A lasting and just peace is possible even at this so unholy patch of earth! – Talking to Jakob Reimann

Milena Rampoldi of ProMosaik interviewed Jakob Reimann who is the mastermind of the bilingual (Ger-Eng) political blog JusticeNow! Jakob talks about his time in Palestine, about the role of the West in the war in the Middle East and about the need for alternative media.

We send best greetings to Milena of ProMosaik where the German version of this interview first appeared!
Milena Rampoldi: After your studies, how did you find your way to Palestine?
Jakob Reimann: I’ve always been a very political person. At first it was all about the music, then, at the age of 13, I began to read political books. As a scientist and a passionate atheist I have always had a strong interest in religion and its underlying worldviews.
Sometime later my interest in the Palestine-Israel conflict arrived on the scene and I read everything I could find about it (an absolute reading tip: the books of Norman Finkelstein). I could not understand how people under the guise of religion were able to establish this violence and this unspeakable hatred – in the Holy Land. And then I realized quite quickly that it is only the alibi and the conflict has nothing to do with religion.
After my master program (I studied chemistry in Dresden, Germany) it was clear to me that I will go abroad. I had to get out of Germany, out of Europe. There was never really a decision to take, quite fast I knew that Palestine will be my destination. I wanted to get to know the country and the people more than just from books. A year of organization and 1,000 emails later the An-Najah University in Nablus was fixed, where I supervised 30 students and investigated the catastrophic effects of Israeli industrial plants on the people in the West Bank. Since 25 years the Nitzanei Shalom factories in the city of Tulkarem have been polluting the environment and making people sick. In the area around the plants you can literally taste the acid in the air, and right next to it there are residential buildings. To tackle this outrageous mischief, we have gathered profound analytical data.

MR: How do you experience at first hand the political and humanitarian situation in the Middle East?
JR: To put it bluntly: Palestine is not a Third World country, which is often depicted as such, especially in the Western left. In my clique in Nablus I was the only folk without a smartphone. On the other hand rampant poverty, lack of prospects and fear of the future exist, too. The majority of all my well-trained students will eventually stand behind the counter of their father’s shop. In the Arab world, however, the family ties are much different to what we know in the West. On one day in Berlin I see more begging people than throughout my whole time in Palestine.
The military occupation of the West Bank, however, is manifested in the extremely high number of soldiers and checkpoints. Their action is dominated by arbitrariness, aggression and contempt for the Palestinians. Inside Nablus, the military is rarely around, but especially on the highways between cities, the situation with the soldiers is often unbearable. Chicane, insults, humiliations, sexual harassment of women, rifle barrels in the face – all that is the daily reality of life of the Palestinians (and I’m still talking of the peaceful days).
I lived for a few months in Haifa in Israel and soon I will move to Tel Aviv for half a year. So, I sort of know “both sides” pretty good. Two completely different worlds exist in an area just as large as Brandenburg (the small German federal state where I grew up). The basic problem is simply the lack of knowledge about the other side. Children are indoctrinated on both sides with hatred and enemy stereotypes. In Palestine they know nothing about Auschwitz, in Israel they know nothing about the Nakba and believe in the propaganda myth of the “land without people”. In an episode in a bus in Tel Aviv, I was talking for quite a long time with an Israeli soldier, a very pleasant, open conversation. Up to the point when I said I would live in Nablus, she sat away without a word, the conversation ended. Similar things frequently occurred to me.
But precisely here lies the key to resolving the conflict: exchange, cultural exchange, school trips, student exchange. If I know my neighbors, it’s much harder to bomb them or to stab a knife in their chests.

MR: In your opinion, how strongly are the wars and conflicts in the Middle East related to Western capitalism and militarism?
JR: Both are linked very closely, tightly knit. No doubt about it. The question can be answered on so many levels. The Taliban and Al-Qaeda are an offspring of the CIA (Operation Cyclone) fed up in the battle of Western capitalism against the Soviet Union in the 1980s. If we go back even further, there is the overthrow of the Iranian President Mossadegh in 1953, who nationalized the oil wells – the Fall par excellence. The quasi-fascist Shah of Persia then squandered the oil back to the West and for almost three decades he was our best friend. Then we have Saddam Hussein, who was “allowed” to gas countless Kurds and Iranians with toxic gas from Germany and France, but only then fell from grace when he raided “our gas station” of Kuwait. And finally he signed his death warrant when he wanted to sell oil not in dollars anymore, but in euros, rubles, yen and renminbi. The same we see in Libya with Gaddafi, in the demonization of Assad, Iran and more recently of Putin.
It’s never about human rights, not about “digging wells and building girls’ schools”, not about Pussy Riot, LGBT rights and certainly it’s not about Assad’s barrel bombs. Of course it is about economic interests and strategic alliances, about market shares – and oil. If we provide all parties of a war with heavy weaponry, it’s not too hard to find the profiteer. We ourselves and our allies are the biggest violators of human rights and trample international law under foot every single day.
Are 80 infidels executed by the IS in France not exactly as despicable as 63 civilians slaughtered by a US drone at a wedding in Afghanistan? What is the difference between the Islamic State and Saudi Arabia? In practice and ideology there is none, so what makes the former the Devil and the latter an “anchor of stability” and our closest regional ally? If the IS would hypothetically rise to become the third largest oil producer in the region within a decade, we will start to do business with them as well. And all this, of course, reaches far beyond the Middle East. Surely you remember, dear Milena, all the progressive presidents in South America that were overthrown by the CIA in the second half of the last century and replaced by neoliberal fascists servile to the U.S.
It is about economic interests. All ramblings about humanism and human rights are sheer war propaganda.

MR: What do you think about the regime in Israel? How would you define it? How would you define Zionism?
JR: In general, Zionism is the desire of the Jewish people for their own state, thus, Jewish nationalism. These movements are nearly as old as Judaism itself, and because of millennia of persecution of the Jewish people they are absolutely understandable. The trigger moment, as we all know, was the Holocaust. Without Hitler there would have been no founding of Israel in 1948. And in general it is good that there is this state which is a “safe haven” for Jews who came within an inch of eradication. But the how, of course, is a sheer disaster. For a long time, victims became culprits. Beginning with the expulsion and murder of 700,000 Palestinians in 1948, Israel is still an unjust nation, an ethnocracy, an Apartheid State in which a certain set of rules and laws is applied to one ethnic-religious group and another set is applied to the other. Israel is far from being “the only democracy in the Middle East.”
Following the coward attacks in Tel Aviv in early June, when two Palestinians killed four civilians, the hometown of the attackers near Hebron was hermetically sealed off by the Israeli military as an act of retaliation – 65,000 people held hostage. Every 2-3 years, the civilian population of the Gaza Strip is bombed back to the Stone Age, relief supplies are not allowed into the Strip, Gaza will be uninhabitable by 2020. Then we have the de facto impunity. Just recently, the radical settler, who has burned baby Ali and his family in a village near Nablus last year, was released from prison. The same is true for war crimes of the Israeli army, which are punished only in exceptional cases and if, with minimal penalties only. We have countless Palestinian children who sit in Israeli prisons and are often tortured. We have the illegal settlements in the West Bank, which make the Palestinian land shrink every day and violate international law. We have a profoundly racist, extreme right-wing government, for which by European standards we would actually need new words for its characterization, to the right of NPD, Front National & Co., with a Minister of Justice, who openly called for genocide against the Palestinian people and a Defense Minister who uttered in public he would like to pick up an axe and chop off the heads of disloyal Arabs.
Does this easily extendable list describe a democracy?
Far be it from me to paint in black and white. Although the cause of the violence is the occupation and the settlements expanding on a daily basis, of course, I would never absolve the Palestinians of their guilt for the current, hopeless situation. There is the highly corrupt, incompetent and illegitimate Abbas government in Ramallah that builds their villas with foreign aid money, and does not give a damn about the Palestinian people. Just last year, Abbas has asked the Arab League to bomb the Gaza Strip and the so much hated Hamas. (Did something similar ever happened before?) And of course there are the attacks on Israel, which I condemn in the strongest possible terms. Both the senseless Hamas rockets from Gaza and the stabbings during the current wave of violence achieve absolutely nothing. They kill innocent civilians and exacerbate the conflict. They are abused by the Israelis every time to justify their new atrocities and must be stopped immediately.
All my friends and acquaintances in Palestine have not abandoned their hope, me neither. A lasting and just peace is possible even at this so unholy patch of earth!

MR: What are the priorities of JusticeNow!?
JR: We cover a wide range of topics. War and peace, capitalism, right-wing violence, racism, refugee issues, Greece, Europe. However, the main focus lies on the troubled region Middle East with all its interconnected wars and conflicts, which I interpret through the prism of a Cold War reloaded scenario, that I see escalating at such different levels and locations. And of course, the Palestine-Israel complex.
Since late last year, I cooperate with the very nice and capable boys and girls of the German left-wing blog Die Freiheitsliebe, on which my articles appear as well. I also published translations of my pieces on U.S. magazines like Foreign Policy Journal, MintPress News and Foreign Policy In Focus.
Recently, I also translate articles from globally renowned journalists and make them available to the German readership. Glenn Greenwald and John Pilger amongst them.
MR: Why are we in urgent need of alternative media to raise awareness of truths that are withheld or distorted in the mainstream media?
JR: First, I’m not a fan of the “lying press”-talk (“Lügenpresse” is a notorious battle cry used by the German right-wing movements to discredit any media expressing other points than theirs). Yes, the quality of the mainstream media decreases, facts are often presented in a highly partisan manner, but this is simply not a new phenomenon. All along the media has been more or less an accomplice in the crimes of the powerful, nothing new about that. But the vast and so important difference today is the internet. We are part of the biggest media revolution since the invention of the printing press in the 15th century. Every single one of us is the revolution, we shape it.
A positive sign is that the sales of all the large papers only know one direction: downwards (that’s the case in Germany at least, I assume it’s a more general pattern in the West). The old media and information culture is as good as dead. Many people want to be more broadly informed. And for this purpose, obviously, the Internet is perfectly suited. If I’m sick of every German media outlet roaring “Putin sucks!”, then I just read a Venezuelan, Russian and Arabic news site in parallel. In their own way they are, of course, one-sided as well, but from a variety of biases a somewhat clearer picture can emerge.
And here the independent portals come into play. On JusticeNow! I can write whatever I want to. I don’t have to suck up to anybody. If I have recognized this, this or this guy as the cause of a problem, I name them. Period. I don’t have to reconsider, whether I should write this or that in this or that manner now. And so it comes that I am vilified, depending on the topic of an article, either as naïve good mind or right-wing, as NATO-troll or “Putinversteher”, as imperialist or anti-Imp, as Muslim friend or islamophobic , as anti-Semite, infidel, filthy left-wing hippie scumbag or whatsoever – and raise a cheer from the respective “other camp”. And that is good!
Independent, crowd-funded media outlets are extremely important, they are the future.
MR: What have you already achieved with JusticeNow! and what are your goals for the near future?
JR: The most precious resource of us human beings is well-known: our time. In the huge information overkill of our days it is the “currency” at issue, the time and the attention of the audience. It is extremely important that under these conditions the quality of the articles does not suffer and the “battle” over the time of the reader does not degenerate to a foolish clickbait circus. The accurately researched stories on JusticeNow! prove that it works.
We are now “on air” for 1.5 years and we have managed to build a modest but loyal readership. The general aim is to expand the range with each publication. Next I want to build more partnerships, nationally and internationally, and care for and further strengthen the existing ones. The internet is the greatest gift, which could’ve ever been laid into a critical public’s hands. To change the world, we simply have to get our butts in gear and get to use it.
Thanks for the interview, Milena!