Friday, August 26, 2016

Let’s talk about Russian influence

from Mondoweiss
Philip Weiss on August 23, 2016

Over the weekend there was a lot more talk about Donald Trump and his operatives loving Russia, and about how Vladimir Putin wants Trump to win. “The hand of the Kremlin has been at work in this campaign for some time,” Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager said on ABC.

The Russian influence must be true, because it’s all over our media; but you can be sure it’s only half true because they’re saying it so loud. The other half of the truth is that Russia is going to lose, big (because the media are talking about it and because Trump is going down). And the media have a guilty conscience, because they know the U.S. power structure is beholden to Israel, but they can’t talk about that foreign influence.

No one talks about the hand of Israel; but Hillary Clinton promises her biggest donor, Haim Saban, whose one issue is Israel, that she’ll work against the boycott campaign and she’ll meet Benjamin Netanyahu in her first month of office: the same Netanyahu who tried to undermine our president’s signature foreign policy achievement by speaking and lobbying Congress under the president’s nose, Netanyahu who said that America could be easily moved, Netanyahu who pushed the Iraq war in 2002 to transform the Middle East, even as Hillary Clinton was voting for that war.

The latest batch of Clinton emails show that then-Secretary of State Clinton was shuffling her schedule to meet with big Clinton Foundation donors who care about Israel. “I’m on shuttle w Avigdor Liberman…. I want to stop by to see hrc tonite for 10 mins,” wrote one of them.

When Donald Trump tried to take a “neutral” position on Israel, Hillary Clinton told the leading Israel lobby group AIPAC that he had “no business” being president and she was going to take the relationship with Israel “to the next level.”

When Bernie Sanders tried to stake out a neutral position on Israel, Clinton’s catspaw at the DNC, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, complained privately, “The Israel stuff is disturbing.” Or as Anne Lewis, Clinton’s political guru who is also a Zionist, said, “The role of the president of the United States is to support the decisions that are made by the people of Israel.”

Both Clinton, this summer, and Obama, four summers ago, squashed the party’s grass roots when they made a move to change the party platform on Israel, because the nominees worried about losing big Jewish Zionist donors– whose influence over the Democratic party is “gigantic” and “shocking,” JJ Goldberg and Stephane Schriock of Emily’s List said this spring.

So Clinton made sure that the word “occupation” didn’t appear in the platform, in this the 50th year of the occupation. Just as Neera Tanden, the Clinton aide who heads a Democratic Party thinktank, censored articles that were critical of Israel; and a few months later the authors of those articles were no longer employed by her thinktank; and meantime Tanden kissed up to Benjamin Netanyahu, at the very time that he was undermining President Obama on the Iran deal, and months after he had used racist appeals– “Arab voters are coming out in droves”– to win another term.

But let’s talk about Russian influence.

It has now been ten years since The Israel Lobby paper was published in London– not here, because it couldn’t be published here. Notwithstanding the article and book’s impact, it’s a shadow impact; everyone in the shadow of the establishment has read it and everyone in the establishment has read it too, but with a plain brown cover on it, as Colin Powell’s former chief of staff joked. Because to be in the establishment you must deny its importance. The Atlantic, which commissioned and killed the original paper, continues to publish Jeffrey Goldberg, who once served in the Israeli military, and who helped give us the Iraq war with bad reports in 2002, and who tried to undermine the Iran deal and who calls the fascistic defense minister Avigdor Lieberman by his nickname “Yvet” and the milquetoast centrist Yitzhak Herzog by his nickname “Boogie.”

And everyone in American public life calls the fascistic prime minister of Israel by his nickname, Bibi. Including PBS. I don’t know what Vladimir Putin’s nickname is, and I don’t want to know.

The central idea of the Israel lobby is simple and it has been confirmed a hundred times but the media will never report it directly. Here it is: United States support is an existential issue for Israel; but non-Jewish voters and leaders cannot be counted upon to love Israel on their own, and therefore the tiny American Jewish community must speak in one voice and (unified checkbooks) to persuade American leaders that it’s in the U.S.’s best interest to do so.

Israel supporters confirm this idea again and again. “What keeps me up at night is the dependence of Israel on the United States” —Abe Foxman. “American Jews had a deferential attitude toward Israel. They saw their job to support Israel, to provide Israel with financial and political support it asked for” — Dov Waxman, scholar. “Jews don’t like big military budgets. But it is now an interest of the Jews to have a large and powerful military establishment in the United States… American Jews who care about the survival of the state of Israel have to say, no, we don’t want to cut the military budget, it is important to keep that military budget big, so that we can defend Israel.” –the late neocon godfather Irving Kristol. “We [Jews] don’t need to be advocates for Palestinians. We need to be advocates for Israel… because the essence of Zionism is… you [Jews] shape your destiny, you don’t let others do it” — perennial White House aide and peace processor-charade leader Dennis Ross.

So the Emergency Committee for Israel, a group started by Kristol’s son’s Bill, gives Arkansas Rep. Tom Cotton nearly $1 million so he could become Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton after just two years in the House and then lead the charge against the Iran deal.

But let’s talk about Russia’s influence.

Israel’s influence has distorted our politics for nearly 40 years. Tom Friedman told a British interviewer that George W. Bush abandoned the peace process because he saw his father take on the Israel lobby and lose a second term. Tom Friedman said the Congress is “bought and paid for” by the Israel lobby. Tom Friedman told an Israeli interviewer that if you had put 25 neoconservatives on a desert island in 2002, we wouldn’t have had an Iraq war.

