Roger Waters says Israel’s staggering record of impunity from world’s judgment is due to elephant in the room: the lobby

on 24 Comments

Saturday in New York was a special day. Two halls on either side of downtown were jammed with leftwingers for whom Palestine has become a central issue. What Central America was in the 80s or South Africa in the 90s– the Palestine moment is now.

The Russell Tribunal on Palestine was in the great Hall at Cooper Union, where Lincoln famously spoke, with one person after another with a foreign accent laying out Israel’s defiance of international law. While at the New School which was once a refuge for Jewish scholars who escaped the Holocaust two leftwing Jewish speakers were arguing about whether the Jewish state can be redeemed from the stark photograph of the apartheid wall shown on the cover of the afternoon program. Norman Finkelstein said yes, Anna Baltzer said no.

Celebrate the moment. Tonight Susie Abulhawa will be speaking with two leftwing Israelis; Jeff Halper, another leftwing Israeli, is also in town to explain why the two state solution is dead, and the 50th NY Film Festival is featuring an Israeli filmmaker’s documentary likening the brutality of the occupation to Nazi Germany’s military occupations.

There can be no question that the social-justice left has fully taken up the challenge of Palestine with the aim of driving the mainstream discussion.

As for my headline, the overarching theme of the Russell Tribunal sessions I attended was Israeli impunity. I recorded the insights below. Please note the devastating Peter Hansen statement about buying redemption. Simply devastating.

Ilan Pappe, Israeli historian:

In Israel’s view, “only Israel is going to decide the fate” of Palestine, and the rest of the world will either accept or reject its plans. So no one else has agency. The two-state solution is a Zionist idea, entailing the gift of autonomy to Palestinians within a prison on the West Bank if they will only reconcile themselves to a Jewish state on their land. “No normal Palestinian would agree to partition.” Algerians didn’t accept partition of their land either.

The magnitude of Israeli crimes against Palestinians can only be understood by considering the full history. Because: “daily events are not catastrophic enough” to register with the mainstream media.

Peter Hansen formerly the head of the UN Works and Relief Agency:

The peace process that he once believed could bring justice– “I can only think of it as a cruel joke.” It has nothing to do with principle, but simple dealmaking between powers, and the UN has abandoned its own principles, norms and values merely to have a seat at the table.

As for the huge UN presence in the occupied territories, the aid is a Bandaid on a cancer, and whenever Hansen tried to raise the necessity of addressing underlying political issues with the donor countries, he was told his views were not welcome.

“I was not supposed to talk about anything except how to get truckloads delivered… The donor countries… like to think they have bought redemption.”

Vera Gowlland-Debbas, an expert on international law:

Israel enjoys an immunity from enforcement by international legal bodies that no other nation does. In dozens of other conflicts we have seen UN-declared arms embargoes, targeted sanctions, monitoring systems, and peacekeeping forces. In others there have been criminal tribunals. Israel has never experienced any such punishments. The Security Council refused to accept the Goldstone Report and the landmark International Court of Justice opinion on the wall in 2004—declaring that it was a de facto annexation of 16 percent of Palestinians’ territory, and made those territories into virtual Bantustans—the Security Council has done nothing to enforce the ruling.

When Iraq occupied Kuwait, it suffered crippling sanctions. Darfur and Libya have been sent to the International Criminal Court. The right of return has been honored in Georgia and Bosnia and Kosovo. Nothing doing in Palestine.

Roger Waters, a juror for the Russell Tribunal and bassist for Pink Floyd:

The “elephant in the room” is the unspoken cause of this long and unrelenting pattern of impunity, and that cause is “the Israel and Jewish lobby,” which sits atop the entire discussion. That is why the opinion of the multitudes is set to the side in this situation, as in no other.

I was grateful for Waters’s  breaking the ice, because I agree with him. That takes me back to the argument about the lobby and the two state solution at the New School, which I will get to tomorrow.

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24 Responses

  1. mondonut
    October 8, 2012, 5:16 pm

    If no normal Palestinian would agree to partition, then the current status quo is doomed to continue for generations – or at least until Mr. Pappe and his leftist buddies can convince Israel to dissolve itself.

    Ilan Pappe, Israeli historian: …The two-state solution is a Zionist idea, entailing the gift of autonomy to Palestinians within a prison on the West Bank if they will only reconcile themselves to a Jewish state on their land. “No normal Palestinian would agree to partition.” Algerians didn’t accept partition of their land either.

  2. tear-stained uzi
    October 8, 2012, 5:21 pm

    Ilan Pappé (paraphrased):

    The magnitude of Israeli crimes against Palestinians can only be understood by considering the full history. Because: “daily events are not catastrophic enough” to register with the mainstream media.

    While it’s true that “daily events” don’t register with the MSM, neither does the “full history,” which if anything is totally beyond its grasp. That’s why modern alternatives, like mondoweiss, are so critical to overturning the status quo.

    “The donor countries… like to think they have bought redemption.” (Peter Hansen)

    No different than other phonies, like Mitt thinking that his LDS tithing has got his ass covered with his Heavenly Father, or “Liberals” who send fat cheques to Debbie W-S so they can feel OK about their lily-white gated communities and kids’ private schools.

    Also true, Phil: Paul McCartney was the bassist for the Beatles. ;-)

    • Kathleen
      October 8, 2012, 9:58 pm

      The MSM does not touch the daily events. NPR tried to pretend to cover the full history over the years. Pretended. Ilan Pappe out on the front lines decades ago.

      Phil thanks for the updates. Would be amazing to be there. Thanks again. This movement is growing by leaps and bounds while things only get worse for the Palestinians on the ground.

  3. eGuard
    October 8, 2012, 6:00 pm

    PW: Ilan Pappe, Israeli historian

    “Israeli”, you write. Only here.

  4. chinese box
    October 8, 2012, 6:54 pm

    This is fantastic, but I don’t know how much name recognition Roger Waters has among the general public. What is needed is for an A-lister, who already has a long established career (so harder to smear and blacklist), like Pitt or Clooney, so come out in support of this issue. If Vanessa Redgrave was brave enough to do this in the ’70s someone could do it now.

    • Accentitude
      October 9, 2012, 3:56 am

      You’d be more likely to find musicians that would support the cause like Coldplay, Damon Albarn (Gorillaz), or Annie Lennox. Although there are celebrities, Viggo Mortenson, Tilda Swinton, and Jeremy Irons come to mind, they are far and few between unfortunately.

      I remember back in the day, (early 90s) people were jumping on causes that supported Tibet was all the rage. There used to be Free Tibet concerts done lollapalooza-style that got international attention and raised millions, Beastie Boys and Jane’s Addiction (Perry Ferrell, ironically is a hardcore Zionist) were making statements on TV all the time, there were kids in the streets wearing “Free Tibet T-shirts.” Hell, even Axl Rose took off his Charlie Manson shirt and replaced it with one that had a Tibetan Flag on it. Then suddenly….everything went quiet. I’m pretty sure that Tibet is still under Chinese occupation…but you don’t hear about it anymore because the interest is no longer there.

      Personally, I often wondered why there was never that sort of drive to raise the issue of oppressed Palestinians on the international level. It always seemed to me like its ok to talk about the suffering of Jews during the holocaust, and its OK to talk about the suffering of Tibetans under Chinese occupation, but in Hollywood and in the celebrity world in general, whether its music or movies, Palestine was always that one cancerous issue that everyone was too afraid to touch. I’m glad that at least that sort of stigma is starting to break down. I just hope it doesn’t end up being a temporary fad like supporting Tibet was in the early 90s.

    • Krauss
      October 9, 2012, 5:32 am

      Well, Pitt and Clooney are A-list people. Both are political and intelligent.

      But both also want to retain their A-list status in Hollywood. Therein lies the rub.

      Tilda Swinton, not an A-lister but certainly a celebrity, had a Palestinian flag around her neck in a Vogue fashionshoot a year ago. She hasn’t had a major role in any film since. Phil actually covered it – and the followup – on this site.

      • LanceThruster
        October 9, 2012, 5:25 pm

        Good point regarding Ms. Swinton. Hollywood is a collaborative effort and the “you’ll never work in this town again!” can be quite an effective threat even for the most talented and accomplished. Usually for Hollywood it seems, to dummy up is the more pragmatic route. You can’t really fault anyone on the surface for the liberal causes they choose to engage in or ignore.

        Name recognition in the music industry is somewhat different when it comes to the general public. Most everyone would know the names of the individuals Beatles, but not everyone knows the cast of characters for any given band. But they also have the advantage to work outside of the system based on merit and I find it encouraging that someone of Roger Waters’ stature speaks so forthrightly on the issue.

        It reminds me of something I read about Brian Eno in a similar vein.


      • chinese box
        October 9, 2012, 7:38 pm

        @Krauss and LanceThruster

        Wikipedia says that Swinton has a new project (began filming this past summer).

        In any case, if her Hollywood career is slowing down, I’d be quicker to attribute it to the more obvious fact that she’s a 52 year old female in an industry that prizes youth than to the Palestine scarf.

      • LanceThruster
        October 10, 2012, 11:30 am

        All I know about Hollywood is that they have a remarkable story of heroism and tragedy in the assault on the USS Liberty but somehow this event is not worth depicting. I’ve often said Hitler could sell a screenplay if someone thought they could profit from it. If “A Bridge Too Far” can make it to the screen, then the valor of the Liberty crew deserves to be highlighted.

        I’m glad Ms. Swinton continues her craft, but just as the casting couch could make or break careers, getting pegged as someone who does not toe the line on the official Israeli narrative seems the type of thing that words gets around on. I’d expect the effects to be cumulative.

  5. Bruce
    October 8, 2012, 10:08 pm

    Israel enjoys an immunity from enforcement by international legal bodies that no other nation does.

    While Israeli immunity should certainly be regretted, it is ridiculous to state that no other nation receives something similar. All of the Major Powers are immune to international enforcement, along with a list of US Special Friends. Let me know the day Saudi Arabia gets called out by any international body.

    Otherwise, there was a great deal of truth spoken at these conferences.

    • Danaa
      October 9, 2012, 2:13 am

      Bruce, as bad as Saudi Arabia is, the crimes of its monarchy are primarily expressed in oppression of its own people. In that, it is similar to North Korea, Bahrain, yemen, etc.

      But israel’s crimes are on an entirely different level. israel is actively persecuting and pushing out a whole people because they have the wrong ethnicity/religion. It is worse than france which disenfranchised the Algerian people but did not push them out. It is, in some ways worse than South Africa as an apartheid state was.

      israel’s policies against the people in gaza can only be described as murderous war crimes against humanity. In fact, I don’t understand why israel is even allowed a seat in the UN because the criminality is so astounding and so continuous. Is it as bad as the US in eg, Afganistan, or Iraq? worse than that – again, because it is effectively and deliberately striving to push another people off their land and to oppress them until they leave. The policies inside Israel against the Arabs are more like the worst of Jim Crow South because they have built effectively, a caste system where intermarriage would, for example be unthinkable.

      So yes, israeli immunity should not only be “regretted” but every person of conscience should condemn that country with all their might, every day, every second, on every platform. because it has combined some of the worst excesses and persecutions the modern world has known. So it deserves far greater condemnation than eg, China (even counting Tibet), Iran (which has attacked no one and done nothing to persecute any group though it does perhaps oppress some of its own people), Syria (which is torn apart by Nato backed terrorists unleashed on that country), or bahrain (which oppresses its Shiite majority big time). And the list goes on. I challenge you to find me another country that has committed ethnic cleansing on grand scale, is planning – and carrying out an even larger one, has herded 1.5 M people into a high security prison to be slowly starved, and is denying anything beyond a bare modicum of justice, much less equality – to over 20% of its own Arabic citizens.

      And along with Israel, so should the everyone who supports that torrid experiment in human injustice be condemned. All the more so because Israel, among other crimes, has basically destroyed the spirit of Judaism and is actively – and deliberately – jeopardizing the future of Jewish people everywhere by their barbaric actions.

      In fact, I am finding it very difficult to understand how one can reconcile being eg, pro-Israel (like J street types say they are) and pro humanity. Unless of course, one redefines humanity – kind of.

    • Accentitude
      October 9, 2012, 3:59 am

      China also comes to mind, but its ok because they’re big enough and powerful enough to obliterate the world.

    • Boston
      October 9, 2012, 6:47 am

      Let me know the day that Saudi Arabia can threaten the USA with the words “if you don’t attack country X, then we will” and have the USA mainstream media report this as if it is a normal thing to do.

      • Bruce
        October 9, 2012, 9:18 am

        @ Boston

        Have you heard of a place called Bahrain?

    • homingpigeon
      October 9, 2012, 10:49 am

      I don’t know about “international bodies” but as far as I am concerned, if I denounce US weapons sales to Saudi Arabia and US support of the Saudi monarchy, or criticize Wahabi practices, or make note of Saudi treatment of its Shia population, or discuss the status of South Asian workers in Saudi Arabia, (all of which I do) I do not have to brace myself for a barrage of criticism from Wahabi hasbarists, They will not come out of the woodwork in America to denounce me for anti-Arab racism or hatred of Muslims. Nor would my career be hurt and nor I would I risk being drummed out of polite company.

  6. DICKERSON3870
    October 9, 2012, 1:01 am

    RE: “In Israel’s view, ‘only Israel is going to decide the fate’ of Palestine, and the rest of the world will either accept or reject its plans. So no one else has agency.” ~ Ilan Pappe, Israeli historian

    MY COMMENT: So said Jabotinsky in 1923! ! !

    FROM WIKIPEDIA [Iron Wall (essay)]:

    “The Iron Wall (We and the Arabs)” is an essay written by Ze’ev Jabotinsky in 1923. It was originally published in Russian, the language in which Jabotinsky wrote for the Russian press.[1]
    He wrote the essay after the British Colonial Secretary Winston Churchill prohibited Zionist settlement on the east bank of the Jordan River, and formed the Zionist Revisionist party after writing it.[2]
    Jabotinsky argued that the Palestinian Arabs would not agree to a Jewish majority in Palestine, and that “Zionist colonisation must either stop, or else proceed regardless of the native population. Which means that it can proceed and develop only under the protection of a power that is independent of the native population – behind an iron wall, which the native population cannot breach.”[1] The only solution to achieve peace and a Jewish state in the Land of Israel, he argued, would be for Jews to unilaterally decide its borders and defend them with the strongest security possible.

    1^ a b Jabotinsky, Ze’ev (4 November 1923). “The Iron Wall”. –
    2 ^ Zionist Freedom Alliance – Ze’ev (Vladimir) Jabotinsky –

    External links
    Lustick, Ian S. (2007). “Abandoning the Iron Wall: Israel and “The Middle Eastern Muck””. Middle East Policy (Middle East Policy Council) (Fall 2007). –

    SOURCE –

    ENTIRE ESSAY: The Iron Wall (We and the Arabs), By Vladimir Jabotinsky, 1923 –

  7. talknic
    October 9, 2012, 2:22 am

    Bruce October 8, 2012 at 10:08 pm

    “Let me know the day Saudi Arabia gets called out by any international body”

    What for? It’s a sovereign state acting within its Internationally recognized borders. Israel is a sovereign state acting OUTSIDE it’s Internationally recognized borders.

  8. American
    October 9, 2012, 10:30 am

    Religious leaders call on Congress to reevaulate military aid to Israel
    October 9, 2012

    (JTA) — Fifteen leaders of U.S. churches and other faith-based organizations have asked Congress to reevaluate U.S. military aid to Israel.

    The religious leaders sent a letter to Congress members on Monday, calling for an investigation into possible violations by Israel of the U.S. Foreign Assistance Act and the U.S. Arms Export Control Act, which would make Israel ineligible for U.S. military aid.

    “As Christian leaders in the United States, it is our moral responsibility to question the continuation of unconditional U.S. financial assistance to the government of Israel. Realizing a just and lasting peace will require this accountability, as continued U.S. military assistance to Israel — offered without conditions or accountability — will only serve to sustain the status quo and Israel’s military occupation of the Palestinian territories,” the letter, signed by leaders of the Lutheran, Methodist, UCC churches, and the National Council of Churches, said.

    “We request, therefore, that Congress hold Israel accountable to these standards by making the disbursement of U.S. military assistance to Israel contingent on the Israeli government’s compliance with applicable U.S. laws and policies.”

    “We write to you as Christian leaders representing U.S. churches and religious organizations committed to seeking a just peace for Israelis and Palestinians,” the letter said, adding that the organizations have “worked alongside our Palestinian Christian sisters and brothers to help build a peaceful and resilient Palestinian civil society.” The signatories said they were writing to Congress “to express our grave concern about the deteriorating conditions in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories.”

    “Unfortunately, unconditional U.S. military assistance to Israel has contributed to this deterioration, sustaining the conflict and undermining the long-term security interests of both Israelis and Palestinians,” the letter said, citing the 2011 State Department Country Report on Human Rights Practices covering Israel and the Occupied Territories.

    The letter called on Congress to hold hearings “to examine Israel’s compliance, and we request regular reporting on compliance and the withholding of military aid for non-compliance.”

    The letter also decried what it called “a troubling and consistent pattern of disregard by the government of Israel for U.S. policies that support a just and lasting peace,” citing Israel’s failure to halt settlement activity despite repeated U.S. government requests.

    The letter was criticized by Jewish groups.

    The Jewish Council for Public Affairs rejected the call to reevaluate foreign aid to Israel. “U.S. aid to Israel is not ‘unconditional,’ as the letter claims. It reflects the shared values of America and Israel and furthers our shared goals for peace and security and is vital to advance the security of both peoples,” said JCPA President Rabbi Steve Gutow.

    The Rabbinical Assembly, the international umbrella organization of Conservative rabbis, called for a reevaluation of the interfaith partnerships between the assembly and the denominations represented in the letter.

    “The letter calling for hearings and reassessment was issued without outreach to longtime partners in public advocacy within the Jewish community. It was released on the eve of Shabbat, just before a long weekend of Jewish and American holidays. And it was distributed at a time when Congress is out of session, in the midst of the general election campaign,” the Rabbinical Assembly said in a statement. “We find these tactics to be disrespectful of channels of communication that have been constructed over decades, and an essential declaration of separation from the endeavor of interfaith consultation on matters of deep concern to the Jewish community. Indeed, we find this breach of trust to be so egregious that we wonder if it may not warrant an examination on the part of the Jewish community at large of these partnerships and relationships that we understood ourselves to be working diligently to preserve and protect.”

    The American Jewish Committee said it was outraged by the Christian leaders’ call. “When the world currently is focused on the Iranian nuclear threat to the entire Middle East and the world, Christian leaders have chosen to mount another political attack on Israel,” said Rabbi Noam Marans, AJC director of Interreligious and Intergroup Relations. “When religious liberty and safety of Christians across the Middle East are threatened by the repercussions of the Arab Spring, these Christian leaders have chosen to initiate a polemic against Israel, a country that protects religious freedom and expression for Christians, Muslims and others.”>>>>>

    Now this is getting somewhere. The more churches jump on Israel by going to US politicians and the more this issue circulates among the rank and file members of those churches , the more the general public will take it up and push on the politicians.
    Christian churches still represent the majority of Americans in the US…..that’s a lot of votes and support.
    The American “Jewish Committee” that is outraged by this can ultimately wake up or go f themselves…..been saying and saying there are two seperate conversations going on out here…one Jewish and one American….and the American one in the end has the numbers.

  9. chinese box
    October 9, 2012, 12:35 pm

    @accentitude and krauss

    There was no career cost to them for coming out in favor of Tibet, that’s why they were willing to do it.

    I’ve been told that Clooney and his set have a lot of power in Hollywood. If he decides he doesn’t like you for some reason you may have trouble getting certain roles. Someone like that who’s already had their career (but still has wide name recognition), could pull this off without worry of being blacklisted, and perhaps make this issue trendy in Hollywood, like gay rights has become in the last decade. Obviously we cannot expect a young actor to torpedo his or her fledgling career by coming out for Palestine.

  10. chinese box
    October 9, 2012, 2:54 pm

    off topic: Is there something wrong with the thread post counter? On the main page it says 6 posts on this thread but when I open the the actual thread it comes up with 16 posts.

  11. MRW
    October 9, 2012, 3:23 pm


    I’m traveling. On my phone doing this. got a link for the Christian letter? If you gave one, not seeing it. Thx.

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