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During the summertime war in Gaza, the two most progressive members of the US Senate stirred up controversy among their backers with 7258702972_d11e56b4ea_z (1)expressions of uncritical support for Israel. At a town hall meeting, Bernie Sanders of Vermont, the lone Senate independent, responded to a questioner that Israel had “overreacted” with its 52-day bombardment and ground incursion, but then proceeded to justify Israel’s actions with the usual pro-Israel talking points about “missiles fired from populated areas” and “sophisticated tunnels.” An audience member began to shout objections, to which Sanders said, “Shut up.”

Elizabeth Warren, the Democrat from Massachusetts, went further in her defense of Israel at a meeting with constituents on Cape Cod. She said it was right for the United States to send $225 million in aid to Israel, a “democracy controlled by the rule of law,” as the bombing continued. She ventured no criticism at all of the extensive damage to civilian lives and livelihoods in Gaza. When another constituent suggested that future US aid be conditioned on Israel halting settlement construction in the West Bank, Warren replied, “I think there’s a question of whether we should go that far.” Read more at the Middle East Research and Information Project

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I was not surprised that my recent article which, in part, discussed Mahmoud Abbas’ assertion that Israel committed genocide in Gaza caused russell-tribunal-on-palestinesome controversy and discussion. Indeed, I was gratified by it.

This is an important question, one that goes well beyond the rhetorical issue and one that I did not delve nearly as deeply into as I probably should have in my piece. Richard Falk’s article in The Nation has now done that job for me. I don’t always agree with Falk, but in this case, I think he and the Tribunal got it exactly right. I see this even though I get the sense from this piece that the Tribunal, and possibly Falk as well, believe in their hearts that genocide was committed in Gaza, while I do not.

One point bears some stress. Falk points out that genocide is regarded as “the crime of crimes.” Some of the debate over the use of this word to describe not only the Gaza horror of 2014 but the occupation more broadly has centered on the legal definition of genocide. I maintain that Israel’s crimes do not reach that level. But beyond the legal semantic question is the very important colloquial understanding of that word.

When people hear “genocide” they think of the Nazis, Rwanda, the Khmer Rouge and the Armenians. These were all incidents where huge numbers and huge percentages of particular populations were exterminated. As Falk points out, the legal definition actually holds a higher standard, where intent to annihilate a particular group must be proven. But colloquially, the understanding most people have of genocide plainly doesn’t fit Gaza. That’s the biggest reason I disagree with the use of that word.

But there was also a demonstrably “genocidal atmosphere” in Israel over the summer, whether it be tweens proudly stating that killing Arabs is a good thing, to plans put forth by Knesset members to empty Gaza of Arabs to statements by another MK that all Palestinians are legitimate targets. That makes the accusation worth investigating. So does the fact that the attack happened in the context of an ongoing blockade of Gaza which left Gazans nowhere to flee to, either outside their borders or within the sardine-can-like Strip.

When the Tribunal did so, they came to this conclusion, as described by Falk: “Despite these factors, there were legal doubts as to the crime itself. The political and military leaders of Israel never explicitly endorsed the pursuit of genocidal goals, and they purported to seek a ceasefire during the military campaign. The tribunal convincingly documented the government’s goal of intensifying the regime of collective punishment, but there was no clear official expression of intent to commit genocide. The presence of genocidal behavior and language, even if used in government circles, is not by itself sufficient to conclude that Protective Edge, despite its enormity, amounted to the commission of the crime of genocide.”

I think that’s right. You make your own decision, but I strongly urge us all to hold the accusation of “genocide” to the highest standard, because there is nothing worse.

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Folks, I neglected to put the link to my actual review in teh previous post. It can be found here.

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This article originally appeared in an edited form at LobeLog.

With U.S. bombs dropping in Iraq once again and Israeli troops having moved out of Gaza, the fighting between Hamas and Israel has 534910-schoolgazafaded a bit from the headlines. The battle for the narrative of the 2014 Gaza conflict is now stepping up its intensity, and, as usual, the truth seems to be losing.

If one wants to understand what has happened in Gaza and in Israel over the past few months, it is important to understand not only the underlying causes, but the immediate triggers as well. It is something of a victory that one of those underlying causes, the siege of the Gaza Strip, has remained in the center of discourse, after spending much of the past seven years off the radar and outside of diplomatic and media discussions.

But one overarching point has become a virtual theme not only in Israel, but in the United States and much of Europe as well. That point is that this latest conflagration started as a result of Hamas rockets being fired upon Israel. It is important to recognize that only a willful misreading of the timeline can bring about this conclusion. (more…)

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An Israeli peace activist sent me the following announcement. Many of you might be looking for something to do, or something more to do about the carnage in Gaza. The fact is, the solution to both short and long term problems in Gaza, the West Bank, and Israel can best be solved by Israelis and Palestinians who can work together in an atmosphere of real mutual respect, not as occupier and occupied.  (more…)

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238 years ago today, a country declared its independence. The country that was created on that day had already begun its

Photo by Rob Roy, used under a Creative Commons license

Photo by Rob Roy, used under a Creative Commons license

campaign of genocide of the native people, was building its economy in large part on slavery and intended its vaunted “freedom” only for white, male land-owners, a very narrow slice of the new country’s population.

Since its inception, the country has been involved in countless wars and undeclared military actions and has routinely sacrificed the stability, security and the very lives of the people of other countries in pursuit of its interests, both economic and ideological.

Yes, there were ways in which, in 1776, the new country was a step forward, especially insofar as it reflected the institution of individual rights and the rule of law supplanting both the rule of God and the rule of kings. But it has long since been surpassed in any such ideals by many other countries.

Today, that country is the global superpower, and its policies have been a major factor (though, to be sure, far from the only one) in the devastation of Africa, the chaos in the Middle East and the massive proliferation of weapons of mass destruction around the globe. It is the source of the majority of the ocean of smaller weapons in the world. It exploits impoverished countries for cheap labor and persecutes those who flee those conditions to try to seek a better life within its own shores, contrary to the purported ideals on which it was founded. It is the source of the majority of the most destructive and reactionary Judeo-Christian religious forces in the world. It has distorted the basic precepts of capitalism (however flawed they might be themselves) to empower the ultra-rich and global corporations, giving those forces enormous power. It has routinely supported some of the ugliest governments in the world (it was the last country to withdraw support from Apartheid South Africa, and the examples in Latin America are too numerous to list here), and to this day, supports crimes all around the globe, as long as the criminals enforce its own policies and objectives.

Forgive me, then, if I find little reason to celebrate the anniversary of that country’s birth.

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Dear Readers,

A bit of a change today. I published a review of a new albumHomo Erraticus, by Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull fame. Some of you might be interested, so I thought I’d let you know about it. It includes a review of the disc, a look back at Anderson’s legacy and even an interview I did with Anderson. If it catches your interest, check it out at Souciant.

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