Wednesday, September 2, 2015

UE Becomes First National Union in U.S. to Endorse BDS

The following press release was sent out by the United Electrical Workers union (UE):

UE Becomes First National Union in U.S. to Endorse BDS

For Immediate Release September 1, 2015

At its national convention in Baltimore August 16-20, the United Electrical Workers union (UE) adopted a resolution endorsing the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS) to pressure Israel to end the occupation and grant Palestinians their freedom. UE is now the first national U.S. union to endorse BDS. The full resolution is below.

The global BDS movement arose from a 2005 call by Palestinian trade unions and human rights groups. UE’s resolution also calls for a cutoff of U.S. aid to Israel and for U.S. support for a peace settlement on the basis of self-determination for Palestinians and the right to return. With its resolution UE joins COSATU of South Africa, Unite the Union in Britain and many other labor unions in supporting BDS as a step toward justice and peace in Palestine and Israel.

“We reached a breaking point when Israel launched the war on Gaza in 2014, killing over 2,000 people including 500 children. Because Israel has been unwilling to engage in real negotiations to bring about a just resolution to the occupation, this is a necessary step for labor to take in order to bring about a peaceful end to the conflicts there” said Carl Rosen, president of UE’s Western Region and a member of the national executive board.

UE represents 30,000 workers across the country in the private and public sectors. At its five-day convention member delegates acted on 37 resolutions on collective bargaining, organizing, and political issues. UE’s BDS statement upholds the union’s long tradition of courageous stands on foreign policy issues, such as being the first union to oppose the Vietnam War.

The Palestinian Postal Workers Union has written to UE in response to its resolution. “…We would like to express our deepest appreciation for the courageous resolution on “Justice and Peace for the Peoples of Palestine and Israel”… in support of our right as Palestinians to live in peace and dignity as equals on our lands…. We commend you for calling on your government to change its one-sided foreign policy that disregards human rights and harms any efforts at reaching a just peace, and for fully endorsing our call for boycott, divestment & sanctions (BDS) launched a decade ago. We sincerely hope that other national unions in the US and many other countries will follow in your footsteps. Your active solidarity warms our hearts and gives us hope that one day the working class all over will mobilize as one to help us end this brutal colonial occupation, and bring down the blockade, walls and checkpoints.”

UE General President Bruce Klipple says, “The widespread abuse of workers under the occupation is a concern for the global labor movement. We support our brothers and sisters in the labor movement who call for this peaceful protest to bring about a just peace in Israel and Palestine.”

The United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America, UE is an independent, member-run union representing both private and public sector workers.



In 1988, delegates to the UE 53rd Convention adopted the resolution “Time for a Just Settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.” In it they said, “The occupation by Israel of the West Bank and other Arab lands since 1967 has blocked the exercise of Palestinian national rights and resulted in ongoing violations of human, social, political, economic and particularly trade union rights of Palestinians…” The resolution said the U.S. government had “contributed to the continued conflict by its one-sided support for Israel and its failure to take into account the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people,” and it called for the U.S. government to recognize the Palestine Liberation Organization and for the creation of a Palestinian state.

For more than 25 years the U.S. has engaged in a so-called “peace process” with Israeli and Palestinian representatives. But the U.S. role has remained extremely one-sided. The U.S. provides Israel $3 billion a year in aid and repeatedly uses its UN veto to shield Israel from criticism of its human rights abuses. The Palestinians are worse off. In the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, Israel continues to confiscate homes and land to expand Israeli settlements which violate international law. Since 1967 Israel has settled more than 500,000 of its citizens in the West Bank, and has been building a wall that separates neighboring towns and cuts off farmers from their fields. Many prominent human rights activists including former President Jimmy Carter and South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu have called the system of Israeli rule over Palestinian people “apartheid.”

In Gaza, 1.8 million Palestinians are crowded into a tiny enclave under continuous military and economic blockade. In the summer of 2014 Israel waged a merciless war on the impoverished population of Gaza. More than 2,000 Palestinians were killed. The vast majority were civilians, including more than 500 children; and the physical destruction was overwhelming. UE’s officers issued a statement expressing our union’s alarm and over 300 Holocaust survivors and descendants signed a full-page newspaper ad that condemned the Israeli attack as genocide and declared, “never again must mean never again for anyone.” Yet incredibly, the U.S. Senate voted unanimously at the time to endorse Israel’s actions.

The source of the conflict goes back to the origins of the State of Israel. The population was overwhelmingly Palestinian Arab (Muslim and Christian) before 1947-48, when well-armed Zionist militias seized most of the territory of Palestine and expelled 750,000 people from their cities, villages and farms. They executed much of the Palestinian leadership and declared the founding of the State of Israel. As a result millions of Palestinians are refugees both in the occupied territories and in other countries. Israel prohibits their return to their homes.

In recent years racism and extremism in Israel has grown more severe. One-fifth of Israeli citizens are Palestinians who survived ethnic cleansing. Some members of parliament, including cabinet members in Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu’s government, call for stripping their citizenship and expelling them. Some also call for expelling all Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza and annexing them to Israel. The “peace process”, supposedly aimed at negotiating the terms of Palestinian statehood in those territories, has been dead at least since March when Netanyahu, in his reelection campaign, declared he would never accept a Palestinian state.

In July 2005 Palestinian trade unions and hundreds of Palestinian civil society organizations called for a worldwide campaign of boycotts to pressure Israel to end its apartheid over the Palestinians. This has developed into a global movement called Boycott, Disinvestment, Sanctions. BDS was modeled after the 1980s international solidarity campaign that put economic pressure on South Africa’s government which helped end apartheid.

The summer 2014 Israeli attack on Gaza increased worldwide support for BDS. UE Local 150 endorsed BDS. The largest union in Britain, UNITE, endorsed BDS in July 2014. UAW Local 2865, which represents 13,000 graduate employees of the University of California, also endorsed BDS last year. COSATU, the Congress of South African Trade Unions that helped defeat apartheid in that country, is a strong backer of BDS. Many progressive Jewish organizations and individuals, in the U.S., Israel and elsewhere actively support BDS as a way to bring about peace and justice for the people of Israel and Palestine.


Calls on Congress and the Administration to end all U.S. military aid to Israel; and to pressure Israel to end the occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem and the siege of Gaza and negotiate a peace agreement on the basis of equality, democracy, and human rights for the Palestinian and Israeli people, including Palestinian self determination and the right of return for refugees.
Endorses the BDS movement and urges the union at all levels to become engaged in BDS and the movement for peace, justice and equality between the Palestinians and Israelis.

- See more at:

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Judge reinstates destruction of evidence claim in Steven Salaita case

from the Electric Intifada

Ali Abunimah Rights and Accountability 28 August 2015

Steven Salaita speaks at the Maryland AAUP’s conference on academic freedom, at John Hopkins University, 25 April. Mike Ferguson AAUP
A federal judge has allowed Steven Salaita to reinstate a claim against University of Illinois officials including former Chancellor Phyllis Wise for destroying evidence related to his firing last year.

Earlier this month, US District Judge Harry Leinenweber had thrown out that part of Salaita’s lawsuit while allowing his claims for breach of contract and violation of his First Amendment free speech rights to proceed.

