Source: Al Jazeera

Say the words Chechen rebels and most people think of the Beslan school massacre and the Moscow theatre siege, in which hundreds of civilians were killed.

Most people might also think that the war between the Chechens and Russians in the remote mountainous region of the Caucasus is over, but this is not the full truth…

Ramzy Baroud of the Palestine Chronicle explains why the US conquest of Afghanistan is doomed to fail. (Insha’Allah).

A New Afghanistan Nightmare

by Ramzy Baroud

Global Research, February 21, 2009

When US envoy to Afghanistan , Richard Holbrooke met with Afghanistan ’s ‘democratically’ installed President Hamid Karzai in Kabul on February 14, he may have just learned of the historic significance of the following day. February 15 commemorates the end of the bloody Russian campaign against Afghanistan (August 1978-February 1989).

But it is unlikely that Holbrooke will absorb the magnitude of that historic lesson. Both he and the new US President Barack Obama are convinced that the missing component for winning the war in Afghanistan is a greater commitment, as in doubling the troops, increasing military spending, and, by way of winning hearts and minds, investing more in developing the country. That combination, the US administration believes, will eventually sway Afghans from supporting the Taliban, tribal militias, Pashtun nationalists and other groups. The latter is waging a guerilla struggle in various parts of the country, mostly in the south, to oust Karzai’s government and foreign occupation forces. While Kabul was considered an “oasis of calm” – by Jonathan Steele’s account – during the Soviet rule, it’s nowhere close to that depiction under the rule of the US and its NATO allies, who had plenty of time, eight long years, to assert their control, but failed.

In fact, just as Holbrooke sat within Karzai’s heavily guarded presidential palace, roadside bombs were detonating across the country, in Khost, in Kandahar and elsewhere. Several police officers were killed, the latest addition to the hundreds of soldiers and officers who die each year as they desperately defend the few symbols of the central government’s authority. Aside from its shaky control over Kabul , and a few provincial capitals, the central government struggles to maintain the little relevance it still holds.

This deems most of the country a battleground between Afghani militias, seen by a growing number of Afghans as a legitimate resistance force against an illegitimate occupation; that being US and NATO forces.

Unlike the unpopular war in Iraq, Afghanistan was widely viewed in the US as a moral war, based on the logic that since al-Qaeda was responsible for the September 11 terrorist attacks, and since the group is hosted by an equally militant Taliban government, both groups must pay. So far, the people of Afghanistan have paid many times over the price expected. Thousands were killed, and an entire generation was scarred by a new civil war, and yet a new foreign military occupation.

While mainstream news consumers are inundated with official commentary and occasional news reports on the challenges awaiting the US in Afghanistan, to secure democracy, freedom and ‘national interests,’ media reports continue to reduce the battle over Afghanistan as one that is concerned with fighting local corruption, instilling human rights and ensuring gender equality.

Little is said of the pertinent reasons behind the war, as such seemingly tedious rhetoric of great games to control the Eurasian landmass – which dates back to the 19th century’s rivalry between British and Russian empires – is more suited for academic discussions that are by no means newsworthy.

But it is perhaps relevant to note that desperate attempts at controlling Afghanistan have failed miserably in the past. If Holbrooke wishes to dig deeper into history, he should learn that the British Empire , which controlled India at the time, was also defeated in Afghanistan in 1842, and again in 1878. Soviet leaders looked for a quick victory as they occupied Kabul in December 1979, only to find themselves engaged in a most bloody war that cost them 15,000 deaths (it goes without saying that the hundreds of thousands of Afghani deaths often go unreported) and an unmitigated defeat.

But, then again, Holbrooke must’ve known of the details of the latter period, for after all, it was his country that armed and financially sustained the mujahideen forces in Afghanistan fearing that the Soviets’ ultimate objective, during the Cold War was challenging US dominance in the region, and eventually the Middle East . Considering the strategically disastrous toppling of the Shah of Iran to the US , the world-leading superpower could take no chances.

But since then, Afghanistan has grown in significance from a politically strategic landmass, due to its proximity to warm-waters and regional powers, to an energy strategic landmass, inevitable to the exploitation of Caspian oil.

