Friday, January 30, 2009

Conservatives in Crisis »
By Ruth Conniff
If the more genteel, intellectual figures on the right acknowledge that they are out of ideas, the modern equivalents of Joe McCarthy are sharpening their knives.

Fox News & Malkin Making Stuff Up About Obama

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Economic Policy That Might Actually Work? Who Knew?
By Marie Cocco —
After eight years of trickle-down tax cuts that pushed the prosperous up and left most everyday Americans sliding further down, the stimulus bill now moving swiftly through Congress is more than a reversal of political course. Let’s hope it’s not too late.

Stimulus Brings on a Family Feud
By E.J. Dionne —
President Obama’s visit with House and Senate Republicans this week was useful for setting a new tone and a refreshing break from the Bush administration’s habit of consulting almost no one. But it was a sideshow to the main battle over how to improve the economy, which is among Democrats.

The former, long-time GOP House Majority Leader demonstrates the benefits of partisan disagreements.
by Glenn Greenwald

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

NOT A SINGLE REPUBLICAN VOTED FOR THE STIMULUS BILLMeasure Passes 244-188... Democratic Rep. Obey Fires Back At GOP: "There Are An Awful Lot Of People In This Chamber Who Think Like Herbert Hoover"

Ordinary people who commit petty, nonviolent crimes rot for decades in inhumane prisons. High political leaders who commit serious felonies receive full-scale immunity
by Glenn Greenwald

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

By Dan Eggen and Michael D. Shear
President Obama announced a series of new policies yesterday intended to reduce fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, capping a week of widespread changes aimed at reversing the legacy of George W. Bush.
House Republicans continue their march to nowhere
The GOP debuts its own economic recovery plan: A tax cut in every pot.
by Andrew Leonard
They never learn
by kos

So Democrats have bent over backwards watering down the stimulus bill and even stripping out such "objectionable" material to Republicans as family planning funds for the low-income, all in the name of "bipartisanship".

And how do Republicans repay those efforts?

President Barack Obama is coming to the Capitol this afternoon to curry favor with congressional Republicans. But it appears GOP leaders have already made up their minds to oppose his $825 billion stimulus plan.

House Republican Leader John A. Boehner and his No. 2, Whip Eric Cantor, told their rank-and-file members Tuesday morning during a closed-door meeting to oppose the bill when it comes to the floor Wednesday, according to an aide familiar with the discussion. Boehner told members that he's voting against the stimulus, and Cantor told the assembled Republicans that there wasn't any reason for them to support the measure, according to another person in the room. Cantor and his whip team are going to urge GOP members to oppose it.

Of course Republicans will oppose this. Anyone who doesn't have their head stuck up David Broder's ass knows that there is no margin for Republicans in supporting the stimulus package. It will bust the budget beyond the busted-up bloody pulp it already is, it will include all sorts of stupid funding decisions that will provide fantastic attack ad fodder, and it might not even work. And as I wrote earlier, if it succeeds, Republicans won't even get the credit (which will go to Obama and his Congressional allies).

It would be stupid for Republicans to try and obstruct the bill, but there's no political reason for them to support it. Democrats have the votes to do pretty much whatever they please. So it's best to lay out a competing agenda (i.e. more tax cuts for the rich!) and then use those distinctions to start building their new messaging. Worst case scenario for Republicans, the stimulus works and they're toast in 2010 anyway. Best case, the stimulus does little to help the nation's economic recovery, and they can play the "change" card next election.

Therefore, if Republicans won't play, why should Democrats water down the stimulus to the point of ineffectiveness and cave to ridiculous ideological demands (like the family planning stuff) when they won't get their cherished "bipartisanship" anyway? They should craft the best solution possible to the nation's woes, and if those solutions work, people will know exactly who to credit. And if they fail, they'll know exactly who to blame.

There's a reason Democrats won massively the last two cycles, and it wasn't because people were desperate for "bipartisanship".

Author, Critic John Updike Dead at 76

The Same Old Song
by Bob Herbert
Republican policies have brought the country to a deplorable state. But the party is still at it, attacking President Obama’s stimulus plan and calling for ever more tax cuts.

Monday, January 26, 2009

By Chris Hedges —
The assault on Gaza exposed not only Israel’s callous disregard for international law but the gutlessness of the American press. Nearly all reporters were, as during the buildup to the Iraq war, pliant stenographers and echo chambers.

Let the Voters Decide
by John Nichols:
It's time to get governors out of the business of filling empty Senate seats and put the choice in the hands of the voters.
Rick Sanchez obliterates Joe the Plumber

Sunday, January 25, 2009

By Joe Conason —
When Obama delivered his stunningly eloquent and inspiring address at midday on Jan. 20, he provided a powerful hint of what bipartisan, a term hollowed out by habitual and insincere misuse, means to him now.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

By E. J. Dionne Jr.
President Obama intends to use conservative values for progressive ends. He will cast extreme individualism as an infantile approach to politics that must be supplanted by a more adult sense of personal and collective responsibility. He will honor government's role in our democracy and not degrade it. He wants America to lead the world, but as much by example as by force.
And in trying to do all these things, he will confuse a lot of people.

