Obama and the Despots of the Middle East

Karl Marx, in his famous treatise on Louis Bonaparte’s 1851 coup d’état, which shared much in common with the late 18th century coup undertaken by his uncle, Napoleon Bonaparte, remarked that history has the tendency to repeat itself, ‘the first [time] as tragedy, then as farce’.

As with many other aspects of the dramatic developments unfolding in the Middle East and North African (MENA) region in recent weeks, Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak’s midnight 28 January speech, and the various White House statements that preceded it, prove just how relevant the ideas of the German political theorist and revolutionary are today.

Like his Tunisian counterpart, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, whose similarly feeble attempt to assuage the anger and despair of the tens of thousands of brave citizens, from all political persuasions and walks of life who participated in the demonstrations, was met by demands to put an end to the government’s charade, Mubarak’s speech was seen by most Egyptians as too little, too late.

For the protesters in Egypt, as in Tunisia only a few weeks before, demanded not only an end to the human rights abuses, rampant corruption, lack of economic opportunities and political freedoms that characterised the state of affairs of their country for as long most of them can remember, but also, and as importantly, an end to the repressive regime that promulgated these conditions. They will certainly not be satisfied with Mubarak’s cynical attempts at ‘reform’, including the appointment of intelligence chief Omar Suleiman, a man who was praised by former US Ambassador to Egypt, Edward S. Walker, for the amenable role he has played in supporting some of the most abhorrent and illegal activities associated with the US led ‘war on terror’, such as the torture and extraordinary rendition of ‘terror’ suspects.

Only 3 weeks earlier, Mubarak’s Tunisian counterpart, Ben Ali, had cut an equally pathetic figure in his speech to the Tunisian nation, in which he vowed to slash food prices and guarantee ‘total liberty for the press and to no longer close Internet sites’ and promised ‘no presidencies for life,’ in a desperate attempt to buy more time for his dictatorial rule.

The farce continued with the Obama administration, who, as in the Tunisian case, remained largely silent until the outrage expressed by the Egyptian people became so deafening it could no longer pretend not to hear their desperate pleas, dramatically changing its rhetoric. One could witness this shift in White House Secretary Robert Gibbs’ 28 January press conference. Whereas just the previous day Gibbs had reiterated the Mubarak regime’s position as ‘a close and important partner with our country’ and declared its stability, on 28 January his language had already changed, adopting a much more aggressive tone. ‘The legitimate grievances that have festered for quite some time in Egypt have to be addressed by the Egyptian government immediately, and violence is not the answer,’ Gibbs chided.

Later in the day, his boss engaged in rhetorical acrobatics in an effort to prove the Obama administration’s ‘democracy promotion’ credentials while at the same time refrain from undermining the ‘stability’ of a stalwart US ally – one that has provided invaluable support in promoting US geo-strategic interests vis-a-vis the Israel-Palestine ‘conflict’, the ‘war on terror’, energy security, as well as promoting US-backed neoliberal economic ‘reforms’ in the region.

The $1.5 billion in rent/aid Egypt receives annually from its US patron, referred to by many as ‘peace dividends’ for its 1979 peace agreement with the Israelis, demonstrates just how important this relationship is to the Americans. In the past, though the Mubarak regime, like most rentier states, spent much of these payments on maintaining the security apparatuses necessary for its survival, it also wisely invested at least a portion of it on social spending, notably on food subsidies, education, health and government salaries, spending that primarily affected the lower classes. Over the last several decades, and particularly in recent years, however, this balance of rent spending has been heavily tipped in favor of ‘security’.

As with Tunisia, despite its MENA ‘democracy promotion’ agenda, Egypt’s nefarious use of US funds for patently undemocratic purposes has come as no surprise for the American government. In stark contrast to the feigned outrage with which the Obama administration received news of its ally’s heavy handed crackdown on the popular demonstrations breaking out across the country, as well as on the new media forms of communication that facilitated their organisation, the recent Wikileaks revelations uncovered US foreknowledge of the regime’s brutality. Exposing what most informed political analysts, as well as the majority of Egyptians, have known all along about the Mubarak regime, the second highest recipient of US military and economic aid in the world after Israel, one cable pointed out that government brutality is ‘routine and pervasive’. Furthermore, the use of torture against ordinary criminals, Islamist detainees, opposition activists and bloggers, the cables acknowledged, is so widespread that the Egyptian government ‘no longer even tries to deny its existence.’