Just before he was about to start teaching in August 2014, the university reneged on Salaita’s employment as a tenured professor in the American Indian Studies program following a campaign attacking him for tweets critical of Israel’s assault on Gaza.

Destroying evidence
At a status hearing in federal court in Chicago on Thursday, Anand Swaminathan, one of Salaita’s attorneys, argued that new evidence justified bringing the claim back.

On 5 August this year, Wise announced her resignation as chancellor, the top official at the Urbana-Champaign campus where Salaita was due to teach.

The next day, the university revealed that Wise and other top officials had for months been using private email addresses to discuss Salaita and other official matters in an apparent attempt to evade disclosure laws.

In motions filed by his attorneys earlier this week, Salaita argued that the new evidence clearly indicated that university officials had engaged in spoliation – destruction – of evidence.

Chris Wilson, a lawyer representing the university, told the judge during the hearing that the emails did not justify bringing back the charge.

In response, Swaminathan read out in court an 18 September 2014 email from Wise, in which she wrote that university spokesperson Robin Kaler “has warned me and others not to use email since we are now in litigation phase. We are doing virtually nothing over our Illinois email addresses. I am even being careful with this email address and deleting after sending.”

Judge Leinenweber remarked that “everyone has read in the paper” about Wise’s conduct – an indication of the high media profile the scandals at the university, including the Salaita matter, have assumed.

The judge said in the hearing that he would rule after the university’s lawyers had filed a written response.

However, court records do not show that such a response was filed. Nonetheless, the judge issued an order Thursday evening allowing Salaita to amend his lawsuit to include the spoliation of evidence charge.

This could mean that the judge found Wise’s email so damning on its face that nothing the university could have said would have persuaded him not to allow Salaita to pursue the matter.

If the spoliation of evidence is proven it could lead to a monetary penalty against the university. It could also lead to what is called an “adverse inference” sanction, where the judge tells the jury to assume that the lost evidence would have been harmful to the party that destroyed it.

The next status hearing is set for 27 October. Lawyers are expected to spend the next few months in discovery – the process of revealing evidence – and depositions. A trial is unlikely before early 2016.

The judge has yet to rule on a second motion filed by Salaita’s lawyers this week asking the court to order the university to take steps to preserve evidence from further destruction.

Email revelations
Emails, some still coming to light, have revealed hitherto unknown aspects of the Salaita matter.

Earlier this week, for instance, The Electronic Intifada exclusively revealed the intervention in the case of US Senator Dick Durbin, a senior member of the Democratic Party leadership.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Palestinians salute Black solidarity, call for joint struggle

from the Electric Intifada
Ali Abunimah Activism and BDS Beat 27 August 2015

Israel advocates are alarmed by growth in Black-Palestinian solidarity. (Sarah-Ji/Flickr)
Palestinians have welcomed the declaration signed by more than 1,000 Black activists, artists and scholars in solidarity with the Palestinian people.

This comes as an Israel lobby group is expressing concern at the growing cooperation between Black activists and Palestinians.

The statement, whose endorsers include scholar-activists Angela Davis and Cornel West and Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors, urges full support for the Palestinian-led campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) on Israel.

First appearing in Ebony earlier this month, the statement emphasizes “return to their homeland in present-day Israel” as “the most important aspect of justice for Palestinians.”

Mahmoud Nawajaa, general coordinator of the Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC) said that the Black activists’ “support for BDS against Israel’s regime of occupation, settler colonialism and apartheid is particularly inspiring as it translates principled positions into morally consistent actions that are capable of righting injustices.”

The BNC is the broad Palestinian civil society coalition that leads the BDS movement.

“The US civil rights movement has always been a key inspiration for us in the BDS movement,” Nawajaa added in a statement from the BNC. “We are deeply moved by this powerful proclamation that evokes the spirit of that heroic civil rights struggle.”

Omar Barghouti, co-founder of the BDS movement, called the statement “a poignant testament to the organic links that connect the Palestinian struggle for self-determination with the struggle of the oppressed around the world, including ongoing struggles for racial and economic justice by Black people in the US and across the world.”

“Despite the obvious differences, there are compelling similarities between the forms of oppression that both Palestinians and African Americans live under,” Barghouti added. “Dehumanization, dispossession, racial injustice and discrimination, state violence, criminalization of entire communities and impunity are all key characteristics of the oppression faced by Black Americans and Palestinians.”

The Black activists’ statement calls for joint campaigns against G4S, the multinational security firm that works in Israeli prisons in the occupied West Bank and runs detention centers that are part of the US system of mass incarceration that targets people of color.

The Black activists’ statement – and the Palestinian response – represent the kind of solidarity that is ringing alarm bells in the offices of Israel lobby groups.

This week, the Israel on Campus Coalition (ICC) warned in a report that Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) “and its allies continue to deepen their involvement with social justice-oriented organizations on campus.”

“This year saw efforts by anti-Israel groups to build coalitions with progressive campus organizations that deal with issues such as LGBT rights, fossil fuel divestment, private prison reform, racial discrimination and immigration reform,” the ICC report states.

In particular, ICC – which evidently closely monitors the Palestine solidarity movement – says it “observed strong ties between SJP and many African American student groups during the 2014-2015 academic year.”

“As recently as May 2015, SJP student activists were actively involved in Black Lives Matter-linked demonstrations,” it states.

ICC also notes an “increasing number of SJP-backed slates and candidates winning legislative and executive positions within student governments.”

“These candidates are running on platforms that call for reform on a wide range of social issues; BDS is now mentioned alongside other issues such as private prison divestment, minority rights and fossil fuels,” it adds.

But ICC assures Israel supporters that anti-Palestinian activists are “fighting back” by “forming coalitions to educate the broader campus community, and working to build support for Israel on campus.”

The Israel lobby group says that media reports alleging that BDS is taking over college campuses are exaggerated.

It warns, however, that “if the current trends on campuses nationwide persist, the result could be dangerously close to that reality.”

Thursday, August 27, 2015

“Donald Trump is the new face of white supremacy,” says hate crime expert.


Before you think this article is “just one liberal’s opinion,” let me briefly say I have dedicated my life to studying racism. I earned my PhD from Emory University in 1995 after spending several years doing ethnographic field studies of white supremacist groups. I have published books and articles in peer-reviewed journals on the subject and have appeared on more TV shows than I can remember discussing how hate works. In my 20 years at Portland State University, I interviewed scores of committed racists, from teenage skinheads to racist murderers and founders of Nazi prison gangs. So when I say that presidential candidate Donald Trump is a racist hate-monger it’s not just a political pejorative. He has a constitutional right to hold and express racist views, but using those views to manipulate the intellectually vulnerable and mobilize active bigots requires a coherent response. As an expert on hate, I am more than comfortable stating that either Trump is a virulent racist or that he is willing to perform racism and use racism of others to advance his political position.

