Saturday, May 21, 2016

Roger Waters to Dionne Warwick: “You are showing yourself to be profoundly ignorant of what has happened in Palestine since 1947″

salon
THURSDAY, MAY 14, 2015 02:15 PM EDT

EXCLUSIVE: Dionne Warwick called me out by name in asserting she'd play Tel Aviv. Here's what she misunderstands
ROGER WATERS

Roger Waters to Dionne Warwick: "You are showing yourself to be profoundly ignorant of what has happened in Palestine since 1947"
Roger Waters (Credit: AP/Vadim Ghirda)

Singer and U.N. global ambassador Dionne Warwick recently released an interesting if puzzling statement asserting that she would, and I quote, “never fall victim to the hard pressures of Roger Waters, from Pink Floyd, or other political people who have their views on politics in Israel.”
“Waters’ political views are of no concern,” I assume she means to her, the statement read. “Art,” she added, “has no boundaries.”

Until today, I have not publicly commented on Ms. Warwick’s Tel Aviv concert or reached out to her privately. But given her implicit invitation, I will comment now.

First, in my view, Dionne Warwick is a truly great singer. Secondly, I doubt not that she is deeply committed to her family and her fans.

But, ultimately, this whole conversation is not about her, her gig in Tel Aviv, or even her conception of boundaries and art, though I will touch on that conception later. This is about human rights and, more specifically, this is about the dystopia that can develop, as it has in Israel, when society lacks basic belief in equal human value, when it strays from the ability to feel empathy for our brothers and sisters of different faiths, nationalities, creeds or colors.

It strikes me as deeply disingenuous of Ms. Warwick to try to cast herself as a potential victim here. The victims are the occupied people of Palestine with no right to vote and the unequal Palestinian citizens of Israel, including Bedouin Israeli citizens of the village of al-Araqib, which has now been bulldozed 83 times by order of the Israeli government.

I believe you mean well, Ms. Warwick, but you are showing yourself to be profoundly ignorant of what has happened in Palestine since 1947, and I am sorry but you are wrong, art does know boundaries. In fact, it is an absolute responsibility of artists to stand up for human rights – social, political and religious – on behalf of all our brothers and sisters who are being oppressed, whoever and wherever they may be on the surface of this small planet.

Forgive me, Ms. Warwick, but I have done a little research, and know that you crossed the picket line to play Sun City at the height of the anti-apartheid movement. In those days, Little Steven, Bruce Springsteen and 50 or so other musicians protested against the vicious, racist oppression of the indigenous peoples of South Africa. Those artists allowed their art to cross boundaries, but for the purpose of political action. They released a record that struck a chord across the world. That record, “I Ain’t Gonna play Sun City,” showed the tremendous support of musicians all over the world for the anti-apartheid effort.


Those artists helped win that battle, and we, in the nonviolent Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, will win this one against the similarly racist and colonialist policies of the Israeli government of occupation. We will continue to press forward in favor of equal rights for all the peoples of the Holy Land. Just as musicians weren’t going to play Sun City, increasingly we’re not going to play Tel Aviv. There is no place today in this world for another racist, apartheid regime.

As I’m sure you know, Lauryn Hill canceled her gig in Tel Aviv last week. She did not explicitly cite Israeli oppression of Palestinians as her reason for canceling, but the subtext of her actions is clear and we thank her for her principled stand.

Dionne, I am of your generation. I remember the road to Montgomery, I remember Selma, I remember the struggles against the Jim Crow laws here. Sadly, we are still fighting those battles, whether here in the USA in Ferguson or Baltimore, or in Gaza or the Negev, wherever the oppressed need us to raise our voices unafraid. We need to stand shoulder to shoulder with them, our brothers and sisters, until true equality and justice are won.

Remember, “Operation Protective Edge,” the Israeli bombing of Gaza last summer, resulted in the deaths of over 2,000 Palestinians, most of them civilians, including more than 500 Palestinian children. It is hard for us over here to imagine what it is like to be exiled, disenfranchised, imprisoned, rendered homeless and then slaughtered, with no place to flee. Hopefully, in the end, love will triumph. But love will not triumph unless we stand up to such injustice and fight it tooth and nail, together.

Dionne, your words indicate that part of you is set on going through with your concert. I am appealing to another part of you, to implore that other part to join us. We will welcome you. It is more than likely that you harbor reservations in your heart about what Israel is doing to the Palestinians, that when you see a mother’s child in ruins you wonder what if that child were mine? It is not too late to hear those reservations, to listen to that other voice, to value freedom and equality for all over the value you place on your concert in Tel Aviv.

When global pressure finally forces Israel to end its occupation, when the apartheid wall comes down, when justice is served to Palestinian refugees and all people there are free and equal, I will gladly join you in concert in the Holy Land, cross all the boundaries and share our music with all the people.


KING: Here’s why I’m leaving the Democratic Party after this presidential election and you should too



may 12, 2016 file photoIn this May 12, 2016 file photo, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks in New York.

SHAUN KING
NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Friday, May 20, 2016, 4:20 PM

Many of you aren't religious, so please forgive me for recalling my roots as a preacher and starting us off with a simple verse of scripture.

"The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil."

- 1 Timothy 6:10, The New Testament of the Bible

While my practice and devotion to religion has waxed and waned across the past few years, I still very much believe that verse is true. When you find evil in the world, when you find corruption, when you find starvation and exploitation, when you find poverty and despair, when you find drugs, guns, and substandard housing, when you find evil — if you dig far enough, you will often discover the love of money at the root. Underneath so much of what is wrong in this country is the deep love of money and all that it brings. Sometimes the connection is obvious and undeniable - other times not so much, but like the huge glacier underneath the still water, it is there.

KING: I want to buy a ‘America Was Never Great’ hat
Right now, the Democratic Party, which I have called home my entire life, is deeply in love with money. Consequently, its leaders have supported and advanced all kinds of evil, big and small, in devotion to this love affair.

My sweet mother, who worked in a scorching hot light bulb factory for over 40 years of her life, introduced me to the party. While I'm not so sure it was ever really true, she taught me that Democrats were for the poor and working class of America. We waffled between those two groups ourselves, so for me, I chose to be a part of the party that represented us.

As a senior in high school, I attended my first political rally in 1996 as President Bill Clinton spoke at the University of Kentucky in his reelection bid. He was amazing.

In 1999, Atlanta's first black mayor, Maynard Jackson, whom I loved and revered, recruited me to campaign for Al Gore and encouraged me to get involved with the party. As student government president at Morehouse College, I spoke at campaign events alongside Vice President Gore and his family and fought hard as hell for him to win. How he lost stung as much as the fact that he lost.

KING: Superdelegates will decide who wins Democratic nomination
I had never lost an election or contest in my life. I was student government vice president in middle school. I was elected President of the Future Business Leader of America in high school. I was elected dorm president my freshman year of college and student government president for all of Morehouse the following year.

Seeing Al Gore lose was a bitter pill to swallow. Three years later, Maynard Jackson had a heart attack and died suddenly. With George W. Bush as President, Al Gore out of politics, and my political mentor dead, I bowed out and decided that party politics just wasn't my thing anymore.

Front page of the New York Daily News for May 21, 2016: Donald Trump says he will immediately repeal all of President Obama's gun-control legislation if he is elected president.
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VIEW GALLERY New York Daily News front pages on the presidential election
For me, and I think for millions of Americans, that all changed when we first heard Barack Obama. As a preacher, I actually loved that Obama came from Jeremiah Wright's church in Chicago. Dr. Wright was a legend in the Afrocentric and activist circles I walked in. When I learned that Obama was a bi-racial former community organizer with two young daughters, I was sold. At that time, I had two young daughters, was doing community work, and grew up as the mixed kid who never quite fit in.

I volunteered for his campaign in Atlanta, attended rallies and events, phone-banked for him, and began writing regular op-eds about his candidacy. On the night he was elected, I was in tears and spoke live on NPR about how monumental it was.

The optimism, hope and dedication to change that Obama campaigned with was authentic. To prove it, his transition team introduced what were called the "most far reaching ethics rules of any transition team in history."

They effectively banned lobbyists and their money not only from his transition process, but also put in place a 12-month-ban on when they could serve in the administration after serving as a lobbyist.

KING: Stop blaming Hillary's struggles on Bernie
Because he came into office with such momentum and a clear mandate, Obama also began to enforce similar restrictions on lobbyists with the DNC. If he could first change his administration, then change his party, he could change the entire game, he thought.

Did you know that Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who was a co-chair of Hillary Clinton's 2008 campaign against Obama, and is now the chair of the DNC, earlier this year did away with all of the restrictions on lobbyists that President Obama put in place?

According to the Washington Post,

"The DNC's recent, more sweeping reversal of the previous ban on donations from lobbyists and political action committees was confirmed by three Democratic lobbyists who said they have already received solicitations from the committee. The lobbyists requested anonymity to speak freely about the committee's decision, which has been otherwise kept quiet."

