Bulletin N°296


23 March 2007
Grenoble, France

Dear Colleagues and Friends of CEIMSA,
Our future is fraught with dangers, both real and imaginary. We seem to detect a slow but irreversible mental awakening, a critical consciousness which is appearing and beginning to differentiate the real from the imaginary. If true, this is a positive sign. The magnitude of the problems is great, and the failure of political leadership in the United States to grasp the causes of these problems or to seek solutions is disquieting.

Below are five items we received recently which speak to this awakening of a moral conscience in the world. It is hopefully the beginning of the end of an era of venal leadership and cruel repression.

Item A., from American historian Jim O'Brien, is a testimony on the recent resolution voted by the American Historical Association which condemns the criminal activities of the U.S. government and the morally reprehensible continuation of the U.S. imperialist war in the Middle East.
Item B. is an article by Gabriel Kolko explaining the self-destructive behavior of the Israeli ruling elite and the greater danger they represent to the world.
Item C., sent to us by Edward Herman, is a description by Ran HaCohen of the brutal operations inflicted on Palestinians ironically by "Israeli Defense Forces".
Item D. is a farewell written by Noam Chomsky to peace activist and linguistic scholar, Dr. Tanya Reinhart, author of Roadmap to Nowhere, who died earlier this month in Israel, at the age of 63.
And item E., from George Kenney, is an audio interview on the Internet program, Electric Politics, with University of Toronto Professor Thomas Homer-Dixon, author of The Upside of Down, a global history of resource mismanagement and the self-defeating values of catastrophe-makers, in the capitalist era and before, who actually threaten the extinction of our species in the first decades of this century.

Finally, we recommend to our readers the Robert Greenwald documentary film : Wal-Mart, High Cost of Low Prices.

Francis McCollum Feeley
Professor of American Studies/
Director of Research
Universit Stendhal-Grenoble III

from Jim O'Brien
Date 19 March 2007
Subject: press release on the AHA antiwar vote

Historians Against the War sent out the following press release last week.  HAW members are encouraged to share it with others, including colleagues in other countries who may find this stand by US historians to be encouraging. 

March 13, 2007                   
Contact: Alan Dawley, 215-843-6754  
or Shanti Singham, 773-343-2103                                                                                                                                                                             

American Historical Association Denounces the War in Iraq

In an unprecedented step, the nation's oldest and largest professional association of historians, the American Historical Association (AHA), has ratified a resolution condemning government violations of civil liberties linked to the war in Iraq. The resolution urges members "to do whatever they can to bring the Iraq war to a speedy conclusion."

In electronic balloting whose results were announced on March 12, over 75 percent of those voting supported the resolution, which was originally proposed by members of Historians Against the War (HAW), a national network of over two thousand scholars on more than four hundred campuses.

The resolution had gained earlier acceptance from members attending the AHA's annual meeting in Atlanta on January 6, 2007, and from the AHA Council, which decided to send the resolution out for ratification because of its sensitive nature. 

"The outcome indicates the deep disquiet scholars feel about damage done to scholarly inquiry and democratic processes by this misbegotten war," said Alan Dawley, Professor of History at The College of New Jersey and a former winner of the prestigious Bancroft Prize, who was the initial mover of the resolution.

The American Historical Association was chartered by Congress in 1889. Past presidents include two United States presidents who were also historians, Woodrow Wilson and Theodore Roosevelt. President John F. Kennedy was also a member. According to current members, there is no instance in its 118-year history when the AHA has dissented from U.S. foreign policy.

In the weeks leading to the vote, many of the nation's leading historians, such as Eric Foner of Columbia University and John Coatsworth of Harvard, both former AHA Presidents, endorsed the resolution. More than one hundred and fifty historians joined an on-line signature list for a supporting letter contained in the New York Review of Books March 15 edition (www.nybooks.com/articles/19930).

