[Mb-civic] Israel

ean at sbcglobal.net ean at sbcglobal.net
Sun Sep 19 13:34:16 PDT 2004

Here are two different and interesting articles about Israel--the first about a recent 
Israeli "prophet" and the 2nd about Israel's affect on U.S. foreign policy...

Soaring alone in the heavens
By Uri Avnery

There is one thing I regret: Having been the cause of his losing the
Israel Prize. The Council for Israeli-Palestinian Peace, which I helped to
found, was holding a debate in a large hall. I was afraid that a
colloquium on peace wouldn't draw a large crowd, so I suggested that Prof.
Yeshayahu Leibowitz be invited. I knew that his name on the program would
fill any auditorium. On top of that, the judges had just announced their
decision to award him the Israel Prize. He agreed right away, but he had a
condition. He would only speak on one topic: the moral obligation of
Israelis not to do military service in the occupied territories. I said
yes, even though this wasn't the topic of discussion. Leibowitz was the
first speaker. The hall was packed. The audience, which included a large
number of university students, filled all the aisles. There were even
people sitting on the windowsills.

Leibowitz immediately launched into a tirade against the operations of the
Israel Defense Forces in Gaza and the West Bank. He compared their actions
to those of the Nazi SS. The media, which usually ignore events organized
by the "radical" peace camp, pounced on it like a gold mine. Leibowitz's
remarks got first-page coverage and set off a holy furor. The prize
committee was asked to withdraw the nomination. Just as things reached a
peak, Leibowitz announced that he declined to accept the prize. I don't
think he was sorry about it. On the contrary, he loved expressing himself
in the most provocative way. He did it on purpose. That's how he got the
public and the media to sit up and pay attention. Ordinary opinions are
boring. Leibowitz wanted to shock his listeners, to shake them out of
their stupor and make them think. He also enjoyed it. Many of his quips
will be remembered forever: the Western Wall as God's discotheque,
religion as the mistress of the government, mixing religion and state
leads to fascism.  He had nothing but scorn for the Chief Rabbinate.

Incidentally, it wasn't coincidental that he was the first speaker that
night, and at every other debate I ever organized. I learned from
experience that Leibowitz would make mincemeat out of every speaker who
came before him. It didn't matter what their views were - left or right,
moderate or extreme. Leibowitz would lay them out on the dissecting table
and rip them to shreds with his keen, analytical mind and biting sarcasm.
Nothing would be left whole. The way to get around this was to make him
the first speaker, and then those after him could respond to what he said,
which always yielded plenty of food for thought. I used to call him
Yeshayahu (Isaiah) the Third (based on the theory that there were at least
two different prophets by that name). That used to make him furious. "I'm
not a prophet," he would say, "and anyone who says such a thing doesn't
understand what a prophet is." As a religious Jew who wore a skullcap and
observed the commandments, he believed that prophets spoke the word of
God. They weren't just clairvoyants.

To me, Leibowitz was a prophet in that second sense. He was the first
person after the Six-Day War who predicted that occupying territories
would destroy Israel from within. "In a few years, we will be a nation of
foremen and Shin Bet [security service] agents," he prophesied - in other
words, a nation of exploiters and oppressors. I also proposed at that time
that we end the occupation immediately, but for a different reason. On the
fifth day of the war, I appealed to Levi Eshkol, both in an open letter
and personally, to allow the Palestinians to establish a state in the
territories we had just conquered. I believed (and I still do) that this
was a one-time historic opportunity to make peace.

Now, Leibowitz didn't believe in peace altogether. He had no knowledge of
what life was like for the Palestinians, and maybe he wasn't even
interested. He thought there was no solution to the conflict. He wanted to
return the occupied territories right away to save the soul of Israeli
society - not to reach a compromise with the Arab world. It connected to
his religious outlook. For a secular person like myself, it was very hard
to understand that side of his personality. He was a scientist by
training. He was incredibly knowledgeable, a man of absolute reason. But
his religious outlook was light-years away from scientific logic. He
didn't try to link the two. He rejected the very idea that it was
possible. Religion, he explained, had nothing to do with logic. It existed
on a different plane. Jews were supposed to observe the mitzvot - the
religious commandments - not to get anything in return, not to bribe God
and enlist his aid, but "just because." The mitzvot needed no explanation
and couldn't be explained.

Once he told me that Judaism had died 200 years ago. It hadn't created
anything since then , or produced even one important thinker. All that
remains, he said, are dry texts that people learn by rote. How could a man
as religious as Leibowitz and a man as nonreligious as myself get along?
We were like two people who come to the river from opposite directions and
meet on an island in the middle. The island was desire to end the
occupation - a moral-religious demand on his part and a moral-political
one on mine.

Leibowitz couldn't work in a group. He was a comet, soaring alone in the
heavens. He belonged to Oved Hadati, which was a kind of religious branch
of Mapai, but dropped out. He hooked up with Shmuel Tamir when he founded
the New Regime movement in 1959, but quarreled with him and got out before
it moved to the far right. He formed an anti-nuclear association with
Eliezer Livneh, but didn't get along with him either. Prophets are like
that. Leibowitz did best when he was on his own.

