Saturday, May 27, 2017

No, Israel Is Not a Democracy, Ilan Pappe


May 5, 2017
Jacobin

Israel is not the only democracy in the Middle East. In fact, it's not a democracy at all.


In the eyes of many Israelis and their supporters worldwide — even those who might criticize some of its policies — Israel is, at the end of the day, a benign democratic state, seeking peace with its neighbors, and guaranteeing equality to all its citizens.

Those who do criticize Israel assume that if anything went wrong in this democracy then it was due to the 1967 war. In this view, the war corrupted an honest and hardworking society by offering easy money in the occupied territories, allowing messianic groups to enter Israeli politics, and above all else turning Israel into an occupying and oppressive entity in the new territories.

The myth that a democratic Israel ran into trouble in 1967 but still remained a democracy is propagated even by some notable Palestinian and pro-Palestinian scholars — but it has no historical foundation.


Israel Before 1967 Was Not a Democracy

Before 1967, Israel definitely could not have been depicted as a democracy. As we have seen in previous chapters, the state subjected one-fifth of its citizenship to military rule based on draconian British Mandatory emergency regulations that denied the Palestinians any basic human or civil rights.

Local military governors were the absolute rulers of the lives of these citizens: they could devise special laws for them, destroy their houses and livelihoods, and send them to jail whenever they felt like it. Only in the late 1950s did a strong Jewish opposition to these abuses emerge, which eventually eased the pressure on the Palestinian citizens.

For the Palestinians who lived in prewar Israel and those who lived in the post-1967 West Bank and the Gaza Strip, this regime allowed even the lowest-ranking soldier in the IDF to rule, and ruin, their lives. They were helpless if such a solider, or his unit or commander, decided to demolish their homes, or hold them for hours at a checkpoint, or incarcerate them without trial. There was nothing they could do.

At every moment from 1948 until today, there had been some group of Palestinians undergoing such an experience.

The first group to suffer under such a yoke was the Palestinian minority inside Israel. It began in the first two years of statehood when they were pushed into ghettos, such as the Haifa Palestinian community living on the Carmel mountain, or expelled from the towns they had inhabited for decades, such as Safad. In the case of Isdud, the whole population was expelled to the Gaza Strip.

In the countryside, the situation was even worse. The various Kibbutz movements coveted Palestinian villages on fertile land. This included the socialist Kibbutzim, Hashomer Ha-Zair, which was allegedly committed to binational solidarity.

Long after the fighting of 1948 had subsided, villagers in Ghabsiyyeh, Iqrit, Birim, Qaidta, Zaytun, and many others, were tricked into leaving their homes for a period of two weeks, the army claiming it needed their lands for training, only to find out on their return that their villages had been wiped out or handed to someone else.

This state of military terror is exemplified by the Kafr Qasim massacre of October 1956, when, on the eve of the Sinai operation, forty-nine Palestinian citizens were killed by the Israeli army. The authorities alleged that they were late returning home from work in the fields when a curfew had been imposed on the village. This was not the real reason, however.

Later proofs show that Israel had seriously considered the expulsion of Palestinians from the whole area called the Wadi Ara and the Triangle in which the village sat. These two areas — the first a valley connecting Afula in the east and Hadera on the Mediterranean coast; the second expanding the eastern hinterland of Jerusalem — were annexed to Israel under the terms of the 1949 armistice agreement with Jordan.

As we have seen, additional territory was always welcomed by Israel, but an increase in the Palestinian population was not. Thus, at every juncture, when the state of Israel expanded, it looked for ways to restrict the Palestinian population in the recently annexed areas.

Operation “Hafarfert” (“mole”) was the code name of a set of proposals for the expulsion of Palestinians when a new war broke out with the Arab world. Many scholars today now think that the 1956 massacre was a practice run to see if the people in the area could be intimidated to leave.

The perpetrators of the massacre were brought to trial thanks to the diligence and tenacity of two members of the Knesset: Tawaq Tubi from the Communist Party and Latif Dori of the Left Zionist party Mapam. However, the commanders responsible for the area, and the unit itself that committed the crime, were let off very lightly, receiving merely small fines. This was further proof that the army was allowed to get away with murder in the occupied territories.

Systematic cruelty does not only show its face in a major event like a massacre. The worst atrocities can also be found in the regime’s daily, mundane presence.

Palestinians in Israel still do not talk much about that pre-1967 period, and the documents of that time do not reveal the full picture. Surprisingly, it is in poetry that we find an indication of what it was like to live under military rule.

Natan Alterman was one of the most famous and important poets of his generation. He had a weekly column, called “The Seventh Column,” in which he commented on events he had read or heard about. Sometimes he would omit details about the date or even the location of the event, but would give the reader just enough information to understand what he was referring to. He often expressed his attacks in poetic form:

The news appeared briefly for two days, and disappeared. And no one seems to care, and no one seems to know. In the far away village of Um al-Fahem,
Children — should I say citizens of the state — played in the mud And one of them seemed suspicious to one of our brave soldiers who
shouted at him: Stop!
An order is an order
An order is an order, but the foolish boy did not stand, He ran away
So our brave soldier shot, no wonder And hit and killed the boy.
And no one talked about it.

On one occasion he wrote a poem about two Palestinian citizens who were shot in Wadi Ara. In another instance, he told the story of a very ill Palestinian woman who was expelled with her two children, aged three and six, with no explanation, and sent across the River Jordan. When she tried to return, she and her children were arrested and put into a Nazareth jail.

Alterman hoped that his poem about the mother would move hearts and minds, or at least elicit some official response. However, he wrote a week later:

And this writer assumed wrongly
That either the story would be denied or explained But nothing, not a word.

There is further evidence that Israel was not a democracy prior to 1967. The state pursued a shoot-to-kill policy towards refugees trying to retrieve their land, crops, and husbandry, and staged a colonial war to topple Nasser’s regime in Egypt. Its security forces were also trigger happy, killing more than fifty Palestinian citizens during the period from 1948–1967.


Subjugation of Minorities in Israel Is Not Democratic

The litmus test of any democracy is the level of tolerance it is willing to extend towards the minorities living in it. In this respect, Israel falls far short of being a true democracy.

For example, after the new territorial gains several laws were passed ensuring a superior position for the majority: the laws governing citizenship, the laws concerning land ownership, and most important of all, the law of return.

The latter grants automatic citizenship to every Jew in the world, wherever he or she was born. This law in particular is a flagrantly undemocratic one, for it was accompanied by a total rejection of the Palestinian right of return — recognized internationally by the UN General Assembly Resolution 194 of 1948. This rejection refuses to allow the Palestinian citizens of Israel to unite with their immediate families or with those who were expelled in 1948.

Denying people the right of return to their homeland, and at the same time offering this right to others who have no connection to the land, is a model of undemocratic practice.

Added to this was a further layering of denial of the rights of the Palestinian people. Almost every discrimination against the Palestinian citizens of Israel is justified by the fact that they do not serve in the army. The association between democratic rights and military duties is better understood if we revisit the formative years in which Israeli policy makers were trying to make up their minds about how to treat one-fifth of the population.

Their assumption was that Palestinian citizens did not want to join the army anyway, and that assumed refusal, in turn, justified the discriminatory policy against them. This was put to the test in 1954 when the Israeli ministry of defense decided to call up those Palestinian citizens eligible for conscription to serve in the army. The secret service assured the government that there would be a widespread rejection of the call-up.

To their great surprise, all those summoned went to the recruiting office, with the blessing of the Communist Party, the biggest and most important political force in the community at the time. The secret service later explained that the main reason was the teenagers’ boredom with life in the countryside and their desire for some action and adventure.

Notwithstanding this episode, the ministry of defense continued to peddle a narrative that depicted the Palestinian community as unwilling to serve in the military.

Inevitably, in time, the Palestinians did indeed turn against the Israeli army, who had become their perpetual oppressors, but the government’s exploitation of this as a pretext for discrimination casts huge doubt on the state’s pretense to being a democracy.

If you are a Palestinian citizen and you did not serve in the army, your rights to government assistance as a worker, student, parent, or as part of a couple, are severely restricted. This affects housing in particular, as well as employment — where 70 percent of all Israeli industry is considered to be security-sensitive and therefore closed to these citizens as a place to find work.

The underlying assumption of the ministry of defense was not only that Palestinians do not wish to serve but that they are potentially an enemy within who cannot be trusted. The problem with this argument is that in all the major wars between Israel and the Arab world the Palestinian minority did not behave as expected. They did not form a fifth column or rise up against the regime.

This, however, did not help them: to this day they are seen as a “demographic” problem that has to be solved. The only consolation is that still today most Israeli politicians do not believe that the way to solve “the problem” is by the transfer or expulsion of the Palestinians (at least not in peacetime).


Israeli Land Policy Is Not Democratic

The claim to being a democracy is also questionable when one examines the budgetary policy surrounding the land question. Since 1948, Palestinian local councils and municipalities have received far less funding than their Jewish counterparts. The shortage of land, coupled with the scarcity of employment opportunities, creates an abnormal socioeconomic reality.

For example, the most affluent Palestinian community, the village of Me’ilya in the upper Galilee, is still worse off than the poorest Jewish development town in the Negev. In 2011, the Jerusalem Post reported that “average Jewish income was 40 percent to 60 percent higher than average Arab income between the years 1997 to 2009.”

Today more than 90 percent of the land is owned by the Jewish National Fund (JNF). Landowners are not allowed to engage in transactions with non-Jewish citizens, and public land is prioritized for the use of national projects, which means that new Jewish settlements are being built while there are hardly any new Palestinian settlements. Thus, the biggest Palestinian city, Nazareth, despite the tripling of its population since 1948, has not expanded one square kilometer, whereas the development town built above it, Upper Nazareth, has tripled in size, on land expropriated from Palestinian landowners.

