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Archive for January 2009

Fraser Institute hack: Way off the Marx

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By Stephen Gowans

The January 30th edition of the state-owned Zimbabwean newspaper, The Herald, featured an article by Herbert Grubel, a professor emeritus of economics at Simon Fraser University at Vancouver and senior fellow at the ultra-right Fraser Institute, reprinted from The African Executive. In his article, titled “Global economic crisis: Can Marxism help?” Grubel argues that Marx was wrong in saying the way out of a capitalist economic crisis is to pay workers more. Instead, he contends, governments should offer workers no income support and allow troubled industries to collapse as the best way to end the global economic crisis quickly.

Grubel’s argument suffers from one fatal mistake and one absurdity.

The mistake is in incorrectly attributing an underconsumption theory of economic slowdown (the idea that workers don’t buy enough to keep the economy afloat because they’re paid less than the value of the goods and services they produce) to Karl Marx. Marx did not favor underconsumption as the explanation of capitalist crises, though many Marxists have and still do. At the same time, many non-Marxists have espoused and continue to promote underconsumptionist views. The idea that capitalism regularly falters because workers aren’t paid enough is neither Marx’s view nor peculiar to Marxists.

Argument based on one fatal flaw and one absurdity.

Herbert Grubel: Argument based on one fatal flaw and one absurdity.

Marx favored the view that capitalist economies regularly lapse into crisis because the rate of profit falls to such a low level that capitalists are no longer prepared to make new investments. One of the leading contemporary proponents of this view, Anwar Shaikh, echoes Grubel’s argument that measures to protect wages and bail out distressed industries are more likely to prolong a period of economic stagnation than jump start an economy. In other words, Grubel is not as far from Marx as he thinks.

But where Grubel parts company with Marx is in proposing that unemployment, shrinking wages and shuttered industries amount to a solution. It does if the problem is saving capitalism, so that it can continue in its accustomed course of lurching from one crisis to another. But if our concern is with the welfare of the greatest number, regularly throwing people out of work, cutting their wages, and subjecting them to cruel hardships, is hardly a solution.

Marx wasn’t interested in prescribing measures to keep capitalism afloat, precisely because he believed capitalism’s crisis-prone nature was inherent in the system itself. Instead, he predicted that the majority would create an alternative system based on public ownership that harnessed the economy to serve their own needs, rather than continuing in the current vein of having to sacrifice themselves, their interests and their welfare to make capitalism work (and capitalists – the patrons of Gruber’s Fraser Institute – rich).

Anyone told they have to work longer hours for less, or endure a prolonged period of unemployment, in order to once again pull the capitalist economy out of yet another slump, might reasonably ask themselves whether the economic system they’re expected to endure such significant sacrifices for, is really worth saving.

Grubel – an ideologue for the capitalist interests that fund the Fraser Institute — absurdly seems to think it is (go figure). Marx didn’t, no more than he thought low pay causes capitalist crises.

Written by what's left

January 30, 2009 at 11:48 pm

Posted in Fraser Institute, Marxism

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Where are the R2P advocates now?

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By Stephen Gowans

More than 1,000 residents of Gaza are dead, over 300 of them children, and nearly 5,000 are wounded as a result of the continuing Israeli assault on the blockaded Gaza Strip. Some 90,000 Gazans have been forced to flee their homes, according to al-Mezan human rights centre. [1]

“Residents of Gaza City and the north have no water. They have no electricity. They’re trapped, traumatized and terrorized.” [2]

There are shortages of several basic foods, including food for infants. Unsafe drinking water, garbage piling up in the streets, and disrupted vaccinations, have increased the risk of epidemics. [3]

There is a shortage of hospital equipment. Monitors, anaesthesia, surgical equipment, heaters and spare parts are in short supply. Hospital windows have been blown out by Israeli bombs. [4]

Norwegian doctors Mads Gilbert and Erik Fosse, who worked at the al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City, say they,