“I cannot think of a time when we have had a region emerge as suddenly to become as strategically significant as the Caspian,” said former vice-president Dick Cheney in a speech to oil moguls in 1998. In the same year, John Maresca, vice president of international relations of Unocal Corporation commented before a House committee in February 2008 on ways to transfer Caspian basin oil (estimated between 110 to 243bn barrels of crude, worth up to $4 trillion): “(One) option is to build a pipeline south from Central Asia to the Indian Ocean. One obvious route south would cross Iran , but this is foreclosed for American companies because of US sanctions legislation. The only other possible route is across Afghanistan .”

Military success in Afghanistan is simply not possible, for numerous logistical, historical and practical reasons. But failure will also come at a price, at least for those who will directly benefit from subduing the rebellious nation.

Former president Bush and his entourage of allies failed to turn Afghanistan into a US-styled democracy, easily exploitable for strategic and economic use. By pressing a military solution in Afghanistan, Obama is not only summoning another failed US imperial experiment – as that in Iraq – but insists on adding his country’s name to those of Britain and Russia, who had better chances of success, but were squarely defeated

“It’s like fighting sand. No force in the world can get the better of the Afghans,” Oleg Kubanov, a former Russian officer in Afghanistan told Reuters. “It’s their holy land; it doesn’t matter to them if you’re Russian, American. We’re all soldiers to them.”

It would be timely if Holbrooke takes a few hours from his hectic schedule in the region to brush up on Afghanistan ’s history, for he surely needs it.

America’s Shame
By Paul Craig Roberts 

January 11, 2009
Source: vdare.com

Why does Israel have a right to exist, but Palestine doesn’t?

This is the question of our time.

For sixty years Israelis have been stealing Palestine from Palestinians. There are maps available on the Internet and in Israeli publications showing the shrinkage over time of what was once Palestine into what Palestine is today–a small number of unconnected ghettos or bantustans.

Palestine became “the occupied territory” from which Palestinians were ejected and Israeli settlements built for “settlers.” Jordan, Syria and Lebanon are full of refugee camps in which Palestinians driven off their lands by Israeli force have been living for decades.

Driving people off their land is strictly illegal under international law, but Israel has been getting away with it for decades.

Gaza is a concentration camp of 1.5 million Palestinians who were driven from their homes and villages and collected in the Gaza Ghetto.

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency was created 60 years ago in 1949 to administer refugee camps for Palestinians driven from their lands by Israel. As of 2002, the registered Palestinian refugee population was 3.9 million.

Caterpillar Tractor makes a special bulldozer for Israel that is designed to knock down Palestinian homes and to uproot their orchards. In 2003 an American protester, Rachel Corrie, stood in front of one of these Caterpillars and was run over and crushed.

Nothing happened. The Israelis can kill whomever they want whenever they want.

They have been doing so for 60 years, and they show no sign of stopping.

Currently they are murdering women and children in the ghetto that they have created for Palestinians in Gaza. The entire world knows this. The Red Cross protests it. But the Israelis brazenly claim that they are killing “Hamas terrorists who are a threat to Israel’s existence.”

The American media knows that this is a lie, but does not say so.

Israel has been able to slowly exterminate a people for sixty years without provoking sufficient outrage to stop it.

The United States, “Christian America,” has been Israel’s greatest enabler in its long-term murder of the Palestinian people. Millions of “evangelical Christians” endorse Israel’s ethnic cleansing of Palestine.

The rest of the world condemns the Israeli military attack on the Gaza Ghetto. Last week the United Nations Security Council passed a resolution requiring a ceasefire and the withdrawal of the Israeli SS from Gaza.

The United States abstained.

While the rest of the world condemns Israel’s inhumanity, the US Congress–I should say the US Knesset–rushed to endorse the Israeli slaughter of the Palestinians in Gaza.

The US Senate endorsed Israel’s massacre of Palestinians with a vote of 100-0.

The US House of Representatives voted 430-5 to endorse Israel’s massacre of Palestinians.

The resolutions endorsed by 100% of the US Senate and 99% of the House were written by AIPAC, as were the speeches praising Israel for its inhumanity.

The US Congress was proud to show that it is Israel’s puppet even when it comes to murdering women and children.

The President of the United States was proud to block effective action by the UN Security Council by ordering the Secretary of State to abstain.

Be a Proud American. Swagger and strut. Pretend that you are not besmirched by the shame that your government has heaped upon you. Take refuge in your ignorance, fostered by 60 years of Israeli lies, that the murder of Palestinians and the theft of their lands is “Israel’s right of self-defense.”

Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury during President Reagan’s first term.  He was Associate Editor of the Wall Street Journal.  He has held numerous academic appointments, including the William E. Simon Chair, Center for Strategic and International Studies, Georgetown University, and Senior Research Fellow, Hoover Institution, Stanford University.

Flowers of Galilee

By Israel Shamir
Source: The Truth Seeker

When in 1543, the typhoon-blown Portuguese schooners approached the shores of Japan, the astonished sailors could not believe their eyes: on a warm spring day, the tropical island ahoy was buried under snow. They were witness to one of the real Seven Wonders of the World, the flowers of sakura, the wild cherry of Japan. As soon as the benevolent heaven bestows this seasonal gift to earth, the Japanese forget their wives and kids, their duties, employers and bills; they just sit under the trees, drink sake wine and write poems, short and sharp as swords.

That is why, these days, leaving behind our man-made troubles, I sit under the white cloud of a tree and watch the beautiful white and pink blossoms of almond trees covering the hills of Galilee. These lovely blossoms are our version of the Japanese sakura, and a chance to indulge in the custom of flower viewing. A honey aroma wafts through the air; the skies are crystal blue. Yellow daisies dance on the lush green grass at the base of these almond wonders, interspersed by violet cyclamen and red anemones. The glorious backdrop is provided by the huge snow mass of Jebel al Sheikh (Mt Hermon). Palestine is a sister to Japan. These two hilly lands are home to stubborn mountain folk, devoted to their customs and ways.

For all the similarities in the landscape, there are differences. The hill we sit on, all white like Jaffa sea surf, is the ruin of a village. If we were in Japan, it would be alive and humming. The village of Birim has been dead for fifty years. It is beautiful even in death, like Ophelia floating down the stream in the pre-Raphaelite painting of Millais. It was not ruined by war. Its Christian inhabitants were expelled from their houses well after the 1948 war. They were told to leave for a week or two, for ‘security’ reasons. They had no option but to believe the Israeli officers and move out. Their village was dynamited, their church surrounded by barbed wire. They went to Israeli court; they went to the government; commissions were appointed and petitions signed. Nothing helped. Ever since, for 50 years, they have lived in the nearby villages, and on Sundays they continue to visit their church. Their lands were seized by their Jewish neighbours, but they still bring their dead to be buried in the church graveyard, under the sign of the cross.

Until the arrival of the Israeli army, this ruined village with its orphaned church was the home of the rural Christians of Birim who, for centuries of Moslem rule, lived in peace with their Moslem neighbors of Nebi Yosha and with the old Sephardi Jewish community of nearby Safed. This little Guernica in the Galillee can single-handedly undermine the myth of a ‘Judeo-Christian’ civilization opposing a ‘monstrous’ Islam. This myth lays at the foundation of the Christian Zionist movement; among its fervent supporters, one can find a friend of Mark Rich and a newly minted New York citizen, W. J. Clinton.

The problems of the Middle East are ugly enough without the current Moslem-bashing. The pro-Israeli pundits of the New York Times quote the blood-curling verses on Jihad, retell the old traditions of religious wars and persecutions, to ‘prove’ Islam’s cruelty and intolerance. They are repeated by a pleasant upper-class Jewish lady from London, Barbra Amiel. In a sotto voce, she writes about ‘exclusivist’ Islam and Jewish ‘moderation’. In order to incite hatred, Israel’s lobby works all the ropes. Before the rise of Israel, Arab sheiks were depicted as romantic heroes in movies acted by Rudolf Valentino. Nowadays, the pro-Israel producers of Hollywood turn out propaganda films on ill-shaven Moslem terrorists with the subtlety of Edward D. Wood, Jr. This new prejudice is amplified a hundredfold by the Christian Zionist Congress, claiming ‘protection for Christians of Palestine from the Moslem (?!) persecution’. These people obviously have not walked among the ruins of Birim.

Another email comes into my laptop, this time from Gaza. An American girl, Alison Weir from San Francisco evades Israeli bullets, comforts the scared Palestinian kids, and writes: “The problem is when you know the truth, it is far too cruel, far too diametrically opposite what we used to think and what everyone still thinks to express. The lie is too big, the repression too complete, the Palestinians’ lives too horrible to write about reasonably”.

Well, Alison is right. We face a huge lie, an anti-Moslem blood libel, and it is time to stop it. I do not think that the problems of Middle East have anything to do with religion. But if the supporters of Israel want to wake up the sleeping ghost of religious intolerance, to incite Christians against Moslems, let us audit their balance.

If these Christian Zionists care for Christ, not only for Zion, let them learn what Jews and Moslems feel towards Christ. Rami Rozen expressed the Jewish tradition in a long feature in a major Israeli newspaper Haaretz[i]: “Jews feel towards Jesus today what they felt in 4 c or in the Middle Ages It is not fear, it is hatred and despise”. “For centuries, Jews concealed from Christians their hate to Jesus, and this tradition continues even now”. “He is revolting and repulsive”, said an important modern religious Jewish thinker. Rozen writes that this “repulsion passed from the observant Jews to the general Israeli public”.

On Christmas Eve, according to a report in the Jerusalem local paper, Kol Ha-Ir[ii], Hassids customarily do not read holy books, as it could save Jesus from eternal punishment (the Talmud teaches that Jesus boils in hell[iii]). This custom was dying out, but Hassids of Habad, the fervent nationalists, brought it back to life. I still remember old Jews spitting while passing by a church, and cursing the dead, while passing by a Christian cemetery. Last year in Jerusalem, a Jew decided to refresh the tradition. He spat at Holy Cross, carried in the procession along the city. Police saved him from further trouble, but the court fined him $50, despite his claim that he just fulfilled his religious duty.

Last year, the biggest Israeli tabloid Yedioth Aharonoth reprinted in its library the Jewish anti-Gospel, Toledoth Eshu, compiled in the Middle Ages. It is the third recent reprint, including one in a newspaper. If the Gospel is the book of love, Toledoth is the book of hate for Christ. The hero of the book is Judas. He captures Jesus by polluting his purity. According to Toledoth, the conception of Christ was in sin, the miracles of Jesus were witchcraft, his resurrection but a trick.

Joseph Dan, a Professor of Jewish mysticism in Hebrew University in Jerusalem, writing on the death of Jesus stated: “The modern Jewish apologists, hesitantly adopted by the church, preferred to put the blame on Romans. But the medieval Jew did not wish to pass the buck. He tried to prove that Jesus had to be killed, and he was proud of killing Him. The Jews hated and despised Christ and Christians”. Actually, adds Prof. Dan, there is little place to doubt that the Jewish enemies of Jesus caused his execution.

Even today, Jews in Israel refer to Jesus by the demeaning word Yeshu (instead of Yeshua), meaning ‘Perish his name’. There is an ongoing argument, whether His name was turned into a swear word, or other way around. In a similar pun, the Gospel is called ‘Avon Gilaion’, the booklet of Sin. These are the endearing feeling of the friends of Christian Zionists towards Christ.

What about Moslems? The Moslems venerate Christ. He is called ‘The Word of God”, “Logos”, Messiah, the Prophet and is considered “a Messenger of God”, along with Abraham, Moses and Muhammad. Many chapters of the Kor’an tell the story of Christ, his virgin birth and his persecution by Jews. His saintly mother is admired, and the Immaculate Conception is one of the tenets of Islam. The name of Christ glorifies the golden edifice of Haram a-Sharif. According to the Moslem faith, it was there that the founder of Islam met Jesus, and they prayed together. The Hadith, the Moslem tradition, says in the name of the prophet, ‘We do not forbid you to believe in Christ, we order you to”. Moslems identify their prophet with Paracletes, the Helper (Jn 14:16) whose coming was predicted by Jesus. They venerate places associated with the life of Jesus: the place of Ascension, the Tomb of Lazarus, the Holy Sepulchre are adjacent to a mosque and perfectly accessible by Christians.

While Moslems do not consider Jesus – God, they proclaim him as the Messiah, the Anointed one, the Paradise Dweller. This religious idea, familiar to Nestorians and other early churches, but rejected by mainstream Christianity, opened the gates for those Jews, who could not part with the notion of strict monotheism. That is why many Palestinian Jews and Christians of the 7th century accepted Islam and became Palestinian Moslems. They remained in their villages, they did not depart for Poland or England, they did not learn Yiddish, they did not study the Talmud, but they continued to shepherd their flocks and plant almond trees, they remained faithful to their land and to the great idea of the fraternity of men.