Further examples of this policy can be found in Palestinian villages throughout Galilee, revealing the same story: how they have been downsized by 40 percent, sometimes even 60 percent, since 1948, and how new Jewish settlements have been built on expropriated land.

Elsewhere this has initiated full-blown attempts at “Judaization.” After 1967, the Israeli government became concerned about the lack of Jews living in the north and south of the state and so planned to increase the population in those areas. Such a demographic change necessitated the confiscation of Palestinian land for the building of Jewish settlements.

Worse was the exclusion of Palestinian citizens from these settlements. This blunt violation of a citizen’s right to live wherever he or she wishes continues today, and all efforts by human rights NGOs in Israel to challenge this apartheid have so far ended in total failure.

The Supreme Court in Israel has only been able to question the legality of this policy in a few individual cases, but not in principle. Imagine if in the United Kingdom or the United States, Jewish citizens, or Catholics for that matter, were barred by law from living in certain villages, neighborhoods, or maybe whole towns? How can such a situation be reconciled with the notion of democracy?


The Occupation Is Not Democratic
Thus, given its attitude towards two Palestinian groups — the refugees and the community in Israel — the Jewish state cannot, by any stretch of the imagination, be assumed to be a democracy.

But the most obvious challenge to that assumption is the ruthless Israeli attitude towards a third Palestinian group: those who have lived under its direct and indirect rule since 1967, in East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip. From the legal infrastructure put in place at the outset of the war, through the unquestioned absolute power of the military inside the West Bank and outside the Gaza Strip, to the humiliation of millions of Palestinians as a daily routine, the “only democracy” in the Middle East behaves as a dictatorship of the worst kind.

The main Israeli response, diplomatic and academic, to the latter accusation is that all these measures are temporary — they will change if the Palestinians, wherever they are, behave “better.” But if one researches, not to mention lives in, the occupied territories, one will understand how ridiculous these arguments are.

Israeli policy makers, as we have seen, are determined to keep the occupation alive for as long as the Jewish state remains intact. It is part of what the Israeli political system regards as the status quo, which is always better than any change. Israel will control most of Palestine and, since it will always include a substantial Palestinian population, this can only be done by nondemocratic means.

In addition, despite all the evidence to the contrary, the Israeli state claims that the occupation is an enlightened one. The myth here is that Israel came with good intentions to conduct a benevolent occupation but was forced to take a tougher attitude because of the Palestinian violence.

In 1967, the government treated the West Bank and the Gaza Strip as a natural part of “Eretz Israel,” the land of Israel, and this attitude has continued ever since. When you look at the debate between the right- and left-wing parties in Israel on this issue, their disagreements have been about how to achieve this goal, not about its validity.

Among the wider public, however, there was a genuine debate between what one might call the “redeemers” and the “custodians.” The “redeemers” believed Israel had recovered the ancient heart of its homeland and could not survive in the future without it. In contrast, the “custodians” argued that the territories should be exchanged for peace with Jordan, in the case of the West Bank, and Egypt in the case of the Gaza Strip. However, this public debate had little impact on the way the principal policy makers were figuring out how to rule the occupied territories.

The worst part of this supposed “enlightened occupation” has been the government’s methods for managing the territories. At first the area was divided into “Arab” and potential “Jewish” spaces. Those areas densely populated with Palestinians became autonomous, run by local collaborators under a military rule. This regime was only replaced with a civil administration in 1981.

The other areas, the “Jewish” spaces, were colonized with Jewish settlements and military bases. This policy was intended to leave the population both in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in disconnected enclaves with neither green spaces nor any possibility for urban expansion.

Things only got worse when, very soon after the occupation, Gush Emunim started settling in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, claiming to be following a biblical map of colonization rather than the governmental one. As they penetrated the densely populated Palestinian areas, the space left for the locals was shrunk even further.

What every colonization project primarily needs is land — in the occupied territories this was achieved only through the massive expropriation of land, deporting people from where they had lived for generations, and confining them in enclaves with difficult habitats.

When you fly over the West Bank, you can see clearly the cartographic results of this policy: belts of settlements that divide the land and carve the Palestinian communities into small, isolated, and disconnected communities. The Judaization belts separate villages from villages, villages from towns, and sometime bisect a single village.

This is what scholars call a geography of disaster, not least since these policies turned out to be an ecological disaster as well: drying up water sources and ruining some of the most beautiful parts of the Palestinian landscape.

Moreover, the settlements became hotbeds in which Jewish extremism grew uncontrollably — the principal victims of which were the Palestinians. Thus, the settlement at Efrat has ruined the world heritage site of the Wallajah Valley near Bethlehem, and the village of Jafneh near Ramallah, which was famous for its freshwater canals, lost its identity as a tourist attraction. These are just two small examples out of hundreds of similar cases.


Destroying Palestinians' Houses Is Not Democratic

House demolition is not a new phenomenon in Palestine. As with many of the more barbaric methods of collective punishment used by Israel since 1948, it was first conceived and exercised by the British Mandatory government during the Great Arab Revolt of 1936–39.

This was the first Palestinian uprising against the pro-Zionist policy of the British Mandate, and it took the British army three years to quell it. In the process, they demolished around two thousand houses during the various collective punishments meted out to the local population.

Israel demolished houses from almost the first day of its military occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The army blew up hundreds of homes every year in response to various acts undertaken by individual family members.

From minor violations of military rule to participation in violent acts against the occupation, the Israelis were quick to send in their bulldozers to wipe out not only a physical building but also a focus of life and existence. In the greater Jerusalem area (as inside Israel) demolition was also a punishment for the unlicensed extension of an existing house or the failure to pay bills.

Another form of collective punishment that has recently returned to the Israeli repertoire is that of blocking up houses. Imagine that all the doors and windows in your house are blocked by cement, mortar, and stones, so you can’t get back in or retrieve anything you failed to take out in time. I have looked hard in my history books to find another example, but found no evidence of such a callous measure being practiced elsewhere.


Crushing Palestinian Resistance Is Not Democratic

Finally, under the “enlightened occupation,” settlers have been allowed to form vigilante gangs to harass people and destroy their property. These gangs have changed their approach over the years.

During the 1980s, they used actual terror — from wounding Palestinian leaders (one of them lost his legs in such an attack), to contemplating blowing up the mosques on Haram al-Sharif in Jerusalem.

In this century, they have engaged in the daily harassment of Palestinians: uprooting their trees, destroying their yields, and shooting randomly at their homes and vehicles. Since 2000, there have been at least one hundred such attacks reported per month in some areas such as Hebron, where the five hundred settlers, with the silent collaboration of the Israeli army, harassed the locals living nearby in an even more brutal way.

From the very beginning of the occupation then, the Palestinians were given two options: accept the reality of permanent incarceration in a mega-prison for a very long time, or risk the might of the strongest army in the Middle East. When the Palestinians did resist — as they did in 1987, 2000, 2006, 2012, 2014, and 2016 — they were targeted as soldiers and units of a conventional army. Thus, villages and towns were bombed as if they were military bases and the unarmed civilian population was shot at as if it was an army on the battlefield.

Today we know too much about life under occupation, before and after Oslo, to take seriously the claim that nonresistance will ensure less oppression. The arrests without trial, as experienced by so many over the years; the demolition of thousands of houses; the killing and wounding of the innocent; the drainage of water wells — these are all testimony to one of the harshest contemporary regimes of our times.

Amnesty International annually documents in a very comprehensive way the nature of the occupation. The following is from their 2015 report:

In the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, Israeli forces committed unlawful killings of Palestinian civilians, including children, and detained thousands of Palestinians who protested against or otherwise opposed Israel’s continuing military occupation, holding hundreds in administrative detention. Torture and other ill-treatment remained rife and were committed with impunity.

The authorities continued to promote illegal settlements in the West Bank, and severely restricted Palestinians’ freedom of movement, further tightening restrictions amid an escalation of violence from October, which included attacks on Israeli civilians by Palestinians and apparent extrajudicial executions by Israeli forces. Israeli settlers in the West Bank attacked Palestinians and their property with virtual impunity. The Gaza Strip remained under an Israeli military blockade that imposed collective punishment on its inhabitants. The authorities continued to demolish Palestinian homes in the West Bank and inside Israel, particularly in Bedouin villages in the Negev/Naqab region, forcibly evicting their residents.

Let’s take this in stages. Firstly, assassinations — what Amnesty’s report calls “unlawful killings”: about fifteen thousand Palestinians have been killed “unlawfully” by Israel since 1967. Among them were two thousand children.


Imprisoning Palestinians Without Trial Is Not Democratic

Another feature of the “enlightened occupation” is imprisonment without trial. Every fifth Palestinian in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip has undergone such an experience.

It is interesting to compare this Israeli practice with similar American policies in the past and the present, as critics of the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement claim that US practices are far worse. In fact, the worst American example was the imprisonment without trial of one hundred thousand Japanese citizens during World War II, with thirty thousand later detained under the so-called “war on terror.”

Neither of these numbers comes even close to the number of Palestinians who have experienced such a process: including the very young, the old, as well as the long-term incarcerated.

Arrest without trial is a traumatic experience. Not knowing the charges against you, having no contact with a lawyer and hardly any contact with your family are only some of the concerns that will affect you as a prisoner. More brutally, many of these arrests are used as means to pressure people into collaboration. Spreading rumors or shaming people for their alleged or real sexual orientation are also frequently used as methods for leveraging complicity.