“witnessed the most horrific war injuries in men, women and children of all ages in numbers almost too large to comprehend. The wounded, dying and dead have streamed into the overcrowded hospital in endless convoys of ambulances and private cars and wrapped in blankets in the caring arms of others. The endless and intense bombardments from Israeli air, ground and naval forces have missed no targets, not even the hospital.” [5]

Israel says it is destroying military targets, but has razed government buildings, apartment buildings, mosques and has struck UN schools, the compound of the UN Relief and Works Agency, a cemetery, ambulances and hospitals. [6]

Charlos Latuff

Charlos Latuff

“Navi Pillay, the UN high commissioner for human rights, has called for ‘credible, independent and transparent’ investigations into possible violations of humanitarian law.” [7]

The International Committee for the Red Cross “accused Israel of breaches of humanitarian conventions for failing to bring assistance to wounded and starving civilians and preventing ambulance access for four days.”

B’Tselem, Physicians for Human Rights, and other Israeli human rights groups “have described civilians being fired on in doorways (by Israeli soldiers); attacks on ambulance crews, aid workers and schools being used as civilian refuges.” [8]

Human Rights Watch, which usually takes a kid-gloves approach to the US and its allies, accused Israel of using “white phosphorous munitions over densely populated areas of Gaza in violation of international humanitarian law.” [9]

The UN’s Human Rights Council has condemned the Israeli offensive for “massive violations of human rights”. [10]

Amnesty International says that Israeli shelling of residential areas is “prima facie evidence of war crimes”. The organization has also accused Israeli soldiers of using Palestinians as human shields.

“It’s standard practice for Israeli soldiers to go into a house, lock up the family in a room on the ground floor and use the rest of the house as a military base, as a sniper’s position. That is the absolute textbook case of human shields.” [11]

Richard Falk, the UN’s special rapporteur on the Palestinian territories and professor emeritus of international law at Princeton University, says Israel is in breach of the UN charter, the Geneva conventions, international law and international humanitarian law. He has previously compared Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians to Nazi atrocities, a comparison that led to his being barred by Israel from access to Gaza and the West Bank. Falk says that,

“If there were the political will there could be an ad-hoc tribunal established to hear allegations of war crimes. This could be done by the general assembly acting under article 22 of the UN charter which gives them the authority to establish subsidiary bodies.” [12]

If ever there was a group in need of protection from war crimes, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing it is the Palestinians. And yet the Palestinians receive little outside help, relying on themselves, for the most part, for whatever little protection they can provide. Realpolitick prevents them from falling within the ambit of the responsibility to protect doctrine, the idea that “the international community,” that is, Western governments led by the United States, should intervene in other countries to prevent genocide, mass killings and massive human rights abuses. Responsibility to protect (R2P) has given rise to campaigns for humanitarian intervention in Darfur, Myanmar and Zimbabwe, but not Gaza or the West Bank.

If ever there was a group in need of protection from war crimes, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing it is the Palestinians.

If ever there was a group in need of protection from war crimes, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing it is the Palestinians.

That there are no R2P campaigns to safeguard Palestinians exposes the concept as a fig leaf for Western imperialism – a way of justifying intervention in countries that pursue policies at odds with the economic and strategic interests of Western investment banks, corporations and investors, while ignoring the ethnic cleansing, massive human rights violations and predatory aggressions of allies (and of Western countries themselves.)

Predictably, those who call for interventions in Darfur, Myanmar and Zimbabwe haven’t called for R2P campiagns to safeguard Palestinians from Israel’s continuing breaches of international law, humanitarian law, the Geneva conventions and the UN charter.

