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"MaryAnne Grady-Flores was convicted in DeWitt Town Court last night on 2nd Degree Contempt of an Order Of Protection. Grady-Flores, who did not intend to violate the Order despite its immorality and invalidity, was taking pictures of others at the base - the Ash Wednesday Witnesses - who engaged in nonviolent civil resistance blocking the front Gate to Hancock base for which they were subsequently acquitted.
"In a heinous abuse of an instrument meant to protect the innocent from violence, Orders of Protection are being used to protect violent transgressions of international and moral law from citizen oversight. While trying to publicize and support a movement to ground the drones and end the wars which take countless innocent lives, Grady-Flores was arrested for noncompliance with an order that does not specify particulars outside of how you might attack another human, something she would never do. She understood the Order to mean that she was forbidden to join the protest.
"The Guilty verdict was proffered by a jury 5 minutes after they had asked the judge for a legal definition of 'keep away', and he had replied that they 'are the sole triers of fact'.
"The two-day trial included testimony from Colonel Earl A. Evans who is the party protected by the OOP, Catholic Priests Father Bill Pickard and Tim Taugher, Catholic Workers Bill Frankel-Streit and Ellen Grady, sister. Grady-Flores also testified on her own behalf."
Back in the USA I had my senior high students watch as I climbed a fence into the largest store house of nuclear weapons in the USA. I was in a Santa Clause suit and a bag with candy and hand bills urging federal workers to find a real job….a life giving job.
Environment was major with my students and they commandeered the four corners of the original IBM setting in Endicott NY demanding that IBM pay per pound of hydroflorocarbons emitted each year…IBM the greatest polluter of the Ozone according to the EPA. Locals, with IBM the backbone of the job force, had no idea that their wonder company was doing wrong -- until students contacted media and the story was blasted. Kids can make a difference. (Two years later, President Bush met with IBM officials in the Rose Garden to award them for their winning reduction of ozone pollutants. Students by then were in college or elsewhere and of course, not mentioned.) My main claim to fame is my thousands of students who understood I didn’t buy the lies fed to them by the text books and media bullshit. I hope they are questioning and acting. But being a sheep has its advantages even for the committed.
So, my activism has been education. Our play, The Bench, a story about apartheid, made it to many schools around the Southern Tier of NY while Mandela was still incarcerated at Robins Island. Today, my play, The Predator, (you helped clean up a few items in it) has been done around the nation in small group settings such as the Pittsburgh Foreign Affairs Council etc. I believe education is the key -- slow, but it works if persistence is one’s forte.
I told you a bit about my activism to close the US Army School of the Americas and my southern jail, federal diesel therapy and various federal prisons for a six month ‘holiday’. It did close but opened up weeks later with a new name. C’est la vie. C’est la guerre.
Why do you believe protesting is a strategic tool?
It has worked historically. Need I repeat what most people of historical awareness know as fact….in the past 100 years….Gandhi, King, Chavez, Walesa, Mandela, Romero, Berrigans, etc.
Silence is the enemy of justice and we have great silence today. Silence is based in fear but is comfortable and safe. Sheepherders are our guides today rather than national leadership. Hiding in the middle of the flock is safe. Few speak out about our murderous ways.
How have the approaches of the police and the courts changed?
Police are doing their job. I once witnessed Federal Marshalls at the Pentagon (back in pre 2001 days) hosing down old ladies who were doing a ‘die in’ to protest Pentagon support for a school of assassination at Ft Benning. Elizabeth McAllister (widow of Phil Berrigan) was standing next to me and she asked one of the Marshalls if he would do the same thing if it was gasoline. The Marshall turned to Liz and said: "I'd follow my orders, Lady".
So cops are doing what they are paid to do. They are not told to stop the killing going on inside of the base so they do what they are told and arrest those who say our government should not be breaking the law of country and God and natural law. But like the pilots who do the killing and the surrounding support people, it's the system that thrives on doing what they are told to do by the criminals at the top. We need to educate the police to have a conscience and see the real enemy . . . the killers, not those who protest.
Courts are not much different. There is a sense of affinity between the Air Force personnel, smartly dressed, ramrod straight who stand or sit before judge and/or jury and make a fine presentation of patriotism . . . doing the job of heroes. It's a tough act to question. Judges and jurors have been taught to respect those who kill to keep us safe. The decisions made by the judges have been almost all in favor of the base and the killing Q9 drones and their crews. The one jury trial so far, just last week (May 17th.) rendered a decision in favor of the base. The case was a charge of a violation of an Order of Protection. An OPP is usually used to allow a spouse to keep away an abuser. Now, it is being creatively used at Hancock Air Base as an instrument to prevent First Amendment Rights to be practiced. Mary Anne Grady, a long time nonviolent peace activist, mother of four, every day hard working business woman was at a demo on Ash Wednesday at Hancock to do the media work of photos and video. She did not engage in the demonstration for she was ordered to not go on the base. She is shown in videos on the road in front of the base (cars and joggers going by right next to her) but Hancock Air Base now claims to have a lease on half of the public road that Mary Anne stood on and filmed. She faces a possible severe sentence on July 10th being found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt by a Syracuse jury of six. (Mary Anne was told months ago that juries may not be any better than judges -- tens of thousands stand and cheer at Syracuse Basketball games for the military and staff of the 174th Attach Wing at Hancock.)
What is your current legal situation?
My legal status is a jury trial at DeWitt Court starting at 8:30 a.m. on July 14th. First day mostly picking of jurors and opening statements and second day direct and cross examination, judge advise to jury and decision of guilt or innocence. I could be sentenced to one year in the Jamesville Penitentiary for my nonviolent die to remember those we have killed in Afghanistan (and God and the NSA only know where else). I think there is a chance of winning this one. If so, it could set a precedent. There are many jury trials to follow mine. Schedules go into late 2015….all for the same action. One judge said: "This has got to stop". Former President of Veterans For Peace, Elliott Adams, agreed with the judge. Elliott said, "Yes, your honor, it has to stop, we need to stop the killing and you need to be part of that stop effort."
I’ve been to most trials and have to say that there is little concern of judges to do anything to stop the assassinations. They are doing their job and following the "law". Now, we need to prove the so called law is illegal.
What would you recommend that people do who share your concern?
Here is what Ed Kinane had to say about recommending what to do. Ed walks the walk. Ed has lived in federal confinement for his peace and justice activism. Ed says:
That depends on whether they are far or near and where they are in life (in terms of dependents and responsibilities). Our campaign has a whole range of tactics they can join in or support: educate themselves; read some of the key drone books and reports; write letters to the editor...to elected officials...to base commanders; take part in our twice-monthly demos across the road from Hancock; attend the De Witt court when we defendants appear there; take part in annual conferences (usually in April); invite us to speak to their classes, community groups or congregations; contribute $$$ to our bail fund or to such anti-drone groups as codepink; work to pass local resolutions and ordinances restricting surveillance and weaponized drones over local or regional airspace; take part in fact-finding delegations to drone-plagued areas (Pakistan); risk arrest at Hancock, at other drone bases, or other relevant venues (federal buildings, drone research or production facilities, etc.); become a federal tax resister -- i.e.stop paying federal income taxes (much of which goes to the Pentagon war machine).
I'll add a few more:
Visit Upstate Drone Action Reports at http://upstatedroneaction.org/wordpress
Plan for a Global Day of Action Against Drones on October 4, 2014.
Join the movement to end all war, with all weapons, at http://WorldBeyondWar.org
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In an amazing victory for privacy advocates and drone activists, yesterday, Seattle’s mayor ordered the city's police agency to cease trying use surveillance drones and dismantle its drone program. The police will return the two drones they previously purchased with a Department of Homeland Security grant to the manufacturer.
A victory for privacy advocates, the Mayor of Seattle has ordered police to dismantle a domestic drone program (Photo: Casey McNerthney/seattlepi.com) EFF has been warning of the privacy dangers surveillance drones pose to US citizens for more than a year now. In May of last year, we urged concerned citizens to take their complaints to their local governments, given Congress has been slow to act on any privacy legislation. The events of Seattle proves this strategy can work and should serve as a blueprint for local activism across the country.