The cables also reveal that the Obama administration aimed to maintain a close political and military relationship with Mubarak, despite acknowledging the existence of a colossal democracy deficit, stating: ‘The tangible benefits to our [military] relationship are clear: Egypt remains at peace with Israel, and the US military enjoys priority access to the Suez canal and Egyptian airspace.’

Despite all of this, in his 28 January press conference on the eve of the post-Juma’h (Friday prayer) protests, the most dramatic to hit Egypt since the unrest began, Obama refrained from acknowledging the demands of the brave protesters calling for Mubarak to step down. Instead, he emphasized the need for the regime to make reforms, saying: ‘This moment of volatility has to be turned into a moment of promise.’ Referring to his 2008 Cairo speech, Obama urged Mubarak to recognise that ‘no matter where it takes hold, government of the people and by the people sets a single standard for all who would hold power: You must maintain your power through consent, not coercion; you must respect the rights of minorities, and participate with a spirit of tolerance and compromise.’

Once again, the Obama administration has demonstrated a gross duplicity in its approach to the issue of democracy promotion in the region. In this sense it, like other western governments expressing their preferences for ‘stability’ and ‘order’ over justice and accountability, has found itself on the wrong side of history.

Perhaps there is a further lesson they could take from Marx’s 18th Brumaire, in which he made another of his most famous formulations, this time on the role individual agency plays in history: ‘Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past.’

In the face of overwhelming odds, including unflagging western support for their governments, a world economic order designed to benefit the few at the expense of the many, well-financed, equipped and trained security apparatuses, largely thanks to the Americans, as the tear-gas canisters used against protesters and stamped ‘made in America’, made chillingly clear- the people of Egypt, Tunisia and elsewhere in the region where protesters have taken to the streets, have decided that despite these overwhelmingly inauspicious circumstances, they are no longer willing to be mere objects in a history written by, and for the benefit of others. They are prepared to risk life and limb to regain their rightful place amongst history’s subjects.

It is time for Obama to pay more than lip-service to the increasing role of people power in transforming the political contours of the region. He can start by supporting the demands of the Egyptian opposition, including Islamists, led by the most popular opposition party, the Muslim Brotherhood, and secularists, represented by their most popular figurehead, former United Nations atomic energy chief Mohamed El-Baradei, for an immediate end to the repressive measures being employed by the Mubarak regime against demonstrators, described by a Muslim Brother leader to as ‘organised state terrorism’, an end to the Mubarak regime, and the instatement of a transitional government leading to real democratic reforms and accountability for the crimes committed by the Mubarak regime.

Obama can also take advantage of the opportunity to implement much-needed structural changes in US foreign policy towards the region, by placing real conditions on the economic and military aid the US government provides to all undemocratic and repressive regimes in the region, including Israel, Jordan and Yemen, to help facilitate the efforts of the people of these countries to similarly regain their agency and make ‘their own history’.

Significant cuts in aid to these states, coupled with an overall reduction in US military spending and an end to US aggression in the region, would have the effect of ‘killing two birds with one stone’, as it would also promote US government efforts to reduce the gaping US budget deficit in a more ethical manner than current proposals, which entail massive cuts to social spending. Going back to Obama’s pre-election promises, that would be real ‘change we can believe in’.

Corinna Mullin is a Lecturer in Comparative and International Politics at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), with reference to the Middle East. Her current research involves comparative international political theory and explores Islamist and Western conceptions of peace, war, justice, and sovereignty. She lives in London.

 

Ref Counterpunch

Hollywood and the war machine

 

War is hell, but for Hollywood it has been a Godsend, providing the perfect dramatic setting against which courageous heroes win the hearts and minds of the movie going public.

The Pentagon recognises the power of these celluloid dreams and encourages Hollywood to create heroic myths; to rewrite history to suit its own strategy and as a recruiting tool to provide a steady flow of willing young patriots for its wars.

