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Beast of the Month - September 2006
Amir Peretz, Israeli Defense Minister
"I yam an anti-Christ..."
John Lydon (aka Johnny Rotten) of The Sex Pistols, "Anarchy in the UK"
On July 28, 2006, Mel Gibson was arrested for drunk driving in Malibu. While in an intoxicated state, he went into an anti-Semitic tirade in front of one of the deputies, who was Jewish: "Fucking Jews... The Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world." (Cleverly, when he noticed a female sergeant, he asked, "What do you think you're looking at, sugar tits?")
The Konformist won't spend too much energy defending Mr. Gibson here. After all, that's the job of his buddy Sean Hannity. (Honestly, does anyone believe that Hannity - or either David Horowitz or Dennis Prager, for that matter - would have defended, say, Michael Moore if he unleashed an anti-Semitic rant during a drunk-driving arrest? No disrespect to Mr. Moore in this theoretical example, as he has no history of either Jew-hatred or alcoholism - though he may one day be charged with getting pushy at a HomeTown Buffet line.) And, to his credit, Mel won't even defend himself, declaring his comments "despicable" in a public apology. (Of course, he has yet apologize for this 2004 quote from Reader's Digest about the Nazi Holocaust, which seems to minimize the horrors of the infamous genocide: "Atrocities happened. War is horrible. The Second World War killed tens of millions of people. Some of them were Jews in concentration camps. Many people lost their lives.")
Still, folks, a little bit of perspective here. What a former mullet-haired buddy-cop action star turned kinky S&M gay-porn snuff film posing as a Passion play director says one night while blasted in Malibu really doesn't have much intellectual weight to it, as no doubt Gibson would admit. Compare that to these: "It is virtually impossible to distinguish the Hezbollah dead from the truly civilian dead, just as it is virtually impossible to distinguish the Hezbollah living from the civilian living, especially in the south. The 'civilian' death figures reported by Lebanese authorities include large numbers of Hezbollah fighters, collaborators, facilitators and active supporters. They also include civilians who were warned to leave, but chose to remain, sometimes with their children, to serve as human shields. The deaths of these 'civilians' are the responsibility of Hezbollah and the Lebanese government, which has done very little to protect its civilians... We must stop viewing Lebanon as a victim and begin to see it as a collaborator with terrorism."
These are the words of Alan Dershowitz, the Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law at Harvard, last month on August 7, presumably when he wasn't drunk. This apologist tract was in regards to the little issue of civilian casualties caused by Israel's cute little war waged recently against Lebanon. Previously, Dershowitz, who until 9-11 was best known for representing high-profile figures such as Claus von Bulow, Leona Helmsley, Mike Tyson and O.J. Simpson, argued that in the name of fighting terrorism, torture by the US government should be allowed via so-called "torture warrants" approved by a court. So, thanks to him, Ann Coulter, Michelle Malkin and Daniel Pipes can all now advocate legalizing torture and cite that even far-left liberal Alan Dershowitz agrees. (Unsurprisingly, in his days of defending celebrities and civil liberties, he was a constant punch-line for criticism and parody in the US media, both of which have disappeared as he instead defends torture and mass murder.) Perhaps there is another explanation for the Dershowitz flip-flops on basic human rights, but the belief that he is an Israeli chauvinist who harbors racist contempt for people of other Middle East nations sure does explain it pretty succinctly.
That said, The Konformist will spend even less time bashing Dershowitz than we did Mad Max. After all, our editorial staff still remembers fondly Al's monthly column on legal matters in Penthouse, and you have to give him credit for having someone as sexy and intelligent as Natalie Portman for a research assistant during her college years. Besides, Dershowitz is merely a small pawn in a much bigger machine. (Still, if you want to read a good debunking of Alan's recent work, we highly recommend the writings of Norman Finkelstein, most notably his book Beyond Chutzpah.)
