Category Archives: 4. Activism analyses

Discussions within and about the movement for peace and justice.

Democracy Now gatekeepers bury dancing Israeli movers and bogus art students

The below article was published on February 9, 2007, but we have just now became aware of it and feel it deserves a larger audience.

We had been acutely aware of the Israeli spying aspects described below and that both the mainstream media and Democracy Now had failed to cover them. It’s interesting to see, as the analysis below reveals, that when Democracy Now finally mentioned these, it did so in a way to minimize the impact and the facts.

On the contrary, the excellent Washington Report on Middle East Affairs had an article about this early on by editor Richard Curtiss. The Washington Report has been published since 1982 and is one of the two best print publications for information on Israel-Palestine in the U.S.. The other is AMEU’s The Link. Yet, Amy Goodman has never had editors from either publication on her program. As a result, many activists around the country don’t even know they exist. She has similarly ignored If Americans Knew, whose founder Alison Weir has been writing and speaking about Israel-Palestine for 11 years. (See related article.)

And when activists, despite Democracy Now’s omission, do learn about the Washington Report, they are sometimes told by similar left gatekeepers that the magazine is “conservative.” In reality, it is non-doctrinaire, its editors and writers are committed humanitarians, and it consistently publishes extremely strong journalism both on Israel-Palestine and on the Israel Lobby. We suspect that is why it is being “disappeared” by the left gatekeepers who so long kept Palestine out of progressive activism that Jeffrey Blankfort exposes so well. For example, he describes: 

If there is one event that exposed their influence over of the movement, it is what occurred in the streets of New York on June 12, 1982, when 800,000 people gathered in front of the United Nations to call for a ban on nuclear weapons. Six days earlier, on June 6th, Israel had launched a devastating invasion of Lebanon. Its goal was to destroy the Palestine Liberation Organization, then based in that country. Eighty thousand soldiers, backed by massive bombing from the air and from the sea were creating a level of death and destruction that dwarfed what Iraq would later do in Kuwait. Within a year there would be 20,000 Palestinians and Lebanese dead and tens of thousands more wounded.

And what was the response that day in New York? In recognition of the suffering then taking place in his homeland, a Lebanese man was allowed to sit on the stage, but he would not be introduced; not allowed to say a word. Nor was the subject mentioned by any of the speakers. Israel and its lobby couldn’t have asked for anything more.

[The person largely responsible for this was Leslie Cagan, who similarly minimized discussion of Palestine in the post-9/11 antiwar movement. Cagan now, oddly, has a paid position with the US Boat to Gaza.]

Winter Patriot Continue reading

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Foreign correspondents’ pool shrinks, Youtube “reporting” by opposition in Iran easily manipulated

CounterPunch, May 9, 2011, “Patrick Cockburn: Does It Matter? Portrait of the US Press in the Hour of Its Fall”

……. US newspapers and television networks have famously been in a state of deepening crisis in the last few years. But the Arab Awakening has been a watershed in this decline. It was CNN’s reporting of the first Gulf War from Baghdad in 1991 that made it the channel that presidents, prime ministers, foreign ministers and journalists around the world had to watch. Back in 2003, CNN and the US networks CNN and the US networks still had the most ample coverage of the start of the war in Iraq. But since the start of the Arab Awakening even the White House has reportedly been watching al-Jazeera English to find out what was happening (though the BBC has not been far behind).

It is depressing how swiftly the corps of American foreign correspondents has shrunk over the last five years. Papers like the Chicago Tribune, Philadelphia Inquirer and Boston Globe, which once had a full roster of reporters, no longer do so. US television networks that used to rent whole floors of hotels, to the envy of non-American broadcasters, are now down to a single journalist to cover a story. At least one US network did not send a single correspondent to report the uprising in Tunisia in January that began the capsizing of the regional political status quo.

Does it matter? In one sense it obviously does, since there are fewer effective journalists in the business. The drop in their numbers would be more evident if so many Arab countries in turmoil like Syria and Yemen had not banned reporters from obtaining entry visas. The consequences of more limited journalistic resources being deployed is also masked by the use of YouTube, photographs taken on mobile phones, and conversations with eyewitnesses on satellite phones.