by Bob Herbert
I’ve seen charismatic politicians come and go like sunrises and sunsets over the years. There was something more that was making people go ga-ga over Barack Obama. Something deeper.
Rachel Maddow Talks with John Hodgman from The Daily Show

Friday, January 23, 2009

More than 250 health and human rights organizations from around the world sent Obama a letter, thanking him for ending a policy "which has contributed to the deaths and injuries of countless women and girls."
Blue-Dog Democrat Named to Clinton Seat
New York Governor David Paterson's decision to name centrist Kirsten Gillibrand to the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Hillary Clinton highlights a number of the problems with allowing governors to appoint senators.
by John Nichols

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Kuby talks about how Chief Justice John Roberts screwed up Barack Obama's swearing in. No problem guys, it's not like this thing will be replayed for eternity.

President Obama's pick wins overwhelming majority
The Associated Press

Obama accomplishes more good in his first eight hours than Bush did in eight years.
by Joan Walsh

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

It’s Over—And Not A Moment Too Soon By Marie Cocco —
George W. Bush promised to restore “honor and dignity” to the White House, but he leaves with less honor and with lower public approval than any president since Richard Nixon.

Giving Obama the Benefit of the Doubt By Eugene Robinson
Rarely has a new presidency been greeted with such a consensus of goodwill—and rarely has a new president so needed it.

What Can Obama Learn From Bush? By E.J. Dionne
The Bush administration’s specific failures—in foreign and domestic policy and on matters related to civil liberties—are clear enough. Yet the deeper cause of the public’s disaffection goes beyond these specifics.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Martin Luther King "I have a dream"

Cost of the Bush era: $11.5 trillion
The outgoing administration has presided over 8 years of disasters and crises with some of the biggest price tags the nation has ever seen.
by John Dyer

by John Nichols:
An expectant nation awaits a leader who will give voice to a patriotism that includes not just civic virtue but economic rights and the rule of law.
The Long, Lame Goodbye
by Maureen Dowd
W., Cheney and Rummy loved making enemies, under the mistaken assumption that the more people hated America, the more the Bushies were standing up for principle.

Bush’s Pathetic Farewell Address
By Matthew Rothschild
He gulped his way mawkishly to the finish line, a very small man in a very large job who managed to have learned very little on it. [See also how Bush took Thomas Jefferson out of context.]

Saturday, January 17, 2009

The Top 43 Appointees Who Helped Make Bush The Worst President Ever
Next week, “change is coming to America,” as President George W. Bush wraps up his tenure as one of the worst American presidents ever. He wasn’t able to accomplish such an ignominious feat all by himself, however; he had a great deal of help along the way. ThinkProgress heralds the conclusion of the Bush 43 presidency by bringing you our list of the top 43 worst Bush appointees. Did we miss anyone? Who should have been ranked higher? Let us know what you think.

Self-Deception and the Assault on Gaza
by David Bromwich
From the civilian deaths in Gaza will spring more hatred and terrorism. Yet no people are so prone as Americans and Israelis to think admiringly of our own good intentions.

The Rachel Maddow Show

Is Newsweek not only justifying "enhanced interrogation" but calling on Obama to continue Bush's policy? Charles Kaiser joins Rachel to discuss the latest cover article and how the debate on torture is evolving.

By E. J. Dionne Jr.
For the past two years, Barack Obama has made it hard for anyone to pin him down philosophically. So when he raises his hand on Tuesday, exactly what -- beyond the efforts of an eager, data-driven problem-solver -- can the American people expect?

Friday, January 16, 2009

Bush's goodbye address is a festival of self-pity and delusion.
by Joan Walsh

According to his company's Web site, Captain Chesley B. "Sully" Sullenberger, III is a former US Air Force fighter pilot with over 40 years of flying.
As the atrocities continue in the Middle East, a song of hope by the great Steve Earle

(by Steve Earle)

I woke up this mornin' and none of the news was good
And death machines were rumblin' 'cross the ground where Jesus stood
And the man on my TV told me that it had always been that way
And there was nothin' anyone could do or say

And I almost listened to him
Yeah, I almost lost my mind
Then I regained my senses again
And looked into my heart to find

That I believe that one fine day all the children of Abraham
Will lay down their swords forever in Jerusalem

Well maybe I'm only dreamin' and maybe I'm just a fool
But I don't remember learnin' how to hate in Sunday school
But somewhere along the way I strayed and I never looked back again
But I still find some comfort now and then

Then the storm comes rumblin' in
And I can't lay me down
And the drums are drummin' again
And I can't stand the sound

But I believe there'll come a day when the lion and the lamb
Will lie down in peace together in Jerusalem

And there'll be no barricades then
There'll be no wire or walls
And we can wash all this blood from our hands
And all this hatred from our souls

And I believe that on that day all the children of Abraham
Will lay down their swords forever in Jerusalem

Thursday, January 15, 2009

by John Nichols:
In Senate testimony today Eric Holder condemned waterboarding as torture and vowed that if confirmed he would serve not just the president, but the Constitution.