In the south of Hebron, in the ruins of Susiah, one can see how in the course of two centuries a synagogue slowly evolved into a mosque, as the population of nearby caves abandoned the exclusionary faith of Babylonian wizards and adopted Islam. These shepherds still live there, in the same caves. In the last year, the Israeli army has twice tried to expel them to provide more room for new settlers from Brooklyn.

Why, in this season of blossoming almond trees, do I brood on the sensitive subject of Jewish and Moslem attitudes towards Christ? Because one has to stop the mills of hatred operated by Israel’s supporters. Because the “Judeo-Christian” code language is being used to justify the barbed wire around Birim’s Church and the tanks around Bethlehem. Because there is a duty to remove an obstacle from the path of the blind.

The majority of the Christian Zionists are simple misled souls, people of good intentions but little knowledge. They think they ‘support Jews’, but they promote the Christ-hating spirit among the Jews. It was not in vain that a hero of the Zionist Bible, Exodus by Leon Uris, kept a poster in his room saying ‘We crucified Christ’. It was not in vain that an Israeli soldier on the roadblock of Bethlehem told me yesterday, ‘We starve the beasts’, referring to the native Christians of the city of Nativity. It was not in vain that the Gospel was burned on a stake in Israel, while anti-Gospel literature is widely spread; that new immigrant Jews embracing Christianity are persecuted and deported; that every preacher of the Christian faith in Israel can be sent to jail according to new anti-Christian laws; that Israeli archaeologists erase the Christian holy sites and memories off the face of the Holy Land.

To the leaders of the Christian Zionists, who surely know these facts, but lead their innocent flock on the path of the Anti-Christ, I say, “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Christ to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone tied round his neck and be drowned in the deep sea” (Mt 18:6).

To my Jewish brothers I say: the opinions of medieval Jews do not bind us. Every Jew can decide for himself, whether to pray for the destruction of the Gentiles or to share the blessing of the Holy Land with the villagers of Birim and Bethlehem. Within the Jewish people, there were always spiritual descendants of the prophets who wished to bring peace and blessing to all the children of Adam. As true as this almond blossom, in you the prophecy will be fulfilled: ‘All the nations of the earth will bless you’ (Deut. 7).

Extracted from Flowers of Galilee: The Collected Essays of Israel Shamir

Behind the Bloodbath in Gaza
Foiling Another Palestinian “Peace Offensive”

By NORMAN FINKELSTEIN
January 28, 2009

Counterpunch

Early speculation on the motive behind Israel’s slaughter in Gaza that began on 27 December 2008 and continued till 18 January 2009 centered on the upcoming elections in Israel. The jockeying for votes was no doubt a factor in this Sparta-like society consumed by “revenge and the thirst for blood,” where killing Arabs is a sure crowd-pleaser. (Polls during the war showed that 80-90 percent of Israeli Jews supported it.) But as Israeli journalist Gideon Levy pointed out on Democracy Now!, “Israel went through a very similar war…two-and-a-half years ago [in Lebanon], when there were no elections.” When crucial state interests are at stake, Israeli ruling elites seldom launch major operations for narrowly electoral gains. It is true that Prime Minister Menachem Begin’s decision to bomb the Iraqi OSIRAK reactor in 1981 was an electoral ploy, but the strategic stakes in the strike on Iraq were puny; contrary to widespread belief, Saddam Hussein had not embarked on a nuclear weapons program prior to the bombing. The fundamental motives behind the latest Israeli attack on Gaza lie elsewhere: (1) in the need to restore Israel’s “deterrence capacity,” and (2) in the threat posed by a new Palestinian “peace offensive.”

Israel’s “larger concern” in the current offensive, New York Times Middle East correspondent Ethan Bronner reported, quoting Israeli sources, was to “re-establish Israeli deterrence,” because “its enemies are less afraid of it than they once were, or should be.” Preserving its deterrence capacity has always loomed large in Israeli strategic doctrine. Indeed, it was the main impetus behind Israel’s first-strike against Egypt in June 1967 that resulted in Israel’s occupation of Gaza (and the West Bank). To justify the onslaught on Gaza, Israeli historian Benny Morris wrote that “[m]any Israelis feel that the walls…are closing in…much as they felt in early June 1967.” Ordinary Israelis no doubt felt threatened in June 1967, but—as Morris surely knows—the Israeli leadership experienced no such trepidation. After Israel threatened and laid plans to attack Syria, Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser declared the Straits of Tiran closed to Israeli shipping, but Israel made almost no use of the Straits (apart from the passage of oil, of which Israel then had ample stocks) and, anyhow, Nasser did not in practice enforce the blockade, vessels passing freely through the Straits within days of his announcement. In addition, multiple U.S. intelligence agencies had concluded that the Egyptians did not intend to attack Israel and that, in the improbable case that they did, alone or in concert with other Arab countries, Israel would—in President Lyndon Johnson’s words—“whip the hell out of them.” The head of the Mossad told senior American officials on 1 June 1967 that “there were no differences between the U.S. and the Israelis on the military intelligence picture or its interpretation.” The predicament for Israel was rather the growing perception in the Arab world, spurred by Nasser’s radical nationalism and climaxing in his defiant gestures in May 1967, that it would no longer have to follow Israeli orders. Thus, Divisional Commander Ariel Sharon admonished those in the Israeli cabinet hesitant to launch a first-strike that Israel was losing its “deterrence capability…our main weapon—the fear of us.” Israel unleashed the June 1967 war “to restore the credibility of Israeli deterrence” (Israeli strategic analyst Zeev Maoz).

The expulsion of the Israeli occupying army by Hezbollah in May 2000 posed a major new challenge to Israel’s deterrence capacity. The fact that Israel suffered a humiliating defeat, one celebrated throughout the Arab world, made another war well-nigh inevitable. Israel almost immediately began planning for the next round, and in summer 2006 found a pretext when Hezbollah captured two Israeli soldiers (several others were killed in the firefight) and demanded in exchange the release of Lebanese prisoners held by Israel. Although Israel unleashed the fury of its air force and geared up for a ground invasion, it suffered yet another ignominious defeat. A respected American military analyst despite being partial to Israel nonetheless concluded, “the IAF, the arm of the Israel military that had once destroyed whole air forces in a few days, not only proved unable to stop Hezbollah rocket strikes but even to do enough damage to prevent Hezbollah’s rapid recovery”; that “once ground forces did cross into Lebanon…, they failed to overtake Hezbollah strongholds, even those close to the border”; that “in terms of Israel’s objectives, the kidnapped Israeli soldiers were neither rescued nor released; Hezbollah’s rocket fire was never suppressed, not even its long-range fire…; and Israeli ground forces were badly shaken and bogged down by a well-equipped and capable foe”; and that “more troops and a massive ground invasion would indeed have produced a different outcome, but the notion that somehow that effort would have resulted in a more decisive victory over Hezbollah…has no basis in historical example or logic.” The juxtaposition of several figures further highlights the magnitude of the setback: Israel deployed 30,000 troops as against 2,000 regular Hezbollah fighters and 4,000 irregular Hezbollah and non-Hezbollah fighters; Israel delivered and fired 162,000 weapons whereas Hezbollah fired 5,000 weapons (4,000 rockets and projectiles at Israel and 1,000 antitank missiles inside Lebanon). Moreover, “the vast majority of the fighters who defended villages such as Ayta ash Shab, Bint Jbeil, and Maroun al-Ras were not, in fact, regular Hezbollah fighters and in some cases were not even members of Hezbollah,” and “many of Hezbollah’s best and most skilled fighters never saw action, lying in wait along the Litani River with the expectation that the IDF assault would be much deeper and arrive much faster than it did.” Yet another indication of Israel’s reversal of fortune was that, unlike any of its previous armed conflicts, in the final stages of the 2006 war it fought not in defiance of a U.N. ceasefire resolution but in the hope of a U.N. resolution to rescue it.

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Zionism and the Cult of Death
by Richard Silverstein
26 Feb 2005

richardsilverstein.com

Yes, this is a provocative and even polemical title and it certainly runs counter to the notion that the purpose of Zionism and the creation of the State of Israel was to save Jewish lives and ensure the survival of the Jewish people in the aftermath of the Holocaust. But Baruch Kimmerling’s Nation Magazine article, Israel’s Culture of Martyrdom, presents a profoundly illuminating thesis which argues that martyrdom plays a critical role in the Zionist credo. His first paragraph gives you a good sense of his argument:

Nations like to imagine themselves as unique, but one belief they have in common is that it is noble to die in their name. Death and redemption are the themes of almost every form of patriotism. In the case of Israel, however, the connection between nationalism and death is especially visceral. For the Jewish state is a nation that emerged from the ashes of a project of extermination, and that sees itself as the best defense against the renewal of violent persecution. Zionism, the state’s ruling ideology, is a triumphal creed shadowed by death. 

One must add that Israel is not alone in observing this “visceral” connection between nationalism and death. One must look no farther than Serbia and the nationalist fantasy inculcated by Slobodan Milosevic into his countrymen which helped feed Serbian genocide against the Kosovars. For Serbians, the defeat and martyrdom of their hero, Prince Lazar in the 1389 Battle of Kosovo to stop the Ottoman advance into Europe marks a pivotal moment in Serbian history. To this day, Lazar’s martyrdom is worshipped and exalted by all Serbians, but especially by ultra-nationalists like Milosevic and his ilk.

One might well argue that the martyrdom ethos has had an equally corrosive effect in Jewish and Zionist tradition. In fact, Kimmerling quotes historian Idit Zertal as saying (in terms of Jewish history): “ancient graves produce fresh graves.” There are so many examples: Masada, the Bar Kochba rebellion, the Holocaust. And then there are the series of martyrdoms that helped produce modern day Israel–the very first one being Trumpeldor’s death at Tel Hai (very similar to Prince Lazar’s death at Kosovo Polje) during which battle he is reported to have said: “”It is good to die for our country” (reminding me of Nathan Hale’s “I only regret that I have but one life to give for my country”). Kimmerling again paraphrases Zertal on the significance of Trumpeldor’s martyrdom within the context of modern Zionism:

[His death] marked the beginning of a cult of death among Israeli Jews. The “new Jewish man,” in this ideology, was ready to make the ultimate sacrifice, to die defending his land and people, in stark contrast with Diaspora Jews, who would later be depicted as weaker souls who went “like lambs to the slaughter” in the Holocaust. The voices arguing that it is better to live for one’s country than to die for it were accordingly stifled and silenced. It is deeply ironic that the very same society now claims to be shocked by the “martyrdom culture” in the occupied territories. 

There are a number of arguments advanced by unquestioning supporters of Israel which seek to disparage Palestinian claims to humanity and nationhood. These arguments invariably drive me to drink because they are repeated and rehashed ad nauseum as if by repeating them often enough they will somehow magically be proven true. One of these is the argument Kimmerling alludes to–that Palestinians do not value life, either those of Israelis or their own. Otherwise, why would they keep sending suicide bombers to blow themselves up? Kimmerling reminds us that often when we are disgusted by a supposed moral “defect” in an enemy we have no farther to look than ourselves to see similar defects reflected in our own behavior.

Kimmerling discusses the enormously complicated role played by the Holocaust in the establishment of the State. While this event permeates the consciousness of all Jews, Zionist leaders like Ben Gurion were not above manipulating world opinion and the survivors themselves in order to advance his own Zionist agenda. Kimmerling reminds us of this chilling statement by Israel’s first prime minister:

“if I knew it was possible to save all children of Germany by their transfer to England and only half of them by transferring them to the Land of Israel, I would choose the latter, because we are faced not only with the accounting of these children but also with the historical accounting of the Jewish people.” 

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By RAMZY BAROUD
22 January 2009
Source: ramzybaroud.net

My three-year-old son Sammy walked into my room uninvited as I sorted through another batch of fresh photos from Gaza.

I was looking for a specific image, one that would humanise Palestinians as living, breathing human beings, neither masked nor mutilated. But to no avail.

All the photos I received spoke of the reality that is Gaza today – homes, schools and civilian infrastructure bombed beyond description. All the faces were either of dead or dying people.

I paused as I reached a horrifying photo in the slideshow of a young boy and his sister huddled on a single hospital trolley waiting to be identified and buried. Their faces were darkened as if they were charcoal and their lifeless eyes were still widened with the horror that they experienced as they were burned slowly by a white phosphorus shell.

It was just then that Sammy walked into my room snooping around for a missing toy. “What is this, daddy?” he inquired.

I rushed to click past the horrific image, only to find myself introducing a no less shocking one. Fretfully, I turned the monitor off, then turned to my son as he stood puzzled. His eyes sparkled inquisitively as he tried to make sense of what he had just seen.

He needed to know about these kids whose little bodies had been burned beyond recognition.

“Where are their mummies and daddies? Why are they all so smoky all the time?”

