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Total number of comments: 558 (since 2010-03-18 18:04:29)

Henry Norr

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  • Roundtable on the Palestinian solidarity movement and Alison Weir
    • Annie, what's the record for most comments ever on an MW post?

      As others have said, thanks for your heroic management of the (first) 600 on this one....

    • J. Hitchcock: "Weir’s attempts to validate medieval blood libel charges"

      Good grief, Jennifer, I'm trying my best to see how you got that out of Alison's CounterPunch article, but I really can't.

      First of all, as W. Jones, tree, and others here have pointed out, the article in question was not something Alison came up with out of the blue, to make Jews look like ogres - it was a real-time report on a huge controversy that was swirling through the Israeli media the very week she posted the article.

      Second, it wasn't Alison who introduced the "blood libel" concept into the discussion about organ trafficking - that came from a whole slew of Israeli pols and pundits. Alison's article includes a direct quote from the Israeli foreign minister using the phrase.

      As many others here have already noted, in the article Alison explicitly explained that the "blood libel" refers to "widely refuted stories that Jews killed people to use their blood in religious rituals." Should she have gone into a discussion of the meanings of "refuted" for fear that a student of "discourse studies" coming along six years in the future might not understand her meaning?

      Again as W. Jones has noted here, if you read what Alison actually wrote, she introduced Toaff's book into the piece not to say the proven Israeli involvement in organ trafficking was just another instance of a pattern going back a thousand years, but to compare the all-out Israeli assault on Swedish reporter Donald Bostrom that was going on as she wrote to the similar attacks on Toaff that had swept through the Israeli media just two years previous, in 2007: in both cases, investigators had brought up some facts that were uncomfortable for Israeli Jews, and instead of trying to disprove those facts, the Israeli mainstream responded with a hysterical campaign to crucify the authors in question.

      Do you know, by the way - and if not, you should before you write anything else about this topic - that Toaff was not some kook from the anti-Semitic fringes, but a professor of medieval and renaissance history at Bar Ilan University in Israel,, widely considered one of the leading academic authorities on medieval Jewry? And that he was (and is) also a rabbi and the son of a hugely popular former chief rabbi of Rome? Yes, the vicious assault mounted against him in the the Israeli media and political when he published the book on the blood libel succeeded in breaking him, and he finally "retracted" the book. All of that is all the more reason it was appropriate for Alison to cite his treatment in reporting what the Israelis were doing that very week to Bostrom.

      (By the way, an English translation of Toaff's book is available, free, in PDF format at
      link to radioislam.org
      I have not read it. h/t my friend Alice.)

      Another couple of comments on the organ trafficking: at the time Alison wrote her article, there was no solid definitive evidence that organs were being taken from Palestinians as well as Jewish Israelis. That's why Bostrom's article contained only - as Alison noted in the very first sentence of her article - only "testimony and circumstantial evidence" about that phenomenon. But a few months later in 2009 an Israeli TV network ran a documentary including an interview with chief Isreli pathologist Dr. Yehuda Hiss in which he explicitly acknowledged that some of the organs he'd been trafficking came from Palestinians.
      link to theguardian.com

      Note that that link is to the UK Guardian, not to CounterPunch or some other outlet you'd consider "questionable." Note also that the person who conducted that interview with Hiss and released it to Israeli TV in response to the uproar around the Bostrom article was Nancy Scheper-Hughes, who was and is Professor of Medical Anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley; co-founder and Director of a medical human rights project called Organs Watch; an advisor to the World Health Organization on issues related to global transplantation; co-editor of the book "Commodifying Bodies" - altogether, she's widely considered the world's leading authority on organ trafficking. Is she too a "questionable" source in your book?

      That brings up one more issue. In your original post you wrote that "Weir clearly makes a point to selectively paint this as an Israeli and Jewish problem, ignoring the fact that organ harvesting is a widespread problem around the world, not just in Israel or Jewish communities.” In fact, Alison's article, starting with the title ("Israeli Organ Harvesting") is specifically about organ trafficking by Israelis, not other Jews - the only trafficker the article cites who was not Israeli is Levy Izhak Rosenbaum, who immigrated to New Jersey from Israel and whose business involved selling Americans kidneys obtained from poor Israelis. (For details, see Scheper-Hughes' article "The Rosenbaum Kidney Trafficking Gang" in, yes, the dreaded CounterPunch:

      link to counterpunch.org

      Tree and other commenters here have already responded to your claim that Alison focused unfairly on Israel, by noting that she was reporting on a controversy that was occurring at the time in Israel, not some other country. More generally, though, you should know, as you apparently haven't until now, that Israel is not just one among the many countries in which organ trafficking is a problem. In the words of Professor Scheper-Hughes, the world's leading authority on the subject, when it comes to organ trafficking, “Israel is at the top. It has tentacles reaching out worldwide. ,,,, [Israeli organ traffickers] have a pyramid system at work that’s awesome...they have brokers everywhere, bank accounts everywhere; they’ve got recruiters, they’ve got translators, they’ve got travel agents who set up the visas.”

      Anti-Semitism?

    • I just discovered that the website for "Dreams Deferred," a documentary film made by Ms. Hitchcock and her husband, is called http://www.supportisraelfreepalestine.org . I wonder what exactly they mean by the "supportisrael' part. Has anyone here watched the film?

      JVP's platform says it supports "the aspirations of Israelis and Palestinians for security and self-determination," but even they, as far as I know,, don't say they "support Israel."

    • If there's anyone who has plowed through the 425 previous comments but wants to spend another 20 minutes on this controversy, I was interviewed about it on the KPFA radio show "Voices of the Middle East and North Africa" last week. The archive is at

      link to kpfa.org

      To play it, just click the "Listen" link. The first two thirds of the show are devoted to a long but fascinating discussion of Kurdish politics. If you want to jump right to me, scroll over to about 38:40.

      The host, Khalil Bendib, and I both wanted a debate, and we spent two weeks - even delaying the segment a week - trying to get someone from JVP (national or Bay Area) or the US Campaign to come on and represent their side. They all declined.

