December 2012 Archives

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And now we see what the Palestinian UN vote was all about – ‘lawfare’!

Prior to the UN vote some of Abbas’ critics were questioning whether it was worth the effort to upgrade Palestine’s status within an organisation that is dominated by the super-powers on the Security Council anyway. This latest development seems to answer the question. Palestine’s new UN status opens up new legal avenues for Palestinian leaders whereby they can take their oppressors to court!

Of course court decisions are likely to prove ineffectual too without the support of the same super-powers, so it remains to be seen whether Palestine’s new UN status will really amount to much!

Mahmoud Abbas

Mahmoud Abbas

source: mondoweiss.net……

Palestinian officials hint they will go to ICC over Israel’s latest settlement plan.

Annie Robbins

Since Palestine’s UN upgrade two weeks ago, events and rhetoric appear to be on steroids, moving at a swift pace. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, speaking at a press conference in Ankara with Turkish President Abdullah Gü Wednesday, said he would take legal action against Israel should it make efforts to colonize E1, a portion of land east of  Jerusalem. “His country is coordinating with Turkey to develop a legal strategy,” according to Turkish daily Today’s Zaman.

Palestine’s Foreign Minister Riad Malki also dangled threats of a strong response if Israel proceeded ahead with its latest colonization scheme and said Palestine’s next move would be to request membership at the International Criminal Court.

Jerusalem Post also says, PA to request ICC membership over Israeli settlements:

The Palestinian Authority Wednesday repeated threats to file charges against Israel with the International Criminal Court [ICC] over plans to build housing units in E1, on the eastern outskirts of Jerusalem.

PA Foreign Minister Riad Malki said that the Palestinians’ next move would be to request membership in the ICC…….

The PA Ministry of Information in Ramallah also voiced support for filing charges against Israel with the ICC. The ministry accused Israel of “escalating its political and military offensive” against the Palestinians and called for action to prosecute Israeli “war criminals.”

Jerusalem Post, citing Turkish daily Today Zaman, reported Turkish President Abdullah Gül saying Israel’s threat to build is EI was “playing with fire.”

Today’s Zaman states, “Abbas reveals Turkey, Palestine to coordinate legal steps against Israel:”

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Wednesday said his country is coordinating with Turkey to develop a legal strategy for the newly recognized UN-observer state of Palestine to challenge Israel’s increased settlement activity in the Occupied Territories, especially against those that will cut off East Jerusalem from the West Bank.

“We have come to an agreement with the Turkish government on two points: One is to establish close coordination with Turkish permanent representation at the UN with our UN representation in New York and the other is to have Turkish Foreign Ministry experts provide legal counsel to our side,” he told a group of reporters in Ankara.

According to Today’s Zaman, Abbas has been discussing possible financial assistance with Turkish Prime Minister Erdoğan– probably to prop up the PA since Israel’s cutting off their funds for the next four months, or so it threatens.

“We acquired many rights when we were recognized as a non-member state by the UN. But in fact we will not eagerly consult international courts if Israel agrees to and complies with a peace agreement,” Abbas maintained.

Abbas also said he discussed monetary assistance to Palestine with Erdoğan, whom he described as very sympathetic to the Palestinian cause. “He knew all the details about Palestine and we have discussed ways to help Palestine in the face of punitive sanctions by Israel and the US,” he explained. He recalled that the Arab League has set up a monitoring committee headed by Qatar on what assistance would be provided to Palestine in case funds were cut off by Israel and the US in the wake of recognition at the UN Assembly.

He also underlined that his government puts a priority on reconciliation among Palestinian groups. “Khaled Meshaal called me half an hour before I arrived [in Turkey] and we discussed reconciliation steps,” he revealed during the meeting. He said Hamas is ready to pursue talks with the PA under Egyptian mediation after the group’s ongoing internal elections.

By the way, Turkey pulled out the red carpet for Abbas. Literally, brass horns and all. (video!). Israel must be fuming.

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Father Roy writes: This article is honest.  May Professor Elkana rest in peace.  May light perpetual shine upon his soul.   Peace, Roy

source: www.telegraph.co.uk/news/obituaries/9737917/Professor-Yehuda-Elkana.html…

Yehuda Elkana

Yehuda Elkana

Professor Yehuda Elkana

Professor Yehuda Elkana, who has died aged 78, was a historian and philosopher of science and a controversial critic of the “Holocaust industry” and Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories.

Elkana was a survivor of Auschwitz, so when, in 1988, he published an article in the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz on “The Need to Forget”, few could question his credentials.

