Sunday, December 25, 2016

Bad Narratives Going Forward in the Age of Trump

DECEMBER 23, 2016

From Counterpunch
by PAUL STREET


The Twitter-addicted right-wing uber-asshole and authoritarian megalomaniac Donald Trump and his team of racist, arch-plutocratic, and eco-cidal vultures are about to set up shop alongside a right-wing Congress and a soon-to-be right-wing majority Supreme Court in Washington D.C. So what if the Republican Party is a widely hated institution, viewed with disapproval by nearly two-thirds of the U.S. populace?

Fourteen Narratives to Reject

As we struggle to build and expand popular resistance in this new era, here are fourteen narratives for left progressives (and others) to avoid about how this happened and what we must now do:

1 “The Green Party spoiled things for Hillary and elected Trump.” This story line is false. The numbers don’t remotely support it. If one makes the very bad assumption that all the voters who selected Jill Stein would have gone for Hillary if Stein had not been on the ballot, then Stein made the difference in Michigan and Wisconsin. But that flawed calculation doesn’t explain Trump’s triumph in Pennsylvania, Ohio, or Florida, all bigger battleground states Mrs. Clinton lost. Stein came in at one percent, nationally.

2 “Hillary was defeated by a big ugly racist, sexist, and nativist white working class ‘rustbelt rebellion’ that catapulted Trump into power.” Nope. The purported great white-Trumpenproletatian uprising has been badly oversold. Trump got pretty much the Republican presidential candidate’s usual voting share of non-college educated whites and whites making less than 50K a year while the Democratic candidate lost working class voters both white and non-white. As the left political scientist Anthony DiMaggio recently noted on Counterpunch, “The real story of the 2016 election is not that Trump won over working class America, so much as Clinton and the Democrats lost it…’Trump did not really flip white working-class voters in the Rust Belt. Mostly, Democrats lost them.’ Per data pulled from various exit polls, Slate reports that the decline of Democratic voters among the working class in 2016 (compared to 2012) was far larger than the increase in Republican voters during those two elections. Of those earning less than $50,000 a year, the decline in Democratic voting from 2012 to 2016 was 3.5 times greater than the rise in Republican voting.”

3 “Vladimir Putin’s Russian hackers did it.” There’s no real smoking-gun proof on Putin’s involvement. The notion that possibly Russia-initiated document dumps to WikiLeaks illustrating the Democratic National Committee(DNC)’s rigging of the primaries against Bernie Sanders cost Hillary the general election is a big reach, to say the least. The Russian hacking charge seems designed in part to help the DNC and the neoliberal Democratic Party elite more broadly avoid responsibility for blowing the election. The Democrats went with a wooden, Wall Street-captive, and corruption-tainted candidate and campaign that couldn’t mobilize enough working- and lower-class voters defeat the noxious and highly unpopular Trump. The “Moscow Stole It” narrative is a fancy version of “My Dog Ate My Homework” for a dismal dollar-drenched Democratic Party that abandoned the working class and the causes of peace, social justice, and environmental sustainability a long time ago.

4 “The Electoral College screwed Hillary.” Yes, Hillary won the popular vote by nearly three million ballots. The Electoral College (EC) is an absurd violation of the core democratic principle of “one person, one vote.” It is a purposefully undemocratic institutional overhang from the aristo-republican Founding Fathers and their holy Constitution, which was explicitly designed to keep the Founders’ ultimate nightmare – democracy – at bay. It works to Republicans’ advantage because it over-represents disproportionately white and rural states with small populations. But the Clintons and the DNC knew all about the EC, of course, going into the campaign. It’s nothing new, after all. The 2016 presidential election is the fifth one in American history given by the EC to a candidate who lost the popular vote. The Democrats made no efforts – Constitutional or otherwise – to challenge the Monty Python-esque EC after it (with some help from Florida Governor Jeb Bush, viciously racist and systematic voter suppression, and a Republican Supreme Court) handed the presidency to the open moron George W. Bush in 2000-2001. And Hillary still had no business losing key Electoral College states like Ohio, Florida, and Pennsylvania to Trump, who is heading into the White House with the lowest approval rating of any incoming president.

5 “Comey did it.” Of all the excuses the Democrats advance for why Trump’s victory wasn’t their fault, the chilling James Comey fiasco and the problem of Republican-led racist voter suppression (Greg Palast’s recurrent topic) in contested states are the most credible ones. But there’s no precise way to measure the impact of FBI Director Comey’s creepy political intervention ten days out from the election. The Comey card should not be seen as grounds to pardon Hillary and the Democrats for the dismally uninspiring and centrist campaign they ran.

6 “The Democrats’ 2016 humiliation will show them that they have no choice but to make themselves over as a progressive champion of all working people against the wealthy Few.” Don’t hold your breath. The Democratic Party’s recently installed new U.S. Senate Minority Leader isn’t a liberal or progressive Democrat like Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Bernie Sanders (D-VT), or even Sherrod Brown (D-OH). It’s the neoliberal Wall Street Democrat Charles Schumer (D-NY). The House Minority Leader continues to be the big money San Francisco pro-war corporate Democrat Nancy Pelosi, idiotically endorsed by the supine AFL-CIO over the pro-union heartland progressive Democrat Tim Ryan (D-OH).

Yes, the Bernie Sanders-affiliated Congressman Keith Ellison [D-MN] is considered a top contender for the chairmanship of the DNC. But don’t be surprised if that falls through. He’s getting bashed for past association with Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan and for making some “anti-Israel” comments as a law student in the 1980s. Ellison’s ascendancy to the job of party chairman could cost the Democrats big money. CNN recently quoted one of party’s biggest donors, Haim Saban, as saying that Ellison is “clearly an anti-Semitic and anti-Israel person.”

It gets worse. Last Monday morning on CNN, Daily Beast columnist Patricia Murphy reported on interviews she’d recently conducted with Democrats around the country. She found “no soul-searching” or critical self-reflection among the Hillary voters with whom she spoke. To the contrary, some Democrats even told her that “we won” because Mrs. Clinton did better than Trump in the popular vote – as if the EC is an irrelevant technicality. Murphy also reported that the Democrats she spoke with seem ridiculously content to simply write off a huge part of the U.S. electorate – the white working class – as a mass of appallingly racist and sexist brutes (“deplorables”):

“What I am astounded by talking to Democrats about what happened in the election, there is no consensus among Democrats about why they lost, or even whether they really lost. So it’s going to be very difficult for them to come up with a cohesive plan about how to move forward. I talked to Democrats and some of them will go back to saying, hey, we won the popular vote, we really did win. You know, it’s just a technicality that we didn’t win the White House. So when you have that kind of an attitude going forward, there are not — there’s very little soul searching, very little effort to look inside and say, what do we need to say and do differently in order to get more people to win? In particular, I mean, they’re writing off a large portion of the electorate as a group of people they don’t even want.”

Soul-searching? Nah, it’s more fun to blame others – the Greens, Comey, Russia, and the big mythical racist-sexist-nativist “rebellion” of the “deplorable” white working class – than it is to take an honest look at one’s own failings.

7 “Trump’s election is an antiwar victory.” Come on. Yes, the Russia-hating NATO-expansionist warmonger Hillary “Queen of Chaos” Clinton seemed recklessly Hell-bent on a dangerous confrontation with Moscow – a confrontation that candidate Trump clearly wanted not to have. And yes, we do have some breathing space on the score for the next few months. Still, Trump’s campaign reeked with hyper-masculinist white-nationalist and anti-Muslim militarism. The coming “militarization of the West Wing” is quite pronounced. Trump has said profoundly dangerous things about the use and spread of nuclear weapons. His “defense” appointments and his rhetoric and Tweets (seriously?) point to coming dangerous conflicts with China and Iran, both key Russia allies. Don’t rule out conflict with Russia and the cooling of Trump’s hot bro-mance with Putin down the road. Anyone who thinks Trump’s ascendancy heralds a new American era of pacifist isolationism – a retreat from imperial war as a central tool of U.S. “statecraft” – is engaged in some very seriously delusional thinking.

8 “The corporate and financial establishment hates Trump and will undermine him.” There may be some truth in this assertion but it should be treated with extreme skepticism. Hillary was their first choice, but Wall Street is playing make-up with Trump. Top financial services trade groups like the American Bankers Association have run to help Trump fill top financial regulatory positions in the next White House. The Financial Services Roundtable is raising $4 million to help Trump “pay for the transition process.” After Trump defeated Mrs. Clinton, the former harsh Trump critic and current Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein praised the victor as “market friendly and asset friendly.” A Wall Street Journal three weeks ago was titled “Wall Street and Trump Make Up Quickly.” It matter-of-factly noted that “After largely opposing his 2016 presidential campaign, financial service executives are making fast friends with President-elect Trump… Wall Street,” the newspaper reports, “could wind up being a big winner under Mr. Trump, despite his broadsides against big banks during the campaign.”

The accommodation makes perfect sense. Janus-faced finance capital runs like water to the powers that be at the end of the day. The elite financial sector is looking forward to significant regressive corporate and personal tax cuts and financial deregulation with Republicans in charge of both the White House and Congress in coming years. The stocks of Bank of America, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley have been on a great run ever since the election. And Trump has given current and former Goldman Sachs elites and other top finance-capitalists (including coming Commerce Secretary and noted billionaire Wilbur Ross) numerous key economic policy positions in his coming administration. Every month, CNN reports, President Trump will consult with a group of top U.S. business executives convened by Steven Schwartzman, CEO of the infamous “alternative investment” firm the Blackstone Group. The group includes a “who’s who” of current and former Fortune 25 CEOs, featuring (so far) GM’s Mary Barra, JP Morgan Chase’s Jamie Dimon, GE’s former CEO Jack Welch, Disney’s Bob Iger, and Walmart’s Doug McMillon. The “populist” Trump is certainly doing his best to seduce the financial chieftains he sometimes railed against on the campaign trail.

It isn’t just the financial elite he’s making up with. A New York Times report nine days ago related how Trump reached out to Silicon Valley captains:

“The meeting between President-elect Donald Trump and the nations tech elite was hyped as something out ‘The Apprentice’: The new boss tells his minions to shape up. It turned out to be a charm offensive, a kind of ‘Dancing with the Silicon Valley Stars.’”

‘This is a truly amazing group of people,’ the president-elect said on Wednesday in a 25th-floor conference room at Trump Tower in Manhattan. The gathering included Jeff Bezos of amazon; Elon Musk of Telsa; Timothy D. Cook of Apple; Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook; and Satray Nadella of Microsof, among others. ‘I’m here to help you folks do well,’ Mr. Trump said.”

“He kept going in that vein. ‘There’s nobody like you in the world,’ he enthused. ‘In the world!’ There’s nobody like the people in this room.’ Anything that government ‘can do to help this along,’ he made clear, ‘we’re going to be here for you.’”

“And that was just in the first few minutes. The candidate who warned during the presidential campaign that Amazon was going to have antitrust problems, that Apple needed to build its iPhones in the United States instead of China, was nowhere to be seen…on the way out, Safra Catz, the co-chief of Oracle who attended the meeting, gave a thumbs-up.” (NYT, 12/14/2016).

