Jan 16, 2010

Mondoweiss: Sometimes a headline says it all



Why Haiti Is Poor (I)

Posted: 16 Jan 2010 08:43 AM PST

Haiti's poverty has a number of causes, but to a great extent the country is a victim of its own success.  Just over 200 years ago, Haitians carried out the greatest slave revolt in human history, despite terrible losses (150,000 died in their uprising against France, contrasted with 5000 Americans in our revolution). 

Some historians contend that Napoleon had to agree to the 1803 Louisiana Purchase, which doubled the size of the United States, partly due to France's defeat in Haiti. So if not for Haiti, Americans from Louisiana up to Montana might be French-speaking today.

The freed Haitian slaves refused to rejoin the world economy by returning to the big sugar plantations.  Instead, they started to grow food on their own plots of land, recreating the small farms they and their ancestors had known in Africa.  Haitians lived through the 19th and 20th centuries as free and independent producers, while third world people elsewhere continued to suffer and die on plantations, as slaves or exploited indentured workers. 

Haiti's population therefore grew steadily, from under one-half million at independence to 9 million today.  The small farmers divided the land among their children, until the plots were too small to support a family.  Pressure on the rural environment increased.

A democratic political system might have carried out the reorganization of agriculture that could have increased productivity, but instead Haiti slipped into the long years of the Duvalier dictatorships (1957-1986), misruled by terrible regimes that enjoyed the full support of the United States.

But Haitians were not done struggling for freedom.

Related posts:

  1. Haiti Gaza
  2. Homage to the Haitian diaspora
  3. Normal Life in Port-au-Prince

Chomsky/Abunimah (the left and Zionism)

Posted: 16 Jan 2010 10:23 AM PST

Here is an exchange at KPFA in California between Noam Chomsky and Ali Abunimah and Jeff Blankfort touching on BDS and the Israel lobby. Actually, Chomsky declined to engage with Abunimah and Blankfort, so host Khalil Bendidb interviewed Chomsky on an earlier show, then on this show he asked Abunimah and Blankfort to respond.

I find it somewhat uncomfortable.

Chomsky is a giant, and Abunimah and Blankfort are friends of this site, and there is a sense of a torch being passed here, or of the older left not being suited for the new conversation about Israel/Palestine. Chomsky is defensive and a little brittle here; at his worst moment, he compares BDS to breaking a store window during the Vietnam War upheaval. It feels good, it doesn't achieve anything, he says. I don't follow the analogy. It is very hard to quarrel with Abunimah's logic about BDS–Palestinian civil society has asked for it, the cultural targets are organizations such as this dance troupe that is burnishing Israel's global image, even as Palestinian dancers can't get out of the goddamn territories–or Blankfort's belief in the Israel lobby, that American establishment Jews, empowered in D.C. and the media, have a particular and large responsibility for pushing the special relationship. Hey, I write about that all the time here.

That said, I find I have some emotional sympathy for Chomsky as someone from the Jewish world who is still attached to the ideals of Zionism. His attachment is latent in this conversation. Though I've never been a Zionist, and was never called by Israel (I grew up in a very Jewish academic family with little community involvement, and then happily assimilated for 30 years) I acknowledge that in the 50s, 60s and 70s, there were leftwing Jews who felt called by Israel in an idealistic way. They didn't know about the Nakba, or they accepted the lies. My great puzzle here is how we help American Jews climb down from that old feeling. Chomsky is still obviously attached to the idea of Partition, to preserve a redeemed Jewish state. He says that there is world consensus for Partition. Abunimah responds that Chomsky has never worried about world consensus in other situations. Good point. But Abunimah is less convincing when he says that Partition or Re-Partition is a bloodier process than the road to One State. I don't know; the future all looks bloody to me. It feels as intractable as the slavery question felt before the Civil War. And as I have said before on this site, Partition has "worked" in many places around the world. (Would I have been for Partition in the U.S. before the Civil War? Sometimes I think, Yes; if I were 54 when the question was posed, I would have accommodated evil/secession rather than sent my children to fight it. I don't trust intellectuals who support just wars they wouldn't volunteer for.)

The problem with the two-state solution is that Partition wouldn't have worked in India/Pakistan if India had been allowed to gobble up Pakistan. While the Jewish lib-left maintained its deliverance ideals of Zionism-and-the Jewish state in the American power structure, Partition was destroyed by a militarist-expansionist Israel (that Chomsky nobly opposed every step of the way); and today Abunimah can rightly say that the Nakba never stopped. How do we stop it now, and reinstate Partition? Or, how do we help Jews climb down from the idea of a Jewish state, and assure them they can still talk English in West Jerusalem, even if they can't move there?

