To see what is in front of one's nose needs a constant struggle.
--- George Orwell

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Annotated Quote Of The Day #2: In Defending Gaza Slaughter, Israeli Diplomat Daniel Ayalon Tells Wolf Blitzer That if 'Proportionality' Mattered, 'The Nazis Would Still Be In Power'

Daniel Ayalon, a former Israeli Ambassador to the US and former Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister, on CNN at around 2:30 pm EST today in response to Wolf Blitzer’s question about Israel’s disproportionate response in Gaza, and the mounting toll of civilian casualties.

There is no proportionality in war. If proportionality ruled, the Nazis would still be in power.

Must have been a Freudian slip.

Ayalon also made sure to blame the Palestinians for the failure of the recent round of peace talks, alluding to their refusal to recognize Israel as "The Jewish State," which many analysts regarded as a late-in-the-game "poison pill" designed to void any discussion of the Palestinian Right of Return. Ayalon implied that in refusing to recognize Israel as a "Jewish State" they were ignoring that "Judaism is not just a religion. It’s a culture, it’s a history, it’s values.” 

Annotated Quote Of The Day: An Israeli Rabbi On The Primacy Of Jewish Life Over Non-Jews, Scriptural Justifications for Vengeance And 'The Odium Of The Other'

From Ynet News an English language Israeli news site associated with Yedioth Ahronoth, Israel’s most-read newspaper, in response to the immolation murder of Palestinian Muhammed Abu Khdeir by Jewish extremists in revenge for the kidnappings and killings of three Israeli teens in June. 

Rabbis say that Judaism can be used to justify revenge attacks like this one.

“Judaism, like other religious traditions, has very different stories about how we treat those who aren’t part of the Jewish people,” Rabbi Dr. Donniel Hartman, president of the Shalom Hartman Institute, told The Media Line.

“I have a whole slew of sources that shape my Judaism starting with the sanctity of all life being created in the image of God. The problem is that there’s chapter and verse in which Jewish life is primary, in which aggression toward others is allowed, vengeance is celebrated and revenge is celebrated.”

I think it's fair to say that this skewed moral logic, and its purported scriptural underpinnings, are at play both in the massive numbers of casualties that Israel has inflicted on the civilian population of Gaza and in the disturbing moral indifference to those casualties, among Israeli officials, among much of the Israeli population and within much of the American pro-Israel community. 

The Times only scratched the surface of this in Steven Erlanger's July 10th report, "Killing of Palestinian Youth Puts An Israeli Focus On Extremism," which examined the phenomenon of Jewish extremism the "moral blindness" of many Israelis to it, as Haaretz columnist Anshel Pfeffer put it. 

A much deeper, albeit very disturbing analysis can be found in Leon Wieseltier's November, 1985 essay, "The Demons of the Jews," which was linked to quite deliberately in a recent TNR story from  Jerusalem which told of "a frightening resignation in the face of racism." Wieseltier's 1985 piece is a fascinating piece of scholarly journalism, a fusion of  historical analysis and cultural commentary that pulls very few punches and showcases  Wieseltier's prodigious talents before he became a knee-jerk defender of Israel and a self-proclaimed "cop" keeping the American debate on Israel debate safe from those who might challenge its ethnocentrism and orthodoxy---as well as the moral preening and chauvinism inherent in the idealization of Israel as "The Light Onto The Nations."  As Wieseltier wrote, in reference to Meir Kahane and Kahanism,   

"Kahanism is Judaism," he (Kahane) humbly says. And in a sense, it is true. There is no such thing as a tolerant religion, and Judaism is no exception. It is indeed not democratic. Its texts are riddled with exclamations of exclusiveness, and with the odium of the other; there is much in the canon for Kahane to use. 

Wieseltier said that even in acknowledging this, it was essential to acknowledge as well that "For every rabbinic insistence upon Jewish superiority there is a rabbinic insistence upon Jewish justice." The problem here is that in the years since Wieseltier wrote the essay and now, the chauvinism and intolerance he discussed has deepend, and the Jewish religious fundamentalism in the politically important settlement movement and the rabbinical councils that play a very big role in that movement, is ascendant.  

More on this truly fascinating dynamic TK>>>>>

Guernica And Gaza

Went to bed last night having inadvisably watched CNN International and seeing a cutaway shot of a building in Gaza being pulverized with heavy ordnance of some kind. Woke up at 4 AM recalling Picasso’s famous painting.  

From the New York Times, April 28 1937, by South African journalist George Steer who witnessed the Guernica attack, but stayed behind a day in order to establish Nazi complicity. The dispatch, filed as a telegram, has an important place in the history of journalism, but endures more forcefully in Picasso's famous painting, intentionally rendered in muted grays and black and white.  


From Our Special Correspondent
BILBAO, April 27 1937
Guernica, the most ancient town of the Basques and the centre of their cultural tradition, was completely destroyed yesterday afternoon by insurgent air raiders. The bombardment of this open town far behind the lines occupied precisely three hours and a quarter, during which a powerful fleet of aeroplanes consisting of three German types, Junkers and Heinkel bombers and Heinkel fighters, did not cease unloading on the town bombs weighing from 1,000lb. downwards and, it is calculated, more than 3,000 two-pounder aluminium incendiary projectiles. The fighters, meanwhile, plunged low from above the centre of the town to machine- gun those of the civilian population who had taken refuge in. the fields.
The whole of Guernica was soon in flames except the historic Casa de Jontas with its rich archives of the Basque race, where the ancient Basque Parliament used to sit. The famous oak of Guernica, the dried old stump of 600 years and the young new shoots of this century, was also untouched. Here the kings of Spain used to take the oath to respect the democratic rights (fueros) of Vizcaya and in return received a promise of allegiance as suzerains with the democratic title of Señor, not Rey Vizcaya. The noble parish, church of Santa Maria was also undamaged except for the beautiful chapter house, which was struck by an incendiary bomb.
At 2 am today when I visited the town the whole of it was a horrible sight, flaming from end to end. The reflection of the flames could be seen in the clouds of smoke above the mountains from 10 miles away. Throughout the night houses were falling until the streets became long heaps of red impenetrable debris.
Many of the civilian survivors took the long trek from Guernica to Bilbao in antique solid-wheeled Basque farmcarts drawn by oxen. Carts piled high with such household possessions as could be saved from the conflagration clogged the roads all night. Other survivors were evacuated in Government lorries, but many were forced to remain round the burning town lying on mattresses or looking for lost relatives and children, while units of the fire brigades and the Basque motorized police under the personal direction of the Minister of the Interior, Señor Monzon, and his wife continued rescue work till dawn.
In the form of its execution and the scale of the destruction it wrought, no less than in the selection of its objective, the raid on Guernica is unparalleled in military history. Guernica was not a military objective. A factory producing war material lay outside the town and was untouched. So were two barracks some distance from the town. The town lay far behind the lines. The object of the bombardment was seemingly the demoralization of the civil population and the destruction of the cradle of the Basque race. Every fact bears out this appreciation, beginning with the day when the deed was done.
Monday was the customary market day in Guernica for the country round. At 4.30 pm, when the market was full and peasants were still coming in, the church bell rang the alarm for approaching aeroplanes, and the population sought refuge in cellars and in the dugouts pre pared following the bombing of the civilian population of Durango on March 31, which opened General Mola’s offensive in the north. The people are said to have shown a good spirit. A Catholic priest took charge and perfect order was maintained.
Five minutes later a single German bomber appeared, circled over the town at a low altitude, and then dropped six heavy bombs, apparently aiming for the station. The bombs with a shower of grenades fell on a former institute and on houses and streets surrounding it. The aeroplane then went away. In another five minutes came a second bomber, which threw the same number of bombs into the middle of the town. About a quarter of an hour later three Junkers arrived to continue the work of demolition, and thenceforward the bombing grew in intensity and was continuous, ceasing only with the approach of dusk at 7.45. The whole town of 7,000 inhabitants, plus 3,000 refugees, was slowly and systematically pounded to pieces. Over a radius of five miles round a detail of the raiders’ technique was to bomb separate caserios, or farmhouses. In the night these burned like little candles in the hills. All the villages around were bombed with the same intensity as the town itself, and at Mugica, a little group of houses at the head of the Guernica inlet, the population was machine-gunned for 15 minutes.
It is impossible to state yet the number of victims. In the Bilbao Press this morning they were reported as "fortunately small," but it is feared that this was an understatement in order not to alarm the large refugee population of Bilbao. In the hospital of Josefinas, which was one of the first places bombed, all the 42 wounded militiamen it sheltered were killed outright. In a street leading downhill from the Casa de Juntas I saw a place where 50 people, nearly all women and children, are said to have been trapped in an air raid refuge under a mass of burning wreckage. Many were killed in the fields, and altogether the deaths may run into hundreds. An elderly priest named Aronategui was killed by a bomb while rescuing children from a burning house.
The tactics of the bombers, which may be of interest to students of the new military science, were as follows: — First, small parties of aeroplanes threw heavy bombs and hand grenades all over the town, choosing area after area in orderly fashion. Next came fighting machines which swooped low to machine-gun those who ran in panic from dugouts, some of which had already been penetrated by 1,000lb bombs, which make a hole 25ft. deep. Many of these people were killed as they ran. A large herd of sheep being brought in to the market was also wiped out. The object of this move was apparently to drive the population under ground again, for next as many as 12 bombers appeared at a time dropping heavy and incendiary bombs upon the ruins. The rhythm of this bombing of an open town was, therefore, a logical one: first, hand grenades and heavy bombs to stampede the population, then machine-gunning to drive them below, next heavy and incendiary bombs to wreck the houses and burn them on top of their victims.
The only counter-measures the Basques could employ, for they do not possess sufficient aeroplanes to face the insurgent fleet, were those provided by the heroism of the Basque clergy. These blessed and prayed for the kneeling crowds—Socialists, Anarchists, and Communists, as well as the declared faithful - in the crumbling dugouts.
When I entered Guernica after midnight houses were crashing on either side, and it was utterly impossible even for firemen to enter the centre of the town. The hospitals of Josefinas and Convento de Santa Clara were glowing heaps of embers, all the churches except that of Santa Maria were destroyed, and the few houses which still stood were doomed. When I revisited Guernica this afternoon most of the town was still burning and new fires had broken out About 30 dead were laid out in a ruined hospital.
The effect here of the bombardment of Guernica, the Basques’ holy city, has been profound and has led President Aguirre to issue the following statement in this morning’s Basque Press:— "The German airmen in the service of the Spanish rebels, have bombarded Guernica, burning the historic town which is held in such veneration by all Basques. They have sought to wound us in the most sensitive of our patriotic sentiments, once more making it entirely clear what Euzkadis may expect of those who do not hesitate to destroy us down to the very sanctuary which records the centuries of our liberty and our democracy.
"Before this outrage all we Basques must react with violence, swearing from the bottom of our hearts to defend the principles’ of our people with unheard of stubbornness and heroism if the case requires it. We cannot hide the gravity of the moment; but victory can never be won by the invader if, raising our spirits to heights of strength and determination, we steel ourselves to his defeat.
"The enemy has advanced  in many parts elsewhere to be driven out of them afterwards. I do not hesitate to affirm that here the same thing will happen. May to-day’s outrage be one spur more to do it with all speed."

