Israel and its two most powerful US lobbies, the US Congress and AIPAC, quickly squelched the 2009 Report and only seven copies were eventually acknowledged, one by AIPAC and the others by staffers of select supporters of Israel on key Congressional Committees.
During last week’s meetings with Israeli officials, both sides knew that the 2009 CIA study was front and center even without Panetta being the first one to refer to it.
President Obama sent Panetta to engage in frank discussions which included the White House displeasure at Netanyahu’s repeated humiliation of the President over the past 18 months and Israeli threats to cut off Jewish aid to Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign.
Panetta did deliver public statements which allowed Netanyahu to put the best hasbara face on the meetings and he thanked the US Secretary of Defense for “helping to improve US-Israeli relations.”
Panetta repeated at a news conference with his Israeli counterpart, Defense Minister Ehud Barak some pointed generalizations. “At this dramatic time in the Middle East, when there have been so many changes, it’s not a good situation for Israel to become increasingly isolated. And that is what’s happening,” he said.
“There’s not much question in my mind that they maintain that (military) edge. But the question you have to ask he added is: was it enough to maintain a military edge, if you’re isolating yourself in the diplomatic arena?At this dramatic time in the Middle East, when there have been so many changes, it’s not a good situation for Israel to become increasingly isolated. And that is what’s happening,” he said.
In private, according to Washington sources, the atmosphere was quite different. Panetta reportedly made plain that given recent changes among Middle East countries, meaning the Arab Spring and Islamic Awakening, Israel was quickly running out of time. Its only choice was to make peace with the Palestinians and her neighbors or perish.
During frank and sometimes heated exchanges, Panetta told the Israelis that time is running out for a two state solution, which means time is running out for Zionist Israel and that similar to apartheid South Africa, following the Reagan years, the days of American propping up of Israel are coming to a close.
Seemingly dwelling on the subject of the US being unable to continue funding Israel in real terms with more than $6 billion every year and being able to continue to guarantee Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge (QME), Panetta told the Israelis that it was out of the question given American domestic problems and the US process of substantial, if partial, disengagement from the region.
At issue with the American inability and increasing unwillingness to prop up Israel’s QME is the innocuous sounding 2008 Naval Vessel Transfer Act shepherded through the Congress a month before the 2008 US Presidential election by one of Israel’s unwavering lobbyists, Rep. Howard Berman.
In its essence, this law shackles every American president with a legal obligation to ensure that Israel maintains its military dominance over the Middle East.
It is designed to assure that Israel’s regional hegemony is legally mandated via Israel’s“Qualitative Military +*Edge” (QME). The US Government must guarantee that “the sale or export of the defense articles or defense services will not adversely affect Israel’s qualitative military edge over any military threats to Israel.”
The term ‘qualitative military edge’ means the ability to counter and defeat any credible conventional military threat from any individual state or possible coalition of states or from non-state actors, while sustaining minimal damages and casualties, through the use of superior military means, possessed in sufficient quantity, including weapons, command, control, communication, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities that in their technical characteristics are superior in capability to those of such other individual or possible coalition of states or non-state actors.
Panetta reportedly reminded Ehud Barak, during heated discussions between the two defense ministers of the statement of an Egyptian general back 1973 as reported by then President Nixon.According to Nixon, an Israeli official asked an Egyptian general convalescing in hospital, “We have defeated you Arabs three times (1948, 1967 & 1973) why to you continue to resist us?” The Egyptian replied, “You may have defeated us three times, and you may defeat us 11 times. But the 12th time we will win and Palestine will be liberated.”
The unavoidable signs seen by Panetta, as by his predecessor, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, include nearly one dozen uprisings in the region that share the goal, among others, of returning Palestine to its rightful inhabitants.
The Egyptian people are reclaiming Egypt’s proud Arab position and helping lead the cause to liberate Palestine as evidenced by their intentions to expel the Israeli Embassy, scrap Camp David, abrogate the capitulation agreements, including Egypt’s natural gas giveaway to Israel subsidized by the Egyptian people, and made by the Mubarak family doing business with Israeli officials. Panetta, and an increasingly number of American officials as well as the American public knows that the genie has been released and that Arabs, Muslims, and all people of good will continue to inexorably confront the remaining 19th Century colonial enterprise which is the artificial and illegitimate Zionist implantation on Palestinian land.
Franklin Lamb is the author of The Price We Pay: A Quarter-Century of Israel’s Use of American Weapons Against Civilians in Lebanon. Dr. Lamb is Director, Americans Concerned for Middle East Peace, Wash.DC-Beirut Board Member, The Sabra Shatila Foundation and the Palestine Civil Rights Campaign, Beirut-Washington DC. He is reachable c\o firstname.lastname@example.org
13/08/11 by Uri Avnery
THE PEOPLE Demand Social Justice!” 250 thousand protesters chanted in unison in Tel Aviv last Saturday. But what they need – to quote an American artist – is “more unemployed politicians”.
Fortunately, the Knesset has gone on a prolonged vacation, three months. For as Mark Twain quipped: “No man’s life or property is safe while the legislature is in session.”
As if to prove this point, MK Avi Dichter submitted, on the very last day of the outgoing session, a bill so outrageous that it easily trumps all the many other racist laws lately adopted by this Knesset.
“DICHTER” IS A German name and means “poet”. But no poet he. He is the former chief of the secret police, the “General Security Service” (Shin-Bet or Shabak).
(“Dichter also means “more dense”, but let’s not dwell on that.)
He proudly announced that he had spent a year and a half smoothening and sharpening this particular project, turning it into a legislative masterpiece.
And a masterpiece it is. No colleague in yesterday’s Germany or present-day Iran could have produced a more illustrious piece. The other members of the Knesset seem to feel so, too – no less than 20 of the 28 members of the Kadima faction, as well as all the other dyed-in-the-wool racist members of this august body, have proudly put their name to this bill as co-authors.
The very name – “Basic Law: Israel as the Nation-State of the Jewish People” – shows that this Dichter is neither a poet nor much of an intellectual. Secret police chiefs seldom are.
“Nation” and “People” are two different concepts. It is generally accepted that a people is an ethnic entity, and a nation is a political community. They exist on two different levels. But never mind.
It is the content of the bill that counts.
WHAT DICHTER proposes is to put an end to the official definition of Israel as a “Jewish and Democratic State”.
He proposes instead to set clear priorities: Israel is first and foremost the nation-state of the Jewish people, and only as a far second a democratic state. Wherever democracy clashes with the Jewishness of the state, Jewishness wins, democracy loses.
This makes him, by the way, the first right-wing Zionist (apart from Meir Kahane) who openly admits that there is a basic contradiction between a “Jewish” state and a “democratic” state. Since 1948, this has been strenuously denied by all Zionist factions, their phalanx of intellectuals and the Supreme Court.
What the new definition means is that the State of Israel belongs to all the Jews in the world – including Senators in Washington, drug-dealers in Mexico, oligarchs in Moscow and casino-owners in Macao, but not to the Arab citizens of Israel, who have been here for at least 1300 years since the Muslims entered Jerusalem. Christian Arabs trace their ancestry back to the crucifixion 1980 years ago, Samaritans were here 2500 years ago and many villagers are probably the descendents of the Canaanites, who were already here some 5000 years ago.
All these will become, once this bill is law, second-class citizens, not only in practice, as now, but also in official doctrine. Whenever their rights clash with what the majority of the Jews considers necessary for the preservation of the interests of the “nation-state of the Jewish people” – which may include everything from land ownership to criminal legislation –their rights will be ignored.
THE BILL itself does not leave much room for speculation. It spells things out.
The Arabic language will lose its status as an “official language” – a status it enjoyed in the Ottoman Empire, under the British Mandate and in Israel until now. The only official language in the Nation-State etc will be Hebrew.
No less typical is the paragraph that says that whenever there is a hole in Israeli law (called “lacuna”’ or lagoon), Jewish law will apply.
“Jewish law” is the Talmud and the Halakha, the Jewish equivalent of the Muslim Sharia. It means in practice that legal norms adopted 1500 years ago and more will trump the legal norms evolved over recent centuries in Britain and other European countries. Similar clauses exist in the laws of countries like Pakistan and Egypt. The similarity between Jewish and Islamic law is not accidental – Arabic-speaking Jewish sages, like Moses Maimonides (“the Rambam”) and their contemporary Muslim legal experts influenced each other.
The Halakha and the Sharia have much in common. They ban pork, practice circumcision, keep women in servitude, condemn homosexuals and fornicators to death and deny equality for infidels. (In practice, both religions have modified many of the harsher penalties. In the Jewish religion, for example, “an eye for an eye” now means compensation. Otherwise, as Gandhi so aptly said, we would all be blind by now.)
After enacting this law, Israel will be much nearer to Iran than to the USA. The “Only Democracy in the Middle East” will cease to be a democracy, but be very close in its character to some of the worst regimes in this region. “At long last, Israel is integrating itself in the region,” as an Arab writer mocked – alluding to a slogan I coined 65 years ago: “Integration in the Semitic Region”.
MOST OF the Knesset members who signed this bill fervently believe in “the Whole of Eretz-Israel” – meaning the official annexation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
They don’t mean the “One-State solution” that so many well-intentioned idealists dream about. In practice, the only One State that is feasible is one governed by Dichter’s law – the “Nation-State of the Jewish People” – with the Arabs relegated to the status of the Biblical “hewers of wood and drawers of water”.
Sure, the Arabs will be a majority in this state – but who cares? Since the Jewishness of the state will override democracy, their numbers will be irrelevant. Much as the number of blacks was in Apartheid South Africa.
LET’S HAVE a look at the party to which this poet of racism belongs: Kadima.
When I was in the army, I was always amused by the order: “the squad will retreat to the rear – forward march!”
This may sound absurd, but is really quite logical. The first part of the order relates to its direction, the second to its execution.
“Kadima” means “forward”, but Its direction is backward.
Dichter is a prominent leader of Kadima. Since his only claim to distinction is his former role as chief of the secret police, this must be why he was elected. But he has been joined in this racist project by more than 80% of the Kadima Knesset faction – the largest in the present parliament.
What does this say about Kadima?
Kadima has been a dismal failure in practically every respect. As an opposition faction in parliament it is a sad joke – indeed, I dare say that when I was a one-man faction in the Knesset, I generated more opposition activity than this 28-headed colossus. It has not formulated any meaningful stand on peace and the occupation, not to mention social justice.
