Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Susan Sarandon: Trump Might Be Better for America Than Hillary Clinton

from the daily beast
REVOLUTION03.29.16 1:06 AM ET

Susan Sarandon: Trump Might Be Better for America Than Hillary Clinton
If Bernie Sanders fails to get the Democratic nomination, Susan Sarandon isn’t sure she’ll vote for Hillary Clinton. She even said Monday that Trump could be the better option.
One of the biggest question marks for Democrats heading into a 2016 general election that should be a cakewalk with a candidate like Donald Trump on the other side is what happens to Bernie Sanders’s supporters if he loses the nomination to Hillary Clinton.
Some will inevitably fall in line and find a way to get excited about the likelihood of America’s first woman president. But many others may end up feeling just as alienated from the political process as they did before Sanders entered the race and just decide to stay home.
For instance, there’s Susan Sarandon.

The actress and activist has been a powerful surrogate for Sanders on the campaign trail over the past few months, and during an interview with MSNBC’s All In With Chris Hayes Monday night, she said she doesn’t know if she can bring herself to vote for Clinton if it comes down to it.
“I think, in certain quarters, there’s growing concern that the folks that are into Bernie Sanders have come to despise Hillary Clinton or reject Hillary Clinton and that should she be the nominee, which is as yet undetermined, they will walk away,” Hayes said.
“That’s a legitimate concern,” Sarandon replied. “Because they’re very passionate and principled.”
“But isn’t that crazy?” the host asked. “If you believe in what he believes in?”
“Yeah but she doesn’t,” Sarandon shot back. “She accepted money for all of those people. She doesn’t even want to fight for a $15 minimum wage. So these are people that have not come out before. So why would we think they’re going to come out now for her, you know?”
As they continued to discuss the issue, Hayes pressed Sarandon to see the election as potentially a choice between Clinton and Trump, arguing that Sanders himself would “probably” urge his supporters to vote for her.
“I think Bernie would probably encourage people, because he doesn’t have any ego in this thing,” Sarandon told him. “But I think a lot of people are, ‘Sorry, I just can’t bring myself to [vote for Clinton].’”
“How about you personally?” Hayes asked.
“I don’t know. I’m going to see what happens,” Sarandon said.
That bit of honesty prompted Hayes to stop in his tracks. “Really?” he asked incredulously.

play iconSusan Sarandon Says She Might Not Vote For Clinton If Sanders LosesSusan Sarandon Says She Might Not Vote For Clinton If Sanders Losesplay iconBernie Or Bust: The Sanders Supporters Who Won't Vote For ClintonBernie Or Bust: The Sanders Supporters Who Won't Vote For Clintonplay icon#BernieMadeMeWhite: A Look At Who Is Really Supporting Sanders#BernieMadeMeWhite: A Look At Who Is Really Supporting Sanders
“Really,” Sarandon said, adding that “some people feel that Donald Trump will bring the revolution immediately if he gets in, things will really explode.” Asked if she thinks that’s “dangerous,” she replied, “It’s dangerous to think that we can continue the way we are with the militarized police force, with privatized prisons, with the death penalty, with the low minimum wage, threats to women’s rights and think you can’t do something huge to turn that around.”
One thing Hayes neglected to confront Sarandon over was her support in 2000 of third-party candidate Ralph Nader instead of then-Vice President Al Gore. The actress served as a co-chairwoman of his National Steering Committee the year that George W. Bush narrowly beat Gore, thanks to Nader’s status as spoiler for the Democrats.
However, by 2004 she appeared to have learned her lesson. Along with former Nader supporters like Michael Moore, she urged the candidate to get out of the race out of fear that he would help deliver Bush a second term. This time, Bush didn’t need Nader’s help. But if Clinton ends up losing to Trump in a general election, all eyes will be on Sanders supporters who decided to stay home.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

The Clinton-Backed Honduran Regime Is Picking Off Indigenous Leaders

from The Nation
The names of Berta Cáceres’s murderers are yet unknown. But we know who killed her.
By Greg GrandinTwitterMARCH 3, 2016

Berta Cáceres (Photo courtesy of the Goldman Environmental Prize)

Hillary Clinton will be good for women. Ask Berta Cáceres. But you can’t. She’s dead. Gunned down yesterday, March 2, at midnight, in her hometown of La Esperanza, Intibuca, in Honduras.

Cáceres was a vocal and brave indigenous leader, an opponent of the 2009 Honduran coup that Hillary Clinton, as secretary of state, made possible. In The Nation, Dana Frank and I covered that coup as it unfolded. Later, as Clinton’s emails were released, others, such as Robert Naiman, Mark Weisbrot, and Alex Main, revealed the central role she played in undercutting Manuel Zelaya, the deposed president, and undercutting the opposition movement demanding his restoration. In so doing, Clinton allied with the worst sectors of Honduran society.

Despite the fact that he was a rural patriarch, Zelaya as president was remarkably supportive of “intersectionality” (that is, a left politics not reducible to class or political economy): He tried to make the morning-after pill legal. (After Zelaya’s ouster, Honduras’s coup congress—the one legitimated by Hillary Clinton—passed an “absolute ban on emergency contraception,” criminalizing “the sale, distribution, and use of the ‘morning-after pill’—imposing punishment for offenders equal to that of obtaining or performing an abortion, which in Honduras is completely restricted.”) He supported gay and transgender rights. (Read this. Among the first to be murdered was Vicky Hernandez Castillo, a transgendered activist in San Pedro Sula. Hernandez left her home on the night of the coup, apparently unaware that the new government had decreed a curfew. She was found dead the next morning, shot in the eye and strangled; Sentidog, an LGBT monitoring group, writes that 168 LGBT people were killed in Honduras between the coup and 2014.) Zelaya apologized for a policy of “social cleansing”—that is, the murder and disappearance of street children and gang members—executed by his predecessors. And he backed rural peasant and indigenous movements, such as the one Cáceres led, in the fight against land dispossession, mining, and biofuels. Zelaya, as president, was by no means perfect. But he was slowly trying to use the power of the state on behalf of the best people in Honduras, including Berta Cáceres.

Since Zelaya’s ouster, there’s been an all-out assault on these decent people—torture, murder, militarization of the countryside, repressive laws, such as the absolute ban on the morning-after pill, the rise of paramilitary security forces, and the wholesale deliverance of the country’s land and resources to transnational pillagers. That’s not to mention libertarian fantasies, promoted by billionaires such as PayPal’s Peter Thiel and Milton Friedman’s grandson (can’t make this shit up), of turning the country into some kind of Year-Zero stateless utopia. (Watch this excellent documentary by Jesse Freeston on La Resistencia: The Fight for the Aguán Valley.)

Such is the nature of the “unity government” Clinton helped institutionalize. In her book, Hard Choices, Clinton holds up her Honduran settlement as a proud example of her trademark clear-eyed, “pragmatic” foreign policy approach.

Berta Cáceres gave her life to fight that government. She was the general coordinator of the COPINH (Consejo Cívico de Organizaciones Populares e Indígenas de Honduras), a group that has had many of its leadership murdered in the last few years. Last year, Cáceres was awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize for her work opposing a major dam project:

Since the 2009 coup, Honduras has witnessed an explosive growth in environmentally destructive megaprojects that would displace indigenous communities. Almost 30 percent of the country’s land was earmarked for mining concessions, creating a demand for cheap energy to power future mining operations. To meet this need, the government approved hundreds of dam projects around the country, privatizing rivers, land, and uprooting communities. Among them was the Agua Zarca Dam, a joint project of Honduran company Desarrollos Energéticos SA (DESA) and Chinese state-owned Sinohydro, the world’s largest dam developer. Agua Zarca, slated for construction on the sacred Gualcarque River, was pushed through without consulting the indigenous Lenca people—a violation of international treaties governing indigenous peoples’ rights. The dam would cut off the supply of water, food and medicine for hundreds of Lenca people and violate their right to sustainably manage and live off their land.

Berta Cáceres, a Lenca woman, grew up during the violence that swept through Central America in the 1980s. Her mother, a midwife and social activist, took in and cared for refugees from El Salvador, teaching her young children the value of standing up for disenfranchised people. Cáceres grew up to become a student activist and in 1993, she co-founded the National Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH) to address the growing threats posed to Lenca communities by illegal logging, fight for their territorial rights and improve their livelihoods. In 2006, community members from Rio Blanco came to COPINH asking for help. They had witnessed an influx of machinery and construction equipment coming into their town. They had no idea what the construction was for or who was behind the project. What they knew was that an aggression against the river—a place of spiritual importance to the Lenca people—was an act against the community, its free will, and its autonomy.

The names of Cáceres’s murderers are yet unknown. But we know who killed her.

According to one email circulating about her death: “Berta Cáceres and COPINH have been accompanying various land struggles throughout western Honduras. In the last few weeks, violence and repression towards Berta, COPINH, and the communities they support had escalated. In Rio Blanco on February 20th, Berta, COPINH, and the community of Rio Blanco faced threats and repression as they carried out a peaceful action to protect the River Gualcarque against the construction of a hydroelectric dam by the internationally financed Honduran company DESA. As a result of COPINH’s work supporting the Rio Blanco struggle, Berta had received countless threats against her life and was granted precautionary measures by the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights. On February 25th, another Lenca community supported by COPINH in Guise, Intibuca, was violently evicted and destroyed.”

(Here’s Telesur’s report on the killing.)

I’m tempted to end this post with a call on Bernie bros and sisters to hold Hillary Clinton responsible and to ask, when possible in town halls and meet and greets, if she ever met Cáceres, or if she is still proud of the hell she helped routinize in Honduras. But, really, Cáceres’s assassination shouldn’t be reduced to the idiocy of American electoral politics.

All people of goodwill should ask Hillary Clinton those questions.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Brazil Is Engulfed by Ruling Class Corruption — and a Dangerous Subversion of Democracy

Glenn Greenwald

Andrew Fishman

David Miranda
Mar. 18 2016, 12:31 p.m.
(Para ler a versão desse artigo em Português, clique aqui.)

