Another Theocracy in the Muslim World

June 30, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Uri Avnery

I am fed up with all this nonsense about recognizing Israel as the Jewish state.

It is based on a collection of hollow phrases and vague definitions, devoid of any real content. It serves many different purposes, almost all of them malign.

Benjamin Netanyahu uses it as a trick to obstruct the establishment of the Palestinian state. This week he declared that the conflict just has no solution. Why? Because the Palestinians do not agree to recognize, etc., etc.

Four rightist members of the Knesset have just submitted a bill empowering the government to refuse to register new NGOs and to dissolve existing ones if they deny the Jewish character of the state.
This new bill is only one of a series designed to curtail the civil rights of Arab citizens, as well as those of leftists.

If the late Dr. Samuel Johnson were living in present-day Israel, he would phrase his famous dictum about patriotism differently: Recognition of the Jewish character of the state is the last refuge of a scoundrel.

In Israeli parlance, denying the Jewish character of the state is tantamount to the worst of all political felonies: to claim that Israel is a state of all its citizens.

To a foreigner, this may sound a bit weird. In a democracy, the state clearly belongs to all its citizens. Mention this in the United States, and you are stating the obvious. Mention this in Israel, and you are treading dangerously close to treason. (So much for our much-vaunted common values.)

As a matter of fact, Israel is indeed a state of all its citizens. All adult Israeli citizens-and only they-have the right to vote for the Knesset. The Knesset appoints the government and determines the laws.

It has enacted many laws declaring that Israel is a Jewish and democratic state. In ten or in a hundred years, the Knesset could hoist the flag of Catholicism, Buddhism, or Islam. In a democracy, it is the citizens who are sovereign, not a verbal formula.

What formula? one may well ask.

The courts favor the words Jewish and democratic state. But that is far from being the only definition around.

The most widely used is just Jewish state. But that is not enough for Netanyahu and Co., who speak about the nation-state of the Jewish people, which has a nice 19th-century ring. The state of the Jewish people is also quite popular.

The one thing that all these brand -names have in common is that they are perfectly imprecise. What does Jewish mean? A nationality, a religion, a tribe? Who are the Jewish people? Or, even more vague, the Jewish nation? Does this include the congressmen who enact the laws of the United States? Or the cohorts of Jews who are in charge of U.S. Middle East policy? Which country does the Jewish ambassador of the UK in Tel Aviv represent?

The courts have been wrestling with the question: where is the border between Jewish and democratic? What does democratic mean in this context? Can a Jewish state really be democratic, or, for that matter, can a democratic state really be Jewish? All the answers given by learned judges and renowned professors are contrived, or, as we say in Hebrew, they stand on chickens legs.

Lets go back to the beginning: the book written in German by Theodor Herzl, the founding father of Zionism, and published in 1896. He called it Der Judenstaat.

Unfortunately, this is a typical German word that is untranslatable. It is generally rendered in English as The Jewish State or The State of the Jews. Both are quite false. The nearest approximation would be The Jewstate.

If this sounds slightly anti-Semitic, this is not by accident. It may come as a shock to many, but the word was not invented by Herzl. It was first used by a Prussian nobleman with an impressive name Friedrich August Ludwig von der Marwitzwho died 23 years before Herzl was even born. He was a dedicated anti-Semite long before another German invented the term anti-Semitism as an expression of the healthy German spirit.

Marwitz, an ultra-conservative general, objected to the liberal reforms proposed at the time. In 1811 he warned that these reforms would turn Prussia into a Judenstaat, a Jewstate. He did not mean that Jews were about to become a majority in Prussia, God forbid, but that moneylenders and other shady Jewish dealers would corrupt the character of the country and wipe out the good old Prussian virtues.

Herzl himself did not dream of a state that belongs to all the Jews in the world. Quite the contrary-his vision was that all real Jews would go to the Judenstaat (whether in Argentina or Palestine, he had not yet decided). They-and only they-would thenceforth remain Jews. All the others would become assimilated in their host nations and cease altogether to be Jews.

Far, far indeed from the notion of a nation-state of the Jewish people as envisioned by many of today’s Zionists, including those millions who do not dream of immigrating to Israel.

When I was a boy, I took part in dozens of demonstrations against the British government of Palestine. In all of them, we chanted in unison Free immigration! Hebrew state! I dont remember a single demonstration with the slogan Jewish state.

