Zionism: Pitting The West Against Islam

The history of Israel has often been read as the saga of a people marked for extinction, who emerged from nazi death camps from Auschwitz, Belcec and Treblinka to establish their own country in 1948. Without taking away anything from the suffering of European Jews, I will insist that this way of thinking about Israel apart from its mythologizing has merit only as a partisan narrative. It seeks to insulate Israel against the charge of a devastating colonization by falsifying history, by camouflaging the imperialist dynamics that brought it into existence, and denying the perilous future with which it now confronts the Jews, the West and the Islamic world.

When we examine the consequences that have flowed from the creation of Israel, when we contemplate the greater horrors that may yet flow from the logic of Zionism, Israel’s triumphs appear in a different light. We are forced to examine these triumphs with growing dread and incredulity. Israel’s early triumphs, though real from a narrow Zionist standpoint, have slowly mutated by a fateful process into ever-widening circles of conflict that now threaten to escalate into major wars between the West and Islam. Although this conflict has its source in colonial ambitions, the dialectics of this conflict have slowly endowed it with the force and rhetoric of a civilizational war: and perhaps worse, a religious war.

This is the tragedy of Israel. It is not a fortuitous tragedy. Driven by history, chance and cunning, the Zionists wedged themselves between two historical adversaries, the West and Islam, and by harnessing the strength of the first against the second, it has produced the conditions of a conflict that has grown deeper over time.

Zionist historiography describes the emergence of Israel as a triumph over Europe’s centuries-old anti-Semitism, in particular over its twentieth-century manifestation, the demonic, industrial plan of the Nazis to stamp out the existence of the Jewish people. But this is a tendentious reading of Zionist history: it obscures the historic offer Zionism made to the West the offer to rid the West of its Jews, to lead them out of Christendom into Islamic Palestine. In offering to ‘cleanse’ the West of the ‘hated Jews’, the Zionists were working with the anti-Semites, not against them.

Theodore Herzl, the founding father of Zionism, had a clear understanding of this complementarity between Zionism and anti-Semitism; and he was convinced that Zionism would prevail only if anti-Semitic Europe could be persuaded to work for its success. It is true that Jews and anti-Semites have been historical adversaries, that Jews have been the victims of Europe’s religious vendetta since Rome first embraced Christianity. However, Zionism would enter into a new relationship with anti-Semitism that would work to the advantage of Jews. The insertion of the Zionist idea in the Western discourse would work a profound change in the relationship between Western Jews and Gentiles.

In order to succeed, the Zionists would have to create a new adversary, common to the West and the Jews. In choosing to locate their colonial-settler state in Palestine and not in Uganda or Argentina the Zionists had also chosen an adversary that would deepen their partnership with the West. The Islamic world was a great deal more likely to energize the West’s imperialist ambitions and evangelical zeal than Africa or Latin America.

Israel was the product of a partnership that seems unlikely at first blush, between Western Jews and the Western world. It is the powerful alchemy of the Zionist idea that created this partnership. The Zionist project to create a Jewish entity in Palestine possessed the unique power to convert two historical antagonists, Jews and Gentiles, into allies united in a common imperialist enterprise against the Islamic world. The Zionists harnessed the negative energies of the Western world its imperialism, its anti-Semitism, its crusading nostalgia, its anti-Islamic bigotry, and its deep racism and focused them on a new imperialist project, the creation of a Western surrogate state in the Islamic heartland.

To the West’s imperialist ambitions, this new colonial project offered a variety of strategic advantages. Israel would be located in the heart of the Islamic world; it would sit astride the junction of Asia, Africa and Europe; it would guard Europe’s gateway to the Indian Ocean; and it could monitor developments in the Persian Gulf with its vast reserves of oil.

For the West as well as Europe’s Jews, this was a creative moment: indeed, it was an historical opportunity. For European Jews, it was a stroke of brilliance. Zionism was going to leverage Western power in their cause.

As the Zionist plan would unfold, inflicting pain on the Islamic world, evoking Islamic anger against the West and Jews, the complementarities would be discovered or created between the two antagonist strains of Western history. In the United States the Zionist movement would give encouragement to evangelical Protestants who looked upon the birth of Israel as the fulfilment of end-times prophecies and convert them into fanatic partisans of Zionism. In addition, Western civilization, which had hitherto traced its central ideas and institutions to Rome and Athens, would be repackaged as a Judeo-Christian civilization. This reframing not only underscores the Jewish roots of the Western world, it also makes a point of emphasizing that Islam is the outsider, the adversary.

Zionism owes its success solely to this unlikely partnership. On their own, the Zionists could not have gone anywhere. They could not have created Israel by bribing or coercing the Ottomans into granting them a charter to colonize Palestine. Despite his offers of loans, investments, technology and diplomatic expertise, Theodore Herzl was repeatedly rebuffed by the Ottoman sultan. It is even less likely that the Zionists could at any time have mobilized a Jewish army in Europe to invade and occupy Palestine, against Ottoman and Arab opposition to the creation of a Jewish entity on Islamic lands.

The Zionist partnership with the West was indispensable for the creation of a Jewish entity. This partnership was also fateful. It produced a powerful new dialectic, which has encouraged Israel, both as the political centre of the Jewish Diaspora and the chief outpost of the West in the heart of the Islamic world, to become more daring in its designs against the Islamic world and beyond.

In turn, a wounded and humiliated Islamic world, more resentful and determined after every defeat, has been driven to embrace increasingly radical ideas and methos to recover its dignity and power and to attain this recovery on the strength of Islamic ideas.

This destabilizing dialectic has now brought the West itself into a direct confrontation against the Islamic world. We are now staring into the precipice. Yet do we possess the will to pull back from it?

Ref: Tehran Times, By M Shahid Alam

M Shahid Alam is a professor of economics at a university in Boston and author of Challenging the New Orientalism: Dissenting Essays on America’s ‘War Against Islam’.

Was Israeli raid a dry run for attack on Iran?

The head of Israel’s airforce, Major-General Eliezer Shkedi, was visiting a base in the coastal city of Herziliya last week. For the 50-year-old general, also the head of Israel’s Iran Command, which would fight a war with Tehran if ordered, it was a morale-boosting affair, a meet-and-greet with pilots and navigators who had flown during last summer’s month-long war against Lebanon. The journalists who had turned out in large numbers were there for another reason: to question Shkedi about a mysterious air raid that happened this month, codenamed ‘Orchard’, carried out deep in Syrian territory by his pilots.

