Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Business of the Holocaust Memorial

Anyone who objects to Israel's fascism and racism becomes anti-semite. This politics of anti-semitism of attempting to shut down opponents of Israel is losing its touch. Embarassingly, non-Zionist Jews are currently (after the Palestinians) the biggest victims of Zionism. The Zionists should realize that their tactics are no longer working except probably in the United States, and even there, the voices of the Palestinian victims are becoming heard ( when more than 50 congressman petitioned to Obama to be more strict with Israel's on-going fascist settlements, and the commentary of Haaretz wondered: "How did AIPAC allow that to happen"). I never knew that the US representatives have to answer to AIPAC on everything that relates to the Palestinians.

Gideon Levi just trashed the leadership once again over here

Mazen Kerbaj's Cartoon: My day to day life exactly

This exactly what happens to me when I talk to a sectarian person:

Lessons of the Ethiopian Airlines: Chauvinism and Political Points

The tragic horrible death of the Ethiopian airlines led to a shock, and a week of mourning. In what was a stand-off between the different reactionary parties in regards to several reforms, the plane crash bought some time.

There are several shocking events that generated prior and after the terrible crash which left several people of different nationalities mourning.

The first event were the reforms to be discussed in the Parliament.

The first focused on reducing the voting age to 18. The advocator to such change came as a surprise, at least in terms of parliamentary blocs, Nabih Berri and his hooligan AMAL. This of course, provides a trauma for me, since AMAL are notorious to enter fist-to-fist fights with almost anyone (a tend that has been operational since the days of the Lebanese Civil War). Nabih Berri, for the past three months or so has advocated all types of change, supporting Ziad Baroud's proposals, and seems to be trying to bring back the legacy of Imam Moussa Sadre's goals for reform back in the 1970s. Berri was involved in sparking the "Cancelation of Sectarianism" act, protecting the Ta'ef Accords (ironically), the Age Act reform, and giving strength to the Parliament (which was shut down for over two years by Berri himself).

The clash of reforms began with the head of the Reform and Change bloc, with lunatic General Aoun, and the other two Christian parties: Lebanese Forces and Phalange. The fear from the voting age reform scared the Christians that they will be overwhelmed by 'Muslim Votes'. The Christian parties eventually proposed that the Immigrants would have the right to vote under the basis that one reform cannot go without the other. This of course hinders all possibilities to implement the age 18 voting law. Since, the new age of the new parliament began under the banner of "Age of Love and Flirtations" among the elites, it was natural that the two camps in Lebanon bickered each other along the same alliances.

Just like the 14th of March and Opposition collisions, historical insights are highlighted and others forgotten, specially when Berri attacked Aoun that the latter was not present to forge the Ta'ef Accords.

The showdown between these two reached its climax when the infamous Monday parliamentary meeting was supposed to take place. Hezbollah attempted to sooth the situation, and it was anticipated that most of the blocs (pro Harriri or not) were going to avoid the making of such a meeting by making sure that the Parliament's quorum was not met. The different news media reported that meetings between AMAL and the Free Patriotic Movement remained taking place till 4:00 in the morning. The same day, the tragic death of the Ethiopian Airlines took place. This saved the politicians of the embarrassment of shooting down the parliament's meeting to take place.

Naomi Klein dubbed the Haiti disaster as Shock Capitalism, with highlights to Israel's 'humanitarian' activities to cover away its past sins in Gaza which turned world opinion against it. This is exactly what took place in Lebanon. A national mourning day took place, the parliamentary session was postponed.

The Lebanese-Ethiopian tragedy

As the plane collapsed, and all efforts took place in a very remarkable manner to salvage survivors, Lebanese pride rose up. Everyone on facebook, msn, and whatever placed a Lebanese flag with a black strip on their profiles. This is indeed a human tragedy.

All politicians diverted their attention into supporting the Red Cross and the Lebanese Army to save the survivors.

Nevertheless, Lebanese fascism sprang. Several Ethiopian blue collar proletariat in Lebanon were denied entrance to the hospitals in order to identify the bodies of their beloved. That is a typical country of contradiction: Co-existence and racism, tolerance and intolerance, and finally democracy and tyranny.