He recalled that he had been transported to Auschwitz as a boy of 10 and, after the camp was liberated, spent some time in a Russian “liberation camp”, where he encountered Germans, Austrians, Croats, Ukrainians, Hungarians and Russians, as well as fellow Jews. Later he concluded that “there was not much difference in the conduct of many of the people I encountered … It was clear to me that what happened in Germany could happen anywhere and to any people.”

Moving to Israel after the war, Elkana experienced profound unease with the way in which the Holocaust was being manipulated by governments of Right and Left to craft an atavistic Jewish national identity. He became convinced that the motives behind Israel’s uncompromising approach to the Palestinians was “a profound existential ‘angst’ fed by a particular interpretation of the lessons of the Holocaust and the readiness to believe that the whole world is against us, and that we are the eternal victim”.

In a later interview he observed that parties on the Right of Israeli politics had used trips to Auschwitz to impart the lesson to young people that “this is what happens when Jews are not strong”, thereby justifying a repressive approach to the Palestinians. In this belief he saw the “paradoxical victory of Hitler”, whose appeal to the German people had also been based on the central idea of victimhood.

Two Jewish nations had emerged from Auschwitz, he observed: “a minority who assert: ‘this must never happen again’; and a frightened majority who assert, ‘this must never happen to us again.’” While all societies needed a collective mythology (and Elkana was critical of those in Germany who want to “close the chapter” of the Holocaust), “any philosophy of life nurtured solely or mostly by the Holocaust leads to disastrous consequences”.

In a later interview Elkana spelt out his fears for where this philosophy was leading Israel: “We are heading toward turning 100 million Arabs into a terrorist army against us: the whole Arab world! The United States wants to support rational, moderate Arabs. And rational, moderate Arabs will tolerate Israel’s occupation of Arab land less and less. So what is there to look forward to if we go on this way?’’

Yehuda Elkana was born to Hungarian-Jewish parents at Subotica, in what was then Yugoslavia, on June 16 1934. His father, an engineer, was a Zionist who travelled to Palestine in that year as a fencer and head of the Yugoslav delegation to the Maccabiah Games (an international Jewish athletic event held in defiance of the British Mandate authorities). “He wanted to remain in Palestine,” Elkana recalled. “Mother refused and the fool listened.”

In 1944 the family moved to Szeged in Hungary where, later that year, they were rounded up and transported to Auschwitz. They survived by sheer accident. As they were being lined up for the gas chambers, SS guards pulled them out of the line and sent them in a train with other Jews to clean up Allied bomb damage in Austrian cities. They made it to Israel in 1948.

The 14-year-old Yehuda joined a kibbutz and won a scholarship to the Herzliya High School in Tel Aviv, where he developed an interest in the philosophy and history of science. After studying Mathematics and Physics at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, he took a PhD in the Philosophy of Science at Brandeis University in the United States and taught at Harvard for a year. His doctoral dissertation would form the basis for a book, The Discovery of the Conservation of Energy (1974).

He returned to Israel as chairman of the department of the history and philosophy of science at the Hebrew University.

From 1969 to 1993 Elkana was founder-director of the Van Leer Institute in Jerusalem, which works to reduce tensions among the different groups in Israeli society and challenge taboos. He was proud of the fact that the Institute was a place where people could come and listen to Wagner and Strauss. At the same time he also ran, at Tel Aviv University, the Cohn Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Ideas, which he co-founded in 1983. From 1995 he was Professor of Theory of Science at the Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule in Zürich.

In 1999 Elkana was appointed president and rector of the Central European University in Budapest, which had been founded by the international financier George Soros in 1991 with the aim of educating a new cadre of regional leaders to help usher in democratic transitions across the old Soviet bloc. Under Elkana’s leadership the university was transformed from a regional experiment in post-communist education into a major graduate institution of the social sciences and humanities.

The author of many books, including Essays on the Cognitive and Political Organisation of Science (1994), Elkana was also a permanent fellow of the Institute for Advanced Studies in Berlin and co-founder and editor of the journal Science in Context. He spent a year as fellow at the Centre for Advanced Study in the Behavioural Sciences at Stanford University and was a visiting fellow at All Souls, Oxford, in 1977-78.

After retiring in 2009 he went on to oversee an international programme aimed at reforming undergraduate curricula. He was the co-author, with Hannes Klopper, of The University in the 21st Century: Teaching at the Dawn of the Digital Age (2011).

In 1960 he married Yehudit Keren, who became a prominent Israeli peace campaigner. She survives him with their two daughters and two sons.

