Louis Bohté, onze vorige voorzitter, schrijft ons vanuit Bethlehem
 

Beste mensen,

Vrede en alle Goeds.

Bethlehem, 13 juni 2010

 foto's

Eerst wil ik iets rechtszetten: de 15.000 ton per week voor Gaza is 10 kilo per Palestijn.

Na wat vorige week gebeurd is, wil ik dieper op de achtergronden en gevolgen van de aanval op de Mavi Marmala ingaan. Ik begin met een gebeurtenis, die zich 8 jaar geleden afspeelde. Tijdens een bijeenkomst in Amsterdam was er een erg emotionele discussie tussen Judith Belinfante van ‘een ander Joods geluid’ en Jeff Halper van het ‘Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions’. De reden was, dat Jeff Halper voor een één-staat-oplossing pleitte, waar Judith Belinfante, die net als Jeff Halper tegen het beleid van de Israëlische regering is, faliekant op tegen is. Een één staat oplossing betekent het einde van Israël als een Joodse staat. Voor Jeff Halper betekent het een veilige toekomst voor zijn kinderen, omdat het dan afgelopen is met de aanslagen door Palestijnen. Voor Judith Belinfante betekent het echter, dat ze als Joodse vrouw niet langer in tijden van nood een veilige plek meer heeft. Dit was de achtergrond van de emotionele botsing van twee mensen, die beiden een ander beleid van Israël voorstaan. Het is voor ieder mens van belang een veilige haven te hebben, waar hij/zij altijd terecht kan in tijden van nood. Een van de voordelen hiervan is, dat hij/zij beter in de samenleving kan functioneren. Zich veilig voelen is van fundamenteel belang, om het even wie het betreft, om zich goed te kunnen ontplooien. Wapens geven slechts een schijngevoel van veiligheid, want het roept een wapenwedloop op.

Ik denk, dat in de huidige situatie de positie van Israël aanzienlijk hachelijker is en een bedreiging voor het voortbestaan van Israël. In een van de bijlagen van mijn vorige brief zei het hoofd van de Mossad, de Israëlische inlichtingendienst, dat Israël meer een last dan een steun voor de VS aan het worden is. In feite zegt hij, dat er voor Israël nauwelijks nog steun te vinden is, wat de huidige situatie voor Joden hoogst bedreigend maakt. De politiek van Israël leidt tot een groeiend isolement van Israël, maar ook een groeiend verzet tegen Joden huns ondanks. Antisemitisme groeit. Hun veiligheid is in het geding, zeker als onverlaten naar Auschwitz verwijzen, wat een open zenuw is. De Israëlische autoriteiten beweren, dat vanaf Marva Marmara dit geschreeuwd is. Dit is volstrekt verwerpelijk. Maar is dit ook gebeurd? (Zie vraag 70 van Uri Avnery in een bijlage) Wie voor de vrede wil werken, moet op de eerste plaats stevig tegenover zichzelf zijn, zelfs als er geweld gebruikt wordt. Dat was voor mij de reden om tijdens de wakes voor de ITEC wapenbeurs te vasten, geïnspireerd door Mahatma Gandhi. Zo wilde ik agressie in mijzelf beteugelen. Dit lijkt me een goede voorbereiding voor acties om de blokkade van Gaza te doorbreken, welk geweld de ander kant ook gebruikt, je moet zelf je correct gedragen onder alle omstandigheden. Dit vraagt om een gedegen training, voordat je met zo’n operatie begint.

Een van de indrukwekkendste scènes in film over Gandhi ging juist erover, dat rij na rij Indiërs zich lieten neerslaan zonder enig vorm van geweld te tonen.

Een groot probleem is, dat de Israëlische autoriteiten alles onder controle willen houden. De weigering om een internationaal onafhankelijk onderzoek toe te laten, wijst hierop. Maar alles onder controle willen houden leidt tot blikvernauwing. Wat eruit kan zien als een bedreiging, wordt als een reële bedreiging gezien en als zodanig behandeld. De behoefte om alles onder controle te willen houden kan begrepen worden vanuit de ervaring van de Shoa, toen miljoenen Joden zich als lammeren naar een slachtbank lieten leiden. Dit nooit weer. Maar de keerzijde is dat zo’n houding van alles onder controle willen houden vijanden schept. Mensen willen niet graag gecontroleerd worden. Van groter belang is, dat hiermee mensen hun verantwoordelijkheid verliezen. Wie handelt op basis van controle is niet verantwoordelijk voor de gevolgen ervan.

De Israëlische autoriteiten benadrukken, dat Israël een Joodse staat is. Daarmee maken zij Israël tot een uithangbord voor alles wat Jood is. Dit betekent, dat iedere misstap door de Israëlische overheid terugslaat op iedere Jood, uiteraard ten onrechte. Zo’n reactie vergeet dat vele Joden tegen deze Israëlische politiek zijn. Zij vergeet ook, dat de Israëlische samenleving ingewikkeld in elkaar zit en zij vergeet de Joodse geschiedenis.

Kritiek op Israël wordt vervolgens beschouwd als anti-Joods. Hiermee worden Joden klem gezet. Het gevolg is duidelijk. Een bekende criticaster van de Israëlische politiek is het oud-lid van het Israëlisch parlement Uri Avnery. Hij werd bij een demonstratie tegen de aanval op de vloot hulpgoederen belaagd door mensen, die het beleid van hun regering, de Israëlische, steunen. Hij wist met zijn 86 jaar samen met zijn vrouw te ontkomen. Het afwijzen van kritiek leidt tot verdere verblinding, zoals de huidige Israëlische politiek laat zien.

Een ander gevolg is dat sommige tegenstanders in een extreme hoek gedrukt worden. Hamas is hier een voorbeeld van. Het uitsluiten van een mogelijk vergelijk tussen Hamas en Israël heeft ertoe geleid, dat het beleid van Hamas steeds minder respect voor gewone mensen toont onder het motto: wie niet voor ons is, is tegen ons en daarmee een bedreiging voor ons.

Vergelijkbaar hiermee is een waarschuwing in Engeland om niet alle Moslim gevangenen als extremisten te behandelen, want dit leidt een zichzelf vervullende voorspelling, zoals ik afgelopen week op teletekst van BBC World las.

Hoe hier uit te komen? Uiteindelijk gaat het erom af te rekenen met eeuwenlang antisemitisme. Daar moeten alle mensen van goede wil aan bijdragen. Dan kan de angstspiraal doorbroken worden, waarin vele mensen gevangen zitten.

Vandaag is er een herdenkingsdienst vlak bij het Witte Huis, georganiseerd door twee rabbijnen voor de doden van de hulpgoederenvloot. Zie een bijlage van Tikkun.

