Saturday, August 29, 2015

Judge reinstates destruction of evidence claim in Steven Salaita case

from the Electric Intifada

Ali Abunimah Rights and Accountability 28 August 2015

Steven Salaita speaks at the Maryland AAUP’s conference on academic freedom, at John Hopkins University, 25 April. Mike Ferguson AAUP
A federal judge has allowed Steven Salaita to reinstate a claim against University of Illinois officials including former Chancellor Phyllis Wise for destroying evidence related to his firing last year.

Earlier this month, US District Judge Harry Leinenweber had thrown out that part of Salaita’s lawsuit while allowing his claims for breach of contract and violation of his First Amendment free speech rights to proceed.

Just before he was about to start teaching in August 2014, the university reneged on Salaita’s employment as a tenured professor in the American Indian Studies program following a campaign attacking him for tweets critical of Israel’s assault on Gaza.

Destroying evidence
At a status hearing in federal court in Chicago on Thursday, Anand Swaminathan, one of Salaita’s attorneys, argued that new evidence justified bringing the claim back.

On 5 August this year, Wise announced her resignation as chancellor, the top official at the Urbana-Champaign campus where Salaita was due to teach.

The next day, the university revealed that Wise and other top officials had for months been using private email addresses to discuss Salaita and other official matters in an apparent attempt to evade disclosure laws.

In motions filed by his attorneys earlier this week, Salaita argued that the new evidence clearly indicated that university officials had engaged in spoliation – destruction – of evidence.

Chris Wilson, a lawyer representing the university, told the judge during the hearing that the emails did not justify bringing back the charge.

In response, Swaminathan read out in court an 18 September 2014 email from Wise, in which she wrote that university spokesperson Robin Kaler “has warned me and others not to use email since we are now in litigation phase. We are doing virtually nothing over our Illinois email addresses. I am even being careful with this email address and deleting after sending.”

Judge Leinenweber remarked that “everyone has read in the paper” about Wise’s conduct – an indication of the high media profile the scandals at the university, including the Salaita matter, have assumed.

The judge said in the hearing that he would rule after the university’s lawyers had filed a written response.

However, court records do not show that such a response was filed. Nonetheless, the judge issued an order Thursday evening allowing Salaita to amend his lawsuit to include the spoliation of evidence charge.

This could mean that the judge found Wise’s email so damning on its face that nothing the university could have said would have persuaded him not to allow Salaita to pursue the matter.

If the spoliation of evidence is proven it could lead to a monetary penalty against the university. It could also lead to what is called an “adverse inference” sanction, where the judge tells the jury to assume that the lost evidence would have been harmful to the party that destroyed it.

The next status hearing is set for 27 October. Lawyers are expected to spend the next few months in discovery – the process of revealing evidence – and depositions. A trial is unlikely before early 2016.

The judge has yet to rule on a second motion filed by Salaita’s lawyers this week asking the court to order the university to take steps to preserve evidence from further destruction.

Email revelations
Emails, some still coming to light, have revealed hitherto unknown aspects of the Salaita matter.

Earlier this week, for instance, The Electronic Intifada exclusively revealed the intervention in the case of US Senator Dick Durbin, a senior member of the Democratic Party leadership.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Palestinians salute Black solidarity, call for joint struggle

from the Electric Intifada
Ali Abunimah Activism and BDS Beat 27 August 2015

Israel advocates are alarmed by growth in Black-Palestinian solidarity. (Sarah-Ji/Flickr)
Palestinians have welcomed the declaration signed by more than 1,000 Black activists, artists and scholars in solidarity with the Palestinian people.

This comes as an Israel lobby group is expressing concern at the growing cooperation between Black activists and Palestinians.

The statement, whose endorsers include scholar-activists Angela Davis and Cornel West and Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors, urges full support for the Palestinian-led campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) on Israel.

First appearing in Ebony earlier this month, the statement emphasizes “return to their homeland in present-day Israel” as “the most important aspect of justice for Palestinians.”

Mahmoud Nawajaa, general coordinator of the Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC) said that the Black activists’ “support for BDS against Israel’s regime of occupation, settler colonialism and apartheid is particularly inspiring as it translates principled positions into morally consistent actions that are capable of righting injustices.”

The BNC is the broad Palestinian civil society coalition that leads the BDS movement.

“The US civil rights movement has always been a key inspiration for us in the BDS movement,” Nawajaa added in a statement from the BNC. “We are deeply moved by this powerful proclamation that evokes the spirit of that heroic civil rights struggle.”

Omar Barghouti, co-founder of the BDS movement, called the statement “a poignant testament to the organic links that connect the Palestinian struggle for self-determination with the struggle of the oppressed around the world, including ongoing struggles for racial and economic justice by Black people in the US and across the world.”

“Despite the obvious differences, there are compelling similarities between the forms of oppression that both Palestinians and African Americans live under,” Barghouti added. “Dehumanization, dispossession, racial injustice and discrimination, state violence, criminalization of entire communities and impunity are all key characteristics of the oppression faced by Black Americans and Palestinians.”

The Black activists’ statement calls for joint campaigns against G4S, the multinational security firm that works in Israeli prisons in the occupied West Bank and runs detention centers that are part of the US system of mass incarceration that targets people of color.

The Black activists’ statement – and the Palestinian response – represent the kind of solidarity that is ringing alarm bells in the offices of Israel lobby groups.

This week, the Israel on Campus Coalition (ICC) warned in a report that Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) “and its allies continue to deepen their involvement with social justice-oriented organizations on campus.”

“This year saw efforts by anti-Israel groups to build coalitions with progressive campus organizations that deal with issues such as LGBT rights, fossil fuel divestment, private prison reform, racial discrimination and immigration reform,” the ICC report states.

In particular, ICC – which evidently closely monitors the Palestine solidarity movement – says it “observed strong ties between SJP and many African American student groups during the 2014-2015 academic year.”

“As recently as May 2015, SJP student activists were actively involved in Black Lives Matter-linked demonstrations,” it states.

ICC also notes an “increasing number of SJP-backed slates and candidates winning legislative and executive positions within student governments.”

“These candidates are running on platforms that call for reform on a wide range of social issues; BDS is now mentioned alongside other issues such as private prison divestment, minority rights and fossil fuels,” it adds.

But ICC assures Israel supporters that anti-Palestinian activists are “fighting back” by “forming coalitions to educate the broader campus community, and working to build support for Israel on campus.”

The Israel lobby group says that media reports alleging that BDS is taking over college campuses are exaggerated.

It warns, however, that “if the current trends on campuses nationwide persist, the result could be dangerously close to that reality.”

Thursday, August 27, 2015

“Donald Trump is the new face of white supremacy,” says hate crime expert.


Before you think this article is “just one liberal’s opinion,” let me briefly say I have dedicated my life to studying racism. I earned my PhD from Emory University in 1995 after spending several years doing ethnographic field studies of white supremacist groups. I have published books and articles in peer-reviewed journals on the subject and have appeared on more TV shows than I can remember discussing how hate works. In my 20 years at Portland State University, I interviewed scores of committed racists, from teenage skinheads to racist murderers and founders of Nazi prison gangs. So when I say that presidential candidate Donald Trump is a racist hate-monger it’s not just a political pejorative. He has a constitutional right to hold and express racist views, but using those views to manipulate the intellectually vulnerable and mobilize active bigots requires a coherent response. As an expert on hate, I am more than comfortable stating that either Trump is a virulent racist or that he is willing to perform racism and use racism of others to advance his political position.

Trump represents a frightening trend of convenient racism rooted a belief that America was great before ethnic and racial minorities, women, and sexual minorities wanted equal rights. (What Trump calls “political correctness.”) These people will say that “racism is wrong, but…” or “I’m not a racist, but…” and then something deeply racist follows. They’ll say that “all lives matter,” in the face of the movement to acknowledge the devaluing of black lives. They’ll say they are not homophobes, just for “religious freedom” (an argument the KKK still makes). They’ll say they’re not Islamaphobes, just against terrorism (ignoring the carnage done by domestic, often Christian, terrorists). And they’ll say that they are not bigots, just opposed to illegal immigration (of brown people). It’s a kinder, gentler form of bigotry, but it’s still bigotry. And Donald Trump is the new Father Coughlin and he wants to be free of the political correctness that would stand in the way of his bigotry. (At least he’s abandoned the GOP’s “go after the gays” mantra from the last election.)

Trump has been visiting states with troubled racial histories to sell his rallying cry that “illegal immigrants are killers and rapists.” First Arizona and then, on Friday, Alabama. He started his rally with some classic hate speech, telling the assembled 30,000 supporters and curious (I would have gone to see the Trump clown show) about the alleged rape and torture of a 66-year-old victim in California who was supposedly attacked by an “illegal immigrant.” The crowd went wild. “We have to do it. We have to do something,” he then said. The crowd roared, and some chanted, “White power!”

Two things to know about Trump’s rhetoric

Anyone knowledgeable about the horrific statistics on rape know that women are overwhelmingly victimized by somebody they know, including family members and dates. Only about 18% of rapes are committed by a stranger (and a tiny fraction of those by undocumented immigrants). So if Trump actually cared about women, it would make more sense to devote his rape obsession to step-fathers instead of Mexican immigrants. Of course, this is a man who has been challenged on the issue of marital rape of one of his ex-wives. Rape is an emotional issue. It was used to lynch innocent blacks in the South and Trump is using it the same way to go after people who are often the hardest workers in the country.

Secondly, in my research I have attended numerous Klan rallies, skinhead gatherings, and meetings of the Aryan Nations, and the rhetoric is almost exactly the same as Trump’s. I was at a Klan Rally in Covington, Georgia in 1991 in which a Klan leader told the small crowd the story of a white woman who had been raped and beaten by an “illegal Mexican.” As with Trump’s story, whether it was true or not didn’t matter. It served to whip the racists into a frenzy. And like Trump’s crowd they were out to “do something” about it. I’ve heard Trump’s rhetoric many times before. “Let’s go back in time to when America was great.” Usually the speaker had a swastika tattoo.


So it wasn’t surprising last week when a news story emerged of two brothers in Boston who brutally beat a homeless Latino man (and urinated on him), claiming they were inspired by Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric. “Donald Trump was right, all these illegals need to be deported,” one said, in the police report. When told of the crime, instead of condemning it, Trump said, “I will say that people who are following me are very passionate. They love this country and they want this country to be great again.” Later, after much outcry, he backpedaled, posting that he opposed violence on his Twitter account. We still don’t know if he opposes urinating on immigrants. We also don’t know if there have been similar Trump-inspired hate crimes, but it is very likely there will be.

The most reasonable Republican candidate might be Ohio governor John Kasich (who was just endorsed by Deez Nuts!). At the first GOP/Fox News debate earlier this month, Kasich (maybe buttering up the Donald), admitted that Trump was “hitting a nerve with voters.” But it’s not all Americans. It’s a small subsection of white people who fear the reality that America is getting less white (and more brown). They see the privilege of their white authority undermined every time they walk into a Home Depot and see signs in English and (gasp!) in Spanish. These are the people who say, “I’m not a racist, but…”

America is a nation of immigrants, coming from all directions. Most white Americans have ancestors that only go back to no further than the 1880s, making them “less American” the descendants of African slaves. When my great grandfather, Michael Blazak, came here from Prague in the 1890s, he faced plenty of anti-Catholic hostility. His son converted to Protestantism and married the daughter of a Klansman and the cycle of immigrant hating continued. “They’re taking our country away! Let’s make America great again and DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT!”

Trump lies to win support

Obviously, Trump is a clown who will say anything that feeds his narcissism. When he said he was going to get Mexico to pay for a wall between our two countries, I could just hear President Peña Nieto laughing and saying, “Señor Trump, chupamela.” Trumpies (I’m coining that term) often say they love Trump because he tells it like it is. If by that they mean that billionaires buy politicians in return for political favors (as Trump admitted in the Fox debate), they are correct. But if they mean all the rest of the crazy stuff that comes out of his mouth, in reality Trump tells it like it isn’t, but it’s what “I’m not racist” racists wish it was. Politifact works overtime trying the present the actual facts to Trump’s lies, but the Trumpies prefer the lie. Something far too common on the right. (“Obama is a Muslim!” “Iraq had weapons of mass destruction!” “The Jews control the banks!”)

Where Trump’s lies are greatest are his bizarre tirades on immigration. Despite his fear mongering, the number of undocumented immigrants has been on the decline since 2009. And despite his endless mantra about “rapists and murderers,” actual data (a word the “King of Capitalism” should know) shows that crime rates in cities decline as their population of undocumented immigrants increase. Think about it. If you are living in America without papers, you aren’t even going to jaywalk. Why do anything that would risk deportation?

My wife was an illegal immigrant. Thanks to immigration reform under President Bill Clinton, and a lot of difficult hoops to jump through, she earned a permanent resident card and is hoping to become a citizen in time to vote in this election. Our daughter, Cozy, would surely be called an “anchor baby” by Trump (and Jeb Bush). Bush recently asked for a better term to use instead of “anchor baby.” I would suggest the word, “baby.” But dehumanizing immigrants (even infants) wins the “I’m not racist, but…” voters. Trump has said on his first day of his presidency he would immediately “get rid of all these people” (I assume my wife and child are included in that group). Besides the fact it’s not possible (Trump’s “looking into” changing the 14th Amendment of the Constitution), it would devastate the American economy. Who does he thinks picks the strawberries that go into his daiquiris? His latest wife is not only a lingerie model but an immigrant! Maybe he should ask her. (The new First Lady?)

It’s ironic that Trump laid this line out in Sweet Home Alabama. Alabama Republicans passed a law in 2011 (HB 56, the Alabama Taxpayer and Citizen Protection Act) to crack down on “illegals.” Residents soon saw produce rotting in fields, disappearing from grocery shelves and restaurants closing. The federal government weighed in (with the help of the Southern Poverty Law Center) on the Constitutionality of the law and it is now a fond memory of the intersection between racist politics and reality.

Alabama tried a Donald Trump-style immigration law. It failed in a big way.

Trump, of course, caters to the convenient racists. At the Alabama rally he was joined on stage by Jeff Sessions, one of the most extreme anti-immigration politicians in the country who has been linked to white supremacist groups. Trump is now using this avowed racist as a “consultant” on his immigration policy. It should be pointed out that when Trumpies blather about “illegal immigrants,” they are not concerned about undocumented Russians, Ukrainians, Irish, Canadians or even Chinese. It’s all about brown people. Trump telling the story of an undocumented Irishman committing a heinous crime wouldn’t get the same roar of approval as a similar story about an “illegal Mexican.”

And now that Trump is trying to woo Conservative Christians, he’s added Islamophobia into his stump speeches, including making up stories about Christian refugees from Syria not being allowed into the U.S., when Muslim refugees are. It’s another lie, but the “I’m not racist” Trumpies send the lie around in chain emails and Facebook stories. (It even got posted by a Trumpie on my page.) Can you imagine what Jesus would say about Donald?

I sincerely doubt Trump really wants to be president of the country and submit himself to the art of the compromise that is politics in the real world. He just wants to win to feed his massive ego. But who knows how many hate crimes he will inspire in the process. It should be noted that Trump is widely popular on the racist Stormfront discussion board. Stormfront is the primary place white supremacists and Neo-Nazis meet and registered members have been linked to almost 100 murders.

I know this blog is supposed to be about being a feminist father and the challenges of raising my daughter in a patriarchal world and not about politics. But there is no better example of the failed model of racist, sexist masculinity than Donald J. Trump. He is an artifact of the past and he wants to drag the country back to it. The man’s rhetoric directly affects the security of my family. The thought of someone hating my wife and child (or attacking them) because they want to “make America great again,” is frightening. When was Trump’s America great? In 2008, when the Great Recession started? In 1954, before the passage of Brown vs. the Board of Education? In 1860, before the start of the Civil War? America is better than Donald Trump, but I fight against him for the safety of my family.

Jorge Ramos Commits Journalism, Gets Immediately Attacked by Journalists

from the Intercept
Glenn Greenwald
Aug. 26 2015, 12:08 p.m.

The Republican presidential candidate leading every poll, Donald Trump, recently unveiled his plan to forcibly deport all 11 million human beings residing in the U.S. without proper documentation, roughly half of whom have children born in the U.S. (and who are thus American citizens). As George Will noted last week, “Trump’s roundup would be about 94 times larger than the wartime internment of 117,000 persons of Japanese descent.” It would require a massive expansion of the most tyrannical police state powers far beyond their already immense post-9/11 explosion. And that’s to say nothing of the incomparably ugly sentiments that Trump’s advocacy of this plan, far before its implementation, is predictably unleashing.

Jorge Ramos, the influential anchor of Univision and an American immigrant from Mexico, has been denouncing Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric. Yesterday at a Trump press conference in Iowa, Ramos stood and questioned Trump on his immigration views. Trump at first ignored him, then scolded him for speaking without being called on and repeatedly ordered him to “sit down,” then told him: “Go back to Univision.” When Ramos refused to sit down and shut up as ordered, a Trump bodyguard physically removed him from the room. After the press conference concluded, Ramos returned and again questioned Trump about immigration, with the two mostly talking over each other as Ramos asked Trump about the fundamental flaws in his policy. Afterward, Ramos said: “This is personal. … He’s talking about our parents, our friends, our kids and our babies.”

One might think that in a conflict between a journalist removed from a press conference for asking questions and the politician who had him removed, journalists would side with their fellow journalist. Some are. But many American journalists have seized on the incident to denounce Ramos for the crime of having opinions and even suggesting that he’s not really acting as a journalist at all.

Politico’s political reporter Marc Caputo unleashed a Twitter rant this morning against Ramos. “This is bias: taking the news personally, explicitly advocating an agenda,” he began. Then: “Trump can and should be pressed on this. Reporters can do this without being activists” and “some reporters still try to approach their stories fairly & decently. & doing so does not prevent good reporting.” Not only did Ramos not do journalism, Caputo argued, but he actually ruins journalism: “My issue is his reporting is imbued with take-it-personally bias. . . . we fend off phony bias allegations & Ramos only helps to wrongly justify them. . . .One can ask and report without the bias. I’ve done it for years & will continue 2 do so.”

A Washington Post article about the incident actually equated the two figures, beginning with the headline: “Jorge Ramos is a conflict junkie, just like his latest target: Donald Trump.” The article twice suggested that Ramos’ behavior was something other than journalism, claiming that his advocacy of immigration reform “blurred the line between journalist and activist” and that “by owning the issue of immigration, Ramos has also blurred the line between journalist and activist.” That Ramos was acting more as an “activist” than a “journalist” was a commonly expressed criticism among media elites this morning.

Here we find, yet again, the enforcement of unwritten, very recent, distinctively corporatized rules of supposed “neutrality” and faux objectivity which all Real Journalists must obey, upon pain of being expelled from the profession. A Good Journalist must pretend they have no opinions, feign utter indifference to the outcome of political debates, never take any sides, be utterly devoid of any human connection to or passion for the issues they cover, and most of all, have no role to play whatsoever in opposing even the most extreme injustices.

Thus: you do not call torture “torture” if the U.S. government falsely denies that it is; you do not say that the chronic shooting of unarmed black citizens by the police is a major problem since not everyone agrees that it is; and you do not object when a major presidential candidate stokes dangerous nativist resentments while demanding mass deportation of millions of people. These are the strictures that have utterly neutered American journalism, drained it of its vitality and core purpose, and ensured that it does little other than serve those who wield the greatest power and have the highest interest in preserving the status quo.

What is more noble for a journalist to do: confront a dangerous, powerful billionaire-demagogue spouting hatemongering nonsense about mass deportation, or sit by quietly and pretend to have no opinions on any of it and that “both sides” are equally deserving of respect and have equal claims to validity? As Ramos put it simply, in what should not even need to be said: “I’m a reporter. My job is to ask questions. What’s ‘totally out of line’ is to eject a reporter from a press conference for asking questions.”

Indeed, some of the most important and valuable moments in American journalism have come from the nation’s most influential journalists rejecting this cowardly demand that they take no position, from Edward R. Murrow’s brave 1954 denunciation of McCarthyism to Walter Cronkite’s 1968 refusal to treat the U.S. government’s lies about the Vietnam War as anything other than what they were. Does anyone doubt that today’s neutrality-über-alles journalists would denounce them as “activists” for inappropriately “taking a side”?

As Jack Shafer documented two years ago, crusading and “activist” journalism is centuries old and has a very noble heritage. The notion that journalists must be beacons of opinion-free, passion-devoid, staid, impotent neutrality is an extremely new one, the byproduct of the increasing corporatization of American journalism. That’s not hard to understand: One of the supreme values of large corporations is fear of offending anyone, particularly those in power, since that’s bad for business. The way that conflict-avoiding value is infused into the media outlets that these corporations own is to inculcate their journalists that their primary duty is to avoid offending anyone, especially those who wield power, which above all means never taking a clear position about anything, instead just serving as a mindless, uncritical vessel for “both sides,” what NYU Journalism Professor Jay Rosen has dubbed “the view from nowhere.” Whatever else that is, it is most certainly not a universal or long-standing principle of how journalism should be conducted.

The worst aspect of these journalists’ demands for “neutrality” is the conceit that they are actually neutral, that they are themselves not activists. To be lectured about the need for journalistic neutrality by Politico of all places — the ultimate and most loyal servant of the D.C. political and corporate class — by itself illustrates what a rotten sham this claim is. I set out my argument about this at length in my 2013 exchange with Bill Keller and won’t repeat it all here; suffice to say, all journalism is deeply subjective and serves some group’s interests. All journalists constantly express opinions and present the world in accordance with their deeply subjective biases — and thus constantly serve one agenda or another — whether they honestly admit doing so or dishonestly pretend they don’t.

Ultimately, demands for “neutrality” and “objectivity” are little more than rules designed to shield those with the greatest power from meaningful challenge. As BuzzFeed’s Adam Serwer insightfully put it this morning, “‘Objective’ reporters were openly mocking Trump not that long ago, but Ramos has not reacted to Trump’s poll numbers with appropriate deference . . . . Just a reminder that what is considered objective reporting is intimately tied to power or the perception of power.” Expressing opinions that are in accord with, and which serve the interests of, those who wield the greatest political and economic power is always acceptable for the journalists who most tightly embrace the pretense of “neutrality”; it’s only when an opinion constitutes dissent or when it’s expressed with too little reverence for the most powerful does it cross the line into “activism” and “bias.”

(Ramos’ supposed sin of being what the Post called a “conflict junkie” — something that sounds to be nothing more than a derogatory way of characterizing “adversary journalism” — is even more ridiculous. Please spare me the tripe about how Ramos’ real sin was one of rudeness, that he failed to wait for explicit permission from the Trumpian Strongman to speak. Aside from the absurdity of viewing Victorian-era etiquette as some sort of journalistic virtue, Trump’s vindictive war with Univision made it unlikely he’d call on Ramos, and journalists don’t always need to be “polite” to do their jobs.

Beyond that, whether a reporter must be deferential to a politician is one of those questions on which people shamelessly switch sides based on which politician is being treated rudely at the moment, as the past liberal protests over the “rudeness” displayed to Obama by conservative journalists demonstrate. That Ramos is not One of Them — Joe Scarborough appeared not even to know who Ramos is and suggested he was just seeking “15 minutes of fame,” despite Ramos’ having far greater influence and fame than Scarborough could dream of having — clearly fueled the journalistic resentment that Ramos’ behavior was out of line).

What Ramos did here was pure journalism in its classic and most noble expression: He aggressively confronted a politician wielding a significant amount of power over some pretty horrible things that the politician is doing and saying. As usual when someone commits a real act of journalism aimed at the most powerful in the U.S., those leading the charge against him are other journalists, who so tellingly regard actual journalism as a gauche and irreverent crime against those who wield the greatest power and thus merit the greatest deference.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Palestine Activism in an Anti-Racist Framework



Though this piece, an exploration of working within an anti-racist framework in all work against oppression, but particularly in the movement to end the occupaton of Palestinian territory, is a personal statement by Mike Merryman-Lotze, it does reflect AFSC's organizational position with regard to this issue. - Lucy

Since late May the Palestine-Israel activist community has been roiled in controversy as a result of a decision made by Jewish Voice for Peace to disassociate from If Americans Knew and its director Alison Weir as well as the decision several months later by the US Campaign to End the Israel Occupation to remove Alison from its coalition for violating the US Campaign anti-racism policy. The separate US Campaign and JVP actions came in response to Alison’s repeated use of media platforms provided by racists and anti-Semites to promote her views on Palestine and her public position that as a matter of principle she will continue to use any platform provided to her to speak about Palestine regardless of how else those platforms are used.

The dispute between these organizations has opened discussions within activist and Quaker circles about what it means to work within an anti-racist framework and about whether such a framework is important to Palestine-Israel activism. AFSC constituents have expressed concerns regarding how racism is or should be identified, defined, and addressed in Palestine activism, and these questions apply more broadly. In my role at AFSC many of these questions have come to me and that is what leads me to write this note.

I should state from the start that I am not a disinterested party in this process. In late May I wrote two public notes in a personal capacity raising concerns about the position taken by If Americans Knew and I communicated my concerns directly to If Americans Knew while dialoguing over email with Alison. I am also a member of the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation’s Steering Committee and was involved with its decision making process on this issue. I support the US Campaign decision, believing that it must enforce its anti-Racism principles if it wants to remain a coalition for justice and that those principles were violated by If Americans Knew.

In noting my connection to this controversy, I also want to be clear that I am not motivated by either personal or organizational animus. I don’t know Alison personally and haven’t worked with If Americans Knew. My only direct interactions with Alison occurred when I was working in Ramallah during the Second Intifada and Alison visited the organization I worked for during her first trips to Palestine. The growth of If Americans Knew over the last 15 years is impressive and many of the materials that it has produced are excellent. I do not want to take away from the good work that If Americans Knew and Alison have done over the years. At the same time, those good works cannot be used as an excuse to ignore other problematic actions and positions.

My motivation for writing about this issue in May and for publishing this statement now is not to label, shame, or shun either Alison or If Americans Knew. I also am not interested in focusing on the specific details of the If Americans Knew dispute which are addressed extensively in other locations. However, I believe that it is important to address openly differences in principle within our movement. I strongly disagree with the If Americans Knew position that it is OK not to vet speaking and publishing opportunities and that as activists we should, as a matter of principle, accept any platform offered to share our opinions. I believe that these positions are a violation of the anti-Racist framework that must guide our activism and my goal here is to put forward both my thoughts regarding what it means to organize for Palestinian rights within an anti-Racist framework and how I reached these conclusions. I offer these thoughts in a spirit of public dialogue and with an openness to being challenged.

Towards an Understanding of anti-Racist organizing

In putting forward my views I think it is important to explain who I am and how I came to my positions on these issues. First, I am a straight, white, protestant male and I understand that these and other aspects of my identity both shape and limit my understanding of race, racism, privilege, and rights.

I am not a natural activist. I grew up in rural Washington State, living in a town of 500 people until I was six and then in an unincorporated community nine miles outside of a town of 3,000 until I left home for college. My parents were missionaries before I was born as were my grandparents, several aunts and uncles, and now several cousins. I grew up in the evangelical church. This was not a diverse nor a liberal environment in which to grow up. Activism was not a part of my life.

At the same time, I grew up in a family where social justice was important. My parents fit within the progressive evangelical camp and within our home there was always an emphasis on living out faith in ways that push forward justice. While we attended mainline and evangelical churches throughout my childhood we also maintained a connection with a local Quaker meeting. My parent’s connection to Quakerism began in the 1960s when my dad was a conscientious objector and my mom volunteered at a Quaker draft counseling center. Although my grandfather became Presbyterian when he married my grandmother, the Lotze family roots are in the Brethren Church and the Brethren peace testimony was never left behind by our family. Having family all over the world also helped me gain a globalized perspective that I otherwise might not have gained in a rural small town.

My parents’ commitment to social justice influenced me but with clear limits. Through my late twenties I had not developed solid understandings of power, privilege, race, or structural racism and injustice. I grew up accepting the mainstream narrative about race which holds that racism was largely eradicated through the civil rights movement and that our job now is to be color blind and police our own actions. Moving beyond this framing and to deeper understandings of power, privilege, race, and racism is an ongoing process and I recognize that I still have much to learn.

My process of developing a deeper understanding of these issues developed as a direct result of my engagement in Palestine and Israel. My first experience in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories came in 1996 when I spent 4 months in Jerusalem studying the conflict with Palestinian and Israeli professors. When I returned to the U.S. I became involved with student organizing on Palestine and in 1998 volunteered with Human Rights Watch in their Middle East program. In January 2000 I moved to Ramallah where I worked with a human rights organization until mid-2003.

As I have written elsewhere, living in Palestine during the Second Intifada was transformative. I was forced out of my comfortable understanding of the world as I struggled to understand the dynamics of the violence that I witnessed on a daily basis. Over the 15 years that have passed since I first moved to Ramallah I have gradually come to appreciate the structural aspects of both violence and racism, and it is this appreciation that leads me to lift up the ideas below.

Challenging Structural Inequality and Injustice

Palestinian community of Umm al-Kheir. The community is in the Southern West Bank and threatened with forced displacement. Its homes are regularly demolished. It is also located directly next to a settlement built on community land. The settlement can be seen in the background of the picture with the shacks of the village in the foreground.
Palestinian community of Umm al-Kheir. The community is in the Southern West Bank and threatened with forced displacement. Its homes are regularly demolished. It is also located directly next to a settlement built on community land. The settlement can be seen in the background of the picture with the shacks of the village in the foreground.
One of the core messages I have tried to emphasize through my Palestine-Israel activism work over the last several years has been that those seeking change in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory should not over emphasize acts of individual violence as they analyze the dynamics of the conflict between Palestinians and Israelis. Acts of individual violence must be condemned and their impact on individuals, families, and communities cannot be understated. Collectively we must stand firmly against all violence. However, acts of violence must be seen within their larger social and political contexts. In Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory that is a context of past and ongoing dispossession, inequality, and occupation.

The roots of the conflict cannot be found in personalized violence nor misunderstanding between people. We must recognize that the core of the conflict is the institutional discrimination and violence that emanates from the systems of power that are in place in order to privilege the rights of Jewish Israelis over Palestinians. These systems in turn cannot be delinked from the history of European/Jewish settler colonialism that displaced and dispossessed Palestinians in 1948 and before, that continue through the ongoing occupation of the Palestinian territory, and that permeate Israeli and Palestinian institutions, culture, and daily life through systems of legal and political segregation and discrimination.

To transform this reality it is not enough for us to call for an end to physical violence and the occupation. We must also actively work to oppose the economic, social, and political structures that benefit from and support this system of inequality. We must challenge the dominant narrative that guides the United States led peace process and that emphasizes partition and ethnic separation over rights. We must call for Palestinians’ right of return, recognizing that arguments against return that deny rights because of a perceived need to maintain a particular demographic balance are fundamentally racist. We must challenge the corporate and economic interests that are benefiting from and sustaining conflict and inequality. We must support those Palestinians and Israelis who are working separately and through co-resistance to end the systems of power that keep them trapped in a conflict that is destructive to both people.

A clear recognition of the structural nature of the conflict is what leads to a position supportive of anti-normalization principles. Normalization is generally defined as any project, initiative, or activity, in Palestine or internationally, that aims (implicitly or explicitly) to bring together Palestinians and Israelis (people or institutions) without placing as its goal opposition and resistance to the Israeli occupation and structural inequalities. This definition builds from the idea that programs that bring people together without focusing on the political and structural aspects of the conflict artificially reduce the conflict to an interpersonal and relational struggle based on misunderstandings and conflicting historic narratives. In this context, the push towards resolving the conflict becomes focused on building interpersonal understanding and co-existence, while political and structural injustices resulting from the ongoing occupation and structural inequalities between Palestinians and Israelis get pushed to the side or ignored. Rather than serving as transformative processes, such programs often further entrench conflict by providing a veneer of normality that serves to cover real inequality.

I was involved with discussions that led to the Palestinian NGO Network decision in late 2000 to end people to people programs with Israelis. It should be understood that this 2000 decision and the anti-Normalization positions that have since developed are not about refusing contact between individuals based on identity. Rather, they are positions that recognize the unequal power dynamics that exist between people in situations of injustice and that account for that inequality in considering how individual and group interactions either further or challenge injustice.

While anti-Normalization positions were first developed by Palestinians living in the occupied Palestinian territory as a response to dialogue and people to people programs that they viewed as reinforcing rather than challenging injustice against them, the Palestinian position has also shaped and informed the thinking and actions of activists outside of Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory. A key part of international activists’ work to transform realities on the ground in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory involves challenging the accepted and dominant narratives about both the history and current context of the conflict. Challenging narratives requires careful consideration of how and where one speaks and what forums are used to promote discussions and views.

Dialogue and discussion groups are not value neutral forums. Media platforms are not value neutral. The various platforms that we use to promote ideas and the forums that we participate in can either reinforce or challenge injustice. As activists it is our responsibility to think carefully about how and where we present our position.

This is not to say that we should only speak in comfortable environments and to audiences that agree with our positions. To bring change we must make speaking to people with whom we disagree and in places where our opinions are not popular a core part of our work. However, as we reach out to individuals and groups with whom we disagree, we must ensure that we are challenging and not reinforcing discriminatory, racist, or otherwise harmful ideologies held by these individuals and groups whether related to Palestine or to other issues.

Palestine Activism in an Anti-Racist Framework

Setting out the ideas and principles outlined above in the context of a discussion of how anti-racist principles should guide the Palestine activist movement in the United States is important because I believe that it is this framing that must lead Palestine-Israel activists to a deeper analysis of racism and injustice in the United States. It is this framing which has led me to a deeper analysis of race, power, racism, and injustice in the United States.

It is my belief that just as it is not enough to focus on individual acts of violence in Palestine, it is not enough to focus on obvious and overt racist acts and statements as we challenge racism and injustice in the United States. Learning from our work on Palestine, we must begin to place overt acts of racism and injustice in their larger social and political context and address systems of structural oppression. This context is not just a history and system of explicit white racism and legal segregation which ostensibly ended with the civil rights movement, but also a historic and ongoing reality of economic exploitation and inequality, restricted opportunity, discriminatory policing and many other factors that entrench inequality and injustice.

The roots of racism in the U.S are not only to be found in personal racism and misunderstanding between people. While recognizing the reality of individual responsibility for racism and racist acts, we must also recognize that racism in the U.S involves institutionalized discrimination and violence that emanates from systems of power that are in place in order to privilege the rights of white U.S citizens over people of color and those defined as “other”. These systems in turn cannot be delinked from the history of U.S settler colonialism, slavery, and economic exploitation that set in place systems of control and privilege which allowed for legalized social, political, and economic segregation into the 1960s; systems that have not been truly transformed and ended despite the end of explicit legal segregation.

Understanding that racism in the U.S. is not just personal but also structural means understanding that racism is present in nearly all institutions and relationships. To transform this reality it is not enough for us to call for an end to blatant discriminatory and racist acts. It also is not enough to guarantee voting rights, set in place affirmative action policies, and regulate individual actions.

We must also actively work to oppose the economic, social, and political structures that are benefiting from and sustaining inequality and racism in the United States. We must challenge the dominant narratives that have developed since the 1960’s and that hold that the civil rights movement is a movement of the past and that we are seeking a color blind society which prioritizes individual reconciliation over rights. We must challenge the economic and corporate systems that marginalize and exploit communities of color. We must work to undo laws that are discriminatory either in intent or impact. We must end the systems of policing and mass incarceration which devastate communities of color. We must seek fundamental transformations in society.

All of this is stated with a clear recognition that activist’s time and ability to work for change across multiple issues is limited. This is not a call for Palestine activists to change focus and become full time anti-Racism activists and it is not a call for anti-Racism activists to become full time Palestine activists. However, U.S. based Palestine activists in particular must recognize that their activism occurs within the context of U.S. structural racism and as (overwhelmingly middle class and white) U.S. citizens we are complicit in and benefit from that system.

Our work for justice in Palestine and Israel must therefore be integrated into larger anti-racist and peace and justice frameworks. We cannot only be concerned with Palestinian rights. Rather we must see our work for Palestinian rights as coming out of an overall commitment to rights based activism which motivates us on principle to address all injustice and rights violations and thereby leads us to action for Palestine and Israel.

Challenging structural racism and injustice in the U.S. must be a priority for us, and we must understand that even in the context of our Palestine activism our actions can reinforce racism and injustice in the U.S. if we are not conscious of power structures. We must frame our work as part of a struggle not only to overcome the visible systems of oppression in Palestine but also the social, economic, and political systems of oppression and exploitation that sustain injustice in Palestine, Israel, the U.S. and elsewhere.

In addition to the principled reasons for supporting an anti-Racist approach to organizing, there are very practical reasons for building an intersectional movement for social justice. G4S, one of the companies supporting the Israeli prison system and systems of control in the West Bank, runs private prisons in the U.S. and has contracts with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency through which it coordinates the deportation of undocumented immigrants. Hewlett Packard, which supplies magnetic IDs in Israel and Palestine that are key to restricting Palestinian movement, provides software to facilitate the detention and tracking of prisoners and undocumented immigrants in the United States. Elbit Systems took its learning from building the Israeli wall through the West Bank and has applied it as it helps build the wall going up along the U.S.-Mexico border. The police in Fergusson, Missouri, New York City, and other locations across the U.S. received training in Israel.

These connections make it clear that injustice is not contained by borders. Local injustice links to larger systems that connect together globalized injustice. Understanding this we should not see our movement for justice as single issue or localized. We must link with other movements to overcome injustice and also must recognize hetero, patriarchal, white, Christian, and other privilege while constantly struggling to undermine them in our movement. We must work to overcome racism, heterosexism, misogyny, ethno-chauvinism, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, and other forms of discrimination and oppression wherever they exist.

Similar to how Palestine activists have taken positions on anti-Normalization that recognize how activism can feed into dynamics that either support or deny Palestinian rights, we must recognize that our actions can (intentionally or unintentionally) either challenge or reinforce racism and discrimination in the United States. Even while speaking out against U.S. support for Israeli militarism and in support of Palestinian rights, we can reinforce and give legitimacy to other problematic, discriminatory, or racist systems of power if we are not principled about the platforms that we use to promote our views.

Challenging injustice requires carefully considering how and where we speak and what forums we use. As was noted above, the forums that we participate in and the media platforms that we use are not value neutral and can either reinforce or challenge racism and discrimination. As activists it is our responsibility to think carefully about how and where we present our positions. It is our responsibility to refuse opportunities where our actions may reinforce systems of oppression even while providing an opportunity to educate others about the issue about which we are passionate.

In practice this means vetting who we work with, refusing to accept platforms from racists and anti-Semites, standing consistently against all discrimination, stepping away from our own privilege, and taking our lead from those who are subject to oppression and discrimination.

The core of the concerns raised by the US Campaign and Jewish Voice for Peace regarding Alison Weir’s multiple appearances on and use of media platforms used to promote anti-Semitism and racism should be viewed in this context. What has been found problematic is not individual statements or explicitly anti-Semitic and racist actions by Alison or If American’s Knew, but rather their repeated use of platforms that promote anti-Semitism and racism to share messages about Palestine and their insistence that speaking on any media platform without regard to how it is regularly used is principled. This is a position that is inconsistent with an anti-racist approach to organizing. We must consistently challenge the power structures that entrench racism, discrimination, and injustice in society. We cannot use those structures for our own ends.

Accountability as Activists

Before ending these reflections it is important to briefly address the issue of accountability within activist circles. Many activists have stated that challenging racism that is not directly related to the Palestine-Israel issue is divisive and distracting from the Palestine rights movement’s main concerns and thus should not be a focus of activists’ attention. Bringing these issues up “divides” the movement and plays into the hands of those opposed to our work. They state that reconciliation and moving forward is more important than accountability and challenging problematic behavior.

I firmly believe that we must move beyond these positions. Calling for accountability is not an unhealthy and divisive process but rather a necessary part of building a strong, intersectional rights based movement. Demanding accountability is necessary within community even if it is not comfortable. Accountability is not about shunning or blacklisting. Instead it should be seen as respectful disagreement and challenging action for the purpose of ending problematic behavior and changing problematic positions. It is about recognizing that our actions (and inaction) can result in real harm to people subject to discrimination, racism or other injustice if we do not take into account actions that perpetuate injustice against them. It is also about working to ensure that we are not doing harm but rather consistently working for justice.

Our comfort as activists cannot be our primary concern. Just as we push others to places of discomfort by challenging their beliefs and understandings about Palestine, asking them to embrace discomfort and thereby transform their understandings and actions, we must equally embrace discomfort and self-reflection as we challenge our own privilege and prejudices.

In his “Letter from Birmingham Jail”, Martin Luther King Jr. noted that the greatest stumbling block to challenging racism was not the racists of the KKK but rather the white “moderate” who “is more devoted to "order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can't agree with your methods…”

If we truly are a movement for justice then we cannot be comfort seeking moderates. Instead we must embrace discomfort and challenge, letting go of personal privilege and prejudice as we continue to push for structural and societal changes that will result in justice for all.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Israel: world’s most racist state?

from Redline

Posted: August 15, 2015
Zionist settlers on the West Bank hate those they wish to displace

by Tony Greenstein

On July 31, Zionist terrorists firebombed the house of the Dawabsha family in Duma, near Nablus, incinerating 18-month-old Ali and severely burning three other members of his family. As is always the case, the Israeli police failed to apprehend those responsible for what are euphemistically known as ‘price tag’ attacks.

At almost the same time, the notoriously racist Jerusalem police allowed Yishai Schlissel, an Orthodox Jew and Haredi, to repeat the stabbings he carried out against participants in the 2005 Gay Pride demonstration. Schlissel had only just been released from prison and had made his intentions clear on social media, but, as he was not an Arab, no attention was paid to him. In 2005 three people were stabbed and this time around another six people received the same treatment – one of whom, 16-year-old Shira Banki, has since died.

It is worth pointing out that despite the ‘pink-washing’ of Israel by its Zionist supporters, 47% of Israelis consider being gay an ‘abomination’. It is true that this includes Palestinian Israelis, but the difference is that the latter do not participate in anti-gay protests, whereas the orthodox and nationalist right do. They include the HaBayit HaYehudi (Jewish Home) Party in Netanyahu’s government, including its education and justice ministers, Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked. Shaked has openly called for genocide against the Palestinians.

Israel, the only remaining settler colonial state, is also the world’s most racist state. Yet in the Labour leadership hustings here in Britain, hosted by Labour Friends of Israel, the three rightwing candidates fell over themselves to demonstrate their Zionist credentials, oblivious to the cesspit of racism and bigotry that Israel has descended into.

Even Israel’s president, a Likud member and Greater Israel supporter, Reuven Rivlin, has been the subject of death threats after having condemned the murder of Ali Dawabsha. Rivlin, unlike Netanyahu, has been consistent in speaking out against racism and what he has termed Israel’s racist “disease”.1

Andy Burnham promised that Israel would be his first destination if he becomes prime minister. Quite what Israel has done to deserve this he did not explain. For Yvette Cooper, it is “hugely important that Labour continues to be a friend of Israel”. Quite why it is more important than being a “friend” of any other state she did not explain. According to Cooper, Labour was not quick enough to condemn rising levels of anti-Semitism in the UK during Israel’s deadly assault on Gaza last summer. She seemed oblivious to the fact that 2,200 people in Gaza, including over 500 children, had been killed and that Israel claims it carries out its war crimes on behalf of all Jews. Liz Kendall, had her work cut out to appear even more pro-Zionist and had to be content with pledging to “always be a friend of Israel”. She would go to the stake to oppose boycott, divestment and sanctions.

But, apart from the right to vote, which in an ethnocracy is virtually meaningless, Palestinians in Israel experience not merely racial discrimination, but a life in which they are permanent outsiders and ‘guests’ in a Jewish state. People often find it hard to grasp a very simple fact: a settler colonial Jewish state is inherently racist. Whereas in Islamic states, such as Iran or Saudi Arabia, the ruling elites use religion to justify the oppression of other Muslims, in Israel being Jewish means being entitled to privileges. That is why Israel is an ethnocracy.

Every aspect of life – education (except higher education), land, employment, personal status – is segregated and distinct. In most capitalist societies there is racial discrimination, but there are also laws designed to mitigate or end such a situation. There are European race directives and in Britain a Race Relations Act. In the United States there are equivalent laws and affirmative action. In Israel, on the other hand, discrimination is woven into the fabric of the state. Racism is part of the state’s identity. So, even where there is a law against incitement to racial hatred (brought in when Rabbi Meir Kahane, the leader of the Jewish Nazi Party, Kach, was elected to the Knesset), it cannot be used, because the law makes an exception for discrimination on the grounds of religion – which gives Jewish racism a free pass. The only people prosecuted under it are the victims of racism, Israel’s Arabs. Even Kahane ended up voting for the act!

An example of how the right to vote is granted – not to mitigate the discrimination against Israel’s Arab population, but to present a ‘democratic’ facade to the world – was the exchange in Israel’s Knesset over the 2003 Citizenship Law, which prevented family unification for Palestinians living in the West Bank with their Israeli relatives. Deputy interior minister Yaron Mazuz turned to the Arab parliamentarians present and declared: “You’re the first ones who should hand in your ID card.” He told Arab MK Issawi Frej of Meretz, a left-Zionist party: “We’re doing you a favour by letting you even sit here.” The next speaker, Binyamin Netanyahu, continued the racist tirade, attacking the Arab MKs for not having condemned war crimes in Syria and Yemen.2 It was only in May that Netanyahu had gone on Facebook to warn Israel’s Jewish voters that the Arabs were voting in “droves”.

Open adoption

Where the Netanyahu coalitions have broken new ground is their open adoption of racism. No longer is it necessary to hide behind ‘security’ obfuscations or ostensibly neutral provisions, such as a requirement for army service to get certain jobs. Today you can wear your racism on your sleeve.

One recent example of this is the tirade on Facebook of ‘justice’ minister Ayelet Shaked:

This is a war between two people. Who is the enemy? The Palestinian people … an entire people, including its elderly and its women, its cities and its villages, its property and its infrastructure … 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.3

Rabbi Eli Dahan, the deputy defence minister, also of HaBayit HaYehudi, has some interesting views too: “Palestinians are beasts; they aren’t human.”4 For those interested in religious metaphysics, the good rabbi believes that “A Jew always has a much higher soul than a gentile, even if he is a homosexual.”5 As Uri Misgav writes, “How can a nation so proud of being ‘the only democracy in the Middle East’ operate as the only theocracy in the OECD?”6

The leader of Jewish Home, Naftali Bennett, is also no slouch when it comes to Arabs. In a discussion with a security advisor there was the following dialogue:

Bennett: “If you catch terrorists, you have to simply kill them.”

Amidror: “Listen, that’s not legal.”

Bennett: “I’ve killed lots of Arabs in my life – and there’s no problem with that.”7

Dozens of Arab and Jewish leftwing high school students walked out on a speech by Bennett during a conference at Tel Aviv University after he suggested that Arabs are car and property thieves.8

Open expressions of racism are not confined to Jewish Home. The major party in the current coalition, Likud, is also no slouch. The new deputy foreign minister, Tzipi Hotovely, during her tenure at the Committee on the State of Women and Gender Equality, in 2011 invited representatives from Lehava, an organisation which opposes all Jewish-Arab assimilation, to a discussion on possible activity to prevent the development of relationships between Jews and Arabs. In 2015 Lehava was declared a terrorist organisation after its activists had set fire to Jerusalem’s only Jewish-Arab mixed school. Hotovely declared: “It is important to me to check systems to prevent mixed marriages and Lehava are the most suitable for this.”9 One of these “systems” involves organising attacks on Arabs in Jewish areas. Lehava’s ‘charitable’ wing, Hemla, receives half its budget – over 600,000 shekels (just over £100,000) a year – from the social affairs ministry.

And Hotovely’s view on the settlements is quite clear: “This land is ours. All of it is ours. We expect as a matter of principle of the international community to recognise Israel’s right to build homes for Jews in their homeland, everywhere.”10

As for defence minister Moshe Yalon, at the 2015 Shurat HaDin conference he stated that Israel is “going to hurt Lebanese civilians, to include kids of the family. We went through a very long deep discussion – we did it then, we did it in the Gaza Strip, we are going to do it in any round of hostilities in the future.” He went on to threaten the use of Israeli nuclear weapons against Iran “in certain cases”, when Israel feels “surgical operations” would not suffice. Then it might take “certain steps”, as the US did in “Nagasaki and Hiroshima”11

For her part, Miri Regev, Likud’s culture and sports minister, distinguished herself by stating that “the Sudanese are a cancer in our body”. This helped trigger riots in south Tel Aviv and attacks on African refugees. She later apologised to cancer patients in case they thought they were being likened to asylum-seekers.12

Ideology and practice are coming into line. Ever since the foundation of the state of Israel, Palestinian citizens have suffered permanent and ongoing discrimination, but to some extent at least the ruling ideology traditionally nodded in the direction of mainstream western values. Today all such pretensions are being abandoned l



2. See




6. The hierarchy of the human species, as told by Eli Ben Dahan:




10. The Guardian May 22 2015.



Tony is a veteran working class and anti-imperialist activist, based in Brighton, Britain. The article above first appeared in the

in Britain, on August 12.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Palestinian liberation is “key matter of our time,” say Black leaders

The Electronic Intifada 18 August 2015

Over the past year, strengthened resilience and joint struggle have emerged between Black and Palestinian liberation movements. Tess Scheflan ActiveStills
More than 1,000 Black activists, artists, scholars, students and organizations have released this statement reaffirming their “solidarity with the Palestinian struggle and commitment to the liberation of Palestine’s land and people.”

The list of signatories includes scholar-activists Angela Davis and Cornel West, political prisoners Mumia Abu-Jamal and Sundiata Acoli, rappers Talib Kweli, Boots Riley and Jasiri X and Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors. Forty organizations signed, including the Florida-based Dream Defenders and St. Louis-based Hands Up United and Tribe X, which were founded after the killings of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown, respectively, as well as the 35-year-old Organization for Black Struggle in St. Louis.

This statement was originally published at and also appears in Ebony. You can also read this statement in Arabic.

The past year has been one of high-profile growth for Black-Palestinian solidarity. Out of the terror directed against us – from numerous attacks on Black life to Israel’s brutal war on Gaza and chokehold on the West Bank – strengthened resilience and joint struggle have emerged between our movements. Palestinians on Twitter were among the first to provide international support for protesters in Ferguson, Missouri, where St. Louis-based Palestinians gave support on the ground.

Last November, a delegation of Palestinian students visited Black organizers in St. Louis, Atlanta, Detroit and more, just months before the Dream Defenders took representatives of Black Lives Matter, Ferguson, and other racial justice groups to Palestine. Throughout the year, Palestinians sent multiple letters of solidarity to us throughout protests in Ferguson, New York and Baltimore. We offer this statement to continue the conversation between our movements:

On the anniversary of last summer’s Gaza massacre, in the 48th year of Israeli occupation, the 67th year of Palestinians’ ongoing Nakba (the Arabic word for Israel’s ethnic cleansing) – and in the fourth century of Black oppression in the present-day United States – we, the undersigned Black activists, artists, scholars, writers, and political prisoners offer this letter of reaffirmed solidarity with the Palestinian struggle and commitment to the liberation of Palestine’s land and people.

We can neither forgive nor forget last summer’s violence. We remain outraged at the brutality Israel unleashed on Gaza through its siege by land, sea and air, and three military offensives in six years.

We remain sickened by Israel’s targeting of homes, schools, UN shelters, mosques, ambulances, and hospitals.

We remain heartbroken and repulsed by the number of children Israel killed in an operation it called “defensive.”

We reject Israel’s framing of itself as a victim. Anyone who takes an honest look at the destruction to life and property in Gaza can see Israel committed a one-sided slaughter. With 100,000 people still homeless in Gaza, the massacre’s effects continue to devastate Gaza today and will for years to come.

Israel’s injustice and cruelty toward Palestinians is not limited to Gaza and its problem is not with any particular Palestinian party. The oppression of Palestinians extends throughout the occupied territories, within Israel’s 1948 borders, and into neighboring countries. The Israeli occupation forces continue to kill protesters – including children – conduct night raids on civilians, hold hundreds of people under indefinite detention and demolish homes while expanding illegal Jewish-only settlements.

Israeli politicians, including Benjamin Netanyahu, incite against Palestinian citizens within Israel’s recognized borders, where over 50 laws discriminate against non-Jewish people.

Our support extends to those living under occupation and siege, Palestinian citizens of Israel and the 7 million Palestinian refugees exiled in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and Palestine. The refugees’ right to return to their homeland in present-day Israel is the most important aspect of justice for Palestinians.

Palestinian liberation represents an inherent threat to Israeli settler colonialism and apartheid, an apparatus built and sustained on ethnic cleansing, land theft, and the denial of Palestinian humanity and sovereignty. While we acknowledge that the apartheid configuration in Israel/Palestine is unique from the United States (and South Africa), we continue to see connections between the situation of Palestinians and Black people.

Israel’s widespread use of detention and imprisonment against Palestinians evokes the mass incarceration of Black people in the US, including the political imprisonment of our own revolutionaries.

Soldiers, police, and courts justify lethal force against us and our children who pose no imminent threat. And while the US and Israel would continue to oppress us without collaborating with each other, we have witnessed police and soldiers from the two countries train side-by-side.

US and Israeli officials and media criminalize our existence, portray violence against us as “isolated incidents,” and call our resistance “illegitimate” or “terrorism.” These narratives ignore decades and centuries of anti-Palestinian and anti-Black violence that have always been at the core of Israel and the US.

We recognize the racism that characterizes Israel’s treatment of Palestinians is also directed against others in the region, including intolerance, police brutality and violence against Israel’s African population. Israeli officials call asylum seekers from Sudan and Eritrea “infiltrators” and detain them in the desert, while the state has sterilized Ethiopian Israelis without their knowledge or consent. These issues call for unified action against anti-Blackness, white supremacy and Zionism.

We know Israel’s violence toward Palestinians would be impossible without the US defending Israel on the world stage and funding its violence with over $3 billion annually. We call on the US government to end economic and diplomatic aid to Israel. We wholeheartedly endorse Palestinian civil society’s 2005 call for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel and call on Black and US institutions and organizations to do the same. We urge people of conscience to recognize the struggle for Palestinian liberation as a key matter of our time.

As the BDS movement grows, we offer G4S, the world’s largest private security company, as a target for further joint struggle.

G4S harms thousands of Palestinian political prisoners illegally held in Israel and hundreds of Black and brown youth held in its privatized juvenile prisons in the US. The corporation profits from incarceration and deportation from the US and Palestine, to the UK, South Africa and Australia. We reject notions of “security” that make any of our groups unsafe and insist no one is free until all of us are.

We offer this statement first and foremost to Palestinians, whose suffering does not go unnoticed and whose resistance and resilience under racism and colonialism inspires us.

It is to Palestinians, as well as the Israeli and US governments, that we declare our commitment to working through cultural, economic and political means to ensure Palestinian liberation at the same time as we work towards our own.

We encourage activists to use this statement to advance solidarity with Palestine and we also pressure our own Black political figures to finally take action on this issue.

As we continue these transnational conversations and interactions, we aim to sharpen our practice of joint struggle against capitalism, colonialism, imperialism and the various racisms embedded in and around our societies.

Towards liberation,

Thursday, August 13, 2015

10 Places AIPAC Would Never Show Members of Congress on Their Upcoming Propaganda Trip

by Max Blumenthal

58 members of Congress will be in Israel in the coming days on a tour sponsored by the America Israel Education Foundation, an arm of the pro-Israel lobbying organization, AIPAC. Though AIPAC claims the trip is an annual ritual with no connection to the increasingly rancorous debate over the Iran nuclear deal, the trip offers Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a key opportunity for face-to-face fear mongering with some of the lawmakers who control the deal’s fate.

After the Republican delegation visits Israel, 22 Democrats — including several who represent key swing votes on the deal — will be shepherded through the AIPAC tour by House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, an Israel lobby favorite. The freshmen legislators will visit all the requisite destinations, from the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Museum, which has featured exhibits accusing Palestinians of a central role in the Jewish genocide in Europe, to the office of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who likes to present influential visitors with a special ring he purchased in a local pawn shop that supposedly legitimizes Israeli control over Jerusalem.

As a journalist who has covered the crisis in the Holy Land for several years, I have composed a tour route that might allow congressional newcomers to the situation to expand their understanding of Israel beyond the strict limitations imposed by their AIPAC-endorsed guides. They should engage with the reality of Israel, not only within the illusory realm of “Israel proper,” but in the Jews-only settlements and Palestinian ghettoes that make up the Occupied Territories. And they should meet the people who elected Netanyahu and the most right-wing governing coalition in Israel’s history.

So here is a list of a few places every member of Congress — and every American — should consider visiting on a trip to the Holy Land.

1. Dimona

Israel is the only country in the Middle East that possesses nuclear weapons. Yet according to its policy of nuclear ambiguity, which the US government has faithfully honored, the self-proclaimed Jewish state refuses to acknowledge its arsenal and will not allow International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) officials to inspect it. Unlike Iran, Israel has refused to sign the Nuclear Non-Profileration Agreement. Away from the scrutiny of international inspectors, Israel has produced scores of nuclear warheads along with a Jericho missile delivery system that puts much of Europe within striking range. According to journalist Seymour Hersh, Israel received an emergency package of military aid from the US during the 1973 war through “nuclear blackmail,” or threatening to blanket the Middle East in a hail of nuclear destruction if Washington failed to accede to its demands.

For those lawmakers who aren’t too hung over from the drunken skinny dipping outings that AIPAC has sponsored at the Sea of Galilee, a detour to Dimona is a must. In this economically depressed southern Israeli city, members of Congress will find the location of the nuclear weapons plant that the Israeli government officially refers to as a “textile factory.”

But a word of caution: When former Israeli member of Knesset Issam Makhoul publicly condemned his country’s nuclear program, he was targeted with a sophisticated car bomb. Mordechai Vanunu has not yet escaped the nightmare that began when he blew the whistle on Dimona. After being kidnapped by Mossad agents in the UK, Vanunu spent 12 years in tortuous solitary confinement in an Israeli prison. He is still prevented from traveling outside the country and barred from speaking to the press.

2. “The Arab room”

Members of Congress don’t have to travel far to see one of the first places many Americans are forced to visit as soon as they arrive to the Holy Land. It is the so-called “Arab room” inside Ben Gurion International Airport where Americans of Palestinian and Arab descent are interrogated and humiliated by Israel’s Shin Bet. The Arab American Anti-Discrimination Committee has said it registered around 100 complaints a year from Americans of Arab descent who said they had been denied entry by Israeli security services on the basis of their ethnicity. Before being deported, these unfortunate travelers were first flagged by racial profiling agents and sent to the “Arab room.”

Among the Americans most recently deported by Israel is Susan Abulhawa, the best-selling author of the critically acclaimed book, “Mornings in Jenin.” “This is our Israel. This is for Jews. No Palestinian should come to Israel,” an Israeli security officer said a few days later as he deported George Khoury, a Palestinian-American professor on his way to visit his birthplace in Jerusalem. Though Israel’s policy of denial focuses disproportionately on Arabs, American Jews like Julia Carmel Salazar have been deported as well on suspicion that they were on their way to meet Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.

A State Department webpage where Americans can report discrimination and denial of entry by Israel is currently out of service. “File not found” is all that appears when you click over to it.

3. Ofer Military Prison

Just inside the occupied West Bank stands a gigantic military prison called Ofer. Inside are Palestinians who have been jailed for crimes against the occupation. Many are children who were arrested, often late at night, by Israeli soldiers and coerced into confessing to stone throwing. Others are leaders of unarmed protest movements like frequent Ofer resident Bassem Tamimi, who was named by Amnesty International as a prisoner of conscience. Prisoners like Tamimi are usually jailed without charges and wait months before being sentenced by a judge who works for the Israeli military. The conviction rate in Israel’s kangaroo courts is 99.74%.

While many diplomats from the EU have visited Ofer, to my knowledge, no sitting member of Congress has been inside its gates. The Real Israel tour would not be complete without a visit to Ofer’s children’s court, where defendants as young as 13 are brought in chains to testify before military judges and prosecutors.

4. Teddy Stadium

Members of Congress who want to see one of Israel’s best soccer teams in action should make their way down to Jerusalem’s Teddy Stadium for a Beitar Jerusalem match. There, they can witness Beitar’s “ultras” — its hardcore fan base — bellow out “Death to Arabs!” after goals while waving flags honoring the late terrorist gang leader Meir Kahane. Beitar ultras have also participated in lethal attacks on unarmed Palestinians around Jerusalem, rioted against Arabs in the local Malha Mall, and attacked leftists protesting last summer’s assault on Gaza. When Beitar captain Aviram Baruchyan mentioned that he wouldn’t mind playing on a team beside an Arab, he was immediately forced to apologize to outraged fans for the grave transgression.

5. Zion Square

Zion Square is the heart of central Jerusalem’s commercial district, a favorite haunt for international revelers, and the site of an increasing number of “Death to Arabs!” marches. After grabbing a cup of frozen yogurt, lawmakers should make their way over to the organizing table manned by Lehava, an organization dedicated to preventing romantic relationships between Jewish women and Arab men. For legislators representing districts located below the Mason-Dixon line, this stop on the Real Israel tour might offer a trip down memory lane.

Led by Benzi Gopstein, a disciple of the late terrorist leader Meir Kahane, Lehava supporters have been involved in an array of attacks on young Palestinian, menaced African asylum seekers, incited against homosexuals just hours before a stabbing spree at this year’s Jerusalem Pride Parade, and torched the only integrated Jewish-Arab elementary school in Jerusalem. Lehava leaders like Gopstein were invited to testify before the Knesset on the dangers of integration by Tzipi Hotovely, who currently serves as Israel’s acting Foreign Minister. Lehava’s sister organization, Hemla, which was also founded by disciples of Meir Kahane, has received hundreds of thousands in annual funding through the Israeli government’s Social Affairs Ministry.

Evangelical members of the Republican congressional delegation are encouraged to quiz Gopstein about his recent call for the mass burning of churches.

6. Kiryat Arba and Hebron

There are few sites in Israeli-controlled territory that contain as much recent historic significance of the memorial constructed in honor of Baruch Goldstein.

A hero of hardcore settlers, he emigrated to Israel from his ancestral homeland of Brooklyn, NY before massacring 29 Palestinian worshippers in cold blood at the Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron in 1994. The killings touched off a wave of retaliatory suicide bombings and sent the Holy Land spiraling into violence.

In a neatly tended park in the illegal Israeli settlement of Kiryat Arba, not far from the site of the massacre, stands a stone grave memorial honoring Goldstein and his legacy. Members of Congress will find little stones left on Goldstein’s grave by visitors expressing their mourning — and respect — for the terrorist. And they can read the inscription on his grave: “The revered Dr. Baruch Kapel Goldstein… Son of Israel. He gave his soul for the sake of the people of Israel, The Torah, and the Land. His hands are clean and his heart good… He was assassinated for the Sanctity of God.”

After visiting Goldstein’s shrine, lawmakers should take a stroll through the narrow lanes of Hebron’s Old City, which lies just a short way from Kiryat Arba. There, Palestinian shopkeepers rely on a steel net to protect themselves from the bricks and soiled diapers that settlers and their children dump on them each day. Beyond the market is Shuhada Street, a Jews-only road where hundreds of Palestinian shops have been closed by the Israeli military. Lawmakers from New York will immediately recognize the accents of the settlers parading down the eerily empty street, while those from open carry states like Arizona might appreciate the sight of the machine guns slung over these patriotic rebels’ shoulders. The settlers have also put their artistic talent on display with graffiti on Palestinian homes that reads, “Gas the Arabs.”

7. Al Araqib

Lawmakers seeking a first-hand look at how Israel makes the desert bloom might consider a trip to the little Bedouin village of Al Araqib. Nestled comfortably inside the territory that Peter Beinart refers to as “democratic Israel,” Al Araqib is among the scores of unrecognized villages dotting the Negev Desert whose residents are unable to receive public services because they are not Jews. In order to make way for a forest planted by the Jewish National Fund (JNF), a tax exempt US-based non-profit, Israeli bulldozers and riot police have destroyed Al Araqib over 80 times, forcing its homeless residents to live in the village cemetery while billing them $500,000 for the demolitions. The JNF’s planned forest has received handsome financial support from British End Timers Rory and Wendy Alec, who have urged their followers to help them “beautify the land of Israel for the return of the Messiah.” The project shows how Israel creates interfaith opportunities in the unlikeliest of places — even on the ruins of a demolished Bedouin town.

8. Holot

“This country belongs to us, the white man.” Those were the words of former Israeli Interior Minister Eli Yishai, who promised non-Jewish African migrants that he would “make their lives miserable.” In keeping with Yishai’s vow, the Israeli government has constructed Holot, an internment camp in the Negev Desert for African asylum seekers who committed the crime of attempting to live in Israel while non-Jewish, and whose lack of J-Positive blood prevents them from a path to citizenship or even asylum. (All Jews can receive immediate Israeli citizenship according to the country’s “Law of Return”). For the thousands of African residents of Holot, Israel is a giant Sundown Town that forbids them from staying outside the camp’s gates past 10 PM.

Rep. Mark Takai is one of the House members joining Hoyer on the Democratic AIPAC tour. Takai has taken a special interest in commemorating the internment of his fellow Japanese Americans during World War Two. For him, Holot offers the chance to visit one an active internment center for ethnic outcasts, complete with barbed wire and special ID numbers. Israeli President Reuven Rivlin has called Holot a “concentration camp,” but the Israeli government prefers to call it an “accommodation center.” African-American members of the Democratic delegation should beware: Unless they find Holot’s notoriously threadbare accommodations attractive, they had better not overstay their visas.

9. Deir Yassin

When members of Congress visit the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Museum in Jerusalem, they will emerge from a heart-rending exhibition documenting Jewish genocide in Europe and find themselves on a veranda that offers a sweeping view of Israeli-controlled Jerusalem — the supposed answer to thousands of years of Jewish suffering. In the valley below, they might see the ruins of a village called Deir Yassin. On April 9, 1948 the Zionist militia known as the Irgun massacred over 200 of Deir Yassin’s residents, triggering a wave of terror throughout Palestine and accelerating the forced expulsion of 750,000 indigenous Palestinians. In order to preserve Israel as an ethnically pure Jewish state, those refugees have not been allowed to return. And while over 400 Palestinian villages were destroyed, Deir Yassin’s homes were converted into wings of a mental hospital for patients suffering from Jerusalem Syndrome. Legislators should not expect to learn about this critical piece of Israeli history from a Yad Vashem staffer. Indeed, when a Yad Vashem guide named Itamar Shapira informed a tour group about the massacre in Deir Yassin, he was quickly fired.

* Due to the US-backed Israeli-Egyptian siege of Gaza, members of Congress will not be able to meet any of the 1.8 million people living in the ruins of this stateless coastal enclave, where Israel killed over 2200 people in 51 days last year, including 550 children.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Bernie and the Sandernistas: Into the Void

Posted on Aug 3, 2015
By Jeffrey St. Clair

This piece first appeared at Counterpunch.

I’m going to be a happy idiot
And struggle for the legal tender
Where the ads take aim and lay their claim
To the heart and the soul of the spender
And believe in whatever may lie
In those things that money can buy
Though true love could have been a contender
Are you there?
Say a prayer for the Pretender
Who started out so young and strong
Only to surrender
–Jackson Browne, The Pretender

I admit it. I had finally begun to warm to Bernie Sanders. With each new Berniefest, the old animosities melted a little. After years of unmitigated loathing for Sanders, I was beginning to feel a little pride in the homespun campaign waged by the Faux Comrade from Vermont.

Much of this had to do with the creeping anxiety that Sanders and his growing band of adherents, who I’ve taken to calling the Sandernistas, are inflicting on Hillary Clinton. Every time Hillary is forced to pop some political Prozac, a part of me cheers. Thank you, Bernie.
No doubt, it’s a curious appeal. I’ve never thought of Bernie Sanders as a spellbinding speaker. He doesn’t have the polished allure of Obama or the seductive flair of Jesse Jackson in his prime. His Brooklyn accent is thick, his style more stentorian than passionate. The key to Bernie’s charisma is his charming lack of charisma. But his stump speeches, offering a plodding pastiche of the same liberal economic platitudes that have been common currency since Hubert Humphrey, are packing them in, from Denver to Madison. There is a seething desperation on the economic margins of the country that is luring people toward Sanders as the only antidote for their anguish.
In the presence of this largely ad hoc movement, it is almost possible to anesthetize one’s conscience against the moral revulsion prompted by Sanders’ adamantine allegiance to the Israeli state in the face of one atrocity after another. After all, nearly every politician in Washington acts like an automaton programed by the Lobby. One can also temporarily stifle one’s distaste for his stubborn support of a blustery our-way-or-the-highway militarism, from Yemen to Ukraine. Likely it seemed the politic thing to do at the time.

The self-proclaimed independent socialist even initially backed Bill Clinton’s cruel bombing campaign against Serbia, an independent socialist country. Oh, well, the era of Post-Modernism has apparently given way to the age of Post-Irony. Sanders isn’t a pacifist. Unlike most socialists (excepting, naturally, those of the Christopher Hitchens School of Neo-Trotskyist Interventionism), Sanders is not even an anti-imperialist. Understood. But did the senator have to go so far as to call in the cops to arrest anti-war protesters who had peaceably assembled at his office in Burlington? Tough call, I guess. Perhaps his staffers had dinner reservations at a hot new bistro in Brattleboro and needed to close up shop early that day.
One must, I suppose, tolerate Bernie’s ongoing backing of a bloated military budget, especially for the production of fighter jets and aircraft carriers, because it means jobs for Vermonters. That’s merely called bringing home the bacon and all politicians do it, more or less.
Sweep aside, for a moment, Sanders’ bewildering votes for draconian federal crime and anti-terror laws, even one that savagely eviscerated the right of habeas corpus, a minor infraction, apparently, which has hardly been noticed, even on this the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta.
It must be admitted that the Sanders’ campaign isn’t attracting many blacks to his super-rallies, and this is surely unfortunate. Still, the senator’s catatonic reaction in Phoenix when confronted by Black Lives Matters activists can, perhaps, be shrugged off as a lack of advance preparation. He was, in the words of one of his backers, “ambushed.” Almost certainly, he’ll soon get his groove back and do better next time. Yet, it’s easy to understand why so many African-Americans resist his charms. Where was he when they needed him? Where is he now, as the black body count continues to mount at the hands of the state?

Okay, these nagging caveats about the Sanders campaign, which keep percolating up with the annoying persistence of Banquo’s Ghost, can, with maximal effort, be suppressed for the over-riding goal of the second, and final, humiliation of Hillary Clinton and the eradication of the toxic of virus of Clintonism that has ravaged the political body of the American left for more than two decades. Yes, I confess! I’m an ABHer (pronounced “Abhor”)—Anybody But Hillary. I mean anybody, even Martin (Who-the-Hell-is-That?) O’Malley. But Bernie suddenly, even miraculously, has the best shot. He’s the one rattling the gilded cage, getting under her skin and on her nerves.
But here’s the rub. Bernie has no plans to humiliate Hillary. So far he has been an accidental agent of her anxiety and he intends to keep it that way. Bernie refuses to go negative and pledges to support the eventual nominee of the party, that is Hillary. This restraint has earned the senator the patronizing plaudits of Rachel Maddow and the Hipster Chorus at MS-DNC. How refreshing, they swoon. At last, a politician who only wants to talk positively about the issues! No cynical attack ads. No nagging questions about Hillary’s inexplicable enrichment in the commodities market! No unsettling inquiries into her support for the Iraq war or the illegal bombing of Libya. No nasty condemnations of Hillary’s support for the dismantling of welfare or her cozy relations to the economic wrecking crew at Goldman, Sachs. Bernie is going to keep it light and upbeat. He says he likes Hillary, respects her, doesn’t want besmirch the reputation of the presumptive nominee. Keeping it positive. Dig it.

But Bernie’s disarmament strategy makes little sense, understood in the context of the political combat of contemporary presidential campaigns, where, in theory at least, the stakes are as high as they come. Sanders’ non-aggression pact will certainly not be reciprocated by Hillary in the unlikely event that her now prohibitive lead begins to shrink. The Clintons play gutter politics. Recall Bill’s racist shivving of Obama during the 2008 primaries in South Carolina.
So, alas, Bernie and the Sandernistas have succeeded in squashing every little bit of joy I was taking in his campaign. There’s nothing like the rampaging delusions of acolytes to reinvigorate the repressed hatred of a political realist.

I should have known better. There was that insistent voice in the back of my head with the familiar Anglo-Irish accent, the one saying: “Jeffrey, what has happened to your bullshit detector?” Yes, the shade of Alexander Cockburn, sometime summer resident of Vermont and longtime critic of Sanders’ special brand of political impotence. “Bernie and the Pwogs,” Alex snickered, “Really, Jeffrey, you’re slipping.”
And, of course, the Shade of Cockburn is right. Pull the Sandersmobile into the garage for inspection, pop the hood and you’ll soon discover the vacuous truth: no engine, just an exhaust pipe, pumping out rhetoric. So much talk, so little action. The deeper you look at Sanders, the less substance you see.

The real problem with Bernie is that he won’t allow you to suffer illusions. Obama was a neophyte, with hardly any record, except the ominous warning signal that flashed when he picked Joe Lieberman as his senatorial mentor. It was easy to inhale the aroma of hope and become momentarily intoxicated. Bernie has a 40-year record as a politician. He is what he is. To say what he is and what he has done is not to imitate Cassandra at the wall, predict the flames of the future, but is more akin to the task of Tacitus combing through the dusty annals, year after year, of a politician who promises one thing and delivers, time and again, something else entirely.
These are the times when I wish the psycho-historians were still active to put the Liberal-Left onto the couch. The left-wing of the Democratic Party has been abused since at least the Jackson campaign, but the decades of abuse by the party establishment only draw them tighter into the grip of the abusers. They are constantly on the hunt for the Good Father and they see him in the strangest incarnations: Dennis Kucinich, Mario Cuomo, Paul Wellstone, Barack Obama. They are so desperate to be accepted, to be loved, to be coddled, that they remain completely blind to the fact that they are about to be tasered back into submission.

The Democratic Party bought into neoliberalism with the election of Carter (they’ve always been imperialistic) and the sale was completed during Clinton time. Since then there’s been no revolution or even minor rebellion inside the party. Even Bernie, the putative socialist, speaks fondly of the booming Clinton economy. How can this party be saved? Why should it? Give Bernie credit for honesty–at least. He has finally admitted what he is: a Democrat with all the baggage that comes along with that membership card and a pledge to support (and never attack) the inevitable nominee: HRC, the preeminent neoliberal politician in the world today.
It is time for a little political realism: a realism that comes from understanding who Bernie Sanders is and the role he is now playing. Bernie has inherited the time-honored role of the Pretender, an essential character in Democratic Party stagecraft. There have been other mighty figures who have strutted and fretted their way across the primary season: Gene McCarthy and Shirley Chisholm, George McGovern and Jerry Brown, Cuomo and Jesse Jackson, Bill Bradley and Patricia Schroeder, Kucinich and, yes, even Barack Obama, the Pretender who became president.

Yet, none of these insurgencies, dating back to McCarthy’s 1968 campaign, have ever moved the party even one micron to the left. Instead the DNC has lurched ever rightward, one election after the next. If nothing else, the Obama experience has demonstrated that the potency of the change agent dissolves almost instantly when dropped into the swells of the System.
The sole purpose of these insurgencies is to keep the Left locked inside of a party that no longer actively represents any of their interests. It’s a sad and hopeless confinement, a kind of political life without parole. Sure, many of the Left’s most cherished issues, from abortion rights to climate change, minimum wage to single-payer, get put “on the table” as a way to keep the backers of the losing campaign animated enough to vote in the general election. Some of these planks will even get inscribed into the Holy Writ of the Platform, where they will be promptly embalmed and entombed until the next convention.

Bernie Sanders had a choice. He could have run as the outsider he claimed to be. He could have run as an independent. He could have run as a Socialist or a Green. He could have been a threat to the immiserating status quo. But he wilted. Either because Sanders really is at heart a Democrat or because he is a political coward who feared retribution, he chose to lend credence to a party that has brutalized nearly every progressive policy he claims to champion.
Meanwhile, truly independent campaigns, the ones that forcefully challenge the neoliberal dogma and imperialistic militarism of the Democratic Party from the outside, are crushed, their candidates and supporters vilified and demonized. Go ask Ralph Nader.