Category Archives: Israel

Israel: Rogue State

Why It Matters That Norman Finkelstein Just Got Arrested Outside the Israeli Consulate

Israel has the right to defend itself.

Arguably, so does every nation.

Israel, however, gets a free pass for going well beyond defending itself.

I’ll leave the West Bank alone right now.


  1. Is an open-air prison, walled off by Israel.
  2. Is under an economic embargo.
  3. Is barred from importing and exporting.
  4. Recently saw its Gaza Ark bombed. Twice.
  5. Has had its children, hospitals, university, homes, beach soccer-playing teen boys, and hundreds of civilians systemically targeted and bombed/murdered.
  6. Makes people feel uncomfortable when they see pictures of dead Gazan children in the Twitter. Even though this kind of reality journalism helped end the Vietnam nightmare.
  7. Is monstrously outgunned by Israel, which is armed by the USA and others.
  8. Is defined as a terrorist region despite the massive power/economic/military imbalance.
  9. Is invaded and occupied by settlers.
  10. Is a daily paradox: Israel wants them gone so they can have the land/resources, but they aren’t allowing the Gazans to leave. So is the goal to kill them all?
  11. Is the thorn in the side of the quaint, deflecting notion of a two-state solution. Why would Israel seek peace and a two-state solution when it out-guns the Palestinians, gets billions a year in military funding and virtually carte blanche support from many other nations, even when they indiscriminately murder children.

So, don’t expect the Israeli crimes against humanity in Gaza to stop any time soon, unless Israel decides to stop.

And considering all this, Israel is constantly shocked that Hamas fights back.

The nerve of them!

Merry Christmas!

Photo: A helpful reminderI’d like to wish you all a Merry Christmas and/or the joy and warmth of the holiday season. Make 2014 a year of more love, more compassion, more sharing and more service.

Three things to mark this day:

  1. Some pictures. Here are 75 amazing pictures from 2013.
  2. Some more pictures. Here are 100 of the best street are photos from 2013.
  3. A political picture. Some thing about Israel.

    Another brick.

ACTION: Illegal Israeli Settlement Goods Sold at London Drugs

mandela_palestineSodaStream boycott informational picket

Saturday, Dec. 21, 2:00 – 3:00 p.m.

London Drugs, Broadway @ Cambie, Vancouver

Below is a notice of an important event happening on Saturday in Vancouver. If something is labelled as “Made in Israel” but is really made in an illegal Israeli settlement in the West Bank of Palestine, where does it really come from? Nowhere that I would want to buy from. You?

I’m only as free as everyone is free. Don’t tolerate occupation. The boycott alternative information is here.

Nelson Mandela has died, but the memory of his commitment to universal freedom and justice lives on.  Mandela championed justice for the oppressed not only of South Africa, but everywhere.   

In an address to the ANC in 1997- three years after the demise of apartheid in South Africa – he reminded his listeners of the UN’s strong stand against “this iniquitous system” and how, over time, an international consensus grew which helped bring about its end.  Describing the UN’s 1977 inauguration of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People as a demonstration of its “recognition that injustice and gross human rights violations were being perpetrated in Palestine,” Mandela added: “But we know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians . . .”  

Hopefully this memory will inspire shoppers to buy responsibly and ethically, as they choose last-minute gifts this Christmastime and “Boxing Week.” That includes refusing to buy SodaStream home carbonation devices, which – although fraudulently labelled “Made in Israel” — are actually produced in the industrial park of the illegal Israeli settlement of Ma’aleh Adumim in the occupied West Bank of Palestine.

Boycotts of SodaStream, already widespread throughout Western Europe and the United States, are now gaining ground in Canada. Independent Jewish Voices–Canada, the United Church of Canada, district and provincial labour councils, student groups, and many others have called on their supporters to refrain from buying SodaStream. In the lower mainland, local affiliates of the Canadian Boycott Coalition for Justice in Palestine/Israel ( and the United Network for Justice in Palestine and Israel ( have held two public actions so far. The next will be on Saturday, December 21 at 2:00 p.m. in front of London Drugs, 525 W. Broadway, Vancouver.  Please join us and help spread the word.