Smart move by Trump. Silicon Valley stands alongside Wall Street and the military-industrial complex (MIC) as the three most powerful Big Business components of the state-capitalist Deep State that runs the nation beneath and beyond the marionette theater of electoral politics. As Mike Lofgren notes in his indispensable new book The Deep State: The Fall of the Constitution and the Rise of a Shadow Government (Penguin, 2016), “the Valley has far outstripped traditional smokestack industries as a generator or wealth and has generated individual fortunes that easily rival those of Wall Street. Its research and development operations are vital to the operation of the Deep State – not only for its globe-spanning surveillance technology, but for the avionics, sensors, and guidance systems of every plane, ship, tank, missile, and drone that the military buys.”

Could Wall Street, Silicon Valley, and/or the MIC end up undermining Trump before it’s all over? Certainly. But there’s a honeymoon of sorts of underway right now and it would be foolish now to invest one’s hopes for the destruction of the Trump nightmare in the corporate and financial elite.

9 “Trump doesn’t really mean all the nasty stuff he said to get elected. He will govern differently than how he ran for office.” Well, candidate Trump certainly didn’t really mean it when he claimed to be a populist champion of the American working class in its struggle with Wall Street and other corporate-globalist evil-doers. Just look at his arch-plutocratic transition team and cabinet-in-formation. Trump’s populism was fake, of course. But Trump’s quasi-fascism probably isn’t and it would be foolish indeed to normalize what’s happened. Expect the administration’s racist and nativist scapegoating to accelerate in rough proportion to Trump’s service to the wealthy Few. The more he makes policy in the interest of his super-opulent upper-class comrades, after all, the more Trump is going to have to try to distract and divide the working-class majority with ugly racist and nationalist finger-pointing.

10 “All the people and others who have protested the Trump victory and ascendancy are silly sore losers manipulated by George Soros and MoveOn.” Yes, the left needs to watch out for elite liberal/neoliberal and Democratic Party-affiliated agents (for me that includes Sanders’ “Our Revolution”) working to control and manipulate anti-Trump resistance. Absolutely. But the reflexive denunciation of all anti-Trump protesters as childish agents of the Democratic establishment takes pseudo-radical cynicism to a new low. Folks don’t need to be prodded by slimy actors like Soros and MoveOn to find some very good and obvious reasons to march against incoming Trump administration.

11 “Resistance to Trump is illegitimate on the part of people who failed to adequately protest the neoliberal and imperialist Barack Obama presidency.” Yes, it is depressing that many U.S. citizens can’t seem to get it together to fight back when the White House is held by a smooth-talking teleprompter-ized Democrat like Bill Clinton, Obama, or (as I and most left analysts expected) Hillary Clinton. It’s sad and irritating that it seems to take a brutish white male Republican in the White House for a lot of Americans to protest and resist Deep State policies that are in fact richly bipartisan. But, okay, it’s a fact. Work with the opportunity afforded by the new public enemy number one – the coming appalling Trump administration – to build a new popular resistance movement that cannot be hijacked by movement-killing Democratic Party electoralists and opportunists and the deadly election cycle. Connect with people on issues and do your best to show them why such a movement is worthwhile

12 “Noam Chomsky and other left intellectuals and activists who called (again) for Lesser Evil Voting [LEV] were shills for Hillary Clinton.” There is a recurrent debate on the U.S. left about whether progressives should vote for Democratic Party candidates as the “lesser evil.” I’m on the anti-LEV side of that debate for reasons I won’t rehearse here. But it’s a difference about strategy and tactics, not underlying world-view. It’s unfair to call fellow leftists “shills” for Hillary when they referred to Mrs. Clinton as a “lying neoliberal warmonger” (Adolph Reed, Jr.), a “right-wing fanatic” (Arun Gupta), and, well, evil. (I used to make the left-LEV argument myself and was no less of a radical when I did than I am now. My position changed on tactical and strategic grounds.) Demonizing folks who come (often for some defensible if ultimately flawed reasons) to the LEV position (I know some very smart and radical folks who do) is also dysfunctional going forward. As Chomsky himself has long argued, the question of how to vote (or not) for five minutes in the one-every-four-years candidate circus is a secondary matter compared to much more important and urgent politics of movement-building beneath and beyond the nation’s populace-marginalizing and mass-marketed quadrennial electoral extravaganzas. Do we really want sniping over the question of what was the best lane to be in on the bourgeois-electoral highway to get in the way of acknowledging the many things you agree with, say, Chomsky or Reed or Gupta about? In the way of forming an anti-Trump resistance? In the way of building great people’s movements beyond the election cycle – movements that should include in their list of demands a call for radical electoral reforms what would allow progressives to back candidates aligned with their values without fear that doing so might help the rightmost of the major capitalist parties prevail? I think not. At the same time, many on the other side of the quadrennial intra-leftist voting debate also need to stand down from snotty sniping over what was the best way to respond to the terrible “choices” on offer in the U.S. presidential voting booth. Both sides might want to think of this endless and ugly debate as yet another form of top-down divide-and-conquer.

13 “The 2016 Election Shows the Futility of Any and All Identity Politics. Serious Progressives Must Reject Any and All Such Politics in Favor of Class Politics.” Nonsense. Yes, the Left is committed to the bottom-up political struggle of the (multiracial-multiethnic-multi-religious [partly irreligious] and multi-gendered) working class against the capitalist wealthy Few. But we cannot and must not simply abandon the particular realities of: female experience and oppression: Black experience and oppression; Latino experience and oppression; Muslim experience and oppression; gay experience and oppression, and so on. Such class-reductionist denialism leads nowhere morally or politically.

What needs to be rejected is the sickening kind of bourgeois identitarianism that candidate Hillary advanced. As Conor Lynch noted on Salon last month, “The Clinton campaign tried to make this election all about Trump’s hatefulness (‘Love Trumps Hate’) and his ‘basket of deplorables,’ while offering no real vision of progressive and populist change. And when those on the left raised legitimate concerns about Clinton’s uninspiring message or her political baggage during and after the primaries, they were ridiculously labeled sexist or racist ‘bros’ by establishment figures (even though some of Clinton’s harshest progressive critics were in fact women and people of color ).”

Earlier in the year, Daniel Denvir insightfully described the Clinton’s strategy as “peak neoliberalism, where a distorted version of identity politics is used to defend an oligarchy and a national security state, celebrating diversity in the management of exploitation and warfare.”

The left at its best has always understood identity differently – in ways that are opposed to both ruling class divide-and-conquer (ala Hillary Clinton and Herr Trump) and to class reductionism (ala some of Bernie Sanders’ supporters). As the “unrepentant Marxist” Louis Proyect recently reflected on Counterpunch:

“While the idea of uniting workers on the basis of their class interests and transcending ethnic, gender and other differences has enormous appeal at first blush, there are no easy ways to implement such an approach given the capitalist system’s innate tendency to create divisions in the working class in order to maintain its grip over the class as a whole…My own experience goes back to the 1960s when the Trotskyist movement was still rooted in American realities. Party leaders conceived of the coming American revolution as a kind of united front of different struggles that would come together on a basis of shared class interests. If that is a concession to ‘identity politics,’ I plead guilty…A socialist movement that disavows particular Black demands and those of other sectors of the population acting on their own interests on the basis of gender, sexual preference, etc. will inevitably lack the universality it needs to triumph over a unified capitalist class. To state it in dialectical terms, denying the existence of contradictions and refusing to resolve them will only lead to deeper contradictions.” (emphasis added)

That strikes me as brilliantly stated – and emblematic of the sort of intelligent, reality- and history-based Marxism for which no repentance is due. Working class left “identity politics” is very different from what Denvir calls “neoliberal identity politics.”

14 “Trump’s election shows that U.S. politics and society is completely hopeless and pathetic. It’s time to retreat into personal concerns.” That’s your option, of course, but it will only make things worse. The Chicago-based anti-racist writer and activist Jamie Kalven rightly worries about the “danger…that people will become demoralized and retreat into denial, that they will seek refuge amid the pleasures and fulfillments of private life. That would give carte blanche to power…That is certainly tempting at a time like this,” Kalven adds: “to live one’s life in the wholly private realm, enjoying the company of friends, good food and drink, the pleasures of music and literature, and so on. Privileged sectors of our society are already heavily skewed that way. It’s a real danger at a time like this. If we withdraw from public engagement now, we aid and abet that which we deplore.” (The Chicago Reader, December 8, 2016,emphasis added). The threat to become an “expatriate” (which I am hearing again and again online) is a particularly pouty and privileged version of the same dysfunctional syndrome. Becoming an √©migr√© – either internal (retreating into private life) or external and literal (leaving the county if you can) – will fix nothing. (And, by the way, you can’t really escape the American Empire on this planet.)

Two Narratives to Handle with Extreme Care

Here are two narratives not to be rejected so much as to be handled with extreme care.

1 “There are great popular movement-building and system-challenging silver linings – from a dialectical and radical perspective – in Trump’s victory.” I do not simply reject this “accelerationist” storyline. To the contrary, I recently specified what some of those “silver linings” might be. Kalven is right, I think, when he says that “this is a moment of great opportunity – and also peril. The election of Trump certainly increases peril, but it may also increase the clarity we need to be effective…one door closes, another door opens.” But the “silver lining” trope should come with two key qualifications. Caveat number one is that none of the movement opportunities afforded by Trump’s coming presidency (and by the discrediting of a dismal dollar-drenched Democratic Party that proved itself too corrupt, unimaginative, corporatized, dull and conservative to defeat Trump) are going to show themselves in real history without dedicated and difficult day-to-day rank and file activism connected to radical-reformist and revolutionary vision – real progressive policy ideas and societal alternatives. The second caveat is that Trump’s election is a grave threat to vast swaths of humanity at home and abroad and indeed to life itself. It is indeed a great black cloud. If you are or seem happy that a vicious racist and sexist bastard like Donald Trump is moving in the White House, then God help you, comrade. “It’s important now.” Kalven adds, “to take time to absorb what’s happened and to grieve…I’m looking for a word besides catastrophe.” The word fits.

2 “The left must overcome single-issue obsessions.” I agree with that statement to a very significant degree. How could I not after decades of witnessing progressives fighting on numerous separate causes that cry out for consolidation and common struggle in a many-sided anti-capitalist movement? The left is way too scattered, issue- and other-wise. But it’s not true that none of the left’s issues stand out above all others. We need to be candid and forthright about the primacy of the environmental question. The capitalogenic climate change-driven threat of ecosystem collapse by the end of the current century is now “the biggest issue of our or any time” (John Sanbonmatsu). As Noam Chomsky has argued, nothing that we care about on the left is going to matter all that much if environmental catastrophe isn’t averted soon by serious efforts to – among other things but first and foremost – keep fossil fuels in the ground and shift to renewable energy. Who wants to more equitably share out the pieces of a poisoned pie? What good is it to turn the world upside down and “inherit” (take) it from the ruling classes if the planet has been poisoned beyond safe habitation?

