Palestine Solidarity: The Film Critics’ Blind Spot

June 30, 2015 – The Palestine Center, Washington, DC

Watch film scholar Terri Ginsberg discuss Palestine-solidarity filmmaking, focusing predominantly on To Live in Freedom, a 1974 documentary directed by Simon Louvish, and featuring Palestinian writer and intellectual Fouzi El-Asmar. The talk examines the relationship between Zionism, European colonialism, class stratification and racism in Palestine/Israel, and suggests historical ties between the establishment of the film studies discipline during the 1960s, and U.S. government interference in the socio-cultural sphere.

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Einstein and Arendt signed 1948 letter to NY Times warning of Zionist fascism in Israel

4 December 1948, New York Times

The letter, sent to the Editor of the New York Times on December 2, 1948, was entitled “New Palestine Party – Visit [to the U.S.] of Menachem Begin and New Political Movement [Freedom Party] Discussed.”


Among the most disturbing political phenomena of our times is the emergence in the newly created state of Israel of the “Freedom Party” (Tnuat Haherut), a political party closely akin in its organization, methods, political philosophy and social appeal to the Nazi and Fascist parties. It was formed out of the membership and following of the former Irgun Zvai Leumi, a terrorist, right-wing, chauvinist organization in Palestine.  The current visit of Menachem Begin, leader of this party, to the United States is obviously calculated to give the impression of American support for his party in the coming Israeli elections, and to cement political ties with conservative Zionist elements in the United States. Several Americans of national repute have lent their names to welcome his visit. It is inconceivable that those who oppose fascism throughoutthe world, if correctly informed as to Mr. Begin’s political record and perspectives, could add their names and support to the movement he represents.  Before irreparable damage is done by way of financial contributions, public manifestations in Begin’s behalf, and the creation in Palestine of the impression that a large segment of America supports Fascist elements in Israel, the American public must be informed as to the record and objectives of Mr. Begin and his movement. The public avowals of Begin’s party are no guide whatever to its actual character. Today they speak of freedom, democracy and anti-imperialism, whereas until recently they openly preached the doctrine of the Fascist state. It is in its actions that the terrorist party betrays its real character; from its past actions we can judge what it may be expected to do in the future. 

Attack on Arab Village

A shocking example was their behavior in the Arab village of Deir Yassin. This village, off the main roads and surrounded by Jewish lands, had taken no part in the war, and had even fought off Arab bands who wanted to use the village as their base. On April 9 (THE NEW YORK TIMES), terrorist bands attacked this peaceful village, which was not a military objective in the fighting, killed most of its inhabitants ? 240men, women, and children – and kept a few of them alive to parade as captives through the streets of Jerusalem. Most of the Jewish community was horrified at the deed, and the Jewish Agency sent a telegram of apology to King Abdullah of Trans-Jordan. But the terrorists, far from being ashamed of their act, were proud of this massacre, publicized it widely, and invited all the foreign correspondents present in the country to view the heaped corpses and the general havoc at Deir Yassin. The Deir Yassin incident exemplifies the charac! ter and actions of the Freedom Party. Within the Jewish community they have preached an admixture of ultranationalism, religious mysticism, and racial superiority. Like other Fascist parties they have been used to break strikes, and have themselves pressed for the destruction of free trade unions. In their stead they have proposed corporate unions on the Italian Fascist model. During the last years of sporadic anti-British violence, the IZL and Stern groups inaugurated a reign of terror in the Palestine Jewish community. Teachers were beaten up for speaking against them, adults were shot for not letting their children join them. By gangster methods, beatings, window-smashing, and wide-spread robberies, the terrorists intimidated the population and exacted a heavy tribute. The people of the Freedom Party have had no part in the constructive achievements in Palestine. They have reclaimed no land, built no settlements, and only detracted from the Jewish defense activity. Their much-publicized immigration endeavors were minute, and devoted mainly to bringing in Fascist compatriots. 

Discrepancies Seen

The discrepancies between the bold claims now being made by Begin and his party, and their record of past performance in Palestine bear the imprint of no ordinary political party. This is the unmistakable stamp of a Fascist party for whom terrorism (against Jews, Arabs, and British alike), and misrepresentation are means, and a “Leader State” is the goal. In the light of the foregoing considerations, it is imperative that the truth about Mr. Begin and his movement be made known in this country. It is all the more tragic that the top leadership of American Zionism has refused to campaign against Begin’s efforts, or even to expose to its own constituents the dangers to Israel from support to Begin. The undersigned therefore take this means of publicly presenting a few salient facts concerning Begin and his party; and of urging all concerned not to support this latest manifestation of fascism.


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How Zionism Corrupts Judaism

Judaism is a religion based on humanistic principles offering powerful arguments for social justice, but it has been hijacked by Zionists who have twisted it into an excuse for ethnic cleansing and mass murder, as Professor of Moral Theology Daniel C. Maguire describes.

by Daniel C. Maguire – 2 July 2015, Consortium News

Like the Palestinian people, Judaism is also suffering from siege and occupation. Zionism, a Nineteenth Century hallucinatory piece of fictive theology and a vicious ideology, has gotten a demonic grip on much of modern Jewish consciousness and has taken possession of U.S. policies in the Middle East.

Zionism is not Judaism; Judaism is 3,000 years old. Zionism is a heretical upstart based upon preposterous assumptions. In terms of theistic Judaism, Zionism teaches that God, the creator of everything in the universe from fruit flies to quasars, is also into real-estate distribution and has assigned Palestine to Jews or those who tenuously claim to be Jews … from dark-skinned Ethiopians to blue-eyed Russians.

The Prophet Isaiah (Illustration from a Bible card published by the Providence Lithograph Company)

This God wants all non-Jewish Palestinians (some of whose ancestral roots in Palestine go back for millennia) to be removed or brutally occupied and periodically bombed and starved into submission. That is Zionist theocratic policy and it has been a raging success.

