Zizek on settlements and peace

August 19, 2009

From Zizek: Why and how settlements are a long-term obstruction to peace.

“When peace-loving Israeli liberals present their conflict with Palestinians in neutral, symmetrical terms – admitting that there are extremists on both sides who reject peace – one should ask a simple question: what goes on in the Middle East when nothing is happening there at the direct politico-military level (ie, when there are no tensions, attacks or negotiations)? What goes on is the slow work of taking the land from the Palestinians on the West Bank: the gradual strangling of the Palestinian economy, the parcelling up of their land, the building of new settlements, the pressure on Palestinian farmers to make them abandon their land (which goes from crop-burning and religious desecration to targeted killings) – all this supported by a Kafkaesque network of legal regulations”.

Read the rest of the article here.
“Quiet slicing of the West Bank makes abstract prayers for peace obscene”
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/aug/18/west-bank-israel-settlers-palestinians

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Astonishing European court ruling on boycotts of Israeli goods

July 20, 2009

The Jerusalem Post reports on an astonishing decision closing off yet another non-violent effort to exert pressure on Israel to end its brutal and illegal occupation of Palestine. Excerpt and link to original news report below.  I wonder when we can expect the North Korean, Iranian, Zimbabwean and Sudanese challenges to boycotts on the grounds that they are discriminatory?

Despite its long history of supporting Israel in defiance of multiple U.N. resolutions, somehow I can’t imagine that a ruling like this, which declares that it is neither illegal nor a violation of one’s freedom of expression for France to fine someone from calling for a boycott of Israeli goods, could ever be passed in the U.S., where freedom of expression is so central to the American political imagination — or at least it was during the Cold War, when freedom of expression was said to be what fundamentally distinguished America from the Soviet Union.

Jerusalem Post Jul 20, 2009
European court: Israel boycotts are unlawful discrimination

By HERB KEINON

Israel finally won one last week in an international human rights court. On Thursday, the Council of Europe’s European Court of Human Rights upheld a French ruling that it was illegal and discriminatory to boycott Israeli goods, and that making it illegal to call for a boycott of Israeli goods did not constitute a violation of one’s freedom of expression.

The Council of Europe is based in Strasbourg, has some 47 member states and is independent of the European Union. The court is made up of one judge from each member state, and the rulings of the court carry moral weight throughout Europe.

On Thursday the court ruled by a vote of 6-1 that the French court did not violate the freedom of expression of the Communist mayor of the small French town of Seclin, Jean-Claude Fernand Willem, who in October 2002 announced at a town hall meeting that he intended to call on the municipality to boycott Israeli products. …

–L.L. Wynn


The Colonial Past and the Colonial Present (Italy and Lybia)

March 18, 2009

Many Arab and Third World Countries have welcome this unprecenteted step, taken by Italy, to repay Lybia for the Colonial Past (Lybia was under Italian control more or less between 1912 and 1943). The agreement, ratified some days ago, is historical indeed. But Claudia Gazzini, in the article just published by merip.org, illustrates some of the ‘dark sides’. Generally speaking the Colonial Past is rarely debated in Italy, and education and popular culture still spread the myth of a ‘colonialism with a human face’ (colonialismo dal volto umano). Far from this, the Italian occupation of Lybia saw, especially in the Fascist Period (from teh late 1920s to the end), one of the most brutal repression ever even for he bloody history of Colonialism and Imperialism. Italians massacred, deported and displaced over 100,000 Lybians. This is still largely a taboo in Italian history, and only few brave historians, such as Angelo Del Boca, have broken it.

Read the article at:
http://www.merip.org/mero/mero031609.html


Paul McGeough on Hamas

February 12, 2009

The Sydney Morning Herald’s Middle East correspondent, Paul McGeough, is interviewed by Katia Bachko in the latest issue of Columbia Journalism Review.  McGeough is working on a book that explores Hamas’ 20-year history, and so in this interview he reflects on what it means to represent key players in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict in the face of the kinds of gross simplifications that often circulate in the media, but he also looks at what Hamas is, what the organization means to Palestinians, and what it means to Israelis.  Here’s an excerpt:

To simply state that somebody is a moderate or somebody is a militant, and expect the reader to use that as the sole description or descriptor of an individual or an organization, doesn’t deliver all that could be delivered. You’re talking about Hamas? Hamas are militants, yes, they are militants who appealed to Palestinians at an election that was supervised by Western observers and deemed to be fair, and Palestinians chose the militants not necessarily because of their militancy, but because of their belief in them on a whole range of issues. And then you have to ask, “if they’re militants, if they are terrorists, how did they get to be allowed to contest an election? Who let them contest an election?” Israelis allowed them to contest the election, Americans allowed them to contest the election, Fatah allowed them to contest the election.Right up until that first election that Hamas contested in 2006, Hamas had been saying, “We represent about fifty percent of Palestinian public opinion, therefore we should be accorded that level of representation in various Palestinian forums.” And everyone laughed, and said no, that’s not true, that’s not right, and so they allowed them to contest the election. Even though they had refused to renounce violence. There’s not too many militant or nationalist or liberation groups that have been allowed to contest elections without renouncing violence. They were allowed to do so, and they won the election. That has to count for something in your assessment in where Hamas stands in Palestinian affairs, and in the region.