As for torture, the reliable website Middle East Monitor published a harrowing article describing the two hundred methods used by the Israelis to torture Palestinians. The list is based on a UN report and a report from the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem. Among other methods it includes beatings, chaining prisoners to doors or chairs for hours, pouring cold and hot water on them, pulling fingers apart, and twisting testicles.


Israel Is Not a Democracy

What we must challenge here, therefore, is not only Israel’s claim to be maintaining an enlightened occupation but also its pretense to being a democracy. Such behavior towards millions of people under its rule gives the lie to such political chicanery.

However, although large sections of civil societies throughout the world deny Israel its pretense to democracy, their political elites, for a variety of reasons, still treat it as a member of the exclusive club of democratic states. In many ways, the popularity of the BDS movement reflects the frustrations of those societies with their governments’ policies towards Israel.

For most Israelis these counterarguments are irrelevant at best and malicious at worst. The Israeli state clings to the view that it is a benevolent occupier. The argument for “enlightened occupation” proposes that, according to the average Jewish citizen in Israel, the Palestinians are much better off under occupation and they have no reason in the world to resist it, let alone by force. If you are a noncritical supporter of Israel abroad, you accept these assumptions as well.

There are, however, sections of Israeli society that do recognize the validity of some of the claims made here. In the 1990s, with various degrees of conviction, a significant number of Jewish academics, journalists, and artists voiced their doubts about the definition of Israel as a democracy.

It takes some courage to challenge the foundational myths of one’s own society and state. This is why quite a few of them later retreated from this brave position and returned to toeing the general line.

Nevertheless, for a while during the last decade of the last century, they produced works that challenged the assumption of a democratic Israel. They portrayed Israel as belonging to a different community: that of the nondemocratic nations. One of them, the geographer Oren Yiftachel from Ben-Gurion University, depicted Israel as an ethnocracy, a regime governing a mixed ethnic state with a legal and formal preference for one ethnic group over all the others. Others went further, labeling Israel an apartheid state or a settler-colonial state.

In short, whatever description these critical scholars offered, “democracy” was not among them.

From Ten Myths About Israel, out now from Verso Books.

Ilan Pappe is an Israeli historian and socialist activist. He is a professor with the College of Social Sciences and International Studies at the University of Exeter, director of the university's European Centre for Palestine Studies, and co-director of the Exeter Centre for Ethno-Political Studies. Most recently, he is the author of Ten Myths About Israel

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Friday, May 26, 2017

Glen Greenwald on crisis in Brazil

from Democracy Now

Glenn Greenwald
Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and one of the founding editors of The Intercept.


After Latest Bombshells, Only Michel Temer's Removal and New Elections Can Save Brazil's Democracy
We spend the hour looking at the growing political crisis in Brazil and air an exclusive interview with former Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, who was impeached last August in what many described as a legislative coup. Her impeachment came as Brazil was engulfed in a major corruption scandal, but Rousseff herself was never accused of any financial impropriety. Her removal ended nearly 14 years of rule by the left-leaning Workers’ Party, which had been credited with lifting millions of Brazilians out of poverty.

Since Rousseff’s removal from power last year, Brazil’s corruption scandal has only widened. At the center of the scandal are many of the right-wing politicians who orchestrated Rousseff’s ouster. Rousseff’s successor, Brazilian President Michel Temer, is now facing mounting calls to resign or be impeached, following explosive testimony released by the Supreme Court accusing him of accepting millions of dollars in bribes since 2010. Removing Dilma Rousseff "was just so perverse, because what you were doing was actually strengthening and empowering corruption," says our first guest, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Glenn Greenwald, who lives in Brazil. He notes that a third of Temer’s Cabinet are now the targets of criminal investigations.

Transcript
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
AMY GOODMAN: Today, we spend the hour looking at the growing political crisis in Brazil and air an extended exclusive broadcast interview with former Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff. She was impeached last August as Brazil—in what many described as a legislative coup. Her impeachment came as Brazil was engulfed in a major corruption scandal, but Rousseff herself was never accused of any financial impropriety. Her removal ended nearly 14 years of rule by the left-leaning Workers’ Party, which had been credited with lifting millions of Brazilians out of poverty.

Since Rousseff’s ouster last year, Brazil’s corruption scandal has only widened. At the center of the scandal are many of the right-wing politicians who orchestrated Rousseff’s ouster. Her successor, Brazilian President Michel Temer, is now facing mounting calls to resign or be impeached, following explosive testimony released by the Supreme Court accusing him of accepting millions of dollars in bribes since 2010. On Wednesday, President Temer authorized the deployment of the Army to the capital Brasília as tens of thousands of protesters marched to Congress to demand his resignation. Facing public outcry, Temer has since ordered the troops off the streets.

In a moment, we’ll air our recent interview with Dilma Rousseff, but first I want to turn to the interview that Juan González and I did on Wednesday with the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Glenn Greenwald, who is based in Brazil. I asked him to describe recent events there.

GLENN GREENWALD: It’s amazing, because we’ve spoken often over the last 18 months about the political crisis in Brazil, and I have long thought that you can never have a more kind of insane and unhinged political situation as was in Brazil—until November 2016, when I thought, actually, the U.S. has now surpassed it, and Brazil looks sane by comparison. And yet, Brazil has once again leapfrogged the U.S., because what’s going on there is almost impossible to overstate.
The whole argument against impeachment all along was that in the scope of wrongdoing, whatever you think of Dilma Rousseff, the actually elected president, what even she was accused of, even if you believe it all, so pales in comparison to the criminality and corruption of virtually everybody who was surrounding her and who would be empowered once she was removed, that to remove her in the name of corruption was just so perverse, because what you were doing was actually strengthening and empowering corruption.
And now you have Michel Temer, who, from the start of taking over, who can never have been elected on his own, who is extremely unpopular—literally single digits of approval—has had one corruption scandal after the next. A full third of his Cabinet are now the targets of criminal investigations. But what has really reached a boiling point, what caused it to really explode, was that, last week, video and audiotape surfaced of him meeting just three months ago with a billionaire or a multimillionaire executive, in which he approved and encouraged and even directed the payment of bribes, including one to his party member Eduardo Cunha, who was the House speaker who presided over Dilma’s impeachment and is now in prison, to keep his silence, as part of the investigation, directing bribes to other members of his party—actually getting caught on tape ordering bribes. This is the person they installed when they removed Dilma in the name of corruption. And so, obviously—
AMY GOODMAN: And even when they removed her, they didn’t accuse her of personal corruption.
GLENN GREENWALD: No. Everybody acknowledges she’s one of the few officials in Brasília who has actually never been accused of corruption for her own personal gain.
And this has been piling up, the accusations against Temer. Everyone agreed to ignore them, because he was imposing austerity and privatization and willing to be unpopular as a result. So Brazilian elites wanted him in there, because he was one of the few willing to do it. But it’s now gotten to the point where it’s just too embarrassing, even for Brazil, to have a president on tape, that everyone can listen to, ordering bribes. But he’s refusing to resign.
And so, the combination of his refusing to leave office and at the same time imposing very harsh and severe austerity cuts that are harming Brazil’s poorest, who have spent years listening to tales of the rich stealing hundreds of millions or billions of dollars, has caused serious protests, which culminated yesterday at the nation’s capital, demanding his ouster. My husband, who’s now on the City Council of Rio de Janeiro as part of the Socialist Party, was there. I spoke with him last night. He said he has never seen aggression of the type that not only the police used, shooting live bullets at protesters, including very close to him, but the military has now been deployed by President Temer onto the streets to battle activists and protesters—extremely serious in a country where the Brazilian military, with the U.S. government, overthrew the elected government in 1964 and then ruled through military dictatorship for the next 21 years in an extremely repressive way.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Glenn, I wanted to ask you also about Lula, the former president. There are also new charges, apparently, on top of some existing charges against him—clearly an attempt to get him convicted on something so that he would not be able to run for president, because he’s still one of the most popular figures in Brazil?
GLENN GREENWALD: Yeah, I mean, this is the great, incredible irony, which is that, you know, if you remove Temer, the question then becomes: How do you select his replacement? And the only two choices are, you let the Congress, which is one of the most corrupt bodies in the world, choose his replacement, which would be yet another corrupt individual, or you allow the natural course of democracy to take hold, which is elections. And the problem for Brazilian elites is that if there are elections, it’s highly likely that Lula, who presided over economic growth and lifting tens of millions of people out of poverty, would be elected. So, imagine going through this whole political crisis of removing Dilma, destroying the Workers’ Party, only to have Lula return. They’re now petrified of that.
At the same time, he faces serious corruption allegations. These are not invented. None of them has been proven, but there’s—they’re also not jokes. And so, it’s almost a rush to see if the elites can make him ineligible to run by convicting him of a crime, or whether he can beat them by having a presidential election, which he’s likely to win. And that’s the struggle currently taking place.
AMY GOODMAN: So, the police using live bullets? Have people been killed?
GLENN GREENWALD: Yesterday, there was at least two people who were shot. No one knows exactly what their condition is, but they’re in the hospital. So, obviously, to open fire with live bullets on political protesters is as extreme and repressive as a government can be.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re moving into our exclusive extended interview with the ousted President Dilma Rousseff. In a minute, can you describe her significance, this woman who was a guerrilla, who was imprisoned, tortured, herself—I mean, she was tortured—and then became president of Brazil?
GLENN GREENWALD: Yeah, I mean, it’s a complex story. I interviewed her last year. She’s one of the most inspiring women on the planet in terms of her life story, for the reasons that you just encountered. She’s incredibly strong and resolute. At the same time, she presided over a lot of economic suffering. There’s no question she mismanaged the economy. And yet, in the middle of this extreme corruption, they found almost nothing on her that ever implicated her, and yet she was removed. And so, her legacy is obviously pretty mixed, and yet, at the same time, I think she has now found complete vindication, because that was always her argument, was: "The people who are removing me in the name of corruption are actually the ones who are most corrupt and are doing it to protect themselves." And that has borne out.
AMY GOODMAN: Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Glenn Greenwald, speaking on Thursday. He lives in Brazil. Shortly after we taped that interview, the Brazilian president, Michel Temer, ordered Brazilian troops off the streets. When we come back from break, we’ll air our exclusive extended broadcast interview with the ousted Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff. Among the things she’ll talk about is being tortured and jailed under the Brazilian dictatorship and how she rose to become president of Brazil. Stay with us.


