Monthly Archives: July 2006

A rally against collective punishment: Saturday July 29

I received this email:

july_29_rally.jpgArab and Iranian Women against War are holding a rally to stand up against collective punishment of Lebanon, Palestine , Iraq, and Afghanistan. Flyer is attached.

Time: Saturday July 29, 2:00 p.m.

Place: U of M Diag (920 North University in Ann Arbor)

Join us.

Arab and Iranian Women against War

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The New Middle East: Another take

The “New Middle East:” A Multiple Choice Question?

I’ve seen the phrase “New Middle East” thrown around increasingly in the last couple days (just google it if you don’t believe me). Condoleeza Rice and the US hope that this “New Middle East,” (which Rice said was merely experiencing “birth pains”), will have the US as ultimate authority, and without the existence of Hezbollah and any other organized opposition to US/Israeli policies and actions.

Tanya Reinhart writes of this in ElectronicLebanon.net:

For the U.S., the Middle East is a “strategic playing field”, where the game is establishing full U.S. domination. The U.S. already controls Iraq and Afghanistan, and considers Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and a few other states as friendly cooperating regimes. But even with this massive foothold, full U.S. domination is still far from established.

From Bush’s perspective, he only has two years to consolidate his vision of complete U.S. control of the Middle East, and to do that, all seeds of resistance should be crushed in a devastating blow that will make it clear to every single Arab that obeying the master is the only way to stay alive. If Israel is willing to do the job, and crush not only the Palestinians, but also Lebanon and Hezbollah, then the U.S., torn from the inside by growing resentment over Bush’s wars, and perhaps unable to send new soldiers to be killed for this cause right now, will give Israel all the backing it can.

I think it’s fairly obvious that the US doesn’t control Iraq; I doubt that it controls Afghanistan either, but Reinhart’s point is clear. It should also be made clear, however, that the US is not the only player vying for a “New Middle East.” In fact, Hezbollah’s attack could be viewed not as the action of an isolated organization but as part of a different attempt at changing the balance of power in the Middle East. Understandably, this analysis is getting much less coverage in the mainstream and even the alternative/independent media.

The article “Hizbollah Strike Marks the Emergence of a New Regional Coalition Against Israel,” published in Semitism.net, explains:

Whoever planned the attack took an astute read of regional politics. Iran and Syria have been strengthening their ties in the face of an American Mideast policy that poses a clear threat to both of them. Israel’s actions in the West Bank continue to roil popular sentiment throughout the region, and any entity that strikes a blow against Israel is lionized on the Arab street. For Hizbollah to come to the aid of Hamas at this time sends a message to the U.S., Israel and the Arab world that the Iran/Syria/Hizbollah axis is willing to stand up to foreign powers and defend of the victims of Israeli aggression.

But, from a strategic viewpoint, it seems to me that the militants (Hamas and Hizbollah) and the radical Arab states (Iran and Syria) are likely to come out ahead when this is over. They will either draw Israel into a very undesirable ground war in Lebanon; or, if Israel agrees to stop bombing when the U.N. monitors show up, they will have sent an important message: if it wants to try to push Hamas around, Israel will have to deal with other regional powers.

Well, it’s clear that there is more at work in the Middle East than US hegemony. Other groups are—for better or worse—trying to shape the Middle East to their interests as well. But should we support any or all attempts to resist US/Israel domination of the region? Maybe it’s just because of my Western indoctrination or whatever but Islamic fundamentalism does not immediately strike me as a surefire way to peace and justice in the Middle East. I mean, in the US, right-wing Christianity has proven to be a great organizing tool, but it has had disastrous results from the perspective of those who struggle against racism and imperialism.

Israeli Arabic/Israeli/Mediterranean/Jerusalem Salad

No this is not some metaphor for the situation in Lebanon or Israel or Palestine right now. Someone suggested I post recipes to this site and I thought that was a great idea so here goes. I would like to mention that I am posting this because it is delicious and perfect for the summer heat and not because of current events. Although it might be appropriate to note that even the most aggressive and corrupt states can produce some wonderful things (for example suspension bridges and the US Postal Service).

Ingredients

1 tomato
1 cucumber
1/2 red onion
1/2 lemon
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. black pepper
1 small clove garlic (optional)
1/4 cup chopped parsley (optional)

1. Dice the tomato, cucumber, red onion, and garlic if you want into small cubes (about 1/4 inch) and place in a bowl.
2. Toss the diced vegetables with the rest of the ingredients.

This tastes great on top of almost anything. It makes a good breakfast mixed with some plain yogurt.

Progressive Zionism and the Israel-Lebanon War

How does the ideology of Progressive Zionism deal with the current crisis in Lebanon? Let’s first define our terms. Progressive Zionism has its roots in Labor Zionism and purports to provide an egalitarian, leftist, vision for a Jewish state in Israel/Palestine. Progressive Zionism suggests a two-state solution with “Palestine” comprising the West Bank and Gaza. Thus, Progressive Zionism sets itself apart from other types of Zionism by opposing the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.

However, the ideology remains supportive of the existence of an ethnically homogenous Jewish state (that’s what Israel is in any form of Zionism–feel free to correct me if I’m wrong). Progressive Zionism ignores parts of the picture that are, in my opinion, crucial to actually creating a just peace in the region–for example, how to address the right of return of the 1948 Palestinian refugees. Further, Progressive Zionist organizations and individuals, in my own personal experience, tend to freak when confronted with any organized opposition to Israeli policies that does not come from within a mainstream Jewish framework (for example, the Call for Boycott, Sanctions, and Divestment Against Israel put forth by Palestinian civil society groups).

In short, my opinion is that Progressive Zionism–an ideology held by many of my friends and family members (and, to be honest, by myself until relatively recently)–is essentially limited at best, and inherently flawed at worst, in terms of providing a useful and effective framework for creating a just peace in the region.

So what happens to Progressive Zionism in the face of Israel’s brutal attack on Lebanese infrastructure and sovereignty? Doesn’t this situation reveal the fundamental moral bankruptcy of the Israeli leadership (and state)? Doesn’t the utter callousness with which Israel decided to (re)invade Lebanon reveal, like the invasion of Iraq revealed for many Americans, the underlying greed, racism, and irrationality that informed that decision?

The sad, short answer is probably not.

Israel is indiscriminately bombing towns in Lebanon, and 90-95% of Israelis support this. What’s going on here? Shouldn’t American Jews finally notice that Israel has gone too far? Doesn’t the current situation present a rift for Progressive Zionism? After all, Progressive Zionism still holds that Israel is, deep down, a good idea. A misguided, misunderstood, poorly executed idea, yes, but a good idea nonetheless. But it should now be clearer than ever that the destruction of Lebanon (and the continued assault on the residents of Gaza) directly contradicts this view.

But of course, we have not been seeing a far-reaching re-evaluation of Israel by American Jews. Far from it, because, Progressive Zionism is still Zionism. It still is an ideology that basically supports Israel no matter what. Progressive Zionism, just like any other form, is still more concerned with well-being for Jewish people than for any other people. Look at the (lack of) response to the re-occupation of Gaza even before people had Lebanon to distract them.

And in the end, this lack of reaction (be it from apathy, shame, confusion, or any other reason) has the same effect as the US’s lack of reaction to Israel’s actions (It took Condoleeza Rice how long to get to Lebanon?): doing and saying nothing to protest Israel’s actions is the same exact thing as supporting them.

Mainstream Jewish politics make me want to vomit

I am so frustrated with and angered by the mainstream Jewish community’s response to the situation in Lebanon. Over the last few years I have become more and more impatient with the “I Stand with Israel” mentality. It’s not that I have ever felt comfortable with that sort of blind nationalism, but the last week or so has really made me want to vomit. Observe:

From the Detroit Jewish News:

Waving Israeli flags and carrying signs, about 4,000 supporters of Israel streamed into Congregation Shaarey Zedek in Southfield on July 19 for a “Stand With Israel Now” solidarity rally for Israel.

“In the last eight days, Israel has been barraged with more than 1,000 rocket attacks, including a number that have fallen in our Partnership 2000 region of the Central Galilee, where we have dear friends, so dear that we call them family,” Peter Alter, Federation president, told the crowd. “Our voice is our strength, our voice turns up the volume on a call to action. In the loudest words we say, ‘Am Yisroel Chai.’ [Long Live the State of Israel]”

From Concept Wizard, an Israeli blogger:

Q: Why are we targeting civilians? Doesn’t that play into the hands of our critics and enemies?

A: We aren’t targeting civilians. Yes, civilians are being killed, and that is more than unfortunate. It is tragic. However, they are not being actively or purposely targeted! They are being killed, and no matter how hard the Israeli army tries to avoid that, we have to remember that the Hamas (in Gaza) and the Hizballa (in Lebanon) are exploiting our unwillingness to kill civilians by positioning themselves in strategic proximity to residential neighbourhoods. In such a situation it is unavoidable that civilians are hurt, but I believe that we are doing our best to keep civilian fatalities to a minimum. This is in DIRECT CONTRAST to our enemies, who are deliberately targeting civilians.

Well, last I checked over 300 Lebanese civilians had been killed to Israel’s 30…not to mention well over 500,000 people displaced by the destruction. The nearsightedness (a polite way of putting it) of the Jewish community elicits a response in me that is part bewilderment and part astonishment. It’s not always a good policy to judge moral rightness by how many have been killed, but there is a HUGE disparity here.

At the Shaarey Zedek event in Southfield, one of the speakers was Rabbi Martin Peled-Flax, Israel’s counselor for domestic political affairs in Washington, D.C. (from the Jewish News again):

“The fight that Israel has with Hezbollah is not a fight over the border in the north of Israel. The fight that we have with Hezbollah is just one [fight] in the battle of global jihadism,” he said. “This is going to be a long struggle to preserve freedom liberty and the Judeo-Christian ethics. We in Israel have no choice in the matter. Our backs are up against the wall. And when our backs are up against the wall we are going to fight. Fight we will until victory we will defeat this threat,” he said. “We did not seek this fight, but we will finish it.”

Can anyone actually hear this and believe it? Especially those Jews who stay aware of Israeli politics (even if from a right-wing perspective)? As Josh notes,

The military campaign we are witnessing now was planned a long time ago. Even if you blame Hezbollah for sparking it, this was wargamed the way China and Taiwan have been wargamed. Definitely by Israel, probably by other governments, including the US.

This is why there was no talk of a prisoner exchange. It is why there was no discussion of exhausting diplomatic avenues first. And it is why a whole country is now being bombed because of what one group did to two soldiers.