He also asks: what is Fatah, that Hamas could beat them in this election?  He does a good job of showing us the complexities behind easy words like “moderate” and “terrorist,” what makes Hamas as an organization that uses terror different from a terrorist organization like al-Qaeda, and how deeply hated corrupt Fatah had become by the time it was elected out of power.

–L.L. Wynn


Two reviews of “Waltz with Bashir”

February 10, 2009

There are a couple of good reviews of the film “Waltz with Bashir” which recently won the Golden Globe for best foreign film.  The New York Times calls it “a work of astonishing aesthetic integrity and searing moral power,” while Salon.com’s Gary Kamiya writes about the parallels between Israel’s war with Lebanon in 1982 and the recent massacre in Gaza:

Folman’s film is not political. It does not preach or pass judgment. Yet in its artistic integrity, it unintentionally reveals the grim parallels between Israel’s invasion of Lebanon and its complicity with the Sabra and Shatilla massacre and its current onslaught — parallels that, if Israel and the U.S. heeded them, would lead them to understand that the Gaza campaign is both morally appalling and politically self-destructive. Israelis justifiably regard their leaders’ role in enabling the Sabra and Shatilla massacre as one of Israel’s darkest moments, a permanent stain on its character. Of course, Israel’s moral culpability for the 1982 massacre is not the same as its moral responsibility for the civilians killed in the current war. But there are painful similarities. …

Then as now, Israel went to war in the deluded belief that it could defeat a nationalist movement by smashing it into submission. Then as now, America signed off on this wrongheaded tactic. Then as now, Israel won a short-term tactical military victory that ultimately weakened its security and severely damaged America’s interests. And then as now, both Israel and America justified massive civilian casualties by incessantly invoking “terrorism” and dehumanizing the Palestinians.

One thing that strikes me in reviews of this film (I haven’t seen the film itself) is the focus on the psychological and moral impact of war on Israelis, an important topic which gets neatly elided by jingoistic celebrations of war as “defense.”  Would anyone who has seen the film like to comment?

–L.L. Wynn


Australian Academic Boycott.

February 4, 2009

While the call for a boycott of Israeli academics in Australia is not a new one the following statement is an indication of the renewed vigour for such action in the wake of the Gaza attack. Ali Abunimah explains, in a recent article, that the time is ripe to pressure Israel to end the brutality of its occupation. In this Mission Statement  Australia joins other countries in an “unprecedented expression of support for boycott, divestment and sanctions from major trade unions in Italy, Canada and New Zealand”.

Mission statement: Australian Academic Boycott of Israel

We are an Australian campaign focused specifically on a boycott of Israeli academic and cultural institutions.

We do so because we support the call made by Palestinian civil society to join the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel. This was delineated by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI http://www.pacbi.org/campaign_statement.htm) in the following statement:

Read the rest of this entry »


George Mitchell and the ‘peace process’.

February 3, 2009

The appointment of Mitchell by the Obama administration as Middle East envoy brings renewed hope of an even-handed approach with regards to a peace settlement. There are, however, several substantial obstacles to overcome.

Like Irish nationalists, Palestinians will never recognize the “right” of another group to discriminate against them. Like Protestant unionists did, Israeli Jews insist on their own state. Israel’s “solution” is to cage Palestinians into ghettos –- like Gaza –- and periodically bomb them into submission just so Israeli Jews, their relative numbers dwindling, can artificially maintain a Jewish state.

If Mitchell is allowed to apply Northern Ireland’s lessons, then there may be a way out. But he goes to Jerusalem with few of the advantages he brought to Belfast. The Obama administration remains committed for now to the failed partition formula of “a Jewish state” and a “Palestinian state” and maintains the Bush administration’s misguided boycott of Hamas, which overwhelmingly won Palestinian elections in 2006. And the Israel lobby — much more powerful than its Irish American counterpart — warps US policy to favor the stronger side, an intransigent Israel committing war crimes. If these policies don’t change, Mitchell’s efforts will be wasted and escalating violence will fill the political vacuum.

Read the rest of Ali Abunimah’s article here.