Archive for March, 2009
Thank you for your astute comments about my article. As you can imagine, I received a lot of mail about it (as did the Jewish Journal), but no one got it quite as clearly as you did.
Posted in Calling out neo-liberalism, Human Rights, Indigenous Rights, International Solidarity, Iraq, Israeli Apartheid, Palestine, The Americas, This is what genocide looks like, U.S. empire on March 28, 2009 | Leave a Comment »
“Once beloved worldwide, the U.S. government finds itself reviled in most countries because it provides unconditional support of Israeli violations of the United Nations Charter, international law, and the precepts of all major religious faiths.”-former U.S. Congressman paul findley.
Realists are not white supremacists in the KKK nazi tradition; it is too simplistic to paint them with the same brush, though they do share many core positions. They are white supremacists in the arrogant assumption of their own entitlement and correctness: the rightness of whiteness; the assumption of U.S. supremacy and interest as its own ethic; the acceptance without question of U.S. hegemony and power. The problem with supporting Israel, to the realists, doesn’t lie in human rights or social justice, but because they (the realists), see such support as a threat to continued U.S. global hegemony. It’s a strategic question, not a moral one, nor one that requires personal sacrifice or loss of privilege; quite the opposite. In this regard (to paraphrase activist, Naomi Jaffe) the neo-cons are the idealists. The realists understand the limits of U.S. global domination and militarism, as well as the price, including the inability of the U.S. to contain popular uprisings and movements within the Americas. The neo-cons wish to expand empire as if there were no limits or consequences to the empire itself.
I provide these links, not as an endorsement of their positions, because mine is quite contrary to the thesis of either of these articles, but rather to expose the iniquity and agenda of these schools of thought.
Politics does make strange bedfellow. But I think it is extremely important to consider who someone is, before jumping into bed with them.
Posted in Advisory Board, Afghan Women's Mission, Afghanistan, Cafe Intifada Advisory Board, Human Rights, Indigenous Rights, International Solidarity, U.S. empire on March 27, 2009 | Leave a Comment »
Sonali Kolhatkar serves on the Advisory Board of Cafe Intifada.
The Orange County Peace Coalition Presents "What You Need to Know About Afghanistan" A Talk by KPFK' Sonali Kolhatkar
www.uprisingradio.org <http://www.uprisingradio.org/> Saturday, March 28th - 10:00 AM to Noon St. Joseph Center - Library Conference Room 480 S. Batavia St., Orange 92868 Sonali Kolhatkar is co-director of the Afghan Women's Mission, a U.S.-based nonprofit that funds health, educational and training projects for Afghan women. She is also the host and producer of "Uprising", a daily morning radio program for KPFK 90.7 FM in Los Angeles. Her program provides the public with in-depth reports and updates on issues in the Middle East. Ms. Kolhatkar is a leading authority on current Afghan issues and has recently coauthored a book on the subject which provides much insight about the many misconceptions about the war in Afghanistan. Her discussion will touch on security and the oppression of women in Afghanistan. Coffee and other refreshments will be served. Please RSVP to: <mailto:info%40ocpeace.org> firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a message at (714) 637-8313 The views expressed at this speaking engagement are not necessarily those of the Orange County Peace Coalition or of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange.
F O R I MM E D I A T E RE L E A S E
Teachers Strike for Students Rights! from Santee Education Complex High School will stage a one (1) hour morning strike during the normal school day to fight against teacher layoffs that will disproportionately affect socio-economically disadvantaged students and thus violating their civil rights. Santee teachers have received an extremely HIGH amount of termination notices compared to schools with on the Westside or the Valley. Fifty-six (56) layoff notices have gone out at Santee. This would completely decimate the entire math and science departments! Teachers will NOT sign in during the first hour of work and instead will rally outside in front of the school with parents, students and community members. This will launch a series of one hour strikes throughout the city that may accumulate in a ONE day general citywide teachers strike! Teachers at Santee will also call on the Mayor of Los Angeles to stand up for his partnership schools and save teachers and small class sizes. Santee Education Complex is part of Los Angeles Mayor’s Partnership for LA Schools. Friday, March 27th, 2009. 7:30am The central objective/demand will be: To publicly expose that current LAUSD termination notices will disproportionally
affect schools that have low socio-economic levels and thus violating the civil
rights of these students. 1) To call on the Los Angeles Unified School District to imminently halt teacher layoff and increased class sizes that will have negative impact on the students of Los Angeles 2) Call on the Mayor of Los Angeles to stand up and fund his Partnership Schools much like San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom recently did by using city funds to support schools. Contacts: Jose Lara, Chapter Chair, Santee UTLA email@example.com
What: One Hour Teachers Strike for Students Rights Where: Santee Education Complex 1921 Maple Ave. Los Angeles CA 90011
When: Friday, March 27th, 2009 7:30AM
The Jewish Journal article calling attention to the problem contributed significantly to the resolution of this matter, making it easier for those involved in Pacifica with a deeper understanding of the issue, to achieve a resolution that has been pushed for, for some time.
