Sunday, November 29, 2015

There is no such thing as "international terrorism".

Uri Avnery
The Reign of Absurdiocy

There is no such thing as "international terrorism".

To declare war on "international terrorism" is nonsense. Politicians who do so are either fools or cynics, and probably both.
Terrorism is a weapon. Like cannon. We would laugh at somebody who declares war on "international artillery". A cannon belongs to an army, and serves the aims of that army. The cannon of one side fire against the cannon of the other.
Terrorism is a method of operation. It is often used by oppressed peoples, including the French Resistance to the Nazis in WW II. We would laugh at anyone who declared war on “international resistance”.
Carl von Clausewitz, the Prussian military thinker, famously said that "war is the continuation of politics by other means". If he had lived with us today, he might have said: "Terrorism is a continuation of policy by other means."
Terrorism means, literally, to frighten the victims into surrendering to the will of the terrorist.
Terrorism is a weapon. Generally it is the weapon of the weak. Of those who have no atom bombs, like the ones which were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which terrorized the Japanese into surrender. Or the aircraft which destroyed Dresden in the (vain) attempt to frighten the Germans into giving up.
Since most of the groups and countries using terrorism have different aims, often contradicting each other, there is nothing "international" about it. Each terrorist campaign has a character of its own. Not to mention the fact that nobody considers himself (or herself) a terrorist, but rather a fighter for God, Freedom or Whatever.
(I cannot restrain myself from boasting that long ago I invented the formula: "One man's terrorist is the other man's freedom fighter".)
MANY ORDINARY Israelis felt deep satisfaction after the Paris events. "Now those bloody Europeans feel for once what we feel all the time!"
Binyamin Netanyahu, a diminutive thinker but a brilliant salesman, has hit on the idea of inventing a direct link between jihadist terrorism in Europe and Palestinian terrorism in Israel and the occupied territories.
It is a stroke of genius: if they are one and the same, knife-wielding Palestinian teenagers and Belgian devotees of ISIS, then there is no Israeli-Palestinian problem, no occupation, no settlements. Just Muslim fanaticism. (Ignoring, by the way, the many Christian Arabs in the secular Palestinian "terrorist" organizations.)
This has nothing to do with reality. Palestinians who want to fight and die for Allah go to Syria. Palestinians – both religious and secular – who shoot, knife or run over Israeli soldiers and civilians these days want freedom from the occupation and a state of their own.
This is such an obvious fact that even a person with the limited IQ of our present cabinet ministers could grasp it. But if they did, they would have to face very unpleasant choices concerning the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
So let's stick to the comfortable conclusion: they kill us because they are born terrorists, because they want to meet the promised 72 virgins in paradise, because they are anti-Semites. So, as Netanyahu happily forecasts, we shall "live forever by our sword".
TRAGIC AS the results of each terrorist event may be, there is something absurd about the European reaction to recent events.
The height of absurdiocy was reached in Brussels, when a lone terrorist on the run paralyzed an entire capital city for days without a single shot being fired. It was the ultimate success of terrorism in the most literal sense: using fear as a weapon.
But the reaction in Paris was not much better. The number of victims of the atrocity was large, but similar to the number killed on the roads in France every couple of weeks. It was certainly far smaller than the number of victims of one hour of World War II. But rational thought does not count. Terrorism works on the perception of the victims.
It seems incredible that ten mediocre individuals, with a few primitive weapons, could cause world-wide panic. But it is a fact. Bolstered by the mass media, which thrive on such events, local terrorist acts turn themselves nowadays into world-wide threats. The modern media, by their very nature, are the terrorist's best friend. Terror could not flourish without them.
The next best friend of the terrorist is the politician. It is almost impossible for a politician to resist the temptation to ride on the wave of panic. Panic creates "national unity", the dream of every ruler. Panic creates the longing for a "strong leader". This is a basic human instinct.
