Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Haneen Zoabi: 'Israel is the only country not shocked by or afraid of Trump'

The Guardian
by Harriet Sherwood

The Israeli-Palestinian politician campaigns for women’s rights and against attacks on minorities. She explains why the US president has so much in common with Benjamin Netanyahu

Zoabi, 47, was the first Israeli-Palestinian woman to be elected to parliament in 2009.

Monday 30 January 2017 13.08 EST Last modified on Monday 30 January 2017 17.00 EST
Haneen Zoabi, one of 14 Israeli-Palestinian members of the Knesset out of a total of 120, has been spat at, jostled and suspended from parliament. “I’ve got used to [abuse],” she says. “It’s partly because I am a woman, don’t forget that. [For some people] it’s normal to be angry towards a woman who doesn’t [meet] your expectations of how women should behave.”

Zoabi has long faced risk of expulsion. Under a law passed last summer, a member can be thrown out for “incitement to racism” or “supporting armed struggle” if 90 of the 120 legislators back such a move. Civil rights groups have said the law is directed at Palestinian members of parliament in an attempt to silence them. Isaac Herzog, the leader of Israel’s Labour party, described the legislation as a “dark mark on Israel’s face”. Zoabi has called it an attempt at “political assassination”.

Arab-Israeli politician Haneen Zoabi disqualified from re-election

“We are members of parliament. We don’t throw stones, we’re not in any armed resistance. We talk. And Israel has criminalised this,” she says. Zoabi, 47, was the first Israeli-Palestinian woman to be elected to parliament when she won a seat in 2009. About 20% of Israeli citizens are Palestinian, who have nominally equal rights but face institutionalised discrimination – for example, in funding for schools (which are segregated between Jews and Palestinians in Israel) and in public sector jobs. She grew up in Nazareth, where she still lives in an apartment in her parents’ house, and studied philosophy at the university of Haifa – one of the few mixed cities in Israel.

Her notoriety was triggered by her participation in a flotilla of ships attempting to break the blockade of Gaza in May 2010. It was intercepted by Israeli forces and nine pro-Palestinian activists were killed. Zoabi, who was aboard the lead ship, the Mavi Marmara, witnessed the violence.

The resulting furore has not diminished her commitment to activism. Earlier this month, she and other Israeli-Palestinian politicians protested at the Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran in the Negev desert as Israeli forces took part in a demolition operation to make way for a new Jewish town. A Bedouin man was shot dead and a police officer died when he was hit by a car. Zoabi and her fellow lawmakers are now facing calls to be investigated for incitement. “What is happening at Umm al-Hiran is expulsion, it is apartheid, colonialism,” she says. “Palestinians are facing political expulsion from the Knesset, and physical expulsion from the Negev.”

Israel, she says, wants to “close the file” on the Palestinians’ demand for a state. Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, “is shifting the paradigm from managing the crisis to solving the crisis – but [his is] a one-sided solution in the interests of Israel. Something has changed in the minds of Israelis: Palestinians have ceased to exist. The walls are not just physical, they are also psychological.”

This mindset is reinforced by the new US president, she says. “Donald Trump may seem bizarre and unique to most of the world, but not for Israel. His kind of populism [and] his way of violent speech are the dominant model in Israel. Israel is the only country not shocked and not afraid of Trump. On the contrary, Netanyahu and Trump represent the same model.”

If Trump follows through on his election pledge to move the US embassy to Jerusalem, signifying endorsement of Israel’s claim of the city as its “eternal and undivided capital”, there should be “strong reaction”, says Zoabi.

Zoabi said that Trump’s ban on people from some Muslim countries entering the US was a dangerous formalisation of Islamophobia. “This hatred is nothing new, it’s part of the culture, but now it’s being turned into policy. It’s becoming part of the norm that you can talk with hatred about Muslims without feeling any shame,” she said.

She would like to see a popular civil rights movement, with Palestinians taking to the streets, businesses closing in protest and the Palestinian Authority dissolving itself to force Israel to take responsibility “as an occupying force”. But the international community – Europe, and Britain in particular – must also act, she adds; Israel should not be able to expand settlements in east Jerusalem and the West Bank with impunity. “If you violate international law, you should pay the price.” Zoabi would like to see government sanctions and a boycott – “Can you imagine a more non-violent protest than a boycott?”

Within her own community, she says, it was no longer “against the norm [for women] to be active leading political struggles. This is not unusual. In Palestinian society, more women have academic qualifications than men. Women in the workplace are not unfamiliar. Independent women, choosing to continue a career, delaying marriage or not getting married, having fewer children – this is something you see more and more. It’s not a conservative society in a stereotyped way.” She has campaigned against issues such as polygamy, domestic violence and so-called “honour” killings. “We had four demonstrations last year, which were widely supported. I’m not in the margins on this issue – I’m in the consensus.”

Zoabi hopes she is a role model to younger Palestinian women: “You should stand for the things you believe in. If you don’t get direct results right now, it doesn’t mean to say there is no outcome. Maybe not for you, but for another generation.”

Last month, Zoabi took part in a protest by female parliamentarians and officials at the Knesset after two aides were barred for wearing insufficiently “modest” dresses. The dress code was eased as a result. “It was so silly – but sometimes you feel really powerful,” she says. “I just wish the Knesset cared as much about freedom as it does about looking at women’s dresses.”

Monday, January 30, 2017

Goldmanizing Donald Trump

Posted by Nomi Prins at 5:37pm, January 29, 2017.
Follow TomDispatch on Twitter @TomDispatch.

We now find ourselves in Donald Trump’s back-to-the-future world. And why should we be surprised? His whole campaign pitch was to do it “again” -- to return to his dream of past American greatness, which seems mired in a 1950s America of burning fossil fuels and urban smog. In his very first days in office, through executive orders he’s already moved to revive two pipeline projects: the building of the Keystone XL pipeline from Canada to the Gulf Coast, cancelled by the Obama administration in 2015 after years of massive environmental protests, and the Dakota Access Pipeline, halted by the Obama administration late last year after fierce and effective protests by Native American tribes and others. At the same time, his administration has “frozen” all grants and contracts at the Environmental Protection Agency, a first step toward what will undoubtedly be an attempt to drag us back into an American past that lacked serious environmental protections. The president also took the first step -- another executive order -- toward rolling back (or simply rolling up) the Affordable Care Act. This was part of what will clearly be an attempt to quite literally roll back history by obliterating the “legacy” of the country’s first black president, including possibly bringing back CIA "black sites" and "enhanced interrogation techniques," both banned by Obama on entering the Oval Office. (Again, none of this should be surprising since Trump began his political career as the chief spokesman for birtherism, the initial attempt to delegitimize Obama's presidency.) And we await the new president’s announcement of his Supreme Court nominee to fill the empty seat of Antonin Scalia, knowing that at least one of his leading choices, a fierce opponent of both abortion and gay rights, would be ready to roll the clock back, in the case of Roe v. Wade, to the years before 1973, if not to the 1950s. Clearly, these are just initial steps on the road not to a genuine future but to what, by now, has become a kind of fantasy past.