Professor Yehuda Elkana, born June 16 1934, died September 21 2012

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You might wonder why I’m publishing this extract from an article about Syria on israelandpalestine.org…. It’s because it’s all deeply connected.

Why is the US, along with so many of its ‘allies’ in the Middle East, concerned to see the ‘Assad regime’ toppled? Is it really because of humanitarian concern for the oppressed people of Syria? Not a chance! It’s because the US and most of the Sunni Arab countries want to bring down the Shiite alliance – Syrian, Iran and Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Ahmadinejad is the real target, as Iran is the only real barrier to US/Israeli hegemony in the region, and yet the US (if not Israel) still fears a direct assault on Iran, and for good reason! The safer strategy is to weaken Ahmadinejad’s allies and so bring about regime change in Iran. That’s the goal.

And so the media sells us the story of Robin Hood and his merry men taking on the evil Syrian dictator. Of course Assad is no saint but, as Mother Agnes showed us, the situation is far more complex than our governments would have us believe, and the hypocrisy of the West’s supposed humanitarian concern is appalling!

Father Dave

source: www.mcclatchydc.com……

Syrian rebels say Americans, Britons helped train them in Jordan

By David Enders McClatchy Newspapers ‘

AMMAN, Jordan — Weeks before the Obama administration and other Western nations recognized a new Syrian opposition coalition as “the legitimate representative” of the Syrian people, Syrian rebels were receiving training in the use of light and heavy weapons with the backing of the Jordanian, British and U.S. governments, participants in the training have told McClatchy.

The training took place as far back as October and involved hundreds of rebels, the participants said. In one case, the rebel participant said men he believed were American intelligence officers observed what was taking place..=20 Another said he believed British officers were helping to organize the training. The training itself was handled by Jordanian military officers, the rebels said.

“We hoped there would be more training on larger weapons,” said Kamal al Zoubani, a fighter from the southern Syrian city of Daraa, which often is referred to as the birthplace of the uprising against President Bashar Assad, which began nearly 22 months ago. “But we were allowed to take light weapons back to Syria with us.”

By November, another rebel said, the training had expanded to anti-tank weapons and Stinger anti-aircraft missiles.

American officials, citing concerns that they didn’t know the political leanings of anti-Assad groups, have said repeatedly that they aren’t providing weapons to the rebels, leaving that to countries such as Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

But there’s been little discussion of what role the United States might be playing in training rebel fighters, whose offensives against loyalist Assad forces have been gaining traction in recent months.

This week, the Obama administration recognized the Syrian National Coalition for Opposition and Revolutionary Forces as the likely successor to the Assad regime and urged countries to funnel aid through it for the rebels. In tandem with that decision, the administration labeled a key rebel group, the Nusra Front, whose fighters have been at the front lines of many recent rebel victories, an offshoot of al Qaida in Iraq in hopes that Qatar and Saudi Arabia would stop assisting it.

Read the full story here: www.mcclatchydc.com……

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Vivienne Porzsolt, spokesperson for ‘Jews Against the Occupation’ in Australia, writes:

Dear Friends, In the spirit of those brave white apartheid dissidents such as Braam Fischer, Antjie Krog, Joe Slovo, Beyers Naude, Ruth First and others that spoke out from within their oppressive communities, a group of Jewish South Africans have issued an important and powerful statement. The statement was published in South Africa’s Mail & Guardian Newspaper:

AS JEWS, WITH OUR OWN PAINFUL HISTORY OF OPPRESSION…

“The temptation is to speak in muffled tones about an issue such as the right of the people of Palestine … yet we would be less than human if we did so.” – NELSON R. MANDELA

As Jews, with our own painful history of oppression, we are compelled to speak out against human rights violations being committed by the State of Israel – in our name – against the Palestinian people.

We note that the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) together with the South African Zionist Federation (SAZF), recently met with the South African Presidency and other politicians. We also note, with great concern, the SAJBD and SAZF’s assertion that they represent and speak on behalf of all Jewish South Africans, particularly when it comes to Palestine-Israel.

Let us be clear, the SAJBD and SAZF’s position of supporting Israel at all costs does not represent us. We also appeal to the SAJBD and SAZF to respect one of the hallmarks of Judaism: respectful debate amongst those who hold divergent viewpoints. The SAJBD and SAZF’s position on Israel, and attempts to stifle opposing voices that speak out against Israel, is morally untenable.

The Jewish community is neither homogeneous nor monolithic.  There is a growing number of Jews, in South Africa and around the world, who are organising to form alternative spaces and who unconditionally oppose Israeli policies and practices that shamefully privilege Jews over the indigenous Palestinian people.  In this vein, we support the non-violent campaign of applying Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it abides by international law and respects basic human rights [see www.bdsmovement.net…].