Thursday, May 18, 2017

A link to an interesting discussion of Trump and fascism...unique because it is not hysterical

http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/40593-dancing-with-the-devil-trump-s-politics-of-fascist-collaboration

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

The Black Bloc and political shortcuts

A letter to the editor of Socialist Worker by guy Miller
May 15, 2017

We believe that the Weatherman action is anarchistic, opportunistic, individualistic. It's chauvinistic, it's Custeristic. And that's the bad part about it. It's Custeristic in that its leaders take people into situations where the people can be massacred--and they call that a revolution. It's nothing but child's play, it's folly. We think these people may be sincere but they're misguided. They're muddle heads and they're scatterbrains."

-- Fred Hampton of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense
commenting on the 1969 "Days of Rage" action staged in Chicago by the Weather "Underground"


THE FIRST virtue every revolutionary must learn is patience. With patience comes the wisdom to understand that there are no shortcuts. No bomb tossed. No senseless confrontation with the armed state. No shop window broken.

None of these can substitute for the hundreds of thousands of trained cadre ready to dedicate their lives to revolutionary change. None of these can substitute for the tens of millions of women and men ready to bring about fundamental change. The raw material needed for a revolution that could overthrow the constraints of capitalism will be found in unexpected places and with unexceptional people.

They will be found among suburban "soccer moms" ready to dedicate their time and energy to single-payer health care. They will come from high schools where African American students decide to join the fight Black Lives Matter.

This past May Day, thousands of undocumented workers took part in marches and demonstrations across the country. In Chicago, the Black Bloc was also present. In a coordinated action, they broke from the ranks of the march and spray-painted a Citibank branch.

Now the police had the excuse to wade into the crowd and arrest whoever they felt like. The immigrants without papers would have been subject to deportation, broken lives and shattered families. The Black Bloc adventurists would have been subject to a small fine.

To my way of thinking, the trade-off between the safety of undocumented immigrants and the self-aggrandizement of the would-be anarchists is a no brainer: The former is part of the solution, the latter is part of the problem.
Guy Miller, Chicago

Israel tutors its children in fear and loathing


Israel/Palestine Jonathan Cook on May 16, 2017 6 Comments

A display of Israeli-style community policing before an audience of hundreds of young schoolchildren was captured on video last week. Were the 10-year-olds offered road safety tips, advice on what to do if they got lost, or how to report someone suspicion hanging around the school?

No. In Israel, they do things differently. The video shows four officers staging a mock anti-terror operation in a park close to Tel Aviv. The team roar in on motorbikes, firing their rifles at the “terrorist”.

As he lies badly wounded, the officers empty their magazines into him from close range. In Israel it is known as “confirming the kill”. Everywhere else it is called an extrajudicial execution or murder. The children can be heard clapping.

It was an uncomfortable reminder of a near-identical execution captured on film last year. A young army medic, Elor Azaria, is seen shooting a bullet into the head of an incapacitated Palestinian in Hebron. A military court sentenced him to 18 months for manslaughter in February.

There has been little sign of soul-searching since. Most Israelis, including government officials, call Azaria a hero. In the recent religious festival of Purim, dressing up as Azaria was a favorite among children.

There is plenty of evidence that Israel’s security services are still regularly executing real Palestinians.

The Israeli human rights group B’Tselem denounced the killing last week of a 16-year-old Jerusalem schoolgirl, Fatima Hjeiji, in a hail of bullets. She had frozen to the spot after pulling out a knife some distance from a police checkpoint. She posed no threat, concluded B’Tselem, and did not need to be killed.

The police were unrepentant about their staged execution, calling it “a positive, empowering” demonstration for the youngsters. The event was hardly exceptional.

In communities across Israel this month, the army celebrated Israel’s Independence Day by bringing along its usual “attractions” – tanks, guns and grenades – for children to play with, while families watched army dogs sicking yet more “terrorists”.

In a West Bank settlement, meanwhile, the army painted youngsters’ arms and legs with shrapnel wounds. Blood-like liquid dripped convincingly from dummies with amputated limbs. The army said the event was a standard one that “many families enjoyed”.

The purpose of exposing children at an impressionable age to so much gore and killing is not hard to divine. It creates traumatised children, distrustful and fearful of anyone outside their tribe. That way they become more pliant soldiers, trigger-happy as they rule over Palestinians in the occupied territories.

A few educators have started to sense they are complicit in this emotional and mental abuse.

Holocaust Memorial Day, marked in Israeli schools last month, largely avoids universal messages, such as that we must recognise the humanity of others and stand up for the oppressed. Instead, pupils as young as three are told the Holocaust serves as a warning to be eternally vigilant – that Israel and its strong army are the only things preventing another genocide by non-Jews.

Last year Zeev Degani, principal of one Israel’s most prestigious schools, caused a furor when he announced his school would no longer send pupils on annual trips to Auschwitz. This is a rite of passage for Israeli pupils. He called the misuse of the Holocaust “pathological” and intended to “generate fear and hatred” to inculcate extreme nationalism.

It is not by accident that these trips – imparting the message that a strong army is vital to Israel’s survival – take place just before teenagers begin a three-year military draft.

Increasingly, they receive no alternative messages in school. Degani was among the few principals who had been inviting Breaking the Silence, a group of whistle-blowing soldiers, to discuss their part in committing war crimes.

In response, the education minister, Naftali Bennett, leader of the settlers’ party, has barred dissident groups like Breaking the Silence. He has also banned books and theatre trips that might encourage greater empathy with those outside the tribe.

Polls show this is paying off. Schoolchildren are even more ultra-nationalist than their parents. More than four-fifths think there is no hope of peace with the Palestinians.

But these cultivated attitudes don’t just sabotage peacemaking. They also damage any chance of Israeli Jews living peacefully with the large minority of Palestinian citizens in their midst.

Half of Jewish schoolchildren believe these Palestinians, one in five of the population, should not be allowed to vote in elections. This month the defence minister, Avigdor Lieberman, called the minority’s representatives in parliament “Nazis” and suggested they should share a similar fate.

This extreme chauvinism was translated last week into legislation that defines Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people around the world, not its citizens. The Palestinian minority are effectively turned into little more than resident aliens in their own homeland.

Degani and others are losing the battle to educate for peace and reconciliation. If a society’s future lies with its children, the outlook for Israelis and Palestinians is bleak indeed.

A version of this article first appeared in the National, Abu Dhabi

- See more at: http://mondoweiss.net/2017/05/israel-children-loathing/?utm_source=Mondoweiss+List&utm_campaign=fa5e506c57-RSS_EMAIL_CAMPAIGN&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_b86bace129-fa5e506c57-309260894&mc_cid=fa5e506c57&mc_eid=b1e0e2d3d7#sthash.01JttJ8e.dpuf

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Ridiculous Trump scandal du jour: he gave the Russkies state secrets

Hatuey's Ashes

The Taíno cacique Hatuey led a guerrilla campaign against the Spanish conquest of Cuba. After refusing baptism, he was burned at the stake in Yara, Cuba, on February 2, 1512.

by Jose Perez

Monday, May 15, 2017
Ridiculous Trump scandal du jour: he gave the Russkies state secrets
Hyperventilating like they just ran a 4-minute mile, the gasbags on CNN, NPR, PBS, and the rest of the alphabet soup are aghast at what the Washington Post just revealed: Last Friday Trump gave the Russians information so secret that it has a "burn before reading" classification (or something like that).


The original version of the Trump-Putin plot
The Washington Post, which broke the story, says the info revealed to Russia is that the Islamic State is planning to use a laptop bomb on an airplane. Worse, Trump mentioned a city.

Since the United States and the Brits banned the use of laptops on airplanes from certain cities in the Middle East, this was hardly a secret. It was chickenfeed. (For those unfamiliar with the concept, watch the insanely great Cold War spy thriller, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy featuring Alec Guinness as George Smiley).

Anyways, telling the Russian supposedly endangers out relations in getting info out of the country that ratted out the Islamic State. But does anyone seriously think that Israel, Turkey, Saudi Arabia or anyone else in the region that cooperates with and relies on the United States is going to sanction Trump?

Yesterday, Amy Goodman had Watergate-era congresswoman Elizabeth Holtzman on Democracy Now accusing Trump of treason. Speaking about the firing of Comey, she said:
What was on his mind when he fired him? The Russian investigation.... And stopping that could mean that we have in place a president of the United States in cahoots with the Russian government at this very moment.
This is just one more variation on the Trump-Putin "collusion" that must be investigated. Collusion to do what? To "meddle." What was the meddling? No one can say.

Moscow gold didn't put trump in the White House because he spent much less than Hillary and has plenty of his own money.
There's no accusation of voting machine rigging or ballot stuffing.
The charge that Russia leaked stuff from the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign is built on the assumption that the KGB are such idiots they'd rather leak to Assange than the New York Times or Washington Post. Almost certainly at least the DNC stuff came from a lone wolf insider. And at any rate, that was not "meddling" but a public service.
RT using its tremendous influence on American public opinion to get Trump elected is absurd, because it has no influence. And anyways, it's free speech.
Finally, Russia is engaged in its most sinister tactic, discrediting American "democracy." As if it needed any more discrediting than the last presidential election, crowned by having the guy who lost by three million votes is proclaimed the winner.