But Friedman never wrote about the lobby head on, a dereliction of duty if ever there was one. It is just too embarrassing or hurtful to talk about the role of Zionist Jews in US public life. The idea has to be suppressed because a, we all know that there is a dual loyalty element implicit in Zionism and talking about the lobby brings up the whole international-Jew canard; and b, the lobby has been effective by working behind the scenes as a “nightflower,” so its purpose is defeated when people talk about it and everyone gets to weigh in. But if you don’t talk about it, then everyone just accepts it as the given of the American power structure, which is where we are now. Chris Matthews is constantly doing Irish Catholic identity politics when Irish Catholic Americans come on his show, but he’s afraid to say boo about the powerful pro-Israel Jews who own/run his employer Comcast, the largest media company in the country– Brian Roberts who participated in the Maccabee Games in Israel and David Cohen who once headed the local Jewish Federations.

From the start, empowered Jewish journalists denied that there was a lobby or it was powerful. Jeffrey Goldberg told the Center for Jewish History that it was no different from the ball-bearings lobby. David Remnick made the joke that if there wasn’t an Israel lobby, Osama bin Laden would be able to go back into the construction business. And meanwhile he was publishing Jeffrey Goldberg’s reporting about Saddam’s links to Al Qaeda and Saddam’s acquisition of WMD that helped the US get into Iraq. Why did Goldberg push this stuff? Was it out of concern for Israel? There’s never been an accounting.

And three years after his Osama joke, Remnick gave an interview to a Hebrew publication in which he acknowledged that the American Jewish community had sustained the occupation:

How long can you expect that they [US Jews] will love unconditionally the place called Israel? You’ve got a problem. You have the status of an occupier since 1967…. Sorry, it can’t go on this way. The Jewish community is not just a nice breakfast at the Regency.

But like Friedman, Remnick doesn’t publish this analysis under his byline. It’s out of the side of his mouth. He knows there’s a price to be paid. With the exception of Yousef Munayyer, Remnick publishes Zionists – people like Ari Shavit, who works for AIPAC and lobbies Jewish kids on campus, and David Makovsky, of the AIPAC spinoff WINEP, who has said that checkpoints won’t be so burdensome when Israel uses “appropriate biometrics” for Palestinians in those lines. The magazine’s go-to reporter on Israeli political trends is Bernard Avishai, who’s very good, but let’s be clear– a cultural Zionist.

If you don’t like Russia, you can surely still make your way in public life, but if you don’t like Israel, it’s a CLM, as they say at Goldman Sachs. Career Limiting Move. When Jim Clancy accused pro-Israel groups of doing “hasbara,” or PR, around the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris, he lost his job at CNN. When Jimmy Carter accused Israel of practicing apartheid, he got attacked on air by Wolf Blitzer and Terry Gross and was exiled from the Democratic Convention.

And four reporters at the New York Times have had kids in uniform for Israel, including columnist David Brooks, the go-to pundit on NPR and PBS who said after his dozenth trip to Israel that he is “gooey-eyed” about Israel. And the New York Times bureau chief in Israel lives in an addition to a house that was stolen from a prominent Palestinian journalist in 1948; and that journalist’s daughter the physician and activist Ghada Karmi has written and spoken about visiting that house to try and overcome her pain; but one thing you can be sure of: That story won’t be in the New York Times. Josh Marshall will tell you all about Russia influencing Trump, and meantime he names his baby after an Israeli war hero, but ho hum.

But let’s talk some more about the Kremlin.

The media is all about how much money Paul Manafort got from the Ukrainians, but the media won’t tell you that the two guys advocating the bombing of Assad in the New York Times work at a thinktank, WINEP, that the Israel lobby group AIPAC spun off, and one of those authors has called for American Jews to be “advocates for Israel,” not for Palestinians. It won’t tell you that Sheldon Adelson regrets wearing an American uniform, and wished he was wearing an Israeli uniform.

It will never put all the facts together and name the trend, as I am doing here right now, out of my back pocket. So I remember that Samantha Power once described the Israel lobby as “a domestic constituency of tremendous political and financial import,” and as a result had to make the execrable rabbi Shmuley Boteach her consort in the rightwing Jewish community, so as to get the lobby’s approval for her appointment to the U.N. job.

And that Chuck Hagel once said that “the Jewish lobby intimidates people” on Capitol Hill, and he almost didn’t become Defense Secretary because of that, and his grilling by the Senate resulted in a Saturday Night Live sketch that didn’t air in which Hagel was asked if he would “fellate a donkey for Netanyahu.”

That’s one good thing, everyone is now in on the joke. Even if the media can’t discuss it, everyone knows it. Our system is rigged.

But enough about all that. Let’s talk about Russian influence.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Jill Stein defends BDS in CNN town hall

from Mondoweiss
US Politics Wilson Dizard on August 19, 2016

Green Party Presidential Candidate Jill Stein on Wednesday night provided an alternative vision for U.S. policy with Israel that questioned whether Washington was doing “Israel any favors” by dumping money into warfare and occupation.

Stein was answering a question at a CNN Green Party town hall from an audience member who wondered why Stein chose to “single out” Israel for a boycott even though Israel is “a democratic ally to us.”

“Why don’t you do the same for other middle eastern states which are committing horrific crimes and abuses of people?” voter MariaChristina Garcia asked.

Stein’s answer showed that terms like “democratic ally” don’t amount to a hill of beans when that country is pursuing policies that violate human rights, and that the U.S. under a Stein presidency will not ignore the rights violations of Saudi Arabia or Israel. The logic stems from an understanding that the U.S., in its pursuit of war in the middle east, has also violated human rights of others.

“We are turning over a new chapter in this, because we have been as guilty as any of our allies,” she said.

