Progressive Calendar 02.03.10
From: David Shove (
Date: Wed, 3 Feb 2010 15:56:24 -0800 (PST)
             P R O G R E S S I V E   C A L E N D A R   02.03.10

1. Merriam potluck    2.03 6pm
2. CUAPB/CRA/Bicking  2.03 6:30pm
3. ENP tonite         2.03 6:30pm
4. KFAI program comm  2.03 7pm

5. GAMC rally/Capitol 2.04 11:30am
6. Foreclosures       2.04 12noon
7. Eagan peace vigil  2.04 4:30pm
8. Northtown vigil    2.04 5pm

9. Dr Carol Paris MD    - CD/staying when they tell you to leave
10. Chris Hedges        - The creed of objectivity killed the news
11. Kathleen Christison - Zionism laid bare/ Shahid Alam

--------1 of 11--------

From: "Krista Menzel (Merriam Park Neighbors for Peace)" <web [at]>
Subject: Merriam potluck 2.03 6pm

2010 Merriam Park Neighbors for Peace Meetings

First Wednesday of each month
6-7:45 p.m. (Note time change due to reduced library hours)
Merriam Park Library - Basement Meeting Room A or B
1831 Marshall Avenue (at Fairview Avenue), St. Paul, MN
Wednesday, February 3, 2010

--------2 of 11--------

From: Michelle Gross <mgresist [at]>
Subject: CUAPB/CRA/Bicking 2.03 6:30pm

Communities United Against Police Brutality
February 1, 2010

Answer back by attending the CRA board meeting
Wednesday, February 3
6:30 p.m.
Minneapolis City Hall, Rm 333
350 S. Fifth Street (but enter on the 4th Street side)

This editor, along with three others, spoke at a forum last week on the
appointment of Minneapolis Police Chief Tim Dolan.  Each member of the
panel contributed important insights based on experience and knowledge.
One of the most articulate and informative speakers was Dave Bicking, two
time city council candidate and current member of the Minneapolis Civilian
Review Board.

Although Dave made it clear that he was only representing himself and not
the CRA board, he had helped to author the CRA board's recently-released
critique of Chief Dolan and was in a perfect position to share important
details with the audience in attendance.

However, only hours prior to arriving to speak at the forum, Dave received
a threatening email from CRA board chair Don Bellfield giving him an
ultimatum - to speak at the forum, he would have to resign from the CRA.
Despite a series of emails among board members, Bellfield was unrelenting.

He accused Dave of being an "unsanctioned participant" in the forum -
though there is no provision in the CRA ordinance indicating board members
are required to have their outside activities "sanctioned" by the rest of
the board.

Upon learning that Dave did, in fact, exercise his First Amendment right
to express his opinion on a matter of importance to the community,
Bellfield wrote a mean-spirited missive to the city council and mayor,
probably designed to sabotage Dave's pending reappointment to the CRA
board.  Interestingly, this letter was written on CRA letterhead and gives
the appearance of being from the entire CRA board, although the board
never authorized it.

>From day one, Bellfield has been a sycophant for the mayor's office and
has put the CRA into the position of being excessively deferential to the
current administration even as the administration chips away at the power
of the CRA.  His attack on Dave Bicking has no basis in fact as there are
no provisions in the ordinance or operating rules restricting the free
speech rights of board members.  But just because he is all wet, that
won't stop him and a handful of his supporters on the board from moving to
get rid of Dave Bicking.  We need to let these people know that the CRA is
here to serve the community.  Dave has been an exemplary member of the
board.  While more than a few of his detractors have been do-nothing bench
warmers, Dave has worked long hours to uncover issues with the Minneapolis
police department's Taser policy, use of force policy and other issues
vital to the community.  We need to have Dave's back on this.

Please move heaven and earth to be at the CRA's board meeting on
Wednesday, where this is sure to be a hot topic.  Come prepared to speak
and let this board know we are watching them and will not allow them to
oust Dave Bicking.  A good turnout will also send a strong message to the
city council and mayor's office that we expect Dave to be reappointed.
[Yes! -ed]

--------3 of 11--------

>From John Wilson  jwilson [at]
Subject: ENP tonite 2.03 6:30pm

Comrades and Friends of the Edgertonite National Party:

I would like to remind you that the next ENP meeting is Wednesday, 3
February 2010 at 6:30 PM at the Bad Waitress, 2 E. 26th St., Minneapolis,
MN, and you are cordially invited.