For example, the plight of the Palestinians is nowhere to be found on the website of the World Federalist Movement-Institute for Global Policy’s Responsibility to Protect, Engaging Civil Society project, R2PCS, though R2PCS has much to say about “the crisis in Darfur,” “the crisis in Myanmar” and “the crisis in Zimbabwe,” as well as the “genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda and Bosnia, (and) crimes against humanity in Kosovo.” [13] That the humanitarian catastrophe visited upon the Palestinians is absent from the R2PCS’s concerns hardly jibes with its professed mission to “promote concrete policies to better enable governments, regional organizations and the U.N. to protect vulnerable populations.” [14]

A major backer of R2PCS is the government of Canada, the principal sponsor of the concept of the responsibility to protect. Other R2PCS sponsors include the governments of Britain, the European Union, billionaire financier George Soros’ Open Society Institute and the Ford Foundation. [15]

Former Canadian prime minister Jean Chretien put forward the R2P idea so that US coalitions, such as the NATO coalition that bombed the former Yugoslavia for 78 days in 1999, could claim a legal basis for their aggressions. Chrétien was embarrassed that Canada’s participation in the NATO assault on Yugoslavia had been carried out without the imprimatur of the UN or international law. In the future, if it could be shown that a population deemed vulnerable was menaced by abridgment of rights, mass killings or ethnic cleansing – often the outcome of civil wars engineered by the West – a legal cover could be provided for intervention.

That Canada has no intrinsic interest in protecting vulnerable populations is evidenced by its failure to make the slightest effort to prevent Israel’s massive human rights violations against Palestinians and ethnic cleansing of historic Palestine. Even today, in the face of Israel’s use of Palestinians as human shields, its meting out of collective punishment and its bombardment of civilians and civilian infrastructure, the Canadian government obstructs all attempts in international forums to protect the Palestinian population, instead adopting a policy of unconditional support for Israel.

And while Canada and other members of the North Atlantic alliance fail to protect the Palestinians from Israeli depredations, and indeed facilitate them, they demonize as terrorists the groups that genuinely act to protect the Palestinian population from Israel’s massive human rights violations and ethnic cleansing. These include Hamas, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and other Palestinian resistance organizations and their allies.

On the one hand, then, the R2P community is silent on the plight of the Palestinians. On the other hand, it agitates for Western intervention in countries that maintain unfriendly business and foreign investment climates (Sudan, Myanmar and Zimbabwe) or have coveted strategic assets (oil in Darfur and a geostrategic position close to China in Myanmar.)

While the R2P community’s foot soldiers may be genuinely motivated by a desire to protect vulnerable populations, their energies are harnessed by the ruling class interests that lay behind their campaigns to press for interventions that ultimately serve imperial, not humanitarian, goals. At the same time, they’re diverted from any cause that threatens the economic and strategic interests of Western states and the corporate and financial communities that dominate them.

There are R2P campaigns to promote Western interventions in Darfur, Myanmar and Zimbabwe, but not in Gaza or the West Bank.

There are R2P campaigns to promote Western interventions in Darfur, Myanmar and Zimbabwe, but not in Gaza or the West Bank.

The R2P community’s foot soldiers are also, sadly, bamboozled — convinced that Western intervention can be a force for good, when the historical record, both distant and recent, contradicts the view unequivocally.

Those who are galvanized to demand that Western powers exercise a responsibility to protect vulnerable populations in Darfur, Myanmar and Zimbabwe should first acquaint themselves with the track record of Western interventions in the former Yugoslavia, Iraq (home to an intervention-induced humanitarian catastrophe of almost unparalleled magnitude by current standards) and Afghanistan. In all these cases, the West invoked humanitarian imperatives to justify military conquest, and in each case massively biased the post-intervention conditions against the domestic populations.

As regards the Palestinians, supporters of R2P should ask themselves:

1. Why is the responsibility to protect not invoked to protect the men, women and children of Gaza?

2. Should the Palestinian resistance, which is comprised of grassroots groups that genuinely act to protect themselves and their families from ethnic cleansing, human rights abuses and violations of humanitarian and international law, be demonized as terrorists or recognized as a legitimate resistance?

3. Should the provision of material support to these groups be criminalized in the West, or should provision of support be recognized as the genuine exercise of the responsibility to protect a vulnerable population?