It is increasingly difficult within progressive circles, to counteract anti-Jewish racism because establishment groups, such as the Simon Weisenthal Center and the ADL continue to blur lines of distinction.
When legitimate dissent within the Jewish community is labeled as self-hatred, and all critique of zionism and Israel are labeled anti-Semitic, it allows racists to dismiss any critique at all, and for the less erudite, the distinctions remain blurred, concluding that if all criticism of Israel is called anti-Semitic, then none of it is. By using the accusation of anti-Semitism so loosely and freely, these establishment organizations play into the hands of racists and bigots, to the detriment of the rest of the Jewish population, and social justice in general!
From the KPFK webpage:
KPFK In The News
We have determined that the recent views expressed on KPFK during the broadcast of one of the programs we air, “La Causa”, facilitated hate speech which we find deplorable and unbefitting of the Pacifica Foundation mission. We condemn racism and religious bigotry and will not tolerate calls for acts of violence. We have addressed this matter with the programmer in question as well as countless constituents and have concluded that allowing the broadcast of bigoted and racist content demonstrated a severe lack of judgment on the part of the programmer. We have, therefore, suspended this program until further notice, and will not allow it back on the air unless and until we are 100% assured that there will be no repeat airing of any such offending content. KPFK remains committed to the pacifist goals and foundation’s mission statement which is, “to contribute to a lasting understanding between nations and between the individuals of all nations, races, creeds and colors; to gather and disseminate information on the causes of conflict between any and all of such groups; and through any and all means compatible with the purposes of this corporation to promote the study of political and economic problems and of the causes of religious, philosophical and racial antagonisms”. Thank you for your patience and consideration. We hope that those who were understandably offended by this unfortunate occurrence will accept our sincere apology and realize that the behavior of this one individual does not represent the attitude and philosophy of KPFK as a whole.
Posted in Human Rights, Indigenous Rights, Israeli Apartheid, Israeli Offense Forces, Now who's the terrorist?, Palestine, The war against the children, This is what genocide looks like, U.S. empire on March 25, 2009 | Leave a Comment »
Israeli army rabbis criticized for stance on Gaza assault
By Richard Boudreaux
March 25, 2009
Reporting from Jerusalem — The winter assault on the Gaza Strip was officially portrayed in Israel as an attempt to quell rocket fire by militants of Hamas. But some soldiers say they also were lectured about a more ambitious aim: to banish non-Jews from the biblical land of Israel.
“This rabbi comes to us and says the fight is between the children of light and the children of darkness,” a reserve sergeant said, recalling a training camp encounter. “His message was clear: ‘This is a war against an entire people, not against specific terrorists.’ The whole thing was turned into something very religious and messianic.”
As armies elsewhere use chaplains, the Israeli military inducts rabbis to serve religious soldiers. Their traditional tasks include ensuring that kitchens are kosher and religious services are available.
But soldiers now going public with allegations of misconduct in Gaza portray the military rabbinate as a corps of self-appointed holy warriors whose sermons and writings demonized Palestinians.
“The army itself is a battleground of conflicting ideals in Israeli Jewish society,” said Avi Sagi, a Bar-Ilan University philosophy professor who in the 1990s was a co-author of the military’s code of ethics, which obliges soldiers to avoid killing innocents.
On one side, he said, are universal values that call for respecting all human life equally and are largely shared by Jews who seek accommodation with the Palestinians. On the other side are more nationalistic passages of the Torah, cited by religious thinkers who liken the Palestinians to Old Testament invaders and place a premium on Jewish life.
In the Gaza conflict, the argument has focused on how to fight Islamic militants who for years have fired rockets indiscriminately at Israeli communities, causing scores of civilian casualties.
Maj. Avital Leibovich, a military spokeswoman, denied that the military rabbinate takes sides. Army rabbis violated a directive to “stay away from politics” in Gaza, she said, but they were few in number and acted on their own.
In testimony reported by Israeli news media and in interviews with The Times, Gaza veterans said rabbis advised army units to show the enemy no mercy and called for resettlement of the Palestinian enclave by Jews.
