Netanyahu and Nasrallah - Two messianic leaders


Indeed, this is a very benighted region. The source of darkness is a life lived in myths of the past.


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And They Shall Ever Meet

Archive  (2001) -

While in Germany people want to forget and seek forgiveness, people in the Holy Land look for remembrance.

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No-shows at the Wedding


Lucy Aharish’s marriage to Tzachi Halevy, which drew the seed purists from their hideouts, exposed the simple truth about matters of relationships between men and women – that Israel is no different than the surrounding Arab region


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Left, Right - What’s the Difference?


Salman Masalha ||

Left, Right - 

What’s the Difference? 


Arab MKs have always sat in the opposition, but theirs is a simulated opposition, and will never be a real part of Israel’s democracy. This is an ostracized opposition – even the 'left' isn’t ready to count it

Time and again, the so-called left fails the civil test. This left seems to be stuck in the same nationalist muck that it claims to oppose. Here and there it presents positions that have the appearance of opposition to the right-wing Netanyahu government, but then it unwittingly reveals the depth of its attachment to the same ethnocentricity that the right expounds.

A prominent example of this can be seen in the type of views that Professor Zeev Sternhell expresses from time to time in this newspaper. In his most recent column, Professor Sternhell sought to delineate the opposition in the Knesset, which is supposed to constitute an alternative to the Netanyahu government. In theory, he says, “The opposition stretches from the social-democratic wing of Meretz to what’s left of Labor to Yesh Atid voters.” Professor Sternhell also calculates the potential Knesset seats that such an opposition could amass: “On paper, we’re talking a potential of 40 seats.” Though he then qualifies that estimate by saying that some of those he is counting as potential members of the opposition “are close to being radical nationalists and would refuse to join forces with the Arabs.”

It is precisely in this theory where the inherent problem of the Israeli “left” is found – the opposition in Israel is always reserved just for Jews. This theory is part of a deeply rooted philosophy within the left’s political discourse.
In despair over the bleak state of the opposition, in May of last year Professor Sternhell called upon the leaders of the “center-left” to look in the mirror and think about who is the leader that could save Israel: “Everyone in Yesh Atid and Zionist Union should look in the mirror,” he urged, insisting that they need to recognize that Ehud Barak is “their best chance, perhaps their only one” to gain power and save the country from an apartheid government.

It’s as if only on paper are there 120 Knesset seats, for in the Israeli political discourse, on the right and the left, the 13 MKs from the Joint List are never counted. They essentially sit in the Knesset as a fig leaf to adorn the Jewish state with the look of democracy.

Sternhell’s leftist theory of the opposition ascribes a separate category – Arabs -- to a fifth of the country’s citizens. Into this basket are poured all the “Arabs,” with no differentiation whatsoever, as if their number did not contain a mix of social-democratic, secular, traditional, nationalist, leftist and rightist voters. All are assigned a single label: Arabs.

Arab MKs have always sat in the opposition, but theirs is a simulated opposition, and will never be a real part of Israel’s democracy. This is an ostracized opposition – even the “left” isn’t ready to count it.

Instead of talking about Israeli parties in the Knesset that represent citizens from different social and political streams, the left also uses the generalizing term “Arabs” that perpetuates the built-in exclusion. Therefore this left, which purports to present an alternative to the current government, repeatedly falls into the trap set for it by the nationalist right under the leadership of Benjamin Netanyahu.

This is not how you break down walls between citizens in the name of equality and replace the government. Quite the opposite. Instead, it looks like this kind of opposition theory from the left essentially embodies the spirit of the recently passed nation-state law.
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Haaretz, Sep 06, 2018

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From Rabin's Assassination to The Druze protest


The nation-state law basically gave a constitutional stamp of approval to that same campaign of divisiveness and racist spirit that led to the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin

Salman Masalha ||

From Rabin's Assassination to The Druze protest


The Old, Familiar Evil Wafting Through the Clauses of the Nation-state Law
In the city square, to which tens of thousands of citizens streamed Saturday night in solidarity with the Druze protest against the nation-state law, a new Israeliness was born. This was the same square, Malchei Yisrael Square, that due to events on a different Saturday night, November 4, 1995, changed its name to Rabin Square.

Everyone who seeks to live in a sane and egalitarian country must thank the Druze community for spearheading the public protest against the nation-state law, and putting the debate about it and its destructive consequences on the public agenda. The Knesset, which voted for this despicable law that distinguishes between citizens on the basis of ethnic affiliation, basically gave a constitutional stamp of approval to that same campaign of divisiveness and racist spirit that led to the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. Yigal Amir, who shot the prime minister in the back, was merely an emissary of the same ideological spirit that envelops the house on Balfour Street these days.

It’s important to remind those who are trying to forget or make others forget, that it was this prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, who led those people who incited against Rabin. The evil of those days was the same evil that wafts among the clauses of the nation-state law. In those days the land was filled with wild incitement against the prime minister, who with measured steps and with some hesitation, was trying to bring about a historic reconciliation with the Palestinians and lead Israel to a saner place.

We must also recall that the heads of the messianic right, first and foremost the king of inciters who now serves as prime minister, argued at the time against Rabin that he could not make any “fateful” decisions for the simple reason that “he has no Jewish majority.” Rabin’s government at the time rested on a majority that included a bloc of the so-called Arab parties. But Rabin was not deterred by the threats of the right-wing fanatics. A few days before his murder, he spoke with disgust on state television about the unbridled incitement against his policy, and used terms like “racism” and “apartheid.”