Hollywood  Video Icon
The Pentagon calls the shots
Producer: Diana Ferraro
Hollywood: Chronicler of the war
Producer: Tim Tate

What does Hollywood get out of this ‘deal with the devil’? Access to billions of dollars worth of military kit, from helicopters to aircraft carriers, enabling filmmakers to make bigger and more spectacular battle scenes, which in turn generate more box office revenue. Providing they accept the Pentagon’s advice, even toe the party line and show the US military in a positive light.

So is it a case of art imitating life, or a sinister force using art to influence life and death – and the public perception of both?

Empire will examine Hollywood, the Pentagon, and war.

Joining us as guests: Oliver Stone, the eight times Academy Award-winning filmmaker; Michael Moore, the Academy Award-winning filmmaker; and Christopher Hedges, an author and the former Middle East bureau chief of the New York Times.

Our interviewees this week are: Phil Strub, US Department of Defense Film Liaison Unit; Julian Barnes, Pentagon correspondent, LA Times; David Robb, the author of  Operation Hollywood; Prof Klaus Dodds, the author of Screening Terror; Matthew Alford, the author of Reel Power; Prof Melani McAlister, the author of Culture, Media, and US Interests in the Middle East.

The US Criticized for Human Rights Abuses

Given the sensationalism in mainstream US news media coverage of alleged sexual impropriety charges filed against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in Sweden, it’s no surprise that other significant news about America involving that Scandinavian nation is being left uncovered.

In early November, Sweden called on the US to end the death penalty and to improve conditions in maximum security prisons, as the United States went through its first-ever Universal Periodic Review by the United Nation’s Human Rights Council.

Sweden joined nearly two dozen countries in calling upon the US to end its pariah-like status as the only western industrialized nation to engage in executions. The US has over 3,200 people facing death sentences, a sharp rise from 1968, when America’s death row population numbered just 517, according to statistics compiled by the Death Penalty Information Center.

Other countries critical of the US posture on the death penalty – practiced by the federal government and 35 states – included Australia (the birthplace of Assange), France, Germany, the United Kingdom and the Vatican.

The caustic onslaught in the U.S. against Assange for leaking sensitive documents, where attackers include members of Congress – some even calling for Assange’s death, either extrajudicially or after a trial–is ironic, coming so close to December 10th, the annual international observance of Human Rights Day.

That observance commemorates the UN’s 1948 adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

One clause in that Declaration provides people worldwide with the right to receive and impart information “through any media and regardless of frontiers.”

The American assaults on Assange extend beyond the White House and Capitol Hill. Amazon, under pressure from Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT), removed WikiLeaks from its computer servers, while MasterCard, PayPal and Visa have halted payments to WikiLeaks from donors supportive of work of that entity, almost certainly after receiving pressure from the US government.

While US officials attending that human rights review held in Switzerland proudly pointed to such continuing rights progress in America as the election of a black President and his selection of a Hispanic female US Supreme Court Justice, fifty-six countries including staunch US allies offered 228 recommendations for improving human rights in the nation that touts itself as the world’s leader in protecting the rights of all.

Those recommendations involved a wide range of issues, ranging from attacking poverty among Native Americans to addressing abuses impacting immigrants and closing the infamous Guantanamo prison. However, most of the recommendations presented at that human rights review centered on concerns about deprivations and disparities in the U.S. criminal justice system.

Belgium and Switzerland, for example, called on America to stop sentencing teens to life in prison. Pennsylvania leads the nation in the number of life-sentenced teens, with over 300 currently languishing in the state’s prisons.

Haiti called for ending the discriminatory impact of mandatory minimum sentences and Thailand called for addressing sexual violence inside U.S. prisons, where homosexual rapes far exceed heterosexual rapes outside prison walls.

France urged the U.S. to study the racial disparities evident in the application of the death penalty. African-Americans comprise 41.43 percent of the people on death rows across America – a figure more than twice the percentage of America’s black population.

The United Kingdom expressed concerns about damning evidence that the death penalty could sometimes be administered in a discriminatory manner.

