Saturday, May 31, 2014

Daniel Ellsberg: Snowden would not get a fair trial – and Kerry is wrong

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Daniel Ellsberg: Snowden would not get a fair trial – and Kerry is wrong
Edward Snowden is the greatest patriot whistleblower of our time, and he knows what I learned more than four decades ago: until the Espionage Act gets reformed, he can never come home safe and receive justice

Daniel Ellsberg, Friday 30 May 2014 07.45 ED

As the author knows from direct chat-log conversations with him over the past year, Snowden acted in full knowledge of the constitutionally questionable efforts of the Obama administration, in particular, to use the Espionage Act in a way it was never intended by Congress. (Video still via NBC News)
John Kerry was in my mind Wednesday morning, and not because he had called me a patriot on NBC News. I was reading the lead story in the New York Times – "US Troops to Leave Afghanistan by End of 2016" – with a photo of American soldiers looking for caves. I recalled not the Secretary of State but a 27-year-old Kerry, asking, as he testified to the Senate about the US troops who were still in Vietnam and were to remain for another two years: How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?

I wondered how a 70-year-old Kerry would relate to that question as he looked at that picture and that headline. And then there he was on MSNBC an hour later, thinking about me, too, during a round of interviews about Afghanistan that inevitably turned to Edward Snowden ahead of my fellow whistleblower’s own primetime interview that night:

There are many a patriot – you can go back to the Pentagon Papers with Dan Ellsberg and others who stood and went to the court system of America and made their case. Edward Snowden is a coward, he is a traitor, and he has betrayed his country. And if he wants to come home tomorrow to face the music, he can do so.

On the Today show and CBS, Kerry complimented me again – and said Snowden "should man up and come back to the United States" to face charges. But John Kerry is wrong, because that's not the measure of patriotism when it comes to whistleblowing, for me or Snowden, who is facing the same criminal charges I did for exposing the Pentagon Papers.

As Snowden told Brian Williams on NBC later that night and Snowden's lawyer told me the next morning, he would have no chance whatsoever to come home and make his case – in public or in court.

Snowden would come back home to a jail cell – and not just an ordinary cell-block but isolation in solitary confinement, not just for months like Chelsea Manning but for the rest of his sentence, and probably the rest of his life. His legal adviser, Ben Wizner, told me that he estimates Snowden's chance of being allowed out on bail as zero. (I was out on bond, speaking against the Vietnam war, the whole 23 months I was under indictment).

More importantly, the current state of whistleblowing prosecutions under the Espionage Act makes a truly fair trial wholly unavailable to an American who has exposed classified wrongdoing. Legal scholars have strongly argued that the US supreme court – which has never yet addressed the constitutionality of applying the Espionage Act to leaks to the American public – should find the use of it overbroad and unconstitutional in the absence of a public interest defense. The Espionage Act, as applied to whistleblowers, violates the First Amendment, is what they're saying.

As I know from my own case, even Snowden's own testimony on the stand would be gagged by government objections and the (arguably unconstitutional) nature of his charges. That was my own experience in court, as the first American to be prosecuted under the Espionage Act – or any other statute – for giving information to the American people.

I had looked forward to offering a fuller account in my trial than I had given previously to any journalist – any Glenn Greenwald or Brian Williams of my time – as to the considerations that led me to copy and distribute thousands of pages of top-secret documents. I had saved many details until I could present them on the stand, under oath, just as a young John Kerry had delivered his strongest lines in sworn testimony.

But when I finally heard my lawyer ask the prearranged question in direct examination – Why did you copy the Pentagon Papers? – I was silenced before I could begin to answer. The government prosecutor objected – irrelevant – and the judge sustained. My lawyer, exasperated, said he "had never heard of a case where a defendant was not permitted to tell the jury why he did what he did." The judge responded: well, you're hearing one now.

And so it has been with every subsequent whistleblower under indictment, and so it would be if Edward Snowden was on trial in an American courtroom now.

Indeed, in recent years, the silencing effect of the Espionage Act has only become worse. The other NSA whistleblower prosecuted, Thomas Drake, was barred from uttering the words "whistleblowing" and "overclassification" in his trial. (Thankfully, the Justice Department's case fell apart one day before it was to begin). In the recent case of the State Department contractor Stephen Kim, the presiding judge ruled the prosecution "need not show that the information he allegedly leaked could damage US national security or benefit a foreign power, even potentially."

We saw this entire scenario play out last summer in the trial of Chelsea Manning. The military judge in that case did not let Manning or her lawyer argue her intent, the lack of damage to the US, overclassification of the cables or the benefits of the leaks ... until she was already found guilty.

Without reform to the Espionage Act that lets a court hear a public interest defense – or a challenge to the appropriateness of government secrecy in each particular case – Snowden and future Snowdens can and will only be able to "make their case" from outside the United States.

As I know from direct chat-log conversations with him over the past year, Snowden acted in full knowledge of the constitutionally questionable efforts of the Obama administration, in particular, to use the Espionage Act in a way it was never intended by Congress: as the equivalent of a British-type Official Secrets Act criminalizing any and all unauthorized release of classified information. (Congress has repeatedly rejected proposals for such an act as violating the First Amendment protections of free speech and a free press; the one exception to that was vetoed by President Clinton in November 2000, on constitutional grounds.)

John Kerry's challenge to Snowden to return and face trial is either disingenuous or simply ignorant that current prosecutions under the Espionage Act allow no distinction whatever between a patriotic whistleblower and a spy. Either way, nothing excuses Kerry's slanderous and despicable characterizations of a young man who, in my opinion, has done more than anyone in or out of government in this century to demonstrate his patriotism, moral courage and loyalty to the oath of office the three of us swore: to support and defend the Constitution of the United States.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Quick Thoughts: Norman Finkelstein on 'The ADL Global 100: An Index of Anti-Semitism'

From Jadaliyya
May 20 2014
by Norman G. Finkelstein

[On 13 May 2014, the Anti-Defamation League released The ADL Global 100: An Index of Anti-Semitism, a survey of 53,100 adults in 102 countries and territories. According to the ADL: "The survey found that anti-Semitic attitudes are persistent and pervasive around the world. More than one-in-four adults, 26 percent of those surveyed, are deeply infected with anti-Semitic attitudes. This figure represents an estimated 1.09 billion people around the world." The poll has come in for substantial criticism on both methodological and political grounds, from commentators as diverse as Noah Feldman of Harvard University and Amira Hass of the Israeli newspaper Haaretz. Jadaliyya asked forensic scholar and noted author Norman Finkelstein for his views on the ADL survey and criticism of its methods, and whether he found the poll results alarming.]

I would find it alarming if anyone except [Anti-Defamation League National Director] Abe Foxman (and perhaps the New York Times editorial board) took this survey seriously. Fortunately, most every sane person has come to take anything the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) utters with a dozen boulders of salt. (Having been labeled a "Holocaust denier" by this freakish organization, I think a dozen boulders is still several dozen too few.)

I would also find it alarming if anyone except Abe Foxman (and perhaps the New York Times) gave a hoot about the poll’s conclusions. Personally, I am alarmed by genocide and war, death from preventable diseases and from hunger, global warming and massive unemployment. I see no cause for alarm if not everyone loves by far the wealthiest and most successful ethnic group on the planet. Back in the day, most sensible people detested WASPs.

But, returning to your question, is it even true that a quarter of the world's population is anti-Semitic? I am actually surprised at how low the percentage is, in light of the calculated absurdity of the questions. According to the ADL, an affirmative answer to the statements in bold-face reveals an anti-Semitic mindset:

Jews are more loyal to Israel than to their home country. But, according to Israel's first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, Jews who support Zionism are supposed to be more loyal to Israel than their home country--their "duty" is "to assist the State of Israel in all conditions and under any circumstances…whether the government in which the Jews in question owe allegiance desires it or not" (Zvi Ganin, An Uneasy Alliance: American Jewish Leadership and Israel, 1948-1957, pp. 119-20; emphasis added).

Jews have too much power in international financial markets, or over global affairs, or over the global media, or in the business world, or over the United States government. But why would affirmative responses to these descriptions prove anti-Semitism? When people of color assert that Whites exercise too much power in the business world, or feminists assert that Males exercise too much power in government, does that prove anti-White-ism or anti-Male-ism? Even Abe Foxman concedes that "proportionately there has always been a relatively prominent Jewish presence in the movie, TV, and record industries for a variety of social and cultural reasons" (Abe Foxman, Never Again? The Threat of the New Anti-Semitism, pp. 249-50).

Jews think they are better than other people. But, after all the secular success Jews have experienced since World War II, in the arts and sciences, in business and politics, in law and medicine, it would be a wonder if Jews did not think they are better than other people, just as the WASPs who preceded them thought they were better. Haven't Jews (and a few self-hating goyim) written dozens of books kvelling about how amazing Jews are (see, e.g., Charles Silberman's A Certain People)?

People hate Jews because of the way Jews behave. How does this prove anti-Semitism? If one were to say that Jews hate Germans or Poles because of the way Germans or Poles behave(d), would that prove anti-German-ism, or anti-Pole-ism?

Jews still talk too much about what happened to them in the Holocaust. In my opinion, anyone who does not answer in the affirmative must be certifiably insane. Even the former speaker of the Israeli Knesset, Avraham Burg, has written a book deploring what he calls the "Shoah industry" (Avraham Burg, The Holocaust is Over, We Must Rise from Its Ashes, pp. 4-5).

The fact is, this poll proves nothing except that the ADL is still trying to cash in on the ever-burgeoning anti-Semitism industry, and still hopes to immunize Israel by labeling legitimate criticism of its policies as motivated by an irrational animus towards Jews.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

How Mexico’s New President Is Turning His Country Into a Servile US Client Enrique Peña Nieto is using violence and repression to dismantle his country’s progressive legacy.

from The Nation
John M. Ackerman May 22, 2014

President Barack Obama has not only failed to achieve comprehensive immigration reform, but he has also actively participated in the dismantling of development and democracy in Mexico, the homeland for two-thirds of US Latinos. Obama’s policy toward Mexico builds on the long tradition of US support for neoliberal authoritarian regimes in Latin America. Just as Washington actively encouraged military coups in South America during the 1970s and armed the dictators of Central America during the 1980s, today it props up Mexico’s corrupt political class as it slowly tears the country apart.

John Kerry’s trip to Mexico City this week was supposedly for the purpose of consolidating a “North American and global partnership.” But this new relationship will be doomed from the start if the Obama administration does not break with its ideological foreign policy approach, which privileges the demands of Wall Street and the Pentagon over the needs of common citizens on both sides of the Rio Grande.

Mexico’s new President Enrique Peña Nieto plays the same role in Latin America today that the Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet did in the 1970s. The Financial Times has hailed Peña as the man who supposedly will be able to stop the advance of South American “populism,” on display in Venezuela, Ecuador, Argentina, Uruguay and Bolivia, and bring back the “Washington Consensus” as the dominant ideology in the region. Indeed, Peña’s central objective since taking power on December 1, 2012, has been to completely dismantle the progressive legacy of the Mexican Revolution of 1910. He has drastically rolled back protections for labor, imposed neoliberal education reforms and moved to hand over the enormous oil and gas industry to transnational petroleum companies. He has also turned Mexico into a servile client of US foreign policy and “national security” concerns.

Peña has relied on violence, repression and censorship in order to impose these policies on a recalcitrant public. Human rights violations and attacks on the press have skyrocketed under the new administration, according to recent reports by Article 19, Amnesty International and a leading network of local NGOs. Since Peña’s inaugural seventeen months ago, protests and marches have typically met with violent repression and arbitrary arrests.

An important community organizer who participated peacefully in the inaugural protests, Juan Francisco Kuykendall, recently passed away due to the wounds he received when a police tear gas canister or rubber bullet struck his head during the rally. A leader of community policing initiatives in the state of Guerrero, Nestora Salgado, is today in jail for supposedly “disturbing the peace” by putting into question the integrity of corrupt officials. A Greenpeace activist is being aggressively prosecuted by the Peña administration for allegedly damaging a light on the building from which she hung a protest banner in the state of Veracruz. This month, a distinguished leader of indigenous communities in Chiapas linked to the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN) was brutally killed by members of a paramilitary group historically linked to Peña’s Party of the Institutional Revolution (PRI).

Meanwhile, Peña has faithfully followed instructions from Washington to continue with the disastrous militarized “kingpin” drug war strategy, based on taking out leading narcotraffickers without attending to the root social and economic causes of the problem. The result has been a continuation of the bloodbath initiated under the previous president, Felipe Calderón, who governed from 2006 until 2012. During 2013, Peña’s first year in power, there were more than 18,000 violent killings and more than 2,500 kidnappings.

Peña has also turned his back on the rest of Latin America and embraced Washington’s regional power politics. The Mexican president barely lifted an eyebrow in response to the revelations about indiscriminate US spying on Mexico, Brazil and other Latin American nations. He also refused to join forces with the South American governments in their condemnation of the forced landing last year of Bolivian President Evo Morales’s plane on the suspicion that it might have Edward Snowden on board. Meanwhile, Peña has permitted the indiscriminate and illegal use of US military drones over Mexican airspace, most notably in the recent capture of the capo Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán.

The US press has generally applauded Peña’s policies. The Washington Post argued in a recent editorial that “as Venezuela’s economy implodes and Brazil’s growth stalls, Mexico is becoming the Latin oil producer to watch—and a model of how democracy can serve a developing country.” Both Time and Rolling Stone have recently published glowing cover stories in their international editions about the new Mexican president.

Obama has followed suit. In his keynote address at Mexico’s National Anthropology Museum a year ago, the US president used langauge that appeared to have been ripped out of Peña’s inaugural address. Obama’s insistence on the need to “discard old habits that are no longer working” and “old attitudes that stifle progress” directly mirrored Peña’s declarations that “it is time, together, to break the myths and paradigms that have limited our development.” This sounds innocent enough at first glance, but what it actually means in local parlance is that it is time to dismantle the last vestiges of Mexico’s welfare state and open up the floodgates to predatory, unregulated international financial markets, especially in the oil and gas sectors.

Imagine for a moment what the US public would think if the president of Mexico were to call for the end of Social Security and the privatization of the National Park Service in a keynote address at the Kennedy Center. Obama’s rhetoric, and more importantly his actions, have been equally imprudent. For instance, last December the Obama administration ordered the website host Go Daddy to close down a leading Mexican Internet protest and human rights site in response to a groundless complaint from the Mexican government. In general, the US Congress has appropriated over $2 billion in law enforcement and military support to Mexico since 2008.

A great deal is at stake in the battle for Mexico. In addition to being the place of origin for at least 33 million US residents, Mexico is the eleventh-most-populated and has the fourteenth-largest economy in the world. Even more important, Mexico has long stood out for its distinguished constitutional tradition of protection of fundamental social and economic rights and has been an important international champion of national self-determination.

The Mexican Constitution of 1917, a product of the radical, peasant-led social revolution of 1910, is revered by comparative constitutional law scholars as the first Constitution in the world to formally grant citizens a wide array of social and economic rights, including the right to work, education, land and healthcare. Indeed, with the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of “really existing socialism” in the Eastern bloc, Mexico’s non-ideological eclectic approach to the synthesis of social welfare, liberal rights and national development is today particularly well poised to set an international example.

Mexico has also historically played a crucial role as an independent voice in international affairs. Its commitment to political asylum throughout the twentieth century turned it into the destination of choice for leading progressive intellectuals and politicians, including Leon Trotsky and thousands of Spanish Republicans during the Spanish Civil War as well as Argentines, Chileans and others fleeing dictatorship in later decades. Mexico has always maintained close diplomatic ties with Communist Cuba and has consistently resisted US bullying to support overseas imperialist adventures. In 2003, while serving as a member of the UN Security Council, Mexico bravely stood up to George W. Bush and refused to support the US invasion of Iraq.

But Peña wants to throw this distinguished constitutional tradition into the dustbin of history. If he succeeds, not only will Mexicans suffer but global politics and humanity in general will lose out as well.

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Fortunately, those concerned with the plight of Mexico can count on a powerful ally: the Mexican people. After only seventeen months in power, Peña is now the most disliked president in modern Mexican history. Polls show that only thirty-seven percent of the population approves of his performance, and only a minority supports his neoliberal policies. One would be hard pressed to find a single case of a Mexican president more rejected by his own people over the more than two decades in which presidential approval polls have been conducted in the country. It is only a question of time before this discontent bubbles to the surface and transforms itself into action.

The Peña administration increasingly looks much more like a puppet regime propped up by the US government than a democratic administration accountable to its people. The US public in general, and particularly those with strong ties to Mexico and Latin America, should not tolerate the use of their tax dollars to dismantle Mexico’s economic and political system, spreading violence and social discontent throughout North America. It is time for their voices of solidarity with the Mexican people to be heard in Washington.

John M. Ackerman May 22, 2014

Friday, May 23, 2014

What's Happening Now Why Black People Must Stand With Palestine

From Ebony Magazine
MAY 2014

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Two years ago, a viral video emerged of a Palestinian alumnus named Fadi Quran being pepper sprayed and arrested while nonviolently protesting in the West Bank. As a journalist for The Stanford Daily, I had the opportunity to cover his arrest and detainment. And in the process, my eyes were opened to a whole conflict I was shocked I hadn’t heard about before. I learned that he had been protesting the closure of Shuhada Street—the main road in the West Bank’s largest city—because the Israeli military forbids Palestinians using it, only allowing Israeli settlers and foreigners to pass. I had learned that the pepper spray soldiers shot in Fadi’s face was made in the U.S. and that our government sends the Israeli military $3 billion a year in aid that helps fund this violent occupation. When I interviewed Fadi upon his release from jail, he remarked that the Israeli military court would have likely detained him indefinitely on the madeup charge that he had attacked ten soldiers were it not for the video and international solidarity.
Last summer I found myself standing on the exact street where Fadi was protesting. Thousands of miles away from the US, I was visiting a place that has come to symbolize the worst aspects of military occupation and colonization in Palestine. My group’s tour guide, Issa attempted to walk us down Shuhada Street—but a pair of Israeli soldiers not more than 21-years-old stopped him and told him he could not pass. Issa, who was born and raised in the house right next to the checkpoint, would be subject to arrest for continuing down the street. Between the video I took of this encounter and the many examples of separate and unequal treatment between Israelis and Palestinians I saw, I felt like I was watching some dystopic mashup of the pass laws Blacks faced in apartheid South Africa and the cruel humiliation of the Jim Crow South.
Fadi’s 2012 arrest occurred two days before Trayvon Martin’s murder, and both of these events pushed me to become active in the Black movement for freedom at home and justice for Palestinians abroad. In educating myself about what Palestinians experience, I began to see the interconnectedness of our struggles.
I learned how the police brutality African Americans and other minorities face in the US is directly tied to violence in Palestine. Since 2001, thousands of top police officials from cities across the US have gone to Israel for training alongside its military or have participated in joint exercises here. Just weeks before Oakland police violently broke up an Occupy rally, they had trained with repressive forces from Israel and Bahrain. In Georgia in 2006, a 92-year-old black woman was shot and killed by Atlanta police who had participated in an exchange program with Israeli soldiers on counterterrorism and drug enforcement. Our governments literally share resources and tactics with each other that directly harm our respective communities.
The experiences of African Americans and Palestinians with systemic mass incarceration are also strikingly similar. Forty percent of Palestinian men have been arrested and detained by Israel at some point in their lives. (To put this in perspective, the 2008 figure for Blacks was 1 in 11.) Israel maintains policies of detaining and interrogating Palestinian children that bear resemblance to the stop and frisk policy and disproportionate raids and arrests many of our youth face.
My five-week visit to Palestine last summer occurred less than a month after George Zimmerman’s verdict was released. Outside of Bethlehem, I was shocked to find a memorial to Trayvon Martin painted on the 24-foot separation wall Israel builds on Palestinian land. I was even more shocked at how viscerally I noticed similarities between Stand Your Ground laws at home and Israel’s justification for its treatment of Palestinians. I had heard story after story about how the Israeli military had used the “security threat” argument to justify the closing of Shuhada Street, shooting tear gas into a house full of women and children, barring my Palestinian-American friend from re-entering the country to continue her study abroad. Palestinians, Blacks and other groups in colonialist countries are “security threats” by our very existence of surviving under systems that seek to destroy us.
What is “safety” when the thing people are safe from is us? Who is looking out to protect the lives of Fadi or Trayvon? Why do our societies dismiss our narratives? And when our tax dollars fund the police and military systems that kill our communities here and abroad, what can we do to claim safety and protection for ourselves?
To me, our hope for this century may come from joint solidarity with marginalized people all over the world. Palestinians appeal not to the government that occupies and oppresses them, but to international bodies and universal principles of human rights for freedom. Similar to the Palestinians’ call for people of conscience to boycott and divest from companies that support their oppression, we might call on people abroad to pressure an end to "the New Jim Crow"---mass incarceration. Black movements have a rich history of alliances with those fighting racism and imperialism across the world, from Algeria to South Africa, El Salvador to Cuba.
After decades of strong resistance to discrimination and oppression at home and abroad, it seems more than coincidental that the progress of our past has been weakened by imprisonment drugs and isolation from the rest of the world. Most of us know very little about the Palestinian struggle and mainstream Palestinian society seemed to think everything is okay in terms of race in the United States today. In our separation, both of our relative struggles as Blacks and Palestinians remain ignored by the larger society. The time is ripe to rebuild those connections. Strong Black solidarity with the Palestinian struggle seems necessary and urgent. We must work together to address the effects of money, policing and militarism here and in Israel/Palestine.
Kristian Davis Bailey is a graduating senior at Stanford in the Comparative Studies in Race & Ethnicity program. He is co-president of Stanford Students for Justice in Palestine and a college journalist. Read his writings from his travels in Palestine at ‘Postcards from Palestine’ and follow ‘Black on Palestine’ for the thoughts of others who have visited the region. (He thinks these visuals are a good introduction for anyone new to the Israel-Palestine conflict.) Follow him on Twitter: @kristianbailey

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Interview with Haidar Eid: Resisting 66 years of Israeli Apartheid

Ayah Bashir on May 22, 2014 3

In 2010, this interview was conducted with Dr. Haidar Eid as an activity by the Gaza BDS group and the One Democratic State Group (ODSG), but it has never been published before due to technical reasons. It was edited recently because this interview needs to be publicised since it tackles some of the most recent important and timely issues. Eid presents insightful analysis and reporting on the deteriorating conditions in Palestine. Even though this interview is several years old he is engaged in a lively dialogue about pertinent questions pertaining to the present time.

He opens by remarking on the daily manifestations of the incessant siege on the Gaza Strip, the 2008-2009 massacre and the continued illegal collective punishment of its residents by Israel that has transformed the Strip into an open-air prison. There is no communication between the Gaza Strip and world owing to severely imposed restrictions on Palestinians’ right to freedom of movement.

Ascribing the term Apartheid to Israeli state practices persistently raises a plethora of inevitable comparisons with South Africa’s apartheid regime. This interview draws real, and instructive comparisons to be made with South African apartheid as well as differences regarding the multiple dimensions of the political contours of Israel as a particular settler colonial regime. In this context, Eid discusses how the ethic cleansing of Palestinians and apartheid exercises, based on a logic of separation and fragmentation, is challenged by defying the two state solution since it “doesn’t guarantee peace with justice” through the animating spirit of BDS, based on the politics of non-violent grassroots resistance and committed international solidarity.

The strategy of the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement against Israel, known as BDS, aims to force Israel, and the state’s supporters internationally, to recognize that the status quo is not a long-term option. In other words, for a just and long-term peace, Israel should abide by its obligations under international law, and the minimal conditions of civility and democracy. That means three things: ending the illegal occupation of the West Bank and the siege of Gaza, securing equal rights within Israel for its Arab Palestinian citizens, and implementing the right of displaced Palestinians to return to their homes (last Thursday Palestinians around the world commemorated the 66th anniversary of Al-Nakba, Israel’s first mass dispossession of the Palestinians).

That is the core of the growing international BDS campaign launched on July 9, 2005, on the very first anniversary of the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice that condemned illegal Israel’s annexation wall and colonial settlements built on occupied Palestinian territory, and now supported by the vast majority of Palestinian civil society, coordinated by the the Boycott National Committee (BNC).

Haidar Eid has played a role in advancing this strategy. He is also, however, one who is concerned not to limit attention to the immediate demands of the strategy at the cost of considerations of future possibilities. A rights-based movement isn’t enough to challenge Israel apartheid, there also needs to be a political framework to guide action. Meanwhile, one’s vision of the future should be intimately tied to strategic and even tactical, considerations of the present. Hence, Eid occupies a position that argues for such a vision of the future, and against a silence on the question that might be designed to build the strategy while avoiding disagreement about its aims.

That is why we as supporters of the One Democratic Secular State Group argue that a strategic objective which compromises with Israel on the question of the right of return, or the rights of Palestinian citizens of Israel, cannot provide a solution to the 66-year conflict. It is for this reason that it is particularly critical of the leftist groups in Palestine that appear to have abandoned their commitment to the principle of a single democratic state in the whole of the land of Palestine.

Amidst the on-going peace process industry and ceaseless efforts of the American administration to increasingly keep forcing the same narrative of a two-state solution on both the Palestinian population as a whole, and policy makers internationally, this interview lays out the alternative. It is pivotal for two-state supporters to take a stock of Israel’s strategy of colonization of the West Bank, isolation and punishment of Gaza, and gradual expulsion of the Palestinian residents, towards a de facto annexation in the future, which renders the long-elusive two-state solution impossible.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

A History of ‘Price-Tag’ Violence

London Review of Books Blog Posting

Nicola Perugini and Neve Gordon 15 May 2014

On 10 May, Amos Oz criticised the so-called ‘price-tag attacks’ carried out by Israeli settlers. The label is used by the culprits themselves to describe retaliatory violence against Palestinians: beatings and arson as well as racist graffiti sprayed on the walls of churches and mosques. Oz described the perpetrators as ‘Hebrew neo-Nazi groups’. The next day, he said:
The comparison that I made was to neo-Nazis and not to Nazis. Nazis build incinerators and gas chambers; neo-Nazis desecrate places of worship, cemeteries, beat innocent people and write racist slogans. That is what they do in Europe, and that is what they do here.
Oz’s sentiments are shared by Israeli liberals and conservatives, who together condemn the attacks as repugnant. The Jerusalem Post said that ‘price-tag attacks fit the definition of terror no less than [suicide] bus bombings’.
But the equation with suicide bombers, like Oz’s provocative comparison with European neo-Nazism, does more to conceal than to reveal the violence perpetrated against Palestinians, above all the violence of the Israeli state.
When Meir Har-Zion died two months ago, there were obituaries in all the major news outlets celebrating the legendary hero. Har-Zion was best known for his price-tag practices. He was one of the founding members (along with Ariel Sharon) of Unit 101, which in October 1953 carried out a retributive massacre in the Jordanian village of Qibya. ‘Bullet-riddled bodies near the doorways,’ UN observers said, ‘and multiple bullet hits on the doors of the demolished houses indicated that the inhabitants had been forced to remain inside until their homes were blown up over them.’ According to Ben-Gurion’s biographer, ‘seventy corpses were found in the rubble, including dozens of women and children.’
In February 1955 Har-Zion’s sister was murdered in the Judean desert, which was then part of Jordan. The following month Har-Zion went to the desert with three friends to seek revenge. They captured six Palestinians, killed five of them and sent the sixth home to tell his village what had happened.
Israeli children are named after Har-Zion. For decades soldiers swore they would try to follow in his footsteps. He is not an outlier, but a paradigmatic example of Israel’s policies of punitive violence. House demolitions, curfews during the First Intifada, infantry offences during the Second Intifada and the more recent aerial bombing of Gaza have all been justified as retribution for a previous Palestinian act. ‘Price-tag’ is the justification that has informed both government policy and military practice since the country was established. Which raises the question: why do the recent price-tag attacks scandalise Amos Oz and several Israeli politicians?
For something to be scandalous it has to (appear to) be exceptional. By making the recent price-tag violence into a scandal, Oz – and the Israeli media more generally – transform it into an exception and in this way help conceal the fact that this kind of violence has structured Israel’s relations with Palestinians for more than 65 years. The only difference is that one is carried out by vigilantes and the other by the state. In other words, to depict the price-tag violence perpetrated by vigilantes as an outrageous exception helps to legitimise the price-tag violence perpetrated by the state, which has shaped the daily experiences of many Palestinians for decades.
This rhetorical trick allows liberals and conservatives alike to displace responsibility. The violence is measured in relation to the Other, the Israeli extremist who is more closely aligned to the European neo-Nazi or the Palestinian suicide bomber than to the state of Israel.

Palestinian activists condemn lethal attack on “Zapatista brothers and sisters”

from The Electric Intifada
Submitted by Asa Winstanley on Wed, 05/21/2014 - 15:14

Subcomandante Marcos in La Realidad, Chiapas in 1999. (Cesar Bojorquez / Flickr)
A group of Palestinian activists, writers and educators issued a statement last week condemning a lethal attack on a Zapatista community in Chiapas, southern Mexico.

The paramilitary attack on the village of La Realidad, left one teacher dead, an autonomous school and clinic destroyed and fifteen Zapatista activists wounded, the statement says.

Sent to The Electronic Intifada, the statement draws explicit parallel between Palestinian and Mexican indigenous struggles: “we understand that our brothers and sisters in Chiapas are struggling against a Nakba in a fight not just for themselves, but for all of humanity.”

The Nakba is the Palestinian catastrophe of 1948, which began when Zionist militias expelled some 750,000 Palestinians from their land.

Chiapas state is home to the Zapatistas (Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional), a mostly indigenous Maya liberation movement that has enjoyed global grassroots support since it rose up against the Mexican government in 1994.

The movement became iconic within the global anti-capitalist movement of the late 1990s, with the masked image of spokesperson Subcomandante Marcos smoking his pipe famous the world over.

As Jimmy Johnson and Linda Quiquivix reported for The Electronic Intifada last year, the Mexican state and Israel have worked together on security coordination at the level of police, prisons and technology. Mexico has also bought Israeli weaponry.

Israeli personnel were sent into Chiapas in response to the 1994 Zapatista uprising for the purpose of “providing training to Mexican military and police forces.”


The statement characterizes the attack as “only the latest orchestration by the Mexican government at the service of neoliberalism, continuing the further theft of Mexico and the final expulsion of the country’s indigenous people from their land.”

It draws parallels to the European colonization of the Americas with the European Zionist colonization of Palestine, stating: “the world that began to be built on October 12, 1492 is the one that made possible May 15, 1948, and it has all been catastrophic for humanity.”

The Zapatistas are “a dignified threat to this new face of colonialism” and so “we call on all dignified Palestinian organizations, communities, collectives, and individuals in struggle to denounce these attacks against the Zapatistas as an attack on us all.”

The statement concludes by quoting words of solidarity that Subcomandante Marcos issued in 2009 during Israel’s brutal “Cast Lead” massacre in the Gaza Strip, which left over 1,400 Palestinians dead.

The full statement is published below in English for the first time, and has also been published in Spanish and in Arabic.

Full statement

“The Nakba in Chiapas: Words from afar in the black room of death”

Not far from here
in a place called Gaza
in Palestine, in the Middle East
right here next to us,
the Israeli government’s
heavily trained and armed military
continues its march
of death and destruction.

– Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos Chiapas, Mexico

May 15, 2014

To the family of Compañero Galeano
To all the wounded
To the Junta de Buen Gobierno in La Realidad
To the Juntas de Buen Gobierno
To the Sixth
To Palestinians in Palestine and the shatat

Over the past several days, we have been hearing the news coming out of Chiapas, Mexico, and our hearts are heavy. It reports on a recent paramilitary attack against our indigenous Zapatista brothers and sisters on May 2nd in the community of La Realidad. The attack left their autonomous school and clinic destroyed, fifteen Zapatista compañeros wounded, and Galeano, a teacher in the Zapatistas’ Little School, brutally murdered.

We understand that this was not a confrontation between two armed groups, but an attack by armed paramilitaries against unarmed Zapatista civilians. We also understand that the attack was only the latest orchestration by the Mexican government at the service of neoliberalism, continuing the further theft of Mexico and the final expulsion of the country’s indigenous people from their land once and for all. The Zapatistas are a dignified threat to this new face of colonialism, and those ruling from above know it.

The tactic has become one of the Mexican government’s favorite over the past twenty years: arm, fund, and organize paramilitary groups whose members come from other indigenous communities in Chiapas to then fabricate the lie that these are intra-community conflicts. The mainstream media then doesn’t have to work too hard in its manipulations. In this case, the paramilitary group the government sent in to attack our Zapatista brothers and sisters goes by the name of CIOAC-Histórica, and it was assisted by the Green Ecological Party (PVE) and the National Action Party (PAN) – two political bodies in Mexico currently helping manage the further plunder and destruction of the country.

So in listening to the news coming out of Chiapas, what we understand above all, is that while the names may change, the death and destruction remains the same.

“The underground rivers that crisscross the world can change their geography, but they sing the same song.”

Neoliberalism, colonialism, occupation…

We did not have the honor of knowing Compañero Galeano, but we think that maybe we did not need to. We are hearing that he lived for us, and that he fell while fighting for us. What else is left to know? Galeano was our brother, our father, our friend… Galeano was our teacher.

What Galeano taught is what Zapatista men, women, youth, and elderly teach every day: That the world that began to be built on October 12, 1492 is the one that made possible May 15, 1948, and it has all been catastrophic for humanity. This is a world that requires the annihilation of those of us who refuse to live by its designs, and the only way for us to win this fight, the Zapatistas teach us, is by creating the world anew and together. The world anew, as they say, “where many worlds fit.”

So today, on this May 15, on this 66th year of our catastrophe, of our “Nakba” as we call it in Arabic, we understand that our brothers and sisters in Chiapas are struggling against a Nakba in a fight not just for themselves, but for all of humanity. And so we stand with them in dignified rage, reflecting on how the crime against us in Palestine is one that many more around the world continue to experience 500 years on.

We gather our voices today in strong condemnation of the murder of Compañero Galeano, the attack on La Realidad, and all aggressions against our Zapatista brothers and sisters in Chiapas. And we call on all dignified Palestinian organizations, communities, collectives, and individuals in struggle to denounce these attacks against the Zapatistas as an attack on us all. While we know that our words cannot bring back Galeano’s body, and that they may not heal the wounds of the injured, what we do know, what we can in fact say is true, is what Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos once took the time to say to us:

words from afar
might not stop a bomb
but it is as if a crack
were opened
in the black room of death
and a tiny ray of light
slips in

From Palestine and the shatat, from below and to the left:


Palestinian alumni of the Little School’s first grade course, “Freedom according to the Zapatistas”
Palestinian Youth Movement – U.S. Branch

Amal Eqeiq
Shadi Rohana
Ahmad Nimer
Salma AbuAyyash
Hazem AlNamla
Hazem Jamjoum
Ahmad Lahham
Faris Giacaman-Taraki
Yara Kayyali Abbas
Nada Elia
Remi Kanazi
Murad Odeh
Randa Wahbe
Thayer Hastings
Isshaq AlBarbary
Mezna Qato
Natasha Aruri
Dena Qaddumi
Budour Hassan
Shireen Akram-Boshar
Linah Alsaafin
Vivien Sansour
Nura Alkhalili
Deema Alsaafin
Omar Jabary Salamanca
Annemarie Jacir
Will Youmans
Raya Ziada
Alaa Hijaz
Lucy Garbett
Hala Turjman

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Hedge Fund Titans Hum a Happy Tune as They Target Public Schools

Bill Moyers
May 15, 2014

Pharrell Williams has reason to be happy. The singer and music producer has had the world’s hottest pop single over the past six months. His “Happy” has been topping the charts everywhere, from the United States to Lebanon and Bulgaria.

If this bouncy ditty keeps selling, Williams might even end up 2014 as happy as Taylor Swift, the most lavishly compensated musical artist in all of 2013. Swift took home $39.7 million for the year.

A hedge fund manager in 2013 needed to take in $300 million just to make the top 25. Ten years ago, in 2004, an aspiring hedge fund kingpin only had to grab $30 million to enter the industry’s top 25 elite.
But Pharrell Williams, if he should hit that lofty mark, probably still wouldn’t be feeling nearly as tickled and giddy as the over 3,000 power suits who were swaying to “Happy” last Monday.

Those suits — an assemblage that included most of the major domos of hedge fund America — were attending an annual high-powered investment conference in Manhattan. At the conference’s close, reports Businessweek, the attendees all rose as “Happy’s” infectious beat filled Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Hall.

What had the hedgies so happy? The rest of us found out the next day. In 2013, the trade journal Alpha revealed, the hedge fund industry’s top 25 earners collected $21.15 billion, a whopping 50 percent over their total the year before.

A hedge fund manager in 2013 needed to take in $300 million just to make the top 25. Ten years ago, in 2004, an aspiring hedge fund kingpin only had to grab $30 million to enter the industry’s top 25 elite.

Numero uno on this year’s hedge fund pay list: David Tepper, with $3.5 billion. Three other fund managers pulled in over $2 billion. Totals this grand essentially make Taylor Swift’s millions look like a paycheck for a Holiday Inn lounge act. Swift averaged $109,000 a day in 2013. Tepper’s daily average: $9.6 million.

But the real enormity of America’s annual hedge fund jackpots only comes into focus when we contrast these windfalls with the rewards that go to ordinary Americans. Kindergarten teachers, for instance.

The 157,800 teachers of America’s little people, the Bureau of Labor Statistics tells us, together make about $8.34 billion a year. Hedge fund America’s top four earners alone last year grabbed $10.4 billion.

Cheerleaders for hedge fund America consider such comparisons unfair. Hedge fund titans, they trumpet, are making a huge contribution to education. They’re investing, for instance, millions upon millions in the charter school cause.

True enough. Hedge fund billionaires are indeed investing colossal millions in charters, educational entities — often tied closely to for-profits — that take in public tax dollars but operate independently of local school board oversight.

Hedge fund manager cash has gone both to individual charter schools directly and into political war chests to support candidates who want to see charter networks expanded. Thanks to this cash, charters have become a major fact of American educational life, with a “market share” that rivals traditional public schools in many big cities.

Many educators consider charters a diversion of badly needed public tax dollars into unaccountable private entities that cream off top students and refuse to take in the most challenged.
Hedge fund flacks hail this growing charter presence as a new window of opportunity for underprivileged kids in failing traditional schools. But many educators consider charters a diversion of badly needed public tax dollars into unaccountable private entities that cream off top students and refuse to take in the most challenged.

Plenty of research reinforces this perspective. One survey of recent studies, released last week, sees a charter school landscape full of “bad education, ridiculous hype, wasted resources and widespread corruption.”

Also in that landscape: plenty of high-return investment opportunities for hedge fund managers. A federal tax break known as the “New Markets” tax credit lets hedge funds that invest in charters double their money in seven years. Charters have become, notes one education analyst, “just another investor playground for easy money passed from taxpayers to the wealthy.”

The final indignity? The families of those kindergarten teachers who make less in a year than the average top 25 hedge fund manager makes in 15 minutes pay a greater share of their incomes in taxes than hedge fund moguls pay on theirs, thanks largely to a notorious tax code loophole — known as carried interest — that Congress has not yet seen fit to plug.

Hedge fund masters of our universe, with this loophole in place, will continue to rake in hundreds of millions and pile those millions into billions. And they’ll continue to use those millions and billions to distort our political process, in education and every other public policy realm they happen to dance into.

That should not leave us happy.

Monday, May 19, 2014

dueling op-eds in LA Times, Oren's lies vs Makdisi's truth

Two opeds re Israeli apartheid from Saturday's LA Times, fyi and for sending in Letters to the Editor. 150 words or less
Even if you just have a minute to write a line or two in support of Saree's -- or to comment on Oren's brazen denial of the facts. -- it's worthwhile. Especially letters from those in CA. All best, Linda
Israel isn't, and will never be, an apartheid state

The war against Israel has passed through three phases.

The first was the attempt to annihilate Israel by conventional means. It began with Israel's birth in 1948, when Arab armies nearly captured Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, and ended in the 1973 Yom Kippur War, when Israeli forces came within artillery range of Cairo and Damascus.

The next stage, starting in the early 1970s, sought to cripple Israel through terror. Suicide bombers nearly paralyzed the country, but by 2005 they too were defeated.

That is when Israel's enemies launched the third, and potentially most devastating, campaign: to isolate, delegitimize and sanction Israel into extinction. And a key weapon in this stage is the hugely destructive word "apartheid."

Translated from Afrikaans, apartheid means "apart-hood." It stemmed from the deeply held racist beliefs of South African whites who, in the half-century after World War II, imposed strict legal barriers between themselves and all black people. The segregation was total: separate restaurants, separate toilets and drinking fountains, separate houses, hospitals and schools. Blacks were denied the right to vote. The system resembled the American South under Jim Crow and outlived it by several decades. Thereafter, "apartheid" remained synonymous with undiluted racism, second only in hatefulness to Nazism.

Today, the word "apartheid" is wielded by Israel's enemies to delegitimize the Jewish state. Adversaries point to the separation between Israeli settlers and Palestinian residents of the West Bank, separate Israeli and Palestinian roads, and separate schools, hospitals and legal systems. Although Israelis can elect their leaders, opponents of Israel say, Palestinians cannot. They claim that Israel has erected an "apartheid wall" between Jewish and Arab areas.

The latest stage in the war against Israel involves the hugely destructive word 'apartheid.'-
Yet none of this even remotely resembles apartheid. The vast majority of settlers and Palestinians choose to live apart because of cultural and historical differences, not segregation, though thousands of them do work side by side. The separate roads were created in response to terrorist attacks — not to segregate Palestinians but to save Jewish lives. And Israeli roads are used by Israeli Jews and Arabs alike. The separation of schools is, again, a cultural choice similar to that made by secular and Orthodox Jews and Muslim and Christian Palestinians. Many Palestinians, however, study in Israeli institutions such as Ariel University, located in a settlement. Thousands of Palestinians, many of them from Hamas-controlled Gaza, are treated at Israeli hospitals.

Israelis can indeed vote for their leaders, and so too can the Palestinians, but the Palestinian Authority has refused to hold elections for years. Palestinians are indeed tried under Israeli (originally British) military codes for security infractions, but other cases are referred to Palestinian courts. And even on security-related issues, Palestinians can appeal to Israel's Supreme Court.

Israel has erected a security barrier — only a small section is actually walled — between it and most of the West Bank. But the barrier, a vital counter-terrorism tool, is not permanent and has been moved several times to accommodate Palestinian interests. It is no more an apartheid wall than the fence between the United States and Mexico.

The West Bank represents a complex historical, humanitarian and security situation that six Israeli prime ministers from both the left and right have tried to resolve. Unfortunately, Palestinian leaders turned down Israeli offers of statehood in 2000 and 2008, and have now abandoned peace talks in favor of reunification with Hamas. They aspire to create a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza from which all Jews have been expelled. That is truly apartheid.

Outside of the West Bank, in Jerusalem and elsewhere in Israel, Jews and Arabs mix freely and increasingly live in the same neighborhoods. Arabs serve in Israel's parliament, in its army and on its Supreme Court. And though discrimination in Israel , as in America, remains a scourge, there is no imposed segregation. Go to any Israeli mall, any restaurant or hospital, and you will see Arabs and Jews interacting.

This reality has not prevented Israel's enemies from branding it with the apartheid label. They do so not to achieve a better peace arrangement with Israel but to isolate it internationally and to eliminate it through sanctions. We Jews remember how each attempt to obliterate us, whether in the Inquisition or during the Holocaust, was preceded by a campaign to delegitimize us. People who practice apartheid are easily considered illegitimate.

Israel is not an apartheid state and will not become one, even if the Palestinians continue to reject peace. However unwittingly, those who associate apartheid with Israel are aiding the third and perhaps ultimate stage in the effort to destroy the nation. They are also committing a grave injustice to the millions of American and South African blacks who were the victims of true apartheid.

Michael Oren, Israel's ambassador to the United States from 2009 to 2013, is a senior fellow in international diplomacy at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya and a fellow at the Atlantic Council.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times

Op-Ed Does the term 'apartheid' fit Israel? Of course it does.


IsraelWest BankLaws and LegislationJudaismRacismHuman RightsPalestine

The question is not whether the term 'apartheid' applies to Israel; it does
'Apartheid' isn't just a term of insult; it's a word with a very specific legal meaning

The storm of controversy after Secretary of State John F. Kerry's warning that Israel risked becoming an "apartheid state" reminded us once again that facts, data and the apparently tedious details of international law often seem to have little bearing on conversations about Israel conducted at the highest levels of this country. As was the case when other major figures brandished the "A-word" in connection with Israel (Jimmy Carter comes to mind), the political reaction to Kerry's warning was instantaneous and emotional. "Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East, and any linkage between Israel and apartheid is nonsensical and ridiculous," said California Sen. Barbara Boxer. That's that, then, eh?

Not quite. Flat and ungrounded assertions may satisfy politicians, but anyone who wants to push the envelope of curiosity even a little bit further might want to spend a few minutes actually thinking over the term and its applicability to Israel.

"Apartheid" isn't just a term of insult; it's a word with a very specific legal meaning, as defined by the International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid, adopted by the U.N. General Assembly in 1973 and ratified by most United Nations member states (Israel and the United States are exceptions, to their shame).

According to Article II of that convention, the term applies to acts "committed for the purpose of establishing and maintaining domination by one racial group of persons over any other racial group of persons and systematically oppressing them." Denying those others the right to life and liberty, subjecting them to arbitrary arrest, expropriating their property, depriving them of the right to leave and return to their country or the right to freedom of movement and of residence, creating separate reserves and ghettos for the members of different racial groups, preventing mixed marriages — these are all examples of the crime of apartheid specifically mentioned in the convention.

Seeing the reference to racial groups here, some people might think of race in a putatively biological sense or as a matter of skin color. That is a rather simplistic (and dated) way of thinking about racial identity. More to the point, however, the operative definition of "racial identity" is provided in the 1965 International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (to which Israel is a signatory), on which the apartheid convention explicitly draws.

And so it goes in all domains of life, from birth to death: a systematic, vigilantly policed separation of the two populations.-
There, the term "racial discrimination" is defined as "any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, color, descent, or national or ethnic origin which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural or any other field of public life."

A few basic facts are now in order.

The Jewish state (for so it identifies itself, after all) maintains a system of formal and informal housing segregation both in Israel and in the occupied territories. It's obvious, of course, that Jewish settlements in the West Bank aren't exactly bursting with Palestinians. In Israel itself, however, hundreds of communities have been established for Jewish residents on land expropriated from Palestinians, in which segregation is maintained, for example, by admissions committees empowered to use ethnic criteria long since banned in the United States, or by the inability of Palestinian citizens to access land held exclusively for the Jewish people by the state-sanctioned Jewish National Fund.

Jewish residents of the occupied territories enjoy various rights and privileges denied to their Palestinian neighbors. While the former enjoy the protections of Israeli civil law, the latter are subject to the harsh provisions of military law. So, while their Jewish neighbors come and go freely, West Bank Palestinians are subject to arbitrary arrest and detention, and to the denial of freedom of movement; they are frequently barred from access to educational or healthcare facilities, Christian and Muslim sites for religious worship, and so on.

Meanwhile, Palestinian citizens of Israel must contend with about 50 state laws and bills that, according to the Palestinian-Israeli human rights organization Adalah, either privilege Jews or directly discriminate against the Palestinian minority. One of the key components of Israel's nationality law, the Law of Return, for example, applies to Jews only, and excludes Palestinians, including Palestinians born in what is now the state of Israel. While Jewish citizens can move back and forth without interdiction, Israeli law expressly bars Palestinian citizens from bringing spouses from the occupied territories to live with them in Israel.

The educational systems for the two populations in Israel (not to mention the occupied territories) are kept largely separate and unequal. While overcrowded Palestinian schools in Israel crumble, Jewish students are given access to more resources and curricular options.

It is not legally possible in Israel for a Jewish citizen to marry a non-Jewish citizen. And a web of laws, regulations and military orders governing what kind of people can live in which particular spaces makes mixed marriages within the occupied territories, or across the pre-1967 border between Israel and the occupied territories, all but impossible.

And so it goes in all domains of life, from birth to death: a systematic, vigilantly policed separation of the two populations and utter contempt for the principle of equality. One group — stripped of property and rights, expelled, humiliated, punished, demolished, imprisoned and at times driven to the edge of starvation (down to the meticulously calculated last calorie) — has withered. The other group — its freedom of movement and of development not merely unrestricted but actively encouraged — has flourished, and its religious and cultural symbols adorn the regalia of the state and are emblazoned on the state flag.

The question is not whether the term "apartheid" applies here. It is why it should cause such an outcry when it is used.

Saree Makdisi, a professor of English and comparative literature at UCLA, is the author of "Palestine Inside Out: An Everyday Occupation."

Shalom Modi: India and Israel look to deepen ties following victory of the Hindu right

Vijay Prashad on May 18, 2014 95

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) – the party of the Hindu Right – has won the Indian election with a decisive mandate. The victory itself has everything to do with domestic policy, notably the growth-led strategy by the Congress government that drove inequality upwards and that fostered corruption in business life. The BJP began its career as a party with a programmatic hatred of minorities – mainly the 120 million Indian Muslims – but has since smartly camouflaged that odium behind the rhetoric of good governance. But the anti-minority sentiment is not absent; it was simply well-handled, with the BJP’s leader, Narendra Modi, winking toward that part of his party’s beliefs but speaking fulsomely about the need for economic growth. It is the latter that catapulted his party to its major victory.

The BJP is the electoral heir to a long-tradition of Hindu nationalism that has roots in the 19th century and was consolidated in the 20th century around the ideology of Hindutva (Hinduness). Hindutva intellectuals looked around the planet for examples of other religious nationalisms for inspiration, and, naturally, a few eyes settled on Israel after its defeat of the Arab armies in 1967. In Organiser, the periodical of the RSS – the brain center of the Hindutva movement – Chitragupta asked in 1967 why the Israelis and the Hindus fared better in their struggle against the Arabs and the Pakistanis respectively. He had in mind India’s defeat of the Pakistani armies in the 1965 war, as well as Israel’s triumph in the 1967 Six Day War. The problem, Chitragupta argued, is not in armaments but in the civilizational advantages enjoyed by Hindus and Jews. “The Islamic world is not destitute of genius, or ability,” he wrote, “but it has not been given a dog’s chance because it is under the benumbing control of a rigid theology and petrified dogma.”

This dismissal of Islam came alongside the combined praise of Judaism and Hinduism for “their devotion to the pursuit of truth without blinders.” It is this kind of civilizational connection that roots Hindutva’s very strong pro-Israeli sentiment. Hindutva and Zionism shared a muscular nationalism that developed – because of their context – a programmatic apathy to Islam and Muslims.

Namaste Sharon

In 2003, I wrote a book called Namaste Sharon – it was about the visit of Israel’s Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to India. Sharon was the first Israeli leader to come to India. Between 1948 and 1991, India did not have diplomatic ties with Israel. It placed itself firmly in the Palestinian camp. When the Congress government decided to abandon its national development economic policies in 1991, it jettisoned large parts of its non-aligned foreign policy. The collapse of the Soviet Union and the demise of the Third World project drew elites across the world to seek a new rapprochement with the United States. Congress leaders quite openly said to me that the highway to Washington, DC, would best go through Tel Aviv. Indeed, that was the reason for India’s shift of policy in 1991. It took a decade to cement ties, and then in 2003, Ariel Sharon walked to New Delhi on the new bridge that the two countries had built.

Relations between India and Israel grew as a result of a pragmatic need for the Congress-led government to cement ties with Washington, DC, and its allies. From the very first days of the new relationship, elements that remain intact came into place – commercial ties, particularly in the tele-communications and energy sectors as well as the burgeoning arms trade from Israel to India; military ties, with the two countries collaborating on counter-terrorism techniques; cultural ties, with Israeli tourism transforming places such as Dharamsala and Khajuraho, where Hebrew signs are now legion and shopkeepers have learned enough Hebrew to converse with their guests (who are often men and women recently off duty from their terrible jobs at checkpoints – they turn to Tibetan meditation in Dharamsala as a way to assuage their guilt). These ties increased during the Congress-led government of the 1990s, the BJP-led government from 1998-2004, and the Congress-led government of the 2000s. They have become part and parcel of the Indian business and security infrastructure, with the most recent figures showing, for instance, that Indo-Israeli trade in military goods is now at $10 billion per year. India is the largest importer of Israeli military goods.

Only the Communist Party of India (Marxist) amongst the Indian political parties seeks a shift in the direction of relations between India and Israel. Its manifesto from 2014 says, “extend full support to the cause of a Palestinian state; sever military and security ties with Israel.” There is a mainstream consensus over Indo-Israeli ties.

Narendra Modi, left, meets Israeli Ambassador to India Alon Ushpiz, center, in January 2013 (Photo:
Narendra Modi, left, meets Israeli Ambassador to India Alon Ushpiz, center, in January 2013 (Photo:

Israel’s Best Friend in South Asia?

If that is the case, why did journalist Palash Ghosh write in the Indian business press that Narendra Modi is “Israel’s best friend in South Asia”? After all, much of the Indian ruling class is committed to the military and commercial ties with Israel. Ghosh reflected something that had been pointed out by the Israeli academic Yiftah Shapir (Tel Aviv University) recently. India, said Shapir, is not a reliable ally since it has not fully “given up its non-aligned identity. India’s behavior in international forums does not indicate that it can be relied on to help Israel in any difficult situation. India’s position on all aspects of the Israeli-Arab conflict is not a neutral one, rather is decidedly pro-Palestinian.”

Shapir comes to this discussion with the view that anything that is not 100% pro-Israeli is 100% pro-Palestinian. He does not acknowledge the distance that the Indian ruling class has moved since the 1980s on West Asian policy. Indeed, during the Israeli attack on Gaza in 2012, the Indian statement was so anemic that the Palestinian Ambassador in Delhi, Adil Shaban Sadeq said it was “too cautious.” India was pushed to release a second statement that criticized Israel for its “disproportionate use of force…which resulted in the death of innocent people.” Nonetheless, the Indian foreign policy establishment and the ruling bloc have straddled their interest in deepened commercial and military ties with Israel alongside a remainder of sentiment for the Palestinian cause.

It needs to be underscored that this latter sentiment is also undergirded by India’s reliance upon Gulf oil, which comes at a small political price. If India were to abandon its rhetorical and diplomatic fealty to the Palestinian cause, it is likely that the Saudis – who also maintain this double game – would not be kind to India’s oil needs and its need to send over seven million Indian workers to the Gulf (these workers remit funds to India which helps balance its foreign reserves). In March 2013, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told the Shura Council in Saudi Arabia, “There is no issue more important for peace and stability in the region than the question of Palestine. Far too long the brave people of Palestine have been denied their just, legitimate and inalienable rights, including most of all the establishment of a sovereign, independent and viable Palestinian state.” This is the kind of sentiment that Shapir has in mind.

The BJP does not share this double view – bullish on the commercial and military ties, bearish on the full diplomatic support for Israeli actions. It comes to the project with an ambition to create a new continent of diplomatic allegiances – Washington, Tokyo, Tel Aviv — an axis of countries that wish to constrain China and the “Muslim World.” Two years ago, Modi’s guru, the RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat gave an important address to the Bharatiya Vichar Manch. The main theme was what he perceived as the weakness of Indian foreign policy. “Our image in the international arena is that of a meek nation,” he complained. “Israel and Japan’s vision has made them power nations.” What is needed is a more muscular policy to “effectively counter China,” This policy had to be mirrored on that of the Israelis and the Japanese, two powers that leveraged their national vision to bring disproportionate gains.

What Bhagwat did not mention is that both countries rely on US funds for military aid and a US military umbrella. Their “self-reliance” is utterly compromised by their place in the US military architecture (a Japanese Prime Minister, Yukio Hatoyama, who wanted to remove a US base, for instance, was hounded out of office in 2010 by the US government). Both the Congress and the BJP seem unfazed by their entry into the US orbit.

Modi had been cagey on foreign policy during the election campaign. It is not his strong suit. A denial of a US visa for a decade rankled. He did indicate a turn toward Japan and an entente with China on the outstanding border issues. Modi said little about West Asia, and hardly anything on Israel. The state that he governed for the past decade has close commercial ties with Israeli firms, but that is the case in most of India. It is not itself an indication of anything.

Modi’s Hindutva, however, has a well-worn track record with Israel. It seeks not only commercial and military ties, but a civilizational and diplomatic connection. This would be welcome in Tel Aviv, which is why there is already talk of a Modi visit to Israel – the first Indian head of government to make this trip. Will India be able to make up the fourth vote on behalf of Israel in the UN along with the United States, Palau and Nauru? It is unlikely. India’s links with the Gulf are necessary and would be jeopardized by any shallow diplomatic pivot to Israel. But that is what Modi’s BJP would prefer.

About Vijay Prashad
Vijay Prashad is the George and Martha Kellner Chair in South Asian history and a professor of international studies at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut. He is the author of Uncle Swami: South Asians in America Today and The Darker Nations: A People’s History of the Third World (both published by The New Press), as well as The Karma of Brown Folk. The Darker Nations was chosen as a Best Nonfiction Book of the Year by the Asian American Writers’ Workshop and won the Muzaffar Ahmad Book Prize. In 2013-2014, Prashad will be the Edward Said Chair at the American University of Beirut.

Was the American Revolution Really Just A Counter-Revolution to Avoid the British Mandate to Its Colonies to End Slavery?

Herbert Calhoun
May 17, 2014
Op Ed News

The "so-called" American Revolution was not so much a "revolution for freedom against Great Britain, per se," as it was a shrewd and carefully calculated set of moves on the global chessboard of Real Politik, that amounted to a "Counter-Revolution" against freedom: That is to say, it was a revolution against ending freedom for its slaves and other slaves around the colonial empire.

The Counter-Revolution of 1776
Slave Resistance and the Origins of the United States of America
By Gerald Horne
363 pages
April, 2014
ISBN: 9781479893409

Between Charles Beard's "An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution of the United States," and Howard Zinn's "A People's History of the United States of America," there has been a long gap and a dearth of credible books about the true intentions that led to the American Revolution of 1776.

I have read and reviewed many of the books that have tried to fill the gap between the myths about the founding fathers and those that have tried to give a more accurate rendition of the founding era, a rash of new books have hit the streets. The list is simply too long to include here without using up too much space, so I have them simply appended some of them at the end as a short bibliographic appendix.

Led by Professor Gerald Horne, with the current volume, what these new books have done is nothing less than revolutionary itself: For they have generally re-contextualized the global events surrounding the "founding generation of the American Nation itself." And then, more importantly, and more particularly, have also re-contextualized the critical events leading up to the "so-called" American Revolution of 1776. And although there is still much work left to be done, what a magnificent start on that project this book is.

The most valuable of the many contributions of this re-contextualization process is that it adds-in an all-important missing ingredient, the geopolitical factor: the Real Politik of the colonial nations of that era. And here we mean in particular the internecine revolts taking place within Great Britain itself from 1688 onwards, to the constant multidimensional Big (and little) power conflicts going on in the New World itself between the British, it colonies, the French, Spain, Portugal, Native Americans, and most importantly, (and almost always missing in the canonical literature), Africans.

Couple these Big power clashes of geopolitical interests with the virtual blanket of global brushfires of slave revolts that lit up the entire colonial globe like neon lights leading up to 1776, and the "so-called" American Revolution was always in doubt. Plus, one can easily see how "not ending slavery" in the decades leading up to 1776, was the most pressing imperative on the agenda of England's far flung piss-ant little colony, the "yet-to-be," United States of America. The colonies were equally fearful that soon they would next on the list of colonies being swept-up in the global conflagration of slave revolts littered across the globe, and especially across the British colonial Empire.

Thus the underlying truth of the "so-called" American Revolution is finally now out of the bag, and told in its fullest glory for the first time here. And what Professor Horne has discovered through meticulous research is nothing short of revolutionary in itself: It is that the "so-called" American Revolution was not so much a "revolution for freedom against Great Britain, per se," as it was a shrewd and carefully calculated set of moves on the global chessboard of Real Politik, that amounted to a "Counter-Revolution" against freedom: That is to say, it was a revolution against ending freedom for its slaves and other slaves around the colonial empire. In short, the American-Counter Revolution was an imperative in order for this one little piss-ant British colony to save itself, by saving its number one "cash cow," which was slavery itself.

Against Great Britain's edict to its colonies to end slavery forthwith, brought about through a legal case made by a slave named James Somerset back in London, only the slave-holding colonies of British America flatly refused to follow through. Instead of ending slavery, our much revered and mythologized founding fathers, with the help of one Mr. Thomas Jefferson in particular, launched its own counterrevolution against slavery, and in doing so, unconscionably enshrined the american revolutionary rhetoric forever in the "false" language of "freedom," which all too painfully we have now come to know and understand today that their freedom meant a special kind of "white man only freedom."

The American counterrevolution against slavery, now shamefully known as, and misnamed as, "the American Revolution for freedom," succeeded only because the stars in the geopolitical firmament miraculously aligned perfectly in its favor. In a perfect storm of confluences, all of the competing powers had been forced to use Africans to police their colonies, giving slaves easy access to guns. As a result, the Big Power players because they were extended and did not have enough white people to "police" their slave colonies, all began to collapse like an accordion and fall like a stack of dominoes.

First, the great Napoleon, the leader of France, lost his 15-year war against revolting slave leader Toussant L'overture in Haiti, and was forced to bequeath its North American territory to the U.S. for a mere pittance through the Louisiana Purchase. Oddly, and against its own national self-interests, the slave-holding racist, Virginian, Jefferson, reversed John Adam's policy of support for slaves striving to free themselves, and instead sent aid to its enemy France to help it put down the Haitian slave rebellion. At this very time Jefferson knew that the French were in cahoots with Native Americans, and were gaining ground in the West against the American colonies.

Then Spain, already over-extended and much more dependent even than England on slaves to "police" its colonies in the Americas too, was also forced to pull back to prevent the treasury in Seville and Madrid from going completely broke. Likewise, Great Britain, already under great internal pressure from internecine conflict in London, also was increasingly forced to rely on "slave policing" of its colonies as an absolute necessity to help put down the revolts already going on across the British Caribbean Islands, had forced Great Britain to sue for peace through the above mentioned Somerset case.

Plus, on the North American continent, the Africans were everywhere forging alliances against the "piss-ant" American colonies: with Native Americans, with the French, with Spain in Florida, and with the British all across the North American continent. In fact, Britain had threatened to arm Africans and send them into Boston Harbor if the colonies did not agree to ending slavery.

As a result, of all these events conspiring against the recalcitrant now nascent racist British Colony, by the time 1776 rolled around, all the smart money was betting clearly again any chance that the British American colonies would survive. Most saw it as a foregone conclusion that the Slavetocracy of British-America, from North to South, would soon fall under its own weight and incompetence, or would be quickly overrun and conquered by a coalition of forces, no lest, and most likely led by Africans, thus eventually with the hope of making British America, the "so-called" United States of America, an African headed empire.

However, against all odds, the American Counter-Revolution of 1776 succeeded and slavery lasted nearly another century due primarily to the "perfect storm" of clashing geopolitical interests taking place above its head, as well as the fortuitous events of the war with Britain that serendipitously worked out in the American colonial's favor.And even though one form of slavery did end in the Old British colony, newer more virulent form emerged as a necessary adaptation to the racism the new nation had instituted to save the institution of slavery.

This is a "tightly-written" narrative that no true American Patriot, or historian will want to miss. It resets the parameters of the American Revolution and uncovers its real underlying meaning, a meaning that goes a long way towards explaining why white racism remains so persistent even today.

[Herbert Calhoun is a Retired Foreign Service Officer and past Manager of Political and Military Affairs at the US Department of State. For a brief time an Assistant Professor of International Relations at the University of Denver and the University of Washington at Seattle. A graduate of the National War College and a Phd from the University of Southern California.]

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Oxymorons for Morons

Oxymorons: you know, words and concepts that don't go together, are self-contradictory. George Carlin included them in his early comedy routines: "jumbo shrimp," "military intelligence," "hot water heater," -- "if it's already hot, why heat it? Don't you want a cold water heater?" I remember one coined by surrealist poet Andre Breton, "soluble fish."

Now we have a "Jewish Democratic State." Those who seriously support this idea have no sense of irony, or even common sense. How can you make sure a state stays Jewish? It can be done only by undemocratic (ie. unfair, rigged to favor only one group of people) means. You can crush, expel, eliminate, or marginalize everyone but Jews and give all the Jews a vote and equal civil rights, hoping that there will be always be a large majority of the chosen ones. Or, you can allow democracy for Jews only and even if there's an equal number or even a majority of non-Jews, just deprive them of equal rights and declare to the world "this is a Jewish democracy--only Jews get democracy, everyone else can drop dead (this is the real, desired policy of Zionism--their only problem is that the rest of the world is watching, so they have to bide their time).

This is the "demographic problem" that worries our intrepid Jewish democratic Zionists. Palestinians are such a problem! They think they have a right exist!

Israeli Jews like to refer to the Palestinians as "Arabs." The name Palestinians denotes that they are a nationality that has a homeland, which is the same place the "democratic Jewish state" is supposed to be. But the term "Arab" is one that doesn't indicate any particular nationality. An Arab can be Egyptian, Lebanese, even American by nationality.

One solution would be for Israel to declare that it is an Athenian Democracy. The birthplace of Western democracy in 5th century BC got to be hailed as a democracy even though most of it's populace were denied democratic rights. The democratic part of the population were in a minority: free, male, adult Greeks. Women and foreigners couldn't vote and slaves, who outnumbered free citizens, obviously couldn't vote.

Friday, May 16, 2014

New Anti-Defamation League Poll reveals shocking facts!

The release of the ADL's world wide opinion poll on anti-Semitism has exposed unimaginable levels of global Jew-hatred.

Think about it! Some people in the world have never even heard about the Holocaust(tm)! If an 18 year old laborer in a rural village in India doesn't know about the organized mass killing of Jews in Europe 70 years ago, then what is the world coming to? It's time for AIPAC to push the US Congress to make India build a Holocaust(tm) Education Center in that Indian village (forget about the planned school or hospital).

And get this! Most Palestinians don't approve of the loudly self-proclaimed "Jewish State" which has (we have to concede) stolen their land and is imprisoning, killing and segregating them. One of the ADL's poll questions was "do you think Jews have too much power?" So there you go, Palestinians showed their anti-Semitism by saying "yes."
In related news: Historical researchers have found a bound volume that dates from 1863 that includes the results of an opinion poll of black slaves sponsored by the Confederate States of America. It seems that the field hands had a negative attitude toward white people, considering the to be "clannish, pushy, and only concerned about themselves."

‘NYT’ publishes unvarnished ADL propaganda: 93% of Palestinians are anti-Semites Philip Weiss on May 15, 2014

A lot of folks are talking about the big new anti-Semitism survey by the Anti-Defamation League that says that more than one in four people worldwide harbor anti-Semitic attitudes.

The New York Times ran a straight story about the survey without questioning its methods, as several others now have. The Times includes these tendentious claims in the third paragraph:

The highest concentration of anti-Semitic attitudes was found in the Middle East and North Africa, the survey showed, led by the West Bank and Gaza, where 93 percent of respondents held such views, followed by Iraq at 92 percent, Yemen at 88 percent and Algeria at 87 percent. The areas where anti-Semitic attitudes were least prevalent were Oceania, the Americas and Asia. In Laos, less than 1 percent of the population held such views, the lowest anywhere, the survey said.

Oh those virtuous Laotians.

And if 74 percent of the people in North Africa and Middle Eastern countries harbor anti-Semitic attitudes, can that have anything to do with the west’s implanting a Jewish state in their midst, and that state’s reliance on Jewish symbols? The survey also says that 49 percent of Muslims have anti-Semitic beliefs. Again, aren’t Israelis part of that dyad? No; to say so would be to endorse one of 11 anti-Semitic stereotypes, per the ADL:

“People hate Jews because of the way Jews behave”

Many have faulted the design of the poll. New York Magazine said the study lacks nuance about discriminatory belief, Marsha Cohen asks why Israelis weren’t polled, the Guardian says the survey has “a political agenda” as a “propaganda tool.”

According to the ADL, a person counts as harboring anti-Semitic belief if he/she agrees with 6 of 11 negative stereotypes about Jews. These 11 include stereotypes of Jews having too much financial or global power, the aforementioned claim that “People hate Jews because of the way Jews behave,” and, the most popular negative stereotype, with 41 percent saying they believe it:

“Jews are more loyal to Israel than to this country/the countries they live in.”

The ADL is serving its pro-Israel interest here. The Israel lobby theory, for instance, is a theory of outsize conservative Jewish influence. And, as the Guardian notes (below), many Israel lobbyists insist on loyalty to Israel: for instance Sheldon Adelson saying he wishes he had served in the Israeli army not the American one or the late Myra Kraft saying her sons could fight for Israel not the U.S. The list of serious folks who have identified dual loyalty as a legitimate issue includes John Judis, Eric Alterman, Michael Scheuer, MJ Rosenberg, and Melissa Weintraub.

Other negative stereotypes are that Jews have too much control over the U.S. government and too much control over the global media. These suggest that we are not allowed to talk about the remarkable rise of Jews into the Establishment, something everyone from Tony Judt to Jane Eisner to Jeffrey Goldberg has commented on. Or what about Tom Friedman saying that George W. Bush deferred to Israel because he absorbed the lesson from his father’s 1992 defeat that AIPAC rules and you must not take on Israel? We can’t talk about that.

Donna Nevel and Marilyn Kleinberg Neimark make related points in an excellent piece on the survey in the Guardian:

The most striking example of a leading question undergirds the ADL’s claim that the highest percentage of anti-Semitism is among Palestinians who live in the occupied territories. The ADL asked a group of people for whom the movement of goods, money and labor is controlled by Israel, “Do Jews have too much power in the business world?”. Were they really to be expected to answer anything but “yes”?

The survey also labels as anti-Semitic any belief, including by Palestinians in the occupied territories, that Jews talk too much about what happened to them in the Holocaust – despite other responses that indicate that too many people in the world don’t know about the Holocaust at all. But Palestinians commonly hear the Holocaust used to justify the expulsion of 750,000 Palestinians from their homes in 1948, and as justification for the continued occupation under which Palestinians are subjected to daily denial of their basic human rights.

In its press release, the ADL states that “The most widely accepted anti-Semitic stereotype worldwide is: Jews are more loyal to Israel than to this country/the countries they live in.” It’s an odd indicator of anti-Semitism given that Israeli leaders consistently claim to speak for the global Jewish community and consider loyalty to Israel a precondition for being a good Jew. So it’s actually not surprising that this constant assertion has penetrated the consciousness of the rest of the world.

These questions, and many others in the ADL survey are designed to gin up paranoia.

P.S. Note that Joseph Massad and Sherry Gorelick have independently argued that insistence on wall-to-wall Jewish support for Israel is a form of anti-Semitism.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Routine killing, wounding and arrests of Palestinians in the West Bank by the IDF and settlers? Not a problem. Only Jewish Lives are valuable.

Why the two-state solution never got anywhere
Donald Johnson on May 13, 2014 15

Andrew Sullivan has posted Dissents of the Day, four comments from pro-Israel readers. I’m going to write about the third one, though arguably the one just above that is equally bad. Both seem to me to exemplify attitudes one commonly finds in many (not all) self-styled liberal Zionists who are also self-styled opponents of occupation. Number three writes:

What’s so maddening and fascinating about me reading you on Israel and Palestine is that I suspect if we boiled down the issues to their core, we would be in total agreement. …

I lived in the West Bank for a year. Security checkpoints are terrible. But I saw, with my own eyes, that they would be loosened – because the army hates having to staff them – and then, within days, a bomb would go off and they would be tightened again. There is a vicious cycle here – with blame to go around

What interests me is that the writer, while undoubtedly sincere in claiming to oppose the occupation, sees the settlements as a reversible real estate deal, not a decades-long policy that wrecks lives and kills people. Apartheid is possible, but still in the future. The only terrorism that registers is violence against Israelis. And Israelis can only fight that terror by maintaining the occupation. The slightest letup and all that wonderful Israeli generosity is rewarded with more Palestinian terror from jihadists and fanatics, supported by a society that glorifies them.

Liberal Zionists often gain credibility in US circles by claiming to be opposed to the occupation, but this seems more like shooting and crying. It’s why the two-state solution, whatever one thinks of it, has never gotten anywhere. As this person sees it, the only leverage the poor helpless Israelis have is their military presence, the occupation itself, and that can only end if the Israelis are completely satisfied there is no danger to themselves. Given that version of reality, it makes no sense to pressure the Israelis. They’re the ones whose lives are on the line. The Palestinians suffer mere inconvenience, something that can be ended whenever they show enough willingness to reassure the Israelis.

In the end, the occupation is not a real human rights violation, not in the same league as terrorism. It’s an act of self defense, in this person’s view, and so one should not expect to see support for pressure on Israel from people who think like this. they are in effect saying that the occupation is bad, but the Israelis have no choice and the Palestinian behavior is much worse. With opponents like that, the occupation doesn’t need supporters.

Monday, May 12, 2014

One of the false pillars of Philo-Semitism, or please don’t encourage my people to be full of shit

Are Jews more just and righteous than other peoples? We get buried in catch-words like “a light unto nations” or “the righteous of the world” that supposedly illustrate the ancient tradition of Jewish enlightenment concerning relations between people of differing beliefs, customs and nations. Jews supposedly had this regard for everyone seeking justice, in spite of their own relentless persecution by other religions and governments.

In truth this ancient Jewish tradition is not ancient, and it didn’t even exist. Where does Jewish worldliness, liberalism, ardent scholarship in the secular world come from? From the emergence of emancipated, non-religious, Jews living outside any segregated Jewish village or ghetto. To the extent Jews managed to distance themselves from the Jewish religion and ingrown culture of orthodox Jewish practice, to that extent, Jews became genuinely humanitarian and liberal.

Before this emergence of a large body of irreligious free-thinking Jews, Jewish traditions, mores, and religious laws of behavior were just as patriarchal, superstitious, intolerant and ignorant as those in the Christian world.

Jewish cosmopolitanism is a modern development, part of the secular world. An open-minded philosopher like Spinoza was anathema to the Jewish community and was excommunicated for among other things “denying the existence of angels.”

Jewish communities in the European ghettoes from feudal times until emancipation were obviously segregated and had a low legal status, but the Christian lords and kings did give these communities autonomous internal-self rule. This meant that the religious elders ran the ghettos internal affairs and enforced Jewish law, meaning a religious police state that could carry out even capital punishment on those who broke the laws.

The point is that there is no ancient tradition of tolerance, or of individual human rights, or support of secular, scientific scholarship (the official “scholarship” was to memorize tedious pointless quotations from ignorant old rabbis) within the Jewish communities from ancient times until the present. It took the French Revolution and similar upheavals to create secular societies to shake apart the Jewish ghetto system.

Jews began to soar intellectually, artistically and socially after they were unshackled from enforced religious enclosures.

The point here is that Jewish traditions are therefore not worse or better than that of Christian traditions; they are the same. Both traditions are lousy. Any society dominated totally by religion (or totalitarian ideology) is rotten; human development is crippled. It took an evolution (aided by actual revolutions) away from Christianity to make Western European nations decent places to live.


Secular atheism is the way to go. Fundamentalist and ingrown tribal religious beliefs and ethnic self-identity as being superior or chosen (or the “elect” if you are looking at Calvinism) is destructive, especially when these chosen ones get control over the life of others and also have nuclear weapons.