MARK LAMONT’S COMMENTS

“The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion while allowing very lively debate within that spectrum.” — Noam Chomsky

On November 29, CNN fired Professor Mark Lamont Hill, a prominent academic, author and activist for having the audacity to step outside the spectrum of what is considered acceptable discourse on Israel and Palestine.

It was the words “Free Palestine from the River to the Sea,” that stirred the controversy. Yet, Michelle Goldberg, a columnist at the New York Times was allowed, without comment or controversy, to say that opposing Israel and calling for a binational Israeli-Palestinian state is legitimate.

 

Hill’s statement suggests that the only solution to the conflict, i.e. a bi-national state, is a single united country that gives equal rights to all its citizens from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan Valley, regardless of what side of the border they are born in, or what faith they practice, all living in a symbiotic relationship of good will and basic human rights.

 This runs contrary to the narrowly acceptable public discourse on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which remains a fixation on the notion that a two-state solution is the only possible solution. If the past 70 years have proven anything, it is that walls and borders and discriminatory laws, which are all necessitated by a two-state solution, are not the answer.

 

Perhaps it was not Hill’s words, per say, that led CNN to fire him, but rather the result of the “Palestinian exception to free speech movement—the widespread and growing suppression of Palestinian human rights advocacy across the United States, conducted by a number of Zionist organizations whose financial contributions sway heavily with Congressional members and this administration.

This does not mean that Israel is never criticized or discussed in the mainstream media. It is just that when it is, the criticism needs to fit neatly into one of two pre-packaged positions. On the one side, we have the Donald Trump-Netanyahu camp that blames the Palestinians for all of Israel’s woes. On the other, the Democratic Party-liberal Zionist camp that acknowledges Israel’s unjust treatment of the Palestinians but excuses it under the mantra of “well-intentioned” justifications.

The fact that Mark Lamont Hill was fired for advocating a bi-national state says more about his critics than it does about him.

A more in-depth discussion of this issue can be found in Israeli and Palestinian Voices: A Dialogue with Both Sides.

The book can be found here: Amazon

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NIGHT RAIDS

How do you tell your child that you cannot protect him from that eventual, fateful day when Israeli soldiers, in the middle of the night, will break down your front door, enter his bedroom, forcefully pull him out of bed and, if so inclined, smack his head against the wall?

I wrote those words two years ago. In the intervening years, nothing has changed. Callous Israeli soldiers whose job it is to harass and terrorize Palestinians continue this inhumane policy because they can, with impunity.

According to Gideon Levy, in his most recent Haaretz article The Practice that Embodies Israeli Apartheid, “there’s barely a Palestinian family that isn’t familiar with the practice of these brutal night-time raids. And it happens every night, with or without any apparent reason.”

What would an Israeli do if he woke, startled, in the dead of night to discover search lights illuminating his house, then hear someone breaking down his front door, only to discover armed, masked soldiers, a dozen or more, rushing in, their rifles aimed at him and his terrified family, binding his family members with plastic handcuffs, then hitting and intimidating them.

Fortunately for them, it would never happen. Israelis do not receive this kind of treatment. They are not harassed, abducted and disappeared from their homes during the middle of the night, and their children do not grow up with fear, trauma and scars from the terror of these unannounced night visits. This practice is reserved for Palestinians and it happens only in the West Bank and East Jerusalem where Israel practices apartheid.

Israel abhors the use of the word apartheid. Instead, it calls its policy toward Palestinians suppression of resistance.

Palestinians call it a calculated and callous attempt to breach the familial bond of security and trust between child and parent. Israel’s policy is meant to dispel the idea that a parent can protect his or her child, that a home is sacred and safe, and that a child can safely sleep in his bed at night without fear of arrest.

According to Israeli law, any Israeli, regardless of age or crime, is tried in a civilian court of law. As I recount in Israeli and Palestinian Voices: A Dialogue with Both Sides, any Palestinian arrested, whether child or adult, in either East Jerusalem or the West Bank, is tried in a military court with one caveat. A child must be at least fourteen years old.

Currently, if a child under fourteen is arrested, they are held in detention, without legal counsel, without parental visitation rights, tortured and often times put in solitary confinement until they reach the age of fourteen. At any one time, there are between three hundred and five hundred children in Israeli prisons. There are allegations of brute force, restraining them in cruel ways, withholding food and water, violent and verbal aggression during interrogation, and forced confessions.

According to the Defense for Children International, Israeli courts fail to respect established rules for detaining and trying children in court. And although Israel is a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, it ignores that agreement’s restrictions when dealing with Palestinian children.

And why wouldn’t they when they are allowed, by their Washington supporters, to do as they wish with impunity

This book is available for purchase here: Amazon

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THE PALESTINIAN PEOPLE DESERVE BETTER

Abdel Bari Atwan, Editor-in-Chief of Rai al Youm, an Arab world digital news and opinion website, recently wrote an article entitled “The Palestinian People’s Principal Problem Is Their Own Leadership.”

I could not agree more.

While I cannot put myself into the minds and hearts of the Palestinian people, I have traveled to Palestine enough times and listened to a great many people to understand the deep distrust they have toward President Mahmoud Abbas. Since his election in January 2005, he has offered his people nothing new. In his last eight speeches, delivered each time to an almost empty United Nation Assembly Hall, he has repeated the same old phrases. The same appeals for international sympathy. Even the wording of his complaints about Israel’s failure to respect agreements has not changed. And his declaration that the United States is not an honest broker we have heard at least a million times.

We know President Trump will not heed Abbas’ demands to rescind his recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. We also know by now that East Jerusalem will not be the capital of a Palestinian state because there will be no Palestinian state.

Since Abbas came to power, nothing has changed for the Palestinian people. The occupation, the repression, the assassinations, the incursions into villages, the nighttime raids into homes, the house demolitions, the collective punishment, the control of water supplies, the settlements built on Palestinian land and the Separation Wall construction all continues as do the daily humiliations at Israeli checkpoints. I discuss these abuses in great detail in my book Israeli and Palestinian Voices: A Dialogue with both Sides

Something not included in that list of human rights abuses is the security cooperation Abbas allowed when he became president in 2005. Then, US Lieutenant General Keith Dayton formed the US Security Coordination Team (USSC) tasked with maintaining law and order within the West Bank, essentially taking over the job as the occupation enforcer for the Israeli government. The USSC has rightly earned the name of “Dayton’s Army.” There is legitimate concern, and I have heard reiterated many times, that the role of Dayton’s army has been both to stem the influence and power of the legally elected Hamas and to consolidate and enforce Abbas’ power across the West Bank. One prominent Palestinian activist has argued that in the West Bank “there is a systematic plan to target any resistance to Abbas through oppressive acts carried out by Dayton’s army, including killing, arrest and torture.

The USSC has essentially taken over the occupation for Israeli forces, as opposed to operating as a truly independent national force accountable to the majority. Accusations of torture and the lack of legal justification for a number of arrests has become commonplace. Recently, B’Tselem, the Israeli human rights organization, raised concerns after a prisoner died in PA custody as a result of suspected torture.

To support these claims, I am reminded of President Trump’s recent and dramatic cuts in aid to the Palestinians. The only aid that was maintained and its funding increased was for the USSC.

It is time for Mahmoud Abbas to step down. He has shamefully acted as lackey for both the Israeli and American governments in order to hold onto his presidency for far too long. The Palestinian people, both in the diaspora and the homeland, deserve a better leader.

This book is available for purchase here: Amazon

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US AMBASSADOR JOHN GUNTHER DEAN’S ATTEMPTED ASSASSINATION

As I recount in A Beirut Heart One Woman’s War, my family and I lived through the first eight years of the Lebanese civil war. Once we made the decision to stay I struggled to acquire the coping skills necessary to resist and survive the absurd dysfunction of war.

The war began in the spring of 1975. Unfamiliar as I was with any type of conflict, I was convinced that by winter the warring factions would come to their senses and resolve their differences. Winter arrived, and they had not, and before I realized it my own neighborhood had descended into a war zone.

Months passed; the senseless killings and kidnappings increased. Explosions became an integral part of each day. I tried to ignore them. I had to carry on, run my errands, send my husband off to the hospital so he could tend to the wounded, put my children on their school bus and pray I would see them at the end of the day.

It was my love of cooking that helped me keep my sanity. I retreated to the kitchen. Cooking became my tranquilizer.  Most days my table was surrounded by people engaged in lively conversations, which was good for everyone’s morale, particularly my children’s. I strived to create an atmosphere of connectedness, of community. This helped alleviate the fear. It warded off despair and became a therapeutic act of resistance.

We eventually left Beirut in 1984 and resettled in the States. And after years of trying to recover from war, I had convinced myself that nothing about that period in my life—no hitherto unknown revelations—could possibly surprise me but I was wrong. A recent article by Phil Weiss in Mondoweiss rocked me to my core. I am at a loss as to explain why it affected me so profoundly other than the lingering effects of PTSD which occasionally creep back into my consciousness.

I attribute that trauma specifically to the summer of ’82 when the Israeli government used the attempted assassination of its ambassador in London on June 3, 1982, as a pretext to launch an invasion into Lebanon. Ariel Sharon, then Israel’s Defense Minister led ‘Operation Peace for Galilee.’ In two days his troops had advanced all the way to Beirut. On June 6, Israeli warplanes began bombing Beirut. The assault on the city lasted sixty-seven days. Night after night, I watched the bombs falling and the lights flashing across the sky. I had no sense that those lights were coming from human being. It was more like Heaven was fighting Hell.  And down below, where the bombs exploded, there were ordinary people—women cradling screaming babies in their arms, old people holding terrified pets, a husband frantic because his wife and children had not returned from an outing. It was the worst three months of my life.

And this brings me to Phil Weiss’s article because it also involved the Israelis.

In August 1980, an attempt was made on the life of then US Ambassador to Lebanon, John Gunther Dean. At the time Israel and the US were quick to blame a right-wing Christian group. Given some of this group’s unscrupulous behavior, for which I was personally familiar, we were quick to believe their assertion. It wasn’t until the release of Ronen Bergman’s book Rise and Kill First, that I learned the truth. Ambassador Dean had long maintained that Israel had been behind the assassination attempt because he was doing something antithetical to Israel’s interest: consulting with the Palestinian Liberation Organization at a time when such contacts were the third rail in US politics.

According to Ronen Bergman, the Lebanese Intelligence services retrieved the empty canisters from the anti-tank weapons shot at the ambassador’s car and had then sent to Washington to be traced. The weapons had been sold and shipped to Israel in 1974. In 1979 Rafael Eita and Meir Dagan, both brass in the Israel Defense Forces, created the Front for the Liberation of Lebanon from Foreigners and ran the fictitious group from 1979 until 1983. In 1981 and 1982, Ariel Sharon used that Front to conduct a series of indiscriminate car bombings that killed hundreds of civilians. “The objective of this massive terrorist car bombing campaign was to sow chaos amongst the Palestinian and Lebanese civilian population” and in 1981-82, to provoke the PLO into resorting to terrorism thus providing Israel with an excuse to invade Lebanon.” Because the Palestinians did not take the bait, the Israelis used instead the attempted assassination of its Ambassador to London as the excuse for invasion.

Not a single review of Bergman’s book in the US media has mentioned these Israeli operations in Lebanon. The US media has thus been fully silent about the fact that Israeli officials directed a major and fully indiscriminate car bombing campaign that killed more than one hundred civilians. Given our media’s recent behavior, this is no surprise but then the US government and its lackeys in the media have a miserable record of investigating known Israeli attacks on Americans. I cite two examples—the attack on the USS Liberty in 1967 which killed 34 servicemen and wounded 171, and the death of Rachel Corrie, deliberately killed by an Israeli bulldozer driver in Gaza in 2003 while she was trying to prevent the demolition of Palestinian homes.

This book is available for purchase here: Amazon

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TRUMP INTENDS TO IMPOSE TOUGHER SANCTIONS ON IRAN

Trump thinks he can craft a new deal with Iran by imposing tougher sanctions. If history is any guide, there will be no capitulation by Iran. Tehran has already offered repeated concessions to the American government, but the US rejected them outright.

As I have mentioned in The Syrian, the Iranians, in March 2003, sent a comprehensive negotiation proposal to the George W. Bush administration through the Swiss ambassador in Tehran. Unlike the Iran nuclear deal, this proposal was not solely focused on nuclear matters. The Iranians offered to help stabilize Iraq, disarm Hezbollah and collaborate against terrorist organizations, in particular al-Qaeda. They even offered to sign on to the 2002 Beirut Declaration, recognizing Israeli statehood in return for Israel’s recognition of a Palestinian state. Tehran also offered to open its nuclear program for full transparency.

The Bush administration did not even dignify Iran with a response, assuming it could, instead, secure a better outcome by continuing to pressure Iran with more stringent sanctions.

Two years later, the Iranians sent another proposal through the Europeans. Having already expanded its nuclear program, Tehran offered to cap its centrifuges at 3,000. At the time of the 2003 proposal, Iran had roughly 150 nuclear centrifuges. By 2013, Tehran had 22,000.

The US still believes it is most powerful and therefore does not need to offer anyone concessions. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The diplomacy that lead to the Iran nuclear deal would never have taken place without Obama, in secret negotiations, accepting nuclear enrichment on Iranian soil.

 

Iran is a regional power without whom stability in the region is unachievable.  Yet, Trump continues to insist it is Tehran at fault while refusing to recognize that it is US foreign policy and its regional allies Israel, Saudi Arabia and the UAE who are the culprits. Trump insists that Iran must stop asserting its influence in Syria, Iraq and Lebanon while Washington continues to help Saudi Arabia starve the people of Yemen and turns a blind eye to the Saudi Crown Prince’s financing the spread of al-Qaeda and ISIS across the region. The Middle East looks at Trump’s unquestioning support for Israel’s Netanyahu, too, and marvels at US arrogance and hubris.

There is no guarantee that a new deal can be reached with Tehran but if Trump wants to honestly explore realistic changes in Iran’s regional policies he must first be willing to contemplate changes in US policy, something that is unlikely with Netanyahu, Bolton and Pompeo calling the shots, all warmongers averse to diplomacy of any kind.

 

According to James Baker, then Secretary of State under George U.W. Bush, “You don’t just talk to your friends. You talk to your enemies, as well… Diplomacy involves talking to your enemies, not to reward or appease them…but to find a way out of a protracted stalemate and bring about a solution.”

This book is available for purchase here: Amazon

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BDS AS SEEN THROUGH THE EYES OF ISRAEL

Boycotts as a form of protest were initiated as early as 1769 by the First Continental Congress against Great Britain over the issue of taxation without representation making a boycott against a perceived oppressive power an integral part of American heritage.

A reaction against racism also became a noticeable motivating factor for many boycotts. The Chinese instituted a boycott against the US over the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1892 and 1904. In 1933 the American Jewish Congress declared a boycott of Nazi Germany in protest to its racially motivated oppression of the German Jewish community. Ghandi encouraged Indians to boycott imperial Britain. African Americans boycotted segregated institutions and from the 60’s to the 90’s, much of the world boycotted South Africa over issues of apartheid.

In 2005, 170 Palestinian civil society organizations put out a call for a boycott of Israel. This was a nonviolent effort to pressure the State of Israel to conform to international law and cease its oppression of the Palestinian people. The call was also for divestment which meant targeting corporations complicit in the violation of Palestinian rights and ensuring that university investments and pension funds were not used to finance such companies. Sanctions are also an essential part of demonstrating disapproval for a country’s actions. Israel’s membership in various diplomatic and economic forums provides both an unmerited veneer of respectability and material support for its actions. This is known as the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign, or BDS for short. I discuss this in great detail in the third edition of Israeli and Palestinian Voices: A Dialogue with Both Sides.

 

The Anti-Defamation League opposes BDS claiming that “many of the founding goals of the BDS movement, including denying the Jewish people the universal right of self-determination, is anti-Semitic. Many people involved in the BDS campaign are driven by opposition to Israel’s very existence as a Jewish State. All too often, BDS advocates employ anti-Semitic rhetoric and narratives to isolate and demonize Israel.”

The traditional definition of anti-Semitism is a dislike of or bias against Jews by virtue of their imagined inherent “Jewishness.” This is very different from objecting to the criminal behavior of someone or some group that happens to be Jewish. In the first case, it is the “Jewishness” of someone you object to while in the second, it is their criminal behavior you find objectionable, regardless of the perpetrator’s religion.

The Israeli government, by conflating all Jews as an integral part of the Israeli state, claims that any criticism or opposition to Israeli state behavior, even if that behavior is criminal, is anti-Semitic, thereby redefining anti-Semitism in a way that allows Israel to sidestep all moral responsibility by turning the onus around and pointing fingers at its critics.

In so doing, Israel has grossly miscalculated. It cannot continue its oppression of a people, the confiscation of their lands, unjust imprisonment, restrictions on movements, displacement and house demolitions and cry anti-Semitism when it is called out on the international stage for its oppressive behavior. There is a definite shift in opinion about Israel’s behavior and it is helping to create a growing movement that shines a light on Israel’s crimes.

 

In June 2018, the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) representing 1.5 million Americans voted unanimously to support the BDS campaign. In July 2018, the General Convention of the Episcopal Church USA, with its 3 million members, voted to support BDS by screening suspect companies that might be complicit in Israel’s violation of Palestinian human rights. Dozens of Jewish organizations worldwide, with their tens of thousands of members, also support BDS.

Israel can no longer hide behind alleged anti-Semitism every time critics charge them with human rights abuses. BDS is winning and Israel has only itself to blame.  It is an unapologetic apartheid state and deserves world-wide condemnation for its inhumane actions.

This book is available for purchase here: Amazon

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THE UN RESOLUTION THAT ENDED THE ISRAELI-HEZBOLLAH WAR OF 2006

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres recently sounded a word of caution on Hezbollah’s continuing violations of Security Council Resolution 1701 which called for cessation of hostilities between Hezbollah and Israel in 2006.

According to Guterres, “Hezbollah continues to publically declare that it retains military capabilities” and that “no progress has been made towards the disarmament of armed groups beyond the control of the State, thereby undermining the ability of the government of Lebanon to fully exercise its sovereignty and authority over its territory.”

UN Resolution 1701, which halted the Israeli-Hezbollah war, was crafted by the US and its allies, following negotiations with Israel, all the while claiming to act on behalf of the Lebanese government. It called for Israel to cease its offensive actions but allowed necessary defensive operations to continue for another forty-eight hours, during which time Israel dropped millions of cluster bombs over south Lebanon.

In the opinion of Robert Falk, professor emeritus of international law at Princeton University, “This was simply a final effort by the US to provide political cover for Israel to attempt to seize some vestige of military victory from the jaws of its defeat. Israel was not censured in any way for using the run-up to the ceasefire to further escalate its military presence in Lebanon, thereby suggesting that the UN is all too often a geopolitical tool for powerful superpowers rather than an instrument for the enforcement of international law.”

By contrast, Hezbollah was required to terminate all military actions. When the Lebanese government rejected the resolution as a capitulation document, then Secretary of State Rice commented that such reactions demonstrated “who is for peace and who isn’t.” Since the document stated that the violence escalated as a result of Hezbollah’s attack on Israeli soldiers on the Lebanese border on July 12, 2006, it implicitly named Hezbollah as the aggressor. No differentiation was made in the scale of violence and no party was named responsible for extensive damage to Lebanon’s civilian infrastructure or the hundreds of thousands of internally displaced persons throughout the country.

Rather than using diplomacy to obtain the release of its soldiers, a precedent that had already been set, why did Israel’s Prime Minister Ehud Olmert hastily declare war? According to investigative journalist Seymour Hersh, the war plans were already on the table and the Israelis were simply waiting for a pretext to execute them. Olmert’s pre-ordained plan was to crush Hezbollah and disarm them.

In the end, and contrary to Secretary-General Cuterres’s recent comments, it was not Resolution 1701 that suggested a mechanism for disarming Hezbollah.

Rather, UN Resolution 424, which officially ended the illegal Israeli occupation of South Lebanon in 2000, provided the means. Resolution 424 called for both the full withdrawal of Israel from all Lebanese territory and the disarming of Hezbollah. At issue was the Shebaa Farm, a water-rich area fourteen-square-miles in size, which was seized by Israel during the 1967 war. The Israelis disputed Lebanon’s claim that Shebaa Farms belonged to them and, therefore, refused to withdraw. Hezbollah, certain the territory belonged to Lebanon, maintained that as long as Israel continued to occupy this tiny piece of land, it had the right to keep its arms. Under pressure from the White House, the UN remained mute on the question of Shebaa Farms, refusing for six years to acknowledge Lebanon as its rightful owner.

It was not until July 11, 2007 that then Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon certified the Shebaa Farms as an integral part of Lebanese territory. Ban invited the Israelis to withdraw immediately. Israel, to date, has refused to leave Shebaa Farms. Why? An abundance of water coming mainly from precipitation has allowed the formation of major underground reservoirs. In need of any available water source, Israel officially annexed this parcel of land and will never willingly give it up, certain, as always, that their illegal actions will be protected by Washington. I discuss this at length in Tragedy in South Lebanon: The Israeli -Hezbollah War of 2006.

 So, Secretary-General, I urge you to review your UN resolutions. Lebanon’s survival depends on it, for as long as Hezbollah maintains its arms, the Lebanese will have a military deterrent against further Israeli aggression. Secretary-General, you have only to read a recent statement by the Israeli army Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot warning of the possibility of another war with Lebanon “larger than before,” to know the threat is real..

This book is available for purchase here: Amazon

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