With the help of a democratic majority in the Knesset, Rabin tried to broaden the concept of Israeliness to include Arab citizens and their representatives. This was anathema to the zealots of the “Jewish tribe,” which included opportunistic and populist rabbis and politicians who embarked on a crusade of Jewish tribal incitement.

Thus, they paved the way for that inflamed emissary who destroyed the dream of Israeli sanity with three shots. Even then I thought – and even wrote in a piece that appeared in November 1995 under the title “The Israeli soul yearns” – that this assassination was essentially a “family honor” killing. It was murder to defend the honor of the Jewish tribe.

The nation-state law in its current version is a direct continuation of that same incitement. It is aimed at promoting the apartheid cure, from the school of the fanatic right, against the demographic blow that is evolving between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. It is further evidence that this government, with all its components and under Netanyahu’s leadership, does not intend to seek a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The messianic right seeks through this law to shackle any future government that might take steps toward resolving the conflict. Should that happen it won’t take long before this right will emerge from its dark holes and shout from the city square that “the government and the one who heads it doesn’t have a Jewish majority.”

The abominable nation-state law that was passed, is, therefore, also the constitutional stamp that the fanatic Jewish right, led by the prime minister and chief inciter, Benjamin Netanyahu, is imprinting on a future pardon for the assassin Yigal Amir. That’s why it must be removed from the law books, and responsibility for that lies with all Israelis.
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Haaretz, Aug 07, 2018

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Related article: "Anthym for the tribe of Israel", Nov. 1995




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Where Is This ‘Israel’ They Talk About?


The nation-state law has not one but several intolerable clauses. All those who spoke out against only two of its clauses are full partners to this fraud that is supposedly Israeli, humane and liberal .


Salman Masalha ||


Where Is This ‘Israel’ They Talk About?


In view of the Zionist debate over the nation-state law, it’s time to put things straight and make some unequivocal statements.

First, the nation-state law, which lawmakers of the Smotrich and Dichter breed have promoted, has not one but several intolerable clauses. All those who spoke out against only two of its clauses are full partners to this fraud that is supposedly Israeli, humane and liberal.

At first glance at its wording, one can see that the opening clause is groundless. This “Israel” that appears in it cannot be the “historic homeland of the Jewish people” as long as the borders of the “state of Israel” have not been drafted by those lawmakers who advanced the law, and as long as these borders have not been granted international recognition and legitimacy.

The third clause, which deals with “whole and united Jerusalem” as Israel’s capital, seems to be mistaken in the same way as is the term “Israel.” This clause is likewise groundless because this “Jerusalem” is extremely liquid. Nobody knows where its borders begin and end.

Clause 7, which raised a great tumult due to its blatantly racist wording, was replaced with the more general phrasing: “The state sees developing Jewish settlement as a national value.” This sentence is a renewed recitation of a Zionist principle, which has existed since this movement came into the world. There’s nothing new under the sun. This is how all the pre-state Zionist institutions acted and have been acting since Israel’s establishment. The state’s symbols – the flag, the menorah and the anthem – are the most blatant expression, reflecting the exclusion of one fifth of the state’s citizens.

As for the clause stipulating that Hebrew is the state’s “official” language, which changes the Arab language’s status from an “official” one to one with a “special” status – the Arab lawmakers in the Knesset have cooperated throughout the years with this process. If the Arab MKs had one iota of respect for their tongue they should have made all their speeches from the Knesset podium in Arabic. If you demand respect for the Arab language you should show it in action. The Arab MKs didn’t do so and with this behavior they pushed Arabic’s status with their own mouths out of the public sphere.

Suffice it to visit Arab communities to see that the Arabs themselves have downgraded the Arab language’s status, and signposts in Hebrew prevail in their streets and on their businesses. Nobody stopped the business owners from putting up signposts in Arabic. The Arabs themselves belittled Arabic’s status.

Every Smotrich, Dichter, Slomiansky, Ohana and their kind should know that the mere sound of their family name attests like a thousand witnesses to their origin and descent, which are alien to this place.

This must also be stressed. I, the oversigned, hereby announce to all and sundry: This country is my country and homeland, and anyone who even thinks of doubting this fact of life should be thrown into the dustbin of history. And the sooner the better.
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Haaretz, 20/7/2018

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Hamas in the service of Israel



Hamas Rule in Gaza Isn’t the Enemy of the Israeli Right, It's the Loyal Servant...

Salman Masalha ||

Hamas in the service of Israel


Pundits say the government has no clear policy in the Gaza Strip. They’re wrong. It’s true that when Benjamin Netanyahu was in the opposition he declared, as the head of Likud, that if he came to power he would bring down the Hamas government; that Yisrael Beiteinu Chairman Avigdor Lieberman, before becoming defense minister, said that within 48 hours on the job he would arrange for Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh to meet with 72 virgins in heaven; and that Habayit Hayehudi Chairman Naftali Bennett issued hollow pronouncements. But all that was just lip service, for the sole purpose of appealing to Israel’s military machismo, which in the future will drive the ignorant Israeli masses to the polls in droves, to put the right ballot in the box.

Lest we forget: Hamas rule isn’t the enemy of the Israeli right. Au contraire, it’s the loyal servant of all the right-wing governments. Since the occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in the Six-Day War, all Israeli governments have devoted all their time and energy to fighting the Palestinian national movement, which gained momentum due to the occupation. In that context it’s worth mentioning that since the late 1970s, on the advice of various Arabists, there have been several abortive attempts to create a local alternative to the PLO, in the form of the Village Leagues.

