Sunday, June 13, 2010

”Ho, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters” (Isaiah 55:1)

The Hebrew and Christian scriptures, as joined together in the Bible of Christians, refer continually to water both as a metaphor and as the physical necessity that has played an enormously important role in the advancement of societies throughout history.

You visit the earth and water it, you greatly enrich it;
          the river of God is full of water;

you provide the people with grain, for so you have prepared it.
Psalm 65:9 

Jesus said to her, ‘Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty
again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will 
never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them 
a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.’
John 4:14

Residents of the Holy Land in Biblical times and in contemporary times contemplate(d) these images of water, both physical and spiritual, with a deep understanding that only those who live in desert lands can appreciate.

A friend, whom I love but with whom I disagree on many (most?) political issues, and I have carried on correspondence for nearly fifty years. He says we are, in the best sense of the words, the classic “liberal” and “conservative.” I think those terms are meaningless, but will accept them for the sake of argument. He recently wrote me an email in which he made the comment,

By changing the image of the Palestinians from helpless victims to successful entrepreneurs the region could soon rival Israel in economic strength.  After all, hard work and industry is what built Israel into a vibrant, powerful nation where none existed before 1947.

This analysis of the difference between the Palestinians and the Israelis has nothing to do with “conservatism” or “liberalism.” It is simply wrong.

Without any claim to expertise, either political or scientific, I have a one word partial explanation of the difference between the Palestinian “victims” my friend writes of and the “vibrant, powerful” society he claims Israel to be: WATER. That the control and distribution of water in the West Bank (indeed in the entire Holy Land) is one of the keys to Israel’s ability to subjugate Palestinian culture and society is not a proposition open to discussion. It simply is.

When I was a child (this was around 1955), the custodian of our church in Western Nebraska presented a program of projected slides his son had left in his care when he was home on leave from the Navy. He was stationed on a submarine. Somehow he ended up on shore leave in the new state of Israel—just where, I have no idea.

My memory of the presentation is spotty (I remember the custodian, and I remember that the presentation was in the church sanctuary with the screen in front of the pulpit). The image I remember from the slides is of orange groves with water running in irrigation channels between the trees. I remember the custodian marveling aloud at the industry of the citizens of the new country that they had already managed to begin to make the desert bloom in the eight years since 1947.

There are at least two problems with both the presentation as our custodian made it and my memory of it. The first problem is that the Israelis had not, in fact, made the desert bloom in a short eight years. That happened before Israel was made a state. The first Jewish orange groves in Palestine date from 1870, planted in the vicinity of Mikveh Israel, a Jewish agricultural school near Tel Aviv (1).  The school was important to the Jewish immigrants to Palestine during and after the holocaust (2). According to “Years of Citrus in Israel,” by the time of World War I, Palestine had “7500 acres of orchards, 2500 of which were owned by Jews.” After World War I, “[b]etween 1926 and 1936, the Jewish population had planted 35,000 acres of orchards.”

The citrus industry continued its growth after the founding of Israel until after the 1967 War. “Production reached 1.7 million pieces of fruit, out of which 1 million were marketed under the brand name Jaffa” ("Years of Citrus"). This growth of the Israeli citrus industry was made possible by one commodity: WATER. It is emblematic of all agriculture in Israel.

The second problem with our custodian’s presentation was that it avoided the most important implication of the industry of the Israeli farmers: the ownership of the water of the Palestinian Territories is one of Israel’s most powerful tools for maintaining control/occupation of the Territories. According to Harald Frederiksen,

The objective of Zionist and subsequent Israeli actions over the past 90 years has not been in response to any evolving water shortage that arose before or after the creation of the Israel.  It has been a strategy, confirmed in Israeli documents, to garner control of the water resources of Palestine and some of those belonging to neighboring riparians as a means to attain a quite different goal: ownership of all of Palestine (3).

Garnering control of the water resources of the region has insured the growth of the Israeli agricultural industry, as well as all other industry, and of the building and maintenance of settlements in the Occupied Territories to expand control of the land.

Apparently even the 1967 War of expansion had as one of its main goals the control of the most important aquifer in the Palestinian Territories:

Menachem Begin and others later confirmed that the 1967 war was launched not because of Egypt, but as a cover to occupy the Golan Heights, and the rest of Palestine. . . .Israel promptly nationalized the water resources of the Occupied Territories in order to control all West Bank uses (4).

Israeli settlers continue to arrive in the Occupied Territories, taking more and more of the land on which the Palestinians’ hope for a homeland rests. The shrinking land of the Palestinian people is remarkable in many ways. It was, according to the Biblical record, the “land of milk and honey.” It is, today, a land parched and unable to sustain the people left on it. The situation cannot change until a political solution to the plight of the Palestinians is reached because the “water issue in the West Bank is complicated, in part due to the political situation, as the aquifers are controlled by Israel” (5).

This political situation was part of the earliest plan of the Zionist settlement in Palestine.  The control of the aquifers of the region of the British Mandate of Palestine was their goal from the beginning, their goal of claiming the right to the land because they were the ones who built a “vibrant, powerful nation where none existed.”

Without access to water, there would be no large-scale agriculture and thus no economic basis for absorbing the world's Jews in Palestine. And without settlement, the Jews would have no hope of changing the demographic balance in Palestine in their favour and hence laying the basis for a claim to sovereignty over Palestine. Water therefore was not regarded merely as another economic resource, but rather as an important vehicle for creating a new Jewish society based on kibbutzim and other forms of communal agricultural settlements. The selection of one water project over the other was not determined by economic utility, but rather on the basis of its fitting within the overall ideological worldview of the Zionists.  In keeping with this view, irrigating the deserts of southern Palestine also became a national goal as part of the overall Zionist ethos of `making the desert bloom' and thus strengthening Jewish claims to Palestine on the basis of the fact that it was the Jews who were developing the country (6).
(1) history – “Years of Citrus in Israel”
(2) See the story of the Netzer Family in: Ofer, Dalia. "The march of
     memory: survivors and relatives in the footsteps of the Kladovo-
     Sabac refugees." Israel Studies 12.3 (2007): 134+
In addition, the importance of Mikveh Israel can hardly be overstated: 

The creation of the State was made possible by the founding of  Mikveh Israel. If Mikveh Israel had not been founded, I doubt that the State of Israel could have come into being. Everything started at that time; we came only to extend the work in its political and national aspects.