For more information on the AHA and the resolution, go to www.historians.org/.  For more information on Historians Against the War, go to www.historiansagainstwar.org

from Gabriel Kolko
March 19, 2007

Israel's Last Chance

by Gabriel Kolko

The United States has given Israel $51.3 billion in military grants since 1949, most of it after 1974 more than any other country in the post-1945 era. Israel has also received $11.2 billion in loans for military equipment, plus $31 billion in economic grants, not to mention loan guarantees or joint military projects. But major conditions on these military grants have meant that 74 percent of it has remained in the U.S. to purchase American arms. Since it creates jobs and profits in many districts, Congress is more than ready to respond to the cajoling of the Israel lobby. This vast sum has both enabled and forced Israel to prepare to fight an American-style war. But the US since 1950 has failed to win any of its big wars.

In early 2005 the new chief of staff of the Israel Defense Force, Dan Halutz, embarked on the most extensive reorganization in the history of IDF. Halutz is an Air Force general and enamored with the doctrines that justify the ultra-modern equipment the Americans showered upon the Israelis. Attack helicopters, unmanned aircraft, advanced long-range intelligence and communications, and the like were at the top of his agenda. His was merely a variation of Donald Rumsfelds "shock and awe" concepts.

The 34-day war in Lebanon, starting July 12 last year, was a disastrous turning point for Israel. Until the Eliyahu Winograd Commission, which Olmert set up in September 2006, delivers its interim report in late April which will cover the first five days of the war only and resolves these matters, we will not know precisely the orders sent to specific units or the timing of all of the actors, but there is already a consensus on far more important fundamentals. But the Israelis did not lose the war because of orders given or not given to various officers. It was a war of choice, and it was planned as an air war with very limited ground incursions in the expectation that Israeli casualties would be very low. Major General Herzl Sapir at the end of February said that "the war began at our initiative and we did not take advantage of the benefits granted to the initiator." Planning for the war began November 2005 but reached high gear by the following March before the expected kidnapping of two IDF soldiers the nominal excuse for the war. There is no controversy over the fact that it was a digitized, networked war, the first in Israels experience, and conformed to Halutz and American theories of how war is fought in this high-tech era. The US fought identical wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and is in the process of losing both.

What were the Israeli objectives? war aims, if you will. While the Winograd Commission report may clarify this question, at the very least a number of goals are known already. Halutz wanted to "shock and awe" the Hezbollah and their allies with Israeli power all within a few days. There were lesser aims, such as moving the Hezbollah rockets well away from the borders or even getting its two kidnapped soldiers returned, but at the very least Halutz wanted to make a critical point.

Instead, he revealed Israels vulnerability based, in large part, on the fact the enemy was far better prepared, motivated, and equipped. It was the end of a crucial myth, the harbinger of yet more bloody, but equal, armed conflicts or a balance of power conducive to negotiations. Olmert and his generals very likely expected to have a great victory within five days, thereby increasing his popularity with the hawkish Jewish population that is a growing majority of the voters, to reverse his abysmally low poll ratings, thereby saving his political career he received three percent popularity in a TV poll in early March.

There are many reasons the Israelis lost the war in Lebanon, but there is general agreement within Israel that the war ended in disaster and the deterrent value of the once unbeatable, super-armed IDF gravely diminished in the entire Arab world for the first time since 1947. But the Israelis were defeated for many of the same reasons that have caused the Americans to lose the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and in Vietnam as well. Both their doctrine and equipment were ill suited for the realities they confronted. There was no centralized command structure to destroy but small groups, lightly armed, mobile, and decentralized, able to harass and ultimately prevail. The Hezbollah also had highly effective Russian anti-tank missiles, and the IDF admits that "several dozen" tanks were put out of commission, if not destroyed, including the Merkava Mark IV, which Israel claims in the best protected tank in the world and which it seeks to export. They also fired around 4,000 rockets at Israeli population centers and the IDF could not stop this demoralizing harassment. Hezbollah bunkers and arsenals were largely immune to air attacks, which caused the Israelis to "stretch the target envelope" to attack densely populated areas, with over 1,000 civilian dead. "Israel lost the war in the first three days," an American military expert concluded, expressing a consensus shared by many US Air Force analysts. "If you have that kind of surprise and you have that kind of firepower you had better win. Otherwise, youre in for the long haul."

