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October 18, 2016

Miko Peled : few days in Palestine

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It’s only been a few days since I arrived in Palestine so not much has happened. Well, relatively speaking not much. I was traveling to Nabi Saleh to see my friend Bassem Tamimi. Since I didn’t have a car I had to travel by bus through Qalandia checkpoint to Ramallah then by service cab to the village and back – and on the way back, the girl soldier put down her phone long enough to examine my ID, realize I was Israeli and detain me. Then the next day, I went to the epic “Combat BDS” conference also known as, or rather should be known as “Crazy & Loony Bros. How Do We Kill BDS Circus” in Jerusalem. It was an unforgettable experience. And now, as I sit and write this, a soldier is being tried for murder because he shot a Palestinian who was already dead. So its not the soldier that shot and murdered the young Palestinian that’s on trial, it’s the soldier that shot him for fun after he lay dead, or nearly dead on the ground, ignored by several Israeli ambulances that were driving around him – that’s the soldier that’s being tried. But, as I said, it’s only been a few days.

I grew up here and when I come here I live in the home and in the room where I grew up. Very little has changed in Motza Elite, a quiet and disorganized little place where for the most part houses are surrounded by trees and vegetation. Sure, the trees are taller, their trunks thicker, but it is still a quiet, beautiful little place with no soldiers, police or border guards and of course, no Arabs. It is the perfect white, Jewish, privileged community and it is the perfect place to get away from it all, or as most people who live here do, ignore any of it exists. “It” is the rest of Palestine.

*

I will start with what seems to me the most bizarre thing going on at this moment. Two young Palestinians, who attacked fully armed soldiers using knives, were killed. Ambulances are on the scene taking care of the soldiers who were slightly wounded and they drive around the bodies of the young Palestinians. Suddenly a shot is heard. A soldier who was not on the scene originally decides to shoot one of the Palestinians lying on the ground, motionless, in the head. He claims he saw some movement and was concerned the victim on the ground might detonate a bomb. Now for some reason this soldier is charged with murder.

*

It’s a good idea from time to time to travel around the country as Palestinians do. Use buses, service cabs and go through checkpoints. It’s inconvenient, takes a lot of time and is totally unpredictable. So that’s what we did. Fadwa, my better half and I took a bus to East Jerusalem then another bus to Ramallah where we met Bassem Tamimi. We had coffee at “Stars and Bucks Café” and then the three of us took a service cab to Nabi Saleh. Bassem was supposed to be in the US now on a speaking tour. This would have been his third tour since receiving his visa to the US. But suddenly, with no real explanation and no apparent reason he got notice that his visa has been revoked. So American audiences were denied the chance to hear him and he remains here in Palestine trying to help the nearly twenty youth from Nabi Saleh, who are in prison, including his son Wa’ed.

We arrived in Nabi Saleh, spent the afternoon there and then returned to Jerusalem. We took a service cab to Ramallah, a cab to the checkpoint, tried to find our way through the maze that makes up the checkpoint, and thankfully the Palestinian vendors outside pointed us in the right direction. The soldier behind the window rarely takes the trouble to lift their eyes when the ID is presented. So, I press my ID against the window expecting to be waved through when something caught her eye long enough for her to see that mine was an Israeli ID. With nothing better to do she decided to look into this strange phenomenon, an Israeli coming through a Palestinian checkpoint. Thinking I was probably some kind of “human rights” agitator or something she called me from inside, “Are you with human rights?”

MORE…
“ISRAEL IS FIGHTING FOR YOU”: EXPOSING THE FALSEHOODS IN THE RECENT AND RENEWED ZIONIST PROPAGANDA TECHNIQUE AGAINST THE PALESTINIAN STRUGGLE FOR JUSTICE
G4S CONCEDES TO BDS PRESSURE; SET TO LEAVE ISRAEL
WITCH-HUNTING FOR ISRAEL
MORE ON ISRAEL’S COMBATING BDS
“No.”

“Are you with B’Tselem”

“No.”

