This is the land which I sware unto Abraham, unto Isaac, unto Jacob, and unto Bibi

(Pre-blog note: We celebrate a fantastic achievement for mankind: landing a one-ton nuclear powered science vehicle on Mars, all without human direction.  Unfortunately, most writers for the general media feel compelled, perhaps inevitably, to add that it cost $2.4 billion, implying that this is perhaps too expensive.  Why then do articles about the war in Afghanistan never mention that this war costs $2 billion a week?  The $2.4 billion Curiosity will operate for at least 104 weeks and actually produce something of value to humanity, which seems like a much better deal.  Perhaps if Curiosity carried weapons no one would notice the price tag.  Three cheers for my fellow geeks at NASA and JPL!)

 

The mainstream American media typically reports news involving Israel only when the Israelis do something spectacular, like invading Lebanon, or when American politics are involved, such as Mitt Romney’s brown-nosing comments about Jerusalem and the Palestinians.   Hardly surprising then that most American newspapers and television stations made no mention of the Levy Report, despite its important implications for Palestine and American policy in the area.  To be fair, some major newspapers, such as the NY Times, carried the story, but clearly most Americans, even those who keep abreast of the news, are unaware of the report, being inundated with the apparently more interesting details of the lives of mass murderers.

Regarding their occupation and colonization of the West Bank, Israel has (when it bothered at all) traditionally excused its clear violation of accepted international law by pointing out that inasmuch as there is no Palestinian state the strictures of such international instruments as the Fourth Geneva Convention and the UN Charter do not apply.  This rationale of course places Israel in what should be uncomfortable company: Hitler in part justified his monstrous treatment of the Soviet Union by noting that they had never signed the Geneva Convention.

This has apparently changed.  Prime Minister Netanyahu appointed a three member commission, headed by former High Court justice Edmund Levy, to investigate the legal status of the so-called “illegal” settlements, that is, those not authorized by the government.  The implication of course is that all the other settlements are legal, despite their obvious violation of basic international law.  But what the panel concluded goes way beyond the issue of the handful of “illegal” settlers, and it is breathtaking in its self-serving cynicism and implications.

Basically, they determined that that the “illegal” settlements – and thus all the settlements – are not illegal because they are not in fact in occupied territory.  This conclusion might seem a bit surprising since the Israeli army has been obviously occupying the West Bank for 45 years, and this is territory designated as part of the Palestinian state created by the same UN resolution that created Israel.  The commission, however, concluded that since Israel has been in the West Bank for such a long time that this is unique occurrence and thus not actually an occupation.  Bingo, all the settlements are perfectly legal in the light of international law.  As, I suppose, would be the German colonization of Poland if they had only hung on longer.

Israeli politicians either hailed this as a triumph of jurisprudence or remained silent, and I am unaware of an official response from the US government, which is in the midst of an election, when even the faintest criticism of Israel is viewed as political poison.  As a signatory of all the international conventions Israel is currently violating, it would be awkward for the US to officially accept the colonization of the West Bank, and our official position is that the settlements are unacceptable.  But no American president has dared take any action on the issue, and so far as I know, no administration has even publically referred to them as violations of international law.  Instead they are “obstacles to peace” or some such euphemism, despite the fact that as a High Contracting Party America is legally bound to “ensure respect” for the Fourth Geneva Convention, which the settlements blatantly violate.

The self-serving and perfectly silly arguments of the Levy Report are designed to satisfy the all-important settler block in the present extremist Likud coalition, but what are the wider implications if this position becomes the official policy of the Israeli state?  This would essentially amount to an annexation of the West Bank, and while the US has pretty much turned a blind eye to the annexation of the Golan Heights and east Jerusalem, this would be very different and disastrous for Israel and perhaps the US.