A little bit of history: the last time The Konformist Beast of the Month profiled an Israeli leader, it was November 2000 for Ariel Sharon. In the nearly six years since then, we have done profiles on such fine folks as Osama bin Laden, the Hussein brothers, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. So needless to say, two profiles in nearly ten years of BOTM history doesn't appear to make Israel-bashing a particular Konformist obsession, nor is it a one-sided affair. (And, incidentally, lots of our friends are Jewish.)
And, for whatever the problems with the Israeli state, it must be given due credit for often promoting in the Middle East the best of Western values, particularly in having a legitimate democracy (something clearly lacking in the USA.) Unfortunately, it has also too often promoted the worst of all human values, namely genocide.
According to Wikiquote, Golda Meir is claimed to have once said to Anwar Sadat, "We can forgive you for killing our sons, but we will never forgive you for making us kill yours." Somehow this perfectly represents the self-righteous indignation and whining of victimhood the leaders of Israel have regularly exhibited even while committing mass murder. And yes, there is indeed a major genocidal component to these war crimes. Here are some quotes cited in a recent article from Rense.com: Dan Gillerman, Israeli representative at UN, recently referred to Hezbollah as "ruthless, indiscriminate animals," former Israel chief of staff Rafael Eitan once compared Palestinians to "drugged cockroaches," Menahem Begin (who later won a Nobel peace prize) described the Palestinians as "two-legged beasts," and David Hacohen, one-time Israeli ambassador to Burma, in response to one of his vicious anti-Arab rants, replied, "But they are not human beings, they are not people, they are Arabs!" These statements, which put even Alan Dershowitz and a drunk Mel Gibson to shame, are inexcusable and represent a truly ugly element within the Israeli establishment.
These sentiments go beyond Israeli leaders and Alan Dershowitz. During the 2004 Passion of the Christ hysteria, nearly all Jewish-American leaders were reading into the Gibson flick for any supposed hint of anti-Semitism even before it had been released (and whatever the psychological faults of Mel, the film was a lot more complex than its critics have smeared it as.) Yet in 2000, Rules of Engagement was released by Paramount Pictures, a film which argued it was okay for American soldiers to massacre 83 Yemeni demonstrators (including women and children) in a theoretical conflict, because, in the presentation of the film, the Yemeni crowd (including a young one-legged girl) were blood-thirsty American-hating Muslims loaded with weapons they were personally firing. Granted, Rules of Engagement didn't make $600 million worldwide, but it starred Tommy Lee Jones and Samuel L. Jackson and was directed by William Friedkin, so it wasn't an obscure film. While the film was rightfully condemned by the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee as a work on the level of Birth of a Nation with its ugly racism, it is odd that the Jewish-American establishment did not join them in unity over this outrage. (To give credit, the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Committee and American Jewish Congress have all consistently condemned anti-Arab prejudice in the post-9/11 world.) This is not cherry-picking: in his 2001 book Reel Bad Arabs, Jack Shaheed surveyed over 900 appearances of Arabs in Hollywood films and found over 90 percent of the portrayals were completely negative. The overall stereotype presented by Hollywood, according to Shaheed? "Subhumans -- Arab Muslims are fanatics who believe in a different god, who don't value human life as much as we do, they are intent on destroying us (the west) with their oil or with their terrorism..." While Shaheed does not make this argument, that such a crude characterization of an entire race exists to this day in the film industry may have something to do with Jewish influence (or, if you prefer, control) over Hollywood and their apparent widespread prejudice against Arabs.
With this as context, let's look at the Israel-Lebanon conflict that started on July 12 and has been in cease-fire since August 14, 33 days later. The Konformist won't deny that Hezbollah militants share much (if not most) of the responsibility for instigating the battle by killing eight Israeli soldiers and kidnapping two others, and perhaps more importantly, their indiscriminate usage of rocket attacks on civilian populations. The rocket attacks were indeed a war-crime, a fact not disputed by any human rights organizations. (And if you think the criticism was ambiguous, here is a quote from Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch: Lobbing rockets blindly into civilian areas is without doubt a war crime. Nothing can justify this assault on the most fundamental standards for sparing civilians the hazards of war.)
