Tuesday, October 30, 2007

An Email From My Son

Good morning,

I would like to ask a favor, HBO will be begin airing the documentary “To Die in Jerusalem ” on Thursday November 1st. I would like to ask all of you to watch it in the coming week or so and then let me know what you think of it. Did you find it balanced or not and why? What could have been included in the film? I would like to have your feedback so that when I go to the Washington Jewish Community Center on December 9th and am on the stage with the director I can have her address your concerns in front of the audience. It also would be wonderful if you could attend and express your concerns in person.



Please go to the following address:
and read this important article.

The Secret History of the Impending War with Iran That the White House Doesn't Want You to KnowTwo former high-ranking policy experts from the Bush Administration say the U.S. has been gearing up for a war with Iran for
years, despite claiming otherwise. It'll be Iraq all over again.

By John H. Richardson



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Survivors Protest At Israel's Stance On Armenian Genocide
By Donald Macintyre
In The Independent (United Kingdom)
October 27, 2007

She has no memory of her father or mother. She was abandoned as an infant
–it almost certainly saved her life because she was found on the side of
the road by an American missionary – on one of the death marches in 1915
from Gurun, in central Anatolia. Even her name was given to her by the
Near East Relief orphanage in Lebanon where she grew up. Sadly, she says,
most of her fellow survivors in Jerusalem of the Armenian genocide have
died. But Mary Kevorkian, a sprightly widow of 93, is proud of the
independent life she leads – including the daily shopping and cleaning
of her home in Jerusalem's Old City. 'I do all my own work,' she says
cheerfully. 'I don't need anybody.'

This week she joined more than 100 other, rather younger, demonstrators
–about 10 per cent of a once much larger Jerusalem Armenian community
dating back to Roman times – outside the Foreign Ministry. They were
protesting against what they believe is the Israeli government's use of its considerable lobbying influence on Capitol Hill to try to thwart the bill
which would mean US recognition of the genocide in which 1.5 million
rmenians, including Mrs Kevorkian's parents, died.

Turkey, which is infuriated by the Democrat-sponsored bill and which enjoys
better relations with Israel than any other Muslim country, has made it clear
it expects its ally to help halt its progress. Israel, like Britain, has in
the past expressed sympathy for what it accepts were massacres but stopped
short of calling them genocide.

Mrs Kevorkian, who has lived in Jerusalem since 1939, came to the protest
on a hot October day even though she dislikes thinking about the subject.
She says that when she sees banners commemorating the terrible events between
1915 and 1923, 'I remember why I did not have my father and mother. When I
read about the genocide I start to cry.'
This week, however, the banners were focused on Turkey's concerted efforts
to ensure the bill, having been approved this month by the US Congress Foreign Affairs Committee, is not passed by the full House of Representatives. As protesters, including a choir of uniformed schoolgirls, sang the Armenian
national anthem and the Lord's Prayer in Armenian they brandished placards
aimed at the Israeli public, including: 'Today's denial is tomorrow's genocide/holocaust'.
On Thursday, the bill's sponsors, led by the California congressman Adam
Schiff, agreed to postpone the debate, bowing to fears that it could
precipitate a full-blown crisis in US-Turkish relations at exactly the time
when the US is trying to persuade Turkey not to launch an invasion of
northern Iraq against the Kurdish PKK.
Turkey, a main conduit of supplies to American forces in Iraq, has also warned passage of the bill could hamper the US war effort. But Mr Schiff, who is
Jewish and has a significant Armenian constituency, and his co-sponsors have
made it clear they will bring it back for debate in the coming months.
The organisers of this week's demonstration here accuse the Israeli government
of having already twice – in 1989 and 2000 – 'openly interfered' in similar Congressional votes despite opinion polls suggesting that most Israelis favour
the recognition sought in the bill. In urging it not to do so again, the demonstrators were joined by two prominent Israeli politicians, the Meretz
Party Knesset member Haim Oron and a former minister in the government of
Yizthak Rabin, Yair Tsaban.
Mr Oron said there was a natural Knesset majority for recognition, including
the right-wing Likud, but it needed to overcome pressure from a government determined to maintain close ties with Turkey.
Mr Tsaban said he was supporting the protest 'as a member of humanity born in
the 20th century which witnessed all kinds of genocides, of which the worst
was the Holocaust, and of course as a Jew'. Mr Tsaban, two of whose grandparents were exterminated in Auschwitz, added: 'I feel that is their will that I should support this campaign against denial of the genocide.'
George Hintlian, an Armenian community spokesman, said the refusal of a modern country such as Turkey to take responsibility for the genocide was unique, as
it was that a 'nation that has gone through the Holocaust should be helping the denial'. Mark Regev, the Foreign Ministry spokesman, said the Congressional bill
was an 'internal US affair' and the Israeli view of the 'tragic events' that engulfed the Armenians at the end of the Ottoman Empire was well known.

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An Email From My Son

Good morning,

I would like to ask a favor, HBO will be begin airing the documentary “To Die in Jerusalem ” on Thursday November 1st. I would like to ask all of you to watch it in the coming week or so and then let me know what you think of it. Did you find it balanced or not and why? What could have been included in the film? I would like to have your feedback so that when I go to the Washington Jewish Community Center on December 9th and am on the stage with the director I can have her address your concerns in front of the audience. It also would be wonderful if you could attend and express your concerns in person.


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Author Event: Raff Ellis discusses and signs his new book -
Tue Nov 13 6pm - Tue Nov 13 7:30pm
Langston Room, DC
Kisses from a Distance is a memoir that was conceived after the death of the author's mother and the discovery of a cache of over 200 letters in her personal effects. The correspondence spanned some sixty-five years and was mainly from family and friends in her native Lebanon. The discovery of the letters stimulated Mr. Ellis' memories and he began a journey to verify the truth of the stories he had heard as a youth. After several trips to the land of his ancestors, visiting with relatives on both sides of his genealogy, trips to libraries, scouring archives, and reading and collecting obscure books, he unearthed many historical facts that are unknown to the general public. The author was often surprised at what he learned and each time he thought the storyline was set it would take a different twist or turn.

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Sunday, October 21, 2007

Book Review:

Married to Another Man: Israel's Dilemma in Palestine

Dr. Ghada Karmi's latest book Married to Another Man: Israel's Dilemma in Palestine opens with the problem European Zionists faced over a century ago when they first mooted the idea of a Jewish state in Palestine . They found then that there was already a well-established Palestinian society existing in the land they wished to claim as their own. Hence the message sent back to Vienna by the two rabbis who made the discovery: 'The bride is beautiful, but she is married to another man.'

It is the essence of ' Israel 's dilemma': how to effect the disappearance of the ever-present Palestinians so that a purely Jewish state can exist on Palestinian land? The Zionist program of ethnic cleansing that has been going on since Israel 's creation has not solved the problem. Neither has the living hell of occupation.

Essentially, Karmi says that Israel should never have been created in Palestine , but she does not suggest that present-day Israelis must be removed. Instead, she argues that a single state for two peoples offers much more hope for peace than a state based on Jewish exclusivity next to a truncated and utterly unviable proposed Palestinian state under Israel 's vice-like control.

Karmi's book is controversial, particularly since the West is still talking about a two-state solution that totally ignores the realities on the ground. Pointing out that all peace efforts have so far come to nothing, and the two-state solution is now impossible, Karmi argues that the one-state alternative may be the only chance of resolving the conflict. Other solutions raised recently, such as federation with Egypt and Jordan , will further divide the Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza and will only lead to more conflict.

Karmi skillfully guides the reader through the political contortions and cruelties that have time and again failed to bring peace to both peoples. She is one of very few writers who have managed to untangle the mess of hypocritical and devious maneuverings enough for the reader to grasp the unfairness and tragedy of the Palestinian predicament. Instead of Oslo being the catalyst for change, the book shows how those hopeful but flawed beginnings quickly deteriorated as Israel continued to balk at reaching a fair settlement. One has only to look at Israel 's land expropriations and the illegal expansion of Jewish settlements deep inside Palestinian territory that went on throughout all the peace talks and continues even now.