De verkiezingen in Nederland trokken de aandacht. Wat voor een regering uit de bus komt, is voorlopig onduidelijk. Als tegenwicht tegen islamofobe kiezers in vooral Limburg is hier een link met gecombineerd gezongen Alla Aqbar en Ave Maria. De link vond ik via het Joodse magazine Tikkun. http://www.commongroundnews.org/video.php?sid=1&lan=en

Hier zijn de aangekondigde lokale verkiezingen, gepland voor 17 juli, voor onbepaalde tijd uitgesteld. Volgens de Jordaanse radio was de reden, dat Fatah intern niet tot overeenstemming over de kandidatenlijst kon komen.

Zo af en toe hoor ik, hoe het hier in de samenleving aan toe gaat. Zo waren in de buurt van Hebron 3 jongens en 3 meisjes samen de woestijn ingetrokken. Toen dit ontdekt werd, werden de huizen van de drie jongens in brand gestoken en werd van hun families 100.000 Jordaanse dinars ofwel $ 141,000 voor de eer van de meisjes geëist. In het verleden zouden de meisjes gedood zijn geweest vanwege de eer. Het is een symptoom, hoe de hele samenleving doortrokken is van geldzucht.

De Palestijnse Autoriteit trekt ten strijde tegen Palestijnen, die in de nederzettingen werken. Hun vergunning wordt verscheurd. Hoe zij nu aan de kost moeten komen is hun probleem. Verder werd mij verteld, dat nu 40.000 mensen uit Jordanië de opengevallen plaatsen innemen.

Een interessante groep mensen zijn Arabische Joden, die mooi een brug zouden kunnen slaan tussen Palestijnen en de Joodse inwoners van Israël, zij zijn echter gemarginaliseerd. Dit geldt ook voor de Palestijnen, die in de jaren 70 en 80 pleitten voor een één staat oplossing, waarin Israëliërs en Palestijnen vreedzaam naast elkaar en met elkaar leven. Tijdens de eerste Intifada werden zij door Israël zwaarder gestraft dan leden van Fatah en Hamas. De Palestijnse Autoriteit heeft dit beleid overgenomen.

Een ander probleem is de positie van de Christenen. Officieel zijn ze gelijkwaardig aan Moslims, maar in de praktijk heeft de PA het discriminerend beleid van Israël in omgekeerde zin overgenomen. Worden de Christenen door Israël op papier bevoordeeld met vergunningen tijdens de Kerst en met Pasen voor Jeruzalem, binnen de Palestijnse samenleving worden Moslims bevoordeeld. De gewone man en vrouw heeft hier echter geen boodschap aan.

Een ander detail, dat opvalt, is dat Hamas aanvankelijk tegen deelname aan verkiezingen was. Het waren met name de oprichters sheik Yassin en Rantisi, die hierop tegen waren. Vrijwel onmiddellijk nadat zij gedood waren door het Israëlische leger, was de nieuwe leiding van Hamas voor verkiezingen.

Ik kwam vrijdagmiddag een groepje jongelui tegen, die wilde weten of ik Christen ben. Ik beaamde dit en de meesten hadden er geen probleem mee op één na, die afzijdig reageerde.

Van de week nodigde Mohammed Abu Alia mij uit voor een bezoek. Toen ik hem opzocht, toonde hij zich terecht trots. Omdat zijn vader niet kon werken, heeft hij geprobeerd een deel van het inkomen voor de familie te verdienen. Hierdoor miste hij een aantal colleges. Toen hij een docent opbelde om de uitslag van zijn examen te horen, toonde deze zich verbaasd. Hij was vaak niet bij hem in de collegebanken verschenen, maar toch had hij een goed cijfer in tegenstelling tot een, die alle colleges gevolgd had. Mohammed is kennelijk in staat om zijn verantwoordelijkheid voor zijn studie te combineren met zijn verantwoordelijkheid voor zijn familie.

Ik kreeg een interview met Noam Chomsky op YouTube te pakken, dat was opgenomen, vlak nadat hem de toegang tot de West Bank door Israël was geweigerd. Ik vond het de moeite waard om hem te horen spreken, een kalme heldere geest. Het duurt 22 minuten. Zie hiervoor: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YCtYecGbQz8&fmt=22

Verder voeg ik aan deze brief toe: een observatie door dezelfde Noam Chomsky en een artikel door Uri Avnery met 81 vragen aan de Israëlische autoriteiten over de aanval op het konvooi schepen. En een verhaal van Rabbi Michael Lerner

Groeten uit Bethlehem,

Louis Bohté

De foto's van deze week

Uri Avnery

June 12, 2010

                        Who is Afraid of a real Inquiry?  

If a real Commission of Inquiry had been set up (instead of the pathetic excuse for a commission), here are some of the questions it should have addressed:

1. What is the real aim of the Gaza Strip blockade?

2. If the aim is to prevent the flow of arms into the Strip, why are only 100 products allowed in (as compared to the more than 12 thousand products in an average Israeli supermarket) 

3. Why is it forbidden to bring in chocolate, toys, writing material, many kinds of fruits and vegetables (and why cinnamon but not coriander)?

4. What is the connection between the decision to forbid the import of construction materials for the replacement or repair of the thousands of buildings destroyed or damaged during the Cast Lead operation and the argument that they may serve Hamas for building bunkers – when more than enough materials for this purpose are brought into the Strip through the tunnels?

5. Is the real aim of the blockade to turn the lives of the 1.5 million human beings in the Strip into hell, in the hope of inducing them to overthrow the Hamas regime?

6. Since this has not happened, but – on the contrary – Hamas has become stronger during the three years of the blockade, did the government ever entertain second thoughts on this matter 

7. Has the blockade been imposed in the hope of freeing the captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit?

8. If so, has the blockade contributed anything to the realization of this aim, or has it been counter-productive?

9. Why does the Israeli government refuse to exchange Shalit for hundreds of Palestinian prisoners, when Hamas agrees to such a deal?

10. Is it true that the US government has imposed a veto on the exchange of prisoners, on the grounds that it would strengthen Hamas?

11. Has there been any discussion in our government about fulfilling its undertaking in the Oslo agreement - to enable and encourage the development of the Gaza port - in a way that would prevent the passage of arms?

12. Why does the Israeli government declare again and again that the territorial waters of the Gaza strip are part of Israel’s own territorial waters, and that ships entering them “infringe on Israeli sovereignty”, contrary to the fact that the Gaza Strip was never annexed to Israel and that Israel officially announced in 2006 that it had “separated” itself from it?

13. Why has the Attorney General’s office declared that the peace activists captured on the high seas, who had no intention whatsoever of entering Israel, had “tried to enter Israel illegally”, and brought them before a judge for the extension of their arrest under the law that concerns “illegal entry into Israel”?

