Friday, April 29, 2016

How Israel lobby manufactured UK Labour Party’s anti-Semitism crisis


Asa Winstanley The Electronic Intifada 28 April 2016

Former London mayor and long-time Palestinian rights campaigner Ken Livingstone is the latest victim of the UK Labour Party’s witch hunt over alleged anti-Semitism. TLA WENN Photos
Last year, socialist stalwart Jeremy Corbyn won the leadership of the UK’s Labour Party by a landslide.

Since then, there has been a steady flow of claims by Israel’s supporters that Corbyn has not done enough to combat anti-Semitism.

This has only accelerated in the lead-up to a major test for Corbyn, the UK local elections on 5 May.

Even as this story was in preparation, two more victims were claimed in the war against his leadership.

Lawmaker Naz Shah and the former mayor of London, long-time Palestine campaigner Ken Livingstone, were also suspended from the party – within hours of being accused of anti-Semitism.

But an investigation by The Electronic Intifada has found that some of the most prominent stories about anti-Semitism in the party are falsified.

The Electronic Intifada can reveal that a key player in Labour’s “anti-Semitism crisis” covered up his involvement in the Israel lobby.

Most Labour members so accused are in reality being attacked for expressing opinions in favor of Palestinian human rights and particularly for supporting the boycott of Israel.

Labour activists, many of them Jews, have told The Electronic Intifada that false accusations of anti-Semitism are being used as a weapon against Corbyn by the party’s right-wing.

Corbyn has been active in the Palestine solidarity movement for more than three decades. In an interview with The Electronic Intifada last year, he endorsed key elements of the Palestinian call for a boycott of Israel. For example, he urged an end to weapons trading with Israel.

His election represented a radical shift in Labour, a popular revolt at the grassroots membership level.

Although Labour’s membership has grown since Corbyn’s victory, he has been under constant attack from right-leaning politicians within the party. In an attempt to weaken his position, some of his critics have manufactured a “crisis” about alleged anti-Semitism.

Attacks on Corbyn have escalated in the lead-up to next week’s local elections. Poor results would be seized upon by his enemies within the party.

Witch hunt
Charley Allan, a Jewish member of the party, and a Morning Star columnist, has described the current atmosphere in the press and Labour Party as a “witch hunt.”

It has reached such an absurd volume that any usage of the word “Zionist” is deemed to be anti-Semitic – although tellingly not when used by self-described Zionists.

Where real instances of anti-Jewish bigotry have come to light, the leadership and party machine have taken robust action.

According to The Spectator, the party’s general secretary Iain McNicol told a recent meeting of Labour lawmakers that everyone who had been reported for anti-Semitism had either been suspended or excluded.

Corbyn has responded to the media storm by repeatedly condemning anti-Semitism and saying that anyone making an anti-Semitic remark is “auto-excluded from the party.”

John McDonnell, the shadow finance minister and a long-standing Corbyn ally, told The Independent that any party member found by an investigation to be expressing anti-Semitic views should be expelled for life. “If people express these views, full stop they’re out,” McDonnell said.

Smears of anti-Semitism against Corbyn started even before he was elected.

During his leadership campaign in the summer of 2015, the establishment media worked itself into a frenzy of anti-Corbyn hysteria, led more than any other paper by the liberal Guardian.

One of the recurring themes in this campaign was Corbyn’s long-standing support for Palestinian human rights.

Because of this, attempts were made to say outright, or to imply, that Corbyn was a secret anti-Semite, or that he associated with, or tolerated “notorious” anti-Semites.

Although these hit jobs gained some traction, they were soon debunked, and ultimately seemed to have little impact on the leadership election.

This dishonest theme is now being revisited. In February, the slow drip of anti-Semitism scare stories burst into a flood.


An “anti-Semitism scandal” erupted in the Oxford University Labour Club – an association of student supporters of the party.

But as evidence he cited the club’s decision, in a majority vote, to endorse Oxford’s Israeli Apartheid Week, an annual awareness-raising exercise by student groups which support Palestinian rights.

This connection was clearly designed to smear Palestine solidarity activists as anti-Semites – a standard tactic of the Israel lobby.

In fact, the similarity was no coincidence.

The Electronic Intifada can reveal for the first time evidence that Chalmers himself has been part of the UK’s Israel lobby.

Chalmers has worked for BICOM, the Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre.

Funded by the billionaire Poju Zabludowicz, BICOM is a leading pro-Israel group in London.

Chalmers once listed an internship with BICOM on his LinkedIn profile, although the page was deleted some time in February.

But even were this key fact not known, Chalmers’ accusations were not credible.

No one specific was named in his Facebook posting. He claimed that shortening the word Zionist to “Zio” and expressing support for the Palestinian political party and resistance organization Hamas were enough to prove anti-Semitism.

Chalmers did not reply to an emailed request for comment. He set his Twitter profile to private the day after the email was sent by The Electronic Intifada.

One of his tweets from 2014 sought to smear The Electronic Intifada with “Islamism.”

Chalmers has also been accused of disseminating a false allegation that a left-wing Labour student at Oxford had organized people into a group to follow a Jewish student around campus calling her a “filthy Zionist,” and that he had been disciplined as a result.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, the accused student said that he had reason to believe Chalmers may have been behind the dissemination of this smear.

Paul Di Felice, the current acting principal of the Oxford college in question, confirmed to The Electronic Intifada the authenticity of a statement from its late principal denying all the allegations. “I have found no evidence of any allegations being made to the college about” the student “involving anti-Semitism, or indeed anything else, during his time at the college,” the statement read.

The Electronic Intifada put all this to Alex Chalmers in an email, but he failed to reply.

Dirty tricks
The Oxford University Labour Club responded with a statement saying it was “horrified” at the accusations and would fully cooperate with an investigation launched by the party organization Labour Students.

It did not take long, however, for someone to leak names to the right-wing press.

Citing an anonymous “source at the club,” The Telegraph named two left-wingers at Oxford who were supposedly “being investigated over alleged anti-Semitism at Oxford University.”

Again, there were no further details. Chalmers’ dubious and obviously politicized accusations were raised in general terms.

One of the two, James Elliott, was a vocal advocate at Oxford University of BDS, the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel, and was photographed in the Telegraph article sitting next to Corbyn.

But in an email to a Daily Mail journalist, seen by The Electronic Intifada, Chalmers privately admitted that Elliott wasn’t involved. “I haven’t heard any allegations relating to him,” Chalmers wrote.

Both activists named by The Telegraph are part of Momentum, the grouping founded by Labour left-wingers in the wake of Jeremy Corbyn’s election victory to support his leadership.

The Electronic Intifada has seen evidence of a whispering campaign against the activists at Oxford. A dossier of allegations against the student Labour club is said to have been filed with the union’s Jewish society.

That society has posted a summary of the dossier on Facebook.

Asked in an email if he had been behind the dossier or the press leaks, Chalmers did not reply.

Hit pieces
Alex Chalmers’ Facebook post resigning from the Oxford University Labour Club was seized on by anti-Corbyn forces aiming to influence key internal elections to the Labour Party’s youth wing, in which the Momentum pair were both candidates.

On 19 February, the Guardian reported that Momentum candidates had swept the board in Young Labour’s elections, conducted by online ballot.

The Telegraph published its highly dubious hit piece four days later.

At the Young Labour conference the following weekend, several other positions remained to be elected. Elliott stood for the youth representative on Labour’s National Executive Committee (NEC).

After the smear campaign against him, Momentum candidate Elliott lost to right-wing Labour First candidate Jasmin Beckett – by only a tenth of a percentage point.

But Beckett was caught carrying out a dirty tricks campaign against Elliot.

As a result, a formal complaint has been submitted calling for her to be disqualified from the NEC.

The smear campaign drew on right-wing media insinuations against the Momentum pair at Oxford.

Beckett did not reply to an emailed request for comment.

“Go hard”
As first revealed by Morning Star, Beckett urged supporters to “get a few people tweeting” allegations against Elliot.

But because such negative campaigning is against Labour rules, Beckett cautioned supporters to distance themselves from her. She asked her supporters to remove “twibbons” – promotional badges for her election campaign – from their social media accounts before making allegations against Elliot.

One supporter, Josh Woolas – son of former Labour MP Phil Woolas – cautioned it “needs to look like a genuine complaint about racism and not a smear campaign!”

In a Facebook group chat titled #TeamJB (viewable in full on the Labour blog Left Futures, edited by the chair of Momentum), Beckett encouraged other young Labour members to share unsubstantiated hit pieces on Elliott from right-wing media.

She asked “do you actually want an anti-Semite as NEC rep?” She suggested her friends “get a few people tweeting saying ‘shocked my union GMB are supporting James Elliott who is anti-Semitic’ or something.”

“Let’s just get it out there,” agreed Labour activist Tom Jennings. “We’ve got a huge opportunity … thus shaving off votes for him at [the Young Labour] conference.”

The complaint against Beckett was subsequently rolled into another investigation into Chalmers’ allegations of anti-Semitism at Oxford, one ultimately taken over by Janet Royall, the Labour leader in the House of Lords, the unelected upper chamber of the UK parliament.

Labour Students conducted a hasty investigation into the Oxford allegations. But, Labour activists told The Electronic Intifada, it was so obviously botched that it was not credible.

That investigation was led by Michael Rubin, Labour Students’ national chairperson – who happened to be the boyfriend of one of Beckett’s allies, Rachel Holland. Holland was part of Beckett’s dirty tricks campaign, expressing support for it in the #TeamJB group chat.

Elliott told The Electronic Intifada he could not comment until the Royall investigation is concluded.

That seems unlikely to happen until after the crucial local elections at the earliest, and probably not until the summer, the BBC says, when Beckett is due to take her seat on the NEC.

The witch hunt expanded.

“Fresh row”
In March, Huffington Post talked up a “fresh row over Labour anti-Semitism.”

The website referred to how union official Jennie Formby had allegedly pointed out at a meeting of Labour’s NEC that Royall once took part in a sponsored trip to the Middle East organized by Labour Friends of Israel, a pressure group within the party.

Formby has successfully pushed at the NEC to have private security firm G4S banned from Labour conferences, due to its supply of equipment to Israeli prisons that practice torture against Palestinians.

The Jewish Chronicle claimed Unison’s Jennie Formby was “to be moved from her role partly as a result of her anti-Israel activism.” It cited no evidence.

The paper claimed the move represented a demotion by the union, the UK’s largest.

But the report was instantly denied by Formby and her union.