The problem, though, was not merely a new Arab prowess, though changes in their morale and fighting organizations should not be minimized. Halutz drastic reorganization of the IDF since early 2005, one that was supposed to attain the promises of all its American-supplied equipment, "caused," in General Sapirs words, "a terrible distortion." The IDF was an organizational mess, demoralized as never before, and on January 17, 2007 Halutz resigned, the first head of the IDF to voluntarily step down because of his leadership in war. Had he not resigned he would have been fired. His successor quickly annulled his reorganization of the IDF, which is now sorely disorganized. The American way of warfare had failed.

The Next War

The Lebanon War is only a harbinger of Israeli defeats to come. For the first time there is a rough equivalence in military power.

Technology everywhere is now moving far faster than the diplomatic and political resources or will to control its inevitable consequences. Hezbollah has far better and more rockets over 10,000 short-range rockets is one figure given than it had a few years ago, and Israels military intelligence believes it has more firepower than it had last spring, before it was attacked. Israel has failed to convince Russia not to sell or give their highly effective anti-tank missiles to nations or movements in the region. They fear that even Hamas will acquire them. Syria is procuring "thousands" of advanced anti-tank missiles from Russia, which can be fired from five kilometers away, as well as far better rockets that can hit Israeli cities.

If the challenges of producing a realistic concept of the world that confronts the mounting dangers and limits of military technology seriously are not resolved soon there is nothing more than wars to look forward to. The IDF intelligence branch does not think a war with Syria is likely in 2007; other Israeli military commentators think that any war with Syria would produce, at best, a bloody standoff just like the war in Lebanon last summer. Israel has about 3,700 tanks and they are all now highly vulnerable. Its ultra-modern air arm, most of which the US has provided, only kills people but it cannot attain victory.

The New Israel A 'Normal' Nation

In the past, wars produced victories and more territory for the Jews; now they will only produce disasters for everybody. The Lebanon War proved that.

Zionism was a concoction of Viennese coffee houses, Tolstoys idealization of labor, early ecological sentiment in the form of the wanderfogel that influenced Zionism but various fascistic movements as well, militarism, and varieties of socialism for parts of it, including bolshevism. Jews sought to go to Palestine not only because of the Holocaust but also the changes in American immigration laws in the first half of the 1920s. Without the vast sums the Diaspora provided, Zionism would never have come to fruition. Every nation has its distinctive personality reflecting its traditions, pretensions, and historys caprices, and in this regard Israel is no different. It exists but it is becoming increasingly dangerous to world peace and to itself.

Zionism always had a military ethos, imposed only in part by Arab hostility, and from the inception of Zionisms history its political and military leaders were one and the same. Generals were heroes and they did well in politics. The logic of force merged with an essentially Western, colonialist bias. Its founders were Europeans, and it was an outpost of European culture until the globalization of values and products made these cultural distinctions increasingly irrelevant. It always has been a militarist society, proud of its fighters. And notwithstanding the Cold War and the increasing flow of arms from the US, which, merged with its lan, meant it won all its post-1947 wars until last summer, it still retains a strong element of hysteria about the world it faced. And it is often messianic especially its politicians because messianism is very much influential among a growing portion of the religious and traditional population.

Israel has ceased being "Zionist" in the original sense of that ideology. For the sake of ceremony it retains Zionism as a label, just as many actual or aspiring nations have various myths which justify their claims to a national identity. But it is a long way from the original premises, in large part because its war with its neighbors especially the Arabs who live in its midst or nearby made its military ethos dominant over everything else.

Israel today is well on its way to becoming a failed state. Were it not for the fact that this outpost of fewer than five million Jews is a critical factor of war and peace in a much larger and vital region it would not be important or at all unusual. But it is terribly confused and has a very mixed identity; the US has since the late 1960s protected it. World peace now depends on this place, its idiosyncrasies, personality, and growing contradictions.

Israel is a profoundly divided society and its politicians are venal cynics. Many nations and surely the Palestinian leaders until Hamas, by default, took over are no different. As Shlomo Ben-Ami, the former foreign minister, describes it, on one side there are economically disadvantaged Oriental Jews, Russian nationalists who were motivated above all by a desire to leave the USSR (an appreciable minority is not Jewish), and Orthodox Jews of every sort united only by their intense dislike of "assimilationists"; on the other hand we have secular Jews, some leftists and modernizers, more skilled and of East European parentage who were once crucial in the formation of Zionism. There are an increasing number of "Jerusalem-Jews," as Ben-Ami calls them, motivated to come primarily by economic incentives, and they are bringing the Right to power more and more often. They fear the Arabs who live in Israel. "Tel Aviv" Jews are assimilating to a global, modernizing culture, more akin to the "normal" existence the early Zionists preached, and they are also the emigrants out because they have high skills. Israel now has as many people leaving as immigrate to it, and North America alone is home to up to a million of them.

