Thursday, January 29, 2009

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

John Updike dies

John Updike

John Updike. Photograph: Eamonn McCabe


John Updike, the great chronicler of sex and divorce among ordinary people in postwar America, died this morning, aged 76.

A prolific novelist, short-story writer, poet and critic, Updike's most famous works include The Witches of Eastwick, and his quartet of novels about the life of Harry "Rabbit" Angstrom. Two of the Rabbit books won the Pulitzer prize for fiction - first Rabbit is Rich, in 1981, and then Rabbit at Rest, in 1991.

Updike's death was announced by Nicholas Latimer of Alfred A Knopf, his publisher. "It is with great sadness that I report that John Updike died this morning at the age of 76, after a battle with lung cancer. He was one of our greatest writers, and he will be sorely missed," said Latimer in a statement.

A literary writer who frequently appeared on bestseller lists, the tall, hawk-nosed Updike wrote novels, short stories, poems, criticism, the memoir Self-Consciousness and even a famous essay about baseball great Ted Williams. He was prolific, even compulsive, publishing more than 50 books in a career that started in the 1950s. Updike won virtually every literary prize going; only the Nobel eluded him. To compensate, he awarded it to one of his fictional characters, Henry Bech, the womanising, egotistical Jewish novelist who featured in a number of his works.

Updike was famous for his depiction of sex; in November 2008, he won a lifetime achievement award at the Literary Review's annual Bad Sex in Fiction award, which celebrates "crude, tasteless or ridiculous sexual passages in modern literature".

Born in 1932 in Shillington, a small town in Pennsylvania, Updike spoke for millions of Depression-era readers raised by "penny-pinching parents", united by "the patriotic cohesion of world war two" and blessed by a "disproportionate share of the world's resources", and America's postwar, suburban boom of "idealistic careers and early marriages".

He captured, and sometimes embodied, a generation's confusion over the civil rights and women's movements, and opposition to the Vietnam war. Updike was called a misogynist, a racist and an apologist for the establishment. On purely literary grounds, he was attacked by Norman Mailer as the kind of author appreciated by readers who knew nothing about writing.

More often he was praised for his flowing, poetic writing style. Describing a man's interrupted quest to make love, Updike likened it "to a small angel to which all afternoon tiny lead weights are attached". Nothing was too great or too small for Updike to poeticise. He might rhapsodise over the film projector's "chuckling whir" or look to the stars and observe that "the universe is perfectly transparent: we exist as flaws in ancient glass."

A tall, shy, priggish boy as a teenager, Updike found his greatest pleasure in drawing and writing. He was an accomplished cartoonist and hoped to work as an animator for Walt Disney. He wrote regularly for his high school newspaper, and won a scholarship to read English at Harvard.

He graduated in 1954, and spent a year in Oxford studying at the Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art. From 1955 to 1957 he was a member of staff at the New Yorker. In 1957, he left New York, with its "cultural hassle" and melting pot of "agents and wisenheimers", and settled with his first wife and four children in Ipswich, Massachusetts, a "rather out-of-the-way town" about 30 miles north of Boston.

"The real America seemed to me 'out there', too heterogeneous and electrified by now to pose much threat of the provinciality that people used to come to New York to escape," Updike later wrote.

"There were also practical attractions: free parking for my car, public education for my children, a beach to tan my skin on, a church to attend without seeming too strange."

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Noam Chomsky: Obama's Stance on Gaza Crisis "Approximately the Bush Position"
JUAN GONZALEZ: President Obama has made his first substantive remarks on the crisis in Gaza since being elected. Obama was speaking at the State Department, flanked by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, as he named two key envoys. Retired Senate majority leader George Mitchell, who negotiated a lasting agreement in Northern Ireland, will be Middle East envoy. And Richard Holbrooke, who brokered a deal in the Balkans in the mid-1990s, will be envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan.

In his remarks, Obama backed Israel’s three-week attack on Gaza as a defensive move against Hamas rocket fire but also said he was deeply concerned about the humanitarian situation for Palestinians in Gaza. The twenty-two-day assault killed more than 1,400 Palestinians, most of them civilians, at least a third children. More than 5,500 were injured. Thirteen Israelis were killed over the same period, ten of them soldiers, and four by friendly fire.

This is some of what President Obama had to say.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Let me be clear: America is committed to Israel’s security. And we will always support Israel’s right to defend itself against legitimate threats.

    For years, Hamas has launched thousands of rockets at innocent Israeli citizens. No democracy can tolerate such danger to its people, nor should the international community, and neither should the Palestinian people themselves, whose interests are only set back by acts of terror.

    To be a genuine party to peace, the Quartet has made it clear that Hamas must meet clear conditions: recognize Israel’s right to exist, renounce violence, and abide by past agreements. Going forward, the outline for a durable ceasefire is clear: Hamas must end its rocket fire; Israel will complete the withdrawal of its forces from Gaza; the United States and our partners will support a credible anti-smuggling and interdiction regime, so that Hamas cannot rearm.

    Yesterday I spoke to President Mubarak and expressed my appreciation for the important role that Egypt played in achieving a ceasefire. And we look forward to Egypt’s continued leadership and partnership in laying a foundation for a broader peace through a commitment to end smuggling from within its borders.

    Now, just as the terror of rocket fire aimed at innocent Israelis is intolerable, so, too, is a future without hope for the Palestinians. I was deeply concerned by the loss of Palestinian and Israeli life in recent days and by the substantial suffering and humanitarian needs in Gaza. Our hearts go out to Palestinian civilians who are in need of immediate food, clean water and basic medical care, and who’ve faced suffocating poverty for far too long.

    Now we must extend a hand of opportunity to those who seek peace. As part of a lasting ceasefire, Gaza’s border crossings should be open to allow the flow of aid and commerce, with an appropriate monitoring regime, with the international and Palestinian Authority participating. Relief efforts must be able to reach innocent Palestinians who depend on them. The United States will fully support an international donor’s conference to seek short-term humanitarian assistance and long-term reconstruction for the Palestinian economy. This assistance will be provided to and guided by the Palestinian Authority.

    Lasting peace requires more than a long ceasefire, and that’s why I will sustain an active commitment to seek two states living side by side in peace and security. Senator Mitchell will carry forward this commitment, as well as the effort to help Israel reach a broader peace with the Arab world that recognizes its rightful place in the community of nations.

    I should add that the Arab peace initiative contains constructive elements that could help advance these efforts. Now is the time for
    Arab states to act on the initiative’s promise by supporting the
    Palestinian government under President Abbas and Prime Minister
    Fayyad, taking steps towards normalizing relations with Israel, and by standing up to extremism that threatens us all. Jordan’s constructive role in training Palestinian security forces and nurturing its relations with Israel provide a model for these efforts. And going forward, we must make it clear to all countries in the region that external support for terrorist organizations must stop.

AMY GOODMAN: President Obama, speaking at the State Department yesterday. A Hamas spokesperson told Al Jazeera television Obama’s position toward the Palestinians doesn’t represent a change. Osama Hamdan said, “I think this is an unfortunate start for President Obama in the region and the Middle East issue. And it looks like the next four years, if it continues with the same tone, will be a total failure.”

Well, for more on this, we are joined by Noam Chomsky, professor of linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for over half-a-century. He has written over a hundred books, including Failed States: The Abuse of Power and the Assault on Democracy.

Welcome to Democracy Now!, Noam.

NOAM CHOMSKY: Glad to be with you again.

AMY GOODMAN: It’s good to have you with us. Well, let’s start off by your response to President Obama’s statement and whether you think it represents a change.

NOAM CHOMSKY: It’s approximately the Bush position. He began by saying that Israel, like any democracy, has a right to defend itself. That’s true, but there’s a gap in the reasoning. It has a right to defend itself. It doesn’t follow that it has a right to defend itself by force. So we might agree, say, that, you know, the British army in the United States in the colonies in 1776 had a right to defend itself from the terror of George Washington’s armies, which was quite real, but it didn’t follow they had a right to defend themselves by force, because they had no right to be here. So, yes, they had a right to defend themselves, and they had a way to do it—namely, leave. Same with the Nazis defending themselves against the terror of the partisans. They have no right to do it by force. In the case of Israel, it’s exactly the same. They have a right to defend themselves, and they can easily do it. One, in a narrow sense, they could have done it by accepting the ceasefire that Hamas proposed right before the invasion—I won’t go through the details—a ceasefire that had been in place and that Israel violated and broke.

