Friday, February 27, 2009
Thursday, February 26, 2009
Saturday, February 21, 2009
THE ABSURD TIMES
A reader passed on this interesting "thought-Experiment". I was thinking "Modest Proposal" as I read it, but the next missive already indicated that had been though of. Anyhow, here it is:
January 09, 2009
Slater's thought experiment
Jerry Slater has a unique way of looking at the terrible situation in Israel/Palestine, inspired by Jonathan Swift: What if the Situation Were Reversed? He writes:
There has been growing outrage at Israel’s attack on Gaza. It is hard to understand this entirely unfair and one-sided criticism once you understand the wider context.
Why do so many commentators forget that since 1967 the Palestinians have occupied Israel; colonized it with settlers; invaded it a number of times, killing, wounding, or otherwise destroying the lives of thousands of Israelis, including women and children; assassinated its leaders (including those democratically elected by the Israeli people); repeatedly attacked its political, security, and civic institutions; deliberately attacked its schools and universities; closed its trade and commerce with the outside world; bombed its roads and bridges; destroyed much of its electrical power system; imposed severe restrictions on Israeli drinking and agricultural water; prevented thousands of farmers from reaching their lands and orchards; disrupted its private and public health systems; surrounded Jewish areas with checkpoints and military outposts; built Palestinian-only roads that the Jews are not permitted to use; humiliated the Israelis in a variety of ways on a nearly daily basis--and more?
Even so, it may be argued, the Israelis should never have unleashed their inaccurate rockets against Palestinian town. For such actions are justly labeled as terrorism, even though only a few Palestinians have been killed. And terrorism—deliberate or indiscriminate attacks against civilians—is rightly condemned by everyone, no matter how justified the cause (the end of the Palestinian occupation of the Israelis and the creation of a genuinely independent Jewish state), or how long the history of the failure of every other alternative.
Still, in our heart of hearts, do we really mean that all terrorism is equally to be condemned? Isn’t the thought going to occur: What are the poor Israelis to do, given the vast military power of the Palestinians as compared to their own meager resources, not to mention the enormous economic, military, and diplomatic assistance given to Palestine by its unwavering and entirely uncritical ally, the United States, the world’s only superpower?
Alright: Consider a purely hypothetical counterfactual. Suppose the situation were reversed, and it was Israel that was actually the occupying power, the oppressor, the impoverisher, the assassinator, and so on? In those circumstances, wouldn’t the civilized world be increasingly outraged at Israel’s behavior?
Of course, I understand that this may seem preposterous, since it is impossible to imagine that a Jewish state—a Jewish state!—could ever behave in such a manner. Still, it may be that such a “thought experiment” could be useful.
Saturday, February 14, 2009
the absurd tymes
Mourners at a funeral in Gaza
Palestinian Firemen at work where water is in short supply
Blood shed in order to prevent future holocausts in Germany.
Illustrations: See captions.
We used to be known throughout the world as a champion of democracy and freedom
for all who wanted it, even against tyrants and military occupations.
Isn't Gaza such a place? Who controls Gaza, is it an independent state?
Israel controls Gaza and the West Bank and can shut down its borders anytime it likes,
or shut off power, water or food supplies.
The whole world watches with dismay as well over a thousand people are killed
by the IDF (Israeli Defense Force) in retaliation for rocket fire from somewhere in Gaza. Most of these
casualties are civilians, women and children, injured or killed by massive strikes, phosphorous bombs that burn
the flesh worse than napalm. The helicopters, jets, tanks and other weapons are made and supplied
by us, along with billions of dollars in aid each year.
In the same spirit as Ronald Reagan once damatically said, "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall."
I can see our Congress saying to Prime Minister Ehud lmert "Mr. Prime Minister.
let Gaza and the West Bank go". lt Palestine become an independent state, let the land go, stop occupying and
threatening two million Palestinians.
The "Green Line" is an internationally recognized border, why not use
it to delineate the two states?
Does anyone ever ask why rockets are fired at Israel, what motivates such
attacks? Do all occupied people not 'yearn to breathe free',
do we not sympathize with the Palestinians?
I realize huge pro-Israel lobbying force exists in D.C. so great courage is
needed to speak out. Why do we fear to confront Israel and
instead approve all that they do? Did not the Gaza pullout by Israeli forces a
day before the inauguration of President Obama send a clear enough signal? The US and Israel are too close, we need our
independence as well as the Palestinians.
Let the international community help, let UN forces observe the peaceful
transition to the two states and let it be done now.
We give billions of I presume taxpayer dollars to Israel each and every year.
Could not some of that be withheld until Israel finally
agrees to a two state solution? Otherwise, what motivation have they to stop
occupying and yes, 'ghetto-izing' Palestinians? Thank you for reading this.
Carter is Back!
AMY GOODMAN: President Carter, it's good to have you on Democracy Now!
JIMMY CARTER: Well, thank you, Amy. It's good to be with you and your millions of viewers and listeners.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, you've written a new book. It's called We Can Have Peace in the Holy Land: A Plan that Will Work. What is that plan?
