Monday, May 30, 2011

The Sky Really is Falling

Posted on May 30, 2011
AP / Lori Mehmen

Global climate change has made for freak storms and more intense weather. The result is Hurricane Katrina, this month’s devastating tornadoes and floods, and routine forest fires in California.

By Chris Hedges

The rapid and terrifying acceleration of global warming, which is disfiguring the ecosystem at a swifter pace than even the gloomiest scientific studies predicted a few years ago, has been confronted by the power elite with two kinds of self-delusion. There are those, many of whom hold elected office, who dismiss the science and empirical evidence as false. There are others who accept the science surrounding global warming but insist that the human species can adapt. Our only salvation—the rapid dismantling of the fossil fuel industry—is ignored by both groups. And we will be led, unless we build popular resistance movements and carry out sustained acts of civil disobedience, toward collective self-annihilation by dimwitted pied pipers and fools.

Those who concede that the planet is warming but insist we can learn to live with it are perhaps more dangerous than the buffoons who decide to shut their eyes. It is horrifying enough that the House of Representatives voted 240-184 this spring to defeat a resolution that said that “climate change is occurring, is caused largely by human activities, and poses significant risks for public health and welfare.” But it is not much of an alternative to trust those who insist we can cope with the effects while continuing to burn fossil fuels.

Horticulturalists are busy planting swamp oaks and sweet gum trees all over Chicago to prepare for weather that will soon resemble that of Baton Rouge. That would be fine if there was a limit to global warming in sight. But without plans to rapidly dismantle the fossil fuel industry, something no one in our corporate state is contemplating, the heat waves of Baton Rouge will be a starting point for a descent that will ultimately make cities like Chicago unlivable. The false promise of human adaptability to global warming is peddled by the polluters’ major front group, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which informed the Environmental Protection Agency that “populations can acclimatize to warmer climates via a range of behavioral, physiological, and technological adaptations.” This bizarre theory of adaptability has been embraced by the Obama administration as it prepares to exploit the natural resources in the Arctic. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced recently that melting of sea ice “will result in more shipping, fishing and tourism, and the possibility to develop newly accessible oil and gas reserves.” Now that’s something to look forward to.

“It is good that at least those guys are taking it seriously, far more seriously than the federal government is taking it,” said the author and environmental activist Bill McKibben of the efforts in cities such as Chicago to begin to adapt to warmer temperatures. “At least they understand that they have some kind of problem coming at them. But they are working off the science of five or six years ago, which is still kind of the official science that the International Climate Change negotiations are working off of. They haven’t begun to internalize the idea that the science has shifted sharply. We are no longer talking about a long, slow, gradual, linear warming, but something that is coming much more quickly and violently. Seven or eight years ago it made sense to talk about putting permeable concrete on the streets. Now what we are coming to realize is that the most important adaptation we can do is to stop putting carbon in the atmosphere. If we don’t, we are going to produce temperature rises so high that there is no adapting to them.”

The Earth has already begun to react to our hubris. Freak weather unleashed deadly tornados in Joplin, Mo., and Tuscaloosa, Ala. It has triggered wildfires that have engulfed large tracts in California, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Texas. It has brought severe droughts to the Southwest, parts of China and the Amazon. It has caused massive flooding along the Mississippi as well as in Australia, New Zealand, China and Pakistan. It is killing off the fish stocks in the oceans and obliterating the polar ice caps. Steadily rising sea levels will eventually submerge coastal cities, islands and some countries. These disturbing weather patterns presage a world where it will be harder and harder to sustain human life. Massive human migrations, which have already begun, will create chaos and violence. India is building a 4,000-kilometer fence along its border with Bangladesh to, in part, hold back the refugees who will flee if Bangladesh is submerged. There are mounting food shortages and sharp price increases in basic staples such as wheat as weather patterns disrupt crop production. The failed grain harvests in Russia, China and Australia, along with the death of the winter wheat crop in Texas, have, as McKibben points out, been exacerbated by the inability of Midwestern farmers to plant corn in water-logged fields. These portents of an angry Gaia are nothing compared to what will follow if we do not swiftly act.

“We are going to have to adapt a good deal,” said McKibben, with whom I spoke by phone from his home in Vermont. “It is going to be a century that calls for being resilient and durable. Most of that adaptation is going to take the form of economies getting smaller and lower to the ground, local food, local energy, things like that. But that alone won’t do it, because the scale of change we are now talking about is so great that no one can adapt to it. Temperatures have gone up one degree so far and that has been enough to melt the Arctic. If we let it go up three or four degrees, the rule of thumb the agronomists go by is every degree Celsius of temperature rise represents about a 10 percent reduction in grain yields. If we let it go up three or four degrees we are really not talking about a planet that can support a civilization anything like the one we’ve got.

“I have sympathy for those who are trying hard to figure out how to adapt, but they are behind the curve of the science by a good deal,” he said. “I have less sympathy for the companies that are brainwashing everyone along the line ‘We’re taking small steps here and there to improve.’ The problem, at this point, is not going to be dealt with by small steps. It is going to be dealt with by getting off fossil fuel in the next 10 or 20 years or not at all.

“The most appropriate thing going on in Chicago right now is that Greenpeace occupied [on Thursday] the coal-fired power plant in Chicago,” he said. “That’s been helpful. It reminded people what the real answers are. We’re going to see more civil disobedience. I hope we are. I am planning hard for some stuff this summer.

“The task that we are about is essentially political and symbolic,” McKibben admitted. “There is no actual way to shut down the fossil fuel system with our bodies. It is simply too big. It’s far too integrated in everything we do. The actions have to be symbolic, and the most important part of that symbolism is to make it clear to the onlookers that those of us doing this kind of thing are not radical in any way. We are conservatives. The real radicals in this scenario are people who are willing to fundamentally alter the composition of the atmosphere. I can’t think of a more radical thing that any human has ever thought of doing. If it wasn’t happening it would be like the plot from a Bond movie.

“The only way around this is to defeat the system, and the name of that system is the fossil fuel industry, which is the most profitable industry in the world by a large margin,” McKibben said. “Fighting it is extraordinarily difficult. Maybe you can’t do it. The only way to do it is to build a movement big enough to make a difference. And that is what we are trying desperately to do with It is something we should have done 20 years ago, instead of figuring that we were going to fight climate change by convincing political elites that they should do something about this problem. It is a tactic that has not worked.

“One of our big targets this year is the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which is the biggest front group for fossil fuel there is,” he said. “We are figuring out how to take them on. I don’t think they are worried about us yet. And maybe they are right not to be, because they’ve got so much money they’re invulnerable.

“There are huge decisive battles coming,” he said. “This year the Obama administration has to decide whether it will grant a permit or not for this giant pipeline to run from the tar sands of Alberta down to the refineries on the Gulf of Mexico. That is like a 1,500-mile fuse to the biggest carbon bomb on the planet. We have to figure out how to keep that from happening. The Obama administration, very sadly, a couple of months ago opened 750 million tons of western coal under federal land for mining. That was a disgrace. But they still have to figure out how to get it to port so they can ship it to China, which is where the market for it is. We are trying hard to keep that from happening. I’m on my way to Bellingham, Wash., next week because there is a plan for a deep-water port in Bellingham that would allow these giant freighters to show up and collect that coal.

“In moral terms, it’s all our personal responsibility and we should be doing those things,” McKibben said when I asked him about changing our own lifestyles to conserve energy. “But don’t confuse that with having much of an impact on the concentration of carbon in the atmosphere. You can’t make the math work one house or one campus at a time. We should do those things. I’ve got a little plaque for having built the most energy-efficient house in Vermont the year we built it. I’ve got solar panels everywhere. But I don’t confuse myself into thinking that that’s actually doing very much. This argument is a political argument. I spend much of my life on airplanes spewing carbon behind me as we try to build a global movement. Either we are going to break the power of the fossil fuel industry and put a price on carbon or the planet is going to heat past the point where we can deal with it.

“It goes far beyond party affiliation or ideology,” he said. “Fossil fuel undergirds every ideology we have. Breaking with it is going to be a traumatic and difficult task. The natural world is going to continue to provide us, unfortunately, with many reminders about why we have to do that. Sooner or later, we will wise up. The question is all about that sooner or later.

“I’d like people to go to and sign up,” McKibben said. “We are going to be issuing calls for people to be involved in civil disobedience. I’d like people to join in this campaign against the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. It’s very easy to sign up. If you don’t own a little business yourself, you probably shop at 10 or 20 of them a week. It’s very easy to sign those guys up to say the U.S. Chamber doesn’t speak for me. We can’t take away their [the Chamber’s] money, but we can take away some of their respectability. I would like people to demonstrate their solidarity with people all around the world in this fight. The next big chance to do that will be Sept. 24, a huge global day of action that we’re calling ‘Moving Planet.’ It will be largely bicycle based, because the bicycle is one of the few tools that both rich and poor use and because it is part of the solution we need. On that day we will be delivering demands via bicycle to every capital and statehouse around the world.

“I wish there was some easy ‘end around,’ some back door through which we could go to get done what needs to be done,” he said. “But that’s not going to happen. That became clear at Copenhagen and last summer when the U.S. Senate refused to take a vote on the most mild, tepid climate legislation there could have been. We are going to have to build a movement that pushes the fossil fuel industry aside. I don’t know whether that’s possible. If you were to bet, you might well bet we will lose. We have been losing for two decades. But you are not allowed to make that bet. The only moral action, when the worst thing that ever happened in the world is happening, is to try and figure out how to change those odds.

“At least they knew they were going to win,” McKibben said of the civil rights movement. “They didn’t know when, but they knew they were going to win, that the tide of history was on their side. But the arch of the physical universe appears to be short and appears to bend towards heat. We’ve got to win quickly if we’re going to win. We’ve already passed the point where we’re going to stop global warming. It has already warmed a degree and there is another degree in the pipeline from carbon already emitted. The heat gets held in the ocean for a while, but it’s already there. We’ve already guaranteed ourselves a miserable century. The question is whether it’s going to be an impossible one.”

