26 February 2009

Make War not Peace - Delightful Israeli Graffitti left in Gaza

Above an example of the exquisite art of the Hebron settler - 'Arabs to the crematoria' and the graffitti that Israeli soldiers left behind in Gaza.

Below is an article from Israeli daily Yediot Aharanot describing some of the 'art' that Israel's model soldiers left in their wake.

Tony Greenstein

IDF soldiers leave racist graffiti on Gaza homes Gaza residents returning to their homes in Zeitun neighborhood find their houses covered with slogans such as 'Death to Arabs,' and 'One down, 999,999 to go.'
IDF: Those responsible will be reprimanded A painful reminder for Operation Cast Lead remained evident in Gaza in the form of blatant, racist graffiti left on houses' walls by IDF soldiers.

Some of the graffiti was written on the ruins of the homes of the al-Samuni family, who lost dozens of its members during the war.

An IDF spokesman said in response to the report: "This is not how IDF soldiers are educated. This goes against the IDF's ethical code. The matter is being investigated and those responsible for it will be severely reprimanded."

We Came to Exterminate You

An Israeli comments on the article below and its use of language:

The rendering in Haaretz of the graffiti left in Gaza by Israeli soldierswent through curious mutations.The straightforward translation is "We came to exterminate you". At first the online English version of Ha'aretz rendered this as "We came to slaughter you!". But when I last looked at it the translation has been amended to "We came to annihilate you" -- nearer to the correct translation but not near enough, because the Hebrew "lehashmid" is regularly translatedas "to exterminate".

Curiouser still: the visual evidence, a photo of the graffiti, has been removed from the online Hebrew version (it never appeared in the Englishonline version). But attached herewith is the evidence, taken from the English *print*version. The photo is faint, but the graffiti is legible.And even here, in the caption under the photo, the graffiti is mistranslated as "we came to destroy you". Apparently, "exterminate" (as in: "extermination of Jews during the Holocaust"...) is a word the Haaretz translator wished (or was told) to avoid at all costs -- even at the cost of falsifying the translation.

By Amira Hass Ha'aretz 13 February 2009.

At 1 P.M. on Monday, January 5, 2009, near Rajab Mughrabi's garage on Saladin Street, in the Zeitoun neighborhood of Gaza City, a man of about 60 was pushing an elderly woman in a wheelbarrow. A 15-year-old boy walked at their side, waving a white cloth. Behind them, some 80 people were walking northward, their hands in the air. The day before, during Israel Defense Forces advances under cover of heavy fire, Palestinian inhabitants began their great flight westward, inward, into the Strip's urban centers. If they thought they were in the soldiers' line of sight, they waved white flags and raised their hands aloft.

The man pushing the wheelbarrow was Mou'in Joha, his mother was sitting inside and his son Ibrahim accompanied them bearing the flag.

"On the night between Saturday and Sunday, between January 3rd and 4th," Joha recalled a few weeks later, "there was shelling just all around us. They were firing from all directions, and inside the house we were dying of fear. With every shell we thought it was the end. We heard the stones quaking. We ran from room to room. We lay the children down on the floor in the innermost room, like fish, one next to the other."

Joha is an agricultural engineer who studied in Egypt; for the past 15 years, he has worked for the Palestinian ministry of agriculture, supervising strawberry growers. He lives in his unwhitewashed concrete home with two wives and 10 children. In the now half-destroyed house, he recounted the events of the morning of January 4: "They started shooting from the northwest, firing on our home as though we were a military outpost. The girls were crying in fear. Down below, the ground was covered with soldiers. They were shouting, 'Open the door.'"

The houses along this part of the main thoroughfare of Gaza - Saladin Road - are some 80 to 100 meters from one another. To the east of the houses is an open area of fields and orchards. To the west, the edge of the Zeitoun neighborhood. Now it is strewn with heaps of concrete and other rubble, the walls of its houses gaping open, revealing evidence of fires that have broken out inside. There are also the ruins of the Sawwafiri family's chicken coops. As the army advanced, the bulldozers or tanks ran over them. At the end of January, there was still a heavy stench of dead chickens in the air. Municipal sanitation department workers, wearing white clothes and white masks on their faces, were engaged in gathering the dead birds.

The Joha family sent one of the girls down to open the door for the soldiers. The rest of the family came down the stairs "with hands up in the air." A soldier started smashing the floor in one of the rooms. In a number of the houses that became temporary outposts, the soldiers filled up sacks for their firing positions with the sand found under the flooring. Mouin Joha went up to the top floor with the soldiers "and I discovered that everything was destroyed": The shelling had brought down walls, bent columns, opened holes. One of the soldiers "photographed us and the destruction," he recalled, "and then we were ordered to go downstairs. There were maybe 12 of them, maybe 20. I was so scared I couldn't count."

Downstairs, said Joha, an officer shouted: "'Yallah - everyone to Rafah. I want to blow up this house.' I couldn't believe my ears. I've been building this house all of my life. I said to him, 'Ya Khawaja [an honorific for a foreigner], where will I go? The children are so small.' But he aimed his weapon at me and said: 'Go, yallah.' They suggested we go to the mosque, as a place of refuge. I said that the mosque had also become a target for the shelling."

Joha's family went to the home of the neighbor, Abu Zor. There they found other escapees, members of the Sawwafiri family. But early Sunday morning, the same story repeated itself, related Mohammed, Joha's son: "Firing on the house, the girls screaming in fear. We ran from room to room and overhead there was shooting. We started to crawl along the floor."

The firing came from the northwest (where the army had already taken up positions the previous day). The soldiers heard the screaming and allowed the people to come out of the house. They ordered them to march - men in front and women in back. When they were out in the street, related Mou'in's wife, Mudallala, "they threw stun grenades near us. One of the soldiers took pictures of us, afraid and with the girls screaming. They told us all to go to Rafah. How am I going to walk to Rafah when I have heart problems?"

Houses as IDF positions

The group started walking southward toward the former Netzarim junction, but then its members were fired on from that direction. Panicking, they fled to Mughrabi's garage - about 60 people, more than half of them children, Mouin Joha estimated.

After resting awhile, they decided to walk to the center of town. The soldiers already knew them, they thought; they had checked and seen that all of them were civilians. Now the same soldiers were sitting in their houses, including that of Joha, all of them transformed into IDF positions.

"We thought the army would let us keep going because we raised a white flag. I got my elderly mother, whom I couldn't carry, to sit in a wheelbarrow for transporting cola crates, which we padded with some rags," said Joha. Mudallala remarked that their son Ibrahim was waving a mandil (headscarf).

"We walked for about 150 or 180 meters," she continued. "There were many of us, and we all had our hands up in the air. And then a shot was fired in front of the wheelbarrow. It was a sharpshooter from Abu Zor's house. And then immediately another shot - at Ibrahim. He cried out and everyone ran for their lives."

Mohammed carried his wounded younger brother back to the garage. Somebody called the Red Crescent to send in an ambulance, and then the teenager began to complain of pains in every apart of his body, the mother related. The IDF did not permit an ambulance to enter the area under its control. That night Ibrahim began to spit up blood. At about 2 A.M., some 13 hours after he had been shot, he died.

It was only a few days later, on Thursday, January 8, when the IDF declared a three-hour break in the firing, that the group - now some 80 people, at least half of them children - were able to remove Ibrahim's body, as well as three others lying in the road; two of them were the bodies of Palestinian fighters (which Mohammed said he had already seen on Monday). They walked about two kilometers northward.

According to Mouin Joha, from one of the houses that now served as military positions, sacks that the soldiers used to hold bodily waste were thrown down at them. Full ones.

When the Joha family returned home, they found many of these bags, some of them leaking, lying about in rooms with walls that were full of holes or totally destroyed. They also discovered plastic bottles full of urine, parts from smashed computers, a refrigerator and washing machine perforated with bullet holes, books stinking of urine and heaps of rubble. The soldiers had also left behind some graffiti, declaring: "The Zionist occupier was here," and
"We came to annihilate you."
The office of the IDF Spokesman has responded that the events described by Mouin Joha are under investigation, and that the army "allowed the movement of ambulances insofar as it was possible, within the constraints of fighting in an area inhabited by civilians."

Army sources have told Haaretz that forces "are instructed to respect anyone who waves a white flag as a sign of surrender or non-involvement in the fighting and to refrain from hurting them."

Also, according to these sources: "Enemy forces make cynical use of this requirement of the IDF, and wave a 'white flag' as a cover when carrying out acts of warfare, and in order to avoid attack."

The sources added that, "in cases when a suspicion arises that a person waving a white flag is acting in a way that endangers our forces, the latter are entitled to take the necessary steps to investigate the suspicion and remove the threat, in accordance with the relevant orders regarding opening fire."

A tank driver from an Armored Corps battalion was quoted in the January 9 issue of Bamahaneh: "We stayed inside for four days, during the course of which we fired a lot. We suspect everyone. A lot of people pass by in the street waving white rags at us. We don't hit women and children, but they taught us to suspect men because there are alerts about suicide terrorists disguised as civilians."

