Nowhere to Go But Up

Can anything be more dismal than prospects for any decent resolution of the Israel/Palestine issue? Seemingly not. The hopes of January, 2009, at the dawn of Obama’s presidency, are dead. Washington has now given up all efforts to restart the direct Israeli-Palestinian talks and has wearily begun a new round of mediated talks instead.

Across the past two months Obama inscribed one solid achievement in history’s ledger, where all said the feat would be impossible. He actually raised the bar for Presidential acts of craven ass-kissing towards Israel. In mid-November he was offering the Israelis $3 billion to pretend for 90 days that they’d stopped settlement construction. The Israelis would be paid $33 million per day for every day they agree to back the lie he is suggesting.

There has been no limit to the servility of Washington to Tel Aviv. On July 8 the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz revealed that the Obama Administration was planning to start transferring nuclear fuel to Israel in order to build up Tel Aviv’s nuclear stockpile. In other words, amid an unrelenting campaign against Iran — the Wikileaks files reveal it to be the US’ prime diplomatic obsession ? for enriching uranium and planning to make a nuclear bomb, Washington is flouting the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) by aiding Israel’s nuclear weapons program.

Israel refuses to sign the NPT?indeed, to this day won’t concede it has nuclear weapons at all?thus making it ineligible to buy uranium on the world market. US intelligence agencies commonly reckon Israel has anywhere from 100 to 200 nuclear missiles. Article I of the NPT explicitly forbids supplying nuclear material to a non-signatory country, which in the case of Israel makes the U.S. in violation of the NPT.

While the Obama administration totters from one concession to the next, last Wednesday Israeli settlers announced they are building new housing at a religious school on the Mount of Olives in east Jerusalem — the part of the city claimed by the Palestinians.

It’s long been obvious to all but the most fervent apologists for Israel that all Israeli governments have never entertained the slightest intention of yielding control of Palestine/Israel from the Mediterranean to the Jordan River, and that this unyielding posture renders impossible any just and workable solution based on Palestinian claims to self-determination.

As the respected Israeli activist Jeff Halper, head of the Jerusalem-based Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions puts it in our last CounterPunch newsletter, # 20, , “we are at a dead-end of a dead process. Israel will never end its occupation voluntarily; the permanent warehousing of the Palestinians is what it has in mind. The international community will not exert enough pressure on Israel to realize even a two-state solution, which leaves Israel on 78 per cent of historic Palestine, with no right of return for refugees; given the veto power over any political process enjoyed by the American Congress, locked into an unshakable bipartisan “pro-Israel” position, the international community cannot exert that required pressure.”

Yet Halper says that against all the odds “I’m optimistic that 2011 will witness a game-changing ‘break’ that will create a new set of circumstances in which a just peace is possible.” The jolt can take one of two forms, the first is already being discussed: a unilateral declaration by the Palestinian Authority of a state based on the 1949 armistice lines (the 1967 “Green Line”), which then applies for membership in the U.N. This would force the hand of the international community. A new, or reaffirmed Palestinian declaration of independence within those boundaries would be a unilateral act but rather one done in agreement with the member states of the U.N., who have accepted the 1949/1967 borders as the basis of a solution. It conforms as well to Bush’s “Road Map”peace initiative led by the U.S.A. itself.

But alas, the Palestinian Authority has leaders incapable of any such bold initiative. Indeed, on December 15 Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad said such a move would not bring a state closer.

But a second scenario envisages that the Palestinian Authority will soon either resign or collapse, throwing the occupation back on the lap of Israel. As Halper describes it,

“The end or fall of the PA would create an intolerable and unsustainable situation. Israel would be forced to retake by force all the Occupied Territories, and, not willing to allow Hamas to step into the vacuum, would have to do so violently, perhaps even invading Gaza again and assuming permanent control. Having to support four million impoverished Palestinians with no economic infrastructure whatsoever would be an impossible burden (and, hopefully, the donor community would not enable the re-occupation by stepping in to prevent a humanitarian crisis, as it does today). Such a move on the part of Israel would also inflame the Muslim world and generate massive protests worldwide, again forcing the hand of the international community.”