Of all the dreadful things about the coming Trump administration, the one that strikes me as most horrific and most urgently in need of dedicated popular opposition is Trump’s arch-petro-capitalist commitment to the Greenhouse Gassing-to-death of life on Earth. The opposition already has a North America movement vanguard, so to speak: the remarkable multi-tribal struggle of Native Americans and others who came together beneath and beyond the election cycle to confront Energy Transfer Partners’ planet-cooking Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) in Standing Rock. Expect Trump to target the North Dakota pipeline fighters and water-/climate-protectors as “economic terrorists.” Prepare to defend those environmental heroes as the leading symbols and agents of the Resistance we need to build and expand if humanity is going any shot at a decent future.


Sunday, December 18, 2016

Aleppo Rebels Were Defeated Because They Alienated Syrians

from Truthdig

Aleppo Rebels Were Defeated Because They Alienated Syrians

Posted on Dec 17, 2016

By Juan Cole / Informed Comment



Bouchara, 27, a mother of three from Aleppo province, at an informal settlement for Syrian refugees in Lebanon in 2014. (European Commission DG ECHO / CC BY-ND 2.0)

Syria was in a better position to attain peace last spring, when a ceasefire had unexpected success. It would have been better if the rebels had been able to keep East Aleppo and the rest of their territory, and the regime had been forced to dicker with them in order to put the country back together again. Someday it might even have been possible for East Aleppo to elect representatives to the Syrian parliament who represented their point of view.

The fall of the East Aleppo pocket dooms such a negotiated outcome of the civil war. The regime of Bashar al-Assad will be emboldened, as it has pledged, to try to take back over all the territory militarily, and to re-institute its seedy one-party state replete with intensive domestic spying, arbitrary arrest and torture.

That said, the rebel forces in East Aleppo do bear some of the blame for their defeat. It seems a harsh thing to say at a time of heart-wrenching scenes of noncombatants waiting in the cold for an evacuation that only seems to come in fits and starts. But it is necessary for us to understand what is happening and not only to feel it. Because al-Assad is understandably hated in democratic societies, there is a tendency to see the reassertion of the regime there as purely an act of brutal force.

It is at least that, of course. Russian and Syrian aerial bombing of a dense urban area has killed noncombatants in ways that are likely war crimes.

But this brutality cannot explain what happened. Revolutions and civil wars don’t work that way, however. You can think of lots of movements that couldn’t be quelled by massive brute force, including that of the Viet Cong in the 1960s and 1970s. If we want to understand why Russian aerial bombardment was so effective, we have to take politics into account.

Syria is a very diverse society. Here are some guesstimates for its ethnic and sectarian make-up.

Alawite Shiites: 14%
Christians: 7%
Druze: 3%
Ismailis: 1%
Twelver Shiites: 0.5%
Kurds: 10%
Secular Sunni Arabs: 30%
Religious Sunni Arabs: 34.5%

The Syrian youth revolution of 2011 appealed to virtually all these groups except maybe the Alawite Shiites, who depend on the al-Assad regime for their prominent position and prosperity in Syrian society. The early Syrian revolutionaries talked about a democratic society in which all these groups would have representation. I met with Syrian revolutionaries in Istanbul in 2012 and they were praising all of these religious and ethnic groups for having members standing up to the regime, even Alawite villagers and movie stars.

But when the regime used heavy weaponry on the revolutionaries, the latter militarized their struggle. They weren’t able to get funding from democratic countries for their militias or for the purchase of weapons. Many turned to Turkey and the Gulf countries like Saudi Arabia, and these patrons wanted them to adopt a clear Muslim fundamentalist identity. Most Syrians are not Muslim fundamentalists. But that is the mindset of the Saudi elite.

Many of the fighters in the rebel opposition were Muslim Brotherhood, a relatively moderate fundamentalist group in Syria which nevertheless does want to impose a medieval version of Islamic law on the whole country. But the best fighters and the best-funded fighters were Salafi Jihadis like Jaysh al-Islam, the Freemen of Syria, the Nusra Front, and Daesh (ISIS, ISIL).

It was the al-Qaeda-linked Nusra Front that in 2013 nearly succeeded in using Homs and Qusayr to cut off the southern capital of Damascus from re-supply via the northwestern Mediterranean port of Latakia. This plan by Salafi Jihadis was forestalled by the intervention of the Twelver Shiite Lebanese party-militia, Hizbullah on behalf of the regime.

It was a Nusra Front-led coalition that in spring of 2015 managed to take the city of Idlib and all of that province, and to begin an advance on Latakia to the west, with the same strategic goal in mind. Latakia is a heavily Alawite Shiite region, so for hard line Sunni fundamentalists to take it would have entailed massive massacres and ethnic cleansing. This plan by the Salafi Jihadis was forestalled by Russian intervention.

It is true that Russia has subjected the Sunni Arab rebels, many of them just Muslim Brotherhood, to intense aerial bombardment. But it has especially gone after al-Qaeda (the Nusra Front, now styling itself the Levantine Conquest Front).

Under the conditions of 2011, the other rebels would have rushed to the aid of a besieged anti-al-Assad group.

That did not happen during the past 3 years, for a simple reason. Most people in Syria don’t trust the Muslim Brotherhood and they really, really dislike the Salafi Jihadis.

The ten percent of Syrians who are Kurds are largely post-Communist leftist feminists. They aren’t going to rush to the aid of fundamentalist Sunnis led by a group with al-Qaeda ties.

And the fact is that the fundamentalist rebels have repeatedly denounced and threatened the leftist Kurds. (It is these fundamentalists that Western politicians often call “moderates.”)

The supposedly moderate Freemen of Syria put al-Qaeda in charge of the Druze villages of Idlib in 2015. Druze are an offshoot of Ismaili Shiism and are deeply hated by al-Qaeda. They were forcibly converted to Sunni Islam and nevertheless some of them were killed or their property confiscated by the Nusra Front.

So as the Syrian opposition ratcheted farther and farther to the Sunni religious right, and as the most effective fighters came to be drawn from that sector, they lost the good will and support of most Syrians.

The secular-minded Sunni Arab majority didn’t want to be ruled by people imitating the Saudi Wahhabis. The Christians didn’t want that. The Druze didn’t want it. The Kurds didn’t want it. The Alawites certainly didn’t want it.

So you get 70% of the people in the country who, having been given the unpalatable choice between the Baath regime of al-Assad and being ruled by Salafi Jihadis, reluctantly chose al-Assad.

That is why the Aleppo pocket fell. There had been 250,000 Sunni Arabs of a more religious mindset and from a working class background living there under rebel control since 2012. But next door in West Aleppo, which our television stations won’t talk about, were 800,000 to a million people who much preferred to be under the rule of the regime. This numerous and relatively well off population took occasional mortar fire from the slums of East Aleppo. They weren’t in the least interested in saving the rebels from the Russians or the Iraqi Shiite militias or from the regime itself.

The Kurdish forces likewise didn’t rush to the defense of the Sunni Arab fighters in the East Aleppo pocket.

By militarizing the revolution and by moving ideologically to the religious far right, the rebel fighters deprived themselves of support among most Syrians.

When the Russians offered to let the rebels leave East Aleppo if they would cut themselves off from al-Qaeda (which was 1/4 of the fighters there), the response of the rebels was to form a united front with al-Qaeda so as to ensure that the Russians couldn’t divide the opposition.

Bzzt. Wrong answer.

The Western politicians and television reporters never mention the al-Qaeda dimension of the rebel forces. They never mention Idlib or what happened to its minorities.

Most rebels in Syria are not terrorists or al-Qaeda. They were protesters against a brutal authoritarian regime. Some of them are Muslim Brotherhood, but the Brotherhood in that period was hoping for a parliamentary democracy in Syria. Some are actually Sufi mystics. Others are just conventionally religious Sunnis.

But they sometimes formed battlefield alliances of convenience with al-Qaeda or with Salafi jihadis, and as time went on they showed less and less no interest in human and civil rights for women and minorities.

Syria is much more diverse a country than it might seem from cold social statistics. Hard line Salafis never had any chance of attracting enough support to take over the whole country, and even just very conservative Sunnis did not, either. The strategic thinkers in Ankara and Riyadh completely misread the situation.

That is why the East Aleppo pocket is falling to the regime. Not because aerial bombardment or brute force work magic in and of themselves. But because the Salafis and Muslim Brotherhood were unable to cumulate resources from other groups and attract broad support.


Friday, December 16, 2016

Great Moments in the History of Hypocrisy: The Russians Messed in our Elections!

Turn-about is fair play. If the Russians did influence the results of the presidential election, then the great US of A got a taste of its own medicine.

What country in the world is the record holder for interfering in the internal affairs of other countries? Who wins first prize in overthrowing governments? Cue up the fanfare and nod for the crowd to chant "USA! USA!"

Where can we start? There was a revolving door of US troops invading countries and installing puppet governments from before the turn of the 20th century and continuing into the 21st. Nicaragua, Panama, Haiti, Dominican Republic (many times for these nations, with invasions and occupations), US troops to Cuba 1898 to stop the Cubans from defeating the Spanish & grabbing Puerto Rico and the conquest of Manila; The CIA overthrew the governments of Guatemala and Iran in 1953 (overthrowing two democratically elected governments and installing a military dictator and a king (the shah).

Hmmm...oh yes H. W. Busch invaded Panama and arrested it's president (incidentally killing about 1000 people). Vietnam? That was "interfering" in style with all-out genocide. Nixon's man Kissinger colluding with Pinochet in Chile to crush a government that won two elections. In the 60s-70s the US installed puppet military governments in Brazil and Argentina. The Bush 2 administration kidnapped the Prime Minister of Haiti and dumped him in the Central African Republic. A wonderful record of peace-loving statesmanship. And now MSNBC, and other media scream bloody murder!! Files were hacked and made public!!

Whatever the Russians did, I don't know. But I have a distinct lack of sympathy with the gang of neo-cons and closet neocons (like Hillary and the Democratic establishment) who wail about the US being mistreated. At least the Russians didn't sent 200,000 troops and do saturation bombing. Democracy in America has always been a fraud. If those who countenanced murder by drone around the world and instigated the US created massacre in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria are complaining...good. These masters of the world got what they deserved.





A message from the campaign to tell musicians: Don't entertain apartheid Israel!









Causes




Invite your friends to sign the petition to Rihanna
Posted By: 10 Reasons for a Cultural Boycott of Israel (campaign leader)

Congratulations supporters!

It's just the beginning of the 2017 winter Red Sea Jazz Festival season, and already we've reached our first milestone!

Over 22,000 of you have already signed the BDS petition, and we're just starting out. So let's amplify our action. If you haven't signed yet, please go to the petition page and sign https://www.causes.com/actions/1757955-dont-let-t...

If you've signed, please make sure to share the link with all your friends and family on all your social networks. Each one of you can take us higher, so let's reach for 23,000!


Background:

The Red Sea Jazz Festival is a bi-yearly event in Israel's city of Eilat. The festival could have been a festival to celebrate the free spirit of Jazz music, and this beautiful tradition of oppressed minorities. Instead, it is a government event of propaganda, which uses Jazz music as a tool for whitewashing military occupation, apartheid and oppression of the Palestinian people:

"We see culture as a Hasbara [public relations] tool of the first rank, and I do not differentiate between Hasbara and culture" ~ Nissim Ben-Sheetrit, former deputy director general of the Israel Foreign Ministry

This year, the occupation-profiteering Golan Heights Winery and the ethnic cleansing Negev Development join the list of sponsors. (more on this at https://goo.gl/SVFLvw)

In view of all this, we ask Jazz Musicians: Please cancel your participation in the festival. We ask people from all around the world: Add your signature to this ongoing campaign to boycott the Red Sea Jazz Festival.