That was quite natural. Without anyone decreeing it, we made a clear distinction between us Hebrew-speaking people in Palestine and the Jews in the Diaspora. Some of us turned this into an ideology, but for most people it was just a natural expression of reality: Hebrew agriculture and Jewish tradition, Hebrew underground and Jewish religion, Hebrew kibbutz and Jewish shtetl. Hebrew Yishuv (the new community in the country) and Jewish Diaspora. To be called a Diaspora Jew was the ultimate insult.

For us this was not anti-Zionist by any means. Quite the contrary:

Zionism wanted to create an old-new nation in Eretz Israel (as Palestine is called in Hebrew), and this nation was of course quite distinct from the Jews elsewhere. It was only the Holocaust, with its huge emotional impact, that changed the verbal rules.

So how did the formula Jewish state creep in? In 1917, in the middle of World War I, the British government issued the so-called Balfour Declaration, which proclaimed that His Majestys Government views with favor the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.

Every word was carefully chosen, after months of negotiations with Zionist leaders. One of the main British objects was to win American and Russian Jews for the Allied cause. Revolutionary Russia was about to get out of the war, and the entry of isolationist America was essential.

(By the way, the British rejected the words the turning of Palestine into a national home for the Jewish people, insisting on in Palestine-thus foreshadowing the partition of the country.)

In 1947 the UN did decide to partition Palestine between its Arab and Jewish populations. This said nothing about the character of the two future states-it just used the current definitions of the two warring parties. About 40 percent of the population in the territory allocated to the Jewish state was Arab.

The advocates of the Jewish state make much of the sentence in the Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel (generally called the Declaration of Independence) which indeed includes the words Jewish state. After quoting the UN resolution which called for a Jewish and an Arab state, the declaration continues: Accordingly we on the strength of the resolution of the United Nations General Assembly, hereby declare the establishment of a Jewish state in Eretz Israel, to be known as the state of Israel.

This sentence says nothing at all about the character of the new state, and the context is purely formal.

One of the paragraphs of the declaration (in its original Hebrew version) speaks about the Hebrew people: We extend our hands to all neighboring states and their peoples in an offer of peace and good neighborliness, and appeal to them to establish bonds of cooperation and mutual help with the independent Hebrew people in its land. This sentence is blatantly falsified in the official English translation, which changed the last words into the sovereign Jewish people settled in its own land.

As a matter of fact, it would have been quite impossible to reach agreement on any ideological formula, since the declaration was signed by the leaders of all factions, from the anti-Zionist ultra-Orthodox to the Moscow-oriented Communist Party.

Any talk about the Jewish state leads inevitably to the question: What are the Jews-a nation or a religion?

Official Israeli doctrine says that Jewish is both a national and a religious definition. The Jewish collective, unlike any other, is both national and religious. With us, nation and religion are one and the same.

The only door of entry to this collective is religious. There is no national door.

Hundreds of thousands of non-Jewish Russian immigrants have come to Israel under the Law of Return with their Jewish relatives. This law is very broad. In order to attract the Jews, it allows even distant non-Jewish relatives to come with them, including the spouse of the grandchild of a Jew. Many of these non-Jews want to be Jews in order to be considered full Israelis, but have tried in vain to be accepted.

Under Israeli law, a Jew is a person born to a Jewish mother or converted, who has not adopted another religion. This is a purely religious definition. Jewish religious law says that for this purpose, only the mother, not the father, counts.

It is extremely difficult to be converted in Israel. The rabbis demand that the convert fulfill all 613 commandments of the Jewish religion-which only very few recognized Israelis do. But one cannot become an official member of the stipulated Jewish nation by any other door. One becomes a part of the American nation by accepting U.S. citizenship. Nothing like that exists here.

We have an ongoing battle about this in Israel. Some of us want Israel to be an Israeli state, belonging to the Israeli people, indeed a state of all its citizens. Some want to impose on us the religious law supposedly fixed by God for all times on Mount Sinai some 3,200 years ago and abolish all contrary laws of the democratically elected Knesset. Many don’t want any change at all.

But how, in Gods name (sorry), does this concern the Palestinians? Or the Icelanders, for that matter?

The demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel as the Jewish state or as the nation-state of the Jewish people is preposterous.

As the British would put it, its none of their bloody business. It would be tantamount to an intervention in the internal affairs of another country.

