Saturday, September 26, 2015

Interfaith bullying with a dose of racism

Donald Wagner The Electronic Intifada 25 September 2015

Reverend Graylan Hagler in Rochester. (Linc Spaulding/Flickr)
Organizations or individuals who dare challenge the pro-Israel narrative, whether in the media, academia, church or synagogue, are destined to face considerable blowback, ranging from censorship and personal attacks to outright dismissal.

The recent case of my friend, Reverend Graylan Hagler, is only the latest example, but this time those attempting to silence him supplemented the familiar interfaith bullying with a heavy dose of racism.

Hagler was invited to speak at the Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School on 24 September by the Rochester, New York, chapter of my organization, Friends of Sabeel—North America.

But days before he was due to travel there he was disinvited.

Hagler told Mondoweiss this week that pro-Israel groups pressured the divinity school to cancel his engagement. The veteran of the civil rights struggle also said he received death threats by phone and email.

He said some of those making the threats identified themselves as members of Christians United for Israel (CUFI), the Christian Zionist organization founded by Pastor John Hagee. Hagler, senior minister at Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ in Washington, DC, traveled to the occupied West Bank in January 2014 as a member of an African American delegation. He witnessed first-hand the kinds of abuses Palestinians face under Israeli occupation.

He has compared them to what African Americans experienced in the days of Jim Crow.

He is a signatory of the historic statement of solidarity with Palestine endorsed last month by more than 1,000 Black activists, artists, scholars and organizations.

In the case of Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School, we should not blame them for canceling the lecture; they were simply providing a room and there was a misunderstanding over security. But there would never have been an issue without pressure from pro-Israel groups, and security would not have been a concern without the threats that Reverend Hagler reported receiving.

That clearly had an impact. In justifying the cancelation, the school’s president, Marvin McMickle, admonished the organizers for not “vetting” Hagler sufficiently, and even cited the proximity of the Jewish holiday Yom Kippur for not going ahead with the event.

Whenever the Christian organization I work for arranges a conference or lecture, we anticipate threats and various forms of pressure from the pro-Israel Jewish establishment and certain pro-Israel Christian groups.

Three years ago, Friends of Sabeel—North America held a conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

But our venue had to be moved from the city’s Episcopal Cathedral after the local Jewish Federation met with church leaders and told them there would be violence in their sanctuary, and that our organization is an anti-Semitic hate group.

Rabbis from the Federation proceeded to harass several speakers, including a local Roman Catholic priest, who were simply coming to open the conference with prayer.

The conference was hosted at a Presbyterian church instead. The priest held his ground and offered his prayer, and I wrote an article in a local newspaper urging an end to what I called interfaith bullying.

The conference was remarkable: registrations tripled and the host pastor was thrilled. There was not a single act of violence or any verbal insults.

And this summer, Mubarak Awad, the well-known Palestinian nonviolence advocate, was disinvited from a conference at Trinity Lutheran Seminary in Columbus, Ohio, titled “Seeking Peace in the Holy Land.”

His exclusion, under pressure from the local Jewish Federation, meant that the only Palestinian speaker scheduled to be on the formal program was removed. Today in Rochester, we see a similar pattern, with the Jewish Federation, the local pro-Israel group Roc4Israel and CUFI combining efforts to silence and smear Reverend Hagler before he even had a chance to be heard by the community.

Patti Munter, a co-founder of Roc4Israel, took pride in the pressure her group and others brought to cancel the event, as she told The Rochester Democrat & Chronicle: “We were instrumental to what happened.”

Raising the stakes
The fact that Hagler is both an outspoken Black pastor and longtime advocate for justice in Palestine led him to title his lecture “Connecting the Dots: From Ferguson to Palestine.”

In so doing, he made a conscious link between the struggles for dignity and justice in Palestine and here in the United States. This is a connection the organized pro-Israel community would prefer to keep out of the public discourse.

Hagler has raised the stakes. And while not the first to do so, his decades of experience in the struggle for civil rights, his work to end apartheid in South Africa and his prophetic courage to speak truth to power made his presence not only uncomfortable for some, but something to be blocked altogether.

It runs against the efforts of pro-Israel groups to portray Israel as a democratic island in a sea of barbarity if people learn about what Israel is really doing to Palestinians and to refugees from African states seeking asylum.

It defies the efforts to whitewash Israel’s image if Americans begin to see the role Israel plays in equipping, advising and training urban police forces all over the United States, including in St. Louis, Missouri.

How ironic that some of the Jewish organizations said they were offended that Hagler would be addressing these issues during the Jewish high holy days.

When Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb, a member of the Jewish Voice for Peace Rabbinical Council, learned about the attempt to silence Reverend Hagler, she told me, “this is what we Jews need to be doing, applying our love of God and neighbor to these difficult situations, like the race question in this country.”

