Saturday, June 28, 2008

 

Quotable: American democracy

"In 1941, the editor Edward Dowling wrote: 'The two greatest obstacles to democracy in the United States are, first, the widespread delusion among the poor that we have a democracy, and second, the chronic terror among the rich, lest we get it.' "

Source: John Pilger. "Obama is a truly Democratic expansionist." New Statesman. June 12, 2008.

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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

 

Malcolm X on Africa, Zionism, Islam

From "The Last Interview," Al-Muslimoon Magazine, February, 1965:
AL-MUSLIMOON: Africa seems to have captured most of your attention and eager concern. Why? And now that you have visited almost every part of it, where do you think Islam actually stands? And what, in your opinion, could be done to save it from both the brainlessness of many, or rather most of those who are considered to be the champions of its cause, and from the malicious, resourceful alliance of Zionism, atheism, and religious fanaticism against Islam?

MALCOLM X: I regard Africa as my fatherland. I am primarily interested in seeing it become completely free of outside political and economic influence that has dominated and exploited it. Africa, because of its strategic position, faces a real crisis. The colonial vultures have no intention of giving it up without a fight. Their chief weapon is still "divide and conquer." In East Africa there is a strong anti-Asian feeling being nourished among the Africans. In West Africa there is a strong anti-Arab feeling. Where there are Arabs or Asians there is a strong anti-Muslim feeling.

These hostilities are not initiated by the above-mentioned people who are involved. They have nothing to benefit from fighting among themselves at this point. Those who benefit most are the former colonial masters who have now supplanted the hated colonialism and imperialism with Zionism. The Zionists have outstripped all other interest groups in the present struggle for our mother continent. They use such a benevolent, philanthropic approach that it is quite difficult for their victims to see through their schemes. Zionism is even more dangerous than communism because it is made more acceptable and is thus more destructively effective.

Since the Arab image is almost inseparable from the image of Islam, the Arab world has a multiple responsibility that it must live up to. Since Islam is a religion of brotherhood and unity those who take the lead in expounding this religion are duty-bound to set the highest example of brotherhood and unity. It is imperative that Cairo and Mecca (the Supreme Council of Islamic Affairs and the Muslim World League) have a religious "summit" conference and show a greater degree of concern and responsibility for the present plight of the Muslim world, or other forces will rise up in this present generation of young, forward-thinking Muslims and the "power centers" will be taken from the hands of those that they are now in and placed elsewhere. Allah can easily do this.
See also: Malcolm X on Zionism---Reprinted From the Egyptian Gazette

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LA Teacher Fired Over Malcolm X


According to a June 12, 2008, article in the Los Angeles Times: "the video footage [above] suggests that Salazar's removal is justified," according to "Senior Deputy Supt. Ramon C. Cortines through a spokesman. The course materials are appropriate, but the advocacy may have crossed the line, he said." Joshua Pechthalt, a vice president with United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA), is quoted as follows: "I think she was a terrific teacher, who had a real connection with kids, but teachers in her position have a hard time winning these battles". Of course, that's especially true when their union does almost nothing to help them. As of this writing, the UTLA web site has nothing to say about Salazar's case--she got her dismissal notice in April--and Pechthalt's remarks are hardly a call-to-arms. No doubt many of the leaders of the UTLA are uncomfortable with Karen Salazar's methods and politics. One is reminded of the remarks of Doug Magann:
One would think that the School Board would be taking whatever actions needed to attain reasonably adequate and equitable funding for the schools (including, but not limited to, educating the general public about how things really work and how to change the rules). One would also think that the Teacher Union might be involved in such an endeavor, but both have been acculturated into the beggar mentality.

No one wants to offend the rulers. Never mind that the people cannot help themselves or that, given the existing rules, the Legislators are the only ones in a position to help the children. If they become offended, there will be retribution. This is the plantation, and such retribution could, and probably would, affect certain offending individuals personally.

What should we call the invocation of politeness, gentility, and civility as weapons to obscure the truth and effectively preclude the victims from influencing their destinies or those of their children? When people have been taught to accept the premise that open confrontation with authority figures is 'rude' and to be avoided at all cost, regardless of the circumstances or how they are being treated, it is more than sufficient to establish bondage to those that make the rules. And how should we describe those in the community who see these things, recognize them for what they are, and turn away in self-serving complacency?
See also: savesalazar

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US, Israel to Attack Iran Soon?

It will not come as news to readers of this blog that the leaders of Israel and the mainstream American Jewish community have been pushing hard for an American attack on Iran for the last few years. Among other things, the bloody American quagmire in Iraq and the broad, if shallow, domestic opposition to the Bush administration's bellicose policies have, thus far, prevented such an attack. But there is reason to believe that as the clock runs out on Bush he may strike or if he does not Israel will. So, this post will be a kind of round up of recent news on the subject.

First, earlier this month Israel staged major war exercises that analysts are calling a dress rehearsal for an attack on Iran. Here are two excerpts from a report on Monday in the Middle East Times:
JERUSALEM -- The Israeli government has been forced to acknowledge a top-secret meeting held last Friday between Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Aviam Sela, the chief architect of Israel's 1981 attack on Iraq's Osirak nuclear reactor, after the media got wind of the details.

Unlike the recent ostentatious military exercise that the Israeli Air Force (IAF) carried out over eastern Greece - involving over 100 F15 and F16 fighter jets - which was meant to be picked up by Western intelligence agencies and thereby spread Israel's message to the Europeans, the Americans, and the Iranians in particular, that Israel meant business about halting Iran's nuclear program, Friday's tete-a-tete was not meant to hit the headlines.