“Don’t you know Jews are not allowed to cross here?

“No.”

“What were you doing in Ramallah?”

“We bought strawberries, and had coffee.”

Fadwa is not the problem because she is not Jewish. I am the problem. Still they ask her the same questions and we are “invited” in to a waiting room and sit down.

We sit and wait. The room is maybe three feet by three feet and its freezing cold. We start looking at the graffiti in Arabic that is engraved into the walls. Ten minutes go by and nothing happens.

“What are we waiting for?”

“The police are on their way?’

“What for”

“To question you?”

“Why?”

“There is an order from the colonel or general that prohibits Jews from crossing here.”

She should read my book, The General’s Son, Journey of an Israeli in Palestine, there is a chapter called, The Commanding General’s Order.

“OK, we wont do it again.”

“The police will be here any minute.”

We wait ten more minutes and the same conversation takes place, then again and again about every ten minutes. Finally, she hands me my ID and says, “You can go now.” No explanation, no nothing.

*

It was a cold, rainy day as thousands entered the convention center in Jerusalem. Fresh coffee, sandwiches and pastries were free, security was tight and I tried to make myself as un-noticeable as possible. “Just blend in,” I thought to myself when I heard someone say, “look that’s Miko Peled.” Crap! Not the place I want to be recognized. Every kind of Israeli crazy was there. I look over, and it’s Anthony Lowenstein, the Auzzie journalist and Dan Cohen, an American journalist. Both are crazy Jews like me who came to see this circus. We sat down and then it started. The world’s most self-absorbed, self-righteous and criminally insane society was putting on a show, with its best actors playing lead roles. This was the “How To Combat BDS” conference, put on by Israel’s largest newspaper, Yediot Aharonot.

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin was up first. Israel could hardly have selected a better-suited man for the job of representing the state and the people of Israel. Rivlin is a white, European colonizer, constantly patting Israel and himself on the back for being a liberal democratic melting pot. “BDS foundation is de-legitimization of Israel without connection to what Israel does” President Rivlin said and he added that “the world is in awe of Israeli exceptionalism.” He ended his remarks by saying that he sleeps better than ever knowing the Israeli army is the most moral army on earth. Talk about “opium to the masses.”

Anthony Lowenstein wrote a piece about the conference everyone should read, but here is quick review of some of my favorite highlights: Gilad Erdan minister of public security, strategic affairs and Hasbarah (all that is one ministerial office) who has been designated as lead role in the fight against BDS said that it’s all about legitimacy. Indeed this is about legitimacy. Everything Israel does is about claiming it has legitimacy when clearly, being a settler-colonialist project that established a racist system in Palestine, it hasn’t got any legitimacy at all. Erdan went on to say that BDS activists would soon begin to pay for de-legitimization of Israel. He didn’t specify how they would pay, but one can be sure that all dedicated BDS activists expect that the struggle to free Palestine will be a tough one and will readily confront obstacles to achieve this goal.

Then Jewish Billionaire Ron Lauder came up to speak. He said that since anti-Semitic campus groups such as Students for Justice in Palestine and the Muslim Students Association are so well funded, poor Jewish students can’t complete and have no tools to defend themselves. You had to wonder if he is lying or just totally clueless. His remedy is that he will provide the funds for Pro Israeli groups on campus so that the Zionist voice is heard. As president of the World Jewish Congress he works closely with Jewish leaders around the world to push for anti-BDS legislation. Interestingly enough, he was the first one to mention Omar Barghouti, who heads the BDS movement, “why does he want to destroy Israel?” Lauder asked. If they had any sense they would have invited him to explain.

The EU ambassador to Israel was on a panel with some of the worst racist figures in Israel, including Danny Dayan. Dayan who was rejected by the government of Brazil to be Israel’s ambassador was now nominated to be Israel’s Consul General in NY. The EU ambassador said that West Bank settlement products are welcome in the EU, and that the labeling of settlement products is done merely for information purposes. More opium! Dore Good, general director of the Israeli foreign ministry said that we must expose the fact that the Islamic jihad and the Muslim Brotherhood established BDS. He repeated this several times even though it is completely untrue, practicing what was once said about a lie, that if it is repeated enough times, it becomes truth. Well, I doubt that in this case it will work. The day ended shortly after that and the three exhausted Jewish infiltrators drove away to bask in the warmth of Arab East Jerusalem. Who knows what the next few days may bring.

