Friday, May 22, 2015

Israeli Government Most Racist, Extremist in History

from Tikun

Israel named its new cabinet (Hebrew) yesterday and the names are a Who’s Who of the most rabid, racist, brutal and cruel politicians in the nation. The only one who rivals them and is missing from the show is Avigdor Lieberman, who’s bowed out for political reasons of his own. In the past, nations of the world have isolated individual leaders of nations and refused to visit or meet with them because their ideas are so noxious that they fall outside the consensus of international discourse. Kurt Waldheim and Jorg Haider are examples of this. The time has come to put the Israeli government in herem. You can pick your poison among them as to which deserves special ostracism.

Several other publications have covered this story. But you won’t find a more thorough list nor accounting of their Greatest Hits of Hate than here:

eli ben dahan
Deputy defense minister
♦Moshe Yaalon: defense minister; warned Israel would consider using nuclear weapons against Iran, but “wasn’t quite there yet.” He called Peace Now a “virus” and spoke of Palestinians as a cancer when he said: “some say it may be necessary to amputate organs, but at the moment I’m applying chemotherapy.”

♦Rabbi Eli Ben Dahan: deputy defense minister; called Palestinians “animals, said “Jews always have higher souls than goyim, even if they’re gay.” He will serve as chief Israeli administrator for the Palestinian Territories. Imagine how the “beasts” will feel about that!

♦Tzipi Hotovely: deputy foreign minister; adamantly opposes two-state solution, supports West Bank annexation, invited Lehava, NGO advocating Jewish racial purity, to Knesset

♦Naftali Bennet: minister for education, minister for Jerusalem and Diaspora; supports transferring Palestinians from West Bank and ethnic cleansing: “I’ve killed many Arabs in my life. There’s no problem with that.” He has also called for Palestinians to be shot. Contrary to Israel’s vaunted gay rights claims, opposes gay marriage. He will be specifically responsible for Judaization of the Negev, which means the ethnic cleansing of Bedouins.

♦Ayelet Shaked: justice minister; republished settler screed advocating Palestinian mothers should be killed because they are raising “snakes” to attack Israel. Anglo-Israeli columnist said behind her “wide-eyed innocent face lurks the Angel of Death.”

♦Moshe Kahlon: finance minister; the so-called “moderate” in the bunch devoted solely to economic issues.

♦Danny Danon: ministry of science, technology and space; “the biggest problem of the State of Israel is the Arabs of Israel,” ejected by Netanyahu from last government after he denounced last summer’s Gaza ceasefire.

♦Miri Regev: minister of sport and culture; during violent anti-African riots in Tel Aviv, she incited the crowds by calling the victims a “cancer” and then apologized to cancer patients
♦Silvan Shalom: interior minister; wealthiest MK, failed in campaign for Israeli president, denied foreign ministry job he coveted, said that the 16% of Eilat residents who are African refugees “endanger the future of the city.”

♦Yoav Galant: building minister (responsible for settlement construction); failed IDF chief of staff candidate, lied in a legal deposition and stole public lands to enlarge private villa

♦Aryeh Deri: minister of economy and Negev development; an ex-felon convicted of taking $155,000 in bribes, served three years in prison

♦Uri Ariel: minister of agriculture and rural development; as minister in last government, single-handedly torpedoed U.S.-Israel relations by announcing thousands of new settlement units during delicate peace negotiations, admitting he’d passed on information to settlers about IDF troop movements

♦Zeev Elkin: immigrant and absorption minister; “proud to be a settler,” and admitted that he’d spied on the IDF on behalf of settler extremists

♦Yisrael Katz: minister of transportation and road safety, intelligence minister; suspended from studies at Hebrew University for use of violence in breaking up campus meetings of Palestinian students.

♦Ophir Akunis: minister without portfolio; denies existence of a Palestinian people or its right to settle anywhere in the Land of Israel (including within the Green Line), claims Israel’s right to all territory from Egypt to the Jordan River. Sponsored bill to restrict foreign funding for left-wing NGOs. Regarding them, he compared them to supposed Soviet agents in America exposed by Sen. Joseph McCarthy. “Sen. McCarthy was correct in every word he said–there were Soviet agents in America [sic].”

♦Haim Katz: minister of welfare and social service; accused of arranging for Likud Party dues of thousands of Israeli defense industry employees he oversaw (who voted for him in the primary) to be paid for by NGO he also supervised.

♦Yuval Steinitz: minister for infrastructure, energy and water;

♦Yariv Levin: minister of internal security and tourism; accused the Supreme Court of holding values at odds with the “traditional” values of the public; and said this “endangered our ability to secure our existence.”

♦Gila Gamliel: elderly affairs minister; accused of offering a bribe to a competing student council candidate at Ben Gurion University

♦David Azulay: religious services minister;

♦Avi Gabay: environment minister;

♦Benny Begin: minister without portfolio; son of Menachem Begin, ejected from Party leadership during last party primaries for his so-called “moderate” views; apparently he’s been included as a moderate fig-leaf for an extremist government

Netanyahu will maintain the foreign ministry for himself, hoping he can persuade Buji Herzog to join his coalition. While I never underestimate the greediness of Israeli leaders for the perks of power, I can’t see why Herzog would throw Bibi a life preserver. The present government has a majority of one seat. It could fall based on the whim or vanity of a single one of its 61 members. And even if Herzog does betray what few principles he has by joining, where is the glory in that? History shows that moderate leaders and parties that join coalitions with him (Barak, Lapid, etc.) end up wiped out in the following election.

This is not just a government of hate, but a government of war. My prediction is that if it lives out its full term there will be two wars: one against Lebanon and another against Gaza. Further prediction: at least 5,000 civilians will be murdered in total. The world might want to contemplate how many more Israeli wars it can tolerate before it says, Dayenu (“enough”).

The governments of the world might want to begin considering how to justify maintaining contact with individuals holding views that range from genocide to mere homicidal impulses.

This is a government that is not only undemocratic, it abhors democracy–for non-Jews.

Pres. Obama has a general notion of what’s in store. But in a public statement he only acknowledged “some” of the new mintisters don’t share his views:

“I continue to believe a two-state solution is absolutely vital for not only peace between Israelis and Palestinians, but for the long-term security of Israel as a democratic and Jewish state,” said Obama. “I know that a government has been formed that contains some folks who don’t necessarily believe in that premise, but that continues to be my premise.”

“That prospect seems distant now,” he continued. “But I think it’s always important for us to keep in mind what’s right and what’s possible.”

In truth, none of them do. Not a single one of these incoming Israeli ministers believes in a two-state solution. So in addition to keeping in mind what the president thinks is “right,” he should also keep in mind that a two-state solution is not possible. In fact, this government supports a one-state solution–for Jews only. And that’s not only not right, it shouldn’t be possible either. It’s long past time for Obama to get tough with Israel. Allow the Security Council to consider Palestinian statehood. Support an ICC referral for Israel.

Similarly, our Congress might want to consider how they can approve legislation that would outlaw BDS when this movement is fighting a government whose collective views are as odious as this one’s are. If you do sanction BDS, what tools does that leave the world to resist such evil? The world must come to realize that mere words and statements are no longer enough. Much tougher measures are called for.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Great moments in American democracy: Texas Legislature prohibits cities from regulating fracking

When average people in Texas try to protect their property and health by not letting fracking companies destroy their homes and pollute the air and drinking water, little did they know that they were violating the human rights of petrochemical corporations.

think about those oppressed multi-billion dollar corporate giants, huddling in fear of some city's local ordinance that could abridge their god-given right to loot, pillage, cause the death of children, simply because a few malcontents don't want to get poisoned. It's almost akin to terrorism.

Boldly, the governor and legislature of the sovereign state of Texas has stopped this atrocity and defended the rights of corporations from persecution by mere humans.

Since the Constitution of the US of A, according to the Supreme Court (lovingly known in Texas as the 'Preme Court, says that corporations are people, then they have rights that must be protected.