Glenn Greenwald:Tom Friedman Offers a Perfect Definition of 'Terrorism'

The war strategy which Friedman is heralding -- what he explicitly describes with euphemism-free candor as "exacting enough pain on civilians" in order to teach them a lesson -- is about as definitive of a war crime as it gets. It also happens to be the classic, textbook definition of "terrorism."

By Joe Conason —
Would it be rude to ask whether the Republicans have any new proposals to save the country from this worsening recession? If not, they should halt their reactionary opposition to Barack Obama’s stimulus plan.

Putting Children's Health Before Ideology
It is time for Congress to get past the politics and finally give children the health insurance they need through SCHIP, writes Judy Feder.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Israel Strike Hits U.N. Complex in Gaza
A worker at a United Nations building in Gaza City, which was among those hit during Israeli shelling on Thursday.
Nothing to Fear but No Health Care
By Amy Goodman —
Fifty million Americans are without health insurance, and 25 million are “underinsured.” Millions being laid off will soon be added to those rolls. At this perilous moment, we need sweeping New Deal-caliber changes, not the impotent tinkering that has been proposed.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

When Bush is History
By Eugene Robinson
Not to kick the president on his way out the door, but he was wrong when he told White House reporters at a wistful, nostalgic news conference yesterday that "there is no such thing as short-term history."

Monday, January 12, 2009

Bernie Sanders Rejects Pro-Bush Rewrite of Iraq War History
by John Nicols
George W. Bush used his valedictory press conference Monday to compare his presidency with that of Abraham Lincoln and to profess confusion about why so many Americans reacted so negatively to his tenure in the Oval Office.
Motown celebrates its 50th Birthday today (Jan 12)
Iconic label was started in 1959 with an $800 dollar loan.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Israel protest targets US consulate in Pakistan

The Associated Press
Sunday, January 11, 2009; 1:49 PM

KARACHI, Pakistan -- Security forces used tear gas and batons to repel anti-Israel protesters who tried to attack a U.S. consulate in Pakistan on Sunday, as tens of thousands in cities across Europe, the Middle East and Asia demonstrated against Israel's offensive in the Gaza Strip.

A protest in the Belgian capital that drew 30,000 turned violent as well, with demonstrators overturning cars and smashing shop windows. And in Manila, Philippines, policemen used shields to disperse students protesting outside the U.S. Embassy.

Israel launched its campaign in Gaza on Dec. 27 to stop rocket fire from the militant Palestinian group Hamas. Gaza health officials say nearly 870 Palestinians have been killed, roughly half of them civilians. Thirteen Israelis have also died.

Some 2,000 protesters in the Pakistani port city of Karachi burned U.S. flags and chanted anti-Israel slogans, and several hundred of them marched on the U.S. Consulate, senior police official Ameer Sheikh said.

"They were in a mood to attack," Sheikh said. "They were carrying bricks, stones and clubs."

A U.S. Embassy spokesman in Islamabad, Lou Fintor, said the protesters did not get close to the consulate, which was closed Sunday.

Washington provides a large amount of foreign aid to Israel as well as military and weapons assistance. Israeli military action is often perceived in the Muslim world as being financed and supported by the U.S. While Pakistan's government is a U.S. ally, anti-American sentiment is pervasive in the Muslim majority country.

In Spain, as many as 100,000 people attended rallies in Madrid and the southwestern city of Seville, urging Israel to "Stop the massacre in Gaza" and calling for peace initiatives. Spain's Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos will tour the Middle East starting Monday to promote solutions to the conflict.

An estimated 2,500 Lebanese and Palestinians meanwhile protested peacefully in downtown Beirut, waving Palestinian flags and calling on the international community to intervene in the Israeli attack.

A convoy of some 15 ambulances from an Islamic medical society sounded their sirens for 20 seconds in solidarity with Gaza medics. Leftist participants set fire to a large Israeli flag, while children taking part in the protest held bloody dolls representing Palestinian children killed in Gaza.

The death of children in the Gaza assault has become an enduring theme at protests.

Children carrying effigies of bloody babies headed the march attended by thousands in Brussels, which later turned violent before police intervened with water cannons and arrested 10 protesters. Belgian lawmaker Richard Miller told Le Soir newspaper that he was hit in the face by a stone thrown by a demonstrator.

Jewish communities appeared divided on the Israeli operations. In London, thousands of people gathered at Trafalgar Square to support the action in Gaza, while anti-Israeli protesters held a counter-demonstration nearby. In Antwerp, Belgium, home to a large Hassidic Jewish community, some 800 people took part in a peaceful pro-Israel demonstration.

In a letter published in Britain's Observer newspaper Sunday, 11 leading British Jews urged Israel to end its Gaza campaign and negotiate a settlement for security reasons.

"We are concerned that rather than bringing security to Israel, a continued military offensive could strengthen extremists, destabilize the region and exacerbate tensions inside Israel with its one million Arab citizens," the letter said.

In Syria, as revolutionary songs blared from loudspeakers, demonstrators accused Arab leaders of being complicit in the Gaza assault. "Down, down with the Arab rulers, the collaborators," the crowd in Damascus shouted.

Separately, activists protesting the Israeli campaign were driving from Turkey to Syria in a convoy of 200 cars, and participants hoped Syrian protesters would join them at the border Monday, according to Nezir Dinler, an activist with the Istanbul-based Solidarity Foundation.