Respected Harvard Law School Professor Alan Dershowitz recently wrote a commentary expressing his concerns about Kevin Cooper, a black California death row inmate facing execution for slaughtering four members of a white family in 1983, despite the troubling reality that the lone survivor told police the murders were white.

Facts now establish that police destroyed blood-stained clothing evidence supplied by the girlfriend of one (white) man police never investigated, and that the prosecution’s forensic witnesses falsified evidence against Cooper.

Dershowitz stated that the facts “do not add up” in the murder conviction of Cooper. He has asked outgoing California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to grant Cooper clemency. America’s largest death row is in California, which has 697 persons facing execution.

U.S. representatives responding to their international critics stated that despite legitimate debate on the propriety of the death penalty, as a matter of law at the federal level and in 35 states, “that punishment is permitted,” according to the draft report issued by the UN Human Rights Council.

While the America’s governmental scheme makes it structurally difficult for the federal government to outright ban states from conducting executions, the federal government could end its own use of the death penalty for federal crimes. The U.S. government death row holds nearly 70 persons.

One U.S. death-row inmate – Pennsylvania’s ‘Death Row Journalist’ Mumia Abu-Jamal – received mention by name in one recommendation. Abu-Jamal, perhaps the most well-known of 25,000-plus under death sentence worldwide, observes the macabre anniversary of spending 29-years inside a death-row prison cell on December 9th.

Cuba called on the U.S. to “end the unjust incarceration of political prisoners including Leonard Peltier and Mumia Abu-Jamal.” Ample evidence supports international claims that Native American leader Peltier, repeatedly denied parole, and ex-Black Panther Abu-Jamal, are unjustly incarcerated for deaths involving law enforcement officers.

The issue of political prisoners in the US is a subject generating interest internationally, yet it is an issue largely ignored by Americans, said Efia Nwangaza, a lawyer who attended that UN human rights review session held in Geneva, Switzerland.

“There are over 75 political prisoners in the US, most of them former Black Panther or Black Liberation Army people,” said Nwangaza, a Philadelphia native now living in South Carolina, who helped prepare documentation on US political prisoners for that UN review.

“We’ve made progress through an admission by omission, with the US not denying it has political prisoners.”

In addition to criticisms about death penalty policies in the U.S., nations around the world raised concerns about racial profiling practices in America against blacks, Latinos and persons perceived as Muslim, inclusive of U.S. citizens, immigrants and visitors.

U.S. representatives, responding to criticisms about racial profiling, “assured delegations” that America condemns racial and ethnic profiling in all forms,” according to the Human Rights Council’s report.

Ironically, even as U.S. representatives offered their assurances, the ACLU of Pennsylvania filed a class-action lawsuit against the Philadelphia Police Department for racial profiling in that city where the U.S. Constitution was drafted and approved.

That lawsuit involves the police practice called ‘stop-&-frisk’ – where police detain and search persons. This practice in Philadelphia impacted 253,333 persons in 2009 – a 148-percent increase over 2005 – with 72.2 percent of those subjected being blacks, who comprise 44 percent of that city’s population, according to the lawsuit.

This dragnet-style policing only produced arrests in 8.4 percent of the ‘stops,’ with the majority of those arrests being for “interactions following the initial stop” like disorderly conduct and resisting arrest – i.e. alleged crimes that most likely resulted from legitimate objections to being stopped without cause.

One of the plaintiffs in that lawsuit is State Representative Jewell Williams, a veteran of 20-years in law enforcement work, who was roughed up by Philadelphia police in March 2009 while inquiring about a police stop of two 65-year-old black men during an encounter around the corner from Williams’ house.

Exposing a paradox in America’s race-based policing, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter and the city’s Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey (named in the ACLU lawsuit) are both black, but they back their Stop-&-Frisk policy, downplaying its demonstrable racially-disproportionate impact.

“Mayor Nutter repeatedly promised that this policy [Stop-&-Frisk] would be carried out in a way that respected the Constitution,” said Mary Catherine Roper, an ACLU-Pa staff attorney. “But instead of stopping people suspected of criminal activity, the police appear to be stopping people because of race.”