KING: Hillary Clinton wants you to avoid the reality of the polls
Unless you are a political insider, it would be hard to know that such a thing had ever happened. No doubt, that was their goal. Why? Are they ashamed? It certainly appears so.

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders addresses a primary night election rally in Carson, California, May 17, 2016.Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders addresses a primary night election rally in Carson, California, May 17, 2016. (ROBYN BECK/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)
The article continued,

"For the most part, they (the lobbyists) said, the DNC has returned to business as usual, pre-2008. The DNC has even named a finance director specifically for PAC donations who has recently emailed prospective donors to let them know that they can now contribute again, according to an email that was reviewed by The Washington Post."

Campaign watchdog groups were furious. This is a disgusting and unnecessary reversion, but it gives us a real clue into how the Democratic Party sincerely sees money in politics. They love it. They certainly didn't do this for Bernie Sanders. His campaign does not accept donations from SuperPACs or lobbyists and he's won 21 primaries and caucuses without it. The Clinton campaign, on the other hand, is awash in this type of money.

In essence, Hillary Clinton and the DNC each wants us to believe that lobbyists and SuperPACs don't expect anything from them in return for their money. This is the most basic, foolish, offensive lie they could ever tell. Of course they want something in return. That's the business they're in.

On April 18, the Sanders campaign wrote an open letter declaring that Clinton's campaign was violating campaign finance laws through an unethical joint arrangement with the DNC. The Clinton campaign's response was that she was actually raising money for down-ticket Democrats. Two weeks later, though, Politico released an amazing investigative report which found that out of the $61 million the Clinton campaign was raising for state parties, the parties were only allowed to keep 1% of it. You read that correctly. I'll spell it out so that you know a digit wasn't missing. They got to keep one percent of the funds she claimed she raised for them.

It appears to be a money laundering scheme. Do you remember when George Clooney said that Bernie Sanders and his supporters were right to be disgusted by the fact that some seats at the fundraiser cost $353,400 per couple, but that he could live with it because the money was mainly going to help smaller candidates win local elections?

He was wrong.

According to Politico, "The victory fund has transferred $3.8 million to the state parties, but almost all of that cash ($3.3 million, or 88%) was quickly transferred (back) to the DNC, usually within a day or two, by the Clinton staffer who controls the committee, POLITICO's analysis of the FEC records found."

Who really got the money? The Clinton campaign pocketed almost all of it and state parties were left with one penny on the dollar.

Democratic National Committee Chairwoman, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, is interviewed by Maria Bartiromo during her "Mornings with Maria" program, on the Fox Business Network, Monday, March 21, 2016.Democratic National Committee Chairwoman, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, is interviewed by Maria Bartiromo during her "Mornings with Maria" program, on the Fox Business Network, Monday, March 21, 2016. (RICHARD DREW/AP)
The Politico report continued: "By contrast, the victory fund has transferred $15.4 million to Clinton's campaign and $5.7 million to the DNC, which will work closely with Clinton's campaign if and when she becomes the party's nominee. And most of the $23.3 million spent directly by the victory fund has gone toward expenses that appear to have directly benefited Clinton's campaign, including $2.8 million for ‘salary and overhead’ and $8.6 million for web advertising that mostly looks indistinguishable from Clinton campaign ads and that has helped Clinton build a network of small donors who will be critical in a general election expected to cost each side well in excess of $1 billion."

Of course, none of this is happenstance or coincidence. All of this is a well orchestrated plan. The American people are just now beginning to understand this ugliness. It's one of the primary reasons why 10 million people have voted for Bernie Sanders and why he has won 21 contests without even a smidgeon of support from the Democratic Party.

The thing is, though, the Democratic Party isn't really very democratic. It's sincerely just a machine for Hillary Clinton.

Van Jones, a former Obama administration official, said earlier this week on CNN, "Debbie, who should be the umpire, who should be the marriage counselor, is coming in harder for Hillary Clinton than she is for herself. That is malpractice."

"I wish Reince Priebus was my party chair. He did a better job of handling the Trump situation than I've see my party chair handle this situation," Jones said.

"I'm ashamed to say that. Yeah, I said it."

Let that sink in for a minute. A man who has not endorsed a candidate, who worked for Obama, and is an award-winning leader said that he would rather the Republican Party chair be in charge of the DNC than Debbie Wasserman Schultz because of how hard she fights for Hillary Clinton. Forgive me for being repetitive, but please remember that Wasserman Schultz was a co-chair of Clinton's campaign in 2008. None of us should be surprised that she is so biased, but we should be disgusted that she is in charge of the entire party at a time when it required an unbiased presence.

I'll give it to her — Debbie Wasserman Schultz will say or do anything to get Hillary Clinton elected, even if it means completely ignoring the political reality that nearly half of the people who've voted in this primary have declared that they want to see lobbyists and SuperPACs out of politics. Her words and her deeds throughout this campaign have not only been unethical, but are out of step with the future of the party. Voters under the age of 45 prefer Bernie because they trust him and his principles. Wasserman Schultz and Clinton represent a brand of politics that they know well, but we're simply tired of it. Another op-ed was just released calling on her to be replaced.

Robert Reich, the famed economist who served as Labor Secretary under Bill Clinton, went so far on Thursday to suggest that a new party should be formed if Hillary wins the election.

US Democratic Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton speaks at a campaign rally in North Liberty, Iowa on Jan. 23, 2016, ahead of the Iowa Caucus.
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VIEW GALLERY Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign
Reich said, “Never, ever give up fighting against the increasing concentration of wealth and power at the top, which is undermining our democracy and distorting our economy. That means, if Hillary Clinton is elected, I urge you to turn Bernie's campaign into a movement — even a third party — to influence elections at the state level in 2018 and the presidency in 2020. No movement to change the allocation of power succeeds easily or quickly. We are in this for the long haul.”

Back in February, Michelle Alexander, the law professor and author of “The New Jim Crow,” made a similar declaration. Her words struck me to my core.

“The biggest problem with Bernie, in the end, is that he's running as a Democrat — as a member of a political party that not only capitulated to right-wing demagoguery but is now owned and controlled by a relatively small number of millionaires and billionaires,” she said.

“Yes, Sanders has raised millions from small donors, but should he become president, he would also become part of what he has otherwise derided as ‘the establishment.’ Even if Bernie's racial-justice views evolve, I hold little hope that a political revolution will occur within the Democratic Party without a sustained outside movement forcing truly transformational change. I am inclined to believe that it would be easier to build a new party than to save the Democratic Party from itself."

I am in full agreement with both Reich and Alexander. Whatever happens between now and the Democratic Convention - what's next is that we form a brand new progressive political party from scratch. It has never been more clear to me that millions and millions of us do not belong in the Democratic Party. Their values are not our values. Their priorities are not our priorities. And I'll be honest with you, I think too highly of myself, of my family, of my friends, and of our future, to stick with a party that looks anything like what Hillary Clinton and Debbie Wasserman Schultz are leading right now.

Clinton's refusal to release the transcripts of her speeches to Goldman Sachs was the straw that broke the camel's back for me. Her indignant and irrational excuses made no sense — particularly in light of the reports stating that the transcripts would ruin her campaign and made her sound like an executive at the company.

I'll start where I left off — the root of all of this is the love of money. In this campaign, Bernie Sanders, with a ragtag group of misfits, proved to the world that another way exists. He has created a blueprint for us on how we build a political movement without the money from billionaire class and their special interests.

In my heart, I believe we are on the brink of something very special. It isn't going to be the presidency of Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump either. It's going to be what those of us who've seen a better way do next.

Don't believe what anyone tells you — the ball is in our hand and we have more power than progressive people have had in a very long time in this country. I will fight for Bernie Sanders until he is no longer running for president.

After that, this will be my last election as a Democrat. I'm moving on and hope you do, too.


Sunday, May 15, 2016

Interview With BDS Co-Founder Omar Barghouti - Banned by Israel From Traveling, Threatened With Worse

Glenn Greenwald
May 13, 2016
The Intercept




Omar Barghouti, Nasser Nasser/AP,


Despite having lived in Israel for 22 years with no criminal record of any kind, Omar Barghouti (above) was this week denied the right to travel outside the country. As one of the pioneers of the increasingly powerful movement to impose boycotts, sanctions and divestment measures (BDS) on Israel, Barghouti, an articulate, English-speaking activist, has frequently traveled around the world advocating his position. The Israeli government’s refusal to allow him to travel is obviously intended to suppress his speech and activism. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was one of the world leaders who traveled last year to Paris to participate in that city’s “free speech rally.”