THE MULTIPLE, REMARKABLE crises consuming Brazil are now garnering substantial Western media attention. That’s understandable given that Brazil is the world’s fifth most populous country and eighth-largest economy; its second-largest city, Rio de Janeiro, is the host of this year’s Summer Olympics. But much of this Western media coverage mimics the propaganda coming from Brazil’s homogenized, oligarch-owned, anti-democracy media outlets and, as such, is misleading, inaccurate, and incomplete, particularly when coming from those with little familiarity with the country (there are numerous Brazil-based Western reporters doing outstanding work).

It is difficult to overstate the severity of Brazil’s multi-level distress. This short paragraph yesterday from the New York Times’s Brazil bureau chief, Simon Romero, conveys how dire it is:

Brazil is suffering its worst economic crisis in decades. An enormous graft scheme has hobbled the national oil company. The Zika epidemic is causing despair across the northeast. And just before the world heads to Brazil for the Summer Olympics, the government is fighting for survival, with almost every corner of the political system under the cloud of scandal.

Brazil’s extraordinary political upheaval shares some similarities with the Trump-led political chaos in the U.S.: a sui generis, out-of-control circus unleashing instability and some rather dark forces, with a positive ending almost impossible to imagine. The once-remote prospect of President Dilma Rousseff’s impeachment now seems likely.

But one significant difference with the U.S. is that Brazil’s turmoil is not confined to one politician. The opposite is true, as Romero notes: “almost every corner of the political system [is] under the cloud of scandal.” That includes not only Rousseff’s moderately left-wing Workers Party, or PT — which is rife with serious corruption — but also the vast majority of the centrist and right-wing political and economic factions working to destroy PT, which are drowning in at least an equal amount of criminality. In other words, PT is indeed deeply corrupt and awash in criminal scandal, but so is virtually every political faction working to undermine it and vying to seize that party’s democratically obtained power.

In reporting on Brazil, Western media outlets have most prominently focused on the increasingly large street protests demanding the impeachment of Rousseff. They have typically depicted those protests in idealized, cartoon terms of adoration: as an inspiring, mass populist uprising against a corrupt regime. Last night, NBC News’s Chuck Todd re-tweeted the Eurasia Group’s Ian Bremmer describing anti-Dilma protests as “The People vs. the President” — a manufactured theme consistent with what is being peddled by Brazil’s anti-government media outlets such as Globo:

That narrative is, at best, a radical oversimplification of what is happening and, more often, crass propaganda designed to undermine a left-wing party long disliked by U.S. foreign policy elites. That depiction completely ignores the historical context of Brazil’s politics and, more importantly, several critical questions: Who is behind these protests, how representative are the protesters of the Brazilian population, and what is their actual agenda?

THE CURRENT VERSION of Brazilian democracy is very young. In 1964, the country’s democratically elected left-wing government was overthrown by a military coup. Both publicly and before Congress, U.S. officials vehemently denied any role, but — needless to say — documents and recordings subsequently emerged proving the U.S. directly supported and helped plot critical aspects of that coup.

The 21-year, right-wing, pro-U.S. military dictatorship that ensued was brutal and tyrannical, specializing in torture techniques used against dissidents that were taught to the dictatorship by the U.S. and U.K. A comprehensive 2014 Truth Commission report documented that both countries “trained Brazilian interrogators in torture techniques.” Among their victims was Rousseff, who was an anti-regime, left-wing guerilla imprisoned and tortured by the military dictators in the 1970s.

The coup itself and the dictatorship that followed were supported by Brazil’s oligarchs and their large media outlets, led by Globo, which — notably — depicted the 1964 coup as a noble defeat of a corrupt left-wing government (sound familiar?). The 1964 coup and dictatorship were also supported by the nation’s extravagantly rich (and overwhelmingly white) upper class and its small middle class. As democracy opponents often do, Brazil’s wealthy factions regarded dictatorship as protection against the impoverished masses comprised largely of non-whites. As The Guardian put it upon release of the Truth Commission report: “As was the case elsewhere in Latin America in the 1960s and 1970s, the elite and middle class aligned themselves with the military to stave off what they saw as a communist threat.”

These severe class and race divisions in Brazil remain the dominant dynamic. As the BBC put it in 2014 based on multiple studies: “Brazil has one of the highest levels of income inequality in the world.” The Americas Quarterly editor-in-chief, Brian Winter, reporting on the protests, wrote this week: “The gap between rich and poor remains the central fact of Brazilian life — and these protests are no different.” If you want to understand anything about the current political crisis in Brazil, it’s crucial to understand what Winter means by that.

DILMA’S PARTY, PT, was formed in 1980 as a classic Latin American left-wing socialist party. To improve its national appeal, it moderated its socialist dogma and gradually became a party more akin to Europe’s social democrats. There are now popular parties to its left; indeed, Dilma, voluntarily or otherwise, has advocated austerity measures to cure economic ills and assuage foreign markets, and just this week enacted a draconian “anti-terrorism” law. Still, PT resides on the center-left wing of Brazil’s spectrum and its supporters are overwhelmingly Brazil’s poor and racial minorities. In power, PT has ushered in a series of economic and social reforms that have provided substantial government benefits and opportunities, which have lifted millions of Brazilians out of poverty.

PT has held the presidency for 14 years: since 2002. Its popularity has been the byproduct of Dilma’s wildly charismatic predecessor, Luíz Inácio Lula da Silva (universally referred to as Lula). Lula’s ascendency was a potent symbol of the empowerment of Brazil’s poor under democracy: a laborer and union leader from a very poor family who dropped out of school in the second grade, did not read until the age of 10, and was imprisoned by the dictatorship for union activities. He has long been mocked by Brazilian elites in starkly classist tones for his working-class accent and manner of speaking.

Brazil's Workers Party presidential candidate Dilma Rousseff, left, reacts as Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva speaks to supporters during a campaign rally in Goiania, Brazil, Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2010. Rousseff will face Jose Serra, presidential candidate of the Brazilian Social Democratic Party, PSDB, in an election runoff Oct. 31. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres) Lula and Dilma campaign together in the 2010 election. Photo: Eraldo Peres/APAfter three unsuccessful runs for the presidency, Lula proved to be an unstoppable political force. Elected in 2002 and re-elected in 2006, he left office with such high approval ratings that he was able to ensure the election of his previously unknown hand-picked successor, Dilma, who was then re-elected in 2014. It has long been assumed that Lula — who vocally opposes austerity measures — intends to run again for president in 2018 after completion of Dilma’s second term, and anti-PT forces are petrified that he’d again beat them at the ballot box.
Though the nation’s oligarchical class has successfully used the center-right PSDB as a counterweight, it has been largely impotent in defeating PT in four consecutive presidential elections. Voting is compulsory, and the nation’s poor citizens have ensured PT’s victories.

Corruption among Brazil’s political class — including the top levels of the PT — is real and substantial. But Brazil’s plutocrats, their media, and the upper and middle classes are glaringly exploiting this corruption scandal to achieve what they have failed for years to accomplish democratically: the removal of PT from power.

Contrary to Chuck Todd’s and Ian Bremmer’s romanticized, misinformed (at best) depiction of these protests as being carried out by “The People,” they are, in fact, incited by the country’s intensely concentrated, homogenized, and powerful corporate media outlets, and are composed (not exclusively but overwhelmingly) of the nation’s wealthier, white citizens who have long harbored animosity toward PT and anything that smacks of anti-poverty programs.

Brazil’s corporate media outlets are acting as de facto protest organizers and PR arms of opposition parties. The Twitter feeds of some of Globo’s most influential (and very rich) on-air reporters contain non-stop anti-PT agitation. When a recording of a telephone conversation between Dilma and Lula was leaked this week, Globo’s highly influential nightly news program, Jornal Nacional, had its anchors flamboyantly re-enact the dialogue in such a melodramatic and provocatively gossipy fashion that it literally resembled a soap opera far more than a news report, prompting widespread ridicule. For months, Brazil’s top four newsmagazines have devoted cover after cover to inflammatory attacks on Dilma and Lula, usually featuring ominous photos of one or the other and always with a strikingly unified narrative.

To provide some perspective for how central the large corporate media has been in inciting these protests: Recall the key role Fox News played in promoting and encouraging attendance at the early Tea Party protests. Now imagine what those protests would have been if it had not been just Fox, but also ABC, NBC, CBS, Time magazine, the New York Times, and the Huffington Post also supporting and inciting the Tea Party rallies. That is what has been happening in Brazil: The largest outlets are owned and controlled by a tiny number of plutocratic families, virtually all of whom are vehement, class-based opponents of PT and whose media outlets have unified to fuel these protests.

In sum, the business interests owned and represented by those media outlets are almost uniformly pro-impeachment and were linked to the military dictatorship. As Stephanie Nolen, the Rio-based reporter for Canada’s Globe and Mail, noted: “It is clear that most of the country’s institutions are lined up against the president.”

Put simply, this is a campaign to subvert Brazil’s democratic outcomes by monied factions that have long hated the results of democratic elections, deceitfully marching under an anti-corruption banner: quite similar to the 1964 coup. Indeed, much of the Brazilian right longs for restoration of the military dictatorship, and factions at these “anti-corruption” protests have been openly calling for the end of democracy.

None of this is a defense of PT. Both because of genuine widespread corruption in that party and national economic woes, Dilma and PT are intensely unpopular among all classes and groups, even including the party’s working-class base. But the street protests — as undeniably large and energized as they have been — are driven by those who are traditionally hostile to PT. The number of people participating in these protests — while in the millions — is dwarfed by the number (54 million) who voted to re-elect Dilma less than two years ago. In a democracy, governments are chosen by voting, not by displays of street opposition — particularly where, as in Brazil, the protests are drawn from a relatively narrow societal segment.

As Winter reported: “Last Sunday, when more than 1 million people took to the streets, polls indicated that once again the crowd was significantly richer, whiter, and more educated than Brazilians at large.” Nolen similarly reported: “The half-dozen large anti-corruption demonstrations in the past year have been dominated by white and upper-middle-class protesters, who tend to be supporters of the opposition Brazilian Social Democratic Party (PSDB), and to have little love for Ms. Rousseff’s left-leaning Workers’ Party.”