And speaking of “again,” as TomDispatch regular Nomi Prins, author of All the Presidents' Bankers, points out today, there’s always Goldman Sachs, which is really a case of again and again and again. Who even remembers the campaign moments when Trump claimed that “the guys at Goldman Sachs... have total control over Hillary Clinton” and tweeted that she was “owned by Wall Street”? Now, The Donald has smashed all past records by appointing six Goldman Sachs alumni to posts in his administration. Think of that as again with a couple of exclamation points attached to it, a coup for an investment bank that has been a government powerhouse, as Prins makes so clear, since the 1930s. So buckle up, settle into that time machine, and head back to the future in an unprecedented way. Tom

Irony isn’t a concept with which President Donald J. Trump is familiar. In his Inaugural Address, having nominated the wealthiest cabinet in American history, he proclaimed, “For too long, a small group in our nation's capital has reaped the rewards of government while the people have borne the cost. Washington flourished -- but the people did not share in its wealth.” Under Trump, an even smaller group will flourish -- in particular, a cadre of former Goldman Sachs executives. To put the matter bluntly, two of them (along with the Federal Reserve) are likely to control our economy and financial system in the years to come.

Infusing Washington with Goldman alums isn’t exactly an original idea. Three of the last four presidents, including The Donald, have handed the wheel of the U.S. economy to ex-Goldmanites. But in true Trumpian style, after attacking Hillary Clinton for her Goldman ties, he wasn’t satisfied to do just that. He had to do it bigger and better. Unlike Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, just a sole Goldman figure lording it over economic policy wasn’t enough for him. Only two would do.

The Great Vampire Squid Revisited

Whether you voted for or against Donald Trump, whether you’re gearing up for the revolution or waiting for his next tweet to drop, rest assured that, in the years to come, the ideology that matters most won’t be that of the “forgotten” Americans of his Inaugural Address. It will be that of Goldman Sachs and it will dominate the domestic economy and, by extension, the global one.

At the dawn of the twentieth century, when President Teddy Roosevelt governed the country on a platform of trust busting aimed at reducing corporate power, even he could not bring himself to bust up the banks. That was a mistake born of his collaboration with the financier J.P. Morgan to mitigate the effects of the Bank Panic of 1907. Roosevelt feared that if he didn’t enlist the influence of the country’s major banker, the crisis would be even longer and more disastrous. It’s an error he might not have made had he foreseen the effect that one particular investment bank would have on America’s economy and political system.

There have been hundreds of articles written about the “world’s most powerful investment bank,” or as journalist Matt Taibbi famously called it back in 2010, the “great vampire squid.” That squid is now about to wrap its tentacles around our world in a way previously not imagined by Bill Clinton or George W. Bush.

No less than six Trump administration appointments already hail from that single banking outfit. Of those, two will impact your life strikingly: former Goldman partner and soon-to-be Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and incoming top economic adviser and National Economic Council Chair Gary Cohn, former president and “number two” at Goldman. (The Council he will head has been responsible for “policy-making for domestic and international economic issues.”)

Now, let’s take a step into history to get the full Monty on why this matters more than you might imagine. In New York, circa 1932, then-Governor Franklin Delano Roosevelt announced his bid for the presidency. At the time, our nation was in the throes of the Great Depression. Goldman Sachs had, in fact, been one of the banks at the core of the infamous crash of 1929 that crippled the financial system and nearly destroyed the economy. It was then run by a dynamic figure, Sidney Weinberg, dubbed “the Politician” by Roosevelt because of his smooth tongue and “Mr. Wall Street” by the New York Times because of his range of connections there. Weinberg quickly grasped that, to have a chance of redeeming his firm’s reputation from the ashes of public opinion, he would need to aim high indeed. So he made himself indispensable to Roosevelt’s campaign for the presidency, soon embedding himself on the Democratic National Campaign Executive Committee.

After victory, he was not forgotten. FDR named him to the Business Advisory Council of the Department of Commerce, even as he continued to run Goldman Sachs. He would, in fact, go on to serve as an advisor to five more presidents, while Goldman would be transformed from a boutique banking operation into a global leviathan with a direct phone line to whichever president held office and a permanent seat at the table in political and financial Washington.

Now, let’s jump forward to the 1990s when Robert Rubin, co-chairman of Goldman Sachs, took a page from Weinberg’s playbook. He recognized the potential in a young, charismatic governor from Arkansas with a favorable attitude toward banks. Since Bill Clinton was far less well known than FDR had been, Rubin didn’t actually cozy up to him from the get-go. It was another Goldman Sachs executive, Ken Brody, who introduced them, but Rubin would eventually help Clinton gain Wall Street cred and the kind of funding that would make his successful 1992 run for the presidency possible. Those were favors that the new president wouldn’t forget. As a reward, and because he felt comfortable with Rubin’s economic philosophy, Clinton created a special post just for him: first chair of the new National Economic Council.

It was then only a matter of time until he was elevated to Treasury Secretary. In that position, he would accomplish something Ronald Reagan -- the first president to appoint a Treasury Secretary directly from Wall Street (former CEO of Merrill Lynch Donald Regan) -- and George H.W. Bush failed to do. He would get the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933 repealed by hustling President Clinton into backing such a move. FDR had signed the act in order to separate investment banks from commercial banks, ensuring that risky and speculative banking practices would not be funded with the deposits of hard-working Americans. The act did what it was intended to do. It inoculated the nation against the previously reckless behavior of its biggest banks.

Rubin, who had left government service six months earlier, wasn’t even in Washington when, on November 12, 1999, Clinton signed the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act that repealed Glass-Steagall. He had, however, become a board member of Citigroup, one of the key beneficiaries of that repeal, about two weeks earlier.

As Treasury Secretary, Rubin also helped craft the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). He subsequently convinced both President Clinton and Congress to raid U.S. taxpayer coffers to “help” Mexico when its banking system and peso crashed thanks to NAFTA. In reality, of course, he was lending a hand to American banks with exposure in Mexico. The subsequent $25 billion bailout would protect Goldman Sachs, as well as other big Wall Street banks, from losing boatloads of money. Think of it as a test run for the great bailout of 2008.

