Wednesday, April 18, 2018

The Cult of Violence Always Kills the Left

by Chris Hedges, from Truthdig

APR 16, 2018

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.—The Weather Underground, a clandestine revolutionary organization that advocated violence, was seen by my father and other clergy members who were involved in Vietnam anti-war protests as one of the most self-destructive forces on the left. These members of the clergy, many of whom, including my father, were World War II veterans, had often became ministers because of their experiences in the war. They understood the poison of violence. One of the most prominent leaders of Clergy and Laymen Concerned About Vietnam (CALCAV), to which my father belonged, was the Catholic priest Philip Berrigan, who as an Army second lieutenant fought in the Battle of the Bulge.

The young radicals of the Vietnam era, including Mark Rudd—who in 1968 as a leader of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) led the occupation of five buildings at Columbia University and later helped form the Weather Underground—did not turn to those on the religious left whose personal experiences with violence might have saved SDS, the Weather Underground and the student anti-war movement from self-immolation. Blinded by hubris and infected with moral purity, the members of the Weather Underground saw themselves as the only real revolutionaries. And they embarked, as have those in today’s black bloc and antifa, on a campaign that was counterproductive to the social justice goals they said they advocated.

Rudd, 50 years later, plays the role once played by the priests Phil and Daniel Berrigan and Rabbi Abraham Heschel. His book “Underground: My Life With SDS and the Weathermen” is a brutally honest deconstruction of the dangerous myths that captivated him as a young man. I suspect that many of those in the black bloc and antifa will no more listen to his wisdom than did the young radicals five decades ago who dismissed the warnings from those on the religious left for whom violence was not an abstraction. Rudd sees his old self in the masked faces of the black bloc and antifa, groups that advocate violence and property destruction in the name of anti-fascism. These faces, he said, ignite his deep embers of “shame and guilt.”

“It’s word for word the same thing,” Rudd said of antifa and the black bloc when we spoke for several hours recently in Albuquerque. “You look on a YouTube channel like Acting Out. It’s identical. How can we as white people stand by while the nonwhite people of the world are suffering under imperialism? I think the shame of being white in this society is so great [that] people want to show that they’re aware of how terrible the disparities are, and how privilege and oppression distort everything. The urge to talk about violence and commit violence in response is a way of cleansing yourself of that privilege, of the guilt of privilege. It taps into this strain that I’ve identified as self-expression rather than strategy. That, to me, is the biggest problem.”


“The anarchist Andy Cornell makes a distinction between activism and organizing,” he said. “Activism is about self-expression. It often is a substitute for strategy. Strategic organizing is about results. These acts of self-expression, which is what antifa does and what we did in the Weather Underground, are exactly what the cops want.”

“The slogan ‘diversity of tactics’ used by the black bloc and antifa is ridiculous,” he said. “Even the term ‘tactic’ is ridiculous. What we need is a strategy. And let’s be clear, even when you adopt a nonviolent strategy it will be portrayed by the state as violent. This is what the Israelis are doing at the Gaza fence. I often tell the antifa kids here—there are about four antifa kids in Albuquerque and they hate my guts—this story. There was a spontaneous anti-war demonstration in 2003 by a thousand people in Albuquerque the night the [Iraq] war began. The cops, who support the military, were angry. They attacked the crowd with tear gas and clubs. There were a lot of arrests. The victims brought a civil suit against the police. It did not come to trial until 2011. The police and the city of Albuquerque were the defendants. They were charged with violating the rights of the protesters. It was a jury trial. The jury found for the cops. Why? It turned out the police attorneys brought in a photograph. There were about 200 or 300 people in the photograph. In the front were two people wearing bandannas [as masks]. Just wearing bandannas. They zoomed in on the people wearing the bandannas. They told the jury, ‘See these people wearing these bandannas? They’re wearing bandannas because they’re terrorists. And we knew they were about to attack us. So, we had to attack them.’ The jury went for it. We had not yet convinced our fellow citizens of the value of the right to protest. My conclusion: Don’t wear bandannas! Every time I see a kid wearing a bandanna, I say, ‘You’re so beautiful, why cover your face?’ They say, ‘Well, I have to, I’m a Zapatista.’ I say that’s nice but this is what happened in 2003 and 2011. It would probably be better for you to not wear the bandanna so they won’t think we’re violent. And they say, ‘You’re a stupid piece of shit’ or they walk away.”

