Thursday, May 13, 2010

Finkelstein on Gaza

"The era of the "beautiful" Israel has passed, it seems irrevocably, and the disfigured Israel that in recent years has replaced it in the public consciousness is a growing embarrassment. It is not so much that Israel's behavior is worse than it was before, but rather that the record of that behavior has, finally, caught up with it. The truth can no longer be denied or dismissed."

"For a long while Israel's "supporters" deflected the impact of this accumulating documentary record by wielding the twin swords of The Holocaust and the "new anti-Semitism"... if 'another flare-up in the region, similar to the Gaza operation, will probably lead to an even more severe out-break of anti-Semitic activity against communities worldwide' (quote from the Israeli Coordination Forum for Countering Anti-Semitism), then an efficacious method to fight anti-Semitism would appear to be for Israel to stop committing massacres."

In his book analysing the Israeli invasion into Gaza, Norman Finkelstein takes a clear and uncompromising position. It is a well researched and referenced polemic that does not shirk from pointing the finger at those responsible for what the UN Goldstone report (whose author is both Jewish and a self-declared Zionist who "worked for Israel all of my adult life") clearly termed war crimes, stating that "the Israeli assault on Gaza constituted "a deliberately disproportionate attack designed to punish, humiliate and terrorize a civilian population, radically diminish its local economic capacity both to work and to provide for itself, and to force upon it an ever increasing sense of dependency and vulnerability." Anybody still in doubt about the justification of this characterisation should read Finkelstein's book as the testimony of a Jew who speaks out against crimes committed in the name of people who used to keep quiet about it, but now, he asserts are increasingly coming off the fence whilst Israel grows more and more distant from its alleged support amongst the Jewish people in the diaspora.

In a brief history of the Israel-Palestine conflict Finkelstein explains the rationale for Israel to have broken a ceasefire with the Hamas-led Palestinian government after first ensuring that both that government and its people were weakened by a prolonged economic blockade: After the blunders in the Lebanon, where Israel also stands accused of having committed widespread war crimes, the Israeli governing elite felt the need to restore Israel's "deterrence capacity", and that could only be achieved by showing unrestrained and disproportionate force against a defenceless civil population. Israel's two major concerns which it hoped to deal with by its Gaza invasion were that its enemies were less afraid of it than they once were, and that any future peace initiative might succeed in forcing Israel to concede in a compromise what it never had any intention to concede, the existence of a Palestinian people with sovereignty over any territory of their own.

Dealing with "Operation Cast Lead" as Israel termed the invasion, Finkelstein takes apart any attempt of Israeli apologists to justify the carnage it unleashed and describes minutely the progression of the military operation, based on testimonies from Palestinians, independent observers and human rights organisations as well as Israeli soldiers themselves, leaving no doubt that the intended humanitarian disaster was not by accident but by design. As a fan of Mahatma Ghandi he tries to show that Ghandi's advocacy for non-violent protest did not extend to a call for oppressed people to take oppression lying down but instead supported resistance in the face of impossible odds as "a refusal to bend before overwhelming might in the full knowledge that it means certain death", and he quotes Ghandi's response in 1947 to what might be the most acceptable solution to the Palestinian problem as "The abandonment wholly by the Jews of terrorism and other forms of violence".

Finkelstein supports a two-state solution of peaceful coexistence for Palestine. He is hopeful that after the Israeli propaganda has had to take a serious dent when the extens of Israel's crimes became known, the Palestinian position of only asking for what the International Court of Justice and the United Nations General Assembly repeatedly stated as their inviolable right - freedom from occupation and self-determination - might gradually shift public opinion and, with it, policy makers. I am not that optimistic since in my understanding Israel is only a stepping stone on the road to world government (as predicted by Ben Gurion in 1962), with Israel's designs not being limited to controlling and subjugating people on the territories occupied so far. Nor do I support an artificial two-state solution: Israel claims to be a democracy yet gives favoured status to a set of people perceived as genetically Jewish. A single-state solution with "one person, one vote" is what democracy would demand instead. In spite those differences, Palestinians do have a strong advocate in Norman Finkelstein, and I highly recommend his passionately written book in their support.

Norman G. Finkelstein's book "This Time We Went Too Far. Truth & Consequences of the Gaza Invasion." is published by O/R Books, New York.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Hang parliament!

As the UK public is going to cast their votes at polling stations around the country, there has been, as in previous general elections, much talk of a "hung parliament" or the fear of the two main parties that neither of them might manage to get an absolute majority in spite of the unique British "first-past-the-post" electoral system usually resulting in a sizable majority for a party who only has a minority backing amongst the population. This whole discussion misses the crucial point that neither of the parties potentially forming a government after today will have a popular mandate, because they are not bound to listen to the voice of the people, but rather carry out the policies of their paymasters, the banks.

Each of the parties contesting the current UK elections have already made it clear that there will be "cuts" in spending, "austerity" measures in order to pay back the large deficit amassed by bailing out the banks whose profiteering charges were in the past justified by the suggestion that they took a commercial risk when lending. Instead, it is the people who take the risk and the people who pay the price.

None of the parties have dared looking at alternatives to the current madness, because questioning the supremacy of private banks as the originators of the nation's money supply is heresy. Hence it will not make an iota of difference who gets elected today.

Only a year ago we had the bizarre scenario that we were told that the banks did no longer have the funds to lend money, therefore governments had to bail them out by lending the money to them, but in order to do so, they first had to raise those funds on the money markets, in other words, obtain them from those same banks that didn't have the funds in the first place. The real problem is that governments do not supply the currency they issue, but borrow the money they put into circulation from private banks, who in turn have been given the right to issue those loans without any material backing - out of thin air as it were - and then charge for it. In this crazy system of fractional reserve banking, banks are allowed to issue a multiple of their asset base in credits, that is lend money that they do not have nor doesn't in fact exist, and charge for the privilege. Yet, governments are denied to put money into circulation by the same means, clearly indicating that we are governed by banks, not governments.

Were our governments to issue the necessary credit directly into circulation, saving the high cost of interest on borrowing, there would be no need for cuts and austerity measures. This argument has been put to the treasury countless times, and the replies and excuses have been as ingenious as that there was "not enough demand" for this kind of government-issued money (known to economists as M0), or that the Maastricht treaty prevented European governments from doing so.

Hence, the best course of action for troubled countries like Greece, Portugal, Spain, Ireland and sooner or later the UK would be to leave the Euro and the restraints imposed by the European Union, issue their own interest-free currency to facilitate trade and prosperity, and preventing banks from continually creaming off the lion's share of our tax payments. Don't bother voting for UKIP as an alternative though, or the SNP, they're no more wanting to upset the status quo than the rest. When it comes to political parties and their MPs, they're all in the pocket of the bankers. A hung parliament wouldn't be too bad, provided they hang them all properly.