Thanks to Zionist power and American complicit and compliant support, Jewish Israelis control 100 percent of Palestine and Syria’s Golan Heights. Non-Jewish Palestinians are either occupied or living under dehumanizing siege.

To forestall any charge of caricature, let the Zionists speak for themselves. Joseph Weitz, an administrator responsible for planning the takeover of Palestine, minced no words: “Between ourselves it must be clear that there is no room for both people together in this country. … The only solution is a Palestine … without Arabs. And there is no other way than to transfer Arabs from here to the neighboring countries, to transfer all of them, not one village, not one tribe, should be left.”

David Ben-Gurion, a man of no known theological expertise, saw the invasion and occupation as an exercise in theology: “God promised it to us,” he said. Yitzhak Baer joined the pious Zionist chorus writing in 1947: “God gave to every nation its place and to the Jews he gave Palestine.”

One could be tempted to think that God would have preferred pre-Zionist Palestine. In the Nineteenth Century, Jews were four percent of the population, Christians, ten percent, and the rest were Muslims and all lived together in harmony and peace.

The Zionist success is brittle and becoming more so. Fifty years ago, a professor at Hebrew University wrote presciently: “Israel may be able to win and win and go on winning till its last breath, win itself to death. … After every victory, we face more difficult, more complicated problems. … The abyss if mutual hated will deepen and the desires for vengeance will mount.”

In the age of suitcase-size atomic weapons and micro-biological weapons and pinpoint accurate drones, a reality-check should tell Zionists that it is past time to take paths to peace that are open to them right now. United Nations resolutions and Arab offers are on the table based on returning to the pre-1967 borders.

Peace is there for the asking once Zionist stop the land-theft (euphemized as “settlements”) and comply with international law. Israel can choose peace or expansion; Zionist Israel is choosing expansion and continued ethnic cleansing.

Equating Zionism and Judaism

But here is the piercing point of Zionism: Zionism would not settle for the land of Palestine. It demanded that Zionism be identified with and conflated with Judaism. This perverse effort has worked well so that now any criticism of Zionist imperialism is called “antisemitic.”  “Antisemitic,” of course, is a misnomer since the occupied and besieged Palestinians are Semites, too.

What is meant is that any criticism of Zionist policies is anti-Jewish. Wrong! Even Adolf Hitler knew that Zionism is not Judaism: he despised Judaism, but in his Mein Kampf,  he had praise for Zionism. Hitler admired racist oppression wherever he found it. Indeed, Zionism’s fatal fault is that it is not Jewish.

In my judgment, as a scholar in the field of religion, Judaism is the most profound, inspiring and practicable moral vision to be found in any world religion. Christianity and Islam are blessed to be among its heirs. In the years 1250 to 1050 B.C.E., the early Hebrews pressed history to turn a corner in such a wise direction that modern democratic theory owes deep debts to their achievement.

The Exodus/Sinai story in novels, films and homilies suffered shrinkage. It got reduced to historical facticity, i.e., stuff that happened and got recorded by ancient scribes trying to get their facts straight. The Exodus-Sinai epic is not history; it is metaphor.

As Israel Finkelstein and Neil Asher Silberman put it: “There was no mass Exodus from Egypt.”  Moses may not have been a single person but a composite of many figures assembled with literary freedom over centuries.

But that doesn’t mean nothing happened back there. Poetry happened. Revolutionary social experimentation happened. Forget the frogs and the parted seas engulfing the bad guys. What really happened was a social-political-economic revolution presented in epic form.

As Norman Gottwald shows in his monumental study The Tribes of Yahweh, those Hebrews (from apiru meaning outlaw) challenged the monarchical paradigm of one percent rule exemplified by Egypt. These poets were saying we need not live in the Egyptian model. The Sinaitic alternative beckons.

This Exodus-to-Sinai story is an epic poem in the genre of Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey and Virgil’s Aeneid, but outstripping both Homer and Virgil in power and far-reaching effects. As Walter Brueggemann says it is as insightful and relevant as if it had been written yesterday. It has perpetual contemporaneity, the mark of a true classic.


This epic poem was about people-power, about the 99 percent taking on the one percent. The story says you cannot trust the greed-driven one-percent. They are, as Micah said, “rich men who are full of violence, the city’s upper classes speak falsehood and their tongues frame deceit.” (6:12)

And he said that millennia before sub-prime mortgages and derivatives were cooked up like a witch’s brew. The exodus was a moral exodus from the one-percent rule in Egypt with all power moving to the top — to the Sinai model where “there shall be no poor among you” (Deut. 15:4).

In the Sinai model compassion was woven into the political economy. As Walter Brueggemann says, the Hebrew revolution which is the root of Judaism became “the first move toward a social safety net in the history of the world.”

Jan Dus says that what is contained in Exodus chapters 1 to 24 is the first ideologically-based socio-political revolution in the history of the world. The Judaism of Sinai and the prophets deserve two Nobel prizes, one in Peace and one in Economics. That is the stirring moral core of Judaism, the polar opposite of Zionism. It is this that should swell Jewish hearts with pride, not Zionism.

The poets of Israel warned that doom awaits societies that “grind the faces of the poor.” (Isa. 3:15) Security comes from planting a poverty-banishing justice (Isa. 32:17) not from kill-power.   You cannot build “Zion in bloodshed.” (Micah 3:10) That’s a message the Zionists will not abide.

“Neither by force of arms nor by brute strength” will the people be saved. (Zech. 4:6) The “song of the military” will be silenced (Isa. 25:5, 2) Prophetic Judaism scorns an over-reliance on violence. With the over-used sword beaten into a plowshares the earth could turn green with hope and not red with the mayhem we call war. (Isa.22:4; Mic. 4:24) That’s the dream that the poets of Israel dreamed and bequeathed to all humankind.

Suppose Israel Were Jewish

Israel and the United States both started out with ethnic cleansing. Is the superpower United States going to repent and hand the country over to the Native Americans? Is Israel the fourth strongest military power and the sixth strongest nuclear power about to dissolve itself? The answer is No to both those naive questions.

