Middle East: October 2002 Archives

The only Middle Eastern paper I read regularly -- Ha'aretz seems to have had it with the settlers and the increasing destruction of anything resembling a sensible government in Israel. Who can blame them? The settlers are destroying any moral credibility that Israel once had. They are no better than the apartheid government of South Africa, and they are increasingly the people who set the terms of debate in Israel.

Buried in the stories (here is one from the Daily News, not exactly a pro-Palestinian paper) of the latest suicide bomber is this:

Six miles away, a mob of 10 Jewish settlers set upon 30 Palestinian farm workers and peace activists, pummeling them with stones and rifle butts, when they heard about the attack.

A Palestinian couple, their two children and four activists were treated at a nearby hospital for their injuries.

An American, James Deleplain, 74, suffered a possible broken rib and an American-British citizen, Mary Hughes-Thompson, 68, had both arms broken, according to the International Solidarity Movement.

Those attacked were harvesting olives.

One of today's Ha'aretz essays, titled "Before Jewish fascism takes over", discusses interesting similarities between this era and that of the fall of Jerusalem to the Romans. Yossi Sarid argues that what caused Jerusalem to collapse was zealotry, and Israel faces the same danger today:

There was no "civil war" in those days because wars require two sides. The zealots of the day decided during the Great - and doomed - Revolt against the Romans to begin a campaign of organized terror against all those they decided were too moderate. The domestic terror toppled the responsible leadership, which feared the zealotry that fell upon them. The leadership threw up its hands in surrender without battle, so there was no "civil war."

The crazed "patriots" didn't cool off until they had managed to burn all the grain silos of Jerusalem, driving the residents of the besieged city into hunger and making certain that if there had been any chance for the Great Revolt, the fall of Jerusalem became inevitable. Therefore it was Jewish zealotry that destroyed the Second Commonwealth - and not a civil war.

It appears likely that the Labor party will leave the government over its opposition to payments to the illegal settlements in the Occupied Territories. It also appears that the government won't fall, forcing new elections, because a far right party will join Sharon's government. That party is National Union-Yisrael Beiteinu, which has advocated mass expulsions of Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza. I think it's time for Israelis to ask themselves how they've reached this point. I read a quote from an American Viet Nam veteran at Saturday's anti-war rally in DC, who said, "If violence made people safer, Israel would be perfectly safe".

But wait, there's more.

There is a column by Akiva Eldar in which he argues that the Labor Party has abandoned American Jews, allowing the right to have its say, and to be able to argue that Americans support Sharon's government.

The lack of an alternative to the Sharon/Ben-Eliezer government has paralyzed the supporters of compromise inside the Jewish community. MK Avshalom Vilan, who recently visited Washington as part of a Peace Coalition delegation, says that congressmen, including Jewish congressmen, were surprised to learn that the majority of the Israeli public supports the establishment of a Palestinian state and opposes the settlements. The pro-Israeli lobby constantly feeds them information about corruption in the Palestinian Authority, but they've never been told that in less than 10 years there will be an Arab majority between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River. Obviously, nobody asks them to protest the highway robbery of olive harvesters and the land grabs of Palestinian properties.

The leaders of Reform and other liberal movements in American Judaism admit to their friends in the Israeli peace camp that their communities refuse to listen to a word of criticism about the Israeli government's policies. "How can you expect us to pressure the administration to change its attitudes to Sharon's brutal policies," they ask, "when the Labor Party's leader executes those policies and the Nobel Peace Prize laureate [Shimon Peres] does such a good job of explaining the policies?"

For that sin, the abandonment of American Jewry, the peace camp may yet pay for many years to come.

I'll end with an excerpt from one of today's editorials -- "The settlers' persecution".

The settlers of Itamar in the West Bank have taken upon themselves security powers and are violently chasing away the farmers from the adjacent villages of Yanoun and Akrabeh. According to reports from the villagers, armed settlers are riding into the villages on all-terrain vehicles and are threatening and beating the farmers who are going out to harvest the olive trees they own or lease, thereby undermining their principal source of income at this time of the year.

This ongoing persecution - which has been accompanied by gunfire directed at the farmers and their homes, the torching of the Yanoun village generator and the contamination of the well in the area - has already caused most of the village residents to abandon their homes. The village, which was once home to 150 families, now has less than 10 families living there.

