The Age of Incitement

Thomas Friedman wants to see a movie.  So do I.

Radio and movies made mass incitement possible and effective in the development of fascism (Italy) and nazism (Germany.)  Now, add the Internet to the tools available.

The movie is called “Rabin: The Last Day.” Agence France-Presse said the movie, by the renowned Israeli director Amos Gitai, is about “the incitement campaign before the 1995 assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin” and “revisits a form of Jewish radicalism that still poses major risks.” This is the 20th anniversary of Rabin’s assassination by Yigal Amir, a right-wing Jewish radical.

A worker fixes a new memorial sign for the late Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin in the centre of Tel Aviv November 3, 2005. Ten years after Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was shot at a peace rally by an ultranationalist opposed to his talks with the Palestinians, the Jewish state is seeing a resurgent swirl of rumour and speculation about his death.

A worker fixes a memorial for the late Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin in the centre of Tel Aviv 

“My goal wasn’t to create a personality cult around Rabin,” Gitai told A.F.P. “My focus was on the incitement campaign that led to his murder.” Sure, the official investigating commission focused on the breakdowns in Rabin’s security detail, but, Gitai added, “They didn’t investigate what were the underlying forces that wanted to kill Rabin. His murder came at the end of a hate campaign led by hallucinating rabbis, settlers who were against the withdrawal from territories and the parliamentary right, led by the Likud (party), already then headed by Benjamin Netanyahu, who wanted to destabilize Rabin’s Labor government.”

I hope many many see the movie and interpret not only Israeli history, connected to its present, of course, but U.S. history.  The extreme right has an almost total monopoly on radio incitement and has had for decades.  It’s a backhanded tribute to the American people that only 34% think Donald Trump is the greatest leader of the free world.

Breaking the Silence in Israel

The war last summer between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip left more than 2,100 Palestinians dead and reduced vast areas to rubble. On Monday, a group of Israeli veterans released sobering testimony from fellow soldiers that suggests permissive rules of engagement coupled with indiscriminate artillery fire contributed to the mass destruction and high numbers of civilian casualties in the coastal enclave.

“The organization of active and reserve duty soldiers, called Breaking the Silence, gathered testimonies from more than 60 enlisted men and officers who served in Gaza during Operation Protective Edge.

… “The 240-page report, “This is How We Fought in Gaza 2014”, was released Monday and accompanied by videotaped testimony that aired on Israeli news programs.”

Washington Post

Also from Tel Aviv, Philosophy professor, Anat Biletzki, sees the “Protective Edge” operation as one among several markers on the road moving from implicit understanding to explicit expression.

In Israel, we are used to hearing that everything is more “complex” than one might think. Situations are typically described as variegated, imprecise or intangible and they seem almost intentionally so. Implicitness — about politics, religion, military actions, and human rights — rules. But I would argue that that situation has changed. In the past year in Israel, things have become clear and precise. Things have become explicit.

The government that will be formed this week is the most clearly articulated, narrowest, most right-wing, most religious and most nationalistic government ever assembled in Israel. A combination of the fundamentalist Orthodox clerical parties with the nationalistic chauvinism of the Jewish Home, led by Naftali Bennett who makes no attempt to hide his annexation plans, has been orchestrated by Benjamin Netanyahu in no uncertain terms. Along with Likud, Netanyahu’s home, which is the largest party in Israel today, and Kulanu (All of Us – a breakaway of Likud), this whole bloc is unambiguous in its Jewish, nationalistic agenda.

… When the Firm Cliff fighting officially started, the Israeli media, whether on its own or while quoting political, cultural, religious and military leaders, was replete with clearly voiced messages of racism and hate toward any and all Arabs or Palestinians. “Death to the Arabs,” a call previously shrugged away as an instigation used mainly by erstwhile extremists and soccer fans, could be heard loud and clear. And antiwar protesters, now encountering without police protection the so-called “nationalist” supporters of the war, heard the loud and explicit “Death to the Leftists.” The long-brewing enmity between Jew and Arab, which had always been understood but sometimes unspoken, came out in full force, rising to the boiling surface. We were facing the nebulous — but no less substantial for that — move from the implicit to the explicit.