14. Who is responsible for these contradictory legal claims, when the Israeli government argues one minute that Israel has “separated itself from the Gaza Strip” and that the “occupation there has come to an end” – and the next minute claims sovereignty over the coastal waters of the Strip?

Question concerning the decision to attack the flotilla:

15. When did the preparation for this flotilla become known to the Israeli intelligence services? (Evidence on this may be heard in camera.)

16. When was this brought to the attention of the Prime Minister, the Minister of Defense, the Cabinet, the Committee of Seven (in charge of security matters) and the IDF Chief of Staff? (ditto)

17. What were the deliberations of these officials and institutions? (ditto)

18. What intelligence was submitted to each of them? (ditto)

19. When, by whom and how was the decision taken to stop the flotilla by force?

20. Is it true that the secretary of the cabinet, Tzvi Hauser, warned of the severe consequences of such action and advised letting the flotilla sail to Gaza?

21. Were there others who also advised doing so?

22. Was the Foreign Ministry a full partner in all the discussions?

23. If so, did the Foreign Ministry warn of the impact of such an action on our relations with Turkey and other countries?

24. In light of the fact that, prior to the incident, the Turkish government informed the Israeli Foreign Ministry that the flotilla was organized by a private organization which is not under the control of the government and does not violate any Turkish law – did the Foreign Ministry consider approaching the organization in order to try to reach an agreement to avoid violence?

25. Was due consideration given to the alternative of stopping the flotilla in territorial waters, inspecting the cargo for arms and letting it sail on?

26. Was the impact of the action on international public opinion considered?

27. Was the impact of the action on our relations with the US considered?

28. Was it taken into consideration that the action may actually strengthen Hamas?

29. Was it taken into consideration that the action may make the continuation of the blockade more difficult?

Question concerning the planning of the action:

30. What intelligence was at the disposal of the planners? (Evidence may be heard in camera.)

31. Was it considered that the composition of the group of activists in this flotilla was different from that in earlier protest ships, because of the addition of the Turkish component?

32. Was it taken into consideration that contrary to the European peace activists, who believe in passive resistance, the Turkish activists may adopt a policy of active resistance to soldiers invading a Turkish ship?

33. Were alternative courses of action considered, such as blocking the progress of the flotilla with navy boats?

34. If so, what were the alternatives considered, and why were they rejected?

35. Who was responsible for the actual planning of the operation – the IDF Chief of Staff or the Commander of the Navy?

36. If it was the Navy Commander who decided on the method employed, was the decision approved by the Chief of Staff, the Minister of Defense and the Prime Minister?

37. How were the responsibilities for planning divided between these?

38. Why was the action undertaken outside of the territorial waters of Israel and the Gaza Strip?

39. Why was it executed in darkness?

40. Did anyone in the navy object to the idea of soldiers descending from helicopters onto the deck of the ship “Mavi Marmara”?

41. During the deliberations, did anyone bring up the similarity between the planned operation and the British action against the ship “Exodus 1947”, which ended in a political disaster for the British?

Questions concerning the action itself:

42. Why was the flotilla cut off from any contact with the world throughout the operation, if there was nothing to hide?

43. Did anyone protest that the soldiers were actually being sent into a trap?

44. Was it taken into consideration that the plan adopted would place the soldiers for several critical minutes in a dangerously inferior position?

45. When exactly did the soldiers start to shoot live ammunition?

46. Which of the soldiers was the first to fire?

47. Was the shooting – all or part of it – justified?

48 Is it true that the soldiers started firing even before descending onto the deck, as asserted by the passengers?

49. Is it true that the fire continued even after the captain of the ship and the activists announced several times over loudspeakers that the ship had surrendered, and after they had actually hoisted white flags?

50. Is it true that five of the nine people killed were shot in the back, indicating that they were trying to get away from the soldiers and thus could not be endangering their lives?

51. Why was the killed man Ibrahim Bilgen, 61 years old and father of six and a candidate for mayor in his home town, described as a terrorist?

52. Why was the killed man Cetin Topcoglu, 54 years old, trainer of the Turkish national taekwondo (Korean martial arts) team, whose wife was also on the ship, described as a terrorist?

53. Why was the killed man Cevdet Kiliclar, a 38 year old journalist, described as a terrorist?

54. Why was the killed man Ali Haydar Bengi, father of four, graduate of the al-Azhar school for literature in Cairo, described as a terrorist?

55. Why were the killed men Necdet Yaldirim, 32 years old, father of a daughter; Fahri Yaldiz, 43 years old, father of four; Cengiz Songur, 47 years old, father of seven; and Cengiz Akyuz, 41 years old, father of three, described as terrorists?

56. Is it a lie that the activists took a pistol from a soldier and shot him with it, as described by the IDF, or is it true that the activists did in fact throw the pistol into the sea without using it?

57. Is it true, as stated by Jamal Elshayyal, a British subject, that the soldiers prevented treatment for the Turkish wounded for three hours, during which time several of them died?

58.. Is it true, as stated by this journalist, that he was handcuffed behind his back and forced to kneel for three hours in the blazing sun, that he was not allowed to go and urinate and told to “piss in his pants”, that  he remained handcuffed for 24 hours without water, that his British passport was taken from him and not returned; that his laptop computer, three cellular telephones and 1500 dollars in cash were taken from him and not returned? 

59. Did the IDF cut off the passengers from the world for 48 hours and confiscate all the cameras, films and cell phones of the journalists on board in order to suppress any information that did not conform to the IDF story?

60. Is it a standing procedure to keep the Prime Minister (or his acting deputy, Moshe Yaalon in this case) in the picture during an operation, was this procedure implemented, and was it implemented in previous cases, such as the Entebbe operation or the boarding of the ship “Karin A”?

Questions concerning the behavior of the IDF Spokesman:

61. IS it true that the IDF Spokesman spread a series of fabrications during the first few hours, in order to justify the action in the eyes of both the Israeli and the international public?

62. Are the few minutes of film which have been shown hundreds of times on Israeli TV, from the first day on until now, a carefully edited clip, so that it is not seen what happened just before and just after?

63. What is the truth of the assertion that the soldiers who were taken by the activists into the interior of the ship were about to be “lynched”, when the photos clearly show that they were surrounded for a considerable time by dozens of activists without being harmed, and that a doctor or medic from among the activists even treated them?

64. What evidence is there for the assertion that the Turkish NGO called IHH has connections with al-Qaeda?

65. On what grounds was it stated again and again that it was a “terrorist organization”, though no evidence for this claim was offered?

66. Why was it asserted that the association was acting under the orders of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, when in fact it is close to an opposition party?