But in a broader sense—and this is a crucial omission in everything Obama said, and if you know who his advisers are, you understand why—Israel can defend itself by stopping its crimes. Gaza and the West Bank are a unit. Israel, with US backing, is carrying out constant crimes, not only in Gaza, but also in the West Bank, where it is moving systematically with US support to take over the parts of the West Bank that it wants and to leave Palestinians isolated in unviable cantons, Bantustans, as Sharon called them. Well, stop those crimes, and resistance to them will stop.

Now, Israel has been able pretty much to stop resistance in the Occupied Territories, thanks in large part to the training that Obama praised by Jordan, of course with US funding and monitoring control. So, yes, they’ve managed to. They, in fact, have been suppressing demonstrations, even demonstrations, peaceful demonstrations, that called for support for the people of Gaza. They have carried out lots of arrests. In fact, they’re a collaborationist force, which supports the US and Israel in their effort to take over the West Bank.

Now, that’s what Obama—if Israel—there’s no question that all of these acts are in total violation of the foundations of international humanitarian law. Israel knows it. Their own advisers have told each other—legal advisers have explained that to them back in ’67. The World Court ruled on it. So it’s all total criminality. But they want to be able to persist without any objection. And that’s the thrust of Obama’s remarks. Not a single word about US-backed Israeli crimes, settlement development, cantonization, a takeover in the West Bank. Rather, everyone should be quiet and let the United States and Israel continue with it.

He spoke about the constructive steps of the peace—of the Arab peace agreement very selectively. He said they should move forward towards normalization of relations with Israel. But that wasn’t the main theme of the Arab League peace proposal. It was that there should be a two-state settlement, which the US blocks. I mean, he said some words about a two-state settlement, but not where or when or how or anything else. He said nothing about the core of the problem: the US-backed criminal activities both in Gaza, which they attacked at will, and crucially in the West Bank. That’s the core of the problem.

And you can understand it when you look at his advisers. So, say, Dennis Ross wrote an 800-page book about—in which he blamed Arafat for everything that’s happening—barely mentions the word “settlement” over—which was increasing steadily during the period when he was Clinton’s adviser, in fact peaked, a sharp increase in Clinton’s last year, not a word about it.

So the thrust of his remarks, Obama’s remarks, is that Israel has a right to defend itself by force, even though it has peaceful means to defend itself, that the Arabs must—states must move constructively to normalize relations with Israel, but very carefully omitting the main part of their proposal was that Israel, which is Israel and the United States, should join the overwhelming international consensus for a two-state settlement. That’s missing.

AMY GOODMAN: Noam, we have to break, but we’re going to come back to this discussion. Noam Chomsky, joining us from Massachusetts, a professor of linguistics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has written many books on the Middle East. We’ll be back with him in a moment.


AMY GOODMAN: Our guest is Professor Noam Chomsky, author of many books on the Middle East. Among his books are Failed States: The Abuse of Power and the Assault on Democracy, also Hegemony or Survival. Juan?

JUAN GONZALEZ: Noam Chomsky, I’d like to ask you about the enormous civilian casualties that have shocked the entire world in this last Israeli offensive. The Israelis claim, on the one hand, that it’s the unfortunate result of Hamas hiding among the civilian population, but you’ve said in a recent analysis that this has been Israeli policy almost from the founding of the state, the attack on civilian populations. Could you explain?

NOAM CHOMSKY: They say so. I was just quoting the chief of staff—this is thirty years ago, virtually no Palestinian terrorism in Israel, virtually. He said, “Our policy has been to attack civilians.” And the reason was explained—you know, villages, towns, so on. And it was explained by Abba Eban, the distinguished statesman, who said, “Yes, that’s what we’ve done, and we did it for a good reason. There was a rational prospect that if we attack the civilian population and cause it enough pain, they will press for a,” what he called, “a cessation of hostilities.” That’s a euphemism meaning cessation of resistance against Israel’s takeover of the—moves which were going on at the time to take over the Occupied Territories. So, sure, if they—“We’ll kill enough of them, so that they’ll press for quiet to permit us to continue what we’re doing.”

Actually, you know, Obama today didn’t put it in those words, but the meaning is approximately the same. That’s the meaning of his silence over the core issue of settling and takeover of the Occupied Territories and eliminating the possibility for any Palestinian meaningful independence, omission of this. But Eban [inaudible], who I was quoting, chief of staff, would have also said, you know, “And my heart bleeds for the civilians who are suffering. But what can we do? We have to pursue the rational prospect that if we cause them enough pain, they’ll call off any opposition to our takeover of their lands and resources.” But it was—I mean, I was just quoting it. They said it very frankly. That was thirty years ago, and there’s plenty more beside that.

JUAN GONZALEZ: And Obama’s call to open up Gaza, to end the blockade of Gaza on the Israelis, do you see that as any kind of a meaningful turn?

NOAM CHOMSKY: It would—those are nice words. And if he did it, that would be fine. But there isn’t any indication that he means it. In fact, this morning on the—Israel has already made it clear, stated explicitly, its foreign minister Tzipi Livni, that they’re not going to live up to the ceasefire until Gaza returns to them a captured soldier. Well, that avoids the fact that Israel is far in the lead, not in capturing soldiers, but in kidnapping civilians, hijacking ships, bringing them to Israel as hostages. In fact, one day before this Israeli soldier was captured at the border, Israeli forces entered Gaza and kidnapped two civilians and took them to Israel, where they were hidden away in the prison system sometime. So, and in fact, according to reports I just received from Israel—I can’t give you a source—they say that the radio news this morning has been reporting steadily that Amos Gilad, who’s the go-between between Israel and Egypt, notified the Egyptians that Israel is not interested in a ceasefire agreement, but rather an arrangement to stop the missiles and to free Gilad Shalit. OK, I presume that will be in the newspapers later. So, yes, it’s nice to say, “Let’s open the borders,” but not avoiding the conditions that are imposed, in fact, not even mentioning the fact that the borders have been closed for years because the United States has backed Israeli closure of them.

And again, his main point, which he started with, Israel, like any democracy, has a right to defend itself. That is true, but deceitful, because it has a right to defend itself, but not by force, especially when there are peaceful options that are completely open, the narrow one being a ceasefire, which the US and Israel would observe for the first time, and the second and the deeper one, by ending the crimes in the Occupied Territories.

AMY GOODMAN: Noam Chomsky, the timing of all of this—can you talk about Election Day here in the United States, November 4th, what exactly happened there, and then the fact that it went from Election Day to three days before the inauguration of Barack Obama, Israel’s announcement of the unilateral ceasefire?

NOAM CHOMSKY: On Election Day, November 4th, Israel violated—violently violated a ceasefire that had held, free will, in fact, a sharp reduction in rockets, probably not even from Hamas. It had been established in June or July. On November 4th, Election Day, presumably because the attention was shifted elsewhere, Israeli forces entered Gaza, killed half a dozen, what they call, militants, and the pretext was they found a tunnel in Gaza. Well, you know, from a military point of view, that’s an absurdity. If there was a tunnel and if it ever reached the Israeli border, they’d stop it right there. So this was obviously just a way to break the ceasefire, kill a couple of Hamas militants and ensure that the conflict would go on.

As for the bombing, it was very carefully timed. And, in fact, they’ve told us this. They’ve told us it was meticulously timed for months before the invasion, a very target-selected timing, everything. It began on a Saturday, timed at right before noon, when children were leaving schools, people milling in the streets of the densely populated city, perhaps the most densely in the world. That’s when it began. They killed a couple hundred people in the first few minutes.

And it ended—it was timed to end right before the inauguration. Now, presumably the reason was—Obama had kept silent about the atrocities and the killings, a horrible, horrible story, which you can see on Al Jazeera and little bits of it here. He had kept silent on the pretext that there’s only one president. Well, on Inauguration Day, that goes. There’s two—there’s a new president. And Israel surely wanted to make it—to ensure that he would not be in a position where he would have to say something about the ongoing atrocities. So they terminated it, probably temporarily, right before the inauguration. And then he could go on with what we heard today.