The Hamas movement, which now controls the Gaza Strip, was founded with the encouragement of Israeli governments as an Islamic counterweight to the nationalist movement led by the PLO. The Islamist golem that for years turned against its creator — that’s already another story.

Given that this is where things stand, the Israeli right would do well to find the silver lining in the cloud that is the Gaza Strip. It’s perfectly simple. The Hamas government is securing the separation between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, which according to the Oslo Accords are supposed to be a single political entity. As long as Hamas rules in the Strip, no Palestinian political entity exists that can conduct negotiations, that can pass binding resolutions decisions and impose them on the Palestinians living within the borders of the entity. As a result, the Israeli right can argue that there is no Palestinian partner with which it can negotiate an end to the conflict.

The Palestinians thus played straight into the hands of the Israeli right, giving birth to a two-headed creature that is increasingly entrenching itself without any hope of a normal life.

Recently, in the wake of the hospitalization of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and the talk of a possible successor, some signs of the delegation of authority to a few individuals in the Palestinian Authority have emerged. If that does indeed happen, then that part of the Palestinian body — the West Bank — will also grow multiple heads. The Palestinians will find themselves in an impossible situation: Too many chiefs means too many pointless internal conflicts within the divided Palestinian creature.

In such circumstances, the Israeli right will go from victory to victory. It will continue down its ancient road. It will continue to steal Palestinian land for the settlements and to build roads for settlers that bypass Palestinian communities — until the complete blockage of the respiratory passages and the resultant death of the strange Palestinian creature.

If the Palestinians seek life, they must perform a quick operation and leave the Palestinian body, which in any case suffers from chronic illnesses, with a single head. A single head that will make decisions, give orders and confidently lead the Palestinian body.

Had the Palestinians been blessed with a fertile political imagination, they would have chosen Marwan Barghouti as the successor to the Palestinian president and Salam Fayyad as prime minister. If they do so, the entire world will support them. If not, their situation will go from bad to worse.
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Haaretz, June 4, 2018


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Israel and Iran: War Games

As each side calls the other a Satan, Iran can continue to entrench its influence in the Arab world and Israel can continue to occupy Palestine unhampered

Salman Masalha ||

Israel and Iran: War Games 


The airstrikes attributed to Israel deep inside Syria, aimed at weapons shipments to Hezbollah or at Iranian bases and missile stocks, and the launching of an Iranian drone into Israel have been nothing but war games, with their boundaries set in advance. This is a cat-and-mouse game played by Iran and Israel.

It’s hard to imagine a scenario in which total war erupts between Iran and Israel. Such a war, if it broke out, would sow devastation and exact an intolerable toll in human lives.

It doesn’t seem likely that the ayatollahs in Tehran and their counterparts in Jerusalem are unaware of these destructive implications. Such a war could draw in other countries in the region and require the intervention of the big powers to stop the destruction. Therefore, the scuffle between Iran and Israel must be viewed as war games that serve the purposes of both sides. Israel and Iran need each other because each fulfills the other's goals.

Iran needs Israel in order to expand its sphere of influence across the Arab countries in the region, because as long as Israel maintains its occupation in Palestine, Iran can keep feeding the Arab world declarations about the Little Satan and the Zionist entity that must be annihilated. It well knows the intensity of anti-Israel sentiment in the Arab world.

Thus Tehran, without much effort, can show people in these countries that their leaders are incompetent. Iran continues to gain; it can send out its long tentacles and further entrench its influence in the Arab world.

Iran isn’t doing anything new. It learned these games from Arab leaders who have used the Palestinian issue to block any demand for freedom by their citizens. The Palestinian problem has helped perpetuate the rule of Arab tyrants.

Israel also needs Iran. Just as Iran calls Israel the Little Satan (compared to the great American one), Israel also portrays Iran as the devil incarnate.

Portraying Iran as the Great Satan fits the way some Arab leaders perceive the danger of the ayatollahs trying to undermine their regimes. This has also led to the prevailing view on the Israeli right that seeks a regional peace agreement that includes “moderate Sunni states” as defined by Israel. The big Iranian devil serves the interests of Israel’s right, letting it push aside dealing with the Palestinian problem, portraying it as less pressing. Israel can claim that the conflict with the Palestinians isn’t the main issue needing resolution on the road to establishing a new order in the Middle East.

Thus there’s some mutual back-scratching in these war games. Iran can continue to entrench its influence in the Arab world and Israel can continue to occupy Palestine unhampered and without international pressure to end the occupation. This in a nutshell is all there is to the game of conflict theory guiding Iran and Israel. The problem is that sometimes war games get out of control.


Haaretz, May 8, 2018


For Hebrew, press here



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Syria and the Illusion of Arab Solidarity


The Syria Crisis Exposed Nothing More Than The Failure Of Arab Leaders And The Illusion Of Arab Solidarity

Salman Masalha ||

Syria and the Illusion of Arab Solidarity



"There is no morality in the politics of the superpowers, and all the more so where wars are concerned, especially when they take place in distant arenas. In such a situation, self-interest dictates policy, and these interests – even when couched in honeyed words – are ultimately economic interests. The people and their fate are not taken into account in the calculations of profit and loss of the superpowers' policymakers.

"For example, let us examine the recent statement by Russian General Vladimir Shamanov in the Russian parliament. He stated that the Russian army had brought 200 types of new Russian weapons [systems] to the battlefields in Syria, to test them. The general added that these experiments proved the efficacy of the Russian weapons, which will increase the sales of Russian arms worldwide and advance the Russian economy. We are aware that the Russian economy is based solely on the military industries and that Russia has nothing to export to the world other than its military products. What this means is that the Russian war in Syria is an [just] an opportunity for the Russian Czar [President Vladimir Putin] to try out the new Russian weapons. What is true of Russia in this sphere is also true of the U.S. and of the other powers. As I said, there are no morals in politics.