67. If it was in fact a terrorist organization known to the Israeli intelligence services, why was this not taken into account during the planning of the operation?

68. Why did the Israeli government not announce this before the attack on the flotilla?

69. Why were the words of one of the activists, who declared on his return that he wanted to be a “shahid”, translated by official propaganda in a manifestly dishonest manner, as if he had said that he wanted “to kill and be killed” (“shahid” means a person who sacrifices his life in order to testify to his belief in God, much like a Christian martyr)?

70. What is the source of the lie that the Turks called out “Go back to Auschwitz”?

71. Why were the Israeli doctors not called to inform the public at once about the character of the wounds of the injured soldiers, after it was announced that at least one of them was shot?

72. Who invented the story that there were arms on the ship, and that they had been thrown into the sea?

73. Who invented the story that the activists had brought with them deadly weapons – when the exhibition organized by the IDF Spokesman himself showed nothing but tools found on any ship, including binoculars, a blood infusion instrument, knives and axes, as well as decorative Arab daggers and kitchen knives that are to be found on every ship, even one not equipped for 1000 passengers?

74. Do all these items – coupled with the endless repetition of the word “terrorists” and the blocking of any contrary information – not constitute brainwashing?

Questions concerning the inquiry:

75. Why does the Israeli government refuse to take part in an international board of inquiry, composed of neutral personalities acceptable to them?

76. Why have the Prime Minister and the Minister of Defense announced that they are ready to testify - but not to answer questions?

77. Where does the argument come from that soldiers must not be called to testify – when in all previous investigations senior officers, junior officers and enlisted men were indeed subjected to questioning?

78. Why does the government refuse to appoint a State Commission of Inquiry under the Israeli law that was enacted by the Knesset in 1966 for this very purpose, especially in view of the fact that such commissions were appointed after the Yom Kippur war, after the Sabra and Shatila massacre, after the podium of the al-Aqsa Mosque was set on fire by an insane Australian, as well as to investigate corruption in sport and the murder of the Zionist leader Chaim Arlosoroff (some fifty years after it occurred!)?

79. Does the government have something to fear from such a commission, whose members are appointed by the President of the Supreme Court, and which is empowered to summon witnesses and cross-examine them, demand the production of documents and determine the personal responsibility for mistakes and crimes?

80. Why was it decided in the end to appoint a pathetic committee, devoid of any legal powers, which will lack all credibility both in Israel and abroad?

And, finally, the question of questions:

81. What is our political and military leadership trying to hide?

Why Are Jews Creating a Memorial for Muslims who Died in the Gaza Flotilla and Offering Prayers of Healing for those Wounded or

Dear Friends:

You probably heard or read that we at Tikkun and the Network of Spiritual Progressives, as part of our conference this weekend in Washington D.C. (info: www.spiritualprogressives.org/conference) will be holding a memorial service for those killed on the Gaza Aid Flotilla last week, as well as prayers for healing of those who have been wounded (including Israeli soldiers who, for not fault of their own, were sent on this "fool's mission" by the arrogant and militarist leaders Benjamin Netanyahu and Ehud
Barak), as well as prayers for the release of Gilad Shalit by Hamas, and release of thousands of prisoners now held by Israel, many of them never even charged with a crime, and most never given a jury trial.

Though convened by Tikkun, the Memorial service and led by Rabbi Arthur Waskow and Rabbi Michael Lerner, the Memorial will
also have Christian prayers presented by Rev. James Winkler (chair of the Board of Church and Society of the United Methodists of America) and Rev. Ama Zenya of the United Church of Christ, and by Sayyid Syeed of the politically moderate Islamic Society of North America,  And it will take place in Lafayette Park across from the White House from 11-1:30 as part of our larger rally supporting Obama to BE The OBAMA MOST AMERICANS THOUGHT WE ELECTED in 2008.

Let me explain my motivation. I am totally opposed to Hamas and support the non-violent overthrow of their regime in Gaza, not by Israelis bombing or starving the people of Gaza, but by the Palestinian people themselves. I am opposed to the Occupation of the West Bank and the blockade on Gaza, in part for humanitarian reasons, in part because as someone  deeply committed to Israel's security, I believe Israel will be far safer when it has worked out a just solution for the Palestinian people than it is now. That will take a whole transformation of consciousness on BOTH SIDES, and as the more powerful military power, Israel needs to take the first steps in the direction of reconciliation by dropping the strategy of military domination and embracing instead a strategy of atonement and  generosity.

I do not believe that a military assault on a vessel carrying aid to Gaza (and no guns--even Israel now admits they found no contraband or any evidence of guns or munitions on the boat) and killing some of the people who resisted that raid (which any American boat would have also done had a foreign army approached with intent to divert the boat to another location) was a step in the direction of reinforcing the influence of the non-violent voices in the Palestinian world, but rather reinforced the most violent people who can now say "see, these Jews will never allow even non-violent protest, but will meet it with violence."

That the scene turned violent was inevitable once Israel started shooting at the ship from helicopters in the dark of night on the high seas, leading people on the ship to believe that the army was intending to kill, and leading some to grab knives from the kitchen or bars from the walls to protect themselves (though later it became known that the IDF was shooting rubber bullets, which in any case can wound or blind, the people on the boat did not know that and heard explosions and felt the attack from the air as a violent assault and sought to protect themselves). That some may have come with a desire for a confrontation is no surprise--every peace march I've ever been on has had some such people, and the media always seeks to describe them as violent if a handful of participants smash windows or fight with police even while tens of thousands of others are doing nothing of the sort--and years later we've found that at least some of those actions were done by  undercover police or FBI seeking confrontation to discredit the whole movement. I think it was for this reason that the organizers of the flotilla searched everyone to make sure that no one was carrying any guns, unlike the Israelis who came with their arsenal and began the violent confrontation that was totally unnecessary, since the organizers of the flotilla had made clear that they would have no objection to having Israeli army personnel search the boat for any suspected guns or munitions.

Given all this, it seems appropriate for Jews, in whose name Israel claims to be acting, to repent this deed of violence, and to do a memorial prayer for those who died--not as testimony to knowing their lives (for all I know some could be scoundrels or worse, though I've seen no evidence that any of them actually ever participated in an act of violence against Jews)but because they were human beings electing to participate in an act of non-violent civil disobedience to an unjust occupation and blockade. And we will simultaneously be praying for the healing of those wounded or hurt (including Israeli soldiers who were sent on this crazy mission by arrogant Israeli elite that spits on the ethical concerns of the rest of the world.

It is important for liberal and progressive Jews to do this as Jews because we want to make clear to the world that Israel's actions are NOT representative of the Jewish people in the world, though most of us remain committed to Israel's security and well-being.

