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

IPV-230x335

 

 

Advertisements

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

Tragedy-Cover-230x335

AMERICA’S ENDLESS WARS

As we are learning, U.S. wars are based on lies. Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction and his links to al-Qaeda, both fabrications used to justify the Iraq invasion, were finally exposed. Seventeen years into the Afghan war, Americans still associate the Taliban with al-Qaeda.  “We make no distinction between terrorists and those who harbor them,” declared George W. Bush in 2001. This was at the heart of the Bush doctrine, using confusing distinctions to encourage Americans to see the Taliban as actively in cahoots with al-Qaeda, hence enemies of America and “terrorists” by definition.

Al-Qaeda is an Islamist global terror outfit intent on provoking and intensifying conflict between the Muslim world and the West. The Taliban is a Pashtun-nationalist movement that grew out the disorder in their country from 1978 to 1996.

For years, our military commanders have acknowledged that they cannot defeat the Taliban, yet President Trump has recently intensified the war against them. “I have lifted restrictions and expanded the authority of the commanders in the field. The gloves are off. Our military is now looking for any opportunity to target the enemies in Afghanistan wherever we find them in the theatre.” In 2017 alone, some 20,000 Afghans were killed.

A US-Saudi-led coalition has waged a cruel war against the Yemini Houthis, a home-grown Shiite movement, that turned the country into the worst humanitarian crisis in the world. The destruction of infrastructure in Houthi-held areas has destroyed a once-functioning public health system, touching off a cholera epidemic with over a million suspected cases. Even worse is Yemen’s man-made famine, a direct result of US-Saudi air campaigns and a naval blockade aimed directly at the country’s economic life. While there is a sufficient supply of food in the country, the Yemini have no money to buy it. Both the U.S. and Saudi Arabia claim the Houthi enjoy Iranian supoort. There is no evidence to support such a claim.

If there is a place in the Middle East almost as miserable as Yemen, it is Syria. Since 2011, when a nonviolent movement to unseat Assad dissolved into a vicious civil war, more than half the country’s pre-war population of 22 million have become internally displaced or obliged to take refuge in neighboring countries. No doubt there is plenty of blame to go around with over 500,000 deaths, but on any list of culprits we must include the neoconservatives, the same ones who fostered the myth of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. As far back as 1996, these neocons had already hatched a “Clean Break” strategy with Benjamin Netanyahu, then serving his first term as Israel’s Prime Minister. The idea was to reconfigure a Middle East favorable to Israel’s interests. First, Saddam Hussein had to be removed, then the US would undertake regime change in Syria. The loudest advocate for both Iraq and Syria destruction during the Bush administration—John Bolton—is now Trump’s national security advisor.

Will conflict with Iran be added to our long list of endless wars? As I wrote in The Syrian, “Syria is the conduit between Iran and Hezbollah. Syria is ruled by Alawites, an off-shoot of Shiite Islam; Iran and Hezbollah are also Shiite. In order to weaken both Iran and Hezbollah, Israel and the US must first destroy Syria. Geopolitically, there is a much bigger issue at play—the proxy war between the US and Iran. Such a war would amount to an inter-Islam war which would be even more worrisome. Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf states, mostly Sunni, support U.S. and Israel’s attempt to destroy the three Shiite entities. With Trump and his Secretary of State openly talking about a possible escalation between the U.S. and Iran, there is a major risk that some combination of the U.S., Israel and Saudi Arabic threesome could initiate a war with Iran.

For more than 70 years, Americans have largely ignored the effects of U.S. foreign policy around the world. Rubble in Syria? Famine in Yemen? They wonder what all of this has to do with them.

It is past time for the debate to begin. It is time for Americans to pay attention to what their government does in their name. It is time to take note of the $1 trillion in annual profit that the military-industrial compound rakes in annually, and ask why?