Chris Hedges is a weekly Truthdig columnist and a fellow at The Nation Institute. His newest book is “The World As It Is: Dispatches on the Myth of Human Progress.”

Sunday, May 29, 2011


NEW YORK (MMD Newswire) May 24, 2011 -- A spirit of revolution is sweeping the Middle East, yet the Israeli-Palestinian conflict remains dangerously deadlocked. With the peace process on ice, it threatens to explode, either into a renewed cycle of violence or a mass non-violent movement. Yet most Americans know very little about the Palestinians beyond crude stereotypes of violence and victimhood.

Pamela Olson's timely new book, "Fast Times in Palestine" (ISBN 0615456243), endeavors to contextualize the modern Palestinian reality in an engaging, relatable way without demonizing or excluding Israelis. The author aims to blend elements of a travelogue, memoir and narrative journalism in order to ramp the average American reader up to a sophisticated, multifaceted understanding of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Olson, a physics major ex-bartender from small-town Oklahoma, stumbled into the Holy Land in late 2003, adrift and clueless but curious. With dizzying speed, she found herself working as a journalist based in Ramallah and coordinating the foreign press for a Palestinian presidential candidate. She then found herself sharing a holiday dinner with a suicide bomber's family, tour-guiding Israeli friends around the West Bank, dating a Palestinian from a conservative Muslim village, being held at gunpoint and injured by a stun grenade and witnessing the 2005 Disengagement from inside the Gaza Strip.

The author seeks to offer a gripping narrative, refreshingly free of jargon and polemics that focuses not only on violence, terror and social and political upheavals, but also on the daily rounds of house parties, concerts, barbecues, weddings, jokes, harvests and romantic drama that happens in between. The author aims to illuminate three crucial years of Israeli-Palestinian history, from the death of Yasser Arafat to the Hamas election victory, and intends for its lessons to shed light on crucial issues throughout the Middle East.

"Everyone from Middle East experts to total neophytes will enjoy this fascinating journey of beauty and terror, hospitality and homicide, hard lessons, heartbreak and hope - a microcosmic view of an ageless human story with global implications," says Olson.

"Fast Times in Palestine" is available for sale online at and other channels.

About the Author:

Pamela Olson lived in Ramallah for two years, during which she served as head writer and editor for the Palestine Monitor and as the foreign press coordinator for Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi's 2005 presidential campaign. Her writing has appeared in CounterPunch, Israel's Occupation Magazine, The Stanford Magazine and other publications, and her blog is frequently cross-posted on Mondoweiss, The Palestine Note and other outlets. She has presented on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict at Google Tech Talks, on the Stanford and Oklahoma University campuses and at the Institute for Defense Analyses in Washington, D.C. She is active in peace and justice groups in New York City.


Pamela Olson


Phone: (202) 413-9570




The views and opinions expressed in this press release do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of CreateSpace or its affiliates.

Israel and Palestine Here comes your non-violent resistance

By The Economist
May 17, 2011 "The Economist" -- FOR many years now, we've heard American commentators bemoan the violence of the Palestinian national movement. If only Palestinians had learned the lessons of Gandhi and Martin Luther King, we hear, they'd have had their state long ago. Surely no Israeli government would have violently suppressed a non-violent Palestinian movement of national liberation seeking only the universally recognised right of self-determination.
Palestinian commentators and organisers, including Fadi Elsalameen and Moustafa Barghouthi, have spent the last couple of years pointing out that these complaints resolutely ignore the actual and growing Palestinian non-violent resistance movement. For that matter, they elide the fact that the first intifada, which broke out in 1987, was initially as close to non-violent as could be reasonably expected. For the most part, it consisted of general strikes and protest marches. In addition, there was a fair amount of kids throwing rocks, as well as the continuing threat of low-level terrorism, mainly from organisations based abroad; the Israelis conflated the autochthonous protest movement with the terrorism and responded brutally, and the intifada quickly lost its non-violent character. That's not that different from what has happened over the past couple of months in Libya; it shows that it's very hard to keep a non-violent movement non-violent when the government you're demonstrating against subjects you to gunfire for a sustained period of time.
In any case, if you're among those who have made the argument that Israelis would give Palestinians a state if only the Palestinians would learn to employ Ghandhian tactics of non-violent protest, it appears your moment of truth has arrived. As my colleague writes, what happened on Nakba Day was Israel's "nightmare scenario: masses of Palestinians marching, unarmed, towards the borders of the Jewish state, demanding the redress of their decades-old national grievance." Peter Beinart writes that this represents "Israel's Palestinian Arab Spring": the tactics of mass non-violent protest that brought down the governments of Tunisia and Egypt, and are threatening to bring down those of Libya, Yemen and Syria, are now being used in the Palestinian cause.
So now we have an opportunity to see how Americans will react. We've asked the Palestinians to lay down their arms. We've told them their lack of a state is their own fault; if only they would embrace non-violence, a reasonable and unprejudiced world would see the merit of their claims. Over the weekend, tens of thousands of them did just that, and it seems likely to continue. If crowds of tens of thousands of non-violent Palestinian protestors continue to march, and if Israel continues to shoot at them, what will we do? Will we make good on our rhetoric, and press Israel to give them their state? Or will it turn out that our paeans to non-violence were just cynical tactics in an amoral international power contest staged by militaristic Israeli and American right-wing groups whose elective affinities lead them to shape a common narrative of the alien Arab/Muslim threat? Will we even bother to acknowledge that the Palestinians are protesting non-violently? Or will we soldier on with the same empty decades-old rhetoric, now drained of any truth or meaning, because it protects established relationships of power? What will it take to make Americans recognise that the real Martin Luther King-style non-violent Palestinian protestors have arrived, and that Israeli soldiers are shooting them with real bullets?

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Revolutionary poet,songwriter Gil Scott-Heron, 1949-2011

(scroll to bottom to see video of "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised"

From The (UK)
David Sharrock

Gil Scott-Heron dies aged 62
Poet and songwriter was hailed as 'Godfather of Rap' after penning The Revolution Will Not Be Televised

Gil Scott-Heron, the poet and musician regarded as the 'Godfather of Rap', has died in New York. Photograph: Michael Ochs archives

The musician and poet Gil Scott-Heron – best known for his pioneering rap The Revolution Will Not Be Televised – has died at the age of 62, having fallen ill after a European trip.
Jamie Byng, his UK publisher, announced the news via Twitter: "Just heard the very sad news that my dear friend and one of the most inspiring people I've ever met, the great Gil Scott-Heron, died today."

Scott-Heron's spoken word recordings helped shape the emerging hip-hop culture. Generations of rappers cite his work as an influence.
He was known as the Godfather of Rap but disapproved of the title, preferring to describe what he did as "bluesology" – a fusion of poetry, soul, blues and jazz, all shot through with a piercing social conscience and strong political messages, tackling issues such as apartheid and nuclear arms.

"If there was any individual initiative that I was responsible for it might have been that there was music in certain poems of mine, with complete progression and repeating 'hooks', which made them more like songs than just recitations with percussion," Scott-Heron wrote in the introduction to his 1990 Now and Then collection of poems.
He was best known for The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, the critically acclaimed recording from his first album Small Talk at 125th and Lenox, and for his collaborations with jazz/funk pianist and flautist Brian Jackson.

In The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, first recorded in 1970, he issued a fierce critique of the role of race in the mass media and advertising age. "The revolution will not be right back after a message about a white tornado, white lightning or white people," he sang.
He performed at the No Nukes concerts, held in 1979 at Madison Square Garden. The concerts were organised by a group called Musicians United for Safe Energy and protested against the use of nuclear energy following the meltdown at Three Mile Island. The group included singer-songwriters such as Jackson Browne, Graham Nash and Bonnie Raitt.

Scott-Heron's song We Almost Lost Detroit, written about a previous accident at a nuclear power plant, is sampled on rapper Kanye West's single The People. Scott-Heron's 2010 album, I'm New Here, was his first new studio release in 16 years and was hailed by critics. The album's first song, On Coming From a Broken Home, is an ode to his maternal grandmother, Lillie, who raised him in Jackson, Tennessee, until her death when he was 13. He moved to New York after that.

Scott-Heron was HIV positive and battled drug addiction through most of his career. He spent a year and a half in prison for possession.In a 2009 interview he said that his jail term had forced him to confront the reality of his situation. In a 2009 interview he said that his jail term had forced him to confront the reality of his situation.

"When you wake up every day and you're in the joint, not only do you have a problem but you have a problem with admitting you have a problem." Yet in spite of some "unhappy moments" in the past few years he still felt the need to challenge rights abuses and "the things that you pay for with your taxes".

"If the right of free speech is truly what it's supposed to be, then anything you say is all right."

cott-Heron's friend Doris Nolan said the musician had died at St Luke's hospital on Friday afternoon. "We're all sort of shattered," she told the Associated Press.

Friday, May 27, 2011

watch for Ry Cooder's new album, "No Banker Left Behind"

Meanwhile, listen to "How Can A Poor Man Stand Such Times and Live?" Ry's version of a 1930s depression era song (as distinguished from a 2011 era depression).

UN recognition of Palestinian state is actually last chance for 2SS, though US will kill it

by Jack Ross on May 25, 2011
(from Mondoweiss)

The most confusing thing in all the back and forth about Obama's pronouncements about the Middle East in the last few days is why there is so much talk of the Palestinians trying to declare statehood at the UN in September. The unity deal between Fatah and Hamas, by all appearances, is supposed to just be a decent interval before new elections for new leadership, which would have to demand one man-one vote. How then to explain any apparent eagerness for the UN to force the two-state solution down everyone's throat?

The irony is that UN recognition of a Palestinian state is actually the best chance that remains for Israel to survive as a Jewish state. It would therefore make a certain amount of sense for the US to want this and push for it. Expect J Street to call for support of such a UN declaration for this very reason. It is thus not altogether inconceivable that Obama could come out in favor of a UN recognition, but of course I highly doubt it. Indeed, Obama added nothing of substance either way at AIPAC to his Thursday May 19 speech, nor for that matter to Hillary's remarks last year which were news at the time. If he really wanted to save the two-state solution that badly he would be bolder.