John Charles Wilson
National Chairman, ENP

--------4 of 11--------

From: Lydia Howell <lydiahowell [at]>
Subject: KFAI program comm 2.03 7pm

The KFAI Program Committee meeting for February will be held
on Wednesday, February 3rd at 7pm.

We now have a venue for the Program Committee meeting on Wednesday
February 3.  We will be meeting in room 124 at the McPhail School of
Music.  It is near KFAI and located at 501 2nd Street S. in Minneapolis.
We are using this alternate meeting location for this meeting and
additional meeting in the coming weeks to provide enough space for those
who wish to be present at the meeting.

There is street parking available at meters, a parking ramp next to
the building, and it is just off of Washington Ave. so it is very
accessible by bus as well.

To get to room 124, you just need ot come in the front door and take a
right.  Follow to the end of the hall and room 124 will be on your right.

--------5 of 11--------

From: Lydia Howell <lydiahowell [at]>
Subject: GAMC rally/Capitol 2.04 11:30am

Minnesota Coalition for the Homeless wrote:
Rally for GAMC
February 4th (11:30 - 12:45p)
Capitol Rotunda
RSVP to info [at]

In just a few weeks, Minnesota's poorest and sickest residents will lose
access to their desperately needed health care with the elimination of
General Assistance Medical Care (GAMC). GAMC is a state-funded program
that provides health care for Minnesotans who make less than $8,000/year.
Many GAMC enrollees are homeless. Many struggle with mental illness or
chemical dependency. All are very poor. We need to stand together to
protect a program that provides essential health care services.

While the Governor has recently extended GAMC by one month, we need to act
now to save GAMC.  Please join me at a rally and community action in the
rotunda of the Minnesota State Capitol on Thursday, February 4th, from
11:30 AM to 12:45 PM.

The event will be fun, positive, and focused on maintaining the momentum
toward finding a solution for the GAMC crisis.  Add your voice and your
participation to a campaign to protect the poorest and most vulnerable
Minnesotans from a dangerous budget cut. Together, we can save GAMC.  I
hope you can help.

GAMC Facts
 *  What is General Assistance Medical Care?  GAMC is Minnesota's
    public health insurance program for the state's poorest
 *  How many people are on the program?  In 2008, more than 77,000
    Minnesotans used the program - with an average of 35,000 at any
    given time.
 *  Who uses the program?  Many of the adults who qualify for
    General Assistance Medical Care are living on $203 per month.
    That is not enough income to pay for rent, food and clothing -
    much less health insurance premiums. Most are men (60%), most
    struggle with mental illness (70%) and/or chemical dependency,
    and many have chronic physical disabilities (40%).

    Why should we save GAMC?
 *  GAMC provides health care, medications, and mental health
    services to people living in poverty and crisis.
 *  Health care is essential to stability in the community. With
    health care, necessary medicine, and the other services
    provided by GAMC, people can maintain housing, employment, and
    relationships with their friends and families.
 *  The decision to eliminate GAMC impacts all of us.  Institutions
    that we, our families, friends and neighbors all use -
    hospitals, community clinics and community mental health
    centers - will cut back or eliminate services, lay off staff
    (estimated 4,220 jobs lost) and/or increase the cost of their
    services.  Hospitals throughout Minnesota will lose at least
    $211 million dollars a year as unreimbursed costs escalate.

--------6 of 11--------

From: Women Against Military Madness <wamm [at]>
Subject: Foreclosures 2.04 12noon

Protest: "No Cuts to the Poor and Working People! Jobs or Income Now! Stop
Foreclosures and Evictions!"
Thursday, February 4, Noon Minnesota State Capitol, 75 Reverend Dr. Martin
Luther King Jr. Boulevard, St. Paul.

Join others to speak out against the economic crisis in Minnesota and the
U.S. The people have to demand relief. The protest will call for: a
two-year moratorium on home foreclosures; no evictions for renters in
foreclosed properties; extend unemployment insurance; stop the five-year
time limit on MFIP because there aren't enough jobs out there; stop the
GAMC cuts. Sponsored by: the Welfare Rights Committee and the Minnesota
Coalition for a People's Bailout (MCPB). WAMM is a member of MCPB. FFI:
Call 612-822-8020 or email welfarerightsmn [at]

--------7 of 11--------

From: Greg and Sue Skog <family4peace [at]>
Subject: Eagan peace vigil 2.04 4:30pm

PEACE VIGIL EVERY THURSDAY from 4:30-5:30pm on the Northwest corner of
Pilot Knob Road and Yankee Doodle Road in Eagan. We have signs and
candles. Say "NO to war!" The weekly vigil is sponsored by: Friends south
of the river speaking out against war.