The incident itself was preceded by a controversial acts of beating activists in front of the Egyptian embassy because the activists there found it unusual to attack the apartheid wall of Israel, while Egypt's Moubarak is building another Iron Wall on the Rafah route, to force "coexistence between Hamas and Fatah".

Back to the plane incident, as much as Lebanon's president attempted to show Lebanon's humanitarian face to the world, the Human Rights Watch group slammed Lebanon for its mistreatment of foreign labor and Palestinians. Ironically that was celebrated by Fascist Israel who never bothered to read the entire report, as well to read the reports on their own country.

The acts of racism towards the foreign proletariat proved yet again, amidst this disaster, that foreign labor needs to be protected. The proletariat across the world, like the Lebanese, need to be protected and treated as humans. Every week we hear a story about a foreign laborer being maltreated, specially those who are abused to work almost for free as maids in households. It comes as a surprise for some Lebanese (those whom I spit on their faces) that labor from Sri Lanka, Syria, Jordan, Palestinians, India, Egypt, Ethiopia, Philippines, others are their own equal: simply humans. If Lebanese culture means superiority, for me, that equates to trash (Zionism is even more terrible by the way). It reminds me of France hailing itself as democratic while it was too busy demolishing Algerian proletariat back in the late 1950s and early 1960s, or Israeli "democracy" which rotates around only Judaism while trashing the rest of non-Jewish (and giving Jews of the world a bad name).

For those racist Lebanese, thing of it that Lebanese, Ethiopians, and others died equally as humans on that plane, equals also to the wife of the French Ambassador in Lebanon. May those who mourn find peace again in their hearts.

Again, we see that the whole world is governed by Class War under the banner of different logos: racism, reform, and political points


PS: The fact Berri is proposing all those reforms is still hard for me to digest

R.I.P. Howard Zinn

By Mark Feeney and Bryan Marquard, Globe Staff - Boston News

Howard Zinn, the Boston University historian and political activist who was an early opponent of US involvement in Vietnam and whose books, such as "A People's History of the United States," inspired young and old to rethink the way textbooks present the American experience, died today in Santa Monica, Calif, where he was traveling. He was 87.

His daughter, Myla Kabat-Zinn of Lexington, said he suffered a heart attack.

"He's made an amazing contribution to American intellectual and moral culture," Noam Chomsky, the left-wing activist and MIT professor, said tonight. "He's changed the conscience of America in a highly constructive way. I really can't think of anyone I can compare him to in this respect."

Chomsky added that Dr. Zinn's writings "simply changed perspective and understanding for a whole generation. He opened up approaches to history that were novel and highly significant. Both by his actions, and his writings for 50 years, he played a powerful role in helping and in many ways inspiring the Civil rights movement and the anti-war movement."
For Dr. Zinn, activism was a natural extension of the revisionist brand of history he taught. "A People’s History of the United States" (1980), his best-known book, had for its heroes not the Founding Fathers -- many of them slaveholders and deeply attached to the status quo, as Dr. Zinn was quick to point out -- but rather the farmers of Shays' Rebellion and union organizers of the 1930s.

As he wrote in his autobiography, "You Can't Be Neutral on a Moving Train" (1994), "From the start, my teaching was infused with my own history. I would try to be fair to other points of view, but I wanted more than 'objectivity'; I wanted students to leave my classes not just better informed, but more prepared to relinquish the safety of silence, more prepared to speak up, to act against injustice wherever they saw it. This, of course, was a recipe for trouble."

Certainly, it was a recipe for rancor between Dr. Zinn and John Silber, former president of Boston University. Dr. Zinn, a leading critic of Silber, twice helped lead faculty votes to oust the BU president, who in turn once accused Dr. Zinn of arson (a charge he quickly retracted) and cited him as a prime example of teachers "who poison the well of academe."

Dr. Zinn was a cochairman of the strike committee when BU professors walked out in 1979. After the strike was settled, he and four colleagues were charged with violating their contract when they refused to cross a picket line of striking secretaries. The charges against "the BU Five" were soon dropped.

In 1997, Dr. Zinn slipped into popular culture when his writing made a cameo appearance in the film "Good Will Hunting." The title character, played by Matt Damon, lauds "A People’s History" and urges Robin Williams’s character to read it. Damon, who co-wrote the script, was a neighbor of the Zinns growing up.

