Voice of the Revolutionary Communist Party,USA
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Revolution #213, October 10, 2010
Bastion of Enlightenment... or Enforcer for Imperialism:
The state of Israel is projected to the world as an outpost of democracy and tolerance in a sea of hostile, intolerant Islam bent on its destruction. To be considered a credible mainstream voice in U.S. politics, academia, or the media, one must present Israel as a front line of defense against Jihad, and a critical fortress defending "our way of life."
When Israel carries out acts that are simply indefensible under international law, such actions are defended by the U.S., rarely noted in the media, and allowable criticism in the U.S. is constrained to mildly taking issue with Israel's "disproportionate response" to what is always branded "terrorism."
To take just one recent example: In May of this year, the Israeli army violated international law by boarding the Mavi Marmara in international waters. This ship was part of a flotilla bringing relief supplies to Palestinians and challenging Israel's illegal and inhumane blockade of the Palestinian area of Gaza. Israeli military forces killed nine passengers in storming the ship.
An investigation of the deaths on the Mavi Marmara by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights determined: "The circumstances of the killing of at least six of the passengers were in a manner consistent with an extra-legal, arbitrary and summary execution." The report found that two passengers, including a 19-year-old U.S. citizen, "were shot at near range while the victims were lying injured on the top deck." Four others "were shot on the bridge deck while not participating in activities that represented a threat to any Israeli soldier. In these instances and possibly other killings on the Mavi Marmara, Israeli forces carried out extralegal, arbitrary and summary executions prohibited by international human rights law, specifically article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights."
The 47-member UN Human Rights Council voted to endorse this report with a single "no" vote—cast by the United States. The report received extremely limited press coverage in the U.S. (See "UN Report finds Israel 'summarily executed' U.S. citizen on flotilla," by Glenn Greenwald, Salon, October 1, 2010.)
* * *
What is the essential nature of Israel? How does one understand what seems to some to be a paradox of a country founded to make up for a great crime itself committing great crimes? And what defines the strategic relationship between the United States and Israel?
Answering these questions is not about "competing narratives"—the question here is what is true... and what is just. To get into this, we will examine the history of Israel to understand the actual dynamics that led us to today's situation, and we will analyze the role Israel plays in today's world.
For many centuries most of the Jewish people in the world lived as an oppressed people in Eastern and Central Europe, spread out across a wide area stretching roughly from the modern-day countries of Russia through Poland and Lithuania to the eastern part of Germany. In 1900, about three fourths of the world's 11 million Jews lived in this region, with the bulk of the remainder living in the U.S. and Great Britain—countries to which there were large waves of Jewish immigration in the preceding two decades. Jewish people in much smaller numbers lived throughout western and southern Europe, North Africa, and Central Asia.1
Jews in Europe were constantly hounded and persecuted, severely discriminated against in almost every sphere. They were often deprived of the right to own land, segregated from society, and frequently were the targets of murderous pogroms. These pogroms were outbreaks of mob violence, usually sponsored and organized by the authorities, and in any case the product of prejudice and hostility promoted by the ruling royalty and feudal landowners. Those oppressive exploiting classes were served by the channeling of the anger of the oppressed towards the Jews.
As an oppressed people, the Jews of this part of Europe sought many solutions. For most this meant seeking integration into the larger society (often accompanied by immigration to Western Europe or the U.S.). For many it involved getting into projects for universal human emancipation—that is, seeking an end to the oppression of the Jewish people as part of seeking freedom for everyone. Many were attracted to the cause of socialist revolution. For a minority it meant the Zionist movement, focused on building a separate Jewish nation-state for all Jews.
The founders of Zionism, most notably Theodor Herzl, formulated the Zionist ideology in the late 1800s. This was a time when the European powers, along with the U.S. and Japan, were entering the age of imperialism. Within these countries, capitalism had become increasingly dominated by monopolies, and these monopolies merged with banking capital to form huge financial blocs. These powers increasingly exported capital itself to the oppressed nations of Asia, Africa and Latin America in the form of super-profitable investments in those countries. Going with that, they began a feverish competition to dominate these areas of the world. These capitalist-imperialist powers carried out terrible military aggression against these areas; for example, the U.S. waged war against the Philippines in the early 1900s and murdered hundreds of thousands of people. And these powers increasingly contended with one another.
Herzl overtly "marketed" a Jewish state to these rising colonial powers, especially to England, as a colonial outpost. "England with her possessions in Asia should be most interested in Zionism, for the shortest route to India is by way of Palestine. England's great politicians were the first to recognize the need for colonial expansion. That is why Great Britain's ensign flies on all the oceans. And so I must believe that here in England the idea of Zionism, which is a colonial idea, should be easily and quickly understood in its true and most modern form."2
The early Zionist movement continued to tailor its aims to the ambitions and perceived needs of various imperialist powers. At one point, for example, when the British were considering the advantages of a Zionist settler state in their east African colonies, a major world Zionist conference seriously considered a plan for a Jewish "homeland" in what is presently Uganda (that project was abandoned before it came to fruition). Also at the instigation of the British, Zionist leaders considered establishing a Jewish "homeland" in British-controlled South America. And discussions took place between Zionist leaders and the rulers of Germany over a possible Jewish "homeland" in German-dominated Madagascar.
The very dynamics that led Britain and other European powers to carve up and plunder Asia and Africa, brought them into sharp conflict with each other. In 1914 this contention erupted into World War 1. On one side were Britain, France, the U.S. and Russia. On the other stood Germany, and the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman (Turkish) empires. Neither side was fighting for any greater cause than a bigger share of the plunder. Sixteen million people died as the armies of contending imperialists slaughtered each other, and civilians, to determine which imperialists would expand and which would be crushed. In the course of that war, empires crashed to the ground—most importantly the vast Russian empire, where a socialist revolution emerged victorious. In other parts of the world, the old order collapsed but the victorious imperialists raced in with new forms of domination.
One of the focal points of the post World War 1 contention between the victorious imperialists, particularly on the part of Britain and France, was the oil-rich and strategically located Middle East. This part of the world was pried loose from the defeated Turkish Ottoman Empire. France seized Syria and Lebanon. England established control over much of the rest of the region, including Iraq, Jordan, and Palestine.
As noted, the leaders of the Zionist movement—starting with Herzl—had pitched a Jewish state in Palestine as a strategic beachhead for imperialism in the region. In the wake of World War 1, the British ruling class moved more decisively to seize on the prospect of a Zionist entity. The famous Balfour Declaration of 1917 declared, "His Majesty's Government view [sic] with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people."
The Balfour Declaration stated that "nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country." But Sir Ronald Storrs, the first British military governor of Jerusalem, was more candid about England's aims. He wrote that England's support for the Zionist "enterprise was one that blessed him that gave as well as him that took, by forming for England 'a little loyal Jewish Ulster' in a sea of potentially hostile Arabism."
The mythology of the Zionist movement claims that Palestine was "a land without a people for a people without a land." But the main obstacle to the establishment of this "little loyal Jewish Ulster" in the Middle East was the fact that Palestine was already inhabited by the Palestinian people!
When modern Zionism emerged in 1880, and began to attract the interest of imperialist powers, 24,000 Jews lived in Palestine among 450,000 Palestinians. Palestinians owned and farmed virtually all the land. The small Jewish population was composed of some whose roots in the area went back centuries and more. Others were orthodox Jews from Europe who had migrated to the city of Jerusalem for religious reasons. Altogether, Jewish people made up 5 percent of the population of Palestine. By 1922, several decades of Zionist-sponsored Jewish immigration from Europe had only raised that percentage to about 11 percent, according to official British census figures.
In the period before and during World War 1, the Palestinian nation emerged out of people who had lived in that part of the world for centuries. A nascent national economy began to cohere among the Palestinians, with different social classes. Most Palestinians were Muslim, but a substantial minority—about 11 percent—were Christian. Palestinians shared a common culture and language (Palestinian people speak a dialect of Arabic), and a developing commercial infrastructure and authority, driven by the development of capitalist export agriculture and beginning industry (particularly olive oil production for the global market). This Palestinian nation was further forged in national resistance to the Ottoman Empire, and later in opposition to British colonial rule. As with all the emerging nations of Asia, Africa and Latin America in this period, the national development of Palestine was distorted and suppressed by the domination of the world by imperialism with its powerful monopolies, control of global commerce, and military force.
In the 1920s and 1930s, between the two World Wars, there was intense political polarization in Europe. There were growing revolutionary movements, along with the rise of vicious reactionary movements. In addition to Hitler and the Nazis in Germany, other fascist movements gained influence in Eastern Europe, with virulent anti-Semitism a leading edge. Under these circumstances, there was both pressure on Jewish people to emigrate out of Europe, as well as the "pull" to move to Palestine afforded by the Balfour Declaration. So there was increased Zionist emigration and both purchases and thievery of Palestinian lands. There were armed conflicts between the Zionists and Palestinians, and the emergence of a powerful Zionist paramilitary.
Further, the imperialist world was wracked by a huge economic crisis—the Great Depression—and this heightened both the political polarization within the imperialist powers and it exacerbated the conflicts between them. All this set the stage for what would be the decisive turning point: World War 2.
Only a couple of decades after the end of World War 1, the imperialist powers were again driven to a war to redivide the world. The German ruling class had turned to Adolf Hitler and the Nazis to lead them out of severe internal social crises, and to violently restructure the international division of colonial plunder that was skewed in favor of the victors in the First World War.
World War 2 was fought between two main alliances. On one side was Germany, Japan and Italy. The other alliance was the U.S., Britain and the Soviet Union. All the principals in the war were fighting for their own imperialist interests—with the exception of the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union was not imperialist and was fighting for its very life against a military onslaught by Germany that was historically unprecedented in its power and ferocity.
Going into this war, the Soviet Union at that time stood dramatically apart from centuries of tradition in many ways. One was that it granted equality to Jewish people. This had a great impact on the political sentiments of Jewish people in Europe. Broad attraction on the part of Jewish people to progressive causes, and to support for the Soviet Union, explains in large part why the German imperialists felt compelled to carry out the horrendous war crime that became known as the Holocaust—the systematic and wholesale murder of millions of Jews.4
Much as this has been greatly distorted in official U.S. history, the great bulk of fighting, death, and terrible destruction in World War 2 in Europe took place between Germany and the Soviet Union, in the Soviet Union. Over 14 percent of the population of the Soviet Union was wiped out during the war—almost 24 million people.5 Jewish people were active in resistance to the Nazis, and often aligned with the Soviet Union and the world communist revolution. As Hitler's armies and German imperialism advanced to the east and as Hitler invaded the Soviet Union, the German rulers came up with a "final solution" to kill off the millions of Jews within the territories they occupied. In addition, Hitler's policies of exterminating Jews in the captured territories facilitated Germany's alliances with traditional reactionary and virulently anti-Semitic ruling class forces in those countries.
Here it must be said that the U.S. rulers saw it in their own interests to stand aside from, and not try to stop the Holocaust. Hitler's anti-Semitism was not utilized by the "Allies" as a significant propaganda factor in World War 2. In 1939, U.S. authorities turned away the USS St. Louis, a ship filled with Jews seeking asylum. They were sent back to Europe, many to their deaths at the hands of the Nazis. This highly publicized incident sent a clear message to the Jews of Europe that they would get no mercy or support from the U.S.
It went so far that Roosevelt not only refused to bomb the railroad tracks hauling Jews to their deaths in the gas chambers, he even refused to let the word get out that this was happening!
After the war, the victorious allies did publicize the crimes of the Holocaust, and some Nazi war criminals were prosecuted. But the driving forces behind the Holocaust—the German ruling class as a whole—and the passive complicity of other imperialists was never widely exposed or understood.
And Jewish survivors of the Holocaust were, overall, not provided with the kind of support and compensation they needed to rebuild their lives in Europe. Many desired to move to the United States. Between 1880 and 1914, some two million Jewish people had emigrated from Eastern Europe to the U.S., and many Holocaust survivors had family ties there, or prospects of finding a community that would welcome them. But the same heartless U.S. immigration policies that kept out Jews escaping the Holocaust before and during World War 2 remained in place until 1948. Denied resettlement in the U.S., many Holocaust survivors emigrated to Palestine.
In the aftermath of World War 2, the U.S. emerged at the top of the imperialist world order, in a position to dictate terms to both defeated rivals (like Germany and Japan), and allies (like Britain and France). Around the world, the U.S. moved to supplant old colonial powers and swallow up or encompass their spheres of influence.
But other important forces also emerged out of World War 2. For a short time, the Soviet Union and China formed a socialist camp that confronted the imperialist world. And another major factor on the post-war political stage was a powerful wave of national liberation struggles throughout especially Asia and Africa against the weakened colonial powers of Europe and Japan.
These two, related challenges to capitalism-imperialism in the wake of World War 2 had much to do with the way the U.S. rehabilitated Japan and West Germany (Germany was divided after World War 2, and the east became a separate country aligned with the Soviet Union).
These developments—and the conflicts within them—all played out in maneuvering and contending of the imperialist powers in the Middle East against national liberation struggles, and against each other. For different and conflicting reasons, and to different degrees, the U.S. and its rivals all saw their interests served by establishing, and gaining influence within, a Zionist state of Israel.
In 1947, United Nations Resolution 181 allotted the Zionists 56 percent of Palestine, even though population figures—setting aside the legitimacy of British sponsored Zionist settlement—were 650,000 Jews living among 1,350,000 Palestinians.6 The UN partition was unjust, and was sponsored by all the powers contending for control of the Middle East.7
A Voice of Conscience from the Holocaust
In its wars, Israel invokes the supposed moral "carte blanche" (blank check) of the Holocaust to declare itself absolved of terrible war crimes. During Israel's bombing of Beirut, Lebanon in 1982, a Jewish survivor of the Nazi Holocaust living in Israel, Dr. Shlomo Shmelzman, went on a hunger strike in protest. He wrote, "In my childhood I have suffered fear, hunger and humiliation when I passed from the Warsaw Ghetto, through labor camps, to Buchenwald (a Nazi concentration camp). Today, as a citizen of Israel, I cannot accept the systematic destruction of cities, towns and refugee camps. I cannot accept the technocratic cruelty of the bombing, destroying and killing of human beings .... Too many things in Israel remind me of too many things from my childhood."1
1. Cited in Fateful Triangle: The United States, Israel and the Palestinians by Noam Chomsky, 1999, South End Press.
During the period from World War 1 up until the establishment of Israel, the British colonial authorities had essentially facilitated initial waves of Zionist ethnic cleansing waged against the inhabitants of Palestine. This erupted in an orgy of terrorist violence in the years after World War 2. By December 1947, the Zionists began mass expulsions of Palestinians. This wave of terror, know as The Nakba (from the Arabic word meaning catastrophe), continued into the early months of 1949.