Annexing the West Bank, even if the word “annex” is avoided, would certainly create a crisis for Israel, which would be faced with only two options.  Israel could enfranchise the 2.3 million Palestinians who live there, but that would be the end of Israel as a Jewish state and is inconceivable.  The alternative is to create (or formalize what is already the case) an apartheid system, which would be the end of Israel as a democratic state.  The second solution would appeal to many religious fanatics, but it would mean the end of US support and the complete isolation of Israel unless it chooses to ally with blatantly undemocratic states like Russia and China.

Well, it would probably mean the end of American support.  American politicians of both parties have a very well established tradition of prostrating themselves before Israel for reasons that are actually becoming less compelling as relentlessly liberal American Jews reconsider their unqualified support of an increasingly illiberal and sometimes outright intolerant Israel.  Israel has become so imbedded in our political arena and its excesses so constantly ignored that it is not a certainty that American politicians, especially evangelically inclined conservatives, would actually abandon it.

We have been quite willing to call Israel a model democracy in the Middle East despite the clear evidence that Palestinian citizens are not just treated as second class but are actually legally disabled.  And in the eyes of many Americans every Arab is suspicious anyway, and the Palestinians have always been terrorists, right?  That Palestinians would be treated as American Blacks were before the civil rights legislation or as South African Blacks were under the apartheid government would clearly be no problem for many conservative Americans.  Yes, we finally severed relations with South Africa, but this is different.  Israel is vital to American security (at least that is what we have been told for a half century) and in any case this is the land the Bible says is special, the land where Jesus walked and where the end of days will take place.  Would Rick Santorum or Michele Bachmann be bothered by any of this?

Many conservatives in Israel are not bothered.  Dani Dayan, head of the Yesha party, has just argued in the NY Times that because Arabs have called for the destruction of Israel and because the West Bank was the heart of ancient Israel, it is not just reasonable but actually moral for Israel to acquire this territory.  Think of it as Judea and Samaria rather than Palestine and you will see the moral imperative to annex.  American evangelicals, who seem to have an incredible capacity for ignoring the truth, especially when religion is involved, would surely endorse this idea, particularly since it involves not just their religion but also national security, which for some has become a quasi-religious concept.

To be sure, because of its unqualified support for Israel and Arab dictators and monarchs, its massive military presence in the Middle East and its expanding program of assassination by drone, America already has little credibility in the Arab world.  But accepting an apartheid Israel would surely end our credibility as leader of the democratic world and spoil our relationship with Europe, whose politicians (even in Germany) are not pathetically subservient to the interests of Israel.

For an historian this is of course all fascinating stuff, but for an American, especially one already concerned about the road we are taking, this is scarey stuff.

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Excerpts from the Book of Yitzhak

(Yitzhak Shamir and Menachem Begin, the two one-time terrorists become Prime Ministers of Israel, were inclined to speak in Old Testiment terms, inevitably referring to the West Bank as Judea and Samaria and reminding the world that these areas once belonged to Israel and should again.  It is thus appropriate to provide an account of the Shamir administration in such terms.  Just to remind you: Shamir was PM from 1983 to 1984 and again from 1986 to 1992; from 1984 to 1986 his ally Shimon Peres was PM.  In 1986 Israel withdrew from most of Lebanon, Ariel Sharon having presided over the Phalange massacre of Palestinians in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps.  The first Intifada erupted in the West Bank in 1987 and over a thousand Palestinians were killed.  The First Gulf War erupted in 1991.)                        

And it came to pass in the thirty-fifth year of the kingdom of Israel that the Lord said unto Yitzhak, This day will I begin to magnify thee in the sight of all Israel, that they may know that, as I was with Moses and Menachem, so will I be with thee.  And I will give unto thee, and to thy brother Shimon, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, and Judea and Samaria, and Sinai and Golan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God, and thou my prophet.

