Saturday, March 17, 2018


from The Intercept
Jon Schwarz
Mar. 15
DURING THE NUREMBERG TRIALS after World War II, several Nazis, including top German generals Alfred Jodl and Wilhelm Keitel, claimed they were not guilty of the tribunal’s charges because they had been acting at the directive of their superiors.

Ever since, this justification has been popularly known as the “Nuremberg defense,” in which the accused states they were “only following orders.”

The Nuremberg judges rejected the Nuremberg defense, and both Jodl and Keitel were hanged. The United Nations International Law Commission later codified the underlying principle from Nuremberg as “the fact that a person acted pursuant to order of his Government or of a superior does not relieve him from responsibility under international law, provided a moral choice was in fact possible to him.”

This is likely the most famous declaration in the history of international law and is as settled as anything possibly can be.

However, many members of the Washington, D.C. elite are now stating that it, in fact, is a legitimate defense for American officials who violate international law to claim they were just following orders.

View of some of the nazi leaders accused of war crimes during the world war II during the war crimes trial at Nuremberg International Military Tribunal (IMT) court, held between November 20, 1945 and October 1, 1946. (From L to R) At the first row, Hermann Goering, Rudolf Hess, Joachim von Ribbentrop, Wilhelm Keitel, Ernst Kaltenbrunner, at the Second row, Karl Doenitz, Erich Raeder, Baldur Von Schirach, Fritz Sauckel. AFP PHOTO (Photo credit should read STRINGER/AFP/Getty Images) View of some of the Nazi leaders accused of war crimes during World War II during the war crimes trial at Nuremberg International Military Tribunal court, held between Nov. 20, 1945 and Oct. 1, 1946. Photo: Stringer/AFP/Getty Images
Specifically, they say Gina Haspel, a top CIA officer whom President Donald Trump has designated to be the agency’s next director, bears no responsibility for the torture she supervised during George W. Bush’s administration.
Haspel oversaw a secret “black site” in Thailand, at which prisoners were waterboarded and subjected to other severe forms of abuse. Haspel later participated in the destruction of the CIA’s videotapes of some of its torture sessions. There is informed speculation that part of the CIA’s motivation for destroying these records may have been that they showed operatives employing torture to generate false “intelligence” used to justify the invasion of Iraq.

John Kiriakou, a former CIA operative who helped capture many Al Qaeda prisoners, recently said that Haspel was known to some at the agency as “Bloody Gina” and that “Gina and people like Gina did it, I think, because they enjoyed doing it. They tortured just for the sake of torture, not for the sake of gathering information.” (In 2012, in a convoluted case, Kiriakou pleaded guilty to leaking the identity of a covert CIA officer to the press and spent a year in prison.)

Some of Haspel’s champions have used the exact language of the popular version of the Nuremberg defense, while others have paraphrased it.

One who paraphrased it is Michael Hayden, former director of both the CIA and the National Security Agency. In a Wednesday op-ed, Hayden endorsed Haspel as head of the CIA, writing that “Haspel did nothing more and nothing less than what the nation and the agency asked her to do, and she did it well.”

Hayden later said on Twitter that Haspel’s actions were “consistent with U.S. law as interpreted by the department of justice.” This is true: In 2002, the Office of Legal Counsel at the Justice Department declared in a series of notorious memos that it was legal for the U.S. to engage in “enhanced interrogation techniques” that were obviously torture. Of course, the actions of the Nuremberg defendants had also been “legal” under German law.

John Brennan, who ran the CIA under President Barack Obama, made similar remarks on Tuesday when asked about Haspel. The Bush administration had decided that its torture program was legal, said Brennan, and Haspel “tried to carry out her duties at CIA to the best of her ability, even when the CIA was asked to do some very difficult things.”

Texas Republican Rep. Will Hurd used the precise language of the Nuremberg defense during a Tuesday appearance on CNN when Wolf Blitzer asked him to respond to a statement from Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.: “The Senate must do its job in scrutinizing the record and involvement of Gina Haspel in this disgraceful program.”

Hurd, a member of the House Intelligence Committee and a former CIA operative as well, told Blitzer that “this wasn’t Gina’s idea. She was following orders. … She implemented orders and was doing her job.”

Hurd also told Blitzer, “You have to remember where we were at that moment, thinking that another attack was going to happen.”

This is another defense that is explicitly illegitimate under international law. The U.N. Convention Against Torture, which was transmitted to the Senate by Ronald Reagan in 1988, states that “no exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat or war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.”

Notably, Blitzer did not have any follow-up questions for Hurd about his jarring comments.

Samantha Winograd, who served on President Obama’s National Security Council and now is an analyst for CNN, likewise used Nuremberg defense language in an appearance on the network. Haspel, she said, “was implementing the lawful orders of the president. … You could argue she should have quit because the program was so abhorrent. But she was following orders.”

Last but not least there’s Rich Lowry, editor of National Review, who issued a ringing defense of Haspel in Politico, claiming she was merely acting “in response to what she was told were lawful orders.”