The truth is the Democrats have been trying to whip up a McCarthyite hysteria that Trump is a Russian stooge since before his inauguration, but have been unable to come up with a single concrete act of meddling or shred of proof.

And from everything we know about the Donald's personality and history, the idea that he is Putin's stooge is absurd.He may be an idiot, but he's nobody's fool.

On the other hand, the Democrat Nomenklatura has every interest in diverting attention away from their own catastrophic performance since 2010, crowned by their inability to beat the most unpopular presidential candidate since polling was invented.

They use this to cover up their craven obeisance to Wall Street and other big money who finance their campaigns and on behalf of whom they betray the interests of working people.

But what happened to Medicare for All? Fight for Fifteen? Free tuition to Public Colleges? An end to big money meddling in elections? Can't have that, say the Pelosis, Schumers and Clintons of this world. "We have to appeal to 'centrist' voters." And, oh yeah, expose Russian "meddling."

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

The war for ‘The New York Times’

from mondoweiss
Philip Weiss and (((James North))) on April 18, 2017 9 Comments

A war has begun for the soul of The New York Times.


People in the Palestinian solidarity movement criticize the Times all the time — we do; the glass is always half empty — but then so do supporters of Israel. The glass is also half-empty for them. And something you may not have noticed lately is that we are beginning to have victories. There are people at The New York Times who fully comprehend Israel’s crisis and want the newspaper to reflect that reality. They are digging in, and they are under attack. But they are having little victories.

Consider:

— Jodi Rudoren is gone. She was the last New York Times bureau chief in Jerusalem and came out of a firmly Zionist background and could be counted on to offer a warm, fuzzy, pro-Israel slant to any story that was often embarrassing. Even the human rights atrocities of Gaza could be spun by Rudoren (“sliver of opportunity“). She has been replaced by Ian Fisher, who seems like a fair, open-minded reporter who is probably right now in shock at what he is seeing. His hunger strikers piece yesterday was very good. His piece on Banksy’s new hotel — Fisher’s emphasis was the “ugly” wall. Anyone who tells it like he sees it is going to help Palestinians.

— Yesterday the Times International edition ran Marwan Barghouti’s piece saying that Israel is a “moral and political failure.” We know we slammed the Times for burying this piece in the international edition in our dudgeon yesterday. But the amazement is that it ran at all — Barghouti’s explanation that 40 percent of the male Palestinian population has been in Israeli prisons, that his son jailed in the years that Americans go to college, and these prisons are the cradle of a global anti-colonial movement . . . Yes, the piece has come under enormous attack. Israelis including the prime minister are expressing outrage that it ran at all. To the point that the backsliders of the New York Times have appended a clarification filling in what Barghouti was convicted of. “The article . . . neglected to provide sufficient context by stating the offenses of which he was convicted. They were five counts of murder and membership in a terrorist organization . . .” Etc.

Actually, the many Nelson Mandela references were sufficient context; Mandela was also charged with terrorism, the ANC did use violence. But it is a measure of the war that the Times is in that Michael Oren became unhinged over the newspaper’s role:

Shame on NYT for printing libelous op-ed by convicted killer Barghouti, the Palestinian Dylann Roof. Americans would be horrified. So are we

Crazy, yes. But Oren’s right about one thing: the Times is now in play. And where it goes, everyone else will follow.

— Yes, you say: the New York Times hired neoconservative crank Bret Stephens as an op-ed columnist the other day, a great setback to the discourse; Stephens has a long track record of racist statements. But while editorial page editor James Bennet’s announcement was fulsome (“beautiful,” “profound,” “bravery,” “generous,” “thoughtful”), it contained this important signal:

You can expect other additions to our lineup in coming months as we continue to broaden the range of Times debate about consequential questions.

We read this as a sign that a pro-Palestinian columnist is coming, maybe even an anti-Zionist. Bennet knows exactly what Zaid Jilani is saying at the Intercept and what we have been saying here about the Times‘s conservative pro-Israel range. David Brooks’s son served in the Israeli military, for god’s sakes. The Times is getting battered by young people on the left for the fact that Roger Cohen and Tom Friedman’s weary Zionism is the best it has to offer to critics.

And bear in mind, if you’re pro-Israel, you have seen a deficit. Where is the firebreather to replace AM Rosenthal, William Safire and Bill Kristol? Well, you just got Stephens. The Times is in play.

— There is further evidence of the Times-at-war in the pushback to Stephens from within the Times ranks. (Michael Calderone reported on this at Huffpo.) Declan Walsh, the paper’s Cairo bureau chief, tweeted the following over the weekend:

Not cool: new NYT columnist @BretStephensNYT once wrote about the “disease of the Arab mind”.

Max Fisher, the Times “interpreter,” promptly expanded the thought:

I initially assumed it was just a sloppy rhetorical flourish, but the digging in suggests the line was intended to mean exactly what it said

Bret Stephens became defensive about the criticism and slung some more anti-Arab horseshit.

There was a time when journalists at a major newspaper were careful not to criticize that paper publicly. Those days are over, thanks to the internet. Two Times reporters are peeved at the racism of a colleague. They surely speak for many more. (Some of whom read Yakov Hirsch pointing out this racism first, last year: “The Politics of Jewish Ethnocentrism.”)

There was a time when the New York Times was a reliable supporter of Israel. A.M. Rosenthal and Max Frankel begat Ethan Bronner and Jodi Rudoren. We say those days are coming to an end. The shift in American discourse on the Palestinian issue that Bernie Sanders reflected a year ago is happening deep inside the Times too. Younger writers are woke on this question. They’re not going to just shut up about it. The neocons are also digging in. But the coverage is getting better . . . the coverage is getting better. Glass half full.

- See more at: http://mondoweiss.net/2017/04/the-york-times/?utm_source=Mondoweiss+List&utm_campaign=04957f876b-RSS_EMAIL_CAMPAIGN&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_b86bace129-04957f876b-309258354&mc_cid=04957f876b&mc_eid=be8c4195f4#sthash.i1jYczeL.dpuf

Monday, April 17, 2017

Israel and Saudi Arabia: a match made in heaven (or in Washington)

16 Apr 2017 RICARDO VAZ




If we were to believe all the propaganda we would think (the occupation state of) Israel and (the medieval kingdom of) Saudi Arabia were mortal foes. On one hand we have an entity that describes itself as a blooming democracy, an oasis of civilisation amongst barbaric foes, and on the other a royal family that presents itself as the natural leader of the Arabs. Given that there is no greater cause in the Middle East than that of the Palestinians, this would put them severely at odds. In reality, what we have is a brutal, apartheid, settler-colonial state and a backward, Wahhabi/Salafist and oil-reliant monarchy, both spreading terror across the region, each in its own way. What binds them together is their position vis-a-vis the US empire, making them in fact natural allies, something that has started making the rounds publicly.



A recent article appeared in the Zionist bastion that is the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP) with the auspicious title “An Open Letter from a Young Saudi to Prince Mohammad bin Salman”. Conceding that it was indeed a young Saudi who wrote it (1), the letter contains the expected rear-end kissing towards the Saudi prince, who is “God’s chosen to lead Saudi Arabia” through the current challenges, the waving of the Iran bogeyman spectre and some other (un)remarkable bits (2).

The most eye-catching bit is the call for an alliance with Israel to confront Iran’s nazi-like (!) threat, and lest it offend the religious fundamentalists, this is justified on religious grounds. This call follows recent declarations by Saudi officials, with former minister Saud al-Faisal, for example, saying “we should normalize relations with the Jewish state”. Nevertheless these public declarations, even if mostly made far away from the Arab public, are a relatively new phenomenon.

With some exceptions, support for the Palestinian cause in the Arab world is overwhelming. And regimes like Saudi Arabia have happily betrayed the Palestinian cause over and over again because they are aware that key to their survival is subservience to the United States, and that an alliance with Israel may boost their regional hegemony prospects. But because their legitimacy to rule is incredibly thin to say the least, royals and officials need to keep pretending in public that they are defending and fighting for the Palestinians.



Zionism and anti-semitism


These public declarations of support for Israel, in the safe English-speaking confines of Washington think tanks, still carry a heavy stench of anti-semitism. The young Saudi’s letter falls into the anti-semitic habit of conflating Jews and Israel as being a single entity.

Prince Turki bin Faisal, a loyal western servant and former ambassador to the US, in the similarly safe space that is the Davos World Economic Forum, talked about the wonders that can be done by joining “our [Arab] brain power, and Jewish wealth”. Of course, a little brain power would have served him to realise that this statement is incredibly anti-semitic, not to mention that it is wealth, and not brain power, that gets people like Prince Turki invited to places like Davos.


Prince Turki (left) and Israeli defence minister Moshe Ya’alon (right) shake hands during the Munich Security Conference in 2016

Religious officials in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries are known for spreading hatred against Shias, Alawites, Christians and Jews. Saudi media even attacked Iran for allowing Jews to live there! However, the mainstream media is always happy to tolerate this kind of anti-semitism from those who lend their support to the Zionist colonisation project, while viciously throwing the “anti-semitic” label at anyone who will not bow down to the occupation of Palestine.