Former Philadelphia Mayor John Street told ThisCantBeHappening! recently that the excessive Stop-&-Frisk practices are actually counter-productive to effective crime fighting because the practices alienate citizens that police need to assist them in crime fighting.

Linn Washington Jr. is a columnist for This Can’t Be Happening!.

Ref: Counterpunch

The Collapse of Western Morality

Yes, I know, as many readers will be quick to inform me, the West never had any morality. Nevertheless things have gotten worse.

In hopes that I will be permitted to make a point, permit me to acknowledge that the US dropped nuclear bombs on two Japanese cities, fire-bombed Tokyo, that Great Britain and the US fire-bombed Dresden and a number of other German cities, expending more destructive force, according to some historians, against the civilian German population than against the German armies, that President Grant and his Civil War war criminals, Generals Sherman and Sheridan, committed genocide against the Plains Indians, that the US today enables Israel’s genocidal policies against the Palestinians, policies that one Israeli official has compared to 19th century US genocidal policies against the American Indians, that the US in the new 21st century invaded Iraq and Afghanistan on contrived pretenses, murdering countless numbers of civilians, and that British prime minister Tony Blair lent the British army to his American masters, as did other NATO countries, all of whom find themselves committing war crimes under the Nuremberg standard in lands in which they have no national interests, but for which they receive an American pay check.

I don’t mean these few examples to be exhaustive. I know the list goes on and on. Still, despite the long list of horrors, moral degradation is reaching new lows. The US now routinely tortures prisoners, despite its strict illegality under US and international law, and a recent poll shows that the percentage of Americans who approve of torture is rising. Indeed, it is quite high, though still just below a majority.

And we have what appears to be a new thrill: American soldiers using the cover of war to murder civilians. Recently American troops were arrested for murdering Afghan civilians for fun and collecting trophies such as fingers and skulls.

This revelation came on the heels of Pfc. Bradley Manning’s alleged leak of a US Army video of US soldiers in helicopters and their controllers thousands of miles away having fun with joy sticks murdering members of the press and Afghan civilians. Manning is cursed with a moral conscience that has been discarded by his government and his military, and Manning has been arrested for obeying the law and reporting a war crime to the American people.

US Rep. Mike Rogers, a Republican, of course, from Michigan, who is on the House Subcommittee on Terrorism, has called for Manning’s execution. According to US Rep. Rogers it is an act of treason to report an American war crime.

In other words, to obey the law constitutes “treason to America.”

US Rep. Rogers said that America’s wars are being undermined by “a culture of disclosure” and that this “serious and growing problem” could only be stopped by the execution of Manning.

If Rep. Rogers is representative of Michigan, then Michigan is a state that we don’t need.

The US government, a font of imperial hubris, does not believe that any act it commits, no matter how vile, can possibly be a war crime. One million dead Iraqis, a ruined country, and four million displaced Iraqis are all justified, because the “threatened” US Superpower had to protect itself from nonexistent weapons of mass destruction that the US government knew for a fact were not in Iraq and could not have been a threat to the US if they were in Iraq.

When other countries attempt to enforce the international laws that the Americans established in order to execute Germans defeated in World War II, the US government goes to work and blocks the attempt. A year ago on October 8, the Spanish Senate, obeying its American master, limited Spain’s laws of universal jurisdiction in order to sink a legitimate war crimes case brought against George W. Bush, Barack H. Obama, Tony Blair,and Gordon Brown.

The West includes Israel, and there the horror stories are 60 years long. Moreover, if you mention any of them you are declared to be an anti-semite. I only mention them in order to prove that I am not anti-American, anti-British, and anti-NATO, but am simply against war crimes. It was the distinguished Zionist Jewish Judge, Goldstone, who produced the UN report indicating that Israel committed war crimes when it attacked the civilian population and civilian infrastructure of Gaza. For his efforts, Israel declared the Zionist Goldstone to be “a self-hating Jew,” and the US Congress, on instruction from the Israel Lobby, voted to disregard the Goldstone Report to the UN.

As the Israeli official said, we are only doing to the Palestinians what the Americans did to the American Indians.

