Saturday, June 24, 2017

If You Embrace Assata, You Must Fight the Black Misleadership Class

from Black Agenda Report

Submitted by Glen Ford on Wed, 06/21/2017 - 15:02

Donald Trump’s lynch party seeking the extradition of Assata Shakur from Cuba includes every U.S. president -- most especially Barack Obama, who doubled the bounty on her head and demanded “that a home-grown Black revolutionary and escaped political prisoner be returned to captivity.” As for the Congressional Black Caucus, there is “no chance that the CBC as a body will protest either Trump’s persecution of Shakur or his general policy on Cuba.”

If You Embrace Assata, You Must Fight the Black Misleadership Class

“It is truly obscene to hear Donald Trump -- and Barack Obama -- speak of Cuban political prisoners when the U.S. still holds at least 15 former Panthers.”

Donald Trump’s vicious demonization of exiled Black Panther Assata Shakur, spat out in the course of his partial reversal of his predecessor’s “opening” to Cuba, shows once again that imperialism is a system, not a face or a political party –- and that the U.S. version of imperialism is inseparable from the white settler origins of the State.

Near the end of his presidency, Barack Obama sought to ease the terms of Washington’s half-century long, self-defeating blockade of the socialist island, while simultaneously increasing U.S. regime change efforts against Cuba’s ally, the socialist government of Venezuela. But it was Obama’s FBI that, three years ago, doubledthe state of New Jersey’s $1 million bounty on Shakur’s head -- an inducement to kidnap or assassination that Obama could have withdrawn with the stroke of a pen, but did not. Obama was prepared to adjust a policy that had resulted in the isolation of the U.S., rather than Cuba -- and which was opposed by major sectors of corporate America -- but would not yield an inch on Washington’s demand that a home-grown Black revolutionary and escaped political prisoner be returned to captivity.

“It was Obama’s FBI that, three years ago, doubled the state of New Jersey’s $1 million bounty on Shakur’s head.”

Assata represents the continuity of the centuries-long U.S. war against its Black population, a conflict that was taken to “a higher level,” as folks used to say, with the Black rebellions of the Sixties, the imposition of a mass Black incarceration regime, and the designation of the Black Panther Party as Public Enemy #1. Three generations and tens of millions of prisoners later, the Mass Black Incarceration State is more entrenched than ever; heavily armed, high tech-wired garrisons of cop-soldiers occupy cities that are rapidly ejecting their poor Black populations; and Assata Shakur is the only woman on the FBI’s Most Wanted List.

She was placed there by the nation’s First Black President, with “not a peep” from “a single black mayor or member of the Congressional Black Caucus. Not Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, and certainly not the presidential lap dog Al Sharpton,” as BAR managing editor Bruce Dixon wrote, in 2013.

A year later, in June of 2014 -- just two months before Michael Brown was gunned down by a Ferguson, Missouri, policeman -- four out of five Black Caucus members voted to continue massive transfers of Pentagon weapons and equipment to local police. As (white) Florida Congressman Alan Grayson, sponsor of the bill to outlaw the arms transfers, stated:

“These weapons are not being used to defeat terrorism on our streets. Where is the terrorism on our streets? Instead, these weapons are being used to arrest barbers and to terrorize the general population. In fact, one may venture to say that the weapons are often used by a majority to terrorize a minority.”

“Heavily armed, high tech-wired garrisons of cop-soldiers occupy cities that are rapidly ejecting their poor Black populations.”

Among the 80 percent of the Black Caucus that voted to continue the Pentagon-to-local-police arms pipeline, was Michael Brown’s “mis-representative” in Congress, William Lacy Clay.

A study conducted two years later, in 2016, revealed that Barack Obama had used the 1033 Pentagon transfers program to oversee “the biggest escalation in the history of the one-sided war against Black America." As we wrote:

“The value of military weapons, gear and equipment transferred to local cops did not exceed $34 million annually until 2010, the second year of the Obama administration, when it nearly tripled to more than $91 million. By 2014...Obama was sending three quarters of a billion dollars, more than $787 million a year, in battlefield weaponry to local police departments. In other words, President Obama oversaw a 24-fold (2,400%) increase in the militarization of local police between 2008 and 2014. Even with the scale-back announced in 2015, Obama still managed to transfer a $459 million arsenal to the cops -- 14 times as much weapons of terror and death than President Bush gifted to the local police at his high point year of 2008.”

By the numbers, Obama qualifies as “the biggest domestic war hawk in the history of the United States -- bigger than Bush, Clinton and all his predecessors since the genesis of the Black mass incarceration regime in the late Sixties.”

The 1033 program was enacted in 1997. A year later, the U.S. House unanimously passed a resolution requesting that Cuban leader Fidel Castro extradite Joanne Chesimard, aka Assata Shakur, to the United States. Two Black California congresswomen, Barbara Lee and Maxine Waters, claimed they voted for the resolution by mistake, not recognizing that Chesimard and Shakur were the same person. Waters then released a statement opposing the extradition:

“I support the right of all nations to grant political asylum to individuals fleeing political persecution. The United States grants political asylum to individuals from all over the world who successfully prove they are fleeing political persecution. Other sovereign nations have the same right, including the sovereign nation of Cuba....