Interview quoted in: Paz, Moria. "A non-territorial ethnic network and the making of human rights law: the case of the Alliance Israelite Universelle." Interdisciplinary Journal of Human Rights Law 4.1 (2009): 1+ (146). Quoted in Silberman, Paul. An Investigation of the Schools Operated by the Alliance Israelite Universelle from 1862-1940 (PhD dissertation) (1973).
(3) Frederiksen, Harald D. "The world water crisis and international security." Middle East Policy 16.4      (2009): 76+.
(4) Fredericksen, op. cit. "I know how at least 80 percent of all ..." quoted in "Aggression, Expansion and       Israel's Terriorism, Part II." Found at
(5) Nazer, Dima W., et al. “Optimizing irrigation water use in the West Bank, Palestine.” Agricultural Water Management 97 (2010) 339–345 (340).
(6) Morag, Nadav. "Water, Geopolitics and State Building: The Case of Israel." Middle Eastern Studies     37.3 (2001): 179.

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Thursday, June 10, 2010

Thoughts on the Rachel Corrie

Somewhere I have a picture of myself standing at the altar of an Episcopal Church chapel, not a remarkable chapel except for the gaping hole in the ceiling and the unexploded bomb lying in front of the altar.

The picture was taken in 2003. The hole in the ceiling and the bomb had been part of the chapel since 2000. The bomb had been bequeathed to the church by the Israeli “Defense” Force. The chapel is (or was—I have no way of knowing if it still stands) the place of worship for the staff and the Christian patients at Al Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza City, a ministry of the Anglican Church. Exactly what the hospital was doing that Israel needed to “defend” itself against is not clear.

The American government might refer to the bomb as “collateral damage,” one of the unpleasant side-effects of war.

The late summer of 2003 was (compared with the situation of the last two years) a relatively peaceful time for the Palestinians of Gaza. Our group stayed in an elegant new hotel. It was built about the same time as the Yasser Arafat International Airport was built with funding from Japan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Germany, and Morocco’s King Hassan II. Our hotel (we were, I think, the only guests) had been built by a Saudi Arabian company in preparation for the influx of tourists Gaza City expected as it reemerged as a major city on the Riviera-like coast of Gaza, a natural tourist destination.

We were lucky to have gained entrance to Gaza. Tourists were unheard of at that time—or since. Our Inter-Faith Peace Builders Delegation was in Palestine/Israel August 5-14, 2003. The Second Intifada was ending. But hostilities were a real possibility. Less than six weeks earlier, the I“D”F had killed four people in Gaza City, including the Hamas leader Amran al-Gul. We were in Bethlehem a scant five weeks after the I“D”F officially withdrew from the city of Jesus’ birth—leaving a force large enough to control the city.

Of images from nine days in Palestine, those of the thirty-six hours we spent in Gaza remain most vivid in my memory. The images are, I am afraid, only that. My notes are stored away, unpacked from moving, so I cannot check facts.

The contrasts in Gaza were riveting. Gaza City itself, though obviously a war zone, seemed to be a city capable of returning to some kind of “normalcy.” Automobiles drove in the street. A building of UN offices was visible from our hotel windows, with the huge letters “UN” painted blue on all sides as if to persuade combatants to avoid it when they were engaged in hostilities. Our guide said Gazans referred to it as the “United Nothing” because it did nothing to enforce its own resolutions.

We played on the beach at Gaza City. We threw a Frisbee with some boys in the sand exactly as any group of kids would do at Santa Monica or Ipanema. Mothers in hijabs and jilbabs watched their children play. Other watchful mothers wore western clothing. For the first time in our trip we relaxed and simply enjoyed the natural beauty of Palestine. Our hosts were over-generous and helpful. That evening we had dinner at a seafood restaurant. We must have had a dozen courses of seafood, mostly varieties we had never eaten before—an astounding feast! After dinner we went to a night club, that is, a large open courtyard (perhaps in a hotel) where a noisy crowd, even families—Christian and Muslim—enjoyed themselves together listening to music and smoking hookas.

And then, suddenly the next day, with preparation by lecture only, we were in the Refugee Camp at Rafah. No American can hear enough lectures to prepare for that reality. Who goes camping for 60 years? The Camp is a honey-comb of houses built with common walls between them and layers on top of layers, built up as new generations of refugees create their own families. We entered the camp by the door of a home that faced the perimeter street, went through the home—a dark space of several rooms virtually bare of anything Americans would think of as necessities—furniture, for example.

We went out the back door and into the street—the narrow walkway between rows of three-storey houses. Without our host, we would immediately have been lost in the maze. A group of kids gathered to stare at these Americans trooping through their city. We did not go far. A camp resident approached us; he wanted us to see his home's kitchen wall that had been destroyed by an I“D”F bomb—his privacy now visible to the guard tower a couple hundred yards away, kitchen utensils still buried in the rubble. I am perplexed by what I remember (rather, do not remember) about the camp. Memory does not last in discomfort. Our host explained to us why raw sewage ran in the streets. Every time the people of the neighborhood managed to get a pump to drain the streets, the Israeli soldiers in the guard tower destroyed it with gunfire.

All of the details of my memory may not be accurate. My affective understanding is absolutely clear. The Refugee Camp was a dehumanizing, uncompromisingly difficult and oppressive habitat for anyone. That it exists at all is an indictment of the world’s supposed beliefs about justice, freedom, and the rights of human beings. That it exists by resolution of the United Nations and by tacit permission from the United States is incomprehensible.

And that the devastation inflicted by the Israelis in January of 2009 must surely have destroyed almost anything that made the camp habitable for human beings is hardly a matter for discussion.

I hear on the news these days defenders of the Israeli blockade of Gaza say that there is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza. Gazans are not starving. Gazans have plenty of the materiel necessary for human existence. That is simply, with no qualification necessary, a lie. The citizens of Rafah did not have the basic requirements for civilized existence in 2003, and their situation has, if anything, worsened since then. The Rafah Refugee Camp is not a war zone, contrary to Israeli propaganda. It is the most densely populated spot on the globe where people live in poverty and a kind of closeness that no American or resident of Tel Aviv would tolerate for one day. That they will use whatever force they can muster to change their situation is surprising only in its lack of resources.

And to Rachel Corrie. To the Rachel Corrie. We stood at the spot where Rachel Corrie had died five months earlier trying to protect the home of a Rafah family—not in the camp, but living in almost the same poverty, and certainly with the same restrictions imposed by the Israelis—from destruction by an Israeli bulldozer. The man whose home Rachel helped save didn’t allow us into his home for fear of reprisals from the I“D”F. We left quickly when Israeli tanks appeared on the periphery of the neighborhood—Palestinians running between us and the tanks for unrequested protection.

Unsurprisingly, the Irish ship, the Rachel Corrie, has been intercepted by the Israeli “Defense” Force as it tried to land somewhere near that beautiful Gaza City beach to bring humanitarian aid to Gaza. Everyone in the world who keeps up with what passes for news knows the context of this interception:

The citizens of the Rafah Refugee Camp must be prevented from any kind of uprising that will threaten the Israeli “liberal democracy.” They must be left with only their desperate poverty, their lives totally bereft of the accoutrement Americans and Israelis are certain make this life worth living. Otherwise, they might interfere with the Israeli goal of an Israel without Palestinians.

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Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Runway to Nowhere

2003. A building in the desert. Almost fabulous (as in fable, “a short, comic tale making a moral point about human nature”), planted mirage-like by itself in the barren countryside. Columns and arches in earth colors. I thought the building looked Moroccan or Tunisian (what do I know of architecture?). Of the desert. Cool inside without air conditioning. Expansive, elegant. A slight musty fragrance, perhaps from disuse. Once we were inside, my fervid imagination went to the ridiculous Hollywoodesque places an American's mind might go—a visualization of some scene of a deserted building in the desert in some blockbuster movie, meant to create fear before some great battle. We looked at the sales counter (apparently still being used although no one was there at that moment). A ghostly scene, almost creepy, supernatural. I remember wondering how this was possible. How could we, foreigners, simply drive up to this place, dismount our comfortable air-conditioned bus, walk a few yards in the August heat, and wander into this building without so much as a “by your leave?”

I have rummaged through my computer for pictures I took of the place (they must be on my old computer sitting unused in the corner—a cruelly fitting repository). I have found only two, but many such pictures lurk on the internet. The images are well-known.

Bill Clinton helped dedicate this building in 1998 (he must have approved its construction; how could he not have?). A reminder of historical reality: “….Netanyahu….had to give up something concrete—land, access, jobs, an airport—in return for something far less tangible: the best efforts of the PLO to prevent terrorist attacks….I had to keep reminding Arafat that I was committed to the peace process....” (1) Commitment was not obvious.

The PLO could not have prevented the Israeli terrorist attack that made this building redundant in 2001. It is now, of course, destroyed (2). The Yasser Arafat International Airport in Rafah was built by Japan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Germany and Morocco at a cost of $85,000,000. The Israelis did not destroy the runways in 2001, but rendered them cruelly useless. The PLO was powerless. A couple of days before our dreamlike stroll through the airport, we had seen what was left of the headquarters of the “legitimate representative of the Palestinian people,” a pile of rubble in Ramallah where Yasser Arafat was holed up, barely escaping assassination by the Israelis.

Photos by Harold Knight, 2003

Arafat was unable to control any terrorism—Israeli or Palestinian. How could he when the President of the United States insisted that the violence that destroyed the only airport of the Palestinians was “retaliation for,” not the cause of, more cruel violence?

The question for today is whether or not that runway, even if it were restored, might still be the Runway to Nowhere. Netanyahu is again Prime Minister of Israel and even less likely to “give up something concrete.” That the new United States President is still powerless to do anything other than Israel's bidding, even in the impotent UN, is daily more obvious. The Bill Clinton attitude is apparently one of the concrete realities that Netanyahu will never have to give up.

In 2003 at the far end of the Runway to Nowhere stood the remains of the tower of The Yasser Arafat International Airport. I took a picture of the skeleton of the tower. Perhaps it's there even now. I have no way of knowing. Whether or not the tower still stands, the mangled radar equipment is obviously useless—a fitting symbol of the seemingly ever more useless search for justice for the people the airport was built to serve. A continuation of the cruelly “comic tale making a moral point about human nature.”

The cruelty of the Runway to Nowhere has come full circle.

(1) “ The hard-liners in his [Netanyahu's] coalition knew this and were making it difficult for him to keep moving toward peace by opening the Gaza airport or even letting all the Palestinians from Gaza come back to work in Israel. Psychologically, Netanyahu faced the same challenge Rabin had: Israel had to give up something concrete--land, access, jobs, an airport--in return for something far less tangible: the best efforts of the PLO to prevent terrorist attacks.
I was convinced Netanyahu wanted to do more, and afraid that if he couldn't, Arafat would find it more difficult to keep the lid on violence. To further complicate matters, whenever the peace process slowed, or the Israelis retaliated for a terrorist attack or began another building program in a West Bank settlement, there was likely to be a UN Security Council resolution condemning Israel for its continued violation of UN resolutions, and doing so in a way that suggested what the negotiated settlement should be. The Israelis depended on the United States to veto such measures, which we normally did....I had to keep reminding Arafat that I was committed to the peace process...”
Clinton, Bill. My Life: The Presidential Years, Vol. 2. New York: Vintage, 2005 (372-373).

(2) See the following:
The Telegraph.Co.Uk
By Tim Butcher in Gaza
Published: 12:01AM GMT 14 Dec 2006
"Israelis accused of vandalising airport."

Jerusalem Post

Jan 2, 2009 19:10
"Hamas TV: IAF strikes target Gaza airport; 1 dead, 5 wounded."

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Making Sense of the Previous Post

The following are excerpts from two journal articles with background for understanding the previous post. The "round and round" refers to the "singular acts of discretion that are often undertaken in secret and are thus effectively insulated from public view..."

Zaring, David, and Elena A. Baylis. "Sending the bureaucracy to war." Iowa Law Review 92.4 (May 2007): 1359(70). David Zaring is Assistant Professor, Legal Studies Department, Wharton School of Business.

"Second, these anti-terrorist measures diminish administrative effectiveness by going to extraordinary lengths to privilege agency discretion, thereby reducing agency accountability and, predictably, resulting in increasingly arbitrary and unreviewable agency action. We call this the problem of overdiscretion. It is a maxim of administrative law that the authority delegated to administrative agencies should be paired with safeguards on the abuse of that authority. Accordingly, administrative agencies have traditionally operated publicly and openly and usually pursuant to a tested and established framework of rules. Agency rulemaking is governed by requirements for public notice and comment, while agency adjudication is subject to judicial review or, at a minimum, to supervision by senior executive branch officials. But the administrative initiatives against terror routinely reduce what have traditionally been participatory, reviewable rulemaking or adjudicatory processes to singular acts of discretion that are often undertaken in secret and are thus effectively insulated from public view and from judicial, or even supervisory, review. Furthermore, these measures often place this decision-making authority in the hands of mid-level or even street-level bureaucrats, such as office directors in the Department of the Treasury in the case of the terrorist financing programs, or low-level state employees in the case of the drivers' license programs created by the REAL ID Act. The allocation of discretion to bureaucrats who are all but insulated from oversight has, at least in the case of anti-terrorism regulation, become a license for arbitrariness."

Ward, Ian. "Terrorists and equivocators." Law and Humanities 1.1 (Summer 2007): 111(21). Ian Ward is Professor of Law at the University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

"This rhetoric, of testament and crusade, is as reckless as it is ignorant and perverse. Slavoj Zizek warns against 'our warriors on terror' seemingly 'ready to wreck their own democratic world' out of a visceral 'hatred for the Muslim other'. He is right. There is little to be gained by situating Islam as an enemy, just as there is little to be gained by constructing fantastical bogey-men. But we continue to do so all the same. Islamophobia has become a hallmark of modern western popular culture, the image of the devious, rapacious, endemically violent Islamic terrorist a staple of our cinematic and literary diet. Where the 'chosen people' were once terrified by the dreaded papist, they are now terrified by the dreaded Islamist. It is a fear, as Edward Said suggests, that has, over the centuries, become 'woven into the fabric' of western cultural 'life'. Here again, our craving for terror, and to be terrified, seems to be unquenchable. We live, as Benjamin Barber has rightly suggested, in an 'empire of fear, possessed of a terror that we have essentially 'conjured' for ourselves. . . .
Ultimately, the presumed, or contested, acuity of the 'clash' of civilisations thesis is less important than the insinuation. There maybe no necessary association between militant jihad and the philosophy or jurisprudence of Islam. It may well be the mutant figment of an orientalist, even racist, political and cultural imagination. But it does not need to be accurate or apposite. What matters, sadly, is that so many are deluded by the supposition. Again, the prophecy fulfils itself. On the one hand, there are plenty of disenchanted and dispossessed young Muslims who are all too easily persuaded into thinking that theology justifies terror. To them, bin Laden's rhetoric 'makes sense', in the same way as Borromeo's Testament impelled young Catholics such as Robert and Thomas Catesby to risk their lives 400 years ago. On the other there is a 'western' populace that appears to be all too ready to embrace the rhetoric of the apocalypse, to suppose that the 'blatant Beast' is abroad once more, to believe that America and its allies have a moral duty, a divine calling even, one which justifies the presence of their crusaders across vast tracts of the Middle East, from Qom to Kabul. The alternative fantasies, as is so often the case, are mutually sustaining. They nurture the terror, and the tragedy."


From 1934 to 1970, in a total of 1,651 broadcasts, Americans loved THE ORIGINAL AMATEUR HOUR.

Ellen Druda describes our reaction to the phenomenon (does America REALLY have talent?) as, “It's fun to see ourselves from this gentler time, when the corniest family and the nuttiest novelty act held our attention and competed equally for viewers' votes” (Druda, Ellen. “The Original Amateur Hour.” Library Journal 131.4 March 1, 2006: 132).

Ted Mack made us believe that all these nice folks could be stars. The contestants were chosen by the spin of a huge wheel. While the wheel was spinning, Ted Mack repeated the words:


We Americans will believe in anything as long as it's either funny or scary enough.

We also have a tendency to believe anything we hear repeated enough times, regardless of the source. We (at least Americans in general, and the entire Congress and executive branch of government) have been lulled into not paying attention to a small cadre of terror-mongers and Muslim-bashers who are in charge of the day to day policy making at the “street level” in our government. Matthew Levitt and Stuart Levey are prime examples although Levitt no longer works directly for the government.

The “round and round” is obvious enough. What makes it scary is that these people are amateurs who have come to positions of incredible power.

Let me demonstrate (this is tedious; ROUND AND ROUND SHE GOES, AND WHERE SHE STOPS NOBODY KNOWS).