Gottlieb noted the role that major communal organizations including the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Committee and the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs play in sponsoring all-expenses-paid trips for hundreds of top US police officials to Israel. The visitors are often shown Israel’s apparatus of occupation and oppression in the West Bank, including Jerusalem, and told it is the right model to apply back home in the US.

Israel, along with other repressive, US-allied governments, has also touted its wares at Urban Shield, an annual police trade show strongly protested by activists seeking an end to police brutality and militarization.

“To ignore this information or claim that it is anti-Semitic mocks the values of traditional Jewish life and ignores the direct connection between US and Israeli militarization policies,” Gottlieb said. “Jews and the rest of us need this information to understand how to combat racism at home and abroad.”

In this context, Gottlieb sees it as another sign of racism that Hagler, a prominent African American, was disinvited.

Despite the disinvitation, Hagler did go to Rochester and spoke at an alternative venue — the Historic German House — where he received a warm welcome. But this was only after the fierce campaign to discredit him.

Still, let this be a beginning to the difficult process of justice and eventual truth and reconciliation. As our South African friends experienced this process, there is no reconciliation without truth and justice, and even then the road remains hard and uncertain.

The prophet Isaiah, in chapter 58, reminds those honoring Yom Kippur and the rest of us, that the fast and repentance God demands of us is “to loose the bonds of injustice, to let the oppressed go free.”

May we be faithful to this difficult and rewarding path, even when it makes us uncomfortable.

Donald Wagner is national program director of Friends of Sabeel—North America.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

It’s Time to Break With Saudi Arabia’s ‘Kingdom of Horrors’

Stanley Heller
September 15, 2015

It is long past time for a campaign to end the U.S. alliance with Saudi Arabia and all of the cruel grasping hereditary dictatorships in the Persian Gulf. While U.S arms merchants are making billions selling weapons to these dictatorships, U.S. taxpayers are underwriting the expenditure of trillions of dollars on military bases, troops, contractors, weapons systems, and fleets, all in support of tyrannical regimes, unending wars and cruel occupations.

Saudi King Salman decided that a 10-vehicle motorcade in Washington, D.C., was too small for his needs, so his people rented 400 black Mercedes S-class automobiles to make it bigger. There was no place to put them all, so the White House housed them at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland until they were needed. Wall Street Journal correspondent Carol Lee snapped a picture. Salman was in D.C. earlier this month for a meeting with President Obama. To house his retinue, he rented the entire Four Seasons hotel in Georgetown. The lavish hotel evidently wasn’t decorated up to his standards, so gold furniture and red carpets had to be wheeled in to spruce it up.

Salman does live large. At the end of July he vacationed on the French Riviera at his royal villa in Vallauris. The public beach was fenced off for the occasion and a temporary elevator built to bring the 79-year-old ruler down to the sand. As big as the mansion was, it couldn’t contain his entire retinue. Forbes reported that the 1,000-strong collection of officials, aides, “courtiers, hangers-on, and wannabes” had to be housed elsewhere.

In Yemen, where the monumental vanity of the Saudi regime caused it to interfere and invade, conditions are far less opulent. UNICEF said in August that 10 million children need urgent humanitarian assistance. “Ten million children” is an abstraction, hard to understand. Instead think about one child crying all night in pain or hunger and multiply the sound 10 million times.

What a collection of heroes the Saudis have gathered to make war on Yemenis! It includes Persian Gulf monarchs whose construction and domestic work is done under conditions of near slavery, the Egyptian dictator who holds the one-day record for slaughter at a sit-in and the Sudanese president whose travel options are limited because he’s under indictment for genocide and crimes against humanity (think Darfur). Let’s not leave out the U.S president, who has kill notches on his Nobel Peace Prize for missions ranging from Libya to Pakistan.

As Barack Obama met the Saudi king, scores of protesters stood in front of the White House with signs and banners. Among them was a man in striped prison garb with a King Salman mask. The activists were mostly Yemenis residing in the U.S and members of the anti-war group Code Pink. Some had signs displaying the hashtag #KefayaWar, meaning “Enough War.” One photo shows the man masked as Salman giving a mock flogging, a favorite regime punishment. In June, blogger Raif Badawi’s 1,000-lash sentence was upheld by the Saudi Supreme Court. (My interview with Medea Benjamin of Code Pink about the weekend protests are on YouTube.)

The demonstration took place at a time when an effort has started to end the 70-year U.S.-Saudi alliance. A new website was unveiled with that demand on its home page. The initial sponsors of the campaign are the Institute for Gulf Affairs, Code Pink, Massachusetts Peace Action and the Middle East Crisis Committee (which I chair). The site links to a simple petition that says: “The U.S. has spent trillions on military forces in the Persian Gulf. Washington supports tyrannical regimes, wars and cruel occupations without making us safe. Close the U.S. bases and bring the fleet home NOW.”