Its leader, Tzipi Livni, has proved herself a total failure. Her only achievement has been her ability to keep her party together – no mean feat, though, considering that it consists of refugees (some would say traitors) from other parties, who hitched their cart to Ariel Sharon’s surging horses when he left the Likud. Most Kadima leaders left the Likud with him, and – like Livni herself – are deeply steeped in Likud ideology. Some others came from the Labor Party, arm in arm with that unsavory political prostitute, Shimon Peres.
This haphazard collection of frustrated politicians has tried several times to outflank Binyamin Netanyahu on the right. Its members have co-signed almost all the racist bills introduced in recent months, including the infamous “Boycott Law” (though when public opinion rebelled, they withdrew their signature, and some of them even voted against.)
How did this party get to be the largest in the Knesset, with one more seat than Likud? For left-wing voters, who were disgusted by Ehud Barak’s Labor Party and who dismissed the tiny Meretz, it seemed the only chance to stop Netanyahu and Lieberman. But that may change very soon.
LAST SATURDAY’s huge protest demonstration was the largest in Israel’s history (including the legendary “400,000 demo” after the Sabra-Shatilah massacre, whose real numbers were slightly lower). It may be the beginning of a new era.
It is impossible to describe the sheer energy emanating from this crowd, consisting mostly of 20-30-year-olds. History, like a gigantic eagle, could be felt beating its wings above. It was a jubilant mass, conscious of its immense power.
The protesters were eager to shun “politics” – reminding me of the words of Pericles, some 2500 years ago, that “just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn’t mean that politics won’t take an interest in you!”
The demonstration was, of course, highly political – directed against Netanyahu, the government and the entire social order. Marching in the dense crowd, I looked around for kippa-wearing protesters and could not spot a single one. The whole religious sector, the right-wing support group of the settlers and Dichter’s Law, was conspicuously absent, while the Oriental Jewish sector, the traditional base of Likud, was amply represented.
This mass protest is changing the agenda of Israel. I hope that it will result in due course in the emergence of a new party, which will change the face of the Knesset beyond recognition. Even a new war or another “security emergency” may not avert this.
That will surely be the end of Kadima, and few will mourn it. It would also mean bye-bye to Dichter, the Secret Police poet.
The Armageddon Lobby:
Rammy M. Haija
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
Virginia Tech, 560 McBryde Hall – 0137
Blacksburg, VA 24060, USA
This article investigates the history of contemporary Christian Zionism in the United States and the impact of this movement on US policy issues related to Israel-Palestine. Dispensationalist Christian Zionists, often described the ‘Armageddon lobby’, make up the largest voting bloc in the Republican Party and have become a mainstay in US politics. More recently, the Christian Zionist lobby has had a profoundly damaging impact on the Israeli-Palestinian ‘peace process’ as well as creating a conspiracy of silence regarding Israeli offensives in the occupied Palestinian territories. Though the ‘Armageddon lobby’ has been successful in its efforts as a pro-Israel lobby, its influence is in fact counterproductive to Israel because the lobby hinders the prospect of Israel living in peace because of their policy of deterring the progression of negotiations.
1. Introduction to Christian Zionism
While the alliance between America’s Christian Zionists and the pro-Israel lobby has been in existence for decades now, more recently it has become critical to examine this dynamic relationship because of the current volatile state resulting from the current Palestinian Intifada (uprising). With nearly 10 per cent of US voters declaring themselves as Zionist or dispensationalist [End Page 75] Christians, and another 35 per cent constituting mainstream Christianity, the Christian Zionist lobby has targeted both voting pools for its purpose of assembling a pro-Israel constituency among American voters through the promotion of biblical and dispensationalist doctrine.
There are many names and titles for the Christian Zionists in the United States. Some call them the ‘Armageddon Lobby’, others have referred to them as the ‘Christian AIPAC’. These nicknames are minor examples of the motives and unconditional support for Israel among the Christian-Right, which have made it an instrumental actor in a pro-US policy towards Israel. This position has been especially solidified among the powerful elites in US policy. An article published in Time magazine following the aftermath of the Israeli Defense Force’s infamous incursions into the West Bank in 2002 states: ‘Today the most influential lobbying on behalf of Israel is being done by a group not usually seen as an ally of the largely Democratic Jewish community: Evangelical Christians’ (Ratnesar 2002: 26).
In the late 1970s, Israel was desperately trying to improve its image in the international arena, but wanted to do this without yielding much in the way of territorial or political concessions. Israel had drawn a large amount of international support by its participation in the Camp David Peace Accords with Egypt in 1978. However, the State was still experiencing a negative international disposition from the 1975 United Nations Resolution 3379 that concluded: ‘Zionism is a form of racism and discrimination’ (United Nations 1975: 84). It was also around this same time that the formal Christian-Right was established and Jewish organisations began understanding that an alliance with the Christian Zionists in the US could bolster their image and prominence on the international level through a stronger influence in US politics.
The fervency of the Christian-Right towards the State of Israel coupled with its strong American presence captured the attention of Israeli interest groups. Though aware of their diametric social and religious views, Jewish political organisations saw an alliance with the Christian Zionists as a crucial element in promoting a positive image of Israel in US politics and among the American mainstream. Jewish-American leaders were initially opposed to an alliance with the Christian-Right and perceived the movement as a possible adversary (Brownfield 2002: 71). However, when the formal establishment of the Christian-Right solidified this movement as an influential political bloc in the US, these feelings of trepidation were soon dissipated and Israeli groups recognised that an alliance with this bloc would be advantageous to their political interests. [End Page 76]
2. Formal Establishment of the Alliance
In the late 1970s, there was a growing unrest among conservative Christians in the US over the lack of political mobilisation of their constituency. They felt that their agendas could be better applied if there was a recognised body from which they were proposed. Thus, in 1979, Reverend Jerry Falwell launched an organisation known as the Moral Majority with the aim ‘to mobilize the Christian church on behalf of moral and social issues and to encourage participation by people of faith in the political process’.2 The Moral Majority quickly became a household name. Through its charismatic public leader, the organisation mobilised thousands of churches and millions of registered voters to form a Christian political bloc, and what is now known as the Christian-Right.
When political strategists began studying the importance of the Christian-Right to American politics, it was found that this group was the largest social movement in the US, and comprised the largest voting bloc within the Republican Party (Berlet and Hardisty 2003). On an Israeli-sponsored visit to the Holy Land in 1979, reacting to a growing Jewish settlement near the Palestinian town of Nablus, Falwell declared, ‘God had been good to America because America had been good to the Jews’ (Brownfield 2002: 71). Falwell’s fervour was genuine, but these Israeli-sponsored visits were strategic. Israel viewed the Moral Majority’s constituency as an added dimension for promoting Israeli interests to the US government.
Only a few months after the establishment of the Moral Majority, Falwell and long-time evangelist Billy Graham were formally invited to a gala dinner in New York City by then Likud leader and Israeli Prime Minister Menahem Begin. The occasion was the presentation of the Jabotinsky Centennial Medal, named after Vladimir Jabotinsky, the right-wing Zionist leader. The medal is awarded by the State of Israel to a person who is considered a lifetime friend of the nation (Anderson 2002: 77). That year, the inaugural medals were awarded to Jerry Falwell and Billy Graham, acknowledging the two as long-time staunch supporters of Israel. It is upon this awarding that we conclude that the formal alliance between the Christian-Right and Israel had begun.
Oddly, during this inaugural awarding, reports surfaced that Falwell had been given a Learjet by Israeli Prime Minister Begin on behalf of the State of Israel to show appreciation for Falwell’s fervent support of the nation. The late author Grace Halsell wrote extensively on the Moral Majority, and in one interview she stated:
I did document the fact that Israel had given Jerry Falwell a jet airplane, which is a nice gift. He uses it to go around and he uses that jet, politically, [End Page 77] I would say. I personally heard Jerry Falwell thank Israeli leader Moshe Arens3 when I was traveling with Falwell. He didn’t know I was writing a book, but I traveled with two of his delegations that went to Israel.
The Jabotinsky Centennial Medal, as well as the Learjet, created a strong relationship between Begin and Falwell, which later became useful to the Israeli Prime Minister. When Israel unilaterally bombed Iraq’s nuclear reactor in 1981, Begin immediately called Jerry Falwell and requested that the Evangelist rally American Christian support for Israel’s unilateral action (Brownfield 2002: 71).
Falwell used his organisation as a conduit for promoting support for Israel’s political interests and, in 1985, an organisation associated with the Moral Majority, known as the National Christian Leadership Conference for Israel (NCLCI), organised by Franklin Littell, spearheaded the campaign to repeal UN Resolution 3379.4
3. Early Achievements of the Christian-Right
Littell was one of the original founders of the contemporary Israel-first ideology that Falwell came to embrace. In the 1950s and early 1960s when France was Israel’s strongest ally and chief weapons provider, Littell became concerned for the State. It was widely-known that the relationship France maintained with Israel was out of a strategic interest of retaining control over the Suez Canal in Egypt (Chaya 2004). Littell believed that for the security of the State of Israel there needed to be an unconditional alliance, one based not on political motivations, but with a religious foundation. Littell used his influence as a Christian leader to dedicate a career to supporting the State of Israel and developing this unconditional alliance. Shortly after the Six-Day War in June of 1967, Littell established Christians Concerned for Israel (CCI), an organisation designed ‘to reactivate the pro-Israel spirit in the mainline Protestant churches’.5 At that time, Littell and his organisation were only a small minority. There was increased support for the Palestinian cause in the mainline Protestant and Catholic churches, particularly among the leadership. Littell viewed this as a threat to Israel and sought the expansion of the CCI to help curtail this growing trend.
Littell’s mobilisations proved to be successful on two issues that were critical for Israel. In both efforts Littell was a major player in creating a verdict in Israel’s favour. The first came in 1978 when the US was considering the sale of F-15s and other reconnaissance equipment to its Middle East ally, Saudi Arabia. Israel and the Israeli lobby in the US applied heavy [End Page 78] pressure on Congress and President Jimmy Carter’s administration to withdraw the sale commitment. Israel’s persistent efforts, however, did not pay off until Littell helped organise a considerable number of Christians to head to Washington D.C. and call on the Carter Administration to block the sale. Their efforts were successful and the US withdrew its offer to sell the reconnaissance planes and equipment.
