Mr President, answer Matthew Lee of the AP: ‘Why is it beneath the United States to come out and say something about this practitioner of nonviolence?’

on 56 Comments

Please just watch this. If you don’t do anything else today, watch this. Promise me. Then send it to your friends. Words escape me this is so brilliant. It breaks my heart with moral urgency and sorrow. Awake America. Matthew Lee of the Associated Press stands up for days on end for imprisoned Palestinian civil disobedience leader Abdallah Abu Rahmah, at the State Department. 

This is better than David Gregory going after Tony Snow, better than Michael Wolff’s fabulous meltdown in Qatar. Because there is no selfishness in Lee’s questions, there is only charity and human concern, and career risk too.

Crowley: “I haven’t yet got a satisfactory answer.” Lee: “What does that mean? It was too informative?”.. A day or so later. “I’ve been asking for several days now…” Other members of the Quartet have spoken out, Lee says. Later: “One more time.. to shake something loose from you.. what does that mean to monitor closely… [angrily at last] you monitor the weather in Beijing closely. Why is it beneath the United States to come out and say something about this person who is a practitioner of nonviolence?” When will the networks give this man the oxygen of attention that he needs.

Something else important. You might think from watching Crowley’s stumbling responses, asking for days to figure out an answer, that this was the first time State Dep’t folks were asked about Abdallah.


From Code Pink, Rob Mosrie of the US Campaign to End the Occupation, and Rebecca Vilkomerson of Jewish Voice for Peace. Please note the date:

October 26 – Representatives from four US human rights groups met with State Department officials on Friday, October 22nd, and delivered a letter addressed to Secretary of State Clinton signed by more than 5,000 individuals calling for the US government to demand that Israel free Abdallah Abu Rahmah, a leading Palestinian nonviolent protest organizer.

56 Responses

  1. annie
    December 17, 2010, 1:47 pm

    powerful video, whoever put it together for us..thanks.

    yeah, unbelievable really. unconscionable.

  2. seafoid
    December 17, 2010, 2:04 pm

    Not unbelieveable. The US doesn’t care about Palestinian rights. The Moscowitzes have more money. Seeing that Obama clip reminded me of something a man in Cairo once told me. Kulhum munafiqeen – every one of them is a hypocrite.

  3. seafoid
    December 17, 2010, 2:04 pm

    Great video though.

  4. MRW
    December 17, 2010, 2:13 pm

    Not particularly OT: Pilger goes after the profound mendacity of the MSM here:
    link to

    It is repellent to me that there would be a “career risk” to Matthew Lee. That is called mental hijacking, and deceptive force via perceived threat. The only thing I fault US Jewish organizations for (right, left, and center) is not standing up to this now-decades-old practice, and reviling it. It runs counter to everything we’re supposed to believe in as Americans, and which we put our hand over our heart to say we defend. It is no longer acceptable, to me, to say that the practice exists and gee, what can you do about it, the community has to come around, blah-blah. Look who got destroyed, eviscerated, in the past year because of it: Octavia Nasr, Rick Sanchez, Helen Thomas.

    edit: And please, don’t even waste your time giving me the ‘they were anti-semites’ argument.

  5. MRW
    December 17, 2010, 2:19 pm


    When will the networks give this man the oxygen of attention that he needs.

    Why don’t you ask him?

  6. Jim Holstun
    December 17, 2010, 2:49 pm

    Gee, seafroid, insofar as you are using “Moscowitz” as a metaphor for all Jews, and insofar as the “them” of your Cairene friend is, well, you know, THEM!, then your comment really stinks. To high heaven. Take a bath, and watch your bigoted mouth. Also, take a look around–say, at this site–and you’ll see righteous Jews in the forefront of the attack on Zionism, in disproportionate numbers. Would that we non-Arab gentiles put as much passion and commitment into the struggle.

    It’s a great video. It will be interesting to track the career of the fearless Matthew Lee.