A few thousand people marched in largely peaceful pro-Palestinian rallies in the Italian cities of Rome, Naples and Verona. In Rome, municipal authorities were dispatched to erase graffiti _ including Stars of David and swastikas _ that had been scrawled on Jewish-owned stores and restaurants overnight.


Helen Thomas:History Cannot Save Him
As he leaves office, President Bush is passing on to his successor two wars and a growing economic debacle. What a way to go!

Israel Is Losing This War by Uri Avnery
Not only is Israel unable to win the war, Hamas cannot lose it. Even if the Israeli army were to succeed in killing every Hamas fighter to the last man, even then Hamas would win.

If Obama Is Serious
He should get tough with Israel.
by Aaron David Miller

Gaza: the logic of colonial power

Nir Rosen

I have spent most of the Bush administration's tenure reporting from Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Somalia and other conflicts. I have been published by most major publications. I have been interviewed by most major networks and I have even testified before the senate foreign relations committee. The Bush administration began its tenure with Palestinians being massacred and it ends with Israel committing one of its largest massacres yet in a 60-year history of occupying Palestinian land. Bush's final visit to the country he chose to occupy ended with an educated secular Shiite Iraqi throwing his shoes at him, expressing the feelings of the entire Arab world save its dictators who have imprudently attached themselves to a hated American regime.

Once again, the Israelis bomb the starving and imprisoned population of Gaza. The world watches the plight of 1.5 million Gazans live on TV and online; the western media largely justify the Israeli action. Even some Arab outlets try to equate the Palestinian resistance with the might of the Israeli military machine. And none of this is a surprise. The Israelis just concluded a round-the-world public relations campaign to gather support for their assault, even gaining the collaboration of Arab states like Egypt.

The international community is directly guilty for this latest massacre. Will it remain immune from the wrath of a desperate people? So far, there have been large demonstrations in Lebanon, Yemen, Jordan, Egypt, Syria and Iraq. The people of the Arab world will not forget. The Palestinians will not forget. "All that you have done to our people is registered in our notebooks," as the poet Mahmoud Darwish said.

I have often been asked by policy analysts, policy-makers and those stuck with implementing those policies for my advice on what I think America should do to promote peace or win hearts and minds in the Muslim world. It too often feels futile, because such a revolution in American policy would be required that only a true revolution in the American government could bring about the needed changes. An American journal once asked me to contribute an essay to a discussion on whether terrorism or attacks against civilians could ever be justified. My answer was that an American journal should not be asking whether attacks on civilians can ever be justified. This is a question for the weak, for the Native Americans in the past, for the Jews in Nazi Germany, for the Palestinians today, to ask themselves.

Terrorism is a normative term and not a descriptive concept. An empty word that means everything and nothing, it is used to describe what the Other does, not what we do. The powerful – whether Israel, America, Russia or China – will always describe their victims' struggle as terrorism, but the destruction of Chechnya, the ethnic cleansing of Palestine, the slow slaughter of the remaining Palestinians, the American occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan – with the tens of thousands of civilians it has killed … these will never earn the title of terrorism, though civilians were the target and terrorising them was the purpose.

Counterinsurgency, now popular again among in the Pentagon, is another way of saying the suppression of national liberation struggles. Terror and intimidation are as essential to it as is winning hearts and minds.

Normative rules are determined by power relations. Those with power determine what is legal and illegal. They besiege the weak in legal prohibitions to prevent the weak from resisting. For the weak to resist is illegal by definition. Concepts like terrorism are invented and used normatively as if a neutral court had produced them, instead of the oppressors. The danger in this excessive use of legality actually undermines legality, diminishing the credibility of international institutions such as the United Nations. It becomes apparent that the powerful, those who make the rules, insist on legality merely to preserve the power relations that serve them or to maintain their occupation and colonialism.

Attacking civilians is the last, most desperate and basic method of resistance when confronting overwhelming odds and imminent eradication. The Palestinians do not attack Israeli civilians with the expectation that they will destroy Israel. The land of Palestine is being stolen day after day; the Palestinian people is being eradicated day after day. As a result, they respond in whatever way they can to apply pressure on Israel. Colonial powers use civilians strategically, settling them to claim land and dispossess the native population, be they Indians in North America or Palestinians in what is now Israel and the Occupied Territories. When the native population sees that there is an irreversible dynamic that is taking away their land and identity with the support of an overwhelming power, then they are forced to resort to whatever methods of resistance they can.

Not long ago, 19-year-old Qassem al-Mughrabi, a Palestinian man from Jerusalem drove his car into a group of soldiers at an intersection. "The terrorist", as the Israeli newspaper Haaretz called him, was shot and killed. In two separate incidents last July, Palestinians from Jerusalem also used vehicles to attack Israelis. The attackers were not part of an organisation. Although those Palestinian men were also killed, senior Israeli officials called for their homes to be demolished. In a separate incident, Haaretz reported that a Palestinian woman blinded an Israeli soldier in one eye when she threw acid n his face. "The terrorist was arrested by security forces," the paper said. An occupied citizen attacks an occupying soldier, and she is the terrorist?