The second issue came about during the mobilisation in Washington against the sale of AWACS to the Saudis. According to David Blewett,6 there was ‘[an] unexpectedly large turnout of concerned Christians and Christian groups, several of whom had never heard of one another, [which] led to the organisation of the NCLCI, with the CCI membership as its nucleus’. The NCLCI, which Littell helped organise, was instrumental in promoting the Christian-Right campaign to repeal UN Resolution 3379. While the initial call for action against UN Resolution 3379 came from the NCLCI, it was echoed by Falwell and other leaders in the Moral Majority, and this brought great notoriety to the issue.
UN Resolution 3379 was initially introduced at the Conference of Ministers for Foreign Affairs of Non-Aligned Countries in Lima, Peru, in August of 1975 (United Nations 1975: 84). After this resolution was endorsed at the conference, it was proposed before the UN General Assembly two months later. The entire scope of the resolution was not centrally focused on Israel. Only the final nine words of this 450-word resolution were directed towards Israel. The resolution was intended to reprimand all forms of racism and discrimination on the part of UN member nations. Christian Zionists were strongly opposed to UN Resolution 3379 but after the Third Committee in the UN General Assembly adopted it, Israeli efforts to overturn it appeared as though they would be futile.
The adoption of this resolution was followed by a long-standing effort by Israeli lobby groups requesting the US to exert pressure on the UN. However, these efforts were ineffective. When the Christian-Right lobby joined the effort, officials in Washington began responding to the pressure. Christian-Right organisations called on their constituents to write to their members of Congress and ask them to support the repeal of the resolution. There was a strong campaign against the resolution at the 1985 Feast of the Tabernacles.7 Those in attendance were given pamphlets, entitled ‘Danger at the UN’, which attacked the resolution as being not only anti-Zionist but anti-Semitic as well.
On 23 January 1990 a group of Congressional representatives proposed House Resolution 457 that called on the UN to repeal Resolution 3379. [End Page 79] House Resolution 457 stated that ‘Zionism is a national movement of the Jewish people for self-determination, a legitimate and moral aspiration characteristic of many national groups in the modern world. [United] Nations General Assembly Resolution 3379 has had as its overt purpose the delegitimation of the State of Israel’.8 The US President during the time, George H.W. Bush, supported the House resolution and it was passed. On 3 May 1990 a similar resolution, Senate Joint Resolution 246, was proposed by Senator George Mitchell and adopted unanimously.9 The efforts towards repealing UN Resolution 3379 would prove to be fruitful as the resolution condemning Zionism was overturned in 1991. US pressure to repeal the resolution was likely the key factor in the repeal of UN Resolution 3379, because historically UN resolutions are rarely repealed. It may be argued that the Christian Zionists rather than Congress deserve the credit for repealing the resolution.
4. Theology of Apocalyptic Dispensationalism
There are two common approaches by which Christian Zionists usually justify support for ‘Eretz Yisrael‘ (Land of Israel) and its ‘people’. First is the belief found in the Book of Genesis 12:3, which states, ‘I will bless those who bless you, whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you’. Based on this verse, many non-dispensationalist Christians feel compelled to embrace Israel as a premise of faith and as an assurance that blessings will be bestowed on those who ideologically and financially bless the ‘chosen people’. This argument has produced much disagreement from both Christians and non-Christians. Some Christian scholars argue that Jews have arrogantly misinterpreted the context of this verse and Christian Zionists have ignorantly accepted it.
Old Testament scholars express grave concern with the misinterpretations of the Bible by Christians and Jews alike (Domb 1989; Beck 1991). Rabbi Domb believes that the State of Israel was established without the blessings of God because it was established by force, and the Torah tells its believers ‘not to ascend to the Holy Land as a group using force’ as is written in Tractate Kesubos 111a (Domb 1989). Christian Zionists have accepted Genesis 12:3 as a message from God delivered to the Jewish people in Old Testament time. Thus, Christian Zionists have embraced this literally as a premise of faith that has God promising to bless those who blessed his ‘chosen people’ (Anderson 2002).
The second approach to the subscription of Zionist ideology is ‘based on dispensationalist theology’, which states that we are living in the last [End Page 80] dispensation of the Book of Revelation, which essentially means that we are in the end-times. Within this theology, the return of the Messiah is contingent upon a set of events transpiring, and among these, a Jewish State of Israel must be in existence.
The dispensationalist theology is the guiding ideology for the Christian Zionist movement. According to Tony Campolo, the creation of dispensationalist theology can be credited to a nineteenth-century Anglican priest from Plymouth, England, named John Nelson Darby. Though Darby remains a little known historical theologian, his theology has permeated much of the Christian-Right movement of today. As Campolo writes, ‘without understanding dispensationalism, however, it is almost impossible to understand how Christian Zionism has come to dominate American Evangelicalism and been so influential on the course of US Middle East policy’ (Campolo 2005: 19).
While it was Darby who is credited with the creation of dispensationalist theology, it was another man, Cyrus Ingerson Scofield, who is credited with spreading dispensationalist theology in the nineteenth century. In 1909, Scofield published a study Bible, Scofield Reference Bible, and this is the source that was used by early dispensationalists to promote dispensationalist theology (Scofield 1909). In fact it was that Bible which, according to Campolo, became ‘by far the most popular study Bible ever published’ (Campolo 2005: 19). The study of dispensationalist theology is often referred to as Scofieldism, and many scholars argue that Scofieldism is incorrectly described as a biblical theology when rather it should be thought of as a political theology. ‘[Scofieldism] is highly political and it gets so that it controls what goes on in the White House and controls what goes on in Congress. It’s a vast number of Christians who are influencing Congress and the President’ (Halsell 2000).
4.1 Teaching of the ‘Rapture’
One of the fundamental teachings of Scofield was the theology of the ‘rapture’. The ‘rapture’ refers to the dispensationalist belief that prior to the coming of the Messiah, God will remove all of his true believers from earth, and this will take place either before, after, or during the reign of the anti-Christ. Dispensationalists believe that this will occur without warning, and all of God’s true followers will vanish in an instant and their souls will ascend to heaven while all of those who are non-believers will be ‘left behind’. Scofield was known to preach often about the ‘rapture’ in his sermons, and told his listeners that the present scenario was ripe for a ‘rapturing’ and that the followers of Christ should welcome this final catastrophe to the world because they would be taken to their father before the world’s great suffering would begin (Brownfield 2002: 72).
The dispensationalist theology promoted by Darby and Scofield has [End Page 81] evolved since its inception and for this study the type of dispensationalism we will assess is ‘premillennial dispensationalism’ or ‘progressive dispensationalism’. Currently, this is the most widely accepted form of dispensationalism. It holds that Christ will return prior to a literal end-times millennium (Wagner 2003). Progressive dispensationalism, which originated in the mid-1980s, sees more continuity between Israel and Evangelical Christians than the other two variations of dispensationalism. Progressive dispensationalism stresses that both Israel and Evangelical Christians comprise the ‘people of God’ and both are related to the blessings of the New Covenant. It is also important to realise that this definition of dispensationalism was revised in the mid-1980s, which is around the same time that the Christian-Right and Israel created a formal alliance.
This redefining of dispensationalism was likely done to soften the language used by earlier dispensationalists, which founded their ‘rapture’ belief on the destruction of the Holy Land and the catastrophic death of a large portion of Israel’s Jewish population. (Campolo 2005). Despite the spiritual equality between Christians and Jews as defined by progressive dispensationalists, there still remain functional distinctions between the groups. Progressive dispensationalists do not equate the church as the State of Israel in this age, and they still see a future distinct identity and function for ethnic Israel in the coming millennial kingdom (Ryrie 1994: 20).
Dr Stephen R. Sizer, a noted scholar and critic on Christian Zionism, describes this unflinching belief of decoded biblical context as a ‘literalist approach to biblical hermeneutics’.10 He explains that Darby along with contemporary apocalyptic Christian Zionists such as Hal Lindsey have ‘[developed] erroneous views concerning Israel [on the basis of] an allegorical, non-literal hermeneutic’.11 It is this specific ‘decoding’ of biblical context that has promoted the theology of dispensationalism and influenced Christian Zionists to give unconditional support to the State of Israel. Lindsey’s writings refer to Old Testament predictions made by Daniel, which suggest that in the time just before the return of the Messiah, the knowledge of the species of man would grow immensely and the secrets of the universe would begin to reveal themselves through this greater knowledge. Lindsey (1997) suggests that this time of great knowledge is now, and through careful study of the Bible’s clues, Lindsey believes that he has deciphered the hints of the fate of mankind and the fate of the earth.
Dispensationalist theology has seen a great revival among mainstream Christians in the US due mostly to the current state of volatility in the Middle East, which many believe is a prerequisite for the return of the [End Page 82] Messiah. While America’s mainstream Christians are unable to recognise the dispensationalist theology by name, this theology has found its way into mainstream Christian homes in an inconspicuous manner. The dispensationalist theory has seen growth among mainstream Christians who have been convinced of this theology through the best selling novel series Left Behind and other popular literature pertaining to dispensationalist theology. Books with dispensationalist themes are having a great impact on American political thought. In a review of the Left Behind series, Gershom Gorenberg writes: ‘The Left Behind books are giving millions of people an interpretive paradigm in which extreme views seem sensible. Propaganda in the guise of fiction, they demand our attention’ (Gorenberg 2002: 45). The Left Behind series is the most popular example of contemporary dispensationalism, and the Left Behind authors, Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins (1996), are self-described dispensationalist Christian Zionists. The Left Behind series depicts scenarios of the ‘rapture’ and all of the chaos that ensues once the true believers of Christ have absconded to heaven and the remaining non-believers are left on earth. Though the books are classified as fiction, readers of this series are actually being taught the theologies of dispensationalism in a very subtle manner.
Dispensationalists believe that the initial ‘rapture’ will be followed by three-and-a-half years of pseudo-peace, referred to as the ‘Abomination of Desolation’, and is symbolically described as a ram and a goat in Daniel 8. Daniel 8:13-14 describes the message revealed to Daniel: ‘Then I heard a holy one speaking, and another holy one said to him, ‘How long will it take for the vision to be fulfilled the vision concerning the daily sacrifice, the rebellion that causes desolation, and the surrender of the sanctuary and of the host that will be trampled underfoot?’ He said to me, ‘It will take 2,300 evenings and mornings; then the sanctuary will be reconsecrated’ (Daniel 8:13-14). Of the three and a half years following the ‘Abomination of Desolation’ dispensationalists believe that this will be a time of many wars, famine and disease. This three-and-a-half year period following the ‘Abomination of Desolation’ is referred to as the ‘Great Tribulation’.12 During the ‘Great Tribulation’ dispensationalists believe that the earth will be completely overtaken by the anti-Christ. In Revelation 13 this beast will declare the number ‘666’ and assign in to all peoples.