Trump represents a frightening trend of convenient racism rooted a belief that America was great before ethnic and racial minorities, women, and sexual minorities wanted equal rights. (What Trump calls “political correctness.”) These people will say that “racism is wrong, but…” or “I’m not a racist, but…” and then something deeply racist follows. They’ll say that “all lives matter,” in the face of the movement to acknowledge the devaluing of black lives. They’ll say they are not homophobes, just for “religious freedom” (an argument the KKK still makes). They’ll say they’re not Islamaphobes, just against terrorism (ignoring the carnage done by domestic, often Christian, terrorists). And they’ll say that they are not bigots, just opposed to illegal immigration (of brown people). It’s a kinder, gentler form of bigotry, but it’s still bigotry. And Donald Trump is the new Father Coughlin and he wants to be free of the political correctness that would stand in the way of his bigotry. (At least he’s abandoned the GOP’s “go after the gays” mantra from the last election.)

Trump has been visiting states with troubled racial histories to sell his rallying cry that “illegal immigrants are killers and rapists.” First Arizona and then, on Friday, Alabama. He started his rally with some classic hate speech, telling the assembled 30,000 supporters and curious (I would have gone to see the Trump clown show) about the alleged rape and torture of a 66-year-old victim in California who was supposedly attacked by an “illegal immigrant.” The crowd went wild. “We have to do it. We have to do something,” he then said. The crowd roared, and some chanted, “White power!”

Two things to know about Trump’s rhetoric

Anyone knowledgeable about the horrific statistics on rape know that women are overwhelmingly victimized by somebody they know, including family members and dates. Only about 18% of rapes are committed by a stranger (and a tiny fraction of those by undocumented immigrants). So if Trump actually cared about women, it would make more sense to devote his rape obsession to step-fathers instead of Mexican immigrants. Of course, this is a man who has been challenged on the issue of marital rape of one of his ex-wives. Rape is an emotional issue. It was used to lynch innocent blacks in the South and Trump is using it the same way to go after people who are often the hardest workers in the country.

Secondly, in my research I have attended numerous Klan rallies, skinhead gatherings, and meetings of the Aryan Nations, and the rhetoric is almost exactly the same as Trump’s. I was at a Klan Rally in Covington, Georgia in 1991 in which a Klan leader told the small crowd the story of a white woman who had been raped and beaten by an “illegal Mexican.” As with Trump’s story, whether it was true or not didn’t matter. It served to whip the racists into a frenzy. And like Trump’s crowd they were out to “do something” about it. I’ve heard Trump’s rhetoric many times before. “Let’s go back in time to when America was great.” Usually the speaker had a swastika tattoo.


So it wasn’t surprising last week when a news story emerged of two brothers in Boston who brutally beat a homeless Latino man (and urinated on him), claiming they were inspired by Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric. “Donald Trump was right, all these illegals need to be deported,” one said, in the police report. When told of the crime, instead of condemning it, Trump said, “I will say that people who are following me are very passionate. They love this country and they want this country to be great again.” Later, after much outcry, he backpedaled, posting that he opposed violence on his Twitter account. We still don’t know if he opposes urinating on immigrants. We also don’t know if there have been similar Trump-inspired hate crimes, but it is very likely there will be.

The most reasonable Republican candidate might be Ohio governor John Kasich (who was just endorsed by Deez Nuts!). At the first GOP/Fox News debate earlier this month, Kasich (maybe buttering up the Donald), admitted that Trump was “hitting a nerve with voters.” But it’s not all Americans. It’s a small subsection of white people who fear the reality that America is getting less white (and more brown). They see the privilege of their white authority undermined every time they walk into a Home Depot and see signs in English and (gasp!) in Spanish. These are the people who say, “I’m not a racist, but…”

America is a nation of immigrants, coming from all directions. Most white Americans have ancestors that only go back to no further than the 1880s, making them “less American” the descendants of African slaves. When my great grandfather, Michael Blazak, came here from Prague in the 1890s, he faced plenty of anti-Catholic hostility. His son converted to Protestantism and married the daughter of a Klansman and the cycle of immigrant hating continued. “They’re taking our country away! Let’s make America great again and DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT!”

Trump lies to win support

Obviously, Trump is a clown who will say anything that feeds his narcissism. When he said he was going to get Mexico to pay for a wall between our two countries, I could just hear President Peña Nieto laughing and saying, “Señor Trump, chupamela.” Trumpies (I’m coining that term) often say they love Trump because he tells it like it is. If by that they mean that billionaires buy politicians in return for political favors (as Trump admitted in the Fox debate), they are correct. But if they mean all the rest of the crazy stuff that comes out of his mouth, in reality Trump tells it like it isn’t, but it’s what “I’m not racist” racists wish it was. Politifact works overtime trying the present the actual facts to Trump’s lies, but the Trumpies prefer the lie. Something far too common on the right. (“Obama is a Muslim!” “Iraq had weapons of mass destruction!” “The Jews control the banks!”)

Where Trump’s lies are greatest are his bizarre tirades on immigration. Despite his fear mongering, the number of undocumented immigrants has been on the decline since 2009. And despite his endless mantra about “rapists and murderers,” actual data (a word the “King of Capitalism” should know) shows that crime rates in cities decline as their population of undocumented immigrants increase. Think about it. If you are living in America without papers, you aren’t even going to jaywalk. Why do anything that would risk deportation?

My wife was an illegal immigrant. Thanks to immigration reform under President Bill Clinton, and a lot of difficult hoops to jump through, she earned a permanent resident card and is hoping to become a citizen in time to vote in this election. Our daughter, Cozy, would surely be called an “anchor baby” by Trump (and Jeb Bush). Bush recently asked for a better term to use instead of “anchor baby.” I would suggest the word, “baby.” But dehumanizing immigrants (even infants) wins the “I’m not racist, but…” voters. Trump has said on his first day of his presidency he would immediately “get rid of all these people” (I assume my wife and child are included in that group). Besides the fact it’s not possible (Trump’s “looking into” changing the 14th Amendment of the Constitution), it would devastate the American economy. Who does he thinks picks the strawberries that go into his daiquiris? His latest wife is not only a lingerie model but an immigrant! Maybe he should ask her. (The new First Lady?)

It’s ironic that Trump laid this line out in Sweet Home Alabama. Alabama Republicans passed a law in 2011 (HB 56, the Alabama Taxpayer and Citizen Protection Act) to crack down on “illegals.” Residents soon saw produce rotting in fields, disappearing from grocery shelves and restaurants closing. The federal government weighed in (with the help of the Southern Poverty Law Center) on the Constitutionality of the law and it is now a fond memory of the intersection between racist politics and reality.

Alabama tried a Donald Trump-style immigration law. It failed in a big way.

Trump, of course, caters to the convenient racists. At the Alabama rally he was joined on stage by Jeff Sessions, one of the most extreme anti-immigration politicians in the country who has been linked to white supremacist groups. Trump is now using this avowed racist as a “consultant” on his immigration policy. It should be pointed out that when Trumpies blather about “illegal immigrants,” they are not concerned about undocumented Russians, Ukrainians, Irish, Canadians or even Chinese. It’s all about brown people. Trump telling the story of an undocumented Irishman committing a heinous crime wouldn’t get the same roar of approval as a similar story about an “illegal Mexican.”

And now that Trump is trying to woo Conservative Christians, he’s added Islamophobia into his stump speeches, including making up stories about Christian refugees from Syria not being allowed into the U.S., when Muslim refugees are. It’s another lie, but the “I’m not racist” Trumpies send the lie around in chain emails and Facebook stories. (It even got posted by a Trumpie on my page.) Can you imagine what Jesus would say about Donald?

I sincerely doubt Trump really wants to be president of the country and submit himself to the art of the compromise that is politics in the real world. He just wants to win to feed his massive ego. But who knows how many hate crimes he will inspire in the process. It should be noted that Trump is widely popular on the racist Stormfront discussion board. Stormfront is the primary place white supremacists and Neo-Nazis meet and registered members have been linked to almost 100 murders.

I know this blog is supposed to be about being a feminist father and the challenges of raising my daughter in a patriarchal world and not about politics. But there is no better example of the failed model of racist, sexist masculinity than Donald J. Trump. He is an artifact of the past and he wants to drag the country back to it. The man’s rhetoric directly affects the security of my family. The thought of someone hating my wife and child (or attacking them) because they want to “make America great again,” is frightening. When was Trump’s America great? In 2008, when the Great Recession started? In 1954, before the passage of Brown vs. the Board of Education? In 1860, before the start of the Civil War? America is better than Donald Trump, but I fight against him for the safety of my family.

Jorge Ramos Commits Journalism, Gets Immediately Attacked by Journalists

from the Intercept
Glenn Greenwald
Aug. 26 2015, 12:08 p.m.

The Republican presidential candidate leading every poll, Donald Trump, recently unveiled his plan to forcibly deport all 11 million human beings residing in the U.S. without proper documentation, roughly half of whom have children born in the U.S. (and who are thus American citizens). As George Will noted last week, “Trump’s roundup would be about 94 times larger than the wartime internment of 117,000 persons of Japanese descent.” It would require a massive expansion of the most tyrannical police state powers far beyond their already immense post-9/11 explosion. And that’s to say nothing of the incomparably ugly sentiments that Trump’s advocacy of this plan, far before its implementation, is predictably unleashing.

Jorge Ramos, the influential anchor of Univision and an American immigrant from Mexico, has been denouncing Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric. Yesterday at a Trump press conference in Iowa, Ramos stood and questioned Trump on his immigration views. Trump at first ignored him, then scolded him for speaking without being called on and repeatedly ordered him to “sit down,” then told him: “Go back to Univision.” When Ramos refused to sit down and shut up as ordered, a Trump bodyguard physically removed him from the room. After the press conference concluded, Ramos returned and again questioned Trump about immigration, with the two mostly talking over each other as Ramos asked Trump about the fundamental flaws in his policy. Afterward, Ramos said: “This is personal. … He’s talking about our parents, our friends, our kids and our babies.”

One might think that in a conflict between a journalist removed from a press conference for asking questions and the politician who had him removed, journalists would side with their fellow journalist. Some are. But many American journalists have seized on the incident to denounce Ramos for the crime of having opinions and even suggesting that he’s not really acting as a journalist at all.

Politico’s political reporter Marc Caputo unleashed a Twitter rant this morning against Ramos. “This is bias: taking the news personally, explicitly advocating an agenda,” he began. Then: “Trump can and should be pressed on this. Reporters can do this without being activists” and “some reporters still try to approach their stories fairly & decently. & doing so does not prevent good reporting.” Not only did Ramos not do journalism, Caputo argued, but he actually ruins journalism: “My issue is his reporting is imbued with take-it-personally bias. . . . we fend off phony bias allegations & Ramos only helps to wrongly justify them. . . .One can ask and report without the bias. I’ve done it for years & will continue 2 do so.”

A Washington Post article about the incident actually equated the two figures, beginning with the headline: “Jorge Ramos is a conflict junkie, just like his latest target: Donald Trump.” The article twice suggested that Ramos’ behavior was something other than journalism, claiming that his advocacy of immigration reform “blurred the line between journalist and activist” and that “by owning the issue of immigration, Ramos has also blurred the line between journalist and activist.” That Ramos was acting more as an “activist” than a “journalist” was a commonly expressed criticism among media elites this morning.

Here we find, yet again, the enforcement of unwritten, very recent, distinctively corporatized rules of supposed “neutrality” and faux objectivity which all Real Journalists must obey, upon pain of being expelled from the profession. A Good Journalist must pretend they have no opinions, feign utter indifference to the outcome of political debates, never take any sides, be utterly devoid of any human connection to or passion for the issues they cover, and most of all, have no role to play whatsoever in opposing even the most extreme injustices.

Thus: you do not call torture “torture” if the U.S. government falsely denies that it is; you do not say that the chronic shooting of unarmed black citizens by the police is a major problem since not everyone agrees that it is; and you do not object when a major presidential candidate stokes dangerous nativist resentments while demanding mass deportation of millions of people. These are the strictures that have utterly neutered American journalism, drained it of its vitality and core purpose, and ensured that it does little other than serve those who wield the greatest power and have the highest interest in preserving the status quo.

What is more noble for a journalist to do: confront a dangerous, powerful billionaire-demagogue spouting hatemongering nonsense about mass deportation, or sit by quietly and pretend to have no opinions on any of it and that “both sides” are equally deserving of respect and have equal claims to validity? As Ramos put it simply, in what should not even need to be said: “I’m a reporter. My job is to ask questions. What’s ‘totally out of line’ is to eject a reporter from a press conference for asking questions.”

Indeed, some of the most important and valuable moments in American journalism have come from the nation’s most influential journalists rejecting this cowardly demand that they take no position, from Edward R. Murrow’s brave 1954 denunciation of McCarthyism to Walter Cronkite’s 1968 refusal to treat the U.S. government’s lies about the Vietnam War as anything other than what they were. Does anyone doubt that today’s neutrality-über-alles journalists would denounce them as “activists” for inappropriately “taking a side”?

As Jack Shafer documented two years ago, crusading and “activist” journalism is centuries old and has a very noble heritage. The notion that journalists must be beacons of opinion-free, passion-devoid, staid, impotent neutrality is an extremely new one, the byproduct of the increasing corporatization of American journalism. That’s not hard to understand: One of the supreme values of large corporations is fear of offending anyone, particularly those in power, since that’s bad for business. The way that conflict-avoiding value is infused into the media outlets that these corporations own is to inculcate their journalists that their primary duty is to avoid offending anyone, especially those who wield power, which above all means never taking a clear position about anything, instead just serving as a mindless, uncritical vessel for “both sides,” what NYU Journalism Professor Jay Rosen has dubbed “the view from nowhere.” Whatever else that is, it is most certainly not a universal or long-standing principle of how journalism should be conducted.

The worst aspect of these journalists’ demands for “neutrality” is the conceit that they are actually neutral, that they are themselves not activists. To be lectured about the need for journalistic neutrality by Politico of all places — the ultimate and most loyal servant of the D.C. political and corporate class — by itself illustrates what a rotten sham this claim is. I set out my argument about this at length in my 2013 exchange with Bill Keller and won’t repeat it all here; suffice to say, all journalism is deeply subjective and serves some group’s interests. All journalists constantly express opinions and present the world in accordance with their deeply subjective biases — and thus constantly serve one agenda or another — whether they honestly admit doing so or dishonestly pretend they don’t.