Shared values and moderation


For their part, Israeli officials also tread carefully, but this is essentially to avoid placing a “friend of the colonial project” sticker on useful allies. But statements praising Saudi Arabia as a partner in the region are also becoming common. For example, defence minister Avigdor Lieberman warned that Iran’s (who else!) ultimate goal was undermining Saudi Arabia.

Former minister Tzipi Livni also echoed this view, and in both cases they framed the Middle East as a battle of “good vs. evil”, or as they put it, “moderates vs. radicals”, with Livni going as far as mentioning “shared values”. So Saudi Arabia, the most medieval of regimes, who regularly beheads people on public squares, is somehow considered moderate. As for Israel, there has not been anything moderate about their 70 year history of massacres, colonisation and ethnic cleansing. Then again, “moderate” in this context nowadays stands only for “US ally”.

The common denominator is always highlighting the Iranian threat, with some bending over backwards to connect Iran to bad guys like al-Qaeda. Connecting them to Saudi Arabia, given that 15 of the 19 hijackers on 9/11 were Saudi nationals, and that this group, like all extremist groups for that matter, was backed and funded by the Saudis, would have been too easy. Additionally, the Zionist lobby has also been pulling its weight to improve the image of the house of Saud.



Cooperation in Syria


This semantic redefinition of the term “moderate” has been a central feature of the Syrian war. The term has been consistently used to whitewash the extremist nature of rebel groups and to obscure the fact that the US has been supporting, directly or indirectly, groups like al-Qaeda.

For their part, the Saudis have been the main backers of the most extremist groups in the Syrian opposition, continuing their long standing tradition of exporting Salafi terrorism everywhere. The similarities between the takfiri ideology (3) of the most powerful rebel groups and that of Saudi Arabia are no coincidence.


Saudi- and western-backed rebels and ISIS celebrate Israeli strikes against Hezbollah in Syria (cartoon by Carlos Latuff)

But Israel’s involvement in the Syrian war is also worth analysing. For all the talk of being threatened by extremist groups, Israel has been quite comfortable with the presence of jihadi factions like the Nusra front right on their doorstep, in the occupied Golan Heights. Moreover, it has offered medical treatment to injured fighters and there have also been reports of collaboration between these groups and the IDF. Not only that, Israel has frequently bombed targets and assassinated people from the Syrian army and their allies, the most prominent of those being Hezbollah.

Of course, there is no room for morals or principle when it comes to foreign policy. And Israel has never held any moral high ground, for that matter. Simply put, the Israelis have seen the Syrian war as an opportunity to be rid of their most uncomfortable neighbour, as far as official governments go, even if Syrian support for the Palestinian cause has been, and we are being kind here, limited. More than that, Israeli officials are happy to see their most formidable foe, Hezbollah, bogged down in a taxing conflict away from home.

In the greater picture of Middle Eastern geopolitics, Israel and Saudi Arabia always have Iran as their ultimate target. The war against the Syria and Hezbollah, just like the war in Yemen, is meant to attack Iran by weakening and possibly removing its allies (4).



Under the wings of empire


In reality, the secret-come-public cooperation between Saudi Arabia and Israel is only logical given their position vis-a-vis the US Empire, which of course shares the hostility towards Iran, the fiercest resistant to US imperialism in the region.

The US and the Saudis enjoy “strong and friendly relations”, a “special relationship” predicated on oil and weapons sales, which have sky-rocketed with the Saudi war on Yemen. In his incoherent ramblings, president Trump occasionally stumbles upon the (inconvenient) truth, which is that

“Saudi Arabia, if it weren’t for us, they wouldn’t be here…”

Without the support of the US Empire, and the British Empire in the earlier part of the century, the house of Saud would be a footnote in history books, and an amusing footnote at that. It is its usefulness as a local agent for western empires that has ensured its longevity.


President Obama and Israeli PM Netanyahu at the White House

As for Israel, they enjoy the premium, “unbreakable bond” relationship with the United States, which essentially means the Israelis get their weapons for free. For all the talk of Obama not being pro-Israeli enough, he did not leave office without splashing the biggest military aid package in history on Israel. With so much uncertainty surrounding the 2016 presidential election, this was clearly a priority for the outgoing Obama White House.

The respective relations of Israel and Saudi Arabia with the US empire can perhaps be encapsulated in symbolic moments. For Israel, it is the US resupply of ammunition during the 2014 Gaza offensive, so that the massacres could continue unimpeded. And for Saudi Arabia, it is US planes refuelling Saudi jets during their war on Yemen, so that they would not run out of fuel before bombing first responders. We have two projects flourishing under the wings of the US empire and spreading death and terror throughout the region. After justice and freedom arrive in the Middle East, they might end up sharing a footnote in future history books.



Notes

(1) It might be dangerous for people in Saudi Arabia to voice what they really think of the royal family.

(2) For instance, it claims that Wahhabism, the ultra-conservative and retrograde version of Islam that is enforced and exported by Saudi Arabia, cannot be connected to modern terrorism because Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab lived 300 years ago.

(3) Takfiris are those who denounce others as not being true Muslims, making them infidels.

(4) While the Iran threat is invoked to justify the Saudi invasion, the connections between the Houthi rebels and the Iranians may be more hype than substance, and they are certainly more a case of an opportunity seized by Iran, either out of a sense of duty or opportunism, than historical or ideological ties.

Cover photo: Prince Mohammad bin Salman and Israeli PM Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu



Source: Investig’Action

- See more at: http://www.investigaction.net/en/israel-and-saudi-arabia-a-match-made-in-heaven-or-in-washington/#sthash.Zpo6kZ5q.dpuf

Honor Omar Barghouti and Ralph Nader

Gandhi Peace Award Ceremony
Sunday, April 23
4:00pm
Yale University Sheffield-Sterling-Strathcona Hall
Room 114
1 Prospect St, New Haven, CT 06511

The Gandhi Peace Award has been presented by Promoting Enduring Peace since 1960 to people who have made outstanding contributions to world peace, creating a sustainable ecology, and social justice. Laureates include: Eleanor Roosevelt, Dorothy Day, Cesar Chavez, Daniel Ellsberg, Amy Goodman, Bill McKibben, Medea Benjamin, Tom Goldtooth, and Kathy Kelly.

This years honorees are Ralph Nader and Omar Barghouti.

Omar is a Palestinian human rights defender and a co-founder of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) and the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

Omar has endured Israeli intimidation and repression for years due to his work and dedication. In March of 2016, he was threatened with "targeted civil elimination” -a euphemism for civil assassination- by a high Israeli government official. Amnesty International has condemned these threats, expressing concern for his “safety and liberty” and upholding his right as a human rights defender to campaign “to hold Israel accountable for human rights and other international law violations” and to advocate “for the use of non-violent means in doing so.” Israel has also threatened to revoke his permanent residence, effectively imposing a travel ban on him.

Just a few weeks ago, Israeli tax authorities barged into his home and detained and interrogated him and his wife Safa, and are now attempting to fabricate a case against him in order to tarnish his reputation.

The Palestinian BDS National Committee put out this statement in response:

The fact that this investigation includes a travel ban and that it comes a few weeks before Omar Barghouti is scheduled to travel to the U.S. to receive the Gandhi Peace Award jointly with Ralph Nader in a ceremony at Yale University proves its true motive —repression.

The fact that the Israeli government publicized the inflammatory fabrications against Omar just 24 hours after he was taken in for investigation shows beyond doubt that the investigation’s real goal is to tarnish his reputation.

No matter what extreme measures of repression Israel wields against the BDS movement or its human rights defenders and vast network of supporters, it cannot stop this movement for human rights. Bullying and repression can hardly affect a grassroots movement that grows in people’s hearts and minds, empowering them to do the right thing — to stand on the right side of history, against Israel’s fanatic regime of apartheid, occupation and ethnic cleansing, and for freedom, justice and equality for the Palestinian people.

This latest desperate chapter of repression and intimidation by the Israeli government against Omar Barghouti is the strongest indicator yet of the failure of the Israeli regime of occupation, settler-colonialism and apartheid to slow down the impressive growth of the BDS movement for Palestinian rights.

Join Promoting Enduring Peace in honoring Omar to send a very clear message that support for Palestinians and their struggle will continue until freedom, justice, and equality is achieved.


Saturday, April 15, 2017

MSNBC’S RACHEL MADDOW SEES A “RUSSIA CONNECTION” LURKING AROUND EVERY CORNER

from the Intercept

Aaron Maté
April 12 2017, 9:22 a.m.

ONE DAY AFTER her network joined the rest of corporate media in cheering for President Trump’s missile attack on Syria, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow was back to regular business: seeing Russian collaboration with Trump at work.

It’s “impossible,” fellow anchor Lawrence O’Donnell told Maddow on April 7, to rule out that “Vladimir Putin orchestrated what happened in Syria this week – so that his friend in the White House could have a big night with missiles and all of the praise he’s picked up over the past 24 hours.”

Maddow concurred, suggesting that only the FBI’s ongoing probe into Trump’s alleged collusion with Russian electoral interference will determine the truth. “Maybe eventually we’ll get an answer to that from [FBI Director] Jim Comey,” Maddow said.

The Washington Post noted that the “conspiracy theory” drew “derision from across the political spectrum.” But it was not out of place.

MSNBC, the country’s most prominent liberal media outlet, has played a key role in stoking the frenzy over Trump’s alleged involvement with Russian meddling in the U.S. presidential race — in lock step with the Democratic Party’s most avid partisans.

Jennifer Palmieri, a senior member of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, captured the prevailing mentality when she recently urged party members to talk about the Russian “attack on our republic” — and to do so “relentlessly and above all else.”

And no leading media figure has done so more than Maddow. In the period since Election Day, “The Rachel Maddow Show” has covered “The Russia Connection” — and Russia, generally — more than it has any other issue.