Back in early 2012, the Seattle city council was told that the Seattle police agency had obtained an authorization to fly drones from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). But they did not find out from the police; they found out from a reporter who called after the council after he saw Seattle’s name on the list obtained by EFF as part of our lawsuit against the FAA.
City council was understandably not happy, and the police agency was forced to appear before the council and apologize. It then vowed to work with the ACLU of Washington and the FAA to develop guidelines to make sure drones wouldn’t violate Seattle citizens’ privacy. But as long as the guidelines weren’t passed in a binding city ordinance, there’d be no way to enforce them.
After a townhall meeting held by police, in which citizens showed up in droves and angrily denounced the city’s plans, some reporters insinuated that city counsel members’ jobs could be on the line if they did not pass strict drone legislation protecting its citizens privacy.
Documents obtained by MuckRock and EFF in October as part of our 2012 drone census showed that the Seattle police were trying to buy two more drones despite the controversy. But that ended yesterday as the Mayor put a stop to the program completely.
Critics of the privacy protests said the participants were exaggerating the capabilities of the Seattle drones, given they would only fly for less than an hour at a time and are much smaller than the Predator drones the military flies overseas and Department of Homeland Security flies at home.
But while Seattle’s potential drones may not have been able to stay in the air for long, similar drones have already been developed and advertised by drone manufacturers with the capability to stay in the air for hours or days at a time. In fact, Lockheed Martin has been bragging about a drone that weights 13.2 pounds (well within the FAA’s weight limits) that can be recharged by a laser on the ground and stay in the air indefinitely.
Since the Seattle protests have heated up, similar complaints have been heard at local city counsels and state legislatures across the country. At least thirteen states are now considering legislation to restrict drone use to protect privacy, and there are also members of Congress on both sides of the aisle pushing the same thing.
Here in the Bay Area, we’ve experienced a similar situation. The Alameda County Sheriff's Office tried to sneak through drone funding without a public hearing and told the county board of supervisors it only wanted to use the drone for emergency purposes. Yet in internal documents obtained by EFF and MuckRock as part of our 2012 drone census, the Sheriff’s Office said it wanted to use the drone for “suspicious persons” and “large crowd control disturbances.”
When EFF and ACLU held a press conference pointing out this discrepancy, the county backtracked and is now attempting to write privacy guidelines that could potentially be turned into binding law. We will keep you updated on further developments.
But regardless, it’s important that privacy advocates take the lesson from Seattle and apply it all over the country. This is an important privacy victory, and like we said back in May, local governments will listen to our concerns, so let’s make our voice heard.
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Significant political developments have unfolded in Saudi Arabia in recent weeks following a court decision to execute Sheikh Nimr Baqir al-Nimr, a polarizing Shiite cleric and political activist who has campaigned for civil equality, an inclusive socio-political system, women’s rights, minority rights, and the release of political prisoners. Prosecutors condemned the cleric to death by beheading as punishment for charges of sedition, though the execution date has not yet been set.
Sheikh Nimr has been the fiercest critic of the Kingdom’s absolute Sunni monarchy for the last decade, but gained a considerable public following after leading a series of protests in 2011 in opposition to the Saudi military’s violent intervention and suppression of the pro-democracy movement in neighboring Bahrain, a satellite state with a Shiite majority ruled by a heavy-handed Sunni dynasty. His sermons and political activism continually emphasized non-violent resistance.
The Kingdom’s decision to sentence Nimr to death has complex implications that will push sectarian tensions to fever pitch inside Saudi Arabia and throughout the region, dangerously sharpening tension with Iran. Prominent clerics in Iran and Bahrain, as well as Shiite militant groups such as Hezbollah of Lebanon and the Houthi movement of Yemen, have all condemned the verdict and warned the Kingdom not to proceed with the execution.
Middle East Eye - 4 June 2014
Israel is preparing to shut down the most popular Islamic party among its large Palestinian minority, apparently hoping to exploit the rising tide of repression against the Muslim Brotherhood in the region.
Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, told his cabinet last week that the northern branch of the Islamic Movement should be outlawed as a terror organisation, according to a leak published in the Israeli media.
Netanyahu has reportedly already established a ministerial team to examine banning the movement, which is led by Sheikh Raed Salah. Three sources at the cabinet meeting provided confirmation to the Haaretz newspaper.
The planned crackdown coincides with claims by the Israeli security services that the Islamic Movement is cooperating with Hamas, the Palestinian Islamic faction that rules Gaza, to help the latter retain influence in East Jerusalem.
“Outlawing the Islamic Movement is intended to send a clear message to all Palestinians, in Israel and the occupied territories, that Israel will not tolerate political Islam,” said Asad Ghanem, a politics professor at Haifa University.
Israel has intensified its attempts to isolate and weaken Hamas since the Gaza group signed a reconciliation deal in April with Fatah, the party of the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas. Netanyahu is fearful that the agreement may bolster Palestinian efforts in the international arena towards statehood.
The formal declaration this week of a Hamas-Fatah unity government prompted Netanyahu to warn: “This will not strengthen peace; it will strengthen terrorism.” Ahmad Saadi, a Palestinian political analyst, said moves against the Islamic Movement should also be seen as part of a wider attack on the political representation of Israel’s 1.5 million Palestinian citizens, who comprise a fifth of the population.
He noted that Israeli parliament had raised the electoral threshold in March to the point where it was doubtful any Palestinian parties could be elected. “Israel would prefer that there is no Arab leadership of any sort organising the community.”
Al-Aqsa in danger
The Islamic Movement, in particular, has been successful in challenging key Israeli policies at the highly sensitive site of the al-Aqsa mosque compound in the Old City of Jerusalem and among the Bedouin in the Negev region.
Israel has been seeking to strengthen its control over the mosque site, which it refers to as the Temple Mount because it is assumed to have been built over two long-destroyed Jewish temples. Salah has mobilised tens of thousands of Muslim followers in Israel to take an active role there under the campaign slogan “al-Aqsa is in danger”. In recent weeks, following the collapse of the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks late April, there has been a spate of violent clashes between young Muslims and Israeli security forces at the site.
Meanwhile, the Islamic Movement’s popularity has soared among the Negev’s Bedouin in recent years. Israeli officials have blamed the movement for being behind mass protests last year that scotched controversial legislation to move 40,000 Bedouin off their ancestral lands to make way for Jewish communities. “Judaisation of Jerusalem and the Negev are big issues for the Israeli right,” said Saadi.
Israel not recognised
In the 1990s, the Islamic Movement split into two branches. A southern wing is represented in the Israeli parliament, while the northern branch refuses to recognise Israel and does not participate in national elections.
Although the Islamic Movement has ideological sympathies with Hamas, Salah has publicly disavowed violence.
The movement’s popularity among the Palestinian minority is based largely on its charitable and welfare work, and on an image of Salah as incorruptible and persecuted by Israel.
He has been arrested many times. On several occasions charges have been later withdrawn or convictions secured with evidence provided solely by security officials.
Last month Salah was fined £1,500 for obstructing security officials, after he tried to stop his wife being strip-searched three years ago as the couple returned from a trip to Jordan. Zahi Nujeidat, a spokesman, said the Islamic Movement’s legitimacy derived from its wide support. “We do not need a licence from the government. We will stick to our principles and not be intimidated.”
Comparison with Kach
At last week’s cabinet meeting, Netanyahu compared the northern wing of the Islamic Movement to Kach, a Jewish extremist group that was declared a terror organisation in 1994. That was shortly after one of its members, Baruch Goldstein, massacred 28 Muslim worshippers in Hebron’s Ibrahimi mosque.
“There was no problem outlawing Kach, so there ought to be no problem doing this in the case of the Islamic Movement,” the Israeli prime minister reportedly told his ministers.
He was backed by the transport minister, Yisrael Katz, who noted that the Muslim Brotherhood had been designated a terror organisation in Egypt, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates. “Only in Israel do they [the Brotherhood] freely incite against the existence of the state. There has to be a stop to that,” he said.