“The second reason I oppose this measure, is because I respect the right of Assata Shakur to seek political asylum. Assata Shakur has maintained that she was persecuted as a result of her political beliefs and political affiliations. As a result, she left the United States and sought political asylum in Cuba, where she still resides.

“In a sad and shameful chapter of our history, during the 1960s and 1970s, many civil rights, Black Power and other politically active groups were secretly targeted by the FBI for prosecution based on their political beliefs.”

If Waters can break away from her 24-7 tirades against imaginary Russian subversion of U.S. “democracy,” she should compose a similar letter to Trump. But no such statement can yet be found on the Internet.

“Obama qualifies as ‘the biggest domestic war hawk in the history of the United States.’”

In December of 2014, attorney Martin Garbus told Democracy Now!host Amy Goodman that he was sure Shakur “will not be returned. Fidel Castro, when she came there, said that she would be allowed to stay in Cuba indefinitely. I had a meeting about a month ago with five congresspeople, including Representative Barbara Lee, and they were also absolutely clear that they would oppose any attempts on the United States to succeed that would get Assata Shakur back. So, to me, it’s absolutely clear she’s not coming back.”

We have yet to hear from the five Congressional Black Caucus members in the wake of Trump’s Miami announcement in Miami, and there is no chance that the CBC as a body will protest either Trump’s persecution of Shakur or his general policy on Cuba – despite their hatred of the Orange Menace in the White House. As a Caucus, they are easy to rile against phantom Russians, but worthless -- or worse -- when it comes to opposing U.S. wars at home and abroad. The Congressional Black Caucus voted overwhelmingly in favor of Bill Clinton’s 1994 anti-crime (pro-mass Black incarceration) bill, and all but a few CBC members supported the 1986 Anti-Drug Abuse Act with its 100-to-1 penalties for crack cocaine.

The Black Misleadership Class has proven, over the 40 years of its political hegemony in Black America, that its loyalty is to the Democratic Party and its corporate sponsors, and to the imperial system.

Shakur was more likely to reach a sympathetic ear with the Pope, whom she wrote in 1998:

“To make a long story short, I was captured in New Jersey in 1973, after being shot with both arms held in the air, and then shot again from the back. I was left on the ground to die and when I did not, I was taken to a local hospital where I was threatened, beaten and tortured. In 1977 I was convicted in a trial that can only be described as a legal lynching.

“In 1979 I was able to escape with the aid of some of my fellow comrades. I saw this as a necessary step, not only because I was innocent of the charges against me, but because I knew that in the racist legal system in the United States I would receive no justice. I was also afraid that I would be murdered in prison. I later arrived in Cuba where I am currently living in exile as a political refugee.

“The New Jersey State Police and other law enforcement officials say they want to see me brought to ‘justice.’ But I would like to know what they mean by ‘justice.’ Is torture justice? I was kept in solitary confinement for more than two years, mostly in men’s prisons. Is that justice? My lawyers were threatened with imprisonment and imprisoned. Is that justice? I was tried by an all-white jury, without even the pretext of impartiality, and then sentenced to life in prison plus 33 years. Is that justice?”

“Release of political prisoners is not visibly a high priority, even among most grassroots Black formations.”

It is correct and commendable to point out the hypocrisy of the United States, which offers a bounty on Shakur while harboring scores of real terrorists that have committed ghastly crimes against Cuba as agents of the U.S. It is truly obscene to hear Donald Trump -- and Barack Obama -- speak of Cuban political prisoners when the U.S. still holds at least 15 former Panthers, including Shakur co-defendant Sundiata Acoli, now 80 years old. ( Sekou Odinga, who was charged with helping Shakur escape, spent 33 years in prison before his release in 2014.) Moreover, since the Mass Black Incarceration State was created to crush the Black Liberation Movement, it is a political weapon, conveying a political character to all of its Black prisoners. The Black Misleadership Class has been complicit in the rise of this Black Incarceration State, as recently explored in James Foreman Jr.’s book, Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America.

Many in the broad Black Lives Matter movement express great love and admiration for Assata Shakur. Yet, release of political prisoners is not visibly a high priority, even among most grassroots Black formations -- which tends to indicate that most participants don’t anticipate that they might wind up becoming long term political prisoners, themselves.

The political activist’s only real defense lies with the people for whom she risks her life and freedom. In the end, it’s all on us.

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at

· Glen Ford's blog

Friday, June 23, 2017

Iran is no longer a theocratic juggernaut, even if Trump and friends want you to see it that way

from Mondoweiss
James North on June 22, 2017

For nearly 40 years now, Iran has been feared and hated as a Puritanical theocracy. In America and elsewhere, the prevailing image is of an austere regime, led by fanatical mullahs who are backed by masses of the Muslim faithful ready to die to defend it.

This picture, which was always at least somewhat inaccurate, is now profoundly wrong. The results in the recent presidential election in May are another sign that Iran is actually riddled with corruption, that the governing clerical elite is continuing to lose popular support, and that a growing number of Iranians, quite possibly already a majority, are no different than people elsewhere in wanting a government that respects human rights.