Some indications of these trends range from the banal to the tragic. There are all varieties of punks, gays, everything. As for the ultra-Orthodox, some have placed "curses" on those who advocate disengaging from any settlements in the West Bank or Gaza; they will be punished by heaven. One of four ultra-Orthodox Jews believes this is precisely why Sharon was struck with a coma. Martin van Creveld, professor of military history at the Hebrew University and friend of many IDF leaders, whose fame was made studying the role of morale in armies, thinks the morale of the conscripts in the IDF is "almost to the vanishing point; in some cases crybabies have taken the place of soldiers." "Feminism" in the armed forces has intensified the rot, but "social developments" have destroyed much of the army as have officers "who stayed behind their computers" last summer.

Never before has Israel been wracked by so many demoralizing scandals. The president of Israel just resigned because of rape charges against him, Prime Minister Olmert is being investigated by the comptrollers office on four charges of corruption, the new chief of police was once accused of accepting bribes and fraud and his appointment has created an uproar, and other sordid cases too numerous to cite. Israel is "stewing in its own rot," a Haaretz writer concluded; the police, retired judge Vardi Zeiler commented after heading a committee to investigate the states operation, were like Sicily and the state was on its way to becoming a mafia-style regime.

In this anarchy wars are motivated for political reasons but now they are lost because the society is disintegrating and again to quote a Haaretz writer the government "lacks both direction and a conscience." Worse yet, its leaders are incredibly stupid and Olmert can only be compared to Bush in political intelligence. There is a consensus among Israeli strategists that the Iraq War was a disaster for Israel, a geopolitical gift to Iran that will leave Israel in ever-greater danger long after the Americans go home. "Israel has nothing to gain from a continued American presence in Iraq," the director of the Institute for National Security Studies of Tel Aviv University stated last January. The US ousted the Taliban from Afghanistan and Saddam Hussein from Iraq and created an overwhelming Iranian strategic domination. Its campaign for democracy has brought Hamas to power in Palestine. "It's a total misreading of reality," one Israeli expert is quoted when discussing America's role in the region. American policies have failed and Israel has given a carte blanche to a strategy that leaves it more isolated than ever.

Notwithstanding this consensus, on March 12th Olmert told the American Israel Public Affairs annual conference by video link "Those who are concerned for Israels securityshould recognize the need for American success in Iraq and responsible exit." "Any outcome that will not help Americas strengthwouldundercut Americas ability to deal effectively with the threat posed by the Iranian regime." His foreign minister was even stronger. "Stay the hell out of it," a Haaretz writer concluded. No group is more antiwar than American Jews, Congress in its own inept way is trying to bring the war to an end, his own strategists think the Iraq War was a disaster and Olmert endorses Bushs folly.

The Syrian Option

It is in this context that the peace of the region will or will not evolve. Olmert will do what is best for his political position domestically, and retaining power will be his priority no less than his predecessors and most politicians everywhere. It is not at all promising. But for technical, social, and morale reasons Israel will not win another war. At every level, it has become far weaker. It can inflict frightful damage on its enemies but it cannot change the fundamental balance of all forces that lead to victory.

Making peace with Syria would be a crucial first step for Israel, and although the Palestinian problem would remain it would nonetheless vastly improve Israels security and disprove the Bushs Administrations contention until very recently that negotiations with Syria or Iran on any Middle East question involves conceding to evil. The Israeli press reported in great detail the secret 2004-05 Israel-Syria negotiations, which were very advanced and involved major Syrian concessions especially on water and Syrian neutrality in a host of political controversies with the Palestinians and Iranians. It also reported that Washington followed these talks closely and that it especially Cheneys office opposed bringing them to a successful conclusion. At the end of January many important members of Israels foreign policy establishment publicly urged reopening these talks.