JIMMY CARTER: Well, the plan is a diametric opposite from what is the trend now by Israel in the West Bank—and that is to make one state, one nation, all the way from the Mediterranean to the Jordan River—and that is the two-day solution, which is generally adopted by the United States government, the road map for the international community, the United Nations resolutions, and also unanimously by all twenty-two Arab nations. That is a two-state solution based on Israel's withdrawal, basically to the 1967 borders, the sharing of Jerusalem and so forth. And that's been spelled out and accepted for a long time.
And so, I think that the plan that I outline in my book is one that has practical aspects of modification of the basic two-state solution that both sides can accept overwhelmingly. One of the key issues would be to leave about half of the Israeli settlers in Palestine where they are—that is, those nearest to Jerusalem—and swap them an equivalent amount of land, say, acre for acre, to be used for a corridor, a narrow corridor between the West Bank and Gaza, about thirty-five miles' distance. And that could be used to make a train route or either a highway still to be controlled by Israel's security. I discussed this particular plan with Ariel Sharon in January of 2005, and he agreed with me completely on it.
AMY GOODMAN: President Carter, the Israeli attack on Gaza, do you think it set back hopes for peace now?
JIMMY CARTER: In a way. I think it was a completely unnecessary war—and I wrote an editorial for the Washington Post accordingly—because it could have been avoided easily.
But in the long term, it may actually produce a more enthusiastic move toward a comprehensive settlement, in that for the first time, really, in a long time, maybe forever, the European countries have been directly involved in trying to bring about an accommodation. The President of France, Sarkozy, has been over there. The Prime Minister of Great Britain, Gordon Brown, has been over there. And the European Union leaders have been over there to work with the Egyptians, who have been negotiating for a number of months now between Israel and Hamas, for instance, to bring about a permanent ceasefire.
What Hamas wants is just to have an open supply, an adequate supply of food and water and fuel and medicine to go in to the one-and-a-half million Palestinians who are imprisoned, basically, within Gaza. And what the Israelis want is an end of Hamas rockets and mortar fire. So, those two things can be worked out. So I think it may be that this horrendous attack on Gaza will precipitate a more enthusiastic move toward a comprehensive peace agreement.
AMY GOODMAN: You say that it could have been avoided. You actually met with Hamas in December. We interviewed Robert Pastor on our broadcast, who went with you. Can you talk about how you think this attack could have been avoided?
JIMMY CARTER: Well, I went over there first in April, and I met with the leaders of Israel and Fatah and Egypt and Syria and Hamas. And in the past, Hamas has insisted on a ceasefire only if it included the West Bank. And Israel was adamantly opposed to that. So I induced Hamas to accept a ceasefire just for Gaza, and the Egyptians negotiated that, and it began the 19th of June, and it lasted for six months.
Toward the end of that period, obviously it was breaking down, so I went back to the area and met with the Hamas leaders. And they said that they would have a complete ceasefire if Israel would just restore an adequate amount of supplies to the people in Gaza. I couldn't go to the West Bank, but Robert Pastor, whom you interviewed, and also Hrair Balian, who's in charge of the peace program for the Carter Center, went to Israel and asked the Israeli defense leaders, Defense Department leaders, if they would agree to that. And the answer came back the next day: they would only supply 15 percent, about one-sixth, of the supplies that the people in Gaza needed. So that meant that the ceasefire could not be renewed, and it precipitated rocket fire from Gaza and the attack on Gaza by the Israelis.
AMY GOODMAN: The prosecutor, the ICC prosecutor's office, has said that the International Criminal Court at The Hague, the prosecutor for it, has launched a preliminary analysis to establish whether Israel committed war crimes in its offensive against Gaza. Documents also show the Palestinian National Authority has recognized the jurisdiction of the ICC, in a move designed to allow investigations of alleged crimes in the Palestinian territories. What are your thoughts about this?
JIMMY CARTER: I don't believe that Israel has accepted the authority of the International Criminal Court, so it may be a moot effort. But I think that if the Palestinians can prevail in having an assessment made, then that might clear the air. But I don't think there's any chance of the International Criminal Court imposing any sort of penalties on Israel.
AMY GOODMAN: Do you think Israeli leaders should be tried?
JIMMY CARTER: No, I don't. I don't think that would be fruitful. I think it would be a mistake to make a move of this kind. But I do hope that there will be a complete revelation of what has occurred, and that's why I've been involved. That's why I've written an op-ed piece for the Washington Post. And that's why I'm talking to you. I think that out of this whole debacle or horrible catastrophe that's occurred to the one-and-a-half million folks in Gaza, that a new momentum can be generated, particularly with a new president in the White House and a superb new envoy or negotiator, that will lead toward a peace agreement.
AMY GOODMAN: President Obama has yet to really talk about the Jewish settlements. The Jewish settlements are a major obstacle to a two-state solution. What is your assessment of the Obama administration and where they stand?