This sort of evidence is powerful but easier to manipulate than it looks. Governments that kick out foreign correspondents may breathe a sigh of relief without realizing that they have created a vacuum of information that can easily be filled by their enemies. Thus much of the reporting of demonstrations, arrests, shootings and killings in Syria now comes courtesy of opponents of the regime.

It is difficult to feel much sympathy for governments whose abortive attempts at censorship make them vulnerable to hostile propaganda, but it does make it very difficult to verify what is going on. For instance, at the end of February I was in Tehran where exile websites reported that there were continuing street demonstrations. I could see none of these though there were plenty of black-helmeted riot police. Local Iranian stringers for foreign publications had mostly had their press credentials suspended so they could not write.

“In any case,” one of the stringers complained to me, “the news agenda for Iran is now being set by exiles and, if we report that nothing much is happening, nobody will believe us.” On YouTube I noticed one video of a demonstration in Tehran that had supposedly taken place in February showing all the men in shirts and without jackets, though the temperature in the Iranian capital was only a couple of degrees above freezing. I suspected that the video had been taken at the height of the Iranian protests in the summer of 2009.

This is not to say that flickering films of atrocities by the Syrian security forces are not true, but collection and control of such information by the exiled opposition, makes it impossible to judge the extent of the violence.

It is naïve to be too nostalgic about the passing of the age when the US dominated the foreign news media. What made CNN’s coverage so distinctive in 1991 was that Peter Arnett, their correspondent in Baghdad, was prepared to take a sceptical approach to US government claims about the accuracy of its bombing and the identity of its victims. CNN lost its critical edge over the years, while network correspondents, often privately critical about US government policy, were prevented by their bosses in New York from straying too far from conventional political wisdom

The press has always been more dependent on the powers-that-be than it likes to admit. American journalists outside Washington often express revulsion and contempt at the slavish ways of the Washington press corps. But it is difficult to report any government on a day-to-day basis without its cooperation, cooperation that can be peremptorily withdrawn to bring critics into line. Also, contrary to every film about journalism, people tend not to admit voluntarily to anything that might do themselves damage. Woodward and Bernstein learned about Watergate almost entirely from secondary sources such as judges, prosecutors and government investigative agencies which could force witnesses to come clean by threatening to put them in jail.

The media is often credited or blamed for an independent sceptical spirit which it seldom shows in reality. In wars in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan effective media criticism has tended to follow rather than precede public opinion. Even then it usually needs important politicians to be standing on the same side of the fence. The Afghan war is unpopular in the US, but there is no effective anti-war movement because the Democrats, once so critical of the Iraq war, are now in the White House and, if Obama goes on being presented with targets as vulnerable as Trump, are likely to stay there. Read Full article

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Who is the Real Reactionary? Is Ron Paul more progressive than Obama?

CounterPunch, Charles Davis – Ron Paul is far from perfect, but I’ll say this much for the Texas congressman: He has never authorized drone strike in Pakistan. He has never authorized the killing of dozens of women and children in Yemen. He hasn’t protected torturers from prosecution and he hasn’t overseen the torturous treatment of a 23-year-old young man for the “crime” of revealing the government’s criminal behavior.

Can the same be said for Barack Obama?

Yet, ask a good movement liberal or progressive about the two and you’ll quickly be informed that yeah, Ron Paul’s good on the war stuff — yawn — but otherwise he’s a no-good right-wing reactionary of the worst order, a guy who’d kick your Aunt Beth off Medicare and force her to turn tricks for blood-pressure meds. By contrast, Obama, war crimes and all, provokes no such visceral distaste. He’s more cosmopolitan, after all; less Texas-y. He’s a Democrat. And gosh, even if he’s made a few mistakes, he means well.

Sure he’s a murderer, in other words, but at least he’s not a Republican!

