Wednesday, April 29, 2015

You Will Be Surprised Who the Outside Agitators Really Are in Baltimore

OpEdNews Op Eds 4/28/2015 at 16:47:20

By Max Blumenthal

Reprinted from Alternet

The mayor of Baltimore was right to blame outsiders for causing trouble, but got it wrong.

On Monday, the country watched as a band of outside agitators descended on the streets of Baltimore, attacked locals with blunt force, intimidated innocent bystanders, and even threw rocks at native residents. Every day, these gun-toting rogues come from as far as New Jersey and Pennsylvania to intimidate the good people of Baltimore, forcing communities to cower under the threat of violence. The agitators are known for their menacing dark blue garb, hostile behavior and gangland-style codes of secrecy and silence. Though many of these ruffians have attempted to conceal their identities from their victims, they can be easily spotted by the badges that signify membership in the widely feared Baltimore Police Department.

According to data posted on the city of Baltimore's OpenBaltimore website in 2012, over 70 percent of Baltimore Police Department officers live outside city limits, with at least 10 percent living over state lines, in places as far away as New Jersey and Pennsylvania. By contrast, almost all of those arrested in ongoing protests sparked by the police killing of the unarmed Baltimorean Freddie Gray reside firmly within the city. These facts were apparently lost on Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake when she blamed "outside forces" for all the looting of local businesses and attacks on cops. Similarly, the Baltimore Police Department claimed that "outside agitators continue to be the instigators behind acts of violence and destruction," even as it conceded in the same statement that "the vast majority of arrests reflect local residency." No evidence of outside agitation was produced by the mayor or the police, and none was demanded by much of the media covering the ongoing troubles.

This week's scenes of mostly white cops battling the African-American youth of Baltimore captured a legacy of deeply entrenched racism that stretches back to Maryland's Antebellum days. Though Maryland ended the slave trade in 1783, over 40,000 slaves remained in bondage in its Eastern Shore, near the border of Virginia, until Emancipation Day.

When the Sixth Massachusetts Militia marched through Baltimore on April 19, 1861 on its way to protect Washington DC from advancing Confederate forces, the Union troops were attacked in the center of town with rocks, bricks and even pistols by local Southern sympathizers. Maryland's last recorded lynching of a black man occurred in the town of Princess Anne on the Eastern Shore in 1933, when a thousand whites dragged assault suspect George Armwood from his jail cell, tortured him, hacked his ear off and hung him from a tree. It was the 33rd documented lynching in the state since 1882.

Gerald Horne, a professor of history and African American Studies at the University of Houston, sees the legacy of slavery as an underlying factor in the policing of majority black cities like Baltimore. "The origins of the urban police department lies precisely in slavery," Horne remarked in a recent interview with The Real News founder Paul Jay. "That is to say, slave patrols that were designated to interrogate, to investigate Africans who were out and about without any kind of investigation. You fast forward to 2015 and you still see more than remnants of that particular system."

The Gilmore Homes area where Freddie Gray was violently apprehended and later killed by Baltimore police officers is one of the city's most heavily policed areas. Eddie Conway, a local civil rights activist who served 43 years in prison after a dubious conviction for killing two cops, explained in an interview with Democracy Now! that Gilmore Homes is "a 'broken windows' police area in which people and residents in that area are arrested for sitting on their own steps. They are loitering in their own community, on their own steps, and they're harassed constantly."

"[Cops] won't let us go nowhere," one young Gilmore Homes resident complained to The Real News, "They'll tell us, 'Move, we gotta go here, you gotta move off there.' We ain't doing nothing!"

When Paul Jay relocated The Real News operations to Baltimore in 2013 and initiated a series of roundtable discussions with local cops, he learned about the hostile racial attitudes white officers were importing into the city. "I've talked to some black cops in Baltimore and one of them told me that in the locker room," Jay said, "and when they're getting ready to go on their shift, some of the white cops joke...'Time to go back to work in the zoo.'"

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While the Baltimore Police Department recruits its manpower outside city limits, its leadership is regularly junketed to training tours in Israel, the occupying power whose hyper-militarized settlers act as some of the Middle East's most aggressive outside agitators. In September 2009, members of the Baltimore PD "toured [Israel] and met with their Israeli counterparts to exchange information relating to best practices and recent advancements in security and counterterrorism," according to the trip's sponsor, Project Interchange. A separate Israel tour organized by the neoconservative Jewish Institute for National Security saw members of the Baltimore PD "begin the process of sharing 'lessons learned' in Israel with their law enforcement colleagues in the United States."

Back in Maryland, the rate of citizens killed by police officers is skyrocketing. A report by the ACLU has found that 109 people died after encounters with Maryland police between 2010 and 2014, that almost 70 percent of those who died were black, and that over 40 percent of them were unarmed. In Baltimore alone, the city was forced to pay $5.7 million in lawsuits by suspects who accused police officers of beating them brutally and without cause.

Even after the National Guard vacates the streets of Baltimore and the state of emergency is lifted, vast swaths of the city will remain under occupation. Rather than return to a deadly status quo, the city could start answering the crisis by enacting residential requirements that force police officers to live in the neighborhoods they patrol.

Outside agitators have caused enough trouble in Baltimore. It's time to send them back where they came from.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Truth-teller Cornel West stands up to Israel lobby bullies

from electric intifada
Submitted by Ali Abunimah on Fri, 04/24/2015 - 12:26

Cornel West (Bradley Siefert/Flickr)

Cornel West has hit back at criticism from anti-Palestinian organizations and Obama supporters who have tried to smear and silence him – including by citing a fabricated quote.

This comes as the Jewish studies center at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), has rejected calls to cancel a high-profile lecture by West because of his support for Palestinian rights.

“The escalating deaths and sufferings in Black and poor America and the marvelous new militancy in our Ferguson moment should compel us to focus on what really matters,” West, a celebrated public intellectual and professor emeritus of African American studies at Princeton University, wrote in a message on his Facebook page: “The life and death issues of police murders, poverty, mass incarceration, drones, TPP [Trans-Pacific Partnership] (unjust trade policies), vast surveillance, decrepit schools, unemployment, Wall Street power, Israeli occupation of Palestinians, Dalit resistance in India and ecological catastrophe.”

“Character assassination is the refuge of those who hide and conceal these issues in order to rationalize their own allegiance to the status quo,” West continued in an apparent, though indirect, reference to recent attacks that have targeted him personally.

These have included, most prominently, an essay in the conservative magazine The New Republic, by Georgetown professor Michael Eric Dyson, accusing West of being too harsh in his criticism of the administration of President Barack Obama.

Rather than refuting West’s often searing critiques of Obama’s policies, Dyson pathologizes West in personal terms for “narcissism” and “self-destructive hate.”

Targeted by Israel lobby

It is notable that West, unlike the overwhelming majority of public figures in the United States, has been forthright in criticizing Obama’s support for Israel’s massacre in Gaza, and recently urged Princeton University to divest from companies complicit in Israeli human rights crimes.

“[Israeli Prime Minister] Benjamin Netanyahu is a war criminal not because he’s Jewish but because he has chosen to promote occupation and human annihilation,” West said at a mass rally during the Israeli attack on Gaza, in Washington, DC, last August.

“Barack Obama is a war criminal, not because he’s Black or half African and white but because his drones have killed 233 innocent children and because he facilitates the killing of innocent Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank,” West added.

It is precisely because of his support for the Palestinian struggle that West has also become a target of Israel lobby groups.

Pressure to cancel UCLA lecture

UCLA’s Center for Jewish Studies has rejected pressure to disinvite West from giving a lecture on the legacy of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel on 3 May.

“It is with dismay that we have been confronted by the outrageous pronouncements of Cornel West, a keynote speaker at the Heschel Conference,” Hillel at UCLA said in a statement that called West’s views on Israel “an affront to Rabbi Heschel’s pursuit of truth.”

Hillel, a national network of campus centers for Jewish students, staunchly opposes the Palestinian-led movement for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel and works to silence critics of Israeli policies in Palestine.

“No matter how eloquent your speech and how crafty your words, the audience you will face at UCLA will not be able to take them too seriously in light of your recent decision to become a leading propagandist for the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement,” Judea Pearl, a UCLA professor and president of the pro-Israel Daniel Pearl Foundation, wrote in an open letter to West in Jewish Journal.

But Todd Samuel Presner, director of the Center for Jewish Studies, rejected the attacks and affirmed that the invitation to West would not be withdrawn.

In an article in Jewish Journal, Presner took issue with some of West’s views and affirmed that neither he nor his center supports the academic and cultural boycott of Israel.

on Twitter

“At the same time, the center does not apply a political litmus test to potential speakers, faculty, students or members of the general public,” Presner wrote. “At a university committed to academic freedom, we do not insist that our speaker’s views be aligned with our own.”

Presner also noted West’s long engagement with the work of Heschel, a leading twentieth century American Jewish philosopher.

Both Presner and West have recently canceled appearances at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign over its firing of Steven Salaita.

Fabricated quote

Presner also points out an apparently fabricated quote that has been used to attack West.

“The Israeli occupation of my Palestinian brothers and sisters is a crime against humanity,” The Times of Trenton claimed West said at a Princeton panel where he endorsed divestment, “They are killing hundreds daily – but where are the voices?”

“To the best of my knowledge, the claim appears to be invented by Kevin Cheng, a reporter who covered West’s participation in the 8 April 2015 event,” Presner writes.

Presner points to a video of the panel at which “West speaks of his ‘moral outrage’ against what he sees to be ‘a crime against humanity,’ referencing the deaths of 500 children during the fifty-day Israel-Gaza conflict of 2014.”

“Yes, this is highly impassioned language, but the facts are not, according to many credible accounts, inaccurate,” Presner states.

The false claim that West accused Israel of killing hundreds daily – and Dyson’s hit piece – were both cited in another Jewish Journal article denouncing UCLA’s invitation to the professor.