Ofer Zalzberg, an Israeli analyst with the International Crisis Group, a Brussels-based conflict resolution organisation, said: “Israeli decision-makers are seizing an opportunity to act on long-standing concerns about political Islam. Given events in Egypt, the timing is convenient.”
Saadi said the success of anti-Islamic parties in last month’s European elections may also have spurred Netanyahu into action.
Democracy at risk
According to the Israeli media, a ban on the Islamic Movement has been delayed by the justice ministry, which is concerned that the decision might not survive a petition to the Israeli supreme court.
Ghanem dismissed the suggestion that the Islamic Movement could be compared to Kach.
“Kach was a racist organisation with a clear intention to harm Arabs individually and collectively. It is still active and carrying out attacks through its supporters in the settler movement. Kach is a real threat, not the Islamic Movement.”
That assessment was shared in a Haaretz editorial, which feared that a ban would redefine terror in a way that “puts the principles of democracy at risk”. It noted that Netanyahu had refused to classify as terror organisations Jewish extremist groups that in recent years have been attacking Christian and Muslim sites in Israel and the occupied territories.
As a result of the hostile regional climate in the past few years, the Islamic Movement had adopted less radical and confrontational positions than a decade ago, said Ghanem.
“It espouses a political view of what kind of state Israel should be – a position different from, but certainly no more extreme than, that taken by some members of Netanyahu’s government.” Both wanted their own religious-ethnic group to dominate, he said.
Leaks from last week’s cabinet meeting were followed by reports that a Hamas leader, Mahmoud Toameh, had revealed during interrogation that his group was directing money to the Islamic Movement in Israel.
Toameh, who was arrested at an Israeli-controlled crossing between Jordan and the West Bank on 14 April, reportedly said Hamas was paying youths from the Islamic Movement to study at seminaries in the al-Aqsa compound.
According to the Israeli media, the youths were chiefly employed to fight with Israeli police and “harass Jews” – a reference to mounting tensions over an influx of Jewish extremists trying to pray at the compound.
Zalzberg said Israel was worried that religious activism at the al-Aqsa compound of the kind promoted by the Islamic Movement might lead to intensified clashes with Israeli police that could damage relations with Egypt and Jordan.
Both Hamas and the Islamic Movement have been concerned that most Muslims in the West Bank and Gaza are unable to reach the al-Aqsa site because of Israeli movement restrictions, leaving the compound vulnerable to an Israeli takeover. Israeli politicians recently tried to introduce legislation to force Islamic authorities to share control of the site with Israel.
Hamas leaders have been barred from occupied East Jerusalem in recent years too. Following Palestinian national elections in 2006, three legislators from Jerusalem had their residency revoked and were expelled to the West Bank. In their absence, the Islamic Movement has taken an increasingly prominent role in Jerusalem and at al-Aqsa.
Moshe Arens, a former defence minister from Netanyahu’s Likud party, wrote this week that Salah’s party was “far more dangerous” than either Hamas or Hizbullah, the Lebanese Shiite group that Israel engaged in a month-long war in 2006. He called it “an enemy within” that was “gradually mobilising the Muslim population in Israel in an anti-Israeli crusade”.
Discussions on outlawing the Islamic Movement took place as the cabinet approved plans to set up a ministerial committee to examine the economic development of Israel’s Palestinian minority. It will be headed by Yaacov Perry, a former head of the Shin Bet, Israel’s domestic intelligence service.
Zalzberg said the committee was intending to create a distinction between loyal and disloyal Arab citizens.
“The government’s strategy is to offer incentives to those who are considered loyal, and limit the rights of groups not seen as acting in accordance with the state’s objectives.”
Last week the Islamic Movement announced that it had discovered bugging equipment on a phone line in Salah’s office recently installed by Israel’s national telecom company.
- "punishing criminals, lustration, a package of laws to change the structure of power bodies, punishing those involved in the killings and torture of activists,
- changing the structure of Maidan;
- developing a system for dialogue with the authorities," and
- including Maidan activists in municipal police.
- Attorney for the petitioner - Warrant Officer Marcel Daman
- Attorney for the suspect - Adv. Aram Mahamid and Adv. Fadi Khouri
- Suspect - no appearance (he is brought into the court after the interrogation by the attorney for the suspect and the summaries)
- Relatives of the suspect – his father, brother and mother
War activists, like peace activists, push for an agenda. We don't think of them as activists because they rotate in and out of government positions, receive huge amounts of funding, have access to big media, and get meetings with top officials just by asking -- without having to generate a protest first.
They also display great contempt for the public and openly discuss ways to manipulate people through fear and nationalism -- further shifting their image away from that of popular organizers. But war activists are not journalists, not researchers, not academics. They don't inform or educate. They advocate. They just advocate for something that most of the time, and increasingly, nobody wants.
William Kristol and Robert Kagan and their organization, the Foreign Policy Initiative, stand out as exemplary war activists. They've modified their tone slightly since the days of the Project for the New American Century, an earlier war activist organization. They talk less about oil and more about human rights. But they insist on U.S. domination of the world. They find any success by anyone else in the world a threat to the United States. And they demand an ever larger and more frequently used military, even if world domination can be achieved without it. War, for these war activists, is an end in itself. As was much more common in the 19th century, these agitators believe war brings strength and glory, builds character, and makes a nation a Super Power.
Kristol recently lamented U.S. public opposition to war. He does have cause for concern. The U.S. public is sick of wars, outraged by those in Iraq and Afghanistan, and insistent that new ones not be begun. In September, missile strikes into Syria were successfully opposed by public resistance. In February, a new bill to impose sanctions on Iran and commit the United States to joining in any Israeli-Iranian war was blocked by public pressure. The country and the world are turning against the drone wars.
The next logical step after ending wars and preventing wars would be to begin dismantling the infrastructure that generates pressure for wars. This hasn't happened yet. During every NCAA basketball game the announcers thank U.S. troops for watching from 175 nations. Weapons sales are soaring. New nukes are being developed. NATO has expanded to the edge of Russia. But the possibility of change is in the air. A new peace activist group at WorldBeyondWar.org has begun pushing for war's abolition.
Here's Kristol panicking:
"A war-weary public can be awakened and rallied. Indeed, events are right now doing the awakening. All that's needed is the rallying. And the turnaround can be fast. Only 5 years after the end of the Vietnam war, and 15 years after our involvement there began in a big way, Ronald Reagan ran against both Democratic dovishness and Republican détente. He proposed confronting the Soviet Union and rebuilding our military. It was said that the country was too war-weary, that it was too soon after Vietnam, for Reagan's stern and challenging message. Yet Reagan won the election in 1980. And by 1990 an awakened America had won the Cold War."
Here's Kagan, who has worked for Hillary Clinton and whose wife Victoria Nuland has just been stirring up trouble in the Ukraine as Assistant Secretary of State. This is from an article by Kagan much admired by President Barack Obama:
"As Yan Xuetong recently noted, 'military strength underpins hegemony.' Here the United States remains unmatched. It is far and away the most powerful nation the world has ever known, and there has been no decline in America's relative military capacity -- at least not yet."
This pair is something of a good-cop/bad-cop team. Kristol bashes Obama for being a wimp and not fighting enough wars. Kagan reassures Obama that he can be master of the universe if he'll only build up the military a bit more and maybe fight a couple more wars here and there.
The response from some Obama supporters has been to point out that their hero has been fighting lots of wars and killing lots of people, thank you very much. The response from some peace activists is to play to people's selfishness with cries to bring the war dollars home. But humanitarian warriors are right to care about the world, even if they're only pretending or badly misguided about how to help. It's OK to oppose wars both because they kill huge numbers of poor people far from our shores and because we could have used the money for schools and trains. But it's important to add that for a small fraction of U.S. military spending we could ensure that the whole world had food and clean water and medicine. We could be the most beloved nation. I know that's not the status the war activists are after. In fact, when people begin to grasp that possibility, war activism will be finished for good.
Accepted wisdom in U.S. culture, despite overwhelming evidence, holds that the two nuclear bombs dropped on Japan shortened World War II and saved more lives than the some 200,000 lives they took away.
