Sunday, October 26, 2008

Voter intimidation once again

[JPN sometimes posts articles on topics outside of Israel/Palastine that might be of interest to subscribers. Continuing this tradition, the following interview from Democracy Now raises worrying issues, especially for Americans, about the forthcoming elections.

Mark Crispin Miller, an expert on election fraud, reports numerous attempts by Republicans to distort the election results. Among them: reports of electronic voting machines (made by a company with strong connections to the Republican Party) switching votes from democratic to republican; good old-fashioned voter intimidation; shortages of voting machines – but only in democratic-leaning precincts; and most serious of all, vote machine design that independent experts claim is vulnerable to manipulation (and, more worryingly still, has no other purpose but to facilitate such manipulation).

Miller is adamant that these and other tactics demonstrably changed in result of the 2004 presidential election, as they did the 2000 election (this was later shown by research undertaken by a consortium of newspaper including the New York Times

Miller also points out that Republican operatives are using the standard Rove strategy of turning this accusation back on democrats by attacking the ACORN organization that registers poor voters. Lastly, he argues that the Right are talking up the so-called Bradley Effect (according to which racist whites are too ashamed to admit to pollsters that they won't vote for a black candidate) as a possible explanation for a surprise McCain victory. Alistair Welchman]

October 22, 2008

Early Voting Sees Reports of Voter Intimidation, Machine Malfunctions

Early voting has begun, and problems are already emerging at the polls. In West Virginia, voters using touchscreen machines have claimed their votes were switched from Democrat to Republican. In North Carolina, a group of McCain supporters heckled a group of mostly black supporters of Barack Obama. In Ohio, Republicans are being accused of trying to scare newly registered voters by filing lawsuits that question their eligibility. We speak to NYU professor Mark Crispin Miller, author of Loser Take All: Election Fraud and the Subversion of Democracy.

Mark Crispin Miller, professor of media culture and communication at New York University. He is the author of several books, most recently Loser Take All: Election Fraud and the Subversion of Democracy, 2000-2008. His previous book is called Fooled Again: How the Right Stole the 2004 Election and Why They'll Steal the Next One Too.

AMY GOODMAN: Just days after reports that six early voters in at least two West Virginia counties claimed their votes were switched from Democrat to Republican, a couple in Nashville, Tennessee reported similar problems with paperless voting machines. In West Virginia, one voter said, "I hit Obama, and it switched to McCain. I am really concerned about that. If McCain wins, there was something wrong with the machines."

In Tennessee, a filmmaker couple also had difficulties casting their vote for the Democratic candidate, the Brad Blog reports. They had to hit the Obama button several times before it actually registered, and in one case it momentarily flipped from Obama to Green Party candidate Cynthia McKinney. Patricia Earnhardt said, "The McKinney button was located five rows below the Obama button." The couple in Nashville were using machines made by the same company as those in the counties in West Virginia-by Election Systems and Software.

Meanwhile, there are reports of long lines at early voting sites in several other states, including some counties in Texas, Florida, Nevada and New Mexico.

Mark Crispin Miller is a media critic who's been focused on voter problems and election fraud in this country. He's a professor at New York University, author of several books. Most recently he edited Loser Take All: Election Fraud and the Subversion of Democracy, 2000-2008. His previous book, Fooled Again: How the Right Stole the 2004 Election and Why They'll Steal the Next One Too.

Mark Crispin Miller now joins us in the firehouse studio. Welcome to Democracy Now!

MARK CRISPIN MILLER: Great to be here.

AMY GOODMAN: What are your concerns right now, Mark?

MARK CRISPIN MILLER: Well, you've referred to a couple of them already. We now see a burst of vote flipping by machines, electronic voting machines in a couple of states. This is something that we saw in at least eleven states in the 2004 election, hundreds and hundreds of people coming forward to say, "I pushed the button for Kerry, and the button for Bush lit up." So, clearly, this was a systematic programming decision by the people in charge of the machines, which in that case and this one is the Republican Party. We're also seeing systematic shortages of working voting machines in Democratic precincts only. This is also something that did not happen only in Ohio in 2004, but happened nationwide. That election was, in fact, stolen.

AMY GOODMAN: How do you know that?

MARK CRISPIN MILLER: Well, I know because there's been an audit of the vote in eighteen counties of Ohio by a researcher named Richard Hayes Phillips, who had his team literally scrutinize every single ballot that was warehoused in eighteen Ohio counties. They took over 30,000 digital photographs. This is not speculation, Amy. This is a meticulous, careful, specific and conclusive demonstration that John Kerry actually won some 200,000 votes in those eighteen counties only that were taken away from him. Bush's official victory margin, you may recall, was about 118,000. So there is no question about it. Ohio was stolen.

AMY GOODMAN: When they-OK, so they have the pictures of all these-

MARK CRISPIN MILLER: Pictures, there's a CD with this book that you can-

AMY GOODMAN: But they have the pictures of the ballots.

MARK CRISPIN MILLER: Of the variously altered, mutilated ballots, yes. Ballots with stickers placed over the square that people had blacked in for Kerry/Edwards; somebody else blacks in Bush/Cheney. Thousands and thousands of ballots that were pre-marked before they were distributed, so that people would mark different boxes on them, and then they would be invalidated.

Even more chilling is the fact that after Phillips did his research, the boards of elections in fifty-five Ohio counties destroyed all or some of their ballots in defiance of a court order. So we have criminal behavior here of a kind of grand and systematic kind. But the point is-not to engage in what Sarah Palin calls finger-pointing backwards, the point here is to note that we're dealing with a consistent pattern of subversive behavior by the Republican Party since 2000 and extending all the way up to the present. What we're seeing now is an especially brazen and diverse range of dirty tricks and tactics that are being used both to suppress the vote and also to enable election fraud.

AMY GOODMAN: Ohio has been very much in the news this past week, not around the issue of voter suppression, but around the issue of fraudulent registration forms, the concern about them being handed in by the organization ACORN.

MARK CRISPIN MILLER: Yeah, the whole ACORN thing is a first-class propaganda drive. ACORN has done nothing wrong. ACORN has, however, been guilty of trying to register low-income citizens to vote. Because they've been in the sights of the Republican Party for several years now, they've always been extremely scrupulous about checking the registration forms that they garner from their volunteers.

You know, they pay people, basically, to register other voters. So, naturally, from time to time, some volunteer who wants the money will fill out a registration form, you know, with Mickey Mouse or the names of the Dallas Cowboys, something like that. Precisely because that is an ever-present possibility, the people at ACORN have always scrupulously checked the forms before submitting them.

And ten days ago, what they did was, in Las Vegas, their office in Las Vegas, they found a number of these suspicious forms, handed them over directly to the Secretary of State in Nevada, and his response was to turn around and say, "Aha! Here is evidence that you're conspiring to commit voter fraud." Now, that effort, that drive went from Nevada to Missouri to Ohio, and now we hear that the FBI is investigating ACORN.

The important point here, Amy, is that voter fraud is practically nonexistent. Several studies have taken a close look at this and found that there really is no voter fraud of this kind.

AMY GOODMAN: Robert Greenwald of Brave New Films has put out a new short film about ACORN and the attacks against them. Let me play an excerpt.

SEN. JOHN McCAIN: We need to know the full extent of Senator Obama's relationship with ACORN, who is now on the verge of maybe perpetrating one of the greatest frauds in voter history in this country, maybe destroying the fabric of democracy.

GOV. SARAH PALIN: John and I are calling on the Obama campaign to release communications it has had with this group and to do so immediately.

CARMEN ARIAS: These attacks on ACORN are part of a pattern of voter suppression that the GOP has been carrying on for a long time.

PAUL WEYRICH: They want everybody to vote. I don't want everybody to vote. Elections are not won by a majority of people. They never have been, from the beginning of our country, and they are not now. As a matter of fact, our leverage in the elections, quite candidly, goes up as the voting populace goes down.

ANDREW SULLIVAN: The McCain campaign has now two camps. And one of them is already assuming that he's lost, and he's aiming for the post-election warfare in the Republican Party, and part of that is the ACORN strategy, which is trying to delegitimize the result in advance, if Obama were to win, by saying it was rigged by minority voters. That's what this is about.

SEN. JOHN McCAIN: Someone here keeps yelling "ACORN, ACORN." Now, let me just say to you, there are serious allegations of voter fraud in the battleground states across America. They must be investigated.

NATHAN HENDERSON-JAMES: Let's look at North Carolina. We turned in 28,000 applications in North Carolina, and there are investigations into four of them right now. Over 95 percent of the cards we turned in were error-free. So we're talking about an extremely small percentage of the overall 1.3 million cards collected. To suggest that this is some kind of widespread criminal conspiracy is just absurd.

MONTAGE OF NEWSCASTERS: ACORN. ACORN. ACORN-is a left-wing-radical-extremist community group.

CARMEN ARIAS: This is hardly the first time that these Rove-style tactics have been used to suppress low-income minorities.

NATHAN HENDERSON-JAMES: They did it in 2000.

GREG PALAST: Voters were being removed from the registries by the Secretary of State, Katherine Harris.

NATHAN HENDERSON-JAMES: They did it in 2004.

UNIDENTIFIED: Evidence has emerged that in the last presidential election the Republican Party organized efforts to suppress the votes of active-duty military, low-income and minority voters by challenging their registrations. The Republicans put in motion a plan to hold down the Democratic vote in key battleground states. Many are convinced that Republican officials broke the law.

NATHAN HENDERSON-JAMES: And they're doing it again right now.

CARMEN ARIAS: Suppressing the low-income minority voters can swing an entire election. A handful of improperly filled-out voter registration cards cannot.

AMY GOODMAN: That, an excerpt of a piece by Robert Greenwald and Brave New Films. Professor Mark Crispin Miller?

MARK CRISPIN MILLER: Yeah, well, I think he hit the nail right on the head. The important point to get here is that the party that is itself engaging in disenfranchisement on a massive scale, the deliberate, systematic disenfranchisement of arguably millions of Americans, is clouding the issue by accusing-essentially accusing its victims of doing the same thing. OK?

Voter fraud-I want to repeat this-is virtually nonexistent. There have been several academic studies of this notion of whether individuals actually stuffed ballot boxes or show up at polling places pretending to be somebody else. There's actually not a single known case of any such type of voter fraud being prosecuted by the Department of Justice. And yet, that notion of voter fraud is used as the pretext for taking steps that do demonstrably result in tens of thousands of people being unable to vote, you see? It's a really masterful strategy. And I only wish that the Democratic Party had all this time been aggressive in pointing out that the Republicans are the party engaged in disenfranchisement.

AMY GOODMAN: Mark Crispin Miller, we have to break. When we come back, I want to ask you about a man named Stephen Spoonamore-


AMY GOODMAN: -a prominent expert, supposedly, on computer fraud, and what he has to say. Stay with us.


AMY GOODMAN: Mark Crispin Miller, professor of media, culture and communication at New York University is our guest. His most recent book, Loser Take All. Who is Stephen Spoonamore?

MARK CRISPIN MILLER: Stephen Spoonamore is a conservative Republican, a former McCain supporter and, most importantly, a renowned and highly successful expert at the detection of computer fraud. That's his profession. He works for major banks. He works for foreign governments. He works for the Secret Service. Those are his clients.

He knows personally the principal players in Bush-Cheney's conspiracy to subvert our elections through electronic means since 2000, and he has named these principal players. Specifically, he has named a man named Mike Connell. Mike Connell, according to Spoonamore, is Karl Rove's computer guru. This is the guy who has helped Bush-Cheney fix election results through computers since Florida 2000, in Ohio in 2004, also in the stolen re-election of Governor Don Siegelman in Alabama in 2002, also in the stolen re-election of Senator Max Cleland in Georgia in 2002.


MARK CRISPIN MILLER: Well, basically, they use a kind of architecture that's called Man in the Middle, and it involves shunting election returns data through a separate computer somewhere else. This is something that computer criminals do all the time with banks. Spoonamore explains that the Man in the Middle setup is extremely effective and basically undetectable as a way to change election results.

Now, the scariest thing is that Connell told Spoonamore that the reason why he has helped Bush-Cheney steal these elections for the last eight years has been to save the babies. See? We have to understand that there's a very powerful component of religious fanaticism at work in the election fraud conspiracy. We saw a little bit of that in Greenswald's film, where Paul Weyrich was talking about how we don't want people voting.

AMY GOODMAN: The conservative activist.

MARK CRISPIN MILLER: Well, because the majority is a majority of unbelievers. They're pro-choice. They're corrupt. They're evil. They don't get it. It's therefore necessary to fix election results in order to prevent the unjust and the unrighteous from taking over.

AMY GOODMAN: Professor Mark Crispin Miller, you keep saying the election was clearly stolen in 2004. This is not a widely held belief. Why do you think more information is not known about this?

MARK CRISPIN MILLER: Because the press and the Democratic Party have steadfastly refused simply to mention, much less discuss, the evidence.

AMY GOODMAN: You talked to John Kerry.

MARK CRISPIN MILLER: I talked to John Kerry. In fact, the last time I was with you, I was here to talk about that conversation with him. On October 28th, 2005, we met. I gave him a copy of my book Fooled Again, and we discussed the last election, and he told me, with some vehemence, that he believed it was stolen.

AMY GOODMAN: In Ohio in 2004-and Ohio, key battleground state right now-


AMY GOODMAN: And we remember at Kenyon, for example, those long, long lines in 2004, people waiting for hours.


AMY GOODMAN: When you talk about the computer setup for 2004, explain further.

MARK CRISPIN MILLER: Well, what happened was, with the election results that were coming into Ken Blackwell's website, right, in real time-

AMY GOODMAN: The former Secretary of State of Ohio.

MARK CRISPIN MILLER: The former Secretary of State.

AMY GOODMAN: The former chair of the Bush-Cheney campaign there.

MARK CRISPIN MILLER: And co-chair of Bush-Cheney and a big-time election thief and an ardent theocrat, by the way. The election returns went basically from his website to another computer that was in a basement in Chattanooga, Tennessee, under the control of Spoonamore and a guy with another private company, another evangelical. The data was shunted through that computer and then back to the Secretary of State's website.

Spoonamore says that this Man in the Middle setup has only one purpose, and that is fraud. There's no other reason to do it. And he believes that such a system is still in place in Ohio, it's in place in a number of other states. And the crucial fact to bear in mind here, since we're talking about John McCain attacking ACORN and so on, is that Mike Connell is now working for John McCain.

Now, on the strength of Spoonamore's testimony, right, it's driving a RICO lawsuit in Ohio. On the strength of his testimony, Connell has been subpoenaed. He was subpoenaed last week for a deposition, so that he can answer questions on the record, under oath, about what he's been up to. He and a bevy of Republican lawyers have been very, very vigorously fighting this subpoena, because, of course, they don't want him to testify 'til after Election Day.

AMY GOODMAN: Professor Mark Crispin Miller, the Bradley Effect that is being discussed, explain what it is and how you feel it's being used.

MARK CRISPIN MILLER: The Bradley Effect is a theory which holds that African American candidates do better in pre-election polls than they do in elections, because white racists are shy about admitting to pollsters that they wouldn't vote for a black man. So they will tell pollsters, "Sure, I'll vote for him." Then they sneak into the polling booth and listen to the inner Klansman, you know, they vote as racists.

Now, the problem with this theory is that there are almost no examples of its having happened. It's named for Tom Bradley, the mayor of Los Angeles, who ran for the governor of California and did much better in polls beforehand than he did on Election Day. Well, it turns out, if you study that race, that the reason why he lost was that a lot of bad news about his tenure in Los Angeles came out just before the election. That's the reason why people often lose elections. There are only two races that we know of where the Bradley Effect may arguably have obtained, both in 1989: Doug Wilder's run for the governor of Virginia and David Dinkins's first run for the mayor of New York, where Dinkins didn't do as well as we thought he would. Well, in his second run, the polls were dead on.

The point is, we're talking about two races that may form the basis for this idea that Barack Obama, with his enormous lead, may lose because of millions and millions of closet racists, you know, who will say one thing to pollsters, out of a fear of not seeming politically correct, and then vote a different way. I'll tell you why I worry about this. Something that you very, very badly need to steal elections, aside from the apparatus and the volunteers and all the money and everything, is a narrative. You have to have a convincing rationale to explain an upset victory. Four years ago, the rationale was millions of values voters materialized on the horizon at the end of the day, and like Jesus with loaves and fishes, they suddenly multiplied and voted for Bush, and then they disappeared. Well, there's no evidence that that actually happened. But it served as a narrative. This time, I'm afraid the primary narrative will be racism: Barack Obama actually lost, despite all predictions,
because so many Americans are racist.

I think that this is, first of all, unverifiable. We don't know that it's true, whereas we do know all the stuff about vote suppression and election fraud. But I'm afraid that people will be encouraged to accept this line to prevent them from taking a hard look at the real reasons why Obama may have "lost"-and I put "lost" in quotation marks.

AMY GOODMAN: Mark Crispin Miller, I want to thank you for being with us. Mark Crispin Miller is a professor at New York University and author of, well, the latest book he edited, this came out just this summer, Loser Take All: Election Fraud and the Subversion of Democracy, 2000-2008.

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Monday, October 20, 2008

Ali abunimah: A brief on the Arab-Jewish clashes in Acre

The Arab-Jewish clashes in Acre aren't merely "an unfortunate intercommunal violence in an otherwise peaceful city", according to this excellent report by Ali Abunimah. They are connected, he charges, to efforts by extreme settlers to create conditions that would prepare the way for pushing the Arab citizenry out.

Racheli Gai.

Rebecca Vilkomerson adds:

Abunimah's focus here is the efforts of Jewish right-wingers and settlers to take over Acre. And in fact, shortly after the clashes in Acre, in the heart of Tel Aviv, I have been seeing graffiti that says "Acre is Ours" with the Israeli star of David accompanying it.

However, Abunimah just touches on the role of the Israeli government in its discrimination and neglect of Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel. Much of the commentary by Palestinian Arabs in Israel have noted that these clashes prove this point, specifically that the Or Commission's recommendations, which examined this issue in the wake of the killing of 11 Palestinian Israelis by Israel at the beginning of the second Intifada, have not been implemented at all.

'The Arab-Jewish Clashes in Acre and the Connection to Israel's Extremist Settlers'
Palestine Center Information Brief No. 167 (15 October 2008)

By Ali Abunimah
Palestine Center Fellow

Acre, a mixed city of approximately 52,000 people in northern Israel, recently witnessed four days of violent clashes between Palestinian citizens of Israel and Israeli Jewish residents. While the facts and meaning of these events have been heavily contested, one of the underreported factors is the extent to which militant Israeli settlers from the West Bank, funded by donors in the United States, have instigated tension in Acre and other cities in an attempt to reduce their Arab populations. This brief will summarize the facts available from public sources and provide background and analysis.

Israeli leaders have presented the events in Acre as unfortunate intercommunal violence in an otherwise peaceful city. Palestinians have perceived them-correctly it would appear-as being related to efforts organized by Jewish extremists to force Arabs out of the city (Palestinians in Israel are citizens of the state and are often also referred to as 'Arabs').

What Happened?

The disturbances began after a Palestinian resident of Acre drove into the eastern predominantly Jewish neighborhood around midnight on Wednesday, 9 October 2008 during the observance of the Yom Kippur Jewish holiday. This prompted a violent reaction from Jewish residents and soon, the Israeli daily Haaretz reported, 'Police warded off hundreds of Jewish rioters, chanting 'death to the Arabs,' and trying to storm the city's main road.'1 As word spread of the attack on the Arab driver, hundreds of Arab youths came to the scene.

Violent clashes between Jewish and Arab residents continued for several nights as police intervened with riot control methods including water cannons. According to Israeli police, many Arab families had to be evacuated and about a dozen Arab homes were set on fire.2

Brutal scenes were alleged and witnessed over four days. For example, an Israeli journalist witnessed Jewish youths armed with stones moving around the city looking for Palestinian citizens to attack and shouting, 'Death to the Arabs.' In one case, they mistakenly attacked a Jew (most of Acre's Jewish residents are Mizrahi Jews who originally came to Israel from Arab countries).3

When Arab residents, who were forced out of their homes by Jewish attacks, attempted to return under police guard to retrieve belongings, they were stoned by Jews who shouted racial epithets at them.4 Israel army radio and Arab residents of the city claimed that dozens of extremists affiliated with the West Bank settler movement had come in to Acre to take part in the violence (see below).5 La'a Ramal, an Arab resident whose home was attacked, said that her house had been torched three times in recent years, and several families had already left the area as a result of persistent intimidation.6

Jewish residents told reporters that Arabs armed with axes came into their neighborhood, destroyed cars and shops and shouted, 'Death to the Jews.' David Azoulay, an Israeli Jewish Knesset member from the religious Shas party who lives in Acre, said, 'I myself heard them [the Arabs] calling, 'Allahu Akbar! Kill the Jews!'' This was denied by Palestinian Israeli Knesset member Abbas Zakour, who also lives in the city.7 Other reports stated that rumors had spread through the Arab old city that an Arab man had been killed, prompting Arab residents into the streets.8

In the end, 54 people-Jews and Arabs-were arrested and about 100 cars and several dozen shops were damaged. Several minor injuries were reported. While Jews and Arabs took part in the violence, on 12 October 2008, on the third day of the disturbances, Major-General Shimon Koren, commander of Israel's Northern District police, said the riots had been instigated by Jews and 'the majority of rioters causing disturbances in [Acre] are Jews.'9

How Did It Begin?

According to Acre resident Tawfiq Jamal's own account, he drove into a predominantly Jewish area with his son and a friend at around 11 p.m. in order to pick up his daughter from the home of relatives where she had been helping prepare baked sweets for a wedding. When they arrived, according to Jamal:

I asked my son to take the baking dishes out of the car and proceeded to walk (toward the house) when (the Jews) suddenly began hurling stones at us. The stones hit my son and the car. My son was lying down because [he] was hit in the face, back and chest; I managed to grab him and pull him into the building.

The three men went into the building and called the police and emergency services, who arrived after a few minutes. However, Jamal stated, 'Throughout the entire time, despite police presence, the [Jewish] youngsters continued to throw rocks and chant 'death to the Arabs,' while my son's face was bleeding and his friend almost passed out.'10

Jamal recounted that he and the two youths were then evacuated by police and told to take shelter in a squad car. When the car did not start, the police fled and told Jamal and the two youths to do the same. Jamal stated that they were saved only by a Jewish night watchman who hid them in his guard booth, locked the door and turned off the lights. Jamal compared his situation to that of two Israeli soldiers wearing civilian clothes who were captured and brutally killed by a Palestinian mob in Ramallah in December 2000 and feared that his group's fate would be the same.

Jamal strenuously denied allegations he had been drinking and deliberately started the incident by playing loud music. Israeli police also alleged that an unnamed Arab youth had broken into a mosque and used the loudspeaker system to alert Arab residents of the attack and to call for help after receiving a phone call from Jamal's brother. They stated the suspect had not been arrested because he had fled.11 Acre Police Commander Avraham Edri partially confirmed Jamal's account, telling the Knesset's Internal Affairs Committee that:

When my officers arrived at the scene, they had to handle 300-400 people who had already lifted the driver's car in the air. Our first mission was to prevent casualties. We released the driver from the mob and helped him into an apartment nearby...My staff served as a barrier between him and the excited mob; the policemen were hurt but not one civilian was injured.12

Speaking before the Knesset committee on October 12, Jamal apologized for driving into the Jewish area and said he had 'made a mistake.' Despite this, Israeli police arrested Jamal for 'harming religious sensitivities, speeding and reckless endangerment' and remanded him in custody. There were no reports of arrests specifically for the attempted lynching of Jamal and his companions.13

The Settler Connection

Palestinian citizens of Israel and Israeli Jews live in close proximity in Acre, a U.N. World Heritage site, as they have done for generations. But in recent years, extremist Jewish groups affiliated with West Bank settlers have moved in with the stated aim of making the city more Jewish.

Palestinians are concentrated in the central old city and near the harbor while Jews are established in the eastern part and outer rings. The vast majority of the Jewish residents of the city are Mizrahim-working class Jews whose first generation came as immigrants to Israel from Arab countries. Mizrahim, although Jews, also faced severe discrimination by an Israeli state dominated by European Ashkenazi Jewish elites. Both communities are disadvantaged in different ways. Many Palestinians in the city are the survivors and descendants of those who were forced to leave their homes when Israel was established in 1948. All but 3,000 of the city's 13,000 Palestinian citizens in 1948 were forced out. Today, Palestinians comprise about 27 percent of the city's population. Like all Palestinian citizens of Israel, they have experienced systematic legal, social and economic discrimination and political exclusion. Mizrahim were often pushed to the edges of Israeli Jewish society and in many
cases were housed in the former homes of expelled Palestinians.14 Culturally marginalized and much poorer than Ashkenazi Jews, the Mizrahim have become the base constituency for the right-wing Likud party, Shas and other overtly racist anti-Arab parties.

Given the numbers of people involved in the troubles, long-time Jewish residents were certainly among them. But some Arab residents blamed the worsening tension not on long-time residents but on an influx of militant youth affiliated with the national religious West Bank settler movement. Indeed, Baruch Marzel, a settler leader from near Hebron in the West Bank, visited Acre during the riots and vowed to help Jews in the city to set up a 'defense organization.'15 Barzel was a leader of the banned Kach party founded by the late Meir Kahane, which supports the expulsion of all Palestinians, and he remains a prominent leader of racist settler groups.

Yeshivat Hesder-Akko founded in 2001 is a pro-settler national religious school in the midst of a now majority Arab neighborhood called Wolfson. Over the years, many of the area's Jewish residents had become more affluent and moved out, and poorer Arabs moved in. The Yeshiva is run by Yossi Stern, a rabbi from the militant West Bank settlement of Elon Moreh. Stern, who is also on the Acre city council, told The Washington Post last year that he and his associates were working on projects designed to 'attract Jews to Acre,' including a 350 unit housing complex designated for Jewish military families and another yeshiva. Palestinian residents and leaders consider these efforts to be part of a systematic assault on their presence in the city using tactics long deployed against Palestinians in the West Bank.16 Some accuse Acre's Likud mayor of supporting the efforts.

Yeshivat Hesder-Akko's own website states that '[f]rom a luxuriant Jewish neighborhood it [Wolfson] has turned into a decrepit Arab neighborhood.' The school, whose students are Israeli military-religious trainees, is to 'to try to return and strengthen the Jewish character of the city.' Although the city was 'almost lost' to Jews, the site states that 'the long awaited salvation has begun.' According to the website, the yeshiva was built with funds from a donor in New York.17 Volunteers have also raised funds from synagogues in the United States for the 'special aim of the yeshiva [which] is to attract more young Jewish families by strengthening and maintaining the Zionist Jewish character of this ancient Jewish city.'18

Two years ago, similar but much less serious disturbances occurred in Acre during another Jewish holiday. Arab Knesset member Zakour had previously written to Israel's public security minister appealing for police protection for the Arab communities against harassment by Jewish extremists, including the stoning of Arab cars during Jewish holidays.

An almost identical hesder-yeshiva (this term means a school for Israeli men who combine religious study with service in Israeli army units) was recently founded in the Arab Ajami neighborhood of Jaffa, south of Tel-Aviv, also with the goal of increasing the Jewish population of that city.19

The events in Acre coincide with an upsurge in violence by the radical settler movement against Palestinians across the Israeli-occupied West Bank including a pipe bomb attack against an Israeli left-wing professor.20 While those actions have received more attention, the activities of affiliated groups against Palestinian citizens of Israel have been largely ignored.

Reactions in Israel

Arab leaders in Acre met with police officials and publicly called for calm and reconciliation, and they also condemned Jamal's incursion into the Jewish area regardless of how innocent. On October 12, Arab Knesset member Abbas Zakour accompanied Jamal to Israel's parliament to make his public apology in an attempt to appease the Jewish community and restore calm. Yossi Beilin, leader of the Left-Zionist Meretz party, blamed Israel's neglect of the Arab community, particularly since the October 2000 shooting of 12 Palestinian citizens of Israel by the police.21 One Palestinian member of the Knesset called the clashes 'a pogrom perpetrated by Jews against Arab residents' and accused the police of discrimination.

Israeli national leaders, including caretaker Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Prime Minister designate Tzipi Livni and President Shimon Peres, called for calm and called on 'both sides' to refrain from violence. They portrayed the events as being religious and communal in origin and did not note the political context of efforts to judaize the city. Peres visited Acre and convened a meeting of Arab and Jewish civic and religious leaders aimed at restoring peace.22

Sheikh Ra'ed Salah, the head of Israel's Islamic movement, accused Israeli political and religious leaders of facilitating the actions of extremists over a long period of time with the goal of heightening tensions so that Palestinians inside Israel could eventually be expelled. He said Acre's Palestinian population was being targeted for 'cleansing' and that Arabs in other coastal cities including Haifa and Jaffa could be next.23 The fears that events in Acre were evidence of a concerted effort to expel them were widely echoed by Palestinians in Israel.

Some of the Israeli politicians who have been most outspoken in calling for the expulsion of Palestinians and supporting radical settlers did their best to confirm such fears, engaging in the kind of incitement that has been escalating in recent years.24 Knesset member, former cabinet minister and settler Effie Eitam called the events 'an anti-Semitic pogrom at the heart of Israel on the holiest days of the Jewish people.' Another member called on the authorities to 'respond harshly to the Arab pogrom on Yom Kippur.' Esterina Tartman, a Knesset member of former Deputy Prime Minister Avigdor Lieberman's Yisrael Beitenu Party, called for the removal of Palestinians citizens from Israel on the grounds that 'the pogrom in [Acre] is yet another confirmation that Arab Israelis are the real danger threatening the state.'25

Some Jewish residents of the city circulated calls for Jews to boycott Arab businesses to punish the Palestinian population.26

Reactions among Other Palestinians

Palestinians in the 1967 Occupied Territories generally viewed the events in Acre as a continuation of Israeli state violence of the kind routinely directed against them. They also reasserted their identification and solidarity with Palestinians inside Israel.

Hamas' Ismail Haniyeh, prime minister of the Palestinian Authority (PA) elected in January 2006 and now confined to Gaza, said that his 'government was following with concern what was happening in Acre and what the Arab Palestinian population was facing by way of vicious attacks by Zionist settlers.' Haniyeh added that these attacks were part of a strategy to force Palestinians out of their land and homes.' A Hamas-affiliated website also condemned what it called the silence of the Arab regimes and the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah.27

Hundreds of Palestinians in Gaza City took part in a 'popular conference in solidarity with the people of Acre' at which leaders of many political factions expressed unity with Palestinians in Israel.28 Thousands marched in a solidarity rally in Gaza's Jabalya refugee camp.

A handful of Palestinian resistance factions said they could take 'revenge' if actions targeting Palestinians in Acre continued.29 A search for official reactions from the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority headed by President Mahmoud Abbas did not yield any results.


Although Israel has officially recognized the systematic discrimination faced by the country's Palestinian citizens and the fact that little has ever been done to address it, Israeli leaders tended to view the events in Acre as being about 'Arab-Jewish' community relations inside the country. They typically respond to Arab-Jewish tensions with promises of better funding for Arab communities, although such pledges are almost never fulfilled.

The violent actions of settler groups against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank have gone unchecked by the Israeli army. There is now clear evidence of similar organized, planned violence being directed at Palestinians inside Israel. There is no sign that the Israeli state is prepared to confront it any more than it does in the West Bank. Unless this changes, there is a strong likelihood that violence may resume and spread notwithstanding the precariously restored calm. This may destroy the remaining threads of coexistence inside Israel. Jewish extremists would see that as a success if their goal is to create the conditions for the removal of Palestinians from Israel.

Palestinians across the political spectrum, inside and outside Israel, saw the events as a manifestation of the wider Palestinian-Israeli conflict rather than a local community-relations matter. For Palestinian citizens of Israel, the events highlighted their own precarious situation in the face of mounting racist incitement against them by Israeli politicians and media. The arrest and detention of Tawfiq Jamal, even after he publicly apologized at the Knesset and barely escaped from a lynch mob according to official sources, is likely to be seen as a further provocation and injustice by beleaguered Palestinians in Israel.

Historically, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and the Palestinian Authority have refused to represent the interests of Palestinians inside Israel. Despite this, Palestinians at the grassroots level throughout historic Palestine and the diaspora have maintained their ties. They are expressing new forms of cross-border solidarity and political action.

The international community has always treated Israel's violations of the rights of the 1.5 million Palestinians inside Israel as an internal matter. The events in Acre, and especially the role of the national religious settler movement, provide early warning that this already inadequate approach will be even more ill-equipped to cope with spreading strife that will not respect lines on a map.

Ali Abunimah is a fellow at the Palestine Center in Washington, DC. He is an expert on Palestine, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and is the author of One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse. Abunimah also co-founded The Electronic Intifada, an online publication about Palestine and the Palestine-Israeli conflict, Electronic Iraq and Electronic Lebanon.

The views expressed in this information brief are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of The Jerusalem Fund.

1Jack Khoury, Nadav Shragai and Yoav Stern, 'Acre sees worst violence in years as Jews and Arabs resume clashes,' Haaretz (website), 9 October 2008, Update of 21.29.
2Ammar Awwad, 'Israel's Acre suffers third night of violence,' Reuters, 11 October 2008, (, Accessed 13 October 2008.
3Yaakov Lappin, 'Eyewitness: 'This is our city',' The Jerusalem Post, 12 October 2008, (, Accessed 13 October 2008.
4(In Arabic) Ra'id Dlasha, 'Akka: atfal wa nisaa' 'arabiyat yata'aradoun li'itidaa' saafir; al-shurta tu'azziz quwwat biwahdat khasa wa quwat musta'ariba,' Arabs 48, 13 October 2008, (, 13 October 2008.
5(In Arabic) 'Masadir israiliyya tu'akkid tadaffuq 'adad min nushataa' al-haraka al-istitaniyya ila akka,' Arabs 48, 13 October 2008,(, Accessed 13 October 2008.
6Ahiya Raved, 'Akko: Displaced Arab families made eligible for public housing,' Ynet, 13 October 2008, (,2506,L-3608511,00.html), Accessed 13 October 2008.
7'Acre driver apologizes for incident,' The Jerusalem Post, 12 October 2008.
8See Isabel Kershner, 'Israeli City Divided by Sectarian Violence,' The New York Times, 12 October 2008, (
9Sharon Roffe-Ofir, 'Northern District police commander: Majority of Akko riots are Jews,' Ynet, 12 October 2008, (,7340,L-3607875,00.html), Accessed 13 October 2008; See also, Sharon Roffe-Ofir, 'Police official says intigators of Akko riots Jewish,' Ynet, 12 October 2008, (,7340,L-3607905,00.html), Accessed 13 October 2008.
10Sharon Roffe-Ophir, 'Arab motorist: I narrowly escaped lynch in Akko,' Ynet, 9 October 2008 (,7340,L-3607142,00.html). Accessed 13 October 2008.
11Hagai Einav, 'Akko: 54 arrested in 4 days of riots,' Ynet, (,2506,L-3607842,00.html), Accessed 13 October 2008.
12'Acre driver apologizes for incident,' The Jerusalem Post, 12 October 2008, (, Accessed 13 October 2008.
13Jack Khoury, 'Police arrest driver who sparked Acre riots for 'harming religious sensitivities',' Haaretz, 13 October, 2008 (
14See Joseph Massad, 'Zionism's internal others: Israel and the Mizrahim,' in The Persistence of the Palestinian Question, (Routledge, 2006).
15See Sharon Roffe-Ofir, 'Peres visits Akko, urges side to exercise tolerance,' Ynet, 13 October 2008 (,7340,L-3608389,00.html), Accessed 13 October 2008.
16See Scott Wilson, 'Israel's Arab Citizens, Isolation and Exclusion,' The Washington Post, 20 December 2007.
17See 'About Us' page on Yeshivat Hesder-Akko's website, (, Accessed 13 October 2008.
18Abigail Klein Leichman, 'Back from Akko to help hesder yeshiva,' The New Jersey Jewish Standard, 21 June 2006, (
19Eli Senyor, 'Jaffa: Yeshiva to be built in heart of Arab neighborhood,' Ynet, 24 September 2008, (,7340,L-3601062,00.html).
20See Jonathan Cook, 'State's weak responses make Jewish extremism stronger,' The National, 27 September 2008, (
21Yoav Stern and Yuval Azoulay, 'Livni tells Acre residents: Don't take law into your own hands,' Haaretz, 10 October 2008, (
22Jack Khoury, 'Peres in Acre: We have many religions, but one set of laws,' Haaretz, 13 October 2008 (, Accessed 13 October 2008.
23(In Arabic) 'Ahdath akka ... samt murib li sultat ramallah wa ghiyab lilnitham al-rasmi al-'arabi,' Palestinian Information Center, 13 October 2008 (, Accessed 13 October 2008.
24See Ali Abunimah, 'Anti-Arab Racism and Incitement in Israel' Palestine Center Information Brief No. 161, 25 March 2008, (
25Amnon Meranda, 'MK Eitam slams 'anti-Semitic pogrom in heart of Israel,' Ynet, 9 October 2008, (,7340,L-3607097,00.html). Accessed 13 October 2008.
26Ahiya Raved, 'Akko: Jewish residents call for boycott on Arab businesses,' Ynet, 11 October 2008, (,7340,L-3607517,00.html).
27(In Arabic) 'Ahdath akka ... samt murib li sultat ramallah wa ghiyab lilnitham al-rasmi al-'arabi,' Palestinian Information Center, 13 October 2008 (, Accessed 13 October 2008.
28(in Arabic) 'Ghazza: al-mi'at sharaku fil mu'tamar al-sha'bi allathi nathamhu markaz filastin lildirasat walbuhuth ma' ahali madinat 'akka,' Arabs 48, 12 October 2008, (
29'Gaza militants vow revenge for Acre violence,' Xinhua, 12 October 2008, (


Jewish Peace News editors:
Joel Beinin
Racheli Gai
Rela Mazali
Sarah Anne Minkin
Judith Norman
Lincoln Shlensky
Alistair Welchman

Jewish Peace News editors:
Joel Beinin
Racheli Gai
Rela Mazali
Sarah Anne Minkin
Judith Norman
Lincoln Shlensky
Rebecca Vilkomerson
Alistair Welchman
Jewish Peace News archive and blog:
Jewish Peace News sends its news clippings only to subscribers. To subscribe, unsubscribe, or manage your subscription, go to

Saturday, October 18, 2008

New Interview and Book by Neve Gordon

If Neve Gordon's new book, is half as interesting, informative and incisive as this interview about it, it looks well worth reading. According to the interview, the book, steeped in Professor Gordon's experience as an activist, is the first to try to understand the occupation conceptually as a whole.

--Rebecca Vilkomerson

Israel's Occupation, A New Book By Neve Gordon
A ZNet book interview... October, 07 2008
By Neve Gordon
and Chris Spannos

(1) Where did your book Israel's Occupation come from?

The book has two distinct sources. First and foremost, it is a product of many years of activism in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. My understanding of the forms of control deployed in the Gaza Strip and West Bank began during the first Intifada, initially as a member of the Gaza Team for Human Rights and later as the director of Physicians for Human Rights, Israel. During the second Intifada, I became an active member of Ta'ayush (Arab-Jewish Partnership) and spent much time in the Occupied Territories resisting, together with Palestinians, Israel's abusive policies. This kind of first-hand experience is invaluable and cannot be replaced by books and reports. The book is also the outcome of discussions and research carried out by a group of Israeli and Palestinian students and scholars that I was fortunate to join a few years ago. The aim of this group was to try and theorize Israel's particular form of colonization.

(2) What would you say makes your book different than other books on the occupation?

There is, to be sure, a whole slew of books about Israel's occupation of Palestinian territories, (one might even call it an industry) but surprisingly there is not a single book that provides an overview of four decades of Israeli military rule.

One can find excellent books about the history of Israel's settlement project, Palestinian resistance, primarily during the first and second Intifada, the history of the military courts, the Palestinian women's movement, the labor movements, the diplomatic initiatives, and human rights abuses. I am familiar with five different books that deal with the separation barrier, also known as the wall. While these studies are crucial for understanding certain features of the occupation, Geoffrey Aronson's 1987 Facts on the Ground was the last book that attempted to provide an overview of the occupation, but his superb book appeared before the eruption of the first intifada. On the one hand, then, this is the only book that offers an extensive history of the occupation.

On the other hand, most of the books that exist are descriptive. My book, by contrast, aims to theorize the occupation and Israel's control of the Palestinian population. It aims to offer an explanation for the changes that have taken place in the Occupied Territories over the years. If in 1968 Israel helped Palestinians in the Gaza Strip plant some 618,000 trees and provided farmers with improved varieties of seeds for vegetables and field crops, during the first three years of the second Intifada Israel destroyed more than ten percent of Gaza's agricultural land and uprooted over 226,000 trees. How can one explain this shift?

(3) The book focuses on the four decades since 1967. What about the decades before, and particularly the war of 1948?

The objective of my book is to show and analyze how Israel has controlled the population it occupied in 1967. I am not writing the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or the history of the mechanisms of control employed to control the Palestinian people in the most general sense. I think, for instance, that the modes of control deployed to control Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip have diverged from the ones deployed inside Israel after the 1948 war in large part because Israel never wanted to integrate the Palestinians in the Occupied Territories into its citizenry. Israel, as I point out, wanted the "dowry" (the land it occupied in 1967) without the "bride" (the Palestinian inhabitants of this land) and therefore it had to introduce different forms of control.

This is not to say, however, that one can understand the Israeli-Palestinian conflict without looking back at 1948. 1948 is crucial both for understanding the conflict and for any just peace agreement. Indeed, I do not think there will be peace without first addressing the ethnic cleansing carried out during that war. However, discussing these issues is not the objective of my book; moreover, many excellent books have already been written on 1948.

(4) Your book provides a "Genealogy of Control." What is this and why is it important?

By genealogy of control I mean a history that describes the forms of control used to manage the population through the regulation of their daily practices. It refers to a certain kind of history from below. In the Occupied Territories the controlling apparatuses have manifested themselves in legal regulations and permits, military procedures and practices, spatial divisions and architectural edifices, as well as bureaucratic edicts and normative fiats dictating forms of correct conduct in homes, schools, medical centers, workshops, agricultural fields, and so forth. A single book does not suffice to create an inventory of these apparatuses, considering that the military orders issued over the years in the West Bank and Gaza Strip alone fill thousands of pages and deal with anything and everything, from business transactions involving land or property and the installation of water pumps to the planting of citrus trees and the structure of the governing body. Each one of these orders
can be analyzed in depth so as to uncover both the processes that led to its creation as well as the effects that it generated. Why, for example, did Israel prevent Palestinians from installing water pumps? Which practices did the military introduce to enforce this regulation, and how did the lack of water pumps affect the inhabitants' daily lives? Instead of offering a meticulous interrogation of a single controlling apparatus, as some commentators have done, my book provides a bird's-eye view of the means of control so as to explain the changes that have taken place over the past four decades in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

(5) Your preface mentions changes you experienced growing up. What were some of these changes and what do you attribute them to?

When I was a teenager my friends in high school took driving lessons in the middle of Rafah, a city located at the southern tip of the Strip which today is considered by almost all Israeli Jews to be a terrorist nest riddled with tunnels used to smuggle weapons from Egypt -- weapons that are subsequently used against Israeli targets. I mention that until the early 1990s Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza were part of the Israeli landscape, primarily as cheap laborers who built houses, cleaned streets, and worked in agriculture, but that today they have literately disappeared.

Israel's inability to quell the Palestinian emancipatory drive has led it to transform the Occupied Territories into a kind of open air prison. In the early years of the occupation Israel spent a lot of energy trying to manage the occupied population and to normalize the occupation. It monitored every aspect of Palestinian life. The number of televisions, refrigerators, and gas stoves were counted, as were the livestock, orchards and tractors. Letters sent to and from the different regions were checked, registered and examined. School textbooks, novels, movies, newspapers and political leaflets were inspected and frequently censored. There were detailed inventories of Palestinian workshops for furniture, soap, textiles, olive products and sweets. Even eating habits were scrutinized as was the nutritional value of the Palestinian food basket. Today, Israel is no longer interested in the Palestinian inhabitants as subjects that need to be managed (except perhaps in the seam zones near
the borders and at the checkpoints) and this, as I show, has led to a very precarious situation, one which is much more violent.

(6) How has violence and death among Palestinians and Israelis changed over the years of occupation and how does this inform our analysis or vice versa?
While the changes in the OT have manifested themselves in all areas of life, they are particularly conspicuous when counting bodies. Between the six-year period of 2001- 2007, Israel, on average, killed 674 Palestinians per year, which is more than it killed throughout the first 20 years of occupation. Moreover, since the eruption of the second Intifada, Israel has killed almost twice as many Palestinians as in the preceding 34 years. The number of Israelis killed has also dramatically increased over the years. During the thirteen-year period between December 1987 and September 2000, 422 Israeli were killed by Palestinians, but during the six-year period from the eruption of the second intifada until the end of 2006, 1,019 Israelis were killed. One of the questions I address in the book is how to make sense of the increasing violence. I want to look beyond the straightforward, and, in my mind, simplistic answer that assumes each side has altered its methods of violence, deploying, as
it were, much more lethal force. This, no doubt, is true, but the question still stands: why are more lethal repertoires of violence deployed?

(7) You write that the Occupation operated according to the "colonization principle" but over time gave way to the "separation principle." What do you mean?

By the colonization principle I mean a form of government whereby the colonizer attempts to manage the lives of the colonized inhabitants while exploiting the captured territory's resources (in our case, this would mean land, water, and cheap labor). Colonial powers do not conquer for the sake of imposing administrative rule on the indigenous population, but they end up managing the conquered inhabitants in order to facilitate the extraction of resources. The military perceived its role very differently when the colonization principle was dominant than it does today. For instance, for several years, the Israeli Military Government published annual reports entitled "Accountability," suggesting that Israel felt a need to provide an account of the social and economic developments taking place in the regions that it had captured. The thrust of the claims made in the reports can be summed up in the following way: Due to our interventions, the Palestinian economy, industry, education,
health-care and civilian infrastructure have significantly developed. The point I would like to stress here is not that the development of these sectors was frequently actually obstructed, but rather that Israel considered itself responsible for these sectors, for the administration of the population. The Israeli objective was to normalize the occupation.

At a certain point during the first Intifada, Israel realized that the colonization principle wasn't working, and began looking for a new principle that would allow it to uphold the occupation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The desire to normalize the occupation and successfully annihilate Palestinian nationalism proved to be unrealistic. It took a few years before a clear policy was shaped, but eventually the separation principle was adopted. As opposed to the colonization principle which was rarely discussed, the separation principle has been talked about incessantly. The paradigmatic sentence describing this principle is "We are here, they are there." The "we" refers to Israelis, and the "they" to Palestinians.

The second principle does not, however, aim to end the occupation, but rather to alter its logic. In other words, "We are here, they are there," does not signify a withdrawal of Israeli power from the Occupied Territories (even though that is how it is understood among the Israeli public), but is used to blur the fact that Israel has been reorganizing its power in the territories in order to continue its control over their resources. Thus, the Oslo Accords, which were the direct result of the first Intifada as well as the changing political and economic circumstances in the international realm, signified the reorganization of power rather than its withdrawal, and should be understood as the continuation of the occupation by other means. As Meron Benvenisti observed early on, Oslo was a form of "occupation by remote control."

The major difference then between the colonization and the separation principles is that under the first principle there is an effort to manage the population and its resources, even though the two are separated. With the adoption of the separation principle Israel looses all interest in the lives of the Palestinian inhabitants and focuses solely on the occupied resources. Highlighting this reorganization of power helps explain the change in the repertoires of violence and the dramatic increase in the number of Palestinian deaths.

(8) How much have the forms of Israel's control over Gaza and the West Bank changed over the years and what does it tell us about Israel's control over the region?

The separation principle produces a totally different controlling logic from the logic produced by the colonial principle. If during the first decade of the occupation Israel tried to decrease Palestinian unemployment in order to manage the population, following the new millennium Israel intentionally produced unemployment in the Occupied Territories. Whereas in 1992 some 30 percent of the Palestinian workforce was employed in Israel, in 1996 that figure had fallen to seven percent and the average rate of unemployment in the territories reached 32.6 percent, rising twelve fold from the 3 percent unemployment in 1992. Thus, during one period employment is used to manage the population, while in a later period unemployment is used as a form of control.

Along similar lines, if during the first years of the occupation Israel provided immunization for cattle and poultry, in 2006 it created conditions that prevented people from receiving immunization. The World Bank reports that acute malnutrition currently affects more than 9 percent of Palestinian children in the territories, and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations estimated that in 2003 almost 40 percent of the Palestinians in the Occupied Territories suffer from food insecurity. Almost half of the children between 6 and 9 months and women of child-bearing age are anemic. There has been a 58 percent increase in the number of stillbirths due to poor prenatal care and child mortality increased substantially in 2002 to become the leading cause of death for children under 5, and the second leading cause of death overall. It is not only that the Palestinian inhabitants are no longer considered to be important objects of management and that Israel has abandoned its
objective of exploiting the population for economic purposes, but that it has adopted a series of policies which in effect weaken and destroy the Palestinian residents.

Indeed, under the separation principle the Palestinian is no longer conceived to be an object that needs to be meddled with and shaped. The military's policy during the second Intifada, whereby soldiers shot more than one million bullets within the first month, is poles apart from the policies of the first years of the occupation and even from Defense Minister Yitzchak Rabin's directive "to break their bones," given to soldiers during the first Intifada. The difference between beating the body and killing the body reflects the difference between the colonial principle and the separation principle, between shaping the body and crushing it.

(9) What is the difference between understanding the Occupation through the lens of policy vs. the lens of structure? Where might each lead the person who holds that perspective? And how is one better than another?

The question we need to always ask ourselves is where policy originates from. We tend to think of policy as the creation of a person or a small group of people. People commonly talk about the Eisenhower doctrine, the Bush doctrine, Ariel Sharon's doctrine, etc. as if certain doctrines originated from political leaders. I, by contrast, think that politics work differently. I think, for example, that politicians, military commanders, judges, and the like are constrained and in many respects shaped by the existing social, economic and political structures.

Let me give an example that is closer to home. The US is now undergoing an economic crisis and, as a result, Bush just passed a 700 billion dollar bailout bill. Michael Moore characterized the bill as the biggest robbery in the history of the United States. I tend to agree with this characterization, but the question I ask myself is whether this bill simply originated from President Bush and his advisors or whether it is a product of the crisis and certain political, economic and social structures in the US. I do not think one can fully make sense of the bill without taking into account certain credit structures in the US, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the intricate relationship between big business and the US electoral system, to name a few of the political processes and structures that helped shape the policies that aim to address the crisis. Moreover, it is the excesses and contradictions that are, in fact, integral to the credit structures, the wars and the influence of
business on the electoral systems that led to the crisis to begin with, which then led to the policy change.

The same is true about Israel's occupation. The mechanisms of control produced their own contradictions and excesses, which led, in turn, to policy changes.

(10) You write that the changes taking place in the Occupied Territories are not the effects of policy decisions or Palestinian Resistance. What guides your thinking here?

This is not precise. The changes are, no doubt, the effect of Israel's policy choices and Palestinian resistance, but what, I ask, are the underlying causes leading to the shifts in Israel's policy choices and to the augmentation or changes in Palestinian resistance. My claim is that the policy choices and indeed the resistance were shaped by the contradictions and excesses of the mechanisms of control that Israel deployed. A curfew restricts and confines the population, but also produces antagonism; the establishment of a Jewish settlement on a hilltop is used to confiscate land, partition space, and monitor the Palestinian villages below but also underscores that the occupation is not temporary. There are scores of examples like these in the book. The crux of the matter is that the contradictions facilitated the awakening of a Palestinian national consciousness, altered the population's social stratification and played a crucial role in weakening the influence of the traditional
elites, undermined the claim that the occupation was temporary and would end in the near future, revealed the logic behind Israel's so-called arbitrary processes and decrees, and helped bind together an otherwise fragmented society. Palestinian resistance, in turn, led Israel to alter its policies.

(11) The book pays particular focus to the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Why are these areas important to Israel?

This book concentrates on the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the areas where most of the Palestinians who were occupied in 1967 reside. Israel was, from the beginning, unwilling to withdraw from these two regions and hoped to integrate the land or at least parts of it into its own territory at some future date. My objective was to try and understand how a particular kind of colonialism works and how and why it changes over time. Israel's colonial enterprise in East Jerusalem or the Golan Heights works slightly differently and since I could not address all the differences in one book I decided to concentrate on the West Bank and Gaza Strip. This does not mean that they are more important to Israel; indeed I think that Gaza Strip is less important and considered by many Israeli policy makers more of a liability than an asset. The West Bank is considered, on the one hand, a military asset. It is perceived as necessary for defending Israel's borders against external attacks, while the water
reservoirs in the West Bank are considered a vital security resource due to Israel's scant water supplies. On the other hand, the West Bank fulfills a messianic aspiration. From a messianic perspective, this region is seen as part of the biblical land of Israel and therefore it belongs to the Jews and should never be returned to the Palestinians. These strains of thought often converge to create a united front.

(12) How do Palestinians and Israelis as conscious agents of change fit into your analysis?

They don't. It is, however, important to emphasize that even though my focus is on the different structures and mechanisms of control, I do not want to suggest that one should ignore or dismiss the agency of political actors. Indeed, any attempt to portray both Israelis and Palestinians as objects rather than subjects of history would be misleading. Israelis are responsible for creating and maintaining the occupation as well as its consequences, while Palestinians are responsible for their resistance and its effects. And yet the decisions of Israelis and Palestinians, as well as their comportment, are produced, at least in part, by a multiplicity of forms of control.

Since almost all the books that I am familiar with emphasize the human agency of Israelis and Palestinians, I decided to focus on the structures and forms of control. I think the two genres complement each other; indeed one cannot understand the occupation without taking into account both the agency and the structure - since most authors until now focused on the agency I decided to tell another story.

(13) What are your hopes for the book?

Like every person who writes a book I hope that it is widely read, that at the end of the day the people who read it feel that they have learnt something, that it is taught in classes, and that it will help activists make better sense of Israel's occupation.

While the book, and particularly the introduction, employs theory in order to make sense of the occupation, I think that non-academic readers will find the book accessible and benefit from such a theorization, since it will not only improve their ability to detect the lies and transcend the political smokescreen that characterize most discussions about Israel's occupation, but also provide some tools for understanding how power ticks. I hope that people from all political stripes read it, and not only those on the left or those interested in Israel/Palestine, but also people who want to improve their understanding of how modern forms of colonization operate and how our lives are managed.

Neve Gordon teaches politics at Ben-Gurion University and is the author of Israel's Occupation. Visit his website at

Chris Spannos is staff with Z.

Jewish Peace News editors:
Joel Beinin
Racheli Gai
Rela Mazali
Sarah Anne Minkin
Judith Norman
Lincoln Shlensky
Rebecca Vilkomerson
Alistair Welchman
Jewish Peace News archive and blog:
Jewish Peace News sends its news clippings only to subscribers. To subscribe, unsubscribe, or manage your subscription, go to

Monday, October 13, 2008

Silencing satire

We do not often have the opportunity to send along anything humorous, but the following is a welcome exception: a Canadian organization, the Palestine Media Collective, published a parody intended to expose the anti-Palestinian bias of CanWest, the largest media conglomerate in Canada (first piece below). The not-so-funny result was a lawsuit issued by CanWest against not only the authors of the piece but several other people who CanWest suspects of being distantly involved. (An account of the lawsuit is the second piece below, written by the authors of the parody.)

The lawsuit is of course an absurd attack on the free speech rights of those involved (and their friends, apparently). The point – and the problem – is that even spurious attacks by powerful institutions function to stifle dissent. They can cost a huge amount of money, time, and energy, and thus raise the bar for people presenting any sort of challenge to the reactionary consensus.

Judith Norman and Alistair Welchman

Study Shows Truth Biased Against Israel

ASPERVILLE – A ground-breaking new academic study has revealed that truth is inherently biased against Israel. "We expected, or at least hoped that the Truth would be fair and balanced – like Fox News," said lead researcher Dr. Ig Norance, "but we were sadly disappointed – anti-Israel bias was endemic."

Professor Norance, director of the Asper School of Business Information at the University of Winnipeg, said the study was the largest academic analysis of the Truth ever undertaken. "In most subject areas we studied, the Truth proved to be objective but it was shockingly hostile to the actions of the state of Israel."

When the subject of Israel was investigated by researchers, the Truth would shamelessly spew anti-Israeli facts such as "Israel's military killed 20 times more Palestinian civilians in 2006 than Israeli civilians were killed by Palestinians" or "Israel continues to occupy and colonise the Palestinian lands it took by force in 1967 in defiance of international law and 32 UN security council resolutions."

As a doubly-blind experimental control, researchers used Canadian media coverage of Israel. "We found that Canadian media portrayed Israel much better than the Truth did," Dr. Norance noted.

Researchers confronted the truth with pictures of Israeli children killed by Palestinian suicide bombers. The Truth sullenly replied that "In the last year, the Israeli army killed more than 130 Palestinian children while Palestinians did not kill a single Israeli child. Since September 2000, 825 Palestinian children have been killed by Israeli soldiers and settlers while 120 Israeli children have been killed by Palestinians."

But shouldn't Israel be allowed to build a fence to protect itself from terrorists, the researchers demanded of the Truth. The Truth could only respond "Israel's 700 km long "security" wall is being built 80% on Palestinian territory, and will trap more than 50,000 Palestinians in "no mans land" on the "Israeli" side of the wall. According to the International Court of Justice the wall is illegal and should be dismantled immediately."

The researchers were initially puzzled by the "Truth's intransigent anti-Israeli stance. "We realized we were witnessing a new kind of new anti-Semitism – where Truth and the facts overwhelmingly condemn Israeli actions," said Norance. "I think it is vital that the Truth be treated with mistrust and handled with care on the question of Israel.'

Leonard Asper, CEO of CanWest/Global said he was not personally surprised at the findings. "This confirms my suspicion that the Truth is fanatically anti-Israel, and vindicates our vigilance in managing the Truth about Israel's activities in all our converged media assets," he said.

Norance suggested that all media organizations should take similar steps so that truthful anti-Israeli bias didn't poison their coverage and subject them to accusations of New New-Anti-Semitism. "We are not recommending outright lying," Norance explained "just selective presentation of the Truth that is more balanced."

As an example, he cited the common media practice of ignoring the vast majority of Palestinian civilian deaths while reporting every Israeli casualty – often without specifying if they are civilians or soldiers. "This creates the carefully balanced impression that Israelis and Palestinians civilians are dying in roughly equal numbers in this conflict despite the rabid anti-Israeli nature of the truth of the matter."

Carol Moiseiwitsch and Gordon Murray: Huffing and puffing to silence criticism of Israel

In June 2007, the Palestine Media Collective produced a newspaper parody of The Vancouver Sun that satirized the anti-Palestinian bias of CanWest, the largest media conglomerate in Canada. One example was an article entitled "Study Shows Truth Biased Against Israel" by Cyn Sorsheep. Six months later, CanWest launched a lawsuit against those who "conspired" to produce and distribute the parody. The original writ named Mordecai Briemberg, Horizon Publications (the printer), and six Jane and John Does.

CanWest Mediaworks Publications is the parent company of the Global television network, ten large market and national daily newspapers, 25 community newspapers, and 20 specialty television channels. Canwest bought Canada's largest newspaper chain from Conrad Black in 2000 and in 2007 purchased Alliance Atlantis, one of Canada's largest specialty television operators.

We stated publicly that the two of us were solely responsible for producing the newspaper parody, and CanWest has added our names to the lawsuit. We maintain that the parody was the exercise of the "fundamental freedom" under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms "of thought, belief, opinion, and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication." Although we have confirmed that Mordecai Briemberg was not involved in producing the parody, Canwest has refused to drop its suit against him.

We decided to create the satirical publication after a November 2006 trip to the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) to assist Palestinian families trying to harvest olives on their ancestral lands. Some of the olive groves had been untended for more than five years because Palestinian farmers were killed or due to other violent intimidation from Israeli settlers and soldiers.

One morning, we could not reach a nearby village to help pick olives because the road was blocked by Israeli military vehicles attacking al-Ein refugee camp. We witnessed Israeli soldiers abducting two Palestinian medical volunteers and holding them hostage in their armored vehicle. The Israeli invasion killed a young Palestinian man that morning, and their tanks wantonly destroyed vehicles and buildings in the densely populated and impoverished refugee camp.

When we returned home to Vancouver, we were appalled by CanWest's one-sided coverage of the situation we had just witnessed in the OPT. In CanWest publications, Israelis are almost always portrayed as innocent victims and Palestinians as inhuman terrorists. We saw no reflection of our experiences with the Palestinian families who shared their lunch with us in the shade of gnarled olive trees, nor of the violent gangs of Israeli settler youth who stoned and kicked international volunteers and Palestinian farmers while Israeli soldiers stood by.

A study released in 2006 by Toronto's Near East Cultural and Educational Foundation quantified the shocking bias of CanWest news. It determined that during 2004, CanWest's flagship National Post was 89 times more likely to report an Israeli child's death than that of a Palestinian child in its news articles' headlines or first paragraphs.

In other words, the CanWest "news coverage" made it appear that Israeli kids were killed at a rate almost four times higher than Palestinian children during 2004 when, in fact, 22 Palestinian children were killed for every Israeli child that year, according to the Israeli human rights group B'Tselem. As a 3 March 2008 Post editorial noted, "in any war, it is the child casualties that attract the greatest sympathy and anguish."

In Vancouver, CanWest dominates the news market through ownership of The Vancouver Sun, The Province, The National Post, and 12 community newspapers, as well as Global TV. Media researcher Marc Edge has called Vancouver the most concentrated metropolitan media market in any G8 country. With so few alternative news sources, we concluded that a newspaper parody would be the best method to point out CanWest's extreme bias.

CanWest newspapers have recently devoted significant space to pontificating about free speech. But while CanWest defends of free speech with one hand, it uses the courts to attack freedom of speech for those who disagree with its position on Palestine and Israel with the other.

A 26 May 2008 National Post editorial worried about a case involving Scientology protests in England: "the principles of free expression have to be guarded stringently in a liberal democracy." The National Post approvingly quoted Canadian Supreme Court justice Ian Binnie on 28 June 2008, regarding a defamation suit: "When controversies erupt, statements of claim often follow as night follows day, not only in serious claims but in actions launched simply for the purpose of intimidation ... chilling debate on matters of legitimate public interest."

A 2 July 2008 Province editorial worried that "free speech is significantly endangered" by human rights commissions "driven by political agendas." However, in CanWest's view, free speech is not endangered by Canada's largest media corporation suing political satirists who challenge its anti-Palestinian political agenda.

The Vancouver Sun publisher Kevin Bent tried to explain away the double standard in a 6 June memo to employees. "Some have tried to portray this action as an attack on free speech ... we believe this argument is a red herring ... Throughout Canada, when the voice of others has been stifled, CanWest has funded lawsuits to protect the right to free speech." The true red herring is his argument that CanWest's defense of free speech elsewhere means it can't be attacking it in our case.

CanWest claims this lawsuit is about trademarks. But the Trade-Marks Act is intended to adjudicate between competing commercial interests, not to pass judgment on political debates. CanWest's original writ reveals the political nature of the suit by referring to the alleged political positions of the defendants five times but only twice mentioning the Trade-Marks Act.

Prominent Canadian freedom-of-information organizations, including the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA), and Quebec's Ligue des droits et libertes, disagree with Bent's view and have called on CanWest to drop its lawsuit. A BCCLA 23 April open letter to CanWest stated "the BCCLA views the CanWest lawsuit to be an ill-advised attempt by CanWest to use the courts to silence satirical criticism and constrain fair comment." The Ligue des droits et libertes said: "We consider that CanWest's suit is an attempt to crush dissenting opinion through legal proceedings ... This abuse of the judicial system is what is known as a Strategic Lawsuit against Public Participation (SLAPP)."

CanWest's attack must also be seen in the context of the larger campaign to restrict free public debate on Palestine and Israel in Canada. Recent examples include McMaster University's administration's campus ban of the phrase "Israeli Apartheid" during 2008's international Israeli Apartheid Week and last year's cancellation, by the president of Minneapolis's University of St. Thomas, of Nobel Peace Prize winner Desmond Tutu's speech to the Justice and Peace Studies program.

The world needs to hear from eminent statesmen such as Archbishop Tutu -- after a recent visit to Gaza, he called the humanitarian situation of 1.5 million Palestinian civilians trapped by the Israeli siege an "abomination." In addition, former United States President Jimmy Carter labeled it "one of the greatest human-rights crimes on Earth."

Instead, CanWest continues to crank up the anti-Palestinian rhetoric. After a five-day period when the Israeli military killed 25 Palestinian children in Gaza (according to the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights), a 3 March 2008 National Post editorial declared that "Israel is blameless." According to CanWest, the "arithmetic" of how many Palestinian children are killed by Israeli missiles and tanks is overridden by the "moral calculus" of the "Palestinian people as one collective suicide bomber."

A healthy democracy requires a full and open debate of contentious issues, and values the contribution political satire makes to that debate. As Canadian Supreme Court Justice Binnie wrote in June 2008: "the law must accommodate commentators such as the satirist or the cartoonist who ... exercise a democratic right to poke fun at those who huff and puff in the public arena."

Carel Moiseiwitsch is a Vancouver activist and visual artist who has exhibited internationally. She was a freelance editorial illustrator for The Vancouver Sun and Province for over a decade. Gordon Murray is an activist and information technologist who was involved in alternative publishing for many years. Both have worked to support indigenous rights in Canada and around the world for more than 20 years.

Jewish Peace News editors:
Joel Beinin
Racheli Gai
Rela Mazali
Sarah Anne Minkin
Judith Norman
Lincoln Shlensky
Rebecca Vilkomerson
Alistair Welchman
Jewish Peace News archive and blog:
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Friday, October 10, 2008

Maya Schenwar: In Reversal, Democrats Shelve Iran Resolution / Truthout

Good news! - Both in terms of the substance of the change, as well as due to the fact that some Democrats have actually managed to stand up to AIPAC (The American Israel Public Affairs Committee), an extremely powerful and extremely right-wing "pro Israel" lobbying organization.

This change of course demonstrates that significant pressure from the grassroots CAN make a difference. Could it, perhaps, also signify an eroding trend in the power of AIPAC? - Let's hope!


Maya Schenwar: In Reversal, Democrats Shelve Iran Resolution / Truthout
Thursday 09 October 2008

t r u t h o u t | Report

US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Banking Chairman Barney Frank. After realizing that H.Con.Res.362 could lead to war with Iran, Frank - a cosponsor - has vowed to oppose the bill until its aggressive language is changed. (Photo: AFP / Getty)

Falling from shoo-in status to widely rejected legislation within the space of four months, a resolution that would have opened the door for a naval blockade on Iran was officially shelved at the end of September, after several of its cosponsors withdrew their support. House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Howard Berman has promised not to bring the bill, House Concurrent Resolution 362, before the committee until concerns about the text are addressed.

Given the scare-tactic-laden climate of the past eight years, 362's journey is remarkable: it represents a forceful effort by members of Congress - prodded by grassroots groups - to turn back the tides of impending war.

"The game-changer occurred when lawmakers realized that the resolution would lead to a naval blockade and war," Trita Parsi, president of the National Iranian American Council, told Truthout. "The mood in Congress is similar to what it is in the country as a whole - the appetite for another war in the Middle East simply isn't there."

The Iran resolution, originally proposed in late May, would have imposed "stringent inspection requirements" on trade with Iran, making a military blockade and the legal use of force distinct possibilities. It quickly gained bipartisan support, even among some of Congress's most progressive members, such as impeachment advocate Robert Wexler, Oversight Committee chairman and vocal Bush critic Henry Waxman, and Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, rated the most liberal Democrat in Congress by the nonpartisan vote-tracking project GovTrack.

Intense lobbying efforts by the powerful American Israel Public Affairs Committee propelled the bill forward, and in late June, sources close to Congressional leadership expected it to be ushered onto the House floor under suspension of the rules. A place on the suspension schedule - usually reserved for uncontroversial legislation - would have meant very limited debate and a quick vote for 362.

AIPAC framed the bill as a necessary escalation of tactics toward Iran. In a statement on the legislation, AIPAC announced, "Iran poses a growing threat to the United States and our allies as it continues rapidly advancing toward a nuclear weapons capability. Sanctions are having an impact on Iran, but more needs to be done now to persuade Tehran to change course."

Pressure from AIPAC and similar groups weighed heavily in some members' decisions to support the legislation, according to Jim Fine, legislative secretary for foreign policy for the Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL). He added that the force of the lobbyists sometimes took the place of careful consideration.

"In some cases, members clearly signed on without reading or understanding the implications of what they were signing on to, in part because the resolution's supporters presented it as nothing more than an incremental increase in sanctions against Iran and stressed that nothing in the resolution authorized the use of force against Iran - a red herring, since a nonbinding resolution never authorizes anything," Fine told Truthout. "But even when they understood the resolution's implications and didn't agree with them, some offices reported they were receiving so many emails and phone calls urging them to cosponsor, they didn't feel they could refuse."

Yet, just as the bill was poised to sail through the House, another lobbying effort staged a counterattack. A widespread coalition of peace groups, religious organizations, Iranian Americans and Jewish Americans coordinated phone-ins, email campaigns and visits to Congressional offices. They stressed that, though the language of the bill may imply that it simply strengthens sanctions, it actually could only be implemented by military means.

Prominent military experts and military personnel concurred with the grassroots movement, and made their voices heard.

"The blockade is not a step short of war; it is war. It virtually guarantees military confrontation causing unnecessary casualties on both sides," stated University of Minnesota Professor Cyrus Bina and Col. Sam Gardiner (ret.) in an early July op-ed, in the Washington Times.

The sponsors of 362, Congressmen Gary Ackerman and Mike Pence, responded to the accusations of activists and experts in a letter to their colleagues, stating, "These assertions are absolutely false and, frankly, utter nonsense."

But military experts continued to challenge 362. Vice Admiral Jack Shanahan, US Navy (ret.); Dr. Lawrence Korb, former assistant secretary of defense, and Lt. Gen. Robert G. Gard Jr. (ret.) responded to the sponsors' retorts in a letter to House members. "Despite the protestations of its sponsors, we believe that implementation of inspections of this nature could not be accomplished without a blockade or the use of force... Without a Security Council Resolution, implementation of these measures could be construed as an act of war," they wrote.

Meanwhile, grassroots efforts crescendoed, with thousands of messages sent to Congress about the resolution. National advocacy organizations' alerts were picked up by local groups, prompting an unusually large number of constituents to request personal meetings with their representatives, according to Fine.

Congress's response was unprecedented: five co-sponsors officially withdrew their names from the bill, while several more, including Wexler, voiced firm opposition to the bill's current language and vowed to push for changes.

"None of us at FCNL can remember another time when five members withdrew from a resolution they had agreed to cosponsor," Fine said.

It is also unusual for cosponsors of a bill to belatedly object to a substantial component of it - especially in an election year. Co-sponsor Congressman Barney Frank, who now opposes the resolution as it stands, even admitted to constituents that he'd made a mistake.

"I agree that this should not be our policy, and I regret the fact that I did not read this resolution more carefully," Frank wrote in a letter to an activist with Peace Action. "I'm going to consult with the authors to see if a change can be made that would omit this language, and if they are unwilling to do that, I will make very clear my disagreement with this in the most appropriate form. I apologize again for not having read this more carefully."

Ackerman has vowed to resume pushing for 362's passage later in the year, saying that the resolution continues to gain support among others in Congress. However, the past few months' backlash will make a renewed effort more difficult, according to Parsi - especially since grassroots groups are not giving up.

"There will likely be other attempts, but I don't think it is likely that language calling for a blockade - i.e. war - will pass easily," Parsi said. "We are prepared to work with all parties to make sure that a new and more constructive policy on Iran is put together that effectively meets the Iranian challenge."

In a broad sense, the rejection of H.Con.Res.362 paves the way for a new outlook on Iran, according to Fine. He points to the National Intelligence Estimate report released in December 2007, which encouraged diplomacy with Iran, as a guidepost for governmental action.

"Engaging with Iran to try to resolve dangerous conflict is common sense," Fine said. "Five former US secretaries of state have just repeated their call for direct talks with Iran, including Henry Kissinger, who says talks should begin at the secretary of state level. Congress is beginning to hear the message."

Jewish Peace News editors:
Joel Beinin
Racheli Gai
Rela Mazali
Sarah Anne Minkin
Judith Norman
Lincoln Shlensky
Rebecca Vilkomerson
Alistair Welchman
Jewish Peace News archive and blog:
Jewish Peace News sends its news clippings only to subscribers. To subscribe, unsubscribe, or manage your subscription, go to