What Israel can do is accept the peace offered to it by its Arab neighbors and prescribed by the United Nations. In March 2002, 22 members of the Arab League offered to recognize Israel’s right to exist and have normal relations with Israel, no small concession that.

This offer has been repeatedly reconfirmed. In April 2002, the Organization of the Islamic Conference, which includes 57 nations, concurred with the Arab League offer, and the Iranian delegation expressed its full approval.

The condition was Israel’s compliance with the United Nations Resolutions 194, 242, 338 and the return to the pre-1967 borders. Hamas has said it will acknowledge Israel’s right to live in peace within its pre-1967 borders. Israel can have peace or continued ethnic cleansing. It is currently choosing continued ethnic cleansing.

A morally Jewish Israel, embodied in growing groups like Jewish Voice for Peace, would make peace and in so doing transform the roiled politics of the entire Middle East. No one expects Zionist Israel to do that. Hence the growing BDS (boycott, divestment, sanction) movement.

The reigning assumption today is that it is pressure, not conscience, that will move Zionist Israel to choose peace.

Daniel C. Maguire is a Professor of Moral Theology at Marquette University, a Catholic, Jesuit institution in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He is author of A Moral Creed for All Christians and The Horrors We Bless: Rethinking the Just-War Legacy [Fortress Press]). He can be reached at

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Steven Salaita speaking tour – New York City – November 2014

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The Political Economy of Israeli Apartheid and the Specter of Genocide

by William I. Robinson – 19 September 2014, Truthout

2014 919 geno Palestinian children light candles in commemoration of their former home, Zafer Tower No. 4, once an 11-story apartment building, in Gaza City, Sept. 11, 2014. (Photo: Wissam Nassar / The New York Times)

Just days before the seven-week siege of Gaza this past July and August that left some 2,000 Palestinians dead, 11,000 injured and 100,000 homeless, Israeli lawmaker Ayelet Shaked, a senior figure in the Jewish Home Party that is part of Israel’s ruling coalition, posted on Facebook that “the entire Palestinian people is the enemy . . . including its elderly and its women, its cities and its villages, its property and its infrastructure.” The post went on to declare that “behind every terrorist stand dozens of men and women, without whom he could not engage in terrorism. They are all enemy combatants, and their blood shall be on all their heads. Now this also includes the mothers of the martyrs, who send them to hell with flowers and kisses. They should follow their sons, nothing would be more just. They should go, as should the physical homes in which they raised the snakes. Otherwise, more little snakes will be raised there.”

Shaked’s Facebook post was shared over 1,000 times and received nearly 5,000 “likes.” A few weeks later, on August 1, The Times of Israel published an op-ed piece by Yochanan Gordan titled “When Genocide Is Permissible.” Gordan claimed that “there’s going to have to come a time where Israel feels threatened enough where it has no other choice but to defy international warnings.” He went on: “What other way then is there to deal with an enemy of this nature other than obliterate them completely? Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu clearly stated at the outset of this incursion that his objective is to restore a sustainable quiet for the citizens of Israel . . . If political leaders and military experts determine that the only way to achieve its goal of sustaining quiet is through genocide is it then permissible to achieve those responsible goals?”

Echoing these sentiments, the deputy speaker of the Israeli parliament Moshe Feiglin, a member of Netanyahu’s Likud Party, urged the Israeli army to kill Palestinians in Gaza indiscriminately and use every means possible to get them to leave. “Sinai is not far from Gaza and they can leave. This will be the limit of Israel’s humanitarian efforts,” Feiglin said. “The IDF will conquer the entire Gaza, using all the means necessary to minimize any harm to our soldiers, with no other considerations. . . . The enemy population that is innocent of wrong-doing and separated itself from the armed terrorists will be treated in accordance with international law and will be allowed to leave.”

These calls for ethnic cleansing and genocide are increasing in frequency. The political climate in Israel has continued to shift so sharply to the right in the past few years that a fascist discourse is now palpable in the daily life of the country. In Tel Aviv in August, some of the right-wing protesters who beat leftists demonstrating against the siege of Gaza wore T-shirts bearing neo-Nazi symbols and photos, including T-shirts bearing the slogan “Good night left side,” a neo-Nazi slogan popular in Europe at rock concerts featuring far-right bands, as a response to the original anti-fascist slogan: “Good night white pride.” Nearly half of the Jewish population of Israel supports a policy of ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, and major portions of the population support complete annexation of the occupied territories and the establishment of an apartheid state, according to a 2012 poll.

Fear that fascism is on the rise in Israel led 327 Jewish survivors and descendants of survivors and victims of the Nazi genocide to publish an open letter in The New York Times on August 25 expressing alarm over “the extreme, racist dehumanization of Palestinians in Israeli society, which has reached a fever-pitch.” The letter continued: “We must raise our collective voices and use our collective power to bring about an end to all forms of racism, including the ongoing genocide of Palestinian people.”

The Zionist project may have been founded – we now know from the spate of historical studies that have emerged in recent years – on systematic ethnic cleansing and terrorism against the Palestinians. Article II of the UN Convention of 1948 defines genocide as “acts committed with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group.” There is little doubt that we are seeing pre-genocidal activity in Israel-Palestine. What are the underlying structural roots in the Israeli political economy bringing about such genocidal pressures?

To answer this question we must step back a few years to focus on the larger structural changes associated with capitalist globalization and the integration of Israel and the Middle East into the new global order. The globalization of the Middle East starting in the late 20th century fundamentally changed the social structure of Israel and the political economy of its colonial project. Restructuring through capitalist globalization has brought about an important shift in the relationship of Palestinians to that project and generated conditions that make it easier for the Israeli right to raise the specter of genocide.