Dispensationalists believe that the anti-Christ will have immense world popularity and all those who oppose him will be ostracised from their societies. A simple Google query of the ‘Abomination of Desolation’ reveals 71,500 hits on the subject.13 Some of these are personal homepages describing this period as a likely preparation for nuclear war or world annihilation. This [End Page 83] dispensationalist theology has not only become a personal belief, but also a matter of political undertaking for some Christian Zionists.
It is during the ‘Great Tribulation’ that dispensationalists believe that 144,000 Jews will convert to Christianity and this conversion will reveal to them the true intentions of the anti-Christ. Thus, these 144,000 converted Jews will become the epicentre of proselytising the Christian faith to all non-believers who were not ‘raptured’. These 144,000 converted Jews will meet the anti-Christ for the final battle known as Armageddon, and the converted Jews will single-handedly defeat the anti-Christ (Campolo 2005). It is after this battle that the seven years of tribulation will conclude and upon this Jesus will return to defeat and imprison Satan and establish a Messianic Kingdom on earth for a period of one millennium.
Hal Lindsey, the noted dispensationalist, has written several books on the topic of dispensationalism. Lindsey’s trademark is his use of current political situations to explain how the final days would unfold. One particular book written by Lindsey in 1970 was especially explicit in linking contemporary events to the end-times. In the best-seller, The Late Great Planet Earth, he discusses how the European Economic Community (EEC) represented the 10-headed beast referred to in the Book of Revelation, and how this 10-headed beast would pave the way for the anti-Christ to seize political and economic control of the world. It must have been to Lindsey’s dismay when the EEC formed a partnership with the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) and later coalesced into the 27-member European Union of today.14 Lindsey made several other errant predictions, such as his assertion that biblical coding has revealed that the ‘rapture’ would follow once Israel had been a nation for 40 years (Lindsey 1970). The 40-year mark of 1988 came and passed and 17 years later there has yet to be any documented mass disappearances attributed to a ‘rapture’. Moreover, even Lindsey’s often-erroneous predictions of the final days have not hurt his credibility, he still retains a steady group of dispensationalist followers through his books and television shows aired on the dispensationalist station, Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN).
5. Christian Zionism on the Wrong Track
The position among Christian Zionists is so uncompromising that even when Israelis themselves have suggested certain concessions be made on specific matters, Christian Zionists have appealed with fury. A poll conducted in late 2002 by one of Israel’s foremost pollsters, Dr Mina Zenach, revealed that a vast majority of Israelis are in favour of unilateral withdrawal of ‘all’ or ‘most of’ the settlements in the Palestinian territories and support the [End Page 84] establishment of a Palestinian state.15 However, Christian Zionists seem proudly to ignore the desires of the Israeli majority, and discount reports such as a recently released study by the Methodist Church in Great Britain which concluded that an overwhelming majority of Palestinians ‘earnestly desire a just peace with Israel’.16
During the inaugural Christian Zionist Congress (CZC) conference held in Jerusalem in 1985, the convention featured both Christians and Jews. In one meeting there was a motion for a resolution calling on all Jews living outside of Israel to move to the State. Christians in attendance were unsatisfied with this motion and added that Israel must also annex the West Bank. Regarding this statement, an Israeli Jewish man suggested that this language be modified to a more moderate tone. Referring to an Israeli poll, the Jewish man stated that a third of Israel’s citizens would favour returning the West Bank to the Palestinians in exchange for peace. In response to his suggestion, the spokesperson for the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem (ICEJ) angrily replied, ‘We don’t care what the Israelis vote! We care what God says, and God gave that land to the Jews!’ (Halsell 1986). Despite the suggestion by the Israeli Jew of exchanging land for peace, the resolution calling for an annexation of the West Bank passed unanimously among the Christian voters at the conference.
In his book Anxious for Armageddon, Professor Donald Wagner describes personal experience of the exploitation of the Christian Zionist groups by the leadership of the Israeli government (Wagner 1995). Wagner also notes that while Jewish groups in the US and Israel vehemently oppose any sort of religious alliance with the Christian Zionists, they have accepted a political alliance with the movement because it creates another strong-arm for Israeli interests within US policy. Jewish political affairs committees as well as the Israeli leadership have contended that while they may disagree with the motives of Christian Zionists, their support on behalf of Israeli interests is welcomed. Jewish leaders such as Anti-Defamation League (ADL) director Abraham Foxman have stated that the Jewish leadership welcomes the support of Christian Zionists despite their disastrous prophecies concerning the Jewish people, ‘as long as it does not come with conditions’ (Foster 2003).
5.1 Christian Zionist Counter Groups
Some Christian leaders have formed ecumenical counter-Zionist organisations in response to their opposition to Christian Zionism. These [End Page 85] organisations, such as Sabeel in Jerusalem, have established annual conferences in Jerusalem and in the US as well as web sites, such as Challenging Christian Zionism, to give people an alternative view of biblical interpretations of Zionism. These were created because many in the Christian community became ‘disturbed by the growing influence of Christian Zionism on the political scene in America, recognizing [Christian Zionism] to be a major factor in the stalled peace process in the [Holy Land]. [These groups] hope to offer an alternative biblical view, one that reflects the true nature of God as a God of compassion and justice’.17 Founder of Sabeel, Canon Naim Ateek presents the Palestinian Liberation Theological approach to resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, an approach of justice, advocating non-violence and forgiveness towards the Israeli occupation (Ateek 2001). Ironically Ateek’s adherence to the Christian principles of non-violence and forgiveness is in contrast to the policy of Christian Zionist leaders in the US, such as Falwell and Robertson, who regularly campaign for increased Israeli aggression towards the Palestinians.
In a response to the annual Christian Zionist gatherings in Jerusalem, such as the Feast of the Tabernacles and the Christian Zionist Congress, Sabeel organised an annual conference in Jerusalem featuring well-known academics and Palestinian liberation theologians from the US, Europe, and Palestine, challenging Christian Zionism and its philosophy. The growing presence of these established scholars has helped to solidify Sabeel’s increasing influence in the US and Europe. The objective of the conference is to ‘[discuss the] modern theological and political movement that embraces the most extreme ideological positions of Zionism, thereby becoming detrimental to a just peace in the [Holy Land]/[This] movement, with its elevation of modern political Zionism, provides a worldview where the Gospel is identified with the ideology of empire, colonialism, and militarism’.18
These organisations that have been established to refute Zionism are not only made up of Christians but of Ultra-Orthodox and Reform Jews as well. While criticism of Christian Zionists by Jews is not widely-publicised, there have been many instances when Jewish communities in the US have mobilised and expressed their concern over a growing dependence on Christian Zionists as well as their scepticism over whether the alliance has been beneficial to Israel. One such protest occurred in New York’s Central Park in October 2002 and followed with a full-page advertisement published in the New York Times by an anti-Zionist organisation called ‘Not In Our Name’. This advertisement denounced Israeli policies and Zionism [End Page 86] and was endorsed by several well-known Jews such as Susan Sarandon, Ed Asner, Gloria Steinem, and Tikkun leader Rabbi Michael Lerner. Christian Zionists responded with hostility to this position taken by American Jews with one particular Christian Zionist web site stating:
[On 11 October 2002] the Christian Coalition rallied for Israel and voiced its support for the Jewish state in front of the White House. There were speeches from American and Israeli political leaders, including the Reverend Pat Robertson, US House Majority Whip Tom DeLay, and [then] Jerusalem Mayor Ehud Olmert.19 Guess which of these events is setting off alarm bells for many mainstream liberal American Jews? You got it the latter one. Yes, the prospect of American Christians gathering in Washington to express their devotion to Israel and to demand that the administration do nothing to harm its interests is very scary to many Jews.20
It is not surprising that Christian Zionists would be offended by Jews who are ungrateful to their efforts, but the statement on the Christian Zionist web site specifically states, ‘mainstream liberal American Jews’. Whether the author realises it, the vast majority of American Jews would fall into this classification. Most Jews are aware of the perceived fate that Christians hold for them, but their influence is too great to decline their assistance.
However, it is not only liberal mainstream Jews who have criticised the Christian Zionists but Ultra-Orthodox Jews as well. An organisation known as Neturei Karta, comprised of Ultra-Orthodox Jews, regularly protests against the practice of Zionism. The web site of Neturei Karta states that,
The Neturei Karta are fighting the changes and inroads made by political Zionism during the past one-hundred odd years. Guided by the rabbis of our time and under the inspiring leadership of the late Reb [Rabbi] Amram Blau, the Neturei Karta refuse to recognize the right of anyone to establish a “Jewish” state during the present period of exile.21
According to this organisation, the practice of Zionism is antithetical to the Torah and these Ultra-Orthodox rabbis insist that they have ‘added nothing to, nor have they taken anything away from, the written and oral law of the Torah as it is expressed in the Halacha22 and the Shulchan Aruch’.23 The adherents to this doctrine believe that they are the true [End Page 87] followers of the Jewish faith, and Zionism is directly opposed to the law of Judaism because it promotes a Jewish state at a time when Jews are to remain in exile.
6. Apocalyptic Christian Zionism and US Middle East Policies
Dispensationalism is not only popular among ordinary citizens; it has also achieved an unprecedented influence today because many of its followers hold high positions in government. James Watt, Secretary of the Interior in the Reagan Administration, was one of them. His expectation of the imminent ‘rapture’ became his rationale for exploiting natural resources with little thought of the future. Watt was thoroughly convinced that the ‘rapture’ was at hand. In Tony Campolo’s words (2005),
[Watt saw no argument against] drilling for oil in national parks, eliminating environmental policies designed to protect the Earth’s atmosphere, rivers, lakes, and oceans. [Watt believed that we should not] worry about the kind of planet that our grandchildren will inherit [because] the days for planet Earth [are] severely limited.
President Ronald Reagan embraced the dispensationalist theology preached to him by evangelists Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson (a Republican presidential candidate in 1988), and believed that one of his responsibilities was to promote a military buildup so America would be ready for the battle of Armageddon (Campolo 2005). According to Tom Valentine,24 ‘Charles Fischbein, a former high-ranking figure in the Israeli lobby in America, pointed out that even former President Reagan and his attorney general, Edwin Meese, were praying for Armageddon to come during the Reagan era. Reagan undoubtedly tied in with this idea that there has to be an Armageddon’. In an intimate phone conversation with AIPAC director Tom Dine, President Reagan was quoted as saying, ‘You know, I turn back to your ancient prophets in the Old Testament and signs foretelling Armageddon, and I find myself wondering if – if we’re the generation that’s going to see that come about. I don’t know if you’ve noted any of those prophecies lately, but believe me, they certainly describe the times we’re going through’ (Dugger 1984). These esoteric conversations give evidence that the policy actions taken by Reagan were consistent with the ideologies of dispensationalist theology and that Reagan applied this theology when making policy decisions.