Here is a video sampling:


The Intercept conducted a quantitative study of all 28 TRMS episodes in the six-week period between February 20 and March 31. Russia-focused segments accounted for 53 percent of these broadcasts.

That figure is conservative, excluding segments where Russia was discussed, but was not the overarching topic.

Maddow’s Russia coverage has dwarfed the time devoted to other top issues, including Trump’s escalating crackdown on undocumented immigrants (1.3 percent of coverage); Obamacare repeal (3.8 percent); the legal battle over Trump’s Muslim ban (5.6 percent), a surge of anti-GOP activism and town halls since Trump took office (5.8 percent), and Trump administration scandals and stumbles (11 percent).

chart8-08-1491944695 Russia issues vs. Non-Russia issues. Chart: The Intercept
Maddow’s focus on Russia has helped her ratings, which are at their highest level since 2008.

As MSNBC’s most popular host, Maddow over the years has become a critical voice for U.S. progressives, helping to shape the outlook of millions of viewers and the smaller left-leaning outlets that follow her lead. A supremely gifted journalist who Vanity Fair has dubbed “the smartest person on TV,” Maddow’s influence is well-earned. She frequently brings pivotal national attention to overlooked stories, such as the poisoning of Flint, Michgan’s water supply.

While proof of collusion with Moscow could well emerge — and could well topple Trump’s presidency — the “above all else” focus on Russia lacks concrete supporting evidence, either of Russian hacking and cyber disinformation impacting the vote’s outcome or of the Trump campaign’s complicity with it. Journalist Matt Taibbi calls it “an exercise of conspiratorial mass hysteria.”

This muddies the waters for a sober, credible investigation of Russia’s actions — but that is the least of its consequences. Democrats have avoided constructive introspection on their seismic election loss by blaming the Kremlin. Anti-Russia sentiment threatens to turn into rank xenophobia and escalate tensions with a nuclear-armed power. And most critically for a vital news source like Maddow’s show, every moment devoted to scrutinizing Trump’s alleged Russia ties deflects attention from his administration’s actual policies.

“The Rachel Maddow Show” on Russia, February 20-March 31, 2017

In the six-week period we reviewed, Maddow covered Russia not just more than any other issue, but more than every other issue combined. The contrast is particularly striking when comparing the amount of time that speculative Russia stories received versus critical non-Russia issues.

The Republican attempt to repeal Obamacare, which was in full swing during the six-week period, got less coverage (nearly 46 minutes) than six other individual Russia issues on the chart below, such as the plight of Russian dissidents under Putin’s rule (54 minutes) or alleged Russian hacking and cyber disinformation (70 minutes). Trump’s Muslim travel ban got less time (67 minutes) than any one of four other Russia-related issues, including former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn’s Russia ties (88 minutes). Trump’s escalation of immigration raids and deportations (16 minutes) got just over half the coverage of the Russian-related machinations of his former campaign manager, Paul Manafort (31 minutes).


Maddow-chart-09-1491947584 *these issues included substantial Russia content but were included in this category because their overarching focus was non-Russia. Chart: The Intercept
In 16 of the 28 episodes analyzed, Russia comprised either all or a substantial part of the “A-block”, the show’s headlining and far lengthiest segment, which often amounts to nearly half the show, excluding commercials.

Maddow’s Insistence on “a Continuing Operation”

Maddow’s foremost concern has been alleged Trump-Moscow collusion, which she has repeatedly suggested has continued beyond the election. Here she is on March 9:

What’s getting to be, I think, particularly unsettling, is that simultaneously, we are … number one, nailing down more direct connections between the Trump campaign and the Russian government at the time the Russian government was influencing our election. Number two, at the same time, we are also starting to see what may be signs of continuing influence in our country. Not just during the campaign but during the administration. Basically, signs of what could be a continuing operation.

Maddow has acknowledged that allegations of Trump-Russia collusion are unverified. But she has ignored claims that cast them in a more skeptical light. For instance, James Clapper, the former Director of National Intelligence, told NBC News on March 5 that U.S. intelligence has “no evidence” of collusion between Trump and Russia. On March 15, former CIA Director and Hillary Clinton surrogate Michael Morrell said “there is smoke, but there is no fire, at all.” Those statements have gone unmentioned.

MSNBC-PutinTrump-Power-Play--1491941048 Putin/Trump Power Play. Screenshot: MSNBC
“A Dream for Putin”: Trump Chose Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State and Weakened the State Department for Russia

Proposed budget cuts, canceled press briefings, and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s muted role have led Maddow to wonder if Trump is weakening the State Department on Vladimir Putin’s behalf. “We have to ask,” Maddow said in a 12-minute segment on March 8, “whether [Russia] wanted actions by U.S. political figures to weaken the parts of America that most annoy and that most undermine Vladimir Putin.” In an extended follow-up the next night, Maddow said, “Silencing the U.S. State Department, putting a friend of Vladimir Putin’s in charge at the U.S. State Department, who stands by quietly while the State Department gets hollowed out, gets gutted… That’s a dream for Putin.”

“It’s the CIA, Right?”: Putin used WikiLeaks Against the CIA

On March 7, WikiLeaks published documents exposing cyber tools used by the CIA to penetrate cell phones and other devices. Two days later, Maddow blamed Putin. Reminding viewers that WikiLeaks had released the Podesta emails, Maddow asked:

Consider what the other U.S. agency is besides the State Department that Putin most hates? That Putin most feels competitive with? That Putin most wants to beat? It’s the CIA, right? Spy versus spy. Putin is ex-KGB. He’s an ex-FSB officer… Smart observers say this is the largest dump of classified CIA material maybe ever, and it really could be a devastating blow to the CIA’s cyber war and flat-out spying capabilities, and that dump was released by WikiLeaks.

Maddow ommited the widely circulated reports that U.S. intelligence officials believe that the CIA’s own contractors were behind the cyber tools leak.

“How’d You Know It Was Coming?”: RT Colluded With WikiLeaks on the Podesta Emails

A popular internet theory posits that RT (formerly Russia Today), the Kremlin-funded television network, had advance knowledge of a WikiLeaks release of hacked Podesta emails. The claim is based on RT’s Twitter account reporting the release 19 minutes before WikiLeaks’ Twitter account did. Here’s Maddow on March 9:

Russian state television was magically able to tweet about the next release of John Podesta e-mails. The sixth release of John Podesta e-mails even before WikiLeaks released them… Russia Today, how did you know it was coming?

But RT answered the question months earlier: the Podesta emails appeared on the WikiLeaks website before WikiLeaks got around to tweeting about it.

“Quid Pro Quo”: Trump Weakened the GOP Platform on Ukraine

On March 8 – one day after congressional Republicans unveiled their Obamacare repeal bill – Maddow led her show with “dramatic news.” U.S. officials, she explained, “are looking into a Russian citizen in conjunction with one of the incidents on the Trump campaign last year which defied explanation at the time”: the rejection of a proposed amendment to the Republican Party platform that called for sending lethal aid to Ukraine. Politico reported of the Russian in question, Konstantin Kilimnik: “after a late summer trip to the U.S., Kilimnik suggested that he had played a role in gutting a proposed amendment to the Republican Party platform that would have staked out a more adversarial stance towards Russia, according to a Kiev operative.”

The Politico report, Maddow explained over the course of 16 minutes, confirms “essentially a quid pro quo between Russia and the Donald Trump campaign,” whereby the Trump campaign sought “to take Russian intervention in Ukraine basically out of the Republican Party platform as an issue.”

But Politico’s main revelation was that U.S. investigators are “looking into” a Russian guy who an unnamed Ukrainian “operative” says “suggested” that he helped the Trump campaign change the language in a document that has no practical effect on anything, and that in fact remained strongly pro-Ukrainian government, stating:

We support maintaining and, if warranted, increasing sanctions, together with our allies, against Russia unless and until Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity are fully restored. We also support providing appropriate assistance to the armed forces of Ukraine and greater coordination with NATO defense planning.

“Is the New President Going to Take Those Troops Out?” Putin May Blackmail Trump Into Withdrawing U.S. Forces from Europe

On January 17, Maddow opened her broadcast by noting the parallels between Vladimir Putin’s political ascent and former British spy Christopher Steele’s just-disclosed dossier asserting that Russia has compromising details on Donald Trump’s sex life. “How Vladimir Putin stopped being just a KGB guy and got political power in the first place was by producing, at just the right time and in just the right way, just the right sex tape to use for political purposes,” Maddow said.

Maddow then discussed the increase of U.S. troops near Russia’s border during President Obama’s last days in office:

“The Kremlin is furious about it,” Maddow said. “Russia hates it, but our allies—they say they want it.” And so, with Trump about to enter the White House, Maddow had this to say:

Here’s the question – is the new president going to take those troops out? After all the speculation, after all the worry, we are actually about to find out if Russia maybe has something on the new president? We’re about to find out if the new president of our country is going to do what Russia wants once he’s commander-in-chief of the U.S. military starting noon on Friday. What is he going to do with those deployments? Watch this space. Seriously.

As of this writing, Trump has not withdrawn the troops.

Missed Opportunities While Focusing on Russia

On March 7, Maddow led with the day’s top story: the unveiling of Republican plans to repeal Obamacare. “If you are worried about losing your health insurance, if you are worried about 20 million of your fellow Americans losing their health insurance, today was very scary,” Maddow said.

But after less than two minutes, Maddow promised to return to the story later and shifted gears to a higher editorial priority:

But we are going to start at this embassy. The embassy, this is a big one. It is fully staffed … there’s even an attaché specifically for fish. The fisheries attaché is named Mr. Oleg Vladimirovich Rykov.