This picture of Iran in 2017 should raise doubts about U.S. policy in the region, which under Donald Trump is now aligned completely with Israel’s: Iran is supposedly unified, powerful and expanding, so it must be confronted everywhere. A sober look should also further discredit the Orientalist analysis of the Middle East, and its corollary, the Clash of Civilizations theory. Iran also reminds us of a universal human truth; wherever you have religion, you will also sooner or later find religious hypocrisy.

One of the best reports appeared in the May 16 Financial Times, (“Election Exposes Iran’s Deep Divisions,” unfortunately behind a paywall). Najmeh Bozorgmehr’s long article explained that the relaxation of international sanctions after the 2016 Iran nuclear deal did not end economic stagnation. Youth unemployment is at least 26 percent, probably much higher, and a third of the country is living in “absolute poverty.” This is not the profile of a nation that is a plausible threat to conquer the rest of the Middle East.

Corruption in Iran is becoming more glaring. Bozorgmehr reports that the elite Revolutionary Guards, long regarded as the pious shock troops of the theocracy, in fact have more earthly reasons for their loyalty; they control a business empire that is worth $100 billion.

One Iranian official told Bozorgmehr why new high-class apartments are rising in Tehran instead of the low-income housing the regime had promised:

These luxurious buildings are merely tips of an iceberg, which is the astronomical wealth of those who have no records of any innovative business or industrial and manufacturing work. Wealth accumulated over a short time is usually [the result] of special advantages of those linked to power centers . . .

The Financial Times finding of mega-corruption and repression is amplified in a just-published book: Democracy in Iran: Why It Failed and How it Might Succeed. The author, Misagh Parsa, is a professor at Dartmouth, and his study, although well-written, is a touch dry and academic. But as he piles on the evidence, his work becomes both a crushing indictment of the theocratic regime, and an inspiring chronicle of the widespread, continuing and brave resistance. It turns out that corruption may have even reached as high as the son of the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who is alleged to have taken 1.5 billion euros from oil revenues.

Professor Parsa explains that the Khamenei regime turned even more repressive after its candidate almost certainly lost the 2009 presidential election to the reformers. Iranians poured into the streets for huge post-election demonstrations, one of which attracted three million people, until the Revolutionary Guards cracked down. The regime arrested 4000 people in the months after the vote and put to death 115 of them, one of the highest rates of executions in the world. Some 100,000 fled Iran, and the candidates who supposedly lost in 2009 are still under house arrest.

But the resistance continues. The ongoing economic stagnation and corruption is regarded as the major reason that the more moderate candidate, Hassan Rouhani, comfortably won re-election on May 19. No one is suggesting that Iran is on the verge of a democratic revolution. But the portrait of a sinister Islamic juggernaut, the view that unites Benjamin Netanyahu, Donald Trump and the King of Saudi Arabia, is seriously out of date.

Iran today is another blow to the tottering Clash of Civilizations theory. Samuel Huntington, its main proponent, argued 20 years ago that “Islam” was unifying, preparing to expand beyond its already “bloody borders.” He claimed that the world was witnessing a “reduction or suspension of antagonisms within the Muslim world,” as “old differences among Muslims shrank in importance compared with the overriding difference between Islam and the West.”

Huntington died in 2004, so he is not around to squirm as his theory to fails to explain the vicious “intra-Muslim” civil war in Syria, and he would be stupefied by Donald Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia to strengthen the anti-Iran alliance between the U.S., Israel, and the most fundamentalist branch of his “Islam.”

Clash of Civilizations is inspired partly by the philosophy of Orientalism, which has as one central tenet the conviction that Muslims are different than other kinds of human beings. Unlike the rest of us, Muslims are not mainly motivated by the daily reality they face. Instead, Muslims act after consulting their sacred texts, and then, robot-like, they join with other Muslims to ruthlessly spread their religion.

But Iranian Muslims turn out to be not all that different from people elsewhere. Some are surely genuinely religious (and Professor Parsa reports that many of the most sincerely pious have turned against the theocratic regime). Certain other Iranians are hypocrites, who have used religion to consolidate political power and amass great wealth. But quite possibly a majority of Iranians see through that hypocrisy, and demand the same rights as Americans or Europeans; freedom to express themselves without fear of arrest or execution, to form independent labor unions, and to choose their leaders instead of being ruled by unelected, thieving theocrats.

And an inspiring number of Iranians are prepared to risk their freedom and even their lives to resist. Here is just one of them: Bahareh Hedayat, a 36-year-old student leader and activist for women’s rights, was sentenced to 10 years in prison in 2010 for “insulting the president” and “disrupting public order through participating in illegal gatherings.” The regime forced her to serve more than 6 years of her sentence before releasing her in September 2016, even though her health had deteriorated sharply in prison.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Democratic pro-Israel clone fails to take Georgia seat

from The Electric IntifadA

Michael F. Brown Power Suits 21 June 2017

Jon Ossoff, Democratic candidate in Georgia’s 6th District, lost the most expensive US House race in history. (via
Pundits and politicians billed Democrat Jon Ossoff versus Republican Karen Handel as a major referendum on the first few months of the Trump administration.