Last weekend, when massive anti-Dilma protests emerged in most Brazilian cities, a photograph of one of the families participating went viral, a symbol of what these protests actually are. It showed a rich, white couple decked out in anti-Dilma symbols and walking with their pure-breed dog, trailed by their black “weekend nanny” — wearing the all-white uniform many rich Brazilians require their domestic servants to wear — pushing a stroller with their two children.
As Nolen noted, the photo became the emblem for the true, highly ideological essence of these protests: “Brazilians, who are deft and fast with memes, reposted the picture with a thousand snarky captions, such as ‘Speed it up, there, Maria [the generic ‘maid name’], we have to get out to protest against this government that made us pay you minimum wage.’”

TO BELIEVE THAT the influential figures agitating for Dilma’s impeachment are motivated by an authentic anti-corruption crusade requires extreme naïveté or willful ignorance. To begin with, the factions that would be empowered by Dilma’s impeachment are at least as implicated by corruption scandals as she is: in most cases, more so.

Five of the members of the impeachment commission are themselves being criminally investigated as part of the corruption scandal. That includes Paulo Maluf, who faces an Interpol warrant for his arrest and has not been able to leave the country for years; he has been sentenced in France to three years in prison for money laundering. Of the 65 members of the House impeachment committee, 36 currently face pending legal proceedings.

In the lower house of Congress, the leader of the impeachment movement, the evangelical extremist Eduardo Cunha, was found to have maintained multiple secret Swiss bank accounts, where he stored millions of dollars that prosecutors believe were received as bribes. He is the target of multiple active criminal investigations.

Meanwhile, Senator Aécio Neves, the leader of the Brazilian opposition who Dilma narrowly defeated in the 2014 election, has himself been implicated at least five separate times in the corruption scandal. One of the prosecutors’ newest star witnesses just accused him of accepting bribes. That witness also implicated the country’s vice president, Michel Temer, of the opposition party PMDB, who would replace Dilma if she were impeached.

Then there’s the recent behavior of the chief judge who has been overseeing the corruption investigation and has become a folk hero for his commendably aggressive investigations of some of the country’s richest and most powerful figures. That judge, Sergio Moro, this week effectively leaked to the media a tape-recorded, extremely vague conversation between Dilma and Lula, which Globo and other anti-PT forces immediately depicted as incriminating. Moro disclosed the recording of the conversation within hours of its taking place.

But the recorded conversation was released by Judge Moro with no due process and, worse, with clearly political, not judicial, purposes: Namely, he was furious that his investigation of Lula would be terminated by his appointment to Dilma’s cabinet (high officials can be investigated only by the Supreme Court). His leak sought to embarrass Dilma and Lula and trigger street protests, and thus provoked criticisms, even among his previous fans, that he was now abusing his power by becoming a political actor. Worse, the recording itself seems to have been illegally obtained since it was made after the expiration of Judge Moro’s warrant. The head of Rio de Janeiro’s bar association, Felipe Santa Cruz, called Moro’s actions a “nauseating embarrassment.”

All of this raises the very clear danger that the criminal investigation and impeachment process are not a legal exercise to punish criminal leaders, but rather an anti-democratic political weapon wielded by political opponents to remove a democratically elected president. That danger was even more starkly highlighted yesterday when it was revealed that a judge who issued an order blocking Lula’s cabinet appointment by Dilma had days earlier posted to his Facebook page numerous selfies of him marching in the anti-government protest over the weekend. As Winter wrote, “Convincing the public that the Brazilian judiciary is ‘at war’ with the Workers’ Party will be an easier task than it was two weeks ago.”

There is no question that PT is rife with corruption. There are serious questions surrounding Lula that deserve an impartial and fair investigation. And impeachment is a legitimate process in a democracy provided that the targeted official is actually guilty of serious crimes and the law is scrupulously followed in how the impeachment is effectuated.

But the picture currently emerging in Brazil surrounding impeachment and these street protests is far more complicated, and far more ethically ambiguous, than has frequently been depicted. The effort to remove Dilma and her party from power now resembles a nakedly anti-democratic power struggle more than a legally sound process or genuine anti-corruption movement. Worse, it’s being incited, engineered, and fueled by the very factions who are themselves knee-deep in corruption scandals, and who represent the interests of the richest and most powerful societal segments long angry at their inability to defeat PT democratically.

In other words, it all seems historically familiar, particular for Latin America, where democratically elected left-wing governments have been repeatedly removed by non-democratic, extra-legal means. In many ways, PT and Dilma are not sympathetic victims. Large segments of the population are genuinely angry at them for plainly legitimate reasons. But their sins do not justify the sins of their long-standing political enemies, and most certainly do not render subversion of Brazilian democracy something to cheer.

Additional reporting: Cecília Olliveira

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

America's Astounding Human Rights Hypocrisy in Cuba

By Harvey Wasserman, Reader Supported News
23 March 16

ur American president’s long-overdue visit to Cuba has been a great thing for many reasons.
But maybe our elected officials should cease their hypocritical yapping about the human rights situation in Cuba until they come clean about what’s happening here in the United States.
To be sure, there is much to say about how this authoritarian regime has handled dissent. The details abound in the corporate media.
But the idea of the United States lecturing Cuba or any other country on this planet about human rights comes down somewhere between embarrassing and nauseating. Consider:
The US right now has the world’s largest prison population by far. There are 2.2 million citizens in prison here for offenses that include smoking pot and failing to pay off certain debts. At its peak, there were 2.5 million in Stalin's Soviet Gulag.

The US prison population is hugely over-filled with African-Americans and Hispanics.

The racial bias of the prison population is directly related to a deliberate Jim Crow strategy of disenfranchisement aimed at keeping people of color from voting.

There are more citizens in US prisons than there are prisoners in China, another authoritarian country. China’s population is 4 to 5 times as large as that of the US. They do not have an alleged Bill of Rights.

The American prison population currently represents almost a quarter of the entire population of Cuba.

Rape, torture, extended solitary confinement, and other human rights offenses are common in US prisons. In many cases, decent medical care is notably lacking, resulting in avoidable illness and death.

More than 500,000 Americans are in prison for victimless crimes relating to substances they have chosen to put in their own bodies rather than harm done anyone else.

On the actual island of Cuba, the US holds a reserve at Guantanamo that the Cuban people want returned to them. In the interim, prisoners are held there in denial of all human rights, often without trial, in some cases being subjected to what can only be termed torture. Some have been held for years after their release has been authorized. Guantanamo is maintained on Cuban soil precisely so those held there can be denied their human rights.

The United States still has the death penalty, which has been repeatedly used to execute human beings who later prove innocent. One former president of the United States, George W. Bush, personally authorized 152 executions while governor of Texas.

Access to due process in the United States is significantly restricted by race and class.

There are numerous political prisoners being held without human rights guarantees throughout the US prison system whose “offenses” are every bit as illusory as many of the prisoners held in violation of human rights in Cuba.

Among them is Leonard Peltier, a native American wrongly convicted of murder four decades ago. Peltier has repeatedly petitioned for a new trial and been turned down by presidents Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush and now Obama, even though the evidence overwhelmingly indicates he is innocent of the two murders for which he was convicted in the mid 1970s. Peltier is now suffering from advanced diabetes. He’s being held under extremely harsh conditions in clear violation of a wide range of laws allegedly protecting the basic human rights guaranteed all prisoners by the US criminal justice code and by international law. Peltier has grandchildren and great grandchildren he has never seen. If he were being held under the same circumstances in Cuba, the US would be screaming for his release.

In 2001, as he was leaving office, Bill Clinton chose to pardon multi-millionaire Marc Rich, with immense direct and indirect benefits later coming to the Clintons and their various interests. Though Clinton was thoroughly and repeatedly briefed about Leonard Peltier, he chose to leave Peltier in prison, to not grant him a new trial, and to do nothing to mitigate the illegal conditions under which he’s being held.

Since Richard Nixon’s declaration of the Drug War in 1971, various branches of the US police system have arrested more than 41 million American citizens, almost four times as many people as now live in Cuba. The arrests have been heavily weighted against people of color and low income. With the $1 trillion or more spent on this mass incarceration, all those arrested could have been sent to college.

In recent years the incentive to incarcerate American citizens (guilty or otherwise) has been vastly accelerated by the establishment of private prisons, whose profits are based on the number of people they can lock up. Americans charged with crimes are now viewed as “cash flow” by this for-profit prison system, which has every incentive to keep them incarcerated as long as possible, no matter how their alleged crime or violated human rights might stack up.

Though they recently crashed the entire US economy with a stunning array of criminal activities, no banker or financier who helped devastate the livelihoods of millions of families worldwide has gone to prison.

American police forces routinely maim and kill innocent citizens based largely on race and class, with little or no legal recourse.

In the name of fighting terrorism and the Drug War, US police forces now regularly confiscate cash and other property from innocent citizens without due process or reasonable legal recourse. The funds are often used for the personal benefit of the officers involved.

A nationwide program of electronic spying on private citizens has been in place in the US for many years, leaving the Fourth Amendment right to privacy in shambles.
There is, of course, much more. But at very least we hope that President Obama will admit to some or all of the above amidst his cringe-worthy lectures to the Cubans on the sacred nature of human rights.

Harvey Wasserman’s America at the Brink of Rebirth: The Organic Spiral of Us History can be had via The Strip & Flip Selection of 2016: Five Jim Crows & Electronic Election Theft,co-written with Bob Fitrakis, is at

Op-Ed Suppressing criticism of Zionism on campus is catastrophic censorship UCLA campus

Opinion Op-Ed

Los Angeles Times
Saree Makdisi and Judith Butler
Last week, a UC Regents working group released a proposed set of Principles Against Intolerance, created in response to a series of anti-Semitic incidents on UC campuses. On March 23, the Regents will vote on whether to officially adopt those principles. Controversially, the document not only condemns anti-Semitism, but also anti-Zionism.

We asked UC faculty members to argue for and against the statement. Read the opposing view here.