Listening to this conversation, I recall something Norman Finkelstein said a year or so back. Let us not have inquests in which people are asked, Are you now or have you ever been a Zionist? Perhaps he said that out of love of his mentor, Noam Chomsky.

For my part, I would just say that the anti-apartheid movement for Israel/Palestine should be an inclusive one; and more important, it is crucial that this debate leave the leftwing chambers and begin in the American mainstream now. I want Michael Ratner's appalled discoveries about the reality of one-state with apartheid conditions that he has conveyed on this site recently to be openly discussed in both the Jewish left and the American mainstream. There's no way forward till you deal with the reality.

Related posts:

  1. A Chomsky dream
  2. My wife and I argue about Chomsky
  3. I was wrong about Chomsky

Sometimes a headline says it all

Posted: 16 Jan 2010 10:23 AM PST

Haiti Gaza

Posted: 16 Jan 2010 05:22 AM PST

I'm moved by the American response to the Haiti disaster, by the sense of connection Americans are expressing to Haitians across traditional barriers of class, race, nation, and geography. Is this the Obama effect? Yes. Would the three network anchors have rushed across seas to Haiti under such circumstances 3 or 5 years ago? No; the U.S. is making progress, multiculturalism has won.

So what about the Palestinians? Why, a year ago, didn't the American anchors race across seas to join them in Gaza as US-purchased munitions were used against those defenseless people? Why didn't they provide up-close stories about the voices in the rubble and the torn-apart families? Why didn't they tell us about the Gaza prison that was destroyed and the criminals poured back into Gaza society to terrorize people–an angle they repeat over and over in Haiti?

You say Haiti is in the Americas and this is a natural disaster without terrorists. I say Palestine might as well be part of America for the goddamn special relationship to Israel and war is a better story than a natural disaster (as my former editor Zach Stalberg said to me when he sent me off to the Dominican for a hurricane case 30 years ago, "I hate natural disasters; no villain"–in Gaza there was a villain).

Besides, how many times have these anchors gone to Iraq for some big news? This is really the problem. Gaza wasn't big news. The slaughter of defenseless people who could not flee and who cowered in their homes praying to die as high-tech American weaponry lasered in on them, it was only big news in Europe and Asia. The Palestinians haven't been offered the sympathy that any other suffering people command from Americans– through 62 years of dispossession, ethnic cleansing, ghettoization and discrimination. We're going to change that. 

P.S. A friend points out that the original sin was Obama's silence on Gaza a year ago before he came into office. Thus he refused to extend his world-progressive cloak where it would have mattered.

Related posts:

  1. Did Israel commit piracy when it intercepted the Free Gaza ship?
  2. Read the fine print: Only one-third of US pledge at Gaza conference to go to Gaza, none of it for rebuilding
  3. Gaza was 'a high-tech military pogrom'

What will another Lebanon war do for Obama's Cairo speech?

Posted: 16 Jan 2010 06:47 AM PST

Friends dont let friends drive drunk. You've heard that line about the U.S. relationship with Israel, that we've enabled them in out-of-control behavior for a long time. Well, Turkey is actually disenabling. Turkey is pissed due to Gaza and the diplomatic insult of last week. From Haaretz. As you read this, just try and imagine the American press being this frank about Israel's out of control militarism.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan this week warned Lebanese leaders that Israel may be planning an attack on its northern neighbor, Lebanese sources told the London-based Arabic language daily A-Sharq al-Awsat on Thursday.

At a meeting in Ankara with Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri and President Michel Suleiman on Monday, Erdogan declared that Israel was endangering world peace by using exaggerated force against the Palestinians, breaching Lebanon's air space and waters and for not revealing the details of its nuclear program.

Erdogan called on the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council to pressure Israel over its nuclear program in the same way that the international community has been dealing with Iran.

Related posts:

  1. Obama draws protests from Israeli settlers on eve of Cairo speech
  2. Overwhelmingly, Egyptians say Obama's Cairo speech was about Israel/Palestine
  3. Turkish P.M. 'curses' his former crush

Hebron leaves us stunned, devastated, drowning in shame

Posted: 15 Jan 2010 02:50 PM PST

On January 12th, we drive to the southern West Bank city of Hebron. This city is literally drowning in a complex, traumatic, and violent history, that has given birth to the outrageous situation we see today. Most people start the story with the burial of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and their wives several thousand years ago, followed by multiple invasions, the Arab massacre of Jews in 1929 one week after Zionists raised a Jewish flag at the Wailing Wall (with many questions regarding the role of the British in this catastrophe), and Baruch Goldstein's massacre of Moslems praying at the Ibrahimi Mosque in the middle of Ramadan in 1994.