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Notes towards a theory of Max Blumenthal

As half a million souls have evaporated into smoke, largely at the hands of the Assad regime, Max Blumenthal instructs his readers to be suspicious of the organizations dedicated to putting a lid on the suffering.

He performs this by making a few salient points about the problematic nature of NGOization, funding channels and influence of big powers which tend to haunt aid organizations everywhere, particularly those operating in desperate situations. He goes on to point out that those organizations are toeing the line of Washington’s foreign policy elites who are calling for an NFZ in order to overthrow the regime.  Of course, one needn’t wonder if maybe, just maybe, the countless barrel bombs, cluster bombs, chlorine bombs, thermite bombs and bunker busters may have anything to do with compelling one to calling for an NFZ.

I don’t have to rehearse the criticism made but you can read Scott Lucas’ forceful rebuttal to his piece here and others’ here.

What I’m interested in what went on in his head before he sharpened his pencils. What is the purpose of transforming aid organizations during the time of war and genocide into objects of scrutiny and suspicion? Who does that serve?

The task is made difficult once one recalls that Blumenthal, after all, used to be one of us—that is, on the side of Syria’s democrats and revolutionaries. In 2012, he resigned from al-Akhbar over what he called the “newspaper leadership’s pro-Assad tendency”, pointing out that:

Yet the mere existence of Western meddling does not automatically make Assad a subaltern anti-imperial hero at the helm of a “frontline resisting state,” as Ghorayeb has sought to paint him. Nor does it offer any legitimate grounds for nickel-and-diming civilian casualty counts, blaming the victims of his regime, or hyping the Muslim Threat Factor to delegitimize the internal opposition . . . Besides exploiting the Palestinian cause, the Assad apologists have eagerly played the Al Qaeda card to stoke fears of an Islamic takeover of Syria . . .In joining the Assad regime’s campaign to delegitimize the Syrian opposition by casting it as a bunch of irrational jihadis (ironically, they seem to have little problem with Hezbollah’s core Islamist values), Assad’s apologists have unwittingly adopted the “war on terror” lexicon introduced by George W. Bush, Ariel Sharon, and the neocon cabal after 9-11. Not only have they invoked the scary specter of The Terrorists (gasp!) to justify morally indefensible acts of violent repression . . . “

What bothers Blumenthal today isn’t the somewhat common silence or apologia for Assad and Putin in alt-journalism and left-wing circles, nor is it the ongoing intervention of Russia, Iran and sectarian militias on behalf of a brutal regime. What bothers him is a hypothetical regime change operation undertaken by the United States. These are classic, even caricatural, tropes that he railed against not too long ago.

Enquiring minds wish to know: how can someone who has stood on the side of justice consistently suddenly barbarize themselves this quickly?

“The great Indian disaster of 1947 has barely entered the public consciousness. Distance, and a sense of helplessness, presumably account nowadays for this seeming indifference, just as they account for the relative calm that greets the news from Nigeria. What can one do about it, and who cares about dead African babies anyway? Certainly not the New Left: its leaders have not uttered a sound on the subject. But then there is no political mileage to be got out of a conflict which opposes Africans (with some foreign backing) to each other. As for morality, we all know by now what the Realpolitiker of the New Left (not to mention the Old Right) think of such sickly bourgeois sentiments.”—George Lichtheim

If it has been said that the institution of slavery is war and can only be defeated by war, the same can be said about the Assad regime. No serious observer thinks that Assad will cede an inch of power to the opposition without military defeat or threat. The regime has made up its mind about a Final Solution a long time ago. “Assad or we burn the country” as a pro-regime graffiti encapsulates the logic.