In other words, Israel’s obduracy will finally unlock the impasse. This seems a long shot? Indeed it is ? but what alternatives are there? 2010 has been the year when the phrase “peace process” have been definitively exposed as the fraud it always was. There’s nowhere to go but up.

Eddie Miliband: Far Worse Than Fink-Nottle

This brings me briefly to Ed Miliband, now the leader of the British Labor Party. In a recent Diary I recounted how when Eddie was an intern at the Nation in the late 1980s or early 1990s, I asked the future leader what I asked all interns as a matter of form, “Eddie, is your hate pure?”

He gaped at me in shock like Gussie Fink-Nottle watching one of his newts vanish down the plug hole in his bath. “I?I?don’t hate anyone, Alex.”

As I wrote, it is all one needs to know about the Labor leader.

My sneer that the future of capitalism would be safe in his hands drew a reproving note from a reader, K. Kraft:

“Granted, it would be difficult to imagine anyone being PM at age 22 or 23, as E. Miliband must have been when you say you last saw him. That was 20 years ago. Some people grow and mature over time, and I think that Miliband is surely one of them. No one watching his conference speech would’ve been reminded of GF-N. Unlike you, I am pleased that he didn’t ‘hate’ anyone, even as a very young man, and think that quality will make him a better leader than one blinded by hate. Hate degrades, and contracts vision, and leads one to seek vengeance (or revenge) rather than to find solutions to more pressing problems.

“I would imagine that Miliband’s parents–being themselves the objects of “pure hatred”–would raise their sons to have more humane qualities. Dysfunctional, abusive parents most often rear children who are themselves bullies and haters. I gather the Miliband family was a very loving, accepting one.”

I responded thus to K. Kraft:

“Well, he’s already sold out, lovingly expressing his support for the Afghan war, lovingly putting up no resistance to Osborne’s cuts, lovingly refusing to make nasty, hating Ed Balls Chancellor, the only man who could mount resistance to cuts lovingly administered to poor. The power of love! The Miliband parents lovingly raised two awful sons. Life isn’t a loving playpen.”

It seems the British people incline to my view. Last week The Guardian reported that E. Miiband’s performance is being viewed unsparingly.

“Despite Labour’s lead Ipsos Mori [a polling firm] shows Ed Miliband, has only a +1 satisfaction rating after three months in office, the lowest in Mori polling for a new leader, apart from Michael Foot, William Hague and Nick Clegg. Neil Kinnock, John Smith, Tony Blair, Michael Howard, David Cameron and Iain Duncan Smith all had higher ratings after an equivalent period. Only 26 per cent of respondents thought Miliband was a capable leader, 15 per cent good in a crisis, and 24 per cent more honest than most politicians. Some 64 per cent said he was inexperienced, and 35 per cent out of touch with ordinary people; Cameron polls better on all these, save ‘out of touch with ordinary people.’”

I can’t imagine Gussie Fink-Nottle would be doing so poorly, particularly with Bertie and Jeeves’ wise counsel.

Marked Man

We’ve run a few pieces by Israel Shamir down the years and each time a couple of emails promptly drop into our editorial inbox from dedicated Shamir-haters who seemingly have nothing better to do than surf the internet for Shamir-sightings, then rush forward with routine obloquies. They never vary. To believe them, the man is a blend of all that’s vile, a hospice for prejudice and hate, starting with anti-Semitism and moving forward into complicity with the darkest forces in Russia. I reply to them that co-editor Cockburn has in the course of his long career been falsely accused of innumerable crimes against conscience and enlightenment and so I’m instinctively averse to black-balling a writer on the basis of some charges sloshing around on the internet. What we print ? most recently two very useful pieces on Julian Assange ? bear no sign of the vile prejudices ascribed to Shamir and have been reports well worth presenting to our readers.

