Peter Kassig the Untold Story

Peter Kassig the Untold Story

{Previously published in Arabic in Newsweek Middle East & in English by The MideastWire Blog

*By Stanley Cohen

The life of a “radical” defense attorney in the United States is a seamless journey of never ending, tense, often complex battles with implications that extend well beyond a given case or the courthouse doors. At times, some of these struggles necessarily make for strange bedfellows.

The life and death of Peter Kassig is one such journey.

To activist attorneys, in particular, people’s liberty… on occasion their very lives… comes at us in waves of political uncertainty sculpted by events and decisions over which we have little control.

I had just finished almost two years of non-stop work on behalf of Suliman Abu Ghayth, Usama Bin Laden’s son-in law. Having been released from prison in Iran, Abu Ghayth was kidnapped by the US from Jordan after tasting short-lived freedom for the first time in eleven years. Shackled, ear muffed and hooded, he was immediately renditioned to NYC to stand trial, more than a decade later, not far from the footprint of 9-11.

Seated, surrounded by a pile of files, in my time worn leather chair and dozing off as I prepped for my next trial… a case of an 87 year old who, having consumed a few beers too many, had run over and killed a jogger on a deserted mountain road… I was suddenly jarred awake by my phone.

“Hello, is this Mr. Cohen? My name is Mohammad. We’ve never met, but I’m a fan of yours. I’m Palestinian, and a friend of an American, Peter Kassig, who has been taken by ISIS… to cut his head off. Can you help? He is a very good man… and you know many important people here.”

Though exhausted, and busy, I’ve never been able to say no, at least without listening to the troubles of one who’s reached out to me. So, Mohammad and I chatted for about 20 minutes as he told me the Kassig story, an aid worker kidnapped by ISIS while helping those in need in Syria. Before we parted, I promised to look into it and asked him to call me back in a week.

Hanging up, I browsed an online story of Mr. Kassig who had converted to Islam and was now known as Abdul-Rahman. Set to begin a trial in a few days, and with a flight to catch, I made a mental note to follow-up with our discussion when I returned.

A week later, not long after my arrival back in NYC, my phone rang to the voice of an old friend, a photo journalist who had served in the military, many years before, during the Vietnam era. Irate over the lack of support for Kassig, a veteran himself, he asked whether I might be able to do anything to help.

With two calls from people and worlds and scant weeks apart, I asked an associate to research Abdul-Rahman’s background and circumstances.

“The first thing I want to say is thank you. Both to you and mom for everything you have both done for me as parents, for everything you have taught me, shown me, and experienced with me. I cannot imagine the strength and commitment it has taken to raise a son like me but your love and patience and things I am so deeply grateful for.

I am obviously pretty scared to die…

I wish this paper would go on forever and never run out and I could just keep talking to you. Just know I’m with you. Every stream, every lake, every field and river. In the woods and in the hills, in all the places you showed me. I love you.”

Kassig aka Abdul-Rahman’s words… part of a longer message smuggled out to his parents from his ISIS captors… moved me very much the way visits to Gaza or refugee camps or still smoldering ruins of civilian dwellings turned to steaming rubble have moved me for years. As tears welled up in my eyes, I knew I had to try.

“Salaam-Alaikum X. It’s Stanley. “kaif halak”? With these words, a desperate race against time to save the life of Peter Kassig began.

“X” is the code name I gave my friend who I met, along with a dozen or so other ex long-term Gitmo detainees, during my frequent trips to the Middle East and Gulf while preparing the defense of Abu Ghayth.

Although I had spent years in the courts and the streets representing various national liberation movements such as Hamas, up to this point I had scant hands–on experience with Al-Qaeda and none with ISIS. With the defense of Abu Ghayth, that was to change.

Over the course of a year, I met with these men fairly often. All had been tortured by the US, and its allies, beginning in Kandahar and Bagram… eventually ending up in Gitmo. All but one had been captured and sold by Pakistanis to US forces… usually for a bounty of five-thousand dollars each.

They were the lucky ones. Thousands of other Arabs were simply executed by the US or Northern Alliance in Afghanistan.

All of these men knew Abu Ghayth, not as a member of Al-Qaeda but from his days in the Gulf as an Imam and school principle or during the short period of time he was in Kandahar in the days leading up to 9-11.

X and I hit it off almost immediately… me with my broken Arabic and him with his Gitmo assimilated English filled with slang. Of all the men I got to know, he alone had been “involved” with Al-Qaeda. The rest were teachers, tourists or laborers… in the wrong place at the wrong time.

One man, in particular, speaks volumes of how so many Arabs ended up in Gitmo uncharged and untried. Anas (not his real name) spent years imprisoned there solely because of his Rolex watch. Yes, a watch.

According to declassified Department of Defense reports, when seized, he became a presumptive subject of “interest” because of a Rolex watch on his wrist… “The preferred IED timer of choice for Al-Qaeda.” Years before, he had received the watch to commemorate his membership in an Olympic sports team. Ultimately, this gift came to steal 7 years of freedom from Anas and his family.

His crime? He was in Afghanistan helping to set up a youth sports league at the time of 9-11.

Not long before my call to X, I heard from a mutual friend that he and some Islamic scholars had quietly played the lead in the successful negotiated release of 45 UN peacekeepers held hostage, by Al-Nusra Front (Al-Qaeda’s arm in the Levant), for two weeks in Syria. If anything could be done to save Peter, this I thought was the way to go.

With help from a translator, X and I briefly revisited old friends and places. Soon, the discussion turned to Peter Kassig with me asking if there was anything that could be done to save him. When he asked why, I simply recounted the letter to his parents and the two phone calls I had received. For me, that was enough. Mere coincidence had suddenly become reality. He understood and said he would get back to me later on.

Early the next day, X called and said reliable contacts had spoken to ISIS directly. He continued on telling me that Abdul Rahman was still alive and that he thought we might be able to win his release.

With the usual signpost of caution I had come to expect from him, X asked how soon I could come to the region for further discussions… noting that my presence there would be viewed by ISIS as a sign of our seriousness. I agreed, but did so only with a guarantee that Abdul Rahman would remain alive while I traveled and during discussions among the parties. Not long thereafter, X called again indicating ISIS had agreed.

Hanging up, I remained frozen, in time and place, for what seemed like an eternity. Though, on occasion, I’d been involved in very sensitive unfolding matters in the Middle East, this was different.

Having no experience with ISIS, and but a relatively short-term connection with X and his contacts, the usual advice and protection that comes from long-term relationships with clients and friends in the Middle East was markedly absent. Here, I was essentially on my own.

In Gaza, years before, I moved quickly to save the life of a US intelligence “asset” who had been unmasked in the early stages of a blackmail scheme directed, by him, at a prominent political leader in the coastal enclave long before the Israeli siege began. It took a series of flights and discussions to have him evicted from the territory… rather than fed to the sea.

Did I intervene because he was an agent, or an American? Of course not. That wasn’t the issue at all. No, politically, his killing would have been bad “business” for Gaza.

Some four years on from this Gaza intervention, I became involved in the negotiated surrender of the beheading tape of Wall Street reporter Daniel Pearle… by Khalid Sheikh Mohammad… when a client of mine, a local Pakistani journalist, received the tape from Al-Qaeda.

Though asked to provide it to US officials, he didn’t know how to proceed, let alone without casting a feared shadow over him for its possession and his contact with Al-Qaeda. Once again, I was able to reach out to sources that I trusted to accomplish the best end without any damage to my client.

If the Kassig effort was to have any chance of success, personal experience had taught me that it could not be undertaken in a vacuum and without the knowledge, if not, at times, assistance from reliable sources within the United States Government.

For me, however, “reliable” and “sources” are not two words that typically merge… let alone resonate when it comes to the United States. I‘ve spent 30 plus years fighting the government in and out of courts and though I’ve developed a begrudging respect, if not trust, for some of my adversaries, as a whole, I’ve seen institutions and persons with very dark lives driven not by principle but by narrow, often, selfish and destructive purpose.

Despite trepidation, I reached out to a federal terrorism prosecutor with whom I had handled a number of cases over the years. Although our battles had often been intense, I found him to be a person of integrity… one who could be trusted. His response? “This is above my pay grade. I’ll have to get back to you.”

Later that day, I heard from him and was told there was a senior FBI supervisor from Washington, on hold, on a separate line with overall responsibility for hostage situations in the Middle East. Not knowing this person, I agreed to speak with him as long as the prosecutor remained on the line.

Over the next few days, calls went back and forth among the prosecutor, FBI supervisor, and me. Though X did not participate, as was my practice, he was well aware of them and their purpose… and the limits that I had set, including my refusal to identify him by name.

For me, these exchanges were an attempt to set up a protocol that could be used if, and when, the need arose for assistance from the government…and nothing else. Although uncertain as to just what that might come to mean, given the fact I was about to leave for the Middle East… for parts and persons unknown (including ISIS)… to do otherwise would have been reckless.

Although the FBI supervisor (to be called Bob) pushed for a procedure that would keep him informed of my efforts… including knowing the identity of who I was meeting with, when and where and the essence of our discussions… I refused. As I did, his suggestion that I maintain face to face contact with government “assets” wherever I might be… for my own “safety.” Talk about an oxymoron.

Boarding the airplane with a private translator, the only agreement that had been reached with Bob was that I was proceeding as a private citizen, could not make any representations on behalf of the government, and would stay in periodic contact with him just to assure that I was safe.

As I settled into my seat and prepared for takeoff, I laughed, to myself, over Bob’s push to know where and when I would be… as if the optics of my cell phone, itself, and a worldwide network of surveillance and informants would fail to leave him with a very well documented trail of my journey.

I’ve traveled abroad dozens of times over the course of my life and work. Unlike many who find departing the United States as a source of great stress, for me it’s always been a welcome respite from the drudgery and defeat that has long been companion to a society that generally views itself as exceptional but, deep down, knows it is lost.

De-boarding the plane, almost a dozen hours later, and anxious to meet X in a country that I visited often without incident, for the very first time, I was detained by security personnel who obviously were expecting me as I was led to their office upon arrival at the visa gate.

Oddly, no questions were asked of me. In what struck everyone there as very much an awkward moment of procedure without purpose, security scurried around until a supervisor arrived to welcome me and provide a visa.

In what was to become ritual throughout the arduous effort to save Abdul-Rahman, on each occasion, when I entered or left a country… whether in the Gulf or Middle East… I was detained by security personnel for varying periods of time. Subtle, Bob… subtle.

There are no places in the world with more hospitality and warmth than the Middle East and Gulf. With so much to do and so little time, on the drive to the hotel I hoped that, for once, this would prove to be the exception. I was wrong.

Two hours later, X arrived… predictably, with food and lots of it… and a half dozen or so friends, of his, to greet us. Though I knew none of the other men, each told me they had followed and respected my work in the region over the years and wanted a chance to say hi and thanks in person.

Over the next several hours, we exchanged lots of anecdotes and laughter with me periodically, nodding to X as I pointed to my own watch. He just smiled and shrugged his shoulders. One by one, the men eventually departed with the last one saying goodnight to us at around 2:00 in the morning… leaving the two of us free, at last, to chat.

“He’s all right”, said X… referring to Abdul Rahman (Kassig)… as we spoke until sunrise designing a plan of how to proceed. That was the good news. The bad news seemed to grow by the hour.

To begin, unlike negotiations which freed UN hostages, ISIS was a completely different beast from Nusra. It was, after-all, not concerned with being seen as receptive to “reason” but rather exploited public displays of senseless brutality as an organizing tool to draw fighters toward its own unique brand of explosive nihilism. Indeed, by this point, it was well into its grotesque bi-monthly beheadings of captive aid workers, journalists and travelers. Although on hold, Abdul Rahman was scheduled to be next.

Nor was ISIS open to “token” gestures, such as hostage releases, without getting something of significant value in return … whether large ransoms of cash and equipment or the release of their own “soldiers.” I came to the table with none of these.

Finally… the most daunting roadblock of all: ISIS leadership was angry with former members and leaders of Al-Qaeda who had frequently vilified it in public for its systematic brutality against civilians, women, and other Muslims. These were the very persons at the heart of our effort to free Abdul-Rahman.

With these hurdles in mind, I bid my friend goodnight to attempt obtaining some much needed relief from jet lag as the Gulf sun overtook the sky. I didn’t. I kept hearing Peter Kassig’s final words to his parents… over and over again.

That evening, X returned for more discussions that, again, lasted long into the early morning hours covering a wide range of potential obstacles.