"Howard had a great mind and was one of the great voices in the American political life," Ben Affleck, also a family friend growing up and Damon's co-star in "Good Will Hunting," said in a statement. "He taught me how valuable -- how necessary -- dissent was to democracy and to America itself. He taught that history was made by the everyman, not the elites. I was lucky enough to know him personally and I will carry with me what I learned from him -- and try to impart it to my own children -- in his memory."

Damon was later involved in a television version of the book, "The People Speak," which ran on the History Channel in 2009, and he narrated a 2004 biographical documentary, "Howard Zinn: You Can't Be Neutral on a Moving Train."

"Howard had a genius for the shape of public morality and for articulating the great alternative vision of peace as more than a dream," said James Carroll a columnist for the Globe's opinion pages whose friendship with Dr. Zinn dates to when Carroll was a Catholic chaplain at BU. "But above all, he had a genius for the practical meaning of love. That is what drew legions of the young to him and what made the wide circle of his friends so constantly amazed and grateful."

Dr. Zinn was born in New York City on Aug. 24, 1922, the son of Jewish immigrants, Edward Zinn, a waiter, and Jennie (Rabinowitz) Zinn, a housewife. He attended New York public schools and was working in the Brooklyn Navy Yard when he met Roslyn Shechter.

"She was working as a secretary," Dr. Zinn said in an interview with the Globe nearly two years ago. "We were both working in the same neighborhood, but we didn't know each other. A mutual friend asked me to deliver something to her. She opened the door, I saw her, and that was it."

He joined the Army Air Corps, and they courted through the mail before marrying in October 1944 while he was on his first furlough. She died in 2008.

During World War II, he served as a bombardier, was awarded the Air Medal, and attained the rank of second lieutenant.

After the war, Dr. Zinn worked at a series of menial jobs until entering New York University on the GI Bill as a 27-year-old freshman. He worked nights in a warehouse loading trucks to support his studies. He received his bachelor’s degree from NYU, followed by master’s and doctoral degrees in history from Columbia University.

Dr. Zinn was an instructor at Upsala College and lecturer at Brooklyn College before joining the faculty of Spelman College in Atlanta, in 1956. He served at the historically black women’s institution as chairman of the history department. Among his students were novelist Alice Walker, who called him "the best teacher I ever had," and Marian Wright Edelman, future head of the Children's Defense Fund.

During this time, Dr. Zinn became active in the civil rights movement. He served on the executive committee of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, the most aggressive civil rights organization of the time, and participated in numerous demonstrations.

Dr. Zinn became an associate professor of political science at BU in 1964 and was named full professor in 1966.

The focus of his activism became the Vietnam War. Dr. Zinn spoke at many rallies and teach-ins and drew national attention when he and the Rev. Daniel Berrigan, another leading antiwar activist, went to Hanoi in 1968 to receive three prisoners released by the North Vietnamese.

Dr. Zinn’s involvement in the antiwar movement led to his publishing two books: "Vietnam: The Logic of Withdrawal" (1967) and "Disobedience and Democracy" (1968). He had previously published "LaGuardia in Congress" (1959), which had won the American Historical Association's Albert J. Beveridge Prize; "SNCC: The New Abolitionists" (1964); "The Southern Mystique" (1964); and "New Deal Thought" (1966).

He also was the author of "The Politics of History" (1970); "Postwar America" (1973); "Justice in Everyday Life" (1974); and "Declarations of Independence" (1990).

In 1988, Dr. Zinn took early retirement to concentrate on speaking and writing. The latter activity included writing for the stage. Dr. Zinn had two plays produced: "Emma," about the anarchist leader Emma Goldman, and "Daughter of Venus."

On his last day at BU, Dr. Zinn ended class 30 minutes early so he could join a picket line and urged the 500 students attending his lecture to come along. A hundred did.

"Howard was an old and very close friend," Chomsky said. "He was a person of real courage and integrity, warmth and humor. He was just a remarkable person."

Carroll called Dr. Zinn "simply one of the greatest Americans of our time. He will not be replaced -- or soon forgotten. How we loved him back."