Remarkably, this perspective has even seeped into the viewpoint of regular journalists. At a recent press conference at which Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul criticized Haspel, a reporter asked him to respond to “the counterargument” that “these policies were signed off by the Bush administration. … They were considered lawful at the time.”

It fell to Paul to make the obvious observation that appears to have eluded almost everyone else in official Washington: “This has been historically a question we’ve asked in every war: Is there a point at which soldiers say ‘no’? … Horrendous things happened in World War II, and people said, well, the German soldiers were just obeying orders. … I think there’s a point at which, even suffering repercussions, that if someone asks you to torture someone that you should say no.”

(Thank you to @jeanbilly545 and Scott Horton for telling me about Hurd and Paul’s remarks, respectively.)

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

AIPAC panics over progressives abandoning Israel

from mondoweiss
Philip Weiss on March 5, 2018 41 Comments

The Israel lobby group AIPAC kicked off its annual policy conference in Washington on the weekend, and speaker after speaker expressed fears that progressive Democrats are abandoning Israel. The speakers urged progressives to stay in the bipartisan fold of support for the Jewish state; they insisted that Israel is a progressive cause. But many also embraced Donald Trump and Nikki Haley– evidence of the rightwing character of Israel support, which is driving the partisan divide in our country.

Here are some of those voices.

Avi Gabbay, head of the Labor Party in Israel, said that Israel’s security is threatened if the Israel lobby fails to keep both parties together in their support.

“We must keep the support for Israel bipartisan,” he said. “This is a strategic asset for Israel’s security, and your work here today is more important today than ever before.”

Israeli opposition leader Isaac Herzog made a similar point. Israel must fight partisanship in the U.S. and “make sure that Jews of all beliefs and all strains and all denominations are working together.”

Jennifer Granholm, a Democrat and former Michigan governor, devoted much of her speech to an effort to maintain progressive support for Israel. She said she had fallen in love with the country on three visits– and cited Israeli government policies that are still progressive causes in the U.S.

“As a progressive, I saw a nation that provides universal health care, a nation that protects women’s rights and LGBT rights,” she said. “It’s a progressive’s paradise.”

Granholm went on that, “I am not blind. I won’t argue that Israel is perfect.” The country struggles to get better every day, she asserted, but she said nothing about occupation or settlements of discrimination against Palestinian citizens.

Jane Harman of the Wilson Center, a former congresswoman, said that Democrats were taking risks for support for Israel by enabling very public fights amongst themselves– witness the “jungle primary” between California Reps. Brad Sherman and Howard Berman in 2012– both of them Israel supporters– that resulted in the loss of Berman from the House.

Former Ambassador Bradley Gordon, Rep Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-FL, and Jane Harman of the Wilson Center, speaking at AIPAC policy conference, March 4, 2018. Screenshot.

Dems need to stay vigilant in support of Israel, she said, to counter the popular “fatigue about all the wars we’re in” — so that Americans “focus on the war we need to be fighting on many fronts, against malign behavior by Iran.” (A militant approach to Iran is the big policy push of the conference.)

Howard Kohr, the executive director of AIPAC, spoke angrily about the progressive defection from Israel, documented in poll after poll. Kohr suggested that anti-Zionists are homophobic and bigoted.

We welcome all who want to be part of this amazing cause, and if someone says to you, you can’t be yourself and a Zionist, if someone says to you that your Zionism makes you unwelcome in any other political movement, don’t be afraid to call that what it is. It’s bigotry, it’s discrimination, and it’s wrong.

And know this: We in the pro-Israel movement, we will ask you to do many things, but we will never demand that you change anything about yourselves. We want you the way you are. So whatever your politics or your struggle, the color of your skin, the language you speak, the faith you hold close, no matter whom you love, we want you.

Kohr spoke after a video featuring testimonials from eight Democratic congresspeople, including at least two women of color. “The best is yet to come!” said Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester, who represents Wilmington, Delaware.

AIPAC’s new president, Mort Fridman, issued an appeal to progressives.

The Progressive narrative for Israel is just as compelling and critical as the conservative one.

But there are very real forces trying to pull you out of this hall and out of this movement and we cannot let that happen. We will not let that happen.

Fridman is a supporter of an illegal Israeli settlement.

Daniel Gordis, an Israeli author, acknowledged that Israel had failed to treat Palestinians as equals, so that it’s not an easy fit for progressives. The U.S. has a “universalist” political culture, as indicated by the Declaration of Independence, which speaks of mankind. For progressives, Israel is “strange.”

“We are not a liberal democracy, we’re an ethnic democracy… Israel is in the business of perpetuating a certain people and a certain religious community. That’s its goal. That’s its business.”

Progressives are drawn to Palestinians because Palestinians are the underdogs, because of intersectional politics that link Palestinian oppression with oppressed people in the U.S., and because of the “virus” of anti-Semitism, Gordis went on. But focusing on the conflict with Palestinians is a very narrow lens with which to consider Israel, he said. The U.S. has been at war every year since World War II, but progressives manage to put those conflicts out of mind and work at other causes because they have “other fish to fry.” If progressives used the same standard when they measure Israel, he said, they would see that Israel has outstripped the U.S. in many of their dearest causes, including gun control, health care, and women’s rights (where Jews have led a “revolution”), he said.