--------8 of 11--------

From: EKalamboki [at]
Subject: Northtown vigil 2.04 5pm

NORTHTOWN Peace Vigil every Thursday 5-6pm, at the intersection of Co. Hwy
10 and University Ave NE (SE corner across from Denny's), in Blaine.

Communities situated near the Northtown Mall include: Blaine, Mounds View,
New Brighton, Roseville, Shoreview, Arden Hills, Spring Lake Park,
Fridley, and Coon Rapids.  We'll have extra signs.

For more information people can contact Evangelos Kalambokidis by phone or
email: (763)574-9615, ekalamboki [at]

--------9 of 11--------

What I Have Learned Doing Civil Disobedience for Single Payer
Staying When They Tell You to Leave
February 1, 2010

"People should go where they are not supposed to go, say what they are not
supposed to say, and stay when they are told to leave."

-- Howard Zinn

Well, that quote pretty well sums up "what to do".  But my biggest
challenge is "how".  Specifically, how do I neutralize some pretty
powerful fear?

I was scared Friday when I joined Margaret Flowers to attempt to deliver a
message to the President.  My thoughts raced.  We're talking secret

"How do I get myself into these things?"

"This is crazy".

"This is pointless".

"I can't even make sensible statements; I know what I want to say but I'm
so nervous".

"Other people are so much more knowledgeable and speak so much more

"But I am doing it!"

We stood in front of the Harbor Hotel in Baltimore clutching a banner that
read "Letting you know - Medicare for all" and Margaret's letter for the
President written in response to his appeal for solutions to health
reform.  The hotel manager, police and secret service surrounded us and
asked us to move.

If you watch the video, you'll see that there was a point, a moment, which
felt suspended in time, when Margaret looked at me and I looked at her and
we both knew "we ain't goin' across the street".

The feeling associated with that awareness was not fear, or anger, or
self-righteous indignation.  It was a feeling of quiet liberation.  The
things I was saying to myself, thoughts powerful enough to imprison me in
a jailhouse of fear, had been neutralized.  In their place was a calm
determination to trust my intuition.

My gut told me "so be it  You're doing the best you can.  This is a
no-brainer.  Gotta do it.  Margaret and I have been needing some quiet
time to catch-up; might as well be in a police station".

My gut has a great sense of humor.

Fear overcomes me when I listen to my head; calm enfolds me when I listen
to my gut.

So, for what it is worth, here are few tips for "doing cd for Single

Ignore your head.  That means, all those familiar thoughts that leave you
feeling fearful and bad.

Listen to your gut.  You know it's your gut talking if you start feeling
calmness, clarity, and quiet determination.

We need people engaging in "gut-driven" cd to right all kinds of wrongs.
Be authentic; for many of us, the gut issue is Medicare For All.  If yours
is the environment, then do cd for that.

Don't try this alone.  Take a friend. Or several.

Do the best you can.  Speak from your heart.  Once you're in handcuffs,
the worst is over.  The "authorities" aren't your enemy; most will treat
you respectfully and the ones who don't are just having a bad day.  Don't
take it personally.

I like to take a "token" with me, tucked in my pocket with my driver's
license. For me, it's a picture of my grandchildren and the holy card from
my father's funeral.  It reminds me that he would be proud of me and that
I'm doing this for the people who inspire me--my family and my patients.

If you have the choice of doing cd in the winter or the summer, definitely
choose summer!  Wear layers either way because it's cold in jail.

Remember that we all have talents to contribute.  Without Bill Hughes
taking the video, our action wouldn't have been as fruitful.  Without
Kevin Zeese, we'd have worried about our families and "legal stuff".
Without Mark Almberg, we wouldn't have a press release.  Without
researchers like David Himmelstein and Steffie Woolhandler, we wouldn't
have compelling data to support us.  We draw support from each other.

As Margaret Mead said:  "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful
committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that
ever has."

