Honduras, Makdisi, Boycott and Mendes: “mutual destruction”
Even the NYT, which has tacitly been supportive of the coup in Honduras, is beginning to notice repression there. This article begins:
Rosamaria Valeriano Flores was returning home from a visit to a public health clinic and found herself in a crowd of people dispersing from a demonstration in support of the ousted president, Manuel Zelaya. As she crossed the central square of the Honduran capital, a group of soldiers and police officers pushed her to the ground and beat her with their truncheons.
It goes on
“In the 1980s, there were political assassinations, torture and disappearances,” said Bertha Oliva, Cofadeh’s general coordinator, in an interview last week, recalling the political repression of the country’s so-called dirty war. “They were selective and hidden. But now there is massive repression and defiance of the whole world. They do it in broad daylight, without any scruples, with nothing to stop them.”
“Elections are a risk because people won’t vote,” said Javier Acevedo, a lawyer with the Center for Research and the Promotion of Human Rights in Tegucigalpa. “The soldiers and police at the polls will be the same ones as those who have been carrying out the repression.”
Investigators from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights visited in August, and found a pattern of disproportionate force, arbitrary detentions and control of information.
Makdisi on Gaza and Fatah
Saree Makdisi has a very good long and critical analysis of Fatah’s betrayal of Gazans. It begins by discussing reports on the Gaza massacre, and proceeds to Fatah.
I’ll sample from the two bits (which are conceptually separate, but of course are in the one essay)
Indeed, among its other findings, the Goldstone report corroborates the well-documented reports (all of them summarily dismissed by the Israeli army, which considers itself “the most moral army in the world“) that Israeli soldiers themselves admitted to the brutality of the bombardment of Gaza, and left behind them—as unmistakable evidence of their officially-encouraged attitude towards Palestinians—both racist slogans (e.g., “We came to annihilate you; Death to the Arabs; Kahane was right; No tolerance, we came to liquidate”) and human feces smeared on the walls of the Palestinian homes they looted and vandalized. “You feel like an infantile little kid with a magnifying glass looking at ants, burning them,” one Israeli soldier confessed of the prevailing Israeli army attitude toward the Palestinians of Gaza, which was fueled in part by the proclamations of the army’s rabbinical corps, which compared Palestinians to the biblical Philistines and urged that Israeli soldiers “show no mercy.”
None of the conclusions of all these reports ought to come as a surprise. The Israeli army itself had openly proclaimed, months before the bombing even started, that its strategy in both Lebanon and Palestine has been premised since 2006 on the sweeping and indiscriminate use of massive firepower: the so-called “Dahiyeh Doctrine,” referring to the Dahiyeh, or southern suburb of Beirut, which the Israelis razed to the ground in their 2006 war on Lebanon, as they also did to many villages in the south of that country. ”We will wield disproportionate power against every village from which shots are fired on Israel, and cause immense damage and destruction,” one Israeli general (Gadi Eisenkot) announced—with contemptuous disregard for the law of war. ”From our perspective, these are military bases,” he added. “This isn’t a suggestion. This is a plan that has already been authorized.”
The process of referral depended, however, on obtaining a vote within the UN to have the Goldstone report referred to the Security Council for further deliberation, the creation of a war crimes tribunal, and so on. And all of that depended in turn on the support of Palestinian diplomats appointed by and accountable to Mahmoud Abbas.
But it is now clear that the Palestinian team representing Mahmoud Abbas at the UN (for they certainly do not represent the Palestinian people) has, on his instructions, dropped its support for the resolution that might have set the legal machinery of the international judicial system in motion. Other states can hardly be expected to stand up to US pressure and support a resolution on behalf of Palestinian rights that the Palestinian delegation itself is unwilling to support—why should Venezuela or Nigeria or Pakistan be more Palestinian than the Palestinians?
Reports have been circulating in the Arab, Israeli and European media that Abbas and his associates may have been prompted to take this extraordinary action because Israel had been threatening, had they continued with their support of the UN resolution, to withhold its release of a share of the radio spectrum that would have allowed the creation of a new Palestinian mobile phone company, Wataniyya: the product of a joint venture between Qatari investors and the Palestine Investment Fund, to which Abbas himself and one of his wealthy sons have personal connections. Palestinians have suggested that simple corruption and cronyism may have motivated Abbas’s decision. The PA and the circle of officials attached to it have certainly had their share of corruption charges—most shockingly, perhaps, when Ahmed Qureia, then the so-called Prime Minister of the PA (again, “so-called” because Prime Ministers usually have countries to govern, and the PA is anything but a country), was accused of selling cement to the Israelis to build their wall in the West Bank.
Jake Lynch has an article.
There are strong arguments on either side of the case for an academic boycott of the Higher Education industry in Israel, which I’ve called for at the University of Sydney, where strong institutional links exist with several Israeli universities. A public meeting we held recently in the Centre saw some vigorous debate with staff and students from the Department of Hebrew, Biblical and Jewish Studies. Our own National Tertiary Education Union – fresh from its notable success in achieving a favourable Enterprise Bargaining Agreement with university management – is now planning steps to facilitate a wider debate among its members on campus.
Some of the more persuasive counter-points have to do with the relationships that Lederach identifies as crucial resources for peacebuilding. I fully accept that there is an onus on me to show how productive relationships can be maintained with individual Israeli academic colleagues, where they may help to bridge gaps of interdependence at any level of the conflict.
Omar Barghouti and Lisa Taraki, founders of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, say: “The fact that we go out of our way [in the original boycott call] to ‘Exclude from the above actions against Israeli institutions any conscientious Israeli academics and intellectuals opposed to their state’s colonial and racist policies’ follows from our realization that there is always a grey area where an academic may be perceived as representing her/himself rather than her/his institution”.
In a similar way, those who’ve protested at the Toronto International Film Festival theming itself on Tel Aviv this year – including screen actors Viggo Mortensen and Danny Glover – make it clear that they are not against individual directors being invited to exhibit. It’s the “decision to host a celebratory spotlight on Tel Aviv” that makes the festival “complicit in the Israeli propaganda machine”. Naomi Klein has described how she switched publication of the Israeli edition of her book, The Shock Doctrine, to a publisher that agreed to use all the proceeds for translating Arabic books into Hebrew, thus enabling her to “boycott the Israeli economy but not Israelis”.
In contrast with this rather sophisticated debate…
Okay, so Lynch does not favour a complete boycott of Israel, but a targetted boycott. I’m curious how targeted, and I’m not sure of his precise goals. He refers to the need to prevent Israeli violation of international law. Well, this covers the occupation, the settlements, the apartheid wall.
Philip Mendes writes the same things over and over and over again. Because there’s no substance to anything he writes about Israel and Palestine, and he is flatly uninterested in discussing the issues, his latest contribution offers nothing new, beyond an escalation of rhetoric which is obscene, yet characteristic of his intellectual style (because links aren’t coloured on my blog for some reason, I think I’ll use bold in future).
Characteristically, he writes “Antony Loewenstein and Docker, two anti-Zionist fundamentalists of Jewish origin”. Anti-Zionist fundamentalist is Mendes technical term to describe people with an opinion he doesn’t like. Uninterested in the issues, Mendes simply calls such people names. He proceeds to greater intellectual distinction:
Firstly, an academic boycott of Israelis alone is discriminatory given that it is based on an ethnic stereotyping of all Israelis as exceptionally evil, and is implicitly if not explicitly racist. … It is only fascists and xenophobes who classify whole peoples as inherently bad or inferior.
That is, everyone who supports the boycott is engaged in ethnic stereotyping, they are fascists or xenophobes. Also, they think all Israelis are exceptionally evil. Boycotters are implicitly if not explicitly racist.
Now, think about this for a moment. Firstly, the academic boycott wouldn’t target all Israelis. Secondly, the academic boycott, if it were blanket, would target Jewish and Palestinian academics in Israel. An ethnic stereotype of two peoples? Thirdly, the academic boycott proposed – as Lynch has written in the past – is not supposed to be targetted at all Israelis. Lynch gave the example of welcoming Halper. What Mendes says is therefore quite obviously false, and he should know this.
Mendes goes on to worry that those who support a two state solution may be demonised. Does he think this is a serious argument? He goes on:
Thirdly, the key boycotters are not internationalist advocates of Israeli-Palestinian peace and reconciliation. They are rather unconditional supporters of Palestinian nationalism. They favour the dissolution of the existing State of Israel and its replacement with an exclusivist ethno-religious Arab/Islamic state of Greater Palestine.