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Thursday, December 15, 2016

Palestinians have no faith in Abbas, 2 state solution

Palestinians have no faith in Abbas, 2 state solution

Two thirds of Palestinians no longer believe in two-state deal
A recent survey shows that 65 percent of Palestinians no longer believe that a two-state solution is possible; this is an increase of 9 percentage points since September; meanwhile, 54 percent have no faith whatsoever in the Abbas-led Palestinian Authority; the president takes more steps to prevent a Dahlan political comeback.
Associated Press|Published: 13.12.16 , 17:55

RAMALLAH- Two-thirds of Palestinians believe a two-state solution to their conflict with Israel is no longer possible, a poll said Tuesday.

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The share of those who lost faith in such a deal rose from 56 percent in September to 65 percent now, probably due to an acceleration of settlement activity, said the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey research.

Most in the international community still back the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel, even though a deal appears to be increasingly complicated, in part because of the continued growth of settlements. Gaps between Israeli and Palestinian leaders remain wide, preventing any meaningful talks since 2009.

Palestinians in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip

The poll was conducted last week among 1,270 Palestinians and had an error margin of three percentage points.

The survey also found that 54 percent have no faith in the newly elected leadership of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah movement. The vote at a recent Fatah convention affirmed aging party stalwarts in top jobs and was seen as a move to sideline exiled Abbas rival Mohammed Dahlan.

In a related development, Abbas decided to strip four legislators seen as close to Dahlan of their parliamentary immunity, taking yet another step to prevent a Dahlan political comeback.

Hassan Ouri, a legal adviser to Abbas, told the West Bank radio station Ajyal on Monday that the Palestinian leader made the decision after the Palestinian Constitutional Court affirmed his right to do so.

In the past, only the Palestinian parliament could strip legislators of their immunity. Parliament has been defunct since 2007, when the violent split between Fatah and rival Hamas produced separate governments in the West Bank and Gaza. Abbas has ruled autonomous West Bank enclaves by decree since then.

Fatah said on its Facebook page that the four legislators would be investigated about suspicions of embezzlement of funds and weapons dealing.

Najat Abu Baker, one of the legislators being targeted, said the decision amounts to "suppression of the freedom of expression." She said she was not notified of any possible legal steps against her.

Tuesday's survey said 60 percent of Palestinians reject the court ruling giving Abbas the right to move against legislators.

Abbas has waged a relentless campaign against Dahlan since he fell out with his former senior aide several years ago. Dahlan has won the backing of several influential Arab states, including the United Arab Emirates and Egypt, which urged Abbas earlier this year to allow the exiled politician to return.


Dahlan was convicted in absentia of defamation after Abbas lifted his immunity in 2012. A Palestinian court threw out separate corruption charges after ruling that Abbas' immunity decree was not legal.


Thursday, December 8, 2016

Fidel Castro and the Question Of Power



Van Gosse
December 4, 2016
Portside

Fidel Castro's life, and the example of the Cuban Revolution, demonstrates the enduring relevance of state power. It is fundamentally irresponsible for anyone on the left to think one can avoid the question of power, and let someone else face its contradictions and deformations. Somebody will exercise it, for good or ill. Fidel Castro embraced this question, choosing to wield power in as many ways possible for what he deemed social goods, even on the global scale.







, Wikipedia,


Let's avoid shilly-shallying back and forth between hailing the Comandante as "Heroic Guerrilla" and decrying another God That Failed. Fidel Castro was a tyrant who directed a police state. He was also a superb revolutionary leader, not just early on but throughout his exceedingly long, productive life, and neither of those statements negates the other. Indeed, they are inextricably connected. Why? Because the largest fact about Fidel Castro and the revolution he led is that they survived, bruised, worn down, but uncorrupted, either from within or without. He did not turn into either Napoleon or Stalin, Cuba did not become a despotic imperial state, subjugating others.

When I say Fidel was a tyrant, I mean in the original sense of the word: a popular leader who rules by command and dispenses justice as he sees fit, brought to power by the demos (the people or the mob, depending on your perspective) and kept in power by his command over them. This is a frightening, compelling, one might have thought archaic, mode of rule, but let's have no illusions it was made anachronistic by some end-of-history bunk.

As for calling Cuba a police state: more than fifty years ago the Cuban revolutionary government organized a disciplined system of surveillance, coercion, and repression, not because that government was evil or "totalitarian" (talk about an archaic word) but because it needed to do so simply to survive. The United States waged state terrorism against Cuba for several decades. It outsourced the violence to gangsters, thugs, and fanatical exiles to whom it could turn a blind eye whenever convenient, to ruin Cuba's economy and kill its leaders by virtually any means-chemical warfare against its agriculture, blowing up airplanes, random murder of tourists, many, many bombings, and dozens of assassination attempts aimed at Castro himself. All this is a matter of record. The only way for a small, poor country to resist such a campaign by a nearly-omnipotent great power only fifteen minutes away by air and ninety miles by sea was via a vigilant security apparatus. That was the only option other than surrender. What would you have had them do? I salute the Cubans for not surrendering, but a police state is what they got, by nature a deforming, cruel, bureaucratic apparatus, difficult to restrain. A secret policeman is a secret policeman anywhere, regardless of the justification.

Fidel Castro's life, and the example of the Cuban Revolution, demonstrates the enduring relevance of state power. It is fundamentally irresponsible for anyone on the left to think one can avoid the question of power, and let someone else face its contradictions and deformations. Somebody will exercise it, for good or ill. Fidel Castro embraced this question, choosing to wield power in as many ways possible for what he deemed social goods, even on the global scale. That he succeeded to any extent is worth studying, just as it required to analyze when he and the Cuban Revolution failed, but in both cases it is the question of power we are studying, rather than retreating into notions of permanent insurgency or "protest," always outside of and untainted by power, which is both romantic and cynical. These comments are directed at those whom Jacobin's Bhaskar Sunkara has called the "anarcho-liberals" who insist on standing outside the state in all possible instances, maintaining their radical (if hardly revolutionary) purity. For many, the state is something that might someday wither away, but for now is unmovable. To them, I say, study Cuba. Study power, and how to use it better.

Here is one example of such a study. I know this history via teaching U.S.-Cuban relations. One revelation from William LeoGrande's and Peter Kornbluh's marvelous Backchannel to Cuba: The Hidden History of Negotiations between Washington and Havana (2015) is that, at every point since 1959, the Cuban government demonstrated a serious commitment to resolving their problems with the U.S. through in-depth negotiations. But only a few U.S. administrations, in particular those of Richard Nixon and Jimmy Carter, showed any real interest in resolving this particular "cold war" through mutual concessions and diplomacy between sovereign states. Most of the time, U.S. policy resembled the classic statement from Thucydides, describing how Athens treated the small island nation of Melos: "the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must," meaning the options are to give in or be destroyed. The Cubans' insistence on their sovereignty, their right to make alliances and act as they saw fit, has never been accepted, except perhaps in the last years of Obama's Presidency. So much violence, so much infamy causing the U.S. lasting damage, could have been avoided, if that principle had been the basis for relations between states, but hoping for that respect was a species of romanticism in which Castro never indulged. He held out an olive branch, repeatedly, but expected the worst. The U.S. had to be taught, over and over, that the strong do not always dictate. The legacy of the Cuban Revolution is their insistence on the independence and equality of peoples. Perhaps, in an era when neoliberal "globalization" carries all before it, that seems like an antique stance, left over from the era of anticolonial Third World revolution. I think not.

[Van Gosse is a historian and author specializing in American political development, the African-American struggle for citizenship and American society in the Cold War era and since. He is author of Where the Boys Are: Cuba, Cold War America, and the Making of a New Left, The Movements of the New Left 1950-1975, and the forthcoming We Are Americans: Black Politics and the Origins of Black Power in Antebellum America. His book Rethinking the New Left: An Interpretative History was named a CHOICE Outstanding Academic Book for 2006 and will be published in translation in the People's Republic of China.

His scholarship covers the social movements of the United States after World War II, the so-called New Left, with a particular focus on the movements "in solidarity" with social change in Latin America, from the Cuban Revolution in the 1950s through the Central American wars of the 1980s. Follow Van Gosse on Twitter: www.twitter.com/vangosse]

Thanks to the author for sending his column to Portside.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

How the Left Should Approach Life After the Election With Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton in Charge

How the Left Should Approach Life After the Election With Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton in Charge

Posted on Nov 4, 2016
from Truthdig
By Paul Street

Donald Trump is a nauseating atrocity—a national embarrassment. The truth of Trump is stranger and darker than dystopian political fiction. He:

● Says that immigrants from Mexico are rapists and murderers and goes on bizarre rants claiming that “criminal aliens” are wreaking havoc in the United States.
● Suggests (against all evidence) that blacks and Latinos will commit voter fraud.
● Attacked a Mexican-American federal judge for ruling against the scam “Trump University,” attributing the magistrate’s decision to his ethnicity.
● Promises to build a giant nativist wall on the nation’s southern border “and make Mexico pay for it.”
● Has advocated banning adherents of an entire world religion (Islam) from the United States.
● Promises to round up and deport millions of Mexican and Central American immigrants.
● Offered to pay the legal bills of a white man who viciously sucker-punched a black protester at a Trump rally.
● Failed to properly distance himself from the Klu Klux Klan.
● Responds to the racial turbulence sparked by repeated video-captured police killings of black Americans by calling for a “national stop and frisk law”—that is, for a declaration of national racist martial law.
● Leads with this as his solution to the nation’s racial divisions: “We need to restore law and order” and “control our cities.” (Translation: “we need to control our unruly blacks with the iron fist of the police state.”)
● Continues to defend the railroading of the “Central Park Five”—five young black men who were wrongfully convicted (with Trump leading the charge) of raping a white woman in New York City in 1989. (The subsequently exonerated five spent years in prison for a crime they didn’t commit).
● Gives a commanding position in his campaign to the director of Breitbart, an openly white-nationalist, paranoid-style and alt-right (proto-fascistic) website.
● Engaged in the ugly racist imitation of an Asian accent in front of a hot microphone.
● Mocked a disabled reporter in a chillingly juvenile way in front of a hot microphone.
● Calls climate change “weather”; says that global warming is hoax perpetrated by the Chinese to harm U.S. manufacturing, and promises to completely deregulate fossil fuels—to push the carbon emission pedal to the metal.
● Promises to honor the results of the presidential election only if he wins, egging his more extreme backers to engage in violence if the count doesn’t go his way.
● Calls his political opponents “losers” and gives them nasty, juvenile nicknames and brags about his (you can’t make this up) genitals.
● Has a long and ugly record of sexual harassment and violence while suggesting that women are responsible for sexual harassment in the workplace.
● Insulted the looks of a fellow Republican presidential candidate and those of other candidates’ wives.
● Engaged in a rolling sexist vendetta against Fox News’ Megyn Kelly.
● Has a record of calling women “fat,” “bitches,” “nasty” and the like.
● Behaved like a lazy, boorish, and spoiled adolescent during his “presidential” “debates” with Hillary Clinton—events for which he openly failed to prepare.
● Followed his first hideous debate performance by going on a bizarre Twitter tirade at 3 a.m. against a former Miss Universe he once labeled “Miss Piggy.”
● Wondered aloud why the U.S. can’t use nuclear weapons, and says it might be good for Saudi Arabia, South Korea and Japan to be equipped with nuclear weapons.
● Advocates the use of torture and even the killing of terrorists’ families and relatives in the U.S. war on (of) terror.
● Boasted that he’d “shoot” Iranian naval ships if they ever again interdict “our beautiful destroyers with their little boats.”
● Refers to himself as brilliant, citing his vast personal fortune (accumulated over many years of abusive and predatory worker- and consumer-cheating business practices) as “proof.”
● Feuded with the parents of a Muslim U.S. soldier killed in Iraq, claiming that he too has “sacrificed” by employing “thousands and thousands of people.” (A remarkable comment: Being born into wealth and in position to hire people is not a “sacrifice.” If Trump isn’t reaping profits from all those workers under his command, he must not be the brilliant capitalist be claims to be.)
● Said this when a military veteran gave Trump the one-time soldier’s Purple Heart medal, bestowed on troops injured in battle: “I always wanted a Purple Heart. This was a lot easier.” (Donald Trump, Mr. Sacrifice, used college deferments to avoid the draft during the Vietnam War.)
● Refuses to release his tax returns, something no major party presidential candidate has done since the infamous Richard Nixon.
● Interjected as Clinton explained (in the first “debate”) that his non-payment of federal taxes over many years cost the nation money that could have been used for education and welfare: “That makes me smart.”
● Interjected when Clinton noted his long record of cheating workers, contractors, and governments: “That’s called business.”