Dozens of complaints dating as far back as 1998 and concerning the vandalization of property have been filed by the village residents with the Israel Police, but these have gone no further than a confirmation of their receipt. Till now, no one has stood trial and no indictments have been served against the persecutors.

Photo of Israeli soldiers at the Supreme Court. They have refused to serve in the Occupied Territories.

A nice story out of Gaza for once: a feminist play with Palestinian actresses. Check out the photo -- great design!

The Council on Foreign Relations, not exactly a left-wing group, has issued a new report saying that Saudi Arabia is turning a blind eye to fundraising by al-Quaeda and similar groups.

There's also a BBC article on the subject.

Bush and his ilk care more about oil and doing business with oil-rich despots than they do about terrorism. Anyone who thinks otherwise is sadly misguided.

In These Times has an interview with Scott Ritter, who served as Chief U.N. weapons inspector in Iraq until 1998. In case you haven't heard, he is opposed to our attacking Iraq, warning "If the United States unilaterally invades Iraq, we will go to war as a rogue nation ourselves and join the short list that includes North Korea, which invaded South Korea, and Saddam Hussein, who invaded Kuwait."

I want to start screaming everytime I read or hear someone talk about the weapons inspectors being expelled. Here is Ritter's account:

Saddam Hussein didn’t kick out the U.N. inspectors. They were ordered out by the U.S. government, which then used information they provided to bomb 100 locations that had nothing to do with weapons of mass destruction. So the weapons inspectors were used by the United States. This is the reality: When Madeleine Albright called up Richard Butler and said, “Jump!” Richard Butler always said, “How high?” It was obvious from day one.

I'm getting a cold, so this is going to be a stream-of-consciousness post about the rally. There are some photos here.

We got there a little after 1pm, and stayed until it ended around 5 or 5:30. As we walked from the subway station (the 6) to the park, a couple of people yelled at us that this was a "good war", or that we must be Saddam Hussein lovers. All of these people were driving SUVs. In the station itself, things got started early, even before we were out on the street, with a group of college students chanting.

One of the most moving people I saw was a rescue worked from Ground Zero -- I think his organization was Ground Zero for Peace, but I'm not sure. He said that rescue workers rescue anyone, regardless of their politics or race or religion, and they didn't want more casualties.

Signs and t-shirts spotted that I liked:

* Fighting for Peace is like Fucking for Virginity
* All Bully No Pulpit
* Silence = Consent
* Madness of King George
* The Emperor has no Brain
* Regime change starts at home
* Bombing Iraq is so 10 years ago
* Autogeddon

One interesting tidbit -- out of the 20,000 or so people there, I only saw a single smoker.

The main announcer sounded a lot like a South Asian Eleanor Roosevelt.

There were a number of celebrities. Susan Sarandon was very good, telling Bush and those that saw questioning the government as treasonous, "This is what democracy looks like. This is what an intelligent citizenry does." She also said that a pre-emptive strike "as defense" was what Pearl Harbor was. She mentioned that Robert Byrd is talking about doing a filibuster to prevent a vote on war with Iraq. It was probably the first time a crowd like that ever cheered Byrd. Go read James's account of Byrd's speech last week.

Susan's significant other, Tim Robbins, was great. He talked about how this is all basically a ruse to distract us from the scandals of Halliburton and Enron, and the bad economy. He said that fundamentalism of any kind was abhorrent to him, because it was opposed to the things that mattered to him: art, music, film, books, and independent women.

Tom Duane was the only currently-elected official I saw there. He said he wished he had more politicians to stand with him at the rally.

A young woman from Stuyvesant H.S. said that it was the duty of youth to dissent, since they would have to live with the world that is being created now, and much longer than Bush will.

Martin Sheen reminded us that 40 years ago next week, the Cuban Missile Crisis was worked out without going to war. He also read part of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I have a dream" speech.

A woman from Global Exchange, the group that interrupted Rumsfeld at his Armed Services Committee appearance a few weeks ago, said they were called "rude and unreasonable women". She also used the great phrase "Weapons of Mass Distraction".

Two young girls -- nine and ten -- read a great statement they had written. My favorite part: "We have more than enough money to buy the oil we need, so why do we need to steal it?"

Cynthia McKinney spoke, and I can see why the Republicans hate her so much. She said that Bush, et al, are so gung ho for war, but none of them had actually fought in any wars.

There was a lot more, including appearances by Reno and David Byrne, but I think you get the picture.


* Common Cause
* Not In Our Name

Final note: I can't find coverage of today's event in any U.S. media right now, but there's an article on the BBC web site. They estimate the crowd at 20,000.

I'll post more in a little while -- just got home. We were there until it ended. I would estimate there were at least 10,000 there, it might have been closer to 15-20,000. I just went to look at the NY1 and 1010 WINS web sites. The former's top story is about a fake ticker-tape parade and other fake "Olympic" activities to promote NYC's attempts to bring the games here. 1010 WINS's web site has these as the top stories:

* Cop Shot in Brooklyn
* Survey: NY Congressman Support War
* Report: Mentally Ill Locked Down in Nursing Homes
* Firetrucks and Car Collide in Bronx - 12 Hurt
* Claims Adjuster Found Guilty of Damaging Home
* Campbells Recalls Mislabeled Soup
* Police in CT Arrest 3 'Jackass' Wannabes
* Supreme Court Considers Taking NJ Senate Case
* Report: Derailed Air Train was Near Top Speed
* Bloomberg to Crack Down on Sidewalk Cafes
* Jogger Rape Suspect Says He Raped Another
* Mayor Heads to Colorado to Push Olympic Bid
* Record Spending in NY Governor's Race
* Brooklyn Brothers Plead Guilty to $50M Fraud
* U.N. Shooter Denied Bail Over Flight Risk
* Parents Plead Innocent in Son's Heroin Death
* Families Want Steel Cross to Stay at Ground Zero
* NYC, Nurses Union, Reach Deal
* Parties Lobby Supreme Court on NJ Ballot Issue

If 10,000+ people oppose a war, it's not news. Of course, London had at least 150,000 for theirs.

Titled Doubts set in on Afghan mission, it says that the Americans are looking increasingly like occupiers to the Afghans and themselves. The soldiers have also been given little plastic cards (they show one to the reporter) telling them what to say to the press. Via cursor.

Choire says it better than my still jet-lagged brain can. Go sign Michael Moore's petition, and send some letters.

Jay Bookman, one of the editors of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution has a very good column from a couple of days ago about the real goal of war on Iraq. It's to further the goal of people like Cheney and Rumsfeld to finally assemble a global American empire.

The official story on Iraq has never made sense. The connection that the Bush administration has tried to draw between Iraq and al-Qaida has always seemed contrived and artificial. In fact, it was hard to believe that smart people in the Bush administration would start a major war based on such flimsy evidence.


This war, should it come, is intended to mark the official emergence of the United States as a full-fledged global empire, seizing sole responsibility and authority as planetary policeman. It would be the culmination of a plan 10 years or more in the making, carried out by those who believe the United States must seize the opportunity for global domination, even if it means becoming the "American imperialists" that our enemies always claimed we were.


Once that is understood, other mysteries solve themselves. For example, why does the administration seem unconcerned about an exit strategy from Iraq once Saddam is toppled?

Because we won't be leaving. Having conquered Iraq, the United States will create permanent military bases in that country from which to dominate the Middle East, including neighboring Iran.

Bookman refers in the column to a report issued in 2000 called "Rebuilding America's Defenses", available for download from New American Century, which is a conservative think tank. Its authors include quite a few people now in charge in the Bush administration:

Paul Wolfowitz is now deputy defense secretary. John Bolton is undersecretary of state. Stephen Cambone is head of the Pentagon's Office of Program, Analysis and Evaluation. Eliot Cohen and Devon Cross are members of the Defense Policy Board, which advises Rumsfeld. I. Lewis Libby is chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney. Dov Zakheim is comptroller for the Defense Department.

I would think Israel would be rather concerned about this if they suspect it's what we're planning. If Iraq becomes our "aircraft carrier" in the Middle East, Israel's strategic importance for us will drop sharply.

AlterNet has a War on Iraq newslog page.

This page is an archive of entries in the Middle East category from October 2002.

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