"That's how Syria, with its ethnic and religious complexities, became an arena for disputes and tugs of war [between parties with conflicting interests], and a testing ground for the regional and international forces. In its calls on the 'international community' to intervene to bring an end to the Syrian tragedy, the Arab leadership expresses only its own shameful national failure to deal with what is happening in its own Arab back yard.

"If there really and truly was a thing called 'Arabism,' meaning strong connections [of solidarity], those same [leaders] and those like them wouldn't be calling on the 'international community' to interfere so as to bring an end to these massacres and acts of slaughter. If these [leaders] were real Arabs, connected to one another by strong bonds, they would have intervened themselves to stop the slaughter of their own people. Are they not leaders of countries that have tremendous armies? So how is it that in a situation like this they stand with their arms folded and charge the 'foreigners' from the international community to intervene and solve their problems? Why don't they do what they are asking the international community to do?

"And furthermore, note the difference between the way the other [non-Arab] world treated the refugees who knocked on its gates and the way the Arabs treated the refugees, who are supposedly fellow Muslims. Is it not the case that the refugee camps are only to be found in Arab and Muslim lands? What about the millions who migrated to Europe? Those millions are not living in refugee camps, but are being absorbed into European cities and becoming citizens there. Only in the lands of the Arabs and the Muslims, such as Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey, are the Arab [refugees] crowded into disgraceful camps. And what does this mean? It means one thing – that the Arabs and Muslims are not [really] taking in the refugees, unlike the European countries, which are 'infidel' [countries] according to the ideologies by which they [the Arabs and Muslims] have been educated from birth.

"This state of affairs, which is obvious to all, does it not mean that what is referred to as 'Arabism' is nothing more than a baseless illusion? And furthermore, when a regime that attributes Arabism to itself, such as the Syrian regime, is helped by foreign Russian planes to murder those who are meant to be its 'citizens' or 'its people,' does that not mean that what is supposed to be a single people is not a single people at all?

"These truths that are obvious to us mean that every Arab who retains a shred of human dignity should be ashamed of belonging to this wretched nation and its leaders, of every stream, who have long been feeding [the nation] empty slogans. Long decades of chewing over slogans achieved have nothing for the Arab citizen. What have these slogans yielded after all those decades? The Arabs have become groups of people with nothing that unites them, who wander aimlessly in a world that is becoming a political, social, cultural, and moral desert.

"The Arab world has become an testing ground for the superpowers, and the Arabs have become the aimlessly wandering guinea pigs who can't find a way out of their crises. These are truths that are obvious to all and cannot be hidden or swept under the carpet."


Translated by Memri

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HER MAJESTY


Salman Masalha


HER MAJESTY


Neither dust, nor a rock, nor a site
Shall I praise from the desert’s edge
Nor the reign of thieves that mines
Only nightmares under siege.

There’s no joy in my grieving heart
For a past, for now, for what is to be,
For the land or its tenants, apart
From just one: Her Majesty.

A tongue that lived for two thousand years,
And under blockade kissed my own.
They turned into twins, like lips
That can blend two hopes into one.


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Translated from Hebrew by Vivian Eden

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Haaretz


For Hebrew, press here




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How We All Got Here

Reflections on Israeli independence day, the Nakba and how the thugs of tribal and religious nationalism from both peoples are tightly grasping the fabric of the land


Salman Masalha ||

How We All Got Here 


Three reflections on independence and the Nakba:

1. Despite the fierce opposition to Israelization by Arab politicians of all stripes in Israel, for some reason the Palestinian citizens of the country actually behave like the ultimate Israelis. Their Israeliness is so deeply rooted that they mark Nakba Day according to the Jewish calendar, on the 5th of the month of Iyar – Israel’s Independence Day.

And lo and behold, when Independence Day is moved up a day at the request of the Chief Rabbinate over fear of a mass desecration of Shabbat, the Israeli Palestinians also move up their Nakba Day commemoration, as if they and the Rabbinate were Siamese twins.

The Palestinians in the occupied territories, in comparison, mark the event on May 15, according to the secular calendar, and no one commemorates the Nakba according to the Muslim calendar, which moves from year to year.

Maybe they do this because they’re afraid that
it will dissociate them from Israel’s Independence Day, or maybe according to the saying attributed to the Prophet Mohammed: “Among all the nations of the world, you are the most like the children of Israel. You follow them step after step.”

2. All those accused of criminal acts – murderers, rapists, robbers or any other criminals – will always claim they are innocent, usually with the aid of experienced lawyers, in the hope that this will earn them points on the day their verdict is handed down and they ask for a lighter sentence. In many cases, even after the criminal is thrown in prison, he continues to claim his innocence, to search for more witnesses, to offer more evidence and ask for a retrial. He can be an ordinary citizen or a public figure, a Knesset member or prime minister.

The common Zionist is no different in this aspect. By virtue of his Zionist essence and his being here, he will always claim his innocence in causing the Nakba for the Palestinians. He will not recognize reality because the Nakba is a lie and because there is nothing because there was nothing. Four years ago, Moshe Arens tried to repel any attempt or even any hint of recognizing the disaster that befell on the Arab residents of the land with the establishment of the “Jewish” state. (“The Nakba - Perpetuating a Lie,” Haaretz, May 19, 2014)

3. On the Palestinian side too, we cannot expect an Arab to question the actions of his “leaders,” who have led him to this point. He, too, will not recognize the situation created here. It is no coincidence that there are no new Arab or Palestinian historians. For them to arise, Arab society needs to have a democratic substructure of free thought, with mechanisms for self-criticism.

An intellectual infrastructure for conducting self-examination does not exist in Arab culture. From the point of view of Arab rulers and tribal leaders, the implications of self-criticism are far-reaching. They could very well bring about the end of their tribal hegemony, allowing other tribes or ethnic groups to rise up in their stead. These would replace them, take control of the reins of power and fill their own pockets and those of their friends with coin. This is the way it has been since time immemorial, and this is still the way it is to this very day.

And this is how we all have reached this point. The thugs of tribal and religious nationalism from both peoples are tightly grasping the fabric of the land. One says, “It’s all mine,” the other says the same thing, and they cannot find a way to divide it. And the land drinks its fill of blood, sweat and tears over the years.

It seems that this good land is sick and tired of both of them.
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Haaretz, April 18, 2018

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The Massacre of Arab Nationalism


Salman Masalha ||

The Massacre of Arab Nationalism


The Israel Defense Forces are slaughtering Palestinian civilians on the border of the Gaza Strip. Bashar Assad’s regime continues to slaughter Syrian civilians. And the entire world is sitting and watching with folded hands. Tweets, Facebook posts and press statements – these are the lip service the world knows how to pay to silence its conscience. But let’s focus on the Arab world, which presumes to describe itself as a single nation.

It must be admitted that the siege imposed on Gaza ever since Hamas took power there isn’t just an Israeli siege. It’s also an Arab one – because a single Egyptian decision would be enough to break the siege on Gaza’s border with Egypt. After all, the Egyptians pretend to be “Arab brothers,” and also “Sunni Muslim brothers.” Astoundingly, however, they aren’t Arab brothers at all.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has also joined in the festival of abuse heaped on Gaza residents. Every so often, he imposes sanctions on them and cuts the salaries of employees and bureaucrats.

The Palestinian issue always served repressive Arab regimes as a pretext for rejecting all civic demands from within their own countries for freedom, democracy, economic development and jobs for the young. These repressive regimes always beat their citizens with the stick of the slogan “Palestine is the top Arab issue,” and the slogan that followed from it, “No voice will take precedence over the voice of the war” to liberate Palestine. These slogans were the opium which with the regimes silenced and neutralized any aspiration for domestic political and social change.

Thus it’s no wonder that the intifadas that swept the region and became known as the “Arab Spring” occurred precisely in those presidential regimes that raised the standard of Arab nationalism and other empty slogans, such as freedom and socialism.

The past several years have provided decisive proof that all the pompous Arab slogans from the ideological school of the Syrian and Iraqi Ba’ath parties, about “a single Arab nation with an eternal mission,” were empty ones.

In this context, it’s worth noting that after the champions of these Ba’ath slogans, Assad’s father Hafez and Saddam Hussein, seized power in Syria and Iraq, respectively, there was no sign of these ideas of the unity of the “Arab nation” and its “eternal mission” being implemented on the ground. On the contrary, both in Syria and Iraq the “pan-Arab national party” served as a platform on which both tyrants, the Syrian and the Iraqi, built a sectarian and tribal regime.

In Syria, in every key governmental post, Assad placed members of his own tribe and sect – brothers, uncles, cousins – along with bootlickers from other communities, who received only governmental crumbs. Saddam Hussein did the same in Iraq. The empty slogans of Arab nationalism received grotesque expression in the 1991 Gulf War, when the elder Assad sent Syrian soldiers to join the American-led coalition that fought against Saddam Hussein, who had invaded Kuwait. So the standard-bearer of Arab nationalism from Damascus fought alongside the “imperialist” American superpower (to use the Ba’athists’ own term) against their “Arab brothers,” who ostensibly advocated the same ideology.

Recent years have provided evidence not just of the absolute failure of pan-Arab nationalism, but also additional evidence of the failure of the Arab “nation-states” created by the 1916 Sykes-Picot Agreement. Syria is the salient example of this failure.

The Syrian civil war, which has claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands of people and created millions of refugees, along with Bashar Assad’s use of chemical weapons against Syrian civilians, show that there is no “Syrian people.” A president who slaughters civilians who are supposed to be “members of his own nation” has through these crimes removed the mask he wore for many years and revealed the naked, tribal-sectarian truth for all to see.

In the face of these sights, every self-respecting Arab must recalculate his path.
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Haaretz, April 9, 2018

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Biblical Presidents


With the Embassy Move to Jerusalem :

Samuel Goldman ||


Biblical Presidents


For American evangelicals, there is a term of praise for President Trump that falls like a question mark on most everyone else: “You are Cyrus.” That’s what the Christian pro-Israel activist Mike Evans promised to tell President Trump after his announcement that the United States would move its embassy to Jerusalem.

Mr. Evans, who plastered Jerusalem with billboards praising the embassy decision, isn’t the only one to draw a connection to the ancient Persian king. In a 2016 book called “God’s Chaos Candidate,” the minister Lance Wallnau asked, “Could Trump be God’s Cyrus?”

Even some Jews have gotten into the act. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made the connection in a speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee this week, predicting the rise of a new Cyrus. Last week, the Mikdash Educational Center, an Orthodox group, produced a “temple coin” that superimposes an image of Mr. Trump over one of Cyrus.