Many Culprits


Could Trump win? It is unlikely, even with FBI Director James Comey’s October surprise, but yes, he could, chillingly enough (the FiveThirtyEight gurus currently give him a 34 percent shot).

How is that possible? How could a transparently toxic and temperamental man-child and vicious, “fascist-lite” authoritarian like Donald Trump be alive in the race for the U.S. presidency (the most powerful and dangerous job on Earth), certain to win more than 50 million and perhaps more than 60 million votes (think about that) on Nov. 8? The culprits are many and overlapping. Beneath and beyond recent events like the truly bizarre Comey-Huma Abedin-Anthony Weiner episode, they include:
● A neoliberal corporate media and an ever-more corporatized educational system that have spread a black plague of abject moral and intellectual idiocy across the land for more than a generation.
● A Republican Party that has been trying for decades to hide its arch-plutocratic agenda behind the foul and ever more fascist-like fake populism of an ugly hyper-masculinist white nationalism.
● A dismal, debauched and dollar-drenched Democratic Party that has discredited liberalism and helped depress progressive constituencies by abandoning the cause of social justice in service to U.S. transnational capital.
● An arrogant “liberal” and identity-politicized professional class that has (with all too few exceptions) ceased to even remotely serve the working-class majority against the rich.
● A right-wing noise machine (led by Republican talk radio, Fox News and now Breitbart) that pervades the airwaves with racist, sexist and nationalist distortion.
● A wooden and understandably mistrusted Democratic candidate (Clinton) who epitomizes the long-standing corruption and big financial-corporate takeover of the Democratic Party.
● A corporate media that seized on the fake-populist rightist Trump’s every tweet and facial expression, even as it could barely cover Bernie Sanders’ giant rallies for progressive, social-democratic change.
● A a manipulative media-politics culture so tightly scripted and teleprompter-ized that a buffoonish lout like Trump gets “authenticity” points for “plain speaking” off-script.
● Mass hatred of a bipartisan and big business-corrupted political establishment (with the Clintons as leading and long-standing members) that has greased the skids for savage economic inequality and plutocracy—a hatred that ironically contributes to the benefit of the billionaire real estate mogul Trump because he has stood formally outside politics and the political establishment.

Crooked Clintons, Dismal Dems

Among all these and other explanations, two overlapping ones that seem highly germane to this writer are the power-mad Clintons themselves and a Democratic Party that insisted on putting them up for a return engagement to the White House despite their massive campaign liabilities, including the email scandal that Sanders tried to help Hillary bury. It’s not just that Hillary and Bill Clinton have, in fact, been monumentally “crooked”—Trump is sadly right about that—from the beginning of their political careers in Arkansas through the atrocious global “pay-for-play” Clinton Foundation and the related endless, ongoing email scandal.

The bigger, if related, problem is that they have long led the ever-more rightward, neoliberal drift of the Democrats further away from any lasting commitments to social justice, democracy, peace and environmental sustainability. Trump may be appalling and dangerous on numerous levels, but he’s not wrong when he points out (in his usual clumsy manner) that the Clintons and other Wall Street-captive Democrats sold the nation’s “forgotten” blue-collar-working people down the river in the name of “free trade.” The co-presidential Clintons’ advance of the North American Free Trade Agreement—a disaster for the U.S. working class—and Barack Obama’s championing of the arch-authoritarian and global-corporatist Trans-Pacific Partnership speak volumes about neoliberal-era Democrats’ enmeshment in the perverse politics of the nation’s covertly reigning “Deep State Few” over and against “the Many” and the common good.

Trump’s not wrong when he says that Hillary Clinton called the TPP the “gold standard of free trade agreements” when she was Obama’s secretary of state—or when he surmises that she will shift back to being pro-TPP if she is reinstalled in the White House. As WikiLeaks makes clear, Trump’s not wrong when he says that the Democratic National Committee and the Clintons rigged the primary race against the progressive Democrat Sanders.

Trump’s not wrong to say (in his own maladroit and disingenuous fashion) that the American dream has died for millions of “forgotten” (the word bears repeating) U.S. workers while the Democrats have advanced Wall Street’s job- and wage-crushing agenda behind the cover of self-righteous political correctness. In one of the many classic ironies of the neoliberal New Gilded Age, Trump, the ugly nativist tycoon and enemy of labor and workers, is permitted to absurdly pose as a “populist” tribune of the outraged American working man. He gets to do this not simply through sheer cunning and devious, populism- and racism-/nativism-manipulating campaigning, but also thanks to the vicious state-capitalist and imperial corruption of the nation’s not-so leftmost major political party, which has abandoned the working class over many decades of rightward drift championed by (guess who?) the Clintons. As privileged upper- and professional-class neoiberal Democratic elites give Joe Six Pack/the Plumber the Goldman Sachs-financed middle finger and fake-progressively promote the bourgeois identity politics of race, ethnicity, sexual orientation and gender—much of the struggling and furious working class is left like low-hanging fruit to be snatched up by a billionaire demagogue like Trump.

Candidate Obama spoke in condescending terms about a small-town, white working class that bitterly clung to guns, religion and xenophobia. Hillary upped the insult ante by calling half of Trump’s supporters “deplorables”—meant to signify vicious racists, homophobes and sexists. As the left activist Tom Wetzel told me last summer, “It seems lately that identity politics has come to function as a mask for professional/managerial class disparagement of the working class.”

Meanwhile, for what it’s worth, the deplorable Donald is not wrong when he says that Hillary’s foreign policy record has helped sow chaos and disaster in the Middle East and North Africa. Or when he warns that her warmongering posture toward Russia is dangerous.

The Self-Fulfilling Politics of Fear

A good number of “progressive Democrats” and “pragmatic,” lesser-evil voting (LEV) leftists are poised to blame left-wing Jill Stein and left election boycotters/sitter-outers if Trump pulls off a Brexit-like November shocker. Their anti- “ultra-radical” knives are sharpened and out. They should sheathe their blades and take an honest look in the big historical mirror. A much bigger offender behind a Trump victory will be portside leaders who tell lefties every four years to hold their noses and vote for the (to be frank) hopelessly corporate, corrupt and imperial Democrats as the lesser evil (LE). It’s kind of hard to expect the dismal-dollar Dems to be less disastrously corporate, neoliberal and imperial when top Democrats know that top progressive luminaries will always have their electoral back (in the name of lesser-evil voting). This happens no matter how consistently the Democratic Party’s honchos are shown to hold their party’s progressive wing in sheer elitist contempt (WikiLeaks has showed us quite a lot about that contempt in the current election cycle).


It’s unpleasant to behold. No matter how badly the big corporate, financial and imperial bikers in charge of the Democratic Party abuse their party’s grumbling left wing, the captive progressives can’t resist the desire to ride on the back of the Democratic Harley, arms around their masters with their noses lifted away from the smell.

It’s all part of a viciously circular, self-fulfilling prophecy wherein—as Jill Stein told me last April—“the politics of fear delivers everything we are afraid of … the Lesser Evil paves the way for the Greater Evil.” LEV contributes to the deadly vacuum of genuinely progressive voices for the legitimate “populist rage” and resentment felt by the nation’s working-class majority. The vacuum is filled by the right wing in dangerous ways. It’s an old story.


Ready for Hillary—The Radicals’ Version


Hillary should still win. National demographics and the electoral map favor her. And leftists should not await a Hillary Clinton administration with undiluted trepidation. The presence of a Democrat in the top U.S. job can be usefully instructive for young workers and citizens. It helps demonstrate the richly bipartisan nature of the American plutocracy and empire. The people need to see and experience how the misery and oppression imposed by capitalism and its evil siblings imperialism, racism, sexism, eco-cide, and police-statism live on when Democrats hold the White House.

At the same time, the presence of a Republican in the White House tends to fuel the illusion among progressives and others that the main problem in the country is that the wrong party holds executive power. It feeds the electoral and candidate obsessions that do so much to divert us from building and expanding the kinds of rank-and-file social movements required to bring about progressive transformation.

There is the problem of Democrats in the White House functioning to stifle social movements and especially peace activism (the anti-war movement has yet to recover from the Obama experience). But there’s more good news here about the likely (though hardly certain) coming Hillary presidency. Not all Democratic presidents are equally good at shutting down progressive activism. Hillary Clinton will have considerably less capacity to deceive and bamboozle progressive and young workers and citizens than Barack Obama enjoyed in 2007-08. “Obama,” Ms. Stein added last spring, “was fairly new on the scene. Hillary,” by contrast, “has been a warmonger who never found a war she didn’t love forever.” Hillary’s corporatist track record is also long and transparently bad. All that and Clinton’s lack of charisma and trustworthiness could be useful for left activism and politics in coming years.

The first and most urgent place to restore such activism and politics is in the area where Barack Obama has been most deadening: foreign policy. When it comes to prospects for World War III, it is—maddeningly enough—by no means crystal clear that the saber-rattling, regime-changing, NATO-expanding, and Russia-baiting arch-globalist Hillary Clinton is the “lesser evil” compared to the preposterous Trump. When she becomes president and insists on imposing a so-called “no-fly zone” over Russia-allied Syria, we may find out. (How ironic to see the Clinton campaign recently pulling out the notorious 1964 Lyndon Johnson campaign ad showing a little girl counting the petals on a daisy while a military commander counts down the launching of thermonuclear World War III. Hillary was a proud teenage supporter of Barry Goldwater, at whom the Johnson ad was aimed. And, strange as it may sound, she poses a greater risk of nuclear war with Russia and/or China than does Trump.)