Carefully adorned in the language of moderation and tolerance, the final report of the UC regents working group on principles against intolerance is a thinly disguised attempt to suppress academic freedom and stifle open debate on our campuses.

UC's intolerance policy goes dangerously astray on anti-Semitism
UC's intolerance policy goes dangerously astray on anti-Semitism
The report presents itself as the solution to a problem that it is actually helping to manufacture. Its point of departure is the unfounded claim that “manifestations of anti-Semitism have changed and that expressions of anti-Semitism are more coded and difficult to identify.” It then not so subtly shifts to a generalization so broad it sweeps all before it: “[O]pposition to Zionism often is expressed in ways that are not simply statements of disagreement over politics and policy, but also assertions of prejudice and intolerance toward Jewish people and culture.” And so on to the inevitable coup de grace: “Anti-Semitism, anti-Zionism and other forms of discrimination have no place at the University of California.”

In a few paragraphs, the report conflates two distinct phenomena: hatred of Jews on the one hand, and criticism of a political ideology on the other. The overall claim is that the latter — objections to the Israeli state, its military occupation, its demolition of homes, its two-tiered system of citizenship — is the new, covert form of anti-Semitism. These are issues regularly debated in public discourse; it is imperative that they be freely discussed in universities as well. But if the report is adopted, scholarship and teaching that include critical perspectives deemed “anti-Zionist” could be branded illegitimate, and open discussion shut down.

All forms of discrimination must be opposed, including anti-Semitism, but this report is neither inclusive nor balanced in its representation of how racism operates on our campuses. In an age of unprecedented Islamophobia, Arab and Muslim students have suffered overt prejudice and repression of their views, yet the document makes only passing reference to their experience. It is less interested in actual conditions of intolerance that we all must oppose than in singling out and redefining anti-Semitism to include political viewpoints that it seeks to suppress.

If the report is adopted, scholarship and teaching that include critical perspectives deemed "anti-Zionist" could be branded illegitimate, and open discussion shut down.
The report is merely the latest manifestation of a well-funded and increasingly desperate — even panicky — political campaign to eradicate criticism of Israeli policy from American campuses. A compelling student movement for Palestinian rights has emerged, as have a proliferation of Jewish voices distancing themselves from traditional Zionist narratives and affirming the Palestinian right to self-determination, freedom and equality. Not coincidentally, the focal point of this campaign has been an attempt to get universities to adopt a widely discredited State Department definition that collapses the distinction between criticism of Israel and hatred of the Jewish people.

Although the UC report claims the need to track “the evolving nature of anti-Semitism,” what needs to be tracked instead is the drive to hijack, for malign political purposes, the definition of a genuine scourge. Ironically, by persistently misidentifying anti-Semitism, the promoters of this politicized new definition will, like the boy who cried wolf, make it more difficult to combat the real thing when it occurs.

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Whereas the UC working group met with individuals and institutions unconnected to the university who have been promoting this redefinition of anti-Semitism, it seems to have made no effort to find balance by consulting the many scholars of Zionism, anti-Semitism and the question of Palestine on UC's own faculty, relying instead on a sophomoric dictionary entry on of Zionism.

And the report was produced under a cloud of external pressure by, among others, UC regent Richard Blum, who publicly issued a veiled threat: “My wife, and your senior senator” — Dianne Feinstein — “is prepared to be critical of this university,” unless UC finds a way to punish the supposed new form of anti-Semitism.

The report is as bad as it sounds. Its adoption would be catastrophic. It would be a travesty to let UC become a place where censorship triumphs over the pursuit of truths, however uncomfortable some may find them.

Saree Makdisi is a professor of English and comparative literature at UCLA. Judith Butler is a professor of comparative literature at UC Berkeley and a member of the Coordinating Committee for the Academic Council of Jewish Voice for Peace.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Israel: The Broken Silence David Shulman APRIL 7, 2016 ISSUE

from the New York Review of Books

Popular Protest in Palestine: The Uncertain Future of Unarmed Resistance
by Marwan Darweish and Andrew Rigby
Pluto, 211 pp., $28.00 (paper)
Return: A Palestinian Memoir
by Ghada Karmi
Verso, 319 pp., $26.95
Disturbing the Peace: The Use of Criminal Law to Limit the Actions of Human Rights Defenders in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories
by the Human Rights Defenders Fund
80 pp.; available at
Al pi tehom [At the Edge of the Abyss]
by Talia Sasson
Jerusalem: Keter, 309 pp., 74.00 shekels
The Conflict Shoreline: Colonization as Climate Change in the Negev Desert
by Eyal Weizman and Fazal Sheikh
Steidl/Cabinet, 92 pp., $40.00
This Place
an exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum of Art, February 12–June 5, 2016.
Catalog of the exhibition by Frederic Brenner and others
MACK, 191 pp., $50.00 (paper)

Israeli human rights activists and what is left of the Israeli peace groups, including joint Israeli-Palestinian peace organizations, are under attack. In a sense, this is nothing very new; organizations such as B’Tselem, the most prominent and effective in the area of human rights, and Breaking the Silence, which specializes in soldiers’ firsthand testimony about what they have seen and done in the occupied territories and in Gaza, have always been anathema to the Israeli right, which regards them as treasonous.1 But open attacks on the Israeli left have now assumed a far more sinister and ruthless character; some of them are being played out in the interrogation rooms of Israeli prisons. Clearly, there is an ongoing coordinated campaign involving the government, members of the Knesset, the police, various semiautonomous right-wing groups, and the public media. Politically driven harassment, including violent and illegal arrest, interrogation, denial of legal support, virulent incitement, smear campaigns, even death threats issued by proxy—all this has become part of the repertoire of the far right, which dominates the present government and sets the tone for its policies.

There is now a palpable sense of danger, and also an accelerating decline into a situation of incipient everyday state terror. Palestinians have lived with the reality of state terror for decades—it is the very stuff of the occupation—but it has now seeped into the texture of life inside the Green Line, as many on the left have warned that it would. Israelis with a memory going back to the 1960s sometimes liken the current campaign to the violent actions of the extreme right in Greece before the colonels took power, as famously depicted in the still-canonical film Z.

The witch-hunt began this time with a targeting of the ex-soldiers’ organization Breaking the Silence by a strident chorus on the right, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, and other members of the cabinet, but also including prominent politicians and journalists from the wishy-washy center, including the highly popular Haaretz correspondent Ari Shavit. There have been calls to outlaw the organization entirely.

In Israeli parlance, Breaking the Silence is one of a group of so-called “leftist NGOs” (amutot hasmol) that are the object of a new bill now making its way through the Knesset, an initiative of the fanatical minister of justice, Ayelet Shaked, possibly the least just person in the country. Like many right-wing NGOs, leftist groups such as B’Tselem receive funding from donors both in Israel and abroad; the new law aims at forcing leftist and human rights organizations to disclose all foreign sources of support every time they appear in a public setting.

The proposed law is a transparent attempt to humiliate these groups and to limit their freedom of action. Initially, Shaked wanted representatives of left-wing organizations that receive foreign funding to wear identity badges whenever they entered the Knesset or other public spaces, but Netanyahu, still apparently capable of seeing the invidious analogy to the badges the Nazis forced Jews to wear in public, squashed this clause.

The steady stream of government-fueled invective and threats has also been channeled into the shadowy world of clandestine operations. In recent weeks several of the peace organizations have uncovered right-wing spies and moles that had worked their way into their ranks. It’s hard to know who has been orchestrating this wave or how high up the operation goes. There are front organizations, including a newly registered group of Israeli settlers who call themselves Ad Kan (This Far and No Farther); I’ll come back to them in a moment.

Among the more ludicrous cases is that of a private detective who targeted the office of Michael Sfard, an outstanding human rights lawyer. For about two years, this shady character apparently salvaged documents from wastebaskets and even proudly claimed to have run after municipal sanitation trucks in order to retrieve scraps of paper. By his own testimony, he was hired to do this by a far-right—and partly state-funded—organization called Regavim (Clods of Earth) that is active primarily in acquiring and colonizing Palestinian land in the occupied territories. (There is no other kind of land in the territories, notwithstanding claims by Israeli governments, which were upheld by Israeli courts, that so-called miri, or state lands, in the West Bank belong to nobody but the state.)

It’s worth noting that the peace and civil rights organizations have nothing to hide, and the attempt to find documents that could somehow incriminate them is in itself a futile and paranoid gesture worthy of the Stasi-run East German state at its height. But in a way, transparency as an ethical principle no longer matters. Israeli peace activists have graduated from being protesters, in theory, at least, protected by the law, to being dissidents—that is, legitimate targets for government-inspired attacks.

One of the spies did some damage to Ta’ayush (Arab–Jewish Partnership), the group of Israeli and Palestinian volunteers with which I myself have been associated for the last fifteen years. Here there is a story to tell. Ta’ayush has focused its work on the South Hebron Hills, where we have had moderate success in defending Palestinian civilians from violence on the part of settlers and soldiers and from the relentless attempt by Israeli governments, using all the means at their disposal, to expel this Palestinian population from their homes and to take over their lands. In some cases, working together with our Palestinian allies in the field, adopting the classic methods of nonviolent resistance associated with Martin Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi, we have actually reversed the process of dispossession and helped Palestinian villagers come back home.

Well over a year ago, a young Israeli, Itzik Goldway, and his girlfriend Julia, both linked to Ad Kan and the extreme right, joined Ta’ayush on its weekly trips to South Hebron. They subsequently portrayed this “infiltration” as a heroic, James Bond–style act; in actual fact, anyone is welcome to take part in our activities, no questions asked. Itzik managed to win the confidence of Ezra Nawi, a pivotal and charismatic figure in Ta’ayush and, for that very reason, hated by Israeli settlers and the police serving in this region. Nawi has been arrested on false charges many times in the past, and has been awarded damages for this by Israeli courts; he was also jailed for a month for allegedly obstructing soldiers during violent house demolitions at the Palestinian village of Umm al-Khair in 2007.

