12 May 2002
The following articles were sent to us at the Grenoble Research Center
the Advanced Study of American Institutions and Social Movements:
Professor Edward Herman's efforts to introduce debate and new analysis
the U.S.-Middle East military link serves as a major intellectual
contribution to any informed discussion of contemporary U.S. foreign
policy. Below is his recent effort to inform the public through a letter to
the New York Times (which was not published).
Professor Richard DuBoff has forwarded to us by attachment an ironic
version of a U.S. military "Recruiting Poster" for the contemporary "War on
Terrorism," reflecting the contradictions that have given rise to a new
anti-war movement in America.
Finally, the article, "After Jenin," by Israeli poet Yitzhak Laor (which
was published in the London Review of Books) gives testimony to the
colonization policies of the accused-war-criminal Ariel Sharon, and to the
people who must pay for these crimes.
From Ed Herman
To the Editor May 10, 2002
New York Times
To the Editor:
Mr. Thomas Friedman tells us that "With the fall of the Berlin
Wall, America began to press more vigorously for democracy and
human rights in countries like Indonesia....Indonesians were
listening, and in 1998 they toppled Mr. Suharto and erected their
first electoral democracy." ("The War on What?," May 8) This claim
is called into question by the steady U.S. sales of weapons and
military training programs for Indonesia during the 1990s, which
did not terminate until only days before Suharto's ouster. It is
also contradicted by the warm greeting Mr. Suharto received on his
Washington visit in 1995, when a senior Clinton administration
official told the Times that Suharto is "our kind of guy" (David
Sanger, "Real Politics: Why Suharto Is In and Castro Is Out," NYT,
Oct. 3, 1995).
Mr. Friedman himself seems to have changed his mind on this
subject: back in May 1998, he explained the continuing U.S. support
of the Suharto dictatorship on the ground that "The U.S. thought
that demanding political change was not an option," given the
threat of "sliding into chaos." He contended then that this policy
had been "wrong." ("Indonesian Meltdown, May 16, 1998). His
explanation of the fall of Suharto in 1998 was "market forces," not
any U.S. help toward democratization ("Where's The Crisis?," May
Mr. Friedman's shift in the interim clearly represents a triumph
of ideology over an awkward truth.
Edward S. Herman
Penn Valley, PA. 19072
From Richard DuBoff
by Yitzhak Laor (*)
London Review of Books,
What has the war between us and the
Palestinians been about? About the
Israeli attempt to slice what's left of Palestine into four cantons, by
building 'separation roads', new settlements and checkpoints. The rest is
killing, terror, curfew, house demolitions and propaganda. Palestinian
children live in fear and despair, their parents humiliated in front of
them. Palestinian society is being dismantled, and public opinion in the
West blames it on the victims - always the easiest way to face the horror.
I know: my father was a German Jew.
Disastrously, the Israel Defence
Force is the country's imago. In the eyes
of most Israelis, it is pure, stainless; worse, it is seen as being above
any political interest. Yet, like every army, it wants war, at least every
once in a while. But whereas in other countries military power is balanced
by civil society's institutions or by parts of the state itself (industry,
banks, political parties etc), we in Israel have no such balance. The IDF
has no real rival within the state, not even when the Army's policy costs
us our own lives (the lives of Palestinians, not to mention their welfare
or dignity, are excluded from political discourse). There's no doubt that
Israel's 'assassination policy' - its killing of senior politicians (Dr
Thabet Thabet from Tulkarem, Abu Ali Mustafa from Ramallah) or of
'terrorists' (sometimes labelled as such only after being eliminated) - has
poured petrol on the fire. People talk about it, yet no politician from the
Right, the Centre, or even from the declining Zionist Left has dared speak
out against it. And despite critical articles in the press, the Army has
kept on doing what it wanted to do. Now they have had what they were really
aiming for: an all-out attack on the West Bank.
Since 11 September the words 'war
against terror' have been popular, which
is why everything Israel does is a war against terror, including the
looting of the Khalil Sakakini Cultural Centre in Ramallah. I'm against
terror, too. I don't want to die walking my son to the mall. In fact I
don't take him there anymore. I don't ride buses, and I'm scared that my
family's turn will come, but I know that they - that is, our generals -
accept terrorist attacks as a 'reasonable price to pay' to reach a
solution. What is their solution? Peace - what else? Peace between the
victorious Israelis and the defeated Palestinians.
The IDF's ruthlessness should be
read against the background of its defeat
in Lebanon, when it was driven out after long years of waging a dirty war.
Southern Lebanon was burned and destroyed by artillery and an Air Force
that no terrorist organisation could fight against. Yet 300 partisans -
should I call them 'terrorists'? - drove us (that is, our Army) out twice.
First in 1985, back into what our Army and press used to call our 'Security
Zone' (the foreign media called it 'Israel's self-proclaimed security
zone'); and then, two years ago, out of that same Security Zone. The
generals who were beaten then are running the current war. They have lived
that defeat every day. And now they can teach them - that is, the Arabs -
their lesson. Our heroes, armed with planes, helicopters and tanks, can
arrest hundreds of people, concentrate them in camps behind barbed wire,
without blankets or shelter, exploit the confusion to demolish more houses,
fell more trees, take away more livelihoods. The bulldozer, once a symbol
of the building of a new country, has become a monster following the tanks,
so that everybody can watch as another family's home, another future
Israelis look to punish anyone who
undermines our image of ourselves as
victims. Nobody is allowed to take this image from us, especially not in
the context of the war with the Palestinians, who are waging a war on 'our
home' - that is, their 'non-home'. When a Cabinet minister from a former
socialist republic compared Yasir Arafat to Hitler, he was applauded. Why?
Because this is the way the world should see us, rising from the ashes.
This is why we love Claude Lanzmann's Shoah (and even more his disgusting
film about the IDF) and Schindler's List. Tell us more about ourselves as
victims, and how we must be forgiven for every atrocity we commit. As my
friend Tanya Reinhart has written, 'it seems that what we have
internalised' of the memory of the Holocaust 'is that any evil whose extent
is smaller is acceptable'.
But this 'evil of the past' has a
peculiar way of entering our present
life. On 25 January, three months before the IDF got its licence to invade
the West Bank, Amir Oren, a senior military commentator for Ha'aretz,
quoted a senior officer:
"In order to prepare properly for
the next campaign, one of the Israeli
officers in the territories said not long ago that it is justified and in
fact essential to learn from every possible source. If the mission is to
seize a densely populated refugee camp, or take over the kasbah in Nablus,
and if the commander's obligation is to try to execute the mission without
casualties on either side, then he must first analyse and internalise the
lessons of earlier battles - even, however shocking it may sound, even how
the German Army fought in the Warsaw Ghetto.
"The officer indeed succeeded in
shocking others, not least because he is
not alone in taking this approach. Many of his comrades agree that in order
to save Israelis now, it is right to make use of knowledge that originated
in that terrible war, whose victims were their kin."
Israel may not have a colonial past
but we do have our memory of evil. Does
this explain why Israeli soldiers stamped ID numbers on Palestinian arms?
Or why the most recent Holocaust Day drew a ridiculous comparison between
those of us in the besieged Warsaw Ghetto and those of us surrounding the
besieged Jenin refugee camp?
The satisfaction over the 'victory'
in Jenin was part of this constant lie.
Some twenty Israeli soldiers (most of them reservists) died in what was
supposed to be a zero-casualty campaign, but the defenders of the camp were
equipped only with rifles and explosives. On the Israeli side, as usual,
there were special units, moving from one alleyway to another, assisted by
a drone which supplied sophisticated information to the commanders at the
rear. When that didn't work, there was the shelling of the camp, then the
deployment of US-supplied Apaches to destroy houses along with dozens (or
hundreds) of inhabitants. Was it a massacre? Like everything else in our
corrupted life, it comes down to the number of dead: ten dead Israelis are
a massacre; 50 Palestinians not enough to count.
The destruction of the camp, whether
spontaneous or premeditated by Sharon
& Co, reflects the determination of senior officers to finish their
military service with a real achievement: the elimination of the
Palestinian national movement, under the guise of the war against terror.
But terror won't be beaten that way; on the contrary. Enslaving a nation,
bringing it to its knees, simply doesn't work. It never did. The long siege
of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem is proof that the words 'Israeli
generals' no longer refer to men capable of strategic thought, or anything
like it. Israeli generals may have fought some complicated battles in 1967,
1973 or even 1982, but in Bethlehem they have surrounded 200 young
Palestinians for more than three weeks and let the whole world see their
stubbornness and senseless cruelty. How, you may ask, can a disobedient
nation like Israel follow so foolish a high command?
Here's the beginning of an answer.
As the corpses lay rotting in Jenin, and
small children were running around looking for food or their missing
parents, and the wounded were still bleeding to death, with the IDF
preventing any relief or UN officials from entering the camp (what did they
have to hide?), the Ministry of Education issued an instruction to all
schools that children should bring in parcels for the soldiers. 'The most
important thing,' the teacher of my seven-year-old son said, 'is a letter
for the soldiers.' Hundreds of thousands of children wrote such letters
when the war against a civilian population was at its most extreme, under
the critical observation of the world media. Imagine the ideological
commitment of those children in the future. This is just one aspect of our
The Israeli imaginaire is constituted, before anything else, of the belief
in Israeli supremacy. When there is a cruel suicide bombing in a hotel in
Netanya, we will respond on a greater scale, with a terrorist attack on
them, no matter if it inflicts death or hunger on two million people who
have no connection with that act, no matter if it will create a thousand
more martyrs who will blow themselves up along with their victims. The
military logic behind this behaviour says: 'We have the power and we have
to exercise it, otherwise our existence is in danger.' But the only danger
is the danger facing the Palestinians. Gas chambers are not the only way to
destroy a nation. It is enough to destroy its social tissue, to starve
dozens of villages, to develop high rates of infant mortality. The West
Bank is going through a Gaza-isation. Please don't shrug your shoulders.
The one thing that might help to destroy the consensus in Israel is
pressure from Western Europe, on which the Israeli elite is dependent in so
(*)Yitzhak Laor is an Israeli poet and writer.