I explained to him that they are Palestinians, that they were hurting “just a little” and that their “mummies and daddies will be right back.”

The reality is that these children and thousands like them in Gaza have experienced the most profound pain, a pain that we may never in our lives comprehend.

“I think that Gaza is now being used as a test laboratory for new weapons,” Mads Gilbert, a Norwegian doctor who had recently returned from Gaza told reporters in Oslo.

“This is a new generation of very powerful small explosives that detonates with extreme power and dissipates its power within a range of five to 10 metres

“We have not seen the casualties affected directly by the bomb, because they are normally torn to pieces and do not survive, but we have seen a number of very brutal amputations.”

The dreadful weapons are known as dense inert metal explosives (DIME), “an experimental kind of explosive” but only one of several new weapons that Israel has been using in Gaza, the world’s most densely populated regions.

Israel could not possibly have found a better place to experiment with DIME or the use of white phosphorus in civilian areas than Gaza.

The hapless inhabitants of the strip have been disowned. The power of the media, political coercion, intimidation and manipulation have demonised this imprisoned nation fighting for its life in the tiny spaces left of its land.

No wonder Israel refused to allow foreign journalists into the tiny enclave and brazenly bombed the remaining international presence in Gaza.

As long as there are no witnesses to the war crimes committed in Gaza, Israel is confident that it can sell a fabricated story to the world that it is, as always, the victim, one that has been terrorised and, strangely enough, demonised as well.

The Jerusalem Post quoted Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni on January 15.

“Livni said that these were hard times for Israel, but that the government was forced to act in Gaza in order to protect Israeli citizens.

“She stated that Gaza was ruled by a terrorist regime and that Israel must carry on a dialogue with moderate sources while simultaneously fighting terror.”

The same peculiar message was conveyed by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert as he declared his one-sided ceasefire on January 17.

Never mind that the “terrorist regime” was democratically elected and had honoured a ceasefire agreement with Israel for six months, receiving nothing in return but a lethal siege interrupted by an occasional round of death and destruction.

Livni is not as perceptive and shrewd as the US media fantasises. Blunt-speaking Ehud Barak and stiff-faced Mark Regev are not convincing men of wisdom. Their logic is bizarre and wouldn’t stand the test of reason.

But they have unfettered access to the media, where they are hardly challenged by journalists who know well that protecting one’s citizens doesn’t require the violation of international and humanitarian laws, targeting medical workers, sniper fire at children and demolishing homes with entire families holed up inside. Securing your borders doesn’t require imprisoning and starving your neighbours and turning their homes to smoking heaps of rubble.

Olmert wants to “break the will” of Hamas, i.e. the Palestinians, since the Hamas government was elected and backed by the majority of the Palestinian people.

Isn’t 60 years of suffering and survival enough to convince Olmert that the will of the Palestinians cannot be broken? How many heaps of wreckage and mutilated bodies will be enough to convince the prime minister that those who fight for their freedom will either be free or will die trying?

Far-right politician Avigdor Lieberman, a rising star in Israel, is not yet convinced. He thinks that more can be done to “secure” his country, which was established in 1948 on the ruins of destroyed Palestinian towns and villages. He has a plan.

“We must continue to fight Hamas just like the United States did with the Japanese in World War II,” said the head of ultra-nationalist opposition party Yisrael Beitenu.

A selective reader of history, Lieberman could only think of the 1945 atomic bombs dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima. But something else happened during those years that Lieberman carefully omitted. It’s called the Holocaust, a term that many are increasingly using to describe the Israeli massacres in the Gaza Strip.

It is strange that conventional Israeli wisdom still dictates that “the Arabs understand only the language of force.” If that were true, then they would have conceded their rights after the first massacre in 1948. But, following more than 60 years filled with massacres new and old, they continue to resist.

“Freedom or death,” is the popular Palestinian mantra. These are not simply words, but a rule by which Palestinians live and die. Gaza is the proof and Israeli leaders are yet to understand.

My son persisted. “Why are Palestinians so smoky all the time, Daddy?”

“When you grow up, you’ll understand.”

– Ramzy Baroud (www.ramzybaroud.net) is an author and editor of PalestineChronicle.com. His work has been published in many newspapers, journals and anthologies around the world. His latest book is, “The Second Palestinian Intifada: A Chronicle of a People’s Struggle” (Pluto Press, London).