How do honour killings differ from crimes of passion?

Her name was Melissa. She was 22. Her murderer’s name was Torbjörn, a Stockholmer with a criminal record and contacts in Hells Angels circles. He was 37, had been her “boyfriend” for two years and was sentenced to life. His friend, who may have participated in planning the murder, was sentenced to two years for desecrating a grave.

Two months later, Fadime was shot by her father, who was visiting her in Uppsala. The murder of Fadime, like that of Melissa became a long-running saga in the mass media; but the focus of articles and agitated emotions was dramatically different.

In the case of Melissa, the murder is treated as a piece of classical criminal journalism. Looking back, several of the articles read like titillating entertainment. Melissa’s beauty is stressed by illustrating the articles with photographs taken from her modelling portfolio. Several of the articles maintain that she used to wear black leather trousers and flirted with death-metal music and Satanism. The description of her stresses her sexuality, while her murderer is portrayed, of course, as an object of hatred – he weighs 140 kilos and has tattoos all over his body.

By contrast, the description of Fadime is severe, almost chaste. The murder is presented as an ideological or religious act, and does not follow the traditional pattern of crime journalism.

Nevertheless, there are obvious parallels. In both cases, a beautiful, outgoing young woman with a zest for life is dependent on an older man – Fadime on her father and Melissa on her boyfriend. Both cases involved older men with a need to control younger women who were in the process of breaking free. In both cases, the women had been subjected to increasing unease linked with death threats. In both cases, their rebellion was punished by death.

There are also differences between the cases. According to the mass media and concurring with the court judgment, the murder of Melissa was a cruel and premeditated killing linked with torture, but also an obviously “insane act” based on jealousy. The boyfriend simply could not tolerate Melissa going her own way and planning her own future outside his influence. But the murder of Fadime was a “culturally determined honour killing.” Her father simply could not tolerate Fadime going her own way.

“Melissa murders” are not unusual in Sweden. There are 15 to 20 every year in which the main circumstances are similar: threats, dependence, ill treatment and violence. Every year, Swedish women flee for their lives and seek protection wherever they can find it – in remote villages, with friends or in one of the refuges for women, of which there are more than 200.

Every year, Swedish society produces a new generation of threatened women who can testify to the lack of legal rights and the lukewarm interest shown by the police and other authorities.

Evidence of this lack of legal rights is interesting. In the debate about honour killings, it is claimed specifically that legislation in Muslim countries (as distinct from culturally advanced Sweden) favours and legitimizes violence on the part of men.

This systematic violence directed at women – for systematic violence is exactly what it is, and what it would be called if it affected to a similar extent trade unionists, or Jews, or the disabled – is never regarded as a “cultural problem” in Sweden. Indeed, one could ask if it is regarded as a problem at all, apart from in a strictly legal context.

But there is practically nothing available written by a Swedish social polemicist in which the writer tries to explain the murder of Melissa from a Swedish cultural-anthropological or broader cultural perspective. Such argumentation is reserved exclusively for “immigrants,” “Kurds” or “Muslims,” who can be studied in relation to Swedish culture.

It is, of course, impossible to compare the violent treatment of women and suggest that one murder is more cruel than another. In that respect, Fadime and Melissa were sisters.

An objection frequently made by supporters of a “cultural-anthropological” approach – and the argument is legitimate, to a certain extent – is that a fundamental difference between the murders of Melissa and Fadime is that few Swedish murders are encouraged by relations, close family and close friends. But this thesis is not completely true, either. Surprisingly often – as was the case with Melissa – violence is encouraged by individuals in the killer’s close circle of friends. It is difficult to find any other explanation for the willingness of friends of Swedish women-murderers to assist in tidying up the scene of the crime.

There are plenty of examples. A case that attracted a lot of attention a few years ago was the woman who committed suicide at the home of a notorious middle-aged swindler, known as the Count. When the girlfriend died on his sofa after repeated quarrels, the Count did not telephone the police, but contacted three male friends, who quickly appeared with hacksaws. Then, in accordance with good old Swedish traditions, the men drove around, dumping her remains bit by bit. This case has not been subjected to cultural-anthropological scrutiny, either.

By Stieg Larsson

30 March 2012

@ Globe and Mail

From The Expo Files: Articles By Crusading Journalist Stieg Larsson.© Reprinted with permission of Penguin Group (Canada).

The Original Sin

The Original Sin
By Uri Avnery

 

A friend of mine in Warsaw told me about a Polish journalist who visited Israel for the first time. On his return he reported with great excitement: “You know what I’ve discovered? In Israel, too, there are Jews!”

For this Pole, Jews are people who wear a long black kaftan and a big black hat. In almost every souvenir shop in Poland, little figures like this are exhibited along with other classics like the nobleman, the artisan and the peasant.

This distinction between Israelis and Jews would not have surprised any of us 50 years ago. Before the foundation of the State of Israel, none of us spoke about a “Jewish state”. In our demonstrations we chanted: “Free Immigration! Hebrew State!” In almost all media quotations from those days, there appear the two words “Hebrew state”, almost never “Jewish state”.

IN SCHOOL we acquired an ardent love for the country, the language and the Bible (which we considered the classic book of Hebrew literature.) We learned to regard with disdain – if not worse – Jewish life in the Diaspora. (All this, of course, before the Holocaust.) In 1933 I lived for half a year in Nahalal, the legendary communal village. Seeing it for the first time, I marveled at the communal hall building, the milk processing plant and the large agricultural school for girls (in which Moshe Dayan was the only male pupil). Out of curiosity I asked about the synagogue and was shown a ramshackle wooden hut. “That’s for the old ones,” one of the local boys told me pityingly. One cannot understand what happened since then without knowing that in those days almost everyone believed that the Jewish religion was about to disappear, together with the Yiddish-speaking old people who still stuck to it. Poor geezers. If somebody had predicted that the Jewish religion would dominate the future state, people would have laughed.

ZIONISM WAS, among other things, a rebellion against the Jewish religion. It was born in sin – the sin of secular nationalism, which had swept through Europe after the French revolution.

Zionism rebelled against the Halakha (religious law) which forbade Jews to “ascend” to the holy country en masse. According to the religious myth, God exiled the Jews from the country in retribution for their sins, and only God had the right to bring them back. Because of this, practically all the important rabbis – both the Hassidim and their opponents – cursed the founders of Zionism. (Needless to say, these curses – some of them very juicy ones – do not appear in Israeli schoolbooks.)

Before all the international inquiries preceding the establishment of the state, delegations of Orthodox Jews appeared in order to oppose the Zionist delegations.

 

But David Ben-Gurion, who refused to wear a kippah even at funerals (where most atheists do wear kippahs as a gesture towards the beliefs of others) thought that it was worthwhile to get the Orthodox to join his government coalition. Therefore he promised them to free a few hundred Yeshiva (religious seminary) students from military duty and to pay for their studies and upkeep, so that they would not be obliged to work for a living.

The consequences were unexpected. That little gesture has grown to monstrous proportions. Today one could man several army divisions with those shirkers from army duty. They now constitute 13% of the entire yearly crop of those liable to the draft. Moreover, 65% of all Orthodox male citizens do not work at all and live on the public purse.

The situation is absurd: the state is paying for the upkeep of a large and growing population of Torah-shielded parasites, who undermine the state. The state pays hundreds of thousands of young religious people in order to keep them from – God forbid – working. It pays them generous subsidies so they can produce more and more children (from 5 to 15 per family) most of whom will also neither work nor serve in the army. One can calculate exactly when the economy will collapse, together with the welfare-state and the “citizens’ army” based on conscription.

The whole phenomenon is an authentic Israeli invention. All over the world, Orthodox Jews do work like everyone else. During one of our visits to New York, we wanted to buy a camera. Rachel – who is a professional photographer – was told about the biggest photo shop in town. When we went there, we couldn’t believe our eyes: all the staff of the huge place were Orthodox Jews – all male, of course – clad in their traditional garb. That was the first time we had ever seen Orthodox men working.

This experience had an amusing side. We were both wearing an emblem with the flags of Israel and Palestine. When Rachel went to the cashier to pay, he looked sideways at Rachel’s pin, and without looking at her face asked: “What flag is that?”

“The flag of Israel,” Rachel responded.

“No, the other one!” the man insisted.

“The flag of Palestine’” she answered.

The man turned and spat on the floor, exclaiming loudly “Tfoo, tfoo! Tfoo!”

THE ORTHODOX camp in Israel is a hole which swallows anything that comes too near. For example: the Oriental Jews who came from Islamic countries. (They are frequently called “Sephardi” – “Spaniards” – though only a fraction of them are actually descended from the Jews who were expelled from Spain in 1492.)

The Sephardi religious tradition has always been far more tolerant that the Ashkenazi one. It includes the teachings of geniuses like Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon (Maimonides), the personal physician of the great Saladin. Maimonides forbade religious students to make a living from their studies and ordered them to go out and work. The Sephardis have their own traditions, garments and symbols.

 

But lo and behold, upon coming to Israel, they subordinated themselves to the Ashkenazis and adopted their blind fanaticism, together with the kaftan and the hats that originated in cold Eastern Europe, where they were worn by the non-Jewish upper classes in bygone centuries. Their Sephardi party, Shas, is slavishly subservient to the Ashkenazi Orthodox. Their ”spiritual” leader, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, grovels before the East European anti-Hassidic Rabbis (called “Lithuanians”).

Last week, a miracle occurred. A Sephardic Rabbi, Haim Amsalem, rebelled against Rabbi Ovadia and his party, demanding a return to the Sephardic traditions of tolerance. He was promptly excommunicated.

IN THE early days of the state, the Orthodox Ashkenazis, though extreme in their religious beliefs, were moderate in national affairs. Not only did they not celebrate the Independence Day of the Zionist state or salute the flag of the Zionist heretics, but they also obstructed the nationalist adventures of David Ben-Gurion, Moshe Dayan and Shimon Peres. Later they opposed the annexation of the occupied territories – not because of any excessive love for peace or the Palestinians, but because of the Halakhic ruling that forbids the provocation of the Goyim, because it could cause harm to the Jews.

When the Orthodox set up settlements, they did not do so with any ideological fervor, but solely because of the need to find housing for their ever-growing numbers of offspring. The government gave them cheap land only beyond the Green Line. Nowadays, the largest settlements are Orthodox – Beitar Illit, Immanuel and Modi’in Illit – the last of which is located on land stolen from the Arab village of Bil’in.

WHEREAS THE large religious camp opposed the new Zionist movement, a religious splinter group supported it. In the religious camp they were a small minority. Between the two sides, ardent hatred was the rule.

Thanks to the massive support of the Zionist leadership, the “national-religious” camp grew in Israel at a dizzying pace. Ben Gurion set up a special branch of the educational system for them, which grew more extremist by the year, as did the national-religious youth movement, Bnei Akiva. Members of one generation of the national-religious community became the teachers of the next, which guaranteed an inbuilt process of radicalization. With the beginning of the occupation, they created Gush Emunim (“the Bloc of the Faithful’), the ideological core of the settlement movement. Nowadays this camp is directed by Rabbis whose teachings emit a strong odor of Fascism.

This would not be so terrible if the two opposing religious factions neutralized each other, as was indeed the case 50 years ago. But since then, the opposite has happened. The national-religious have become more and more extreme on the religious level, and the Orthodox more and more extreme on the nationalist level. The two factions are very close to each other today and together constitute an Orthodox-national-religious bloc.

 

The youngsters of the national-religious faction despise the lukewarm religiosity of their fathers and admire the robust religiosity of the Orthodox. The youngsters of the Orthodox faction are seduced by the nationalist melody, unlike their fathers, for whom Israel was just like any goyim-state to be milked.

The union of the two factions is based on the essence of the Jewish religion, as fostered in Israel. It does not resemble the Judaism which existed in the Diaspora – neither the Orthodox nor the Reform model. It must be said: the Jewish religion in Israel is a mutation of Judaism, a tribal, racist, extreme nationalist and anti-democratic creed.

There are now three religious educational systems – the national-religious, the “independent” one of the Orthodox, and “el-Hama’ayan (“to the source”) of Shas. All three are financed by the state at least 100%, if not much more. The differences between them are small, compared to their similarities. All teach their pupils the history of the Jewish people only (based, of course, on the religious myths), nothing about the history of the world, of other peoples, not to mention other religions. The Koran and the New Testament are the kernel of evil and not to be touched.

The typical alumni of these systems know that the Jews are the chosen (and vastly superior) people, that all Goyim are vicious anti-Semites, that God promised us this country and that no one else has a right to one square inch of its land. The natural conclusion is that the “foreigners” (meaning the Arabs, who have been living here for 13 centuries at least) must be expelled – unless this would endanger the Jews.

From this point of view, there is no longer any difference between the Orthodox and the national-religious, between Ashkenazim and Sephardim. Seeing the “youth of the hills”, who terrorize Arabs in the occupied territories, on screen, one cannot distinguish among them anymore – not by their dress, not by their body language, not by their slogans.

The source of all this evil is, of course, the original sin of the State of Israel: the non-separation between state and religion, based on the non-separation between nation and religion. Nothing but a complete separation between the two will save Israel from total domination by the religious mutation.

29 November, 2010
Gush Shalom

 

One Sided Deal

One Sided Deal

By Neve Gordon

 

Imagine a sheriff offering the head of a criminal gang the following deal: ‘If you agree to stop stealing from your neighbours for three months, I’ll give you cutting edge weaponry and block any efforts by other law enforcement authorities to restrain your criminal activities.’

 

Sounds absurd? Then how about this: in return for a three-month freeze of illegal construction in the occupied West Bank (but not in occupied East Jerusalem, where it may continue), Barack Obama has promised to deliver 20 F-35 fighter jets to Israel, a deal worth $3 billion. Moreover, his administration has vowed to curb action by the United Nations on the Goldstone Report, block anti-Israel UN resolutions concerning the Gaza flotilla raid, and defeat resolutions aimed at exposing Israel’s nuclear programme at the International Atomic Energy Agency.

 

In such situations it’s important to keep in mind that the sheriff (Obama) and not the gang leader (Netanyahu) is the major culprit.

Asian People’s Solidarity For Palestine Announces

Asian People’s Solidarity For Palestine Announces 
The Asia To Gaza Solidarity Caravan

05 October, 2010

 

500 civil resisters from 17 Asian countries will join the caravan from India and march through 18 Asian cities of Pakistan, Iran, and Turkey to break the siege of Gaza through the sea route in December 2010

The  Asia to Gaza Solidarity Caravan  is being organised by the  Asian People’s Solidarity for Palestine , an alliance of peoples’ organisations, social movements, trade unions, and civil society institutions of Asia. This struggle is broad-based, varied and multi-dimensional. It is humanitarian and for peace, freedom and  human dignity . It is against occupation, imperialism, apartheid, Zionism  and all forms of discrimination including religious discrimination .  Simultaneous press conferences are being held in 5 countries today – India, Turkey, Iran, Indonesia and Lebanon – to announce the launch of the Asia to Gaza Caravan.  Similar press conferences will be held next week in Syria, Palestine, Malysia, Nepal and Bangladesh.

 

The Asian People’s Solidarity for Palestine extends solidarity to the courageous people of Palestine in their struggle, resistance, and intifada against the Zionist Israeli occupation and affirms its commitment to Palestinian Self-Determination; Ending the Occupation; Equal Rights for All within historic Palestine; the Right of Return for Palestinian refugees; and the Establishment of a Sovereign, Independent and Democratic state of Palestine with Jerusalem as the capital.

 

The Asian People’s Solidarity for Palestine commits to build the solidarity of Asian people for the freedom of Palestine, provide materials, resources, and volunteers to support the struggle of the people of Palestine and oppose our own governments’ decisions and actions that give economic, financial, military and diplomatic support to Israel and allow it to behave with impunity.

 

India Lifeline to Gaza , which is a constituent of the Asian People’s Solidarity for Palestine will have a conference and a large flag off programme in New Delhi on 2nd December 2010. The Caravan will carry relief material for the people of Gaza. The Asia to Gaza Caravan will cross into Pakistan via the Wagah border where members of the Pakistan Solidarity for Gaza will join the Caravan onwards to Iran. In every country and city that the caravan travels through, public meetings will be organised as more activists and participants join the caravan.  We also support  the United Palestinian call of July 2005 for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) to compel Israel to comply with international law; the Palestinian Campaign for Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI); and all other initiatives to end the occupation of Palestine.

 

TENTATIVE CARAVAN SCHEDULE

01 Dec

Participants from East and South East Asia reach New Delhi, India

15-17 Dec

Tabriz , Iran to Eskandarun, Turkey

2-3 Dec

Flag off from New Delhi  
and travel to Wagah border, India-Pakistan Border

18-19 Dec

Eskandarun , Turkey to Damascus, Syria

04 Dec

Reach Lahore, Pakistan

20-21 Dec

Damascus , Syria to Amman Jordan

5-7 Dec

Lahore  to Karachi/Quetta, Pakistan

22-23 Dec

Amman , Jordan to Beirut Lebanon

08 Dec

Karachi/Quetta, Pakistan to Zahedan, Iran

24-26 Dec

Beirut  back to Turkey

9-14 Dec

Zahedan, Iran to Tabriz, Iran

26 Dec

We Sail for Gaza (Palestine)

 

Peaceful Resistance

The civil resisters have resolved to resist the Israeli sea siege in a peaceful manner and following the example of civil resisters such as Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., and Nelson Mandela as well as the long tradition of peaceful resistance from all ethical and religious traditions. The civil resisters are willing to be convicted for their peaceful resistance.

 

India  Lifeline to Gaza

This process has been initiated by Indian people’s movements, social movements, trade unions, civil society organisations and multi-faith and ecumenical organisations. In the two months prior to departure of the Asia to Gaza caravan there will be multi-city programmes in solidarity of the people of Gaza and Palestine. Film festivals of Palestinian films and films of resistance, music concerts, photo exhibits, and theatre productions are being organised by the supporters of the people of Gaza and Palestine.

Palestinian Film Festival: Celebrating Cultures of Resistance

A week-long film festival screening Palestinian films and documentaries is being planned across several cities of India in the last week of October (tentatively 23-30 October). Several other initiatives such as solidarity concerts, theatrical performances, photo exhibits, panel discussions and seminars will also be planned in the days leading up to the flag-off of the Caravan.

 

End the Siege of Gaza • Freedom to Palestine • Boycott Israel

 

Endorsed by:

 

 

Organisations

All India Students Association

Aman Bharat

Asha Parivar

Awami Bharat

Ayodhya Ki Awaaz

Bahujan Sewak Sangh

Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha

Bharat Bachao Andolan

Bharat Jan Vigyan Jatha

Campaign for Peace & Democracy (Manipur)

Chhattisgarh Mukti Morcha (Mazdoor Karyakarta Committee)

CPI(ML)

CPI-ML (New Democracy)

Forum against Oppression of Women

Free Gaza – India

Global Gandhi Forum

Hard News

Indian Isladhi Movement

India Palestine People’s Solidarity Forum

Indian Fed of Trade Unions

Insaaniyat

Intercultural Resources

Jamiat-i-Ulema-i-Hind

Jamat-e-Islami-Hind

Le Monde Diplomatique

Loknaad

Mahatma Phule-Dr Ambedkar Vichar Manch

Mazdoor Ekta Manch

Muslim Intellectual Forum

Muslim Political Council of India

National Association of Peoples Movements

National Forum of Forest People and Forest Workers

New Socialist Initiative

New Trade Union Initiative

Palestine  Solidarity Movement

People’s Union for Civil Liberties

Phule-Ambedkar Vichar Manch

Programme against Custodial Torture and Impunity

Progressive Students Union

Republican Panther

Saheli Women’s Resource Centre

Sarva Seva Sangh

Solidarity Youth Movement

South Asia Peace Alliance

South Asian Network of Gender Activists and Trainers

Students Islamic Organisation of India

Trade Union Centre of India

Teesra Swadheenta Andolan

Vidyarthi Bharti

Yuva Koshish

All India Majlis-i-Mushawarrat

Individuals:

Achin Vanaik

Agdish Nagarkar

Ambarish Rai

Amol Madame

Amit Sengupta

Anand Grover

Anand Patwardhan

Anand Swaroop Verma

Anil Chaudhary

Arif Kapadia

Ashish Kothari

Asif Khan

Aslam Ghazi

Bajrang Sonawane

Brig. Sudhir Sawant

Chetna Birje

Dr Sunilam

Ghazala Azad

Gopal Rai

Ihtishaam Ansari

Jai Sen

Javed Naqvi

Kabir Arora

Kalyani Menon-Sen, New Delhi

Khalid Riaz

Medha Patkar

Mehmood Madni

Mukta Srivastava

Mukul Sinha

Mulniwasi Mala

Munawwar Azad

Munawwar Khan

Pandit Jugal Kishore Shastri

Qurratulain Sundus

Reshma  Jagtap

Ritu Menon

Rohini Hensman

Salman Usmani

Sandeep Pandey

Sanjay ShindeSavyasaachi

Sayeed Khan

Sayeeda Hameed

Shabnam Hashmi

Shahid Siddiqui

Sheikh Muhammad Hussain

Shyam Sonar

Sudhir Dhawale

Sumi Saikia

Syed Iftikhar Ahed

Thomas Matthew

Tusha Mittal

Varsha V V

Vasanthi Raman

Vilas Gaikwad

Winnie Thomas

Yawar Ali Qazi

—  
India Lifeline to Gaza c/o ICR 33-D, 3rd Floor Vijay Mandal Enclave 
DDA SFS FLATS 
New Delhi, 110016 Email:  asiatogaza.india@gmail.com We b site: http://www.asiatogaza.net/ Phone: 09711178868; 09911599955; 09820897517

 

 

What If The Oil Spill Just Can’t Be Fixed? By David Roberts

What If The Oil Spill Just Can’t Be Fixed?

By David Roberts

 

The BP Gulf oil disaster is reaching an interesting phase. People’s gut instinct, their first reaction, is to find someone to blame. They blame BP for negligence; the Obama administration for its tepid response; the Bush administration for lax regulatory enforcement. People have been casting about for some way to compartmentalize this thing, some way to cast it as an anomaly, an “accident,” the kind of screw-up that can be meliorated or avoided in the future.

We are, however, drifting toward a whole different kind of place. Today BP is attempting the “top kill” maneuver — pumping mud into the well. If it doesn’t work, well … then what? Junk shot? Top hat? Loony stuff like nukes? Relief wells will take months to drill and no one’s sure if they’ll work to relieve pressure. It’s entirely possible, even likely, that we’re going to be stuck helplessly watching as this well spews oil into the Gulf for years. Even if the flow were stopped tomorrow, the damage to marshes, coral, and marine life is done. The Gulf of Mexico will become an ecological and economic dead zone. There’s no real way to undo it, no matter who’s in charge.

I’m curious to see how the public’s mood shifts once it becomes clear that we are powerless in the face of this thing. What if there’s just nothing we can do? That’s not a feeling to which Americans are accustomed.

Once we know that accidents can be catastrophic and irreversible, it becomes clear that there is no margin of error. We’re operating a brittle system, unable to contain failure and unable to recover from it. Consider how deepwater drilling will look in that new light.

The thing is, we’re already operating in those circumstances in a thousand different ways — it’s just that the risks and the damages tend to be distributed and obscured from view. They’re not thrust in our face like they are in the Gulf. We don’t get back the land we destroy by mining. We don’t get back the species lost from deforestation and development. We don’t get back islands lost to rising seas. We don’t get back the coral lost to bleaching or the marine food chains lost to nitrogen runoff. Once we lose the climatic conditions in which our species evolved, we won’t get them back either.

We’re doing damage as big as the Gulf oil spill every day, and there’s no fixing it. Humanity has grown in power, wealth, and appetite to the point that there is no more margin of error anywhere. We’re on a knife’s edge, facing the very real possibility that for our children, all the world may be one big Gulf of Mexico, inexorably and irreversibly deteriorating.

Perhaps if the public gets a clear taste of this, they’ll step back and contemplate whether the kind of energy we use is really as “cheap” as it looks. Maybe they’ll stop thinking about how to drill better and start thinking about how to avoid drilling altogether. Because some mistakes just can’t be undone

26 May, 2010
Grist.org

 

The Future of Palestine: Righteous Jews vs. the New Afrikaners

 

“The Future of Palestine:

Righteous Jews vs. the New Afrikaners”

By Professor John J. Mearsheimer

Talk presented on 29 April 2010 – The Palestine Center – Washington, DC

Posted May 02, 2010 –  Transcript Below

 

It is a great honor to be here at the Palestine Center to give the Sharabi Memorial Lecture.  I would like to thank Yousef Munayyer, the executive director of the Jerusalem Fund, for inviting me, and all of you for coming out to hear me speak this afternoon.

My topic is the future of Palestine, and by that I mean the future of the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, or what was long ago called Mandatory Palestine.  As you all know, that land is now broken into two parts: Israel proper or what is sometime called “Green Line” Israel and the Occupied Territories, which include the West Bank and Gaza.  In essence, my talk is about the future relationship between Israel and the Occupied Territories.

Of course, I am not just talking about the fate of those lands; I am also talking about the future of the people who live there.  I am talking about the future of the Jews and the Palestinians who are Israeli citizens, as well as the Palestinians who live in the Occupied Territories.

The story I will tell is straightforward.  Contrary to the wishes of the Obama administration and most Americans – to include many American Jews – Israel is not going to allow the Palestinians to have a viable state of their own in Gaza and the West Bank.  Regrettably, the two-state solution is now a fantasy.  Instead, those territories will be incorporated into a “Greater Israel,” which will be an apartheid state bearing a marked resemblance to white-ruled South Africa.  Nevertheless, a Jewish apartheid state is not politically viable over the long term.  In the end, it will become a democratic bi-national state, whose politics will be dominated by its Palestinian citizens.  In other words, it will cease being a Jewish state, which will mean the end of the Zionist dream.

Let me explain how I reached these conclusions.

Given present circumstances there are four possible futures for Palestine.

The outcome that gets the most attention these days is the two-state solution, which was described in broad outline by President Clinton in late December 2000.  It would obviously involve creating a Palestinian state living side-by-side with Israel.  To be viable, that Palestine state would have to control 95 percent or more of the West Bank and all of Gaza.  There would also have to be territorial swaps to compensate the Palestinians for those small pieces of West Bank territory that Israel got to keep in the final agreement.  East Jerusalem would be the capital of the new Palestinian state.  The Clinton Parameters envisioned certain restrictions on the new state’s military capabilities, but it would control the water beneath it, the air space above it, and its own borders – to include the Jordan River Valley.

There are three possible alternatives to a two-state solution, all of which involve creating a Greater Israel – an Israel that effectively controls the West Bank and Gaza.

In the first scenario, Greater Israel would become a democratic bi-national state in which Palestinians and Jews enjoy equal political rights.  This solution has been suggested by a handful of Jews and a growing number of Palestinians.  However, it would mean abandoning the original Zionist vision of a Jewish state, since the Palestinians would eventually outnumber the Jews in Greater Israel.

Second, Israel could expel most of the Palestinians from Greater Israel, thereby preserving its Jewish character through an overt act of ethnic cleansing.  This is what happened in 1948 when the Zionists drove roughly 700,000 Palestinians out of the territory that became the new state of Israel, and then prevented them from returning to their homes.  Following the Six Day War in 1967, Israel expelled between 100,000 and 260,000 Palestinians from the newly conquered West Bank and drove 80,000 Syrians from the Golan Heights.  The scale of the expulsion, however, would have to be even greater this time, because there are about 5.5 million Palestinians living between the Jordan and the Mediterranean.

The final alternative to a two-state solution is some form of apartheid, whereby Israel increases its control over the Occupied Territories, but allows the Palestinians to exercise limited autonomy in a set of disconnected and economically crippled enclaves.

It seems clear to me that the two-state solution is the best of these alternative futures.  This is not to say that it is an ideal solution, because it is not; but it is by far the best outcome for both the Israelis and the Palestinians, as well as the United States.  That is why the Obama administration is intensely committed to pushing it.

Nevertheless, the Palestinians are not going to get their own state anytime soon.  They are instead going to end up living in an apartheid state dominated by Israeli Jews.

The main reason that a two-state solution is no longer a serious option is that most Israelis are opposed to making the sacrifices that would be necessary to create a viable Palestinian state, and there is little reason to expect them to have an epiphany on this issue.  For starters, there are now about 480,000 settlers in the Occupied Territories and a huge infrastructure of connector and bypass roads, not to mention settlements.  Much of that infrastructure and large numbers of those settlers would have to be removed to create a Palestinian state.  Many of those settlers however, would fiercely resist any attempt to rollback the settlement enterprise.  Earlier this month, Ha’aretz reported that a Hebrew University poll found that 21 percent of the settlers believe that “all means must be employed to resist the evacuation of most West Bank settlements, including the use of arms.”  In addition, the study found that 54 percent of those 480,000 settlers “do not recognize the government’s authority to evacuate settlements”; and even if there was a referendum sanctioning a withdrawal, 36 percent of the settlers said they would not accept it.

Those settlers, however, do not have to worry about the present government trying to remove them.  Prime Minister Netanyahu is committed to expanding the settlements in East Jerusalem and indeed throughout the West Bank.  Of course, he and virtually everyone in his cabinet are opposed to giving the Palestinians a viable state of their own.  Larry Derfner, a columnist for the Jerusalem Post, succinctly summed up Netanyahu’s thinking about these matters in a recent column: “For him to divide the land, to divide Jerusalem, to give up Hebron, to send 100,000 settlers packing – that would be treason in his eyes.  That would be moral suicide.  His heart isn’t in it; everything in him rebels at the idea.  Our prime minister is constitutionally incapable of leading the nation out of the Palestinians’ midst, of fighting the settlers and the Right in a virtual or literal civil war, of persuading Israelis to admit that on the crucial endeavor of their national life for the past 43 years, they were wrong and the world was right.”

One might argue that there are prominent Israelis like former Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert who openly disagree with Netanyahu and advocate a two-state solution.  While this is true, it is by no means clear that either of them would be willing or able to make the concessions that would be necessary to create a legitimate Palestinian state.  Certainly Olmert did not do so when he was prime minister.

But even if they were, it is unlikely that either of those leaders, or anyone else for that matter, could get enough of their fellow citizens to back an effective two-state solution.  The political center of gravity in Israel has shifted sharply to the right over the past decade and there is no sizable pro-peace political party or movement that they could turn to for help.  Probably the best single indicator of how far to the right Israel has moved in recent years is the shocking fact that Avigdor Lieberman is employed as its foreign minister.  Even Martin Peretz of the New Republic, who is well known for his unyielding support for Israel, describes Lieberman as “a neo-fascist,” and equates him with the late Austrian fascist Jorg Haider.  And there are other individuals in Netanyahu’s cabinet who share many of Lieberman’s views about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; they just happen to be less outspoken than the foreign minister.

But even if someone like Livni or Olmert was able to cobble together a coalition of interest groups and political parties that favored giving the Palestinians a real state of their own, they would still face fierce resistance from the sizeable forces that stand behind Netanyahu today.  It is even possible, which is not to say likely, that Israel would be engulfed by civil war if some future leader made a serious attempt to implement a two-state solution.  An individual with the stature of David Ben-Gurion or Ariel Sharon – or even Yitzhak Rabin – might be able to stand up to those naysayers and push forward a two-state solution, but there is nobody with that kind of standing in Israeli politics today.

In addition to these practical political obstacles to creating a Palestinian state, there is an important ideological barrier.  From the start, Zionism envisioned an Israeli state that controlled all of Mandatory Palestine.  There was no place for a Palestinian state in the original Zionist vision of Israel.  Even Yitzhak Rabin, who was determined to make the Oslo peace process work, never spoke about creating a Palestinian state.  He was merely interested in granting the Palestinians some form of limited autonomy, what he called “an entity which is less than a state.”  Plus, he insisted that Israel should maintain control over the Jordan River Valley and that a united Jerusalem should be the capital of Israel.  Also remember that in the spring of 1998 when Hillary Clinton was First Lady, she was sharply criticized for saying that “it would be in the long-term interests of peace in the Middle East for there to be a state of Palestine, a functioning modern state on the same footing as other states.”

It was not until after Ehud Barak became prime minister in 1999 that Israeli leaders began to speak openly about the possibility of a Palestinian state.  But even then, not all of them thought it was a good idea and hardly any of them were enthusiastic about it.  Even Barak, who seriously flirted with the idea of creating a Palestinian state at Camp David in July 2000, initially opposed the Oslo Accords.  Furthermore, he has been willing to serve as Netanyahu’s defense minister, knowing full well that the prime minister and his allies are opposed to creating an independent Palestine.  All of this is to say that Zionism’s core beliefs are deeply hostile to the very notion of a Palestinian state, and this makes it difficult for many Israelis to embrace the two-state solution.

In short, it is difficult to imagine any Israeli government having the political will, much less the ability, to dismantle a substantial portion of its vast settlement enterprise and create a Palestinian state in virtually all of the Occupied Territories, including East Jerusalem.

Many advocates of a two-state solution recognize this problem, but think that there is a way to solve it: the Obama administration can put significant pressure on Israel to allow the Palestinians to have their own state.  The United States, after all, is the most powerful country in the world and it should have great leverage over Israel because it gives the Jewish state so much diplomatic and material support.  Furthermore, President Obama and all of his principal foreign policy advisors are dedicated to establishing a viable Palestinian state living side-by-side with Israel.

But this is not going to happen, because no American president can put meaningful pressure on Israel to force it to change its policies toward the Palestinians.  The main reason is the Israel lobby, a remarkably powerful interest group that has a profound influence on U.S. Middle East policy.  Alan Dershowitz was spot on when he said, “My generation of Jews … became part of what is perhaps the most effective lobbying and fund-raising effort in the history of democracy.”  That lobby, of course, makes it impossible for any president to play hardball with Israel, especially on the issue of settlements.

Let’s look at the historical record.  Every American president since 1967 has opposed settlement building in the Occupied Territories.  Yet no president has been able to put serious pressure on Israel to stop building settlements, much less dismantle them.  Perhaps the best evidence of America’s impotence is what happened in the 1990s during the Oslo peace process.  Between 1993 and 2000, Israel confiscated 40,000 acres of Palestinian land, constructed 250 miles of connector and bypass roads, doubled the number of settlers, and built 30 new settlements. President Clinton did hardly anything to halt this expansion.  Indeed, the United States continued to give Israel billions of dollars in foreign aid each year and to protect it at every turn on the diplomatic front.

One might think that Obama is different from his predecessors, but there is little evidence to support that belief.  Consider that during the 2008 presidential campaign, Obama responded to charges that he was “soft” on Israel by pandering to the lobby and repeatedly praising the special relationship.  In the month before he took office, he was silent during the Gaza massacre – when Israel was being criticized around the world for its brutal assault on that densely populated enclave.

After taking office in January 2009, President Obama and his principal foreign policy advisors began demanding that Israel stop all settlement building in the Occupied Territories, to include East Jerusalem, so that serious peace negotiations with the Palestinians could begin.  After calling for “two states for two peoples” in his Cairo speech in June 2009, President Obama declared, “it is time for these settlements to stop.”  Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had made the same point one month earlier when she said, “We want to see a stop to settlement construction, additions, natural growth – any kind of settlement activity. That is what the President has called for.”  George Mitchell, the president’s special envoy for the Middle East, conveyed this straightforward message to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his lieutenants on numerous occasions.

In response, Netanyahu made it equally clear that Israel intended to continue building settlements and that he and almost everyone in his ruling coalition opposed a two-state solution.  He made but a single reference to “two states” in his own speech at Bar Ilan University in June 2009, and the conditions he attached to it made it clear that he was talking about giving the Palestinians a handful of disconnected, apartheid-style Bantustans, not a fully sovereign state.

Netanyahu, of course, won this fight. The Israeli prime minister not only refused to stop building the 2500 housing units that were under construction in the West Bank, but just to make it clear to Obama who was boss, in late June 2009, he authorized the building of 300 new homes in the West Bank.  Netanyahu refused to even countenance any limits on settlement building in East Jerusalem, which is supposed to be the capital of a Palestinian state.  By the end of September 2009, Obama publicly conceded that Netanyahu had beaten him in their fight over the settlements.  The president falsely denied that freezing settlement construction had ever been a precondition for resuming the peace process, and instead he meekly asked Israel to please exercise restraint while it continued colonizing the West Bank.  Fully aware of his triumph, Netanyahu said on September 23, “I am pleased that President Obama has accepted my approach that there should be no preconditions.”

Indeed, his victory was so complete that the Israeli media was full of stories describing how their prime minister had bested Obama and greatly improved his shaky political position at home.  For example, Gideon Samet wrote in Ma’ariv: “In the past weeks, it has become clear with what ease an Israeli prime minister can succeed in thwarting an American initiative.”

Perhaps the best American response to Netanyahu’s victory came from the widely read author and blogger, Andrew Sullivan, who wrote that this sad episode should “remind Obama of a cardinal rule of American politics: no pressure on Israel ever.  Just keep giving them money and they will give the US the finger in return. The only permitted position is to say you oppose settlements in the West Bank, while doing everything you can to keep them growing and advancing.”

The Obama administration was engaged in a second round of fighting over settlements last month, when the Netanyahu government embarrassed Vice President Biden during his visit to Israel by announcing plans to build 1600 new housing units in East Jerusalem.  While that crisis was important because it clearly revealed that Israel’s brutal policies toward the Palestinians are seriously damaging American interests in the Middle East, Netanyahu rejected President Obama’s request to stop building settlements in East Jerusalem.  “As far as we are concerned,” he said on March 21, “building in Jerusalem is like building in Tel Aviv. Our policy on Jerusalem is like the policy in the past 42 years.”  One day later at the annual AIPAC Conference he said: “The Jewish people were building Jerusalem 3,000 years ago, and the Jewish people are building Jerusalem today. Jerusalem is not a settlement; it’s our capital.”  And just last week, he said “there will be no freeze in Jerusalem,” although it does appear that Israel is not building in East Jerusalem for the moment.  Meanwhile, back in the United States, AIPAC got 333 congressmen and 76 senators to sign letters to Secretary of State Clinton reaffirming their unyielding support for Israel and urging the administration to keep future disagreements behind closed doors.

In short President Obama is no match for the lobby.  The best he can hope for is to re-start the so-called peace process, but most people understand that these negotiations are a charade.  The two sides engage in endless talks while Israel continues to colonize Palestinian lands.  Henry Siegman got it right when he called these fruitless talks “The Greater Middle East Peace Process Scam.”

There are two other reasons why there is not going to be a two-state solution.  The Palestinians are badly divided among themselves and not in a good position to make a deal with Israel and then stick to it.  That problem is fixable with time and help from Israel and the United States.  But time has run out and neither Jerusalem nor Washington is likely to provide a helping hand.  Then there are the Christian Zionists, who are a powerful political force in the United States, especially on Capitol Hill.  They are adamantly opposed to a two-state solution because they want Israel to control every square millimeter of Palestine, a situation they believe heralds the “Second Coming” of Christ.

What this all means is that there is going to be a Greater Israel between the Jordan and the Mediterranean.  In fact, I would argue that it already exists.  But who will live there and what kind of political system will it have?

It is not going to be a democratic bi-national state, at least in the near future. An overwhelming majority of Israel’s Jews have no interest in living in a state that would be dominated by the Palestinians.  And that includes young Israeli Jews, many of whom hold clearly racist views toward the Palestinians in their midst.  Furthermore, few of Israel’s supporters in the United States are interested in this outcome, at least at this point in time.  Most Palestinians, of course, would accept a democratic bi-national state without hesitation if it could be achieved quickly.  But that is not going to happen, although as I will argue shortly, it is likely to come to pass down the road.

Then there is ethnic cleansing, which would certainly mean that Greater Israel would have a Jewish majority.  But that murderous strategy seems unlikely, because it would do enormous damage to Israel’s moral fabric, its relationship with Jews in the Diaspora, and to its international standing.  Israel and its supporters would be treated harshly by history, and it would poison relations with Israel’s neighbors for years to come.  No genuine friend of Israel could support this policy, which would clearly be a crime against humanity.  It also seems unlikely, because most of the 5.5 million Palestinians living between the Jordan and the Mediterranean would put up fierce resistance if Israel tried to expel them from their homes.

Nevertheless, there is reason to worry that Israelis might adopt this solution as the demographic balance shifts against them and they fear for the survival of the Jewish state.  Given the right circumstances – say a war involving Israel that is accompanied by serious Palestinian unrest – Israeli leaders might conclude that they can expel massive numbers of Palestinians from Greater Israel and depend on the lobby to protect them from international criticism and especially from sanctions.

We should not underestimate Israel’s willingness to employ such a horrific strategy if the opportunity presents itself.  It is apparent from public opinion surveys and everyday discourse that many Israelis hold racist views of Palestinians and the Gaza massacre makes clear that they have few qualms about killing Palestinian civilians.  It is difficult to disagree with Jimmy Carter’s comment earlier this year that “the citizens of Palestine are treated more like animals than like human beings.”  A century of conflict and four decades of occupation will do that to a people.

Furthermore, a substantial number of Israeli Jews – some 40 percent or more – believe that the Arab citizens of Israel should be “encouraged” to leave by the government.  Indeed, former foreign minister Tzipi Livni has said that if there is a two-state solution, she expected Israel’s Palestinian citizens to leave and settle in the new Palestinian state.  And then there is the recent military order issued by the IDF that is aimed at “preventing infiltration” into the West Bank.  In fact, it enables Israel to deport tens of thousands of Palestinians from the West Bank should it choose to do so.  And, of course, the Israelis engaged in a massive cleansing of the Palestinians in 1948 and again in 1967.  Still, I do not believe Israel will resort to this horrible course of action.

The most likely outcome in the absence of a two-state solution is that Greater Israel will become a full-fledged apartheid state.  As anyone who has spent time in the Occupied Territories knows, it is already an incipient apartheid state with separate laws, separate roads, and separate housing for Israelis and Palestinians, who are essentially confined to impoverished enclaves that they can leave and enter only with great difficulty.

Israelis and their American supporters invariably bristle at the comparison to white rule in South Africa, but that is their future if they create a Greater Israel while denying full political rights to an Arab population that will soon outnumber the Jewish population in the entirety of the land.  Indeed, two former Israeli prime ministers have made this very point.  Ehud Olmert, who was Netanyahu’s predecessor, said in late November 2007 that if “the two-state solution collapses,” Israel will “face a South-African-style struggle.”  He went so far as to argue that, “as soon as that happens, the state of Israel is finished.”  Former Prime Minister Ehud Barak, who is now Israel’s defense minister, said in early February of this year that, “As long as in this territory west of the Jordan River there is only one political entity called Israel it is going to be either non-Jewish, or non-democratic.  If this bloc of millions of Palestinians cannot vote, that will be an apartheid state.”

Other Israelis, as well as Jimmy Carter and Bishop Desmond Tutu, have warned that if Israel does not pull out of the Occupied Territories it will become an apartheid state like white-ruled South Africa.  But if I am right, the occupation is not going to end and there will not be a two-state solution.  That means Israel will complete its transformation into a full-blown apartheid state over the next decade.

In the long run, however, Israel will not be able to maintain itself as an apartheid state.  Like racist South Africa, it will eventually evolve into a democratic bi-national state whose politics will be dominated by the more numerous Palestinians.  Of course, this means that Israel faces a bleak future as a Jewish state.  Let me explain why.

For starters, the discrimination and repression that is the essence of apartheid will be increasingly visible to people all around the world.  Israel and its supporters have been able to do a good job of keeping the mainstream media in the United States from telling the truth about what Israel is doing to the Palestinians in the Occupied Territories.  But the Internet is a game changer.  It not only makes it easy for the opponents of apartheid to get the real story out to the world, but it also allows Americans to learn the story that the New York Times and the Washington Post have been hiding from them.  Over time, this situation may even force these two media institutions to cover the story more accurately themselves.

The growing visibility of this issue is not just a function of the Internet.  It is also due to the fact that the plight of the Palestinians matters greatly to people all across the Arab and Islamic world, and they constantly raise the issue with Westerners.  It also matters very much to the influential human rights community, which is naturally going to be critical of Israel’s harsh treatment of the Palestinians.  It is not surprising that hardline Israelis and their American supporters are now waging a vicious smear campaign against those human rights organizations that criticize Israel.

The main problem that Israel’s defenders face, however, is that it is impossible to defend apartheid, because it is antithetical to core Western values.  How does one make a moral case for apartheid, especially in the United States, where democracy is venerated and segregation and racism are routinely condemned?  It is hard to imagine the United States having a special relationship with an apartheid state.  Indeed, it is hard to imagine the United States having much sympathy for one.  It is much easier to imagine the United States strongly opposing that racist state’s political system and working hard to change it.  Of course, many other countries around the globe would follow suit.  This is surely why former Prime Minister Olmert said that going down the apartheid road would be suicidal for Israel.

Apartheid is not only morally reprehensible, but it also guarantees that Israel will remain a strategic liability for the United States.  The recent comments of President Obama, Vice President Biden and General David Petraeus make clear that Israel’s colonization of the Occupied Territories is doing serious damage to American interests in the Middle East and surrounding areas.  As Biden told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in March, “This is starting to get dangerous for us.  What you’re doing here undermines the security of our troops who are fighting in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.  That endangers us, and it endangers regional peace.”  This situation will only get worse as Israel becomes a full-fledged apartheid state.  And as that becomes clear to more and more Americans, there is likely to be a serious erosion of support for the Jewish state on strategic grounds alone.

Hardline Israelis and their American supporters are aware of these problems, but they are betting that the lobby will defend Israel no matter what, and that its support will be sufficient to allow apartheid Israel to survive.  It might seem like a safe bet, since the lobby has played a key role in shielding Israel from American pressure up to now.  In fact, one could argue that Israel could not have gotten as far down the apartheid road as it has without the help of organizations like AIPAC and the Anti-Defamation League.  But that strategy is not likely to work over the long run.

The problem with depending on the lobby for protection is that most American Jews will not back Israel if it becomes a full-fledged apartheid state.  Indeed, many of them are likely to criticize Israel and support calls for making Greater Israel a legitimate democracy.  That is obviously not the case now, but there are good reasons to think that a marked shift in the American Jewish community’s thinking about Israel is in the offing.  This is not to deny that there will be some diehards who defend apartheid Israel; but their ranks will be thin and it will be widely apparent that they are out of step with core American values.

Let me elaborate.

American Jews who care deeply about Israel can be divided into three broad categories.  The first two are what I call “righteous Jews” and the “new Afrikaners,” which are clearly definable groups that think about Israel and where it is headed in fundamentally different ways.  The third and largest group is comprised of those Jews who care a lot about Israel, but do not have clear-cut views on how to think about Greater Israel and apartheid.  Let us call this group the “great ambivalent middle.”

Righteous Jews have a powerful attachment to core liberal values.  They believe that individual rights matter greatly and that they are universal, which means they apply equally to Jews and Palestinians.  They could never support an apartheid Israel.  They also understand that the Palestinians paid an enormous price to make it possible to create Israel in 1948.  Moreover, they recognize the pain and suffering that Israel has inflicted on the Palestinians in the Occupied Territories since 1967.   Finally, most righteous Jews believe that the Palestinians deserve a viable state of their own, just as the Jews deserve their own state.  In essence, they believe that self-determination applies to Palestinians as well as Jews, and that the two-state solution is the best way to achieve that end.  Some righteous Jews, however, favor a democratic bi-national state over the two-state solution.

To give you a better sense of what I mean when I use the term righteous Jews, let me give you some names of people and organizations that I would put in this category.   The list would include Noam Chomsky, Roger Cohen, Richard Falk, Norman Finkelstein, Tony Judt, Tony Karon, Naomi Klein, MJ Rosenberg, Sara Roy, and Philip Weiss of Mondoweiss fame, just to name a few.  I would also include many of the individuals associated with J Street and everyone associated with Jewish Voice for Peace, as well as distinguished international figures such as Judge Richard Goldstone.  Furthermore, I would apply the label to the many American Jews who work for different human rights organizations, such as Kenneth Roth of Human Rights Watch.

On the other side we have the new Afrikaners, who will support Israel even if it is an apartheid state.  These are individuals who will back Israel no matter what it does, because they have blind loyalty to the Jewish state.  This is not to say that the new Afrikaners think that apartheid is an attractive or desirable political system, because I am sure that many of them do not.  Surely some of them favor a two-state solution and some of them probably have a serious commitment to liberal values.  The key point, however, is that they have an even deeper commitment to supporting Israel unreservedly.  The new Afrikaners will of course try to come up with clever arguments to convince themselves and others that Israel is really not an apartheid state, and that those who say it is are anti-Semites.  We are all familiar with this strategy.

I would classify most of the individuals who head the Israel lobby’s major organizations as new Afrikaners.  That list would include Abraham Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League, David Harris of the American Jewish Committee, Malcolm Hoenlein of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, Ronald Lauder of the World Jewish Congress, and Morton Klein of the Zionist Organization of America, just to name some of the more prominent ones.  I would also include businessmen like Sheldon Adelson, Lester Crown, and Mortimer Zuckerman as well as media personalities like Fred Hiatt and Charles Krauthammer of the Washington Post, Bret Stephens of the Wall Street Journal, and Martin Peretz of the New Republic.  It would be easy to add more names to this list.

The key to determining whether the lobby can protect apartheid Israel over the long run is whether the great ambivalent middle sides with the new Afrikaners or the righteous Jews.  The new Afrikaners have to win that fight decisively for Greater Israel to survive as a racist state.

There is no question that the present balance of power favors the new Afrikaners.  When push comes to shove on issues relating to Israel, the hardliners invariably get most of those American Jews who care a lot about Israel to side with them.  The righteous Jews, on the other hand, hold considerably less sway with the great ambivalent middle, at least at this point in time.  This situation is due in good part to the fact that most American Jews – especially the elders in the community – have little understanding of how far down the apartheid road Israel has travelled and where it is ultimately headed.  They think that the two-state solution is still a viable option and that Israel remains committed to allowing the Palestinians to have their own state.  These false beliefs allow them to act as if there is little danger of Israel becoming South Africa, which makes it easy for them to side with the new Afrikaners.

This situation, however, is unsustainable over time.  Once it is widely recognized that the two-state solution is dead and Greater Israel is a reality, the righteous Jews will have two choices: support apartheid or work to help create a democratic bi-national state.  I believe that almost all of them will opt for the latter option, in large part because of their deep-seated commitment to liberal values, which renders any apartheid state abhorrent to them.  Of course, the new Afrikaners will fiercely defend apartheid Israel, because their commitment to Israel is so unconditional that it overrides any commitment they might have to liberal values.

The critical question, however, is: what will happen to those Jews who comprise the great ambivalent middle once it is clear to them that Israel is a full-fledged apartheid state and that facts on the ground have made a two state solution impossible?  Will they side with the new Afrikaners and defend apartheid Israel, or will they ally with the righteous Jews and call for making Greater Israel a true democracy?  Or will they sit silently on the sidelines?

I believe that most of the Jews in the great ambivalent middle will not defend apartheid Israel but will either keep quiet or side with the righteous Jews against the new Afrikaners, who will become increasingly marginalized over time.  And once that happens, the lobby will be unable to provide cover for Israel’s racist policies toward the Palestinians in the way it has in the past.

There are a number of reasons why there is not likely to be much support for Israel inside the American Jewish community as it looks more and more like white-ruled South Africa.  For starters, apartheid is a despicable political system and it is fundamentally at odds with basic American values as well as core Jewish values.  This is why the new Afrikaners will defend Israel on the grounds that it is not an apartheid state, and that security concerns explain why Israel has to discriminate against and oppress the Palestinians.  But again, we are rapidly reaching the point where it will be hard to miss the fact that Greater Israel is becoming a full-fledged apartheid state and that those who claim otherwise are either delusional or disingenuous.  Simply put, not many American Jews are likely to be fooled by the new Afrikaners’ arguments.

Furthermore, survey data shows that younger American Jews feel less attachment to Israel than their elders.  This is surely due to the fact that the younger generations were born after the Holocaust and after anti-Semitism had largely been eliminated from American life.  Also, Jews have been seamlessly integrated into the American mainstream, to the point where many community leaders worry that rampant inter-marriage will lead to the disappearance of American Jewry over time.  Not surprisingly, younger Jews are less disposed to see Israel as a safe haven should the goyim go on another anti-Semitic rampage, because they recognize that this is simply not going to happen here in the United States. That perspective makes them less inclined than their elders to defend Israel no matter what it does.

There is another reason why American Jews are likely to feel less connected to Israel in the years ahead.  Important changes are taking place in the demographic make-up of Israel that will make it more difficult for many of them to identify closely with the Jewish state.  When Israel was created in 1948, few ultra-orthodox Jews lived there.  In fact, ultra-orthodox Jews were deeply hostile to Zionism, which they viewed as an affront to Judaism.  Secular Jews dominated Israeli life at its founding and they still do, but their influence has been waning and is likely to decline much more in the decades ahead.  The main reason is that the ultra-orthodox are a rapidly growing percentage of the population, because of their stunningly high birthrates.  It is estimated that the average ultra-orthodox woman has 7.8 babies.  As many of you know, the Jewish areas of Jerusalem are increasingly dominated by the ultra-orthodox.  In fact, in the 2008 mayoral election in Jerusalem, an ultra-orthodox candidate boasted, “In another 15 years there will not be a secular mayor in any city in Israel.”  Of course, he was exaggerating, but his boast is indicative of the growing power of the ultra-orthodox in Israel.  One final piece of data: about one half of Israeli school children in first grade this year are either Palestinian or ultra-orthodox.  Given the high birthrates of the ultra-orthodox and the Palestinians, their percentage of the first-graders – and ultimately the population at large – will grow steadily with time.

Varying birthrates among Israel’s different communities are not the only factor that is changing the makeup of Israeli society.  There is another dynamic at play: large numbers of Israelis have left the country to live abroad and most of them are not expected to return home.  Several recent estimates suggest that between 750,000 and one million Israelis reside in other countries, and most of them are secular.  On top of that, public opinion surveys indicate that many Israelis would like to move to another country.  This situation is likely to get worse over time, because many secular Jews will not want to live in an apartheid state whose politics and daily life are increasingly shaped by the ultra-orthodox.

All of this is to say that Israel’s secular Jewish identity – which has been so powerful from the start – is slowly eroding and promises to continue eroding over time as the ultra-orthodox grow in number and influence.  That important development will make it more difficult in the years ahead for secular American Jews – who make up the bulk of the Jewish community here in the United States – to identify closely with Israel and be willing to defend it when it becomes a full-blown apartheid state. Of course, that reluctance to back Israel will be further strengthened by the fact that American Jews are among the staunchest defenders of traditional liberal values.

The bottom line is that Israel will not be able to maintain itself as an apartheid state over the long term, because it will not be able to depend on the American Jewish community to defend its loathsome policies toward the Palestinians.   And without that protection, Israel is doomed, because public opinion in the West will turn decisively against Israel, as it turns itself into a full-fledged apartheid state.

Thus, I believe that Greater Israel will eventually become a democratic bi-national state, and the Palestinians will dominate its politics, because they will outnumber the Jews in the land between the Jordan and the Mediterranean.

What is truly remarkable about this situation is that the Israel lobby is effectively helping Israel commit national suicide.  Israel, after all, is turning itself into an apartheid state, which, as Ehud Olmert has pointed out, is not sustainable in the modern era.  What makes this situation even more astonishing is that there is an alternative outcome which would be relatively easy to achieve and is clearly in Israel’s best interests: the two-state solution.  It is hard to understand why Israel and its American supporters are not working overtime to create a viable Palestinian state in the Occupied Territories and why instead they are moving full-speed ahead to build Greater Israel, which will be an apartheid state.  It makes no sense from either a moral or a strategic perspective.  Indeed, it is an exceptionally foolish policy.

What about the Palestinians?  I believe that the two-state solution is the best outcome for them as well as the Israelis.  However, the Palestinians have little say in whether there will be two states living side-by-side, because they are presently at the mercy of the Israelis, who are the lords of the land.  This means that the Palestinians are going to end up living in Greater Israel, which will be an apartheid state.  Again, one might even argue that they have already reached that point.  Regardless, the Palestinians will obviously have a vested interest in moving away from apartheid and toward democracy as quickly and painlessly as possible.  Of course, that will not be easy, but there are better and worse ways to achieve that end.

Let me conclude with a few words of advice to the Palestinians about how they should go about turning Greater Israel into a democratic bi-national state.

First, it is essential to recognize that the Palestinians and the Israelis are engaged in a war of ideas.  To be more specific, this is a war about two competing visions of the Middle East: a Greater Israel that is an apartheid state and one that is a democracy.  There is no question that the Palestinians have the easier case to make, as it is impossible to sell apartheid in the modern world.

Second, to win this war the Palestinians will have to adopt the South Africa strategy, which is to say that they will have to get world opinion on their side and use it to put enormous pressure on Israel to abandon apartheid and adopt democracy.  This task will not be easy because the new Afrikaners will re-double their efforts to defend Israel’s heinous policies.  Fortunately, their ability to do this is likely to diminish over time.

Third, the Palestinians most formidable weapon in this war of ideas will be the Internet, which will make it easy for them to document what Israel is doing and to get their message out to the wider world.

Fourth, the Palestinians will need to build a stable of articulate spokespersons who can connect with Western audiences and make a compelling case against apartheid.  In other words, they will need more Mustafa Barghoutis.  The Palestinians will also need allies, and not only from the Arab and Islamic world, but from countries in the West as well.   Many of the Palestinians best allies will surely be righteous Jews, who will play a key role in the fight against apartheid in Israel as they did in South Africa.

Fifth, it is essential that the Palestinians make clear that they do not intend to seek revenge against the Israeli Jews for their past crimes, but instead are deeply committed to creating a bi-national democracy in which Jews and Palestinians can live together peacefully.  The Palestinians do not want to treat the Jews the way the Jews have treated them.

Finally, the Palestinians should definitely not employ violence to defeat apartheid.  They should resist mightily for sure, but their strategy should privilege non-violent resistance.  The appropriate model is Gandhi not Mao. Violence is counter-productive because if it gets intense enough, the Israelis might think that they can expel large numbers of Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza.  The Palestinians must never underestimate the danger of mass expulsion.  Furthermore, a violent new Intifada would undermine support for the Palestinian cause in the West, which is essential for winning the war of ideas, which is ultimately the battleground on which Palestine’s future will be determined.

In sum, there are great dangers ahead for the Palestinians, who will continue to suffer terribly at the hands of the Israelis for some years to come. But it does look like the Palestinians will eventually get their own state, mainly because Israel seems bent on self-destruction.  Thank you.

Professor John J. Mearsheimer is the R. Wendell Harrison Distinguished Service Professor of Political Science and the co-director of the Program on International Security Policy at the University of Chicago.

This transcript may be used without permission but with proper attribution to The Palestine Center. The speaker’s views do not necessarily reflect the views of The Jerusalem Fund.

Attention Deficit Democracy

Attention Deficit Democracy

A society not alert to signs of its own decay, because its ideology is a continuing myth of progress, separates itself from reality and envelops illusion.

One yardstick by which to measure the decay in our country’s political, economic, and cultural life, is the answer to this question: Do the forces of power, which have demonstrably failed, become stronger after their widely perceived damage is common knowledge?

Economic decay is all around. Poverty, unemployment, foreclosures, job export, consumer debt, pension attrition, and crumbling infrastructure are well documented. The self-destruction of the Wall Street financial giants, with their looting and draining of trillions of other people’s money, have been headlines for two years. During and after their gigantic taxpayer bailouts from Washington, DC, the banks, et al, are still the most powerful force in determining the nature of proposed corrective legislation.


“The banks own this place,” says Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL), evoking the opinion of many members of a supine Congress ready to pass weak consumer and investor protection legislation while leaving dominant fewer and larger banks.


Who hasn’t felt the ripoffs and one-sided fine print of the credit card industry? A reform bill finally has passed after years of delay, again weak and incomplete. Shameless over their gouges, the companies have their attorneys already at work to design around the law’s modest strictures.


The drug and health insurance industry, swarming with thousands of lobbyists, got pretty much what they wanted in the new health law. Insurers got millions of new customers subsidized by hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars with very little regulation. The drug companies got their dream—no reimportation of cheaper identical drugs, no authority for Uncle Sam to bargain for discount prices, and a very profitable extension of monopoly patent protection for biologic drugs against cheaper, generic drug competition.


For all their gouges, for all their exclusions, their denial of claims and restrictions of benefits, for all their horrendous price increases, the two industries have come out stronger than ever politically and economically. Small wonder their stocks are rising even in a recession.


The junk food processing industry—on the defensive lately due to some excellent documentaries and exposes—are still the most influential of powers on Capitol Hill when it becomes to delaying for years a decent food safety bill, using tax dollars to pump fat, sugar and salt into the stomachs of our children, and fighting adequate inspections. Over seven thousand lives are lost due to contaminated food yearly in the US and many millions of illnesses.


The oil, gas, coal and nuclear power companies are fleecing consumers and taxpayers, depleting and imperiling the environment, yet they continue to block rational energy legislation in Congress to replace carbon and uranium with energy efficiency technology and renewables.


Still, even now after years of cost over-runs and lack of permanent storage for radioactive wastes, the nuclear industry has President Obama, and George W. Bush before him, pushing for many tens of billions of dollars in taxpayer loan guarantees for new nukes. Wall Street won’t finance such a risky technology without you, the taxpayers, guaranteeing against any accident or default.


Both Democrats and Republicans are passing on these outrageous financial and safety risks to taxpayers.


Congress, which receives the brunt of this corporate lobbying—the carrot of money and the stick of financing incumbent challengers—is more of an obstacle to change than ever. In the past after major failures of industry and commerce, there was a higher likelihood of Congressional action. Recall, the Wall Street and banking collapse in the early 1930s. Congress and Franklin Delano Roosevelt produced legislation that saved the banks, peoples’ savings and regulated the stock markets.


From the time of my book, Unsafe at Any Speed’s publication in late November 1965, it took just nine months to federally regulate the powerful auto industry for safety and fuel efficiency.


Contrast the two-year delay after the Bear Stearns collapse and still no reform legislation, and what is pending is weak.


Yet the entrenched members of Congress, responsible for this astonishing gridlock, are almost impossible to dislodge even though polls have Congress at its lowest repute ever. It is a place where the majority is terrified of the corporations and the minority can block even the most anemic legislative efforts with archaic rules, especially in the Senate.


Culturally, the canaries in the coal mine are the children. Childhood has been commercialized by the giant marketers reaching them hour by hour with junk food, violent programming, video games and bad medicine. The result—record obesity, child diabetes and other ailments.


While the companies undermine parental authority, they laugh all the way to the bank, using our public airwaves, among other media, for their lucre. They can be called electronic child molesters.


We published a book in 1996 called Children First!: A Parent’s Guide to Fighting Corporate Predators in the Media. This book is an understatement of the problem compared to the worsening of child manipulation today.


In a 24/7 entertained society frenetic with sound bites, Blackberries, iPods, text messages and emails, there is a deep need for reflection and introspection. We have to discuss face to face in living rooms, school auditoriums, village squares and town meetings what is happening to us and our diminishing democratic processes by the pressures and controls of the insatiable corporate state.


And what needs to be done from the home to the public arenas and marketplaces with old and new superior models, new accountabilities and new thinking.


For our history has shown that whenever the people get more engaged and more serious, they live better on all fronts.

 

Ralph Nader

 

30 March,2010

Nader.org

An American Attack On Iran Would Lead To US Collapse Says Top Russian General

An American Attack On Iran Would Lead To US Collapse Says Top Russian General

By Juan Cole

It appears that, the International Atomic Energy Agency is at least allowing for the possibility that documents allegedly found on a laptop some years ago –but discounted by the US Central Intelligence Agency and the Defense Intelligence Agency as of dubious provenance and incompatible with other intelligence gathered in Iran — point to a nuclear weapons program that no one has been able to locate. Some close observers have concluded that the laptop documents are forgeries. A new IAEA report that declines to dismiss the alleged documents will certainly cause the war lobby in the United States to redouble its efforts to get up an attack on Iran.

Forged documents on the supposed purchase of yellowcake uranium by Iraq from Niger were used by George W. Bush to promote a war on Iraq. It was at that time the Intelligence and Research division of the Department of State that attempted to throw cold water on these “documents,” but was ignored by the president. Then head of the IAEA, Mohammed Elbaradei, was able to show them false in one afternoon.

The UN inspectors have a right to be frustrated with Iran, which has allowed inspections of its Natanz nuclear enrichment site, but which has not been completely transparent or adhered to the letter of its obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. But the sum of those frustrations does not point to a nuclear weapons program, unlike the disputed laptop documents. In statements to the press this fall, US intelligence officials have said that they stand behind the conclusions first reached in 2007, that Iran has no nuclear weapons program.

The Obama administration wants stricter sanctions on Iran, and the Sarah Palin/ Daniel Pipes lunatic fringe wants a military attack on Iran.

But Russia’s General of the Army Nikolay Makarov, Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, warned that an American attack on Iran now, when the US is bogged down in two wars, might well lead to the collapse of the United States. He said that such an attack would roil the region and have negative consequences for Russia (a neighbor of Iran via the Caspian Sea). And, he said, the Russian military is taking steps to forestall such an American strike on Iran. Makarov made the remarks in Vzglyad on Friday, February 19, 2010, and they were translated or paraphrased by the USG Open Source Center:

‘Makarov also commented on the recent rumors about the possibility of an attack upon Iran by the United States. In his opinion, this would be complete madness on the part of the American military. He said: “Admiral Michael McMullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, recently said that, in the United States, there is a plan for carrying out strikes against Iran but the United States clearly understands that now, when it is conducting two military campaigns, one in Iraq and the other in Afghanistan, a third campaign against Iran would simply lead to a collapse. It would not be able to withstand the strain.”

Nevertheless, in proportion to the winding down of the campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan, (the plan for) a war with the Islamic Republic of Iran, in the opinion of General Makarov, may again come out to the foreground.

General Makarov, Chief of the General Staff, said: “The consequences of such an attack will be terrible not only for the region but also for us. Iran is our neighbor and we are very carefully following this situation. The leadership of our country is undertaking all measures in order not to allow such a (military) development of events.” ‘

 

The less potentially catastrophic path, tougher United Nations Security Council sanctions, however, depend on Russia and China going along. Despite Washington’s optimism that Russia is softening toward the idea of stricter sanctions, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov cast the severest doubts on that idea on Friday.

In a radio interview on Friday with Ekho Moskvy Radio, which was translated by the USG Open Source Center, Lavrov was asked, “What is the situation with Iran’s foreign policy today? And is it true that we now have as a whole a united position with the United States on Iran?”

The foreign minister replied, “I don’t think that we have a united position.” He said that both Washington and Moscow agree on the importance of not allowing “a violation of the regime of nonproliferation of nuclear weapons.” He said the two countries have the same position on this issue, “although we do not coincide 100 per cent in methods of implementing it.”

So what Lavrov is saying is that the US and Russia do not actually have a common position or agree on really tough sanctions. They just both have a vague similar position that proliferation is bad.

Lavrov said that Moscow’s independent stance toward Iran is rooted in the two countries’ historical relationship as well as in Russian desire to get Iranian cooperation on such issues as the disposition of resources in the Caspian Sea. (For a quick overview of Russian-Iranian relations, see N.M. Mamedova, who also mentions Iran’s tacit support for Russia against Georgia in the Caucasus.) Lavrov said:

‘ But Iran for us, unlike the US, is a close neighbour, a country with which we have had a very long, historically conditioned relationship, a country with which we cooperate in the economic, humanitarian and military-technology fields alike and, let me note this particularly, a country that is our partner in the Caspian along with three other Caspian littoral states.

Therefore, we are not at all indifferent to what happens in Iran and around it. This applies to our economic interests and our security interests alike. This also applies . . . to the task of early settlement of the legal status of the Caspian Sea, which is not an easy task and in the approaches to which the Iranian position is close enough to ours.

Therefore, speaking of the proliferation threats, yes, we are concerned about Iran’s reaction. ‘

Lavrov is less convinced there is anything sinister about Iran’s civilian nuclear research, though he admits that questions remain:

‘ in the process of work, questions arose both from the IAEA’s inspectors themselves and on the basis of the intelligence which the IAEA obtains from various countries. They were questions that aroused suspicion as to whether there might in reality be some military aspects to Iran’s nuclear programme.

These questions were presented to the Iranians, as required by the procedures applicable in such cases. And, some time ago, Iran answered most of them. In principle, its answers were satisfactory, in a way that was considered by the professionals in Vienna normal. However, some of the questions are still on the table. ‘

So Lavrov thinks Iran’s answers are largely ‘satisfactory,’ though there remain small areas of uncertainty.

 

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was in Moscow earlier this week calling for ‘crippling sanctions on Iran.’ Lavrov’s remarks clearly indicated that Moscow disagreed that that situation was so perilous as to call for such a step.

But just to be sure there was no misunderstanding, Lavrov sent out his own deputy foreign minister, Sergei Ryabkov, to denounce any such talk.

Ryabkov said, according to Xinhua, “The term ‘crippling sanctions’ on Iran is totally unacceptable to us. The sanctions should aim at strengthening the regime of non- proliferation . . . We certainly cannot talk about sanctions that could be interpreted as punishment on the whole country and its people for some actions or inaction . . . ” He said that Russia sought to settle differences with Iran through dialogue and engagement. He also pledged that Russia would honor its deal to provide Iran S-300 air defense systems. He said, “There is a contract to supply these systems to Iran and we will fulfil it. The delays are linked to technical problems with adjusting these systems . . . “

So on Friday, even as the hawks in Washington watered at the mouth at the prospect of being able to use the new IAEA report as a basis for belligerency against Iran, Russia’s foreign policy establishment was engaged in a whirlwind of activity aimed at challenging the notion that Moscow is was in Washington’s back pocket on Iran sanctions. The chief of staff predicted American collapse in an Iran conflagration, and vowed in any case to try to block any such attack. The foreign minister pronounced himself largely but not completely satisfied with Iran’s answers concerning its nuclear activities, and underlined that Russia needs Iran because of Caspian issues (and he could have added, because of Caucasus and Central Asian ones). And then the deputy foreign minister was enlisted to slap Netanyahu around a little, presumably on the theory that it would sting less coming from someone with ‘deputy’ in his title.

Those who have argued that Russia’s increasing willingness to acquiesce in tougher UNSC sanctions might influence China to go along, too, should rethink. Russia doesn’t seem all that aboard with a brutal sanctions regime. China not only has its own reasons not to want its own deals with Iran to be declared illegal, but its leaders doubt Iran has the capacity to construct a nuclear warhead anytime soon.

Postscript: The head of Iran’s nuclear program, interviewed on Aljazeera, warns the US against pressuring Iran.

21 February, 2010

Juancole.com

In Port-au-Prince, Life Goes On, As Does Suffering

In Port-au-Prince, Life Goes On, As Does Suffering

By Tanya Golash-Boza

03 February, 2010
Dissident Voice

I have crossed many borders in my life, and crossing the border from the Dominican Republic to Haiti on Monday, January 25, 2010 was one of the easiest I have seen. We were forewarned that the border is heavily militarized, that we had to provide evidence of vaccinations, and even that we had to give 24-hour notice before crossing the border.

However, crossing the border into Haiti was simply a matter of asking the person who was about to close the gate to leave it open for us. We were waved through and no one asked for our passports, our vaccination cards, the reason for our trip, or how long we planned to stay in the country. Crossing was so easy that we were not sure we were in Haiti until we saw two Haitian police officers standing outside the UN building in Malpasse.

We made it to the border a lot quicker than we thought we would. It took less than five hours to get to Jimani from Santo Domingo, and, an hour later we were at Croix-de-Bouquet, a town just outside Port-au-Prince. It was there we encountered our first problem — a major traffic jam. Aid trucks and vans coming in and out were blocking the way, and traffic was completely deadlocked.

We did not see any evidence that people are hijacking cars on the roads and stealing provisions, as we had been warned. Instead, we found many friendly people who guided us to our destination. We arranged to meet with our contacts in Croix-de-Bouquet.

In Croix-de-Bouquet, we began to see some of the destruction caused by the earthquake. Many houses were left standing, yet many others had been demolished. In general, however, life seemed to go on as usual. People were selling telephone cards, food, drinks, and other sundry items on the street.

Young men from the Dominican Civil Defense and police officers were trying to direct traffic in Croix-de-Bouquet, without much success. Finally, we were able to get through by going down a side road, and we made our way towards Port-au-Prince.

Driving along, we saw many destroyed buildings, and a lot of people in need. Relief efforts are underway, but they are not enough. Even if they were enough, there are little signs of how the city will begin to rebuild itself. People cannot live off of handouts of rice and beans forever, nor should they.

What’s more, the earth continues to tremble, keeping people in fear. In one day, there were three noticeable tremors. Each one shows the earth’s power and validates people’s fear that another terrible quake will occur. Geologists have confirmed that the earth has not finished settling and that another quake is likely.

Nevertheless, to the extent possible, people in Port-au-Prince continue with their daily routine. People with roadside stands set up shop where they can; police officers show up to work. However, many others are idle. Many businesses have been shut down because the building has been destroyed or rendered unusable. Schools are not operational because of damage. Many people are not going to work because their place of employment is not there any more.

At the same time, there is a lot of work to be done in Haiti. Some people are coordinating rescue efforts and cleaning up buildings and sweeping streets. Others are providing security for those who must sleep on the streets or in tent cities. Others are rebuilding walls or salvaging bricks from destroyed buildings.

The future of Port-au-Prince and of Haiti remain uncertain. Port-au-Prince needs not only to be rebuilt, but also to be built better. The poor building construction is one of the main reasons for the high mortality in the aftermath of the quake. There is much more work to be done, and, as yet, no clear plan for how it will be accomplished. There are many destroyed buildings and little organization in place for a plan to rebuild the city.

With the national palace and many important government buildings in ruins, there is barely a functioning government in Haiti. This makes organization difficult.

With many problems in providing relief, many people in Haiti continue to live with little food and in unsanitary conditions. On Wednesday, we saw a dead body lying by the side of the road, full of flies. Two weeks after the earthquake and no one had taken this corpse to the morgue or even to one of the many mass graves.

That is one image I can’t get out of my mind. Another is a destroyed school. It was a seven story building. During the earthquake, it shook so hard that it completely crumbled. The walls disintegrated and each floor fell on top of the other. People say that there was a room full of students in the basement, and that they likely have died slowly of thirst and hunger, as no one came to clear the building and rescue them.

The loss of life in that one school is a clear example of the fact that many lives were lost, not just because the earth shook, but because Haiti is a poor country. The incredibly poor quality of the seven story building meant that the walls crumbled under the weight of the ceilings. The lack of sufficient heavy machinery meant that there were not enough trucks to come and remove the rubble and potentially save the lives of the children and teachers in the basement.

The accumulated human suffering in Haiti is unfathomable to me. Although I have now left Haiti, images of destruction run like a slideshow through my mind. The fact that many of these deaths were preventable makes it worse. For these reasons, I am committed to doing what I can to ensure that this destruction does not reoccur. For that to happen, we cannot turn our eyes away from Haiti once the cameras are gone and the blood dries up. We must work to build a better Haiti and a better world — one in which people do not die because of poverty and inequality.

Tanya Golash-Boza is on the faculty at the University of Kansas

Source: http://dissidentvoice.org/2010/02/in-port-au-prince-life-goes-on-as-does-suffering/

 

A matter of Interest

Islamic Financial Management

A matter of Interest

The Rationale of Islam’s Anti-Interest Stance

Dr. M. Umer Chapra

 

The contention that the charging of interest was prohibited mainly because of the injustice it inflicts upon the poor does not go far enough towards the full rationale. During the prophet’s time [May the peace and blessings of God be upon him] borrowing was primarily undertaken not by the poor but by tribes and rich traders who operated as large partnership companies to conduct large-scale trade. This was necessitated by the prevailing circumstances. The difficult terrain, the harsh climate, and the slow means of communication made the task of trade caravans difficult and time consuming.

 

It was just not possible to make several business trips to the east and the west in a given year.

 

Funds remained blocked for a long time. Hence, it was necessary for the caravans to muster all available financial resources to purchase the local exportable products, sell them abroad, and bring back the entire needs of their society for imports during a specific period.

 

Before Islam, such resources were mobilized on the basis of interest. Islam abolished the interest-based nature of the financier-entrepreneur relationship and reorganized it on a profit and loss sharing basis. This still enabled the financier to have a just share in the enterprise, but the entrepreneur was not crushed by adverse conditions such as the caravan being waylaid on the journey.

 

This demonstrates that although the extension of meaningful help to the poor carries a high priority in the Islamic value system, it is not the only reason for the proscription of interest. The primary reason is the realization of overall socio economic justice, which is declared by the Qur’an to be the main mission of all God’s messengers [57:25].

 

Justice, however, is not a hollow term. It has several implications, the most important of which is that the resources provided by God to mankind must by utilized in such a manner that the universally cherished humanitarian goals of general need fulfillment, full employment; equitable distribution of income and wealth, and economic stability, are realized.

 

It is the contention here that these humanitarian goals cannot be realized without a humanitarian strategy. An important, though not the only, element of such a strategy is the abolition of interest. This would necessitate the reorganization of financial intermediation on the basis-of equity and profit and loss sharing; thus making the financier share in the risks as well as the rewards of business, and not assuring him of a predetermined rate of return irrespective of the ultimate outcome of business.

1. Need fulfillment

Financial intermediation on the basis of interest tends to allocate financial resources among borrowers on the criteria of their ability to provide acceptable collateral to guarantee the repayment of principal, and sufficient cash flow to service the debt. End use of financial resources does not constitute the main criterion. Hence, financial resources go to the rich, who fulfill both the criteria, and also to governments, who, it is assumed, will never go bankrupt.

 

However, the rich borrow not only for investment but also for conspicuous consumption and speculation, while governments borrow not only for development and public well-being, but also for chauvinistic defense build up and white elephant projects. This contributes to a rapid expansion in unproductive and wasteful spending and, besides accentuating macroeconomic and external imbalances, squeezes resources available for need fulfillment and development.

 

This explains why even the richest countries in the world, like the United States, have been unable to fulfill the essential needs of all their people in spite of abundant resources at their disposal.

 

2. Full employment

The unproductive and wasteful spending which the collateral linked, interest based financial intermediation has the tendency to promote, has led to a decline in savings in almost all countries around the world. Even in the industrial countries, net national saving as a percentage of national income declined by almost 4 per cent between the 1960s and the 1980s3. The world saving shortfall has been responsible for persistently high levels of real interest rates. This has led to lower rates of rise in investment, economic growth and employment. Unemployment has hence become one of the most intractable problems for all countries, including the rich industrial world.

 

Unemployment stood at 8.6 per cent in OECD Europe in 1988-90, three times its level of 2.9 per cent in 1971-734. It is not expected to fall significantly below this level in the near future because a real rate of economic growth of 3.5 per cent is required to prevent unemployment from rising, and European growth has been below this benchmark since 1976.

 

Even more worrying is the higher than average rate of youth unemployment because it hurts their pride, dampens their faith in the future, increases their hostility towards society and damages their personal capacities and potential contribution.

 

Given the budgetary constraints, the ever-looming threat of inflation, and the prospect of low growth rates continuing in the foreseeable future, the possibility of attaining full employment in the western world is not very bright, a decline in wasteful spending and a rise in savings and investment would be very helpful. But this is not possible when the value system encourages both the public and the private sectors to live beyond their means and the interest based financial intermediation makes this possible by making credit easily available without due regard to its end use. If, however, interest is prohibited and banks are required to share in the risk and rewards of financing, they will be more careful in lending, wasteful spending will decline and more resources will become available for productive investment and development. This will lead to higher growth, a rise in employment opportunities, and a gradual decline in unemployment.

 

3. Equitable distribution

The inequitable allocation of financial resources in the conventional interest based financial system is not widely recognized. According to Arne Bigsten, ‘the distribution of capital is even more unequal than that of land,’ and ‘the banking system tends to reinforce the unequal distribution of capital5.’ The reason, as already indicated, is that interest- based financial intermediation relies heavily on collateral, giving inadequate consideration to the strength of the project or the ultimate use of financing. Thus, while deposits come from a cross section of society. Their benefit goes mainly to the rich.

 

As Mishan so rightly pointed out: ‘Given that differences in wealth are substantial, it would be irrational for the lender to be willing to lend much to the impecunious as to the richer members of society, or to lend the same amounts on the same terms to each6.’ The Morgan guarantee trust company, sixth largest bank in the US, has admitted that the banking system has failed to ‘finance either maturing smaller companies or venture capitalists,’ and ‘though awash with funds, is not encouraged to deliver competitively priced funding to any but the largest, most cash-rich companies7.’

 

The Islamic financial system can be more conducive to the realization of equity. Risk / reward sharing would compel the financier to give due consideration to the strength of the project, thus making it possible for even the poor but competent entrepreneurs to get financing if they have worthwhile projects.

 

A large number of small and medium enterprises would thus be able to get financing from financial institutions without being able to offer the collateral. This should enable society to harness the pool of entrepreneurial ability from even among the poor. The rich contribution that such entrepreneurs can make to output, employment and need fulfillment could thus be tapped.

 

There is no reason to be unduly apprehensive about loan losses from such financing. The experience of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) is that credit provided to the most enterprising of the poor is quickly repaid by them from their higher earnings8. Other small loan programmers have yielded similar results in several countries.

4. Economic stability

The rate of interest has become one of the most important destabilizing factors in the present day world economy. Milton Friedman, a Nobel Laureate, attributed the unprecedentedly erratic behavior of the US economy to the erratic behavior of interest rates9. The high degree of interest rate volatility injects great uncertainty into the investment market. It makes the share of interest in the total return on invested capital (interest+profit) continually fluctuate. This makes it difficult to take long-term investment decisions with confidence. It drives borrowers and lenders alike into the shorter end of the financial market, thus bringing about a shift in the short and long-term commitment of funds and between equity and loan financing.

 

Fluctuating interest rates also create gyratic shifts in financial resources between users, sectors of the economy and countries, causing erratic movements in loan-based investment, commodity and stock prices, and exchange rates. With every rise in the rate of interest in  a floating rate system in a short ended  market, there is a rise in the rate of business failures, not because of any inefficiency or slackness on the part of the proprietor, but because of the sudden decline in profit, which is the entrepreneur’s share in the total return on capital. Business failures mean not only personal financial losses to proprietors and stock holders, but also a decline in employment, output, investment and productive capacity losses which take longer, and are more difficult to make up. All these factors have, no doubt, serious implications for economic activity and stability.

 

In a wholly equity based system, the entrepreneur’s share in the total return on capital would depend on the profit-sharing ratio and the ultimate outcome of the business. The profit-sharing ratio between the entrepreneur and the financier cannot fluctuate from day to day or even month to month like the rate of interest because it would be determined by  custom and considerations of justice and remain  contractually stable throughout the  duration of the financing agreement. Since the ultimate outcome of business depends on a number of factors which do not change erratically, an equity-based economy would therefore tend to be more stable than a loan-based economy. This has been recognized by a number of prominent western economists, including Henry Simons, Hyman Minsky and  Joan Robinson10.

 

Conclusion

Thus it may be seen that the prohibition of interest has to be an indispensable part of the strategy of any system, which believes in the brotherhood of mankind and wishes to to actualize the humanitarian goals of need fulfillment, full employment, equitable distribution of income and wealth, and economic stability. The reason why capitalism has not been able to realize these goals is that there is a conflict between its goals and its strategy. The goals are humanitarian, originating from its religious past, while the strategy is social-Darwinist, based on the concept of the survival of the fittest.

 

For the allocation of scarce financial resources, capitalism relies primarily on the rate of interest, which gives an edge to the rich and leads not only to a concentration of wealth but also a rise in conspicuous and wasteful consumption. This hurts the goal of need fulfillment and contributes to a slower growth in saving, investment, employment and output, thus frustrating the realization of overall human well being.

 

References

 

1. James Hastings, Encyclopedia of religion and ethics (NewYork): Charles Scribner’s Sons n. d.). Vol. 12, pp.555. See also john Noonan, the scholastic analysis of usury (Cambridge, mass: Harvard Univ. press, 1957), p.20.

2. See: the bible-Ezekiel, 18:8, 13,7; 22:12. See also Exodus, 22:25-27; Leviticus, 25:36-38; Deuteronomy, 23:19; Luke, 6:35.

3. See: Bank for International Settlements 61st Annual Report,1 April 1990-31 march 991, Basle 10 June 1991, p.32. See also OECD Economic Outlook, December 1991, p.21.

4. OECD Economic Outlook. December 1991, Tab. 2,p.7.

5. Arne Bigsten, ‘Poverty, Inequality and Development, in Norman Gemell, Surveys in Development Economics (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1987). P. 156.

6. E.S. Mishan, Cost Benefit Analysis: An Introduction (New York: Praeger, 1971),p. 205.

7. Morgan Guarantee Trust Co. of New York, World Financial Markets , January 1987, p.7.

8. See: The Economist, 16 February 1985, p.15.

9. Milton Friedman, ‘The Yo-Yo US Economy’, Newsweek, 15 February 1982,p.4.

10. Henry Simons Economic Policy for a Free Society (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1948), p. 320.

Hyman Minsky, John Maynard Keynes (New York: Columbia Univ. Press 1975). See also: Summary of Minsky’s argument cited by Joan Robinson in ‘what are the Questions?’, Journal of Economic Literature. December 1977. p. 1331. The quotation on the instability of credit is from C.P. Kindleberger, Manias, Panics, and Crashes (London: Macmillan, 1978). p.16.  Joan Robinson, op.cit.p.1331

Dr. Chapra is the Senior Economic Advisor to the

Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency (SAMA)

He is well known for his contributions to Islamic economics over more than two decades-contributions which earned him two international awards in 1989: the King Faysal International Award in Islamic Studies and the Islamic Development Bank Award in Islamic Economics.