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Saturday, July 28, 2012

Settlements Yesterday, Settlements Today, Settlements Tomorrow!

The New York Times did us all a favor last week when it published the blunt declaration that "Israel’s Settlers Are Here to Stay." It was an op-ed by Dani Dayan, described as chairman of the Yesha Council of Jewish Communities in Judea and Samaria, which is how Israelis and their fanatical supporters, Jews and evangelical Christians, refer to Palestinian occupied territory on the West Bank of the Jordan River. Dayan writes:
Israel legitimately seized the disputed territories of Judea and Samaria in self-defense. Israel’s moral claim to these territories, and the right of Israelis to call them home today, is therefore unassailable. Giving up this land in the name of a hallowed two-state solution would mean rewarding those who’ve historically sought to destroy Israel, a manifestly immoral outcome. . . .
[W]e aim to expand the existing Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria, and create new ones. This is not — as it is often portrayed — a theological adventure but is rather a combination of inalienable rights and realpolitik. . . .
Our presence in all of Judea and Samaria — not just in the so-called settlement blocs—is an irreversible fact. . . .
And consequently, instead of lamenting that the status quo is not sustainable, the international community should work together with the parties to improve it where possible and make it more viable. . . .
While the status quo is not anyone’s ideal, it is immeasurably better than any other feasible alternative. . . .
The settlements of Judea and Samaria are not the problem — they are part of the solution.
So the status quo is "is immeasurably better than any other feasible alternative." Easy for Dayan to say since it is not his rights that are systematically trashed by the Israel's occupation force. He is not completely under the arbitrary rule of the Israeli authorities. He was not evicted from his home or cut off from his farmland. He is not detained for hours at checkpoints. He won't be rousted from his bed and held in solitary confinement indefinitely without charge or trial. Etc. Etc. Etc.

Dayan makes much of the threats that Arab leaders voiced against Israel before the June 1967 war, but he omits the fact that not one Israeli political or military leader thought there was an actual threat from Egypt, Syria, or Jordan, which Israel attacked to launch the war. And unsurprisingly he overlooks the systematic ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, including massacres of civilians, that began in December 1947 (with abuses and land dispossession starting much earlier) and the attack (aided by England and France) on Egypt in 1956. There was also Israeli provocation in the months leading up to the 1967 war. (Also see this and this.)

Dayan also pretends the repeated efforts by the Arab governments and the Palestinians to make peace never happened. (For much more on Israel's record of rejecting Arab peace overtures, see Jeff Halper's "The Trouble with Israel" [pdf].)

Why is the Times’ publication of this op-ed a favor? It allows us to see in full display what we’re dealing with in Israel. All the blather about democracy and human rights that issues from the Israeli government and its supporters is revealed as just so much rubbish.

We are fortunate that Jeremy R. Hammond, author of the excellent short work The Rejection of Palestinian Self-Determination, has written a concise, virtually point-by-point rebuttal of Dayan: "Wiping Palestine Off the Map: The New York Times’ Racist Editorial Policy." Hammond writes:
It is one thing for a newspaper to publish an op-ed in which a writer expresses his own personal opinion on a topic. It is quite another for the editors to exercise such extreme prejudice by allowing their publication to be used as a mouthpiece for a person who spews lies and hatred. People are entitled to their own opinions, but not their own facts. Dayan simply makes up his own history to justify Israel’s policy, and the Times editors have no problem at all publishing his fictions. . . .
And both Dayan’s and the Times editors’ understanding of international law is sorely lacking. The argument that if a war is fought in “self-defense” that a country may therefore acquire territory from its enemies has no basis in international law, in no small part due to the simple reason that every aggressor nation claims its wars are launched in “self-defense”, Israel’s ’67 war being no exception. . . .
The fact that it is completely uncontroversial that every inch of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, is under international law “occupied Palestinian territory” is apparently not relevant to the Times. There is not a nation on planet Earth that rejects the international consensus that Israel’s settlements are illegal, a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention, apart from Israel itself. . . .
[P]ermitting Israel to steal even more land with impunity means rewarding an aggressor nation that has historically sought to destroy Palestine and has occupied and illegally colonized Palestinian territory, oppressing the Palestinians who call that land home, for more than four decades—a manifestly immoral outcome.
I urge you to read Hammond's full article.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Alexander Cockburn, RIP

Alex Cockburn, 71, died today. I am saddened. He was a true maverick who wasn’t afraid to take positions that alienated allies and lost him friends and publishing outlets. From the start he saw through Obama. He distrusted centralized power and hated war. He was pro-gun and a skeptic about manmade catastrophic global warming. Alex was not fond of the free market (which he probably thought could not be kept clear of corporatism) but his website, Counterpunch, was open to libertarians (me and Kevin Carson included).

I met Alex once a few years ago and kept in touch with after that. I liked him and admired him. I’m sorry he’s gone.

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Good July 4 Reading

How to Celebrate July 4

If what we were taught about the American Revolution is right, then the most fitting way to celebrate July 4 would be to dismantle the American Empire and shrink (abolish would be preferable) the domestic State. On the other hand, if the purpose was to create the American Empire and a powerful State run by Americans, well then, never mind.

And So It Goes

Monday, July 02, 2012

Yitzhak Shamir Is Dead

The terrorist and once-prime minister of Israel, who called Palestinians "grasshoppers," is gone. Read about his monstrous career, which included a massacre at a Palestinian village and the assassination of a UN peace envoy, here. The only thing missing from the linked article is Shamir's efforts to collaborate with the Nazis against the British, who were running Palestine in those days.

Also see this.

Sunday, July 01, 2012

The Taxing Power and the Mandate

Not withstanding what I said below, I see nothing objectionable in the Supreme Court's mandate ruling when judged in conventional--as opposed to libertarian--terms. The government plausibly contends that people without insurance impose some burden on others (through cost-shifting due to uncompensated care or government assistance). Therefore it proposes to tax uninsured people to make up those costs (in advance). If you buy insurance, there is no reason to tax you. If you don't, there is. (This doesn't mean I accept the analysis. The system that induces most people to have comprehensive health insurance actually puts a burden on those without it.)

Thus if you accept the State and the taxing power as legitimate, what's wrong with the argument that the mandate "penalty" is indeed a tax and not merely punishment?

To reject Roberts's reason, you have to reject a lot of premises. If you reject those premises, you just may be an anarchist.

The Times They Are a’Changing

Palestinian woman
Ultimately, force does not rule the world.

Where’s the Win for Freedom?

Randy Barnett, Steve Chapman, and no doubt others are actually celebrating last week’s ruling on Obamacare. Why? Because Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in his opinion that the government can’t force us to buy health insurance under the Constitution’s Commerce Clause. Thanks goodness, Barnett, et al. say, that the Court did not allow a dangerous expansion of the commerce power that would permit the government to force us to buy things.

Does that mean the insurance mandate fell? Oh no. The Court found another (and long-established) ground for the mandate: the taxing power. Anything the government can do through the Commerce Clause it can do through taxation.

So is June 28 really to be a great libertarian holiday from now on? Not for me. I’ll be too busy actually promoting individual freedom.

Breaking the Silence: Israeli Occupation Force Members Speak Out

Belatedly I have come across a remarkable website called “Breaking the Silence.” Here is how it defines itself:
Breaking the Silence is an organization of veteran combatants who have served in the Israeli military since the start of the Second Intifada and have taken it upon themselves to expose the Israeli public to the reality of everyday life in the Occupied Territories. We endeavor to stimulate public debate about the price paid for a reality in which young soldiers face a civilian population on a daily basis, and are engaged in the control of that population’s everyday life.
Soldiers who serve in the Territories witness and participate in military actions which change them immensely. Cases of abuse towards Palestinians, looting, and destruction of property have been the norm for years, but are still explained as extreme and unique cases. Our testimonies portray a different, and much grimmer picture in which deterioration of moral standards finds expression in the character of orders and the rules of engagement, and are justified in the name of Israel's security. While this reality is known to Israeli soldiers and commanders, Israeli society continues to turn a blind eye, and to deny that what is done in its name. Discharged soldiers returning to civilian life discover the gap between the reality they encountered in the Territories, and the silence about this reality they encounter at home. In order to become civilians again, soldiers are forced to ignore what they have seen and done. We strive to make heard the voices of these soldiers, pushing Israeli society to face the reality whose creation it has enabled.
We collect and publish testimonies from soldiers who, like us, have served in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem since September 2000, and hold lectures, house meetings, and other public events which bring to light the reality in the Territories through the voice of former combatants. We also conduct tours in Hebron and the South Hebron Hills region, with the aim of giving the Israeli public access to the reality which exists minutes from their own homes, yet is rarely portrayed in the media.
Founded in March 2004 by a group of soldiers who served in Hebron, Breaking the Silence has since acquired a special standing in the eyes of the Israeli public and in the media, as it is unique in giving voice to the experience of soldiers. To date, the organization has collected more than 700 testimonies from soldiers who represent all strata of Israeli society and cover nearly all units that operate in the Territories. All the testimonies we publish are meticulously researched, and all facts are cross-checked with additional eye-witnesses and/or the archives of other human rights organizations also active in the field. Every soldier who gives a testimony to Breaking the Silence knows the aims of the organization and the interview. Most soldiers choose to remain anonymous, due to various pressures from official military persons and society at large. Our first priority is to the soldiers who choose to testify to the public about their service.
Why haven't Americans been told about this by the news media? (Or does that question answer itself?) Israelis know about it. But apparently Americans must be sheltered from views that run against the Jewish/Zionist/Israeli Lobby. It is shameful.

In future posts, I will present some of the testimony found at the site.

Latest Scribblings

TGIF: “The Power to Tax Is THE Power” (regarding the Supreme Court and Obamacare)

Op-ed: “Are Americans Not Submissive Enough?”