Shkedi ignored all questions. It set a pattern for the days to follow as he and Israel’s politicians and officials maintained a steely silence, even when the questions came from the visiting French Foreign Minister, Bernard Kouchner. Those journalists who thought of reporting the story were discouraged by the threat of Israel’s military censor.
But the rumours were in circulation, not just in Israel but in Washington and elsewhere. In the days that followed, the sketchy details of the raid were accompanied by contradictory claims even as US and British officials admitted knowledge of the raid. The New York Times described the target of the raid as a nuclear site being run in collaboration with North Korean technicians. Others reported that the jets had hit either a Hizbollah convoy, a missile facility or a terrorist camp.

Amid the confusion there were troubling details that chimed uncomfortably with the known facts. Two detachable tanks from an Israeli fighter were found just over the Turkish border. According to Turkish military sources, they belonged to a Raam F15I – the newest generation of Israeli long-range bomber, which has a combat range of over 2,000km when equipped with the drop tanks. This would enable them to reach targets in Iran, leading to speculation that it was an ‘operation rehearsal’ for a raid on Tehran’s nuclear facilities.

Finally, however, at the week’s end, the first few tangible details were beginning to emerge about Operation Orchard from a source involved in the Israeli operation.

They were sketchy, but one thing was absolutely clear. Far from being a minor incursion, the Israeli overflight of Syrian airspace through its ally, Turkey, was a far more major affair involving as many as eight aircraft, including Israel’s most ultra-modern F-15s and F-16s equipped with Maverick missiles and 500lb bombs. Flying among the Israeli fighters at great height, The Observer can reveal, was an ELINT – an electronic intelligence gathering aircraft.

What was becoming clear by this weekend amid much scepticism, largely from sources connected with the administration of President George Bush, was the nature of the allegation, if not the facts.

In a series of piecemeal leaks from US officials that gave the impression of being co-ordinated, a narrative was laid out that combined nuclear skulduggery and the surviving members of the ‘axis of evil’: Iran, North Korea and Syria.

It also combined a series of neoconservative foreign policy concerns: that North Korea was not being properly monitored in the deal struck for its nuclear disarmament and was off-loading its material to Iran and Syria, both of which in turn were helping to rearm Hizbollah.

Underlying all the accusations was a suggestion that recalled the bogus intelligence claims that led to the war against Iraq: that the three countries might be collaborating to supply an unconventional weapon to Hizbollah.

It is not only the raid that is odd but also, ironically, the deliberate air of mystery surrounding it, given Israel’s past history of bragging about similar raids, including an attack on an Iraqi reactor. It was a secrecy so tight, in fact, that even as the Israeli aircrew climbed into the cockpits of their planes they were not told the nature of the target they were being ordered to attack.

According to an intelligence expert quoted in the Washington Post who spoke to aircrew involved in the raid, the target of the attack, revealed only to the pilots while they were in the air, was a northern Syrian facility that was labelled as an agricultural research centre on the Euphrates river, close to the Turkish border.

According to this version of events, a North Korean ship, officially carrying a cargo of cement, docked three days before the raid in the Syrian port of Tartus. That ship was also alleged to be carrying nuclear equipment.

It is an angle that has been pushed hardest by the neoconservative hawk and former US ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton. But others have entered the fray, among them the US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, who, without mentioning Syria by name, suggested to Fox television that the raid was linked to stopping unconventional weapons proliferation.

Most explicit of all was Andrew Semmel, acting deputy assistant Secretary of State for nuclear non-proliferation policy, who, speaking in Rome yesterday, insisted that ‘North Koreans were in Syria’ and that Damascus may have had contacts with ‘secret suppliers’ to obtain nuclear equipment.

‘There are indicators that they do have something going on there,’ he said. ‘We do know that there are a number of foreign technicians that have been in Syria. We do know that there may have been contact between Syria and some secret suppliers for nuclear equipment. Whether anything transpired remains to be seen.

‘So good foreign policy, good national security policy, would suggest that we pay very close attention to that,’ he said. ‘We’re watching very closely. Obviously, the Israelis were watching very closely.’

But despite the heavy inference, no official so far has offered an outright accusation. Instead they have hedged their claims in ifs and buts, assiduously avoiding the term ‘weapons of mass destruction’.

There has also been deep scepticism about the claims from other officials and former officials familiar with both Syria and North Korea. They have pointed out that an almost bankrupt Syria has neither the economic nor the industrial base to support the kind of nuclear programme described, adding that Syria has long rejected going down the nuclear route.

Others have pointed out that North Korea and Syria in any case have also had a long history of close links – making meaningless the claim that the North Koreans are in Syria.

The scepticism was reflected by Bruce Reidel, a former intelligence official at the Brookings Institution’s Saban Centre, quoted in the Post. ‘It was a substantial Israeli operation, but I can’t get a good fix on whether the target was a nuclear thing,’ adding that there was ‘a great deal of scepticism that there’s any nuclear angle here’ and instead the facility could have been related to chemical or biological weapons.

The opaqueness surrounding the nature of what may have been hit in Operation Orchard has been compounded by claims that US knowledge over the alleged ‘agricultural site’ has come not from its own intelligence and satellite imaging, but from material supplied to Washington from Tel Aviv over the last six months, material that has been restricted to just a few senior officials under the instructions of national security adviser Stephen Hadley, leaving many in the intelligence community uncertain of its veracity.

Whatever the truth of the allegations against Syria – and Israel has a long history of employing complex deceptions in its operations – the message being delivered from Tel Aviv is clear: if Syria’s ally, Iran, comes close to acquiring a nuclear weapon, and the world fails to prevent it, either through diplomatic or military means, then Israel will stop it on its own.

So Operation Orchard can be seen as a dry run, a raid using the same heavily modified long-range aircraft, procured specifically from the US with Iran’s nuclear sites in mind. It reminds both Iran and Syria of the supremacy of its aircraft and appears to be designed to deter Syria from getting involved in the event of a raid on Iran – a reminder, if it were required, that if Israel’s ground forces were humiliated in the second Lebanese war its airforce remains potent, powerful and unchallenged.

And, critically, the raid on Syria has come as speculation about a war against Iran has begun to re-emerge after a relatively quiet summer.

With the US keen to push for a third UN Security Council resolution authorising a further tranche of sanctions against Iran, both London and Washington have increased the heat by alleging that they are already fighting ‘a proxy war’ with Tehran in Iraq.

Perhaps more worrying are the well-sourced claims from conservative thinktanks in the US that there have been ‘instructions’ by the office of Vice-President Dick Cheney to roll out support for a war against Iran.

In the end there is no mystery. Only a frightening reminder. In a world of proxy threats and proxy actions, the threat of military action against Iran has far from disappeared from the agenda.