One problem was strategic tension within the group in which X was working. Though fully committed to obtaining Kassig’s freedom, some members also wanted to initiate a long term protocol with ISIS to end its un-Islamic attacks on civilians. While I agreed with the goal, I opposed the conflation of the two issues as needlessly complicating and likely delaying the very narrow effort to obtain the release of Abdul-Rahman.

This debate was to continue right up to the first formal discussion with ISIS after my arrival… when the idea of the protocol was, at last, abandoned.

Likewise, others didn’t see Kassig being released by ISIS solely as a sign of good faith… even for a civilian aid worker who had converted to Islam before his capture. For them, the nagging question remained, of whether the US might be willing to release ISIS captives or, even, Abu Ghayth as part of a package deal.

When I immediately noted there was no possibility of any such exchange, with classic Gitmo banter X replied, “You can’t blame a guy for trying.” It proved to be one of the few moments of shared laughter that were to punctuate the intensity of our efforts over the coming days.

As our meeting ended, it was agreed X would continue speaking with ISIS, through intermediaries, while I traveled on to speak with others who were interested in meeting with me. Among those I saw over the next week were Gitmo veterans, former Al-Qaeda members, some religious scholars and other activists.

Except for one unexpected meeting, it seemed the discussions had less to do with the process of obtaining freedom for Abdul-Rahman than about some wanting a chance to draw their own conclusions about me and my intentions.

In the surprise meeting which occurred at a local mini-mall, and almost as an afterthought, two men asked lots of detailed probing questions of me. In particular, they were specifically interested in how I became involved with the effort to save Abdul-Rahman, the relationship of the US government to this effort, and what the US might be willing to do in exchange for his release. Only much later, did I learn that these men were members of ISIS.

Though Abdul-Rahman remained alive, on the return flight to the country where the journey had begun, I was not particularly hopeful… as all who I had met with, though supportive, were largely guarded in their beliefs about whether the effort could succeed. Much to my surprise, when X and I met at the airport he congratulated me for a successful journey… noting that, as a result of it, everyone had agreed to proceed with our plan.

More important, I learned that, after a day or so of rest, I was to travel on to Jordan to meet with a well-known religious scholar, Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi, who would take the lead in continuing the discussions with ISIS.

Maqdisi, who I had heard of but not previously met, and who had not long before been released from a Jordanian prison, is a Jordanian-Palestinian scholar who is seen as a spiritual mentor of al-Qaida… and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, in particular. Zarqawi went on to found ISIS, in Iraq, after a reported split with his mentor due, at least in part, to Zarqawi’s attacks on civilians.

Not one to miss a chance at intrigue, I was present during a lengthy discussion with a caller… with the echo of a fire-fight blasting out over the car’s speaker phone. I later learned that the caller was in Syria and confirming that Abdul-Rahman was still alive.

As the car pulled up next to a modest three story sandstone building with a stairway facing the street, my heart began to race with uncertainty. This racing grew stronger as I started the climb. The day before, I was present during a news conference, of sorts, at the home of Abu Qatada… a Salafi Jordanian cleric who had, several years before, been extradited from the UK to stand trial in Jordan on terrorism charges for which he was acquitted. Although al-Maqdisi was also present, we spoke only briefly as he welcomed me to Jordan and invited me to come see him the following day at his home.

Knocking on the door, it opened, slowly, to a young girl hiding partially behind it revealing just her glowing face and a mass of curly brown unkempt hair streaming down it. As she smiled, uncertain who we were, al-Maqdisi suddenly arrived to welcome us inside. A humble apartment, with the sound of lots of kids, we were led to a rear room and settled into the library.

We, in the West, are maneuvered by descriptions of dark insular Salafist scholars, locked in century old space, driven by the narrow vision born of rigid minds and experience. It sells.

Sitting in the book lined library of Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi quickly put that sale to bed. Maqdisi is a smart man with a wide reach of world events… well beyond those driven solely by any theological construct or limited to the geographical confines of the world where he exercises such significant influence.

Well before our discussion turned to Abdul-Rahman, we spoke at length about a wide range of contemporary world events including the summer’s Israeli aggression on Gaza, increasing police violence in the United States, and tension in Ukraine and Crimea. Throughout our exchange, his daughter sat by her dad coyly stealing periodic glimpses of me as we enjoyed a never ending stream of coffee and, of course, the treasured sweets of Jordan.

Just as suddenly as our discussion began with Palestine, as so much a light switch, it abruptly turned to Abdul Rahman.

Not surprisingly, it was apparent there was no need for me to spend any time briefing him on whom Peter Kassig was or why I had hoped to obtain his release. He also was aware that while the US government knew of my efforts I was not there as its representative.

Describing ISIS as Islam’s worst nightmare, my host made it very clear that he would help in any way he could. He hoped the effort to free Abdul-Rahman would begin to move ISIS away from its brutal assaults upon civilians which he described as nothing short of an all-out assault on Islam, as well.

Al-Maqdisi went on to speak of some of the religious leadership of ISIS as former students of his that had strayed from his teachings. In particular he noted Turki al-Binali who was to become the mufti… or chief religious advisor of ISIS… and whom al-Maqdisi had authorized, years before, to teach his works. At one time, they were more like father and son than teacher and pupil.

He was optimistic that, if given a chance to speak with them, we could succeed… but noted that, under the terms of his recent release from prison, he was prohibited from meeting with, or speaking to, any members of ISIS.

As I left al-Maqdisi’s home, I asked him for the names of those in ISIS he felt he needed to speak with in order to further our efforts. Although he provided three names, today I can recall only that of Turki al-Binali.

“Hey, Bob. How are you?” With these few words, I reached out to the FBI contact that had, before I left the United States, agreed to help with my efforts. Though, as agreed, I had periodically kept in touch with him while traveling… just to let him know I was ok… this was the first time that I asked him for specific help:

“I’ve just met with al-Maqdisi (I had told Bob in advance) who has agreed to assist but cannot reach out to ISIS under the conditions of his release from prison.

These are the three men he wants to speak with but obviously cannot do so unless Jordanian security approves. In addition, I am setting four conditions of my own that must be agreed to, as well, for us to proceed: 1) al-Maqdisi’s discussions cannot, at any time, be used against him for any purpose whatsoever; 2) the calls, if approved, will be unmonitored and made on his own phone… at a time and place of his own choosing; 3) the substance of the calls will not have to be shared or vetted with anyone else… including intelligence officials either in Jordan or the US; and 4) there is no requirement that he provides copies of any exchanges with ISIS, including text and email messages, to anyone.”

Hanging up, Bob indicated that my requests were not “his call” but that they would be passed along to those with the authority within the Unites States and in Jordan for approval, if possible.

Over the next day or two, al-Maqdisi and I stayed in touch… as did X, who spent his time continuing to deal with ISIS who, by now, was well aware that I was in the region. Abdul-Rahman was still alive and, to the surprise of US officials, the bimonthly beheadings had stopped with the last occurring before I traveled abroad.

Awakened by an early morning call, it was Bob who tersely indicated, “it was a go”… with all the required terms and conditions agreed to. Before hanging up, I asked that he email the stream of our discussions, and the approval, for me to share with al-Maqdisi. He agreed.

A few minutes later, I received the email and observed that there was a redacted name and local address on the exchange which indicated that the approval on the Jordanian end had been conveyed to Bob through a local US based “asset.”

Later that morning, just after his required weekly report to Jordanian security… a condition of his release from prison… al-Maqdisi met with me, and my translator, at our hotel.

Even before I had a chance to share, with him, the email I had received, he told me that he had learned, earlier that morning, that the proposed plan to communicate with ISIS had been approved as outlined by me, with the added caveat that his discussions with the three persons could not involve anything other than the effort to obtain Kassig’s release. He agreed.

Anxious to proceed, al-Maqdisi wanted to immediately make his initial outreach to Turki al-Binali. In abundance of caution, and for added security, I suggested that it be delayed until we purchased a new cell phone, and obtained a new number, from which to place the call.

What unfolded that day, as we set off to buy the phone, quickly became truly a comedy of errors. Not far from the hotel, al-Maqdisi, a humble man, was forced to exit his ten year old car which had suddenly come to a halt and could not be restarted.

Opening the hood, there stood one of the world’s most influential Islamic scholars, about to talk with ISIS, standing in the middle of the narrow street pulling and cleaning wires from his car while the traffic jam of beeping vehicles grew behind us. Some five minutes later, we drove off… however, the scene was to repeat itself twice more… turning what should have been a 30 minute drive, to an old Suq, into a three hour odyssey.

Arriving at the phone store not long before it was to close, al-Maqdisi and I proceeded to “argue” over which phone to buy, with him leaning towards the cheapest possible one… that required an app to be purchased elsewhere… and me insisting on a high-tech one that came with the necessary app already built in. I lost. We bought the cheap phone but lost a day as the necessary app could not be installed in this particular model phone. The next morning, we set off, once again. This time, in a borrowed car, to a high tech phone shop where we got the right phone.

Not long thereafter, al-Maqdisi called his former pupil and left a message. As we sat in a coffee shop directly across the street from the ruins of an old Roman amphitheater, busy with the bustle of tourists posing for pictures, I suddenly began to travel without leaving our cramped table.

With al-Maqdisi and my translator speaking about favorite dishes and exchanging family anecdotes I was suddenly struck by the oddity, almost strangeness, of the moment. It was not the first time. It’s happened before, over my many years in the region, where, inexplicably, I found myself trying to reconstruct how I had come to be in this place and time. It was not a long journey… as, suddenly, I was jarred back to the discussion by a ring on al-Maqdisi’s phone. It was Turki al-Binali returning the call.

Faces speak volumes… often more so than words themselves. As I sat watching al-Maqdisi and his former student talk, it was obvious the exchange, though awkward at times, was nevertheless one built of warmth and a rich past.

I could have asked the translator what was being discussed but, instead, the two of us got up and went across the street to take a seat on the aged stone benches of the amphitheater, grab some sun, and reflect on history. Half an hour later, al-Maqdisi joined us with thanks for a chance to speak in private with his onetime apprentice.

Over the next few days, the two of them apparently spoke often… at times, voice to voice… at others, by text or email. On several occasions, I was present during an exchange and, after they ended, had a chance to review the email or text.

Though I never saw the name of Abdul Rahman metioned between them, more than once, Turki al-Binali noted he knew what al-Maqdisi wanted and, while not easy, would likely be achieved.

Understandably, most of their communications were directed at trying to rebuild personal bonds that had been broken through the passage of time and, according to al-Binali, because of al-Maqdisi’s public, and ceaseless, attacks on ISIS.

At one point, Turki al-Binali texted that it pained him beyond words to see his teacher, who he loved, attack him for what he had, in fact, learned from him. Al-Maqdisi simply replied that he had obviously missed the lesson and moved on.

Over the week, I came to see less and less of al-Maqdisi. Though we still spoke by phone, he seemed removed, distant, unable or willing to keep appointments… although he was still upbeat about his efforts. Of interest, his detachment seemed to parallel a series of calls that I received, from X, about the need for me to return to meet with him, and some others, for a face to face update on my efforts and theirs.

On my final day in Jordan, I met al-Maqdisi, late in the afternoon, just beyond the security barrier of the hotel. He was not the same up-beat man I had spent a lot of time with over the previous days… seemingly, now, edgy, nervous, and stripped of his smile and humor. As we spoke one final time, in person, he promised that late that night he was going to, in a call, bring up the issue of Abdul-Rahman’s release… and was hopeful the release would take place not long thereafter.

When I asked him to join me for one final dinner, he declined… noting that he had been ordered by security forces to come and see them. This was an odd request, he opined, given the fact that he had just seen them several days before.

I have good instincts that, on occasion, provide a pathway into events as yet to unfold. As it turned out, this was to be one such time. As I boarded the airplane, I had a strange feeling something was terribly wrong. It was the first time I had felt this way since the journey had begun.

Eight or nine hours later, I was startled by a pounding on my door. I opened it to find my translator, visibly upset, and rambling on about something he had seen on TV. He brought me to his room where a bulletin flashed across the top of the screen, in Arabic, that Abu Maqdisi had, once again, been arrested by Jordanian security officials for some non-descript terrorism charge.

Racing from the room, I immediately called Bob and, as he was unavailable, left a message. I next reached out to X who, himself, had only just learned what had happened. We agreed to meet at my hotel as soon as possible… a drive of some 30 minutes.

Not long thereafter, Bob returned my call… denying any knowledge about al-Maqdisi’s arrest or why. I believed him. He seemed every bit as shocked as me and said several times that all the news he was getting back from his sources, in Amman, was upbeat. He promised to follow-up on al-Maqdisi and get back to me as soon as possible.