Throughout George W. Bush’s first term in office, leaders in the Christian Zionist community have been assured through specific incidents that the US administration will unequivocally support Israel throughout its [End Page 88] policy decisions. While the Bush Administration may dispute these claims, these commitments of support are derived from verbatim public statements made by Christian Zionist leaders who have met with President Bush, such as Jerry Falwell. During a 60 Minutes interview in October 2002 Falwell commented, ‘I think now we can count on President Bush to do the right thing for Israel every time’,25 referring to President Bush’s actions in April 2002 when he turned a blind eye as Israel destroyed several West Bank cities. These statements by Falwell do not bode well for the US’s credibility that it is taking the role of an honest broker in the Israeli-Palestinian issue. Christian Zionists have also been overt about their displeasure towards the US playing an even-handed role, or even purporting to, and want the US to abandon the idea of a Palestinian state and give Israel sole sovereignty over the Palestinian territories.
It was also during this interview that Falwell made inflammatory statements about Islam and the condition of the Palestinians. Following the interview, the National Council of Churches (NCC) called on President Bush to condemn the inflammatory and insensitive statements towards Islam that Falwell made in the 60 Minutes interview. However, the White House did not respond to this request and President Bush did not comment on Falwell’s statements.26 Falwell has also stated, ‘It is my belief that the Bible Belt in America is Israel’s only safety belt right now/ There are 70 million of us [Evangelical Christians] / And if there’s one thing that brings us together quickly it’s whenever we begin to detect our government becoming a little anti-Israel’.27 Falwell met with President Bush several times during his first term in office specifically to discuss the issue of US support of Israel. According to Falwell, the President’s views on Israel are consistent with those of his own. As the NCC Resolution states: ‘Falwell [has] implied in his comments that he and his constituency control President Bush’s policies towards Israel and Palestine’.28
Several elected officials have chosen to be outspoken supporters of Israel based on their Christian faith. In some cases, this occurs despite the fact that their support for Israel is inconsistent with the views of their constituency. This is counter to the ‘representative of the people’ notion that we often assume in politics. This is the case of one of Israel’s most outspoken [End Page 89] supporters in Washington D.C., Texas Republican Tom DeLay. According to the American Religion Data Archive (ARDA), a survey conducted in Brazoria County, located in the 22nd Congressional District of Texas, more citizens in this district identify themselves as mainline Protestants or Catholics than Evangelical Christians. However, studies by Paul Charles Merkley (2001) have revealed that the hierarchies of the Catholic and Protestant churches have been vocal opponents of Zionism in the Christian realm. They have issued countless warnings against Zionism to their followers through their global organisations such as the World Council of Churches (WCC), and have concluded that Christian Zionism and dispensationalism are biblically erroneous.
6.1 The Impact of Christian Zionism on US Policies
A first example that substantiates the profound impact Christian Zionists have on US policy is the infamous Israeli incursions into the West Bank in April 2002. According to Wagner, these incursions are considered one of the ‘decisive moment[s] in the forging of this [contemporary] alliance’ (Wagner 2003). This contemporary alliance refers to the close relationship between Israeli Prime Minster Ariel Sharon and George W. Bush’s first-term administration. Following a Palestinian suicide attack at a Seder dinner in Israel, the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) invaded several West Bank cities and proceeded to obliterate entire neighborhoods of Palestinian cities and towns under the pretext of rooting out terror.29 International outcries would become deafening at this time, and most were directed at President Bush and his administration, which the international community viewed as the only influence that could halt this destruction. Responding to international pressure, President Bush made several appeals to Israeli Prime Minister Sharon to cease the Israeli actions. While Sharon’s response of Israeli self-defense was expected, the response from the American Christian-Right in the face of these humanitarian crimes would be most disheartening. As Wagner wrote (2003):
The Pro-Israel lobby, in coordination with the Christian-Right, mobilized over 100,000 e-mail messages, calls and visits urging the President to avoid restraining Israel. The tactic worked. The president uttered not another word of criticism or caution, and Sharon continued the offensive.
Such an occurrence further corroborates the influence of Christian Zionism and its blind support of Israel in the name of faith. From mere observation, a visit to Christian Zionist web sites followed by a visit to far right-leaning Israeli web sites reveals a remarkable discovery: rhetoric, links to other columns, accusations, and praises are nearly identical from [End Page 90] both parties.30
A second example of the influence of Christian Zionists in US politics was Congressman Jim Moran’s March 2003 resignation from his position of House Democratic regional whip. In the early weeks of the US-led invasion of Iraq, Moran suggested that in the interest of Israel, the Jewish lobby promoted the US-led invasion of Iraq.31 After Moran’s statement, there was an immediate condemnation by Jewish organisations and the State of Israel. These groups also called for Moran’s resignation. The Jewish backlash was anticipated and Moran did not initially back off from his comments, nor did he have any intention of resigning from his post. However, in the ensuing days the Christian Zionist leadership followed suit with rhetoric similar to that of the Jewish organisations, and Moran soon became ostracised from his party. Reverend Dr Paul Schenck, a Christian Zionist, suggested that Moran’s statement was a gesture that was out of ‘hatred for the Jewish people / by those who harbor animosity to the apple of God’s eye’.32 Due to the strong Christian Zionist backlash following his statements, Moran would suffer a loss of confidence from his party, which resulted in his resignation as regional whip.
Incidents such as this demonstrate that the Christian Zionist lobby has established a pervasive influence in Washington. As former State Department Deputy Director of Counter Terrorism Terrell Arnold states (2004), ‘Congressional hardening on the side of Israel is driven in part by anger about the Palestinian suicide bombings, but the main drivers are active lobbies for Israel, including Jewish organizations in the United States and the Christian-Right’.33
A third example relates to the US’s endorsement of the Roadmap. In Spring of 2003, President Bush stated his commitment to establishing progress towards peace in the Israeli-Palestinian crisis through the Middle East Quartet-sponsored Roadmap. President Bush also pledged to establish a democratic Palestinian state existing side-by-side in harmony with Israel. President Bush and Israeli Prime Minister Sharon publicly stated their vehement opposition to a peace process progressing under President Yasser Arafat’s leadership.34 Under heavy international pressure the Palestinian [End Page 91] Authority appointed Mahmoud Abbas as the first Prime Minister of the Palestinian Authority. With Arafat under an Israeli-imposed house arrest, the appointment gave Abbas de facto control over the political progress of Palestine. In June 2003 the US acted as a third-party mediator at a meeting between Sharon and Abbas in Aqaba, Jordan. The meeting was a hurried attempt to initiate the peace process and was largely symbolic with no tangible gain. However, when President Bush affirmed his commitment to the Roadmap shortly after the Aqaba meeting, a Christian Zionist organisation, known as the Apostolic Congress, mobilised its constituents to send a message to President Bush:
[The] Apostolic Congress co-sponsored an effort with the Jewish group Americans for a Safe Israel that placed billboards in 23 cities with a quotation from Genesis, ìUnto thy offspring will I give this landî and the message, ìPray that President Bush Honors God’s Covenant with Israel. Call the White House with this messageî. It then provided the White House phone number and the Apostolic Congress’s Web address. In the interview with the Voice, Pastor Upton claimed personal responsibility for directing 50,000 postcards to the White House opposing the Road Map, which aims to create a Palestinian state. ‘I’m in total disagreement with any form of Palestinian state’, Upton said. ‘Within a two-week period, getting 50,000 postcards saying the exact same thing from places all over the country; that resonated with the White House, that really caused [President Bush] to backpedal on the Road Map.35
After receiving these 50,000 postcards and letters, the administration began to rethink the timing of its Roadmap endorsement. It is alleged that the Christian-Right’s deep aversion to the Roadmap worried President Bush’s closest advisors and the administration preferred not to apply any further pressure to the peace process until after the 2004 Presidential elections.
A fourth example focuses on the US’s excusal of Israel’s aerial assassinations of Palestinian faction leaders. In June 2003, the Israeli Air Force attempted to assassinate Hamas leader Dr ‘Abdel Aziz Rantisi. In this botched helicopter raid the Israelis killed six people, but Rantisi escaped with non-life-threatening injuries. President Bush initially condemned the attempted assassination stating that the attack made fighting terrorism more difficult for the newly-appointed Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas.36 Following this condemnation, the Christian Zionist leadership in the US mobilised their constituents to send thousands of e-mails to the White House protesting the criticism. Notably, these emails consistently featured the threat that if reprimands towards Israel continue, the Christian-Right voting bloc will not appear on election-day. It is said that within 24 hours [End Page 92] the President’s tone towards the attack had changed, and in March 2004 when Israel assassinated Hamas’ spiritual leader Shaykh Ahmad Yassin, the US largely defended the action.37 It was clear that the Bush administration had not forgotten the warnings received from its Christian Zionist constituents only nine months prior. Without a negative response from the US, Israel became more aggressive, and the following month Dr Rantisi was assassinated. The US once again defended Israel’s use of force under the pretext of fighting terror. Thus, the Christian Zionist lobby had successfully cleared the way for Israel to commit targeted assassinations on the leaders of the Palestinian movements.
The tragic irony of this alliance lies in the diametrically opposed sentiment of Christian Zionists and the remainder of the world. While much of the world shamefully watched as Palestinians suffered through the collective punishment of incursions and devastation, Christian Zionists benightedly supported Israeli military action and used their influence to extend it. It is apparent that through the influence of the Christian Zionist lobby, Israeli objectives can be achieved despite international law and outcry. Despite studies and reports that have shown that a majority of Israeli citizens would prefer disengaging from West Bank settlements in exchange for peace, Christian Zionists are among the most fanatical advocates for the proliferation of settlements in the West Bank and increased violence against Palestinians. However, Christian Zionism is deaf to the desires of the people which its influence impacts, and does not advocate measures of peace, but rather it seeks the justification of all Israeli action under any pretense and by any means necessary. The evidence presented in this article reveals that while the Christian Zionist lobby is thriving in its mission of advancing hawkish Israeli interests, it is, in actuality, counterproductive to Israel as it is detrimental to the prospect of peace. This policy of violence and suffocation towards Palestinians produces a dangerous byproduct, which will become evident years from now. It breeds a new generation of hate among Israelis and Palestinians because it exacerbates the already dire humanitarian conditions in the Occupied Territories, which result in the escalation of violence towards Israeli and Palestinian civilians.