“If we turned the White House into a Green House, our foreign policy will be based on international law and human rights, so when we say to Israel we will not continue to give you to $8 million dollars a day when the Israeli army is occupying territory in Palestine,” Stein said to applause.

“We’re not going to do it for the Saudis either. Nor for that matter does Egypt get a free pass as well. We’re giving them billions of dollars as well,” she said.

“Have you advocated to boycott Saudi Arabia?” Garcia asked?

“Yes,” Stein said, to further applause.

All of it was getting a bit too real for CNN moderator Chris Cuomo. His brother, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a chief Clinton ally, has been a vocal opponent of the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement that Stein has shown sympathy towards. The effort aims to isolate Israel, as many worldwide did to South Africa during Apartheid, to try to force it to recognize the civil and human rights of Palestinians living under occupation and also Palestinian citizens of Israel.

“Another follow on this is that Israel is not Saudi Arabia or Egypt,” Cuomo reminded the audience. “It certainly occupies a special alliance with the United States and supporters would argue faces an existential threat that others do not. Do you see Israel being a special ally and in a unique defensive position in that part of the world?”

Stein replied by saying she herself is Jewish and has family who live in Israel “part time.”

“Well I happen to be of Jewish origins so yes I have a special connection to Israel…I don’t think we are doing Israel a favor by condoning a policy that makes Israel very insecure, that makes Israel the target of hostility from its neighbors.”

As an example, Stein gave fellow Jewish American Sheldon Adelson, owner of the most read Israeli newspaper, as an example of someone meddling in Israeli affairs to the detriment of all involved.

“He’s not even living there. I don’t think that’s good for someone to be influencing Israel’s policy when they don’t have to live with the consequences,” Stein said of Adelson.

Cuomo fired back with a “yes or no” question about whether Israel has a special relationship to the U.S.

“I understand you have family relations there…Do you believe they’re a special ally, yes or no?”

It was a meaningless and childlike question from Cuomo, and it received an appropriately meaningless and pedantic answer.

“I believe all our allies are special allies. Israel and all of them. We are all members of the human family. I think we have responsibilities to everyone to create a world that works for all of us, and by sponsoring a very hostile military policy that violates international law. That doesn’t do us any favors,” she said.

“There are people in Israel who are really working for human rights, who are actually building community with the Palestinians. There are human rights groups that are building trust, building community and building confidence. These are the groups we need to be lifting up to create a middle east that’s going to work.”

Cuomo and Stein were asking questions that came from different universes, practically. Stein’s assumptions were that human rights should guide American foreign policy, while Cuomo fixated on whether Stein appreciated the existential dread that Israelis have of Palestinians and their Arab neighbors. Cuomo asked her twice about how special Israel is to the U.S., when she had already answered: Israel was not more or less special than any of our allies. It’s also remarkable how easily Cuomo glossed over Stein’s family ties to the country, and her own Jewishness, in questioning her policy position.

For average Stein voters, however, it appears the candidate’s overall suspicion of militarism is the biggest draw.

Sherrie Gonzalez, a Brooklyn Bernie Sanders canvasser I met during the primaries, was an audience member at the town hall debate. She’s planning on voting for Stein.

“It sounds like she just wants to stop funding death and respect human rights for everyone involved,” Gonzalez told Mondoweiss.

Although she said isn’t an expert on Israel/Palestine affairs, Gonzalez said Stein’s focus on cutting back military spending is what draws her to the candidate. That money, she feels, could better be spent at home and not financing Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land, or Saudi Arabia’s campaign against Yemen.

“For me, one of the most jarring points she made was about the number of military bases we have in comparison to the rest of the world. Like, take a guess as to how many bases the world has? It’s 30 [total]. 30 for everyone else. Russia has the most at 8. We have 800. It costs us over $100 billion a year to fund these. We could cut them in half and have $50 billion available for things here like rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure or I don’t know, a public [health care] option?”

“I agree so much with her that these interventions and coups cause more trouble than they solve and they account for something like 50% of the tax money I pay a year,” Gonzalez said.

But how to unravel this irrational and byzantine system of alliances based on their level of specialness, as Cuomo calls it, remains a mystery. It’s like Stein is walking into a big meeting of a neighborhood mafia, and telling everybody they will no longer be dealing in protection rackets, nor will they be selling guns, drugs or people. Everyone is going to have to go legit!

There isn’t space in this post for a full discussion of how this would happen, if it ever does. Gonzalez admits she doesn’t have the answers, either.

“How do we dismantle our Mafia empire?” I asked Gonzalez.

“I guess the biggest issue with our current situation is that we’ve developed an economy around it,” she said.

“Why is that a problem?”

“Because it’s an economy of death and oppression.”

Fair enough.

“I’m aware that just completely pulling out of situations can cause chaos but the outcome doesn’t change whether we do it now or 20 years from now,” she said. “I think if I had answers, I would be running for office. I vote for as minimal suffering as possible if I can help it.”

- See more at:

Monday, August 8, 2016

Black Lives Matter will defeat the Israel lobby (because the lobby can’t debate reality)

Yakov Hirsch on August 8, 2016

Read the Anti-Defamation League‘s statement twisting and turning on Black Lives Matter, because Black Lives Matter called Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians “genocide,” and you are reading the obituary of the Israel lobby.