Oslo and the Globalization of Israel

Israel’s rapid globalization starting in the late 1980s coincided with the two Palestinian intifadas (uprisings) and with the Oslo Accords, which were negotiated from 1991 to 1993 and then broke down in the following years. Transnational elites had argued as the Cold War wound down that the emerging global capitalist economy could not be stabilized and made safe for transnational capital accumulation in the midst of violent regional conflicts around the world and they began to push for the agenda of “conflict resolution,” or the negotiated settlement of smoldering regional conflicts, from Central America to southern Africa. Backed and nudged on by the United States and transnational elites, as well as by powerful Israeli capitalist groups, Israeli rulers entered into negotiations with the Palestinian leadership in the 1990s in large part as a response to the escalation of Palestinian resistance in the form of the first intifada (1987-1991). The Oslo process can be seen as a key piece in the political jigsaw puzzle brought about by the integration of the Middle East into the emerging global capitalist system (an integration that also constitutes the structural backdrop to the Arab Spring, although that is a story for another time).

The Oslo Accords, signed in 1993, turned over a Bantustan-like autonomy to the Palestinian Authority (PA) in the occupied territories for what was supposed to be a five-year interim period in which negotiations would continue over key “final status” issues, among them, the status of refugees (and their right to return), Jerusalem, water, final borders and a full Israeli withdrawal from the occupied territories. Yet during the Oslo period (1991 to 2003, when the process finally broke down altogether), the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza greatly intensified. Why did the “peace process” break down?

First, the process was intended not to resolve the plight of the dispossessed Palestinian majority, but to integrate an emergent Palestinian elite into the new global order and give that elite a stake in defending that order and in assuming the role of internally policing the Palestinian masses inside the occupied territories. It has been shown in fact that Palestinian class formation during this time involved the rise of transnationally-oriented Palestinian capitalists integrated with Gulf capital elsewhere and hoping to convert a new Palestinian state into a platform for its own class consolidation. The PA was expected to mediate transnational capital accumulation in the occupied territories while maintaining social control over the restive population.

Second, the Israeli economy globalized based on a high-tech military-security complex, the importance of which will become clear momentarily. There has been an ever-deeper interpenetration of Israeli capital with transnational corporate capital from North America, Europe, Asia and elsewhere. In effect, Israeli capital has integrated inextricably into global circuits of capital. Oslo helped this process along, facilitating an Israeli transnational capitalist presence throughout the Middle East and beyond, in part by allowing conservative Arab regimes to lift the regional economic boycott of Israel and in part by opening negotiations on the creation of a Middle East Free Trade Area (MEFTA) that inserted the Israeli economy into regional economic networks (throughout, e.g., Egypt, Turkey, Jordan) and integrated the whole region much more deeply into global capitalism.

And third, closely related, Israel experienced a major episode of transnational immigration, including the influx of some 1 million Jewish immigrants, which undermined Israel’s need for Palestinian labor during the 1990s, although this would change later in the 21st century.

Up until globalization took off in the mid-1980s, the relationship of Israel to the Palestinians reflected classical colonialism, in which the colonial power had usurped the land and resources of the colonized and then exploited their labor. But Middle Eastern integration into the global economy and society on the basis of neoliberal economic restructuring, including the well-known litany of measures such as privatization, trade liberalization, International Monetary Fund-supervised austerity and World Bank loans, helped spark the spread of mass worker and social movements and grassroots democratization pressures, reflected in the Palestinian intifadas, the labor movement across North Africa and mounting social unrest – most visibly in the 2011 Arab uprisings. This tidal wave of resistance forced a reaction from Israeli rulers and their US backers.

Globalization Converts Palestinians into “Surplus Humanity”

The Israeli economy has undergone two waves of restructuring as it has integrated into global capitalism, as Nitzan and Bichler show in their study, The Global Political Economy of Israel. The first, in the 1980s and 1990s, saw a transition from a traditional agriculture and industrial economy towards one based on computer and information technology (CIT), high-tech telecommunications, web technology, and so on. Tel Aviv and Haifa became “Middle Eastern outposts” of Silicon Valley. By 2000, a full 15 percent of the Israeli GDP and half of its exports originated in the high-tech sector.

Then from 2001 and on, and especially in the wake of the 2000 dot-com bust and worldwide recession, followed by the events of September 11, 2001, and the rapid militarization of global politics, Israel saw a further shift towards a “global military-security-intelligence-surveillance-counter-terrorism technologies complex.” Israeli technology firms have pioneered the so-called homeland security industry. Indeed, Israel has become globalized specifically through the high-tech militarization of its economy. Israeli export institutes estimate that in 2007 there were some 350 Israeli transnational corporations dedicated to security, intelligence and social control systems that stood at the center of the new Israeli political economy.

“Israel’s exports in counter-terrorism related products and services increased by 15 percent in 2006 and were projected to grow by 20 percent in 2007, totaling $1.2 billion annually,” Naomi Klein noted in her study Shock Doctrine. “The country’s defense exports in 2006 reached a record $3.4 billion (compared to $1.6 billion in 1992), making Israel the fourth largest arms dealer in the world, larger than the UK. Israel has more technology stocks listed on the Nasdaq exchange – many of them security related – than any other foreign country, and it has more tech patents registered in the US than China and India combined. Its technology sector, much of it linked to security, now makes up 60 percent of all exports.”

In other words, the Israeli economy had come to feed off of local, regional and global violence, conflict and inequalities. Its largest corporations have become dependent on war and conflict in Palestine, in the Middle East and worldwide, and push for such conflict through their influence in the Israeli political system and state. This militarized accumulation is characteristic as well of the United States and the entire global economy. We are increasingly living in a global war economy, and certain states, such as the United States and Israel, are key gears in this machinery. Militarized accumulation to control and contain the downtrodden and marginalized and to sustain accumulation in the face of crisis lend themselves to fascist political tendencies or what some of us have referred to as “21st century fascism.”

The Palestinian population of the occupied territories constituted up until the 1990s a cheap labor force for Israel. But with Israeli incentives to the in-migration of Jews from around the world and the collapse of the former Soviet bloc, a major influx of Jewish settlement has occurred in recent years, including 1 million Soviet Jews, themselves often displaced by post-Soviet neoliberal restructuring. As well, the Israeli economy began to draw on transnational immigrant labor from Africa, Asia and elsewhere as neoliberalism and crisis displaced millions in former Third World regions.