During and after the operation in Gaza, there were a number of reports about people (including women and children) who were shot at by soldiers while trying to escape and waving white flags. These testimonies come from different places, including Ararah (Beit Lahia), Azbat Abed Rabo (east of Jabalya), Huzaa (to the east of Khan Yunis), this last an incident already reported on in Haaretz). Local and international organizations are investigating them in the context of preparing complaints and lawsuits against the IDF.

PACBI Salutes Canadian Academic Trade Unionists

It's good to see that Canadian trade union CUPE and the Ontario University Workers Co-ordinating Committee have come out in support of a Boycott of Israel and all its works. Below is a message of supporting welcoming their decision, from the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic & Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI).

Tony Greenstein

25 February 2009 Ramallah, Occupied Palestine25 February 2009

The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) applauds CUPE-Ontario's University Workers Coordinating Committee (OUWCC) for its principled support for the cause of justice in Palestine by adopting, at its annual conference on 22 February 2009, significant steps in the direction of applying effective pressure on Israel and holding it accountable for its colonial and apartheid policies which violate international law and fundamental human rights.

In particular, PACBI applauds the OUWCC for passing a number of resolutions aimed specifically at challenging and ending business-as-usual with the Israeli academy. The conference has decided to “[e]ncourage its member locals to hold public forums to discuss an academic boycott of Israeli academic institutions;” to “[a]sk campus representatives to work with locals to investigate both research and investment links between Ontario Universities and the state of Israel's military;” to “[m]obilize campus allies to pressure universities from engaging in acts of cooperation that assist and aid military research at the institutional level with Israeli universities;” to “[w]ork with campus and community allies to pressure Ontario universities to refuse collaborations, corporate partnerships and investments that would benefit, either directly or indirectly, military research or the Israeli state military;” and to “[r]equest funding and support from CUPE Ontario to conduct an education campaign on the academic boycott, coordinate education sessions and assist in the implementation of resolution 50 as passed in 2006.”

These resolutions, taken together, amount to a resolute decision to challenge the notion that Israeli universities and academic institutions can be "normal" partners of any self-respecting Canadian institution. Indeed, it has to be recognized by academics the world over that Israeli universities are part and parcel of the structures of domination and oppression of the Palestinian people. They have played a direct and indirect role in promoting, justifying, developing or supporting the state's racist policies and persistent violations of human rights and international law. It is significant that not only have they not condemned the state's colonial policies and practices and the longstanding siege of Palestinian education, they have facilitated and enabled the collaboration of their faculty members and researchers with the Israeli military-security establishment, in flagrant violation of the principles of the independence of universities and academics. Israeli universities and research institutes have been complicit in the crimes of the state since its founding; in fact, they have served the Israeli state’s determined effort to whitewash its crimes and portray itself as an important center of global learning and scholarship.

The sincere solidarity with Palestine shown by Canadian academic trade unionists is particularly timely in light of the recent Israeli war of aggression against the people of Gaza. During this lethal assault during which many war crimes were committed, 1440 Palestinians were murdered (of whom over 400 were children), 5380 were injured [1], and scores of institutions—including a university and several schools— and neighborhoods were partially or completely destroyed. The impunity of Israel must be challenged. Academic and cultural boycotts are effective measures available to world civil society to indicate its intolerance of oppression and as a means to bear pressure upon Israel to cease its campaign of ethnic cleansing and colonial control over the Palestinian people. The PACBI call for boycott in 2004 of Israeli academic and cultural institutions [2], like the Palestinian civil society's widely endorsed call for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) in 2005 [3], is based on the same moral principle embodied in the international civil society campaign against the apartheid regime in South Africa: that people of conscience must take a stand against oppression and use all the means of civil resistance available to bring it to an end.

16 February 2009

Support this worldwide Divestment and Boycott Campaign Against Israel and Apartheid" appeals Palestinian Labor Leader in SF Speech.

"We actually don't have any other way to exercise international pressure except calling our friends and supporters in the trade unions around the globe to call for this Boycott and Divestment." stated Manawel Issa Abdellal, member of the Executive Committee of the 250 thousand member Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions (PGFTU) in a recent speech to union activists and labor movement supporters in San Francisco.

"Factories actually exist inside the settlements and their products are going to the markets in Europe and in the United States. The whole world is saying these settlements are actually illegal settlements. So why would it be wrong to boycott them?",

he continued.

"My message to you as labor activists is to follow the lead of unions in Canada and Britain."
The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE)in Ontario passed Resolution 50 in May of 2006."

Adopted unanimously by 900 delegates, the resolution expressed support for the global campaign against Israeli apartheid. CUPE Ontario is the largest public sector union in Ontario representing over 200,000 workers.

The same month, the British National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education (NATFHE)declared its active support of boycotts against Israeli academics and academic institutions that do not publicly take an explicit stand against Israeli apartheid and Israel's discriminatory educational system. NATFHE is the largest union of university teachers in Britain (70,000 members).

In a wide-ranging talk, Manawel spoke about the PGFTU's efforts in defense of Arab workers struggling under the Israeli iron heel in occupied Palestine. He gave numerous examples of the policies employed by Histadrut and the State of Israel attempting insure the Arab majority of historic Palestine remains isolated and powerless.

Manawel described how Histadrut (the Israeli Labor Union) has used its privileged position in the Jewish State to take advantage of Palestinian workers for Histadrut's own ends. "Histadrut has failed to represent any Palestinian workers inside Israel.", he said, "and the PGFTU is forbidden from defending Arab workers in such areas. It is very painful. We can see, witness, and hear of Israeli brutal exploitation of Arab workers, but we cannot do anything...It can only remind us of the Cantons of the Apartheid State of South Africa."

In one example, there are Palestinian workers who have worked in the same East Jerusalem hospital continuously for over 30 years. The State of Israel does not allow them to leave Jerusalem to visit their families. If they were to leave Jerusalem, they would lose their jobs because they would not be allowed to return. Just over a year ago, a worker from Gaza working at the Makassed Hospital left to visit his family in Gaza. Although he had a permit to work at the Hospital, he wasn't allowed back in and lost his job. He was the sole breadwinner for his entire family.

In response to a direct question of whether Histadrut has shown any solidarity with Palestinian workers, Manawel answered, "Until now I have not seen any sort of solidarity. Even when Arab workers are hurt, which should be the ABC of solidarity with workers, I have never seen the Histadrut say that they condemn such an act or do something about it."

He described instances of Histadrut's withholding and diversion of funds belonging to the Palestinian workers. "An American Communication Union wanted to donate something to the Palestinian Unions and the Palestinian Labor Movement. Histadrut somehow obtained these funds, built a building for themselves in East Jerusalem, then leased it to the private sector, ironically, a Palestinian private sector. The contribution was meant to benefit Palestinian workers, not a private sector, Palestinian or otherwise. When confronted, Histadrut responded, "Well, we didn't sell the place".

Histadrut has been automatically deducting 1% of the salaries of Palestinian workers since 1970 as "trade union fees". The PGFTU estimates between 1970 and 1994, the Histadrut pocketed NIS (New Israel Shekel) 400 million (=US$94.27 million) "for little more than permission to enter Histadrut collective agreements along with Israeli workers".

In 1996, right after Oslo, an agreement was signed between the PGFTU and Histadrut stipulating that from 1995 on, of the 1% Histadrut was collecting, one-half was to go to the PGFTU. Histadrut has not honored the agreement they signed. Since 1996, they have kept all the funds they have collected from Palestinian workers.
Yet Histadrut has a strong presence in the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU), having been among the leadership for many years, even before it changed its name to the ICFTU. Instead of bringing pressure on Histadrut to implement the terms of the agreement they signed with PGFTU, the ICFTU is exerting pressure on the PGFTU to abrogate the agreement and make changes more favorable to Histadrut.

Manawel compared Israel's disproportionate influence among international labor organizations to the political power that Israel is able to exert among western nations, regardless of legitimacy of their claims under international law. Now that the possibilities of US federal sanctions have receded even further, with the largest number of congress members having dual-Israeli citizenship (43 - 13 Senators, 30 Representatives), it is ever more imperative that rank-and-file labor rise to the task of divestment, boycott, and state and local sanctions.

One rank-and-filer in the audience related that in 1987 Histadrut had an office in San Francisco at the Service Employees Financial Union Headquarters on Golden Gate. Every year the Labor Council would give a dinner honoring Histadrut. The Labor Committee on the Middle East in San Francisco organized a picket line which received a lot of publicity. August, 1987 was the last dinner that was given for Histadrut. They closed their office soon afterward and left San Francisco.

The Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions (PGFTU)

The PGFTU's roots go back to the founding of the Arab Worker's Association (AWA) in Haifa in 1920 and its struggle against the discriminatory labor and immigration policies of the foreign-imposed British Mandate. Increased wages, improved working conditions, and the 8-hour day were early union successes. But many later labor campaigns, including one of the longest general strikes in history (1936 - 6 months), were sabotaged through collaboration between the British, the Jewish Histadrut, and Arab collaborators and bought agents. Still, in 1948 the AWA was recognized by the International Trade Unions Federation as the legitimate representative of the Palestinian workers.

The 1948 catastrophe of the Jewish State and ethnic cleansing of Israel (al-Nakba) split the Palestinian Labor Movement asunder. The West Bank, operating under Jordanian law (with some British labor law), was initially allowed independence of action. Union activity was even made a part of the labor code in 1953. The next year, the West Bank-dominated General Federation of Unions, containing twenty Jordanian Unions, moved from Amman to Nablus. But by 1957, the Communist Party was banned and the unions rigidly controlled. Thirty-nine unions in 1957, became twenty-nine by 1959, and, after merging with the Jordanian trade unions in 1960, became sixteen by 1961.

Gaza, however, found Egyptian labor law more flexible, especially under Nasser, who encouraged the development of a Palestinian labor law. By 1964, the Palestinian Trade Union Federation (PTUF) in Gaza, with six industrial unions, began organizing Palestinian workers abroad and eventually established 13 exile branches in Europe and the Middle East. The PTUF was the first mass-based organization to recognize the PLO as the sole representative of the Palestinian people and became a part of it in 1969.

With the 1967 June War and Occupation, Israel attempted to totally suppress the Palestinian union movement. Gaza union offices were closed, union leaders were imprisoned or expelled, and all union activities were banned for twelve years. The notorious Military Order 101 of August 27, 1967[see below] was employed to insure the goal of silencing the voices of the Palestinian people. The unions went underground, but continued to grow. As the burden of occupation grew heavier on their institutions and economy, Palestinian workers increasingly sought work in Israel and urban centers. They began to view themselves with a united working class perspective for the first time.

[Military Order 101: "It is forbidden to conduct a protest march or meeting (grouping of ten or more where the subject concerns or relates to politics) without permission from the Military Commander. It is also forbidden to raise the flag or other symbols, to distribute or publish political articles and pictures with political connotations. No attempt should be made to influence public opinion in a way which would be detrimental to public order/security. Censorship regulations are in accordance with the Defence Regulations (Emergency) 1945. The punishment for non-compliance is a prison sentence of up to 10 years and/or a fine of 2,000 Israeli lira; soldiers may use force to apply this law."]

The First Intifada had a profound effect on worker's solidarity and class consciousness. Factional political struggles by The Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP), the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), and, finally, Fatah resulted in an overt politicization of the unions at the expense of their class unity.
Paralleling that of the Communist Party, later called the Palestine People's Party (PPP), all three organizations formed popular movements under trade union banners. From 1984, all four effectively shattered the labor movement with competing trade unions that eventually resulted in 161 "political" unions on the West Bank and Gaza, involving no more than 6,000 mostly politically affiliated workers.

It wasn't until 1991 in Amman, as the intifada cooled, that the PPP, PFLP, and Fatah combined into the Fatah-governed PGFTU , with twenty industry-based unions. The exiled PTUF, being the official PLO trade union, was still viewed as the parent organization of them all.

The PTUF occupied 15 seats in the Palestinian National Congress (PNC), the governing body of the PLO, but they were essentially appointed by Arafat and had no direct significance to workers' struggles under occupation. When the Palestinian Authority (PA) was first formed in 1994, the leader of the PTUF in-exile was appointed Deputy Minister of Labor. He tried to assert control over the PGFTU, by combining it with the PTUF, but only allocated two seats (representing West Bank and Gaza) on the 19-seat executive board.
The Palestinian unions in the trenches under occupation refused to combine and severed ties with the Tunis-based PTUF. The International Labor Organization (ILO) recognized the PGFTU as the Palestinian workers' representative in the ILO, declaring that it would only recognize "elected representatives from the territories, not appointees from Tunis".

The Palestinian labor movement has been hampered, not only outside from the occupation, but inside as well from the discord between Arafat-appointees returning from exile and entrenched union organizers who held their unions together all through the First Intifada. While the rank-and-file sided with the PGFTU, during the early years, neither side had been directly elected. The PGFTU constitution was finally approved by ballot in 2004. By 2005, it had implemented direct elections and its Secretary General could declare, "The PGFTU is the first institution working independently and democratically inside the Palestinian Territories."

The reaction of hegemonic nations to the Palestinian elections and the Hamas victory, a year and a half ago, was a disaster for all Palestinians, but especially for workers and their families. The failure of hegemony leads to coercion. A catastrophic political and economic blockade was deliberately inflicted to starve them into submission. In Palestine this means no job opportunities and those with jobs have no salaries. Four or five families depend on one worker feeding them all. Unemployment rose almost overnight from 41% to 75% of the workforce (400,000 workers). 80% live below the poverty line.

With the government still nascent and divided, the PGFTU had to provide much more then workplace representation and union issue negotiations. The union had to create an economic and social infrastructure for workers and their families. Manawel described graphically what unemployment really meant for them. There is no unemployment system yet. No work means no milk and no bread for the family. The union had to intervene between the government agencies and private sector employers to provide workers with jobs and salaries.

Prior to the last election, payments were still being received by workers who were unemployed because of the Intifada. The PGFTU made agreements with some of the Ministries to distribute these funds, supplemented them with grants and other resources, and redistributed them to those who were in the most need. Food supplies were likewise distributed by the PGFTU. As an independent organization, they insured a non-partisan distribution.

They also negotiate with private employers to get them to increase their workforce. They have also negotiated with government agencies like the Ministry of Labor to provide specific programs to provide jobs for the unemployed. They succeeded in establishing a program in which the government paid wages to unemployed workers who volunteered in non-private organizations for three months a year on a rotation basis.
Manawel was asked about the use of the ultimate weapon of class struggle,the strike, under their extreme situation. He responded, "Even if we are under occupation, there are human...workers rights that we are obligated to defend...There are workers' rights that we should be entitled to exercise in every place and every time. So while I resist the occupation from one side, I must also resist injustice in my workplace so we workers retain our rights."

The PGFTU, Hamas, and Fatah

The specter of the Hamas-Fatah conflict loomed heavy over Manawel's remarks. At a San Francisco labor union breakfast he was asked about the internecine bloodletting in Gaza and whether it was truly a confrontation between Hamas and Fatah or, in reality, involved just one faction in Fatah which was pursuing its own agenda. He diplomatically answered, "The latter". I heard the name of Dahlan, the Gaza Fatah warlord, mumbled in the audience.

Later, he spoke about the Hamas Unions and PGFTU's relationship with them. He explained,
"Hamas started very recently in trade union work, but they call themselves the Islamic Unions...I refuse to transform the unions into ethnic or religious groups or institutions. If you want to work in the unions, you don't work under a Code Islamic Union. They realize that in a union there is power and they want this. We are not going to cooperate with the kind of union that has only one ethnic and one religious identity. Hamas is very selective. They are willing to work with secular unions only if they can gain more power for their workers. We refuse to work conditionally with them as long as sectarianism is involved."

He was truly saddened by the situation between Hamas and Fatah.

"It was the outcome of the accumulation of several incidents and circumstances. I just want to remind you, before the elections, the US Administration, the European Union, the Arab Countries, and Israel, all pressured Abbas to bring Hamas to the election. When the election took place, they refused the outcome. You ask for democracy, so why do you reject the outcome? That was the beginning of it."

"And the dialogue and the different conflicts since that election day until the Mecca Agreement last February...the issue of taking different Ministries, one would take one and one would take another...it was so weak and so shallow that it has caused this type of explosive event. And each of them has a specific agenda so that they must win and implement it. Right now with technology and the information revolutions, everybody knows a lot of the facts. One of which is the taking by Fatah of support from the US and the European Countries. Others say that Hamas takes their resources from other countries that have a religious trend in the area."

"Unfortunately, instead of directing these funds and resources into rebuilding the social infrastructure, they use them to try to destroy one another. In my point of view, the only solution right now is the dismantlement of both governments, and a continued engaging in a national dialogue to come out of this crisis we are going through. In this small, tiny land we are talking about, we were asking for one state, now we have three states - Gaza, the West Bank, and Israel."

By D Leland Castleberry

D Leland Castleberry is retired California Attorney. He is currently a labor organizer for the I.W.W. His law partner for over twenty-five years was born in Jaffa, Palestine and fled to the United States during al-Nakba 1948.

Don't Make Comparisons with the Nazis

One of the most oft-repeated criticisms of blogs like this is that you mustn't compare Zionism and Israel to anything the Nazis did. Of course the Zionists do so with regular monotony, but we mustn't do it. What Israel and Nazi Germany both forbade Jews from marrying non-Jews, as Hannah Arendt noted when the Prosecutor in the Eichmann Trial, Gideon Hausner, denounced the Nuremburg Laws? Well that doesn't matter and anyway Arendt was a 'self-hating Jew'!!

In fact comparison have always been made, unsurprisingly because after 1948, when large numbers of survivors of the Holocaust had been coerced, in the Displaced Persons camps in Europe, to coming to Palestine (& the Zionist movement openly campaigned against the USA lowering its immigration barries, and launched a savage attack against Morris Ernst and others who sought to do just that). Palestinians and Arabs were regularly denounced as 'Arab Nazis', as were people like Gamel Abdul Nasser. Anyone in any doubt should read Tom Segev's The 7th Million.

Uri Avneri is a long-time peace campaigner. Originally a fighter in the Zionist terrorist group Etzel/Irgun, he came to realise that the Iron Wall could not persist forever. He is a member/founder of Gush Shalom and is one of those few Zionists who genuinely desire peace and indeed he broke the ice when he met with Yasser Arafat at a time when this was illegal. Whereas the hypocritical 'left Zionists' of Mapam went along with the Gaza War and the official justifications for civilian casualties, Avneir knows a propaganda lie when he sees it.

This excellent piece by Avneri is a parody of the Israeli claim that civilian casualties only occurred in Gaza because Hamas hid among the civilian population.

Tony Greenstein

Published on Monday, January 12, 2009 by The Progressive by Uri Avnery

NEARLY SEVENTY YEARS ago, in the course of World War II, a heinous crime was committed in the city of Leningrad. For more than a thousand days, a gang of extremists called "the Red Army" held the millions of the town's inhabitants hostage and provoked retaliation from the German Wehrmacht from inside the population centers. The Germans had no alternative but to bomb and shell the population and to impose a total blockade, which caused the death of hundreds of thousands.

Some time before that, a similar crime was committed in England. The Churchill gang hid among the population of London, misusing the millions of citizens as a human shield. The Germans were compelled to send their Luftwaffe and reluctantly reduce the city to ruins. They called it the Blitz.

This is the description that would now appear in the history books - if the Germans had won the war.

Absurd? No more than the daily descriptions in our media, which are being repeated ad nauseam: the Hamas terrorists use the inhabitants of Gaza as "hostages" and exploit the women and children as "human shields", they leave us no alternative but to carry out massive bombardments, in which, to our deep sorrow, thousands of women, children and unarmed men are killed and injured.

IN THIS WAR, as in any modern war, propaganda plays a major role. The disparity between the forces, between the Israeli army - with its airplanes, gunships, drones, warships, artillery and tanks - and the few
thousand lightly armed Hamas fighters, is one to a thousand, perhaps one to a million. In the political arena the gap between them is even wider. But in the propaganda war, the gap is almost infinite.

Almost all the Western media initially repeated the official Israeli propaganda line. They almost entirely ignored the Palestinian side of the story, not to mention the daily demonstrations of the Israeli peace camp.
The rationale of the Israeli government ("The state must defend its citizens against the Qassam rockets") has been accepted as the whole truth. The view from the other side, that the Qassams are a retaliation for the siege that starves the one and a half million inhabitants of the Gaza Strip, was not mentioned at all.

Only when the horrible scenes from Gaza started to appear on Western TV screens, did world public opinion gradually begin to change.

True, Western and Israeli TV channels showed only a tiny fraction of the dreadful events that appear 24 hours every day on Aljazeera's Arabic channel, but one picture of a dead baby in the arms of its terrified father is more powerful than a thousand elegantly constructed sentences from the Israeli army spokesman. And that is what is decisive, in the end.

War - every war - is the realm of lies. Whether called propaganda or psychological warfare, everybody accepts that it is right to lie for one's country. Anyone who speaks the truth runs the risk of being branded a traitor.

The trouble is that propaganda is most convincing for the propagandist himself. And after you convince yourself that a lie is the truth and falsification reality, you can no longer make rational decisions.

An example of this process surrounds the most shocking atrocity of this war so far: the shelling of the UN Fakhura school in Jabaliya refugee camp.

Immediately after the incident became known throughout the world, the army "revealed" that Hamas fighters had been firing mortars from near the school entrance. As proof they released an aerial photo which indeed
showed the school and the mortar. But within a short time the official army liar had to admit that the photo was more than a year old. In brief: a falsification.

Later the official liar claimed that "our soldiers were shot at from inside the school". Barely a day passed before the army had to admit to UN personnel that that was a lie, too. Nobody had shot from inside the school, no Hamas fighters were inside the school, which was full of terrified refugees.

But the admission made hardly any difference anymore. By that time, the Israeli public was completely convinced that "they shot from inside the school", and TV announcers stated this as a simple fact.

So it went with the other atrocities. Every baby metamorphosed, in the act of dying, into a Hamas terrorist. Every bombed mosque instantly became a Hamas base, every apartment building an arms cache, every school a terror command post, every civilian government building a "symbol of Hamas rule". Thus the Israeli army retained its purity as the "most moral army in the world".

THE TRUTH is that the atrocities are a direct result of the war plan. This reflects the personality of Ehud Barak - a man whose way of thinking and actions are clear evidence of what is called "moral insanity", a sociopathic disorder.

The real aim (apart from gaining seats in the coming elections) is to terminate the rule of Hamas in the Gaza Strip. In the imagination of the planners, Hamas is an invader which has gained control of a foreign country. The reality is, of course, entirely different.

The Hamas movement won the majority of the votes in the eminently democratic elections that took place in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip. It won because the Palestinians had come to the conclusion
that Fatah's peaceful approach had gained precisely nothing from Israel - neither a freeze of the settlements, nor release of the prisoners, nor any significant steps toward ending the occupation and creating the Palestinian state. Hamas is deeply rooted in the population - not only as a resistance movement fighting the foreign occupier, like the Irgun and the Stern Group in the past - but also as a political and religious body
that provides social, educational and medical services.

From the point of view of the population, the Hamas fighters are not a foreign body, but the sons of every family in the Strip and the other Palestinian regions. They do not "hide behind the population", the
population views them as their only defenders.

Therefore, the whole operation is based on erroneous assumptions. Turning life into living hell does not cause the population to rise up against Hamas, but on the contrary, it unites behind Hamas and reinforces its determination not to surrender. The population of Leningrad did not rise up against Stalin, any more than the Londoners rose up against Churchill.

He who gives the order for such a war with such methods in a densely populated area knows that it will cause dreadful slaughter of civilians. Apparently that did not touch him. Or he believed that "they will change their ways" and "it will sear their consciousness", so that in future they will not dare to resist Israel.

A top priority for the planners was the need to minimize casualties among the soldiers, knowing that the mood of a large part of the pro-war public would change if reports of such casualties came in. That is what happened
in Lebanon Wars I and II.

This consideration played an especially important role because the entire war is a part of the election campaign. Ehud Barak, who gained in the polls in the first days of the war, knew that his ratings would collapse
if pictures of dead soldiers filled the TV screens.

Therefore, a new doctrine was applied: to avoid losses among our soldiers by the total destruction of everything in their path. The planners were not only ready to kill 80 Palestinians to save one Israeli soldier, as has happened, but also 800. The avoidance of casualties on our side is the overriding commandment, which is causing record numbers of civilian casualties on the other side.

That means the conscious choice of an especially cruel kind of warfare - and that has been its Achilles heel.

A person without imagination, like Barak (his election slogan: "Not a Nice Guy, but a Leader") cannot imagine how decent people around the world react to actions like the killing of whole extended families, the destruction of houses over the heads of their inhabitants, the rows of boys and girls in white shrouds ready for burial, the reports about people bleeding to death over days because ambulances are not allowed to reach
them, the killing of doctors and medics on their way to save lives, the killing of UN drivers bringing in food. The pictures of the hospitals, with the dead, the dying and the injured lying together on the floor for lack of space, have shocked the world. No argument has any force next to an image of a wounded little girl lying on the floor, twisting with pain and crying out: "Mama! Mama!"

The planners thought that they could stop the world from seeing these images by forcibly preventing press coverage. The Israeli journalists, to their shame, agreed to be satisfied with the reports and photos provided
by the Army Spokesman, as if they were authentic news, while they themselves remained miles away from the events. Foreign journalists were not allowed in either, until they protested and were taken for quick tours
in selected and supervised groups. But in a modern war, such a sterile manufactured view cannot completely exclude all others - the cameras are inside the strip, in the middle of the hell, and cannot be controlled. Aljazeera broadcasts the pictures around the clock and reaches every home.

THE BATTLE for the TV screen is one of the decisive battles of the war.

Hundreds of millions of Arabs from Mauritania to Iraq, more than a billion Muslims from Nigeria to Indonesia see the pictures and are horrified. This has a strong impact on the war. Many of the viewers see the rulers of
Egypt, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority as collaborators with Israel in carrying out these atrocities against their Palestinian brothers.

The security services of the Arab regimes are registering a dangerous ferment among the peoples. Hosny Mubarak, the most exposed Arab leader because of his closing of the Rafah crossing in the face of terrified
refugees, started to pressure the decision-makers in Washington, who until that time had blocked all calls for a cease-fire. These began to understand the menace to vital American interests in the Arab world and suddenly changed their attitude - causing consternation among the complacent Israeli diplomats.

