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.