The ADL’s big lie is that they care about other “minorities.” That’s the only thing that can keep the organization alive in the 21st century. “To woo millennials to the ADL, [director Jonathan] Greenblatt wants to stress the group’s work among other minority communities, which has long been a part of its agenda,” says the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

And in Greenblatt’s statement about Black Lives Matter’s new platform, look how he is FORCED to go on about their common struggle, one minority comrade to another:

the Platform is bold and provocative in its demands. It pointedly rejects many racial equality approaches tried over the past four decades. Instead, the document proposes a transformational policy frame for many ideas that previously have been articulated by activists, scholars and writers…

We do not agree with many of the specific demands of the Platform, but the document appropriately highlights the need to address mass incarceration and a wide range of racial inequities and socio-economic issues facing African Americans today. Beyond hand-wringing and soul-searching, the Platform proposes a number of specific legal, administrative, and legislative remedies to address identified challenges.

We appreciate these points because the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) is deeply committed to addressing many of these issues, too.

Nothing about Jews, it’s all about black lives mattering. Greenblatt can’t give away the game: that what the ADL is really of course only about is the Jews. If he goes ballistic over one little part of this platform trying to help all the downtrodden he will be exposed. So he has to keep up the charade as long as he can.

It’s not till paragraph five that Greenblatt can part company with BLM.

But would-be allies in the struggle for civil and human rights along with justice and fair treatment cannot ignore the Platform’s false and blatantly one-sided position on US-Israel relations and Israeli-Palestinian issues. We categorically reject the document’s criticism of the United States and Israel as being “complicit in the genocide taking place against the Palestinian people.” The Jewish community knows too much about genocide.

Whatever one’s position on the relationship between Israel, its Palestinian citizens, and the residents in the West Bank and Gaza, it’s repellent and completely inaccurate to label Israel’s policy as “genocide.”

Repellent is as strong as it gets, and it’s buried in the article. Now remember the utter condescension Greenblatt showed to Rep. Hank Johnson, who said far tamer things about Israel during the Democratic convention. Greenblatt on Johnson’s innocent “termites” remark:

[Our first tweet on the comment] did not go far enough in con­demn­ing him.

So I wanted to take the oppor­tu­nity now to put this issue into full con­text, to explain why the remarks were so offen­sive both to Israelis and Jews across the polit­i­cal spec­trum and to elu­ci­date what elected offi­cials must do in such instances to assure the pub­lic that they do not sup­port the kind of anti-Semitic notions the remark sug­gested for so many.

First, to the remarks them­selves: As I myself tweeted, there’s absolutely no doubt that Rep. Johnson’s com­ments were both irre­spon­si­ble and rep­re­hen­si­ble, par­tic­u­larly because they played into tra­di­tional anti-Semitic canards. The image of “ter­mites” being used to describe Jews has sor­did con­no­ta­tions.

Nothing like that with BLM. Notice the tone of Greenblatt’s piece. No reprehensible or sordid or anti-Semitic. Quite civil on the part of the ADL, considering this BLM organization just claimed Israel is “committing Genocide”!

Why? Because BLM can’t be bullied. BLM isn’t in the Congress, BLM isn’t a thinktank or a nonprofit or a news organization with a big budget. BLM can’t be bought, and now it’s too late to start to try to marginalize them.

And they’re not going away. This is not the first encounter, but it is the beginning. Because I promise you that BLM is not going to be “precise” with every word when talking about Israel, as Walt and Mearsheimer, Andrew Sullivan, Chris Matthews are. And that will lead to public discussions.

No one is publicizing what is going on in Israel like BLM is going to do. And a big fight between ADL and BLM will just be very bad PR.

So what’s left? Greenblatt has to plead with BLM not to use such such over the top words.

So let’s work to keep our eyes on the prize…

The vital issues of racial justice we are confronting now — and the need to directly combat extremism, hate violence, immigrant bashing, and stereotyping — require sustained commitments. They necessitate a disciplined, relentless focus. They demand clear-headed, fact based approaches.

We cannot walk away. We cannot be distracted or dispirited. Those of us committed to justice cannot afford to stray from addressing the very real injustices facing our communities.

The only problem with this is– what happens when the next video of an Israeli medic murdering a Palestinian lying on the ground comes out of the occupied territories? Or the next video of an Israeli soldier throwing a Palestinian child’s bicycle in bushes after another soldier has bullied the girl?

Well, Black Lives Matter is not going to use careful and precise language, and nor should it. Black Lives Matter has taken on the conflict directly, and when Jeffrey Goldberg et al go after BLM the fight will be in the open, and Israel’s action will be in the spotlight. And the last thing Jeffrey Goldberg or the rest of the lobby need is a public debate with BLM.

Why do you think Goldberg let Gideon Levy get the last word with his column, “The Dangerous Fantasies of Jeffrey Goldberg”? When is the last time Jeffrey the bully ever let an attack go unanswered? He let this drop because Goldberg does not debate reality. And he knows very well that a public spat, which is what would have happened if he responded to Gideon Levy, would be a disaster for Goldberg. People would start talking about his false reports that helped get the United States into the Iraq war. He cannot win a debate over the occupation with Levy.

And it’s the same thing with BLM. Do you think the BLM people will publish a 10,000-word article in the Nation explaining why they’re not anti-Semitic after Goldberg accuses them of anti- semitism? No way. They will tell him, “Go away, you racist entitled warmongering prick.” “Israel is a colonial racist state committing Genocide against the Palestinians.”

Goldberg will be left to make fun of their lack of commas on twitter, or some other trivial matter, as he did when Levy dissected him in the eyes of the world.

The truth is, Israel can’t survive the truth. Israel is in the position it is in because of totally censoring and ostracizing critics, and creating so much of Nate Silver’s “noise” that the “signal” is lost in the eyes of the world. What their echo chamber is great at is pumping out bullshit to bury the “reality.” Jimmy Carter used the word apartheid when there isn’t an ex Israeli PM alive who doesn’t use the word Apartheid when discussing Israel’s future. But that didn’t help Carter. He was shamed by Wolf Blitzer and Terry Gross and pushed out of the Democratic convention.