And so Yitzhak went forth among the children of Israel and said unto them, Come hither, and hear the words of the Lord thy God.  And Yitzhak said, Hereby ye shall know that the living God is among you, and that He will without fail drive out from before you the Jordanites, and the Iraqites, and the Syrians, and the Palestites, who art an abomination in the sight of the Lord.  Ever with us is He, Who in the ancient days of Baal Four set up an ensign for the nations, and assembled the outcasts of Israel, and gathered together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth.

And heavy was the burden set upon the children of Israel by the Lord of Hosts, for many were the enemies of Zion and great the company of unbelievers and idolaters.  And the kings of the earth rose up, and the rulers took counsel together against the Lord and against His annointed, and said unto the seed of Abraham, Go forth from the Lebanon, O Israel, for this land is not given thee, and in Sabra and in Shatila the Palestites have suffered a great wickedness and pain, as of a woman in travail.

And the children of Israel gathered themselves together, as the sand which is on the seashore in multitude, and they cried unto Yitzhak, saying, We have sinned, and have done perversely, we have committed wickedness.  And Yitzhak said unto the people, You come to me with lamentation, but I come to ye in the name of the Lord, the God of the armies of Israel.  What is my sin before ye, that I have gone the way of Menachem and his captain Ariel?  But the hearts of the children of Israel were hardened.

And so it came to pass that the hosts of Israel came forth out of the Lebanon, and the valley of Bekaa, unto the waters of Litani.  And Yitzhak said unto the nations, Comfort ye, Speak ye comfortably toJerusalem, for she cries unto ye, that her warfare is accomplished.  But the cry of the Shiites is great, and their sin is very grievous, and ever will the Lord rain upon them brimstone and fire from the Lord out of heaven, that He may overthrow their wickedness.

And it came to pass in Gaza, and in Samaria, and in Judea, even unto the waters of Jordan, that the Palestites corrupted themselves, and they worked a great evil upon the children of Israel.  And the wrath of Yitzhak waxed hot, and he cast the tablets of David out of his hands and brake them beneath his feet.

And Yitzhak went unto his captain Ariel, wherein his strength lay, and he laid his hands upon him, saying, Like unto Joshua art thou to me, and like Moses I give thee a charge.  Do thou cross over into Samaria, and Judea, that thou mayest smite the Palestites with the edge of the sword, for they conspire to do a great evil against the children of Zion.  And Yitzhak said unto Ariel, And thou shalt do to Hebron, and to Shechem, and to Ramallah as thou didst unto Tyre, and Sidon, and mighty Beirut; only the spoil thereof, and the water thereof, shall ye take for a prey unto yourselves.

And so it came to pass that Ariel went forth into Samaria, and Judea, and even unto the Golan, and many were the tents and camps of the children of Israel.  And great was the anger of the Lord of Hosts, and His wrath blew hot upon the Palestites, and the cries of the rulers of the west were as chaff upon the wind.  And Ariel sent to Yitzhak, saying, Now the Lord my God has given me rest on every side, and, behold, I propose to build a house in Jerusalem, unto the name of the Lord my God.

But the hearts of the Palestites were hardened in their wickedness, and no more would Yitzhak forebear, because their sin was very grievous.  And Yitzhak said unto the people, If a Palestite smite a man of Israel with throwing a stone, wherewith he may die, and though he not die, he is a murderer, and the murderer shall surely be put to death.  And Yitzhak sent to his captain Shinbet, saying, Send thou men, that they may search the land of Canaan, which the Lord gave unto the children of Israel.  And the spirit of the Lord came mightily upon the people, and they slew the Palestites, who had transgressed.

And it came to pass in the east, by the waters of Babylon, that the Iraqites builded themselves a great army, with chariots of iron, and they conspired all of them together to come and fight against Jerusalem.  And Yitzhak said unto the children of Israel, A great evil and abomination unto the Lord is spawned in the east.  And it is an accursed thing, and ye, in any wise keep yourselves from the accursed thing, lest ye make yourselves accursed and make the camp of Israel a curse.  And the rulers of the west heard Yitzhak, and they gathered a great host, and the Lord rained upon Baghdad brimstone and fire from the Lord out of heaven, and great was the rejoicing of Zion.