JIMMY CARTER: Well, I think that Obama has made an unprecedented move of an aggressive nature toward a peace agreement in the Middle East that escaped his predecessors in recent years. And that is, he started working on the Mideast peace problem the first day he was in office. And he's appointed an envoy who is most superbly qualified as a mediator and knows the area quite well and also is fairly balanced between Israel and its neighbors, or neutral. And that's what's required. In fact, George Mitchell has already been condemned by some of the Jewish American organizations, because he is neutral or balanced, which has not been the case with the previous envoys. I was neutral or balanced back thirty years ago when I negotiated between Sadat and Begin and brought a peace agreement. And you have to look at both sides in order to have any sort of peace proposals that have a chance to be accepted by both sides.
AMY GOODMAN: But this issue of not mentioning the settlements, although what he has said has gone further than any president in the past.
JIMMY CARTER: Well, he's only been in office a few days. And I think what happened was that he made a choice of an envoy. He made clear that this issue would be on the top of his agenda. He made calls to the leaders in the Middle East, I think the day he was inaugurated, as a matter of fact. And then, he's appointed a person that can look at both sides. I think that's a very good step forward.
He did condemn the suffering of the women and children and civilians in Gaza when the attack was underway. But I think he's been waiting to let George Mitchell come back from the Mideast, prepare a trip report—that is, delineate what he found to be facts and what his recommendations might be—before Obama makes a public statement on those issues. I think that's a wise political move for him to make.
AMY GOODMAN: What about what should happen in Gaza right now, President Carter, with the continued blockade?
JIMMY CARTER: Well, I think that the—what Hamas has always wanted, in my dealings with them and in their public statements, is just one thing, basically, and that is to open up supply routes in the closed border going into Gaza, through the enormous wall that surrounds Gaza, so that food and water and medicine and fuel can go in to the one-and-a-half million people. When Israel was in control of Gaza, before July—or before 2005, the average amount of fuel and so forth going in was 750 truckloads a day for one-and-a-half million people. But the Israelis have never been willing to go more than 15 percent or 25 percent of that, which means that, in effect, the Gazans either starve to death or they have to bring in food and so forth in the tunnels that go from Gaza out into Egyptian Sinai Desert region.
AMY GOODMAN: Former President Jimmy Carter has written a new book. It's called We Can Have Peace in the Holy Land. When we come back from break, we'll go back to the interview. Stay with us.
AMY GOODMAN: We return to our interview with former President Jimmy Carter. His latest book, We Can Have Peace in the Holy Land.
AMY GOODMAN: President Carter, on the issue of Afghanistan—Barack Obama made his position known early on Iraq, saying he was opposed to the war with Iraq, even before the US invasion. But on the issue of Afghanistan, he is for a surge there.
On Democracy Now!, we just interviewed the attorney Cherif Bassiouni, who was the UN investigator, human rights investigator, in 2005. After he came out with his report very critical of the US military, saying it committed human rights abuses, he was fired as the investigator, under pressure from the United States. His assessment is that war is not the answer. What is your assessment, President Carter?
JIMMY CARTER: Well, that's one area that I think I would disagree with Obama, as far as a surge that would lead to more intense bombing of Afghan villages and centers and the heavy dependence on military. I would like to see us reach out more to be accommodating and negotiate with all of the factions in Afghanistan.
I notice that Obama is also much cooler in his assessment of President Karzai than was George W. Bush and knows that he's not been effective. He's basically just governed right around the capital city, and his brother is well known to be one of the major drug dealers. So I think that to reach out to offer a hand of friendship or accommodation, not only to the warlords, but even to those radicals in the Taliban who are willing to negotiate, would be the best approach, than to rely exclusively on major military force.
And I don't think there's any doubt that General Petraeus and others that have made the assessment over there are telling Obama that this is a much more serious problem than Bush previously thought and also that a major surge, as was accomplished in Iraq, would only be effective if you could get the ones who are now opposed to US forces to change their position and be more accommodating to our presence, and with a future glimpse of when the United States occupation would expire.
AMY GOODMAN: So, are you opposed to a surge in Afghanistan, President Carter?
JIMMY CARTER: Well, if it's a surge of a military nature only, then I would be opposed to it. But I'm not convinced that that's what Obama wants, and I'm not convinced that that's what General Petraeus and others are recommending. I'm not privy to their secret assessments that have been now shared between them and President Obama.
AMY GOODMAN: Right, but just the fact, on that issue of the military, they're clearly calling for tens of thousands of more soldiers to go into Afghanistan. Do you see a parallel with what happened in Iraq?
JIMMY CARTER: Some, but I think if the soldiers going in there are mainly to maintain order and to reach out to the people in an accommodating way, that's one thing. If the soldiers are going in there to greatly escalate our military attacks, then I think that would be a mistake.
AMY GOODMAN: Do you think cutting aid to Israel would be a way to achieve Middle East peace?