In fact, since oil industry corporations are people and they are really big, rich and powerful, then they are superior to mere human, flesh and blood people. So it follows that corporate people should come out on top of any conflict between the two.

See what great democratic values America is busy defending and exporting to the hopeful nations of Africa, Asia and the Middle East?

Who does Jerusalem belong To?

| May. 18, 2015 |

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | –
Far right Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu commemorated Israel’s “Jerusalem Day” with a speech in which he said, “Jerusalem was always the capital of the Jewish people only, and no other,” and warned that Muslim terrorism menaced it.

Jerusalem, Daru Shalem, was founded sometime between 6500 and 5500 years ago, by the proto-Canaanite people long before Judaism existed. It was dedicated to the god of dusk, Shalem.
The first mention of it was after 2000 BC, again, before Judaism existed, in an Egyptian text.
So I think we may conclude that the City of Shalem the god of dusk was probably the capital of a lot of peoples long before there was any religion called Judaism.
Roughly 1500-1200 BC, Jerusalem was ruled from Memphis in Egypt by the pharaohs, but the Canaanites remained their proxies.

Petty Canaanite kings continued to dominate the region after Egyptian control lapsed. Some of them over time gradually adopted practices later associated with Judaism, but many other streams of Canaanite belief remained. Probably there were petty tribal chieftains named David and Solomon after 1000 BC, but Jerusalem appears not to have been populated 1000 to 900 BC. and so they didn’t have a palace there.

Whatever the character of the various Canaanite tribal confederations in Palestine, including the proto-Israeli, in 900-770 BC, in the latter year the region fell to the Assyrians.
In 597 BC the Babylonians conquered Palestine and later transported at least some of its population to Babylon. Likely it was there that the Jewish religion became fully elaborated.
In 539 BC, Babylon falls to the Iranian Achaemenid Empire, which emancipates the Jews. The Achaemenids rule most of the civilized world, from Egypt to what is now Pakistan. Palestine is ruled by Iran for nearly 200 years, until 330, when Alexander defeats the Achaemenids.
The Greek Ptolemaic dynasty held sway over Palestine until 198 BC, when the Seleucids conquered it.
In 168 the Maccabean Revolt established a small Jewish state in the area. Aside from the Israeli clans of the pre-Assyrian period, this was the only premodern Jewish state to have Jerusalem as a capital. Even so, they were vassals from 40 BC to the Iranian Parthian empire. Herod became a vassal of the Romans in Palestine in 6 of the Common Era (AD).
Jerusalem was Roman/ Byzantine until 614 CE, when the Iranian Sasanid Empire again conquered it.
In 629 the Byzantines took it back.
The Muslims conquered Jerusalem in 638 and ruled it until 1099, when the Crusaders conquered it it. The Crusaders killed or expelled Jews and Muslims from the city.
The Muslims under Saladin took it back in 1187 CE and allowed Jews to return.
So I think probably Jerusalem was the capital of, like, the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem. for several decades.

Muslims then ruled it until the end of World War I, or altogether over a millennium.
So Iran ruled Jerusalem altogether for some 250 years, and the Crusaders for about 200 years, and it was the capital of lots of peoples, including Canaanite kingdoms and the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem. It was also often a provincial capital under Muslim empires.
In the Sykes-Picot agreement between France and Britain during WW I, which shaped the Middle East, Jerusalem was awarded to Russia.
Lenin was outraged when he found the agreement in the Romanov palace after the 1917 October Revolution, and he had it published. He withdrew Russia from the war and forewent the prize of Jerusalem.

The city was awarded the British by the Versailles Peace Conference, as part of the British Mandate of Palestine.
In the 1947 UN General Assembly partition plan for Palestine, Jerusalem was designated a “Separate Body” to be administered internationally. It was not awarded to Israel by the UN. Although propagandists for Israel are always going on about how they accepted the UN partition plan, they did not, of course. They conquered a lot of territory that the GA did not award them, including West Jerusalem.
It was Jewish settlers in British Mandate Palestine who used violence to grab part of the city, disregarding international law and agreements. The city was mostly populated by Palestinians in any case, what with being a Palestinian city and all.

In 1967 the Israeli army took East Jerusalem, and ever since has squeezed the Palestinian population, driven them into poverty, usurped their property, and surrounded them by squatter settlements. There is no warrant in any part of any international agreement or law for the Israelis to behave this way toward the people who inhabited Jerusalem for over a millennium (and who are in any case almost certainly descendents of Palestinian Jews who converted to Islam). Violence is still a big part of the way Israel rules East Jerusalem, so Netanyahu warning of Muslim violence is rich.

Muslims consider Jerusalem the third holiest city of Islam. Despite Westerners constantly telling them they have no right to do that, they seem pretty attached to the doctrine. There are 1.5 billion of them, and their nerves are raw after centuries of Western colonialism during which they were told their religion was useless and backward. The occupation of Jerusalem was given by al-Qaeda as one reason for its attacks on New York and Washington, D.C. The insistence of Jewish extremists on angering the Muslim world by invading the Aqsa mosque from time to time, and threatening to demolish it, is like those old Warner Bros. cartoons where the foolish little boy keeps teasing a tiger in its cage.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Why White Americans Don’t Believe in ‘Personal Accountability’ For Police Do the nation’s police suffer from the ‘soft bigotry of low expectations’? BY JAMES THINDWA

from In These Times
FEATURES » MAY 11, 2015

By a margin of 41 percent to 34 percent, white Americans say police treat African Americans and white people equally, according to a YouGov poll conducted 11 days after Freddy Gray’s death. African Americans, however, overwhelmingly—76 percent to 13 percent—said that cops treat them unfairly.

The responses of white Americans are unsettling in light of the seemingly endless video accounts of racially tinged police violence circulating online, the millions of dollars cities have paid to settle police brutality lawsuits, and the many studies that have demonstrated a racial bias in policing.

A disturbingly large number of white Americans, it seems, willfully dismiss the evidence. Perhaps their own relatively uneventful contact with police provides comfortable distance and deniability. Or maybe white America has been swayed by persuasive and powerful counternarratives, especially from conservative media.

Whatever the explanation, there is a bewildering disconnect between white tolerance of police misconduct—including homicides—and the call for “personal accountability” that has long permeated our national policy discussions. Championed by conservatives and furthered by liberal elites wary of social justice, “personal accountability” has been elevated to a national religion. In the 1990s, with full cooperation by the Clinton administration, this rhetoric was used as a cudgel against the poor in order to pave the way for draconian welfare reforms, packaged as “The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996.” The same dogma helped justify the “three strikes you’re out” and “mandatory minimums” policies that fueled the country’s racist and expensive incarceration frenzy. Today, politicians brandish the term to demand drug testing for poor recipients of public aid and to cut social programs that help the needy.

Most recently, “personal accountability” has been deployed against public school teachers, to devastating effect. George W. Bush charged that too many teachers were incompetent, and famously accused them and others in the education system of practicing a “soft bigotry of low expectations.” That bigotry, he said, contributed to black academic underachievement and the persistence of a “racial gap” in academic outcomes. Of course, Bush’s analysis was flawed, for it ignored the outsized role of poverty in shaping educational outcomes. Nevertheless, “soft bigotry” became the lingua franca of education discourse in Washington, enabling the institution of strict “teacher accountability” standards enforced by the high-stakes testing of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and other measures. President Obama followed with his Race to the Top, which Georgetown law Professor Jonathan Turley has dubbed “NCLB on steroids.” The narrative of “bad teachers” has only gained traction: A 2010 Newsweek article proclaimed, “In no other profession are workers so insulated from accountability.” Of course, no one who has followed the national scandal of police impunity, or similarly Wall Street executives, will believe that.

However, the nation’s police forces are indeed insulated from the fervent national demand for “personal accountability.” White America has set a very low bar for police accountability: Police can gun down a fleeing black man, a black boy playing with a toy gun, a black Walmart customer holding a fake gun he’d purchased at the store, and a naked, mentally disturbed and unarmed black man. They can choke to death a black street peddler, and let die a distressed, handcuffed black man as he begged for help. And still, majorities of white people believe police treat black people “fairly”?

