Tag Archives: israel

Israeli mercenary firm proposes “violent action” against African refugees

The Israeli daily Maariv recently reported [in Hebrew] that BTS, a mercenary firm run by a former Israeli army colonel and veteran bodyguard, Beni Tal, proposed to Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai a plan to violently expel thousands of African migrant workers and refugees living near Tel Aviv’s central bus station.

According to Maariv, Tal told Tel Aviv municipal representatives he would gather intelligence on the African migrant population before sending in hundreds of security guards to cuff them and ship them away on buses or trucks. “This should be a very violent action,” Tal said.

“I have never seen a place so violent, not even in the roughest parts of New York,” Tal remarked. “So we need to bring in guys who are not afraid of anything, put people on trucks, and within six months return the bus station to its residents… This population [Africans] is very problematic.”

Though the Tel Aviv municipality ultimately rejected Tal’s proposal, Maariv reported that a municipal official brought the plan up in a meeting of the Israeli Knesset’s Special Committee regarding Foreign Workers. The representative claimed he raised Tal’s proposal merely to highlight the supposed severity of the situation in southern Tel Aviv.

I have spent countless hours in Tel Aviv’s central bus station and in the surrounding Neve Shaanan neighborhood, where much of the city’s migrant worker population lives. The only people who have ever threatened me there were plainclothes agents from Israel’s Oz Unit, which routinely accosts and arrests migrants around the bus station, and who once stopped me by the bus station to demand proof I was in the country legally.

The neighborhood may be impoverished and overcrowded, but it is hardly dangerous by urban American standards. When a Maariv reporter confronted Tal with the fact that crime in Neve Shaanan was no higher than anywhere else in the city, he protested that the statistics were false, but was unable to produce evidence to support his point.

Some migrants from Africa have arrived in Israel to occupy the menial jobs that Palestinians performed before they were tucked behind a separation wall and Gaza was completely besieged. They are the glue that holds Tel Aviv together, washing dishes, cooking food, cleaning bathrooms, and changing children’s diapers so the city’s Jewish residents can enjoy the First World, Eurocentric lifestyle they have come to expect. Others arrived from Africa fleeing war and civil strife. By some estimates, 60 percent of Sudanese migrants are eligible for asylum status.

David Sheen’s devastating video documentary [above] illustrates how Israel’s draconian approach to African refugees is rooted in deeply ingrained racist attitudes and an official policy of countering demographic threats. Sheen’s report highlights how security concerns were manufactured to establish a pretext for enforcing the state’s exclusivist priorities against those condemned as “infiltrators.”

The recently passed “Prevention of Infiltration Bill,” which mandates a three year prison sentence without trial for illegal migrants, was nothing more than an amendment to the pre-existing 1954 “Prevention of Infiltration Law” enacted after the Nakba to prevent Palestinian refugees from reuniting with their family members inside the newly created state of Israel. As Israeli human rights activist Leehee Rothschild wrote, “At the end of the day, the justification for both the 1954 Prevention of Infiltration Law as well was the new amendment is one and the same – the maintenance of the Jewish character of the State of Israel.”

Last month, Israel began construction on what will be the world’s largest detention center. Labeled by none other than Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin as a “concentration camp where people are warehoused,” the prison will sit in the Negev Desert on the grounds of what was once Ketziot Prison, a detention camp for Palestinian detainees staffed by the Atlantic Magazine’s Jeffrey Goldberg. The new super-jail is being erected for the sole purpose of containing migrants and asylum seeking refugees fleeing from Africa.

Describing the desert prison as a “humanitarian solution,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu justified its construction on the grounds that African refugees threaten to “change[] the character of the state.”

This was originally published at Al Akhbar English

The arms sale that inspired Grass’s “What Must Be Said” (and a footnote on Deir Yassin)

The publication of German Nobel Prize Laureate Gunter Grass’s poem, “Was gesagt werden muss” (What Must Be Said), has triggered a predictable avalanche of outrage, from Benjamin Netanyahu’s vitriolic condemnation of the poem to accusations by the Israeli Embassy to Germany and former Israeli prison guard Jeffrey Goldberg (the two are virtually indistinguishable these days) that Grass is guilty of a “blood libel.” Last weekend, the campaign against  Grass reached its crescendo when Israeli Interior Minister Eli Yishai designated him “persona non grata,” thus ranking the octogenarian scribe right behind Arab babies as one of the greatest existential threats to the Jewish state.

Grass’s service at age 17 in the Nazi regime’s Waffen SS has provided an easy line of attack for those seeking to dull the impact of his poem. New York Times Jerusalem Bureau Chief Ethan Bronner quoted Israeli columnist Anshel Pfeffer’s claim that Grass’s service in the Nazi regime’s Waffen SS “disqualified him from criticizing the descendants of those Jews for developing a weapon of last resort that is the insurance policy against someone finishing the job his organization began.” Pfeffer, by the way, is the same writer who boldly declared almost a year ago that “Israel must stop overplaying the Holocaust card.”

Like the rest of Grass’s assailants, Pfeffer omitted the fact that Grass was forcibly conscripted into the German military in 1944 (just as Pfeffer was drafted into the IDF, an occupying army to which Bronner’s son volunteered), serving as a Panzer tank gunner during the last stages of the war. Grass may be no more of a Nazi than Pope Benedict XVI, who was conscripted against his will into the Hitler Youth, but when have Zionists ever let historical nuance get in the way of a campaign to muzzle critics of Israeli policy?

Like Jimmy Carter and Desmond Tutu before him, Grass stands to suffer serious damage to his legacy for daring to say what must be said. But his poem will endure simply because he has opened up a debate of unprecedented scale on the perverse special relationship between Germany and Israel. Grass wrote:

my own country,

guilty of primal and unequalled crimes,

for which time and again it must be tasked —

once again in pure commerce,

though with quick lips we declare it

reparations, wants to send

Israel another submarine —

one whose specialty is to deliver

warheads capable of ending all life

where the existence of even one

nuclear weapon remains unproven…

Here Grass referred to Germany’s sale of a Dolphin class submarine to Israel at a deep discount subsidized by German taxpayers. As I wrote at Al Akhbar English, Israel requested that Germany widen the torpedo tubes of its submarines to accomodate the launching of tactical nuclear missiles at Iran’s nuclear facilities. So Grass was essentially correct: German citizens were corralled into providing Israel with a mobile delivery platform for its massive nuclear weapons arsenal, which it maintains without any international supervision. And they were compelled to do so out of Holocaust guilt — as Reuters’ Israel correspondent Dan Williams wrote, “as part of Berlin’s commitment to shoring up a Jewish state founded in the wake of the Holocaust.”

If Grass got anything wrong, it was the difference between tactical nuclear missiles, which are designed to deliver a massive blow to a concentrated area, and the kind of nuclear bombs that killed hundreds of thousands in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Tactical nuclear weapons may not be “capable of ending all life,” as Grass wrote, but they would represent the first deployment of nuclear missiles since World War II. On the other hand, as the Center for Strategic and International Studies noted in a study on the consequences of an Israeli strike on Iran, “Any strike on [Iran’s] Bushehr Nuclear Reactor will cause the immediate death of thousands of people living in or adjacent to the site, and thousands of subsequent cancer deaths or even up to hundreds of thousands depending on the population density along the contamination plume.”

—————–

Today is the 64th anniversary of the massacre carried out in Deir Yassin by the Stern Gang/Irgun militias led by future Israeli Prime Ministers Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Shamir. Since a theme of this post is Zionist exploitation of the Jewish genocide in Europe, here is a little known fact: According to Shimon Tzabar, a journalist, artist, and leading figure in the anti-Zionist Israeli group Matzpen, the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Aharanoth claimed Nazi troops were present in the Palestinian village at the time. “In Deir-Yassin there were soldiers of regular foreign armies, including Nazis with swastika emblems,” Yedioth Aharanoth reporter Eliahu Amikam wrote in August 1960. “Among the corpses there were Iraqis, Syrians and Yugoslavs lying in their military uniform. Swastika ribbons were torn off their sleeves.”

This was originally published at Al Akhbar English.

After sabotaging Beinart talk, East Bay Jewish Federation leader vows to kill Muslims (updated/corrected)

Update/correction: I received the following note today from Peter Beinart explaining why his East Bay appearance was cancelled: “[The East Bay JCC] pulled out because a JVP person was moderator and then when there were no sponsors who were Zionist and anti-full BDS, I pulled out. I did that sadly–cause I agree with JVP on the awfulness of the occupation–but given my strong opposition to BDS targeting all of Israel, it didn’t make sense for me to speak to a forum in which there was not one anti-BDS organization sponsoring.”

Last week, when Peter Beinart embarked on a tour to promote his new book, “The Crisis of Zionism,” leading pro-Israel figures initiated an assault that was as hysterical as it was predictable. The campaign scored its first victory on March 23, when Bay Area pro-Israel groups including the Jewish Federation of the East Bay successfully pressured the East Bay Jewish Community Federation (the same group that helped block a Gaza children’s art exhibition last year) to withdraw its sponsorship of East Bay Jewish Community Center to cancel Beinart’s scheduled appearance. The pressure began when Jonathan Wornick, a Jewish Federation board member, took to Facebook to urge his friends in the local pro-Israel community to call for pulling out the cancellation of Beinart’s talk. “Write or call the East Bay JCC and tell them to REMOVE THEIR SPONSORSHIP of this event,” Wornick demanded.

After trashing Beinart and the sponsors of his talk, Wornick opened a Facebook thread mocking the family of Trayvon Martin, the black teenager killed by a neighborhood vigilante for no apparent reason other than being black. At the end of the thread, Wornick offered a list of hypothetical situations that would provoke him to shoot someone to death. He added: “and of course i’d shoot anyone anywhere if they were yelling allahu akbar! [sic]”

Below is Wornick’s call to ban Beinart:

Beinart-Wornick1

After extended ranting about Beinart, Wornick linked to an article reporting the vigilante-killer George Zimmerman’s claim that his teen victim punched him. “So now that the facts have come out…are you proud of yourselves for jumping to conclusions?” Wornick railed.

WornickFBTrayvon

Several screeds later, Wornick descended into murderous fantasies:

WornickFBTrayvon3

Wornick seems to have a penchant for extreme tirades. In March 2011, he published the following rant on his Facebook page:

“When will it end? Kill or be killed? Radical Islam, or, maybe all Islam is the problem. It’s a backward, misogynistic, hateful, anti-democratic, ant-semetic, and corrupt. We need to expose this to the western world and get people to realize that NOT ALL CULTURES ARE EQUAL. Islam, if allowed will spread and destroy all Western values. In order to stop films like this we need to stop the spread of Islam. Period.”

Though Wornick’s Islamophobic screed was publicly exposed, the East Bay Jewish Federation took no action against him. There is no reason to believe they will do anything this time, either. Thus important pillars of the Jewish establishment continue to confirm Beinart’s trenchant critique of them.

By the way, I have substantial criticisms of Beinart’s book which I will make known in the days ahead and in a review for the Journal of Palestine Studies. Mark Levine seems to share my opinions. Read his excellent review at Al Jazeera English.

This was cross-posted at Al Akhbar English.

France’s #Toulouse killings and the Salafist-Far Right alliance

Members of Forsanne Alizza join Catholic rightists in protest against a supposedly "Christianophobic" theatrical production

Members of Forsanne Alizza join Catholic rightists in protest against a supposedly "Christianophobic" theatrical production

As I write this, the standoff continues in Toulouse, France between French police and Mohammed Merah, the alleged murderer of several Muslim French soldiers and Jews. One of the most salient facts about the killer, a professed Islamic radical seeking to avenge various indignities committed against Muslims by the West, is that he was a member of an outlawed French Salafist group called Forsanne Alizza, or the Knights of Pride. The group, which has expressed sympathy for Al Qaida’s cause, was banned in January after its leadership was accused of training members “for armed combat.”

Now that the Toulouse killer has been unmasked as a radical Muslim, and not a white Christian Islamophobe like Anders Behring Breivik, the French extreme right can breathe a sigh of relief. Marine Le Pen, the far-right National Front leader vying for the French presidency, is apparently seeking to ride the tragedy all the way to victory. Today, she declared, “The Islamic fundamentalist threat has been underestimated in our country and political-religious groups are developing due to a certain laxism.”

But a glance into the recent activities of Forsanne Alizza exposes the irony of Le Pen’s words. Indeed, Forsanne Alizza has been engaged in an open alliance with neofascist figures and extreme right-wing Catholic groups who emerged from the core of Le Pen’s National Front party and who comprise some of her most loyal supporters.

The de facto Salafist-neofascist alliance was forged in October 2011 when two right-wing Catholic groups, Action Francaise (French Action) and Renouveau Francais (French Renewal) staged  a morality crusade against a performance in Paris of Romeo Castallucci’s play, “On the Concept of the Face of God.” At first, the rightists tried to halt the performance of the play on the anti-religious discrimination grounds. Their grievances focused on a scene of a son cleaning his father’s feces off the floor while images of Jesus Christ flashed on a projection screen. After failing to stop the play, the groups organized a 10-day protest vigil outside Theatre de la Ville, attempting to stop ticket holders from entering through various means of intimidation. Before one performance, seven far-right activists were arrested while attempting to enter the theater with concealed knives, teargas, and stones.

