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.

Support
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."


Saturday, December 23, 2017

Friday, December 22, 2017

FORGET COATES VS. WEST — WE ALL HAVE A DUTY TO CONFRONT THE FULL REACH OF U.S. EMPIRE

from The Intercept
Naomi Klein, Opal Tometi

December 21 2017, 11:18 a.m.

SO, WHICH SIDE are you on? #TeamWest or #TeamCoates?

Choose fast, preferably within seconds, and don’t come to this gunfight with a knife. No, like some nerdy Rambo, we want you greased up and loaded with ammo: your most painful character smears, your most “gotcha” evidence of past political infractions, a blitzkrieg of hyperlinks and, of course, an aircraft carrier of reaction GIFs.

That’s pretty much how the online debate has played out ever since Cornel West published his piece in The Guardian challenging Ta-Nehisi Coates, an article you either regard as an outrageous injustice or an earth-shattering truth bomb, depending on which team you have chosen.

We see it differently. We see this debate as a political opportunity, one that has far less to do with either of these brilliant men and everything to do with how, at a time of unfathomably high stakes, we are going to build a multiracial human rights movement capable of beating back surging white supremacy and rapidly concentrating corporate power. As women, both Black and white, both American and Canadian, we see the question like this: What are the duties of radicals and progressives inside relatively wealthy countries to the world beyond our national borders? A warming world wracked by expanding and unending wars that our governments wage, finance, and arm — a world scarred by unbearable poverty and forced migration?

Though West directed his criticisms at Coates, these are by no means questions for Coates alone. They are urgent challenges for all of us who see ourselves as part of social movements and intellectual traditions that yearn for a world where justice and dignity abound.

What are the duties of radicals and progressives inside relatively wealthy countries to the world beyond our national borders?
So before this goes any further, let’s yank this fight away from the poisonous terrain on which it is currently unfolding — that of two famous men with healthy egos duking it out while the Twitterverse divides into warring camps — and instead dig into the substance.

Let’s also take it as a given that West’s piece was flawed and painted Coates with too broad a brush. It accuses him of silence on some subjects where he has, in fact, been vocal (like the financial sector’s role in entrenching Black poverty). And as the New Yorker’s Jelani Cobb pointed out, the man who has done more to revive the debate about Black reparations than any writer of his generation cannot blithely be written off as a neoliberal tool.

But that does not change the fact that West raises crucial points when he critiques Coates for having too little to say about the impact of U.S. military and economic policies abroad, for failing to place U.S. experiences in a broader context of U.S. imperial power, and for casting Barack Obama as the continuation of the legacy of Malcolm X (whom West describes as “the greatest prophetic voice against the American Empire,” while Obama is “the first Black head of the American Empire”).

Where we differ is that we don’t think these criticisms apply just (or even especially) to Coates. Nor do we think this debate should be viewed as an exclusively Black discussion, as some have argued (which is why we decided to write this together). Rather, these questions about our relationship to empire and transnational capital are ones that every progressive movement and intellectual across North America should urgently confront, and we are convinced that if we do, we will be stronger for it.

To be clear, we are not saying that every writer has a duty to write about everything. No one does. Nor do we think that the subject matter for which Coates is known — Black life in the United States — is somehow insufficient. It isn’t. And yet hard questions remain that cannot be dismissed simply become some dislike the messenger or the form of the message.

Such as: Is it even possible to be a voice for transformational change without a clear position on the brutal wars and occupations waged with U.S. weapons? Is it possible to have a credible critique of Wall Street’s impact on Black and other vulnerable communities in the U.S. without reckoning with the predatory and neocolonial impacts of the global financial system (including Washington-based institutions like the International Monetary Fund) on the debt-laden economies of African countries?

Is it even possible to be a voice for transformational change without a clear position on the brutal wars and occupations waged with U.S. weapons?
Even when our work is primarily focused nationally or hyperlocally, as it is for most organizers and writers, there is still a pressing need for an internationalist conception of power to inform our analysis. This is not a contradiction. In fact, it used to be foundational to all major radical and progressive movements, from the socialist internationals to Pan-Africanism and the global campaign to end apartheid in South Africa, from the “alter-globalization” movement to the international women’s movement. All understood that resistance needed to be global in order to win. Marcus Garvey, for instance, drew ideas and inspiration for Black liberation from the Irish struggle for independence. And Malcolm X famously observed that when racial minorities in the U.S. saw their struggle in a global context, they had the empowering realization that they were, in fact, part of a broad and powerful majority.

We are not saying that this internationalist tradition is entirely absent in contemporary North American movements — there have been Black activist delegations to Colombia, Brazil, and Palestine in recent years. The climate justice movement is linked to frontline fights against fossil fuel extraction in every corner of the globe. And the immigrant rights movement is internationalist by definition. So are parts of the movement confronting sexual violence. We could go on.

But it is also true that the atmosphere of intense political crisis in the United States is breeding a near myopic insularity among progressives and even some self-described radicals, one that is not just morally dangerous but strategically shortsighted. By defining our work exclusively as what goes on inside our borders, and losing touch with the rich anti-imperialist tradition, we risk depriving our movements of the revolutionary power that flows from cross-border exchanges of both wisdom and tactics.

For instance, if U.S. President Donald Trump is seen in isolation from the rise of far-right forces around the world, we lose opportunities to learn from people in Brazil, Argentina, the Philippines, South Africa, India, Turkey, and Togo about how they are resisting their various strongmen. Because if we have learned anything over the past years of left-wing setbacks and disappointments, from Syriza in Greece to Maduro in Venezuela to the dashed dreams of the Arab Spring, it should be that the forces shaping national destinies are global. International lenders, Western military support for despots, or even a sudden drop in oil prices can all thwart or derail a liberation project that has defined itself too narrowly.

Which is why it’s high time to change the subject from West vs. Coates, and begin the much more salient debate about what we all can do to rediscover the power of a genuinely internationalist, anti-imperialist worldview. A power that our movement ancestors well understood.

Because there is simply no way to fight for a world in which Black lives truly matter without reckoning with the global forces that allow Black lives to disappear under waves in the Mediterranean, or to be mutilated and enslaved in countries like Libya, or to be snuffed out by debt imposed by Washington-based financial institutions.

The same is true of climate change, which is hitting people in the global south first and worst. It has been reported that of the top 10 nations most impacted by climate change, six are on the continent of Africa. Similarly, there is no way to fight for the full funding of public schools and free universal health care inside the United States without confronting the vastly expanding share of the budget that goes to feeding the war machine.

The immigrant rights movement is the most internationalist of our movements, but we still need to do more to connect the dots between rights and justice for migrants within countries like the United States and Canada, and the drivers of migration in places like Mexico and Ghana, whether it is pro-corporate trade and economic policies that destabilize domestic industries, or U.S.-backed wars, or drought deepened by climate change.

Our movements simply cannot afford to stick to our various comfort zones or offload internationalism as someone else’s responsibility.
The unending misery in Haiti may be the most vivid illustration of how today’s crises are all interrelated. On the island, serial natural disasters, some linked to climate change, are being layered on top of illegitimate foreign debts and coupled with gross negligence by the international aid industry, as well as acute U.S.-lead efforts to destabilize and under-develop the country. These compounding forces have led tens of thousands of Haitians to migrate to the United States in recent years, where they come face-to-face with Trump’s anti-Black, anti-immigrant agenda. Many are now fleeing to Canada, where hundreds if not thousands could face deportation. We can’t pry these various cross-border crises apart, nor should we.

IN SHORT, THERE is no radicalism — Black or otherwise — that ends at the national boundaries of our countries, especially the wealthiest and most heavily armed nation on earth. From the worldwide reach of the financial sector to the rapidly expanding battlefield of U.S. Special Operations to the fact that carbon pollution respects no borders, the forces we are all up against are global. So, too, are the crises we face, from the rise of white supremacy, ethno-chauvinism, and authoritarian strongmen to the fact that more people are being forced from their homes than at any point since World War II. If our movements are to succeed, we will need both analysis and strategies that reflect these truths about our world.

Some argue for staying in our lane, and undoubtedly there is a place for deep expertise. The political reality, however, is that the U.S. government doesn’t stay in its lane and never has — it spends public dollars using its military and economic might to turn the world into a battlefield, and it does so in the name of all of U.S. citizens.

As a result, our movements simply cannot afford to stick to our various comfort zones or offload internationalism as someone else’s responsibility. To do so would be grossly negligent of our geopolitical power, our own agency, as well as our very real connections to people and places throughout the world. So when we build cross-sector alliances and cross-issue solidarity, those relationships cannot be confined to our own nations or even our own hemisphere — not in a world as interconnected as ours. We have to strive for them to be as global as the forces we are up against.

We know this can seem overwhelming at a time when so many domestic crises are coming to a head and so many of us are being pushed beyond the breaking point. But it is worth remembering that our movement ancestors formed international alliances and placed their struggles within a global narrative not out of a sense of guilt or obligation, but because they understood that it made them stronger and more likely to win at home — and that strength terrified their enemies.

Besides, the benefit of building a broad-based, multiracial social movement — which should surely be the end goal of all serious organizers and radical intellectuals — is that movements can have a division of labor, with different specialists focusing on different areas, united by broad agreement about overall vision and goals. That’s what a real movement looks like.

The good news is that grassroots internationalism has never been easier. From cellphones to social media, we have opportunities to speak with one another across borders that our predecessors couldn’t have dreamed of. Similarly, tools that allow migrant families to stay connected with loved ones in different countries can also become conduits for social movements to hear news that the corporate media ignores. We are able, for instance, to learn about the pro-democracy movements growing in strength across the continent of Africa, as well as efforts to stop extrajudicial killings in countries like Brazil. Many would not have known that Black African migrants are being enslaved in Libya if it had not been for these same tools. And had they not known they wouldn’t have been able to engage in acts of necessary solidarity.

So let’s leave narrow, nostalgic nationalism to Donald Trump and his delusional #MAGA supporters. The forces waging war on bodies and the planet are irreversibly global, and we are vastly stronger when we build global movements capable of confronting them at every turn.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Yes, America, There Is a Class War, and You Just Lost It

from truthdig

DEC 20, 2017JUAN COLE

The Republican Party did not just overhaul the tax code and they did not cut “your” taxes. They engineered a coup against the middle and working classes and they threw enormous amounts of public money to private billionaires and multi-millionaires.

Americans do not understand this sort of con game because mostly they don’t understand social class. They often don’t even believe in the latter. But really, not all households in the US are equal. Some have more income than others. Some have more power than others. And as with the Trumps, that wealth and power can be passed on to the next generation.

We’re not all middle class. That would make a mockery of the word “middle,” which implies that there are lower and upper classes. Some of us are working class, some are middle class, some are upper middle class, and some are rich. Policies that help the rich by cutting their taxes do not help the working and middle classes. They actively harm the latter by making less money available for government services and by devaluing the dollar.

The Republican Party mainly represents the rich. It also reaches out to rural people and claims to help them, but it is all lies. It mainly represents the rich.

Alabama routinely votes Republican. Alabama is one of the poorest states in the country. The Republicans aren’t actually doing anything for Alabama, except maybe making them feel good about themselves by buttering them up, or indulging them in their weird idea that fundamentalist Christianity should dictate social policy to 320 million Americans, who do not share those values.

The rich in the United States use American highways, and American wifi, and depend on the FBI to keep them from getting kidnapped. But they don’t want to pay for those things. They want you to pay for them even though they use them much more. I get angry when I see those trucks on the highway with the sign that they payed $9277 in tolls and fees last year to be on the highway. Trucks are the ones that tear up the highways and force us to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to rebuild. Their fees and tolls don’t come close to paying for the damage they do. So the costs are offloaded.

Onto us?

Onto us.

There are about 126 million households in the United States. One percent of them would be 1.26 million households. That is about the size of the city of Los Angeles. There are one hundred groups of 1.26 million households in the US, i.e. 100 Los Angeleses worth of households. Those one hundred groups are not equal in wealth. The bottom 100th of American households doesn’t have a pot to pee in.

The Republican Party slavishly serves the top 1.26 million households. That’s who they report to. That’s who sent them to Congress, through their campaign donations. They don’t care about you and they did not just now do you any favors.

The wealthiest one percent owns about 38 percent of the privately held wealth in the United States. In the 1950s, the top 1% only owned about 25 percent of the privately held wealth. A Republican was in the White House, Dwight Eisenhower. He was not a left wing guy. But he worried about corporations combining with government officials to become way more powerful. The last time wealth inequality was this high was just before the Great Depression. Think about that.


h/t Center for Budget & Policy Priorities

Americans’ wealth amounts to about $88 trillion. If you divided up all the privately held wealth equally, every household in the US would be worth $698,000. That is, they’d all have their own home plus substantial investments.

But needless to say, the wealth isn’t divided up equally. The top ten percent of households, 12.6 million households own 76% of the privately held wealth. That is, 10 of our notional 100 Los Angeleses own three-fourths of the wealth.

So just to be clear, of our 100 Los Angeleses worth of households, 90 of them own only 24 percent of the wealth.

So how did the top one percent go from having 25% of the privately held wealth to having 38%?

In some large part, it was tax policy. In the Eisenhower administration the top marginal tax rate was 91%, and the highest bracket of earners paid 90% in income tax. Progressive income tax was intended to keep the society from getting too out of kilter and to prevent wealth from becoming concentrated in a few hands.

h/t Fact and Myth.

There is no evidence, zero, that these tax policies hurt economic growth or hampered job creation.

Eisenhower’s tax policy was repealed over time, especially by Ronald Reagan. Reagan pulled the familiar scam of promising that tax cuts would pay for themselves by encouraging entrepreneurs to invest and to hire.

Instead, the government deficit ballooned (that’s what happens if you cut taxes but leave spending programs in place) .

And not only were all boats not lifted by Reagan’s rising tide, most of them were sunk. The average wage of an average worker is not higher now than it was in 1970.

The economy has grown enormously since 1970. So if workers did not get a share in the newly created wealth, who has it?

The 1%?

The 1%.

Think about tax policy as a snowblower aimed a a single point. Snow builds up at the point where the snowblower is facing. If you keep aiming at that point as you clean the snow, you’ll get an enormous hill of snow. There will be no snow to speak of on the driveway. There will just be an artificial mounta

So that is what the Republican Congress just did. They revved up the snowblower and they pointed it at a small mountain of already-accumulated snow, so that they will make the mountain larger.

This tax bill won’t create jobs, won’t spur investment, and won’t bring companies back home. It will make the 1.26 million households even more fabulously wealthy than they already are, and ensure that the rest of us get poorer.

When you cut taxes, you are cutting government services. There will be less money for the things the government does– education, funding science, dealing with national health crises, road building, dealing with interstate crime, etc.

And the super-wealthy who bought the politicians and made them pass this law? They just got ‘way richer and have every reason to be jubilant.

Friday, December 15, 2017

New York students ask court to end ban on Palestine club

from the electric intifada
Nora Barrows-Friedman Activism and BDS Beat 13 December 2017


Students are fighting the Fordham University administration in court and in the streets over its decision to ban Students for Justice in Palestine. (Fordham SJP Facebook)
Students at Fordham University in New York have taken a new step in a legal battle to lift a ban on a Palestine solidarity group.

In a lawsuit filed with the New York state supreme court, activists at the Jesuit college are demanding that it overturn a unilateral decision by the dean of students, Keith Eldredge, to ban Students for Justice in Palestine in December 2016.

His decision, which students and lawyers say was based on the students’ political views, vetoed the student government’s approval of an SJP chapter a month earlier.

During the year-long application process, students seeking to found the club were questioned repeatedly about their personal political opinions, affiliations with outside human rights and Jewish organizations and their views on the Palestinian-led boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement.

Students sued the university in April of this year, alleging that the private university violates its own free expression policies and is engaged in viewpoint discrimination.

In June, the university tried to block the students’ lawsuit, prompting students to file a motion weeks later in opposition.

The new order, which was filed in early November, seeks to force the university to recognize SJP as an official club. It also asks the court to allow the students’ legal team to gather testimonies from Eldredge and other administrators, and to have administrators disclose documents, including emails and notes, related to their decision to deny SJP its club status.

Unless the court overturns the ban, students will graduate “before their right to advocate for Palestinian human rights on campus can be vindicated,” states Palestine Legal, a firm which is representing the students along with the Center for Constitutional Rights.

Prevented from making flyers
While the SJP chapter is banned, students cannot organize speaking events, reserve meeting spaces, distribute or post materials or solicit potential members through group fairs, the legal group adds.

“We’ve been fighting so hard to become a club,” student Julie Norris told The Electronic Intifada. “All we’re trying to do is be able to invite a speaker to campus, or make a flyer.”

The court filing reasserts that the Fordham administration’s veto of the student government’s approval of SJP was “arbitrary and capricious,” say the attorneys.

The university has attempted to justify its ban on the club by claiming that SJP’s existence could lead to “disruptive” conduct.

Fordham “disregarded evidence” that countered these claims, the attorneys say, “instead basing its decision on materials from individuals hostile to SJP’s views.”

“Last resort”
“Filing a lawsuit is definitely a last resort,” attorney Radhika Sainath of Palestine Legal told The Electronic Intifada.

Students would much rather “go forward and be organizers and activists and put on their educational programming. No one wants to be in court,” she said. “But Fordham gave these students no choice.”

Sainath explained that the legal filings send a strong message to the Fordham authorities to show that they cannot violate their own rules just because they don’t like the message of students’ speech, and to other universities considering similar measures against SJP chapters.

“Students supporting Palestinians’ rights are going to take their rights seriously and they’re going to enforce them in court if their rights are violated,” Sainath said.

Norris said that despite the legal hurdles, the students remain optimistic. “I think about the way that Palestinians have had to have that optimistic spirit for so long – where they know that Palestine will be free eventually and they’re not giving that up for anything,” she said.

“No matter how many classes of students it takes, we’re going to eventually win. If the majority of us have graduated or not, we will make it.”

A hearing on the court order is set for early January.