But a friend of mine has suggested a simple way out: the Knesset can simply resolve to change the name of the state into something like The Jewish Republic of Israel, so that any peace agreement between Israel and the Arab State of Palestine will automatically include the demanded recognition.

This would also bring Israel into line with the state it most resembles: The Islamic Republic of Pakistan, which came into being almost at the same time, after the partition of India, after a gruesome mutual massacre, after the creation of a huge refugee problem, and with a perpetual border war in Kashmir. And the nuclear bomb, of course.

Many Israelis would be shocked by the comparison. What, us? Similar to a theocratic state? Are we getting closer to the Pakistani model and further from the American one?

What the hell, lets simply deny it!

13-27

Deutsche Bahn Pulls Out of Israel Rail Project

May 26, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Tobias Buck in Jerusalem

Deutsche Bahn, the German railway operator, has pulled out of an Israeli project that cuts through the occupied Palestinian West Bank, after pressure from activists and Berlin.

The move marks a victory for pro-Palestinian groups and their so-called boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign, which tries to useeconomic pressure on Israel to help the Palestinian cause.

Campaigners were angered by the activities of Deutsche Bahn’s international consulting arm, which provided advice on the electrification of the new track linking Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. The high-speed line, due to be completed by 2017, has attracted sharp criticism from Palestinian officials because a 6-km stretch cuts through the West Bank.

Opponents said the project was illegal because it used occupied Palestinian territory for a project that would be used primarily, or solely, by Israeli citizens. They also argued that the new line could have easily been built on Israeli territory alone, making land confiscations in the West Bank unnecessary.

Deutsche Bahn, which is state-owned, declined to comment on the reasons for the pull-out but said: “We told Israel Railways in February that we would not provide further services for this particular project.”

The operator added that the involvement in the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem line had been “modest” and that DB International, its consulting subsidiary, would continue to provide services to the Israeli rail operator elsewhere.

According to a letter sent by Germany’s ministry for transport to a member of parliament, the operator faced criticism for its involvement from the government itself: “The federal government pointed out [to Deutsche Bahn] that the project of the Israeli state railway is problematic from a foreign policy point of view and potentially breaches international law,” it said. The letter added that the German operator confirmed “in writing” that there would be no further involvement of its international subsidiary in “this politically very sensitive project”.

The document, dated March 11, was published on Monday on the website of Change.org, a campaign group.

Merav Emir, an activist with Who Profits, the campaign group that leads the lobbying effort against the rail project, welcomed the decision. “I want to congratulate the German government for making such a clear and bold statement about the illegality of this train route under international law,” she said. “We call on other European governments to follow suit in making sure that companies in their countries abide by international law.”

The Israeli transport ministry did not return calls for comment.

Financial Times

13-22

No-Fault Espionage

December 31, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Philip Giraldi

It is interesting to note what happens to espionage cases in the United States. If you spy for China, or Cuba, or Iran you will be exposed, excoriated in the media, locked up and denied bail, convicted, and sentenced to many years in a federal prison. Spying is serious business and the harsh punishment most often fits the crime because when spies steal highly sensitive defense and policy information they are not only betraying their fellow citizens, they are also making all Americans less secure. And the spying is only slightly less serious when American technology is being targeted. When spies acting for a foreign country steal sensitive technology with commercial applications that is developed at great cost either by the US government or private companies, their betrayal is also taking away the livelihoods of thousands of American workers who rely on the competitive edge of US technology to keep their jobs.

Spies are traitors in every sense of the word, unless, of course, if one is spying for Israel. Israel aggressively spies on the US both to influence policy and steal high technology, but getting caught only very rarely has any consequences. Leading neoconservatives like Richard Perle, Douglas Feith, and Stephen Bryen have all been detected in flagrante providing classified information to Israel but the investigations were halted and their security clearances were godfathered so they could continue to hold high office. FBI counter intelligence officer John Cole has reported on the frustration of his colleagues over the many cases of Israeli espionage that are dropped under orders from the Justice Department. He provides a “conservative estimate” of 125 worthwhile investigations into Israeli espionage in the US involving both American citizens and Israelis stopped due to political pressure from above. Israeli citizens and diplomats who are caught in the act spying are routinely freed without criminal charges and allowed to return home.

If you are an American who spies for Israel, a separate and unequal criminal justice system kicks in and the media quickly excuses your actions and then makes the story go away just as fast as it can. Most readers of Antiwar.com are familiar with the recent case of AIPAC officials Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman. The two men were given information that they knew to be classified by Pentagon employee Larry Franklin, who perhaps not coincidentally worked for Doug Feith. They passed the information on to an intelligence officer at the Israeli Embassy with whom they were also in contact. The FBI set up a sting using Franklin and arrested all three of the men under the Espionage Act of 1917. The arrest was followed by a nearly three year long trial in which the AIPAC duo finally escaped any punishment after presiding Judge Thomas Ellis obligingly set conditions that made it impossible for the prosecution to proceed. Franklin, who pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 151 months in prison, was subsequently freed of his obligation to do any jail time by the same Judge Ellis. While the trial was going on, it was conspicuously underreported by the media.

Predictably, many in the media and in the neocon establishment criticized the arrests of Rosen and Weissman, commenting that exchanges of classified “information” were routine in Washington and that Israel is a good friend requiring the classified intelligence for its own security. The argument might not have convinced the American public, but it certainly convinced the barking dogs in the media and Judge Ellis, particularly as there might have been a little nudging from important politicians taking place. Congresswoman Jane Harman, who was caught on the phone trading favors with an agent working for Israeli intelligence promised to use her influence in the Rosen-Weissman case in return for Israel helping her obtain the position of chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, a devil’s bargain if there ever was one.

The case of Ben-Ami Kadish is in some ways even more intriguing than that of the two AIPAC staffers. Kadish was arrested in New Jersey in December 2008 for “conspiracy to disclose to the government of Israel documents related to the national defense of the United States and… that he participated in a conspiracy to act as an agent of the government of Israel.” Kadish gave the same Israeli intelligence officer who ran convicted spy Jonathan Pollard classified documents that he had obtained while working at the US Army Armament Research, Development, and Engineering Center at Picatinny Arsenal in Dover, New Jersey. Some of the documents were related to nuclear weapons development while others described highly classified aspects of the Patriot anti-missile defense system. Israel subsequently developed its own Arrow anti-missile system, possibly using classified information relating to the Patriot, thereby reducing its own costs and enabling it to market the Arrow internationally at a lower price than its US competitors, eliminating American jobs.

Ben-Ami Kadish was arrested in December but released on bail. He was supposed to reappear before Judge Douglas Eaton at the US District Court for the Southern District of New York in Manhattan two months later in February, but did not actually reappear until June. He was fined and given a suspended sentence, a slap on the wrist considerably less painful than a local businessman cheating on his income tax might have received in the same courtroom.

And there is a current spy case involving Israel which clearly is being swept under the rug. Stewart Nozette, a scientist working for the US government, was arrested on October 19th and charged with conspiring to commit espionage. Nozette was caught in an FBI sting operation in which the Bureau officer pretended to be an Israeli Mossad spy. Nozette enthusiastically embraced the offer to cooperate, demanding in return an Israeli passport and money for the information that he would provide. The US media quickly went into damage mode, the New York Times headlining its coverage “The Scientist Who Mistook Himself for a Spy.” Many in the media quickly noted that the FBI agent was not actually Mossad, meaning that Israel was not directly involved. The convenient spin ignored the fact the Nozette told the agent that he had already “communicated classified information” to Israel for many years through contacts in the Israel Aerospace Industries, for which he received $225,000. Nozette stated that he believed he had already been spying for Israel, telling the pretend Mossad but really FBI officer “I thought I was working for you already.”

So what has happened to Nozette, who, according to the court papers, “had regular, frequent access to classified information and documents related to the US national defense”? Well, as in the case of Ben-Ami Kadish, he seems to have disappeared. The media has dropped the story and Nozette did not appear again in court on November 10th as scheduled. He may have been consigned to that limbo where those who spy for Israel seem to wind up prior to being released. The Federal District Court for the District of Columbia’s website is giving nothing away. Nozette’s name does not appear anywhere and if one calls the court clerk and requests information on his status, the call will not be returned.

The point is that if Congress and the Justice Department think that when Americans are caught spying for Israel it is constitutionally protected activity, like free speech, perhaps they should say so publicly. A two-tier system relating to national security issues and rule of law is just not in the US national interest, no matter how one twists the facts. If you spy for Israel the consequences should be the same as if you spy for China or Cuba – arrest, conviction, and hard jail time. No exceptions, no excuses.

12-1