We are encouraged that our South African government is joining those countries that are taking a clear stance against Israel’s violations of international law and its acts of violence against the Palestinian people [ see this City Press newspaper article: tinyurl.com…]. We also welcome and support our Department of Trade and Industry’s initiative to prevent the false labelling of Israeli settlement products [see this Israeli mainstream Ha’aretz newspaper article: tinyurl.com…]. We hope that the ANC and the SA Government goes further and completely bans Israeli settlement products. Israeli settlements are in clear violation of international law and seriously undermine any chance of negotiations and a just peace.

Such positions as those recently taken by our government against Israeli violence and violations of international law, in fact, serve to affirm a proud Jewish tradition of respect for justice and human rights; regardless of race, religion or creed. Such positions connect us to our fellow humanity.

We humbly – and sadly – acknowledge that our voices may not be the dominant ones in our community, but neither were Dietrich Bonnhoefer’s in Nazi Germany nor Beyers Naude’s, Antjie Krog’s, Braam Fischer’s and Joe Slovo’s in Apartheid South Africa.

Our individual consciences, our Jewish tradition and our painful history compel us to declare to the SAJBD, SAZF and to the Israeli government that we will continue to speak out and take a stand for justice and human rights.  Taking such a stand is in the very interests of being Jewish. For when we proclaim “Never Again”, we should mean “Never Again”, unconditionally, and to any human being – including the Palestinians.

Issued by StopTheJNF, a campaign initiated by a group of Jewish South Africans committed to justice and rights for the Palestinian people and Jewish Israelis. Find the original statement and more information here: www.stopthejnfsa.org…

Mentioned in the above statement is Joe Slovo: the Rivonia Trialist, founding member of the Congress of Democrats, former SACP General-Secretary, Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) Chief of Staff and leading member of the African National Congress. Slovo was an outspoken critic of Apartheid South Africa as well as a consistent critic of the Israeli regime – which he also considered an Apartheid state.

In fact, Slovo publicly exposed and highlighted the shameful military collaborations during the 1980s between Israel and apartheid-era South Africa (see this UK Guardian newspaper article: tinyurl.com…). In an unfinished autobiography, Joe Slovo wrote: “Ironically enough, the horrors of the Holocaust became the rationalization [by Israeli supporters] for … acts of genocide against the indigenous people of Palestine. Those of us who, in the years that were to follow, raised our voices publicly against the violent apartheid of the Israeli state were vilified…”.

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Father Roy writes:  The highlights in the following essay are mine.  Avigail Abarbanel was born and raised in Israel.  She moved to Australia in 1991 and now lives in Scotland.  She works as a psychotherapist in private practice and is an activist for Palestinian rights.  Avigail is the editor of Beyond Tribal Loyalties: Personal Stories of Jewish Peace Activists (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2012).  Her website.    Peace, Roy

Avigail Abarbanel

Avigail Abarbanel

source: mondoweiss.net…

 Happy Hanukkah? Thanks, but not for me

By Avigail Abarbanel

Every year since I left Israel, at about this time of year, well-meaning, polite people wish me Happy Hanukkah. But I don’t celebrate Hanukkah because it is a festival that offends my values and ethics. People tend to think that it’s some kind of a Jewish version of Christmas, but they are wrong.

The festival of Hanukkah celebrates the rededication of the Jewish temple in Jerusalem as part of a successful rebellion against the Greek occupiers in Judea during the period 175 to 134 BC.

After Alexander’s death the Greek empire was divided and Judea became part of the Greek Seleucid Empire, which also included Syria. Antiochus IV Epiphanes, the ruler of the Seleucid Empire, turned Jerusalem into a Greek-style polis, built a gymnasium, turned the Jewish temple into a temple for the Greek god Zeus, and brutally suppressed Jewish religion. Practices like reading the Torah, circumcision and observing the Sabbath were banned and punishable by death.

The rebellion led by Judas Maccabeus and his brothers was run as a guerrilla war against the Seleucid army but initially involved murdering Jewish collaborators who adopted Hellenic culture and religion.

This guerrilla war involved many battles and in the end Judea was able to establish itself as a Roman client state and free itself from the Greeks. During one of the battles a band of rebels was able to overcome a small Seleucid garrison guarding the temple. They took it back and rededicated it as a Jewish temple. The word Hanukkah is derived from the root of the Hebrew word ‘inaugurate’ or ‘dedicate’.