JIMMY CARTER: No, I don't. That has been done in a couple of occasions. I did it once when I was in office, when Israel made an unwarranted invasion of Lebanon, in my opinion. And I notified the prime minister of Israel at the time that this violated US law, in that our sale of weapons to Israel was predicated on Israel using the weapons for defensive purposes only. That's a present US law and was then. And so, they withdrew from Lebanon under that pressure.
When George H.W. Bush was in office, he witnessed the escalation of Israeli settlement building in a major settlement area between Jerusalem and Bethlehem. That's only a distance of about six miles, by the way. And he actually withheld several hundred millions of US aid money to Israel, and then Prime Minister Shamir backed down and stopped construction on that particular settlement area under pressure from the United States and the withholding of actual funds. I think $400 million was finally withheld. And so—but as soon as George H.W. Bush went out of office, the settlement was recommenced, and it's now been basically completed.
So, on two occasions, that was done in the past, but I don't see that that's a fruitful way to threaten Israel, with withholding of funds. We give Israel about $10 million dollars in aid each day, and that's a lot of money. But, you know, I think we feel obligated to do it, and I wish that we would give an equivalent amount of aid to the suffering Palestinians.
AMY GOODMAN: Has President Obama sought out your advice on the Middle East, President Carter? You've met with him several times.
JIMMY CARTER: Not directly. When he heard that I was going to—I notified him that I was going to the Middle East in December, that I would be meeting with the Lebanese, who are going to have an election on the 7th of June, which the Carter Center will probably monitor. I also told him I was going to Syria, a nation with which we do not have diplomatic relations, and that I was going to meet with Hamas leaders and others.
He asked me to make a report to him after I came back, which I did. So, the night before the five presidents met in the highly publicized meeting in the Oval Office in the White House, I met with President Obama—President-elect Obama then—quite extensively. My wife was in the room taking notes, and David Axelrod was the only other person in the room taking notes. He never did comment. So just the four of us. And I told him about all the work of the Carter Center, and most of his questions, that took up more than half the time, was about the Middle East. It was at that time that I gave him the only copy of my new book that I had, which I had just read over to make sure it didn't have any mistakes in it.
AMY GOODMAN: Helen Thomas, who questioned you when you were president, now is questioning the tenth president that she has covered as the dean of the White House press corps, President Obama, asked President Obama, "Do you know of any country in the Middle East that has nuclear weapons?" He evaded that question.
JIMMY CARTER: That's interesting. Helen Thomas is one of the best reporters that ever served in the White House. She used to give me some tough questions, which I never avoided, by the way, but I noticed that later, in George W. Bush's term, he pretty well excluded Helen Thomas from the approved interrogators of him. But I think she has some very appropriate questions.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, she was clearly alluding to Israel. Do you think the Middle East should be a nuclear-free zone?
JIMMY CARTER: I would like to see it nuclear-free. There's no doubt that Israel does have a large nuclear arsenal. This has been known ever since before I became president, and even Israeli leaders have said publicly that this is true.
AMY GOODMAN: President Carter, thank you very much for joining us.
JIMMY CARTER: I've enjoyed talking to you. Thanks very much. Bye-bye.
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And the new news = the old news:
TZIPI LIVNI: [translated] In this evening, I'm turning to Benjamin Netanyahu. Before the election date was scheduled, I offered you to join a unity government under my leadership to handle the same challenges that are facing the state of Israel. You refused then. You refused and said that the people will decide, that the people should determine. The people have decided today: Kadima.
AMY GOODMAN: The Israeli newspaper Haaretz reports Netanyahu has a better chance of forging a coalition because of gains by right-wing parties, who are his natural allies. Netanyahu claimed victory Wednesday morning, saying a Likud-led coalition would lead Israel.
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: [translated] I will turn firstly to our natural partners in the nationalist camp to form a coalition government, as I promised. I've spoken with the parties' heads already this evening, and we scheduled to begin discussions tomorrow morning about founding a new government in the state of Israel.
AMY GOODMAN: Once the final results are in, President Shimon Peres will consult with party leaders to determine who among them stands the best chance of forming a coalition government. He does not have to choose the leader of the largest party. The chosen party leader then has up to forty-two days to form a coalition. If the attempt fails, Peres can ask another leader to assume the task.
Elections were called early, after Livni failed to form a new government following Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's decision to step down last year amidst a corruption probe against him. Olmert will stay on as caretaker prime minister until a new government is formed.
For analysis on the election results, we're joined by two guests. Dr. Mustafa Barghouti is an independent Palestinian lawmaker and democracy activist. He happens to be in the United States now. He is joining us from Washington, D.C. We're also joined on the telephone from Beersheba, Israel, Neve Gordon, professor of politics and government at Ben-Gurion University and the author of Israel's Occupation.
We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Let us start in Israel first. Professor Gordon, what is your response to what is happening right now?
NEVE GORDON: I think the Israeli political system has been for several years in a crisis mode, and we've seen that none of the governments in the past, I think, decade or even more, lasted their full term, because there's a crisis of representation and so forth.