A World Made by and for Goldman Sachs

Moving on to more recent history, consider a moment when yet another Goldmanite was at the helm of the economy. From 1970 to 1973, Henry (“Hank”) Paulson had worked in various positions in the Nixon administration. In 1974, he joined Goldman Sachs, becoming its chairman and CEO in 1999. I was at Goldman at the time. (I left in 2002.) I remember the constant internal chatter about whether an investment bank like Goldman could continue to compete against the super banks that the Glass-Steagall repeal had created. The buzz was that if Goldman and similar investment banks were allowed to borrow more against their assets (“leverage themselves” in banking-speak), they wouldn’t need to use individual deposits as collateral for their riskier deals.

In 2004, Paulson helped convince the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to change its regulations so that investment banks could operate as if they had the kind of collateral or backing for their trades that goliaths like Citigroup and JPMorgan Chase had. As a result, Goldman Sachs, Lehman Brothers, and Bear Stearns, to name three that would become notorious in the economic meltdown only four years later (and all ones for which I once worked) promptly leveraged themselves to the hilt. As they were doing so, George W. Bush made Paulson his third and final Treasury Secretary. In that capacity, Paulson managed to completely ignore the crisis brewing as a direct result of the repeal of Glass-Steagall, the one I predicted was coming in Other People’s Money, the book I wrote when I left Goldman.

In 2006, Paulson was questioned on his obvious conflicts of interest and responded, “Conflicts are a fact of life in many, if not most, institutions, ranging from the political arena and government to media and industry. The key is how we manage them.” At the time, I wrote, “The question isn’t how it’s a conflict of interest for Paulson to preside over our country’s economy but how it’s not?” For men like Paulson, after all, such conflicts don’t just involve their business holdings. They also involve the ideology associated with those holdings, which for him at that time came down to a deep belief in pursuing the full-scale deregulation of banking.

Paulson was, of course, Treasury Secretary for the period in which the 2008 financial crisis was brewing and then erupted. When it happened, he was the one who got to decide which banks survived and which died. Under his ministrations, Lehman Brothers died; Bear Stearns was given to JPMorgan Chase (along with plenty of government financial support); and you won’t be surprised to learn that Goldman Sachs thrived. While designing that outcome under the pressure of the moment, Paulson pled with Nancy Pelosi to press the Democrats in the House of Representatives to support a staggering $700 billion bailout. All those taxpayer dollars went with the 2008 Emergency Financial Stability Act that would save the banking system (under the auspices of saving the economy) and leave it resplendently triumphant, bonuses included), even as foreclosures rose by 21% the following year.

Once again, it was a world made by and for Goldman Sachs.

Goldman Back in the (White) House

Running for office as an outsider is one thing. Instantly inviting Wall Street into that office once you arrive is another. Now, it seems that Donald Trump is bringing us the newest chapter in the long-running White House-Goldman Sachs saga. And count on Steven Mnuchin and Gary Cohn to offer a few fresh wrinkles on that old alliance.

Cohn was one of the partners who ran the Fixed Income, Currency and Commodity (FICC) division of Goldman. It was the one that benefited the most from leverage, trading, and the complexity of Wall Street’s financial concoctions like collateralized debt obligations (CDOs) stuffed with derivatives attached to subprime mortgages. You could say, it was leverage that helped propel Cohn up the Goldman food chain.

Steven Mnuchin has proven particularly adept at understanding such concoctions. He left Goldman in 2002. In 2004, with two other ex-Goldman partners, he formed the hedge fund Dune Capital Management. In the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, Dune went shopping, as Wall Street likes to do, for cheap buys it could convert into big profits. Mnuchin and his pals found the perfect prey in a Pasadena-based bank, IndyMac, that had failed in July 2008 before the financial crisis kicked into high gear, and had been seized by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). They would pick up its assets on the cheap.

At his confirmation hearings, Mnuchin downplayed his role in throwing homeowners (including members of the military) out of their heavily mortgaged homes as a result of that purchase. He cast himself instead as a genuine hero, the guy who convened a cadre of financial sharks to help, not harm, the bank’s customers who, without their benevolence, would have fared so much worse. He looked deeply earnest as he spoke of his role as the savior of the common -- or perhaps in the age of Trump “forgotten” -- man and woman. Maybe he even believed it.

But the philosophy of swooping in, attacking an IndyMac-like target of opportunity and converting it into a fortune for himself (and problems for everyone else), has been a hallmark of his career. To transfer this version of over-amped 1% opportunism to the halls of political power is certainly a new definition of, in Trumpian terms, giving the government back to “the people.” Perhaps what our new president meant was “the people at Goldman Sachs.” Think of it, in any case, as the supercharging of a vulture mentality in a designer suit, the very attitude that once fueled the rise to power of Goldman Sachs.

Mnuchin repeatedly blamed the FDIC and other government agencies for not helping him help homeowners. “In the press it has been said that I ran a ‘foreclosure machine,’” he said, “On the contrary, I was committed to loan modifications intended to stop foreclosures. I ran a ‘Loan Modification Machine.’ Whenever we could do loan modifications we did them, but many times, the FDIC, FNMA, FHLMC, and bank trustees imposed strict rules governing the processing of these loans.” Nothing, that is, was or ever is his fault -- reflecting his inability to take the slightest responsibility for his undeniable role in kicking people out of their homes when they could have remained. It’s undoubtedly the perfect trait for a Treasury secretary in a government of the 1% of the 1%.

Mnuchin also blamed the Federal Reserve for suggesting that the Volcker Rule -- part of the Dodd-Frank Act of 2010 designed to limit risky trading activities -- was harming bank liquidity and could be a problem. The way he did that was typically slick. He claimed to support the Volcker Rule, even as he underscored the Fed’s concern with it. In this way, he managed both to make himself look squeaky clean and very publicly open the door to a possible Trumpian “revision” of that rule that would be aimed at weakening its intent and once again deregulating bank trading activities.

Similarly, at those confirmation hearings he said (as Trump had previously) that we needed to help community banks compete against the bigger ones through less onerous regulations. Even though this may indeed be true, it is also guaranteed to be another bait-and-switch move likely to lead to the deregulation of the big banks, too, ultimately rendering them even bigger and more dangerous not just to those community banks but to all of us.

Indeed, any proposition to reduce the size of big banks was sidestepped. Although Mnuchin did say that four monster banks shouldn't run the country, he didn’t say that they should be broken up. He won’t. Nor will Cohn. In response to a question from Democratic Senator Maria Cantwell, he added, “No, I don’t support going back to Glass-Steagall as is. What we’ve talked about with the president-elect is that perhaps we need a twenty-first-century Glass-Steagall. But, no I don’t support taking a very old law and saying we should adhere to it as is.”