This event is celebrated in the festival of Hanukkah as a miracle from god with a few myths thrown in.

One of those is the myth of the little can of consecrated olive oil that was found in a corner of the temple, and that miraculously lasted eight days allowing the Menorah to be lit for the eight days of the celebration.

The Bar-Ilan University professor who taught us about Hanukkah as part of a unit on Jewish festivals said no one knows who made up this myth, but it stuck. It is told every year to little children in Israel and in Jewish communities around the world, as a way of conferring divine blessing on the successful rebellion against the Greek occupation forces.

The problem I have with Hanukkah (and many other Jewish festivals) is that I refuse to celebrate a blood bath, glorify war or justify murder of anyone, even in the name of our own liberation or survival.

Many Jewish festivals are based around stories of our deliverance from oppression, and triumph over those who wished to annihilate us or just gave us a hard time. To my taste, too many of them rejoice in the killing of others and justify what we did in the name of the survival of our Jewish identity. (I don’t celebrate Passover either, because I can’t rejoice in the death of all the eldest sons of Egypt, or Purim where Hamman and his ten sons were murdered for plotting to kill the Jews.)

Growing up, I learned so many stories about how our people resisted occupation and subjugation. They weren’t always about battles and wars. Sometimes they were just about the human spirit resisting subjugation regardless of a horrible cost.

One of the goriest stories, and one that as a child I found also deeply moving, was about Hanna and her seven sons who were brutally murdered one by one in front of her because she refused to eat pork. We were taught in no uncertain terms that one does anything to be free, one does not bow to occupiers and one does not tolerate oppression or any attempt to subjugate our religion, our way of life or our national character.

Given the realities of the Israeli occupation of Palestine, I find the hypocrisy of Hanukkah intolerable. It’s OK for us Jews to celebrate (hugely and spectacularly) our efforts to liberate our own people from occupation, no matter the cost, no matter who lives or dies on our side or the other. But it is not OK for the Palestinians.

No-one condemns Judas Maccabeus and his rebels as terrorists.

They are revered as freedom fighters with a just and even divinely decreed cause regardless of their brutality. The Greek occupiers are despised venomously in the story of Hanukkah, but no-one thinks there’s a problem with Israel being an occupier.

Of course at this point supporters of Israel are likely to say that the comparison is unfair. Israel isn’t an empire like Greece was; it is only trying to be a safe haven for the long persecuted Jewish people.

But do the reasons behind occupation and colonisation matter when their evils and crimes are the same?

Another thing that is revealed in the documents behind Hanukkah is that there was horrible and bloody infighting within the Jewish community itself during that period.

There was corruption and endless intrigue in relation to the position of the High Priest and his relatives, collaboration with the Greek occupiers, power, status and money. This is the kind of dynamic that happens when a people are under occupation, the power struggles that go with that and the different approaches to dealing with the occupation. It’s never pretty.

So when people criticise the Palestinian people, I stay out of it and I always think to myself, What do you expect? This is what happens when people are under occupation. They are responding as human beings have always responded under similar circumstances, including us Jews. Why should the Palestinians be held to a different standard than the Jews back then, or the French during the Nazi occupation, India during British colonisation, the Scots or any other occupied group throughout human history?

The problem is never with the response; it is always with the occupation. Colonisers and occupiers are not benign. They are cruel and exploitative, and there is nothing the colonised and occupied can do that will ever be right. No occupier ever tolerates any resistance, peaceful or violent. They crush them both because they interrupt and threaten the agenda of the occupier. Occupied people can do nothing right when dealing with a force bent on taking what they have and destroying them if they get in the way of it.

I used to like Hanukkah as a child because it’s fun for children. You get to light pretty candles, sing really nice, albeit gory, traditional songs (Maoz Tzur is positively shocking if you know what the words mean), and eat yummy sweet, fatty food, like fried potato patties (latkes) and jam doughnuts (sufganiot). (Both of these are traditional Eastern European dishes, not really Jewish as such, but Israel has always been dominated by Ashkenazi culture.) So when I gave up all of this years ago, it was a little sad, but it’s been a worthwhile sacrifice to make so I can live according to my ethics.

It’s time for Jewish supporters of Israel around the world, and in particular for Israeli Jews, to wake up and see the terrible irony of celebrating Hanukkah while Israel occupies the Palestinians.

Why can’t they see that they are playing the part of the Greeks and that the Palestinians are responding the same way the Jewish rebels did back then? If Jewish culture glorifies and celebrates our rebellious and uncompromising spirit, why does it condemn that same spirit in others?