Ultimately, demands for “neutrality” and “objectivity” are little more than rules designed to shield those with the greatest power from meaningful challenge. As BuzzFeed’s Adam Serwer insightfully put it this morning, “‘Objective’ reporters were openly mocking Trump not that long ago, but Ramos has not reacted to Trump’s poll numbers with appropriate deference . . . . Just a reminder that what is considered objective reporting is intimately tied to power or the perception of power.” Expressing opinions that are in accord with, and which serve the interests of, those who wield the greatest political and economic power is always acceptable for the journalists who most tightly embrace the pretense of “neutrality”; it’s only when an opinion constitutes dissent or when it’s expressed with too little reverence for the most powerful does it cross the line into “activism” and “bias.”

(Ramos’ supposed sin of being what the Post called a “conflict junkie” — something that sounds to be nothing more than a derogatory way of characterizing “adversary journalism” — is even more ridiculous. Please spare me the tripe about how Ramos’ real sin was one of rudeness, that he failed to wait for explicit permission from the Trumpian Strongman to speak. Aside from the absurdity of viewing Victorian-era etiquette as some sort of journalistic virtue, Trump’s vindictive war with Univision made it unlikely he’d call on Ramos, and journalists don’t always need to be “polite” to do their jobs.

Beyond that, whether a reporter must be deferential to a politician is one of those questions on which people shamelessly switch sides based on which politician is being treated rudely at the moment, as the past liberal protests over the “rudeness” displayed to Obama by conservative journalists demonstrate. That Ramos is not One of Them — Joe Scarborough appeared not even to know who Ramos is and suggested he was just seeking “15 minutes of fame,” despite Ramos’ having far greater influence and fame than Scarborough could dream of having — clearly fueled the journalistic resentment that Ramos’ behavior was out of line).

What Ramos did here was pure journalism in its classic and most noble expression: He aggressively confronted a politician wielding a significant amount of power over some pretty horrible things that the politician is doing and saying. As usual when someone commits a real act of journalism aimed at the most powerful in the U.S., those leading the charge against him are other journalists, who so tellingly regard actual journalism as a gauche and irreverent crime against those who wield the greatest power and thus merit the greatest deference.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Palestine Activism in an Anti-Racist Framework



Though this piece, an exploration of working within an anti-racist framework in all work against oppression, but particularly in the movement to end the occupaton of Palestinian territory, is a personal statement by Mike Merryman-Lotze, it does reflect AFSC's organizational position with regard to this issue. - Lucy

Since late May the Palestine-Israel activist community has been roiled in controversy as a result of a decision made by Jewish Voice for Peace to disassociate from If Americans Knew and its director Alison Weir as well as the decision several months later by the US Campaign to End the Israel Occupation to remove Alison from its coalition for violating the US Campaign anti-racism policy. The separate US Campaign and JVP actions came in response to Alison’s repeated use of media platforms provided by racists and anti-Semites to promote her views on Palestine and her public position that as a matter of principle she will continue to use any platform provided to her to speak about Palestine regardless of how else those platforms are used.

The dispute between these organizations has opened discussions within activist and Quaker circles about what it means to work within an anti-racist framework and about whether such a framework is important to Palestine-Israel activism. AFSC constituents have expressed concerns regarding how racism is or should be identified, defined, and addressed in Palestine activism, and these questions apply more broadly. In my role at AFSC many of these questions have come to me and that is what leads me to write this note.

I should state from the start that I am not a disinterested party in this process. In late May I wrote two public notes in a personal capacity raising concerns about the position taken by If Americans Knew and I communicated my concerns directly to If Americans Knew while dialoguing over email with Alison. I am also a member of the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation’s Steering Committee and was involved with its decision making process on this issue. I support the US Campaign decision, believing that it must enforce its anti-Racism principles if it wants to remain a coalition for justice and that those principles were violated by If Americans Knew.

In noting my connection to this controversy, I also want to be clear that I am not motivated by either personal or organizational animus. I don’t know Alison personally and haven’t worked with If Americans Knew. My only direct interactions with Alison occurred when I was working in Ramallah during the Second Intifada and Alison visited the organization I worked for during her first trips to Palestine. The growth of If Americans Knew over the last 15 years is impressive and many of the materials that it has produced are excellent. I do not want to take away from the good work that If Americans Knew and Alison have done over the years. At the same time, those good works cannot be used as an excuse to ignore other problematic actions and positions.

My motivation for writing about this issue in May and for publishing this statement now is not to label, shame, or shun either Alison or If Americans Knew. I also am not interested in focusing on the specific details of the If Americans Knew dispute which are addressed extensively in other locations. However, I believe that it is important to address openly differences in principle within our movement. I strongly disagree with the If Americans Knew position that it is OK not to vet speaking and publishing opportunities and that as activists we should, as a matter of principle, accept any platform offered to share our opinions. I believe that these positions are a violation of the anti-Racist framework that must guide our activism and my goal here is to put forward both my thoughts regarding what it means to organize for Palestinian rights within an anti-Racist framework and how I reached these conclusions. I offer these thoughts in a spirit of public dialogue and with an openness to being challenged.

Towards an Understanding of anti-Racist organizing

In putting forward my views I think it is important to explain who I am and how I came to my positions on these issues. First, I am a straight, white, protestant male and I understand that these and other aspects of my identity both shape and limit my understanding of race, racism, privilege, and rights.

I am not a natural activist. I grew up in rural Washington State, living in a town of 500 people until I was six and then in an unincorporated community nine miles outside of a town of 3,000 until I left home for college. My parents were missionaries before I was born as were my grandparents, several aunts and uncles, and now several cousins. I grew up in the evangelical church. This was not a diverse nor a liberal environment in which to grow up. Activism was not a part of my life.

At the same time, I grew up in a family where social justice was important. My parents fit within the progressive evangelical camp and within our home there was always an emphasis on living out faith in ways that push forward justice. While we attended mainline and evangelical churches throughout my childhood we also maintained a connection with a local Quaker meeting. My parent’s connection to Quakerism began in the 1960s when my dad was a conscientious objector and my mom volunteered at a Quaker draft counseling center. Although my grandfather became Presbyterian when he married my grandmother, the Lotze family roots are in the Brethren Church and the Brethren peace testimony was never left behind by our family. Having family all over the world also helped me gain a globalized perspective that I otherwise might not have gained in a rural small town.

My parents’ commitment to social justice influenced me but with clear limits. Through my late twenties I had not developed solid understandings of power, privilege, race, or structural racism and injustice. I grew up accepting the mainstream narrative about race which holds that racism was largely eradicated through the civil rights movement and that our job now is to be color blind and police our own actions. Moving beyond this framing and to deeper understandings of power, privilege, race, and racism is an ongoing process and I recognize that I still have much to learn.

My process of developing a deeper understanding of these issues developed as a direct result of my engagement in Palestine and Israel. My first experience in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories came in 1996 when I spent 4 months in Jerusalem studying the conflict with Palestinian and Israeli professors. When I returned to the U.S. I became involved with student organizing on Palestine and in 1998 volunteered with Human Rights Watch in their Middle East program. In January 2000 I moved to Ramallah where I worked with a human rights organization until mid-2003.

As I have written elsewhere, living in Palestine during the Second Intifada was transformative. I was forced out of my comfortable understanding of the world as I struggled to understand the dynamics of the violence that I witnessed on a daily basis. Over the 15 years that have passed since I first moved to Ramallah I have gradually come to appreciate the structural aspects of both violence and racism, and it is this appreciation that leads me to lift up the ideas below.

Challenging Structural Inequality and Injustice

Palestinian community of Umm al-Kheir. The community is in the Southern West Bank and threatened with forced displacement. Its homes are regularly demolished. It is also located directly next to a settlement built on community land. The settlement can be seen in the background of the picture with the shacks of the village in the foreground.
Palestinian community of Umm al-Kheir. The community is in the Southern West Bank and threatened with forced displacement. Its homes are regularly demolished. It is also located directly next to a settlement built on community land. The settlement can be seen in the background of the picture with the shacks of the village in the foreground.
One of the core messages I have tried to emphasize through my Palestine-Israel activism work over the last several years has been that those seeking change in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory should not over emphasize acts of individual violence as they analyze the dynamics of the conflict between Palestinians and Israelis. Acts of individual violence must be condemned and their impact on individuals, families, and communities cannot be understated. Collectively we must stand firmly against all violence. However, acts of violence must be seen within their larger social and political contexts. In Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory that is a context of past and ongoing dispossession, inequality, and occupation.

The roots of the conflict cannot be found in personalized violence nor misunderstanding between people. We must recognize that the core of the conflict is the institutional discrimination and violence that emanates from the systems of power that are in place in order to privilege the rights of Jewish Israelis over Palestinians. These systems in turn cannot be delinked from the history of European/Jewish settler colonialism that displaced and dispossessed Palestinians in 1948 and before, that continue through the ongoing occupation of the Palestinian territory, and that permeate Israeli and Palestinian institutions, culture, and daily life through systems of legal and political segregation and discrimination.

To transform this reality it is not enough for us to call for an end to physical violence and the occupation. We must also actively work to oppose the economic, social, and political structures that benefit from and support this system of inequality. We must challenge the dominant narrative that guides the United States led peace process and that emphasizes partition and ethnic separation over rights. We must call for Palestinians’ right of return, recognizing that arguments against return that deny rights because of a perceived need to maintain a particular demographic balance are fundamentally racist. We must challenge the corporate and economic interests that are benefiting from and sustaining conflict and inequality. We must support those Palestinians and Israelis who are working separately and through co-resistance to end the systems of power that keep them trapped in a conflict that is destructive to both people.

A clear recognition of the structural nature of the conflict is what leads to a position supportive of anti-normalization principles. Normalization is generally defined as any project, initiative, or activity, in Palestine or internationally, that aims (implicitly or explicitly) to bring together Palestinians and Israelis (people or institutions) without placing as its goal opposition and resistance to the Israeli occupation and structural inequalities. This definition builds from the idea that programs that bring people together without focusing on the political and structural aspects of the conflict artificially reduce the conflict to an interpersonal and relational struggle based on misunderstandings and conflicting historic narratives. In this context, the push towards resolving the conflict becomes focused on building interpersonal understanding and co-existence, while political and structural injustices resulting from the ongoing occupation and structural inequalities between Palestinians and Israelis get pushed to the side or ignored. Rather than serving as transformative processes, such programs often further entrench conflict by providing a veneer of normality that serves to cover real inequality.

I was involved with discussions that led to the Palestinian NGO Network decision in late 2000 to end people to people programs with Israelis. It should be understood that this 2000 decision and the anti-Normalization positions that have since developed are not about refusing contact between individuals based on identity. Rather, they are positions that recognize the unequal power dynamics that exist between people in situations of injustice and that account for that inequality in considering how individual and group interactions either further or challenge injustice.

While anti-Normalization positions were first developed by Palestinians living in the occupied Palestinian territory as a response to dialogue and people to people programs that they viewed as reinforcing rather than challenging injustice against them, the Palestinian position has also shaped and informed the thinking and actions of activists outside of Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory. A key part of international activists’ work to transform realities on the ground in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory involves challenging the accepted and dominant narratives about both the history and current context of the conflict. Challenging narratives requires careful consideration of how and where one speaks and what forums are used to promote discussions and views.

Dialogue and discussion groups are not value neutral forums. Media platforms are not value neutral. The various platforms that we use to promote ideas and the forums that we participate in can either reinforce or challenge injustice. As activists it is our responsibility to think carefully about how and where we present our position.

This is not to say that we should only speak in comfortable environments and to audiences that agree with our positions. To bring change we must make speaking to people with whom we disagree and in places where our opinions are not popular a core part of our work. However, as we reach out to individuals and groups with whom we disagree, we must ensure that we are challenging and not reinforcing discriminatory, racist, or otherwise harmful ideologies held by these individuals and groups whether related to Palestine or to other issues.

Palestine Activism in an Anti-Racist Framework

Setting out the ideas and principles outlined above in the context of a discussion of how anti-racist principles should guide the Palestine activist movement in the United States is important because I believe that it is this framing that must lead Palestine-Israel activists to a deeper analysis of racism and injustice in the United States. It is this framing which has led me to a deeper analysis of race, power, racism, and injustice in the United States.

It is my belief that just as it is not enough to focus on individual acts of violence in Palestine, it is not enough to focus on obvious and overt racist acts and statements as we challenge racism and injustice in the United States. Learning from our work on Palestine, we must begin to place overt acts of racism and injustice in their larger social and political context and address systems of structural oppression. This context is not just a history and system of explicit white racism and legal segregation which ostensibly ended with the civil rights movement, but also a historic and ongoing reality of economic exploitation and inequality, restricted opportunity, discriminatory policing and many other factors that entrench inequality and injustice.

The roots of racism in the U.S are not only to be found in personal racism and misunderstanding between people. While recognizing the reality of individual responsibility for racism and racist acts, we must also recognize that racism in the U.S involves institutionalized discrimination and violence that emanates from systems of power that are in place in order to privilege the rights of white U.S citizens over people of color and those defined as “other”. These systems in turn cannot be delinked from the history of U.S settler colonialism, slavery, and economic exploitation that set in place systems of control and privilege which allowed for legalized social, political, and economic segregation into the 1960s; systems that have not been truly transformed and ended despite the end of explicit legal segregation.

Understanding that racism in the U.S. is not just personal but also structural means understanding that racism is present in nearly all institutions and relationships. To transform this reality it is not enough for us to call for an end to blatant discriminatory and racist acts. It also is not enough to guarantee voting rights, set in place affirmative action policies, and regulate individual actions.

We must also actively work to oppose the economic, social, and political structures that are benefiting from and sustaining inequality and racism in the United States. We must challenge the dominant narratives that have developed since the 1960’s and that hold that the civil rights movement is a movement of the past and that we are seeking a color blind society which prioritizes individual reconciliation over rights. We must challenge the economic and corporate systems that marginalize and exploit communities of color. We must work to undo laws that are discriminatory either in intent or impact. We must end the systems of policing and mass incarceration which devastate communities of color. We must seek fundamental transformations in society.

All of this is stated with a clear recognition that activist’s time and ability to work for change across multiple issues is limited. This is not a call for Palestine activists to change focus and become full time anti-Racism activists and it is not a call for anti-Racism activists to become full time Palestine activists. However, U.S. based Palestine activists in particular must recognize that their activism occurs within the context of U.S. structural racism and as (overwhelmingly middle class and white) U.S. citizens we are complicit in and benefit from that system.

Our work for justice in Palestine and Israel must therefore be integrated into larger anti-racist and peace and justice frameworks. We cannot only be concerned with Palestinian rights. Rather we must see our work for Palestinian rights as coming out of an overall commitment to rights based activism which motivates us on principle to address all injustice and rights violations and thereby leads us to action for Palestine and Israel.

Challenging structural racism and injustice in the U.S. must be a priority for us, and we must understand that even in the context of our Palestine activism our actions can reinforce racism and injustice in the U.S. if we are not conscious of power structures. We must frame our work as part of a struggle not only to overcome the visible systems of oppression in Palestine but also the social, economic, and political systems of oppression and exploitation that sustain injustice in Palestine, Israel, the U.S. and elsewhere.

In addition to the principled reasons for supporting an anti-Racist approach to organizing, there are very practical reasons for building an intersectional movement for social justice. G4S, one of the companies supporting the Israeli prison system and systems of control in the West Bank, runs private prisons in the U.S. and has contracts with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency through which it coordinates the deportation of undocumented immigrants. Hewlett Packard, which supplies magnetic IDs in Israel and Palestine that are key to restricting Palestinian movement, provides software to facilitate the detention and tracking of prisoners and undocumented immigrants in the United States. Elbit Systems took its learning from building the Israeli wall through the West Bank and has applied it as it helps build the wall going up along the U.S.-Mexico border. The police in Fergusson, Missouri, New York City, and other locations across the U.S. received training in Israel.

These connections make it clear that injustice is not contained by borders. Local injustice links to larger systems that connect together globalized injustice. Understanding this we should not see our movement for justice as single issue or localized. We must link with other movements to overcome injustice and also must recognize hetero, patriarchal, white, Christian, and other privilege while constantly struggling to undermine them in our movement. We must work to overcome racism, heterosexism, misogyny, ethno-chauvinism, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, and other forms of discrimination and oppression wherever they exist.

Similar to how Palestine activists have taken positions on anti-Normalization that recognize how activism can feed into dynamics that either support or deny Palestinian rights, we must recognize that our actions can (intentionally or unintentionally) either challenge or reinforce racism and discrimination in the United States. Even while speaking out against U.S. support for Israeli militarism and in support of Palestinian rights, we can reinforce and give legitimacy to other problematic, discriminatory, or racist systems of power if we are not principled about the platforms that we use to promote our views.

Challenging injustice requires carefully considering how and where we speak and what forums we use. As was noted above, the forums that we participate in and the media platforms that we use are not value neutral and can either reinforce or challenge racism and discrimination. As activists it is our responsibility to think carefully about how and where we present our positions. It is our responsibility to refuse opportunities where our actions may reinforce systems of oppression even while providing an opportunity to educate others about the issue about which we are passionate.

In practice this means vetting who we work with, refusing to accept platforms from racists and anti-Semites, standing consistently against all discrimination, stepping away from our own privilege, and taking our lead from those who are subject to oppression and discrimination.

The core of the concerns raised by the US Campaign and Jewish Voice for Peace regarding Alison Weir’s multiple appearances on and use of media platforms used to promote anti-Semitism and racism should be viewed in this context. What has been found problematic is not individual statements or explicitly anti-Semitic and racist actions by Alison or If American’s Knew, but rather their repeated use of platforms that promote anti-Semitism and racism to share messages about Palestine and their insistence that speaking on any media platform without regard to how it is regularly used is principled. This is a position that is inconsistent with an anti-racist approach to organizing. We must consistently challenge the power structures that entrench racism, discrimination, and injustice in society. We cannot use those structures for our own ends.

Accountability as Activists

Before ending these reflections it is important to briefly address the issue of accountability within activist circles. Many activists have stated that challenging racism that is not directly related to the Palestine-Israel issue is divisive and distracting from the Palestine rights movement’s main concerns and thus should not be a focus of activists’ attention. Bringing these issues up “divides” the movement and plays into the hands of those opposed to our work. They state that reconciliation and moving forward is more important than accountability and challenging problematic behavior.

I firmly believe that we must move beyond these positions. Calling for accountability is not an unhealthy and divisive process but rather a necessary part of building a strong, intersectional rights based movement. Demanding accountability is necessary within community even if it is not comfortable. Accountability is not about shunning or blacklisting. Instead it should be seen as respectful disagreement and challenging action for the purpose of ending problematic behavior and changing problematic positions. It is about recognizing that our actions (and inaction) can result in real harm to people subject to discrimination, racism or other injustice if we do not take into account actions that perpetuate injustice against them. It is also about working to ensure that we are not doing harm but rather consistently working for justice.

Our comfort as activists cannot be our primary concern. Just as we push others to places of discomfort by challenging their beliefs and understandings about Palestine, asking them to embrace discomfort and thereby transform their understandings and actions, we must equally embrace discomfort and self-reflection as we challenge our own privilege and prejudices.

In his “Letter from Birmingham Jail”, Martin Luther King Jr. noted that the greatest stumbling block to challenging racism was not the racists of the KKK but rather the white “moderate” who “is more devoted to "order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can't agree with your methods…”

If we truly are a movement for justice then we cannot be comfort seeking moderates. Instead we must embrace discomfort and challenge, letting go of personal privilege and prejudice as we continue to push for structural and societal changes that will result in justice for all.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Israel: world’s most racist state?

from Redline

Posted: August 15, 2015
Zionist settlers on the West Bank hate those they wish to displace

by Tony Greenstein

On July 31, Zionist terrorists firebombed the house of the Dawabsha family in Duma, near Nablus, incinerating 18-month-old Ali and severely burning three other members of his family. As is always the case, the Israeli police failed to apprehend those responsible for what are euphemistically known as ‘price tag’ attacks.

At almost the same time, the notoriously racist Jerusalem police allowed Yishai Schlissel, an Orthodox Jew and Haredi, to repeat the stabbings he carried out against participants in the 2005 Gay Pride demonstration. Schlissel had only just been released from prison and had made his intentions clear on social media, but, as he was not an Arab, no attention was paid to him. In 2005 three people were stabbed and this time around another six people received the same treatment – one of whom, 16-year-old Shira Banki, has since died.

It is worth pointing out that despite the ‘pink-washing’ of Israel by its Zionist supporters, 47% of Israelis consider being gay an ‘abomination’. It is true that this includes Palestinian Israelis, but the difference is that the latter do not participate in anti-gay protests, whereas the orthodox and nationalist right do. They include the HaBayit HaYehudi (Jewish Home) Party in Netanyahu’s government, including its education and justice ministers, Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked. Shaked has openly called for genocide against the Palestinians.

Israel, the only remaining settler colonial state, is also the world’s most racist state. Yet in the Labour leadership hustings here in Britain, hosted by Labour Friends of Israel, the three rightwing candidates fell over themselves to demonstrate their Zionist credentials, oblivious to the cesspit of racism and bigotry that Israel has descended into.

Even Israel’s president, a Likud member and Greater Israel supporter, Reuven Rivlin, has been the subject of death threats after having condemned the murder of Ali Dawabsha. Rivlin, unlike Netanyahu, has been consistent in speaking out against racism and what he has termed Israel’s racist “disease”.1

Andy Burnham promised that Israel would be his first destination if he becomes prime minister. Quite what Israel has done to deserve this he did not explain. For Yvette Cooper, it is “hugely important that Labour continues to be a friend of Israel”. Quite why it is more important than being a “friend” of any other state she did not explain. According to Cooper, Labour was not quick enough to condemn rising levels of anti-Semitism in the UK during Israel’s deadly assault on Gaza last summer. She seemed oblivious to the fact that 2,200 people in Gaza, including over 500 children, had been killed and that Israel claims it carries out its war crimes on behalf of all Jews. Liz Kendall, had her work cut out to appear even more pro-Zionist and had to be content with pledging to “always be a friend of Israel”. She would go to the stake to oppose boycott, divestment and sanctions.

But, apart from the right to vote, which in an ethnocracy is virtually meaningless, Palestinians in Israel experience not merely racial discrimination, but a life in which they are permanent outsiders and ‘guests’ in a Jewish state. People often find it hard to grasp a very simple fact: a settler colonial Jewish state is inherently racist. Whereas in Islamic states, such as Iran or Saudi Arabia, the ruling elites use religion to justify the oppression of other Muslims, in Israel being Jewish means being entitled to privileges. That is why Israel is an ethnocracy.

Every aspect of life – education (except higher education), land, employment, personal status – is segregated and distinct. In most capitalist societies there is racial discrimination, but there are also laws designed to mitigate or end such a situation. There are European race directives and in Britain a Race Relations Act. In the United States there are equivalent laws and affirmative action. In Israel, on the other hand, discrimination is woven into the fabric of the state. Racism is part of the state’s identity. So, even where there is a law against incitement to racial hatred (brought in when Rabbi Meir Kahane, the leader of the Jewish Nazi Party, Kach, was elected to the Knesset), it cannot be used, because the law makes an exception for discrimination on the grounds of religion – which gives Jewish racism a free pass. The only people prosecuted under it are the victims of racism, Israel’s Arabs. Even Kahane ended up voting for the act!

An example of how the right to vote is granted – not to mitigate the discrimination against Israel’s Arab population, but to present a ‘democratic’ facade to the world – was the exchange in Israel’s Knesset over the 2003 Citizenship Law, which prevented family unification for Palestinians living in the West Bank with their Israeli relatives. Deputy interior minister Yaron Mazuz turned to the Arab parliamentarians present and declared: “You’re the first ones who should hand in your ID card.” He told Arab MK Issawi Frej of Meretz, a left-Zionist party: “We’re doing you a favour by letting you even sit here.” The next speaker, Binyamin Netanyahu, continued the racist tirade, attacking the Arab MKs for not having condemned war crimes in Syria and Yemen.2 It was only in May that Netanyahu had gone on Facebook to warn Israel’s Jewish voters that the Arabs were voting in “droves”.

Open adoption

Where the Netanyahu coalitions have broken new ground is their open adoption of racism. No longer is it necessary to hide behind ‘security’ obfuscations or ostensibly neutral provisions, such as a requirement for army service to get certain jobs. Today you can wear your racism on your sleeve.

One recent example of this is the tirade on Facebook of ‘justice’ minister Ayelet Shaked:

This is a war between two people. Who is the enemy? The Palestinian people … an entire people, including its elderly and its women, its cities and its villages, its property and its infrastructure … They are all enemy combatants, and their blood shall be on all their heads. Now this also includes the mothers of the martyrs, who send them to hell with flowers and kisses. They should follow their sons – nothing would be more just. They should go, as should the physical homes in which they raised the snakes. Otherwise, more little snakes will be raised there.3

Rabbi Eli Dahan, the deputy defence minister, also of HaBayit HaYehudi, has some interesting views too: “Palestinians are beasts; they aren’t human.”4 For those interested in religious metaphysics, the good rabbi believes that “A Jew always has a much higher soul than a gentile, even if he is a homosexual.”5 As Uri Misgav writes, “How can a nation so proud of being ‘the only democracy in the Middle East’ operate as the only theocracy in the OECD?”6

The leader of Jewish Home, Naftali Bennett, is also no slouch when it comes to Arabs. In a discussion with a security advisor there was the following dialogue:

Bennett: “If you catch terrorists, you have to simply kill them.”

Amidror: “Listen, that’s not legal.”

Bennett: “I’ve killed lots of Arabs in my life – and there’s no problem with that.”7

Dozens of Arab and Jewish leftwing high school students walked out on a speech by Bennett during a conference at Tel Aviv University after he suggested that Arabs are car and property thieves.8

Open expressions of racism are not confined to Jewish Home. The major party in the current coalition, Likud, is also no slouch. The new deputy foreign minister, Tzipi Hotovely, during her tenure at the Committee on the State of Women and Gender Equality, in 2011 invited representatives from Lehava, an organisation which opposes all Jewish-Arab assimilation, to a discussion on possible activity to prevent the development of relationships between Jews and Arabs. In 2015 Lehava was declared a terrorist organisation after its activists had set fire to Jerusalem’s only Jewish-Arab mixed school. Hotovely declared: “It is important to me to check systems to prevent mixed marriages and Lehava are the most suitable for this.”9 One of these “systems” involves organising attacks on Arabs in Jewish areas. Lehava’s ‘charitable’ wing, Hemla, receives half its budget – over 600,000 shekels (just over £100,000) a year – from the social affairs ministry.

And Hotovely’s view on the settlements is quite clear: “This land is ours. All of it is ours. We expect as a matter of principle of the international community to recognise Israel’s right to build homes for Jews in their homeland, everywhere.”10

As for defence minister Moshe Yalon, at the 2015 Shurat HaDin conference he stated that Israel is “going to hurt Lebanese civilians, to include kids of the family. We went through a very long deep discussion – we did it then, we did it in the Gaza Strip, we are going to do it in any round of hostilities in the future.” He went on to threaten the use of Israeli nuclear weapons against Iran “in certain cases”, when Israel feels “surgical operations” would not suffice. Then it might take “certain steps”, as the US did in “Nagasaki and Hiroshima”11

For her part, Miri Regev, Likud’s culture and sports minister, distinguished herself by stating that “the Sudanese are a cancer in our body”. This helped trigger riots in south Tel Aviv and attacks on African refugees. She later apologised to cancer patients in case they thought they were being likened to asylum-seekers.12

Ideology and practice are coming into line. Ever since the foundation of the state of Israel, Palestinian citizens have suffered permanent and ongoing discrimination, but to some extent at least the ruling ideology traditionally nodded in the direction of mainstream western values. Today all such pretensions are being abandoned l



2. See




6. The hierarchy of the human species, as told by Eli Ben Dahan:




10. The Guardian May 22 2015.



Tony is a veteran working class and anti-imperialist activist, based in Brighton, Britain. The article above first appeared in the

in Britain, on August 12.