1. Rory McCarthy, “Offensive has forced 90,000 to flee their homes, says rights group,” The Guardian (UK), January 13, 2009.
2. Hazem Balousha, “Tanks, rockets, death and terror: a civilian catastrophe unfolding,” The Guardian (UK), January 5, 2009.
3. Rory McCarthy, “Israeli forces close in on Gaza city,” The Guardian (UK), January 13, 2009.
4. Taghreed el-Khodary, “Gaza hospital fills up, mainly with civilians,” The New York Times, January 5, 2009.
5. Rory McCarthy, “Israeli human rights groups speak out as death toll passes 1,000,” The Guardian (UK), January 15, 2009.
6. Hazem Balousha, “Tanks, rockets, death and terror: a civilian catastrophe unfolding,” The Guardian (UK), January 5, 2009; Rory McCarty and Peter Walker, “Israel hits UN refugee agency in Gaza,” The Guardian (UK), January 15, 2009.
7. Rory McCarthy, “UN human rights chief accuses Israel of war crimes,” The Guardian, January 10, 2009.
8. Peter Beaumonth, “Does the world have the appetite to prosecute Israel for war crimes in Gaza?” The Guardian (UK), January 10, 2009.
9. Rory McCarthy, “Hamas leader: Israel’s Gaza attacks have killed peace talks,” The Observer (UK), January 12, 2009.
10. Chris McGreal, “Demands grow for Gaza war crimes investigation,” The Guardian (UK), January 13, 2009.
11. Ibid.
12. Afua Hirsch, “Israel may face UN court ruling on legality of Gaza conflict.” The Guardian (UK), January 14, 2009.
13. Website of the Institute for Global Policy’s Responsibility to Protect, Engaging Civil Society project, R2PCS, http://www.responsibilitytoprotect.org/index.php, accessed January 14, 2009.
14. Ibid.
15. World Federalist Movement website, http://www.wfm.org/site/index.php/pages/40, access January 14, 2009.

Written by what's left

January 15, 2009 at 11:53 pm

Israel Defined

with 4 comments

By Stephen Gowans

Israel, n. [L., fr. Gr. Israel, fr. Hbr. Yisra’el, lit., contender with God.] 1. An illegitimate and racist colonial, settler regime, founded on ethnic cleansing, maintaining a military occupation of 85 percent of Palestinian territory, relying on generous military aid from the United States, whose interests in the Middle East it looks after. The regime criminalizes legitimate resistance to its occupation and regularly flouts humanitarian and international law. 2. The territory occupied by this regime.

Illegitimate

The basis of the regime is the Zionist goal of a Jewish homeland on territory inhabited by a Palestinian Arab majority. Everything about the regime and the resistance of Arab Palestinians can be understood as the inevitable outcome of the irreconcilable contradiction between the desire of Zionists to establish a democratic Jewish state requiring a preponderant Jewish majority on land in which Jews were a decided minority, and the reaction of Palestinians to their dispossession and oppression which the Zionists enforced as a necessary condition of achieving their goal.

In 1947, after Britain transferred its mandate to the UN, the world body introduced a plan to partition Palestine into three parts: a Jewish state, a Palestinian state, and Jerusalem, which was to be an international territory. While Palestinian Arabs made up two-thirds of Palestine’s population, under the UN plan, they were to be allocated only 42 percent of the territory. Having long sought self-determination, they were implacably opposed to the partition of their land. As the historian Ilan Pappe remarked, you don’t have to be a great jurist to see that forcing partition on a country to which the majority of its population is opposed is illegal and immoral.

1947-partition

The plan was more favorable to the Jewish state. It would comprise 56 percent of the territory and would be home to 500,000 Jews and 400,000 Palestinians. Recognizing that a Jewish state would not be viable with Palestinians making up over 40 percent of the population, David Ben-Gurion and other settlers executed a plan to expel Palestinians from the territory the UN assigned to Zionist forces. When the British left in May, 1948, ending their mandate, Zionists seized 80 percent of Palestine (more than the UN plan had envisioned), driving 800,000 Palestinians from the seized territory and barring their return. In 1967, the regime conquered the remaining 20 percent in the Six Day War, along with parts of Egypt and Syria.