As Christian Zionists cling on to this notion of a ‘chosen people’, the results of this entwined relationship spell disaster for Palestinians who have become the forgotten victims of this alliance. However, the greater motivation behind Christian Zionists’ undying support is the satisfaction of their theological outline. While Christian Zionists support Israel monetarily and through influence, they have simultaneously indoctrinated a notion among American Christians that we are on the brink of the ‘end-times’, and God will soon exterminate two-thirds of his chosen people. This belief is inherently anti-Semitic and the actions of the Christian Zionist movement are being carried out with the intent of successfully attaining their theological prophecy, one that spells disaster for the Jewish people. As the US works for what it states is an ‘evenhanded’ approach to resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the influence of the Christian Zionist ‘Armageddon Lobby’ is actually ever greater in shaping the US’s ‘honest broker’ policy.
After witnessing Palestine’s apartheid, Indigenous and Women of Colour feminists endorse BDS
A group of Indigenous and Women of Color feminists who recently returned from a visit to Palestine has issued a strong statement endorsing the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement. Explaining their decision to travel to Palestine, the group wrote:
We wanted to see for ourselves the conditions under which Palestinian people live and struggle against what we can now confidently name as the Israeli project of apartheid and ethnic cleansing. Each and every one of us – including those members of our delegation who grew up in the Jim Crow South, in apartheid South Africa, and on Indian reservations in the US – was shocked by what we saw. In this statement we describe some of our experiences and issue an urgent call to others who share our commitment to racial justice, equality, and freedom.
The eleven-strong group includes pathbreaking authors and activists: Rabab Abdulhadi, Ayoka Chenzira, Angela Y. Davis, Gina Dent, Melissa Garcia, Anna Romina Guevarra, Beverly Guy-Sheftall, Premilla Nadasen, Barbara Ransby, Chandra Talpade Mohanty, Waziyatawin. Their statement culminates with a strong call to action:
Therefore, we unequivocally endorse the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Campaign. The purpose of this campaign is to pressure Israeli state-sponsored institutions to adhere to international law, basic human rights, and democratic principles as a condition for just and equitable social relations. We reject the argument that to criticize the State of Israel is anti-Semitic. We stand with Palestinians, an increasing number of Jews, and other human rights activists all over the world in condemning the flagrant injustices of the Israeli occupation. We call upon all of our academic and activist colleagues in the US and elsewhere to join us by endorsing the BDS campaign and by working to end US financial support, at $8.2 million daily, for the Israeli state and its occupation.
Read the full statement and affiliations (for identification) of the delegation members below.
Between 14 June and 23 June 2011, a delegation of 11 scholars, activists, and artists visited occupied Palestine. As indigenous and women of color feminists involved in multiple social justice struggles, we sought to affirm our association with the growing international movement for a free Palestine. We wanted to see for ourselves the conditions under which Palestinian people live and struggle against what we can now confidently name as the Israeli project of apartheid and ethnic cleansing. Each and every one of us—including those members of our delegation who grew up in the Jim Crow South, in apartheid South Africa, and on Indian reservations in the US -— was shocked by what we saw. In this statement we describe some of our experiences and issue an urgent call to others who share our commitment to racial justice, equality, and freedom.
During our short stay in Palestine, we met with academics, students, youth, leaders of civic organizations, elected officials, trade unionists, political leaders, artists, and civil society activists, as well as residents of refugee camps and villages that have been recently attacked by Israeli soldiers and settlers. Everyone we encountered—in Nablus, Awarta, Balata, Jerusalem, Hebron, Dheisheh, Bethlehem, Birzeit, Ramallah, Um el-Fahem, and Haifa—asked us to tell the truth about life under occupation and about their unwavering commitment to a free Palestine. We were deeply impressed by people’s insistence on the linkages between the movement for a free Palestine and struggles for justice throughout the world; as Martin Luther King, Jr. insisted throughout his life, “Justice is indivisible. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
Traveling by bus throughout the country, we saw vast numbers of Israeli settlements ominously perched in the hills, bearing witness to the systematic confiscation of Palestinian land in flagrant violation of international law and United Nations resolutions. We met with refugees across the country whose families had been evicted from their homes by Zionist forces, their land confiscated, their villages and olive groves razed. As a consequence of this ongoing displacement, Palestinians comprise the largest refugee population in the world (over five million), the majority living within 100 kilometers of their natal homes, villages, and farmlands. In defiance of United Nations Resolution 194, Israel has an active policy of opposing the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their ancestral homes and lands on the grounds that they are not entitled to exercise the Israeli Law of Return, which is reserved for Jews.
In Sheikh Jarrah, a neighborhood in eastern occupied Jerusalem, we met an 88-year-old woman who was forcibly evicted in the middle of the night; she watched as the Israeli military moved settlers into her house a mere two hours later. Now living in the small back rooms of what was once her large family residence, she defiantly asserted that neither Israel’s courts nor its military could ever force her from her home. In the city of Hebron, we were stunned by the conspicuous presence of Israeli soldiers, who maintain veritable conditions of apartheid for the city’s Palestinian population of almost 200,000, as against its 700 Jewish settlers. We crossed several Israeli checkpoints designed to control Palestinian movement on West Bank roads and along the Green Line. Throughout our stay, we met Palestinians who, because of Israel’s annexation of Jerusalem and plans to remove its native population, have been denied entry to the Holy City. We spoke to a man who lives ten minutes away from Jerusalem but who has not been able to enter the city for twenty-seven years. The Israeli government thus continues to wage a demographic war for Jewish dominance over the Palestinian population.
We were never able to escape the jarring sight of the ubiquitous apartheid wall, which stands in contempt of international law and human rights principles. Constructed of twenty-five-foot-high concrete slabs, electrified cyclone fencing, and winding razor wire, it almost completely encloses the West Bank and extends well east of the Green Line marking Israel’s pre-1967 borders. It snakes its way through ancient olive groves, destroying the beauty of the landscape, dividing communities and families, severing farmers from their fields and depriving them of their livelihood. In Abu Dis, the wall cuts across the campus of Al Quds University through the soccer field. In Qalqiliya, we saw massive gates built to control the entry and access of Palestinians to their lands and homes, including a gated corridor through which Palestinians with increasingly rare Israeli-issued permits are processed as they enter Israel for work, sustaining the very state that has displaced them. Palestinian children are forced through similar corridors, lining-up for hours twice each day to attend school. As one Palestinian colleague put it, “Occupied Palestine is the largest prison in the world.”
An extensive prison system bolsters the occupation and suppresses resistance. Everywhere we went we met people who had either been imprisoned themselves or had relatives who had been incarcerated. Twenty thousand Palestinians are locked inside Israeli prisons, at least 8,000 of them are political prisoners and more than 300 are children. In Jerusalem, we met with members of the Palestinian Legislative Council who are being protected from arrest by the International Committee of the Red Cross. In Um el-Fahem, we met with an Islamist leader just after his release from prison and heard a riveting account of his experience on the Mavi Marmara and the 2010 Gaza Flotilla. The criminalization of their political activity, and that of the many Palestinians we met, was a constant and harrowing theme.
We also came to understand how overt repression is buttressed by deceptive representations of the state of Israel as the most developed social democracy in the region. As feminists, we deplore the Israeli practice of “pink-washing,” the state’s use of ostensible support for gender and sexual equality to dress-up its occupation. In Palestine, we consistently found evidence and analyses of a more substantive approach to an indivisible justice. We met the President and the leadership of the Arab Feminist Union and several other women’s groups in Nablus who spoke about the role and struggles of Palestinian women on several fronts. We visited one of the oldest women’s empowerment centers in Palestine, In’ash al-Usra, and learned about various income-generating cultural projects. We also spoke with Palestinian Queers for BDS [Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions], young organizers who frame the struggle for gender and sexual justice as part and parcel of a comprehensive framework for self-determination and liberation. Feminist colleagues at Birzeit University, An-Najah University, and Mada al-Carmel spoke to us about the organic linkage of anti-colonial resistance with gender and sexual equality, as well as about the transformative role Palestinian institutions of higher education play in these struggles.
We were continually inspired by the deep and abiding spirit of resistance in the stories people told us, in the murals inside buildings such as Ibdaa Center in Dheisheh Refugee Camp, in slogans painted on the apartheid wall in Qalqiliya, Bethlehem, and Abu Dis, in the education of young children, and in the commitment to emancipatory knowledge production. At our meeting with the Boycott National Committee—an umbrella alliance of over 200 Palestinian civil society organizations, including the General Union of Palestinian Women, the General Union of Palestinian Workers, the Palestinian Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel [PACBI], and the Palestinian Network of NGOs—we were humbled by their appeal: “We are not asking you for heroic action or to form freedom brigades. We are simply asking you not to be complicit in perpetuating the crimes of the Israeli state.”
Therefore, we unequivocally endorse the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Campaign. The purpose of this campaign is to pressure Israeli state-sponsored institutions to adhere to international law, basic human rights, and democratic principles as a condition for just and equitable social relations. We reject the argument that to criticize the State of Israel is anti-Semitic. We stand with Palestinians, an increasing number of Jews, and other human rights activists all over the world in condemning the flagrant injustices of the Israeli occupation.
We call upon all of our academic and activist colleagues in the US and elsewhere to join us by endorsing the BDS campaign and by working to end US financial support, at $8.2 million daily, for the Israeli state and its occupation. We call upon all people of conscience to engage in serious dialogue about Palestine and to acknowledge connections between the Palestinian cause and other struggles for justice. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.
• Rabab Abdulhadi, San Francisco State University*
• Ayoka Chenzira, artist and filmmaker, Atlanta, GA
• Angela Y. Davis, University of California, Santa Cruz*
• Gina Dent, University of California, Santa Cruz* G.