So, although the reinstatement of Glass-Steagall was part of the 2016 Republican election platform, it’s likely to prove just another of Trump’s many tactics to gain votes -- in this case, from Bernie Sanders supporters and libertarians who see too-big-to-fail institutions and a big-bank bailout policy as wrong and dangerous. Rest assured, though, Mnuchin and his Goldman Sachs pals will allow the largest Wall Street players to remain as virulent and parasitic as they are now, if not more so.

Goldman itself just announced that it was the world’s top merger and acquisitions adviser for the sixth consecutive year. In other words, the real deal-maker isn’t the former ruler of The Celebrity Apprentice, but Goldman Sachs. The government might change, but Goldman stays the same. And the traffic pile up of Goldman personalities in Trump’s corner made their fortunes doing deals -- and not the kind that benefited the public either.

A former Goldman colleague recently asked me whether it was just possible that Mnuchin was a good person. I can’t answer that. It’s something only he knows for sure. But no matter how earnest or sympathetic to the little guy he tried to be before that Senate confirmation committee, I do know one thing: he’s also a shark. And sharks do what they’re best at and what’s best for them. They smell blood in the water and go in for the kill. Think of it as the Goldman Sachs effect. In the waters of the Trump-Goldman era, don’t doubt for a second that the blood will be our own.

Nomi Prins, a TomDispatch regular, is the author of six books. Her most recent is All the Presidents' Bankers: The Hidden Alliances That Drive American Power (Nation Books). She is a former Wall Street executive. Special thanks go to researcher Craig Wilson for his superb work on this piece.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Goodbye, American neoliberalism. A new era is here Cornel West

Trump’s election was enabled by the policies that overlooked the plight of our most vulnerable citizens. We gird ourselves for a frightening future

‘What is to be done? First we must try to tell the truth.’
Thursday 17 November 2016 06.00 EST Last modified on Saturday 19 November 2016 15.06 EST

The neoliberal era in the United States ended with a neofascist bang. The political triumph of Donald Trump shattered the establishments in the Democratic and Republican parties – both wedded to the rule of Big Money and to the reign of meretricious politicians.

The Bush and Clinton dynasties were destroyed by the media-saturated lure of the pseudo-populist billionaire with narcissist sensibilities and ugly, fascist proclivities. The monumental election of Trump was a desperate and xenophobic cry of human hearts for a way out from under the devastation of a disintegrating neoliberal order – a nostalgic return to an imaginary past of greatness.

White working- and middle-class fellow citizens – out of anger and anguish – rejected the economic neglect of neoliberal policies and the self-righteous arrogance of elites. Yet these same citizens also supported a candidate who appeared to blame their social misery on minorities, and who alienated Mexican immigrants, Muslims, black people, Jews, gay people, women and China in the process.

This lethal fusion of economic insecurity and cultural scapegoating brought neoliberalism to its knees. In short, the abysmal failure of the Democratic party to speak to the arrested mobility and escalating poverty of working people unleashed a hate-filled populism and protectionism that threaten to tear apart the fragile fiber of what is left of US democracy. And since the most explosive fault lines in present-day America are first and foremost racial, then gender, homophobic, ethnic and religious, we gird ourselves for a frightening future.

What is to be done? First we must try to tell the truth and a condition of truth is to allow suffering to speak. For 40 years, neoliberals lived in a world of denial and indifference to the suffering of poor and working people and obsessed with the spectacle of success. Second we must bear witness to justice. We must ground our truth-telling in a willingness to suffer and sacrifice as we resist domination. Third we must remember courageous exemplars like Martin Luther King Jr, who provide moral and spiritual inspiration as we build multiracial alliances to combat poverty and xenophobia, Wall Street crimes and war crimes, global warming and police abuse – and to protect precious rights and liberties.

Feminists misunderstood the presidential election from day one
Liza Featherstone
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The age of Obama was the last gasp of neoliberalism. Despite some progressive words and symbolic gestures, Obama chose to ignore Wall Street crimes, reject bailouts for homeowners, oversee growing inequality and facilitate war crimes like US drones killing innocent civilians abroad.

Rightwing attacks on Obama – and Trump-inspired racist hatred of him – have made it nearly impossible to hear the progressive critiques of Obama. The president has been reluctant to target black suffering – be it in overcrowded prisons, decrepit schools or declining workplaces. Yet, despite that, we get celebrations of the neoliberal status quo couched in racial symbolism and personal legacy. Meanwhile, poor and working class citizens of all colors have continued to suffer in relative silence.

In this sense, Trump’s election was enabled by the neoliberal policies of the Clintons and Obama that overlooked the plight of our most vulnerable citizens. The progressive populism of Bernie Sanders nearly toppled the establishment of the Democratic party but Clinton and Obama came to the rescue to preserve the status quo. And I do believe Sanders would have beat Trump to avert this neofascist outcome!

Click and elect: how fake news helped Donald Trump win a real election
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In this bleak moment, we must inspire each other driven by a democratic soulcraft of integrity, courage, empathy and a mature sense of history – even as it seems our democracy is slipping away.

We must not turn away from the forgotten people of US foreign policy – such as Palestinians under Israeli occupation, Yemen’s civilians killed by US-sponsored Saudi troops or Africans subject to expanding US military presence.

As one whose great family and people survived and thrived through slavery, Jim Crow and lynching, Trump’s neofascist rhetoric and predictable authoritarian reign is just another ugly moment that calls forth the best of who we are and what we can do.

For us in these times, to even have hope is too abstract, too detached, too spectatorial. Instead we must be a hope, a participant and a force for good as we face this catastrophe.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Why the Fear-mongering? Only One Democratic State is Possible in Palestine and Israel

From Palestine Chronicle

By Ramzy Baroud

(Original Link)