Israel/Palestine issues will be discussed at our conference also by Rabbi Arik Asherman who is chair in Jerusalem of Rabbis for Human Rights, and by Gershon Baskin of Jerusalem (a columnist in the Jerusalem Post) and BDS will be debated (see also the
debate that will appear in the July issue of Tikkun).  But the main focus of our conference, starting Friday at the Lutheran Church of the Reformation, 212 E. Capitol St, NE, a few blocks from the Supreme Court, will be our proposed ESRA: Environmental and Social Responsibility Amendment to the US Constitution which would overturn the gifts to corporations given by the Supreme Court in recent decisions and require corporate environmental responsibility while also requiring public funding and only that of national elections (info  at www.spiritualprogressives.org/ESRA) and our proposed Global Marshall Plan (www.spiritualprogressives.org/GMP) which we are currently thinking might start by eliminating the poverty in the Middle East (including in Israel and in Palestine and Gaza) upon which fundamentalists of every variety prey.

I hope you will now understand that our activity on Sunday at 1 p.m. at Lafayette Park is not anti-Israel but for a new conception of what Israel or at least what the Jewish people stand for in the world: peace, justice, kindness, generosity,  love and healing.

     Blessings to all those who seek peace and justice.
      Rabbi Michael Lerner

The Real Threat Aboard the Freedom Flotilla

By Noam Chomsky

The Freedom Flotilla defied Israel's policy of blocking solutions to the Arab-Israeli conflict based on international decisions, and so it had to be crushed.

Israel’s violent attack on the Freedom Flotilla carrying humanitarian aid to Gaza shocked the world.

Hijacking boats in international waters and killing passengers is, of course, a serious crime.

But the crime is nothing new. For decades, Israel has been hijacking boats between Cyprus and Lebanon and killing or kidnapping passengers, sometimes holding them hostage in Israeli prisons.

Israel assumes that it can commit such crimes with impunity because the United States tolerates them and Europe generally follows the U.S.’s lead.

As the editors of The Guardian rightly observed on June 1, “If an armed group of Somali pirates had yesterday boarded six vessels on the high seas, killing at least 10 passengers and injuring many more, a NATO task force would today be heading for the Somali coast.” In this case, the NATO treaty obligates its members to come to the aid of a fellow NATO country—Turkey—attacked on the high seas.

Israel’s pretext for the attack was that the Freedom Flotilla was bringing materials that Hamas could use for bunkers to fire rockets into Israel.

The pretext isn’t credible. Israel can easily end the threat of rockets by peaceful means.

The background is important. Hamas was designated a major terrorist threat when it won a free election in January 2006. The U.S. and Israel sharply escalated their punishment of Palestinians, now for the crime of voting the wrong way.

The siege of Gaza, including a naval blockade, was a result. The siege intensified sharply in June 2007 after a civil war left Hamas in control of the territory.

What is commonly described as a Hamas military coup was in fact incited by the U.S. and Israel, in a crude attempt to overturn the elections that had brought Hamas to power.

That has been public knowledge at least since April 2008, when David Rose reported in Vanity Fair that George W. Bush, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and her deputy, Elliott Abrams, “backed an armed force under Fatah strongman Muhammad Dahlan, touching off a bloody civil war in Gaza and leaving Hamas stronger than ever.”

Hamas terror included launching rockets into nearby Israeli towns—criminal, without a doubt, though only a minute fraction of routine U.S.-Israeli crimes in Gaza.

In June 2008, Israel and Hamas reached a cease-fire agreement. The Israeli government formally acknowledges that until Israel broke the agreement on Nov. 4 of that year, invading Gaza and killing half a dozen Hamas activists, Hamas did not fire a single rocket.

Hamas offered to renew the cease-fire. The Israeli cabinet considered the offer and rejected it, preferring to launch its murderous invasion of Gaza on Dec.27.

Like other states, Israel has the right of self-defense. But did Israel have the right to use force in Gaza in the name of self-defense? International law, including the U.N. Charter, is unambiguous: A nation has such a right only if it has exhausted peaceful means. In this case such means were not even tried, although—or perhaps because—there was every reason to suppose that they would succeed.

Thus the invasion was sheer criminal aggression, and the same is true of Israel’s resorting to force against the flotilla.

The siege is savage, designed to keep the caged animals barely alive so as to fend off international protest, but hardly more than that. It is the latest stage of longstanding Israeli plans, backed by the U.S., to separate Gaza from the West Bank.

The Israeli journalist Amira Hass, a leading specialist on Gaza, outlines the history of the process of separation: “The restrictions on Palestinian movement that Israel introduced in January 1991 reversed a process that had been initiated in June 1967.

“Back then, and for the first time since 1948, a large portion of the Palestinian people again lived in the open territory of a single country — to be sure, one that was occupied, but was nevertheless whole. …”

Hass concludes: “The total separation of the Gaza Strip from the West Bank is one of the greatest achievements of Israeli politics, whose overarching objective is to prevent a solution based on international decisions and understandings and instead dictate an arrangement based on Israel’s military superiority.”

The Freedom Flotilla defied that policy and so it must be crushed.

A framework for settling the Arab-Israeli conflict has existed since 1976, when the regional Arab States introduced a Security Council resolution calling for a two-state settlement on the international border, including all the security guarantees of U.N. Resolution 242, adopted after the June War in 1967.

The essential principles are supported by virtually the entire world, including the Arab League, the Organization of Islamic States (including Iran) and relevant non-state actors, including Hamas.

But the U.S. and Israel have led the rejection of such a settlement for three decades, with one crucial and highly informative exception. In President Bill Clinton’s last month in office, January 2001, he initiated Israeli-Palestinian negotiations in Taba, Egypt, that almost reached an agreement, participants announced, before Israel terminated the negotiations.

Today, the cruel legacy of a failed peace lives on.

International law cannot be enforced against powerful states, except by their own citizens. That is always a difficult task, particularly when articulate opinion declares crime to be legitimate, either explicitly or by tacit adoption of a criminal framework—which is more insidious, because it renders the crimes invisible.

Noam Chomsky is Institute Professor & Professor of Linguistics (Emeritus) at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the author of dozens of books on U.S. foreign policy. He writes a monthly column for The New York Times News Service/Syndicate.

More information about Noam Chomsky


A Warning From Noam Chomsky on the Threat of Elites

http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/a_warning_from_noam_chomsky_on_the_threat_of_elites_20100607/

Posted on Jun 7, 2010

By Fred Branfman

It was not by making yourself heard but by staying sane that you carried on the human heritage. ... [Doublethink is] to hold simultaneously two opinions which cancelled out, knowing them to be contradictory and believing in both, to repudiate morality while laying claim to it. ... [Continuous] war involves very small numbers of people, mostly highly trained specialists. … The fighting … takes place on the vague frontiers whose whereabouts the average man can only guess at. …

—George Orwell, “1984”

[The treatment of the] hapless race of native Americans, which we are exterminating with such merciless and perfidious cruelty, [is] among the heinous sins of this nation, for which I believe God will one day bring [it] to judgment.

