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Israeli Exceptionalism – Book Review

Scholarly and well-researched, but appropriate for general readers.

By Steven Salaita May 30, 2010

Israeli Exceptionalism: The Destabilizing Logic of Zionism – By M. Shahid Alam

People have been against both the idea and practice of Zionism since its inception. Zionism is an ideology that has never earned the support of all Jews, and one that has never been accepted by the vast majority of Palestinians, Arabs, and Muslims. Zionism has likewise failed to achieve significant support in the so-called Third World, and has been almost uniformly rejected by black nationalists inside the United States. Yet Zionism has been successful insofar as its desire to create a Jewish-majority nation-state has been achieved. Despite its discursive self-image as a liberation movement, Zionist practice is colonialist and brutally violent.

In his latest book, Israeli Exceptionalism: The Destabilizing Logic of Zionism (Palgrave Macmillan), M. Shahid Alam explores these paradoxes with great skill and insight. Israeli Exceptionalism takes its place among a series of recent books that question the logic of Zionism. Most of these books argue in favor of a one-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict; inherent in that argument is a rejection of Zionism. Alam takes a slightly different approach in his rejection of Zionism, one that is global in scope. He points out that “[a]s an exclusionary settler colony, Israel does not stand alone in the history of European expansion overseas, but it is the only one of its kind in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries” (14). Israel, in other words, is an anomaly: a settler colonial society still in thrall of the ideologies and racism of the nineteenth century. As with the European colonization of North America, Zionism conceptualizes itself as an exceptional force of good in history.

In response to this self-image, “Critics of Zionism and Israel—including a few Israelis—have charted an inverse exceptionalism, which describes an Israel that is aberrant, violates international norms with near impunity, engages in systematic abuse of human rights, wages wars at will, and has expanded its territories through conquest” (14). Much of Alam’s subsequent analysis focuses on Israel’s unsavory behavior, paying special note to the various discourses that justify Zionist aggression as a modern exemplar of civilizational splendor.

I eagerly recommend this book to anybody interested in the discourses and practices of Israeli colonization. It would also be of interest to enthusiasts of current affairs and geopolitics. I would describe the primary style of Israeli Exceptionalism as discourse analysis. Alam examines the geopolitical consequences of Israeli colonization and Zionism’s rootedness in multiple histories of ethnic cleansing. He calls his approach a dialectical analysis of Zionism’s destabilizing logic. Over the course of the book, Alam demolishes the ethical premises and mythologies of Zionism with considerable vim and impressive acumen. I especially enjoyed Alam’s criticism of leftist hero Noam Chomsky for his problematic views on the nature of Israeli power. All too often, writers are hesitant to critique icons, to the detriment of a shared sense of political and moral responsibility. Alam is more concerned with Zionism’s many victims than he is with upholding the mechanisms of political celebrity.

Israeli Exceptionalism is scholarly and well-researched, but appropriate for general readers. It is an important contribution to current discussions about the viability of Zionism and the future of Palestine. Alam writes with keen purpose and with an ethical point of view, one opposed to the injustices inscribed in Zionist logic, and one that is unfortunately still marginalized in North America. It is a point of view, however, that is increasingly gaining momentum as more and more people realize that opposition to Zionism isn’t deviant or disturbing, but perfectly in keeping with the anti-racist and anti-imperialist sentiment to which the vast majority of people in the world now adhere.

Steven Salaita is author, most recently, of The Uncultured Wars: Arabs, Muslims, and the Poverty of Liberal Thought.

May 30, 2010 Posted by | Book Review, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | 2 Comments

Rwandan Arrest of U.S. Lawyer Motivated by Politics

By Marjorie Cohn | May 29, 2010

Professor Peter Erlinder, noted criminal defense lawyer and past president of the National Lawyers Guild, was arrested Friday morning in Rwanda for “genocide ideology.”  Erlinder’s representation of high-profile defendants before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) has incurred the wrath of government officials, who have charged him with “negation of the Tutsi genocide” for mounting defenses of his clients that conflict with the government party line about who was responsible for the 1994 genocide.

The Rwandan government recently blasted the U.S. government for criticizing Rwanda’s restrictions on the media and human rights organizations in advance of the upcoming August national elections.  A Human Rights Watch researcher had been barred from the country and several independent newspapers had been shuttered.  Opposition supporters had been attacked and jailed.

Erlinder had recently filed a lawsuit in Oklahoma against Rwandan president Paul Kagame, which likely angered the government in Rwanda.  Erlinder had traveled to Kigali, Rwanda to represent his client, Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza, who is also charged with “denying genocide.”  Ms. Umuhoza happens to be opposing President Kagame in the forthcoming August elections.  Since he arrived in Kigali, the government-sponsored media there has been very critical of Erlinder.