Long before December 28, when Secretary of State, John Kerry took the podium at the Dean Acheson Auditorium in Washington DC to pontificate on the uncertain future of the two-state solution and the need to save Israel from itself, the subject of a Palestinian state has been paramount.
In fact, unlike common belief, the push to establish a Palestinian and a Jewish state side-by-side goes back years before the passing of United Nations Resolution 181 in November 1947. That infamous resolution had called for the partitioning of Palestine into three entities: a Jewish state, a Palestinian state and an international regime to govern Jerusalem.
A more thorough reading of history can pinpoint multiple references to the Palestinian (or Arab state) between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.
The idea of two states is western par excellence. No Palestinian party or leader had ever thought that partitioning the holy land was ever an option. Then, such an idea seemed preposterous, partly because, as Ilan Pappe's 'Ethnic Cleaning of Palestine' shows, "almost all of the cultivated land in Palestine was held by the indigenous population (while) only 5.8% percent was in Jewish ownership in 1947."
An earlier, but equally important reference to a Palestinian state was made in the Peel Commission, a British commission of inquiry, led by Lord Peel that was sent to Palestine to investigate the reasons behind the popular strike, uprising and later armed rebellion that began in 1936 and lasted for nearly three years.
The "underlying causes of the disturbances" were two, resolved the commission: Palestinian desire for independence, and the "hatred and fear of the establishment of the Jewish national home." The latter was promised by the British government to the Zionist Federation of Great Britain and Ireland in 1917 which became known as the 'Balfour Declaration.'
The Peel Commission recommended the partition of Palestine into a Jewish state and a Palestinian state, which would be incorporated into Transjordan, with enclaves reserved for the British Mandate government.
In the time between that recommendation eighty years ago, and Kerry's warning that the two-state solution is "in serious jeopardy," little has been done in terms of practical steps to establish a Palestinian state. Worse, the US has used its veto power in the UN repeatedly to impede the establishment of a Palestinian state, as well as utilizing its political and economic might to intimidate others from recognizing (although symbolically) a Palestinian state. It has further played a key role in funding illegal Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Jerusalem - all of which rendered the existence of a Palestinian state virtually impossible.
The issue now is: why does the West continue to use the two-state solution as their political parameter for a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, while, at the same time ensuring that their own prescription for conflict resolution is never to become a reality?
The answer, partly, lies in the fact the two-state solution was never devised for implementation to begin with. Like the 'peace process' and other pretenses, it aimed to promote among Palestinians and Arabs the idea that there is a goal worth striving for, despite being unattainable.
But even that goal was itself conditioned on a set of demands that were unrealistic to begin with. Historically, Palestinians had to renounce violence (their armed resistance to Israel's military occupation), consent to various UN resolutions (even if Israel still reject those resolutions), accept Israel's 'right' to exist as a Jewish state, and so on. That yet-to-be-established Palestinian state was also meant to be demilitarized, divided between the West Bank and Gaza, and excluding most of Occupied East Jerusalem.
Many new 'creative' solutions were also offered to alleviate any Israeli fears that the nonexistent Palestinian state, in case of its establishment, never pose a threat to Israel. At times, discussions were afoot about a confederation between Palestine and Jordan, and other times, as in the most recent proposal by the head of Jewish Home Party, Israeli Minister Naftali Bennett, making Gaza a state of its own and annexing to Israel 60 percent of the West Bank.
And when Israel's allies, frustrated by the rise of the rightwing in Israel and the obstinacy of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, insist that time is running out for a two-state solution, they express their worries in the form of tough love. Israel's settlement activity is "increasingly cementing an irreversible one-state reality," said Kerry in his major policy speech last month.
Such a reality would force Israel to either compromise on the Jewish identity of the state (as if having religious/ethnic identities of a modern democratic state is a common precondition) or having to contend with being an Apartheid state (as if such reality doesn't exist anyway.)
Kerry warned Israel that it will eventually be left with the option of placing Palestinians "under a permanent military occupation that deprives them of the most basic freedoms," thus paving the ground for a "separate and unequal" scenario.
Yet while warnings that a two-state solution possibility is disintegrating, few bothered to try to understand the reality from a Palestinian perspective.
For Palestinians, the debate on Israel having to choose between being democratic and Jewish is ludicrous. For them, Israel's democracy applies fully to its Jewish citizens and no one else, while Palestinians have subsisted for decades behind walls, fences, prisons and besieged enclaves, like the Gaza Strip.
And with two separate laws, rules and realities applying to two separate groups in the same land, Kerry's 'separate but unequal' Apartheid scenario had taken place the moment Israel was established in 1948.
Fed up by the illusions of their own failed leadership, according to a recent poll, two thirds of Palestinians now agree that a two-state solution is not possible. And that margin keeps on growing as fast as the massive illegal settlement enterprise dotting the Occupied West Bank and Jerusalem.
This is not an argument against the two-state solution; for the latter merely existed as a ruse to pacify Palestinians, buy time and demarcate the conflict with a mirage-like political horizon. If the US was indeed keen on a two-state solution, it would have fought vehemently to make it a reality, decades ago.
To say that the two-state solution is now dead is to subscribe to the illusion that it was once alive and possible.
That said, it behooves everyone to understand that co-existence in a one democratic state is not a dark scenario that spells doom for the region.
It is time to abandon unattainable illusions and focus all energies to foster co-existence, based on equality and justice for all.
Indeed, there can be one state between the river and the sea, and that is a democratic state for all of its people, regardless of their ethnicity or religious beliefs.
- Dr. Ramzy Baroud has been writing about the Middle East for over 20 years. He is an internationally-syndicated columnist, a media consultant, an author of several books and the founder of PalestineChronicle.com. His books include "Searching Jenin", "The Second Palestinian Intifada" and his latest "My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza's Untold Story". His website is www.ramzybaroud.net

Failing To Confront Trump’s Bigotry Is a Moral Stain on Simon Wiesenthal Center — and American Jews

from The Forward

In the decades to come, historians of American Jewry will ask how a community that keenly remembers its own experience with state bigotry produced institutions that excused the most nakedly bigoted major party presidential nominee in modern American history.

They will ask why the crowd at the policy conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee gave Donald Trump a standing ovation just three months after he proposed banning Muslim immigration to the United States. They will ask why the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations criticized neither that ban nor Trump’s racist attack on a Mexican-American judge.

And they will reserve a special mention for the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Rabbi Marvin Hier. Despite running what is ostensibly a human rights organization, Hier ignored or downplayed Trump’s attacks on vulnerable minorities throughout the campaign.

And last week, Trump rewarded him by asking him to offer an inaugural prayer.

To grasp how dramatically the Wiesenthal Center failed the moral test that Trump posed, compare its behavior over the past 18 months to that of the Anti-Defamation League. In their respective stated missions, the two organizations are similar. The ADL “fights anti-Semitism and all forms of bigotry, defends democratic ideals and protects civil rights for all.” The Wiesenthal Center “confronts anti-Semitism, hate and terrorism, promotes human rights and dignity, stands with Israel, defends the safety of Jews worldwide, and teaches the lessons of the Holocaust for future generations.”