Obscure though it may seem, pro-Israel activists who suggest that Mr. Trump is a counterpart to Cyrus are drawing on a deep well of religious history that nourishes his current evangelical support. For centuries, American Christians have argued that United States foreign policy should follow biblical models. The desire to see America and its leaders as instruments for the fulfillment of divine intentions remains an important cause of their longstanding sympathy for Zionism and the State of Israel.

King Cyrus, who is credited with allowing Jews to return to Jerusalem from exile in the Babylonian empire, represents the possibility that a nonbelieving leader and state could be used by God to reunite the chosen people and the promised land.

The prominence of the Cyrus trope has revived fears about religious influences on United States foreign policy that have swirled around Republican presidents for decades. Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush were both accused of allowing their policies toward Israel to be influenced by interpretations of the Book of Revelation that foresee a literal Battle of Armageddon.

And encouraging presidents to take up the mantle of Cyrus is also something of an American tradition. The Chicago-based preacher William Eugene Blackstone — who described himself as God’s “errand boy” — visited the White House in 1891 to present President Benjamin Harrison with a petition. It called on him to use his influence to extract Palestine from the Ottoman Empire and promote a Jewish state. The petition was signed by 413 prominent citizens, including the Supreme Court’s chief justice, Melville Fuller; the future president William McKinley; and the tycoons J. P. Morgan and John D. Rockefeller. Its cover letter explicitly compared the president to Cyrus, offering him a “privileged opportunity” to serve as patron of the Jewish people. For this service, five years before the publication of Theodor Herzl’s “Der Judenstaat,” Louis Brandeis reportedly described Blackstone as the real “father of Zionism.”

Harrison was not even the first president to be imagined as a potential successor to Cyrus. In the 1790s, the New Jersey minister David Austin suggested that the United States under John Adams might help assist the world’s Jews in returning to Palestine. Austin went so far as to purchase ships and warehouses that could be used for this purpose.

Austin’s practical efforts for the cause were unusual. But a fellow resident of Elizabeth, N.J., Elias Boudinot, an aide to George Washington who served as president of the Continental Congress, director of the United States Mint and other important posts, wrote several books urging the new republic to act as patron to the Jews and assist in their return to the territory God promised to Abraham. In a book published in 1816, Boudinot wrote, “Who knows but God has raised up these United States, in these latter days, for the very purpose of accomplishing his will in bringing his beloved people to their own land.”

Why have American Christians been so interested in the fate of the Jews, even decades before the foundation of the international Zionist movement? One reason is that they were members of a society steeped in the Bible. Many historians emphasize the importance of republican sources like Cicero and Livy to the American political tradition. The problem with this argument is that relatively few Americans could read Latin or were familiar with Roman history. Unlike the classics of republican thought, the Bible was universally available and familiar even to those unable to read English. As such, it provided a shared idiom for thinking through matters of public concern.

The availability and familiarity of Scripture made biblical analogies expedient. But the deeper reason the Cyrus model has particularly appealed to Americans is that it placed the United States and its colonial predecessors in what might be called “sacred history” — the Bible’s sweeping story of the creation, corruption and redemption. Since the Puritans, many Americans have wanted to believe that their own endeavors were part of that story. They faced a problem, though: The Bible revolves around the nation of Israel, makes no mention of the New World. By describing their experiences in terms of its central nations, places and figures, Americans have been able to see themselves as participants in the Biblical drama. Some Americans believed that they were themselves a replacement for the biblical Israel, but others contended that they were more accurately compared to Cyrus.

In a political culture formed by the Bible, it has often seemed natural to support a reunion of the people and land that many Americans saw as the model for their own history. Far from representing a weird deviation from norms, evangelicals who see Mr. Trump as a successor to an ancient Persian king are participants in an old American tradition. When, in 1953, former president Harry Truman was introduced as the man who help establish the State of Israel, he grumbled: “What do you mean, ‘helped create’? I am Cyrus!”
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Samuel Goldman is an assistant professor of political science and director of the Loeb Institute for Religious Freedom at the George Washington University and the author of “God’s Country: Christian Zionism in America.”
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Source: NYT

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Netanyahu's Disastrous Rule Is a Dream for an Arab Nationalist


During his time in the office, he has brought rot to every corner of the country. His continued rule will bring disaster to Jews and Arabs alike.

Salman Masalha ||

Netanyahu's Disastrous Rule Is a Dream for an Arab Nationalist


If I were an Arab nationalist, I would pray for Benjamin Netanyahu to be extricated from all the troubles that have befallen him. I would also hope he continues to head Israel’s government for many years to come. Netanyahu is the great boon that every Arab nationalist seeks. After all, no one else has managed to bring rot into every corner of this country the way he has.

Uri Avnery, with his sharp political senses, wants Netanyahu ousted from power because he believes he’s “a disaster for the country” (Haaretz in Hebrew, February 26). Avnery is obviously correct in this assessment. Therefore, if I were an Arab nationalist, I’d pray for Netanyahu to escape all his legal troubles and for this “disaster for the country” to remain in power and go from strength to strength, until all the immune systems of the Zionist state go into total collapse.

And so if I were an Arab nationalist, I’d urge all the Palestinians to sit quietly. They don’t need an intifada or resistance. Let Israel and its leader continue to build settlements and completely erase the Green Line. After all, even if an apartheid regime is imposed in the occupied territories, all these steps will ultimately bring about Israel’s demise. It’s the irony of history that the Palestinian nationalists’ one-state vision will actually be realized by someone who denies the existence of the Palestinian people.

They should sit quietly and wait. Israel under the right-wing’s rule will swallow up the entire territory with all its inhabitants. The demographic trend won’t change, and the day will come when the majority in the territory between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea will have its say.

No apartheid system can be sustained over time. Perhaps it will work for 10 years, 20 years, even 30. But when the day comes, all the Palestinians will have to do is speak to the world in a language it understands – the language of equal rights for all residents of this land. There’s light at the end of the tunnel, and any such apartheid regime is destined to be abolished. That’s the law of history.

But I am not an Arab nationalist. On the contrary, I see nationalism of any type, and especially that which rests on religious foundations, as a cursed disease that destroys everything good in man’s body and soul. The battle over this land, which is gradually becoming infected with the nationalist-religious virus, doesn’t leave any possibility of normal life in a single state in which all citizens would be equal.

The inhabitants of this land aren’t Scandinavians. The Arabs aren’t Swedes and the Jews aren’t Danes, so the disciples of Zionism on one hand and the disciples of Palestinian nationalism on the other aren’t headed for the solution of a Scandinavian-style life. In fact, they’re on the path to a Balkan-style clash.

Explosive charges of hate are scattered throughout the length and breadth of this well-guarded land. Therefore, there’s no road to a confederation as a solution. To arrive at a solution of either confederation or a single, normal state – and I doubt this is possible at all, due to the great bitterness and hostility between the two national movements – it would be necessary for each nation to first pass through the stage of national pride in its own nation-state. Only those who have passed through this national stage and understood the pointlessness of nationalism can someday give up this national pride for the sake of a different kind of civic vision.

If I were an Arab nationalist, I’d vote for Netanyahu, the Zionist “disaster for the country,” as Avnery termed him. But I’m not, and as a native of this land and someone who loves it, I fear for all its inhabitants.

The continued rule of Netanyahu and the messianic right will indeed bring disaster down upon Jews and Arabs alike. This disaster must be prevented while there’s still time.
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Haaretz, March 6, 2018

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Trees instead of graves

For the Sake of Our Future

Nobody sees what lies ahead, and nobody is thinking about solutions for those who are now living on earth and those who will be living in the coming generations.

 

Salman Masalha ||

Trees instead of graves


What’s the first thing that meets the eye of those stuck in traffic in the bottleneck at the entrance to Jerusalem? Those entering the gates of the city are greeted by a city of the dead looking down from the mountain. In the holy tongue, such a site is called a House of Life, an Eternal Home and a Home That Awaits the Living.

Maybe it’s a metaphor for the state of the holy city and the land. Not a city or land of many days, but a city and land of many graves, which take up every good corner of nature. The metaphorical “tree of the field,” from the biblical verse and the popular song, is uprooting every sapling, eliminating the greenery and destroying nature. And all in the service of the dead and their sanctity.

Whether it’s the way of the world since man was created, or it’s the nature of those who fight over this fortified land, the dead are constantly multiplying. And because the dead have long since taken over the mountain and don’t rest for a moment, they are creating a necro-demographic and necro-topographical problem.

Recently we’ve been reading about a grandiose project in the advanced stages of construction. Across Har Hamenuchot cemetery they are digging tunnels to be used for future burials. Those in charge explain that it will provide burial places for the next 20 years. None of those responsible is asking the obvious question: And what next? Should providing for the needs of the dead be our only major concern?

Nobody sees what lies ahead, and nobody is thinking about solutions for those who are now living on earth and those who will be living in the coming generations. This land is so small, and it’s becoming more crowded from day to day.

That’s why this is the time to think about the future. Not about the quality of death of those who are gathered to their forefathers, but about the quality of life of this generation and those to follow. Just as there is a need for denser construction and for encouraging development that leaves open spaces, we have to think about an optimal solution for burial. In a small and crowded country like ours, we have to think about a green solution. It’s called sustainability. We have to think out of the box and to find another way to absorb, store or recycle human waste, which is generated by human beings on their journey to the “House of Life.”

In a place where the multiplying dead will settle all over this small and crowded country, as cities of the dead are built for them that spread and blight nature, the governmental authorities must impose regulations or pass laws forbidding the takeover of areas of land for cemeteries. Instead, the government must promise to provide cremation services for all the dead. After all, it already says in the Book of Books: “For you are dust and to dust you shall return.”

For that purpose, citizens would be asked to register a will in which they would choose a species of tree that the state would plant in their name after their death. The hole in which the chosen tree was planted would be their grave and their ashes would be placed in its soil.

Everyone would profit from such a solution – the dead who have returned to dust, those who are alive today and those who will be alive tomorrow. In that way it could well and truly be said that the words of the poem were fulfilled: “With their death they commanded us life.”
*
Haaretz, Jan 15, 2018

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Iran’s Messianic War




The importance of Iran's involvement in Syria is rooted in Iran's vision of the Shi'ite apocalypse
Messianic meeting - Tehran

Salman Masalha ||

Iran’s Messianic War


Iran's involvement in Syria's civil war did not grow simply out of its strategic interests in the region. The importance of events in Syria transcends mere worldly matters and is rooted in Iran’s messianic vision of the Shi’ite apocalypse. Iranian religious leaders believe the Islamic revolution that founded their state paves the way for the appearance of the Mahdi – the Shi’ite messiah – who will bring final justice to the world.

The Islamic revolution, which brought the ayatollahs to power in Iran, awakened messianic demons from their sleep. The rulers dreamed of a greater Iran and acted to export the revolution beyond their borders. For this purpose they made Palestine and Al-Quds their first priority. They turned the name Palestine into a club with which to bash the incompetent Arab leaders.