During the Nakba almost a million Palestinians were brutally forced from their land, villages and homes, fleeing with only the possessions they could carry. Many were raped, tortured and killed.8 To ensure that there would be nothing for the Palestinians to return to, their villages and even many olive and orange trees were thoroughly destroyed. When the Nakba ended, there had been 31 documented massacres—and probably others.
Activists have worked to unearth the physical remains of these villages. Historians have studied the diaries and notebooks of Zionist leaders. The stories of the inhabitants of these villages have been collected in oral histories. Through this process, lists of destroyed Palestinian villages have been compiled that range from 400 to 500—constituting over half of all Palestinian villages. These villages served as centers of political and economic life for the largely rural Palestinian population and their destruction was accompanied by the dispossession of Palestinian farmlands.9
Former Arabic village and road names were given Hebrew names. Ancient mosques and Christian churches were destroyed. Theme parks, pine forests (trees not native to the region) and Israeli settlements sit atop many of the old Palestinian villages. Visitors from the U.S., including idealistic youth who spent summers working on Israeli so-called "socialist" kibbutzes (cooperative farms) were told that nearby demolished buildings were "ancient ruins." All this was to wipe out any physical evidence that the land belonged to Palestinians and give finality to the Nakba.
The Nakba—terrorist ethnic cleansing—was foundational and essential in the establishment of the state of Israel. It created the conditions, and set the stage, for other initiatives like the purchase of Palestinian land, and diplomatic initiatives.
The systematic destruction of Palestinian villages was, all along, the agenda of key Zionist leaders. The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine makes a carefully argued case that the dispossession of the Palestinian people meets the legal definition of ethnic cleansing, and that it was the conscious plan of key Zionist leaders. The book draws on primary sources from the Israeli military archives, including the diary of David Ben-Gurion who played a key political and military role in the founding of Israel.10
One important strategic project guided by Ben-Gurion was the "village project" of mapping all of Palestine. Through the use of aerial photography and other means, details of every Palestinian village were recorded: its access routes, quality of land, water springs, main sources of income, sociopolitical composition, religious affiliations, names of its mukhtars (traditional village heads), relationship with other villages, the age of individual men and an index of "hostility" toward the Zionist project measured by involvement in a major 1938 revolt against the British policy of allowing increased immigration of Jews into Palestine (including those who may have killed Jews).
Along with the systematic destruction of Palestinian rural society, the Zionists used terrorist ethnic cleansing to clear the major cities of Palestinians. After the 1948 UN resolution dividing Israel and Palestine, the Zionists publicly proclaimed to uphold the resolution. But inside the country they began to implement their own plans. The morning after the UN resolution, the Hagana (the main military group that would become the Israeli army) and the Irgun (an early split from the Hagana, led by future prime minister Menachem Begin, which also later became part of the army) unleashed a campaign of terror on the 75,000 Palestinian residents of Haifa.11
Jewish settlers who had come in the 1920s and lived in the hills around the city took part in these attacks alongside Zionist military units. Frequent shelling and sniping was rained down on the Palestinian population of Haifa. Oil mixed with fuel was poured down the roads and ignited. Barrels full of explosives were rolled down into the Palestinian areas. When panic-stricken Palestinians came to put out the fires they were sprayed with machine-gun fire. Jews who passed as Palestinians brought cars stuffed with explosives to be repaired at Palestinian garages and the cars were then detonated. In a refinery plant in Haifa, Jews and Arabs worked shoulder to shoulder and had a long history of solidarity in their fight for better labor conditions against their British employers. The Irgun, which specialized in bomb throwing into Arab crowds, did so at this refinery. Palestinian workers reacted by killing 39 Jewish workers, one of the worst and also one of the last retaliatory skirmishes in that period.12
By March 1948, Ben-Gurion commented to the Jewish Agency Executive, "I believe the majority of the Palestinian masses accept the partition as a fait accompli and do not believe it is possible to overcome or reject it... The decisive majority of them do not want to fight us."
The armies of several Arab countries intervened in 1948 on behalf of the Palestinians. They were no match for well-equipped Zionist military units, with wide-ranging connections to modern weapons and munitions, modern military training, and a tightly organized army. Arab irregulars (small, non-centralized military units) ambushed Israeli convoys but refrained from attacking the settlements. Much of the organized Palestinian military capacity, as well as civilian governmental leadership, had been decimated by the British in the course of ruthlessly suppressing Palestinian independence struggles after World War 1.
Ben-Gurion used the Arab world's intervention to frame the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians as one of a tiny Jewish homeland besieged by hostile Arabs. Until March 1948, the Zionist leadership still portrayed their activities as retaliation to hostile Arab actions. Then, two months before the British were to leave, they openly declared that they would take over the land and expel the indigenous population by force. Ruthless expulsion went into high gear and the word retaliation was no longer used to describe what the Israeli military forces were doing. According to Ben-Gurion, there was no longer any need to distinguish between the "innocent" and the "guilty." Pre-emptive strikes and collateral damage became acceptable and necessary. According to an associate, Ben-Gurion ordered that "Every attack has to end with occupation, destruction and expulsion."13
On a hill to the west of Jerusalem lay the town of Deir Yassin. The massacre there reflected the systematic nature of Plan D14 as applied to hundreds of villages throughout Palestine. On April 9, 1948, Jewish soldiers burst into the village and sprayed the houses with machine-gun fire, killing many. Pappé writes, "The remaining villagers were then gathered in one place and murdered in cold blood, their bodies abused while a number of women were raped and then killed. Fahim Zaydan, who was twelve years old at the time, recalled how he saw his family murdered in front of his eyes: 'They took us out one after the other; shot an old man and when one of his daughters cried, she was shot too. Then they called my brother Muhammad, and shot him in front of us, and when my mother yelled, bending over him—carrying my little sister Hudra in her hands, still breast-feeding her—they shot her too.'"
On the blood and bones of such massacres, the state of Israel was built. And such terror is not "ancient" or even just "modern history." It frames the daily life of every Palestinian, today.
Here a terrible irony must be noted: Many in the military core of Zionists who carried out the Nakba —the terrorist ethnic cleansing of Palestine—were battle-hardened veterans of guerilla warfare against the Nazis in Europe in World War 2. This enlistment of people who had in great numbers fought against some of the most barbaric crimes of capitalism-imperialism, into an army of perpetrators of terrible crimes against other oppressed people—in service of the same criminal system responsible for the Holocaust—is emblematic of the birth of Israel as an outrageous crime of world imperialism.
As noted earlier, World War 2 weakened the old-line colonial empires like Britain, France, Japan, Holland, etc. and it drew the colonized peoples into political life. Revolutionary struggles in Asia—particularly in China, but also in Vietnam—intensified, and within several years the revolution would be victorious in China. The most thoroughgoing of these national liberation struggles were led by communists, as in China. But beyond that, there was a tremendous rise of secular nationalism, in places like Indonesia, Iran, a number of nations in Latin America, and the "Arab world" as well.
In the Middle East, the most prominent representative of secular nationalism was Gamal Abdel Nasser in Egypt. Nasser came to power promising to stand up against the imperialist powers and put an end to the decades of Egyptian colonial and neocolonial humiliation and subjugation.
At times, the U.S. aligned with national liberation struggles as a wedge to edge out its rivals. This is what happened in the 1956 war between Israel, France, and Britain on the one side, and Egypt on the other. In 1956, Nasser moved to nationalize the Suez Canal—a legitimate assertion given that the canal was, after all, in Egypt. The Suez Canal took on new importance after the war, with half of its traffic being increasingly precious and strategically critical oil exports from the Middle East. In response, France, England, and Israel invaded Egypt, with Israel making rapid military advances into Egypt. The U.S. (and the USSR) pressured the invaders, including Israel, to back off. This was part of establishing that the U.S. was now the shot-caller in the region (and the world). In a limited and short-term way, Nasser's nationalist aspirations coincided with U.S. strategic objectives.
But in the main, secular nationalist movements like Nasser's were strategically seen as obstacles by the U.S. The U.S. worked to undermine and/or eliminate them, often through CIA-backed military coups, as in Iran, Guatemala and Indonesia—coups which took hundreds of thousands of lives. By the mid-1960s, Nasser's influence and power had been checked and knocked down, including by increasing U.S. sponsorship of Israel.15
One important national liberation movement that emerged in this period was that of the Palestinian people themselves. The Palestinian people had resisted the rule of the Ottoman Empire, and they rose up in arms against British rule after World War 1. In militias and in other forms of courageous resistance, Palestinians fought back against the Nakba. But their struggle went to another level in the context of the worldwide revolutionary upsurge in the '60s. Palestinian guerrilla organizations launched armed struggle against Israel with the aim of creating a democratic, secular (non-religious) state throughout Palestine. The struggle of the Palestinian people attracted broad support throughout the world (see "The Palestinian Resistance").
Through the Nakba, and the 1956 war, Israel was strengthened as a military power in the Middle East. As such, it was eyed by all the world powers as a valuable agent. As the U.S. moved to establish domination in the region, and the world, the "special relationship" between the U.S. and Israel began to grow.
In the immediate wake of World War 2, a socialist camp had emerged in opposition to world capitalism. But that bloc was short-lived. In the 1950s, capitalist-roaders—that is, political representatives of the remaining and powerful capitalist relations in socialist society—came to power and restored capitalism in the Soviet Union. This restoration of capitalism in the USSR—the rise of Soviet social-imperialism—was a major event. The contention between the U.S. and this rival imperialist and its sphere of influence in Eastern Europe and elsewhere was to shape much of the geopolitical landscape for decades.
This conflict—the "cold war"—had a profound role in defining the role of Israel and its relationship to the ambitions and requirements of the U.S.
A pivotal factor in the "special relationship" between the U.S. and Israel was Israel's overwhelming victory in the "Six-Day War" in 1967, when Israel invaded and occupied large sections of Jordan, Syria, and Egypt. Strategic thinkers in the U.S. government took note. Even as the U.S. was working to sponsor other allies in the region (most notably the brutal Shah of Iran, who they installed in a CIA coup in 1953), Israel stood out as a uniquely valuable asset for the U.S. as the "leader of the free world"—that is, the head of the bloc of western imperialists.
In 1967, the U.S. sold cutting-edge jet fighters to Israel for the first time, establishing the principle of U.S. support for Israel's qualitative military dominance over the Arab countries.
In the ensuing decades, much of the "special relationship" between the U.S. and Israel was framed by global contention with the Soviets. The new Soviet imperialists used the anti-imperialist reputation gained when the country was socialist—along with military and economic aid—to seek influence in the governments of Asia, Africa and Latin America. They aimed to gain a foothold through which to contend with the U.S. The 1973 war between Israel, on one side, and Egypt and Syria, on the other, (referred to in Israel and the West as the "Yom Kippur War") had significant elements of a proxy war between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. At that time, Egypt was moving towards alignment with the Soviets and got substantial military hardware and advice from the Soviets, and Syria was closely aligned with the Soviet bloc.
Similar dynamics set the backdrop for Israel's bloody, U.S.-backed 1982 war against Lebanon. During the 1980s, Lebanon served as a base area for Palestinian forces, but also as focal point of contention between U.S.-aligned forces and the Soviet-backed Syrian regime and other Soviet-leaning forces in the region. That war had a devastating effect on the civilian population. Israeli jets waged a massive bombing attack on the Lebanese capital, Beirut.
It was in the course of the 1982 invasion of Lebanon that Israeli military forces surrounded and sealed off the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in Beirut while their Lebanese allies massacred between 750 and 3,500 people. Israeli military and allied forces were to occupy southern Lebanon for 18 years.
From the mid-1960s up until the collapse of the Soviet Union, the U.S.-Israel strategic relationship was in large part framed by the clash of these rival superpowers. Israel engineered both the coming to power of Idi Amin in Uganda and, when he outlived his usefulness, sped his demise, and facilitated genocidal slaughter by the Guatemalan death squads to strike at Soviet-aligned countries or forces in those parts of the world. And frequently, Israel supplied military aid to pariah regimes the U.S. did not want to be too openly associated with but which played critical roles in countering Soviet influence—like the apartheid regime in South Africa. The centerspread of this issue of Revolution documents such crimes around the world.
The collapse of the Soviet Union was an unprecedented event that upended many global economic, military, and power relationships.16 One unexpected product of that collapse was the rise of the very Jihadist forces the U.S. built up to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, these forces turned against the remaining superpower, the U.S. While Islamic fundamentalism does not challenge imperialist domination of oppressed nations, it does pose a real challenge to the whole matrix of global relations that the U.S. sits on top of.
With the emergence of the Islamic fundamentalist challenge to U.S. imperialist domination in the Middle East, Israel's role has morphed to serve U.S. needs in that conflict. In 2006, Israel launched a massive invasion of Lebanon to strike mainly at Hezbollah—Islamic forces aligned with Iran. (See "Drumbeat for Israeli Attack on Iran Grows Louder by the Day.") The Israeli invasion killed over 1,000 people, displaced over a million, and blanketed South Lebanon with over a million anti-personnel cluster bombs that today still maim and kill Lebanese farmers and children.
In much of the world, and in a very intense way in the Middle East, Israel's displacement and ongoing oppression of the Palestinian people and other crimes makes that country the object of tremendous outrage and anger. That is a big problem for the U.S. as it seeks to counter oppositional Islamic forces and impose pro-U.S. regimes in places like Iraq and Afghanistan.
Widespread outrage against Israel puts reactionary pro-U.S. regimes in the region, like Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Jordan, in an awkward and even precarious position. And the close bonds between the U.S. and Israel provide openings for rival powers to exploit in their contention with the U.S.
When U.S. General David Petraeus (now commander in Afghanistan) told the Senate Armed Services Committee, "Enduring hostilities between Israel and some of its neighbors present distinct challenges to our ability to advance our interests in the area of responsibility," he was identifying a real contradiction for the U.S. ruling class.
It has not proven easy for the U.S. to broker a settlement that would integrate the Palestinians into some semblance of a stable situation, and, at the same time, satisfy what the Israelis see as their need for unchallenged domination and a thoroughly Zionist state. This has remained a sore point in the region and around the world, and as Israel resorts to more and more extreme measures to lock down the Palestinians, this contradiction becomes sharper.
And yet, in profound ways, the U.S has not only stuck by Israel—it is stuck with Israel. Despite real problems and even significant differences at times, the unique "strategic relationship" between the U.S. and Israel continues because, from the perspective of U.S. imperialism, there is no real alternative on the chessboard in terms of the role Israel plays in the Middle East and throughout the world.