Racist

The regime is based on exclusion. Jews from anywhere in the world are permitted to immigrate to occupied Palestine, while Palestinians who fled or were driven from their homes in the now occupied territory are prohibited from returning. The Palestinians who remained in the territory seized by the regime, the so-called Arab Israelis, are treated as second class citizens.

Mixed couples cannot be buried together in a state-funded Jewish cemetery. Even more absurd, Israel is probably the only country in the world that does not recognize its own nationality. Israelis cannot be inscribed as Israelis in the state population register, but must be recorded according to their religious or ethnic origin. Every request by Israelis — Jewish and Arab — to be listed simply as Israeli has so far been rejected. The government argues that this would undermine the principle of Israel as a Jewish state. Meanwhile, ‘unrecognized’ Arab villages languish for decades without municipal services, while governments of both left and right have spent $15 billion on settlements beyond the 1967 border. (1)

Several right-wing rabbis have forbidden Jews from renting apartments to Arabs or giving them jobs. (2) Arabs inside Israel are denied security clearances, and, therefore, are denied the many jobs that require them. Compared to Jewish families, three times more Arab families live below the poverty line. According to polls, a majority of Israeli Jews favor expulsion of Arabs from occupied Palestine. [3] More than three-quarters say they wouldn’t live in the same neighborhood as Arabs. And three-quarters of Jewish youth describe Arabs as dirty. [4]

More important, however, than these day-to-day expressions of anti-Arab racism, is the racist character of Zionism itself – the idea that Palestine belongs to the Jews and not to the Arab majority that lived there, an idea which places one group of people, the Jews, above another, the Palestinians.

Colonial settler regime

Most of the Jews who lived on Palestinian territory before 1948 were recent settlers, having arrived after WWI. After hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were ethnically cleansed from the territory under the regime’s control, these settlers, and those who came later, took over Palestinian homes and property.

After 1967, Jewish settlements were established in the remaining 20 percent of Palestine the regime had failed to conquer in 1948 (Gaza and the West Bank). While Jewish settlers have since withdrawn from Gaza, Jewish settlements continue to expand in the West Bank, further reducing Palestinian territory to about 15 percent of British Mandate Palestine.

Peace Now, the Israeli advocacy group, said in a report released August 26, 2008, that in the past year Israel has nearly doubled its settlement construction in the occupied West Bank in violation of its obligations under an American-backed peace plan. The Peace Now report…says that more than 1,000 new buildings are going up in the West Bank, including 2,600 housing units. It says that for the first five months of 2008, construction in the settlements was 1.8 times greater than in the same period of 2007. According to its report, more than half of the building is going on beyond the separation barrier that Israel has built in recent years along the border of and inside the West Bank. [5]

Ethnic cleansing

The combination of the UN plan, with its near demographic balance of Jews and Palestinians in the envisaged Jewish state, and Zionist ideology, which insists on a Jewish homeland in Palestine, guaranteed that Zionist forces would ethnically cleanse those parts of Palestine it could conquer by force. The regime’s refusal to allow the return of Palestinians is no less a form of ethnic cleansing.

US military aid

Israel receives billions of dollars every year in military aid from the United States. On top of using the combat aircraft and tanks it receives from the US to oppress the Palestinians and enforce its occupation of Palestine, the regime uses its US-furnished military might to intimidate neighboring countries on behalf of Washington. It threatens to bomb Iran, recently bombed an alleged nuclear power plant in Syria, and destroyed Iraq’s Osirak nuclear reactor in 1981.

Criminalizing resistance

Everyone has the right to take up arms to resist military occupation – except, if you listen to Western governments, Palestinians (and also the Iraqis and Afghans who resist the occupation of their countries by US forces and their allies.) In order to discredit the organized resistance of Palestinians, Israel, the US, Canada and Western Europe demonize Palestinians who fight to liberate Palestine from the racist, colonial, settler occupation.

Meanwhile, many Westerners, including liberals, deplore the violence of Palestinians while proudly boasting that if their own country were invaded, they would be in the front line, guns blazing. Organized Palestinian resistance groups, including the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, which seeks a democratic and secular Palestine, are officially designated as terrorist organizations by Western governments. Anyone who materially assists these groups faces stiff penalties. Criminalizing resistance deters people living in North America and Western Europe from expressing solidarity with the Palestinian resistance and dishonestly submerges the political character of its struggle.

terroristdessm

Palestinians who take on the might of the US-furnished Israeli military, firing crude, largely ineffective rockets into occupied Palestine, are not criminals; they are the dispossessed fighting for justice with the few means at their disposal.

Flouting humanitarian and international law

The regime flouts all humanitarian and international law that stands in the way of preserving its racist, settler state, and it has being doing so from the moment in 1948 it rejected UN Resolution 194 calling for the unconditional return of Palestinians. The Universal Declaration of Rights holds that no one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile and that everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country. The regime has denied Palestinians these rights for over 60 years.

Conclusion

Jewish settlers from Europe arrived in Palestine, most after WWI, seeking to establish a Jewish homeland on territory inhabited by an Arab majority. When the British left in 1948, the settlers seized 80 percent of the territory, expelling 800,000 Palestinians, barring their return. The Palestinians who weren’t driven out or didn’t flee were, and continue to be, treated as second class citizens. Later, in 1967, the settler regime conquered the remaining 20 percent of Palestine it failed to expropriate in 1948. Jewish settlements were established in these additionally occupied territories – with settlements continuing to grow in one of them, the West Bank – squeezing Palestinians into an ever tighter space. A resistance developed, but has been criminalized, denounced as terrorist and targeted under the US war on terrorism (that is, war on organized, armed resistance to the imperialist encroachments of the US and its allies.)

An imperative solution

The moral imperative of liberating Palestine from occupation is no less compelling than the moral imperative of liberating any other conquered territory. A liberated Palestine would ideally be secular, democratic, egalitarian, multiethnic and independent, not a military extension of the United States. The historic land of Palestine belongs to all who live in it and to those who were expelled or exiled from it since 1948 and their descendents, regardless of religion, ethnicity, national origin or current citizenship status. The character of a liberated Palestine is up to all who have a legitimate claim to live in Palestine to decide. It should never have been decided by the UN over the objection of the majority of its population, or by Zionists at the majority’s expense. The continued occupation of Palestine and the oppression of Palestinians and abridgment of their rights (without which the occupation could not continue) remains a blight on humanity whose end is long overdue.

1. The New York Times, June 28, 2008.
2. The New York Times, May 2, 2008.
3. Ibid.
4. Haaretz newspaper, December 9, 2007; Haaretz TV news, December 12, 2007.
5. The New York Times, August 27, 2008.

Recommended reading:

Ilan Pappe, The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, One World, Oxford, 2006.
Ilan Pappe, A History of Modern Palestine, Cambridge University Press, 2006.

Written by what's left

January 7, 2009 at 11:32 pm

Gaza: A little context

with 3 comments

By Stephen Gowans

Unlike press reports which almost never provide context, I’ll begin with context. Figure 1 shows the percentage of British Mandate Palestine seized by Jewish forces through war, terrorism and ethnic cleansing, and the remaining territory (about 15 percent) that now comprises the Palestinian territories. In 1947, Arab Palestinians formed a two-thirds majority. Even so, the UN, over the objection of the Arab majority, pledged 56 percent of Mandate Palestine to a Jewish state. The Jews, most having arrived after WWI, comprised only one-third of the population (about 510,000 people) and owned only six percent of the land. In late 1947 and into 1948, through a systematic program of ethnic cleansing, and by barring the return of the 800,000 Arabs who fled or were forced from their homes, Zionist forces established Israel on 80 percent of the territory that comprised Mandate Palestine. In 1967, Israel seized Gaza and the West Bank – the only parts of Mandate Palestine they had failed to conquer in 1948 – and brought them under military occupation.

Figure 1. The encroachment of the Jewish state on Palestinian territory.

Figure 1. The encroachment of the Jewish state on Palestinian territory.

Hamas grew out of the first intifada (shaking off) of 1987. The intifada was an attempt to shake off the Israeli military presence in Gaza and the West Bank. It began in Gaza’s refugee camps, home to Palestinians and their descendants who had been driven out of what was now Israeli territory, or had fled, and were prevented from returning. Their return would undermine the demographic reality the Zionist forces had painstakingly created in 1947 and 1948 – a Jewish majority. The camps were bedeviled by mass unemployment and grinding poverty. The average family of five lived in cramped quarters with an outdoor toilet. (1)

Hamas grew to prominence in the camps for a number of reasons. First, it built up support by providing social services. Second, it profited from the material support it received from Israel. By building up Hamas, a religious-based, social services organization, Israel hoped to weaken the secular, politically-oriented PLO. Third, the PLO lost support when it pledged to end armed struggle and recognize Israel.

Hamas is criticized in the West for five reasons.

1. Because it is an Islamic organization. The West, however, had few qualms about Hamas’s religious character when the organization was being built up as a way to divert support from the secular PLO. In fact, it was Hamas’s religious character (thought to inspire passivity rather than militancy) that recommended it as an organization to be nurtured.

2. Because it will not recognize Israel. To do so would legitimate the UN’s immoral and illegitimate partition of Mandate Palestine and the ethnic cleansing which cleared the way for the formation of a Jewish state. Hamas, and many others, seek the end of a Jewish state on Palestinian territory. The US and other Western powers describe this as seeking the destruction of Israel, which it is, metaphorically, but for purposes of manipulating public opinion, the words “destruction of Israel” are carefully chosen to suggest the goal of physical obliteration. Palestinians who refuse to legitimate the crimes of 1948 by recognizing Israel do not seek Israel’s physical destruction per se, but seek to restore their legitimate claim to the land they were driven from, a goal which, if successful, would mean the end of a Jewish state (i.e., Israel’s destruction.)

3. Because Hamas engages in terrorism. Israel has a large arsenal of combat aircraft and tanks to oppress the Palestinians. “Terrorism” is the word the powerful use to discredit the resistance of the oppressed. Hamas would gladly swap its crude and largely ineffective rockets for Israel’s tanks and combat aircraft.

4. Because it “took over” Gaza. An Israeli security official told The New York Times that,

“What happened in Gaza a year ago was not really a coup. Hamas’s takeover was a kind of natural process. Hamas was so strong, so deeply rooted in Palestinian society through its activities in the economy, education, culture and health care, and Fatah was so weak, so corrupt, that the takeover was like wind blowing over a moth-infested structure.” [2]

5. Because it unilaterally abandoned the ceasefire. On the contrary, despite the ceasefire, Israel refused to lift the bloackade of Gaza (one of the conditions of the truce), killed 1,300 Palestinians in the nearly three years since Hamas came to power, and in November conducted three raids on Gaza, killing 12. [3]

Figure 2 shows the gross imbalance in deaths over the first eight days of Israeli terror bombing compared to Israeli deaths from Palestinian rocket attacks. This imbalance is emblematic of the yawning gap in casualties in all confrontations between the Israelis and Palestinians. Israel kills, maims and imprisons many; Palestinians barely make a scratch.

Figure 2. Comparison of number of deaths over the first eight days of Israeli air strikes.

Figure 2. Comparison of number of deaths over the first eight days of Israeli air strikes.

Echoing his Secretary of State who attributed the recent outbreak in violence to Hamas, US President George W. Bush castigated the oppressed. In his January 2 radio address, he said,

This recent outburst of violence was instigated by Hamas — a Palestinian terrorist group supported by Iran and Syria…In response to these attacks on their people, the leaders of Israel have launched military operations on Hamas positions in Gaza.

The first eight days of Israeli air strikes – “with air strikes averaging one every 20 minutes” – has created “a humanitarian crisis and more,” according to Max Gaylard, the UN humanitarian coordinator for the Palestinians. [4]

Contrast the reaction to the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, where 450 lay dead, close to 2,000 are wounded, where electricity has been cut off by Israel, and where medical services are stretched to the limit, with the calls for military intervention in Zimbabwe in response to a cholera outbreak (a not uncommon event in Third World countries.)

The defrocked priest of peace, Desmond Tutu, who urged the West to intervene militarily in Zimbabwe to solve its humanitarian emergency, has not called for a military intervention in Israel to prevent the massacre of Gazans. He hasn’t even called for Washington to cut off its billions of dollars in annual military aid to Israel. Instead, he is calling for dialogue and confidence building measures, and for “Israel’s need for security (to) be understood by all sides.” [5]

1. Ilan Pappe, A History of Modern Palestine, Cambridge University Press, 2006.
2. New York Times, June 15, 2008.
3. Chris McGreal, “Why Israel went to war in Gaza,” The Observer (UK), January 4, 2009.
4. Rory McCarthy, “’Critical emergency’ after air strike every 20 minutes,” The Guardian, January 3, 2009.
5. Vaclav Havel, El Hassan bin Talal, Hans Kung, Desmond Tutu, Karel Schwarzenberg and Yohei Sasakawa, “Humanity’s stake in Gaza,” The Sunday Times (Sri Lanka), January 4, 2008.

Written by what's left

January 3, 2009 at 11:53 pm

Posted in Israel, Palestine

Jenni Williams Thought Experiment

with 5 comments

By Stephen Gowans

In March 2007 US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice invited Jenni Williams to Washington to receive the US State Department’s 2007 International Woman of Courage Award for Africa [1]. Williams is an anti-Mugabe activist who leads Women of Zimbabwe Arise, a group which, according to a US State Department report [2], receives US government funding through Freedom House, a CIA-interlocked [3] organization headed by Peter Ackerman, junk bond trader Michael Milken’s former right hand man.

Let’s do a thought experiment. Imagine an American being invited to Harare by Robert Mugabe to receive the International Person of Courage Award for the North Atlantic. Imagine further that the recipient is the leader of a civil society group called Women of America Arise and that the group is financially assisted by the Zimbabwean government. How believable would the claim be that our person of courage is not an agent of the Zimbabwean government? How much scorn would be heaped upon her for accepting an accolade – and money — from the “monster”, Mugabe, in Harare, no less? How likely would it be that our person of courage would escape calls to be sanctioned or deported? And what would we think of a progressive scholar who dismissed the idea that our person of courage could in any way be considered an agent of Zimbabwe, or that she represented an independent left?

In reply to a September 25, 2008 Netfa Freeman article in the Black Agenda Report, “Zimbabwe and the Battle of Ideas”, progressive scholar Stephen Zunes declared that it was impossible to consider Jenni Williams, the woman who is feted in Washington by the monster Condoleezza Rice, to be an American agent. Zunes heads up the board of academic advisors of the International Center for Nonviolent Conflict, a body which trains people to use nonviolence to bring down governments that refuse to accept the free trade, free enterpise, free market demands that are the cornerstone of US foreign policy. The ICNC is run by Peter Ackerman – the same Peter Ackerman, who, pursuing a post-Michael Milken career, also runs the CIA interlocked Freedom House, the same Freedom House that funnels Uncle Sam’s lucre to Jenni Williams. And Stephen Zunes, working with Freedom House head Peter Ackerman at the ICNC says Jenni Williams can in no way be considered an American agent.

1. Jim Fisher-Thompson, “Zimbabwean receives International Woman of Courage Award,” USINFO, March 7, 2007. http://www.america.gov/st/hr-english/2007/March/200703071523081EJrehsiF0.7266962.html
2. http://pdf.usaid.gov/pdf_docs/PDACL121.pdf
3. Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky, Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media, Pantheon Books, New York, 1988, p. 28.

Written by what's left

January 1, 2009 at 11:29 pm

Posted in Zimbabwe

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