So why, then, is Abbas talking about UN recognition in September? The most logical explanation to me is that he has decided it is necessary to deliver one final blow to the two-state solution by forcing the US into the humiliating position of putting the final nail in its coffin at the UN. Again, there is a chance, albeit a small one, that Obama or even Netanyahu could call his bluff, which would likely result in the most bloodshed of all. The point is that we now know what the gruesome end of the "special relationship" looks like.

Do Israeli "Arabs" live it up in Israel?

From Haaretz

* Published 02:51 26.05.11
* Latest update 02:51 26.05.11

Head to Head / Arabeh Mayor Omar Nasser, do you agree with Netanyahu that Arabs live better here than elsewhere?

Arabeh Mayor Omar Nasser is not willing to recognize the State of Israel as a Jewish state, yet he has no problem hosting right-wing Israeli ministers at his office.
By Jack Khoury Tags: Israel news Benjamin Netanyahu

Like many others, Omar Nasser, the mayor of Arabeh, was glued to the television Tuesday evening watching Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu address the U.S. Congress. But left him feeling extremely disturbed. He did not like the fact that the prime minister kept referring to Israeli Arabs as the only Arabs in the region. And he is not willing to recognize the State of Israel as a Jewish state, as Netanyahu demands. Any such recognition, he insists, runs counter to the interests of Arabs and other non-Jewish citizens of the state. Still, he has no problem hosting right-wing Israeli ministers at his office.

Omar Nasser, why was it important to you to watch Netanyahu's address?
Omar Nasser

Arabeh Mayor Omar Nasser
Photo by: Yaron Kaminsky

It was a week of speeches, and everyone was talking about this speech. There were even some who promised a surprise. There were also expectations that Netanyahu would address the Palestinian problem at length, and I, as a member of this people, wanted to hear what the prime minister would say and how he would respond to the remarks made by U.S. President Barack Obama. I'm pretty sure that it wasn't just me, but that many many Arab citizens watched his speech.

Were you surprised when the prime minister spoke about the rights of Israeli Arabs and how they enjoy democracy more than Arabs in any other country?

It was unbearable hypocrisy. The prime minister is mistaken and misleading, and it's a disgrace that members of Congress applauded him. The prime minister chose to compare democracy in Israel to the Arab world. But if he is so proud of democracy in Israel, then why doesn't he compare it to democracy in Canada or in Sweden or in Switzerland?

Yet, if you were the mayor of a town in an Arab country, you wouldn't dare attack a prime minister in this way?

True. But again, don't compare me to Libya and Sudan; compare me to Switzerland and Canada, where no one questions the right of someone else to voice an opinion; I agree that when it comes to freedom of expression, there's a huge difference between Israel and the Arab countries. But let's look at it another way: Is there a democratic country in the world where there are unrecognized villages? In Israel there are. Is there a country in the world where there are laws that allow for admissions committees to prevent citizens from living in certain communities? In Israel there are. Is there a country with a true democracy where a bill like the Nakba Law can be passed or where citizenship can be revoked, including citizenship of tens of thousands of Palestinians from East Jerusalem? Is there a democratic state that rules over another people as Israel does over the Palestinians?

Nevertheless, you and many others perhaps agree with the prime minister that democracy should be enacted in the Arab world?

It's not a function of the prime minister's wish. Everyone wants there to be democratic regimes in the Arab world and for the leaders there to be elected in free elections. So we support the revolutions in the Arab world. In my opinion, what is being done in Libya or Yemen or Syria to these citizens is crimes against humanity.

The prime minister is constantly asking Abu Mazen to recognize the State of Israel as a Jewish state in return for recognition of the Palestinian state. As a citizen of the state, do you share this position?

Certainly not. It's as if we as Arab citizens of the state are living on the margins. Obviously the State of Israel has a Jewish majority and the character of the state is Jewish. But why is it essential to ask others to recognize this as a condition for advancing the peace process? It's a demand that poses an obstacle and has very severe consequences, both for the right of return and for our status as citizens of the State of Israel. The Arabs in Israel today feel that the threat of transfer is not in the realm of an ideological concept, but a real danger, with some cabinet ministers and coalition parties supporting it. We want be equal citizens and have equal rights in the state.

Which country would you like to live in?

First, I am staying in Arabeh. I was born here, as were my parents and grandparents, and I live in a place that has a history going back 3,500 years. We are not foreigners and we are not settlers and we did not occupy or take over the land. I want to live with everyone as a citizen with equal rights. Not recognizing a Jewish state is not a threat to the Jews, including our neighbors in nearby communities. It is a threat to us as Arab citizens and I explained why.

So the demand to tear up the agreement with Hamas is, in your opinion, also not legitimate?

It's a lot of nerve and condescension. Israel always claimed that because there were two governments and divisions, it was impossible to conduct negotiations. Now that there is a reconciliation agreement, they're demanding that it be torn up. Hamas represents part of the Palestinian people, and the entire Palestinian people, as well as those living in Arab countries and in a sizable share of the Western world, support the reconciliation.

But the prime minister says and the Americans agree that Hamas is terrorist organization that does not recognize Israel?

Hamas specifically stated that it supports the establishment of a Palestinian state along the 1967 borders, and in my opinion, this provides a clear answer. It is also clear that the state alongside the Palestinian state will be the State of Israel. This is apparent to all, and these things were clearly elucidated in the recent Cairo agreement as well.

Do you as a mayor and citizen not feel that you have equal rights?

It depends on the circumstances. There are situations where it applies and others where it doesn't. I enjoy rights as a mayor, but does the Arab population or do Arab citizens enjoy full rights? It's clear that as long as there are unrecognized communities, as long as there is discrimination when it comes to budgets, and as long as there are racist laws and there are many examples of this, it's impossible to speak of equality and democracy in the fullest sense.

You paint a grim picture and criticize the prime minister, but you yourself have been attacked in your community because you receive ministers, including those from Yisrael Beiteinu?

That is correct. As you speak with me, the city council is discussing this issue. At the council, I receive ministers and professional representatives from across the political spectrum. They visit me and I visit their offices, and we discuss professional issues pertaining to community development. There is nothing wrong with this. Arabeh welcomed ministers Aharonovitch and Landau and we talked about professional issues such as Arabeh's participation in the Violence-Free City project. What's wrong with that? I'm not discussing political issues with them or their party's platform or the platform of the party I belong to, and by this I mean Hadash. It has no impact on my political positions. I was elected to serve the public and the people in the community.

What really happened in 1948? taking on the official lies about Israeli independence day and ethnic cleansing

In a rebuttal to Michael Medved’s Daily Beast article on how the media distort the Mideast debate, Yousef Munayyer writes that the U.S. knew all along that the creation of Israel would endanger the Palestinian people.

When Palestinian refugees were gunned down by Israeli soldiers upon marching towards their homeland during unarmed Nakba Day demonstrations, the floodgates of historic revisionism opened.

What is this ‘Nakba’? Where did these refugees come from? Who should be responsible for them? Readers undoubtedly raised these questions when the spilled blood of demonstrators brought the discussion of the most pivotal year in Palestinian history, 1948, back into the headlines.

Often, the events of this period are recited like this in mainstream media:

After Israel declared independence on May 14, 1948, armies from neighboring Arab states attacked the new nation; during the war that followed, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fled or were driven from their homes by Israeli forces.

As a student of history and the grandchild of Nakba survivors, I find it not only inaccurate to suggest Palestinian refugees are merely the unintended consequence of war, but also offensive and disgusting.

That sequence of events, from a recent New York Times article, was repeated by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after his meeting with President Obama last week.

Both describe the refugees as a result of the “Arab attack” in 1948. But even a cursory look at history reveals how flawed this is. Before a single Arab soldier crossed into Palestine on May 15, 1948 more than half the total refugees were created. Arab mobilization then became a reaction to massive refugee flows and not the cause of it. When Israel declared independence, its military had already succeeded in depopulating Palestine’s largest cities of Jaffa and Haifa as well as Tiberias, Safad and Beisan. Perhaps those writing today’s New York Times should read their own reporting from this period because they’d quickly learn they are peddling distortions that are simply unfit to print.

The depopulation of Palestine was no accident. The Zionist movement sought to create a Jewish state in a territory where Jews were a minority. On the eve of the Nakba, Jews constituted 30 percent of the population and owned 7 percent of the land. Within months, they forged a state on 78 percent of the territory where they flipped the demographic ratio from 30:70 Jews to Arabs to 90:10. To think such dramatic demographic change happens by accident—only coincidently suiting decades old Zionist aims—is dangerous naiveté. Such things happen only by design.

Thousands of declassified files in Israeli military archives speak to the intent behind depopulation operations targeting Palestinian villages and the planning of these actions which began long before the war. In 1940, for example, the pre-state Jewish government began a clandestine intelligence operation that collected sensitive data on every Palestinian village. Prior to the depopulation, the Zionists had detailed information on the villagers, including name, age, property, political affiliations, wages, occupations, relationships. They documented water resources, roads, access to media and if the village had any weapon. They kept lists of villagers in each village believed hostile to Zionism. An expose in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz revealed what historians have known for years.

In 1947, the UN General Assembly passed a plan to divide Palestine into four entities, one Arab (which was 99 percent Palestinian Arab on 43 percent of the land) one Jewish (which was 55 percent Jewish and 45 percent Palestinian Arab and on 55 percent of the land) a third entity to be internationally monitored around Jerusalem which was 51 percent Palestinian Arab and 49 percent Jewish and a fourth isolated enclave around the Palestinian city of Jaffa. For Palestinians, this partition divided their population into 4 and gave 55 percent of their territory to the 30 percent of the population which was Jewish, most of which just arrived in Palestine in the previous two decades. For the Jews, this plan would create the state they long desired. In short, the Palestinians had a great deal to lose while the Jews had a great deal to gain. That is why Palestinians justifiably rejected this deal and the Jews accepted it.

From 1919, the United States knew creating a Jewish State in Palestine meant disaster for the native Palestinian Arabs. An American fact finding team, the King-Crane commission, noted that a Jewish state could not be established without the “gravest trespass upon the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine.” The commission was shocked after meeting with Zionists at the time who “looked forward to a practically complete dispossession of the present non-Jewish inhabitants of Palestine.” Perhaps this insight led Washington to make a decision few people recall. On March 19, 1948, the United States withdrew its support for the partition plan. The Zionists knew the state they coveted was in jeopardy since the US, a global power after WWII, backed away from the plan. With the British Mandate ending in less than two months, it was time to take it by force. During this six week period the Israeli forces accelerated their attacks on Arab villages and committed massacres including at Deir Yassin on April 9, 1948. At this point, the depopulation was in full swing and masses of refugees were created either by direct force or fear for their lives before the Arab armies entered Palestine.

As a student of history and the grandchild of Nakba survivors, I find it not only inaccurate to suggest Palestinian refugees are merely the unintended consequence of war, but also offensive and disgusting. In many countries, Holocaust denial will land you in jail but in the U.S. Nakba denial may land you on the pages of major newspapers.

Some Nakba denials are particularly vile. Michael Medved denies the Nakba happened in his distorted history and argues Palestinians never had it so good and benefited from Zionist colonization of their land. Like Cecil Rhodes, who more than a century ago led the English colonization of Africa, Medved asserts proudly that the colonization of the natives by European newcomers was to their benefit. This twisted defense of colonialism is as repulsive as it is supremacist and archaic. Medved and his frankly racist approach are relics with a “heart of darkness” that are incompatible with the 21st century. They should be opposed in all their forms by people of conscience.

Until candid discussions about the events of the Nakba will be part of our discourse in the United States, we shouldn’t think we can ever be a fair mediator between Israelis and Palestinians. Sadly, as the willingness of some readers to welcome Medved’s brazen distortion proves, we are far from that point.

Yousef Munayyer is Executive Director of The Jerusalem Fund and its educational program, The Palestine Center.

Bibi and the Yo-Yos

from gush-shalom web site
Uri Avnery's Column


IT WAS all rather disgusting.

There they were, the members of the highest legislative bodies of the world’s only superpower, flying up and down like so many yo-yos, applauding wildly, every few minutes or seconds, the most outrageous lies and distortions of Binyamin Netanyahu.

It was worse than the Syrian parliament during a speech by Bashar Assad, where anyone not applauding could find himself in prison. Or Stalin’s Supreme Soviet, when showing less than sufficient respect could have meant death.

What the American Senators and Congressmen feared was a fate worse than death. Anyone remaining seated or not applauding wildly enough could have been caught on camera – and that amounts to political suicide. It was enough for one single congressman to rise and applaud, and all the others had to follow suit. Who would dare not to?

The sight of these hundreds of parliamentarians jumping up and clapping their hands, again and again and again and again, with the Leader graciously acknowledging with a movement of his hand, was reminiscent of other regimes. Only this time it was not the local dictator who compelled this adulation, but a foreign one.

The most depressing part of it was that there was not a single lawmaker – Republican or Democrat – who dared to resist. When I was a 9 year old boy in Germany, I dared to leave my right arm hanging by my side when all my schoolmates raised theirs in the Nazi salute and sang Hitler’s anthem. Is there no one in Washington DC who has that simple courage? Is it really Washington IOT – Israel Occupied Territory – as the anti-Semites assert?

Many years ago I visited the Senate hall and was introduced to the leading Senators of the time. I was profoundly shocked. After being brought up in deep respect for the Senate of the United States, the country of Jefferson and Lincoln, I was faced with a bunch of pompous asses, many of them nincompoops who had not the slightest idea what they were talking about. I was told that it was their assistants who really understood matters.

SO WHAT did the great man say to this august body?

It was a finely crafted speech, using all the standard tricks of the trade – the dramatic pause, the raised finger, the little witticisms, the sentences repeated for effect. Not a great orator, by any means, no Winston Churchill, but good enough for this audience and this occasion.

But the message could be summed up in one word: No.

After their disastrous debacle in 1967, the leaders of the Arab world met in Khartoum and adopted the famous Three No’s: NO recognition of Israel, No negotiation with Israel, NO peace with Israel. It was just what the Israeli leadership wanted. They could go happily about their business of entrenching the occupation and building settlements.

Now Netanyahu is having his Khartoum. NO return to the 1967 borders. NO Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem. NO to even a symbolic return of some refugees. NO military withdrawal from the Jordan River - meaning that the future Palestinian state would be completely surrounded by the Israeli armed forces. NO negotiation with a Palestinian government “supported” by Hamas, even if there are no Hamas members in the government itself. And so on – NO. NO. NO.

The aim is clearly to make sure that no Palestinian leader could even dream of entering negotiations, even in the unlikely event that he were ready to meet yet another condition: to recognize Israel as “the nation-state of the Jewish people” – which includes the dozens of Jewish Senators and Congressmen who were the first to jump up and down, up and down, like so many marionettes.

Netanyahu, along with his associates and political bedfellows, is determined to prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state by all and any means. That did not start with the present government – it is an aim deeply embedded in Zionist ideology and practice. The founders of the movement set the course, David Ben-Gurion acted to implement it in 1948, in collusion with King Abdallah of Jordan. Netanyahu is just adding his bit.

“No Palestinian state” means: no peace, not now, not ever. Everything else is, as the Americans say, baloney. All the pious phrases about happiness for our children, prosperity for the Palestinians, peace with the entire Arab world, a bright future for all, are just that – pure baloney. At least some in the audience must have noticed that, even with all that jumping.

NETANYAHU SPAT in Obama's eye. The Republicans in the audience must have enjoyed that. Perhaps some Democrats too.

It can be assumed that Obama did not. So what will he do now?

There is a Jewish joke about a hungry pauper who entered an inn and demanded food. Otherwise, he threatened, he would do what his father did. The frightened innkeeper fed him, and in the end asked timidly: “But what did your father do?” Swallowing the last morsel, the man answered: “He went to sleep hungry.”

There is a good chance that Obama will do the same. He will pretend that the spittle on his cheek is rainwater. His promise to prevent a UN General Assembly recognition of the State of Palestine deprived him of his main leverage over Netanyahu.

Somebody in Washington seems to be floating the idea of Obama coming to Jerusalem and addressing the Knesset. It would be direct retaliation – Obama talking with the Israeli public over the head of the Prime Minister, as Netanyahu has just addressed the American public over the head of the President.

It would be an exciting event. As a former Member of the Knesset, I would be invited. But I would not advise it. I proposed it a year ago. Today I would not.

The obvious precedent is Anwar Sadat’s historic speech in the Knesset. But there is really no comparison. Egypt and Israel were still officially at war. Going to the capital of the enemy was without precedent, the more so only four years after a bloody battle. It was an act that shook Israel, eliminating in one stroke a whole set of mental patterns and opening the mind for new ones. Not one of us will ever forget the moment when the door of the airplane swung open and there he was, handsome and serene, the leader of the enemy.

Later, when I interviewed Sadat at his home, I told him: “I live on the main street of Tel Aviv. When you came out of that plane, I looked out of the window. Nothing moved in the street, except one cat – and it was probably looking for a television set.”

A visit by Obama will be quite different. He will, of course, be received politely – without the obsessive jumping and clapping – though probably heckled by Knesset Members of the extreme Right. But that will be all.

Sadat’s visit was a deed in itself. Not so a visit by Obama. He will not shake Israeli public opinion, unless he comes with a concrete plan of action – a detailed peace plan, with a detailed timetable, backed by a clear determination to see it through, whatever the political cost.

Another nice speech, however beautifully phrased, just will not do. After this week’s deluge of speeches, we have had enough. Speeches can be important if they accompany actions, but they are no substitute for action. Churchill’s speeches helped to shape history – but only because they reflected historic deeds. Without the Battle of Britain, without Normandy, without El Alamein, those speeches would have sounded ridiculous.

Now, with all the roads blocked, there remains only one path open: the recognition of the State of Palestine by the United Nations coupled with nonviolent mass action by the Palestinian people against the occupation. The Israeli peace forces will also play their part, because the fate of Israel depends on peace as much as the fate of Palestine.

Sure, the US will try to obstruct, and Congress will jump up and down, But the Israeli-Palestinian spring is on its way.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Schumer the shomer, or maybe he's a golem

A couple of days ago I saw a reference to NY Senator Chuck Schumer in an article in Mondoweiss. It was part of a story about the gathering of frauds, dimwitted ignoramuses, racists, and shills for corporate America that is otherwise known as a joint session of Congress.They cheered, did handstands and whooped it up for Bibi, their man in Jerusalem.

Among Netanyahu's worshipers was Senator Chuck Schumer. The Mondoweiss article related some remarks by Schumer while being interviewed on a Jewish radio program. He said “One of my roles, very important in the United States Senate, is to be a shomer [guard]—to be a... the shomer Yisrael [guard of Israel]. And I will continue to be that with every bone in my body."

Yes,every bone in Schomer Schumer's body is dedicated to protecting, aiding and abetting the "Jewish Only" state's stealing of land, ethnic cleansing and denial of human rights to the 5 million plus Palestinians under it's de facto rule.

He must be protecting something, somewhere, since he's not protecting the lives, standard of living, and democratic rights of his supposed constituents in New York or the USA. You can find Schumer on the side of Wall Street (his most important NY constituent), endless war, and the seamless Bush/Obama expansion of the National Security State that spies on its own citizens who exercise their right of free speech and assembly.

Is Schumer only a mere schomer or could he be a Golem?

A Golem, according to legend, was a medieval era giant robot that was created to protect the European Jewish Ghettos. According to the posting in Wikipedia (ok, sometimes it's actually an acceptable source...especially if you already know the answer):

"The most famous golem narrative involves Judah Loew ben Bezalel, the late 16th century chief rabbi of Prague...who reportedly created a golem to defend the Prague ghetto from anti-Semitic attacks[4] and pogroms. Depending on the version of the legend, the Jews in Prague were to be either expelled or killed under the rule of Rudolf II, the Holy Roman Emperor. To protect the Jewish community, the rabbi constructed the Golem out of clay..., and brought it to life through rituals and Hebrew incantations. As this golem grew, it became increasingly violent, killing gentiles and spreading fear. A different story tells of a golem that fell in love, and when rejected, became the violent monster seen in most accounts. Some versions have the golem eventually turning on its creator or attacking other Jews.[4]"

Schumer the Schomer does have the outward appearance of a Golemesque, spastic, lurching Frankenstein's monster when he gets on TV to applaud every war crime committed by the Israeli Army. When he declaims on Israel he certainly seems to be in robotic lockstep with his fellow AIPAC money worshipers, from Michele Bachman to Jerald Nadler.

As for the Golem's growing increasingly violent as a rejected lover and even turning on those who created him...well, I'm sure Schumer the Shomer is blissfully ignorant of any unintended consequences.

Another Israel America's Golem?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The times they are a'changin'

Bob Dylan turned 70 yesterday and one of his early political songs has gained some new energy and relevance. The people's uprising has put enough pressure on the Egyptian government that they have to stop being a docile puppet of the Israel/USA axis. It's quite a big change for Egypt to broker the unity deal between Fatah and Hamas, telling Obama and Netanyahu to buzz off.

Egypt official: Obama misreading unity deal
Published yesterday (updated) 24/05/2011 11:34

JERUSALEM (Ma’an) -- Egypt will counter any external pressure that could endanger the progress of the Palestinian unity process, Egyptian ambassador to the Palestinian Authority Yasser Othman said Monday after the US president raised concerns.

In his Thursday speech about the "Arab spring," and again during a Sunday speech to an American-Israel lobby group, Obama said the unity agreement between rival Palestinian parties "raised profound and legitimate questions for Israel: How can one negotiate with a party that has shown itself unwilling to recognize your right to exist?"

Speaking with Ma'an, the ambassador said Egypt "hopes all foreign players try to bolster Egypt’s efforts to secure Palestinian reconciliation, and maintain the ceasefire [agreement] between the Palestinians and Israel." He said the decision of Hamas to formally agree to the ceasefire in place in the West Bank when the party signed on to the unity deal was a major step.

Othman said he considered the reconciliation and ceasefire as the main basis for the establishment of a Palestinian state, and a mainstay for hopes of regional stability.

In his Sunday speech in Washington before the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee, Obama urged Hamas to recognize Israel.

"No country can be expected to negotiate with a terrorist organization sworn to its destruction. We will continue to demand that Hamas accept the basic responsibilities of peace: recognizing Israel's right to exist, rejecting violence, and adhering to all existing agreements," he said.

The Egyptian official, however, disagreed with Obama's position, insisting that Cairo "consider[s] the reconciliation agreement as supportive to regional peace."

Othman said Egypt would ensure the success of the unity deal, and secure it as a staple of regional peace.

"Egypt’s role did not end with the signing of agreement in Cairo," he said, adding that the nation was a principal partner present at all meetings and prepared to insist that the deal be made into reality.

Obama, the Arab Spring and irrelevance

by Omar Barghouti on May 23, 2011

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In his policy speech on Thursday, 19 May, US President Barack Obama said that with the eruption of the Arab peoples’ revolutions for freedom and democracy Al-Qaida lost its relevance. In my view, so did the US, relatively speaking, but few in the US establishment are yet ready to admit that. In his speech before AIPAC on Sunday, 22 May, Mr. Obama came across, again, as more of an Israel advocate than a US president, further alienating Arab -- and many other -- audiences.

With Arabs crossing the barrier of fear and taking the initiative to rebuild their societies freely, on democratic principles, the last thing they need is the US government’s offer for help; having seen exactly how the US is building democracy in Iraq and Afghanistan, Mr. Obama will excuse Arabs for being skeptical about his offer, to put it mildly.

The Arab Spring happened despite the US administration’s decades-old staunch support for the dictatorships in Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, Yemen and elsewhere. US support for the Saudi dictatorship, arguably the most totalitarian and reactionary of all, has been critical in suppressing popular revolt and democratic reform in the oil-rich oligarchy. In Tunisia and Egypt, only after victory became a fait accompli did the US and most of Europe start paying lip service to the need for democratization and an orderly transfer of power.

To underline this point, the US has maintained its crucial backing of the Yemeni and Bahraini despotic regimes, despite brutal violations of human rights, arbitrary killings of peaceful protesters, and imprisonment of reform leaders, simply because the regimes there have proven to be able -- at least temporarily -- to hold back the revolts by brute force. Once the regimes start to crumble, so will US public support for them, no doubt. Realpolitik wins, at the end, while principles and a true commitment to human rights and international law -- the latter being completely missing from the entire Obama speech -- take a back seat, as always.

And now the US administration is offering Tunisians and Egyptians petty “debt-relief” bribes after having colluded with the tyrannical regimes there in the pillage of their respective nations’ wealth and the investment of these sums in the US and Western Europe, for the most part. Mr. Obama must think that Arabs have a very shallow memory or are somewhat slow. The sooner he realizes that he is wrong on both accounts, the more likely his administration will be able to absorb the true historic meanings and transformative repercussions of the Arab Spring and, consequently, the more just, fair, consistent and relevant US foreign policy can become.

In his policy speech on Thursday, Obama’s mere mention of the 1967 borders as a territorial basis for “negotiations” triggered a “synthetic” outrage by the Israeli government. Obama’s caveat that followed, “with agreed land swaps,” was intentionally ignored by Israeli officials’ and lobbyists’ irate attacks on Obama. As a result, Obama bent over backward in his speech before AIPAC to explain that what he really meant was that the 1967 borders will not stay the same as they must accommodate Israel’s colonies built on occupied Palestinian land over the last 44 years of occupation. By bluntly putting Israel’s interests ahead of everything else, including long established US interests in ensuring “stability” and winning hearts and minds in the region, Mr. Obama’s two speeches made those US interests even more remote. The fact that Obama’s strongest argument for ending the Israeli occupation is that it serves Israel’s interest of securing a Jewish state and circumvents the fast growing international isolation further confirms where his allegiances lie.

Judging by myriad opinion columns and media interviews on main Arab TV channels President Obama’s original policy speech largely failed to impress the Arab publics, including Palestinians, for several reasons; I shall focus on the most blatant.

First, very few Arabs today actually trust the Obama administration, particularly after its demeaning U-turn on the US demand for Israel to freeze its colonial settlements illegally built on occupied Palestinian and Syrian territory. The utter failure of the US administration to compel Israel to stop construction of those colonies -- which constitute war crimes according to international law -- has cost the US a severe hemorrhage of credibility in the eyes of the Arab world. If Israel will not listen to its main benefactor over such a relatively small matter, can anyone expect the US to pressure Israel to recognize the more substantial inalienable rights of the Palestinian people?

Second, the fanatic-right Israeli government with Netanyahu at its helm has, through its well endowed lobby groups, shown beyond doubt that it commands far more influence over the US Congress than Obama and his administration when it comes to setting Mideast policy. Not only was the US forced to accept the humiliation of being seen by the world as obsequiously complying with Israeli diktats by reversing long standing US policy condemning Israel’s settlements as illegal and an obstacle to peace; it had to cast a veto a resolution at the UN, supported by an overwhelming majority of the world community, that reiterated this US policy staple.

Netanyahu’s latest public rebuff of Obama at their meeting on Friday did not help ameliorate the damage either. As a result, no matter what Mr. Obama says now, very few will take it seriously, knowing that Israel’s far-right government will ultimately have the upper hand in setting US policy in this part of the world.

Third, Mr. Obama’s double standard has reached a new record, as he threw around lofty terms such as “self determination,” “inclusive democracy,” “the inalienable right to freedom,” but he largely excluded the Palestinian people from the set of nations entitled to these inherent rights. He spoke of the “self-evident truth that all men are created equal,” but ignored Israel’s system of racial discrimination that the US Department of State has itself consistently condemned as constituting “institutional, legal, and societal” discrimination against the indigenous Palestinians who are citizens of Israel. In fact, this legalized discrimination fits the UN definition of apartheid.

Furthermore, while Obama spoke about his government’s support for non-violent struggle for freedom and equal rights, he again excluded Palestinian peaceful resistance against the Israeli occupation and apartheid. Non-violence is exactly what most Palestinians have been engaged in over many years, whether in the civil society-led boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement, the mass peaceful protests against the wall and colonies, or the most recent Nakba commemoration peaceful marches that succeeded in crossing the border into the occupied Golan Heights, setting a historic precedent that is pregnant with far reaching potential.

What added insult to injury in the speech was Obama’s insistence on recognizing Israel as a “Jewish state,” which he emphasized further by calling it a “state of the Jewish people,” thus endorsing Israel’s extraterritorial definition of nationality, a clear violation of international law that fundamentally denies the non-Jewish citizens of Israel, the indigenous Palestinians, equal rights simply because of their identity. Imagine if the US President were to describe the US as a Christian nation, or a nation of Christians around the world. Why should Israel be treated as above the law of nations and allowed to maintain an ethnocentric, exclusionary regime that automatically reduces its “non-Jewish” citizens to second-class citizenship with circumscribed rights due to their ethnic or religious identity? How can any state be allowed to define itself as a state of some of its citizens, and many others who are not, but not of all its citizens? Whatever happened to Mr. Obama’s supposed commitment to equality and “inclusive democracy”?

By the same logic, international law does not condone an exclusionary, racist Islamic, Christian, Hindu or any other state that institutionalizes racial discrimination and apartheid against part of citizenry, based on their ethnic, religious or any other identity attribute.