As the husband of a Palestinian citizen of Israel, Barghouti holds a visa of permanent residency in the country, but nonetheless needs official permission to travel outside of Israel, a travel document which – until last week – had been renewed every two years. Haaretz this week reported that beyond the travel ban, Barghouti’s “residency rights in Israel are currently being reconsidered.”

The travel denial came after months of disturbing public threats directed at him by an Israeli government that has grown both more extreme and more fearful of BDS’s growing international popularity. In March, Israel’s Interior Minister Aryeh Deri threatened to revoke Barghouti’s residency rights, explicitly admitting that this was in retaliation for his speech and advocacy: “he is using his resident status to travel all over the world in order to operate against Israel in the most serious manner. … he took advantage of our enlightened state to portray us as the most horrible state in the world.”

Sarah Leah Whitson of Human Rights Watch told The Electronic Intifada that “Israel’s refusal to renew Barghouti’s travel document appears to be an effort to punish him for exercising his right to engage in peaceful, political activism, using its arsenal of bureaucratic control over Palestinian lives.” She added: “Israel has used this sort of control to arbitrarily ban many Palestinians from traveling, as well as to ban international human rights monitors, journalists and activists from entering Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories.”

But the threats to Barghouti from the Israeli Government extend far beyond his right to travel. Last month, Amnesty International issued an extraordinary warning that the group “is concerned for the safety and liberty” of Barghouti, citing threats from Israeli Minister of Transport, Intelligence and Atomic Energy Yisrael Katz who called on Israel to engage in “targeted civil eliminations” of BDS leaders with the help of Israeli intelligence. As Amnesty noted, “the term alludes to ‘targeted assassinations’ which is used to describe Israel’s policy of targeting members of Palestinian armed groups.”

As The Intercept has regularly reported over the last year, the attempts to criminalize BDS activism – not only in Israel but internationally – is one of the greatest threats to free speech and assembly rights in the west. The threat has become particularly acute on U.S. college campuses, where official punishments for pro-Palestinian students are now routine. But obviously, the threats faced by Barghouti inside Israel are far more severe.

Regardless of one’s views on BDS and the Israeli occupation, anyone who purports to believe in basic conceptions of free speech rights should be appalled by Israeli behavior. I spoke with Barghouti yesterday about this latest Israeli attack on his core civil liberties, the growing extremism in Israel, and broader trends with free speech and BDS activism. “I am unnerved,” he told me, “but I’m certainly undeterred.” You can listen to the 25-minute discussion on the player below; a full transcript appears below that.

******

This transcript has been edited for clarity.

GLENN GREENWALD: This is Glenn Greenwald with The Intercept. And my guest today is Omar Barghouti, who is a Palestinian human rights activist and one of the co-founders of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, better known as BDS, which is designed to put non-violent international pressure on Israel to end the occupation of Palestinian territories, establish equal rights for Palestinians and accept the right to return of Palestinian refugees who fled during and after the establishment of Israel.

BDS has gained considerable international support over the last few years as the West has watched Israel expand its occupation of the West Bank, while its army kills thousands of Palestinian civilians in Gaza. And as a result of that success, BDS has come under a multi-pronged attack from Israel and its supporters around the world.

As part of that attack, this week news broke that Israel denied Barghouti an international travel permit. As a resident of Israel he is required to apply for this permit every two years to travel internationally. Human Rights Watch condemned the act “as something that appears to be an effort to punish him for exercising his right to engage in peaceful political activism.”

Before welcoming you I just want to say that I’ve spoken to a lot of people over the last several years who are probably subject to electronic surveillance on their telephones but I’m not sure I’ve ever spoken to someone who’s subject to as much surveillance as you are.

So with that, thanks very much for taking the time to talk with me, I really appreciate it.

Before I ask you to just talk a little bit about what happened with this travel restriction, I just want to give a little bit context and background for listeners. This didn’t really come out of nowhere; in late March, Israel’s interior minister was quoted as telling a conference that he was considering revoking your residency.

He said: “I was given information that his life is in Ramallah and he is using his resident status to travel all over the world in order to operate against Israel in the most serious manner.” He continued: “he was given rights similar to those of a citizen and he took advantage of our enlightened state to portray us as the most horrible state in the world.”

Amnesty has said that they’re actually “concerned for your safety and liberty” and they cited a quote from the Israeli minister of Transport and Intelligence and Atomic Energy, Yisrael Katz, who called on Israel to engage in “targeted civil eliminations” of BDS leaders with the help of Israeli intelligence.

So, with that context in mind, obviously the Israeli government has become obsessed with restricting and punishing BDS leaders. Tell us about this new travel restriction that Israel has imposed on you. How did you learn about it? What is it?

OMAR BARGHOUTI: Every couple of years I have to renew my Israeli travel document and without that I cannot leave or re-enter the country. Because I’m a permanent resident in Israel, I cannot leave on any other passport except the Israeli travel document.

GREENWALD: Do you have another passport?

BARGHOUTI: Yes, I have Jordanian citizenship.

GREENWALD: But in order to leave Israel, you need their permission every two years.

BARGHOUTI: Yes. On April 19th the Ministry of Interior in Acre where I live officially informed us that they will not renew my travel document, therefore effectively banning me from travel. This comes as you rightly noted in the context of very heightened repression against the BDS movement, which seeks freedom, justice and equality for Palestinian citizens. So it seeks Palestinian rights under international law. But because it has become so effective of late, because support has been rising tremendously in the last couple of years, we are in a way paying the price for the success of the movement.

Many people are realizing that Israel is a regime of occupation, settler colonialism and apartheid and are therefore taking action to hold it to account to international law. Israel is realizing that companies are abandoning their projects in Israel that violate international law, pension funds are doing the same, major artists are refusing to play Tel Aviv, as Sun City was boycotted during apartheid South Africa.

So they’re seeing this isolation growing, they can see the South Africa moment if you will. And because of that, they’ve heightened their pression, including espionage on BDS human rights defenders, whether Palestinian, Israeli or international, surveillance of course, plus those latest threats of targeted civil elimination and banning us from travel, and so on.

So we are really unnerved, I am personally quite unnerved by those threats. We take them very seriously, especially in this context. We live in a country where racism and racial incitement against indigenous Palestinians has grown tremendously into the Israeli mainstream. It has really become mainstream today to be very openly racist against Palestinians. Many settlers and hard-right-wing Israelis are taking matters into their own hands – completely supported by the state – and attacking Palestinians.

So in that context I am unnerved, but I’m certainly undeterred. I shall continue my non-violent struggle for Palestinian rights under international law and nothing they can do will stop me.

GREENWALD: About the travel restrictions themselves, how long have you been receiving this travel permission? Did they give you any reason as to why in this case it was being denied? And did you have any problems in the past – from their perspective – that would justify this denial?

BARGHOUTI: No, actually I’ve been a permanent resident of Israel since 1994, so 22 years running and without any violations of the law – not even a traffic violation. So there’s nothing on my record that they can use against me.

Calling for a boycott until now is not a crime in Israel. It’s a tort – they can punish me in various ways – but it’s not a crime that they can revoke my residency right based upon. And they know that very well – they don’t stand on very strong legal grounds. So they’re looking for ways to intimidate me, to bully me, to silence me by other ways. And that doesn’t seem to be working, so now they’re working on revoking my permanent residency.

I have not had any problems in the past having my travel document renewed, for 22 years. So it’s just when BDS started to really become a very impactful, very effective movement with impressive growth and support, including among young Jewish Americans, young Jewish Brits, and so on – and that really alarms Israel – only then that they start taking such repressive, anti-democratic, draconian measures to the extreme against the movement, which is a non-violent movement, accusing us of all sorts of things.

GREENWALD: So as far as your status in Israel is concerned, and your right to travel, if I’m not mistaken you live in Israel with your wife who is an Israeli citizen, correct?

BARGHOUTI: Yes, correct, my wife is a Palestinian citizen of Israel.

GREENWALD: So does that give you entitlement to stay or are they actually able to revoke your permanent residency status?

BARGHOUTI: When it comes to non-Jews – as we’re called in Israel – no one knows what applies and what doesn’t apply. As you know there are more than 50 laws in Israel that discriminate against Palestinian citizens of the state, let alone Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, who are non-citizens.

So, a Palestinian citizen of Israel does not get the full set of rights that a Jewish citizen gets because simply the Palestinian is not a Jewish national and only if you’re a Jewish national – whatever that means – do you get the full set of rights. This is an extra-territorial definition of nationality so Israel does not have Israeli nationality – there is no such thing.

The Supreme Court rejected that notion, the Knesset did, there is no Israeli nationality. There is Israeli citizenship but that does not entitle you to the full set of rights. So yes, my wife is an Israeli citizen and I got my permanent residency through that but what rights I’m entitled to and am not entitled to depends on the mood of the politicians and how much the courts are ready to go along with that.