The Israeli army uses female soldiers to sit before video screens and to fire by remote control machine guns from towers to murder Palestinians who come to tend their fields within 1500 meters of the inclosed perimeter of Ghetto Gaza. There is no indication that these Israeli women are bothered by gunning down young children and old people who come to tend to their fields.

If the crimes were limited to war and the theft of lands, perhaps we could say it is a case of jingoism sidetracking traditional morality, otherwise still in effect.

Alas, the collapse of morality is too widespread. Some sports teams now have a win-at-all-cost attitude that involves plans to injure the star players of the opposing teams. To avoid all these controversies, let’s go to Formula One racing where 200 mph speeds are routine.

Prior to 1988, 22 years ago, track deaths were due to driver error, car failure, and poorly designed tracks compromised with safety hazards. World Champion Jackie Stewart did much to improve the safety of tracks, both for drivers and spectators. But in 1988 everything changed. Top driver Ayrton Senna nudged another top driver Alain Prost toward a pit wall at 190 mph. According to AutoWeek (August 30, 2010), nothing like this had been seen before. “Officials did not punish Senna’s move that day in Portugal, and so a significant shift in racing began.” What the great racing driver Stirling Moss called “dirty driving” became the norm.

Nigel Roebuck in AutoWeek reports that in 1996 World Champion Damon Hill said that Senna’s win-at-all-cost tactic “was responsible for fundamental change in the ethics of the sport.” Drivers began using “terrorist tactics on the track.” Damon Hill said that “the views that I’d gleaned from being around my dad [twice world champion Graham Hill] and people like him, I soon had to abandon,” because you realized that no penalty was forthcoming against the guy who tried to kill you in order that he could win.

When asked about the ethics of modern Formula One racing, American World Champion Phil Hill said: “Doing that sort of stuff in my day was just unthinkable. For one thing, we believed certain tactics were unacceptable.”

In today’s Western moral climate, driving another talented driver into the wall at 200 mph is just part of winning. Michael Schumacher, born in January 1969, is a seven times World Champion, an unequaled record. On August 1 at the Hungarian Grand Prix, AutoWeek Reports that Schumacher tried to drive his former Ferrari teammate, Rubens Barrichello, into the wall at 200 mph speeds.

Confronted with his attempted act of murder, Schumacher said: “This is Formula One. Everyone knows I don’t give presents.”

Neither does the US government, nor state and local governments, nor the UK government, nor the EU.

The deformation of the police, which many Americans, in their untutored existence as naive believers in “law and order,” still think are “on their side,” has taken on new dimensions with the police militarized to fight “terrorists” and “domestic extremists.”

The police have been off the leash since the civilian police boards were nixed by the conservatives. Kids as young as 6 years old have been handcuffed and carted off to jail for school infractions that may or may not have occurred. So have moms with a car full of children (see, for example, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4AaSLERx0VM ).

Anyone who googles videos of US police gratuitous brutality will call up tens of thousands of examples, and this is after laws that make filming police brutality a felony. A year or two ago such a search would call up hundreds of thousands of videos.

In one of the most recent of the numerous daily acts of gratuitous police abuse of citizens, an 84-year-old man had his neck broken because he objected to a night time towing of his car. The goon cop body-slammed the 84-year old and broke his neck. The Orlando, Florida, police department says that the old man was a “threat” to the well-armed much younger police goon, because the old man clenched his fist.

Americans will be the first people sent straight to Hell while thinking that they are the salt of the earth. The Americans have even devised a title for themselves to rival that of the Israelis’ self-designation as “God’s Chosen People.” The Americans call themselves “the indispensable people.”

Ref: Counterpunch

Paul Craig Roberts was an editor of the Wall Street Journal and an Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Treasury.  His latest book, HOW THE ECONOMY WAS LOST, has just been published by CounterPunch/AK Press. He can be reached at: PaulCraigRoberts@yahoo.com

VIDEO: Obamba´s war

What is the US trying to achieve in Afghanistan, and will it really make the US safer?

ANALYSIS: Boycotting the boycotters (Israeli exceptionalism and banality)

While the international boycott against apartheid South Africa is credited with leading to the regime’s downfall, here it is considered irrelevant and unworthy of comparison.