The extraordinary nature of 'Zionist machinating and Jewish sentiment' to preserve the state of Israel is formidable, but all the same, Israel could not have survived without Western support. This raises the question, why does Israel receive such absolute support, particularly from the United States ? The book provides some of the answers, showing just how the Israel lobby has managed to influence both houses of the US Congress and how Christian Zionism has also been a powerful factor in US decision-making. It is doubtful though that the ideological hope of preserving Israel for the return of the Messiah is more influential than the imperialist agenda. Regardless, says Karmi, maintaining Israel's existence without justice for the Palestinians will only lead to further instability and increasing violence between the two sides, which in turn has serious implications for world peace.

This brings us back to Israel 's dilemma -- what to do with some 5 million Palestinians? If it is not to be a democratic state for all Muslim, Christian and Jewish citizens, then Israel 's solution can only be expulsion and genocide. Alternatively, says Karmi, all efforts should go into reversing the damage that Zionism has wrought, not just since 1967 as the two-state solution implies, but back to 1948 when Israel was created. The reader will find it difficult to ignore the appeal of her argument in light of the harsh reality to which the last six decades have led us -- from the first realization that 'the bride is beautiful, but she is married to another man' to the reckless decision to take the 'bride' regardless, and the devastating consequences that have followed.

Ultimately, Zionism needs to change because it was always unworkable. The solution Karmi proposes shows remarkable magnanimity considering the terrible human cost of Israel 's venture. Her vision is to bring Palestinians and the now-established Israeli Jewish community together in one state so that justice can be served for both sides. The challenge, she says, is to change the current paradigm of thinking that has now become so entrenched in political discourse, yet for which there is no future at all. Karmi's book allows the reader to look beyond the grim predictions and to see a solution that may be the only way for peace and justice to ever prevail in this troubled land.

Sonja Karkar is the founder and president of Women for Palestine in Melbourne, Australia .

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Friday, October 19, 2007

Navigating the Wake of Ann Coulter’s ‘Perfect’ Storm

Gabriel Sanders | Wed. Oct 17, 2007

Right-wing pundit Ann Coulter ignited a firestorm last week, and she did it with a single word.
In an October 8 appearance on CNBC’s “The Big Idea” with host Donny Deutsch, the ever-provocative Coulter said that what Christians ultimately want is for Jews to be “perfected” into Christians.
“That,” she said, “is what Christianity is. We believe the Old Testament, but ours is more like Federal Express.”
“Wow,” an incredulous Deutsch replied, “you didn’t really say that, did you?”
Reactions from the Jewish world were swift. The Anti-Defamation League said Coulter’s comments were “a throwback to the centuries-old teaching of contempt for Jews and Judaism.” The American Jewish Committee called the remarks “hateful,” and the National Jewish Democratic Council launched an online petition calling on all the major television news networks to stop using her as a commentator.
The debate that ensued essentially recapitulated any of a number of episodes Coulter, a recreational offender, has provoked over the last decade: Her usual detractors called for her head; her traditional defenders dismissed the affair as just another left-wing witch hunt and a third group wrote (at length) about how they weren’t going to take Coulter’s bait anymore.
Largely absent from the discussion, however, was any real examination of her remarks’ theological significance. What exactly did Coulter mean by “perfection”? In voicing a desire for the conversion of the Jews, is she alone? And is the desire that Jews convert to Christianity by definition synonymous with antisemitism?
While Coulter’s choice of words is not much in vogue today, her language is far from new. The New Testament’s “Epistle to the Hebrews,” traditionally attributed to the Apostle Paul, essentially argues that because Jesus offered a “superior” alternative to the Hebrew Bible’s angels, prophets and priests, Christianity represents a superior, indeed “perfected,” alternative to Judaism. “Having been perfected,” the text reads (Hebrews 5:9), “[Jesus] became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey him.”
The notion that God’s covenant with Christians came to replace his covenant with Jews — a concept known as supersessionism, or replacement theology — informed centuries of Christian thought. It was a central idea for both the early church fathers and the leaders of the Reformation. It was also embraced, and expanded upon, by the German Idealist philosophers of the late-18th and early-19th centuries.
In the decades after the Holocaust, however, as Christian denominations were forced to rethink the nature of Christian-Jewish ties, many reconsidered, and ultimately repudiated, the concept. In 1988, the Episcopal Church endorsed a new set of guidelines governing Christian-Jewish relations. Supersessionism’s repercussions, the guidelines read, had been “fateful.” Rather than being a “fossilized religion of legalism,” as the Judaism of Jesus’ time was long thought to be, the church’s revised position held that “Judaism in the time of Jesus was in but an early stage of its long life.”
But not all Christian denominations have followed the Episcopal Church’s lead.
“The larger, older denominations have either gone that way or are moving that way,” said Edith Blumhofer, director the Institute for the Study of Evangelicals at Wheaton College in Wheaton, Ill. “Where you find this other rhetoric is among independent radio ministers, televangelists and among some more conservative fundamentalist groups…. They don’t say it quite the way Coulter did in public all that much, but they believe that salvation comes only through Christ.”
But is belief in “perfection” or “completion” through Jesus tantamount to hostility to Jews?
Not at all, said Yaakov Ariel, a professor of religious studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill .
“A conservative, Jesus-oriented faith doesn’t mean, in and of itself, that people are anti-Jewish,” said Ariel, a specialist in Jewish-Evangelical ties. “Some of the more favorable attitudes toward Jews have developed in Evangelical circles, though perhaps in a way that makes some Jews uncomfortable.”
Coulter and some of her defenders, meanwhile, have argued that she has fallen victim to an unfair standard. Do not all communities ultimately want their guiding truth to become a truth shared by all? “I assume all vegans think the world would be better if everyone were a vegan,” Coulter said in a radio broadcast this week.
Asked if he thought Jews make truth claims of the sort posited by Coulter, Ariel hedged.
“The answer would be ‘yes’ and ‘no,’” he said. “On the one hand, Jews will tell you that non-Jews can be justified before God and reach eternal life just by fulfilling the Noahide laws. On the other hand, you can follow a Durkheimian understanding of religious communities. Emile Durkheim claimed that all religious communities ultimately worship themselves. There’s an element of this in the concept of the Chosen People.”
In a sense, Ariel said, Judaism, when faced with evangelism, suffers from its essential multiplicity.
“Here is Judaism,” he said, “a [numerically] vulnerable community with no one definition of what it means to be Jewish. It wants to live and let live and wants people to respect whatever faith it does or does not hold. It is then confronted by people who know exactly who they are and what they are and where they are going. This creates an uneasiness among Jews.”
And what of the argument, put forward by the ADL and others, that Coulter’s language and the thinking that undergirds it are what fueled centuries of anti-Jewish persecution?
“This is a step away from the demonization of the Jews because of the death of Christ,” Blumhofer said. “In some ways, it’s better.”
Ariel agreed.
“People who don’t care about Jews don’t care about their conversion,” he said. “Enemies of the Jews in the late-19th and early-20th centuries certainly did not try to convert them. The more you know about the Other, the better the ties. Relations between Jews and Evangelicals are better today than ever before.”

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Thursday, October 18, 2007

Dear Bronwin,

Take Action: Speak Out Against "Islamo-Facism Awareness Week"

During the week of October 22-26, 2007, right-wing and neo-conservative political forces led by the David Horowitz Freedom Center are calling for "Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week" events on campuses across the U.S. (for a list of campuses and speakers, see below).

If this event is coming to your campus or neighborhood - and even if it's not - speak out against this racist assault on Muslims, Arabs, Arab-Americans, South Asians and anyone viewed as sympathetic towards those communities. While some people might dismiss the neo-conservatives as fringe elements who don't impact on U.S. policy, the truth is much more disturbing. They are part of an alliance of forces that work to maintain the war against Iraq , escalate the standoff with Iran into military conflict, and cement Israel 's hold on the occupied Palestinian territories and violations of Palestinian human rights through a system of apartheid rule.

The stakes are simply too high to ignore, and we should respond to the so-called "Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week" - and to all such provocations - pro-actively, not defensively.

To find out what action you can take on your campus and in your community and to read about what others are doing, click here. To learn more about the forces driving this agenda, read "Understanding Why Islamophobia is on the Rise," the analysis by Phyllis Bennis, fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies, and member of the U.S. Campaign's steering committee.

By defending basic freedoms of thought, speech and belief, we underscore three simple messages:

We stand for free speech, not hate speech.

We stand for tolerance, not bigotry.

We stand for education, not demagoguery.


"Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week" speakers and venues:

Berkeley -- Nonie Darwish, October 22
Brown -- Robert Spencer, October 24
Cal Poly -- Greg Davis, October 25
Cal State Fullerton -- Nonie Darwish
Clemson -- Mike Adams, October 25
Columbia -- Phyllis Chesler, Ibn Warraq, Christina Hoff Sommers
Columbia -- Sean Hannity, David Horowitz, October 26
DePaul -- Robert Spencer, October 25
Emory -- David Horowitz, October 24
George Mason -- Luanah Saghieh, Alan Nathan, October 22
Lawrence Univ. -- Jonathan Schanzer
Maryland -- Michael Ledeen
Michigan -- David Horowitz, October 23
Northeastern -- Daniel Pipes, October 24
Ohio State -- David Horowitz, October 25
Penn -- Rick Santorum, October 24
Penn State -- Rick Santorum, October 23
Rhode Island -- Robert Spencer, October 24
San Francisco State -- Melanie Morgan, October 24
Stanford -- Wafa Sultan
Temple -- Rick Santorum, October 24
Tulane -- Ann Coulter, October 22
UC Santa Barbara - Dennis Prager, October 25
UC Irvine -- Ann Coulter
UCLA -- Nonie Darwish, October 24
UCLA -- Frank Pastore, John Ziegler
USC -- Ann Coulter, October 25
Virginia -- Frank Gaffney
Washington -- Kirby Wilbur
Washington -- Michael Medved, October 25
Wisconsin -- David Horowitz, October 22

US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation


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U.S. Too Often Follows Israel's Lead In Diplomatic Situations By Paul Findley
In Arabic Media Internet Network (Palestine), Opinion
October 15, 2007

There is an open secret in Washington. I learned it well during my 22-year
tenure as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives. All members swear to
serve the interests of the United States, but there is an unwritten and
overwhelming exception: The interests of one small foreign country almost always trump U.S. interests. That nation of course is Israel.
Both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue give priority to Israel over America. Those on Capitol Hill are pre-primed to roar approval for Israeli actions whether right or wrong, instead of at least fussing first and then caving. The White House
sometimes puts up a modest and ineffective show of resistance before it follows Israel's lead. In 2002, President Bush publicly ordered Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon to end a bloody, destructive rampage through the Palestinian West Bank. He wilted just as publicly when he received curt word from Sharon that Israeli troops would not withdraw and would continue their military operations. A few days later President Bush invited Sharon to the White House where he saluted him as a 'man of peace.'
I had similar experiences in the House of Representatives. On several occasions, colleagues told me privately that they admired what I was trying to do in Middle East policy reform but could not risk pro-Israel protest back home by supporting my positions.
The pro-Israel lobby is not one organization orchestrating U.S. Middle East policy from a backroom in Washington. Nor is it entirely Jewish. It consists of scores of groups -- large and small -- that work at various levels. The largest, most professional, and most effective is the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. Many pro-Israel lobby groups belong to the Christian Right.
The recently released book, 'The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy,' co-authored by distinguished professors John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago and Stephen Walt of Harvard, offers hope for constructive change. It details the damage to U.S. national interests caused by the lobby for Israel. These brave professors render a great service to America, but their theme, expressed in a published study paper a year ago, is already under heavy, vitriolic attack.
They are unjustly accused of anti-Semitism, the ultimate instrument of intimidation employed by the lobby. A common problem: Under pressure, the Chicago Council on Global Affairs withdrew an invitation for the authors to speak about their book. Council president Marshall Bouton explained ruefully that the invitation posed 'a political problem' and a need 'to protect the institution' from those who would be angry if the authors appeared.
I know what it is like to be targeted in this way. In the last years of my long service in Congress, I spoke out, making many of the points now presented in the Mearsheimer-Walt book. In 1980, my opponent charged me with anti-Semitism, and money poured into his campaign fund from every state in the Union. I prevailed that year but two years later lost by a narrow margin. In 1984, Sen. Charles Percy, then chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee and an occasional critic of Israel, was defeated. Leaders of the Israel lobby claimed credit for defeating both Percy and me, claims that strengthened lobby influence in the years that followed.
The result is that Members of Congress today loudly reward Israel as it violates international law and peace agreements, lures America into costly wars, and subjects millions of Palestinians under its rule to apartheid-like conditions because they are not Jewish.
It is time to call politicians to account for their undying allegiance to a foreign state. Let the Mearsheimer-Walt book be a clarion that bestirs the American people to political action and finally brings fundamental change to both Capitol Hill and the White House.
Citizen participation in public policy development is a hallmark of our proud democracy. But the pro-Israel groups subvert democracy when they engage in smear campaigns that intimidate and silence critics. America badly needs a civilized discussion of the damaging role of Israel in U.S. policy formulation.

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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Understanding Why Islamophobia is on the Rise

By Phyllis Bennis

Institute for Policy Studies/U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation

15 October 2007

Right-wing and neo-conservative political forces are calling for campus mobilizations 22 – 26 October 2007 for “Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week” events. They deliberately use the provocative term 'Islamo-Fascism,' linking Islam (and blurring the religion, the countries where it is a majority, and its adherents) with the most despised political movement in history -- fascism. They do so despite the disdain with which the most violent and extremist versions of political Islamism holds both the nation-state and corporations, both of which fascism holds sacred. Their call predicts “the biggest conservative campus protest ever” and identifies their goal as “to confront the two Big Lies of the political left: that George Bush created the war on terror and that Global Warming is a greater danger to Americans than the terrorist threat.”

The very language of their goals makes clear that this is not solely a racist assault on Muslims, Arabs, Arab-Americans, South Asians and anyone viewed as sympathetic towards those communities. Certainly this Islamophobic crusade, led by the neo-conservative David Horowitz FreedomCenter, does reflect a deeply rooted racist demonization of those targeted communities.But it reflects dangers even beyond the threat it poses to those communities and to the social fabric of this country from the consolidation of racist demagoguery as a “legitimate” part of public discourse. [1]

There is an understandable instinct to roll one’s eyes at these risible assertions, and to dismiss the grandiose mobilization claims as just one more fringe right-wing nut job, but such a response would be a serious mistake.Not because the “claims” are anything other than preposterous, but rather because there is far too much public belief in these preposterous assertions for anyone concerned with public education and mobilization to blithely write them off.And with the clear links between Islamophobia and support for war, the stakes are simply too high to ignore.


It is clearly no coincidence that the areas that are the ultimate targets of the so-called “war on terror,” countries where Islam is preeminent as majority populations and often the basis for governance, are the same countries and regions where strategic resources – most notably oil and natural gas – are concentrated.It is also no coincidence that both the 2002 and 2006 versions of the Pentagon’s “Quadriennial Review” demonized Muslims, Islamic countries and Islam, in various guises, as grave threats to U.S. security.

The call for “Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week” uses rhetoric that recalls 1950s-era anti-communist attack and innuendo, saying that “In the face of the greatest danger

Americans have ever confronted, the academic left has mobilized to create sympathy for the enemy and to fight anyone who rallies Americans to defend themselves. …Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week is a national effort to oppose these lies and to rally American students to defend their country.”

The political framework of this “Global War on Terror” has tweaked the idea of a “clash of civilizations” to refer to something slightly different. Now the Bush administration speaks not of that clash between civilizations, but rather a clash within a civilization – specifically within the Muslim world.It is a “clash,” administration officials warn, in which “we” must prevail.This has shaped the latest version of how the U.S. proposes to understand the Arab world, the Middle East, the Islamic countries – as a clash between “moderates” and “extremists.”Those people, governments, countries, dictators, militias whom “we” define as “moderate” support U.S. efforts towards control and domination of their country or region. The “extremists” are those who resist such efforts.

The “global war on terror” framework thus serves the Bush admininistration’s goal of permanent war – a permanent war economy, permanent reliance on preventive and preemptive wars, and permanent control of the world through a network of military bases and expansion of military force.It is a Manichean world-view, a view of good vs bad, white vs black, and ultimately “us” vs “them.”

This is a throwback to the language of totalitarian regimes.Nazi propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels bragged that if you repeat a lie often enough, the people will believe it. And Hitler’s Reich-Marshal Hermann Goering, while recognizing that “naturally the common people don’t want war,” went on to remind the world how easy it was to convince people to support war.“All you have to do,” he said, “is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.”


This call for an “Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week,” shocking in its explicitness, is an effort to mobilize support for a carefully crafted campaign, designed to use familiar racist imagery to bolster the Bush administration’s key strategic foreign policy objective:strengthening the so-called “global war on terror.”

The campaign aims to reach a wide swath of U.S. public opinion. But there is no question that it seeks particularly to mobilize Christian Zionists, with whom it most often shares a right-wing political and social agenda, as well as Jewish Zionists – those ordinarily liberal, but pro-Israeli communities who can easily be pulled into at least acquiescence, if not full support, for a future U.S. war in Iran. For example, the newest “pro-Israel” lobby on the block – Christians United for Israel – called on the 4,000 participants at its July 2007 national conference to back “Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week.” Calls to take action against Iran dominated the conference and the talking points for CUFI’s lobby day, just as those issues top the agenda of AIPAC (the American Israel Public Affairs Committee). The CUFI leadership called their anti-Iran effort “the movement of our time.”

There is a clear link, for instance, between Columbia University president Lee Bollinger’s statement (featured at the center of a full-page New York Times ad purchased by the American Jewish Committee) equating what he called “the mission” of Israeli and U.S. universities, and his leading role in insulting the Iranian president when Mahmoud Ahmadinejad appeared to speak before Columbia students.Not quite willing to openly reverse Ahmadinejad’s invitation to his university, Bollinger was prepared to employ a novel kind of censorship-through-humiliation:acquiesce to the appearance of an unwanted guest, but control the discourse through rudeness and humiliation


This is hardly the first time the U.S. has used racism to build support for war.The carefully orchestrated “Islamophobia” effort closely mimics the U.S. campaigns of World War II. They were not designed to condemn Japan’s military or its policies of imperialism and militarism, so much as to denigrate Japanese people themselves.In these campaigns “Japs” were caricatured in racist images with pigtails, buckteeth, and faulty speech, much as Muslims and Arabs are disparaged in cartoons, films, and popular culture today.In both eras, the racist campaign aimed at the strategic goal of building public support for war.

The World War II campaign to disparage and defame all Japanese was broadened to include Japanese-Americans, and of course that led to the infamous U.S. decision to imprison more than 120,000 men, women and children of Japanese descent in internment camps for years during the war.More than 2/3 of them were U.S. citizens.It is not coincidental that attacks on Muslims, Arabs, Arab-Americans and south Asians have similarly escalated in the six years since Bush announced the so-called “Global War on Terror.”

It is no coincidence that racism against other communities is at the core of the work of such the David Horowitz “FreedomCenter,” which has also targeted African Americans. The Muslim Public Affairs Committee, among others, has reported on how Horowitz’s racist diatribes led to self-critical retractions and apologies from student newspapers across the U.S. that had accepted his advertisements.

The targeting of Muslim and Arab communities has an earlier history. In 1987 a secret report of the inter-agency “Alien Border Control Commission” was leaked to the Los Angeles Times.Coordinating the work of the Justice Department, FBI, immigration services and several other related agencies, the ABCC outlined a plan for the internment of U.S. residents from seven Arab countries plus Iran , in the event of a future unspecified “national emergency.”Internment camps, including a large one in Oakdale , Louisiana , were to be built to hold an unknown number of detainees.

During the years of the Cold War, the word “communism” served as a convenient basis for mobilizing popular support for war, hysterical fear that shut down critical thinking, and the wholesale violation of U.S. Constitutional rights.While many Americans didn’t really know what communism was, during the McCarthy period anti-communism still succeeded in creating new fears, demonizing whole communities, and legitimizing the notion that an accused communist was guilty till proven innocent.

Are we surprised that years later equivalent assumptions shape the treatment of Muslim detainees accused of “terrorism” and held for months or years in Abu Ghraib, in GuantanamoBay, at Bagram Airbase or in secret CIA detention centers hidden across Europe ?


These are some of the major reasons why we must not laugh “Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week” away or brush it under the carpet.

The invention of Islamophobia, or fear of Muslims or Islam, is a key weapon in the Bush administration strategy for building public and congressional support for illegal and unpopular wars in Iraq and Afghanistan , for potential future war against Iran , for Israel ’s policies of occupation and apartheid, and for a broader drive towards empire.

As the threat rises of a new U.S. war against Iran , there is already evidence of a campaign to insult Iran and Iranians dangerously reminiscent of the anti-Islam mobilization that took shape in the relentless demonization of Iran at the time of Iran ’s 1979 Islamic revolution.

The high percentage of Americans who continue to believe the false claim that the ruthless yet secular Saddam Hussein was responsible for the terror attacks of September 11, 2001, indicates a far too widespread inability or unwillingness to distinguish between Islamic and Arab people, countries and movements.

While Islam-bashers in the U.S. government, media, academic and other circles are sometimes careful to claim that their hostility to Muslims or Arabs or Islam is limited to the “extremists,” the goal and the impact of these campaigns is in fact to demonize entire countries and communities.As Islamophobic views find increased acceptance in public discourse, there is also a rising danger of growing public acceptance of attacks –including legal discrimination, denial of rights, violent assaults, and more – on U.S. citizens and residents who happen to be Muslim, Arab, or Arab-American. The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (www.adc.org) and other organizations have documented frightening numbers of such attacks.

Anti-Muslim and anti-Arab sentiment is not limited to extremist, racist fringe forces; it is reflected in U.S. political, public, academic and media discourse at the highest levels, including from leading U.S. presidential candidates.Senator John McCain says that “since the U.S. was founded on Christian principles” he prefers a Christian president to a Muslim one. Congressman Peter King, top advisor to presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani, says that “unfortunately, we have too many mosques in this country” and that the Muslim community is “a real threat here in this country.”

The spread of Islamophobic attacks to campus is aimed at limiting academic discourse to a narrow range of anti-Islamic, anti-Arab, pro-Israel and pro-war opinions.These attacks form part of concerted public pressure to

Refuse to hire or deny tenure to numerous academics whose work challenges what is defined as “acceptable” mainstream dogma on Middle East and U.S. policy issues;

Intimidate Middle East scholars through recruitment of students to record classes and lectures with the goal of “exposing” opinions deemed unacceptable;

Create websites (by organizations such as Campus Watch and others) to undermine the credibility of Middle East scholars who challenge anti-Muslim, pro-war orthodoxy;

Construct a climate of self-censorship severe enough that many applicants for scarce Middle East studies teaching posts refuse to teach Israel-Palestine history until after achieving tenure.

Academic attacks are on the rise against those scholars who resist such censorship, particularly on the question of Israel . The Harvard Crimson reports thatduring a faculty meeting in 2006, Professor of Yiddish Literature Ruth R. Wisse articulated the basis for such censorship. “Denying that anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism are separate phenomena, she declared anti-Zionism—that is, the rejection of the racially-based claim that Jewish people have a collective right to Palestine—the worst kind of anti-Semitism.” Such false accusations of anti-Semitism remain potent instruments in suppressing open political discourse.


Despite the rise of racist, anti-Arab Islamophobia, it is clear that public opinion (however slowly) is actually beginning to shift away from accepting such propaganda. In fact it is arguable that the escalation of racist attacks is actually a response to those changing popular views.

Those changes have been brought about through a number of factors. Former President Jimmy Carter’s book, Palestine : Peace Not Apartheid has had a major impact. Its stunning title has brought new legitimacy to the once-demonized analysis of Israeli policy as a new form of apartheid. Others, including the U.S. Campaign to End Israeli Occupation (www.endtheoccupation.org), are highlighting evidence of how Israeli policies towards Palestinians in the occupied territories and inside Israel violate the UN’s 1974 International Covenant on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid.

The work of Professors Stephen Walt and John Mearscheimer on the pro-Israeli lobby, culminating in their recent book The Israel Lobby, has broken a longstanding taboo on bringing the role and influence of the lobby into public discussion. While Walt and Mearscheimer were hardly the first to write about the lobby, their original article (refused by the Atlantic Monthly, which had originally commissioned it, but eventually published by the London Review of Books) reached a much broader audience than any earlier critical analysis because of the impeccable academic and political credentials of the two scholars. Their tenured positions at Harvard and the University of Chicago , and their mainstream “realist” foreign policy positions, brought new familiarity and, most important, new legitimacy to the critical examination of the pro-Israeli lobby that had long been limited to smaller, progressive publications.

Whatever the weaknesses or limitations of these two important books, their publication has enabled a level of nuance long made impossible in mainstream discussion of these issues. Organizations such as Jewish Voice for Peace (www.jvp.org) are rising, bringing Jewish opposition to Israeli occupation to new visibility. These sustained voices are resisting the efforts to shape an intellectual climate in which challenging Israeli occupation policies is equated with anti-Semitism and discussion of “dealing with” Iran is limited to the choice between crippling economic sanctions or nuclear attack.The traditional efforts to narrow or circumscribe the debate no longer go unanswered.


[1] See also “Horowtiz’s Latest Hate Campaign Heads for Campus,” by Gary Leupp in Counterpunch, 10 October 2007 (counterpunch.com) and “The Mother of All Pretexts” by Uri Avneri at http://zope.gush-shalom.org/home/en/channels/avnery/1192288533/

See the excellent analysis and materials on http://www.defendcriticalthinking.org/” and then follow with the rest. And also under reasons for optimism could we add “A coalition of academics and scholars has come together to defend academics and freedom of speech at http://www.defendcriticalthinking.org/ and has compiled several useful resources for campus activists

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Monday, October 15, 2007

Home > Archives > Sept_Oct_2007 > Peace Café Busload Takes in West Virginia Production of “My Name Is Rachel Corrie”
Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, September/October 2007, pages 16, 18 Special Report
Peace Café Busload Takes in West Virginia Production of “My Name Is Rachel Corrie”
By Jamal Najjab

Anne Marie Nest gave a stunning performance as Rachel Corrie (Ron Blun Photography Courtesy American Theater Festival).

PEACE ACTIVIST and businessman Andy Shallal arranged for 35 participants of the Peace Café in Washington, DC to travel by bus to Shepherdstown, WV on July 8 to see the Contemporary American Theater Festival’s (CATF) production of “My Name is Rachel Corrie.”
The play has created controversy wherever it has been performed, and Shepherdstown was no exception. An CATF board member resigned over the selection of the play, several theater patrons canceled their subscriptions, and the office of CATF producing director Ed Herendeen was flooded with letters urging the board members to remove the play from the annual festival. Despite all the controversy, the show did go on and, to CATF’s surprise, “My Name is Rachel Corrie” did not hurt ticket sales. In fact, Herendeen told The Washington Post, sales were up 3 percent compared to last summer, with donations already up $21,000 above last year.
The play is based on Rachel’s diaries from age 12 right up to a day or so before March 16, 2003, when she was crushed to death in Gaza by an Israeli military Caterpillar D-9 bulldozer. Working as an International Solidarity Movement (ISM) volunteer, she was attempting to prevent it from demolishing a Palestinian home.
Palestinians revere her as a martyr in their fight for self-determination, and the late Edward Said praised her actions as “heroic and dignified at the same time.” For many Israelis, she was naïve at best, entering into a war zone without really understanding the situation. Some Americans paint her as a traitor and/or a collaborator with terrorists, and they placed ads in the playbill erroneously claiming her death was an accident that occurred when bulldozers were searching for terrorist tunnels.
En route from DC to West Virginia, most Peace Café members said they were waiting until after the play to decide how they felt about Rachel. Some participants had seen the play in New York City and were coming to compare this performance or to participate in the discussion group after the play. Others came along for the ride.
That afternoon American actress Anne Marie Nest, who portrayed Rachel in the one-woman play in the round, was surrounded by a full house. The stage setting was minimal, with a rectangular artificial stone in the center of the stage serving as a bed in Washington state encircled with discarded clothes, and later as a structure in Gaza.
Nest told Rachel’s all-too-brief life story by way of her diary and e-mails. Her passionate performance conveyed Rachel’s hope for the future and her belief that her actions could help protect families in Rafah and keep their homes intact.
This audience member felt that Gaza would have been just one stop in the life of a person who would have faced and attempted to resolve many of the world’s conflicts—if that life had not ended so tragically. The play ended with a video of 10-year-old Rachel reading in front of her school’s fifth grade “Press Conference on World Hunger” her dream for a better world in which world hunger is wiped out by the year 2000.
Following the play, those who had seen it before were asked if they discerned any differences. Mimi Conway, one of the Peace Café’s founders, said the British actress who performed in New York was more polished—but that, perhaps as a result, it was harder for her to portray a young American student full of idealism. Nest’s performance made Rachel Corrie’s words really come to life. “I felt the New York performance was too political,” Conway said, “but this performance really captured the spirit of a young person.”
Two women I spoke with had just come back from a political fact-finding trip to Israel and the West Bank. One, Pam Rasmussen, had seen the play twice before, and both found the West Virginia presentation far more emotional than the other, due to the fact that they now fully understood the horror of life under Israel’s brutal occupation.
Theatergoers were then asked to sit in a large tent outside the theater. The Peace Café’s three founders—Ari Roth, artistic director of the Jewish Community Center’s Theater J, Conway, and Shallal—welcomed the 100 or so people to the discussion group. Rachel’s parents had come to see the play the previous day, Shallal told the group, and during a panel discussion afterwards, Cindy Corrie had told the crowd that it was a hopeful play—not happy, but hopeful. Dr. Samir, whose house Rachel Corrie lost her life trying to save, also was on that day’s panel, Shallal said.
Noting that art has a unique way of affecting politics, Roth asked the group to ask themselves, “who was Rachel Corrie?” Shallal asked participants at each table to discuss among themselves their impressions of the play.
After 20 minutes, the entire group came together and a representative from each table expressed what had been said. One woman told the group that she was thrilled and moved by the play. Another man stated that he had not found the play balanced in its portrayal of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
In response, Bob Griss, a longtime Peace Café participant, recalled that years ago he had attended a performance of the “Diary of Anne Frank” in New York City and didn’t remember anyone complaining about that play not being balanced. “‘The Diary of Anne Frank’ did not represent the Nazi side of the conflict,” Griss pointed out.
“This is not a balanced play,” the Iraqi-born Shallal agreed. “Most great plays are not balanced—that’s theater! For us coming from the Middle East, we find the media here not balanced on the other side.”
A Jewish couple, Steve and Annette Spector, also longtime Peace Café goers, told of their daughter’s experiences as an ISM volunteer in Gaza. Referring to the volunteers, the mother stated that “no one has an agenda other than to make sense of what is going on over there.”
Not happy with this statement, CATF boardmember Stanley C. Marinoff spoke—first letting the group know he had not seen the play and in protest would never see it. He had read the play’s script, My Name Is Rachel Corrie (available from the AET Book Club), and said a Mother Jones article proved that it was impossible for the operator of the bulldozer to see Rachel before he ran over her. He went on to say that “the ISM is a front for Hamas and its terrorist operations. It is not a pure movement.”
Another man who stated that he, too, hadn’t seen the play began to criticize it. At that point, Roth cut him off and chastised them both for refusing to see the play. “I wish you could have left your male egos behind and shown up at the play and taken it all in,” he told them, “to see the transformation of this girl into a woman. Seeing all of that, we have to respond and take notice.”
“Balanced?” Pam Rasmussen asked. “No one is balanced. We owe it to ourselves to experience a slice of this beautiful woman’s life. She was so committed to her cause and was a true communicator. Apathy is the true enemy and so many of our young people are so apathetic. She was willing to put her convictions on the line.”
Elise T. Baach, another CATF boardmember, told the group she was pleased to hear such a candid discussion, adding that the controversy surrounding their decision to include the play in the festival was a “painful experience, but the outcome shows it was worth it.”
Nest was also in the audience, and before she left to prepare for another performance she told the crowd, “I went into theater in the hopes it would effect change. If my performance has opened one person’s heart, I have done my job.”
Herendeen concluded the discussion by observing that “This play created a living dialogue. The concerns raised by the board created a stronger board. That is what this play did before it was even performed.”
Jamal Najjab is administrative director for the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs.

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Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Hate Week Comes To Campus By Aaron Hess
In Counterpunch
October 5, 2007
If you wanted to know what Sen. Joe McCarthy would sound like if he came back from the dead, read David Horowitz's explanation for 'Islamofascism Awareness Week,' an event he is sponsoring on college campuses across the country from October 22-26:
The progressive left is the enabler and abettor of the terrorist jihad. It has forged an 'unholy alliance' with the most retrograde and reactionary forces in the world today. The institutional base of the left is the university system, from whose classrooms it is conducting a behind-the-lines psychological warfare campaign against its own countrymen.
Horowitz, who edits the online FrontPage Magazine and runs the creepily named Web sites CampusWatch and DiscoverTheNetwork, is the self-appointed chief of the new thought police on college campuses.
Ironically, Horowitz is a former radical himself--a prominent writer and activist in the movement against the U.S. war in Vietnam. But in the 1970s, he distanced himself from the left, and by 1987, he had 'come in from the cold'--hosting a 'Second Thoughts' conference that brought together fellow ex-radicals who now embraced Ronald Reagan and the Cold War.
Horowitz's subsequent career 'baiting the left'--to use his own phrase--is lucrative. In 2005, the David Horowitz Freedom Center received more than $15.5 million in right-wing grant money, and in 2003, Horowitz's own income for the year was $310,000.
Though he sounds like an irrelevant crank, a look at Horowitz's track record shows no one should ignore his latest stunt. 'Islamofascism Awareness Week' is one part of a broader attempt to stifle academic dissent.
In just the past year, the new McCarthyism cost several professors their jobs, including DePaul University's Norman Finkelstein, an outspoken critic of Israel's occupation of Palestine; and Native American scholar Ward Churchill at the University of Colorado. Other academics have been investigated and censured for their political ideas.
Horowitz has been at the center of the assault. In 2003, he launched the misnamed Students for Academic Freedom (SAF), which encourages students to 'collect evidence' of their professors' 'indoctrination' in the classroom, and file reports with college administrators.
Horowitz claims SAF is 'nonpartisan,' and college administrators who have collaborated in the witch-hunt echo its innocuous language about protecting scholarship from 'shifting to advocacy'--the phrase DePaul University president Dennis Holtschneider used in his decision to deny tenure to Norman Finkelstein.
But Horowitz's blacklist is reserved exclusively for critics of U.S. wars and the right-wing agenda. Whatever their rhetoric, the new witch-hunters want to silence ideas that challenge the status quo from the left.
* * * 'ISLAMOFASCISM Awareness Week' is designed, according to FrontPage, to 'challenge most of what students are taught about the so-called War on Terror both in the classroom and on the quad.'
In reality, Horowitz and friends rely on standard right-wing myths and stereotypes--echoed by mainstream politicians and the media on a regular basis--to demonize Arabs and Muslims, and justify U.S. war atrocities in the Middle East, including a future attack on Iran, which is at the top of the Horowitz wish list.
A featured speaker on Horowitz's right-wing road show is the self-described 'religious expert' Robert Spencer, author of the book Religion of Peace? Why Christianity Is and Islam Isn't.
Spencer's book argues that the Koran is responsible for violence committed by Muslims against Western targets--but that 'there is no justification for violent acts committed by Christians, either in the Christian Scriptures or the teaching of various Christian churches.'
Really? What about the Crusades in the Middle Ages? The Spanish Inquisition? The genocide of Native Americans? The ongoing U.S. war on Iraq? All of these crimes were justified in their time by Christians--the Popes of the Catholic Church, Christopher Columbus, George W. Bush--who claimed to be doing 'God's work.'
Spencer could stand to re-enroll in Bible study class. For every violent or intolerant passage to be found in the Koran, an equally bloody one can be found in the Old and New Testaments. For instance, the book of Deuteronomy contains the command that anyone who 'hath gone and served other gods'-- in other words, practiced another faith--should be 'stoned by stones till they die.'
Another speaker dredged from the gutter to join Horowitz's tour is Ann Coulter. Coulter is a disgusting bigot who saves her most vile slurs for Muslims--like the comment, 'I believe our motto after 9/11 should be: Jihad monkey talks tough; jihad monkey takes the consequences. Sorry, I realize that's offensive. How about 'camel jockey'?'
Horowitz is also employing one of the right wing's favorite smokescreens in attacking Muslims--by claiming to be concerned about the 'oppression of women in Islam.' FrontPage states that 'the plight of Muslim women will be featured at 'teach-in' panels and also at sit-ins in Women's Studies Departments.'
This cynical ploy has been used many times in the past as justification for Western imperial powers to invade and occupy the Middle East.
'During the British occupation of Egypt, British Consul General Lord Cromer declared that Egyptians should 'be persuaded or forced into imbibing the true spirit of Western civilization,'' wrote Sharon Smith in her book Women and Socialism. 'Cromer targeted, 'first and foremost, Islam's degradation of women.''
But this supposed champion of women's rights in Egypt was, back in England, a 'founding member and sometimes president of the Men's League for Opposing Women's Suffrage.'
In 2001, the U.S. used the horrific treatment of women under the Taliban as an excuse to invade Afghanistan. But the new Afghan regime installed by the U.S. relies on a grouping of warlords from the Northern Alliance, which has a record of terrible violence against Afghan women.
According to a 2007 report by UNIFEM, the women's fund at the United Nations, the majority of Afghan women today will be victims of sexual violence, and the average life expectancy of Afghan women is 44 years.
As for Horowitz, he may pose as a champion of women's rights in the Middle East, but making three stops on his Islamophobia tour is one of the right's favorite anti-abortion fanatics: former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum.
* * * THE CONCEPT of 'Islamofascism' has been conjured up as part of the right wing's effort to sell the U.S. war to control the Middle East as a battle of 'values' between a democratic, tolerant and rational West and a totalitarian, intolerant and fanatical political Islam.
But even U.S. foreign policy elites reject the idea that there's any connection between political Islam and any conventional definition of fascism. 'There is no sense in which jihadists embrace fascist ideology as it was developed by Mussolini or anyone else who was associated with the term,' wrote Daniel Benjamin of the mainstream Center for Strategic and International Studies.
In reality, the claims about 'Islamofascism' have more to do with the longstanding practice of the U.S. political and media elite to brand every passing U.S. enemy as the 'new Hitler.'
Among those who to receive the label are Saddam Hussein, Slobodan Milosevic and even Jean-Bertrand Aristide. But of course, the Hitler slur is never used against the U.S.-supported right-wing regimes that did embrace elements of Nazism--for example, the racist apartheid regime in South Africa or the Indonesian military dictatorship under Gen. Suharto.
Another example of this double standard is the hysteria surrounding the recent visit of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to Columbia University. New York tabloids screeched that hosting Ahmadinejad was akin to hosting Hitler, and Columbia President Lee Bolinger introduced him as the 'mind of evil.' You would never know that it was the U.S. government hinting that it was about to declare war on Iran, and not the other way around.
Meanwhile, on the same day as Ahmadinejad's visit, the president of Turkmenistan--the ruler of a one-party state that tortures political prisoners and prohibits freedom of the press, as even the State Department admits--spoke at Columbia, and neither the media nor Bollinger had any complaints.
The difference, of course, is that Turkmenistan is a U.S. ally.
Horowitz's Islamophobia tour takes place at a time when racism against Muslims and Arabs is rampant and provides one of the only remaining selling points for U.S. wars. Politicians and the corporate media use bigotry to scapegoat Iraqis for the ongoing failure of the U.S. occupation and turn up the military pressure on Iran.
Given the climate, it's little surprise that the Council on American-Islamic Relations has documented a rise in discrimination and hate crimes against Arabs and Muslims in the U.S.
David Horowitz and his fellow Islamophobes should be confronted and exposed for the bigots they are--at every campus they show up on, and everywhere opponents of war and racism raise their voices.

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Tuesday, October 09, 2007

The Israeli Lobby Strikes Again
Please read this article by Cecilie Surasky, communications director for Jewish Voice for Peace, who will be leading the Oct. 20th & 21st Communications Workshop. The Israel Lobby strikes again!!! This time agaist a fellow Jewish peace activist. In my opinion, this kind of "censorship" is against our American values and is very damaging to both the Jewish community and the general US community.

Please make copies/forward via email of this article and share it with your congregation and friends. The truth must be told!!!

Please don't forget to register for the workshop if you are planning to attend one or both days.



Dissenting at your own risk


Special to the Star-Telegram

Last year, I agreed to speak to a Jewish youth group about my organization, Jewish Voice for Peace, and our opposition to Israel 's occupation. My talk was to follow one from a member of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which calls itself " America 's pro-Israel Lobby."

A week before, a shaken program leader said the AIPAC staffer had threatened to get the entire youth program's funding canceled if I was allowed in the door. The threat worked, and in disgust, they canceled the whole talk.

Pundits will surely argue for years about professors Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer's explosive new book, The Israel Lobby, which blames poor U.S. policy in the Middle East on a loose network of individuals and pro-Israel advocacy groups.

But the book, and the response to it, opens up another controversy: the stifling of debate about unconditional U.S. support for Israeli policies.

Why is Israel 's increasingly brutal 40-year occupation of Palestinian land regularly debated in the mainstream media abroad, including in Israel , but not here? And why is there an almost total lack of discussion among presidential candidates about the dollars that subsidize this occupation and the American diplomatic support that makes it possible?

In a society built on the free exchange of ideas, as Walt and Mearsheimer point out, one answer can be found by looking at the many self-appointed gatekeepers, such as Abraham Foxman and the Anti-Defamation League, or Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz, who use their Jewish identity as both a shield and cudgel. They work diligently to silence those who question ill-conceived policies of the Israeli and U.S. governments.

Non-Jewish critics, even former President Carter, are denounced as anti-Semites. Special ire is reserved for Jewish dissenters, who are branded as "self-hating" or "marginal," while Muslim and Arab-Americans are easily smeared and even criminalized with charges of supporting terrorism.

Stunned by the stifling of dissent, we decided to start a Web site, Muzzlewatch, to track the incidents. Just as we launched, Stanford Middle East Studies Professor Joel Beinin was disinvited from a speaking engagement at a high school with just 24 hours' notice.

After an unprecedented campaign of outside interference waged by Dershowitz, Professor Norman Finkelstein was refused tenure by DePaul University because of his criticism of U.S.-Israeli policy.

Palestinian-American anthropologist Nadia Abu El-Haj is fighting a political campaign to deny her tenure at Barnard.

Even Walt and Mearsheimer, who are getting plenty of exposure, couldn't have asked for better proof of their point that the lobby works to stifle dissent when an embarrassed head of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs told them that their scheduled speech was canceled. (They did speak before the World Affairs Council of Dallas/Fort Worth on Sept. 17.) This was apparently because Foxman was not available that day to "balance" their talk.

(They had initially been booked by themselves. The talk was not rescheduled.)

Many groups that started with the important work of fighting real anti-Semitism now rely on anti-Semitism to insist that to show one's love of Jews, one must offer uncritical support to Israel . They are especially displeased by Jews who believe that enabling Israeli violations of Palestinian human rights is not good for anyone.

Unless this atmosphere of intimidation is confronted, Americans will continue to lack access to information and perspectives necessary to formulate effective Middle East policies, virtually ensuring that Israel and the United States will be at war for many years to come.

'The Israel Lobby'

A podcast of Walt and Mearsheimer's presentation is available at http://podcast.dfwworld.org/2007_09-17_The_Israel_Lobby.MP3

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Saturday, October 06, 2007

From the New Republic


Moran Down
by John B. Judis
Only at TNR Online
Post date: 10.03.07
Virginia Representative Jim Moran is no stranger to controversy. And he now finds himself in midst of another one--over what he said about Jews, Iraq, and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) in an interview in the September-October issue of Tikkun magazine. Moran's statements have been denounced as anti-Semitic by the officials of Jewish political and religious organizations and by members of Congress. These critics see Moran's statements as part of a wave of anti-Semitism--of which Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer's book The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy is the crest.

Moran has certainly made his share of reckless and ill-founded statements--some of which have been directed at Jews. Four years ago, Moran said that 'if it were not for the strong support of the Jewish community for this war with Iraq, we would not be doing this.' That statement is false and reprehensible. But in this case, it is Moran's critics who are making reckless charges. And although the controversy may remain confined to the Beltway, it's no small matter when a politician is accused of anti-Semitism. This kind of charge, if wielded without caution, makes it more difficult for politicians and policy-makers to have a frank and open discussion about American foreign policy in the Middle East.
In Moran's interview with Tikkun, a liberal Jewish publication, he made several claims about AIPAC and Jewish-Americans that have drawn flack: He said AIPAC was 'the best-organized national lobbying force' and that its power rests on the wealth of its members, who can help or hinder political candidates with their contributions, and on the organization and its leaders' ties to the media. He said that AIPAC was in favor of the Iraq war and 'pushed this war from the beginning.' And he claimed that on the Iraq war, AIPAC didn't represent 'the mainstream of American Jewish thinking at all.'
Moran had other things to say--much of it having to do with AIPAC's lobbying on U.S. relations to Iran. And what he said here was partly right (AIPAC did lobby successfully against restrictions on George W. Bush's war-making authority) and partly wrong (AIPAC hasn't advocated going to war with Iran, although its lobbying could pave the way for the Bush administration to take military action.) But Moran's critics focused on his statements about U.S. policy toward Iraq and about the power of AIPAC.
Ira Forman, the executive director of the National Jewish Democratic Council, said, 'While there is nothing wrong with criticizing AIPAC--or for that matter any organization with which you disagree--spreading false statements is clearly irresponsible. At a time when Professors Walt and Mearsheimer are attempting to defame the so-called Israel Lobby with a phony connection between the pro-Israel community and the Iraq War, Representative Moran's comments are not only incorrect and irresponsible--they are downright dangerous.' Ronald Halber, the executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington, accused Moran of using 'clearly anti-Semitic images such as Jewish control of the media and wealthy Jews using their wealth to control policy.'