We are touring Hebron with Hisham Sharabati, the uncle of our local co-leader, Lubna. He explains that he went "to the college of the Israeli prison during the First Intifada' and that after a barrage of tear gas and rubber bullets, he was shot in the leg and sustained a fracture, requiring crutches for 1 1/2 years. He is clearly articulate and educated; suffering has made him strong.

We start in a central open area of the market, old stone buildings with green metal doors on the ground floor, a small square with a palm trees, women in colorful hijabs sitting on poured concrete seats under umbrellas, and a steady circle of traffic and rambunctious young boys, racing around, playing, and harassing us, with unrelenting requests to purchase a variety of Palestinian trinkets. On quick inspection, I notice multiple security cameras and a few guard towers mounted on the tops of the buildings as well as an IDF checkpoint with a swinging yellow metal gate and a solid metal gate guarding the entrance to a Jewish settler area with a soldier perched above. All the ground floor doors, formerly markets, are closed, some welded shut by the IDF, and there is a second floor apartment completely encased in wire to protect the windows as well as the inhabitants from rocks thrown by Jewish settlers. .

As we sit down for the usual lunch of felafel, hummus, pita, and a collection of vegetables, Hisham begins to speak, his style sincere and serious with an ironic sense of humor. Shortly, we notice a commotion at the checkpoint site and it appears that a number of the teenage boys have been apprehended by the soldiers, their intimidating automatic weapons ready, and are being taken one by one inside the metal door for questioning after their bags are checked. We move closer and can only peek through a crack in the tall concrete blocks around the checkpoint. The local population does not seem to pay much attention to this encounter, it is clearly an everyday affair. I do not know what happened to the boys, although several were released and came out, tucking in their shirts and resuming a slightly subdued teenage swagger. The little boys watched with curiosity and at one point, two Israeli soldiers came out from their bunker, wearing what appeared to be a significant amount of battle gear, hands always on their weapons, and spoke with the little boys. I suspect this is the only kind of interaction these children have with Israeli Jews.

Hisham explains that after 1967 a group of very right wing Jewish settlers came to a hotel in Hebron and declared they would never leave. A deal was struck with the IDF that they could settle next to a military facility. There were further deals and expansions and ultimately the settlement of Kiryat Arba was officially established in 1971.These settlers have a history of particularly violent, racist, ugly attacks against their Palestinian neighbors, often observed and sometimes even promoted by the local Jewish soldiers. These are the settlers that spray paint: "Death to the Arabs!" or "Gas all Arabs," on the walls of Palestinian homes and taunt children and women, calling the women "Whores." Much of this has been well-documented by Palestinians with video cameras, many provided by the Israeli human rights organization, B'tselem in their "Shoot Back" campaign. It is soldiers from Hebron who started "Breaking the Silence," when they felt guilty and haunted by their violent racist behavior patrolling this city. The local Palestinians have responded with repeated nonviolent resistance, including strikes and demonstrations, and some of the local leadership have been arrested by Israeli authorities and deported. In the 1970s and 1980s there were also armed attacks against the settlers as well as an attack on a nearby settlement called Beit Haddassah.

In the 1990s, a group of 400 settlers, (which included 250 yeshiva students), decided to move into the old city, into homes that they claimed were originally Jewish and these settlers have repeatedly attacked the local Palestinians and destroyed their market and ability to live a normal life. There are 150,000 Palestinians in all of Hebron and 35,000 in H2, the area of the city under strict Israeli control, "taken hostage on behalf of the settlers." The UN OCHA has documented 98 different kinds of restrictions of movement in an area that is just one square kilometer. 512 Palestinian stores, spray painted with red and black dots, have been closed by military order, there are repeated prolonged closures and curfews, and Palestinians are only allowed to walk on certain streets, even if their homes are on these streets. These people access there homes by traipsing through other backyards or by walking from roof to roof, up and down ladders, to get to their homes. The central bus station was taken for "security" and given to settlers and the Yeshiva was built above the Palestinian market on top of a Palestinian school.

We wander through much of the market, some of it ghostly quiet, some bustling with vegetables, fruit, clothes, and crowds of people. Above the market Hisham points out a metal wiring creating a protective barrier as settlers living above, throw garbage, bricks, stones, plastic bags of urine and feces, and other offensive items down upon the Palestinians. At one stand he points to a plastic covering with a ragged hole above the market area. Here the Jewish settlers threw acid which burned the plastic and caused havoc below. Suddenly we see three Palestinian young men spread eagled against the wall, one kicked by a solder, and several soldiers, patting them down. We move closer, hoping our presence may contain the violence, and after what feels like an endless harassment, the young men are set free. Welcome to the daily Hebron patrol and, as one delegate said, the mass psychology of fascism.