Many of the appeals to progressives at AIPAC had the air of “pinkwashing” — a strategy of citing gay freedom in Tel Aviv in an effort to get attention off of apartheid conditions in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

More than one AIPAC speaker warned that if Israel becomes a partisan issue, the cause will be out of luck when the other party gets into the White House.

The we-are-progressive theme continues this morning at AIPAC.

“I am a progressive and I am a Zionist… working for a just and shared society,” said Rami Hod, the head of a liberal Israeli organization, the Katznelson center. He went on to attack the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS), which targets Israel for denying human rights to Palestinians. He said, “BDS shrouds itself in social justice language” thereby allowing progressive causes to “mistakenly” support BDS.

Some snark from Ron Kampeas on Hod’s message:

“We should do the exact opposite of what bds supporters advocate, we should provide a space for the multiplicity of voices,” Rami Hod says at @aipac where virtually every progressive breakout is closed press. #AIPAC2018

Even US progressives were on board for AIPAC. “This is this beacon of democracy… in a really tough.. neighborhood,” Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota said of Israel. She ascribed her support for Israel to the attentions of Minnesota advocates for the state who had brought her out to Israel when she was running for the Senate.

Klobuchar deplored the growing partisan divide over Israel. We need to “stop people from injecting partisanship into the Israel-American relationship and push back,” she said. “If you’re a Democrat reach out to Republicans.” To reach young people, she said, Israel advocates should cite the politics of climate change, immigration reform, and standing up for refugees.

Klobuchar voiced no criticisms of Israel.

Thanks to Adam Horowitz.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018


On Monday, February 5th, 2018 in Blog, News.

Why Are We Israelis So Cruel to So Many?
With the African refugees, just as with the Palestinians, we are doing the opposite of ‘what is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor.’

Amira Hass
Feb 05, 2018 1:22 AM

An asylum seeker with hands in chains at the protest in Herzliya, January 22, 2018.
An asylum seeker with hands in chains at the protest in Herzliya, January 22, 2018.Meged Gozani
The disabled will receive a ridiculously small and humiliating increase in their allowances, after long months of a heroic struggle to raise public awareness of their plight. The bureaucrats are advancing their plans for deporting African refugees to a fate of life or death by tribulations.

To know and be horrified: From where has this Jewish cruelty sprung? It contradicts so much of what we thought about ourselves for generations. What is hateful to you do not do to your neighbor (Hillel the Elder); and love thy neighbor as thyself (Leviticus). Whoever saves one life it is as if they saved an entire world (The popular version of the original from the Talmudic tractate Sanhedrin, in its universalistic phrasing: Anyone who sustains one life is praised as if they sustained an entire world).

In the self-image that we have woven for ourselves, these were our inalienable assets, and our teachers told us with pride that this was the entire Torah while standing on one foot – and this is who we are. Moral, good, caring, humane. In short: Jews.

We have sympathy for the disabled and their struggle. At long last, the people we see on television waging a battle are Jews. But if the officials from the treasury and our government feel comfortable continuing to abuse and humiliate them, it is because they know that in the end this human mass that is called the public is apathetic. Or it has adopted the Republican slogans of reducing the role of the state (as opposed to expanding its role beyond the Green Line), or it hopes that it will be spared this fate.

Opinion polls show that most Israeli Jews support deporting African refugees. This means that they happily buy the official justifications, that they are only seeking work and all the reports on the horrors they can expect when they land in Rwanda are lies spread by opponents of the deportation, who have an “agenda” (compared to the bureaucrats who represent scientific objectivism).

Journalist Gershom Gorenberg published an article last week in the Washington Post: “Israel is betraying its history by expelling African asylum-seekers.” Gorenberg spoke with Emanuel Yamani, a refugee from Eritrea, who says an Israeli official told him: “Soon we’ll deport all of you, and you’ll sit under a tree, open your mouth and wait for a banana to fall, like a monkey.”
A spokesperson for the Interior Ministry’s Population and Immigration Authority did not reply to a request from Gorenberg for a response.

Gorenberg wrote: “Every Israeli Jew knows about refugees. Some of your ancestors were refugees. Some were pushed out of Arab countries. Some managed to escape Europe before 1939. Some survived the Holocaust and had nowhere to go until Israel was established. Every Israeli Jew knows that many more would have survived if the Western world hadn’t shut its doors.” Every Palestinian also knows what refugees are, and more than knows: They themselves are displaced, refugees, children of a family of refugees or a second-class subject in their homeland. Israelis with a Russian, American, French and pure Israeli accent relate to them as those who live here due to our benevolence, in other words temporarily.

Gorenberg’s shock is authentic, but is out of place. The bitter truth is that as opposed to the headline of his article, Israel is not betraying its history – but is marching loyally in its footsteps. We always did and are still doing the opposite of “what is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor.”

The mass and systematic expulsion of Palestinians in 1948 and the destruction of their houses exposes preliminary planning and thought, not just the heat of war. History is also the present: Every day our bureaucrats and soldiers carry out some act of expulsion. What is reported in Hebrew in Haaretz passes as if it was never written, and it too is just a thousandth of a percent of the acts that the direct descendants of the Jewish refugees from Europe and Arab countries are always carrying out.