But whoever started it, the state of Israel easily exceeded all legitimate levels of necessity and proportionality to proclaim "self-defense" as justification for their actions, the two qualifications for a self-defense argument against war-crime charges. To put it another way, let's answer a question asked by Bill Maher in a predictably glib comment: "Can you imagine what Bush would do if a terrorist organization took over Canada and was lobbing missiles into Montana, Maine and Illinois?" (Maher, who increasingly proves himself to be arguably the most overrated of media figures, is often praised for his supposed contempt for religion, but apparently his contempt doesn't also follow on Israel, whose entire existence is based on a silly fairy tale.) Well, Bill, let's ask that question another way: let's say anti-immigrant extremists (who are indeed represented in the US Congress via Tom Tancredo and others, just as Hezbollah has some representation in the Lebanese parliament) began launching rocket attacks against the state of Mexico. Would it then be okay for Mexico to attack New York and D.C. in response? (Or, for that matter, Maher's Beverly Hills mansion?) Of course, Maher is no doubt too drunk at the Playboy Mansion right now to answer that, but let's take it a step further. Besides the obvious picks of George Bush, Tony Blair and Vladimir Putin, is there any other recent international figure who defended activities which constitute as war crimes on the basis of self-defense against Islamic terrorists? Yes: his name was Slobodan Milosevic, whose opponent in Kosovo was the Kosovo Liberation Army, a terrorist group tied both to the international heroin market and Osama bin Laden's network. Despite waging war against a gang of drug dealers backed by Osama, he faced (until his death in March) trial over war crimes and genocide from the Hague International Criminal Tribunal. So why the Israeli double-standard?
In any case, with all due respect to Shakira, stat sheets don't lie:
* Lebanese death toll - 1,230 civilians (one third children under the age of ten) and approximately 100 Lebanese soldiers and Hezbollah militants; 4,051 wounded; 916,000 (or one fourth of Lebanon's population) displaced; overall cost of damage - $9.4 billion, including clean up of a major oil spill from an Israeli strike on a Beirut power plant; total number of attacks - 4,500 Israeli bombing raids.
* Israeli death toll - 118 soldiers and 39 civilians; 860 wounded; 300,000 displaced; overall cost of damage - $3 billion; total number of attacks - 3,970 Hezbollah rockets, 901 of them inside cities.
These numbers reveal yet another lie of the Israeli propaganda machine: according to Benjamin Netanyahu (former Israeli prime minister) the difference between a terrorist and a freedom fighter is that terrorists intend to harm civilians whereas freedom fighters try to avoid it. (Incidentally, Netanyahu made this statement at a 60th anniversary "celebration" of the King David Hotel bombing, a "freedom fighter" attack that killed 91 people.) In other words, to terrorists, civilian casualties are a success, while in legitimate warfare it is a failure. But as the stats reveal, in both number (1,230 v. 39 civilian deaths) and ratio (over twelve to one in favor of civilians deaths in Lebanon, while over three to one in favor of soldier deaths in Israel) Israel sure was failing a lot more than Hezbollah was succeeding.
(And for the record, the original indictment of Slobodan Milosevic cited the deaths of 346 Kosovo Albanians, less than the death toll in Lebanon in July and August. Further, not all 346 deaths were caused by the Serb military, as many were committed by paramilitary forces loyal to Serbia. Despite this, and despite no evidence linking orders from Milosevic to any deaths, he was nonetheless charged with crimes against humanity on the basis of his status as Yugoslavia's head of state and his demagogic speeches which certainly inspired and gave sanction to the bloodshed.)
Add to this the following facts: the considerable destruction of Lebanon's infrastructure (including the international airport, sea ports, many roads, all bridges on the Beirut-Damascus international highway and on other major roads, water and sewage treatment plants, electrical facilities and many factories, including those that produced milk); the destruction of up to 90% of some towns, villages and suburbs in Lebanon (with 130,000 housing units destroyed or damaged in the attacks, according to Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Saniora); an Israeli bombing of a UN camp (killing four UN peacekeepers) described as an "apparently deliberate targeting by Israeli Defense Forces" by Kofi Annan; and Israel dropping of leaflets in Southern Lebanon, warning an open-ended curfew punishable by air-bombings of any vehicles on roads, which effectively shut down attempts by the International Red Cross and other relief agencies to bring desperately needed food, water and medical supplies to people cut off from the world due to the bombing of bridges. This last action, incidentally, proves the lie of Dershowitz that dropping warning leaflets frees Israel of culpability for its following actions. As Jacob Kellenberger (head of the International Red Cross) pointed out while blasting Israel's violation of the Geneva Convention: By letting down leaflets, you cannot get rid of your responsibilities under international humanitarian law.
Two other facts scream out against Israeli lies. One, according to Matthew Kalman in the SF Chronicle, a senior Israeli officer had nifty PowerPoint presentations (on an off-the-record basis) more than a year ago for "diplomats, journalists and think tanks, setting out the plan for the current operation in revealing detail." In other words, the Lebanon campaign was not in response to Hezbollah actions, but a planned military attack looking for any excuse to be launched. Two, Israel began bombing Christian areas of Lebanon in early August. This shows their attacks on Lebanon were not "forced" by Hezbollah hiding in civilian areas, as the Christian heartland is not a Hezbollah military base, and (perhaps more important propaganda-wise) frames the debate a little differently than "Brave Noble Israel vs. Evil Arab Muslims." (As offensive as it may be, it's clear that thanks to propaganda, Americans don't cry over Islamic deaths as they do over poor, innocent Christians.) Combine all the evidence, and it's clear Israel's war against Lebanon was a premeditated plot to destroy a sovereign neighbor.
Who is to blame for this illegally-waged war? Certainly, much of it goes to Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who replaced Ariel Sharon after he fell into a coma after a massive stroke. Ironically, Sharon (who remains in a coma) had a political epiphany before his incapacitation, breaking away from the hawkish Likud Party and forming the new center-right Kadima party coalition. Without defending Sharon's deservedly notorious history, perhaps it would take a ruthless killer like him to push a workable peace process in the Middle East without being bashed by the right as weak. With Sharon gone, Olmert, his Kadima replacement, has clearly proved he lacked the credibility and respect to wage peace. Meanwhile, there is Benjamin Netanyahu again, current head of the Likud. When not celebrating Israel's own history of terrorism (oh, excuse us, "freedom fighting") he has long pushed for war-policies to the right of Sharon.
Still, with all due respect to Olmert, Netanyahu and even Sharon, perhaps the most symbolic blame for this mess belongs to Amir Peretz, The Konformist Beast of the Month. For one, Peretz is Defense Minister, making him Israel's answer to Donald Rumsfeld (and apparently about as competent at waging wars.) Perhaps more important, Peretz is the head of the Labor Party, the supposed left-wing party of the Israel spectrum. In fact, Peretz had previously been a leader in the Peace Now movement, a profound attempt by Israeli peace activists to change the frame of debate in the increasing warlike nation. Peretz, who campaigned in 2005 on the promise that "within two years of taking office I will have eradicated child poverty in Israel," instead has betrayed the left and peace activists with his militancy. They now have no credible representation in the Knesset.
The good news, if there is any, is that the war against Lebanon was a bust. Whatever the faults of the Israeli state, the Israeli people (like those of all nations) are a complex group, and soon became revolted at a bloody war waged in their name that wasn't even succeeding at its supposed goal. In fact, all the Lebanon war has done besides destroy hundreds of thousands of lives is give Hezbollah more political capital. After all, despite Hezbollah's flaws, its scrappy defense in the face of a ridiculously overpowered opponent reminds some people of, well, Zionist freedom fighters who fought the British Empire for a homeland. Political payback seem to be in the future for all involved in this mess, and that includes Olmert, Bibi and Peretz.
Meanwhile, back in the USA, the neo-con movement was not-so-secretly hoping this battle would spark another world war. The only question seemed to be if it was World War III or World War IV (with the Cold War completing the 20th century trilogy boxed set.) This debate became so confusing that Sean Hannity even once accidentally referred to it as World War V. In fact, they were so gleeful about it, you'd almost swear they were hoping for a world war in the belief that such an atrocity would be to their political advantage. Unfortunately for the neocons and the GOP, things didn't turn out as they hoped, and now it appears likely they face a November election riding on their record of Katrina failures, illegal torture and eavesdropping, and widespread political corruption.
In any case, we salute Amir Peretz as Beast of the Month. Congratulations, and keep up the great work, Amir!!!
Davies, Nicolas J. S. "Israel in Lebanon and the 'War on Terror' -- The Limits of Self-Defense." Online Journal 27 July 2006 <http://onlinejournal.com/artman/publish/printer_1044.shtml>.
Dershowitz, Alan. "'Civilian Casualty'? It Depends." Los Angeles Times 22 July 2006.
Dershowitz, Alan. "Lebanon Is Not a Victim." Huffington Post 7 August 2006 <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/alan-dershowitz/lebanon-is-not-a-victim_b_26715.html>.
Dershowitz, Alan. The Case for Israel. Hoboken: Wiley, 2003.
Dershowitz, Alan. "Want to torture? Get a warrant." San Francisco Chronicle 22 January 2002.
Fickling, David. "Amnesty Report Accuses Israel of War Crimes." Guardian Unlimited 23 August 2006 <http://www.guardian.co.uk/israel/Story/0,,1856587,00.html>.
Finkelstein, Norman G. Beyond Chutzpah: On the Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005.
Hamzah, Weedah. "Israeli Raids North of Beirut Shock Christian Residents." Monsters and Critics 4 August 2006 <http://news.monstersandcritics.com/middleeast/article_1186909.php/Israeli_raids_north_of_Beirut_shock_Christian_residents>.
Harrington, Patrick. "Reel Bad Arabs." Third Way <http://www.thirdway.org/files/articles/antiarab.html>.
"Israel/Lebanon: Hezbollah Must End Attacks on Civilians." Human Rights Watch 5 August 2006 <http://www.hrw.org/english/docs/2006/08/05/lebano13921.htm>.
Kalman, Matthew. "Israel Set War Plan More Than a Year Ago." San Francisco Chronicle 21 July 2006 <http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2006/07/21/MNG2QK396D1.DTL&hw=kalman&sn=001&sc=1000>.
"Lahoud: Israel Is Waging 'War of Starvation'." Jerusalem Post 4 August 2006 <http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1154525805159&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull>.
Maher, Bill. "The World IS Mel Gibson." Huffington Post 2 August 2006 <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bill-maher/the-world-is-mel-gibson_b_26315.html>.
"Mideast War, by the Numbers." Guardian Unlimited 18 August 2006 <http://www.guardian.co.uk/worldlatest/story/0,,-6022211,00.html>.
Monbiot, George. "Israels Attack Was Premeditated." UK Guardian 8 August 2006.
Parker, Ned and Farrell, Stephen. "British Anger at Terror Celebration." London Times 20 July 2006 <http://www.timesonline.co.uk/newspaper/0,,173-2277717,00.html>.
Segev, Tom. "The Spirit of the King David Hotel." Haaretz 23 July 2006 <http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/pages/ShArt.jhtml?itemNo=741434&contrassID=2&subContrassID=4>.
Shaheen, Jack G. Reel Bad Arabs: How Hollywood Vilifies a People. Northampton: Interlink Publishing Group, 2001.
Uygur, Cenk. "Alan Dershowitz Argues It's Okay to Kill Israeli Civilians." Huffington Post 8 August 2006 <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/cenk-uygur/alan-dershowitz-argues-it_b_26750.html>.
Uygur, Cenk. "Bill Kristol Is a Maniac." Huffington Post 16 July 2006 <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/cenk-uygur/bill-kristol-is-a-maniac_b_25149.html>.
Watson, Paul Joseph. "Burning Babies Are Child's Play To Israel's Ethnic Cleansers." Prison Planet 25 July 2006 <http://www.prisonplanet.com/articles/july2006/250706ethniccleansers.htm>,
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