If Trump Wins

What if Trump wins? I’ve never been a backlash theorist who wants the right wing in power on the theory that it will provoke revolution. That said, the abject, mind-blowing absurdity of a Donald Trump presidency could be counted on to help delegitimize social and political hierarchies and U.S. imperial power and influence at home and abroad. There would be opportunities that we on the left would want to exploit and channel in the best ways we could in all that—and in the discrediting of a dismal dollar-drenched Democratic Party that proved itself too corrupt, unimaginative, corporatized, dull and conservative to prevent an idiotic monster like Donald Trump from becoming president.

One irony is that, if Trump wins, his vicious, right-wing agenda will get more opposition from the “hard” lefties who couldn’t make themselves vote for Hillary to block Trump than from the progressives and liberals who backed her in the name of LEV. That’s because radical lefties are less attached to U.S. electoral politics and the endless quadrennial electoral extravaganzas, whose terrible essence were captured nicely by Noam Chomsky last June. Under the reigning U.S. definition, Chomsky noted, “Citizenship means every four years you put a mark somewhere and you go home and let other guys run the world. It’s a very destructive ideology … a way of making people passive, submissive objects. … We ought to teach kids that elections take place, but that’s not [all of] politics.”

There’s also the more urgent and serious politics of popular social movements and direct action beneath and beyond the election cycle. Some lefties are too far left to vote for a “right-wing fanatic” (Arun Gupta) and “lying neoliberal warmonger” (Adolph Reed, Jr.) like Hillary Clinton. Those descriptions come from two left intellectuals telling lefties to vote for her to stop the “fascist” Trump. They understand the importance of building movements and doing the necessary post-election work to a far greater degree than do liberals and many “progressives.”

In my numerous trips to cover and participate in the focused Standing Rock-inspired movement against the eco-cidal Dakota Access pipeline—approved by right-wing Republican governors across the Upper Midwest—in the contested electoral-politics state of Iowa this fall, I have not seen a single Hillary bumper sticker on an activist’s car. I have, however, seen many Stein stickers on the pipeline fighters’ vehicles—on cars belonging to those engaged in the day-to-day, bottom-up politics of the streets, job sites, fields and camps beneath and beyond the major-party carnival that cloaks the deep state of real power.




Thursday, November 3, 2016

Roger Waters urges Chemical Brothers to cancel Israel gig



Charlotte Silver Activism and BDS Beat 2 November 2016


The Chemical Brothers told Israeli media that they haven’t come under pressure to cancel their Tel Aviv show. Herbert P. Oczeret EPA
Pink Floyd superstar Roger Waters is the latest voice to call on electronic music duo the Chemical Brothers to cancel their upcoming concert in Israel.

“If you go to Tel Aviv, your presence will be used by the Israeli authorities to reassure their citizens that all’s right with the world and nobody really cares that the Palestinians are suffering. You could step back from this,” Waters, along with 10 other British artists, states in an open letter to the English group.

Actor Maxine Peake and writers Caryl Churchill and Liz Lochhead are among the signatories.

Seven thousand more people have signed a separate petition calling on the Chemical Brothers to cancel their gig.

“Artists that are performing in Israel are actually taking part in whitewashing the occupation and apartheid,” the petition states, noting that high-profile artists are increasingly declining to perform in Israel.

Israelis call for boycott
A group of Israeli citizens who support the Palestinian call for a cultural boycott of Israel have also urged the Chemical Brothers to cancel their show.

In 2011, Israel passed a law allowing the government to penalize citizens who call for a boycott.

“Our long years of activism have brought us to the understanding that the most effective way to stop the apartheid system is to deny its economic fuel and political legitimacy,” the group, known as Boycott from Within, states.

Despite these calls, the Chemical Brothers’ Tom Rowlands and Ed Simons told an Israeli media outlet last week that they haven’t come under pressure to cancel their show.

“We will go to any place where young people want to see us playing. We are not really involved in all the rest,” the duo stated, according to a translation by The Guardian.

Growing cultural boycott
Brian Eno, Gil Scott Heron, Elvis Costello, Devendra Banhart, Faithless and Lauryn Hill are among a growing number of musicians that have heeded the call for a cultural boycott of Israel.

In February 2015, in the wake of Israel’s 51-day onslaught on Gaza the previous summer, 700 artists announced that they would not engage in cultural relations with Israel.

In a letter published in The Guardian, 100 of those artists stated: “Now we are saying, in Tel Aviv, Netanya, Ashkelon or Ariel, we won’t play music, accept awards, attend exhibitions, festivals or conferences, run masterclasses or workshops, until Israel respects international law and ends its colonial oppression of the Palestinians.”

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

WAYS TO HELP THE STANDING ROCK SIOUX FIGHT THE DAKOTA ACCESS PIPELINE


1. Call North Dakota governor Jack Dalrymple at 701-328-2200. When leaving a message stating your thoughts about this subject please be professional.

2. Sign the petition to the White House to Stop DAPL: https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/…/stop-construction…

3. Donate to support the Standing Rock Sioux at http://standingrock.org/…/standing-rock-sioux-tribe…/

4. Donate items from the Sacred Stone Camp Supply List: http://sacredstonecamp.org/supply-list/
5
. Call the White House at (202) 456-1111 or (202) 456-1414. Tell President Obama to rescind the Army Corps of Engineers’ Permit for the Dakota Access Pipeline.
6. Contribute to the Sacred Stone Camp Legal Defense Fund: https://fundrazr.com/d19fAf

7. Contribute to the Sacred Stone Camp gofundme account: https://www.gofundme.com/sacredstonecamp

8. Call the Army Corps of Engineers and demand that they reverse the permit: (202) 761-5903

9. Sign other petitions asking President Obama to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline. Here’s the latest to cross my desk – https://act.credoaction.com/sign/NoDAPL

10. Call the executives of the companies that are building the pipeline:
a. Lee Hanse Executive Vice President Energy Transfer Partners, L.P. 800 E Sonterra Blvd #400 San Antonio, Texas 78258 Telephone: (210) 403-6455 Lee.Hanse@energytransfer.com
b. Glenn Emery Vice President Energy Transfer Partners, L.P. 800 E Sonterra Blvd #400 San Antonio, Texas 78258 Telephone: (210) 403-6762 Glenn.Emery@energytransfer.com
c. Michael (Cliff) Waters Lead Analyst Energy Transfer Partners, L.P. 1300 Main St. Houston, Texas 77002 Telephone: (713) 989-2404 Michael.Waters@energytransfer.com
The most effective means of showing support for this cause is to actively participate in protecting this sacred land. Anyone who is able to travel to the peaceful encampments is encouraged to do so. For those unable to make the journey to North Dakota, please utilize the alternate methods provided to show your support for the Standing Rock Sioux who have united over 100 tribes from across the U.S. Please join this effort to stop this pipeline, which desecrates sacred lands and has serious potential to damage or destroy the Standing Rock reservations lifeblood – its water.
Be the change you wish to see in this world. — Mahatma Gandhi

Read more at http://thefreethoughtproject.com/10-protest-dakota-access-pipeline/#MugR2r476kCy0jLq.99


Friday, October 28, 2016

Countering a sleazy lie by those who oppose BDS


I've gotten used to the hysterical charges made by the Israeli government and its rabid supporters in the US, so much so that I tend not pay attention to the details of their rants. But it recently hit me how particularly vile and crazy is the analogy they make between the call from Palestine civil society for a boycott of Israel and the Nazi boycott of Jewish businesses in Germany in 1938.

BDS (boycott, divest and sanctions) is a non-violent call from Palestine civil society for supporters of human rights to boycott Israeli products that come from illegally occupied Palestinian land (this occupation began in 1948, not just 1967) and to boycott Israeli cultural attempts to whitewash and sugarcoat their oppression of Palestinians.

So, as they portray it, the poor persecuted state of Israel is being terrorized by the powerful, evil Palestinians and their evil allies around the world...innocent Israel victimized by an inexplicable outburst of anti-semitism.

BDS is getting a lot of support because the evidence is overwhelming and undeniable that Israel is stealing land in the West Bank at an accelerating rate; because Palestinians in the West Bank live under martial law; because Palestinians inside the borders of the Israeli state have second, or third class citizenship (there are 50 laws in Israel restricting Palestinian's rights); because killings of Palestinians are continuing and are committed with impunity...we could go on.

BDS is a movement of the powerless to defend themselves agains a system that monopolizes all the power. Just like the boycotts I participated in during the civil rights movement of the early sixties, BDS seeks to put non-violent pressure on the powerful to change their discriminatory, oppressive behavior.

In 1938 the Nazis had all the power in Germany in their hands and their boycott of Jewish business was just another step in their plans to round up and murder the Jews. They were the oppressor and the Jews the oppressed.

Now the Jewish state is the oppressor and the Palestinians are the oppressed who are defending themselves. One of their most effective tools in the battle for equal rights is BDS. Israel and its apologists are shocked that BDS is gaining ground. They don't know how to stop it. Their arguments that Israel is not harming the Palestinians is laughable, and the world knows it. They won't admit Israel is in the wrong and should modify its policies. So the only tactic they use is a barrage of lies, slander and attempts to ban free speech and the right to organize of BDS supporters.

Just thought it was worth mentioning.


Saturday, October 22, 2016

" Democracy" in America

You don't need to reprise the famous Frenchman's essays (Alexis de Toucquevile, wrote two volumes 1835 & 1840) on America to see the basic absence of so-called democracy here in the US of A. It wasn't very much back in the early 19th century either (slavery, only white male property owners could vote, et al). But now we are treated to sanctimonious rants from the Clinton camp and talking heads from the media about Trump's carrying on about a rigged election and his refusal to say he'll accept the results. Even more silly are the proclamations that Trump is hurting America's brand, that the world looks to us a the leading light of democratic elections, but the USA is the least democratic of advanced countries. As de Tocqueville put it, “There are many men of principle in both parties in America, but there is no party of principle.”

The electoral systems in most of Europe, Latin America and some Asian countries is more democratic than our two-chambered House and Senate. This system allows crass manipulation of Congressional districts (Gerrymandering) by state governments. Most Congressional contests are rigged in advance (the incumbent re-election rate is 80+ per cent). Really democratic countries don't allow this. In many countries the elections are run by a central government agency that guarantees equal numbers of voters in each district and no partisan local level tampering. The Senate is a fraud. California has two Senators and Wyoming has two Senators. A handful of nearly unpopulated states controlled by right-wing nutjobs outvotes hugely populous states like New York and California. Democratic? Forget about it!

Besides the mechanical defects, we have a long and still active system of schemes to deny non-white people the right to vote in many states. This IS voter fraud and its practitioners should have been prosecuted and jailed long ago. But it remains a living part of our pseudo-democratic heritage.

The 2000 and 2004 elections were stolen on this basis in Florida and then Ohio.

