Israel-Palestine…What To Read…
I am often asked how do I keep up with the developments in Israel-Palestine? Frankly, I don’t, can’t. The flood of events, articles, developments are more than I can handle. Every few months or so though, I read through the latest literature, get yet another depressing sense of how more settlements are being built in the West Bank and E. Jerusalem, how Gaza remains – as a colleague of mine at the University of Denver put it – `an open air prison’, how the beaches and night clubs in Tel Aviv are packed, its citizens oblivious and generally completely uninterested in the sufferings of their Palestinian neighbors on the other side of the wall, or locked into Gaza, how Israel is being more integrated into U.S. – NATO regional plans. It is always – and I mean always – depressing, depressing because the prospect of some kind of genuine peace between the Israeli and Palestinian peoples grows dimmer and dimmer as the mantra of `let’s get the peace talks going’ continues.
Following a time honored tradition, other than talking about peace, the U.S. does nothing of substance to pressure Israel to negotiate seriously with the Palestinians, the Obama Administration continues to arm Israel with the more sophisticated weaponry and communication systems in our arsenal. Rather than (politically) kicking Binjimin Netanyahu in his tootsies for prodding the U.S. to attack Iran, the Obama Administration does nothing serious to counter the war talk. and indeed, behind the scenes, is plotting with the Israelis. Very dangerous. Israeli society lurches to the right, its peace movement, valiant (people like Avnery, Jeff Halper, Menachem Klein) but increasingly isolated. Meanwhile the Occupation deepens. Settlement building goes on unabated as does the targeting and imprisonment of Palestinians.
The Palestinian movement, despite a bit of progress here and there, remains divided between a more secular wing whose leadership has been thoroughly corrupted by foreign funding – some but all from the USA – on the one hand and a Salafist dominated Hamas on the other, a gap which will be difficult to bridge. Here in the US of A groups like AIPAC, having exhausted their ability to make further inroads in the U.S. Jewish Community, sidle up to the likes of John Hagee’s `Christians United For Israel’ – a formation approaching the fascist wing of American Christian fundamentalism in specific and the American political spectrum in general. A completely cyncial – but still growing – relationship that someday will explode in the face of American Jewry. Oh yes, and now the quadra-annual spectacle - should be an Olympic sport! – of which of the presidential hopefuls can give offer Netanyahu a better dose of political phallacio.
True, the situation on the ground visavis the Israeli-Palestinian conflict here in the USA is evolving as TIAA – CREFF divests from Caterpillar – manufacturer of the military tractor that crushed Rachel Corrie to death and has bulldozed so many thousands, tens of thousands Palestinian homes into oblivion. The younger generation of American Jews, while in the main not anti-Zionist, still do not have the fervor for Israel as their more ideologically oriented parents, grand-parents, Israel’s 2008 military rape of Gaza being too much for them among other things. Arab-American organizations, as they distance themselves a little from their immigrant parents, have become more connected and effective in that warzone known as the U.S. `political arena’.
But when it comes to the media, the halls of power and mainstream political parties, the U.S. trade union movement, most universities and many religious institutions – the pro-Zionist grip on public opinion remains stronger than ever. Of course AIPAC has something to do with this and to argue otherwise, that it is `just a lobby’ is nonsense. Along with the National Rifle Association which has been able to turn the Aurora Colorado and Oak Creek Wisconsin Sikh Temple shooting into a national campaign for Americans to buy MORE GUNS, AIPAC is a highly effective political lobby. So much so that they even are a bit carried away with their own power which, despite appearances, is constricted here in the USA by the real power brokers – the military industrial complex, financial interests and oil companies – whose combined power puts AIPAC to shame. If they wanted to, these more powerful elements could crush AIPAC into the tiny irrelevant pieces it should be.
Divided in the usual factional, petty ideological and turf struggles that has characterized the more generalized U.S. left-liberal non-coalition since the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., the U. S. peace movement concerned with Israel-Palestine still jogs on. No – or very little – money, too many old, stale faces (like mine), forty years of accumulated enmities, political stupidity and little sense whatsoever as to how to get beyond its own belly button. Then there are the McCarthyite watchdog organizations – David Hurwitz and the like – ready to ponce on any and all critics of Israel’s occupation with the false claim (most of the time) of anti-semitism – to get profs fired, to go with their `defenders of the faith’ delegations to universities, other places of employment to pressure administrators to fire or not rehire people, etc. etc. For all that, I’m glad they’re/we’re still kicking and have a faith – as close to religion as I’ll ever get – that some day, but I doubt in my lifetime, we might even get it right. What stand out most about the peace movement on this issue is its lack of political maturity – which is impressive and not likely to soon change.
So…what do I read to maintain such an optimistic view of things? Pretty eclectic I would say..I read what I have come to consider `reliable’ sources. Rachid Khalidi, Palestinian scholar at Columbia University does not seem to have a blog (or if he does, I couldn’t find it), but he publishes frequently and is often interviewed and I try not to miss him. For Israeli sources, I look at Haaretz regularly. The weekly commentaries of Uri Avnery almost always give useful historical perspective and insights. On the U.S. side, Philip Weiss’s Mondo Weiss us about as good as it gets. Norman Finkelstein might raise the hairs on the back of American Zionist Jewish necks, but his analyses are careful, deliberate and always worth reading. The civil rights watchdog website Jews on First is excellent. Jim Wall’s Blog, `Wall Writings‘ covers developments in the U.S. political scene concerning Israel and Palestine as well as anyone. For more global analyses – that doesn’t necessarily cover Israel-Palestine, but doesn’t shy from it either, there are Conn Hallinan’s Dispatches From The Edge, Pepe Escobar’s column in Asia Times. Juan Cole’s Informed Comment is just that: informed and almost always interesting. The Institute for Policy Studies’ Phyllis Bennis is an excellent political analyst, as is Stephen Zunes (who also writes for other national publications).
There are some local writers worth reading – Ron Forthofer of the Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center, and Ira Chernus of Boulder. Ira’s stuff appears often on Common Dreams. He also has a new blog, Myth America – Ira Chernus’ Blog that is fascinating.
Reading does not necessarily mean agreeing with any particular source. I just find them reliable, where I can a little something hard to see here in Colorado. That said, for better or worse, in sickness and in health, I make up my own mind and suggest others do likewise. `Group think’ is not good for the soul.
There are some writers both national and local to Colorado I think worth reading. Will add their names, links in the next few days.
oh yes, Happy Nagasaki Day…Today, 67 years ago, the second nuclear weapon, a plutonium bomb was dropped on the southern Japanese port city of Nagasaki.
Five years ago, when the Occupation of the 1967 Territories reached its fortieth anniversary, I vented to friends and close associates how far the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was from achieving a peace with justice. Other than some cheer leaders, the realities on the ground looked dimmer than ever. By the way I have nothing much against cheer-leading, ie – suggesting there is a hope for peace – but somehow it needs to be grounded in reality, not simply wishful thinking. Forty years, no progress, I whined. My audience was an Irish friend. Their struggle against British control – as ugly, ruthless, racist as any – the Irish being called `Britain’s niggers’ as any – lasted a cool 800!! years. History moves much more quickly these days; it is true that peace is not around the corner and there remain dark days ahead…I don’t think it will take 800 years. If I have faith in anything, it is that justice will prevail. In the meantime,…I am reminded of the slogan for this blog, which takes on more meaning to me as years go by.,.. don’t kvetch, organize.
Will continue to update this site as I think of useful sources…