There is neither discussion, nor debate, nor protest about our endless wars. Perhaps if the media did not put all its resources into Donald Trump’s tweets, they would find the time to expose the evils of America’s endlamazoness wars.

This book is available for purchase here: Amazon

Syrian-230x335

ISRAEL’S NEW APARTHEID LAW

The Israeli parliament recently passed a law declaring Israel the nation state of the Jewish people. The law states:

“Israel is the historic homeland of the Jewish people and they have an exclusive right to national self-determination in it.” This, even though one in five citizens of Israel is an indigenous, non-Jewish Palestinian.

The new law also declares that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, sets the Hebrew calendar as the official calendar of the state, and recognizes Independence Day, days of remembrance and Jewish holidays. One clause of the bill downgrades the Arabic language from official to “special” standing, but also cryptically stipulates that “this clause does not harm the status quo to the Arabic language before this law came into effect.”

As I wrote in Israeli and Palestinian Voices: A Dialogue with both Sides, “Israel’s 1948 Declaration of Independence refers specifically to Israel as a Jewish state committed to the ingathering of Jewish exiles. Palestinians who are classified as Israeli Arabs, and non-Jews like Armenians, have citizenship rights. They can vote in election for members of the Knesset and for prime minister.

“All other rights are nationality rights based on religion and are reserved for Jews only. If you are Jewish, you have exclusive use of the land, since Israeli law states that ninety-three percent of the land in Israel belongs to the Jewish people. If you are Jewish you have privileged access to private and public employment, special educational loans, home mortgages and priority admission to all universities. Special privileges are reserved for those who serve in the military. Military service is compulsory for all Jews, male and female, except the ultra-Orthodox, who receive the special privileges anyway. Palestinians, both Muslim and Christian, are not allowed to serve in the Israeli Army. The Druze, who are originally from Lebanon and who practice an offshoot of Shiite Islam, are permitted to serve in the Israeli Army.

“Israel does not define itself as a state of its citizens but as a state of all the Jews in the world. Jews from anywhere can make aliya (emigration) to Israel, declare citizenship and be granted the nationality privileges of being Jewish while these rights are denied Palestinians who have lived in Palestine for centuries.”

In passing this bill Israel has legislated annexation of all Palestinian land and has established an apartheid system. There is no longer any illusion that Israel is a democracy as it has always claimed. Palestinians, no matter where they live, are controlled by an Israeli government and military that robs them of their basic human rights and freedoms.

Adalah, a leading Palestinian human rights organization in Israel, describes how the law “affirms the principle of apartheid in housing, land and citizenship.” It concludes that “this law constitutionally sanctions institutionalized discrimination.”

This bill is a harsh reminder to all Palestinian citizens of Israel that they are not welcome in their own ancestral homeland. As non-Jews, they were already not allowed to buy or rent land on 93% of the area controlled by the Israeli state, and many communities, the Bedouins in particular, are declared “unrecognized” and bulldozed out of existence by Israeli forces.

From now on, it will not just be legal to racially discriminate against the indigenous Palestinian citizens of the state. It will be constitutionally mandated and required. If ever there was a time for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel’s system of oppression it is now. Otherwise, Israel will use its new law to make more and more Palestinians stateless and demolish more Palestinian homes. They are going to make life so difficult for Palestinians that they eventually disappear. That is their plan.

Israel’s official adoption of apartheid opens the door for the Palestinian people. They do exist as the indigenous people of this ancient land. Now is the time to rally the world to pressure the UN to activate its anti-apartheid laws and impose serious sanctions on Israel.

This was done against apartheid South Africa. It must also be done against apartheid Israel.

This book is available for purchase here: Amazon

IPV-230x335

AN INDEFINITE US PRESENCE IN SYRIA?

According to John Bolton, in a recent ABC News interview, the US demands the immediate withdrawal of all Iranian advisors and troops from Syria. He also insisted that US troops should remain in Syria until all Iranian influence is wiped out, not just in Syria, but in the Middle East. What Bolton is really saying is that the Trump administration plans to continue to raise the bar of unreasonable demands to justify the indefinite presence of American troops, not just in Syria, but in the entire region, in the serve of its larger geopolitical goals.

It is unlikely that President Assad would agree to these terms as events outside Syria are beyond his control and a reduction of Iranian influence in the region would be against Syria’s best interest, given that Iran is a major ally of Assad.

In fact, the Syrian government would only consider such a deal feasible if the US would withdraw its forces prior to a pull-out of Iranian forces since the US presence prevents the Syrian Army and its allies from waging war against ISIS not just in the northeast but on its southern border with Jordan. According to some media sources, Trump would “allow” Damascus, supported by Russian air power, to regain its territory along its borders with Jordan, Israel and Iraq. In return, President Putin and Assad would agree to establish an extended demilitarized zone along these same borders, off-limits to any Iranian forces. That would set the scene for Trump’s already announced desire to extract US forces out of Syria before October and the US-mid-term elections.

According to Pepe Escobar, writing in Asia Times, the CIA and the Pentagon are not exactly enthusiastic about Trump’s alleged Syria gambit. For assorted neocons and powerful factions of the industrial-military, surveillance complex, their “Assad must go” demand cannot be traded off. “As if there is something to trade,” says Escobar. “Syria cannot be “offered to Russia” because Russia is already the major player in deciding what happens in Syria, not only militarily, but in conjunction with Iran and another regional power, Turkey.”

Was this something that was discussed in Helsinki between Trump and Putin?

At the heart of the matter is Syria’s territorial integrity and the legitimacy of the Assad government. Russia, Iran and Turkey support this. The US-led NATO and the Gulf Cooperation alliance are against it especially since they are the ones, over the last seven years, who have financed and supported various Al-Qaeda groups that the West insists on calling “moderate rebels,” as if any al-Qaeda group could ever be defined as “moderate.”

To accomplish such an ambitious goal in the northeast, the Assad government would have to liberate its own territory back from the Americans who insist on holding onto this important piece of real estate not, as they contend, to fight ISIS et al, but to keep their greedy hands on that oil and gas rich area of Syria. I discuss this in depth in Damascus Streetmy newest work of fiction.

While in the south, in Daraa, where the conflict began some seven years ago, the reasons are as sinister for this area, just across the border with Jordan, is a  very convenient crossroads of weapons smuggling destined for the ISIS hordes still fighting for control of that part of Syria on behalf of the US and its allies.

As it stands, the main narrative in US media is that “regime forces,” meaning those loyal to the Syrian government, and therefore the “bad guys,” have unleashed air strikes and barrel bombs over rebel-held sections of southern Syria creating a humanitarian crisis.

The battle for southern Syria, and the decision by the Assad government to initiate it, while disregarding regional opposition, is one of the most complicated battles undertaken by the Syrian Army and its allies since the beginning of the conflict. The end of the battle and a victory for the Syrian Army would allow the commercial land route between Syria, Lebanon and Jordan to be liberated, thereby allowing the transport of goods safely to the rest of the Gulf. While this is paramount for the financial well-being of Syria, it is equally important that Syria wrestle back its territorial integrity from the various ISIS groups who have been financed, trained and armed for years by the CIA and the British Special Forces in Jordan.

Are these issues that Putin and Trump can reasonably agree on, or must they continue to bend to the demands of Israel and its regional ally, Saudi Arabia?

There is no doubt that Israel has specific regional priorities and that the US implements them most of the time, even when they go against American interests. As of now Israel’s aim is to prevent the central government in Damascus from regaining control of the Syrian territory occupied by ISIS and their allies.

Who will the winners be in this deadly regional game? Will Putin be able to convince Trump to do the right thing and withdraw American troops from all of Syria, or will Israel and the warmonger neocons prevail, as they so often do?

This book is available for purchase here: Amazon

Damascus-Cover-300dpi