In September, Bush spoke at the United Nations. No cause could justify the deliberate taking of human life, he said. Yet the US has killed thousands of civilians in airstrikes on populated areas. When you drop bombs on populated areas knowing there will be some "collateral" civilian damage, but accepting it as worth it, then it is deliberate. When you impose sanctions, as the US did on Saddam era Iraq, that kill hundreds of thousands, and then say their deaths were worth it, as secretary of state Albright did, then you are deliberately killing people for a political goal. When you seek to "shock and awe", as president Bush did, when he bombed Iraq, you are engaging in terrorism.

Just as the traditional American cowboy film presented white Americans under siege, with Indians as the aggressors, which was the opposite of reality, so, too, have Palestinians become the aggressors and not the victims. Beginning in 1948, 750,000 Palestinians were deliberately cleansed and expelled from their homes, and hundreds of their villages were destroyed, and their land was settled by colonists, who went on to deny their very existence and wage a 60-year war against the remaining natives and the national liberation movements the Palestinians established around the world. Every day, more of Palestine is stolen, more Palestinians are killed. To call oneself an Israeli Zionist is to engage in the dispossession of entire people. It is not that, qua Palestinians, they have the right to use any means necessary, it is because they are weak. The weak have much less power than the strong, and can do much less damage. The Palestinians would not have ever bombed cafes or used home-made missiles if they had tanks and airplanes. It is only in the current context that their actions are justified, and there are obvious limits.

It is impossible to make a universal ethical claim or establish a Kantian principle justifying any act to resist colonialism or domination by overwhelming power. And there are other questions I have trouble answering. Can an Iraqi be justified in attacking the United States? After all, his country was attacked without provocation, and destroyed, with millions of refugees created, hundreds of thousands of dead. And this, after 12 years of bombings and sanctions, which killed many and destroyed the lives of many others.

I could argue that all Americans are benefiting from their country's exploits without having to pay the price, and that, in today's world, the imperial machine is not merely the military but a military-civilian network. And I could also say that Americans elected the Bush administration twice and elected representatives who did nothing to stop the war, and the American people themselves did nothing. From the perspective of an American, or an Israeli, or other powerful aggressors, if you are strong, everything you do is justifiable, and nothing the weak do is legitimate. It's merely a question of what side you choose: the side of the strong or the side of the weak.

Israel and its allies in the west and in Arab regimes such as Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia have managed to corrupt the PLO leadership, to suborn them with the promise of power at the expense of liberty for their people, creating a first – a liberation movement that collaborated with the occupier. Israeli elections are coming up and, as usual, these elections are accompanied by war to bolster the candidates. You cannot be prime minister of Israel without enough Arab blood on your hands. An Israeli general has threatened to set Gaza back decades, just as they threatened to set Lebanon back decades in 2006. As if strangling Gaza and denying its people fuel, power or food had not set it back decades already.

The democratically elected Hamas government was targeted for destruction from the day it won the elections in 2006. The world told the Palestinians that they cannot have democracy, as if the goal was to radicalise them further and as if that would not have a consequence. Israel claims it is targeting Hamas's military forces. This is not true. It is targeting Palestinian police forces and killing them, including some such as the chief of police, Tawfiq Jaber, who was actually a former Fatah official who stayed on in his post after Hamas took control of Gaza. What will happen to a society with no security forces? What do the Israelis expect to happen when forces more radical than Hamas gain power?

A Zionist Israel is not a viable long-term project and Israeli settlements, land expropriation and separation barriers have long since made a two state solution impossible. There can be only one state in historic Palestine. In coming decades, Israelis will be confronted with two options. Will they peacefully transition towards an equal society, where Palestinians are given the same rights, à la post-apartheid South Africa? Or will they continue to view democracy as a threat? If so, one of the peoples will be forced to leave. Colonialism has only worked when most of the natives have been exterminated. But often, as in occupied Algeria, it is the settlers who flee. Eventually, the Palestinians will not be willing to compromise and seek one state for both people. Does the world want to further radicalise them?

Do not be deceived: the persistence of the Palestine problem is the main motive for every anti-American militant in the Arab world and beyond. But now the Bush administration has added Iraq and Afghanistan as additional grievances. America has lost its influence on the Arab masses, even if it can still apply pressure on Arab regimes. But reformists and elites in the Arab world want nothing to do with America.

A failed American administration departs, the promise of a Palestinian state a lie, as more Palestinians are murdered. A new president comes to power, but the people of the Middle East have too much bitter experience of US administrations to have any hope for change. President-elect Obama, Vice President-elect Biden and incoming secretary of state Hillary Clinton have not demonstrated that their view of the Middle East is at all different from previous administrations. As the world prepares to celebrate a new year, how long before it is once again made to feel the pain of those whose oppression it either ignores or supports?

Gaza under fire

John Pilger

Published 08 January 2009

Every war Israel has waged since 1948 has had the same objective: expulsion of the native people and theft of more land. But why are we in the west silent on this truth?