AMY GOODMAN: Noam Chomsky, I want to turn for a second to George Mitchell, who President Obama has tapped as the special envoy to the Middle East. Mitchell is the retired Senate majority leader, best known for helping to broker Northern Ireland’s landmark Good Friday Agreement in 1998, which ended decades of bloody conflict. In 2000, Mitchell was appointed by former president Bill Clinton to head a committee investigating ongoing Israeli-Palestinian violence. Sallai Meridor, Israel’s ambassador to Washington, welcomed Obama’s appointment of Mitchell, saying Israel holds him in, quote, "high regard.” This is some of what George Mitchell had to say yesterday.

    GEORGE MITCHELL: The Secretary of State has just talked about our long-term objective, and the President himself has said that his administration—and I quote—“will make a sustained push, working with Israelis and Palestinians to achieve the goal of two states: a Jewish state in Israel and a Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security.”

    This effort must be determined, persevering and patient. It must be backed up by political capital, economic resources, and focused attention at the highest levels of our government. And it must be firmly rooted in a shared vision of a peaceful future by the people who live in the region. At the direction of the President and the Secretary of State, and in pursuit of the President’s policies, I pledge my full effort in the search for peace and stability in the Middle East.

AMY GOODMAN: Obama’s new Middle East envoy, former senator George Mitchell. Noam Chomsky, your response?

NOAM CHOMSKY: In Ireland, Mitchell did quite a commendable job. But notice that in Ireland, there was an objective, and he helped realize that objective: peaceful reconciliation. Britain took into account for the first time the grievances of the population, and the terror stopped. OK? And the terror was quite real.

In Israel, again, you have to look at what he avoided. He says, “Yes, we want to have a Palestinian state.” Where? OK? He said not a word about—lots of pleasantries about everyone should live in peace, and so on, but where is the Palestinian state? Nothing said about the US-backed actions continuing every day, which are undermining any possibility for a viable Palestinian state: the takeover of the territory; the annexation wall, which is what it is; the takeover of the Jordan Valley; the salients that cut through the West Bank and effectively trisect it; the hundreds of mostly arbitrary checkpoints designed to make Palestinian life impossible—all going on, not a word about them.

So, OK, we can have—in fact, you know, the first Israeli government to talk about a Palestinian state, to even mention the words, was the ultra right-wing Netanyahu government that came in 1996. They were asked, “Could Palestinians have a state?” Peres, who had preceded them, said, “No, never.” And Netanyahu’s spokesman said, “Yeah, the fragments of territory that we leave to them, they can call it a state if they want. Or they can call it fried chicken.” Well, that’s basically the attitude.

And Mitchell had nothing to say about it. He carefully avoided what he knows for certain is the core problem: the illegal, totally illegal, the criminal US-backed actions, which are systematically taking over the West Bank, just as they did under Clinton, and are undermining the possibility for a viable state.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Noam Chomsky, for Americans who want to figure out how to move now with the new Obama administration to end these atrocities that are occurring in the Middle East, what do you suggest? And also, what’s your viewpoint of the divestment movement? Many young people are urging something similar to South Africa, to begin pressing increasingly for divestment from Israel.

NOAM CHOMSKY: The position that people who are interested in peace ought to take is very straightforward. I mean, a majority of the American population, considerable majority, already agree with the full Arab League peace plan, not the little sliver of it that Obama mentioned. The peace plan calls for a two-state settlement on the international border, maybe with minor modifications. That’s an overwhelming national consensus. The Hamas supports it. Iran has said, you know, they’ll go along with it.

AMY GOODMAN: Noam, we only have thirty seconds.

NOAM CHOMSKY: OK, so we should push for that.

Is divestment a proper tactic? Well, you know, if you look back at South Africa, divestment became a proper tactic after years, decades of education and organizing, to the point where Congress was legislating against trade, corporations were pulling out, and so on. That’s what’s missing: the education and organizing which makes it an understandable move. And, in fact, if we ever got to that point, you wouldn’t even need it, because the US could be brought in line with international opinion.

AMY GOODMAN: Noam Chomsky, we want to thank you very much for being with us. And from all of us at Democracy Now!, condolences on the death of Carol, your wife of more than half a century.

NOAM CHOMSKY: Thank you.

AMY GOODMAN: Thanks, Noam. Noam Chomsky, professor of linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Friday, January 16, 2009

Norman Finkelstein: Hezbollah, the Honour of Lebanon (2008)

Noam Chomsky on Gaza

Talk by Noam Chomsky on the Gaza Crisis, January 13, 2009

Center for International Studies (CIS), Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Noam Chomsky addressed the crisis in Gaza at a talk held at MIT, followed by a question-and-answer session with the audience. This event was co-sponsored by the MIT Center for International Studies and its Program on Human Rights and Justice.

The event was introduced by John Tirman, Executive Director with MIT CIS.

:: View the Video Stream of the event

:: Download Audio recorded by Chuck U. Rosina

Related Article at MIT's Tech newspaper: Chomsky Condemns U.S. and Israel For Civilian Deaths in Gaza Strip By Elijah Jordan Turner, January 14, 2009

"At a talk last night about the current situation in Gaza, Professor of Linguistics Noam A. Chomsky came down hard on Israel for its frequent violence against Palestinian civilians and chastised the United States for enabling the Jewish state to carry out these actions with impunity. He also used the opportunity to touch upon broader issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The talk, which took place at Sloan’s Wong Auditorium, was part of the Center of International Studies’ Starr Forum lecture series."

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Families, Abuse and History

20 Must-Know Facts about Gaza Strip + Map

by Bill Belew


So, what do we know?

1. Gaza Strip sits borders the Mediterranean Sea to the west, Israel to the north and east and Egypt to the South.

Gaza Strip

Gaza Strip

2. Gaza Strip is just 360 square km, (139 sq mi) exactly half the size of the Hawaiian island of Maui and two times the size of Washington DC. It has no water that isn’t irrigated.

3. Gaza Strip has just 1,500,000 people. There have been more than 1,026,000 mobile phones sold. One in five residents are online. The population is about the same as that of Idaho, three times that of Wyoming, though Wyoming is 700 times the size. It’s also about the size of the Hawaiian island - Lānaʻi

4. Gaza Strip’s population grew in 1948-49 when thousands of Palestinian refugees fled there to escape fighting between Arab and Jewish forces. Most Gazans are descendants of those refugees.

5. Today one million Gazans are UN-registered refugees.

6. Gazans live primarily in refugee camps and are fed by the United Nations

Gaza Strip Refugee Camps

Gaza Strip Refugee Camps

7. One in five refugee dwellings in the Gaza Strip allow sewage and waste water to flow along the roads.

8. The average age in Gaza Strip is 17.6 years of age. 92% of them can read/write. More than one in six children aged 6-months to 5-years suffer from malnutrition.

9. The main languages of Gaza Strip are Arabic, Hebrew and English.

10. One of the largest sub groups in /Gaza Strip are abt 500 Russian women who married students from the area who came to Russia and were brought back. (I only think this important because, well, you TRY to tell a Russian woman she is not important.)

11. In the Gaza Strip 99.3% are Sunni Muslim and the rest are Christian (abt 10,500 people)

12. Gaza Strip does international business with Egypt, Israel and the West Bank. That’s it. Imports and exports

13. When goods are brought in or taken out of Gaza Strip, Israeli security precautions require a back-to-back system - trucks are unloaded and loaded onto Israeli vehicles on each side.

Gaza Strip Beach

14. Israel, United States, Canada and European Union have frozen all funds to the Gaza Strip.

15. More than one in three people (34%) in the Gaza Strip are unemployed. How much different would things be if everyone had a job…I wonder out loud here? Some 4,000 people per square kilometer with nothing to do and extremist groups all around.

Gaza Strip - Unemployment

Gaza Strip - Unemployment

16. Next to Israel, Gaza Strip fears drought the most.

17. Israel maintains control of Gaza Strip’s:

  • airspace,
  • territorial waters
  • offshore maritime access,
  • the Gaza-Israel border

18. Egypt runs the southern border and governed Gaza Strip from 1948-1968.

19. An Israeli-built metal fence separates Israel and the Gaza Strip. There are tunnels under the border used to bring in goods and weapons.

20. The airport in Gaza Strip was put out of use by Israeli attacks in 2000.

#15 struck me the most when I looked up these facts. With 1 in three people having nothing to do with their time, what are they going to do? Something about idleness and the devil and workshop come to mind.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Facts About Hamas and the War on Gaza


The record is fairly clear. You can find it on the Israeli website, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website. Israel broke the ceasefire by going into the Gaza and killing six or seven Palestinian militants. At that point—and now I’m quoting the official Israeli website—Hamas retaliated or, in retaliation for the Israeli attack, then launched the missiles.