The Mediterranean exercise also included Israeli helicopters that could be used to rescue downed pilots. The helicopters and refueling tankers flew more than 900 miles, which is about the same distance between Israel and Iran's uranium enrichment plant at Natanz, American officials said.

Apart from sending Iran a very loud message, some experts say that another Israeli objective was to practice flight tactics, aerial refueling and all other details of a possible strike against Iran's nuclear installations and its long-range conventional missiles. ...

Israel is of the firm belief that Iran is approximately two years away from developing the technology that would enable it to develop nuclear weapons.

This is contrary to last December's U.S. National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iran which assessed that Iran had ceased is nuclear weapons program.

The Israelis were visibly dismayed by this assessment and Olmert followed up the NIE's report with a quick visit to Washington where he outlined Israel's concerns and attempted to override the view of America's intelligence agencies with the Jewish state's perspective. ...

Many analysts are now commenting that it is not a question of if, in regard to an Israeli offensive operation against Iran, but when.
On the NIE controversy, it is by no means clear to me that the Israelis are "of the firm belief that Iran is approximately two years away" from being ready to develop nuclear weapon. What is clear is that the nuclear-armed Israeli leadership is trying hard to sell that story and they are not the only ones. As WorldNetDaily reported last December, "Editorials in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Los Angeles Times also questioned the NIE report. The Los Angeles Times quoted an expert questioning whether the report sufficiently stressed Iran's enrichment activities."

Second, arch-Zionist and former US ambassador to the UN, John Bolton is predicting an Israeli attack after the presidential election but before the inauguration. Here's an excerpt from yesterday's edition of the Telegraph of London:
Mr Bolton, an unflinching hawk who proposes military action to stop Iran developing nuclear weapons, bemoaned what he sees as a lack of will by the Bush administration to itself contemplate military strikes. ...

Israel, however, still had a determination to prevent a nuclear Iran, he argued. The "optimal window" for strikes would be between the November 4 election and the inauguration on January 20, 2009.

"The Israelis have one eye on the calendar because of the pace at which the Iranians are proceeding both to develop their nuclear weapons capability and to do things like increase their defences by buying new Russian anti-aircraft systems and further harden the nuclear installations .

"They're also obviously looking at the American election calendar. My judgement is they would not want to do anything before our election because there's no telling what impact it could have on the election."

But waiting for either Barack Obama, the Democratic candidate, or his Republican opponent John McCain to be installed in the White House could preclude military action happening for the next four years or at least delay it.
My last item is a wild card bit--Bush has nominated a Jew to head the US Air Force. Here's part of how the Jerusalem Post reported the story earlier this month in "Jewish general named new USAF chief" (emphasis added):
US Defense Secretary Robert Gates launched the US Air Force in a new direction Monday by announcing an unusual choice as the service's next uniformed chief and by declaring an immediate halt to personnel reductions that he said had put the Air Force under too much wartime strain.

Before flying to Israel [sic!] to explain his moves to airmen and their commanders, Gates recommended that US President George W. Bush nominate Gen. Norton Schwartz, a Jewish 35-year veteran with a background in Air Force special operations, as the new Air Force chief of staff, replacing fired Gen. Michael Moseley. ...

"It's not a mainstream kind of thing" to choose an officer with Schwartz's extensive background in special operations, McPeak said. But Schwartz also has a variety of other experience, including holding senior positions on the Joint Chiefs of Staff. "It's good to have that" broader perspective on the Air Force, said McPeak. ...

Schwartz had been thought to be in line for retirement, and his replacement as head of the US Transportation Command, Lt. Gen. William Fraser III, had been announced in April. ...

When the Jewish Community Centers Armed Forces and Veteran's Committee presented its Military Leadership Award to Schwartz in 2004, he said he was "Proud to be identified as Jewish as well as an American military leader."
Here's some of what the Jewish Daily Forward reported (emphasis added):
When he was a cadet at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., in the early 1970s, Norton Schwartz did not hide his religion under his blue-and-white uniform.

A member of the academy’s Jewish choir before graduating in 1973, according to one of his classmates, Schwartz has since risen up the ranks and on June 9 was appointed Air Force chief by Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

If confirmed by the Senate, Schwartz will be expected to immediately deal with an armed service that has been badly embarrassed by the recent mishandling of nuclear material. But Schwartz, one of only a few Jews in the top ranks of the military, will also have to face off with the difficult questions of religion at his alma mater. During the past decade, the Air Force Academy has developed a reputation for being a hotbed of evangelical Christian proselytizing, drawing numerous constitutional complaints. Opponents of this trend see a ray of hope in Schwartz’s appointment.

“He has the capacity to bring change and change this general feeling that the Air Force Academy likes you more if you’re an evangelical Christian,” said Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

With his appointment, Schwartz becomes the third Jew in the top ranks of the military, alongside Lieutenant General Steven Blum, who heads the National Guard, and General Robert Magnus, who is the assistant commandant of the Marines. ...

Two months ago, the Defense Department announced that Schwartz was to retire at the end of the year from his position as head of the Transportation Command, which manages global air, land and sea transportation for the Defense Department. But it was soon after this that the Secretary of Defense learned that the Air Force had sent four fusing devices for ballistic missile nuclear warheads to Taiwan instead of sending helicopter batteries. This followed an incident last summer in which a B-52 bomber mistakenly armed with six nuclear-tipped cruise missiles flew to Louisiana from North Dakota. Gates ordered an internal probe, and on June 5 he ousted the top military and civilian officials at the helm of the Air Force. Four days later, he tapped Schwartz to be secretary of the Air Force.

Schwartz’s Jewish identity did not go unnoticed after his appointment, particularly given the current military tensions with Iran. Press TV, an Iranian English language media outlet, wrote an article last week, titled “U.S. Names Jewish as Air Force Chief.”