And when a country is in a crisis, there can be change in basically two directions. There can be a renewal of politics for a more moral, a more accepting politics. And there can be another way, which is more a xenophobic, neo-fascist tendency, is a turn to the right, a blaming of the other for all your faults.
I think what we see in these elections is that the whole political map has turned even further right than it was. We have to remember that Kadima, which basically won the elections by one point, most of its members were Likud members. And so, we have the Likud, and then we have the Likud II, and then we have Yisrael Beiteinu. Together, they form probably close to 80 percent of the electorate. And so, we have an extremely right-wing Knesset now. Some of the parties are with actually neo-fascist tendencies.
And I think the implications internally will be detrimental and even devastating. And I think the implications with Israel's relations with its neighbors, and particularly the Palestinians, are going to be extremely harsh. And the likelihood that the Israeli government will lead any kind of peace initiative or agree to any kind of peace initiative is slim without external pressure.
AMY GOODMAN: Dr. Mustafa Barghouti, your first response?
DR. MUSTAFA BARGHOUTI: I totally agree with what Neve has just said. This is a very serious shift, but not only to the right; this is a shift to racism. In my opinion, in these elections, Israel has completed the transformation into an apartheid state with an apartheid racist political system.
And this is the outcome of two processes. One is the implantation of fear and hatred in the Israeli society by the Israeli establishment. The army is a big part of that establishment, and the military-industrial complex is a second big part. And the second factor has been the complicity of the international community. The United States administration, previous administration, the European governments, the whole official international community has been complicit with Israeli crimes, war crimes in Gaza and in other places, and silent about forty-one years of occupation. So, basically, people in Israel think they can do what they want. If they violate human rights in such a terrible manner and nobody is objecting, I think they think they can move forward towards racism and an apartheid system, and that is unfortunately the case today.
In addition to what was said about practically the Likud racist approach dominating the whole scene, with Livni and Netanyahu—and here I would agree that there aren't much differences between the two. Maybe you can say that both of them are racist. Only, Netanyahu is a blunt racist, and Livni is a racist with some makeup. But they both represent the same.
Barak, on the other hand, who was supposed to represent what you call left-centrist party, shocked everybody, in my opinion, by being even more extreme and more racist. When he described Lieberman, who's clearly a neo-fascist and a very dangerous element, he said—he accused him not of being a fascist, not of being an extreme, but he criticized him for not being tough enough. He said, "This is a lamb in hawk's clothing. And when did he ever shoot anybody by himself?" So Barak was competing with Lieberman by saying, "I am the man who shot Palestinians. I am the man who executed Palestinians with my own hands."
And that gives you a very, very simple picture of how tragic the situation is in Israel today. And it puts us all, as Palestinians, in front of a very clear task: we have to struggle against this apartheid system, we have to break this apartheid system. But the challenge now is on the side of the whole international community, which has been either silent or complicit or trying to avoid the issue, when it is very clear.
AMY GOODMAN: We're going to go to break and then come back to this discussion. I want to ask you, Dr. Mustafa Barghouti, as you sit not far from the Capitol right now in Washington, D.C., if you are meeting with US government officials. And, Neve Gordon, I want to ask you about the rise of Avigdor Lieberman and exact what he represents, for example, calling for loyalty oaths for Israeli Arabs to take if they want to stay in Israel. This is Democracy Now! We'll be back in a minute.
AMY GOODMAN: As we talk about the Israeli elections, this is Avigdor Lieberman, leader of the extreme right-wing party Yisrael Beiteinu, which means "Israel, Our Home," speaking last week.
AVIGDOR LIEBERMAN: [translated] Israel is under combined terror attack from inside and outside the country. Internal terror is more dangerous than the external one, and we should understand that and react accordingly.
AMY GOODMAN: This is an excerpt of a commercial from the Yisrael Beiteinu party.
YISRAEL BEITEINU AD: [translated] Ahmad Tibi said that Hezbollah captures soldiers because of the Israeli foolishness. His salary is 35,000 shekels. Shame and disgrace. No loyalty, no citizenship.
AMY GOODMAN: And this is Hanin Zoubi, the first Palestinian Israeli woman to stand for election. She spoke out against the politics represented by Avigdor Lieberman on Tuesday. Zoubi is running on the Balad ticket, an Arab party in Israel.
HANIN ZOUBI: [translated] Indeed, Lieberman is a natural result of the racist policies in this country for sixty years. Lieberman didn't bring anything new. All the parties demand loyalty from the Arabs. The right, what's called the center, what's called by mistake left or center-left, they all demand loyalty from the Arabs. The new thing by Lieberman is only giving the punishment. The punishment for no loyalty is pulling the citizenship.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to go now to Neve Gordon, who's head of the Politics Department at Ben-Gurion University in the Negev. He's author of the book Israel's Occupation. In fact, his home was under fire from the Hamas rockets, his kids in a bomb shelter. Professor Gordon, your response to Avigdor Lieberman? His rise, were you surprised by it? And exactly what are the policies he represents?