Now, as to the reason why, the record is fairly clear as well. According to Ha’aretz, Defense Minister Barak began plans for this invasion before the ceasefire even began. In fact, according to yesterday’s Ha’aretz, the plans for the invasion began in March. And the main reasons for the invasion, I think, are twofold. Number one; to enhance what Israel calls its deterrence capacity, which in layman’s language basically means Israel’s capacity to terrorize the region into submission. After their defeat in July 2006 in Lebanon, they felt it important to transmit the message that Israel is still a fighting force, still capable of terrorizing those who dare defy its word.

And the second main reason for the attack is because Hamas was signaling that it wanted a diplomatic settlement of the conflict along the June 1967 border. That is to say, Hamas was signaling they had joined the international consensus, they had joined most of the international community, overwhelmingly the international community, in seeking a diplomatic settlement. And at that point, Israel was faced with what Israelis call a Palestinian peace offensive. And in order to defeat the peace offensive, they sought to dismantle Hamas.

As was documented in the April 2008 issue of Vanity Fair by the writer David Rose, basing himself on internal US documents, it was the United States in cahoots with the Palestinian Authority and Israel which were attempting a putsch on Hamas, and Hamas preempted the putsch. That, too, is no longer debatable or no longer a controversial claim.

The issue is can it rule in Gaza if Israel maintains a blockade and prevents economic activity among the Palestinians. The blockade, incidentally, was implemented before Hamas came to power. The blockade doesn’t even have anything to do with Hamas. The blockade came to—there were Americans who were sent over, in particular James Wolfensohn, to try to break the blockade after Israel redeployed its troops in Gaza.

The problem all along has been that Israel doesn’t want Gaza to develop, and Israel doesn’t want to resolve diplomatically the conflict, both the leadership in Damascus and the leadership in the Gaza have repeatedly made statements they’re willing to settle the conflict in the June 1967 border. The record is fairly clear. In fact, it’s unambiguously clear.

Every year, the United Nations General Assembly votes on a resolution entitled “Peaceful Settlement of the Palestine Question.” And every year the vote is the same: it’s the whole world on one side; Israel, the United States and some South Sea atolls and Australia on the other side. The vote this past year was 164-to-7. Every year since 1989—in 1989, the vote was 151-to-3, the whole world on one side, the United States, Israel and the island state of Dominica on the other side.

We have the Arab League, all twenty-two members of the Arab League, favoring a two-state settlement on the June 1967 border. We have the Palestinian Authority favoring that two-state settlement on the June 1967 border. We now have Hamas favoring that two-state settlement on the June 1967 border. The one and only obstacle is Israel, backed by the United States. That’s the problem.

Well, the record shows that Hamas wanted to continue the ceasefire, but only on condition that Israel eases the blockade. Long before Hamas began the retaliatory rocket attacks on Israel, Palestinians were facing a humanitarian crisis in Gaza because of the blockade. The former High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson, described what was going on in Gaza as a destruction of a civilization. This was during the ceasefire period.

What does the record show? The record shows for the past twenty or more years, the entire international community has sought to settle the conflict in the June 1967 border with a just resolution of the refugee question. Are all 164 nations of the United Nations the rejectionists? And are the only people in favor of peace the United States, Israel, Nauru, Palau, Micronesia, the Marshall Islands and Australia? Who are the rejectionists? Who’s opposing a peace?

The record shows that in every crucial issue raised at Camp David, then under the Clinton parameters, and then in Taba, at every single point, all the concessions came from the Palestinians. Israel didn’t make any concessions. Every concession came from the Palestinians. The Palestinians have repeatedly expressed a willingness to settle the conflict in accordance with international law.

The law is very clear. July 2004, the highest judicial body in the world, the International Court of Justice, ruled Israel has no title to any of the West Bank and any of Gaza. They have no title to Jerusalem. Arab East Jerusalem, according to the highest judicial body in the world, is occupied Palestinian territory. The International Court of Justice ruled all the settlements, all the settlements in the West Bank, are illegal under international law.

Now, the important point is, on all those questions, the Palestinians were willing to make concessions. They made all the concessions. Israel didn’t make any concessions.

I think it’s fairly clear what needs to happen. Number one, the United States and Israel have to join the rest of the international community, have to abide by international law. I don’t think international law should be trivialized. I think it’s a serious issue. If Israel is in defiance of international law, it should be called into account, just like any other state in the world.

Mr. Obama has to level with the American people. He has to be honest about what is the main obstacle to resolving the conflict. It’s not Palestinian rejectionism. It’s the refusal of Israel, backed by the United States government, to abide by international law, to abide by the opinion of the international community.

And the main challenge for all of us as Americans is to see through the lies.

Norman Finkelstein is author of five books, including Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict, Beyond Chutzpah and The Holocaust Industry, which have been translated into more than 40 foreign editions. He is the son of Holocaust survivors. This article is an edited extract of the views of Finkelstein given at His website is

Israel and Palestine: A Statist War



In light of recent events in Israel and Palestine, it seems appropriate to put forth a suggestion on how this seemingly never-ending conflict could be solved. To end the ongoing violence in the region, many pro-Palestinians are calling for the complete abolition of the Israeli state. This is actually not a bad idea, but it only addresses part of the problem. The real solution is to abolish both the Israeli and Palestinian states — for as long as these governments exist, there can be no peace and freedom in the region.

Indeed, from a statist point of view, the conflict is in a constant stalemate; both the Israeli and Palestinian governments and much of "their" respective citizens are laying a claim on the same piece of land. Both sides also back these claims with separate religious and historical arguments in a word-against-word battle that is impossible to arbitrate in any objective manner.

Violence is of course a hallmark of the conflict. On the one hand, Islamist nationalists in Palestine carry out suicide bombings and grenade attacks against various targets in Israel, as they consider the Israeli government to be illegally occupying "Palestinian" land. On the other hand, the Israeli government bombs Palestinian areas where it claims terrorists are residing, often hitting and killing civilians instead. All these violent attacks incite counterattacks from the opposite party of the conflict, thus creating an unremitting spiral of violence.

The problem, however, isn't which side is right, i.e., which of the two governments is entitled to control all or parts of the Israeli/Palestinian territory. The problem is the very existence of these two governments to begin with — and the fact that they lay claims to any land at all.

Let's examine the two main proposals that are typically put forward by statists as a way to resolve this six-decade-long conflict.

First is the popular two-state solution, the general idea of which is that both governments should coexist side by side and reach a peace agreement that will put an end to the violence. A vital condition for these agreements is, of course, that the two governments — one "Israeli" and one "Palestinian" — come to a final conclusion on what piece of land should belong to what country.

At present the "State of Palestine" is split up into two different areas: the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. These are located some 25 miles apart (40 kilometers), which would make it very difficult to form one Palestinian country without joining these two areas geographically first. If this were done, however, Israel would get cut in half instead, which would be equally impractical. National outrage would also ensue among Israelis, particularly those living in the areas that would come under Palestinian rule.

It's also hard to imagine the Israeli government voluntarily handing over control of the West Bank to a Palestinian government, especially since it surrounds most of the city of Jerusalem, which is not only the de facto capital of Israel but is also considered a sacred city by both Jews and Muslims. Governments also have a tendency to try to expand their jurisdictions. This is certainly the case with the Israeli government, particularly regarding its presence in the West Bank. All this means the two governments would forever argue (or worse, fight) over which piece of land belongs to whom, as they both consider all or most of it to be rightfully theirs.

But even if this particular question were settled between the governments, they would still face the same problems with violence as before. After all, the main dispute that most radical Palestinian nationalists have with Israel doesn't concern the much-debated Israeli settlements in the West Bank, but rather the existence of the entire state of Israel itself. These Palestinians do not want to live under an Israeli government, no matter how small, and at the same time they consider all of Israel to belong to Palestine. Hence radical Islamists would continue their war against Israel for what they see as the continued illegitimate occupation of Palestine. The Israeli government would in turn retaliate by bombing Palestinian areas as a form of revenge or alleged terrorist hunt, thus sustaining the spiral of violence. All such attacks also have a hydra effect — kill one Palestinian or Israeli, and a dozen friends and relatives will swear to avenge the death of their loved one.

Further complicating the matter is the internal struggle for power within Palestine between Hamas and Fatah, parties that strive for two very different goals. Fatah, whose present stronghold is the West Bank, has shown interest in working with the Israeli government to achieve a two-state solution. In stark contrast, Gaza-based Hamas's primary goal is to get rid of the Israeli state altogether. Given Hamas's popularity and their militant activism, the prospect of political cooperation between the two parties is not a very realistic one.

It is also naive to think that a magical peace agreement will suddenly come along and settle all disputes between the two nations and all involved parties, especially judging by all former peace agreements that have been tried up until now. The latest of these were the Annapolis negotiations held in November 2007 (which Hamas boycotted), where the aim was to have a final resolution by the end of 2008. The grim irony here is that during the very last week of 2008 more than 400 people were killed in new clashes between Palestinians and the Israeli government.

This is why one must remember the core cause of the conflict, namely that the very existence of the Israeli state will never be tolerated by all Palestinians, and will always be met with violence. It is also a battle between two rivaling states, each competing for political and military control over the same territories.

This leads us to the second, less popular solution to the conflict, namely to merge the two warring nations into one single state. This could eliminate the border disputes, but leaves many other problems that would render this alternative an impossibility.

One of the most obvious of these would be the process of lawmaking within this new, unified country. One can only imagine the mayhem that would ensue if, for example, the present-ruling Israeli Kadima party and the Palestinian Hamas party were trying to cooperate on legislation, especially since Kadima (as well as the Likud party) consider Hamas a terrorist organization — and vice versa, in a sense. The major political parties from both countries have vastly differing opinions on everything from internal affairs to foreign policy: Israeli politicians tend to be more westernized and base much of their ethics in their Jewish faith, while most Palestinian politicians tend to be more left-wing and strongly influenced by Islam. Should then the present-day Israeli laws be preferred, or should the new government strive toward creating an "Islamic state" of the kind that Hamas wants to build? (This is not to say that all Israelis and Palestinians have diametrically differing views on ethics and politics, but it's a big enough problem to cause internal conflict on a grand scale.)

Another problem with the one-state solution concerns the balance of power within government. Israelis greatly outnumber Palestinians in the area, which means Palestinian politicians would most likely constitute a minority within parliament, and perhaps even be reduced to playing the role of constant opposition leaders. This would hardly please Palestinians seeking to decrease Israeli political power in the region. In fact, this system could quite possibly land the Palestinians less political power than they possess today. If the tables were turned, and the Palestinians and other Arabs got the upper hand in parliament through, say, a reverse Palestinian diaspora, many Israelis would find themselves in fierce disagreement with the government instead. This would doubtlessly provoke aggressive protests and civil unrest among Israelis.

A very real concern in both cases, then, would be that a civil war breaks out between "Palestinians" and "Israelis," or that large groups of people in some regions, such as Gaza, the West Bank, or parts of present-day Israel, would try to break free from the national state and form autonomous mini-states, using violence if necessary.

The differences in ethics and faith between Judaism and Islam generally poses no problem for a Jewish and a Muslim family living next door to each other (as they are both masters of their own property and lives), but becomes a major danger and obstacle for peace when turned into politics. After all, Jews and Muslims were living side by side for 13 centuries in the Arab world, until the creation of the State of Israel sparked hatred and conflict between the two groups in the region. This is therefore not a predominately religious conflict, but a political one.

Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal wrote the following in an editorial in the Guardian:

Our message to the Israelis is this: We do not fight you because you belong to a certain faith or culture.… We have no problem with Jews who have not attacked us — our problem is with those who came to our land, imposed themselves on us by force, destroyed our society and banished our people.

Indeed, when the UN decided to split up the Palestine Mandate in 1947 and create the Israeli state, 70 percent of the population in the area was Palestinian, while the balance consisted of Zionist pioneers who owned approximately 8 percent of the land. Giving a minority group political power over other people's land in any part of the world and between any kind of ethnic or religious groups is asking for trouble.

One must also remember that it's not just Palestinians who are paying a high price in human lives from this conflict. The Israeli government jeopardizes the safety and well-being of Israelis, Jews and other civilians all over the world by its very existence. Countless hijackings and terrorist attacks have been carried out over several decades by pro-Palestinians as a protest against Israel. In one of the most recent examples, two Israeli salesmen were shot in Denmark around New Year by a Palestinian man in what is thought to have been an act of revenge for the Israeli government's recent attacks on the Gaza Strip. Just as many innocent Americans have been automatically associated with the cruel acts of George W. Bush, so have many innocent Israelis been associated with the misdeeds of the Israeli government.

Israel is often hailed by western supporters as a beacon of democracy in a region with largely undemocratic governments. This democratic "triumph," however, is actually one of the biggest obstacles for peace in this conflict. As Hans-Hermann Hoppe points out in his book Democracy: The God That Failed and elsewhere, democratic governments do not fear going to war with other countries and wasting enormous amounts of resources in the process.

There are several mainly economical reasons for this. One is the fact that Israeli politicians do not actually own the government of Israel, but are mere administrators of it. Thus they have little economic interest in keeping a tight rein on government spending, as they are only spending other people's money and for a limited time only. It also means that the government is less worried about the market value of the areas it invades or occupies, since the politicians as nonowners aren't in a position to sell the war-torn land once they've seized it. Using bombs and military might to fight any perceived foreign threats thus becomes an all too "easy" way out.

Democratic governments often succeed in making the greater population support such military campaigns by portraying them as necessary and natural responses to foreign attacks on "us" and "our nation," hence playing on basic patriotic sentiment.

Furthermore, since the government's main revenue source is taxation, i.e., extracting money from "customers" by force or threat of force, there are no sales-based profit-and-loss calculations to take into consideration. For most governments, spending more than they earn is a rule rather than an exception. Indeed, the "national" debt of Israel has been trailing the 100%-of-GDP mark for several years, standing at more than 80% in late 2007.

Governments also have no competitors to fear, in the sense that no one else can poach their "clients" by giving them a better deal on police protection or other services presently monopolized by the government. "Value for money" is therefore a catchphrase that governments scarcely need pay attention to.

Contrast all this with the "third" solution: to abolish both the Israeli and Palestinian states. First, this would, without a doubt, free the region of a great deal of the conflicts experienced today. After all, the goal of all Palestinian militant groups — to get rid of the Israeli state — would now be fulfilled. Hence there would be no "need" for them to attack any parts of former Israel, as there would be no Israeli government to fight. In return, there would not be any "need" for former Israeli troops to bomb Palestinian areas in a war against terrorism.

Secondly, the private protection agencies taking on the task of offering police and military protection would operate in a radically different way than the present governments. Unlike politicians, the owners of such agencies would always have to take into consideration whether spending huge amounts of money on wars would be a good way of settling disputes. This decision would be made easier by the fact that these agencies have very limited budgets, thanks to their revenue stream coming from voluntary customers. Wars are costly and would dig a deep hole in any protection agency's budget, which they wouldn't be able to just crawl out of by raising taxes, printing money, or going into huge debt by selling the equivalent of government bonds.

Furthermore, the protection agencies would have to compete among themselves for customers, which means going out of their way to offer the "value for money" that governments so arrogantly disregard. This means good services at low prices, which also doesn't leave much of a profit share to be spent on wars. Customers would also be more interested in their protection agencies spending any profits on improving their protection and lowering prices rather than wasting money on senseless wars.

But isn't Palestine a largely anarchist society today? The short answer is no. While some parts of the West Bank are de facto in what could be described as a state of "anarchy," at least two governments are competing for control over these areas. Much of Somalia was also "stateless" for several years, but during that whole time at least three governments (the United States, the Ethiopian, and the exiled Somali government) were intervening and trying to destabilize and gain control over the country. Just because there is limited government control doesn't mean that there's no government control.

But what about the governments of Iran, Syria, or other neighboring countries? Wouldn't they seize the opportunity to invade the stateless Israel/Palestine area? For starters, it's difficult to see what the target of this attack would be. With the aggressive Israeli government gone, and Israelis and Palestinians living side by side with no ability to oppress each other through political means, there would be nothing for these bandit states to attack.

If the Iranian government or others saw the stateless Israeli/Palestinian region as an opportunity to march in and establish an Islamic state (which of course would require the use of force, just as with the creation of any government), they would have to fight the protection agencies first. This may, at a first glance, seem like a walk in the park for the Iranian military to defeat a group of private, independent protection agencies with much smaller "armies," but looks can deceive. There are basically two ways to defeat any large government army: one method is to have an even bigger and more advanced army, and the other is by using small militias and insurgency groups. There are countless historical examples of the latter: the Vietcong against the US military; the Taliban against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan; the Americans against the British government during the American Revolution; and, for that matter, the militant Palestinian groups that have kept the Israeli army busy for half a century.

It's a lot more difficult to fight an enemy who doesn't "exist" or isn't clearly recognizable and definable than it is to fight a government army. This is, of course, something the US government has come to realize during the war in Iraq. At first the US military easily defeated the worn-down Iraqi-government army, but since then it has spent more than $500 billion fighting Iraqi insurgents who come out of nowhere and blend in with the locals.

Furthermore, many of today's Israelis are both well armed and well trained for combat, thanks to Israel's stormy past. This would likely continue to be the case in a stateless Israel, particularly among Jews, given the high number of rogue Islamic states nearby.

Conclusively, it is vital for the Zionist movement to realize that the idea of an Israeli land does not equate to, nor require, an Israeli state. It is also vital to realize that there can never be peace and stability in the region as long as there is an Israeli government, nor can there ever be a "free Palestine" as long as there is a Palestinian government. The only way to achieve prosperity is through peace and commerce, and that can only come through a stateless society.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Whiskey Rebellion of 1794

"Freedom an' whisky gang thegither": The Problem of Governance in the Early American Republic

By Carl Watner

Imagine that you were the leader of a revolutionary government that had recently and successfully wrested power from its parent country. Imagine that some of your citizens refused to obey the laws that you and your legislature had promulgated. What would you do? Would you ignore their disobedience; or would you send the police and army after them? How would you assert your authority, and maintain the power and legitimacy of your government?

Such a situation faced President George Washington and Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton after Congress passed a federal revenue law on March 3, 1791. [1] How they responded to this and other early threats to their power illustrates that even newly-founded and limited governments, so-called, share the same predicament as established States. They must collect their revenues regardless of the cost. If they fail to suppress disobedience, they will only be faced with more disobedience, with the end result being an ultimate challenge to their existence.

Over the years, I have published articles describing the western Pennsylvania Whiskey Rebellion of 1794. My purpose in those articles has generally been to demonstrate that our early American government has always had, and always exercised, its sovereign power to tax and seize the property or body of anyone refusing to pay their taxes. [2] What recently renewed my interest in the topic was reading an article on civil disobedience in the Kentucky territory during the same era. [3] As it turns out, resistance to payment of the federal excise tax on whiskey was widespread in all American frontier areas, from northern New York to southern Georgia. Furthermore, as Mary Tachau, author of this study, observes; until recently "this remarkable story of tax evasion" has experienced a near historical blackout and cover-up. [4]

Resistance to the excise was part and parcel of the frontiersman's British heritage and tradition. The inhabitants of the British Isles, especially Irishmen, had distilled their own whiskey for centuries. When a levy on spirits in Ireland was introduced in 1661, "it was totally ignored." [5] Englishmen, too, developed a "hearty dislike" for excise taxes. [6] In the era before modern science, whiskey was valued not only for its intoxicating effects, but for its use as an anesthetic, antiseptic, and common everyday medicine. To the frontier farmer, distilling was not only a natural birthright, but a condition necessary to his economic survival. It was practically the only way to convert his grain into ready money, by transporting it over the mountains to where there was a cash market for his brew. As far as the American frontiersman was concerned, his whiskey and freedom hung together. [7] He owned the seed grain, he owned the land, he labored to harvest the crop, and he used his own equipment to distill the brew. Whose property had he violated; whom had he hurt; and was there any identifiable party to whom he owed money for the right to do as he pleased? "To convert [his] grain into spirits was considered to be as [much] a natural right as to convert grain into flour" for his bread. Why should he be subject to a duty for drinking his grain, rather than eating it? [8]

Throughout much of the 18th Century, vast stretches of the American frontier "were left without the slightest" trace of government authority. [9] To the American frontiersman, London might as well have been in another universe, and the new capitol of the United States, Philadelphia, on another continent. Central government could be safely ignored. Other than attempting to deliver the mail, it had practically no presence on the frontier. It offered little protection from the Indians. In 1791, while Kentucky was still officially part of Virginia, "it was difficult to organize a tax collection system" because tax collectors resigned just about as fast as new ones could be appointed. [10] Most Kentuckians viewed the excise law as so odious that between 1792 and 1796, no lawyer could be found to represent the federal government and prosecute those who failed to pay their whiskey excise. [11] Even the governor of the state refused to pay. [12]

The frontier regions west of the Allegheny mountains had a long history of ignoring governmental authority. During the 1760s, Governor John Penn of Pennsylvania had referred to his western citizens as a "lawless ungovernable crew." [13] After the start of the American Revolution, David Rittenhouse, treasurer of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, stated that "adversaries of the Pennsylvania government were loath to pay taxes." He predicted that the likely consequence of non-payment would be "the early demise of the state." [14] Other frontier areas had their own backlash against state and colonial government. In the early 1770s, North Carolina regulators attacked their local courts, and the same thing had occurred in western Massachusetts during Shay's Rebellion of 1786-1787. There, the local state authorities had suppressed the disorder. The case of western Pennsylvania was only different in the sense that it was in closer geographic proximity to federal officials in Philadelphia, and thus a direct and "embarrassing challenge to [their] authority." [15] Hamilton and Washington chose to crush resistance to the federal excise in western Pennsylvania, not only because it was closer to them, but because it would be less expensive than sending troops to North or South Carolina, or Kentucky. As Hamilton observed, "Crush resistance at the most vulnerable point and the more remote regions will fall into line." [16]

Unlike the situation in Kentucky, there were politicians in western Pennsylvania who were willing to serve the federal government and collect the excise. Pennsylvania Congressman William Findley explained this distinction to Governor Mifflin of Pennsylvania in 1792.
"'It is well known,' Findley reported, 'that in some counties, as well of Virginia as of Pennsylvania, men have not, and cannot be induced by any consideration to accept of the excise offices. In those counties there have been no riots nor threatening resolutions; but this arises from the perfect unanimity which subsists in the dislike to the law'." [17] However in western Pennsylvania, the Treasury repeatedly pressed the issue of collection and found John Neville, a well-known state official to represent the federal government. Neville was wealthy by local standards and had originally opposed the federal excise tax when he "was a member of the Pennsylvania assembly when that body adopted a resolution condemning the tax in 1791." When he later was appointed to the office of excise inspector, his neighbors thought that he "was giving up his principles for a bribe and bartering the confidence they had in him for" a federal salary. "He became a catalyst for mounting opposition to the law." [18]

Although all the key political players in the decision to snuff out the Whiskey rebellion were Federalists and supporters of a strong central American government, there were some differences among them as to how government force was to be used. The general Federalist outlook was that any opposition to the whiskey excise was a challenge "to the very roots of authority and order." [19] Federalists believed that every good government "must provide for its own security and preservation," [20] and they saw "a permanent standing army" as a way "to coerce the people and silence them into obedience to authority." [21] President Washington took opposition to the nation's law as a personal affront to himself. "He felt that the excise was a just law," and he viewed any opposition to it as "equivalent to advocating separation from the union, 'the most dreadful of all calamities'." [22] Washington certainly "exemplified the Federalist belief that a display of force was necessary" not only to subdue the rebels, but to show the world that his government was committed to a lasting union" of the states. [23]

In early September 1792, Alexander Hamilton urged President Washington to issue a public proclamation taking a strong stand on the patriotic necessity of paying the excise. As Edmund Randolph, the United States Attorney General (1789-1794), pointed out, the enforcement of the excise law was "a delicate problem with potentially wide-ranging ramifications." [24] The federal government had no soldiers of its own. It had to rely on state militiamen to enforce its laws. Governor Mifflin of Pennsylvania, a Republican, hesitated to commit his state's militia, "and he argued heatedly that out of hatred for the excise, unwillingness to march on fellow citizens, or desire to avoid a long expedition, large numbers of [his] militia might ignore his orders." [25] Instead of sending an army after the resisters, Randolph advocated the use of the civil courts by indicting the tax evaders and trying them in the regular courts. Only if that failed, would he consent to calling out the militia to enforce the law. [26] In contrast to Hamilton, Randolph argued "The strength of a government is the affection of [its] people," not their fear of its army. [27]

President Washington took the position that military force was only to be used as a last resort. His Anti-federalist opponents had adopted the Whig opposition to standing armies. "[O]therwise there would be a cry at once, 'The cat is let out; we now see for what purpose an army was raised'." Washington feared that the use of troops to enforce the law would shift the public argument from the question of law enforcement to the question of standing armies. [28] In its final version, the presidential proclamation of September 15, 1792 was issued as a public broadside and published in the leading newspapers. "It decried all actions 'tending to obstruct the operation of the laws of the United States for raising a revenue upon [distilled] spirits ... subversive of good order, contrary to the duty that every citizen owes his country and to the laws, and of a nature dangerous to the very being of government'." Washington warned all opponents of the government and its excise that they "would be dealt with harshly." [29]

Of all the participants in the discussions about how to enforce the law, Alexander Hamilton was, from the beginning, the most militant. He had originally conceived the idea of the whiskey tax as part of his plan to fund the revolutionary war debt, and as early as July 1792, he had advocated proceeding against the non-payers in western North Carolina. He was dissuaded from this idea by Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, John Jay, who warned that nothing could be worse for the new federal government than a military humiliation at the hands of tax rebels. "No strong declarations should be made unless there be ability and disposition to follow them with strong measures." [30] Nevertheless, Hamilton feared that "if forceful action was not taken 'the spirit of disobedience ... [would] naturally extend and the authority of the government will be prostrate'." [31]

During the two years following the issuance of the federal proclamation little progress was made in satisfying the concerns of the excise resisters. In February 1794, President Washington received, what he perceived to be a treasonous petition of grievances against the national government sent by the members of the Mingo Creek Society in Washington County, Pennsylvania. [32] They sought free navigation of the Mississippi River, government protection from the Indians, and relief from the excise. The following month, John Neville, their regional supervisor for the collection of the excise, was accosted. In July, his house was surrounded and fired upon by a crowd of fifty men. The next day it was torched by a mob of over 400. Several men were killed, but Neville escaped. When this news reached President Washington and Secretary of the Treasury Hamilton in Philadelphia, they conferred with other officials. At a conference on August 2, 1794, Hamilton told the representatives of the Pennsylvania state government that the moment of crisis had arrived. [33] "The immediate question," he concluded, was "whether the government of the Untied States shall ever raise revenue by any internal tax." [34] Hamilton advocated raising a national militia of 12,000 men and marching them to western Pennsylvania to put down the rebellion. As Hamilton put it, "Government can never be said to be established until some signal display has manifested its power of military coercion." [35] President Washington was of a like mind, accepting "Hamilton's premises about the necessity for strict enforcement lest the laws and government itself be undermined, but he was [also] cognizant that force would not only need public support but would also have political overtones beyond the simple enforcement of the law." [36] As a result of this conference Supreme Court Justice James Wilson certified on August 4, 1794 that a state of rebellion existed in western Pennsylvania. Washington put out the call for 12,950 militia men from the states of New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia. [37] As Governor Mifflin had predicted, "[d]raft resistance was common," [38] and even after being enrolled, the desertion rate was high. [39]

By the time the national army arrived near Pittsburgh, whatever rebellion may have existed had practically disappeared. "[P]erhaps as many as 2000 'rebels' had fled deeper into the wilderness before the army arrived." [40] An amnesty was declared for those who would swear their loyalty to the government. Ultimately, about 150 suspects were rounded up and about 20 were transported back to Philadelphia for trial. Two were ultimately convicted, and then later pardoned. [41] Washington "believed 'this event having happened at the time it did, was fortunate'. The troops had 'terrified the insurgents,' and the government had taught its enemies within and without the nation about the spirit and power that bolstered the Union." [42] It was Hamilton who first coined the term "whiskey insurrection." In a December 1794 letter he wrote, "Our insurrection is most happily terminated. Government has gained from it reputation and strength." In an earlier letter of late October 1794 he had written that "the insurrection will do us a great deal of good and add to the solidity of everything in this country." [43] If Hamilton learned any lesson from the Whiskey rebellion it was that it was best for the government to never employ an inadequate force in subduing its opponents. "'Tis far better to err on the other side. Whenever the government appears in arms, it ought to appear like Hercules and inspire respect by display of strength." [44] In retrospect, this was certainly the case. "President Washington raised more troops to put down the Whiskey Rebellion than were ever used to fight the Indians on the frontier and more than any force he had commanded in the American Revolution." [45]

The main purpose of raising and marching an army to western Pennsylvania was to demonstrate that the federal government was a permanent and secure fixture in the American political environment. It was successful in the sense that it showed the federal government could flex its military muscle hundreds of miles distant from its center of power, but it failed to insure the collection of the excise tax, for in fact, nonpayment of the tax continued for years after the insurrection was suppressed. [46]. This exercise of national power at the time of the Whiskey Rebellion represents a number of "firsts." It "marked the first time that the federal government used military force to exert its authority [directly] over the nation's citizens." [47] It was also the first time that a sitting president personally commanded the military in the field. The Whiskey Rebellion also marked the first time anyone in the United States was arrested and tried for treason in the federal courts. "These trials established the precedent that armed opposition to the execution of a United States statute was equal to 'levying war' against the United States and thus was within the constitutional definition of treason." [48]

The Whiskey Rebellion also clearly demonstrated the nature of limited, constitutional government. As Albert Jay Nock and Walter Lippmann pointed out, the American revolutionaries wanted to separate themselves from the British empire so they could assume the powers hitherto exercised by the English Parliament. The evidence is clear: the heroes of the American revolution and the Founding Fathers opposed the Stamp Act when they were out of power, but supported the whiskey tax when they were in power. Even most frontiersmen and whiskey rebels weren't against taxes, per se. [49] They had a long history of willingly paying direct land taxes, and simply wanted to lessen their own tax burden by shifting it to the merchants and "large-scale speculator[s] in western lands". [50] The Federal Constitution gave Congress "the unlimited 'power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises'. ... The taxing authority of the ... national government ... was no less, and was certainly designed to be even greater, than anything attempted by the British government during the 1760s and 1770s." [51] During the debates over the Constitution, critics pointed out that "the collection of taxes would be enforced ... by [a] standing army." "William Goudy of North Carolina feared that the taxation clause of the proposed Constitution 'will totally destroy our liberties'." [52] Thus, it was with some justice that the Scottish poet, Robert Burns, wrote that freedom and whiskey hang together. Taxation is the linchpin of every government. Without the revenue provided by taxation a government could not recruit, field, and pay its soldiers; without soldiers a government could not enforce its laws.

The problem of governance under the new constitution was certainly a many nuanced one. As the Voluntaryist Statement of Purpose points out, "governments must cloak their actions in an aura of moral legitimacy in order to sustain their power," and the early American politicians certainly understood, recognized, and acted on this insight. The necessity for and the widespread use of force by a government is indicative of its unwilling acceptance by those over whom it rules. "The application of force tells us that many people" will not willingly comply with the law. [53] As George Smith observed: the more force, the less legitimacy; the more voluntary compliance, the less need for force, and the higher the legitimacy level of a given government.

The lessons of the Whiskey Rebellion for the voluntaryist are numerous. First, we must recognize the damaging effects that arise from the government's initiation of force in the conduct of otherwise benign human affairs. Secondly, we see that we must delegitimize the State through education; that violence must not be used to oppose state violence (because the resort to violence only gives the State an excuse to use its armed forces). Finally, we must see that the strength of a free citizenry is not in how many guns it possesses, but in its collective determination to resist. Opponents of the State must have faith in their fellow human beings - that they will not let them stand alone against the physical force of government; that they will stand together and risk individual physical injury in order to prevent collective injury to their social freedoms. [54]

End Notes

[1] Jerry A. Clouse, THE WHISKEY REBELLION: SOUTHWESTERN PENNSYLVANIA'S FRONTIER PEOPLE TEST THE CONSTITUTION, Harrisburg: Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, 1994, p. 19. For a complete chronology of the Whiskey Rebellion see Steven R. Boyd (ed.), THE WHISKEY REBELLION: Past and Present Perspectives, Westport: Greenwood Press, 1985, pp. xi-xii.

