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June 2009

There Are Some Lines You Just Don’t Cross


Remember Walid Jumblatt, the leader of Lebanon’s Progressive Socialist Party who made a big splash four years ago when he began raving about the wonders of the Bush Doctrine? Probably not, to the relief of many a neocon. He was an embarrassing ally for the warbots even back then, but now he’s gone and done the unforgivable:

A surprise reconciliation between the leaders of Hizbullah and the Progressive Socialist Party was followed on Friday by Walid Jumblatt’s re-directing his rhetoric south, to Palestine, and warning of the “absolute extremism” of the Israeli government. “I call on all of our people in Palestine to reject sectarian and non-sectarian violence and cling to their Arabism and Palestinian national project, to confront Zionist projects that promise to be more dangerous and fiercer in the coming phase,” Jumblatt said in a statement.

The PSP leader said the Israeli government had no interest in a peace settlement and “insisted on absolute extremism” in its current policies.

I suspect we won’t be seeing any more sympathetic profiles of this “insightful interpreter of the fluctuations in Middle Eastern politics” any time soon.


The language that absolves Israel

A special political vocabulary prevents us from being able to recognize what’s going on in the Middle East.

By Saree Makdisi
June 19, 2009

On Sunday night, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivered a speech that — by categorically ruling out the creation of a sovereign Palestinian state — ought to have been seen as a mortal blow to the quest for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

On Monday morning, however, newspaper headlines across the United States announced that Netanyahu had endorsed the creation of a Palestinian state, and the White House welcomed the speech as “an important step forward.”

Reality can be so easily stood on its head when it comes to Israel because the misreading of Israeli declarations is a long-established practice among commentators and journalists in the United States.

In fact, a special vocabulary has been developed for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the United States. It filters and structures the way in which developing stories are misread here, making it difficult for readers to fully grasp the nature of those stories — and maybe even for journalists to think critically about what they write.

The ultimate effect of this special vocabulary is to make it possible for Americans to accept and even endorse in Israel what they would reject out of hand in any other country.

Let me give a classic example.

In the U.S., discussion of Palestinian politicians and political movements often relies on a spectrum running from “extreme” to “moderate.” The latter sounds appealing; the former clearly applies to those who must be — must they not? — beyond the pale. But hardly anyone relying on such terms pauses to ask what they mean. According to whose standard are these manifestly subjective labels assigned?

Meanwhile, Israeli politicians are labeled according to an altogether different standard: They are “doves” or “hawks.” Unlike the terms reserved for Palestinians, there’s nothing inherently negative about either of those avian terms.

So why is no Palestinian leader referred to here as a “hawk”? Why are Israeli politicians rarely labeled “extremists”? Or, for that matter, “militants”?

There are countless other examples of these linguistic double standards. American media outlets routinely use the deracinating and deliberately obfuscating term “Israeli Arabs” to refer to the Palestinian citizens of Israel, despite the fact that they call themselves — and are — Palestinian.

Similarly, Israeli housing units built in the occupied territories in contravention of international law are always called “settlements” or even “neighborhoods” rather than what they are: “colonies.” That word may be harsh on the ears, but it’s far more accurate (“a body of people who settle in a new locality, forming a community subject to or connected with their parent state”).

These subtle distinctions make a huge difference. Unconsciously absorbed, such terms frame the way people and events are viewed. When it comes to Israel, we seem to reach for a dictionary that applies to no one else, to give a pass to actions or statements that would be condemned in any other quarter.

That’s what allowed Netanyahu to be congratulated for endorsing a Palestinian “state,” even though the kind of entity he said Palestinians might — possibly — be allowed to have would be nothing of the kind.

Look up the word “state” in the dictionary. You’ll probably see references to territorial integrity, power and sovereignty. The entity that Netanyahu was talking about on Sunday would lack all of those constitutive features. A “state” without a defined territory that is not allowed to control its own borders or airspace and cannot enter into treaties with other states is not a state, any more than an apple is an orange or a car an airplane. So how can leading American newspapers say “Israeli Premier Backs State for Palestinians,” as the New York Times had it? Or “Netanyahu relents on goal of two states,” as this paper put it?

Because a different vocabulary applies.

Which is also what kept Netanyahu’s most extraordinary demand in Sunday night’s speech from raising eyebrows here.

“The truth,” he said, “is that in the area of our homeland, in the heart of our Jewish homeland, now lives a large population of Palestinians.”

In other words, as Netanyahu repeatedly said, there is a Jewish people; it has a homeland and hence a state. As for the Palestinians, they are a collection — not even a group — of trespassers on Jewish land. Netanyahu, of course, dismisses the fact that they have a centuries-old competing narrative of home attached to the same land, a narrative worthy of recognition by Israel.

On the contrary: The Palestinians must, he said, accept that Israel is the state of the Jewish people (this is a relatively new Israeli demand, incidentally), and they must do so on the understanding that they are not entitled to the same rights. “We” are a people, Netanyahu was saying; “they” are merely a “population.” “We” have a right to a state — a real state. “They” do not.

And the spokesman for our African American president calls this “an important step forward”?