GREENWALD: Let’s discuss the efforts against the BDS movement more broadly beyond Israeli borders. For a long time I think the tactic was to try and ignore BDS, to treat it as though it was so marginalized and inconsequential that it wasn’t even worth discussing or acknowledging let along taking action against. And, as you’ve suggested, as it’s become a much more widely accepted tactic, as the world watched in horror – I think one of the turning points of the last operation in Gaza that killed so many children and innocent men and women – it has become a tactic that in a lot of ways is starting to replicate, as you suggested as well, what happened in South Africa across lots of college campuses. Young American Jews who are fully now on board with BDS as a moral and necessary tactic.

And as a result you’ve starting to see more world leaders and people like Hillary Clinton denounce BDS in the most vehement terms, even equating it with anti-semitism and I think most disturbing of all, actual laws are now being issued, not just in the United States but throughout Europe, to criminalize BDS and make it illegal to advocate it or engage in activism on its behalf.

Talk about what you’ve witnessed as someone who’s been in this movement from the beginning, about the changes that are underway in terms of how the response is developing toward this movement.

BARGHOUTI: I think after years of failure in stopping or even slowing down the growth of BDS and the growth of support for BDS around the world, especially in the West, Israel is resorting to its most powerful weapon if you will, which is using its influence in the U.S. congress and through that its influence in Brussels and in the E.U. and so on, to criminalize BDS from above, after failing to stop it from below.

Because BDS is growing at the grassroots level – trade unions, academic unions, student groups, LGBTQ groups, women groups and so on, Israel is resorting to that attempt to delegitimize it from above.

So as you rightly said, they’re working on passing legislation across the United States and state legislatures to criminalize BDS or to “blacklist” individuals and organizations involved in BDS, reminding us of the worst days of McCarthyism. So really, Israel is fostering a new McCarthyism, and nothing less than that because it’s calling on governments that it deems friendly to punish speech, punish activism and campaigning to uphold Palestinian rights under international law.

So this is a non-violent inclusive movement that is anchored in the international declaration of human rights. It’s opposed to all forms of racism, including antisemitism. And we’re not shy about that. We’re very categorical about out opposition to all forms of racism. Because of that – not despite that – Israel is extremely worried. Israel’s regime of occupation and apartheid is worried when this human rights inclusive movement is reaching out and appealing to a mass public, including many young Jewish Americans.

So it’s resorting to this new McCarthyism. In France it’s the worst, with government actually saying that calling for a boycott of Israeli products is now illegal in France. You can call for a boycott of French products in Paris and that’s okay, but not of Israeli products. Imagine the enormous hypocrisy.

GREENWALD: And people have been arrested wearing pro-BDS t-shirts in Paris.

BARGHOUTI: Exactly. The measure of repression in France is unprecedented. We have not seen anything like that. Paris has really become the capital of anti-Palestinian repression of late. Imagine – the city of freedoms, supposedly, has become the city of darkness for Palestinians.

GREENWALD: There was a huge free speech march there just over a year ago.

BARGHOUTI: We don’t see this anti-Palestinian repression as isolated. Israel is fostering this but there is a lot of repression already in the West. There’s already an attack on unions, an attack on free speech, on social justice, racial justice movements, there’s enormous militarization and securitization of society in the West .

And Israel is benefitting from this enormous homeland security and military market – it’s great business for Israel. It’s training police forces across the United States, from Ferguson to Baltimore. London police, Paris police.

GREENWALD: One of the criticisms of BDS opponents, when they hear things like what you just said, denouncing this erosion of civil liberties throughout the West including in Europe is, they say, it’s kind of ironic, maybe even hypocritical of you, as an advocate and proponent of Palestinian rights, to be critiquing civil liberties erosions in the West when throughout the Palestinian territories there certainly are no rights for LGBTs, or very few, and that there are far fewer rights for women for civil liberties in places like Gaza and certain parts of the West Bank. How do you respond to that? Is that something you address in your activism for Palestinian rights?

BARGHOUTI: Sure. As an inclusive movement, we call for equal rights for all humans, irrespective of identity. So absolutely, we oppose every form of discrimination against anyone based on any identity attribute. Now, do we have repression in the occupied territories of the West Bank and Gaza? Absolutely.

Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza are under Israeli military occupation so they’re suffering denial of all rights, from freedom of movement to the right of free speech, to all kinds of rights, to the right to life in some cases, as we’ve seen in Gaza. But yes, on top of that, there is social repression, of course.

GREENWALD: Imposed by Palestinians on other Palestinians.

BARGHOUTI: Imposed by the Palestinian authority, by the authorities in Gaza and that’s yes, Palestinian repression on Palestinians. But the authority in Ramallah is buttressed, is supported entirely by western governments, by The United States, by European governments and to a large extent, by Israel.

So it’s not like the European and American funders are pushing for more democratization and free speech and civil liberties. They’re accepting the growing repression of the Palestinian authorities so long as it does the job, carrying some of the burdens of the occupation while Israel continues to colonize and ethnically cleanse and commit war crimes.

GREENWALD: You talked a little earlier about what you say now is this open racism and even supporters of Israel, people who openly self-identify as Zionist, have sounded these alarm bells about the deterioration of civic discourse on Israel, about how things that were once unthinkable or relegated to a fringe have now become mainstream.

You’re somebody who has lived in Israel since 1994, so 22 years now – how do you describe the changes in terms of what has taken place in Israel domestically? Is it something you regard as a radical departure from what has taken place or is it a natural evolution of something that was a little bit more hidden, that people were maybe a bit more polite about 20 years ago, but is now just made a bit more explicit?

BARGHOUTI: I think racism is inherent in any colonial society and Israel is no exception. As a regime of settler colonialism, occupation and apartheid, racism is not coincidental. It’s a pillar of the system. Look at how Israel treats BDS. BDS calls for boycott, divestment and sanctions to achieve Palestinian freedom, justice and equality and they see that as a major threat. But freedom, justice and equality only threaten lack of freedom, injustice and inequality. It doesn’t threaten anyone else who isn’t premised on the existence of racism.

Certainly, as you rightly said, Israel has dropped the mask. With the last elections in 2015, Israel elected its most racist government ever and we have the most racist parliament ever. The most racist Knesset ever, as Haaretz, the Israeli newspaper calls it. To the extent that, a couple of days ago the Deputy Chief of Staff of the Israeli army said that racism is growing to an extent that reminds people of 1930s Germany. This is the Deputy Chief of Staff in Israel – this is not some nobody on the streets of London or Paris. This is an extremely important statement by one of the top generals in Israel. He is very alarmed that those symptoms of extreme racism are appearing everywhere and are becoming prevalent in Israeli society. And that is really, really scary.

On the other hand, by dropping the mask, Israel’s regime has in a way accelerated the growth of movements like ours. Boycott has grown tremendously – I’ve said this before and I’ll repeat it – we can attribute part of the success, part of the credit, for the growth and impact of BDS to the Israeli government’s far-right policies and their dropping the mask of enlightenment democracy and so on. They’re doing away with that, with the Ministry of Education instilling extreme racist notions in textbooks, with the Minister of Culture requiring Loyalty Oaths by artists who want to perform in Tel Aviv.

It’s really reaching an unprecedented level of bare racism. Racism was always there but it was always very couched, very hidden by a supposedly liberal Zionist façade that projects to the world Israeli scientific miracles and cultural miracles and whitewashing very well Israel’s deeply rooted racist colonial society.

GREENWALD: My final question is about a couple of reservations or criticisms or objections toward the BDS platform that come not from the obvious opponents of BDS but from people who are generally very sympathetic to the Palestinian cause who even are very harsh critics of Israel. A lot of the time people in that camp will say the following: “Why is it that Israel specifically should be boycotted for its human rights violations when so many other countries in the world including the United States are guilty of at least equal if not greater human rights violations and yet there’s no boycott movement for them?”

And then the other related criticism is that the platform of BDS itself – by including a right of return to Palestinians which would, if accepted, essentially result in the end of Israel as a Jewish state and is something that Israel will never ever accept – makes the BDS movement something designed to achieve a goal that can never actually be achieved and therefore, less effective.

How do you respond to those two concerns or criticisms?

BARGHOUTI: It’s funny when people on the fringe talk about effectiveness, when Israel is fighting BDS with such immense resources around the world, inducing governments to pass laws to fight it, using its intelligence sources to spy on citizens around the world – human rights activists involved in BDS. It’s very strange to hear anything about the effectiveness of the movement. I think that’s settled by now. Companies are abandoning Israeli projects, pension funds are abandoning Israeli projects, major churches, major academic associations across the world, especially in the U.S., are taking action.

GREENWALD: But when they do that, they’re doing that – at least in terms of what they’re expressing – in opposition to the occupation.

BARGHOUTI: Not just that. When you look at academic associations and trade unions, Glenn, they’ve gone way beyond that. Churches, yes, they’ve stuck to the occupation only, but when you look at academic associations – the American Studies Association, the Anthropological Association, Women’s Studies and so on, they’ve gone for a full academic boycott of Israel which targets all Israeli academic institutions because of their complicity in planning, implementing and whitewashing Israel’s regime of oppression.

GREENWALD: What I meant was not that their boycott is directed only at Israelis in the occupied territories but rather that their objective in supporting the boycott is not to secure right of return for the Palestinians, as they describe it, but instead is to end the occupation. Would you agree with that?

BARGHOUTI: In fact, most partners and supporters of BDS completely support the three planks in our BDS call of 2005, which is ending the occupation, ending the racial discrimination in Israel and the system of apartheid and right of return. So we’re not aware of partners who do not support the right of return as a basic UN stipulated right.

All refugees, be they Jewish refugees from World War II to refugees from Kosovo, have that right. This is in international law and Palestinians should not be excluded. It’s quite racist to say that the return of Palestinian refugees would end Israeli apartheid and that’s bad because? What is so wrong about refugees having the right to return home? If that disturbs an apartheid system that’s premised on being exclusionary and racist and that does not want to see people gain their rights, what’s the argument there?

GREENWALD: Just to be clear, the argument that I’m describing here – and by the way this isn’t my argument, I’m not advocating it, I’m simply articulating it – it’s the objection that comes not from right-wing critics of BDS but from a lot of allies and a lot of people who are long-time supporters of Palestinian rights, such as Norman Finkelstein and Noam Chomsky.

The argument is not that the right of return is not justifiable, morally or ethically, in fact I think both of them – and pretty much everyone would agree with them – would say that in an ideal world Palestinians would have the right to return. Their argument is a tactical or pragmatic one: that if you allow Palestinians the right of return it would essentially mean the end of Israel as a Jewish state which in turn means that Israel will never ever agree to it. And so you’ve essentially created an unattainable goal, one that can never happen and isn’t realistic and is therefore designed not to help Palestinians, but to be this objective that is inevitably destined to fail.

BARGHOUTI: Well actually that’s a very dogmatic objection. Saying that it will never happen ignores history, ignores that major empires have collapsed in our lifetime that were thought to be invincible just years before collapsing. Who would have thought a country as powerful as the Soviet Union would collapse? Who would have thought in the 1980s that apartheid in South Africa would collapse? Who would have thought that East Timur would have autonomy when 20 years before no-one knew where East Timur was?

So it’s really quite dogmatic for people to say only when it comes to protecting Israeli apartheid you cannot question it – if you dare, Israel will bring down the house on everyone.

Israel depends tremendously on public support from the outside, from complicity from Western governments. As that erodes, as BDS grows and public support for BDS grows, and Israel gets isolated in the academic, economic, cultural and military sphere, eventually, it will have to abide by international law, and we will see dissent growing in Israel like any other colonial state.

We will not see dissent as long as the price is not high enough. When it becomes high enough we will see growing dissent and more Jewish Israelis joining the ranks of BDS so that we can both ethically shape a future together based on justice, freedom and equality.

Going back to the first point which was why target Israel and not the United States. Archbishop Desmond Tutu had a very similar argument with this issue when it was brought up about South Africa. He said certainly apartheid Africa was not by far the most evil system of oppression around, but you could not ask South Africans – the black majority – why are you fighting apartheid? If you’re sick with the flu you don’t fight another illness, you fight the sickness that you are suffering from.

The Palestinians are under an Israeli regime of oppression so naturally we have to fight this immediate oppressor. Now the fact that Israel is completely supported by the United States – sponsored, bank-rolled, protected – that doesn’t mean that we should not fight our immediate oppressor. That’s how you effectively make a change and achieve your rights.

This is not an intellectual exercise. Yes, one can call for a boycott of all governments that support Israel’s oppression – the United States and so on – but that’s intellectualism that leads to no action. If we follow Paulo Freire’s reflection and action model, that you have to reflect and then act, you’re not acting by calling for a boycott of the United States because it’s the only surviving empire. It’s invincible at this point in time, in 2016. It would be completely ridiculous to call for a boycott of the United States.

As Naomi Klein said, it would never work. Boycotts are not just intellectual exercises, they have to work. We’re not in it for fun, we’re not in it to make a point. We‘re in it to gain our freedom and rights under international law and for that we have to be very strategic.

GREENWALD: I said that would be my last question but I actually have one more – a very narrow, specific question about the news of the denial of your travel permit. Are there appeals available to you? Do you have legal recourse that you can seek in order to get the decision reversed and do you intend to do that?

BARGHOUTI: I cannot speak a lot about our legal strategy but certainly we’re exposing this around the world. We rely on action by citizens of the world, not on the governments because governments are very complicit in Israel’s regime of oppression, but Jewish Voice for Peace, U.S. Campaign to End Israeli Occupation, and other groups have started campaigning in the U.S. against this travel ban against me. And many, many groups are working for the right to BDS. Even if you disagree with some of the tactics of BDS, on purely free speech grounds you’ve got to support our right to call for BDS.

In the United States in particular it’s protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution so even the New York Times at one point defended our right to advocate for BDS while being completely against BDS.

I think Israel will face a problem that it is alienating the liberal mainstream and that will be really the final stroke in its wall to wall support in the United States.

GREENWALD: Well, there are loads of people who love to wrap themselves in the flag of free speech rights, including supporters of Israel, and hopefully those people will have the courage of their convictions that even if they don’t agree with your positions on BDS and Israel generally in the occupation, that they would nonetheless see it as highly objectionable that you should be denied the most basic right of international travel simply because the Israeli government wants to punish you for your political views or constrain you from engaging in activism internationally. And hopefully this interview will help to bring some attention to what has been done to you.

I really appreciate you taking the time to talk to me.

BARGHOUTI: Thank you so much Glenn.


Thursday, May 12, 2016

Michael Ratner, 1943-2016 Human rights champion and fearless fighter

The groundbreaking human rights attorney Michael Ratner has died at the age of 72. For over four decades, he defended, investigated and spoke up for victims of human rights abuses across the world. Ratner served as the longtime president of the Center for Constitutional Rights. In 2002, the center brought the first case against the George W. Bush administration for the indefinite detention of prisoners at Guantánamo. The Supreme Court eventually sided with the center in a landmark 2008 decision when it struck down the law that stripped Guantánamo prisoners of their habeas corpus rights. Ratner began working on Guantánamo in the 1990s, when he fought the first Bush administration’s use of the military base to house Haitian refugees. We begin today’s show with a speech he gave in 2007 when he was awarded the Puffin/Nation Prize for Creative Citizenship.


TRANSCRIPT
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: The trailblazing human rights attorney Michael Ratner has died at the age of 72. For over four decades, Michael Ratner defended, investigated and spoke up for victims of human rights abuses across the world. He served as the longtime head of the Center for Constitutional Rights. Attorney David Cole told The New York Times, quote, "Under his leadership, the center grew from a small but scrappy civil rights organization into one of the leading human rights organizations in the world. He sued some of the most powerful people in the world on behalf of some of the least powerful." In 2002, the center brought the first case against the George W. Bush administration for the indefinite detention of prisoners at Guantánamo. The Supreme Court eventually sided with the center in a landmark 2008 decision when it struck down the law that stripped Guantánamo prisoners of their habeas corpus rights. Ratner began working on Guantánamo in the 1990s, when he fought the first Bush administration’s use of the military base to house Haitian refugees.

Michael Ratner’s activism and human rights work dated back to the 1960s. He was a student at Columbia Law School during the 1968 student strike there. Michael was a clerk for the legendary Federal Judge Constance Baker Motley. When he graduated from law school, she was the first African-American woman judge and protégé of Thurgood Marshall. In a 2004 letter, Constance Baker Motley wrote, "Michael Ratner was in retrospect, the ablest law clerk I have had in my tenure on the bench."

AMY GOODMAN: Michael Ratner joined the Center for Constitutional Rights in 1971. His first case centered on a lawsuit filed on behalf of prisoners killed and injured in the Attica prison uprising in upstate New York. Michael Ratner was deeply involved in Latin America and the Caribbean, challenging U.S. policy in Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Puerto Rico and elsewhere. In 1981, he brought the first challenge under the War Powers Resolution to the use of troops in El Salvador, as well as a suit against U.S. officials on behalf of Nicaraguans raped, murdered and tortured by U.S.-backed contras. In 1991, he led the center’s challenge to the authority of President George H.W. Bush to go to war against Iraq without congressional consent.

A decade later, he would become a leading critic of the George W. Bush administration, filing lawsuits related to Guantánamo, torture, domestic surveillance and the 2003 invasion of Iraq. He also helped launch the group Palestine Legal to defend the rights of protesters in the U.S. calling for Palestinian human rights. In recent years, he was the chief attorney for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and became a leading critic of the U.S. crackdown on whistleblowers, including Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden. He also served as Democracy Now!’s attorney for many years and was the husband of Karen Ranucci, a longtime member of the Democracy Now! family.

Today we spend the hour looking at the life and legacy of Michael Ratner. Later, we’ll be joined by three lawyers who worked closely with Michael over the years, but we begin with a speech Michael Ratner gave in 2007, when he was awarded the Puffin/Nation Prize for Creative Citizenship.

MICHAEL RATNER: Over the last few years, I’ve become acquainted with a man named Henri Alleg. Henri Alleg is a French Algerian in his eighties who was water-tortured—or, as this administration says, waterboarded—by the French. Here is how Henri Alleg described his water torture, a practice that goes back to the Inquisition: "The rag was soaked rapidly. Water flowed everywhere: in my mouth, in my nose, all over my face. ... I tried, by contracting my throat, to take in as little water as possible and to resist suffocation by keeping air in my lungs ... as long as I could. But I couldn’t hold on for more than a few [moments]. I had the impression of drowning, and a terrible agony, that of death itself, took possession of me."

Think about Henri Alleg when you hear the CIA talk about enhanced interrogation techniques. Or think about a terrible agony, that of death itself—that of death itself—taking over you when you hear our new attorney general refuse to condemn waterboarding, or when you hear that some of our Democratic leaders were briefed and made not a peep—not a peep—of objection.

Let there be no doubt, the Bush administration tortures. It disappears people. It holds people forever in offshore penal colonies like Guantánamo. It renders them to be tortured in other countries. This is what was done to CCR’s client Maher Arar, who was rendered to Syria for torture. And sadly, a majority of our Congress, our courts and our media have given Bush a free hand—and, in fact, worse, have been the handmaidens of the torture and detention program. But it has not been given a free hand by the Center for Constitutional Rights. It has not been given a free hand by The Nation. It has not been given a free hand by Jeremy or Naomi.

Today we’re in the midst of a pitched battle, a pitched rattled to put this country back, at least ostensibly, on the page of fundamental rights and moral decency. The battle is difficult, and the road is long and hard. On occasion, I get pessimistic. Sometimes I and my colleagues feel like Sisyphus. Twice—not just once, twice—we pushed the rock up the hill and won rights for Guantánamo detainees in the Supreme Court, and twice the rock was rolled back down by Congress over those rights. So we pushed it back up again. Five days ago, we were in the Supreme Court for the third time. It was difficult, more difficult than before, because the justices have changed. Four are antediluvians, lost forever to humanity.

But before I get us all depressed, we’ve had our victories. We’ve gotten lawyers to Guantánamo, stopped the most overt torture and freed half of the Guantánamo detainees—over 300. We have gotten Maher Arar out of Syria. Canada has apologized for his torture, given him a substantial recovery—in Canadian dollars, which is no embarrassment anymore. They said he was an innocent man, but he remains on the U.S. terror list. We have slowed, but not yet stopped, a remarkable grab for authoritarian power.

I also don’t look hope—I also don’t lose hope, because I think about the early days of Guantánamo. At first, we were few. But now, we are many. At first, when CCR began, we were the lonely warriors taking on the Bush administration at Guantánamo. Now we are many. Now we, just on Guantánamo alone, are over 600 lawyers, most from major firms of every political stripe. These lawyers have an understanding of what is at stake: liberty itself. This struggle—this struggle will be seen as one of the great chapters in the legal and political history of the United States.

Today, war, torture, disappearances, murder surround us like plagues. Most in this country go on their way oblivious. Some don’t want to know and are like ostriches. Some want to justify it all. Some want to make compromises. But be warned: We are at a tipping point, a tipping point into lawlessness and medievalism. We have our work to do. For each of us, the time for talking is long, long over. This is no time for compromise, no time for political calculation. As Howard Zinn admonishes us, it is the job of thinking people not to be on the side of the executioners. The Puffin/Nation Prize reminds us all that the job for each of us is not to be on the side of the executioners. Thank you all.

AMY GOODMAN: Attorney Michael Ratner, speaking in 2007 when he was awarded the Puffin/Nation Prize for Creative Citizenship. Michael died Wednesday at the age of 72 as a result of complications related to cancer. When we come back, we’ll be joined by a roundtable of his colleagues and friends, beginning with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who will speak to us from inside the Ecuadorean Embassy in London. This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. We’ll be back in a minute.

The original content of this program is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. Please attribute legal copies of this work to democra

Sunday, May 8, 2016

How Opponents of UK Labour Leader Corbyn Advanced a Political Coup with Antisemitism Smears

Inside the pro-Israel campaign to crush Labour’s left-wing insurgency.


By Max Blumenthal / AlterNet
May 6, 2016



Chris Mullins’ 1982 political thriller, A Very British Coup, introduced British readers to a Marxist former steelworker named Harry Perkins who sends his country’s political elite into a frenzy by winning a dramatic election for prime minister. Desperate to foil his plans to remove American military bases from British soil, nationalize the country’s industries and abolish the aristocratic House of Lords, a convergence of powerful forces led by MI5 security forces initiate a plot to undermine Perkins through surveillance and subterfuge. When their machinations fail against a resolute and surprisingly wily politician, the security forces resort to fabricating a scandal, hoping to force him to abdicate power to a more pliable member of his own party.

Adapted into an award-winning 1988 television miniseries, Mullins’ script closely resembles the real-life campaign to destroy the Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn. A left-wing populist with pronounced anti-imperialist leanings, Corbyn is seen by his opponents in much the same light as Perkins was in Mullins’ treatment: “You’re a bad dream. I could always comfort myself with the thought that socialism would never work,” Percy Brown, an aristocratic MI5 chief sworn to the prime minister’s ruin, told his enemy. “But you, Mr. Perkins, could destroy everything that I’ve ever believed in.”

After years as a backbencher in parliament railing against Tony Blair’s business-friendly agenda and mobilizing opposition to the invasion of Iraq, Corbyn emerged last summer as a frontrunner for Labour leadership. Against vociferous opposition, he stunned his opponents with a landslide victory, winning nearly 60% of the vote with help from a grassroots coalition of Muslim immigrants, blue-collar workers and youthful left-wing activists.


Just as Corbyn’s success stunned the party establishment, his rise infuriated the country’s powerful pro-Israel forces. Corbyn’s parliamentary office has served as a hub for the Palestine solidarity movement and his name has been featured prominently on resolutions condemning Israeli atrocities. At an election forum convened last year by the Labour Friends of Israel, Corbyn redoubled his support for key components of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement that is pressuring Israel to respect the human rights of Palestinians while Blair’s favored candidate, Liz Kendall, said she would fight it with “every fiber in my body.”

Just after Corbyn’s victory, Chris Mullins predicted that Labour’s new leader would face a blizzard of smears not unlike the kind Perkins confronted. “The media will go bananas, of course,” Mullins told the Independent. “There will be attempts to paint [Corbyn] as a Trot[skyite]. I think that may already have started. Every bit of his past life will be raked through and every position he has ever taken will be thrown back under him. Former wives and girlfriends will be sought out. His sanity will be questioned.”

Distracting from inequality

Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron set the tone for the coming smear campaign when he tweeted a day after Corbyn’s election, “The Labour Party is now a threat to our national security, our economic security and your family’s security.”

It was around this time that allegations about Labour’s “antisemitism problem” began to gain steam. As this week’s local elections approached, the chorus of outrage erupted into the mainstream, with outlets from the Daily Mail—the tabloid still owned by the Rothermere family that supported the British Union of Fascists and expressed admiration for Hitler during the 1930s—to the liberal Guardian howling about a plague of Jew hatred spreading through the ranks of Labour since it opened up to the so-called Corbynistas. Even the Israeli government has gotten in the act, with its ambassador denouncing Corbyn on national TV while Israel’s Labor Party threatens a boycott of its sister party in the UK.

Behind the manufactured scandal is a real struggle over the future course of Labour. The right-leaning elements empowered by Tony Blair are determined to suppress the influence of an increasingly youthful, ethnically diverse party base that views the hawkish, pro-business policies of the past with general revulsion. With the British middle class in shambles after three decades of constant benefit cuts and a new generation in open revolt, Labour’s Blairite wing has embraced a cynical strategy to shatter the progressive coalition that brought Corbyn to power.

By branding the solidarity with the Palestinian cause flourishing among British Muslims and radical leftists as a form of antisemitism, the elements arrayed against Corbyn have managed to manufacture a scandal that supersedes more substantive issues. Right-wing bloggers have been dispatched to trawl through the social media postings of newer Labour members to dredge up evidence of offensive commentary about Israel and Jews or invent it when none exists. In the paranoid atmosphere Corbyn’s foes have cultivated, virtually any fulsome expression of anti-Zionism seems likely to trigger a suspension.

For Prime Minister Cameron, the scandal generated by Corbyn’s intra-party foes provides a chance to distract from the row over his family hiding its wealth in an offshore tax shelter, the chaos over the Brexit debate and the disastrous results of his Islamophobic attacks on the Muslim candidate for London mayor, Sadiq Khan. Among the most eager to join the pile-on was London Mayor Boris Johnson, who claimed “a virus of antisemitism hangs over Labour” just days after ranting that Barack Obama’s “part-Kenyan” heritage gave him “an ancestral dislike of the British Empire.”

Suddenly, Corbyn and allies who launched their careers in grassroots anti-racism struggles find themselves on the defensive about bigotry—and from a few accusers who have actual records of racist rhetoric. With nearly 20 party members already suspended for supposedly antisemitic comments, the witch hunt claimed Jackie Walker, a veteran black-Jewish anti-racism activist and leftwing Labour stalwart. Walker’s sin was harshly condemning the transatlantic slave trade as the “African holocaust.” Filched from her social media postings and publicized by a group called the Israel Advocacy Movement, her comments triggered an immediate suspension. “If they can do this to me,” Walker said, “then they can do it to anyone.”

Those behind the escalating crusade will not be satisfied until they claim Corbyn as well. Indeed, the manufactured scandal around antisemitism appears to be just one step on the way to a bloodless coup.

Fabricating a scandal

Far from the gaze of the mainstream British media, a researcher named Jamie Stern-Weiner has conducted perhaps the most thorough investigation into the claims of an “antisemitism problem” within Labour. Stern-Weiner found that out of 400,000 party members, perhaps a dozen had been suspended for supposedly antisemitic remarks.

Surveying the individual cases, he discovered that many, if not most, of the offending comments related to Israel and Israeli policy, not Jews per se. Stern-Weiner went on to demonstrate that Guido Fawkes, the right-wing gossip blogger responsible for a substantial number of the antisemitism outrages that erupted in the British media, had doctored passages from Labour members’ social media postings to make them appear more offensive than they actually were.

“The chasm between this proffered evidence and the sweeping condemnations which have appeared in the press…is truly vast,” Stern-Weiner concluded. “Even were all the above charges true, what would it prove? The social media postings of a handful of mostly junior party members have no necessary representative significance, and plainly do not demonstrate widespread antisemitism.”

Antisemitism without evidence

Though British press has framed Labour’s “antisemitism problem” as a recently discovered and entirely organic phenomenon, elements in the party have been pushing it since the race for Labour leadership. And many of the offending social media posts were published during Israel’s assault on the Gaza Strip in 2014, when the party was under the command of Ed Miliband, a Jew who issued stern criticism of Israel at the time.

The issue gained steam in February, when Alex Chalmers resigned last February as the vice-chair of the Oxford University Labour Club. According to Chalmers, Palestine solidarity activists had taken over his school’s Labour chapter and made life unbearable for Jewish students. He rattled off a litany of incidents that constituted antisemitism in his view. Almost all of them related to Israel, from angry remarks about its government and supporters to chants in support of Hamas. Chief among Chalmers’ grievances was “members of the Executive throwing around the term ‘Zio’” — a shorthand for Zionist that he viewed as the very embodiment of antisemitic rhetoric.

Chalmers provided no evidence to support his inflammatory allegations. And none was required for the outrage to make its way across the Atlantic. Within days of Chalmers’ resignation, his claims were repeated in the opinion section of the New York Times by Roger Cohen, a pro-Israel columnist who favors the permanent forced relocation of millions of Palestinians to countries outside their homeland. Rehashing Chalmers’ unsourced accusations, Cohen proclaimed that the Labour Party had become infected with “an antisemitism of the Left” under the watch of Corbyn.

Unmentioned in Cohen’s column were the ulterior sectarian motives Chalmers had deliberately concealed. As journalist Asa Winstanley revealed, Chalmers had been an intern at BICOM, the main arm of the UK’s pro-Israel lobby, which recently published the following call to arms: “Save your pitch fork for Corbyn.” Chalmers’ online bio noting his position at BICOM was mysteriously deleted around the time he publicized his allegations about antisemitism at Oxford. When Winstanley contacted Chalmers about the internship, he set his Twitter account to “private” and went off the radar.

As Perkins reflected in A Very British Coup, “By the time you prove anything, the damage is done.”

Red Ken’s coup de grace

In late April, the mounting witch hunt claimed its first high-profile victims. First was MP Naz Shah, a rising star in Labour and outspoken Muslim feminist. Shah was outed by a right-wing gossip blogger for promoting a tongue-in-cheek Facebook meme that imagined the geopolitical benefits of moving Israel to the United States. Following her suspension, Former London Mayor Ken Livingstone, a standard bearer of the British left who helped lead the major anti-racism campaigns of the 1980s, took to the airwaves to defend Shah. (Livingstone was among the figures who inspired the protagonist Perkins in Mullins’ novel.)

During an indisputably counter-productive and possibly alcohol-influenced performance, Livingstone rambled that Hitler had, in fact, provided support to the Zionist movement. Within hours, he too was suspended. As with Shah, the allegations of antisemitism that followed his suspension centered around impolitic commentary related to Israel, not Jews as a whole.

Livingstone might have been guilty of going off script, but he was not necessarily incorrect. The history of Nazi Germany’s robust economic and political collaboration with the Zionist movement throughout the 1930s is widely known and well-documented—even Elie Wiesel has openly reeled at the record of Zionist cooperation with Hitler’s minions.

Ignoring the clear context behind Livingstone’s remarks, the Guardian casually dismissed them as “bizarre,” wondering “what point he was trying to make.” MP John Mann, a backbencher from the right wing of Labour, went a step further, hectoring Livingstone before a gaggle of cameras about his supposed ignorance of Hitler’s evil. “There’s a book called Mein Kampf!” Mann bellowed. “You’ve obviously never heard of it.”

A high-level 'civil targeted assassination'

Behind the furor over Israel criticism lay a constellation of political forces exploiting the issue to suppress the grassroots insurgency in Labour.

Under Blair’s watch, powerful pro-Israel elements entrenched themselves in the party, reversing the strong support Labour demonstrated for the Palestinian cause during the Thatcher era. Membership in Labour Friends of Israel (LFI), a pro-Israel lobbying faction, became a must for members of parliament seeking ministerial positions under Blair and his successor, Gordon Brown. Among LFI’s most generous funders is Baron Sainsbury of Turville, a reclusive billionaire who is heir to the Sainsbury supermarket fortune. Sainsbury is also a key funder of Progress, the faction established by pro-Blair elements to promote his agenda in the mid-1990s.

Members of both LFI and Progress have led the crusade to paint Corbyn and his allies as a band of raving antisemites. Lord Michael Levy, a former special envoy to the Middle East under Blair and top funder of LFI, has amplified the attacks with a series of media appearances in which he accused Corbyn of weakness in the face of anti-Jewish bigotry. A new and unusual line of attack holds Corbyn responsible for an alleged dearth of donations to Labour from “Jewish donors” like Levy.

The panic that spread through Labour’s right wing on the eve of Corbyn’s election reverberated in Jerusalem, where the Israeli government has vowed a campaign of "targeted civil elimination" (code for character assassination) against Palestine solidarity activists. By taking the helm of Labour, Corbyn became arguably the most high-profile supporter of BDS in the world. The Israeli government had placed him at the top of its political kill list and was bound to open fire at an opportune moment.

The moment arrived on May 1, as the BBC’s Andrew Marr hosted Israeli Ambassador to the UK Mark Regev for a lengthy interview. Anyone who watched international news coverage of any of Israel’s last three assaults on the Gaza Strip will remember Regev as the face and voice of Israeli propaganda, spinning massacres of besieged civilians as acts of self-defense without batting an eye.

Seated across from an exceptionally receptive host, Regev unleashed a tirade against the pro-Corbyn wing of Labour and the left in general, declaring it had “crossed a line” into antisemitic territory, even accusing it of “embracing Hamas.” Playing on the innuendo that has painted Corbyn as a supporter of Islamist insurgents, Regev demanded that Corbyn send an “unequivocal message” rejecting Hamas and Hezbollah. Marr piled on, baselessly claiming that Corbyn’s press secretary, Seumas Milne, had declared “it is a crime for the state of Israel to exist.” It took Marr over half an hour to retract his falsehood. By then, as usual, the damage was done.

The spectacle of a foreign diplomat from a country with one of the world’s worst human rights records injecting himself into a local electoral contest to brand the leader of a major political party as a bigoted cheerleader for terrorism perfectly crystallized the nature of the campaign against Corbyn.

Conceived by failed politicians backed by billionaire Lords and publicized with negligible skepticism by Fleet Street, those leading the charge against Corbyn recalled the devious aristocrats Perkins singled out during his final televised appeal to voters: “You the people must decide whether you prefer to ruled by an elected government or by people you’ve never heard of, people you’ve never voted for, people who remain quietly behind the scenes….”

There has been no such defiant address by Corbyn. Instead, he has convened an independent inquiry into antisemitism within his party, inviting further attacks even as he acceded to political pressure.

Redefining anti-Semitism for political ends

The upcoming investigation will only be the latest in a series carried out in recent years. In January 2015, the Parliamentary Committee Against Anti-Semitism published a detailed report outlining its findings on anti-Jewish bigotry in the UK. It was authored by David Feldman, a leading expert on the history of British Jewry and the director of the Pears Institute for the Study of Anti-Semitism at Birkbeck College.

As soon as he was chosen to serve as vice-chair of the new inquiry, Feldman fell under attack from the pro-Israel press. His opponents were particularly piqued by the working definition of antisemitism he adopted in his 2015 report, which he sourced to Jewish philosopher Brian Klug: “A form of hostility towards Jews as Jews, in which they are perceived as something other than what they are.”

By rejecting the politicized definition introduced by pro-Israel forces, which considers the adoption of “double standards” toward Israel to be a form of anti-Jewish prejudice, Feldman deprived them of their favorite line of attack against sympathizers with the Palestinian cause.

As Stern-Weiner clinically demonstrated, the vast majority of charges against Labour members related to commentary about the state of Israel, not the Jewish people. In order to paint anti-Zionist members of Labour as dangerous antisemites, Corbyn’s opponents have had to resort to conflating Israel with all Jews. Ironically, they have relied on the same conflation that actual antisemites typically employ to indict world Jewry for Israel’s crimes against Palestinians.

Jonathan Freedland, a veteran columnist for the Guardian, has been among the most aggressive employers of the conflation tactic. An outspoken liberal Zionist, Freedland has insisted on his right to call out antisemitism as he pleases and without any critical scrutiny from Gentiles—just as “black people are usually allowed to define what’s racism.” By extension, he has sought unlimited license to use “Jews” as a floating signifier for Israel and Zionism, to arbitrarily fuse the Jews of the world with a self-proclaimed Jewish state that only a minority of them inhabit.

Echoing Freedland, Ephraim Mirvish, the chief rabbi of the UK, declared that Zionism “can be no more separate from Judaism than the city of London from Great Britain.” Mirvish insisted that non-Jews were out of bounds by challenging the conflation of Jews with the political project of a Jewish state, ignoring opinion polls showing that a full third of British Jews identity as anti or non-Zionist.

John Mann, the member of parliament who chased Livingstone down a hallway while shouting about Hitler, has said that “it’s clear where the line is” on anti-Jewish bigotry. But during his testimony at an unsuccessful tribunal on “institutional antisemitism” on campus, Mann was harshly criticized for his inability to locate that line.

Even as they avoid putting forward a coherent working definition of antisemitism and exploit identity politics to silence those who do, Labour’s pro-Israel elements are pushing a new rule that could amount to a pro-Israel loyalty oath.

A coming coup?

Back in April, members of the right wing of Labour proposed a rule change that would allow the party to ban members for expressing opinions deemed to be antisemitic. Leading the charge were Jeremy Newmark, chair of the pro-Israel Jewish Labour Movement, and Wes Streeting, a member of parliament and former employee of the Blairite Progress faction.

When the furor over Livingstone’s comments about Zionist collaboration with Nazi Germany erupted, the call for a rule change intensified, inadvertently revealing its actual objective: To establish a lever for purging anti-Zionists from the party ranks. If implemented, the rule change could function as a de facto oath of pro-Israel loyalty for new Labour members and might even result in a series of tribunals for those who fail to toe the ideological line.

Though Labour performed far better in the May 5 local elections than a generally hostile media predicted, Corbyn’s opponents are determined to paint him as unelectable, just as they did during last year’s campaign for leadership.

Even before votes were counted, they were dead-set on sacking him. “We have got to get rid of him. He cannot be allowed to continue,” a Labour member described as “moderate” by the Daily Express said on the day of local elections.

The positive results may buy Corbyn some time, but his foes have signaled their intentions. They are determined to bury him in the same way the fictional villain Sir Percy Brown attempted to with PM Harry Perkins. “In South America they’d call this a coup d’etat,” Perkins protested when Brown presented him with scandalous documents forged by his security services.

“But no firing squad,” Brown explained with cool confidence. “No torture, no bloodshed. A very British coup, wouldn’t you say?”

Max Blumenthal is a senior editor of the Grayzone Project at AlterNet, and the award-winning author of Goliath and Republican Gomorrah. His most recent book is The 51 Day War: Ruin and Resistance in Gaza. Follow him on Twitter at @MaxBlumenthal.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Support for Palestinians triples among US youth, survey finds

from electric intifada
Ali Abunimah Activism and BDS Beat 5 May 2016


Hillary Clinton’s hardline support for Israel has never been more out of step with the base of her Democratic Party. US Embassy Tel Aviv
If you look at the headline numbers, Israel should not have too much to worry about: 54 percent of Americans sympathize more with Israel, while 19 percent sympathize more with the Palestinians.

About 17 percent say they stand with neither or equally with both.

Strong public support is seen by Israel backers as an essential guarantee that the US will remain Israel’s biggest financier and arms supplier long into the future.

These numbers come from a new national survey by the Pew Research Center.

According to Pew, the number of Americans sympathizing with the Palestinians has gone up by five percentage points since July 2014 – the beginning of Israel’s 51-day assault on Gaza that killed more than 2,200 people, including 551 children.

Pew calls that a “modest” increase – though across the country it would represent millions of people changing their views.

But dig deeper into the findings and it is apparent that Israel’s support is eroding in key sectors of the US population.

Virtually all of the increase in sympathy for Palestinians “has come among Democrats, especially liberal Democrats,” Pew states.


Fewer than half of Democrats now say they are more sympathetic to Israel (Pew Research Center)
The number of liberal Democrats sympathizing more with the Palestinians has nearly doubled over the past two years, from 21 to 40 percent.

And within the Democratic Party, it is clear that Hillary Clinton is the candidate of the more pro-Israel wing: 47 percent of her supporters say they sympathize with Israel more, while 27 percent lean toward the Palestinians.

Among the supporters of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, however, a plurality – 39 percent – are more favorable to the Palestinians, while just a third stand with Israel.

Partisan gap
Clinton’s backers are clearly more pro-Israel, but it is still remarkable to note that this group is under 50 percent – an indication of how much opinions about Palestine and the Israeli question are shifting within the support base of the Democratic Party.

The Pew survey confirms the extent to which Israel has become a partisan issue.

Overall, just 43 percent of Democrats are more sympathetic to Israel, while 29 percent back the Palestinians.

In contrast to the Democrats, “overwhelming shares of [Republican] voters side with Israel, regardless of which candidate they support,” Pew states.

Republican support for Israel – at around 75 percent – varied little among supporters of former presidential candidates Texas Senator Ted Cruz and Ohio Governor John Kasich compared with those of presumptive nominee Donald Trump.

Just seven percent of Republicans were more favorable to the Palestinians.

“We’ve been tracking this question since the 1970s and this gap is relatively new, of Republicans being more sympathetic to Israel than Democrats,” Carroll Doherty, Pew’s director of research, told NPR’s Morning Edition on Thurdsay. “The gap is now as wide as we’ve ever seen it – it’s almost 35 percentage points.”

Younger and more pro-Palestinian

Generation gap: support for Palestinians has risen fastest among Millennials. (Pew Research Center)
The findings also confirm that support for the Palestinians is rising fastest among the young – the so-called Millennials born after 1980.

“Currently, 43 percent of Millennials report sympathizing more with Israel, while 27 percent are more sympathetic to the Palestinians,” Pew states.

“The share sympathizing with the Palestinians has risen significantly in recent years, from nine percent in 2006 to 20 percent in July 2014 to 27 percent today” – in other words it has tripled.

Among Baby Boomers – those born between 1946 and 1964 – 61 percent are more pro-Israel, while just 14 percent back the Palestinians.

These findings bode well for supporters of Palestinian rights.

Hillary Clinton, the Democratic frontrunner for her party’s presidential nomination, has adopted some of the most extreme anti-Palestinian rhetoric heard in recent years.

This may work well with her generally older supporters, with pro-Israel billionaires who bankroll her campaign, as well as with Republican voters she will be hoping to lure if she faces Trump in the general election, but the numbers show she’s more out of step than ever with her own party’s base.

Her repeated denunciations of BDS – boycott, divestment and sanctions – are likely to alienate even more of the younger generation who believe that fighting for social justice everywhere includes Palestine.

Whatever happens in the 2016 presidential election, the United States has never been more fertile ground to build support for Palestinian rights.