Rudd said that the occupation of Columbia University in April 1968, an occupation that caused him to be expelled from the university, was an example of the kind of strategy that the left has to adopt. This strategy had its roots in the organizing techniques of the labor and civil rights movement.

“The means of transmission were red diaper babies,’ he said, referring to the sons and daughters of members of the United States Communist Party. “The red diaper babies at Columbia SDS kept saying, ‘Build the base. Build the base. Build the base.’ It became a mantra for years. It was all we could think about. This meant education, confrontation and talking, talking, talking. It meant building relationships and alliances. It meant don’t get too far out in front. In the spring of 1968 it all came to a head. It was the perfect storm. A few of us knew, now is the time to strike.”

“Columbia was a success,” he said. “The deed attracted attention. And because of the alliance with the black students, which has never gotten enough media attention in the story of Columbia, we closed down the university. We accomplished our strategic aim, which was to politicize more people and to build the movement. Our goal was not to end the university’s involvement with military research. That was a symbolic goal. The real goal was to build the movement. I got into a lot of trouble for saying the issue is not the issue.”

But Rudd and other radicals in the SDS soon became, he said, “enamored with the propaganda of the deed.” Self-expression replaced strategy. The organizing, which had made the occupation of the university successful, was replaced by revolutionary posturing. The radicals believed that more radical tactics, including violence, would accelerate political and social change. It did the opposite.

“After Columbia, it was failure after failure after failure in SDS for the next year and a half,” he said. “Then we doubled down on the failures.”

The SDS radicals came under the spell of revolutionary theories propagated by those supporting armed liberation movements in the developing world. They wanted to transplant Frantz Fanon’s call for revolutionary violence, Lin Biao’s idea of “people’s war” and Ernesto “Che” Guevara foco, or insurrectionary center, to the struggle in the United States. The radicals would go underground and carry out acts of violence that would ignite a national war of liberation. This call to arms was seductive and exhilarating, but it was based on a distorted and highly selective account of revolutionary struggle, especially in Cuba.

“Che put forward a phony analysis of how the Cuban revolution was won,” Rudd said. “According to him it was won solely by Fidel and Che going into the Sierra Maestra [mountain range]. Armed struggle was the only thing that was important to the Cuban revolution. All other aspects of the revolution, including 20,000 people who were murdered by [dictator Fulgencio] Batista in the cities, the national strikes by the unions, the street protests by women, university students and the Cuban Communist Party were wiped out of history. There was only one thing to do, pick up the gun.”

The cult of the gun was disastrous. It distorted reality. It elevated violence as the only real tool for revolution. Vijay Prashad in his book “The Darker Nations” spells out the incalculable damage caused by this cult, including the doomed attempt in 1967 by Che Guevara to form a foco in Bolivia, an effort that would cost him his life. The cult of the gun saw most third-world liberation movements, such as the National Liberation Front (FLN) in Algeria, devolve into squalid military dictatorships when they took power.

“My little segment of the left worshipped Che,” Rudd said. “We believed in the propaganda of the deed. We were so sure of our strategy, of leading the armed struggle, that we decided to destroy SDS and build the Weather Underground, a revolutionary fighting force. We decided on a tactic, which was to bring thousands of people to Chicago in 1969 for the conspiracy trial [of radicals such as Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin and Tom Hayden, charged with instigating riots during the 1968 Democratic Convention]. Very few people showed up. We got creamed with beatings, arrests, and even shootings by the cops.”

“After that we went from bad organizing to no organizing,” Rudd said. “It was purely about self-expression. That self-expression would take the form of bombs. The first thing we did was kill three of our own people.”