Charting a path to a just, comprehensive, and sustainable peace in the Middle East requires that all parties abide by international law and universal human rights. So long as the US administration carries on with its massive, multi-billion dollar annual subsidy for Israel’s intransigence and to protect from international censure and sanctions Israel’s multi-tiered system of colonial oppression against the Palestinians, no glamorous oratory from Mr. Obama stands a chance to slow down the US’s descent into irrelevance in the ongoing reshaping of the modern history of this strategic region.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Why Liberal Sellouts Attack Prophets Like Cornel West

From Truthdig
May 23, 2011

By Chris Hedges

The liberal class, which attempted last week to discredit the words my friend Cornel West spoke about Barack Obama and the Democratic Party, prefers comfort and privilege to justice, truth and confrontation. Its guiding ideological stance is determined by what is most expedient to the careers of its members. It refuses to challenge, in a meaningful way, the decaying structures of democracy or the ascendancy of the corporate state. It glosses over the relentless assault on working men and women and the imperial wars that are bankrupting the nation. It proclaims its adherence to traditional liberal values while defending and promoting systems of power that mock these values.The pillars of the liberal establishment—the press, the church, culture, the university, labor and the Democratic Party—all honor an unwritten quid pro quo with corporations and the power elite, as well as our masters of war, on whom they depend for money, access and positions of influence. Those who expose this moral cowardice and collaboration with corporate power are always ruthlessly thrust aside.

The capitulation of the liberal class to corporate capitalism, as Irving Howe once noted, has “bleached out all political tendencies.” The liberal class has become, Howe wrote, “a loose shelter, a poncho rather than a program; to call oneself a liberal one doesn’t really have to believe in anything.” The decision to subordinate ethics to political expediency has led liberals to steadily surrender their moral autonomy, voice and beliefs to the dictates of the corporate state. As Dwight Macdonald wrote in “The Root Is Man,” those who do not make human beings the center of their concern soon lose the capacity to make any ethical choices, for they willingly sacrifice others in the name of the politically expedient and practical.

By extolling the power of the state as an agent of change, as well as measuring human progress through the advances of science, technology and consumption, liberals abetted the cult of the self and the ascendancy of the corporate state. The liberal class placed its faith in the inevitability of human progress and abandoned the human values that should have remained at the core of its activism. The state, now the repository of the hopes and dreams of the liberal class, should always have been seen as the enemy. The destruction of the old radical and militant movements—the communists, socialists and anarchists—has left liberals without a source of new ideas. The link between an effective liberal class and a more radical left was always essential to the health of the former. The liberal class, by allowing radical movements to be dismembered through Red baiting and by banishing those within its ranks who had moral autonomy, gradually deformed basic liberal tenets to support unfettered capitalism, the national security state, globalization and permanent war. Liberalism, cut off from the radical roots of creative and bold thought, merged completely with the corporate power elite. The liberal class at once was betrayed and betrayed itself. And it now functions like a commercial brand, giving a different flavor, face or spin to the ruthless mechanisms of corporate power. This, indeed, is the primary function of Barack Obama.

The liberal class, despite becoming an object of widespread public scorn, prefers the choreographed charade. It will decry the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan or call for universal health care, but continue to defend and support a Democratic Party that has no intention of disrupting the corporate machine. As long as the charade is played, the liberal class can hold itself up as the conscience of the nation without having to act. It can maintain its privileged economic status. It can continue to live in an imaginary world where democratic reform and responsible government exist. It can pretend it has a voice and influence in the corridors of power. But the uselessness and irrelevancy of the liberal class are not lost on the tens of millions of Americans who suffer the indignities of the corporate state. And this is why liberals are rightly despised by the working class and the poor.

The liberal class is incapable of reforming itself. It does not hold within its ranks the rebels and iconoclasts who have the moral or physical courage to defy the corporate state and power elite. And when someone such as Cornel West speaks out, packs of careerist liberals—or perhaps one should call them neoliberals—descend on the apostate like hellhounds, never addressing the truths that are expressed but instead engaging in vicious character assassination. The same thing happened to Ralph Nader, Noam Chomsky, Dennis Kucinich, Jeremiah Wright and others who defied the political orthodoxy of corporate capitalism. The corporate forces, which have taken control of the press and which break unions, run the universities, fund the arts and own the Democratic Party, demand the banishment of all who question the good intentions of the powerful. Liberals who comply are tolerated within the system. They are permitted to busy themselves with the boutique activism of political correctness, inclusiveness or multiculturalism. If they attempt to fight for the primacy of justice, they become pariahs.

Leo Tolstoy wrote that there were three characteristics of all forms of prophecy: “First, it is entirely opposed to the general ideas of the people in the midst of whom it is uttered; second, all who hear it feel its truth; and thirdly, above all, it urges men to realize what it foretells.”

Prophets put forward during their day ideas that the mass of people, including the elite, denounce as impractical and yet at the same time sense to be true. This is what invokes the rage against the prophet. He or she states the obvious in a society where the obvious is seditious. Prophecy is feared because of the consequences of the truth. To accept that Obama is, as West said, a mascot for Wall Street means having to challenge some frightening monoliths of power and give up the comfortable illusion that the Democratic Party or liberal institutions can be instruments for genuine reform. It means having to step outside the mainstream. It means a new radicalism. It means recognizing that there is no hope for a correction or a reversal within the formal systems of power. It means defying traditional systems of power. And liberals, who have become courtiers to the corporate state, must attempt to silence all those who condemn the ruthlessness and mendacity of these systems of destruction. Their denunciation of all who rebel is a matter of self-preservation. For once the callous heart of the corporate state is exposed, so is the callous heart of the liberal class.

Chris Hedges, a senior fellow at The Nation Institute, is the author of “The Death of the Liberal Class” and “The World as It Is: Dispatches on the Myth of Human Progress.”

‘Colonization is indefensible, not 1967 borders’ – Cohen in NYT

May 22, 2011 01:11 pm | Matthew Taylor
(from 5/23/11

Roger Cohen busts out a brilliant catchphrase in the NY Times that could serve as the basis for the next Young Jewish Proud protest:

The 1967 lines are not “indefensible,” as Netanyahu declared in his immediate response to Obama’s speech. What is “indefensible” over time for Israel is colonizing another people.

The NYT oped discourse is shifting just a bit. Cohen's on board the "colonization" bandwagon, Thomas Friedman's said "Apartheid" twice in recent months. The next step is for one of them to talk about 63 years of "ethnic cleansing and continuous Nakba."

Unfortunately, Cohen's boldness stops short at the drive for U.N. recognition of statehood, which he calls "a return to useless symbolism and the narrative of victimhood." If it's so useless, then why does he say it "must be resisted"? Was Israel's declaration of statehood useless symbolism? What's good for the Jews is never good for the Palestinians. Racist privilege drips from the words.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

From Glen Greenwald: On Israel/Palestine Obama is "...a more calculating imperial manager..."

Obama and the Israel Lobby

Obama and the Israel Lobby
President Obama meets with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel Friday at the White House. below)

This week's hysterical, reality-deprived reaction to President Obama's pronouncements on the Israel/Palestine conflict genuinely provoked laughter on several occasions. That happened when I thought of the intense controversy triggered by publication of Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer's The Israel Lobby, which examined the "loose coalition of individuals and organizations who actively work to steer U.S. foreign policy in a pro-Israel direction," a coalition driven by "a core consisting of organizations whose declared purpose is to encourage the U.S. government and the American public to provide material aid to Israel and to support its government's policies, as well as influential individuals for whom these goals are also a top priority." This week's events underscore how remarkable it is that that book's argument was demonized as some sort of radical, hateful conspiracy tract rather than treated as what it was: a statement of the bleeding obvious (albeit a brave one, given that discussions of that reality had previously been taboo).

Obama's call for a peace deal ultimately "based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps" is not even arguably a change from past American policy. Though he's the first President to publicly call for such an outcome, that's been the working premise of American policy for decades. It's controversial in one sense -- it unduly rewards Israel for its illegal seizures of land by suggesting they should be able to permanently keep West Bank settlements (the "land swap" aspect of the formula) -- but it does not remotely constitute a step in an anti-Israel direction. When even Israel-devoted stalwarts such as former IDF Corporal Jeffrey Goldberg and the ADL's Abe Foxman are dismissive of the condemnation of Obama's statements, it's crystal clear that they pose no challenge to the dominant pro-Israel orthodoxy that has shaped American policy (and political discourse) for decades.

At most, Obama's public endorsement of this position was a symbolic gesture to chide Netanyahu for his overt indifference to U.S. interests (and, more so, belligerence toward Obama), and a small rhetorical fig leaf to the populist forces driving the Arab rebellion. Yet even the most microscopic deviation from the dictates of the Israel Government produce shrill and ludicrous backlash from The inside-the-U.S. Israel Lobby.

The Right Wing Noise Machine all but accused Obama of trying to destroy Israel, with the GOP's leading presidential candidates condemning the President for the crime of "disrespecting" and "throwing Israel under the bus," Glenn Beck denouncing him for "betraying Israel," and Matt Drudgeexploiting ignorance to screech in headlines that "Obama Sides With Palestinians." Meanwhile, a former AIPAC spokesman demanded that Obama take a renewed public pledge of devotion to Israel, and circulated to the media statements of condemnation from numerous "pro-Israel" Democrats in Congress. The neoconservative Israel-devotees at The Washington Posteditorialized against Obama and predictably blamed him for the resulting tension with Netanyahu, siding (as usual) with this foreign government over their own. And a Reuters article this morning claims that "some prominent Jewish Americans are rethinking their support for President Barack Obama's 2012 re-election bid" due to that speech:

The backlash after Obama's keynote speech on the Middle East has Democratic Party operatives scrambling to mollify the Jewish community as the president prepares to seek a second term in the White House. . . .

"I have spoken to a lot of people in the last couple of days -- former supporters -- who are very upset and feel alienated," billionaire real estate developer and publisher Mortimer Zuckerman said.

"He'll get less political support, fewer activists for his campaign, and I am sure that will extend to financial support as well."

But remember: it's so very heinous and hateful to suggest -- as Walt and Mearsheimer shamefully did -- that some Americans are driven by devotion to Israel as their primary political preoccupation and that, banded together, they exert substantial influence. Perish the thought.

* * * * *

This is one area where I think President Obama deserves support and some modest credit. From the start of his administration -- from appointing George Mitchell as his envoy to demanding a settlement freeze in the West Bank -- the White House has appeared to recognize that tongue-wagging subservience to the Israeli Government is a counter-productive policy. Of course, the movement away from such blind support has been extremely slow and cautious -- Obama was silent in the wake of the attack on Gaza, supportive after the flotilla assault, and recently vetoed a thoroughly uncontroversial U.N. Resolution calling for a settlement freeze -- but there have been signs of a genuine desire to push the Israelis in a direction they plainly do not want to go.

I don't believe Obama is guided in these efforts by any principled concern or moral empathy for the plight of Palestinians or the injustice of the 45-year-old occupation; it seems clear that he isn't ever driven by considerations of that sort. But what he is, at least compared to the prior President, is a competent technocrat, a more calculating imperial manager, able to rationally assess costs and benefits with a ruthless analytical stoicism. And Obama has been surrounded by top advisers -- such as Gen. James Jones and David Petraeus -- who clearly recognize, and have publicly said, that the festering Israeli/Palestinian conflict, and the (obviously accurate) perception in the Muslim world that the U.S. enables Israel, is harmful in numerous ways to U.S. interests in the region. Especially with largely anti-Israel Arab public opinion starting to supplant easily manipulated, U.S.-serving Arab tyrants, it is vital -- for what the U.S. government perceives to be its interests in the region -- that Israel reach a peace agreement, and that in turn requires that the U.S. use its leverage to pressure Israel to do things it plainly does not want to do.

What made this last week significant is that it underscores how politically difficult such an undertaking is for any American President: precisely because of the obsessive, relentless Israel Lobby that Walt and Mearsheimer invented in their conspiratorial, bigoted heads. If even the tiniest step provokes the backlash that we saw this week, imagine the domestic political upheaval which a true effort would engender. The New Yorker's Hendrick Hertzberg put it this way:

The President wants to make peace and presumably knows that it won't happen without a huge and politically brutal American effort. Such an effort would probably provoke the Israel lobby (a better name for which would be the Likud lobby) into an all-out fight against his reëlection.

Andrew Sullivan added: "To achieve this, he has to face down the apocalyptic Christianist right, the entire FNC-RNC media machine, a sizable chunk of his party's financial base, and the US Congress."

It's far from clear that Obama's commitment to this outcome is genuine. I've seen very little evidence that the President is willing to sacrifice his political self-interest in pursuit of a deeply held conviction, and ample evidence that he isn't. But whatever else is true, even these minimal applications of presidential pressure open up the discussion about our Israel policy wider than it's ever been, trigger very rare criticisms of the Israeli government in U.S. political discourse (from the President's loyalists, angry at Netanyahu), and shine a much-needed light on the multiple ways that U.S. policy toward Israel is so harmful to the national interest (aside from being morally unjust).

Regardless of Obama's intentions here -- and that remains unclear -- a prerequisite to any meaningful change in U.S./Israel policy is the defeat of those who want to suppress the debate entirely. Those are the people now wildly demonizing the President for his tepid Middle East speech, and it's why it is incumbent upon anyone who desires real change in this area to defend him from those attacks. At the very least, the notion that defying the Israeli Government is some sort of supreme evil -- and, conversely, that loyalty to that government is a solemn duty -- needs to be demolished.

UPDATE: Prime Minister Netanyahu is scheduled to address a joint session of Congress - having been invited by House Republicans -- and David Frumexcitedly wonders this:

I think a better question is whether the ovation will be longer and more enthusiastic than those accorded American Presidents. It is ironic indeed that the same GOP members who will stand and cheer wildly for this foreign leader in conflict with their own country's President are typically the first to scream "unpatriotic!" accusations at others.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Emperor Obama vs the Arab people - Opinion - Al Jazeera English

A great opinion piece from the Al Jazeera website. You should definitely go to this link.

Joseph Massad is Associate Professor of Modern Arab Politics and Intellectual History at Columbia University. He is author of The Persistence of the Palestinian Question (Routledge, 2006).

Emperor Obama vs the Arab people - Opinion - Al Jazeera English

The future of the Arab uprisings - Opinion - Al Jazeera English

Very good article by Joseph Massad from Al Jazeera's website
Joseph Massad is Associate Professor of Modern Arab Politics and Intellectual History at Columbia University.

The future of the Arab uprisings - Opinion - Al Jazeera English

The Angry Arab News Service/وكالة أنباء العربي الغاضب: Translating Obama's speech

The Angry Arab News Service/وكالة أنباء العربي الغاضب: Translating Obama's speech: "He said that the US supports 'reform' and 'transition to democracy' in the Arab world.  By reform, he means the repressive measures of the B..."

Friday, May 20, 2011

reply to Netanyahu: Why Palestinians rejected the 1947 partition "deal"

From the Jerusalem Fund website
Understanding the 1947 UN Partition Plan

By Yousef
About Israel, Media Coverage, Palestine, UN at 11:55 AM
After many Palestinian refugees were killed or injured in the most recent Nakba Day protests, the events have forced a discussion of the period during which Palestine was depopulated of the majority of its native inhabitants. I recently wrote about how the mainstream media is doing a great disservice by distorting a historical narrative they had previously reported on. But despite this, in an era where the internet allows for rapid fact-checking and access to diverse information, the discussion about the Palestinian Nakba continues.

Yesterday, PLO Chairman Mahmoud Abbas published an Op-Ed in the New York Times where he discussed his personal experience as a refugee. The Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded to Abbas' piece with the token Zionist response to any Palestinian claims on the events of 1948. Netanyahu "emphasized the Palestinians' rejection of the UN's partition plan in 1947, while the Jews were willing to accept it."

"Don't you see," says the Zionist narrative, "they don't want a state. They want everything. We were ready to make a deal but they rejected it. All they do is reject, reject, reject, and that is all you need to know about the Arabs, so you can stop thinking now."

But wait a minute. What was this partition plan and why did the Palestinians reject it?

Throughout history, there have been various attempts at plans to divide the land. A U.S. fact-finding commission as early as 1919 was particularly prescient about what the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine meant. They were well aware that the trajectory of Zionism and the promises of the Balfour declaration would create havoc (emphasis here and elsewhere is mine):

[We] recognized also that definite encouragement had been given to the Zionists by the Allies in Mr. Balfour's often quoted statement in its approval by other representatives of the Allies. If, however, the strict terms of the Balfour Statement are adhered to -- favoring "the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people," "it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights existing in non-Jewish communities in Palestine"-- it can hardly be doubted that the extreme Zionist Program must be greatly modified.

For "a national home for the Jewish people" is not equivalent to making Palestine into a Jewish State; nor can the erection of such a Jewish State be accomplished without the gravest trespass upon the "civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine." The fact came out repeatedly in the Commission's conference with Jewish representatives, that the Zionists looked forward to a practically complete dispossession of the present non-Jewish inhabitants of Palestine...

But partition attempts followed nonetheless; the report of Peel Commission of 1937 realized that there was a pretty significant demographic problem in dividing the land into two states:

The political aspect of the land problem is still more important. Owing to the fact that there has been no census since 1931 it is impossible to calculate with any precision the distribution of population between the Arab and Jewish areas; but, according to an approximate estimate, in the area allocated to the Jewish State (excluding the urban districts to be retained for a period under Mandatory Administration) there are now about 225,000 Arabs. In the area allocated to the Arab State there are only about 1,250 Jews; but there are about 125,000 Jews as against 85,000 Arabs in Jerusalem and Haifa. The existence of these minorities clearly constitutes the most serious hindrance to the smooth and successful operation of Partition. If the settlement is to be clean and final, the question must be boldly faced and firmly dealt with. It calls for the highest statesmanship on the part of all concerned.

The answer to the question which required the "highest statesmanship" facing it boldly? Ethnic cleansing:

If Partition is to be effective in promoting a final settlement it must mean more than drawing a frontier and establishing two States. Sooner or later there should be a transfer of land and, as far as possible, an exchange of population.

David Ben Gurion's thoughts on the compulsory transfer of the Arabs are noted in his diary: "The compulsory transfer of the Arabs from the valleys of the proposed Jewish state could give us something we never had, even when we stood on our own during the days of the first and second temple -- a real Jewish state." While Ben Gurion noted hesitation to transfer in his diary as well, he ultimately concluded "We must uproot from our hearts the assumption that the thing is not possible. It can be done and we must prepare to carry it out." The quotes and more on Ben Gurion's thinking at the time can be found here.

The Peel Commission realized that to appease Zionist aims (majoritarian Jewish state in Palestine) in a "clean and final" solution, there would have to be disproportionate ethnic cleansing of Palestinian Arabs from their native towns and villages. Not surprisingly, the Palestinian Arabs rejected this plan as any people would reject a plan that called for their own ethnic cleansing.

So in a final attempt at a partition plan, the UN General Assembly endorsed a plan that attempted yet again circumvent the demographic complexities that the Peel Commission report suggested be handled with ethnic cleansing. Needless to say, it failed to do so.

The map to the right shows the proposed partition of Palestine in 1947. The total population of the land at the time was approximately 2 million people of which 600,000 were Jews and the remainder were Palestinian Arabs. The partition plan, however, sought to give 55% of the territory to 30% of the population. Even within the territory allotted to the Jewish state -- the area in green in the partition map -- nearly half the inhabitants were Palestinian Arabs. This means that if such a plan was implemented, not only would a minority receive a majority of the land, but half the residents of the newly created Jewish state would either be transferred or disenfranchised from their right to self-determination.

When you look at the specifics of the partition, two very clear and important facts emerge: 1) No one in their right mind, putting themselves in the shoes of the Palestinians, would have accepted that deal, and 2) it is highly unlikely that the two intertwining "sausage-link"-shaped states proposed by this plan would have been conflict free.

Take a close look at this map and the borders. Have you ever seen anything like it anywhere else in the world? You probably haven't because such partitions do not work. And it wasn't simply demographic concerns that were at play here. The northern "sausage link" border was drawn to ensure that the railroad that went from Haifa to Beisan would remain completely under the control of the Jewish state. Ultimately, the vast majority of Palestinian villages along this route were depopulated and destroyed in the operations that David Ben Gurion made sure the pre-state government of Israel prepared for a decade earlier.

While the Zionist narrative might claim that the acceptance of this plan by Jews at the time and its rejection by the Palestinian Arabs shows Jews were willing to compromise and Arabs were not, in reality the Jews accepted the plan because they had everything to gain and the Arabs rejected it because they had everything to lose.

So it's rather disingenuous then, for Netanyahu or others like him who repeat the Zionist talking points on this partition plan, to attempt to justify Palestinian dispossession because Palestinians justifiably rejected their own dispossession.

Monday, May 16, 2011

The Obama Deception, Cornel West on being conned

From Truthdig

Chris Hedges' Columns
The Obama Deception: Why Cornel West Went Ballistic

Posted on May 16, 2011
By Chris Hedges

The moral philosopher Cornel West, if Barack Obama’s ascent to power was a morality play, would be the voice of conscience. Rahm Emanuel, a cynical product of the Chicago political machine, would be Satan. Emanuel in the first scene of the play would dangle power, privilege, fame and money before Obama. West would warn Obama that the quality of a life is defined by its moral commitment, that his legacy will be determined by his willingness to defy the cruel assault by the corporate state and the financial elite against the poor and working men and women, and that justice must never be sacrificed on the altar of power.
Perhaps there was never much of a struggle in Obama’s heart. Perhaps West only provided a moral veneer. Perhaps the dark heart of Emanuel was always the dark heart of Obama. Only Obama knows. But we know how the play ends. West is banished like honest Kent in “King Lear.” Emanuel and immoral mediocrities from Lawrence Summers to Timothy Geithner to Robert Gates—think of Goneril and Regan in the Shakespearean tragedy—take power. We lose. And Obama becomes an obedient servant of the corporate elite in exchange for the hollow trappings of authority.
No one grasps this tragic descent better than West, who did 65 campaign events for Obama, believed in the potential for change and was encouraged by the populist rhetoric of the Obama campaign. He now nurses, like many others who placed their faith in Obama, the anguish of the deceived, manipulated and betrayed. He bitterly describes Obama as “a black mascot of Wall Street oligarchs and a black puppet of corporate plutocrats. And now he has become head of the American killing machine and is proud of it.”

“When you look at a society you look at it through the lens of the least of these, the weak and the vulnerable; you are committed to loving them first, not exclusively, but first, and therefore giving them priority,” says West, the Class of 1943 University Professor of African American Studies and Religion at Princeton University. “And even at this moment, when the empire is in deep decline, the culture is in deep decay, the political system is broken, where nearly everyone is up for sale, you say all I have is the subversive memory of those who came before, personal integrity, trying to live a decent life, and a willingness to live and die for the love of folk who are catching hell. This means civil disobedience, going to jail, supporting progressive forums of social unrest if they in fact awaken the conscience, whatever conscience is left, of the nation. And that’s where I find myself now.
“I have to take some responsibility,” he admits of his support for Obama as we sit in his book-lined office. “I could have been reading into it more than was there.

“I was thinking maybe he has at least some progressive populist instincts that could become more manifest after the cautious policies of being a senator and working with [Sen. Joe] Lieberman as his mentor,” he says. “But it became very clear when I looked at the neoliberal economic team. The first announcement of Summers and Geithner I went ballistic. I said, ‘Oh, my God, I have really been misled at a very deep level.’ And the same is true for Dennis Ross and the other neo-imperial elites. I said, ‘I have been thoroughly misled, all this populist language is just a facade. I was under the impression that he might bring in the voices of brother Joseph Stiglitz and brother Paul Krugman. I figured, OK, given the structure of constraints of the capitalist democratic procedure that’s probably the best he could do. But at least he would have some voices concerned about working people, dealing with issues of jobs and downsizing and banks, some semblance of democratic accountability for Wall Street oligarchs and corporate plutocrats who are just running amuck. I was completely wrong.”
West says the betrayal occurred on two levels.

“There is the personal level,” he says. “I used to call my dear brother [Obama] every two weeks. I said a prayer on the phone for him, especially before a debate. And I never got a call back. And when I ran into him in the state Capitol in South Carolina when I was down there campaigning for him he was very kind. The first thing he told me was, ‘Brother West, I feel so bad. I haven’t called you back. You been calling me so much. You been giving me so much love, so much support and what have you.’ And I said, ‘I know you’re busy.’ But then a month and half later I would run into other people on the campaign and he’s calling them all the time. I said, wow, this is kind of strange. He doesn’t have time, even two seconds, to say thank you or I’m glad you’re pulling for me and praying for me, but he’s calling these other people. I said, this is very interesting. And then as it turns out with the inauguration I couldn’t get a ticket with my mother and my brother. I said this is very strange. We drive into the hotel and the guy who picks up my bags from the hotel has a ticket to the inauguration. My mom says, ‘That’s something that this dear brother can get a ticket and you can’t get one, honey, all the work you did for him from Iowa.’ Beginning in Iowa to Ohio. We had to watch the thing in the hotel.

“What it said to me on a personal level,” he goes on, “was that brother Barack Obama had no sense of gratitude, no sense of loyalty, no sense of even courtesy, [no] sense of decency, just to say thank you. Is this the kind of manipulative, Machiavellian orientation we ought to get used to? That was on a personal level.”
But there was also the betrayal on the political and ideological level.
“It became very clear to me as the announcements were being made,” he says, “that this was going to be a newcomer, in many ways like Bill Clinton, who wanted to reassure the Establishment by bringing in persons they felt comfortable with and that we were really going to get someone who was using intermittent progressive populist language in order to justify a centrist, neoliberalist policy that we see in the opportunism of Bill Clinton. It was very much going to be a kind of black face of the DLC [Democratic Leadership Council].”

Obama and West’s last personal contact took place a year ago at a gathering of the Urban League when, he says, Obama “cussed me out.” Obama, after his address, which promoted his administration’s championing of charter schools, approached West, who was seated in the front row.

“He makes a bee line to me right after the talk, in front of everybody,” West says. “He just lets me have it. He says, ‘You ought to be ashamed of yourself, saying I’m not a progressive. Is that the best you can do? Who do you think you are?’ I smiled. I shook his hand. And a sister hollered in the back, ‘You can’t talk to professor West. That’s Dr. Cornel West. Who do you think you are?’ You can go to jail talking to the president like that. You got to watch yourself. I wanted to slap him on the side of his head.

“It was so disrespectful,” he went on, “that’s what I didn’t like. I’d already been called, along with all [other] leftists, a “F’ing retard” by Rahm Emanuel because we had critiques of the president.” 

Valerie Jarrett, a senior adviser to the president, has, West said, phoned him to complain about his critiques of Obama. Jarrett was especially perturbed, West says, when he said in an interview last year that he saw a lot of Malcolm X and Ella Baker in Michelle Obama. Jarrett told him his comments were not complimentary to the first lady.

“I said in the world that I live in, in that which authorizes my reality, Ella Baker is a towering figure,” he says, munching Fritos and sipping apple juice at his desk. “If I say there is a lot of Ella Baker in Michelle Obama, that’s a compliment. She can take it any way she wants. I can tell her I’m sorry it offended you, but I’m going to speak the truth. She is a Harvard Law graduate, a Princeton graduate, and she deals with child obesity and military families. Why doesn’t she visit a prison? Why not spend some time in the hood? That is where she is, but she can’t do it.

“I think my dear brother Barack Obama has a certain fear of free black men,” West says. “It’s understandable. As a young brother who grows up in a white context, brilliant African father, he’s always had to fear being a white man with black skin. All he has known culturally is white. He is just as human as I am, but that is his cultural formation. When he meets an independent black brother, it is frightening. And that’s true for a white brother. When you get a white brother who meets a free, independent black man, they got to be mature to really embrace fully what the brother is saying to them. It’s a tension, given the history. It can be overcome. Obama, coming out of Kansas influence, white, loving grandparents, coming out of Hawaii and Indonesia, when he meets these independent black folk who have a history of slavery, Jim Crow, Jane Crow and so on, he is very apprehensive. He has a certain rootlessness, a deracination. It is understandable.

“He feels most comfortable with upper middle-class white and Jewish men who consider themselves very smart, very savvy and very effective in getting what they want,” he says. “He’s got two homes. He has got his family and whatever challenges go on there, and this other home. Larry Summers blows his mind because he’s so smart. He’s got Establishment connections. He’s embracing me. It is this smartness, this truncated brilliance, that titillates and stimulates brother Barack and makes him feel at home. That is very sad for me.

“This was maybe America’s last chance to fight back against the greed of the Wall Street oligarchs and corporate plutocrats, to generate some serious discussion about public interest and common good that sustains any democratic experiment,” West laments. “We are squeezing out all of the democratic juices we have. The escalation of the class war against the poor and the working class is intense. More and more working people are beaten down. They are world-weary. They are into self-medication. They are turning on each other. They are scapegoating the most vulnerable rather than confronting the most powerful. It is a profoundly human response to panic and catastrophe. I thought Barack Obama could have provided some way out. But he lacks backbone.

Can you imagine if Barack Obama had taken office and deliberately educated and taught the American people about the nature of the financial catastrophe and what greed was really taking place?” West asks. “If he had told us what kind of mechanisms of accountability needed to be in place, if he had focused on homeowners rather than investment banks for bailouts and engaged in massive job creation he could have nipped in the bud the right-wing populism of the tea party folk. The tea party folk are right when they say the government is corrupt. It is corrupt. Big business and banks have taken over government and corrupted it in deep ways.

“We have got to attempt to tell the truth, and that truth is painful,” he says. “It is a truth that is against the thick lies of the mainstream. In telling that truth we become so maladjusted to the prevailing injustice that the Democratic Party, more and more, is not just milquetoast and spineless, as it was before, but thoroughly complicitous with some of the worst things in the American empire. I don’t think in good conscience I could tell anybody to vote for Obama. If it turns out in the end that we have a crypto-fascist movement and the only thing standing between us and fascism is Barack Obama, then we have to put our foot on the brake. But we’ve got to think seriously of third-party candidates, third formations, third parties.

“Our last hope is to generate a democratic awakening among our fellow citizens. This means raising our voices, very loud and strong, bearing witness, individually and collectively. Tavis [Smiley] and I have talked about ways of civil disobedience, beginning with ways for both of us to get arrested, to galvanize attention to the plight of those in prisons, in the hoods, in poor white communities. We must never give up. We must never allow hope to be eliminated or suffocated.”