There have long been rumors that Schwartz’s predecessor, Michael Moseley, was opposed to a military attack on Iran. The appointment of Schwartz has prompted speculation in the Iranian press and on some blogs that the Bush administration is yet again seriously considering the military option to thwart Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.
On the reference to "the recent mishandling of nuclear material" and how that may or may not be related to Schwartz's predecssor's removal and an attack on Iran see "B-52 Nukes Headed for Iran, Not For Decommissioning: Airforce Refused."

See also: Podhoretz Predicts US Attack on Iran

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Thursday, June 19, 2008

 

Revisiting Pluto & Kovel

Inside Higher Ed and Scott Jaschik, who have done a generally very good job of covering this story since last fall, confirmed yesterday that the University of Michigan has terminated its distribution agreement with Pluto Press. It appears that the formal notice of intent I mentioned in my last post was given in recent weeks and the Chronicle of Higher Education yesterday reported an effective date of December 31. Here is an excerpt from the IHE story:
Roger van Zwanenberg, chairman of Pluto, said that there was no doubt in his mind but that for political opposition to a book critical of Israel, his press and Michigan’s press would still be doing business. "What this tells you is that there are dark forces in America who would like to control the flow of ideas, and they are powerfully organized and they are very dangerous," he said.

Many American academic authors come to Pluto because of its independence of such forces, and he said that makes Michigan's move all the more disappointing. He said that Pluto planned to seek another American publisher to handle distribution in the United States.

The University of Michigan Press knew "from day one of our contract" that Pluto's peer review was not identical to that of a university press, van Zwanenberg said. So the "sudden hurdle" of having identical peer review to a university press was "a facade," he said, to hide the way the university "has not stood up for free speech."
Here's an excerpt from the CHE story:
... The Michigan press took fire last year for one of Pluto's books, Overcoming Zionism, by Joel Kovel, a professor of social studies at Bard College. The pro-Israel lobbying group StandWithUs spearheaded a vocal protest, attacking the book as "a polemic against Israel" and a "collection of propaganda, misquotes, and discredited news stories."

On its Web site, StandWithUs wrote that "hundreds of anti-West, anti-American and anti-Israel propaganda texts reach us exclusively via University of Michigan Press."

The unwelcome attention led the university to take the unusual step of drafting guidelines to govern its press's distribution and marketing agreements. The guidelines, announced in January, state that the press may consider entering into partnerships "with other scholarly publishers whose mission is aligned with the mission of the UM Press and whose academic standards and processes of peer review are reasonably similar."

Re-examining Relationships

The guidelines direct the press's director and executive board to review proposed distribution agreements to make sure they fit those criteria. Pluto Press's peer-review process, which involves sending book proposals but not completed manuscripts out to reviewers, apparently did not.

Few university presses maintain formal guidelines for such distribution and marketing agreements, treating them more as business deals than as intellectual partnerships ...

Philip Pochoda, the Michigan press's director, declined to comment on Tuesday on the severing of ties with Pluto. But Kelly Cunningham, director of the university's office of public affairs and media relations, confirmed that the distribution agreement had been terminated, effective December 31.

The press's board reached the decision "after careful examination," she told The Chronicle. In an e-mail message, Ms. Cunningham said the board had "determined that the Pluto Press mission and procedures are not reasonably similar to UM Press as specified by the guidelines and therefore do not meet the requirements to continue as a distribution client."

The press also has distribution agreements with the American Academy in Rome and two of the university's scholarly centers. Those agreements were vetted by the board and were found satisfactory, Ms. Cunningham said.

Limitations of a Small Press

The impending breakup did not come as a shock to Pluto Press, according to its chairman, Roger van Zwanenberg. The Israel lobby "didn't like the book," he said. "They are unremitting, and the end result is that we're more trouble than we're worth."

Pluto sends every proposal out to half-a-dozen scholars in the relevant field. But small commercial presses like his cannot afford to do the kind of peer review done at subsidized university presses, Mr. van Zwanenberg said.

Were the new guidelines crafted so as to disqualify Pluto? No one has said so publicly. But as Mr. van Zwanenberg sees it, "The hoops that the University of Michigan Press created were only for university presses." ...

"For a tiny overseas publisher to have this sort of effect in the United States is quite astonishing," he said, "and it reflects powerful forces who are deeply antagonistic to free speech when it comes to issues around Israel and Palestine."
I do want to take minor exception to something Mr. Jaschik said in the IHE piece, referring to this blog, he wrote:
A blog that has defended Pluto is arguing that the "Zionist thought police" inflamed the situation, leading the university to adopt procedures that assured that it would have no choice but to cut ties to Pluto. And that blogger didn't even think Overcoming Zionism was that thoughtful a book in its critique of Israel.
In fact, I would say that the book was thoughtful, even courageous, in its way and for very many people, if read critically, helpful and thought provoking. My criticism is of some of the thoughts that Dr. Kovel expressed in the book and I also meant to point out that, notwithstanding the merits of the book, it was disappointing that such a flawed book should be the catalyst for Pluto to lose its sole American distributor.

Speaking of flaws, I would like to now expand on my critique of Overcoming Zionism. On Tuesday I read Assaf Kfoury's review of the book for the first time. Although I would say that he is more positive about the book than I am, he makes some points that I think complement my own. Below are a couple of excerpts:
Two comments on the first eight chapters:

(1) Kovel is primarily engaged in an internal American debate and, more specifically, an American Jewish debate. Many of his references are to people, politics, and history that will resonate with this audience. The tone is set from the very beginning, in the Acknowledgments section, where Kovel thanks some 50 friends and collaborators, many of whom are progressive participants in American Jewish affairs. Kovel mentions that it is after an invitation from Michael Lerner that he began this book project by writing articles and essays for Tikkun magazine.

How many Palestinians or Arabs are included in this group of about 50 friends and collaborators? Exactly two, Edward Said and Samir Amin, both living and working in the West. The decision to go beyond the Tikkun articles and turn them into a book "was sparked by Edward Said's encouragement." How many Palestinians or Arabs are among the hundreds of authors Kovel cites in the whole book? By my count, only five: W. Khalidi, N. Masalha, J. Massad, N. Rouhana, and M. Younis. This does not diminish Kovel's contribution in any way -- his courage to confront Zionist shibboleths in America is commendable -- but also defines its scope and limitation.
In the next excerpt from Kfoury's review I have interspersed some of my own comments and, except for section headings, all emphasis is mine.
... To this suggestion [of "a Two-State solution based on an equitable and fair division"] Kovel counterposes several objections, starting with his own personal objection: He dislikes any state for any singular kind of people because "life has taught [him] that people do better when they are mixing and mingling in conditions of a rich diversity" (p. 217). Many will sympathize with the sentiment, but how relevant is it in countering the facts on the ground? What we may personally like or dislike will have little bearing on the eventual outcome of the Zionist experiment and its impact on the Palestinians. Or, if we want to act on this sentiment, we should only try to prevent the US from continuing to underwrite this experiment, and let its victims decide for themselves the benefits of living in a mixed society and how to achieve it. ...

It is here that [Kovel] mentions One-State for the first time: "The One-State option is a demand for Israel to cease being a Jewish state ..." (p. 219). Once more there is a fallacy: A One-State in all of historic Palestine does not necessarily imply it will cease to be a Jewish state -- i.e., a state that does not institutionally empower its Jewish citizens and discriminate against the others -- even if the others are not ethnically cleansed and become more numerous than the Jews.

VFPD: Indeed, this is precisely my criticism of Kovel when he writes, "... the South African Communist leader Joe Slovo insisted on a 'sunset clause' for the new state in which no civil servant (needless to say, white) was to be fired when the ANC took over" (243) and, on the same page, "Further, there is no expectation that the authorities of the new state will be exclusively or even predominantly Palestinian." But I don't think this is a fallacy on Kovel's part--this is a model, even a goal. Kovel seems to be openly advocating for the maintenance of the Jewish apartheid bureaucracy, leadership, and economic power.

In comparison to Kovel, Ali Abunimah, in
One Country, does not quote Slovo though he does note that the during the transition from apartheid the African National Congress (at the behest of Slovo?) "agreed to honor all existing civil service contracts, assuring white administrators and middle managers of their personal security in the immediate future" (p. 151). It is possible, even likely, that Kovel and Abunimah are talking about the same thing here but the context suggests a difference in perception. Abunimah cites it as an example of reassuring the White South African minority amidst "economic and social transformation" (p. 150). Kovel seems to be talking about and even advocating maintaining the status quo. Moreover, in contrast to Kovel, while he gives it short shrift, Abunimah at least acknowledges, in South Africa, lingering "Economic and social inequalities" (p. 158) and resentment over perceived White resistance to "faster economic change that would reduce the vast economic inequalities" (p. 159).

The last chapter of Kovel's book is meant to lay out a broad agenda for how to achieve the envisioned One-State. But it doesn't, and it can't realistically, do this. The chapter starts with the story of Ahmad, a Palestinian who was born in 1948, spent 17 years in Israeli prisons, and has lived through the repeated dislocations that his community had to endure as a result of Israeli policies. By itself, the story is a welcome counterpoint to the preceding chapters, which relegated Palestinians and Arabs in general to mostly nameless participants. ...

What kind of One-State does Kovel envision? It is not a binational state nor any of the states projected by other One-State proponents. Kovel's proposed unitary state will be different still: It will be what he calls "secular-universal," in which Israelis and Palestinians will somehow merge into a single nationality in some distant future (p. 229). How will this be achieved? The idea to foist a brand new name, "Palesrael," on the newly-minted country is rather presumptuous;[7] it is not a new name that will mobilize Palestinians and Israelis to act together. To be sure, there are general guidelines for political action in the last section of the chapter, but notwithstanding the section title "The Practices of One-State," these neither follow from nor imply a One-State option. Indeed, to "speak the truth about Israel" (p. 232), or to "deprive the Zionist state of what it needs" (p. 233), or to "support the Palestinian right of return" (p. 236), are pursued by many activists who do not make it a priority to raise the One-State banner -- or, for that matter, the Two-State banner either.

VFPD: It is significant to me that in one of the most important statements of the Palestinian people in recent years--the 2005 call for boycotts, divestment, and sanctions against Israel--Palestinians conspicuously refrained from calling for either a one or two-state solution and focused instead on three simple demands: An end to occupation, equality for Palestinian citizens of Israel, and implementation of the Right of Return under UN GA Resolution 194. Kovel is aware of the boycott option (see pp. 233-235) but he does not condescend to mention the 2005 call or anything Palestinians might have to say about.

Where To From Here

One-State is now an escapist fantasy, whatever form one would like to give it. Some may think that, though perhaps a fantasy now, it will nevertheless be an effective slogan for mobilizing and unifying supporters of Palestinian rights. But it won't even be that, as it will probably be more a dividing than a rallying call for all those who are working against Israel's expansion and settlement project. ...

Two-State is the other side of this false alternative. Two-State is stigmatized by the failed Oslo Accords, a discredited Palestinian leadership, and an "international community" that never enforced its own UN resolutions on Palestine. To insist on debating the two options -- as if much is at stake on settling the question now, or as if there is no other alternative to these two options for anti-settlement activism -- will be gratuitously obscuring the priorities. There is plenty that can and should be done to help the besieged Palestinians without any prior commitment to One-State or Two-State. ...
Well said, Dr. Kfoury. I encourage folks to read the entire review. Moving on, on Tuesday, I took issue with a quote from page 245 of Overcoming Zionism. I want to now more fully quote it:
The real history of Zionism has been a working out of the 'invisible hand' that has shaped history toward the end of accumulation and has placed the Anglo-Americans at its helm, their Israeli junior partner by their side, attacking here, spying there, doing the dirty work as needed. This is the secret of the so-called Israel, or Zionist lobby. Not a Jewish lobby as antisemites would have it, but a dynamic and very unholy gathering of those power-Jews who hitch their wagons to the star of empire: Democrats, Republicans, phony intellectuals, all stripes of opportunists exulting in their admission to the inner chambers of power.
Notice what Kovel has done here. Even as he calls them "power-Jews," Kovel has subtly distanced, though not completely exonerated, them from culpability in the crimes of Capital and Empire. The "power-Jews" are outside, they are not of the "star of empire." No, that is represented by the goyim--the Learned Elders of Anglo-America. Jews have merely "hitch[ed] their wagons" to it.

By Kovel's lights, the "power-Jews" are not at the helm, they have only entered the "inner chambers of power" they don't actually reside there or run the show. Thus, Senators Lieberman, Boxer, and Feinstein; former Defense Secretary Cohen; Attorney General Mukasey; Homeland Security chief Chertoff; Justices Breyer and Ginsburg; Federal Reserve boss Bernanke; billionaires Sheldon Adelson and Larry Ellison--to name just a few--these poor saps are victims. They have been hoodwinked and bamboozled into thinking that they were in the club when the real string-pullers, the secret cabal that rules the world are the goyishe "Anglo-Americans."

In closing, I'd like to quote my friend Henry Herskovitz, founder of Jewish Witnesses for Peace and Friends. He jokingly questioned why I was "so easy" on Dr. Kovel on Tuesday. From his vigil report of March 22, 2008:
Jewish Supremacism?

Readers are invited to examine the email exchange between Joel Kovel and Dan McGowan here. In that exchange, and due in part to our claiming that Joel will not hold the Jewish community accountable for their support of Israeli genocide (see Report 02-16-08), Joel has accused this writer and Jewish Witnesses for Peace and Friends of, among other things, being "wrong-headed" and "objectively anti-Semitic", and of "making destructive generalizations." If Joel's issues were merely personal or tactical then we wouldn't be so concerned, but he has resorted to what Jeff Blankfort aptly refers to as "the first refuge of scoundrels"--the charge of anti-Semitism. Consider this passage from Joel: "Once the question of Zionism and its injustices moves into the zone of 'Jewishness' as the problem, then we are in the swamp of anti-Semitism ... How does Henry manage to do this? In a twofold gesture: by demonstrating in front of places of worship; and by making it plain that he would do this anywhere and everywhere Jews congregate"

On the latter issue, Joel is simply incorrect and he would have been quickly apprised of this if he had simply asked instead of assumed. JWPF has never protested anywhere simply because "Jews congregate" there. We protest at Jewish institutions that have turned into bastions of Zionism. Zionism is the issue and not 'Jewishness,' as Joel would have it. We would not protest in front of any institution, Jewish or otherwise, that had disavowed Zionism or never embraced it in the first place. For example, we would not protest the anti-Zionist Neturei Karta Rabbis.

On the former issue, we protest in front of a "place of worship" that has publicly and repeatedly identified itself with Zionism and the Jewish apartheid state of Israel. This writer for many years celebrated Yom Kippur at Beth Israel, until he was no longer allowed to buy tickets there. The fact is that Jews are freely wallowing in the swamp of death and injustice that is Zionism, and they do it as Jews while Joel either does not, or will not see this. Joel's statement ignores the reality that it's Jews themselves who erase the line between themselves and Zionists. Remember, it's Beth Israel that (a) flies the flag of a foreign government, (b) prays for the soldiers of the IDF, and (c) takes its children on pilgrimages to the Zionist state, capturing photographs of them with smiling IDF soldiers, and continues their indoctrination into nationalist support for Israel. See " Beth Israel - House of WARship" for photos and details. There are carloads of Jews who drive into the synagogue waving an Israeli flag, several yarmulkes are embroidered with this foreign flag, and one flashy red convertible even sports an Israeli license plate.

And Jewish-initiated linkage of Jews and Zionism is nothing new. As Peacemonger points out, in 1942, 757 Orthodox, Conservative and Reform Rabbis, claiming to "represent[s] the largest number of rabbis whose signatures are attached to a public pronouncement in all Jewish history," declared Zionism to be " an affirmation of Judaism" and "not a secularist movement." They continued: "It has its origins and roots in the authoritative religious texts of Judaism. Scripture and rabbinical literature alike are replete with the promise of the restoration of Israel to its ancestral home. Anti-Zionism, not Zionism, is a departure from the Jewish religion." More recently we recall the words of Elliott Abrams: "Where is it possible to find a group of Jews who are committed to Israel, and whose children are likely to honor that commitment? The answer is, in a synagogue on the Sabbath."

With his specious "swamp of anti-Semitism" charge, Joel Kovel has cast himself in with the Jewish elites identified by Norman Finkelstein when he wrote in Beyond Chutzpah:
"Wrapping themselves in the mantle of The Holocaust, these Jewish elites pretend and, in their own solipsistic universe, perhaps imagine themselves to be victims, dismissing any and all criticism as manifestations of "anti-Semitism." And, from this lethal brew of formidable power, chauvinistic arrogance, feigned (or imagined) victimhood, and Holocaust-immunity to criticism has sprung a terrifying recklessness and ruthlessness on the part of American Jewish elites. Alongside Israel, they are the main fomenters of anti-Semitism in the world today."
Why is it that Joel, and at least 20 other Jews ostensibly dedicated to the peace movement, cannot bring themselves to hold the organized Jewish community accountable for their undeniable support of Israel? A pattern forms from this growing collection of data points, and suggests to us that a Jewish chauvinism, a Jewish supremacism is controlling the emotions that do not permit the suffering of Palestinians to trump tribal bonds between these activists and the Jews of Beth Israel. And we can only imagine that it is Joel's Jewish tribalism which allows him to benignly describe Beth Israel - this documented center of nationalist support for a genocidal state - as "place[s] of worship" and a "shul". Evidently, every one of those BIC congregants whom Joel could have challenged (had he stood with us) supports Israel's claimed right to exist as a Jewish state in Palestine: The rabbi wrote " ...there is one general statement which I can make on behalf of the congregation--Beth Israel Congregation affirms without any hesitation or equivocation the legitimacy of the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish state". And not a Jew within or without the congregation ever publicly stood up and said "the rabbi doesn't speak for me."

Joel calls us wrong-headed. We call what we do correctly identifying the problem and holding the those publicly accountable for their brazen support of genocide. And we are saddened that he won't join us.
Full disclosure: I rewrote parts of and edited the above vigil report excerpt before it was first released in March.

See also: "Joel Kovel's Sad Smear of Ralph Nader: Another Marxist for Kerry" in CounterPunch (6/24/2004)

Last revised: 6/24/2008 (added comments on Abunimah's treatment of South Africa).

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Tuesday, June 17, 2008

 

Pluto Press in Trouble Again? & A Critique of Kovel's Book

Last August, this blog broke the story of the Zionist attack on Pluto Press and the suspension of distribution of Joel Kovel's Overcoming Zionism. The hasbara forces directed their wrath at the leaders of the University of Michigan, an ostensibly public institution, who quickly capitulated at the slightest pressure exerted by what Ha'aretz senior columnist Akiva Eldar calls the "Jewish lobby." According to documents obtained as a result of a FOIA request filed last September, the whole campaign was virtually a one-man operation orchestrated by self-described Christian Zionist Jonathan Calt Harris of StandWithUs/Michigan. Don Cohen of the Great Lakes regional office of the B'nai B'rith and others came late to the party.

Within days of the issue coming to the fore and in the wake of an e-mail campaign, the UM backpedalled a bit and resumed distribution of Kovel's book. As I wrote on September 13, 2007, "The good news is that UM Press is once again selling Overcoming Zionism. The bad news is that more than 550 book titles are still in serious danger of losing their only American distributor." Well, Zionists don't give up easily and it appears they may have achieved their goal of censoring the critical, anti-Zionist voice of Pluto Press. In the last two days, I have gotten two anonymous comments (thanks anonymous tipster(s)) with links to Zionist blogs trumpeting the termination of Pluto's distribution contract with the UM (here and here).

I can't yet confirm the triumphalist reports of these racist supporters of the Zionist thought police but let's recap some of what's happened since last September. At the November 15, 2007, UM Regents meeting, three of the eight Regents--Laurence B. Deitch, Andrea Fischer Newman, and Andrew C. Richner--took the unusual step of speaking out during the public commentary period in opposition to a decision of the University of Michigan Press Faculty Executive Board. Pro-Israel shill Newman read a joint letter to the Executive Board, which read, in part:
We are writing to express our grave disappointment over the decision of the Faculty Executive Board of the University of Michigan Press (the "Press") to continue the Distribution Agreement with Pluto Press. We urge reconsideration of that decision prior to the upcoming November 30 deadline for a termination effective June 30, 2008 ... We note that "The Regents of the University of Michigan" are the contracting party on all University contracts.
As a former UM employee, I can tell you the pay checks of the Faculty Executive Board members also come from the "The Regents of the University of Michigan." The letter specifically mentions Kovel's book and discussed the controversy at some length. It concluded with the bosses telling their underlings how to do what they wanted them to do:
Should your Board elect not to end all of its distribution agreements, we urge that you adopt a policy requiring that the Press only enter into distribution agreements with publishers whose standards of review for publication are no less rigorous than that of the Press itself. Moreover, we insist that the Press itself, or an appropriate scholarly peer review panel, review works of potential authors prior to being accepted for publication to ensure the academic quality, integrity, and contribution of an individual's work.

Thank you for considering these views. We will continue to monitor this situation through the office of the Provost.
Immediately thereafter, at the same meeting, "The Regents heard comments by the following individuals, on the topics indicated: Jonathan Harris, director of StandWithUs-Michigan, Donald Cohen, director, Great Lakes Region, B’nai B’rith International, Betsy Kellman, executive director, Anti-Defamation League, and Nick Israel, alumnus, all on the topic of University of Michigan Pluto Press contract." Apparently, advocates of freedom of thought and expression or Palestinian solidarity were missing in action that day. A UM student group valiantly responded with an op-ed in the student newspaper and the Zionist thought police followed up with a letter to the Regents.

An article published in the January 28, 2008, edition of The Record--the official mouthpiece of the Regents--indicates that the bullies of Zion got their way. Here is the entire text with emphases added:
The executive board of the University of Michigan Press (UMP) has developed a new policy to help guide decisions about distribution of publications from external sources.

The Jan. 18 adoption of the guidelines came about following a controversy over the UMP contract with Pluto Press for distribution of the book "Overcoming Zionism," which critics charged is anti-Israel.

The new policy says UMP "may consider entering into distribution and/or marketing arrangements with other scholarly publishers whose mission is aligned with the mission of U-M Press, and who academic standards and processes of peer review are reasonably similar to those of the U-M Press."

Peggy McCracken, chair of the executive board, says the arrangement with Pluto Press most likely will not meet the criteria in the new policy, but a decision on distribution will have to wait for a review of Pluto's mission, academic standards and peer review processes, to be conducted by the UMP executive board. The current renewable six-month contract with Pluto ends May 31.

UMP stopped distribution of the book temporarily last September in response to a variety of concerns about its content from people inside and outside the University community to give the executive board time to consider them. In October the board decided to resume distribution of the book. A statement at that time from the board said: "While the executive board has deep reservations about 'Overcoming Zionism,' it would be a blow against free speech to remove the book from distribution on that basis."

During the fall announcement, the board said it would continue to deliberate the matter, including establishing guidelines for distribution agreements that not only would address the Pluto Press contract but others as well. At present, the press distributes works from five outside publishers.
It appears the Executive Board followed the recipe handed to them by Newman et al. to a tee. I've looked at the contract, also obtained last fall via FOIA, and it was to "continue in force ... from year to year unless terminated ... [by] Notice of intent ... given no later than six (6) months prior to the end of the selling season ... (i.e., ... by November 30 for a May 31 termination)". So, if the Record's report is correct then it appears that notice was given shortly after the November Regents meeting. And the Board adopted a policy with which Pluto presumably could not abide. As of this writing, the UM Press, CODZ, and Pluto Press web sites are all silent on the status of the contract.

If Pluto's contract has, in fact, been terminated as outlined above then it would appear that University officials have conspired to violate Article 1, Section 5 of the Michigan Constitution and the 1st Amendment of the US Constitution, in spirit if not in letter. But, hey, if we can invade Iraq for the Jewish state then we can certainly cancel a distribution agreement with a small Lefty, British publisher--this is America after all.

By all appearances, Pluto Press was doing okay with the UM until it published Kovel's book. The bitter irony of all the trouble Pluto has encountered is that Kovel's book--Overcoming Zionism: Creating a Single Democratic State in Israel/Palestine--is itself a Judeocentric, if not Jewish supremacist, tome. I am not prepared to condemn Judeocentrism or any other form of ethnocentrism per se, but in the context of a book about Zionism and Palestine I do think Kovel's Judeocentrism is problemmatic.

For instance, nowhere in its almost 300 pages does one find any acknowledgement that Palestinians began advocating for a single, democratic state in Palestine decades before the Nakba. Nor does Kovel deign to acknowledge the more recent books (pre-dating Kovel) on the one-state solution by Palestinians Mazin Qumsiyeh or Ali Abunimah. The reader is left to marvel at how the one-state solution sprang Kali-like out of the head of Joel Kovel, a very Jewish "non-Jewish Jew" (8).

Actually, Kovel does write of a revival of the one-state solution but he misattributes the idea to the "early, utopian phase of Zionism" (219). I say "misattributes" not merely because he neglects the Palestinian origins of the idea but because I think that Norman Finkelstein, in Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict, has convincingly shown that the vision of the "utopian phase of Zionism" did not comport with democracy but was always one of Jewish domination of the indigenous Arab people of Palestine. (I have no doubt that Arab authors have said as much and earlier than Finkelstein but American discourse on the subject is, unfortunately, dominated by Jewish voices. In any case, if this were a book rather than a blog post I would make greater effort to find Arab sources.)

Kovel even has the gall to assert that "Jesus was authentically Jewish" (23). At least two Arab friends--one Christian and one Muslim--agreed that they never heard of such a thing until they left the Middle East for the West. Another Arab friend, who was born in the US, says her father taught her Jesus was a practitioner of the Syriani religion. According to Susannah Heschel (no anti-Zionist she), the Western idea that Jesus, an Aramaic-speaking Galilean, was Jewish can be attributed, in part, to another Judeocentric Jew of the 19th century, a German rabbi named Abraham Geiger. But I digress, I'll close with just three more points about the latent Judeocentrism of Joel Kovel's book.

First, Kovel frames his main discussion of the Palestinian right of return in terms of Zionism and Jewish ideology. Al-Awda, the Palestinian right of return coalition, talks about the "fundamental, inalienable, individual and collective rights of all Palestinian refugees to return to their original towns, villages and lands anywhere in Palestine from which they were expelled." By contrast, Dr. Kovel tells us "The Palestinian Right of Return (ROR) is an actively pursued and predictably suppressed strategy with the essential quality that it does not seek to 'smash' Zionism, but overcomes it by dissolving the logic of Jewish exceptionalism and particularity" (236). I'm sorry, but I don't see any of this bit about "Zionism" or "Jewish exceptionalism and particularity" as the "essential quality" of the Palestinian right of return.

Ah, the Marxist says, but what about the dialectic, can't you see it? The post-Marxist replies: Hasn't your poisonous, messianic Marxist ideology done enough harm in the world without you also reducing the very basic Palestinian yearning to go home to a mere foil for the poisonous, messianic ideology of Zionism? Doesn't it evince a kind of Jewish collective egotism to constantly try to define things in terms of what Jews want, do, or think? Let us allow Palestinians to tell us about the "essential quality" of their struggle.

Second, Kovel asserts "The real history [there he goes again with that essentialism] of Zionism has been a working out of the 'invisible hand' that has shaped history toward the end of accumulation and has placed the Anglo-Americans at its helm, their Israeli junior partner by their side, attacking here, spying there, doing the dirty work as needed" (245). By this, Kovel means to shift a lion's share of the guilt for the crimes of Zionism and the Jewish state away from Zionism and Jews. This seems little more than another manifestation of the notion of eternal, innocent Jewish victimhood (to be fair, though, Kovel elsewhere generously makes some allowance for "actual ... wrongdoing by Jews"(24)). It's the imperialist/capitalist/fill-in-the blank devil that made us do it, according to Kovel. His remark on the same page as his invocation of the Smithian "invisible hand" about "the so-called Israel, or Zionist lobby. Not a Jewish lobby as antisemites would have it" is telling and contra Akiva Eldar above.