As Tyler Levitan, campaigns coordinator for Independent Jewish Voices-Canada, has stated: “It is vitally important that we support nonviolent struggles against systems of mass oppression. The Israeli occupation of Palestine, and the ongoing theft of Palestinian land and resources, is a serious crime that we all must acknowledge.”

Politics, Re-Spun on The Rational on Co-op Radio, March 12 Lineup

Politics, Re-Spun is on The Rational on Coop Radio on Monday, March 12, 2012 from 6pm to 7pm with an intriguing lineup! Listen live online or at 102.7fm in the Vancouver area.

Here’s the lineup:

1. Dylan Penner will talk with Stephen Elliott-Buckley about the Canadian Boat for Gaza: why, what happened, what’s happening now and what’s in store for the future?

2. Greg Felton will talk with Alnoor Gova about the NDP and Israel.

3. The first of 3 parts of a conversation between Stephen Elliott-Buckley and Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council President Cliff Atleo. Topics orbit around the greater relationship between “Canada” and First Nations, in this era of post-Attawapiskat media concentration. Plus forestry, fishing and living holistically with each other and our world.

Transform Corporate Interests to Humanitarian Justice

This week I’d like to highlight 5 campaign goals for 2011 for Global Exchange, one of my favourite organizations in the world.

Last week I received their welcome-to-2011 email with their activist agenda. Here’s the first goal:

Transition from corporate interests to humanitarian justice: Corporate interests are among the strongest forces fueling the Israeli Occupation of Palestine. Come February, Global Exchange will host courageous feminist peace activist Dalit Baum. Dalit is currently working in Israel on a project called Who Profits?, an online database that exposes companies and corporations profiting from the Israeli occupation. She will bring her extensive knowledge of grassroots activism to North America, teaching Who Profits’ research methods to the peace movement to infuse their work with new perspective and hard-earned wisdom. The long-term goal is to help change public opinion and corporate policies, moving towards an end to the occupation and a lasting peace in Israel/Palestine.

Palestine is no isolate case of corporations leading a political agenda. When I think of banana republics, I ponder the corporation/cartel that is the de facto leadership of the nation, often with the help of the corporations’ home government pressuring the official leadership of the banana republic.

We too are a banana republic. For almost 150 years ago, corporations have had tremendous sway over the Liberal and Conservative parties that have run Canada since 1867. So when Global Exchange is supporting some education about how corporations guide political policy, often to the detriment of whole populations [domestic and international], we would do well to learn the tactics required to spot how corporate control of our democracy is as ubiquitous as the air around us.

Changing public opinion and corporate policies are fantastic outcome goals for this campaign. If you have seen/read The Corporation you know how psychotic they are. How we aren’t beating down our legislature doors to demand widespread corporate charter revocation is beyond me…oh wait, it’s because the air we breathe is infused with the normalized paradigm of corporate control of our society.

That’s why, right.

In the end, this is one reason why I support Global Exchange. And so should you.

“Enlightened Sovereignty” Nonsense Killed Harper’s UNSC Seat

Harper's demeaning speech to the UN General Assembly, who largely left before having to listen to his abuse.

The harbinger of Stephen Harper’s failure yesterday to fulfill his neo-conservative and neoliberal destiny at the UN Security Council came on September 23, 2010 when he delivered a cynical speech to a nearly empty UN General Assembly hall.

Harper himself is the reason Canada has a black eye in the world. At the General Assembly he kept talking about “enlightened sovereignty” which symbolized his anti-social perspective on how the world works:

Nations that do not consider the effects of their economic choices on others, may not only hurt their trading partners, but themselves as well. Those who succumb to the lure of protectionism, soon find that trading partners denied a market also lack the means to be a customer.

To recognize that is to understand the need for enlightened sovereignty, the idea that what’s good for others may well be the best way to pursue one’s own interests.

In business, it is called win-win.

And it is good for business.

In international affairs, it is good for development and for justice.

It didn’t matter that most of the representatives of the UN’s 192 member states left the hall long before Harper spoke last month. Everyone knew his words would be irrelevant. Harper has shown himself to the world as cynical, demeaning, intolerant and uncooperative, just like his speech to the empty hall.

In this small excerpt above, Harper uses the chamber as a bully pulpit to push the neoliberal agenda by framing it as enlightened sovereignty. Free trade and abrogating domestic economic integrity is enlightened. Thus, nationalism is unenlightened and backward.

Neoliberals like Harper are sometimes so deluded that they forget that the vast majority of the 192 UN members are quite poor and not in love with their World Bank and IMF neoliberal overlords.

This excerpt contains a bald threat as well: open your borders or we will punish you with the special kind of economic warfare that only the developed world can visit upon you.

Then, in a fine Orwellian twist, he argued that countries need to realize that what is good for others is best for them. “Others,” of course, are global corporations and their comprador nations who push their agenda in political circles like the UN.

Most governments of the world are largely concerned with keeping their populations from dying. What’s good for the global businesses whose annual revenue dwarf that of most nations is simply the wrong message to present to the world.

But the world did its homework.

They didn’t need to rush back into the General Assembly hall after filling the hall to hear Obama several speakers earlier to hear what kind of exquisite vision Harper would bestow on the backward world. They already knew that Harper thinks the rest of the world is unenlightened because they won’t easily open their doors to corporate rape and pillaging.

They also knew what the Council of Canadians faxed to the missions of every member state of the UN: Harper’s abysmal record on water, the climate and indigenous rights.

So yesterday we lost the election for a spare seat on the grandly undemocratic Security Council. In fact, we withdrew before we could lose, to save face.

But Harper knew he was going to lose the vote, or else why would he schedule a fiscal update to occur yesterday just after the voting. Message control means shifting the story on the domestic front quickly.

But at the top, I wrote about neo-conservativism and neoliberalism in Harper’s agenda. His neoliberal agenda is to open everyone’s borders to rich countries and rich corporations to have their way.

And while many use neo-conservatism as a synonym, I define it differently. I see neoliberalism as forced economic deregulation. I see neo-conservatism as more of a political tool of hard political empire building, informed by whatever extremist, empire-loving agenda a group may possess.

Harper’s social conservatism is well-known throughout the world:

  1. He supports prosecuting child soldiers, Israeli piracy in open seas and oppression of Palestinians.
  2. He opposes women’s reproductive freedom.
  3. He deports foreigners and assaults our refugee commitments.
  4. He is a climate change denier and a tarsands cheerleader.
  5. He is no friend to indigenous freedom or self-determination.
  6. He criminalizes domestic political dissent.
  7. He spins Tamil migrants as terrorists and incarcerates children.

He is, in effect, a dangerous man who cannot be let loose on the international stage.

John Ivison’s excellent analytical piece in the National Post last night captured much of this dynamic, calling Harper attached to principle over populism. But that’s too narrow and binary a view.

Sure, Harper is principled, but he isn’t principled just because he doesn’t want to pander to populist elements to get elected to the Security Council. There is something in the middle: the arrogance of neo-conservatism.

The opposite of being principled isn’t being popular. In the case of the UN General Assembly, where, I repeat, most of the member nations are mostly concerned about the survival of their population, what would be a compelling, and popular, view would be one that most of the world share. This is not the imperialism of social conservatism.

So who got “our” seat? Germany got one despite our existence, but we lost to Portugal. Who is Portugal? This can best be summed up by the best Twitter commentary of the day by Paul Wells of Mclean’s:

True fact: Portugal is run by socialists. They have a coalition of socialists, socialists and Portuguese socialist socialists.

It seems the majority world knows that a nation can be principled and popular enough to deserve a seat on the UN Security Council.

Stephen Harper’s enlightened sovereignty nonsense was the final failure in his deluded campaign for a seat.

And Canada is better for it, black eye and all.

Criminalizing Criticism of Israel? The Charter Weighs In

An “informal coalition of MPs (CPCCA) … are working to expand definition of antisemitism to make it illegal to criticize Israel.”

via Criticize Israel-Go to Jail? – Other – Vancouver.

Ok, quite simply this. If Kim Jong Il made it illegal for people to criticize North Korea, we’d laugh him back into one of his 19 private train stations.

This is Canada, folks.