The “Law Relating to the Punishment of the Crime of Genocide Ideology,” unique to Rwanda, defines genocide broadly and does not require that one have any link to a genocidal act.  It punishes legitimate forms of expression protected by international treaties.  Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and the U.S. State Department have denounced the law as a means for political repression.

In an interview shortly before he traveled to Kigali, Erlinder stated that Ms. Umuhoza was not in Rwanda in 1994 and the charges against her are not supported by a verdict of the ICTR.

Regardless of the merits of the case, however, it is unsupportable that an attorney be arrested and jailed for vigorously representing his client.  In 1770, John Adams defended nine British soldiers including a captain who stood accused of killing five Americans.  No other lawyer would defend them.  Adams thought no one in a free country should be denied the right to a fair trial and the right to counsel.  He was subjected to scorn and ridicule and claimed to have lost half his law practice as a result of his efforts.  Adams later said his representation of those British soldiers was “one of the most gallant, generous, manly and disinterested actions of my whole life, and one of the best pieces of service I ever rendered my country.”

Bar associations including the National Lawyers Guild (NLG) and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) have condemned Erlinder’s arrest.  “There can be no justice for anyone if the state can silence lawyers for defendants whom it dislikes and a government that seeks to prevent lawyers from being vigorous advocates for their clients cannot be trusted,” said NLG president David Gespass.  “Government intimidation and interference with criminal defense lawyers is unacceptable in all its forms and it fundamentally undermines justice,” according to an NACDL press release.

Erlinder should be released immediately.  He should be given immediate access to counsel and the charges against him should be dismissed.

Marjorie Cohn is immediate past president of the National Lawyers Guild and a professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law.

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Background:

Kagame threatens challenger with prison for talking to press

By Ann Garrison | Digital Journal | May 14, 2010

Obama Expands Military Involvement in Africa

By Daniel Volman | Inter Press Service | April 03, 2010

Beyond the praise for Paul Kagame

By Andrew Oxford | Pulse Media | January 29, 2010

May 30, 2010 Posted by | Civil Liberties | 1 Comment

Rebel scientists force Royal Society to accept climate change scepticism

By Ben Webster |Timesonline | May 29, 2010

Britain’s premier scientific institution is being forced to review its statements on climate change after a rebellion by members who question mankind’s contribution to rising temperatures.

The Royal Society has appointed a panel to rewrite the 350-year-old institution’s official position on global warming. It will publish a new “guide to the science of climate change” this summer. The society has been accused by 43 of its Fellows of refusing to accept dissenting views on climate change and exaggerating the degree of certainty that man-made emissions are the main cause.

The society appears to have conceded that it needs to correct previous statements. It said: “Any public perception that science is somehow fully settled is wholly incorrect — there is always room for new observations, theories, measurements.” This contradicts a comment by the society’s previous president, Lord May, who was once quoted as saying: “The debate on climate change is over.”

The admission that the society needs to conduct the review is a blow to attempts by the UN to reach a global deal on cutting emissions. The Royal Society is viewed as one of the leading authorities on the topic and it nominated the panel that investigated and endorsed the climate science of the University of East Anglia.

Sir Alan Rudge, a society Fellow and former member of the Government’s Scientific Advisory Committee, is one of the leaders of the rebellion who gathered signatures on a petition sent to Lord Rees, the society president.

He told The Times that the society had adopted an “unnecessarily alarmist position” on climate change.

Sir Alan, 72, an electrical engineer, is a member of the advisory council of the climate sceptic think-tank, the Global Warming Policy Foundation.

He said: “I think the Royal Society should be more neutral and welcome credible contributions from both sceptics and alarmists alike. There is a lot of science to be done before we can be certain about climate change and before we impose upon ourselves the huge economic burden of cutting emissions.”

He refused to name the other signatories but admitted that few of them had worked directly in climate science and many were retired.

“One of the reasons people like myself are willing to put our heads above the parapet is that our careers are not at risk from being labelled a denier or flat-Earther because we say the science is not settled. The bullying of people into silence has unfortunately been effective.”

Only a fraction of the society’s 1,300 Fellows were approached and a third of those declined to sign the petition.

The rebels are concerned by a document entitled Climate Change Controversies, published by the society in 2007. The document attempts to refute what it describes as the misleading arguments employed by sceptics.

The document, which the society has used to influence media coverage of climate change, concludes: “The science clearly points to the need for nations to take urgent steps to cut greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere, as much and as fast as possible, to reduce the more severe aspects of climate change.”

Lord Rees admitted that there were differing views among Fellows but said that the new guide would be “based on expert views backed up by sound scientific evidence”.

Bob Ward, policy director of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change at LSE, urged the other signatories to come forward. “If these scientists have doubts about the science on climate change, they should come out and speak about it.”

He said that the petition would fuel public doubt about climate change and that it was important to know how many of the signatories had professional knowledge of the topic.

May 30, 2010 Posted by | Science and Pseudo-Science | Comments Off on Rebel scientists force Royal Society to accept climate change scepticism

The Guardian reporting on Venezuela takes more than the biscuit

By Patrick J. O’Donoghue | VHeadline | May 28, 2010

The UK’s main solidarity group with Venezuela, the Venezuelan Solidarity Campiagn (VSC) has held a seminar in London on (UK) media bias against Venezuela. Chaired by veteran journalist, Hugh O’Shaughnessy, reporting on Venezuela by the UK liberal broadsheet, The Guardian and BBC online came under intense scrutiny and criticism.

In the debate reports filed by The Guardian’s correspondent in Venezuela, Rory Carroll were carefully analyzed by VSC’s professor Francisco Dominguez (Middlesex University). Carroll’s journalistic technique revolves around snide comments, such as referring to President Chavez as former tank commander (or self-styled revolutionary) rather than President, hammering the message of inevitable economic collapse, exposing a supposedly irrational anti-Americanism and above all, heralding Chavez’ alleged populism aimed at perpetuating himself in power.

Conclusion: Carroll’s underlying tone is a subtle mockery of Chavez as an exotic exception.

Reactions from the audience, many of whom read the Guardian, centered around why the paper continues to accept articles from the likes of Carroll, who distorts what is happening in Venezuela in a very “un-Guardian” like fashion. The main thrust of the seminar centered on a presentation by University of West England professor, Lee Salter, who is researching how the BBC reports on Venezuela. Salter’s key contribution was to outline the personal and cultural make up of BBC correspondents abroad and their view on the world.

The insight was confirmed by Telesur adviser Iain Bruce, who worked 30 years for the BBC … he warned it would be wrong to see the BBC involved in a conspiracy against Venezuela. One of the problems, he suggested, is how news is structured and over reliance on wires by BBC online.

Middlesex University professor Jason De Souza provided an interesting comparison of how the British magazine, The Economist, projected stories depicting a positive Colombian President Alvaro Uribe against a very negative Hugo Chavez. De Souza highlighted magazine editorials to illustrate the nature of his research.

One of the thoughts thrown out during the seminar touched on the need of “sensible news outlets being given information from the Venezuelan government on a daily basis.”

The overriding impression taken away from the seminar is that if the BBC and The Guardian are indeed engaged in propaganda against Venezuela, then it doesn’t feel like propaganda and therein, lies the real danger.

May 30, 2010 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering | Comments Off on The Guardian reporting on Venezuela takes more than the biscuit

Mashaal to US: Give Us Advanced Missiles to Target Israeli Military Accurately

“I think that the United States of America should have direct dialogue with Hamas without mediators, because the United States is a major state, and it shouldn’t fear Israel” – Khaled Mashaal

Al-Manar TV – 29/05/2010

Hamas politburo Chief Khaled Mashaal spoke out on Friday against American support of Israel and said that the Hamas was not against the United States but rather against its bias in favor of Israel, and stated Israel as the main obstacle to peace in the Middle East.

“We don’t have a problem whatsoever with the United States, nor with the American interests,” Mashaal told U.S. broadcast journalist and acclaimed interviewer Charlie Rose. “America is a great state; it is a superpower and its right to keep its interests, but its interests shouldn’t be at the expense of others and the people of the region.”

“Israel is the obstacle in the face of peace in the region and the United States of America, morally and politically, has to deal with this reality and not put pressure on the Palestinian or the Arab side,” Mashaal argued.

Mashaal also criticized the U.S. for not holding direct talks with the Hamas and questioned whether U.S. special Mideast envoy George Mitchell could succeed in his mission to bring peace to the region without the resistance movement.

“I think that the United States of America should have direct dialogue with Hamas without mediators, because the United States is a major state, and it shouldn’t fear Israel, and it should have dialogue with all concerned parties in the region,” Mashaal said. “Why does he [George Mitchell] believe that he will succeed in the Palestinian issue without dialogue with Hamas?”

“Why did the American administration accept the Israeli election regardless of the results, it accepted [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu, it accepted extremists like [Foreign minister Avigdor] Lieberman, to be the head of the diplomacy, and did not accept Hamas,” he added and called this a “double standard.”

Hamas was democratically elected into power in the Gaza strip in 2007. The Palestinian secular Fatah movement, headed by Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank, did not accept the religious party’s rule.

Mashaal told Rose that he condemned any violence against citizens all over the world, and stated that once the occupation of Arab land around the world ceased and Israel withdraw back to 1967 borders, so would the attacks.

“There is an outrage in the Arab world and the Muslim world about the Israeli crimes and the Israeli occupation, and about the American biased politics in favor of Israel and the American and European policies against the interests of the Arabs and in favor of Israel,” Mashaal said.

“The overall feeling in the Muslim world is that the Americans are supporting Israel,” he added. “If we are to really stop such operations we have to have a just solution for the cause of Palestine and to stop the occupation in Iraq and in Afghanistan.”

The Hamas leader urged the U.S. to provide his resistance movement with technologically advanced missiles “so we can use them very accurately against military targets and not civilians,” and denied that Hamas hides its rockets amongst civilians.

With regard to the captured Israeli occupation soldier Gilad Shalit, who has been held captive by Hamas since 2006, Mashaal shifted the blame for the standstill in the talks for his release onto “Netanyahu and his smaller government,” and the U.S.

“Unfortunately, the American administration had a negative influence in delaying the exchange agreement because it requested Netanyahu not to have the agreement in order not to make Hamas stronger and weaken Mahmoud Abbas,’ he said, quoting Noam Shalit, Gilad’s father.

May 30, 2010 Posted by | Wars for Israel | Comments Off on Mashaal to US: Give Us Advanced Missiles to Target Israeli Military Accurately

UN aid group: Israel deliberately hampering West Bank, Gaza relief efforts

By Chaim Levinson | Haaretz | May 30, 2010

A United Nations humanitarian relief agency is accusing Israel of deliberately disrupting the international community’s aid efforts for the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

According to a special report released by the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA ), Israel is not permitting construction of buildings for needy Palestinians and is encumbering on the freedom of movement of aid groups and their staffs.

The report, which was issued on Thursday under the headline “Impeding Assistance: Challenges to Meeting the Humanitarian Needs of Palestinians,” said that human rights NGOs last year committed a total of $660 million in aid to the territories.

A large portion of the report is devoted to the humanitarian situation in Gaza, where it claims that UNRWA, the UN aid agency for Palestinian refugees, has been unable to build 100 news schools it says are needed to accommodate the fast-growing population.

In May 2009, the UN submitted a request for Israeli approval of a wide-ranging, $80 million plan to provide housing, medical assistance and educational services to Gazans. After nine months of negotiations, the Israeli government permitted a scaled-down version of the original plan, including the construction of 151 residential units in a project in Khan Yunis.

On Friday, a report appeared in the Israel Hayom newspaper which quoted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as saying: “In Gaza, let them build [homes] with wood. Concrete is used to build bunkers.”

The OCHA report claims Israel is interfering with the movement of local Palestinian aid workers. According to the report, 20 percent of requests for West Bank workers to secure passage to Gaza were rejected, while 46 percent of requests for Gaza-based employees to gain entry into the West Bank were turned down. The OCHA report said Israeli constraints have complicated efforts to train workers in Gaza.

Meanwhile, in the West Bank, aid groups have encountered other problems. In 2010, the UN formulated a series of urgent plans aimed at addressing shortages in water, educational services and housing for needy Palestinians living in Area C, the West Bank territories under exclusive Israeli military and civilian administration. According to the report, the international body prepared 15 initiatives that were intended to provide water to 52,000 Palestinians in 17 different locales in Area C, as well as 25 projects for the reconstruction of schools to service 6,000 children. Three months have passed since the UN presented these plans to the Israeli government, which has yet to offer its response.

Another issue cited by OCHA is movement in the West Bank. While the report acknowledged that the lifting of roadblocks and removal of checkpoints have significantly improved NGOs’ ability to work, it stated that difficulties remain. In August 2009, aid agencies were unable to deliver 170 water tankers intended to service 58 families and some 5,000 sheep in the southern Hebron Hills due to mounds of earth that impeded their progress. This forced half the residents of one village to relocate in order to find sources of water, the report stated.

May 30, 2010 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Subjugation - Torture | Comments Off on UN aid group: Israel deliberately hampering West Bank, Gaza relief efforts

Japan’s Social Democratic Party quits coalition over US military base

Press TV – May 30, 2010

Japan’s Social Democratic Party, SDP, has decided to leave the ruling coalition government amid a row over the controversial presence of the US military in the country.

SDP chief Mizuho Fukushima informed reporters about the decision on Sunday after meeting with party executives. The move follows a dispute within the cabinet over the US airbase in Okinawa.

Fukushima, who calls for the immediate relocation of the base, has slammed Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama’s decision to keep the US compound on the island — despite his campaign promises to relocate the base.

The airbase has been under US command since after World War II. More than half of some 47,000 US troops in Japan are stationed in Okinawa.

The issue has become the biggest challenge to Hatoyama’s government since it came to power. The premier’s failure to appease the islanders has dramatically reduced his public approval rating. Okinawans want the airbase off their island. They say the US military presence is a source of noise and crime.

SDP’s defection is a tough blow to Hatoyama’s party. The Democrats need the help of other parties to win a majority in the Upper House elections.

May 30, 2010 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Militarism | Comments Off on Japan’s Social Democratic Party quits coalition over US military base