[2] Carl Watner, "Forfeiture Laws: A Reminder from the Past," Whole Number 68, THE VOLUNTARYIST (June 1994), p. 6. Also see Forrest Carter, "George Washington and the Whiskey Tax," Whole Number 72, THE VOLUNTARYIST (February 1995), p. 2 (being from Chapter 3 of THE EDUCATION OF LITTLE TREE [1976]). Also see the comments by Joseph Earl Dabney reprinted in THE VOLUNTARYIST, Whole Number 111 (Fourth Quarter 2001), pp. 2-3 excerpted from his book MOUNTAIN SPIRITS, Asheville: Bright Mountain Books, 1974, p. xvi.

[3] Mary K. Bonsteel Tachau, "The Whiskey Rebellion in Kentucky: A Forgotten Episode of Civil Disobedience," 2 JOURNAL OF THE EARLY AMERICAN REPUBLIC (1982), pp. 239-259.

[4] ibid., pp. 239-240.

[5] John McGuffin, IN PRAISE OF POTEEN, Belfast: Appletree Press, 1999, p. 11.

[6] William D. Barber, "'Among the Most Techy Articles of Civil Police': Federal Taxation and the Adoption of the Whiskey Tax," 25 WILLIAM AND MARY QUARTERLY (1968), pp. 58-84 at p. 60.

[7] The title for this article was taken from the last stanza of Robert Burns' poem, "The Author's Earnest Cry and Prayer" to the Right Honourable and Honourable Scotch Representatives in the House of Commons, 1786. My thanks to Jim Russell for commenting on this article and pointing out that "The Scots, being stubborn, refuse to this day to spell whiskey correctly." The subtitle of this article was found in Todd A Estes, LIBERTY AND ORDER: REVOLUTIONARY DEMOCRACY AND THE PROBLEM OF GOVERNANCE IN THE EARLY AMERICAN REPUBLIC, Ph.D. dissertation, University of Kentucky, 1995.

[8] Townsend Ward, "The Insurrection in the Year 1794 ..." 6 MEMOIRS OF THE HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF PENNSYLVANIA (1858), pp. 110-126 at p. 126.

[9] Ronald Hoffman, "The 'Disaffected' in the Revolutionary South," in Alfred F. Young, THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION, DeKalb: Northern Illinois University Press, 1976, pp. 273-316 at p. 292.

[10] Tachau, op. cit., p. 242.

[11] ibid., pp. 244 and 252.

[12] Henry G. Crowgey, KENTUCKY BOURBON: THE EARLY YEARS OF WHISKEYMAKING, Lexington: The University Press of Kentucky, 1971, pp. 96-97.

[13] Clouse, op. cit., p. 13.

[14] Lemuel Molovinsky, "Tax Collection Problems in Revolutionary Pennsylvania," 47 PENNSYLVANIA HISTORY (1980), pp. 253-259 at p. 255.

[15] Thomas P. Slaughter, THE WHISKEY REBELLION, New York: Oxford University Press, 1986. First issued as an Oxford paperback, 1988, p. 120.

[16] ibid.

[17] ibid., p. 151.

[18] ibid., p. 153.

[19] ibid., p. 117.

[20] ibid., p. 209.

[21] Richard H. Kohn, EAGLE AND SWORD: The Federalists and the Creation of the Military Establishment in America, 1783-1802, New York: The Free Press, 1975, p. 282.

[22] Clouse, op. cit., p. 20.

[23] ibid., p. 38.

[24] Slaughter, op. cit., p. 123.

[25] Kohn, op. cit., p. 163.

[26] ibid., p. 164.

[27] ibid., p. 272.

[28] Slaughter, op. cit., p. 122.

[29] ibid., p. 123.

[30] ibid., p. 119.

[31] ibid., p. 121.

[32] ibid., pp. 163-164.

[33] Richard H. Kohn, "The Washington Administration's Decision to Crush the Whiskey Rebellion," 59 JOURNAL OF AMERICAN HISTORY (1972), pp. 567-584 at p. 571.

[34] Slaughter, op. cit., p. 193.

[35] Kohn, op. cit., p. 583.

[36] ibid., p. 571.

[37] Slaughter, op. cit., p. 212.

[38] ibid.

[39] ibid., p. 214. Also see the comments of Kevin Barksdale, "Our Rebellious Neighbors," 111 THE VIRGINIA MAGAZINE OF HISTORY AND BIOGRAPHY (2003), pp. 5-31 at p. 22.

[40] ibid., p. 218.

[41] ibid., p. 220.

[42] ibid.

[43] William Hogeland, THE WHISKEY REBELLION, New York: Scribner, 2006, p. 276.

[44] Paul Douglas Newman, "Fries's Rebellion and American Political Culture, 1798-1800, 119 THE PENNSYLVANIA MAGAZINE OF HISTORY & BIOGRAPHY (1995), pp. 37-73 at p. 65.

[45] Clouse, op. cit., p. 9.

[46] Slaughter, op. cit., p. 226. Also see Mary K. Bonsteel Tachau, "A New Look at the Whiskey Rebellion," in Steven R. Boyd (ed.), THE WHISKEY REBELLION: Past and Present Perspectives, Westport: Greenwood Press, 1985, pp. 97-118 at p. 99.

[47] "Whiskey Rebellion," "Consequences" in

[48] Clouse, op. cit., p. 41.

[49] Hogeland, op. cit., p. 8.

[50] Slaughter, op. cit., pp. 140 and 202.

[51] Thomas P. Slaughter, "The Tax Man Cometh: Ideological Opposition to Internal Taxes, 1760-1790," 41 WILLIAM AND MARY QUARTERLY (1984), p. 566-591 at pp. 584-585.

[52] ibid., p. 585.

[53] William J. Goode, "Presidential Address: The Place of Force in Human Society," 37 AMERICAN SOCIOLOGICAL REVIEW (October 1972) pp. 507-519 at pp. 511-518. Excerpts reprinted in THE VOLUNTARYIST, Whole Number 79, April 1996, pp. 2-3.

[54] ibid.

What do we mean when we talk about Genocide?

I feel this piece is relevant to what's happening on the Gaza Strip. It is important to first universally define genocide then recognize when it occurs and finally condemn it with every quaking cell in your body.

U.N. Convention on Genocide

In addition to the general declaration of human rights, which define individual civil liberties, the convention also aims to prevent persecution of racial or ethnic groups.

Quote: "Article I: The Contracting Parties confirm that genocide, whether committed in time of peace or in time of war, is a crime under international law which they undertake to prevent and to punish."

The “Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide,” encompasses a total of 19 articles.

The Polish American human rights activist Raphael Lemkin played a major role in defining “genocide” in the 1940s. Lemkin, who had lost members of his family during the National Socialist’s persecution of the Jews, had assisted the U.S. Chief Prosecutor Robert H. Jackson during the Nuremberg War Trials.

In 1947, Lemkin presented the United Nations with a draft law against genocide, which was unanimously accepted in December 1948 by a vote of the UN General Assembly. It did not go into effect, however, until two years later on January 12, 1951.

Quote: "Article II: In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group as such:
a. Killing members of the group;
b. Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
c. Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
d. Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
e. Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

Genocide: the complete or partial, direct or indirect extermination of national, ethnic, racial or religious groups - the definition appears to be clear enough. And yet it proved to be riddled with loopholes: persecution and killing for political, social or economic reasons was not mentioned. These limitations had been pushed through by the Soviet Union and resulted, among other things, in the crimes committed by the Red Khmer (Khmer Rouge) in Cambodia never being recognized or punished as genocide.

Quote: "Article IV: Persons committing genocide or any of the other acts enumerated in Article III shall be punished, whether they are constitutionally responsible rulers, public officials or private individuals."

Since the declaration was ratified in 1951, the United Nations has classified two crimes as genocide: The ethnic mass murders on the minority population of Tutsis in Rwanda in 1994 and the massacre of Srebrenica in July 1995, in which approximately 8,000 Muslim men were singled out and murdered by Serbian units.

Quote: "Article VI: Persons charged with genocide or any of the other acts enumerated in Article III shall be tried by a competent tribunal of the State in the territory of which the act was committed, or by such international penal tribunal as may have jurisdiction with respect to those Contracting Parties which shall have accepted its jurisdiction.”

Enforcing Article VI also proved difficult. Courts were often not interested in the persecution and punishment of such crimes. And Cold War tensions prevented the establishment of an international criminal court until the 1990s. By December 2000, 139 countries had signed the so-called Roman Statute, which calls for the establishment of an International Criminal Court in the Hague.