That phrase “spent trillions” may be surprising. It’s well known that the U.S. sells the regime immense amounts of weapons. Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir told Reuters that Obama and Salman had discussed “fast-tracking of the release of American military technology and weapons systems” at their White House conclave. Arms sales bring in money to the U.S. (or at least to merchants of death who own U.S. weapons factories). However, there’s also the cost to U.S. taxpayers that for some reason is rarely mentioned. Back in 2011, Princeton University professor Roger Stern estimated that since the time of Jimmy Carter the U.S. had spent more than $8 trillion on military measures in the Gulf. An earlier study by the University of California at Davis said that if there was no oil in the Persian Gulf, “defense expenditures might be reduced in the long run by roughly $27-$73 billion per year [in 2004 dollars].” Military bases, soldiers, sailors, contractors, weapons system, fleets, CENTCOM—they’re all financed by a flood of dollars. Without the Saudi-U.S. alliance, there could be an enormous peace dividend.

Yemen is the most obvious location of Saudi troublemaking, but its money-fueled ambitions are regionwide and beyond. It supports the most extreme sectarian forces in Syria and the thousands of volunteers who rally to their call. At a crucial moment after the 2013 Egyptian coup led by Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi—when Western nations temporarily cut off funding—the Saudis gave the general a cool $12 billion in aid. They sent tanks into Bahrain in 2011 to help the Sunni king there continue to oppress the majority Shiites. In 2010 The Times of London reported that the Saudi air defense system had practiced procedures to allow Israeli jets free passage over the Saudi heartland in order to blitzkrieg Iran. The Jerusalem Post reported on the claim with the headline “Saudi airspace open for Iran attack.” Saudi plans go beyond the Middle East, however. The kingdom’s funding for Wahhabi madrassas worldwide is notorious.

Breaking the U.S. alliance with the Saudis would also free Americans from the stain of being partners with a hideous human rights abuser, nicknamed the Kingdom of Horrors. Its executions by decapitation often occur in public spaces for public edification (or gruesome amusement). In a new report, Amnesty International says at least 175 people were executed by the Saudis between August 2014 and June of this year. The list of crimes that result in capital punishment is long and includes drug offenses, witchcraft and sorcery. Its farcical ban on female driving is well known, but its fanatical devotion to “female modesty” practically knows no bounds. In 2002, morality police blocked a rescue of girls in a school fire because the girls were “not wearing the headscarves and abayas [black robes]”. Fifteen burned to death in the school.

Obviously, trying to break a longstanding alliance is a major, major battle, but it’s not hopeless. Just before Salman’s visit, New York Times pundit Tom Friedman wrote a column calling the Saudis the main purveyor of radical Islam in the world. Forbes magazine followed with a piece calling the kingdom “the world’s most un-American country” and suggested that “thanks to the oil glut President Obama need not kowtow to King Salman.” The Washington Post had a piece about the near-identical views on justice held by the Saudi regime and Islamic State at the start of this year. Even among the establishment, there’s unease with the alliance.

The left is generally quiet about all this. Even after it saw warm relations develop between Israel and the kingdom, not much was said. The muted reaction is no doubt motivated by fear of helping those who try to spread hatred for Islam. Yet the fear is misplaced. Take a look at hater sites like that of Pamela Geller and you see that they don’t go after the Saudis at all. The bigot sites are not going to criticize allies of Israel.

So there’s no reason to hold back. It’s time for an unrelenting campaign to break with the cruel and grasping Gulf hereditary dictatorships.

Postscript: On Sept. 8 we learned that Saudi Arabian authorities banned the August issue of National Geographic’s Arabic version. The cover has Pope Francis standing in the Sistine Chapel, and this was deemed an offense for “cultural reasons.” Kooky, but not so surprising in a country where the grand mufti has called for the destruction of all churches on the Arabian Peninsula.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

America’s Jewish Establishment Is Out of Touch with US Jews

Harold Meyerson
September 11, 2015
Washington Post

With disproportionate financial support from Orthodox and politically conservative Jews, much of the American Jewish establishment has aligned itself with Netanyahu against not just the Iran deal but also President Obama and American liberalism, too. In the process, it has also aligned itself against a clear majority of American Jews.

Most of the organizations that make up the American Jewish establishment have opposed the nuclear arms control agreement that the Obama administration and the governments of five other nations negotiated with Iran. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee and its affiliates have spent tens of millions of dollars to persuade Congress not to ratify it.

And today, on the eve of the vote, eight of the 10 Jewish members of the Senate, and 12 of the 19 Jewish members of the House, have announced their support for the deal. Just two of the senators and seven of the House members oppose the deal.

If that leads you to conclude that the American Jewish establishment has lost touch with the American Jews it purports to represent, you’ve concluded right. The American Jewish community, like the United States itself, has seen the split dividing its left and right widen to a gulf. Most American Jews, including most of those in Congress, stand on the left side of that chasm. Most of the American Jewish establishment stands, defiantly or uneasily, on the right.

In late August, the Pew Research Center released a highly illuminating guide to the gulf that divides the Jews. Based on interviews with 3,475 Jews across the nation, the report concluded that the 10 percent of U.S. Jews who are Orthodox — 3 percent of them “Modern Orthodox” and 6 percent of them the “Haredi” who dress and lead lives much like the sects that arose in Eastern European shtetls — hold political beliefs increasingly at odds with the 90 percent of their co-religionists who are either affiliated with the Reform or Conservative wings of Judaism, or who aren’t affiliated at all.

Fifty-seven percent of the Orthodox, for instance, either are or lean Republican, while just 18 percent of other Jews claim GOP affinities. Fifty-eight percent of the Orthodox say homosexuality should be discouraged; a scant ?8 percent of other Jews agree. (Like fundamentalists everywhere, many of the Orthodox refuse to distinguish between the Scriptures’ enduring moral principles and their 2,000-year-old superstitions and hatreds.)

These divisions extend to Israel as well: 61 percent of the Orthodox (and 77 percent of the Modern Orthodox) say they are very emotionally attached to Israel, while just 27 percent of other Jews affirm such attachments. And the divisions also have a behavioral dimension: 84 percent of the Orthodox say that all or most of their friends are Jewish, while just 26 percent of the other American Jews say the same.

The geographic clustering of the Orthodox clearly played a role in the decisions of Jewish members of Congress on the Iran deal. Fully 79 percent of the Orthodox, and 89 percent of the Haredi (some of whom bloc-vote based on the guidance of their rebbes) live in the Northeast, chiefly around New York and New Jersey. The other 90 percent of Jews are diffused far more evenly across the nation. Four of the five Jewish House members from the New York area oppose the deal, while just one of the four Jewish House members from Southern California — home to the second-largest concentration of U.S. Jews, but with far fewer Orthodox — oppose it. Three of the four Democratic senators who oppose the deal — two of them Jewish — come from the Northeast.

One of the most striking, but not surprising, results of the Pew Research Center survey is the disenchantment that many, perhaps most, American Jews feel toward Israel. No nation can control another people and occupy its land for 48 years, as the Israelis have the Palestinians, without brutalizing and coarsening themselves, eroding many of the high moral hopes that American Jews once invested in Israel. Some older Jews are still attached to the Israel of 1948, to the scrappy but long-vanished Israel of kibbutz egalitarianism — one reason, perhaps, that three Jewish members from Florida, home to so many Jewish retirees, oppose the Iran deal. Under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, however, Israel’s values have become less universal and more dangerously tribal — appealing to the more tribal and self-segregating sensibilities of America’s Orthodox, and less and less to the more liberal and cosmopolitan sensibilities of the American Jewish majority. Most American Jews still feel what Catholics term a preferential option for the poor, for immigrants, for minorities. They don’t see such values in today’s Israel — or in American Jewish orthodoxy, either.

With disproportionate financial support from Orthodox and politically conservative Jews, much of the American Jewish establishment has aligned itself with Netanyahu against not just the Iran deal but also President Obama and American liberalism, too. In the process, it has also aligned itself against a clear majority of American Jews.

Harold Meyerson writes a weekly political column that appears on Thursdays and contributes to the PostPartisan blog.

Israeli defense minister says government knows who was behind Duma attack, but won’t prosecute

Allison Deger on September 11, 2015

Six weeks after settlers torched a Palestinian home in the West Bank hamlet of Duma killing three—Ali Dawabshe, 18-months, Sa’ad Dawabshe, 32, and Riham Dawabshe, 27—no one has been charged for the crime. Now, Israel’s defense minister says he knows who is behind the arson attack but is refusing to indict, because doing so could expose government intelligence sources.

“We know who is behind the killing of the Dawabshe family, but we will not prosecute,” Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said Wednesday at an event for the Likud youth movement, a wing of the Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s political party. Ya’alon went on, he feared a trial could “reveal the intelligence sources” who investigated the criminal parties.

The following day Ya’alon confirmed he knew who was responsible for the attack, when speaking to Israel’s military reporter.

”The perpetrators of the Duma attack are known to the Israeli security services and some are locked up,” AFP reported Ya’alon said after the meeting, ”We have not brought charges for the time being so as not to divulge our sources, but we are continuing our efforts to bring them to justice.”

Oddly, most leaders in the Israeli government did not respond to Ya’alon’s statement–the Duma attack is the most high profile case of settler violence against Palestinians in two decades. Even so, the revelation of heel-dragging sent shockwaves through the Joint Arab List, Israel’s third largest faction.

“Ya’alon’s statement reveals the system’s tolerant attitude towards settlers’ terror, thus authorizing the next murder. Ya’alon and the system he is heading are fully responsible for the atrocious murder of the Dawabshe family and for the ongoing settlers’ terror against Palestinians,”Knesset member Aida Touma-Sliman said yesterday.

A spokesperson for Ya’alon was reached for comment. He directed Mondoweiss to an interview the defense minister gave yesterday to the Israeli daily Walla.

“Unfortunately we are convinced that Jews did the Duma attack,” Ya’alon told Walla, painting a grave picture of the possibility of further acts of settler violence, “It’s a radical group who wants to start problems on the ground and hurt many people. It’s way beyond the price tag events that we have encountered.”

When asked directly about the three Israelis held in administrative detention, arrest without charge, Ya’alon was vague. “Let’s wait and see,” he said to Walla, adding “We have estimates about who carried out the attacks, and so we have taken steps.”

On July 31st arsonists firebombed the Dawabshe home as the family slept, burning two apartments. Eighteen-month old Ali Dawabshe died in the attack. Weeks later his father Sa’ad Dawabshe succumbed to wounds, and days ago his wife Riham died as well. Sa’ad Dawabshe was a construction worker and built homes in Israel’s West Bank settlements. Riham was a math teacher at a girls school. The family is survived by their four-year old son Ahmad Dawabshe who is hospitalized in Israel where he is being treated for second degree burns on 60% of his body.

Follwing the Duma attack Ya’alon announced Israel would employ emergency powers to detain without charge those involved in the attack. Three suspects remain in police custody, while nine were detained and later released. An additional 10 were issued restricted movement orders with some under house arrests and others barred from entering the West Bank.

Of the three imprisoned–Meir Ettinger, Evyatar Slonim and Mordechai Meir–Israel has not indicated if they are being held for the Duma attack, or involvement in related violent crimes against Palestinians.

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Monday, September 7, 2015

The Real Enemy Is Within, by Chris Hedges

Posted on Sep 6, 2015
from Trughdig


If you are not dedicated to the destruction of empire and the dismantling of American militarism, then you cannot count yourself as a member of the left. It is not a side issue. It is the issue. It is why I refuse to give a pass in this presidential election campaign to Bernie Sanders, who refuses to confront the war industry or the crimes of empire, including U.S. support for the slow genocide carried out by Israel against the Palestinians. There will be no genuine democratic, social, economic or political reform until we destroy our permanent war machine.

Militarists and war profiteers are our greatest enemy. They use fear, bolstered by racism, as a tool in their efforts to abolish civil liberties, crush dissent and ultimately extinguish democracy. To produce weapons and finance military expansion, they ruin the domestic economy by diverting resources, scientific and technical expertise and a disproportionate share of government funds. They use the military to carry out futile, decades-long wars to enrich corporations such as Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics, Raytheon and Northrop Grumman. War is a business. And when the generals retire, guess where they go to work? Profits swell. War never stops. Whole sections of the earth live in terror. And our nation is disemboweled and left to live under what the political philosopher Sheldon Wolin calls “inverted totalitarianism.” Libertarians seem to get this. It is time the left woke up.

“Bourgeois society faces a dilemma,” socialist Rosa Luxemburg writes, “either a transition to Socialism, or a return to barbarism ... we face the choice: either the victory of imperialism and the decline of all culture, as in ancient Rome—annihilation, devastation, degeneration, a yawning graveyard; or the victory of Socialism—the victory of the international working class consciously assaulting imperialism and its method: war. This is the dilemma of world history, either-or; the die will be cast by the class-conscious proletariat.”

The U.S. military and its array of civilian contractors operate as enforcers and hired killers across the globe for corporations, many of which pay no taxes. Young men and women, many unable to find work, are the cannon fodder. The U.S. military has served as the handmaiden of capitalism since it committed genocide against Native Americans, carried out on behalf of land speculators, mineral companies, timber merchants and the railroads. The military replicated this indiscriminate slaughter at the end of the 19th century in our imperial expansion in Cuba and elsewhere in the Caribbean, in Central America and especially in the Philippines. Military muscle exists to permit global corporations to expand markets and plunder oil, minerals and other natural resources while keeping subjugated populations impoverished by corrupt and brutal puppet regimes. The masters of war are the scum of the earth.

It was the war profiteers and the military, as Seymour Melman has pointed out, that conspired after World War II to keep the country in a state of total war, deforming the economy to continue to produce massive amounts of weapons and armaments in peacetime. The permanent war economy is sustained through fearmongering—about communists during the Cold War and about Islamic jihadists today. Such fearmongering is used not only to justify crippling military expenditures but to crush internal dissent. The corporatists and the military, which have successfully carried out what John Ralston Saul calls a “coup d’├ętat in slow motion,” have used their political and economic clout to dismantle programs and policies put in place under the New Deal. Brian Waddell writes of this process:

The requirements of total war ... revived corporate political leverage, allowing corporate executives inside and outside the state extensive influence over wartime mobilization policies. ... Assertive corporate executives and military officials formed a very effective wartime alliance that not only blocked any augmentation of the New Dealer authority but also organized a powerful alternative to the New Deal. International activism displaced and supplanted New Deal domestic activism. Thus was the stage finally set for a vastly extended and much more powerful informal U.S. empire outside its own hemisphere.

The war machine is not, and almost never has been, a force for liberty or democracy. It does not make us safe. It does not make the world safe. And its immense economic and political power internally, including its management of the security and surveillance state and its huge defense contracts, has turned it into the most dangerous institution in America.

Military expenditures bleed the federal budget—officially—of $598.49 billion a year, or 53.71 percent of all spending. This does not, however, include veterans’ benefits at $65.32 billion a year or hidden costs in other budgets that see the military and the war profiteers take as much as $1.6 trillion a year out of the pockets of taxpayers. The working and middle class fund the endless wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen and a host of other countries while suffering crippling “austerity” programs, massive debt peonage, collapsing infrastructures, chronic underemployment and unemployment and mounting internal repression. The war industry, feeding off the carcass of the state, grows fat and powerful with profits. This is not unique. It is how all empires are hollowed out from the inside. As we are impoverished and stripped of our rights, the tools used to maintain control on the outer reaches of empire—drones, militarized police, indiscriminate violence, a loss of civil liberties, and security and surveillance—are used on us. We have devolved, because of the poison of empire, into a Third World nation with nukes. We are ruled by an omnipotent, corporate oligarchy and their Pretorian Guard. The political class, Republican and Democrat, dances to the tune played by these oligarchs and militarists and mouths the words they want it to say.

C. Wright Mills in “The Power Elite” warns of a military machine that not only holds the political and economic life of the nation hostage but also has the ability to form public opinion. The Pentagon spends $4.7 billion a year and has some 27,000 employees who work on recruitment, advertising, psychological operations and public relations, according to a 2009 report by The Associated Press. But millions of dollars more for propaganda are hidden within classified budgets. The Pentagon places its commentators and pundits on the airwaves, produces “news” stories for the press, has ubiquitous advertising, runs junkets for Wall Street capitalists and elected officials and manages how Hollywood and television portray war and the military. Mills writes:

… [I]n all of pluralist America, there is no interest—there is no possible combination of interests—that has anywhere near the time, the money, the manpower, to present a point of view on the issues involved that can effectively compete with the views presented day in and day out by the warlords and by those whom they employ.

This means, for one thing, that there is no free and wider debate of military policy or of policies of military relevance. But that, of course, is in line with the professional soldier’s training for command and obedience, and with his ethos, which is certainly not that of a debating society in which decisions are put to a vote. It is also in line with the tendency in a mass society for manipulation to replace explicitly debated authority, as well as the fact of total war in which the distinction between soldier and civilian is obliterated. The military manipulation of civilian opinion and the military invasion of the civilian mind are now important ways in which the power of the warlords is steadily exerted.

The extent of the military publicity, and the absence of opposition to it, also means that it is not merely this proposal or that point of view that is being pushed. In the absence of contrasting views, the very highest form of propaganda warfare can be fought: the propaganda for a definition of reality within which only certain limited viewpoints are possible. What is being promulgated and reinforced is the military metaphysics—the cast of mind that defines international reality as basically military. The publicists of the military ascendency need not really work to indoctrinate with this metaphysics those who count: they have already accepted it.

The naked greed and violence that define empire, understood by writers such as Joseph Conrad, Eduardo Galeano and Arundhati Roy, is masked within empire behind the cant of patriotism and nationalism, which sanctify self-exaltation and racism. Imperial war is transformed through the magic of propaganda into glorious spectacle. Galeano once wrote that “each time a new war is disclosed in the name of the fight of the good against evil, those who are killed are all poor. It’s always the same story repeating once and again and again.”

The hypermasculinity of the military, celebrated by Hollywood and the media, is seductive to an underclass trapped in menial, dead-end jobs. Empires feed like vultures on these pools of frustrated surplus labor. They manipulate their feelings of powerlessness. This is why capitalists create pools of surplus labor. Those who are desperate to secure a place in society are easy fodder for the military and ready candidates for underpaid jobs without benefits or job security. Our corporate, neofeudal society is by design.

The sons and daughters of the elites rarely serve in the military. The military, even at the service academies such as West Point, attracts those who have been cast aside by neoliberalism. Often, before joining the military, they lack a clearly defined identity or sense of purpose. They are terrified of being pushed permanently into the underclass. They are especially susceptible to indoctrination. The military teaches soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines not to think, not to challenge assumptions and structures, but to obey and to be “tough” and “strong.” This hypermasculine culture glorifies the state and state violence. It renders all human beings outside the sacred national circle as objects to control or exploit. It creates a binary world of good and evil. It sanctifies violence, especially male violence. It is why rape is endemic in the military. It is why pornography and violence against women are so pervasive in the culture. Tenderness, nurturing and empathy, along with intellectual inquiry and artistic expression, are banished. The weak and the vulnerable deserve to be cast aside. Our enemies deserve to be killed. It is the culture of death. And we drink deep from this dark elixir.

W.E.B. Du Bois warns that empire was the primary tool used to break the working class in Europe and later in the United States. As workers organized and fought for rights and fair wages, the masters of empire started to shift production to countries more easily controlled, countries inhabited by “darker peoples.” This is a shift that is largely complete.

“Here, are no labor unions or votes or questioning onlookers or inconvenient consciences,” Du Bois writes. “These men may be used down to the very bone, and shot and maimed in ‘punitive’ expeditions when they revolt. In these dark lands ‘industrial development’ may repeat in exaggerated form every horror of the industrial horror of Europe, from slavery and rape to disease and maiming, with one test of success—dividends.”

Du Bois also knew that the costs of maintaining empire were offset by the profits. “What do nations care about the cost of war, if by spending a few hundred millions in steel and gunpowder they can gain a thousand millions in diamonds and cocoa?” he asks.

The reality of empire is nearly impossible to see from the heart of empire. Those who speak its truth are banished from the airwaves. They are condemned as traitors or “anti-American.” The cries of empire’s victims are rarely heard. The crimes that empire commits are rendered invisible. The greed of the war makers, along with the corruption and dishonesty of the political, judicial, academic and media courtiers who serve empire, is blocked from public view. The image of empire is scripted like a Walt Disney movie. This mythical narrative is disseminated in films, on television, by the press, in churches, in universities and by the state. It is a lie. But it is a lie that works. And it works because it is what we want. It appeals to our fantasies about ourselves: that we are a virtuous people, that God has blessed us above others, that we have the highest form of civilization, that we have been anointed to police the world and make it safe, that we are the most powerful and righteous nation on earth, that we are always assured of victory, that we have a right to kill in the name of nationalist values—values determined by our naked self-interest and that we conveniently define as universal.

Noam Chomsky, more than perhaps any other American intellectual, has laid bare the latent forces of totalitarianism in our midst and warned us against the contagion of empire. He says:

Those with deep totalitarian commitments identify the state with the society, its people, and its culture. Therefore those who criticized the policies of the Kremlin under Stalin were condemned as “anti-Soviet” or “hating Russia.” For their counterparts in the West, those who criticize the policies of the U.S. government are “anti-American” and “hate America”; those are the standard terms used by intellectual opinion, including left-liberal segments, so deeply committed to their totalitarian instincts that they cannot even recognize them, let alone understand their disgraceful history, tracing to the origins of recorded history in interesting ways. For the totalitarian, “patriotism” means support for the state and its policies, perhaps with twitters of protest on grounds that they might fail or cost us too much. For those whose instincts are democratic rather than totalitarian, “patriotism” means commitment to the welfare and improvement of the society, its people, its culture. That’s a natural sentiment and one that can be quite positive. It’s one all serious activists share, I presume; otherwise why take the trouble to do what we do? But the kind of “patriotism” fostered by totalitarian societies and military dictatorships, and internalized as second nature by much of intellectual opinion in more free societies, is one of the worst maladies of human history, and will probably do us all in before too long.

There can be no rational debate about empire with many desperate Americans who have ingested this as their creed. The distortion of neoliberalism has left them little else. Here lies the virus of fascism, wrapped in the American flag, held aloft by the Christian cross and buttressed by white supremacy. It is a potent and dangerous force within the body politic. And it is growing. The real enemy is within.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

UE Becomes First National Union in U.S. to Endorse BDS

The following press release was sent out by the United Electrical Workers union (UE):

UE Becomes First National Union in U.S. to Endorse BDS

For Immediate Release September 1, 2015

At its national convention in Baltimore August 16-20, the United Electrical Workers union (UE) adopted a resolution endorsing the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS) to pressure Israel to end the occupation and grant Palestinians their freedom. UE is now the first national U.S. union to endorse BDS. The full resolution is below.

The global BDS movement arose from a 2005 call by Palestinian trade unions and human rights groups. UE’s resolution also calls for a cutoff of U.S. aid to Israel and for U.S. support for a peace settlement on the basis of self-determination for Palestinians and the right to return. With its resolution UE joins COSATU of South Africa, Unite the Union in Britain and many other labor unions in supporting BDS as a step toward justice and peace in Palestine and Israel.

“We reached a breaking point when Israel launched the war on Gaza in 2014, killing over 2,000 people including 500 children. Because Israel has been unwilling to engage in real negotiations to bring about a just resolution to the occupation, this is a necessary step for labor to take in order to bring about a peaceful end to the conflicts there” said Carl Rosen, president of UE’s Western Region and a member of the national executive board.

UE represents 30,000 workers across the country in the private and public sectors. At its five-day convention member delegates acted on 37 resolutions on collective bargaining, organizing, and political issues. UE’s BDS statement upholds the union’s long tradition of courageous stands on foreign policy issues, such as being the first union to oppose the Vietnam War.

The Palestinian Postal Workers Union has written to UE in response to its resolution. “…We would like to express our deepest appreciation for the courageous resolution on “Justice and Peace for the Peoples of Palestine and Israel”… in support of our right as Palestinians to live in peace and dignity as equals on our lands…. We commend you for calling on your government to change its one-sided foreign policy that disregards human rights and harms any efforts at reaching a just peace, and for fully endorsing our call for boycott, divestment & sanctions (BDS) launched a decade ago. We sincerely hope that other national unions in the US and many other countries will follow in your footsteps. Your active solidarity warms our hearts and gives us hope that one day the working class all over will mobilize as one to help us end this brutal colonial occupation, and bring down the blockade, walls and checkpoints.”

UE General President Bruce Klipple says, “The widespread abuse of workers under the occupation is a concern for the global labor movement. We support our brothers and sisters in the labor movement who call for this peaceful protest to bring about a just peace in Israel and Palestine.”

The United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America, UE is an independent, member-run union representing both private and public sector workers.



In 1988, delegates to the UE 53rd Convention adopted the resolution “Time for a Just Settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.” In it they said, “The occupation by Israel of the West Bank and other Arab lands since 1967 has blocked the exercise of Palestinian national rights and resulted in ongoing violations of human, social, political, economic and particularly trade union rights of Palestinians…” The resolution said the U.S. government had “contributed to the continued conflict by its one-sided support for Israel and its failure to take into account the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people,” and it called for the U.S. government to recognize the Palestine Liberation Organization and for the creation of a Palestinian state.

For more than 25 years the U.S. has engaged in a so-called “peace process” with Israeli and Palestinian representatives. But the U.S. role has remained extremely one-sided. The U.S. provides Israel $3 billion a year in aid and repeatedly uses its UN veto to shield Israel from criticism of its human rights abuses. The Palestinians are worse off. In the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, Israel continues to confiscate homes and land to expand Israeli settlements which violate international law. Since 1967 Israel has settled more than 500,000 of its citizens in the West Bank, and has been building a wall that separates neighboring towns and cuts off farmers from their fields. Many prominent human rights activists including former President Jimmy Carter and South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu have called the system of Israeli rule over Palestinian people “apartheid.”

In Gaza, 1.8 million Palestinians are crowded into a tiny enclave under continuous military and economic blockade. In the summer of 2014 Israel waged a merciless war on the impoverished population of Gaza. More than 2,000 Palestinians were killed. The vast majority were civilians, including more than 500 children; and the physical destruction was overwhelming. UE’s officers issued a statement expressing our union’s alarm and over 300 Holocaust survivors and descendants signed a full-page newspaper ad that condemned the Israeli attack as genocide and declared, “never again must mean never again for anyone.” Yet incredibly, the U.S. Senate voted unanimously at the time to endorse Israel’s actions.

The source of the conflict goes back to the origins of the State of Israel. The population was overwhelmingly Palestinian Arab (Muslim and Christian) before 1947-48, when well-armed Zionist militias seized most of the territory of Palestine and expelled 750,000 people from their cities, villages and farms. They executed much of the Palestinian leadership and declared the founding of the State of Israel. As a result millions of Palestinians are refugees both in the occupied territories and in other countries. Israel prohibits their return to their homes.

In recent years racism and extremism in Israel has grown more severe. One-fifth of Israeli citizens are Palestinians who survived ethnic cleansing. Some members of parliament, including cabinet members in Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu’s government, call for stripping their citizenship and expelling them. Some also call for expelling all Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza and annexing them to Israel. The “peace process”, supposedly aimed at negotiating the terms of Palestinian statehood in those territories, has been dead at least since March when Netanyahu, in his reelection campaign, declared he would never accept a Palestinian state.

In July 2005 Palestinian trade unions and hundreds of Palestinian civil society organizations called for a worldwide campaign of boycotts to pressure Israel to end its apartheid over the Palestinians. This has developed into a global movement called Boycott, Disinvestment, Sanctions. BDS was modeled after the 1980s international solidarity campaign that put economic pressure on South Africa’s government which helped end apartheid.

The summer 2014 Israeli attack on Gaza increased worldwide support for BDS. UE Local 150 endorsed BDS. The largest union in Britain, UNITE, endorsed BDS in July 2014. UAW Local 2865, which represents 13,000 graduate employees of the University of California, also endorsed BDS last year. COSATU, the Congress of South African Trade Unions that helped defeat apartheid in that country, is a strong backer of BDS. Many progressive Jewish organizations and individuals, in the U.S., Israel and elsewhere actively support BDS as a way to bring about peace and justice for the people of Israel and Palestine.


Calls on Congress and the Administration to end all U.S. military aid to Israel; and to pressure Israel to end the occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem and the siege of Gaza and negotiate a peace agreement on the basis of equality, democracy, and human rights for the Palestinian and Israeli people, including Palestinian self determination and the right of return for refugees.
Endorses the BDS movement and urges the union at all levels to become engaged in BDS and the movement for peace, justice and equality between the Palestinians and Israelis.

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