In addition to his daughter, Dr. Zinn leaves a son, Jeff of Wellfleet; three granddaughters; and two grandsons.

Funeral plans were not available.

MFL Notes: For the Americans who don't know their own history of war crimes, I highly recommend to read A People's History of American Empire in Comics.

Some photos of the Comics is here

The Book can be found here

Case Point: Robert Weissman: Shed a Tear for Our (U.S.) Democracy

Taken from

Yesterday, in the case Citizens United v. FEC, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that corporations have a First Amendment right to spend unlimited amounts of money to influence election outcomes.

Money from Exxon, Goldman Sachs, Pfizer and the rest of the Fortune 500 is already corroding the policy making process in Washington, state capitals and city halls. Now, the Supreme Court tells these corporate giants that they have a constitutional right to trample our democracy.

In eviscerating longstanding rules prohibiting corporations from using their own monies to influence elections, the court invites giant corporations to open up their treasuries to buy election outcomes. Corporations are sure to accept the invitation.

The predictable result will be corporate money flooding the election process; huge targeted campaigns by corporations and their front groups attacking principled candidates who challenge parochial corporate interests; and a chilling effect on candidates and election officials, who will be deterred from advocating and implementing policies that advance the public interest but injure deep-pocket corporations.

Because the decision is made on First Amendment constitutional grounds, the impact will be felt not only at the federal level, but in the states and localities, including in state judicial elections.

In one sense, the decision was a long time in coming. Over the past 30 years, the Supreme Court has created and steadily expanded the First Amendment protections that it has afforded for-profit corporations.

But in another sense, the decision is a startling break from Supreme Court tradition. Even as it has mistakenly equated money with speech in the political context, the court has long upheld regulations on corporate spending in the electoral context. The Citizens United decision is also an astonishing overreach by the court. No one thought the issue of corporations' purported right to spend money to influence election outcomes was at stake in this case until the Supreme Court so decreed. The case had been argued in lower courts, and was originally argued before the Supreme Court, on narrow grounds related to application of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law.

The court has invented the idea that corporations have First Amendment rights to influence election outcomes out of whole cloth. There is surely no originalist interpretation to support this outcome, since the court created the rights only in recent decades. Nor can the outcome be justified in light of the underlying purpose and spirit of the First Amendment. Corporations are state-created entities, not real people. They do not have expressive interests like humans; and, unlike humans, they are uniquely motivated by a singular focus on their economic bottom line.

Corporate spending on elections defeats rather than advances the democratic thrust of the First Amendment.

We, the People cannot allow this decision to go unchallenged. We, the People cannot allow corporations to take control of our democracy.

There are some things that can be done to mitigate the damage from today's decision.

First, we must have public financing of elections. Public financing will give independent candidates a base from which they may be able to compete against candidates benefiting from corporate expenditures. We will intensify our efforts to win rapid passage of the Fair Elections Now Act, which would provide congressional candidates with an alternative to corporate-funded campaigns before fundraising for the 2010 election is in full swing. Sponsored by Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Illinois, and Rep. John Larson, D-Connecticut, the bill would encourage unlimited small-dollar donations from individuals and provide candidates with public funding in exchange for refusing corporate contributions or private contributions in amounts of more than $100. The proposal has broad support, including more than 126 co-sponsors in the House.

In the wake of the court's decision, it is also essential that the presidential public financing system be made viable again. Cities and states will also need to enact public financing of elections.

Congress must ensure that corporate CEOs do not use corporate funds for political purposes, against the wishes of shareholders, with legislation requiring an absolute majority of shares to be voted in favor, before any corporate political expenditure is permitted. There are other legislative approaches to limit today's damage, including a range of measures proposed by Representative Alan Grayson, D-Florida.

These mitigating measures will not be enough to offset today's decision, however. The decision itself must be overturned.

We need a constitutional amendment specifying that for-profit corporations are not entitled to First Amendment protections, except for freedom of the press. A constitutional amendment is not a thing to throw around lightly. But today's decision so imperils our democratic well-being, and so severely distorts the rightful purpose of the First Amendment, that a constitutional corrective is demanded.