Israel Fires on Syria, Second Day

The not-going-very-well situation in Syria is veering further off the once narrow road of hope.  Assad and his army is not giving in.  The opposition, having long ago given up massive non-violent struggle, is riven with separate claims and ideologies and only under threat of losing weapons support from the outside has it come up with a joint command and leader.  Turkey has already returned fire across its border and is staggering under the influx of refugees.  Now Israel, having been fired at in the annexed Golan Heights is joining the fray.  Why the current Syrian government would want to add another foe to its troubles isn’t immediately clear, though it would allow them to play the anti Jewish card to rally wavering supporters behind them.

Or why Israel would return non-lethal fire with its own direct hit on mobile artillery units, likely to be lethal to those in them, is open to question as well.  In the three dimensional chess game called war any number of things could be supposed, and known.  All manner of theories of human behavior taken as Torah Truth.  It is even possible that shooting into Syria is a proxy warning to Hamas which has recently fired into Israel from Gaza.

Whatever the reasons and emotions on all sides, the debris flow already in motion is picking up speed and mass.  It will likely spill across borders and engulf many more lives before it runs out of the blood and certainties that power it.

 Israeli tanks made a direct hit on Syrian artillery units on Monday, the army said, responding to mortar fire that fell near an army post in the Israeli-held Golan Heights.

It was the second consecutive day thatIsrael confronted fire along its border with Syria. On Sunday, a mortar shell crashed in from Syria, prompting Israel to respond with what its military described as “a warning shot” at a Syrian position across the frontier for the first time in 39 years.

NY Times

How Now Netanyahu?

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu got about as gob-smacked as his Republican allies with Obama’s decisive win.  Jodi Rudoren in the NY Times reports that Netanyahu rushes to repair damage with Obama

“Netanyahu backed the wrong horse,” Mitchell Barak, a pollster and strategist, said at a morning gathering of Americans watching the election results here. “Whoever is elected prime minister is going to have to handle the U.S.-Israel relationship, and we all know Netanyahu is not the right guy.”

Mr. Obama’s re-election seemed to embolden Ehud Olmert, the former prime minister who has spent the past few years battling corruption charges, making it more likely that he will forge a comeback that he hopes can unite and expand Israel’s center-left bloc.

“Given what Netanyahu had done these recent months, the question is: Does our prime minister still have a friend in the White House?” Mr. Olmert asked at a meeting with Jewish leaders in New York. “I am not certain of this, and this might be very significant to us at critical points.”

And this morning, Tom Friedman who, as always, has friends in high places, tells them the worst news:  You are on your own.

…the rising political force in America is not the one with which Bibi has aligned Israel. As the Israeli columnist Ari Shavit noted in the newspaper Haaretz last week: “In the past, both the Zionist movement and the Jewish state were careful to be identified with the progressive forces in the world. … But in recent decades more and more Israelis took to leaning on the reactionary forces in American society. It was convenient to lean on them. The evangelists didn’t ask difficult questions about the settlements, the Tea Party people didn’t say a word about excluding women and minorities or about Jewish settlers’ attacks and acts of vandalism against Palestinians and peace activists. The Republican Party’s white, religious, conservative wing was not agitated when the Israeli Supreme Court was attacked and the rule of law in Israel was trampled.” Israel, Shavit added, assumed that “under the patronage of a radical, rightist America we can conduct a radical, rightist policy without paying the price.” No more. Netanyahu can still get a standing ovation from the Israel lobby, but not at U.C.L.A.

and he ends with

…my best advice to Israelis is: Focus on your own election — on Jan. 22 — not ours. I find it very sad that in a country with so much human talent, the Israeli center and left still can’t agree on a national figure who could run against Netanyahu and his thuggish partner, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman — a man whose commitment to democracy is closer to Vladimir Putin’s than Thomas Jefferson’s. Don’t count on America to ride to the rescue. It has to start with you.

My president is busy.


Naked Swimming or Naked Baksheesh– Which is More Shocking?

Skinny DippingThe news has been splashed that Representative Kevin Yoder, of more-moral-than-thou Kansas jumped, where Jesus walked, naked into the Sea of Galilee last summer.   I personally enjoy it when year old activities surface just in time for election-time decision making.  I hope it means that plenty of congress people — GOP above all– spend lots of insomniac hours reviewing past actions, not yet surfaced, and wondering: Is Tomorrow the Day?