The cruelty is not found only in an active collaboration with the abuse and in the cruelty and in the process of expulsion itself. It is also found in the standing off to the side, silence and disregard. The cruelty is not innate, it is a form of practicing until you become accustomed. There is nothing easier than getting used to our becoming expellers – up to the point of complete denial – when we wrap it up in shrouds of “security” and later in apartments and villas and the promises by God to our forefather Abraham.

Deportation is not just putting them on trucks. It is also deteriorating the living conditions to such an extent that one aspires to escape from it all. We imprisoned two million Palestinians in Gaza? We have grown accustomed to it and also asked the Europeans to provide money to improve the prison conditions. Palestinian residents of Jerusalem are thrown out of the houses they have lived in for 70 years for the benefit of settlers, and by order of the court?

We have practiced it, got accustomed to it and enjoyed it. We have sentenced tens of thousands of people in the West Bank to live without a supply of running water, electricity and building rights? We have done so with fervor and diligence. We have confiscated land from the Palestinians who are citizens of Israel, and are not allocating them other land to build towns? With special joy did we did so and continue to do so.

The truth is that most Jewish Israelis do not care about cruelty against disabled Jews and African refugees, and there is no pressing reason anymore to wrap that truth in quotes from our sources. With the Palestinians we have practiced just the opposite of what those quotes preach. No God or European country has punished us, and so we have gotten used to the very bearable lightness of causing mass suffering.

Amira Hass

Friday, February 2, 2018

No, Kansas, you can’t ban contractors from boycotting Israel By The Kansas City Star Editorial Board

No, Kansas, you can’t ban contractors from boycotting Israel
By The Kansas City Star Editorial Board

January 31, 2018 04:38 PM

A federal judge in Topeka has ruled that Kansas cannot tell contractors what they can and cannot boycott. That would seem obvious to anyone familiar with free speech protections under the First Amendment.

But last summer, Kansas passed a law requiring all those who contract with the state to certify that they are not boycotting Israel.

Why? In his opinion blocking enforcement of the law while the suit by the American Civil Liberties Union continues, U.S. District Judge Daniel Crabtree wrote that its supporters in the Kansas Legislature argued that it was intended “to stop people from antagonizing Israel.”

In other words, the law is supposed to limit political speech. A similar bill proposed in Congress, the Israel Anti-Boycott Act, would criminalize such speech outright.

Have we forgotten that the American Revolution grew out of a boycott of British goods? So did the civil rights protections won through the Montgomery bus boycott.

In 1982, the Supreme Court upheld boycotts as constitutionally protected political speech. In NAACP v. Claiborne Hardware Co., the high court looked at the boycott of white-owned businesses in Port Gibson, Mississippi, and found that “speech, assembly, and petition . . . to change a social order that had consistently treated [African Americans] as second-class citizens” are “on the highest rung of the hierarchy of First Amendment values.”

That’s why Crabtree ruled that the “Supreme Court has held that the First Amendment protects the right to participate in a boycott like the one punished by the Kansas law,” which took effect July 1.

The ACLU suit challenging the law was brought on behalf of Esther Koontz, a Mennonite math curriculum coach from Wichita who had been encouraged by her church to join a boycott of Israeli companies last spring.

A couple of months after Koontz decided to stop buying Israeli products, she was invited to start coaching teachers across the state, as part of the Kansas Department of Education’s Math and Science Partnerships program.

She was eager to take on the extra work, which pays $600 a day plus expenses. But the program director told her that she first had to sign a certificate that she wasn’t boycotting Israel.

After a lot of thought, Koontz decided that she couldn’t in good conscience do that.

The program director said that in that case, she couldn’t have a contract with the state.

In its defense, Kansas argued that it would have given Koontz a waiver on religious grounds had she asked for one.

But had she reached the same conclusion on non-religious grounds, she’d still have the same right to express herself politically.

Kansas also argued that Israel might refuse to do business with or in the state if it did not punish boycotters. But it presented no evidence of any threat to the Kansas economy.

And as a thought exercise, maybe Republican proponents of the law should consider how they’d react if the state barred boycotts of Keurig, or Starbucks, or Nordstrom, or Target or the NFL.

No sale, right? No in all cases.

Monday, January 15, 2018

US media reverse Ahed Tamimi’s reality

Michael F. Brown Media Watch 15 January 2018

Ahed Tamimi began 2018 behind Israeli bars — as this protest in Gaza City emphasized. Ashraf Amra APA images
When 16-year-old Palestinian Ahed Tamimi stood up to Israeli occupation soldiers, she couldn’t have known just how much of her story mainstream US media would cut away and twist.

Salient facts – like how Ahed has spent her entire life under military occupation and Israel’s near-fatal violence against her cousin – were either ignored outright or downplayed. Others – such as the indisputable reality that Palestinian land is being stolen by Israel – were treated as if they were simply matters of opinion.

Some in the US press even presented Ahed as the aggressor, rather than the Israeli forces she challenged through mild physical contact.