Cornel West, Princeton Professors Support Divestment

At about 2:00 into the video of the Princeton panel, West says: “The Israeli occupation, the vicious Israeli occupation of my Palestinian brothers and sisters, for me, is a crime against humanity. Killing two thousand folk within fifty days, 500 babies. Something is not just wrong, but where are the voices?”

The panel, organized by Princeton Divests, also featured Princeton professors Robert Tignor, Molly Greene and Max Weiss, alumnus and anti-apartheid campaigner Larry Hamm and Goliath author Max Blumenthal.

“Neither saint nor prophet”

“I am neither a saint nor prophet, but I am a Jesus-loving free Black man in a great tradition who intends to be faithful unto death in telling the truth and bearing witness to justice,” West says in his Facebook posting.

“I am not beholden to any administration, political party, TV channel or financial sponsor because loving suffering and struggling peoples is my point of reference. Deep integrity must trump cheap popularity. Nothing will stop or distract my work and witness, even as I learn from others and try not to hurt others.”


Thursday, April 23, 2015

Three asylum-seekers who left Israel were killed by ISIS in Libya

from mondoweiss
Middle East Philip Weiss on April 22

Three African asylum seekers who left Israel were among those killed by ISIS in Libya on Sunday, the Hotline for Refugees and Migrants said yesterday. Reports suggest that the asylum seekers were urged to leave Israel by the Israeli government– “coerced,” by one account.


The Hotline for Refugees and Migrants reported on Tuesday that three asylum seekers who left Israel for a third country over the past year have been executed by the Islamic State in Libya. According to the report, the victims were identified by family members and friends.

Ilan Lior of Haaretz spoke to a relative of “T,” the man in the photograph.

“He had been in Israel since the end of 2007. He decided to go back after the [Israeli] Ministry of Interior told him he would be better off.”

According to Mesi, T. “went back to Uganda or Rwanda – I think Rwanda – where they are not accepted. From there he went on to Sudan, and from Sudan to Libya.” She said that he was not able to remain in Libya, and tried to reach Europe by boat. “I understood that the boat was returned to Libya,” she said, “where they were arrested. Rumors have it that the extreme Islamic group snatched them from the jail itself.”

Elisabeth Tsurkov says the asylum-seekers were coerced to leave and she reports virulent racist comments by Israelis on the plight of these three men.

Racist Israelis on Facebook cheer the death of asylum-seekers who were coerced to leave Israel by threat of prolonged detention….

Some Israelis on Facebook rejoiced at the news (these responses were curated by the Israeli Facebook page “Racists Depress Me”).

Responses from right-to-left, top-to-bottom, punctuation added for clarity:

Etzion Shchori: Good news. Now we understand how to deal with the problem, bring here ISIS and they will take of the Eritreans and Palestinians

Amit Zohar: I would send all the Sudanese including Eritreans to ISIS now even in some deal with ISIS

Amit Sabag: I don’t understand why all of you are mad ISIS just euthanized them they would have died of AIDS anyway at some point

Moshe Vinokor: The infiltrators are a cancer [echoing the statement made by Israeli member of Knesset, Miri Regev] with a smell of sewage.

Aviv Elfassi: LOLLLLL they deserved it

Eti Salem: let them kill all of them, this is not a problem of Israel

Max Esterkin: Either way most of the Eritreans in this country are rapists or criminals [echoing statements made former Israeli Minister of Interior, Eli Yishai, and several other Israeli politicians] this is not a big loss.

Barel Cohen: One less is better [comment received 11 likes]

Batel Abarjil – If ISIS wants we can send them a lot more we have so many of these work migrants [echoing lies by the Israeli government, including the Prime Minister, that people escaping genocide, ethnic cleansing and slavery in Sudan and Eritrea are not refugees] except hurting our economy and drinking alcohol and running wild and taking over Neve Shaanan [neighrhood in south Tel Aviv where many asylum-seekers reside] they don’t contribute anything. I want to be a migrant in the US too. We just can’t [keep them here] we kick them out to their fucked mother [2 likes]

Mor Hajaj: Let ISIS come take all the Eritreans left in Israel ..
They have nothing to do with Israel ..They should hang them too .
We should have a law here that allows to massacre infiltrators :) [2 likes]

Avi Swisa: It’s good, it’s ISIS

Revital Bar-El: Now there’s a real solution to the infiltrators.

Naor Elmalich: Disgusting and ugly leftists when the Jewssss are killed and their blood is spilled like water you don’t jump and protest like this. You should be returned to Poland and Germany you deserve to be burned and slaughtered just like ISIS slaughters people, This is how you should be deal with enemies of Israelll

Shosh Bashiri: Let them all die Amen!!Our pain over our soldiers is great, no forgiveness.
Leroy Kaufman: To all the Capo children of Holocaust survivors miserable whores may your names be erased [addresses Leftists] Europe doesn’t interest anyone [how asylum-seekers are treated better there] Hitler didn’t finish the job you are the cancer of the world anddddd Israel didn’t transfer the infiltrators to Libya, they just went to Europe to make the lives of Europeans because in Israel they are border criminals, another lie of the Capo [that they’re refugees].
Micha Avitan: Let us hope for more [death], may their names and memory be erased

Rachel Levi: You can mark a thousand more with a circle they all look the same.

Michael Goman: It’s a shame [ISIS] doesn’t catch them before they reach Israel

- See more at:

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

IMPORTANT UPDATE: Haneen Zoabi talk at NYU Friday

NYU Students for Justice in Palestine shared their event.
21 hrs ·
IMPORTANT UPDATE: Because of the huge interest in this event, we have moved it to a new location! Please join us on Friday in NYU's Global Center for Spiritual and Academic Life, at 238 Thompson Street, Room C95 (bottom level auditorium) and bring a friend! Looking forward to seeing you all then.

Israeli Racism and Apartheid: An Insider's View with Haneen Zoabi, MK
Friday at 7:30pm
NYU- Global Center for Academic and Spiritual Life, 238 Thompson Street, Room C95
466 people are going

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Liberals’ Attacks on Cornel West Expose Their Political Bankruptcy

from Counterpunch
APRIL 21, 2015

Ignoring the Political for the Personal

In her 1987 autobiography, Assata Shakur characterized liberalism as a politically and morally bankrupt ideology, writing

I have never really understood exactly what a ‘liberal’ is, since I have heard ‘liberals’ express every conceivable opinion on every conceivable subject. As far as I can tell, you have the extreme right, who are fascist racist capitalist dogs like Ronald Reagan, who come right out and let you know where they’re coming from. And on the opposite end, you have the left, who are supposed to be committed to justice, equality, and human rights. And somewhere between those two points is the liberal.

As far as I’m concerned, ‘liberal’ is the most meaningless word in the dictionary.

Liberals’ constant attacks on Cornel West—one of the most important leaders in the US anti-racist, anti-imperialist, and economic, social, and environmental justice movements of today—serve as a reminder as to just how accurate Assata was in her assessment, made almost three decades ago. The Democratic commentariat seem to take pleasure in heaping scorn on the principled iconoclast, never failing to include as a header image on their articles a photo of the professor scowling, in a cheap attempt to portray the amiable, peace-seeking public intellectual as angry and impetuous.

In the latest of such shameless attacks, MSNBC analyst and avowed Obama defender Michael Eric Dyson published a 9,600-word article excoriating Dr. West. Instead of attacking white supremacy, the Georgetown University professor invested a great deal of time and energy in carrying out a public attack on one of the few leaders on the contemporary American Left.

Misrepresenting Obama

In a parenthetical statement in the essay, Dyson recalls a private discussion he had with Obama in the White House. Later on, he writes that, “Throughout his presidency I have offered what I consider principled support and sustained criticism of Obama,” and states he has “expressed love for Obama and criticized him for not always loving us back.” A quick look at the White House visitor records helps paint a picture of this cozy relationship.

Dyson’s affection for Obama certainly shines through the work; even the scantest of criticisms is hard to come by. In perhaps the most ludicrous, topsy-turvy moment in the extended work, Dyson claims “Obama talks right … but veers left public policy,” whereas “West, on the other hand, talks left but thinks right.” In the real world, the exact contrary is true: Obama talks center-right and veers decidedly right on policy. Obama is and has always been a conservative. The Obama the Conservative project meticulously detailed his right-wing policies for years.

The evidence overwhelmingly shows that Cornel West is absolutely correct in his insistence that Obama “posed as a progressive and turned out to be counterfeit. We ended up with a Wall Street presidency, a drone presidency.” This presidency is also built upon the expansion of murderous imperialism in the Middle East, upon the adoption of neoliberal trade agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) (often described as “NAFTA on steroids”), upon the mass deportation and inhumane and illegal internment of millions of Latin@ immigrants and refugees, upon the privatization of prisons, upon the McCarthyist crackdown on whistleblowers, and more.

According to Dyson, West “derides” Obama as a “neoliberal opportunist.” This is not derision. This is an objective fact. Obama is a neoliberal through and through. He has made it his singular mission to pass the TPP and gut regulatory and labor laws, using secretive, anti-democratic methods in order to do so.

In the words of Chris Hedges:

The Democratic Party in Europe would be a far-right party. It’s pro-war, it’s anti-union, it’s anti-civil liberties. I mean, Obama’s assault on civil liberties is worse than Bush. It’s an enemy of the press. It’s used the Espionage Act to shut down whistle-blowers, which are the lifeblood of a free press. It has assassinated American citizens. I mean, at what point do you say enough?

Obama’s actions are what matter, not his rhetoric. Dyson concedes this, averring that it “is a sad truth that most politicians are serial rhetorical lovers and promiscuous ideological mates.” And, yet, Dyson dabbles mostly in rhetoric, utterly failing to engage in these serious political concerns.

In the overture to the protracted piece, Dyson claims he is “just as critical of the president as” West, yet proof of such an assertion is certainly hard to come by—and he spends the next several thousand words detailing why exactly the opposite is true.

Defending Corporate Civil Rights Figures

While shielding Obama from West’s criticisms, Dyson elevates corporate civil rights figures Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson, among others. The two men’s names appear constantly (Sharpton 16 times and Jackson eight).

Black Agenda Report’s Glen Ford describes Al Sharpton as “a crook who is always for sale,” with strident “amorality and infinite capacity for corruption.” Sharpton, Ford says, is a “celebrity locked in the embrace of the rich and powerful.”

Sharpton’s ostensible civil rights organization the National Action Network is sponsored by the world’s largest corporations, including Walmart, PepsiCo, McDonald’s, AT&T, Verizon, and more. He clearly seeks real, systemic change and justice with those kinds of progressive backers.

Jackson is a reactionary pro-imperialist proponent of “black capitalism” who destroyed the Rainbow Coalition, co-opting its legacy as an internationalist, multi-cultural revolutionary organization created by the socialist Black Panthers and turning it into a neoliberal nationalist “coalition.”

Young black Americans recognize that Sharpton and Jackson are not fighters for liberation. When the two reactionary public figures tried to exploit the Black Lives Matter uprisings in Ferguson and elsewhere, they were booed off stage. Cornel West, however, unlike these corrupt corporate celebrities, has been at the forefront of the Black Lives Matter movement, getting arrested at demonstrations, constantly attending and speaking at rallies, tirelessly working from the bottom up, in true grassroots fashion.

Dyson essentially writes off the import of these actions as mere “highly staged and camera-ready gestures.” In Dyson’s view, West “hungers for the studio, and conspicuously so.” It is implied that his civil disobedience is part of a façade for attention. Dyson even admits he, at least for a time, entertained the preposterous notion that West is motivated to do so because he is “consumed with jealousy of Obama” and firmly maintains that “West’s deep loathing of Obama draws on some profoundly personal energy that is ultimately irrational.” In a similarly superficial moment, Dyson speculates that West may “hate” Obama because he was unable to get a ticket to the president’s inauguration.

For starters, the idea that West loathes Obama is incredibly misguided. West is the polar opposite of a hate-filled person; he constantly speaks of love, and firmly opposes Obama’s reactionary policies, not his being. In a 2014 interview on Democracy Now, West in fact remarked of Obama, “when I say when I love the brother, it means we have to tell the truth about him.”

The fact that West does not hold any kind of deep hatred of Obama aside, this is the kind of puerile argument liberals regularly construct to defend their untenable positions. They personalize critiques of political figures, turning political argumentation into apolitical beauty pageants that are fueled on “irrational personal energy,” not substantive material concerns about existing systems of oppression.

Ignoring the Political for the Personal

Dyson makes no serious critiques of West’s actual political positions. His entire essay reads primarily as a very long-winded ad hominem (which is all the more ironic considering Dyson accuses West of “biting our ears with personal attacks”). Dyson focuses almost entirely on how West speaks and presents himself, but largely glosses over West’s political criticisms of society.

He harshly writes “West is a scold, a curmudgeonly and bitter critic who has grown long in the tooth but sharp in the tongue when lashing one-time colleagues and allies,” yet fails to enunciate why this is purportedly the case. He furthermore claims West has become “an unintentional caricature of his identity” and accuses the scholar of “delusion and exegetical corruption.”

Borrowing from what one might hear in a high school breakup scene in a John Hughes film, Dyson pillories West for being “crushed that Obama had ideologically cheated on him”—as if it were a petty thing to be frustrated at a president who campaigned on promises of progressive “change” but turned out to be just another neoliberal warmonger.

Much of the article is devoted to dissecting West’s characterization of himself as a prophet, which one gets the impression is overstated. Dyson also writes extensively about “West’s diminished scholarly output” and what he feels to be a “paucity of serious and fresh intellectual work,” then proceeding to conflate these criticisms with West’s activism and criticisms of the status quo, implying the latter are equally “vain and unimaginative.” In a problematic selective reading of West’s work, Dyson accuses the professor of propagating a “conservative view of ghetto culture as deeply pathological, and as the chief source of the problems that beset African Americans.” Again, however, he does not spend a single sentence acknowledging West’s politics. No mention whatsoever is made of West’s work on Marxism, nor is his involvement with the Democratic Socialists of America ever brought up.

Absent from the essay—in spite of its prolixity—is any attempt to engage with, let alone refute, West’s critiques of Obama and the US political establishment. Dyson does raise warranted concerns about gaps in West’s scholarship, noting, for instance, that the professor failed to clearly define what exactly makes a person a prophet, yet, to a large extent, Dyson avoids the political. He illustrates the liberal tendency to emphasize that the personal is political to such a degree that the non-personal, systemic political is ignored.

Dyson even goes so far as to write off West’s critiques of Obama as “a species of antipathy that no political difference could ever explain.” Instead of engaging in the political, Dyson reduces it to a mere “shrill and manic dispute.” He classifies West’s denunciation of Obama as the sign of “the loss of a brilliant black mind,” as if criticizing a president who won an election thanks to the financial backing of some of the world’s most powerful banks and corporations were only something a “maniac” would do.

In a bout of full liberalism, Dyson concludes the essay averring that West’s problem ultimately lies with his own self, not with any politician or political system. This is the kind of vacuous political perspective that dominates the intelligentsia today.

One wishes that Dyson would get as worked up about the victims of Obama’s drone war, which Chomsky calls “the most extreme terrorist campaign of modern times”; about Obama’s steadfast support for Israel during its summer 2014 massacre of over 2,300 Gazans, in which itintentionally targeted civilians; or about Obama’s mass deportations of over two million people—to name just a few of his positively reactionary policies—as he is about West’s supposed hatred of Obama.

The fact of the matter is West’s heated criticisms of Obama are the logical result of a morally consistent human being seeing the horrors for which the Obama administration has been responsible. The problem does not lie with West’s admittedly provocative denunciations of Obama, but rather with the fact that more self-identifying progressives are not standing up for their values and opposing their government’s obscene crimes.

Siding with Larry Summers, the ‘Toxic Colonialist’

In his criticisms of West, it should be pointed out that Dyson favorably cites neoliberal economist Lawrence Summers, former Chief Economist at the World Bank and President of Harvard University, a figure who has occupied many important positions in the Clinton and Obama administrations and has a long history frequenting the corporate elevator and revolving doors between powerful economic and political institutions, including hedge funds like D. E. Shaw & Co. Summers, who has come under attack for blatant misogyny, is the kind of liberal who helped former Soviet countries privatize their economies—leading to enormous increases in poverty—and oversaw the deregulation of the US financial system.

Summers, on whose authority Dyson relies without trepidation, signed an internal World Bank memo in 1991 that called for Western countries to dump toxic waste in the Global South, because, in his view, from a capitalist economics perspective, the value of the lives of people in Africa, Asia, and more is less than the value of the lives of people in North America and Europe. Summers’ defense of “toxic colonialism” was of little importance to liberals like Obama himself, who relied on the former World Bank economist as the White House United States National Economic Council and the principle economic decision-maker during the Great Recession.

The ultimate irony lies in the sharp contrast between Summers’ belief that (presumably white) Western lives are more valuable than black and brown ones in the so-called Third World and Cornel West’s antithetical adamant insistence that all lives are equal. In his condemnation of killer drone strikes, West often implores listeners to consider whether they truly do consider all lives to be equal, whether they truly care about the young Pakistani children killed in Obama’s drone program—which Amnesty International has accused of war crimes.

Whitewashing MLK

As is common among the liberal intelligentsia, Dyson also exploits the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. in order to defend and lionize the war criminal (according to Amnesty International) Obama.

The irony is that many of the criticisms Dyson levies against West were equally true for MLK—a “prophetic” leader who, like West, was not a “moderate” toer of the party line, but was rather a radical, a relentless critic of not just racism but also of imperialism and capitalism, someone who alienated many supposed allies in his indefatigable and intersectional quest for justice.

Dyson predictably whitewashes MLK’s radical legacy, claiming the civil rights icon “was arguably more beneficial to the folk he loved when he swayed power with his influence and vision”—that is to say, when he worked within the system and did not step on the toes of the powerful.

Throwing Progressive Leaders Under the Bus

Do West’s claims of prophethood go overboard? Yes. Does Dyson exaggerate these claims? Also yes. Is Cornel West immune from criticism? Absolutely not. He is not perfect. And I concur with Dyson; he is not a prophet.

Yet, by siding with a criminal presidential administration over one of the leading purveyors of justice in the world today, figures like Michael Eric Dyson demonstrate, once again, how politically and morally bankrupt liberalism is.

The MSNBC analyst’s essay “The Ghost of Cornel West” exemplifies what is precisely the problem with liberals. They will side (and gleefully, at that) with neoliberal leaders who consider the lives of people in the Global South less valuable than those of Westerners, who wage genocidal wars, and who destroy economies with structural adjustment programs and odious debt, over radical justice-seekers because, in their myopic, ahistorical, and frankly ignorant view, it is “arguably more beneficial” to do so.

Liberals should be much more concerned about the innumerable ghosts of the victims of their leader’s policies than they are about the ghost of one of his most strident critics.

Cornel West is a hero—absolutely, unequivocally a hero. And he is one of the few heroes the Left has today. Unfortunately, that has never stopped liberals from throwing them under the bus.

Ben Norton is a freelance writer and journalist. His website can be found at

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Israeli Racism and Apartheid: An Insider's View A Talk with Parliament Member Haneen Zoabi

Friday, April 24 at 8pm in Kimmel Room 804

NYU Students for Justice in Palestine is honored to host Haneen Zoabi for a discussion about Israeli Apartheid from the perspective of Palestinian citizens of Israel.