And yet, weeks before the first bomb was dropped, on July 13, 1945, Japan sent a telegram to the Soviet Union expressing its desire to surrender and end the war. The United States had broken Japan's codes and read the telegram. U.S. President Harry Truman referred in his diary to "the telegram from Jap Emperor asking for peace."
Truman had been informed through Swiss and Portuguese channels of Japanese peace overtures as early as three months before Hiroshima. Japan objected only to surrendering unconditionally and giving up its emperor, but the United States insisted on those terms until after the bombs fell, at which point it allowed Japan to keep its emperor.
Presidential advisor James Byrnes had told Truman that dropping the bombs would allow the United States to "dictate the terms of ending the war." Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal wrote in his diary that Byrnes was "most anxious to get the Japanese affair over with before the Russians got in." Truman wrote in his diary that the Soviets were preparing to march against Japan and "Fini Japs when that comes about." Truman ordered the bomb dropped on Hiroshima on August 6th and another type of bomb, a plutonium bomb, which the military also wanted to test and demonstrate, on Nagasaki on August 9th.
Also on August 9th, the Soviets attacked the Japanese. During the next two weeks, the Soviets killed 84,000 Japanese while losing 12,000 of their own soldiers, and the United States continued bombing Japan with non-nuclear weapons. Then the Japanese surrendered.
The United States Strategic Bombing Survey concluded that,"… certainly prior to 31 December, 1945, and in all probability prior to 1 November, 1945, Japan would have surrendered even if the atomic bombs had not been dropped, even if Russia had not entered the war, and even if no invasion had been planned or contemplated." One dissenter who had expressed this same view to the Secretary of War prior to the bombings was General Dwight Eisenhower.
The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral William D. Leahy agreed: "The use of this barbarous weapon at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of no material assistance in our war against Japan. The Japanese were already defeated and ready to surrender."
It was with knowledge of these undisputed but collectively ignored facts that I recently read a review of a book called The Girls of Atomic City: The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II. The women or girls involved did not in any way help win World War II, and the author and publisher surely know that. These women worked in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, producing the bombs that would kill, injure, traumatize, and destroy on a scale never before imagined -- leaving us decades later in serious danger of accidental or intentional apocalypse. But the idea that they helped win or end a war is a lie.
That the atomic girls didn't know exactly what they were building is no excuse any more than the Nazi's "I was just following orders" was an excuse. But these women's ignorance of what they were making would, I think, diminish their heroism had they done something at all heroic. In reality, they blindly participated in mass-murder by knowingly assisting a war effort, and were willing to do so without being given any of the details. In other words, they proved capable of doing just what millions of men have done. Should we be proud?
The point of the book and the article seems to be that young women did something. The author describes them as "brave" and compares their bravery to that of U.S. soldiers off obediently killing and dying in the war. The review describes the U.S. government's eviction of 1,000 families from their homes in Tennessee to make room for the nuclear bomb making. "Only something of the magnitude of saving the nation could possibly justify causing such heartbreak," writes the reviewer. Really? What could justify the mass-slaughter of some 200,000 people? And what exactly was the nation saved from? Shouldn't such language ("saving the nation") be made to mean something rather than being tossed around carelessly? And hadn't the U.S. government just 10 years earlier evicted 500 families to build Shenandoah National Park, neither to save the nation nor to kill lots of foreigners, but just because?
The relationship of women to war has changed dramatically in recent decades, even while remaining the same. Attractive women recruiting young men into the army can trace their lineage to Helen of Troy. Women raped and killed in war have a history as old as war. Women resisters to war are as old as war as well. But there are at least four big changes. First, women now participate in war, as well as in weapons production, in a major way. (Why the great ineluctable forces of genetics and destiny that always justify evil in weak minds will allow women to join in war but not allow men to abandon war is not clear to me.) Second, women -- to a limited extent -- participate in making the decision to wage wars. Third, women are not just secondary victims of war anymore; rather, female babies, toddlers, girls, women, and grandmothers make up about half of wars' casualties, 90% of whom are civilians. And fourth, with wars no longer solely advertised as ways to seize territory or develop manhood or bring glory to a flag, it has become common to advertise them as a way to bring women their rights and freedoms.
Not the right not to be bombed, of course. But the right, if they survive the war, to work and drive and vote and endure invasive ultrasounds, or whatever the West believes a woman's rights should be. In 2001, the United States was told that Afghanistan would be bombed for revenge. But since revenge is barbaric and vile, and since the criminals being punished were already dead, and since most of the people in Afghanistan had nothing to do with 9-11 and wished no part in any war, it was helpful to add another motivation. Afghanistan would also be bombed, we were told, for women's rights -- rights that had indeed been devastated following U.S. efforts to provoke the Soviet Union and then arm religious fanatics against it. Five weeks into the bombing, Laura Bush, the U.S. "first lady," proclaimed: "Because of our recent military gains in much of Afghanistan, women are no longer imprisoned in their homes. The fight against terrorism is also a fight for the rights and dignity of women."
Of course, when U.S. special forces burst into a home and shot pregnant women, and then dug the bullets out with their knives in order to blame the murders on the women's husbands, the goal was not the advancement of women's rights. But the war had nothing to do with that in reality. The U.S. empowered the warlords of the Northern Alliance, whom the Revolutionary Association of Women of Afghanistan (RAWA) denounced as "brethren-in-creed of the Taliban and Al-Qaida." RAWA reported: "The war in Afghanistan has removed the Taliban, which so far does appear to be an improvement for women in certain limited parts of the country. In other areas, the incidence of rape and forced marriage is on the rise again, and most women continue to wear the burqa out of fear for their safety." After over a decade of U.S./NATO liberation, Afghanistan remains one of the worst places to be a woman or to become a mother. Child marriage, rape in marriage, and prosecution of rape victims for adultery remain legal and accepted. It was in this context that Amnesty International put up big posters on bus stops in Chicago during a NATO meeting, reading -- without intended irony: "Human rights for women and girls in Afghanistan. NATO keep the progress going!"
"Progress" is rolling ahead in liberated Iraq as well, where the legal age of marriage is being lowered from 18 to 9. Similarly in liberated Libya, women are worse off. Similarly in monarchies and dictatorships that the U.S. government chooses to arm rather than overthrow because of their cooperative behavior: women are not enjoying the blessings of freedom unimpeded in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt, et cetera -- although many women are struggling admirably to advance their rights by nonviolent and effective means.
Another place women's rights are suffering is in the U.S. military, where studies have found that a third of women are sexually assaulted or raped by their fellow soldiers and commanders. One expert believes that the frequency of such attacks on male recruits is just as high but less often reported. Of course, if that's true, it does nothing to mitigate the horror, but simply adds to it. So young women reading about the glories of "saving the nation" by building nukes should think hard before joining the military -- hard enough, perhaps, to oppose it on the grounds that it's mass murder.
There's another story from Oak Ridge that ought to be read more widely, the story of one woman and two men just sentenced to prison for nonviolently protesting the nuclear weapons facility still found there. Here's a story of heroism and inspiration with no falsehoods, a story of wisdom and thoughtful action requiring incredible bravery and selflessness. Why we strain so hard to find such stories outside of nonviolent activism would be a mystery to me, were the reasons not readily to be found in the massive investment that war profiteers make in selling the idea of war.
There's a broader story, as well, of heroic women advancing a movement against war and toward a culture of peace. Here's proof aplenty of that:
And here's what we're up against: the coming promotion of a woman warmonger as a token carrier of progressive liberalism. Don't fall for it.
An interview with Jonathan Cook
Five Books – 25 February 2014
Interviewed by: Bethan Staton
Outside of the Middle East, many people understand Palestine to mean the West Bank and Gaza, and Palestinians as the people living in these areas. But Palestinians who remained in Israel after the creation of the state in 1948 – when some 700,000 were displaced in the Nakba or catastrophe – now make up around 20% of Israel’s population. Could you explain a bit more about this community, and why it has been overlooked?