Blumenthal is forcefully aware of all of this. In fact, he’s written about it and has likely concluded that the war of extermination will continue unabated unless there’s some limited form of foreign intervention.

But he’s grown torn between maintaining an internationalist commitment to Syrian democrats and the fear of being in the bad company of neocons. It’s clear that Blumenthal simply sees no other way—or lacks the confidence to do so—to appear to be in such bad company without compromising himself morally.

Knowing this, he inserts his head and hands into the pillory. Thinking to himself that only by earning the scorn of neoconseratives—whom he could represent as the spear of the backlash—can he turn himself into a victim deserving commiseration and, in his mind, self-exoneration from the guilt of silence. And here’s something he could really believe in. But what he doesn’t know is that in the process he has doubly compromised himself by turning the figure of the neocon into a straw man that can be hung over the head of the defenceless and their advocates in the West.

Hence why I don’t think what he wrote is journalism. It’s an exercise in a sort of secularized Catholic penance for the white man’s burden. In other words, he has contrived an all-too solipsistic performance of self-flaeggelation that has effectively shut Syrians’ voices out, hence why he didn’t interview a single Syrian for his piece. The issue isn’t what Syrians think, the issue is that John McCain happens to agree with some of their demands.

Blumenthal wants to have it both ways. He, and his contemporaries, think they can sustain a politics of Realpolitik while avoiding the impression that they are callous. He wants to maintain the commitment of refusing a compromise with U.S. imperialism in a world far from ideal (such virtue! such courage!) while avoiding an uneasy conscience. Why call for some form of limited intervention when it can fail and perhaps haunt your career forever? After all, it’s only dead Syrians.

“I was right to be wrong, while you and your kind were wrong to be right”—Pierre Coutrade

But he sees a bigger payoff with what he’s written. He’s banking on the likelihood that sooner or later the United States and its European allies will intervene to put a halt to the carnage that is tearing not just the Middle-East apart, but at the very fabric of European democracy. In other words, he wants the United States to intervene.

That is the only way he can be redeemed for what he wrote. And when that happens, he’d like to be there to tell us that despite his Machiavellian cynicism that was fiercely criticized, he was right all along. He has crucified himself on the cross, and like the Christ’s body, he carries within him the prospect of redemption. In his mind, he may be wrong but he’s wrong for the right reasons.

Cynical, right?

It is worth noting that Christopher Hitchens took such a gamble too when he decided to support the invasion of Iraq—betraying his own principles and friends in the process. Like Hitchens, he carries a violently contemptuous attitude towards his former comrades whom he derides for their naïveté, principle and “idealism.” Despite adopting the symbols of liberation and inverting the signs, Hitchens after all still considered himself a leftist, even a Marxist, as late as 2010. Because isn’t that an effective prophylactic against an uneasy conscience?

By attacking the only groups and individuals who are committed to the protection of civilians in Syria, Blumenthal has found a target to sublimate and project what he called his “anguish” at the carnival of apologia and conspicuous silence from those on the Left After all, we—those who stress political and arms support for Syria’s democrats—have been fighting a lost battle for the hearts and minds of progressives in the West. Not knowing how to help without committing the Great Apostasy of demanding that the liberal democracies pull their weight around Syria’s democrats, Blumenthal has come to be tired of the despair and discomfort of calling for help from the imperium—who wouldn’t? What he wants instead is to make sense of it all. He wants to give his life and its place in History meaning.

That’s why he thinks it’s 2003. Those were simpler times, when the world was divided between the Good and the Neocon. When opposing your government’s war assured you immunity from moral conundrums. And if you buy the thesis that history does indeed repeat itself, you can avoid ruminating on the constantly terrifying novelty of the present.

Such farce.

Shorn of all substance, all that remains is the affect and optics of interrogating imperialism. But if you look past the optics, you realize that the ontology at play remains deeply entrenched in a colonial unconscious. “We are the prime movers of History” is a fairly therapeutic thought amidst the chaos.

 

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