By Gideon Levy

Most people here are appalled at the notion that anybody beyond Israel’s borders would think to boycott their country, products or universities. Boycotts, after all, are viewed in Israel as illegitimate. Anyone who calls for such a step is perceived as an anti-Semite and Israel-hater who is undermining the state’s very right to exist. In Israel itself, those who call for a boycott are branded as traitors and heretics. The notion that a boycott, limited as it may be, is likely to convince Israel to change its ways – and for its own benefit – is not tolerated here.

Even an obvious, logical step – like the Palestinian Authority’s boycott of products made in the settlements – is viewed by hypocritical Israeli eyes as provocative. Moreover, while the international boycott against apartheid South Africa is credited with leading to the regime’s downfall, here it is considered irrelevant and unworthy of comparison.

It would be possible to identify with these intolerant reactions were it not for the fact that Israel itself is one of the world’s prolific boycotters. Not only does it boycott, it preaches to others, at times even forces others, to follow in tow. Israel has imposed a cultural, academic, political, economic and military boycott on the territories. At the same time, almost no one here utters a dissenting word questioning the legitimacy of these boycotts. Yet the thought of boycotting the boycotter? Now that’s inconceivable.

The most brutal, naked boycott is, of course, the siege on Gaza and the boycott of Hamas. At Israel’s behest, nearly all Western countries signed onto the boycott with inexplicable alacrity. This is not just a siege that has left Gaza in a state of shortage for three years. Nor is it just a complete (and foolish ) boycott of Hamas, save for the discussions over abducted soldier Gilad Shalit. It’s a series of cultural, academic, humanitarian and economic boycotts. Israel threatens nearly every diplomat who seeks to enter Gaza to see firsthand the unbearable sights.

In addition, Israel bars entry to anyone who wishes to lend humanitarian aid. We should note that the boycott isn’t just against Hamas, but against all Gaza, everyone who lives there. The convoy of ships that will soon sail from Europe to try to break the siege will carry thousands of tons of construction material, prefab houses and medicine. Israel has announced that it plans to stop the vessels. A boycott is a boycott.

Doctors, professors, artists, jurists, intellectuals, economists, engineers – none of them are permitted to enter Gaza. This is a complete boycott that bears the tag “Made in Israel.” Those who speak about immoral and ineffective boycotts do so without batting an eye when it comes to Gaza.

Israel is also urging the world to boycott Iran. But it’s not just Gaza and Iran that are at issue here, because entry into Israel and the West Bank is being affected by the recent frenzy of boycotts. Anyone who is suspected of supporting the Palestinians or expressing concern for their lot is boycotted and expelled. This group includes a clown who came to organize a conference; a peace activist who was due to appear at a symposium; and scientists, artists and intellectuals who arouse suspicions that they back the Palestinian cause. This is a cultural and academic boycott on all counts, the type of boycott that we reject when it is used against us.

Yet the anti-boycott country’s list of boycotted parties does not end there. Even a Jewish-American organization like J Street, which defines itself as pro-Israel, has felt the long arm of the Israeli boycott. It is permissible to boycott J Street because it champions peace, but we can’t tolerate a boycott of products made in settlements that were built on usurped land. Denying a visiting professor entry into Gaza for an appearance at a university does not qualify as a boycott, but cutting off ties with Israeli institutions that provide fast-track degree programs for army officers and interrogators in the Shin Bet security service – people who are often viewed around the world as complicit in war crimes – is viewed as verboten.

Yes, an Israeli who lives in Israel will have a hard time preaching to others about the virtues of a boycott when that person does not boycott his or her own country or university. But it is his right to believe that a boycott could compel his government to end the occupation. As long as the Israelis don’t pay any price, there won’t be a change.

This is a legitimate, moral position. It is no less legitimate or moral than those who claim that a boycott is an immoral, ineffective tool while exercising that same option against others. So you oppose a boycott against Israel? Then let’s first do away with all the boycotts we have imposed ourselves.

REF: haaretz

CrossTalk: Norman Finkelstein vs. Israel (ISRAEL IS A NATIONAL PARK!!!)

Israel’s Disgrace in Gaza

Jewish girl tries to criticise Dr. Norman Finkelstein

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