Olmert dismissed Syrias gestures categorically after they became public. "Dont even think about it" was Secretary of State Rices view of a treaty when she saw Israeli officials in mid-February. But though Mossad supports the obdurate Rice-Olmert view, military intelligence argues that Syrias offers are sincere and serious. Moreover, intelligences head warned that Syria is growing stronger and peace was very much to Israels interest. He was supported by most of the Foreign and Defense ministries, including Minister of Defense Amir Peretz. Olmert demanded, and got, their acquiescence.

A treaty could be finalized with Syria within four to six months, Alon Liel, former director general of the Israeli Foreign Ministry who negotiated with the Syrians, reported the Washington Times on March 7. Liel was asked to come to the US embassy in Tel Aviv about this time and tell the entire political staff of his talks. The reports in Haaretz, which included the draft treaty, were by then quite definitive. Then the Knesset, Israels parliament, invited Ibrahim Suleiman, Syrias representative to the talks, to speak to the foreign affairs and defense committees. Such invitations are very rare, not least because Syria and Israel are legally in a state of war. But if the Syrians and Israelis go to war again, the normally hawkish Martin van Creveld concluded at this time, Israel "could wreak much destruction, but it could not force a decision." In three or four years the Syrians would be ready for a protracted war that would prove too much for Israel. After running through his bizarre alternatives, and the state of the IDFs morale, van Creveld concluded that reaching a peace with Syria was very much to Israels interests and that even the Americans were coming to the position that talking to Syria and Iran (as the Baker-Hamilton panel had recommended last December) was rational.

Syria has been attempting desperately to improve its relations with Washington, if only to forestall some mad act on the US part. When Israel attacked Lebanon last July, Elliott Abrams, in charge of the Middle East at the National Security Council, along with other neocons in Washington, urged it to expand the war to Syria. At the end of February Syria renewed its appeal to the US to discuss any and all Middle East issues with it in "a serious and profound dialogue." For over two years it has made similar attempts; Baker knew all about these. Talking to alleged adversaries is perhaps the most fundamental point of difference between Cheney, his neocon alliance, and Rice, and it covers North Korea, Iran, and many other places. The debate is less the nature and goals of American foreign policy but how to conduct it by the application of material power and even the threat of war versus more traditional means, such as diplomacy.

In the past several weeks, taking her cue from the Republican Establishment in the Iraq Study Group last December, Rice has been winning points in this debate but her successes are fragile. Cheney is a powerful, determined and cunning man who knows how to succeed all too well with the president.

Americas overwhelming problem is Iraq and, above all, Iran, and apparently the Bush Administration has now decided that Syria can help it in the region. Ellen Sauerbrey, an Assistant Secretary of State, was in Damascus on March 12, nominally to discuss refugees but she heard from the Syrians "that all the questions are linked in the Arab region and that a comprehensive dialogue is needed on all these questions." Syria has also mobilized the European Union, which now favors a return of the Golan Heights to it. On March 13 the US ambassador to Israel publicly stated a bald lie that the Americans had never "expressed an opinion on what Israel should or should not do with regard to Syria."

It is now entirely in the hands of the Olmert government whether to negotiate with Syria.

Israel has ignored Washington on at least four very important issues, starting with the Sinai campaign in 1956, and acted in its own self-interest. The Americans were Olmerts alibi but he can use them no more. There are other crucial issues, such as the Saudi plan for the resolution of the Palestine question, and never has Israel had a greater need for peace than at the present. Instead, like the US, its head of state may be the worst in its history, motivated by short-term political advantage and a consummate desire to retain power.

But the Syrian option is there for the taking. If there is war then the brain drain out will accelerate and migration in will fall; demography will take over. Israel will then become the only place in the world a Jew is in danger precisely because he or she is a Jew. If this opportunity is lost there will eventually be a mutually destructive war that no one will win the Lebanon War proved that Israel must now confront the fact that its neighbors are becoming its military equals and US aid cannot save it.

Indeed, Americas free gifts enabled Israel to begin a war last July with illusions identical to those that also caused the Bush Administration to embark on its Iraq folly.

from Edward Herman :
Subject: FW: How to Live With Hunger  ran HaCohen
Date: Mon, 19 Mar 2007

One of the finest voices of decency in Israel--who won't be heard in the United States.