Democrats poured tens of millions of dollars into the effort to flip Georgia’s 6th District, helping to make it the most expensive US House race in history. But on Tuesday Republicans held the conservative stronghold by a margin of 52-48 percent.

Democrats have now lost all four special elections to replace Republicans who joined President Donald Trump’s cabinet, including in Montana where the Republican candidate physically attacked a journalist just hours before election day.

Ossoff ran a centrist campaign, trying to pull right-wing voters – exactly the kind of strategy that failed to put Hillary Clinton into the White House. Ossoff was also cautious in referencing Trump – one of the most unpopular presidents since polling began.

According to Kamau Franklin, editor of the Atlanta Black Star, this strategy “is just wrong.” By tacking to the right on issues like healthcare and the economy, Ossoff failed to galvanize the Democratic base.

Franklin predicts that Ossoff’s defeat will reignite the “civil war” within the party between the centrist Clinton-Obama wing and the more progressive wing that gravitates toward Senator Bernie Sanders.

Tough and ignorant
Domestic issues, of course, drove this vote, but Democrats also missed opportunities to distinguish themselves on foreign policy.

Like other Democrats foisted on voters by party leaders, Ossoff engaged in “me-tooism” to show just how tough – and ignorant – he could be when it comes to the Middle East, particularly the question of Palestine and the Israelis.

Both candidates emphasized their support for Israel.

Ossoff listed 13 priorities on his campaign website. “US-Israel relations” ranked sixth. Constituents might have been surprised to learn he put Israel before national security, veterans, seniors, the environment, education, criminal justice and fighting corruption.

It’s difficult to discern if Handel orders her priorities any differently. She listed eight issues on her website with “Israel” coming fourth, before “jobs and the economy.” But her list – unlike Ossoff’s – was in alphabetical order.

Ossoff declared he is “committed to Israel’s security as a homeland for the Jewish people and to strengthening the historic, unbreakable bond between the United States and Israel.”

Noting he has twice traveled to Israel, he affirmed his “deep personal relationships with family who live in Jerusalem and many friends who live in Israel.” In his view, Palestinians appear to count for less.

The victor Karen Handel sounded indistinguishable, emphasizing that the “United States and Israel share a remarkable friendship” and various “shared objectives” such as to “defeat terrorism.”

Both made boilerplate nods towards “peace.” But neither offered a word about the imperative ethical need to end the Israeli occupation, let alone about respecting the right of return of Palestinian refugees and ensuring equal rights for all.

Georgia’s 6th District was previously held for 20 years by Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker and Republican presidential hopeful who declared in 2012 that the Palestinians are an “invented people.”

Gingrich, who was re-elected repeatedly despite – or perhaps because of – a history of bigotry, was currying favor with billionaire casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, a major backer of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and big donor to anti-Palestinian causes.

A political group tied to Adelson reportedly spent more than $6 million dollars to defeat Ossoff.

Brutal mentors
Minimally qualified, Ossoff touted that while an undergraduate at Georgetown University he “studied under Madeleine Albright and former Israeli Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren.”

These are scarcely badges of honor, but they indicate that Ossoff, as a representative of the Democratic establishment, offered no break from interventionist foreign policies that have brought injustice and catastrophe on a global scale.

When she was secretary of state in the Clinton administration in the 1990s, Albright notoriously defended sanctions that killed an estimated 500,000 children in Iraq. Challenged by 60 Minutes’ Lesley Stahl whether inflicting such suffering could be justified, Albright answered, “we think the price is worth it.”

Oren, Ossoff’s other mentor, is currently a minister in Netanyahu’s government.

Oren lied in a 2014 interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer about the killings by Israeli forces of Nadim Nuwara and Muhammad Abu al-Thahir, two Palestinian children shot dead in cold blood on video during a Nakba Day protest a few days earlier.

Oren indicated on television – days after they were killed – that it was not certain that the two boys were even dead.

In order to generate this bogus doubt, he cited the videotaped shooting of 12-year-old Muhammad al-Dura in Gaza in 2000 at the outset of the second intifada, which generated worldwide outrage.

Oren recycled the far-right conspiracy theory that the shooting had been staged, even questioning whether the child “was shot at all.”

At the time, Oren was described by CNN as merely a “Middle East analyst,” as if he had not spent many years as a soldier in Israel’s army and an official apologist for its policies.

It is a damning indicator that Oren can be uncontroversially cited by a Democratic candidate with no party leaders challenging Ossoff for promoting his connection to an anti-Palestinian racist who engages in grotesque fabrications and conspiracy theories.

Time for radical break
National polling indicates that core constituencies increasingly disagree with the pro-Israel positions taken by Democratic candidates.

Majorities of Americans also support radical breaks on domestic policy – such as a single-payer healthcare system.

Yet in the race for Georgia’s 6th District, the Democratic establishment rallied around a candidate who opposes single-payer and stuck to the traditional script on foreign policy.

