Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Israel shuns the ‘wrong kind’ of blood

from Jonathan Cook's blog

12 December 2013

There’s a common mistaken assumption that Israelis’ hostility towards Palestinians and Arabs is based on a justified / deluded (take your choice) sense of the danger they pose. Israelis’ insecurity, it is often believed, derives from centuries of persecution of Jews around the world.

In reality, this is only a part of the story. There is also a deeply entrenched sense of separateness that comes both from the religion (the “chosen people” of Judaism) and from the lifestyle Jewish communities adopted in the face of persecution (e.g. the pales of settlement).

Reinvented by Zionism, the need for separation embodied by the Jewish state profoundly bolstered and exaggerated the kind of lingering legacy of “white racism” we find in western societies – the “model” for Ashkenazi Jews.

This was illustrated in a recent Haaretz feature about how the interior ministry grossly abuses non-Jewish spouses of Israelis when they try to naturalize.

It is also a prominent feature of Israel’s treatment of asylum seekers and foreign workers. Israel is barely better than a police state for these unfortunates.

But it also extends to Israeli Jews whom the wider society refuses to accept as “proper” Jews.

It is only with this background that one can make sense of the extraordinary story of a member of the Israeli parliament, Pnina Tamano-Shata, being treated as though she were a cross between a leper and the “kitchen help” at a recent blood donor drive run by the ambulance service at the parliament building.

Tamano-Shata’s problem is that she is black – an Ethiopian Jew. When she went to donate blood this week, alongside other MPs, she was rejected. The medics told her she had “the special kind of Jewish-Ethiopian blood”. When she insisted on speaking to the supervisor, she was told she could donate but the blood would not be used. The supervisor apparently added: “Sweetheart, don’t be insulted, you’re right but these are the Health Ministry’s directives.”

The directive tars a whole community with the idea that Ethiopian Jews are carriers of HIV.

Paradoxically, this long-standing practice of refusing blood blanket-fashion from Ethiopian Jews was what brought Tamano-Shata to public attention after she led a public campaign against it.

There has been lots of hand-wringing from government officials since the story went public. Health Minister Yael German said feebly in response, as though the government was powerless: “I find it absurd that in Israel of 2013, people of Ethiopian descent that came to Israel over 25 years ago can still not donate blood.”

But Ethiopians face myriad forms of discrimination. Not long ago, for example, it was reported that Ethiopian women had been given long-term contraceptive injections, despite the known dangers, to try to stop them having more Ethiopian babies.

Perhaps, not surprisingly, it was left to a Palestinian MP in Israel, Ahmed Tibi, to make best sense of the events: “This is a disgraceful, racist decision. The Israeli society and its systems continue to be infected by the deadly virus of racism, aimed at times against Ethiopians and many other times against Arabs. Racism is racism is racism. I feel solidarity with MK Tamano-Shata.”

A reader has challenged me about whether I am referring above to a special “Jewish” kind of racism. No, definitely not. That would be racist! What I am describing is a particularly entrenched kind of racism in Israeli society that feeds off the peculiar circumstances of Israel’s founding: the crude exploitation of exclusivist, religious ideas and symbolism as justification for statehood; a history as a religious-ethnic group of persecution and isolation; a core national ideology inspired by ugly European ethnic nationalisms; and decades of indulgence-at-all-costs by Western states.

In short, it is a racism comprehensively encouraged by Israeli institutions – from the state to the rabbinate and army – in a way hard to find an equivalent of in any modern country claiming or aspiring to be democratic.

Also noteworthy is the absence of meaningful countervailing, anti-racist forces in Israeli society. The best that I can identify is a superficial identification among some in the Ashkenazi elite – the tiny number of Meretz voters – with Western norms, which seems closely related to a form of class snobbery. The only other possible countervailing force is the national sport of hasbara, or deception designed to persuade outsiders that Israel is a normal society. But that is something else entirely.

This is why I disagree with some who wish to argue that Israeli racism is just another of the garden-variety racisms we find in modern Europe or the US.
- See more at: http://www.jonathan-cook.net/blog/2013-12-12/israeli-shuns-the-wrong-kind-of-blood/#sthash.9NkzdHgh.dpuf

The Coming Intifada

December 25, 2013

RAMALLAH, West Bank — These days, life appears to be going along as normal for Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. Appearances can be deceptive, however. Prior to the 1987 intifada, too, things appeared to be normal — until they exploded, much to everyone’s surprise. But no one should be surprised if a new intifada erupts in the next few months. Many experts, even those within the Israeli security apparatus, like the former Mossad chief, Meir Dagan, are predicting it.
We Palestinians are living through the worst situation in years. And, despite surface appearances of normal, mundane, routine everyday life under occupation, four significant factors have begun to interact that may disrupt the seemingly stable status quo.
The first, and most potent, is the collapse of any hope that the occupation will ever end and Palestinians will attain their freedom and independence. This hope had allowed Palestinians to endure the daily injustices of occupation in the expectation of a better future. It is this same hope that led them to support negotiations with Israel and the idea of a two-state solution.
Hope has always been correlated with the realities of the so-called peace process. When the latter seems promising, hope rises, and when the process stalls, so does the sense of hopefulness. The Palestinians’ strategic mistake was to think that conceding 78 percent of the land of historical Palestine in 1993 would be enough. It didn’t occur to them that Israel wanted to split this remaining land with them, leaving them with — in the best of cases — a state of leftovers.
Israel’s current conditions for a Palestinian state would shatter Palestinians’ basic demands for liberty and independence. The promised Palestinian state will be nothing but a shadow entity completely ruled by Israel. And the price that is being demanded for this state is so exorbitant that the Palestinian Authority cannot sell it, nor can the Palestinians accept it.
These pockets of land would be demilitarized, and Israel would have control over the borders, skies and natural resources. To get this, Palestinians must give up the right of return of diaspora Palestinians, and publicly declare that Israel is a Jewish state. This is a toxic cocktail perfectly mixed to produce a Palestinian uprising against the Israeli occupation, and the Authority as well — if the latter accepts these Israeli demands and yields to American pressure.
The second factor is the spike in Israeli violations of Palestinian rights throughout the Occupied Territories. Israel seems to want to pre-empt the results of the current, ongoing negotiations by fortifying its presence and entrenching the facts on the ground in its favor. For this reason, Israel is frantically Judaizing Jerusalem, including daily attempts to impose its presence in the Al Aqsa mosque, increasing settlement inside the city, destroying Palestinian homes, and transforming Palestinians into temporary residents of the city. Meanwhile, the pace of land confiscation and settlement in the West Bank has accelerated rapidly; all of this has been accompanied by an increase in violence, in murders and arrests of Palestinians, in night raids on Palestinian villages and towns by the Israeli Army, in the uprooting of trees and the burning of fields, and in restrictions on transportation and the strangulation of economic life.
In the meantime, Gaza has been transformed into a giant prison lacking the most basic amenities. The supply of electricity is lacking, rainwater mixed with sewage is flooding homes and the living standard is abysmal. To make things worse, President Obama has lately excluded Gazans from the forthcoming solution.
The third factor is the sorry state of the Authority’s economic and financial affairs, which is adding to the misery of Palestinians living in the Occupied Territories. The Authority is the Territories’ largest employer, and it is currently experiencing a major budget deficit. Authority employees are no longer assured of a regular monthly paycheck, which has led to an increase in anxiety across the society. Without salaries, the economy will grind to a halt.
The situation is made even more bleak because donors, both Arab and international, have decreased their financial support for the Authority; without this support, it cannot exist. In fact, the European Union, the Authority’s biggest source of funding, has begun to hint that it could cut off all of its funding if the political settlement process breaks down. This has added even more pressure on a leadership whose legitimacy is eroding quickly among the population.
The Authority’s financial insolvency is creating more problems for Palestinians in the Occupied Territories, especially the young. Jobs are scarce, and unemployment rates have skyrocketed among Palestinian youth. Even those with jobs are no longer assured of a regular paycheck, which makes it difficult for them to repay bank loans, which many rely on to meet the rising cost of living. This uncertainty has produced a new source of anger among an already frustrated population.
The final factor is the change and ferment that Palestinians see around them. The Arab Spring has sparked the sense of possibility among many young Palestinians. Young Arabs share their hopes and frustrations across social media networks; one of their recurring refrains is that Arab youth rose up against Arab leaders, so why should we not be able to rise up against a foreign occupier?
All of this has put Palestinians on edge. For now, the Authority’s calls to contain the anger seem to be working, but it won’t for much longer.
If nothing is done to quell the growing anxiety and rising hopelessness among Palestinians, it will only be a matter of time until the Occupied Territories explode.
Ali Jarbawi is a political scientist and a former minister of the Palestinian Authority. This article was translated by Ghenwa Hayek from the Arabic.

Tired of this refrain? Why boycott Israel? There are people who are worse off than the Palestinians.

The article below is a good answer to those who support Israel's violation of human right by saying, "Hey! The Palestinians are better off than the starving people of (fill in the blank...South Sudan, Haiti....)

How would these conscientious humanitarians react to the argument "Why go after Mississippi, Alabama et al in the 1950s and 60s over voting rights? American blacks at that time had it easy compared to those in colonial Africa?

You can always find someone who has it worse off than any given people who are fighting for their rights. Another question to ask is: "is over 3 billion dollars a year of our tax money a year being given to enable the subjugation of the people of Dafur? Is Sudan trying to drag the US into a war with Iran?

from +972.com
By Larry Derfner
|Published December 27, 2013
The world's blatant double standard - in Israel's favor

The American Studies Association may be singling out Israel for boycott, but if you look at the serious, painful punishments the world metes out to oppressor nations, Israel is not being singled out, it’s being let off the hook.

As of Friday at noon, a Google search of “human rights sanctions” turns up over 40 million results. There are human rights sanctions and other punishments against China, Russia, Iran, Syria, Zimbabwe, Sudan, Yemen, Belarus, Cuba, North Korea and lots of other countries. And these sanctions weren’t put in place by some minor academic group like the American Studies Association, but by the United States of America, the European Union and/or the United Nations Security Council. Furthermore, these sanctions hurt those countries quite a bit more than the ASA’s boycott of Israeli colleges is likely to hurt Israel.

Yet you would think from the reaction to the recent ASA boycott that no other country in the world is being punished for its human rights violations. Everybody’s jumping on ASA president Curtis Marez’s quote on why the organization was going after Israel instead of other, far worse malefactors: “One has to start somewhere,” he told The New York Times. But while the ASA may be starting with Israel, the powers-that-be in the world have gone after any number of human-rights violating countries – yet still haven’t gotten to Israel and its 46-year military dictatorship over the Palestinians.

If you look at the serious, painful punishments the world metes out to oppressor nations, Israel is not being singled out, it’s being let off the hook.

Would Israel’s defenders like to see the world treat this country like it treats Iran – by “bringing it to its knees” with “crippling sanctions,” not to mention the clamor from some quarters to bomb its nuclear facilities?

Or would they like Israel to be treated like Syria – by freezing its foreign assets and denying entry to any Israeli involved in the occupation? Would they want the U.S. to arm some of the groups fighting Israel? Would they have preferred Israel being one step away from getting bombed by the U.S.? Would they rather that the world powers destroy Israel’s chemical weapons – or would they choose the ASA boycott?

Or if not like Syria, would Israel’s advocates want this country to be treated like China – with the U.S. vetoing its international loan applications and the U.S. and EU imposing an arms embargo on it? By the way, lots of countries are faced with arms embargoes by the U.S., EU and/or the UN, including Congo, Eritrea, Somalia, Sudan and Zimbabwe. Israel, by contrast, gets $3 billion worth of arms from America every year.

And how about Zimbabwe; would Alan Dershowitz have Israel trade the ASA boycott for Zimbabwe’s punishments? Not only does the African nation face an embargo on arms, it’s up against one on international loans, too. Its fearless leader Robert Mugabe has been made radioactive – anybody who has dealings with him stands to have his assets frozen and his entry barred to the U.S. and EU.

Even big, powerful Russia has it worse than Israel – 18 Russian officials said to be involved in the prison killing of dissident lawyer Sergei Magnitzky in 2009 have had their assets frozen and their entry barred to the U.S., and there are constant calls for the EU to follow suit. How many Palestinians have been killed wrongfully by Israeli soldiers, police, Shin Bet agents and settlers during the occupation; are the U.S. and EU punishing any of them or their superiors for that?

And now, because of its anti-gay laws and statements and the gay-bashing climate they’ve encouraged, Russia is facing boycotts far more powerful than the one imposed by the ASA. Gay bars around the world are boycotting Russian vodka. And the movement to boycott next month’s Winter Olympics in Sochi is booming. Here’s an irony: Bibi Netanyahu himself just agreed to join other world leaders, starting with Obama, in boycotting the Games. Do Obama, Cameron, Hollande and their colleagues boycott any Israeli showcase event because of the occupation, which is an incomparably worse crime than Russia’s anti-gay laws and harassment?

The Western powers can punish Russia, they can punish China, they can lay in to Iran, Syria, North Korea, Zimbabwe, Sudan and the like – but they won’t touch Israel (the European Union’s wussy “guidelines” notwithstanding). Indeed, the strongest country in the world not only won’t punish Israel for its near half-century of tyranny over the Palestinians, it keeps feeding it arms while shielding it in the UN. America coddles Israel, the world’s last outpost of colonialism, like few countries have ever been coddled by a superpower in history.

The occupation is not, by any means, a human rights violation on the scale of Assad’s butchery, or the Congo’s, or Sudan’s, or Zimbabwe’s, for example. But it is a greater one than, for example, Iran’s nuclear program, or Cuba’s communism, or Russia’s killing of Sergei Magnitzky and its anti-gay policy – yet Israel gets off scot-free. The world doesn’t punish this country unfairly – it doesn’t punish this country at all, while America rewards it lavishly.

The ASA boycott, like the rest of the BDS movement’s achievements, are not examples of the world’s double standard against Israel – they’re Quixotic, rearguard actions against the world’s blatant double standard in Israel’s favor. If this country were treated with a minuscule fraction of the severity the West ordinarily visits on human rights violators, the occupation would have ended long ago.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

ACLU on Edward Snowden

OpEdNews Op Eds 12/18/2013 at 22:14:43
The ACLU on Edward Snowden
By American Civil LIberties Union-ACLU

Edward Snowden is a great American who deserves full immunity for his patriotic acts. And we're proud to serve as his legal advisors.

When Snowden blew the whistle on the NSA, he single-handedly reignited a global debate about government surveillance and our most fundamental rights as individuals.

And on Monday , a federal judge vindicated Snowden's actions by declaring unconstitutional the NSA's spying program, labeling it "Orwellian"--adding that James Madison would be "aghast."

This could be the key tipping point for the American public to fully realize the service Snowden provided to all of us by exposing the NSA's illegal spying program, if we act now and together.

Because the truth is, NONE of the progress in this fight--yesterday's court decision, the legislation working through Congress, the presidential review of the NSA--would have happened if Snowden had kept silent about the government's illegal activity.

That's why today--in the wake of this groundbreaking court decision--we're calling on President Obama to provide full immunity for Snowden, so he can come back home to the country he loves, free from persecution.

Let's stand together and tell President Obama to grant Snowden immunity for his patriotic acts exposing the NSA's illegal activities.

For more than 12 years, the ACLU has been fighting to end government surveillance that invades the rights and lives of millions of Americans with virtually no oversight. But when our years-long case against mass surveillance finally reached the Supreme Court, it was dismissed for lack of evidence of the secret programs. Snowden provided that evidence, at great personal risk.

Right now, Snowden still lives under threat--exiled in Russia far from his home and his family, and the victim of ongoing public attacks by the NSA and its surveillance allies. Just yesterday , former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton said that Snowden "ought to swing from a tall oak tree" for exposing the NSA's illegal programs.

Despite all this, in a recent CBS News interview, a top NSA official opened the door to offering Snowden immunity, under certain conditions (though we firmly believe it should be unconditional).

And this latest court decision gives us the opportunity to fully turn the tide on public opinion and protect Snowden from further threats of persecution.

If tens of thousands of us stand together and tell President Obama to grant Snowden immunity, we have a real chance of bringing him home.

Let's make the most of this historic opportunity together.

Thank you,
Anthony for the ACLU Action team

P.S. In a statement following the court ruling, Snowden had this to say: "Today, a secret program authorized by a secret court was, when exposed to the light of day, found to violate Americans' rights. It is the first of many." Let's make sure that after raising his voice to better our democracy, Snowden can come h

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Turning Mandela

from portside.com
Turning Mandela

Steve Weissman
December 15, 2013
Reader Supported News

Catering to accumulated private wealth and their mythic "free market" may have helped Mandela consolidate a more peaceful transition to South Africa's justly praised multi-racial democracy. But did he have to pay such a high price? A variety of sources discuss this important question.

"Chaps, we have to choose," said Nelson Mandela, returning home after a few days with the world's movers and shakers at the 1992 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. "We either keep nationalization and get no investment, or we modify our own attitude and get investment."

Catering to accumulated private wealth and their mythic "free market" may have helped Mandela consolidate a more peaceful transition to South Africa's justly praised multi-racial democracy. But did he have to pay such a high price? This is the existential question coming from no less a figure than the white revolutionary Ronnie Kasrils, a top leader of both the African National Congress (ANC) and the South African Communist Party.

As Kasrils and others make clear, Mandela's turnabout shattered the ANC's long-standing commitment to a radical redistribution of wealth, and failed miserably as an economic strategy, leaving South Africa with the world's widest gap between rich and poor.

Relying on untrustworthy capitalists rather than on "the revolutionary masses" left other scars as well. "Corruption has taken root as the greedy and ambitious fight like dogs over a bone," he writes. And a thuggish government now rules, one willing to kill some 34 striking mineworkers and wound 78 others at the Marikana platinum mine on August 16, 2012. As part of their role in the new global economy, the South African police had actually planned in advance to use force to defend the private enterprise of the London-based Lonmin, formerly a division of the infamous London and Rhodesian Mining and Land Company, or Lonrho.

Such are the fruits of Mandela's "pact with the devil," for which Kasrils blames himself, Mandela, and other top leaders. I don't know if the old Communist still believes that a top-down Soviet-style economic system would have worked any better or could have worked at all. But Mandela also turned his back on alternatives less in the footseps of Karl Marx or Joseph Stalin and more in the ways of John Maynard Keynes and Joseph Stiglitz. So even as we celebrate Mandela's enormous contribution to destroying racial apartheid, we need to join Kasrils in asking some questions of universal importance:

How could Mandela and the ANC have used the movement's revolutionary momentum to carry out a limited, well-justified, and politically potent nationalization of key industries?
How could they have tailored a mixed economic system to South African conditions?
What would they have had to do to delink and safeguard South Africa from the American-dominated global economy, with its insistence on privatization and an over-enlarged financial sector?
What would have happened had they stuck with plans to provide water, electricity, decent housing, and other public services to all?
Why in detail did they agree to repay the apartheid government's $25 billion debt?
Why did they fail to make decision-making more democratic and negotiations less secret?
And why did they not do more to preserve the government's legal authority to pursue serious land reform and other needed measures?

No one has all the answers. But one can find useful clues in the wonderfully readable "Thabo Mbeki and the Battle for the Soul of the ANC," by William Gumede, a third generation anti-apartheid activist and award-winning journalist. "I happened to be in South Africa when Gumede's book came out, and watched as it inspired apoplectic fits of rage (and clandestine delight) at the highest reaches of the ANC," writes the outspoken Naomi Klein, whose "Shock Doctrine" tells the story from a different perspective. "This is a definitive account of how one of the greatest liberation struggles of our time failed millions of people in whose name it fought."

Where Klein sees Mandela's turnabout as part of her theory of "disaster capitalism," Gumede focuses on the role of Mandela's deputy and successor Thabo Mbeki. Both approaches soften the spotlight on Mandela, but each has its place in a comprehensive history that still needs to be written. Gumede also has the advantage of being available free online.

Gumede recounts how the "revolutionary masses" became increasingly militant in the 1980s with the formation of Mass Democratic Movement, United Democratic Front (UDF), and Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), all of whom saw themselves as subordinate to the ANC in exile while generally encouraging democratic debate and dissent even in the heartland of apartheid. The international movement to apply sanctions also gained enormous strength, proving - in Gumede's judgment - "even more effective than the solidarity movements during the Spanish Civil War."

In response, the white government declared successive states of emergency, detaining as many as 300,000 people, many of whom it tortured, killed, and disappeared. Officials banned the UDF and its affiliates, restricted political activity by COSATU, and ramped up repression with death squads, vigilante groups, and warlords from Mangosuthu Buthelezi's Inkatha Freedom Party. The South African Defense Forces (SADF) also went to war in support of Jonas Savimbi's UNITA in Angola. But in the climactic battle of Cuito Cuanavale, Cuban forces beat "the White Giants" of apartheid, which led to independence for Namibia. With white Rhodesia already independent, the increasingly demoralized Afrikaners could see their doom coming.

All this greatly inspired the revolutionary movement within South Africa, while bringing white South Africa to the edge of economic ruin. As early as 1985, the finance minister announced that the government could no longer repay its foreign debts, and - in Gumede's words - "cracks began to appear in the alliance between business and the government over the economic cost of maintaining apartheid." Many of the country's economic leaders "began to call for talks between the government and credible black leaders." This led intelligence chief Niel Barnard to meet Mandela on Robben Island in May 1988, followed by Prime Minister P.W. Botha in July 1989.

More telling, the business leaders themselves reached out to the ANC, looking to lure it away from its earlier commitments and into Big Money's global fold. Leading the way was the Anglo-American Corporation, which in 1985 made overtures to exiled ANC leader Oliver Tambo at his office in Lusaka, Zambia. Sir Harry Oppenheimer, the former chairman of Anglo-American and De Beers Consolidated Mines, followed this up by secretly hosting regular meetings of top South African, British, and U.S. moguls with ANC economists who had Mandela's ear.

"South African business leaders joined the stampede to woo Mandela and other ANC leaders;" writes Gumede. "Anglo American's Harry Oppenheimer was eager to entertain Mandela at his private estate, Brenthurst, while Anglovaal's Clive Menell hosted Mandela's first Christmas as a free man at his mansion, Glendirk, tucked away at the foot of Cape Town's Table Mountain."

Gumede keeps account. When Mandela separated from his wife Winnie, the insurance tycoon Douw Stein hosted him at his palatial Johannesburg estate, from which Mandela launched his autobiography, "Long Walk to Freedom." The resort and casino king Sol Kerzner partially financed the honeymoon of Mandela's younger daughter, Zinzi. And Heinz and the chairman of South Africa's Independent Newspapers hosted Mandela in the Bahamas for Christmas 1993."

According to Gumede, other ANC leaders including the legendary Walter Sisulu cautioned Mandela about the growing perception that big business was hijacking the ANC's economic policy. But like the British-educated Mbeki, Mandela had come to believe firmly that he had to win the confidence of Western capitalists and do nothing to rock their boat. He tried, succeeded, and ultimately failed to provide for the majority of his people. Let that be a warning to us all.

[A veteran of the Berkeley Free Speech Movement and the New Left monthly Ramparts, Steve Weissman lived for many years in London, working as a magazine writer and television producer. He now lives and works in France, where he is researching a new book, "Big Money: How Global Banks, Corporations, and Speculators Rule and How To Break Their Hold."]

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Veteran ANC leader, Ronnie Kasils on ANC post-Aparteid Economic Policy: "a Faustian Pact with Neoliberalism

from Democracy Now!

Speaking from Johannesburg, leading anti-apartheid activist and former South African Intelligence Minister Ronnie Kasrils discusses the evolution of the African National Congress’ economic views from its time as a liberation movement to leading South Africa after the fall of apartheid. Kasrils says the ANC was forced to make a "Faustian pact" with neoliberalism in order to bring apartheid to an end and avoid civil war. He also discusses recent reports that Mandela was a member of the South African Communist Party. Kasrils was on the National Executive Committee of the ANC for 20 years, serving as minister for intelligence services from 2004 to 2008.

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Ronnie Kasrils, you mentioned this whole dynamic of those few white South Africans who joined with or became part of the ANC. I’m wondering how extensive was the involvement of white revolutionaries and radicals in the movement. Did you have the kind of tensions within the ANC that obviously developed in the United States and other parts of the world as the Black Power or Black Consciousness Movement developed? Were there splits that began developing between the white comrades and the African or black comrades? And how did you work those out?

RONNIE KASRILS: OK, I think there’s quite a lot of similarities, to a degree—obviously, no places are the same—between America’s experience—and I’m thinking of the Deep South, the struggle against slavery and for civil rights and those experiences of African Americans that I’ve referred to that faced people in South Africa.

And then, in terms of the nonracial nature of the struggle, the numbers of whites who became involved were really few. They were exceptional people, people of great quality and education and bravery, like Bram Fischer and Ruth First or Joe Slovo. They had been in the Communist Party, which started off in the 1920s as basically a—basically white involvement of a few hundred people. It was never big. And they tended to come from the British trade union movement, on the one hand, and, as in America, as immigrants out of Eastern Europe, and particularly Tsarist Russia, a lot of Jewish people who had some background with the Mensheviks or the Bolsheviks or the Jewish Bund of the Russian Empire. So, it was a party that starts off that way.

But by the '30s and the ’40s, with the large influx of black workers, it begins to change. And black workers, like Moses Kotane, J.B. Marks, Duma Nokwe, come to the fore. They also are African nationalists. And the thing is, they were able to also be members and became leaders, with the likes of nationalists like Mandela and Tambo of the African National Congress. So, initially, in the period of the ’40s and into the ’50s, there was quite a lot of tension. And Mandela is a perfect example or reflection of this. As an African nationalist, he is a bit weary of the communists, and particularly those with the white skin. He regards Marxism in that early period as something that's outside of Africa, and therefore foreign. And he’s very typical of African nationalism with those particular fears. There’s a white Liberal Party led by Alan Paton that tends to be anti-communist, that is not as active as the white communists and, in terms of its goals, doesn’t even accept full universal franchise. So, as the African National Congress, under Mandela and Tambo, into the ’50s begins to become very active, highly militant, and mobilizes by the tens of thousands, the African people of whom huge percentage tends to be people from labor, working-class people, and so the character of that African National Congress and its leaders, like Mandela, begins to change.

And the big error that Afrikaans nationalism makes is that it deals with the communists, black or white, and the nationalists, the African nationalists, in the same way, and they repressed, and they banned, and they house-arrested, and they imprisoned. So, the two come together. I—instead of going for the black-white race aspect, let’s think of South Africa as having two deep cleavages: that of race, the black-white divide, and that of class, capital and labor. And these two divides—one which gives rise to trade unions, to socialists and the Communist Party; the other, the race divide or national oppression of black people—gives rise to the African nationalism, under the repression of apartheid and backed up by its courts and jails and judges and, of course, the brutality of its police and army. So the two cleavages—the divides and those who reflect them—come closer together. And I would say that’s a period when Mandela casts off his suspicion of the communists and even an element of anti-communism, and a tremendous unity emerges in the struggle of the ’50s.

The defiance campaign, defiance of unjust laws, some have similarities with the American civil rights movement, where blacks and whites, volunteers led by Mandela, would go and occupy whites-only spaces in the post offices, in the railway stations, the park benches—all these everyday manifestations of apartheid. People were thrown into jail, and very, very seriously—very serious laws were passed, like five years’ jail sentence for a black man sitting on a white man’s bench in a park, and vice versa. And—

AMY GOODMAN: Ronnie Kasrils, let me ask you—

RONNIE KASRILS: —this leads to—yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: Was President—did Nelson Mandela become a communist?

RONNIE KASRILS: Well, you know, this, at this particular point in time, has become something of an issue because of a book written by a British observer called Stephen Ellis. I’ve just been checking the book again. And I would say that there are pretty strong clues to indicate that for a short period, possibly in the late '50s into the early ’60s, that Mandela was very impressed with people like Slovo and Mick Harmel and Ruth First and others. And what I had understood as a young person joining the Communist Party, becoming very close to Joe Slovo, particularly, that people like Walter Sisulu and him, as with Somora Machel or any leader in the African armed struggles, wanted to know what Marxism was about, what was there from this revolutionary theory and programs of action that they could learn. So, it's a very short period when there is, I would say, a closing of Mandela’s connection, or of, rather, perhaps coming about.

Mandela, however, has denied it. And I think whatever—there are a couple of people who allege such from our movement, who say that, "Well, he was in the Communist Party." There’s no documentation. He certainly became close in that period. But, for me, since Mandela has stated many times that he wasn’t formally a member, I think we’ve got to accept that. There’s no other real conclusive proof. But even if he had been, the point is that it was a brief period. Now, as someone in that Communist Party, I wouldn’t make apologies. You know, Sisulu, Mandela—there were great people who joined, like Govan Mbeki and Walter—and Moses Kotane. But Mandela certainly showed that he was sympathetic. He was very full of respect for those communists, who he—

AMY GOODMAN: The South African Communist Party, Ronnie Kasrils—

RONNIE KASRILS: —famously said were the ones—

AMY GOODMAN: Ronnie, the South African Communist Party last week said at his arrest in August '62, Nelson Mandela was not only a member of the then-underground South African Communist Party, but also a member of our party's Central Committee. We have to break, so just a 30-second response.

RONNIE KASRILS: Well, OK, sure thing. Sure thing.

AMY GOODMAN: We’ll break, and then we’ll get your response. Ronnie Kasrils, leading anti-apartheid activist, was a top military official under President Nelson Mandela, served on the African National Congress Executive Committee for 20 years, was underground for some quarter of a century. This is Democracy Now! Stay with us.


AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González. We’re spending the hour with Ronnie Kasrils in Johannesburg, South Africa. President Nelson Mandela lies in state in Pretoria at the Union Buildings. Thousands upon thousands are waiting hour after hour to be able to pass by his open casket. That will go on until Friday, and then the funeral, the state funeral for Nelson Mandela, is this weekend, along with his burial in Qunu, where he was born. Ronnie Kasrils, leading anti-apartheid activist, met Nelson Mandela in 1962 in the underground. Ronnie Kasrils remained in the underground for a quarter of a century, until 1989. He served on the National Executive Committee of the African National Congress for 20 years, went on to be a top military official under President Nelson Mandela, and then onto intelligence minister under President Thabo Mbeki. Juan?

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, Ronnie Kasrils, yes, we had—Amy had asked you a question before the break, but we’d like to—if you could answer that quickly, but we—in the few minutes that we have left, we also are very interested in your assessment of what has happened in South Africa since the end of apartheid, because you have been highly critical of what the revolution did not accomplish. And you talked in an article in The Guardian earlier this year about the Faustian bargain that you believe that the ANC—that you and the other leaders of the ANC engaged in with the leaders of not only South African capital, but the world capitalists and governments who were putting pressure on you at the time of the transition to a majority rule. So, I’m wondering if you can answer briefly the—this issue of whether Nelson Mandela was a leader of the Communist Party of South Africa, but also spend most of the time talking about your assessment of the problems that still remain to be solved in South African society.

RONNIE KASRILS: Sure, sure. Well, let me just deal with Amy’s point. Sure, Communist Party certainly makes that claim a week or so ago. I was in the party from 1961. I was in the leadership at a very high level in the Central Committee for many years, very close to Slovo and Mabhida and others. None of them ever made that claim or statement that he had been a member, other than that he had been close and that there had been some educational lessons in Marxism. Now, maybe he had been. It’s possible. But there’s no documents to actually prove that conclusively. So, for me—and it’s not a question of wanting to cover up or be embarrassed whatsoever; it’s that Mandela never acknowledged it. And because there’s no real conclusive proof, I think it’s got to rest, in a sense, there, because it doesn’t really do very much.

The fact is that if Mandela had a Marxist orientation, which he certainly did, I would say, for some time, that was dispelled when he emerges from prison 30 years or so later, where he immediately, in a major—his first address to our people, he commits himself to the socialist-inclined Freedom Charter and the clause, that is quite emphatic, although it doesn’t use the word "nationalization," that says that what we committed to is the control of the hearts of the economy, the mines, the banks, the monopoly industry, and it’s inconceivable that that will change. Right.

Two years later, he shows a totally different view on the economy by going to Davos, 1992, July, very impressed, clearly, as he was in South Africa, by the voice of monopoly capital. I’m not saying he bows down to it, but he is certainly impressed in terms of what they’re able to do, and comes back from Davos and says that for growth of the economy, we’ve got to look to the private sector. And he says that it’s clear that if we go for radical, socialist approach—he uses the term "nationalization"—we’re not going to get the foreign investment from the capitalist world that we need to make the country run and to overcome our poverty. So it’s a total change.

And this is where I say our Faustian pact or bargain stems from. It stems not just from Mandela, who is making this announcement and is following this through, but Joe Slovo, Ronnie Kasrils, the left wing of the ANC, which was predominant, our whole Communist Party. There’s no real debate or argument about this. Mandela really is the icon, which he shouldn’t have been, for his fellow revolutionaries. He is a leader amongst other leaders. He’s always about a collective. But Mandela is very firm on a course of approach once he’s made up his mind. And I note that people like Joe and others actually go along with him, now the reason being that the political kingdom is coming close, and of course this is a very big issue. We could have had a civil war at the time. There could have been enormous bloodshed. There was tremendous threats from the third force, the police, the soldiers, operating undercover and with all sorts of right-wing elements from the Afrikaner extremists. And we were very concerned. Would we be able to move through that situation smoothly and get to a democratic election and form a government based on the people’s will? Now, that’s an enormous attraction. And that’s where Mandela’s greatness shows. But I would say, at the same time, we push the economic issues onto that back burner, and they successively become distant, so that nationalization, command of the hearts of the economy, this becomes a no-no. And once that sets in, and you get the gates open for a nouveau comprador bourgeoisie to come to the fore, junior partners of big capital and the corporates and the international connections, then we embrace the neoliberal economy of the world today, with all its corruption, with its cronyism, as it’s [inaudible], its patronage.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Ronnie Kasrils, we just have about 30 seconds left.

RONNIE KASRILS: And you—in the—and then you’re in the clutches of what we’re all in the clutches of, the 1 percent, the corporate world that runs the economy of this planet of ours and is doing so much harm to it and begins to undermine the political sovereignty and independence of nations. That’s the point we’re at. That’s why we’re facing such scandals and corruption with our political elites.
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Friday, December 13, 2013

Israeli government kills plan to uproot Bedouin

Israeli government kills plan to uproot Bedouin
Dec 12, 2013 12:27 pm | Alex Kane
Protesters call for the release of people who were arrested in actions against the Prawer Plan on November 30th.

The “Day of Rage” protests held last month by Bedouin Arabs and their allies to protest the Prawer Plan were met with defiant rhetoric from Israeli officials. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to move forward with the Israeli government’s initiative to demolish Bedouin villages, uproot their inhabitants and build Jewish towns on top of them.

But two weeks after the protests, the plan has been scrapped. In a big reversal, Netanyahu’s office announced today that the plan has been killed after Benny Begin, the co-author of the plan, recommended that course of action.

The development, first predicted this week by Yariv Levin, the chairman of Israel’s governing coalition, will be welcomed by Bedouins as well as by right-wing opponents of the plan, who felt that it gave too many concessions.

On December 9, Levin said that the plan would probably be scrapped because the co-author of the plan admitted he never consulted with the Bedouins themselves about the legislation. Benny Begin, who helped draft the plan along with Ehud Prawer, made the admission during a Knesset hearing Monday on the initiative, though Bedouin activists have been making the point that they weren’t consulted for years.

“I wish to again make clear that contrary to what has been claimed in recent weeks, I didn’t tell anyone that the Bedouin agreed to my plan,” he said. And with that, Levin said that “there’s no chance of approving the second and third reading of the Prawer bill in its present form, because there is no justification to do so,” according to Haaretz‘s Jonathan Lis.

Levin’s comments came days after a government map was revealed that provided, for the first time ever, concrete details on what the Prawer Plan would actually entail, though it’s unclear if it was a working map or simply meant to swing Knesset votes, according to +972 Magazine‘s Michael Omer-Man. The map, prepared by Housing Minister Uri Ariel but never given to Bedouin communities, showed that 40,000 Bedouin Arabs would be displaced and that the state would take over 61,700 acres of Bedouin land.

The big question mark hanging over the news that the plan is scrapped, though, is what comes next. The drive to solve the “Bedouin problem,” in the rhetoric of Israeli officials, won’t be stopped because the Prawer Plan has been scrapped. Likud’s Levin has suggested that a new plan should be implemented:

The present bill should be changed significantly. I’m willing to be generous to the Bedouin that would immediately agree to join the process. Whoever won’t agree should be forcefully placed in the areas allotted to Bedouin. The agreement to join the generous outline should be limited in time, and is should be determined that the lands would only be leased to the Bedouins, not registered with the land authority as their property

Meanwhile, the status quo for unrecognized Bedouin communities–unconnected to water or electricity and bracing for demolition orders to make way for Jewish National Fund forests and new Jewish communities–holds steady.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

How Cuba Helped Defeat The South African Apartheid Regime (a hint: the Cuban army kicked the South African army's ass in Angola)

video from Democracy Now!

Posted from Jerusalem, Occupied Palestine by Rick C

It's snowing here & I didn't bring warm clothes, but why should you care? The Israeli press, like the US media, is having trouble sizing up Nelson Mandela's place in history. The US media wants to cover up Mandela's close association with the South African Communist Party (it was a long-term, strategic relationship, not a passing one); his support for the Palestinians; his close ties with Cuba; his attacks on US imperialism; etc. etc. They want him to become a neutered, bland, nice, non-threatening goody-two-shoes (the same job they did on ML KIng, who, in his last year of life strayed too far to the left for the establishment's liking).

The Israeli press acts as if it wished no one acutally remembered that guy (Nelson....who?)and it grudgingly has to say he was a freedom fighter (sort of, when he wasn't supporting the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign against Israel). The US was forced, at the end, to impose sanctions on South Africa like the rest of the world, because it made Washington look so bad. But Israel helped the Apartheid regime to the bitter end. An article yesterday in Haaretz described how South Africa resuced the Israel aircraft industry. Because of sanctions, South Africa couldn't buy F-16s, or Mirage Jets, so they went shopping in Israel. Israel had the planes to sell to South Africa and desperately needed the money to refinance the avaition industry.

Other things could be pointed out, like Ariel Sharon's going to South Africa to study the Bantustan program where the Apartheid government tried to create "homelands" by cramming in a lot of blacks into a small area in order to control and segregate them and then claim that they had given them self-determination.

To be sure, there have been articles and newscasts running down the image of Mandela for his non-western and anti-zionist misdeeds, but they don't want to be seen as out of step with the western countries by badmouthing him too much.

The comedy of Israel trying to not attend the funeral of Mandela while really attending it, has been reported on extensively. It looked like they really wanted to send the Knesset janitor to represent them.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Only sanctions against Israel will end occupation — Gideon Levy

Dec 01, 2013 11:53 am | Philip Weiss

Gideon Levy calls for international sanctions against Israel to end the occupation. He says the Iran case proves that sanctions work. And that John Kerry should end the masquerade of peace talks, which only he believes in, because Israel will never give up territory without pressure — including, by the way, “occupied East Jerusalem.” How often do these arguments appear in the mainstream American press, or the words “occupied East Jerusalem”? (Almost never, and yes the “shrill U.S. Jewish lobby,” words that also do not appear under threat of censure, is the main reason). Levy:

It appears that international sanctions work and that a boycott is a tool like no other. Even Israel’s prime minister has admitted this; he has called on the world not to ease the sanctions and to even intensify them, and following his lead is the shrill U.S. Jewish lobby.

This being the case, the moral is clear: This is the way to act with recalcitrant states. This applies not only to Iran, where the theory is being proved before our eyes, but with another country that does not obey the decisions of the international community.

Israel has signed the Horizon 2020 agreement for scientific research with the EU barring funding from companies or institutions with ties to the settlements. This is irrefutable proof that a boycott threat works well with Israel, too.

The truth is hard to miss. By signing the agreement, Israel gave a hand to the first official international boycott of the settlements…

Levy notes the “hypocrisy of boycotting just the settlements.”

Every Israeli organization, institution or authority is somehow involved with what’s going on beyond the Green Line. Every bank, university, supermarket chain or medical institution has branches, employees or clients who are settlers. The settlements are an all-Israeli project and the boycott can’t be limited to them, just as the boycott of apartheid-era South Africa couldn’t be limited to the institutions of apartheid.
There everything was apartheid, and here everything is tainted by occupation. Israel funds, protects and nurtures the settlements, so all of Israel is responsible for their existence. It’s unfair to boycott just the settlers. We’re all guilty. …

So the time has come for sanctions. When these are felt in Israel, only then should an international committee be formed, whether in Geneva, Jerusalem, Oslo or Ramallah, where the world will translate economic sanctions into political achievements.
This worked with Iran, and it will work with Israel and prevent bloodshed. There’s no reason to continue the masquerade of peace talks that, with the exception of one American, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, no one takes seriously. Even he will eventually come around because as long as Israelis don’t pay a price for the occupation or are blind to it, they won’t end it. That’s the truth.

Friday, November 29, 2013

A Poem for President Drone by Michael Robbins

Obama's drone program, journalism and ideology, and 'the role of the half-assed political poet.'
May 23rd, 2013 reset - +

I DIDN'T VOTE for Barack Obama, either time. It’s been a long time since I voted for anyone for anything, and I don’t expect to ever vote in a presidential election again. Almost everyone I know voted for Obama, both times. The first time around, I was like the cynical reporter in The Ides of March, telling Ryan Gosling that George Clooney was just another politician who would disappoint him eventually. In 2012, I was Rorschach at the end of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’s Watchmen, bitterly refusing to compromise, telling Dr. Manhattan, “Evil must be punished. People must be told.”

I know these figures are ridiculous. I know all the arguments. Mitt Romney is a snake and Paul Ryan is a used-car salesman. I know.

In Mythologies, Roland Barthes provides a wonderful image of dialectical thinking, in a description of the unity of what he calls the “meaning” and “form” of mythical speech:

There never is any contradiction, conflict, or split between the meaning and the form: they are never at the same place. In the same way, if I am in a car and I look at the scenery through the window, I can at will focus on the scenery or on the windowpane. At one moment I grasp the presence of the glass and the distance of the landscape; at another, on the contrary, the transparence of the glass and the depth of the landscape; but the result of this alternation is constant: the glass is at once present and empty to me, and the landscape unreal and full.

Barthes’s example of mythical signifier is a phrase in a Latin primer that means “my name is lion.” As meaning, it is full of history: “I am an animal, a lion, I live in a certain country, I have just been hunting.” As form, none of this matters: any sentence would do, as long as it illustrated the rule about the agreement of the predicate. What it says, as form, is “I am a grammatical example.” A grammar student alternates between the meaning and the form, thinking about lions but understanding that it is predicates that are really at issue. She can focus on one thing (the windowpane) or the other (the scenery). But the two elements form a unity. Their contradiction is what sustains them as a whole.

This is how I think of Obama. As form, Shepard Fairey’s “Hope” poster says, “Vote for this man, Barack Obama, with his particular policy proposals.” As meaning, it says, “See how far the United States has come? A black man can become president. Things really are getting better.” But the unity of these elements proclaims: “Capitalism is pleased to allow certain cosmetic changes so long as they don’t interfere with profit.” (Have you checked the Dow Jones industrial average lately?) This is why the liberal reading of right-wing opposition to Obama as simply racist is inadequate. The real problem is that, among certain sectors of the nation, the concrete situation of human subjects has degraded to the point where they are unable to read the myths correctly. We see the truth of this in Republican leaders’ growing fear of their own base.

Focusing on the windowpane, you would have to be soulless not to be cheered by what it says about this country that it elected a man whose father was born in East Africa to its highest office. Focusing on the scenery, you would have to be ignorant not to notice that his African ancestry is pretty much all that differentiates Obama from his predecessors. The man graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Law School. On economic issues, he is, for the most part, to the right of Richard Nixon.

I watched him, our president, on television after the Newtown shooting. He shed a tear for the slaughtered children. For some reason this was newsworthy. Was there anyone who wouldn’t have been moved to tears, addressing the nation on such a matter at such a time? My editor reminds me that this essay will appear months after Newtown. This reminder depresses me. It says: we both know how it is. A man gunned down 20 children, but he did it a few news cycles ago, so, you know. Twenty children and six adults. I imagine that somewhere in Sandy Hook Elementary School there was one of those banners with the 26 letters of the alphabet marching above a blackboard. You could arrange each dead body into the shape of one letter. They could spell anything.

This is the grisly tableau that occurs to me as I watch Obama wipe away his tears on television. Because I’m already thinking of writing about this, I’m already thinking of selling out those dead children. I’m already pissed off at Obama’s gall. I’m already thinking about the drones.


Not one American newspaper, to my knowledge (aside from one letter to the editor published in the Baltimore Sun), pointed out the incongruity of Obama’s tears. It was left to the British press to state the obvious. In a Guardian article headlined “In the US, mass child killings are tragedies. In Pakistan, mere bug splats,” with the lede “Barack Obama’s tears for the children of Newtown are in stark contrast to his silence over the children murdered by his drones,” George Monbiot wrote:

If the victims of Mr Obama’s drone strikes are mentioned by the state at all, they are discussed in terms which suggest that they are less than human. The people who operate the drones, Rolling Stone magazine reports, describe their casualties as “bug splats”, “since viewing the body through a grainy-green video image gives the sense of an insect being crushed”. Or they are reduced to vegetation: justifying the drone war, Obama’s counterterrorism adviser Bruce Riedel explained that “you’ve got to mow the lawn all the time. The minute you stop mowing, the grass is going to grow back”.

Like George Bush’s government in Iraq, Obama’s administration neither documents nor acknowledges the civilian casualties of the CIA’s drone strikes in north-west Pakistan. But a report by the law schools at Stanford and New York universities suggests that during the first three years of his time in office, the 259 strikes for which he is ultimately responsible killed between 297 and 569 civilians, of whom at least 64 were children. These are figures extracted from credible reports: there may be more which have not been fully documented.

This, along with similar critiques by Glenn Greenwald and others, drew a predictable response, which basically boils down to: It’s not the same. A blogger for the Telegraph put it bluntly:

It is the height of infantile Leftish posturing to ask why people seem “disproportionately” shocked by the Sandy Hook attack. It’s because, quite rightly, those who live in generally non-violent, democratic communities expect adherence to a certain standard of moral behaviour, and when their expectations are brutally mown down, they reel back in horror. It isn’t that Americans don’t care about Pakistanis, but rather that they believe, quite legitimately, that war situations are morally different to non-war normality.

Because violent civilian deaths are all too common in Mideast war zones like Pakistan, and uncommon in suburban American communities like Newtown, Connecticut, it makes perfect sense that a person would get more exercised about the latter. This could well be true, but it misses the point. I, for one, am not bewildered by people being more upset about the Newtown victims than they are about the children their taxes help to murder in Pakistan and Yemen. I simply believe that they should be as upset about the latter. Or more so.

Leaving aside the absolutely relevant fact that the United States is not currently at war with Pakistan or Yemen, is there a “moral difference” between the cases at issue? Of course there is: you and I bear no responsibility for the Newtown shootings. (I suppose one could argue that we bear a slight responsibility, insofar as we have not been active enough in the fight for sane gun legislation, but let that go.) But we are indeed complicit in the deaths of those 64 Pakistani children. It is our government that is killing them, after all. The drones and their operators are bought and paid for with our money. And there is a remarkable venality in the suggestion that, because children live in a war zone, their deaths matter less. The more trenchant question is whether our attacks on Pakistani citizens are immoral. I believe they are. And I believe that our president is a war criminal with the blood of innocent children on his hands. No doubt that makes me an infantile leftist. There are worse fates.


“I’m a poet” is a sentence I try not to say too often, since it usually elicits either a smirk or a deadpan “Oh how nice” — or, much worse, a “Me too,” followed by an offer to send me an entire self-published oeuvre. But I am, for richer or poorer, a poet, and I strive to maintain a certain reasonable level of artistic dignity. So when Yahoo! News approached me in 2012 about writing an alternative inaugural poem, my first impulse was to delete the email. My second impulse was to read the part about the $300 fee again. Also, Paul Muldoon and James Franco had already signed on. Paul Muldoon is one of my favorite poets, and James Franco is James Franco, and I am a terribly vain person, so what the hell. I told the Yahoo! editor, with whom I yet enjoyed cordial relations, that if I were going to write a poem it would be a poetical critique of Obama’s drone program. He thought that was fine; nothing attracts page views like a mild tropical storm in a teapot, I guess.

This is the poem I wrote for Yahoo! News:

To the Drone Vaguely Realizing Eastward

This is a poem for President Drone.
It was written by a camel.
Can I borrow your phone?
This is for President Mark Hamill.

Newtown sounds a red alert.
Mark Hamill asks is Ernie burnt?
Every camel’s a first-person shooter.
The Prez’s fez is haute couture.

It seems strange that he should be offended.
The same orders are given by him.
Paging Pakistan and Yemen.
Calling all the drone-dead children.

The camel can’t come to the phone.
This is for the drone-in-chief.
Mumbai used to be Bombay.
The bomb bay opens with a queef.

At this point, it’s easiest just to reproduce my notes for this essay:

I have finished my drone poem. Its last word is “queef.” Yahoo! is informed, because I am nothing if not conscientious. I am assured “queef” is pretty cool for a drone poem.

Interlude: The OED. Entry for “queef” mildly hilarious.

Yahoo! emails back with bad Yahoo! news. “Queef” actually a pretty big problem for the “standards desk.” I withdraw poem in predictable huff, place it on my tumblr, telling all. Righteous indignation on my behalf resounds throughout the blogosphere (need better word for “blogosphere”).

Yahoo! is embarrassed. Will I accept a call from Virginia Heffernan [Yahoo!’s national correspondent] herself? I will. Virginia, too, is cool. “Queef,” such a silly thing to cause such an uproar. Alas, the Puritans. The prigs. The prudes. Request I replace it w/ “keef.” Pressed to explain, Virginia admits “keef” is not a word. I stand my ground. Alternative routes for publication are suggested. The drama of these negotiations.

Scene: Virginia Heffernan’s phone. I have decided my best course of action is to flirt aggressively w/ Virginia Heffernan.


Negotiations w/ Yahoo! break down. Relations between me & Yahoo! at an all-time low. Poem goes back up on my tumblr. I remember I am doing this for the murdered children. I remember to feel guilty that I am using murdered children as a pretext to stir up queef controversy. People like the poem. Other people do not like the poem.

How many civilians have been killed by drone strikes while I was embroiled in queef drama? The role of the political poet. The role of the half-assed political poet.

What an interesting country, where you’re free to call the president a criminal or walk down a crowded street with a loaded gun, but a word for vaginal farting is dangerous, like a tube of toothpaste of a certain size on an airplane.


According to Omar Shakir, of Stanford Law School’s International Human Rights and Conflict Resolution Clinic, co-author of the Stanford/NYU report “Living Under Drones” (you can read it at livingunderdrones.org), “The US government has been using armed unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, to carry out hundreds of covert missile strikes in northwest Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and other countries since at least 2002.” To reiterate: for over 10 years, the United States has been regularly bombing countries with which it is not at war. As Shakir put it in an email to me:

While civilian casualties are rarely acknowledged by the US government, there is significant evidence that US drone strikes have injured and killed civilians. In public statements, the US states that there have been “no” or “single digit” civilian casualties. It is difficult to obtain data on strike casualties because of US efforts to shield the drone program from democratic accountability, compounded by the obstacles to independent investigation of strikes in North Waziristan. The best currently available public aggregate data on drone strikes are provided by The Bureau of Investigative Journalism (TBIJ), an independent journalist organization. TBIJ reports that from June 2004 through mid-September 2012, available data indicate that drone strikes killed 2,562–3,325 people in Pakistan, of whom 474–881 were civilians, including 176 children. TBIJ reports that these strikes also injured an additional 1,228–1,362 individuals.

President Obama has now ordered six times as many drone strikes as did his predecessor. The drone program has received more scrutiny of late, thanks to Obama’s nomination of John Brennan, his counterterrorism advisor, to head the CIA. But the narrative remains somewhat obtuse. Rand Paul’s anti-drone filibuster was based primarily on opposition to Obama’s targeting of U.S. citizens. This is a fine thing to oppose, of course. (Perhaps Obama’s supporters would like to take a moment to reflect that this president has, in violation of the Fifth Amendment, assassinated American citizens; that his Department of Justice has assured him that he has the right to assassinate American citizens; that he refuses to answer the question whether he has the authority to order hits on American citizens on American soil. As this article was going to press, the White House announced that it was restricting the scope of the drone program, even as it finally admitted that it had killed American citizens in drone strikes.) But ultimately such focus merely reinforces the assumption that American lives count more.

Indeed, reading the media coverage of the drone campaign is a lesson in ideology. Dexter Filkins, who can hardly be accused of cheerleading for America, begins his New Yorker blog entry on drone strikes by recounting a meeting he had in 2011 with Yemeni villagers. The United States had bombed their village, which apparently harbored an al-Qaeda training camp, killing 14 al-Qaeda fighters and 41 civilians, including 23 children. Filkins met a teenage girl who had suffered horrific burns in the attack, and another whose mother had been killed. This is some bad mojo, right? But Filkins — or his editor at The New Yorker — is very careful not to condemn anyone too harshly:

Later, when I spoke to American officials, they seemed genuinely perplexed. They didn’t deny that a large number of civilians had been killed. They felt bad about it. But the aerial surveillance, they said, had clearly showed that a training camp for militants was operating there. “It was a terrible outcome,” an American official told me. “Nobody wanted that.”

None of the above is intended as an attack on Brennan, who has spent the past four years as President Obama’s counterterrorism advisor. He has a hard job.

I am trying not to be shrill. I am trying not to write things like “Filkins’s evenhandedness here makes me want to fucking puke” or “Poor Brennan, whose job, especially the child-murdering part, is so goddamned hard.” I am a veritable monument to objectivity. Brennan felt bad about it. He has a hard job. None of the above is intended as an attack. And it’s true: the missile strike on the training camp was not intended as an attack on the 23 children whose deaths the officials felt bad about. Intentions matter, don’t they?

I don’t believe that Barack Obama is evil. I believe that he is probably a decent person. He certainly seems vastly more intelligent than any other American president in my lifetime, and I agree with a number of his positions. But so what? Does that mean that we have to pretend, as Filkins does, that there are, after all, two sides to every story, and that America’s secret wars, for instance, are very complex affairs that must be judged dispassionately, and with the tacit assumption that their aims are, while perhaps flawed in execution, noble in intent? Isn’t this exactly how ideology works? There are certain propositions that must not be formulated — or, more accurately, that literally cannot be formulated, that lie beyond the horizon of what it is possible to think.

For instance, almost any public discussion of these matters takes for granted that “terrorist” is a real category, and that the United States has the right to pursue and kill all those who belong to it. Filkins is direct: Brennan’s “hard job” is “to keep Americans safe, and he’s done that. Al Qaeda’s leadership, particularly in the tribal areas of Pakistan, has been decimated.” Note that the extrajudicial killing of “terrorists” is presumed to be a righteous goal, and that it is self-evident that such killing “keeps Americans safe.” To frame the drone strike program in any other way is taken as a sign of perversity or fanaticism. Recently, the Financial Times interviewed Noam Chomsky. Asked his opinion of Obama, Chomsky says, “He’s carrying out a global assassination campaign.” The reporter calls this “vintage Chomsky, a provocative idea in a matter-of-fact tone, daring the interlocutor to respond.” But isn’t it just the literal truth? I mean, in what sense is the Obama administration not carrying out a global assassination campaign?


I confess that I was surprised by one response that my drone poem elicited, from an astute fellow who informed me that Mumbai is not located in Pakistan. This objection roused my onomamania, for I had been thinking of the name change as a metonym for shifting political signifiers in general. Pakistan used to be India. It’s not a war, it’s a police action. Funding millionaires’ bonuses with public subsidies is socialism. What would we call those who decided they could bomb our country at will, targeting, say, Henry Kissinger and Dick Cheney, but occasionally blowing up an elementary school as well? Would it help if they said they felt bad about it? A queef by any other name …

As I type this, a headline on the website of The New York Times reads “Afghan Children Reported Among Dead in Air Strike.” I click on it, hit refresh, then stop, until I get past the paywall. Ten children have been killed, apparently not by a drone this time. I am not a utilitarian. I do not believe, for instance, that we should kill one person so that five may live, even though that would maximize utility. I believe our common moral intuitions are often correct. But consequentialism, the idea that action should be judged by its outcome and not by its motives, is hard to refute when you’re looking at pictures of dead children (not that American media tend to run them). We do our best to avoid “civilian casualties” — but our noble motives are so much Monopoly money to 13-year-old Roya, discussed in Medea Benjamin’s recent Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control, whose house on the outskirts of Kabul was destroyed by an American bomb that killed her mother and two brothers. Her father collected as many of his wife’s and sons’ body parts as he could find and buried them in accordance with Islamic rites. His house, it seems, had been too near a Taliban housing compound. Presumably the bombers felt bad about it.

Little noted by American journalists was a Reuters article published in November 2012 headlined “Obama victory infuriates Pakistani drone victims.” “The same person who attacked my home has gotten re-elected,” said 28-year-old Mohammad Rehman Khan, whose father, three brothers, and nephew were killed by an American drone strike a month after Obama took office. The article continues:

“Any American, whether Obama or Mitt Romney, is cruel,” Warshameen Jaan Haji, whose neighborhood was struck by a drone last week, told Reuters on the eve of the election. “I lost my wife in the drone attack and my children are injured. Whatever happens, it will be bad for Muslims.”

This is surely infantile leftism at its purest.

No one is responsible. Obama doesn’t have the blood of innocent children on his hands. Brennan has a hard job. “Like Fascism,” Adorno wrote of “Hitler’s robot-bombs,” “the robots career without a Subject.” The drone strikes are just a videogame played by CIA operatives thousands of miles from their targets. The postmodern critique of bourgeois subjectivity finds its apotheosis in Roya’s mother’s scattered limbs.

I don’t pretend my poem is of any consequence whatsoever. All I have is my No, and that’s not enough. I’m not brave enough to throw my body on the gears. I’m skinny and nearsighted anyway. So I go on saying No, no, no, and write my little poems, and wait for my kill fee from Yahoo! to arrive in the mail.


Michael Robbins is the author of Alien vs. Predator (Penguin, 2012). His poems have appeared in The New Yorker, Poetry, Harper's, Boston Review, and elsewhere.
Recommended Reads

Drone Warfare: Tiqqun, the Young-Girl and the Imperialism of the Trivial
Bot Like Me: Illah Reza Nourbakhsh’s “Robot Futures”
What Was Neoliberalism?
The Future Belongs to Crowds
The Constant Gardener: On Louise Glück
Obama’s Foreign Policy Crossroads
War By Manhunt: Osama bin Laden and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed
Playing It Cool: An Interview with Poet Michael Robbins
Virtual Violence

Nima Shirazi on US-Iran nuclear deal: follow the link to hear him on Anti-war Radio


Thursday, November 21, 2013

There Obama goes again-- exporting democracy

from mondoweiss.org
James North on November 20, 2013 18

Did the U.S. undermine democracy in the Maldives because it wants to set up military bases there?

There was depressing news from the Maldives this week, after the Indian Ocean island nation voted in the second round of presidential elections on November 20. Mohamed Nasheed, the dynamic, young, pro-environmentalist Muslim leader who had led after the first round, lost by a couple of percentage points to the old regime’s candidate, Abdulla Yameen.

As I reported, the imressive Nasheed had been elected back in 2008, but then overthrown in a military/police coup on February 7, 2012. Since then, the old regime had tried to block Nasheed and his reformist, youthful Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) from making a comeback, including annulling and postponing the election three times, and regularly arresting and jailing his nonviolent supporters.

The rest of the world protested vigorously; the Canadian foreign minister even marched in a pro-democracy demonstration in New York. But the United States was conspicuously quiet. The Obama administration accepted the illegal coup in 2012, and issued only feeble admonitions at the more recent pre-electoral maneuvers.

Why the pathetic and embarrassing silence, given that Nasheed and his movement are exactly the kind of forward-looking, democratic Muslims the United States should be supporting every chance it gets?

One suggestion was that the U.S. ambassador (to Sri Lanka and the Maldives), Michele Sison, had too close a friendship with the Defense Minister, Mohamed Nazim, who the pro-democracy movement believes was one of the 2012 coup leaders. But that (possible) relationship did not seem to explain enough.

I had been following the crisis on Twitter (@jamesnorth7), in part because mainstream media coverage was misleading or non-existent. Many Maldivians are fluent in English, and #Maldives was vigorous with debate. So I put the question to them: what explains the disgraceful American policy?

I got immediate and valuable responses. Apparently, earlier this year the U.S. government was negotiating with the Maldives about a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), which would have led to increased military cooperation between the two countries, possibly including U.S. bases there. Someone leaked a draft of the agreement to the Maldivian press, and the U.S. embassy was forced to concede that such talks were going on, although denying plans for a permanent American base.

This is an extraordinary revelation, completely unreported in the New York Times or elsewhere. The U.S. government was willing to set aside its stated principles and negotiate with a regime that came to power in a violent, illegal coup. An administration headed by Barack Obama was prepared to sell out the Maldivians who should be its natural allies, brave people who have risked their freedom and even their lives for democracy, just so it could set up yet another unnecessary U.S. military base at the other end of the world.

In the real tally of violence, Palestinians have it much worse

from Haaretz
There is no Palestinian without a personal and familial history of injustice that was caused by, and is still caused by Israel.
By Amira Hass | Nov. 21, 2013 | 3:08 AM | 3

Anyone who has worn a uniform past or in present, whether speaking on the record or off, immediately “knows” that the latest terror attack and what looks to soldiers as the latest attempted terror attack does not signify the beginning of a third Intifada. Or, they "know" it does signify such a beginning, and it's all because of the peace negotiations or because of Palestinian incitement, or both. Relying on the knowledgeable military brass is a fixed Israeli reflex; it is part of the balance of power and part of how the Israelis exert control over their subjects.

Whoever said 100,000 Palestinians have unfinished business with the Israel Defense Forces took it a step further creating the impression that he really knows and thinks, and does more than calculate tallies. But the starting point for calculation is somewhere else completely: There is no Palestinian whose score with the State of Israel is settled - whether he lives in forced exile or whether he lives within the borders of Israel, or in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. There is no Palestinian without a personal and familial history of injustice that was caused by, and is still caused by Israel. Just because the Israeli media does not report on all the injustices Israel causes day in and day out - even if only because they so numerous - does not mean they go away and neither does the anger they cause. Therefore, according to the correct calculation, the number of attacks by Palestinian individuals is relatively microscopic. This small number shows that for the vast majority of Palestinians - passing, murderous and hopeless revenge is not an option.

But nonetheless, the fatal attacks in recent months are worrying. They point at the political and social bankruptcy of the Palestinian leadership and organizations, who have stopped serving as the national rallying point, and are unable to hold back the waves of despair. The Palestinian feels isolated against his attackers. New initiatives and other forms of leadership are still in their diapers. And in the meantime, the Israel's methods of injustice are becoming more sophisticated. To speak about the anger without linking it to the occupation and systematic discrimination is like discussing environmental pollution without reference to the polluter.

Any Jew in the world who has never so much as set foot here, automatically enjoys the right to enter Israel, to find shelter here from economic distress (Argentina) or political distress (Russia), to tour the land, to settle down, to live and to work on both sides of the Green Line. These are rights that are partially or fully denied to Palestinians - whether they are citizens of the state or not, whether they live in Israel, whether their family comes from here and whether they lost land and property to the other.

What kind of feelings does the structural discrimination against Palestinians engender? It riles up and infuriates. The Israeli experts, those who keep stats on Palestinian violence, either ignore their own violence or else they are smart enough to cover it up. We must therefore cry out again and again: Every Palestinian, man or woman, poor and less poor, and also the very wealthy, refugees or not, and those who live in the Land of Israel (within the borders of the British Mandate) daily risk that the Israeli authorities and their representatives (soldiers, policemen, settlers, right-wingers) will harm them in some fashion. The situation jeopardizes their lives, livelihood, property, land, health, education, or the continuity of their family and social relations.

In every area, there are additional varieties of harm and harassment particular to it. For citizens of Israel, it is the creeping racist legislation. In East Jerusalem, it is the negation of residency status and expulsion from Israel. In the West Bank, it is the wholesale arrests, the settlements, the settlers, land expropriations under a pseudo-legal guise, and lack of running water in many communities during the summer. And in the Gaza Strip? Unseen jailers, whose identity is known. They sequester its residents in the world’s largest prison camp, and there is no one who will say as God said to Moses during the crossing of the Red Sea: Wake up, compose thyself, my beloved ones are drowning in the sewage and in the sea of oblivion.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

How the Super-Rich Are Abandoning America

By Paul Buchheit
As they accumulate more and more wealth, the very rich have less need for society. At the same time, they've convinced themselves that they made it on their own, and that contributing to societal needs is unfair to them. There is ample evidence that this small group of takers is giving up on the country that made it possible for them
to build huge fortunes.

They've Taken $25 Trillion of New Wealth While Paying Less Taxes
The 2013 Global Wealth Databook shows that U.S. wealth has increased from $47 trillion in 2008 to $72 trillion in mid-2013. But according to U.S. Government Revenue figures, federal income taxes have gone DOWN from 2008 to 2012. Even worse, corporations cut their tax rate in half.
American society has gained nothing from its massive wealth expansion. There's no wealth tax, no financial transaction tax, no way to ensure that infrastructure and public education are supported.
Just how much have the super-rich taken over the past five years? Each of the elite 5% -- the richest 12 million Americans -- gained, on average, nearly a million dollars in financial wealth between 2008 and 2013.
2. For the First Time in History, They Believe They Don't Need the Rest of Us
The rich have always needed the middle class to work in their factories and buy their products. With globalization this is no longer true. Their factories can be in China, producing goods for people in India or Europe or anywhere else in the world.

They don't need our infrastructure for their yachts and helicopters and submarines. They pay for private schools for their kids, private security for their homes. They have private emergency rooms to avoid the health care hassle. All they need is an assortment of servants, who might be guest workers coming to America on H2B visas, willing to work for less than a middle-class American can afford.
The sentiment is spreading from the super-rich to the merely rich. In 2005 Sandy Springs, a wealthy suburb of Atlanta, stopped paying for most public services, deciding instead to avoid subsidizing poorer residents of Fulton County by hiring a "city outsourcer" called CH2M to manage everything except the police and fire departments. That includes paving the roads, running the courts, issuing tickets, handling waste, and various other public services. Several other towns followed suit.

Results have been mixed, with some of CH2M's clients backing out or renegotiating. But privatization keeps coming at us. Selective decisions about public services threaten to worsen already destitute conditions for many communities. Detroit, of course, is at the forefront. According to an Urban Land Institute report, "more municipalities may follow Detroit's example and abandon services in certain districts."

3. They Soaked the Middle Class, and Now Demand Cuts in the Middle-Class Retirement Fund
The richest Americans take the greatest share of over $2 trillion in Tax Expenditures, Tax Underpayments, Tax Haven holdings, and unpaid Corporate Taxes.
The Soial Security budget is less than half of that. Yet much of Congress and many other wealthy Americans think it should be cut. These are the same people who deprive the American public of $300 billion a year by not paying their full share of the payroll tax.

4. They Continue to Insist that They "Made It on Their Own"
They didn't. Their fortunes derived in varying degrees - usually big degrees - from public funding, which provided almost half of basic research funds into the 1980s, and even today supports about 60 percent of the research performed at universities.
Businesses rely on roads and seaports and airports to ship their products, the FAA and TSA and Coast Guard and Department of Transportation to safeguard them, a nationwide energy grid to power their factories, communications towers and satellites to conduct online business, the Department of Commerce to promote and safeguard global markets, the U.S. Navy to monitor shipping lanes, and FEMA to clean up after them.
Apple, the tax haven specialist, still does most of its product and research development in the United States, with US-educated engineers and computer scientists. Google's business is based on the Internet, which started as ARPANET, the Defense Department's Advanced Research Projects Agency computer network from the 1960s. The National Science Foundation funded the Digital Library Initiative research at Stanford University that was adopted as the Google model. Microsoft was started by our richest American, Bill Gates, whose success derived at least in part by taking the work of competitors and adapting it as his own. Same with Steve Jobs, who admitted: "We have always been shameless about stealing great ideas."

Companies like Pfizer and Merck have relied on basic research performed at the National Institute of Health. A Congressional Budget Office study reminds us that The primary rationale for the government to play a role in basic research is that private companies perform too little such research themselves (relative to what is best for society).

5. As a Final Insult, Many of Them Desert the Country that Made Them Rich
Many of the beneficiaries of American research and technology have abandoned their country because of taxes. Like multinational companies that rationalize the move by claiming to be citizens of the world, almost 2,000 Americans, and perhaps up to 8,000, have left their responsibilities behind for more favorable tax climates.
The most egregious example is Eduardo Saverin, who found safe refuge in the U.S. after his family was threatened in Brazil, landed Mark Zuckerberg as a roommate at Harvard, benefited from American technology to make billions from his 4% share in Facebook, and then skipped out on his tax bill.
An Apt Summary?

Bernard Marcus, co-founder of Home Depot and member of the Forbes 400, had this to say about any American who might object to all the greed: "Who gives a crap about some imbecile?"
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.
Reprinted from commondreams.org



Socialist Kshama Sawant Elected To Seattle City Council

Huffington Post
By MANUEL VALDES 11/15/13 11:23 PM ET EST

SEATTLE (AP) — Seattle voters have elected a socialist to city council for the first time in modern history.
Kshama Sawant's lead continued to grow on Friday, prompting 16-year incumbent Richard Conlin to concede.
Even in this liberal city, Sawant's win has surprised many here. Conlin was backed by the city's political establishment. On election night, she trailed by four percentage points. She wasn't a veteran politician, having only run in one previous campaign.
But in the days following election night, Sawant's share of the votes outgrew Conlin's.
"I don't think socialism makes most people in Seattle afraid," Conlin said Friday.
While city council races are technically non-partisan, Sawant made sure people knew she was running as a socialist — a label that would be politically poisonous in many parts of the country.
Sawant, a 41-year-old college economics professor, first drew attention as part of local Occupy Wall Street protests that included taking over a downtown park and a junior college campus in late 2011. She then ran for legislative office in 2012, challenging the powerful speaker of the state House, a Democrat. She was easily defeated.
This year, though, she pushed a platform that resonated with the city. She backed efforts to raise the minimum wage to $15; called for rent control in the city where rental prices keep climbing; and supports a tax on millionaires to help fund a public transit system and other services.
"I will reach out to the people who supported Richard Conlin, working with everyone in Seattle to fight for a minimum wage of $15 (an) hour, affordable housing, and the needs of ordinary people," Sawant said in a statement.
During her campaign, she condemned economic inequality, contending that some people aren't benefiting from the city's declining jobless rate, ongoing recovery from the recession, and downtown building boom.
"She's passionate about her values," Conlin said.
Research showed no socialist candidate had won a citywide office in the past 100 years. The last socialist candidate to make it into the general election was in 1991 and was defeated, said Scott Cline, the city's archivist.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Obamacare Snafus?

Whatever glitches, planning errors, ineptness is behind the problems encountered with the roll-out of the Affordable Care Act, one fatal fact remains: No plan based on for-profit medicine and insurance is going to provide decent health care for the majority of people (let alone all the people).

"good quality for-profit medical care for all" is an oxymoron. It will never work. The only way to have medical for all is socialized medicine (or "single-payer" if you choke saying "socialized").

One easy solution: extend Medicare to everyone.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Why Israel wanted Arafat dead

Why Israel wanted Arafat dead

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

They aren’t anti-Semites, just plain old bigots

Note: this article is good as far as it goes, but had left some thing unsaid. Fink tells his fellow Zionist Jews, don't overreact, everyone is not out to kill all the Jews. One of the reasons he gives is that throughout the world Jews are no longer segregated into geographic and social ghettos. In the modern world people meet Jews and not harbor any of the ancient fears. However, this cuts both ways. Israeli Jews are currently seized by a racist hysteria against "the Arabs" and now, black African migrants. Segregation and racist propaganda (better said, indoctrination, particularly of the young) are firmly entrenched and spreading in Israel. Maybe they ought to be cured of their bigotry too? A last point is that Fink should be ware of the Christian Zionists of the USA. They are all-around bigots who act as philo-semites. As cheerleaders for every Israeli crime against basic human rights, the Christian Zionists hope for the achievement of biblical prophecy where all the world's Jews gather in Israel, so that Jesus can make his final coming and all the non-Christians (this means you, Fink) are sent to hell.

from Haaretz

The ADL - and Jews in general - should be careful about what they call ‘anti-Semitism.’
By Rabbi Eliyahu Fink | Nov. 6, 2013 | 2:03 PM

The Anti-Defamation League released the results of a recent poll that indicates anti-Semitic attitudes have decreased by 3 percent since 2011. That’s the good news. The bad news is that according to the ADL, too many people continue to harbor anti-Semitic views. But I am not sure we can really call those who hold these views anti-Semites.
Anti-Semitism used to refer to irrational hatred of Jews and violence stemming from that hatred. For most of history, people lived in communities, towns, and cities with like-minded people of similar ethnicity. Over the last 2,000 years, the “other” in many communities was the Jew. The Jew lived among the nations of the world as a second-class citizen or worse. The classically anti-Semitic cities of Eastern Europe were made up of people who shared common ancestry and lived together for generations. The Jews were the usurpers, the invaders, the minority, the people to blame for their problems. Thus, anti-Semitism.
Other forms of bigotry are really no different. Larger groups have always used smaller groups as scapegoats and muses for their hatred. Historically, and to a lesser degree contemporarily, the Roma in Europe, Armenians in Turkey, black people in predominately white countries, Tibetans at the hands of the Chinese, Chechens in Russia, Albanians in Greece and Italy, Copts in Egypt, among many others, are minorities who are discriminated against and the subjects of hatred in their host countries.
One thing that made anti-Semitism unique was how it permeated so many different cultures and locales. This is because we were minorities in so many places throughout our long exile that more groups had an excuse or opportunity to hate us. Other groups were concentrated into smaller areas and so were their enemies.
Today we live in a diverse, multi-cultural world. Many people live in communities with all kinds of people from all ethnicities and cultures. Minorities are majorities in some places. This translates into a society where people are generally exposed to people with difference skin tones, values, religions, ideas, and preferences than themselves. By default, this makes it harder to dislike people who are different simply because almost everyone in one’s social circle is going to be somewhat different.
The United States is particularly diverse and Americans are particularly welcoming of different groups most of the time. But in places where there are insular communities, ghettos, and more uniform social circles, we are – in my opinion - likely to find higher levels of bigotry against a multitude of ethnicities – Jews and other minorities alike.
In its survey, the ADL asked questions that would elicit responses revealing whether a person was biased against Jewish people. These questions are designed to help the ADL determine how widespread Jewish stereotypes are held as truth. While the numbers are disheartening they only tell part of the story.
In order to determine whether the people who hold these beliefs are anti-Semites, one has to eliminate the other possibility that they might be bigots in general. If they hate Jews and they hate everyone else too it’s hardly anti-Semitism. Their bigotry is not unique toward Jewish people if they are just plain old bigots.
Jewish people need to be concerned about all forms of bigotry. But we have a vested interest in anti-Semitism. We need to ask if Jew hatred is a different kind of hatred than the hatred found across the gamut of society. Not every Jew hater is an anti-Semite. The true anti-Semite is the one who does not hate anyone but Jews. This is a very rare person indeed. And that is very good news.
As to solving the problem of bigotry in general, the solution is to create more opportunities for minorities and majorities to interact in positive ways. In some places in the world, this is still impossible. Luckily, in the United States Jewish people interact with non-Jews all the time. But we do need to make a concerted effort to put our best foot forward and show those who hate us that their bigotry is based on false assumptions and ignorance. We must make an even greater effort in places where Jewish people are more prominently anti-social like the uber-insular communities of ultra-Orthodox Jews and the places where Jewish people rarely appear. It is in those two categories of places that ignorance and stereotypes about Jews are most likely to be found. We hold the key to changing those opinions by acting in a congenial and respectful manner.
Hopefully through our efforts we can eliminate bigotry and even eradicate the exceedingly rare exclusive hater of Jews. Let’s also be careful about whom and what we call anti-Semitism.
Rabbi Eliyahu Fink, J.D., is the rabbi at the famous Pacific Jewish Center | The Shul on the Beach in Venice, CA. Connect with Rabbi Fink through Facebook, Twitter or email. He blogs at http://finkorswim.com.