A memory refresher may be in order:

Rights and freedoms in Canada

1. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees the rights and freedoms set out in it subject only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.

Fundamental Freedoms

Fundamental freedoms

2. Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms:

(a) freedom of conscience and religion;

(b) freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication;

This means we have freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression in the press and other media of communication subject only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.

I think this CPCCA may have skipped over this part of the Charter 28 years ago. It’s worth going back to read.

And if you knew this was wrong, but were looking for a good reason why, it’s the Charter. It’s on our side!

Libby Davies, Israel, Spin and Chill

Hot on the heals of “The Thing About Israel” from the other day, I see a campaign against Libby Davies because of a video of her comments at a rally and the spin around it.

Today I despin and respin aspects of the event.

  1. I found out about the Libby Davies YouTube video the other night when someone called AnonymousProgressive emailed their link to me with a “wtf?”. The video was part of that person’s YouTube account. The video seems to be a re-edit of a video by katzd314, with a link to this blog piece. I emailed a second time to AnonymousProgressive [] asking for their background in relation to the video and why they’re anonymous.
  2. People often comment anonymously about Israel for many reasons including because they are afraid of vitriolic retribution and a myriad of other things, whether their fear is credible or not. This is the chill atmosphere that pervades dialogue about Israel, and many other highly controversial topics. Other times, people are anonymous because they’re up to no good. It’s hard to say for sure here, but so far it looks like entrapment/gotcha journalism, blogger style. There are lots of opinions about how legitimate/useful that is. Regarding the real intentions of the poster, I still haven’t received a reply to AnonymousProgressive’s anonymity. I’ll send them this piece to see if they wish to comment, anonymously or openly.
  3. Let’s respin the video:
    1. The first question asked of Davies from the questioner is when did the “occupation in Israel” start, 1948 or 1967? Davies answers 1948. She stated that was an error here and apologized for any confusion that caused. Many actually wouldn’t see her 1948 answer as an error though.
    2. AnonymousProgressive then intersperses a defense that stating 1948 necessarily denies Israel’s right to exist. It might be a bit of a leap to say that stating that the occupation began in 1948 means a belief Israel should not exist. The UN Security Council is seen by many, like me, as far from a democratically legitimate body. The UN General Assembly’s votes are non-binding, while the 5 permanent members of the Security Council have vetoes on Security Council resolutions, which are binding. The creation of Israel has been under a cloud of illegitimacy since before 1948. Was there a forced expulsion of Palestinians, for instance? I think the same can be said for the settlement, creation and growth of Canada. At the same time, many people see no illegitimacy at all in the UN’s actions regarding Israel, or indeed Canada’s origins.
    3. Judy Rebick describes it far better here: “It is a matter of debate whether the occupation started in 1948 or 1967.  If you are of the view that the expulsion of the Palestinians from their homes when Israel was founded was unacceptable than [sic] the occupation began there.  If you agree with the foundation of state of Israel whatever the costs to the Palestinian people then you think the occupation started in 1967.  Believing that the foundation  of the state of Israel was unjust does not mean that you think the state of Israel should not continue to exist.   I believe that the foundation of Canada was unjust but I don’t call for the dissolution of Canada; although I am starting to consider it.” I happen to think that since about 96% of BC is on unceded First Nations land, we are in a similar place of occupation. Look up the Royal Proclamation of 1763 on that one.
    4. Davies then explained that in Gaza, people are suffering and that you can’t get basic necessities there. AnonymousProgressive inserted a statement from a Hamas official saying that because of bread, there is no starvation in Gaza. That may be true. But there are other necessities than bread and other ways to suffer. The International Red Cross released an unusually bold statement on Monday calling for an end to the illegal closure of Gaza. They explain suffering circumstances beyond just the presence/absence of bread.
    5. The next question in the video is whether she supports the Boycott, Divest, Sanction [BDS] campaign against Israel. The textual commentary explains she is wrong, which is logically absurd because the question was whether she supports the BDS campaign. Her opinion is her opinion. An example of an unhelpful merging of fact/opinion/vitriol that muddies clear discourse. The textual commentary explains that BDS targets all Israelis “to isolate and delegitimize the Jewish state.” That could be one goal of many who support BDS. I remember a Boycott Brand America campaign several years ago. Many who supported it wanted to delegitimize the USA, many simply wanted President Bush to get out of Iraq: a political policy choice. Do all who support BDS necessarily wish to delegitimize the Jewish state? No. To say they all do is unprovable and a bullying tactic because it puts a chill on discourse.