Palestinians mourn their dead in the wake of the Israeli strike on a UN school in Gaza

"When the truth is replaced by silence," the Soviet dissident Yevgeny Yevtushenko said, "the silence is a lie." It may appear that the silence on Gaza is broken. The small cocoons of murdered children, wrapped in green, together with boxes containing their dismembered parents, and the cries of grief and rage of everyone in that death camp by the sea can be witnessed on al-Jazeera and YouTube, even glimpsed on the BBC. But Russia's incorrigible poet was not referring to the ephemera we call news; he was asking why those who knew the why never spoke it, and so denied it. Among the Anglo-American intelligentsia, this is especially striking. It is they who hold the keys to the great storehouses of knowledge: the historiographies and archives that lead us to the why.

They know that the horror now raining on Gaza has little to do with Hamas or, absurdly, "Israel's right to exist". They know the opposite to be true: that Palestine's right to exist was cancelled 61 years ago and that the expulsion and, if necessary, extinction of the indigenous people was planned and executed by the founders of Israel. They know, for example, that the infamous "Plan D" of 1947-48 resulted in the murderous depopulation of 369 Palestinian towns and villages by the Haganah (Israeli army) and that massacre upon massacre of Palestinian civilians in such places as Deir Yassin, al-Dawayima, Eilaboun, Jish, Ramle and Lydda are referred to in official records as "ethnic cleansing". Arriving at a scene of this carnage, David Ben-Gurion, Israel's first prime minister, was asked by a general, Yigal Allon: "What shall we do with the Arabs?" Ben-Gurion, reported the Israeli historian Benny Morris, "made a dismissive, energetic gesture with his hand and said, 'Expel them'".

The order to expel an entire population "without attention to age" was signed by Yitzhak Rabin, a future prime minister promoted by the world's most efficient propaganda as a peacemaker. The terrible irony of this was addressed only in passing, such as when the Mapam party co-leader Meir Ya'ari noted "how easily" Israel's leaders spoke of how it was "possible and permissible to take women, children and old men and to fill the road with them because such is the imperative of strategy. And this we say . . . who remember who used this means against our people during the [Second World] War . . . I am appalled."

Every subsequent "war" Israel has waged has had the same objective: the expulsion of the native people and the theft of more and more land. The lie of David and Goliath, of perennial victim, reached its apogee in 1967 when the propaganda became a righteous fury that claimed the Arab states had struck first against Israel. Since then, mostly Jewish truth-tellers such as Avi Shlaim, Noam Chomsky, Tanya Reinhart, Neve Gordon, Tom Segev, Uri Avnery, Ilan Pappé and Norman Finkelstein have undermined this and other myths and revealed a state shorn of the humane traditions of Judaism, whose unrelenting militarism is the sum of an expansionist, lawless and racist ideology called Zionism. "It seems," wrote the Israeli historian Pappé on 2 January, "that even the most horrendous crimes, such as the genocide in Gaza, are treated as discrete events, unconnected to anything that happened in the past and not associated with any ideology or system . . . Very much as the apartheid ideology explained the oppressive policies of the South African government, this ideology - in its most consensual and simplistic variety - allowed all the Israeli governments in the past and the present to dehumanise the Palestinians wherever they are and strive to destroy them. The means altered from period to period, from location to location, as did the narrative covering up these atrocities. But there is a clear pattern [of genocide]."

In Gaza, the enforced starvation and denial of humanitarian aid, the piracy of life-giving resources such as fuel and water, the denial of medicines, the systematic destruction of infrastructure and killing and maiming of the civilian population, 50 per cent of whom are children, fall within the international standard of the Genocide Convention. "Is it an irresponsible overstatement," asked Richard Falk, UN special rapporteur for human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories and international law authority at Princeton University, "to associate the treatment of Palestinians with this criminalised Nazi record of collective atrocity? I think not."

In describing a “holocaust-in-the making”, Falk was alluding to the Nazis’ establishment of Jewish ghettos in Poland. For one month in 1943, the captive Polish Jews, led by Mordechaj Anielewicz, fought off the German army and the SS, but their resistance was finally crushed and the Nazis exacted their final revenge. Falk is also a Jew. Today’s holocaust-in-the-making, which began with Ben-Gurion’s Plan D, is in its final stages. The difference today is that it is a joint US-Israeli project. The F-16 jet fighters, the 250lb “smart” GBU-39 bombs supplied on the eve of the attack on Gaza, having been approved by a Congress dominated by the Democratic Party, plus the annual $2.4bn in warmaking “aid”, give Washington de facto control. It beggars belief that President-elect Obama was not informed. Outspoken about Russia’s war in Georgia and the terrorism in Mumbai, Obama has maintained a silence on Palestine that marks his approval, which is to be expected, given his obsequiousness to the Tel Aviv regime and its lobbyists during the presidential campaign and his appointment of Zionists as his secretary of state and principal Middle East advisers. When Aretha Franklin sings “Think”, her wonderful 1960s anthem to freedom, at Obama’s inauguration on 20 January, I trust someone with the brave heart of Muntader al-Zaidi, the shoe-thrower, will shout: “Gaza!”

The asymmetry of conquest and terror is clear. Plan D is now "Operation Cast Lead", which is the unfinished "Operation Justified Vengeance". This was launched by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in 2001 when, with George W Bush's approval, he used F-16s against Palestinian towns and villages for the first time.