• Melissa Garcia, Ph.D. Candidate, Yale University*
• Anna Romina Guevarra, author and sociologist, Chicago, IL
• Beverly Guy-Sheftall, author, Atlanta, GA
• Premilla Nadasen, author, New York, NY
• Barbara Ransby, author and historian, Chicago, IL
• Chandra Talpade Mohanty, Syracuse University*
• Waziyatawin, University of Victoria*
*For identification purposes only For press inquiries, please contact feministdelegation at gmail dot com
“Well…it is an occupation!”
|I recently returned from North Africa and Palestine. I found myself giving a talk to a group in the USA where I mentioned my trip as a way of discussing the manner in which events can unfold very rapidly. I mentioned that I had been to North Africa and the occupied Palestinian territories.Barely had I finished speaking than an individual rose from their chair and moved toward the front of the room. When the session broke the individual approached me and challenged my use of the term “occupied Palestinian territories,” claiming that that terminology is inflammatory and that I should have used a more neutral term like “West Bank” or “the disputed territories.”
I looked at the individual and listened to what they said. I then responded: “Well…it IS an occupation!”
It is difficult to describe the Occupied Territories. I have followed the Israeli/Palestinian conflict since the June 1967 War and I have been an advocate for peace and justice for the Palestinians since the spring of 1969. I have studied countless documents, articles, speeches, etc. I have seen pictures of the so-called settlements and the apartheid separation Wall. Yet, to be honest, I still was not prepared for what I actually experienced.
I was part of a labor delegation. When we crossed from Jordan into the Occupied Territories we immediately experienced the arrogance of the Israeli occupiers. While waiting on line to go to the first passport control I was watched by an Israeli security person. I somehow knew that this was not a good sign. When my delegation awaited clearance to actually enter the Occupied Territories this same security person came up to me and me alone (in my delegation) and proceeded to ask me all sorts of questions about the objectives of my visit. Perhaps it was my naturally curly hair, or perhaps it was that I am told that I look North African, but in any case, there was nothing approaching politeness in this exchange. The Israelis held us at the border for about two hours for no apparent reason and then let most of my delegation through. They then held one member of my delegation – not me – for an additional hour, again for no apparent reason and without explanation or apology (when they were released).
Driving from the border to Nablus is actually quite beautiful except for a few things. You drive past these so-called settlements. You can clearly distinguish an Israeli settlement from a Palestinian village or town, both by the newness but also by the often lush character of the surroundings of the settlements. But here it is important for me to note that even the use of the term “settlement” does not convey what you see. You see, in effect, either very big farms or you see suburban communities. I don’t know about you but when I hear “settlement” I tend to think about something that can be easily disassembled. Forget that idea, my friend. These settlers have no intention of going anywhere.
This brings up another point or question of terminology. What is going on in the occupied Palestinian territories is not really an occupation; it is an annexation-in-progress. The Palestinians are being squeezed out, with the obvious Israeli hope being that they will simply give up and move out of the West Bank and go to Jordan, Lebanon, or who knows where ever, but just out of the area. When you think about an occupation, you think about the troops of one country taking over another—which, of course, happened to the West Bank—but you do not normally think about settlers moving in, unless you are thinking about the way that the United States expanded west; the manner in which Morocco took over the Western Sahara; or what we have been witnessing in Palestine. Whatever the original ambitions of the Israelis in the aftermath of the June 1967 War, it is clear that the settlements are no longer a bargaining chip but are there as part of a process of annexation.
This is a slow-moving annexation that is accompanied by slippery rhetoric out of the Israeli government. The creation of the so-called Separation Wall, but what most of the world condemns as the Apartheid Wall, is all part of the annexation process. The Wall is one of the ugliest, most offensive pieces of work you will see. It was NOT created along the so-called Green Line (the pre-1967 border of Israel) but along lines that protect some of the key territories that the Israeli government seeks to formally annex. It also is used to divide Palestinian territories such that farmers are separated from their land.
When you stand near the wall, however, you do not think much about the larger political issues at stake. Rather, it feels like you are inside a prison. You look up and down the expanse of the Wall at the guard towers and, frankly, you do not know what will happen next. The environmental damage created through the building of the Wall is a sight in and of itself. Piles of dirt, rubbish, concrete, weeds, etc., on the Palestinian side of the Wall reminded me of construction debris that some contractor ‘forgot’ to remove from a project. This damage makes the land in the immediate vicinity of the Wall useless and, for all intents and purposes, dead.
The sense of being imprisoned was more stark when we witnessed thousands of Palestinian workers pass through the Qalqeelya border crossing to go to Israel for work. We arrived at the border crossing around 3:30am and workers (men and women) were already crossing the border, though in small numbers. As dawn approached this trickle of workers turned into a flood.
The workers proceeded down a covered walkway and then went to a turnstile, reminiscent of one you might find in a subway system. But this was not a turnstile that one can jump over, but fully metal where only one person at a time can pass, assuming that the light over the turnstile is green. There is an assembly point on the other side where the workers then gather and seek transportation to their jobs. They have to arrange their own transportation, either through their employers or on their own, because public Israeli transportation is denied them. They cannot drive into Israel and go to work because that is forbidden. The process is so demanding that many Palestinian workers remain at their worksites for days rather than go back and forth in this process. And, while this is going on, it is all under the watchful eye of the Israeli guard tower, shouting commands to the Palestinians in Hebrew.
The violence of the Occupation is what you feel more than any other sensation. Not the violence that you hear about on mainstream television when they discuss a terrorist attack or a military action, but rather the silent violence that includes traffic signs in big Hebrew letters, while the Arabic wording has been crossed out by fanatical settlers. Or it may be the violence of the apartheid Wall, supposedly constructed to stop Palestinian terrorist and military attacks, yet no one can seem to explain if that were the case, why the Wall was not built on the Green Line rather than over and through Palestinian territories.
There were moments when I forgot where I was. My own anger boiled to the surface and I came close to yelling at the Israeli security personnel or making signs at them with my fingers, only to stop myself and realize that I was not an angry African American in the USA (which carries its own set of risks), but a North African-looking man in Occupied Palestine who could easily get shot – or cause my colleagues to get shot – with the assurance that my wife would get a letter of apology from the Israeli government for the incident, which they would certainly alleged to have been the result of my unprovoked actions.
This is what Palestinians experience every day…and then some.
So, yes, this is a violent occupation, and no semantics will get around that simple fact.
BlackCommentator.com Editorial Board member, Bill Fletcher, Jr., is a Senior Scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies, the immediate past president ofTransAfricaForum and co-author of Solidarity Divided: The Crisis in Organized Labor and a New Path toward Social Justice (University of California Press), which examines the crisis of organized labor in the USA.
|It Can Happen Here!
YEARS AGO I said that there are but two miracles in Israel: the Hebrew language and democracy.
Hebrew had been a dead language for many generations, more or less like Latin, when it was still used in the Catholic church. Then, suddenly, concurrent with the emergence of Zionism (but independently) it sprang back to life. This never happened to any other language.
Theodor Herzl laughed at the idea that Jews in Palestine would speak Hebrew. He wanted us to speak German. “Are they going to ask for a railway ticket in Hebrew?” he scoffed.
Well, we now buy airline tickets in Hebrew. We read the Bible in its Hebrew original and enjoy it tremendously. As Abba Eban once said, if King David were to come to life in Jerusalem today, he could understand the language spoken in the street. Though with some difficulty, because our language gets corrupted, like most other languages.
Anyhow, the position of Hebrew is secure. Babies and Nobel Prize laureates speak it.
The fate of the other miracle is far less assured.
THE FUTURE – indeed, the present – of Israeli democracy is shrouded in doubt.
It is a miracle, because it did not grow slowly over generations, like Anglo-Saxon democracy. There was no democracy in the Jewish shtetl. Neither is there anything like it in Jewish religious tradition. But the Zionist Founding Fathers, mostly West and Central European Jews, aspired to the highest social ideals of their time.
I have always warned that our democracy has very shallow and tender roots, and needs our constant care. Where did the Jews who founded Israel, and who came here thereafter, grow up? Under the dictatorship of the British High Commissioner, the Russian Czar, the Dictatorship of the Proletariat, the king of Morocco, Pilsudsky’s Poland and similar regimes. Those of us who came from democratic countries like Weimar Germany or the US were a tiny minority.
Yet the founders of Israel succeeded in establishing a vibrant democracy that – at least until 1967 – was in no way inferior, and in some ways superior, to the British or American models. We were proud of it, and the world admired it. The appellation “the Only Democracy in the Middle East” was not a hollow propaganda slogan.
Some claim that with the occupation of the Palestinian territories, which have lived since 1967 under a harsh military regime without the slightest trace of democracy and human rights, this situation already came to an end. Whatever one thinks about that, in fact Israel in its pre-1967 borders maintained a reasonable record until recently. For the ordinary citizen, democracy was still a fact of life. Even Arab citizens enjoyed democratic rights far superior to anything in the Arab world.
This week, all this was put in doubt. Some say that this doubt has now been dispersed, and that a stark reality is being exposed.
CHARLES BOYCOTT, the agent of a British landowner in Ireland, could never have imagined that he would play a role in a country called Israel 130 years after his name had become a world-wide symbol.
Captain Boycott evicted Irish tenants, who defaulted on their rent because of desperate economic straits. The Irish reacted with a new weapon: no one would speak with him, work for him, buy from him. His name became synonymous with this kind of non-violent action.
The method itself was born even earlier. The list is long. Among others: in 1830 the “negroes” in the US declared a “boycott” of slave-produced products. The later Civil Rights movement started with a boycott of the Montgomery bus company that seated blacks and whites separately. During the American Revolution, the insurgents declared a boycott on British goods. So did Mahatma Gandhi in India.
American Jews boycotted the cars of the infamous anti-Semite Henry Ford. Jews in many countries took part in a boycott of German goods immediately after the Nazis came to power in 1933.
The Chinese boycotted Japan after the invasion of their country. The US boycotted the Olympic Games in Moscow. People of conscience all over the world boycotted the products and the athletes of Apartheid South Africa and helped to bring it to its knees.
All these campaigns used a basic democratic right: every person is entitled to refuse to buy from people he detests. Everyone can refuse to support with his money causes which contradict his innermost moral convictions.
It is this right that has been put to the test in Israel this week.
IN 1997, Gush Shalom declared a boycott of the products of the settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories. We believe that these settlements, which are being set up with the express purpose of preventing the establishment of a Palestinian state, are endangering the future of Israel.
The press conference, in which we announced this step, was not attended by a single Israeli journalist. But the boycott gathered momentum. Hundreds of thousands of Israelis do not buy settlement products. The European Union, which has a trade agreement that practically treats Israel as a member of the union, was induced to enforce the clause that excludes products of the settlements from these privileges.
