Israel, oh Israel, can't you see what you're doing?
1. Bush, AIPAC and Palestine
The Political Economy of a Disaster
By JAMES PETRAS/Counterpunch
On Monday, March 26, 2007 in Northern Gaza a river of raw sewage and debris overflowed from a collapsed earth embankment into a refugee camp driving 3,000 Palestinians from their homes. Five residents drowned, 25 were injured and scores of houses were destroyed.
The New York Times, Washington Post and the television media blamed shoddy infrastructure. The Daily Alert (the house organ of the Presidents of the Major American Jewish Organizations) blamed the Palestinians who they claimed were removing sand to sell to construction contractors thus undermining the earth embankment. The disaster at Umm Naser (the village in question) is emblematic of everything that is wrong with US-Israeli politics in the Middle East. The disaster in this isolated village has its roots first and foremost in Washington where AIPAC and its political allies have successfully secured US backing for Israel's financial and economic boycott of the Palestinian government subsequent to the democratic electoral victory of Hamas.
AIPAC's victory in Washington reverberated throughout Europe and beyond ñ as the European Union also applied sanctions shutting off financing of all new infrastructure projects and the maintenance of existing facilities. At the AIPAC conventions of 2005 through 2007, the leaders of both major American parties, congressional leaders and the White House pledged to re-enforce AIPAC's boycott and sanctions strategy. AIPAC celebrated its victory for Israeli policy and claimed authorship of the legislation. In addition to malnutrition, the policy undermined all public maintenance projects.
Equally central to the disaster, Israel's massive sustained bombing attack on Gaza in the summer of 2006, demolished roads, bridges, sewage treatment facilities, water purification and electrical power plants. Northern Gaza was one of its many targets, putting severe strain on already precarious infrastructure and government budgets ñ including the maintenance of sewage treatment plants and cesspools.
The Israeli economic blockade of Gaza increased unemployment, poverty and hunger to unprecedented levels. Out of work Gazans reached over 60% of the population ñ large families with young children were reduced to one meal a day. Family heads desperately looked for any way to earn funds to buy a pound of chickpeas, oil, rice and flour for bread. It is possible that forced by the AIPAC- induced US-EU boycott and Israeli bombing and blockade, that some desperate workers removed some sand around the cesspool. The pretext cited by the Presidents of the Major American Jewish Organizations (PMAJO) for blaming the Palestinian victims for their own suffering, and exonerating the Israelis, AIPAC and their congressional clients.
The PMAJO has justified thirty-nine years of Israeli occupation and criminal neglect of Gaza's basic sewage treatment facilities. Israel spends less than 2% on a per capita basis for basic services in the Occupied Territories that it is obligated under international law to provide responsibly than it spends in Israel. The United Nations and Israeli human rights groups have documented Israel's callous lack of responsibility toward the Palestinian civilians under its brutal occupation. It is not surprising that the Presidents of the Major American Jewish Organizations can think of nothing better than to blame the destitute Palestinians for the collapse of a primitive earth embankment and the horrific
To the extent that any Palestinian leader can be held responsible, the finger points to the US and Israeli-backed PLO and its titular head Abbas who receives whatever ‘humanitarian' aid flows into Palestine. The tens of millions of dollars of Palestinian import taxes held by Israeli banks were handed over to Mahmoud Abbas , to arm the anti-Hamas vigilantes. Over the past two decades the US-backed ‘moderate' PLO leaders and crony ‘capitalists' have diverted tens of millions of dollars and euros to their private overseas bank accounts, with the acquiescence of their European, US and Israeli patrons. What is a bit of Palestinian corruption if it means propping up an incompetent group of pliant ‘leaders'?
The plight of the Umm Naser villagers deluged by their own sewage was neither an act of fate nor a result of local negligence or theft: It was a direct consequence of all that is wrong in US-Middle East politics, the taking sides with a brutal colonial power and its powerful voices and organizations in Washington. Umm Naser is written large throughout Palestine, Iraq and Lebanon: Millions of Arab villagers suffer the consequences of pre-emptive wars to secure Greater Israel as both President Bush and Vice President have publicly stated in justifying their aggression.
(James Petras , a former Professor of Sociology at Binghamton University, New York, owns a 50 year membership in the class struggle, is an adviser to the landless and jobless in brazil and argentina and is co-author of Globalization Unmasked (Zed). His new book with Henry Veltmeyer, Social Movements and the State: Brazil, Ecuador, Bolivia and Argentina , will be published in October 2005. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org)
2. Carter enters lions' den
Despite criticism, his book is work of a true patriot
By Paul Findley/ Chicago Tribune
At the age of 82, Jimmy Carter entered the lion's den. With the publication of his latest book, "Palestine: Peace not Apartheid," he did what a patriot would do: rally Americans to vigorous debate of a critical issue that affects our future. He deserves a hero's praise. Instead, he has been attacked and defamed.
I had the honor to serve as the senior Republican on the Middle East Subcommittee of the House International Relations Committee throughout the Carter administration. Carter frequently invited me to huddles in the White House; discussions that would ultimately lead to a lasting peace between Israel and Egypt. I know Carter well and consider him a friend.
I also experienced firsthand what Carter now faces. Toward the end of my 22-year tenure in Congress, I spoke in favor of Palestinian rights and was critical of Israeli policies of Palestinian land confiscation and Jewish-only settlements on Palestinian lands. These actions were counter to American policy and values. They dimmed chances for peace.
As a result of my evenhanded position, the pro-Israel lobby poured money into my opponent's campaign. I overcame their challenge in 1980 but lost in 1982 by a narrow margin. Still, the message was heard loudly on Capitol Hill: Criticize Israel and pay with your congressional seat.
In my 1985 book, "They Dare to Speak Out," I detailed the tactics used to silence criticism of Israeli policies. One of the groups employing these tactics is the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. On its Web site, AIPAC calls itself "America's pro-Israel lobby" and boasts a New York Times description of it as "the most important organization affecting America's relationship with Israel."
All citizens have the right to band together and push for policies they believe are right. But AIPAC and other pro-Israel lobby groups do not plead the case for Israel on the stage of public opinion. Instead, they often resort to smear campaigns and intimidation to clear the floor so that only their side is heard.
Carter has dared to call a spade a spade. South African leaders, like Archbishop Desmond Tutu and UN Envoy John Dugard, compare Israeli policies to apartheid. The Israeli press uses the term, as do Israeli politicians. Former Education Minister Shulamit Aloni said in a recent commentary, "Indeed apartheid does exist here." Pro-Israel lobby groups have not debated the credence of these claims. Instead, they lob accusations and insults, even insinuating that Carter is anti-Semitic. They do not prove him wrong with facts. They seek to discredit him with innuendo.
I do not believe these groups set out to discredit opponents and destroy free speech. I believe they had the singular purpose of ensuring U.S. government support for Israel. But after decades of Israeli actions running counter to American policies and values, it becomes difficult to do one without the other.
American policy has long held, for example, that Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian land are illegal. Yet Israel continues to build them. American values demand that all people be treated equally, that rights be doled out in equal measure regardless of one's race, religion or ethnicity.
Yet, as Carter points out in his book, Israel endows Jewish settlers living on Palestinian land with full rights, while denying those rights to the Palestinians living on their own land.
If these issues were debated openly, U.S. policymakers would have to hold Israel accountable and demand that our financial and diplomatic support be contingent upon Israel upholding American values and policy positions.
Yet there is silence. Critical discussion of Israeli policies is non-existent in Congress. Rather than conducting vigorous committee hearings, as happens with other issues, members of Congress compete to outdo one another in statements of support for Israel. And American tax dollars keep flowing uninterrupted to Israel.
Our unconditional support of Israel damages our credibility on the world stage. It deprives us of potential allies in the Arab and Muslim worlds. It allows Israel to remain intransigent and condemns Palestinian and Israeli children to decades more of conflict.
Open discussion, where all perspectives are debated, leads to good policy. Carter took a stand for what is right: for Americans, for Palestinians and for Israelis. It is time for a sitting president and members of Congress to do the same.
(Paul Findley represented Illinois in the U.S. House for 22 years. He is the author of numerous books, including "They Dare to Speak Out" and "Silent No More.")