—John Quincy Adams, cited in Noam Chomsky’s new book, “Hopes and Prospects”

Noam Chomsky’s description of the dangers posed by U.S. elites’ “Imperial Mentality” was recently given a boost in credibility by a surprising source—Bill Clinton. As America’s economy, foreign policy and politics continue to unravel, it is clear that this mentality and the system it has created will produce an increasing number of victims in the years to come. Clinton startlingly testified to that effect on March 10 to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee:

Since 1981 the United States has followed a policy until the last year or so, when we started rethinking it, that we rich countries that produce a lot of food should sell it to poor countries and relieve them of the burden of producing their own food so thank goodness they can lead directly into the industrial era. It has not worked. It may have been good for some of my farmers in Arkansas, but it has not worked. It was a mistake. It was a mistake that I was a party to. I am not pointing the finger at anybody. I did that. I have to live every day with the consequences of the lost capacity to produce a rice crop in Haiti to feed those people, because of what I did, nobody else.

Clinton is to be praised for being the first U.S. president to take personal responsibility for impoverishing an entire nation rather than ignoring his misdeeds or falsely blaming local U.S.-imposed regimes. But his confession also means that his embrace of the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the World Trade Organization and NAFTA “neo-liberalization” destroyed the lives of many more millions well beyond Haiti, as U.S. support for heavily subsidized U.S. agribusiness damaged local agricultural economies throughout Latin America and beyond. This led to mass migration into urban slums and destitution, as well as increased emigration to the U.S.—which then led Clinton to militarize the border in 1994—and thus accelerated the “illegal immigration” issue that so poisons U.S. politics today.

Clinton might also have added that he and other U.S. leaders imposed such policies by force, installing military dictators and vicious police and paramilitary forces. Chomsky reports in “Hopes and Prospects” that in Haiti, semiofficial thugs empowered by a U.S.-supported coup murdered 8,000 people and raped 35,000 women in 2004 and 2005 alone, while a tiny local elite reaps most of the benefits from U.S. policies.

Clinton’s testimony reminded me of one of my visits with Chomsky, back in 1988, when, after talking for an hour or so, he smiled and said he had to stop to get back to writing about the children of Haiti.

I was struck both by his concern for forgotten Haitians and because his comment so recalled my experience with him in 1970 as he spent a week researching U.S. war-making in Laos. I had taken dozens of journalists, peace activists, diplomats, experts and others out to camps of refugees who had fled U.S. saturation bombing. Chomsky was one of only two who wept openly upon learning how these innocent villagers had seen their beloved grandmothers burned alive, their children slowly suffocated, their spouses cut to ribbons, during five years of merciless, pitiless and illegal U.S. bombing for which U.S. leaders would have been executed had international law protecting civilians in wartime been applied to their actions. It was obvious that he was above all driven by a deep feeling for the world’s victims, those he calls the “unpeople” in his new book. No U.S. policymakers I knew in Laos, nor the many I have met since, have shared such concerns.

Bill Clinton’s testimony also reminded me of the accuracy of Chomsky writings on Haiti—before, during and after Clinton’s reign—as summed up in “Hopes and Prospects”:

The Clinton doctrine, presented to Congress, was that the US is entitled to resort to “unilateral use of military power” to ensure “uninhibited access to key markets, energy supplies and strategic resources.” In Haiti, Clinton [imposed] harsh neoliberal rules that were guaranteed to crush what remained of the economy, as they did.

Clinton would have a cleaner conscience today had he listened to Chomsky then. Many more Americans may also benefit by heeding Chomsky today, as U.S. elites’ callousness toward unpeople abroad is now affecting increasing numbers of their fellow citizens back home. Nothing symbolizes this more than investment bankers tricking countless Americans out of their life savings by luring them into buying homes they could not afford that were then foreclosed on.

In doing so, Wall Streeters exhibited what Chomsky describes as a Western elite imperial mentality, dating back to 1491 (his first chapter is entitled “Year 514: Globalization for Whom?”). Only this time instead of impoverishing Haitians or Chileans, it was Americans who were afflicted by a “system” of “fuck the poor” (in the words of successful Wall Street trader Steve Eisman). [See Branfman’s review of “The Big Short” in Truthdig.]

The many Americans whose lives have been damaged by financiers’ single-minded focus on short-term profits at the expense of everyone else are only a harbinger of what is to come. Financial elites remain in charge, as evidenced by recent “financial reform” legislation that does not even reinstate the Glass-Steagall law separating investment and commercial banking. New York magazine has described how Obama officials blocked even inadequate reforms, let alone the stronger proposals from Nouriel Roubini, one of the few major economists to foresee the economic crash. Former International Monetary Fund chief economist Simon Johnson tells us “our banking structure remains—and the incentive and belief system that lies behind reckless risk-taking has only become more dangerous,” thus setting the stage for an even worse crash than that of 2008. And, as U.S. competitiveness continues to decline and it cannot afford its endless wars without drastically cutting social spending, countless more Americans will find themselves paying the price for U.S. elites’ imperial mentality.

This mentality described by Chomsky includes the following elements: (1) a single-minded focus on maximizing short-term elite economic and military interests; (2) a refusal to let other societies follow their own paths if perceived to conflict with these interests; (3) continual and massive violations of international law; (4) indifference to human life, particularly in the Third World; (5) massive violation of the U.S. Constitution, especially through the executive branch’s seizure of the power to wage unilateral and unaccountable war in every corner of the globe; (6) indifference to U.S. and international public opinion, which is often more progressive and humane than that of the elites; (7) a remarkable ability to “manufacture consent,” aided by the mass media and intellectuals, that has blinded most Americans to the truth of what their leaders actually do in their names.

To pick but one example of the dozens Chomsky provides: U.S. elite opinion unanimously celebrated the 1990 Nicaraguan election defeating the Sandinistas as a “victory for fair play,” to quote a March 10 New York Times Op-Ed article. But Chomsky reminds us of Time Magazine’s March 12 report on just what this “fair play” meant:

In Nicaragua, Washington stumbled on an arm’s-length policy: wreck the economy and prosecute a long and deadly proxy war until the exhausted natives overthrow the unwanted government themselves. The past ten years have savaged the country’s civilians, not its comandantes. The impoverishment of the people of Nicaragua was a harrowing way to give the National Opposition Union (U.N.O.) a winning issue.