NEVE GORDON: Let me begin by noting that this morning I taught my political theory class, and we were teaching John Stuart Mill's On Liberty. And what I think John Stuart Mill would say is that Lieberman is more dangerous to Israel than, say, Hamas, because Lieberman can destroy the Israeli political realm more easily than Hamas, because Lieberman does not want to allow any view that is other than his own, any criticism of the government, to enter the Israeli political realm, and that is an anti-democratic and an anti-political message that he's giving the Israeli citizenship. So I think Lieberman is extremely dangerous. As I mentioned before, I think his party has strong neo-fascist tendencies, and I think that their rise is a manifestation of the direction Israel is going. And I would say it's an anti-Israeli stance.
I do partially agree with the representative from Balad that we cannot understand this as an island, as something totally new, but rather something that has been building up. What we see in—before the elections, that in all the high schools in Israel, Lieberman was the leading party in [inaudible] votes. So we see that the younger generation is supporting these neo-fascist tendencies. And we cannot blame the schools from it, but we have to blame the whole atmosphere in Israel, which is indeed a racist atmosphere, an anti-Arab atmosphere, anti-Palestinian Arab atmosphere. And Lieberman, what he has learned to do well is to feed on the hatred and the fear of the Arabs, to use a xenophobic method. And this is extremely dangerous. And to tell you the truth, I fear for Israel. I fear for the citizenry in Israel. And I think we are in a watershed moment in Israeli politics.
AMY GOODMAN: But this issue of loyalty oaths, explain what that is.
NEVE GORDON: It's unclear exactly what it is. And that's part of its power, is the—it's whoever is not loyal to the state, according to what Lieberman and his friends believe is loyal, their citizenship can be stripped. What people are saying is that he's talking about Arabs that are supporting the Palestinian cause for a state and supporting maybe even Hezbollah. They're not loyal, and therefore their citizenship should be stripped.
Now, history teaches us how these things go. You begin by stripping the loyalty of an Arab that supported the Hezbollah, and then you strip the citizenship of an Arab that supported the Palestinian Authority, and then you start stripping the citizens of certain lefty Jews, and that's how things go.
So—and what is interesting about all of this is that Netanyahu, the leader of Likud, said that he supports the motion of stripping citizenship to those who are unloyal to the state. But he said the only—"My only problem with Lieberman's proposal is that Lieberman doesn't tell us exactly how to enforce it, and it's very difficult to enforce." So, conceptually, ideologically, it's a much broader political spectrum that's supporting this connection between loyalty and citizenship, and that is extremely dangerous, I think.
AMY GOODMAN: Dr. Mustafa Barghouti, you heard the interview with former President Jimmy Carter. Do you think a two-state solution is still possible in the aftermath of the assault on Gaza? And what is the extent of the settlements now in the West Bank?
DR. MUSTAFA BARGHOUTI: First of all, let me please comment a little bit about Lieberman. I think when he speaks about loyalty, he's practically speaking about ethnic cleansing, to repeat some acts of ethnic cleansing that took place in Palestine in 1948. But it's about getting rid of the Arabs who live in Israel and who have Israeli citizenship and who represent 20 percent of the population.
And more than that, when he speaks about loyalty, just to make it clear, it would be anybody who is against war, for instance, that is conducted by Israel, on Gaza or anywhere else, would be considered as an illoyal or unloyal citizen. Anybody who is not supporting occupation would become not loyal to Israel. This is why it's very dangerous and risky. It is putting the oppressed, which are the Palestinians and the Arabs, who are oppressed from racism and discrimination, in a situation where either they approve of their own oppression by the Israeli government or they become disloyal to the Israeli government and then entitled to losing their citizenship. That is the risk, and that's why it looks like a very clear neo-fascist approach.
Now, on the issue of settlements, I want to say that since 1967 there hasn't been any period where there was a real freeze of settlement activities. On the contrary, they have been growing at a much faster rate, especially during the times of the so-called peace process. During Annapolis period, the rate at which settlement continued to expand was forty times more than before Annapolis. And now we are witnessing the creation of even new—whole new settlements. That was under Kadima. That was under the coalition of Labor and Kadima, Livni and Barak, and without Netanyahu. So you can imagine what would be the case.
In my opinion, we have reached a very critical moment, and that's why these elections are of great importance, because the bringing in of racist tendency in Israel and this whole extreme coalition into the Israeli government, which would be the case, is happening exactly at a moment when we are about to lose the last opportunity of two-state solution, because of the growth of settlements, because of the fragmentation of the West Bank, because of the consolidation of a situation where Palestinians practically live now in bantustans and ghettos. And they're in a situation where, after fifteen years of the creation of the Palestinian Authority, the only road open for it by Israel is to become only a security sub-agent for occupation and something like Vichy government in a bantustan entity. That is the risk. And that's why this is dangerous, not only because it is against peace, but also it is like the last hit in the direction of killing the final or the last opportunity of two-day solution.