    • Note that Rebecca Vilkomerson, executive director of JVP, recently had a column on the op-ed page of the Washington Post, and she didn't challenge the Post's political line - she stuck to her message. I think she was right to take advantage of the opportunity to get her piece Posted, and not to waste that limited opportunity on a scattershot critique of everything wrong with the paper's editorial line. But it's just another instance of the double standard JVP and friends are trying to apply to Alison.

      And ask yourself which does more harm to the people of the world, Clay Douglas's podcasts or the WaPo editorial page!

    • I'm actually I'm actually trying to reply not to myself but to Annie Robbins' reply to me, and for some reason there's no "Reply" link below her message. In any case, just to clarify, you did ask me about reviewing the book, and I said yes, but also that I wouldn't be able to get to it for a while. When I finally did, Phil said no (and also said some things about the book that he said he'd' "heard" were flat-out wrong, totally).

      In hindsight, of course, I'm kicking myself that I didn't make the time to do the review while I might have been able to get it posted here. In that sense I take part of the responsibility for its never having been discussed here.

      But I don't think you can fairly put it all on me. Try this simple exercise: use the search field on this site to search for "John Judis" and "Genesis" (the name of his book about Truman, the lobby, and Israel), and you'll get a whole page of hits, including at least 10 with Judis' name in the title of the post. Now search for "Alison Weir" and "Against Our Better Judgement," and how many hits do you get? Zero!

    • A third important commentary I should have included in my previous comment: an article called "The Case of Alison Weir: Two Palestinian Solidarity Organizations Borrow from Joe McCarthy’s Playbook," by Jack Dresser, Ph.D., national vice-chair, Veterans for Peace working group on Palestine and the Middle East, and Co-Director of Al-Nakba Awareness Project in Eugene, Oregon , posted last week on Counterpunch

      link to counterpunch.org

      (Hitchcock calls Counterpunch "a questionable publication." To me that's stunning: While there are certainly posts on that site I don't agree with, it's an invaluable forum for critical political commentary. Besides, what kind of mindset want publications not to be "questionable"? )

      Finally (for now), get yourself a copy of the book Alison published last year, "Against Our Better Judgment: The Hidden History of How the U.S. Was Used to Create Israel"
      link to amazon.com
      - a book this site has determinedly neglected, even while devoting more than half a dozen posts to John Judis' "Genesis: Truman, American Jews, and the Origins of the Arab/Israeli Conflict," which was published at about the same time.

      I challenge anyone to point to a single sentence in Alison's book or in her extensive footnotes that is anti-Semitic or otherwise racist.

    • As someone who has worked with Alison Weir from time to time over more than a decade, has recently been actively involved in defending her, and who is also a member of Jewish Voice for Peace, I have a lot of comments on these posts. For the moment, just two suggestions about other very pertinent materials:

      1) In addition to these posts, people who want to understand this issue owe it to themselves and to the movement to read Alison's direct responses to the allegations against her, which are posted at link to ifamericansknew.org
      (Jennifer Hitchcock's piece includes a couple of links to that page, but doesn't explicitly identify it as including Alison's responses.)

      2) By the same token, I'd strongly urge everyone to take a look at the open letter defending Alison, which has now been signed by more than 1,800 activists, journalists, and scholars - including many Palestinians - at tinyurl.com/StopDivisiveAttacks
      Among the signers:

      Richard Falk, Professor of International Law Emeritus, Princeton University, and former Special Rapporteur on Occupied Palestine, UN Human Rights Council.

      Samia Khoury, founding member of the board of Trustees of Birzeit University and Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Centre

      Ann Wright, retired US Army Colonel and former US diplomat turned peace activist; passenger on 2010 Gaza Freedom Flotilla; co-organizer and passenger on Gaza Freedom Flotillas 2011 & 2015; co-organizer of 2009 Gaza Freedom March.

      Bassem Tamimi, Palestinian Popular Resistance Movement, Nabi Saleh

      Iyad Burnat, Palestinian grassroots activist, Bil'in Popular Committee

      Dr. Mazin Qumsiyeh, Professor, Bethlehem and Birzeit Universities, Co-Founder Al-Awda-Palestine Right to Return Coalition.

      Hedy Epstein, Holocaust survivor; St. Louis Palestine Solidarity Committee; Jewish Voice for Peace - St. Louis** , Free Gaza Movement

      Paul Findley, former US Congressman, Illinois, author of "They Dare to Speak Out," the first book on the modern Israel lobby

      James Abourezk, former Senator, South Dakota, founder of American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC)

      Arun Gandhi, Grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, Gandhi Worldwide Education Institute

      Ray McGovern, Retired CIA officer turned peace activist. Co-founder of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity.

  • Susiya gets backup from 'NYT', EU, and State Dep't -- will Israel dare to demolish the village?
    • For a different take on the NY Times piece, don't miss Barbara Erickson's "New York Times: Outcry Over Susiya Nothing but Clever PR" at link to timeswarp.org:

      The Times story suggests that Susiya has received this backing because of its skill in winning attention, and by imposing this angle on the story, the newspaper is attempting to divert readers from the real issues at play: the fact that Israel’s treatment of the villagers is blatantly racist and defies the norms of international and humanitarian law.

      Also missing is the context of occupation and dispossession that is crushing Susiya and other villages. Hadid fails to give any sense of this. She writes only that activists have used the village as a symbol of how Israel “has sought to maintain control over large parts of the occupied West Bank.”

  • In effort to thwart BDS, some Israel supporters urge partial settlement freeze
    • >>a 48-year project of colonization

      Huh? How about a 133-year (since 1882) project of colonization?

  • In letter to John Kerry, 19 reps stand up for Palestinian children behind bars
    • After calling Barbara Lee's office yesterday, this morning I called Rep. Betty McCollum's DC office to thank her for her leadership on this letter - and, again, to urge her to work to end US financial and diplomatic support for the Israeli government. The staffer I spoke to seemed quite pleased that I'd called, even though I made clear that I was not from McCollum's district.

      Again, I urge everyone here to take a minute to make such a call - people who know about how congresscritters think always say phone calls make some difference. The number for McCollum's DC office is (202) 225-6631.

    • Many thanks to Kate and everyone else involved in this initiative.

      I called the local office of my Rep., Barbara Lee, today to thank her for signing this letter - and to urge her to work to end US aid and diplomatic cover for Israel. (Barbara Lee earned a reputation for political courage for being the only member of the House to oppose the open-ended authorization for the use of military force in 2001, but when it comes to Israel/Palestine, she's generally been pretty timid, so it was a very welcome surprise to see her name on this.)

      I strongly urge MW readers who live in the districts of other signers to make similar calls to their representatives - to thank them for doing the right thing this time, but also to urge them to go further. You can bet the JCRCs, liberal Jewish donors, and other Zionists are going to be on their cases about this,. Encouraging calls from voters might help buck them up.

  • Netanyahu cancels controversial 'apartheid' buses plan, but there have been segregated West Bank buses for years
    • I'm being picky here, but for the record it's not quite true that "Israelis and Palestinians live in different communities...; there are no mixed localities in the West Bank." The exception (the only one I know of, if you don't count the Old City of Jerusalem as part of the West Bank) is Hebron. The biggest Jewish settlement there, Kiryat Arba, is a more or less separate suburb, but the other four settlements are essentially just apartment buildings in the middle of the Palestinian population.

  • Bibi talk: 'New York Review of Books' trivializes Israeli fascism
    • Shulman's 2007 book Dark Hope doesn't seem to get much attention in Palestine-solidarity circles, but I found it among the most moving of the scores (or maybe hundreds) I've read about Israel and Palestine.

  • 12 pretty good signs you're vacationing in an apartheid country
    • pabelmont: Do a Google image search for "'West Bank' red warning sign" or some such and you can see scores of examples. There are are several variant texts, though all are red and have a similar style, The most common says "This road leads to Area 'A' Under the Palestinian Authority. The entrance for Israeli citizens is forbidden, dangerous to your lives and is against the Israeli law," but I remember seeing one near Bethlehem where the somewhat awkward English wording was just "This Road Leads To Palestinian Village. The Entrance For Israeli Citizens Is Dangerous." And there's a slightly different text on the signs around "military zones," and also, I think, for the ones right along the "separation barrier," though I can't remember the text on that kind or find any of my pix of it.

      A couple of years ago 972mag had a piece about some progressive Israeli women who covered over a bunch of these signs with an alternative text:
      link to 972mag.com

  • Tipping point?
  • Why did Herzog run scared? He fears the Israeli people
    • re Herzog and the "Zionist Camp": Phil and anyone else interested really should read Ben White's piece "The Zionist Union's plan for a Palestinian Bantustan" at

      link to middleeastmonitor.com

      which quotes from and analyzes their official electoral platform. Some key bits:

      A "final status agreement", the Zionist Union states, "will be based on the following principles":

      Demilitarizing the Palestinian state, keeping the settlement blocs in Judea and Samaria [the West Bank] under Israeli sovereignty; strengthening Jerusalem and its status as the eternal capital of the State of Israel and ensuring religious freedom and access to the holy sites to all religions, along with maintaining Israeli sovereignty; resolution of the Palestinian refugee problem through the establishment of a Palestinian state and not within Israel.

      What does this indicate about the borders of a future Palestinian state? Jerusalem – including the illegally annexed, occupied east – will be "the eternal capital of the State of Israel" with "holy sites" under "Israeli sovereignty." Meanwhile, "the settlement blocs" in the West Bank will also remain "under Israeli sovereignty."
      ...
      "In the ideal world", Herzog replied, "I would like to keep it all." But ultimately, he added, he would keep the Gush Etzion, Ma'ale Adumim and Ariel settlement blocs, and the Jordan River would be his so-called security border.
      ...
      Thus the final map of the Palestinian 'state' in the vision of the Zionist Union is similar to the kind of Bantustan proposed by another former Labour man, Ehud Barak, with borders now shaped by the Apartheid Wall and further Israeli colonisation of the Jordan Valley. (See 'guide' map illustration)

      Herzog-Livni's platform also makes clear that there will be no respite for the battered Gaza Strip.....

      In other words, it's the same bantustan vision the Labor party has been pushing since Rabin. Problem is, the Palestinians won't settle for that, for good reaso, and more and more of the Zionists want it all. I think that's why Herzog didn't talk about this plan.

  • Senator who spearheaded letter to Iran got $1 million from Kristol's 'Emergency C'tee for Israel'
  • 'NYT''s Bruni pulls more punches than he delivers in Netanyahu column
    • Point 2 could be made much more strongly: there seem to be widespread stirrings of change among evangelicals about Palestine, going way beyond longtime progressives like Jim Wallis. See "Are Evangelicals Abandoning Israel?" by prominent theologian Gary M. Burge in the October, 2014 issue of Washington Report on the Middle East. An excerpt:

      There is a shift at work and it has a number of dimensions. Evangelical publishing (in text and film) tells the story. Since about 1985 evangelical scholars and pastors have critiqued unequivocal support for Israel and worked toward a more balanced view. These are political analyses, theological studies and personal testimonies. And the list of titles is long. These opinion-shapers are generally younger, well educated and ethnically diverse. And they come from the evangelical mainstream.

      But also it takes little effort to listen to younger evangelicals such as those on college campuses and hear this change. I have been doing this for 25 years and two things are clear. First, young women are in the forefront, with an ethical passion we’ve never seen before. The older cohort of stereotypically white, middle-class males from conservative churches doesn’t even know this wave is on the horizon. Second, this younger generation is more troubled by injustice than they are inspired by prophecy. They want to devote their lives to the common good, and this includes direct participation in ethically troubling contexts such as Israel/Palestine. Their parents were shaped in the 1970s and 1980s by an evangelicalism that was tone-deaf to cries of injustice. The apartheid struggles in South Africa or the civil rights movement in the U.S. are textbook examples. This new generation finds such ethical disengagement incomprehensible.