How to Live With Hunger
by Ran HaCohen

When I was a child, a popular argument in favor of the Israeli "liberation," i.e., occupation, of the Palestinian territories was its being a blessing for the Palestinians themselves. "When we took it over," I was told at school, "there were just a couple of cars in the entire West Bank. And look how many they have now!" Indeed, in the first decades of the Israeli occupation, the Palestinian standard of living was on the rise - not because of Israeli investments (Israel never invested a cent in Palestinian welfare
or infrastructure), but mainly because Israel exploited the Palestinians as a cheap labor force, and even a cheap labor force gets paid.

The welfare argument cannot be heard anymore, now that one in two Gaza and West Bank households is "food insecure" or in danger of becoming so, as a UN
report recently revealed. Not that it changed anything for the Israeli expansionists: once that colonialist argument became obsolete, the supporters of the occupation switched to other excuses. That's the nice thing about the politics of the occupation: the support for it is based on excuses, not reasons. Whenever one excuse fails, Israel's propaganda machine offers another.

It's interesting to observe, however, how Israelis nowadays cope with what used to be such a popular excuse. Having claimed the occupation ameliorated Palestinian life, Israelis now have to face hunger and starvation at their doorstep. How do they live with it?

Starvation Cannot Be Overlooked

Israelis, of course, are human beings. As such, they are seldom indifferent to human suffering. The other week, for example, James Morris, retiring from the United Nations World Food Program, was quoted saying 18,000 children worldwide were starving to death every day. These words, on Israel's popular Hebrew Web site Ynet (Feb. 17), attracted 100 compassionate readers' replies. Many of them simply showed their deep sympathy: "It breaks one's heart," "Terrible," "Inconceivable figure, incredible," "How can one put to bed a hungry child?" to quote just a few. Several readers even asked where one could donate. Others recalled the extreme inequality behind the figures:
"Looks like a billion hungry people don't bother the 5 billion who are not," or, "At the same time, the world's richest swim in their money." Some readers tried to imagine faces behind the figures: "The world doesn't care about black people." Several comments mentioned the role of the media: "This topic doesn't get 10% of the media coverage given to some forgotten wars." Still others tried a deeper analysis, with comments like "Cruel, materialistic world will soon pay the price," or, "Result of capitalism
which leads to social and environmental crises," or even, "All this while the Americans pour $100 billion a year on wars." This was the overwhelming tone of the Israeli reactions to world hunger: human sensitivity, compassion, and empathy, even with some critical political analysis.

Palestinian Plight

A word about the Palestinian plight. The Palestinian territories haven't suffered an earthquake, tsunami, famine, or any other natural disaster in the recent decades. Their constantly deteriorating economic situation is 100-percent man-made. As the UN and many other reports state, the main causes for the poverty are political: namely, Israeli-imposed closures, and the international and Israeli boycott of the PA. The PA is the biggest employer in the Palestinian territories. Boycotting it to the extent of its
being unable to pay wages, in a society crushed by years of Israeli military and economic oppression, inevitably leads to massive poverty. In other words, Israel and the international community are punishing the Palestinian population with hunger for democratically electing the "wrong" party, Hamas. A punishment of biblical dimensions, as suits the Holy Land, with PM Olmert and Condoleezza Rice playing Jehovah.

Overlooking Palestinian Starvation

The UN report on Palestinian "food insecurity" was posted on Ynet too, in a fair synopsis headlined "Half the Palestinians Face Difficulty Getting Food" (Feb. 22), attracting about 75 readers' comments. With just a couple of exceptions (met with scorn and aggression), empathy and compassion are completely missing from the reactions. "Who cares?" one reader writes. "If my grandmother were alive, it might have interested her," says another.

Palestinian suffering is not perceived as a human catastrophe, but as a political argument. It's as if the Israeli propaganda machine managed to turn off the most basic human solidarity within the Israelis, replacing it by cynical sophistry devoid of any humanity. Hungry Palestinians are merely an attack on Israel's righteousness, and they are confronted as such. An overwhelming majority of the readers' letters use one or more of the following ideological strategies:

(1) Outright denial of the suffering: "They look rather chubby on TV." And why not? Denying the facts is always the zealot's refuge.