In the end, what comes from all this? Some discussion, some facts, some opinions, a mis-stated year, an apology, some analogies, and some unfounded logical leaps. This seems to be standard in my observation of dialogue about Israel over the last quarter century.

So then other Canadian federal politicians start condemning Libby Davies for her views. Again, Judy Rebick notes that the vast majority of Canadians do not have a positive view of Israel and just over half have a negative view. So who is offended by criticism of Israel?

I won’t put on my tin foil hat and try to list them all. But here’s the answer: those who have a stake in supporting the status quo. That includes Canada, Israel’s “best friend,” regardless of whether that’s a Conservative or Liberal government in Canada.

But we learn more when we see Murray Dobbins’ accounting of how Jack Layton reacted to Davies’ comments, apologizing to the Israeli ambassador and forcing her to make a public apology. This perpetuates the chill that there is something untouchable about talking about Israel…to the point of avoiding commentary on Israel’s killing of flotilla travelers in international waters; how is that not an international crime?

Virtually the same thing happened the week after BC NDP candidate Mable Elmore won her nomination in Vancouver-Kensington in March 2009. Using the word Zionist in an interview she gave years earlier came back into the public eye. BC NDP leader Carole James forced Elmore to apologize.

And if you’ve heard of the hitherto great journalist Helen Thomas, you can read two perspectives about the price she paid for carelessly weighing in on issues around Israel, along with a defense of her. Clearly, the stakes are high for engaging about Israel.

There is clearly a minefield around Israel discourse. There are inferences, presumed implications, assumed emotions, leaps to conclusions, fear of bad political spin, confusion around who exactly are politicians’ constituents, fear of perhaps offending a group regardless of how logical or reasonable it may be.

All these add up to a chill. A chill that I have felt victim to if you look at the very little I have written in 6 years about Israel, out of a reluctance to deal with the [at least chill-induced perceived] onslaught of opposition. That is, until recent weeks when the absence of political action in the world to address human rights violations motivated a flotilla of civilians with aid to attempt to break a blockade that violates “international humanitarian law“. Then the Rachel Corrie was kept from landing in Gaza.

Now there is a ship of German Jews readying to sail to Gaza. This should help cut the Gordian knot of simplistic manipulation and intellectual abuse that is the all-spin zone around Israeli issues and the machinery of the chill over so many who should feel free to speak their minds.

And here’s your test for today. Take a look at this classic editorial cartoon and see if you can engage with it on rational, emotional and political levels without sliding into a reactionary place. You are, of course, fee to like or dislike, respect or oppose it

And a final test, if you are still unsure of whether Zionism is a necessarily offensive word in North America, read its use and context here and try to separate the definition and use of “Zionism” and the writer’s opinions about Zionism. This should clear/muddle things up for various people. How about you?

Finally, I intentionally waited until I finished writing this before reading most of this piece by Paul Burrows to avoid restating everything that resonates with me.

So, I want to live in a community where we have open dialogue about controversial issues. When events are spun and a chill sets in, we all suffer fron this. I think our job is to not settle for simplistic answers and to be critical of the spin and “follow the money” to see who benefits from each position on the table.

The truth wants to be free. We all need to practice how to hear it and cut through the impediments.

The Thing About Israel

OK, here’s the thing about Israel, OK, one thing: there is no greater concentration of political spin in all of human history than around the issues relating to Israel. And the spin has the [likely intended] consequence of creating a chill factor to keep people from trying to reasonably discuss issues on any side of Israel issues. This chill is bad for humanity.

By the way, while I’m not commenting on this news release, I would like to mention here that the International Committee of the Red Cross has just released a very important statement on ending the closure of Gaza. People will of course support or condemn this ICRC position for good, bad, non-rational or compelling reasons. But I’m not writing about that today.