The rise of new systems of transnational labor mobility and recruitment have made it possible for dominant groups around the world to reorganize labor markets and recruit transient labor forces that are disenfranchised and easy to control. While this is a worldwide phenomenon, it became a particularly attractive option for Israel because it does away with the need for politically troublesome Palestinian labor. Over 300,000 immigrant workers from Thailand, China, Nepal and Sri Lanka now form the predominant labor force in Israeli agribusiness in the same way that Mexican and Central American immigrant labor does in US agribusiness, and under the same precarious conditions of super-exploitation and discrimination. The racism that many Israelis have shown towards Palestinians – itself a product of the colonial relationship – has now translated into an increasing hostility towards immigrants in general as the country becomes a thoroughly racist society.

As immigration has eliminated Israel’s need for Palestinian cheap labor, the Palestinians became a marginalized surplus population. “Before the arrival of the Soviet refugees, Israel could not have severed itself for any length of time from the Palestinian population in Gaza and the West Bank; its economy could no more survive without Palestinian labor than California could run without Mexicans,” as Klein has noted. “Roughly 130,000 Palestinians left their homes in Gaza and the West Bank every day and traveled to Israel to clean streets and build roads, while Palestinian farmers and tradespeople filled trucks with goods and sold them in Israel and in other parts of the territories.”

It is no wonder, then, that precisely in 1993 – the year the Oslo Accords were signed and went into effect – Israel imposed its new policy, know as “closure,” that is, sealing off Palestinians into the occupied territories, ethnic cleansing and a sharp escalation of settler colonialism. In 1993, the year the “closure” policy began, per capita GNP in the occupied territories plummeted 30 percent. By 2007, the rates of unemployment and poverty had topped 70 percent. From 1993 to 2000 – supposedly the years in which a “peace” agreement was being implemented that called for an end to the Israeli occupation and the establishment of a Palestinian state – Israeli settlers in the West Bank doubled to 400,000, and then topped half a million by 2009, and their numbers continue to climb. Acute malnutrition in Gaza is on the same scale as some of the poorest nations in the world, with more than half of all Palestinian families eating only one meal a day. As the Palestinians were pushed out of the Israeli economy, the policies of closure and expanded occupation in turn destroyed the Palestinian economy.

The collapse of the Oslo Accords and the farce of ongoing “peace” negotiations in the midst of an ever-expanding Israeli occupation may present a political dilemma to transnational elites and some of their Israeli counterparts who wish to find mechanisms for cultivating and coopting Palestinian elites and capitalist groups. However, seen from the logic of the dominant sectors of militarized capital embedded in the Israeli and international economy, this situation does not constitute a tragic loss of opportunity for conflict resolution but rather a golden opportunity to expand capital accumulation – to develop and market worldwide weapons and security systems through the use of the occupation and the captive Palestinian population as the target and testing ground.

Once we cut through the ideological smokescreens and the rhetoric, it is these powerful economic interests that have come to exercise decisive influence over Israeli state policy. “The rapid expansion of the high-tech security economy created a powerful appetite inside Israel’s wealthy and most powerful sectors for abandoning peace in favor of fighting a continuing, and continuously expanding, ‘war of terror,'” Klein observed several years ago, “as well as a clear strategy to reframe its conflict with the Palestinians not as a battle against a nationalist movement with specific goals for land and rights but rather as part of the global war on terror – one against illogical, fanatical forces bent only on destruction.”

In a 2009 op-ed titled “Israel Knows That Peace Just Doesn’t Pay” and published in Haaretz, the Israeli “newspaper of record,” Amira Hass – one of the few critical, courageous voices in the Israeli media, commented that “the security industry is an important export branch – weapons, ammunition and refinements that are tested daily in Gaza and the West Bank. . . . protecting the settlements requires constant development of security, surveillance and deterrence equipment such as fences, roadblocks, electronic surveillance cameras and robots.” Hass continued: “These are security’s cutting edge in the developed world, and serve banks, companies, and luxury neighborhoods next to shantytowns and ethnic enclaves where rebellions must be suppressed.”

The Sociology of Racism and Genocide: From Ferguson to the Occupied Territories

The sociology of race/ethnic relations identifies three distinct types of racist structures, that is, structural relations between dominant and minority groups. One is what has been called “middle men minorities.” In this structure, the minority group has a relationship of mediation between the dominant and the subordinate groups. This was historically the experience of Chinese overseas traders in Asia, Lebanese and Syrians in West Africa, Indians in East Africa, Coloureds in South Africa, and Jews in Europe. When “middle men minorities” lose their function as structures change they can be absorbed into the new order or can become subject to scapegoating and even genocide.

Jews historically occupied this role of “middle men minority” in feudal and early capitalist Europe. The structure of feudal Europe assigned to Jews certain roles vital to the reproduction of European feudal society. These included managing long-distance trade and money lending. Such activities were proscribed by the Catholic Church and were not an ordinary part of the lord-serf relationship at the heart of feudalism, yet they were vital to the maintenance of the system. As capitalism developed in the 19th and 20th centuries, new capitalist groups took on the functions of commerce and banking, making the Jewish role superfluous for the new ruling classes. As a result, Jews in Europe came under intense pressures as capitalism developed and eventually suffered genocide, given a deadly mix of scapegoating for capitalism’s hardships, the loss by Jews of their previously vital economic role, the world crisis of the 1930s, and the Nazi ideology and program.

A second type of racist structure is what we call “super-exploitation/disorganization of the working class.” This is a situation in which the racially subordinate and oppressed sector within the exploited class occupies the lowest rungs of the particular economy and society within a racially or ethnically stratified working class. What is key here is that the labor of the subordinate group – that is, their bodies, their existence – is needed by the dominant system even if the group experiences cultural and social marginalization and political disenfranchisement. This was the historical post-slavery experience of African-Americans in the United States, as well as that of the Irish in Britain, Latinos/as currently in the United States, Mayan Indians in Guatemala, Africans in South Africa under apartheid, and so on. These groups are often subordinated socially, culturally and politically, either de facto or de jure. They represent the super-exploited and discriminated sector of racially and ethnically divided working and popular classes. This was the experience of Palestinians in the Israeli political economy until recently and under the unique circumstances of Israel and Palestine in the 20th century.