Dr. Carol Paris a psychiatrist in Leonardtown, Maryland. She can be
reached at: caparis52 [at]

--------10 of 11--------

The Creed of Objectivity Killed the News
by Chris Hedges
Monday, February 1, 2010

Reporters who witness the worst of human suffering and return to newsrooms
angry see their compassion washed out or severely muted by the layers of
editors who stand between the reporter and the reader. The creed of
objectivity and balance, formulated at the beginning of the 19th century
by newspaper owners to generate greater profits from advertisers, disarms
and cripples the press.

And the creed of objectivity becomes a convenient and profitable vehicle
to avoid confronting unpleasant truths or angering a power structure on
which news organizations depend for access and profits. This creed
transforms reporters into neutral observers or voyeurs. It banishes
empathy, passion and a quest for justice. Reporters are permitted to watch
but not to feel or to speak in their own voices. They function as
"professionals" and see themselves as dispassionate and disinterested
social scientists. This vaunted lack of bias, enforced by bloodless
hierarchies of bureaucrats, is the disease of American journalism.

"The very notion that on any given story all you have to do is report what
both sides say and you've done a fine job of objective journalism
debilitates the press," the late columnist Molly Ivins once wrote. "There
is no such thing as objectivity, and the truth, that slippery little
bugger, has the oddest habit of being way to hell off on one side or the
other: it seldom nestles neatly halfway between any two opposing points of
view. The smug complacency of much of the press. I have heard many an
editor say, 'Well, we're being attacked by both sides so we must be
right'.stems from the curious notion that if you get a quote from both
sides, preferably in an official position, you've done the job. In the
first place, most stories aren't two-sided, they're 17-sided at least. In
the second place, it's of no help to either the readers or the truth to
quote one side saying, 'Cat,' and the other side saying 'Dog', while the
truth is there's an elephant crashing around out there in the bushes".

Ivins went on to write that "the press's most serious failures are not its
sins of commission, but its sins of omission - the stories we miss, the
stories we don't see, the stories that don't hold press conferences, the
stories that don't come from 'reliable sources'.".

This abject moral failing has left the growing numbers of Americans
shunted aside by our corporate state without a voice. It has also, with
the rise of a ruthless American oligarchy, left the traditional press on
the wrong side of our growing class divide. The elitism, distrust and lack
of credibility of the press - and here I speak of the dwindling
institutions that attempt to report news - come directly from this steady
and willful disintegration of the media's moral core.

This moral void has been effectively exploited by the 24-hour cable news
shows and trash talk radio programs. The failure of the fact-based press
to express empathy or outrage for our growing underclass has permitted the
disastrous rise of "faith-based" reporting. The bloodless and soulless
journalism of the traditional media has bolstered the popularity of
partisan outlets that present a view of the world that often has no
relation to the real, but responds very effectively to the emotional needs
of viewers. Fox News is, in some sense, no more objective than The New
York Times, but there is one crucial and vital difference. Fox News and
most of the other cable outlets do not feel constrained by verifiable
facts. Within the traditional news establishment, facts may have been
self-selected or skillfully stage-managed by public relations specialists,
but what was not verifiable was not publishable.

The cable news channels have cleverly seized on the creed of objectivity
and redefined it in populist terms. They attack news based on verifiable
fact for its liberal bias, for, in essence, failing to be objective, and
promise a return to "genuine" objectivity. Fox's Bill O'Reilly argues, "If
Fox News is a conservative channeland - I'm going to use the word 'if'
what? . You've got 50 other media that are blatantly left. Now, I don't
think Fox is a conservative channel. I think it's a traditional channel.
There's a difference. We are willing to hear points of view that you'll
never hear on ABC, CBS or NBC".

O'Reilly is not wrong in suggesting that the objectivity of the
traditional media has an inherent political bias. But it is a bias that
caters to the power elite and it is a bias that is confined by fact. The
traditional quest for "objectivity" is, as James Carey wrote, also based
on an ethnocentric conceit: "It pretended to discover Universal Truth, to
proclaim Universal Laws, and to describe a Universal Man. Upon inspection
it appeared, however, that its Universal Man resembled a type found around
Cambridge, Massachusetts, or Cambridge, England; its Universal Laws
resembled those felt to be useful by Congress and Parliament; and its
Universal Truth bore English and American accents".

Objectivity creates the formula of quoting Establishment specialists or
experts within the narrow confines of the power elite who debate policy
nuance like medieval theologians. As long as one viewpoint is balanced by
another, usually no more than what Sigmund Freud would term "the
narcissism of minor difference," the job of a reporter is deemed complete.
But this is more often a way to obscure rather than expose truth.

Reporting, while it is presented to the public as neutral, objective and
unbiased, is always highly interpretive. It is defined by rigid stylistic
parameters. I have written, like most other reporters, hundreds of news
stories. Reporters begin with a collection of facts, statements, positions
and anecdotes and then select those that create the "balance" permitted by
the formula of daily journalism. The closer reporters get to official
sources, for example those covering Wall Street, Congress, the White House
or the State Department, the more constraints they endure. When reporting
depends heavily on access it becomes very difficult to challenge those who
grant or deny that access. This craven desire for access has turned huge
sections of the Washington press, along with most business reporters, into
courtiers. The need to be included in press briefings and background
interviews with government or business officials, as well as the desire
for leaks and early access to official documents, obliterates journalistic

"Record the fury of a Palestinian whose land has been taken from him by
Israeli settlers - but always refer to Israel's 'security needs' and its
'war on terror," Robert Fisk writes. "If Americans are accused of
'torture', call it 'abuse". If Israel assassinates a Palestinian, call it
a "targeted killing". If Armenians lament their Holocaust of 1,500,000
souls in 1915, remind readers that Turkey denies this all too real and
fully documented genocide. If Iraq has become a hell on earth for its
people, recall how awful Saddam was. If a dictator is on our side, call
him a "strongman". If he's our enemy, call him a tyrant, or part of the
"axis of evil". And above all else, use the word "terrorist". Terror,
terror, terror, terror, terror, terror, terror. Seven days a week..

"Ask 'how' and 'who' - but not 'why'",. Fisk adds. "Source everything to
officials: 'American officials', 'intelligence officials', 'official
sources', anonymous policemen or army officers. And if these institutions
charged with our protection abuse their power, then remind readers and
listeners and viewers of the dangerous age in which we now live, the age
of terror - which means that we must live in the Age of the Warrior,
someone whose business and profession and vocation and mere existence is
to destroy our enemies".

"In the classic example, a refugee from Nazi Germany who appears on
television saying monstrous things are happening in his homeland must be
followed by a Nazi spokesman saying Adolf Hitler is the greatest boon to
humanity since pasteurized milk," the former New York Times columnist
Russell Baker wrote. 'Real objectivity would require not only hard work by
news people to determine which report was accurate, but also a willingness
to put up with the abuse certain to follow publication of an objectively
formed judgment. To escape the hard work or the abuse, if one man says
Hitler is an ogre, we instantly give you another to say Hitler is a
prince. A man says the rockets won't work? We give you another who says
they will. The public may not learn much about these fairly sensitive
matters, but neither does it get another excuse to denounce the media for
unfairness and lack of objectivity. In brief, society is teeming with
people who become furious if told what the score is".

Journalists, because of their training and distaste for shattering their
own exalted notion of themselves, lack the inclination and vocabulary to
discuss ethics. They will, when pressed, mumble something about telling
the truth and serving the public. They prefer not to face the fact that my
truth is not your truth. News is a signal, a "blip," an alarm that
something is happening beyond our small circle of existence, as Walter
Lippmann noted in his book "Public Opinion". Journalism does not point us
toward truth since, as Lippmann understood, there is always a vast divide
between truth and news. Ethical questions open journalism to the nebulous
world of interpretation and philosophy, and for this reason journalists
flee from ethical inquiry like a herd of frightened sheep.

Journalists, while they like to promote the image of themselves as fierce
individualists, are in the end another species of corporate employees.
They claim as their clients an amorphous public. They seek their moral
justification in the service of this nameless, faceless mass and speak
little about the vast influence of the power elite to shape and determine
reporting. Does a public even exist in a society as fragmented and divided
as ours? Or is the public, as Walter Lippmann wrote, now so deeply
uninformed and divorced from the inner workings of power and diplomacy as
to make it a clean slate on which our armies of skilled propagandists can,
often through the press, leave a message?