And this has been a subject that I've been discussing here with many people in the United States administration. At the Senate yesterday, I had a very, very good meeting with John Kerry, the head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. And I hope. I hope. The only thing that can stop this wave of extremism, this wave against peace, is only a strong United States stance. I don't know if it will happen. But I can tell you, this is the time of challenge. If the United States does not immediately take steps to stop settlement expansion and if the United States does not immediately take steps to tell Israel enough is enough, I think the two-states option will be lost forever.
AMY GOODMAN: Do you feel, Dr. Mustafa Barghouti, as you come here to Washington—you've come here many times—that you've come into a new era, a new government? Do you think President Obama represents something different? And what are your thoughts on George Mitchell as his Middle East envoy?
DR. MUSTAFA BARGHOUTI: Absolutely. It is early to say still, because, you know, many appointments have not been filled yet, but so far, from what I have seen from the people I have met with, you can feel the breeze of change in Washington. You can feel it's a totally different Washington from what we had, for instance, three months ago or two months ago.
And I would like to emphasize here that I believe that the last war on Gaza, plus other things that the Israeli government did jointly with the Bush administration, was nothing but an effort to create a preemptive strike against the Barack Obama administration. That was clear in the Resolution 1850, which tried to restrict the peace process only to the failing Annapolis process. And that was clear in the war and intensification of tension in the region, to prevent, in my opinion, peaceful dialogue with Syria and Iran that Barack Obama wants to have and to obstruct a fast and quick withdrawal from Iraq. But finally, that agreement that was concluded between Livni and Rice, in the very last hours before Rice left her position, was also a preemptive strike against this administration. But I tell you, I feel change. We looked forward to—
AMY GOODMAN: Explain what that—explain what that agreement was.
DR. MUSTAFA BARGHOUTI: That agreement was that the United States and NATO will be providing guarantees to Israel and provide protection to the occupying force, being Israel, and to prevent the resistance of the Palestinian people who are under occupation. So this is the first time in human history where, from one side, the people under occupation in West Bank are supposed, through this huge security apparatus, which is consuming 34 percent of our budget, depriving us from healthcare and education—the Palestinian Authority is supposed to provide protection to its occupiers, and the world community has to provide protection to the occupying force of Gaza, in this case the Israeli occupying force. That is the essence of the—
AMY GOODMAN: And George Mitchell?
DR. MUSTAFA BARGHOUTI: About Mitchell, I think that is a positive—I think the appointment of Senator Mitchell was perceived in the Middle East as a very positive step. I consider it very positive. I know Mitchell. We've met before. I know that his stand on settlements was very clear.
And now is the change. I think after coming to the area one or two—two or three times more, it will be clear whether he—that the only recommendation can—he should make immediately is to stop settlement activities. And if that does not happen, then, unfortunately, I think the whole area would go into a complete collapse of the peace process.
I think I feel here in Washington some new trends. First of all, there is more sensitivity to the issue of settlements. I think there is more inclination to accept our view, our point of view, that Palestinians are—should be allowed to have a national unity government, and thirdly, that we should allow Palestinian democracy to be revived. You know that Israel has slaughtered the democratic transformation in Palestine by arresting our members of parliament. And if Israel is entitled to democratic elections, then I think we, as Palestinians, are entitled to that.
I believe this is just a beginning. I hope we will go in the right direction. And maybe these results of elections in Israel will show everybody the time has come for a real change in the American policy. Every value that President Obama spoke about—values of respect of human rights, of democracy, of respect for Geneva Convention, avoiding torture, justice, equality, equal opportunity—every value of those are violated by Israel.
AMY GOODMAN: We're going to have to leave it there. Dr. Mustafa Barghouti, independent Palestinian lawmaker and democracy activist, ran for president of the Palestinian Authority. Neve Gordon teaches politics, head of the Department of Politics and Government at Ben-Gurion University in the Negev. He is author of Israel's Occupation.
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Friday, February 06, 2009
Wednesday, February 04, 2009
Health Care Now
The whole world is in recession. But the United States is the only wealthy country in which the economic catastrophe will also be a health care catastrophe - in which millions of people will lose their health insurance along with their jobs, and therefore lose access to essential care.
Which raises a question: Why has the Obama administration been silent, at least so far, about one of President Obama's key promises during last year's campaign - the promise of guaranteed health care for all Americans?
Let's talk about the magnitude of the looming health care disaster.
Just about all economic forecasts, including those of the Obama administration's own economists, say that we're in for a prolonged period of very high unemployment. And high unemployment means a sharp rise in the number of Americans without health insurance.
After the economy slumped at the beginning of this decade, five million people joined the ranks of the uninsured - and that was with the unemployment rate peaking at only 6.3 percent. This time the Obama administration says that even with its stimulus plan, unemployment will reach 8 percent, and that it will stay above 6 percent until 2012. Many independent forecasts are even more pessimistic.
Why, then, aren't we hearing more about ensuring health care access?
Now, it's possible that those of us who care about this issue are reading too much into the administration's silence. But let me address three arguments that I suspect Mr. Obama is hearing against moving on health care, and explain why they're wrong.