Wrecking a Third World country’s economy and savaging its civilians are such standard U.S. elite behavior that it is barely noticed, let alone criticized in the mass media or halls of Congress. Perhaps the most dramatic example of America’s imperial mentality, however, is the answer to the following question: Which nation’s leaders since 1945 have murdered, maimed, made homeless, tortured, assassinated and impoverished the largest number of civilians who were not its own citizens?

I have asked this question of Americans in every walk of life since I discovered the bombing of Laos in 1969. It’s a simple matter of fact, not involving judgments of right and wrong, and I remain astonished at how most answer “the Russians,” “the Chinese,” or just have no idea that their leaders have killed more noncitizen civilians than the rest of the world’s leaders combined since 1945.

The bodies of Indochinese and Iraqi civilians for which U.S. leaders bear responsibility would, if laid end to end, stretch from New York to California. These would include the huge proportion of civilians among the 3.4 million Vietnamese that Robert McNamara estimated were killed in Vietnam (over 90 percent by U.S. firepower), Laotian and Cambodian civilians felled by the largest per capita and most indiscriminate bombing of civilian targets in history, the 1 million to 1.5 million Iraqis estimated by the U.N.‘s Denis Halliday to have died from Clinton’s sanctions “designed,” in Halliday’s words, “to kill civilians, particularly children,” and the hundreds of thousands killed as a result of the Bush invasion. The total number of civilians killed, wounded, made homeless and impoverished by U.S. leaders or local regimes owing their power to U.S. guns and aid—in not only Indochina and Iraq but Mexico, El Salvador, Israel/Palestine, the Dominican Republic, Panama, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Egypt, Iran, South Africa, Chile, East Timor, Haiti, Argentina, Ecuador, Brazil, Bolivia, Venezuela, Cuba, Jamaica, the Philippines and Indonesia—is in the tens of millions.

One can debate whether U.S. military action against Vietnamese communists, Nicaraguan Sandinistas, Saddam Hussein or the Taliban were or are warranted. But there can be no possible justification for waging war that winds up killing and impoverishing much of the civilian population, on whose behalf U.S. leaders claim to fight, in violation of the laws of war and elemental human decency. Nor can anyone who truly believes in democracy support allowing a handful of U.S. leaders to savage civilians abroad without even informing, let alone seeking permission of, Congress and the American people.

The incredible fact that U.S. leaders could inflict such carnage without their citizenry knowing is the single most dramatic example of another of Chomsky’s major themes: “manufactured consent,” produced by (1) constant iterations of U.S leaders’ idealism and desire to promote freedom, supported by the mass media (e.g. when Washington Post columnist David Ignatius called Paul Wolfowitz Bush’s “idealist-in-chief,” even as their invasion was laying waste to Iraq), (2) massive media coverage of the misdeeds of the latest U.S. opponents, and (3) ignoring our own, often far greater, crimes.

Most Americans were fully and appropriately made aware of Taliban assassinations of their opponents, for example. But there was no public discussion of guilt, let alone punishment for those responsible, when Gen. Stanley McChrystal implicitly admitted in the summer of 2009 that the U.S. military had been killing countless Afghan civilians for the previous eight years as a result of air and artillery fire aimed at population centers. Nor are most Americans aware that McChrystal was rewarded with his present post, being in charge of the Afghanistan war, for conducting five years of assassination and torture as head of the top-secret Joint Special Operations Command in Iraq.

Chomsky is especially concerned with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in general, and U.S.-Israel treatment of the people of Gaza in particular. He notes that Hamas is regularly attacked in the U.S. press, but there has not been comparable attention given to the U.S./Israeli decision to inflict daily collective punishment on the people of Gaza since they democratically elected Hamas in January 2006. He quotes Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1950, which states that “no protected person may be punished for an offence he or she had not personally committed” and reports how Israel, fully supported by U.S. leaders, continues to inflict precisely such punishment on the people of Gaza by destroying their economy, limiting their access to food and water, denying them health care, restricting their movement, and engaging in kidnapping, assassination and bombing—a program he calls “imposing massive suffering on the animals in the Gaza prison.”

Perhaps the most basic reason Americans should read Chomsky’s work today, therefore, is simply to understand the real world in which they live, that which is obscured by their leaders and the U.S. mass media. The purpose of “Newspeak” in the novel “1984” was to eliminate whole categories of thought. In our time, one such category is the fact that “U.S. leaders regularly and illegally kill enormous numbers of foreign innocent civilians.” The elimination of this thought-category in our cognitive framework understandably led President George W. Bush to explain 9/11 by saying “they hate our freedom”—a logical conclusion to someone ignorant of the trail of blood left by his predecessors. As Chomsky notes, however, “historical amnesia is a dangerous phenomenon ... because it lays the groundwork for crimes ahead” and, it should be noted, increased dangers of terrorism against Americans.

This increased threat of terrorism, which, Chomsky reports, citing the New American Foundation, has increased sevenfold because of the invasion of Iraq, is a second area in which Americans are today increasingly threatened by their leaders’ imperial mentality. As many experts noted in the wake of the Times Square bombing attempt, Barack Obama’s vast increase in drone strikes in Pakistan—and relaxing targeting rules to include “low-level fighters whose identities may not be known”—has further increased the danger of terrorist attacks in the U.S.

As the elites’ imperial mentality comes home, Americans are also increasingly threatened by climate change—produced by a system that statutorily requires elites to pursue short-term profit for their firms, even at the cost of destroying the biosphere their own children and grandchildren will depend on for life itself.

In today’s system, Chomsky explains, to “stay in the game,” CEOs must maximize their own short-term profits while treating the costs of doing so as “externalities” to be paid by the taxpayer. In the case of climate change, however, “externalities happen to be the fate of the species.” An imperial mentality which has primarily threatened the Third World in the past, in other words, has now become a threat to the survival of not only America but all civilization as we know it.

Chomsky thus argues that human survival requires changing the system, not merely periodically replacing those running it. His “Hopes and Prospects” covers President Obama’s first year in office and the many “hopes” that he has so profoundly disappointed because of a system that virtually requires “doublethink” of its leaders. Obama was undoubtedly as sincere when he spoke of “our fidelity to the rule of law and our Constitution” at West Point on May 22 as he was six months earlier when he secretly approved Gen. David Petraeus’ proposal for a “broad expansion of clandestine military activity” worldwide that “does not require the president’s approval or regular reports to Congress.”

Obama also presumably holds two contradictory opinions when, as Chomsky reports, he continues Bush policies he so recently criticized and promised to change: extending executive power to indefinitely imprison people without trial, torture (though by allied rather than U.S. torturers), indiscriminate killing (particularly by escalating in northern Pakistan, as described in Truthdig, “Unintended Consequences in Nuclear Pakistan”), and supporting Israeli policies precluding a two-state solution. Chomsky also observes that Obama could not have been elected in the first place, given his greater need for campaign funds from above than fidelity to his voters below, had he not been prepared to continue these imperial policies.

Chomsky’s explanation of the American system’s imperial mentality also illuminates a seeming mystery: How could decent people like Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama commit so much evil? Our concept of evil is shaped by such paranoid psychotics as Hitler, Stalin and Mao, who all hated their victims and openly lusted for power. We do not yet understand that in today’s American system the problem we face is not so much inhumanity from the mad and evil as “ahumanity” from the sane and decent.

U.S. leaders have nothing against those they regularly kill and impoverish. On the contrary, they often exhibit compassion for them, as when Jimmy Carter supported human rights. But they are products of a system that is indifferent to the fate of the unpeople, whether in the shah’s Iran, Somoza’s Nicaragua, Suharto’s Indonesia or the many other dictatorial regimes that enjoyed President Carter’s support.

Chomsky denies the oft-heard charge that he is “anti-American,” noting his criticism of the crimes of many other nations’ leaders, and saying he focuses on U.S. leaders because, as a U.S. citizen, it is the government he can most affect; because it is the government that has done more harm than any other since 1945; and because the United States’ behavior today poses so much danger to human survival. He might also add that there are so many others eager to catalog the crimes of America’s enemies, yet relatively few Americans willing to document their own leaders’ misdeeds.

At the moment, Chomsky’s proposed solutions are politically unthinkable. As the American economy and polity continues to unravel and suffering mounts at home and abroad, however, a mass movement may arise that is capable of saving America and the world. If so, such a movement is likely to attempt solutions of the sort Chomsky proposes. Here are two out of a far larger number:

State capitalism for the many: The American Enterprise Institute’s chief declared in a May 23 Washington Post Op-Ed that “America faces a new culture war,” between “free enterprise” offering “rewards determined by market forces” and “European-style statism.” “Hopes and Prospects” explains at some length, however, why this formulation is absurd. America’s “free enterprise” system has always been based on massive government aid, from the Army building 19th century railroads, to the Pentagon’s post-World War II role in building the Internet and Silicon Valley, to today’s “rewards” to Wall Street and oil companies determined not by market forces, but those companies’ political clout. America has been practicing “state capitalism” since the founding of the Republic, and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future no matter which party is in office.

The real choice, Chomsky makes clear, is not free enterprise versus statism, but state capitalism for (A) the few or (B) the many. The latter would include breaking up the banks, a focus on job creation and safety net expansion where needed, single-payer health insurance, higher taxes on the wealthy, far lower military spending, public members on corporate boards, greater employee workplace control and, above all, a new public-private partnership to see America become a leader in a clean energy economic revolution.

A Nuclear Weapons-Free Zone and Two-State Solution in the Middle East: Chomsky proposes that rather than continuing to engage in senseless fighting and confronting Iran over nuclear weapons, U.S., Israeli, Arab and Iranian interests would be far better served by the U.S. using its enormous military and economic clout to create a Mideast nuclear weapons-free zone that Iran says it is willing to accept, and a comprehensive and fair Israeli-Palestinian settlement including Hamas’ promised recognition of Israel and cessation of rocket attacks. A major benefit to the U.S. would be to reduce the threat of domestic terrorism. For only a comprehensive new policy that addresses the source of anti-U.S. hatred—U.S. war-making on civilians and support of corrupt and vicious local regimes—can reduce it.

Fifty years ago, Americans were told that the North Vietnamese communists were so evil that 55,000 Americans and millions of Vietnamese had to die, and much of Vietnam had to be destroyed, in order to keep it “free.” But for 20 years now, despite the triumph of the communists, Vietnam has been a normal trading partner of the United States and poses no threat to its neighbors. Could the Middle East also be normalized were U.S. leaders to use their enormous power to promote peace rather than war? Maybe, maybe not. But it is obvious that the risks of trying to do so are far less than the present dangers of nuclear proliferation, chaos in nuclear-armed Pakistan, Israel-Iran military confrontation and increasing support for anti-American terrorism within the 1.2 billion-strong Muslim world.

That Chomsky’s sensible proposals are not seriously discussed is a measure of the ubiquity of U.S. elites’ imperial mentality in mid-2010. Chomsky suggests that John Quincy Adams’ fear of divine retribution to America for its cruelty to Native Americans is unfounded, and that “earthly judgment is nowhere in sight.” Much of his work, however, suggests otherwise. A U.S. elite imperial mentality that once threatened mainly unpeople is today threatening America itself.

The fundamental tension throughout Chomsky’s work is between his belief that organizing and popular movements offer hope of change and the overwhelming evidence he presents of elite power precluding such change. On the one hand, he writes that “Latin America, today, is the scene of some of the most exciting developments in the endless struggle for freedom and justice” as its nations improve their citizens’ lives by extricating themselves from the neoliberal regime and elect leaders responsible to mass movements from below rather than financing from wealthy minorities above. 

But on the other hand, his description of the stranglehold elites hold over both domestic and foreign policy offers little near-term hope for the kind of systemic changes he believes are needed to save the species. It is true that postwar America has not before faced the kind of economic and imperial decline that now awaits it, and this may produce possibilities for systemic change. But they are nowhere yet in sight.

I recently sat with Chomsky, an intellectually uncompromising but personally kind, gentle and mild-mannered man, in his kitchen discussing such new U.S. elite horrors as the trend toward “1984”-like automated warfare, when it suddenly hit me.

What is it like, I found myself thinking, to know more than any other human being on Earth about the state-sponsored lies to which Americans are so constantly subjected? What is it like to so feel in your bones, hour after hour, day after day, the pain of millions of “unpeople” suffering hunger, poverty and death caused by U.S. elites who today also threaten both their own nation and all humanity? And what is it like, even though your writings are published, to have their lessons ignored by society at large, as the killing continues and U.S. war-making “on the vague frontiers whose whereabouts the average man can only guess at” has now become permanent?

“Noam,” I said, “I’ve just realized who you really represent to me. Do you remember how Winston Smith [the “1984” character] realized that his highest obligation to humanity and himself was just to try and remain sane, to somehow commit the truth to paper, and to hope against rational hope that somewhere, some time, future humans might come to understand and act on it? To me, at this point in time, you’re Winston Smith.”

I will never forget his reaction.

He just looked back at me.

And smiled sadly.

Fred Branfman, the editor of “Voices From the Plain of Jars: Life Under an Air War” (Harper & Row, 1972), exposed the U.S. secret air war in Laos while living there from 1967 to 1971 and went on to develop solar, educational and Information Age initiatives for California Gov. Jerry Brown and national policymakers.

    Top