For some months at least Goldway traveled with Nawi, surreptitiously recording and filming him to no particular effect, until a moment came when an apparent sting operation, no doubt masterminded from above, was set in motion. An alleged Palestinian land dealer, “Mousa,” telephoned Nawi and tried to implicate him in the sale of Palestinian land from the village of Susya to Israeli settlers. Nawi, never famous for circumspection in speech, fell straight into the trap and foolishly spoke to Goldway, whose camera was running, about turning Mousa over to the Palestinian Security Forces—who, he said, would possibly torture and kill him. It was an empty, though obnoxious, remark: no one has been executed in Palestine for the last ten years, although selling land to Jews remains on the books as a capital crime in the Palestine Authority. For the record, the shady land dealer is alive and well. Ezra later claimed that he considered turning to the Palestinian Security Forces in order to protect his name and standing among the Palestinian population of the South Hebron Hills.

A year went by. Then, in early January, a highly respected journalist, Ilana Dayan, devoted her television show, Uvda (Fact), an Israeli equivalent of 60 Minutes, to Ezra Nawi and Ta’ayush, with the spy’s video clips as centerpiece. Over the last twenty-two years, Uvda has specialized in muckraking and has uncovered many seamy ventures within Israel; this was its six-hundredth broadcast. It is perhaps telling that apparently none of the previous 599 reports ever focused on what goes on, hour by hour, in the occupied territories. In this case the Uvda team failed to meet even minimal professional standards and, in effect, allowed themselves to serve as a mouthpiece for Ad Kan.

As a result of the broadcast, Nawi was arrested, as were two other activists, and the case rapidly developed along the lines of clear-cut political persecution—as was, I suppose, evident from the start. Even before the arrests, Nawi had received death threats and was assaulted on the street outside his home after right-wing groups published his address on Facebook. After two weeks of incarceration under appalling conditions and nearly continuous interrogation, while being denied access to his lawyer (the most draconian rule in Israeli criminal law), with the police repeatedly demanding that his detention be extended, Nawi and a second Israeli activist were released by an honest judge who said, in effect, that there was no criminal case and that the police had their own agenda.

The Har Homa settlement, on a hill opposite Bethlehem, West Bank, 2009; photograph by Josef Koudelka from the exhibition ‘This Place’
Josef Koudelka/Magnum Photos
The Har Homa settlement, on a hill opposite Bethlehem, West Bank, 2009; photograph by Josef Koudelka from the exhibition ‘This Place’
What happened to the third activist, a Palestinian from Susya whose family lands were at stake and a field worker for B’Tselem, is instructive. He was arrested by soldiers in the middle of the night with all the usual terrifying trappings of such actions. Two Israeli courts ordered him released because, they said, Israeli civilian courts had no jurisdiction over him: a Palestinian living in Palestinian territory who reports to the Palestinian police when his lands are in danger is using the only recourse open to him. The Israeli police then literally kidnapped him, defying the courts, and deposited him in the military detention camp at Ofer, where he languished for several days before a military judge ordered him released.

We don’t yet know how far the state will go in persecuting Ezra Nawi; newspaper reports, citing Nawi’s lawyers, have said that the police kept trying to link him to the death of a Palestinian implicated in some other land transaction, although everyone knows that this man died of a stroke in his bed. When the police claimed they hadn’t had enough time to determine the circumstances of this death and needed to keep Nawi locked up until they could do so, his lawyer, Eitan Peleg, was quoted as saying: “If you really wanted to know, you could find out not within minutes but within seconds by simply telephoning your colleagues in the Palestinian Security Forces.”

All in all, it’s a sordid story, emblematic of this moment in Israeli history. Despite it all, or perhaps because of what has happened, Ta’ayush is flourishing; there has been a rush of volunteers for the weekly expeditions to South Hebron. But it’s not hard to gauge how events are moving. Sarit Michaeli, a spokeswoman for B’Tselem, has said: “We are seeing a general assault by the government and right-wing groups on those parts of Israeli society that are still standing up for democratic values. The aim is to silence us.”

A lucid discussion of how the Israeli right, with the government firmly behind it, is continually attempting to criminalize Israeli human rights activists can be found in Disturbing the Peace, published by the Human Rights Defenders Fund, which provides assistance to Israeli and Palestinian activists. This report also offers chilling firsthand testimonies of brutal arrests, savage beatings, and many accounts of inventive punishments and humiliations of activists (very often women) by police and soldiers. Those of us who have participated in demonstrations in Sheikh Jarrah, Nabi Salih, Isawiya, and other Palestinian settlements can vouch personally for the routine character of such acts.

Real danger accompanies peace work inside the occupied territories, but even greater danger may now threaten human rights workers inside the Green Line, in supposedly democratic Israel. One might be tempted to write off much of the current campaign as a particularly noxious form of McCarthyism. Ronen Shoval, one of the founders of a virulent right-wing organization called Im Tirtzu (Where There’s a Will) has publicly expressed his deep admiration for Joseph McCarthy. Im Tirtzu has focused on Israeli academics, intellectuals, and artists; it recently put out a video clip in which four leaders of prominent human rights organizations are shown, named, and labeled shtulim—foreign spies, portrayed as actively supporting terrorism.

In late January, Im Tirtzu published an updated list of these so-called foreign agents; it includes hundreds of names and reads like a Who’s Who of Israeli cultural and scientific life. Among those named are the writers Amos Oz and David Grossman, the famous actress Gila Almagor, the popular singer Chava Alberstein, the playwright Yehoshua Sobol, and so on. Some prominent Israelis were insulted that they didn’t make it onto the list. Netanyahu, by the way, has proclaimed his enthusiastic support for Im Tirtzu and its obviously paranoid program, although he did dissociate himself from this latest list of Israel’s alleged internal enemies.

But Israeli McCarthyism has an additional, distinctive element that deepens the madness. It is directly linked to Israel’s colonial project in the occupied Palestinian territories. Anyone who opposes the occupation in word or deed is now at risk. For the right, patriotism is synonymous with occupation and all that comes with it, above all the dispossession and expulsion of Palestinians and the theft of their lands. One can hear overtly racist rationalizations of this aim any day on the public radio talk shows. Put simply, the occupation system as a whole is ruled by the logic of stark division between the privileged Israeli occupiers and the Palestinian occupied, who are totally disenfranchised and stripped of all basic human rights.

There should be no need to rehearse again the endless iniquities inherent in the occupation; those unfamiliar with them can easily find them discussed in detail in Neve Gordon’s 2008 book, entitled Israel’s Occupation,2 or the recent Hebrew book by Talia Sasson, At the Edge of the Abyss, or in the many personal memoirs, such as Ghada Karmi’s eloquent and moving Return, about life in occupied Palestine. Karmi also reveals the widespread corruption, ineptitude, and violence within the Palestinian Authority, in parts of the West Bank under its control. Graphic images of life inside the occupied territories can be seen in This Place, the record of a traveling exhibition of the works of twelve gifted photographers.

Sometimes a single moment can epitomize what the Israeli occupation means in human terms. On February 2, the army destroyed twenty-three Palestinian homes in Jinba and Halawa in the South Hebron Hills, leaving eighty-seven people, sixty of them children, without shelter in the depth of the freezing desert winter. The excuse: the army needs Jinba and the surrounding eleven villages for a “firing zone”—as if there were no empty spaces inside Israel for such exercises.3

Further demolitions are scheduled at Umm al-Khair, a shanty neighborhood bordering the Israeli settlement of Karmel, which sits on top of the lands privately owned by the people of Umm al-Khair. The village of Susya remains at high risk, with recent orders to demolish all its tents and shacks as well as its energy facilities that Israeli activists have painfully put in place. Numerous demolitions of Palestinian homes are also taking place in the Jordan Valley.

We are thus witnessing a brutal wave of accelerated demolitions in the West Bank: in the first six weeks of 2016 alone, 293 homes were destroyed by the army. The goal, in a word, is a form of ethnic cleansing. Israel wants these Palestinians who inhabit what is called Area C, the zone of intense Israeli settlement (some 60 percent of the West Bank), to disappear. According to recent figures released by Dror Etkes, the most knowledgeable expert on this subject, already more than half the lands in Area C have been declared closed military zones, which means that Palestinians are completely barred from entering them.

The processes of eviction and appropriation have been going on for a very long time, and not only within the occupied territories. Eyal Weizman and Fazal Sheikh have produced The Conflict Shoreline, a small scholarly masterpiece beautifully illustrated by aerial photographs, on the sad story of Bedouin lands in the northern Negev. In particular, the fate of al-Araqib, a historic Bedouin site, is movingly described. Al-Araqib, whose people credibly claim possession of several thousand acres, has now been bulldozed more than ninety times, and each time its several dozen residents have rebuilt their homes, with the help of Israeli activists. Tenacity and perseverance count for something, but no one can say how long these people can hold on.

Random knife attacks on Israeli soldiers and civilians, mostly by Palestinian teenagers, have been taking place since September, when it looked as if Israel was about to change the status quo on the Haram al-Sharif, or the Temple Mount, as Israeli right-wingers like to call it.4 Over two dozen Israelis have been killed in these attacks. Well over a hundred Palestinians have died, some in the course of attempted knifings, and many thousands have been wounded in clashes with the army. Intermittent Palestinian violence can usually be counted on to supply the Israeli right with whatever rationale it needs for its hard-line program. But none of this happens in a vacuum. Incremental acts of a fiercely hypernationalist character add up to a consistent, insidious, ultimately devastating attack on the very structure of Israeli democracy.

The minister of education, Naftali Bennett, one of the most extreme spokesmen of the fanatical right, has issued a blacklist of books that are to be banned from the curriculum of all Israeli schools on the grounds that they are not patriotic enough. (These include a popular novel by Dorit Rabinyan, Borderlife, about a love affair between a Palestinian man and an Israeli woman—a heinous crime in the eyes of the religious right.) If being Jewish means anything at all, after a more or less continuous history of some three millennia, I think it must mean that Jews are people who do not ban books.

To my mind, proscribing books is entirely consonant with the enormous theft of Palestinian land. The former nicely and subtly furthers the latter. The minister of culture and sport, Miri Regev, another fanatical nationalist, is also sponsoring a “loyalty in culture” bill; you can guess what she has in mind.