In any other situation — including our own country — such a brutally naked contrast between those who are taken to have inherent rights and those who do not would immediately be labeled as racist. Netanyahu, though, is given a pass, not because most Americans would knowingly endorse racism but because, in this case, a special political vocabulary kicks in that prevents them from being able to recognize it for exactly what it is.

Saree Makdisi is a professor of English and comparative literature at UCLA. He is the author of, among other books, “Palestine Inside Out: An Everyday Occupation.”

Copyright 2009 Los Angeles Times,0,1505080.story

What Youtube Finds Offensive

“Feeling the hate in Jerusalem,” the video by Max Blumenthal and Joseph Dana, that has been seen almost a half a million times in the last few weeks, and has spawned international controversy, was removed by Youtube for “offensive content.” Oh, sure, if you go to Youtube, you can still see it, because folks are always putting it back on for as long as they can. But Max has posted the video here.

Of course, I was offended by Max and Joseph’s video, as were many people, left, right, and center, leaving only the morally-challenged unaffected.

But I am more offended by the video that Youtube also removed, only after Haaretz brought it to the light. See this before youtube takes it down. I am hoping that somebody who captures the video puts it on another site.

Filed under comedy: a Palestinian forced to slap himself and sing how about he loves the Border Police.

Video no longer on YouTube, but you can see it here

International petition to the UN General Assembly to set up a special international penal court to try Israeli war crimes, notably in the Gaza Strip :


Because it was in our name that in 1945 the United Nations charter was signed…

Because it was in our name that in 1947 the Partition plan for Palestine was approved by the UN General Assembly…

Because it was in our name that in 1949 the Geneva Conventions were signed…

Because not a single UN resolution on Palestine, also adopted in our name, has been implemented by the state of Israel ; and because the latter has, since its foundation, constantly violated the UN principles and the international conventions, in complete impunity and with growing cynicism,

We, citizens of the world, have the duty today to remind the international community of its obligations !

We solemnly request
that the UN General Assembly make use of its power to create subsidiary bodies in order to set up an ad-hoc penal court (as was done for the former Yugoslavia and for Rwanda by the Security Council) and try the crimes committed in Palestine.

As of today we demand :

– The end of all and any exaction against the Palestinian people and an international protection of the latter

– The full and complete lifting of the siege on the Gaza Strip

– The mandatory implementation of all UN resolutions on Palestine and the prescription of international law, under the constraint of international sanctions if need be. Israel is a state like any other, with the same rights and the same duties.

We request specifically that any accord of cooperation with Israel be suspended until that state respects the UN resolutions.

To sign, click here :

NEW RULES Bill Maher Jun 19, 2009 10 51 PM

and watch this one / Bill Maher takes on Obama

Natural growth


Netanyahou speaks with forked tongue

Mystery of the Missing Sunspots, Solved?

sdo_med 06.17.2009

June 17, 2009: The sun is in the pits of a century-class solar minimum, and sunspots have been puzzlingly scarce for more than two years. Now, for the first time, solar physicists might understand why.

At an American Astronomical Society press conference today in Boulder, Colorado, researchers announced that a jet stream deep inside the sun is migrating slower than usual through the star’s interior, giving rise to the current lack of sunspots.

Rachel Howe and Frank Hill of the National Solar Observatory (NSO) in Tucson, Arizona, used a technique called helioseismology to detect and track the jet stream down to depths of 7,000 km below the surface of the sun. The sun generates new jet streams near its poles every 11 years, they explained to a room full of reporters and fellow scientists. The streams migrate slowly from the poles to the equator and when a jet stream reaches the critical latitude of 22 degrees, new-cycle sunspots begin to appear.


Carter: Grief and despair for Gaza

After touring Gaza, Carter said 'my primary feeling today is one of grief and despair'
After touring Gaza, Carter said 'my primary feeling today is one of grief and despair'

Jimmy Carter has spoken of his “grief and despair” at seeing the destruction in the Gaza Strip carried out by Israel’s 22-day offensive on the territory six months ago.

“This is holy land for us all and my hope is that we can have peace … all of us are children of Abraham,” the former US president said during a joint news conference with Ismail Haniya, the deposed Hamas Palestinian prime minister, in Gaza City.

Following a tour of the area to see the effects of Israel’s offensive, Carter said: “My primary feeling today is one of grief and despair and an element of anger when I see the destruction perpetrated against innocent people in January.”

He said the Palestinians had been treated “like animals” and the deprivations faced by them in Gaza were unique in history.

Carter said he was trying to persuade Hamas leaders to accept the international community’s conditions for ending its boycott of the movement.


Netanyahu’s tone re Palestinians was at times frightening

June 15, 2009

The more reviews we get, the worse is the spirit of the Netanyahu speech. Writes Rob Browne (rbguy at Dailykos):

It was quite a horrible speech (laying all the blame on the Arab nations’ 1948 partition decision (with no context mentioned), continued expansion of settlements, Jewish only Jerusalem, lack of return for Palestinian refugees, demilitarized state with no ability to forge treaties, etc. I laughed, I cried, I yelled — sounds like the tag line for a bad movie poster.
When he talks about economic peace, is there anyone who has read Naomi Klein’s “The Shock Doctrine” who has any trust in this neo-conservative’s idea of economic peace. Any Palestinian should be incredibly scared of that part of his platform.


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