In their article, “The U.S. campaign to squeeze terrorists' financing,” in the Journal of International Affairs 62.1 (Fall-Winter 2008), Matthew Levitt and Michael Jacobson report that, “Stuart Levey, undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence at Treasury, emphasized that 'counterterrorism officials place a heavy premium on financial intelligence' in part because 'money trails don't lie.' (Their footnote 2)
(2) Testimony by Stuart Levey, Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, U.S. Dpartment of the Treasury, before the United States House Financial Services Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, 109th Congress, 2nd Session, 11 July 2006,
U.S. Department of the Treasury, “Statement of Under Secretary Stuart Levey on the Terrorist Finance Tracking Program,” 23 June 2006,

Levey begins his testimony by saying, “This is my fifth time appearing before your Committee in the past two years in what has been an ongoing and fruitful discussion of our government's efforts to track and combat terrorist financing. These sessions have advanced our shared mission to undermine terrorist networks and disrupt their vicious objectives. “ Levey's fifth time appearing.

Interestingly enough, Levitt quotes another of these Levey testimonies before Congress as a source in his book, Hamas: Politics, Charity and Terrorism in the Service of Jihad. (Yale University Press, 2006). On page 301, note 49, Levitt cites Levey's testimony before the same committee on May 4, 2005. The citation is, however, more interesting than that.

Levitt also cites: Israeli 2004 report CSS Special Information Bulletin. "IRFAN, A Hamas Front Organization Operating in Canada to Enlist Financial Suuport for Hamas Institutions in the Palestinian Authority-Administered Territories," November 2004.

CSS is the Israeli Center for Special Studies. This “information bulletin” is based on a report by the Israel Security Agency. The CSS is a non-governmental agency that is fed information by the Israeli government and issues reports based on the secret information, information that can never be corroborated. The original sources are, of course, “classified” information of the Israeli government to anyone else.

One might well ask here if these articles, books, footnotes, and sources (to say nothing of Levitt and Levey) are connected in any significant way. I'm not sure. But there is definitely a pattern here. One quotes the other and the other quotes the first, and neither of them relies on any information that does not come from a closed coterie of informants, “scholars,” and government operatives. I invite you to read the articles I have referenced for yourself.

However, I want to take this one step farther.

Sometime after April of 2008, The Washington Institute for Near East Policy published an op-ed piece by Matthew Levitt that was originally published in the CTC Sentinel at West Point. (The CTC Sentinel 1.5 April 2008). The Combating Terrorism Center “is an independent educational and research institution based in the Department of Social Sciences at the United States Military Academy, West Point.” Levitt's article, “Al-Qa'ida's Finances: Evidence of Organizational Decline?” is at

Levitt says: “Speaking before congress in February, Director of National Intelligence (DNI) Michael McConnell commented that during the previous 12-18 months the intelligence community noticed that “al Qaeda has had difficulty in raising funds and sustaining themselves.” In early April, Undersecretary of the Treasury Stuart Levey echoed the DNI's assessment, adding that the government's efforts to combat terrorist financing “are more integrated than ever before” and have enabled the government to disrupt or deter some sources of al-Qa'ida financing and make “significant progress mapping terrorist networks.” This statement comes from yet another Levey testimony, this one on April 1, 2008 before the Senate Committee on Finance.

WINEP reprints an article in a quasi-governmental (Army) publication by Levitt in which he quotes Sturat Levey (one is tempted to say, “of course”) in support of the Director of Nation Intelligence. Or, one might ask, is the DNI relying on the work of Matthew Levitt and Stuart Levey?

One more go ‘round. From the Israeli newspaper Haaretz:

WASHINGTON - The effort to apply economic pressure on the regime in Tehran through divestment has intensified in the United States. The pressure, which involves divestment on the part of international firms, is being carried out in parallel with continuous efforts at the United Nations Security Council to impose a second round of sanctions against Iran in response to its failure to abide by the world body's call to end uranium enrichment. . . . A senior U.S. Treasury official, Stuart Levey, has recently returned to Washington from a visit to the Middle East, which included a visit to Israel. His team has revealed that in coming months banks and credit companies may decide to freeze their ties with Iran after having been presented with data on the types of activities supported by the Iranian financial transactions. . . . Dr. Matthew Levitt of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, who worked on Levey's team at the Treasury, said Sunday that, “If the effort is focused on several dozen corporations, it will be sufficient,” because this is the number of firms invested in Iranian petroleum, the critical area of that country's economy. (Shmuel Rosner. “U.S. campaign calls for major Iran divestment.” Tue., March 13, 2007 Adar 23, 5767.)

Monday, September 07, 2009

Daniel PIPEs' Xenophobic DREAM

Xenophobia has a long and (dis)reputable history in the United States.

“In short unless the stream of their importation could be turned [away], as you very judiciously propose, they will soon so outnumber us, that all the advantages we have will not in My Opinion be able to preserve our language, and even our Government will become precarious.” (1)

“…and are they not, with the sickness of hope deferred, waiting for our downfall? It is the light of our republican prosperity, gleaming in upon their dark prison house, which is inspiring hope….By fleets and armies they cannot [extinguish our light]. But…a foreign influence acting efficaciously on the councils of a republic, has always been regarded and always proved itself to be among the most fatal to liberty” (2).

“The increased stature, and affluence, and enfranchisement of American Muslims...will present true dangers to American Jews…”(3). “The Palestinians are a miserable people...and they deserve to be…”(4). “All immigrants bring exotic customs and attitudes, but Muslim customs are more troublesome than most.”(5).

Americans have always found reason to fear and hate the “stranger” –from 1753 to 2009, from a Founding Father to the most famous 19th-century Protestant preacher in the country, to a modern-day hate-monger.

Daniel Pipes has, for reasons that have been thoroughly discussed in academic literature, likely become the most outspoken and influential xenophobe in our history. His dream is to crush anyone who speaks Arabic and all Muslims. But the learned discourse about Pipes’s vitriol has made not a dent in the armor the mainstream media and government operatives have wrapped around him. Virtually nothing he says is ever questioned in the media, and judges and other government operatives accept anything he says as “truth.”

A random example from scores I have documented:

According to Daniel Pipes, the central task of the United States is to reinforce moderate Islam as a counterbalance to Islamism. Pipes postulates the central conflict in the GWOT is the one waged between militant and moderate Islam. “While Washington can help in this struggle by providing assistance to the moderates and working to establish reforms in areas locked in a self-defeating bargain with the militants (such as Saudi Arabia and Pakistan), the actual battle will be won or lost within the Islamic world itself” (6).

Daniel Pipes is, of course, entitled to his opinion about the “central task of the United States.” I have mine, too (and it has to do with protecting liberties). But Pipes's opinion is part of the evidence in a paper published by the US Army War College. I am not privy to the workings of the US Army War College, but I suggest that an article written by the Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence, a Senior Intelligence Analyst for the Middle East and North Africa for the Deputy Chief of Staff, and an analyst of West Africa and Islamism—all three stationed at the Headquarters of US Army Europe and Seventh Army, in Heidelberg, Germany—is intended to influence decision-makers.

The US Army War College, in this paper designed to “demystify the radical Islamist threat,” gives the weight of authority to the work of a person so caught up in xenophobia that he dreams that “...there are no Palestinian refugees or land dispossession and [who] has advocated the leveling of Palestinian villages, while also pronouncing, without empirical support, that half of the Muslims residing in the United States 'despise American politics and ethics’” (7).

This Xenophobe led the charge against Debbie Almontaser.

This is not, or should not be, a surprise to anyone because Daniel Pipes has made himself (rich and) famous as the one-man demolition team for all things Palestinian, Arab, and Muslim in America. What is surprising is that none of his vitriolic nonsense has ever been challenged in government or the mainstream media. No, I was not born yesterday. It's not surprising at all.

Those of us in Dallas have a special connection to Daniel Pipes's Xenophobic dream. Pipes is an adjunct scholar at WINEP, where Matthew Levitt is director of the Stein Program on Counterterrorism and Intelligence. He also founded the Middle East Quarterly in which Matthew Levitt frequently publishes articles. I have no way of knowing what the personal or professional relationship between Daniel Pipes and Matthew Levitt is. Anyone can plainly see, however, that they are cut from the same Xenophobic mold.

This is not original thinking on my part.

“…Levitt constructed a vast terrorist conspiracy out of paranoid Zionist fantasies trying to explain the refusal of Muslims to acknowledge that it was just to establish a Jewish state in Palestine. In Levitt’s delusions, to which other lesser ranking government officials like Daniel Pipes and Rachel Ehrenfeld contributed, Islamic finance and Islamic charity serve as a many-headed hydra of evil. Through vast numbers of meetings and internal dissemination of documents Levitt and Levey spread Zionist doctrine throughout government bureaucracy until practically every official from Ashcroft down could, on cue, reflexively repeat the whole litany of the sins that Levitt had fabricated about each charity or financial entity that was targeted for demonization” (8).

In Dallas we twice saw the results of Levitt's fantasies (dreams) played out in a courtroom. It could not have happened without the twenty-year unchallenged Xenophobic rantings of Daniel Pipes.

(1) Benjamin Franklin, Letter to Peter Collinson, Philadelphia, May 9th, 1753 (referring to German immigrants)
(2) Lyman Beecher. A Plea for the West Edition 2. New York: Leavitt, Lord & Co. 1835: 54.
(3) STATEMENT OF SENATOR HARKIN. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions
Wednesday, July 23, 2003.
(4) Kelley, Elaine. "Daniel Pipes’ Acrimonious Remarks Embarrass Organizers of Portland Panel on 'Healing Words.'” Washington Report on Middle East Affairs (July 2001): 57. Northwest News.
(5) Pipes, Daniel. "The Muslims are coming! The Muslims Are Coming!” National Review. November 19, 1990.
(6) Daniel Pipes and Graham Fuller, “Combating the Ideology of Radical Islam,” Special Policy Forum Report, The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, 10 April 2003. Quoted in:
Harvey, Andrew, Ian Sullivan, and Ralph Groves. “A clash of systems: an analytical framework to demystify the radical Islamist threat.” Parameters 35.3 (Autumn 2005): 72(15).
(7) Pipes, Daniel. “In Muslim America.” National Review, February 21, 2000. Quoted in:
Goodman, Robin Truth. “Terrorist Hunter: Walter Mosley, the urban plot, and the terror war.” Cultural Critique 66 (Spring 2007): 21(37).
(8) Friedmann, Karin. “Conspiracies involve lower officials.” Online Journal. July 30, 2009.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

James Madison's "shaking off" of religious tyranny

An explanation: The verdict in the Holy Land Foundation trial destroyed something in me. The shock was too much. A great mystery to me is how the families and friends of the defendants have managed to carry on since November 24. The community of which Shukri, Mohammad, Ghassan, Mufid, and Abdulrahmen are such an important part have always welcomed me, for which I am more grateful than I can say. But my own community was completely unavailable to me at the time of the conviction. Many Christians of Dallas seemed to be much like the Jewish temple officials in Jesus’ story about the man attacked by thieves. They could not be sullied by touching anyone unclean. It was left to a hated Samaritan to care for him. Through the ordeal of the trial and conviction, I learned a lesson I did not expect – “respectable” people do not associate with friends and families of convicted felons, no matter how unjust the convictions.

For ten months I have been unable to write with this space in mind.

However, this week, I read two items, one from the news and one a "scholarly" article, that have reminded me why I followed the HLF trial in the first place, and came to know and love the defendants and their families and friends. Both pieces stirred up my grief at the injustice that motivates much of the public life of the United States.

James Madison set out the role of religion in American public life in his Memorial and Remonstrance in 1785:

It is the duty of every man to render to the Creator such homage and such only as he believes to be acceptable to him. This duty is precedent, both in order of time and in degree of obligation, to the claims of Civil Society. Before any man can be considered as a member of Civil Society, he must be considered as a subject of the Governour of the Universe: And if a member of Civil Society, [he must be so only by] a saving of his allegiance to the Universal Sovereign. We maintain therefore that in matters of Religion, no man's right is abridged by the institution of Civil Society and that Religion is wholly exempt from its cognizance.

It is clear. One owes allegiance to God "only as he believes to be acceptable to him." And that allegiance cannot be "abridged by the institution of Civil Society."

The supposedly scholarly article I read begins with this sentence:

Jews and evangelicals have made important strides in understanding each other in recent years. (1) Issues such as America's Christian heritage, (2) the legitimacy of the State of Israel, (3) and the need for evangelical pro-Israeli support in the midst of Israel's struggle for survival have been discussed. (1)

This article purports to be about "religious liberty" as it has been agreed to by Jews and Evangelical Christians at the Air Force Academy in Colorado. In actuality it is a propaganda piece for two ideas: 1) The United States is a “Christian nation;” and 2) Jews and Evangelicals, because they are both dedicated—for their own and conflicting reasons—to the survival of the State of Israel, must work together to maintain the preeminence of Evangelical Christianity in America.

The other piece I read is about the firing of Debbie Almontaser as the principal of the Kalil Gibran International Academy in New York. The Academy was founded as an Arabic-language public school. Daniel Pipes and his minions stirred up a controversy to get Ms. Almontaster fired. She sued. Two days ago, her lawsuit was thrown out by a judge who said that the Department of Education “had not abridged Almontaser's First Amendment protections in forcing her resignation over idiotic statements made in the course of her job.” (2)

I will write more about Ms. Almontaser’s case in a succeeding post. Suffice it to say that the case turns on her use of the phrase “shaking-off” instead of "uprising" to translate “intifada” (as the Merriam Webster Dictionary does--see my new Blog heading) which Pipes and the American media prefer to further their decades-long character assassination of all Palestinians and Muslims.

The obvious anti-Muslim, anti-Arab undercurrent in both the “scholarly” article and Ms. Almontaser’s case is this: When Evangelical Christians are called to task for practicing their religious indoctrination at the academy where US Air Force officers are trained, they are, with the help of Zionist sympathizers, allowed to dictate what “religious liberty” means. On the other hand, a Muslim Arab-American educator is not allowed even to explain the actual meaning of an Arabic word because it does not please the most rabid defender of Israel in this country.

The underlying injustice of the Holy Land Foundation trial is ubiquitous.

(1) Lillback, Peter A. "Pluralism, postmodernity, and religious liberty: the abiding necessity of free speech and religious convictions in the public square." Journal of Ecumenical Studies 44.1 (Winter 2009): 26-57.
(2) Thursday, September 3rd 2009.

Friday, November 28, 2008

An interim report - RESEARCH on "why"

The tediousness of research sometimes yields ideas and explanations that simply must be shared. Such a find is a recent article by Dr. Ian S. Lustick, who is the Chair of Political Science at the University of Pennsylvania. The article is "ABANDONING THE IRON WALL: ISRAEL AND 'THE MIDDLE EASTERN MUCK'." It is in the current issue of MIDDLE EAST POLICY XV.3 (FALL 2008).

This article provides a way of thinking about the background of the Holy Land Foundation trial as part of a broad, desperate and irrational means for Israel to defend itself in a situation which more and more Israelis are coming to understand is untenable. Israel's reaction, however, is not to adopt a rational approach, but to "hunker down" and live in a world of constant violence in order to put off the inevitable. The tragedy for all Americans, especially Muslim Americans and Arab Americans, and most particularly for the leaders of the HLF, is that our government aids and abets the Israeli government in this irrationality rather than insisting that reason prevail. And we have seen this irrationality, and the absolute wrong-headed conviction that it is what it isn't (that is, reasonable) played out in first Judge Fish's court, and then in Judge Solis's court.

Professor Lustick explains the earliest thinking of the Zionist leaders regarding the use of force in the beginning of the takeover of Palestine in the 1940s:

From page 30:
"But day-to-day experience and their own nationalist ideology gave Zionist leaders no reason to expect Muslim Middle Easterners, and especially the inhabitants of Palestine, to greet the building of the Jewish National Home with anything but intransigent and violent opposition. The solution to this predicament was the Iron Wall — the systematic but calibrated use of force to teach Arabs that Israel, the Jewish 'state-on-the-way,' was ineradicable, regardless of whether it was perceived by them to be just. Once force had established Israel’s permanence in Arab and Muslim eyes,negotiations could proceed to achieve a compromise peace based on acceptance of realities rather than rights."

Dr. Lustick goes on to explain that the Zionists never expected the Palestinians to accept the justness of the Jewish state, but their goal was simply to force the Arab world to accept the existence of Israel as a "fact."

From page 32:
"Thus a corollary of the Iron Wall strategy was that Zionism would not demand Arab recognition of the justice of the Zionist project. It would demand only that eventually Arabs would accept the reality and permanence of a Middle East that included Jewish immigration and a Jewish polity. With characteristic eloquence, Foreign Minister Abba Eban put this point very clearly in a speech in1970, identifying the root cause of the continuation of the Arab-Israeli conflict as:

'....the refusal or the inability of Arab intellectual and political leadership so far, to grasp the depth, the passion, the authenticity of Israel’s roots in the region….The crux of the problem is whether, however reluctantly, Arab leadership, intellectual and political, comes to understand the existential character of the Middle East as an area which cannot be exhausted by Arab nationalism alone. There are some governments which in a benevolent spirit, offer to secure the consent of the Arab states to the recognition of our right to exist. It is sometimes my duty to say that we do not ask any recognition of our right to exist, because our right to exist is independent of any recognition of it' (Abba Eban, Speech to Commonwealth Club of California, November 14, 1970).

That is, according to Dr. Lustick, the Israeli position is that the entire problem in the Middle East is the refusal of the "Arab intellectual and political leadership" to understand Israel's right to exist, quite apart from any just or peaceful explanation of it. And so, because the Palestinians will not accept the fact that Israel has the right to exist, the only alternative for the Israelis is to consider the Palestinians as violent, less than civilized people.

From page 34:
A natural feature of this overall outlook is an image of the Arab/Muslim world, and the Palestinians in particular, as irrational, brutal and violent, imbued with intractably anti-Semitic hatreds fortified by deeply anti-Western, Muslim- fundamentalist fanaticism. Against such an enemy deterrence is only barely possible, and only by suppressing the natural human instincts of Israelis. Consider, for example, the work of Efraim Inbar, director of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University. Inbar is a much published scholar and commentator on military, political and security affairs who identifies with and has long reflected the thinking of right-of-center politicians, including the once and perhaps future prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Referring to the Palestinians’ “psychotic hatred of Jews,” Inbar has urged an end to Israeli apologies for accidentally killing Palestinian civilians:

'We are confronted by a society that is mesmerized by bloody attacks, relishes the sickening sights of Palestinian militias playing with the severed limbs of dead Israeli soldiers, and savors gory images of maimed Israeli bodies, victims of a bus explosion. Tragically, Palestinian society seems to enjoy even the sight of its own dead. Rather than break away from the psychological mold the Palestinian national movement has propagated so successfully for years it seems to prefer the role of victim. Israel’s apologies only reinforce such a dysfunctional preference….The Palestinians do not deserve any apologies — just condemnation for their outrageous behavior. These repeated apologies are also counterproductive in a strategic sense. Expressing sorrow and extending sympathy projects softness, when what is required is an image of determination to kill our enemies. Only such an image can help Israel acquire a modicum of deterrence against the bestiality on the other side" (Efraim Inbar, “Stop Saying Sorry,” Jerusalem Post, May 30, 2004).

Professor Lustick asserts that this hardening attitude toward the Palestinians has even become standard in the thinking of the "new historians" in Israel who had begun in the 1990s to study and write openly about the realities of the history of Israel rather than the myths. Professor Lustick offers a lengthy quotation from a newspaper interview with Benny Morris.

From page 35:
Benny Morris is the dean of Israel’s“new historians.” He laid the groundwork for widespread recognition of Israeli policies of Arab expulsion in 1948. During the first Intifada, he went to prison for refusing to serve in the army in the occupied territories. More recently, Morris has joined in the despair and fury that marks so much of Israeli public commentary across much of the political spectrum. In a lengthy interview with Ari Shavit, Morris portrayed the Palestinian people as a whole as a “serial killer” and called for them to be treated accordingly:

Morris: The barbarians who want to take our lives. The people the Palestinian society sends to carry out the terrorist attacks, and in some way the Palestinian society itself as well. At the moment, that society is in the state of being a serial killer. It is a very sick society. It should be treated the way we treat individuals who are serial killers…. Something like a cage has to be built for them. I know that sounds terrible. It is really cruel. But there is no choice. There is a wild animal there that has to be locked up in one way or another. . .
Morris: I think there is a clash between civilizations here [as Huntington argues]. I think the West today resembles the Roman Empire of the fourth, fifth and sixth centuries: The barbarians are attacking it, and they may also destroy it.
Shavit: The Muslims are barbarians, then?
Morris: I think the values I mentioned earlier are values of barbarians — the attitude toward democracy, freedom, openness; the attitude toward human life. In that sense they are barbarians. The Arab world as it is today is barbarian….
Shavit: Is it really all that dramatic? Is the West truly in danger?
Morris: Yes. I think that the war between the civilizations is the main characteristic of the twenty-first century. I think President Bush is wrong when he denies the very existence of that war. It’s not only a matter of Bin Laden. This is a struggle against a whole world that espouses different values. And we are on the front line. Exactly like the Crusaders, we are the vulnerable branch of Europe in this place (Ari Shavit, “Survival of the Fittest? An Interview with Benny Morris,” Haaretz, January 16, 2004).

Professor Lustick argues that the movement from a Zionist rationale for violence as a method of "teaching a lesson" that Israel exists and will not be moved has become virtually violence for its own sake as a means of punishing the "barbarians." He says that Israel's use of violence since the First Intifada has been a desperate escalation of fear and isolation.

As I have stressed, Zionism’s use of violence against Arabs was traditionally conceived as a pedagogical device to convince Arabs of the Jewish National Home’s indestructibility, and then to persuade some among them to negotiate mutually acceptable deals based on the alternative of suffering painful defeats. It is natural, then, that, as images of a future in which Arabs and Muslims can come to accept the Jewish state fade from Israeli consciousness, the rationale for violence also changes. Instead of being conceived as a persuasive instrument in service of political or diplomatic aims, force against Arabs and Muslims is increasingly treated as a kind of rattonade. This was the term used to characterize the French practice in Algeria [in the 1950s when the Algerians fought for their independence] of entering casbahs and other Muslim quarters, killing inhabitants, and then quickly returning to European areas or bases. Its literal meaning is “rat hunt.” More generally, it refers to a violent strike against the enemy “on the other side of the wall” for purposes of punishment, destruction and psychological release. While Sharon and other Israeli military leaders in the 1970s and 1980s made the slogan sbang vegomarnu (“smash and we’re done”) popular, and while . . . many Israeli military operations can be understood as at least in part motivated by the desire to satisfy psychological or domestic political requirements, Israel’s long-term strategy for moving Arab-Israeli relations closer to peace by the use of force has never been more conspicuous by its absence than in the years since 2000. . . . Of course, the most regular expressions of this (strategically) nonrational use of Israel’s coercive capacity are Israeli policies: targeted assassinations of Palestinian leaders, entry into Palestinian zones by Israeli intelligence agents and reconnaissance units to capture or kill particular individuals, missile attacks, bombing raids and temporary, but devastating search-and destroy ground incursions. Even during the Oslo period, the irrationality of conducting strikes that destroyed the credibility and efficacy of Palestinian leaders while demanding more effective governance by the Palestinian Authority never became important, let alone decisive, in Israeli political discourse. Today, moral or strictly“professional” military criticism of particularly cruel or “disproportionate” raids in Gaza, the West Bank, or Lebanon can still be heard. However, specific evaluation of these measures based on their political rationality — i.e., the likelihood that they might enhance or undermine chances for progress toward a peace settlement — is almost entirely absent.