Formby said she never questioned Royall’s ability to conduct the investigation.

In fact, Formby said, she was appointed to the new job long before Chalmers made his allegations on Facebook.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Beinart’s Jewish double-bind: Support oppression or you’re out of the family

Even when he’s serving up a soul-crushing ultimatum, you have to give Peter Beinart some credit. By comparing Israel to “your violent, drug-addicted brother,” but saying that if you call the cops– i.e., support Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS)– to “make them change their destructive and self-destructive behavior” you are putting your “personal morality” ahead of family loyalty, he’s enraged Israel defenders and anti-Zionists alike. In this way, he becomes the personification of the untenable situation he writes about.

“When you boycott Israel, or reject the ideology on which it was founded [my emphasis], you are estranging yourself from much of the Jewish world” runs a pull-quote from Beinart’s Haaretz piece.

On social media, the paper’s slug and headline is: “For Jewish BDS supporters, personal morality trumps Jewish solidarity.” Those words were likely not of his choosing but they crystallize the implicit threat of ostracism and accusation of treason.

The ideology on which Israel was founded assigned Jews the goal of a nationalist state on Palestinian land. Palestinians were erased from all the founders’ early visions: Theodor Herzl wrote about Jewish policemen arresting Jewish sex workers, while Chaim Weizmann told the 1919 Paris peace conference he envisioned a state that would be “as Jewish as England is English.”

To maintain our good standing inside the Jewish family, Beinart implies, we need to swallow all that — even though this ideology entered Jewish life only recently, and deeply divided Jewish communities in the decades before 1948.

Equality and justice are universal values, not personal or selfish ones. As Beinart knows well, they’re often claimed to be “Jewish” values; he emphasizes that Jewish BDS activists “see their embrace of BDS as an expression of their Jewishness.”

As a person, not just as a Jew, I’m offended to hear that opposing segregation, colonialism, exile, massacres and the ongoing brutality necessary to repress a captive indigenous population, or supporting the internationally mandated return of refugees, means I’m selfishly imposing my personal morality at the expense of “family consensus.”

Of course, there’s been much debate as to whether values like justice and civil rights are really part of the Jewish tradition. I don’t want to add to our self-flattery; all I know is what I was taught when I was little. Fighting oppressors is a common thread running through so many of the stories Jewish children are raised on, whether it’s Pharoah in the fictitious Passover story (Jews were never slaves in Egypt), the Maccabees and zealots who resisted Greek and Roman-era tyrants like King Herod, through the Middle Ages and Inquisition up through the Tsar and the Nazis.

It’s a narrative designed to instill a strong desire for justice: a universal, not “Jewish” value, but one we have embraced. Jews were heavily represented in the Russian revolution, civil rights and the antiwar movements, as we are now in the push for justice in Palestine.

The only way for anyone raised on this tradition to support the kind of ethnic supremacism now on full display in Israel is through denial, extreme filtering of facts, and the construction of an elaborate counter-narrative that morphs oppressors into victims (of hostile Arab neighbors, anti-Semitism, “terrorism,” “double standards,” campus radicals, Barack Obama, and ultimately, the Palestinians who didn’t and still don’t accept a Jewish state on their land). Something needs to puncture that; Beinart’s essay helps, whether he wants it to or not.

Beinart perhaps unintentionally shows that American Jewry has created what family therapist Gregory Bateston identified as a “double bind“:

an emotionally distressing dilemma in communication in which an individual (or group) receives two or more conflicting messages, and one message negates the other. This creates a situation in which a successful response to one message results in a failed response to the other (and vice versa), so that the person will automatically be wrong regardless of response. The double bind occurs when the person cannot confront the inherent dilemma, and therefore can neither resolve it nor opt out of the situation.

So Jews who have been taught to hate oppression but taught that we must support Israel are in a classic double bind, of our own making:

Double binds are often utilized as a form of control without open coercion—the use of confusion makes them both difficult to respond to as well as to resist…

Further complications arise when frequent double binds are part of an ongoing relationship to which the person or group is committed [my emphasis].

The double bind, Wikipedia explains, is not a “no-win situation,” but worse: “the subject has difficulty in defining the exact nature of the paradoxical situation in which he or she is caught.”

Beinart accepts the burden of the double bind onto himself, so he deserves sympathy instead of pure castigation. Though he also rationalizes the ostracism of pro-BDS Jews by the Jewish establishment, saying they

“are excluded for taking positions that rupture the bonds of peoplehood. Israel is the world’s only Jewish state. It contains close to 40 percent of the Jews on earth.”

Fine. Who are these kinfolk whose connection I’m supposed to prize above my concerns for equality and my hatred for tyranny (that I first absorbed in Hebrew school)? The religious zealots storming al Aqsa? Half a million West Bank settlers? The 48% of Jewish Israelis who want to expel the remaining Palestinians, or the 79% who say Jews should be favored under Israeli law (which matches the Rome Statute definition of apartheid)? Or the 95% who supported the 2014 Gaza massacre? I may not have a lot in common with them.

Israel will blow up everybody’s spot, that’s been one of my expressions. In the Middle East, it’s been a poison pill: it blew up the long, happy relations between Arab Jews and Palestinian Muslims and Christians in Palestine during the many centuries before 1882. It blew up European promises of Arab autonomy for the Middle East after World War I, when the British carved off Saudi Arabia and handed it to the only family willing to acquiesce to their Balfour Declaration promise of a Jewish home in Palestine. It blew up entire Jewish communities throughout the Arab world, who were transferred to Israel following the 1947-48 Nakba.

Israel has blown up Beinart’s spot. He would like to see it as a glowing ideal, the redemption of the Jewish people’s history. But he’s uncomfortable insisting on preferential treatment for Jews, even as he claims it’s necessary. He wants to stand up for the “Jewish values” exemplified by young BDS activists, but he has to warn them that they’re estranging themselves from the Jewish community. He wants to be a progressive leader, but he understands many people will never consider Israel consistent with progressive values.

Israel blew up Bernie Sanders’s spot: he wanted to avoid foreign policy but in the end couldn’t avoid taking the heat for at least gesturing in the direction of Palestinian equality and dignity. It’s blown up the spot of Barack Obama, John Kerry, sundry official spokespersons and their likes: they know what’s going on, but they’re not allowed to say what they know. It’s got to sting for the first black president to pay endless lip service to our “shared values” with a hyper-militarized Jim Crow society. And yes, a lot of young Jews arguing with relatives at Passover last weekend had their spot blown up by Israel — as has anyone whose family or friendship connections have frayed or severed over support for Israel.

But more than anyone else, Zionism and Israel blew up the Palestinians’ spot. Whatever pain and disruption to relationships takes place among Jews who reject Zionism and support BDS, it’s minuscule compared to the price paid by Palestinians, all 11 million of whom live in either exile or under Israeli apartheid and occupation. A new essay on this site by Nada Elia is an important challenge to Jewish ex-Zionists like myself. It’s time, she says, for the Palestine solidarity movement to stop celebrating Jewish dissent. She is so right: all this focus on what Zionism has done to Jews has the perverse effect of making Jews victims once again, while erasing the people whose suffering is at the center of the problem.

We Jews need to stop wallowing in our own issues. Our family dysfunction isn’t that interesting to others, particularly the ones we’re oppressing. And we need to extinguish the offensive exceptionialism.

The paradox is that the Jewish establishment desperately needs to be challenged — by Jews, of course, young ones in particular — which means it will be exactly the kind of insular Jewish conversation that Palestine activists rightly find infuriating. We’re the ones who need to call the cops on our abusive sibling. But we need to do it without patting ourselves on the back, without dragging the rest of the Palestine solidarity movement into our family dysfunction.

Liberal Zionism is the solar plexus of the occupation. Making it untenable to be any kind of a “liberal” or progressive while supporting a supremacist, segregated state; and getting American Jews to “break up with Israel” could be one of the quickest and most powerful tools in cutting down what now props up Israeli apartheid. Once it’s become impossible for the type of (obviously very privileged) Jews who Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton see at Passover — the Michael Chabons of the world — to support or defend Israeli Jim Crow, and it’s just down to the neocons and Christian end-timers, US policy toward Israel might change very quickly. Without the perception that Jewish voters demand this kind of thing, the massive military aid, veto protection at the UN, one-sided “peace talks” mediation might come to an end. Media coverage would change too. This is already happening, but not fast enough.

This is the main reason that while I lovingly support Jewish Voice for Peace, I prefer to channel my own activism through other groups like Students for Justice in Palestine and the broad BDS movement that have a clear Palestine focus. Still, the communications strategist in me knows the P.R. value of a Chabon defection, or of young IfNotNow activists getting arrested at a “Liberation Seder” sit-in at the office of Islamophobia lobby group Anti-Defamation League. Or of a Broad City episode that skewers Birthright propaganda/mating tours and Israeli militarism from a Jewish perspective. These do more than help protect non-Jewish Palestine solidarity activists from phony antisemitism charges; they show the self-appointed American Jewish leadership that they don’t represent our people’s future. Instead of papering over our objections, we expose them for all the world to see and undermine the myth of solid Jewish support for Israel — which is the basis for US support.

And, not that it should be of any interest to Palestinians, who have much bigger concerns, but I refuse to accept the double bind. I refuse to be read out of the Jewish family just because I reject colonialism and segregation. The burden of moral failure falls entirely on those who support discrimination.

America’s 83 Ignoramuses Are Enabling Destruction by Israel

from Haaretz

Your money, senators, is being spent on maintaining a brutal, illegal occupation that your country claims to oppose.

Gideon Levy Apr 28, 2016

Netanyahu waves during his address to Congress, Washington, March 3, 2015.Reuters
Large U.S. Senate majority urges Obama to boost Israel military aid
Israeli army giving its soldiers a license to kill
On Palestinian human rights, we in America need to move from talk to action
The 83 U.S. senators who urged the president to increase military assistance to Israel are 83 ignoramuses and their letter is a disgrace. Israel of all countries? Military assistance of all needs?
Increasing military aid won’t add one iota of security to Israel, which is armed to the teeth. It will harm Israel. Those 83 out of 100 senators base their extraordinary demand on “Israel’s dramatically rising defense challenges.”
What are they talking about? What “rising challenges”? The rise in the use of kitchen knives as a deal-breaking weapon in the Middle East? The challenge for one of the world’s strongest armies to survive against young girls brandishing scissors? Hamas’ tunnels in the sand? Hezbollah, which is bleeding in Syria? Iran, which has taken a new path?