“The rabbis were all over, in every unit,” said Yehuda Shaul, a retired army officer whose human rights group, Breaking the Silence, has taken testimony from dozens of Gaza veterans. “It was quite well organized.”
The army, which conscripts almost every Israeli Jew at 18, has been dominated for most of its history by secular officers. But over the last 15 years, as secular Israelis have soured on the occupation of Palestinian territory, religious nationalists have taken over senior positions in elite combat brigades.
With them have come hundreds of volunteer rabbis, who teach at pre-military academies for religious youths and serve side by side with the troops.
The rabbis’ role in Gaza came into focus last week along with testimony from soldiers who said that loose rules of war led to unwarranted civilian deaths and property destruction.
The testimony reported by two Israeli newspapers was the first such criticism to surface from within the army since the assault ended Jan. 18, leaving an estimated 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis dead. Most Palestinian casualties were listed as civilians.
The army chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, said Monday that he did not believe soldiers shot Gaza civilians “in cold blood.” He added that “isolated cases” of misconduct, if proved, “will be dealt with individually.”
Responding to newspaper photos, the army also condemned soldiers who wore T-shirts depicting a pregnant woman in a rifle’s cross hairs with the slogan “1 Shot 2 Kills.”
During the Gaza offensive, critics contend, rabbinical propaganda was part of a broader effort to legitimize Israel’s decision to use overwhelming force.
Before the assault, the army’s legal office issued an opinion saying that Israel was entitled to use artillery against civilian neighborhoods from which Hamas was launching rockets.
And after the 22-day operation, a Tel Aviv University philosophy professor with close ties to the military, Asa Kasher, said the decision to shell Gaza’s cities stemmed from an anti-terrorism doctrine he had helped draft a few years ago. It stated that in Gaza, as in other areas the army does not control, there is no justification for endangering soldiers’ lives in order to avoid killing civilians in the proximity of targeted militants.
That doctrine appears to be at odds with the military code, which obliges the army to avoid civilian casualties, and it was never formally adopted. However, it was echoed in religious terms in literature distributed in Gaza by military rabbis.
“Our ancestors did not always fight with a sword and at times preferred to use a bow and arrow from a distance,” one text read.
“Actions must be taken from a distance in order to spare our soldiers’ lives.”
The reserve sergeant, an observant Jew who spoke to The Times on condition of anonymity, said that he and a fellow soldier in his 15-man unit were troubled by the “children of darkness” sermon, but that other troops seemed receptive.
In one of several postwar testimonies given at a left-leaning military institute, a squad commander identified only as Ram complained that army rabbis tried to press what he called a “religious mission” on his men.
“The military rabbinate brought in a lot of booklets and articles and their message was very clear: We are the Jewish people, we came to this land by a miracle, God brought us back to this land and now we need to fight to expel the non-Jews who are interfering with our conquest of this holy land,” Ram said.
As a commander, he said, he tried to explain to his men that “not everyone in Gaza is Hamas [and] wants to vanquish us [and] that this war is not a war for the sanctification of the holy name, but rather one to stop the Kassams” — a type of rocket fired from Gaza.
Danny Zamir, director of the institute that elicited the testimonies and leaked them to Israeli papers, was quoted in a transcript as voicing dismay that Israeli nationalists, like their Hamas enemies, are using faith to justify violence.
“If clerics are anointing us with oil and sticking holy books in our hands, and if the soldiers in these units aren’t representative of the whole spectrum of the Jewish people, but rather of certain segments of the population, what can we expect?” he said.
Ofer Shelah, military correspondent for the newspaper Maariv, said the rising profile of religious nationalists in the army has helped them in two showdowns with the high command.
After Israel withdrew its settlers and soldiers from Gaza in 2005, graduates of two pre-military academies associated with the settler movement said they would refuse to obey future orders to disband West Bank settlements. The army threatened to cancel its certification of the schools, then backed down.
During the Gaza assault, the chief military rabbi, Brig. Gen. Avichai Rontzki, was called in to answer criticism that his department was distributing war propaganda. He denied knowledge of it, and a subordinate was given “a slap on the wrist” by the Defense Ministry, Shelah said.
Rabbi David Hartman, a leading Jewish philosopher who has lectured thousands of officers at his Shalom Hartman Institute, said the religious nationalist belief in holy war is still a minority view in the army.
“But it has to be fought with a rational religious ideology that takes into account the living reality of two peoples,” he said. Otherwise, he added, “you have these rabbis volunteering in the army, and it’s not necessarily the people the army wants. There’s a vacuum, and it gets filled by crackpots.”