Trump's raging about fixed elections and not accepting the results is more of a function of his sociopathic, narcissistic personality. He's a born bully and a crybaby. Outrage about his "insulting the great institution of American democracy" is nonsense.

There's one last compelling point to make. We live in a functional Plutocracy. The people who control this country, it's wealth and it's fundamental governing policies don't have to run for election. We have a super rich ruling class that gets what it wants no matter which party is in power. Some times they favor Republicans other times Democrats. Trump is too erratic and openly racist for the ruling class to back for this election; the smart capitalists know Clinton is their candidate. Some of the dumber, redneck capitalists back Trump, but even rightwing bigoted moguls like the Cokes and Adelson know that Clinton will be OK for them compared to Trump. We can also see why the ruling class and their political flunkies in both parties couldn't abide Bernie...socialism? workers and bosses? None of the current two-party players want to hear about that.

So...this is how it is. Reality is depressing...but I'm still going to vote for Jill Stein. That is a vote for a democratic system.









Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Israel lies about UN resolution on "Temple Mount"

from Palestine Chronicle


UNESCO Resolution on Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Death of Shimon Peres – An Interview with Ramzy Baroud
Oct 18 2016 / 4:59 pm


‘While the resolution will unlikely alter the nature of the conflict fundamentally, it rejects – legally and morally – all Israeli efforts aimed at denying the rights of Muslims – and Christians – in their city, which they aspire to make their future capital,’ said Ramzy Baroud, the editor of Palestine Chronicle.
In an interview with Muslim Press, Dr. Ramzy Baroud discusses Israeli Palestinian conflict and UNESCO’s latest resolution that strongly condemn the Israeli regime, as well as Shimon Peres’ legacy for the Palestinians.
In what follows, full transcription of the interview has been provided.
Muslim Press: Dr. Ramzy Baroud, What’s your take on UNESCO’s latest resolution that strongly condemns Israel and its aggression against Palestinians? How would this measure change Israeli-Palestinian conflict?
Ramzy Baroud: First, let me clarify some misunderstanding regarding the UNESCO resolution.
The resolution, as Israel and its supporters claim, didn’t deny Jewish links to Jerusalem. To the contrary, it emphasized the spiritual and religious important of Jerusalem to the three monotheistic religions, Christianity, Islam and Judaism.
What it did, however, is that it emphasized the Muslim Arabic heritage of al-Aqsa Mosque, using the Arabic wording for it – Al-Aqsa Mosque, not the ‘Temple Mount’ as Jews prefer to call it.
This is important. Why? Because, Israel – the government in Tel Aviv, the municipality of the Israeli occupation in the city itself, and well-funded religious extremist groups – have constantly plotted to achieve the opposite of what UNESCO resolved:
– Deny Muslim worshipers access to their holy sites in Haram al-Sharif compound – which includes, among numerous religious sites, the Dome of the Rock Mosque and al-Aqsa Mosque.
– Facilitate ‘visits’ for religious Jewish fanatics, joined by armed Israeli army and police forces to the Muslim sites.
– Reject the obvious Muslim connection to that holy place, and emphasize religious myths that propagate the existence of a third Jewish temple under the Mosque; the ultimate objective being to demolish the Mosque and rebuild the alleged temple.
– Continue to dig under al-Haram and other parts of historic Jerusalem in search for any evidence that supports the ‘Third Temple’ claims.
Hundreds of Muslims were killed while trying to defend the mosque over the years, and al-Aqsa in particular has become a symbol of Palestinian Resistance.
The UNESCO resolution – which also insists on the illegality of the Israeli occupation and annexation of Arab East Jerusalem – was a blow to Israeli efforts aimed at the complete judaization of the Palestinian city.
While the resolution will unlikely alter the nature of the conflict fundamentally, it rejects – legally and morally – all Israeli efforts aimed at denying the rights of Muslims – and Christians – in their city, which they aspire to make their future capital.
MP: Benjamin Netanyahu has said that “UNESCO has lost its legitimacy by adopting this resolution”. What could you say about his reaction to this resolution? How do you see the future of Israeli relations with UNESCO and the UN?
Ramzy Baroud: Netanyahu says a lot of things. He has always been quite belligerent and is hardly cautious with the language he uses. For example, his annual speeches before the UN itself is a constant attempt at delegitimizing the world’s leading international institution. It is his only defense mechanism as he feels – rightly so – that Palestinian efforts, combined with their efforts of their friends and allies, have succeeded in delegitimizing his military occupation and his apartheid regime.
In fact, after a UNESCO decision to admit Palestine as a member state in 2011, Israeli hasbra went into full swing with attacks on UNESCO, the UN and the international community as a whole. Then, the US gutlessly bowed to Israeli pressure and decided to cut off its funding of the organization. Yet somehow UNESCO carried on, as it will continue with its important work despite Israel’s recent decision to suspend its membership in the organization.
Of course, we now expect even a greater Israeli push in Jerusalem to further challenge the international community’s will. There will be more restrictions on Palestinians, and easier access to Jews, which will be accompanied by more military deployment and subsequent violence.
MP: How would you describe Shimon Peres’ legacy for Palestinians? Do you consider him as a champion of peace?
Ramzy Baroud: Peres was never truly a peacemaker – he never labored to achieve fair and just political compromises that would preserve the dignity and rights of the Palestinians, along with securing the future of his people. In fact, he was a maximalist, a man who blatantly shoved his ideas forward in order to achieve his goals, no matter what the method or the price.
Nor was he a leader with a specific qualities that allowed him to excel in particular fields of politics. Instead, he was the embodiment of the archetypical Israeli politician who swapped roles, and rebranded himself as the occasion or role required.
Although he is remembered for his ordering of the bombing of a UN shelter in the Lebanese village of Qana in 1996 – which killed and wounded hundreds of innocent people – the list of war crimes associated with his name is as long as his career. He remained, until the very end a staunch supporter of the Israeli right-wing government’s wars on Gaza and the perpetual siege on that impoverished, forsaken region.
MP: Do you see a conflict between how the mainstream Western media portray him and who he really was?
Ramzy Baroud: The Israelis and many in mainstream Western media praised Peres as a hero, stately and a peacemaker.
Part of that assessment was the outcome of simply bad journalism. Peres was merely a brand that was hardly consistent with his actual legacy. He won the Nobel Peace Prize and gave many speeches at international forums in which he spoke about the need to make painful compromises for peace. Many journalists simply used that, along with his carefully tailored Wikipedia page to reach conclusions.
However, much of the coverage was intentionally misguided and is consistent with how mainstream media portray Israel in general. Let us not forget that the media made a hero out of Ariel Sharon as well, the brutal Israeli leader whose long career was saturated in violence – in words and deeds.
For Palestinians, however, both were war criminals, and their heroism is always founded on entrenching the occupation, expanding Jewish colonies and erecting a system of apartheid, sustained by racist laws and violent occupation.
–Dr. Ramzy Baroud is a US-Arab journalist, media consultant, an author, internationally-syndicated columnist, Editor of Palestine Chronicle (1999-present), former Managing Editor of London-based Middle East Eye (2014-15), former Editor-in-Chief of The Brunei Times, former Deputy Managing Editor of Al Jazeera online.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Throwing in the Towel What the Bankruptcy of White House Policy Means for the Israelis and Palestinians



By Sandy Tolan

Washington has finally thrown in the towel on its long, tortured efforts to establish peace between Israel and the Palestinians. You won’t find any acknowledgement of this in the official record. Formally, the U.S. still supports a two-state solution to the conflict. But the Obama administration’s recent 10-year, $38-billion pledge to renew Israel’s arsenal of weaponry, while still ostensibly pursuing “peace,” makes clear just how bankrupt that policy is.

For two decades, Israeli leaders and their neoconservative backers in this country, hell-bent on building and expanding settlements on Palestinian land, have worked to undermine America’s stated efforts -- and paid no price. Now, with that record weapons package, the U.S. has made it all too clear that they won’t have to. Ever.

The military alliance between the United States and Israel has long been at odds with the stated intentions of successive administrations in Washington to foster peace in the Holy Land. One White House after another has preferred the “solution” of having it both ways: supporting a two-state solution while richly rewarding, with lethal weaponry, an incorrigible client state that was working as fast as it could to undermine just such a solution.

This ongoing duality seemed at its most surreal in the last few weeks. First, President Obama announced the new military deal, with its promised delivery of fighter jets and other hardware, citing the “unshakable” American military alliance with Israel. The following week, at the United Nations, he declared, “Israel must recognize that it cannot permanently occupy and settle Palestinian land.” Next, he flew to Israel for the funeral of Shimon Peres, and in a tribute to the Nobel Prize-winning former Israeli president, spoke of a man who grasped that “the Jewish people weren’t born to rule another people” and brought up the “unfinished business” of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. (Peres is remembered quite differently by Palestinians as an early pioneer of settlement building and the author of the brutal Operation Grapes of Wrath assaults on Lebanon in 1996.) Not long after the funeral, the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu brazenly approved a new settlement deep in the West Bank, prompting the State Department to “strongly condemn” the action as “deeply troubling.”

Such scolding words, however, shrivel into nothingness in the face of a single number: 38 billion. With its latest promise of military aid, the United States has essentially sanctioned Israel’s impunity, its endless colonization of Palestinian land, its military occupation of the West Bank, and its periodic attacks by F-16 fighter jets and Apache helicopters using Hellfire missiles on the civilians of Gaza.

Yes, Hamas’s crude and occasionally deadly rockets sometimes help provoke Israeli fire, and human rights investigations have found that both sides have committed war crimes. But Israel’s explosive power in the 2014 Gaza war, fueled in large part by American military aid and political support, exceeded that of Hamas by an estimated 1,500-to-1. By one estimate, all of Hamas’s rockets, measured in explosive power, were equal to 12 of the one-ton bombs Israel dropped on Gaza. And it loosed hundreds of those, and fired tens of thousands of shells, rockets and mortars. In the process, nearly 250 times more Palestinian civilians died than civilians in Israel.

Now, with Gaza severed from the West Bank, and Palestinians facing new waves of settlers amid a half-century-long military occupation, the U.S. has chosen not to apply pressure to its out-of-control ally, but instead to resupply its armed forces in a massive way. This means that we’ve finally arrived at something of a historic (if hardly noticed) moment. After all these decades, the two-state solution, critically flawed as it was, should now officially be declared dead -- and consider the United States an accomplice in its murder. In other words, the Obama administration has handed Israel’s leaders and the neoconservatives who have long championed this path the victory they’ve sought for more than two decades.

The Chaos Kids

Twenty years ago, the pro-Israel hard right in America designed the core strategy that helped lead to this American capitulation. In 1996, a task force led by neocons Richard Perle (future chairman of the Defense Policy Board), David Wurmser (future senior Middle East adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney), Douglas Feith (future undersecretary of defense), and others issued a policy paper aimed at incoming Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. "A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm" advocated that Israel walk away from its embrace of the Oslo peace process and Oslo’s focus on territorial concessions. The paper’s essential ingredients included weakening Israel’s neighbors via regime change in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and “roll back” in Syria and Iran. The authors’ recommendations turned out to be anything but a wish list, given that a number of them would soon hold influential positions in the administration of George W. Bush.

As journalist Jim Lobe wrote in 2007:

“[T]he task force, which was chaired by Perle, argued that regime change in Iraq -- of which Feith was among the most ardent advocates within the Pentagon -- would enable Israel and the U.S. to decisively shift the balance of power in the region so that Israel could make a ‘clean break’ from the Oslo process (or any framework that would require it to give up ‘land for peace’) and, in so doing, ‘secure the realm’ against Palestinian territorial claims.”

In other words, as early as 1996, these neocons were already imagining what would become the disastrous invasion of Iraq in 2003. You could argue, of course, that neither the neocons nor Netanyahu could have foreseen the chaos that would follow, with Iraq nearly cracking open and Syria essentially collapsing into horrific civil war and violence, civilians stranded under relentless bombing, and the biggest refugee crisis since World War II gripping Europe and the world. But you would, at least in some sense, be wrong, for certain of the neocon advocates of regime change imagined chaos as an essential part of the process from early on.

"One can only hope that we turn the region into a caldron, and faster, please," wrote Michael Ledeen of the American Enterprise Institute in the National Review during the buildup to the invasion of Iraq. (In 1985, as a consultant to the National Security Council and to Oliver North, Ledeen had helped broker the illegal arms-for-hostages deal with Iran by setting up meetings between weapons dealers and Israel.) “The war won't end in Baghdad,” Ledeen later wrote, in the Wall Street Journal. "We must also topple terror states in Tehran and Damascus."

The neocons got so much more than they bargained for in Iraq, and so much less than they wanted in Syria and Iran. Their recent attempts -- with Netanyahu as their chief spokesman -- to block the Obama administration’s Iran nuclear deal, for example, went down in flames. Still, it’s stunning to think just how much their strategy of regime change and chaos helped transform our world and the Greater Middle East for the worse, and to be reminded that its ultimate goal, at least in those early days, was in large part to keep Israel from having to pursue a peace deal with the Palestinians. Of course, there were other benefits the neocons imagined back then as part of their historic attempt to redraw the map of the Middle East. Controlling some of the vast oil reserves of that region was one of them, but of course that didn’t exactly turn out to be a “mission accomplished” moment either. Only the Israeli part of the plan seemed to succeed as once imagined.

So here we are 20 years later. All around the Holy Land, states are collapsing or at least their foundations are crumbling, and Israel’s actions make clear that it isn’t about to help improve the situation in any way. It visibly intends to pursue a policy of colonization, permanent human rights violations, and absolute rule over the Palestinians. These are facts on the ground that former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Netanyahu, the Israeli right wing, and those American neocon visionaries fought so hard to establish. A succession of leaders in Washington -- at least those who weren’t designing this policy themselves -- have been played for fools.

In the two-plus decades since the 1993 Oslo Agreement, which some believed would put Israel and the Palestinians on the path to peace, and that “Clean Break” document which was written to undermine it, the West Bank settler population has grown from 109,000 to nearly 400,000 (an estimated 15% of whom are American). The would-be capital of a Palestinian state, East Jerusalem, is now surrounded by 17 Jewish settlements. Palestinians nominally control a mere 18% of the West Bank (also known as Area A), or 4% of the entire land base of Israel/Palestine.

The Palestinians’ would-be homeland is now checkered with military bases, settlements, settler-only roads, and hundreds of checkpoints and barriers -- all in a West Bank the size of Delaware, our second-smallest state. An estimated 40% of adult male Palestinians, and thousands of children, have seen the insides of Israeli jails and prisons; many of them languish there without charges.

Israel has, in essence, created a Jim Crow-like separate and unequal reality there: a one-state “solution” that it alone controls. The United States has done almost nothing about this (other than carefully couched, periodic State Department words of complaint), while its ally marched forward unchecked. Not since James Baker was secretary of state under the first President Bush before -- notably enough -- the signing of the Oslo accords has any U.S. leader threatened to withhold funds unless Israel stops building settlements on Palestinian land. The phrase “friends don’t let friends drive drunk” no longer applies in U.S.-Israeli relations. Rather, what we hear are regular pledges of “absolute, total, unvarnished commitment to Israel’s security.” Those were, in fact, the words of Vice President Joe Biden during a 2010 visit to Israel -- a pledge offered, as it turned out, only a few hours before the Netanyahu government announced the construction of 1,600 new apartments in East Jerusalem.

“Unvarnished commitment” in 2016 means that $38 billion for what Obama called “the world’s most advanced weapons technology.” That includes 33 of Lockheed’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter jets, at $200 million per jet, part of a troubled $1.5 trillion weapons system subsidized by U.S. taxpayers. Other deadly hardware headed for Israel: cargo planes, F-15 fighter jets, battle tanks, armored personnel carriers, a new class of warships whose guided missiles would undoubtedly be aimed directly at Gaza, and more of Lockheed’s Hellfire missiles. If recent history is any indication, you would need to add fresh supplies of bombs, grenades, torpedoes, rocket launchers, mortars, howitzers, machine guns, shotguns, pistols, and bayonets. As part of the agreement, U.S. arms manufacturers will soon supply 100% of that weaponry, while Israeli weapons manufacturers will be phased out of U.S. military aid. “It’s a win-win for Israeli security and the U.S. economy,” a White House aide cheerily told the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz.

The Clinton (Trump) White House and Israel

Current policy, if that’s the right word, could perhaps be summed up as weapons, weapons, and more weapons, while Washington otherwise washed its hands of what was always known as “the peace process” (despite that fig leaf still in place). Today, functionally, there’s no such process left. And that’s unlikely to change under either a President Clinton or a President Trump. If anything, it may get worse.

During the Democratic primary campaign, for instance, Hillary Clinton promised to invite Netanyahu to the White House “during my first month in office” in order to “reaffirm” Washington’s “unbreakable bond with Israel.” In a speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), which labels itself “America’s pro-Israel lobby,” she was virtually silent on the Israeli settlement issue, except to promise to protect Israel against its own violations of international law. She attacked Trump from the right, denouncing his once-expressed wish to remain “neutral” on the issue of Israel and Palestine.

In the 1990s, as first lady, Clinton had stirred controversy by uttering the word “Palestine” and kissing Yasser Arafat’s widow, Suha, on the cheek. Now she fully embraces those who believe Israel can do no wrong, including Hollywood mogul Haim Saban, who has donated at least $6.4 million to her campaign, and millions more to the Clinton Foundation and the Democratic National Committee. Saban, an Israeli-American whose billions came largely from the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers franchise, describes himself as “a one-issue guy, and my issue is Israel.”

Last year, he convened a “secret” Las Vegas meeting with fellow billionaire Sheldon Adelson, the bankroller of a panoply of Republican candidates and a huge supporter of Israel’s settlement project. Their aim: to shut down, if not criminalize, the pro-Palestinian Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement, or BDS. That boycott movement targets cultural institutions and businesses including those that profit from the occupation of the West Bank. Its approach is akin to the movement to impose sanctions on South Africa during the apartheid era.

With Saban’s millions destined for her campaign war chest, Clinton wrote to her benefactor to express her “alarm” over BDS, “seeking your thoughts and recommendations” to “work together to counter BDS.” Yet it’s a nonviolent movement that aims to confront Israel’s human rights abuses through direct economic and political pressure, not guns or terror attacks. Would Clinton prefer suicide bombers and rockets? Never mind that the relatively modest movement has been endorsed by an assortment of international trade unions, scholarly associations, church groups, the Jewish Voice for Peace, and Nobel Peace Prize winner Desmond Tutu. At the root of BDS, Clinton has hinted darkly, is anti-Semitism. “At a time when anti-Semitism is on the rise across the world,” she wrote Saban, “we need to repudiate forceful efforts to malign and undermine Israel and the Jewish people.”

As for Trump, some Palestinians were encouraged by his statement to MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough that he might “be sort of a neutral guy” on the issue. He told the AP: “I have a real question as to whether or not both sides want to make it. A lot will have to do with Israel and whether or not Israel wants to make the deal -- whether or not Israel’s willing to sacrifice certain things.” Yet Trump subsequently fell in line with Republican orthodoxy, pledging among other things to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, a litmus test for supporters of the hard right in Israel, and a virtual guarantee that East Jerusalem, at the center of the Palestinian dream of statehood, will remain in Israel’s hands.

In the short term, then, the prospect for an American-brokered just peace may be as bleak as it’s ever been -- even though U.S. officials know full well that a just solution to the conflict would remove a primary recruiting tool for jihadists. For the next four to eight years, American leadership will, by all indications, shore up the status quo, which means combining all that weaponry and de facto acquiescence in Israel’s land grabs with, perhaps, the occasional hand-wringing State Department statement.

“With Patience, Change Will Come”

However, like Jim Crow, like South African apartheid, the status quo of this moment simply can’t last forever. Eventually, the future of the region will not be left to the self-proclaimed “honest brokers” of Washington who lecture Palestinians on the proper forms of nonviolence, while offering no genuine alternatives to surrender. Given the long history of Palestinian resistance, it is foolhardy to expect such a surrender now and particularly unwise to slander a movement of nonviolent resistance -- especially given what we know about the kinds of resistance that are possible.

Whether by peaceful resistance or other means, the status quo will change, in part simply because it must: a structure this twisted cannot stand on its own forever. Already AIPAC’s monumental attempts to scuttle the Iran deal have led to humiliating defeat and that’s just a taste of what, sooner or later, the future could hold. After all, young Americans, including young Jews, are increasingly opposed to Israel’s domination of Palestinian lands, and increasingly supportive of the boycott movement. In addition, the balance of power in the region is shifting. We can’t know how Russia, China, Turkey, and Iran will operate there in the years to come, but amid the ongoing chaos, U.S. influence will undoubtedly diminish over time. As a member of a prominent Gaza family said to me many years ago: “Does Israel think America will always protect them, always give them arms, and that they will always be the biggest power in the Middle East? Do they really expect they can maintain this hold on us forever?”

A popular Arab folk ballad, El Helwa Di, promises a penniless child who has placed her life in God’s hands: “With patience, change will come. All will be better.”

Perhaps it will prove useful, in the end, to abandon the illusions of the now-terminal two-state solution, at least as envisioned in the Oslo process. In the language of those accords, after all, the words “freedom” and “independence” never appear, while “security” is mentioned 12 times.

In a regime of growing confinement, the Israelis have steadily undermined Palestinian sovereignty, aided and abetted by an American acquiescence in Israel’s ongoing settlement project. Now, at least, there is an opportunity to lay the foundations for some newer kind of solution grounded in human rights, freedom of movement, complete cessation of settlement building, and equal access to land, water, and places of worship. It will have to be based on a new reality, which Israel and the United States have had such a hand in creating. Think of it as the one-state solution.

Sandy Tolan, a TomDispatch regular, is the author of the international bestseller, The Lemon Tree, and of the acclaimed Children of the Stone about one Palestinian’s dream to establish music schools under Israel’s military occupation. He has reported from more than 35 countries and is professor at the Annenberg School for Journalism and Communication at USC. His website is sandytolan.com, his Twitter handle, @sandy_tolan.