Francois Hollande is a typical example. A mediocre yet shrewd politician, he seized the opportunity to pose as a leader. "C'est la guerre!" he declared, and whipped up a national frenzy. Of course this is no "guerre". Not World War III. Just a terrorist attack by a hidden enemy. Indeed, one of the facts disclosed by these events is the incredible foolishness of the political leaders all around. They do not understand the challenge. They react to imagined threats and ignore the real ones. They do not know what to do. So they do what comes naturally: make speeches, convene meetings and bomb somebody (no matter who and what for).
Not understanding the malady, their remedy is worse than the disease itself. Bombing causes destruction, destruction creates new enemies who thirst for revenge. It is a direct collaboration with the terrorists.
It was a sad spectacle to see all these world leaders, the commanders of powerful nations, running around like mice in a maze, meeting, speechifying, uttering nonsensical statements, totally unable to deal with the crisis.
THE PROBLEM is indeed far more complicated than simple minds would believe, because of an unusual fact: the enemy this time is not a nation, not a state, not even a real territory, but an undefined entity: an idea, a state of mind, a movement that does have a territorial base of sorts but is not a real state.
This is not a completely unprecedented phenomenon: more than a hundred years ago, the anarchist movement committed terrorist acts all over the place without having a territorial base at all. And 900 years ago a religious sect without a country, the Assassins (a corruption of the Arabic word for "hashish users"), terrorized the Muslim world.
I don't know how to fight the Islamic State (or rather Non-State) effectively. I strongly believe that nobody knows. Certainly not the nincompoops who man (and woman) the various governments.
I am not sure that even a territorial invasion would destroy this phenomenon. But even such an invasion seems unlikely. The Coalition of the Unwilling put together by the US seems disinclined to put "boots on the ground". The only forces who could try – the Iranians and the Syrian government army – are hated by the US and its local allies.
Indeed, if one is looking for an example of total disorientation, bordering on lunacy, it is the inability of the US and the European powers to choose between the Assad-Iran-Russia axis and the IS-Saudi-Sunni camp. Add the Turkish-Kurdish problem, the Russian-Turkish animosity and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the picture is still far from complete.
(For history-lovers, there is something fascinating about the reemergence of the centuries-old struggle between Russia and Turkey in this new setting. Geography trumps everything else, after all.)
It has been said that war is far too important to leave to the generals. The present situation is far too complicated to leave to the politicians. But who else is there?
ISRAELIS BELIEVE (as usual) that we can teach the world. We know terrorism. We know what to do.
But do we?
For weeks now, Israelis have lived in a panic. For lack of a better name, it is called "the wave of terror". Every day now, two, three, four youngsters, including 13-year old children, attack Israelis with knives or run them over with cars, and are generally shot dead on the spot. Our renowned army tries everything, including draconian reprisals against the families and collective punishment of villages, without avail.
These are individual acts, often quite spontaneous, and therefore it is well-nigh impossible to prevent them. It is not a military problem. The problem is political, psychological.
Netanyahu tries to ride this wave like Hollande and company. He cites the Holocaust (likening a 16-year old boy from Hebron to a hardened SS officer at Auschwitz) and talks endlessly about anti-Semitism.
All in order to obliterate one glaring fact: the occupation with its daily, indeed hourly and minutely, chicanery of the Palestinian population. Some government ministers don't even hide anymore that the aim is to annex the West Bank and eventually drive out the Palestinian people from their homeland.
There is no direct connection between IS terrorism around the world and the Palestinian national struggle for statehood. But if they are not solved, in the end the problems will merge – and a far more powerful IS will unite the Muslim world, as Saladin once did, to confront us, the new Crusaders.
If I were a believer, I would whisper: God forbid.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Trump’s claim of 9/11 celebration in New Jersey is based on arrest of 5 ‘laughing’ Israelis

Philip Weiss on November 26, 2015 51 Comments

Donald Trump’s nutty/scary claim that he saw thousands of Muslims celebrating the 9/11 attacks in Jersey City has been widely debunked in the media, but few are pointing out the story on which Trump’s claim is likely based: the arrest of five Israeli employees of a moving company who were said to have watched the towers fall from Weehawken, NJ, with jovial expressions.

Trump himself has sought to back up his claim by tweeting a passage from an article in the Washington Post on September 18. That article said:

In Jersey City, within hours of two jetliners’ plowing into the World Trade Center, law enforcement authorities detained and questioned a number of people who were allegedly seen celebrating the attacks and holding tailgate-style parties on rooftops while they watched the devastation on the other side of the river.

Who was detained? Jim Galloway at remembers that it was Israeli employees of a moving company:

They were Israeli and Jewish – young men making asses of themselves, as some young men are wont to do…. apparently laughing, clowning and photographing themselves

Politico has an article that mentions the Washington Post article but doesn’t tell you that the arrested men were Israelis; while Slate downplays the incident as the “strange tale of the dancing Israelis” in a piece on 9/11 legends. It says that story has taken on a life of its own among anti-Semitic conspiracy theorists.

Whether the Israelis were making asses of themselves or whether the story is repeated by conspiracy theorists is irrelevant. But the case was not a strange tale or a legend. The men were held by US authorities for more than two months before they were deported. This ABC News piece months later describes an investigation of suspicious behavior by the men:

Five men were arrested after they were seen filming the attack and apparently celebrating it too…

The driver of the van, Sivan Kurzberg, told the officers, “We are Israeli. We are not your problem. Your problems are our problems. The Palestinians are the problem.” The other passengers were his brother Paul Kurzberg, Yaron Shmuel, Oded Ellner and Omer Marmari.

It was widely thought that the men were spies, ABC said:

Vince Cannistraro, a former chief of operations for counterterrorism with the CIA who is now a consultant for ABCNEWS, said… many people in the U.S. intelligence community believed that some of the men arrested were working for Israeli intelligence. Cannistraro said there was speculation as to whether Urban Moving had been “set up or exploited for the purpose of launching an intelligence operation against radical Islamists in the area, particularly in the New Jersey-New York area.”…

Many U.S. government officials still believe that some of them were on a mission for Israeli intelligence. But the FBI told ABCNEWS, “To date, this investigation has not identified anybody who in this country had pre-knowledge of the events of 9/11.”

This piece published by the Forward (and republished at a WTC-truther site) says the five men were likely Mossad and notes that they were deported to Israel following their release.

According to one former high-ranking American intelligence official, who asked not to be named, the FBI came to the conclusion at the end of its investigation that the five Israelis arrested in New Jersey last September were conducting a Mossad surveillance mission and that their employer, Urban Moving Systems of Weehawken, N.J., served as a front.

After their arrest, the men were held in detention for two-and-a-half months and were deported at the end of November, officially for visa violations.

I’ve heard about the Israeli movers’ story down through the years and never been very interested in it, it’s in s being in a gray zone of unproveable assertions. But the story certainly doesn’t reflect well on Israel; and what is curious here is the media’s reticence about the Israeli movers as the basis of Trump’s lie. The rules just don’t apply when it comes to Israel; Israeli forces can do no wrong in the U.S. Consider: Last month the CIA co-hosted a conference on national security and invited officials from the blessed trinity of Britain, France and Israel. Gosh. If we had a normal relationship with Israel we might see that they have a constitutional problem — millions of Palestinians can’t vote for the Jewish state government that rules their lives — that is hurting the United States across the Middle East. We can’t. Or consider Russia’s response to Turkey’s shoot-down of its plane. BBC reported today that Russia has already begun cutting off the importation of Turkish foods in a semi-official protest of the attack. I thought of Rachel Corrie and Furkan Dogan. Israeli forces killed these charitable American citizens under highly dubious circumstances; and there have never been consequences to Israel for its conduct. We really have no national interest when it comes to Israel; Israel’s interest is our interest. The failure to report the simple facts around Trump’s lie is yet another example.

Thanks to Peter Voskamp.