It’s time they expanded their narrow view and reduced the enormous aid they shower on Israel’s arms industry – one of the world’s largest weapons exporters – and its army.
The United States is allowed, of course, to waste its money as it sees fit. But one may ask, senators, if it makes sense to invest more fantastic sums to arm a military power when tens of millions of Americans still have no health insurance and your senate is tightening its purse strings despite the challenges of climate change.
A world power is arming a regional power as part of a corrupt, rotten deal. Your money, senators, is largely being spent on maintaining a brutal, illegal occupation that your country claims to oppose – but finances.

The weapons you provide are for a brazen state that dares defy America more than any of its allies does. It ignores America’s advice and even humiliates its president. It gets twice the aid you give Egypt, an ally that needs the money much more. It’s three times more than you give Afghanistan, which is devastated in part because of you.
It’s almost four times more than you give Jordan, which is in a precarious state due to refugees and the Islamic State. To Vietnam, which you destroyed, you gave $121 million, and to Laos, which you ruined, $15 million. Impoverished Liberia received $156 million and awakening, liberated South Africa $490 million.
But for Israel, even $3 billion a year isn’t enough. It gets more than any other country in the world yet insists on $4 billion, not a cent less, including an unconditional commitment for a decade.
If you’ve already decided to pour such huge sums on Israel, why on its army of all things? Have you seen what its hospitals look like? And if you’re financing weapons, why not condition it on the only democracy in the region’s appropriate behavior?
What do you have over there in the world’s most important legislature? An automatic signing machine for letters supporting Israel? An ATM for the Jewish lobby’s every whim? Only 17 of 100 senators were courageous enough, or bothered to think for a moment, before they signed another scandalous venture by AIPAC and the Israeli Embassy.
More money to arm Israel will end in blood. It must end in blood. There are old weapons that must be used and new weapons that must be tried (and then sold to Azerbaijan and Ivory Coast).
This destructive, murderous force will fall again on devastated houses in Gaza, and America will finance it all once again. The money will also corrupt Israel. If this is the prize for its refusal to make peace and its flouting of international law, why shouldn’t it behave this way? Uncle Sam will pay.
The senators who signed the letter didn’t act for either their country’s good or Israel’s. It’s doubtful whether they know what they signed. It's doubtful whether they know what the real situation is.
Maybe among them are people of conscience or people familiar with their country’s national interests. But the blood money will serve neither those interests nor morality.
read more:

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Israeli Arab Lawmaker Refuses Holocaust Day Invite: Israel Today Is Like Germany in 1930s

Joint Arab List MK Zoabi says that she respects the memory of those killed in the Holocaust, but that the 'Holocaust obligates us not to be silent when racist laws are legislated.'

Jonathan Lis and Almog Ben Zikri Apr 20, 2016 7:22 PM
Hanin Zoabi, a lawmaker from the Joint Arab List, participates in a pro-Palestinian demonstration in the northern Israeli town of Sakhnin October 13, 2015.Reuters
Knesset suspends three Israeli-Arab lawmakers over visits with families of slain terrorists
Controversial Israeli Arab lawmakers know exactly what they are doing
There's no place in Israel for an honest Arab
MK Haneen Zoabi (Joint Arab List) has turned down an invitation to participate in a Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremony, citing her inability to speak out against what she called the “frightening similarity” between Nazi Germany’s behavior and Israel’s policies in the occupied territories, or about Israel’s “cynical exploitation” of the Holocaust.
The ceremony at Kibbutz Yad Mordechai is the first Holocaust Remembrance Day event to which Zoabi has ever been invited in her capacity as a Knesset member.

Zoabi said she respects the memory of those killed in the Holocaust, but objects to the way Israel teaches the Holocaust to future generations.

“How can you teach the lessons of the Holocaust when you don’t discern the frightening similarity between what is happening today all around us and what happened in Germany in the 1930s?” she wrote the organizers.
“The Holocaust obligates us not to be silent when racist laws are legislated, not to be silent when natives are exiled, not to be silent when their land and property is stolen, not to be silent when entire neighborhoods and entire families are bombed and wiped off the face of the earth, and not to be silent when political activists are put in administrative detention. It obligates us to raise a loud outcry. But from the Jewish side of our reality, all that is heard is a weak voice, along with the silenced Palestinian voice.”
Zoabi also charged that the Holocaust is taught in Israel “in a selective and even manipulative fashion. You shouldn’t teach the lessons of the Holocaust to increase motivation to defend yourself by humiliating and oppressing the other; you shouldn’t teach the lessons of the Holocaust by adopting a policy of closure, exploitation, theft and murder. This would be cynical exploitation – selective, misleading and, in the end, antagonistic to the meaning of the Holocaust.”

Therefore, she continued, she cannot take part in the ceremony “because I’m obligated to raise a loud outcry, and it’s clear to me that this can’t be done during the planned ceremony.”
“Out of respect for the Holocaust, its victims and its lessons, I appeal to you and beg you to deal critically with the Israeli usage, which exploits and minimizes the Holocaust; to educate Israelis to critical thinking and moral awareness; and to open their eyes to the ongoing oppression of the Palestinian people,” she concluded.
Zoabi, from the Balad party, has drawn widespread criticism in Israel for her firebrand political views and her participation in the Mavi Marmara flotilla. She recently reached a plea deal with Israeli legal authorities for an incident in which she insulted a police officer and incited a Nazareth crowd against him. She was also barred from participating in the last election, but Israel's Supreme Court overturned the election board's decision.
read more:

Saturday, April 23, 2016

The (un)Democratic Primary: Why We Need a New Party of the 99%

APRIL 21, 2016


Despite a decisive victory Tuesday providing further confirmation of her likely nomination, in many respects Hillary Clinton emerges from the New York primary more damaged, her party more divided, than she entered it.

What came to be called The Battle of New York has served only to further expose what millions of people in the U.S. are becoming painfully aware of – the Democratic Party primary is rigged in favor of the establishment.

A discussion which started with the top-down superdelegate system and enormous influence of corporate money in politics, has gone on to raise awareness about the generally undemocratic nature of the Democratic primary and party itself – with its myriad of anti-democratic voting rules, frontloading of conservative states, heavy tilting of the playing field by the media establishment, and antagonistic role of Democratic Party leaders towards grassroots challengers like Sanders.

Before yesterday’s primary even began, more than 27% of New Yorkers (3 million people) were excluded by restrictive voting laws as well as the removal of previously registered voters identified as “inactive.” In one Brooklyn precinct, officials said 10% of those who showed up to vote found their names had been purged. In the county in which Brooklyn resides, more than 125,000 voters had been cut from the Democratic rolls, leading to a massive 14% drop of eligible voters in 5 months time.

Meanwhile, in upstate New York polling station hours were substantially cut back in areas more favorable to Sanders. On top of all this, in a rule hardly anyone was aware of, only voters who registered as Democrats by last October 9th were eligible to vote. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio felt compelled to comment, “The perception that numerous voters may have been disenfranchised undermines the integrity of the entire electoral process, and must be fixed.” The city’s comptroller vowed to “undertake an audit of the operations and management of the Board of Elections.”

While Clinton’s 15-point margin of victory is almost certainly greater than the sum of irregularities, it is equally clear that if independents and others wrongly excluded could vote, the outcome would have been far closer and Sanders might even have won.

Closed primaries like New York’s are broadly unfavorable to grassroots challenges, purging from the process the millions of people registered as independent who have already drawn conclusions about the corrupt character of both parties.

The power of the New York media establishment was on full display during the primary as it declared open war on Sanders. Even “progressive” papers like the New York Daily News went all out, repeatedly running sensationalized, libelous front-page attacks on him.

Perhaps the most important result of the New York primary was not the vote, but the political impact of Sanders’ campaign on the tens of thousands actively involved or closely watching over the past days and weeks.

Not Just New York

National corporate media have weighed in heavily on behalf of Clinton throughout the primary process. First with a virtual media blackout in 2015, while Clinton was portrayed as the inevitable nominee and Trump received more than 20 times the media coverage. But as Sanders became more clearly a threat, the media establishment went all out trying to discredit him. From endless attacks on his policy proposals by prominent liberal figures like Paul Krugman, to onslaughts like that of the Washington Post on March 1, where they published one anti-Sanders article an hour for 16 hours.

Voting irregularities have also popped up in state after state. While some were undoubtedly exaggerated, others had real effects. In Arizona, where there were five-hour lines at the polls, many people also saw their voter registrations switched without their knowledge.

The primary as a whole is heavily skewed toward older, wealthier party loyalists. Nationally less than 15% of eligible voters will participate in the Democratic primaries and caucuses.

Working people have seen the pro-corporate character of the Democratic Party leadership itself on full display. It is no accident that when Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley came out to endorse Bernie Sanders last week, he was the very first Senator to do so. By comparison, 40 Senators have come out for Hillary, along with 166 House Representatives. To this establishment, Sander’s call for a political revolution against billionaires and wealthy campaign donors is utterly unacceptable. This Democratic leadership bases itself on the exchange of favors and on a revolving door of influence between elected positions and lucrative corporate and lobbyist careers. Meanwhile they use their weight and influence to whip labor, and church leaders into line.

Add to this the combined power of Wall Street Super PACs and you have a primary and political party which is hostile terrain for a candidate of the 99%.

One simple fact reveals the rigged character of the system: National polls consistently show Bernie Sanders enjoys, by far, the highest favorability rating of all presidential candidates, and beats out all Republicans in head-to-head match-ups. Yet he will very likely be eliminated before the general election if he plays by the rules of the two-party system.

An Historic Opportunity

We are entering what is possibly the most favorable moment in U.S. history to launch a new left party. Public trust is collapsing in both major parties, the establishment media, and all the key institutions propping up American capitalism. Eight years since the Great Recession, with most workers still suffering despite the recovery on Wall Street, all the built-up anger and discontent is expressing itself in a bitter revolt against establishment Democratic and Republican leaders.

This is the context for the dramatic rise of Bernie Sanders who has run, by any measure, the strongest distinctly left-wing presidential campaign in American history since Eugene Debs (though Debs, who ran on the Socialist Party ticket, was clear about corporate America’s domination over the Democratic Party and did not make the fundamental mistake of running within that party) . Beginning his campaign with no name recognition, polling 3%, and without any elected figures of national significance backing him, Bernie has won more votes, more state primaries, raised more money, and mobilized more volunteers than any comparable left challenge in the Democratic Party’s history.