Defying conventional wisdom that voters only want right-wing populism or bland centrism, Britain’s Labour Party this month surged to its most successful general election performance in years on a platform of left-wing policies championed by Jeremy Corbyn, a leader with a lifelong record of supporting Palestinian rights.

After a string of defeats, it is an example Democrats urgently need to study.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Why Is One Pro-Israel Group Desperate To Keep You From Watching This Video?

Why Is One Pro-Israel Group Desperate To Keep You From Watching This Video?

Peter BeinartJune 21, 2017facebook

When it comes to Palestinians, the American Jewish establishment is in the ignorance business. The average American synagogue has never hosted a Palestinian speaker. The average “pro-Israel” activist has never read a book by a Palestinian author. The American Jewish philanthropists who fund Birthright send thousands of young American Jews to Israel each year, on a program that systematically excludes the voices of 50% of the people who live under Israeli control.

But that’s not the worst part. The worst part is that for major American Jewish organizations, ignorance is an export. It is not enough that American Jewish leaders never hear from Palestinians themselves — they do their best to ensure that American politicians don’t, either.

Consider the sequence of events that began on June 8. On that day, an advocacy group called No Way To Treat a Child hosted a panel discussion on Capitol Hill. That’s not unusual. Advocacy organizations hold panel discussions on Capitol Hill all the time; the location makes it easier for congressional staff to attend. What made this one unusual was its subject: the Palestinian experience under Israeli control.

You can watch the panel online. The first speaker was Omar Shakir, the Israel-Palestine director of Human Rights Watch. In dry, rather clinical, terms, Shakir discussed some of the consequences of the fact that West Bank Palestinians are subjects, not citizens, of Israel. He noted, for instance, that in Area C, which encompasses roughly 60% of the West Bank, it is “nearly impossible for Palestinians to obtain a permit to build a home.” When Palestinians build without a permit, the Israeli government often demolishes their homes.

Following him was Brad Parker, a staff attorney at Defense for Children Palestine. Observing that, according to the most recent statistics, Israel holds hundreds of Palestinians between the ages of 12 and 17 in its jails, often for stone throwing, Parker explained that the Israeli military frequently arrests Palestinian children at night. They are often bound, blindfolded and transported to a military installation, where they wait until morning before being interrogated without a lawyer and without their parents knowing where they are. They “essentially disappear for 24, 48, 96 hours.” Then they are generally prosecuted in military courts where the conviction rate approaches 100%.

Following Parker was Yazan Meqbil, a young West Bank Palestinian attending college in the United States, who talked about growing up in a house repeatedly slated for demolition. “Every single day,” he said, “I used to wake up hoping my house will not be demolished.” Meqbil ended his remarks by saying: “Palestinians, we all have a dream, to be free, to live like normal human beings. To not be afraid whenever we leave our homes.”

The final speaker was Nadia Ben-Youssef, who works for Adalah–-The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel. She stressed the links between Israel’s treatment of Palestinians in the West Bank and its treatment of Palestinian citizens inside Israel proper. Israel’s Palestinian citizens, she noted, lived under military law until 1966. And even today, she argued, inside the Green Line, Israel privileges Jews over non-Jews in important ways.

I offer this summation to illustrate the shamelessness of the attack that followed. In a video posted June 12, The Israel Project, which is led by former AIPAC spokesman Josh Block, called the event an “anti-Israel hatefest” filled with “hate speech.” Notice the Orwellian turn.

According to The Israel Project, it is not hateful to hold millions of West Bank Palestinians for 50 years as non-citizens, without due process, free movement or the right to vote for the government that controls their lives. It is hateful to criticize Israel for doing so. By that standard, the 2012 documentary “The Gatekeepers,” which featured former heads of the Shin Bet calling Israel’s occupation of the West Bank “brutal,” “colonial” and “unbearable,” was an “anti-Israel hatefest,” too.

Then came the inevitable insinuation of anti-Semitism. As menacing music played in the background, the video declares that while the panel pretended to be “about human rights,” the speakers “couldn’t stop talking about Jews.” Actually, the panel was entirely about human rights. But, as if uncovering a terrible offense, the video noted that panelists had 17 times used the phrases “Jewish,” “Jewish state,” “Jewish people,” “Jewish citizens” or “Jews.” How sinister! I’m sure Josh Block never uses such despicable phrases when speaking about Israel.

New Approach: The head of The Israel Project, Josh Block, right, and David Hazony appear at a launch of the group?s new publication, The Tower.
New Leader Josh Block Gives Makeover to The Israel Project
Nathan GuttmanApril 2, 2013
In fact, two of Shakir’s uses of the word “Jewish” came from quotations. He quoted the State Department as calling settlement growth “inconsistent with Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state,” and President Obama as saying that settlement growth undermines “Israel as both Jewish and a democracy.” Then again, everyone knows that Obama and the State Department are anti-Semitic, too.

Most of the references to Jews came from Nadia Ben-Youssef. The video quoted her as saying that “Israel was established as a Jewish state to privilege the rights of Jewish people,” and referring to “this Jewish state that is premised on the basis that you must have greater rights, so that means more Jewish people than anyone else in that land.” The video never explained what’s incorrect or odious about those statements. Their hatefulness is presumably self-evident.

But both statements are true. Yes, Israel’s Declaration of Independence speaks about ensuring “complete equality of social and political rights… irrespective of religion, race or sex.” And yes, Palestinians inside Israel proper (as opposed to Palestinians in the West Bank) enjoy citizenship and the right to vote. But Israel was also explicitly founded to represent and safeguard the Jewish people, and that inevitably privileges Jews over non-Jews.

Jews who immigrate to Israel, for instance, gain citizenship on day one. For non-Jews who wish to immigrate to Israel, by contrast, including Palestinian refugees born inside Israel’s borders, gaining citizenship is virtually impossible. Israel’s flag contains a Jewish star; its national anthem speaks of “the Jewish soul.” In these symbolic ways, too, Israel privileges Jews over non-Jews. As for Israel’s effort to maintain a Jewish majority so that Jews can control the destiny of the state, that’s hardly a secret. It’s a goal that the Israeli government and mainstream American Jewish organizations proudly endorse.

Israel is not the only country on earth to face a tension between its desire to protect and nurture one ethno-religious community and its commitment to provide equality under the law. Many European democracies have immigration policies that favor a dominant ethnic group. Many have crosses on their flags. The 2003 Palestinian Constitution states that “the Palestinian people are part of the Arab nation” and that “the principles of Islamic Shari’a shall be the main source of legislation.” So if a Palestinian state is ever created, it will likely wrestle with the tension between ethnic nationalism and democracy, too.

I believe that in a post-Holocaust world, it’s important to have one country on earth that assumes a special obligation to protect Jewish life. The goal, therefore, should be to minimize the tension between Jewish statehood and liberal democracy as much as possible, while acknowledging that you can never erase it entirely. The challenge, as Martin Buber once put it, is to “do no more injustice to others than we are forced to do in order to exist.”

Zionist thinkers like Chaim Gans and Alexander Yakobson and Amnon Rubinstein have sought to meet that challenge. But doing so honestly requires acknowledging that all forms of Jewish statehood entail some moral costs, and that some are more morally defensible than others.

These are the kinds of debates that the American Jewish establishment fears. It fears them because such debates give Palestinians a voice. Given the influence that American Jewish groups wield in Washington, it’s far easier to simply deny Palestinians a platform. That’s why The Israel Project ends its video by urging people to call Rep. Mark Pocan, who authorized No Way To Treat a Child to use a room on Capitol Hill, and “demand that he condemn the event.” The goal is to scare members of Congress so they don’t facilitate such discussions again.

The deep, dark secret of the American Jewish establishment is that its leaders are not equipped to respond to smart Palestinian critics of Israel. They’re not familiar enough with the realities of Palestinian life under Israeli control. So having built itself a cocoon that shuts out Palestinian voices, the American Jewish establishment insists that Congress live inside that cocoon too. Because if the cocoon cracks, American politicians, and the American public, will realize how intellectually weak the American Jewish establishment actually is.

When it comes to Israel, the organized American Jewish community would rather bully than think. That’s what happens when power corrupts. It doesn’t only make you immoral. It makes you dumb.

Peter Beinart is a Forward senior columnist and contributing editor. Listen to “Fault Lines,” his podcast with Daniel Gordis here or on iTunes.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Forward.
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Democrats Have a Bigger Problem Than Jill Stein

from truthdig

Posted on Jun 20, 2017

Jill Stein is back in the spotlight.

In the past few weeks, a number of interviews with the former Green Party presidential candidate have popped up—and with them comes the inevitable ire of the Democratic Party.

Stein has faced this wave of criticism before, and it doesn’t seem to bother her. Earlier in June, she spoke with The Intercept’s Jeremy Scahill on his “Intercepted” podcast to discuss liberal accusations that her campaign took crucial votes away from Hillary Clinton.

“We’ve got to find a reason. We’ve got to blame somebody,” Stein says of the mentality of voters who see her as a “spoiler.”

“That said,” she continues, “it’s really important to stand back and realize that the solution for a democracy on life support is not less democracy. Silencing political opposition is a very dangerous thing to do.”

She expressed similar sentiments in an interview with Ben Schreckinger for Politico Magazine. “I consider it a great honor that the party and our prior campaign for president is suddenly being attacked outside of an election season,” she told him, adding that she doesn’t have any regrets about her 2016 presidential bid.

Stein’s comments in these interviews and on social media have prompted backlash. The left-leaning site Jezebel ran a story attacking her for her “infuriating” point of view. Keith Olbermann, who has a Twitter following of 972,000, called Stein an “imbecile” in a tweet earlier this month. Neera Tanden, president of the policy research organization Center for American Progress, also used Twitter to blame Stein for rising tensions in Syria. Even Schreckinger latched on to the assumption that Stein may have something to apologize for, running his interview with her under the title “Jill Stein Isn’t Sorry.”

Stein is probably used to intense criticism—she faced plenty of it when she was running for president. And as Schreckinger notes, there are some issues, such as her relationship with the Russian government, that may merit a closer look (although she addresses this topic in detail during her interview with Scahill, lambasting the “neo-McCarthyism” currently at play in American politics). But the Democrats’ insistence that Stein is partly to blame for Donald Trump’s election overlooks a more insidious element of American politics: nonvoters, or those who showed up at a polling place in 2016 and neglected to cast a vote for president.

Meagan Day of The Week explains:

There are two categories of non-two-party votes in the contemporary American political climate, and they’re regarded differently. The first is the third-party vote, which, especially on the left side of the aisle, is considered burglary. The second is total abstention, which is considered inevitable, and therefore hardly factors into the mainstream media’s election postmortems. In neither scenario does the losing major party (in this case the Democrats) take responsibility for failing to move potential voters to act on its behalf.

“But,” you may protest, “Donald Trump won by a margin smaller than the number of Green Party votes in key states, particularly the Upper Midwest!” And you’re right, that’s true. Take Michigan: Trump won Michigan by 13,225 votes, while Jill Stein walked away with 51,463 votes. Clearly, if all of those people had voted for Hillary Clinton instead of Stein, Clinton would have won Michigan. (Whether Stein votes ought to be otherwise considered shoo-in Democrat votes is a separate matter.)

If these are the only variables of interest to us — the number of ballots affirmatively cast for Trump, Clinton, Stein, and maybe Johnson — then yeah, the Stein-as-spoiler argument makes some sense. But here’s another number, one that ought to change your perspective: 87,810. That’s how many Michigan voters showed up to the polls, cast ballots, and declined to vote for a presidential candidate at all.

Day goes on to explain that in the swing states of Michigan, Maine, Florida and Arizona, “the undervote total was larger than the margin of victory.”

“And what is an undervote but an intentional expression of distaste for the prospects on offer?” Day ponders. “Apparently these voters found the presidential choices too unappetizing for even a clothespin vote.”

Also worth mentioning, of course, is the problem of low voter turnout. “Nearly three million Michiganders joined the roughly 40 percent of eligible American adults who declined to vote at all last year,” Day writes. “In Michigan, those eligible nonvoters were 200 times larger than Trump’s margin of victory.”

These nonvoters represent a critical problem in both the Democratic and the Republican parties, in that nonvoters tend to be poor or working-class people of color. Day writes:

Nonvoters are far less likely to identify with one of the major parties. And who can blame them? While it’s unfair and ill-advised to completely elide the differences between Democrats and Republicans, the fact remains that neither party has a proven track record of robustly demanding and taking consistent steps to ensure that everyone is paid a living wage, has access to health care, has quality public education — even where the provision of those basic goods and services contravenes corporate or donor-class interests. ...

Without a functional safety net, poor and working-class people have a hard time in America, and neither party is truly committed to fixing that.

“The only reason the [minuscule] Stein vote totals matter to anyone is that, deep down, they take the political inactivity of poor people — especially poor people of color — for granted,” Day concludes. And yet liberal media repeatedly utilize its platform to attack Stein for speaking up about poverty, the environment and inequality.

“We need a political process that creates multi-partisan democracy. That’s really where democracies get their best shot at moving forward and solving our crises,” Stein told Scahill in her “Intercepted” interview. “Let’s create the democracy that enables us to choose the candidates that we want.”

—Posted by Emma Niles.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Cuba’s Formal Response to Trump’s Speech on Policy Changes

Posted on Jun 18, 2017

Below is the full statement released Friday by the Cuban government.

On June 16, 2017, US President Donald Trump delivered a speech full of hostile anti-Cuban rhetoric reminiscent of the times of open confrontation with our country in a Miami theater. He announced his government’s Cuba policy, which rolls back the progress achieved over the last two years since December 17, 2014, when Presidents Raúl Castro and Barack Obama announced the decision to re-establish diplomatic relations and engage in a process towards the normalization of bilateral relations.

In what constitutes a setback in the relations between both countries, President Trump, gave a speech and signed a policy directive titled “National Security Presidential Memorandum”, which provides the elimination of private educational “people-to-people” exchanges and greater control over all travelers to Cuba, as well as the prohibition of business, trade and financial transactions between US companies and certain Cuban companies linked to the Armed Revolutionary Forces and the intelligence and security services, under the alleged objective of depriving us from income. The US president justified this policy with alleged concerns over the human rights situation in Cuba and the need to rigorously enforce the US blockade laws, conditioning its lifting, as well as any improvements in US-Cuba bilateral relations to our country’s making changes inherent to its constitutional order.

Trump also abrogated Presidential Policy Directive “Normalization of Relations between the United States and Cuba”, issued by President Obama on October 14, 2016. Although said Directive did not conceal the interventionist character of the US policy nor the fact that its main purpose was to advance US interests in order to bring about changes in the economic, political and social systems of our country, it did recognize Cuba’s independence, sovereignty and self-determination and the Cuban government as a legitimate and equal interlocutor, as well as the benefits that a civilized coexistence would have for both countries and peoples despite the great differences that exist between both governments. The Directive also conceded that the blockade is an obsolete policy and that it should be lifted.

Once again, the US Government resorts to coercive methods of the past when it adopts measures aimed at stepping up the blockade, effective since February 1962, which not only causes harm and deprivations to the Cuban people and is the main obstacle to our economic development, but also affects the sovereignty and interests of other countries, which arouses international rejection.

The measures announced impose additional obstacles to the already very limited opportunities that the US business sector had in order to trade with and invest in Cuba.

Likewise, those measures restrict even more the right of US citizens to visit our country, which was already limited due to the obligation of using discriminatory licenses, at a moment when the US Congress, echoing the feelings of broad sectors of that society, calls not only for an end to the travel ban, but also for the elimination of the restrictions on the trade with Cuba.

The measures announced by President Trump run counter to the majority support of the US public opinion, including the Cuban emigration in that country, to the total lifting of the blockade and the establishment of normal relations between Cuba and the United States.

Instead, the US President, who has been once again ill-advised, is taking decisions that favor the political interests of an irrational minority of Cuban origin in the state of Florida which, out of petty motivations, does not give up its intent to punish Cuba and its people for exercising the legitimate and sovereign right of being free and having taken the reins of their own destiny.

Later on, we shall make a deeper analysis of the scope and implications of the announcement.

The Government of Cuba condemns the new measures to tighten the blockade, which are doomed to failure, as has been repeatedly evidenced in the past, for they will not succeed in their purpose to weaken the Revolution or bend the Cuban people, whose resistance against aggressions of all sorts and origins has been put to the test throughout almost six decades.

The Government of Cuba rejects political manipulation and double standards in human rights. The Cuban people enjoy fundamental rights and freedoms and can proudly show some achievements that are still a chimera for many countries of the world, including the United States, such as the right to health, education and social security; equal pay for equal work, children’s rights as well as the rights to food, peace and development. Cuba, with its modest resources, has also contributed to the improvement of the human rights situation in many countries of the world, despite the limitations inherent to its condition as a blockaded country.

The United States are not in the position to teach us lessons. We have serious concerns about the respect for and guarantees of human rights in that country, where there are numerous cases of murders, brutality and abuses by the police, particularly against the African-American population; the right to life is violated as a result of the deaths caused by fire arms; child labor is exploited and there are serious manifestations of racial discrimination; there is a threat to impose more restrictions on medical services, which will leave 23 million persons without health insurance; there is unequal pay between men and women; migrants and refugees, particularly those who come from Islamic countries, are marginalized; there is an attempt to put up walls that discriminate against and denigrate neighbor countries; and international commitments to preserve the environment and address climate change are abandoned.

Also a source of concern are the human rights violations by the United States in other countries, such as the arbitrary detention of tens of prisoners in the territory illegally occupied by the US Naval Base in Guantánamo, Cuba, where even torture has been applied; extrajudicial executions and the death of civilians caused by drones; as well as the wars unleashed against countries like Iraq, under false pretenses like the possession of weapons of mass destruction, with disastrous consequences for the peace, security and stability in the Middle East.

It should be recalled that Cuba is a State Party to 44 international human rights instruments, while the US is only a State Party to 18. Therefore, we have much to show, say and defend.

Upon confirming the decision to re-establish diplomatic relations, Cuba and the United States ratified their intention to develop respectful and cooperative relations between both peoples and governments, based on the principles and purposes enshrined in the UN Charter. In its Declaration issued on July 1, 2015, the Revolutionary Government of Cuba reaffirmed that “these relations must be founded on absolute respect for our independence and sovereignty; the inalienable right of every State to choose its political, economic, social and cultural system, without interference in any form; and sovereign equality and reciprocity, which constitute inalienable principles of International Law”, as was established in the Proclamation of Latin America and the Caribbean as a Zone of Peace, signed by the Heads of State and Government of the Community of Latin America and Caribbean States (CELAC), at its second summit held in Havana. Cuba has not renounced these principles, nor will it ever do so.

The Government of Cuba reiterates its will to continue a respectful and cooperative dialogue on topics of mutual interest, as well as the negotiation of outstanding issues with the US Government. During the last two years it has been evidenced that both countries, as was repeatedly expressed by the President of the Councils of State and of Ministers, Army General Raúl Castro Ruz, can cooperate and coexist in a civilized manner, respecting the differences and promoting everything that benefits both nations and peoples, but it should not be expected that, in order to achieve that, Cuba would make concessions inherent to its sovereignty and independence, or accept preconditions of any sort.

Any strategy aimed at changing the political, economic and social system in Cuba, either through pressures and impositions or by using more subtle methods, shall be doomed to failure.

The changes that need to be made in Cuba, as those that have been made since 1959 and the ones that we are introducing now as part of the process to update our economic and social system, will continue to be sovereignly determined by the Cuban people.

Just as we have been doing since the triumph of the Revolution on January 1st, 1959, we will take on every risk and shall continue to advance steadfastly and confidently in the construction of a sovereign, independent, socialist, democratic, prosperous and sustainable nation.

Havana, June 16, 2017.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Ain't No Notion: new blues album from Random Chance Records

Street date is 6/16/2017 Available from Amazon, Itunes, retail outlets and other locations

Blues Harp Master Martin Lang with Oscar Wilson, Rusty Zinn, Billy Flynn, Jimmy Upstairs, and others