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Friday, November 27, 2015

Great Moments in Israeli Democracy! Jewish-Only Cities to Evict Thousands of Palestinians

from Informed Comment

By contributors | Nov. 26, 2015 |

[note: this is what is being done to Palestinians who are Israeli citizens within the '67 borders. R Congress]

By IMEMC News | – –
Thousands of Palestinians will be displaced as part of a new Israeli plan to build several Jewish-only communities in the Negev region, in south of the Israeli territory, which will be built on top of Bedouin Palestinian villages, civil rights groups said Wednesday.
“This is part of an ongoing policy of pushing Palestinian Bedouins off their land in the Negev,” Sana Ibn Bari, a lawyer for the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), told Al-Jazeera.
The plan was approved by the Israeli government on Sunday, and allows the construction of five Jewish settlements in the Negev region, according to Telesur/Al Ray. Israeli Minister of Housing Yoav Galant hailed the government’s decision and said the region should be turned “into a desired and flourishing area, in accordance with the Zionist vision”.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called, on Sunday, for more Jewish communities “to be built quickly while bypassing bureaucratic processes”.
The Israeli government classifies Palestinian villages in the region as “unrecognized”, and says that people there do not have proper permits for constructing houses. (The overwhelming majority of Palestinians are rarely, if ever, granted such permits.)
At least two villages will be affected by the plan, according to a press release by several rights groups in Israel who have denounced the plan. “The settlement of Daya would be built on the unrecognized village of Katamat, which is home to 1,500 people and the Neve Gurion settlement is supposed to be built on part of the land of Beer Hadaj, a recognized village with approximately 6,000 residents,” Bimkom and ACRI said in the statement.
Palestinians living in the Negev are part of the over 1.7 million Palestinians with Israeli citizenship, who, according to rights groups, are facing systematic discrimination by Israeli policies and laws.
In May, Israeli-based Adalah Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights issued a database documenting more than 50 discriminatory laws which directly or indirectly target Palestinian citizens of Israel by quelling their political expression and limiting their access to state resources, notably land.
Last month, a Bedouin village was demolished by Israeli forces for the 90th time in five years for being “unrecognized”. While Israel claims that these people do not have permits for the villages, residents say those villages existed before the foundation of the Israeli state in 1948.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Pollard and Vanunu: A tale of two spies

from al-monitor, Nov. 24, 2015

Jonathan Pollard’s release from a US prison Nov. 20 has not relieved the Israeli public of the affair that has haunted it for the past three decades. Likud Knesset House Committee Chair David Bitan was quick to prepare legislation granting Pollard a monthly state stipend for the rest of his life along with subsidized rent and health care. In a congratulatory letter to the former convict, Zionist Camp member Nahman Shai, head of the Knesset caucus advocating for Pollard, wrote that the “lobby will not rest and not cease.” In fact, he has set a new challenge for the caucus: to lift the restrictions on the Jewish spy that “violate [his] civil rights.” Shai pledged that the caucus would not halt its advocacy until Pollard is allowed to leave the United States for a destination of his choice, “first and foremost, Israel.”

Summary⎙ Print While criticizing the restrictions the US has imposed on released spy Jonathan Pollard and attempting to legislate state allocations for him, Israeli politicians ignore their government's restrictions on nuclear spy Mordechai Vanunu.
Author Akiva EldarPosted November 24, 2015
TranslatorRuti Sinai

In July, the same Shai gave listeners of Kol Barama radio an idea of the acts committed by the man for whom a special Knesset caucus was established. “It’s hard for us to comprehend the notion of a person betraying his homeland,” said Shai. “There was money, he got paid for his activity, he got paid, maybe he didn’t get everything but he received payment [$30,000 a year]. It’s also a kind of espionage … He tried to sell documents to other countries, too, not just to Israel.” Nonetheless, Shai added that after Israel assumed responsibility for Pollard’s actions and granted him Israeli citizenship, it was incumbent upon it to go the whole nine yards on his behalf.

Not only did Shai brand Pollard a traitor to his homeland and a paid spy, he also compared him with Mordechai Vanunu, Israel’s “nuclear spy.” In 1988, Vanunu was convicted of treason and aggravated spying for selling the British Sunday Times classified documents about the inner workings at the Dimona nuclear facility. A court sentenced him to 18 years in prison. For the first 11 years of his sentence, he was kept in complete isolation.