People with moral insanity cannot really understand the motives of normal people and must guess their reactions. "How many divisions has the Pope?" Stalin sneered. "How many divisions have people of conscience?" Ehud Barak may well be asking.

As it turns out, they do have some. Not numerous. Not very quick to react. Not very strong and organized. But at a certain moment, when the atrocities overflow and masses of protesters come together, that can
decide a war.

THE FAILURE to grasp the nature of Hamas has caused a failure to grasp the predictable results. Not only is Israel unable to win the war, Hamas cannot lose it.

Even if the Israeli army were to succeed in killing every Hamas fighter to the last man, even then Hamas would win. The Hamas fighters would be seen as the paragons of the Arab nation, the heroes of the Palestinian people, models for emulation by every youngster in the Arab world. The West Bank would fall into the hands of Hamas like a ripe fruit, Fatah would drown in a sea of contempt, the Arab regimes would be threatened with collapse.

If the war ends with Hamas still standing, bloodied but unvanquished, in face of the mighty Israeli military machine, it will look like a fantastic victory, a victory of mind over matter.

What will be seared into the consciousness of the world will be the image of Israel as a blood-stained monster, ready at any moment to commit war crimes and not prepared to abide by any moral restraints. This will have
severe consequences for our long-term future, our standing in the world, our chance of achieving peace and quiet.

In the end, this war is a crime against ourselves too, a crime against the State of Israel.

Uri Avnery, a founding member of the independent peace movement Gush
Shalom, is a peace activist, journalist, and writer.

Posted in free gaza, Israel/Palestine

Bar Arabs from the Knesset - More Nazi Rabbis Speak Out

Here is the received wisdom of another of those who Yeshayahu Leibowitz termed ‘Judeo Nazis. This time the Halacha, the body of Jewish law – written and oral – is cited in support of his argument by Rabbi Avner as is Maimonides. Maimonides, denounced to the French Inquisition by fellow rabbis and who sought refuge from the Almohodes invasion of Spain in Morroco in the 12th Century and who later settled in Egypt is famous for his ‘Guide to the Perplexed’ and the Mishneh Torah, a codification of the Talmud. Of course Rabbi Avner is right. You can certainly find racist and chauvinist interpretations of Jewish law in the Talmud and Maimonides writings, just as you can in all religions.

However most religious chauvinism tends to fall away, as per Christianity in the West, when religion is separated from the state and the former loses its secular powers. Where, as in Israel, religion legitimises and is part of the State, then the worst elements of the religion come to the fore as a means of justifying state repression and racism.

Of course the otherwise forgettable Rabbi Aviner is quite correct. Even if Arabs are not banned from Israel’s Knesset they have no influence. It is an unwritten rule, and has been ever since the inception of the State, that no government majority in a Jewish state should rest on the Arab parties. That is why no Arab parties have ever been part of the governing coalition (I exclude the Arab parties that the Zionist parties used to set up to trap the Arab vote behind themselves. These were not real or living parties and were based on clans and patronage. As the Arab vote in Israel has moved away from the Zionist parties towards secular or nationalist Arab parties like Balad and Hadash (Communist) so Arabs have been excluded by consensus from the governing coalitions, which means you will never have an Arab member of the cabinet and none of the discussions about forming a coalition even mention the inclusion of Arabs.

So even a clerical racist like Rabbi Aviner is satisfied by the present arrangements!

Tony Greenstein

Prominent Zionist rabbi says Jewish state should be led by Jews, but claims that since Arabs lack any real influence on Israeli reality, 'things are not so bad'
Kobi Nahshoni 13.2.09.

A prominent Zionist rabbi ruled this week that according to the Halacha, a non-Jew cannot serve as a Knesset member in the State of Israel, even if the public agrees to it. "This is irrelevant," said Rabbi Shlomo Aviner, "This is a Jewish state and Jews are the ones leading the Jewish state."

Aviner was asked on his weblog whether the election of non-Jews to parliament does not undermine the government's authority, and "is it even allowed for non-Jews to be part of the Jewish state's leadership?"

The rabbi replied that this was indeed against a halachic ruling issued by Maimonides, and that although later there were those who sought to allow it "if the nation agrees to it," Rabbi Zvi Yehuda Kook ruled this out as an "irrelevant" consideration.

According to Aviner, the present situation in Israel was undesirable, but added that since the Arab minority had no real influence on Israel's affairs, things were not so bad. However, "If they become the deciding factor and create the majority – this is blasphemy."

The rabbi concluded: "Still, we are very happy to have our own state, even if some of the Knesset members are not Jewish. This is a million times better than being ruled by the Brits or the Turks."

By Ben Lynfield in JerusalemTuesday, 27 January 2009

The Israeli army has been urged to sack Rabbi Avi Ronzki over the booklet the Israeli army's chief rabbinate gave soldiers preparing to enter the Gaza Strip a booklet implying that all Palestinians are their mortal enemies and advising them that cruelty is sometimes a "good attribute".

The booklet, entitled Go Fight My Fight: A Daily Study Table for the Soldier and Commander in a Time of War, was published especially for Operation Cast Lead, the devastating three-week campaign launched with the stated aim of ending rocket fire against southern Israel. The publication draws on the teachings of Rabbi Shlomo Aviner, head of the Jewish fundamentalist Ateret Cohanim seminary in Jerusalem.

In one section, Rabbi Aviner compares Palestinians to the Philistines, a people depicted in the Bible as a war-like menace and existential threat to Israel.
In another, the army rabbinate appears to be encouraging soldiers to disregard the international laws of war aimed at protecting civilians, according to Breaking the Silence, the group of Israeli ex-soldiers who disclosed its existence. The booklet cites the renowned medieval Jewish sage Maimonides as saying that "one must not be enticed by the folly of the Gentiles who have mercy for the cruel".
Breaking the Silence is calling for the firing of the chief military rabbi, Brigadier-General Avi Ronzki, over the booklet. The army had no comment on the matter yesterday.

Rabbi Arik Ascherman, the executive director of the Rabbis for Human Rights group, called the booklet "very worrisome", adding "[this is] a minority position in Judaism that doesn't understand the ... necessity of distinguishing between combatants and civilians."

13 February 2009

Israel's Elections - The Death of 2 States and the Zionist Left

Israeli politics cannot be compared with those in western capitalist democracies like Britain. The terms ‘left’ and ‘right’ are not the same in Israeli politics as elsewhere. In the West they bear some relationship to class, New Labour notwithstanding. The left has represented, in however distorted a fashion, the interests of the working class and relies on them for voting support. The right bases its appeal on private capital and appeals to the middle and bourgeois classes.

In Israel ‘left’ and ‘right’ applies to one’s position on whether to support peace with the Palestinians or a Greater Israel. Hence Ratz, the Citizen’s Rights Party, which merged into Meretz, in the 1988 Knesset, was the most liberal of Israeli parties when it came to its attitude to the Palestinians, with founder Shulamit Aloni, who became Education Minister, supporting the Refuseniks (soldiers who refuse to serve in the Occupied Territories) and adopting a non-Zionist position of opposition to the racism of a Jewish State. But economically it was a free-market position which merged with Mapam, a traditional party which originally described itself as ‘Marxist’ (in fact Stalinist).

In fact it is the Israeli working class, in particular Mizrahi/Oriental Jews, who have voted for the right in Israeli politics. Begin came to power in 1977 directly as a result of the vote of the working class. Israeli Labour was historically the enemy of the Oriental Jews and was rightly seen as their oppressor.

The Israeli Labour Party, which is erroneously seen as a party of peace, has always contained a pro-settlement wing, of which Yigal Allon and Israel Galili, of the left Ahdut Ha'avodah faction, were the most conspicuous representatives. It should never be forgot that it was Israeli Labour NOT Likud who established the first settlements and it was the Allon Plan which outlined the strategy followed to this day that the Jordan valley be colonised in order that any Palestinian state be surrounded by Jewish settlements on all sides.

The traditional parties of the Zionist Left, based on the kibbutzim and the ‘trade union’ Histadrut have been reduced to electoral insignificance. In 1949 Labour and Mapam had an absolute majority in the Knesset. Indeed David Ben Gurion, leader of Mapai, opposed building a coalition only based on the Zionist left parties and reached out to the United Religious Front and the Progressives as partners, excluding Mapam in the process.

Israeli Labour also accepted the Zionist rules of the game. No government coalition must ever depend on the votes of Arab parties. After all this is a Jewish state!

Until the 1977 elections that brought Menachem Begin of Likud to power, the Zionist left parties had never gained fewer than 54 seats and even as late as 1992, with the fateful election of Yitzhak Rabin, later to be assassinated, the Zionist left parties gained 56 seats as Meretz, which by now included Ratz, Mapam and the centre party Shinui, gained 12 seats.

But since the 1999 election the decline has been rapid. From 36 to 25 to 24 to 16 and now 13 seats, the traditional parties of the Zionist left have become irrelevant as former Chief of Staff Ehud Barak, leader of the Israeli Labour Alignment, sought to prove his macho credentials with the genocidal attack on Gaza. The explanation for the dramatic decline in Labour Zionism and the equally rapid rise of the openly racist and semi-fascist Right is two fold.

As Zeev Sternhall shows in his excellent book, The Founding Myths of Israel, the Zionist left parties were never based on class struggle. How could they since their main goal was to build a Jewish state in conjunction with Zionist and Jewish capitalists. They could hardly promise to accept such money on the basis that they were going to overthrow capitalism! Instead the Palestinians and Arab Labour were defined as the class enemy, hence the Boycott of Arab Labour campaigns of Histadrut in the 1920s and 1930s.

Colonialism in its formative and early years often takes on a co-operative form, which western social democrats mistake for socialism. Hence the Kibbutzim were on the surface egalitarian, but they operated within a colonial conquest; they were stockade and watchtower settlements. There was never a time when they were profitable and it is little wonder that as they developed industries they began to employ cheap Oriental Jewish and Arab labour. In short they became collective capitalists. And of course Kibbutzim, including those of the ‘left’ Mapam Hashomer Hatzair kibbutz federation, always excluded Arabs from membership. In other words they were thoroughly racist institutions, established on the confiscated land of the expelled Arabs.

The late Noah Lucas, a prominent but critical Zionist, described how the Kvutzah (forerunners of the Kibbutzim) were a result of

‘an alliance between the embryonic labour movement and the Zionist financial institutions. The pragmatism of the more radical socialists among the pioneers was revealed in their readiness to enter such an alliance with the Jewish bourgeoisie abroad.’

As Professor Franz Oppenheimer, who was closely involved in settling the land explained:

'The Kvutza did not originate as a deliberate social experiment. Its forms were elaborated by accretion in the school of circumstances.' [Noah Lucas, Modern History of Israel, p.56.]

Arthur Ruppin, the father of land settlement in Israel and a fervent believer in eugenics and the racial sciences, summed it up thus:

‘I can say with absolute certainty: those enterprises in Palestine which are most profit bearing for the businessman are almost the least profitable for the national effort and per contra many enterprises, which are least profitable for the businessman are of high national value.’ [Ruppin; Building Israel, New York 1949 pp. 47, September 1965]

Indeed the most vicious anti-Arab militia, the Palmach shock troops of the 1947-8 war, were based on the ‘Marxist’ Mapam and Ahdut Ha'avodah. It was they, under Yitzhak Rabin and Yigal Allon, who in 1948 expelled 50,000 Arabs from Lyddah and Ramleh and massacred thousands of others.

But today, when Israel is an openly capitalist society, aligning itself internationally with the most right-wing authoritarian police states, there is no room left for co-operative capitalism. Hence Histadrut’s industries were privatised in the early 1990s. Put simply, the social base of labour Zionism has all but disappeared.

The other reason that the socialist Zionist parties have declined is that their ‘peace’ proposals were based on naked racism – the need to preserve the Jewish nature of the Israeli state. In other words, there were too many Arabs. That was the basis of their support for 2 States, in reality one state, Israel, and a Palestinian Reservation. Every racist aspect of Israeli society was pioneered by Israeli labour. It was not for nothing that the settlers in the West Bank could say that their right to settle in Ariel and Kiryat Arba was the same as the original settlement of Tel Aviv. Except whereas today’s settlers base their claims on the fact that god gave them the land, the ‘left’ Zionists claimed their right to settle was based on the bible, the existence of whose god they denied!

The settler-right represent the logical culmination of Zionism and no one represents it better than the leader of Yisrael Beteinu, Avigdor Liebermann, a former member of the Jewish Nazi party Kach. YB openly questions the right of Israeli Arabs to be citizens of the Jewish State, demanding a McCarthyite ‘loyalty oath’. It wants to hive them off to a Palestinian Reservation in the West Bank. Like the revanchist nationalist myth of the ‘stab in the back’ that lost Germany the 1st world war, Liebermann openly describes Israel’s Palestinian citizens as a fifth column.

It is therefore a mark of just how far and how fast Israel has moved to the openly racist, expansionary right that Liebermann’s YB obtained 15 seats, only one less than the combined total of Israeli Labour and Meretz.

Socialists and genuine anti-racists should not be disappointed at the outcome of Israel’s elections. On the contrary, the disappearance of the hypocritical ‘shoot and cry’ brigade of ‘left’ Zionists and the ascendancy of the openly racist right is a welcome clarification of the political situation. Of course this will be blamed on Arab intransigence, but this was always the explanation of settlers – from Algeria to South Africa – of why they had to engage in yet more bloody reprisals and repression. It was Israeli Labour under Barak who led the recent attack on Gaza, just as Amir Peretz, ex-Histadrut Chairman and Defence Minister launched the attack on Lebanon in 2006.

One thing is certain. The 2 State Solution is Now Dead as a Doormouse.

9 February 2009

Arson at Venezuelan Synagogue in Caracas – CIA/Mossad Suspected

Reports of the attack on a synagogue on 1st February in Caracas, Venezuela give one a sense of déjà vu. Whenever a radical, anti-American regime comes to the fore in South or Central America, you can be sure that it is going to be accused of ‘anti-Semitism’.

This is an old theme with a long pedigree. Our old friend Abe Foxman of the ironically named Anti Defamation League wrote last year of the ‘The rising wave of anti-Semitism in Venezuela is part and parcel of this effort by Chávez's increasingly repressive regime.’

This was followed up by Wall Street Journal's "Americas" columnist, Mary Anastasia O'Grady’s "The New Tehran-Caracas Axis," and an article in the neoconservative Weekly Standard by Aaron Mannes that focused on a distorted version of Chavez' Christmas Eve broadcast as evidence of his anti-Semitism.

An article on a US Anti-War site 'US Neocons Accuse Chavez of Anti-Semitism' by Jim Lobe described exactly what is happening.

The attribution of anti-Semitism to Chavez’s 2007 Xmas broadcast

was explicitly rejected by Fred Pressner, president of the Confederation of Jewish Associations of Venezuela (CAIV), as well as two major U.S. Jewish groups.

You have interfered in the political status, in the security, and in the well-being of our community,"

according to a draft letter from the CIAV to the Wiesenthal Center obtained by The Forward, the largest-circulation Jewish newspaper in the United States.

You have acted on your own, without consulting us, on issues that you don't know or understand. We believe the president was not talking about Jews and that the Jewish world must learn to work together

according to the draft letter, which noted that the latest protest was the third time that the Wiesenthal Center had publicly criticized Chavez without first consulting the local community.
The two U.S. groups – the American Jewish Committee and the American Jewish Congress, both of which have Latin America divisions – echoed Pressner's contention that Chavez' comments, when considered in their full context, including sentences that both preceded and followed the (already abridged) sentence quoted by O'Grady and Mannes, were not aimed at Jews.

This campaign is really a rerun of what happened in the 1980’s when Nicaragua, which under the Sandanistas had got rid of their fascist dictator Somoza. Nicaragua too was accused of ‘anti-Semitism’. According to Rabbi Rosenthall of the ADL Latin American Affairs Department:
‘Nicaragua’s Left Wing Sandinista Government has forced the country entire Jewish community into exile, confiscated Jewish owned property and taken over the synagogue in the capital, Managua.’
and naturally ‘according to Rabbi Rosenthal’s article, Nicaraguan Jews blame the longstanding close ties between the Sandinistas and the PLO.’ Jewish Chronicle 25.5.83.

Billionaire Edgar Bronfman of the World Jewish Congress rammed home the message:

‘If Nicaragua wants to receive a more sympathetic hearing from world Jewry, she must make a gesture that would indicate that she has begun to mitigate her hostility towards Israel. Jewish Chronicle 5. 10. 1984.’

And that is Venezuela’s real crime. It has broken off diplomatic relations with Israel.

In South America there was an anti-Semitic regime, Argentina, under the military junta of 1976-83, which murdered 30,000 people including 3,000 Jews. (Jews account for less than 1% of the Argentinian population). The Venezuela state has murdered no Jews so you would think that the ADL and its neo-conservative friends would really have gone to town on Argentina.

Unfortunately this isn’t the case because you are forgetting that Argentina then was a close and dear friend of Israel, with a $1 billion arms contract to prove it.

Jacob Timmerman, a left Zionist editor La Opinion, a liberal newspaper, was kidnapped and severely tortured by the Argentinian secret police. It was only because he was famous that his life was saved. He went to Israel, recognised that the politics there were of a piece with where he had left, and returned home after the Junta had fallen.

The then Editor of the Jewish Chronicle Geoffrey Paul was surprised when he went to Argentina:

But how are we to explain the Jewish attacks on Timmerman in the United States? Some of them, undoubtedly have been inspired from conservative circles in the Jewish community, which have been convince by a campaign of rumour and innuendo that Timmerman was in league with Left-wing terrorist groups opposed to the Argentine military and that he ‘asked for what he got.

So, let’s be clear. The same ADL and neo-conservatives who see a wave of anti-Semitism in Venezuela because of a distortion of a speech by Hugo Chavez actually supported the persecution of Argentine Jews who were anti-fascist.

The answer to this puzzle lies of course in Zionist priorities. It’s not about saving Jews but about 'saving' the Jewish people from 'assimilation'. Hadashot, an Israeli newspaper of 28 Sept. 1990 described what really happened in an article ‘Israel Denied Shelter to Left-wing Argentine Jews During Junta Rule’

The Israeli government could have saved hundreds of Argentine Jews, who were murdered or kidnapped during the rule of the generals between 1976 and 1983, claims Marcel Zohar in his book Let My People Go to Hell, soon to be published by Zitrin.
Zohar, who was Yedi'ot Aharonot [an Israeli evening newspaper] correspondent in Argentina between 1978 and 1982, describes how the Israeli government, the Jewish Agency and other official bodies refrained from processing immigration applications from Jews with left-wing background, in order to preserve Israel's good business and political links with the ruling junta. In the same period, arms sales worth about one billion dollars were concluded between Israel and Argentina. According to Zohar, both Likud and Labour leaders shared in the conspiracy of silence.

His book recounts the struggle which took place between Danny Rekanati, the immigration official based in Argentina, and the Israeli ambassador, Ron Nergad. Rekanati tried to help persecuted Jews escape from the country, while Nergad, according to the book, complained about his activities. The unwritten instruction was to refuse any help to Jews defined as 'too left-wing'.
The late Menahem Savidor, who was Knesset chairman at the time, admitted to Zohar that he had prevented a public Knesset debate on the situation of Argentina's Jews at the government's request in order not to harm Israel's crucial links with Argentina.

As the Jewish Chronicle of 25.5.84. explained:

‘Israel officially did not act until December 1982. "Up to that time, Israel had deferred to Argentine Jewish requests ‘not to interfere’ in the affairs of those who regarded themselves as hostages." Jewish Chronicle 25.5.84.

By December 1982, when the regime was on its last legs after the attack on the Malvinas/Falkland Islands, it was good PR to take up these issues. And who were these ‘Argentine Jewish requests’ from? The Argentine Zionist organisations, Amia and Daia. When Israeli President, Yitzhak Navon was a guest at the 90th birthday celebrations of Daia it was picketted by the Jewish Mothers of the Disappeared:

A group of women whose children disappeared during the Argentine military regimes crackdown on Left-wing opponents shouted ‘Nazi-Nazi’ at those attending the Congress here of Amia, the central Ashkenazi community of Buenos Aires.
The protestors claimed that Israel, Amia and Daia- the political representative body of Argentine Jewry- had done nothing to help the ‘desaparecidos’ (disappeared ones)...
The guest of honour was Mr Itzhak Navon, formerly President of Israel. The mothers attempted to prevent his entrance to the Conference as well as that of the Israeli Ambassador to Argentina.
[Jewish Chronicle 23. 3. 1984. ‘Bitter Protest By Grieving Mothers’]

As Jacob Timmerman wrote,

‘I would forget my torturers, I declared, but never the Jewish leaders who acquiesced calmly in the torturing of Jews.’ Jewish Chronicle 31.7.81.

What makes the arson in Caracas even more suspicious is that 7 of those involved are police officers and another is a security guard at the Tiferet synagogue. This sounds very much like a put-up job by Israeli ‘intelligence’ Mossad. Both Mossad and the CIA have form when it comes to planting bombs to put suspicion on others.

However the President of Venezuela’s Jewish Association, welcomed the arrests.

We thank the authorities for the quick detention of the suspects," he told the Associated Press.
Information Minister Jesse Chacon said the government's "excellent relationship" with Venezuela's Jewish community was in no way affected by Israel's actions.
Tony Greenstein

7 February 2009

Open letter to the President of Israel, by Jean-Moïse Braitberg

Below is a moving open letter to Israel's President asking that his grandfather's name, Moshe Brajtberg, is removed from the database of Yad Vashem, Israel's Holocaust Propaganda Museum. What is particularly shameful is that not once, ever, has Yad Vashem spoken out about the atrocities visited on the Palestinian or Lebanese population as a result of Israel's military attacks.

And whereas they have welcomed guests such as John Vorster, ex-Prime Minister of South Africa who was interned during the war as a Nazi sympathiser, and Hans Josef Strauss, Prime Minister of Bavaria and a former Nazi Party member, they have obscured the names of non-Zionist holocaust heroes like Rudolph Vrba.

Tony Greenstein

Dear Sir,

I am writing to you, to ask you to contact those who are authorized to do so, to remove the name of my grandfather from the memorial at Yad Vashem, which is dedicated to the Jewish victims of National Socialism. It says "Moshe Brajtberg, gassed in 1943 in Treblinka."

The rest of my family also perished in the various of the camps to which they were deported. I beg you. Mr. President, to do this, because that which has happened in Gaza, and in other places, and has defined the fate of the Arab peoples of Palestine for 60 years now, disqualifies - to my mind - Israel to be the center which is dedicated to remember the suffering of the Jews, and by extension, that of all of mankind.

Understand me: ever since I was a child I have lived among survivors of the death camps. I saw the numbers tattooed on their arms and heard the stories of their tortures. I experienced the unbearable mourning and shared the nightmares.

I learned that these crimes shall never again take place, that no person, ever again, shall despise another for his ethnicity or religion, and rob him of his elementary Human Rights, just as he has a right to a life lived in decent circumstances, with the hope of better things for his family.
Still, Mr. President, I have noticed that despite innumerable Resolutions of the international community, despite the obvious injustices to which the Palestinians have been heirs since 1948, despite the hopes of Oslo, and despite the repeated recognition on the part of the Palestinian authorities that Israeli Jews have the right to live in peace and security, the only answer of successive Israeli governments has been brute force, blood shed, incarceration, constant controls, colonization and expropriations.

You will tell me, Mr. President, that it is legitimate for a country to defend itself against rockets aimed at its people, or kamikazes who take many innocents with them in death. To which I will answer that my human sympathies do not ask after the nationality of the victim.

You, on the other hand, lead a nation that means to represent the Jews in their entirety, but also claim to preserve the memory of the victims of National Socialism. That is what touches me and is unbearable to me. While you write the names of my loved ones at Yad Vashem, in the heart of Israel, the state holds the memory of my family prisoner behind the barbed wire of Zionism, in order to make them hostages of a so-called authority which - day after day - practices injustice.

So I beg you to take away the name of my grandfather from the memorial that testifies to the horrors suffered by the Jews, so that it can no longer be used to justify the horror which is visited upon the Palestinians.Veuillez agréer, monsieur le president, l'assurance de ma respectueuse considération.

Published in Le Monde, Paris on 28 January 2009

Effacez le nom de mon grand-père à Yad Vashem, par Jean-Moïse Braitberg
LE MONDE 28.01.09 14h23 • Mis à jour le 29.01.09 09h15

5 February 2009

UPDATE - Nepotism and The Subverting of Palestine Solidarity Campaign’s Democracy

I have been contacted by Bernie Regan asking that his personal e-mail address be removed from the memo he sent round to selected members of PSC asking them to support stuffing PSC's Executive with Socialist Action and Communist League members. I'm happy to do so.
But perhaps Bernie could comment on information I've just received regarding the appointment of 3 staff members to PSC's office. All of whom happen to be supporters/members of Socialist Action.
Socialist Action gained a rather unfortunate reputation in Ken Livingstone's administration for having their apparatchiks placed as advisers to Livingstone, in extremely well-paid jobs. It would seem that though PSC jobs aren't that well paid, the tried and trusted road of having political appointees to an organisation, the better to control that organisation is underway.
There is an old tradition on the British left. It’s called packing a meeting. The aim is to get people to turn up to a meeting who will then vote the 'right way' regardless of the arguments. It makes a mockery of the meeting of course. It is even more helpful when those who you are asking to turn up, trade union bureuacrats like John McGee of the Fire Brigades Union, carry 3 votes instead of 1.

Bernie Regan, PSC’s trade union officer, and once someone on the left of the trade union movement, a member of the International Marxist Group, was an Executive member of the National Union of Teachers for the Socialist Teachers Alliance. Those were the days. Now he hobnobs with trade union witch-hunters like Keith Sonnett Deputy General Secretary of the UNISON local government workers union.

I was sent the memo below by someone who will have to remain anonymous. The accompanying letter, which is being anonymised, speaks volumes. After all, why should a note encouraging people to come to a PSC AGM be headed ‘This is a personal note - not for circulation’ Surely if he was trying to get people to come to the AGM, why not circulate it?

But of course this was no ordinary note. Bernie speaks of ‘the need to get the focus of the campaign firmly fixed on the events in Gaza and to keep trade unions at the centre of the PSC.’ But no one disagrees with that. How does breaking links with the Apartheid Zionist ‘union’ Histadrut go against that? Boycott is one of the main weapons of solidarity. It is a mischievous and dishonest argument. What Bernie really means is keep demonstrating but never think what you are demonstrating for. We'll take care of that when we meet the PLO ambassador.

But of course if your main goal is achieving a Palestinian Bantustan, with Mohammed Abbas as chief quisling in charge, then the last thing you want to do is annoy the Israelis too much by boycotting them. After all you can't reach a settlement without them. Two states means recognising Israel’s right to be a racist state and do what it wants with the Palestinians in Israel.
The argument about Histadrut is about two things:
1. Whether PSC should be criticising Israel itself and whether a solidarity organisation should be anti-Zionist.

2. Whether PSC supports a 2-state solution, which most people believe is not only impossible to achieve but undesirable in any case, since it means in practice renouncing the right of return and imperilling the position of Israel's own Palestinian citizens (as Tsipi Livni recently confirmed).
The position of British trade union leaders is one of ‘even-handedness’. There are 2 rights. They support the Palestinians of course, but they also support the Israelis! Bernie is happy to go along with the General Secretary of the TUC, Brendan Barber, coming along each year to the PSC fringe meeting each year, having hotfooted it from the Trade Union Friends of Israel meeting, to tell us we mustn't boycott Israel!

If this approach had been taken by Regan and his Stalinoid supporter in the Anti-Apartheid Movement, that there was no difference between the oppressed and oppressor, then there could not have been a successful outcome to the struggle against Apartheid.

That is why Bernie Regan was prepared to support a ludicrous motion from the Communist Party of Britain, the group that runs the the Morning Star. The motion said that one of the aims of the Gaza invasion was to destroy the Palestinian Authority of Abbas when anyone with a couple of brain cells know that one of the purposes of the invasion was to impose Abbas on the people of Gaza. Yet Bernie, who doesn’t believe this nonsense, was prepared to support this in order to cobble together an unholy alliance with the CPB.

This is therefore about what type of solidarity organisation PSC should be. Should it have nothing to say about Zionism? Should it pretend that the Palestinians were dispossessed by an accident of history? That the Histadrut, which more than any other organisation helped create the Israeli state, is now a nice, reformed organisation since it lost most of its industries to privatisation?

A solidarity organisation is about putting pressure on Israel and PSC leadership wants to confine its activities to lobbying MPs, diplomatic letters, petitions and requests. It is no accident that when we picketted Windsor Castle last April, there were no representatives of PSC Executive there. It will be interesting to see if they turn up for the picket of Agrexco this Saturday 7th February.

At the PSC AGM, Bernie Regan stated, with a pained expression, that some people were suggesting that opponents of the Scottish PSC motion to break links with Histadrut were somehow not opposed to Histadrut. By his letter Regan makes it quite clear that he has no fixed views about Histadrut. Nor does he care much. What the trade union leaders want will be his command. He and the rest of the PSC Executive value trade union affiliations to PSC. And that is right. But what point is there to being affiliated if in turn you do nothing and even worse, then exercise a malign influence over the solidarity body itself?

The worst thing about Regan’s manouvres is just how undemocratic they are. He has a recommended slate of people like Ben Sofa, a member of another ex-IMG group, Socialist Action, who was a member of the Executive last year . Meanwhile good people like Monika Wusterman of the York Branch were defeated by these manouvres even though the Executive is almost entirely filled by Socialist Action and Communist League hacks in London. Almost no members come from branches outside London and the South-East and Brighton’s representative, Zoe Mars, only got on by the skin of her teeth.

The Socialist Action/Communist League majority group, who never have the honesty to declare their politics openly, don’t want activists taking control of PSC. Hence the Trade Union Advisory Committee is filled with petty bureaucrats. No one knows who its members are, still less who elected them. But they seem to have an iron grip on PSC Executive.

What is need now in PSC if it is not to develop into a private club for Regan and friends, is for activists to actively fight for democracy with an open democracy faction in PSC.

Tony Greenstein

Secret Memo to Members of TUAC & Friends
From: Bernard Regan

Sent: 22 January 2009 14:22

To: BR List

Subject: Saturday - Palestine AGM

This is a personal note - not for circulation:

I am writing to you to encourage you to come to the Palestine Solidarity Campaign Annual General Meeting this Saturday. The AGM takes place from10am-2.30pm at the University of Westminster, 309 Regent Street, London W1B 2UW (nearest tube Oxford Circus).

It is finishing early because of a demonstration on Gaza from 3pm starting across the road at the BBC.

This will in my view be an extremely important AGM because of the need to get the focus of the campaign firmly fixed on the events in Gaza and to keep trade unions at the centre of the PSC.

There is an opposition within PSC which I firmly believe would take us well away from these objectives. I urge you to come and if you are able to encourage others then please do so.

The Trade Union Advisory Committee (TUAC) of the PSC has agreed to put forward an emergency motion (attached) on the situation in Gaza and to respond to the statements of the Histadrut (also attached) which gave complete backing to the attack by Israel on Gaza.

The motion we are putting forward would propose a series of campaigning initiatives in the trade unions and propose that a discussion is begun in the unions about the positions of Histadrut whichabsolutely correctly have come under criticism here, in Europe and from South Africa in particular. The Trade Unions affiliated to PSC are opposed to a motion which seeks to call now for a boycott of Histadrut by unions here. Whilst that may be a decision that unions take - jumping to that position at this time should be opposed because it would divert us from the need to keep the focus on Gaza and for some it would be wrong and for others it would divert attention from the need to put the Israeli Government under the spotlight and to demand the British Government breaks with its uncritical attitude towards Israel. An inform discussion on the subject of the Histadrut is what is needed not a rushed decision. Those pushing this issue do not in my view have a real sense of proportion about what needs to be addressed in relation to Palestine - namely political solidarity with the Palestinian people, trenchant criticism of the Israeli Government, condemnation of the British Government's failure to condemn the Israeli action in Gaza.

I hope you are able to come to the AGM either as an individual member (should have been member 3 months) or as a delegate from an affiliate. In addition I wish to urge support for the followingcandidates in the upcoming Officer and EC elections - which are all contested. I do so because these candidates have consistently recognised and supported the work of the trade unions on Palestine as a central component of PSC and endorse the line that I express above.

Name Position


Hugh Lanning Chair of PSC DGS PCS

Sarah Colbourne Campaigns Officer Current Chair - key organiser in recent Gaza demos.

Sue Plater Treasurer Formerly worked for Amos Trust - a key church body active on Palestine

Bryony Shanks Student Officer Supports positions outlined above.
Executive Committee

Carole Regan EC Member Former Chair PSC, ex President NUT

Nicolette Petersen EC Member current EC Member, Parliamentary liaison - works with

Jeremy Corbyn MP

Kevin Courtney EC Member NUT Exec Member Vice Pres SERTUC

Karen Mitchell EC Member Member PSC Delegation June 2008 - solictor at Thompsons law fimr

Maha Rahwangi EC Member Current EC Member Palestinian member active in Brent PSC

Ben Soffa EC Member Current EC Member Member Jews for Justice for Palestinians

Gill Swain EC Member Journalist - willing to work on Palestine News.
(If Sue Plater is elected as Treasurer, then vote for Pauline Fraser) (If Sue not elected then vote for Sue for the Executive)In addition following officers are unopposed:Name Position


Betty Hunter Gen Sec current Gen Sec

Kamel Hawwash Vice Chair current

Bernard Regan Trade Union officer currentTUAC

Hugh Lanning PCS If Hugh is elected Chair the TUAC will need to nominate an alternative at its next meeting.

Joni McDougall GMB

Bernard Regan
Letter received accompanying Bernard's memo


Just in case you have not seen this, I thought I would send it to you. It went out to a selected TU list before the AGM. You will see that it calls for either members, or "representatives of affiliates" (ie. non members) to come to the AGM to save the Histadrut's skin.

The affiliates carried 3 votes each and succeeded in thwarting the wishes of the AGM. I dont think many of them had ever been to a PSC meeting before, let alone the AGM. Without the stitch-up, the two motions on Histadrut would have been carried.

Now that Hugh Lanning is Chair he will be replaced by another unelected trade union functionary on the EC. That makes 4 (counting the woman from Thompsons).

Moves are afoot to add another 2 unelected unionists. This was a motion which was to go before the AGM but was dropped on the advice of Hugh Lanning, but it will be revived soon as part of a further amendment to the constitution.

The unelected union functionaries have a post for life on the EC. As they are appointed by patronage, there in no machinery for removing them. This frees them of any obligation to be bound by AGM decisions as they can never be unseated.

These people are appointed without scrutiny of the AGM or any part of the membership, by the TUAC aka Bernard Regan. The TUAC is itsself unelected, it does not report to anyone and does not circulate minutes.

When the process is complete the exec will have 6 TUAC people Bernard, Hugh, the Thompson's woman, Joni and the 2 who will be appointed next year. Together with the SA group, on the exec (I think there are 5) they have a permanent majority, and since they control the machinery, PSC is theirs.

Of the 19 on the executive, only two are from a functioning branch. Only one is from outside the London/SE area (Kamal) One who was been re-elected did not appear at an EC meeting last year, or so I am told. Another only attended a couple of meetings, but they are regarded as "safe"

It's a funny old life