As the sun set, X arrived desperate for answers about what had happened in Jordan, now the day before. Although I had spent a lot of time with him over the last several years, I had not before seen him to be in a state of panic. He was. Indeed, this is a man who had survived years of imprisonment and torture at the hands of the US, and its allies, with his determination and dignity intact… one not likely to panic because of unforeseen events.

Yet, this was different. X was at the center of an international effort to free an American aid worker essentially because I, another American, had asked him to do so and because it was the right thing to do. In that effort, he had enlisted the help of a group of friends and activists… including one of the world’s preeminent Islamic scholars who was, once again, back in custody, seemingly, because of our efforts… efforts that had been approved, I had thought, at the highest level of government in the United States and Jordan.

Over the next half hour or so, I revisited, with X, all that had occurred in Amman, with and without al-Maqdisi, and shared not just the content of his discussions with Turki al-Binali, but my email exchanges with Bob that had given us the necessary cover, I thought, upon which we had proceeded.

Though I told him of al-Maqdisi’s recent change in demeanor, I had no explanation for it… nor did he. Quickly, however, it became obvious that X already knew much of what I told him about events in Jordan… including al-Maqdis’s contacts with al-Binali and the fact that we seemed to be moving toward the release of Peter Kassig.

Though X expressed no doubt in my personal integrity, he pointed out what I had already realized… namely that some might view this entire effort as a ruse to bring about the re-arrest of Abu Maqdisi. Rejecting this out of hand, X noted that not all in the region knew me personally, nor my reputation, and might just jump to wild conclusions. He also noted that this very visit, by him, had been opposed by some of his own friends because of events in Jordan.

On that point, for one brief moment, the thought flashed through my mind that, all at once, the government had, perhaps, been able to accomplish not just the re-arrest of al-Maqdisi but compromised me, in a way, and in a region where I had long challenged its policies, and those of its proxy states, with some degree of success.

I didn’t have much time to dwell on this thought, however, as the phone rang. It was Bob. Still looking for how this plan had gone awry, he indicated only that he had learned that the arrest had been initiated solely by Jordanian security … and because al-Maqdisi had violated the terms of his release by contact with ISIS leaders!

Hearing this, I yelled into the phone that these were the precise authorizations that had been approved, in writing ,with the agreement of Jordanian security and that he needed to do whatever must be done to obtain al-Maqdisi’s release… and right away.

I closed by demanding that if he, or the FBI, could not accomplish it then someone had to get a hold of the State Department or the White House to get it done… as our own bad faith had, essentially, now become the threat to Abdul-Rahman’s life.

Not long thereafter, X got up and left… telling me, as he did, that he had heard all he needed to know at this point and was on his way to a meeting with others that had been involved in the effort to win Peter Kassig’s release.

The next morning, X dropped by, unexpectedly, just to say goodbye… as he, and others, had been contacted by domestic security agents and told they were no longer permitted to see me.

As X left, he stopped, and turned to tell me they had heard from al-Maqdisi who was doing well, that he did not believe I had played any role in his arrest, and had asked for my help in trying to gain his release. It was the last time I was to see X.

Return flights, to the United States from the Middle East, are, for me, always the most difficult. Despite the tension and, at times, violence once airborne, I always miss the echo of the call to prayer. Even as a non-believer, it seems to ground me.

Leaving X and al-Maqdisi behind that day, my flight was particularly painful. As the plane lifted, my spirits dropped with each rise in altitude. Weeks had been spent to save the life of Peter Kassig from a fate that was now all but certain to follow.

Betrayal had surely undone a slow, but steady, march to freedom that, for Kassig, could have meant a return to the very streams, lake and fields about which he had written in what was to become his final message of love to his parents.

As the first sound of music came through my earphones, I hoped to find comfort in the sleep that was expected… deep down, I knew there would be none.

Arriving back in my office, exhausted, I called Bob hoping to hear some good news about al-Maqdisi. There was none. Instead, I reached a voice mail. Not long thereafter, I received a call-back from a Deputy Director of the FBI.

Though he thanked me for my efforts, predictably, his message was little more than excuse wrapped in apologia as to what had gone wrong… and why.

Indeed, I was shocked to hear the United States try to sell the specious tale that it didn’t know Jordan had decided to arrest al-Maqdisi… and to, then, claim it could do nothing to undo the damage.

Over the next few days, I heard from Bob several times. Although he assured me efforts were underway to see what could be done, neither of us really believed any good would come from it. I don’t fault Bob. I have no doubt that he was very much an unwitting surrogate to a collective of governments that, on the eve of a possible success, made a conscious decision to sacrifice Abdul-Rahman to the mantle of political expedience.

After-all, non-state actors accomplishing what states themselves could not seemed to be a bad message for a public looking for assurance that leaders could and would ,in fact, lead. This is particularly true where the guys coming to the rescue were former Gitmo detainees and an Islamic scholar vilified for his beliefs.

From nowhere, a few days later, I picked up the phone to hear the familiar voices of my translator and X who wanted to say hi and assure me that all was well with him and his friends.

Though al-Maqdisi was still in custody, he had sent his salam to me… and his thanks for my efforts on his behalf. Much to my surprise, X indicated that they wanted to once again try to obtain the release of Abdul-Rahman who was still very much alive. However, in order to do so, it required that his government lift the ban against them having any direct contact with me.

Over the next few days, Bob and I once again spoke as he tried to resolve this problem. Late one night, he called and suggested that I start to look for flights as it appeared the ban, along with my spirits, would soon be lifted.

Hours later, I received a second call from Bob asking me to check with “my people overseas” as they had heard that Abdul-Rahman had been beheaded. I immediately called X who doubted the veracity of the information, indicating that he would likely have heard about it had it happened. He had not. As he hung up he promised to get back to me shortly.

Not long thereafter, the phone rang. It was X. I will never forget his brief message. “I’m sorry, we waited too long… he’s gone.”

Conclusion

 The notion that an FBI supervisor, or even Director, could themselves unilaterally approve breach of an agreement between the Government and a foreign State… and thereby sentence a United States citizen/hostage to certain death… is patently absurd.

Likewise, it is impossible to fathom a subordinate member of the executive branch of Government sitting idly by while another foreign State abrogates an agreement intended to safeguard a US citizen… and in so doing, guaranteed their death.

Yet, that is precisely what occurred here, in a circle dance of death, where the FBI first feigned ignorance about how the agreement with Jordan had been unilaterally breached… and then claimed it was powerless to intervene, with a country that has received billions in dollars of aid, to simply require it to adhere to the very agreement with which they were a knowing party in the first stead.

Here, there should be no doubt that the decision to permit the arrest of al-Maqdisi… and, thereby, blow up an effort to save the life of Peter Kassig, could not have happened without the specific knowledge, and approval, at the very highest reaches of the United States Government.

Though Peter Kassig was beheaded with a scimitar wielded by an ISIS assassin, ultimately, it bore the signature of the United States of America.

Speaking, not long after news of Peter Kassig’s beheading had been verified, then President, Barrack Obama stated “’He was taken from us in an act of pure evil.” On this point Mr. President we can all agree.

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Los palestinos tienen un derecho legal a la lucha armada

Los palestinos tienen un derecho legal a la lucha armada

20 JULIO 2017

Es hora de que Israel acepte que como pueblo ocupado, los palestinos tienen derecho a resistir – en todas las formas posibles.

En Palestina, el derecho internacional reconoce los derechos fundamentales a la libre determinación, la libertad y la independencia de los ocupados, escribe Cohen [Reuters]

por Stanley L Cohen

Stanley L Cohen es un abogado y activista de derechos humanos que ha hecho un trabajo extenso en Oriente Medio y África.

Hace mucho tiempo, se decidió que la resistencia e incluso la lucha armada contra una fuerza de ocupación colonial no sólo se reconocen bajo el derecho internacional, sino que son específicamente apoyadas.

De conformidad con el derecho internacional humanitario, se han adoptado expresamente las guerras de liberación nacional, mediante la adopción del Protocolo Adicional I a los Convenios de Ginebra de 1949 (pdf), como derecho protegido e imprescindible de las personas ocupadas en todo el mundo.

VER: La ocupación israelí “se intensifica” 50 años después de la guerra con las naciones árabes (2:59)

Durante décadas, la Asamblea General de las Naciones Unidas (AGNU), una vez descrita como la conciencia colectiva del mundo, ha observado el derecho de los pueblos a la libre determinación, la independencia y los derechos humanos.

De hecho, ya en 1974, la resolución 3314 de la Asamblea General de las Naciones Unidas prohibía a los Estados “cualquier ocupación militar, no importa cuan temporal fuera”.

En la parte pertinente, la resolución no sólo afirmó el derecho a la “autodeterminación, libertad e independencia […] de los pueblos privados de ese derecho, […] particularmente los pueblos bajo regímenes coloniales y racistas u otros Formas de dominación extranjera”, pero señaló el derecho de los ocupados a” luchar … y buscar y recibir apoyo “en ese esfuerzo.

El término “lucha armada” estaba implícito sin una definición precisa en esa resolución y muchos otros principios que defendían el derecho de los pueblos nativos a desalojar a un ocupante.

Esta imprecisión iba a cambiar el 3 de diciembre de 1982. En ese momento la resolución 37/43 de la Asamblea General eliminaba cualquier duda o debate sobre el derecho legítimo de los ocupados a resistir las fuerzas de ocupación por cualquier medio legal. La resolución reafirmó “la legitimidad de la lucha de los pueblos por la independencia, la integridad territorial, la unidad nacional y la liberación de la dominación colonial y extranjera y la ocupación extranjera por todos los medios disponibles, incluida la lucha armada”.

Una ilusión palpable

Aunque Israel ha intentado, una y otra vez, refundir la intención inequívoca de esta resolución en particular-y colocar así su ocupación de medio siglo en Cisjordania y Gaza más allá de su aplicación- es un esfuerzo que se desgastan hasta un punto de ilusión palpable por el lenguaje exigente de la propia declaración. En la parte pertinente, la sección 21 de la resolución condenó enérgicamente “las actividades expansionistas de Israel en el Oriente Medio y el continuo bombardeo de civiles palestinos, que constituyen un serio obstáculo para la realización de la autodeterminación e independencia del pueblo palestino”.

LEER MÁS: Los palestinos en Gaza reflexionan sobre 10 años de asedio

Los sionistas europeos, que no se caracterizan por titubear cuando se trata de reescribir la historia, mucho antes de que se establecieran las Naciones Unidas, se consideraron como un pueblo ocupado cuando emigraron a Palestina, una tierra en la cual cualquier vinculo histórico que hubieran tenido había ya ampliamente cedido hace mucho tiempo a través de un tránsito voluntario .

De hecho, 50 años antes de que la ONU hablara del derecho de la lucha armada como vehículo de la liberación indígena, los sionistas europeos cooptaron ilegalmente el concepto mientras que Irgun, Lehi y otros grupos terroristas emprendieron un largo reinado de una década de caos mortal.

Durante este tiempo, mataron no sólo a miles de palestinos nativos, sino que se enfocaron en la policía británica y al personal militar que durante mucho tiempo había mantenido allí una presencia colonial.

Una historia de ataques sionistas

Tal vez, mientras los israelíes se sientan a llorar la pérdida de dos de sus soldados que fueron muertos a tiros la semana pasada en Jerusalén -en lo que muchos consideran un acto legal de resistencia- una visita por el sendero de la memoria podría simplemente colocar los eventos en su debido contexto histórico.

La autodeterminación es una marcha difícil y costosa para los ocupados. En Palestina, no importa cuál sea el arma de elección -ya sea voz, pluma o arma- hay un precio muy alto que se debe pagar por su uso.

Hace mucho tiempo, describiendo a los británicos como una fuerza de ocupación en “su patria”, los sionistas atacaron a la policía británica ya las unidades militares con un desenfreno despiadado en Palestina y otros lugares.

El 12 de abril de 1938, el Irgun asesinó a dos agentes de policía británicos en un bombardeo de tren en Haifa. El 26 de agosto de 1939, dos oficiales británicos fueron asesinados por una mina de Irgun en Jerusalén. El 14 de febrero de 1944, dos policías británicos fueron muertos a tiros cuando intentaron arrestar a la gente por pegar carteles en la pared en Haifa. El 27 de septiembre de 1944, más de 100 miembros del Irgún atacaron cuatro comisarías británicas, hiriendo a cientos de oficiales. Dos días después, un alto oficial de la policía británica del Departamento de Inteligencia Criminal fue asesinado en Jerusalén.

El 1 de noviembre de 1945, otro oficial de policía murió cuando cinco trenes fueron bombardeados. El 27 de diciembre de 1945, siete oficiales británicos perdieron la vida en un bombardeo en la sede de la policía en Jerusalén. Entre el 9 y el 13 de noviembre de 1946, miembros judíos “subterráneos” lanzaron una serie de atentados con minas y maletas con bombas en estaciones ferroviarias, trenes y tranvías, matando a 11 soldados y policías británicos y ocho agentes árabes.

Cuatro oficiales más fueron asesinados en otro atentado en una jefatura de policía el 12 de enero de 1947. Nueve meses después, cuatro policías británicos fueron asesinados en un robo a un banco de Irgún y, nada mas tres días después, el 26 de septiembre de 1947, 13 oficiales adicionales fueron asesinados en otro ataque terrorista contra una comisaría británica.

Estos son sólo algunos de los muchos ataques dirigidos por terroristas sionistas a la policía británica, que fueron vistos por la mayoría de los judíos europeos como blancos legítimos de una campaña que describieron como una de liberación contra una fuerza de ocupación.

A lo largo de este período, los terroristas judíos también emprendieron innumerables ataques que no perdonaron parte alguna de la infraestructura británica y palestina. Asaltaron instalaciones militares y policiales británicas, oficinas gubernamentales y barcos, a menudo con bombas. También sabotearon ferrocarriles, puentes e instalaciones petroleras. Decenas de blancos económicos fueron atacados, incluyendo 20 trenes que fueron dañados o descarrilados, y cinco estaciones de tren. Se produjeron numerosos ataques contra la industria petrolera, entre ellos uno, en marzo de 1947, en una refinería de petróleo Shell en Haifa, que destruyó unas 16.000 toneladas de petróleo.

LEER MAS: Cómo Israel ocupó toda Palestina

Los terroristas sionistas mataron a soldados británicos en Palestina, usando trampas, emboscadas, francotiradores y explosiones de vehículos.

Un atentado, en particular, resume el terrorismo de aquellos que, sin ninguna fuerza de derecho internacional en su momento, no vieron ninguna limitación a sus esfuerzos por “liberar” una tierra a la que, en su mayoría, habían emigrado recientemente.

En 1947, el Irgún secuestró a dos suboficiales del Cuerpo de Inteligencia del Ejército británico y amenazó con colgarlos si se llevaban a cabo sentencias de muerte de tres de sus propios miembros. Cuando estos tres miembros del Irgún fueron ejecutados por ahorcamiento, los dos sargentos británicos fueron ahorcados en represalia y sus cuerpos con explosivos escondidos, fueron dejados en un bosque de eucaliptos.

WATCH: UPFRONT – Palestina e Israel: ¿Un estado o dos? (25:15)

Al anunciar su ejecución, el Irgun dijo que los dos soldados británicos fueron ahorcados tras su condena por “actividades criminales anti-hebreas”, que incluían: la entrada ilegal a la patria hebrea y la pertenencia a una organización terrorista criminal británica – conocida como el Ejército de Ocupación – que fue “responsable de la tortura, el asesinato, la deportación y la negación del derecho de vivir al pueblo hebreo”. Los soldados también fueron acusados de posesión ilegal de armas, espionaje anti-judío en ropa civil y diseños premeditados hostiles contra el metro subterráneo (pdf).

Mucho más allá de los límites territoriales de Palestina, a finales de 1946-47 una campaña continua de terrorismo fue dirigida a los británicos. Se llevaron a cabo actos de sabotaje en las rutas de transporte militar británico en Alemania. El Lehi también trató, sin éxito, de lanzar una bomba sobre la Cámara de los Comunes de un avión fletado volado desde Francia y, en octubre de 1946, bombardeó la Embajada británica en Roma. Varios otros artefactos explosivos fueron detonados en y alrededor de objetivos estratégicos en Londres. Unas 21 bombas en cartas fueron dirigidas, en varias ocasiones, a altas figuras políticas británicas. Muchas de estas fueron interceptadas, mientras otras alcanzaron sus objetivos pero fueron descubiertas antes de que pudieran estallar.

El alto precio de la autodeterminación

La autodeterminación es una marcha difícil y costosa para los ocupados. En Palestina, no importa cuál sea el arma de elección -ya sea voz, pluma o arma- hay un precio muy alto que se debe pagar por su uso.

Hoy, “hablar verdad al poder” se ha convertido en un mantra popular de resistencia en círculos y sociedades neoliberales. En Palestina, sin embargo, para los ocupados y los oprimidos, es un camino casi seguro para la prisión o la muerte. Sin embargo, para generaciones de palestinos despojados del mismo aliento que resuena con el sentimiento de libertad, la historia enseña que simplemente no hay otra opción.

El silencio es rendición. Estar en silencio es traicionar a todos los que han venido antes y a todos los que aún han de seguir.

OPINIÓN: ¿Por qué Netanyahu está tratando de disolver el UNRWA?

Para aquellos que nunca han sentido el yugo constante de opresión, o por lo menos visto de cerca, es una visión más allá de la comprensión. La ocupación se sienta pesada en los ocupados, cada día en todos los sentidos, limitando lo que eres y lo que puedes atreverte a ser.

El constante roce con las barricadas, los cañones, las órdenes, la prisión y la muerte son compañeros de viaje para los ocupados, ya sean infantes, adolescentes en la primavera de su vida, ancianos o aquellos atrapados por los confines artificiales de fronteras sobre los cuales no tienen control.

A las familias de los dos policías drusos israelíes que perdieron la vida tratando de controlar un lugar que no era suyo para comandar, extiendo mis condolencias. Estos jóvenes, sin embargo, no se perdieron en el círculo de la resistencia, pero voluntariamente se sacrificaron por una ocupación maligna que no tiene legitimidad alguna.

En última instancia, si hay un duelo por hacer, debe ser para los 11 millones de ocupados, ya sea en Palestina o fuera, como tantos refugiados apátridas, despojados de una voz significativa y de oportunidad, ya que el mundo hace excusas que son construidas en gran parte basadas en un regalo político y económico que lleva como insignia la Estrella de David.

No pasa un día sin el lamento escalofriante de una nación vigilando a un niño palestino envuelto en un sudario, despojado de la vida porque la electricidad o el tránsito se han convertido en un privilegio perverso que lleva a millones de rehenes por los caprichos políticos de unos pocos. Ya sean israelíes, egipcios o aquellos que afirman llevar el manto del liderazgo político palestino, la responsabilidad del infanticidio en Gaza es suya y sólo suya.

“Si no hay lucha, no hay progreso”

Los tres jóvenes, primos, que voluntariamente sacrificaron sus vidas en el ataque a los dos oficiales israelíes en Jerusalén, no lo hicieron como un gesto vacío nacido de la desesperación, sino más bien como una declaración personal de orgullo nacional que sigue a una larga línea de otros que entendieron bien que el precio de la libertad puede, a veces, significar todo.

Durante 70 años, no ha pasado un día sin la pérdida de mujeres y hombres palestinos jóvenes que, trágicamente, encontraron mayor dignidad y libertad en el martirio que en una vida obediente y pasiva controlada por aquellos que se atrevieron a dictar los parámetros de sus vidas.

Millones de nosotros en todo el mundo sueñan con un mejor tiempo y lugar para los palestinos … libre para extender sus alas, para volar, para descubrir quiénes son y en que desean convertirse. Hasta entonces, no me lamento por la pérdida de los que detienen su vuelo. En cambio, aplaudo a los que se atreven a luchar, se atreven a ganar – por cualquier medio necesario.

No hay magia para la resistencia y la lucha. Estas trascienden el tiempo y el lugar y derivan su propio significado y ardor en la inclinación natural y, de hecho, nos impulsan a todos a ser libres – a ser libres para determinar el papel de nuestras propias vidas.

INTERACTIVO: Palestina en movimiento – Del exilio a la resistencia

En Palestina, no existe tal libertad. En Palestina, el derecho internacional reconoce los derechos fundamentales a la libre determinación, la libertad y la independencia de los ocupados. En Palestina, eso incluye el derecho a la lucha armada, en caso de ser necesario.

Hace mucho tiempo, el abolicionista famoso Frederick Douglass, siendo él mismo un esclavo antes, escribió acerca de la lucha. Estas palabras no resuenan menos hoy, en Palestina, que lo hicieron hace unos 150 años en el corazón del Antebellum Sur en los Estados Unidos:

“Si no hay lucha, no hay progreso. Aquellos que profesan favorecer la libertad y, sin embargo, despreciar la agitación, son hombres que quieren cultivos sin arar el suelo, quieren lluvia sin truenos y relámpagos. Quieren el océano sin el horrible rugir de sus muchas aguas. Esta lucha puede ser moral, o puede ser física, o puede ser tanto moral como física, pero debe ser una lucha. El poder no concede nada sin una exigencia y jamas lo hará.”

Stanley L Cohen es un abogado y activista de derechos humanos que ha hecho un trabajo extenso en el Medio Oriente y África.

Las opiniones expresadas en este artículo son propias del autor y no reflejan necesariamente la política editorial de Al Jazeera.

Palestinians have a legal right to armed struggle

**Originally published in Al Jazeera July 20. 2017. This is the unedited version with original title and links**

For Some, History is a Failed Recollection (Original Title)

Long ago, it was settled that resistance… even armed struggle… against a colonial occupation force is not just recognized under international law but specifically endorsed.

In accordance with international humanitarian law, wars of national liberation have been expressly embraced, through the adoption of Additional Protocol I to the Geneva Conventions of 1949, as a protected and essential right of occupied people everywhere.

Article 1 (4) of Additional Protocol I provides that “international armed conflict” include those in which people are fighting against “colonial domination, alien occupation and against racist regimes in the exercise of their right of self-determination.”

Finding evolving vitality in humanitarian law, for decades the General Assembly of the United Nations (UNGA)… once described as the collective conscience of the world… has noted the right of peoples to “self-determination… independence… and human rights.

Indeed, as early as 1974, resolution 3314 of the UNGA prohibited states from “any military occupation, however temporary” and included bombardments, blockades, or forced annexations of any lands by an occupying state as examples of gross international transgressions.

In relevant part, the resolution not only went on to affirm the right “to self- determination, freedom and independence of peoples forcibly deprived of that right, particularly peoples under colonial and racist regimes or other forms of alien domination” but noted the right of the occupied to “struggle… and to seek and receive support ” in that effort.

The term “armed-struggle” was implied without precise definition in that resolution and many other early ones that upheld the right of indigenous persons to evict an occupier [See, i.e. resolutions 2649 (1970), 2955 (1972), 3070 (1973), 3246 (1974), 3382 (1975), 33/24 (1978), 34/44 (1979), 35/35 (1980) and 36/9 (1981), as well as Security Council resolutions 418 (1977) and 437 (1978)].

This imprecision was to change on December 3, 1982. At that time UNGA resolution 37/43 removed any doubt or debate over the lawful entitlement of occupied people to resist occupying forces by any and all lawful means.

In short, the resolution held: “This House reaffirms the legitimacy of the struggle of peoples for independence, territorial integrity, national unity and liberation from colonial and foreign domination and foreign occupation by all available means, including armed struggle”.

Though Israel has tried, time and time again, to recast the unambiguous intent of this precise resolution… and thus place it’s now half -century occupation in the West Bank and Gaza beyond its application… it is an effort worn thin to the point of palpable illusion by the exacting language of the declaration itself.

Thus, in relevant part, section 21 of the resolution strongly condemned “the expansionist activities of Israel in the Middle East and the continual bombing of Palestinian civilians, which constitute a serious obstacle to the realization of the self-determination and independence of the Palestinian people”.

Never ones to hesitate in rewriting history, long before the establishment of the United Nations, European Zionists deemed themselves to be an occupied people as they immigrated to Palestine… a land to which any historical connection had long since passed through a largely voluntary transit.

Indeed, a full 50 years before the UN spoke of the right of armed struggle as a vehicle of indigenous liberation, European Zionists illegally co-opted the concept as the Irgun,  Lehi and other terrorist groups undertook a decade’s long reign of deadly mayhem. During this time, they slaughtered not only thousands of indigenous Palestinians but targeted British police and military personnel that had long maintained a colonial presence there.

Perhaps, as Israelis sit down to mourn the loss of two of their occupation forces shot dead, this past week, in Jerusalem… in what many consider to be a lawful act of resistance… a visit down memory lane might just place the events in their proper historical context.

Describing the British as an occupation force in “their homeland,” long ago Zionists targeted British police and military units with ruthless abandon throughout Palestine and elsewhere.

Thus, on April 12, 1938, the Irgun murdered 2 British police officers in a train bombing in Haifa. On August 26, 1939 two British officers were killed by an Irgun land mine in Jerusalem. On February 14, 1944 two British constables were shot dead when they attempted to make arrests for pasting up wall posters in Haifa. On September 27, 1944 more than a hundred members of the Irgun attacked 4 British police stations injuring hundreds of officers. Two days later a senior British police officer of the Criminal Intelligence Department was assassinated in Jerusalem. On November 1, 1945 another police officer was killed as 5 trains were bombed. On December 27, 1945 seven British officers lost their lives in a bombing on police headquarters in Jerusalem. On November 9–13, 1946 Jewish underground members launched a series of land mine and suitcase bomb attacks against railroad stations, trains, and streetcars, killing 11 British soldiers and policemen and 8 Arab constables. Four more officers were murdered in another attack on police headquarters on January 12, 1947. Nine months later four British police were murdered in an Irgun bank robbery and, but three days later, on September 26, 1947, another thirteen officers were killed in still yet another terrorist attack on a British police station.

These are but a few of many more attacks directed by Zionist terrorists at British police who were seen, by mostly European Jews, as legitimate targets of a campaign they described as one of liberation against an occupation force.

Throughout this period, Jewish terrorists also murdered hundreds of British military personal as they undertook countless attacks that spared no part of the British and Palestinian infrastructure.

Financing these terrorist attacks through bank robberies, extortion, and some private donations, the “underground” assaulted British military and police installations, government offices, and ships… often with bombs. They also sabotaged railroads, bridges, and oil installations. Dozens of economic targets were attacked… among them, 20 trains, which were damaged or derailed, along with five train stations. Numerous attacks were carried out against the oil industry including one, in March 1947, on a Shell Oil refinery in Haifa which destroyed some 16,000 tons of petroleum.

Zionist terrorists killed British soldiers throughout Palestine, using booby traps, ambushes, snipers, and vehicle blasts. British armored vehicles were bombed by remotely detonated IED’s disguised as milestones which blew apart vehicles and killed or injured their occupants.

One attack, in particular, sums up the terrorism of those who, without any force of international law at the time, saw no limitation to their efforts to “liberate” land to which they had, largely, only recently immigrated.

In 1947, the Irgun kidnapped two British Army Intelligence Corps NCOs threatening to hang them if death sentences, passed on three of their own members, were carried out.

When their own men were executed by hanging, the two sergeants were themselves hung… with their booby-trapped bodies left in a eucalyptus grove.

In announcing their execution, the Irgun stated the two British soldiers were hanged following their conviction for “criminal anti-Hebrew activities” which included: “ illegal entry into the Hebrew homeland; membership in a British criminal terrorist organisation… known as the Army of Occupation… which was responsible for the torture, murder, deportation, and denying the Hebrew people the right to live; illegal possession of arms; anti-Jewish spying in civilian clothes; and premeditated hostile designs against the underground.”

Well beyond the territorial confines of Palestine, in late 1946-1947, a continuing campaign of terrorism was directed at the British. Thus, acts of sabotage were carried out on British military transportation routes in Germany. The Lehi also tried, unsuccessfully, to drop a bomb on the House of Commons from a chartered plane flown from France and, in October 1946, bombed the British Embassy in Rome… injuring three. A number of other explosive devices were detonated in London, including one at the Colonial Club… an establishment catering to soldiers and students from British colonies in Africa and the West Indies. The bombing injured some servicemen. On another occasion, an attempt was made to destroy the Colonial Office in London with a large bomb which malfunctioned after its timer broke. Some 21 letter bombs were addressed. at various times. to senior British political figures, including Prime Minister Clement Attlee and Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin. Many were intercepted, while others reached their targets but were discovered before they could go off. An Irgun explosives factory was also discovered in London.

Self determination is a difficult, costly march for the occupied. In Palestine, no matter what the weapon of choice… whether voice, pen or gun… there is a steep price to be paid for its use.

Today, “speaking truth to power” has become very much a popular mantra of resistance in neo-liberal circles and societies. In Palestine, however, for the occupied and oppressed it is an all but certain path to prison or death. Yet, for generations of Palestinians stripped of the very breathe that resonates with the feel of freedom, history teaches there is simply no other choice.

Silence is surrender. To be silent is to betray all those that have come before and all those yet to follow.

For those who have never felt the constant yoke of oppression, or seen it up close, it is a vision beyond comprehension. Occupation sits heavy on the occupied, ever day in every way, limiting who you are and what you may dare to become.

The constant rub of barricades, guns, orders, prison and death are fellow travelers for the occupied … whether infants, teens in the spring of life, the elderly, or those trapped by the artificial confines of borders over which they have no control.

To the families of the two Israeli Druze policemen who lost their lives while trying to control a place that was not theirs to command, I extend my condolences. These young men were, however, not lost to the ring of resistance… but willingly sacrificed by an evil occupation that bears no legitimacy whatsoever.

Ultimately, if there is grieving to be done, it must be for the eleven million occupied, whether in Palestine or outside, as so much stateless refugees, stripped of a meaningful voice and opportunity, as the world makes excuses built largely of a political and economic gift box that bears the Star of David.

Not a day goes by, now, without the chilling wail of a Nation watching over a Palestinian infant wrapped in a burial shroud… stripped of life because electricity or transit have become a perverse privilege which holds millions hostage to the political whims of the few. Be they Israeli, Egyptian or those who claim to carry the mantle of Palestinian political leadership, the responsibility of infanticide in Gaza is theirs and theirs alone.

The three young men, cousins, who willingly sacrificed their lives in the attack on the two Israeli officers in Jerusalem, did so not as an empty gesture born of desperation, but rather a personal statement that follows a long line of others who well understood the price of freedom can, at times, mean all.

For seventy years, not a day has passed without the loss of other young Palestinian women and men who, tragically, found greater dignity and freedom in martyrdom than they did in obedient, passive living controlled by those who dared to dictate the parameters of their lives.

Millions of us worldwide dream of a better time and place for Palestinians… free to spread their wings, to soar, to discover who they are and what they wish to become. Until then, I mourn not for the loss of those who stop their flight. But applaud I do for those who dare to struggle… dare to win… and by any means necessary.

There is no magic to resistance and struggle. They transcend time and place and derive their very meaning and ardor in the natural inclination, indeed drive, of us all to be free… to be free to determine the roll of our own lives.

In Palestine, no such freedom exists. In Palestine, international law recognizes the fundamental rights to self- determination, freedom and independence for the occupied. In Palestine, that includes the right to armed struggle, if necessary.

Long ago, the famed abolitionist, Frederick Douglass, himself a former slave, wrote of struggle. These words resonate no less so today, in Palestine, than they did some one hundred and fifty years ago in the heart of the Antebellum South in the United States:

If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. This struggle may be a moral one; or it may be a physical one; or it may be both moral and physical; but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.”

 

Where Food is More than Nourishment

Unedited copy of article originally published at al Jazeera May 31, 2017

Where Food is More than Nourishment

Count time, count time, count time. In prisons all across the world, in as many different languages as there are cruel autocratic despots hanging on to ruthless power, political prisoners are called out from the isolation of their cell-blocks to stand for a moment to ensure they’ve somehow not magically escaped from the dungeons and catacombs they call home. What’s missed? For them, prison is a choice… principle is not.

The march from Bobby Sands to Mandela to Palestinian hunger strikers is steady and unbroken. It derives its strength from resistance as ancient as tyranny itself. Often faceless to most but themselves, each collective that has struggled to maintain personal dignity in pursuit of shared justice has become a torch bearer… inheritors of an age-old arch of liberty bound by resistance, sacrifice and little else. It’s enough.

Who today remembers the names of Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst? In early 20th Century England, these pioneering suffragettes and their many sisters were imprisoned time and time again for little more than rejecting ageless systemic patriarchy. Once there, many said no to food while their jailers said yes to torture. In a powerful account of the effects of forced feeding, suffragette Mary Leigh recounted her experience:

I was then surrounded and forced back onto the chair, which was tilted backward. There were about ten persons around me. The doctor then forced my mouth so as to form a pouch, and held me while one of the wardresses poured some liquid from a spoon; it was milk and brandy. After giving me what he thought was sufficient, he sprinkled me with eau de cologne, and wardresses then escorted me to another cell on the first floor. The wardresses forced me onto a bed (in the cell) and two doctors came in with them. While I was held down a nasal tube was inserted. It was two yards long, with a funnel at the end; there was a glass junction in the middle to see if the liquid was passing. The end was put up left and right nostrils on alternate days. Great pain was experienced during the process, both mental and physical. One doctor inserted the end up my nostril while I was held down by the wardresses, during which process they must have seen my pain, for the other doctor interfered (the matron and two other wardresses were in tears) and they stopped and resorted to feeding me by spoon. More eau de cologne was used.”

South Africa

Robben Island, located within view of the waterfront of Cape Town South Africa, has been used since the end of the 17th century to isolate political prisoners of the day. In the mid 1740’s, after leading the early resistance against the Dutch East India Company, Sayed Abdurahman Moturu (one of Cape Town’s first imams) was exiled there… where he died a decade later. His gravestone was to become a shrine that Muslim political prisoners would pay homage to when leaving the island.

The country’s highest security prison, Robben Island was home to a veritable who’s who of political resistance during the revolution that ultimately toppled South African Apartheid. Nelson Mandela served 18 of his 27 years there (initially under a life sentence) as did two others who went on to become President of South Africa… Kgalema Motlanthe and the current President, Jacob Zuma.

One month after Mandela’s release on February 11, 1990, hundreds of other remaining political prisoners, including members of the African National Congress (ANC), its rival the Pan-Africanist Congress, and the Black Consciousness Movement went on a hunger strike demanding their release under a general amnesty for those formally designated as political prisoners.

Precluded from the amnesty because of their individual tactics in confronting apartheid, hunger strikers challenged the government’s attempt to define “acceptable” resistance.

In a statement of political principle, smuggled from the Island, hunger strikers defined political prisoners as ”all incarcerated people who have engaged themselves in various ways in the struggle against the system of apartheid.” Not long thereafter, most of these strikers were released.

An earlier hunger strike in 1989, in South Africa, proved to be no less successful. At the time, hundreds of political prisoners, who had been imprisoned without charges for almost three years, demanded the government end its policy of indefinite detentions and either free its 1,000 detainees or bring them to court.

In the years leading up to this strike, over thirty thousand political detainees had been held for various periods, in administrative detention, without benefit of formal court proceedings through a state policy that permitted the arrest and detention of anyone considered to be a “threat” to public safety without filing of formal charges.

Approximately a month after the strike began, and which resulted in nearly two dozen strikers being hospitalized, the government released hundreds of uncharged detainees and cut back substantially on its practice of indefinite detention without trial.

The IRA

Often, hunger strikes do not end with a joyful break to fast but rather loss of life. Nowhere is that ultimate sacrifice more dramatically spoken than in the not too distant history of Republican resistance to British tyranny.

Beginning first in 1972, then again in 1980… and finally for some 217 days in 1981, Republicans, by the dozens, refused food as they risked all to obtain, among other things, prisoner of war status, the right to wear their own clothing, and freedom of association.

When the final hunger strike ended, 7 members of the Provisional IRA and three from the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) died in Long Kesh Prison, or the Maze (located just outside Belfast in the North of Ireland), during a staggered protest which, in its later stages, drew in a new political prisoner each week.

Although Bobby Sands, who died less than a month after being elected a Member of Parliament, has become synonymous with the hunger strike, an additional ten political prisoners sacrificed their lives inside the Maze and another 61 people lost their lives to related street violence which raged outside its walls during the strike’s seven months.

In a begrudging testament to the determination and sacrifice of the strikers, some year’s later one of the prison jailers noted:

At first we thought they were dirty animals. The stench was incredible. Our stomachs turned when we went near the cells and we couldn’t understand how anyone could live in such filth. But eventually there was some grudging respect for those on the protest. They were incredibly determined. I didn’t agree with what they were doing but you had to admire them for sticking it out. At first I thought it would only last a few days, or a week or two at the most, but they kept going for years and then queued up to give their lives. I don’t think I would have been able to do it, no matter what the cause.” [pp 256-257, ‘Inside The Maze – The Untold Story of the Northern Ireland Prison Service’ by Chris Ryder. Methuen 2000. ISBN 0 413 75240 2]

Palestine

Like IRA hunger strikers, to many, resistance is born not of simple choice but, rather, principled necessity… no matter what the ultimate personal cost. Nowhere is that more powerfully viewed than through the prism of Palestinian political prisoners who, by the thousands, have lived and, often, died in their timeless campaigns to obtain justice from deep behind the mask of prisons walls.

Indeed, just as political prisoners played an essential role in ultimately bringing down apartheid in South Africa, so, too, Palestinian political prisoners have long been in the vanguard of a national struggle to confront and dismantle the shroud of Israeli apartheid.

Just yesterday the latest Palestinian hunger strike came to a negotiated end. The strikers demanded a range of fundamental human and political rights including an end to administrative detention, an end to solitary confinement, an end to detention outside of the occupied territories, more time to visit with families and the ability to pursue higher education.

In the days leading up to its conclusion, throughout Israel, more than 1800 political prisoners, including hundreds of uncharged detainees, endured 40 days of privation.

During the strike 60 prisoners were sent to hospital because their medical condition had deteriorated. 592 others were moved for observation to infirmaries set up in the prisons.

During the strike Palestine exploded as family and friends and those who share their national journey by virtue of being stateless people in their own occupied homeland took to the streets in support of hunger strikers. Many of them were injured, including those felled by Israeli gun fire.

During the strike, in dozens of countries across the world, demonstrations by activists, students, trade union members, religious leaders and parliamentarians took place in support of strikers. More than a dozen South African political leaders and public figures undertook a day-long solidarity fast including deputy minister Nomaindia Mfeketo – who herself was detained several times in the 1980s for anti-government activism took part.

Hunger strikes are no stranger to the Palestinian political landscape. Over the years, they’ve played a central role in challenging a despotic state fueled and sustained by arbitrary, often indefinite, detention under inhumane conditions of confinement punctuated by outright torture that has taken the lives of at least 75 political prisoners since 1967.

Ranging from short-term, individual or small group defiance, in isolated prisons to mass hunger strikes, by the thousands, that quickly spread throughout the Israeli Gulag, these acts of political will and resistance have a history going back some 50 years. Beginning in 1969 with a spontaneous short lived hunger strike in two prisons, they reached their numerical high-point in 1992 when some 7000 prisoners stopped eating for more than two weeks.

On other occasions, thousands of Palestinian political prisoners have refused food: 3000 for 20 days in 1987, 4000 over 18 days in 2004 and 2000 during a month long hunger strike in 2012.

In the longest hunger strike to date, several hundred prisoners refused food for some 63 days in 2014. During that strike, 70 were hospitalized and subsequently returned to prison. In 1970, hunger striker Abdul QaderAbu al-Fahm was not so fortunate. Nor were Rasem Halawah and Ali Jafari in 1980. These three hunger strikers died as a result of forced feeding procedures.

Though strikers have challenged a wide range of conditions of confinement over the years, including arbitrary treatment, widespread use of solitary confinement, substandard prison conditions, bans on family visits, poor medical care and the failure to meet sanitary needs of women prisoners… the one constant, throughout, has been a challenge to the system of administrative detention.

Under this practice, hundreds of thousands of Palestinian prisoners have been detained, many for years on end and without any formal charges or the benefit of civilian judicial proceedings in clear violation of well settled international humanitarian law.

In 2011, renowned professor and author, Ahmad Qatamesh (recently again detained only a few days ago), who has spent more than eight and a half years in prison during multiple administrative detentions, noted, in one of his rote appearances before a military court, what generations of Palestinian detainees have experienced:

You are destroying my life and I want to know why. As a human being I have my own mind and I am educated, and I want to know what I am detained for. The military prosecution talks of its professionalism, and meanwhile I have no rights?”

Administrative detention is detention without safeguards of formal charge or trial. When prolonged or repeated, it constitutes cruel and degrading treatment or punishment. Like in South Africa, it remains the hallmark of a draconian “security” system which has been used since 1967 to dampen political resistance in the Occupied Territories.

It has been estimated that, at any given time, some three to four thousand “security prisoners” are detained, or serving sentences, in Israeli prisons under far more severe conditions than those established for “criminal prisoners.”

Likewise, at any given time, hundreds of these security prisoners are held pursuant to purely administrative detention orders with no intention by Israel to ever try them for a criminal offense… in clear violation of their fundamental rights to a fair trial.

International Human-Rights

The right to liberty is one of the core tenets of human rights and prolonged arbitrary detention constitutes a fundamental breach of international customary law.

In relevant part, Article 9 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights states:

  1. Everyone has the right to liberty and security of person. No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest or detention. No one shall be deprived of his liberty except on such grounds and in accordance with such procedures as are established by law.

  1. Anyone who is arrested shall be informed, at the time of arrest, of the reasons for his arrest and shall be promptly informed of any charges against him.

  1. Anyone who is deprived of his liberty by arrest or detention shall be entitled to take proceedings before a court, in order that that court may decide without delay on the lawfulness of his detention and order his release if the detention is not lawful.

The provisions of the Covenant are not absolute and provide some flexibility in limited, and well defined, circumstances which permit States to temporarily suspend its mandate. However, the exception was not intended to provide a pretext whereby a state may escape its obligations by simply declaring itself to be in a perpetual public emergency. Yet, that is precisely what Israel has done throughout its existence.

Under Article 4.1 of the Covenant, “[i]n times of public emergency which threatens the life of the nation”, the state may infringe, to a restricted extent, the rights enshrined in some of the articles, including the article addressing the right to liberty. Even then, the state is restricted and may only take vital measures, and only “to the extent strictly required by the exigencies of the situation.” (Emphasis provided)

Furthermore Article 4.3 requires states which seek to avail themselves of the right of derogation to give advance notice of their intention to the Secretary-General of the United Nations on a case by case basis.

In what can only be described as a perverse illustration of the exception swallowing the rule, since its foundation, Israel has declared itself to be in a perpetual state of emergency and thus removed from any of its obligations under this particular human rights provision.

Israeli Torture

To understand the determination of Palestinian hunger strikers demands a walk down the pathway of history of those that have been swept up by a brutal state that sees no limit to its power or abuse.

Israel views all who challenge its reach as enemy combatants whether they be 10 year olds who refuse to stop when ordered or 80 year olds who carry the bodies of their murdered grandchildren to the martyr’s cemeteries that have become so much the norm throughout Occupied Palestine.

Not to be confused with an enlightened state, in Israel, Palestinian detainees can be interrogated for a period of 75 days and denied access to a lawyer for up to 60. Historically, it has made brutal use of essentially unlimited interrogation opportunities of political detainees without the safeguard of counsel.

Until outlawed, in 1999, by its High Court of Justice, Israeli agents routinely used interrogation methods that constitute a veritable primer for torture. Among other procedures, detainees were subjected to sleep deprivation by binding them in painful positions, playing loud music or covering their heads with a filthy sack while exposed to extreme heat or cold.

Often, they were tied to a low chair that was tilted forward with their hands tightly cuffed. On other occasions interrogees were forced to stand with their hands tied and drawn upwards, forced to lie on their back on a high stool with their body arched backwards, or made to crouch on their toes with their hands tied behind them. Violent shaking of detainees was very much the norm with the interrogator using threats and curses, as well as feeding them poor-quality and insufficient amounts of food.

Notwithstanding its ban of such techniques, the court went on to hold that agents could continue to use “physical pressure” upon detainees in the matter of a so-called “ticking time-bomb,” relying on the rationale of “necessity.”

As reported in May of 2007, agents continued to rely upon this judicial imprimatur for lawful torture in a “small” percentage of cases. Thus, “interrogation” steps pursuant to this exception included sleep deprivation, beatings, painful cuffing, and sudden pulling of the body, twisting of the head, and back bending.

Today, Palestinian political prisoners report that conditions of confinement and interrogation represent but a variation on a theme rendered illegal almost 20 years ago.

For example, many detainees report being held in solitary confinement in narrow windowless cells completely isolated from their surroundings. Others described exposure to extremes of heat and cold and sleep deprivation caused by artificial lighting painful to the eyes. Hygienic conditions have been depicted as abominable; among other things, prison authorities often do not allow detainees to shower, change clothes, or even use toilet paper. Food is poor in quality and quantity, and detainees lose weight while in custody.

In the interrogation room, itself, prisoners are forced to sit bound to a chair and cannot move for hours and even days at a time. Interrogators routinely shout at and torment detainees, often including threats to harm their relatives. On occasion physical force is still used against them.

Palestinian Political Prisoners

As of April, 2017, there were 6300 political prisoners, including 300 children, 61 females and 13 Palestinian Legislative Council members, entombed in Israeli prisons. In addition, 500 uncharged and untried detainees languish alongside them completely in the dark as to what it is they did that caused the loss of their freedom.

Almost all of these detainees are imprisoned inside of Israel in further violation of international law which bars the transfer of detainees outside the Occupied Territory.

These political prisoners continue an unbroken march of 50 years in which as of 11 December 2012, the office of then Prime Minister Salam Fayyad reported that since 1967, 800,000 Palestinians, or roughly 20% of the total population and 40% of the male population, had been imprisoned by Israel at one point in time.

According to Palestinian estimates, 70% of Palestinian families have had one or more family members sentenced to jail terms in Israeli prisons as a result of activities against the occupation.

Although the latest Palestinian hunger strike has ended. The core conditions that triggered it remain untouched… unchanged… guaranteeing future strikes will once again confront an Israeli system of justice which, like that of South Africa, sees indefinite detention and torture as essential mainstays of its brutal brand of apartheid and occupation.

The march to freedom can be long and difficult. It is costly… and demands of occupied people creative and determined resistance in the streets and in the prisons. For Palestinians, there is no choice.

 

Breaking With Qatar

Breaking With Qatar

There are provocative, if not dangerous, crossroads in history which can easily take us down either smart or dim-witted paths. I suspect the recent break in relations with Qatar announced by KSA, UAE and Egypt . . .  and with the full blessing, if not lead, of the White House… will prove to be one such weighty moment.

I also suspect that with Trump in the vanguard there is a great chance he will turn a periodic and unfortunate regional flex into a tragic raging fire. Lost for meaning and purpose… it’s what he does best.

I’m no stranger to the region having spent much time there, over the past few decades, as a welcome guest, attorney, advisor and friend who has seen and shared in both its beauty and its pain.

There’s no country, in the Middle East, Gulf and parts of Africa, where I’ve not been asked to provide counsel to persons and movements… including some designated as “terrorist” by those against whom they struggle, or by governments that call them friend or foe alike.

I’ve been to Qatar … often. Though I may have disagreed with some of its policies, on whole, that matters little. Mature political minds learn to distinguish between what’s wanted and what’s needed… and do so without sacrificing principles along the way.

More important, decades of travel on the hard scrabble roads of resistance and dissent… and years of courtroom battles all over the world… have left me with a pretty good understanding of who I am and why.

I’m a fan of Qatar and have been since my first visit some 15 years ago.  Do I say this as some starry eyed kid impressed with its wealth or friendship with friends? Not at all.  I’ve seen much more opulence in the palaces of Saudi Arabia. However, in KSA, I’ve seen none of the reach for personal choice and freedom that stretches throughout Doha.

There are more than a few things that impress me about Qatar. It’s willingness to host a veritable who’s who of international players and adversaries, as so much the Switzerland of the region, stands alone. In no other regional state do we see such an institutional effort to keep open channels of communication and, at times, negotiation around complex issues replete with risk for hosts and guests alike.

After all, when these channels close, civilians die and refugees flee by the millions only to become stateless… and vulnerable for generations to come.  It is the nature of today’s political warfare by proxy.

Indeed, back in the day, it was not at all unusual for prominent “supporters” of Al Qaeda to walk in one door of a Doha hotel while US government officials came thru another. No, this was not a part of any grand international tripartite conspiracy, but rather a much needed opportunity for adversaries to try to ratchet down the violence. And when all others turned their back on any hope, was it not Qatar that welcomed the Taliban and representatives of the Afghan government to see if a peaceful conclusion to decades of suffering might be reached?  How many former hostages from throughout the world are today with their families due to the willingness of Qatar to negotiate… when others died through the sanctimonious refusal of some states to do so?

On still other occasions, leaders of various resistance movements would attend government sponsored conferences in Doha that also drew “NGO’”s from the very states against which they fought. No doubt, among their ranks were government officials. I’m not suggesting that any formal back channels were in play. None were. But, at times, people need to hear in private what can’t be said in public. It’s very much the art of life, if not just survival.

Indeed, at one such conference, I had a long “discussion” with someone who introduced himself to me as the “Deputy Mayor” of Jerusalem. Sure. Needless to say, things between us got heated… and when they did, he told his nervous Mossad bodyguards to take a walk. They did so even while hotel guests turned to get a front row seat for the argument that ensued.

At moments of intense confrontation, if not conflict, in the region, in Doha there always seemed to be efforts underway to facilitate a step back from the madness. Was it for personal economic gain or prominence? Of course not. There’s only so much wealth and position one requires as companion to their journey. Unfortunately some have not learned this lesson.

Over the years, I’ve attended conferences throughout the Arab and Muslim world where government officials hosted an impressive array of experts, human rights activists, and scholars who came together concerned about tragedies old and new. In more than a few, I’ve been a presenter. Though I left them all inspired by the solidarity and voice of the moment, very few translated into action. This was never the case for those hosted by Qatar.

Am I suggesting that Qatar has not, at times, been a partisan in some of the regional struggles… even bloody ones? Of course not, but who hasn’t?

Indeed, Doha has long been home to the political leadership of Hamas, a resistance movement seen throughout the region, and much of the world, not as a terrorist group but rather a national liberation movement. Doha has also developed increasing ties to Iran as a result of a mutual security agreement signed in 2010. . . and a joint economic venture involving natural gas.

In other ways, Qatar has proven itself light years ahead of its contemporaries. Rich with integrated universities, controversial academics, human rights groups and foundations, its efforts to rebuild ravaged communities throughout the region have been second to none. While many have mourned the repeated destruction of Gaza by Israel, few have opened their hearts and pockets to its rebuilding. Qatar has done so time and time again… working with Hamas in that effort.

Ultimately, the measure of any society’s wealth is its vision for the future.  Here, too, Qatar’s outlook is bright. Its young walk with great pride and dignity as they pursue an opportunity to learn who it is they wish to become and, then, set off to chase that dream unencumbered by the rigidity of family or tradition.

As one who has seen too much death and destruction in the region and lost too many friends to the darkness of prison dungeons or a martyr’s funeral I stand with Qatar in its efforts to find peace and justice through the portal of discussion… not violence.

For many in the West, the Middle East and Gulf has always been a mystery… one wrapped in a blanket of great trepidation fueled by ignorance and uncertainty.  From the comfort and safety of our homes, we see painful mayhem throughout the region yet fail to fully understand it is driven largely by two burning, but connected, issues of the day… sectarian tension between Arab States and Iran and the seventh unbroken decade of ethnic cleansing of Palestinians at the hands of Israel.

Today, with a convenient shout throughout the halls of the Western seats of power, and their regional proxies, can be heard the echo of Qatar as the state funder of terrorism. Though it flies in the face of the reality of decades of efforts and evidence to the contrary, the claim draws traction from those who seek to build a united front on behalf of the West and Israel while, at the same time, it stokes the fires of opposition to Iran.

One can but wonder how much softer the echo might be if Qatar ceases its long term efforts to build détente with Iran and abandons its commitment to the resistance in Palestine. History, ever a portent of what is to come, will not leave this question unanswered.

 

Dissent on the Lower East Side: the Post-Political Condition

This coming Sunday, April 30th, at 5PM, there will be a panel discussion entitled “The Post Political Condition… Trump, Brexit, and The Middle East… What Next? at Theatre 80 located at 80 St. Marks Place on the Lower East Side (LES) of New York City.

Timely, and simple enough in its reach, this discussion will include myself and a number of intellectuals such as history professor Norton Mezvinsky, whistle blower Michael Lesher and author Gilad Atzmon. The panel will focus on the collapse of identity politics, the crises within new left thinking, and the future of liberal and progressive thought.

In particular, I will discuss  “Insular View of the American Left” while Professor Mezvinsky will speak to “The Quagmire of Current Political Terminology in U.S. Society.” Mr. Lesher will explore dichotomy between “Jewish Identity and Jewish Religion” and Mr. Atzmon will address “The Tyranny of Correctness- deconstructing identity politics and understanding its origin.”

Although the panel will necessarily touch upon Zionism, Israel, and events in the Middle East, these topics will play but a small part in a much broader exploration of the political winds of today.

To some, the subject matter of the discussion is apparently of less consequence than the makeup of the panel itself. In particular, the presence of Gilad Atzmon, a onetime Israeli citizen and Jew who has since renounced both, has triggered an organized effort to bully the theatre into canceling the event or, failing that, to disrupt it.

I’ve long been accused of being a “self-hating” Jew largely because of my work as legal counsel for the political wing of Hamas and my fervent opposition to the state of Israel as one built from the marrow of ethnic cleansing.

Described as controversial because of my opposition to Zionism, and a long list of revolutionary clients and movements that have included more than a few accused of domestic or international terrorism, I’ve grown accustomed to being “shunned ” by the political opposition that rarely seeks to engage in public discussion or debate. That’s fine. For some, it’s so much easier to toss barbs from the safety of the shadows then it is to withstand open exposure for the weakness of one’s thought.

Yet, Gilad Atzmon presents another picture. Mr. Atzmon’s stinging criticisms of Zionism, Jewish identity… perhaps even Judaism itself… have so enraged both Zionists and some anti-Zionists alike, that the mob seeks to silence him and thereby deny us all the benefit of his speech.

Censors of thought are not new to time or place. Throughout history, they have deigned to dictate the parameters of acceptable dialogue and, when unable to control the discourse, have sought to shut it down as if ideas are in themselves dangerous.

One need only look to recent events in Washington D.C. to understand that those who fear the market place of free ideas often seek to shutter it whether by economic intimidation or through resort to violence.

Just this past month, JDL (Jewish Defense League) imports from Canada brutally attacked, and seriously injured, a 55-year old Palestinian-American professor from North Carolina who had the temerity to pass an anti-AIPAC demonstration with his family.

The mindless brutality of the Canadian JDL members, that day, cannot be seen in a vacuum but rather must be viewed in the light of 50 plus years of terrorism carried out by its US counterpart, now formally designated as an outlawed terrorist organization.

Over these many years, the membership, indeed,  leadership of the American branch of the JDL… or “associate organizations”… have unleashed an unprecedented reign of terror which has produced dozens of convictions for crimes ranging from a plot to bomb the office of Arab-American Congressman Darrell Issa and the King Fahd Mosque in Culver City, Calif. to numerous bombings of foreign embassies and properties to attacks on US buildings to conspiracies of kidnap and murder to assaults on foreign nationals and US police. Countless other crimes, including murder and conspiracy to bomb, have been laid at the feet of the JDL but to date remain un-charged.

Despite this documented, nay, unprecedented history of violent attacks by zio-fascists upon free speech and association, neither the JDL of Canada nor its US counterpart will suppress this panel discussion at Theatre 80 or silence our voice. Ours is a community of free spirits and thinkers. Women and men directed by little more than the pursuit of truth and justice.

Indeed, long ago the community of the LES of New York City opened its arms to refugees who fled tyranny abroad and, in so doing, became a welcome host to the dissident, the politically unpopular, the revolutionary idea or person.

Today, that greeting is under attack by some who have failed to learn the history of this community that I have called home for most of my adult life. A journey down the hardscrabble, but exhilarating, road of this community of resistance can say far more than I can about the necessity of the exchange of ideas that will occur this coming Sunday evening at Theatre 80.

The History of Dissent on the Lower East Side

Long before the free speech battles of the 60’s, or the recent ones at Berkeley, there stood a proud tenement building at 208 East 13th Street in New York City.  More than a hundred years ago, it echoed with the booming resonance of resistance… a declaration of who we were at the time and, more important, who we could become if only we dared to challenge political and social orthodoxy.

Today, on the façade of that old battered 19th century tenement building on the LES of Manhattan sits a cracked and stained plaque that simply says “Emma Goldman lived here.” Enough said.

The same building was home to “Mother Earth,” Goldman’s periodical that promoted anarchist views and provided a platform for “radical” artists and militant ideas of the day… until it was closed as subversive by the government in 1917.

Goldman was a fierce and tireless supporter of “controversial” revolutionary struggles such as free speech, birth control, women’s equality, union organizing, workers rights, sexual freedom and peace.

Known as “Red Emma”, she was labeled by J. Edgar Hoover as one of the “most dangerous women” in the country.” Among her closest friends and comrades were Alexander Berkman, Margaret Sanger, Roger Baldwin, Max Eastman, John Reed, Dorothy Day and Floyd Dell… a veritable who’s who of radicals who, long ago, confronted political convention not all that different from that which seeks to intimidate or to silence us today.

In 1917, Goldman was sentenced to two years in prison after founding the No-Conscription League in protest against the draft.  It was one of several stints she did, beyond bars, for political beliefs that ranged from a year in prison for “inciting to riot”… for a speech she gave at a Union Square hunger demonstration where she told the poor to steal bread if they could not afford to buy it… to another one for illegally distributing information about birth control.  Following her arrest during the notorious Palmer Raids that began on November 7, 1919 (the second anniversary of the Russian Revolution), she was deported to Russia along with some 250 other “subversive aliens.”

While the Palmer Raids occurred throughout the United States with more than 10,000 arrests for subversion, they, in particular, targeted hundreds of high profile “militants” who were rounded up on the LES which was then home to a powerful and vibrant community of revolutionary thinkers and activists.

In the life blood of the LES, Goldman has been anything but the exception to the rule in a community that historically has been home to the dissident… the unconventional… those who see more to life than surrender to the whims of politically correct dogma or the constraints of “patriotic” mobs.

Dorothy Day heard the call of the LES.  Along with Peter Maurin, she founded the Catholic Worker Movement which, with anarchists and communists, fought for the rights of the homeless, workers, women, immigrants and others disempowered by virtue of gender or class.

Although the Movement found its vigor in Christian charity and promoted a political strategy of total non-violence, Day was never one to shy away from direct action. Jailed for picketing the White House in support of women’s right to vote, while imprisoned for her offense, she helped organize a hunger strike at Occoquan Prison.

It is said that, over the course of a long life of civil disobedience, Day was arrested more than one hundred times. A poster memorializing her final arrest at age 76 declares “our problems stem from our acceptance of this filthy rotten system.” It hangs from the wall of my office.

To Dorothy Day, peaceful resistance necessarily demanded of activists’ controversial speech that directly confronted the tyranny of the status quo…  something she excelled at while working as the editor of The Masses.

Based in “Alphabet City” in the LES, Masses was a radical magazine that reported on most of the major labor struggles of its day: from the Paint Creek-Cabin Creek strike of 1912 in West Virginia to the Paterson Silk Strike of 1913 and the Ludlow massacre in Colorado. It strongly supported Big Bill Haywood and his IWW, the political campaigns of Eugene V. Debs and vigorously argued for birth control and women’s suffrage.

Until closed by the government in 1917 for its anti-war and “anti-government” platform, The Masses featured a chorus of militant voices including such writers as John ReedCrystal Eastman, Hubert Harrison, Inez MilhollandMary Heaton Vorse, Louis Untermeyer, Randolf Bourne, Arturo Giovannitti, Michael Gold, Helen Keller, William English Walling, Anna Strunsky, Carl Sandburg, Upton Sinclair, Floyd Dell and Louise Bryant. It also featured a host of  political artists including John Sloan, Robert Henri, Mary Ellen Sigsbee, Cornelia Barns, Rockwell Kent, Art Young, Boardman Robinson, Robert Minor, Lydia Gibson, K. R. Chamberlain, Hugo Gellert, George Bellows and Maurice Becker.

At other times, the radical history of the LES has been marked not just by controversial speech or passive resistance alone, but by direct action that, on occasion, has exploded into violence captivating the watch of the rest of New York City as if this one hundred square block area is very much of a different world.

Thus, on January 13, 1874, over 7,000 largely unemployed workers gathered in Tompkins Square Park, in the largest demonstration New York City had ever seen, to demand financial assistance from the City during an economic depression.

Ten and a half acres in total, the square-shaped park is bounded on the north by East 10th Street, on the east by Avenue B, on the south by East 7th Street, and on the west by Avenue A. It is abutted by St. Marks Place to the west.

Without warning, not long after the demonstration began, some 1,600 policemen charged the park and dispersed most of the crowd beating people throughout it with clubs. Others, on horseback, cleared the surrounding streets. Some of the demonstrators fought back in vain… attempting to defend the square. Hundreds were injured.

Samuel Gompers, himself a resident of the LES,  who founded the American Federation of Labor (AFL) and was scheduled to address the demonstration that day, described the events and his experiences:

“. . . mounted police charged the crowd on Eighth Street, riding them down and attacking men, women, and children without discrimination. It was an orgy of brutality. I was caught in the crowd on the street and barely saved my head from being cracked by jumping down a cellar-way.”

Little more than a century later, on August 6, 1988, Tompkins Square Park exploded yet once again when police attacked a large group of peaceful demonstrators protesting a newly established curfew intended to clear the park of activists, homeless and so-called squatters that had made increasing use of Tompkins Square for demonstrations against the City and its misuse of local community space. Bystanders, activists, neighborhood residents and journalists were caught up in the violence.

Despite a brief lull in the fighting, the mêlée continued until 6 a.m. the next day. Numerous injuries resulted with over 100 complaints of police brutality lodged following the riot. One headline in the New York Times summed up the events: “Yes, a Police Riot.”

St. Marks Place

If Tompkins Square Park is the heart of the East Village, St. Marks Place is its soul. James Fenimore Cooper lived at 6 St. Marks from 1834-1836. While there, he published his epic “A letter To My Countrymen.” It proved to be his most scathing work of social criticism in which he denounces the “slavery of party affiliations.”

In 1854 The Nursery for the Children of Poor Women…the first of its kind… was set up in a rundown house on St. Marks.

In 1917, Leon Trotsky arrived on St. Marks Place where he wrote for the Novy Mir (“New World”), then based at 77 St. Marks, while living with his family across the street in an apartment at 80 St. Marks. Just a few years earlier, Berkman and Goldman opened the progressive Modern School at No. 16 St. Marks. Among its teachers were famed muckrakers Jack London and Upton Sinclair.

In the 1940’s, W.H. Auden resided on St. Marks.  In the 60’s, Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin co-founded the Youth International Party (“Yippies”) at No. 30 St. Marks and Lenny Bruce lived for a while, on the famed street, at No. 13. In 1966, Andy Warhol housed his Exploding Plastic Inevitable collective above the Electric Circus nightclub at 19-25 St. Marks… installing the Velvet Underground as the house band. During the same period, Debbie Harry lived at 13 St. Marks. Often were the occasions when a vibrant sweep down St. Marks Place would mean a chance encounter with Jack Kerouac, William S. Burroughs, and Allen Ginsberg… a longtime area resident.

Elsewhere on the Lower East Side, throughout the 60’s, political activists, movements and artists alike continued its well established tradition of serving as a safe haven for cultural diversity, political dissidents and controversial speech.

For example, just up the block from what had been the home of Charlie Parker, stands the Christodora House.  Located on Avenue B, directly across the street from Tompkins Square Park, the Young Lords and Black Panther Party maintained their respective headquarters during this period.

The Young Lords, in particular, played an important role in what was, and remains, a heavily Latino neighborhood… creating community projects similar to those of the Black Panthers but with a Latino flavor. Such projects included a free breakfast program for children, the Emeterio Betances free health clinic, community testing for tuberculosis and lead-poisoning, free clothing drives, cultural events and Puerto Rican history classes. The female leadership in New York pushed the Young Lords to fight for women’s rights.

80 St. Marks Place

The venue for Sunday’s panel discussion has a storied history itself in the LES.  Beginning as a nightclub during Prohibition, 80 Saint Marks Place was home to performers that included such Jazz greats as Thelonious Monk, Harry “Sweets” Edison, John Coltrane and Frank Sinatra.

After Theatre 80 was established in the former nightclub, its tradition of diversity in the arts continued as it launched the careers of famous performers including the likes of Gary Burghoff, Bob Balaban and Billy Crystal, who once worked there as an usher.

Richard “Lord” Buckley, described by Bob Dylan in his book “Chronicles” as “the hipster bebop preacher who defied all labels”, had his final performance at Theatre 80 when his cabaret card was seized by police from the vice squad and his show closed.  Outraged, Buckley went to the local precinct to demand his card’s return. Not long thereafter he ended up dead in St. Vincent’s Hospital of an apparent stroke. That brought about a movement which eventually ended the Cabaret Card system in New York City.

Not many years later, the legendary play “Hair” was cast at Theatre 80. During the 1970s and 80s it also served as a revival house where one could see vintage films. Among those who attended, often to see their own body of work was Gloria Swanson, Joan Crawford, Myrna Loy,Ruby Keeler and Joan Blondell.

More recently Theatre 80 presented a play by noted poet, playwright, author and racial equality activist, Sonya SanchezFred Hampton Jr. was often seen at the theatre to attend events for famed radical defense attorney, Lynne Stewart, who recently died having been politically persecuted and imprisoned for her life’s work.

Actively involved in a wide range of community issues, the theatre, not long ago, along with Patti Smith, sponsored a concert to raise money for the victims of the Second Avenue gas explosion which caused two deaths, injured at least nineteen people… four critically… and completely destroyed four buildings between East 7th Street and St. Marks Place. It has held a number of so-called “truther” forums that explored the events of 9-11… an issue of burning interest to the local community.

Come this Sunday, the panel discussion will proceed in the ideal venue in the perfect community.  To be sure, at times, its participants will surely say things that may offend the sensibilities of some in the audience. On occasion, panel members will disagree with one another as the market place of ideas is not a group-speak but rather a challenge to explore diverse and often competing thoughts in the pursuit of truth.

Ideas may sting, they may hurt, and they may challenge us to explore issues that can cause great personal discomfort. That’s precisely what they are intended to do. There is no question that while the clash of ideas causes pain; the suppression of ideas causes greater harm… and sometimes pain is the stretch of growing.

Thanks to the refusal of Lorcan Otway, owner of Theatre 80, to surrender to howls of a few, join us this Sunday, April 30 at 5PM in the heart of the ongoing American evolution at Theatre 80, 80 St. Marks Place in the Lower East Side of New York City.

 

House of Hate

(Originally published on Al Jazeera March, 30, 2017)

House of Hate

Collective fear stimulates herd instinct, and tends to produce ferocity toward those who are not regarded as members of the herd.”
―Bertrand Russell, Unpopular Essays

I remember as a young boy sitting and watching my father’s blank stare as he looked at a documentary about WWII and concentration camps. He seemed to travel to distant places, as if he was all alone and not seated there right next to me. Only once did he share with me what he had seen as a soldier when part of a group that had liberated camps.

On that occasion he described carrying the skeletal remains of a still as yet living man from the darkened catacombs far below the ground to the light of day, as they both cried… the survivor because he expected to die and my dad, I am convinced, because at that moment he wanted to. Even then, years later, my father cried as he struggled to tell his story barely audible… as soft as a broken whisper.

Although distressed by his pain, there was simply no way for me, at that time, to understand what had happened, let alone why.

Years later, as a young college student, I dove into the study of that period of world history with an emphasis on the Germany of the1930’s thru the Nuremberg Tribunals that followed the end of the war.

Although I can still recall passages of the judicial decisions from the war crimes tribunal almost word for word… powerful, passionate calls for humanity and accountability… try as I did, I could never quite deduce what there was about a place and time that enabled a population to close their eyes and hearts and simply surrender to the sheer evil that consumed millions of Jews, Catholics, gypsies, communists, the disabled, gay women and men, and artists.

The cause of such unmitigated hate, indifference or, at least, feigned ignorance, by so many for so long escaped me for decades only to crystallize and become absolutely clear to me, all these years later, through Israel… the house of hate.

Although psychiatrists and seasoned criminal defense attorneys could surely craft a creative defense to explain away, indeed, justify the recent rash of young Jews apparently calling in bomb threats or drawing swastikas on college dorm doors, on the sides of synagogues in the United States, and elsewhere, it’s really a challenge without a dare.

Israel, after-all, is a society… some would say a culture… born and nurtured from group hate from long before the very first day of the Nakba. It’s only grown worse, with the passage of time, as one generation of apologist has given way to a second and a third and on and on, leaving the entire state very accomplished at communal denial or numbed to the occasional, but rare, burst of truth… painful as it might otherwise be. In psychoanalytical circles it’s called “herd” or “mob mentality.”

There aren’t many places in the world today where picnickers would cheer to the blast of each phosphorous bomb as it rained its chemical death down upon hundreds of thousands of defenseless civilians. Israel is one.

Nor, do I know of many fighting forces guided by religious fiat that justify rape as an almost incidental benefit of warfare. Boka Haram, ISIS and Israel come to mind.

And how many armies invite children to autograph bombs with words of “greeting” before they are loaded onto planes to level schools, hospitals and shelters? Lebanon got that special Israeli message.

Starvation as a weapon of war, not possible, you say. Well, years before KSA became skilled at mass murder by starvation in Yemen, Israel perfected the practice of “measured” collective punishment… slow torture through controlling caloric intake, access to water, medicines and electricity to millions in Gaza whose only crime is to exist.

How often have we heard the ritual scream “Death to Arabs” from settlers as they parade through Jerusalem looking for their next Palestinian victim to trample to death under the watchful protection of the Israeli army?

Want to become a national hero overnight? Simple… in Israel the road to a successful political career is surely paved with the cold blooded execution of an injured, unconscious Palestinian prisoner.

These are but a few of the more recent examples, indeed, hallmarks of the kind of systemic hatred and violence that has worked its way into the very marrow of the Israeli state; one which never runs short of hollow excuses for each new outrage always, of course, for the understandable, if not “right”, reason.

Neither a man nor a crowd nor a nation can be trusted to act humanely or to think sanely under the influence of a great fear.”
―Bertrand Russell, Unpopular Essays

Propaganda knows no unique time, place or ideas. It’s systematic. Purposeful, an almost artful manipulation of emotions and attitudes for ideological ends echoed over and over again through one-sided messages which inform the life of a given society’s members. (

Hitler excelled at it. He learned early on in his grab for power that, to be effective, propaganda must not only be simple but appeal solely to the masses… not to “scientifically trained intelligentsia.” Above all else he understood well that, to be successful, propaganda must target base emotions… and not the intellect… and be repeated constantly as so much a never ending drumbeat.

Tyrants have long since learned that the most effective propaganda is that which breeds and reinforces a siege mentality among a people… a world that is neatly compartmentalized into a theology of “us” and “them”… those that are with us, those that are against… those that are allies, those that are enemies. Ultimately, its goal is fear.

Once the point of black or white devotion to a state or theology is reached, anything and everything becomes possible, no matter how extreme or offensive, so long as it’s connected, even marginally, to illusions of threats, real or imagined.

Israel has stage managed, to perfection, that mechanical message of rumor and fear for years. It’s exploited it as well as any state in recent history. It’s elevated it to nothing less than blind obedient faith among Jews, in particular, both in and out of Israel.

Not a day passes without the propaganda machinery of the state preaching that Israeli Jews face imminent extinction… not just from Palestinians but from wholly hostile Arab neighbors that surround them. That Israel enjoys well established bilateral treaties and security agreements with its immediate and powerful Arab neighbors Jordan and Egypt is of course conveniently suppressed… as to do otherwise would be to weaken Israel’s shrill and disingenuous appeal.

This “at risk” message is further manipulated by a narrative that would have Israelis believe they are largely alone… cast adrift in a world very much hostile to them and, thus, an ever-present evil and malevolent threat.

While this papered over vulnerability fits snugly within the “us” against “them” narrative, here, too, reality once again gets swallowed by propaganda. Israel, after-all, receives billions in yearly military aid and assistance from countries throughout the world and has benefited from decades of carte blanche Security Council protection at the United Nations.

When a siege theme ,with its companion drive for social conformity, becomes central to a society’s core beliefs, hate and violence are as predictable as they are essential to the maintenance of political power. Indeed, the parallels between Jews as victims of German hatred in the 30’s and 40’s and as instigators of that same odium today against Palestinians is as dramatic as it is eerie.

A difference in volume, but not at all sound, there is scant separation between Jewish businesses and synagogues burned to the ground during the Kristallnacht of 1933 in Germany and repeated incidents in which Palestinian mosques, churches, homes and olive groves have for years been torched by rampaging settlers in the West Bank.

Propaganda drives signposts of hatred whether anti-Jewish banners hung throughout Germany under the Nazis or those that Zionists display with pride today at demonstrations in Israel or spray paint on the sides of Palestinian buildings. And, of course, the forced segregation of Palestinian and Jewish schoolchildren in Israel today stands no different than the days when Jews were forcibly separated from German students before World War II.

History bears repeated witness to man’s inhumanity to man. Nowhere is it more painfully and palpably clear than in those times and places where racial or religious supremacy whips the crowd into mass frenzy while its targets pay a constant and often deadly price for state propaganda.

Today, in Israel, some Jews struggle to find meaning and purpose in a state that slaughters defenseless women and children by the thousands in the name of peace, that imprisons ten times as many in the name of liberty, and silences opposition…Jew and Palestinian alike… in the name of speech.

Ultimately, that contradiction is best summed, perhaps, by a very simple but powerful rhetorical question etched on a wall in the Holocaust Museum in Washington DC:

What is there about the process that leads some to help and show compassion while others comply with persecutions willingly?”

In the darkest of days… the worst of times in the midst of the hatred that was Germany long ago… a white rose grew. One can only pray that today, from the “River to the Sea”, another one will yet flower.