With the U.S. deeply mired in wars throughout the Middle East, the role of Israel is more critical than ever. In an op-ed piece, U.S. Representative Steve Rothman (a "liberal" Democrat and strong supporter of Obama), enumerated how "One strategic ally in particular has always stood out from all others: the state of Israel." He noted that Israel provides "America with vital security assistance in the Middle East and around the world." Rothman argued that "without our partnership with the IDF (Israeli Defense Forces—the Israeli army), the United States might need to have 100,000 or more additional troops stationed permanently in that part of the world to make up for the protection of U.S. interests and vital intelligence provided by Israel to the United States."17
One reason why Israel is so important to the U.S. is that it is the one country in the region where the pro-U.S. government has a big social base. That loyal social base, in turn, rests in large part on the history and present-day place of Israel in the world's "food chain"—that is to say, the ways in which it shares in imperialism's parasitical relation to the oppressed nations of the world. European-immigrant citizens of the country have a high standard of living measured in nice houses, wages, and access to gadgets and luxuries. Israel provides its citizens with the trappings of bourgeois democracy—various rabid Zionists along with some moderate critics of the government who accept the terms of Zionism can run against each other in elections, while any politics that opposes Zionism is violently suppressed.
In short, with its massive nuclear arsenal, its European/U.S. level of technology, and a substantial section of its population enlisted in the "logic" and immorality of Zionism, Israel plays an irreplaceable role enforcing U.S. interests.
It is these factors that make it very difficult for U.S. imperialism to alter the "special relationship" between the U.S. and Israel—particularly right now. And this is true even though U.S. support for Israel provokes further opposition to the U.S. in the region, and creates fertile ground for Islamic fundamentalist Jihad.
Israel was, and is built literally on the blood, bones, land, and homes of the Palestinian people, stolen through terrorist ethnic cleansing that constitutes a great legal and moral crime. As such, the state of Israel is illegitimate, and no justice—for anyone—can be found within the paradigm of the Zionist state. And this state was a product of, and plays a special role in enforcing the global system of capitalism-imperialism.
Identifying the illegitimacy of Israel is not a "Palestinian perspective." Nor is it in any way anti-Jewish. As we have seen in earlier sections of this article, the existence of Israel is not any kind of "justice" for the crimes of the Holocaust, but is in fact a product of the same system that engineered the Holocaust. Israel is not a solution to the age-old oppression of the Jewish people as Jews. It is, instead, a settler state and a tool of imperialism. As such it should and must be opposed.
Over the past several years, growing numbers of people around the world, and within the U.S., have become outraged by Israel's crimes, and have been driven to political protest. Campus actions have had important impact. Solidarity actions, including the Gaza Freedom March, the Gaza Freedom Flotilla, and actions of the International Solidarity Movement and others, have sounded a call to the world and given heart to Palestinian resistance. BDS (boycott, divestment, sanctions) activity has raised awareness, generated necessary debate and controversy, and turned up the political heat on Israel—especially on campuses.
This movement of opposition to Israel and its crimes is growing, and must be built further. This is all the more urgent as Israel threatens war against Iran, and carries out vicious day-in/day-out repression against the Palestinians, with no end in sight. Much more protest and debate is needed over the nature and role of Israel. This special issue of Revolution is intended as a contribution to that. And it is a challenge to everyone, students in particular, to dig into the root causes behind Israel's crimes in a global system of exploitation and oppression, and to check out, and get with, the movement to end that system.
1. American Jewish Year Book Vol. 1 (1899-1900), p. 285, available at www.ajcarchives.org/AJC_DATA/Files/1899_1900_7_Statistics.pdf; Swatos, Jr., William H., Editor, Encyclopedia of Religion and Society, available at hirr.hartsem.edu/ency/jews.htm. [back]
2. Theodor Herzl: The Complete Diaries, cited from Abdullah Schleifer, The Fall of Jerusalem (New York: 1972), p. 23 in Our Roots Are Still Alive, chapter 2. [back]
3. For centuries, England—now the United Kingdom (UK)—maintained bloody and overt colonial domination over Ireland. England built up sections of Northern Ireland, sometimes referred to as Ulster, as a more industrially developed region with a substantial section of people who identified with and fought for the interests of British colonialism. Following Irish independence in 1922, Northern Ireland (Ulster) continued to be occupied by the UK. [back]
4. For a comprehensive exploration of the relationship of Jewish people to the economic, political and military factors behind the rise of Hitler and World War 2, see Why Did the Heavens Not Darken by Arno J. Mayer (Pantheon Books, 1988). [back]
5. See sources referenced at Wikipedia article on World War II Casualties. Some Western sources estimate the number of deaths at 20 million. [back]
6. "Special Report: What Will Israel Do as the Arab Demographic Tide Rises in Palestine?" by Andrew I. Killgore (Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, July/August 1998). [back]
7. While the Soviet Union mainly supported national liberation struggles during the time it was socialist, it also made a series of very serious errors in subordinating the revolutionary struggles and just causes of people in other countries to what they perceived to be the state interests of the Soviet Union, often to disastrous effect—as in this case. [back]
8. The role of rape of women by Zionist forces in the ferocious ethnic cleansing of Palestine is documented in The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine by Ilan Pappé. Pappé (Oneworld Publications, 2006) draws on and cites reports from the UN and the Red Cross, along with first hand Israeli military sources, and Palestinian accounts; see especially pages 208-211. [back]
9. Khalidi, Walid (ed.): All that Remains. The Palestinian Villages Occupied and Depopulated by Israel in 1948. Washington, D.C: Institute for Palestine Studies, 1992, App. IV, pp. xix, 585–586; and Sitta, Salman Abu: The Palestinian Nakba 1948. London: The Palestinian Return Centre, 2000. [back]
10. Much of the characterization of, and citations from, Pappé's book in this section of this article is taken from "The Nakba: Ethnic cleansing and the birth of Israel," distributed by A World to Win News Service, December 10, 2006. That article summarizes and analyzes Pappé's important work, and includes insights on limitations of Pappé's perspective and political analysis. Pappé himself has been forced to leave Israel. [back]
11. The Hagana (also spelled Haganah) was the main, and "mainstream" Zionist military force. The Irgun, ostensibly a "split off" of the Hagana, sometimes carried out particularly gruesome and odious operations that the Irgun required some distance from. The Stern Gang in turn was a split-off from the Irgun, and operated with even more freedom from international scrutiny. These Zionist armed forces and others worked in concert, if not in perfect synchronization, and all were later integrated into the Israeli army with the establishment of the state of Israel. Many of the key founding fathers of the state of Israel came from the Irgun and Stern Gang and openly invoked / invoke their association with particularly egregious atrocities against the Palestinians as defining their credibility to be major players in Israeli politics. [back]
12. Pappé, page 58. [back]
13. Pappé, page 64. [back]
14. Plan D was the terminology the Zionist leaders of the Nakba used to reference their master plan. [back]
15. Today, the rulers of Egypt function as U.S. puppets who collaborate with the U.S. and Israel to oppress the Palestinians. Egypt is the third largest recipient of U.S. "aid" (after Iraq and Israel), and much of that goes to fund a massive repressive apparatus.[back]
16. For more understanding of that event and its implications, see "The New Situation and the Great Challenges," (revcom.us/a/1256/ba-newsituation.htm) and Bringing Forward Another Way (online at revcom.us/avakian/anotherway or as a pamphlet from RCP Publications, 2007). Both are by Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA. [back]
17. "U.S.'s valuable, strategic relationship with Israel" by Rep. Steve Rothman, The Hill, June 3, 2008. [back]
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Revolution #213, October 10, 2010
For many the "bottom-line" argument for the state of Israel is this: the Jewish people, worldwide, need a state to which they can go for protection should another nation take up Hitler's project of extermination of the Jews.
Let us state in no uncertain terms that the Holocaust was clearly one of the great crimes of modern history. But on a very basic moral level: how does a crime against one people (the Jews) committed by the government of another (the Germans)—no matter how horrific that crime—justify the dispossession, exile, constant humiliation and oppression, and denial of self-determination to a third (the Palestinians)? It does not and it cannot. An argument could perhaps be made that, as part of the post-war reconstruction of Europe and as part of reparations for these horrendous crimes, provisions should have been made to enable the Jewish people to choose some form of autonomy or self-determination within Eastern Europe, using German lands and resources to carry this out; but this argument was not only never seriously entertained by the victorious powers at the time, but when someone like the journalist Helen Thomas commits the unpardonable sin of mentioning this notion, as she did a few months ago, she is immediately subjected to public humiliation and career death.1
To approach this question another way, the slogan "Never Again" can be taken in two ways. One way is that "never again shall it be allowed that crimes against humanity can go on and people will be able to plead ignorance or impotence as an excuse for doing nothing to stop those crimes"; the other way is to say that "never again will my people be fucked over, and anything that is done to justify preventing that is allowable." There is a world of difference between those two moral stands.
Further, let's look at the historical context of the Holocaust. The Holocaust was part of a "larger project." The Nazi regime conflated Judaism and communism; that is, the Nazis rolled them into one big enemy, the so-called Judeo-Bolshevik conspiracy. The Nazis regarded the communist project of emancipation—which included the abolition of anti-Semitism—as utterly intolerable and evil; the participation of some Jews in this project only added to their hatred. As the Nazi forces invaded the Soviet Union, the counter-revolutionary forces from among the Soviet citizenry which supported them were the same ones who eagerly assisted in the extermination of the Jews and the murder of communists.
This part of World War 2 was, in a real sense, a fight between two different visions of what it meant to be human. Whatever the shortcomings of the socialist Soviet Union at that time, two different worlds based on two different visions confronted each other, captured in the respective watchwords of their movements: "Deutschland Uber Alles" ("Germany Over All") versus the emancipation of all humanity. For this among other reasons, the "Eastern Front" (where the Soviet Red Army defeated the great majority of the German Wehrmacht [war machine]) was a war zone of particular ruthlessness. Very few Americans know that, in addition to the six million Jews pitilessly exterminated by the Nazis, the German army was responsible for the deaths of some 28 million Soviet citizens! (And here, too, when someone mentions that inconvenient truth—as Oliver Stone did a few months back2—they too are be publicly pilloried.)
So long as imperialism exists, the majority of nations and peoples will be oppressed by a relative minority of dominant nations. It is important and valuable and just—in fact, it is absolutely necessary—that people stand up to that oppression, refuse to tolerate it, resist it, and work to abolish it. But if that turns into a fight for national rights at the expense of another people's rights, then it is not so fine—then it is on the road to very quickly becoming reactionary. The only way to be finally sure that there will be no more genocides, of any kind and against any people, is to abolish imperialism itself—to, yes, emancipate all humanity, and nothing less.
1. In the course of a May 27, 2010 "interview" outside the White House by a pro-Israel rabbi, Helen Thomas said Israel should "get the hell out of Palestine..." Within hours, the 89-year-old Thomas, long known as Dean of the White House press corps, had been forced by media pillorying, pro-Israel organizations, and the Obama administration into retirement. For more, see Revolution #203, June 12, 2010, or revcom.us. [back]
2. In a July 25, 2010 interview with London's Times, filmmaker Oliver Stone said that Hitler might have done "far more damage" by killing 25-30 million Soviet citizens during World War 2 than by killing six million Jews. When asked why he thought there was so much more emphasis on the Holocaust than on the deaths of tens of millions of Soviet citizens, Stone said it was mainly because of a powerful Jewish lobby within the U.S. Coming under fierce attack by the Simon Wiesenthal Center, the American Jewish Committee and other pro-Zionist organizations, Stone clarified his remarks, saying he did not intend in any way to belittle the atrocity that was the Holocaust. [back]
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Revolution #213, October 10, 2010
As a result of the Nakba—the Zionist ethnic cleansing of Palestine—there are today almost 4.5 million Palestinians dispersed throughout the world. In addition, 1.4 million Palestinians live under Israeli domination in the West Bank, and 1.3 million in Gaza, a formerly sparsely populated desert strip now full of crowded refugee camps and towns. About 1.5 million Palestinians continue to live in Israel itself. The forced relocation of Palestinians into the West Bank and Gaza (almost all the residents of Gaza are refugees or descendants of refugees) is a violation of the Geneva Convention and international law, and a war crime.1
In the West Bank, hundreds of miles of 26-foot-high concrete wall divide Palestinians into small, encircled zones. In 2007, Amnesty International reported that "The hundreds of checkpoints and blockades which every day force long detours and delays on Palestinians trying to get to work, school or hospital, have for years limited their access to essential health services and caused medical complications, births at checkpoints and even death."
Israel's West Bank wall is called the Apartheid Wall, and similarities between Israel's treatment of Palestinians and the racist apartheid rule that existed in South Africa are glaring, and have been acknowledged by even strong supporters of Israel. Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter told an Israeli newspaper, "When Israel does occupy this territory deep within the West Bank, and connects the 200-or-so settlements with each other, with a road, and then prohibits the Palestinians from using that road, or in many cases even crossing the road, this perpetrates even worse instances of apartness, or apartheid, than we witnessed even in South Africa."2
Since the election of the Hamas government in Gaza in 2006, Israel has imposed a brutal siege to force regime change. At the end of 2008 and the beginning of 2009, Israel launched a massacre of Gaza, killing 1,400 people—mostly civilians.3 Hospitals, apartments, and schools were systematically shelled. The UN-commissioned Goldstone Report concluded that Israel carried out "indiscriminate attacks resulting in the loss of life and injury to civilians," "deliberate attacks against the civilian population," and "attacks on the foundations of civilian life in Gaza." After the massacre, Israel imposed a siege on the 1.5 million people in Gaza intended to degrade their health and crush their spirits, allowing only enough food to meet minimum caloric requirements for life, and specifically banning materials needed to rebuild.
In Israel proper, the Palestinians with Israeli citizenship, who make up 20 percent of the population of Israel, are subjected to second class citizenship. People who are deemed Jewish by Israeli-sponsored religious authorities can immigrate to Israel from anywhere in the world, but spouses of Palestinian Israeli citizens who live in Gaza or the West Bank cannot. Many benefits in Israeli society are available only to veterans of the Israeli army—a criterion that excludes the vast majority of Palestinians with Israeli citizenship. And while much is made of the right of Palestinians who are Israeli citizens to vote, Israeli laws ban candidates who deny "the existence of the State of Israel as the state of the Jewish people," or who deny "the democratic nature of the state" of Israel.4
Palestinians who live in exile throughout the Arab world and beyond are often stateless (without diplomatic protection or recognized passports), marginalized, isolated, and persecuted.
1. See Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, Article 8, which prohibits "transfer of all or parts of the population of the occupied territory within or outside this territory" by an occupying power. (untreaty.un.org/cod/icc/index.html)
2. "Jimmy Carter: Israel's 'apartheid' policies worse than South Africa's" by Haaretz Service, November 12, 2006.
3. "Confirmed figures reveal the true extent of the destruction inflicted upon the Gaza Strip; Israel's offensive resulted in 1,417 dead, including 926 civilians, 255 police officers, and 236 fighters," Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, March 12, 2009 press release.
4. See "Special Report: 10 Discriminatory Laws," Adalah: The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, June 2010.
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Revolution #213, October 10, 2010
From the inception of the Zionist project, there has been courageous Palestinian resistance. In 1936, Palestinians launched an armed uprising against the British authorities and the Zionist settlers. The British brutally crushed the uprising in 1939 and passed emergency laws condemning to death any Palestinian found with a gun.1 Throughout the Nakba, outgunned Palestinians in cities and towns waged courageous resistance to ethnic cleansing.
Each time the resistance of the Palestinian people has been violently suppressed, new waves and forms of struggle have come forward. In the context of the global upsurge of the 1960s, Palestinian guerrilla organizations launched armed struggle against Israel with the aim of creating a democratic, secular (non-religious) state throughout Palestine. In March 1968 Palestinian fighters held off a major Israeli attack at Karameh, Jordan.2 Yasser Arafat and the Fatah organization and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) emerged as a respected leadership within this armed struggle.
The high tide of mass resistance in the late '60s, however, ran into obstacles that Fatah and the PLO were unable to surmount. The leadership increasingly turned to reliance on Arab regimes and the Soviet Union, and, in actual fact, to fighting in order to get Israel to negotiate a so-called mini-state—rather than fighting for a liberated Palestine. All this occurred in a context in which the wave of post-World War 2 national liberation struggles around the world was ebbing and the contention between the U.S. and the now-imperialist Soviet Union was intensifying.
Here, it must be noted that one way Israel (and the U.S.) worked to undermine the resistance of the Palestinian people was to promote Islamic fundamentalist forces like Hamas, in opposition to more progressive, secular nationalist opposition to Zionism. The Washington Post acknowledged, for example, "In the 1980s, for instance, the Israeli government decided to weaken the secular Fatah movement headed by Palestine Liberation Organization Chairman Yasser Arafat by promoting the rise of Islamic parties as a counterweight, on the theory that Islamic groups would not have the same nationalistic impulses. So Fatah's social networks were dismantled by the Israeli government, but it went easy on Islamic charitable networks. This decision fueled the rise of Hamas as a political force...."3
Despite unending repression, the Palestinian people continued to find ways to protest and rebel. The first Intifada(an Arabic word meaning "to shake")began in December of 1987 with uprisings in Gaza. It pitted stone-throwing youth, with wide support throughout Palestine and around the world, against occupying Israeli soldiers. In 2000, a second Intifada was sparked by Israeli leader Ariel Sharon's consciously provocative visit to the Al-Haram Ash-Sharif Muslim holy site in Jerusalem guarded by 1,000 armed Israeli soldiers. It unleashed mounting Palestinian frustration, rage and despair over the failure of the "peace process" to address their basic rights.
Most recently, new waves and forms of protest have emerged in Palestine not tied to either the Palestinian Authority or Hamas. In some ways, openings for that resistance have been facilitated by international activists who have stood with Palestinians in courageous protest against mass Israeli demolition of Palestinian homes in Gaza and opposing the Apartheid Wall in the West Bank. This has not substituted for, but instead brought attention to, the continuing refusal of the Palestinian masses to kneel down. Ongoing attempts by international and Palestinian activists to break the siege of Gaza are shining a spotlight on conditions there.
1. Our Roots Are Still Alive by Joy Bonds, Jimmy Emerman, Linda John, Penny Johnson, and Paul Rupert, 1977, Peoples Press, page 68. [back]
2. See "Fact Sheet—Palestine: A History of Occupation and Resistance," Revolution #52, June 25, 2006. [back]
3. "Unintended Consequences Pose Risks for Mideast Policy" by Glenn Kessler,January 7, 2009, Washington Post. Also see documentation of Israeli support, including funding for the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas in the article "Hamas history tied to Israel" by Richard Sale, June 18, 2002, United Press International. [back]
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Revolution #213, October 10, 2010
A number of books and readings are cited in the articles in this special issue of Revolution from different political and philosophical perspectives. In several cases, footnotes in the articles indicate that particular sources include valuable exposure and analysis. Of particular relevance is "An Assessment of the Momentum Towards War Between the United States and Iran: Causes and Potential Ramifications, Preliminary Findings by a Working Group" (www.revcom.us/a/141/Iran_project-en.html). Readers are encouraged to explore these sources among others. The following readings, available from Revolution Books locations and at revcom.us, are recommended for a foundational understanding of the questions addressed in this special issue:
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Revolution #213, October 10, 2010
An idea from a reader for creating controversy and curiosity, and compelling students in particular to get this issue:
Pass out either or both parts of the online revcom.us quiz on Israel to students in cafeterias, classes, and so on. And then be outside later (or come back around the cafeteria, coffee shop, etc) and challenge people to buy the special issue. You can also make the answers available – but the main thing should be to challenge people to get the issue.
This approach can be used other places as well, with teachers, activists, religious groups and so on. Use the quiz with them, and let them have it as a tool to open people's minds and provoke interest. And be sure they order sufficient copies of the special issue for their entire class/congregation/group meeting. And use this one-two package of the quiz with the special issue to challenge people with financial resources to pay for dozens or hundreds of copies to fulfill the needs of classes and organizations for this issue.
Printable PDFs of the quiz are at:
Answers: Part 1 answers are at revcom.us/a/212/israel_answers-en.html. Part 2 answers are at revcom.us/a/213/israel_answers-en.html. People taking the quiz can be given these links to look up answers as part of encouraging them to buy the paper The point is for people to confront how seriously they have been kept in the dark and misinformed, and get this issue to change that.
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Revolution #213, October 10, 2010
The following are excerpts from Bringing Forward Another Way: an edited version of a talk by Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, to a group of Party supporters, in the fall of 2006. Subheads and footnotes have been added for publication here. This talk is available in its entirety on-line at revcom.us, and has been published as a pamphlet. The essential analysis laid out in this talk has ongoing importance, and we are reprinting these sections in this issue for their particular relevance.
This leads me to the question of World War 3. A number of pundits and "analysts"—including once again right-wing squawking heads like Glenn Beck—have continued to insist: "This is World War 3, we are already in World War 3." This specter of World War 3 involves, in a real sense, both considerable distortion of reality and actual reality. And this does get to the "two historically outmodeds" and how in fact they do reinforce each other even while opposing each other. As I have formulated this:
"What we see in contention here with Jihad on the one hand and McWorld/McCrusade on the other hand, are historically outmoded strata among colonized and oppressed humanity up against historically outmoded ruling strata of the imperialist system. These two reactionary poles reinforce each other, even while opposing each other. If you side with either of these 'outmodeds,' you end up strengthening both."
While this is a very important formulation and is crucial to understanding much of the dynamics driving things in the world in this period, at the same time we do have to be clear about which of these "historically outmodeds" has done the greater damage and poses the greater threat to humanity: It is the "historically outmoded ruling strata of the imperialist system," and in particular the U.S. imperialists.
Now, it's not that these other forces—the "historically outmoded strata among colonized and oppressed humanity," and more specifically the Jihadist forces of Islamic fundamentalism—it is not as if they don't pose threats to the ordinary people in many countries, and it's not as if they don't do real harm to the interests of the masses of people throughout the world. Even such things as that New York Times Sunday Magazine article1 I referred to, and more generally the arguments of these ruling class representatives about Iran and nuclear weapons—it's not as if there is no aspect of reality that they are speaking to, even while they are grossly distorting much of reality. It is a fact that at least many of these Islamic fundamentalists have hit upon a certain strategy which is really reactionary and extremely wrong, and does involve completely unjustified actions against civilians—this is their answer to what are greatly unequal (or, as the imperialists say, "asymmetrical") power relations, particularly as this is concentrated in the military sphere: the overwhelming superiority of the imperialists, in conventional military terms, in relation to the nations and people they dominate, oppress, and exploit. And the idea that Iran or even North Korea could get a nuclear weapon and slip it to some other people—and that it wouldn't be traceable to the state that produced the weapon—this is not simply and entirely imperialist propaganda. It's not completely far-fetched.
Recently Ted Koppel wrote a whole article about this, explicitly invoking the "Godfather"—the movie Godfather I. You see, some of these artistic works have a certain universality, although different classes view them differently. And, speaking from the standpoint of the U.S. imperialist ruling class, Koppel invoked the scene in Godfather I after Mafia Godfather Don Vito Corleone's oldest son, Sonny, has been killed, in the context of war between different Mafia families. Finally, after this has gone on for awhile, these Mafia families have a "sit-down," to try to negotiate an end to this warfare. And Don Vito Corleone (played by Marlon Brando) has real largeness of mind, in terms of the relations and interests among these Mafia families. He says:
"For the sake of our larger interests and peace among us, I will forgive the death of my older son. But what I will not forgive is if anything happens to my son Michael. If a car accident should happen to him..." —he goes on to list a bunch of different things that are apparent accidents, and he says: "If any of those things happen to my son Michael, I'm going to blame some people in this room, and that I will not forgive."
Invoking this scene, Ted Koppel says we should learn from this and apply it in our dealings with Iran—we should say to Iran:
"Okay, go ahead and have your bomb, but if any such bomb ever goes off anywhere around our interests, you're on the hit list right away. We won't even argue about it, we won't even investigate, we won't even think about who did it—we'll just blame you and act accordingly. Now, if you want to get a bomb, go ahead."
Koppel's argument here is not just large-scale gangster logic on behalf of U.S. imperialism—it is that, but it is not just that. It is not just a matter of imperialist manipulation and demagoguery. There is a reality that Koppel is speaking to—from the point of view of U.S. imperialism. We should understand the complexities in all this. I have pointed out before that, sooner or later if things keep going the way they are—and in particular if these "two historically outmodeds" continue to drive much of the dynamics of things and reinforce each other even while opposing each other—then things could get to the point where some of these Islamic fundamentalist forces will get some real weapons of mass destruction, maybe even nuclear ones, and then the shit's going to really fly on a whole other level. And, to refer back to the point I made earlier in discussing Vietnam and the "domino theory," these Islamic fundamentalists are not guided by the same kind of thinking and approach that the Vietnamese were, even with their shortcomings from a communist standpoint. These Islamic fundamentalists are not communists! They are not revolutionary or progressive forces. They do not look at the world the same way. They are reactionary, they are historically outmoded. They look at the world from that standpoint—from the standpoint of their reactionary philosophical, or theological, worldview—and what they do flows from this.
In this, they are not unique. This is, in an essential sense, common to all religious fundamentalists, including those who have positions of significant power and influence within the ruling class of the U.S. at this time (and this is why I have referred to Jihad on the one hand and "McWorld/McCrusade" on the other hand). This same basic worldview can be seen in the comments of one of these colonels or generals in the U.S. military about Pat Tillman's family.2 This U.S. officer said: The reason the Tillman family is making such a big fuss about how Pat Tillman got killed is that they're atheists and they think he's just going to become worm food. He was saying that if the family were Christians and believed that Pat Tillman were going to "a better place," they wouldn't be so upset. Well, that's the mentality of religious fundamentalists.
And that is the mentality, in the general ideological sense, that characterizes Islamic fundamentalists too. They look at the world very differently than people who approach it in a rational and scientific way. They "live in a different world"—a different world than the real one—in terms of how they perceive reality and the driving and defining forces of reality. All this is part of the complexity of things, and we are not going to get anywhere if we don't engage and grapple with this complexity in a very deep and all-sided way, utilizing the best of our materialism and dialectics, and keep on working at it.
Now, having said that, it is important to return to the question of which of these "two historically outmodeds" has done the greater damage and poses the greater threat to humanity. Some people, including some who claim not only to be anti-imperialist but even to be "Marxist," have criticized or denounced this "two historically outmodeds" formulation as being pro-imperialist because, they claim, this statement fails to distinguish between imperialism and the countries and peoples oppressed by imperialism. Well, if you are supposedly a "Marxist," you might be able to look at the wording of this formulation and notice that it says: "historically outmoded strata among oppressed and colonized humanity up against historically outmoded ruling strata of the imperialist system." If you were even close to being a Marxist in reality, you would know that some distinction was in fact being made there, an important distinction, even while what is said about their both being historically outmoded and how they reinforce each other, even while opposing each other, is also real, and "operative." But it is important to be clear about which has done and continues to do the greater damage, which has posed and does pose the greater threat to humanity. Clearly, and by far, it is the "ruling strata of the imperialist system."
It is interesting, I recently heard about a comment that someone made relating to this, which I do think is correct and getting at something important. In relation to these "two historically outmodeds," they made the point: "You could say that the Islamic fundamentalist forces in the world would be largely dormant if it weren't for what the U.S. and its allies have done and are doing in the world—but you cannot say the opposite." There is profound truth captured in that statement.
As a matter of general principle, and specifically sitting in this imperialist country, we have a particular responsibility to oppose U.S. imperialism, our "own" ruling class, and what it is doing in the world. But, at the same time, that doesn't make these Islamic fundamentalist forces not historically outmoded and not reactionary. It doesn't change the character of their opposition to imperialism and what it leads to and the dynamic that it's part of—the fact that these two "historically outmodeds" do reinforce each other, even while opposing each other. And it is very important to understand, and to struggle for others to understand, that if you end up supporting either one of these two "historically outmodeds," you contribute to strengthening both. It is crucial to break out of that dynamic—to bring forward another way.
For people living in the U.S., there is a particularity that needs to be continually gone back to, in relation to the "war on terror." I have made the point that this is not entirely fabrication on the part of the Bush regime (and the imperialist ruling class generally). There are real aspects to this—or, better said, there is a reality to which these imperialists are speaking, even while they fundamentally distort reality. But, in essential terms, this "war on terror" is an imperialist program which, among other things, is aimed at blotting out and turning the attention of people, even people who should know better, away from reckoning with the profound inequalities and oppressive relations that exist within different societies but especially on a world scale, under the domination of the imperialist system and in particular U.S. imperialism, which boasts of being "the world's only superpower" and is determined to maintain all this. If you accept the terms of "war on terror"—and especially if, as part of this, you do not look more deeply at the more fundamental relations in the world, the effects and consequences of that and the ways in which it is at the root of developments in the world now—you will get increasingly caught within the logic that what is most important is that "we" (meaning the people in the U.S.—and "I" above all!) "have to be protected." You get caught up thinking and arguing about what should be "the real war on terror." This has happened even to a lot of progressive people—including those who frame their opposition to the Iraq war in terms of considering it a "diversion from the war on terror"—they become trapped within the wrong logic. If you are carried along by this logic, you can end up in a very bad place.
You cannot get to a correct understanding of things, and you cannot move toward the only possible resolution of all this that is in the interests of humanity, by proceeding from within the terms of the "war on terror." Even while "the war on terror" is not entirely a fabrication, even while there are important aspects of reality that it is reflecting—from the point of view of the imperialists—it is a fabrication in the form in which it is presented to people. That contradiction is important to understand: There are important aspects of reality that this formulation of "war on terror" (or "war against terrorism") is reflecting; but, as it is presented, it is a fabrication. Its essence is not "a war on terror." It is essentially a war for empire. And the confrontation with Islamic fundamentalist, and other, forces (even those which actually do employ tactics and methods which can legitimately be called "terrorist") takes place within, and is essentially framed by, that context and that content of war for empire.
1. See "Islam, Terror and the Second Nuclear Age," by Noah Feldman, New York Times Magazine, October 29, 2006. [back]
2. Pat Tillman was a professional football player who, after September 11,  left the Arizona Cardinals to join the U.S. military. His brother was also in the U.S. military. Pat Tillman was killed in Afghanistan—by "friendly fire" from U.S. forces, as it turned out—yet U.S. military and government officials kept trying to cover this up and deceive people, including Tillman's family, about what actually happened. Tillman was played up as a big national war hero, but as his family continued to dig for the real story of what happened to him, they became more and more alienated and angry because of the lies and deception they kept running into. And they have become increasingly critical not only of how the military dealt with Pat Tillman and his death but of the military and the government more generally, and of the Iraq war specifically. [back]
3. This talk was given during the presidency of George W. Bush. Since Obama has assumed office, the specific slogan "war on terror" has been de-emphasized; but the essential "national security" policy formulated and prosecuted by the Bush regime under the rubric of "war on terror"—both in its international aggression and its trampling on democratic rights and safeguards, including use of torture and now, under Obama, the assertion of a presidential right to kill U.S. citizens not in war zones without even a semblance of due process—has continued virtually unabated and has in some respects intensified. [back]
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Revolution #213, October 10, 2010
The state of Israel has functioned as a military bastion to defend and extend U.S. domination over the strategic area of the Middle East and worldwide—in the context of establishing U.S. supremacy over other imperialist powers. Israel is by far the largest recipient of U.S. support: in outright grants, military sales, and economic support.
From 1981 to 2004, the U.S. sent $1.8 billion a year in military support to Israel; since 2004 that number has been raised to $2.4 billion. Part of the bargain is that the U.S. often utilizes Israeli military and intelligence as a proxy to distance itself from some of its most odious and barbaric crimes around the world.
The U.S. does this because it is an imperialist mega-power spanning the globe, and it enforces its domination with savage repression, including mass murder, genocide, torture, rape, and dispossession of entire peoples. Israel's function as a militarized state bristling with the most advanced weaponry deludes many people into thinking Israel is somehow acting against U.S. interests as it perpetrates monstrous crimes against humanity.
But the cold fact is this is one important means by which U.S. domination has been enforced. U.S. backing for all Israel's crimes is not because the American political process has been corrupted by the Israel lobby or "the Jews." The U.S. arms and supports this brutal regime because doing so serves its global objectives.
An estimated 200,000 people, overwhelmingly Mayan peasants and villagers, were killed during the entire Guatemalan civil war from 1960 to 1996. Estimates of the numbers killed by the Guatemalan military with Israeli assistance during the period of 1978-1984 range from around 30,000 (Guatemala: Memory of Silence, Report of The Commission for Historical Clarification [CEH], Conclusions and Recommendations, paragraph number 1) to 182,000 (Guatemala: Memory of Silence, paragraph number 82).
Additional reports on the crimes against humanity carried out by the many Guatemalan regimes and juntas throughout the 30 years of the civil war, but concentrated between 1978 and 1984 (a period of huge Israeli arms shipments to Guatemala) are to be found, among other sources, at:
An excerpt from the testimony from a survivor of torture in Argentina gives a small glimpse of the depraved brutality of the torturers:
Everything happened very quickly. From the moment they took me out of the car to the beginning of the first electric shock session took less time than I am taking to tell it. For days they applied electric shocks to my gums, nipples, genitals, abdomen and ears. Unintentionally, I managed to annoy them, because, I don't know why, although the shocks made me scream, jerk and shudder, they could not make me pass out.
They then began to beat me systematically and rhythmically with wooden sticks on my back, the backs of my thighs, my calves and the soles of my feet. At first the pain was dreadful. Then it became unbearable. Eventually I lost all feeling in the part of my body being beaten. The agonizing pain returned a short while after they finished hitting me. It was made still worse when they tore off my shirt, which had stuck to the wounds, in order to take me off for a fresh electric shock session. This continued for several days, alternating the two tortures. Sometimes they did both at the same time.
—"Nunca Más" (Never Again) - Report of Conadep (National Commission on the Disappearance of Persons) 1984, Documentation of "particular brutality in the treatment of prisoners of Jewish origins" found in "Nunca Más"
A document by Argentine military intelligence stated that from 1975-1978, 22,000 people had been "disappeared." Since the "dirty war" continued to 1983, it is reasonable to calculate that at least 30,000 actually suffered this fate. See www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB185/index.htm. 30,000 is also the number declared by the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, who in 1977 began bravely demonstrating in Buenos Aires to demand information on their missing loved ones. Several of them were subsequently also abducted and "disappeared." [See also www.derechos.org/nizkor/arg/eng.html and www.desaparecidos.org/arg/victimas/eng.html.]
Israel's role in supplying arms to the regime in Argentina is documented in:
Quote taken from: Amin Saikal, The Rise and Fall of the Shah, p 33.
"United States: External Affairs," in Jane's Sentinel: North America 2007. Jane's Information Group, 2007.
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Revolution #213, October 10, 2010
There has been in recent months a drumbeat for a military strike by Israel on Iran, supposedly to prevent Iran from gaining nuclear weapons. It is said that Iran is in a feverish race to obtain such weapons; that if they get these weapons it will threaten the very existence of Israel; and that if necessary a military attack must be launched to prevent this.
A fourth round of UN Security Council sanctions was passed in June to punish Iran for its failure to cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and to pressure it to negotiate over the future of its nuclear program. But many U.S. ruling class thinkers claim that their impact will be negligible. In their eyes, this increases the likelihood—and desirability—of a devastating strike, and possible war, against Iran.
An article by Jeffrey Goldberg in the September 2010 issue of The Atlantic magazine, titled "The Point of No Return," has become a central focus of the public debate. Goldberg frames the question this way: "who, if anyone, will stop Iran before it goes nuclear, and how?" And he goes on to explain "how, if things remain on the current course, an Israeli air strike will unfold." This article has triggered an outpouring of very polarized responses for and against such an attack by Israel from a wide grouping of influential policy makers, analysts, and scholars. (Goldberg is also well known for an article he wrote for The New Yorker magazine in 2002 titled "The Great Terror," which many feel gave legitimacy to Bush's argument for attacking Iraq by using unreliable information in claiming to have found evidence linking Saddam Hussein to al Qaeda.)
As pointed to in the main article in this special issue, the U.S. media projects the state of Israel as an outpost of democracy and tolerance in a sea of hostile, intolerant Islam bent on its destruction. President Obama has not hesitated to say that the U.S. and Israel not only have shared interests, but "shared values." There is no other country in that part of the world that is, or would be, described that way. Israel, in other words, truly "represents" the U.S. in the Middle East.
This sets the terms and framework for how most people in this country view the conflict between Israel and Iran. Now it is said that Israel is confronting a threat to its existence from a dangerous, Islamic, maverick government in Iran, which could be within close reach of acquiring a nuclear capability—perhaps as soon as one to three years—if it isn't stopped. Add to that the constant media hammering on open-ended statements coming from Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that Israel should, and will, be wiped from the map, combined with his questioning of whether the mass extermination of Jewish people by Hitler's Nazi regime took place. In this way, support for an Israeli pre-emptive strike is portrayed as not only justified, but a matter of common sense.
In approaching this issue, we should be very, very careful in taking anything at face value from the U.S. government. This is the same government which at one point said that it was certain—in fact, that it was a "slam dunk"—that Iraq under the government of Saddam Hussein possessed "weapons of mass destruction." These claims turned out to be totally false, a bogus reason to hide the real interests driving the U.S. to make war on Iraq. Nonetheless, war was made on this basis—and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis died, with many more driven into exile, as a result.
By contrast, we will show here what the real interests on all sides are—and how the people of the world have no interest in any such war against Iran, and every interest in opposing it.
Is there an "existential threat" to the state of Israel posed by Iran if it were to acquire nuclear weapons capability? And what is the nature of that threat? It is commonly assumed in the mass media—an assumption people have not been discouraged from making—that Iran's alleged desire for nuclear weapons is intended in some way for use against Israel. Yet in their private analyses, Israeli and U.S. analysts and policy makers all but rule out the actual likelihood of Iran firing a nuclear weapon at Tel Aviv.
Moreover, it is not at all clear that Iran is attempting to produce such weapons. In fact, Iran has developed the capacity to produce nuclear "medical grade" fuel—even as this marks an important capability, it is short of what would be needed to produce a weapon. And there is absolutely no reason why Iran should not have the right to develop nuclear energy.
At the same time, it is an "open secret" that Israel has been producing its own nuclear weapons for over 40 years, and now has well over a hundred! In 1986, a 31-year-old Israeli nuclear technician, Mordechai Vanunu, publicly revealed this "secret" to the British press, along with photos, because of his opposition to weapons of mass destruction. He was kidnapped by Israel's intelligence agency and brought back to Israel to face a secret trial. Vanunu served 18 years behind bars, 11 in solitary confinement, and continues to be forbidden from speaking about his knowledge of Israel's nuclear weapons program. Today it is well understood that Israel possesses a huge nuclear arsenal with land, sea, and air delivery systems. As one Israeli defense official told Goldberg, Iran knows "that Israel has unlimited reprisal capability"—a veiled reference to its second-strike nuclear arsenal—and "we think they know that they are putting Persian civilization at risk." Still, public perception in the U.S. is that nuclear weapons in the hands of Israel are okay, but in the hands of Iran they're somehow potentially a tremendous danger.
It is said that if Iran gets a nuclear weapon, or achieves "break-out" capability (the ability to enrich enough uranium for a nuclear weapon), it could be destabilizing to the current power relations throughout the Middle East, Central Asia and beyond. It would further signal that the existence of Israel as the dominant country in the region, representing U.S. interests even as it pursues what it sees as its own, was now facing a coherent challenge from within the region. The shifts and fallout from such a challenge to Israeli and U.S. regional domination, and how that might further develop, could at some point call into question Israel's future as an untouchable U.S. outpost, and threaten its own stability.
There is some truth to this. But it serves to hide a larger truth: that such shifts are already going on and that, nukes or no, the U.S. and Israel aim to stop this trend. The recent clamor over the Goldberg article, as well as other similar and related developments, signals that they are more urgently threatening the Iranian regime and making serious preparations for military aggression to do this.
The U.S. invasion and occupation, first of Afghanistan and then Iraq, have brought tremendous suffering to the people of those countries, while radically upending the previously existing balance of power in the Middle East and Central Asia. But the U.S. saw all this as the necessary risk required to bring about the transformation of this region to one strategically more favorable to U.S. imperialist interests. These interests, we should understand, are all about dominating this region as an important source of oil and a geostrategic crossroads. And the pursuit of these interests requires, and has required, sentencing the hundreds of millions of people in this region to untold privation, suffering, humiliation, repression, exile and massacre. The so-called war on terror launched by Bush set the U.S. on a trajectory that Obama is now aggressively pursuing.
The Iranian regime, at the geopolitical center of many key world contradictions, has its own ambitions in the region. It is interacting and building ties with other, emerging rival power centers in the world, including with Russia and China. For instance, China currently is a major importer of Iranian oil and gas, and sells Iran 30% of its refined oil products. Russia had been providing Iran with defensive weapon systems until the recent UN sanctions brought that to a stop. This is giving Iran more maneuvering room to stand up to the U.S. As a relatively coherent reactionary, fundamentalist Islamic state, it also poses an alternative political and ideological model away from the direction that U.S. imperialism wants to take things in the Middle East and globally.
Iran is NOT challenging the system of imperialism, with its division of the world into oppressor and oppressed nations. But it IS playing a role opposed to the U.S. desire to maintain overwhelming dominance in the region. We noted above Iran's growing ties with China, and Russia. But there are other forces, and developments, as well. Turkey, for instance, has tightened ties with Iran. Together with Brazil, the Turkish government recently attempted to pose an alternate diplomatic initiative around Iran's nuclear program—to the great displeasure of the U.S. The point is that while the U.S. and Israel do intend to stop Iran from attempts to increase its nuclear capacity, this is not the driving reason behind what is happening.
Iran has, for a whole period of time, been gaining influence as well as indirectly clashing militarily with U.S. and Israeli interests: in Iraq through its extensive ties in the current government as well as influence among the Shi'a opposition to the U.S. occupation; in Lebanon and Palestine through its support for Hezbollah and Hamas; and extensive ties and influence among some ruling strata in Afghanistan and to some extent Pakistan, which it also borders. The Bush regime's "surge" in Iraq in 2007 represented a shift in strategy and political objectives that aimed to make peace with sections of the Sunnis and isolate and defeat al Qaeda and the anti-U.S. Shi'a forces, in order to forge a government not dominated by Iran. But the current inability of the U.S. to form a government to its liking in Iraq in part reflects that the U.S.-Iran contention there remains unresolved and could easily become acute.
Israel for its part has repeatedly shown its willingness to use overwhelming force and violence again and again to punish Iran's allies on its borders. Israel invaded and bombed Lebanon, wreaking terrible devastation and murdering over 1,000 people, to strike at Hezbollah in 2006. It bombed Syria in 2007—allegedly to take out a nuclear facility, but with evidence that it was a "dry run" for an attack on Iran. It invaded Gaza in December 2008, wantonly targeting civilians and civilian infrastructure as part of going after Iran's ally Hamas. And it waged the recent bloody assault in international waters of the unarmed flotilla bringing aid from Turkey to the Palestinians in Gaza.
In addition to acting through the Israelis, the U.S. has its own blood-soaked history in the region, and is currently waging war or committing military aggression against or in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, and Pakistan. But this history significantly includes history of aggression against Iran itself. The U.S. engineered a military coup against Iran's elected, secular-nationalist Mossadegh government in 1953. The CIA worked to overthrow Mossadegh and then installed the extremely repressive regime of the Shah (ruler), Reza Pahlavi. When the masses rose up to overthrow the Shah in 1977-78, the U.S. allowed the Islamic fundamentalists, headed by Ayatollah Khomeini, to take the reins of power, in preference to seeing a real revolution develop there. At the same time, the Americans worked both to weaken and control this regime in many different ways, including through encouraging Iraq and Saddam Hussein in a bloody invasion of Iran that set off a terrible, eight-year war in which the U.S. alternately backed both sides. Any war against Iran would be—and would be widely and more or less correctly perceived elsewhere in the world as—a continuation of this history of aggression and oppression.
There is a certain sick irony in all this. In the 1980s, the U.S. was battling the Soviet Union (which was then an imperialist power) for world domination. As part of that, the U.S. found it useful to bring forward and support, with a great deal of money as well as sophisticated weapons, the Islamic fundamentalist forces opposed to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. At the same time, Israel did something similar in its battle against the resistance movement in Palestine—which was largely a secular nationalist movement. During the '80s, the Israelis also backed Islamic fundamentalist forces within Palestine. These forces were then—and are today—extremely reactionary, representing and fighting for extremely backward and traditional relations. But with the fall of the Soviet Union, they began to coalesce into a global force that increasingly came into conflict with ever more flagrant and unchallenged U.S. domination.
If the Islamic Republic of Iran were able to acquire nuclear capability—and, again, it is far from proven that they are moving to do so—it would challenge Israel's unrivaled military superiority in this region of the world. Some believe it would provide Iran with a "nuclear umbrella" for further strikes against Israel by Hamas and Hezbollah, because Israel would not be able to threaten Iran in the same way it does now. On the other hand, Israel has not been able to force the Palestinians to accept the kinds of agreements the U.S. has been attempting to impose on them, in large part because of Iran's support for Hamas.
Iran with a nuclear capability could also alter the political calculus in the region significantly. It would put pressure on the pro-U.S. Persian Gulf states (Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, and the sultanate of Oman), which have been a counterbalance to opposition to U.S. and Israeli domination, to shift their alliances toward the new regional power, Iran. It would also put considerable pressure on them to acquire nuclear capability of their own.
The reality is the world is becoming much more dangerous, including with the spread of nuclear technology and weaponry. But in fact, the world already IS very dangerous, and it is mainly and overwhelming the actions of the U.S.—which has far and away the most nuclear weapons in the world and is the ONLY power which has ever used them—which has made it that way, and is making it more so. More than anything this points to the urgency of breaking out of this very negative and dangerous dynamic. And this means breaking out of shortsightedly thinking that striking Iran will make matters better, rather than worse. Such a strike—which itself might very well involve nuclear weapons—would be nothing but a case of big-time gangsters cracking down on up-and-coming gangsters. Again, it must be emphasized: the vast majority of the people of the world have no interest in siding with one gangster against another.
There are a number of ways that the military attack against Iran now so loudly being promoted could play out. But the scenarios considered most likely involve Iran retaliating directly or indirectly against both Israeli and U.S. targets, with unpredictable, highly destabilizing consequences that could be difficult to contain.
In a September 1 New York Times OpEd piece by Reza Aslan and Bernard Avishai directly responding to Goldberg's article, titled "Stop the War Talk," the authors discuss a likely Iranian response, which they believe "would almost certainly precipitate a devastating regional war with unforeseeable global consequences." They make the point that "Iran is not Syria," which lacked the capacity to respond to Israel's attack on its nuclear sites. Iran fought a brutal eight-year war with Iraq, and could engage in a protracted war against Israeli and American interests. Iran "maintains a large military equipped with Russian-made weapons systems, surface-to-surface missiles, combat aircraft, unmanned drones and high-speed torpedo boats capable of destroying large warships." They say further that Israel would be compelled to move into Lebanon, which they believe would "plunge the entire region into war,...and place enormous pressure on leaders in Cairo [Egypt] and Amman [Jordan] to renounce their peace treaties with Israel." And Iran has said they will attack Saudi Arabia too if it allows Israeli planes to use Saudi airspace.
In fact, the New York Times reported on September 17, 2010, that Obama will seek approval for a huge arms sale to Saudi Arabia, which according to administration and Pentagon officials would be chiefly a building block for Middle East regional defenses to box in Iran. This apparently includes scores of new F-15 combat aircraft, 175 attack and troop-transport helicopters, and possibly ships and antimissile defenses in the future.
Iran could retaliate against U.S. forces in Iraq, where it is reported to have 30,000 operatives located. It could shut down the Strait of Hormuz, where 17 million barrels of oil pass through each day, driving oil prices up and devastating the U.S. financial recovery. And it could provoke an all-out response by Hezbollah from neighboring Lebanon. Israeli military officials have indicated they are making plans to prevent such a response; but it is reported that Hezbollah now has 45,000 rockets, three times the number they had before Israel's invasion and devastation of Lebanon in 2006.
Think for a minute about the levels of horror and suffering involved in those prospects. Think how "cleanly" "taking out Iraq" was presented to the American public... and think of what it has meant in terms of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi deaths, millions sent into exile, the lives that have been ruined if not ended... and the toll as well on the environment and the archaeological legacy of humanity. Now think again about what these imperialists are so calculatedly threatening and preparing for—and so insanely risking.
The fact that there is significant support in U.S. and Israeli centers of power for taking such a risk, and that it is being anticipated, prepared for, and justified at a time when the U.S. is confronting major difficulties in its occupations and wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, is a powerful statement that the rise of the Iranian regime is considered such a major threat to the strategic interests of the U.S. and Israel in the region and beyond that, as risky as the potential consequences of another war targeting a Middle Eastern country may be, the alternative is considered worse.
Sitting in this imperialist country, we have a particular responsibility to oppose U.S. imperialism, our "own" ruling class, and what it is doing in the world. And that includes opposing what Israel, the U.S.'s enforcer in the region, is doing as well. The "existential threat" that Israel faces is a product of its role as U.S. outpost, carrying out U.S. interests, in the Middle East. The interests, objectives, and grand designs of the U.S. and Israel are not our interests—they are not the interests of the great majority of people in the U.S. nor of the overwhelming majority of people in the world as a whole. And the difficulties these powers have gotten themselves into in pursuit of these interests must be seen, and responded to, not from the point of view of the imperialists and their interests, but from the point of view of the great majority of humanity and the basic and urgent need of humanity for a different and better world, for another way.
That doesn't change the fact that the Islamic fundamentalist forces are also "historically outmoded" and reactionary. It doesn't change the reactionary character of their opposition to imperialism and what it leads to and the dynamic that it's part of, which is also not in the interests of the people of the world. It is very important to understand, and to struggle for others to understand, that if you end up supporting either one of these two "historically outmodeds," you contribute to strengthening both. It is crucial to break out of that.
In the excerpts from Bob Avakian's talk, Bringing Forward Another Way, that also appear in this issue of Revolution, he says that while there is some reality to the "war on terror," in essence it is aimed at turning people's sights away from "the profound inequalities and oppressive relations that exist within different societies but especially on a world scale," under the domination of U.S. imperialism in particular. He emphasizes the need to look more deeply at the more fundamental relations in the world, and the effects and consequences of that and the ways in which it is at the root of developments in the world now, including what the rulers of this country call their "war on terror."
Choosing between these two "out-modeds"—even on the basis of "but we have to be protected" from the dangers that this profoundly lopsided world has given birth to—leads to a very bad place. To get to a correct understanding of things, and to move toward the only possible resolution of all this that is in the interests of humanity, means coming to terms with the fact that in its essence this is not "a war on terror." As Bob Avakian says in Bringing Forward Another Way, "It is essentially a war for empire. And the confrontation with Islamic fundamentalist, and other, forces (even those which actually do employ tactics and methods which can legitimately be called 'terrorist') takes place within, and is essentially framed by, that context and that content of war for empire."
"The Point of No Return" by Jeffrey Goldberg, The Atlantic, September 2010
"An Assessment of the Momentum towards War Between the United States and Iran: Causes and Potential Ramifications," Preliminary Findings by a Working Group, June 2008, revcom.us
"After the Crackdown" by Jon Lee Anderson, New Yorker, August 16, 2010
"Stop the War Talk," Op-Ed by Reza Aslan and Bernard Avishai, New York Times, September 1, 2010
"China vs. the Western Campaign for Iran Sanctions" by Willem van Kemenade, The Washington Quarterly, July 2010
"U.N. Approves New Sanctions to Deter Iran" by Neil MacFarquhar, New York Times, June 9, 2010"Tea Party Caucus Endorses Israeli Attack on Iran" posted by steve m. on alternet.org, July 27, 2010
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Revolution #213, October 10, 2010
Part 1. The Origins of the State of Israel, the Palestinians, and the Holocaust
Background to This Quiz:
Much of the material for this Revolution quiz comes from or was updated from a fact sheet about the state of Israel that appeared in a previous issue of this paper (when the name of the paper was the Revolutionary Worker). In the spring of 2006, a student at the School for International Training in Vermont posted that fact sheet to an online discussion group. The Dean of Graduate Studies called for a campus forum—not to debate the content of the fact sheet, but to criticize the student who sent it for violating the school's policy on "appropriate use of the electronic media" by posting "material that may be or may be perceived as harassment"! Apparently a simple examination into the actual history of the state of Israel was verboten. The incident is alarmingly indicative of the atmosphere on college campuses and intellectual centers, where a number of prominent universities have "disinvited" or driven off campus everyone from poets to historians who've criticized the state of Israel.
1. Which of the following statements was made by David Ben-Gurion, a key figure in the founding of the state of Israel?
a) "After the formation of a large army in the wake of the establishment of the state, we will abolish partition and expand to the whole of Palestine."
b) "If I was an Arab leader I would never make terms with Israel. That is natural: we have taken their country. Sure, God promised it to us, but what does that matter to them? Our God is not theirs. We come from Israel, it's true, but two thousand years ago, and what is that to them?"
c) "There has been anti-semitism, the Nazis, Hitler, Auschwitz, but was that their fault? They only see one thing: we have come here and stolen their country. Why should they accept that?"
d) All of the above.
e) None of the above.
2. In a speech to the American-Israel Political Affairs Committee (AIPAC), Barack Obama stated that "It was just a few years after the liberation of the [Nazi concentration] camps that David Ben-Gurion declared the founding of the Jewish state of Israel." Which of the following two statements is an actual quote reflecting Ben-Gurion's views on the relationship between saving Jews from the Holocaust and establishing Israel?
a) "If I knew that it was possible to save all the children in Germany by transporting them to England, but only half of them by transporting them to Palestine, I would choose the first—because we face not only the reckoning of those children, but the historical reckoning of the Jewish people." [emphasis added]
b) "If I knew that it was possible to save all the children in Germany by transporting them to England, but only half of them by transporting them to Palestine, I would choose the second—because we face not only the reckoning of those children, but the historical reckoning of the Jewish people." [emphasis added]
3. Which of the following is an accurate quote from Moshe Dayan, a major figure in the founding of Israel?
a) "Overwhelmingly, the areas settled by Jewish emigrants were not populated by Arabs."
b) "One of the greatest myths is that we stole this country [Israel] from the Arabs."
c) "Israel is truly a land without a people for a people without a land."
d) "There is not a single place built in this country [Israel] that did not have a former Arab population."
e) None of the above.
4. What was the actual Palestinian Arab population compared to the Jewish population in Palestine at the beginning of World War 1 in 1914?
a) 10,000 Arabs and 150,000 Jews
b) 100,000 Arabs and 150,000 Jews
c) 15,000 Arabs and 10,000 Jews
d) 683,000 Arabs and 60,000 Jews
e) None of the above.
5. What percentage of the land of Palestine did the state of Israel seize in the 1948 war between Israel and Arab states?
6. The 1967 "Six-Day War" resulted in Israel occupying the remaining 23 percent of historic Palestine—the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem—along with Egypt's Sinai Peninsula and Syria's Golan Heights. After that war, Menachem Begin, who later became prime minister, made which of the following statements in a speech to the Israeli National Defense College?
a) "The Egyptian Army concentrations in the Sinai approaches do not prove that Nasser was really about to attack us. We must be honest with ourselves. We decided to attack him."
b) "The Egyptian Army concentrations in the Sinai approaches do prove that Nasser was really about to attack us. The international community must be honest. We were defending ourselves."
c) "The Egyptian Army concentrations in the Sinai protected terrorists who were endangering Israeli citizens without regard for the lives of children and civilians."
d) "Our military operations in the Sinai were actions of last resort."
e) None of the above.
7. Ariel Sharon was Israel's prime minister from 2001 until suffering a stroke in 2006. Which of the following is he famous for?
a) Leading a commando unit of the Haganah, a Zionist underground group, that carried out terrorist operations against Palestinian communities before the establishment of the Israeli state.
b) Leading an Israeli army unit in the 1950s called Unit 101 which carried out armed attacks against Palestinians. In October 1953, this unit blew up the village of Kibya in the West Bank, killing 69 civilians.
c) As defense minister, serving as the main architect of the 1982 invasion of Lebanon when, in a space of a few weeks, the Israeli military killed 20,000 Lebanese and Palestinians.
d) Being charged with "indirect responsibility" by an official Israeli investigation for the September 1982 massacre of 2,000 people at the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps outside Beirut, carried out by Israeli-backed fascist Phalange forces.
e) All of the above.
8. In which, if any, of the following major international events was Israel deeply involved?
a) The Iran-Contra Affair, shipping arms to the Islamic Republic of Iran. Money from the arms sales was used to fund the "Contras" who were carrying out sabotage and violence against the Sandinista government in Nicaragua.
b) The installation of the notorious General Idi Amin as the ruler of Uganda.
c) The slaughter of at least 182,000 Mayan peasants by the death-squad regime in Guatemala during the period of 1978-1984.
d) All of the above.
e) None of the above.
9. To which of the following countries has Israel not sold or transferred substantial military material?
a) The government of South Africa during the apartheid era. Israel observed an international boycott of selling military weapons to that regime.
b) The government of India over the past five years. Israel's policy is to avoid fueling the India-Pakistan arms race.
c) The Islamic Republic of Iran. For obvious reasons Israel has refused to sell or transfer military supplies to that regime.
d) Israel has not sold or transferred weapons to any of the three countries listed above.
e) Israel has sold or transferred weapons to all three of the countries listed above.
Part 2 of this quiz, "Israel and Comparisons to Apartheid South Africa," will appear in the upcoming special issue of Revolution on Israel. For more on that issue, see the editorial in this issue.
Send us your comments.
Revolution #213, October 10, 2010
PART 2: ISRAEL AND COMPARISONS TO APARTHEID SOUTH AFRICA
Background note to this section of the quiz
Under the white supremacist apartheid system, in effect in South Africa from 1948 to 1994, millions of South African people were driven out of their communities, deprived of citizenship, and violently herded into so-called "homelands" called bantustans. Education, medical care, and other services were rigidly segregated and abominable for black South Africans. Protests and uprisings were violently suppressed. The apartheid regime carried out proxy wars on behalf of the United States in opposition to Soviet-sponsored forces in Southern Africa during the "cold war." In 1994, in response to international outrage, resistance in South Africa, and in the context of the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the "cold war," formal apartheid was ended.
1) Until the early 1990s, the apartheid government of South Africa was isolated by a UN embargo on trade. During that period, Israel's commercial relationship with South Africa consisted of...
a) Trade limited to the export of oranges and other food.
b) Trade limited to the export of eyeglasses and medical supplies.
c) Trade centered on large scale, strategic military assistance including material and training to help the apartheid regime massacre protesters and assistance in developing a nuclear weapons program.
d) All of the above.
e) None of the above—Israel was one of the few countries in the world to strictly observe the boycott of trade with South Africa.