To be sure, imperialism and capitalism are founts of evil but to discuss the disproportionate role of Jews in the development of the imperialism and capitalism (can you say Rothschild, Schiff, Sassoon, or Disraeli? see e.g. The Jews and Modern Capitalism by Werner Sombart) or, for that matter, communism would, of course, undermine Kovel's premise. And heaven forbid that one should mention that the Soviet bloc uniformly supported the 1947 UN partition resolution, the Soviet Union nearly beat the US in the race to be the first state to officially recognize the Jewish state in 1948, and that the Zionist victory in 1948 was sealed with Czech communist weapons and bullets.

Finally, the most disturbing display of apparent Judeocentrism is Kovel's uncritical affirmation of South Africa as a model for a future unitary state in Palestine. There are twenty-two pages referring to South Africa in the book. Kovel quotes approvingly another Jew: "... the South African Communist leader Joe Slovo insisted on a 'sunset clause' for the new state in which no civil servant (needless to say, white) was to be fired when the ANC took over" (243). On the same page, Kovel continues, "Further, there is no expectation that the authorities of the new state will be exclusively or even predominantly Palestinian." In short, Kovel seems to be advocating the maintenance of the Jewish apartheid bureaucracy and leadership that has oppressed Palestinians for so many decades now.

Some Marxist that Joel Kovel. He doesn't want a thoroughgoing revolution in Palestine, he envisions maintaining key elements of the apartheid status quo. Further, it is inconceivable that Kovel does not know that Whites have maintained a death-dealing stranglehold on the economy of his model--South Africa. Naomi Klein devoted a whole chapter, called "Democracy Born in Chains: South Africa's Constricted Freedom," to the subject in The Shock Doctrine. Now, Klein's book came out in the same year as Kovel's but she is by no means the first or only person to write on this subject yet Kovel has little or nothing to say about the matter. Why is that?

In closing, I don't mean that Overcoming Zionism should not have been published or that Kovel has nothing useful to say but I do think the book was greatly overrated and overhyped. I can see why Zionists went nuts over the book but, frankly, judging a book by how racists respond to it is setting the bar pretty low. Further, I think non-Jewish Palestinian solidarity activists in the US should be much more vigilant about the unhealthy way in which Jews, inadvertently or otherwise, tend to dominate the discourse and set the parameters of discussion about Palestine. There is something perverse about the prominence in the US Palestinian solidarity movement of so many people who identify with the oppressor class, especially when one considers that Jews comprise less than two percent of the US population. Emancipate yourself from mental slavery.

Update: Revisiting Pluto & Kovel

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Monday, June 16, 2008

 

Folksinger, Storyteller, Railroad Tramp Utah Phillips Dead at 73

I just recently learned that Utah Phillips died late last month. I met Utah Phillips on a couple of his visits to Ann Arbor in the mid-1990s and was fortunate to participate in some long discussions with him at the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) national office when it was located in downtown Ypsilanti. Utah was a great storyteller who told great stories in song and word. He was a generous man who exemplified the best of the IWW's anarcho-syndicalist principles. You can read the "offical [sic] Obituary as provided by the family" here. Click here to hear Utah's "Moose Turd Pie" story. Below is a clip of Utah talking about how his stint in Korea with the US Army radicalized him.


In another clip he talks about his 'professional' ethics--"making a living, not a killing."

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Wednesday, June 11, 2008

 

Quotable: "... inflicting Nuremberg crimes on the Palestinians"

I spoke with the head military lawyer for the IDF, Joel Singer, and I said, "You know, I've spent two weeks here. It's clear you people are inflicting Nuremberg crimes on the Palestinians, exactly what the Nazis did to the Jews. What's your explanation?" He said, "Military necessity." Notice, he didn't disagree with me. I said, "That argument was rejected at Nuremberg when the lawyers for the Nazis made it." So then he said, "Well, we have public relations people in the United States, and they handle these matters for us."

Source: Francis Boyle, Professor of International Law, University of Illinois from video below.

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Thursday, June 05, 2008

 

Justice Denied to Haditha

You have better chances of getting justice if you're a dog in America than if you're a human being in Iraq.

US Marine Acquited of all Charges in Haditha Killings

"Lieutenant Andrew Grayson, 27, was declared "not guilty on all charges" by a jury"

"Grayson was the first Marine to stand trial in connection with the killings of 24 men, women and children in Haditha, the most serious war crime allegations leveled at US forces since the 2003 invasion to topple Saddam Hussein."

"In a three-hour shooting spree, they say, the soldiers shot five passengers of an approaching taxi and killed 10 women and children at point blank range, among others."


On the other hand, the more important victims:

Animal Abuse Charges Filed

"Faribault County animal control officer Todd Heenan ... adds reports of animal abuse are taken seriously when they are received."We will prosecute. It's something that has to be dealt with. We don't take it lightly," says Heenan."

"The neglect of an animal resulting in death charge carries a maximum sentence of two years and a $5,000 fine. The other charges each has a maximum penalty of one year in jail and a $3,000 fine.In March, Richard Niebuhr of Wells was sentenced after video showed a dog on Larsen's property being shot at and injured. The dog recovered from the injuries. Niebuhr was sentenced to a year in jail, but only had to serve 30 days. He also was fined $1,000."

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