Ahed’s use of slapping, kicking and angry rhetoric received more attention from David M. Halbfinger in The New York Times and especially from Dana Dovey in Newsweek than the much more harmful Israeli resort to violence, theft and seemingly permanent occupation.

The shocking photo of Muhammad Fadel Tamimi – Ahed’s 15-year-old cousin – and his misshapen head published in a 5 January Haaretz article by Gideon Levy and Alex Levac stands in stark contrast to the solitary sentence Halbfinger allotted Muhammad’s shooting in a 22 December article one week after the confrontation.

Halbfinger dispenses with Muhammad’s severe injury by stating in the 13th paragraph: “The latest incident, filmed in the family’s backyard, occurred within hours after a cousin of Ms. Tamimi’s was shot in the face with a rubber bullet, and it was streamed live on Facebook.”

Victim treated as insignificant
That’s it. There’s no mention of the fact Muhammad is a child. There’s no mention of the fact he had been in a coma. There’s not even a mention of his name.

He’s insignificant. Just another nameless Palestinian child seriously injured by Israeli forces, a routine Palestinian injury in Halbfinger’s eyes. The terror of Muhammad’s harrowing trip to hospital through an Israeli checkpoint warrants not a line.

Instead, Halbfinger reduces the day’s encounter to an Israeli debate over the wisdom of trespassing Israeli soldiers not forcefully responding to a child’s mild physical provocations on her family’s property against intrusive occupation forces. For “balance,” internal Palestinian debate is also provided.

After the brief reference to Ahed’s cousin, paragraph 14 in The New York Times makes the reactionary case against Ahed.

“Right-wing activists demanded the teenager’s arrest. Israel’s education minister, Naftali Bennett, said Ms. Tamimi and the other women who scuffled with the soldiers alongside her – her mother and an older cousin – ‘should finish their lives in prison.’”

Reference to the “other women” suggests Halbfinger regards Ahed as an adult rather than a child in the grip of an occupying army. Halbfinger fails to expose Naftali Bennett’s hypocrisy. While Bennett, leader of the Jewish Home Party wants life imprisonment for Ahed Tamimi, he argued in October 2016 that Israeli soldier Elor Azarya, who shot dead a seriously injured and incapacitated Palestinian in Hebron, “shouldn’t sit a single day in prison.”

Space was provided in The New York Times to Yossi Klein Halevi, a senior fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem, to turn reality on its head by maintaining that “when you see yourself as under permanent siege, your greatest fear is the loss of deterrence.” Yet Israeli occupation forces control Palestinian movement from both Gaza and the West Bank, not the other way around. It is Palestinians, not Israelis, who have endured a decade-long siege in Gaza.

Finally, Halbfinger reduces Israeli theft of land and water to a Palestinian claim: “The Tamimis of Nabi Saleh and their frequent videos have drawn international attention to their tiny village and its long-running disputes with a nearby Israeli settlement, Halamish, that Nabi Saleh residents say has stolen their land and water.”

Yet this is verifiable theft and not merely a claim.

In fact, Ethan Bronner, then deputy foreign editor of The New York Times, acknowledged a similar concern in an email to me in 2005 when I complained that the illegality of settlements was not simply a Palestinian perspective, but one upheld by international law.

He wrote: “You make a legitimate point here. Calling Israeli settlements illegal is not something limited to Palestinians. Many important international bodies have done so. We will take note of that in future articles. Again, as I say, the paper has no position on the legality of the settlements but the fact that many others do is worth noting when we write about the issue. We have done so on occasion, but perhaps not often or clearly enough.”

This exchange led directly to the newspaper taking greater care to note that most of the international community regards settlements as illegal.

Likewise, The New York Times should take care to note that theft of Palestinian land is not just a Palestinian perspective.

How the newspaper will reference illegal settlements and land theft during the racist tenure of Donald Trump – particularly after his Jerusalem announcement of December – remains to be seen, though Halbfinger’s article offers reasons for concern.

Grotesque tweet
No critique of US media coverage of Ahed Tamimi’s encounter and subsequent arrest would be complete without examining Dana Dovey’s coverage for Newsweek. Newsweek advertised Dovey’s article with this grotesque tweet: “Despite her age, Ahed Tamimi has a long history of assault against police and soldiers.”

Twitter exploded in response.

Many responses rewrote the headline to reflect the reality of belligerent Israeli occupation:

Astonishingly, Dovey’s article did not refer once to the Israeli occupation, theft of land in Ahed’s village, the near deadly violence employed earlier in the day against Ahed’s cousin, or the deadly violence inflicted previously against Ahed’s family.

Dangerous environment
Poor reporting of this sort has a cumulative impact on the lives and security of Palestinian children. When journalists upend reality and suggest that children are a far bigger threat than heavily armed occupation soldiers it indicates to the Israeli military that there will not be a heavy cost to Israel’s image if soldiers use deadly force against Palestinians, including children.

It was in this environment that Musab Tamimi, a relative of Ahed, was shot dead on 3 January.

Another family member, 19-year-old Muhammad Bilal Tamimi, was abducted from his home and arrested during a night raid on 11 January. He is the fifth member of the extended Tamimi family to be arrested in the last month.

The abusive rhetoric Israeli politicians and pundits have directed at Ahed creates a dangerous environment for a child – whether imprisoned or “free” in occupied territory under oppressive military rule.

The message being sent to soldiers is that greater violence should be employed against her in future. This has had deadly consequences for many Palestinians.

The administration of Donald Trump clearly is not going to intervene (and it is unlikely that Barack Obama would have expressed concern if this had occurred during his presidency). The European Union generally saves its objections for the deaths of Israelis and is disconcertingly silent regarding Palestinian deaths.

Other actors, then, will have to speak up to make sure that the Israeli military is forewarned about the consequences of (further) violent action against Ahed.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

“No Longer Should there be a Choice between Bad and Worse”: Mass protests break out in Iran Posted: January 3, 2018

from Redline
Posted: January 3, 2018

by Yassamine Mather

There has been a considerable amount of fake news about the demonstrations that started in Mashad and other towns in Khorassan province on the 28th of December 2017. These demonstrations have continued, five days later in Tehran, as well as in many other towns and cities across the country. The protesters are angry and fearless, and their grievances are reasonably clear. What began with outrage against rising prices, unemployment and poverty has evolved into more political slogans against corruption and against the dictator, Ayatollah Khameini.

Basic food prices have sky-rocketed in the last few weeks, with the price of eggs rising by 40% in a matter of days. In some of Iran’s major cities, rents have risen by 83% in the last 3 years alone. Mass unemployment is a big issue – particularly in the provinces where the protests emerged. The rate of inflation may have fallen from 35% under the presidency of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, but it remains at unsustainable levels.

Despite being controlled by the factions of the Iranian regime, the relative diversity of the media inside Iran has ensured that most Iranians are aware of, and indeed well-informed about, the multi-billion dollar corruption scandals in which all factions of the regime are implicated. Rouhani’s government, senior ayatollahs associated with more conservative factions of the regime and the former populist president Ahmadinejad (who claimed to be the defender of the disinherited) are all embroiled in corruption and embezzlement.

Ahmadinejad and his close allies are currently facing criminal charges of serious corruption in Iranian courts. But the upshot of both factions exposing their opponents’ bribery and fraud is that Iranians are increasingly conscious of the venality of the entire Islamic regime.
Contrary to initial claims by Rouhani’s allies, the protests are definitely not part of a plot by ‘conservative factions’ to discredit his government.

In Mashhad and other cities in Khorassan province, the slogans were clear that the main target of most demonstrators was Ayatollah Khamenei. In the last few days, the most common political slogans were: ‘marg bar dictator’ (Death to the Dictator!) , ‘Khamenei haya kon mamlekato raha kon’ (‘Khamenei you should be ashamed – leave the country alone’) and the more polite slogan, requesting that Khameni stand down: ‘Seyed Ali (Khamenei), excuse us. Now we have to stand up’.

In the northern city of Rasht there were initially anti-Rouhani slogans, but they soon became focused on the dictator himself. In Tehran, the student protesters’ chants were far more radical: ‘na eslahtalab na ossoul gara’ (‘No to the Reformists, no to the Conservative Principalists’); ‘Student-Worker Unity’ and ‘No Longer should there be a Choice between Bad and Worse’.

For all the claims of exiled groups in the extended publicity they receive from sections of the media, including BBC Persian radio (but, interestingly, not BBC Persian TV), these protests have nothing to do with the Royalists or the Mujahedin. Following the slogans of protesters on social media, it is apparent that pro-Shah slogans have only appeared in very isolated cases, such as in the religious city of Ghom. On one occasion, in Rasht, some in the crowd shouted slogans in favour of the Shah, prompting others to respond by calling for an Iranian republic (as opposed to an Islamic Republic). Indeed, protesters are countering possible Royalist influence by shouting ‘na mir na rahbar ,na shah na rahbar’ (‘No Kings, No Shahs, No Supreme Leaders’).

The fact that the protest in Mashad coincided with a call to protest on television made by (one of) the pretender(s) to the throne, Reza Pahlavi, should not be taken seriously. He issues such calls on a daily basis and these are very rarely heeded. No, the catalyst for the demonstrations is the hunger and suffering experienced by Iranians, lead several protesters to claim that dying is better than continuing to live as they are now.

No future in the past

However, for those Iranians who think that there was no poverty or hunger under the Shah, it might be worth reminding them of a quote by Empress Farah Diba. When informed by her advisers that ordinary people were complaining that they couldn’t afford to buy meat, she responded in true Marie Antoinette style by telling the nation that it would benefit from vegetarianism.

As for corruption, it is true that the Shah’s mistrust of everyone, including former ministers, meant that only a limited circle of individuals close to the Shahs and the court benefited from rampant state fraud. The multiplicity of factions in the Islamic regime means that a far larger group of individuals and their families are beneficiaries of global capital’s riches for the wealthy in the third world. Moreover, the so-called ‘targeted sanctions’ imposed by the West between 2007 and 2015 period allowed sections of the Islamic Republic with access to both foreign currency and internal black markets to amass astronomic fortunes. As such, the Islamic Republic is in many ways even more corrupt than the Shah’s Iran. But we live in different times.