oran's Congressional colleagues joined the fray. 'Unfortunately, Jim Moran has made it a habit now to lash out to the American Jewish community. I think his remarks are reprehensible,' Virginia Representative Eric Cantor said in a press conference. 'I think his remarks are anachronistic and hearken back to the day of Adolf Hitler ... of 'Mein Kampf,' of ... a resurgent anti-Semitic sentiment worldwide.' House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer demanded that Moran retract his comments, and sixteen Jewish House Democrats, including Henry Waxman, Rahm Emanuel, and Barney Frank, sent the Northern Virginia Democrat a letter charging that his 'assertions are irresponsible and have absolutely no basis in fact ... The idea that the war in Iraq began because of the influence of Jewish Americans is factually incorrect and unfortunately fits the anti-Semitic stereotypes some have used historically against Jews.' They also objected to Moran drawing a distinction between AIPAC's opinions and those of mainstream Jewry.

What most of Moran's critics singled out was what Moran asserted to be AIPAC's role in promoting the Iraq war. But Moran did not say in his interview that the 'war in Iraq began because of the influence of Jewish-Americans.' He made a specific charge about AIPAC's lobbying for the war. And he didn't say, as Walt and Mearsheimer do, that Israel or the Israel lobby was behind the war. He said that AIPAC 'pushed this war from the beginning.'
Is that true? At the time, a Senate staff person with a responsibility for foreign policy told me of AIPAC's lobbying. But I don't have to rely on my memory. AIPAC's lobbying wasn't widely reported because AIPAC didn't want Arab states, whose support the Bush administration was soliciting, to be able to tie Bush's plans to Israel, but it lobbied nonetheless. In September 2002, before Congress had begun considering the administration's proposal authorizing force with Iraq, Rebecca Needler, a spokeswoman for AIPAC, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, 'If the president asks Congress to support action in Iraq, AIPAC would lobby members of Congress to support him.' Then at an AIPAC meeting in New York in January 2003, before the war began, but after Congress had voted to authorize Bush to go to war, Howard Kohr, AIPAC's executive director, boasted of AIPAC's success in lobbying for the war. Reported the New York Sun, 'According to Mr. Kohr, AIPAC's successes over the past year also include guaranteeing Israel's annual aid package and 'quietly' lobbying Congress to approve the use of force in Iraq.' (AIPAC's spokesman Josh Block insists that the organization did no lobbying and that Kohr was misquoted.)
What about Moran's other statements? Is AIPAC an extremely powerful organization? In 1998, Fortune ranked AIPAC as the second most powerful lobby in Washington. In 2005, the National Journal also ranked it second. Jeffrey Goldberg wrote in The New Yorker in 2005, AIPAC 'is a leviathan among lobbies, as influential in its sphere as the National Rifle Association and the American Association of Retired Persons are in theirs, although it is, by comparison, much smaller.' Are many of AIPAC's members wealthy? They certainly are--at least, to judge by the attendance at its conferences, its leadership, and by the amount of money it raises. It exercises its political influence primarily through recommending candidates to friendly PACs (AIPAC is not itself a PAC) and individuals. The Center for Responsive Politics estimates that in 2006, 'pro-Israel' individuals and PACs (the term used for these friendly groups and individuals) donated $10,832,291 to candidates. AIPAC-influence money was very important in the defeat of Illinois Senator Charles Percy in 1984 and Alabama Representative Earl Hilliard in 2002. Influence on the media? From my knowledge, yes, but I can't cite any figures here.
Finally, can one detect, as Moran claimed, a difference between AIPAC's views and those of the Jewish mainstream? On going to war with Iraq, I'm not so sure. According to the American Jewish Committee's annual survey, released in January 2003, 59 percent of Americans Jews approved and 36 percent disapproved of the United States taking military action against Iraq. So I am not sure whether AIPAC was out of the American Jewish mainstream in 2002 when it quietly lobbied to authorize a war with Iraq. But Moran's error on this point hardly justifies comparing him to Hitler.
These hyperbolic charges against Moran may indicate a certain amount of score settling for Moran's past statements: Critics of Moran, who earlier took offense at his statements about Jews, jumped on him for this one because they saw it as recurrence of what he had said before. Or perhaps--more ominously--the harsh response on Capitol Hill proves exactly Moran's point about the pervasive influence of AIPAC and the reluctance of any politician to cross the organization. Whatever the reason, the effect of these charges will be to discourage anyone, or any publication, from criticizing AIPAC for fear of being branded anti-Semitic.

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Thursday, October 04, 2007

Thursday, October 4, 2007
‘The Israel Lobby’ Goes International
Marc Perelman | Wed. Oct 03, 2007

After hitting Europe earlier this month, “The Israel Lobby” is preparing for a frontal assault on the Muslim world.

The controversial book by American academics Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer, who accuse the pro-Israel lobby of hijacking American policy, hit bookstores in Europe in September and soon will be published across the Arab world and in Indonesia, the most populous Muslim country in the world.

Hebrew-only readers, however, will have to wait. To date, no Israeli publishing house has agreed to translate the book.

“We are hoping that the most liberal publishers in Israel might consider publishing it, however, it has proven very difficult,” said Christine Hsu, assistant to Walt and Mearsheimer’s agent at the William Morris Agency, Raffaella De Angelis. The agency declined to be more specific.

The book will be translated into Arabic by All-Prints, a Beirut-based publisher that also translates books from the likes of the late anti-Zionist Israel Shahak, soccer star David Beckham and Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf. Readers in Indonesia, where some 220 million Muslims live, will be able to buy it from Pustaka Utama a mainstream publisher. And in an indication of the strong interest the book is attracting in Europe, it is being translated into German, Dutch, Danish, French, Italian, Spanish and even Catalan.

“The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy” is an extended version of an article that appeared last year in The London Review of Books and on the Web site of Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. The two scholars contend that a wide array of Jewish and pro-Israel groups has tilted American foreign policy in favor of Israel to the point of endangering America’s national security.

In recent weeks, the authors have been crisscrossing the United States, where they have been criticized for having an anti-Israel agenda and for shoddy research, but also hailed for provoking a long overdue debate about Israel’s influence on American policymaking.

The controversy has been covered heavily by the foreign media, particularly in the Arab world on television channels such as Al Jazeera, on which both authors have appeared.

“Books don’t sell all that well in the Arab world, where the tradition is more oral and visual,” said Shibley Telhami, a professor at the University of Maryland and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. “But people are aware of it because of satellite TV.”

While no information was available as of press time about a Walt-Mearsheimer book tour in Muslim countries, the authors are embarking on a European visit next month, with speaking engagements scheduled at prestigious universities and think-tanks in Amsterdam, Berlin, Paris, Vienna and London. In London, they will also have an event at the House of Lords.

In Germany, where the book was released September 4 and received mixed reviews in the media, the publisher opted not to hold a promotional debate after the organization that was asked to host the event proposed inviting critics of the book. The publisher, Campus, did not return calls seeking comment.

A similar issue arose in the United States when the Forward rejected a proposal by publisher Farrar, Straus and Giroux to host a debate on the book. The Forward instead proposed to be a participant in a conversation with the authors.

“I am concerned about the indirect impact this book could have,” said Deidre Berger, director of the American Jewish Committee’s office in Berlin. “It reinforces stereotypes in Germany that are probably even stronger than in the U.S. about the alleged influence of Jewish organizations on American foreign policy.”

Wed. Oct 03, 2007


Labels: Europe, Israel, Israel lobby, Mearsheimer, Muslims, US foreign policy, Walt, Zionism

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