Why are the academics and teachers silent? Are British universities now no more than “intellectual Tescos”?

In that same year, the authoritative Jane's Foreign Report disclosed that the Blair government had given Israel the "green light" to attack the West Bank after it was shown Israel's secret designs for a bloodbath. It was typical of new Labour's enduring complicity in Palestine's agony. However, the Israeli plan, reported Jane's, needed the "trigger" of a suicide bombing which would cause "numerous deaths and injuries [because] the 'revenge' factor is crucial". This would "motivate Israeli soldiers to demolish the Palestinians". What alarmed Sharon and the author of the plan, General Shaul Mofaz, then Israeli chief of staff, was a secret agreement between Yasser Arafat and Hamas to ban suicide attacks. On 23 November 2001 Israeli agents assassinated the Hamas leader Mahmoud Abu Hanoud and got their "trigger": the suicide attacks resumed in response to his killing.

Something uncannily similar happened on 4 November last year when Israeli special forces attacked Gaza, killing six people. Once again, they got their propaganda "trigger": a ceasefire sustained by the Hamas government - which had imprisoned its violators - was shattered as a result of the Israeli attacks, and home-made rockets were fired into what used to be called Palestine before its Arab occupants were "cleansed". On 23 December, Hamas offered to renew the ceasefire, but Israel's charade was such that its all-out assault on Gaza had been planned six months earlier, according to the Israeli daily Haaretz.

Behind this sordid game is the "Dagan Plan", named after General Meir Dagan, who served with Sharon during his bloody invasion of Leba non in 1982. Now head of Mossad, the Israeli intelligence organisation, Dagan is the author of a "solution" that has brought about the imprisonment of Palestinians behind a ghetto wall snaking across the West Bank and in Gaza, now effectively a concentration camp. The establishment of a quisling government in Ramallah, under Mahmoud Abbas, is Dagan's achievement, together with a hasbara (propaganda) campaign, relayed through mostly supine, if intimidated western media, notably in the US, which say Hamas is a terrorist organisation devoted to Israel's destruction and is to "blame" for the massacres and siege of its own people over two generations, since long before its creation. "We have never had it so good," said the Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Gideon Meir in 2006. "The hasbara effort is a well-oiled machine."

In fact, Hamas's real threat is its example as the Arab world's only democratically elected government, drawing its popularity from its resistance to the Palestinians' oppressor and tormentor. This was demonstrated when Hamas foiled a CIA coup in 2007, an event ordained in the western media as "Hamas's seizure of power". Likewise, Hamas is never described as a government, let alone democratic. Neither is its proposal of a ten-year truce reported as a historic recognition of the "reality" of Israel and support for a two-state solution with just one condition: that the Israelis obey international law and end their illegal occupation beyond the 1967 borders. As every annual vote in the UN General Assembly demonstrates, most states agree. On 4 January, the president of the General Assembly, Miguel d'Escoto, described the Israeli attack on Gaza as a "monstrosity".

When the monstrosity is done and the people of Gaza are even more stricken, the Dagan Plan foresees what Sharon called a "1948-style solution" - the destruction of all Palestinian leadership and authority, followed by mass expulsions into smaller and smaller "cantonments", and perhaps, finally, into Jordan. This demolition of institutional and educational life in Gaza is designed to produce, wrote Karma Nabulsi, a Palestinian exile in Britain, "a Hobbesian vision of an anarchic society: truncated, violent, powerless, destroyed, cowed . . . Look to the Iraq of today: that is what [Sharon] had in store for us, and he has nearly achieved it."

Dr Dahlia Wasfi is an American writer on Iraq and Palestine. She has a Jewish mother and an Iraqi Muslim father. "Holocaust denial is anti-Semitic," she wrote on 31 December. "But I'm not talking about the World War II, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad [the president of Iran] or Ashkenazi Jews. What I'm referring to is the holocaust we are all witnessing and responsible for in Gaza today and in Palestine over the past 60 years . . . Since Arabs are Semites, US-Israeli policy doesn't get more anti-Semitic than this." She quoted Rachel Corrie, the young American who went to Palestine to defend Palestinians and was crushed by an Israeli bulldozer. "I am in the midst of a genocide," wrote Corrie, "which I am also indirectly supporting, and for which my government is largely responsible."

Reading the words of both, I am struck by the use of "responsibility". Breaking the lie of silence is not an esoteric abstraction, but an urgent responsibility that falls to those with the privilege of a platform. With the BBC cowed, so too is much of journalism, merely allowing vigorous debate within unmovable, invisible boundaries, ever fearful of the smear of anti-Semitism. The unreported news, meanwhile, is that the death toll in Gaza is the equivalent of 18,000 dead in Britain. Imagine, if you can.

Then there are the academics, the deans and teachers and researchers. Why are they silent as they watch a university bombed and hear the Association of University Teachers in Gaza plead for help? Are British universities now, as Terry Eagleton believes, no more than “intellectual Tescos, churning out a commodity known as graduates rather than greengroceries”?