In fact, the two affairs share many similarities. Vanunu, like Pollard, worked for a defense agency, abused his employer’s trust and inflicted serious damage to his country's national interests. Both had ideological motivations, albeit wrapped in cash. Vanunu sought to shatter the conspiracy of silence surrounding Israel's nuclear capabilities and the public's reluctance to know about goings-on at Dimona. Avner Cohen, author of “Israel and the Bomb” and a lecturer on nuclear studies at the Middlebury Institute for International Studies in Monterey, California, argues that Vanunu was not a spy at all. Rather, he considers him the “original Edward Snowden.”

Like Pollard, even after Vanunu served his entire sentence, he was considered a ticking time bomb of secrets. He, too, was prohibited contact with the media and permission to leave the country. Although it has been more than a decade since Vanunu's release, and almost 30 years since he was jailed, he is still not a free man. This is where the similarity between the two convicted felons ends.

Pollard got his own Knesset caucus, an (illegally constructed) East Jerusalem building named after him (“Jonathan House”), assistance for his financial rehabilitation and organized efforts to embellish his motives and actions. Vanunu, on the other hand, still bears the mark of Cain, of a traitor and spy. Not a single Knesset member has lifted a finger to remove the travel restrictions on him and the other limitations imposed by state security. No major media outlet has slammed the security agencies' “vindictiveness” against Vanunu. Reporters are too busy with the Pollard release circus. Commentators are shocked by the restrictions placed on Pollard by the US government.

Israelis having different attitudes toward the two spies is not unusual. It is typical of the lack of symmetry between Israel’s attitude toward those who harm its security and the attitude it demands toward Jews who harm the security of their homeland. One can assume that had Pollard been an American Jew who joined Mossad and sold a million classified documents to US intelligence out of greed — after offering his services, so it's been reported, to South Africa, Argentina, Taiwan, Pakistan, Iran and Australia — the Israeli public and its elected officials would have condemned any attempt by an American president to intervene on his behalf. What would the Knesset members lobbying for Pollard have said about a US congressional caucus lobbying for the release of an Israeli Pollard? How would the media relate to a proposed bill in Congress providing him lifetime financial support and subsidies for his rent and medical expenses?

The first lesson of the Pollard affair is that the capacity for compassion has no religion, and the capacity for forgiveness has no nationality. Your hero is often the enemy of the other party and vice versa. The second lesson is that “security needs” are not moral disinfectants or stain removers. Anyone who decides to run a spy in the territory of an important ally must keep in mind that there is a limit to what close friends are willing to put up with. The third lesson is that there are times when the true hero is the politician who curbs his desire for publicity. The noisy politicos did not shorten Pollard’s sentence by a single day and perhaps had the opposite effect. The media bonanza they have been riding since his release will not cut short the parole restrictions imposed on him. In fact, the opposite might transpire.

Read more:

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Shadows of Algeria: the Lost Context of the Paris Attacks

NOVEMBER 17, 2015


It wasn’t just one of the attackers who vanished after the Paris massacre. Three nations whose history, action–and inaction–help to explain the slaughter by Isis have largely escaped attention in the near-hysterical response to the crimes against humanity in Paris: Algeria, Saudi Arabia and Syria.

The French-Algerian identity of one of the attackers demonstrates how France’s savage 1956-62 war in Algeria continues to infect today’s atrocities. The absolute refusal to contemplate Saudi Arabia’s role as a purveyor of the most extreme Wahabi-Sunni form of Islam, in which Isis believes, shows how our leaders still decline to recognise the links between the kingdom and the organisation which struck Paris. And our total unwillingness to accept that the only regular military force in constant combat with Isis is the Syrian army – which fights for the regime that France also wants to destroy – means we cannot liaise with the ruthless soldiers who are in action against Isis even more ferociously than the Kurds.

Whenever the West is attacked and our innocents are killed, we usually wipe the memory bank. Thus, when reporters told us that the 129 dead in Paris represented the worst atrocity in France since the Second World War, they failed to mention the 1961 Paris massacre of up to 200 Algerians participating in an illegal march against France’s savage colonial war in Algeria. Most were murdered by the French police, many were tortured in the Palais des Sports and their bodies thrown into the Seine. The French only admit 40 dead. The police officer in charge was Maurice Papon, who worked for Petain’s collaborationist Vichy police in the Second World War, deporting more than a thousand Jews to their deaths.

Omar Ismail Mostafai, one of the suicide killers in Paris, was of Algerian origin – and so, too, may be other named suspects. Said and Cherif Kouachi, the brothers who murdered the Charlie Hebdo journalists, were also of Algerian parentage. They came from the five million-plus Algerian community in France, for many of whom the Algerian war never ended, and who live today in the slums of Saint-Denis and other Algerian banlieues of Paris. Yet the origin of the 13 November killers – and the history of the nation from which their parents came – has been largely deleted from the narrative of Friday’s horrific events. A Syrian passport with a Greek stamp is more exciting, for obvious reasons.

A colonial war 50 years ago is no justification for mass murder, but it provides a context without which any explanation of why France is now a target makes little sense. So, too, the Saudi Sunni-Wahabi faith, which is a foundation of the “Islamic Caliphate” and its cult-like killers. Mohammed ibn Abdel al-Wahab was the purist cleric and philosopher whose ruthless desire to expunge the Shia and other infidels from the Middle East led to 18th-century massacres in which the original al-Saud dynasty was deeply involved.

The present-day Saudi kingdom, which regularly beheads supposed criminals after unfair trials, is building a Riyadh museum dedicated to al-Wahab’s teachings, and the old prelate’s rage against idolaters and immorality has found expression in Isis’s accusation against Paris as a centre of “prostitution”. Much Isis funding has come from Saudis – although, once again, this fact has been wiped from the terrible story of the Friday massacre.

And then comes Syria, whose regime’s destruction has long been a French government demand. Yet Assad’s army, outmanned and still outgunned – though recapturing some territory with the help of Russian air strikes – is the only trained military force fighting Isis. For years, both the Americans, the British and the French have said that the Syrians do not fight Isis. But this is palpably false; Syrian troops were driven out of Palmyra in May after trying to prevent Isis suicide convoys smashing their way into the city – convoys that could have been struck by US or French aircraft. Around 60,000 Syrian troops have now been killed in Syria, many by Isis and the Nusrah Islamists – but our desire to destroy the Assad regime takes precedence over our need to crush Isis.

The French now boast that they have struck ISIS’s Syrian “capital” of Raqqa 20 times – a revenge attack, if ever there was one. For if this was a serious military assault to liquidate the Isis machine in Syria, why didn’t the French do it two weeks ago? Or two months ago? Once more, alas, the West – and especially France – responds to Isis with emotion rather than reason, without any historical context, without recognising the grim role that our “moderate”, head-chopping Saudi “brothers” play in this horror story. And we think we are going to destroy Isis…

Robert Fisk writes for the Independent, where this column originally appeared.

Friday, November 20, 2015

CNN Punished Its Own Journalist for Fulfilling a Core Duty of Journalism

from The Intercept

Glenn Greenwald
Nov. 20 2015, 12:23 p.m.

CNN yesterday suspended its global affairs correspondent, Elise Labott, for two weeks for the crime of posting a tweet critical of the House vote to ban Syrian refugees. Whether by compulsion or choice, she then groveled in apology. This is the original tweet along with her subsequent expression of repentance:

This all happened after The Washington Post‘s Erik Wemple complained that her original tweet showed “bias.” The claim that CNN journalists must be “objective” and are not permitted to express opinions is an absolute joke. CNN journalists constantly express opinions without being sanctioned.

Labott’s crime wasn’t that she expressed an opinion. It’s that she expressed the wrong opinion: after Paris, defending Muslims, even refugees, is strictly forbidden. I’ve spoken with friends who work at every cable network and they say the post-Paris climate is indescribably repressive in terms of what they can say and who they can put on air. When it comes to the Paris attacks, CNN has basically become state TV (to see just how subservient CNN is about everything relating to terrorism, watch this unbelievable “interview” of ex-CIA chief Jim Woolsey by CNN’s Brooke Baldwin; or consider that neither CNN nor MSNBC has put a single person on air to dispute the CIA’s blatant falsehoods about Paris despite how many journalists have documented those falsehoods).

Labott’s punishment comes just five days after two CNN anchors spent 6 straight minutes lecturing French Muslim civil rights activist Yasser Louati that he and all other French Muslims bear “responsibility” for the attack (the anchors weren’t suspended for expressing those repulsive opinions). The suspension comes just four days after CNN’s Jim Acosta stood up in an Obama press conference and demanded: “I think a lot of Americans have this frustration that they see that the United States has the greatest military in the world . . . . I guess the question is– and if you’ll forgive the language– is why can’t we take out these bastards?” (he wasn’t suspended). It comes five days after CNN anchor Christiane Amanpour mauled Obama on-air for not being more militaristic about ISIS (she wasn’t suspended); throughout 2013, Amanpour vehemently argued all over CNN for U.S. intervention in Syria (she wasn’t suspended).

Labott’s suspension also comes less than a year after Don Lemon demanded that Muslim human rights lawyer Arsalan Iftikhar state whether he supports ISIS (he wasn’t suspended); in 2010, Lemon strongly insinuated that all Muslims were responsible for the 9/11 attack when he defended opposition to an Islamic Community Center in lower Manhattan (he wasn’t suspended). During the Occupy Wall Street protests, CNN host Erin Burnett continuously mocked the protesters while defending Wall Street (she wasn’t suspended) and also engaged in rank fear-mongering over Iran (she wasn’t suspended). I could literally spend the rest of the day pointing to opinions expressed by CNN journalists for which they were not suspended or punished in any way.

By very stark contrast, career CNN producer Octavia Nasr was instantly fired in 2010 after 20 years with the network for the crime of tweeting a positive sentiment for a beloved Shia imam who had just died, after neocons complained that he was a Hezbollah sympathizer. Earlier this year, Jim Clancy was forced to “resign” after 30 years with CNN for tweeting inflammatory criticisms of Israel. As I’ve pointed out over and over, “journalistic objectivity” is a sham for so many reasons, beginning with the fact that all reporting is suffuse with subjective perspectives. “Objectivity” does not ban opinions; it just bans opinions that are particularly disfavored among those who wield the greatest power (obviously, no CNN journalist would be punished for advocating military action against ISIS, for instance).

But there’s a more important point here than CNN’s transparently farcical notion of “objectivity.” In the wake of Paris, an already-ugly and quite dangerous anti-Muslim climate has exploded. The leading GOP presidential candidate is speaking openly of forcing Muslims to register in databases, closing mosques, and requiring Muslims to carry special ID cards. Another, Rand Paul, just introduced a bill to ban refugees almost exclusively from predominantly Muslim and/or Arab countries. Others are advocating exclusion of Muslim refugees (Cruz) and religious tests to allow in only “proven Christians” (Bush).

That, by any measure, is a crisis of authoritarianism. And journalists have historically not only been permitted, but required, to raise their voice against such dangers. Indeed, that is one of the primary roles of journalism: to serve as a check on extremism when stoked by political demagogues.

The two most respected American television journalists in the history of the medium are almost certainly Edward R. Murrow and Walter Cronkite. The legacies of both were shaped by their raising their voices in times of creeping radicalism and government overreach. Murrow repeatedly inveighed against the extremism of Congressional McCarthyism, while Cronkite disputed Pentagon claims that victory in the Vietnam War was near and instead called for its end: “the only rational way out then will be to negotiate, not as victors, but as an honorable people who lived up to their pledge to defend democracy, and did the best they could.” Neither could survive at the climate created at CNN:

As Murrow said in justifying his opposition to the Wisconsin Senator and his allies: “there is no way for a citizen of a republic to abdicate his [sic] responsibilities.”

It’s not hard to envision the impact that this CNN action will have on the next journalist who considers speaking up the way Labott (very mildly) just did: they know doing so could imperil their career. In the face of the kind of emerging extremism now manifest in the U.S. (and Europe), that journalistic climate neuters journalists, renders them impotent and their function largely irrelevant, and – by design or otherwise – obliterates a vital check on tyrannical impulses. But that’s what happens when media outlets are viewed principally as corporate assets rather than journalistic ones: their overriding goal is to avoid saying or doing anything that will create conflict between them and those who wield the greatest power.

* * * * *

I did two interviews yesterday where I was able to more or less to comprehensively set forth my views on the behavior of the U.S. media following Paris, which I must admit – notwithstanding my very low expectations – has surprised (and horrified) me in terms of how subservient it is. First, there was this interview on Democracy Now (starting at 13:00; relevant segments are here and here), which generated more response than any I’ve ever done on that show, and this shorter one on France24.

Glenn Greenwald

Thursday, November 12, 2015

The Connecticut branch of the AFL-CIO has voted to back key elements of the Palestinian call for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) on Israel.

from the electric intifada
Ali Abunima

AFL-CIO is the largest US labor federation, counting dozens of unions with a combined membership of almost 13 million workers as its affiliates – 200,000 of them in Connecticut.

At the Connecticut branch’s convention in October, delegates passed a resolution calling on the national AFL-CIO to adopt BDS “in connection with companies and investments profiting from or complicit in human rights violations arising from the occupation of the Palestinian territories by the State of Israel, and to urge its affiliates and related pension and annuity funds to adopt similar strategies.”

It also calls on the US to “diligently apply all diplomatic and economic tools to bring an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestine and to support a fair and just peace in which the people of Israel and Palestine can live in peace and security in accordance with international law and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”

The resolution notes that Unite, the largest union in United Kingdom and Ireland, has backed BDS.

Democratic Party ties
The move is significant because while many rank-and-file members of AFL-CIO-affiliated unions have supported Palestinian rights, the same has not been true for the federation’s leadership.

The national AFL-CIO worked closely with the US Central Intelligence Agency during the Cold War to subvert left-wing movements and governments around the world.

It has contributed millions of dollars to Democratic candidates and remains closely tied to that party’s pro-Israel establishment.

Both the administration of President Barack Obama, as well as his would-be successor Hillary Clinton, oppose any form of boycott of Israel, including of its settlements.

“Giant stride”
In September, a delegation of Connecticut trade union leaders traveled to Palestine in response to an invitation from the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions.

It included David Roche, president of the Connecticut Building and Construction Trades Council, who co-sponsored the resolution along with John Harrity, president of the Connecticut State Council of Machinists.

Reverend David W. Good, who co-led the delegation for the Tree of Life Educational Fund, spoke last month about the Israeli abuses the participants witnessed:

Good made the case for BDS, arguing that “the fulcrum of change is with us.”

“I’m very, very thankful for the union members who came back from our last Tree of Life journey resolved to be in solidarity with workers in Palestine,” Good added.

Following the vote, resolution co-sponsor John Harrity said: “We are proud that the [Connecticut] AFL-CIO, through the action of elected delegates from the large spectrum of unions that make up our federation, voted to endorse the resolution.”

Stanley Heller, a longtime Palestine solidarity activist in Connecticut, called the state’s AFL-CIO vote “a giant stride forward.”

“There’s probably going to be a discussion about BDS in trade unions all across the country,” Heller predicted. “Unions will discuss whether the labor adage ‘An injury to one is an injury to all’ will be applied to Palestinian working people too.”

The Connecticut AFL-CIO did not respond to The Electronic Intifada’s repeated requests for comment and the organization does not appear to have issued any statement about the resolution.

The Connecticut AFL-CIO vote predictably generated reactionary disgust. “You are supporting a people and a culture that seeks to annihilate Israel,” Elie Goretsky commented at the federation’s Facebook page. “Ergo, your organization endorses anti-Semitic beliefs and activities.”

“Sickened to see that you racist pigs choose to support terrorists,” added Corey Multer, who suggested that the federation change its name to “ISIS-FL-CIO Connecticut.”

As news about the decision spreads, there is likely to be a more organized backlash than mere abuse on Facebook.

In August, the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE) became only the second national union in the United States, and the largest so far, to vote to back BDS.

UE – which is not affiliated with AFL-CIO – now finds itself under legal assault by the Israeli intelligence-linked lawfare group Shurat HaDin, which has filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board.

A UE spokesperson told The Electronic Intifada last month that the union was confident the complaint would be dismissed.