In footage below, Catholic right activists chant “France, Youth, Christianity,” during a October 29, 2011 demonstration against “Christianophobia” outside Theatre de la Ville:

Among the demonstrators at the Theatre de la Ville was Xavier Beauvais, a schismatic ultra-conservative Catholic priest with pronounced anti-Semitic tendencies. As the blog Culture Bot noted, Beauvais has lionized Leon Degrelle, a Belgian extremist who joined the Nazi SS during World War II then led various neo-Nazi outfits in the decades after. Filling out the protest ranks were members of Renouveau Francais, a far-right group that endorsed Marine Le Pen for President in 2007, and which earned an important show of support from Bruno Gollnisch for its campaign against Castalluci’s play.

Marine Le Pen and Holocaust revisionist Bruno Gollnisch

Marine Le Pen and Holocaust revisionist Bruno Gollnisch

Who is Gollnisch? He was the closest ally of Marine Le Pen’s father, Jean Marie, and unsuccessfully challenged Le Pen fille for the National Front’s leadership position in 2011. Gollnisch is also a Holocaust revisionist who was placed on probation and slapped with a hefty fine by a Lyon court for denying the existence of gas chambers at Auschwitz, among other specious claims. Gollnisch has been a regular speaker at conferences of American Renaissance, an American white nationalist group that brings an assortment of extreme racialist figures from Jared Taylor to Sam Dickson to Philip Rushton together each year to promote biological determinist theories about the genetic superiority of Anglo-Saxon whites (read my report from the 2006 gathering of AmRen here).

Another key supporter of Renouveau Francais’ crusade against Castalluci’s play was Alexandre Gabriac. Gabriac served as a central committee member and regional councilor in Le Pen’s National Front until photos emerged showing him delivering a Nazi sieg heil salute, prompting Le Pen to expel him from the party. Despite calls from National Front cadres to forgive Gabriac, Le Pen was in the process of an intensive image makeover designed to increase her appeal among Jewish voters inclined towards National Front’s anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant positions. Since embarking on her campaign for the presidency, Le Pen has taken a stridently pro-Israel line, earning her a 20-minute meeting last November with Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Ron Prosor. She was not going to let a mid-level Nazi sympathizer stand in the way of her ambitions.

Le Pen scored a meeting with Israeli UN Ambassador Ron Prosor

Le Pen scored a meeting with Israeli UN Ambassador Ron Prosor

Gabriac was present along with 300 Catholic rightists at the October 29 protest at Theatre de la Ville. There and during a march earlier that day in Paris, the right-wing Catholics were joined by members of the Salafist splinter group Forsanne Alizza. According to the French blog, Poisson Rouge, Forsanne Alizza issued a press release on its website calling for members to protest with the Catholic fundamentalists. And so Forsanne Alizza activists marched side-by-side with members of Renouveau Francais and Action Francaise, echoed their chants, and expressed solidarity against “Christianophobia.”

At 1:03 in the video below, a Forzanne Alizza leader explains (in French — translation coming soon) why his group joined the protests against Castalluci’s play:

Though Le Pen will spend the coming weeks holding forth about the supposed failure of the French government to crush Forzanne Alizza, there was a time when some of her most committed political-religious partisans united with the group that allegedly helped inspire the Toulouse killer in a crusade against the thing they hated more than anything else — more than Islam and even mass immigration. That thing was liberalism itself.

This was cross posted at Al Akhbar English

#GazaUnderAttack on Citizen Radio

Israeli Channel 10 military anchor Alon Ben David stands beside a graphic reading, "Death toll: Gaza, 25; Israel, 0" (via Ami Kaufman at 972mag.com)

Israeli Channel 10 military anchor Alon Ben David stands beside a graphic reading, "Death toll: Gaza, 25; Israel, 0" (via Ami Kaufman at 972mag.com)

I discussed Israel’s real motives for its recent attacks on the Gaza Strip and talked about my reporting on Israel-Palestine with Citizen Radio hosts Allison Kilkenny and Jamie Kilstein.

Citizen Radio happens to be one of the most refreshing and authentically progressive radio shows I’ve listened to. Kilkenny and Kilstein deserve enormous credit for bringing the issue of Gaza to their listeners.

Listen to my interview here.