Winning a constitutional amendment will be a long-term effort. The starting point is for the people to petition their government to demand action. Public Citizen with allies has launched such a petition effort. Got to to sign the petition.

The Supreme Court has lost its way. Democracy is rule of the people -- real, live humans, not artificial entity corporations. Now it's time for the people to reassert their rights.

Robert Weissman is president of Public Citizen .

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Hezbollah's New Political Platform by Fawwaz Traboulsi

Translated By Zmag and Taken from here

[Translator's Introduction: The following article by Fawwaz Traboulsi appeared in the Beirut daily as-Safir of December 2, 2009.

Traboulsi's article is an assessment and left critique of the main themes in Hezbollah's new political platform. The platform was released on November 30 at the conclusion of a general congress that had met intermittently over several months. It was published partially or entirely in several Arabic-language media outlets, inside and outside Lebanon, in early December 2009. The platform now becomes Hezbollah's political manifesto in place of its founding document, its so-called 1985 Open Letter.
Hezbollah has undergone many changes since the mid-1980's. The most significant perhaps, seen from a Western perspective that tends to stress Hezbollah's narrow Islamist focus, is its gradual shift away from the call to establish an Islamic state in Lebanon. This call, as well as the allegiance to the Rule of the Jurisprudent (Wilayat al-Faqih), were explicit in the 1985 Open Letter. The new platform renounces the call for an Islamic state in Lebanon, accepts the diversity of Lebanese society, and makes no mention of the Rule of the Jurisprudent. This is of course a welcome development. But there are other aspects in the new platform that are far less praiseworthy, which Traboulsi addresses in his article. -- Assaf Kfoury]

What stands out in the political platform issued by Hezbollah at the conclusion of its recent general congress is how it assesses its own history and development since its founding in the mid 1980's. This document reviews a quarter of a century of multi-faceted experiences and sacrifices. It reflects a multiplicity of alliances and inspirations, if not splintered identities. At one and the same time, Hezbollah aspires to be a "national liberation" movement among other such movements in the world; a "resistance" movement at the regional level, with all the connotations the latter designation evokes among Arabs in relation to the Palestinian struggle; and increasingly a "force of national defense" for Lebanon. In this third designation, Hezbollah dispenses with any lingering doubt regarding its resolve to become a full partner in Lebanon's confessional system, if not its acceptance of the socio-economic conditions underlying such a system.

In its quest to position itself among national liberation movements worldwide, and to contribute to the regional struggle against colonial domination, Hezbollah's new political platform borrows many formulas and ideas elaborated by leftist traditions. Among these is its realization that imperialism's global reach today calls for a global mobilization in response to it. This becomes evident in the platform's insistence on the links between the struggles of Arab peoples and leftist movements in several countries of Latin America.

The platform offers a global view of the imperialist system led by the United States of which Israel is an integral part. It does not ignore the economic basis of imperialist domination, which it identifies as "savage capitalism" -- assuming it does not harbor any illusion that the alternative of "soft capitalism" will be any less cruel. Although its reference to the "military-industrial complex", rather than financial capitalism, is somewhat outdated as the determining factor shaping US policies, the platform rightly designates the latest stage of imperialism as the globalization of monopolies and military alliances. On this understanding, one would expect Hezbollah to reconsider its positions on the struggle between wealth and poverty and between oppressor and oppressed.

Apart from the rush to announce the imminent demise of the unipolar world and the Zionist project's inevitable downfall, Hezbollah's new platform does not include much that can be attributed to Ali Shariati's revolutionary ideas or to "revolutionary Islam", as some may contend. Instead, the platform reproduces some of the Islamic Republic's slogans under Ali Khamene'i, Iran's current supreme leader. These slogans are less about earlier republican values and revolutionary fervor than they are about the Iranian rulers' current need for security and ideological control.

On regional Arab affairs, the new platform abandons most of this earlier agenda [inspired by Ali Shariati's ideas], of which it mentions only the plundering by imperialism of the region's oil resources. Nonetheless, this emphasis on oil is important and cannot be overstated at a time when there is very little public discussion of it and its role in maintaining the region's despotic subservient regimes. These are a few welcome tokens to pry open a widely-ignored topic and raise important issues that have yet to be examined critically.

