Monthly Archives: May 2009

The Pathologies of Israel’s Guilty Conscience

Guest Column: Eitan Bronstein

The proposal to legally bar the commemoration of the Nakba on Israel’s Independence Day reflects growing trepidation in Israel about the inevitable encounter with the Palestinian Nakba and the understanding that the Nakba is a foundational part of Israeli identity. Until recently, the threat of exposing the Nakba was barely felt. There was no need to fight this repressed demon, which might suddenly reveal itself and disrupt the seeming calm of a harmonious Jewish democracy. But the Nakba is not a demon, not the fruit of deceptive imagination, and therefore we should not underestimate the challenge facing Israeli society: to recognize Israel’s part in the expulsion of most of the Palestinian inhabitants of the land in 1948, the destruction of most of their localities (upwards of five hundred), the annihilation of urban Palestinian culture, and tens of massacres, rapes, incidents of looting, and dispossession. Looking into so dark a mirror takes courage and maturity, demonstrated in the research of such scholars as Morris, Gelber, Milstein, Khalidi, Pappe, and others, as well as in the diaries of Netiva Ben Yehuda and Yosef Nahmani.

It is not surprising that the “appropriate Zionist response,” to inscribe the forgetting of this human horror into law, comes from the circles of the political right-wing. They have always been more sincere in their racist attitudes toward Arabs in Israel, compared to the Left, which marketed to the world and to us its honest (yet illusory) longing for peace. Continue reading

Posted in Guest Columns, Situation Report | 36 Comments

The Shebab, the Shahids and the Champion’s League Final

The Shebab gunman on the left appears to be a Gunner, i.e. an Arsenal fan…

In honor of today’s Champion’s League final, I republish my op ed that ran in the National a year ago.

What was most fascinating about the photograph of the Somali gunman who was part of the crowd dragging the body of an Ethiopian soldier through the streets of Mogadishu that appeared in newspapers last year was his shirt. It bore the number 13, beneath the legend “Ballack”. This particular fighter was declaring his fealty not only to the Islamist Shebab movement, but also to Chelsea football club and its newly acquired German midfielder.

That image reminded me of a 2002 story in the London Sunday Times, in which Hala Jaber painted an extraordinary portrait of a group of young Palestinians training to be suicide bombers. Amid the tension of the boys steeling themselves to kill and be killed, one of the fighters ran in with “very important news”: Manchester United had beaten West Ham 5-3. “David Beckham two score. Very good Manchester,” Jaber quoted him as saying, adding: “The announcement was greeted with unanimous pleasure, amid further calls of ‘Allahu akbar’.” Continue reading

Posted in Annals of Globalization, Glancing Headers, Situation Report | 22 Comments

Is Israel Planning to Provoke Iran?

My, oh my, where would we be without a free press in Israel?

Haaretz’s Aluf Benn today not only outlines how Netanyahu is continuing to build momentum — and public expectation — for war with Iran, but he also offers some insights into just how the Israelis might go about positioning themselves for a military strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities — by making “a strike against a valuable target for the Iranian regime which leads Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and Ahmadinejad to take action against ‘the Zionist regime.’ If Iran attacks Israel first, the element of surprise will be lost, but then Israel’s strike against the nuclear installations will be considered self-defense.” In other words, if you suddenly read that Israel has assassinated Hizballah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, you’ll know the wider game plan…

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Why Obama Must Shackle Bibi

Without any sense of irony, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told fellow paranoiac Jeffrey Goldberg that Iran is ruled by “an apocalyptic messianic cult.” Yet, as Goldberg makes clear, perhaps inadvertently, Netanyahu himself is guilty of the same: His view of Iran as simply the latest incarnation of a timeless and eternal anti-Semitism, most recently the Hitler regime, makes any engagement or diplomatic solution amount to appeasement; war is the only answer. And the messianic part is that Netanyahu, a la Newt Gingrich and George W. Bush, believes he has been summoned by history to save the world (or in Bibi’s case, the Jews). To the extent that Netanyahu believes this stuff, he is a very dangerous man, and the Obama Administration would do well to keep him on a very tight leash. Continue reading

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The Writing on the Wall for Obama’s ‘Af-Pak’ Vietnam

There was something almost painful about watching President Barack Obama last week reprising a track from his predecessor’s Greatest Hits when he hosted the leaders of Pakistan and Afghanistan. Just like Bush, Obama invited us to suspend well-grounded disbelief and imagine that Hamid Karzai and Asif Ali Zardari have the intent, much less the capability, to wage a successful war against the Taliban. Then again, there had been something painful even earlier about watching Obama proclaim Afghanistan as “the right war” and expanding the U.S. footprint there, reprising the Soviet experience of maintaining an islet of modernity in the capital while the countryside burns.

It requires a spectacular leap of faith in a kind of superheroic American exceptionalism to imagine that the invasion of Afghanistan that occurred in November 2001 will end any differently from any previous invasion of that country. And it takes an elaborate exercise in self-delusion to avoid recognizing that the Taliban crisis in Pakistan is an effect of the war in Afghanistan, rather than a cause — and that Pakistan’s turmoil is unlikely to end before the U.S. winds down its campaign next door. Continue reading

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Can Bibi Force Abbas to ‘Recognize’ an Oxymoron?

Satmar Hasidim, burying their rebbe: If they don’t recognize Israel as a “Jewish State”, why should the Palestinians?

In his own version of the evasion game that has become tradition for Israeli leaders when pressed by the U.S. and others to conclude a two-state peace agreement, Bibi Netanyahu has insisted that before he’ll talk to Mahmoud Abbas, the PLO Chairman would first have to recognize Israel as a “Jewish State” and “the national home of the Jewish people”.

Excuse me?

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Posted in 99c Blogging, Situation Report | 21 Comments