(2) Palestinians do suffer, but it's good. "Pity, but that's the only way to put them on the right track"; "There will be peace when the other half is hungry too." Here one can clearly see seeds of support for a genocide. Similarly: "[To the] government of Israel: encourage them to get up and go!!!"

(3) Palestinians may be suffering, but it's none of our business. "We pulled out, haven't we? So what have I got to do with it?" one reader asked. The UN report, needless to say, concerns not only Gaza but the West Bank, too; there was no Israeli pullout from the West Bank, but many Israelis would actually like to believe that by caging West Bank Palestinians behind walls, Israel has nothing to do with them either. Interestingly, if this argument were true, one would expect to find a similar compassion to that expressed toward world hunger in general; but this is not the case. For many Israelis, a hungry child in Ghana is a stain on their collective conscience, whereas a hungry child in Gaza - an hour's ride from Jerusalem or Tel Aviv - is simply none of their business.

(4) Palestinians might be suffering, but we Israelis are the real victims. This is a perpetual Israeli propaganda line: the media is "unbalanced" (anti-Semitic, etc.), so our suffering is left out. Exposing its futility, one reader carried out the routine procedure mechanically, comparing the two peoples on an economic level: "One could have made the same survey in Israel and got the same results." Sure thing: Israel's GDP per capita is $26,000, compared with $1,000 in the occupied Palestinian territories.

(5) But this last argument is often combined with the most popular propaganda guideline of all, namely: Always use the magic word "Terror" to turn the Israelis into victims and the Palestinians into "terrorists." "Terrorists" are unworthy of human compassion, not even when they are starving; moreover, their suffering is always their own fault. Dozens of letters fall under this strategy: "Let them stop wasting their money on ammunition"; "Let them go to work instead of throwing stones"; "You support terrorism so enthusiastically - I wish you success with other aspects of life"; "The fact that they've got no food doesn't mean they've got no money to buy it!!!"; "But getting weapons isn't difficult at all"; and so on.

Palestinian "terror" is conceived of as an eternal, inherent, never changing, and unmotivated national trait ("No wonder, after 120 years of terrorism," one reader explains), in which all Palestinians equally partake - doctors and nurses, merchants and students, the elderly and children - and for which they all deserve the punishment of starvation, inflicted upon them by an invisible, unnamed, but ultimately just hand.

(6) One last, related motif is to accuse the Palestinian leadership. "Demand explanations from your leaders, who get fatter every day"; "With their kind of leadership, they should be grateful that they're still alive. It's really a shame that the Palestinian blindly follow their stupid leaders." Obviously, corrupted leadership is the cause of much of the world's poverty. In fact, Fatah's inherent corruption was precisely what made so many Palestinians vote for Hamas. There can hardly be a better illustration for the American export product tagged "Democracy": the occupied Palestinians have a free choice between starving under the corrupt American-backed Fatah regime and starving under the internationally boycotted Hamas government. It's a free (occupied) country, you know.

The Israeli reactions to the Palestinian suffering for which they are morally responsible, especially when set against the background of their ostensible concern about world hunger, show how pervasively inhumane the Israelis have become. A well-oiled propaganda machine turns them from compassionate human beings into heartless parrots of state demagoguery, ready to ignore, excuse, and even support the starvation of the other nation with which they share the same land. The dehumanization of the Palestinians by Israel has dehumanized the Israelis themselves.

from Noam Chomsky :
23 March 2007

She Drew Away the Veil on Criminal and Outrageous Conduct
In Memory of Tanya Reinhart


Editors' note: We have lost an outstanding intellect and one of the bravest voices from Israel with the death of Tanya Reinhart. Last October, on this site, we published Eric Hazan's interview with Tanya Reinhart on the occasion of the publication of her latest book, Roadmap to Nowhere. In conclusion Haas asked her,
Despite the grim events described in the book, the overall feeling that comes through is that of hope. Why?
Reinhart: "I argue that the reason that the U.S. exerted even limited pressure on Israel, for the first time in recent history, was because at that moment in history it was no longer possible to ignore world discontent over its policy of blind support of Israel. This shows that persistent struggle can have an effect, and can lead governments to act. Such struggle begins with the Palestinian people, who have withstood years of brutal oppression, and who, through their spirit of zumud--sticking to their land - and daily endurance, organizing and resistance, have managed to keep the Palestinian cause alive, something that not all oppressed nations have managed to do. It continues with international struggle--solidarity movements that send their people to the occupied territories and stand in vigils at home, professors signing boycott petitions, subjecting themselves to daily harassment, a few courageous journalists that insist on covering the truth, against the pressure of acquiescent media and pro-Israel lobbies. Often this struggle for justice seems futile. Nevertheless, it has penetrated global consciousness. It is this collective consciousness that eventually forced the U.S. to pressure Israel into some, albeit limited, concessions. . The Palestinian cause can be silenced for a while, as is happening now, but it will resurface."

Tanya Reinhart was one of those whose determined voice and writings did just that: change global consciousness. AC / JSC (the editors of Counter Punch)
It is painful, and hard, to write about the loss of an old and cherished friend. Tanya Reinhart was just that.
Tanya was a brilliant and creative scientist. I can express my own evaluation of her work most concisely by recalling that years ago, when I was thinking about the future of my own department after my retirement, I tried to arrange to offer Tanya the invitation to be my eventual replacement, plans that did not work out, much to my regret, mostly for bureaucratic reasons.

I will not try to review her remarkable contributions to virtually every major area of linguistic studies. Included among them are original and highly influential investigations of syntactic structure and operations, referential dependence, principles of lexical semantics and their implications for syntactic organization, unified approaches to cross-linguistic semantic interpretation of complex structures that appear superficially to vary widely, the theory of stress and intonation, efficient parsing systems, the interaction of internal computations with thought and sensorimotor systems, optimal design as a core principle of language, and much else. Her academic work extended well beyond, to literary theory, mass media and propaganda, and other core elements of intellectual culture.

I will not try to review her remarkable contributions to virtually every major area of linguistic studies. Included among them are original and highly influential investigations of syntactic structure and operations, referential dependence, principles of lexical semantics and their implications for Imagesyntactic organization, unified approaches to cross-linguistic semantic interpretation of complex structures that appear superficially to vary widely, the theory of stress and intonation, efficient parsing systems, the interaction of internal computations with thought and sensorimotor systems, optimal design as a core principle of language, and much else. Her academic work extended well beyond, to literary theory, mass media and propaganda, and other core elements of intellectual culture.

But Tanya's outstanding professional work was only one part of her life, and of our long and intimate friendship. She was one of the most courageous and honorable defenders of human rights whom I have ever been privileged to meet. As all honest people should, she focused her attention and energy on the actions of her own state and society, for which she shared responsibility ­ including the responsibility, which she never shirked, to expose crimes of state and to defend the victims of repression, violence, and conquest.

Her numerous articles and books drew away the veil that concealed criminal and outrageous actions, and shone a searing light on the reality that was obscured, all of immense value to those who sought to understand and to react in a decent way. Her activism was not limited to words, important as these were. She was on the front line of direct resistance to intolerable actions, an organizer and a participant, a stance that one cannot respect too highly. She will be remembered not only as a resolute and honorable defender of the rights of Palestinians, but also as one of those who have struggled to defend the moral integrity of her own Israeli society, and its hope for decent survival.

Tanya's passing is a terrible loss, not only to her family and those fortunate enough to come to know her personally, and to those she defended and protected with such dedication and courage, but to everyone concerned with freedom, justice, and an honorable peace.

from Geroge Kenney :
23 March 2007
Subject: Interview with Thomas Homer-Dixon

Dear Francis,
It's interesting that until very recently no study of the decline and fall of Rome understood what happened in terms of energy limits. Yet, once you think about it, the explanation is fairly obvious and undoubtedly correct. So there are new lessons -- lessons brought out by University of Toronto Professor Thomas Homer-Dixon more generally in his book about impending social catastrophe, The Upside of Down. To be sure, there are lots of doom-and-gloom types about, but Tad is a reasonable, intelligent, low-key fellow, and I think his warnings must be taken seriously.

Though the subject is rather disturbing this one is fairly easy to listen to. I hope you have time for it.