Black Lives Matter is not in Jimmy Carter’s establishment position. BLM knows how to read the whole Israel situation. They see reality and what these Jewish tribalists are trying to do. They see Hillary Clinton in the pocket of Haim Saban (“I am a one issue guy and that issue is Israel”), they see Clinton promising him to work against Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS); and they know what to do: they endorse BDS.

Jonathan Greenblatt is going to have a hard time convincing BLM that standing by Israel is part of worldwide fight for social justice. It would go a long way to convince BLM if the ADL would just show the least bit of interest or empathy, for the lot of the Palestinian people. That won’t be happening on Mr. Greenblatt’s watch.

- See more at:

Friday, August 5, 2016

Is Trump a fascist? Is the USA in 2016 in a moment similar to Weimar in 1933? No. Not Even Close.

Hysterical talk about America being on the brink of a fascist take-over is misguided. One problem is that the word "fascism," which is a very specific socio-political movement that requires very specific economic and political conditions to be able to come to power, has been turned into a meaningless epithet.

It's come to mean "repressive," or "really bad," or "dictatorial." If a teenager's parents won't let him use the car, the are not fascists. Nixon was not a fascist. An authoritarian regime, or a government created by a military coup is not necessarily has to have a special social history and set of policies to be fascist. It can be really repressive, even murderous, but not fascist.

Trump does have a whiff of fascism about him--he's got the leader cult thing going and the racist, nationalist mojo working for him, and makes an appeal to the fears of white people who have seen their standard of living fall and whose superior status over blacks has eroded to some degree, while they still are less likely to be jailed or killed by cops or face job discrimination.

One trait of fascism is an aggressive, expansionist militarism. Neo-con supported Hillary Clinton fits this trait more than Trump. He's actually more of an isolationist.

Anti-semitism has often been cited as a necessary component of fascism. But fascist ideology and fascism coming to power began in Italy. The word fascist is derived from fasci, a bundle of sticks bound together that was a symbol of authority in ancient Rome (an individual stick can break, but bound together it creates an unbreakable unity). Hatred of Jews was not part of fascist theory or practice. Many Italian Jews were members of Mussolini's party. It wasn't until WWII was well underway that Hitler pressured Mussolini, as his junior, dependent partner, to crack down on the Jews.

The USA has had plenty of xenophobic, rightist populist, racist movements and politicians from Tom Watson in the Reconstruction period in the defeated South, to anti-Chinese immigrant movements, to the KKK revival in the 1920s,which was mainly about stopping the flow of Southern and Eastern European Catholic immigrants. These kinds of movements are as American as apple pie. And many of them have had sponsorship from establishment elites, not just from lumpen elements or downwardly mobile workers.

What is fascism?

Fascism begins as a social movement among outsiders. It does not come from above, from the standard ruling class circles -- landowners, large capitalists, the church or the army. It needs a deep economic crisis, the kind that rocked Italy and Germany after WWI. It also needs a political crisis: an ineffectual government that is seen as being unable to cope with mass destitution and misery.

Mussolini's base of support came from those were ruined by the results of the war and from masses of unemployed, demobilized soldiers, who became the backbone of his shock troops, the Fascisti. He took power in 1922, eleven years before Hitler. Germany also faced a political and economic crisis and the NAZI party recruited from the down and out ruined farmers, artisans and workers.

Neither Hitler of Mussolini ever won an election. Their candidates never got close to a majority. How did they come to power? They were large movements, but there were other parties that had more followers, all from the left. So what happened?

In both cases a strong enough section of the ruling class were panicked about the future and fearful of a Communist/Socialist take-over that they threw their support to the fascists marching in the streets.

A fear of leftist social revolution on the part of the ruling class was needed to motivate them to turnover political power to otherwise disrespected lower class thugs like Hitler and Mussolini. Also aiding the fascist take-over was the vacillation and confused policies of the leaders of the mass Communist and Socialist parties.

Does an analogous situation exist here in 2016 USA? Where is the dire threat from the left, besides nowhere? Fascist movements have always needed a big assist from part of the ruling rich to take power. The core of the ruling class here does not want Trump. They prefer Clinton. The economy isn't great, but it's a million miles away from anything like 1922 Italy or 1933 Germany. Wall Street, the Pentagon, the national security industry are not being pushed to the wall, shaking in their boots. The charade of elections and democracy is still working and it would be folly for the rulers of America try to set up a dictatorship and especially to hand over power to a clown like Trump.

If Trump were to win the election, it still would not be fascism. It would be an incompetent, infantile jackass as president. That's happened before. The real powers in this country wouldn't allow him to do much of anything, or maybe not allow him to finish his term. He would do damage, but it would be the same damage that both Democrats and Republicans have done before: Reagan's consolidation of a white supremacist Republican party; the Clinton's deregulation of Wall Street; regressive tax policies; Bush's wars and Obama's continuation of these wars.

The actually existing threat to democracy has come from what Gore Vidal called "the national security state," that began under President Truman with the start of the Cold War. There have been no raving demagogues in the streets whipping up the masses to build the network of domestic spying and creation of agencies that, could, if called upon by the ruling rich of this country, squash free speech and impose martial law. The national security state comes naturally from the Democratic and Republican duopoly than manages the affairs of our predatory imperialist nation.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Khizr Khan and The Triumph of Democratic Militarism

by Ted Rall
OpEd News

Against the wishes of her New York Democratic constituents, Hillary Clinton voted with Senate Republicans to invade Iraq. (It was a pivotal vote. Without Democratic support, George W. Bush's request for this war of aggression would have failed.)

Humayun Khan, 27, was an army captain who got killed during that invasion.

Eight years later, the dead soldier's parents appeared at the 2016 Democratic National Convention -- not to protest, but in order to endorse one of the politicians responsible for his death: Hillary Clinton.

Even more strangely, Clinton's opponent Donald Trump is the one who is in political trouble -- not because Trump sent Khan to war, but because Trump committed a relatively minor slight, especially compared to the numerous outrageous utterances to his name. Trump didn't denigrate the dead Humayun Khan. Nor did he directly insult his parents. Lamely trying to score a feminist point concerning radical Islam, Trump insinuated that Mr. Khan didn't allow Mrs. Khan to address the crowd because as a Muslim, he doesn't respect women.

Let us stipulate that no one should impugn the courage of the war dead. (Not that anyone did here.) Let us further concede that Donald Trump is a remarkably tactless individual. Those things said, the Khan controversy is yet another spectacular example of the media distracting us with a relatively minor point in order to make a much bigger issue go awa

A week ago corporate media gatekeepers managed to transform the Democratic National Committee internal emails released by WikiLeaks from what it really was -- scandalous proof that Bernie Sanders and his supporters were right when they said the Democratic leadership was biased and had rigged the primaries against them, and that the system is corrupt -- into a trivial side issue over who might be responsible for hiking the DNC computers. Who cares if it was Russia? It's the content that matters, not that it was ever seriously discussed.

Now here we go again.

Hillary's vote for an illegal war of choice that was sold with lies, was a major contributing factor to the death of Captain Khan, thousands of his comrades, and over a million Iraqis. Iraq should be a major issue in this campaign -- against her.

Instead, it's being used by his parents and the Democratic Party to bait Donald Trump into a retro-post-9/11 "Support Our Troops" militaristic trap. Khan, you see, was "defending his country." (How anyone can say U.S. soldiers in Iraq, part of an invasion force thousands of miles away where no one threatens the United States, are "defending" the U.S. remains a long-running linguistic mystery.)

"Hillary Clinton was right when she called my son 'the best of America,'" Khizr Khan told the convention. Unfortunately, the moniker can't apply to once-and-possible-future-first-daughter Chelsea Clinton, who never considered a military career before collecting $600,000 a year from NBC News for essentially a no-show job. But anyway...

"If it was up to Donald Trump, he never would have been in America," Khizr Khan continued. The cognitive dissonance makes my head spin. Obviously, Trump's proposal to ban Muslims is racist and disgusting. Ironically, however, it would have saved at least one life. If it was up to Donald Trump, the Khans would still be in the United Arab Emirates. Humayan would still be alive. As would any Iraqis he killed.

"Let me ask you: Have you even read the U.S. Constitution?" asked Khizr, who is originally from Pakistan. "I will gladly lend you my copy. In this document, look for the words 'liberty' and 'equal protection of law.'" A good question. While we're at it, however, where does it say in the U.S. Constitution that the president can send troops overseas for years at a time without a formal congressional declaration of war? Where does it say that the United States can attack foreign countries that have done it no harm and have never threatened it?

As you'd expect Trump, he of little impulse control, has handled this about as poorly as possible. Asked about Khizr Khan's remark that Trump hasn't made any sacrifices, he idiotically attempted to compare his business dealings with the death of a son. Still, you have to grudgingly admire Trump for fighting back against a guy you are officially not allowed to say anything mean about.

It has been widely remarked, always approvingly, that this year's Democrats have successfully appropriated images of patriotism and "optimism" -- scare quotes because this is not the kind of actual optimism in which you think things are going to actually get better, but the bizarro variety in which you accept that things will really never get better so you'd might as well accept the status quo -- from the Republicans. This is part of Hillary Clinton's strategy of taking liberal Democrats for granted while trying to seduce Republicans away from Trump.

The Khan episode marks a high watermark for post-9/11 knee-jerk militarism.

Even the "liberal" party whose sitting incumbent two-term president captured the White House by running against the Iraq war demands that everyone fall to their knees in order to pay homage to the "good" Muslims -- those willing to go to the Middle East to kill bad ones.

Next time you see a panel of experts discussing a foreign crisis, pay attention: does anyone argue against intervention? No. The debate is always between going in light and going in hard: bombs, or "boots on the ground." Not getting involved is never an option. As long as this militaristic approach to the world continues, the United States will never have enough money to take care of its problems here at home, and it will always be hated around the world.

Most Americans believe the Iraq war was a mistake. Who speaks for us? No one in the media. And no one in mainstream politics.

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Palestine and Hillary, 'the lesser evil'

by Steven Salaita

Accepting Clinton as a less-worse option assumes certain communities are disposable, writes Salaita [Getty]
Date of publication: 26 July, 2016

Comment: Support for Clinton might keep Trump from the White House, but that means nothing for those 'in distant lands' destined to suffer under her colonialist administration, notes Steven Salaita. Tags: US2016, Clinton, Israel, Palestine, colonialism, Democrats, Republicans
In the United States presidential race, we have officially entered into the moment of lesser evilism, which demands grudging support of the unappealing Democratic candidate in order to prevent the election of an even more deplorable Republican.

Few things inspire such acrimonious debate among liberals and leftists. Rather than rehearsing the usual (and by now painfully familiar) arguments for and against voting Democrat, let's explore what lesser evilism means for the communities on the receiving end of the necessary evil.

Lesser evilism makes sense in the framework of electoral pragmatism. The US two-party system forces voters into terrible choices. Plenty of liberals maintain the system because it works well for them, which isn't a good reason for anybody else to concede.

The elite enjoy unprecedented power and wealth, no matter who ostensibly runs the country. Analysis that stops short of this recognition is useless to everybody but the ruling class.

The most explicit discourse of US exceptionalism in existence today, lesser evilism assumes that certain communities are disposable. It apportions people into rigid hierarchies. It judges who is worthy of safety and security. It asks us to voluntarily defer liberation. Lesser evilism may sound appealing as a practical metric, but it comes with severe human costs.

It's okay to reject a system that requires complicity in the oppression of fellow human beings.

But fewer people will be oppressed under the Democrat, the logic goes. It's a dubious argument, but even if we accept it as true, we're still put in the terrible position of cosigning somebody's misery.

The US two-party system forces voters into terrible choices
Our political imagination has to be more humane than these awful moral algorithms. US exceptionalism has always compelled people to ignore or minimise the violence of racism and colonisation.

As usual, we can turn to Palestine as a spectacular example of the limitations of US electoral pragmatism. Palestinians have suffered equally under Democrats and Republicans, just as they have under Labor and Likud. The seeming inevitability of their dispossession influences the all-too-common liberal acquiescence to imperialism.

To most American liberals, and many leftists, there's always something more important than Israeli brutality. They merely accept that Palestinians will continue to suffer. Palestinian suffering thus becomes one of the unacknowledged pillars of lesser evilism.

But what if we reject that possibility? Why does it seem so radical to even ask the question? When people try to interject Palestine into the discussion, they're informed, usually tacitly but sometimes directly, that Palestinians simply don't matter.

Those who choose lesser evilism have to account for the settler colonial logic they reinforce
Plenty of folk who identify with the Palestine solidarity community circulate or implicitly validate this ugly proposition. I've tried again and again and have learned that it's impossible to affirm Palestinian liberation in a context of US electoral punditry. The simple entreaty to remember Palestine will result in righteous bellowing: Agitator! Purist! Saboteur! Cynic! Republican!

This week at the Democratic convention in Philadelphia, Hillary Clinton, in the crowning moment of her campaign, will get on stage and openly call for war, colonisation, and ethnic cleansing - as she has done dozens of times already.

On what basis can Palestinians consider this promise to annihilate their national aspirations as less evil than other options? More to the point, on what basis can the advocate of lesser evilism justify the annihilation of Palestinians?

Those who choose lesser evilism have to account for the settler colonial logic they reinforce. It is not the obligation of the dispossessed to justify why they reject the institutions responsible for their dispossession. Why opt into a system that necessitates violence against black citizens, indigenous peoples, Palestinians, the poor, and many other communities around the globe?

To most American liberals, and many leftists, there's always something more important than Israeli brutality
Too often people who make that choice tacitly say "the well-being of this group is more important than the well-being of the other group" or "some people are, unfortunately, destined to suffer".

Perhaps an explanation can escape the confines of US exceptionalism, but I've not seen it happen. We've managed to make a worldly politics unthinkable. In the moment of reckoning, one either rejects the expendability of the dark, the strange, the disempowered, the foreign - or that person reverts back to the exceptional comfort of uncomplicated decisions.

What, after all, is more exceptionalist than the silly idea that empowering a plutocratic American political party will save the world from destruction?

How is it possible that Hillary Clinton supports the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people - yet we're still supposed to consider her a lesser evil? Ask the question and you'll hear plenty of explanations, but the most important reason is rarely made explicit: Lesser evilism is possible only because we're so accustomed to seeing certain people as lesser human beings.

Steven Salaita is an American scholar, author and public speaker. His latest book is Uncivil Rites: Palestine and the Limits of Academic Freedom. Follow him on Twitter: @stevesalaita

How the American Jewish establishment silences U.S. politicians about settlements

When U.S. Jewish leaders falsely accused Rep. Hank Johnson of 'anti-Semitism' they proved to American politicians that expressing moral outrage about the occupation can imperil their careers.

Peter Beinart


Want to know how the American Jewish establishment keeps American politicians from questioning Israeli policy in the West Bank? This is how.

Last week, on the fringes of the Democratic National Convention, Georgia Congressman Hank Johnson spoke on a panel sponsored by the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation.

In his remarks, Johnson argued that settlement growth was imperiling the possibility of a Palestinian state. Because that context is crucial to understanding the controversy that followed, I’ll quote him at length:

“Territory that was given to the Palestinians or was recognized as Palestinian land has been seized, sometimes as a result of war, and as a result of the seizure, came occupation. But that was not the only cause of the growing occupation.

"It has been the, in addition to war and seizure of land, there has been a steady--almost like termites can get into a residence and eat before you know that you’ve been eaten up and you fall in on yourself– there has been settlement activity that has marched forward with impunity and at an ever increasing rate to the point where it has become alarming.

"And it has become to the point that occupation, with highways that cut through Palestinian land, with walls that go up, with the inability or the restriction, with the illegality of Palestinians being able to travel on those roads and those roads cutting off Palestinian neighborhoods from each other. And then with the building of walls and the building of checkpoints that restrict movement of Palestinians.

"We’ve gotten to the point where the thought of a Palestinian homeland gets further and further removed from reality.”

Johnson’s core argument was utterly familiar. Three days after his remarks, the State Department itself said the Israeli government’s “steady acceleration of settlement activity” was “systematically undermining the prospects for a two-state solution.”

But while the State Department merely called settlements “corrosive to the cause of peace,” Johnson extended the metaphor, comparing settlements to “termites” that “eat” away at the prospects for a “Palestinian homeland.”

As a result, all hell broke loose. The right-wing Washington Free Beacon, which specializes in accusing critics of Israeli policy of anti-Semitism, published an article headlined “Congressman: Jewish Settlers Are Like Termites,”

The headline was false. Johnson had not compared settlers to termites. He had said nothing about what settlers are like as people.

He had compared settlements to termites because settlements eat away at structure of a Palestinian state. That would have been clearer had the Free Beacon article linked to a video of Johnson’s remarks. But it did not.

Nevertheless, the Anti-Defamation League, retweeting an article based on the Free Beacon report, quickly demanded that Johnson “apologize and retract this offensive, unhelpful characterization.”

An hour later, Johnson did just that, declaring, “Poor choice of words – apologies for offense. Point is settlement activity continues slowly undermine 2-state solution.”

@ADL_National Poor choice of words – apologies for offense. Point is settlement activity continues slowly undermine 2-state solution.

— Rep. Hank Johnson (@RepHankJohnson) July 25, 2016
It wasn’t enough. The following day, prominent Los Angeles Rabbi David Wolpe penned an article in Time calling Johnson’s apology “equivocal and insufficient.” (Rabbi Wolpe told me that he had written in response to the Free Beacon article and had not seen a video or transcript of Johnson’s remarks).

The ADL’s Jonathan Greenblatt piled on, too, tweeting that, “no ‘point’ justifies referring to human beings in such an abhorrent, inappropriate manner.”

So Johnson apologized again, and abandoned his effort to make any point about settlements at all: “You’re right @JGreenblattADL,” he tweeted, “I sincerely apologize for the offensive analogy. Period.”

The whole episode is as instructive as it is depressing. I know and like both Rabbi Wolpe and Jonathan Greenblatt. Both occupy the center, not the right, of the American Jewish spectrum. Neither is a champion of settlements.

But their response to Johnson’s comments is exactly why so many American politicians fear saying what should be obvious: that holding millions of West Bank Palestinians for almost a half century as non-citizens under military law, without free movement or the right to vote for the government that controls their lives, is morally wrong.

In their condemnations, both Greenblatt and Wolpe accused Johnson of reviving a longstanding anti-Semitic trope. Greenblatt said Johnson had “played into traditional anti-Semitic canards.”

Wolpe said that, “to call Jews ‘termites’ is base and vile” because “We are a half century away from millions of human beings who were designated as ‘vermin’ and killed.”

The problem with this line of argument is that it renders the truth of Johnson’s statement irrelevant. Obviously, Jews are not like insects. But settlements are like termites in that they undermine the territorial foundation of a viable Palestinian state.

If a politician cannot say that because it echoes anti-Semitic propaganda, then how can we discuss Bernie Madoff, whose swindling operation sounds like something out of a Goebbels fantasy?

In fact, Yitzhak Rabin himself discussed settlements in terms that Greenblatt and Wolpe would deem anti-Semitic. In 1976, he analogized the “settlement movement” to “a cancer in the social and democratic tissue of the state of Israel.”

After the 1994 Baruch Goldstein massacre, he compared violent settlers to “a foreign implant…an errant weed.” l Jews as disease. Jews as alien intruders. I could write the ADL press release myself.

But, of course, when Israeli leaders, or prominent American Jews, employ incendiary language to criticize Israeli policy, they generally get a pass.

In 2014, when John Kerry told the Trilateral Commission that without a “two state solution,” Israel could become “an apartheid state,” the ADL called his comments “offensive” Yet over the last decade or so, former Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak , the Jewish journalist Jeffrey Goldberg and the late Canadian Jewish philanthropist Edgar Bronfman Sr. have made the exact same point. , all without criticism from the ADL.

When I mentioned this discrepancy to Wolpe—who, to his credit, responded graciously and thoughtfully to my inquiries—he responded that, “In-group and out-group standards inevitably differ.”

Perhaps, but American Jews should struggle against that double standard, not perpetuate it. As Maimonides famously wrote, in explaining why he was citing non-Jewish philosophers in his commentary on Pirkei Avot, Jews should “accept the truth no matter what its source.”

Johnson’s core contention--that it’s hard to create a viable Palestinian state of the kind articulated in the Clinton parameters if settlements and the infrastructure that undergirds them eat away at more and more of the West Bank’s land (and water)—is true.

And Johnson knows it’s true because he’s seen it for himself. In late May, he and four other members of congress spent close to a week in East Jerusalem and the West Bank on the first congressional trip ever organized by a local Palestinian NGO.

Someone on the trip told me that the members were shocked and deeply moved by what they saw. Upon listening to Palestinians describe life under Israeli military rule, several broke into tears.

It’s that experience that led Johnson to speak the way he did in Philadelphia last week. But it’s an experience that Rabbi Wolpe, like most American Jewish leaders, doesn’t really understand he’s never spent any significant time witnessing Palestinian life in the West Bank. (Jonathan Greenblatt told me he has spent time with West Bank Palestinians but didn’t respond when I asked him to elaborate).

What’s more, by flogging Johnson for his comments, Wolpe and Greenblatt are inhibiting other American politicians from seeing what Johnson saw.

If politicians fear that going to the West Bank, and expressing moral outrage on their return, will imperil their careers, most simply won’t go. It’s easier not to know.

What’s at stake in the Johnson controversy is the moral cocoon that American Jews have built for ourselves. It is a cocoon that enables American Jewish leaders to be more outraged by a politician who compares settlements to “termites” than by Israel’s denial of basic human rights to millions of people for 49 years.

It is a cocoon that American Jewish leaders work hard to build around members of congress. And it is a cocoon that Johnson broke out of, at his peril.

Wait a second, did I just analogize American Jewish organizational life to a cocoon, a silk casing spun by caterpillars, which are, after all, insects? No wonder I’m defending Congressman Johnson. I’m an anti-Semite too.