First, some people are arguing that a major expansion of health care access would just be too expensive right now, given the vast sums we're about to spend trying to rescue the economy.
But research sponsored by the Commonwealth Fund shows that achieving universal coverage with a plan similar to Mr. Obama's campaign proposals would add "only"
about $104 billion to federal spending in 2010 - not a small sum, of course, but not large compared with, say, the tax cuts in the Obama stimulus plan.
It's true that the cost of universal health care will be a continuing expense, reaching far into the future. But that has always been true, and Mr. Obama has always claimed that his health care plan was affordable. The temporary expenses of his stimulus plan shouldn't change that calculation.
Second, some people in Mr. Obama's circle may be arguing that health care reform isn't a priority right now, in the face of economic crisis.
But helping families purchase health insurance as part of a universal coverage plan would be at least as effective a way of boosting the economy as the tax breaks that make up roughly a third of the stimulus plan - and it would have the added benefit of directly helping families get through the crisis, ending one of the major sources of Americans' current anxiety.
Finally - and this is, I suspect, the real reason for the administration's health care silence - there's the political argument that this is a bad time to be pushing fundamental health care reform, because the nation's attention is focused on the economic crisis. But if history is any guide, this argument is precisely wrong.
Don't take my word for it. Rahm Emanuel, the White House chief of staff, has declared that "you never want a serious crisis to go to waste." Indeed. F.D.R. was able to enact Social Security in part because the Great Depression highlighted the need for a stronger social safety net. And the current crisis presents a real opportunity to fix the gaping holes that remain in that safety net, especially with regard to health care.
And Mr. Obama really, really doesn't want to repeat the mistakes of Bill Clinton, whose health care push failed politically partly because he moved too slowly: by the time his administration was ready to submit legislation, the economy was recovering from recession and the sense of urgency was fading.
One more thing. There's a populist rage building in this country, as Americans see bankers getting huge bailouts while ordinary citizens suffer.
I agree with administration officials who argue that these financial bailouts are necessary (though I have problems with the specifics). But I also agree with Barney Frank, the chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, who argues that - as a matter of political necessity as well as social justice - aid to bankers has to be linked to a strengthening of the social safety net, so that Americans can see that the government is ready to help everyone, not just the rich and powerful.
The bottom line, then, is that this is no time to let campaign promises of guaranteed health care be quietly forgotten. It is, instead, a time to put the push for universal care front and center. Health care now!
|From:||Z Net - The Spirit Of Resistance Lives|
posted 2009-02-02 17:32:32
Tomgram: Chalmers Johnson, Economic Death Spiral at the Pentagon
Recently, reviewing lobbying disclosure reports, the Washington Times discovered "that 18 of the top 20 recipients of federal bailout money spent a combined $12.2 million lobbying the White House, the Treasury Department, Congress, and federal agencies during the last quarter of 2008." Citibank alone, according to the New York Times, fielded "an army of Washington lobbyists," plunking down $1.77 million in lobbying fees just in the fourth quarter of last year.
And it isn't only sinking financial institutions begging for federal dollars that have bolstered their Washington lobbying corps. So have the biggest U.S. armaments companies -- "drastically," according to reporter August Cole of the Wall Street Journal. In 2008, he found, Northrop Grumman almost doubled its lobbying budget to $20.6 million (from $10.9 million the previous year); Boeing upped its budget from $10.6 million to $16.6 million in the same period; and Lockheed-Martin, the company that received the most contracts from the Pentagon last year, hiked its lobbying efforts by a whopping 54% in 2008.
If you want to get a taste of what that means, then click here to view an ad for that company's potentially embattled boondoggle, the F-22, the most expensive jet fighter ever built. What you'll discover is not just that it will "protect" 300 million people -- that's you, if you live in the USA -- but that it will also employ 95,000 of us. In other words, the ad's threatening message implies, if the Obama administration cuts this program in bad times, it will throw another 95,000 Americans out on the street. Now that's effective lobbying for you, especially when you consider, as Chalmers Johnson does below, that for any imaginable war the U.S. might fight in the coming decades, the F-22 will be a thoroughly useless plane.
We don't usually think of the Pentagon as a jobs-and-careers scam operation, a kind of Mega-Madoff Ponzi scheme that goes BOOM!, though it is clearly designed for the well-being of defense contractors, military officers, and congressional representatives; nor do we usually consider the "defense" budget as a giant make-work jobs racket, as arms experts Bill Hartung and Christopher Preble recently suggested, but it's never too late.
Chalmers Johnson, author of the already-classic Blowback Trilogy, including most recently Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic, makes vividly clear just how little the Pentagon is organized to consider the actual defense needs of the United States. In many ways, it remains a deadly organization of boys with toys that now poses a distinct economic danger to the rest of us. (Check out, as well, a TomDispatch audio interview with Johnson on the Pentagon's economic death spiral by clicking here). Tom
Copyright 2009 Chalmers Johnson