2) When South African prime minister John Vorster—who had been jailed for his membership in a fascist organization in South Africa that sided with Hitler in World War 2—made a state visit to Israel in 1976...
a) Israel allowed Vorster to visit, but in a close parallel to Iranian President Ahmadinejad's reception at Columbia University in New York in 2007, Vorster's speech at Tel Aviv University was introduced by Prof. Joseph Klafter (currently the university's president) with scathing denunciation of Vorster's "unacceptable past positions," and "abhorrent current policies towards [South Africa's] black population."
b) Israel allowed Vorster to visit, but Israeli authorities boycotted his visit.
c) Israel's Prime Minister at the time, Yitzhak Rabin, praised "the ideals shared by Israel and South Africa: the hopes for justice and peaceful coexistence" and declared both countries were threatened by "foreign-inspired instability and recklessness."
d) Vorster was detained at the Tel Aviv Airport and not allowed to enter Israel.
3) In apartheid South Africa, after the indigenous African people's land was taken by force, they were declared illegal inhabitants of their own land. In Israel, the status of Palestinian people who own houses in Jerusalem, land seized by Israel in the 1967 war, has been addressed in the following way:
a) Jerusalem has always been almost exclusively inhabited by European immigrants, and there is no issue of dispossessed Palestinian homeowners.
b) Israeli court rulings protect Palestinians who own homes in Jerusalem.
c) Palestinian property holders in Jerusalem are considered "illegally present people" in their own homes, without legal rights to live in their own houses. Thousands of Palestinians living in the West Bank who own land or homes in Jerusalem lost all rights to their holdings.
d) None of the above.
4) Speaking of the bantustans, remote, barren enclosures to which the indigenous African people of South Africa were confined, former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon told Italian Prime Minister Massimo D'Alema that...
a) The bantustan model was the most appropriate solution to the conflict with the Palestinians.
b) The bantustan model was appalling, and drew parallels to the forced resettlement of European Jews in ghettos.
c) The bantustan model was abandoned due to the struggle of the people of South Africa, and pressure from Israel.
d) The bantustan model might have been appropriate for South Africa, but was not appropriate for Israel.
5) The similarity between the Pass Laws under the South African apartheid regime and the identity cards carried by Palestinians in Israel is that ...
a) Israeli soldiers routinely humiliate and harass Palestinians at checkpoints.
b) Israeli police stop people based on their apparent nationality and demand their identity cards as a matter of routine.
c) Walls, checkpoints, and repression create an environment in Israel where much of the Jewish public is shielded from, doesn't see, and avoids confronting the conditions of the Palestinian people.
d) All of the above
e) None of the above.
6) Which of the following is a substantial difference between Israel and apartheid South Africa?
a) Ideologists of apartheid invoked religious dogma to justify white supremacy, whereas defenders of Zionism do not.
b) While these provisions are flawed in implementation, Israel's Constitution guarantees equality to people of all races and religions, whereas no such protection existed in South Africa.
c) Israel maintains a world-class arsenal of nuclear weapons and has the technology, intelligence capacity and delivery systems to launch a devastating nuclear attack—while apartheid South Africa never achieved nuclear weapons capacity.
d) The South African regime provided military assistance, training, and materiel to pro-U.S. forces carrying out terrorist attacks, whereas Israel has not and is not involved in such actions.
e) None of the above.
Part 1 of this quiz, "The Origins of the State of Israel, the Palestinians, and the Holocaust," appeared in the previous issue of Revolution. See the editorial in that issue.
Send us your comments.
Revolution #213, October 10, 2010
An Interview with Cindy and Craig Corrie
A special feature of Revolution to acquaint our readers with the views of significant figures in art, theater, music and literature, science, sports and politics. The views expressed by those we interview are, of course, their own; and they are not responsible for the views published elsewhere in our paper.
"...When that explosive detonated yesterday it broke all the windows in the family's house. I was in the process of being served tea and playing with the two small babies.
"I'm having a hard time right now. Just feel sick to my stomach from being doted on very sweetly, by people who are facing doom. I know that from the United States it all sounds like hyperbole. A lot of the time the kindness of the people here, coupled with the willful destruction of their lives, makes it seem unreal to me. I can't believe that something like this can happen in the world without a bigger outcry..."
The voice is that of a 23-year-old American woman, Rachel Corrie, writing to her parents from Rafah, Palestine in 2003. She was there as a volunteer with the International Solidarity Movement, an organization which organizes resistance to Israeli occupation of Palestinian land using non-violent direct-action methods.
On March 16, 2003, Rachel was run over and killed by a member of the Israeli Defense Force as she stood between a U.S.-made bulldozer (bought with U.S. military aid) and a Palestinian family's home targeted for demolition. In the days and weeks following her death, the extraordinary emails she had written to her parents about her experience in Rafah, in the Gaza Strip, circulated across the world.
Rachel's parents, Cindy and Craig Corrie, have taken their grief back out into the world—courageously telling Rachel's story—as part of telling the larger story, as they put it, of what is unfolding in Palestine. The Corries took to heart Rachel's call, "This has to stop. I think it is a good idea for us all to drop everything and devote our lives to making this stop." They are now in Israel for further hearings in their civil suit against Israel's defense ministry, Corrie v. the State of Israel. The suit, which began last March, charges that Israel—by either intent or negligence—is ultimately responsible for Rachel's death.
"I feel like we are standing up in the same way Rachel stood up when she stood up to actions against a civilian population that were going unaccounted for," Cindy said.
On September 7, Yossi, a colonel from Israel's Engineering Corps, testified. Reflecting Israel's stance towards this murder, he said, "It's not important for the bulldozers or army to safeguard other people. During war there are no civilians."
In November 2006, Revolution correspondent CJ had a chance to interview Cindy and Craig Corrie after a New York performance of a play taken from Rachel's writings titled, My Name is Rachel Corrie. This interview, originally published in Revolution #70, was done during the Bush administration. It continues to underscores the importance of Rachel's story – and how she should be an inspiration, especially to the younger generation, about what it means to live a life with real meaning.
* * * * *
Revolution: I saw the play with two friends. One of them is Rachel's age and as the curtain went down she said, "I know if I'd lived in Olympia we would have been friends." The thing that struck her, and me, about Rachel—she seemed to not flinch from looking at the world as it really was, and then took responsibility for that. And she did not just ask am I doing enough, but am I doing the right thing? Once she'd gone to a place like Palestine and seen what her own government is doing to people, she wanted to not just register protest, but to actually STOP it. Can you talk about this quality of Rachel?
Cindy Corrie: Well, you saw that in the ten-year-old. There was something in the education she had as a young child in her elementary school program. She was in Options, a public school alternative program that we helped to create. It was important to us that this program be within the public school system. We were looking for something that would empower our kids. The core idea was that kids needed to connect to the community and be active participants, and then that their concept of community be extended to the entire world. Rachel had these fabulous teachers. Options remains a very wonderful program. It's now 20 years old. I think it had a huge impact on Rachel. There were other times when she saw a problem and had to do something about it. I think that was a really strong message she got throughout elementary school and beyond.
Revolution: What also struck me watching the play was that Rachel looked at the situation of the Palestinian people and said this is an occupied nation, an open-air prison essentially. The "Palestinian narrative" and "Israeli narrative" are not equally true. One group of people is subjugating another, and it's wrong.
Cindy Corrie: She was a wonderful observer, always. And I think that comes through in her writing, in those incredibly simple lines. There was a unique way in which she expressed herself. She thought a little differently than other people did. I'm so often surprised again when I hear the lines in the play at how artfully she articulated what she thought. There is universality in much of what she says, but it's still uniquely her own view of things. Just her way of looking at the world and approaching it was unique to her, and often enlightening to us. We felt pretty fortunate most of the time simply being in a space with Rachel where we could enjoy and benefit from her thinking.
Craig Corrie: About Rachel's activism, it's natural to you [speaking to Cindy] whereas ... it's not really natural to me. But it's important. People's children are being killed, dammit. That's gotta stop. So we have to stop it. I was having a discussion with some staffers on Capitol Hill with Cindy's sister, Cheryl, who was kind of in their face about something, and this staffer said, "Well, this is your passion." And Cheryl said, "No, it's not my passion. My garden's my passion, and if you guys would do your job then I could go back and work on my garden!" [laughter]
Revolution: It's heavy because people ARE being drawn out of their gardens. There is no referee up there. It's up to us to stop them.
Revolution: I saw that you [spoke] at the World Can't Wait demonstration in front of the White House on October 5 [in 2006]. What did you say?
Craig Corrie: I talked about the buildings around us, how we have walked through all of them trying to make our government work for us. I talked about the temporary tenants who are attacking our freedoms. Just the idea of abolishing habeas corpus is abominable. As a veteran and the son of a veteran it's shocking to me that this president abuses the Constitution that he's sworn to protect.
Revolution: I imagine that for a lot of people who watch this play, the journey they're taking is through your parts in the play. She obviously learned a great deal from you and then she went out in the world and came back with some new things, and she struggled with you. What was it like—her arguing with you?
Craig Corrie: She did bring us into it. I talked about how Rachel had a different way of looking at things—[there were] differences we would have over some things. She was very disapproving of corporate America, as so many people who are around me now are. But of course my life has been in corporate America. And I very much treasure the people that I worked with there. They were very kind people. They may have had blind spots but the people in the companies I worked with were trying to help every employee and the customers. They were great people. There's a difference in some perceptions, but Rachel wouldn't lie. When she wrote, she wouldn't write something untrue. She might write something artistic, but she was writing what she was seeing and I knew it was true.
Cindy Corrie: ...When she was growing up, there were times when I certainly challenged her about things and she would openly challenge us. She would really debate with us about things. In fact one of the last conversations was in a restaurant in Olympia.
Craig Corrie: She was so mad at me she was in tears.
Cindy Corrie: We'd have these big discussions that would be pretty intense but never would we get mad at each other and not speak to each other for even an hour or a day. But she was struggling with the fact that we— her family—were fairly blissfully ignoring much that was going on in the world—it was adding a lot of meaning to her life—the political work she was doing in Olympia—and her insights about a lot of what was going on in the world were...frankly she was ahead of us in things. We weren't paying as much attention... She wanted us to tune in and get these things. It was staggering to us to get the emails from Rachel [from Palestine]. She was careful to give me information, websites to go to and books to read. Which I did. She was providing that education; she wanted to bring us along...
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Revolution #213, October 10, 2010
At 7 am on Friday, September 24, 2010, scores of FBI agents raided two homes in Chicago and the Anti-War Committee Office and five residences in Minneapolis. Altogether subpoenas to testify before a Federal Grand Jury in Chicago were issued to eleven activists in Illinois, Minnesota, and Michigan. According to on-line accounts, the FBI also attempted to intimidate activists in California and North Carolina.
The FBI spokesman in Minneapolis was quoted in the Chicago Tribune, "The warrants are seeking evidence in support of an ongoing Joint Terrorism Task Force investigation into activities concerning the material support of terrorism." This was a charge which activists immediately dismissed as illegitimate and unjustified. No arrests have been made and the FBI admitted that there was no "imminent danger" to the public. The warrants and subpoenas raise travel to a host of countries and unspecified relation to U.S .government's designated Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTO's), specifically the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).
Twin Cities Indymedia reported activists targeted in the raids are involved with the Freedom Road Socialist Organization (FRSO), Anti-War Committee, Palestine Solidarity Group, Colombia Action Network, and new SDS. Some of the individuals were prominent in organizing marches against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan at the 2008 Republican National Convention in St. Paul.
This is a very sinister move by the government, one that should alarm and concern anyone who thinks the government should not be allowed to trample on people's rights, and who thinks it is important that there be opposition, and the freedom to oppose, what the government is doing here and around the world. This is a major escalation against the anti-war movements in particular.
The attacks on the individuals and the organizations targeted so far are very serious and should be vigorously opposed politically and legally. In addition the government is loudly sending a message to intimidate very broadly—don't get involved in support of people from or in other countries; don't give money to any group that the U.S. government doesn't like; don't be active in anything that opposes your government. This message should be uncompromisingly opposed too.
There was an immediate reaction to the raids. In Minneapolis over 150 people gathered for a meeting that same day. Press conferences were held in both Chicago and Minneapolis attended by attorneys and supporters denouncing the witch-hunt.
Paul Craig Roberts, a former assistant editor of the Wall Street Journal and an official in the Reagan administration, who has extensive academic credentials, wrote in a blog piece titled It is Official, the US is A Police State, "Now we know what Homeland Security (sic) secretary Janet Napolitano meant when she said on September 10: 'The old view that "if we fight the terrorists abroad, we won't have to fight them here" is just that—the old view.' The new view, Napolitano said, is 'to counter violent extremism right here at home.'
"'Violent extremism' is one of those undefined police state terms that will mean whatever the government wants it to mean. In this morning's FBI's foray into the homes of American citizens of conscience, it means antiwar activists, whose activities are equated with 'the material support of terrorism,' just as conservatives equated Vietnam era anti-war protesters with giving material support to communism. My conservative friends were disappointed that the National Guard didn't kill more of the Kent State University students."
"It appears to be a fishing expedition," said attorney, Ted Dooley who represents an activist whose house was raided. "It seems like they're casting a huge seine or net into the political sea and see what they can drag up on shore and dry out. There's no rhyme or reason to it in a free society." (FBI serves terrorism warrants in Minn., Chicago, September 24, 2010, AP)
The searches of the activists' homes were extensive. Around 20 FBI agents searched one residence for 11 hours. According to the Chicago Tribune, agents took about 30 boxes of papers dating to the 1970s, including a postcard from an old girlfriend. The FBI also took their cell phones. The attorney for the activists told the Tribune reporter, "They (the FBI) said they would determine what was evidence later."
Agents also carted out boxes from the Chicago apartment of the executive director of the Arab American Action Network.
One of the homes raided in Minneapolis was that of Mick Kelly, described as an editor of Fight Back, the publication of FRSO. Kelly's spouse said that when she could not read the warrant fast enough through a peephole, the FBI "kicked down the door." The agents took computers, Kelly's cell phone, passport, CDs, and boxes of papers, including his spouse's personal papers although the warrant was only for Kelly's possessions. (The Uptake.org, Minneapolis)
The warrant for the raid and the subpoena to appear before the federal grand jury issued to Kelly were released to the media by his attorney. Both documents are stunning in the extensive scope of what is being sought by the government, blatantly trampling on basic constitutional rights. For instance, the search warrant weaves Kelly's affiliation to FRSO into the information sought; the warrant gives carte blanche to seize all financial records both personal and of FRSO as an organization, ostensibly to look into sources of funding for all travel to Palestine, Colombia and within the U.S. for the last 10 years! The warrant goes further, alleging that there are open-ended "potential co-conspirators" in order to justify the seizure of all address books and information regarding all contacts of Kelly (including emails, MySpace and Facebook or other social networking sites). In an extraordinary reach, the warrant authorizes seizure of materials regarding recruitment and "indoctrination" of others into FRSO, a political activity which is supposed to be completely lawful in the U.S.