The most painful part of this tour is the visit to Hisham's friend, Hashem Aza, who not only can not access his house from the main street, but also lives next to one of the most rabid anti-Palestinian settlers. He has been told, "If you want peace, go to Gaza, Egypt, Saudia Arabia," been cursed viciously, and particularly after the severe curfews from 2000-2003, many of his neighbors gave up and left. He states that there is a 90% poverty rate and minimal available employment. We clamber up a rocky hill, through several back yards and back stairs until we reach his home. He points to the stone stairs and garden that once were his backyard, but this has been repeatedly destroyed by his Jewish neighbors who not only have attacked his home and his family, but they have also cut his fruit trees, water and electricity lines. They too throw garbage and once hurled a washing machine that we see rusting amongst the trees. Only recently has he acquired water again and we see a new bright blue pipe snaking through the various backyards. His little boy comes scampering outside chasing a pink ball, watched carefully by his wife. In his home he shares more horrifying personal stories, shows us a series of videos documenting racist, violent attacks against Palestinians, primarily women and children, often by settler women and children, with no response from the police or IDF nearby. A committed nonviolent activist, he and his wife and nephew have been personally attacked, their home repeatedly trashed, his children suffer from bedwetting and other signs of PTSD, and he has unsuccessfully pursued his case in Israeli courts. He is determined to persevere, to document the realities in his beloved city, and bring this to the attention of the international community. We listen stunned and drowning in shame, outrage, and heartbreak.

Our sobering taste of life in Hebron includes other devastating stories and experiences with Israeli guard towers, camouflage netting, checkpoints, a wall spray painted with graffiti that includes a tribute to the IDF's Golani brigade and to Betar, a right wing youth organization. I pass a concrete block obstructing the road, spray painted with an arrow and the words: "This is apartheid." There are occasional Palestinian Authority police, but the consensus is that they are mostly useless.

So what do we do with this shameful reality? While most Israelis do not support these settlers, they receive full support, protection and encouragement from the Israeli government and military, and this has not changed in the past 42 years, no matter who is in power. They have made the lives of the Palestinians in Hebron a living hell, and they have never been held accountable. This does not happen by accident. From the moment Goldstein massacred the Palestinians in the mosque, it was a political decision by the Israeli government to put the Palestinians under curfew and protect the Jewish settlers who now celebrate his murderous actions. While these settlers are clearly the most racist, religiously fanatic, possibly deranged, and fascistic element in Israeli society, they both use and are used by the government as a wedge in the never-ending land grab and Judaization of the West Bank.

Given the blather that mostly passes for news about the settler issue in the US and Netanyahu and Leiberman's blatant support for the settlement project and utter disregard for the the welfare of Palestinians, BDS is looking more and more like a reasonable imperative. I take my inspiration from the nonviolent activists who shared their painful reality with us. Such is the impact of a day in Hebron. .

Related posts:

  1. Do Americans Have a Say About Apartheid in Hebron?
  2. Tell the Mets: Don't support the settlers – Cancel the Hebron Fund fundraiser
  3. When the Mets support the Hebron Fund the terrorists win


Debating the Holocaust: A New Look at Both Sides By Thomas Dalton

In this remarkable, balanced book, the author skillfully reviews and compares "traditional" and "revisionist" views on the "The Holocaust."

On one side is the traditional, orthodox view -- six million Jewish casualties, gas chambers, cremation ovens, mass graves, and thousands of witnesses. On the other is the view of a small band of skeptical writers and researchers, often unfairly labeled "deniers," who contend that the public has been gravely misled about this emotion-laden chapter of history.

The author establishes that the arguments and findings of revisionist scholars are substantive, and deserve serious consideration. He points out, for example, that even the eminent Jewish Holocaust scholar Raul Hilberg acknowledged that there was no budget, plan or order by Hitler for a World War II program to exterminate Europe's Jews.

This book is especially relevant right now, as "Holocaust deniers" are routinely and harshly punished for their "blasphemy," and as growing numbers of people regard the standard, Hollywoodized "Holocaust" narrative with mounting suspicion and distrust.

The author of this book, who writes under the pen name of "Thomas Dalton," is an American scholar who holds a doctoral degree from a major US university.

This is no peripheral debate between arcane views of some obscure aspect of twentieth century history. Instead, this is a clash with profound social-political implications regarding freedom of speech and press, the manipulation of public opinion, how our cultural life is shaped, and how power is wielded in our society.


Michael Santomauro
Editorial Director
Call anytime: 917-974-6367



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