Sunday, March 21, 2010

Fisk: Israel under siege, Wm. Greider interview, noon-today

Hi. I meant to send this right after getting it but misplaced and
just found it in a wrong file. Fisk's poweful perceptions maintain.

Israel feels under siege. Like a victim. An underdog

By Robert Fisk
The IndependentUK: 2 February 2010

Anyone who is anyone in Israel will come to Herzliya this week for a
conference about the state of the Jewish nation. Our correspondent joined
them and found a climate of unprecedented insecurity – and paranoia

So the propaganda war is on. Forget Israel's invasion of Lebanon in 1982 and
the 15,000 Lebanese and Palestinian dead. Forget the Sabra and Shatila
massacre that same year by Israel's militia allies as their troops watched.
Erase the Qana massacre of 1996 – 106 Lebanese killed by Israeli shellfire,
more than half of them children – and delete the 1,500 in the 2006 Lebanon
war. And forget, of course, the more than 1,300 Palestinians slaughtered by
Israel in Gaza last year (and the 13 Israelis killed by Hamas at that time)
after Hamas rockets fell on Sderot. Israel – if you believe the security
elite of Israel's right wing here in Herzliya – is now under an even more
dangerous, near-unprecedented attack.

Britain – this came yesterday from Israel's ambassador in London, no less –
is "a battlefield" in which Israel's enemies wish to "de-legitimise" the
62-year-old Jewish state.

Even Israel's erstwhile friend, that fine Jewish judge Richard Goldstone, is
now, in the words of one of Israel's staunchest American-Jewish supporters,
Al Dershowitz, an "absolute traitor to the Jewish people" and "an evil, evil
man". (Headlines for this, of course, in Israel yesterday.)

Israel under siege. That was the dreary, familiar, hopelessly misunderstood
theme at the 10th annual Herzliya conference of diplomats, Israeli civil
servants, military gold braid and government yesterday.

Israel the underdog. Israel the victim. Israel whose state-of-the-art,
more-moral-than-any-other army was now in danger of seeing its generals
arraigned on war crimes charges if they set foot in Europe.

Heaven forbid that Israeli officers should ever be accused of atrocities!
The Jerusalem Post yesterday carried a photograph of Kadima leader Tzipi
Livni looking at a Krakow poster abusing her as "wanted for war crimes in
Gaza". Forget that she did nothing as Foreign Minister when the Israelis
rained phosphorus on Gaza. This whole judicial attack on Israel was an
abuse, a deliberate use of international law to de-legitimise the state of
Israel – like all the other condemnation of Israel. Would that it was. This
current identity crisis is indeed a tragedy for Israel – though not in the
way that its right-wing government now suggests.

I remember all too well how, after the disastrous Israeli invasion of
Lebanon in 1982, a huge London conference sought to find out how Israeli
"propaganda" failed. Never mind the slaughter of the Lebanese and the
growing Israeli military casualties. How come Israel's message didn't get
across? How come the anti-Semitic press was allowed to get away with such
calumny? It was an identikit forum to this week's Herzliya confab.

Today we must forget Operation Cast Lead against Gaza and its savage
casualties. We must condemn the Goldstone Report for its unspeakable lies –
that the army of good may have committed war crimes against the terrorists
of evil – and realise that Israel only wanted peace.

In reality, Israel has made a series of terrible diplomatic mistakes. I'm
not talking about the humiliation heaped on the Turkish ambassador by Deputy
Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon – he, too, was at Herzliya. I'm not referring
to the preposterous complaints by Ron Prossor, the Israeli ambassador to
Britain, that in times of crisis there was "a cacophany of voices from
Israel", rather than a single voice.

No, Israel's gravest mistake in recent years was to refuse to contribute to
Goldstone's report on the 2008-09 slaughter in Gaza. A "foolish boycott",
the daily Haaretz called it. A disaster, according to Israel's liberal left,
who rightly spotted that it placed Israel on the level of Hamas.

I have sat through hours of the Herzliya conference – it ends with Prime
Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's cheerleading for the masses tomorrow night –
and the Goldstone Report and the fear of "de-legitimisation" has run like a
thread through almost every debate.

I sat next to an Israeli PhD student yesterday who shook his head in
despair. "I and my friends are filled with terrible disappointment when we
hear these statements from our government. What can we say? What can we do?"
It was an enlightening comment. Is this not what millions of British people
said when Tony Blair took them to war on a sheaf of lies in 2003?

One of the most distressing moments at Herzliya came when Lorna Fitzsimons,
former Labour MP and now head of Bicom, a British-based pro-Israeli
think-tank, pointed out that "public opinion does not influence foreign
policy in Britain. Foreign policy is an elite issue." Deal with the elite,
and the proles will follow – that was the implication. "Our enemies are
going out to international courts where we are not supreme," she said.

And that, in a sense, said it all. International legitimacy is what Israel
demands. And as a state it is legitimate. It was voted into existence by the
United Nations. And, as the Israeli historian Avi Shlaim has said, its
creation may not have been just – but it was legitimate. Yet when an
international juridical team invited Israel to participate in its inquiries,
Mr Netanyahu smugly refused.

In this sense, the Gaza war proved what is so deeply troubling about the
current Israeli body politic. It wants the world to recognise its democracy
– however flawed this may be – but it will not join the world when asked to
account for its behaviour in Gaza. It claims to be a light among the nations
but will not let anyone look too closely at that light, to examine its fuel
and to look precisely at what it illuminates.

Goldstone, Goldstone, Goldstone. The eminent lawyer who so bravely sought
justice for the murdered and raped victims of the Serbs in the Bosnian war –
and whose bravery inspired the world, including Israel, at that time – has
been on the lips of every Israeli government apologist at Herzliya.

Tzipi Livni spoke of him. So did Yossi Gal, the Israeli foreign affairs
ministry director-general. He spoke of the "attempt to use the Goldstone
Report to push Israel to the margins of legitimacy". So did Malcolm Hoenlein
of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organisations. He
noted that the US administration had been "overwhelmingly responsive" – ie
dismissive – of the Goldstone Report. Even the mouse-like US ambassador to
Israel, James Cunningham, suggested that the Goldstone Report might be used
as an attempt to de-legitimise Israel.

What is this nonsense? After the 1982 massacre of Sabra and Shatila
Palestinians, Israel appointed a government commission of inquiry. The Kahan
Commission's report was not perfect – but what other Middle Eastern nation
would examine its sins so courageously? It stated that the then Defence
Minister Ariel Sharon's responsibility – he had sent in the Lebanese
militias – was "personal". This report did not expunge Israel's guilt but it
proved that it was a worthy state, one that was prepared to confront this
slaughter with honesty rather than abuse.

Alas, no Kahan Commissions for Israel today. No judgment for Gaza. Just a
slap on the wrist for a couple of officers who used phosphorus and a
criminal charge against a soldier for stealing credit cards.

As it happens, I met Goldstone after he was appointed head of the war crimes
tribunal for ex-Yugoslavia in The Hague. A palpably decent, honest man, he
said that the world had grown tired of allowing governments to commit war
crimes with impunity. He was talking, of course, about Milosevic. He wrote a
book on the same lines, warmly praised by Israel. But now he is the
earthquake beneath Israel's legitimacy.

I dropped by the eminently sensible Israeli army reserve colonel Shaul
Arieli at his NGO's office in Tel Aviv yesterday afternoon and discussed the
attempts to arrest Israeli military officers for war crimes if they visited
Britain and other European countries.

"All this is much more disturbing to us today than it was a few years ago,"
he said. "We are afraid of this trend after Operation Cast Lead. It affects
the image of Israel all over the world, not just for military officers. If
they were charged, it would show that the state of Israel couldn't protect
its soldiers. I am sure that the Goldstone Report affects these things."

All of which suggests that the real earthquake beneath Israel, the real
danger to its image and standing and legitimacy, is a nation called Israel.



Sunday March 21st
Noon-1pm PT (3-4pm ET)
90.7fm in LA, 98.7fm in Santa Barbara

national affairs, The Nation magazine, author of
ONE WORLD READY OR NOT: The Manic Logic of Global Capitalism
COME HOME, AMERICA: The Rise and Fall (and Redeeming Promise)
of Our Country
SECRETS OF THE TEMPLE: How the Federal Reserve Runs the Country

I've been trying to book William Greider ever since I read an article of his
last August about restructuring the Federal Reserve. For some, the Fed is
the at the center of all that ails us. For others, it is the right place to
house any new financial regulatory powers we might gain as a result of the
current crisis.

There are now 32 co-sponsors for S604 in the Senate and 317 for HR1207 in
the House for bills to audit the Federal Reserve, and 95,000 have signed a
petition at

Just yesterday The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York
ruled the Federal Reserve must disclose the names of banks that could have
collapsed if they had not received emergency loans.

Greider wrote perhaps the finest book on the Federal Reserve and always
seems to keep an eye on its secretive and too powerful ways. He challenged
Greenspan and Paulson long before it was fashionable. And he was right.

We'll focus on the Fed and deal with other economic and political issues if
we have time.

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