Recently the website of Reason magazine ? a libertarian magazine with which CounterPunch has cordial relations ? has been featuring onslaughts on Wikileaks and Assange by Michael Moynihan, an editor at Reason, including an attack on Shamir and his son, decrying Assange as having them on the Wikileaks payroll. Why a libertarian magazine should want to launch onslaughts on foes of the covert actions of Empire is itself a puzzle, though evaluation of Moynihan’s posture should be fortified with the knowledge that he has strong Swedish connections, having worked in Stockholm for some time at the Timbro Institute. Timbro flaps a libertarian banner but has a manifest taste for neo-liberal interventionism, to judge by the honorifics routinely dispensed by writers in the Timbro stable ? Mark Steyn, John Podhoretz, Fouad Ajami and others — to Margaret Thatcher and others unlikely to view Wikileaks with any favor.

Recently Steven Argue had a useful little piece defending Shamir on and Justin Raimondo of has some vigorous reflections on Moynihan, also well worth reading.

The Day of the Beast

I now yield the floor to co-editor Jeffrey St Clair, whose marvelous report on the hidden history of animal resistance is featured in our new subscriber only newsletter, released this weekend.

“Only a few centuries ago, in the spring of 1457, a gruesome murder took place in the French village of Savigny-sur-Etang. A 5-year-old boy had been killed and his body partially consumed. A local family was accused of this frightful crime by local residents who claimed to have witnessed the murder. The seven suspects, a mother and her six children, were soon tracked down by local authorities, who discovered them still stained by the boy’s blood. They were arrested, indicted on charges of infanticide, and held in the local jail for trial.

“The defendants were indigent, and the court appointed a lawyer to represent them. A few weeks later a trial was convened in Savigny’s seigneurial court. Before a crowded room, witnesses were called. Evidence was presented, and legal arguments hotly debated. The justices considered the facts and the law, and rendered a verdict and a sentence. The mother was pronounced guilty and ordered to be hanged to death by her legs from the limb of the gallows tree. Her six children, however, received a judicial pardon. The court accepted the defense lawyer’s argument that the youngsters lacked the mental competence to have committed a crime in the eyes of the law. The orphaned children were sent into custodial care at the expense of the state.

“This is an interesting case to be sure, featuring important lessons about the legal rights of the poor and the historic roots of juvenile justice in Western jurisprudence, lessons that seem entirely lost on our current “tradition-obsessed” Supreme Court. But here’s the kicker ? the defendants in these proceedings were not members of our species. They were, it must be said, a family of pigs.”

Jeffrey reviews other extraordinary cases of animal trials running through the Middle Ages, and terminating abruptly amid the dawn of the Age of Reason when Rene Descartes and his confreres decreed that animals were mere machines, incapable of feeling pain, and could be exploited and tortured with a clear conscience. From there Jeffrey takes us to the equally extraordinary stories of animal resistance, planned with intellectual and moral discrimination.

Subscribe to CounterPunch and read Jeffrey’s piece and also Larry Portis’ important dispatch from France on why Sarkozy and his government have been successful in pressing their program of destroying French social protections developed after World War 2.

All this in our latest newsletter. Subscribe now and have it your inbox, prontissimo, as a pdf, or ? at whatever speed the US Postal Service first-class delivery system may muster ? in your mailbox.

I urge you strongly to subscribe now!

And once you have discharged this enjoyable mandate I also urge you strongly to click over to our Books page for your Christmas gifts, most particularly our latest release, Jason Hribal’s truly extraordinary Fear of the Animal Planet ? introduced by Jeffrey St Clair and already hailed by Peter Linebaugh, Ingrid Newkirk (president and co-founder of PETA) and Susan Davis, the historian of Sea World, who writes that “Jason Hribal stacks up the evidence, and the conclusions are inescapable. Zoos, circuses and theme parks are the strategic hamlets of Americans’ long war against nature itself.”

ALEXANDER COCKBURN can be reached at



Alexander Cockburn’s Guillotined!, A Colossal Wreck and An Orgy of Thieves: Neoliberalism and Its Discontents are available from CounterPunch.