The difficulty for Palestinians remaining in what becomes Israel after 1948 is that the Palestinian national movement develops in exile, in the occupied territories and the neighboring Arab states. Palestinians in Israel are excluded and shielded from these developments and left in what amounts to a political and social ghetto. Israel strictly circumscribes their understanding of who they are and anything to do with their history, heritage and culture. Israel controls the education system, for instance, and makes it effectively impossible to talk about Palestinian issues there: you can’t discuss what the PLO is or the nakba, for example. This is designed to erode a sense of Palestinian-ness.
For most of the Palestinian minority’s history inside Israel, there’s also a reliance on the Israeli media, which won’t allow discussion of Palestinian identity either. In the state’s early years, Israel does not even refer to Palestinians as Arabs; they are described as ‘the minorities’, purely in sectarian or tribal terms as Muslims, Christians, Druze and Bedouin. It’s an innovation later on that the state recognises them as generic “Arabs”.
Another thing to remember is that the urban, educated middle class is destroyed in 1948. The elites are almost completely expelled. Nazareth is the only city where an urban population survives in any significant numbers. What you are left with is a series of isolated rural peasant communities, and these are not likely to a be the vanguard of a Palestinian national movement. So after 1948 we are already looking at an isolated, severely weakened Palestinian community within Israel, and it is very easy to manipulate this community, to strip it of its identity.
But this system of control starts to break down, first with Israel’s occupation of the West Bank in 1967. That releases the ‘virus’, as some would see it, of Palestinian nationalism to the Palestinians inside Israel. They start to reconnect with people on the “other side” in places like Jenin, Nablus and Ramallah. Families are reunited. Palestinians in Israel begin to realise how much they have been held back, oppressed.
The shift is only reinforced later with Israel’s loss of control over the media. When Arabic satellite television comes along, for example, the state is no longer able to control what its Palestinian citizens hear and see. And Palestinians are provided with an external window both on the ugliness of the occupation and their own situation, and on the centrality of the Palestinian cause to the rest of the Arab world.
So in more recent decades have we seen an increase in the kind of literature that deals with these identity issues? And a change in how these issues are considered?
The greatest problem facing Palestinians inside Israel is how to respond to their situation. They are cut off, isolated, excluded from the centres of power and even from the self-declared identity of a Jewish state. They’re an alien, unwelcome presence within that state. So the question is: how do you respond?
There are two main possibilities: through resistance, whether violent or non-violent, whether military, political, social or literary; or through some form of accommodation. And herein lies the tension. And this is what is especially interesting about the Palestinians in Israel, because to remain sane in this environment they have to adopt both strategies at the same time.
You see this politically in the Israeli Communist Party, the most established of the non-Zionist parties Palestinians vote for. The Communist movement is a Jewish-Arab one, so its Palestinian members are especially exposed to this tension. It is no surprise that some of the leading figures of Palestinian literature and art in Israel have been very prominent in the Communist party. Emile Habiby, for instance, was the editor of the Communist newspaper Al-Ittihad. The tension is obvious in the philosophy of the Communist party, which supports the idea of Jewish-Arab equality but within the framework of a Jewish state. This is a very unusual kind of communism: one that still thinks it’s possible to ascribe an ethnic identity to the state and yet aspire to the principle of equality within it. Palestinian Communists have been struggling with this paradox for a long time.
How successful is the attempt at reconciliation? Is there continued belief in, and support for, a Jewish state?
A central tenet of the Israeli Communist Party is “two states for two peoples”. So who are the “peoples” being referred to? One is the Palestinian people. But what is the other? Is it the Israeli people or the Jewish people? For Israeli Jews at least, it is clearly the Jewish people. In fact, within Israel there is no formally recognised Israeli nationality – only a Jewish nationality and an Arab nationality. The idea of “two states for two peoples” is vague, and it’s meant to be vague to keep Palestinians comfortable within the Israeli Communist Party. But the implication is that we are talking about two states, one for the Palestinians and one for the Jews.
The Communist Party stands for elections as the Democratic Front for Peace and Equality (Hadash). The implication is that peace (a Jewish state) is reconcilable with equality. This is very problematic: the Palestinian intellectuals at the forefront of the party try to evade this contradiction. But you can’t really fudge it, you can’t square the circle.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Emile Habiby ends up writing the quintessential character in Israeli Palestinian literature: Saeed the Pessoptimist. This character represents the tension the minority lives: pessimism imbued with optimism. The Jewish state is the situation you’re trapped in, that’s pessimistic; the optimism looks to the equality you think you can aspire to, despite the reality. Saeed is always trying to square the circle. This very much becomes a theme of Palestinian literature in Israel.
Somebody like the poet Mahmoud Darwish, on the other hand, chooses a side. He does not try to keep a foot in both camps. Darwish says ‘I’m with the resistance’, and he leaves.
Sabri Jiryis also left Israel, after the publication of his book The Arabs in Israel, which is on your list. Could you tell us a bit more about the book, which could perhaps serve as an introduction to the background to this context?
That’s right. The book came out in English in 1976, but in Hebrew it was published in 1966. That is a very important date: it marks the end of the military government, the first 18 years when Israel imposes a system of military rule over its Palestinian citizens, separate from the democratic system that governs the Jewish majority. It is rather like the system of military rule that operates in the occupied territories today. When Jiryis was writing, of course, he didn’t know the military government was about to end, but he produces the definitive book on that period.
Jiryis is a lawyer writing a largely academic book, and it’s the first of its type to be written by a Palestinian inside Israel. Interestingly, like several other prominent Palestinian writers, he chooses to write in Hebrew – as do, for example, Anton Shammas and Sayed Kashua. In resorting to the language of your oppressor, you accommodate. Jiryis is resisting through content, but the language he employs is an accommodation.
He is writing at the close of the military government, and giving a victim’s view of it. It tells the Palestinian side but it is accessible to the Jewish population. So the work is highly subversive. It is also a counterpoint to Jewish academics who are writing books about Palestinians inside Israel in this period, people like Ori Stendal, who works with the intelligence services. The Israeli ‘experts’ studying the minority, and this is true to this day, are mainly working within the security paradigm, trying to understand the threat posed by the ‘Arab Israelis’ and refining the system of control. Jiryis is doing the exact opposite: he is trying to expose and shame the system.
Many of the Palestinians in Israel who write of the horrors of this period end up leaving. We see this, for example, with Fauzi el-Asmar, a Palestinian poet and a contemporary of Jiryis, who is forced out. His writings and activism are subversive, and so the state jails him. In his book To Be an Arab in Israel, he recalls his interrogators telling him ‘We will only make your life easy once you sign this piece of paper to say you’re leaving’. The task here is to get him out of the country, because the last thing Israel wants is people who are defining and shaping an identity for Palestinians within Israel. El-Asmar ends up leaving and becomes an American academic. Jiryis, too, leaves and goes to Lebanon and joins the PLO there. Those who stay but want to keep their integrity keep trying to square the circle: accommodating on one level, while resisting on another.
And I guess this process has the effect of shaping the landscape of Palestinian literature and identity within Israel – making it more accommodating?
More pessoptimist! Nazareth and Haifa are the only two places where a Palestinian middle class, an intellectual elite survived. They had to find some way to be true to themselves as intellectuals, but they also had to find a way to accommodate with the oppressor. And the ways they accomodate are interesting: their subversion is subtle, ironic, and so on. Kashua ends up living among Jews, speaking Hebrew with his kids, half in the Jewish camp and half in the Arab camp, ashamed and proud of his Arabness at the same time. This is the eternal problem of the pessoptimist.
One also has to understand where this comes from: choice. Early figures like Jiryis end up leaving. The process of writing his book seems to resolve in his own mind his status. He confronts the problem of his half-citizenship and rejects it.
So the Jiryis book you have chosen is this book, the book he wrote in Israel before he left. What precisely does he produce before leaving?
He is like a political scientist examining a Kafkaesque situation. He is analysing these absurd laws that look like they are the foundations of a democracy while they are really the walls of a prison. He is trying to explain the paradoxes in the law, and in the wider concept of a Jewish and democratic state. The abuses of the military government simply clarify things.
Take, for example, the Fallow Lands Law, an Ottoman law adopted by Israel that requires landowners to farm their land. If they leave the land untended for more than three years, it can be taken by the ruler and reassigned to those who need it. Under the Ottomans, it is a piece of almost-socialist legislation.
Israel, however, totally subverts the law’s intent. Now the military governor has each Palestinian land owner in his malevolent grip. In this period, no Palestinian resident can leave his or her community without a permit from the military government. So the farmer who needs to get to his land to tend it must either accommodate with the military government (i.e. become a collaborator) or resist and lose his land. In short, he has two awful choices.
As a lawyer, Jiryis is trying to understand how these laws work, how they cohere, how they create a system of control. And he’s really the first Palestinian to try and do that. Another writer, Fauzi el-Asmar embodies the emotional, poetic, artistic response to the situation, but Jiryis grasps the dynamics of it and breaks down the complexity. Really he is describing Israel’s version of Apartheid.
As you said, the book documents the period of military rule, which came to an end in the 1960s. How do you think a reader coming to the book should understand those details in relation to what has happened since, and what the situation is today?
This is one of the things I find interesting about Jiryis. The book is an act of resistance: he was trying to produce a road map that would allow Palestinians to understand the nature of their oppression, so they could be better equipped to fight it. If you don’t understand a problem you can’t fix it, and what Jiryis is trying to do is make the hidden and veiled visible: he’s taking apart the clock to see how all the mechanisms fit. When people understand the system, they can challenge it, try to remake it.
What may not be clear to him when he is writing is whether the system is reformable or needs overthrowing. In the end, Jiryis sides with the military resistance: he goes off and joins the PLO in exile. Although he’s not a fighter, he takes a side. He’s no longer a Palestinian Israeli: he’s simply a Palestinian.
At the same time, though, he’s rooted to the idea of steadfastness, or sumud – this is another feature of Palestinian literature. As soon as Oslo is signed, he returns. In fact, he is the first of the PLO exiles to apply and come back to Israel under the terms of the Oslo Accords. But when he returns, he chooses to live in Fassuta, his ancestral village way up in the north, next to Lebanon. The place is really out in the sticks. But this is where he wants to be: it is his home, his village, his land.
This is very much a response to the peculiarity of Israeli citizenship, which lacks a corresponding Israeli nationality. For most citizens their nationality is Jewish or Arab. That means for Palestinians there is no common nationality that connects them with the Jewish population. And unlike Jewish Israelis, those with Arab nationality have no national rights, only inferior individual rights. In other words, Palestinians in Israel have a very deprived form of citizenship, almost like a guest worker. That creates a very strong feeling of insecurity, impermanence, temporariness: the antithesis of sumud. So they root themselves to a place. Jiryis is a good example of this. I think it is incredible for a man who was such a central figure in the legal establishment of the PLO to come back to the anonymity of Fassuta the first chance he gets.
Perhaps that would be a good time to mention Sayed Kashua’s Let it be Morning?
Sayed Kashua is a great example of the pessoptimist, especially in terms of the way he writes and what he writes about. He has developed a semi-autobiographical character over many years in the Hebrew newspaper Haaretz. He also has the only sitcom on mainstream Israeli TV written by a Palestinian, in which the main character Amjad tries to square the circle: he aspires to live in a Jewish community, to live like a first-class citizen, while constantly fearing that the pretence on which he has constructed his life will be exposed and shattered. Fear of exposure and humiliation drives him. In other hands it would be tragedy, but because Kashua has a wicked sense of humour it is uproariously funny.
It is never quite clear how much Amjad or Kashua’s other characters are really him. He is always playing around with identities, and this is another interesting feature of Palestinian art inside Israel, especially cinema. When reality is so strange, a hybrid documentary style – fact merged with fiction – helps to capture the truth while also offering the protection of distance. Humour does the same. Good cinematic examples of this are films like Hany Abu Assad’s Ford Transit or Eli Suleiman’s Divine Intervention.
Palestinian identity in this context has to be very fluid. One weakness of Jewish academic studies of Palestinians in Israel is that they ascribe the population linear identities. One professor, Sami Smooha, is famous for identity surveys in which he tries to assess whether the minority is becoming ‘more Palestinian’ or ‘more Israeli’. That is really wrong-headed: for Palestinians in Israel there has to be a fluidity of identity to cope with these terribly complex legal, political, emotional situations. And that’s reflected in the character of the pessoptimist.
In Let it be Morning there’s definitely a sense of tension between what the narrator wishes to be the case, and the reality of what’s going on in his life. When he returns from Tel Aviv to the Arab village where he grew up it’s difficult to tell what reality is, and what is coloured by his needs and desires. And the sense of everything slipping out of control is very overwhelming.
Let It Be Morning is unusual for Kashua because it is a serious, nightmarish work – it is the pessoptimist at his very darkest. There is a reason for that: Kashua is writing in the early days of the second intifada when things reached a nadir for Palestinians in Israel. They were living in Israel, often under threat from suicide bombings just like Israeli Jews, but at the same time constantly under suspicion as terrorists themselves from the Jewish population. This is precisely the problem faced by the narrator, a journalist like Kashua working for a Hebrew newspaper and who feels increasingly alienated from his workplace and the Jewish city where he and his family live. He craves a sense of security and so decides to return to his Arab village, right next to the West Bank.
But the relocation offers him no real comfort. He has become too Jewish after a 10-year absence to fit back into the village, torn itself between lingering patriarchal Palestinian traditions and the faux-modernity and materialism its residents aspire to as “half-Israelis”. Their constant accommodations and dependence on their state, Israel, are simply vulgar reminders of the narrator’s own more sophisticated efforts at the same. So the narrator finds himself a “dancing Arab” – the title of his first, seemingly very autobiographical novel – trying to please everyone, and failing dismally.
Survival for Palestinians depends on creativity and adaptability, and a sense of communal cohesion. This is at the heart of the concept of sumud (or steadfastness). But the village is put to an extreme test in Kashua’s book when it is surrounded by tanks and its inhabitants find themselves cut off from the modern world, Israel, and from the old world, Palestine. This is a clear metaphor for the Palestinians inside Israel: they are cut off from both sides. Suddenly the villagers are isolated, and their society and sense of solidarity quickly break down. They stop being a community and become instead competing families, capable of cruelty and inhumanity.
Kashua is playing with a very familiar nightmare scenario for Palestinians inside Israel – the continuing fear of transfer, the threat of being expelled this time, of not holding on to what was kept in 1948. This is something I did not understand until I was living here. There really is a tangible fear that at any moment they and their families could be transferred, that the war of 1948 never finished. This is a large part of the incentive for accommodation: there is a huge sword hanging over your head. You could be expelled; if you put a foot wrong, you could be out the door; the trucks are waiting.
In the book, Kashua seems to communicate an unsureness about the extent to which he’s cooperating or collaborating. The mechanisms and institutions of society are always working towards strengthening themselves. Just by participating in society you are necessarily a part of that, contributing to it. I’ve spoken to many people about this sense, even in the West Bank.
The difference in the Occupied Territories is that for Palestinians there the Israelis are basically the Shin Bet, the army, the police and possibly the settlers – agents of the state. These people appear as unfamiliar, hostile beings. When Palestinians encounter them, it is clearly a master-slave relationship.
Inside Israel it is different. If you are a Palestinian taxi driver in Israel you spend all day speaking Hebrew to people in the back of your cab. You are constantly accommodating, performing as the Good Arab. For most Palestinian youth in Israel this experience arrives as a shock when they start a first job or go to university. They move from a familiar place where all the children around them are like them, speaking Arabic, and then suddenly they are in a world where they are seen as something alien. Often they face hostility, contempt, aggression, subtle or otherwise, from those they must spend time with.
So one thing you often see with Palestinians in Israel is a need to declare their separateness, to make a statement about their identity. That may not necessarily be as a Palestinian; it can be a sectarian identity. So, for example, you see many young Muslim women wearing the hijab, while Christian girls walk around with a cross around their neck. People don’t want to be caught in embarrassing or humiliating situations. It is a way to avoid the danger of being accepted and then rejected, revealed as the Other.
The next book on your list is Hatim Kanaaneh’s A Doctor in Galilee. I guess this gives a very human perspective on some very practical issues and material manifestations of the situation now and historically, obviously through the context of healthcare.
Hatim is a friend, and he sought my opinion on the book while he was drafting it. I find his story, again, illustrative of the problems we’ve been talking about. His family realises he has a talent and they make major sacrifices to send him to Harvard to get a medical degree. This is at the end of the military government, and a very difficult time for Palestinians inside Israel. They are a very isolated community, cut off from the world, barely connected to the transport infrastructure, living in a ghetto, and Hatim makes this incredible leap to go and train as a doctor at Harvard.
Hatim, I think, embodies the qualities of the pessoptimist, even if a very self aware one, one who understands early on that he is trying to square the circle. He has a set of impressive skills, ones denied to other Palestinians in Israel, and acquired because his family suffered to make this possible for him. It is both a huge burden and a considerable weapon. So he wants to put his new skills to good use, to the benefit of his society. The pessimist understands the disastrous circumstances of his community, but the optimist wants to believe his community – and the relationships between Jews and Arabs – can be improved.
He is not simply fixing broken bodies, he is trying to create an infrastructure of public health care for his community. He’s trying to create sewage systems and bring fresh water into the villages, to liberate the inhabitants from the prisons created for them by the state. Israel is a modern country, but it has left the Palestinian villages a hundred years behind. Kanaaneh comes with the tools of modernity to save these villages. The optimist wants to believe this can be done, and that once Israelis see what Palestinians are capable of they will warm to them, see them as human, as equals.
Hatim’s struggle is conducted through the Health Ministry, where he rises to the most senior position ever held by a Palestinian citizen. He assumes he is going to break down the stereotypes, that he will win over the Jews as friends, and that when they revise their opinion of him they will do the same with the rest of the Palestinian minority. He is a man with vision and optimism, but he is trapped in a world that demands pessimism. He starts to see himself more and more as an Uncle Tom and to lose faith in the Jewish colleagues around him. He identifies the racism as so entrenched that he doubts there is a way to circumvent it. He becomes deeply disillusioned. But despite all that he chooses sumud as his act of part-accomodation, part-resistance.
I think the sense of responsibility among people to give back to one’s community is quite common, but in this context the feeling of being ‘unwanted’ within a state structure, so to speak, adds an element of feeling the need to justify one’s own existence. And in the book everything seems pretty hopeless at points. You get a real sense of banging your head against a brick wall.
When Hatim finally quits the Health Ministry, he sets up the first real NGO for Palestinians inside Israel with an international perspective, the Galilee Society. This is an act of subversion. He is trying to bypass Israel and go directly to the international community, because he realises that otherwise no help will be forthcoming from his own state. But at the same time it is not a completely rejectionist stance: he also knows he must work with Jewish society. By reaching out to the international community, he hopes to shame Israel into action.
So the potential for the community to create alternative structures to serve itself is limited, and when it comes to things like infrastructure and healthcare, the state is very necessary. And this makes cooperating and working with the state necessary.
He is resisting by setting up the Galilee Society, but he is also doing it within the framework of accommodation. He’s got a foot in both camps because that is the only option for those who stay. Leaving is a defeat for sumud, for steadfastness. That is why Palestinians see the need to come back to the place where they started: that is the only thing that distinguishes them from other Palestinians, it is the only strength they have.
You’ve also selected So What by Taha Muhammad Ali. It’s a selection of his poetry from 1971-2005. How does this deal with ideas of longing and return?
Taha Muhammad Ali was an internal refugee, or a “present absentee”, this gloriously Orwellian term Israel assigns to those who after 1948 are still present in Israel but absent from their property. Safuriya, his village, which is right next to Nazareth, represents this tension acutely – of presence and absence. Many of the refugees, like Taha’s family, fled to Nazareth and set up their own neighborhood called Safafri that overlooks the old, destroyed village. So they wake up in the morning and open the curtains to look out on the land that they lived on before they were expelled in 1948. He is so present he is almost there, but at the same time he is always absent. This is not an untypical condition: one in four Palestinians in Israel are present absentees.
Here you have another way of looking at the pessoptimist: the present and the absent. The present person is the optimist, the absent person is the pessimist. Some of the best Palestinian poets, including Darwish, were internal refugees, always living with this tension in their being.
Poetry has a very important place in the Palestinians’ artistic pantheon, and it becomes particularly powerful as a vehicle for the Palestinians because it speaks to the whole Arab world. People set poems to music, so it was more than literature, it became part of a wider Arabic culture. It was a way to tell the Palestinian story, the Palestinian sense of loss to the whole Arab world; it was the best kind of newspaper you could have and at the same time gave a sense that the loss of the Palestinian homeland was also a loss for all Arabs, a loss of independence and a sense of self respect that they all shared.
Darwish, the most famous Palestinian poet, faces the tension and stays inside Israel for quite a while. But in the end he, like Jiryis, cannot live with it. Taha Muhammad Ali is a pessoptimist. He does not have the heart for pure resistance. He prefers to find the middle ground, some kind of accommodation.
And how is that expressed in the poetry?
Famously he said ‘There is no Israel and there is no Palestine’, which is something you could never imagine Darwish saying. In fact, invariably there is from Taha a rejection of posturing, self-importance and, above all, a deep disquiet at all-consuming hatred, however justified it might seem by circumstance. In one poem,’Twigs’, he focuses on the things he remembers – small things, details like the taste of bread and water. It ends with an assessment that at our death “hate will be / the first thing / to putrefy / within us”. But at the same happiness is never quite present either. One of his lines, used as the title of a great biography in English, is “My happiness bears no relation to happiness”.
There is also a poem, Revenge, where he talks about how he wants to kill the man who stole his family’s home in 1948, thereby “expelling me into a narrow country”. He says “if I were ready – / I would take my revenge!” So for a brief, deceptive moment it seems as though he has found an inner voice of resistance. But in true Taha style he then subverts it all. He recites all the reasons why he would not be able to kill him, such as if the man had loved ones, or friends or even casual acquaintances who might miss him. But even that is not enough of a concession. He also argues that he would leave the man be even if he had no one who cared for or loved him. “Instead I’d be content / to ignore him when I passed him by / on the street – as I / convinced myself / that paying him no attention / in itself was a kind of revenge.” So here is the pessoptimist; a man who starts with grand talk of resistance, but in the end despite himself recognises a need to accommodate, to live with others, to refuse to bow to their level.
Do you think it’s as if there’s a sense of humanity – both in the sense of practical needs and sympathy for others – getting in the way of taking any kind of action?
Taha died a couple of years ago, but there are videos of him on YouTube. You see when he talks, there is a wonderful boylike mischief in his face, a kind of perpetual smile even as he talks about very sad things, the losses endured by himself and his family, and his community. There is an eternal optimism in tiny things: he says “the best drink is water and the best food is bread”. The tiny things in life can give you a great deal of pleasure, and maybe you have to focus on the small things because the big things are too depressing, too overwhelming.
But the day to day is so important because it keeps people going, and it’s also what keeps people accommodating, in a sense.
Taha had four years of formal education because his whole schooling was brought to an end by the Nakba. In 1948 the present absentees lose everything – it is year zero. Taha and his brothers start to rebuild their lives in Nazareth, selling bread from a street trolley. Eventually he opens a souvenir shop next to the Basilica, selling trinkets to tourists, and probably regales them with his stories too. But most of the time there is nothing to do. You can see shop owners like him today, sitting there or dozing or listening to the radio. But you can imagine Taha reading loads of poetry, teaching himself because he understands that only through poetry can he reclaim his voice and reach out to people with his stories.
As a self-taught poet, he finds his own language. Unlike Darwish, he does not use classical Arabic, the heavy, serious Arabic. Instead he uses the street language. He talks to the ordinary man and woman. He does not want poetry to be this big, weighty thing. The subject for him is not the grand Palestinian drama, but the small, inconsequential things that have been lost or destroyed, the efforts to rebuild on the personal scale, to take pleasure in the tiny things that survive. He seeks the reasons for optimism, love and compassion over the urge for hatred and revenge. There is a bitterness too but it must never be allowed to trump what really matters.
Your final book choice is Sleeping on a Wire, by David Grossman.
I felt we should have one work from an Israeli Jew, because they have done so much to shape Palestinian identity inside Israel. There are some great books on Palestinians in Israel, as well as some truly awful ones. I see David Grossman’s book as interesting because it is really the first attempt to grapple with the Palestinian identity issue in Israel from a Jewish perspective. I do not think it is entirely successful, and I have a problem with his politics, but it is clear he is trying to do it honestly, that he is seeking to understand.
The problem is that he is a liberal Zionist, and there is a constant tension between his liberalism and his Zionism. So the liberal in Grossman wants to understand the trauma that befell the Palestinians in Israel, wants to reach out to them, wants to understand them. But at the same time the Zionist in him fears what their narrative represents. So what happens in each chapter, like a nervous tic, which I find fascinating, is Grossman immersing himself in their stories deeply, allowing them to speak unmediated, but then afterwards he can’t stop himself from interpreting for them, or judging them.
So what’s the structure of this, what form does this take in the book?
It is a very common liberal Zionist position: the need to have the last word, and to create the framework of the narrative. His book is subversive because he is an Israeli Jew giving Palestinians the chance to tell their story, to explain their situation in great depth. He’s very good about letting Palestinians speak clearly and honestly and transparently, you sense that he’s not manipulating the conversations and he’s not editing out stuff, he just wants to hear, he gives you it all. But the context for this act of generosity is a Zionist one. He and his subjects are in a Jewish state, and it has to be one as far as Grossman is concerned. So however much he sympathises with the Palestinians, and however much he understands, however much he feels their pain: sorry, but at the end of the day the Jewish State is more important.
I found the book very frustrating, because he has this great ability to tell his subjects’ stories, but then the narrator, himself, comes in at the end to tell us what we should make of what we have just heard. He cannot leave it to us to make up our own mind; he has to create for us a prism to see through.
This is an important point when we talk about the tension faced by Palestinian Israelis: that profound tensions exist for Israeli Jews too. It’s a hard thing to face, with honesty, the problematic realities of a state that one supports and is a part of. Perhaps this is a different kind of struggle, of individuals coming to terms with the structures of their own privilege, and trying to accommodate difficult truths into a particular vision.
And I think this is a general problem for Israeli Jews: that the narrative of Palestinians, including or maybe especially those inside Israel, is too overwhelming, too threatening, too disconcerting, too guilt-inducing to cope with. Which is why most Israeli Jews won’t really listen. What is interesting about Grossman is he has enough emotional strength to hear it, but then needs to package it up in a way that he and his readers can cope with.
So do you think the book is valuable as a document of the Palestinian story in Israel, or as an example of attitudes towards that, of Jewish Israeli considerations of the issue?
I think it’s useful as both. Grossman’s motive was probably to write something that, because it was written by an Israeli Jew, would be accessible to people who find it difficult to hear the Palestinian narrative. He hoped to bridge a kind of social divide and help heal wounds.
The book is also a fascinating historical document. One chapter is dedicated to the Islamic movement in its early years, a subject little written about apart from in Arabic. It’s very interesting to see how the Islamic movement saw its role in the early 1990s, caught in a certain moment, at the end of of the first Intifada and just before Oslo. Or the unrecognised villages and their struggle at that time to live in a twilight world of being present and absent in a different sense: on the ground but off the map. Visible to the eye but invisible to Israeli bureaucrats, at least in terms of public services.
Grossman was writing at a moment when Israeli Jews were very pessimistic. Soldiers had been told by their prime minister Yitzhak Rabin to break the bones of Palestinians in the occupied territories to crush the first intifada. It was a time when Israeli Jews were realising that there was serious and organised opposition to the occupation, that their supposed benevolent rule was rejected by Palestinians.
The question of who the Palestinians inside Israel were, and how they were connected to these events, becomes important. Grossman is trying to reach out to the Palestinians in Israel to find some common ground, in the hope of defining an Israeliness. Possibly there’s an element of the security mentality – ‘let’s understand the enemy’. But he is too intelligent and sensitive just to be doing that. He is genuinely trying to find out whether some kind of accommodation can be reached, to ask: are they going to move closer to us, or further away? Because from a Jewish Israeli perspective, the Palestinians inside Israel are seen as the Achilles’ heel of the Jewish state.
At the beginning you alluded to a relatively recent sense of changing and developing Palestinian identity in Israel, through literature, media and so on. How are these books, which explore that, being received? And are things changing in terms of their relationship in wider Israeli society?
It’s an interesting question. Where’s Israeli Jewish society heading? If you look at the Israeli Jewish books about Palestinians in Israel they date from certain periods. In the late 1970s there is a rash of books written as a result of Land Day, when Palestinians in Israel engaged in a major confrontation with the state to stop confiscations of their land. Six demonstrators are killed during the protests. It’s a crisis for both sides: the Palestinians realise their citizenship is not real citizenship; and Israeli Jews appreciate that their rule over this group is contested. The lens through which this is seen is chiefly then a security one. How do we control them better? More books emerge during the 1990s, the Oslo period, because the question then is: what kind of citizenship can a Jewish state concede to the Palestinian minority after a peace agreement? How is the state’s security to be defined? Nowadays it seems to me Israeli Jewish society is much less interested in understanding Palestinians inside Israel.
I think now they are seen as more of a threat, and the chief interest is how to separate from them, not how to live with them. They are seen as a demographic problem, framed in the language of security. The issue is about “us”: how to protect the Jewish majority. This is the material of policy papers, not books.
Aside from that do you think the issues facing Palestinians within Israel are becoming more important in terms of wider questions about Israel and Palestine, and the possibility of a final settlement?
It is becoming clearer to Israel that Palestinians inside Israel are a key fault line in the peace process. Netanyahu has made the Palestinians’ recognition of Israel as a Jewish state a precondition for an agreement. So in terms of the peace process, Palestinians inside Israel are now a – if not, the – core issue.
During 1948 Israel created a demographic structure – through mass expulsions, and through laws to ensure that only Jews could immigrate – to guarantee that the state was and would remain incontestably Jewish. Now in the current peace talks, what Israel wants from the Palestinian leadership is for them to sign up to this, saying, we’re fine with it. And this is supposed to close the 1948 file, which is still an open file for the Palestinians. And this is why I think Palestinians inside Israel are seen increasingly less as a community in themselves and more as another one of the final status issues. The Palestinians’ fight inside Israel for equality and democracy ultimately risks creating a right of return – because real equality requires that Palestinians have the same rights of naturalisation as Jews enjoy under the Law of Return. And then you would have refugees returning and Israel’s Jewish majority being eroded.
And this puts another layer onto what you mentioned about accommodation: that’s a very big question resting on the shoulders of Palestinians in Israel. Yet as I mentioned earlier, I have the sense the reality of Palestinians living within Israel is not really recognised widely. When outsiders are introduced to the reality for the first time, they tend to find it puts everything in a very new perspective.
And it’s overwhelming. It’s overwhelming for everybody. The reason Grossman is reframing all the time is because it is overwhelming. The reason Sabri Jiryis and Mahmoud Darwish leave is because it’s overwhelming. The reason Taha Muhammad Ali and Sayed Kashua adopt the pessoptimist worldview is because it’s overwhelming. The reason Hatim Kanaaneh digs in his roots as deep as he can is because it’s overwhelming. And for outsiders it is overwhelming too; the reality is more complex and more paradoxical and more entrenched and more irreconcilable than anyone could have imagined.
It’s not just a case of drawing a better border. It’s much more complicated than that. It’s redressing decades and decades of injustice, and in doing so maybe creating new injustices. Because so many Jewish immigrants came and settled here and gave up lives elsewhere. What happens to them? You can’t just create a new set of injustices. How do you reconcile these problems? How do you square all these circles?
- unaffordable housing;
- high food and energy prices;
- low wages and eroding social benefits;
- onerous taxes;
- education and healthcare increasingly dependent on the ability to pay;
- weak labor rights;
- construction funding disproportionately allocated for settlement development; and
- the high cost of raising children.