But when it comes to Trump, the two organizations have interpreted those missions in very different ways. In December 2015, when Trump proposed a religious test for immigration to the United States, the ADL called it “unacceptable and antithetical to American values.” And it drew a parallel between the persecution of Jews and of Muslims, noting “In the Jewish community, we know all too well what can happen when a particular religious group is singled out for stereotyping and scapegoating.” The Wiesenthal Center criticized the ban. too, but in quite different terms. “Lumping all Muslims in the crosshairs of the Terrorism crisis only hurts the legitimate campaign against Islamist Fundamentalism and demeans law abiding American citizens,” Hier and his deputy, Rabbi Abraham Cooper, declared. “Such a policy would only serve to strengthen [Islamic State group] recruitment around the world.”

For the Wiesenthal Center, in other words, the real problem with banning Muslims was not moral but tactical. It undermines the “war on terror.” That’s like saying the real problem with denying African Americans civil rights was that it undermined America’s image during the Cold War.

In March, Hier told the New York Jewish Week, : “If I were an adviser to the Trump campaign, I would tell him to immediately go before the cameras and repudiate David Duke, Farrakhan and Le Pen. When the anti-Semites are circling the wagons, if I were Trump I would say I don’t need their support and don’t want it.”

But when Trump became the Republican nominee, the Wiesenthal Center fell conspicuously silent. Last July, when Trump retweeted a Jewish star surrounded by dollar signs, the ADL’s national director and CEO, Jonathan Greenblatt, said, “It is outrageous to think that the candidate is sourcing material from some of the worst elements in our society.” The Wiesenthal Center said nothing.

Marvin Hier
Why Rabbi Marvin Hier Giving His Blessing to Trump’s Inauguration Is a Good Thing
Bethany MandelJanuary 9, 2017
When the Trump campaign, in its closing ad, featured three prominent Jews — George Soros, Lloyd Blankfein and Janet Yellen — alongside images of dollar bills and menacing language about “global special interests,” the ADL warned that “the images and rhetoric in this ad touch on subjects that anti-Semites have used for ages.” The Wiesenthal Center again said nothing.

When Trump won the election, American Jewry’s two largest anti-discrimination groups again reacted in strikingly different ways. In a clear reference to Trump’s attacks on Muslims, Mexican immigrants, journalists and others, the ADL noted,, “Democracy encompasses the full collection of our laws, our norms and institutions that enshrine and protect our freedoms… America remains a land of economic opportunity and personal freedom for all people regardless of their gender, race, class, faith, ethnicity, sexual orientation or political preference.” The Wiesenthal Center, by contrast, congratulated Trump for supporting Israel. and “commend[ed] Mr. Trump’s commitment which he made last night to strive to be the President of all Americans, including those who voted against him.” The implication was that, from a human rights perspective, Trump’s victory offered nothing to worry about.

The contrast continued when Trump chose former Breitbart executive chair Steve Bannon as his senior adviser. The ADL opposed the appointment, noting, “It is a sad day when a man who presided over the premier website of the ‘alt-right’ — a loose-knit group of white nationalists and unabashed anti-Semites and racists — is slated to be a senior staff member in the ‘people’s house.’” Hier, by contrast, remarked: “It’s definitely a controversial appointment. We’ll have to wait and see.” But given that “the president’s daughter converted to Orthodox Judaism,” he noted, “I do not believe that [Bannon’s] going to be, you know — can’t wait until I get to my office so I can spout some more anti-Semitism.”

In an interview, Cooper told me that he had been influenced by meeting Breitbart’s Jewish editor, Joel Pollak, who vigorously defended Bannon against anti-Semitism charges. What Cooper couldn’t adequately explain was why the Wiesenthal Center overlooked Breitbart’s far more blatant Islamophobia, as expressed in headlines like “Man Bites Dog: Muslim Is Nice to Non-Muslim”

Finally, as 2016 drew to a close, the ADL and the Wiesenthal Center each published lists of the top 10 “Manifestations of Anti-Semitism” (ADL) or “Global anti-Semitic/anti-Israel Incidents” (Wiesenthal Center) of the year. The ADL’s top four — harassment of Jewish journalists, post-election anti-Semitic incidents, neo-Nazi symbols on Twitter and the rise of the “alt-right” — all involved Trump’s supporters. The Wiesenthal Center’s list, by contrast, included only one Trump-related entry. (Cooper explained the difference, in part, as a function of the Wiesenthal Center’s more global focus). But even in the one entry it did devote to Trump’s supporters, the Wiesenthal Center claimed that Trump’s “ campaign denounced the hate-filled attacks” on Jewish journalists who had criticized him, which isn’t exactly true.

During an almost hour-long conversation, I found Cooper both charming and utterly sincere in his belief that he and Hier are fulfilling the Wiesenthal Center’s mandate to defend human rights. Unfortunately, I think the evidence suggests the opposite. Scott Goldstein, who once developed exhibits for the Wiesenthal Center’s Museum of Tolerance, came closer to the truth this past spring when he denounced “the silence of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in the face of the bigotry and intolerance sweeping our nation.”

What explains that silence? Some have pointed to donations from the Kushner family. And to the fact that the chairman of the Wiesenthal Center’s board of directors, Larry Mizel, raised money for Trump during the campaign.

But in a deeper sense, these affiliations are not the cause of the Wiesenthal Center’s moral failure — they are its product. The only reason the Wiesenthal Center attracted the support of Mizel and the Kushner family is that, for years, it has refused to defend the human rights of millions of West Bank Palestinians who lack basic rights under Israeli control. It’s hardly surprising that a rabbi who builds a “Museum of Tolerance” on the site of a Muslim cemetery in Jerusalem is less than vigilant about the rights of Muslims in the United States. http://www.haaretz.com/blogs/a-special-place-in-hell/visit-jerusalem-s-new-museum-of-tolerance-feel-your-blood-boil.premium-1.434968

Hier didn’t start overlooking bigotry when Trump launched his presidential campaign; he and his organization have been doing so for a long time.

His presence at Trump’s inauguration will illustrate the way the American Jewish establishment’s refusal to defend human rights in Israel has eroded its capacity to defend human rights in the United States.

“Injustice anywhere,” Martin Luther King Jr. famously said, “is a threat to justice everywhere.” On Friday, January 20, when Hier prays to God on Donald Trump’s behalf, he will teach us that lesson anew.

Peter Beinart is senior columnist and contributing editor at the Forward.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Forward.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Glenn Greenwald: Democrats Eager to Blame "Everybody But Themselves" for Collapse of Their Party

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

Glenn Greenwald at The Intercept
As Director of National Intelligence James Clapper testifies at a Senate hearing on Russian cyberthreats ahead of a highly classified briefing today with President-elect Donald Trump, we speak with Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Glenn Greenwald, who has faced an onslaught of criticism for questioning the premise of Russian hacking of the U.S. election. "Because Democrats are so desperate to put the blame on everybody but themselves for the complete collapse of their party, they’re particularly furious at anybody who vocally challenges this narrative," Greenwald says. "And since I’ve been one of the people most vocally doing so, the smear campaign has been like none that I have ever encountered. I have been accused of being a member of the alt-right, of being an admirer of Breitbart, of being supportive of Donald Trump, of helping him get elected and, of course, of being a Kremlin operative."


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
AMY GOODMAN: President-elect Donald Trump is slated to meet with U.S. intelligence chiefs today for a highly classified briefing on the alleged Russian cyber-attack of the 2017 election—a claim Trump disputes. Thursday night, Trump tweeted, quote, "The Democratic National Committee would not allow the FBI to study or see its computer info after it was supposedly hacked by Russia...... So how and why are they so sure about hacking if they never even requested an examination of the computer servers? What is going on?" Trump tweeted.

President Obama received the same briefing on Thursday, along with a 50-page classified intelligence document that reportedly says U.S. spy agencies intercepted Russian communications in which top Russian officials were congratulating each other on Donald Trump’s presidential win. The New York Times wrote of Trump’s meeting today with the Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, CIA Director John Brennan and others, quote, "In effect, they will be telling the president-elect that the spy agencies believe he won with an assist from [President] Vladimir V. Putin of Russia," unquote. An unclassified version of the report is expected to be released to the public next week.

This comes as Clapper appeared Thursday before a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on foreign cyberthreats and said the intelligence community is resolute in its findings that Russians hacked the U.S. election. Arizona Republican Senator John McCain asked Clapper whether the alleged hacking would constitute an act of war.

SEN. JOHN McCAIN: Really, what we’re talking about is, if they were—if they succeeded in changing the results of an election, which none of us believe they were, that that would have to constitute an attack on the United States of America because of the effects, if they had succeeded. Would you agree with that?
JAMES CLAPPER: First, we cannot say—they did not change any vote tallies or anything of that sort. And we have no—
SEN. JOHN McCAIN: Yeah, I’m just talking about—yeah.
JAMES CLAPPER: We have no way of gauging the impact that—certainly, the intelligence community can’t gauge the impact it had on choices the electorate made. There’s no way for us to gauge that. Whether or not that constitutes an act of war, I think, is a very heavy policy call that I don’t believe the intelligence community should make. But it certainly would carry, in my view, great gravity.
AMY GOODMAN: That’s national intelligence head James Clapper being questioned by Senator John McCain.

Well, on Thursday, Democracy Now!'s Nermeen Shaikh and I spoke with Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Glenn Greenwald, one of the founding editors of The Intercept. His latest piece is headlined "WashPost Is Richly Rewarded for False News About Russia Threat While Public Is Deceived." This is Part 2 of our conversation. I asked Glenn Greenwald about this article, the onslaught of criticism he's received for questioning the premise of Russian hacking of the election and how this compares to criticism he’s received in the past. Greenwald recently wrote, quote, "[I]n my 10-plus years of writing about politics on an endless number of polarizing issues—including the Snowden reporting—nothing remotely compares to the smear campaign that has been launched as a result of the work I’ve done questioning and challenging claims about Russian hacking and the threat posed by that country generally." I asked him to talk further about this.

GLENN GREENWALD: Yeah, so I’ve done some, you know, pretty controversial and polarizing reporting in the past decade when I’ve been writing about politics. And when you do that, you obviously get attacked in lots of different ways. It’s not just me; it’s everybody who engages. It’s just sort of the rough and tumble of politics and journalism. But I really haven’t experienced anything even remotely like the smear campaign that has been launched by Democrats in this really coordinated way ever since I began just expressing skepticism about the prevailing narrative over Russia and its role that it allegedly played in the election and, in particular, in helping to defeat Hillary Clinton. I mean, not even the reporting I did based on the Edward Snowden archive, which was extremely controversial in multiple countries around the world, not even that compared to the attacks now.
And the reason is very, very obvious, which is that it has become exceptionally important to Democratic partisans to believe that the reason they lost this election is not because they chose a candidate who was corrupt and who was extremely disliked and who symbolized all of the worst failings of the Democratic Party. It’s extremely important to them not to face what is really a systemic collapse on the part of the Democratic Party as a political force in the United States, in the House, in the Senate, in state houses and governorships all over the country. And so, in order not to face any of that and have to confront their own failings, they instead want to focus everything on Vladimir Putin and Russia and insist that the reason they lost was because this big, bad dictator interfered in the election. And anyone who challenges or anyone who questions that instantly becomes not just their enemy, but now, according to their framework, someone who’s actually unpatriotic, that if you question the evidence, the sufficiency of the evidence to support this theory, that somehow your loyalties are suspect, that you’re not just a critic of the Democratic Party, you’re actually a stooge of or an agent of the Kremlin.
And obviously we’ve seen this rhetoric for decades during the Cold War, although back then it was the far right using it against Democrats for wanting to have better relations with Russia. We saw it in 2002, when people who questioned the sufficiency of the evidence about Saddam’s WMDs were accused of being apologists for Saddam or agents of Iraq. We’ve seen it repeatedly through the war on terror. Whenever anyone questions the policies of the U.S. government, you get accused of being pro-terrorist or on the side of al-Qaeda. These are the kinds of bullying smear tactics that have become very common.
But because Democrats are so desperate to put the blame on everybody but themselves for the complete collapse of their party, they’re particularly furious at anybody who vocally challenges this narrative. And since I’ve been one of the people most vocally doing so, the smear campaign has been like none that I have ever encountered. I have been accused of being a member of the alt-right, of being an admirer of Breitbart, of being supportive of Donald Trump, of helping him get elected and, of course, of being a Kremlin operative. And it’s just this constant flow, not from fringe accounts online, but from the Democratic operatives and pundits with the greatest influence. In fact, Howard Dean, the former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, went on Twitter three weeks ago and said, "I think it would be really interesting to find out whether The Intercept is receiving money from Russia or Iran"—something that he obviously has zero evidence or basis for suggesting, but this is what the Democratic Party has become.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, you mentioned Breitbart News, Glenn Greenwald. One of the pieces of evidence that people cite for your alleged sympathy with Breitbart is a part of an interview that you gave recently to Lee Stranahan last month in which you said, "Breitbart is actually a fascinating case. And I do think right-wing media has had a lot more success in pioneering ways to challenge establishment authority [than] left-wing media has." You went on to say that it’s, quote, "very impressive in terms of the impact they’ve been able to have." That is, Breitbart media has been able to have. And now, of course, the head of Breitbart media has been named by Trump as his chief strategist. So, could you respond to that and explain what you meant?
GLENN GREENWALD: Sure. That Breitbart has had a huge impact on American politics is something that no honest person could possibly dispute. Their traffic alone has quadrupled, or even more, just in the past six to nine months. They became the go-to place for the part of the Republican Party that ended up dominant, that ended up electing—nominating and then electing a candidate who the entire political establishment thought had no chance of ever winning. They gave voice to a huge part of the Republican Party that had been completely and systematically excluded from all of the Republican mainstream venues, like National Review and Weekly Standard. The impact that they have had is immense. And to deny that is just delusional.
But even worse is to suggest that acknowledging the impact that they have somehow makes you an admirer of them. In that very same interview, I told them directly to their face that the content that they’re producing is repellent. That was the word I used. I said that I have all kinds of terrible things to say about Breitbart reporters and about Breitbart’s content. All of the work I’ve done over the past decade—the sort of primary issue on which I’ve worked has been a defense of the civil liberties of Muslims—is completely antithetical to everything that Breitbart believes in. So, to take a comment that I made which is observably and undeniably true, which is that the impact that they’ve had on the political process is extraordinary and impressive, and convert that into me saying that I somehow like Breitbart or am a sympathizer with Breitbart or an admirer or supporter of Breitbart is just dishonesty in the extreme. And it’s obvious for anybody minimally literate that that’s the case.
AMY GOODMAN: That’s Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Glenn Greenwald. When we come back, he talks about WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s claim that the Obama administration is implicating Russia in the leaks to delegitimize Trump, and many other issues. Stay with us.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Why Trump Really Won: It’s Not Just Race, Gender and Class