If he had any influence, it was because of his personality. His ammunition
- cold, calculated logic, together with articulate passion and a
razor-sharp tongue - attracted admirers. He was prepared to speak
anywhere, anytime, in any godforsaken place, no matter how small the
audience. Once he told me that it was a matter of principle for him: He
would say what he had to say to anyone who was willing to listen, even in
a telephone booth. When he was invited to lecture at the university, he
would arrive in the taxi sent for him, sit in a chair on the side and read
his little Bible. He lived like a monk. His only pleasure in life seemed
to be things of the mind and the spirit.

Today everyone agrees that his doomsday prophecy about the harmfulness of
occupation has come true. Most of the public now understands what
Leibowitz understood from the very first moment: that the settlements are
a disaster for Israel. To Leibowitz, the people of Gush Emunim were
idolaters. Their beliefs had nothing to do with Judaism. To impute
holiness to the Western Wall, burial sites and hills was an abomination in
his eyes.

"When the Wahabis conquered Mecca," he once told me, "the first thing they
did was smash the tomb of the Prophet Mohammed. They didn't leave a trace.
Turning a burial site into a holy place was considered a desecration of
Mohammed's teachings. The same is true for Judaism."

No one knows where Moses is buried, and for good reason. By the same
token, I don't visit the grave of Yeshayahu Leibowitz. For me, despite his
protests, he remains a prophet. He is gone, and since his death there is
no one to replace him.


As usual, Charlie Reese tells it like it is.

AIPAC's Power Or

America's Cowardice?
By Charley Reese
Sept. 15, 2004

It was 1996, and Bill Clinton was president. To give the rascal his due,
he was laboring mightily to make the Middle East peace process work. That
same year, three American neoconservatives produced a policy paper for the
newly elected Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.

The neocons were Richard Perle, Douglas Feith and David Wurmser. Their
policy paper recommended to Netanyahu that he abandon the peace process,
reject "land for peace" and strengthen Israel's defenses in order to
confront Syria and Iraq. The document said, "This effort can focus on
removing Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq an important Israeli strategic
objective in its own right." It also recommended that Israel use pretexts
for preemptive attacks.

Now, if all of this sounds familiar and it should that's because Perle,
Feith and Wurmser joined other neocons in the Bush administration. Perle
was especially vocal in pushing the war on Iraq. They had two pretexts:
the attack of Sept. 11, even though Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with
it, and the mythical weapons of mass destruction.

Netanyahu, by the way, did abandon the peace process. And, at a cost
of $200 billion and nearly 1,000 American lives, Israel did achieve its
"strategic objective in its own right" removing Saddam from power.

Unless Perle and his buddies were paid for their advice, it didn't cost
Israel one shekel or one life.

Furthermore, if you stretch your memory, you will recall that until Iraq
blew up in its face, the Bush administration was laying the groundwork to
attack Syria, the other country Perle and his crowd named as target for
Israel. It has already imposed sanctions on Syria despite the fact that,
according to our own intelligence people, Syria had been cooperating with
the war on terror. The other target of the Israelis excuse me, the Bush
administration, is Iran.

When President Bush first started talking about terrorism, he use to say
"terrorists with global reach" to distinguish between al-Qaeda and
strictly local outfits with local agendas. That did not suit the Israelis
and their American supporters. They wanted Israel's enemies to be our
enemies, and so the distinction was soon dropped, and Israel's enemies
were added to the official list of terrorist organizations.

The problem is that Hamas and Islamic Jihad are Palestinian organizations
fighting for independence. True, they have used terrorist tactics, just as
the Jewish organizations the Stern Gang and the Irgun did when they were
fighting the British occupation of Palestine. But their target is the
Israeli occupation, not us.

Hezbollah is a Lebanese organization that has also used terrorist tactics,
including attacks against Americans in Lebanon, when it figured we were
helping the Israelis in their occupation of Lebanon. But there again, its
quarrel is with Israel.

I have long since given up the hope that Americans would wake up and
resent the manipulation of their government by a foreign country. The
Israeli lobby has been so successful in labeling any criticism of Israel,
no matter how justified, as anti-Semitic that most Americans prefer to
stick their heads in the sand. For sure, American politicians and much of
the media seem to be terrified by the Israeli lobby, which says more about
their cowardice than it does about the power of the lobby itself.

So, suit yourself. Go ahead and spend American blood and treasure for the
benefit of Israel.

Just remember, the United States has one, and only one, legitimate
interest in the Middle East, and that is buying oil that everybody who has
it wants to sell. It doesn't matter whether we buy it from a dictator (we
bought plenty from Saddam) or from a democratic government. It doesn't
matter to us if the country that sells us oil likes or hates Israel.

This whole mess, including the war in Iraq and the terrorist attacks of
9/11, is a result of the American government's involvement with Israel.
It's a dangerous and unhealthy state of affairs that will not be cured
until Americans find the courage to have an open and honest debate about
our foreign policy in the Middle East.

If you want more details on these neocons, I recommend:

Secrets and Lies, by Dilip Hiro, a distinguished Middle East scholar


Pretext for War by James Bamford's


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