What explains white America’s indulgent attitude towards the homicidal tendencies of so many police? Where is the clamor for “personal accountability” that has been directed at poor black people and public school teachers? Why don’t white Americans who fulminate about both high taxes and “personal accountability” demand the removal of cops whose conduct has become expensive and disgraceful?

The answer, of course, is that the dogma of personal accountability was never an honest critique, but a ploy to serve conservative racial and political goals. It targets poor black people, who don’t produce votes for the GOP but can be used as fodder for its race-baiting electoral strategy. It targets teachers and their unions, who represent the last remaining barrier between the billions spent on public education nationwide and the corporate shysters trying to get at that money through privatization. Media tycoon Rupert Murdoch, for example, called public education a “$500 billion sector … that is waiting desperately to be transformed,” and Andy Smarick, former COO of National Alliance of Charter Schools, calls for “replac[ing] the district-based system in America’s large cities with fluid, self-improving systems of charter schools.”

Police are not the only group given a pass by the personal accountability jihadists. During the financial crisis, few, if any Fox News’ elite commentators ever bemoaned the lack of “personal accountability” by Wall Street bankers whose reckless conduct crashed the economy. Calls to drug-test recipients of government aid exclude CEOs of companies that get tax breaks and other public subsidies. Nor did conservatives call for CEO accountability when 15 workers were killed in an explosion at a fertilizer plant in West, Texas in 2013; or when 29 miners died in a preventable explosion at Upper Branch mine in W.VA (CEO Don Blankenship was later indicted); or when—in a catastrophe that experts deemed foreseeable—11 workers perished after BP’s Deepwater Horizon exploded in 2010, causing the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history. And despite the many calls for accountability in education, no pundits have seized on the fact that, according to the Center for Media and Democracy, the U.S. government has given away more than $3.3 billion to the charter school industry over the past 20 years with no conditions.

Though calls to fire “bad teachers” are contrived to serve ideological goals while ignoring the socioeconomic conditions that impact learning, teacher unions such as the American Federation of Teachers (disclosure, I am an employee) have nevertheless responded. The AFT has taken measures to ensure the proper balance between due process rights and the need to facilitate removal of personnel deemed unsuitable for the job. As a general matter, accountability is a noble concept without which institutions cannot function. What is troubling about police unions’ response to violence is that, in reflexively declaring the innocence of their accused comrades, they take a contemptibly dismissive posture regarding the concerns of countless fellow citizens who’ve joined in protest. In the case of 12-year-old Tamir Rice, union leaders went further and blamed the kid for causing his own death. Without exception, there is not a moment of self-reflection by the largely white union leadership, or any attempt to understand the grievances of African Americans. Police unions give unions a bad name and reinforce the worst perceptions of unions. Tragically they are doing so at a time many unions and community organizations nationwide are building vibrant and progressive labor-community coalitions.

It is just as troubling that many white Americans are complicit in an ideologically ginned up crusade about “personal accountability.” For if they were sincere, this would be the moment—as black lives are snuffed out by police—for accountability crusaders to step up and say enough is enough! Worship of law enforcement, which seems to have reached a fever pitch, especially within the American Right, is not healthy for democracy. Suspicion of state power—at times a redeeming feature of conservatism—has been compromised at the altar of racial and political ideology.

To his credit, conservative writer Leon H. Wolf dissented from this culture of cop worship. “Many Conservatives are Blowing it on the Ferguson DOJ Report ” was the title of his scathing critique posted at Citing the Department of Justice’s report on Ferguson, Wolf cautioned, “No conservative on earth should feel comfortable with the way the Ferguson PD has been operating for years, even according to their own documents. ” Among the DOJ findings Wolf cited was the fact that between October 2012 and October 2014, African Americans accounted for 85 percent of the 11,610 vehicle stops reported by Ferguson police, though they make up 67 percent of the population. Whites, who represented 29 percent of the population, made up 15 percent of stops.

It is hoped that the many white Americans swept up in the national denial of police brutality against their fellow citizens will face the ever-mounting evidence and demand stricter police accountability. White America must stop letting reverence for law enforcement distort their perceptions and start believing that black victims of police brutality aren’t making this stuff up.

B.B. King dies at 89

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Amira Hass – ‘Israeli-Jewish dissidence in times of bantustanisation’

Posted: May 8, 2015
from Redline, by Daphna Whitmore

For over two decades Israeli correspondent Amira Hass has reported from inside Israel’s occupied territories. She has lived in the West Bank, writing for Haaretz since 1997, and before that in Gaza. She is one of the best-known critics of the Israeli state. She has just been on a speaking tour of New Zealand and I went along to hear her speak on Israeli-Jewish dissidence.

Amira Hass speaking in Auckland 7 May 2015

She began by saying she’s thinking of writing a column titled ‘A Guide for a Perplexed Alien’. An alien arriving in Israel would struggle to tell who is an Israeli and who is a Palestinian, they both look alike, she said. If you want to know who is who: “Wherever it is green” it is Israel. “Wherever it is grey it is Palestinian. Wherever there is [space for] strolling it is Israel, wherever it is densely populated it is Palestinian. It is an urban topography that has a philosophy”.

While the apartheid label angers Israelis, says Hass, there is “separate and unequal development of two people in the same land under the same government.” Israel certainly uses the term separation and it has different sets of laws, different sets of rights for people, and the infrastructure is different. Unlike apartheid South Africa there is no biological racism, for instance, the hospitals have Jews and Palestinians side by side. You never see signs “Jews Only”. But separate and unequal development exists.

She calls it Bantustanisation. In the West Bank 62 percent of the land is under Israeli control and Palestinians are not allowed to build or live there.

Bantustanisation took place over the past two decades in parallel with the “peace process”. Before that all of the West Bank was Palestinian with some enclaves of ‘crazy settlers’. Now it is an Israeli expanse with Palestinian enclaves.

In the south of the West Bank is an ancient village called Susiya where the people were driven out decades ago so they moved to their nearby agricultural lands. They have not been allowed to build on their privately owned land and now in the last two weeks a judge (who is a religious settler) has ruled that the state may remove their buildings even while they await a hearing in court.

The trip from Jenin in the north of the West Bank to Hebron in the south should take one and a half hours. With all the checkpoints it takes many hours and it feels that they are far apart. Hass talked of how she as an Israeli can travel from Ramallah to East Jerusalem in 30 minutes but Palestinians are not permitted to go there. “For Palestinians Jerusalem is as far as the moon” says Hass. The Palestinians reply “Yes, but at least we can see the moon; we cannot see Jerusalem”.

There is anger and despair.

She believes Israel lost a marvellous opportunity to be accepted in the region and to lose its colonialist characteristics.

Historically European Jews in the diaspora had options other than Zionism. They joined socialist, communist and anarchist groups to oppose anti-Semitism. Nazism changed all that and they became Zionists and colonialists. In the 1990s she maintains they could have proven they were not just colonialists.

Bantustanisation is an Israeli sort of compromise. Israel cannot expel millions of Palestinians so they hold them in enclaves, with Gaza being the biggest enclave.

There is a young Palestinian generation that only knows Israelis as settlers and soldiers. These days she frequently hears the youth – she lives among them on the West Bank – say that every Israeli Jew is a settler and that the solution is all the Jews should leave.

Many Israeli dissidents do leave, but most cannot. “At a certain moment settlers become natives. We have also become natives”.

Palestinians have not been decimated; almost half the population is Palestinian, and in 2020 they will be more than half. Jews are a minority in the region. Israel should have been more attentive says Hass. She thinks Israel’s policies are suicidal. Palestinians ask “don’t Israeli’s think about their grandchildren”. This shows a very compassionate side, that they accept an arrangement of a life together. Israelis have rejected it in a greedy seizure to hold on to the privileges of a hegemonic people, says Hass.

Israeli dissidents who don’t want to leave are left to use their privileges to fight the regime of privilege. There are several Israeli groups doing work, which she outlined. They face off settler terror and fight legal and land causes.

Settlers are the messengers and the representatives of the state. The state allows the settlers to terrorise the Palestinians. The state doesn’t want to stop them.

There is not solidarity between the Israeli working class and the Palestinian. The main trade union in Israel is very negative. As a bulk all Israelis benefit from the occupation and this is why the working classes support the system. The withering of the welfare state was also instrumental. The settlements that have succeeded the most moved for economic reasons, not ideological.

As for the new government, it is really bad news; the Jewish Home party is the most racist of them all and now it has the Ministry of Education, Justice and Civil Administration (the military office in West Bank and Gaza).

For the future she believes “The fight has to continue, the contradictions in Israeli society maybe can deepen the cracks, but it seems more difficult than before.”

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Presidential Candidate Bernie Sanders: Sheepdogging for Hillary and the Democrats in 2016

Submitted by Bruce A. Dixon on Wed, 05/06/2015 - 16:09

By BAR (Black Agenda Report) managing editor Bruce A. Dixon
Vermont senator and ostensible socialist Bernie Sanders is playing the sheepdog candidate for Hillary Clinton this year. Bernie's job is to warm up the crowd for Hillary, herding activist energies and the disaffected left back into the Democratic fold one more time. Bernie aims to tie up activist energies and resources till the summer of 2016 when the only remaining choice will be the usual lesser of two evils.

Presidential Candidate Bernie Sanders: Sheepdogging for Hillary and the Democrats in 2016
By BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon
“The sheepdog is a card the Democratic party plays every presidential primary season when there's no White House Democrat running for re-election.”

Spoiler alert: we have seen the Bernie Sanders show before, and we know exactly how it ends. Bernie has zero likelihood of winning the Democratic nomination for president over Hillary Clinton. Bernie will lose, Hillary will win. When Bernie folds his tent in the summer of 2016, the money, the hopes and prayers, the year of activist zeal that folks put behind Bernie Sanders' either vanishes into thin air, or directly benefits the Hillary Clinton campaign.

Don't believe us? Then believe Bernie himself interviewed by George Stephanopoulos on ABC News “This Week” May 3.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So if you lose in this nomination fight, will you support the Democratic nominee?
SANDERS: Yes. I have in the past.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Not going to run as an independent?
SANDERS: No, absolutely not. I've been very clear about that.
Bernie Sanders is this election's Democratic sheepdog. The sheepdog is a card the Democratic party plays every presidential primary season when there's no White House Democrat running for re-election. The sheepdog is a presidential candidate running ostensibly to the left of the establishment Democrat to whom the billionaires will award the nomination. Sheepdogs are herders, and the sheepdog candidate is charged with herding activists and voters back into the Democratic fold who might otherwise drift leftward and outside of the Democratic party, either staying home or trying to build something outside the two party box.

1984 and 88 the sheepdog candidate was Jesse Jackson. In 92 it was California governor Jerry Brown. In 2000 and 2004 the designated sheepdog was Al Sharpton, and in 2008 it was Dennis Kucinich. This year it's Vermont senator Bernie Sanders. The function of the sheepdog candidate is to give left activists and voters a reason, however illusory, to believe there's a place of influence for them inside the Democratic party, if and only if the eventual Democratic nominee can win in November.

Despite casting millions of voters for the likes of Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton and other sheepdogs, those leftish Democrat voters are always disregarded when Democrats actually win. Bill Clinton gave us NAFTA, a vicious “welfare reform,” no peace dividend or push for DC statehood, lowered unemployment but mostly in part time and low-wage jobs, and mass incarceration of black and brown people. President Obama doubled down on bailouts of banksters and GM, and immunized them from prosecution but failed to address the most catastrophic fall in black household wealth in history. We got health care for some instead of Medicare for All, the Patriot Act renewed instead of repealed, a race to privatize public education, drone wars and still more mass incarceration of black and brown people. And if President Obama gets his way, we may soon have a global job-destroying wage-lowering NAFTA on steroids, with the TTP and TTIP.

The sheepdog's job is to divert the energy and enthusiasm of activists a year, a year and a half out from a November election away from building an alternative to the Democratic party, and into his doomed effort. When the sheepdog inevitably folds in the late spring or early summer before a November election, there's no time remaining to win ballot access for alternative parties or candidates, no time to raise money or organize any effective challenge to the two capitalist parties.

At that point, with all the alternatives foreclosed, the narrative shifts to the familiar “lesser of two evils.” Every sheepdog candidate surrenders the shreds of his credibility to the Democratic nominee in time for the November election. This is how the Bernie Sanders show ends, as the left-leaning warm-up act for Hillary Clinton.

Intent on avoiding the two-party “lesser evil” trap this year, about two hundred activists gathered in Chicago last weekend to consider the future of electoral organizing outside the Democratic and Republican parties. Many of the participants were Greens, including former presidential and vice presidential candidates Jill Stein and Rosa Clemente, the former Green mayor of Richmond California, and many others. There were also representatives from Seattle, where Socialist Alternative's Kshama Sawant won election to Seattle's city council, as well as Angela Walker, a black socialist who received 67,000 votes for Milwaukee County sheriff in 2014, and many others, including some who took part in the recent Chicago mayoral election.

There was trans-partisan interest in a 50-state ballot access drive to put the Green Party's Jill Stein on the presidential ballot for 2016 presidential race. Currently the law keeps Greens and others off the ballot in more than half the states. Precise details vary according to state law, but if a third party candidate after obtaining one-time ballot access receives about 2% of total votes, a new ballot line is created, granting ballot access to any potential candidate from school board to sheriff to US congress who wants to run as something other than a Republican or Democrat. That, many participants agreed, would be a significant puncture in the legal thicket that now protects Democrats against competition on the ballot from their left. But a nationwide trans-partisan ballot access campaign to create a national alternative to the two capitalist parties is something left activists must begin serious work a good 18 months before a November election, essentially right now.

Whether or not a national ballot access campaign is undertaken by Greens and others, a Bernie Sanders candidacy is an invitation to do again what's been done in 1984, 1988, 1992, 2000, 2004 and 2008. Bernie's candidacy is a blast toward the past, an invitation to herd and be herded like sheep back into the Democratic fold, to fundraise and canvass and recruit and mobilize for Bernie, as he warms up the crowd for Hillary. Bernie is a sheepdog.

The question is, are we sheep?

Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report, and a state committee member of the GA Green Party. He lives and works near Marietta GA and can be reached at bruce.dixon(at)

Netanyahu appoints Ayelet Shaked—who called for genocide of Palestinians—as Justice Minister in new government

from mondoweiss
Israel/Palestine Ben Norton on May 6, 2015

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decided to appoint Ayelet Shaked as justice minister in his fourth government. Shaked is a Member of Knesset (MK) representing the far-right HaBayit HaYehudi (“Jewish Home”) party. She is known for her extreme, ultranationalist views.
During Israel’s summer 2014 attack on Gaza, MK Shaked essentially called for the genocide of Palestinians. In a Facebook post on July 1—a day before Israeli extremists kidnapped Palestinian teenager Muhammad Abu Khdeir and burned him alive—the lawmaker asserted that “the entire Palestinian people is the enemy” and called for its destruction, “including its elderly and its women, its cities and its villages, its property and its infrastructure.”

Her post consisted of an excerpt from an article by Uri Elitzur, the late right-wing journalist and leader of the Israeli settler movement, which seeks to colonize Palestinian land in contravention of international law. Elitzur also served as a speechwriter and advisor to Netanyahu.

Shaked later deleted the status, which garnered 1,000s of likes and shares, yet not before it was archived. The following is a translation of her post (courtesy of Dena Shunra):

The Palestinian people has declared war on us, and we must respond with war. Not an operation, not a slow-moving one, not low-intensity, not controlled escalation, no destruction of terror infrastructure, no targeted killings. Enough with the oblique references. This is a war. Words have meanings. This is a war. It is not a war against terror, and not a war against extremists, and not even a war against the Palestinian Authority. These too are forms of avoiding reality. This is a war between two people. Who is the enemy? The Palestinian people. Why? Ask them, they started.

I don’t know why it’s so hard for us to define reality with the simple words that language puts at our disposal. Why do we have to make up a new name for the war every other week, just to avoid calling it by its name. What’s so horrifying about understanding that the entire Palestinian people is the enemy? Every war is between two peoples, and in every war the people who started the war, that whole people, is the enemy. A declaration of war is not a war crime. Responding with war certainly is not. Nor is the use of the word “war”, nor a clear definition who the enemy is. Au contraire: the morality of war (yes, there is such a thing) is founded on the assumption that there are wars in this world, and that war is not the normal state of things, and that in wars the enemy is usually an entire people, including its elderly and its women, its cities and its villages, its property and its infrastructure.

And the morality of war knows that it is not possible to refrain from hurting enemy civilians. It does not condemn the British air force, which bombed and totally destroyed the German city of Dresden, or the US planes that destroyed the cities of Poland and wrecked half of Budapest, places whose wretched residents had never done a thing to America, but which had to be destroyed in order to win the war against evil. The morals of war do not require that Russia be brought to trial, though it bombs and destroys towns and neighborhoods in Chechnya. It does not denounce the UN Peacekeeping Forces for killing hundreds of civilians in Angola, nor the NATO forces who bombed Milosevic’s Belgrade, a city with a million civilians, elderly, babies, women, and children. The morals of war accept as correct in principle, not only politically, what America has done in Afghanistan, including the massive bombing of populated places, including the creation of a refugee stream of hundreds of thousands of people who escaped the horrors of war, for thousands of whom there is no home to return to.

And in our war this is sevenfold more correct, because the enemy soldiers hide out among the population, and it is only through its support that they can fight. Behind every terrorist stand dozens of men and women, without whom he could not engage in terrorism. Actors in the war are those who incite in mosques, who write the murderous curricula for schools, who give shelter, who provide vehicles, and all those who honor and give them their moral support. They are all enemy combatants, and their blood shall be on all their heads. Now this also includes the mothers of the martyrs, who send them to hell with flowers and kisses. They should follow their sons, nothing would be more just. They should go, as should the physical homes in which they raised the snakes. Otherwise, more little snakes will be raised there.

A week before, Shaked wrote another status insisting

This is not a war against terror, and not a war against extremists, and not even a war against the Palestinian Authority. The reality is that this is a war between two people. Who is the enemy? The Palestinian people.

These remarks led Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdo─čan to compare MK Shaked to Hitler. “If these words had been said by a Palestinian, the whole world would have denounced it,” he remarked.

Journalist Mira Bar-Hillel called the statements “the reason why I am on the brink of burning my Israeli passport.”

Shaked has also adamantly opposed signing any peace deals with Palestinians based on the pre-1967 borders, claiming that such a deal would constitute “national suicide.” Netanyahu was re-elected on the promise that there would never be a Palestinian state.

The lawmaker has furthermore called for annexing parts of the West Bank, which have been under illegal Israeli military occupation since 1967.

Naftali Bennett, the leader of the HaBayit HaYehudi party of which Shaked is a prominent member, has himself drawn criticism for his similarly extreme, far-right views. In 2013, Bennett, as Minister of the Economy, declared “I have killed lots of Arabs in my life—and there is no problem with that.”

Bennett has also defended his role as company commander in the April 1996 Qana massacre, in which the Israeli military killed 106 Lebanese civilians and injured 116 Lebanese civilians and four UN workers.

The Most Right-Wing Government in Israeli History
Bennett plays an important role in Netanyahu’s coalition government. He pressured the prime minister to appoint Shaked as justice minister. Netanyahu needed a majority of seats in the 120-member Knesset in order to form a government. Bennett refused to have HaBayit HaYehudi—which had the extra eight seats needed, beyond the 53 Bibi had already established, for a majority—join unless Shaked was given the justice ministry position. Netanyahu conceded, on the conditions that she does not appoint rabbinical judges and does not head the committee overseeing the nomination of new judges.

Extreme-right leader Avigdor Lieberman, the former Israeli foreign minister who called for the beheading of disloyal Palestinians, unexpectedly announced that his Yisrael Beiteinu party, which has six MKs, would refuse to join the new government. Lieberman argued the coalition is not right-wing enough, as he believed it will not pass the so-called “nationality law,” officially defining citizenship based on Jewish ethno-religious heritage—thus turning non-Jewish Israelis into official, de jure second-class citizens—or that it will not go all out to destroy the elected Hamas government of Gaza. Netanyahu thus gave into Bennett’s demands in order to ensure the majority.

With HaBayit HaYehudi, Netanyahu’s coalition has 61 seats, a slight majority. His ruling right-wing Likud party has 30; the right-wing Kulanu party has 10 seats; HaBayit HaYehudi has eight; the ultra-orthodox religious party Shas has seven; and the other ultra-orthodox religious party United Torah Judaism has six seats.

Netanyahu’s fourth government is even further to the right of his previous ones. Many Israelis are concerned, and have characterized the new government as “Bibi’s all-time worst coalition.”

In response to Netanyahu’s appointment of Shaked, head of the Peace Now organization Yariv Oppenheimer commented, “Shaked as Justice Minister is like placing an idol in the Temple. No less.” MK Nachman Shai, of the Zionist Union, remarked “the demand to give Ayelet Shaked the Justice portfolio is like giving the Fire and Rescue Services to a pyromaniac.”

Arutz Sheva, an Israeli news outlet associated with the settler movement, notes “Shaked is expected to tackle leftists inside the judicial system head on.” The publication also characterizes her appointment as an “historic” and “major political coup,” writing

Shaked’s appointment is considered a major political coup and could potentially pave the way for an historic change in Israeli politics. The judicial system in Israel is considered to be the strongest governmental bastion of the leftist founding elites, and its “activism” has hampered attempts by the Right to effectively rule Israel for decades.

The extreme views of Shaked and Bennett are not limited to their party. Other powerful figures in Netanyahu’s government harbor similar ideas. During Israel’s summer 2014 attack, codenamed “Operation Protective Edge,” deputy speaker of the Knesset Moshe Feiglin, a senior figure in Bibi’s Likud party, called for Israel to “concentrate” and “exterminate” Palestinians in Gaza.

An independent investigation into Operation Protective Edge found Israel deliberately targeted civilians and medical workers and used unconventional weapons. After eight months of interviewing over 60 Israeli soldiers and officers who participated in the assault, Israeli veterans organization Breaking the Silence also discovered that “soldiers were briefed by their commanders to fire at every person they identified in a combat zone.” Soldiers say they were ordered to “shoot to kill” “any person you see,” including civilians.

Prime Minister Netanyahu and many of his political peers have continuously referred to the Israel Defense Forces as “the most moral army in the world.” Israeli soldiers recall shooting Palestinian civilians in Gaza because they were “bored.”

About Ben Norton
Ben is a freelance writer and journalist. His work has been published in CounterPunch, Electronic Intifada, Common Dreams, ThinkProgress, and ZNet, among other publications. His website can be found at Follow him on Twitter at @BenjaminNorton.
Other posts by Ben Norton.

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Sunday, May 3, 2015

Police fire stun grenades as Tel Aviv protest by Ethiopian Israelis turns violent

from Ha'aretz
Home News Israel

Police take harsh action against protesters hurling rocks and bottles; 30 people injured; earlier, thousands blocked roads in rally against police violence and racism.
By Shirly Seidler | May 3, 2015 | 11:02 PM

Clashes erupted in Tel Aviv's Rabin Square on Saturday as thousands of people gathered to protest police brutality toward Israeli Jews of Ethiopian descent.
23 police officers and seven protesters sustained light injuries. Police made 15 arrests.

Police fired stun grenades and tear gas while some protesters tried to break into the Tel Aviv City Hall, located at the square. Other protesters hurled rocks, planks and plastic and glass bottles at police.

The protest began near the Kaplan Interchange, where protesters blocked major arteries and junctions, including the Ayalon South freeway and Hashalom Interchange, as well as surrounding streets. Protesters also marched along Derech Begin towards the train station but were blocked by police.

Later on, the protest moved to Rabin Square as police gradually opened the blocked roads.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called for calm on Sunday evening, saying that all complaints must be investigated "but there is no place for such violence and lawlessness."

Police Commissioner Yohanan Danino said on Sunday evening that the police will bring to justice anyone who hurt civilians and policemen, adding that the rally "was not a legitimate protest in a democratic state" and blaming a handful of agitators for harming the Israeli Ethiopians' struggle. He added that "most of the claims made by Ethiopian Israelis are not police-related at all. There is a deeper problem here of their assimilation. I do take responsibility and I think we have a problem with some of the cases mentioned, and we will handle it."

Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitz said on Sunday that "some of the complaints against the police were justified. There were events that need to be examined, and the police also has to check itself. All government and municipal offices need to provide a comprehensive solution."

On Monday, Netanyahu will host a meeting attended by Ethiopian Israeli community leaders as well as Demas Fekadeh, the soldier who was filmed being beaten by police officers. The meeting will also include representatives from the Public Security Ministry, the Welfare Ministry, the Absorption Ministry, the Interior Ministry, municipal offices and police command.

'We're not Baltimore'

Speaking ahead of the demonstration, organizers rejected comparisons with recent events in Baltimore but said the protests will continue until their messages sink in and the government takes action to foster equality. “The fact that we’re black doesn’t mean that we’re Baltimore,” one of the organizers, Inbal Bogale, told Haaretz. “In Jerusalem we didn’t ‘do a Baltimore’ as people are saying, that’s not what it was about,” she said, referring to protests in the capital on Thursday night that turned violent. “The police documented every moment of the demonstration and I want to see the documentation, whether we really started the violence as the police claim. We marched in the streets and they fired stun grenades at us.”

Bogale said Sunday’s protest was expected to be loud but nonviolent. “We cannot use violence when we’re demonstrating against it.” Another organizer, who did not want his name used, said that over the weekend a disagreement arose among the organizers after several human-rights organizations expressed an interest in joining the protest. He said there was a fear of diluting the message and losing focus on the main objectives of the protest.

Around 20 young members of Israel’s Ethiopian community initiated the protests, but refused to take the credit and saying that they don’t want to be labeled as leaders. “There are no politicians here and no distinguished members of the community, as they like to say,” said Misganaw Fanta, one of the organizers. “We’re part of a community that has experienced and is experiencing these things, that’s hurting and wants to cry out, to go out to the streets together and to protest against the way we are treated."

“There’s no single leader behind the demonstration, it’s an entire community that is coming out to demonstrate,” added Bogale. She and Fanta say the trigger for the protest was the video that was made public last week, showing police officers beating an Ethiopian-Israeli man, a young man serving in the Israel Defense Forces and in uniform, but it was preceded by years of frustration. “It’s a pressure cooker that exploded. There are hundreds of young Ethiopians the police open case files against for no reason, and that ruins their lives. They’re good guys who want to get ahead, to study, to contribute to the state, but they can’t be combat soldiers, they don’t study, they’re called criminals,” explained Fanta.

Bogale said the promise by national police commissioner Yohanan Danino to reexamine such case files exposes the community’s lack of trust in the police. “From our perspective, the video with the soldier was the last straw” and Danino’s statement after Thursday’s demonstration in Jerusalem “shows that he has no confidence in his officers,” Bogale said, adding that the measure was insufficient.

Fanta said that removing the police officer who beat up the soldier in the video would not satisfy the community. “You have to recognize that they committed a crime and should be punished, not only dismissed.”

Some of the organizers have known each other for a long time and tried to help the family of Yosef Salamseh in their quest for answers surrounding his death. Officers used a stun gun on Salamseh while arresting him on suspicion of breaking and entering. He committed suicide a few months later. “We saw what happened to the Salamseh family, they went to half the country and nobody gave them answers. We insist that the family receive answers, we’re going out to battle so that cases like Yosef’s are not repeated.”

“In general I have nothing against policemen, but there’s the handful that has to be taken care of, and that’s our goal,” explained Fanta, and Bogale added that the goal is “to reach a situation where they won’t discriminate based on skin color, where racism doesn’t become routine. The policemen have to undergo training so that they won’t judge a person by his color.”

A large majority of those attending the demonstration last week in Jerusalem were young people, many of whom were born in Israel but continue to suffer from discrimination. “As opposed to Baltimore,” said Fanta, “we’re focusing on the goal of bringing equality and justice, and preventing them from embittering the youth. The youth are our future and when the police open files for no reason, in effect the government pushes them into crime, where they’ll find their place.”

A wider struggle

In addition to the struggle against police violence, the organizers want to air a variety of issues that contribute to the community’s absorption and integration difficulties, such as the poverty-stricken neighborhoods, for example.

“We don’t want favors, we want to be like everyone else.” A few hours before the demonstration, and after they had received the appropriate permits, they make sure to explain that the protests will not end until the goal is achieved. “We’re peace-loving. We’re part of this nation, Jews who want justice, to take to the streets and cry out for change. We have enough enemies outside the country and don’t need enemies from within, but the handful who are against us must be held responsible. We’re calling on everyone to behave with restraint and without violence, because that’s not the way. Violence will not necessarily achieve better results. We’re disappointed by the results of the demonstration on Wednesday, apparently it still hasn’t penetrated and therefore we’ll continue to demonstrate.”

Despite the call to avoid violence, Meni Yasu, another organizer, said he’s afraid of violence, especially because the police don’t exercise restraint either. “We’re trying to achieve important goals, and the demonstration could spin out of control. The young people, the new generation that is leading the protest, has a bellyful about all these years and wants to let off steam, the police are not known for restraint and things could get out of control.”

Therefore, said Yasu, the government should come out with a declaration as to what they will do in order to help, “and not silence us with another investigative committee, because we know how that will end.” He said that the local authorities must be the first to act. “We see in certain cities that there’s a wide-scale concentration of racism, and if the local councils address the problem in depth, in the areas of education and employment, it will be easier and simpler to address it on the national level.”

No Arab Bolivars: As Region Implodes, Arab Socialism Fizzles out

Apr 29 2015 / 7:43 am

By Ramzy Baroud
A student group recently asked me to address socialism in the Arab world. This with the assumption that there is indeed such a movement capable of overhauling inherently incompetent and utterly corrupt regimes across the region. But today such a group, or configuration of socialist groups, exists only in name.
I recall a talk I delivered in London soon after Hamas was placed under siege in Gaza in 2007. “Hamas is the largest and most effective socialist movement in Palestine,” I said to the surprise of some and the agreeing nods of others. I was not referring to Hamas’s adherence to Marxist theory but rather to the fact that it was the only operating grassroots political movement that had in some ways succeeded in lessening the gap between various social and economic classes that were all united by a radical political agenda.
Moreover, it was a movement largely made of Palestine’s fellahin (peasants) and workers who were mostly centred in refugee camps. If one is to compare them to the detached, elitist, largely urban-based “socialist” movements in Palestine, the mass of Islamists in the occupied territories is as socialist as a movement can be – under the circumstances.
But what do I tell the student group, made of young, enthusiastic socialists who are eager to see the rise of the proletariat?
A starting point would be that there is a difference between western socialism, and “Arab socialism,” which is a term coined by Arab nationalists in the early 1950s. A merger between nationalist and socialist movements began to take hold, ultimately leading to the formation of the Baath parties of Syria and Iraq. The idea was originally framed by Salah al-Din al-Bitar and Michel Aflaq, founders of the Baath Party.
Socialism in its western forms seemed unappealing to many Arab nationalists. Not only was it intellectually removed from the cultural and socioeconomic contexts of Arab peoples, but it was also politically unpromising if not altogether chauvinistic. Many western socialists romanticised the creation and meaning of Israel, a colonial implant that has united colonial and neocolonial forces against Arab aspirations for many decades.
But Arab nationalism also failed, for it neither offered a compelling alternative, nor had it practically championed a serious paradigm shift. Aside from some land reforms in Egypt after the 1952 anti-King revolt – among other gestures – Arab socialism could neither break free from the confines of good-sounding ideals nor from outside influences that vied to control, influence or crush these movements.
Later, that failure became even more pronounced as the Soviet Union’s influence began to wane in the late 1980s, until its complete collapse in the early 90s. Arab socialists, whether they were governments who adopted that slogan, or organisations that revolved around Soviet agendas, were too dependent on that relationship. With the absence of the Soviets from the scene, they had little chance of surviving the rising dominance of the United States.
However, that failure was not just the outcome of the socialist bloc’s crumbling geopolitical regional models, but also due to the fact that Middle Eastern countries – under the influence or because of pressure from western hegemons – were experiencing a rethink. That was the time of the rise of the Islamic alternative. It was partly a genuine attempt at galvanizing the region’s own intellectual resources, and partly steered by funds coming from rich Arab Gulf countries to regulate the rise of the Islamic tide.
That was the time when the new slogan: “Islam is the Solution” became quite dominant and pierced through the collective psyche of various Arab Muslim intellectual groups throughout the Middle East and beyond, because it seemed to be an attempt at tapping into the region’s own historical and cultural references.
The general argument was: both US-western and Soviet models have failed or are failing along with their client regimes, and there is an urgent need for an alternative.
Arab socialism would have survived, had it indeed been predicated on strong social platforms, propelled by wide-popular support and grassroots movements. That, however, was not the case.
Generally speaking, there was a relatively strong intellectual component of the left in the Arab world. But the intellectual left hardly ever managed to cross the divide between the world of theories and ideas – which was available to the educated classes – into the work place or with the peasants and the average man and woman on the street. Without mobilising the workers, peasants, and oppressed masses, the Arab left had little to offer except for rhetoric that was largely devoid of practical experience.
Of course, there were exceptions in every Arab country. Palestine’s early socialist movements had a strong presence in the refugee camps. They were pioneers in all forms of popular resistance, a situation that can be explained around the uniqueness of the Palestinian situation, as opposed to reflecting a larger trend throughout the entire region.
Another important thing to note is that oppression tends to unite oppressed groups, no matter how seemingly insurmountable their ideological differences may be. In fact, because of that shared oppression between political Islam and the radical left, there was a degree of affinity between activists from both groups as they shared prison cells, were tortured and humiliated together.
The turning point, however, could arguably be the early 1990s when the Soviet Union collapsed. That freed much political space while oil money continued to pour in. Many Islamic universities opened up all over the world, and tens of thousands of students from across the Middle East received higher education degrees in various fields, from Islamic Sharia to engineering.
Look at Hamas in Gaza. Many of their leaders and members are educated in fields such as engineering and medicine. And that has become very common among all Islamic groups’ supporters in Palestine, Egypt, Morocco and so forth. So the hegemony over education and over the articulation of political discourses was no longer in the hands of the political or intellectual elites. On the other hand, a political agenda that was predicated on Islamic ideals was born.
With time, socialists were faced with stark choices: either live on the margins of society – imagine the stereotypical maverick communist intellectual sitting in a coffee shop in Cairo theorising about everything – or join NGOs and official or semi-official institutions in order to remain financially afloat or relevant. Those who opted for the latter needed to compromise to the extent that some of them are now mouthpieces for the very regimes they once fought.
As a result, the thrust of the socialists’ political power as a group has diminished greatly throughout the years. Being more institutionalised, they became further removed from the masses in whose name they continued to speak. In Egypt, one can hardly think of a single powerful leftist organisation that operates there. There are “leftists” but they hardly register as movers and shakers of the current political landscape.
Wishful thinking alone will hardly revive the socialist tide in the Arab world. There are few signs that the decline will be soon reversed, or that a homegrown interpretation of socialism – think of the considerably successful Bolivarian movement of Latin America – will mould together nationalistic priorities and socialist ideals into a workable mix.
But of course, the Middle East is experiencing its greatest political upheaval and socialist influx in a hundred years. New variables are added to the multifarious equation on a regular basis. While the present remains grim, the future seems pregnant with possibilities.
- Ramzy Baroud – – is an internationally-syndicated columnist, a media consultant, an author of several books and the founder of He is currently completing his PhD studies at the University of Exeter. His latest book is My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story (Pluto Press, London).

40 Years After End of Vietnam War, Let's Not Forget

Merle Ratner, Azadeh Shahshahani
May 29, 2015

The war continues in those still suffering from its legacy of unexploded ordnance and Agent Orange.

Forty years ago, on April 30, 1975, the U.S. war against Vietnam finally ended with a victory for the national liberation forces. After decades of struggle against French and U.S. intervention, Vietnam was finally independent and at peace.

Millions of Americans took part in anti-war activities during the 1960s and early ‘70s. Together with the civil rights movements, this activism changed the body politic in this country. It made it harder for U.S. administrations to wage full-on land wars until the Persian Gulf wars. Today as the U.S. wages simultaneous land and drone wars in several countries, the lessons of the Vietnam War are under attack as never before.

The U.S. Department of Defense has a website commemorating the 50th anniversary of the beginning of the Vietnam War. Dedicated to whitewashing history, the website's goals are, “to highlight the advances in technology, science, and medicine related to military research conducted during the Vietnam War.” One wonders whether these advances include the development and use of napalm, Agent Orange and other weapons that killed millions of Vietnamese people along with U.S. veterans. Veterans For Peace, and its many members who fought in Vietnam, is fighting against this revisionist history though a campaign called Vietnam Full Disclosure.

The U.S. government clearly has an interest in obliterating the lessons of the war as it slogs on with brutal interventions in the Middle East and attempts at intervention in Latin America. American drones, white phosphorus, depleted uranium, and other weapons of destruction are built upon the “advances” in technology lauded by the DoD’s 50th anniversary website.

The DoD and others are working hard to obscure the history of the Vietnam War because they seek to blunt criticism of unpopular U.S. interventions and to give the Pentagon a freer hand in conducting future wars. They seek to spend more of our tax dollars on military hardware and weaponry for use in their wars. What are some of the myths that the right is trying to spread about the Vietnam War?

A major general in the U.S. Air Force who served in Vietnam told an anti-war veteran recently that the U.S. could have won if it had committed enough resources to achieving victory. During the war, General Curtis LeMay suggested that the U.S. could bomb Vietnam “back into the stone ages.” While the U.S. did not use the atomic bomb due to international pressure, it did everything short of this, deploying more air and ground munitions than were used in all of World War II.

Despite overwhelming U.S. military superiority, the Vietnamese liberation forces won because they had the support of the people. Use of more U.S. firepower and troops might have prolonged the war and the killing, but it would not have changed the outcome. A people who are organized and dedicated to winning their independence cannot be truly defeated—a lesson the U.S. government has yet to learn in conducting its international affairs.

Another shibboleth of the right is that the U.S. conducted an “honorable” war in Vietnam with only sporadic human rights violations such as the massacre at My Lai. The Winter Soldier Investigation, conducted by Vietnam Veterans Against the War in 1971, painfully documented the massive scale of the massacres, torture of civilians and other war crimes perpetrated against the Vietnamese people.

Testifying before Congress on April 22, 1971, a young John Kerry, then representing VVAW, spoke of, “war crimes committed in Southeast Asia, not isolated incidents but crimes committed on a day-to-day basis with the full awareness of officers at all levels of command.” He went on to describe the testimony of his fellow veterans, who, “personally raped, cut off ears, cut off heads, taped wires from portable telephones to human genitals and turned up the power, cut off limbs, blown up bodies, randomly shot at civilians, razed villages in fashion reminiscent of Genghis Khan, shot cattle and dogs for fun, poisoned food stocks, and generally ravaged the countryside of South Vietnam in addition to the normal ravage of war, and the normal and very particular ravaging which is done by the applied bombing power of this country.”

Nick Turse’s well-documented book describing U.S. atrocities in Vietnam, Kill Anything That Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam is a more recent recounting of the war crimes Kerry testified about. The book has unsurprisingly been attacked by conservative pundits.

Connected to the whitewashing of U.S. war crimes is a denial of how U.S. racism fueled the war in Vietnam. General William Westmoreland, the four-star general who was in command of all U.S. military operations from 1964 to 1968, famously said, “The Oriental doesn't put the same high price on life as does a Westerner. Life is plentiful. Life is cheap in the Orient."

Vietnamese people were referred to by the racist expletive “gooks” and outright murder of civilians was justified by the “mere gook rule” which held that the death of any Vietnamese person, including women and children, was justified. Today, bigotry directed at Arabs and Muslims in countries the U.S. has attacked and occupied and at home eerily echoes such racism as does the police murders of black men in cities across the U.S.

Perhaps the most tired of all the myths the right is trying to perpetuate is that anti-war activists’ actions dishonor U.S. soldiers. This goes hand in hand with the myth that U.S. soldiers returning from Vietnam were routinely spat upon by anti-war activists. Soldiers involved in illegal and immoral wars benefit greatly from anti-war movements (which they often lead upon their return). Ending U.S. wars of intervention saves human lives abroad as well as the lives of our soldiers.

The soldiers who come back from U.S. wars are not dishonored by anti-war movements, but by the callous disregard for their welfare shown by the U.S. government which refuses to provide adequate treatment, rehabilitation and jobs. The impact of the violence of unjust wars echoes long after the wars are over and beyond the ranks of the soldiers and their families. Seymour Hersh, the reporter who documented the My Lai massacre, told Amy Goodman of Democracy Now that when he spoke to a mother whose son had been involved in the massacre, she told him, “I gave them a good boy, and they sent me back a murderer."

The final lesson that is being undermined by the revisionists is their contention that the war is long over and is ancient history. In fact, wars are not over until those harmed by them receive justice and compensation. The Vietnam War killed four million Vietnamese and 58,000 Americans. But the war continues in those still suffering from its legacy of unexploded ordnance and Agent Orange, a dioxin-laden chemical weapon.

Agent Orange causes cancers and other diseases as well as horrific birth defects in the children and grandchildren of those exposed. The U.S. government has done precious little to provide redress to the Vietnamese victims or to Vietnamese-Americans who were exposed. While U.S. veterans fought for and won some compensation from the Veterans Administration, the children of U.S. veterans who suffer with disabilities due to birth defects related to exposure to Agent Orange receive no aid at all. To address this, Representative Barbara Lee is introducing the Victims of Agent Orange Relief Act of 2015 to provide medical, rehabilitative and human services to several generations of Vietnamese and Americans suffering with diseases and disabilities. The Vietnam Agent Orange Relief & Responsibility Campaign is working to build public support for U.S. aid to the victims to heal the wounds of war.

Progressives also espouse myths about the war. One that some among us perpetuate is the portrayal of the anti-war movement as a mainly white student movement and ignorance of the leading role of black and other movements of color. While students did play an important role, the role of returning anti-war veterans, the Vietnamese-American anti-war movemen, and movements of color was crucial.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech in 1967, Beyond Vietnam, helped turned the tide of public opinion in the U.S. against the war. Even before Dr. King, the Southern Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) came out against the war in 1965 as did Malcolm X. Muhammed Ali lost his heavyweight title and was convicted for refusing to fight in Vietnam. While there was media coverage of the National Guard shooting of unarmed white anti-war protesters at Kent State, scant attention was paid to the killings of black anti-war students at Jackson State. Vietnamese-Americans, particularly the Union of Vietnamese in the U.S., played a crucial role in analyzing the events in Vietnam even as they were often sidelined in some rallies for fear they would be identified with the “enemy.” The national veteran’s anti-war movement, led by Vietnam Veterans Against the War, brought formidable credibility and a working-class base to the anti-war movement. Seeing and giving voice to those who truly made up the anti-war movement is crucial if we are to build a strong and successful diverse anti-war movement today.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once called the United States, "the greatest purveyor of violence in the world." He noted that "a nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death."

As we celebrate the 40th anniversary of peace and independence in Vietnam, it is important that we bring the unadulterated and true lessons of the war forward as we build the movement to end wars of aggression and to invest our resources in projects of social uplift.

Merle Ratner is the co-coordinator of the Vietnam Agent Orange Relief & Responsibility Campaign, a project of Veterans For Peace.

Azadeh Shahshahani is a human rights attorney based in Atlanta and President of the National Lawyers Guild.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Don't misinterpret the showing of the "Arab List" in Israel's election

I've recently seen some facebook posts and gotten email talking about the "big breakthrough" and supposedly exciting new development of the "Arab List" coming in as the 3rd largest party in the Knesset. This, some pro-Palestinian activists think, could usher in a new political alignment that could advance the Palestinian cause.

However, a look at the hard reality should dispel these illusions. The fact is that this recent election shows a stronger than expected drive to the far right, and more intransigence among Israeli Jews to not only continue to deny basic human rights to Palestinians, but to go further down the road to outright theft of all remaining Palestinian land and ethnic cleansing.

Why was there an Arab List? Because in hopes of reducing the number of Palestinians elected to the Knesset the minimum per cent of the vote required to get elected was raised.

The previous Knesset had 11 Palestinian members divided into 4 different parties. In order to keep from being decimated, the Palestinian parties (including the Israeli Communist Party which also had a Jewish MK) agreed to form a single ticket to improve their chances of at least holding on to their seats in the Knesset.

The result was 13 seats for the Palestinian representatives. The fact that they came in as the 3rd largest party is meaningless. Parties in Israel are very numerous and governments are always formed by a coalition of several parties. At least 6 parties have formed the new Netanyahu government, there isn't much ideological reason to prevent them all from merging into one big party, but that's not how Israeli politics work.

The 4 Palestinian parties didn't dissolve their identity into one big slate--they ran on one ticket for practical purposes. Their ideological differences remain (Communist...whatever that means in today's world), religious (two of the parties) and nationalist (Balad).

Another fact is important to note. No zionist party (and they are ALL zionist including Tzipi Livni's and Labor...Meretz, with 4 seats, is liberal/zionist) has ever and will never collaborate with Palestinians to achieve any goal, large or small. They are boycotted and isolated by all the other parties. Palestinian MKs are also often denied the right that take their seat in the Knesset and also expelled or suspended for being too vigorous in defending Palestinian rights (Haneen Zoabi of Balad has been the main target of zionist MKs).

The elections results have created a pure far rightist majority with no moderates. Two-states, even as a phony bargaining chip is out the window. None of the parties (except the Arab List, of course) campaigned on improving relations between Palestinians and Jews, be they Jewish settlers or plain old Jewish citizens who are increasingly trampling on the right of Palestinian citizens of Israel (who aren't real citizens with full rights..the trend is, in fact, to pass more laws taking away rights from non-Jewish citizens).

This is what's happening in Israel. It shouldn't be sugar coated, but exposed for what it is. Don't sew illusions about some new "progressive development" that doesn't exist.

We all should listen to what MK Haneen Zoabi, of the Balad Party, the person I consider the most outstanding leader of the Palestinian people in Israel (and maybe of all of Palestine). She is currently on a speaking tour of the US. I heard her talk to a packed auditorium at NYU last week.

What did she say about the showing of the Arab List in the last election? She said it doesn't change anything. Being in the Knesset gives her and her colleges a platform, and some publicity to fight for basic equality and democracy for all. Aside from a handful of Israeli Jews of conscience, who are not to be found in the Zionist parties, Palestinians have no allies inside the zionist state.

Zoabi put it to the audience at NYU, "it is not possible to change things from within Israel. It is up to you in the USA and around the world to pressure Israel from without." She urged the audience to support the BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) movement.