The symbiotic relationship between the press and the power elite worked
for nearly a century. It worked as long as our power elite, no matter how
ruthless or insensitive, was competent. But once our power elite became
incompetent and morally bankrupt, the press, along with the power elite,
lost its final vestige of credibility. The press became, as seen in the
Iraq war and the aftermath of the financial upheavals, a class of
courtiers. The press, which has always written and spoken from
presuppositions and principles that reflect the elite consensus, now
peddles a consensus that is flagrantly artificial. Our elite oversaw the
dismantling of the country's manufacturing base and the betrayal of the
working class with the passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement
and the press dutifully trumpeted this as a form of growth. Our elite
deregulated the banking industry, leading to nationwide bank collapses,
and the press extolled the value of the free market. Our elite corrupted
the levers of power to advance the interests of corporations and the press
naively conflated freedom with the free market. This reporting may have
been "objective" and "impartial" but it defied common sense. The harsh
reality of shuttered former steel-producing towns and growing human misery
should have, in the hands of any good cop reporter, exposed the fantasies.
But the press long ago stopped thinking and lost nearly all its moral

Real reporting, grounded in a commitment to justice and empathy, could
have informed and empowered the public as we underwent a corporate coup
d'etat in slow motion. It could have stimulated a radical debate about
structures, laws, privilege, power and justice. But the traditional press,
by clinging to an outdated etiquette designed to serve corrupt power
structures, lost its social function. Corporations, which once made many
of these news outlets very rich, have turned to more effective forms of
advertising. Profits have plummeted. And yet these press courtiers, lost
in the fantasy of their own righteousness and moral probity, cling to the
hollow morality of "objectivity" with comic ferocity.

The world will not be a better place when these fact-based news
organizations die. We will be propelled into a culture where facts and
opinions will be interchangeable, where lies will become true, and where
fantasy will be peddled as news. I will lament the loss of traditional
news. It will unmoor us from reality. The tragedy is that the moral void
of the news business contributed as much to its own annihilation as the
protofascists who feed on its carcass.

Copyright  2010 Truthdig, L.L.C.
Chris Hedges writes a regular column for Hedges graduated
from Harvard Divinity School and was for nearly two decades a foreign
correspondent for The New York Times. He is the author of many books,
including: War Is A Force That Gives Us Meaning, What Every Person Should
Know About War, and American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on
America.  His most recent book is Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy
and the Triumph of Spectacle.

--------11 of 11--------

A Review of Shahid Alam's "Israeli Exceptionalism"
Zionism Laid Bare
February 3, 2010

The essential point of M Shahid Alam's book, Israeli Exceptionalism: The
Destabilizing Logic of Zionism, comes clear upon opening the book to the
inscription in the frontispiece.  From the Persian poet and philosopher
Rumi, the quote reads, "You have the light, but you have no humanity.
Seek humanity, for that is the goal".  Alam, professor of economics at
Northeastern University in Boston and a CounterPunch contributor, follows
this with an explicit statement of his aims in the first paragraph of the
preface.  Asking and answering the obvious question, "Why is an economist
writing a book on the geopolitics of Zionism?" he says that he "could have
written a book about the economics of Zionism, the Israeli economy, or the
economy of the West Bank and Gaza, but how would any of that have helped
me to understand the cold logic and the deep passions that have driven

Until recent years, the notion that Zionism was a benign, indeed a
humanitarian, political movement designed for the noble purpose of
creating a homeland and refuge for the world's stateless, persecuted Jews
was a virtually universal assumption.  In the last few years, particularly
since the start of the al-Aqsa intifada in 2000, as Israel's harsh
oppression of the Palestinians has become more widely known, a great many
Israelis and friends of Israel have begun to distance themselves from and
criticize Israel's occupation policies, but they remain strong Zionists
and have been at pains to propound the view that Zionism began well and
has only lately been corrupted by the occupation.  Alam demonstrates
clearly, through voluminous evidence and a carefully argued analysis, that
Zionism was never benign, never good - that from the very beginning, it
operated according to a "cold logic" and, per Rumi, had "no humanity".
Except perhaps for Jews, which is where Israel's and Zionism's
exceptionalism comes in.

Alam argues convincingly that Zionism was a coldly cynical movement from
its beginnings in the nineteenth century.  Not only did the founders of
Zionism know that the land on which they set their sights was not an empty
land, but they set out specifically to establish an "exclusionary
colonialism" that had no room for the Palestinians who lived there or for
any non-Jews, and they did this in ways that justified, and induced the
West to accept, the displacement of the Palestinian population that stood
in their way.  With a simple wisdom that still escapes most analysts of
Israel and Zionism, Alam writes that a "homeless nationalism," as Zionism
was for more than half a century until the state of Israel was established
in 1948, "of necessity is a charter for conquest and - if it is
exclusionary - for ethnic cleansing..

How has Zionism been able to put itself forward as exceptional and get
away with it, winning Western support for the establishment of an
exclusionary state and in the process for the deliberate dispossession of
the native population?  Alam lays out three principal ways by which
Zionism has framed its claims of exceptionalism in order to justify itself
and gain world, particularly Western, support.  First, the Jewish
assumption of chosenness rests on the notion that Jews have a divine right
to the land, a mandate granted by God to the Jewish people and only to
them.  This divine election gives the homeless, long-persecuted Jews the
historical and legal basis by which to nullify the rights of Palestinians
not so divinely mandated and ultimately to expel them from the land.
Second, Israel's often remarkable achievements in state-building have won
Western support and provided a further justification for the displacement
of "inferior" Palestinians by "superior" Jews.  Finally, Zionism has put
Jews forward as having a uniquely tragic history and as a uniquely
vulnerable country, giving Israel a special rationale for protecting
itself against supposedly unique threats to its existence and in
consequence for ignoring the dictates of international law.  Against the
Jews' tragedy, whatever pain Palestinians may feel at being displaced
appears minor.

The ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians that came as the result of
Zionism's need for an exclusivist homeland was no unfortunate consequence,
and indeed had long been foreseen by Zionist thinkers and the Western
leaders who supported them.  Alam quotes early Zionists, including
Theodore Herzl, who talked repeatedly of persuading the Palestinians "to
trek," or "fold their tents," or "silently steal away".  In later years,
the Zionists spoke of forcible "transfer" of the Palestinians.  In the
1930s, David Ben-Gurion expressed his strong support for compulsory
transfer, crowing that "Jewish power" was growing to the point that the
Jewish community in Palestine would soon be strong enough to carry out
ethnic cleansing on a large scale (as it ultimately did).  In fact, the
Zionists knew from the start that there would be no persuading the
Palestinians simply to leave voluntarily and that violent conquest would
be necessary to implant the Zionist state.

The British knew this as well.  Zionist supporter Winston Churchill wrote
as early as 1919 that the Zionists "take it for granted that the local
population will be cleared out to suit their convenience".  In a blunt
affirmation of the calculated nature of Zionist plans and Western support
for them, British Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour, like Churchill another
early supporter and also author of the 1917 Balfour Declaration, which
promised British support for the establishment of a Jewish homeland in
Palestine, wrote that Zionism "is rooted in age-long traditions, in
present needs, in future hopes, of far profounder import than the desires
and prejudices of the 700,000 Arabs who now inhabit that ancient land".
It would be hard to find a more blatant one-sided falsity.

Alam traces in detail the progression of Zionist planning, beginning with
the deliberate creation in the nineteenth century of an ethnic identity
for Jews who shared only a religion and had none of the attributes of
nationhood - neither a land, nor a common language or culture, nor
a common gene pool.  Here Alam covers briefly the ground trod in detail by
Israeli historian Shlomo Sand, whose book The Invention of the Jewish
People, appearing in English just months before Alam's book, shattered the
myths surrounding Zionism's claim to nationhood and to an exclusive right
to Palestine.  But Alam goes further, describing the Zionist campaign to
create a surrogate "mother country" that, in the absence of a Jewish
nation, would sponsor the Zionists' colonization of Palestine and support
its national project.  Having gained British support for its enterprise,
Zionism then set about building a rationale for displacing the Palestinian
Arabs who were native to Palestine (who, incidentally, did indeed possess
the attributes of a nation but lay in the path of a growing Jewish,
Western-supported military machine).  Zionist propaganda then and later
deliberately spread the notion that Palestinians were not "a people," had
no attachment to the land and no national aspirations, and in the face of
the Jews' supposedly divine mandate, of Israel's "miraculous"
accomplishments, and of the Jews' monumental suffering in the Holocaust,
the dispossession of the Palestinians was made to appear to a
disinterested West as nothing more than a minor misfortune.

Addressing what he calls the "destabilizing logic" of Zionism, Alam builds
the argument that Zionism thrives on, and indeed can survive only in the
midst of, conflict.  In the first instance, Alam shows, Zionism actually
embraced the European anti-Semitic charge that Jews were an alien people.
This was the natural result of promoting the idea that Jews actually
belonged in Palestine in a nation of their own, and in addition, spreading
fear of anti-Semitism proved to be an effective way to attract Jews not
swayed by the arguments of Zionism (who made up the majority of Jews in
the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries) to the Zionist cause.
Early Zionist leaders talked frankly of anti-Semitism as a means of
teaching many educated and assimilated Jews "the way back to their people"
and of forcing an allegiance to Zionism.  Anti-Semitism remains in many
ways the cement that holds Zionism together, keeping both Israeli Jews and
diaspora Jews in thrall to Israel as their supposedly only salvation from
another Holocaust.