He has done all that with a genuinely left-wing platform, refusing corporate donations, embracing the socialist label, and making the call for “a political revolution against the billionaire class” his central slogan.

Even by the standards of mainstream politics, the strength of Sanders campaign is breathtaking. Clinton began the election with what, on paper, appeared set to be among the most formidable corporate election machines ever assembled. Yet in the last three months, with an average donation of $27, Sanders has tapped his expanding base of small donors – now over two million strong – to raise dramatically more than Clinton. In March alone Sanders raised $44 million to Clinton’s $29.5 million.

Just a year ago, every self-respecting mainstream pundit was still peddling the myth that no candidate refusing corporate contributions could be electorally viable, much less a candidate calling themselves a socialist! That idea is now dead.

No one can deny the potential for building a nationally viable left political party, completely independent of corporate cash, putting forward unapologetically left, working class policies. The only remaining question is one of leadership: will Sanders take the initiative and, if not, will the forces behind him pull it together?

A New Party

“I believe that we need to think very seriously, particularly as folks of color and progressives, about building either a new party or a new movement…”

Those were the words of Michelle Alexander, esteemed author of “The New Jim Crow,” speaking with Chris Hayes on MSNBC on April 1st. Three days later, writing in New York Daily News, the nation’s fourth largest circulation paper, Shaun King’s column began with the above quote, adding:

“I not only agree with Alexander, but I want to take it a step further — I think it’s already happening right before our very eyes. Political progressives across this country, in supporting the candidacy of Bernie Sanders, are completely rejecting the Democratic Party… We should form our own political party in which we are firmly and boldly against the death penalty, where we are for a living wage all across this country, where we are for a complete overhaul of the criminal justice system, where we are for radical reforms to protect the environment and curb global warming, where we are for the eradication of big money in politics, where we are willing to truly consider healthcare and education for all as a right and not a privilege.”

Approaching the same question from the opposite political standpoint, Paul Krugman’s April 8th New York Times column echoed Shaun King’s insight that a new party is emerging “right before our very eyes.” Krugman warns Bernie to tone down his attacks on Clinton or risk a deeper rupture from the Democratic Party, arrogantly asking: “Is Mr. Sanders positioning himself to join the ‘Bernie or bust’ crowd…? If not, what does he think he’s doing?”

Both Krugman and King are right. The stronger Bernie’s “political revolution against the billionaire class” has become, the more it has threatened to break out of the straightjacket imposed by the Democratic Party which, in the end, is completely dominated by big business.

That’s why my organization, Socialist Alternative, and #Movement4Bernie are petitioning Bernie to continue running through November as an independent or on the Green Party ticket with Jill Stein, if he is blocked in the rigged primary process, and to call a conference to discuss launching a new party of the 99%.

If there are concerns about helping elect a Republican, there is no reason Bernie could not at least run in the 40+ states where it’s absolutely clear the Democratic or Republican candidate will win, while not putting his name on the 5-10 closely contested “swing states.” This could still allow for a historic campaign if linked to building a new party for the 99% and laying the foundation for an ongoing mass political movement to run hundreds of left candidates for all levels of government, independent of corporate cash.

On the other hand, if despite all their dirty tricks against him, Sanders remains loyal to the Democratic Party and backs Clinton in the general election, it would mean the demoralization and disorganization of much of our movement. Yes, we need a strategy to push back right-wing Republicans, but collapsing the anti-establishment movement behind Bernie into the Clinton campaign – a false unity with the candidate of Wall Street and the political establishment – would leave the field wide open for right-populists like Trump or Cruz to expand their base.

If Sanders chooses that path, continuing the political revolution will mean Sandernistas boldly moving beyond Bernie.

An Independent Presidential Campaign

It’s time to break the rules. An aggressive independent campaign for president by Bernie Sanders, linked to building a new mass party for the 99%, could dramatically transform American politics. Bernie would not need to win the election to force a decisive leftward shift in U.S. society. Even registering a vote of 10 or 15 million for a new party (and the potential exists to win a far larger vote) could strike a crippling blow to the political monopoly of the two parties of American capitalism.

Around the world, where workers have won far-reaching reforms, like single-payer healthcare or free education or paid parental leave, it’s been through forming mass workers parties. In Canada, for example, trade unions launched the New Democratic Party with socialized medicine as their central demand. They won less than 15% of the national vote, and were blamed for tipping the vote to the conservatives, but to cut across the growth of the New Democratic Party, that conservative government granted Canadian workers their central demand – and Canada’s system of socialized medicine was born.

On the other hand, if Sanders drops out and endorses Clinton after the primaries, the Democratic Party will be free to tack right in the general election, relying on fear of the Republicans to keep their progressive base in line.

The stakes are simply too high to let this moment slip through our fingers. Capitalism is plunging humanity into a social and ecological catastrophe. Bernie’s campaign shows a viable fightback is possible. What’s missing is a strategy to sustain and grow our movement. Now is the time for bold action to build a fighting, working class political alternative – a party for the millions, not the millionaires.

Sign #Movement4Bernie’s petition calling on Bernie to run all the way and launch a new party of the 99%.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Is Hillary Clinton more dangerous than Donald Trump?

Rania Khalek The Electronic Intifada 14 April 2016

Actor Susan Sarandon recently caused a panic when she revealed her potential unwillingness to vote for Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton in a general election matchup with likely Republican nominee Donald Trump.

Sarandon was echoing an attitude shared by many supporters of Clinton’s Democratic opponent, Bernie Sanders, who say they will not vote for Clinton even if it means Trump becoming president of the United States.

In response, the establishment lost its collective mind.

New York Times columnist Charles Blow blasted “Bernie or Bust” voters for engaging in “scorched-earth electoral portentousness” mired in “petulance and privilege” and “filled with lust for doom.”

The Forward’s JJ Goldberg, in an article headlined “ ‘Bernie or Bust’ is Self-indulgent, Stubborn – and Dangerous,” warned that “[w]hining about [Clinton’s] weaknesses can only depress November turnout and hand Washington to the GOP, lock, stock and barrel.”

And Michael Tomasky of The Daily Beast lamented that these anti-Clinton refuseniks are mostly privileged white people with no skin in the game.

Even Hillary Clinton chimed in, tweeting: “Some folks may have the luxury to hold out for ‘the perfect.’ But a lot of Americans are hurting right now and they can’t wait for that.”

It has become accepted orthodoxy in establishment circles to view Trump as an authoritarian race-baiter who would present a major threat to the world if elected in November.

While this characterization is certainly well founded, it ignores the fact that Clinton is also dangerous to world stability. And unlike Trump, she has the blood on her hands to prove it.

If lesser evilism is the goal, as establishment pundits insist, it remains unclear who the lesser evil is – if the choice is limited to Trump or Clinton.

Warrior queen

On many issues, particularly trade and foreign policy, Clinton is to the right of Trump, with an inclination toward militaristic belligerence that more closely resembles a neoconservative war hawk than the progressive she claims to be.

For evidence, look no further than the neoconservatives themselves, who are so petrified of Trump’s noninterventionist approach to foreign policy, they are ready to line up behind Clinton.

This isn’t the first time Clinton has won the adoration of the war hawks.

Back in 2008, neoconservatives breathed a sigh of relief when President Barack Obama nominated Clinton as his secretary of state.

Richard Perle, former chair of the Defense Policy Board under President George W. Bush and a leading architect of the Iraq war, said of Clinton’s appointment, “I’m quite pleased … There’s not going to be as much change as we were led to believe.”

The neoconservative Weekly Standard also celebrated Clinton’s nomination, applauding her evolution from “First Feminist” to “Warrior Queen, more Margaret Thatcher than Gloria Steinem.”

Clinton went on to exceed neoconservative expectations.

Former Vice President Dick Cheney said he was impressed with Clinton’s work at the State Department, which amounts to a neoconservative seal of approval.

Appearing on MSNBC’s Morning Joe in 2014, Dan Senor, a leading neoconservative operative and former foreign policy advisor to 2012 Republican nominee Mitt Romney, declared, “Hillary is more hawkish than any of us!”

“Hillary is the neocon’s neocon,” added host Joe Scarborough. “It’s going to be fascinating if she decides to run and gets the nomination. She will be more of a saber-rattler, more of a neocon, than probably the Republican nominee. I mean, there’s hardly been a military engagement that Hillary hasn’t been for in the past twenty years.”

The love for Clinton isn’t at all surprising. After all, Clinton routinely accuses Palestinians of teaching their children to hate while closely aligning herself with Israel’s right-wing, Holocaust-revising Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a card-carrying neoconservative whose demagoguery rivals Trump’s.

She has expressed pride in making an enemy of “the Iranians” whose country she once threatened to “obliterate” and continues to threaten with sanctions.

And she likened Russian president Vladimir Putin’s actions in the Ukraine to Hitler’s population transfers before World War II.

Despite her 2014 mea culpa over backing the calamitous 2003 Iraq invasion, and her current effort to rebrand herself as a progressive, the war hawk label is one Clinton is still proud to wear – as when she jubilantly touted this week’s New York Daily News endorsement of her as a “superprepared warrior realist.”

Trail of blood

Clinton’s hawkishness goes far beyond inflammatory rhetoric.

While serving as secretary of state, she greenlighted enormous weapons deals to US-backed tyrants, dramatically strengthening the military prowess of despots who happened to be some of the Clinton Foundation’s most generous donors.

In a stunning demonstration of her failure to absorb even the most basic lessons of the Iraq war, Clinton spearheaded the Obama administration’s overthrow of Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi based on faulty intelligence.

After Gaddafi’s especially gruesome public lynching by US-backed Libyan rebels in 2011, Clinton could barely contain her excitement, gleefully telling CBS News, “We came, we saw, he died.”

Libya predictably descended into a lawless haven for extremist groups from across the region, including the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS.

Obama this week called the failure to prepare for the aftermath of Gaddafi’s overthrow the “worst mistake” of his presidency.

As secretary of state and the leading champion of the intervention, that planning would surely have been Clinton’s primary responsibility.

Libya wasn’t the only country Clinton meddled in.

Following in the footsteps of her mentor, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, Clinton supported and legitimized the right-wing Honduran military coup that ousted democratically elected President Manuel Zelaya in 2009, plunging Honduras into record-setting violence that sent thousands of children fleeing for their lives.

Clinton later advocated for the deportation of tens of thousands of unaccompanied Central American refugee children who sought asylum in the US in 2014 to “send a message” to their parents that “just because your child gets across the border, that doesn’t mean the child gets to stay.”

Nearly a third of those children had fled post-coup violence in Honduras.

Clinton reiterated her support for deporting them as recently as August.

Indigenous rights and environmental activist Berta Cáceres criticized Clinton’s role in the coup prior to her murder by a Honduran death squad on 3 March.

The Clinton campaign denied that its candidate bore any responsibility for the violence, casting her role in Honduras as “active diplomacy.” This week, Clinton again defended the overthrow of Zelaya.

Despite the trail of blood she left behind, Clinton remains confident in the righteousness of US-backed regime change.

Asked last month what she thought about America’s history of overthrowing democratically elected leaders around the world, Clinton invoked the specter of Nazi Germany, arguing, “Somebody could have assassinated Hitler before he took over Germany, would that have been a good thing or not?”

Even Trump recognizes Clinton’s hawkishness to some degree, telling a March rally in Detroit that “the Middle East is burning to a large thought because of Hillary Clinton’s failed policies and her concepts.”

The great neocon panic
In almost surreal contrast to Clinton, Trump has called for reducing America’s military presence abroad and has repeatedly stated his opposition to foreign intervention, calling the Iraq war that Clinton backed “a big fat mistake” that “destabilized the Middle East.”

He even suggested a policy of neutrality in peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, a proposal he eventually walked back after incurring the wrath of pro-Israel hardliners, including Clinton, who declared, “America can’t ever be neutral … anyone who doesn’t understand that has no business being America’s president.”

The neoconservative establishment reacted by launching an all-out assault on Trump.

The Emergency Committee for Israel, a neoconservative think tank, released an ad conflating Trump’s opposition to US regime change in Libya and Iraq with support for anti-American dictators.

Soon after, a group calling themselves the “Republican national security community” published a letter condemning Trump’s blasphemy against the core tenets of their hegemonic principles.

Signed by a cadre of neoconservative intellectuals, former government officials and operatives, the letter criticized Trump’s flirtation with isolationism and opposition to corporate trade deals.

It went on to denounce Trump’s bigotry and torture advocacy, though these complaints can hardly be taken seriously given that the people behind them have for decades advocated torture, bigotry and worse.

Eliot Cohen, who organized the anti-Trump letter, went on to assert, “Hillary is the lesser evil, by a large margin.”

Meanwhile, on the advice of South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, Netanyahu is now rushing to sign a bloated US military aid deal, which he previously rejected as insufficient, before Obama leaves office out of fear that a President Trump might not be as generous.

Building walls
If foreign policy separates Clinton and Trump, there are a number of domestic issues that unite them.

Clinton’s newfound enthusiasm for “tearing down barriers,” a direct reference to Trump’s anti-immigrant proposal to build a wall at the US-Mexico border, completely contradicts her own support for the border wall that already exists, much of it constructed on Obama’s watch.

Just five months ago, Clinton was bragging about her support for that wall.

“I voted numerous times when I was a senator to spend money to build a barrier to try to prevent illegal immigrants from coming in,” Clinton boasted at a New Hampshire town hall in November.

Asked at a debate last month to distinguish her wall from Trump’s, Clinton pointed to size.

“As I understand him, [Trump’s] talking about a very tall wall,” she said.

Clinton is a huge fan of Israel’s separation wall that effectively annexes Palestinian land in the occupied West Bank and has suggested using it as a model for the US border with Mexico.

And she continues to cite her support for Israel’s wall, deemed illegal by the International Court of Justice, as a selling point on her campaign website.

Her hypocrisy has not gone unnoticed by Trump, who tweeted back in January, “Hillary Clinton said that it is OK to ban Muslims from Israel by building a WALL, but not OK to do so in the US. We must be vigilant!”

Race to the bottom

In recent months, Clinton has reinvented herself as an anti-racist social justice warrior, using the language of intersectionality and privilege discourse to deride Sanders’ economic populism, distract from her well-publicized ties to Wall Street and distinguish herself from Trump’s hateful rhetoric.

But behind her social justice veneer are principles more in line with Republicans than the Democratic base.

While Trump has called Mexicans “rapists” and mocked people with disabilities, Clinton notoriously called Black children “super-predators” and referred to welfare recipients as “deadbeats.”

Trump wants to ban Muslims. But Clinton has a solid record of advocating for bombing Muslims, not to mention her ongoing pattern of trashing Arabs and Muslims to win over pro-Israel voters and donors.

Trump is riling up fascist sentiments. But he’s doing so by tapping into legitimate anger at the negative consequences of trickle-down neoliberal economics driven by establishment politicians like Clinton.

She played an active role in dismantling the welfare safety net and selling out American workers to disastrous corporate trade deals.

Another four or even eight years of Clintonian economics and military adventurism could well lay fertile ground for the rise of a demagogue even more bellicose than Trump.

A general election between Clinton and Trump would be a dreadful race to the bottom. It’s no wonder so many people would refuse to cast a ballot for either candidate.

Rania Khalek is an associate editor of The Electronic Intifada.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

"She's Baldly Lying": Dana Frank Responds to Hillary Clinton's Defense of Her Role in Honduras Coup

Democracy Now

professor of history at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and an expert on human rights and U.S. policy in Honduras. Her piece for Foreign Policy is called "Just Like Old Times in Central America."

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As Hillary Clinton seeks to defend her role in the 2009 Honduras coup, we speak with Dana Frank, an expert on human rights and U.S. policy in Honduras. "This is breathtaking that she’d say these things. I think we’re all kind of reeling that she would both defend the coup and defend her own role in supporting its stabilization in the aftermath," Frank says. "I want to make sure that the listeners understand how chilling it is that a leading presidential candidate in the United States would say this was not a coup. … She’s baldly lying when she says we never called it a coup."

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
AMY GOODMAN: For more on Honduras, we are joined by—Hillary Clinton and the legacy of the 2009 coup—Dana Frank, is professor of history at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and an expert on human rights and U.S. policy in Honduras.

Professor Frank, it’s great to have you with us. Well, Hillary Clinton said a lot in this five-minute exchange with Juan González. Respond.

DANA FRANK: Well, I just want to say this is like breathtaking that she’d say these things. I think we’re all kind of reeling that she would both defend the coup and defend her own role in supporting its stabilization in the aftermath. I mean, first of all, the fact that she says that they did it legally, that the Honduras judiciary and Congress did this legally, is like, oh, my god, just mind-boggling. The fact that she then is going to say that it was not an unconstitutional coup is incredible, when she actually had a cable, that we have in the WikiLeaks, in which U.S. Ambassador to Honduras Hugo Llorens says it was very clearly an illegal and unconstitutional coup. So she knows this from day one. She even admits in her own statement that it was the Honduran military, that she says, well, this was the only thing that was wrong there, that it was the military that took Zelaya out of the country, as opposed to somehow that it was an illegal thing we did—that the Honduran government did, deposing a president.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to turn to that WikiLeaks cable on Honduras. The U.S. Embassy in Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras, sent a cable to Washington on July 24, 2009, less than a month after the coup. The subject line was "Open and Shut: The Case of the Honduran Coup." The cable asserted, quote, "there is no doubt" that the events of June 28, 2009, "constituted an illegal and unconstitutional coup," unquote. The Embassy listed arguments by supporters of the coup to claim its legality, and dismissed each of them, saying, quote, "none ... has any substantive validity under the Honduran constitution." The Embassy went on to say the Honduran military had no legal authority to remove President Zelaya from office or from Honduras. The Embassy also characterized the Honduran military’s actions as an "abduction" and kidnapping that was unconstitutional. Again, this was the U.S. Embassy memo that was sent from Honduras to Washington. Professor Frank?

DANA FRANK: Well, I want to make sure that the listeners understand how chilling it is that the leading presidential—a leading presidential candidate in the United States would say this was not a coup. The second thing is that she’s baldly lying when she says we never called it a coup; we didn’t, because that would mean we have to suspend the aid. Well, first of all, they repeatedly called it a coup. We can see State Department statements for months calling it a coup and confirming, yes, we call it a coup. What she refused to do was to use the phrase "military coup." So, she split hairs, because Section 7008 of the State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Act for that year very clearly says that if it’s a coup significantly involving the military, the U.S. has to immediately suspend all aid. So she—they decided to have this interpretation that it was a coup, but not a military coup. So, she, Hillary Clinton—and Obama, for that matter, I want to make clear—in violation of U.S. law, that very clearly said if there’s a coup, they have to cut the military aid and that—all other aid to the country, she violated the law, decided, well, it wasn’t a military coup, when of course it was. It was the military that put him on the plane, which she says in her statement.

AMY GOODMAN: I mean, the memo is very clear.

DANA FRANK: Well, the Hugo Llorens cable is very clear. But look, even what she said on Saturday, she says, well, the military put him on the plane; that was the only problem here. She’s admitting it was a military-led coup and that so, therefore, she’s in violation of the law—so is Obama—by not immediately suspending the aid. And here she’s saying, "Well, we never called it a coup." I mean, hello, we have so many public statements in which the State Department called it a coup.

AMY GOODMAN: In March 2010, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton traveled to meet with the Honduran president, Porfirio "Pepe" Lobo, whose election was boycotted by opponents of the coup that overthrew Zelaya. Hillary Clinton urged Latin American countries at the time to normalize ties with the coup government.

SECRETARY OF STATE HILLARY CLINTON: We think that Honduras has taken important and necessary steps that deserve the recognition and the normalization of relations. I have just sent a letter to the Congress of the United States notifying them that we will be restoring aid to Honduras. Other countries in the region say that, you know, they want to wait a while. I don’t know what they’re waiting for, but that’s their right, to wait.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Hillary Clinton in 2010, Professor Frank.

DANA FRANK: I mean, what she did at the time was she played out the strategy—Obama and Clinton played out the strategy—that they would delay negotiations. They treated Micheletti, the post-coup dictator, as an equal partner to democratically elected President Zelaya, moved the negotiations into a sphere they could control and then delayed until the already scheduled elections in November. The problem, as you say, is that this—that almost all the opposition had pulled out of that election. All international observers, like the Carter Center or the U.N., had pulled out, refusing to observe that election—the only observers were the U.S. Republican Party—and saying that this was not a legitimate election. And then, the very first—that day, even before the polls close, the U.S. recognizes the outcome of the election. And this is what we used to call a demonstration election: Let’s just have any election and call this over and call that election—call that election legitimate.

AMY GOODMAN: Also in 2010, at the annual meeting of the Organization of American States, member nations remained divided over whether to allow Honduras back into the OAS. Honduras was expelled from the body the year before, after the military coup ousted Zelaya. This is Hillary Clinton then.

SECRETARY OF STATE HILLARY CLINTON: Our ongoing discussions about Honduras makes clear the urgency of this agenda. As we emphasized, when the United States along with the rest of the hemisphere condemned the coup in Honduras, these interruptions of democracy should be completely relegated to the past. And it is a credit to this organization that they have become all but nonexistent in the Americas. Now it is time for the hemisphere, as a whole, to move forward and welcome Honduras back into the inter-American community.

AMY GOODMAN: In her memoir, Hard Choices, Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton wrote about the days following the 2009 coup in Honduras that ousted the democratically elected president, Mel Zelaya. She wrote, quote, "In the subsequent days I spoke with my counterparts around the hemisphere, including Secretary [Patricia] Espinosa in Mexico. We strategized on a plan to restore order in Honduras and ensure that free and fair elections could be held quickly and legitimately, which would render the question of Zelaya moot," unquote. That was from the hardcover version of Hillary Clinton’s memoir. That section was later removed from the paperback version. The significance of this, Professor Frank?

DANA FRANK: Well, I mean, it’s incredible this woman is a presidential candidate, that she’s doing like things like this, the fact that she would say we wanted to "render the question of Zelaya moot," we wanted to bury the democratically elected president’s existence and act like the coup didn’t happen. I mean, that’s why it’s so terrifying that today—or rather, on Saturday, she would say—she would defend this coup, say it wasn’t a coup, and defend her actions in installing this terrifically horrific, scary post-coup regime. And, of course, that she would cut that out of her memoir, in the paperback version, is also very scary.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about the significance of Hillary Clinton’s stance then? And let’s remember, she was secretary of state serving the president—the president, of course, Barack Obama. What responsibility does the secretary of state have in this? And what did it mean for Honduras right up through today?

DANA FRANK: Well, Obama handed Latin America over to her and allowed her to carry forward this policy. I mean, it was certainly—Obama made some noises the very first day or two, and then, after that, was largely silent and handed over to Secretary of State Clinton. Clearly, he was her boss. If he didn’t approve of this, it wouldn’t have happened. And so, I think it’s really important when we talk about Hillary Clinton, the candidate, what she’s doing, to also talk about Obama’s responsibility for that and Obama’s responsibility for what’s happened since, because I think, as a lot of people know, that coup and the illegitimate election that followed it, that Hillary Clinton is celebrating so clearly in her statements, opened the door to this complete—almost complete destruction of the rule of law in Honduras. People hear about, oh, the gangs and violence and drug traffickers are taking over. Well, that’s because the post-coup governments, both of Micheletti, Lobo and now Juan Orlando Hernández, have completely destroyed the rule of law, because they’re in cahoots with these various forms of organized crime and drug traffickers and violence against the Honduran people. So, this whole post-coup regime has also led to this tremendous corruption of the judiciary and the police and the military, for that matter. So, that’s just—what’s happened to Honduras, it’s not just like there are randomly violent people down there. This is a U.S.-supported regime. The aftermath of the coup, if you look at all these statistics—yes, there was no—it’s not like there was a golden age before the coup, but this tremendous destruction of the basic rule of law in Honduras.

AMY GOODMAN: So, I want to go to what happened most recently in Honduras. Last month, gunmen assassinated Berta Cáceres, a well-known Honduran dissident, winner of the prestigious 2015 Goldman Environment Prize. They assassinated her in her home. In 2014, Berta Cáceres spoke about Hillary Clinton’s role in the 2009 coup with the Argentine TV program Resumen Latinoamericano.

BERTA CÁCERES: [translated] We’re coming out of a coup that we can’t put behind us. We can’t reverse it. It just kept going. And after, there was the issue of the elections. The same Hillary Clinton, in her book, Hard Choices, practically said what was going to happen in Honduras. This demonstrates the meddling of North Americans in our country. The return of the president, Mel Zelaya, became a secondary issue. There were going to be elections in Honduras. And here, she, Clinton, recognized that they didn’t permit Mel Zelaya’s return to the presidency. There were going to be elections. And the international community—officials, the government, the grand majority—accepted this, even though we warned this was going to be very dangerous and that it would permit a barbarity, not only in Honduras but in the rest of the continent. And we’ve been witnesses to this.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Honduran environmentalist, indigenous activist Berta Cáceres speaking in 2014, murdered last month in her home in La Esperanza, Honduras. Talk about what Berta Cáceres said and the significance of her assassination, this horror that took place in Honduras, what she—why she was so prominent and top of the target list in Honduras.

DANA FRANK: Well, Berta Cáceres was this amazing, inspiring indigenous leader and environmental activist. And also—

AMY GOODMAN: Did you know her?

DANA FRANK: Yes, I did. I didn’t know her very well personally. I had spent time with her in San Francisco and Oakland when she got the Goldman Prize last year. I remember first meeting her when she had gotten a phone call about the botched autopsy of the people that were killed by the DEA in Honduras. And, of course, her—we don’t even know the results of her own autopsy today, so the ironies of that are really chilling. I mean, she was so inspiring and so beautiful. If people google Berta Cáceres, you’ll see in every picture she’s glowing. You can just feel her presence. And it’s, of course, this tremendous heartbreak for all of us.

And I want to make sure people understand that this is the—this is the biggest assassination since the coup. There have been hundreds of people that have been assassinated, both by state security forces and by private actors and death squads, but they never touched the top leadership of the opposition. And Berta wasn’t just an indigenous environmental leader, she was a top leader of the opposition. In fact, when the resistance came to—came to the Lenca territories, she gave this beautiful speech welcoming everybody, that was one of the most beautiful speeches I’ve ever heard. And so, what’s going on now is the fact—and she was so internationally renowned. Speaker of the House—excuse me, ranking Democrat in the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi gave a whole reception in her honor last year. And we did—everybody did everything they could to protect Berta, and she was still assassinated. And this is a clear message by the Honduran elite, by the Honduran government, by the Honduran right, that they’ll kill anybody now. And that’s—I want people to understand how terrifying that is, that everybody in Honduras now feels they can be killed, no matter how famous they are.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, on Sunday, Bill Clinton, the former president, spoke at the New York Hall of Science in Corona, Queens. He was interrupted by protesters who were shouting in Spanish, "Hillary Clinton, you have Berta’s blood on your hands!"

PROTESTER 1: Hillary Clinton supports mass deportation! Hillary Clinton supports mass deportation! Remember Berta Cáceres! Remember Berta Cáceres!

PROTESTER 2: Today we went to protest an event that was appealing to Latino communities to support Hillary Clinton at the Hall of Science in Corona, Queens. And we had a banner that said, "Hillary has blood on her hands." And we were removed by the police immediately.

AMY GOODMAN: Protesters chanting, "Hillary, we don’t forgive. Hillary, we don’t forget," when Bill Clinton spoke at the New York Hall of Science in Queens this weekend. Professor Frank?

DANA FRANK: Well, I mean, it’s so beautiful just to see the protests and to understand that there’s a tremendous critique of U.S. policy on Honduras, that’s been going on since the day of the coup, that doesn’t get covered at all in the press.

AMY GOODMAN: Why did the U.S. support the coup?

DANA FRANK: Ah, there’s a big question. I mean, I think it’s—I think it’s really about the U.S. pushback against the democratically elected governments of the left and the center-left that came to power in Latin America in the '90s and in the 2000s—Venezuela, Bolivia, Argentina, Ecuador, Chile, El Salvador, all these countries. And Zelaya was the weakest link in that chain. He, himself, did not come out of a big social movement base at the time of his election, certainly since the coup. And I think they were—the U.S. was looking for a way to push back against that. There's a very important military base, U.S. military base, Soto Cano Air Force Base, in Honduras. And Honduras has always been the most captive nation of the United States in Latin America. So, I think they were testing what they could get away with. And they got away with it. It was the first domino pushing back against democracy in Latin America and reasserting U.S. power, in service to a transnational corporate agenda.

AMY GOODMAN: Your final comment, Professor Frank, in this 2016 presidential election year and in looking at U.S. policy towards Latin America and Honduras?

DANA FRANK: Well, we certainly need to hold Hillary Clinton responsible and to say how terrifying and chilling it is that she would defend a military coup. Like, who is it that we’re talking about here? And the second thing is to also see that this isn’t just about Hillary Clinton. It’s about Obama, it’s about Vice President Biden, who’s in charge of Latin America policy now, and it’s about Secretary of State John Kerry. They are very clearly celebrating and supporting and giving increased funding to the current government of Juan Orlando Hernández, that is continuing this war against the Honduran people. I mean, he’s a dictator. He has overthrown parts of the Supreme Court and illegally named a new Supreme Court that’s full of allegedly corrupt figures. He has—he backed the coup. He illegally named a new attorney—led the illegal naming of a new attorney general. And he has admitted to stealing—we don’t know the exact amount—into the tens of millions of dollars from the national health service and siphoning off into his own campaign. I mean, this is a criminal that the United States is supporting in office.

AMY GOODMAN: Dana Frank, I want to thank you for being with us, professor of history at the University of California, Santa Cruz, expert on human rights and U.S. policy in Honduras. We’re on the road at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California.

Friday, April 8, 2016

UN pulls Israeli exhibition claiming Palestinian citizens have equal rights

Israel/Palestine Emily Mulder on April 6, 2016

The UN removed portions of an Israeli exhibition at the international body’s headquarters in New York this week that alleged Israel’s equal treatment of Palestinian citizens and touted Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, claims deemed by the UN as falling out of line with international law.

Two panels out of 13 in the display were barred as the exhibition launched Monday, in order that it “conform with the purposes and principles” of the UN, Farhan Haq, spokesman for the UN Secretary-General, told Mondoweiss.

Of those removed was a panel entitled “Israeli Arabs: Equal citizens under the law, the only proven democracy in the Middle East.”

"Israeli Arab" panel banned by UN from Israeli exhibition. Photo Credit: Stand With Us twitter feed.
“Israeli Arab” panel banned by UN from Israeli exhibition. Photo Credit: Stand With Us twitter feed.

The panel said Israel’s Palestinian citizens are not only treated the same as Israeli Jews, but also “serve in the Israeli parliament, vote in all elections, and enrich Israel’s diverse culture,” falling in direct contradiction to the recent suspension of three Palestinian members of Knesset and Israeli policies that have long placed Palestinians as second-class citizens.

Another poster removed from the exhibition by the UN referred to Jerusalem as “the spiritual and physical capital of the Jewish people.”

Referring to the poster’s removal, Haq said: “We try to make sure, among other things, that displays are in line with international law, as, for example, regarding the question of Jerusalem.” Israel’s declaration of Jerusalem as its capital nor its illegal occupation of East Jerusalem since 1967 have been accepted by the majority of the international community as legal.

“We also try to the best of our ability to keep these spaces [UN exhibits for Member States] free from polemics: While you may promote your country, that should not be done at the expense of others who cannot immediately respond,” Haq added.

Israeli ambassador to the UN Danny Danon lambasted the decision to remove the panels as “outrageous” and demanded the UN “apologize to the Jewish people,” during an address to Israeli media delivered the day before the exhibition launched.

While an initial UN decision was made to also discard a panel on Zionism, the panel was returned shortly after what Haq termed a “miscommunication” with the Israeli mission regarding the use of a photo on the panel.

"Jerusalem" panel banned by UN from Israeli exhibition. Photo Credit: Stand With Us twitter feed.
“Jerusalem” panel banned by UN from Israeli exhibition. Photo Credit: Stand With Us twitter feed.

The panel refers to Zionism as the liberation movement of the Jewish people who sought to overcome 1,900 years of oppression and regain self-determination in their indigenous homeland.

The panel fails to mention the 750,000 indigenous Palestinians who were expelled and became refugees during the establishment of Israel, the majority of whom still reside in UN-run refugee camps and now number in the millions.

Following the initial call to remove the panel, a “protest exhibit” was set up featuring the banned panel on Zionism stamped with the word “censored” in large red letters, and the UN later allowed the original panel to be displayed.

The US-based NGO Stand With Us which partook in the exhibition’s development called UN decision to ban the Zionism display an “affront” to Israel. The group referenced a UN resolution passed 40 years ago equating Zionism with racism, and alleged the UN was abiding by the resolution despite its reversal 16 years later.

Ambassador Danon said the decision to include the Zionism panel was a “clear win for Israeli diplomacy and a victory for the truth about Israel,” according to a statement released by Stand With Us.

“This is a step in the right direction, but the UN must reverse its earlier decision entirely and allow the exhibit to be displayed without censoring the truth about Israel and Jerusalem – the eternal capital of the Jewish people,” Danon said.

"Protest exhibit" placed at the Israeli exhibition at UN headquarters in response to initial ban on "Zionism" panel of display. Photo Credit: Stand With Us.
“Protest exhibit” placed at the Israeli exhibition at UN headquarters in response to initial ban on “Zionism” panel of display. Photo Credit: Stand With Us.

This week’s rift marked the most recent in a long line of disputes to arise between the UN and Israeli leadership regarding Israel’s flagrant violations of international law.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu late last month called any criticism of Israel’s military forces “outrageous and unacceptable,” shortly after the UN slammed the behavior of an Israeli soldier who shot through the head a Palestinian lying wounded on the ground as “gruesome and immoral.”

Weeks prior — following a UN decision to create a database of companies conducting business in illegal Israeli settlements — the PM labelled the UN Human Rights Council an “anti-Israel circus,” and called on “responsible governments not to honor the decisions of the Council that discriminate against Israel.”

Despite allegations by Israeli leadership that the UN singles out Israel for violations of international law, critics point to the long history of failure by the international community to either enforce or approve UN measures regarding Israel.

UN human rights monitor to the occupied Palestinian territory Makarim Wibisono last month criticized the international community for failing to hold Israel accountable for its rights violations.

“I have been struck by the abundance of information documenting violations of international human rights and humanitarian law, and the seeming inability of the international community to match what is known of the situation with more effective protection of Palestinians,” Wibisono said during his end-of-term address.

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Thursday, April 7, 2016

A lesson from Brussels we refuse to learn

Jonathan Cook's Blog
24 MARCH 2016

The best analysis of the Brussels attacks we can hope for from the corporate media, I suppose, are these insights from Simon Jenkins. Like many libertarians, he understands what we are doing wrong, but he can’t seem to extrapolate from there to how we might put things right. As a result, the first half of the article is impressive; the second half confused.

Here are the highlights:

Textbooks on terrorism define its effects in four stages: first the horror, then the publicity, then the political grandstanding, and finally the climactic shift in policy. The initial act is banal. The atrocities in Brussels happen almost daily on the streets of Baghdad, Aleppo and Damascus. Western missiles and Isis bombs kill more innocents in a week than die in Europe in a year. The difference is the media response. A dead Muslim is an unlucky mutt in the wrong place at the wrong time. A dead European is front-page news. …

Osama bin Laden set out on 9/11 to depict western nations as feckless and paranoid, their liberalism a surface charade easily punctured. A few explosions and their pretensions would wither and they would turn as repressive as any Muslim state. …

Under the government’s Prevent strategy, universities and schools must develop programmes to counter “non-violent extremism, which can create an atmosphere conducive to terrorism”. The bureaucracy will be awesome. Primary schools are reportedly asking children to spy on one another to check “suspicious behaviour”. So must passengers on Virgin trains, as requested after each station. England is becoming old East Germany.

In fact, a better – and more contemporary – comparison would be that Europe and the US are becoming very much like Israel. That is why Benjamin Netanyahu celebrated the 9/11 attacks on the US, and why two Israeli cabinet ministers are now gloating over the suffering in Belgium, with one even blaming it on western, chocolate-quaffing complacency. For decades Israel has been leading the way on “repression with a democratic facade”.

Back to Jenkins. He fails to understand the implications of his observation about Bin Laden’s strategy. It isn’t simply that Bin Laden “depicted” our liberalism as a “surface charade” and believed that under pressure we would “turn as repressive as any Muslim state”. Gradually he is being proved right, as the rest of Jenkins’ commentary implicitly concedes .

Bin Laden and his successors in ISIS are inadvertently showing us important insights about the nature and consequences of violence, whether our own or that of others – even if we are blind to the lesson.

When societies are constantly under attack from outside, they are likely to turn violent, repressive and vengeful, not because of some inherent quality in their religion or culture but because of the circumstances they find themselves in. That is as true for the Middle East, as it is for us in the “civilised” west.

The answer to ISIS is not more bombs, more “collateral damage”, more pillage of resources – we have been doing that to the Middle East for decades. We and our unquenchable greed created this monster; Islamism has simply given it its current distinctive form.

The solution must start with an entirely different strategy, one that rejects all forms of imposed intervention, whatever the dubious rationale: spreading civilisation and democracy, defeating terror or imposing western “development”. Terror cannot be defeated. But it can be shown to be irrelevant.

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Monday, April 4, 2016

Susan Sarandon, Defender of Those Who’ll Vote for Bernie Sanders Only

Truthdigger of the Week:

Posted on Apr 2, 2016

By Alexander Reed Kelly

Every week the Truthdig editorial staff selects a Truthdigger of the Week, a group or person worthy of recognition for speaking truth to power, breaking the story or blowing the whistle. It is not a lifetime achievement award. Rather, we’re looking for newsmakers whose actions in a given week are worth celebrating.

Left-wing voters of principle have endured insults and abuse in this presidential nominating season. A large number of Bernie Sanders supporters—one-third, by some counts—have warned that they will not vote for Hillary Clinton in the general election if she is the Democratic nominee. This prospect has many Democrats terrified, as it would seem to ensure at least four years of rule by Donald Trump or one of his equally repugnant rivals for the Republican nomination, and these Democrats have made no secret of their contempt for such spoilers.

But these voters have a renowned defender in Academy Award-winning actress and activist Susan Sarandon.

On March 28, MSNBC host Chris Hayes told Sarandon on his show, “All In With Chris Hayes”: “In certain quarters there is 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 … they will walk away.”

Sarandon did not dismiss these people. “That’s a legitimate concern,” she said, “because they’re very passionate and very principled.

Hayes showed less restraint. “But isn’t that crazy? If you believe in what he believes in?”

Sarandon continued: “Yeah, but she doesn’t. She’s accepted money from all 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?”

Hayes’ eyes widened in response. “You really think that?” he said. Whether his incredulity was genuine, a performance for the benefit of viewers who feel it themselves or a play to get a dramatic response from his subject, it betrays a lack of touch with the condition of so many Americans, whose day-to-day experiences leave them with no sense of discernible difference between Republican and Democratic rule.

Sarandon spelled it out for Hayes and the show’s audience.

“You know, if you’re a small farmer and you’re worried about fracking on your property—in Idaho they just passed a bill where they can frack on private land—and you know that she’s taken money from [the] fracking [industry], why would you think that she’s gonna have your back?”

Hayes, playing devil’s advocate, replied, “Well, because they make the argument that there are all kinds of politicians—Barack Obama is the one who Hillary Clinton cites all the time—who have done things to effectively rein in industries or reform industries that they’ve taken money from.”

It was Sarandon’s turn to be incredulous. “I’d like to see that ... no, I don’t buy it at all because she’s been selling fracking all over the world. There’s her talking about Monsanto and ... not talking about Roundup and what they put in it or what it’s done to our economy. And they know that jobs are going out. You know, Bernie ... voted against NAFTA, TPP, all these things coming up that they know affect their jobs. And she’s not on the right side of that. She hasn’t voted right. So what would make you think that once she gets in she’s gonna suddenly go against the people that have given her millions and millions of dollars? I think that’s being incredibly naive and egotistical, to think suddenly she’s gonna see the right.”

(By the way, the U.S. Geological Survey determined this week that because of fracking, populations in Oklahoma and Kansas now face, for the first time, a threat of destructive earthquakes equal to those endemic to California. Seven million lives are at risk. “From 1973 to 2008, there was an average of 24 earthquakes of magnitude three or larger per year,” reported The Guardian. “By 2014, this figure had ballooned to 688 earthquakes.”)

What do you think, reader? Do Sarandon’s words recognize and honor your condition or concerns in ways few public figures ever have? Or is her view foreign and possibly repugnant, given the close prospect of a Trump administration?

Might the election of Donald Trump be a blessing (albeit a messy and potentially deadly one) in disguise, exciting the politically passive bourgeoisie to decisive grass-roots action?

“Some people feel Donald Trump will bring the revolution immediately,” Sarandon offered. “If he gets in, then things will really, you know, explode.”

Said an again incredulous Hayes: “Don’t you think that’s dangerous?”

“I think that what’s going on now—if you think that it’s pragmatic to shore up the status quo right now, then you’re not in touch with the status quo. The status quo is not working. And I think 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 a low minimum wage, with threats to women’s rights, and think that you can’t do something huge to turn that around, because the country is not in good shape. If you’re in the middle class, it’s disappearing.”

For respecting the mental predicament that may face many of the young, the debt-ridden, and others who see Bernie Sanders as their best chance to reduce their suffering, and for articulating why others should too, we honor Susan Sarandon as our Truthdigger of the Week.

Friday, April 1, 2016

A Kiss Was Just A Kiss: Hillary Clinton’s March to the Radical Right on Israel

Posted on Mar 31, 2016

By Sandy Tolan

Hillary Clinton as secretary of state in Israel. (The Israel Project / CC BY-SA 2.0)

This article is the fifth in “Beholden,” a seven-part series about the presidential candidates on Israel and Palestine.

Back in her radical pro-Palestinian days, Hillary Clin … wait, her what?

Take two. Back in 1999, before neutrality on Israel/Palestine was deemed radically treasonous by America’s billionaire presidential anointers, Hillary Clinton actually spoke warmly of Palestinian aspirations. On a visit to the West Bank, she shocked pro-Israel enforcers by kissing the cheek of the Other, Yasser Arafat’s wife, Suha, who had denounced Israel’s military domination of the Palestinians. The kiss was essentially diplomatic behavior by the then-first lady, but it rattled the enforcers, already skittish about Clinton after her shocking use of the actual word “Palestine” and her endorsement, a year earlier, of an independent state of that name.

Soon Clinton would be atoning for these sins as a candidate for the United States Senate from New York—the first corrective step in a steady rightward march toward military intervention, war under false pretense, support for a military coup against a democratically elected president, a $29 billion weapons deal that benefited million-dollar donors to the Clinton Foundation, warm relations with accused war criminals then and now, and the embrace of a billionaire benefactor hell-bent on shutting down open discussion of Israel’s human rights disaster in the Israeli-occupied territories.

Clinton’s 2000 Senate campaign reveals the roots of her current fealty to Israel. Lickety-split, she abandoned any pretense of support for Palestinians. She advocated moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv—anathema to Palestinians, who wish to make their capital in East Jerusalem. She even attacked her Republican Senate opponent for once shaking hands with Arafat. (A handshake is worse than a kiss, I guess.)

As secretary of state, Clinton did carry the weakly flickering torch of the two-state solution for Israel and Palestine, which by then was long-established U.S. policy. She issued mild, diplo-speak criticism that Israel’s settlement building “undermines mutual trust.” (Well, yes, I guess the American failure to stop Israel from more than tripling the West Bank settler population in the “Oslo era”—from 109,000 in 1993 to some 380,000 today—might slightly undermine trust in America’s professed solution.) She also allowed that Israeli military demolitions of Palestinian homes—the numbers are in the tens of thousands—are “unhelpful.” (And, yes, getting your home smashed to pieces by American-made Caterpillar bulldozers can, indeed, be quite unhelpful.) In 2010 she “yelled” at Benjamin Netanyahu on the phone after Vice President Joe Biden, in Israel, had pledged America’s “absolute, total, unvarnished commitment to Israel’s security,” only to learn hours later of Israel’s plan to build 1,600 new housing units in Israeli-occupied East Jerusalem. Oops.

But Clinton’s dressing-down of the Israeli prime minister was more a matter of timing and American pride than a policy rift. Though it’s to her credit that in her 2014 memoir, “Hard Choices,” she acknowledged the hardships of Palestinian “life under occupation,” as secretary of state she did her best to stop Palestinian aspirations to establish their own state, blocking even mild United Nations resolutions that would label Israeli settlements illegal.

For the last 18 years, then, we have witnessed Hillary Clinton’s hawkish march—from her 20th century air kiss of a former Palestinian first lady, and apparently sincere support for a state called Palestine—to her current role as Hillsrael, the Israel-can-do-no-wrong panderer-in-chief.

I hereby present you with the 2016 campaign’s Best of Clinton:

A promise to invite Netanyahu to the White House “during my first month in office” in order to “reaffirm” the “unbreakable bond with Israel”—no matter the prime minister’s attempts to embarrass and undermine President Obama by trying to scuttle the Iran deal. Or worse, Netanyahu’s devastation of Gaza during the summer of 2014, in which 521 children died, 108,000 Gazans lost their homes, 18,000 buildings were badly damaged or destroyed, and Israel’s destructive power, compared to all the rockets launched by Hamas, was an estimated 1,500 to 1.

Virtual silence on the settlement issue in a speech at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) 2016 conference. During the event, even Biden—he of the “absolute, total, unvarnished” support for Israel—decried the “steady and systematic process of expanding settlements.” By contrast, Clinton’s speech, a “symphony of craven, delusional pandering,” as Slate’s Michelle Goldberg put it, mentioned settlements only in the context of protecting Israel against its own violation of international law.

An attack on Donald Trump from the right by denouncing Trump’s once-expressed wish to remain “neutral” over Israel/Palestine. “We need steady hands, not a president who says he’s neutral on Monday, pro-Israel on Tuesday, and who-knows-what on Wednesday, because everything’s negotiable,” Clinton told the AIPAC gathering.

Unilateral condemnation of recent Palestinian aggression that has killed 28 Israelis. “Israel faces brutal terrorist stabbings, shootings and vehicle attacks at home,” she said at AIPAC. “Palestinian leaders need to stop inciting violence.” Yet she had not one word for the 188 Palestinians killed during the same period, some of them in extrajudicial executions by the Israeli military, including here, here and here. Nor did she utter the word “occupation,” under which Palestinians have been living for nearly half a century, and which has created a Jim Crow-like inequality that reminded then-Archbishop Desmond Tutu of apartheid South Africa.

Equating criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism, largely through condemnation of BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions), a nonviolent movement to confront Israel’s human rights abuses through direct economic and political pressure. (Would she prefer suicide bombers and rockets?) Never mind that the relatively modest movement has been endorsed by an assortment of international trade unions, scholarly associations, church groups, Jewish Voice for Peace and Tutu himself. At the root of BDS, Clinton hints darkly, is anti-Semitism. “At a time when anti-Semitism is on the rise across the world,” Clinton wrote in a letter to donor Haim Saban, “we need to repudiate forceful efforts to malign and undermine Israel and the Jewish people.”

This last item takes the pandering cake. Clinton aims to silence free speech and legitimate criticism of Israel, thus advancing deeply repressive and undemocratic policies—but only when the target is Israel. Why, as a candidate for American and not Israeli office, is she taking up this fight? In this case, Clinton’s cynical pandering was written at the behest of one of her biggest donors, the Israeli-American businessman and Hollywood mogul Saban (“I’m a one-issue guy, and my issue is Israel”). It was Saban—whose main claim to fame is the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers franchise—who last year convened a “secret” Las Vegas meeting with fellow billionaire Sheldon Adelson, the bankroller of GOP candidates and huge supporter of Israel’s settlement project. Their aim: to shut down, if not criminalize BDS.

A few weeks later, with Saban’s $6.4 million destined for Clinton’s campaign war chest, the candidate wrote to her benefactor to express her “alarm” over BDS, “seeking your thoughts and recommendations” to “work together to counter BDS.” There is no record of Saban’s response, but in the wake of the Paris and San Bernardino attacks, he recommended Muslim communities in the U.S. receive “more scrutiny.” On the plus side, he was “not suggesting we put Muslims through some kind of a torture room,” proving he was channeling not Mussolini but simply Ted Cruz. What a relief. Saban later claimed he “misspoke,” but I’m skeptical: “More scrutiny” is more scrutin

But it is not only Saban and fellow Hollywood titans Steven Spielberg and Jeffrey Katzenberg who are pouring their millions into Clinton’s campaign. Now neoconservative money is increasing for Clinton as well. Her hardline stance on Israel, combined with her history of advocating military intervention in Iraq, Syria, Libya and elsewhere in the Middle East, has brought early endorsements from prominent neocons Robert Kagan, one of the architects of the Iraq war, and Max Boot, the superhawk who called Clinton “a principled voice for a strong stand on controversial issues.” This from a man who believes the U.S. should “unambiguously embrace its imperial role” around the world. Trump’s unpredictability scares the neocons, and should he get the Republican nomination, many of them will flock to Clinton, provided she is the nominee. This says as much about Clinton, and whom she appeals to, as it does about Trump. And there is no one she appeals to more, and who has helped her more, than Haim Saban.

As for Saban: How, you may ask, does a man who made his money from a children’s television series get to be this influential? “Make donations to political parties, establish think tanks, and control media outlets,” according to Connie Bruck’s 2010 New Yorker profile of Saban. Thus, when you make your billions from Power Rangers, you get to buy a controlling share of Univision, donate $7 million to the Democratic Party and $10 million to the Bill Clinton Presidential Library and the Clinton Foundation, bankroll Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, call up the Brookings Institution and establish a “Center for Middle East Policy” in your name, and introduce your favorite candidate when she comes to speak at your center. Then you can sit back, relax and enjoy as she pledges to “rededicate and renew our great alliance,” while hammering on your enemy, BDS.

“We need to repudiate efforts to malign and undermine Israel and the Jewish people,” Clinton told the Saban Forum in December, conflating Jews and Israel as if they were the same. (They’re not: 20 percent of Israel’s population is Arab, and some of Israel’s fiercest and most eloquent critics are Jews.) “Comparing Israel to South African apartheid,” Clinton continued, “is wrong and should stop immediately.” (Can someone get Tutu on the phone? The Nobel Peace Prize people may have his number. While you’re at it, get Jimmy Carter’s number, too.)

With this Clinton speech, and so many others, it’s no wonder Saban’s nickname is The Influencer. As a bonus, he can rest assured The Onion won’t make fun of him, or of Hillary. His Univision bought 40 percent of the media company in January. For years, he’s looked lustily at the Los Angeles Times, too, wanting to transform it from a “pro-Palestinian” paper to something more “balanced.” So far, no luck.

Like Sheldon Adelson, Paul Singer, Farris and Dan Wilks and the other billionaire kingmakers of the GOP, Saban represents the kind of money and power now drawn to Hillary Clinton. At the heart of that appeal is her ever-hardening position on Israel/Palestine. Perhaps Saban was repulsed 17 years ago, back when the first ladies of America and Palestine air-kissed in the occupied territories. But even then, Saban, the neocons and the hawkish advocates of American military intervention need not have worried. Even then, it seems, Hillsrael had a plan.

As it turns out, a kiss was just a kiss.