The final racist structure is exclusion and appropriation of natural resources. This is a situation in which the dominant system needs the resources of the subordinate group but not their labor – that is, not their bodies, their physical existence. This is the racist structure most likely to lead to genocide. It was the experience of Native Americans in North America. Dominant groups needed their land, but not their labor or their bodies – since African slaves and European immigrants provided the labor needed for the new system – and so they experienced genocide. It has been the experience of the indigenous groups in Amazonia – vast new mineral and energy resources have been discovered on their lands, yet their bodies stand in the way of access to these resources by transnational capital, literally, and are not needed, hence there are today genocidal pressures in Amazonia.

This is the more recent condition that African-Americans face in the United States. Many African-Americans went from being the super-exploited sector of the working class to being marginalized as employers switched from drawing on black labor to Latino/a immigrant labor as a super-exploited workforce. As African-Americans have become structurally marginalized in significant number, they are subject to heightened disenfranchisement, criminalization, a bogus “war on drugs,” mass incarceration and police and state terror, seen by the system as necessary to control a superfluous and potentially rebellious population.

Now, like the Native Americans before them – and unlike the black South Africans – Palestinian bodies are no longer needed and simply stand in the way of the Zionist state, the ruling groups, the setters and would-be settlers who need Palestinian resources, specifically land, but not Palestinians. To be sure, although Palestinian workers are being phased out of the Israeli economy, thousands of West Bank Palestinians still labor in Israel. The Russian and other Jewish immigrants who replaced Palestinian labor inside Israel in the 1990s went on in subsequent years to rely on their own racial privilege to be drawn into the Israeli middle class, as they did not want to work in jobs associated with Arabs. But as this has happened, African, Asian and other migrants from the global south have continued to pour into Israel. This shift to “surplus humanity” appears to be more advanced for Gazans, who remain locked out and relegated to the concentration camp that Gaza has become. The Gaza Palestinians appear as the first group facing genocidal activity.

Zionists and defenders of the Israeli state take great offense at any analogy between the Nazis and Israeli state actions, including the charge of genocide, in part, because the Jewish Holocaust is used by the Israeli state and the Zionist political project as a mechanism of legitimation, so that to draw such analogies is to undermine Israel’s legitimating discourse. It is crucial to point this out, because that discourse has gradually come to legitimate current or proposed Israeli policies that demonstrate an ever more frightening similarity with other historical instances of genocide.

The noted Israeli historian Benny Morris, a professor at Ben Gurion University of the Negev who closely identifies with Israel, gave a lengthy interview to Haaretz in 2004 where he referred to the genocide of Native Americans in what is today the United States in order to suggest that genocide may be acceptable. He said in the interview “even the great American democracy could not have been created without the annihilation of the Indians. There are cases in which the overall, final good justifies harsh and cruel acts that are committed in the course of history.” He then went on to call for ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians, saying, “something like a cage has to be built for them. I know it sounds terrible. It is really cruel. But there is no choice. There is a wild animal there that has to be locked up in one way or another.”

Morris’ views do not represent consensus inside Israel, much less internationally and there are multiple divisions, points of tension and contradictions among Israeli and transnational elites. There is also a mounting worldwide movement for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) that places pressure on dominant groups to reach an accommodation in defense of their own economic interests. This is an unpredictable moment. Whether or not structural pressures for genocide actually materialize into a project of genocide will depend on the historical conjuncture of crisis, the political and ideological conditions that make genocide a possibility, and a state agent with the means and the will to carry it out. A slow-motion genocide apparently has already begun in Gaza, where there have been month-long Israeli sieges every few years that leave several thousand dead, tens of thousands injured, hundreds of thousands displaced and the entire population deprived of the necessities of life, with astounding Israeli public consensus supporting these campaigns. These overall conditions of a project of genocide are far from incarnation, but they are certainly percolating at this time. It is up to the world community to struggle alongside the Palestinians and decent Israelis to prevent such an outcome.

[William I. Robinson is professor of sociology, global studies and Latin American studies at the University of California at Santa Barbara. His most recent book is Global Capitalism and the Crisis of Humanity.]

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University of Illinois fires professor Steven Salaita after Gaza massacre tweets

by Ali Abunimah – 6 August 2014, Electronic Intifada

Steven Salaita was fired from his position as associate professor in the American Indian Studies program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) apparently over views critical of Israel, especially its current massacre in Gaza.

Meanwhile, Cary Nelson, former president of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), who has publicly supported the university’s decision to remove Salaita, gave frank comments to The Electronic Intifada revealing the extent of his own pro-Israel views.

Nelson acknowledged that he had been monitoring Salaita’s social media use for months.

This indicates Salaita may be the victim of a retaliation campaign. Salaita is the author of Israel’s Dead Soul and The Uncultured Wars, Arabs, Muslims and the Poverty of Liberal Thought, as well as a contributor to a number of publications including Salon and The Electronic Intifada.

He was a prominent campaigner for the American Studies Association’s decision to boycott Israeli academic institutions last December.

In May, Salaita wrote a post for The Electronic Intifada called “How to practice BDS in academe.”

Fired not “revoked”

This morning, Inside Higher Ed reported that Salaita had merely had a job offer “revoked.”

Salaita was “recently informed by Chancellor Phyllis Wise that the appointment would not go to the university’s board, and that he did not have a job to come to in Illinois, according to two sources with knowledge of the situation,” Inside Higher Ed said.

“The sources familiar with the university’s decision say that concern grew over the tone of [Salaita’s] comments on Twitter about Israel’s policies in Gaza,” it added.

Neither the university nor Salaita have commented on the matter. Salaita did not respond to requests for comment.

But a source with close knowledge of the situation, who asked not to be named because they were not authorized to speak publicly, disputed Inside Higher Ed’s version. The source told The Electronic Intifada that Salaita had actually been “fired.”

The source said they had seen documentation indicating that Salaita’s appointment had been through all the ordinary procedures for hiring faculty, up to and including the scheduling of new faculty orientation.

Salaita had already resigned from his position as associate professor of English at Virginia Tech, according to Inside Higher Ed. It would not make sense for Salaita to resign from a secure position without already having been fully and properly hired to a new one.

Even though Inside Higher Ed’s sources say the opposite, the publication’s own analysis supports The Electronic Intifada’s reporting that Salaita has actually been fired.

“As recently as two weeks ago, the university confirmed to reporters that he [Salaita] was coming,” Inside Higher Ed reported. “The university also declined to answer questions about how rare it is for such appointments to fall through at this stage.”


Salaita’s exact status at the university is likely to be important to the outcome of his case.

If a job offer was merely “revoked,” as Inside Higher Ed’s sources claim, then Salaita would likely have far fewer protections than if he had already been hired, and then fired.

Opponents of Palestinian rights are already seizing on this distinction to spin and legitimize the decision to remove Salaita for his opinions expressed in public forums.

According to Inside Higher Ed, AAUP past president Cary Nelson, who is also an English professor at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, said that “it was legitimate – at the point of hiring – to consider issues of civility and collegiality. In this case, [Nelson] said, that would lead him to oppose Salaita’s appointment.”

Nelson’s views are important because his former role at AAUP means he is often cited as an authority on academic freedom issues, though his own anti-Palestinian biases are rarely examined.

In a telephone interview with The Electronic Intifada from his Urbana-Champaign home, Nelson went even further, claiming that Salaita’s supposed social media transgressions “are more serious than collegiality and civility.”

Nelson accused Salaita of “incitement to violence” for retweeting a tweet by another Twitter user, stating: “Jeffrey goldberg’s story should have ended at the pointy end of a shiv.”

Goldberg, a former Israeli prison guard who participated in and helped cover up the torture and abuse of Palestinian prisoners, and now a writer for The Atlantic, is one of the most prominent defenders of Israel’s bombardment that has killed more than one in every one thousand Palestinians in Gaza over the last month.

While Salaita is known for an acerbic sense of humor – a likely reason he would have retweeted the tweet – it is an oft-stated norm of Twitter that “a retweet does not equal an endorsement.”

When pressed, Nelson could provide no example of any tweet written by Salaita that “incited violence.”

Nelson acknowledged, however, that he has been closely monitoring Salaita’s Twitter account for months. “There are scores of tweets. I have screen captures,” he said. “The total effect seems to me to cross a line.”

Salaita has “always tweeted in a very volatile and aggressive way,” Nelson asserted, but “recently he’s begun to be much more aggressive.”

Another example Nelson gave was an 8 July tweet by Salaita, at the beginning of Israel’s current massacre in Gaza, stating, “If you’re defending #Israel right now you’re an awful human being.”

Nelson claimed that this might mean that students in one of Salaita’s classes who “defended Israel” could face a hostile environment.

But Nelson acknowledged that he knew of no complaints about Salaita’s teaching and that Salaita was not even scheduled to teach classes on Palestine and the Israelis.

Asked if he therefore supported a “pre-emptive firing” based on a Tweet, Nelson again insisted that Salaita had not been “fired,” but merely not hired. Nelson claimed that if Salaita had already been hired, he would defend him.

When asked if he would oppose the hiring of a person who said that “someone who defends Hamas firing rockets towards Tel Aviv is an awful person,” Nelson answered: “No.”

There could be no clearer admission that Nelson’s opposition to Salaita is based on the content of his views, specifically criticism of Israel.

Resistance to Israel is “criminal”

This became clearer when Nelson expanded on his views on Palestine and the Israelis.

Nelson defended Israel’s attack on Gaza as part of its “right to self-defense,” although he stressed that many aspects of the attack were “unethical” and “immoral” and that pictures of children killed by Israel were “horrific.”

When asked whether he would condemn Israel’s bombing of the Islamic University of Gaza, Nelson used cautious language: “It’s very difficult for someone from a distance to judge particular artillery strikes. My personal view is that Israel should have been more careful. From what I know, there are military actions as part of the Gaza incursion that seem regrettable to me and should not have taken place.”

While asserting Israel’s right to bomb Gaza, Nelson denied that Palestinians have any right to armed resistance to the onslaught.

“I don’t know where that right would come from,” he said. “I don’t view Gaza under as under occupation so I don’t see a right to resistance.”

When asked if the International Committee of the Red Cross and other international bodies were incorrect in their view that Israel’s siege of Gaza constitutes “collective punishment” and is therefore a war crime, Nelson insisted he was unable to make legal judgments.

Nelson added that he did not see that the situation in the occupied West Bank “warrants resistance,” either. “I don’t think there’s a right to violent resistance on the West Bank.”

Asked if he thought “all Palestinian military resistance is criminal,” Nelson answered: “Yes. I think that is my view.”

When asked if any of Israel’s actions could be labeled “criminal,” Nelson repeated that many were “immoral” and “unethical,” but that he was not qualified to give legal opinions about Israel’s actions.

Nelson, an outspoken campaigner against the nonviolent, Palestinian-led boycott, divestment and sanctions movement (BDS), said that Palestinians should resort to “civil disobedience” in the West Bank such as “blocking roads.”

Israel has shot dead 17 Palestinians just in the last month in the occupied West Bank.

BDS is “political violence”

Nelson reaffirmed his strong opposition to the BDS movement because some of its prominent advocates – he named Omar Barghouti and philosopher Judith Butler – dispute Israel’s “right to exist as a Jewish state.”

“I consider that to be a form of political violence,” Nelson said.

Asked if he called himself a “Zionist,” Nelson answered: “Yes.”

If there were doubts about Nelson’s clear bias against Palestinians and their pursuit of their rights by any means (except of course the most invisible and ineffective), his frank comments to The Electronic Intifada put them to rest.