Turning to issues of resistance and negotiations in relation to the Arab-Israeli conflict, Hezbollah's new platform completely evades the question of a Palestinian state and contents itself with a call for the total liberation of Palestine and the restoration of all Palestinian rights. Hezbollah reiterates its demand to Arab officialdom to desist from pursuing a negotiated settlement with Israel and offers its own experience of armed resistance as an example to follow and learn from.

On internal Lebanese matters, Hezbollah's new platform proclaims its unequivocal adherence to Lebanon's political system. It is reassuring to read this kind of proclamation from those who paid dearly in defense of the country. Equally satisfying is the platform's unambiguous respect of diversity, even though it extends the scope of this diversity to things other than political, cultural and ideological, to include Lebanon's entrenched confessional politics.

Although Hezbollah's new platform asserts that confessionalism is the bane of Lebanon's system of government and the chief obstacle to the realization of true democracy, it shies away from even issuing a call to supersede it. In the press conference on the day following the platform's publication, Hassan Nasrallah [Hezbollah's secretary general] limited himself to a call for the formation of a national council for the elimination of confessionalism, but quickly added that the formation of such a council does not necessarily mean adoption of its eventual directives. In the meantime, Hezbollah proclaims its respect of consociationalism* as reflecting best the spirit of the constitution. Of course, this ignores the fact that, whatever "spirit of the constitution" means, it cannot be a unilateral definition and must be reached by deliberation with other concerned citizens and groups.

Hezbollah's new platform does not stop at the enunciating of general principles of democracy and good governance, but goes on to spell out a specific blueprint for "building the state". On this issue, the platform contributes to a fraudulent consensus, common to all the branches of Lebanon's ruling establishment, by repeating a long inventory of desirable attributes for the future good state -- from the erection of modern institutions and the rule of law, down to the care of emigrants, and listing in between such things as fair parliamentary representation, end of corruption, independence of the judiciary, devolution of government administration, etc. -- as if the absence of such attributes is the root cause of a defective system rather than its effect.

What is said here about "building the state" is like what is said about "eliminating confessionalism". In both cases, they mix and conflate: the hoped for, the impossible, and the premature -- all in the same breath. It is incumbent on Hezbollah, as it is on all its partners in the ruling establishment, to break this riddle: How do they conceive "building the state" within the limits of a consociational/confessional system which they declare, at one and the same time, to be the fundamental obstacle to the realization of true democracy? How can this be done when the system is the chief stumbling block in the face of the aforementioned attributes of the good state [which Hezbollah and its partners in the government do not tire of mentioning]?

Hezbollah's new platform elicits a similar questioning in matters regarding the economy. It enumerates a long list of wishes -- a balanced development between regions, an economy based on productive sectors, improved means of production and distribution, adequate services in education, health care, and housing, the provision of work opportunities, etc. -- as if they are all within reach and without a need for fundamental structural changes. The platform declares Hezbollah's intention to reduce poverty, for example, but how will this be achieved by abiding by the World Bank's neo-liberal policies [readily accepted by successive Lebanese governments] rather than by reducing income disparities between classes? And what plan is there to reduce emigration and provide employment while Lebanon's educational system has been largely privatized, mostly divorced from the country's local needs, and increasingly directed at supplying university graduates to external economies? This long wish list is compiled without due consideration to the enormous national debt and the need to reconsider the decision-making process necessary to promote investments, protect the productive sectors, and undertake an equitable re-distribution of public resources and services.

It is remarkable how far Hezbollah has moved away from its earlier image as the party of the poor in rural areas and neglected urban suburbs, though it was always within the confines of the Shiite community. Does this reflect the sweeping transformations that this community has witnessed in the last quarter of a century? In recent years, Lebanese Shiites have fueled large waves of emigrants, developed a confident middle-class, produced large numbers of university graduates, and accumulated considerable wealth in distant places of immigration. Or does this changed image correspond to the shifting allegiances that other confessional communities in the Lebanese system have also experienced in the past, whereby the bourgeois section in each community tends to throw its weight behind the dominant power within its own community? Hezbollah is now the unchallenged political party among Lebanese Shiites, and more so since the July-August 2006 war.

