Catalog of all Link issues Since 1968
Over 175 subject matter experts in professions such as medicine, church ministry, archaeology and diplomacy have authored over 300 Link issues since 1968.
The Link Catalog archive below constitutes a body of informed commentary, fact and anecdotal evidence that is all the more valuable for writers, researchers and historians because each issue (for the most part) covers only one subject.
AIPAC, Dark Money, and the Assault on Democracy
November 22, 2023 | Allan C. Brownfeld | Current Issue
The Politics of Archaeology – Christian Zionism and the Creation of Facts Underground
October 2, 2022 | Mimi Kirk | The Link
Apartheid…Israel’s Inconvenient Truth
February 2, 2022 | Chris McGreal | The Link
Israel’s Weaponization of Time
December 12, 2021 | Omar Aziz | The Link
September 12, 2021 | John Mahoney | The Link
On A RANT
July 20, 2021 | Sam Bahour | The Link
How Long Will Israel Get Away With It
April 9, 2021 | Haim Bresheeth-Zabner | The Link
The Decolonizing of Palestine Towards a One-State Solution
January 9, 2021 | Jeff Halper | The Link
Israelizing the American Police, Palestinianizing the American People
November 26, 2020 | Jeff Halper | The Link
The ONE-STATE REALITY and the REAL MEANING of ANNEXATION
August 23, 2020 | Ian Lustick | The Link
June 6, 2020 | Jonathan Cook | The Link
UPDATED: The Latest on the Suspected Murderers of Alex Odeh
April 12, 2020 | David Sheen | The Link
The Hundred Years’ War on Palestine
February 29, 2020 | Rashid Khalidi | The Link
Fact and Fiction in Palestine
December 15, 2019 | Gil Maguire | The Link
Once Upon a Time in Gaza
November 10, 2019 | Rawan Yaghi | The Link
Uninhabitable: Gaza Faces Moment of Truth
October 5, 2019 | Jonathan Cook | The Link
What in God’s Name is going on?
April 14, 2019 | Edward Dillon | The Link
Jews Step Forward
January 31, 2019 | Marjorie Wright | The Link
Palestinian Children in Israeli Military Detention
December 15, 2018 | Brad Parker | The Link
The Judaization of Jerusalem Al-Quds
September 9, 2018 | Basem L. Ra'ad | The Link
Apartheid West Bank
June 6, 2018 | Jonathan Kuttab | The Link
March 12, 2018 | Jonathan Cook | The Link
January 13, 2018 | Rawan Yaghi | The Link
Anti-Zionism Is Not Anti-Semitism, And Never Was
November 29, 2017 | Allan C. Brownfeld | The Link
The Cult of the Zionists – An Historical Enigma
August 20, 2017 | Thomas Suárez | The Link
Marwan Barghouti and the Battle of the Empty Stomachs
July 1, 2017 | Jonathan Cook | The Link
Al-Tamimi et al v. Adelson et al
April 1, 2017 | Fred Jerome | The Link
In The Beginning…
January 22, 2017 | John Mahoney | The Link
Wheels of Justice
December 3, 2016 | Steven Jungkeit | The Link
August 14, 2016 | Jonathan Cook | The Link
The Murder of Alex Odeh
June 4, 2016 | Richard Habib | The Link
Protestantism’s Liberal/Mainline Embrace of Zionism
April 3, 2016 | Donald Wagner | The Link
The Second Gaza
January 10, 2016 | Atef Abu Saif | The Link
Between Two Blue Lines
October 31, 2015 | Tom Hayes | The Link
A Special Kind of Exile
August 15, 2015 | Alice Rothchild M.D. | The Link
June 13, 2015 | Fred Jerome | The Link
The Art of Resistance
March 7, 2015 | Jonathan Cook | The Link
The Window Dressers: The Signatories of Israel’s Proclamation of Independence
January 3, 2015 | Ilan Pappe | The Link
The Immorality Of It All
October 25, 2014 | Dr. Daniel C. Maguire | The Link
Can Palestine Bring Israeli Officials before the International Criminal Court?
August 16, 2014 | John B. Quigley | The Link
In Search of King Solomon’s Temple
June 9, 2014 | George Wesley Buchanan | The Link
March 2, 2014 | Charles Villa-Vicencio | The Link
In Search of Grace Halsell
January 17, 2014 | Robin Kelley | The Link
November 3, 2013 | Pamela Olson | The Link
What Israel’s Best Friend Should Know
August 24, 2013 | Miko Peled | The Link
Dimona—(Shhh! It’s A Secret.)
June 23, 2013 | John Mahoney | The Link
April 7, 2013 | Charles A. Kimball | The Link
Like a Picture, A Map is Worth A Thousand Words
January 28, 2013 | Rod Driver | The Link
When War Criminals Walk Free
November 18, 2012 | Dr. Mads Gilbert | The Link
Welcome to Nazareth
July 30, 2012 | Jonathan Cook | The Link
The Neocons… They’re Back
May 27, 2012 | John Mahoney | The Link
Is the Two-State Solution Dead?
March 28, 2012 | Jeff Halper | The Link
January 8, 2012 | Maysoon Zayid | The Link
Who Are the “Canaanites”? Why Ask?
November 19, 2011 | Basem L. Ra'ad | The Link
Palestine and the Season of Arab Discontent
September 1, 2011 | Lawrence R. Davidson | The Link
An Open Letter to Church Leaders
June 20, 2011 | David W. Good | 2011
May 1, 2011 | Geoff Simons | 2011
What Price Israel?
January 9, 2011 | Chris Hedges | 2011
Publish It Not
December 20, 2010 | Jonathan Cook | 2010
September 4, 2010 | Khalid Amayreh | 2010
Where Is The Palestinian Gandhi?
July 18, 2010 | Mazin Qumsiyeh | 2010
A Doctor’s Prescription for Peace with Justice
May 20, 2010 | Steven Feldman M.D. | 2010
The Olive Trees of Palestine
January 8, 2010 | Edward Dillon | 2010
Spinning Cast Lead
December 9, 2009 | Jane Adas | 2009
Ending Israel’s Occupation
September 23, 2009 | John Mahoney | 2009
July 28, 2009 | James M. Wall | 2009
April 2, 2009 | John Mahoney | 2009
January 26, 2009 | Joel Kovel | 2009
Captive Audiences: Performing in Palestine
December 18, 2008 | Thomas Suárez | 2008
Israeli Palestinians: The Unwanted Who Stayed
October 5, 2008 | Jonathan Cook | 2008
The Grief Counselor of Gaza
July 10, 2008 | Eyad Sarraj | 2008
State of Denial: Israel, 1948-2008
April 22, 2008 | Ilan Pappe | 2008
January 6, 2008 | Khalid Amayreh | 2008
December 30, 2007 | Kathy Kelly | 2007
Avraham Burg: Apostate or Avatar?
October 4, 2007 | John Mahoney | 2007
Witness for the Defenseless
August 20, 2007 | Anna Baltzer | 2007
About That Word Apartheid
April 24, 2007 | John Mahoney | 2007
One Man’s Hope
January 7, 2007 | Fahim Qubain | 2007
Beyond the Minor Second
December 5, 2006 | Simon Shaheen | 2006
October 9, 2006 | Barbara Lubin | 2006
Why Divestment? Why Now?
August 20, 2006 | David Wildman | 2006
Inside the Anti-Occupation Camp
April 17, 2006 | Michel Warschawski | 2006
Middle East Studies Under Siege
January 14, 2006 | Joan W. Scott | 2006
A Polish Boy in Palestine
December 20, 2005 | David Neunuebel | 2005
The Israeli Factor
October 19, 2005 | John Cooley | 2005
The Coverage—and Non-Coverage—of Israel-Palestine
July 20, 2005 | Allison Weir | 2005
The Day FDR Met Saudi Arabia’s Ibn Saud
April 23, 2005 | Thomas W. Lippman | 2005
January 29, 2005 | Geoff Simons | 2005
When Legend Becomes Fact
December 21, 2004 | James M. Wall | 2004
Timeline for War
September 20, 2004 | John Mahoney | 2004
The CPT Report
June 16, 2004 | Peggy Gish | 2004
April 22, 2004 | Mary Eoloff | 2004
Beyond Road Maps & Walls
January 1, 2004 | Jeff Halper | 2004
December 5, 2003 | Cindy Corrie | 2003
Why Do They Hate US?
October 25, 2003 | John Zogby | 2003
In the Beginning, There Was Terrorism
July 5, 2003 | Ronald Bleier | 2003
April 20, 2003 | John Mahoney | 2003
January 20, 2003 | Phyllis Bennis | 2003
The Making of Iraq
December 6, 2002 | Geoff Simons | 2002
A Most UnGenerous Offer
September 27, 2002 | Jeff Halper | 2002
The Crusades, Then and Now
July 5, 2002 | Robert Ashmore | 2002
A Style Sheet on the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict
April 2, 2002 | J. Martin Bailey | 2002
Law & Disorder in the Middle East
January 15, 2002 | Francis A. Boyle | 2002
Reflections on September 11, 2001
November 20, 2001 | James M. Wall | 2001
Inside H-2 [Hebron]
September 12, 2001 | Jane Adas | 2001
Americans Tortured in Israeli Jails
June 8, 2001 | Jerri Bird | 2001
Today’s Via Dolorosa
April 20, 2001 | Edward Dillon | 2001
Israel’s Anti-Civilian Weapons
January 1, 2001 | John Mahoney | 2001
Confronting the Bible’s Ethnic Cleansing in Palestine
December 17, 2000 | Michael Prior, C.M. | 2000
On the Jericho Road
September 5, 2000 | AMEU | 2000
The Lydda Death March
July 13, 2000 | Audeh Rantisi | 2000
The Syrian Community on the Golan Heights
April 27, 2000 | Bashar Tarabieh | 2000
Muslim Americans in Mainstream America
February 20, 2000 | Nihad Awad | 2000
Native Americans and Palestinians
December 20, 1999 | Norman Finkelstein | 1999
Iraq: Who’s To Blame?
October 3, 1999 | Geoff Simons | 1999
July 20, 1999 | John Sugg | 1999
May 20, 1999 | Muna Hamzeh-Muhaisen | 1999
February 20, 1999 | Edward Mast | 1999
Dear NPR News
December 18, 1998 | Ali Abunimah | 1998
Israel’s Bedouin: The End of Poetry
September 22, 1998 | Ron Kelley | 1998
Politics Not As Usual
July 8, 1998 | Rod Driver | 1998
Israeli Historians Ask: What Really Happened 50 Years Ago?
January 8, 1998 | Ilan Pappe | 1998
The Jews of Iraq
January 8, 1998 | Naeim Giladi | 1998
“People and the Land’: Coming to a PBS Station Near You?
November 12, 1997 | Tom Hayes | 1997
U. S. Aid to Israel: The Subject No One Mentions
September 1, 1997 | Richard Curtiss | 1997
Remember the [USS] Liberty
July 24, 1997 | John Borne | 1997
AMEU’s 30th Anniversary Issue
April 8, 1997 | AMEU | 1997
The Children of Iraq: 1990-1997
January 22, 1997 | Kathy Kelly | 1997
Slouching Toward Bethlehem 2000
December 16, 1996 | J. Martin Bailey | 1996
Deir Yassin Remembered
September 2, 1996 | Dan McGowan | 1996
Palestinians and Their Days in Court: Unequal Before the Law
July 22, 1996 | Linda Brayer | 1996
Meanwhile in Lebanon
April 8, 1996 | George Irani | 1996
Hebron’s Theater of the Absurd
January 8, 1996 | Kathleen Kern | 1996
Epiphany at Beit Jala
November 24, 1995 | Donald Neff | 1995
Teaching About the Middle East
September 19, 1995 | Elizabeth Barlow | 1995
Jerusalem’s Final Status
July 8, 1995 | Michael Dumper | 1995
A Survivor for Whom Never Again Means Never Again [An Interview with Israel Shahak]
May 1, 1995 | Mark Dow | 1995
In the Land of Christ Christianity Is Dying
January 24, 1995 | Grace Halsell | 1995
Refusing to Curse the Darkness
December 8, 1994 | Geoffrey Aronson | 1994
Humphrey Gets the Inside Dope
September 29, 1994 | John Law | 1994
The Post-Handshake Landscape
July 19, 1994 | Frank Collins | 1994
Bosnia: A Genocide of Muslims
May 8, 1994 | Grace Halsell | 1994
Will ’94 Be ’49 All Over Again?
January 22, 1994 | Rabbi Elmer Berger | 1994
December 18, 1993 | Ann Lesch | 1993
Save the Musht
October 8, 1993 | Rosina Hassoun | 1993
August 8, 1993 | Colin Edwards | 1993
An Open Letter to Mrs. Clinton
May 8, 1993 | James Graff | 1993
Islam and the US National Interest
February 8, 1993 | Shaw Dallal | 1993
A Reply to Henry Kissinger and Fouad Ajami
December 16, 1992 | Norman Finkelstein | 1992
October 8, 1992 | Don Wagner | 1992
Covert Operations: The Human Factor
August 8, 1992 | Jane Hunter | 1992
AMEU’s 25th Anniversary Issue
May 19, 1992 | John Mahoney | 1992
Facing the Charge of Anti-Semitism
January 20, 1992 | Paul Hopkins | 1992
The Comic Book Arab
December 12, 1991 | Jack Shaheen | 1991
Visitation at Yad Vashem
September 3, 1991 | James Burtchaell | 1991
A New Literary Look at the Middle East
August 25, 1991 | John Mahoney | 1991
Beyond the Jewish-Christian Dialogue: Solidarity with the Palestinian People
February 8, 1991 | Marc Ellis | 1991
The Post-War Middle East
January 2, 1991 | Rami Khouri | 1991
Arab Defamation in the Media
December 21, 1990 | Casey Kasem | 1990
What Happened to Palestine?: The Revisionists Revisited
September 17, 1990 | Michael Palumbo | 1990
Protestants and Catholics Show New Support for Palestinians
July 26, 1990 | Charles A. Kimball | 1990
My Conversation with Humphrey
April 2, 1990 | John Law | 1990
American Victims of Israeli Abuses
January 17, 1990 | Albert Mokhiber | 1990
Diary of an American in Occupied Palestine
November 8, 1989 | Mary Mary | 1989
The International Crimes of Israeli Officials
September 23, 1989 | John B. Quigley | 1989
An Interview with Ellen Nassab
July 8, 1989 | Hisham Ahmed | 1989
US Aid to Israel
May 23, 1989 | Mohamed Rabie | 1989
Cocaine, Cutouts: Israel’s Unseen Diplomacy
January 14, 1989 | Jane Hunter | 1989
The Shi’i Muslims of the Arab World
December 8, 1988 | Augustus Norton | 1988
Israel and South Africa
October 3, 1988 | Robert Ashmore | 1988
Zionist Violence Against Palestinians
September 8, 1988 | Mohammad Hallaj | 1988
June 25, 1988 | George Weller | 1988
The US Press and the Middle East
January 8, 1988 | Mitchell Kaidy | 1988
The US Role in Israel’s Arms Industry
December 8, 1987 | Bishara Bahbah | 1987
The Shadow Government
October 24, 1987 | Jane Hunter | 1987
Public Opinion and the Middle East Conflict
September 8, 1987 | Fouad Moughrabi | 1987
England And The US in Palestine: A Comparison
May 22, 1987 | W. F. Aboushi | 1987
Archaeology Politics in Palestine
January 11, 1987 | Leslie Hoppe | 1987
The Demographic War for Palestine
December 21, 1986 | Janet Abu-Lughod | 1986
October 21, 1986 | Cheryl Rubenberg | 1986
The Vatican, US Catholics, and the Middle East
August 5, 1986 | George Irani | 1986
The Making of a Non-Person
May 2, 1986 | Jan Abu Shakrah | 1986
The Israeli-South African-US Alliance
January 17, 1986 | Jane Hunter | 1986
Humphrey Goes to the Middle East
December 4, 1985 | John Law | 1985
US-Israeli-Central American Connection
November 23, 1985 | Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi | 1985
The Palestine-Israel Conflict in the US Courtroom
September 1, 1985 | Rex Wingerter | 1985
The Middle East on the US Campus
May 24, 1985 | Naseer Aruri | 1985
From Time Immemorial: The Resurrection of a Myth
January 12, 1985 | Mohammad Hallaj | 1985
The Lasting Gift of Christmas
December 29, 1984 | Hassan Haddad | 1984
Israel’s Drive for Water
November 25, 1984 | Leslie Schmida | 1984
Shrine Under Siege
August 21, 1984 | Grace Halsell | 1984
The USS Liberty Affair
May 6, 1984 | James Ennes Jr. | 1984
The Middle East Lobbies
January 21, 1984 | Cheryl Rubenberg | 1984
US Aid to Israel
December 23, 1983 | Samir Abed-Rabbo | 1983
November 18, 1983 | O. Kelly Ingram | 1983
Prisoners of Israel
August 22, 1983 | Edward Dillon | 1983
The Land of Palestine
May 11, 1983 | L. Dean Brown | 1983
Military Peacekeeping in the Middle East
January 5, 1983 | William Mulligan | 1983
US-Israeli Relations: A Reassessment
December 20, 1982 | Allan Kellum | 1982
The Islamic Alternative
September 5, 1982 | Yvonne Haddad | 1982
Yasser Arafat: The Man and His People
July 9, 1982 | Grace Halsell | 1982
Tourism in the Holy Land
May 5, 1982 | Larry Ekin | 1982
Palestine: The Suppression of an Idea
January 18, 1982 | Mohammad Hallaj | 1982
The Disabled in the Arab World
December 14, 1981 | Audrey Shabbas | 1981
Arms Buildup in the Middle East
September 26, 1981 | Greg Orfalea | 1981
The Palestinians in America
July 5, 1981 | Elias Tuma | 1981
A Human Rights Odyssey: In Search of Academic Freedom
April 23, 1981 | Michael Griffin | 1981
Europe and the Arabs: A Developing Relationship
January 12, 1981 | John Richardson | 1981
National Council of Churches Adopts New Statement on the Middle East
December 20, 1980 | Allison Rock | 1980
Kuwait: Prosperity From A Sea of Oil
September 7, 1980 | Alan Klaum | 1980
American Jews and the Middle East: Fears, Frustration and Hope
July 24, 1980 | Allan Solomonow | 1980
The Arab Stereotype on Television
April 22, 1980 | Jack Shaheen | 1980
The Presidential Candidates: How They View the Middle East
January 13, 1980 | Allan Kellum | 1980
The West Bank and Gaza: The Emerging Political Consensus
December 16, 1979 | Ann Lesch | 1979
The Muslim Experience in the US
September 5, 1979 | Yvonne Haddad | 1979
Jordan Steps Forward
July 22, 1979 | Alan Klaum | 1979
The Child in the Arab Family
May 30, 1979 | Audrey Shabbas | 1979
January 12, 1979 | John Mahoney | 1979
The Sorrow of Lebanon
December 22, 1978 | Youssef Ibrahim | 1978
The Arab World: A New Economic Order
October 5, 1978 | Youssef Ibrahim | 1978
The Yemen Arab Republic: From Behind the Veil
May 20, 1978 | Alan Klaum | 1978
The New Israeli Law: Will It Doom the Christian Mission in the Holy Land?
April 24, 1978 | Humphrey Walz | 1978
January 14, 1978 | John Sutton, ed. | 1978
War Plan Ready If Peace Effort Fails
December 19, 1977 | Jim Hoagland | 1977
Concern Grows in U.S. Over Israeli Policies
September 25, 1977 | Allan C. Brownfeld | 1977
Prophecy and Modern Israel
June 5, 1977 | Calvin Keene | 1977
Literary Look at the Middle East
April 16, 1977 | Djelloul Marbrook | 1977
Carter Administration & the Middle East
January 8, 1977 | Norton Mezvinski | 1977
Unity Out of Diversity: United Arab Emirates
December 19, 1976 | John Sutton, ed. | 1976
New Leader for Troubled Lebanon
October 5, 1976 | Minor Yanis | 1976
Egypt: Rediscovered Destiny – A Survey
July 5, 1976 | Alan Klaum | 1976
America’s Stake in the Middle East
June 5, 1976 | John Davis | 1976
January 12, 1976 | Patricia Morris, ed. | 1976
Zionism? Racism? What Do You Mean?
December 21, 1975 | Humphrey Walz | 1975
October 8, 1975 | Marcella Kerr, ed. | 1975
June 20, 1975 | Ray Cleveland | 1975
The West Bank and Gaza
April 16, 1975 | John Richardson | 1975
Crisis in Lebanon
January 8, 1975 | Jack Forsyth | 1975
The Arab-Israeli Arms Race
December 14, 1974 | Fuad Jabber | 1974
The Palestinians Speak. Listen!
October 12, 1974 | Frank Epp | 1974
Holy Father Speaks on Palestine
May 26, 1974 | Pope Paul VI | 1974
History of the Middle East Conflict
March 18, 1974 | Sen. James Abourezk | 1974
Arab Oil and the Zionist Connection
January 21, 1974 | Jack Forsyth | 1974
Christians in the Arab East
December 8, 1973 | Humphrey Walz | 1973
American Jewry and the Zionist Jewish State Concept
September 30, 1973 | Norton Mezvinski | 1973
US Middle East Involvement
May 8, 1973 | John Richardson | 1973
A Prophet Speaks in Israel
March 8, 1973 | Norton Mezvinski | 1973
The Arab Market: Opportunities for U.S. Business
January 21, 1973 | Humphrey Walz | 1973
Toward a More Open Middle East Debate
December 2, 1972 | Humphrey Walz | 1972
Some Thoughts on Jerusalem
September 15, 1972 | Joseph Ryan | 1972
Foreign Policy Report: Nixon Gives Massive Aid But Reaps No Political Harvest
May 13, 1972 | Andrew Glass | 1972
A Look at Gaza
March 2, 1972 | Humphrey Walz | 1972
Religion Used to Promote Hatred in Israel
January 2, 1972 | Humphrey Walz | 1972
Computer Age Answers to M. E. Problems
December 18, 1971 | Humphrey Walz | 1971
Peace and the Holy City
September 5, 1971 | Humphrey Walz | 1971
Why Visit the Middle East?
May 15, 1971 | Humphrey Walz | 1971
Arab-Israeli Encounter in Jaffa
March 12, 1971 | Humphrey Walz | 1971
At Stake in UNRWA’s 1971 Budget
January 1, 1971 | Humphrey Walz | 1971
Is the Modern State, Israel, A Fulfillment of Prophecy?
December 6, 1970 | Bradley Watkins | 1970
Council of Churches Acts on Middle East Crisis
September 26, 1970 | Humphrey Walz | 1970
Mayhew Reports on Arab-Israeli Facts
May 24, 1970 | Christopher Mayhew | 1970
Sequel Offered Free to Refugee Agencies
March 22, 1970 | Humphrey Walz | 1970
Responses to Palestine Information Proposal
January 3, 1970 | Humphrey Walz | 1970
Churches Plan for Refugees and Peace
December 15, 1969 | Humphrey Walz | 1969
End UNRWA Deficit for Refugee Aid
September 28, 1969 | Humphrey Walz | 1969
Church Statement Stresses Mideast Needs
May 3, 1969 | Humphrey Walz | 1969
Mosque to Add Minaret to NYC Skyline
March 9, 1969 | Humphrey Walz | 1969
Black Bids New Administration Face Facts
January 3, 1969 | Humphrey Walz | 1969
UN Struggles for Mideast Peace
November 3, 1968 | Humphrey Walz | 1968
How The Link Was Born and Can Grow
September 1, 1968 | AMEU | 1968
Introduction From The Editor
The Link has chronicled the connection between the term Apartheid and the Israeli Occupation for years, including in 2007 when Jimmy Carter’s book first made waves. While some weary at what they see as an endless debate over semantics, we reprise the topic as our 2022 opener given the mounting pile of evidence and the recent year’s developments (including a report Amnesty International just released as we went to press).
Through the clear-eyed lens of a seasoned journalist, we hope this issue of The Link will shine more light (and less heat) on a subject that we believe is anything but semantic. Our commitment remains to provide American readers with a better understanding of the Middle East, including the institutionalized racism that continues to afflict it in the 21st century.
To that end, The Link enthusiastically welcomes The Guardian’s Chris McGreal and his long and intimate acquaintance with the three sides of this triangle– Johannesburg, Jerusalem and Washing-ton. McGreal is a trusted interlocutor and consummate professional who draws on a wide range of fact and testimony in his reporting.
Among McGreal’s many references, we’re glad to be reminded of the Canadian initiative, “Israel-Apartheid Week”. Among many others, that effort is chronicled in detail by the Palestine Poster Project Archive, the world’s largest collection of Palestine- centered graphic arts; we are grateful for PPPA’s permission to sample from their archive for this edition. [PPPA is widely recognized for its role in preserving and celebrating the cultural heritage that is reflected in the over 15,000 posters they’ve archived since 1900. We look forward to sharing more from this treasure trove in future issues (www. PalestinePosterProject.org).
Along similar lines, we greatly appreciate Zapiro’s (South Africa’s acclaimed cartoonist/satirist) permission to publish his 2014 cartoon on this issue’s cover; we think it sums up the issue quite succinctly. (For those who don’t know his work, Zapiro’s pen is sharper and mightier than any number of swords. Treat yourself: https://www.zapiro.com/.)
At the close of this edition, we offer a brief remembrance of a former Board member, friend, and loyal supporter of AMEU, Henry C. Clifford, Jr. On page 15 of our PDF version John Mahoney shares his appreciation.
Lastly, a recent conversation with a longtime supporter in Chicago recalls a slogan that once echoed on Robben Island, South Africa’s infamous prison. ‘Each One Teach One’ underscored the importance of shared learning in our global quest to be better. One way our friend in Chicago has put that belief into practice over the years is by taking maximum advantage of our backpage offer, and endowing dozens of gift subscriptions to The Link. At $20 each, those gift subscriptions are one way AMEU extends its reach, farther and wider. So, if you haven’t done so recently, consider using that back page tearsheet and share us with a local library, a Congressperson, or a neighbor. We’ll send your gift recipient a one-year subscription to The Link, along with a copy of “Burning Issues”, our 440-page anthology of some of our best Link issues in the archives. To submit names and make payment on-line, go to our website, http://ameu.org/, and use the Donate button; be sure to let us know if you would prefer your gift to be anonymous.
Apartheid…Israel’s Inconvenient Truth
In 2006, Jimmy Carter published his bestselling book, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, to wide acclaim and a vicious campaign to discredit the former US president.
Most of the criticism did not challenge Carter’s assessment that Israel’s actions in the occupied territories amounted to colonization and domination of the Palestinians, or his conclusion that it amounted to a system of South African-style apartheid. Instead, the former president’s critics put their efforts into questioning his motives in writing the book. The critics moved directly to smear the 39th American president as an anti-Semite.
The Anti-Defamation League called Carter a “bigot”. Pro-Israel pressure groups placed ads in The New York Times accusing him of facilitating those who “pursue Israel’s annihilation”. Others claimed he was “blinded by an anti-Israel animus”. Universities declined to let him speak and senior Democrats disavowed their former president’s views.
Never mind that it was Carter who brokered the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel, a factor in the Nobel committee awarding him the 2002 peace prize. Or that Israeli politicians, including former cabinet ministers, said his assessment reflected what many Israelis thought. Carter’s crime was, as he himself recognized, to speak out on a subject about which open discussion had long been circumscribed in the US. “The many controversial issues concerning Palestine and the path to peace for Israel are intensely debated among Israelis and throughout other nations—but not in the United States,” Carter wrote in the Los Angeles Times, as the orchestrated backlash against him gained momentum.
“For the last 30 years, I have witnessed and experienced the severe restraints on any free and balanced discussion of the facts. This reluctance to criticize any policies of the Israeli government is because of the extraordinary lobbying efforts of the American-Israel Political Action Committee and the absence of any significant contrary voices. It would be almost politically suicidal for members of Congress to espouse a balanced position between Israel and Palestine, to suggest that Israel comply with international law or to speak in defense of justice or human rights for Palestinians.” [Ed: President Carter meant the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.]
Of all the issues, none was more sensitive and off-limits than suggesting Israel practiced a form of apartheid, with its implications of racism and associations to the extensive and intricate web of oppression created by white South Africa to subjugate the black majority. Many of Carter’s critics preferred to see Israel’s Jewish population as the victim of Arab aggression, not the oppressor of Palestinians, and to gloss over the role of occupation and Jewish settlements.
As if to prove Carter’s point, Nancy Pelosi, who was about to become speaker of the House of Representatives when his book was published, pointedly distanced the Democratic Party from the former president’s views. A New York Times article about the reaction to the book quoted Jewish and pro-Israel organizations attacking Carter’s motives, but did not include a single view from a Palestinian.
Fifteen years later, in the spring of 2021, Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a lengthy report accusing Israel of committing the crime of apartheid under two international conventions. The New York-based group’s detailed assessment, A Threshold Crossed, Israeli Authorities and the Crimes of Apartheid and Persecution, did not say much that wasn’t already known about longstanding Israeli policies to maintain “Jewish control” over the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and the three million Palestinians who live there.
“In pursuit of this goal, authorities have dispossessed, confined, forcibly separated, and subjugated Palestinians by virtue of their identity to varying degrees of intensity,” HRW said. “In certain areas, as described in this report, these deprivations are so severe that they amount to the crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution.”
Palestinian rights groups, such as Al-Haq, have documented the same history of forced removals, house demolitions, land expropriations, and institutionalized discrimination for years. Israeli organizations have echoed those assessments of the impact of Jewish settlements and the separation barrier on Palestinians and their prospects for a viable independence.
Indeed, months before HRW published its report, Israel’s most prominent human rights group, B’Tselem, delivered its own indictment with a title that pulled no punches: A Regime of Jewish Supremacy from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea: This Is Apartheid.
In 2020, Yesh Din was the first major Israeli human rights organization to break the taboo and bluntly call the occupation by its name. “The conclusion of this legal opinion is that the crime against humanity of apartheid is being committed in the West Bank. The perpetrators are Israelis, and the victims are Palestinians,” the group said in a report.
In February 2022, Amnesty International added its voice with a report that said apartheid extended beyond the occupied Palestinian territories and to Israel itself. The report, Israel’s Apartheid against Palestinians: Cruel System of Domination and Crime against Humanity, said “whether they live in Gaza, East Jerusalem and the rest of the West Bank, or Israel itself, Palestinians are treated as an inferior racial group and systematically deprived of their rights”.
But the HRW report nonetheless marked a milestone: after years of sidestepping, the US’s foremost human rights group had pinned the apartheid label to Israel’s actions. HRW said the decision was prompted, as the title of its report reflects, by a definitive change in the relationship between Israel and the occupied territories.
Omar Shakir, HRW’s Israel and Palestine director and author of the report, said Israel’s longest serving prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, stripped away any lingering illusions that the occupation is a temporary measure on the path to a Palestinian state.
“What has changed? The pace of building settlements and infrastructure connecting Israel proper to the settlements—I’m talking about roads, water networks, electricity—has rapidly increased,” he said. “In addition, the Israeli government has stopped playing the game of pretense. Netanyahu directly said in 2018, 2019, and 2020, that we in- tend to rule the West Bank in perpetuity, that Palestinians will remain our subjects. So the fig leaf for peace process was erased. Then in 2018, the Israeli government passed the nation-state law, which enshrined as a constitutional value that certain key rights are only reserved to Jewish people, that Israel was a state of the Jewish people, and not all the people that live there.”
But the path to HRW pinning the apartheid label to the occupation was not just a matter of identifying a shift in Israeli policies and actions. For years, pro-Israel pressure groups disparaged parallels between Israel and the white South African regime, which they argued were extreme and proceeded to discredit those who drew them.
In the US there was also a political cost. John Kerry, the then US secretary of state, was forced to apologize after he dared to warn in 2014 that Israel risked becoming an apartheid state if it didn’t end the occupation. Still, the apology was given in a manner which said that he regretted the political backlash not the thought. It was a view reportedly shared by President Barack Obama, who alluded to parallels between the Palestinian situation and the civil rights struggle in the US southern states.
Sarah Leah Whitson, the former director of HRW’s Middle East division who worked on the report, told me she spent years pushing for the group to describe Israeli actions as apartheid.
“Did it take over a decade to get there? Yeah, it did. Did it take much internal debate, to put it politely, and a great deal of hand wringing over how this would impact the organization not just in terms of funding, but in terms of our credibility and capacity to work on other countries? Were we going to be dismissed? Were we going to lose our standing? Were the Israel fanatics going to attack the organization so harshly that we would lose our footing? Those are legitimate considerations for any organization that works on 100 countries. Do you risk it all for Israel-Palestine? That was a genuinely held fear.” When the report was released, the worst of those fears were not realized. That in itself marked another milestone. There was a backlash against HRW from some of the usual quarters, including the Israeli government. “The mendacious apartheid slur is indicative of an organization that has been plagued for years by systemic anti-Israel bias,” Mark Regev, a senior adviser to Israel’s then prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, told The New York Times.
Those accusations were echoed by some pro-Israel groups. The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations called the report “disgraceful” and said it was intended to “demonize, delegitimize and apply double standards to the State of Israel”—a formulation used by the former Israeli government minister Natan Sharansky to identify anti-Semitism.
The American Jewish Committee said the allegations of apartheid were “outrageous” and a “hatchet job” as part of HRW’s longstanding “anti-Israel campaign”. B’nai B’rith International, another pro-Israel group, fell back on a predictable line that Israel’s critics were “singling out” the Jewish state for criticism—a charge that implies anti-Semitic motives but holds little water when HRW is critical of governments on every continent.
But even beyond those whose business it is to defend Israel no matter what, there was less pushback than might have been expected. Relatively few Republican members of Congress joined the public condemnation of Human Rights Watch. The US State Department was restrained, simply saying that it “is not the view of this administration that Israel’s actions constitute apartheid” but without attempting to deny the facts laid out by HRW or discredit the group.
“It surprised all of us,” said Sari Bashi, an Israeli lawyer who worked on the report. “We thought there would be a much stronger reaction against it. I wouldn’t say that the conversation has shifted, I would say it’s shifting.”
The Palestinian political analyst Yousef Munayyer, former director of the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights, thought the reaction to the report more revealing than the report itself. “The fact that it didn’t have the same kind of pushback is a marker of the change that’s taking place,” he said.
That change is multifaceted and has been in the making for years. In part it’s a generational shift in perspective driven by a growing recognition that Israeli governments, particularly Net- anyahu’s, have used the—at best moribund—peace process as half-hearted and increasingly laughable cover for colonization of the West Bank.
Criticism of Israel has also accelerated recently, in the US in particular, in the wake of the social earthquake caused by the police murder of George Floyd in 2020, the subsequent surge in support for Black Lives Matter and a wider embrace of civil rights issues. With that has come a broader perception of the Palestinian cause as a struggle for social justice against an oppressive power and away from framing of the conflict as competing claims for the same territory.
That shift can also be seen within the US Jewish community, as some Jewish Americans, who once stayed silent for fear of being seen as disloyal to Israel, are increasingly willing to voice their concerns.
Apologists for Israeli government policies have long sought to portray parallels with apartheid as marginal and extreme and therefore unworthy of consideration and debate. But those comparisons have been drawn since the early years of the Jewish state’s foundation. As one of the architects of apartheid, South Africa’s prime minister, Hendrik Verwoerd, put it bluntly in 1961: “The Jews took Is from the Arabs after the Arabs had lived there for a thousand years. Israel, like South Africa, is an apartheid state.”
In 1976, Yitzhak Rabin, then in his first term as prime minister, warned against extended occupation and the fledgling Jewish settler movement dragging Israel into annexing the West Bank. “I don’t think it’s possible to contain over the long term, if we don’t want to get to apartheid, a million and a half (West Bank) Arabs inside a Jewish state,” he told an Israeli television journalist.
More than three decades later, two of Rabin’s successors as prime minister, Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert, echoed his warning. “As long as in this territory west of the Jordan river there is only one political entity called Israel it is going to be either non-Jewish or non-democratic,” Barak said in 2010. “If this bloc of millions of Palestinians cannot vote, that will be an apartheid state.”
Three years earlier, after yet another round of failed peace talks in the US, Olmert cautioned that continued Israeli control of Palestinian territory would reshape the campaign for Palestinian rights. “If the day comes when the two-state solution collapses, and we face a South African-style struggle for equal voting rights, then, as soon as that happens, the state of Israel is finished,” he said.
Shulamit Aloni, only the second woman to serve as an Israeli cabinet minister after Golda Meir and leader of the opposition in the Israeli parliament in the late 1980s, once told me about meeting the South African prime minister, John Vorster, on his visit to Jerusalem in 1976. “Vorster was on a tour in the West Bank and he said that Israel does apartheid much better than he does with apartheid in South Africa. I heard him say it,” she said. In 2007, The Link republished an article Aloni wrote for Israel’s biggest selling newspaper Yediot Ahronot in which she defended Carter. “The US Jewish establishment’s onslaught on former President Jimmy Carter is based on him daring to tell the truth which is known to all: through its army, the government of Israel practices a brutal form of Apartheid in the territory it occupies,” she wrote.
A string of Israeli officials has agreed. Two decades ago, former attorney general Michael Ben-Yair wrote that Israel “established an apartheid regime in the occupied territories immediately following their capture” in 1967. Ami Ayalon, the former head of Israel’s Shin Bet intelligence service, has said his country already has ‘apartheid characteristics’.
Israel’s former ambassador to South Africa, Alon Liel, told me 15 years ago that his government practiced apartheid in the occupied territories and that the suffering of the Palestinians is as great as that of black South Africans under white rule. AB Yehoshua, one of Israel’s greatest living writers, joined the fray in 2020: “The cancer today is apartheid in the West Bank,” he told a conference. “This apartheid is digging more and more deeply into Israeli society and impacting Israel’s humanity.”
Some South Africans saw it too. The former archbishop of Cape Town, Desmond Tutu, who died in December, went further and said that Israeli violence against Palestinians—routine and largely invisible to the outside world, except when it flares to a full-on assault against Gaza over Hamas rocket barrages or suicide bombings—is worse than anything the black community suffered at the hands of the apartheid military. “I know firsthand that Israel has created an apartheid reality within its borders and through its occupation. The parallels to my own beloved South Africa are painfully stark indeed,” he said.
For all that, very little of this conversation was heard in the US for many years. Whatever backing there was in Washington for the old South Africa, few were prepared to defend it as more than a bulwark against communism. Its white Afrikaner rulers could only dream about the kind of bedrock support shown for Israel on Capitol Hill and at the White House, and the influence of lobbyists for the Jewish state.
As Carter noted, powerful pro-Israel organizations, led by the lobby group AIPAC, for many years confined political debate about Israel and used their influence to create largely unquestioning support for the Jewish state in Congress—to the point that the US delivers $3.8 billion a year in aid to Israel, with almost no scrutiny or conditions.
Mostly absent from this discussion were the Palestinians themselves who have long characterized the occupation as a form of apartheid and described it as a continuation of Israel’s expulsion and displacement of about 700,000 Palestinians from their homes in 1948, known as the Nakba.
One measure of apartheid is that the people whose fate is being decided are marginalized from the debate and only permitted to speak within parameters decided by others. In the US, discussion of Israel’s actions is frequently led by those who claim a close connection to the country because they are Jewish but often are not Israeli citizens, do not live there and frequently know far less about the situation than they claim. Some have a Disneyfied view of Israel rooted in its foundation myths.
One who does not is the American former editor of the solidly pro-Israel The New Republic, Peter Beinart, who used to be influential as a liberal Zionist and staunch defender of Israel who now favors a single country with equal rights for Israelis and Palestinian. Beinart has written that until recently “the mainstream American conversation about Israel-Palestine—the one you watch on cable television and read on the opinion pages—has been a conversation among political Zionists”, a conversation that excludes Palestinians.
Professor Maha Nasser of the University of Arizona found that of nearly 2,500 opinion articles about Palestinians in The New York Times over the past 50 years, less than two percent were written by Palestinians. The Washington Post was even worse. Nasser said that pretty much the only Palestinian with a voice in the US media was the late Edward Said, a professor at Columbia University. For all that, she noted that while Said’s criticisms of the Oslo accords appeared in newspapers around the world, The New York Times did not run a single column by him on that particular issue.
Israeli leaders could generally expect an easy ride from the US press. When Netanyahu appeared on CBS’s Face the Nation during the 2014 Gaza war, the program’s host, Bob Schieffer, led him through one sympathetic question after another before describing the Israeli prime minister’s justifications for the attack as “very understandable”. When Schieffer finally asked Netanyahu about the deaths of hundreds of Palestinian civilians, it was only to wonder if they presented a public relations problem in “the battle for world opinion”
Schieffer wrapped up by quoting prime minster Golda Meir’s line that Israelis can never forgive Arabs “for forcing us to kill their children”.
The belated but growing acceptance of the legitimacy of describing Israeli policies as a form of apartheid has come about in large part because a growing body of Zionists in the US and Israel, and human rights groups in both countries, have publicly embraced the description. But credible Palestinian human rights organizations have been making the comparison for years, and have largely been ignored or dismissed as partisan.
“It’s less about what they said and more about who was saying it,” said Munayyer, the former director of the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights. “Palestinians have been screaming this at the top of their lungs but that’s part of what apartheid is – the voices of those who are marginalized by the system are automatically discounted because the system exists. It’s frustrating to have to deal with that but it’s unfortunately part of the reality we find ourselves in.”
The grip of the Israel lobby and a circumspect press has been eroded by the rise of alternative sources of information in the US. Greater access to foreign television news stations, such as the BBC and Al Jazeera, alongside the rest of alternative news and social media sites have exposed Israeli actions to a much wider audience.
Access to scrutiny of Israel’s increasing belligerence and right-wing rhetoric alongside video of the bombing of apartment blocks in Gaza, the forced removal of Palestinian families from their homes in Jerusalem, and Jewish settler violence against Arabs, has played an important part in reshaping views of Israel.
“People can see for themselves what’s happening in a way they didn’t before,” said Whitson. “It’s made it harder, particularly in the United States, for the emotional defenders of Israel, who’ve had this mythology about Israel and the kibbutz and sowing the land and this sort of fantasy of what Israel’s like, confronted with the reality of what they see in front of their faces, and what everyone sees in front of their faces.”
Along with that has come a significant shift in conversation in the US – most recently driven by the impact of Black Lives Matter but also shaped by evolving views of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in universities.
During the Palestinian uprising of the early 2000s, the second intifada, I asked a senior Israeli foreign ministry official what he saw as the greatest challenge in maintaining the support of friendly foreign governments. Gideon Meir had been part of the team that negotiated Israel’s peace treaty with Egypt in 1979, served in the embassy in London where he became friendly with a young Tony Blair before he was prime minister, and in later years went on to become ambassador to Italy. But his concern was not about the views of Israel’s Arab and European allies.
Meir said there was only one country Israel could rely on and that was the US. He thought that Washington’s support for the Jewish state would remain solid enough among an older generation of Americans and therefore the political class for a few years, but he worried about the long term consequences of rising criticism of Israel in the universities.
Meir saw that the narrative was shifting among American students away from the framing favored by pro-Israel lobby groups of the only democracy in the Middle East fighting for its existence against Arab hate and suicide bombers. Increasingly, discussion about Israel/Palestine on college campuses was cast in the language of civil rights and liberation movements.
Israel Apartheid Week was launched in Toronto in 2005 and rapidly spread to universities across North America and Europe. Its success at putting Palestine on the student agenda is reflected in the push back against the campaign, including attempts to ban it as anti-Semitic at some US and UK universities.
The generation that so worried Meir is now in its 30s and opinion polls show he was right to be concerned. Although twice as many Americans sympathise with Israel than the Palestinians, the gap has narrowed considerably in recent years. Polls show a majority of Democrats want Washington to pressure Israel to take the creating of a Palestinian state seriously.
That shift has in part been brought about by a change in how the conflict is viewed. The terrible images of the aftermath of Palestinian suicide bombings during the Second Intifada, which allowed then prime minister Ariel Sharon to cast Israel as a victim of the same brand of terrorism visited on the US on 9/11, are ancient history to most Americans born after about 1990.
Instead they were raised on the waves of Israeli destruction in Gaza when rockets, bombs and shells wiped out entire families, levelled schools and hospitals, and killed Palestinians in disproportionate numbers. The 2014 assault on Gaza, when Israel responded to Hamas rockets that killed three Israeli teenagers with airstrikes and ground incursions that killed more than 2,000 Palestinians, solidified the view of a militarized state unleashing destruction against a largely defenseless population.
As a result, Israel’s longstanding narrative of a small nation perpetually on guard against the surrounding foes – an image that remains powerful with an older generation that remembers the wars of 1967 and 1973 – is less effective by the year among Americans and Europeans who have seen the Jewish state only in a position of power and domination.
Similarly, Israel’s claim to be the only democracy in the Middle East, by trumpeting that its Arab citizens have the right to vote, was severely dented by the passing of the nation state law in 2018 which enshrined Jewish supremacy over those same Arab citizens.
Three years later, some of the sting was taken out of criticism of the HRW report by a backlash in Israeli Arab towns against attempts to forcibly remove Palestinian families from East Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood. Even as pro-Israel groups proclaimed that the Jewish state respected equal rights for all of its citizens, Arab residents of Lod, a Tel Aviv suburb, were taking to the streets to protest against pervasive institutional discrimination. Videos of the protests swept social media as the demonstrations spread to other cities amid stone throwing and arson, and beatings of both Arabs and Jews.
“You had the events on the ground in May which just seemed to emphasise the point of all of the reports because you saw what was going on in Jerusalem, what was going on in Gaza, and also what was going on throughout all of Israel,” said Munayyer. “Events on the ground really validated the report.”
Very often, those events were seen through videos and reports produced by Palestinians and distributed on social media, bypassing the traditional gatekeepers in the US press. With them came commentary that characterized the forced removals from Sheikh Jarrah and broader state violence against Palestinians as a continuation of the expulsion of Arabs at the birth of Israel in 1948 – a narrative that connects with the increased focus on social justice.
The breaking of the taboo on comparisons with South Africa has helped drive the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign modelled on the hugely successful global boycott campaign run by the Anti-Apartheid Movement from the 1960s.
BDS was founded by Palestinian civil society groups in 2005, a year after the International Court of Justice declared that the West Bank wall and fence, which has the effect of confiscating Palestinian land, is a breach of international law. The movement has grown significantly on university campuses, and gained traction with some trade unions and political parties.
The campaign has some way to go to match the success of the Anti-Apartheid Movement as it became one of the great social causes of its age. By the mid-1980s, one in four Britons said they were boycotting South Africa. Mobilization against apartheid in US universities, churches and through local coalitions was instrumental in forcing businesses to pull out and, in a serious blow to the white regime, foreign banks to withdraw financing for the country’s loans.
But BDS is making a mark that worries Israel. The campaign has had some visible successes, including the recent decision by the ice cream maker Ben & Jerry to end sales in the settlements. It has pressured investors into breaking ties with companies doing business with Israel’s security establishment or in the settlements.
In echoes of the cultural boycott of South Africa, actors and film-makers have refused to play in Israel. Some called for the Eurovision Song Contest to be withdrawn from Tel Aviv in 2019, and the New Zealand singer Lorde cancelled a concert in the city four years ago after fans urged her to join the artistic boycott of Israel.
BDS is also pressuring soccer’s governing body, FIFA, to expel Israel, so far without success. But Argentina cancelled a World Cup warm-up match with Israel after the players voted to boycott the game. The appearance of Palestinian flags at English Premier League matches suggests there is support for such action.
Although Israel disparages BDS as a fringe campaign, it’s clearly worried about its potential to build support, particularly among Europeans. An effective boycott could cost Israel billions of dollars a year. In 2015, the Washington-based Rand Corporation estimated that a sustained BDS campaign could reduce the Israeli GDP by 2 percent.
But BDS faces far more effective resistance than the Anti-Apartheid Movement ever did. Israel and its supporters have sought to head off the boycott movement before it gains greater momentum with laws recently promulgated in 32 out of 50 state legislatures to discourage and explicitly penalize support for BDS.
At the same time as a younger generation of Americans is reframing the conflict away from non-existent peace negotiations and toward civil rights, views of Israel have been shifting within America’s Jewish community. A survey of Jewish voters in the US last year (2021) found that 25% agreed that “Israel is an apartheid state” while a similar number disagreed with the statement but said it is not anti-Semitic to make the claim. In the poll by the Jewish Electorate Institute, 34% agreed that “Israel’s treatment of Palestinians is similar to racism in the United States”.
A Pew survey in May found that a younger generation of American Jews was less willing than its elders to make excuses for the Israeli government and more prepared to back BDS.
In the spring of 2021, as Gaza once again came under assault, nearly 100 rabbinic and other religious students at leading American Jewish colleges regarded as a crucible of future community leaders signed a letter decrying a double standard over standing up to racial injustice.
“This year, American Jews have been part of a racial reckoning in our community. Our institutions have been reflecting and asking, ‘How are we complicit with racial violence?’ Jewish communities, large and small, have had teach-ins and workshops, held vigils, and commissioned studies. And yet, so many of those same institutions are silent when abuse of power and racist violence erupts in Israel and Palestine,” the letter said.
The students lamented a tendency to focus on the long history of persecution of Jews while ignoring the realities of Israeli Jewish power and the responsibilities that come with it.
“Our political advocacy too often puts forth a narrative of victimization, but supports violent suppression of human rights and enables apartheid in the Palestinian territories, and the threat of annexation,” the letter said.
Shifting perspectives on Israel in the US are matched, and to some degree influenced by, a greater willingness by some in the Jewish state to face reality. Yesh Din was the first major Israeli human rights organization to break the taboo when in 2020 it described the occupation as apartheid and therefore a crime against humanity. “The crime is committed because the Israeli occupation is no “ordinary” occupation regime (or a regime of domination and oppression), but one that comes with a gargantuan colonization project that has created a community of citizens of the occupying power in the occupied territory. The crime is committed because, in addition to colonizing the occupied territory, the occupying power has also gone to great lengths to cement its domination over the occupied residents and ensure their inferior status,” its report said.
Yesh Din dismantled a core defense brandished by Israeli governments to influence American public opinion in particular by claiming that the occupation is not a permanent condition and will end when a deal on two states is reached. The rights group said that claim falls apart in the face of clear evidence that Israel’s policies in the West Bank are designed to cement domination of the Palestinians and the supremacy of Jewish settlers.
The author of the Yesh Din paper was the renowned Israeli human rights lawyer, Michael Sfard. By his own account, he spent years rejecting parallels with apartheid. But in 2021 Sfard wrote in The Guardian that he changed his mind in large part because his understanding of the relationship between Israel and the occupied territories shifted.
Sfard said that like many Israelis he bought into the idea of two entities. There was Israel, the imperfect democracy that discriminated against its Arab minority but then minorities in many democratic countries face discrimination. And then there was the occupation of Palestinian land which Sfard, in common with most of his compatriots, excused as a temporary condition. In the end though, the intent of “Israel’s colossal colonization project in the West Bank” had become undeniable: “It is occupation, obviously, but not only occupation.” He said he came to realize that the governing principle of the West Bank was “Jewish supremacy and Palestinian subjugation”.
Few can say they were not forewarned about the direction of travel under Netanyahu, who was prime minister for a total of 15 years. He opposed the Oslo Accords even before they were signed in 1993 and spent the next three decades subverting them, even if at times he paid lip service to two states to keep the illusion alive and stave off American diplomatic pressure.
Netanyahu did as much as any leading politician to create the climate in which an assassin’s bullet killed the author of the Oslo deal, Yitzhak Rabin, in 1995. Once he became prime minister for the first time less than a year later, Netanyahu set about finishing off what the assassin had started – the solidification of Jewish domination of the Palestinians in the occupied territories and within Israel’s own recognized borders.
Danny Danon, Israel’s recent ambassador to the UN and former chair of Netanyahu’s Likud party, openly opposes a Palestinian state and once told me that the then prime minister didn’t believe in it either. “I want the majority of the land with the minimum amount of Palestinians,” Danon told me in 2012.
Netanyahu threw his support behind the change to Israel’s basic law, in effect its constitution, that defined the county as ‘the nation state of one people only – the Jewish people – and of no other people’. His powerful right-wing economy minister, Naftali Bennett, backed the amendment by saying that Israel should have ‘zero tolerance’ for the aspirations of the Arab population. “I will do everything in my power to make sure [the Palestinians] never get a state,” he told The New Yorker in 2013.
Bennett is now Israel’s prime minister. His ultranationalist finance minister, Avigdor Lieberman, advocates stripping his country’s Arab population of Israeli citizenship. Bennett’s close political ally and interior minister, Ayelet Shaked, was an architect of the nation state law and pushed for effective annexation of parts of the West Bank.
Netanyahu continued to pay lip service to a negotiated two-state solution as a diplomatic fig leaf for US support for Israel. But the reality was hard to ignore for Daniel Seidemann, an Israeli lawyer, who has spent decades exposing the iniquities of Israeli rule in occupied East Jerusalem most recently through an NGO he founded, Terrestrial Jerusalem.
During the 2000s, whenever I asked him about parallels with apartheid, Seidemann resisted them. Like a lot of Israelis, Seidemann told himself the occupation came about through self-defense, and was temporary. It would end when agreement was reached to create a Palestinian state.
Then in May 2020 Seidemann retweeted a photograph of a group of Israeli officials sitting around a map discussing which parts of the West Bank to annex. He wrote, “For many years I resisted using the term “apartheid” in the context of occupation. I regret having to use it now, but there is no choice but to do so.”
Seidemann told me that he long sidestepped the comparison because he thought it was more frequently used for polemical attacks on Israel than to illuminate the realities of the oppression of Palestinians. He still has reservations. He remains convinced that the occupation is not driven by attitudes of racial superiority even though he acknowledges there is systematic racism.
“Having said that, and having bristled for a long period of time, I have no alternative but to increasingly not only concede but to use the apartheid paradigm in explaining what’s happening, particularly in the West Bank and East Jerusalem,” he said.
“Part of what has changed is that the occupation isn’t temporary. Occupation is being perpetuated. When occupation becomes permanent, and you have one geographical place with laws for one and laws for another, the comfort zone between that situation and apartheid narrows dangerously. We now have a situation which not only exists but by policy, by design, is being perpetuated; that within one geographical space there are those with political rights and those without them. That is not only disturbing, it raises the specter of apartheid.”
“There is no status quo because occupation requires increasingly repressive and nationalistic measures in order to sustain itself. Israel engages in policies which were unthinkable 10 years ago.”
Seidemann’s thinking on the part played by racism has also shifted. Israeli cabinet ministers now openly talk of ethnic cleansing and use racist terms in a way they were sensitive to two decades ago.
“Racism is becoming more of a factor in this conflict because so much of occupation is associated with our equivalent of a Trumpian right. We have our own version of white supremacy. I don’t think that informs everything but it’s certainly part of it. All of these things add up to, ‘How can you avoid the analogy?’” said Seidemann.
Yossi Sarid is another among a number of former Israeli cabinet ministers who have drawn the apartheid parallel. “What acts like apartheid, is run like apartheid and harasses like apartheid, is not a duck – it is apartheid,” the former education minister said in 2008. “It is entirely clear why the word apartheid terrifies us so. What should frighten us, however, is not the description of reality, but reality itself.” Still, it is the use of the word that continues to terrify Israeli officials, and for good reason.
Israel’s foreign minister, Yair Lapid, in assessing the diplomatic challenges he faces in 2022, warned of the “real threat” that international organizations, including the UN, will formally accuse it of practicing apartheid “with potential for significant damage. We think that in the coming year, there will be debate that is unprecedented in its venom and in its radioactivity around the words ‘Israel is an apartheid state,” he told a press briefing. “There is a real danger that a UN body will say Israel is an apartheid regime.”
Israel is facing twin investigations by the UN Human Rights Council and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. Lapid said he expects one of them to call Israel an apartheid state when they issue reports later this year. The Palestinians have also asked the International Court of Justice in The Hague to rule that Israel practices apartheid and that its policies are racist. Lapid warned that the accusations of apartheid, and the diplomatic pressure they bring, are only likely to strengthen in the absence of meaningful negotiations to bring about a Palestinian state.
But Israel’s concern goes beyond the diplomatic and political. Human Rights Watch astutely avoided making direct comparisons with South Africa and instead framed its report around two international legal definitions of the crime of apartheid. The 1973 apartheid convention defines apartheid as a crime against humanity when it involves “inhuman acts committed for the purpose of establishing and maintaining domination by one racial group of persons over any other racial group of persons and systematically oppressing them”
The 1998 Rome statute of the International Criminal Court defines apartheid as inhumane acts “committed in the context of an institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group or groups and committed with the intention of maintaining that regime.” HRW has noted that its report does not call Israel an “apartheid state” because it does not have a meaning under international law any more than the term “genocide state”. Instead the group said individuals are responsible for committing the crime of apartheid as part of state policy.
Last year (2021), the then ICC prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, announced she would proceed with an investigation of alleged war crimes in the Palestinian territories since 2014. The opening of a full investigation followed five years of preliminary examination by the prosecutor’s office after which Bensouda said she was satisfied that “there was a reasonable basis to believe that war crimes have been or are being committed in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip”.
The prosecutor’s office said it believed the Israeli military committed war crimes in its 2014 assault on Gaza through “disproportionate attacks” and “willful killing”. The office said it also found evidence to justify investigating Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups for war crimes including “intentionally directing attacks against civilians”, using human shields, and killings and torture.
A second part to the investigation is, perhaps, far more threatening. The ICC prosecutor’s office said there is evidence that the decades-long settlement enterprise is a war crime in breach of the ban on transferring civilian populations from the occupying power into the occupied territories. Both the Geneva Conventions and the ICC’s own statute ban the practice because, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross, Germany used it during the Second World War to “colonize” territories it occupied.
Accusations of crimes committed in the heat of battle can perhaps be explained away as the result of urgent decision making, bad intelligence and military necessity. But the move of nearly 400,000 Israeli citizens into more than 120 Jewish settlements in the West Bank– leaving aside occupied East Jerusalem– is a long-term project of successive governments that has involved extensive planning and thousands of officials. In addition, about 300,000 Israelis live in a dozen settlements inside East Jerusalem. The settlement project required land seizures, expropriation of resources such as water, and the forced removal of Palestinians from their homes, installing 700,000 settlers on occupied territory.
Although the ICC investigation will focus only on Israeli actions since 2014, the continued expansion and administration of the settlements involves an array of government departments as well as the military. Politicians setting policy, officials implementing it and members of the army imposing military law on the Palestinians in support of the settlers potentially face indictment. That could expose them to arrest and trial at The Hague if they travel to Europe or other parts of the world that are signatories to the ICC statute.
Israel would also face the challenge of having its entire settlement enterprise declared a war crime which would strengthen the hand of those arguing for international sanctions.
The ICC investigation alarms Israel’s leaders because the US cannot simply wield a veto as it does at the UN Security Council. Still, the probe hangs in the balance following the appointment of a new prosecutor, the British lawyer Karim Khan. He has not commented on whether he will proceed with it but Israel has taken heart from Khan’s decision to “deprioritize” a probe into the actions of US forces in Afghanistan.
The Israeli government has also sought to hinder investigation and exposure of its policies by going after human rights groups. In 2019 it expelled Omar Shakir, who had been based in Jerusalem for HRW, claiming he supported BDS. In October 2021, Israel designated six Palestinian civil society groups as terrorist organizations and banned them in a move widely interpreted as an attempt to suppress criticism and cut off foreign financial support. They included Al-Haq, one of the most respected Palestinian human rights groups. Israel has repeatedly failed to provide much promised evidence to back up its claim that the organizations were linked to terrorism.
For all of the pressure on Israel, and the shifting attitudes in the US, support for the Jewish state in Washington remains solid if not unchallenged. After the ICC launched its probe, a group of US Senators signed a letter urging the White House to try and block “politically motivated investigations” of Israel. The Senators described the occupied territories as “disputed”, said the ICC had no jurisdiction and claimed that the court’s involvement “would further hinder the path to peace”. Two-thirds of US Senators signed the letter including Kamala Harris, now the US Vice President.
That consensus has held on issues such as moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem under President Donald Trump, and maintaining Israel as the largest recipient of American aid and with no strings attached.
HRW’s Sarah Whitson said fractures are appearing in the Washington consensus but there is little sign they will bring about a dramatic shift in policy any time soon. “While the public narrative has shifted, while it’s clear from multiple surveys that increasing numbers of Americans see Israel as an apartheid state and don’t want the United States to provide military support, and they see Israel as the primary belligerent actor, there is such a massive disconnect between the shift in the public, even the shift in the [foreign policy] ‘blob’, and US government policies,” she said. “What’s been the most difficult, therapy-inducing, thing for some of those people who committed their lives to the Oslo process and a two-state solution is to come to terms with the reality that that’s completely failed. And not only has it failed, but that the apartheid has become more entrenched. But you have a long standing feature where those policymakers closest to the situation in many cases know how screwed up it is but will not shift their policies and positions.”
Still, there was real damage done by Netanyahu who played a part in fracturing the bipartisan consensus on Israel by breaking the longstanding Israeli dictum of always keeping the White House onside. He did not hide his hostility to Obama, treating him with a public contempt that would have been unthinkable by an Israeli leader toward an American president in years past. Netanyahu publicly aligned with the Republican leadership in Congress in opposition to the US and European deal with Iran to halt its nuclear weapons research, and after Obama pressured the Israeli leader to take Palestinian aspirations seriously. Then the Israeli leader openly sided with Trump.
Netanyahu’s embrace of Trump’s peace plan in January 2020, cooked up without Palestinian input, provided further evidence of the Israeli leader’s thirst for land over a negotiated agreement with the Palestinians. The plan was widely denounced, including by some leading Democrats, as a smokescreen for annexation by Israel of significant parts of the West Bank which would create a series of Palestinian enclaves reminiscent of the patchwork of bantustans across South Africa. Netanyahu praised it as “the deal of the century” and announced plans to immediately annex the Jordan Valley and Jewish settlements, although he was quickly forced to backtrack by an embarrassed White House.
The fracturing of the bipartisan consensus eased the way for three Democratic members of Congress – Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar and Alexandria Ocasio Cortez – to accuse Israel of being an apartheid state and to back the boycott movement. Senior Democrats were unhappy with the congresswomen but also felt obliged to speak up on behalf of Tlaib, who is of Palestinian descent, and Omar after they were barred from visiting Israel in 2019 after Trump appealed for them to be kept out.
Tlaib used the incident to tie Israeli policies to Trump. “Racism and the politics of hate is thriving in Israel and the American people should fear what this will mean for the relationship between our two nations. If you truly believe in democracy, then the close alignment of Netanyahu with Trump’s hate agenda must prompt a re-evaluation of our unwavering support for the State of Israel,” Tlaib said in 2021.
For all the animosity, Obama agreed to a deal that increased US aid to Israel to $38 billion over 10 years. Nonetheless, a debate has emerged in Washington about the scale of US aid to Israel with attempts by some members of Congress to set conditions, including that the money cannot be used to further Israel’s annexation of Palestinian territory or fund the destruction of Palestinian homes.
The scale of the challenge in shifting policy was demonstrated by the pro-Israel lobby’s mobilization of more than 300 Representatives and Senators to sign a letter backing the continuation of financial support for Israel without conditions. A solid majority of Democrats in Congress also backed a resolution condemning the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement.
Still, the Israelis remain worried about the direction of the debate, including increased framing of the occupation as apartheid. The director general of its foreign ministry, Alon Ushpiz, earlier this year said that protecting bipartisan support for Israel in the US is a primary goal for 2022.
Seidemann, who travelled to Washington to gauge US policy on Israel in late 2021, said that’s a reflection of Bennett’s concern about whether the Jewish state will be able to count on America having its back. “It’s because of great concern at losing the younger generation, losing the Democratic Party,” he said. “The sands are shifting in the United States, in the Congress, in public opinion, and in the American Jewish community, and the apartheid discourse is part of it. There is a center but that center is not going to hold.”
Let’s begin with a cautionary tale. When suicide bombers connected to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) set off bombs in the Brussels airport in March 2016, the Israeli government did not convey its condolences as most other governments did. Instead, Israel Katz, the Minister of Intelligence, issued a scolding. “If in Belgium they continue to eat chocolate, enjoy life and parade as great liberals and democrats while not taking account of the fact that some of the Muslims who are there are organizing acts of terror, they will not be able to fight against them.”
You should not be criticizing us, say Katz and his cohorts, you should be imitating us. For look at what we have done. We have created a country from the Mediterranean to the Jordan River that provides its citizens with personal security, a vibrant democracy and a flourishing economy – even though half the population [i.e., Palestinians] are terrorists. If we can achieve that, imagine what we can offer Belgium, France, the UK and the US, countries that have suffered terrorist attacks.
To its credit, the Belgian government rejected Israel’s contention that security must come at the expense of the “luxury” of democracy. “Belgium is an open and democratic society with human rights and fundamental freedoms at its core,” it declared. “We remain firmly resolved to protect those values in our response to terrorism.” Still, slowly but surely, Israel is promoting its model of a Security State to receptive governments the world over. Europe is listening, but the United States is buying.
What is a Security State? It is a version of the police state that we know from Third World regimes, but not reduced to merely the repressive use of police. A Security State is closest to a totalitarian regime – China being the main example today – where a preoccupation with total security trumps all democratic protections. It is driven by the logic of securitization, in which fragile regimes, lacking popular support, assert their authority through repressive measures carried out jointly by the military, Presidential Guards, special forces, paramilitaries, security services and a militarized police.
Why, in the 21st century, is the prosperous US, supremely proud of its democratic traditions, turning into a Security State? Since the early 1980s, the capitalist world system has taken a dramatic and repressive turn. The rise of predatory neoliberalism in the Reagan, Bush and Clinton eras has seen the flow of global resources to the Global North (the US, at 4% of the world’s population, uses 18% of the world’s resources per year; Europe another 33%), the emergence of a transnational capitalist class (the wealth of the world’s 2,153 billionaires is 82 times more than that of the world’s poorest 50%, and the world’s richest 1% own 44% of the world’s wealth), and the impoverishment of most of the rest (80% of humanity lives on less than $10/day, 50% on less than $2/day, according to Oxfam). In 2018, the International Labor Organization reported that the majority of the world’s 3.5 billion workers “experienced a lack of material well-being, economic security, equality opportunities or scope for human development.” More than 2 billion people work in the “informal sector.”
Once masses of people are no longer needed on a long-term basis, there arises the political problem for the system of how to control this expanded mass of surplus humanity. As the world’s premier consumer economy and global superpower responsible for policing the planet and keeping the global flow of resource and capital running smoothly, the US has become neoliberal capitalism’s main enforcer.
Yet these global inequities are reflected within the US as well. The income of Americans in the top 1% averaged over 39 times more than that of the entire bottom 90 percent. In 2018, CEO pay averaged $14.5 million, compared to average worker pay of $39,888, a 287% differential. In the meantime, 40% of the US population (140 million people) are either poor or low-income. The wages of American workers have risen just 24% since1979, while worker productivity has increased by 134%. Less than 11% of workers are protected by labor unions. Still, the median White worker made 28% more than the typical Black worker in 2019, and more than 35% more than the median Latino worker. Women make up 63% of workers earning the federal minimum wage, which has been stuck at $7.25 since 2009.
While the Global North – from the core G-7 countries out to the advanced OECD economies – tries to keep itself aloof from the poorer countries, the “Global South” is expanding into the Global North. In the US and other capitalist countries, the vast majority of people – working class and middle class alike – are losing their job security and with it their financial and personal security. Young people are increasingly excluded from the market of “real” jobs before they even begin—and this was before corona. Together, working people are becoming a “precariat,” the working poor. At the mercy of a job market that demands “flexibility,” they have no job security and no assurance of job mobility. At the same time, they lack community and family support (neoliberalism is built on atomistic individuals, and besides, we’re all in the same sinking boat). State-insured “safety nets” are being withdrawn, and personal savings on which people can draw are dwindling. Middle-class and working-class alike, middle aged and young, white and people of color – none see a sustainable and dignified future for themselves. And they’re pissed off about it.
Such inequalities undermine the stability of the system, of course. Since the 1% retain more and more of total income relative to that which goes to labor, working people do not have the resources to purchase the products being produced. This leads to what is called over-accumulation: capitalists accumulate massive amounts of surplus capital, but cannot ﬁnd outlets in which to proﬁtably invest, thus making speculative financialism the basis of the economy. For our purposes, it is the threat that economic polarization poses to the ruling classes that concerns us. Wall Street is not Main Street, and as social unrest grows, neoliberal capitalism must be increasingly enforced. The nice face of capitalism – Ronald MacDonald, Disney, the latest models of cars, vacations, shopping, democracy – if not displaced, is also reflected in the image of the Warrior Cop.
Rise of the Warrior Cop
The thrust of all this is a preoccupation with “security,” and police forces are capitalism’s domestic enforcers. But the “security” is misleading. It implies a self-evident need to respond to sources of insecurity. Of course I want to be secure; indeed, I expect and demand that my government secure me. But what if the sources of insecurity were made up, or if they were exaggerated in order to instill fear and distract us from the real sources of our insecurity: scraping to eke out a living, being pitted against other working people or immigrants for scarce jobs, all the while Wall Street and the 1% are raking in billons? What if my “security” concerns actually hid an agenda intended to control me, to pacify me? To return to the story we opened with, what if Israel were exploiting legitimate concerns over terrorism to replace our democratic systems with a Security State? What if the powers-that-be in our grossly unequal economies and societies were using “security” as a way to drive ourselves into a passive conformity to their system, delegitimizing both questioning and resistance? We want to be secure, but do we really want to be pacified?
As it is, the Security State acts to head off such critical questions and to instill conformity-through-fear. Preferring the term “police state,” John Whitehead writes in A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State:
A police state is characterized by bureaucracy, secrecy, perpetual wars, a nation of suspects, militarization, surveillance, widespread police presence, and a citizenry with little recourse against police actions….. By ‘police’ I am referring to the entire spectrum of law enforcement and surveillance personnel from the local police and state troopers to federal agents (the FBI and intelligence police that work locally through ‘fusion centers’), as well as the military and agents employed by private corporations who work in tandem with government-funded police.
So what is the problem? Why can’t the US just enact the policies, create the structures and produce the weapons conducive to a Security State, especially now that it has the “homeland security” justification of 9/11? The answer has to do with the conflict between subordinating civil liberties to policing while retaining America’s image as a democracy. Specifically, the “problem” facing the US in empowering its police to engage in homeland security was the wall erected by the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878. Like similar laws and regulations in other European states, the Posse Act strictly separates domestic law enforcement (internal security) from the deployment of the military (external security).
This doesn’t mean that the military cannot be deployed domestically. The National Guard plays that role occasionally. But for the real military to be called out, as Trump tried to do in Washington, DC, an obscure 1807 Insurrection Act had to be invoked, and the Pentagon refused. So the problem remains: how, faced with these restrictions, can the police become effective enforcers of an increasingly repressive and unstable neoliberal system? The answer, again, lies in securitization, in generating a paranoia throughout society that demands “security.” Its logic is that of The War On…(terror, drugs, crime, gangs, illegal immigrants, poverty, unions, radicals, etc.). This is what allows – no, requires – the breaching of the civilian/military wall. The military, domestic security agencies, the police and the incarceration system begin to merge into what I call the MISSILE Complex: Military, Internal Security, Surveillance, Intelligence and Law Enforcement
Here is where Israel comes in. It has turned resistance arising out of 50+ years of occupation – labelled, of course, “terrorism,” the quintessential colonial term – into a marketable product, as the story of Israel’s reaction to the Brussels bombing shows. The “Israelization” of the American police begins in the wake of 9/11, but it has its roots in the previous quarter century. By 9/11 the debilitating effects of neoliberalism, starting in the Reagan Administration, had already created huge social and income disparities. The call for “law and order” and the War on Drugs that targeted racial and political groups emerged during the Bush and Clinton years. Congress enacted the Patriot Act, which until today fundamentally curtails American civil rights and due process, less than two months after 9/11. Clearly it was in the drawer awaiting its opportunity.
By 9/11 the US had also lost the Soviet Union and communism as an external/internal threat that could be exploited to justify repressive, anti-democratic policies at home. While the threat of “terrorists” had become a minor issue in Clinton’s time, it had not yet been tied strongly to the domestic arena. That tie-in came with 9/11. But the US still had the problem of the civilian/military “wall.” Although military force in internal situations had been used in the US, it required the declaration of a “state of exception.” Only a national or local crisis would permit the reduction or suspension of legal protections so as to give the police a free hand in repressing whatever “crisis” the ruling classes felt must be repressed. (Historically, striking workers have often been targeted.)
The Security State routinizes all that, with the help of the PATRIOT Act, the War on Drugs and other legal measures. But the façade of democracy had to be maintained. If we can’t turn to our military, how do we find the proper ways to restructure our departments?, asked the police. Where do we get the paramilitary training and weaponry that we have not developed ourselves? Step into the breach a host of Jewish organizations eager to seize on an opportunity to strengthen Israel’s image in the US. Linking the Israeli and American police would create in the public mind a link between Israel’s long-term “fight against terrorism” and America’s new-found “vulnerability” to terrorism, enhancing Israel’s standing as a key ally. And, not least, it would open a huge market for Israeli weapons. And so began the Israeli training of American police and its restructuring of American police departments.
In fact, the Israeli police already had a foothold in the US. In order to train local police in Israeli counterterrorism tactics for the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, Georgia State University and the law enforcement community established the Georgia International Law Enforcement Exchange (GILEE) in 1992, funded in large part by Bernard Marcus, the founder of Home Depot, a Jewish Republican who donates millions to Israel. The program was given three objectives: to enhance inter-agency cooperation between the State of Georgia law enforcement agencies and the police force of the State of Israel; to offer an educational professional program to senior Israeli law enforcement officials in Georgia; and to offer an educational professional program to senior Georgia law enforcement officials in Israel, primarily in the areas of counter-terrorism and drug interdiction.
Over the years some 34,000 law enforcement officers have participated in GILEE programs in the US and Israel. Its director, Robert Friedmann, serves on the board of Israel’s International Institute for Counterterrorism, whose purpose is “to coordinate the struggle against global terrorism and lead a worldwide team of affiliates and academic partners working to encourage cooperation among experts and disseminate innovative ideas for policymakers in the fight against terrorism.” Repeated legal efforts, including by Black students at GSU, to examine what GILEE actually imparts to the US police have met with absolute stonewalling by university and state officials. (Check out their video “Community Policing in a Time of Polarization and Anti-Semitism”.)
In 2002, soon after 9/11, the American Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA), an organization that holds there is no difference between the national security interests of the US and Israel, inaugurated its Law Enforcement Exchange Program (LEEP). Partnering with the Israel National Police, the Israel Ministry of Internal Security, and the Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet), JINSA won the support of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the Major County Sheriff’s Association, Major City Chiefs Association and the Police Executive Research Forum, for a program to bring to Israel American police chiefs, sheriffs, senior law enforcement executives, state homeland security directors, state police commissioners and federal law enforcement leadership for “education.” Over 9,500 law enforcement officers have participated in twelve conferences thus far. “The knowledge gleaned from observation and training during the LEEP trip,” effused Colonel Joseph R. (Rick) Fuentes, Superintendent of the New Jersey State Police, on the JINSA website, “prompted significant changes to the organizational structure of the New Jersey State Police and brought about the creation of the Homeland Security Branch.”
At the same time, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) began hosting an Advanced Training School twice a year in Washington, DC. Its “School” has trained more than 1,000 US law enforcement professionals, representing 245 federal, state and local agencies. The ADL also runs a National Counter-Terrorism Seminar (NCTS) in Israel, bringing law enforcement officers from across the US to Israel for a week of intensive counter-terrorism training, as well as connecting American law enforcement officials with the Israel National Police, the IDF and Israel’s intelligence and security services. The Israel Weapons Industry (IWI), which manufactures the Uzi submachine gun, runs a police academy in Pauldon, Arizona, open to the public as well as police.
Israeli consulates also sponsor training programs for American police on a yearly basis, as do individual police forces. In his book From Occupation to “Occupy”: the Israelization of American Domestic Security, Max Blumenthal reports:
In October [2011, as part of its preparation to confront the nascent Occupy movement in Oakland], the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department turned parts of the campus of the University of California in Berkeley into an urban battlefield. The occasion was Urban Shield 2011, an annual SWAT team exposition organized to promote ‘mutual response,’ collaboration and competition between heavily militarized police strike forces representing law enforcement departments across the United States and foreign nations…. Training alongside the American police departments at Urban Shield was the Yamam, an Israeli Border Police unit that claims to specialize in ‘counter-terror’ operations.
In light of the killing of George Floyd, it should be noted that in 2012 the Israeli consulate in Chicago held a training for 100 officers of the Minneapolis Police Department in Minneapolis.
The “why” of Israel’s involvement in US policing goes beyond mere training, however. Of all the countries of the Global North, Israel is the closest to the Security State that mainstream Democrats as well as Republicans look to for quelling the social instability and anger spawned by neoliberalism. Israel, after all, has been a Security State since its founding in 1948 – although its roots as a highly-militarized society go back to the start of the twentieth century. As a settler colony embroiled in a bitter struggle to pacify and displace the colonized Palestinians, Israel has always merged policing and the military, internal and external. Israel is the only Western democracy that has a centralized biometric data base of all its citizens – plus the four and a half million non-citizen Palestinians of the OPT – one based specifically on ethnicity and religious affiliation as a way of defining citizenship and rights. Israel is also a master of hasbara, of convincing its own people and others of its benign, peace-loving nature, threatened by criminal “terrorists.” Both of those attributes – the needed structures of a Security State and the ability to effectively “blame the victim” – are precisely what the besieged neoliberals need.
Because of the ongoing war against the Palestinians, Israel is the only Western country not to separate civilian law enforcement from the military. It never had a Posse Act served to “civilianize” the police. On the contrary, in Israel the police are not separated from the military but bonded with a variety of paramilitary units that connect the two. The structure of Israeli policing looks like this:
This is the kind of restructuring of US police forces that Israel advocates. The Israeli police is far from being merely a civilian agency charged with maintaining law and order. It is a paramilitary organization, operating under the Ministry of Internal Security, which is integrated into the wider military and security agencies under a regime of “permanent emergency.” Israel views the majority of the country’s population, the Palestinian citizens of Israel and the non-citizens of the Occupied Territory, plus other segments of Israeli society from African asylum seekers to “pro-Arab” progressives and leftists, as “the enemy.” The major stance of the Israel police is thus not primarily a civilian task – protecting society as a whole – but one of counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism. Indeed, one of its key units is the Border Police, a paramilitary unit that spans civilian police and military functions.
The Israeli police are very up-front about this. Their official website defines their role as “prevention of acts of terror, dismantling of explosive devices and deployment in terrorist incidents,” only then moving on to routine police matters such as maintaining law and order, fighting crime and traffic control. Counterterrorism is the “mentality,” with great overlap between “high intensity policing” and “low intensity warfare.” Former Shin Bet director and then-Minister of Internal Security, Avi Dichter, speaking before 10,000 police officers attending the International Association of Chiefs of Police in Boston, used the term “crimiterrorists” to underscore “the intimate connection between fighting criminals and fighting terrorists.” “Crime and terror are two sides of the same coin,” he asserted, according to reports by Max Blumenthal.
Israel’s mythical reputation as the world’s premier anti-terrorist power lends it great clout in Congress, in the Pentagon, in homeland security circles and among the police. Israel’s para-military police fit well with para-military tendencies already present in American police departments. Already in the mid-1960s, Philadelphia and LA established SWAT teams – SWAT meaning originally “Special Weapons Attack Team,” hardly a civilian concept. This begins what Radley Balko calls “the rise of the warrior cop.” in his book by the same name. Today 80% of police forces have SWAT teams.
Let’s take a brief look at how American police forces apply principles from Israel’s manual on counter-terrorism to American cities. Taking Israel’s notion that intelligence is the key to prevention and interdiction, the NYPD established a secret “Demographic Unit” that sent undercover officers, known as “rakers,” to map the “human terrain” of targeted minority neighborhoods – “modeled,” according to an NYPD source, “on how Israeli authorities operate in the West Bank.” Informants known as “mosque crawlers” monitored sermons and mosque activities. A Terrorist Interdiction Unit followed up on their leads, and yet another squad, the Special Services Unit, conducts undercover work – illegally in some cases – outside of New York City.
In 2012, the NYPD even opened an Israeli office, located in the Sharon District Police Headquarters in Kfar Saba, in order “to cooperate on a daily basis with the Israel Police.” “If a bomber blows himself up in Jerusalem, the NYPD rushes to the scene,” said Michael Dzikansky, an NYPD officer who served in Israel. “I was there to ask the New York question: ‘Why this location? Was there something unique that the bomber had done? Was there any pre-notification? Was there a security lapse?’” Dzikansky subsequently co-authored a book, Terrorist Suicide Bombings: Attack Interdiction, Mitigation, and Response, another example of how Israeli security practices enter into American law enforcement. Cathy Lanier, a former Chief of the Washington DC police, testified: “No experience in my life has had more of an impact on doing my job than going to Israel.” During her tenure she authorized checkpoints in the troubled northeast DC neighborhood of Trinidad to monitor and control street violence and the illegal narcotics trade.
The Israeli Security State
“War,” of course, has long been an American political concept, especially in terms of racial relations, and policing became overtly militarized when Reagan declared the War on Drugs. That, in turn, was ratcheted up into a real war by Bush, Sr. In the early 1990s he inaugurated a program allowing surplus military equipment, weapons, and tactical vehicles to be transferred to law enforcement for use in “drug enforcement.” The Clinton Administration further militarized policing by passing the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 (authored by Joe Biden). This, Michelle Alexander argues in her 2010 book The New Jim Crow, laid the legal infrastructure for America’s racial caste system, since it resulted in the mass incarceration and disenfranchisement of millions of black people. In 1997, the Clinton Administration established the 1033 program which expanded the transfer of military equipment to police. Today, for example, the police in Oxford, Alabama, have an armored personnel carrier; in Lebanon, Tennessee, they have a tank.
Now add to all this the real “War Against Terrorism” in the wake of 9/11, which made every (non-elite) American subject to militarized policing and disenfranchisement, particular through the PATRIOT Act. Placing the US under a state of emergency (reaffirmed by Congress under every administration), it short-circuits due process – and that, if anything, describes American police behavior today. The militarized way in which the Occupy camps were dismantled – according to the Israel model, says Max Blumenthal – demonstrated that young middle-class white people dissatisfied with neoliberalism can be suppressed as easily as the black community.
As a result of all this, the police now had a friendly model of a militarized democracy, the Israeli Security State. With that came an interest in militarized weaponry for law enforcement, which opened a huge market for Israel, not only custom-tailoring military weapons for law enforcement, but for the civilian market as well. The Israeli Weapons Industry (IWI) has opened a manufacturing plant in Middletown, PA, where it produces a wide variety of militarized weapons and munitions for law enforcement. It sells a pistol-sized Uzi submachine gun for police (think about that the next time your friendly neighborhood cop pulls you over), but also lines of Galil and Tavor assault rifles and a tactical rifle called the Zion-15. (Take a look at the IWI US website.) Again, many of these weapons are available on the civilian market as well.
Israel is also the world’s leader in drones, producing 60% of the global market. Drones are becoming staples of US police departments, where they are commonly used for surveillance. (Weaponized drones are still forbidden to US police.)
Other Israeli firms specialize in the military/police convergence of “small arms” and “light” weaponry (SALW), together with surveillance and crowd control equipment. Electronically-equipped patrol and crowd control vehicles; chemicals and light machine guns for crowd control; souped-up assault rifles with thermal sights; sensor-activated alarms, lethal “smart fences” monitored from far-away command posts or biometric controls on movement; night-vision equipment; network and data mining systems; UAVs; body armor – all these and more comprise Israeli exports to the police and security markets, as well as the military.
Among the scariest technologies of repression produced by Israel are in the realm of security. Israel is home to 436 cyber-security companies, which have raised $6.32 billion in investments between 2013-2019. Many of them are active in the US. After a shooting in California, Apple refused to help the FBI crack into the shooter’s telephone, citing American laws over privacy, especially the privacy and data security of millions of iPhone users that would be compromised in the process. The FBI then turned to Cellebrite, an Israeli firm that specializes in data extraction from phones. The Israeli surveillance firm NSO Group, which specializes in “cyber intelligence for global security and stability,” has been implicated in the spyware used to trap Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. It has also been sued by Facebook for breaking into its WhatsApp system. They have been accused of using spyware called Pegasus that monitors all communications and locations of targeted iPhones, including their messaging, Gmail, Facebook, WhatsApp, Telegram and Skype communications, as well as collecting Wi-Fi passwords for clients. Other Israeli surveillance and malware firms active in the US and worth Googling are Ability, Candiru, Anyvision Interactive Technologies, WiSpear, QCyber and Dahua. Cellebrite works with police departments in 20 states.
Other Israeli companies like Check Point, Verint, Narus, Amdocs and hundreds of others perfect their surveillance and intelligence technologies on Palestinians in the Occupied Territory, either through joint security industry-IDF projects at checkpoints or in the field, or in hi-tech units like Unit 8200. In 2014, 43 ex-soldiers from that elite intelligence unit sent a letter to their superiors and the Prime Minister refusing to do future reserve duty. Not only has our military service “taught us that intelligence is an integral part of Israel’s military occupation over the territories,” they wrote, but the information that is gathered and stored in the army’s systems “harms innocent people [as it] is used for political persecution and to create divisions within Palestinian society by recruiting collaborators and driving parts of Palestinian society against itself.” Nonetheless, these companies are active in American cities, airports, prisons and on the borders.
The Israeli company NICE Systems provides wiretapping and surveillance products to spy agencies, military, police forces and private corporations in 150 countries. It counts among its clients dozens of police departments; in fact, all incoming phone calls to the Los Angeles and New York City police departments are recorded on NICE and Verint technologies. At the core of the NICE SafeCity program, which is run in Baltimore and other American cities, is the Situator, the command-and-control system that displays a Common Operating Picture (COP) “so that everyone in the operational chain knows what is happening and what to do.”
Safe Cities programs like NICE’s not only install video surveillance cameras throughout a city or facility, but they deliver “strategic insights” by capturing and analyzing mass quantities of structured and unstructured data from phone calls, mobile apps, emails, chat, social media, and video. NICE’s surveillance cameras employ advanced image processing for detecting vehicles or locating people – a practice of “social sorting” by which, without our knowledge, we are enabled or prevented access to particular places or events, our movements and even consumer patterns are followed, or we can be detained. By having the police, intelligence agencies or even corporate employers collect and pre-sort images of citizens or employees, its video analytics can instantly identify targets by their body image, features, textures and colors, instead of having to waste valuable time watching recordings from thousands of cameras scattered throughout a city. Linked to other surveillance systems, the program automatically marks the target’s route on a map and indicates where he/she is headed.
Atlanta police chief George Turner visited Israel in 2008 with the Georgia International Law Enforcement Exchange (GILEE) and studied Israeli security intelligence and leadership. After Chief Turner’s visit, the Atlanta Police Department created and implemented the Video Integration Center, a sophisticated network of more than 5,300 both public and private cameras. The Video Integration Center helps to proactively monitor crime and is modeled after the command and control center in the Old City of Jerusalem. The Atlanta Police Leadership Institute (APLI) was modeled after the Israel Police Leadership Development Center. APLI prepares future leaders by training employees from all ranks for promotional opportunities. To date, more than 100 Atlanta sergeants and lieutenants have graduated from the program. Both the Video Integration Center and Atlanta Police Leadership Institute are funded and supported by the Atlanta Police Foundation.
When we think of the control exerted on populations through the police forces of neoliberal Security States, the use of “violence” is not the issue in Israeli-US police training. True, police violence is intimidating, but Israel has not trained US police to be more violent. They were violent and repressive a century or more before Israel was ever established. Interestingly enough, the inter-personal violence so characteristic of American police in conflict situations is lacking in Israel. Israeli police rarely handcuff people or pull their weapons, the first instinct of American cops. The “violence” in Israeli policing is more controlled, as it is in combat. It is less a macho kind of violence. Israel police do not move as suddenly from detaining to shooting as do the Americans. Rather, they react only through control of the situation. Israel lacks the nicities of reading to suspects their rights before engaging with them, as we saw preceding the Atlanta shooting of Rayshard Brooks. Prior to engaging, however, Israeli police isolate and lock-down the site of the attack, issue alerts to those in the immediate vicinity and then, if necessary, aggressively deal with the perpetrators.
Once the attack has been launched, the American-Israeli use of arms is reversed. Whereby American police are constrained in their violent reactions by law, regulations and public opinion (and therefore many are required to wear body cameras), the Israeli police consider the safety of the first responder primary, and so allow – require – a disproportionate use of force. Their response is a military one, and police units are generally backed up by paramilitary SWAT-type units as well as the army – the integrated response Israel urges on American police. As paramilitary units, Yamam (the Central Special Unit), Yasam and other Border Police units are authorized to fire live ammunition into Palestinian crowds, a common (and fatal) practice that goes well beyond the bounds of the American police.
Israeli police response derives, as so much of the tactics and weaponry do, from the IDF’s Close Quarter Combat doctrines perfected in urban warfare in Palestinian cities. Israeli police response prescribes: Its motto is “Strike Fast,” and it involves confrontational, “shoot-to-kill” (aiming at the head so as not to set off any explosives) tactics, justified as necessary to prevent the attackers from carrying out their mission. The attitude and method are explained by an officer in the Memphis Police Department who received Israeli Combative Pistol Training:
The first point which separates the Israeli Combative Method from other teachings is the mindset with which it is employed. While American ideals on the Use of Force revolve around using the least amount of force in a conservative, defensive manner, the Israeli method is opposite this ideal. In the Israeli method, the intent is to bring the maximum amount of force into play in an offensive manner. The intent is to ‘attack the attacker’, to be more aggressive than the aggressor, to ‘explode’ and overwhelm the initial aggressor with violence of action. Three words that I use to describe this mindset are Aggressive, Offensive, and Decisive…. The intent is to shoot until there is no longer a threat.
John Elliott, an American security officer, in an article entitled “Shoot Like the Jews,” relates what he learned during his time in Israel with a Yamam Special Police Unit:
When it came to shooting, the major difference between Israel and America training is our philosophy on close-quarter or urban combat. The biggest difference between what the Israelis did and what we Americans were trained to do was that they would oftentimes suggest going almost headlong at an enemy position while firing through whole magazines. It usually took a matter of seconds to burn through a magazine, so fast reloads factored heavily into one’s success. In training, we would advance by increments of 40 or 50 meters at a time in urban settings, all the while firing on full-automatic. Back in the States, the attack is more controlled. We were taught to perhaps squeeze off rounds in three-second bursts and then seek cover. This is not the way of Israeli security apparatus and though it may be too bold in every circumstance, in the right scenario, I cannot think of a more effective way to gain ground.
Crowd control is yet another “niche” in policing coming out of Israel’s suppression of innumerable Palestinian demonstrations and uprisings. Beit Alfa Technologies (BAT), located on the Beit Alfa kibbutz in northern Israel, specializes in riot control vehicles, sold to more than 35 countries. The vehicles are equipped with crowd control gear, including a Jet Pulse Water Cannon capable of shooting water, pepper spray, tear gas, chemical additives and dye, which can be used to mark out individuals for later identification and capture. BAT’s water cannons also shoot “Skunk,” non-lethal, malordorant riot control “solution” produced by an Israeli company Odortec. Skunk, a nauseating, sewage-smelling liquid that lingers on bodies, clothes and in homes for weeks, has been sold to the St. Louis Metro police and other law enforcement agencies throughout the world.
Much police violence towards civilians is justified by the use of “non-lethal” (or, more accurately, “less lethal”) weapons. Water cannons sound innocuous, but a pulse jet cannon system such as BAT employs turns small quantities of water into shells or bullets of water as they are shot out at high pressure. Israel also produces and exports alternatives to bullets, “blunt impact projectiles,” metal bullets coated with either rubber or plastic and fired from launchers mounted on rifle-barrels, intended to cause suspects excruciating pain but stop short of killing. Manufactured by Israel Military Industries, they are currently being tested in more than 20 North American cities (although their use is prohibited within Israel itself). These weapons, together with various gases and sprays, may be “less-lethal” but they can cause serious injury and even death. They are yet another example of how police try to package their technologies of repression as benign.
This combination of totalizing high-tech surveillance with a readiness to serve governments at the expense of human rights and individual liberties reflects a reality in which “security” trumps all else. Protections against arbitrary arrest or imprisonment – habeus corpus in particular – are lacking in Israel. Although the Israeli Supreme Court banned torture in 1999, it is still practiced within the loopholes provided, such as labeling suspects as “ticking bombs” or finding non-visible ways of torturing. The Israeli human rights organization B’tselem lists seven key elements of the Shin Bet’s interrogation regime: isolation, the use of the conditions of confinement as a means of psychological pressure, the use of the conditions of confinement as a means for weakening the detainees’ physical state, tying up prisoners in painful ways, beating and degradation, threatening and intimidation. Israel has been accused of training American military personnel in torture techniques in Iraq and elsewhere; whether that trickles into the police through counterterrorism doctrines is an open question.
As it is, Israeli police encourage their American counterparts to consider the public – especially “problematic” publics like inner-city Blacks, dissatisfied workers, youth protestors – as potential terrorists rather than civilians to be protected, a shift in perspective that fits the “War on….” approach, a militarized police and the desire of the Security State to pacify its population.
Such a militarized approach was evident in Lafayette Square at the height of the George Floyd protests when President Trump called out the National Guard and certain federal police forces. But the reaction of the Pentagon was equally telling. It turned out that Trump would have had to invoke the Insurrection Act of 1802 in order to deploy troops, another brick in the wall – like the Posse Comitatus Act – intended to protect civilian society. None other than Trump appointed Mark Esper, the Secretary of Defense, went on air to refuse outright to deploy the military, a rare case of resistance to the President by his own Cabinet. This, and the vocal opposition of career military people like Jim Mattis to calling up the military shows how entrenched the civilian/military wall is.
The police attack on Breonna Taylor in Louisville, by contrast, shows the dangers of a militarized police in a Security State. The “No-Knock” warrant itself stands in stark contrast to the notion of protecting the civil rights and person of anyone suspected of a crime. The readiness of the police for deadly engagement as judged by the time of the attack (the middle of the night), the method of entry (a battering ram) and the amount of violence employed (the killing of Breonna Taylor and the “wanton endangerment” and assault charges against one of the officers) bespeaks less the seriousness of the crime – a relatively minor drug charge – than the racial profiling of the people inside the apartment, a profiling that led to the violence regardless of how innocent people attacked responded. Again, while “security” is a prime concern of the Security State, it is not a neutral term. Particular populations – racial, class, of certain political persuasions – are targeted. For them, de facto, due process is suspended, and unless the harm is egregious and too visual to ignore, as in George Floyd’s case, the enforcers of the capitalist order are excused.
The Israeli approach also employs two other tactics adopted from the world of counter-terrorism – interactive intelligence and ethnic profiling – both of which are illegal in the US. So far. In his 2016 campaign, Donald Trump said: “I think profiling is something that we’re going to have to start thinking about as a country… you look at Israel and you look at others, they do it and they do it successfully.”
This all falls into what I call Global Palestine. The American police are not merely a stand-alone localized agency anymore. They have been fully integrated into the MISSILE Complex as part of an interwoven military/security/police/prison system, and the American piece of the MISSILE Complex has become fully integrated into a global Matrix of Control. What I call a perpetual War Against the People, William Robinson calls The Global Police State. Conventional wars as we think of them – two or more state militaries fighting each other on battlefields – is pretty much a thing of the past. Wars today are securocratic wars, intended to secure the world-system for corporations and the global ruling elites. That means they are less wars in a military sense and more wars of looting. But since people in the Global South refuse to be looted and turned into casual labor in a global workforce, and since all the riches generated by such wars are being increasingly hogged by fewer and fewer people (the top 5% of households in the US account for over 40% of consumer spending), policing and pacification rather than victory becomes the aim of these kinds of wars.
The question then arises: if these (expensive and brutal) wars against the people are being fought in the interests of a small fraction of humanity, how do they gain the popular support they do? Well, securocratic wars are waged mainly by powerful states of the Global North in the name of liberal, universal values, while in fact they advance the interests of corporations, whether in looting the resources of a particular place or in securing an unequal and unstable capitalist system. Liberal warfare hides its economic and political agendas by claiming to fight for peace and universal values, nothing less than for civilization itself – all of which requires, they contend, a “free” (market) world order that is securitized. Nothing in principle now stands in the way of the transnational corporate elites and the governments, militaries and police they control from imposing a global order of their own.
This is Global Palestine. Your police and security forces, together with your military, are purchasing Israeli weaponry, technologies of repression, tactics of population control and its Security State structures all perfected on the Palestinians, in the laboratory that is the Occupied Territory.
Deadly Exchange, a program of the Jewish Voice for Peace, has a report detailing US-Israeli police ties <https://deadlyexchange.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/Deadly-Exchange-Report.pdf>.And Steven Graham, author of Cities Under Siege: The New Military Urbanism, concludes that “integration is underway between the security-industrial complexes and the military-industrial complexes of Israel and the United States. Even more than this, the emerging security-military-industrial complexes of the two nations are becoming umbilically connected, so much so that it might now be reasonable to consider them as a single diversified, transnational entity.”
So connect the dots. As the US police become “Israelized,” you, the American people, become “Palestinianized.” How this is happening should be a main focus of your BDS (boycott, divestment, sanctions) campaigns. For the weaponry and tactics being developed on the Palestinians in far-off Gaza, Hebron, Jenin, Nablus or, for that matter, Jaffa and the Negev, are in fact intended for your community. The slogan “We are all Palestinians,” it turns out, is literally true. ■
Jeff Halper is an American-born anthropologist who has lived in Israel since 1973. He is the former Director of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions and a co-founder of The People Yes! Network. His previous article for The Link, “Is the 2-State Solution Dead?” (2012), is available on our website www.ameu.org. In 2006, Jeff was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.
By Fred Jerome
On March 7, 2016, Washington D.C. litigator Martin F. McMahon filed a lawsuit in Federal District Court in Washington, DC seeking $34.5 billion in damages from eight U.S. billionaires.
The plaintiffs were 37 Palestinians (increased to 62, as of this writing) who accuse the billionaires of civil conspiracy, war crimes against humanity, and genocide; aiding and abetting the commission of war crimes; and aggravated and ongoing trespass.
The lead plaintiff, Bassem al-Tamimi, is a human rights activist; the lead defendant, Sheldon Adelson, a Las Vegas casino magnate, a close ally of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and a major supporter of President Donald Trump.
The suit also targets former U.S. diplomat Elliott Abrams, plus 13 non-profit, charitable organizations with headquarters in the U.S. — some consisting of a small office or just a P.O. Box.
Also listed among the defendants are two banks (Bank Leumi and Bank Hapoalim), and several companies/corporations, such as the world’s largest security protection firm G4S, as well as RE/MAX, Hewett-Packard, Motorola, Veolia, and Volvo.
A pdf version of the 200-page complaint can be found on AMEU’s website: www.ameu.org. Here are excerpts from pages 12 – 13.
…due to massive funding provided by U.S. tax-exempt entities and their donors to a number of settlements in the OPT (Occupied Palestinian Territory), defendants herein have been able to carry out a very successful civil conspiracy, the goals of which were the expulsion of all non-Jews from OPT and the creation of new segregated “Jewish-only” cities and villages. These defendants have:
(a) financed, encouraged, and deliberately collaborated with settlement officials (including security coordinators) in the commission of wholesale violence, knowing that would result in massive ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian population; and
(b) after forcibly expelling at least 400,000 Palestinians from the OPT, built for “Jewish-only” settlers some 56,000 new homes and apartments, 187 shopping centers, and an extensive highway complex linking up all settlements in the OPT.
in the process, they and their Israel-based co-conspirators have deprived the plaintiffs and their relatives of fundamental human rights guaranteed under U.N. charter principles, U.S. and Israeli law, Israel’s declaration of state establishment (“declaration”), and customary international law.
Lead attorney for the Palestinian plaintiffs is Martin McMahon who, in 1987, founded the Martin F. McMahon & Associates law firm in Washington, DC. Prior to that, McMahon, a graduate of Fordham Law School, had been a senior litigator with the Securities Investor Protection Corp, a litigation associate with Proskauer Rose, and a clerk at Cravath Swaine & Moore on Wall Street. His significant experience in both civil and criminal litigation is the foundation upon which he developed the Transnational Business Attorneys Group, the international practice component of his firm.
When, on March 3, 2015, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu walked into the U.S. Congress and insulted the office of the American president, McMahon decided to represent Palestinians in order to secure justice under the Alien Tort Statute. In an email to me dated Feb. 9, 2017, he underscored the fact that “400,000 Palestinians have been forced out of the West Bank and 57,000 Palestinian homes have been demolished or confiscated.”
In that same email, Martin noted his latest lawsuit, filed on Feb. 1, 2017 in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. This is based on the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorist Act that Congress passed last year to help the victims of 9/11 sue the government of Saudi Arabia. According to McMahon, “Netanyahu has been instrumental in frustrating U.S. foreign policy objectives and has participated in an annual $2 billion money laundering scheme along with Trump’s in-laws (the Kushner family) and the new U.S. ambassador to Israel, Mr. Friedman.” A copy of this lawsuit can be found in Courthouse News “To Fight Netanyahu Taxpayers Invoke New Law for 9/11 Families,” Feb. 1, 2017.
As for the al-Tamimi lawsuit, McMahon told Al Jazeera on March 7, 2016: “Forty percent of Jewish Americans condemn settlements so there is a complete reversal going on in America against tolerating these actions from the Israeli government, and our lawsuit apparently is a vehicle for those who are completely frustrated by that process.”
Also listed as counsel for the plaintiffs is Sameer Jarrah, esq., founder of the Arab World Center for Democracy, Development, and Human Rights, and the Todd G. Patkin Fellow in Arab Democracy and Development at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institute.
The Lead Plaintiff: Bassem al-Tamimi
I will let Bassem speak for himself. In an email to me he wrote:
In the village, there are 600 people who are part of one family – Tamimi. We came to Nabi Saleh from Hebron 400 years ago, and settled in two villages Deir Nedam and Nabi Saleh. Most of my family left for Jordan and other countries after the 1967 war. We have had 22 people from the village killed since the 1967 war. The last one was my brother-in-law Rushdi. Some were killed in the West Bank, some in Jordan and some in Lebanon, but all were killed by Israeli Occupation forces. Every year, as I grew up, we had a funeral for a family member.
In 1976, the settlers came and started building settlements in our land, and my family started resistance and struggle to protect their land against this colonization. This was my first time being tear-gassed.
I finished my school in 1985, and tried to study in the university. But I needed to have a job because my father was sick and couldn’t work. I enrolled in Beirut Arab University as a “long-distance student” — the Israeli civil administration gave me a permit to go to Jordan just one day before the exam. But the second year, they refused to give me any permit at all.
May 1st was the date that I was first arrested for six months of what they call ‘Administrative Detention’ – with no charges. And the arrests continued – I was arrested nine more times, mostly for “Administrative Detention.” In 1993, they arrested me for interrogation, and took me to Ramallah Prison, blindfolded with hands and legs cuffed, and my head in a dirty bag. They took me to a small cell – you can’t sit, just stand in a place full of shit.
Then, on the 3rd day, they took me in front of six Shabak officers [Shabak is an Israeli security agency whose chief answers directly to the prime minister—Ed.], and they said I was charged with killing a settler. Then the police took me to another office, tied my hands and legs behind me and covered my head. My hands and feet were cuffed to the constraint-chair that is made to lean diagonally forward so it was almost falling.
I was tied with my hands tied behind the small chair’s back, and every few minutes a policeman would come to make sure that I was not sleeping.
On the second morning the intelligence officer came and started the interrogation. A detective began torturing me, shaking me. He grabbed me by my chest and shook my body violently making my head move forward and backward and, tightly grabbing my chin, he would pull and shake my head in all directions. This continued formore than eight hours, and then all I remember is that I lost consciousness.
I was in a coma for eight days. When I woke up, I felt paraplegic – my left side didn’t move. They took me back to the interrogation in this condition. Then they isolated me in al- Ramla prison in a small cell among the Israeli criminal prisoners. Every day, the doctor would check my health and the intelligence officer came and asked me many questions for a long time. After a month, I started feeling better but still very weak.
They released me in this condition and I found myself at the funeral of my sister who was killed by an Israeli female working in the military court when she was there to see her son (my nephew) at his trial. The woman in the court together with another woman (who was a settler) attacked her, beating her and pushing her so she fell on her head, causing a lot of bleeding until she died. She was mother of three boys and two girls.
I was arrested after that 3 times between 2003 - 2004. In the past few years, I’ve been held twice in administrative detention for organizing civil demonstrations in my village – for 14 months in 2011-2012, and 4 months in 2013.
My wife has been arrested 5 time and once was shot in her leg and couldn’t walk for two years. She lost her brother – he was killed in front of her. She had been recording a video for B’Tselem, the Israeli human-rights NGO. Her brother Rushdi was at home with her. It was Saturday, there weren’t any demonstrations and the children were playing behind the house. They heard the sound of shooting. Rushdi went to see what was happening and to bring the children in. When the army continued shooting, my wife heard that someone had been injured, so she took her camera and arrived (under fire) shouting “I’m Press!” When she arrived, Rushdi was surrounded by the IDF and bleeding, but they would not allow him to be taken to the ambulance. Some of this can be seen on the Youtube videos I am sending. [This video is posted on AMEU’s website: www.ameu.org—Ed.]
My son Waed was shot when he was 12 years old, and treated in hospital for 5 days and couldn’t walk for a month.
He was arrested when he was 14 and tortured. They put him in jail for a week. It was the same jail l was in, but they refused to let me see him. He was arrested another time for 1 month.
My sister was arrested and held for ten days with no charges.
All my sons were injured, and my daughter also shot and beaten by the army.
I have a demolition order for my home which is located in area C with another 12 houses in the village. Part of my house was built in 1964, and I had a permit from the Jordanian government. I have paid more than $8,000 in fines.
They have raided my home night and day — hundreds of times. Every time they break and destroy something, and usually take something, like books and a camera. Once they took my computer and laptop.
Thanks and respect, Bassem Tamimi
A listing of all plaintiffs, including the Village Councils of five villages in Palestine, is found on page 1 of the lawsuit. Here we note five individuals:
Susan Abulhawa is the award-winning author of the bestselling novels “Morning in Jenin” (2010) and ”The Blue Between Sky and Water” (2015); she is also the founder of the non-governmental organization, Playgrounds for Palestine.
Her parents, both born in Jerusalem, were refugees of the 1967 war. Her father was expelled at gunpoint from his home, and her mother, who was in Germany at the time, was not permitted to return. The couple reunited in Kuwait, where Susan was born. Meanwhile, their family land in Jerusalem was seized by Israeli authorities.
In her own words, Susan tells why she joined the lawsuit: “I want a court, somewhere, somehow, to hold accountable those who have financed my pain of dispossession and exile…to hold accountable the financiers of Israel’s wholesale theft of another people’s historic, material, spiritual, and emotional presence in the world.”
Ahmed al-Zeer, an attorney, was viciously beaten by settlers while on his own property outside the segregated settlement of Ofra. According to the indictment, he suffered bleeding on the brain, a skull fracture, broken bones, other internal bleeding, and is now confined to a wheelchair.
The lawsuit argues that, had the U.S. Treasury enforced its rules and regulations, the American Friends of Ulpana Ofra and other U.S. tax-exempt entities would not have been able to send funds to the Ofra settlers who, in turn, would not have been provided with sophisticated military hardware, which they used to attack Al-Zeer on his own land.
Hiba’s brother Abdelrahman was 26-years-old when, on his return from a visit to the United States, he went out to the West Bank village of Aboud, which lies adjacent to the illegal Jewish settlement of Halamish.
According to his uncle, as reported by the Palestinian News and Information Agency (WAFA), Israeli forces stopped his nephew at the village entrance, where they opened fire on him, hitting him in the neck and head with over six bullets, causing his immediate death. Witnesses say a bloody knife was planted in his car to make it appear he had attacked the soldier first.
Doa’a Abu Amar
Doa’a lost 14 family members when the Israeli army bombed the daycare center in Khan Yunis where they had taken shelter during Israel’s 2014 invasion of Gaza.
She contends that the Israeli army receives at least $100 million in annual tax-exempt funds from the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces, and that, had the U.S. Treasury enforced its rules and regulations, the FIDF would not have been able to send that money to a foreign army, and that foreign army would have had diminished capacity to indiscriminately bomb a densely-populated civilian urban center, and her family members might still be alive today.
Linda Kateeb, an American citizen, owns six plots of land in the West Bank, with the deeds to those plots in her name and possession.
Linda has learned, however, that violent settlers had set up outposts on two of her plots and created forged ownership documents. They then sold these plots to other settlers, who used funds provided by tax-exempt organizations.
Linda is worried that if the U.S. Treasury continues to allow organizations like Christian Friends of Israel and the One Israel Fund, to funnel tax-exempt dollars to these settler organizations, she will lose her remaining four plots of land.
The Lead Defendant: Sheldon Adelson
Sheldon Adelson, number 15 on Forbes 400 list, with an estimated net worth of $26 billion, made his money through his Las Vegas casinos. He is founder, chairman and C.E.O. of Las Vegas Sands, and owner of Israel Hayom, Israel’s largest circulation newspaper, which is distributed free of charge.
One of the biggest donors in the world to Israel, he has given $5.2 million to Friends of the Israeli Defense Forces (FIDF). In 2010, he proudly noted that both his wife and daughter had served in the IDF, and that he expected his young son would grow up to be a sniper in the Israeli army; as for himself, his only wish was that the uniform he once wore in the U.S. military had been the uniform of the Israel Defense Forces. A close ally of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Adelson has advocated strongly for Israel’s conservative Likud party.
He is a major financial backer of the Republican Party and President Trump.
A media mogul both in Israel and the U.S., Saban, at number 171 on the Forbes 400, with a net worth of $3.5 billion, is one of Israel’s most active supporters. Last year, he co-chaired a Hollywood gala that raised $33 million for the IDF.
Saban also supports the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) through its Saban National Political Leadership Training Seminar, which provides intensive pro-Israel training to college student activists.
Owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers and founder of Quicken Loans, Gilbert, with a net worth of $3.8 billion, is a big financial supporter of Friends of the Israel Defense Forces. In 2006, FIDF gave him an award in recognition of his support.
A billionaire auto dealer, with a net worth of $1.6 billion, Braman donated $311,000 to American Friends of Ariel, a U.S.-based nonprofit that supports Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Those settlement are illegal under international law and a contradiction of longstanding U.S. policy.
Not hesitating to declare his extreme views on U.S.-Israel relations, Braman asserted in a 2011 interview that United Nations agencies have “developed into organizations that have one basic purpose, and that is to discredit Israel and actually delegitimize Israel.”
Norman Braman died in 2014.
Irving Moskowitz was involved in funding nearly every significant building project in the eastern sectors of Jerusalem, beginning when he bought Yeshivat Bratslav Shuvu Banim nearly 40 years ago in the Old City’s Muslim Quarter.In 1996, Moskowitz’s project to open the Western Wall’s tunnels to tourists was met by Arab rioting following claims by Islamic groups that the true goal of the initiative was to take over the Temple Mount.
Irving Moskowitz died in 2016.
Widely known in Southern states as a Texas-based televangelist, Hagee is also international chairman of Christians United for Israel. He receives (admittedly ) more than $1.2 million in salary and benefits. He is often on the air and in the news, at times giving sermons, at times making political speeches. He advocates a “pre-emptive war against Iran.” In 2015, his ministries distributed more than $3.2 million to “Israeli charities.”
Known as”King of Diamonds,” Leviev, with a net worth of $1.1 billion, has been a major philanthropist for Hasidic Jewish causes in Eastern Europe and Israel.
Beginning in the 1990s, Leviev avoided being directly involved with the Yeltsin family, and nurtured ties with Vladimir Putin.
His diamond mining investments in Angola and his investments in Israeli settlements have been the target of protests.
His construction companies have also been heavily involved in building settlements in the Occupied West Bank.
Ellison is the C.E.O. and founder of Oracle Corporation. With a net worth of $54.2 billion, he is the world’s wealthiest Jew, and the fifth wealthiest person alive.
He and his wife have donated millions to various causes in Israel, including a $ 9 million lump sum donation to the IDF through Friends of the IDF (FIDF).
One non-billionaire who is nonetheless an important defendant and co-conspirator is Elliott Abrams who has played a key role in helping the billionaires hook up with non-profits to send guns, sniper-scopes and bulletproof vests to the Israel Defense Forces.
In 1991, Abrams was convicted of two felony counts of perjury for lying to Congress about the Iran-Contra scandal. Those convictions — he admitted his guilt — have not prevented him from continuing as an unofficial lobbyist for Israel and an operative within several administrations.
When the Palestinians’ lawsuit named Abrams as a co-conspirator, the Obama administration provided him with a free lawyer (See Mondoweiss, “Obama Justice Department is Representing Elliott Abrams Against Suit by Palestinians Opposing Settlements”, Aug. 8, 2016).
Among the non-profit groups with headquarter addresses in the U.S., those accused in the lawsuit include: American Friends of Har Homa; Christian Friends of Israeli Communities; Friends of the Israel Defense Forces; the Hebron Fund; and American Friends of Bet El Yeshiva.
Several articles have appeared describing in detail the pro-settlement activities funded by these non-profit groups. One from The Guardian of December 8, 2009, entitled “The U.S. Cash Behind Extremist Settlers: The Hebron Fund is Raising Huge Sums for Israeli Settlements,” reads, in part:
Settlers and the Israeli army routinely attack and terrorize Palestinians in Hebron, according to human rights groups such as B’Tselem in Israel.
In 1994, Hebron settler Baruch Goldstein massacred 29 unarmed Palestinians who were praying in a Hebron mosque. One of the honorees at the 2009 Hebron Fund dinner, Noam Arnon, called Goldstein “an extraordinary person.”
The Hebron Fund’s extremist positions are clear…Executive director Yossi Baumol told The American Prospect that “Israel must not give Arabs a say in how the country is run” and “You’ll never get the truth out of an Arab.”
The Hebron Fund’s chief rabbi, Dov Lior, recently praised the 2009 book “Torat Hamelech” that says it is permitted for a Jew to kill civilians who provide moral support to an enemy…and to even kill young children, if it is foreseeable that they will grow up to become enemies.
Several corporations are named, including Hewlett-Packard, Motorola, and G4S, the world’s largest security company, as well as the Israeli banks, Bank Leumi and Bank Hapoalim. All are accused of conspiring to:
a. obtain more Palestinian land to be used for Jewish-only settlements;
b. defraud U.S. taxpayers by funneling hundreds of millions of dollars through tax-exempt organizations to settlements in the Occupied West Bank in violation of international law; and
c. drive all Palestinians off their land and out of the country which would then remain not only a Jewish State but a Jewish-only State.
Criminality, The Profit Motive, Material Intent, Money Laundering
The billionaires work their war crimes by supporting illegal settlements, and at the same time making a few million in extra profits – all at the expense of U.S. taxpayers —and the greater expense of the Palestinians.
First, one or another of the billionaires decides to send several million or tens of millions of dollars to Israel, usually to support his favorite settlement in the occupied West Bank. The money is “donated” to a non-profit group, such as those mentioned above, thus entitling the billionaire donor to a tax exemption. The non-profit group immediately, within days or even hours, sends the money to the designated Israeli receiver, perhaps a settlement or the IDF. According to the lawsuit:
…the laundered funds have been knowingly sent overseas by U.S. tax-exempt entities, and have enabled armed settlers, with help from Defendant G4S personnel and Israeli army reservists, to threaten and intimidate the local Palestinian population on a daily basis. They have “convinced” at least 400,000 to abandon their homes and their 400-year-old olive trees. The annual funding is extraordinary, e.g. $1 billion every year, with $104 million going to the Israeli army in 2014. The U.S. donors knew and intended that the increased financial assistance would promote wholesale violence [against] the local Palestinian population and therefore accelerate settlement expansion. They knew that motivated, armed settlers who coveted their Palestinian neighbors’ property would be able, with their substantial financial assistance, sufficiently to terrorize the local Palestinian population (poisoning water wells, slaughtering livestock, live target practice), and “convince” them to abandon their homes and olive groves.
…Besides funding rampant criminal activity in the OPT including ethnic cleansing which the entities characterize on their 990 forms as “charitable“ or “educational” in nature, they have (a) financed and promoted religiously, and racially, discriminatory practices, i.e., funding “Jewish-only” highways, shopping malls, housing projects, and schools; (b) violated numerous other 501(c)(3) tax-exemption regulations, e.g. funding of theft and destruction of private property, which the host country, Israel, deems to be illegal, and (c) as already noted, violated at least eight federal criminal statutes, including the federal perjury statute…They committed perjury because when they were applying initially for tax-exempt status, entity officials never informed the IRS that they would be using contributions from donors to establish a settler militia unit or funding the purchase of military hardware, including sniper scopes, guard dogs, bullet-proof vests, and night-vision goggles. Tax-exempt entity officials, and their accountants, could face substantial jail time, because each violation of the federal perjury statute alone carries a five-year prison sentence and a substantial fine.
The Profit Motive
In addition to the estimated $1 billion dollars pro-Zionist Americans get to take off on their taxes for donations to pro-Israel charities that channel money to build and maintain illegal Jewish settlements, there is this monetary incentive, as charged on pages 187-188 of the lawsuit:
All Defendants named in Count IV have continued to exploit private Palestinian property by extracting valuable mineral resources and sending them to Israel-based suppliers. These suppliers have made enormous profits as a result of stealing Palestinian natural resources. For example, Heidelberg grossed $5-6 million in 2014 and paid $585,000 in royalties to the Regional Council for Judea and Samaria. Palestinians, including the Plaintiffs named herein, who own property on which are now located quarries and cement factories, and which Defendants in Count IV are pillaging, lose at least $241 million per year according to the World Bank.
The lawsuit singles out the large profits made by RE/MAX, the real estate firm. It has encouraged the ongoing demolition of Palestinian homes by armed settler militia members with G4S/IDF assistance, knowing that this criminal activity means more settlement expansion and more housing stock for its agents to sell to Jewish-only buyers. To date, RE/MAX agents have sold over 56,000 new homes and apartments in the OPT.
Veolia Environment, a French firm, has contracted with various settlements over the past 30 years to provide essential infrastructure transport and waste removal services to the OPT.
Volvo Group, a Swedish company, provides heavy machinery for the demolition of Palestinian homes in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and the construction of Jewish-only settlements. Volvo also provides transport services to the Israel Prison Service, including buses that transferred prisoners such as Bassem al-Tamimi.
Hewlett-Packard, a U.S. company, has a $6 billion investment in the OPT. It provides essential computer technology, including sophisticated surveillance devices that enable settlers to maintain control over the surrounding Palestinian population — a big selling point for RE/MAX agents.
Motorola, another U.S. firm, established Motorola Israel as its first wholly owned subsidiary outside the U.S. in 1964. It provides the settlers with essential protection services. These include radar detection systems for tracking human movement outside the settlements, and expensive thermal imaging systems for targeting Palestinians. It has signed a $100 million deal with Israel for encrypted smartphones for its soldiers and security personnel. It also provides up-to-date biotechnology and metal detection gates at Israeli checkpoints.
Material Intent – The Holy Land Five Connection
The Holy Land Foundation (HLF) was once the largest Islamic charity in the United States, with the U.S. government itself using it to distribute funds to Palestinians in the OPT. Then, in 2001, the U.S. government designated it a terrorist organization, and in 2004, a federal grand jury charged the Holy Land Foundation and five of its officers with providing material support to Hamas, likewise deemed a terrorist organization by the United States.
The first trial, in 2007, ended in the partial acquittal of one defendant and a hung jury on all other charges. The retrial, in 2008, found all five defendants guilty on all charges under the material intent laws, and they were subsequently handed sentences of between 15 and 65 years for “funneling $12 million to Hamas.” Lawyers have appealed the verdict, thus far unsuccessfully, on several counts, including the fact that the prosecution’s star witness was an anonymous Israeli intelligence officer who was allowed to testify under a pseudonym, and granted immunity from cross-examination.
On May 27, 2016, the Martin McMahon law firm filed case 145-cv-021- 86-RDM in the district court of Columbia, in which it cites the material intent charge in the Holy Land Five verdict as legal precedent. In that suit (Boim v. Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Support) the court held that “if the actor knows that the consequences are certain, or substantially certain, to result from his act, and still goes ahead, he is treated by the law as if he had in fact desired to produce the result.”
McMahon’s lawsuit claims that the defendants named in Tamimi v. Adelson had reason to know of or actually knew of the war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide, and other atrocities that were being committed on a daily basis by violent settlers and the Israeli army. The fact that they designated that their contributions go to an “educational activity of the Israeli army” [sniper schools] or to a “charitable” activity [scholarships for retired veterans] does not diminish their having knowingly financed, supported, and encouraged war crimes, including the IDF’s criminal acts of assisting armed settlers with home demolitions, after physical attacks by the settlers on Palestinian homeowners and farmers, and in some cases murdering them.
Related to the material intent law is the money laundering law [18 U.S.C. ₰ 1956 () (2)], which states “whoever transports, transmits, or transfers, or attempts to transport, transmit, or transfer a monetary instrument or funds from a place in the United States to or through a place outside the United States, with the intent to promote the carrying on of specified unlawful activity; knowing that the monetary instrument or funds involved represent the proceeds of some form of unlawful activity and knowing that such transportation, transmission, or transfer is designed in whole or in part to conceal or disguise the nature, the location, the source, the ownership, or the control of the proceeds of specified unlawful activity; or to avoid a transaction reporting requirement under State or Federal law, shall be sentenced to a fine of not more than $500,000 or twice the value of the monetary instrument or funds provided, whichever is greater, or imprisonment for not more than 20 years, or both.”
Tamimi v. Adelson argues [page 94] that all the defendants are guilty of transferring funds by mail or wire across international borders to various settlements, knowing full well that those funds would be used by settlement leaders to arm the local settlement population as it pursued, with the Israeli army and G4S security assistance, the wanton property destruction and ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people. The “charitable” organization Friends of Israel Defense Forces (FIDF) sends funds directly to the Israeli army, thus exposing FIDF officials to possible jail time, and the organization itself subject to a fine of $500,000 for each transaction which resulted in funds being transferred overseas.
Tamimi v. Adelson singles out, among others, Irving Moskowitz, whose tax-exempt foundation’s beneficiaries, according to a Los Angeles Times report of May 9, 1996, were “pass-through” organizations designed to fund the expansion of settlements in the OPT and the purchase of property in East Jerusalem, including, as noted earlier, the destruction of the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa Mosque.
To this end, Moskowitz funded the ”pass-through” entity American Friends of Bet El Yeshiva (AFBEY) with $785,000 in laundered funds going to the creation of a Jewish-only enclave in East Jerusalem. Today, the settlers of that enclave are trying to remove the last remaining Palestinian family in the enclave by shutting off its electrical power sources and forcibly removing its air conditioning unit in order to make it appear that the family no longer lives there, thus making it subject to the racist Israeli Absentee Law.
Among other institutions that benefit from AFBEY’s funding is a yeshiva headed by the militant rabbi Zalman Melamed, who has urged Israeli soldiers to disobey orders to evacuate settlements and who has argued that homosexual tendencies arise from eating certain foods.
AFBEY’s donor base also includes the family foundation of the parents of Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law. And a Trump Foundation tax form from 2003 shows that Trump himself donated $10,000 to AFBEY in honor of his friend and AFBEY’s president David Friedman.
Soon after being sworn in as president, Trump named Friedman America’s next ambassador to Israel. Friedman noted that if the U.S. embassy isn’t moved to Jerusalem, he could still conduct business in East Jerusalem, as he owns a house there.
Wall of Silence
Perhaps as important as the lawsuit itself is the question: Why have so few people heard about it? Why have The New York Times and other mainstream media in this country surrounded the story with a wall of silence?
When I explain to friends that these billionaires and some corporations have been working an illegal scheme with non-profit groups so they get tax deductions for the millions they give to Israel, the most frequent response is: “Wow! I read the Times every day — I’m surprised I didn’t know anything about that.”
There is almost always an unintentional undertone of disbelief in those comments. Something like, well,
If it is really true, it couldn’t be very important or it would have been in the Times. Indeed, the Times still modestly calls itself “the paper of record.”
With that in mind, on December 15th, 2016, I sent the following email to the Public Editor, N.Y. Times:
On March 7 of this year , Attorney Martin McMahon filed a suit in Federal District Court in Washington, D.C. against Sheldon Adelson and seven other billionaires who [as well as supporting Trump] have been sending millions of dollars to support Israel and specifically Israel’s policy of building more settlements in the West Bank. The plaintiffs in the suit are some 40 Palestinians in the U.S. and in Israel who have lost homes and/or family members during the struggles in the occupied territory during the past decade.
As far as I can tell, this story was not covered by the Times in March, nor has any word about it appeared since then.
If this is the case, can you explain why?
Thank you in advance for your consideration.
Sincerely, Fred Jerome
The Times’ only response, arriving within hours, was an emailed form letter from Public Editor Liz Spayd, the same as I received in response to at least three other queries to The Times. It read: “My assistant and I read every letter we receive,” but we get so much mail we are often “not able to respond personally.” It concluded: “If a further reply is warranted you will be hearing from us.”So the question remains: Why have the mainstream media maintained a news blackout on this story of the Palestinian lawsuit? For the sake of brevity, let us focus on The N.Y. Times — which so often sets the agenda for the rest of the industry.
It’s hard to imagine why The Times could not come up with a report on the Palestinian lawsuit that was “fit to print.” Certainly the story has news relevance, with the Obama Administration’s abstention from the U.N. Security Council’s vote criticizing Israeli settlements, and the Trump Administration’s shifting position on the issue.
Perhaps it is simply a sign of hard times (no pun intended) in the media business where cutbacks and mergers have closed a number of news outlets, while others have switched to online operations. The Times’ reduced staff quite possibly is unable to cover the vast scope of happenings. If that is the case, readers can expect more missing pieces ahead: As this is being written (early 2017) the Times was expected to announce a new round of staff cuts (read layoffs) due to a continuing reduction in (print edition) circulation and — especially — in advertising.
Or perhaps The Times’ failure to cover the “Billionaires Suit” story is a result of a pro-Israel bias on the part of the paper’s publisher or top editors. My book, “Einstein on Israel and Zionism,” details how The Times created an alternate-Einstein, one who “championed” the establishment of the State of Israel, when, in fact, for more than 30 years Einstein publicly spoke out against setting up a Jewish state. Possibly, in order to avoid a public confrontation with Einstein, The Times waited until the great scientist’s death before printing their new version of his position — in his obituary! (See “Making a Myth”, pp. 225-232 of my book “Einstein on Israel and Zionism”)
To be sure, when media moguls have a bias, they rarely if ever circulate memos telling their staffs what to write or not to write. But anyone who has ever worked for a newspaper will tell you it doesn’t take long for staff members to learn the publisher’s biases — which stories will be liked and which will be spiked. In the ‘old days’, when stories were typed and submitted on paper, a large metal spike often sat on the news editor’s desk, and whenever editors decided not to run a piece, they simply “spiked” the copy.
Despite the mainstream media’s blackout, however, news of the lawsuit has been breaking through the wall of silence. This is partly due to the commitment and persistence of attorney McMahon, and partly to continuing coverage by a number of alternate media outlets.
Fortunately, The Times, Washington Post, CNN, etc. may be among the biggest media outlets in the country, but they are no longer the only media game in town. Here are just a few of the headlines on the Palestinians’ lawsuit that some of the media outlets in this “alter-network” have run during the past year:
“How U.S. Charities Break Tax Laws To Fund Israeli Settlements” — The Electronic Intifada
“Why Are U.S. Taxpayers Subsidizing Right-Wing Israeli Settlers?— Mother Jones
“The Struggle For Indigenous Rights Extends to Palestine” — ThinkProgress.org
“Friends of Israel Defense Fund Raises $27 Million Under N.Y. Media’s Nose” — Counterpunch
“New York Charity Abets Israeli Settler Violence” — Salon.com
“Lawsuit seeks federal investigation into U.S. groups funding settlements”” — Mondoweiss
And what about the reaction to the lawsuit in Israel? Certainly, the Zionist regime there cannot be happy about a lawsuit that challenges hundreds of millions of dollars a year coming its way.
Most Israeli officials seem to have taken a head-in-the-sand response: If we don’t see it, it will go away.
But when the lawsuit was first filed in March 2016, at least one Israeli “legal expert,” Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, founder of the Israeli Law Center Shurat HaDin, called the lawsuit “frivolous,” with “no chance of surviving,” and she predicted it would be “quickly dismissed.”
In fact, Federal Judge Tania Chutkan, in the Washington, D.C. District Court, originally “stayed” the lawsuit, essentially putting it “on hold” while she considered it (and/or discussed it with other Federal officials). By the end of 2016, however, McMahon reported that Judge Chutkan “just entered an order saying the case will start up again, and pending motions will be decided.”
So much for the suit being “quickly dismissed.”
Indeed, the anti-billionaire lawsuit by McMahon and the Palestinians he represents ironically may be coming at a propitious moment for U.S. foreign policy. A number of recent media pieces, including an important analysis in the January 2017 issue of Foreign Policy magazine, have underscored the feeling by U.S. officials that to maintain their ties with Jordan and other “oil allies” in the Middle East, Israeli expansion needs to be limited, at least for the time being — Hardly an anti-Israel position, though some Zionists will no doubt see it that way.
A Continuing Struggle
The story of the Palestinian plaintiffs listed in Tamimi v. Adelson — indeed the story of so many Palestinians today — is a story of resistance to Israeli occupation and struggle against colonialism Their story is described in Ben Ehrenreich’s moving book “The Way to the Spring: Life and Death in Palestine,” and even more vividly in four ten-minute videos the Tamimi family has put on YouTube; these are the YouTube links:
Nabi Saleh 28-8-2015
2011-12-9 Mustafa Tamimi
Rushdi Tamimi Nabi Saleh
Nabi Saleh 24-8-2012
Bassem Tamimi would surely say that the “billionaire lawsuit” is one good step, but only one. Indeed, it is certain that all of the Palestinian plaintiffs in the suit would say more is needed.
Including litigator McMahon. Here’s how he puts it: “It’s always the right time to do the right thing. Palestinians have been living under a brutal occupation for 50 years, and this is one small step in trying to improve their situation. Their property has been stolen, 400,000 Palestinians have been removed from the OPT, and 49,000 Palestinian homes have been destroyed or confiscated, and today most of those remaining are living in open air prisons. The corporate defendants named in the lawsuit have made millions of dollars off their occupation.”
And what are the chances of the lawsuit succeeding? “Chink, chink, chink,.” McMahon told one interviewer. Slowly but surely, in various ways, Israel’s crimes, funded by our dollars, are being exposed to the light of day.□
|Also in this issue:|
In Appreciation: Hugh Auchincloss, 1927-2015
By Alice Rothchild, M.D.
I once heard a speaker refer to those Jews who engage in critical activism on Israel/Palestine as entering a “special kind of exile.”
I started my life in a very traditional American Jewish place, but faced with the activism of the 1960s, Israel’s increasingly belligerent occupation of the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem, multiple hard-to-defend wars, and a growing awareness of “cross sectional” issues around racism, police brutality, militarism, and U.S. foreign policy, I was forced to re-examine much that my family once held dear and to face the consequences of my actions.
As an increasingly secular person, I also began to scrutinize the meaning of my Jewishness, the uncomfortable consequences of Zionism, and my personal responsibilities in a world rife with contradiction, fear, and conflict.
So how did that all happen and where am I now?
The Jewish Story
I was once on track to be a nice Jewish girl, growing up in the small New England town of Sharon, Massachusetts, with liberal minded parents who fled the narrow confines of shetl Brooklyn for the dreams of 1950s exurbia, a sparkling lake, and a moderately out-of-tune though touchingly aspirational civic orchestra. I played the cymbals, perhaps a warning of crashes to come. When I look back at that pre-Betty Friedan life, we were living the immigrant-assimilationist American dream in all its glory and contradiction. We cheered at the Fourth of July parade with its shiny red fire trucks and balding World War II veterans marching in step down Main Street, and at the same time we were an intensely insular family.
I had a solid dosing of Hebrew school three days a week and services at Temple Israel Saturday mornings, ate my share of gefilte fish and flanken in my grandparents’ tiny Brooklyn apartment, and pushed countless quarters into blue and white tsadakah boxes, buying a small forest of trees in Israel by the time every friend and cousin had completed his Bar Mitzvah. There were lots of relations, but we were one of the few families who escaped New York City. My mother, Sylvia Rosner Rothchild, was one of twenty grandchildren of Josef Neuberger, an orthodox Jew with a bushy red beard and a reputation as the family’s loving but fierce patriarch. He hailed from a shetl in the sometimes Austrian, sometimes Romanian, lately Ukranian area of Vizhnitsa and, like many immigrants, made his way to a hardscrabble life in the tenements of Williamsburg.
My parents grew up a few blocks from each other, met at night school at Brooklyn College (Rosner sat next to Rothchild), and were both rebels in their outward rejection of speaking Yiddish as our mamaloshen and maintaining an Orthodox kosher home, and in their eagerness to embrace a modern American life with mowed lawns, a love of Mahler, and occasional goyishe friends. My mother read Women’s Day, a guide to being a good housewife, and along with chicken and challah on Shabbos, made orange jello molds with grated carrots layered at the top, a distinctly post-war dessert, the bland happy taste of the 50s.
At the same time, my parents managed to let me know that we were different, that we were from a distinct and endangered tribe. I marvel at that inherited sense of being at odds with American culture and society, of feeling so Jewish in a non-Jewish world despite rising economics and acceptability. I learned early that I was an outsider in the dominant American culture, that stories keep our history and culture alive and also create the learned truths about that history. I have also come to understand in my own journey that people survive by telling their stories and that the victors in history most often create the prevailing and accepted narrative.
And I was deeply enmeshed in that Jewish story; there was my unlikely love of gefilte fish and my real talent for making matzoh balls, as well as the level of guilt and responsibility I felt for the world’s disasters. In sixth grade each student was asked to draw a picture of what he or she really wanted. I do not recall what my fellow classmates yearned for, but I do recall that my desire for “World Peace” was considered to be moderately peculiar. In college I met upper class, private school girls who wanted to touch me, gushing, “I’ve never met a Jew before.”
As the good, oldest daughter, I followed my mother’s lead when it came to politics. The founding of Israel was a precious miracle, a haven for Jews after the Holocaust, a country that was to be “a light unto the nations.” As a teenager I was in love with the kibbutz movement and Israeli dancing. I prayed unambivalently at my Bat Mitzvah, singing of my love of Zion, and reveled in a family pilgrimage to the magical land of Israel when I was fourteen. My teenage diary packed with graying postcards spoke of a “young hopeful…promised land” where “everyone has the right of way and maintains it.” I described “former Arab homes” in Jaffa, and took note of Bedouins and backward Arab villages, wrote of “Arabs, dressed in long black robes and dirty headdresses….,” and lumped my descriptions of Arabs and Oriental Jews as “fat, unsanitary looking women.” That was the narrative of my youth.
I had a little taste of anti-Semitism around a Christmas tree crisis that erupted in my public school where the growing numbers of upwardly mobile Jews moving into the town from Jewish ghettos in Dorchester and Brooklyn were accused of destroying Christmas at a very public and very appalling town meeting. Because my mother wrote an early book on the Shoa, Voices from the Holocaust, and the wife of our rabbi and my Hebrew school principal were both slightly damaged (but we gently forgave them) survivors, I also developed a youthful obsession with the Nazi Holocaust in particular and injustice in general.
While my mother was eager to break out of her Orthodox familial prohibitions, her short stories of suburban life in the 1950s and 1960s often struggled with the hard edge of anti-Semitism and the insensitivities of her Christian neighbors who could not distinguish a Rosenthal from a Schwartz. I suspect these life experiences, coming on the heels of the depression, World War II, and the Nazi Holocaust, marked her for life. I also inherited and bore the imprint of those difficult times. This same mother supported the METCO programs, (Metropolitan Council for Educational Opportunity), bringing African-American children to our very white educational system, and offered her expertise to teach in Boston’s largely segregated schools.
As a teenager, I was lulled into the liberalism of Adlai Stevenson and John F. Kennedy, but I discovered there were harsh limits. When I came home with an African-American boyfriend, my modern, liberal, pro-civil rights, tolerant mother warned me that if I married a non-Jew, then “Hitler’s dream would come true.” She begged me to understand what I would lose, never considering what he also might lose should he marry me. She cried and threatened to sit shiva, mourning my “death,” banishing me from the family forever. This was a powerful message to a budding 19-year-old exploring her own identities and passions; the threat of permanent expulsion from the enfolding arms of my childhood. In a painful and tumultuous evening, my mother morphed from ally to threat and I saw excommunication as a real possibility. Little did I know what lay ahead.
This is quite a heritage, a potent mix of trauma, memory, tribalism, and assimilation. As a family, we prided ourselves on our differentness and our ability to survive against the odds of anti-Semitism, pogroms, near annihilation, and the sweatshops and poverty of the lower East Side of New York City. At the same time we were thriving in multicultural, upwardly mobile suburbia. Simultaneously, in a strange, unconscious way, I knew, like Jews everywhere, that we were potentially all victims, we were in some way all survivors, and the world was an unforgiving place; the threat of another Holocaust lurked behind every international crisis, every unkind word.
I think that sense of our “specialness,” where the fear of extermination intersected with religious belief and the perceived mark of permanent victimhood, is where my Jewishness merged with my mother’s personal terrors. Our particular place in the world, our role as the “chosen people,” meant that not only were we singled out for persecution, but we had special responsibilities, that the admonition to make the world a better place was actually a very personal call to action necessary for our very survival. Needless to say, the Arab/Israeli War in 1967 was a time of communal apprehension and understood to be an existential threat to a country we loved without much in the way of the critical thinking we reserved for the rest of the world.
I think back to my mother’s stubborn insistence that the Jewish pioneers in the early 20th century bought much of the land in historic Palestine from the local Arabs; she fervently believed that Jews are inherently decent, we do not massacre or steal or rape; we do not take what is not rightfully ours; we do not share our victimhood. This is a painful mythology to give up. As I discovered later, introspection involves a searingly honest evaluation of history in all its voices, a recognition of the behavior and policies of the pioneers and fighters who created the State of Israel, an examination of the foundations of modern political Zionism; and ultimately a willingness to express regret and apology. This is not an easy journey.
As a solid member of the tribe, I went off to college in the late 1960s and found myself at Bryn Mawr, an elite, upper-class, waspy women’s college, where Jews (and blacks) were exotic and rare at that time. Despite the occasional high holidays and a meandering Jewish discussion group with mostly long-haired, left-wing men from Haverford, my relationship to my Jewish identity sank to the bottom of my list of adolescent priorities. I threw myself into academics and near-death premed courses; opposition to the Vietnam War was the main topic of political conversation. I began to examine feminism and a host of other “isms” swirling on campus and to bus down to marches on the Mall and parks of Washington, DC. During college and then medical school, my sense of who I was began to unravel, and I became increasingly aware of my internal boundaries; I began to understand that I didn’t even know what I didn’t know.
The grandfather of one of my college friends had been an Ambassador to Saudi Arabia and as she shared her family inheritance with me, I still remember my indignant arguments with her, my utter disdain for Abdul Nasser, and my dismissal of pan-Arab nationalism. Gradually I realized that I had never actually met an Arab, a shocking admission for someone with such firmly held liberal beliefs. I recognized that I had grown up distrusting and hating an entire group of people and I really knew nothing about them.
Between delivering babies and raising two children, I read everything I could find on colonialism, imperialism, U.S. history, and gradually developed an uncomfortable disconnect between my childhood love of a magical, mythical Israel and my adult analysis of how the world actually works. Things got even more complicated after 1967 as I became increasingly though vaguely aware of the Israeli occupation. But I did what many Jews did; why ruin a family dinner or a longtime friendship by bringing up something that only ends with everyone yelling at each other?
In the mid 1990s, fortified with a growing understanding of colonialism, racism, immigration, Islamophobia, and increasingly disenchanted with the version of Israeli history I had learned in Hebrew school, I began an active search for the stories that I had missed. I began to listen to dissenting Israeli Jews, Palestinians, and other Arabs in the Boston area. I began to make invisible people visible to me, to confront the trauma and fear that I had inherited, and to hear and feel our enormous human commonalities; the common language of denial, despair, endurance, and recovery. I started to realize that the “troubles” in Israel did not start in 1967 with the Six Day War and the occupation of East Jerusalem, the Golan, West Bank and Gaza. I began to recognize the importance of revisiting the events of 1948, the year I was born and the State of Israel was founded; to hold both the story of my own people and the stories of the people who were killed, dispossessed, and displaced partly as a consequence of my own people’s tragedy, in my head and in my heart simultaneously. My mother told me once that she was proud of my activism, but I was taking it further than she could bear to go, but I think that is what daughters are for. Each generation has a task and this one seemed increasingly mine.
When the cognitive dissonance was no longer tolerable, I sought out a group of similarly agonized, politically left Jews of various stripes from the Boston Workmen’s Circle, New Jewish Agenda, and Kahal Braira. We started a Jewish/Palestinian dialogue group that provided us with a powerful education on the realities in the region. This led to the formation of a number of activist grassroots organizations (Visions of Peace with Justice in Israel/Palestine, American Jews for a Just Peace, Jewish Voice for Peace) and a desire to develop educational events to share what we had learned. As we organized speakers and events, we were fairly immediately blacklisted in our own Jewish communities.
We soon realized that a number of us were physicians (this being a group of Jews after all), and based on the experience of medical support work in El Salvador a few decades earlier, we developed the idea of examining the conflict through the lens of health care and human rights. Someone might not be able to deal with the politics, but everyone would agree that a pregnant woman should not deliver at a checkpoint and a child should have enough to eat.
That led to a health and human rights project, taking annual delegations to Israel and the occupied territories, working with Physicians for Human Rights – Israel, Palestinian Medical Relief Society, Gaza Community Mental Health Program, and a growing number of civil society and activist organizations on both sides of the Green Line. We saw patients in clinics, lectured at Al Quds medical school, stayed in refugee camps, marched in solidarity with nonviolent activists in Bil’in, visited destroyed and unrecognized villages in Israel, and developed powerful human relationships with Jewish Israelis and Palestinians.
Our last delegation was June 2014, and my most recent visit to the region was in March/April 2015 with Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility. As a Jewish person with a country “speaking in my name” and as a U.S. citizen paying taxes that funded the occupation and siege, I felt my most compelling responsibility was to bring these stories home.
I worked with U.S. activists and members of the Israeli left who were focused on civil, human, and political rights for Palestinians in Israel and the occupied territories as the fundamental basis for a viable, secure Israeli state. I watched the “left” in post-Oslo Israel shrink to desperately small numbers and I observed Palestinian civil society coalescing around a commitment to nonviolent resistance to oppression.
I began to understand as the Jewish settlements exploded in the West Bank and East Jerusalem with increasingly restrictive bypass roads, checkpoints, permits, and the snaking separation wall, and as the Israeli government declared the Jordan Valley a closed military zone, that the government of Israel (like all governments) was not going to give up power voluntarily.
I watched with growing horror the racist, right- wing swing of successive Israeli governments and the unleashed racism and aggression of Jewish settlers towards their Palestinian neighbors. It became increasingly clear to me that the expulsion, dispossession, and war against the indigenous Palestinians that started long before 1948 was actually continuing unabated, disguised in the language of the endless, stillborn “peace process,” Jewish exceptionalism, water, security, and the racist demonization of Palestinians.
This growing understanding led me to fully embrace the international call for boycott, divestment, and sanctions against Israeli policies as the most creative, powerful, nonviolent work that I could support.
Although Palestinians have a little known history of non-military resistance tactics dating back to the 1920s, in 2005 more than 170 Palestinian civil society institutions issued a call to end the occupation of land seized by Israel in 1967 and dismantle the separation wall, to recognize the fundamental rights of the Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality, and to respect, protect, and promote the right of return of Palestinian refugees.
This call is based on international law and principles of human rights and is explicitly against all forms of racism, including specifically anti-Semitism. Many BDS activists are Jewish; several small Israeli organizations support the call (for instance Boycott from Within, Who Profits, and Anarchists Against the Wall), but the movement is universal. The issue is about resolving longstanding, intractable injustices. In April 2010, Americans for Peace now came out against BDS, but supported socially responsible investing, the avoidance of companies involved with the settlements and settlement products. Liberal Zionist Israeli groups have also supported the boycott of settlement products, and major governmental institutions and multinational companies have seen fit to pull out of the occupied territories without actually mentioning the word “boycott.”
In 2010, more than 50 Israeli performers refused to perform in a new theatre in the Jewish settlement of Ariel. They were supported by artists like Theodore Bikel and Pete Seeger. BDS can be targeted at Israel’s occupation or at institutions/corporations that profit from the oppression of Palestinians. The cultural boycott has also been incredibly successful. It challenges Israeli performers, who are funded by the government and act as goodwill ambassadors, as well as international performers, to acknowledge that Israel is practicing (according to luminaries from Jimmy Carter to Bishop Tutu), a form of apartheid.
More recently, BDS campaigns have led to major multinational companies like Veolia and G4S to suffer multimillion dollar losses related to their work in the occupied territories, TIAA-CREF Financial Services pulled Caterpillar from their socially responsible portfolio, many campuses have engaged in active divestment campaigns, and churches from the Presbyterians to the United Church of Christ have supported divestment proposals. In 2014, direct foreign investment in Israel dropped 50 percent, according to a U.N. study.
Many critics state that BDS is anti-Semitic and say to me, “Why Israel?” First it is important to distinguish criticism of Jews as Jews, which is anti-Semitism, from criticism of the policies of the Israeli government. In the world of terrible oppressive countries, there are obviously lots of worse offenders, but I would suggest that there is no other injustice so critically supported by our tax dollars. Twenty percent of all U.S. foreign aid goes to Israel, plus we provide tremendous political and military support, accord Israel special status, and insist that the international community treat Israel as if were a normal, progressive Western democracy. This makes the operations of the Israeli state far more accountable to the international community that supports it.
If you don’t believe me, a nonprofit organization, If Americans Knew, examined the Israel/Palestine conflict and foreign policy reports. According to the Congressional Research Service:
▲ The amount of official U.S. aid to Israel since its founding in 1948 exceeds $115 billion and in the past few decades it has been on the order of $3 billion per year, in 2013, this amounted to over $8.5 million every single day for a country with a population of 8.2 million people.
▲ Unlike other countries, Israel receives all of its aid money at the start of each year, rather than in quarterly installments, thus they start earning interest on the money immediately, interest paid by the U.S. since Israel invests these funds in U.S. Treasury notes. The U.S. borrows money to give to Israel and to pay the interest; this costs U.S. taxpayers more than $100 million every year.
▲ Unlike other countries, Israel is allowed to use U.S. military aid to purchase material made by Israeli rather than U.S. companies. The U.S. government also gives approximately $1.6 billion per year to Egypt and Jordan in aid packages that are dependent on maintaining peace treaties with Israel and have no stipulations regarding justice for Palestinians.
▲ The U.S. also provides more than $400 million to the Palestinian Authority each year which largely goes to rebuild infrastructure destroyed by Israeli attacks and to support a floundering economy that is constricted by occupation.
Thus Israel receives more U.S. aid than any other country, although Israelis make up only 0.1% of the world’s population. This computes to 7,000 times more U.S. foreign aid per capita than other folks, although Israel falls under the more affluent nations of the world.
When I look at the history of the Israel/Palestine conflict, it is clear that politicians on all sides have failed us. The conflict is getting worse and many argue that we need a dramatic reframing of what it means to work for a just and peaceful resolution. Like any powerful government, the Israeli government will not give up dominance voluntarily and the U.S. government has been unwilling to contain Israeli military aggression and suppression of the Palestinian population.
If we look at this struggle in its broadest sense, the billions we spend on military aid could have had such a positive impact at home if money were available for our failing schools, inequitable health care system, inadequate housing, crumbling roads, bridges, and infrastructure, etc. The politics of racism and police aggression goes way beyond East Jerusalem or the occupied territories. Activists are drawing parallels from Palestine to Ferguson, the lost young men in East Jerusalem to inner city youth in our major cities. Our police are being trained in Israel, crowd control has been militarized, local police departments now have the excess tanks the Pentagon can no longer use and the training and weaponry that has been used against a militarily occupied population thousands of miles away. Civil liberties experts document massive spying on civilian populations, not just in the West Bank and Gaza but on every citizen in the US. The drones have come home. Additionally, repeated military incursions have led to environmental devastation and contamination not only in Gaza and the West Bank, but also in Iraq and Afghanistan where there are reports of rising cancer deaths and birth defects. This is a global issue.
If we fast forward to today, my understanding of Israel is very different from my early upbringing. I am not only concerned with the ongoing occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem and the siege of Gaza, the second class citizenship of Palestinians with Israeli citizenship, and the longstanding unresolved issue of Palestinian refugees. I also have a much deeper understanding of Zionism as a political movement, the realities of Zionism for Jews and Palestinians, the war in 1948, and the consequences of establishing a state where Jews are privileged over everyone else and where there has been a steady expansion of borders and increasing militarization of Israeli society.
I worry about the cost of all this to Jewish Israelis and Jews in the Diaspora as well Palestinians. I have come to the painful conclusion that Zionism itself is the foundation of this more than century-old struggle. Zionism as a political movement evolved with much controversy and full awareness that creating a Jewish state with a Jewish majority and Jewish privilege involved removing the indigenous Palestinians one way or another.
And that is the crux of the issue for activist Jews: do we align ourselves, even after the centuries of anti-Semitism and the Nazi Holocaust, with what has basically been one of the last settler colonial states established in the twentieth century? Can we support Zionism as a national movement when it is grounded in racism and ongoing subjugation and ethnic cleansing? And if you are not worried about Palestinians, is behaving in this manner good for Jews or has it been deeply corruptive to the values and political stands that we value and want to defend for the next generation? Like I said, not an easy journey.
In the Jewish community, there are enormous conflicts over Israel, many family fights and friendships destroyed, as well as enormous underlying contradictions. In my own family, the educated, liberal wife of a cousin sent a Jewish New Years email that said: “Peace will come when Palestinian mothers love their children as much as Jewish mothers.” Where do I begin? Jews are traditionally progressive and have had a leadership role in labor struggles, civil rights, women’s rights, gay rights, but many of us (particularly when you talk to people under 35) feel that we are being asked to suspend our love of justice, democracy, tolerance, fighting for the oppressed, etc. when it comes to Israel/Palestine.
Additionally, we see very right wing forces such as Campus Watch, StandWithUs, CAMERA (Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting), AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee), the David Project, and others aligned with the Christian Right, lobbying congress to support the most right-wing governments in Israel, (our own little U.S. branches of Likud), and muzzling dissent and tolerance in our communities.
As a person who deeply values democracy, tolerance, standing up for the oppressed, I see Jewish power in the twenty-first century is mostly about the misuse of power and nothing about being Jewish.
In the Trenches
So what is it like in the trenches for me and how has the muzzling and the right-wing dominant paradigm affected my work?
As a physician since 1978, I have been on the staff of Beth Israel Hospital which morphed into Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, and from 2004 to 2013 held the academic position of Assistant Professor of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Biology, Faculty of Medicine, Harvard University. I gave grand rounds and other lectures at a number of Harvard medical institutions on a host of topics ranging from quality improvement to sexual education for adolescents. I consider myself a respected member of the faculty and worked as an obstetrician-gynecologist in a group practice for several decades. My patients ranged from pregnant teenagers to ardent menopausal feminists, orthodox Jewish women and modest Muslims ladies all searching for a female physician.
After returning from my first health and human rights delegation to Israel/Palestine in 2004, I was invited to give a grand rounds presentation to the internal medicine department on the health impacts of occupation at a sister hospital in Cambridge. This was my maiden voyage into the academic world and Middle East politics. I arrived, Power Point, notes, and anxiety in hand and found that a colleague of mine who was not from this hospital was busy placing a leaflet on every seat in the auditorium with gory pictures of dead Israelis killed by Palestinian terrorists. To the arriving physicians, it appeared that this was my leaflet. Who sent him? Who made the flyer? Undeterred, but also unclear how to handle this, I gave my presentation. During the Q&A my colleague immediately took the floor, harangued me for ten minutes on my facts and on my “lack of compassion” for Jews. The head of medicine was as intimidated as I, but this was only the beginning of my introduction to the wild world of silencing and bullying. My colleague then repeatedly called me, asking to have a cup of coffee so that we could “talk about what happened in 1948.”
That same year, I asked to give a similar presentation to my own department, other faculty gave talks on their various medical missions and experiences around the world, I wanted my time as well. In an earlier discussion with my department chief about visiting colleagues in Israel, he (an ardent Zionist who led delegations to Israel, especially focused on their emergency medicine and response to terrorist attacks), had said to me, “You are a danger to the Jewish people.” (Who knew?) Needless to say, my efforts to give a departmental presentation were unsuccessful until five years later when he left the department. I applied to the new acting chief, was accepted, and when my impending grand rounds was announced, the department received 100 emails protesting my appearance. I was asked to remove the word “occupation” from the title (ultimately the presentation was titled: “Healthcare in the West Bank and Gaza: Examining the impact of war on a civilian population, a personal journey”), and warned to stay away from politics. The room was packed, I talked, and we all successfully lived through the experience.
Fast forward, I published Broken Promises, Broken Dreams Stories of Jewish and Palestinian Trauma and Resistance in 2007, second edition in 2010, On the Brink: Israel and Palestine on the Eve of the 2014 Gaza Invasion in 2014, and released a documentary film, Voices Across the Divide, in 2013. With my increasing involvement in the issues and with books and film to share, I began a second career, traveling the country, doing book readings, film screenings and analytic presentations. This gave me a unique opportunity to experience what is happening “out there” and how an activist type like me is received in a variety of different communities. While my comments are often well received, I have also experienced my share of resistance.
All of these anecdotes cover 2013-2015; I will start with a few academic settings:
As part of a week of Human Rights Awareness and Activism programming, the U.S. Foreign Policy Activist Cooperative and the Society for Ethics, Peace, and Global Affairs of American University in D.C. organized a screening of Voices Across the Divide. At the film showing, a particularly interesting conversation focused around the issue of campus control of Israel messaging; there is apparently a strong Israel studies program that includes student trips to Israel. The views of the program are very mainstream and not particularly controversial. However, students who focus on human rights issues, opposition to the Israeli occupation, or support of the boycott, divestment, sanction movement, find themselves marginalized and accused of bias. Students described a polarization on campus with little civil discourse between “the sides.” Two professors at American University were included on the recently publicized list of professors “dangerous to Israel” (despite their lack of outspoken behavior on the topic) and one untenured faculty member talked about being warned to limit his critical comments about Israel as it could endanger his future career. We discussed this new McCarthyism where critical analysis of Israel and occupation/siege can threaten the careers, tenure, and free speech rights of faculty and students who do not “stand with Israel.”
At a John Carroll University political science class in Ohio, “Peacemaking in the Palestine Israel Conflict,” there were complaints from the local Hillel stating that Jewish students did not “feel safe” having me on campus and some major faculty meeting was held to discuss my upcoming event. Fortunately, the professor was supported by the university administration. Nonetheless, 100 students packed the class, including many from Hillel. The Hillel contingent was mostly silent during my talk, although some approached me individually afterwards. The most disturbing interaction was with the Israeli shalicha, (ambassador, hired by Jewish institutions to represent Israel and to shape the conversation about Israel in temples, Hillels, community groups, etc.). She aggressively attacked me as a “liar,” chastised me for “doing a great disservice,” and refused to “agree to disagree.” Loud bullying seemed to be her main strategy and the students watched closely.
At the University of Maryland, in an Arab media class, one Jewish student who was unhappy with my presentation spoke of being “very disappointed” with the professor, accused me of “hate speech,” and stated that if students only heard me speak they would have a very one-sided view of the conflict. He talked about how Hamas is “really the problem” and felt offended “as a member of Hillel.” The professor talked about the difference between hate speech and free speech, her openness to “dual narratives,” and her willingness to bring in a “pro-Israel” speaker. I reflected on my discomfort with that definition of “pro-Israel,” i.e., being in agreement with the Israeli government. I pointed out that millions of dollars are being spent on Israeli messaging and propaganda, and I noted that I was sharing the realities on the ground as I saw them. I also noted that the issue of “balance” is only brought up if someone doesn’t like the message; the occupation is really oppressive, Gazans are actually living in the midst of a massive humanitarian catastrophe largely caused by three Israeli assaults and a brutal siege; Israeli society is moving to the right and becoming increasingly racist and militarized. Did anyone ask for the voice of a Palestinian dispossessed from Haifa when telling the heroic story of the founding of the Israeli state? As I reflected on this interchange, I realized that while the dual narrative approach can be very powerful, it is also important to avoid confusing an honest examination of history and narrative with bowing to a nationalistic mythos, as if both are equivalent serious historical research.
At Suffolk University in Boston, in a class on Diversity and Human Need, one Jewish student in the class spoke about how she was sympathetic to Nakba history, but felt “threatened” by my film. We discussed why hearing another narrative that challenges our own provokes fear rather than curiosity or perhaps reflection and shame.
At the University of Virginia alumni book club, several alumni complained about my impending book reading, went all the way to the president in protest, and threatened to withhold funds if I was allowed to speak.
At Evergreen College in Olympia, WA, students talked about feeling “unsafe” on campus, being afraid to identify publically as Jews, feeling hostility from other students at this liberal, social-justice focused college. I explained that on campuses in the U.S. there are well-funded groups focused on controlling “Israel messaging,” and often provoking this sense of insecurity. I noted the frequent use of the word “unsafe” which is part of StandWithUs language and AIPAC’s claim of rampant anti-Semitism [read criticism of Israel and Zionism] on campus, derived from a misuse of the federal statute Title IX language on creating “safe” environments for women and prohibiting sex discrimination in educational institutions. I wondered if students are confusing anti-Semitism with criticism of Israel and questioned whether Muslim or Arab students feel “safe” on campus.
I found similar issues in churches and temples. At a church in the D.C. suburbs, which shares a building with a temple with which it has a longstanding positive relationship, I was told that if the church showed my film in their shared building, the rabbi threatened to dissolve their relationship. The church rented a hall and the documentary was shown.
At a Congregational church in Burlington, VT, the local progressive-on-other-things rabbi pressured the pastor who is sympathetic to Palestinians. While they also have a longstanding relationship working on many social justice issues, the rabbi’s main message was one of profound disappointment (of the we have worked together on so many issues, I thought I could trust you, and now you are showing this anti-Semitic, one-sided Israel-hating film of this self-hating Jew variety). He complained that I am biased, have no understanding of the existential threat to Israel; he talked about BDS as delegitimizing, hindering dialogue, etc. The pastor shared his feelings with me and his pain at this very troubled response from a friend and fellow religious leader.
As expected, temples are the most challenging venue for me to get in to and present. This is where I feel I am up against the widespread “McCarthyism” in the mainstream Jewish community.
At a reform temple in Ithaca, NY, I found that when announcements were placed in the temple newsletter, if the speaker was left-leaning on Israel/Palestine, there was a disclaimer that stated that the speaker does not represent the temple community, thus setting the normative opinion.
In an Erez Israel class at a Bethesda Maryland reconstructionist synagogue, I noted that all the maps for the course and in the temple labeled “Israel” were actually the one state “Greater Israel.” When one of the older men took issue with my comment, “the victors write history,” he said “We are not the victors, we lost six million times.” I could feel this sense that many in the class could not move beyond living in the Holocaust, living with a permanent victimhood as well as a lack of understanding and sympathy for “Arabs,” thus the dominant narrative became a blinder to seeing a co-victim’s reality.
In an orthodox synagogue in the D.C. area, my film screening for a men’s club, which was organized by an orthodox human rights lawyer and Hebrew school teacher, was summarily cancelled by the rabbi.
Moving out into the Jewish community, the Sacramento California Jewish Federation newspaper, The Jewish Voice, refused to post an announcement for my film as they deemed it an “anti-Israel event.” A few years earlier they had refused to announce my book reading, also claiming it was “anti-Israel.”
In a vibrant Jewish community at the Beachwood Library in Ohio, I encountered a very conflicted audience, many unaware of the millions of dollars being spent on Israeli hasbara, the very aggressive control of “Israel messaging,” and the intense muzzling in the Jewish community and on campuses. One woman noted that we can have this kind of open conversation “anywhere in the U.S.” but in Arab countries we would be censored, arrested, “sold into sex slavery.” I pointed out that actually I cannot have this conversation in most temples, Hillels, and Jewish community centers and that rabbis routinely cancel my appearances. She pointed out that the poster for my talk earlier in the day was offensive: it had the word “CONFLICT” in large letters and a picture of the separation wall, so “it says what side you are on.” I pointed out to her that, problematically, there is an actual conflict and the separation wall is an issue and an important symbol of the occupation. There was clearly a low bar for feeling threatened. The most disturbing moment for me came at the end when an older woman walked up to the women selling my books and announced, these “should be burned.” A gentleman behind her retorted, “That’s what they did in Nazi Germany.”
I will never forget leaving New York City after a book tour and spotting a large billboard plastered across a building: New York Times Against Israel, All rant, All slant, Stop the Bias. This was sponsored by the ferociously well funded and ironically misnamed Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America.
As you can see, silencing is both active and also occurs through more subtle framing and language, so what are the assumptions and why does this happen? A leader in the Ithaca Jewish community challenged me on my maps of historic Palestine, especially who owned what/when. She said Arabs were “migrants” to the area and noted earnestly that the last independent indigenous nation in the area were Jews 2000 years ago with the implication, of course, that this conferred Jews special rights in the 21st century. She referred me to a right wing blog for more “accurate” information.
At World Fellowship, a progressive family summer retreat in New Hampshire, a woman in the audience told me of her child attending a public school in New York City where they were studying indigenous peoples and as an example the teacher stated that the Jews were the indigenous people in Israel and they were being treated badly by the Palestinians. Her daughter piped up that she thought it was really the other way around. The girl was sent out of class to the principal’s office, her parents were called, and there was a stern warning about such talk. When the mother agreed with her daughter, the principal explained that that version of history was not allowed in New York City public schools.
When a peace group in a suburb of Boston offered me a Social Justice Award for
“her resolute efforts to ease the tensions between Israel and Palestine…” local politicians found other events to go to, a fiscal sponsor pulled out, and I was advised by supporters not to mention BDS in my acceptance speech. Organizers were worried about protesters who thankfully did not materialize, but the anxiety was there.
Who Am I?
As an activist, I now relate to many communities: the more mainstream Jewish organizations look at me as the classic “self-hating Jew” because I value Palestinian life and aspirations as much as Jewish life and aspirations. Also because I see the increasing right wing, racist policies of the State of Israel backed by the U.S. as the fulcrum where real change must come and this involves challenging the basic assumptions of political Zionism and Jewish majority rule.
The activist Jewish communities and younger Jews welcome my insights and join me in a call for democratic values and respect for international law, with the acknowledgement that Palestinians are now the oppressed people in this international equation (along with Mizrachi Jews and African asylum seekers, but that is another story).
The good liberal Jews in the middle, the ones who are holding on to the idea that Israel can be Jewish and democratic and are not yet willing to face the deep contradictions within Zionist society, continue to squirm and support the human and civil rights movements within the U.S. and Israel without facing what I see as the core issue, Jewish privilege and its consequences.
Christian groups and particularly African-Americans increasingly welcome “a Jew we can talk to” as many find themselves aggressively challenged by their Jewish friends and rabbis when they raise the kinds of serious and contradictory concerns outlined here.
Muslim friends are relieved to find a Jew post 9/11 who embraces people not as stereotypes, but as fellow human beings with complicated and often traumatic life stories trying to move forward in a world that is so violently Islamophobic.
I see world powers attempting to impose “our” version of “democracy” at the end of a gun, playing factions against each other with multiple proxy wars, dangerously arming an entire region which is spiraling into catastrophe. Think Syria, Yemen, Libya, Afghanistan, Iraq…it is a long list of failed policies. How different the world would be if the U.S. and other international players had called for a nuclear free Middle East that included Israel as well as Iran. Or for that matter, if post 9/11 the U.S. had gone to the International Court against Al Qaeda with the support of nations all over the world, and held a trial rather than plunging our young soldiers into wars that have only made us more enemies and created generations of young people with PTSD and brain injuries, not to mention the devastating impact on the people and environments we were supposedly saving.
Arabs are often blamed for the current state of affairs. While they have historically been plagued by their own tribal issues and battles for power between various powerful families as well as political movements, they mostly suffer from the consequences of post-war imperial powers dividing up the Middle East, empowering minority groups to govern over majorities, and creating longstanding enmities. They also suffer from corrupt, oppressive dictators often funded by the U.S. and from proxy wars fought between major powers and paramilitary groups. And then of course there are the decades of Israeli occupation and siege and second class citizenship.
I believe that resolution of this conflict is central to the resolution of many of the tragedies that have engulfed the Middle East.
I would urge us to start with ourselves. I have come to understand that it is critical to separate Judaism the religion from Zionism the national political movement; Zionism has hijacked Judaism. I would advocate defining a Jew as someone grounded in religion or culture and history, a set of ethics, a sense of peoplehood; all definitions equally compelling.
While Jewish Israelis have long looked down upon the Diaspora as not “real Jews” with “no right to criticize, you don’t live here,” Diaspora Jews are reclaiming our legitimacy and our voices as Jews. We are distinguishing the racist ideology of anti-Semitism from thoughtful moral criticism of the policies of the country, Israel. Thus the treatment of and solidarity with Palestinians has now become the civil rights issue of the day for modern younger Jews who will be here long after the older post-Holocaust generation has moved on and no longer shapes the boundaries of intelligent discourse and definitions of normalcy.
Mostly what I see is that Diaspora Jews are starting to own the Nakba as part of our story. I believe that after centuries of powerlessness, how we as a community handle our new position of power and privilege is critical to the survival of an ethical Jewish tradition as well as a just resolution to a more than century-old struggle in historic Palestine that is being fought in our name.
Perhaps that is what nice Jewish ladies are now called to do and that is certainly the example I want for my daughters.