Then there are the writers. In the dark year of 1939, the Third American Writers' Congress was held at Carnegie Hall in New York and the likes of Thomas Mann and Albert Einstein sent messages and spoke up to ensure that the lie of silence was broken. By one account, 2,500 jammed the auditorium. Today, this mighty voice of realism and morality is said to be obsolete; the literary review pages affect an ironic hauteur of irrelevance; false symbolism is all. As for the readers, their moral and political imagination is to be pacified, not primed. The anti-Muslim Martin Amis expressed this well in Visiting Mrs Nabo kov: "The dominance of the self is not a flaw, it is an evolutionary characteristic; it is just how things are."

If that is how things are, we are diminished as a civilised people. For what happens in Gaza is the defining moment of our time, which either grants war criminals impunity and immunity through our silence, while we contort our own intellect and morality, or it gives us the power to speak out. For the moment I prefer my own memory of Gaza: of the people's courage and resistance and their "luminous humanity", as Karma Nabulsi put it. On my last trip there, I was rewarded with a spectacle of Palestinian flags fluttering in unlikely places. It was dusk and children had done this. No one had told them to do it. They made flagpoles out of sticks tied together, and a few of them climbed on to a wall and held the flag between them, some silently, others crying out. They do this every day when they know foreigners are leaving, in the belief that the world will not forget them.

What You Don't Know About Gaza

January 8, 2009
Op-Ed Contributor
What You Don't Know About Gaza
NEARLY everything you've been led to believe about Gaza is wrong. Below are
a few essential points that seem to be missing from the conversation, much
of which has taken place in the press, about Israel's attack on the Gaza

THE GAZANS Most of the people living in Gaza are not there by choice. The
majority of the 1.5 million people crammed into the roughly 140 square miles
of the Gaza Strip belong to families that came from towns and villages
outside Gaza like Ashkelon and Beersheba. They were driven to Gaza by the
Israeli Army in 1948.

THE OCCUPATION The Gazans have lived under Israeli occupation since the
Six-Day War in 1967. Israel is still widely considered to be an occupying
power, even though it removed its troops and settlers from the strip in
2005. Israel still controls access to the area, imports and exports, and the
movement of people in and out. Israel has control over Gaza's air space and
sea coast, and its forces enter the area at will. As the occupying power,
Israel has the responsibility under the Fourth Geneva Convention to see to
the welfare of the civilian population of the Gaza Strip.

THE BLOCKADE Israel's blockade of the strip, with the support of the United
States and the European Union, has grown increasingly stringent since Hamas
won the Palestinian Legislative Council elections in January 2006. Fuel,
electricity, imports, exports and the movement of people in and out of the
Strip have been slowly choked off, leading to life-threatening problems of
sanitation, health, water supply and transportation.

The blockade has subjected many to unemployment, penury and malnutrition.
This amounts to the collective punishment - with the tacit support of the
United States - of a civilian population for exercising its democratic

THE CEASE-FIRE Lifting the blockade, along with a cessation of rocket fire,
was one of the key terms of the June cease-fire between Israel and Hamas.
This accord led to a reduction in rockets fired from Gaza from hundreds in
May and June to a total of less than 20 in the subsequent four months
(according to Israeli government figures). The cease-fire broke down when
Israeli forces launched major air and ground attacks in early November; six
Hamas operatives were reported killed.

WAR CRIMES The targeting of civilians, whether by Hamas or by Israel, is
potentially a war crime. Every human life is precious. But the numbers speak
for themselves: Nearly 700 Palestinians, most of them civilians, have been
killed since the conflict broke out at the end of last year. In contrast,
there have been around a dozen Israelis killed, many of them soldiers.
Negotiation is a much more effective way to deal with rockets and other
forms of violence. This might have been able to happen had Israel fulfilled
the terms of the June cease-fire and lifted its blockade of the Gaza Strip.

This war on the people of Gaza isn't really about rockets. Nor is it about
"restoring Israel's deterrence," as the Israeli press might have you
believe. Far more revealing are the words of Moshe Yaalon, then the Israeli
Defense Forces chief of staff, in 2002: "The Palestinians must be made to
understand in the deepest recesses of their consciousness that they are a
defeated people."

Rashid Khalidi, a professor of Arab studies at Columbia, is the author of
the forthcoming "Sowing Crisis: The Cold War and American Dominance in the
Middle East."

A Record of Historic Incompetence and Malfeasance

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Media Matters: Conservative media peddle a raw deal
by Jamison Foser
Yes, they're trying to bring Franklin Roosevelt down to George W. Bush's level. Good luck with that.

There they stood, a breathing Mount Rushmore, or perhaps just the ghosts of Inaugurals past, present and to come.
Why Do They Hate the West So Much, We Will Ask
By Robert Fisk —
So once again, Israel has opened the gates of hell to the Palestinians. Forty civilian refugees dead in a United Nations school, three more in another. Not bad for a night’s work in Gaza by the army that believes in “purity of arms”. But why should we be surprised?
Obama's Biggest Challenge
Another month, another half-million Americans out of work. The ranks of the unemployed have now stretched beyond 11 million, and millions more are underemployed — working part time, for example, because they can’t find full-time jobs.

Blog Archive