Committed activists and ideologues on all sides of Israel issues contribute to this intense level of spin expertise. Within the discourse, there are, among other things: facts, disinformation, misinformation, irrational attacks, flagrantly hyperbolic analogies, opinions, rhetoric, invective, anger, racism, Polyannaism, political agendas, global conflict paradigms that in part revolve around middle eastern land, and the governments and lobby groups of dozens of countries. It’s a classic imbroglio flambe.

I will take but one example of a variety of things I have to say about Israel. Let’s start with an analogy, knowing full well that it can be creatively re-interpreted by anyone with an agenda to accuse me of pretty much anything. I can handle that.

[Note: just for fun, let me state clearly that I make no comments in this entire piece about whether “the state of Israel ought to exist or not”…just so that if anyone accuses me of being on either side of it, I’m just not talking about that issue in this piece. Later, though. Oh, and preemptive disclaimers are a feature of a society of discourse living under a chill.]

Here’s my question. Can anyone criticize policy decisions or actions of Israel’s government?

Can Canadians criticize the government of Canada for supporting tar sands development, or even spending tax money on child care subsidies? Typically, yes. And in doing so, few seem to be accused of being racist, anti-Canadian, or harbouring hatred for Canadians.

Can Canadians criticize the US government for its support of a free trade agenda with despotic regimes, or even spending tax money on food stamp programs? Typically, yes. And in doing so, few seem to be accused of being racist, or harbouring hatred for the American people, though to be honest, many are accused of being anti-American for criticizing or supporting something someone else either agrees with or disagrees with. That’s too bad. Chills suck.

If France begins above ground nuclear testing on a “French” island in the Pacific Ocean or embraces a Tobin Tax, do I necessarily hate/love the French people for decisions of the government, regardless of who voted for what and by how much? I wouldn’t think so. I think I’d still appreciate their cinema and fries.

So a while back I wrote [in a poem] about the difference between a people and a government’s policies [see below]. Are there any differences? What should be the significance of the differences? And if you are interested in testing your attitudes toward this issue, take this test: read this article and see if you can de/re-spin everyone’s perspective. It’s pretty complicated, but a worthwhile exercise. Maybe I’ll get around to doing that in here one day.

via 22 Impolite Questions: a Response to Rhetoric Crimes « Politics, Re-Spun.

are Noam Chomsky and Phyllis Bennis anti-American if they criticize their imperial government?

and what about Israel?

am i anti-Semitic if i disagree with the domestic or foreign policy decisions of the de facto fundamentalist Jewish theocracy in Israel?

do i wish all Jews in the world dead because i don’t agree with any given decision of the Israeli government?

are Noam Chomsky and Phyllis Bennis self-hating Jews if they oppose any given decision or set of decisions of the Israeli government or decisions of the US government that support Israeli policy they disagree with?

Afghanistan, September 11, 2002 and Land Mines

Afghanistan signs the Ottawa Convention banning anti-personnel mines on September 11, 2002 while Iraq, Israel and the USA (and 46 others) still have not.

With North America (at least) dwelling on commemorative events surrounding the first anniversary of September 11, 2001, odd ironies were at play elsewhere in the world as that day, Afghanistan signed the Ottawa Convention banning anti-personnel mines.

There are still unanswered questions about who is functionally in charge of Afghanistan (and if the big W is pulling strings, or the big W’s string pullers, whatever) and why that day was chosen. What kind of political value would there be, and for who, to orchestrate that event on that key day? Is it a sign of the White House’s total domination of the enemy that is/was Afghanistan that they signed on that day?

146 countries have signed, ratified, or agreed to be bound by the 1997 Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction, also known as the Ottawa Convention banning anti-personnel mines. They are listed here.

49 countries haven’t signed the treaty as of this month, including some notables: Iraq, Israel, and the USA.

And while political posturing prevents more countries from signing, Canada’s light shines as an example of how other states COULD operate.

Foreign Affairs Minister Bill Graham attributes, “much of the remarkable progress achieved to date to an unprecedented level of cooperation and coordination between governments, international organizations and NGOs.”

I wonder who will sign on September 11, 2003.