Viewers were then treated to a 22-minute deep dive into the Steele dossier and the various ways “the bits and pieces of what’s reported in this dossier are turning out to be true and reported and checkable.” When Maddow finally returned to the day’s opening, “scary” story about millions standing to lose their health insurance, she gave it less than four more minutes.

Six days later, on March 13, Maddow opened with the day’s “absolutely astonishing” news that the Congressional Budget Office was now estimating that 24 million people would lose their health insurance if Republicans manage to repeal Obamacare. But after less than two minutes, Maddow again veered off: “We’re actually going to start the show tonight on the subject of money, lots and lots and lots and lots of money.” The ensuing 20-minute segment speculated on whether the recent firing of New York U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara could be tied to investigations into Russian money laundering through Deutsche Bank and the Bank of Cyprus. The CBO’s Obamacare repeal news ended up getting less than five minutes of Maddow’s time.

On March 16, Trump unveiled a budget that would boost military funding and slash vital government spending. But Maddow viewers heard no mention of the EPA, public broadcasting, meals on wheels, the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, the Community Development Block Grant program, or other targets of Trump’s domestic cuts. Instead, Maddow began the show by recounting the shady Russian bid to win the 2014 Winter Olympics, and how a Russian air cargo company involved in the scandal would later become one of several Russian entities that made payments to former Trump National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. The 22-minute segment explored the issue of whether Flynn committed a crime in taking money from Russians, and whether the Trump campaign knew about it. The next 12 minutes were devoted to alleged Russian hacking that targeted down-ballot congressional Democratic candidates in 2016, and the Clinton campaign’s response.

Russia-Cargo-Company-Flynn-1491941133 Russia Cargo Company. Screenshot: MSNBC
Given her political expertise, journalistic acumen, and influential platform, Maddow is ideally suited to explore the Democrats’ 2016 electoral collapse in an insightful way. But the time and investigative zeal that Maddow has devoted to Russia has come at the cost of any such analysis. Maddow has shunned critical issues such as the Democratic establishment’s embrace of neoliberal financial policies and rejection of economic populism. Her audience has heard next to no discussion of why a segment of Obama voters abandoned Democrats for Trump or didn’t vote at all. Instead, lengthy segments have suggested that Clinton and the Democrats were done in by such Russian “active measures” as anti-Clinton bot attacks (their key target, a Bernie Sanders Facebook fan page in San Diego); hackers interfering in Congressional races; and fake news stories and social media posts.

Bernie-Sanders-San-Diego-Facebook-Page-1491941188 Bernie Sanders San Diego Facebook Page. Screenshot: MSNBC

Maddow has also avoided substantive post-mortems on Clinton team fumbles such as its absence of policy messaging or neglect of swing states. Clinton campaign guests have faced almost no challenge or criticism. Interviewing Jennifer Palmieri, Clinton’s communications director, on December 12, Maddow asked about how Russia, FBI Director James Comey, and Green Party candidate Jill Stein fueled Clinton’s loss. Her toughest question on the campaign’s mistakes: “You guys did out raise and outspend Trump two to one. How could you have taken better advantage of your cash advantage?”
The Danger of Hyperbole

On several occasions, Maddow has described Moscow’s alleged interference in the 2016 race as an “attack on our election.” On March 21, she went further:

This is not part of American politics. This is not, you know, partisan warfare between Republicans and Democrats. This is international warfare against our country. And it did not end on Election Day. We are still in it.

But whatever Russia may have done, it was not “international warfare.” And it was most likely far less consequential than U.S. interference in other countries over many decades, including Russia itself.

“If the worst is true,” Maddow warned on March 17, “if the presidency is effectively a Russian op, if the American presidency right now is the product of collusion between the Russian intelligence services and an American campaign — I mean, that is so profoundly big, we not only need to stay focused on figuring it out. We need to start preparing for what the consequences are going to be if it proves to be true.”

But what if the allegations are ultimately disproved or go nowhere? Maddow and likeminded influential liberals will have led their audience on a fruitless quest, all the while helping foment anti-Russia sentiment, channeling Democratic Party energy away from productive self-critique, and diverting focus from the White House’s actual policies. Trump would be handed a further gift via the damaged credibility of his “enemy”: the media responsible for holding him to account.

And what if the media’s focus on the “Russia Connection” ends up goading Trump to become more bellicose with Russia? The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists recently moved its doomsday clock to its highest point since 1953. Among many contributing factors, the Bulletin warned: “The United States and Russia—which together possess more than 90 percent of the world’s nuclear weapons—remained at odds in a variety of theaters.”

The need for caution was perhaps most starkly underscored last week with Trump’s Syria bombing, which prompted the Kremlin to warn that Russia and the U.S. are “on the verge” of military conflict. Rather than raising the ludicrous theory that the attack on Syria was orchestrated by Putin, as Maddow and O’Donnell speculated, it’s worth asking if Trump was motivated at least in part to show the media – a top presidential preoccupation – that Putin isn’t pulling the strings.

But Maddow shows no signs of slowing down. Her top story on Monday night was about the detention in Spain of a prominent Russian spammer, Pyotr Levashov, at the FBI’s request. Levashov’s wife has told reporters that his arrest may be linked to a computer virus “associated with” Trump’s election victory. The FBI has offered no details. “This is the news,” Maddow reported in her 13-minute segment. “The Russian guy just got arrested.”

RELATED
The Increasingly Unhinged Russia Rhetoric Comes From a Long-Standing U.S. Playbook
The Deep State Goes to War With President-Elect, Using Unverified Claims, as Democrats Cheer
The Stark Contrast Between GOP’s Self-Criticism in 2012 and Democrats’ Blame-Everyone-Else Posture Now
In the Democratic Echo Chamber, Inconvenient Truths Are Recast as Putin Plots
CONTACT THE AUTHOR:
Aaron Maté
✉aaronmate@​therealnews.com
t@aaronjmate

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Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Airlines Can Treat You Like Garbage Because They Are an Oligopoly

Alex Pareene

This week, everyone is asking some variation of this question:



There is actually a pretty simple answer. Why is an armed agent of the state using violence to enforce a contract freely entered into by two private parties? Because that is more or less how you define “classical liberalism.” You may have thought that buying a ticket and boarding a plane and even sitting in your assigned seat meant you had some “right” to “fly on the plane.” Legally and contractually, you do not. (Welcome, Tweeps, to your first reckoning with the inherent contradictions in the philosophical underpinnings of laissez-faire capitalism and its conception of “coercion.”)

Of course, this isn’t how capitalism is supposed to work. This isn’t how it’s sold to us. Goons dragging bloodied passengers off of airplanes shouldn’t happen in a world where people “vote with their wallets” and corporations compete with one another to attract consumers. This is the disconnect that has puzzled so many. The first hint to the answer comes in noting that this was not an isolated incident, and that this sort of corporate mistreatment of paying customers is not limited to United.



Why do these airlines sound so unapologetic on social media? Why aren’t the CEOs apologizing? Why does no one sound contrite? This isn’t how the outrage cycle is supposed to work!


When everyone gets mad at Pepsi, Pepsi has to apologize because it is very easy to not drink Pepsi. One must affirmatively choose to drink Pepsi; not drinking Pepsi is the default option. (Though, thanks to consolidation, it’s much harder to avoid Pepsico products entirely than you might think.)

The major American airlines, though, do not need to do anything to convince people to fly with them, because they all merged and consolidated until there were just four firms controlling the vast majority of domestic flights, and they have determined that it is in their collective best interest not to seriously compete with one another.

There used to be competition, which seemed—just like we were taught in high school economics—to bring lower fares and more routes to more destinations, but the airlines weren’t making enough money, so they consolidated into a few huge carriers, reduced service to medium-sized airports, and massively raised the cost of flying through both increased fares and skyrocketing fees.

In the three decades after the U.S. deregulated the airline industry in 1978, carriers chased market share at the expense of profits, losing tens of billions of dollars over the period. From 2008 to 2014, four mergers combined eight big airlines into four: American Airlines Group Inc., United Continental Holdings Inc., Delta Air Lines Inc. and Southwest Airlines Co.
This is called oligopoly, and, for airline shareholders, this is great! It truly is a new golden age of aviation, for people who fly in private jets but own stock in airlines. For the rest of us, this is most of why flying sucks now (the rest of it is the ever-expanding and largely incompetent security state), and also why United is not that worried about you sharing that video of a man being brutally dragged off their plane. They are not embarrassed, and you will not embarrass them. Airlines feel no need to perform the dance of corporate penitence. If you’ve chosen to fly somewhere, it’s probably because you don’t have a good alternative to flying, and you may not even have a good alternative to flying one particular airline:

At 40 of the 100 largest U.S. airports, a single airline controls a majority of the market, as measured by the number of seats for sale, up from 34 airports a decade earlier. At 93 of the top 100, one or two airlines control a majority of the seats, an increase from 78 airports, according to AP’s analysis of data from Diio, an airline-schedule tracking service.
What does United care if the internet is mad at it? The airlines divvied up the sky between themselves, and if you live or work in United territory, at some point you’ll face the real “choice” offered to consumers in a post-consolidation industry: flying with them, flying a more time-consuming and circuitous route with some other, probably equally horrible airline (if such a route is available), or not flying anywhere. Do you need to get from Fargo to Denver in a hurry? Congratulations, you are now a United customer.



This is the end result of decades of corporate consolidation—aided by economists and regulators and politicians from both parties—that has greatly enriched a few at the expense of workers, consumers, and citizens in general. People chose to create a world that allows what happened on that plane to happen. Direct your outrage at the policymakers, economists, and industry cartels that creat