On 21 July, Salaita was attacked for his Twitter use in the right-wing, anti-Palestinian website The Daily Caller.

It seems clear that with Nelson now publicly leading the charge, Salaita is the latest victim of a nationwide campaign to intimidate into silence anyone on campus who criticizes Israel or supports effective campaigns to secure Palestinian rights.

Call for action

Brooklyn College political science professor Corey Robin has also pointed out that in the past, Nelson himself has criticized how “claims about collegiality are being used to stifle campus debate, to punish faculty, and to silence the free exchange of opinion by the imposition of corporate-style conformity.”

Nelson has also previously supported academic boycotts, though never for Palestinian rights.

But now, Robin says, Nelson’s about-face is “a symptom of the effects of Zionism on academic freedom, how pro-Israel forces have consistently attempted to shut down debate on this issue.”

Robin urges people to write to UIUC Chancellor Phyllis Wise asking her to reverse her decision.

“As always, be polite, but be firm,” Robin writes. “Don’t assume this is a done deal; in my experience, it often is not.”

Supporters have also launched an online petition, which as of this writing, had already gathered more than 1,500 signatures.

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‘Dear American Jewish community, It’s time to talk about Zionism’

by Benjamin Silverman – 1 August 2014, Mondoweiss

Ft. Lauderdale, FL Woman with sign is Elena Stein

Dear American Jewish Community,

Its time for us to talk. I know for many of you that you still don’t want to talk – many of you have spent the last few weeks effectively covering your ears and eyes, endlessly repeating IDF talking points, as if they will magically make the reality disappear – but if there was ever a time to take the plunge and really look in the mirror at where we have gotten ourselves, this is the time. It’s time for us to talk about Israel, it’s time to talk about Zionism.

Those of us, those Jews who have spoken out against Israel’s inhumane actions or Zionism’s warped nationalistic beliefs, have never been well received within our community. When we have argued for human rights and international law, we have been ostracized and excluded from all aspects of mainstream Jewish life. When we have argued against an exclusionary, segregationist regime, we have been attacked with the most vicious of slanders; “self-hating Jews,” “Nazi collaborators,” and worse. When we have tried to stand up against colonialist violence and occupations, we have been met with angry rejection from our closest friends and family. When we have tried to reaffirm the values that Palestinians are human beings, deserving of equal rights and a future with dignity, we have been met with the full force of an incredibly powerful and well-funded Pro-Israel public relations machine. A climate of neo-McCarthyism has reigned within side the Jewish community stifling all debate, dissent and free thought on the issues of Israel, Palestine and Zionism. But its time for all of that to end.

I understand that the last few weeks may have been hard for you. From a young age we all have been raised – indoctrinated even – on Pro-Israel ideology. Every facet of our Jewish life has been infected with Zionism, from our youth groups, to our synagogues, to our Hebrew schools, to our family Seders. “The world hates us, Israel protects us, there we are free and safe and democratic”– we’ve come to believe. But in the last few weeks we have seen that supposed progressive, freedom loving, democratic Israel unmask itself before the whole world as a lynch mob society. We American Jews have been tricked into projecting all of our hopes and insecurities onto Israel, and to have those beautiful dreams and illusions shattered so brutally can be difficult. But for all the emotional pain we may be going through in seeing our Star of David pasted on the bombs being dropped on innocent civilians, it’s nothing compared to the pain being felt by those civilians.

Palestinians have suffered greatly at our hands. They have been violently forced from their land and homes to appease the Holocaust guilt of Europe and the greed of Zionist colonists. They have been forced to live under an openly Jim Crow, discriminatory and segregationist “Jewish Only” apartheid state. And the whole process has become endemic in its repetition, with wave after wave after wave of land theft, oppression, segregation and violence. The Nakba has been made into a continuous, never ending, 66-year-old ongoing catastrophe. Palestinians have been bombed, shot, detained, brutalized, tortured, dehumanized, occupied, and worse. All in our name.

We Jews have a lot of blood on our hands, we have been made complicit in these inhuman acts, and we have a responsibility now to do something about it. We need to rethink what “Never Again” really means; does it mean for us “Never Again for Jews Only,” or does it mean “Never Again For Everyone”?

I am not asking or expecting you, the whole American Jewish community, to renounce everything you have been taught to believe overnight, just yet. But I am asking and expecting you to open your minds a little, to start questioning what you have been taught. The Pro-Israel bias in our community has corrupted and stifled open free discourse for far too long. The exclusion of any dissenting Jewish opinion outside of the most narrow of ultra-Zionism has led our people into a cul-de-sac of intellectual dishonesty, moral poverty and political thuggery, where questioning is discouraged and obedience is rewarded. This must come to end, now, if we are to redeem ourselves and pave a path for the future.

All I ask is the following; that you reopen our community to dissenting opinion, that you open up every synagogue, every Jewish community center, every Hillel, every Hebrew School, to a free debate and discussion on Israel, Palestine and the core beliefs of Zionism. I and others like me, want to make our case to you, directly, as Jews to Jews, on why the Palestinians deserve our solidarity, on why Israeli militarism must be opposed, on why the “Jewish State” of Israel necessarily leads to apartheid, and on why the nationalistic and supremacist beliefs of Zionism have led to the corruption of our people with the sins of racism and colonialism.

I don’t expect a warm reception. But I do expect at least a moment of your time, and a part of your attention. You owe it to yourself, to your people, to your children, and to all Palestinians, to enter into this discussion with open minds and open hearts and start confronting the hard questions. Please help us in taking this moment and reassess who we are, what we have done, and where we want to go from here.

I look forward to the discussions ahead.

Benjamin Silverman isa long-time Palestinian solidarity activist, and self-identified Jewish Ant-Zionist, involved in Jewish Voices for Peace andStudents for Justice in Palestine at The New School. Jewish Voice for Peace welcomes all people, Zionist, non-Zionist, or anti-Zionist, who stand up for justice and human rights.
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