(The FBI's warrant to search Mick Kelly's home is available at tc.indymedia.org/files/kelly-warrant-92210.pdf. The grand jury subpoena is available at tc.indymedia.org/files/kelly-subpoena-chicago-92210.pdf.)
Minnesota attorney Peter Erlinder at a press conference explained that in his view, the ground for this escalation in government repression was cleared by the recent Supreme Court ruling in Holder vs. Humanitarian Law Project. (TheUptake.org)
In June, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected a free-speech challenge to the law from humanitarian aid groups that said some provisions put them at risk of being prosecuted for communicating with organizations designated as "terrorist" by the U.S. State Department about nonviolent and humanitarian activities.
The first appearance before the federal grand jury in Chicago appears to be scheduled for October 5, 2010.
This dramatic escalation in U.S. government's repression carried out by Obama's Justice Department must be vigorously opposed and defeated.
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Revolution #213, October 10, 2010
Four hundred people gathered in front of Chicago FBI headquarters on Monday, September 27, to protest last Friday's outrageous raids and attacks by FBI agents against anti-war and Solidarity movement supporters in Minneapolis, Chicago and other cities. Starting at 4:30 and not ending until after 6 p.m., people gathered to picket and rally, filing onto the narrow strip of sidewalk and grass between the FBI's iron fence and engraved marble marker on one side and busy rush hour traffic on the other.
The news media was out in force as well, with reporters from FOX TV, CBS, ABC, the Chicago Tribune and Univisión, as well as from college and progressive media reporters.
The protest was multi-national, and many different groups and movements were represented: people from the anti-war and Solidarity movements as well as Latinos from the movement for immigrant rights, Black activists from the struggle against torture in Chicago, and young Muslim women in their hijabs, students from Roosevelt University, Columbia College, University of Chicago, University of Illinois at Chicago, and more. A large section of the crowd were people from the '60s who recalled the struggle against COINTELPRO and attacks against the civil rights movement.
There was a significant section of progressive religious activists—Christian, Muslim and Jewish—in attendance. The Wellington Church UCC carried a big banner declaring their presence. It was announced that in over 30 cities demonstrations had been held in response to the raids.
Broad and passionate opposition to the outrageous raids was expressed in the hand-drawn signs carried at the protest: "Evict Big Brother," "American Freedom Under Attack," "Stop Government Attacks," "Obama=Bush=Repression," "The U.S. Government is the Terrorist," "We support the resisters," "Blame Obama for these raids," "First they came for the Jews, then they came for the gays, now they are coming for the peace activists." A group of students from Wright College stretched out on the grass, making up more signs on the spot.
A big part of the protest was devoted to statements and speeches:
Jim Fennerty of the National Lawyers Guild (NLG), who is the attorney representing Hatem Abudayyeh, an American of Palestinian descent, executive director of the Arab American Action Network and one of the victims of the raids, said that lawyers from the NLG will represent those who are being investigated. He called for a Church Committee-type hearing to investigate FBI crimes and harassment against groups or individuals who are opposed to the war and to fight this before it spreads.
Stephanie Weiner and her partner of many years, Joe Iosbaker, whose home in Chicago's Logan Square neighborhood was the subject of subpoenas, search warrant and raid, spoke about how it was an honor to be standing with all the people at the rally and those fighting the U.S. around the world, opposing U.S. aid to Israel, participating in the anti-war movement. They identified organizing protests at the 2008 Republican National Convention as the common thread tying together people who were victims of these raids across the country. They spoke about how they had grown up in the anti-war movement of the '60s and had marched in the civil rights movement with their parents, and they introduced their kids who are speaking up in their behalf now.
They described the raid—how the FBI came in 10 deep at 7 in the morning with the warrants and didn't leave for the next 12 hours. They told of the FBI pawing through their son's room, going through all his school books and poetry, looking through all the drawers. They described FBI agents filing out of their house with numerous boxes of their political material, pictures from Palestine and Colombia, and how they even searched through their storage in the attic and dug through their music collection. They called for peace and justice. Chants went up to "Stop the Grand Jury."
Stan Willis of the National Conference of Black Lawyers and Black People Against Police Torture spoke. He opened his speech acknowledging the many participants at the protest—including enemies, pointing out how the enemies are right here at the rally taking their notes and reporting back to the FBI. He spoke to the resistance of the '60s and how that affected the war in Vietnam and that people should not be afraid and that we will be here until victory.
Ahmed Rehab, the executive director of the Chicago chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said "Hatem is a longtime, respected leader in the community. It is unthinkable that he would have any connections to terrorism. This is a new low.... This is an example of FBI overreach when it comes to activism or commentary on the [Middle East] conflict."
Other speakers included: a Chicago activist who was on vacation, visiting at one of the homes in Minneapolis when it was raided; Jorge Mujica, a leading activist in the struggle for immigration rights; the Chicago spokesperson for American Muslims for Palestine; the leader of the Chicago chapter of the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network, who is a student at Harold Washington College. Other anti-war and Solidarity activists also spoke.
Andy Thayer of the Gay Liberation Network and a leading Chicago anti-war activist, closed the rally, stating that people had to look beyond Attorney General Eric Holder to the president. Andy called on people to hold Barack Obama accountable for the disaster of civil liberties under his administration. Andy reminded people how the government had shut down Global Relief, seizing their files and computers and closing their offices—totally destroying that organization and other Muslim charities when people had done nothing. He went on to say that under Obama it was worse than Bush—from Abu Ghraib, to not prosecuting war criminals—and that we needed an independent movement for peace and justice.
Throughout the statements people called on those present to remember not to speak to the FBI. Another consistent theme was that this attack had only made people stronger and that people would carry on with their mission of opposing the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and against Iran, and would oppose Israeli aggression against the Palestinian people and the attack by the Colombian government, backed by the U.S., against the Colombian people. The crowd broke into chants after each speaker.
Those participating in this protest were called to continue to resist this attack, to participate in the upcoming rallies in Chicago on October 7, which is a National Day of Action on education, and October 16, a major regional rally against U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It was also mentioned that Barack Obama would be in town October 7 and that there should be a demonstration.
The next court date is a Grand Jury hearing on October 5.
The rally broke up with people signing up to be called back into action and for further meetings.
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Revolution #213, October 10, 2010
Historically the Justice Department and the FBI have used the subpoena power of the federal grand jury, coupled with compulsory immunity, to jail activists who refuse to cooperate with government investigations. In the 1960s and well into the '80s there were many instances of courageous people who refused to testify before grand juries.
According to attorney Michael Deutsch in "The Improper Use of the Federal Grand Jury: An Instrument for the Internment of Political Activists," (1984) " ... many subpoenaed witnesses agreed that the only way to respond to the grand jury was to refuse to answer its questions and to persist in such refusal in the face of immunity and contempt. Once a witness began to answer questions, the door was open, leaving no effective way to pick and choose which questions to answer."
Deutsch continues in discussing that history: "The position of 'non-collaboration' with the political grand jury was thereby established. The theory behind non-collaboration was that witnesses could deprive the grand jury witch hunts of the information they sought, thereby subverting their mission only by a unified position of refusal. Numerous witnesses followed the principle of non-collaboration. Some escaped civil contempt citations and jail, but many others spent months in jail without charge, until the life of the grand jury ended."
Deutsch goes on to point out, "A fair reading of the origins and purposes of the fifth amendment, coupled with the rights of political freedom contained in the first amendment, should create a right to 'political silence,' barring any compelled testimony before a grand jury touching a witness' political activity and associations. Political activists should not be forced to choose between providing the government with political intelligence about their movement or going to prison."
See also "Don't Be Bamboozled by Agents of Repression—'Don't Talk,'" Revolution #194, March 7, 2010
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Revolution #213, October 10, 2010
Needed: $10,000 for Publication
Coming soon from the Revolutionary Communist Party:
The RCP, USA announces with great enthusiasm the upcoming publication of the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal).
This Constitution will be a historic and visionary model of the future revolutionary socialist society and government. At the same time, it will give people a very concrete sense of how the new power would be constituted and exercised in the new society. People will get a feel, and an in-depth understanding, of how that new, revolutionary state power could work to truly usher in a new world, a world in which people would want to live and could flourish.
This document will speak to all who burn with the desire for a different world—and society. But it will also speak to the even greater numbers who today don't even allow themselves to hope that society could actually be different. It will speak to those who seethe about, and chafe at, and sometimes rebel against the horrors of today... who would jump at the chance for a better way... but who despair that real change could come about or, if such change did happen, that the new power could stay on the road to emancipation.
Serious, substantive engagement with the content of this Constitution should, and will, go on in many forums and through many avenues. There should be, and will be, discussion and debate as broadly as possible about the model it puts forward. The draft proposal for the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America will provide a vision to lift people's sights—and a goal to be actively and concretely struggled for. It will give proof that things don't have to be this way... and that a whole different, and better, world is possible. It should, and will, spark all-round social debate and ferment over how we live today, and how we could live tomorrow. As such, the work of boldly getting this vision and model of the future socialist society out into society now will be a critical part of hastening, while awaiting, a revolutionary situation.
This Constitution will be published simultaneously in Spanish and English. For the initial printing and promotion of this historic document, $10,000 must be raised very quickly. Creative ways can and should be found to raise money for this publication. Thinking and preparation should begin now to organize a range of fundraising activities, large and small. Groups can work together to make joint contributions and there must be individual contributions of all sizes from everyone who sees the value and importance of this draft proposal being out in the world at this critical time in world history.
As the day nears for the release of the Constitution, anticipation should build... and plans will need to be made to get it out in society in a big way. We should begin thinking, even now, about who should get this historic document, devising many ways to get this into their hands. The time is now for people to begin to plan on ways to make this a big deal in their communities, or schools, or scenes—and beyond that, in the national arena of public opinion. Big, ambitious ideas are not only welcome, they are urgently needed.
But most immediately, we should be spreading the word about the upcoming release of this Constitution—and raising the necessary funds for its publication. Readers should write to Revolution with ideas for maximizing the impact of this document—and how to reach out to all corners of society. And look to this paper for more news and guidance.
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Revolution #213, October 10, 2010
At every point, we must be searching out the key concentrations of social contradictions and the methods and forms which can strengthen the political consciousness of the masses, as well as their fighting capacity and organization in carrying out political resistance against the crimes of this system; which can increasingly bring the necessity, and the possibility, of a radically different world to life for growing numbers of people; and which can strengthen the understanding and determination of the advanced, revolutionary-minded masses in particular to take up our strategic objectives not merely as far-off and essentially abstract goals (or ideals) but as things to be actively striven for and built toward.
The objective and orientation must be to carry out work which, together with the development of the objective situation, can transform the political terrain, so that the legitimacy of the established order, and the right and ability of the ruling class to rule, is called into question, in an acute and active sense, throughout society; so that resistance to this system becomes increasingly broad, deep and determined; so that the "pole" and the organized vanguard force of revolutionary communism is greatly strengthened; and so that, at the decisive time, this advanced force is able to lead the struggle of millions, and tens of millions, to make revolution.
Fight the power, and transform the people, for revolution.
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Revolution #213, October 10, 2010
We have a strategy—and our newspaper is, as "The Revolution We Need... The Leadership We Have" statement says, "the foundation, guideline, and organizational scaffolding for [the] whole process" of carrying out that strategy. This is the paper that cuts to the bone to tell you WHY things are happening... to show you HOW it doesn't have to be this way... and to give you the ways to ACT to change it. It is a call to action and a means of struggle. It is, and has to be much more, the scaffolding on which this movement is built, where those who are getting into it and following it can wrangle in its pages and on its website with how we can better build this movement. It is a guideline where today thousands, but soon tens of thousands and eventually millions, all over the place, stay connected and learn to act in a powerful and united way. It is the foundation where those who read it learn about the larger goals of revolution and communism and come to see the ways in which the struggles of today are connected to those larger goals... where they come to grasp the scientific communist outlook through its application to all the many particular events and outrages and developments in society... and where they get organizationally linked up to this revolution.
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Revolution #213, October 10, 2010
Revolution newspaper is the foundation, guideline, and organizational scaffolding for the movement we are building for revolution. Stop and think about it—how essential is that?! But the reality is that this newspaper will not fill this need without more people becoming regular monthly sustainers. Sign up yourself to contribute regularly. And then, wherever you are—at a protest, a concert, selling Revolution, at FaceBook... or just hanging out—struggle with people, including people you just met, to sustain Revolution regularly. Once a week, check yourself: How is this going? How many new sustainers did you sign up?
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Revolution #213, October 10, 2010
It is this system that has got us in the situation we're in today, and keeps us there. And it is through revolution to get rid of this system that we ourselves can bring a much better system into being. The ultimate goal of this revolution is communism: A world where people work and struggle together for the common good...Where everyone contributes whatever they can to society and gets back what they need to live a life worthy of human beings...Where there are no more divisions among people in which some rule over and oppress others, robbing them not only of the means to a decent life but also of knowledge and a means for really understanding, and acting to change, the world.
This revolution is both necessary and possible.
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Revolution #213, October 10, 2010
In Bob Avakian, the Chairman of our Party, we have the kind of rare and precious leader who does not come along very often. A leader who has given his heart, and all his knowledge, skills and abilities to serving the cause of revolution and the emancipation of humanity. Bob Avakian came alive as a revolutionary in the 1960s—taking part in the great movements of those days, and especially working and struggling closely with the most advanced revolutionary force in the U.S. at that time, the Black Panther Party. Since then, and while many others have given up, Bob Avakian has worked and struggled tirelessly to find the way to go forward, having learned crucial lessons and built lasting organization that could continue the struggle, and aim to take it higher, while uniting with the same struggle throughout the world. He has kept on developing the theory and strategy for making revolution. He played the key role in founding our Party in 1975, and since then he has continued the battle to keep the Party on the revolutionary road, to carry out work with a strong revolutionary orientation. He has deeply studied the experience of revolution—the shortcomings as well as the great achievements—and many different fields of human endeavor, through history and throughout the world—and he has brought the science and method of revolution to a whole new level, so that we can not only fight but really fight to win. Bob Avakian has developed the scientific theory and strategic orientation for how to actually make the kind of revolution we need, and he is leading our Party as an advanced force of this revolution. He is a great champion and a great resource for people here, and indeed people all over the world. The possibility for revolution, right here, and for the advance of the revolution everywhere, is greatly heightened because of Bob Avakian and the leadership he is providing. And it is up to us to get with this leadership...to find out more about Bob Avakian and the Party he heads...to learn from his scientific method and approach to changing the world...to build this revolutionary movement with our Party at the core...to defend this leadership as the precious thing it is...and, at the same time, to bring our own experience and understanding to help strengthen the process of revolution and enable the leadership we have to keep on learning more and leading even better.
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