Haneen Zoabi MK, a Palestinian citizen of Israel and a feminist parliamentarian. She was first elected to Israel’s parliament as a Balad party representative in 2009, and rose to international prominence following her participation in the 2010 Freedom Flotilla to Gaza. She is the first woman to represent a Palestinian party in Israel, and is one of the state’s most outspoken and eloquent critics of Zionism and of Israeli Apartheid.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

When it comes to untrustworthiness, the U.S. trumps Iran

from mondoweiss
Eoin Higgins on April 15
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The treaty of Canandaigua, in 1794, was signed between the US government and six Indian nations. The US government has violated almost every term in the deal. The treaty of Canandaigua, in 1794, was signed between the US government and six Indian nations. The US government has violated almost every term in the deal.

The news of a framework for an impending deal between the P5+1 and Iran over the latter’s nuclear program has been met in the United States media with skepticism. Leading pundits of the right say with relative uniformity that trusting Iran to keep its word on nukes after sanctions have been lifted is foolish, while those on the American “left” couch their optimism about the deal with warnings about Iran’s inherent untrustworthiness. In short, the American mainstream punditry is rather united in warning that Iran cannot be trusted to uphold its end of a deal.

It’s true that one of the major parties to the agreement should not under any circumstances be trusted when dealing with issues relating to international law. This nation has broken treaties with impunity in the past. This nation has funneled arms and funding to terrorists. This nation, which should not be trusted, does not follow the same international laws and conventions that it demands others do. This nation, of course, is the United States.

The US has never been too concerned with upholding treaties or laws when its interests have been antithetical to them. Whether the treaties are, for example, with the Native American nations or weapons agreements with the international community, the US regularly disregards the agreements it finds problematic to its geopolitical aims. The rationale has changed over the years- from manifest destiny to the Global War on Terror- but the end result is the same. Again and again, the US has proven it will violate law and treaties if it deems fit.

For a good example of the duplicity of the US on the world stage, Iran need look no farther than across its western border, to Iraq. Iraq is a good example for two reasons. One, US involvement in the country, especially over the past two decades s, shows the ugliest side of the US’s interactions with countries it regards as not deserving the protections afforded by international law (read: not strong enough to fight back). Two, it would encompass the rest of the post if I were to attempt to list all the violations of international law and treaties by the United States.

The US pillaging of Iraq is well known at this point. Here is an abridged list of the crimes over the years perpetrated there by the US:
• Likely involved in coup of 1963 against Abd al-Karim Qasim
• Slaughtered retreating army forces after repelling them from Kuwait
• Invaded in 2003 without support from international community
• Invaded in 2003 after Iraq allowed in inspectors to inspect possible WMDs- when nothing was found, US invaded anyway (this is likely the most damning in the context of this post)
• Used depleted uranium during daily bombing sorties on civilian population from 1992-2003
• Violated Geneva Conventions in treatment of prisoners in Abu Ghraib
• Operated black sites in Iraq for torture and murder of prisoners of war during insurgency

You get the picture. Given the impossibility of trusting a nation with a record like the US, it’s a miracle Iran has engaged in negotiations, period. Given the history of the US in Iraq, why should Iran trust that things would be any different for them? After all- the US media and chattering class has, as usual, conveniently forgotten this little historical tidbit- the US is the same nation that engineered the Iranian coup of 1953, deposing Iran’s Prime Minister and restoring the sadistic Shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, to the throne.

When one looks at the actions of the US on the international stage, it’s obvious that the world’s lone superpower is the least trustworthy of the parties negotiating in Lausanne, Switzerland. A history of consistency in doing whatever it wishes with no consequences for violations of international norms and laws has created an unstable id at the center of American foreign policy. For the US punditry to harangue Iran for its alleged untrustworthiness and future imagined violations of the treaty being negotiated is laughable. The US can’t trust Iran? No. Iran can’t trust the US.

- See more at:

Teju Cole: Slow violence, cold violence – Teju Cole on East Jerusalem

Not all violence is hot. There’s cold violence too, which takes its time and finally gets its way. Children going to school and coming home are exposed to it. Fathers and mothers listen to politicians on television calling for their extermination. Grandmothers have no expectation that even their aged bodies are safe: any young man may lay a hand on them with no consequence. The police could arrive at night and drag a family out into the street. Putting a people into deep uncertainty about the fundamentals of life, over years and decades, is a form of cold violence. Through an accumulation of laws rather than by military means, a particular misery is intensified and entrenched. This slow violence, this cold violence, no less than the other kind, ought to be looked at and understood.

Near the slopes of Mount Scopus in East Jerusalem is the neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah. Most of the people who live here are Palestinian Arabs, and the area itself has an ancient history that features both Jews and Arabs. The Palestinians of East Jerusalem are in a special legal category under modern Israeli law. Most of them are not Israeli citizens, nor are they classified the same way as people in Gaza or the West Bank; they are permanent residents. There are old Palestinian families here, but in a neighbourhood like Sheikh Jarrah many of the people are refugees who were settled here after the nakba (“catastrophe”) of 1948. They left their original homes behind, fleeing places such as Haifa and Sarafand al-Amar, and they came to Sheikh Jarrah, which then became their home. Many of them were given houses constructed on a previously uninhabited parcel of land by the Jordanian government and by the UN Relief and Works Agency. East Jerusalem came under Israeli control in 1967, and since then, but at an increasing tempo in recent years, these families are being rendered homeless a second or third time.

There are many things about Palestine that are not easily seen from a distance. The beauty of the land, for instance, is not at all obvious. Scripture and travellers’ reports describe a harsh terrain of stone and rocks, a place in which it is difficult to find water or to shelter from the sun. Why would anyone want this land? But then you visit and you understand the attenuated intensity of what you see. You get the sense that there are no wasted gestures, that this is an economical landscape, and that there is great beauty in this economy. The sky is full of clouds that are like flecks of white paint. The olive trees, the leaves of which have silvered undersides, are like an apparition. And even the stones and rocks speak of history, of deep time, and of the consolation that comes with all old places. This is a land of tombs, mountains and mysterious valleys. All this one can only really see at close range.

Another thing one sees, obscured by distance but vivid up close, is that the Israeli oppression of Palestinian people is not necessarily – or at least not always – as crude as western media can make it seem. It is in fact extremely refined, and involves a dizzying assemblage of laws and bylaws, contracts, ancient documents, force, amendments, customs, religion, conventions and sudden irrational moves, all mixed together and imposed with the greatest care.

The impression this insistence on legality confers, from the Israeli side, is of an infinitely patient due process that will eventually pacify the enemy and guarantee security. The reality, from the Palestinian side, is of a suffocating viciousness. The fate of Palestinian Arabs since the nakba has been to be scattered and oppressed by different means: in the West Bank, in Gaza, inside the 1948 borders, in Jerusalem, in refugee camps abroad, in Jordan, in the distant diaspora. In all these places, Palestinians experience restrictions on their freedom and on their movement. To be Palestinian is to be hemmed in. Much of this is done by brute military force from the Israeli Defence Forces – killing for which no later accounting is possible – or on an individual basis in the secret chambers of the Shin Bet. But a lot of it is done according to Israeli law, argued in and approved by Israeli courts, and technically legal, even when the laws in question are bad laws and in clear contravention of international standards and conventions.

The permanent residency of a Palestinian in East Jerusalem is anything but permanent

The reality is that, as a Palestinian Arab, in order to defend yourself against the persecution you face, not only do you have to be an expert in Israeli law, you also have to be a Jewish Israeli and have the force of the Israeli state as your guarantor. You have to be what you are not, what it is not possible for you to be, in order not to be slowly strangled by the laws arrayed against you. In Israel, there is no pretence that the opposing parties in these cases are equal before the law; or, rather, such a pretence exists, but no one on either side takes it seriously. This has certainly been the reality for the Palestinian families living in Sheikh Jarrah whose homes, built mostly in 1956, inhabited by three or four generations of people, are being taken from them by legal means.

As in other neighbourhoods in East Jerusalem – Har Homa, the Old City, Mount Scopus, Jaffa Gate – there is a policy at work in Sheikh Jarrah. This policy is two-fold. The first is the systematic removal of Palestinian Arabs, either by banishing individuals on the basis of paperwork, or by taking over or destroying their homes by court order. Thousands of people have had their residency revoked on a variety of flimsy pretexts: time spent living abroad, time spent living elsewhere in occupied Palestine, and so on. The permanent residency of a Palestinian in East Jerusalem is anything but permanent, and once it is revoked, is almost impossible to recover.

The second aspect of the policy is the systematic increase of the Jewish populations of these neighbourhoods. This latter goal is driven both by national and municipal legislation (under the official rubric of “demographic balance”) and is sponsored in part by wealthy Zionist activists who, unlike some of their defenders in the western world, are proud to embrace the word “Zionist”. However, it is not the wealthy Zionists who move into these homes or claim these lands: it is ideologically and religiously extreme Israeli Jews, some of whom are poor Jewish immigrants to the state of Israel. And when they move in – when they raise the Israeli flag over a house that, until yesterday, was someone else’s ancestral home, or when they begin new constructions on the rubble of other people’s homes – they act as anyone would who was above the law: callously, unfeelingly, unconcerned about the humiliation of their neighbours. This two-fold policy, of pushing out Palestinian Arabs and filling the land with Israeli Jews, is recognised by all the parties involved. And for such a policy, the term “ethnic cleansing” is not too strong: it is in fact the only accurate description.

Each Palestinian family that is evicted in Sheikh Jarrah is evicted for different reasons. But the fundamental principle at work is usually similar: an activist Jewish organisation makes a claim that the land on which the house was built was in Jewish hands before 1948. There is sometimes paperwork that supports this claim (there is a lot of citation of 19th-century Ottoman land law), and sometimes the paperwork is forged, but the court will hear and, through eccentric interpretations of these old laws, often agree to the claim. The violence this legality contains is precisely that no Israeli court will hear a corresponding claim from a Palestinian family. What Israeli law supports, de facto, is the right of return for Jews into East Jerusalem. What it cannot countenance is the right of return of Palestinians into the innumerable towns, villages and neighbourhoods all over Palestine, from which war, violence and law have expelled them.

Teju Cole Teju Cole. Photograph: Ulf Andersen/Getty Images
History moves at great speed, as does politics, and Zionists understand this. The pressure to continue the ethnic cleansing of East Jerusalem is already met with pressure from the other side to stop this clear violation of international norms. So Zionist lawyers and lawmakers move with corresponding speed, making new laws, pushing through new interpretations, all in order to ethnically cleanse the land of Palestinian presence. And though Palestinians make their own case and though many young Jews, beginning to wake up to the crimes of their nation, have marched in support of the families evicted or under threat in Sheikh Jarrah – the law and its innovative interpretations evolve at a speed that makes self-defence all but impossible.

This cannot go on. The example of Sheikh Jarrah, the cold violence of it, is echoed all over Palestine. Side by side with this cold violence is, of course, the hot violence that dominates the news: Israel’s periodic wars on Gaza, its blockades on places such as Nablus, the random unanswerable acts of murder in places such as Hebron. In no sane future of humanity should the deaths of hundreds of children continue to be accounted collateral damage, as Israel did in the summer of 2014.

In the world’s assessment of the situation in Palestine, in coming to understand why the Palestinian situation is urgent, the viciousness of law must be taken as seriously as the cruelties of war. As in other instances in which world opinion forced a large-scale systemic oppression to come to an end, we must begin by calling things by their proper names. Israel uses an extremely complex legal and bureaucratic apparatus to dispossess Palestinians of their land, hoping perhaps to forestall accusations of a brutal land grab. No one is fooled by this. Nor is anyone fooled by the accusation, common to many of Israel’s defenders, that any criticism of Israeli policies amounts to antisemitism. The historical suffering of Jewish people is real, but it is no less real than, and does not in any way justify, the present oppression of Palestinians by Israeli Jews.

A neighbourhood like Sheikh Jarrah is an x-ray of Israel at the present moment: a limited view showing a single set of features, but significant to the entire body politic. The case that is being made, and that must continue to be made to all people of conscience, is that Israel’s occupation of Palestine is criminal. This case should also include the argument that the proliferation of bad laws by the legislature and courts of Israel is itself antisemitic in effect, to the extent that they fuel the ancient calumnies against Jewish people. Nothing can justify either antisemitism or the racist persecution of Arabs, and the current use of the law in Israel is a part of the grave ongoing offence to the human dignity of both Palestinians and Jews.

• Teju Cole’s books include Open City. He is a contributor to Letters to Palestine: Writers Respond to War and Occupation, edited by Vijay Prashad (Verso).



Religious Fanaticism is a Huge Factor in American's Support for Israel
A new poll from Bloomberg Politics contains a finding that, if you really think about it, is quite remarkable:

Almost half of all Americans want to support Israel even if its interests diverge from the interests of their own country. Only a minority of Americans (47 percent) say that their country should pursue their own interests over supporting Israel’s when the two choices collide. It’s the ultimate violation of George Washington’s 1796 Farewell Address warning that “nothing is more essential than that permanent, inveterate antipathies against particular nations, and passionate attachments for others, should be excluded. … The nation which indulges towards another a habitual hatred or a habitual fondness is in some degree a slave.”

It is inconceivable that a substantial portion of Americans would want to support any other foreign country even where doing so was contrary to U.S. interests. Only Israel commands anything near that level of devoted, self-sacrificing fervor on the part of Americans. So it’s certainly worth asking what accounts for this bizarre aspect of American public opinion.

The answer should make everyone quite uncomfortable: it’s religious fanaticism. The U.S. media loves to mock adversary nations, especially Muslim ones, for being driven by religious extremism, but that is undeniably a major factor, arguably the most significant one, in explaining fervent support for Israel among the American populace. In reporting its poll findings, Bloomberg observed:

Religion appears to play an important role in shaping the numbers. Born-again Christians are more likely than overall poll respondents, 58 percent to 35 percent, to back Israel regardless of U.S. interests. Americans with no religious affiliation were the least likely to feel this way, at 26 percent.

The primary reason evangelical Christians in the U.S. are so devoted to Israel is simple: their radical religious dogma teaches them that God demands this. In 2004, Pat Robertson delivered a speech entitled “Why Evangelical Christians Support Israel” and said: “evangelical Christians support Israel because we believe that the words of Moses and the ancient prophets of Israel were inspired by God,” and “we believe that the emergence of a Jewish state in the land promised by God to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob was ordained by God.” He added that “God’s chosen people” — Jews — have an obligation to God to fight against “Muslim vandals” so that Israel remains united in their hands:

If God’s chosen people turn over to Allah control of their most sacred sites-if they surrender to Muslim vandals the tombs of Rachel, of Joseph, of the Patriarchs, of the ancient prophets-if they believe their claim to the Holy Land comes only from Lord Balfour of England and the ever fickle United Nations rather than the promises of Almighty God-then in that event, Islam will have won the battle. Throughout the Muslim world the message will go forth-“Allah is greater than Jehovah.” The promises of Jehovah to the Jews are meaningless.

That is the ugly religious extremism about Israel heard over and over in America’s largest evangelical churches. The wildly popular “dispensationalist” sect is driven by the dogmatic belief that a unified Israel in the hands of the Jews is a prerequisite for Armageddon or the Rapture and the return of Jesus: a belief shared not by thousands but millions of Americans. As the evangelical Robert Nicholson put it in a nuanced and thoughtful 2013 essay examining doctrinal differences among this group: “Evangelicals believe that God chose the biblical people of Israel as His vehicle for world redemption, an earthly agent through whom He would accomplish his grand plan for history.” The popular and influential pastor John Hagee put it simply: “We support Israel because all other nations were created by an act of men, but Israel was created by an act of God!”

It goes without saying that religious belief also plays a role in the support for Israel among American Jews. Indeed, neocons frequently link American Jewishness to support for Israel by arguing that no good American Jew should be a Democrat on the ground of the party’s supposed insufficient support for Israel (even as they accuse Israel critics of “anti-Semitism” for suggesting the exact same linkage as the one they themselves exploit). As a 2013 Pew poll found:

Most American Jews feel at least some emotional attachment to Israel, and many have visited the Jewish state. Four-in-ten believe Israel was given to the Jewish people by God, a belief that is held by roughly eight-in-ten Orthodox Jews.

Jewish religious extremism is directly linked to support for Israel, as The Forward noted: “Among Jews, AIPAC’s support also seems to be strongest among Orthodox Jews.” The New York Times recently reported the link between Jewish activism and Israel support: “Republicans … are more fervently pro-Israel than ever” partially due to “a surge in donations” from what J Street calls “a small group of very wealthy Jewish-Americans” such as Sheldon Adelson.

But Jews compose only 1.4 percent of the American population, which still serves as a limit on that factor. (By contrast, 82 percent of Americans identify as Christian and “Thirty-seven percent of all Christians describe themselves as born-again or evangelical”). Moreover, American Jews have long been divided on the importance of Israel to their political perspective, and there is erosion of this support particularly among younger American Jews. Indeed, evangelical Christians are far more steadfast in their support for Israel than American Jews, as Bloomberg found: “For many Democrats, even Jewish ones, the issue doesn’t have the same purchase.” The religious-driven support of evangelicals — and the cynical alliance between the two religious factions — is crucial for sustaining this support.
It’s important not to oversimplify the role religious fanaticism plays. There are, to be sure, other factors accounting for this bizarre American support for Israel even when it’s at the expense of their own country. Sustained antipathy toward Muslims in the post-9/11 era has been effectively exploited to generate this support. Americans have been taught for decades to view Israel as a “democracy” — an increasingly unsustainable proposition — and thus a natural political ally. Americans tend not to question or even debate policies that command bipartisan support, and unstinting devotion to Israel has been the ultimate bipartisan viewpoint for years. And, as David Mizner recently argued in Jacobin, Israel has long been a useful “proxy state” for the U.S. government’s desire to dominate the Middle East.

But there is no denying that religious extremism plays a very significant role in American attitudes toward Israel. Given its importance, this is a remarkably under-discussed phenomenon, mostly because American media figures are very comfortable maligning other countries as being driven by religious fanaticism while ignoring how much their own country is. To underscore how rarely this issue is discussed, consider that NPR’s political reporter Domenico Montanaro seemed shocked that support for Israel provoked wild crowd support during Ted Cruz’s presidential announcement speech to Liberty University:

Growing segments of US public alienated from Israel, survey shows

Submitted by Ali Abunimah on Thu, 04/16/2015 - 16:28

Hillary Clinton is trying to woo an America that is moving away from Israel. Will she follow?
Despite the high-profile launch of her presidential campaign last weekend – with a much commented upon video and logo – Hillary Clinton has as yet offered no detailed policy positions.

So it is perhaps significant that the only foreign countries she mentions in her official campaign bio are the ones that most obsess the Israel lobby.

As Secretary of State, her campaign website says, Clinton “built a coalition for tough new sanctions against Iran that brought them to the negotiating table and she brokered a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas that ended a war and protected Israel’s security.”

The fact that the situation for Palestinians in Gaza is less secure and more catastrophic than ever since Israel’s deadly assault last summer, in large part due to the policies pursued by the Obama administration which she served, does not rate a mention. Nor does her support for the catastrophic US invasion of Iraq.

Israel sharply divides US public

But if this is an indication that Clinton will pursue the usual hardline policies calculated to pander to Israel’s most extreme supporters, it is also a sign that she, like other mainstream US politicians, is moving away from large segments of the US public, particularly the base of her own Democratic Party.

This is illustrated in a poll from Bloomberg Politics, published Wednesday. Here are the key highlights:

Israel has become a deeply partisan issue for ordinary Americans as well as for politicians in Washington, a shift that may represent a watershed moment in foreign policy and carry implications for domestic politics after decades of general bipartisan consensus.

Republicans by a ratio of more than 2-to-1 say the US should support Israel even when its stances diverge with American interests, a new Bloomberg Politics poll finds. Democrats, by roughly the same ratio, say the opposite is true and that the US must pursue its own interests over Israel’s.

Further illustrating how sharply partisan the debate has become, Republicans say they feel more sympathetic to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu than to their own president, 67 percent to 16 percent, while Democrats are more sympathetic to President Barack Obama than to Israel’s prime minister, 76 percent to 9 percent.

The survey also highlights how differently the nuclear negotiations with Iran are seen between Republicans and Democrats.

Democrats, by a nearly 3-to-1 ratio, said they were more optimistic than pessimistic that a tentative deal with Iran announced this month will contain Iran’s ability to get nuclear weapons and thus make the world safer.

By a 2-to-1 margin, Republicans were more pessimistic than optimistic about the impacts of a deal. Majorities of Americans in both parties say any deal Obama makes with Iran should be subject to congressional approval, and that Iran is an unreliable negotiating partner because it is a religious theocracy.

Israel and the Christian right

The poll also shows, as Glenn Greenwald puts it at The Intercept, that “religious fanaticism is a huge factor in Americans’ support for Israel.”

Bloomberg Politics finds that “Born-again Christians are more likely than overall poll respondents, 58 percent to 35 percent, to back Israel regardless of US interests. Americans with no religious affiliation were the least likely to feel this way, at 26 percent.”

“The US media loves to mock adversary nations, especially Muslim ones, for being driven by religious extremism, but that is undeniably a major factor, arguably the most significant one, in explaining fervent support for Israel among the American populace,” Greenwald observes.

The poll also confirms that Israel is increasingly becoming a niche issue of the right: “62 percent of self-identified conservatives say supporting Israel is key, while that drops to 35 percent among moderates,” the poll states.

Leaving Israel behind

This is all in line with broader trends in recent years: an increasingly multicultural and younger America is moving to the left, while an older, whiter, more Christian America that is in demographic decline has been moving to the right.

What’s striking is that Hillary Clinton’s campaign launch video – featuring multiracial families, single moms and a gay couple about to get married – was calculated to appeal to the America that is increasingly alienated from Israel and the conservatives who love it.

The America Hillary Clinton is trying to woo is moving away from Israel. Will the presidential hopeful and the Democratic Party leadership follow? I wouldn’t bet on it any time soon, but the trends are hard to ignore.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

United States of Israel’ has compromised U.S. ‘sovereignty’ on Iran policy — Gideon Levy in D.C.

from mondoweiss 4/13/15

Gideon Levy is a dean of Israeli journalism, a longtime columnist for Haaretz, and on Friday he gave an impassioned speech at the National Press Club appealing to Americans to change a pro-Israel policy that goes against U.S. interests and has made Israel a “lost case.”

His bluntest words were over Israel’s interference in the Iran deal:

Let’s call it from now on the United States of Israel. Because many times when someone looks at the relations between Israel and the United States, one might ask, who is really the superpower between the two? And those questions become much more valid in the recent days when you see what is going on in Iran. And really I am not in a position to tell Americans what to feel… But would I be an American, I would really be embarrassed. When you see a title in Haaretz, in my newspaper, which says two days ago…”Israel to pressure Congress to thwart Iranian nuclear deal.” And an Israeli official says [to] Haaretz, that Israel will lobby the US Congress to pass legislation that would make it difficult or even impossible to approve a comprehensive deal with Iran– Can you imagine yourself if it was the opposite, if someone had written that the Americans are trying to act in the Israeli parliament to change its decisions? We are dealing now really with almost questions of sovereignty. We are dealing, needless to say –that no state in the world would have dared to do it, and no statesman in the world. And I will tell you frankly, It’s not Israel’s fault. Israel is doing whatever it can– it’s the one who enables it.

Levy spoke at an all-day conference on the Israel lobby organized by the Institute for Research/Middle East Policy and the Washington Report for Middle East Affairs. He said he had come to plead with the American public to take control of Israel/Palestine policy before all is lost.

The large crowd was silent as he spoke in desperation of a society that had lost all connection with the world:

We have to face reality, and reality is that there is no chance for a change from within the Israeli society. No way… The only hope is for an international intervention, and the only hope is from this place, from Washington, from the United States, from the EU. Only from there.

Because Israeli society is today by far too brainwashed. Life in Israel is by far too good. Israel is, let’s face, it a society which lives in denial, totally disconnected from reality. Would it be a private person, I would recommend either medication or hospitalization. Because people who lose connection to reality might be very dangerous either to themselves or to society. And the Israeli society lost connection with reality, it lost connection with the reality in its backyard, it totally lost connection with the international environment.

Really to believe that 5 million Jews know better than 6 billion people of the world? Really believe that 5 million Jews will be able to continue to live on their sword forever? Is the one example in history in which any country lived on its sword forever? Empires! Really believing that in the 21st century it is acceptable to ignore the international law in such a way, to ignore the international institutions and to rely only on the United States — and Micronesia.

Levy denounced the role of the Israel lobby in producing this mess.
[W]e are dealing with a corrupting friendship. If there wouldn’t be an Israel lobby, Israel would be a better place to live in, Israel would be a more just place. And I think that if it wouldn’t be the Israel lobby, the US would be a better place and a more democratic place. But it’s not for me to judge the American politics. Still by the end of the day we are dealing with an enigma. Nothing can explain it. Nothing can explain how administration after administration, legislators after legislators are going in the very same way which contradicts U.S. interest in so many cases, which contradicts international law, human rights, moral values, you name it. Can it be only this small group as powerful as it is, is it the full explanation? I doubt it but that’s for you to decide, not for us in Israel.

Levy said he thought at first the invitation– from conference organizers IRMEP and WRMEA– was from AIPAC, the premier Israel lobby group.

I said, That’s the chance of my life. I am going to come there to Washington and tell them, with friends like you, Israel does not need enemies.

But even though it wasn’t AIPAC, or even the Anti-Defamation League, the conference is so “crucial and so important,” Levy said, because it gives him hope that there will be change in the United States. “And we jump on any sign.”

He had jumped on the J Street opening in 2008. “Here it comes! But it didn’t come.” And when Obama was elected, Levy said he had cried in joy. “And it didn’t come.”

“Change will have to come here. In Israel– is a lost case, forget about it. Israeli society has surrounded itself with shields, with walls, not just physical walls but also mental walls.”

He said three principles allow Israelis to live easily with the brutal tyranny that is the occupation.

1, “We deeply believe we are the chosen people. Then we have the right to do what we want.”

2, Never in history has the occupier presented himself as the victim. And not only the victim– but the only victim around. (Here Levy brought down the house when he said that a day after Benjamin Netanyahu went to Paris and told all Jews to move to Israel, he said in Israel that Israel was living under an existential threat from an Iranian bomb. “I asked myself How can you dare call Jews to join this suicidal project wwhen the Iranians are going to bomb us?”)

3, Israelis have undertaken the “systematic dehumanization of the Palestinians.” And this allows Israelis to live with everything. Because the occupation does not involve questions of human rights.

“And if you scratch under the skin of almost every Israeli, you will find there, almost no one will treat the Palestinians as equal human beings like us.”

This set of three beliefs has allowed Israelis to live in peace with those ongoing crimes, for many years.

Levy first confronted the reality in the 1980s, accidentally, traveling into the occupation as a journalist and seeing that the real drama of his society was taking place there, in a criminal project just half an hour away from Israelis’ homes. “And we Israelis don’t want to know, and most of all do not care.”

Levy also touched on Jewish identity and Israeli exceptionalism.

I must be frank with you, I don’t know what are Jewish values. I know what are universal values. There are very clear universal values. And very very clear international law. International law is very important– except for Israel. Israel is a special case.

Because of the United States’ support, he said. And things there are only getting worse. His society is moving in a militaristic, religious direction. When Israel bombed Gaza last summer, the beaches in Tel Aviv were crowded as helicopters passed over on their way to rain destruction. And the newspapers and television did not show anything of what Palestinians were experiencing. When Levy called out the pilots in a Haaretz column for carrying out the murderous missions, he needed bodyguards. Till he found that they were settlers, who argued with them, and he dropped the detail because he felt safer without it.

Levy finished up by denouncing the two state solution.

I truly believe the two state solution is dead. I think that this train left the station, I deeply regret it but I believe that it left the station. I think all those who talk about the two state solution do so deliberately only to gain more time in order to base the occupation even deeper and deeper.

Needless to say, Levy’s riveting speech has not been picked up by mainstream media. I will be covering other great speeches at the conference in days to come. But note that Huwaida Arraf and Miko Peled also spoke on Levy’s panel.

- See more at:

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Netanyahu slips, Reveals reason for Opposition to Iran Deal

By Juan Cole | Apr. 7, 2015 |

From Informed Comment, Juan Cole's blog

US television news isn’t very good and it has clearly gotten worse over the past 20 years. In the aftermath of the Kerry-Zarif initial framework deal on nuclear energy in Iran, it seems obvious that an interview with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif would be newsworthy. But to my knowledge none of the networks or major cable news shows had him on.
Or you could have talked to the British, French, German, Russian or Chinese foreign ministers, all of whom were principals and all of whom would have had interesting insights.
Instead, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was given repeated access to millions of Americans to talk trash about the deal over the weekend and to make mostly false allegations about its contours. Israel is a small country of 8 million with a gross domestic product in the range of Portugal. Netanyahu isn’t a party to the deal. He doesn’t have more riding on it than Britain or France. Israel isn’t even threatened by Iran, since Israel has several hundred nuclear weapons and submarines to deliver them. Iran has only old, conventional weapons. Even if it someday had a nuclear weapon, which its leaders say would be un-Islamic and that they don’t want it, Israel has a powerful deterrent.

So what is really going on? Netanyahu let it slip in an interview on CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday:
“Secondly, Iran is going to have sanctions lifted, including crippling sanctions, pretty much up front. And that’s going to have billions and billions of dollars flow into the Iranian coffers, not for schools or hospitals or roads, but to pump up Iran’s terror machine throughout the world.
And it’s a military machine that’s now engaged in conquest throughout the world in Iraq and Syria and Yemen, around the borders of Israel elsewhere.”

In other words, Netanyahu wants to keep Iran poor and undeveloped. He wants to make sure that “crippling” sanctions aren’t lifted. He wants to keep Iranians in grinding poverty.
Is it true that the Iranian state would not spend the money that it garnered through a lifting of sanctions on schools or hospitals?

Look, I am no fan of the Islamic Republic or its system of government or its censorship and authoritarianism. But let us say that Netanyahu, in standing for permanent military rule over 4 million stateless Palestinians, and in launching disproportionate military campaigns with disregard for non-combatant life, is not obviously superior.
And, as far as social spending goes, Iran is in principal as progressive as Israel, though not as rich per capita. The Iranian state has built enormous numbers of schools since 1979, especially in rural areas, and [pdf] has brought literacy among the over-15 population from 65% in 1990 to 90% today. In the 15-25 age group, literacy is fully 98% and there are nearly 4 million university students. Iran has done better in educating its women than most other Middle Eastern countries, and a majority of Iranian college students is women.

Literacy rates were low in the 1970s and relatively few Iranians went to university then. You can’t produce an impressive change in literacy that way without investing substantially in schools.
The crippling sanctions on Iran that make Netanyahu’s mouth water so much have badly hurt the 60,000 Iranian students studying abroad, making it difficult for them to transfer money and causing the value of the riyal to plummet. Those students are not politicians and ought not to have their futures held hostage to geopolitics.

As for health care, Iran has universal health care, unlike the USA, and it is mandated in the Iranian constitution. The Islamic Republic has spent substantial sums making it more available to the population, including in previously neglected rural areas. Crippling sanctions over the long term would certainly pose severe health risks to ordinary Iranians.
So it simply is not true that the Iranian state does not spend on schools and hospitals, as Netanyahu alleged. His purpose in making this false claim is to deflect an obvious critique of “crippling” sanctions, which is that they harm ordinary people, not just the state.

His allegation that an Iranian commander pledged to destroy Israel is unlikely to be true. The Iranian leadership doesn’t like Israel, but they have a no first strike policy and don’t have the slightest intention of attacking anyone with conventional military forces. Iran is too far away to attack Israel and it would be madness to strike at a nuclear power. Typically Iranians say things like “the Occupation regime must end,” and people like Netanyahu interpret that to be a threat to roll tanks (Iran has actually made no such threats, whatever you have been told).

As for his charge that Iran is using its oil money to spread terrorism or conquer the Middle East, this claim is mostly also for the most part not true. Netanyahu counts a national liberation organization that fought Israeli occupation such as Lebanon’s Hizbullah as a “terrorist organization.” What he really means is that it interfered with Israel annexing 10% of its neighbor Lebanon’s territory (which it held 1982-2000). He counts Iran’s help to Iraq in fighting Daesh (ISIL or ISIS) as a “conquest” of Iraq! in all this verbiage, the major legitimate knock against Iran with regard to its foreign activities is that Iran has helped the regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria to survive, something it has done through odious practices such as barrel-bombing its own population. But Netanyahu doesn’t even say anything about that except to complain that Iran is active near
Israeli borders with Syria.

“Crippling” sanctions haven’t in any case stopped Iran from arming Hizbullah and there is no reason to think they ever will. Moreover, given the weakness of the Lebanese military, someone needs to keep the Israelis from trying to annex Lebanese territory again.

Netanyahu has showed his hand. He wants to use the USA and the Treasury Department to sanction Iran into penury, to keep its middle classes small and shrinking and to cut people’s income, education and health care. He wants a total war on Iran, including on Iranian women, children and non-combatants. It isn’t a plausible aspiration, and it isn’t a worthy one.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Consequences of Netnyahu's Electoral Vicroty

Bibi: The Hidden Consequences of His Victory

David Shulman APRIL 23, 2015 ISSUE
NY Review of Books

Benjamin Netanyahu; drawing by James Ferguson
Benjamin Netanyahu has won again. He will have no difficulty putting together a solid right-wing coalition. It’s true that his erstwhile ally and present enemy, Moshe Kahlon, a relatively moderate Likudnik who now heads his own party, Kulanu, holds the balance of power between the left and right blocs in his hands; but there’s no reason to think that he’ll refrain from joining the Netanyahu government, probably as finance minister. With Kahlon’s party, the Likud and its hard-core satellites have fifty-four of the 120 Knesset seats. The so-called left, led by the Zionist Union of Isaac Herzog and Tzipi Livni (which is really somewhere in the center-right) and including the one true leftist party, Meretz (five seats) and the Joint List of Arab Parties, can muster forty-two seats. In the center is Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid—“There Is a Future”—with eleven seats, while the ultra-religious parties hold thirteen seats.

The religious parties have, by now, a very strong affinity with the right, even though historically, not so long ago, large parts of the ultra-religious camp were moderate in their views on making peace with the Palestinians. Compared with the outgoing Knesset—the left with thirty-two seats, “the center” with twenty-seven, the right with forty-three, the religious parties with eighteen—the new one shows a shrinking center and an apparent increase of around ten seats for each of the two largest groupings.

There was a telling shift to the Likud by voters who previously had gone with extreme-right parties such as Naphtali Bennett’s Jewish Home (down from twelve to eight). The lunatic right, embodied by the Yachad party of Eli Yishai—the former coleader of the center-right Shas party, who has now allied with Baruch Marzel, once a leading member of the outlawed and racist Kach movement—did not make it past the threshold of 3.25 percent of the total vote. The Arab Joint List, with thirteen seats, is now the third-largest party in the Knesset. One could say that these results reveal a very slight movement of the electorate toward the center-left, with the two major blocs remaining more or less stable and the right still firmly ahead.

But the naked numbers may be deceptive. What really counts is the fact that the Israeli electorate is still dominated by hypernationalist, in some cases protofascist, figures. It is in no way inclined to make peace. It has given a clear mandate for policies that preclude any possibility of moving toward a settlement and that will further deepen Israel’s colonial venture in the Palestinian territories, probably irreversibly.

These results would not have come as such a surprise were it not for the opinion polls of the last weeks of the campaign, which mostly showed a groundswell of disaffection with Netanyahu and put the Zionist Union ahead of the Likud by a small margin. The polls—including the early exit polls on election day itself—were dramatically wrong; some of them may well have been deliberately distorted by the Likud spin experts in order to get traditional Likud supporters to vote, but the huge margin of error—and the polls’ wholehearted acceptance at face value by the media—also tell us something about the conceptual bubble that the Tel Aviv pollsters and commentators inhabit.

On the other hand, my own observations suggest that there was also some truth in the polls; in a half-century of living in Israel, I have never seen such intense revulsion against a serving prime minister on the part of so many, and from such widely different parts of the social spectrum. Netanyahu’s policies have further impoverished the poor, opened up a growing and dangerous gap between the glittering rich and all the rest, and created an unprecedented crisis in housing. The average selling price of an apartment in Tel Aviv reached 1.75 million shekels—about $430,000—in 2014; it is next to impossible for a young couple lacking huge savings to buy an apartment anywhere in the major cities, though they could, of course, move to one of the West Bank settlements, where housing for settlers is heavily subsidized and no such problem exists.

Despite all this, and the tedious list of Netanyahu’s other egregious failures, his electoral base obviously remains intact. As expected, analyses of the voting patterns show that this base is strongest in the lower middle classes and the geographical and social margins—precisely the population most hurt by his economic policies. The Zionist Union, an all-too-familiar reincarnation of the old Labor Party with its firmly Ashkenazi elite, made no perceptible inroads among Sephardi voters, for whom the nationalist politics of the Likud and of the hard-core right in general are profoundly consonant with their decades-old resentment of the “white” Ashkenazi establishment.

The center-left, which once was the mainstream, has a dwindling constituency; and the fact that it fielded a decent but lackluster candidate, Isaac “Bougie” Herzog, clearly didn’t help matters. In case any voters had forgotten where the lines were drawn, the artist Yair Garboz reminded them at the large leftist rally in Tel Aviv shortly before the election, with his disparaging remarks about Jews who “kiss mezuzas and worship idols.”

I think that deeper currents are also at work in this outcome—for example, the ongoing, ultimately futile effort to squeeze Jewish civilization, in its tremendous variability and imaginative range, into the Procrustean confines of the modern nation-state with its flag and postage stamps and proclivity to violence. Modern nationalism always makes a distorted, very limited selection of the available cultural repertoire, flattening out the potential richness; fanatical atavistic forces tend to take the place of what has been lost. Palestinians suffer from a very similar problem.

Netanyahu’s shrill public statements during the last two or three days before the vote may well account in part for the magnitude of the Likud victory. Mindful of his long record of facile mendacity, commentators on the left have tended to characterize these speeches as more dubious “rhetoric”; but I think that, for once, Netanyahu was actually speaking the truth, a popular truth among his traditional supporters. He explicitly renounced his pro forma acceptance of the notion of a two-state solution (in his famous Bar Ilan speech in June 2009) and swore that no Palestinian state would come into existence if he were elected. He promised vast building projects in the Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem. He made it clear that Israel would make no further territorial concessions anywhere, since any land that would be relinquished would, in his view, immediately be taken over by Muslim terrorists. I have the strong feeling that he assumes that all Muslims—maybe all non-Jews?—are potential terrorists.

Then there was his truly astonishing, by now notorious statement on election day itself, in which he urged Jewish voters to rush to the polls because “the Arabs are voting in droves.” One might have thought that those Arab voters were members of the body politic he headed as prime minister. Imagine a white American president calling on whites to vote because “blacks are voting in large numbers.” If there’s a choice to be made between democratic values and fierce Jewish tribalism, there’s no doubt what the present and future prime minister of Israel would choose.

What does this mean? On the face of it, things are not all that different today than before the election. But the now seemingly impregnable rule of the right has at least four likely consequences for the near and mid-term future.

First, the notion that there will someday be two states in historical Palestine has been savagely undermined. We have Netanyahu’s word for it, despite his characteristic waffling on Palestinian statehood in post-election interviews directed at a foreign, English-speaking audience and reflecting intense American pressure. If he has his way, Palestinians are destined for the foreseeable future to remain subject to a regime of state terror, including the remorseless loss of their lands and homes and, in many cases, their very lives. They will continue to be, as they are now, disenfranchised, without even minimal legal recourse, hemmed into small discontinuous enclaves, and deprived of elementary human rights.

Take a mild, almost innocuous example, entirely typical of life in the territories. Last weekend I was in the South Hebron hills with Palestinian shepherds at a place called Zanuta, whose historic grazing grounds have been taken over, in large part, by a settlement inhabited by a single Jewish family. Soldiers turned up with the standard order, signed by the brigade commander, declaring the area a Closed Military Zone; the order is illegal, according to a Supreme Court ruling, but the writ of the court hardly impinges on reality on the ground in South Hebron. Within minutes, three of the shepherds and an Israeli activist were arrested.

The people of Zanuta live with such arbitrary decrees on a daily basis, as they live under the constant threat of violent assault by Israeli settlers acting with impunity. In short, these Palestinian villagers are slated for dispossession and expulsion. Activists from the Arab-Jewish Partnership (Ta’ayush) are doing what we can to stop the process, but it isn’t easy. The situation in the northern West Bank is considerably worse.

Second, we may see the emergence in the West Bank of a situation like that in Gaza, with Hamas or other extremist groups assuming power. It seems ridiculous to have to write this, but in case anyone has any doubt: there is no way a privileged collective can sit forever on top of a disenfranchised, systematically victimized minority of millions. We can expect mass violent protests of one sort or another (maybe, with luck, some large-scale nonviolent protest as well). Sooner or later, the territories will probably explode, and the Palestinian Authority may be washed away. At that point Netanyahu will complain loudly that you can never trust the Arabs.

In fact, however, there is an ongoing, intimate, many-layered relationship between Israelis and Palestinians, and what one side chooses to do always has a very direct impact on the other side. More generally, if we Israelis fail to cut a deal with the Palestinian moderates, or at least to strive in earnest for an agreement, we will by our own actions bring their extremists to power. There is no dearth of examples from recent decades.

Third, Palestinians will rightly turn to the International Criminal Court in The Hague (as early as April 1, according to the official announcement) and to international forums such as the UN Security Council, where Israel may soon no longer enjoy the protection of an automatic American veto. The international boycott will intensify to a level far beyond what we have seen. It may in the end force a change, at immense cost to the cohesion of Israeli society and to the state’s claim to legitimacy. In this respect, I think we are approaching the tipping point.

Fourth, and most important, the moral fiber of the country will continue to unravel. Already for years the public space has been contaminated by ugly, violent voices coming from the heart of the right-wing establishment. As Zvi Bar’el has cogently written in Haaretz, “Netanyahu has succeeded in overturning the principle that the state exists for the sake of its citizens and putting in its place the Fascist belief that the citizens exist for the state.”

Thursday, April 2, 2015

The “Free Press” in Action When Do 43 Casualties in Latin America Matter?

from Counterpunch

In Latin America last year, there were two events that each produced 43 casualties. Which elicited greater outrage?

For the U.S. media, it was the “violent crackdown” leaving “43 people dead” (NPR) in “an autocratic, despotic state” (New York Times) run by “extremists” (Washington Post). Surely these charges were leveled at Mexico, where 43 student activists were murdered in Iguala last September. In their forthcoming A Narco History, Carmen Boullosa and Mike Wallace describe how the victims, “packed into two pick-up trucks,” were driven to a desolate ravine. Over a dozen “died en route, apparently from asphyxiation,” and the rest “were shot, one after another,” around 2:00 a.m. The killers tossed the corpses into a gorge, torched them, and maintained the fire “through the night and into the following afternoon,” leaving only “ashes and bits of bone, which were then pulverized.”

Initial blame went to local forces—Iguala’s mayor and his wife, area police and drug gangs. But reporters Anabel Hernández and Steve Fisher, after reviewing thousands of pages of official documents, reached a different conclusion. Hernández explained “that the federal police and the federal government [were] also involved,” both “in the attack” and in “monitoring the students” the night of the slaughter. Fisher added that the Mexican government based its account of the massacre on testimonies of “witnesses who had been directly tortured.”

The Hernández-Fisher findings reflect broader problems plaguing the country. “Torture and ill-treatment in Mexico is out of control with a 600 per cent rise in the number of reported cases in the past decade,” Amnesty International warned last September, pointing to “a prevailing culture of tolerance and impunity.” The UN concurred this month, and “sharply rebuked Mexico for its widespread problem with torture, which it said implicates all levels of the security apparatus,” Jo Tuckman wrote in the Guardian.

Mexico’s president, Enrique Peña Nieto, has done his part to escalate state violence. He gave the orders, while governor of México State, for what Francisco Goldman calls “one of the most squalid instances of government brutality in recent years”—the May 2006 assault on the Atenco municipality. Some 3,500 state police rampaged against 300 flower vendors, peasants and their sympathizers, beating them until they blacked out and isolating women for special treatment. Amnesty International reported “23 cases of sexual violence during the operation,” including one woman a trio of policemen surrounded. “All three of them raped her with their fingers,” a witness recalled.

Peña Nieto responded by asserting “that the manuals of radical groups say that in the case of women [if they are arrested], they should say they’ve been raped.” Amnesty stumbled into a trap laid by attention-desperate women, in his opinion. Regarding Atenco, he stressed: “It was a decision that I made personally to reestablish order and peace, and I made it with the legitimate use of force that corresponds to the state.” Surely this is the “autocratic, despotic state” the New York Times criticized.

The paper’s archives lay bare its views—that Peña Nieto can “do a lot of good,” given his “big promises of change” and “commendable” economic agenda. The Washington Post’s Lally Weymouth interviewed Mexico’s president just before the Iguala bloodbath, dubbing him “a hero in the financial world.” A Post editorial praised his ability to summon the “courage” necessary to transform Mexico into “a model of how democracy can serve a developing country.” The Post clarified, with a straight face, that Peña Nieto displayed his bravery by ignoring “lackluster opinion polls” as he pushed through unpopular reforms—a truly “functional democracy,” without question. There was no serious censure of the Mexican president in these papers, in other words. The charges of despotism and extremism, quoted above, were in fact leveled at Venezuela—the site of the other episode last year resulting in 43 Latin American casualties.

But these demonstrations, from February until July, were dramatically different from the Mexican student incineration. What, in the NPR version, was “a violent crackdown last year against antigovernment protesters,” in fact—on planet Earth—was a mix of “pro- and anti-government protests” (Amnesty International) that “left 43 people dead in opposing camps” (Financial Times). “There are deaths on both sides of the political spectrum,” Jake Johnston, a researcher with the Center for Economic and Policy Research, affirmed, noting that “members of Venezuelan security forces have been implicated and subsequently arrested for their involvement.” He added that several people were apparently “killed by crashing into barricades, from wires strung across streets by protesters and in some cases from having been shot trying to remove barricades.” Half a dozen National Guardsmen died.

In the wake of these demonstrations, the Post railed against “economically illiterate former bus driver” Nicolás Maduro, the Venezuelan president, for his “hard-fisted response to the unrest” and “violent repression.” The New York Times lamented his “government’s abuses”—which “are dangerous for the region and certainly warrant strong criticism from Latin American leaders”—while Obama, a year after the protests, declared Venezuela a national security threat. His March 9 executive order, William Neuman wrote in the Times, targets “any American assets belonging to seven Venezuelan law enforcement and military officials who it said were linked to human rights violations.”

Compare Obama’s condemnation of Maduro to his reaction to the Iguala murders. When asked, in mid-December, whether U.S. aid to Mexico should be conditioned to human rights, he emphasized that “the best thing we can do is to be a good partner”—since bloodshed there “does affect us,” after all. The Times followed up after Obama hosted the Mexican president at the White House on January 6, noting that “Mr. Peña Nieto’s visit to Washington came at a time of increased cooperation between the United States and Mexico.”

This cooperation has won some major victories over the decades. NAFTA shattered poor farming communities in Mexico, for example, while promoting deforestation, environmentally ruinous mining—and corporate profits. In 2007, U.S. official Thomas Shannon stated that “armoring NAFTA” is the goal of Washington’s security assistance, which “totaled $2.5 billion between FY2008 and FY2015,” the Congressional Research Service reported. The result is a death zone, with perhaps some 120,000 intentional killings during the Felipe Calderón presidency (2006-2012). Tijuana’s Zeta Magazine published a study claiming the slayings have actually increased under Peña Nieto, and the nightmare has deepened to the point where the murder rate “exceeds that of Iraq,” according to Molly Molloy.

None of these developments infuriated Washington like those in Venezuela, to be sure. After Chávez’s first decade in power, “the poverty rate ha[d] been cut by more than half” and “social spending per person more than tripled,” while unemployment and infant mortality declined, the Center for Economic and Policy Research determined. And the UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean found, in May 2010, that Venezuela had the region’s most equal income distribution. In Mexico a year later, the Los Angeles Times noted, “poverty [was] steadily on the rise.” Throughout this period, Washington’s aims included “dividing Chavismo,” “protecting vital US business,” and “isolating Chavez internationally,” as former U.S. Ambassador to Venezuela William Brownfield outlined the strategy in 2006.

Reviewing this foreign policy record in light of recent Mexico and Venezuela coverage makes one thing obvious. There is, most definitely, a free press in the U.S.—it’s free to print whatever systematic distortions it likes, so long as these conform to Washington’s aims.

Nick Alexandrov lives in Washington, DC. He can be reached at: