Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Taking Back our Struggle- Taking Back our Identity

As a progressive with a long track record of working for individual human rights, my peers often react with shock and disbelief when I publicly express my support for the only country in the Middle east that protects the rights of its gays, minorities and women. Often I'm treated as though I brought veal to a PETA pot luck. Its an uncomfortable feeling, here in "more politically correct than thou" northern California.

On the other hand, it baffles me that my peers so readily and unquestioningly accept the classic fascist regimes of Hamas and Hezbollah. How did this happen? How did repressive, totalitarian regimes come to enjoy liberal support in America , while liberal democracies are rejected?

Sales and Marketing, my dear Watson. Sales and marketing.

Realizing that their articulated goal of driving the Jews into the sea wasn't helping them make friends and influence people, the Palestinians have been employing the rhetoric of victimization to further their agenda.

In History Upside Down, David Meir-Levi writes:
Ho Chi Mihn's chief strategist, General Giap, made it clear to Arafat and his lieutenants that in order to succeed, they too needed to redefine the terms of their struggle... "Stop talking about annihilating Israel," advised North Vietnam's General Giap, "and instead turn your terror war into a struggle for human rights. Then you will have the American people eating out of your hand."

At UC Berkeley and on college campuses throughout the country, this approach is being used. "We are talking truth to power" , UC Berkeley lecturer Hatem Batzien said recently to a group gathered to hear Norman Finkelstein and Jon Dugard speak at Boalt Hall. But with 22 Arab nations, with 800 times the land and 50 times the people and with extensive oil wealth, tell me again who exactly is in the position of power?

Arafat was also taught to exploit his situation by Muhammad Yazid, the minister of information in Algeria:
"Wipe out the argument that Israel is a small state whose existence is threatened by the Arab states, or the reduction of the Palestinian problem to a question of refugees; instead, present the Palestinian struggle as a struggle for liberation like the others. Wipe out the impression …that the Zionist is the underdog. Now it is the Arab who is oppressed and victimized in his existence because he is not only facing the Zionists but also world imperialism."

This strategy has certainly succeeded, at least on College campuses. How did this happen? Part of the answer is our own complacency. The organized Jewish community allowed our history and our heritage to be redefined for us. We allowed our proud movement of self determination, Zionism, to be turned into a pejorative. We allowed our communities to be redefined as "settlements". We allowed our pursuit of a peaceful resolution to a complex issue to be redefined into an "imperialist colonial struggle". We watched the other side frame its history unchallenged- "occupied territories", "siege of Gaza", "ethnic cleansing". Its time to take back our language, our words, our heritage. They are as much a part of our identity as our land.

We need to remind our community that in the present, as well as the not so distant past, the worst enemy of the Palestinian people has been the Palestinian leadership. We need to remind people that destroying Israel is not the way to help the Palestinian people- that the Palestinian people need to be empowered to shake off the yoke of those willing to use them as pawns in this struggle. We need to remind people that true progressives should challenge all those who restrict individual rights and liberties, and that Palestinian despots will not be given a free pass.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Oxfam's Unattributable Gaza Update

"Unattributable Gaza Update": that is the actual title of periodic e-mail alerts sent out from Oxfam International, the UK-based NGO. The subtitle states "This document is for your information only – do not attribute to Oxfam International – check and confirm all figures before reporting." One of the e-mails that I received was signed by 'Mohammed Ali' Abu Najela "Advocacy and Media Researcher, Oxfam GB, Gaza Strip - Occupied Palestinian Territories" and the other was signed by Michael Bailey "Advocacy and Media Manager, Jerusalem Office".

The e-mail contains various statistics regarding reports of food and fuel delivery, electric power supplies, personnel movement, and incidents of rocket fire between Hamas and Israel. Interestingly, despite the significant amount of humanitarian aid supplied by Israel, none of the aid reported in Oxfam's e-mail is listed as coming from Israel-sources are UNRWA, WHO, "commercial" and "conveyor belt" (presumably unloaded at one of the crossings).

Given the curious disclaimers in the e-mail, I sent my own e-mails to Oxfam asking why they send out information that they don't want to be attributed to them. I received a response from one Elizabeth Stevens, Oxfam America Humanitarian Communications Officer:

"I think you received an update that we sent to a specific distribution list. The sources for the information for these updates are thought to be reliable, but as most of the observations aren't our own, we can't say with absolute certainty that they are true. We included the caveat because we don't want anyone on the list to pass the information on without taking further measures to verify it. It is important that people intervening in any volatile conflict situation be able to keep track of the ever-changing landscape; however, not all information collected under these conditions can be verified quickly or easily. We want to be sure the readers on our list get what they need to do their jobs and that they also understand the limitations of the fact-gathering."

Now comes the interesting part; now that I have made this inquiry, I am now on the "specific distribution list" for more of these Unattributable Updates! Last I checked, I don't need this information to do MY job. So why does Oxfam think I should receive these? Given the history of deliberate misinformation and media manipulation by Palestinians and their advocates, this could be just another way that Palestinians use NGOs as part of their propaganda war. Certainly it's not like information, especially unattributable information, would ever circulate around the Internet!

Unfortunately, this is not really a humorous matter. The al-Durah affair was used by Palestinians to inflame tensions and inspire heinous acts of terrorism against Israeli civilians. The so-called "Jenin massacre", the Hezbollah photo frauds unquestioningly disseminated by Reuters, and the Gaza beach incident in which the deaths of civilians from a Palestinian land mine were blamed on an Israeli attack-- all were prominently used against Israel while the "corrections", if ever acknowledged at all, were made very quietly. Just 2 months ago, there was a miracle that occurred in Gaza that received remarkably little press coverage-- a Palestinian who had died, allegedly because he was denied access to Israel for medical care according to the press release from Physicians for Human Rights in a story given prominent play on the BBC, was resurrected the next day, though I don't think the BBC felt that his resurrection was unusual enough to publicize.

What if I suggested that Oxfam and other NGOs knowingly manipulate their reports to deliberately harm Israel? What if I suggested that Oxfam and other NGOs knowingly employed Hamas terrorists on the ground in Gaza; or that they were required to pay a percentage of their funds (donated by well-meaning citizens in Europe and the US) to Hamas to help fund Gazan rocket factories; or that they knowingly collaborated in allowing Hamas to limit the distribution of aid to its own loyalists? These observations aren't my own, so I can't say with absolute certainty that they are true.

Mr Bailey's contact numbers in Jerusalem is 2 656 6234 ext 223. Perhaps one of our readers in Israel would like to call Mr Bailey and ask him about this. Just remember, all of this is unattributable to BlueTruth; check and confirm all facts before disseminating.