Saturday, February 17, 2018

A Plea for Ahed Tamimi’s Protection

The Irish artist Jim Fitzpatrick of Che Guevara black and red portrait fame has done it again: He has painted a minimalist poster of another iconic leader of her people and of a worldwide liberation movement, this time of an oppressed child who had slapped power with her bare  truth. When I read his rationale for painting the new portrait I cried. The man’s pacifism, sincerity, and especially his concern for Ahed Tamimi’s life touched me.

Like Jim Fitzpatrick, I am apprehensive about Ahed’s life. No one really denies the real reason for incarcerating her: to teach a lesson to other Palestinians, especially the children among them. Fitzpatrick is taking the essence of the lesson, regardless in which direction it will be resolved, to its ultimate conclusion. He is saying this is a model for every native and underclass oppressed child in the world. And he knows how meaningful and dangerous that can be:
“Ahed Tamimi, to me, signifies nobility in the face of oppression. This is a kid, a child,” said Fitzpatrick. “When I was 15, I think I would have been petrified. Wherever she’s getting her courage from, there’s a resonance of it echoing across the world. I’m just a part of it. There are organizations doing more than I could do, but I do think the pen—in my case, the brush—is mightier than the sword.”

Remember, Che Guevara didn’t live to celebrate his portrait. Ahed’s arrest was in direct and clear response to the Israeli public outrage at seeing the iconic Palestinian teenager giving physical expression to her anger with occupation and the occupiers. They had shot at close range and severely injured her cousin and friend, Mohammed Tamimi, and then had come to physically stress their frightening infringement of the rights and freedom of all Palestinians right there at her family’s front yard. She gave expression to her loathing of the occupation by attacking the soldiers with her bare hands.

What moves me most is the realization that right there and then, but for the grace of God, we could have lost Ahed. Members of the Israeli occupying armed forces have killed Palestinian children younger than Ahed for lesser offences or for no offense at all. Tens, hundreds, if not thousands of times. It is not unknown, even in living memory, for settler colonialists, say in Australia, to have organized native-hunting parties for the fun of it. And Palestinian lives are cheap, we all know. Remember Mohammed Abu Khdeir and the Dawabsheh family? That is why I want to give kudos to those two soldiers who resisted the temptation to put their deadly weapons to use against Ahed and her mother and cousin. Their death would have hardly registered a bleb on the rising statistical curve of the occupation’s Palestinian victims. But then those soldiers shouldn’t have been there in the first place. Kudos are reserved for the scores of young Israeli conscientious objectors who resist serving the occupation. There are those in Israel, you know!

What makes my heart sink is the fear of Israel’s lynch mobs: The same crowd that had successfully agitated for her lockup and compelled their occupation army and the entire governmental system behind it to invade the Tamimi’s peaceful home in the dark of night to snatch Ahed and her mother from their bed will be driven crazy by the inspiring image Fitzpatrick has artfully drawn and made available for all to download freely. Israeli crowds had lynched presumed enemies before. That is what scares me about the world class image my fellow pacifist artist has just released. The same fascist agitators who demanded Ahed’s arrest may not shy away from staging a lynch. Perhaps her military judge has a point in claiming that he is banning the media from his military court for Ahed’s sake. Stretch that just a little and you can imagine him justifying her imprisonment for life for her own safety.

“This girl is memorable, her face is memorable, she seems a courageous, dignified girl—she captured my imagination. And I think she’s capturing the imagination of the world. She symbolizes resistance.”
How fully I agree with you, my friend! You dub her “the real Wonder Woman.” She is a symbol of a wonder generation or even wonder generations. You remember all those improbable images from the First Intifada, the image of the child, stone in hand, facing a tank its tracks twice his height and its gun turret four times that. And the children held in place by soldiers while other soldiers swung bricks at their arms to break their bones on orders of their high commander. And the Tamimi boy, Ahed’s brother with one arm in a cast being freed from a soldier’s stranglehold “tooth and nail” by his mother and sister. Then again, the same boy demonstrating with the second arm in a cast. That was enough to make one of the sanest politicians in Israel go crazy, why wouldn’t the daring of his sister whip up the masses into a frenzy demanding her blond head? No wonder you want the whole world focusing its attention on Ahed as a protective measure. This is the microcosm rendition of the oft repeated human rights axiom that, across the globe, one’s stand on Palestine is the true measure of their humanity. Indeed, sumoud—steadfastness—and their instinctive holding onto their homes, land and olives, renders the Palestinians a wonder nation.

That is a worthy note to end on. But please, everyone, keep our Ahed Tamimi in your thoughts and keep her and all the hundreds of imprisoned Palestinian children at the focus of your actions till Israel comes to its senses.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Jonathan Cook’s Sleight of Hand--Satire

Jonathan Cook is a thorough journalist and a friend of mine. At least till this morning, he was. Unfortunately, reading his Aljazeera piece today I am forced to admit to my former friend’s major professional failing. In this report he falls short of my expectations from him; he fails two basic criteria of trustworthy journalism, impartiality and accuracy. I hereby apologize on his behalf on the condition that he recants on the first occasion I contact him in person.

Cook’s unworthy intentions, and perhaps those of the entire Aljazeera system, are obvious from the analysis of the opening two paragraphs of the report:

“For the first time in its history, an interrogator from Israel’s secret police agency, the Shin Bet, is to face a criminal investigation over allegations of torture.”
You would expect a serious commentator of a major news network in the emerging Middle East that we and our Saudi and Gulf Emirates partners are busy molding in hope of bringing full peace to Yemen, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and perhaps Iran as well, to show a modicum of friendship and respect. In the very first phrase, Cook misses his chance to show his neutrality and states dryly in referring to our Shin Bet: “For the first time in its history …” No respectful qualifier such as ‘glorious’ or ‘model’ or the like to show deference to the system’s truly impressive achievements that come through despite the author’s prejudices.
Cook continues with his biased reporting by casting doubt, by implication and through the use of quotation marks, on our Supreme Court’s wording:
“It will be the first probe of the Shin Bet since Israel’s supreme court issued a landmark ruling nearly two decades ago prohibiting, except in extraordinary circumstances, the use of what it termed “special methods” of interrogation.”
Throughout his piece, he continues using the antagonistic and accusatory term of ‘torture’ instead of the correct and respectful use of the proper term of ‘special methods’ that our Supreme Court of Justice uses.  He finds solace in quoting representatives of leftist anti-Semitic terror advocates who hide behind the facade of so-called human rights organizations such as Adalah, Physicians for Human Rights and the Committee Against Torture in Israel. Such resources are happy to level against us, the only democracy in the Middle East, the most damaging accusations. They repeatedly make groundless claims attempting to distinguish between a ticking bomb, the accepted rationale for allowing special methods, and the average Palestinian, even terrorists of near adult age. The same total lack of impartiality continues throughout the entire journalistic charade.
Inaccuracy is an even greater shortcoming of Cook’s piece: He reports that:

“Israeli military courts almost never examine how [accused Palestinians’] confessions were obtained or whether they are reliable, say lawyers, contributing to a 99.7 percent conviction rate.”

That is ‘where the dog is buried’ as our Hebrew axiom goes. My resources give the more accurate rate of 99.8 percent. For the casual reader, and when first glanced, the difference may appear small, a matter of one-in-a-thousand difference. But when you consider the issue in depth, you start to register its greater significance. To my mind, science achieves its greatest accomplishments at its two extremes, the macro and the micro levels of research and analysis, witness, if you will, the magic of subatomic physics at one end and the thrill of space science and exploration at the other. Bear with me please while I enlighten you with the way I see this sleight of hand in Cook’s reporting: When we are attentive to precision, the drop from three to two amounts to 33.3 percent, a most significant change.

Look at the figures from my perspective. After all, facts are facts and two in a thousand is our factual starting figure before Cook got his hands on it. To pump the level of failure of Israeli airtight administering of justice to the Palestinians by the combined input of the mighty and most moral army in the world and the justice ministry of the only democracy in the Middle East, to pump that up from two to three in one fell swoop is statistically to inflate the figure by a whole 50 percent and not 33.3 only. RIDICULOUS!

Wait! I am not done with you, Mr. Cook! Let us all take an analytical look at the following paragraph you write about Mivtan, the “watchdog body in the justice ministry”:

“But following criticism in 2013 from a state inquiry, the Turkel Commission, Mivtan was transferred [from the Police Department] to the justice ministry. Last year it recruited a second investigator, who reportedly speaks Arabic.”

