Professor Henry Srebrnik

Professor Henry Srebrnik

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Anti-Zionist Israelis would turn Jewish state into another Diaspora

Henry Srebrnik, [Toronto] Jewish-Tribune

Many people today advocate policies that would eliminate the Jewish and Zionist nature of Israel by recreating a one-state Palestine, one in which Arabs would in fact probably constitute a majority. They label Israel an “apartheid” country, since it ostensibly “privileges” Jews.

You might be surprised to learn that there are even some Israeli intellectuals who support this option. They regard the entire 1947-1949 War of Independence as a conspiracy of the Zionist leadership, which intended right from the beginning to expel the Palestinians from the country to turn it into a Jewish state.

According to this view, explained Israeli journalist and former Knesset member Uri Avnery in an article published during Passover, “the soldiers of 1948 were war criminals who implemented a vicious policy, much as the pioneers of the preceding generation were land robbers, knights of ethnic cleansing by expulsion and expropriation.”

Avnery is a longtime political activist and founder of the left-wing Gush Shalom (Israeli Peace Bloc), which was a vigorous critic of the recent Gaza operation.

Uri Davis, born in Jerusalem, who describes himself as a “Palestinian Hebrew,” is another such anti-Zionist. He is an honorary research fellow at the University of Durham’s Institute for Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies and at the University of Exeter’s Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies in England.

Davis’s latest book to classify Israel as an apartheid state was published in 2004,
Apartheid Israel: Possibilities for the Struggle Within, which describes what Davis refers to as war criminal policies against the Palestinian Arabs: mass deportation and ethnic cleansing in 1947-1949, followed by military government, prolonged curfews, roadblocks, and economic, social, cultural, civil and political strangulation. For him, Israel is a rogue state.

The book was, not surprisingly, praised by the late Palestinian academic Hisham Sharabi, the co-founder of the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies at Georgetown University in Washington and the longtime editor of the influential
Journal of Palestine Studies. Sharabi called it “a devastating critique of Israel’s internal Apartheid system and by extension the entire ideology of political Zionism.”

Another academic who subscribes to this perspective is Haifa-born Ilan Pappe. A professor of history, also at the University of Exeter, he previously taught at Haifa University from 1984 to 2007. In 2006 Pappe published
The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, which asserted that the Zionist leadership intentionally planned to evict the Arabs in the country during the War of Independence through terrorist attacks executed by the Haganah and the Irgun.

The premeditated expulsion of some 800,000 Palestinians in 1947-1949 was, he wrote, part of a long-standing Zionist plan to manufacture an ethnically pure Jewish state.

Pappe supports academic, economic and political boycotts of Israel, and his work has been praised by anti-Zionists such as Palestinian scholar Walid Khalidi. Khalidi, who has taught at Harvard, Oxford, and Princeton, considered
The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine to be “a dazzling feat of scholarly synthesis and Biblical moral clarity and humaneness.”

True, these writers represent only a small minority of Israelis, but their influence should not be discounted. The fact that they are Israeli Jews is, for opponents of Israel, a piece of good fortune. It provides cover for antisemites who can cite their books.

After all, if even Israelis acknowledge that the creation and very existence of the Jewish state is a crime, why can’t others? And do their proposed solutions not make the vision of a state where Arabs and Jews will live in harmony more than just a utopian fantasy?

But even if the destruction of the Jewish state would not lead to the eviction and mass murder of its Jewish population, it would still mean that, for Jews, the land of Israel itself will have become, politically, just another part of the Diaspora.

It would no longer be a Jewish state, but merely a place with a large Jewish population – like the pre-1914 Russian Pale of Settlement, or parts of, say, Los Angeles, New York or Toronto today.

Assuming this “post-Israel” remained a democracy (a dubious proposition), Jews could theoretically aspire to any political office – but only as individuals, even if their base of support happened to be fellow Jews.

After all, a Jew has been chancellor of Austria, premier of France, president of Guyana, and prime minister of New Zealand. Many Jews have been elected to the US Congress, the Canadian House of Commons, and other parliaments.

But no one would mistake those countries for a Jewish homeland or confuse Georgetown, Ottawa, Paris, Vienna, Washington or Wellington with Jerusalem.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Rush Limbaugh and the Party of “No”

Henry Srebrnik, [Charlottetown, PEI] Guardian

While U.S. president Barack Obama is doing his best to turn the American economy around, all that his Republican opponents can come up with, in response to his various efforts, is to say “no.”

Most of them don’t like his proposed budget, are against his stimulus packages and financial bailouts, and find his attempts to reform education and health care too “socialistic.” Their mantra for what ails America is simple: just keep lowering taxes.

The Republicans, badly defeated in the presidential and congressional elections last November, seem bereft of leadership. They are such a rudderless ship that their unofficial spokesman has become, not an elected member of Congress, but a right-wing radio talk show host, a man full of sarcasm, bombast and bile.

Rush Limbaugh, a college dropout – he attended Southeast Missouri State University for two terms – in now the fount of wisdom for the Republicans. Even the chair of the Republican National Committee, Michael Steele, worships at his feet.

Limbaugh has been a nationally syndicated radio personality since 1988, and his millions of listeners, the so-called “dittoheads,” lap up his relentless ridicule of “liberals,” by which he means anyone to his left, including Republicans whom he finds too moderate.

In a speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington this past February, Limbaugh stated that he wants Barack Obama “to fail.”

He had earlier explained on his radio program that he didn't want “absorption of as much of the private sector by the U.S. government as possible, from the banking business, to the mortgage industry, the automobile business, to health care. I do not want the government in charge of all of these things. I don’t want this to work.”

Though many Republicans find this embarrassing, they fear challenging the vitriolic radio showman. Steele, the nominal leader of the party, was forced to apologize after referring to Limbaugh’s show as “incendiary” and “ugly.”

One Republican state party chairman said of Limbaugh, “he is the leader of a niche of the Republican Party that simply opposes anything a Democrat ever comes up with.”

The Democrats, of course, are enjoying this. A mobile billboard paid for by the Democratic National Committee is traveling around in south Florida, where Limbaugh lives, declaring that “Americans Didn't Vote for a Rush to Failure.”

Observing all this (as I taught two courses in American politics this past academic year), it occurred to me that there is an old song that perfectly sums up Limbaugh’s politics. “Whatever it is, I’m Against It” was performed by Groucho Marx in the movie Horse Feathers, in 1932. This would be Rush Limbaugh’s version:

I don’t care what the Dems say,
It makes no difference anyway --
Whatever it is, I’m against it!
No matter what it is or who commenced it,
I’m against it.

Obama’s proposition may be good
But let’s have one thing understood --
Whatever it is, I’m against it!
And even when he’s changed it or condensed it,
I’m against it.

I’m opposed to it --
On Republican principles I’m opposed to it!

Chorus: He’s opposed to it!
In fact, in word, in deed,
He’s opposed to it!

For months before his star was born,
I used to yell from night till morn,
Whatever he says, I’m against it!
And I’ve kept yelling since I commenced it,
I’m against it!

Maybe someone reading this article should send a copy to Rush. He’d probably love it.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The "New" Age of Piracy

Henry Srebrnik, [Summerside, PEI] Journal-Pioneer

Much ink has been spilled over the last few weeks over piracy in the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean, off the coast of Somalia. It took a U.S. naval vessel to rescue one American ship from Somali buccaneers.

That still hasn’t stopped other pirates from capturing ships and holding them for ransom. In a lawless place like Somalia, this is one of the few ways left to make money.

Elsewhere, in place such as Afghanistan, most profitable enterprises too, are based on criminality, especially the growing of poppy seeds for the production of heroin.

We call these places failed states. They have no functioning central governments, as in the case of Somalia, or else regimes that only survive because they are propped up by western troops, as in Afghanistan.

But actually, these are not so much failed states, as fake states. They only exist because imperial powers, back in the 19th and 20th centuries, drew up maps with boundaries, and gave such places names.

By the end of the Second World War, however, imperialism had come to be considered an unmitigated evil, and colonial powers withdrew from their Asian and African colonies and protectorates.

But the states they left behind were artificial and flimsy constructs.

The boundaries and names remained, but these entities have become increasingly meaningless to most of the populations that live in them.

They may have flags and UN seats, but in reality they are fake states.

Pre-imperial political formations, based around clans and tribes, have reasserted themselves in these places. Those are the true locus of identity and loyalty. The people we refer to as “warlords” are in most cases simply the leaders of such tribes or clans.

Western powers conquered some parts of the world for the profits they could bring to the home country – think India or French Indochina – or as areas of settlement – Australia or Canada.

But others, such as Somalia, Sudan or Zanzibar, were occupied to rid the globe of evils such as piracy, the rule of fanatics or tyrants, constant warfare between enemies, and the slave trade.

Much of what we today call “peacekeeping” was part of the task. This is the lesson we are learning all over again.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Who Are the Real Criminals?

Henry Srebrnik, [Toronto] Jewish-Tribune

A number of human rights organizations accused Israel of committing war crimes in its recent war against Hamas in Gaza.

A report submitted to the United Nations Human Rights Council made the same charge. (The Council includes such stalwarts of democracy as Angola, China, Cuba, Egypt, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.)

Similar allegations were made during Israel’s incursion into Lebanon in 2006, when battling the Hezbollah guerrillas. Israel denied this and after conducting its own investigation found the charges to be without merit.

But who has really been engaged in war crimes? We need look no further than Sudan. Its president, Omar al-Bashir, was indicted by the International Criminal Court in early March on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur.

He is accused by the court of orchestrating attacks that have involved killings, rapes and other atrocities against civilians. Hundreds of thousands of people have been murdered.

But for Israel’s opponents, including Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran, crimes against humanity seem to be in the eye of the beholder. While all three have accused Israel of genocide, especially after the recent war in Gaza, they all jumped to Sudan’s defence. Sudan and its allies have called the whole campaign to stop the killings in Darfur a “Zionist plot.”

Of course, as the world discovered recently, Sudan has also been a pipeline for Iranian weapons bound for Hamas in Gaza. In March Iranian Defence Minister Mustafa Muhammad Najar visited Sudan and signed a series of military cooperation agreements. This followed a visit to Iran two months earlier by his Sudanese counterpart, Abdelrahim Mohamed Hussein.

Meanwhile, Bashir seems to have taken a “victory lap” around the Arab world to mock the ICC indictment. Qatar’s leader gave him a red-carpet welcome as he arrived to attend an Arab League summit at the end of March, and Bashir took a prominent role at the two-day meeting. The Sudanese leader had earlier visited Eritrea, Egypt and Libya.

Even before the summit began, Amr Moussa, the general-secretary of the Arab League, said the member states would “continue our efforts to halt the implementation of the warrant.” Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, opened the conference by asking all Arab leaders to reject the court’s action.

“What is happening now with regards to Sudan is a new chapter in the chapters that consider the Arabs weak and disrespect the sovereignty of their countries,” he declared.

“We must also take a decisive stance of solidarity alongside fraternal Sudan and President Omar al-Bashir,” added Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. And he’s the moderate!

Arab governments also promised to increase diplomatic visits to Sudan.

“What is required from all of us is to stand with our brothers in Sudan and its leadership in order to prevent dangers that affect our collective security,” stated Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem.

Ibrahim al-Faqir, the Sudanese ambassador to Qatar, told Al Jazeera: “We are very pleased at the Arab support.”

Following the summit, Bashir flew to Saudi Arabia for a short Islamic pilgrimage. Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal said that the ICC arrest warrant was a politicized decision that “will not lead to the stability of Sudan or solve the Darfur issue.”

So much for Arab states’ concerns regarding crimes against humanity. If it can’t be blamed on Israel, forget about it.