As always in such situations, a huge majority of otherwise decent Israelis passively go along with the new cultural and political regime. The Tel Aviv Museum of Art, the strongest art museum in the country, recently canceled an exhibition of works relating to refugees and refugee camps by the renowned Chinese artist and dissident Ai Weiwei along with photographs by Miki Kratsman, winner of the prestigious Emet Prize. Kratsman’s photographs included some three thousand portraits of Palestinians from the camps. The museum made vague noises about difficulties in scheduling, which might even have been true; the director, Suzanne Landau, denied that the decision to cancel had anything to do with politics. Yet in the present rabid climate, there is a potential price to be paid by those rare institutions that have the courage to stand up for what they believe in or once believed in.

Sometimes, on a good day, I think that the very starkness and horror of the occupation will eventually bring it to an end. Both in Hebrew and, I think, outside of Israel, throughout the world, the term “occupation” has by now acquired something of the specific gravity of the word “apartheid” in the days before the South African system collapsed. Apartheid regimes—and the word is, alas, eminently suited to the occupation of Palestine—do sometimes collapse. Michael Sfard, the human rights lawyer, recently published a humane and hopeful statement: one day, he said, the occupation will crumble, probably all at once. Sfard is not alone.

The most astute political commentator in Israel, Dmitry Shumsky, has written in Haaretz of the somewhat paradoxical character of this latest round of right-wing terror; there is, at the moment, no electoral threat whatever to the continued rule of the far right and no clear sign of effective pressure from outside. Why, then, is it so intent on hunting down its enemies? Shumsky thinks that on a subtler, more hidden level, even the Israeli right is beginning to sense that its hold on Palestine is becoming untenable. I myself am less sanguine; the far right in Israel very readily opts for totalitarian modes of thinking and acting, and it’s not clear who is left to stop it.

On February 9 Netanyahu announced that he is building a huge fence around the entire country to protect it from the “wild beasts” out there. He has, as always, failed to notice his own responsibility for extreme violence inside this fence-to-be, including his part in purveying paranoid hatred and as the active persecutor of a Palestinian population of millions entirely without rights. Like many, indeed most, of those around him, he has substituted the false and often fatal notion that citizens exist only to serve the state for the democratic notion that the state, a nonmetaphysical entity not meant to mediate collective identities, is there to foster and serve its citizens. Dark days lie ahead.

Probably no more than a few hundred human rights and peace activists are still in the field in Israel—a few hundred too many in the eyes of the far right and, I guess, of large parts of the political center as well. These remaining activists are nevertheless certainly supported by much wider circles; and it’s important to note that some parts of the democratic apparatus of the state still function. The courts, despite an ambiguous, indeed often appalling record on matters relating to the occupation, still can exert some kind of constraint on the government. So far, one can still speak and write more or less freely, although new moves to censor social media have been announced.

Marwan Darweish and Andrew Rigby, authors of Popular Protest in Palestine, discuss many of the major settings for Palestinian nonviolent resistance to the occupation—the villages of Bil’in, Nabi Salih, the Jerusalem neighborhoods of Silwan and Sheikh Jarrah, the South Hebron Hills, and so on. It is certainly true, as I can attest from personal experience, that one meets many remarkable, courageous, and astonishingly articulate people in these settings. (The right-wing extremists of Ad Kan have recently released a contrived and mendacious film clip attempting to discredit these Palestinian activists and the Israeli peace workers who have demonstrated alongside them.)

But Darweish and Rigby also set out the minimal conditions or prerequisites for “sustainable unarmed resistance” in Palestine: a strong sense of solidarity throughout the subject population, organizational resilience, and external support from state and nonstate actors. These conditions are still, for the most part, very far from being realized; Palestinian society is rife with internal division (as the recent wave of strikes by Palestinian schoolteachers against the Palestinian government makes clear). So far the Israeli system has succeeded in keeping nonviolent protest a highly localized and mostly small-scale phenomenon lacking a strong leadership that goes beyond local protest. Indeed, the occupation rests to a large extent precisely upon the fragmentation of the occupied territories into many tiny, discontinuous, fenced-in enclaves. Still, fences, even or especially barbed-wire fences, will prove to be a feeble foundation on which to build a future for the state when those trapped inside them decide to become free.

See my essay “Israel & Palestine: Breaking the Silence,” The New York Review, February 24, 2011. ↩
University of California Press. ↩
This particular firing zone, No. 918, has been the subject of widespread international protest; see Maya Sela, “World Literary Stars Sign Israeli Petition Against Destruction of Palestinian Villages,” Haaretz, September 2, 2013. ↩
See my essay “Jerusalem: Why Should Things Not Get Worse?,” NYR Daily, November 4, 2015. ↩

Palestine: Walled In
David Shulman

Bibi: The Hidden Consequences of His Victory
David Shulman

Jerusalem: Why Should Things Not Get Worse?
David Shulman

“Israel is occupation-addicted”: Israeli journalist Gideon Levy blasts U.S. support for “apartheid” & rise of fascism

The renowned Israeli journalist joined a host of experts at the 2016 Israel's Influence conference in D.C.

"Israel is occupation-addicted": Israeli journalist Gideon Levy blasts U.S. support for "apartheid" & rise of fascism

“The drug addict who is your friend, if you give him money, he will really care about you. But are you really caring about him?” asked Levy, who called Israel’s almost 50-year-old illegal military occupation of Palestinian land “criminal,” “brutal” and “rotten.”

He was speaking at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. for the annual Israel’s Influence conference. The event, held on March 18, explored the close relationship between the American and Israeli governments, and the impact it has on the rest of the Middle East.

The U.S. gives more than $3.1 billion in unconditional military aid to the Israeli government every year. Israel is by far the largest recipient of U.S. aid (Egypt comes in second, with $1.5 billion annually). And yet, in protest of the U.S.’s nuclear deal with Iran, the Israeli government is pushing for even more, up to $4.5 billion in tax dollars per year.

“Every single thing the Israelis do today is with the total approval and total financing of the United States,” Levy explained.

He criticized U.S. politicians, and particularly lawmakers, for their ignorance of basic facts about the Israel-Palestine conflict.

“Most American legislators know nothing, and what they know is a product of” propaganda, Levy said.

He proposed giving U.S. politicians a tour of the occupied Palestinian territories. Levy suggested that anyone who doubts that Israel oppresses the indigenous Arab population should spend “just a few hours in Hebron,” a Palestinian city (known in Arabic as al-Khalil) in the occupied West Bank.

“I’ve never met an honest human being who went to Hebron and didn’t come back shocked,” he added.

In Hebron, illegal Israeli settlers live in the middle of the city. Palestinians must travel on separate roads, which are patrolled by Israeli soldiers. They often walk under enormous nets that look like cages, and settlers drop objects — and even urinate — on them from their windows above.

Levy described Israel’s occupation simply as a form of apartheid.

“It looks like apartheid, it walks like apartheid, it behaves like apartheid; it’s apartheid,” he said.

He juxtaposed the conditions of Palestinians living under illegal military occupation in Hebron to those of Israelis just one hour away in the large Israeli city Tel Aviv.

“There’s not one single American legislator who can imagine himself what it means to live as a Palestinian under the occupation,” Levy continued. “He cannot imagine one day of the humiliation, of the danger, of the lack of hope.”

“As long as this is the case, the chances for hope are so small.”

Escalating violence

The Israel’s Influence conference is organized by the nonprofit foundation the American Educational Trust and the Institute for Research: Middle Eastern Policy.

Medea Benjamin, the co-founder of the peace group Code Pink, told Salon that the conference is based on meetings her organization had organized in the past. In early March, Code Pink held a similar event, the 2016 Summit on Saudi Arabia, which explored Saudi influence in U.S. politics and called into question the U.S. relationship with the theocratic absolute monarchy, which funds and exports extremism throughout the world. Salon reported on this summit as well.

Levy lit up the room with his lighthearted yet somber assessment of the situation in Israel-Palestine.

“Life in Palestine now is the cheapest ever,” he explained in the keynote address. “Never was it so cheap, never was it so easy to kill Palestinians.”

For Palestinians in the West Bank, which Israel has illegally occupied since 1967, violence has become a part of everyday life under military occupation. In recent months, however, this violence has greatly accelerated. Since October 2015, approximately 180 Palestinians have be killed, along with around 30 Israelis. Almost every day, there is yet another story of yet another death.

Every few years, Israel wages a war with the Palestinian militant group Hamas in Gaza, upon which Israel has imposed a blockade for almost a decade. The Israeli government controls everything that enters Gaza and controls its waters, airspace, electromagnetic field and even population registry, unofficially occupying the densely populated strip that it officially occupied until its 2005 withdrawal.

Israel meted out the largest yet surge of violence in its summer 2014 war on Gaza, known as Operation Protective Edge. The Israeli military, which human right groups accused of committing war crimes, killed more than 2,250 Palestinians, roughly two-thirds of whom were civilians, including more than 550 children, according to U.N. figures. On the other side, 66 Israeli soldiers were killed, along with six civilians. 92 percent of the people killed by Palestinian militants were soldiers.

Levy argued that, if the U.S. stopped giving billions in aid and guaranteeing impunity for Israel at the United Nation, the occupation would end within mere months.

If a president were committed to actually using punitive measure to pressure Israel to end the occupation, it would end, he claimed. “Israel would never be able to say no to a decisive president.”

He hence pressured Americans to take action against the occupation. “The key is now in your hands, America,” Levy said. “The key is now in your hands, activists, scholars.”

Rise of “fascism”

“The chances to change society from within Israel are so limited,” Levy lamented.

He is very critical of both the ruling right-wing Likud party and the centrist Israeli Labor Party. He noted that “to be a leftist in Israel is a curse.” Leftists in Israel are frequently called “traitors.”

In some of his columns, Levy has warned Israel is witnessing the rise of fascism — and he does not use the term lightly. Other politicians have not been so cautious. In 2012, right-wing Israeli lawmaker Miri Regev proudly declared on a TV interview that she is “happy to be a fascist.” Regev now serves as the minister of culture in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s far-right government.

During Israel’s summer 2014 war in Gaza, Levy received daily death threats for criticizing the Israeli military’s actions, and had to even hire a body guard to protect him. Israeli veterans have admitted that they were ordered to kill Palestinian civilians in the war — and killed Gazans because they were bored.

He said at the time that he saw the “first signs of fascism” in Israel. Since then, Levy argues things have gotten even worse. The year 2015, he wrote in a column, “heralded the start of blatant and unapologetic Israeli fascism.”

Although the violent, overtly racist far-right is on the rise in Israel, with fascistic groups like Lehava chanting “death to Arabs” in the streets and organizing anti-miscegenation squads, Levy argued this extremism masks the violence that is normalized in mainstream politics, which whitewashes the occupation and the Israeli governm

Black student leader disinvited from AIPAC for opposing Hillary Clinton

From The Electric Intifada
Rania Khalek Lobby Watch 20 March 2016

A Black student leader says AIPAC disinvited him from its conference after the Israel lobby group learned he had previously taken part in a protest against Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton.
The powerful Israel lobby group AIPAC has disinvited a youth leader from a major Black civil rights organization from its annual conference.

Da’Shaun Harrison, 19, is the vice president of the NAACP chapter at Morehouse College, the historically Black institution in Atlanta, Georgia, from which Martin Luther King Jr. graduated.

Harrison had his invitation to attend the conference revoked after AIPAC learned that he participated in an October protest against Hillary Clinton and that he supports Palestinian rights.

For years AIPAC, the most influential arm of the Israel lobby on Capitol Hill, has been recruiting students from historically Black colleges in an effort to counter growing support for Palestinian rights among young people of color.

Presidential frontrunners, Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump, both of whom are scheduled to speak at AIPAC’s conference, have attracted protests on the campaign trail from young Black activists involved in the movement to end state-sanctioned racial violence.

Harrison spoke to The Electronic Intifada about how AIPAC rescinded his invitation.

Based on Harrison’s account, it appears AIPAC is protecting Clinton and Trump by probing the activist histories of its Black student recruits, effectively shielding the candidates from the risk of dissent.

AIPAC has been similarly diligent in ensuring its conference is free of reporters critical of Israeli policy, as several openly adversarial journalists, including this writer, have been denied press credentials without reason.

In striking contrast, there are no reports of AIPAC subjecting members of pro-Israel Jewish groups to preemptive bans despite their publicized plans to protest Trump during his AIPAC speech.

AIPAC did not respond to a request for comment about Harrison’s exclusion.

Harrison says he was invited to AIPAC by an acquaintance from the Georgia chapter of the NAACP, who reached out to student leaders at historically Black colleges in the area on AIPAC’s behalf.

Harrison is well versed on the question of Palestine and is critical of Israel’s denial of Palestinian freedom, positions he credits to studying under intellectuals including Marc Lamont Hill, a Morehouse professor of African American studies who has been an outspoken advocate for Palestinian rights.

Harrison said that after reflection, he decided to accept AIPAC’s invitation and use the free trip as an opportunity to challenge his pro-Israel peers “on what it means to be Black students who are against racial injustices against ourselves” while being “pro-Israel and anti-Palestinian.”

His plans came to a crashing halt on Thursday when he got a phone call from an AIPAC representative interrogating him about his intentions.

Harrison declined to name the AIPAC representative, saying, “I don’t want this to be about an individual. This is about an establishment that openly backs the genocide of Palestinians and denies folks access to their conference due to opposing thoughts and fears.”

According to Harrison’s recollection, the AIPAC representative told him, “I heard from various people here that you have opposing views with Ms. Clinton and that you were a part of a group who disrupted her.”

Harrison was alarmed to learn that the man had apparently called his school and the NAACP acquaintance who invited him to the conference, asking probing questions about his activism.

“That’s just weird,” Harrison said.

He felt as though he was under surveillance.

Citing the protests at Trump’s campaign rallies, the AIPAC representative went on to ask Harrison if he intended to disrupt any of the presidential candidates attending the conference.

All presidential contenders are scheduled to speak at AIPAC except for Clinton’s Democratic Party competitor Bernie Sanders, who turned down the group’s invitation to appear in person.

AIPAC rejected Sanders’ offer to speak via video link, despite the fact that it has allowed other presidential candidates to do so in previous years and will allow Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu do so so this year.

While Harrison insisted he had no intention of protesting, for the sake of transparency, he noted that he supported Palestinian rights and the conference was not going to change his mind. He was simply going for the experience, not to protest.

The AIPAC representative told Harrison he needed to consult with his colleagues. A few minutes later he called back to tell Harrison it was best that he not come to the conference, though he awkwardly extended an invitation for Harrison to participate in a future propaganda trip to Israel.

“I laughed and said I think this is very silly, me not being allowed to be in a space because of a disruption that has nothing to do with this conference,” Harrison said.

Protesting Hillary
“There’s no reason that Hillary Clinton should be at AIPAC while Ted Cruz and Donald Trump are there as well,” Harrison told The Electronic Intifada.

“Actually, I don’t think there’s a big difference between Hillary and Trump,” he then added. “Trump represents 1960’s racism and she represents today’s quiet racism.”

It was this disdain for Clinton’s record on race that spurred Harrison to help organize the protest that got him disinvited from the AIPAC conference.

Back in October, during a campaign event in Atlanta, Harrison joined with a coalition of Black student activists from historically Black colleges called AUC Shut It Down to confront Hillary Clinton about her atrocious record on criminal justice.

“The Hillary action came from a group of us understanding her track record of advocating against Black and brown folks via the death penalty, three-strikes rule, mass incarceration and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” Harrison said.

“Black Lives Matter has become a prop in this election,” Harrison added, referring to the protest movement that arose after a series of high-profile police and vigilante killings of young Black men and women.

“Black pain should not be exploited or capitalized on, yet Hillary has been using the moms of Black teens who have been shot and killed as an endorsement,” he said.

The students expected to receive overwhelming support from those in attendance, but the opposite happened.

The room was incredibly hostile. Police tried to drag them out as “Hillary supporters were in our faces shouting at us to let her speak,” Harrison said.

But that wasn’t the worst of it for him.

“What hurt most,” Harrison said, was seeing Representative John Lewis of Georgia “trying to physically remove us. When he recognized we weren’t going to leave, he went and stood behind Hillary to show his support for her.”

Lewis’ prominent leadership role in the civil rights movement as a student, including organizing the 1965 Selma to Montgomery marches alongside Martin Luther King Jr., was depicted in Ava DuVernay’s award-winning 2014 feature film Selma.

“You’re raised to see John Lewis as a civil rights icon,” said Harrison. “We did the same thing he would have done in his time. So to see him go against us, it was eye opening, but also very hurtful.”

The backlash from Clinton supporters after the action was punishing, with some students receiving death threats, according to Harrison.

Until the AIPAC debacle, Harrison assumed the backlash was behind him. But it turns out that protesting the former secretary of state, much like protesting Israel, may come with long-lasting consequences.

Friday, March 18, 2016

The Moral Relativity Principle No Longer Applies To Progressives

from OPEd news by Vicki Lambent

Progressives are intimate with the principle of voting for the lesser of two evils, also knows as the moral relativity principle. Most of us have never been offered candidates whose policies echo ours. For decades, we've been relegated to voting "against" rather than "for." It's a principle that's ingrained in us from the time we're little baby progressives"and it's an extremely hard habit to break, especially when we feel we have no alternative. However, break it we must, or we will never have representation.

In this election, we have an alternative. In Senator Bernie Sanders, we have a truly progressive candidate who has spent 25 years in Congress passing substantive legislation, never wavering from his ethics and principles for the sake of money or power. Unlike past progressive candidates, Senator Sanders has built a strong following, has more than adequate funding, and can handily beat any Republican candidate in the general election.

Yet the DNC is supporting--again!--Hillary Clinton"a weak, flawed candidate who constantly flip-flops on crucial issues, has a record of hawkish foreign policy, may be indicted for violations of national security, is in bed with corporate interests, has a consistently unfavorable rating with voters, and will be hard-pressed to beat even the weakest Republican in the general election.

And with every primary that Hillary Clinton wins, even those by slim margins, Bernie Sanders' supporters are increasingly exhorted, threatened, and insulted regarding voting for Clinton in the general election. "You have to unite the Party!" they say, as if we progressives divided it and, therefore, are responsible for healing the fracture by compromising every principle we hold dear. "If you don't vote for Hillary, you're responsible if Trump wins," they say, completely disregarding the DNC's, media's, and their own complicity in shutting out the progressive candidate while polishing the tiara for the establishment queen at every opportunity.

It's time to revisit the moral relativity principle and its ethical implications, because the lesser of two evils is still, by definition, evil. My vote for Barack Obama in 2012 means that, in some small way, I bear a portion of responsibility for drone strikes and the fast-tracking of the TPP. In a like manner, I can celebrate that my vote contributed to the Iran nuclear deal, the classification of broadband as a public utility, normalized relations with Cuba, the death of the KXL, and the legalization of same sex marriage. I will always know what my "for" vote accomplished, but I can never know what voting against the Romney/Ryan ticket prevented"and I have a rich imagination.

In the end, therefore, a vote for Hillary Clinton is not a vote against Donald Trump; it's a vote of support for Hillary Clinton. I cannot base my vote on the "D" after her name, ignoring the statements, votes, policies, decisions, and viewpoints that are on her record, because that record belies the promises she is making on the campaign trail. Nor do I buy the argument that she has "evolved," because the recent record disproves it.

Based on her record as candidate, Secretary of State, Senator, and FLOTUS, and based on her plans, a vote for Hillary Clinton, then, is a vote supporting:

- the "drive-by regime change" in Libya, including the destruction of the Great Man-Made River and of the budding pan-African union with its own gold-based currency, so that France and Britain could continue neocolonialism and divide up Libyan oil;

- the continuation of fracking across the US, unless states ban it, and attempts to garner global fracking deals for US corporations;

- trade deals that further deprive Americans of jobs, but benefit corporations;

- increased arms to Israeli PM Netanyahu and his genocidal rejection of the two-state solution;

- no restoration of Glass-Steagall and no attempt to break up or rein in Wall Street;

- college still unaffordable for most, and student debt still overwhelming;

- a probable attempt at regime change in Syria, possibly with American troops on the ground;

- no national health care plan, even though the ACA is inadequate in that millions are still uninsured and millions more can only afford catastrophic coverage;

- increased military presence around Iran and a possible unilateral abrogation of the nuclear deal; inadequate revenue due to an unwillingness to tax the 1% and corporations sufficiently;

- no progress made on institutional racism, including police brutality, demilitarizing police forces, equality in the justice system, investigating and prosecuting redlining, urban renewal, equal funding for public schools, closing the wage gap, DoJ investigations, etc.;

- continued human rights violations as a result of foreign and corporate policy;

- a presidential Cabinet drawn from the corporate and military-industrial sectors; a minimum wage that is not a living wage is most parts of the country;

- further rigging of the electoral system and the federal government for profit.

None of this aligns with my ethics and principles as a progressive. I find these actions and ideas as repugnant as those of Donald Trump, if not more, because they were done or are planned by a candidate who calls herself a progressive. I cannot and will not support such a candidate. And if the Democratic Party has decided to abandon progressives in favor of the oligarchy, then it doesn't deserve my support either. Perhaps I haven't discarded the moral relativity principle so much as revised it. It's better to stand up for the progressive policies I believe in than to support the Democratic Party's slightly slower slide into Third World totalitarianism because I fear the Republican Party's slightly quicker slide.

That's the part that Hillary's supporters miss: Hillary and Bernie are not two sides of the same coin. Hillary and Trump are.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

New York Times' Attempted Whitewash of Israel Poll

James Zogby, President, Arab American Institute

This past week the Pew Research Center released the results of a massive poll of Israeli public opinion - focusing on their attitudes toward religion, identity, values, and political issues facing their country. In the days that followed the release, a number of articles appeared in Israel and the US commenting on the study's findings. The strangest and most troubling of them was a piece titled "Deep Rifts Among Israeli Jews Are Found in Religion Survey." It was printed in the New York Times on March 8, 2016. Written by Isabel Kershner, the article was a transparent effort to combine straight reporting with tortured apologia.

Kershner began the piece with a simple recitation of a few of the poll's findings: "a majority of Israeli Jews marry within their own religious or secular groups" and the different sub-groups "largely separate social worlds" and have "starkly contrasting positions on many public policy issues" like whether West Bank settlements contribute to Israel's security.

Kershner's straightforward reporting ended, however, when she came to one of the poll's more disturbing findings - "that nearly half of Israeli Jews said that Arabs should be expelled or transferred from Israel". Unable to allow that result to stand on its own, in the same sentence, Kershner added "although Israeli pollsters found the wording of the question problematic".

The addition of that phrase was a classic example of deflection - a device often used in New York Times' articles to sow doubt or confusion among readers so as to soften the blow of facts that are damaging to Israel. Here's how it works - first the "fact" is stated. Then it is quickly followed (usually in the same sentence) by unsubstantiated remark that questions the "fact". The reader is then left confused.

Kershner didn't get around to explaining exactly what was "problematic" about the wording of the poll question until she after she meandered for several paragraphs discussing other results from the poll. Only then did she return to the "transfer" issue, devoting the last one-quarter of her piece to quotes from Israeli pollsters telling us that "the phrasing of the question is very blunt" or that it is possible that Israeli Jewish respondents may have understood the question to imply that Arabs would "voluntarily" leave or be compensated for leaving [as if that would somehow have made their response less racist?].

Kershner quoted another pollster who agonized over the transfer question, saying "I would feel uncomfortable incriminating the Israeli public based on one question" adding her fear that this "one question" would "'be used as a weapon' by Israel's critics"

Actually, the question was quite clear. And it wasn't the only question in the poll in which Israelis displayed troubling views. And, while I might quibble with the term "weapon", it would be irresponsible not to raise serious questions about what this poll reveals about racism in Israel.

First let's look at the "problematic" question and ask whether it was too vague, too blunt, or too unclear.

Here is what Israelis were asked: do you agree or disagree with this statement "Arabs should be expelled or transferred from Israel"? In response to this direct question - 48% of Israeli Jews agreed, while 46% disagreed. Among Israelis who are religious and those who received a Jewish education - two-thirds agreed with the idea that Arabs should be expelled or transferred.

This is not the only disturbing finding in this poll. Israeli Jews were also asked if they agreed with the statement "Jews deserve preferential treatment in Israel". 79% agreed - including over 95% of those who are religious and those who received a Jewish education.

The bottom line is that Israeli political culture has become increasingly intolerant.

With 8 in 10 Israeli Jews supporting preferential treatment for themselves at the expense of the 20% of the population that is Arab and with almost one-half of Israeli Jews calling for Arab citizens to be expelled or transferred - we can only conclude that this is a society and a political culture that is in trouble. This dangerous reality needs to be confronted honestly and directly. Whitewashing this situation only allows the danger to grow. The Times has done Israelis, Palestinians, and its readers a disservice.

Follow @AAIUSA for more.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

How the Clintons degraded and dirtied the label of "Liberal"

An interesting article by Cory Robin. Before the Clinton's rightwing poison polluted the Democratic Party, there were some forces in the DP that opposed the worst of US Imperialism's interventions in Latin America. Kissinger (Hillary's self-proclaimed role model) & Nixon planned Pinochet's bloody coup in 1973 and even moderate Democrats protested it. Moderate to liberal Democrats opposed Reagan's support of death squads in El Salvador and Guatemala and voted to cut off U.S. aid to the Nicaraguan Contras trying to reverse the Sandinista Revolution. Now we have neo-con Hillary out to police the world for the greater glory of Wall Street. --RC

Liberalism and the Millennials

Last night, Hillary Clinton and her online supporters went after Bernie Sanders over his support in the 1980s for Fidel Castro and the Sandinistas. Glenn Greenwald shows why Clinton is in no position to be lecturing Sanders about tyranny in other countries. Clinton has not only walked the walk, but also talked the talk, on behalf of serial violators of human rights across the globe: Saudi Arabia, Syria, Israel, Honduras, the Gulf states, not to mention “Kissinger is a friend, and I relied on his counsel when I served as secretary of state.” As I said in a tweet last night, “Sanders stood with the Sandinistas, Clinton stands with Kissinger. Is this really a tough one?”

But Glenn raises another point worth mentioning.

Vehement opposition to Reagan’s covert wars in Central America, as well as to the sadistic and senseless embargo of Cuba, were once standard liberal positions. As my colleague Jeremy Scahill, observing the reaction of Clinton supporters during the debate, put it in a series of tweets: “The US sponsored deaths squads that massacred countless central and Latin Americans, murdered nuns and priests, assassinated an Archbishop. I bet commie Sanders was even against Reagan’s humanitarian mining of Nicaraguan waters & supported subsequent war crimes judgement vs. US. Have any of these Hillarybots heard of the Contra death squads? Or is it just that whatever Hillary says must be defended at all costs? The Hillarybots attacking Sanders over Nicaragua should be ashamed of themselves.”

In high school, I would say I was a moderate to liberal Democrat. It was an article of faith among my set that US intervention in Central America was not only strategically unwise but also morally unsound. Still reeling from Vietnam, nauseated over the barbarity of the Contras and the Salvadoran death squads, it didn’t take much in the way of liberal sympathy or imagination to think that anything the US did in Nicaragua, Guatemala, or El Salvador—short of getting the hell out of there—would be a disaster for the peoples of those nations.

Again, this was a position that was widely shared among mainstream liberals and Democrats. I just looked up the 1982 House vote on the Boland Amendment, which prohibited all military aid to the Contras, and it was 243 in favor, 171 against. Which means that some portion of moderates also adopted this anti-interventionist position.

The only reason Clinton and her supporters on Twitter can so reflexively attack Sanders over this issue—not his support for the Sandinistas or Castro, but his opposition to US intervention—is that, thanks to two decades of liberal support for regime change and humanitarian intervention, the whole discourse of liberal anti-interventionism has practically disappeared from the scene. Today, the only solid and reliable anti-interventionists you can find are either left-wing anti-imperialists, paleo- or other brands of conservative at outlets like The American Conservative, or an ever narrowing circle of IR realists like Steve Walt.

Which brings me to the millennials. I know a number of young leftists, in their 20s or early 30s, who have no experience or memory of this liberal anti-interventionism that I’ve been describing here. When they think liberal, they think of the Clintons and their allies, who are not only terrible on the issue of US power around the world, but also terrible on the question of economic justice and equality at home. They have no memory of a generation of left liberals who fought firmly for labor unions, who pushed hard for universal health care, public housing, and the like. They have no memory of a young Arthur Schlesinger rejecting Communism but nevertheless affirming that “class conflict is essential if freedom is to be preserved, because it is the only barrier against class domination.”

For liberals or leftists of my generation, or for even older liberals and leftists, the discourse of anti-liberalism on the left has a resonance. It calls to mind some of the most bruising battles of the 20th century—Communists against parliamentary socialists, Popular Fronters and Henry Wallace Progressives against the Americans for Democratic Action, Irving Howe-style socialists against the New Left, and so on. For someone like myself, who identifies with the left but who nevertheless has a great deal of respect for the tradition of liberalism, it is imperative that there be a good and productive tension between liberalism and the left.

So I can imagine when liberals and leftists of my generation, or those who are even older, hear the flat refusal of millennials on the left to even entertain the possibility of a dialogue with liberalism, it can seem scary, like a return to some of the worst moments of intra-liberal/left fratricide. But this is where history can get in the way. For the millennials, the bankruptcy of liberalism is not Walter Reuther or Hubert Humphrey or A. Phillip Randolph or Bayard Rustin; it’s Clinton, Clinton, and Clinton.

The gulf today between liberalism and the left is not of the millennials’ or even of the left’s making; it’s the product of a liberalism that has been moving right for decades and that, whatever feints to the left it has been making more recently, still has some way to go before there can be a useful and productive dialogue of difference.