And corruption is certainly not unique to Iran or even just to developing countries. However, in most other countries, those fed up with corrupt leaders have a chance to elect political rivals. And although it takes a relatively short time before the new rulers surpass their predecessors’ corruption , the whole process at least provides the illusion that the population has some control and can again test new leaders. But after 39 years of being in power, all factions of the Islamic Republic are steeped in corruption – even when they are in opposition.

As for democracy under the Shah, he merged what he called the ‘Yes’ and the ‘Of course’ party into one: Hezb Rastakhiz. Iran had only two daily papers, Keyhan and Etelaat. Both were pro-Shah and the lack of oppositional factions within the regime ensured that there were no exposés of dodgy dealings by the Shah’s opponents.

When it comes to repression, let us remember that the shah’s security forces, SAVAK, shot Catherine Adl, the paralyzed daughter of his own physician, while she was sitting in a wheel chair, for opposing inequality and injustice in Iran. You can guess what he did to opponents with whom he wasn’t acquainted.

Some Iranians, no doubt prompted by constant Saudi, Israeli and Western-sponsored media outlets, blame Iran’s interventions in Syria and Yemen for the worsening economic situation. This has led to nationalist slogans such as ‘No to Gaza, no to Yemen’. The regime is not blameless here either: promoting General Soleimany as an ‘Iranian’ warrior and conqueror certainly has ramifications. However, the students and youth of Tehran responded to these slogans with their own: ‘ham iran, ham ghazeh zahmtkesh taht setame’ (‘The Poor are Oppressed both in Gaza and Iran’).

Capitalist Mullahs

The real reasons behind Iran’s economic situation are more complicated than military expenditure in the Middle East. The promised economic boom following the nuclear deal has not materialised and now doubts about the future of the deal – particularly given Trump’s outspoken opposition – have created despair, especially amongst young Iranians. In responding to the riots, Rouhani claims that poverty, unemployment and inflation are not unique to Iran. This is certainly true, but what he failed to mention is that, for all its anti-Western rhetoric, the Islamic Republic is an ardent follower of the neo-liberal economic agenda.

Rouhani’s government of technocrats is rightly blamed for obeying the restructuring programmes of the IMF and the World Bank, which is one of the reasons behind the growing gap between the rich and the poor. This gap is reflective of a government that constantly strives to keep up with global capital’s demands for restructuring, for the abolition of state subsidies and for privatisation. Food subsidies have been slashed. The official rate of unemployment (12%) is a joke – the real figure is much higher, even if we take into account low-paid, precarious employment. No one has job security, unless, of course, they are associated with a stable faction the regime or the security forces.

2017 might go down as the year when neo-liberalism faced serious challenges in advanced capitalist countries. But until the recent protests, in Iran 2017 was a year in which neo-liberalism was going well – Rouhani’s government was praised for its economic performance by the World Bank and the IMF. There can be no doubt, then, that this wave of opposition took the government completely by surprise. The Ministry of Information’s pathetic calls on the population to request ‘permits to organise protests’ seems to have been ignored, for nobody believes that the state will allow such protests.

And it will certainly not allow the working class to begin to assert itself: there are calls for strikes by teachers and steel workers, but the reality is that the ‘capitalist mullahs’ (as people are calling them in the streets of Tehran) have managed to decimate the organised working class. Steel and oil workers are no longer employed by single state-owned industries. Large industrial complexes are sub-contracting every aspect of work to smaller contractors. As a result, organising industry-wide strikes, let alone nation-wide strike action (a significant factor in the overthrow of the Shah’s regime) are no longer possible.

As things stand, therefore, the protesters’ demands are quite diffuse and there is no single organising and coordinating force which can set out an alternative for the struggle. As events unfold, this factor will become all the more necessary.

There are three main things that we can do in order to support the protests in Iran:
* Show solidarity with those arrested, support the relatives of those killed by the security forces and draw attention to the government’s repressive measures.
* Remind anyone with illusions about the previous regime that it was no better than this one and provide clear examples rather than just repeating slogans or insulting those who entertain illusions in the past.
* Expose the true nature of the Islamic Republic of Iran, while reminding those hypocrites like Trump that “it is the economy stupid” – the source of the current rebellion in Iran is precisely the capitalist economic model which he and his allies are seeking to enforce across the globe.

We received the above piece from Yassamine herself; it appears on the site of Hands Off the People of Iran, here. Please support the valuable work done by HOPOI.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Why is the West praising Malala, but ignoring Ahed?
Shenila Khoja-Moolji by Shenila Khoja-Moolji

Ahed Tamimi, a 16-year-old Palestinian girl, was recently arrested in a night-time raid on her home. The Israeli authorities accuse her of "assaulting" an Israeli soldier and an officer. A day earlier she had confronted Israeli soldiers who had entered her family's backyard. The incident happened shortly after a soldier shot her 14-year-old cousin in the head with a rubber bullet, and fired tear-gas canisters directly at their home, breaking windows.

Her mother and cousin were arrested later as well. All three remain in detention.

There has been a curious lack of support for Ahed from Western feminist groups, human rights advocates and state officials who otherwise present themselves as the purveyors of human rights and champions of girls' empowerment.

Ahed, like Malala, has a substantial history of standing up against injustices.

Their campaigns on empowering girls in the global South are innumerable: Girl Up, Girl Rising, G(irls)20 Summit, Because I am a Girl, Let Girls Learn, Girl Declaration.

When 15-year-old Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head by a member of Tehrik-e-Taliban, the reaction was starkly different. Gordon Brown, the former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, issued a petition entitled "I am Malala." The UNESCO launched "Stand Up For Malala."

Malala was invited to meet then President Barack Obama, as well as the then UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, and addressed the UN General Assembly. She received numerous accolades from being named one of the 100 Most Influential People by Time magazine and Woman of the Year by Glamour magazine to being nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2013, and again in 2014 when she won.

State representatives such as Hillary Clinton and Julia Gillard as well as prominent journalists such as Nicholas Kristof spoke up in support of her. There is even a Malala Day!

But we see no #IamAhed or #StandUpForAhed campaigns making headlines. None of the usual feminist and rights groups or political figures has issued statements supporting her or reprimanding the Israeli state. No one has declared an Ahed Day. In fact, the US in the past has even denied her a visa for a speaking tour.

Ahed, like Malala, has a substantial history of standing up against injustices. She has been protesting the theft of land and water by Israeli settlers. She has endured personal sacrifice, having lost an uncle and a cousin to the occupation. Her parents and brother have been arrested time and again. Her mother has been shot in the leg. Two years ago, another video featuring her went viral - this time she was trying to protect her little brother from being taken by a soldier.

Why isn't Ahed a beneficiary of the same international outcry as Malala? Why has the reaction to Ahed been so different?

There are multiple reasons for this deafening silence. First among them is the widespread acceptance of state-sanctioned violence as legitimate. Whereas hostile actions of non-state actors such as the Taliban or Boko Haram fighters are viewed as unlawful, similar aggression by the state is often deemed appropriate.

This not only includes overt forms of violence such as drone attacks, unlawful arrests, and police brutality, but also less obvious assaults such as the allocation of resources, including land and water. The state justifies these actions by presenting the victims of its injustices as a threat to the functioning of the state.

Once declared a threat, the individual is easily reduced to bare life - a life without political value. Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben has described this as a time/place sanctioned by sovereign power where laws can be suspended; this individual can therefore now be made a target of sovereign violence. Terrorists often fall within this category. Thus, the execution of suspected terrorists through drone attacks without due judicial process ensues without much public uproar.

11-year-old Ahed cries during the funeral of her relative Rushdi Tamimi, who was shot by Israeli forces during a protest in November 2012 [Reuters/Mohamad Torokman]
The Israeli police have deployed a similar strategy here. They have argued for extendingAhed's detention because she "poses a danger" to soldiers (state representatives) and could obstruct the functioning of the state (the investigation).

Casting unarmed Palestinians like Ahed - who was simply exercising her right to protect her family's wellbeing with all the might of her 16-year-old hand - in the same light as a terrorist is unfathomable. Such framings open the way for authorising excessive torture - Israel's education minister Naftali Bennett, for instance, wants Ahed and her family to "finish their lives in prison."

Ahed's suffering also exposes the West's selective humanitarianism, whereby only particular bodies and causes are deemed worthy of intervention.

Anthropologist Miriam Ticktin argues that while the language of morality to alleviate bodily suffering has become dominant in humanitarian agencies today, only particular kinds of suffering bodies are read as worthy of this care.This includes the exceptionally violated female body and the pathologically diseased body.

Ahed's father Bassem Tamimi stands inside a waiting cell ahead of the verdict in his trial at Israel's Ofer military court near the West Bank city of Ramallah on May 20, 2012 [AP/Diaa Hadid]
Such a notion of suffering normalises labouring and exploited bodies: "these are not the exception, but the rule, and hence are disqualified."

Issues of unemployment, hunger, threat of violence, police brutality, and denigration of cultures are thus often not considered deserving of humanitarian intervention. Such forms of suffering are seen as necessary and even inevitable. Ahed, therefore, does not fit the ideal victim-subject for transnational advocacy.

Relatedly, girls like Ahed who critique settler colonialism and articulate visions of communal care are not the empowered femininity that the West wants to valourise. She seeks justice against oppression, rather than empowerment that benefits only herself.

Her feminism is political, rather than one centred on commodities and sex. Her girl power threatens to reveal the ugly face of settler-colonialism, and hence is marked as "dangerous". Her courage and fearlessness vividly render all that is wrong with this occupation.

Ahed's plight should prompt us to interrogate our selective humanitarianism. Individuals who are victims of state violence, whose activism unveils the viciousness of power, or whose rights advocacy centres communal care, deserve to be included in our vision of justice.

Even if we don't launch campaigns for Ahed, it is impossible for us to escape her call to witness the mass debilitation, displacement and dispossession of her people. As Nelson Mandela said, "We know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians."