Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The ethnic cleansing of Africans in Israel

David Sheen The Electronic Intifada 28 December 2015

Anti-African racism was peddled by both center-left Zionist Union candidate Isaac Herzog and right-wing Zionist incumbent Benjamin Netanyahu while campaigning ahead of the March election. Oren Ziv ActiveStills
Since 2012, the number of non-Jewish refugees from African countries in present-day Israel has shrunk from a peak of approximately 64,000 to fewer than 46,000.

Israel’s successful efforts to reduce the number of Africans living in territory it controls must be recognized for what it is: ethnic cleansing.

For the last four years, I have compiled an annual list of the public figures most responsible for Israel’s racist treatment of Africans.

The list reads as both an indictment of populist opinion-makers and a retrospective of the assaults on refugees that have taken place in the last 12 months.

9. Yisrael Katz - transport minister
In April this year, around 800 refugees drowned when the boat carrying them sank in the Mediterranean.

In the face of this horrific tragedy, a top Israeli minister chose to revel in the government’s successful efforts to keep refugees out. Yisrael Katz, a leading figure in the right-wing Likud party who heads both ministries for transportation and intelligence and atomic energy, wrote in a Facebook post:

“Europe is having a difficult time dealing with the migrants, and with creating solutions for this difficult issue. While there are differences between us (the migrants traveling to Europe must cross a sea while those heading for Israel have a direct overland connection), you can see the rectitude of our government’s policy to build a fence on the border with Egypt, which blocks the job-seeking migrants before they enter Israel. The elections are over — you can give us some credit now.”

The same week that Katz posted his morbid message, it emerged that among a group of African men who Islamic State militants in Libya had executed for not being Muslims were three Eritreans who Israel had previously deported for not being Jews.

Taking a cue from Katz, some Israelis responded to the news over social media with expressions of joy and calls for more of the same.

8. Ben-Dror Yemini - journalist
For years, Ben-Dror Yemini has used his regular column in Israel’s best-selling daily newspaper Yediot Ahronot to attack Africans, as well as Palestinians and progressive Israeli Jews. This August, one of his articles may have shattered all previous records for the depths to which an establishment journalist is willing to descend in support of Israel’s war on Africans.

In it, Yemini argues that African men should be transferred out of Israeli cities and into desert detention centers, in order to prevent romantic relationships between them and Jewish Israeli women, specifically, Black Jewish Israeli women. Yemini notes that this motive would be rejected as racist if it were stated aloud, so he advises against raising this point publicly.

Suggesting that Jews in south Tel Aviv were paying an “unbearable price” because of the Africans living among them, he claims that there are arguments for reducing the number of Africans in city centers that “cannot be presented because they are outside the rules of political correctness.”

7. Tie: Nissan Ben Hamo and Rafi Ben Shitrit - city mayors
In August, after Israel’s high court ordered the release of African refugees who had been held in the Holot detention center for more than a year, the government grudgingly agreed to let them go, but with a condition.

In the final days before the deadline decreed by the court, the government issued documents to 1,200 of those being released, declaring that they were not permitted to live or work in either Tel Aviv or the Red Sea resort of Eilat.

The decision to restrict entrance to the two cities which contain the largest African communities in Israel posed a serious challenge for the released internees. Barred from accessing their only real support system in Israel — family and friends — the refugees scrambled to find lodging for the night in smaller towns where they didn’t have close contacts.

Within hours of leaving Holot, 20 were arrested in Tel Aviv for violating the conditions of their release.

Residents in Tel Aviv protest against African refugees in August. Keren Manor ActiveStills
On the morning that the first 600 were released from Holot, Nissan Ben Hamo, the mayor or Arad, wrote on Facebook that he would not permit any of these Africans to settle in that city. Ben Hamo followed up his tough talk by posting police officers at entrances to the town with instructions to stop Africans coming in.

Ben Hamo also called upon residents to “maintain alertness” and threatened to mobilize the entire town to resist the arrival of Africans, potentially with physical force. He wrote on his Facebook page: “If we have to strengthen our struggle on this issue, I won’t hesitate to call on all residents to join the fight for the city’s well-being.”

Soon, the local authority of Bisan (Beit Shean), a town in the north of present-day Israel, issued a similar declaration that it would not permit African refugees to settle there. Rafi Ben Shitrit, the mayor, urged the town’s police commander to take “immediate action to prevent illegal infiltrators from staying in Beit Shean,” insisting that they were “not only unwanted but dangerous.”

6. Moshe Yaalon - defense minister
In August, Israeli soldiers shot and wounded three citizens of African states attempting to enter Israel from Egypt. When asked about the incident, the army provided several different accounts of the event that contradicted one another.

And when Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon was asked about the incident in Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, he refused to comment.

Yaalon displayed a similar nonchalance about the shooting of an African a few months later.

In October, after a gunman opened fire at the central bus station in the southern city of Bir al-Saba (Beer Sheva), killing an Israeli soldier and wounding 11 others, an Israeli security guard shot an innocent passerby, Eritrean refugee Haftom Zarhum.

Other Israelis at the scene proceeded to kick Zarhum in the face and slam a large bench onto him as he writhed on the floor, cursing him all the while. The crowd then blocked medics who tried to evacuate him to the local hospital.

They were even interviewed on Israel’s Channel 2 and gleefully took credit for stomping Zarhum to death.

A week later, one of Zarhum’s attackers returned to Channel 2 and said that he had no regrets over his role in the incident.

And yet, Yaalon’s defense ministry decided that Zarhum would not be recognized as a victim of terrorism because he entered Israel “illegally.” Without this status, his surviving family members are not entitled to any Israeli government compensation.

More than two months have passed since Zarhum was killed. No charges have yet been filed against the men who were responsible for his death.

5. Issac Herzog - opposition leader
Another one of the ways that Israeli society becomes increasingly racist is when centrist parties like Labor adopt right-wing rhetoric in order to chase after right-wing votes.

In recent years, Labor has not played the foil to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, but instead acceded to almost all of his hawkish proposals. Instead of standing firm against Israel’s lurch to the right, Labor has attempted to ply votes away from Likud with right-wing proposals.

That tendency has increased ever since Isaac Herzog was elected to lead the party in November 2013. It has been especially evident in Herzog’s solid support for Netanyahu’s military campaigns in Gaza and the West Bank, but also in his support for expelling Africans from Israel.

It was not always so. When the Knesset first voted to amend the country’s “anti-infiltration” law in January 2012 to sanction the roundup, detention and expulsion of African refugees, Herzog opposed the measure.

When the Knesset voted to amend the law a second time in December 2013, Herzog didn’t show up for the vote. And by the time the Knesset voted to toughen it a third time in December 2014, he voted in favor of the amendment, along with several other Labor lawmakers.

In May 2012, Herzog wrote an opinion piece, challenging arguments by human rights groups that Eritreans in Israel deserved protection as refugees.

In March 2015, Herzog repeated this refrain in an attempt to peel anti-African votes away from Netanyahu on the eve of the Israeli national elections, saying, “We need to negotiate with Eritrea on the return of the Eritreans back to Eritrea.”

This year, Labor led a successful effort to abolish the Knesset’s committee on foreign workers, one of the few forums in which the concerns of refugees could receive a hearing in parliament.

In September 2015, Labor publicly complained that Netanyahu’s government has not done nearly enough to expel Africans from the country. In a public statement, Herzog’s Labor Party wholeheartedly adopted the far-right’s propaganda points, insisting without any basis that most refugees in Israel have no valid claim to refugee status.

“The crisis of the refugees from Syria is not similar to the issue of the infiltrators from Africa who are mostly migrant workers,” the statement read. “If only Bibi’s government had created immigration laws, it would be possible to send back to their country those who are in Israel for their welfare and for work. But the Likud government is only good at talking, and it is responsible for the troubles of the residents of south Tel Aviv.”

4. Ayelet Shaked - justice minister
During her first term as a Knesset member, from 2013 to 2015, Ayelet Shaked headed the parliamentary “lobby to return the infiltrators to their countries,” a group dedicated to expelling all African refugees from Israel.

In her second term, Shaked was appointed justice minister, a position she has not shied away from using to advance the lobby’s objectives.

Each time Israel’s high court has struck down amendments to the “anti-infiltration” law as a violation of the country’s basic laws, right-wing lawmakers have raged against the judicial decisions and plotted to neuter the court’s ability to void legislation.

To this end, Shaked introduced a bill in the Knesset to limit the high court’s power to overturn laws. And as judges entered the eleventh hour of deliberations over the Knesset’s third amendment to the “anti-infiltration law” this year, Shaked began to upload videos to the Internet which purported to show African refugees in a negative light.

Shaked expressed a desire to pressure the judges into issuing a ruling that would leave the Africans under lock and key.

Within hours, Shaked removed one of the videos she had uploaded after it was pointed out to her that the footage had been filmed in Turkey, not Israel.

Ultimately, under threat of losing some of their powers, the high court judges agreed to let the government’s third amendment stand, with the caveat that refugees could only be detained for a year.

Disappointed that her victory was only partial, Shaked has begun to examine ways of filing criminal charges against Africans who enter Israel.

3. Gilad Erdan - public security minister
During Gilad Erdan’s brief term as interior minister, he secured the passage of the third amendment to the “anti-infiltration” law that enabled the incarceration of Africans in desert detention centers.

In the new Netanyahu government, Erdan heads the information, strategic affairs and public security ministries.

But before taking on his new roles, Erdan decided that any African who did not have a refugee status application pending must return to Africa, or be imprisoned indefinitely if they refused.

In July, an Israeli court threw out an appeal by human rights groups to quash this draconian directive.

A report by two groups working with refugees in Israel found that some of the Sudanese nationals that Israel had sent back to Sudan were being tortured by government forces upon their return.

For the remainder of 2015, Erdan’s attacks on refugees consisted not of legal injunctions, but rather of racist incitement.

In April, a massive earthquake shook Nepal. This tragic event was mainly a cause for consternation in Israel because the country is a popular destination for Israeli tourists, and also a popular source of surrogate mothers to bring babies to term for gay Israeli couples.

Then serving as interior minister, Erdan responded rapidly to the quake by ordering the airlift of Israeli citizens out of the danger zone, and to also bring along a small number of local women who were in the final stages of pregnancy with Israeli fetuses.

Appearing on a popular television news show to discuss the development, Erdan emphasized that the Nepalese women’s presence in the country was “temporary.”

“We won’t convert them [to Judaism] and let them stay here,” he said.

The show’s host retorted sarcastically, “Of course, after the birth they will obviously end up in Holot,” referring to Israel’s desert detention center for African refugees.

In response, Erdan burst out in hearty laughter.

Four months later, after Erdan had already left his post at the interior ministry, he admitted that the true purpose of the third amendment to the “anti-infiltration” law was to incarcerate Africans in order to put pressure on them to leave Israel.

As public security minister in the current government, Erdan has used news of Islamic State’s activities in Africa as a pretext to call for tightening the screws even further on refugees in Israel.

Without evidence, he has warned that African refugees could be Islamic State recruits, casting them as “a real security risk.” Erdan has prodded Netanyahu’s Counter-Terrorism Bureau into considering some African refugees as terrorists.

2. Silvan Shalom - interior minister
In Israel, the person with the most influence over the lives of refugees is the interior minister, responsible for deciding who is and who isn’t allowed to enter the country. For the bulk of 2015, that person was Likud legislator Silvan Shalom.

It came as no surprise when Shalom maintained the anti-African policies of his predecessors. At least as far back as 2011, Shalom publicly identified refugees as a “threat.” At that time, when citizens of African states accounted for 13 percent of the population of the southern city of Eilat, Shalom, then minister for development of the Naqab (Negev) and Galilee regions, proposed the building of a border fence to keep Africans out of Israel.

“The fence is critical for the defense of the city of Eilat from terror cells and of course from huge waves of infiltrators flooding the city,” Shalom said.

Though Shalom’s hardline stance came as no shock, the level of anti-Black racism that emanated from his own household managed to exceed the expectations of some outside observers.

Just a month into his term as interior minister, his wife, the broadcaster Judy Shalom Nir Mozes, publicly insulted the US president in a reductionist and racist tweet: “Do u know what Obama Coffee is? Black and weak.”

In August, Shalom decreed that any African refugee freed from Israel’s desert detention centers by a high court order would henceforth be forbidden from living or working in either Tel Aviv or Eilat, turning those cities into “sundown towns.”

Many Israeli cities have long operated as de facto sundown towns. Palestinian citizens of Israel are harassed and run out of these cities once the sun sets, ostensibly in order to prevent romances between Jews and people of other religions.

While some of the groups who chase non-Jews out of town after dark are vigilantes who operate independently, others work in concert with the police and the municipalities.

Also in August, in an effort to undercut the refugee claims of Eritreans, who make up three quarters of the asylum-seeker population in Israel, Shalom defended the dictatorship in Eritrea. “You apparently don’t know what is happening in the country,” he responded to the accusation that Eritrea is an autocratic regime, but admitted that his belief was based on testimony by Eritrea’s own ambassador to Israel.

“Of course. Who [else] would provide the information?” he said.

Before the month ended, Shalom authorized a new rule that would put almost every non-Jewish African living in Israel at risk of being rounded up and taken to the desert detention center Holot.

Prior to the new protocol, only Eritreans and Sudanese who had already lived in Israel for many years could be summoned to Holot. Shalom’s new criteria stipulated that any Eritrean or Sudanese in Israel can be detained in Holot, regardless of the date that they entered the country.

In November, Shalom’s ministry distributed the proposed text of a fourth amendment to the “anti-infiltration” law, seeking to increase the duration that refugees can be incarcerated at Holot. In addition, the new amendment specifies that even asylum-seekers who are parents to young children can now also be forced to live at Holot.

In the last days of December 2015, Shalom resigned his post and quit the Knesset after six women came forward and accused him of serious sex crimes.

1. Benjamin Netanyahu - prime minister
Just days before national elections were held in March, Prime Benjamin Netanyahu published a video recounting what he considered to be the greatest accomplishments of his last term in office.

Among these, he took credit for preventing the entry of African refugees or in his words, “infiltrators.”

“We shut off, completely closed off access to terrorists, to infiltrators to the State of Israel,” he said. “The only state that managed to control its borders.”

This was no idle boast. Eritreans and Sudanese make up more than 90 percent of the asylum-seekers living in Israel. And yet Israel has awarded refugee status to only four of the former and zero of the latter.

In the words of an editorial published by the Tel Aviv newspaper Haaretz in February, “Israel is the least moral country in the world when it comes to awarding asylum to those who deserve it.”

Once Netanyahu secured reelection, he set to the task of divvying out government ministries among party loyalists and coalition partners.

Among those appointed to serve in his new cabinet were all three Likud lawmakers who were featured speakers at a May 2012 anti-African rally in Tel Aviv that devolved into a full-on race riot: Danny Danon, Yariv Levin and Miri Regev.

For years, Netanyahu has led a team of ministers who demonize Africans in the minds of the Israeli public by associating them with terrorism and fatal diseases.

But Netanyahu knows that it isn’t appropriate for the head of the government of a self-styled Western democracy to cast all refugees as criminals.

So while he calls refugees “infiltrators” in Hebrew, his English-language statements mistranslate his slur word as “migrants.”

For four years running, Netanyahu has led Israel’s war on refugees: promoting racists to positions of power, ensuring the passage of anti-African legislation and inciting racial hatred against a defenseless community.

Haaretz accurately summed up Netanyahu’s anti-African legacy in an editorial it published in July, under the headline, “Israel thinks African asylum-seekers aren’t human beings.”

David Sheen is an independent writer and filmmaker. Born in Toronto, he now lives in Dimona in present-day Israel. Website: www.davidsheen.com. Twitter: @davidsheen

Friday, December 25, 2015

message to Diaspora Jews: Don't become accomplices to Israel's crimes

I tell my audiences exactly what they don't want to hear – and to Jews outside Israel I say: Don't make aliyah.

Amira Hass

21.12.2015 | 03:52

“I should warn you. Amira Hass is a Zionist,” a pro-Palestinian activist in South Africa wrote about me two months ago. When she left the room, her fuming eyes already conveyed that what I had said in my conversation with her and her colleagues had gone beyond the party line. For example, I didn’t come out in favor of the magic, one-state solution and didn’t define the wars against Gaza as genocide.

I also told that same audience that it is not enough to analyze the colonial roots of Israel. The historical context must also include the Nazi industry of murder and the fact that most countries refused to take in large numbers of Jewish refugees.

The thing that apparently angered them most was that I dared claim that the use of weapons does not advance the Palestinians’ cause today. It was not because of my Israeli identity that I was critical of the worship of the armed struggle and wars, I clarified, but rather out of a feminist and socialist worldview. I disparaged the lethal male mimicry (whether among soldiers or between Palestinians and soldiers) of competing over “whose is bigger.” The Israelis’ is bigger. Their capacity for destructive revenge is bigger so other means need to be found in the struggle. After all, there is also revolutionary responsibility for preventing more devastation and destruction, and not just understanding the human need of the oppressed for revenge.

I tell every audience also what it doesn’t want to hear. I tell Zionists how surprising it is that Palestinian acts of violence are so few compared to the systematic and humiliating violence that Israelis authorities employ against them. At a pro-Palestinian conference in the Netherlands about two years ago, I said that the Jewish linkage to the Holy Land cannot be ignored, which also prompted fuming eyes, as if I had never written against the dispossession and expulsion of Palestinians.

In meetings with socialist Zionist youth in South Africa I told them they should not immigrate to Israel. As the other Whites, they still benefited from past privilege of criminal proportions in South Africa, so they should stay in their country and fight to genuinely curb the crimes of apartheid. Fully consciously exploiting additional privilege and moving to Israel would be choosing to participate in another crime.

I said something similar on a panel that I moderated at the HaaretzQ conference in New York last week that dealt with struggles for equality. The audience comprised mostly liberal Zionists. The newspaper’s representatives made it clear that Haaretz is a Zionist publication, that its opposition to the occupation stems from Zionist principles. I found it appropriate to distinguish myself from this stance.

Zionism preaches in favor of the immigration of Diaspora Jews to Israel. Every liberal Zionist Jew living well in the Diaspora needed to know that even without “making aliyah,” Israel was granting them rights denied to Palestinians who were born in the country or whose parents were. Diaspora Jews have the right to visit Israel, to acquire Israeli citizenship, to live and work on either side of Israel’s pre-1967 border with the West Bank, to marry an Israeli, travel between Israel and the United States and not lose their rights in either country.

Everything Israel provides Diaspora Jews, it denies the Palestinians. Most of the Palestinians who live abroad are not even entitled to visit the land of their mothers and grandmothers (their real ones; not imaginary ones from thousands of years ago). Those who are allowed to visit are subject to restrictions: Some can’t leave the West Bank, others are not allowed to enter the West Bank, most are barred from going to Gaza.

Israel is not only barring them from returning to their country. It is also preventing them from settling down in the enclaves of the West Bank. Palestinians who have fled or are trying to flee the nightmare of the Syrian slaughterhouse can’t even dream about the most rational of options: taking refuge in their country of origin.

As a rule, Israel bars Palestinians in the Gaza Strip from traveling abroad, to Israel or to the West Bank. It bars them from living in the West Bank and bars West Bank Palestinians from living in about 60 percent of West Bank territory. Jews from Brooklyn or Tel Aviv can settle tomorrow in the Jewish settlement of Ofra. Residents of the Palestinian village of Silwad, whose land was stolen for Ofra, are not entitled to settle in Jaffa or to establish a community on the outskirts of Jerusalem. Palestinian citizens of Israel lose their social rights if they dare live in the West Bank.

People born in Jerusalem are expelled from the country and lose their residency status if they dare marry and work in the U.S. By the way, Israel also prohibits them from living in Kafr Qasem inside Israel, or in Be’er Sheva. They are only allowed to live in the ghettos that we created for them in the united city.

Israel uses Jewish immigration to excuse and deepen the dispossession. Immigrants to Israel become conscious collaborators with the increasingly extreme apartheid policy. Apartheid is considered a crime. We who were born in this country are collaborators against our will. All that remains for us is to use our privileges to fight the regime of privileges and, as much as possible, reduce the level of our collaboration with the dispossession. This course of action is not unique to us. Israel is not the only evil regime in the world creating rights for some groups and depriving others of them. But Israel, by default, is our home.

Monday, December 21, 2015

The Logic of the Police State

from Tom Dispatch

People Are Waking Up to the Darkness in American Policing, and the Police Don’t Like It One Bit
By Matthew Harwood

If you’ve been listening to various police agencies and their supporters, then you know what the future holds: anarchy is coming -- and it’s all the fault of activists.

In May, a Wall Street Journal op-ed warned of a “new nationwide crime wave” thanks to “intense agitation against American police departments” over the previous year. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie went further. Talking recently with the host of CBS’s Face the Nation, the Republican presidential hopeful asserted that the Black Lives Matter movement wasn’t about reform but something far more sinister. “They’ve been chanting in the streets for the murder of police officers,” he insisted. Even the nation’s top cop, FBI Director James Comey, weighed in at the University of Chicago Law School, speaking of “a chill wind that has blown through American law enforcement over the last year.”

According to these figures and others like them, lawlessness has been sweeping the nation as the so-called Ferguson effect spreads. Criminals have been emboldened as police officers are forced to think twice about doing their jobs for fear of the infamy of starring in the next viral video. The police have supposedly become the targets of assassins intoxicated by “anti-cop rhetoric,” just as departments are being stripped of the kind of high-powered equipment they need to protect officers and communities. Even their funding streams have, it’s claimed, come under attack as anti-cop bias has infected Washington, D.C. Senator Ted Cruz caught the spirit of that critique by convening a Senate subcommittee hearing to which he gave the title, “The War on Police: How the Federal Government Undermines State and Local Law Enforcement.” According to him, the federal government, including the president and attorney general, has been vilifying the police, who are now being treated as if they, not the criminals, were the enemy.

Beyond the storm of commentary and criticism, however, quite a different reality presents itself. In the simplest terms, there is no war on the police. Violent attacks against police officers remain at historic lows, even though approximately 1,000 people have been killed by the police this year nationwide. In just the past few weeks, videos have been released of problematic fatal police shootings in San Francisco and Chicago.

While it’s too soon to tell whether there has been an uptick in violent crime in the post-Ferguson period, no evidence connects any possible increase to the phenomenon of police violence being exposed to the nation. What is taking place and what the police and their supporters are largely reacting to is a modest push for sensible law enforcement reforms from groups as diverse as Campaign Zero, Koch Industries, the Cato Institute, The Leadership Conference, and the ACLU (my employer). Unfortunately, as the rhetoric ratchets up, many police agencies and organizations are increasingly resistant to any reforms, forgetting whom they serve and ignoring constitutional limits on what they can do.

Indeed, a closer look at law enforcement arguments against commonsense reforms like independently investigating police violence, demilitarizing police forces, or ending “for-profit policing” reveals a striking disregard for concerns of just about any sort when it comes to brutality and abuse. What this “debate” has revealed, in fact, is a mainstream policing mindset ready to manufacture fear without evidence and promote the belief that American civil rights and liberties are actually an impediment to public safety. In the end, such law enforcement arguments subvert the very idea that the police are there to serve the community and should be under civilian control.

And that, when you come right down to it, is the logic of the police state.

Due Process Plus

It’s no mystery why so few police officers are investigated and prosecuted for using excessive force and violating someone’s rights. “Local prosecutors rely on local police departments to gather the evidence and testimony they need to successfully prosecute criminals,” according to Campaign Zero . “This makes it hard for them to investigate and prosecute the same police officers in cases of police violence.”

Since 2005, according to an analysis by the Washington Post and Bowling Green State University, only 54 officers have been prosecuted nationwide, despite the thousands of fatal shootings by police. As Philip M. Stinson, a criminologist at Bowling Green, puts it, “To charge an officer in a fatal shooting, it takes something so egregious, so over the top that it cannot be explained in any rational way. It also has to be a case that prosecutors are willing to hang their reputation on.”

For many in law enforcement, however, none of this should concern any of us. When New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed an executive order appointing a special prosecutor to investigate police killings, for instance, Patrick Lynch, president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, insisted: “Given the many levels of oversight that already exist, both internally in the NYPD [New York Police Department] and externally in many forms, the appointment of a special prosecutor is unnecessary.” Even before Cuomo’s decision, the chairman of New York’s District Attorneys Association called plans to appoint a special prosecutor for police killings “deeply insulting.”

Such pushback against the very idea of independently investigating police actions has, post-Ferguson, become everyday fare, and some law enforcement leaders have staked out a position significantly beyond that. The police, they clearly believe, should get special treatment.

“By virtue of our dangerous vocation, we should expect to receive the benefit of the doubt in controversial incidents,” wrote Ed Mullins, the president of New York City’s Sergeants Benevolent Association, in the organization’s magazine, Frontline. As if to drive home the point, its cover depicts Baltimore State Attorney Marilyn Mosby under the ominous headline “The Wolf That Lurks.” In May, Mosby had announced indictments of six officers in the case of Freddie Gray, who died in Baltimore police custody the previous month. The message being sent to a prosecutor willing to indict cops was hardly subtle: you’re a traitor.

Mullins put forward a legal standard for officers accused of wrongdoing that he would never support for the average citizen -- and in a situation in which cops already get what former federal prosecutor Laurie Levenson calls “a super presumption of innocence." In addition, police unions in many states have aggressively pushed for their own bills of rights, which make it nearly impossible for police officers to be fired, much less charged with crimes when they violate an individual’s civil rights and liberties.

In 14 states, versions of a Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights (LEOBR) have already been passed, while in 11 others they are under consideration. These provide an “extra layer of due process” in cases of alleged police misconduct, according to Samuel Walker, an expert on police accountability. In many of the states without a LEOBR, the Marshall Project has discovered, police unions have directly negotiated the same rights and privileges with state governments.

LEOBRs are, in fact, amazingly un-American documents in the protections they afford officers accused of misconduct during internal investigations, rights that those officers are never required to extend to their suspects. Though the specific language of these laws varies from state to state, notes Mike Riggs in Reason, they are remarkably similar in their special considerations for the police.

“Unlike a member of the public, the officer gets a ‘cooling off’ period before he has to respond to any questions. Unlike a member of the public, the officer under investigation is privy to the names of his complainants and their testimony against him before he is ever interrogated. Unlike a member of the public, the officer under investigation is to be interrogated ‘at a reasonable hour,’ with a union member present. Unlike a member of the public, the officer can only be questioned by one person during his interrogation. Unlike a member of the public, the officer can be interrogated only ‘for reasonable periods,’ which ‘shall be timed to allow for such personal necessities and rest periods as are reasonably necessary.’ Unlike a member of the public, the officer under investigation cannot be ‘threatened with disciplinary action’ at any point during his interrogation. If he is threatened with punishment, whatever he says following the threat cannot be used against him.”

The Marshall Project refers to these laws as the “Blue Shield” and “the original Bill of Rights with an upgrade.’’ Police associations, naturally, don’t agree. "All this does is provide a very basic level of constitutional protections for our officers, so that they can make statements that will stand up later in court," says Vince Canales, the president of Maryland's Fraternal Order of Police.

Put another way, there are two kinds of due process in America -- one for cops and another for the rest of us. This is the reason why the Black Lives Matter movement and other civil rights and civil liberties organizations regularly call on states to create a special prosecutor’s office to launch independent investigations when police seriously injure or kill someone.

The Demilitarized Blues

Since Americans first took in those images from Ferguson of police units outfitted like soldiers, riding in military vehicles, and pointing assault rifles at protesters, the militarization of the police and the way the Pentagon has been supplying them with equipment directly off this country’s distant battlefields have been top concerns for police reformers. In May, the Obama administration suggested modest changes to the Pentagon’s 1033 program, which, since 1990, has been redistributing weaponry and equipment to police departments nationwide -- urban, suburban, and rural -- in the name of fighting the war on drugs and protecting Americans from terrorism.

Even the idea that the police shouldn’t sport the look of an occupying army in local communities has, however, been met with fierce resistance. Read, for example, the online petition started by the National Sheriffs' Association and you could be excused for thinking that the Obama administration was aggressively moving to stop the flow of military-grade equipment to local and state police agencies. (It isn’t.) The message that tops the petition is as simple as it is misleading: “Don’t strip law enforcement of the gear they need to keep us safe.”

The Obama administration has done no such thing. In May, the president announced that he was prohibiting certain military-grade equipment from being transferred to state and local law enforcement. “Some equipment made for the battlefield is not appropriate for local police departments,” he said. The list included tracked armored vehicles (essentially tanks), bayonets, grenade launchers, camouflage uniforms, and guns and ammo of .50 caliber or higher. In reality, what use could a local police department have for bayonets, grenade launchers, or the kinds of bullets that resemble small missiles, pierce armor, and can blow people’s limbs off?

Yet the sheriffs' association has no problem complaining that “the White House announced the government would no longer provide equipment like helicopters and MRAPs [mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicles] to local law enforcement.” And it’s not even true. Police departments can still obtain both helicopters and MRAPs if they establish community policing practices, institute training protocols, and get community approval before the equipment transfer occurs.

“Helicopters rescue runaways and natural disaster victims,” the sheriff’s association adds gravely, “and MRAPs are used to respond to shooters who barricade themselves in neighborhoods and are one of the few vehicles able to navigate hurricane, snowstorm, and tornado-strewn areas to save survivors.”

As with our wars abroad, think mission creep at home. A program started to wage the war on drugs, and strengthened after 9/11, is now being justified on the grounds that certain equipment is useful during disasters or emergencies. In reality, the police have clearly become hooked on a militarized look. Many departments are ever more attached to their weapons of war and evidently don’t mind the appearance of being an occupying force in their communities, which leaves groups like the sheriffs' association fighting fiercely for a militarized future.

Legal Plunder

In July, the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Arizona sued law enforcement in Pinal County, Arizona, on behalf of Rhonda Cox. Two years before, her son had stolen some truck accessories and, without her knowledge, fitted them on her truck. When the county sheriff’s department arrested him, it also seized the truck.

Arriving on the scene of her son’s arrest, Cox asked a deputy about getting her truck back. No way, he told her. After she protested, explaining that she had nothing to do with her son’s alleged crimes, he responded “too bad.” Under Arizona law, the truck could indeed be taken into custody and kept or sold off by the sheriff’s department even though she was never charged with a crime. It was guilty even if she wasn’t.

Welcome to America’s civil asset forfeiture laws, another product of law enforcement’s failed war on drugs, updated for the twenty-first century. Originally designed to deprive suspected real-life Scarfaces of the spoils of their illicit trade -- houses, cars, boats -- it now regularly deprives people unconnected to the war on drugs of their property without due process of law and in violation of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments. Not surprisingly, corruption follows.

Federal and state law enforcement can now often keep property seized or sell it and retain a portion of the revenue generated. Some of this, in turn, can be repurposed and distributed as bonuses in police and other law enforcement departments. The only way the dispossessed stand a chance of getting such “forfeited” property back is if they are willing to take on the government in a process where the deck is stacked against them.

In such cases, for instance, property owners have no right to an attorney to defend them, which means that they must either pony up additional cash for a lawyer or contest the seizure themselves in court. “It is an upside-down world where,” says the libertarian Institute for Justice, “the government holds all the cards and has the financial incentive to play them to the hilt.”

In this century, civil asset forfeiture has mutated into what’s now called “for-profit policing” in which police departments and state and federal law enforcement agencies indiscriminately seize the property of citizens who aren’t drug kingpins. Sometimes, for instance, distinctly ordinary citizens suspected of driving drunk or soliciting prostitutes get their cars confiscated. Sometimes they simply get cash taken from them on suspicion of low-level drug dealing.

Like most criminal justice issues, race matters in civil asset forfeiture. This summer, the ACLU of Pennsylvania issued a report, Guilty Property, documenting how the Philadelphia Police Department and district attorney’s office abused state civil asset forfeiture by taking at least $1 million from innocent people within the city limits. Approximately 70% of the time, those people were black, even though the city’s population is almost evenly divided between whites and African-Americans.

Currently, only one state, New Mexico, has done away with civil asset forfeiture entirely, while also severely restricting state and local law enforcement from profiting off similar national laws when they work with the feds. (The police in Albuquerque are, however, actively defying the new law, demonstrating yet again the way in which police departments believe the rules don’t apply to them.) That no other state has done so is hardly surprising. Police departments have become so reliant on civil asset forfeiture to pad their budgets and acquire “little goodies” that reforming, much less repealing, such laws are a tough sell.

As with militarization, when police defend such policies, you sense their urgent desire to maintain what many of them now clearly think of as police rights. In August, for instance, Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu sent a fundraising email to his supporters using the imagined peril of the ACLU lawsuit as clickbait. In justifying civil forfeiture, he failed to mention that a huge portion of the money goes to enrich his own department, but praised the program in this fashion:

"[O]ver the past seven years, the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office has donated $1.2 million of seized criminal money to support youth programs like the Boys & Girls Clubs, Boy Scouts, YMCA, high school graduation night lock-in events, youth sports as well as veterans groups, local food banks, victims assistance programs, and Home of Home in Casa Grande."

Under this logic, police officers can steal from people who haven’t even been charged with a crime as long as they share the wealth with community organizations -- though, in fact, neither in Pinal County or elsewhere is that where most of the confiscated loot appears to go. Think of this as the development of a culture of thievery masquerading as Robin Hood in blue.

Contempt for Civilian Control

Post-Ferguson developments in policing are essentially a struggle over whether the police deserve special treatment and exceptions from the rules the rest of us must follow. For too long, they have avoided accountability for brutal misconduct, while in this century arming themselves for war on America’s streets and misusing laws to profit off the public trust, largely in secret. The events of the past two years have offered graphic evidence that police culture is dysfunctional and in need of a democratic reformation.

There are, of course, still examples of law enforcement leaders who see the police as part of American society, not exempt from it. But even then, the reformers face stiff resistance from the law enforcement communities they lead. In Minneapolis, for instance, Police Chief Janeé Harteau attempted to have state investigators look into incidents when her officers seriously hurt or killed someone in the line of duty. Police union opposition killed her plan. In Philadelphia, Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey ordered his department to publicly release the names of officers involved in shootings within 72 hours of any incident. The city’s police union promptly challenged his policy, while the Pennsylvania House of Representatives passed a bill in November to stop the release of the names of officers who fire their weapon or use force when on the job unless criminal charges are filed. Not surprisingly, three powerful police unions in the state supported the legislation.

In the present atmosphere, many in the law enforcement community see the Harteaus and Ramseys of their profession as figures who don’t speak for them, and groups or individuals wanting even the most modest of police reforms as so many police haters. As former New York Police Department Commissioner Howard Safir told Fox News in May, “Similar to athletes on the playing field, sometimes it's difficult to tune out the boos from the no-talents sipping their drinks, sitting comfortably in their seats. It's demoralizing to read about the misguided anti-cop gibberish spewing from those who take their freedoms for granted.”

The disdain in such imagery, increasingly common in the world of policing, is striking. It smacks of a police-state, bunker mentality that sees democratic values and just about any limits on the power of law enforcement as threats. In other words, the Safirs want the public -- particularly in communities of color and poor neighborhoods -- to shut up and do as it’s told when a police officer says so. If the cops give the orders, compliance -- so this line of thinking goes -- isn’t optional, no matter how egregious the misconduct or how sensible the reforms. Obey or else.

The post-Ferguson public clamor demanding better policing continues to get louder, and yet too many police departments have this to say in response: Welcome to Cop Land. We make the rules around here.

Matthew Harwood is senior writer/editor of the ACLU. His work has appeared at Al Jazeera America, the American Conservative, the Guardian, Guernica, Salon, War is Boring, and the Washington Monthly. He is a TomDispatch regular.

Monday, December 14, 2015

It's Too Late to Turn Off Trump We can't change the channel on the culture he's exposed

BY MATT TAIBBI December 9, 2015

"Trump represents something of a quandary for the media," says an article recently published by the 'LA Times.'
Some people in the news business are having second thoughts this week about their campaign strategy. They're wondering if they created a monster in Donald Trump.

The LA Times published a piece about how the tone of Trump's TV appearances has changed, now that's he's fully out of the closet as an aspiring dictator, with his plans to ban all Muslims and close the Internet and whatever else he's come up with in the last ten minutes.

Trump; media; republican; primary America Is Too Dumb for TV News »
The paper noted that the candidate had unusual trouble on Morning Joe, a show that usually doubles as Trump's weekly spa treatment:

"Typically, the billionaire TV personality is able to bluster his way through morning talk shows. But Trump had an unusually contentious appearance Tuesday morning on MSNBC's 'Morning Joe,' where co-hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski grilled him on his proposals to keep Muslims out of the U.S....

"'It certainly puts the burden on the people conducting the interviews to be tougher the more controversial his comments are,' Scarborough told The Times after the exchange."

The paper went on to dig in to the ethics of covering Trump:

"Trump represents something of a quandary for the media, especially TV networks. Privately, TV news producers acknowledge that Trump has turbocharged their ratings…"

Essentially, TV news producers are wondering: "How do we keep getting the great ratings without helping elect the Fourth Reich?"

In the same piece, Joe Scarborough said the problem was that Trump gives such great access to the media, just like John McCain did in 2000. "When John McCain was letting members of the press on his Straight Talk Express bus," Scarborough explained, "other Republicans always said he got the benefit of the doubt."

In other words, Trump is so open and accommodating with the press that it makes it hard for reporters to hammer his insane ideas. Scarborough doesn't seem to realize it, but that's a pretty damning admission.

There are some people now who are urging the media to ignore Donald Trump, and simply not cover him. But it's a little late for that.

The time to start worrying about the consequences of our editorial decisions was before we raised a generation of people who get all of their information from television, and who believe that the solution to every problem is simple enough that you can find it before the 21 minutes of the sitcom are over.

Or before we created a world in which the only inner-city black people you ever see are being chased by cops, and the only Muslims onscreen are either chopping off heads or throwing rocks at a barricades.

This is an amazing thing to say, because in Donald Trump's world everything is about him, but Trump's campaign isn't about Trump anymore. With his increasingly preposterous run to the White House, the Donald is merely articulating something that runs through the entire culture.

It's hard to believe because Trump the person is so limited in his ability to articulate anything. Even in his books, where he's allegedly trying to string multiple thoughts together, Trump wanders randomly from impulse to impulse, seemingly without rhyme or reason. He doesn't think anything through. (He's brilliantly cast this driving-blind trait as "not being politically correct.")

Donald Trump
Mark Peterson/Redux
It's not an accident that his attention span lasts exactly one news cycle. He's exactly like the rest of America, except that he's making news, not following it – starring on TV instead of watching it. Just like we channel-surf, he focuses as long as he can on whatever mess he's in, and then he moves on to the next bad idea or incorrect memory that pops into his head.

Lots of people have remarked on the irony of this absurd caricature of a spoiled rich kid connecting so well with working-class America. But Trump does have something very much in common with everybody else. He watches TV. That's his primary experience with reality, and just like most of his voters, he doesn't realize that it's a distorted picture.

If you got all of your information from TV and movies, you'd have some pretty dumb ideas. You'd be convinced blowing stuff up works, because it always does in our movies. You'd have no empathy for the poor, because there are no poor people in American movies or TV shows – they're rarely even shown on the news, because advertisers consider them a bummer.

Politically, you'd have no ability to grasp nuance or complexity, since there is none in our mainstream political discussion. All problems, even the most complicated, are boiled down to a few minutes of TV content at most. That's how issues like the last financial collapse completely flew by Middle America. The truth, with all the intricacies of all those arcane new mortgage-based financial instruments, was much harder to grasp than a story about lazy minorities buying houses they couldn't afford, which is what Middle America still believes.

Trump isn't just selling these easy answers. He's also buying them. Trump is a TV believer. He's so subsumed in all the crap he's watched – and you can tell by the cropped syntax in his books and his speech, Trump is a watcher, not a reader – it's all mixed up in his head.

He surely believes he saw that celebration of Muslims in Jersey City, when it was probably a clip of people in Palestine. When he says, "I have a great relationship with the blacks," what he probably means is that he liked watching The Cosby Show.

In this he's just like millions and millions of Americans, who have all been raised on a mountain of unthreatening caricatures and clichés. TV is a world in which the customer is always right, especially about hard stuff like race and class. Trump's ideas about Mexicans and Muslims are typical of someone who doesn't know any, except in the shows he chooses to watch about them.

This world of schlock stereotypes and EZ solutions is the one experience a pampered billionaire can share with all of those "paycheck-to-paycheck" voters the candidates are always trying to reach. TV is the ultimate leveling phenomenon. It makes everyone, rich and poor, equally incapable of dealing with reality.

That's why it's so ironic that some people think the solution to the Trump problem is turning him off. What got us into this mess was the impulse to change the channel the moment we feel uncomfortable. Even if we take the man off the air, the problem he represents is still going to be there, just like poverty, corruption, mass incarceration, pollution and all of the other things we keep off the airwaves.

Read more: http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/its-too-late-to-turn-off-trump-20151209#ixzz3uLcNLGfs
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Monday, December 7, 2015

The Fantasy about a two-state "solution" is starting to evaporate

Barak Ravid Dec 07, 2015 Haaretz

The U.S. Has Realized What Israel Really Wants Is a 1.5-state Solution
The conclusion reached by Obama administration officials, as well as those who might hold key positions in the Clinton administration, is that the Democratic Party and the Israeli government are living on parallel universes that are drifting apart.

Hillary Clinton: The alternative to Abbas might be ISIS
Netanyahu tells Saban Forum: Solution is not one state, but a demilitarized Palestinian state
Kerry at Saban Forum: Current trends are leading to a one-state reality

WASHINGTON – One thing that stood out during the three days of discussions at the Saban Forum were the stunned glances that the American participants, the vast majority of whom came from the Democratic side of the U.S. political map, exchanged with each other as they heard what representatives of the Israeli right had to say. Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Yisrael Beiteinu party chairman Avigdor Lieberman left their American listeners with feelings that ranged between frustration, shock and helplessness.
The lip service that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu continues to pay to the two-state solution no longer makes any impression on almost anyone in Washington. Senior officials in the U.S. administration and the Democratic Party listened to the senior Israeli government officials from the Likud and Habayit Hayehudi parties and understood that their real policy, in the best case, is a one-and-a-half-state solution – one in which Israel controls most of the West Bank and the Palestinians have an autonomous zone comprised of several cantons.
The speech by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, which brimmed with frustration, is the best possible example of this. During a monologue that was all about letting off his pent-up steam, he urged his audience to stop pretending. The series of questions he posed in his speech about the Netanyahu government’s policy on the Palestinian issue came straight from the heart of a man who loves Israel with all his might. They were questions that most Israeli cabinet ministers ignore, or else dismiss offhandedly by saying, “Trust us, it’ll be okay.”

After three years of nonstop efforts, albeit sometimes clumsy ones, to achieve an Israeli-Palestinian breakthrough, Kerry seemed to be throwing up his hands. “It’s up to both sides to take the steps necessary to make peace possible,” he said, noting that if that happens, the U.S. would be ready to help. Even if he didn’t say so explicitly, his message to both Israelis and Palestinians was, “I’m done. You’ll have to manage by yourselves.”
It's safe to assume that Netanyahu and his aides are hoping that a Republican president will win the 2016 election. Such a scenario is within the realm of possibility, but it is more likely at this time that Netanyahu will find Hillary Clinton in the White House. The former secretary of state's speech at the Saban Forum on Sunday showed that her policy on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict won't be much different from that of Obama and Kerry. 
She has been dealing with the issue for the past 20 years, and isn't giving the impression that she intends to stop. Despite the fact that she is in the middle of an election campaign, her dependence on donors and the concern that her Republican rivals could peg her as an anti-Israel candidate, Clinton didn't shy away from making clear where she stands on issues like settlement construction, the two-state solution and Israel's need to take initiative and confidence building steps toward the Palestinians. 

The conclusion reached by many senior members of the Obama administration, as well as those who might hold key positions in the Clinton administration, is that the Democratic Party in the U.S. and the Israeli government are two entities living in parallel universes that are drifting apart and are unlikely to converge. A similar feeling is harbored by numerous senior officials in Jerusalem and the Israeli right. The American side can't understand why Israel isn't obsessively searching for a solution to the conflict with the Palestinians, while the Israeli side can't understand why the entire world is so obsessed with the Palestinian issue. 
This is especially disconcerting in light of the fact that this attitude is held by a party that represents at least half of Americans. It is even more worrying that most U.S. Jews, who identify with the Democratic Party, who voted for Obama and will vote for Clinton, also feel this way. They are shocked by Israeli government ministers' remarks. They either can't understand where the Israeli government is heading, or they do understand but prefer to block it out and accept this as a nightmare that will pass.  
One can't help but wonder whether the ties between Israel and the U.S. can remain as strong and strategic as they are today after another decade or two of diplomatic deadlock in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Without separation between Israel and the Palestinians, amid a one-and-a-half-state reality, is it still possible to maintain the two myths accompanying Israel-U.S. relations – shared interests and shared values? 

read more: http://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-1.690434?utm_content=U.S.+realizing+what+Israel+really+wants+is+a+1.5-state+solution&utm_medium=Daily&utm_source=email&utm_campaign=newsletter

Sunday, November 29, 2015

There is no such thing as "international terrorism".

Uri Avnery
The Reign of Absurdiocy

There is no such thing as "international terrorism".

To declare war on "international terrorism" is nonsense. Politicians who do so are either fools or cynics, and probably both.
Terrorism is a weapon. Like cannon. We would laugh at somebody who declares war on "international artillery". A cannon belongs to an army, and serves the aims of that army. The cannon of one side fire against the cannon of the other.
Terrorism is a method of operation. It is often used by oppressed peoples, including the French Resistance to the Nazis in WW II. We would laugh at anyone who declared war on “international resistance”.
Carl von Clausewitz, the Prussian military thinker, famously said that "war is the continuation of politics by other means". If he had lived with us today, he might have said: "Terrorism is a continuation of policy by other means."
Terrorism means, literally, to frighten the victims into surrendering to the will of the terrorist.
Terrorism is a weapon. Generally it is the weapon of the weak. Of those who have no atom bombs, like the ones which were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which terrorized the Japanese into surrender. Or the aircraft which destroyed Dresden in the (vain) attempt to frighten the Germans into giving up.
Since most of the groups and countries using terrorism have different aims, often contradicting each other, there is nothing "international" about it. Each terrorist campaign has a character of its own. Not to mention the fact that nobody considers himself (or herself) a terrorist, but rather a fighter for God, Freedom or Whatever.
(I cannot restrain myself from boasting that long ago I invented the formula: "One man's terrorist is the other man's freedom fighter".)
MANY ORDINARY Israelis felt deep satisfaction after the Paris events. "Now those bloody Europeans feel for once what we feel all the time!"
Binyamin Netanyahu, a diminutive thinker but a brilliant salesman, has hit on the idea of inventing a direct link between jihadist terrorism in Europe and Palestinian terrorism in Israel and the occupied territories.
It is a stroke of genius: if they are one and the same, knife-wielding Palestinian teenagers and Belgian devotees of ISIS, then there is no Israeli-Palestinian problem, no occupation, no settlements. Just Muslim fanaticism. (Ignoring, by the way, the many Christian Arabs in the secular Palestinian "terrorist" organizations.)
This has nothing to do with reality. Palestinians who want to fight and die for Allah go to Syria. Palestinians – both religious and secular – who shoot, knife or run over Israeli soldiers and civilians these days want freedom from the occupation and a state of their own.
This is such an obvious fact that even a person with the limited IQ of our present cabinet ministers could grasp it. But if they did, they would have to face very unpleasant choices concerning the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
So let's stick to the comfortable conclusion: they kill us because they are born terrorists, because they want to meet the promised 72 virgins in paradise, because they are anti-Semites. So, as Netanyahu happily forecasts, we shall "live forever by our sword".
TRAGIC AS the results of each terrorist event may be, there is something absurd about the European reaction to recent events.
The height of absurdiocy was reached in Brussels, when a lone terrorist on the run paralyzed an entire capital city for days without a single shot being fired. It was the ultimate success of terrorism in the most literal sense: using fear as a weapon.
But the reaction in Paris was not much better. The number of victims of the atrocity was large, but similar to the number killed on the roads in France every couple of weeks. It was certainly far smaller than the number of victims of one hour of World War II. But rational thought does not count. Terrorism works on the perception of the victims.
It seems incredible that ten mediocre individuals, with a few primitive weapons, could cause world-wide panic. But it is a fact. Bolstered by the mass media, which thrive on such events, local terrorist acts turn themselves nowadays into world-wide threats. The modern media, by their very nature, are the terrorist's best friend. Terror could not flourish without them.
The next best friend of the terrorist is the politician. It is almost impossible for a politician to resist the temptation to ride on the wave of panic. Panic creates "national unity", the dream of every ruler. Panic creates the longing for a "strong leader". This is a basic human instinct.
Francois Hollande is a typical example. A mediocre yet shrewd politician, he seized the opportunity to pose as a leader. "C'est la guerre!" he declared, and whipped up a national frenzy. Of course this is no "guerre". Not World War III. Just a terrorist attack by a hidden enemy. Indeed, one of the facts disclosed by these events is the incredible foolishness of the political leaders all around. They do not understand the challenge. They react to imagined threats and ignore the real ones. They do not know what to do. So they do what comes naturally: make speeches, convene meetings and bomb somebody (no matter who and what for).
Not understanding the malady, their remedy is worse than the disease itself. Bombing causes destruction, destruction creates new enemies who thirst for revenge. It is a direct collaboration with the terrorists.
It was a sad spectacle to see all these world leaders, the commanders of powerful nations, running around like mice in a maze, meeting, speechifying, uttering nonsensical statements, totally unable to deal with the crisis.
THE PROBLEM is indeed far more complicated than simple minds would believe, because of an unusual fact: the enemy this time is not a nation, not a state, not even a real territory, but an undefined entity: an idea, a state of mind, a movement that does have a territorial base of sorts but is not a real state.
This is not a completely unprecedented phenomenon: more than a hundred years ago, the anarchist movement committed terrorist acts all over the place without having a territorial base at all. And 900 years ago a religious sect without a country, the Assassins (a corruption of the Arabic word for "hashish users"), terrorized the Muslim world.
I don't know how to fight the Islamic State (or rather Non-State) effectively. I strongly believe that nobody knows. Certainly not the nincompoops who man (and woman) the various governments.
I am not sure that even a territorial invasion would destroy this phenomenon. But even such an invasion seems unlikely. The Coalition of the Unwilling put together by the US seems disinclined to put "boots on the ground". The only forces who could try – the Iranians and the Syrian government army – are hated by the US and its local allies.
Indeed, if one is looking for an example of total disorientation, bordering on lunacy, it is the inability of the US and the European powers to choose between the Assad-Iran-Russia axis and the IS-Saudi-Sunni camp. Add the Turkish-Kurdish problem, the Russian-Turkish animosity and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the picture is still far from complete.
(For history-lovers, there is something fascinating about the reemergence of the centuries-old struggle between Russia and Turkey in this new setting. Geography trumps everything else, after all.)
It has been said that war is far too important to leave to the generals. The present situation is far too complicated to leave to the politicians. But who else is there?
ISRAELIS BELIEVE (as usual) that we can teach the world. We know terrorism. We know what to do.
But do we?
For weeks now, Israelis have lived in a panic. For lack of a better name, it is called "the wave of terror". Every day now, two, three, four youngsters, including 13-year old children, attack Israelis with knives or run them over with cars, and are generally shot dead on the spot. Our renowned army tries everything, including draconian reprisals against the families and collective punishment of villages, without avail.
These are individual acts, often quite spontaneous, and therefore it is well-nigh impossible to prevent them. It is not a military problem. The problem is political, psychological.
Netanyahu tries to ride this wave like Hollande and company. He cites the Holocaust (likening a 16-year old boy from Hebron to a hardened SS officer at Auschwitz) and talks endlessly about anti-Semitism.
All in order to obliterate one glaring fact: the occupation with its daily, indeed hourly and minutely, chicanery of the Palestinian population. Some government ministers don't even hide anymore that the aim is to annex the West Bank and eventually drive out the Palestinian people from their homeland.
There is no direct connection between IS terrorism around the world and the Palestinian national struggle for statehood. But if they are not solved, in the end the problems will merge – and a far more powerful IS will unite the Muslim world, as Saladin once did, to confront us, the new Crusaders.
If I were a believer, I would whisper: God forbid.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Trump’s claim of 9/11 celebration in New Jersey is based on arrest of 5 ‘laughing’ Israelis

from mondoweiss.org
Philip Weiss on November 26, 2015 51 Comments

Donald Trump’s nutty/scary claim that he saw thousands of Muslims celebrating the 9/11 attacks in Jersey City has been widely debunked in the media, but few are pointing out the story on which Trump’s claim is likely based: the arrest of five Israeli employees of a moving company who were said to have watched the towers fall from Weehawken, NJ, with jovial expressions.

Trump himself has sought to back up his claim by tweeting a passage from an article in the Washington Post on September 18. That article said:

In Jersey City, within hours of two jetliners’ plowing into the World Trade Center, law enforcement authorities detained and questioned a number of people who were allegedly seen celebrating the attacks and holding tailgate-style parties on rooftops while they watched the devastation on the other side of the river.

Who was detained? Jim Galloway at AJC.com remembers that it was Israeli employees of a moving company:

They were Israeli and Jewish – young men making asses of themselves, as some young men are wont to do…. apparently laughing, clowning and photographing themselves

Politico has an article that mentions the Washington Post article but doesn’t tell you that the arrested men were Israelis; while Slate downplays the incident as the “strange tale of the dancing Israelis” in a piece on 9/11 legends. It says that story has taken on a life of its own among anti-Semitic conspiracy theorists.

Whether the Israelis were making asses of themselves or whether the story is repeated by conspiracy theorists is irrelevant. But the case was not a strange tale or a legend. The men were held by US authorities for more than two months before they were deported. This ABC News piece months later describes an investigation of suspicious behavior by the men:

Five men were arrested after they were seen filming the attack and apparently celebrating it too…

The driver of the van, Sivan Kurzberg, told the officers, “We are Israeli. We are not your problem. Your problems are our problems. The Palestinians are the problem.” The other passengers were his brother Paul Kurzberg, Yaron Shmuel, Oded Ellner and Omer Marmari.

It was widely thought that the men were spies, ABC said:

Vince Cannistraro, a former chief of operations for counterterrorism with the CIA who is now a consultant for ABCNEWS, said… many people in the U.S. intelligence community believed that some of the men arrested were working for Israeli intelligence. Cannistraro said there was speculation as to whether Urban Moving had been “set up or exploited for the purpose of launching an intelligence operation against radical Islamists in the area, particularly in the New Jersey-New York area.”…

Many U.S. government officials still believe that some of them were on a mission for Israeli intelligence. But the FBI told ABCNEWS, “To date, this investigation has not identified anybody who in this country had pre-knowledge of the events of 9/11.”

This piece published by the Forward (and republished at a WTC-truther site) says the five men were likely Mossad and notes that they were deported to Israel following their release.

According to one former high-ranking American intelligence official, who asked not to be named, the FBI came to the conclusion at the end of its investigation that the five Israelis arrested in New Jersey last September were conducting a Mossad surveillance mission and that their employer, Urban Moving Systems of Weehawken, N.J., served as a front.

After their arrest, the men were held in detention for two-and-a-half months and were deported at the end of November, officially for visa violations.

I’ve heard about the Israeli movers’ story down through the years and never been very interested in it, it’s in s being in a gray zone of unproveable assertions. But the story certainly doesn’t reflect well on Israel; and what is curious here is the media’s reticence about the Israeli movers as the basis of Trump’s lie. The rules just don’t apply when it comes to Israel; Israeli forces can do no wrong in the U.S. Consider: Last month the CIA co-hosted a conference on national security and invited officials from the blessed trinity of Britain, France and Israel. Gosh. If we had a normal relationship with Israel we might see that they have a constitutional problem — millions of Palestinians can’t vote for the Jewish state government that rules their lives — that is hurting the United States across the Middle East. We can’t. Or consider Russia’s response to Turkey’s shoot-down of its plane. BBC reported today that Russia has already begun cutting off the importation of Turkish foods in a semi-official protest of the attack. I thought of Rachel Corrie and Furkan Dogan. Israeli forces killed these charitable American citizens under highly dubious circumstances; and there have never been consequences to Israel for its conduct. We really have no national interest when it comes to Israel; Israel’s interest is our interest. The failure to report the simple facts around Trump’s lie is yet another example.

Thanks to Peter Voskamp.

- See more at: http://mondoweiss.net/2015/11/celebration-laughing-israelis?utm_source=Mondoweiss+List&utm_campaign=7e9b106f8b-RSS_EMAIL_CAMPAIGN&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_b86bace129-7e9b106f8b-309260894#sthash.lvseEmdO.dpuf

Friday, November 27, 2015

Great Moments in Israeli Democracy! Jewish-Only Cities to Evict Thousands of Palestinians

from Informed Comment

By contributors | Nov. 26, 2015 |

[note: this is what is being done to Palestinians who are Israeli citizens within the '67 borders. R Congress]

By IMEMC News | – –
Thousands of Palestinians will be displaced as part of a new Israeli plan to build several Jewish-only communities in the Negev region, in south of the Israeli territory, which will be built on top of Bedouin Palestinian villages, civil rights groups said Wednesday.
“This is part of an ongoing policy of pushing Palestinian Bedouins off their land in the Negev,” Sana Ibn Bari, a lawyer for the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), told Al-Jazeera.
The plan was approved by the Israeli government on Sunday, and allows the construction of five Jewish settlements in the Negev region, according to Telesur/Al Ray. Israeli Minister of Housing Yoav Galant hailed the government’s decision and said the region should be turned “into a desired and flourishing area, in accordance with the Zionist vision”.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called, on Sunday, for more Jewish communities “to be built quickly while bypassing bureaucratic processes”.
The Israeli government classifies Palestinian villages in the region as “unrecognized”, and says that people there do not have proper permits for constructing houses. (The overwhelming majority of Palestinians are rarely, if ever, granted such permits.)
At least two villages will be affected by the plan, according to a press release by several rights groups in Israel who have denounced the plan. “The settlement of Daya would be built on the unrecognized village of Katamat, which is home to 1,500 people and the Neve Gurion settlement is supposed to be built on part of the land of Beer Hadaj, a recognized village with approximately 6,000 residents,” Bimkom and ACRI said in the statement.
Palestinians living in the Negev are part of the over 1.7 million Palestinians with Israeli citizenship, who, according to rights groups, are facing systematic discrimination by Israeli policies and laws.
In May, Israeli-based Adalah Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights issued a database documenting more than 50 discriminatory laws which directly or indirectly target Palestinian citizens of Israel by quelling their political expression and limiting their access to state resources, notably land.
Last month, a Bedouin village was demolished by Israeli forces for the 90th time in five years for being “unrecognized”. While Israel claims that these people do not have permits for the villages, residents say those villages existed before the foundation of the Israeli state in 1948.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Pollard and Vanunu: A tale of two spies

from al-monitor, Nov. 24, 2015

Jonathan Pollard’s release from a US prison Nov. 20 has not relieved the Israeli public of the affair that has haunted it for the past three decades. Likud Knesset House Committee Chair David Bitan was quick to prepare legislation granting Pollard a monthly state stipend for the rest of his life along with subsidized rent and health care. In a congratulatory letter to the former convict, Zionist Camp member Nahman Shai, head of the Knesset caucus advocating for Pollard, wrote that the “lobby will not rest and not cease.” In fact, he has set a new challenge for the caucus: to lift the restrictions on the Jewish spy that “violate [his] civil rights.” Shai pledged that the caucus would not halt its advocacy until Pollard is allowed to leave the United States for a destination of his choice, “first and foremost, Israel.”

Summary⎙ Print While criticizing the restrictions the US has imposed on released spy Jonathan Pollard and attempting to legislate state allocations for him, Israeli politicians ignore their government's restrictions on nuclear spy Mordechai Vanunu.
Author Akiva EldarPosted November 24, 2015
TranslatorRuti Sinai

In July, the same Shai gave listeners of Kol Barama radio an idea of the acts committed by the man for whom a special Knesset caucus was established. “It’s hard for us to comprehend the notion of a person betraying his homeland,” said Shai. “There was money, he got paid for his activity, he got paid, maybe he didn’t get everything but he received payment [$30,000 a year]. It’s also a kind of espionage … He tried to sell documents to other countries, too, not just to Israel.” Nonetheless, Shai added that after Israel assumed responsibility for Pollard’s actions and granted him Israeli citizenship, it was incumbent upon it to go the whole nine yards on his behalf.

Not only did Shai brand Pollard a traitor to his homeland and a paid spy, he also compared him with Mordechai Vanunu, Israel’s “nuclear spy.” In 1988, Vanunu was convicted of treason and aggravated spying for selling the British Sunday Times classified documents about the inner workings at the Dimona nuclear facility. A court sentenced him to 18 years in prison. For the first 11 years of his sentence, he was kept in complete isolation.

In fact, the two affairs share many similarities. Vanunu, like Pollard, worked for a defense agency, abused his employer’s trust and inflicted serious damage to his country's national interests. Both had ideological motivations, albeit wrapped in cash. Vanunu sought to shatter the conspiracy of silence surrounding Israel's nuclear capabilities and the public's reluctance to know about goings-on at Dimona. Avner Cohen, author of “Israel and the Bomb” and a lecturer on nuclear studies at the Middlebury Institute for International Studies in Monterey, California, argues that Vanunu was not a spy at all. Rather, he considers him the “original Edward Snowden.”

Like Pollard, even after Vanunu served his entire sentence, he was considered a ticking time bomb of secrets. He, too, was prohibited contact with the media and permission to leave the country. Although it has been more than a decade since Vanunu's release, and almost 30 years since he was jailed, he is still not a free man. This is where the similarity between the two convicted felons ends.

Pollard got his own Knesset caucus, an (illegally constructed) East Jerusalem building named after him (“Jonathan House”), assistance for his financial rehabilitation and organized efforts to embellish his motives and actions. Vanunu, on the other hand, still bears the mark of Cain, of a traitor and spy. Not a single Knesset member has lifted a finger to remove the travel restrictions on him and the other limitations imposed by state security. No major media outlet has slammed the security agencies' “vindictiveness” against Vanunu. Reporters are too busy with the Pollard release circus. Commentators are shocked by the restrictions placed on Pollard by the US government.

Israelis having different attitudes toward the two spies is not unusual. It is typical of the lack of symmetry between Israel’s attitude toward those who harm its security and the attitude it demands toward Jews who harm the security of their homeland. One can assume that had Pollard been an American Jew who joined Mossad and sold a million classified documents to US intelligence out of greed — after offering his services, so it's been reported, to South Africa, Argentina, Taiwan, Pakistan, Iran and Australia — the Israeli public and its elected officials would have condemned any attempt by an American president to intervene on his behalf. What would the Knesset members lobbying for Pollard have said about a US congressional caucus lobbying for the release of an Israeli Pollard? How would the media relate to a proposed bill in Congress providing him lifetime financial support and subsidies for his rent and medical expenses?

The first lesson of the Pollard affair is that the capacity for compassion has no religion, and the capacity for forgiveness has no nationality. Your hero is often the enemy of the other party and vice versa. The second lesson is that “security needs” are not moral disinfectants or stain removers. Anyone who decides to run a spy in the territory of an important ally must keep in mind that there is a limit to what close friends are willing to put up with. The third lesson is that there are times when the true hero is the politician who curbs his desire for publicity. The noisy politicos did not shorten Pollard’s sentence by a single day and perhaps had the opposite effect. The media bonanza they have been riding since his release will not cut short the parole restrictions imposed on him. In fact, the opposite might transpire.

Read more: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2015/11/jonathan-pollard-mordechai-vanunu-spy-security-knesset-lobby.html#ixzz3sWwP82ig

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Shadows of Algeria: the Lost Context of the Paris Attacks

NOVEMBER 17, 2015


It wasn’t just one of the attackers who vanished after the Paris massacre. Three nations whose history, action–and inaction–help to explain the slaughter by Isis have largely escaped attention in the near-hysterical response to the crimes against humanity in Paris: Algeria, Saudi Arabia and Syria.

The French-Algerian identity of one of the attackers demonstrates how France’s savage 1956-62 war in Algeria continues to infect today’s atrocities. The absolute refusal to contemplate Saudi Arabia’s role as a purveyor of the most extreme Wahabi-Sunni form of Islam, in which Isis believes, shows how our leaders still decline to recognise the links between the kingdom and the organisation which struck Paris. And our total unwillingness to accept that the only regular military force in constant combat with Isis is the Syrian army – which fights for the regime that France also wants to destroy – means we cannot liaise with the ruthless soldiers who are in action against Isis even more ferociously than the Kurds.

Whenever the West is attacked and our innocents are killed, we usually wipe the memory bank. Thus, when reporters told us that the 129 dead in Paris represented the worst atrocity in France since the Second World War, they failed to mention the 1961 Paris massacre of up to 200 Algerians participating in an illegal march against France’s savage colonial war in Algeria. Most were murdered by the French police, many were tortured in the Palais des Sports and their bodies thrown into the Seine. The French only admit 40 dead. The police officer in charge was Maurice Papon, who worked for Petain’s collaborationist Vichy police in the Second World War, deporting more than a thousand Jews to their deaths.

Omar Ismail Mostafai, one of the suicide killers in Paris, was of Algerian origin – and so, too, may be other named suspects. Said and Cherif Kouachi, the brothers who murdered the Charlie Hebdo journalists, were also of Algerian parentage. They came from the five million-plus Algerian community in France, for many of whom the Algerian war never ended, and who live today in the slums of Saint-Denis and other Algerian banlieues of Paris. Yet the origin of the 13 November killers – and the history of the nation from which their parents came – has been largely deleted from the narrative of Friday’s horrific events. A Syrian passport with a Greek stamp is more exciting, for obvious reasons.

A colonial war 50 years ago is no justification for mass murder, but it provides a context without which any explanation of why France is now a target makes little sense. So, too, the Saudi Sunni-Wahabi faith, which is a foundation of the “Islamic Caliphate” and its cult-like killers. Mohammed ibn Abdel al-Wahab was the purist cleric and philosopher whose ruthless desire to expunge the Shia and other infidels from the Middle East led to 18th-century massacres in which the original al-Saud dynasty was deeply involved.

The present-day Saudi kingdom, which regularly beheads supposed criminals after unfair trials, is building a Riyadh museum dedicated to al-Wahab’s teachings, and the old prelate’s rage against idolaters and immorality has found expression in Isis’s accusation against Paris as a centre of “prostitution”. Much Isis funding has come from Saudis – although, once again, this fact has been wiped from the terrible story of the Friday massacre.

And then comes Syria, whose regime’s destruction has long been a French government demand. Yet Assad’s army, outmanned and still outgunned – though recapturing some territory with the help of Russian air strikes – is the only trained military force fighting Isis. For years, both the Americans, the British and the French have said that the Syrians do not fight Isis. But this is palpably false; Syrian troops were driven out of Palmyra in May after trying to prevent Isis suicide convoys smashing their way into the city – convoys that could have been struck by US or French aircraft. Around 60,000 Syrian troops have now been killed in Syria, many by Isis and the Nusrah Islamists – but our desire to destroy the Assad regime takes precedence over our need to crush Isis.

The French now boast that they have struck ISIS’s Syrian “capital” of Raqqa 20 times – a revenge attack, if ever there was one. For if this was a serious military assault to liquidate the Isis machine in Syria, why didn’t the French do it two weeks ago? Or two months ago? Once more, alas, the West – and especially France – responds to Isis with emotion rather than reason, without any historical context, without recognising the grim role that our “moderate”, head-chopping Saudi “brothers” play in this horror story. And we think we are going to destroy Isis…

Robert Fisk writes for the Independent, where this column originally appeared.

Friday, November 20, 2015

CNN Punished Its Own Journalist for Fulfilling a Core Duty of Journalism

from The Intercept

Glenn Greenwald
Nov. 20 2015, 12:23 p.m.

CNN yesterday suspended its global affairs correspondent, Elise Labott, for two weeks for the crime of posting a tweet critical of the House vote to ban Syrian refugees. Whether by compulsion or choice, she then groveled in apology. This is the original tweet along with her subsequent expression of repentance:

This all happened after The Washington Post‘s Erik Wemple complained that her original tweet showed “bias.” The claim that CNN journalists must be “objective” and are not permitted to express opinions is an absolute joke. CNN journalists constantly express opinions without being sanctioned.

Labott’s crime wasn’t that she expressed an opinion. It’s that she expressed the wrong opinion: after Paris, defending Muslims, even refugees, is strictly forbidden. I’ve spoken with friends who work at every cable network and they say the post-Paris climate is indescribably repressive in terms of what they can say and who they can put on air. When it comes to the Paris attacks, CNN has basically become state TV (to see just how subservient CNN is about everything relating to terrorism, watch this unbelievable “interview” of ex-CIA chief Jim Woolsey by CNN’s Brooke Baldwin; or consider that neither CNN nor MSNBC has put a single person on air to dispute the CIA’s blatant falsehoods about Paris despite how many journalists have documented those falsehoods).

Labott’s punishment comes just five days after two CNN anchors spent 6 straight minutes lecturing French Muslim civil rights activist Yasser Louati that he and all other French Muslims bear “responsibility” for the attack (the anchors weren’t suspended for expressing those repulsive opinions). The suspension comes just four days after CNN’s Jim Acosta stood up in an Obama press conference and demanded: “I think a lot of Americans have this frustration that they see that the United States has the greatest military in the world . . . . I guess the question is– and if you’ll forgive the language– is why can’t we take out these bastards?” (he wasn’t suspended). It comes five days after CNN anchor Christiane Amanpour mauled Obama on-air for not being more militaristic about ISIS (she wasn’t suspended); throughout 2013, Amanpour vehemently argued all over CNN for U.S. intervention in Syria (she wasn’t suspended).

Labott’s suspension also comes less than a year after Don Lemon demanded that Muslim human rights lawyer Arsalan Iftikhar state whether he supports ISIS (he wasn’t suspended); in 2010, Lemon strongly insinuated that all Muslims were responsible for the 9/11 attack when he defended opposition to an Islamic Community Center in lower Manhattan (he wasn’t suspended). During the Occupy Wall Street protests, CNN host Erin Burnett continuously mocked the protesters while defending Wall Street (she wasn’t suspended) and also engaged in rank fear-mongering over Iran (she wasn’t suspended). I could literally spend the rest of the day pointing to opinions expressed by CNN journalists for which they were not suspended or punished in any way.

By very stark contrast, career CNN producer Octavia Nasr was instantly fired in 2010 after 20 years with the network for the crime of tweeting a positive sentiment for a beloved Shia imam who had just died, after neocons complained that he was a Hezbollah sympathizer. Earlier this year, Jim Clancy was forced to “resign” after 30 years with CNN for tweeting inflammatory criticisms of Israel. As I’ve pointed out over and over, “journalistic objectivity” is a sham for so many reasons, beginning with the fact that all reporting is suffuse with subjective perspectives. “Objectivity” does not ban opinions; it just bans opinions that are particularly disfavored among those who wield the greatest power (obviously, no CNN journalist would be punished for advocating military action against ISIS, for instance).

But there’s a more important point here than CNN’s transparently farcical notion of “objectivity.” In the wake of Paris, an already-ugly and quite dangerous anti-Muslim climate has exploded. The leading GOP presidential candidate is speaking openly of forcing Muslims to register in databases, closing mosques, and requiring Muslims to carry special ID cards. Another, Rand Paul, just introduced a bill to ban refugees almost exclusively from predominantly Muslim and/or Arab countries. Others are advocating exclusion of Muslim refugees (Cruz) and religious tests to allow in only “proven Christians” (Bush).

That, by any measure, is a crisis of authoritarianism. And journalists have historically not only been permitted, but required, to raise their voice against such dangers. Indeed, that is one of the primary roles of journalism: to serve as a check on extremism when stoked by political demagogues.

The two most respected American television journalists in the history of the medium are almost certainly Edward R. Murrow and Walter Cronkite. The legacies of both were shaped by their raising their voices in times of creeping radicalism and government overreach. Murrow repeatedly inveighed against the extremism of Congressional McCarthyism, while Cronkite disputed Pentagon claims that victory in the Vietnam War was near and instead called for its end: “the only rational way out then will be to negotiate, not as victors, but as an honorable people who lived up to their pledge to defend democracy, and did the best they could.” Neither could survive at the climate created at CNN:

As Murrow said in justifying his opposition to the Wisconsin Senator and his allies: “there is no way for a citizen of a republic to abdicate his [sic] responsibilities.”

It’s not hard to envision the impact that this CNN action will have on the next journalist who considers speaking up the way Labott (very mildly) just did: they know doing so could imperil their career. In the face of the kind of emerging extremism now manifest in the U.S. (and Europe), that journalistic climate neuters journalists, renders them impotent and their function largely irrelevant, and – by design or otherwise – obliterates a vital check on tyrannical impulses. But that’s what happens when media outlets are viewed principally as corporate assets rather than journalistic ones: their overriding goal is to avoid saying or doing anything that will create conflict between them and those who wield the greatest power.

* * * * *

I did two interviews yesterday where I was able to more or less to comprehensively set forth my views on the behavior of the U.S. media following Paris, which I must admit – notwithstanding my very low expectations – has surprised (and horrified) me in terms of how subservient it is. First, there was this interview on Democracy Now (starting at 13:00; relevant segments are here and here), which generated more response than any I’ve ever done on that show, and this shorter one on France24.

Glenn Greenwald

Thursday, November 12, 2015

The Connecticut branch of the AFL-CIO has voted to back key elements of the Palestinian call for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) on Israel.

from the electric intifada
Ali Abunima

AFL-CIO is the largest US labor federation, counting dozens of unions with a combined membership of almost 13 million workers as its affiliates – 200,000 of them in Connecticut.

At the Connecticut branch’s convention in October, delegates passed a resolution calling on the national AFL-CIO to adopt BDS “in connection with companies and investments profiting from or complicit in human rights violations arising from the occupation of the Palestinian territories by the State of Israel, and to urge its affiliates and related pension and annuity funds to adopt similar strategies.”

It also calls on the US to “diligently apply all diplomatic and economic tools to bring an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestine and to support a fair and just peace in which the people of Israel and Palestine can live in peace and security in accordance with international law and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”

The resolution notes that Unite, the largest union in United Kingdom and Ireland, has backed BDS.

Democratic Party ties
The move is significant because while many rank-and-file members of AFL-CIO-affiliated unions have supported Palestinian rights, the same has not been true for the federation’s leadership.

The national AFL-CIO worked closely with the US Central Intelligence Agency during the Cold War to subvert left-wing movements and governments around the world.

It has contributed millions of dollars to Democratic candidates and remains closely tied to that party’s pro-Israel establishment.

Both the administration of President Barack Obama, as well as his would-be successor Hillary Clinton, oppose any form of boycott of Israel, including of its settlements.

“Giant stride”
In September, a delegation of Connecticut trade union leaders traveled to Palestine in response to an invitation from the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions.

It included David Roche, president of the Connecticut Building and Construction Trades Council, who co-sponsored the resolution along with John Harrity, president of the Connecticut State Council of Machinists.

Reverend David W. Good, who co-led the delegation for the Tree of Life Educational Fund, spoke last month about the Israeli abuses the participants witnessed:

Good made the case for BDS, arguing that “the fulcrum of change is with us.”

“I’m very, very thankful for the union members who came back from our last Tree of Life journey resolved to be in solidarity with workers in Palestine,” Good added.

Following the vote, resolution co-sponsor John Harrity said: “We are proud that the [Connecticut] AFL-CIO, through the action of elected delegates from the large spectrum of unions that make up our federation, voted to endorse the resolution.”

Stanley Heller, a longtime Palestine solidarity activist in Connecticut, called the state’s AFL-CIO vote “a giant stride forward.”

“There’s probably going to be a discussion about BDS in trade unions all across the country,” Heller predicted. “Unions will discuss whether the labor adage ‘An injury to one is an injury to all’ will be applied to Palestinian working people too.”

The Connecticut AFL-CIO did not respond to The Electronic Intifada’s repeated requests for comment and the organization does not appear to have issued any statement about the resolution.

The Connecticut AFL-CIO vote predictably generated reactionary disgust. “You are supporting a people and a culture that seeks to annihilate Israel,” Elie Goretsky commented at the federation’s Facebook page. “Ergo, your organization endorses anti-Semitic beliefs and activities.”

“Sickened to see that you racist pigs choose to support terrorists,” added Corey Multer, who suggested that the federation change its name to “ISIS-FL-CIO Connecticut.”

As news about the decision spreads, there is likely to be a more organized backlash than mere abuse on Facebook.

In August, the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE) became only the second national union in the United States, and the largest so far, to vote to back BDS.

UE – which is not affiliated with AFL-CIO – now finds itself under legal assault by the Israeli intelligence-linked lawfare group Shurat HaDin, which has filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board.

A UE spokesperson told The Electronic Intifada last month that the union was confident the complaint would be dismissed.