Put another, even less charitable way: Democratic partisans – liberals – are willing to trade the lives of a couple thousand poor Pakistani tribesman in exchange for a few liberal catnip-filled speeches and NPR tote bags for the underprivileged. The number of party-line progressives who would vote for Ron Paul over Barack Obama wouldn’t be enough to fill Conference Room B at the local Sheraton, with even harshest left-leaning critics of the president, like Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi, saying they’d prefer the mass-murdering sociopath to that kooky Constitution fetishist. Continue reading

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Finkelstein omissions: 95% of Jewish Americans feel pride in Israel, 75% approved Cast Lead, only 13% recognize that Israel occupies Palestinian land

“Not Far Enough: Fact-Checking Finkelstein” –I’ve been reading This Time We Went Too Far: Truth & Consequences of the Gaza Invasion by Norman G. Finkelstein (OR Books, 2010). Even though Finkelstein is “functionally a Zionist of the Left-liberal persuasion” there is no denying his passionate and often principled argumentation in support of positions that are generally helpful to those unemcumbered by Finkelstein’s tribal loyalties.

The “Gaza Invasion” of Finkelstein’s subtitle was the 22-day Hanukkah Massacre in the winter of 2008-2009 wherein forces of the Jewish state killed 1,417 Palestinians and wounded 5,303 in Gaza. I can’t say I made a thorough examination of Finkelstein’s book but I did flag two pages in chapter six, “Ever Fewer Hosannas,” in the hardcover edition for follow-up.

At the top of page 110 there appears the last sentence of a lengthy quote from “Poll: Attachment of U.S. Jews To Israel Falls in Past 2 Years” by Steven M. Cohen in the Jewish Daily Forward (March 04, 2005). It says: “Just 57% affirmed that ‘caring about Israel is a very important part of my being Jewish,’ compared with 73% in a similar survey in 1989.” In chapter six Finkelstein is making the case that American Jewish support for Israel is declining.

Finkelstein, apparently, didn’t go far enough in reading the article. When read in its entirety a more complex picture of the attitudes of Americans Jews towards Israel emerges. For example, there’s the finding that 95% of Americans Jews feel some degree of pride in Israel with fully two-thirds saying they “always” or “often” “feel proud of Israel”; only 5% said “never”. Then, too, “Only 13% said they are ‘sometimes uncomfortable identifying as a supporter of Israel,’ with an additional 14% ‘not sure’ “; 73% disagreed with the statement.

Concerning the attitudes of American Jews regarding Palestinians, Cohen writes:

When offered sharply critical characterizations of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians, more respondents disagreed than agreed. However, substantial numbers were unsure. Thus, by 60% to 11% the sample rejected the assertion that “Israel persecutes a minority population,” with 29% not sure. Similarly, by a 65% to 13% margin, they rejected the notion that “Israel occupies lands that belong to another people,” with 22% not sure.

To restate that, only 11% of Americans Jews recognize that Palestinians are oppressed by Israel and only 13% admit that Israel occupies Palestinian territory. Curiously, only 17% of American Jews answered “Yes” when asked, “Are you a Zionist?”

Regarding a poll more closely related to the subject of his book, Finkelstein spins the results of J Street’s March 2009 “National Survey of American Jews”. On pages 118-119, Finkelstein writes, “a poll of American Jews found that 47% strongly approved of the Israeli assault, but—in a sharp break with the usual wall-to-wall solidarity—53 per cent were either ambivalent (44 per cent ‘somewhat’ approved or ‘somewhat’ disapproved) or strongly disapproved (9 per cent).”

Now, before I tell you what Finkelstein didn’t tell his readers about that poll, I want to emphasize two points: First, these are American, not Israeli, Jews. Second, the poll was conducted from February 28, 2009 through March 9, 2009. The Hanukkah Massacre ended on January 18, 2009.

So, these American Jews were expressing their attitudes more than a month after the fog of war and Israeli gov’t. propaganda had begun to clear. The one-sidedness of the ‘conflict’ was well-known by then, graphic images of Palestinian suffering had circulated widely, and respected international human rights groups had already begun to weigh-in against Israel.

What did American Jews tell J Street pollsters? Fully 75% said they “strongly approved” or “somewhat approved” “of the recent military action that Israel took in Gaza”; a plurality (47%) of American Jews “strongly approved”. This despite the fact that 59% “felt that the military action had no impact on Israel’s security (41 percent) or made Israel less secure (18 percent)”. This is not quite the picture Finkelstein paints.

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Progressives and Conservatives: More in common than the media makes us think

CounterPunch, Sam Husseini, “Time to Break Out:How Obama and Trump Imprison Voters” – …..This is particularly tragic because most Principled Progressives and Conscientious Conservatives agree on so much, though it might not seem that way because establishment politicians (and corporate media) dwell on the differences between each other, which are frequently trivial. Consider:

• Foreign policy: Cutting the military budget, ending the U.S.’s wars, dismantling the network of military bases around the globe, stopping support for tyrannical governments like Saudi Arabia, ending support of Israel’s aggressions and occupations.

• Economy: Stopping the Wall Street bailouts, ending the Federal Reserve, curtailing runaway corporate power and corporate welfare, ending trade deals like NAFTA that obliterate jobs in the U.S. while impoverishing many in other countries, challenging the IMF and WTO.

• Freedom Agenda: Ending the so-called “Patriot” Act, stopping government use of secret “evidence” to prosecute individuals, insisting on accountability for torture and illegal detentions and renditions, stopping government spying on citizens, ending the drug war and the mass imprisonment that causes, and challenging the media establishment while enhancing solutions like local low power radio and net neutrality.

Oh yeah, and supporting WikiLeaks and whilstleblowers like Bradley Manning.

But Big Media keep telling progressives they’re supposed to hate “The Tea Party” — as if there were no difference between Sarah Palin and Ron Paul. And the establishment and corporate media have kept conservatives from seeing the insights of authentic progressives, people like Dennis Kucinich, Ralph Nader, Cynthia McKinney and Mike Gravel — demonizing or marginalizing them in a plethora of ways. Continue reading

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Gilad Atzmon: What Are They Afraid of? Commentary about British “anti-Zionists” effort to restrict of debate

Gilad Aatzmon – …For some peculiar reason, both Zionists and UK Jewish so-called ‘anti Zionists’, insist that discussing ‘Jewishness’ is a taboo which should never be explored, certainly not in public, and definitely never outside of the ghetto.

But isn’t it all just more than a little suspicious? After all, please consider that the Jewish ‘anti Zionists’ operate politically under a Jewish banner; they also clearly carry their Jewish identity with pride; and, like the ‘Jews only state’, they also run a ‘Jews only club’ — yet they want to try to stop us from questioning what this club actually stands for. They want to take it further and even try to stop us from discussing and grasping what the Jewishness of Israel is all about. Continue reading

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The Role of Jews in the Palestinian Solidarity Movement

The unwillingness of many Jewish activists and organizations to confront the local roots of violent Jewish supremacism foisted upon the indigenous people of Palestine is shocking and inexcusable.

CounterPunch, Henry Herskovitz & Michelle Kinnucan – After Malcolm X returned from his epiphanic trip to Mecca, he was asked if White people could join his Organization of Afro-American Unity. He was very clear in his response:

“They can’t join us. I have these very deep feelings that white people who want to join black organizations are really just taking the escapist way to salve their consciences. By visibly hovering near us, they are ‘proving’ that they are ‘with us’. But the hard truth is this isn’t helping to solve America’s racist problem. The Negroes aren’t the racists. Where the really sincere white people have got to do their ‘proving’ of themselves is not among the black victims, but out there on the battle lines of where America’s racism really is – and that’s in their own home communities.” The Autobiography of Malcolm X, pp 383-384, emphasis in original.

He added that by working separately, Whites and Blacks would form a successful collective. “Working separately, the sincere white people and the sincere black people actually will be working together.”

The words of this fighter for justice are valid 46 years later in another context: Defining the role of Jews in the Palestine solidarity movement. The lesson is that sincere Jews should not play leading roles in the Palestinian solidarity movement, but should instead expose and challenge the racism that exists in their own Jewish communities. So what are Jewish-led and Jewish-identified groups and leaders doing? Certainly, they criticize atrocities committed by Israel in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, but are they clearly defining their positions? Do they oppose Jewish supremacism, as some opposed White supremacism in South Africa during the 1980s? Which of the higher profile Jewish-led and Jewish-identified groups are demanding an end to a Jewish state and full and immediate return for displaced Palestinians and their descendants? Continue reading

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