Monday, July 21, 2014

What the World Is Starting To Think Of 'Israeli Morality': Doctors Without Borders Says 'Stop Bombing Civs Trapped in Gaza'

The celebrated French humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders or MSF,  released a statement today after the Israeli Army attack on the Gaza neighborhood of Shuja’iyeh, which has resulted in nearly 100 civilian dead. "Gaza: Israel Must Stop Bombing Trapped Civilians," was the hed. 

Since the beginning of Operation Protective Edge in the Gaza Strip, the majority of the dead and wounded in Gaza (have been)  civilians," the statement read, in a somewhat rough translation from the French, adding that "medical workers are also coming under fire.  

Women and children comprised most of the wounded people arriving on Sunday morning in the emergency room in Al Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, where MSF is working, following heavy shelling overnight and in the morning in the city’s Ash Shuja’iyeh neighborhood. MSF personnel witnessed hundreds of people fleeing the area. MSF calls on Israel to stop bombing civilians trapped in the sealed-off Gaza strip, and to respect the safety of medical workers and health facilities.
“Shelling and air strikes are not only intense but are also unpredictable, which makes it very difficult for MSF and other medical workers to move and provide much needed emergency care,” said Nicolas Palarus, MSF field coordinator in Gaza.
While the official line is that the ground offensive is aimed at destroying tunnels, what we see on the ground is that bombing is indiscriminate and that those who are dying are civilians.

Interestingly, news organizations as ideologically far-flung as the Guardian and Breitbart News made note of the MSF statement. The Israelis tend to scoff at human rights organizations like Human Rights Watch, flipping it off as "left wing." But MSF hasn't been demonized like that---yet anyway. So it'll be interesting to see how this plays.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

As Flies Are To Wanton Boys, So Are Gazans To Cheering Israeli Spectators---and To Naftali Bennett.

The Guardian on Israelis who sit on hilltops over Gaza and whoop it up when their team scores a hit. Lovely. The Huffington Post UK had this story too, but I haven't seen any American news organizations copy it. Probably too politically incorrect ---or should we more accurately say "Zionistically incorrect"---for American consumption, where the emphasis is on bolstering the idea (and continuing the lie) of "shared values" as the foundation of the US-Israel "special relationship." Israeli Economics Minister Naftali Bennett, whose family hails from San Francisco and who made a good part of his fortune in New York as a software entrepreneur, says the Palestinian Gazans are committing "self genocide," as Jim Fallows at the Atlantic has noted. I wonder what movie Bennett's watching.  

Friday, July 18, 2014

Why Won’t The Times Answer These Questions About Official Israeli Censorship In The Immolation Murder Case of Palestinian Teen Abu Khdeir?

The case of Mohammed Abu Khdeir, the Palestinian teenager who was abducted, then burned alive by Jewish extremists earlier in the month, is the subject of an official Israeli police gag order which has not yet been lifted. Although the Times has acknowledged the gag order’s existence, it will not say directly whether it is complying with it, whether it is trying to circumvent it, what the Israeli government is trying to keep shrouded  and why it might be trying to do so. 

Having noted another Israeli gag order that proved troubling for the Paper of Record back in April, also involving its Jerusalem bureau chief, Jodi Ruderon, I wanted to know more about this case,  which is at the center of a new round of communal violence between restive Palestinians now nearing their 50th year of Israeli military occupation and Jewish extremists, whose historical tribal bloodymindedness and chauvinism, is on the ascent after a certain period of dormancy. It's all getting a bit ugly over there, with right wing Jewish mobs attacking Palestinians on the street and Israeli youth, including IDF soldiers, taking to twitter and Facebook, largely in Hebrew, to express hate and hopes for revenge.

I emailed Joe Kahn, the Times Foreign Editor, about the case.   

Just wondering whether you cd give me some information for my blog, Coloring The News, as well as the book I am writing on the US-Israel "special relationship, on NYT compliance with the Israeli police gag order in the case of that Palestinian teen ager who was recently abducted and burned alive. The gag order has been alluded to in your Public Editor's blog, as well as by Robert Mackay in his blog, the Lede. But I'd like to know a bit more, so if you cd answer the following questions, I'd be appreciative.

1) What is the Times stated policy on observing or not observing these kinds of gag orders, and in the absence of any stated policy, what has been newsroom precedent? (btw, I wrote abt the similar case back in April.)
2) Have you had communication with the Israeli government over this issue? Has the Israeli government threatened in any way, or implied any threats, concerning the press credentials it has issued to your bureau reporters?
3) Cd Jodi Ruderon be kicked out of Israel if she were violate the police order? Wd Isabel Kershner, who is an Israeli citizen, be stripped of her credentials, or expose herself to criminal or civil prosecution if she were to violate the order?
4) Was Steven Erlanger brought in fr London to report on the case as a way of circumventing the order? Did you receive any complaints, formal or informal, about Erlanger's recent report on Israeli extremists and their connection to the case?
5) Was the identity of the suspect who is not a minor withheld from Erlanger's reporting out of deference to the order, or to minimize any official backlash or did Erlanger not know it?
6) Was the NYT aware of the reporting on the case on the Israeli website Ynet, which seems to have been able to reveal the names of the suspect who is not a minor, and also explore in much deeper journalistic detail, the connection between the suspect and the suspect's family---which includes two prominent right wing rabbis and extremist, ultra-nationalistic elements in the Israeli settler movement?

After a bit of delay, Kahn did respond.

Hi -- I'm not inclined to get into a detailed discussion about this. We have said many times that we respect the laws of the countries where we station reporters, and at the same time we report aggressively on subjects of interest to our readers. The recent case of the kidnapped and murdered Palestinian youth is not an exception.

Hardly answers to the questions I put to him, but at least it was a response. Attempts to get a response from Times VP/communications, Eileen Murphy, were not so fruitful.  

More TK>>>>

'New Yorker' Calls Israeli Ground Invasion of Gaza An Opportunistic "War Crime."

New Yorker contributor Bernard Avishai on the invasion of Gaza captures the political nuances but the bitter underlying truth as well. I am surprised that David Remnick would go with something this bold, at least this early. Maybe he feels  like he has been too accommodating to cultural chauvinists and tribal moralists like Jeffrey Goldberg, and more recently, Ari Shavit. Shavit's book, My Promised Land, is a great example of a Zionist apologist attempting to square a bloody historical circle just by slapping a Star of David on it, as most egregiously illustrated in the chapter of the book that the New Yorker excerpted on the massacre at Lydda in 1948. Lydda was only one of the many war crimes committed by the Israeli Army, a part of the much larger, wholesale ethnic cleansing of Palentinians that allowed for the creation of the modern state of Israel when it was established, but which echo to this day in the Palestinian narrative of the Nakba.


“The difference between us is simple,” Netanyahu says. “We develop defensive systems against missiles in order to protect our civilians, and they use their civilians to protect their missiles.” That’s a good line, and even a true one. But it’s also true that the Israeli government knew the kidnapped teens were almost certainly dead when, in an alleged desperate effort to save them, it began a crackdown that resulted in hundreds of Hamas supporters being thrown in prison. More plausibly, it took this opportunity to crush Hamas as a political force. Netanyahu and Israeli military tacticians openly consider all homes of known Hamas officials or fighters to be part of Hamas “infrastructure.” Bombing these homes every few years—“mowing the lawn,” as one commander put it before earlier Gaza operations—demonstrates that Israel will not shrink from inflicting hundreds of random civilian casualties, through which it hopes to discredit Hamas. If you don’t think this is a war crime, talk to your Palestinian friends.