Thursday, February 25, 2016

‘In every important way Israel has failed’– leading American Zionist says No mas

from mondoweiss
Middle East Philip Weiss on February 24, 2016

Israel is “a failure,” the Zionist dream has curdled into Jewish selfishness, a major Jewish leader writes in an important article published yesterday. “After a life and career devoted to Jewish community and Israel, I conclude that in every important way Israel has failed to realize its promise for me,” David Gordis states.

Gordis is a former executive at the American Jewish Committee, a central organization of the Israel lobby, and former president of the Hebrew College and a former vice president of the Jewish Theological Seminary. He published his article yesterday at Tikkun under the title, “Major American Jewish Leader Changes His Mind About Israel.”

Gordis, who is in his late 70s (and the uncle of rightwing Zionist Daniel Gordis), writes that he completely believed in Israel when it was founded and through his adult life, but that the spiral of that society into occupation and Jewish particularism has caused him to change his mind. It’s a political, spiritual and religious failure: Israel is “distorted by a fanatic, obscurantist and fundamentalist religion which encourages the worst behaviors rather than the best.”

His indictment includes American Jews. “The establishment leadership in the American Jewish community is silent in the face of this dismal situation, and there are no recognizable trends that can move Israel out of this quagmire.” Peter Beinart said this about the establishment four years ago while Max Blumenthal laid out the problem in Israel’s political culture in comprehensive detail in Goliath three years ago and was promptly censored by every mainstream organ, from NPR to the New Yorker to the New York Times to the cables and public television– yes; “Frontline” features Dennis Ross and Ari Shavit as its spokespeople on Israel, to make the funders happy.

Read Gordis’s article in full. Here are some excerpts:

The Israel of today is very far from anything I dreamed of and worked for throughout my career….

Jews had returned to the stage of history after the devastation of the Holocaust. Israel was to be the great laboratory for the rebirth of an ancient tradition in a new land and in a country committed to being a model of democracy and freedom for the world.

What happened? We can debate the reasons but the bottom line for me is that it has gone terribly wrong. On the positive side, Israel’s accomplishments have been remarkable. Israel has created a thriving economy, and has been a refuge for hundreds of thousands of the displaced and the needy. Israel has generated a rich and diverse cultural life and its scientific and educational achievements have been exemplary. In spite of these achievements, however, Israel in my view has gone astray. And it in in the area for which Israel was created, as a Jewish state, embodying and enhancing Jewish values that I see this failure..

The political culture is rotten.

Israel’s occupation of the West Bank is nearing a half century in duration. Netanyahu’s “facts on the ground” steps to make a two-state solution impossible are bearing fruit, and there still appears to be no significant opposition to these policies in Israel itself. A number of smaller organizations supporting a two-state solution have emerged, notably J-Street and Americans for Peace Now, but recent steps by the Israeli government to delegitimize these groups are proceeding. The bottom line as I see it: The right has triumphed; the left has been defeated.

The spiritual culture is rotten. The Jewish experience balanced particularism and universalism traditionally. Not in Israel. The emphasis below is Gordis’s.

Present day Israel has discarded the rational, the universal and the visionary. These values have been subordinated to a cruel and oppressive occupation, an emphatic materialism, severe inequalities rivaling the worst in the western world and distorted by a fanatic, obscurantist and fundamentalist religion which encourages the worst behaviors rather than the best.

And most depressing of all for me, is that I see no way out, no way forward which will reverse the current reality. Right wing control in Israel is stronger and more entrenched than ever. The establishment leadership in the American Jewish community is silent in the face of this dismal situation, and there are no recognizable trends that can move Israel out of this quagmire. So, sadly, after a life and career devoted to Jewish community and Israel, I conclude that in every important way Israel has failed to realize its promise for me. A noble experiment, but a failure.

This article is a huge blow. Michael Walzer has had similar misgivings lately published in a book; but he has not stated the matter as emphatically as this. But I predict apres Gordis, the deluge.

Rabbi Michael Lerner of Tikkun says that he published the article as submitted by Gordis, who is today a senior scholar at SUNY Albany:

We publish it with the same sadness that Gordis expresses at the end of this article, because many of us at Tikkun magazine shared the same hopes he expresses below for an Israel that would make Jews proud by becoming an embodiment of what is best in Jewish tradition, history, and ethics, rather than a manifestation of all the psychological and spiritual damage that has been done to our people, which now acts as an oppressor to the Palestinian people.

One last point. From his American Jewish Committee days, Gordis reflects that that Israel lobbying organization had political tensions built in.

its lay leadership tending center-right and its professional staff clearly center left.

This is always the tension in these organizations. Right now I bet J Street staff is composed of people who understand the failure of Israel, while the leadership clings to HaTikvah Zionism so as to influence the Democratic Party an iota. Americans for Peace Now surely has young staff who believe in one state.

- See more at:

Jews-only democracy moves to ban elected Palestinian representatives from the Knesset

from The National
Israel is on the brink of a tyranny of the majority
Jonathan Cook

February 23, 2016 Updated: February 24, 2016 05:57 PM

Benjamin Netanyahu’s government in Tel Aviv is drafting legislation that ought to resolve in observers’ minds the question of whether Israel is the democracy it proudly claims to be. The bill empowers a three-quarters majority of the Israeli parliament to oust a sitting MP.

It breathes new life into the phrase “tyranny of the majority”. But in this case, the majority will be Jewish MPs oppressing their Palestinian colleagues.

Mr Netanyahu has presented the bill as a necessary response to the recent actions of three MPs from the Balad faction of the Joint List, a coalition of parties representing the often-overlooked fifth of Israel’s citizens who are Palestinian.

He claims the MPs “sided with terror” this month when they visited Palestinian families in occupied East Jerusalem who have been waiting many months for Israel to return their relatives’ bodies.

The 11 dead are among those alleged to have carried out what are termed “lone-wolf” attacks, part of a recent wave of Palestinian unrest. Fearful of more protests, Israel has demanded that the families bury the bodies in secret, without autopsies, and in plots outside Jerusalem.

There is an urgent moral and political issue about Israel using bodies as bargaining chips to encourage Palestinian obedience towards its illegal occupation. The three Palestinian MPs also believe they are under an obligation to help the families by adding to the pressure on Mr Netanyahu to return the bodies.

Israel’s Palestinian minority has a severely degraded form of citizenship, but it enjoys more rights than Palestinians living under occupation.

When a video of the meeting was posted online, however, the Israeli right seized the chance to attack and disenfranchise the MPs. A parliamentary “ethics” committee comprising the main Jewish parties suspended the three MPs for several months. Now they face losing their seats.

This is part of a clear trend. Late last year, the government outlawed the northern Islamic Movement, a popular extra-parliamentary political, religious and welfare organisation.

Despite Mr Netanyahu’s statements that the movement was linked to “terror”, leaks to the Israeli media showed his intelligence chiefs had advised him weeks before the ban that there was no evidence to support such accusations.

At the time many Palestinians in Israel suspected Mr Netanyahu would soon turn his sights on the Palestinian parties in the parliament. And so he has.

Balad, which decries Israel’s status as a Jewish state and noisily campaigns for democratic reform, was always likely to be top of his list. In every recent general election, an election committee dominated by the Jewish parties has banned Balad or its leaders from standing, only to see the Israeli courts reverse the decision.

Now Mr Netanyahu is legislating the expulsion of Balad and throwing down the gauntlet to the courts.

It won’t end there. If Balad is unseated, the participation of the other Joint List factions will be untenable. In effect, the Israeli right is seeking to ethnically cleanse the parliament.

For those who doubt such intentions, consider that two years ago the government raised the electoral threshold for entry to the parliament specifically to exclude the Palestinian factions.

The intention was to empty the parliament of its Palestinian representatives. But these factions put aside their historic differences to create the Joint List.

Mr Netanyahu, who had hoped to see the back of the Palestinian parties at last year’s general election, inadvertently transformed them into the third biggest party. That was the context for his now-infamous campaign warning that “the Arabs are coming out in droves to vote”.

The crackdown on Palestinian parties may finally burst the simplistic assumption that Israel is a democracy because its Palestinian minority has the vote.

This argument was always deeply misguided. After Israel’s creation in 1948, officials gave citizenship and the vote to the few Palestinians remaining inside the new borders precisely because they were a small and weak minority.

In exiling 80 per cent of Palestinians from their homeland, Israel effectively rigged its national electoral constituency to ensure there would be a huge Jewish majority in perpetuity.

A Palestinian MP, Ahmed Tibi, summed it up neatly. Israel, he said, was a democratic state for Jews and a Jewish state for its Palestinian citizens.

In truth, the vote of Palestinian citizens was only ever meant as window-dressing. David Ben Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister, assumed that the rump Palestinian population would be swamped by Jewish immigrants flooding into the new state.

He miscalculated. The Palestinian minority had a far higher birth rate and maintained a level of 20 per cent of the population. None of that would matter had the Palestinian representatives quietly accepted their position as shop-window mannequins.

But in recent years, as Mahmoud Abbas’s Palestinian Authority has grown ever weaker, confined to small enclaves of the West Bank, the Palestinian MPs in Israel have taken up some of the slack.That was why the Balad MPs met the Jerusalem families. The PA, barred by Israel from East Jerusalem, can only look on helplessly on this issue.

This month Mr Netanyahu said he would surround Israel with walls to keep out the neighbourhood’s “wild beasts”. In his view, there are also wild beasts to be found in Israel’s parliament – and he is ready to erect walls to keep them out too.

Jonathan Cook is an independent journalist in Nazareth

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Ta-Nehisi Coates sings of Zionism

Rania Khalek The Electronic Intifada 23 February 2016

Ta-Nehisi Coates tarnishes his compelling case for reparations owed to Black Americans by holding up German compensation to Israel as a successful model. (Sean Carter Photography)
In 2014, Ta-Nehisi Coates published a compelling case for reparations owed to Black Americans for racial injuries, particularly with respect to discriminatory housing policies, that continue to affect millions today.

Published at The Atlantic, his award-winning piece sparked an important national debate. It also helped propel him into the national spotlight as a MacArthur Foundation “genius” and a best-selling author read, among others, by President Barack Obama.

Unfortunately, there is a major flaw in his argument that exposes one of his most glaring political lapses. Coates presents German reparations to Israel as a successful and moral model, ignoring the horrors Israel inflicted and still inflicts on Palestinians and other people of the region using those funds.

To make matters worse, shortly after the publication of his piece, Coates promoted reparations at a live event with his Atlantic colleague Jeffrey Goldberg, the former Israeli prison guard and Obama favorite.

If the objective is to demonstrate the feasibility of reparations, then emphasizing German compensation to Holocaust victims would be completely appropriate.

But Coates focuses on the totally separate issue of German “compensation” to the settler-colonial state of Israel, portraying it as a positive development that contributed to Israel’s civilian infrastructure and economic growth.

“Reparations could not make up for the murder perpetrated by the Nazis. But they did launch Germany’s reckoning with itself, and perhaps provided a roadmap for how a great civilization might make itself worthy of the name,” Coates writes.

There are some gaping holes in this narrative.

First, it relies on a total conflation of Israel and Zionism, on the one hand, with Jews, on the other. And it accepts uncritically the ahistorical claim that Israel and Zionism were the victims of the Nazis, and therefore Israel was the appropriate address for “reparations,” the delivery of which could offer Germans absolution.

It also completely ignores the fact that while other Jews were resisting the Nazis, Zionists infamously made a deal with them, the notorious Transfer Agreement of 1933, to facilitate the transport of German Jews and their property to Palestine and which, as Joseph Massad points out, broke the international Jewish boycott of Nazi Germany started by American Jews.

But even if we set these fundamental questions aside, as a practical matter, from the standpoint of Israel’s victims, German reparations were not used to repair but to destroy. The billions Germany gave Israel were an enormous contribution to Israel’s military capacity, enabling its colonial expansion, land theft, military invasions and occupations and further ethnic cleansing of Palestinians.

Despite people pointing out such concerns to Coates on social media and in person (I tried engaging him on the issue at one of his speaking events, to no avail), he continues to invoke Israel as a model.

Appearing on Democracy Now! earlier this month to discuss reparations, Coates again cited Israel, telling host Amy Goodman that reparations from Germany were “invested in Israel. They basically sold them goods that Israel then used to build themselves up.”

This is a shameful whitewash of Palestinian suffering that needs to be corrected.

“Indirect victims of the Holocaust”
Contrary to the fabrications of Israeli leaders, Palestinians played no role in the Holocaust. Yet they have been made to pay for it with their land and their lives in the name of Western atonement.

Germany has been sacrificing Palestinians to atone for its genocide of millions of European Jews since at least 1952, the year Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben Gurion, and West German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer signed a reparations agreement.

As the first postwar chancellor, Adenauer saw publicly compensating Israel as the most effective way to rehabilitate Germany’s image. He also spoke about payments to Israel as easing the way to a “spiritual settlement” for Germany’s “moral and material” debts.

And Ben-Gurion, facing an ailing economy, was desperate for the resources to preserve and expand Israel’s Jewish demographic majority following the ethnic cleansing of 750,000 Palestinians by Zionist militias from 1947 into the early 1950s, an event known to Palestinians as the Nakba.

So against the backdrop of fierce Israeli protests, an Israeli delegation, which included no Holocaust survivors, negotiated a reparations deal despite knowledge that the West German government included many Nazis and Nazi collaborators whose pasts Adenauer was working hard to conceal.

Adenauer’s chief advisor, for instance, was Hans Globke, a man who helped draft and enforce many pieces of anti-Jewish legislation, including the infamous Nuremberg Laws, during the Nazi regime.

Since then, Germany has paid some $60 billion in reparations to Israel.

“This cash flow from Germany went directly to the Israeli occupation machine that has made the Palestinians indirect victims of the Holocaust,” observes author and journalist Max Blumenthal. “The current bloodshed is a result of this policy.”

Indeed, according to the independent Jewish magazine Moment, “As early as 1954, German reparation funds were secretly being used to buy patrol boats, tanks and arms.”

Germany itself directly supplied Israel with weapons through various channels.

The magazine cites a US Congressional Research Service report from 2007 that concluded that German-supplied arms “played a considerable role in Israeli military victories in 1967, 1973 and 1982.”

In other words, Germany played a key role in enabling Israeli violence, including the ongoing occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip and Israel’s devastating invasion of Lebanon, including the massacres at the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps.

Germany’s military support for Israel may have gone beyond conventional weaponry. Last year, Germany’s Welt reported that Adenauer’s government financed Israel’s secret nuclear weapons program in the 1960s to the tune of $500 million, disguised as a development loan – an allegation Israel, which refuses to confirm it has nuclear weapons at all, has denied.

Aiding atrocities
In the early years of the state, before 1967, the Israeli army’s priority was to keep Palestinian refugees from returning to their land while subduing the Palestinians who remained with military rule.

In 1957, Germany forged a secret agreement for military and scientific cooperation with Israel rooted in the belief that Germany was obligated by its Nazi past to guarantee Israel’s security as a Jewish state.

Israel regularly exploited this sentiment.

In early 1964, after Germany began funneling tanks, submarines, artillery, mobile cannons and missile boats to Israel, details of the secret program were leaked to the media, generating public opposition across Germany. The government was pressured into halting the arms flow and it pledged not to send any more weapons into conflict zones.

Israel’s deputy defense minister Shimon Peres issued a cable to the Israeli diplomatic delegation in West Germany, shamelessly capitalizing on Holocaust guilt.

Israel “doesn’t see itself as being located in a conflict region or as involved in an armed struggle,” wrote Peres, but “as part of the Jewish people, which is under constant threat of annihilation from the dictatorial government in Egypt.”

“If the Germans want to pass a law [against selling arms to conflict zones], they must commit themselves to correcting historical injustices toward the Jewish people and not make life easier for their simplistic policy at our expense,” he added.

Germany responded by resurrecting the arms program and establishing an open military relationship that was instrumental to Israel’s future conquests.

This dynamic remains so profitable to Israel that an Israeli diplomat told journalists last year that “it was an Israeli interest to maintain German guilt feelings” about the Holocaust. Without German guilt, “we’d be just another country as far as they’re concerned,” the diplomat reportedly said.

While the US has replaced Germany as the main guarantor of Israel’s military dominance, German money continues to fuel Israel’s military might.

As part of its perceived moral obligation to Israel, Germany has delivered five Dolphin-class submarines that are capable of carrying nuclear warheads.

Destitute Holocaust survivors
If German reparations were intended first and foremost to support victims of Nazi atrocities, then by the most direct measures, the tens of billions of dollars in payments appear largely to have failed.

According to a 2015 report by the Foundation for the Benefit of Holocaust Victims in Israel, 45,000 survivors in Israel live in poverty – 30 percent of all Holocaust survivors in the country.

German reparations appear to have been just as unsuccessful at alleviating the suffering of survivors of its atrocities now living in the US. In the New York region, more than half of Holocaust survivors who are supposed to benefit from such funds – approximately 40,000 people – lived on very low incomes defined as below 150 percent of the federal poverty threshold, according to the UJA-Federation Jewish Community Study of New York for 2011.

In recent years, hundreds of Israeli Holocaust survivors have sued Israel and the Jewish Agency for appropriating the funds gained from Germany, ostensibly in compensation for their suffering, while they struggled with trauma and destitution.

“The money was officially given to help resettle what were termed ‘Holocaust refugees,’ but instead Israel spent the money on general public use instead of giving it to Holocaust survivors,” Gad Weissfeld, the lawyer for hundreds of survivors, said in 2011.

“A great many people benefitted from the money, but not the Holocaust survivors. They came here as ‘human dust,’ with absolutely nothing, and needed it for basic things like housing and education,” Weissfeld added.

After years of litigation, Israel’s high court ruled against two groups of survivors, in 2014 and again this month.

On the same day the Israeli government won its legal battle to deny compensation to the survivors in 2014, the Tel Aviv newspaper Haaretz noted, Israel’s parliament “approved funding to fly some 70 Knesset members to Auschwitz on International Holocaust Remembrance Day.”

Invisible Palestinians
It would be unfair to demand that Coates delve into the history of Palestine in an article about reparations for Black Americans had he not devoted an entire section and more than a thousand words to lauding Germany’s bankrolling of a racist, settler-colonial state as a model.

By doing so, he ignores the Nakba, erases Palestinian suffering and gives Germany a free pass for making Palestinians into secondary victims of its European genocide.

Acknowledging these shortcomings would require at the very least recognizing the existence of Palestinians, something Coates has struggled with in the past.

But Coates apparently has no problem recognizing – and maybe even identifying with – the oppressors of the Palestinians.

In an article headlined “The Negro sings of Zionism,” he once likened Black liberation leaders Malcolm X and Huey Newton to Zionists, while making no reference to Palestinians or to the fact that Newton’s avowedly internationalist Black Panther Party rejected Zionism, equating it with “chauvinism and ethnocentrism.”

On another occasion, Coates wrote about Jewish immigration to Palestine, likening the Black struggle against American racism to the Zionist colonization of Palestine.

“Should German Jews continue the fight against anti-Semitism in Europe or should they separate and give up trying to convince people who have long hated them?” Coates asks, observing that “the dilemma is familiar to some of us.”

Nowhere do the Palestinians figure in Coates’ moral or political calculations.

To his credit, Coates later tweeted an apology for writing “as though the Palestinian people do not exist.”

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Why I Support Dr. Jill Stein for President

from Truthdig Posted on Feb 21, 2016
By Chris Hedges

“We’re in this kind of magical moment,” Jill Stein says. “It has enormous potential for transformation. The question is which way is it going to go.” (JILL2016)

The political crisis in America is severe. The old ideas that buttressed the ruling class and promised democracy, growth and prosperity—neoliberalism, austerity, globalization, endless war, a dependence on fossil fuel and unregulated capitalism—have been exposed as fictions used by the corporate elite to impoverish and enslave the country and enrich and empower themselves. Sixty-two billionaires have as much wealth as half the world’s population, 3.5 billion people. This fact alone is revolutionary tinder.

We are entering a dangerous moment when few people, no matter what their political orientation, trust the power elite or the ruling neoliberal ideology. The rise of right-wing populism, with dark undertones of fascism, looks set in the next presidential election—as it does in parts of Europe—to pit itself against the dying gasps of the corporate establishment.

We are caught between the jaws of the monsters Charybdis and Scylla, and our escape route is narrow and diminishing. Playing the old political game, attempting reform using the old rules, won’t work. We must focus exclusively on revolt, on overthrowing corporate power to reclaim our liberty and save the planet from a coup de grâce delivered by the fossil fuel industry.

If we fail to revolt we will see the numerous mechanisms for control enshrined in our system of inverted totalitarianism—wholesale surveillance, militarized police empowered to use lethal force against unarmed citizens, the loss of nearly all civil liberties, the impoverishment of the majority of the citizenry in the name of austerity, the use of the military as a domestic police force, indefinite detention without trial, government-ordered assassination of American citizens—spread like a wildfire across the landscape.

The battle before us is global. It is a battle being fought on myriad fronts, including in Greece, Egypt, Spain and Venezuela. The ravages of climate change, the ruthless exploitation of international finance and the evil of American imperialism and militarism are as present outside our borders as they are at home. The greatest enemy before us is not radical jihadists, but the forces lurking within our society that threaten to extinguish human liberty and eventually the human species itself.

Our real compatriots do not look like us. They speak in foreign tongues. They come from different cultures and faiths. They fight on the streets of Athens and Madrid and in Tahrir Square. It is only when we link arms, when we make common cause against the hydra-headed monster of global corporatism and American imperialism, that we will have any hope of victory.

Revolutions come in waves. They ripple around the globe feeding off each other’s ideas, passion and energy. The French Revolution in 1789 and the Haitian Revolution in 1804—the only successful slave revolt in human history—were direct products of the ideas and experience of the American Revolution. The revolutions of 1848 reshaped Europe. The 1917 Russian Revolution inspired numerous revolts including the 1919 Spartacist uprising in Germany. Eastern Europe was remade in the revolutions of 1989. We will create a new worldwide wave, we will rise up en masse, or we will be crushed.

The imperative of revolt dramatically reduces the importance of elections. Elections, managed by the elites, mean nothing if radical movements are not powerful enough to disrupt and dismantle corporate power. To deserve our support, a political candidate or party must hold fast to the goals of a fiercely anti-capitalist, anti-militarist movement. Those running for office must serve as the political expression of such a movement, for without movements committed to radical politics and buttressed by sustained acts of civil disobedience—strikes, lockdowns, mass rallies, marches, oil and gas pipeline blockages and coordinated disruptions of the systems of corporate power and the war industry—we will lose.

The focus of our energy must be on building nonviolent, mass movements keyed to issues such as immigrant rights; Black Lives Matter; fighting male violence against women, including pornography and prostitution; the anti-fracking and environmental justice movement, which has spawned groups such as the Delta 5; the cancellation of all student debt; the demand for a living wage; the destruction of the animal agriculture industry through the practice of veganism; health care as a human right; the struggle to dismantle the security and surveillance state and expose the crimes of empire; the abolition of trade agreements such as NAFTA and the Trans-Pacific Partnership; and the rebuilding of militant unions. These movements must build alliances with the oppressed around the earth, including the Palestinians. We do not have the luxury, or the right, to pick and choose whom among oppressed people it is politically convenient to support. We will rise or fall together.

This is why I support Dr. Jill Stein, who is running to be the Green Party candidate for president after having won her party’s nomination in 2012. I support Stein because she understands that this is primarily about building a global movement, not about participating in an election. She, unlike Bernie Sanders, knows that this movement will never be realized within the Democratic Party or by paying deference to the power elites, the Israel lobby or the arms industry and the military establishment. She grasps that until we name and destroy the evil of militarism and imperialism, genuine social and political reform, indeed democracy, is impossible. She does not want to work within the corporate establishment. She wants to dismantle it. And all the pundits who tell us not to waste our vote miss the point. It is time to stop playing the game.
“We’re in this kind of magical moment, it’s an existential moment which is very personal and very real,” Stein said when I interviewed her in Baltimore for my podcast, “Days of Revolt.” “It has enormous potential for transformation. The question is which way is it going to go. How are we going to make that happen? How do we optimize what history is going to do? Because history will mobilize people as the treachery of the system continues to be inflicted on us. And the question is whether we will mobilize in time to change it.

“The powers that be would love our movements to remain divided and conquered,” she said. “The challenge of our era is to bring our movements together so we’re working with a common agenda and to some extent a common strategy. That’s what political parties can do. A political party can help provide that conversation so that the movements can [articulate] and develop our agenda, our priorities.

“It is extremely corrupt,” Stein said of the American political system. “It serves the interests of oligarchy. It puts people, planet and peace—it subjugates those critical things—to profit. We have a political system that is funded and therefore accountable to predatory banks and fossil fuel giants and war profiteers. Those are the interests it serves. Those are the policies it creates. It’s sort of like an amoeba that oozes its way into all aspects of the system.

“It’s reached a level where no one except the 1 percent, or perhaps the 5 percent, is out of danger,” she said. “We’re imperiled in a very clear and direct way—whether you’re talking about an entire generation of young people who are locked into debt for the foreseeable future, the decline of wages, the true joblessness that actually exists, the foreign policy of total economic and military domination that’s blowing back at us now catastrophically or the immigrant human rights disaster, as 60 million people were forced to migrate over the past year alone. And the climate is in meltdown.”

She called the presidential debates and political carnival around them “elaborate, staged events to create the sense that resistance is futile.”

“We’re fed this corporate brainwashing, many times a day, that we are powerless,” she said. “And therefore we have to choose between two oppressors. It’s really important to reject that lesser-evilism and stand up and fight for the greater good. The greater good here has been lost in the battle between the evils.

“The politics of fear has delivered everything we were afraid of,” she went on.

She, as has Ralph Nader, pointed out that all the reasons liberals and progressives are told they should vote for a Democratic candidate—Bill Clinton, Al Gore, John Kerry, Barack Obama and now Hillary Clinton—are wrong. These Democratic politicians have never worked to halt the expanding wars, end the assault on civil liberties, curb the looming ecocide, halt the offshoring of jobs or stop the bailouts to Wall Street—$800 billion under President George W. Bush and $16 trillion under Obama. The corporate state, with the complicity of the Republican and Democratic party leaderships, continues to ravage the planet and disembowel the country.

“You have differences around the margins, but the core stuff is essentially the same,” Stein said. “The differences are not enough to save your life, to save your job, or to save the planet.

“We have to understand how absolutely deadly the threat is that we are facing now,” Stein said, “whether it’s the next economic collapse, which we are teetering on the brink of right now, or whether it is the meltdown of our climate. We are looking at the collapse of our major ice sheets within the next couple of decades. Within a handful of decades we could basically ruin all coastal cities. When Pearl Harbor was bombed we called out a national emergency, and within six months we had converted 25 percent of GDP to a wartime footing and stayed there. We are facing an all-out climate emergency. It got much worse under the Democrats. Obama [and the Democratic Party] had two houses of Congress. People should not make excuses for Obama—‘it was the bad Republicans.’ This is the second point about the politics of fear. The lesser evil paves the way to the greater evil. It’s not in opposition to it. It makes way for it.

“Democracy needs values,” she said. “Democracy does not exist in a vacuum. There’s nothing more powerful than a moral compass. We have to bring that moral compass to our democracy, because it is a ship lost in a storm right now.”

Monday, February 22, 2016

Jews aren’t special

from Mondoweiss by Jonathan Ofir on February 21, 2016

"In every generation enemies rise up to destroy us but God saves us from them," Benjamin Netanyahu said two years ago

There is no doubt that the issue of Judaism’s inextricable interplay with Zionism and the State of Israel, has become a politically polarized one. I will seek to address the very idea of Jewish “specialness”, what it means for various parties – and how it plays out in both the pros and the cons, within the paradigm of Zionism and Israel.

Being “special” as an ethnicity, in our modern day and age, is something that we have collectively come to note as a potentially dangerous issue.

The Oxford Dictionary notes two prime definitions for racism:

1) “Prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s own race is superior” (…)

2) “The belief that all members of each race possess characteristics, abilities, or qualities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races” (…)

The belief that Jews indeed are “special”, is one that goes all the way back to the biblical idea of “the chosen ones”. And this “choice” is not merely a faith matter per se – it regards THE SEED of Abraham – thus a matter which is inherently ethnic.

Yet the idea that Jews are an ethnically homogeneous lot descending directly from that biblical receiver of the “promise” is highly contested, to say the least. It disregards the element of proselytization, which has been and still is a very active element in Judaism. Even if we were to assume, for argument’s sake, that the Jews ARE ethnically homogeneous, the logical link to the “special” element would inevitably have to incorporate an idea of some genetic blessing by divine decree.

Anyone believing in this “specialness” might be assumed by an outsider (non-Jew) to be a devout religious person. Yet I may surprise some here, by saying that this awareness exists strongly and in no uncertain terms amongst “secular”, “liberal” Jews. I have myself had a conversation with one of these, where it went:

(Her): “Jews are special”.

(Me): “Well, all people are special you know”.

(Her): “All people are special, but Jews are even more special”.

Anyone can be forgiven for having associations to Orwell’s Animal Farm arise in them when reading the last phrase.

So this “specialness”, it is a certain, kind of mystical awareness in the minds of many Jews. The problem is, that the same element that serves as a boosting of one’s own stature in comparison to others, is also the element which serves what is commonly known as Anti-Semitism – that is, that Jews possess an inherently ethnic characteristic which separates them, and will always separate them, from the world around them, thereby never really allowing them integration into the world – and that since their perception of themselves in relation to the world is inherently supremacist, they will always seek to compete with the world over the issue of who dominates whom.

Zionism adopted the idea that Jews will never be able to integrate and assimilate in the world, and that they therefore are bound to be persecuted, eternally. It has made this into a nationalist awareness, generated strongly into the “secular” Jewish constituency as well, accentuating the notion that this was not a matter that Jews could do anything about, as it was essentially an issue outside their control – the gentiles’ pathological anti-Semitism. Thus the argument became ostensibly relevant for all Jews, religious and secular; Zionism was about their very survival.

Zionism thus managed to take the Jewish victimhood idea, and translate it into a nationalist victimhood, considering the Jews a “Jewish nation”. Persecution events of the late 19th century and first half of 20th century seemed to confirm, for those who wished to believe it, that the Jews indeed were special; their persecution and genocide were supposedly the ultimate proof for that. But the conclusion that Jews are special because of their persecution, once again placed the onus of the argument upon external events. If a child is bullied because someone doesn’t like them, for whatever reason, that doesn’t make the child any more or less special. The case of bullying may require attention, it may be regarded as a “special case”, but it’s the case that may be special, not the child victim.

So the victimhood became a part of the “special” case for Jews integrated into Zionism. The victimhood didn’t start there, it goes all the way back to the dawn of Judaism, where it wasn’t even called that. In the celebration of Passover, one of the texts, chanted by religious and secular Jews alike, is, “How is it, that in each generation, they rise upon us to destroy us, and the Lord blessed be his name saves us from their hand”.

But now, with Zionism, this “rescue operation”, which for religious Jews would historically be a matter handled by God, became a manmade act involving military might. Jews would take their own fate into their own hands.

This symbiosis of religious and secular-nationalist convictions would transfer the idea of Jews being “special”, or a “special case”, into the Jewish State – the State of Israel – itself being regarded as “special”, a “special case”.

The conundrum became, how do you make a state have “a place among the nations” (to borrow Benjamin Netanyahu’s book title), whilst continuously reserving it a “special” place, which inevitably calls for special exceptions from the rules that guide the modern collectivity of nations, namely international law? The task became to secure the exception, by advocacy accentuating the victimhood paradigm, so that Israel would be able to manifest its “special needs”, which involve “special” exemptions from compliance with UN resolutions and international treaties. These “exceptions” would be facilitated by the patronage of “special friends” like the USA, who are able to block implementation of such international demands, by their veto power, typically calling for support to ‘Israel’s right to self defense’. The needs and the case of Israel is so “special” that Israel is even allowed to evade scrutiny and treaties regarding nuclear weaponry, which Israel and USA share a common “special” status quo about: “ambiguity.” Israel is allowed to neither confirm nor deny its possession of them.

The conundrum on the political scene regarding Israel is similar to the conundrum having faced Jews before the establishment of the State of Israel, and is one that still faces Jews around the world today:

How do you maintain your “specialness”, whilst not becoming exclusivist?

The answer appears to be very simple, at least to me. Every person wants to be special. Every person has special traits and talents, and the process of developing those talents is one that people benefit personally from, as they apply themselves in society for the inspiration and enlightenment of others. It’s actually a process of positive integration in society. The problem arrives when one begins to build walls to contain the “specialness” and keep others out. To a certain degree, we all need boundaries to keep ourselves safe and contained, but in Israel’s case, its history is actually a robbing of the land and lives of others, denying that they too are special – indeed sometimes denying they even exist. When one does this on behalf of one’s “specialness”, one has to be a very good trick-artist to avoid the backlash that will come when people begin recognizing that this is not that special, that it’s a bullying of others for the sake of one’s own exclusivity. For many decades, Israel has managed to keep at bay the reaction to this violence, and regard the backlash as an expression of the pathological Anti-Semitism, thus turning the reaction around in a propaganda boomerang, to garner further support for its continuing subjugation. But there are signs that indicate that the “anti-Semitism” cry is becoming worn out in its effect, as it has been used so many times and so reflexively. It is not “special” to feel anger, or even hate, towards a bully. This is a very natural reaction, especially if you are one of those being bullied, or, mark this, if you happen to have the emotional capacity to feel empathy with them.

The case of Israel is showing us, in our very age and times, how the response of Jews, informed by their own self-generated self-perception of being “special”, in its extreme of “self-protection”, brings a people to a state of collective madness, where the normal self-regulating mechanisms of questioning the rationality of the collective self-view are rendered useless, as the self-congratulatory and self-protective responses gain a life of their own, and the perceiver is not able to see beyond the mirror of self-deception.

This is a lesson for all Jews, as well as all others. We are not special. Any human can be brought to the abyss of nationalist absolutism and totalitarianism. Any religion can be applied in a way that accentuates the exclusivist ideological stream. Any nation can sink into the nadir of human existence, namely the ideological destruction of other humans. If Nazis were special in that sense, then we must conclude that there is some special ethnic element in Germans, which would thus prohibit Germany from becoming a decent nation. But history proves that no such thing exists. What conditions us most importantly is not our genes, but our societal upbringing, the culture we experience as we grow up and live our lives.

Jews are not bound to be persecuted eternally because of their genes. But if they let that thought haunt them to the degree of uncontrolled survivalist frenzy, they will no doubt be undermining their own future and fulfilling the next doom prophecy by their next lashing out against it.

We need another culture altogether. One that is peaceful, and that means first and foremost not exclusive. The elements and potential of that culture do exist in Judaism, but they have been overwhelmed by the militant element, which has formed a Sparta cult. We need a culture that can really integrate and contribute to peace in a modern world. You can’t do that by pretending you’re a developed nation with a boot on the head of a Palestinian.

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Sunday, February 21, 2016

Scalia was an intellectual phony: Can we please stop calling him a brilliant jurist?

THURSDAY, FEB 18, 2016 02:40 PM EST

No one wants to disrespect the dead. But we disrespect the truth to hail his legal mind and phony, grand principles

Scalia was an intellectual phony: Can we please stop calling him a brilliant jurist?

George Orwell once noted that when an English politician dies “his worst enemies will stand up on the floor of the House and utter pious lies in his honour.” Antonin Scalia was neither English, nor technically speaking a politician, but a similar tradition can be witnessed in the form of the praise now being heaped on him.

For example prominent liberal legal academic and former Obama administration lawyer Cass Sunstein has just offered the opinion that Scalia “was not only one of the most important justices in the nation’s history, he was also among the greatest.” Scalia’s greatness, Sunstein claims, “lies in his abiding commitment to one ideal above any other: the rule of law.”

Sunstein’s assessment strikes me as not merely wrong, but as the precise opposite of the truth. Scalia was not a great judge: he was a bad one. And his badness consisted precisely in his contempt for the rule of law, if by “the rule of law” one means the consistent application of legal principles, without regard to the political consequences of applying those principles in a consistent way.

One of Scalia’s many obnoxious qualities as a jurist was his remarkably pompous, pedantic, and obsessive insistence that the legal principles he (supposedly) preferred – textualism in statutory interpretation, originalism when reading the Constitution, and judicial restraint when dealing with democratically-enacted legal rules – were not merely his preferences, but simply “the law.”

Given that those principles are and always have been controversial among American judges, lawyers, and politicians, insisting that they ought to control judicial interpretation as a matter of definition makes about as much sense as arguing for the desirability of, say, a particular income tax rate by claiming that the advocate’s preferred rate simply is the “true” rate (in other words it’s a nonsensical argument on its face).

But this kind of question-begging nonsense was the least of Scalia’s judicial faults. For the truth is that, far more than the average judge, Scalia had no real fidelity to the legal principles he claimed were synonymous with a faithful interpretation of the law. Over and over during Scalia’s three decades on the Supreme Court, if one of his cherished interpretive principles got in the way of his political preferences, that principle got thrown overboard in a New York minute.

I will give just three out of many possible examples. In affirmative action cases, Scalia insisted over and over again that the 14th Amendment required the government to follow color-blind policies. There is no basis for this claim in either the text or history of the amendment. Indeed Scalia simply ignored a rich historical record that reveals, among other things, that at the time the amendment was ratified, the federal government passed several laws granting special benefits to African-Americans, and only African-Americans.

No honest originalist reading of the Constitution would conclude that it prohibits affirmative action programs, but Justice Scalia was only interested in originalism to the extent that it advanced his political preferences.

Similarly, the men who drafted and ratified the First Amendment would, it’s safe to say, been shocked out of their wits if someone had told them they were granting the same free speech rights to corporations they were giving to persons. Again as a historical matter, this idea is an almost wholly modern invention: indeed it would be hard to come up with a purer example of treating the Constitution as a “living document,” the meaning of which changes as social circumstances change. In other words, it would be difficult to formulate a clearer violation of Scalia’s claim that the Constitution should be treated as if it is “dead dead dead.

Finally, and most disgracefully, Justice Scalia played a key role in the judicial theft of the 2000 presidential election. He was one of five justices who didn’t bother to come up with something resembling a coherent legal argument for intervening in Florida’s electoral process. A bare majority of the Court handed the election to George W. Bush, and the judges making up that majority did so while trampling on the precise legal principles Justice Scalia, in particular, claimed to hold so dear: judicial restraint, originalist interpretation, and respect for states’ rights.

These examples are not rare deviations from an otherwise principled adherence to Scalia’s own conception of the rule of law: they were the standard operating procedure for the most over-rated justice in the history of the United States Supreme Court.

Paul Campos is a professor of law at the University of Colorado at Bo

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Bernie Sanders’ Phantom Movement

Posted on Feb 14, 2016

By Chris Hedges

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders speaking during a campaign event Saturday at the Reno Sparks Convention Center in Reno, Nev. (Evan Vucci / AP)

Bernie Sanders, who has attracted numerous young, white, college-educated supporters in his bid for the presidency, says he is creating a movement and promises a political revolution. This rhetoric is an updated version of the “change” promised by the 2008 campaign of Barack Obama and by Jesse Jackson’s earlier National Rainbow Coalition. Such Democratic electoral campaigns, at best, raise political consciousness. But they do not become movements or engender revolutions. They exist as long as election campaigns endure and then they vanish. Sanders’ campaign will be no different.

No movement or political revolution will ever be built within the confines of the Democratic Party. And the repeated failure of the American left to grasp the duplicitous game being played by the political elites has effectively neutered it as a political force. History, after all, should count for something.

The Democrats, like the Republicans, have no interest in genuine reform. They are wedded to corporate power. They are about appearance, not substance. They speak in the language of democracy, even liberal reform and populism, but doggedly block campaign finance reform and promote an array of policies, including new trade agreements, that disempower workers. They rig the elections, not only with money but also with so-called superdelegates—more than 700 delegates who are unbound among a total of more than 4,700 at the Democratic convention. Sanders may have received 60 percent of the vote in New Hampshire, but he came away with fewer of the state’s delegates than Clinton. This is a harbinger of the campaign to come.

If Sanders is denied the nomination—the Clinton machine and the Democratic Party establishment, along with their corporate puppet masters, will use every dirty trick to ensure he loses—his so-called movement and political revolution will evaporate. His mobilized base, as was true with the Obama campaign, will be fossilized into donor and volunteer lists. The curtain will come down with a thunderclap until the next election carnival.

The Democratic Party is a full partner in the corporate state. Yet Sanders, while critical of Hillary Clinton’s exorbitant speaking fees from firms such as Goldman Sachs, refuses to call out the party and—as Robert Scheer pointed out in a column in October—the Clintons for their role as handmaidens of Wall Street. For Sanders, it is a lie of omission, which is still a lie. And it is a lie that makes the Vermont senator complicit in the con game being played on the American electorate by the Democratic Party establishment.

Do Sanders’ supporters believe they can wrest power from the Democratic establishment and transform the party? Do they think the forces where real power lies—the military-industrial complex, Wall Street, corporations, the security and surveillance state—can be toppled by a Sanders campaign? Do they think the Democratic Party will allow itself to be ruled by democratic procedures? Do they not accept that with the destruction of organized labor and anti-war, civil rights and progressive movements—a destruction often orchestrated by security organs such as the FBI—the party has lurched so far to the right that it has remade itself into the old Republican Party?

The elites use money, along with their control of the media, the courts and legislatures, their armies of lobbyists and “think tanks,” to invalidate the vote. We have undergone, as John Ralston Saul has written, a corporate coup d’état. There are no institutions left within civil society that can be accurately described as democratic. We do not live in a capitalist democracy. We live in what the political philosopher Sheldon Wolin calls a system of “inverted totalitarianism.”

In Europe, America’s Democratic Party would be a far-right party. The Republican Party would be extremist. There is no liberal—much less left or progressive—organized political class in the United States. The growth of protofascists will be halted only when a movement on the left embraces an unequivocal militancy to defend the rights of workers and move toward the destruction of corporate power. As long as the left keeps surrendering to a Democratic Party that mouths liberal values while serving corporate interests, it will destroy itself and the values it claims to represent. It will stoke the justifiable rage of the underclass, especially the white underclass, and empower the most racist and retrograde political forces in the country. Fascism thrives not only on despair, betrayal and anger but a bankrupt liberalism.

The political system, as many Sanders supporters are about to discover, is immune to reform. The only effective resistance will be achieved through acts of sustained, mass civil disobedience. The Democrats, like the Republicans, have no intention of halting the assault on our civil liberties, the expansion of imperial wars, the coddling of Wall Street, the destruction of the ecosystem by the fossil fuel industry and the impoverishment of workers. As long as the Democrats and the Republicans remain in power we are doomed.

The Democratic establishment’s response to any internal insurgency is to crush it, co-opt it and rewrite the rules to make a future insurgency impossible. This was true in 1948 with Henry Wallace and in 1972 with George McGovern—two politicians who, unlike Sanders, took on the war industry—and in the 1984 and 1988 insurgencies led by Jackson.

Corey Robin in Salon explained how the Clintons rose to power on this reactionary agenda. The Clintons, and the Democratic establishment, he wrote, repudiated the progressive agenda of the Jackson campaign and used coded language, especially regarding law and order, to appeal to the racism of white voters. The Clintons and the party mandarins ruthlessly disenfranchised those Jackson had mobilized.

Sanders’ supporters can expect a similar reception. That Hillary Clinton can run a campaign that defies her long and sordid political record is one of the miracles of modern mass propaganda and a testament to the effectiveness of our political theater.

Sanders said that if he does not receive the nomination he will support the party nominee; he will not be a “spoiler.” If that happens, Sanders will become an obstacle to change. He will recite the mantra of the “least worst.” He will become part of the Democratic establishment’s campaign to neutralize the left.

Sanders is, in all but title, a Democrat. He is a member of the Democratic caucus. He votes 98 percent of the time with the Democrats. He routinely backs appropriations for imperial wars, the corporate scam of Obamacare, wholesale surveillance and bloated defense budgets. He campaigned for Bill Clinton in the 1992 presidential race and again in 1996—after Clinton had rammed through the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), vastly expanded the system of mass incarceration and destroyed welfare—and for John Kerry in 2004. He called on Ralph Nader in 2004 to abandon his presidential campaign. The Democrats recognize his value. They have long rewarded Sanders for his role as a sheepherder.

Kshama Sawant and I privately asked Sanders at a New York City event where we appeared with him the night before the 2014 climate march why he would not run for president as an independent. “I don’t want to end up like Ralph Nader,” he told us.

Sanders had a point. The Democratic power structure made a quid pro quo arrangement with Sanders. It does not run a serious candidate against him in Vermont for his U.S. Senate seat. Sanders, as part of this Faustian deal, serves one of the main impediments to building a viable third party in Vermont. If Sanders defies the Democratic Party he will be stripped of his seniority in the Senate. He will lose his committee chairmanships. The party machine will turn him, as it did Nader, into a pariah. It will push him outside the political establishment. Sanders probably saw his answer as a practical response to political reality. But it was also an admission of cowardice. Nader paid a heavy price for his courage and his honesty, but he was not a failure.

Sanders, I suspect, is acutely aware that the left is broken and disorganized. The two parties have created innumerable obstacles to third parties, from locking them out of the debates to challenging voter lists and keeping them off the ballot. The Green Party is internally crippled by endemic factionalism and dysfunction. It is dominated in many states by an older, white demographic that is trapped in the nostalgia of the 1960s and narcissistically self-referential.

I spoke three years ago to the sparsely attended state gathering of the Green Party in New Jersey. I felt as if I was a character in Mario Vargas Llosa’s novel “The Real Life of Alejandro Mayta.” In the novel, Mayta, a naive idealist, endures the indignities of the tiny and irrelevant warring sects of the Peruvian left. He is reduced to meeting in a garage with seven self-described revolutionaries who make up the RWP(T)—the Revolutionary Workers’ Party (Trotskyist)—a splinter group of the marginal Revolutionary Worker’s Party. “Stacked against the walls,” Llosa writes, “were piles of Workers Voice and handbills, manifestos and statements favoring strikes or denouncing them which they had never got around to handing out.”

I am all for a revolution, a word Sanders likes to throw around, but one that is truly socialist and destroys the corporate establishment, including the Democratic Party. I am for a revolution that demands the return of the rule of law, and not just for Wall Street, but those who wage pre-emptive war, order the assassination of U.S. citizens, allow the military to carry out domestic policing and then indefinitely hold citizens without due process, who empower the wholesale surveillance of the citizenry by the government. I am for a revolution that brings under strict civilian control the military, the security and surveillance apparatus including the CIA, the FBI, Homeland Security and police and drastically reduces their budgets and power. I am for a revolution that abandons imperial expansion, especially in the Middle East, and makes it impossible to profit from war. I am for a revolution that nationalizes banks, the arms industry, energy companies and utilities, breaks up monopolies, destroys the fossil fuel industry, funds the arts and public broadcasting, provides full employment and free education including university education, forgives all student debt, blocks bank repossessions and foreclosures of homes, guarantees universal and free health care and provides a living wage to those unable to work, especially single parents, the disabled and the elderly. Half the country, after all, now lives in poverty. None of us live in freedom.

This will be a long and desperate struggle. It will require open confrontation. The billionaire class and corporate oligarchs cannot be tamed. They must be overthrown. They will be overthrown in the streets, not in a convention hall. Convention halls are where the left goes to die.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Welcome to the One-state Club, Thomas Friedman

The most famous columnist in the world, who always reflects and shapes the mood in Washington, has finally realized that the two-state solution is dead.

Gideon Levy Feb 13, 2016 6:49 PM
The single-state solution is already here

Netanyahu tells Saban Forum: Solution is not one state, but a demilitarized Palestinian state

Carter: Zero chance for two-state solution

A new, highly regarded guy has joined the club. Like new guys, he’s still standing on the side, hesitant, insecure, perhaps lacking courage. Like highly regarded guys, he’s still afraid to move to the center of the stormy dance floor – but he’s there. Give him some time to get used to it. Welcome to the club, Thomas L. Friedman.
The most famous columnist in the world wrote last week in the New York Times: “It’s over, folks, so please stop sending the New York Times Op-Ed page editor your proposals for a two-state solution between Israelis and Palestinians” (The Many Mideast Solutions,” February 10).
With the characteristic tardiness of those trying to position themselves in some imaginary center, Friedman has reached the conclusion that the peace process is dead, that the next U.S. president “will have to deal with an Israel determined to permanently occupy all the territory between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, including where 2.5 million West Bank Palestinians live” and that Israel is no longer the one the presidential candidates’ grandfathers used to know.

As usual with cautious, symmetric people in the liberal center, Friedman hastens to lay the blame on the world’s shoulders – the settlers, Sheldon Adelson, Benjamin Netanyahu, Hamas and Mahmoud Abbas. It’s regrettable that he’s doing that again. There’s one major party to blame for the situation and only it was responsible for ending the occupation – and it never lifted a finger to do so.

Israel never meant, not for a moment, to reach the two-state solution. Israel is the strong party as well as the occupier, so the blame cannot be divided between it and the weak, occupied side. Nor can one settle for blaming Netanyahu, the settlers and Adelson. Are all the others, from Shimon Peres through Tzipi Livni to Isaac Herzog and Ehud Barak, any less guilty? And are most of the Israelis, who enabled this situation to continue all these years with their indifference, any less guilty?

Friedman’s steps are hesitant, of course, not decisive enough given the decisive reality. But his bottom line is as firm as it can be: “They all killed the two-state solution. Let the one-state era begin.”

Friedman is only a journalist. Still, it’s impossible to ignore this seminal moment, the moment in which one who always reflected the mood in Washington and influenced it, discards the idea that has accompanied him and us for years. Friedman heard it in the hallway. If he didn’t hear it, from now on they’ll talk about it there. Too little, too late – but very encouraging. The longest masquerade ball, the two-state orgy, has reached its end, even as far as Friedman’s concerned. If America listens to its most senior commentator, then there’s hope. Europe, which continues to recite “two states” with an involuntary post-mortem spasm – because it’s convenient for everyone – will have to find its own Friedman to awaken it from its slumber.
Only America and Europe can shake the sleeping beauty, Israel, and awaken it to the new reality – for Israel will never do so on its own. Anyone who knows Israel knows that.
What does one do after burying the dead? Friedman isn’t there yet. Wait a little longer and maybe he too will reach the inevitable conclusions – that the one state has existed for almost 50 years, it exists in order to stay and all that remains is to fight the apartheid regime it has established in part of its territory. Equal rights for all should be the name of the game from now on — one man, one vote, like in the struggle against other evil regimes in history.
And how does one achieve that? The only non-violent way left is through punishment. The carrots have all been devoured by Israel, only the sticks remain. It’s called BDS in English, as Friedman knows.

Yes, dear Tom, it’s not the state our grandfathers dreamed of, far from it. Now it must be treated accordingly, in an attempt to set it straight.

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Tuesday, February 9, 2016

more adventures in democracy for Israel's Jews-only state

Three Joint List MKs suspended from Knesset over visit to Palestinian attacker’s homes
Israel/Palestine Allison Deger on February 8, 2016

Three members of the Joint List—the third largest faction in Israel— were suspended from Knesset today for visiting the homes of East Jerusalem Palestinian families whose relatives carried out attacks against Israelis in recent weeks. Haneen Zoabi and Basel Ghattas will be barred from Knesset assembly sessions for four months, and Jamal Zahalka for two.

During the suspension the officials will still be able to vote.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sharply criticized the meetings with Palestinians last week and vowed to take legal action against the legislatures. On Monday he backed an amendment to Basic Law–Israel’s version of a constitution–that approved ousting representatives for “behavior inappropriate for their position as a member of the Knesset.”

“Members of Knesset who go to comfort the families of terrorists who murdered Israelis do not deserve to be in the Israeli Knesset. I have asked the Speaker of the Knesset to examine what steps can be taken against them,” Netanyahu said in a statement.

In response Zoabi posted on Facebook, “The real crime is in the detention of the bodies.”

Over the past four months as violence increased in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories, the bodies of dozens of Palestinians who were killed by Israeli police in the course of attacks and alleged attacks were kept in Israeli morgues, at times for months. The returning of remains of West Bank residents takes place through a formal process with the Palestinian Authority. On December 31, 2015, Israel returned seven bodies to the Palestinian government, in exchange for a list of concessions that included limitations on the number of funeral attendees and a prohibition on autopsies. Three more were released over the weekend. Israel is expected to turn over an additional 10 in the coming days, again with conditions on limiting the size of funerals.

The exchange of bodies for assurances of small numbers of mourners is not without its uses for Israel. The restrictions were common practice during the second Intifada, when processions with thousands of bereaved often developed into large demonstrations against the Israeli military.

Yet for the bodies of East Jerusalem Palestinians there is no clear process or advocate. While the Palestinian Authority claims jurisdiction in practice they are banned from operating in Jerusalem. Zoabi’s party head Ayman Odeh said her visit was to fill the administrative gap and coordinate arrangements, rather than pay condolences or lend support to attacks against Israelis, as Netanyahu said.

“The purpose of the visit was to assist in coordinating the return of the remains of the Palestinians who were killed by Israeli security at the scenes,” Odeh said.

“We are strongly opposed to the Israeli government’s commerce in human bodies. Netanyahu and his ministers know full well what the meeting in East Jerusalem was about: this is a fundamental human issue. All human beings, horrendous as their crimes may be, should be allowed to be buried,” he continued.

For Zoabi the censure was proceeded by more legal troubles. She received a suspended jail sentence on Sunday for six months over a 2014 incident where she disparaged two police officers.

Two years ago Zoabi called officers standing guard “traitors” when exiting a Nazareth court following the hearing of constituents detained during a protest in the aftermath of the burning alive of 16-year old Mohammed Abu Khdeir in Jerusalem that summer. The killing sparked waves of demonstrations across Israel and the West Bank. Zoabi later apologized for the comment, “My remarks came against a backdrop of harsh arrests,” even so her peers in Knesset probed the insult for incitement.

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Two, Three... Many Flints America’s Coast-to-Coast Toxic Crisis

from Tomgram
By David Rosner and Gerald Markowitz

“I know if I was a parent up there, I would be beside myself if my kids’ health could be at risk,” said President Obama on a recent trip to Michigan. “Up there” was Flint, a rusting industrial city in the grip of a “water crisis” brought on by a government austerity scheme. To save a couple of million dollars, that city switched its source of water from Lake Huron to the Flint River, a long-time industrial dumping ground for the toxic industries that had once made their home along its banks. Now, the city is enveloped in a public health emergency, with elevated levels of lead in its water supply and in the blood of its children.

The price tag for replacing the lead pipes that contaminated its drinking water, thanks to the corrosive toxins found in the Flint River, is now estimated at up to $1.5 billion. No one knows where that money will come from or when it will arrive. In the meantime, the cost to the children of Flint has been and will be incalculable. As little as a few specks of lead in the water children drink or in flakes of paint that come off the walls of old houses and are ingested can change the course of a life. The amount of lead dust that covers a thumbnail is enough to send a child into a coma or into convulsions leading to death. It takes less than a tenth of that amount to cause IQ loss, hearing loss, or behavioral problems like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and dyslexia. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the government agency responsible for tracking and protecting the nation’s health, says simply, “No safe blood lead level in children has been identified.”

President Obama would have good reason to worry if his kids lived in Flint. But the city’s children are hardly the only ones threatened by this public health crisis. There’s a lead crisis for children in Baltimore, Maryland, Herculaneum, Missouri, Sebring, Ohio, and even the nation’s capital, Washington, D.C., and that’s just to begin a list. State reports suggest, for instance, that "18 cities in Pennsylvania and 11 in New Jersey may have an even higher share of children with dangerously elevated levels of lead than does Flint." Today, scientists agree that there is no safe level of lead for children and at least half of American children have some of this neurotoxin in their blood. The CDC is especially concerned about the more than 500,000 American children who have substantial amounts of lead in their bodies. Over the past century, an untold number have had their IQs reduced, their school performances limited, their behaviors altered, and their neurological development undermined. From coast to coast, from the Sun Belt to the Rust Belt, children have been and continue to be imperiled by a century of industrial production, commercial gluttony, and abandonment by the local, state, and federal governments that should have protected them. Unlike in Flint, the “crisis” seldom comes to public attention.

Two, Three... Many Flints

In Flint, the origins of the current crisis lay in the history of auto giant General Motors (GM) and its rise in the middle decades of the twentieth century to the status of the world’s largest corporation. GM’s Buick plant alone once occupied “an area almost a mile and a half long and half a mile wide,” according to the Chicago Tribune, and several Chevrolet and other GM plants literally covered the waterfront of “this automotive city.” Into the Flint River went the toxic wastes of factories large and small, which once supplied batteries, paints, solders, glass, fabrics, oils, lubricating fluids, and a multitude of other materials that made up the modern car. In these plants strung out along the banks of the Flint and Saginaw rivers and their detritus lay the origins of the present public health emergency.

The crisis that attracted President Obama’s attention is certainly horrifying, but the children of Flint have been poisoned in one way or another for at least 80 years. Three generations of those children living around Chevrolet Avenue in the old industrial heart of the city experienced an environment filled with heavy metal toxins that cause neurological conditions in them and cardiovascular problems in adults.

As Michael Moore documented in his film Roger and Me, GM abandoned Flint in a vain attempt to stave off financial disaster. Having sucked its people dry, the company ditched the city, leaving it to deal with a polluted hell without the means to do so. Like other industrial cities that have suffered this kind of abandonment, Flint’s population is majority African American and Latino, and has a disproportionate number of families living below the poverty line. Of its 100,000 residents, 65% are African American and Latino and 42% are mired in poverty.

The president should be worried about Flint’s children and local, state, and federal authorities need to fix the pipes, sewers, and water supply of the city. Technically, this is a feasible, if expensive, proposition. It’s already clear, however, that the political will is just not there even for this one community. Gina McCarthy, the Environmental Protection Agency’s administrator, has refused to provide Flint’s residents with even a prospective timetable for replacing their pipes and making their water safe. There is, however, a far graver problem that is even less easy to fix: the mix of racism and corporate greed that have put lead and other pollutants into millions of homes in the United States. The scores of endangered kids in Flint are just the tip of a vast, toxic iceberg. Even Baltimore, which first identified its lead poisoning epidemic in the 1930s, still faces a crisis, especially in largely African American communities, when it comes to the lead paint in its older housing stock.

Just this month, Maryland’s secretary of housing, community, and development, Kenneth C. Holt, dismissed the never-ending lead crisis in Baltimore by callously suggesting that it might all be a shuck. A mother, he said, might fake such poisoning by putting “a lead fishing weight in her child's mouth [and] then take the child in for testing.” Such a tactic, he indicated, without any kind of proof, was aimed at making landlords “liable for providing the child with [better] housing.” Unfortunately, the attitudes of Holt and Governor Rick Snyder of Michigan have proven all too typical of the ways in which America’s civic and state leaders have tended to ignore, dismiss, or simply deny the real suffering of children, especially those who are black and Latino, when it comes to lead and other toxic chemicals.

There is, in fact, a grim broader history of lead poisoning in America. It was probably the most widely dispersed environmental toxin that affected children in this country. In part, this was because, for decades during the middle of the twentieth century, it was marketed as an essential ingredient in industrial society, something without which none of us could get along comfortably. Those toxic pipes in Flint are hardly the only, or even the primary, source of danger to children left over from that era.

In the 1920s, tetraethyl lead was introduced as an additive for gasoline. It was lauded at the time as a "gift of God" by a representative of the Ethyl Corporation, a creation of GM, Standard Oil, and Dupont, the companies that invented, produced, and marketed the stuff. Despite warnings that this industrial toxin might pollute the planet, which it did, almost three-quarters of a century would pass before it was removed from gasoline in the United States. During that time, spewed out of the tailpipes of hundreds of millions of cars and trucks, it tainted the soil that children played in and was tracked onto floors that toddlers touched. Banned from use in the 1980s, it still lurks in the environment today.

Meanwhile, homes across the country were tainted by lead in quite a different way. Lead carbonate, a white powder, was mixed with linseed oil to create the paint that was used in the nation’s homes, hospitals, schools, and other buildings until 1978. Though its power to harm and even kill children who sucked on lead-painted windowsills, toys, cribs, and woodwork had long been known, it was only in that year that the federal government banned its use in household paints.

Hundreds of tons of the lead in paint that covered the walls of houses, apartment buildings, and workplaces across the United States remains in place almost four decades later, especially in poorer neighborhoods where millions of African American and Latino children currently live. Right now, most middle class white families feel relatively immune from the dangers of lead, although the gentrification of old neighborhoods and the renovation of old homes can still expose their children to dangerous levels of lead dust from the old paint on those walls. However, economically and politically vulnerable black and Hispanic children, many of whom inhabit dilapidated older housing, still suffer disproportionately from the devastating effects of the toxin. This is the meaning of institutional racism in action today. As with the water flowing into homes from the pipes of Flint’s water system, so the walls of its apartment complexes, not to mention those in poor neighborhoods of Detroit, Baltimore, Washington, and virtually every other older urban center in the country, continue to poison children exposed to lead-polluted dust, chips, soil, and air.

Over the course of the past century, tens of millions of children have been poisoned by lead and millions more remain in danger of it today. Add to this the risks these same children face from industrial toxins like mercury, asbestos, and polychlorinated biphenyls (better known as PCBs) and you have an ongoing recipe for a Flint-like disaster but on a national scale.

In truth, the United States has scores of “Flints” awaiting their moments. Think of them as ticking toxic time bombs -- just an austerity scheme or some official’s poor decision away from a public health disaster. Given this, it’s remarkable, even in the wake of Flint, how little attention or publicity such threats receive. Not surprisingly, then, there seems to be virtually no political will to ensure that future generations of children will not suffer the same fate as those in Flint.

The Future of America’s Toxic Past

A series of decisions by state and local officials turned Flint’s chronic post-industrial crisis into a total public health disaster. If clueless, corrupt, or heartless government officials get all the blame for this (and blame they do deserve), the larger point will unfortunately be missed -- that there are many post-industrial Flints, many other hidden tragedies affecting America’s children that await their moments in the news. Treat Flint as an anomaly and you condemn families nationwide to bear the damage to their children alone, abandoned by a society unwilling to invest in cleaning up a century of industrial pollution, or even to acknowledge the injustice involved.

Flint may be years away from a solution to its current crisis, but in a few cities elsewhere in the country there is at least a modicum of hope when it comes to developing ways to begin to address this country’s poisonous past. In California, for example, 10 cities and counties, including San Francisco, San Diego, Los Angeles, and Oakland, have successfully sued and won an initial judgment against three lead pigment manufacturers for $1.15 billion. That money will be invested in removing lead paint from the walls of homes in these cities. If this judgment is upheld on appeal, it would be an unprecedented and pathbreaking victory, since it would force a polluting industry to clean up the mess it created and from which it profited.

There have been other partial victories, too. In Herculaneum, Missouri, for instance, where half the children within a mile of the nation’s largest lead smelter suffered lead poisoning, jurors returned a $320 million verdict against Fluor Corporation, one of the world’s largest construction and engineering firms. That verdict is also on appeal, while the company has moved its smelter to Peru where whole new populations are undoubtedly being poisoned.

President Obama hit the nail on the head with his recent comments on Flint, but he also missed the larger point. There he was just a few dozen miles from that city’s damaged water system when he spoke in Detroit, another symbol of corporate abandonment with its own grim toxic legacy. Thousands of homes in the Motor City, the former capital of the auto industry, are still lead paint disaster areas. Perhaps it’s time to widen the canvas when it comes to the poisoning of America’s children and face the terrible human toll caused by “the American century.”

Friday, February 5, 2016

Israeli dissident ordered to submit Facebook posts to military censor

Ali Abunimah Rights and Accountability 4 February 2016

Israeli journalist Yossi Gurvitz says he will defy military censorship order. (Jonathan Klinger)
An Israeli Jewish dissident has been ordered to submit his social media postings to military censorship.

Yossi Gurvitz, who writes in English and Hebrew for a number of publications, is frequently critical of his country’s abuses of Palestinian rights, and of its official ideology, Zionism.

“The military censorship served me with an order today, demanding to pre-vet any post or Facebook status I wrote about the IDF [Israeli army] or the defense ministry system,” Gurvitz wrote in a series of Tweets on Wednesday. “I do not intend to comply with the demand and I am considering my legal options,” he added.

“The demand to pre-censor posts and status basically kills new media in Israel,” Gurvitz stated.

Gurvitz told The Electronic Intifada by phone that he first received a message on Facebook, from an account claiming to be the official military censor.

But the account’s profile page contained little information, leading him at first to believe it could be a hoax.

“I talked to friends and they said if it’s a hoax it’s a hoax, but if it’s real you have to make some response,” Gurvitz said.

“So I sent them [the military censor’s office] an email and a few days later they responded that yes, we did send you this.”

“I informed them that I think their action is unreasonable and I won’t comply with it,” Gurvitz added.

Dozens censored
Gurvitz is one of about 30 social media users and bloggers to have received similar orders in recent days, according to the Tel Aviv newspaper Haaretz, but he appears to be the only one speaking out loudly about it.

Elad Hen, the editor of Hevra (Society), did confirm to the Israeli publication The Seventh Eye that his leftist journal received a similar notice.

Gurvitz has written for +972 Magazine and blogs for the human rights group Yesh Din.

Gurvitz also tweeted: “After consulting with legal counsel, I decided not to publish the document sent by the military censorship as it expressly forbids it.”

Gurvitz told The Electronic Intifada he was still unclear if the order only relates to his social media postings or includes his personal blog Friends of George.

The military censor’s office has confirmed it sent the orders.

“In the last week such communication was made with several Facebook pages, which define themselves as news and/or newsflash pages,” the censor’s office told Haaretz. “In the communication, there was no specific request to remove any publication. It will be stressed that the profiles involved are not private profiles but only public pages, which define themselves as media and are open to perusal by the public.”

Gurvitz told The Electronic Intifada that when he opened his Facebook account, he had categorized it as “news,” because he did not think any other description fit better.

Broad crackdown
The censorship orders come at a time when dissidents, human rights defenders and leftists are facing a wave of incitement and police repression in present-day Israel.

The far-right-wing group Im Tirtzu, for which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has personally raised funds, has been behind much of the incitement.

It recently published a video labeling the heads of several Israeli human rights groups as traitors.

Gurvitz is one of the voices who has long been in Im Tirtzu’s crosshairs.

Gurvitz told The Electronic Intifada that the censorship orders may be related to the political atmosphere.

“I can’t say for certain but the timing is very suspicious,” he said. He also noted that no right-wing publication has talked about receiving such orders.

Under the 1945 Defense (Emergency) Regulations imposed by British colonial rulers in Palestine and maintained by Israel ever since, the military censor has broad powers to block almost any publication.

Israeli repression of the speech rights of Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, and of Palestinian citizens of Israel, has long been the norm.

Israel frequently prosecutes Palestinians, particularly in occupied East Jerusalem, for what it calls “incitement” on Facebook.

However its violations only tend to attract high-profile international attention and criticism when they begin to target Jews.

At that point, liberal voices begin to worry about the “erosion” of an Israeli democracy that has never functioned as such for Palestinians.

Gurvitz said he does not know what the consequences might be for defying the censorship order.

“Nobody knows,” he said. “In the past 30 years the censor did not prosecute people for not obeying them, unless they also committed a security offense.”

Gurvitz said that he has spoken to lawyers from the Association for Civil Rights in Israel.

“If the censor insists on its course, we may have no recourse except court action,” he said.

“Everyone should know that this so-called Silicon Wadi, this great land of startups is letting the military censor trample its Facebook users,” Gurvitz said, referring to Israel’s efforts to market itself as a forward-looking and open hi-tech haven.

“I think Facebook may have something to say about this,” he added.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Knesset Rejects Bill For Equality For All Citizens

By The Middle East Monitor

January 30, 2016 "Information Clearing House" - "MEM" - The Knesset yesterday voted against a draft bill proposed by MK Jamal Zahalka of the Joint Arab List, which stipulates the inclusion of an equality clause in Israel’s Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty.

The majority of the Likud bloc, the Haredi parties and Kulanu party voted against the proposal. They were joined by Yesh Atid, led by Yair Lapid. However, the Joint List, Meretz and the Labour parties all supported the bill.
During his proposal, Zahalka said: “All constitutions in modern countries begin with stressing the principle of equality amongst their citizens. Even undemocratic countries adopt this principle legally, considering it a cornerstone for any modern political system, including democracy, which seems impossible and meaningless without equality.”

Zahalka also said that equality is a principle in itself and is not based on any other principles, rather, other human rights values are derived from it. He described the absence of equality in the state’s Basic Law as “a serious absence, as it forces the judiciary, amongst others, to explain why the word equality is missing from the basic laws, which are in place of the constitution.”

He added that Judge Aharon Barack explained the current law as human dignity that must also include the principle of equality. This is why we must include the word equality in a clear manner in the Basic Law.

“Anyone voting against the law is voting against equality, and does not have the right to promote democracy or say they are against discrimination and racism. The entire world adopts the principle of equality in their laws, and this is the only country that does not embrace equality in its laws. This is clear proof of the state’s nature,” Zahalka stressed.