Ref: The Observer

Iraqi oil exports to north rise

Kirkuk, Iraq – A campaign to stop sabotage on the key Iraqi oil pipeline running north from Kirkuk to Turkey has led to sustained oil exports for the first time since the war began, say US officers and Iraqi officials.

Iraq’s state oil company now has 15 million barrels of crude for sale at the Turkish port of Ceyhan this month, the biggest amount at least since the war began. And foreign oil investors are taking notice.

When measured against Iraq’s vast oil reserves (the world’s second largest), the precious crude flowing north these days is modest. But the ability to sell – and generate revenues for the nation – is directly connected to the ability to secure the pipelines. In the first three months of this year, the pipeline from the central Iraqi refinery at Bayji (one of three in Iraq) suffered 30 attacks that caused “significant” financial loses, Iraqi officials say. But in the past six months, there have been fewer than 10 attacks.

The key, says Col. Jack Pritchard, has been the successful training of 3,000 Iraqi soldiers to guard the pipeline. A year ago, when the 3rd battalion of the US Army’s 7th Field Artillery Regiment arrived in Kirkuk, many of the Iraqi guards were suspected of working with insurgents to attack pipelines, says Colonel Pritchard, the battalion commander. The bad apples were replaced, and Iraqi Army units from Baghdad were brought in. The great challenge now for the Iraqis, Pritchard says, lies in “sustaining their army and keeping themselves free of corruption.”

“The benefits that can be gained from Iraq’s oil potential are now starting to exceed the potential costs of instability in the North because the North has shown itself to be more stable over time,” says Steve Yetiv, a professor of political science at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va., and author of “Crude Awakenings: Global Oil Security and American Foreign Policy.”

US units and the Iraqis have also been hard at work building fortifications to make it more difficult to attack the pipeline between Kirkuk and the refinery at Bayji. The 50-mile Bayji to Kirkuk “pipeline exclusion zone” (PEZ) is to be a maze of concertina wire, ditches, high berms, and guard towers.

The “obstacle alone cannot keep people away, but it will slow them down enough so they can be captured,” said Lt. Col. Bob Ruud of the Army Corps of Engineers. .

The pipeline fortifications are scheduled for completion by March at an estimated overall cost of $30 million – about the same as the estimated value of one day’s oil flowing through the Bayji to Kirkuk pipeline. Most of Iraq’s vast pipeline network is above ground. Early in the war, US officials explored the option of burying existing pipeline, but that was found to be too expensive.

But some are skeptical that the pipelines long-term safety is assured. James Paul, executive director of the Global Policy Forum in New York, closely follows the Iraqi oil situation.

While attacks may have gone down on the northern pipeline, Mr. Paul says that the real question is if American and Iraqi security forces can maintain the relative peace. “It’s a matter of whether they can keep this thing going,” he says. “They don’t have a very good record anywhere in the country of maintaining these pipelines.”

“It’s a shell game,” says Paul. He argues that when the US floods an area with troops, the insurgents simply relocate. “The insurgents are not stupid; they don’t do stand-up battles with the United States.”

Iraqi oil officials in Kirkuk say the region’s fields are producing 520,000 barrels a day at the moment, 320,000 of which are piped to Ceyhan on Turkey’s Mediterranean coast. Ministry of Oil officials say current national production is 2.4 million barrels a day – nearly prewar levels – though outside analysts estimate production is close to 2 million barrels.

Iraqi officials say the security improvements in the Kirkuk area could help them lure investment to an industry that is saddled with outdated equipment.

At a recent meeting in Amman, Jordan, Iraqi oil officials discussed the possibility of developing fields in southern Iraq with Chevron, the Kirkuk fields with Shell, and the eastern Baghdad fields with Japex.

The Russian company Ivanov is looking at Ghiada in northwest Iraq, while Conoco Phillips and the Iraqi government’s Northern Oil Company (NOC) have an agreement to share information that could lead to the development of a new field in the Kirkuk area, says Manaa Abdullah, the director general of Northern Oil.

Plans are being discussed to build three new major refineries in the north, center, and south. The intent is to produce 6 million barrels a day, and to export 5.2 million barrels by 2010. The NOC would contribute 1.5 million to 2 million barrels, Mr. Abdullah says.

The greatest obstacle to oil production and oil export in Iraq is security, and then investments, says Abdullah. Iraq’s oil industry needs investment in two areas – rebuilding oil infrastructure now and field development in the future. And this depends on “how companies look at Iraq, because any company wants profit,” he added.

However, oil legislation has been stalled in Iraq’s parliament for over a year, with Kurds, Shiites, and Sunnis fighting to divide the national oil wealth in a manner that favors their ethnic or sectarian interests. In the meantime, the regulatory framework remains unclear to foreign companies.

Iraq’s Oil Minister Hussein Shahristani told Reuters earlier this week that his ministry will start to sign development deals by the end of the year, whether the legislation is finished or not.

But the legal vacuum has already created a great deal of confusion, particularly with the semiautonomous Kurds signing a number of recent oil deals that Mr. Shahristani alleges are illegal. The most prominent of the deals signed with the Kurds was made by Hunt Oil, whose owner, Ray Hunt, has been a key fundraiser for President George Bush.

The deals being made by the Kurds are predicated on the fact that the region is much safer than the rest of the country. But there, too, oil companies should take care, argues Amy Myers Jaffe, energy fellow at the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy at Rice University in Houston.

“The Kurds would like to give the impression that it’s this stable oasis in the state, but it’s much more complicated than that,” says Ms. Jaffe.

Given Turkey’s concerns about a separate Kurdish state, Jaffe says that if the north of Iraq begins to break away from the rest of the country, Turkey, and even Iraq’s south, may not allow the Kurds to export oil through their territories. “If you’re an international oil company, you have to be concerned with the politics of the north,” says Jaffe.

As a member of the Iraq Study Group, Jaffe interviewed people about the Bayji oil refinery nearly a year ago. At the time, the plant was subject to so many attacks that those Jaffe spoke with suggested that the best option would be to close down the refinery. “So if [the security situation there] has changed, it’s a big improvement.”

Ref: Christian Scienece Monitor

In Ahmadinejad’s Iran, Jews still find a space

Enmity runs deep between arch-foes Iran and Israel. And that confrontation complicates the lives of Iranian Jews, who make up the largest community of Jews in the Middle East outside the Jewish state.

Iran’s Jews are buffeted by inflammatory rhetoric from President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad about “wiping Israel off the map” and denying the Holocaust, and a politically charged environment that often equates all Jews with Israel and routinely witnesses the burning of the “enemy” flag.

But despite what appears to be a dwindling minority under constant threat of persecution, Iranian Jews say they live in relative freedom in the Islamic Republic, remain loyal to the land of their birth, and are striving to separate politics from religion.

They caution against comparing Iran’s official and visceral opposition to the creation of Israel and Zionism with the regime’s acceptance of Jews and Judaism itself.

“If you think Judaism and Zionism are one, it is like thinking Islam and the Taliban are the same, and they are not,” says Ciamak Moresadegh, chairman of the Tehran Jewish Committee. “We have common problems with Iranian Muslims. If a war were to start, we would also be a target. When a missile lands, it does not ask if you are a Muslim or a Jew. It lands.”

The continuous Jewish presence in Iran predates Islam by more than a millennium. One wave came when Jews sought to escape Assyrian king Nebuchadnezzar II around 680 BC; others were freed from slavery by Cyrus the Great with the conquest of Babylon some 140 years later.

Anti-Semitism historically ‘rare’

Historically, say Jewish leaders, anti-Semitism here is rare, a fact they say is often lost on critics outside, especially in Israel, where many Iranian Jews have relatives. Still, the Jewish community has thinned by more than two-thirds since Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution, to some 25,000; the largest exodus took place soon after the Islamic Republic was formed, though a modest flow out continues.

“Our problem is that the Israel issue is not solved, and that affects us here,” says one Iranian Jew who asked not to be named.

But that does not affect every Iranian Jew. Surgeon Homayoun Mohaber measures his nationalism in blood, and bits of metal – the kind of support that Iranian Jews say has defined their small community’s ties to Iran.

During the Iran-Iraq War of the 1980s, as an Iranian military surgeon, Dr. Mohaber conducted more than 900 frontline operations, was himself wounded, and gave blood twice to save fellow Iranian soldiers.

Today, in his Tehran clinic, he keeps a jar full of bullets and shrapnel fragments, extracted during the war from wounded soldiers.

“The relations between Jews and Muslims, between 70 million Muslims and 30,000 Jews, are very good,” says Mohaber. “In Israel, the situation for Iranian Jews is quite misunderstood.”

“[The Islamic regime] made very good respect for me all the time, and did not care about my religion after the revolution,” says Mohaber, who avoided a general purge of Jews from the officer ranks after Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution.

But some episodes have shaken those who remain. In 1999, charges of spying for Israel were brought against 13 Jews in Shiraz and Isfahan, sparking a new exodus and widespread fear.

Amid a welter of international criticism, 10 of those charged were handed sentences – later shortened – that ranged from four to 13 years in prison.

Jews in Tehran at the time told the Monitor of their fears that “Zionist groups connected with the US” were hurting their cause by using the issue against Iran. Today, all 13 are free, and remain living in Iran.

“The effect [of the Shiraz cases] was very bad,” recalls Mohaber. “But they have rectified it. I think it was a political case between Iran and Israel.”

Fine line between faith and politics

The saga underscored the delicate line Iranian Jews draw daily between their religion and politics. Outside Iran, “they think our condition is very bad, living as a minority in a religious country, with law based on Islamic law,” says Mr. Moresadegh, of the Jewish Committee.

He notes “some difficulties,” including restrictions on government employment, but says that Mr. Ahmadinejad’s questioning of the Holocaust, while very unwelcome, “has no effect on our daily life.” The president’s fierce anti-Zionist speeches culminated with Iran hosting a controversial Holocaust conference last December.

“It is quite clear that a bunch of Zionist racists are the problem the modern world is facing today,” the president said in his Iranian New Year message on March 21. They aim “to keep the world in a state of hardship, poverty, and grudge and strengthen their rule. The great nation of Iran is opposed to this inhuman trend.”

The Iranian Foreign Ministry recently facilitated a day-long visit to significant Jewish sites in Tehran for the diplomatic corps. Privately, Iranian officials said the event was designed to reassure Iranian Jews, after unease over the December conference.

Jewish leaders portrayed themselves as ordinary Iranians, facing the same problems and with the same aspirations for their nation.

“The Jewish community was probably one of the first [minority groups] to join in with the revolution, and in this way gave many martyrs,” Maurice Motamed, holder of the one seat set aside for Jews in Iran’s 290-seat parliament, told the diplomats. “And after that, during the eight years of the imposed [Iran-Iraq] war, there were many martyrs and disabled given to Iranian society.”

“Every revolution is followed by some issues, problems, and restrictions [on minorities],” said Mr. Motamed. “Fortunately, all these effects have been completely removed in the last ten years.”

The diplomatic tour – with a number of Foreign Affairs Ministry officials – visited a Jewish school, a home for the elderly, a community center, and one of 100 synagogues left from Iran, during Friday Sabbath prayers.

“We have obviously had migration out of Iran,” says Afshin Seleh, a teacher of Jewish heritage with a white yarmulke skullcap, who says he loses two to three students per year in classes of up to 30. Upon the walls of the Jewish school are portraits of revolution leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, and Iran’s current supreme religious leader.

“There have been different voices [coming] from the government, so people felt unsafe,” says Mr. Seleh. “But our existence here has always been separate from politics in Iran, and we always had peaceful coexistence with the Muslim community.”

Part of that coexistence has been gratitude for the Dr. Sapir Hospital, a Jewish charity hospital that would have closed years ago, but for subsidies from Jews inside and outside Iran, doctors say.

During the 1979 revolution, the hospital refused to hand over those wounded in clashes with the security forces of the pro-West Shah Reza Pahlavi. Ayatollah Khomeini later sent a personal representative to express his thanks. Ahmadinejad, too, has made a $27,000 donation.

Still, the Iran-Israel standoff has spilled over into many avenues of life here, with varied results for Iranian Jews.

Strong anti-Zionist undercurrents developed in Iran – and across the Middle East – since Israel’s creation in 1948. Those views came to a boil in Tehran after the 1967 war, when Israel crushed Arab foes and occupied the West Bank, Gaza, and Sinai. That war marked a turning point in Iranians’ attitudes toward the Jewish state, and sometimes toward Iranian Jews.

During the Asian Cup final in 1968 (which Iran won, 2-1) Iranian fans wore eye patches and chanted abusive slogans, to mock the Israeli defense chief Moshe Dayan. According to published reminiscences, “some homes of Jews in Tehran were attacked and set on fire.”

In a match-up between Iran and Israel in the final of the 1974 Asian Games in Tehran, protesters against Israel, members of then-shadowy Islamic groups, prepared to attack the Israeli soccer team.

“Our aim and dream,” recalls Ezat Shahi, identified as a “revolutionary fighter” in recently published memoirs, “was to create an event similar to the 1972 Munich Olympics, when the Israeli team was taken hostage by Palestinian gunmen from “Black September,” in a standoff that left 11 Israeli athletes dead.

Security measures forced protesters to scale back those plans, but rioting broke out that night.

“On that night, [the authorities] couldn‚t prevent people from doing what they wanted,” says a witness who asked not to be named. “As soon as Israel expanded its power [in the 1967 war] and oppressed the Palestinians, even the liberal part of Iranian society started to call them Zionists.” Those flames, encouraged by Islamist groups that would play a key role in the 1979 revolution, helped define the Islamic Republic’s opposition to Israel – but not necessarily to Iranian Jews.

“There is always [talk] outside the country that religious minorities are under pressure,” says Mr. Motamed. “It is important to say that what people say about minorities is completely wrong,”

“Jews here have great Iranian roots – they love Iran,” says chairman Moresadegh. “Personally, I would stay in Iran no matter what. I speak in English, I pray in Hebrew, but my thinking is Persian.”

For one Iranian Olympian, national pride trumped medal dreams

TEHRAN, Iran – Pausing during a workout, Iran’s judo ace Arash Miresmaeli speaks of past broken dreams, and his future ones.

“All the hopes and wishes of an athlete are for an Olympic medal,” says the lithe double world champion. “Every athlete would withstand the hardest practice, to the point of death, for Olympic gold.”

Mr. Miresmaeli paid one price, training hard enough to put himself in medal contention at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens. But one round required competing against an athlete from Israel – a sworn enemy of Iran.

So the Iranian felt he had no choice but to pay another heartbreaking and controversial price: He pulled out of the games, and reset his medal dreams to Beijing in 2008.

That decision cast a stark light on the standoff between Iran and Israel, and how it can color every aspect of potential contact. Even as it was officially lauded in Iran, the decision was decried in Israel and the West as an unsavory mixing of politics and sport.

“When I am sent to another country [to compete], I am a symbol of my people and my nation,” says Miresmaeli, his cauliflower ears testament to years in the sport. “When this decision is made, it should be for a nation, not a person … for the principles of my country.”

“Muslims of the world are all brothers. When one brother is oppressed, all Muslims unite to support that person,” says Miresmaeli. “This was a good move to show the world there is an oppressed people in Palestine being killed, innocently.”

The judo champion returned home a hero, feted by the regime as if he had won gold. Today, a banner over the mats of the national judo team heralds Miresmaeli as an “envoy of the revolution,” and shows him receiving an embrace from Iran’s supreme religious leader, Ayatollah Sayed Ali Khamenei.

It reads: “This kiss and hundreds of others we offer to you.”

Ref: Christian Science Monitor

Debating Ahmadinejad at Columbia

A tall man with white hair, wearing a US-flag print shirt and pants, patrolled the sidewalk at 116th and Broadway. He waved a huge American flag as he marched, in movements that were nearly metronomic in their consistency. Stacks of brochures sat on a bare and rickety table, waiting to be handed out to anyone who didn’t look away quickly enough. Bystanders stared.

I hadn’t been back to my former school almost since I graduated. Returning as an alumna of the School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA), the school that sponsored Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s talk here on Monday, I felt the puff of pride that Columbia had not backed down in the face of media pressure. I also felt just a little bit cheated that it was happening now, when I was attending as an outsider, rather than the first time his talk had been announced, in 2006, when I was still a sleep-deprived student.

The police officers stationed in and around the university, beginning at the platform of the subway that I had taken to get there, looked at everyone suspiciously. Women in dark, severe suits monitored the entry of the press, taking signatures and examining credentials. Everywhere, people in uniforms directed the human traffic and at certain entrances demanded identification. Fliers lined the walkway to the main quadrangle and littered the brick paths. Students milled around the campus, talking excitedly in tight groups or listening to the speakers outside Low Library. Homemade placards offered silent counterpoint to some of the speeches delivered at the podium. “Ahmadinejad Is not Iran Just Like Bush Is not America,” said one. “We Say No to War on Iran,” proclaimed another. And a third, my favorite, in black paint on a wood sheet: “Free Speech for All, Even Douche Bags.”

Debating Ahmadinejad at Columbia

Jayati Vora

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Web Letters (16)

A tall man with white hair, wearing a US-flag print shirt and pants, patrolled the sidewalk at 116th and Broadway. He waved a huge American flag as he marched, in movements that were nearly metronomic in their consistency. Stacks of brochures sat on a bare and rickety table, waiting to be handed out to anyone who didn’t look away quickly enough. Bystanders stared.

I hadn’t been back to my former school almost since I graduated. Returning as an alumna of the School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA), the school that sponsored Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s talk here on Monday, I felt the puff of pride that Columbia had not backed down in the face of media pressure. I also felt just a little bit cheated that it was happening now, when I was attending as an outsider, rather than the first time his talk had been announced, in 2006, when I was still a sleep-deprived student.

The police officers stationed in and around the university, beginning at the platform of the subway that I had taken to get there, looked at everyone suspiciously. Women in dark, severe suits monitored the entry of the press, taking signatures and examining credentials. Everywhere, people in uniforms directed the human traffic and at certain entrances demanded identification. Fliers lined the walkway to the main quadrangle and littered the brick paths. Students milled around the campus, talking excitedly in tight groups or listening to the speakers outside Low Library. Homemade placards offered silent counterpoint to some of the speeches delivered at the podium. “Ahmadinejad Is not Iran Just Like Bush Is not America,” said one. “We Say No to War on Iran,” proclaimed another. And a third, my favorite, in black paint on a wood sheet: “Free Speech for All, Even Douche Bags.”

Representatives of various organizations were eloquent in their denunciation of Ahmadinejad’s professed views on Israel and the treatment of women and homosexuals in Iran, yet many supported his right to speak at the university. Many declared that they had never felt prouder to be associated with Columbia. Some said that they had never felt more ashamed.

Matteen Mokalla, an Iranian-American student at SIPA studying the Middle East, spoke of the mood on campus. “Before the talk, the entire campus was electrified,” he said. “Everybody was talking about it. When we were standing in line, we joked, ‘Is this the line for the Rolling Stones?’ Because it felt like that.”

But that pride and excitement was tarnished by the opening remarks of Columbia President Lee Bollinger. In his statement, combative and unduly vicious, Bollinger accused his invited guest of being nothing more than a “petty and cruel dictator,” of having a “fanatical mindset.” He claimed that this exercise was valuable in knowing one’s enemies and understanding “the mind of evil.”

These words were prefaced by his describing the invitation to Ahmadinejad as the “right thing to do.” As abhorrent as Bollinger’s parroting of Bushisms is, the invite was the right thing to do. Not because the Iranian president has a right to share some of his more odious views but because of “our right to listen. We do it for ourselves.”

But where were all these references to freedom of speech just last year, when Bollinger first endorsed, then rescinded, the SIPA invitation to Ahmadinejad? Then-SIPA dean Lisa Anderson had invited the Iranian leader to give a lecture. Bollinger has claimed that the invitation was taken back because he wasn’t sure that the exchange would reflect the “academic values” that the platform stood for. He also called Ahmadinejad’s views “repugnant.” Campus gossip, however, put the reason as outside pressure. What else could it have been, the whispers went, when the university president at first endorsed Dean Anderson’s invite but backed off the next day?

That’s why it was all the more disappointing when students showed up to hear their president uphold all the values of free speech in the face of withering media criticism–only to hear him stoop to name-calling.

“Bollinger’s remarks were uncalled for,” said Julie Payne, a second-year SIPA student and co-editor of SIPA’s student newspaper, Communique. “There was no need for a fifteen-minute tirade, nor for using some of the adjectives he did. Everyone disagrees with [Ahmadinejad’s] rhetoric, but debate shouldn’t be so debased by using that language.” Bollinger’s opening remarks changed the nature of the discussion at Columbia. After the talk, said Mokalla, “the discussion was not about Ahmadinejad at all. Bollinger was outrageous. If he feels this way about him, why invite this man? Twenty of us were talking about it for two hours afterward. It was a bit embarrassing because he sounded like President Bush or like a neoconservative ideologue.”

Bollinger’s comments were radically different from other introductions he has given in the course of the World Leaders Forum, an annual cluster of talks hosted by Columbia, where visiting heads of state are invited to address students on campus.

I remember attending a similar lecture two years ago, in the fall of 2005, in my first semester as a SIPA student. It was a talk by Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, a leader closer to my home country. As one of many Indian students at the event, I burned with questions I was dying to pose about democracy, women’s rights and peace with India.

Then, as yesterday, we arrived more than an hour in advance. On each of our seats was a pamphlet with a brief history of the leader. I was astonished to find that, according to his biography, Musharraf “assumed the office of chief executive of Pakistan in October 1999.” There was no mention of the coup through which Musharraf seized power. Not once did Bollinger refer to the military man, who had overthrown the elected government and then refused to hold elections as promised, as a dictator–a word he seemed to have no problem using to describe Ahmadinejad. The question of how Musharraf “assumed office” was delicately avoided, a diplomatic skill that has clearly been forgotten in these two intervening years. No one seemed curious to know how Musharraf’s rhetoric about democracy fit in with his continued reign as a dictator–at least, no one with access to a mike.

Neither Bollinger nor the press has been so forgiving of Ahmadinejad. He has been attacked in all quarters–from the front pages of New York’s daily newspapers to the sidewalks outside Columbia’s main gates to the podium where he was invited to speak. He has been called “thug,” “madman,” “tyrant,” “dictator” and more. And in this volley of words, an important opportunity was lost.

Sitting with a bunch of his Iranian friends on the lawn with the thousands who couldn’t get into the lecture hall, Bill Berkeley professed himself disappointed with the direction of the debate. An adjunct professor at Columbia’s School of Journalism, Berkeley is the author of a book on Rwanda and is currently at work on another on Iran. “I didn’t feel the discussion moved forward,” he said.

For in the melee of questions about the Holocaust and wiping Israel off the map, Ahmadinejad got off with mouthing generalities about loving all nations and admitting that the Holocaust had indeed taken place. (“Given that the Holocaust is a present reality of our time,” said the Iranian president, “we should have research to approach this from different perspectives.”) He got a free pass on issues that many Iranians would have liked to see raised, such as women’s rights, homosexuality (according to Ahmadinejad, homosexuals simply do not exist in Iran) and the misdeeds of the Revolutionary Guard.

Iranian SIPA student Hani Mansourian knows what his question would have been. “I would have asked him, ‘If you support a referendum in Palestine, and if you say that women are free in Iran, why don’t you hold a referendum in Iran and ask women whether they want to wear the hijab or not?'” For all his evasion of questions posed to him, on some points Ahmadinejad was eloquent and passionate. His support for the Palestinian people dominated the speech. “For sixty years, these people are being killed. For sixty years, on a daily basis, there’s conflict and terror. For sixty years, innocent women and children are destroyed and killed by helicopters and airplanes that break the house over their heads.”

He was persuasive when it came to Iran’s nuclear policy. Recalling the after-effects of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, he asked, “What can a perpetual nuclear umbrella threat achieve for the sake of humanity?”

In this face-off between Bollinger’s prefacing remarks and Ahmadinejad’s speech, the university president “made Ahmadinejad look the winner,” said Mansourian, “and that’s not what I wanted.” The Iranian, like the rest of us, wanted a real debate, one in which Bollinger would practice what he had preached the previous year in a campus-wide e-mail to students.

“In a society committed to free speech,” it had said, “there will inevitably be times when speakers use words that anger, provoke, and even cause pain. Then, more than ever, we are called on to maintain our courage to confront bad words with better words.”

Sadly, what Bollinger had in his arsenal were not better words but Bush’s words.

Ref: the Nation

Also read iranian-university-chancellors-ask-bollinger-10-questions

Que la guerra no nos sea indiferente

Hace poco más de una semana que inició la guerra en Medio Oriente. Cuando uno se encuentra tan lejos de esta región, puede parecer difícil acercarse a este conflicto que ha superado en el tiempo tantos intentos de negociación y acuerdos de paz fracasados. Pero después de tanto que hemos visto y leído y escuchado, no podemos dejar que el silencio se instale y seamos cómplices de esta guerra, que después de todo, también nos pertenece. Fue la llamada comunidad internacional quien decidió y avaló esas fronteras que hoy nos hablan con autoridad de bombas. La misma, por cierto, que hoy da la espalda a la población libanesa y Palestina y se limita a la evacuación de sus nacionales. Pero nos pertenece principalmente porque cualquier guerra, aunque esté dirigida lejos de nosotros, es el fracaso de todos, el suicidio de la humanidad. Y cuantas veces nos hemos matado y sin embargo siempre es necesario que la guerra no nos sea indiferente.

Lo que pasa en el Medio Oriente nos debe preocupar. Para muchos la sola palabra suena a lejanía. Pero la guerra tiene el mismo rostro en todas partes. Las victimas son siempre las mismas, la gente ordinaria que como usted y yo no quiere guerra ni sufrimiento. Hoy he llorado mientras leía a una periodista española que escribe desde el Líbano. Sus artículos no son sobre la política israelí o la actividad de Hamás y Hezbolá, sino única y decididamente sobre las personas que sufren esta guerra. En su último artículo ha hablado sobre las mujeres del Líbano (¡Salvadlas! clama), que como todas las mujeres que son madres, hermanas, esposas y amigas, se empeñan en sobrevivir y proteger a sus seres queridos. Se empeñan en preguntar a la occidental “de la cámara” no ya porque les hacen esto, sino lo que es peor aún, porque nadie hace nada. Muchos también de Occidente, nos preguntamos lo mismo.

Sé que algunos no se asombran, es solo cuestión de tiempo para que un conflicto latente se desate. También sé que hay muchos actores involucrados en este conflicto, y no solamente los que aparecen en las noticias. Pero hay que decir dos cosas claramente, silenciadas con la complicidad de los medios de comunicación: Primero, existe una noción racista que otorga más importancia a las vidas israelíes que a las árabes. Nadie habla sobre los palestinos encarcelados por Israel, aunque entre ellos se encuentren civiles y sobrepasen varias decenas. ¿Pero como saberlo con exactitud? ¿Como saber en que condiciones se encuentran? En cambio sabemos la historia del soldado israelí capturado por Hamás (hemos visto su foto, sabemos su historia, su edad, su vida) y sabemos también de los otros dos soldados capturados por Hezbolá y de los ocho que murieron por sus bombas. ¿Y los palestinos? ¿Quien puede negar que sepamos mucho del drama Israelí y poco del drama palestino? La población civil en Gaza continúa muriendo, desangrándose poco a poco. La sola presentación inicial del conflicto en los medios de comunicación como “el problema palestino” y los “ataques a Israel”, nos muestran la parcialización internacional sobre lo que pasa en esa zona. En segundo lugar, hay que decir que Israel no entró a esta guerra sin haberla planificado o sin prever las consecuencias. Hay un cálculo para liquidar a los adversarios y no existe ningún otro país que cuente con el apoyo ilimitado de la principal potencia militar del mundo.

Las últimas noticias que tenemos sobre lo que ocurre pueden resumirse así: Hezbolá sostiene que los intentos de negociación están parcializados a favor de Israel y que no los aceptará por eso. Hamás, atacado por todos los flancos posibles incluyendo ministerios y edificios civiles, continúa pidiendo el intercambio de palestinos encarcelados a cambio del soldado capturado. Israel dice que esto continuará al menos unas semanas mas, aunque el ministro de Seguridad Interior Abi Dijter dijo esta tarde (martes 18 de Julio) que Israel debería considerar cambiar a los “terroristas” encarcelados por los soldados secuestrados. Mientras tanto por primera vez las tropas entraron al Líbano para atacar los puntos estratégicos de Hezbolá (en los que han muertos civiles) y continúan los bombardeos sobre Beirut. Los miembros de la Liga Árabe sostienen que el proceso de paz para Cisjordania está muerto. El propio ex ministro de Relaciones Exteriores de Israel, Shlomo Ben-Am, sostiene que el plan de la derecha israelí, y por tanto del gobierno de los Estados Unidos, ha fracasado ¿Y la opinión pública? En Israel la gran mayoría aprueba lo que el gobierno está haciendo (aunque siempre hay sectores críticos) y según este mismo ministro, están más convencidos que nunca de que la acción unilateral en Gaza, que consistió en remover a unos 8.000 colonos, ha sido un error (El país, martes 18 de Julio). Así que Cisjordania, con sus más de 200.000 colonos que no cesan de aumentar (sin contar otros más de 200.000 en Jerusalén Este anexionada por Israel y considerada por la comunidad internacional territorio palestino) parece hoy un tema imposible. ¿Y la gente? En Líbano han muerto 300 personas, casi todas civiles según nos informa Aljazeera y el propio primer ministro libanés. Y esto seguirá sumando. Y nosotros seguiremos repitiendo cifras como si se tratara de algo abstracto. Los daños materiales y psicológicos para el Líbano, son incalculables.

En general, nos dicen, hay que intentar pensar el conflicto en términos políticos. Por un lado, la captura de dos soldados israelíes por Hezbolá es un buen pretexto para tratar de liquidar a esta organización. Mientras que Hezbolá no encuentra mejor momento que el ataque israelí a Gaza para utilizar la causa palestina a su favor y la indignación general, que con justa razón, ya desborda.

Mientras tanto los países occidentales hablan de la “desproporcionada reacción israelí”. Pero al final la terminan justificando a partir de la “declaración de guerra” hecha por Hezbolá y Hamás al atacar sus puestos de mando y capturar a sus soldados. Sin embargo, no nos recuerdan de la ocupación Israelí del territorio palestino y libanés, una política que solo puede llamarse colonialista, ni de los tantos capturados en la frontera que ellos controlan de manera arbitraria. Tampoco mencionan que las amenazas de Hezbolá no son nuevas, y que dada la intransigencia israelí de no negociar a los prisioneros libaneses (entre ellos se denuncian civiles), han capturado -con previo anuncio y repetido muchas veces- soldados de Israel para poder canjearlos. Como nos recuerda el profesor As’ad AbuKhalil, no podemos pensar ingenuamente que Israel ha sido tomado por sorpresa. La guerra de hoy es una decisión política calculada para acabar definitivamente con Hezbolá, que es apoyado por Siria e Irán y organización vetada por las Naciones Unidas, pero los muertos han sido puestos como siempre por la población civil.

Ahora, uno podría pensar que el vencedor es siempre el más grande y fuerte, es decir el que tiene las armas más potentes. Pero la lógica de la guerra es mas bien una trampa mortal que solo se abre para tragar mas cuerpos. Matar hombres, solo trae matar a más, nos recuerda Camus. En este caso, ninguna de las partes involucradas puede “vencer al otro” por las armas. Porque matar no es vencer, la desaparición del “otro” no nos puede dar la victoria sobre algo que ya no existe. Cuando se mata es porque en el fondo se reconoce que no es posible vencer aquello que mueve al adversario, es decir la idea, y por tanto se terminan matando inútilmente al cuerpo. A muchos cuerpos. Pero la política israelí no acabará con la muerte de sus soldados, tampoco es matando a Hamás o a Hezbolá como Israel acabará con la oposición del medio Oriente. Las razones que dan origen a su existencia, la de Hamás que llegó al poder por las urnas y un Hezbolá con representación política en el parlamento libanés (las únicas dos democracias de esta región, según los parámetros occidentales) no pueden pasar desapercibidas. Israel tiene que mirarse al espejo.

Nosotros, aunque sepamos o entendamos de manera muy limitada este conflicto, no podemos pasar por alto este tipo de reflexiones. Es cierto que estos grupos radicales no representan la tolerancia que se necesita para la existencia y convivencia en esa zona, pero también es cierto que el extremismo de Israel tampoco representa el modelo de tolerancia necesario. Escuchar hablar a funcionarios de ese gobierno que lamentablemente representan el sentir de gran parte de la población, es escalofriante. El derecho de existir de Israel, no está por encima del derecho de existencia de Palestina. La agresión del Estado de Israel fomenta un Hezbolá y un Oriente Medio dispuesto a extender este conflicto. Propicia además la intervención directa de Siria e Irán y la intervención de Estados Unidos – con su justificación para entrar en guerra con Irán- lo que no traería otra cosa más que desastres.

Por tanto, el balance final para las partes involucradas es de suma-cero. Líbano queda en evidencia como Estado sin posibilidad ni capacidad de defensa frente a Israel ni de control sobre Hezbolá. En el fuego cruzado está la gente. Un Hamás sin la fuerza de Hezbolá y que ganará más adeptos en el pueblo palestino y otros grupos en la región por la insostenible política y violencia de Israel. Mientras que este último demuestra una vez más su arrogancia frente al resto de la humanidad, que ya está desgraciadamente familiarizada con su desprecio por el derecho internacional y su política de ocupación y colonización en Palestina. Pero Israel también pierde. Hoy su legitimidad es únicamente la superioridad de sus armas y el apoyo de la primera potencia militar del mundo. No la superioridad de una causa o de un legado histórico. Esto lo reconocen en silencio inclusive quienes han apoyado a Israel en sus lamentables y repulsivas acciones. Y aunque me gustaría pensar que la tolerancia de esta desafortunada democracia ambigua y arbitraria en la que vivimos hoy es limitada y llega hasta aquí, sé que la violencia del absurdo seguirá y que la paz será la imposición y no la paz. La imposición de lo injustificable que contará como siempre, con la complicidad de las potencias internacionales incluida esta Europa, cuya clase política cada vez tiene menos que enseñarnos sobre el valor de los principios o la democracia.

Como me recuerda un colega, mientras los Estados Unidos hacen la cocina, los europeos lavan los platos y la ONU saca la basura. ¿Y nosotros? nosotros nos envenenamos de tanto podrido. Es por eso que escribo hoy. Lo mío es un intento de explicar racionalmente algo que no quiero: esta terrible guerra que no parece tener fin. En el fondo escribo pensando en todos aquellos que sufren este conflicto desde hace mucho tiempo y que seguramente sufrirán mañana. Ya sé que hay otras guerras de baja cobertura mediática como los conflictos civiles que han desangrado África, Asia y América Latina. El hambre y la pobreza son también una guerra permanente y silenciosa que reclaman ya tantos muertos. Irak nos enseñó que hoy las potencias pueden invadir un Estado con plena impunidad. Pero me resisto al silencio. Me resisto a que el futuro me sea indiferente. Por la gente de a pie a la que se le corta la vida entre las balas. Por todos los que sufren o sufrieron la guerra alguna vez. Hoy es uno de esos días, en que la guerra, como nos dice la canción, no nos puede ser indiferente.

Ref: By Yálani Zamora
www.nicaraguita.org

Julio 22, 2006.
Salamanca, España.

Norman Finkelstein & Former Israeli Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami Debate: Complete Transcript

LISTEN TO MP3 AUDIO of this discussion!!!

We turn now to one of the longest running and most bitter conflicts in modern history: Israel and the Palestinians. Well over a decade has passed since the historic Oslo Accords that brought hopes for a lasting peace. Today, relations between the Israeli government and Palestinian Authority are virtually nonexistent. Israel and the P.A. have not held final status peace talks in over five years. With the recent election of Hamas, Israel says it will cut off all ties to any Palestinian government that includes the group. After the election Israel withheld tax funds it collects on behalf of the Palestinian Authority. It finally transferred the funds but says any Hamas-led Palestinian government will get, quote, “not even one shekel.” That’s, well, a dime in the United States.

The Palestinian Authority is on the brink of financial disaster. This week, the P.A. announced it will be unable to issue paychecks to its more than 130,000 employees. It’s the largest employer in the Occupied Territories. Hamas’s victory is seen as, in part, as a reaction to what many Palestinians see as the corruption of the old guard. An internal Palestinian inquiry has found at least $700 million has been stolen from Palestinian public funds due to corruption in the last few years. The total figure could be billions more.

Meanwhile, the Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank continue to expand. The Israeli group Peace Now reported 12,000 new residents moved into West Bank settlements in 2005, 3,000 more than the total number removed as part of Israel’s disengagement from the Gaza Strip, and construction continues in settlements located both inside and outside the route of Israel’s separation barrier.

Today, we bring you a discussion with two of the world’s leading experts on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Both of them have new books on the subject. We’re joined by Shlomo Ben-Ami, both an insider and a scholar. As Foreign Minister under Ehud Barak, he was a key participant in years of Israel-Palestinian peace talks, including the Camp David and Taba talks in 2000 and 2001. An Oxford-trained historian, he is currently Vice President of the Toledo Peace Centre in Madrid. His new book is called Scars of War, Wounds of Peace: The Israeli-Arab Tragedy. President Bill Clinton says, quote, “Shlomo Ben-Ami worked tirelessly and courageously for peace. His account of what he did and failed to do and where we go from here should be read by everyone who wants a just and lasting resolution.

We’re also joined by Norman Finkelstein. He’s a professor of political science at DePaul University. His books include A Nation on Trial, which he coauthored with Ruth Bettina Birn, named as a New York Times notable book for 1998. He’s also the author of Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict and The Holocaust Industry. His latest book is Beyond Chutzpah: On the Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History. His website is NormanFinkelstein.com. Avi Shlaim of Oxford University calls Beyond Chutzpah “Brilliantly illuminating… On display are all the sterling qualities for which Finkelstein has become famous: erudition, originality, spark, meticulous attention to detail, intellectual integrity, courage, and formidable forensic skills.”

We welcome you both to Democracy Now! It’s very good to have you with us. Well, I want to start going back to the establishment of the state of Israel, and I’d like to begin with Israel’s former Foreign Minister, Shlomo Ben-Ami. Can you talk about how it began? I think you have a very interesting discussion in this book that is rarely seen in this country of how the state of Israel was established. Can you describe the circumstances?

Ref: Democracy Now!

Shlomo ben am
Scars Of War, Wounds Of Peace : The Israeli-Arab Tragedy

Scars Of War, Wounds Of Peace : The Israeli-Arab Tragedy