    • tree
      December 17, 2010, 3:00 pm

      I took seafroid to be referring to Irving Moskowitz, of L.A. area gambling fortune, and underwriter of massive settlement activity in the West Bank. I didn’t think he was referring to ALL Jews as Moskowitz’. And I thought that “everyone of them” was a reference to politicians.

      • annie
        December 17, 2010, 7:16 pm

        I took seafroid to be referring to Irving Moskowitz of L.A. area gambling fortune, and underwriter of massive settlement activity in the West Bank.

        shhh, mustn’t disturb jim’s self righteousness by inserting uncomfortable little factoids.

    • Potsherd2
      December 17, 2010, 3:04 pm

      Holstun, it’s perfectly clear that “Moscowitz” is not meant to refer to ALL Jews but those right-wing billionaires who fund West Bank settlements and do as much to subvert the Israeli government as the do the government of the US.

    • seafoid
      December 17, 2010, 3:07 pm

      Touchy, touchy Jim

      The Beltway is a whorehouse, and the Moscowitzes are supplying the drinks. And Moscowitz and his friends are business men. No Jewish everyman. Does he represent Philip Glass?

      Sure there are decent Jews in the US but they would appear to have little political power. The best lack all conviction while the worst are full of passionate intensity.

      How else do you explain that video? They might have marched against the war but it was the other ones who won the argument. There may be decent Jews in Hebron but I doubt it.

      Israel is taking awful liberties with Judaism, I’m afraid. And the lobby has so much to answer for.

      And lay off the bigotry slurs . Israel has so much potential if the decent people there win. Zochrot are right, you know.

      • annie
        December 17, 2010, 7:43 pm

        The best lack all conviction

        that’s not the case seafoid.

      • jimby
        December 17, 2010, 9:46 pm

        annie, it’s a quote from the “Second Coming” by W B Yeats and this poem has a wonderful resonance today.

        William Butler Yeats (1865-1939)


        Turning and turning in the widening gyre
        The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
        Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
        Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
        The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
        The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
        The best lack all conviction, while the worst
        Are full of passionate intensity.

        Surely some revelation is at hand;
        Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
        The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
        When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
        Troubles my sight: a waste of desert sand;
        A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
        A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
        Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
        Wind shadows of the indignant desert birds.
        The darkness drops again but now I know
        That twenty centuries of stony sleep
        Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
        And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
        Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

      • annie
        December 17, 2010, 10:04 pm

        i had no idea, thank you jimby.

    • eee
      December 17, 2010, 3:20 pm


      Thanks for your response. Seafoid type comments are quite common on this site.

      • MRW
        December 17, 2010, 5:24 pm

        Doesn’t seafoid live in Israel?

      • Mooser
        December 17, 2010, 5:33 pm

        You tell ’em, “eee”. After all, us poor Jews don’t “control 22 countries” like those awful Arabs.
        Good Lord, what a whiny little mendacious hypocrite you are.

      • eee
        December 17, 2010, 7:15 pm


        Keep going with your personal attacks. It just highlights your inability to formulate a lucid argument.

        You are functioning exactly as the cult element that is responsible to make sure no one voices dissenting views. Not working this time, is it?

      • annie
        December 17, 2010, 7:23 pm

        It just highlights your inability to formulate a lucid argument.

        what are you talking about eee. it is you coming in and thanking jim for is ill informed insult. never did he even question the meaning of that name while anyone who has been there and seen what the settlers are doing will never forget the name irving moskowitz.

        so whom are you complaining about forming a lucid argument.

      • Avi
        December 17, 2010, 7:25 pm

        eee December 17, 2010 at 7:15 pm


        Keep going with your personal attacks. It just highlights your inability to formulate a lucid argument.

        Dude, or is robot? Anyway, you talk about lucid arguments when the most lucid argument you have ever made was one in which you revealed you inherent racism when you implicitly labeled all Muslims as terrorists.

        The fact that you’re a hypocrite, as well, doesn’t surprise me in the least.

        By the way, most of the time you’re as lucid as a maniac on an acid trip.

      • Jim Holstun
        December 17, 2010, 7:14 pm

        Don’t want your thanks, eee–I’ve read your posts, and wouldn’t want you to get the idea that we’re pals. Luckily, posts like that one aren’t actually very common on this site. One democratic state, with majority rule, from the river to the sea, O eee; prep for it. Maybe it’ll be “Palestine,” maybe “Canaan,” maybe even “Israel” (what’s in a name?), but in any case, it will put Zionist apologists like you out of business.

      • Citizen
        December 18, 2010, 8:36 am

        Jim, I took seafroid’s comment as a specific reference to Irving Moskowitz, of L.A, the settlement backer, and to anyone with the same zionist agenda and lots of cash to donate for that cause. But people light upon this site who may not know such a specific reference and hence read said comment as a slur against all Jews. And hasbara bots will jump on that opportunity to attack the messenger as a jew hater, a standard way of confusing and/or avoiding the issue(s) presented by the content of the message. For example, eee has done exactly that, and eee inflated his attack on the messenger as a jew-hater by extending it to the commenters on this web site generally.

      • Avi
        December 17, 2010, 7:20 pm

        Why is Crowley deferring the question to the embassy in Tel-Aviv where most likely an Israeli firster sits?

        Why bother?

        Just defer the question to the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs and get it over with. The Ministry will be sure to provide any journalist with the neatly-crafted propaganda mumbo jumbo he or she seeks.

        This is why the United States is repeatedly seen as hypocritical. The same goes for western media, including the BBC who hailed the release of activist Aung San Suu Kyi, but somehow the network repeatedly forgets imprisoned Palestinian peace activists.

        But it doesn’t end there. Why, you’ve got your CNN, your ABC, your CBS, all crying for the safety and freedom of protesters in Iran when the government ‘cracks down’ on them. Where are those anchors, and reporters when a Palestinian non-violent activist is imprisoned? The answer is, “The silence is deafening.”

    • Avi
      December 17, 2010, 7:34 pm

      Jim Holstun,

      It seems your response to seafoid was baseless and reactionary. I don’t see what is so objectionable about what he wrote?

      Seeing that Obama clip reminded me of something a man in Cairo once told me. Kulhum munafiqeen – every one of them is a hypocrite.

      seafoid clearly mentioned Obama in this context as a hypocrite, as are 99.9% of politicians.

      • annie
        December 17, 2010, 7:46 pm

        that is how i initially read it too.

    • kalithea
      December 17, 2010, 11:31 pm

      “Take a bath, and watch your bigoted mouth.”

      Your comment is a bullying, FALSE, totally exaggerated accusation. Maybe you’re the one that should follow this advice.

    • Kathleen
      December 18, 2010, 8:39 am

      “and you’ll see righteous Jews in the forefront of the attack on Zionism, in disproportionate numbers.
      Jews in the forefront is a relatively new phenomena. So please do not allow your ego to get away with its self and please do not feed that tendency in others. And the “disproportionate numbers” is of question.

      Please do not try to pretend that lots of Jews have been outraged for years because that is simply not the truth.

      And don’t get me wrong this new development is a healthy and good thing

  7. lareineblanche
    December 17, 2010, 2:59 pm

    I’ll take the question and see what we know about that case.

    “Screw off”

    We still don’t have a clear answer, I checked before I came out here.

    “Screw off”

    I haven’t yet gotten a satisfactory answer.

    “Screw off”

    …still seeking a fuller picture of our engagement with he Israeli government on this case…

    “When are you going to shut up?”

  8. Potsherd2
    December 17, 2010, 3:02 pm

    The US government, every branch of it, simply is incapable of shame.

    Congress just amply demonstrated this fact by passing the latest AIPAC resolution against a Palestinian state. The State Dept has no shame. The presidency has no shame. They are owned 100% by monied interests and don’t really care that anyone knows this, because they know there is nothing that we can do.

    You can slap the word HYPOCRISY across their faces, and they don’t even know what it means.

  9. eGuard
    December 17, 2010, 3:35 pm

    The final Obama-in-Cairo quote nailed it.