The premature explosion of a bomb in a New York City townhouse on March 6, 1970, that killed three of Rudd’s comrades sobered the radical group. The bomb was to have been placed at an officers’ dance at Fort Dix, in New Jersey. It surely would have killed and wounded dozens of people had it exploded at the Army base. The Weather Underground decided to bomb buildings that symbolized centers of power, including the Pentagon, the U.S. Capitol, the California attorney general’s office and a New York City police station, but to call in warnings beforehand so the buildings could be evacuated. The group was responsible for 25 bombings and in 1970 organized the prison escape of Timothy Leary, the famous advocate of psychedelic drugs, for which the group was paid $25,000 by the Brotherhood of Eternal Love, a collection of drug dealers.

“A lot of Americans can accept their government’s violence, but they can’t conceive of political violence as anything other than criminal and mentally ill,” Rudd said. “And who has all the power, in terms of violence? Our means of violence is very little. The government’s means, the right wing’s means, are very great. So, we’ve got to adopt nonviolence. The research of Erica Chenoweth and others has shown that nonviolence is much more efficacious than violence. Gene Sharp approaches nonviolence from a practical rather than a moral point of view. It is the difference between moral pacifism and practical pacifism. The antifa kids are not moral pacifists. They believe in a cleansing moral violence. At its base is a desire to absolve themselves of white guilt.”

Rudd cautioned against the danger of intellectualizing the struggle against oppressive forces. He said all resistance had to remain rooted in practical realities and the hard, often anonymous and time-consuming work of organizing.

“As intellectuals, we can talk ourselves into anything,” Rudd said. “If we think it’s necessary we can probably figure out how to do it. David Gilbert is one of the gentlest people I have ever met. Yet he somehow talked himself into driving a getaway van with a bunch of black guys armed with automatic weapons. Gilbert left his kid at a daycare center, thinking he was going back at the end of the day to pick the kid up. Nobody picked up the kid. This is ludicrous. And that’s the point; you can talk yourself into anything. I have a bumper sticker on the back of my car that says don’t believe everything that you think.”

Rudd is acutely aware of the failure by most liberals to fight for the values they purport to defend. However, the repeated betrayal of the oppressed by the liberal class as it mouths the language of justice should not push radicals to acts of violence. Rather, radicals must make strategic alliances with liberals while being fully aware of their propensity to flee from struggle when it becomes difficult.

“The Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee [SNCC] was a sister organization of SDS,” Rudd said. “They decided to go to the absolute worst place in the United States, Mississippi, to organize for voting rights. And they did. They lost a lot of people. A lot of people got arrested and beaten. A lot of stuff happened over a three-year period. But they won the right to vote. They organized a non-segregationist democratic delegation called the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party. The real Democratic Party delegation was all-white. The Democratic Party worked out a deal with their allies in the North including the United Auto Workers and other liberals. They would seat the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party at the Democratic Party Convention. They would exclude the segregationists. Busloads of mostly black people went to Atlantic City [site of the convention]. Lyndon Johnson had a change of heart. He feared if he seated the black delegates he would lose re-election. They didn’t get seated. That was an ultimate betrayal. Out of this betrayal came the impetus for black power. Black power was supposedly a strategy. But it was no more a strategy than the Weather Underground. It was another form of self-expression.”

“I was 18,” Rudd said. “I saw heroic SNCC people advocating for black power. The liberals betrayed them. Which side would you be on? Black power rejected the nonviolence of Martin Luther King. It rejected integration. Malcolm X used the slogan ‘By any means necessary.’ This was seized upon to justify revolutionary violence. It was the same fantasy of revolution. Black power was no more embraced by the black masses than the violence and rhetoric of the Weather Underground were embraced by the white masses. In the end, the white left became the base of the Black Panther Party. The Panther 21 was set up on charges of a bombing in April 1969. SDS in New York, which I was a part of, protested to defend them. Our demonstrations became more and more white. The black base was not behind them. I thought the reason was our presence. I was so steeped in black power ideology I thought the mere presence of white people would keep black people away. That wasn’t it. Black power made no sense to most black people. It was suicidal. Huey P. Newton’s autobiography, “Revolutionary Suicide,” captured it. What kind of a strategy is that? The black power movement was a cultural uprising. But it was not strategic. We fell for this bullshit.”

“White radicals felt personally challenged by black power,” he said. “Would we be liberals or would we be radicals? Would we go to the base, to the origin of the problem, which is capitalism and imperialism? Would we embrace ‘by any means necessary’? Would we overthrow the system? Or would we be liberal reformists? When you’re 18 or 20 that’s not much of a question. This is why David Gilbert is in prison for the rest of his life.”

“What we did was a historical crime,” he said of the destruction of the SDS. “At the height of the war in 1969 we decided to close down the national and regional offices and the newspaper of the largest student radical organization in the country. SDS had chapters in 400 campuses. We probably had 100,000 active members. It was crazy. Three of our people died immediately. We inspired copycat actions. One of them happened in the University of Wisconsin in the summer of 1970. An anti-war graduate student died. Eventually, it led to the Brink’s robbery in 1981. The worst thing of all, of all the things we did, was we split the anti-war movement over the bogus issue of armed struggle, our right to an armed struggle. This is the same thing as the call by antifa for diversity of tactics, which is a code word for violence.”

“The thing about nonviolence is that it works,” he said. “But it only works if it’s total. The cops put the burden of violence on protesters. Our job is to do the opposite. Our job is to make it crystal clear it’s the government and the system that engages violence. We muddy the water when we use violence.”

“The left has not hit on a strategy analogous to the far-right strategy, which is to unite ideological conservatives with a base, especially the Christian fundamentalist base,” he said. “A base means people show up. They vote. They go where they’re told. That was the old union model for the Democratic Party. But with unions depleted we have no institutional or structural base. This is a huge problem. We have to rebuild structures. It’s going to take a long time, maybe 20 or 40 years. I’ll be 110.”

“Antifa claims to be anarchist,” he said. “But is not the same anarchism as, say, the Wobblies. Antifa’s version of anarchism is you can’t tell me what to do. It’s self-expression. I fell into the trap of self-expression. Self-expression is narcissistic. It’s saying my feelings are so important that I can do anything I want. It’s saying once other people see how important my feelings are they will join me. It never works. There’s only two kinds of people who advocate for violence—very stupid people, of which I was one, and cops. Which are you? Are you very stupid or are you a cop?”

“I can’t communicate with antifa because my own PTSD forbids me to say you are so morally right, so courageous and so morally pure,” Rudd said. “You understand how violent the system is. You understand what it’s like to be nonwhite. I understand your motives. I applaud you for it. This is the only thing they hear, words that feed their self-adulation.”

“I’m a veteran of all of this shit,” he lamented. “But that doesn’t count for anything. It’s all expired.”

Chris Hedges
Chris Hedges is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, New York Times best selling author, former professor at Princeton University, activist and ordained Presbyterian minister. He has written 11 books,…
Chris Hedges
Mr. Fish
Mr. Fish, also known as Dwayne Booth, is a cartoonist who primarily creates for and Mr. Fish's work has also appeared nationally in The Los Angeles Times, The Village Voice, Vanity…
Mr. Fish

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

from Mondoweiss

Bret Stephens and Bari Weiss can’t wait to call you an anti-Semite in ‘The New York Times’
US Politics Philip Weiss on April 2,2018

One year ago, the New York Times opinion page hired two feverish Israel advocates, Bret Stephens and Bari Weiss, as columnist and opinion editor/writer, in a shock to the left. The two are proving their value, smearing critics of Israel as anti-Semites. This is an important duty for Israel supporters because of the looming battle inside the Democratic Party over Israel, the same battle that has begun in earnest in Britain and France.

Last Wednesday in a book review, Bret Stephens slagged Israel critics John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt as bigots. In a throwaway line, Stephens wrote that Mearsheimer’s “2001 magnum opus, ‘The Tragedy of Great Power Politics,’ was later overshadowed by his tendentious and bigoted screed, ‘The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy,’ written with Stephen M. Walt.”

So– two realist scholars at the University of Chicago and Harvard who argued that support for Israel is not in our national interest, and that neoconservatives had pushed the Iraq war for the sake of Israel’s security — they are bigots. And the Times offered no comment section on the piece for readers to question this clinker of viciousness from Stephens, a writer who has diagnosed the “disease of the Arab mind.”

A day later, Bari Weiss wrote that the far left in France is as threatening to Jews as the far right. Addressing the murder of an 85-year-old Jewish woman in Paris, she said that in France’s political culture, “Jews are reviled on the far right and, increasingly, on the far left.”

What is Weiss’s evidence that the left is as anti-semitic as the nationalist right? An article in the Jewish Week saying French socialist leader Jean-Luc Melenchon is an anti-Semite because he: supports boycott of Israel, regards West Bank settlements as theft, condemned Israeli “war crimes” in the last Gaza massacre, and has attacked the French Israel lobby for rallying French citizens to serve a foreign flag.

Weiss– who got her career rolling by attacking any candidate for tenure at Columbia who supported Palestinian rights– says leftists are giving a pass to anti-Semitism: “attacks on Jews have been explained away as politically motivated by events in the Middle East.”

These were just two throwaway lines, tangential to the thrust of the articles. But Weiss and Stephens can’t help themselves, they’re raring to go.

Theirs is an important job because it is simply a matter of time before the battle that is roiling Britain over Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn harboring anti-Israel voices is going to come here: The progressive base of the Democratic Party in the U.S. is going to demand stances against Israel from Democratic candidates. The glimmerings of this battle were evident at the AIPAC policy conference earlier this month, when one politician or influencer after another rose to assure the crowd that support for Israel must remain bipartisan; that Democrats will never abandon Israel. In turn, Democratic leader Chuck Schumer identified the defection of young progressives as an existential threat to Israel. He laid down the law, saying that the boycott movement is anti-Semitic. (But the young are not listening: even the Harvard Hillel is having an anti-occupation seder, with IfNotNow.)

Bari Weiss and Bret Stephens will be instrumental in this battle: they will derogate Israel’s critics as anti-Semites. And Jennifer Rubin will do the same thing at the Washington Post.

These writers are anti-Trump, making them “good” conservatives for liberals. Notice what a red carpet that liberal Democrats unroll for them. Mel Levine and MSNBC toast Rubin. Bill Maher fetes Weiss. Brian Lehrer of WNYC hosts Stephens (who explains that Pompeo and Bolton are a great foreign policy team, and Lehrer barely demurs). BTW, Stephens likens Trump to Mussolini even as he finds democracy alive and well in Israel.

It is tragic that the highest journalistic platform in the country has been turned into a pro-Israel inktank. But plainly that is the role that the New York Times editors understand that its opinion page must play; and no wonder, for it is a vital political function for Israel in the U.S.

Thanks to Donald Johnson.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

US Smooths Israel's Path to Annexing West Bank

from The Palestinian Chronicle

By Jonathan Cook - Nazareth
Seemingly unrelated events all point to a tectonic shift in which Israel has begun preparing the ground to annex the occupied Palestinian territories.
Last week, during an address to students in New York, Israel's education minister Naftali Bennett publicly disavowed even the notion of a Palestinian state. "We are done with that," he said. "They have a Palestinian state in Gaza."
Later in Washington, Bennett, who heads Israel's settler movement, said Israel would manage the fallout from annexing the West Bank, just as it had with its annexation of the Syrian Golan in 1980.
International opposition would dissipate, he said. "After two months it fades away and 20 years later and 40 years later, [the territory is] still ours."
Back home, Israel has proven such words are not hollow.
The parliament passed a law last month that brings three academic institutions, including Ariel University, all located in illegal West Bank settlements, under the authority of Israel's Higher Education Council. Until now, they were overseen by a military body.
The move marks a symbolic and legal sea change. Israel has effectively expanded its civilian sovereignty into the West Bank. It is a covert but tangible first step towards annexation.
In a sign of how the idea of annexation is now entirely mainstream, Israeli university heads mutely accepted the change, even though it exposes them both to intensified action from the growing international boycott (BDS) movement and potentially to European sanctions on scientific co-operation.
Additional bills extending Israeli law to the settlements are in the pipeline. In fact, far-right justice minister Ayelet Shaked has insisted that those drafting new legislation indicate how it can also be applied in the West Bank.
According to Peace Now, she and Israeli law chiefs are devising new pretexts to seize Palestinian territory. She has called the separation between Israel and the occupied territories required by international law "an injustice that has lasted 50 years".
After the higher education law passed, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his party Israel would "act intelligently" to extend unnoticed its sovereignty into the West Bank. "This is a process with historic consequences," he said.
That accords with a vote by his Likud party's central committee in December that unanimously backed annexation.
The government is already working on legislation to bring some West Bank settlements under Jerusalem municipal control - annexation via the back door. This month officials gave themselves additional powers to expel Palestinians from Jerusalem for "disloyalty".
Yousef Jabareen, a Palestinian member of the Israeli parliament, warned that Israel had accelerated its annexation programme from "creeping to running".
Notably, Netanyahu has said the government's plans are being co-ordinated with the Trump administration. It was a statement he later retracted under pressure.
But all evidence suggests that Washington is fully on board, so long as annexation is done by stealth.
The US ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, a long-time donor to the settlements, told Israel's Channel 10 TV recently: "The settlers aren't going anywhere".
Settler leader Yaakov Katz, meanwhile, thanked Donald Trump for a dramatic surge in settlement growth over the past year. Figures show one in 10 Israeli Jews is now a settler. He called the White House team "people who really like us, love us", adding that the settlers were "changing the map".
The US is preparing to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in May, not only pre-empting a final-status issue but tearing out the beating heart from a Palestinian state.
The thrust of US strategy is so well-known to Palestinian leaders - and in lockstep with Israel - that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is said to have refused to even look at the peace plan recently submitted to him.
Reports suggest it will award Israel all of Jerusalem as its capital. The Palestinians will be forced to accept outlying villages as their own capital, as well as a land "corridor" to let them pray at Al Aqsa and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
As the stronger side, Israel will be left to determine the fate of the settlements and its borders - a recipe for it to carry on with slow-motion annexation.
Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat has warned that Trump's "ultimate deal" will limit a Palestinian state to Gaza and scraps of the West Bank - much as Bennett prophesied in New York.
Which explains why last week the White House hosted a meeting of European and Arab states to discuss the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.
US officials have warned the Palestinian leadership, who stayed away, that a final deal will be settled over their heads if necessary. This time the US peace plan is not up for negotiation; it is primed for implementation.
With a Palestinian "state" effectively restricted to Gaza, the humanitarian catastrophe there - one the United Nations has warned will make the enclave uninhabitable in a few years - needs to be urgently addressed.
But the White House summit also sidelined the UN refugee agency UNRWA, which deals with Gaza's humanitarian situation. The Israeli right hates UNRWA because its presence complicates annexation of the West Bank. And with Fatah and Hamas still at loggerheads, it alone serves to unify the West Bank and Gaza.
That is why the Trump administration recently cut US funding to UNRWA - the bulk of its budget. The White House's implicit goal is to find a new means to manage Gaza's misery.
What is needed now is someone to arm-twist the Palestinians. Mike Pompeo's move from the CIA to State Department, Trump may hope, will produce the strongman needed to bulldoze the Palestinians into submission.
(A version of this article first appeared in the National, Abu Dhabi.)
- Jonathan Cook won the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His books include "Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East" (Pluto Press) and "Disappearing Palestine: Israel's Experiments in Human Despair" (Zed Books). His website is

Saturday, March 17, 2018


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

AIPAC panics over progressives abandoning Israel

from mondoweiss
Philip Weiss on March 5, 2018 41 Comments

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

Here are some of those voices.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fridman is a supporter of an illegal Israeli settlement.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some snark from Ron Kampeas on Hod’s message:

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

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

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

Klobuchar voiced no criticisms of Israel.

Thanks to Adam Horowitz.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018


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

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

Amira Hass
Feb 05, 2018 1:22 AM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amira Hass

Friday, February 2, 2018

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

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

January 31, 2018 04:38 PM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No sale, right? No in all cases.