      As with the encouraging changes in public opinion about Israel and Palestine in other sectors of the population, the problem is that the Zionist grip on the US government doesn't depend primarily on the opinions of any part of the public, but on the wealth and power of the Zionist mafia and the influence of their supporters (explicit or just tacit) in the media, the thinktanks, etc. Changes in opinion about the situation are a very welcome first step, and heaven knows the Zionists are fighting hard to reverse them, but to actually change policy, people are going to have to take the next step and confront the power of the lobby.

  • It was a bad week for the Israel lobby
    • The appointment of Rob Malley undoubtedly reflects the changing line toward Israel at the White House. I'm not so sure, though, that it's any kind of victory for the cause of justice.

      First of all, while Malley appears to be a little more honest than most others of his ilk, is just another of the cast of peace processors who have rotating in and out of prominent positions in the US government for more than 20 years. Is there any evidence that he has broken with the policies that have served only to strengthen Israel and weaken the Palestinian position over that time span?

      Second, the guy he's replacing, Philip Gordon, delivered a speech last July that was astonishingly lacking in the usual fawning toward Israel - to the point that Phil Weiss posted it in full here, with this introduction: "The press is expressing marvel/shock at a speech by Philip Gordon, a White House adviser, saying that Israel’s ongoing “occupations” and settlements are driving its international isolation and the boycott movement.."

      I remember thinking at the time that Gordon wouldn't last six months in his job. I was wrong, but not by much - eight months later. he's off to "spend some well-deserved time with his family and pursue other professional endeavors," according to the spokesperson for the National Security Council.

  • Palestinian resolution fails at the Security Council, U.S. votes against 'staged confrontation' at the UN
    • I hate to say it, but J.J. Goldberg in the Forward has a much sharper analysis than Mondoweiss, in a piece entitled "Palestinian U.N. Bid Fails by 1 Vote. Was That the Plan?":

      The Palestinian tactics mystified Israeli and American diplomats and prompted speculation that the Palestinians were intending to lose the vote. It was thought that they wanted to put on a show of toughness to counter rising anger on the Palestinian street and increasing pressure from Hamas, but they didn’t want to anger Washington by forcing it to cast a veto at a time when it needs Arab support against ISIS.

      link to blogs.forward.com

      Ramzi Jaber has it right, below: "a shameful charade"!

    • >>That was a serious tactical error pushing for the vote today,
      >>rather than waiting a little longer to have a number of the
      >>temporary members replaced by more supportive ones.

      I don't think it was an error at all, from Abbas' point of view - I think he knew damn well they didn't have the votes, and that's exactly why they scrambled so frantically to get the vote taken this week. This way he can pretend to be standing up to the Americans and the Israelis, but avoid serious offense to his American paymasters by forcing them into the embarrassment of a veto. Why else force the vote this week? Every observer of the UN knew they'd be in a stronger position next week, with Venezuela and Malaysia, among others, coming in and Australia, South Korea, and Rwanda leaving.

      I'm sorry to see Allison swallowing the PA spin without question.

  • 'New York Times' normalizes the blockade of Gaza
    • The Electronic Intifada's story on this has some interesting details, particularly about the previous political activities of Yoel Marshak, the self-styled "leftist" who organized this stunt - including his role in campaigns to prevent family visits to Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails and to encourage Israeli soldiers to move to settlements int he Jordan Valley when they get out of the IDF.

      link to electronicintifada.net

  • Report from Bethlehem: An American moment
    • Much as I appreciate the main points of this post, I have to challenge one assertion:

      Mark Braverman wrote: "As I listened to Khoury, I agreed that what were we seeing in the release of this report was the worst of America but also the best of our country in our willingness to call ourselves to account."

      In fact, the Senate report is a classic case of a "modified limited hang-out," in the immortal words of Nixon aide John Ehrlichman. Clearly, the CIA at some point crossed Feinstein and its other friends in the Senate, and they decided to get back at the agency by releasing some info the essence of which they had and could and should have made public more than a decade ago. But we're getting only a highly redacted version of the executive summary of the report, by no means the whole story. And note that even the report deals only with the CIA's interrogation program, not at all with the US military's torture programs, nor with the "extraordinary rendition" program that sent hundreds of people to other countries' torture chambers around the world.

      And, of course, Obama and friends want to "look forward, not backward," so no matter what atrocities were committed, there are no consequences for any of the perpetrators. (Here in California, we taxpayers paid torture lawyer John Yoo a salary of $381,000 in 2013 to poison the minds of law students - and that was before his promotion to an endowed chair earlier this year.)

      In short, our "willingness to call ourselves to account" is extremely limited, so I don't think we should be congratulating ourselves about it, even in passing.

  • You're on a roll, Mr. President, so abstain from vetoing the Palestinian bid to the UN Security Council
    • Matthew wrote: "In an ideal world… [Obama] would also cut off all $6 billion of military aid to Israel contingent on Israel radically shifting from an apartheid society to an equal-rights society….”

      In an ideal world, he would cut off all military aid to Israel, period, not contingent on anything. Even if they suddenly got to be good guys, why should they get any US taxpayer dollars for weapons (or, for that mtter, for anything else)?

  • In sensitivity to Palestinian students, Harvard is moving away from SodaStream
    • Thanks for that important perspective, Walid. Couple of points:

      1) For whatever it was or wasn't worth, we can no longer classify this episode as a "BDS victory." If you read Charlotte's piece, you'll see that Harvard's provost (second highest official) pretty definitively overturned the dining service's decision to cancel the order from SodaStream: “Harvard University’s procurement decisions should not and will not be driven by individuals’ views of highly contested matters of political controversy.”

      2) As for the larger picture, I agree with you that the issues the BDS movement has focused on in the US are of little economic significance in the context of the overall Israeli economy. So even when, occasionally, we win, and some BDS proponents claim we've done real damage to Israel's economy, that's really not even close to true, IMO. (Sodastream may be a partial exception - the boycott and negative press almost certainly made some contribution to the recent sharp decline in their sales, and though soda machines are hardly a strategic sector, that has certainly hurt their investors. Things are also a little different in Europe, where reducing Israel's ability to sell agricultural exports would have a real impact on some sectors - not the most powerful, but substantial - of the Israeli economy.)

      But from my perspective (definitely not shared by all BDS activists) pointing out the economic insignificance of the BDS issues is beside the point, because at this stage these battles are really political - some might say symbolic - even though they take an economic form. In other words, organizing even around pretty trivial economic interests (Sodastream, Sabra hummus, etc.) is a vehicle for educating more Americans about the realities of Israel and its abuse of the Palestinians. (This is one reason I find Chomsky's critique so absurd: he says we have to educate the public before BDS activism can be meaningful, but he refuses to see that BDS work is precisely a mechanism for educating people.)

      Some day, if we can continue to educate and organize people around this issue, we can hope to get into a position to impose some more substantial economic costs on Israel. For now, though, that's only a dream. For the sake of the Palestinians I sure we wish could mount more effective economic pressure now, but we have to face the realities and work through the process. If you look at the history of the anti-South African apartheid struggle in the US, it followed a similar trajectory: it wasn't until the last years of the old regime that the anti-apartheid movement was powerful enough to inflict serious economic damage on the South African ruling class (when IBM, Chase Manhattan, and so on were finally forced to pull out), But that never would have happened if (among other factors) activists hadn't been working for decades to build a movement by fighting around issues that were more symbolic. (And, of course, if the South African masses hadn't continued to wage their heroic struggle, and if the Cuban army hadn't defeated the South African "Defence" Forces at Cuito Cuanavale in Angola, and so on - I find it pretty disgusting when BDS proponents talk as if Western activism was the sole or most important factor in ending South African apartheid.)

      With respect to the BDS movement needing to "re-orient its overall direction," could you elaborate on what that would look like? It sounds like you're suggesting that we should focus on issues like Jordan's gas deal and the UAE's purchase of Israeli security equipment. But how could activists in this country get any kind of leverage on issues like that, if US companies are not directly involved?

    • Harvard higher-ups have now over-ruled this decision. From Charlotte Silver in the Electronic Intifada:

      Top Harvard University officials have stepped in after campus food services administrators agreed to remove the SodaStream label from equipment in their dining halls and not to make any new purchases from the company.

      The decision to boycott SodaStream came after a series of meetings with faculty and concerned students to discuss the implications of using a product manufactured in an Israeli settlement in the occupied West Bank.

      But now Harvard University Dining Services is reconsidering its decision on the grounds that it should not have taken “political” factors into account. This flatly contradicts a decision in another recent case — that administrators did not contest — to boycott a company whose chair made anti-gay comments.

      Read the rest at link to electronicintifada.net

  • Bay Area activists shut down federal building to protest Rasmea Odeh conviction
    • I was one of the folks who had the honor of getting arrested for blocking the doors of the federal court house in Oakland yesterday. We didn't have just lockboxes - two of us did, but two people used u-locks, and we were all chained to each other and the doors with a nice collection of heavy chains. It's a bit of an exaggeration, though, to say we "shut down the federal building" - the court is part of a fairly large complex, with multiple entrances, and while we blocked the doors going directly to the court, people were able to use other doors to get into the building, then go where they wanted. Still, it felt very worthwhile to do something to call attention to the horrible injustice being done to Rasmea Odeh.

  • The hidden documents that reveal the true borders of Israel and Palestine (Updated)
    • Thank you, Dr. Fincham - fascinating stuff!

      Was there any discussion of Israel's borders at the UN Security Council or General Assembly when Israel's admission to the UN was under discussion? Or at the "Ad Hoc Political Committee" that apparently considered Israel's request first?

      I note that there's nothing about borders in the actual GA resolution that admitted Israel (General Assembly Resolution 273-III of May 11, 1949), just a clause in the preamble "Noting furthermore the declaration by the State of Israel that it "unreservedly accepts the obligations of the United Nations Charter and undertakes to honour them from the day when it becomes a Member of the United Nations."

  • California leads the way in the 'Block the Boat' movement
    • No matter how long you live, Horizontal, I'm afraid you're not going to see Feinstein or Boxer supporting actions like Blockthe Boat - they don't just aid and abet Zionist goons, they, especially Boxer, are Zionist goons!

      One omission from Ben's good report: another Zim ship, the Zim Shanghai, was forced to leave the Port of Oakland, without being worked at all, on Sept. 27. That action was organized not by the Block the Boat coalition that started the August action, but by a separate, smaller, overlapping group called the Stop Zim Action Committtee. link to facebook.com
      (I myself work with both coalitions.) In response to the picket line we put up starting at 5 a.m. that morning, the union (ILWU Local 10) decided not to dispatch longshoremen to the Zim ship at all for the day time ship. For the evening shift the union did assign longshoremen, but we maintained out picket line, and the workers decided, after much discussion, not to cross. We planned to be back there bright and early Sunday morning, but the ship sailed out at midnight to LA.

      That action didn't get as much publicity (nothing here at MW, for instance), but it was covered (with a few inaccuracies) in the Guardian ("Pro-Palestine protesters again thwart Israeli cargo ship in Oakland" ) and in the Jerusalem Post, among others
      - link to theguardian.com
      link to jpost.com

      --------
      Couple of quibbles:

      If the LA comrades really said, as Ben quotes them, that their principal goal is to stop ships “from unloading cargo made in Israel," then there's some misunderstanding going on. The blockades are intended to stop all work on the Zim ships, regardless of where their cargoes come from. In fact, they carry little if any freight that's made in Israel. See, for example, the manifest of the Zim Piraeus, the ship blocked in August, which I included in my report here on that action link to mondoweiss.net

      Finally, the last photo embedded in Ben's report, though it's captioned "Block the Boat for Gaza, in Oakland" and has been used in many other reports on the recent actions, is actually from the 2010 action at the Port of Oakland after the Israeli attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla. The picket lines this year have not been nearly as dense as shown there. Besides, I'm in the picture, wearing a sweatshirt I had then but have since lost.

  • New site catalogs documentary films about Palestine
    • Thanks, Alan, for linking to the Palestine Film Foundation. I hadn't known of it before, but I'm glad to now. I don't know whether or not the women behind PalestineDocs.net were aware of it. One answer to your question, though, is that the PFF database seems to provide no information, at least in most cases, about how to find the films it lists - in my quick survey of about a dozen films, none had links to the film's own site or other info pages, nor to ways to watch, rent, or buy the film online. (One of the dozen films did have a Vimeo-hosted trailer embedded on its page.) For PalestineDocs, on the other hand, “Access is this site’s primary intention,” as I quoted in the piece from the Welcome page - the main point of collecting the listings is to help interested folks see and show the films.

      Of course, after finding a film in PFF, one could always start googling to find out how to get it. But (speaking from a lot of experience) that's not always easy, especially for the older films, films made in Palestine, etc. In most cases, I'm sure, someone really dedicated could eventually find out where to watch or how to obtain the film. But PalestineDocs' mission is to make it _easy_.

      One interesting question is whether it would have been easier to add access info to the Palestine Film Foundation database (assuming the people who run it would have been willing) than to create a whole new site. Can't answer that one....

  • The elephant in the room, in Marin County
    • Since you mention "actions going on at a local level all across the country," Annie, I can report on another one in Oakland: our rep in Congress, Barbara Lee, held a fundraiser, with Rep. Keith Ellison as a guest attraction, at a restaurant on the Oakland waterfront on Sept. 4. Lee, as some folks will recall, was the only person in either house of Congress to vote against the resolution authorizing GW Bush to use military force in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, and she styles herself a "renegade for peace and justice." Some of us have been after her for years to speak out on Palestine, but with only very meager results: she has, quietly, joined Ellison in saying the siege of Gaza should be lifted, but beyond that she just calls for a resumption of negotiations on a two-state solution, and in the meantime she keeps voting for military aid to Israel.

      So an ad hoc coalition involving folks active in NorCal Friends of Sabeel, Jewish Voice for Peace, and other groups decided to show up at her Oakland event. About 40 people turned out, and we were able to position ourselves right outside the restaurant, so the arriving guests and Ms. Lee herself had to go right through us and our signs denouncing Israeli war crimes and calling for an end to US aid to Israel to get to their party. Best of all, once they were in the restaurant, we discovered that we could move to the dock right outside the venue, so whenever they looked through the huge glass window that was supposed to offer scenic views of the harbor and Alameda Island, what they actually saw was us and our signs!

      After all these years I don't have much hope Lee will ever stand up to the lobby - she's not really vulnerable to a primary challenge, but apparently, according to people who know her or her staff, she's scared that if she steps out of line on this issue, Obama, Pelosi et al. will punish her by cutting her Congressional perks, limiting her access to pork for pet projects, and generally isolating her in the same way they did to her former friend Cynthia McKinney. Still, no harm in nagging her - at the very least, I think we've started to make it harder for her to claim her constituents all support Israel.

  • Freed by Gaza, Spiegelman calls Israel out as a batterer
    • Note that the Roger Cohen piece did not appear in the US print edition of the NY Times, just the international edition and the web sites. They don't want NY Jews to be bothered seeing even a liberal critique of Israel.

  • Yale Protestant chaplain says Americans must curb Israel so as to curb anti-Semitism
    • This is an interesting story, and it's encouraging that someone like Shipman feels he can express what he did very openly. But I don't think we can treat him as representative of mainstream American Christian opinion. I say that because I followed Phil's link about him "clarifying" his original statement (in comments to the Yale Daily News), and I looked at the comments below that story, where I found a link to an op-ed Shipman wrote a couple of weeks back for The Day, apparently a newspaper or news site focused on southeastern Connecticut. There he explains that as a boy he lived in a suburb of Cairo, where many Palestinian refugees from 1948 also lived, and that Joyce Said, a sister of Edward, was a classmate, and that he recently took a walk through the remains of the Sabra and Shatila camps in Beirut.

      In other words, he had way more background about Israel and Palestine than most Americans, and, though he doesn't say so explicitly, it sounds as though he was very critical of Israel long before this last onslaught or even before the siege of Gaza began in 2006 or so. He sounds like he comes out of the old tradition of elite Protestant Arabism.

  • A glimpse of hope amidst utter destruction 
    • >>hope and determination perceived as the ultimate enemy by the Israeli settler state
      >>as the recent offensive on Gaza, and its intended “goals”, clearly show.

      Indeed. It's precisely because the people of Gaza will neither flee nor settle for any of the forms of subordination Israel might offer that it drives the Israelis crazy (or more precisely _crazier_).

      This is a very moving statement, Basil AbdulRazeq Farraj - truly an inspiration. More than just about anything I've read from or about Palestine, it captures the spirit I encountered on my first trip to Gaza, in 2002, and especially in Nov.-Dec. 2012, right after the eight-day Israeli bombing campaign.

      I hope your father will be out of administrative detention soon, and that all of you are able to live lives of real freedom before long. As you say, "No chains will last."

  • Israeli ship heads out of Oakland - again - after five days of extraordinary protest
    • Pixel wrote: "After Day 1, there was only a rag-tag group of people hanging on by their passion, dedication, wits and fingertips."

      Not to get into too-fine academic distinctions, I'd say that's a fair characterization of the situation on Days 3, 4, and 5, but not quite for Day 2 (Sunday), the first day the ship was in port, picket lines went up (after 6 p.m. or so), and the longshore workers didn't go in. That evening we didn't have the thousands who were there on Saturday for what was supposed to be a blockade but turned out to be just a march, but we did have several hundred people on the lines. Starting Monday, I don't think there were ever more than 100 people out there at any one time, and often considerably fewer.

      The difference is partly that Day 2 was still the weekend and 2, 3, and 4 were work days. But it was also because the Block the Boat coalition, led by AROC, endorsed the Sunday picketing and, most important, used the impressive communications apparatus they'd put together over the previous couple of weeks of preparation (their own text-blast system, FaceBook pages, Twitter hashtag, and e-mail list, plus contact through all those sponsoring organizations) to call people out for it, whereas they did neither of those things for the counted picketing on Mon., Tues., and Wednesday. To my way of thinking, they had some sound political reasons to declare victory and back off, formally at least, after Sunday: I can't speak for them, but I gather they wanted to go out with a clean if temporary victory for mass action. It seemed likely that the boat would get worked sooner or later, and better to avoid a situation of dwindling pickets, the workers crossing the line, and the Zionists and their friends in the mainstream media crowing about the failure of the whole campaign. (Of course, they're doing that now, but with the five-day delay and all the to-ing and fro-ing, I don't think it's all that effective.) Plus it would have been hard to sustain all the infrastructure they'd put together for Saturday: security teams, legal observers, medical people, water-bottle distribution, etc., etc.

      As I say, all that makes sense to me. I do wish, though, that they hadn't completely shut down the communications network. I think they could have sent out something saying, in effect, "Some people are continuing to picket at the port. The coalition has not endorsed this action, but if you're interested, get on down to Berth 57 at 6 a..m. [or whatever]." If they'd done that, I'm sure we would have had more people on the lines, and it's at least conceivable that the ship never would have been worked at all.

      But who knows what effect that really would have had. Overall, I give AROC et al. an enormous amount of credit for what they did do.

      One other point: I seriously doubt the "rag-tag group of people hanging on by their passion, dedication, wits and fingertips" could have done what we did Mon.-Wed. without the Internet and specifically without Twitter. Social networking affects political organizing in many ways, and not all are positive in my opinion, but this week showed some of the ways these technologies can be a huge help.

    • re the absence of a source on the pretend departure to LA: I tried to link to the story at sfgate.com, an SF Chronicle site, which included a quote from the Israeli consul, but by then they had already removed the story. This is from the replacement story:

      Demonstrators scrambled to shore up their forces at the Port of Oakland Tuesday night after a cargo ship they had blocked from unloading as a protest against Israel's military actions in Gaza set sail for Los Angeles then abruptly made a U-turn and headed back to Oakland.

      Despite the protesters' efforts, longshore workers began unloading the vessel late Tuesday.

      Pro-Palestinian activists who had protested the presence of the ship Piraeus since Saturday put out urgent mobilization calls for demonstrators to head to the waterfront. Those calls came after online tracking databases showed the vessel heading under the Bay Bridge and back toward Oakland shortly after 6 p.m.

      Just three hours earlier, the Piraeus had left port with a reported destination of Los Angeles. It sailed through the Golden Gate and into the Pacific, then turned around and headed back to a new berth in Oakland.

      Protesters, some of whom never believed that the ship would head south, scrambled to meet the ship. About 30 marched slowly in a circle off Maritime Street, blocking the entrance to the port as longshore workers looked on from across the street.

      Chants of "Free, free Palestine" rang out as Alameda County sheriff's deputies, who clearly outnumbered protesters, watched from a distance.....

      If you search Google News carefully enough, you might be able to find a story published between the first departure and the u-turn, but, as they say, that's all water under the bridge now . :-)

    • One more point, ckg: when we're talking about the ILWU, it's important to distinguish between the union officialdom on the one hand and the rank and file on the other. The officials publicly defended the workers who refused to cross the line on Sunday, on the ostensible but also real grounds that getting in the middle of a confrontation between the OPD and protesters could be a threat to their health and safety - remember that some workers were actually injured by "less lethal" weaponry the OPD used against our anti-war march in April 2003). The officials certainly never endorsed the refusal to work the ship, and according to some credible reports, some of them collaborated with the companies in getting workers there on Tuesday night. It was the rank and file - not all of them, but enough of them to create real problems in getting the ship worked - who boycotted the job and thus made the action the overall success it was.

    • Another awesome video, this one apparently from the Block the Boat coalition itself (and therefore focused on the weekend actions, not on the follow-up picketing):

    • @ckg: There are many conflicting stories about how much of the cargo was offloaded. Some certainly was, but contrary to the statement of the ILWU spokesman, some of the longshore workers on the job insist that only a fraction of the containers originally scheduled to be unloaded had been taken off when the ship took off the second time. And definitely no new containers were loaded onto the ship - apparently there's a stack of them still sitting at Berth 57, where the ship originally docked. Presumably some other ship will have to pick them up.

    • Perhaps you could tell us, Gene Shae, what you have been doing over the last week to bring justice for the Palestinians. We're always open to suggestions for more effective tactics....

    • I just came across a fabulous quote from a Port of Oakland spokesman, in a Tuesday local TV story about what happened Monday night:

      "Despite tremendous effort by our law enforcement partners... operations at the terminal were still not able to proceed last night due to insufficient labor reporting for duty," [port spokesman Robert ] Bernardo said.

  • UPDATED: Bay Area demonstrators succeed for **fourth** day in 'Blocking the Boat for Gaza'
    • OMG! The boat has turned around and appears to be headed back into the bay! I'm signing off and headed to the port. Wish us luck...

    • Statement just posted by Lara Kiswani, leader of the Block the Boat campaign:

      August 19, 2014
      For four days straight the San Francisco Bay Area community blocked the Israeli ZIM ship from unloading at the Port of Oakland. And today, we salute the rank and file of ILWU for standing with us against Israeli Apartheid by honoring our pickets and letting the ship go from the SSA terminal this afternoon!

      Saturday we mobilized thousands of our community to show the world that Oakland does not welcome racism, apartheid or Zionism, from Ferguson to Palestine. We flooded the streets and marched towards the Port only to discover that the ZIM ship decided to stay at Bay rather than dock and be confronted by the power of our numbers. The ship attempted to dock and unload on Sunday, but within a half hour’s time hundreds of us organized community pickets requesting that ILWU to stand with us on the side of justice and not unload the Apartheid ship. And as ILWU always has, and as they did during South African Apartheid, they demonstrated their solidarity with the global fight against oppression and honored our picket. Once again on Monday, and then on Tuesday morning, community pickets coupled with worker solidarity stopped the ZIM ship from unloading.

      Today we declare a historic victory for Palestine as Oakland held down the longest ever blockade of an Israeli ship. Not only did we block the boat, but we also showed the world that racist exclusionary state of Apartheid Israel has no place on our port, and will soon find that it has no place on any port on the West Coast.

      Oakland feels firsthand the brutality of Israeli war-making. And Palestine knows too well the role the US plays in facilitating the ongoing ethnic cleansing of the indigenous Palestinian people. From the policing and militarization of our local communities perfected with Israeli tactics of repression to the billions that the US provides Apartheid Israel, the connections are clear and are made for us. And over the last four days we showed the world that we stand shoulder to shoulder from Palestine to Oakland to Ferguson as we struggle bring down every wall, every apartheid system and every racist state.

      Palestine will be free.

    • As of two minutes ago, it has passed under the Golden Gate Bridge. Good riddance, Zim Piraeus!

      re Alcatraz: in fact there are probably few if any Israelis aboard, and while I wish no one would work for Israeli businesses, I don't actually think ordinary sailors should be locked up because they get hired on to a Zim ship.

    • 4:12 p.m.: It now appears that the Israeli ship really is leaving Oakland, unless they're pulling a seriously elaborate ruse. The four tugs that were with it have left it, and it's headed west out of Oakland harbor. In fact, MaritimeTraffic.com shows it just passed under the Bay Bridge.

      Now passing Alcatraz - they could just lock themselves up there....

    • Whoa, latest rumor is that the "destination LA" business may have been a trick and the ship is really just moving to a different berth in Oakland, at a location much harder for community members to get to. We'll see - stay tuned....

      One way or another, they're on the run....

    • Good video about Monday's picketing:

    • Yes!!! The Zim Piraeus is leaving Oakland, having been unable over four days to get its cargo unloaded here! According to link to marinetraffic.com
      it just turned around in Oakland Harbor and is now "underway using engine," destination Los Angeles.

      Let's hope it gets a corresponding reception there!

      Viva Palestina!

    • Latest: picketers again went to the Port of Oakland early this morning, and no workers were called to load or unload the Israeli ship. In short, it's now been sitting idle for more than four days. We're planning to go back this afternoon, but the latest word (still unconfirmed, to my knowledge) is that the ship is leaving town this afternoon to try its luck elsewhere - it can't unload its cargo in Oakland!

      In the video below, Lara Kiswani, head of the Area Resource and Organizing Center in San Francisco and leader of the Block the Boat campaign, stands with an ILWU worker and announces this morning's victory.

      link to facebook.com

      Long Live Palestine!

    • @Kris: thanks for posting that report and links - saved me the trouble. On correction: "A small group of about 15 people" is vicious Zionist slander. I'm sure there were at least 25 of us out there :-)

      I didn't go back tonight, but a few folks did, and apparently the workers again declined to cross. Clearly that would not have happened without the mass action on Saturday, and it's arguable that the Sunday picket lines were big enough to be effective. But by this morning, and I gather tonight, there aren't even any real picket lines, just a handful of folks making a symbolic presence (plus scores of cops), so when the workers refuse to work the ship, it's they who deserve all the credit for making that choice - nobody is stopping them, effectively, from going in.

      It's partly solidarity with Palestine, for sure, but in general it comes out of Local 10's strong tradition of not crossing community picket lines (they've respected actions about Oscar Grant, Mumia Abu Jamal, the 2010 Gaza flotilla attack, and other issues - though there were problems last year with a truckers' demo), and partly, I think, a reluctance to go work with the police escorting them, considering the OPD's history. In addition, the ILWU is currently in contract negotiations - their old contract expired July 1 - and I've heard from friends with good contacts within the union that at least some of the leadership and rank and file have decided that this situation is actually a good opportunity to remind the bosses that nothing moves if the longshore-people don't work....

      As for an unknown person (or persons) spreading misinformation, it's certainly possible that someone(s) did so in a deliberate attempt at subversion, but it could have been honest confusion - there are all kinds of conflicting rumors, tweets, etc. flying around, particularly because the official Block the Boat coalition is not using its impressive communications network (a text-blasting system, Facebook, Twitter, and even that old carryover from the 20th century, e-mail) to spread the word about today's "unofficial" actions. Under those circumstances, plus the fact that it was Monday morning and a lot of folks had to work, go to school, etc., the action this morning would surely have been small even if no one had claimed it was called off.

  • How to respond to thoughtful people who can't help saying 'but Hamas'
    • Yeah, though I'm sure you agree that the right way to deal with the tunnels is certainly not the Egyptian approach, but to make them unnecessary by opening the borders for starters, then building a port, rebuilding the airport, and all the rest.

    • On conversing with Jewish Zionists, don't miss this spectacular video:

      (I thought this had already been posted at MW, but I can't find it at the moment so I'm putting it here. If I missed it, forgive the duplication.)

  • Where you can donate to help Gaza -- Updated
    • Anyone know anything about ANERA (American Near East Refugee Aid), a U.S.-based 501(c)3 that says it has a staff of 16 in Gaza? According to their detailed "Crisis in Gaza 2014 - ANERA Response Log," they've been able to import and distribute water, food, medications, etc., in Gaza throughout the current crisis.

      link to anera.org

  • Portrait of a Zionist
  • 'Children killed in their sleep': Israeli artillery fire hits UN school, killing at least 20
    • I clicked the link in Alex's post to Jesse Rosenfeld's article in the Daily Beast about last week's Israeli bombing of an UNRWA school/shelter, the one in Beit Hanoun. One of the people Rosenfeld interviews is a guy named Attaf Rafik Hammud, who had his leg shredded in that attack. The article concludes:

      As for Hammud, when his shrapnel-filled leg mends enough for him to leave the hospital, he will not have a home to return to. He doesn’t think it will be safe to return to Beit Hanoun and despite the attacks that UNRWA facilities have been facing, he likely will end up in another one.
      “I will go to stay in a school in the Jaballiya refugee camp,” he said. “God willing, I’ll be safe there.”

      Unfortunately, God wasn't willing. I wonder whether Hammud survived.

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