But great was the number of the enemies of the Lord, and the princes of the west cried unto the seed of Abraham, saying, Go forth from Jerusalem, O Israel, for this land is not given thee, and the Palestites suffer a great wickedness and pain.  And Yitzhak was called forth, out of the land of Canaan, by the kings of the west, and he went unto the Amerikites.  And Bey Ker the Amerikite spake unto Yitzhak, saying, Bring forth the children of Israel out of Judea, and Samaria, and proclaim liberty throughout the land.  Go forth from Golan, and from Gaza, O Israel, for thine enemy is fallen, and by the waters of Jordan shall the Palestites raise a nation.  And even in the house of Israel, Shimon, and his brother Yitzhak, turned not from iniquity, but led their tribe in rebellion against the Lord of Hosts.

And great was the power of the Amerikites, but like unto a lion out of the desert was Yitzhak, and his servant Benjamin, and they were filled full with the strength of the living God.  And Yitzhak said unto his people, The kings of the earth seduce ye, saying, Peace, when there is no peace, and terrors by reason of the sword shall be upon the children of Israel.  But he that dwelleth in heaven shall laugh them to scorn, the Lord shall have them in derision.

Pitch thy tents in Judea, and in Samaria, O Israel, for out of Zion shall go forth our law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.  And we shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people; and we shall beat our plowshares into swords, and our pruning hooks into spears.  For we are the annointed of the Lord, who art charged to carry out His holy work, and I will make of thee a great nation.

And the Lord gave unto Israel all the land which he sware to give unto their fathers, and they possessed it, and dwelt therein.  And Yitzhak went into Samaria, and looked over Jordan.  And the Lord said unto him, Behind thee is the land which I sware unto Abraham, unto Isaac, unto Jacob, and unto Menachem, saying, I will give it unto thy seed.  And I have caused thee to see it with thine eyes, but thou shalt not go over thither.  Behold, thou shalt sleep with thy fathers.

And it came to pass in the forty-fourth year of the kingdom of Israel that Yitzhak the servant of the Lord died, according to the word of the children of Israel.  And he was buried in the land of Moab, in the tomb of Likud, wherein lay his father Menachem.

 

 

 

 

Our Best Ally and the USS Liberty

Liberty on June 9

          On June 8, 1967, a perfectly clear day, the American electronic surveillance vessel USS Liberty was in international waters about 30 miles northeast of el-Arish in the Sinai Peninsula, monitoring the signals traffic of the Israelis, Arabs and Russians.  At about 2 PM the ship was attacked by Israeli Mirage and Mysteres fighters, which strafed, bombed and napalmed the Liberty, killing nine crewmen and wounding others.  Their munitions expended, the planes broke off the attack, and the Liberty radioed for help.  The nearby 6th Fleet twice scrambled fighters, but each time they were recalled within minutes, and about 30 minutes after that the Liberty was attacked by three Israeli torpedo boats, which almost sank the vessel with torpedo hits.  They then closed and strafed the vessel, including life rafts that were being launched.  According to the Israeli military, only then did they identify the ship as American and left the scene at 3:30, returning about an hour later to offer help, which the Liberty refused.  34 crewmen were dead and 174 wounded.

The Israelis immediately apologized for what they claimed was an accident, and this explanation was immediately accepted by President Lyndon Johnson and his Secretary of War, Robert McNamara.  Many others, including members of Congress and Secretary of State Dean Rusk, were appalled and believed the attack to have been deliberate.  Surviving Liberty crew were instructed never to talk about the incident under threat of court martial, and while many received decorations, all but one citation said nothing about the identity of the attacker.  Captain William McGonagle received the Medal of Honor, but rather than being awarded the decoration in the White House by the President, as is traditional, he received it from the Secretary of the Navy in an unpublicized ceremony at the Washington Naval Yard.  Stating that it was not their intention to “rule on the culpability of the attacker,” the Navy conducted a 10 day investigation, although the chief of the court, Rear Admiral Isaac Kidd, thought the probe would require at least six months.  This was by far the briefest investigation of a naval disaster in modern American history, and the fact that official letters to families of the casualties, stating it was an accident, were sent out the day before the court convened strongly suggests the investigation was a sham.  The Navy of course concluded that the attack had been an accident.  It remains the official policy of both the Israeli and American governments that it was.

Thanks, Israel!

It was not.  Despite the withholding and editing of documents and tapes, particularly by the NSA, the evidence is overwhelming.  Retired Liberty crewmen, who after all were first-hand witnesses, are adamant in their belief that the attacking Israelis knew it was an American ship.  They have pointed out that in their initial flyovers the planes were so close they could see the faces of the pilots, making it difficult to believe the pilots in turn could not see the 13 foot American flag and other identifying marks and the plainly non-Arabic sailors.  Retired members of the intelligence community have stated they knew it was deliberate and that operators on the Liberty actually overheard the Israeli pilots telling their superiors that it was an American vessel.  Vice-Admiral William Martin claimed the fighters were recalled because it was feared the attackers were Russians, an incredible proposition, and defending the Liberty could thus start a war with the USSR.  It is now known that Johnson, who lies about the affair in his autobiography, personally ordered (through McNamara) the planes recalled, unwilling to “embarrass my ally.”  25 American sailors would subsequently die because of that decision.

Attempts in the last four decades to reopen the investigation have been met with government indifference and outright hostility, even towards the aging survivors of the Liberty.  Afraid to level even the mildest criticism against Israel, virtually no American politician will accuse them of deliberately attacking an American vessel.  There is no conclusive evidence, they say, and what possible reason could Israel have to do such a thing?

If there is no “conclusive” evidence (apart from the eyewitness accounts of the sailors and statements of retired officials), it is because the government, despite the Freedom of Information Act, has refused to release box loads of documents pertaining to the attack.  Further, analysts have concluded that a number of the released audio tapes from that day have obvious gaps.  Why would Washington cover up such a blatant attack on Americans?  As the past 45 years have demonstrated, the apparent Israeli stranglehold on American domestic politics has allowed “our best ally” to do whatever she damn well pleases, even if that includes undermining US interests and constantly violating the international law and covenants we have pledged to uphold.  They have spied on us, illegally resold our military technology, interfered in our elections, detained and abused American citizens of Palestinian origin and insulted one American President after another, yet as the recent parade of Republican candidates made startlingly clear, every national candidate must kneel at the altar of Israel.

Israel has continually demonstrated that she has absolutely no concern for anything outside her own interests and is willing even to use Jews living abroad to serve her ends.  Protected by the United States, the Israelis seem to feel they can get away with any sort of behavior, continually violating the sovereignty of other countries (as we now do), maintaining an open season on Palestinian civilians, intercepting and capturing unarmed vessels in international waters and simply murdering people without apology.             This pattern of behavior certainly supports a deliberate assault on the Liberty.  But why?  There are two possible reasons.  Shortly before the attack the Israeli army had summarily executed several hundred Egyptian POWs in el-Arish (the number is disputed but not the massacre) and may well have been concerned that the Liberty, which was in the neighborhood, had gathered evidence of this war crime.  But far more likely is the planned invasion of Syria.  Washington was putting serious pressure (!) on the Israelis, who were dependent upon American resupply, to end the war, but Israel wanted to seize the Golan Heights and was massing forces for an assault on June 9.  If the US learned of this on June 8, the operation could not take place, and here was the Liberty, monitoring all the electronic traffic in the region.  Remove the Liberty and the problem disappears, as in fact happened.  At 3 AM on June 9 Syria accepted a cease fire, and though informed of this, at 7 AM the Israelis seized the Golan, which was subsequently annexed.

Our best ally indeed.