The ayatollahs wanted to use the Palestinian cause to gain the support of the Arab masses, which are sympathetic to the Palestinians’ aspirations. They learned to use the Palestinian issue from other Arab rulers. Since Sunni Islam’s rise to power in Turkey, Iran’s leaders have been embroiled in a lively competition over this issue with Sultan Erdogan.

But Syria is important to Iran for messianic reasons because according to Shi’ite traditions, the Mahdi’s reincarnation is associated with a bloody civil war that will take place in Syria and cause hundreds of thousands of deaths. It begins on a small scale then escalates. Every time it seems to be calming down in one area, it bursts out in another, until the Mahdi appears.

Shi’ite traditions based on statements of Shi’a founder Ali ibn Abi Talib also refer to the yellow-flag carriers, who come from the west and take part in the war in Syria. Some even link this tradition to the color of Hezbollah’s flags, as did Iranian parliament member Roh Allah Hosseinian, whose statements were cited by the Iranian news agency.

The message was clear: When the yellow-flag carriers fighting against the Shi’ites’ enemies in Damascus are joined by the Iranian forces, it’s a sign of the Mahdi’s imminent appearance.

Messianic meeting - Jerusalem
The Islamic Shi’ites couldn’t care less, from the religious point of view, about Palestine and Jerusalem. Jerusalem and the Al-Aqsa Mosque carry no religious significance to the Shi’ites. The Shi’ite interpretation of the Koran proverb mentioning Al-Aqsa says it means “a mosque of above” located in the sky rather than in Jerusalem. For the Shi’ite faith, the Great Mosque of Kufa, in Iraq, is holier than the one in Jerusalem.

The Shi’ite end of days plot also has a twist – the Arabs won’t get any joy from the Mahdi’s coming, because when he appears, “only the sword will talk between him and the Arabs.” Can these religious traditions explain the atrocities committed by the Alawi regime, supported by Iran and Hezbollah, against the Syrian “Arabs,” who belong to the Sunni faction?

Wonder of wonders, when the Shi’ite Mahdi appears, he will bear God’s explicit name in Hebrew. He will also hold Moses’ staff, wear Solomon’s seal and carry the Israelites’ Ark of the Covenant, in which the Divine Presence (shekhina) dwells. With the ark with the Divine Presence he will conquer cities and countries and impose law and justice in the world.

If this is the state of affairs in the end of days, it seems all the commotion between the Tehran regime and the Jerusalem regime is over nothing. All that remains is to call for an Israeli-Iranian messianic convention to sort out the dispute between the Shi’ite messiah and the Jewish one.

It appears the disagreements are not significant and the gaps can easily be bridged. Surely the Jewish messiah’s followers can explain to the Shi’ite messiah’s followers that they came to the wrong address.

And with such wacky rulers in the region, go build a modern state!

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Haaretz, Jan 5, 2018

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For Hebrew, press here


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MIDDLE EAST
  • Iran’s Messianic War

    The Islamic revolution, which brought the ayatollahs to power in Iran, awakened messianic demons from their sleep. The rulers dreamed of a greater Iran and acted to export the revolution beyond their borders.

    The decay in the Arab world

    With great sadness, it can be said that in the absence of a sane civil alternative, the Arab world will continue along this path.

    Read more


  • The Massacre of Arab Nationalism

    It must be admitted that the siege imposed on Gaza ever since Hamas took power there isn’t just an Israeli siege. It’s also an Arab one – because a single Egyptian decision would be enough to break the siege on Gaza’s border with Egypt.

    A Feeble Middle East

    The West learned on its own flesh that this region conducts itself by other codes. Iran has continued to entrench its standing by means of its religious ideology. The toppling of Saddam Hussein shattered the illusion of the existence of a unifying “Iraqi identity” .

    Read more

  • Neither Arab nor Spring

    The vicissitudes that have, for some reason, been collectively dubbed the "Arab Spring" are neither Arab nor Spring. One can say that they are actually living proof of the identity crisis and reverberating bankruptcy of Arab nationalism.

    Read more

ESSAYS
  • Welcome Back to History

    Islam, like other imperialist ideologies, still needs enemies to flourish. Enemies have served Islam in the past as fuel for its wagons. Without enemies Islam declines and stagnates...

    Read more

  • The pit and the pendulum

    In those days, we did not drink four goblets of wine, because everything that gladdens the human heart is not a part of our custom.

    Read more

ISRAEL - PALESTINE
  • Solomon’s Mosque

    Religion, every religion, is the No. 1 enemy of nationalism. But under conditions of tension, such as tribal warfare, these polar opposites combine into a toxic soup that consumes all common sense.

    Read more


  • Never-ending tragedy

    The Israeli right, in all its forms, wants exclusively Jewish control over all of the Land of Israel. To the Palestinians who live in this space, it promises residency – temporary, of course, on condition that they keep their heads down, accept their designated status and behave accordingly.

    Read more
  • Hamas in the service of Israel

    Hamas rule isn’t the enemy of the Israeli right. Au contraire, it’s the loyal servant of all the right-wing governments. Since the occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in the Six-Day War, all Israeli governments have devoted all their time and energy to fighting the Palestinian national movement

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CULTURE
  • Martin Niemöller

    First they came for the Communists
    And I did not speak out
    Because I was not a Communist.
    Then they came for the Socialist
    And I did not speak out
    Because I was not a Socialist.


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  • Salman Masalha

    Beyond my door which faces west
    Lives a woman who'll never rest.

    She likes to tease my nomad soul
    With words she keeps for gloomy fall.
  • Balkrishna Sama

    He who loves flowers, has a tender heart.
    he who cannot pluck their blooms,
    has a heart that's noble.

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