  10. Jim Holstun
    December 17, 2010, 3:45 pm

    Dear seafroid,

    Oh, I see: by “Moscowitz” you meant “Irving MosKowitz.” And by “them,” you meant “politicians.” Perfectly clear, as Nixon used to say. But your desire to trot out the WB Yeats chestnut takes you right back to Jewbash Lite: really, now? do Norman Finkelstein, Ilan Pappe, Noam Chomsky, Phil Weiss, Michael Neumann, Phyllis Bennis, Sara Roy, Amy Goodman, Adam Horowitz, Emily Henochowicz, etc., etc., etc. “lack all conviction”?

    “How else do I explain that video”–how else other than crafty, passionate Jews controlling the helpless gentile, Mr. Crowley, like a marionette? I think I would explain it by looking at the crafty, wealthy Zionists (Jews, Christians, atheists, etc.), and the plutocratic American system that allows them to call the shots.

    Stop alienating allies

    • Mooser
      December 17, 2010, 5:39 pm

      Jim, thanks for sticking up for us Jews. Don’t know what we would do without you! As for me, when I read comments like Seafoids, I always end up sobbing into my Emmett Till postcards.

      Jim, I don’t want to shock you, but if wee are tough enough to do what we did (and keep doing) in Palestine, we can stand a few invidious or tendentious remarks.

      • eee
        December 17, 2010, 6:11 pm


        So its now “we” that are doing things in Palestine? You are confusing me. I thought it was the Israelis not the Jews and that there was a difference.

      • Mooser
        December 17, 2010, 7:18 pm

        So its now “we” that are doing things in Palestine?”

        Yeah, “eee” I said “we”. It’s like that “Jewish property” in Poland you are so hot to be compensated for.
        Don’t worry, “eee” I may get confused about the subject, but you never do. No, never do you fail to distinguish between the actions of the Zionists and “the Jews”.
        God forbid you should go around whining like a spoiled child about what the world owes “the Jews”, and then using your vintage whines to justify Israel’s criminality. Some Gentiles might get the wrong idea!

    • seafoid
      December 18, 2010, 4:12 am


      Ilan Pappe, Noam Chomsky, Phil Weiss, Michael Neumann, Phyllis Bennis, Sara Roy, Amy Goodman, Adam Horowitz, Emily Henochowicz
      are all wonderful people. I check out their work regularly! Finkelstein’s put down of that Zionist crying crocodile tears at Waterloo u was magnificent. But will it ever show on Fox?

      There’s a phrase in German I like. “Geh zum Hans, nicht zum Haensi.”
      If you want something done, go to Hans, not little Hans.

      And little Hans is doing great work but name one person on that list who is a power broker . Israel is all about power and at the moment there are no decent people anywhere near power either there or in the US. Name on person on that list who has either paid or received USD 1 million in lobbying money over 2010. Because that is where the power is. That is the grease of the occupation.

      There is another point that mainstream Judaism is wrapped up in this Zionist project to its long term detriment but it’s obviously sensitive for you.

  11. Kathleen
    December 17, 2010, 3:53 pm

    Thanks for insisting we watch. Whoa. Let’s go viral with this one.

    Matthew Lee is cutting through the slip and sliding

    Dec 10 “Take the question and see what we know about this..let me find out what we know”

    Dec 13 ” and we still do not have a clear answer and will let you know when we do”

    Dec 14 “have not gotten a satisfactory answer”

    Dec 15 “a case the continue to monitor…watching this closely”

    I thought Crowley’s last statement was the most telling “we will defer to Tel Aviv on this”

    When Clinton makes a fool of herself and says things like the above the whole world is laughing. She has to know this

  12. eGuard
    December 17, 2010, 3:53 pm

    On the other side of the Associated Press-coin: Hasbarabuster is back with a deconstruction of an AP report: Hasbarabuster.

  13. Kathleen
    December 17, 2010, 4:12 pm

    O.K. took this over to Race for Iran, Washington Note, Informed Comment, Chris Matthews Hardblogger sent to Huff Po.

    This clip is incredibly well done and oh so telling.

    Phillip according to my dear friend Art Gish (deceased) and others who I know who have spent a good deal of time in Israel. Non Violent Palestinian protesters have been put into Israeli prisons for decades. Way to keep the non violent movement from really taking off. What do you know about other non violent Palestinian protesters that have and are still in Israeli prisons?

    Later everyone

    • seafoid
      December 17, 2010, 4:27 pm

      Israel is afraid of 2 things

      – Mass Palestinian non violence

      I have a dream in which the whole of the West Bank descends on Jerusalem’s checkpoints and then proceeds into Israel. The IDf wouldn’t be able to do anything.

    • kalithea
      December 17, 2010, 11:50 pm

      Great question. I’m sure there are a whole lot of innocent people in Israeli prisons that we know nothing about.

      • Kathleen
        December 18, 2010, 8:46 am

        According to friends who have been intimately involved with this issue for at least 35 years Israel has been putting non violent Palestinian activist for a very long time. That shutting down the non violent efforts has been on their strategies.

  14. Kathleen
    December 17, 2010, 4:29 pm

    Crowley “again I’ll defer the question to the embassy in Tel Aviv” What the hell does that mean. He was asking what the Obama administration has to say about this non violent protester being imprisoned.

    Crowley “again I’ll defer the question to the embassy in Tel Aviv”

  15. RoHa
    December 17, 2010, 5:34 pm

    It means “If I say anything that the Israelis don’t like, I’m screwed.”

    Of course, the U.S. embassy might not be much help either. According to this report

    link to

    Ed Abington, a former U.S. consul general in Jerusalem (1993-1997 ) America’s greatest friend/closest ally/etc. keeps the embassy in the dark.

    “The U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv has been so out of the loop for the last six years that their reporting is about what you read in the Israeli press (probably where they get most of their information ).

  16. Justice Please
    December 17, 2010, 5:54 pm

    Great video. And Matthew Lee should get a Helen Thomas-award for asking hard questions in a government press briefing.

    “Why is it beneath the United States to come out and say something about this practitioner of nonviolence”

    This question perfectly sums it all up. The power of the lobby, the moral compass of the government, the double standards. All this is what motivates people all around the world to despise the policies and stance of the US government. Just as they hate China for protecting North Korean misbehaviour, they hate the US for protecting Israeli crimes.

    • Kathleen
      December 18, 2010, 8:48 am

      And having that Clinton clip talking about rights, people thrown in prison for speaking out just thrown Clinton’s hypocritical shit right back in her face and it sticks

  17. BillR
    December 17, 2010, 6:04 pm

    I could not help but notice during Obama’s arrogant, ignorant, and patronizing chastisement of Palestinians that he claimed Apartheid was overcome through pacifist non-violent practices. This is patently incorrect. South Africans waged a prolonged armed struggle against the Apartheid state, a violent struggle that played an instrumental role in bringing down that state. So popular were those who led this decades long armed struggle, that the principle organization that led the violence, the ANC, was by far the most popular group in South Africa, and acquired so much good will for their efforts that they have been the ruling party ever since. I’m just sayin.

    • kalithea
      December 17, 2010, 11:46 pm

      Obama’s just full of hot air. Empty words, platitudes and political interest all rolled into one. Of course that speech was so condescending towards Muslims and especially Palestinians and chock-full of double-standards just like the speech he gave at the Nobel Prize ceremony when he used Gandhi and Martin Luther King’s words to justify war, War=Peace bullshit; it made me sick to my stomach listening to that hypocritical speech.

    • Kathleen
      December 18, 2010, 8:49 am

      A myth that that was a non violent struggle.

  18. VR
    December 18, 2010, 1:11 am

    I see you have discovered the duplicity and hypocrisy of the US recognition and non-recognition of resistance, congratulations. Contrary to popular belief this game is played all over the world, and always coincides with US “interests.” So it is driven not merely by the pressure of any given lobby (although that might be the case in some instances), in other cases it is just how it plays to whatever the goal in the region might be.

    Second, the US is not interested in non-violent resistance in the sense that it finds it commendable and morally sound, but in the sense that it has learned to live with the fact that resistance will always be there, and the best way to control it is to keep it from becoming radicalized and just maintaining its goals in the face of non-violent resistance. The cat almost got out of the bag with BillR’s statement above, but I can see that it was either not recognized or glossed over.

    Third, the US nor Israel sees any threat in Palestinian non-violent resistance, except that it might be recognized by adherents to this methodology in other parts of the world – and will give the Palestinians a “human” face. In fact Israel resists the non-violent activism too much, which makes me think that this is what it wants people to believe that it sees this as a threat – just like it opposes BDS. However, historically under such oppression, there has always been a mixture of both violent (which is not exactly like the colonial violence of the Israeli state, but is a form of true self-defense) and non-violent activity that has always been historically successful.

    So take a lesson from the hypocrisy of the US, which has never liked non-violent resistance but would much rather have it than a mixture of non-violent and more radical activity, because non-violence by itself can be recuperated and easily controlled. Don’t be surprised when eventually Israel begins to relate better to non-violent resistance, while nothing substantial changes – just like in the USA.


  19. Miriam
    December 18, 2010, 9:00 am

    Let us see if SEATTLE organizers get to practice “free speech” ….on their city buses addressing Israeli violence?….since Tel Aviv decides what Washington can say, will they also determine what Seattle or any of the other grassroots efforts across America gets to say?. Go Vote at Seattle news Poll …
    link to

  20. Citizen
    December 18, 2010, 9:09 am

    Are there any governments anywhere that do not use direct or veiled humanism when they think it furthers their own non-purely humanitarian objectives, their “state interests,” meaning the interests of the PTB in any country? Conversely, they ignore world humanitarian interests when they do not further more selfish interests? No. But some country’s more than others? Some examples?

    • Citizen
      December 18, 2010, 9:11 am

      How about New Zealand or Iceland?
      link to

      • Citizen
        December 18, 2010, 9:19 am

        How about in terms of charitable donations?
        link to

        (Note that US government charity to Israel alone as measured per average US tax payer is much higher; and considering how little of that Arab Israelis get–higher still. If we gave that much annually to each American who is poor they’d be really happy campers.)

  21. BillR
    December 18, 2010, 5:01 pm

    Yesterday (Dec 17) I left a comment after watching the wonderful video of the AP reporter, Matthew Lee, bravely asking questions of State Dept representatives on the fate of an imprisoned pacifist Palestinian resister, Abdallah Abu Rahmah, in Israel. I noted that in the video there was a clip of President Obama chastising the Palestinians for engaging in violent resistance against the state of Israel and then offering a revisionist account of the end of Apartheid in which violence played no part. I wrote this very quickly and then left to walk my dog in a state park. As frequently happens on this walk, I realized what was only on the edges of my consciousness at the moment I left the comment—in effect, why Obama’s revisionist history struck me as relevant to this issue. This was especially confirmed for me when I read another comment saying that the two things that terrified Israel were the BDS movement and the threat of non-violent resistance. I wish that was the case, but I don’t believe it is. As an older and unreconstructed red, I don’t know much about BDS and this new generation of anti-Zionist activists and what I do know generally comes from this website and Pulse. So too what I know of BDS and the resistance in Bil’in tends to come from here. The bravery and moral stature of Abu Rahmah and the protestors at Bil’in is very inspiring and commands the utmost respect. To be honest, I have some issues with the BDS movement, even as I have the utmost respect for it. I always enjoy it when an artist like Elvis Costello cancels performances in Israel. My main issue is the tendency to try and boycott Israeli artists, many of whom I think need to be heard. This came home to me about a year or so ago when some BDS types were harshly critical of Daniel Baronboim, a man I consider to be both an artistic and moral giant. Still, I respect their commitment and activity. There exists, nevertheless, a tendency at times to focus solely on non-violent resistance in Bil’in and on the BDS campaign, both of which are laudable. The problem is that such a focus has the potential to result in landing on the terrain of the political discourse of the colonizer: a discourse in which Zionism is destined to carry the day.
    The logic would tend to go something like the following. Abu Rahmah is a pacifist. Ergo he must be supported. Obama and Clinton are hypocritical in refusing to recognize his justified resistance against Zionism. It is a justified resistance because it is non-violent. Violence in all forms must be condemned. Whether it is the violence of the colonizer or the colonized, all violence is the same and morally reprehensible. Since Palestinian violence is reprehensible, the Israeli state has a legitimate security concern and while it engages in oppressive violence, at least some of this state violence is legitimate self-defense. This is a complex and contradictory situation in which all sides must be taken into account. At this point, all hope is lost and truth is completely obscured. We are stuck in the morass of the logic of colonization.
    Against this narrative, I think it is essential to hold onto a fundamental truth. I recall when I was young finding the work of Maxime Rodinson. From an early age I was opposed to Israel, and the writings of Rodinson were like water to a man lost in the desert. Rodinson was a French Marxist intellectual. He was also Jewish and unconditionally opposed to the state of Israel at a time when such a stand was almost unthinkable. He may very well have been the first public intellectual to receive the title “self-hating Jew.” But Rodinson was a man with too much moral courage to allow such name calling to bother him. It was his work that removed all blinders from my youthful eyes when he characterized the state of Israel for what it unquestionably was and still is: a European “colonial-setter state.” There is not, nor can there ever be, a moral identity between the violence of the colonizer and the colonized. Israel is an ethnic-religious regime founded on a nationalist, racist and expansionist ideology. It is one of, if not the last, of these types of states in the world. Israel has no right to national security. Indeed, it has no rights whatsoever, except the right to dissolve itself. And the sooner, the better. Then and only then, can we get on with the categorical moral imperative that should address all people of good-will: the creation of a single secular state with equal political, juridical, and (yes!) economic rights for all: be they of Western/Central/Eastern European descent, of Arab descent, or of African descent; be they Jewish, Muslim, or atheist. And any real justice can only be served with the right of return for Palestinians, especially those living in the hell-hole prisons called “refugee camps.” Until such a state exists, the struggle cannot be over. For years I have supported the two-state solution, not because I believed it was the solution, quite the opposite. I did so because Palestinians were calling for it and I supported them in their strategic projects for self-determination. But I always believed that such a project, if carried to completion, would result in a marginalized and impoverished state, dependent on and exploited by its all-to-powerful neighbor. Support for the non-violent resistance at Bil’in, and for BDS are worthy and worthwhile forms of resistance to Zionism, and should be commended. But I think it is essential that they be founded on Rodinson’s profound insight and on its consequent categorical moral imperative. If BDS and non-violence become ends in themselves, we risk getting lost in the morass of Zionist political discourse about the “rights” of the state of Israel.
    As a project, BDS can be at times especially naïve. This is in part due to an overly facile comparison of Israel with South African apartheid. I believe that this comparison, if carried too far, is an impediment to an adequate understanding of the situation. This is where the relation to Obama’s historical revisionism comes in. There exists today a very naïve belief that apartheid was brought down by an international boycott campaign and insofar as Israel is like South Africa, a boycott campaign will ultimately achieve the same result. This is a remarkably short-sighted understanding of the collapse of apartheid. The international boycott was part of the endgame to a long and complex process. By the mid-80s South Africa was far weaker and more unstable, both internally and internationally, than today’s Israel. Internally it was under attack by a decades-long political movement that included armed violence in its resistance, and furthermore was supported by the overwhelming majority of the country’s population. The South African army was also getting its butt kicked militarily by Cuban troops in military campaigns in neighboring countries. The easing of tensions in US/Soviet relations and the evolution of détente had led to the evaporation of US support for South Africa under the pretext of a Cold War ideology. The US had lost all interest in supporting the racist regime. It is within this context that an international boycott of the regime was highly effective in aiding the collapse of an already isolated and tottering regime. In contrast, Israel has one of the most powerful militarys in the world, the support of the majority of its population, and a veritable blank check from the US for military support and funding. BDS is certainly a legitimate way to express one’s opposition to Zionism, but it is rather absurd to think it will have the same impact as the international boycott of South Africa.
    The same is true for the resistance in Bil’in, a movement I confess I have more of an affinity for than BDS. But there is a danger here as well, the danger of the enemy’s discourse on violence. On this I would offer the following story. Two friends of mine in Seattle are friends with a couple who have lived in the West Bank. The origins of this friendship are the relation my friend’s wife has with an old friend from her days of political activism in Seattle. Her friend is (or was) a young Jewish woman who was (and is) also an atheist and a Trotskyist. Under the influence of her family, this young woman went off to Israel to find her “roots.” What she found, however, was a racist regime and society that horrified her. She eventually found her way to the West Bank where she met a Palestinian man who was (and is) an atheist, a Marxist, and had been a member of George Habash’s old Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. They fell in love and got married.
    This, no doubt, would make them the perfect subjects to be the central characters in a Godard movie (an inside joke for Phil Weiss). The marriage ceremony turned out to be quite a complex affair. Even thought the man had not been active in the PFLP for years and had been ignored by the IDF, on the day of the ceremony the IDF came in and arrested him before the ceremony could be completed and carted him off to prison where he was beaten and held for a couple of months. Eventually he was freed and returned home to complete the ceremony. No explanation was given for his arrest. I have tended to believe that it was Israeli horror that a Jewish woman of European descent was sleeping with a swarthy skinned Palestinian, but who knows. Eventually the area in which he lived was turned over to the control of the Palestinian Authority. The first thing he and his friends did was to celebrate by going to the prison and holding a party, sharing stories of times spent in the prison being chained to the wall and “interrogated.” Now to the point of my story. When this couple came to visit my friends in Seattle not so long ago they told them something that has stuck with them to this day. The PA was completely corrupt and had become an internal police force for Israel. It was universally despised by all Palestinians who were not connected to its corrupt patronage network. Both of these people, Marxist atheists, were strong supporters of Hamas. Indeed, as they informed my friends, every Palestinian not connected to the PA was a strong supporter of Hamas! There were even atheist left wing members of Hamas. This is because Hamas was the only organization that was actually doing anything to actively resist an occupation that both these individuals said had become unbearable in its oppression and dehumanization. Hamas may have been Islamist, but it was not corrupt, it showed extraordinary commitment and bravery in the face of oppression, and was the only organization that had anything to offer to the most destitute Palestinians. My suspicion is that if the Palestinians at Bil’in were totally open with people, they too would admit an admiration for Hamas. The question I have is how do the supporters in the US of BDS and Bil’in non-violence feel about these Palestinians? And if they have trouble answering this question, then at some point they will be destined to be let down by these people, the real Palestinians who are suffering under the yoke of a colonialism that should be long dead and buried.
    In Solidarity,
    Bill Riordan

    • homingpigeon
      December 19, 2010, 7:36 am

      “Indeed, it has no rights whatsoever, except the right to dissolve itself.” I like that quote and will use it in reference to the Washington regime.

      Meanwhile, on the end of South African apartheid, I came across a DVD called “Cuba in Africa” which gave some fascinating information to fill out what we had been reading in the seventies and eighties. The reporter did a great job interviewing the top players from all sides – South Africa, Cuba, USSR, US, and the Angolan factions. After the Cubans and South Africans ground each other up in Angola, their leaders sat down in Cairo, became drinking buddies, and made a deal that allowed each of them to claim victory. Cuba would withdraw its soldiers not only from Angola but all of Africa, and South Africa would release Mandela and start undoing apartheid.

      Although it was ultimately violence inflicted by Cuba on the South African army that had the most to do with effectively putting and end to apartheid, I still would not encourage or endorse a violent solution to the Palestinian situation. I know many Palestinians and their supporters would say outsiders don’t have the right to give them advice. (This is usually said only when they don’t like the advice. Israelis do that too). But I can give my friends advice just as they can give me and other Americans advice.

  22. BillR
    December 19, 2010, 3:46 pm

    To homingpigeon:
    I enjoyed your response. Actually, I think everybody has the right to give everybody advice. Let a hundred flowers bloom!

Leave a Reply