Note that this is complete fabrication. Mendes cannot give a quote from Docker, Loewenstein, Lynch et al – who he explicitly targets in this blog – saying anything of the sort. He goes on to more characteristic caricaturing (“For the simplistic construction by the boycotters of all Israelis as evil oppressors (to be blamed and punished) and all Palestinians as innocent victims (to be patronisingly protected from any critical analysis)”)
He then reveals his views on the issues, which would impress AIJAC. Consider some of the following:
Until mid 2000, most of the Israeli Left and the Jewish Left worldwide including myself assumed that the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and associated settlements were the key barriers to the implementation of a peaceful two state solution. We might call this the “root causes” of the conflict theory. But that theory was undermined by the following seminal events:
The Palestinian Authority’s rejection of the two state proposals introduced at Camp David in July 2000, and subsequently improved on in various forms by US President Clinton culminating in the unsuccessful Taba negotiations of January 2001, and later the rejection of Prime Minister Olmert’s similar proposal in September 2008;
Okay, now note that Mendes is probably intentionally misleading readers. The unsuccessful Taba negotiations? Why didn’t they succeed Dr Mendes? Because Israel withdrew from them. Okay, now if these offers were an improvement on the Camp David offers by Israel, then he grants the Camp David offers were not so generous, and Palestinian rejection of them was reasonable enough. Okay, so then the story that emerges is the breakdown due to Israeli rejectionism. It’s hidden because of Mendes’ characteristically honest discussion of these basic facts.
And Olmert’s generous offers to Abbas? Read about them in Haaretz. For example, “One of the Palestinian officials said the 8.5 percent figure of West Bank land Israel would retain with its new map does not include east Jerusalem, where Israel has built a string of Jewish neighborhoods it intends to keep. Israel wants to put off dealing with Jerusalem, possibly the touchiest issue on the table, until the end of the process. Israel’s previous proposal to keep 12 percent did not include east Jerusalem, either.”
What else? Put aside Mendes misrepresentations on the refugees, presumably drawn from Benny Morris and Dennis Ross.
- The outbreak of the violent intifada in September 2000 which was really an undeclared war against the Israeli Green Line civilian population including the long parade of suicide bombings. These bombings reached their apex in March 2002. During that horrible month, there were eight separate suicide attacks resulting in the deaths of 63 people and many hundreds injured. The final straw was the attack on the Passover seder in Netanya’s Park Hotel which killed 30 people and injured 140. This attack provoked the Israeli invasion of the leading West Bank cities in an attempt to destroy the terror networks, and stop the carnage. Yet the first Australian boycott petition was ironically initated by Ghassan Hage and John Docker immediately after this invasion in May 2002. Their clear purpose was to blame the Israeli victims of terror, and defend the Palestinian perpetrators;
- The ongoing rocket attacks on the Israeli border town of Sderot which only increased in intensity after the Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip.
So Mendes thinks Docker and Hage are pro-terrorist. Note also how this pretend leftist sympathises with Ariel Sharon’s West Bank rampage. Mendes claims that the intifada was a war against the civilians in the Green Line – note also how he channels Benny Morris. Perhaps next he will begin supporting the Nakba too. In this rendition, despite his constant calls for balance, he does not even pretend to notice Palestinian suffering: the only victims are Israelis. Note how first he caricatured people who disagreed with him:
“For the simplistic construction by the boycotters of all Israelis as evil oppressors (to be blamed and punished) and all Palestinians as innocent victims (to be patronisingly protected from any critical analysis)”. Then he adopts the AIJAC version of history where the Palestinians are inherently evil, and the Israelis are innocent victims of terror, nothing else. Note in what I boldened: Docker and Hage defend the “Palestinian perpetrators”. Is it conceivable that they might have felt solidarity with anyone else? No, Mendes says they support terrorists. In Mendes view, there is the civilian Israeli population, terrorised and responding to protect itself, and the Palestinian terrorists. That’s it.
And of course, Mendes mimics the rhetoric about the Gaza “disengagement”.
Yet the most obscene part of Mendes article – and this is unforgiveable – is this:
Today, the Israelis and Palestinians are sadly engaged in a process of mutual destruction.
Mutual destruction??? MUTUAL DESTRUCTION??
For my part, I am reminded of Jimmy Carter.
“He was asked, what about Vietnam? And he said that we owe Vietnam no debt because the “destruction was mutual.”
This is surely one of the most obscene things anyone has written in Australia on the issues. Mutual destruction. I am shocked beyond belief.