In the same vein, Alam contends, Zionists realized that in order to
succeed in their colonial enterprise and maintain the support of the West,
they would have to create an adversary common to both the West and the
Jews.  Only a Jewish state waging wars in the Middle East could "energize
the West's crusader mentality, its evangelical zeal, its dreams of end
times, its imperial ambitions".  Arabs were the initial and enduring
enemy, and Zionists and Israel have continued to provoke Arab antagonism
and direct it toward radicalism, to steer Arab anger against the United
States, to provoke the Arabs into wars against Israel, and to manufacture
stories of virulent Arab anti-Semitism - all specifically in order to
sustain Jewish and Western solidarity with Israel.  More recently, Islam
itself has become the common enemy, an adversary fashioned so that what
Alam calls the "Jewish-Gentile partnership" can be justified and
intensified.  Focusing on Arab and Muslim hostility, always portrayed as
motivated by irrational hatred rather than by opposition to Israeli and
U.S. policies, allows Zionists to divert attention from their own
expropriation of Palestinian land and dispossession of Palestinians and
allows them to characterize Israeli actions as self-defense against
anti-Semitic Arab and Muslim resistance.

Alam treats the Zionist/Israel lobby as a vital cog in the machine that
built and sustains the Jewish state.  Indeed, Theodore Herzl was the
original Zionist lobbyist.  During the eight years between the launch of
the Zionist movement at Basel in 1897 and his death, Herzl had meetings
with a remarkable array of power brokers in Europe and the Middle East,
including the Ottoman sultan, Kaiser Wilhelm II, King Victor Emanuel III
of Italy, Pope Pius X, the noted British imperialist Lord Cromer and the
British colonial secretary of the day, and the Russian ministers of
interior and finance, as well as a long list of dukes, ambassadors, and
lesser ministers.  One historian used the term "miraculous" to describe
Herzl's ability to secure audiences with the powerful who could help

Zionist lobbyists continued to work as assiduously, with results as
"miraculous," throughout the twentieth century, gaining influence over
civil society and ultimately over policymakers and, most importantly,
shaping the public discourse that determines all thinking about Israel and
its neighbors.  As Alam notes, "since their earliest days, the Zionists
have created the organizations, allies, networks, and ideas that would
translate into media, congressional, and presidential support for the
Zionist project".  An increasing proportion of the activists who lead
major elements of civil society, such as the labor and civil rights
movements, are Jews, and these movements have as a natural consequence
come to embrace Zionist aims.  Christian fundamentalists, who in the last
few decades have provided massive support to Israel and its expansionist
policies, grew in the first instance because they were "energized by every
Zionist success on the ground" and have continued to expand with a
considerable lobbying push from the Zionists.

Alam's conclusion - a direct argument against those who contend that the
lobby has only limited influence: "It makes little sense," in view of the
pervasiveness of Zionist influence over civil society and political
discourse, "to maintain that the pro-Israeli positions of mainstream
American organizations . . . emerged independently of the activism of the
American Jewish community".  In its early days, Zionism grew only because
Herzl and his colleagues employed heavy lobbying in the European centers
of power; Jewish dispersion across the Western world - and Jewish
influence in the economies, the film industries, the media, and academia
in key Western countries - are what enabled the Zionist movement to
survive and thrive in the dark years of the early twentieth century; and
Zionist lobbying and molding of public discourse are what has maintained
Israel's favored place in the hearts and minds of Americans and the policy
councils of America's politicians.

This is a critically important book.  It enhances and expands on the
groundbreaking message of Shlomo Sand's work.  If Sand shows that Jews
were not "a people" until Zionism created them as such, Alam shows this
also and goes well beyond to show how Zionism and its manufactured
"nation" went about dispossessing and replacing the Palestinians and
winning all-important Western support for Israel and its now 60-year-old
"exclusionary colonialism".

Kathleen Christison is the author of Perceptions of Palestine and the
Wound of Dispossession and co-author, with Bill Christison, of Palestine
in Pieces: Graphic Perspectives on the Israeli Occupation, published last
summer by Pluto Press.  She can be reached at kb.christison [at]


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