There are now hundreds of factories in the settlements. They were literally compelled, or seduced, to go there, because the (stolen) land there is far cheaper than in Israel proper. They enjoy generous government subsidies and tax exemptions, and they can exploit Palestinian workers for ridiculous wages. The Palestinians have no other way of supporting their families than to toil for their oppressors.
Our boycott was designed, among other things, to counter these advantages. And indeed, several big enterprises have already given in and moved out, under pressure from foreign investors and buyers. Alarmed, the settlers instructed their lackeys in the Knesset to draft a law that would counter this boycott.
Last Monday, the “Boycott Law” was enacted, setting off an unprecedented storm in the country. Already Tuesday morning, Gush Shalom submitted to the Supreme Court a 22 page application to annul this law.
THE “BOYCOTT LAW” is a very clever piece of work. Obviously, it was not drafted by the parliamentary simpletons who introduced it, but by some very sophisticated legal minds, probably financed by the Casino barons and Evangelical crazies who support the extreme Right in Israel.
First of all, the law is disguised as a means to fight the de-legitimization of the State of Israel throughout the world. The law bans all calls for the boycott of the State of Israel, “including the areas under Israeli control”. Since there are not a dozen Israelis who call for the boycott of the state, it is clear that the real and sole purpose is to outlaw the boycott of the settlements.
In its initial draft, the law made this a criminal offense. That would have suited us fine: we were quite willing to go to prison for this cause. But the law, in its final form, imposes sanctions that are another thing.
According to the law, any settler who feels that he has been harmed by the boycott can demand unlimited compensation from any person or organization calling for the boycott – without having to prove any actual damage. This means that each of the 300,000 settlers can claim millions from every single peace activist associated with the call for boycott, thus destroying the peace movement altogether.
AS WE point out in our application to the Supreme Court, the law is clearly unconstitutional. True, Israel has no formal constitution, but several “basic laws” are considered by the Supreme Court to function effectively as such.
First, the law clearly contravenes the basic right to freedom of expression. A call for a boycott is a legitimate political action, much as a street demonstration, a manifesto or a mass petition.
Second, the law contravenes the principle of equality. The law does not apply to any other boycott that is now being implemented in Israel: from the religious boycott of stores that sell non-kosher meat (posters calling for this cover the walls of the religious quarters in Jerusalem and elsewhere), to the recent very successful call to boycott the producers of cottage cheese because of their high price. The call of right-wing groups to boycott artists who have not served in the army will be legal, the declaration by left-wing artists that they will not appear in the settlements will be illegal.
Since these and other provisions of the law clearly violate the Basic Laws, the Legal Advisor of the Knesset, in a highly unusual step, published his opinion that the law is unconstitutional and undermines “the core of democracy”. Even the supreme governmental legal authority, the “legal advisor of the government”, has published a statement saying that the law in “on the border” of unconstitutionality. Being mortally afraid of the settlers, he added that he will defend it in court nevertheless. The opportunity for this is not far off: the Supreme Court has given him 60 days to respond to our petition.
A SMALL group of minor parliamentarians is terrorizing the Knesset majority and can pass any law at all. The power of the settlers is immense, and moderate right-wing members are rightly afraid that, if they are not radical enough, they will not be re-elected by the Likud Central Council, which selects the candidates for the party list. This creates a dynamic of competition: who can appear the most radical.
No wonder that one anti-democratic law follows another: a law that practically bars Arab citizens from living in localities of less than 400 families. A law that takes away the pension rights of former Knesset members who do not show up for police investigations (like Azmi Bishara.) A law that abolishes the citizenship of people convicted of “assisting terrorism”. A law that obliges NGOs to disclose donations by foreign governmental institutions. A law that gives preference for civil service positions to people who have served in the army (thus automatically excluding almost all Arab citizens). A law that outlaws any commemoration of the 1948 Naqba (the expulsion of Arab inhabitants from areas conquered by Israel). An extension of the law that prohibits (almost exclusively) Arab citizens, who marry spouses from the Palestinian territories, to live with them in Israel.
Soon to be enacted is a bill that forbids NGOs to accept donations of more than 5000 dollars from abroad, a bill that will impose an income tax of 45% on any NGO that is not specifically exempted by the government, a bill to compel universities to sing the national anthem on every possible occasion, the appointment of a Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry to investigate the financial resources of left-wing [sic] organizations.
Looming over everything else is the explicit threat of right-wing factions to attack the hated “liberal” Supreme Court directly, shear it of its ability to overrule unconstitutional laws and control the appointment of the Supreme Court judges.
FIFTY-ONE YEARS ago, on the eve of the Eichmann trial, I wrote a book about Nazi Germany. In the last chapter, I asked: “Can It Happen Here?”
My answer still stands: yes, it can.
June 28, 2011
Not Even Good Propaganda Anymore
By URI AVNERY
The Palestinians are planning something thoroughly obnoxious: they intend to apply to the UN for statehood.
Why obnoxious? Any Israeli spokesman (not to mention spokeswoman) will tell you readily: because it is a “unilateral” move. How dare they proclaim a state unilaterally? How dare they do so without the consent of the other party to the conflict – us?
A stickler for detail might ask at this point: “But was the State of Israel not proclaimed unilaterally?” Our state, it may be remembered, was declared by David Ben-Gurion and his colleagues on Mai 14, 1948, without asking anyone.
But who would dare to compare?
Furthermore, these dastardly Palestinians are going to the UN General Assembly, trying to circumvent the UN Security Council where the US can block them with its veto. Dirty trick!
But just a moment! Was the State of Israel not proclaimed on the basis of a resolution adopted by the UN General Assembly? To be precise: resolution 181 of November 29, 1947, on the partition of Palestine into an Arab and a Jewish state?
As a matter of fact, this resolution is still in force. It served as the centerpiece of Israel’s Declaration of Independence, and serves now as a basis for the Palestinian demand that the State of Palestine be accepted as a full-fledged member of the United Nations.
But again, how can one compare?
* * *
IN SHORT, the Palestinians must be condemned for their impertinent effort to resort to “unilateral” action. Binyamin Netanyahu says so. Barack Obama says so. Hillary Clinton says so. Angela Merkel says so. It has become a mantra.
One more mantra. It might have been thought that the Israeli-Palestinian arena is so full of mantras, that there is no room for more. But there always is.
Shlomo Avineri, a much respected Zionist professor, has dredged up one of the oldest. In a recent article entitled “Narratives and Truth” he claimed that there are two narratives about our conflict, but only one truth. The truth consists of incontestable facts.
For example: there are several narratives about the UN partition resolution, but only one truth. As it so happens, this truth coincides with the Israeli narrative, which has become a sacred mantra.
It goes like this: in 1947, the Zionist leadership accepted the UN partition plan, and the Palestinian Arabs rejected it. Instead, they attacked the Jewish community in the country and were later joined by the regular armies of the neighboring Arab states. They wanted to throw us into the sea. They lost the war and paid the price.
Facts? Incontestable? Well…
* * *
IT IS indeed a fact that the Zionist leadership accepted the partition plan – formally. Many Zionist leaders objected, but were persuaded by David Ben-Gurion to agree to the official acceptance. However, in several secret meetings Ben-Gurion made it clear that the partition borders were unacceptable and must be rectified at the first opportunity. The minutes of these meetings are there for all to read.
The other side of the mantra – “the Palestinian Arabs rejected” – is more complex. There was no democratically elected Palestinian Arab leadership. In the 1936-39 Arab revolt, the Arab leadership – such as it was – was destroyed, partly by the British but mostly by the foremost Palestinian leader, the Grand Mufti Hajj Amin al-Husseini. He had most of his competitors killed off.
During World War II, Hajj Amin fled to Nazi Germany and the rest of the “leaders” were deported by the British. After the war, the discredited Hajj stayed abroad. A distant relative of his headed the so-called “Arab Higher Committee”, which was unelected and had shallow roots among the population. There was no effective Palestinian leadership in existence.
No one asked the Arab Palestinians whether to accept or reject anything. If they had been asked, they would probably have rejected partition, since – in their view – it gave a large part of their historical homeland to foreigners. The more so, since the Jews, who at the time constituted a third of the population, were allotted 55% of the territory – and even there the Arabs constituted 40% of the population.
The governments of the Arab states rejected partition, but they certainly did not represent the Palestinian Arabs, who were at the time still under British rule (as were we).
As a matter of fact, during the war there was no effective united Palestinian Arab leadership, nor was there anything even remotely resembling a united Palestinian fighting force.
One can interpret these facts as one wishes – but they certainly do not paint a clear picture of “the Zionists accepted, the Palestinians rejected”.
Yet this mantra is being repeated endlessly in newspaper articles, TV talk-shows and political speeches as self-evident truth. Prof. Avineri is only one of a legion of Israeli propagandists to repeat it.
* * *
ANOTHER MANTRA parading as the incontestable truth is that the 750,000 original Palestinian refugees left their homes in 1948 voluntarily, after being requested by the Arab leadership to do so, ”in order to clear the way for the advancing Arab armies”.
Any thoughtful person hearing this must come to the conclusion that it is utter nonsense. No advancing army would want to remove a friendly population. Quite the contrary. Needless to say, not a shred of evidence for this contention has ever been discovered. (There may be some doubts about local events during the conquest of the Arab parts of Haifa, but they do not change the broad picture.)
This mantra is compounded by the idea that in war, all the people on the losing side forfeit their country, their homes and their property. This may have been so in Biblical times, but in modern times it does not reflect international law or common morality.
There may be many different opinions about how to put an end to this tragedy. The Palestine refugee population has grown to over five million. The landscape has changed completely. Very few people, even among Palestinians, believe in a mass return of refugees. But this does not change the fact that the mantra sounds hollow. It is not even good propaganda anymore.
A NEW mantra is now gaining ground. Binyamin Netanyahu put it in simple words: “the Conflict is Insoluble”. Many respected figures, including prominent university professors, now repeat it daily.
I am reminded of a late friend of mine, Samuel Merlin, a member of the first Knesset, who once took part in a public debate with Professor Yehoshafat Harkabi, a former chief of army intelligence. At the time – the era of euphoria between the 1967 and the 1973 wars – Harkabi was a raving Arab-hater (after 1973 he repented and became a determined peace activist).
When his turn came to answer Harkabi’s arguments, Merlin said: “I respect Professor Harkabi very much, but in order to utter such views you don’t need to be a professor, you can be anyone on the street.”
Uri Avnery is an Israeli writer and peace activist with Gush Shalom. He is a contributor to CounterPunch’s book The Politics of Anti-Semitism.