Need I tell you what analysis we should apply here? That one added staff member is a whole one-hundred percent increase. How often have you seen departments charged with internal watchdog duties against their own bosses double their entire staff in the space of one year? Also, the fact that the added staff member speaks Arabic (please, notice the sly ‘reportedly’ qualifier insinuating unreliability or even the intentional misinforming if not outright lying by the whole system, the IDF, the Police Department and the Justice Ministry included) is of major importance. Considering the abundance of speakers of that language among terrorists under interrogation, and the fact that Arabic language courses at Israeli high schools and universities where he or she would have studied their Arabic are designed by the Shin Bet itself with such interrogations in mind, the choice of an Arabic speaking interrogator is a master’s stroke. The addition of such a bilingual investigator is, to all practical purposes, the equivalent of two added positions, an investigator and a translator. We are speaking of tripling of the staff of this major department, a full 200% increase. In the interest of accuracy and in the best precise traditions of accounting, we should look at all the support staff positions from doormen to janitors, cooks and the like, and add a 10-20% of a staff position to this department. That adds up to a total of 215% gain in staffing in one single year. And if those general support staff are Arabic-speaking Jews, as their lowly positions might actually guarantee, then we are speaking of 230% hike.

I can go on and on. But I intend to maintain some form of a relationship with Cook, for who would speak out for me when my turn comes?!

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Happy Birthday, Ahed Tamimi: Help me tell Israel's fortune.

I am not a political analyst nor a fortuneteller. Nevertheless, I want to register a prediction so that in due time I can fall back on this divination and shake a prophetic finger with an I-told-you-so gloat. More likely it will be a he-told-you-so reminder by someone else.
My forecast is based on the fact that Haaretz has allowed an advertisement on its website in support of the international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. The ad is sponsored by six of the civil society organizations in the USA whose activist leaders have been banned from entering Israel. I think that this is significant as a milestone event, a defining moment. To me it marks the tipping point, the beginning of the swing of the pendulum away from mounting fascism and toward a less racist Israeli public opinion. It is the start of Israel’s return to sanity, slow and decades-long as it is likely to be.
The ad is succinct and strikingly clear: It sums up concisely the three demands, all fully rooted in international human rights law, that the representatives of the Palestinian civic society asked the international community in 2005, and never stopped asking since, to press Israel to fulfill: “Until Israel ends its occupation of Palestinian land And recognizes the full and equal rights of Palestinian citizens And respects the right of return for Palestinian refugees.” This is followed by the insignia “Boycott” in big letters screaming at the reader like a biblical curse. It is followed by a schematic rendition of the Apartheid Wall with a military watchtower at its center. It ends by identifying the sponsors.
Haaretz is a formidable, solid Zionist institution that has survived since the days of the Balfour Declaration. It is the oldest newspaper that has been continuously published in Israel. In internal politics, it has maintained neutrality in terms of party politics while keeping a strategically-centered position at the heart of the liberal Zionist left. Perhaps because of financial considerations, its management seemed to want to please everyone among its clientele. In line with such a strategy it managed to leave its editorial gate wide open to rightist militants and fundamentalists. In a balancing gesture, it even continued to accommodate the likes of Gideon Levy and Amira Hass in their antizionist views. But its news-reporting and range of coverage never seemed to stray far from the Israeli mainstream media. With the noted few exceptions its editorial policies as well fed into the overall accepted Zionist dogma of Israel’s exceptionality and its veneration of the holy cows of security and Western culture. Pssst, New York Times! Your turn is next.
Several years ago, I had a short flirtation with the head of the English edition of Haaretz about the possibility of contributing an occasional op-ed of my own. The conversation lasted very briefly. He expressed his readiness to give my voice a chance to be heard from the pages of his paper. But, quickly I concluded that the editor was interested in having my voice be heard but only as I spoke his truth, not mine. I ceased and desisted. After that, every once in a while I would catch myself smiling wryly as I read the writing of the new Arab commentator that was added at the time.
I hope my prediction is not all wishful thinking. Strange as it sounds, on occasion, when in a self-congratulatory mode, I find myself puffing my chest and declaring to fellow Palestinian citizens of Israel that it is our fate and God-assigned duty to save Israel from itself. We are familiar with each other enough to get along if forced to do it. When all of the required struggle for a single, secular and democratic state is behind us, we should credit Haaretz with aiding and abetting us by permitting this landmark advertisement.
And Ahed Tamimi deserves our thanks as well for spanking the occupation out of her front yard and out of the way of the coming peace. Happy Birthday, Ahed. Will you, please, remind everyone of my hopeful prediction.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Naked Justice