It is worth noting that, in anticipation of having to resist future pressures to disarm, Hezbollah's new platform calls for maintaining a popular militia (exemplified by Hezbollah's current guerilla force) alongside a national army, with both involved in the country's defense. It is possible to read Hezbollah's refusal to ever recognize Israel as a prior warning that it will not relinquish its arms, in case of a resumption of negotiations between Israel and Syria possibly leading to a peace agreement that will encompass both Lebanon and Syria.

Lastly, concerning Lebanese-Palestinian relations, Hezbollah's new platform does not share the anti-Palestinian racism of its ally, the Free Patriotic Movement led by General Michel Aoun. The platform insists instead on the respect of the Palestinians' civil rights. It does repeat the worn-out "refusal of a permanent settling" (of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon) -- a catchphrase of all the branches of the Lebanese ruling establishment -- but it couples it with the Palestinian right of return.

In a recent campaign to organize car traffic in the Dahiya (Beirut's sprawling southern suburbs where Shiites are the majority), Hezbollah displayed banners that read "order is from faith". Is this kind of order -- serving and controlled by bankers, traders, and contractors -- derived from faith or is it downright impiety?


* Consociationalism (al-tawafuqiyyah or al tawafuqiyyah al-tawa'iffiyyah) is a current Lebanese euphemism for the more traditional but increasingly disparaged "confessionalism."

Fawwaz Traboulsi has written on history, Arab politics, social movements and popular culture and translated works by Karl Marx, John Reed, Antonio Gramsci, Isaac Deutscher, John Berger, Etel Adnan, Sa`di Yusuf and Edward Said. His most recent book in English is A History of Modern Lebanon (Pluto Press, 2007). The translator, Assaf Kfoury, is Professor of Computer Science at Boston University.

It's only human to rage at Israeli crimes

Taken from the Daily Star here

The upcoming trip by an Israeli-Arab member of the Knesset to Auschwitz is the latest chapter in the saga of seeing accusations of anti-Semitism used to smear the Arab and Muslim world. Mohammad Barakeh of the influential party Hadash will make the trek as part of an Israeli parliamentary delegation, which has predictably angered hardline Zionists who reject the idea of an Arab being allowed to participate in an official ceremony at a place with such symbolic meaning for Jews.

When the issue of the Holocaust arises in Arab and Muslim countries, there’s a pretty good chance that misunderstanding will follow. Defenders of Zionism are always quick to point to Palestinian-German contacts during World War II, even though the record shows that the contacts, such as they were, had a miniscule impact of the scheme of things, and were outweighed by the contacts between Zionists and Nazis. Back then, both Palestinians and Zionists had the same enemy – the British Mandate – and were willing to work with anyone to achieve their political goals.

If we leave aside the minority of active Holocaust deniers, we can say Arabs and Muslims view the massacres of Jews with revulsion and horror. But let’s not forget the real world: the organized annihilation of a religious group in Europe has been clouded by the fact that the Jewish victims of a European crime committed in Europe were “rewarded” with a state in a land where this genocide didn’t take place, and at the expense of people who had nothing to do with it.

There’s nothing wrong with actions by Barakeh and others who commemorate the tragedy of the Holocaust. Naturally, they’re criticized in their own communities, for political reasons: why help the Israelis and Jews with such an issue when Palestinians and Arabs are being displaced and oppressed on a daily basis by the Israeli state?

This invariably leads to the difficult-to-handle idea, for some, that there is a difference between Jews, on the one hand, and Zionism and Israel on the other.

In fact, it’s perfectly logical to condemn the Holocaust and anti-Semitism, while relentlessly criticizing the policies of the Israeli state.

Israeli leaders themselves are to blame for the growing difficultly to make the distinction. They occupy land and bomb people, under the aegis of the Star of David. They insist on the Jewishness of the Israeli state. They complain about anti-Semitism being on the rise, but forget salient facts.

The Jews of the 1930s were victims. The Israelis of this decade alone have launched wars against the Palestinian Authority (2002, 2004), Lebanon (2006) and Gaza (2008). And they’re popularly (and incorrectly) seen as being complicit in the 2003 war against Iraq.

People who are angered by this track record aren’t anti-Semites. They’re just reading the news.