Not only was he sans underwear, he and apparently the whole party of Republican, mostly freshman tear-down-the-house Tea Party freshmen, were partying.  Big time.  Alcohol probably contributed much to the event, though less to Yoder who still had the presence of mind to take off his clothes before taking the plunge, than others who took their clothes in with them.  Yuck!  Sodden clothes.  Did their shoes go in too, or were their feet naked — a thrilling thought for fetishists.

Yoder’s wife was with the junketeers.  Did she witness?  Did she scream Stop! Did she jump

While apparently not considered a sacrilege by Christians, what is way more troubling to me, and I hope to others, is that 30 congress people and associates were given a free ride to Israel, free lodging, free diners, free drinks by the AIPAC associated American Israel Education Foundation.

the trips are known for providing lawmakers with stays in top-tier hotels like the King David in Jerusalem as well as private tours of Bethlehem, the Dead Sea, the Yad Vashem museum commemorating the Holocaust and other important historical and religious sites.

 But, as they saying goes: there is no free lunch.  AIPAC and its major donor, casino Sheldon Adelson, are not sending these reps and spouses on a serious pros and cons fact-finding mission.  They did not, I’ll bet my swimming trunks, visit Peace Now, or the Adalah Legal Center, though they may have visited West Bank settler representatives.  No, AIPAC will want something back from its pupils.  In the Middle East the term baksheesh covers a multitude of sins, from tipping the traffic cop to jumping the line at a licensing bureau.  It might even mean just plain “tip.”  Mostly, however,that’s  it is “a bribe or tip paid to speed up services. [wicktionary] Sounds to me like that’s what is going on here:  nice trip, nice tip.  We take care of you, you take care of me. As one Israeli lobbyist called it: “The Jewish Disneyland trip.”

One of the most famous travel boondoggles — a golf trip to Scotland for members of Congress and staff members, hosted by the lobbyist Jack Abramoff — led Congress in 2007 to tighten restrictions on who could sponsor trips and for how long. But despite the new restrictions, the number of Congressional trips paid for by outside groups has actually increased since 2007, to more than 1,600 from about 1,300, according to Legistorm, a research group that tracks Congressional data. To comply with the new restrictions, many political and lobbying groups have turned to nonprofit groups they set up and finance to host the Congressional trips.

Since 2000, the American Israel Education Foundation has been more prolific than any other in sponsoring overseas trips for members of Congress and their staffs, organizing 733 trips for both Republicans and Democrats at a cost of more than $7 million. Last year, it spent $2 million to sponsor 146 trips, far outpacing a Turkish coalition that ranked second, sponsoring 32 trips.

Last summer, there were so many members of Congress traveling — about 80 — that the education fund sponsored two separate trips.


Not even the Israeli official who met with the Republicans was shocked.  He says he, himself  has done the cleansing deed.[go to end] So lets stop the teeth gnashing over the sporting life, and work to make sure the naked baksheesh between Republicans (and Democrats for that matter) and Israelis-with-Agendas is stopped.


Battle of Algiers, Saigon, Bagdahd, Gaza

Palestinian Women Dying

I got stricken messages this morning as people saw the headlines and photos of the women in Gaza being gunned down. I had seen the falling bodies on the news late yesterday.

Some reports lead with the information that fighters were hiding out in the mosque, fewer with the courage of the women.

PALESTINIAN mothers and wives braved Israeli helicopter gunships yesterday to rescue 15 fighters besieged in a northern Gaza mosque, using their heavily veiled bodies as human shields.

“We risked our lives to free our sons,” said Um Mohammed, a woman in her 40s, after the rescue that followed protests against a bloody Israeli operation in the northern Gaza Strip that has killed 24 Palestinians.

The Dispatch

In response an Israeli spokesman solemnly reminded the world that when a religious site becomes a military location armies are no longer bound by rules prohibiting firing on them. Well, yes. Though of course his statement is as obtuse as the strategy that thinks making Israel safer will be accomplished by firing on un armed, veiled women.


I happened to see The Battle of Algiers the other night, Read more of this post

Israel Declares War on Lebanon

If bombing the main airport is not a declaration of war I don’t know what else is.

sraeli aircraft bombed Beirut International Airport Thursday, sending plumes of smoke into the morning sky, the Israel Defense Forces said.

Israeli jets hit Beirut airport