Friday, November 30, 2012

German Jews on UN Palestinian Vote

Here is a letter from a German Jewish orgqanization, European Jews for a Just Peace Germany, commenting on yesterday's historic UN vote granting the Palestinian territories observer status.

"On November 29, 1947, the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted a resolution for the founding of two states: The state of Israel and the state of Palestine, between which the land of Palestine was to be divided.

Exactly 65 years later, the Palestinians have appealed to the UN to honor that decision, only this time they are asking the UN to recognize a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders, on a mere quarter of former Palestine.

The Juedische Stimme (Jewish Voice for a Just Peace, EJJP Germany) firmly believes in the right of the Palestinians to life, freedom and self-determination. Regardless of the various opinions over which is the best way to end the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories, or what kind of state or states should be formed to best serve the people living in the area, we believe that the Palestinians have the right to choose their own destiny and to be recognized by the international community.

As European citizens, we are particularly appalled by the hypocrisy of the German government, which decided to abstain. For two decades the German government, among others, has been calling for a “two-state solution” as a way towards “peace.” Now it is clear that it meant no such thing. The German government has shirked its responsibility to support the Palestinian demand, which is both peaceful and legitimate.

Over the past two decades, Germany has played a destructive role in EU discussions   over the Israeli occupation. German votes in the European Council have often been used to block sanctions against Israel, thereby giving Israel full freedom to continue its occupation in the knowledge that there will be no consequences, leaving Israel unaccountable for its crimes. We should like to remind the German government that complicity in crime is also a crime.

We are outraged that German government policy is based on the fact that it can profit more from war (for example through the sale of weapons) than from peace in the Middle East.

As Jews, we also wish to emphasize that the forming of a Palestinian state is a prerogative of the Palestinian people and should in no way be used to justify the existence of Israel as a “Jewish” state in the sense of Jews having more rights than other citizens. Whether an independent Palestinian state is established or not, we will continue to struggle for democracy and for the equal rights of all people living in the area and will not accept any laws that favor one religious, racial or national group over another.

As Jews, we also reject outright any argument that Germany should deny the Palestinian right to self-determination because of its “special relationship” with Israel. Abusing the rights of Palestinians can never compensate for past crimes against Jews, and Israel does not have the right to exploit the Jewish people to justify its illegal territorial expansionism.

29. November, 2012"

Monday, November 26, 2012

Medvedev Philosopher

In a recent interview to the French news agency AFP  and the newspaper Le Figaro, Russian Prime Minister and former President Dmitri Medvedev made two remarks that  one doesn’t often hear from political figures.

The first remark was a nod to an ancient Greek philosopher, Heraclitus who famously said that one could not enter the same river twice.  Asked whether he would consider running for president again, Medvedev used his humanities credentials to make a political point, saying: “Generally, one should never decline anything. Never say never, as you know, especially since I have entered this river already and this is a river that can be entered twice.”

The second remark blew my mind.   Asked whether certain new laws had restricted freedom, Medvedev said: "I do not think that is so.” Then he asked: “What does a ‘free person’ mean,” It’s not a person who is told by his government, 'You are free.' No, a person is free when he feels free irrespective of his place of residence – whether it be Russia, Europe or Africa."

The French interviewer thought this meant that ‘freedom is only measured individually’.  I take it to mean that Medvedev is one of the few politicians who understands that freedom is something we carry inside, for, contrary to the freedom to act, it  cannot be limited by others.

In my next blog I will comment on a recent NY Times article on Putin’s search for a new ideology.


Monday, November 19, 2012

Making the Middle East Safe for Israel

It’s disheartening to watch/hear the cream of American political commentators defending Israel’s nth insult to international law and decency.

What can be behind the seeming suicidal behavior of a small country that is surrounded by more or less hostile neighbors?  (A country as big and powerful as Russia fears encirclement, as its opposition to the European defense shield shows.)  Is Israel living a self-fulfilling prophecy (the world hates us, we must defend ourselves, and the best defense, as our tragic history has shown, is offense)?

Or could there be a grand capitalist plan behind all this?  Get rid of pesky left-wing governments in the Middle East in order to grab the oil, taming the peoples’ desire for equity so that Israel can continue to flourish?

Here is a statement by Noam Chomsky that reached me from my Italian publisher (sic):

The incursion and bombardment of Gaza is not about destroying Hamas. It is not about stopping rocket fire into Israel, it is not about achieving peace.

The Israeli decision to rain death and destruction on Gaza, to use lethal weapons of the modern battlefield on a largely defenseless civilian population, is the final phase in a decades-long campaign to ethnically-cleanse Palestinians.

Israel uses sophisticated attack jets and naval vessels to bomb densely-crowded refugee camps, schools, apartment blocks, mosques, and slums to attack a population that has no air force, no air defense, no navy, no heavy weapons, no artillery units, no mechanized armor, no command in control, no army… and calls it a war. It is not a war, it is murder.

When Israelis in the occupied territories now claim that they have to defend themselves, they are defending themselves in the sense that any military occupier has to defend itself against the population they are crushing. You can't defend yourself when you're militarily occupying someone else's land. 



Saturday, November 17, 2012

Time for an International 'Estates General'?

Having at last uploaded the final version of my memoir, which hopefully will be available next week, I can turn to the events that have - or have not - been making the headlines lately, depending on your news source.

The most significant events were the coordinated twenty European country mass demonstrations, work stoppages and general strikes that took place early in the week.

Then came the Israeli attack on Gaza, in retaliation for a few homemade missiles launched by an occupied people against their occupier - launches that have been going on for years.  This morning on RT’s website an Israeli peace activist revealed that negotiations for a settlement were under way with the Hamas leader the Israelis assassinated to start the latest round of aggression.  RT also revealed that Anonymous has hacked into hundreds of Israeli official websites in support of the Palestinians.

These and other events taking place daily across the planet bring to mind two things: one, that Lenin’s injunction ‘Workers of the World, Unite!’ is finally being heard; and two, that Khruschev’s seemingly absurd nineteen sixties warning, ‘We will bury you‘ could also be coming true, and three, that it may be time for a worldwide version of the French Revolution’s  ‘Estates General’.

Neither the French nor the Russian Revolutions had worldwide capabilities.  But thanks mainly to the IT revolution, activists in the oil rich Niger Delta and Brazilian tribes determined to stop construction of a major dam, all know what each other are doing, feeding off of each other, sharing tactics, and coordinating actions, with the ability to disseminate their actions worldwide.

As for Russia, Westerners are familiar with the salient political events of the twentieth century, but RT provides a sense of the immense mineral wealth within that country’s borders at time when the world’s greatest assets are underground.  For decades the Soviet Union tried to influence Third World countries politically, building or delaying the emergence of socialist regimes (see Cuba), details of that support little known outside the political circles concerned.  Today, Russia has other cards to play: its support for Third World countries, mainly in Africa, comes in the form of news reports and documentaries on the dire living conditions of its peoples, broadcasting worldwide the struggles against Western mineral conglomerates that are raping the continent. (RT also has an Arabic service and a Spanish service....)

This morning I heard that in response to China’s growing clout President Obama is preparing to tour several Asian countries. China’s new President, precisely because he is not elected and doesn’t have to contend with filibusters and other forms of congressional opposition, can announce with the smile that has replaced Hu’s stern demeanor, that China will press forward both economically and militarily. And on the occasion of the 15th Communist Party Congress that anointed him, RT took its cameras to the streets of major cities and shopping malls, in which the high collar blue denim uniforms of old have been replaced by the latest Western fashions. (In the Soviet Union, blue denim jeans replaced drab Communist garments, eventually ushering in perestroika and what followed...)


Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Is the U.S. President Still the Most Powerful Man in the World?

In 2008 I still felt the American elections were crucial to the entire world because of the aura of the United States and its sheer military might.

Difficult as it will be for most Americans to admit, and notwithstanding our thousand bases around the world, that is no longer true.

The hopeless wars we are fighting are only one piece of evidence.  Every week brings new events that usually however do not make it into the mainstream media. Last week if you happen to be an RT viewer you would have learned that China and Nicaragua are planning to cut a new canal through Central America - right in our own back yard.  (Yet we still do not recognize the government of Cuba....)

There’s no point in reiterating how low our reputation has fallen abroad, especially in the Arab world, but let me just say here that I’m getting pretty tired of hearing the media imply, as MSNBC just did, that the 100 point drop in the Dow at opening was due to the financial situation in Europe.  One of the best kept secrets these days is that the Euro crisis is a direct consequence of the irresponsible behavior of Wall Street that brought on the 2008 crash.

I’ll be writing more often once I finish proofing the paperback edition of my memoir:  ‘Lunch with Fellini, Dinner with Fidel: A Journey from the Cold War to the Arab Spring’.