Jonathan Michael Feldman
November 23, 2016

We need a reconstructive politics that would link opposition to the far-right to a nationally embedded Green New Deal, sustainable reindustrialization, new budget priorities to cut military expenditures and fund job creation and integration, and the development of economic democracy.

It would be nice to think that Trump’s victory is simply about class revenge mixed with racist and patriarchal support systems. Yet, our story begins in 1972 when a powerful anti-war movement propelled George McGovern into the Democratic presidential nomination. At that point, a division of labor between the Democratic Party and a social movement created an organic Left basis for pushing that party to the Left. McGovern’s anti-militarism was constrained by Cold War liberalism linking many politicians and trade unions to the permanent war economy. His defeat led to the rise of the “super-delegates” and rules making it very hard for insurgent campaigns to ever gain control of the party again.

The McGovern loss was followed with various realignments within the Democratic Party tied to the extension of the professional managerial class and gradual abandonment of working class issues. These trends were first noted in the mid-1980s by Thomas Byrne Edsall in his book, The New Politics of Inequality. A prescient text which foreshadowed similar latter treatments by William Greider (Who Will Tell the People: The Betrayal of American Democracy published in 1993), Chris Hedges (The Death of the Liberal Class, published in 2010), and most recently Thomas Frank (Listen Liberal: Or, Whatever Happened to the Party of the People, published this year).

While the warning bells were sounded long ago, matched in part by various campaigns like those of Jessie Jackson, Ralph Nader and Bernie Sanders, none of these campaigns garnered sufficient support from party elites or could make it past their organizational filtering systems. One reason is that the Democratic Party establishment is firmly aligned with business patronage, bourgeois feminism, what used to be called “the Black bourgeoisie,” and corporate environmentalism. Three key systems accumulate and reproduce establishment power, creating obstacles for the Left opposition.

The first system consists of various Democratic Party politicians, and associated funders, who act as political entrepreneurs for identity politics, political fragmentation and the militarist “democracy promotion” business. EMILY’s List which will even back female politicians tied to the war machine is a key network for this kind of activity as was Congressional Black Caucus PAC which picked Clinton over Sanders. In contrast, grassroots women’s groups like Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) backs a comprehensive anti-militarist agenda.

The second system consists of a series of non-profit organizations like NOW, corporate-sponsored environmental groups and various non-profit organizations which cut deals with members of Congress and foundations to reproduce a certain brand of highly atomized, piecemeal politics. In some cases, there is turnover between the non-profits and the government, resembling the iron triangle relations linking military firms, the Pentagon and Congress. For example, when labor unions cooperate with environmental groups sometimes the latter become the voice of corporate rationality in addressing climate change. One pattern is that a staffer works for a Congressperson financed by various corporate interests. The staffer trades in their network ties to (or former work with) the Congressperson to gain employment at the non-profit. When speaking for the “environmentalist” interest, the staffer actually helps reproduce the corporate interest. When NOW endorsed Hillary Clinton, they did not simply endorse a woman, but also a leader of the military industrial complex.

The third system is ideological and even infects various parts of the Left. We can see this in how organizing ideas based on class and economic realities became subverted by newer approaches simply tied to identity. The Neoliberals have used gender, race, and identity politics as vehicles to legitimating their militarist and neoliberal policies. Fragmentation is Neoliberalism’s glue. The price of voting against the sexism and racism of Trump and his equivalents has been an endorsement of the Neoliberal, militarist agenda. Sanders was able to abandon the worst elements of identity politics without Trump’s baggage, and thus was demonized by the Clinton Neoliberals. A similar fate met his predecessors. Even Trump’s critiques of bankers and elites (in his effective closing advertisement) was recoded as the reincarnation of anti-Semitic tropes, i.e. the Neoliberals will use accusations of anti-Semitism as a way to black list deconstructions of class and elites.

Basically a segment of the Left, centered in the academy and think tanks, has been coopted by the Neoliberals and constrains Left movements as Vivek Chibber, Adolph Reed and others have argued. The recent presidential campaign illustrates how this works. The dominant paradigm among various segments of the journalistic and academic elite was that Donald Trump (like many Brexit voters) represented xenophobic right-wing nationalism, with support linked to racism and a white identity crisis. In contrast, Hillary Clinton was cast as someone who both embraced and benefited from diversity and cosmopolitan virtues. Clinton rhetorically aligned herself with what was cast as the generally progressive direction of the Obama Administration.

I will now scrutinize two examples of this kind of superficial identity framing promulgated by academics and journalists. One is an interview which Judith Butler recently conducted with Zeit on line on October 28th. The other is an article by Amada Taub, “Behind 2016’s Turmoil, a Crisis of White Identity,” published in The New York Times on November 1. Both interventions displace economic factors and a sin of omission related to how such factors inflate the far-right.

Taub explains that Brexit and Trump’s nomination, together with right-wing nationalism in Norway, Hungary, Austria and Greece are byproducts of “white anxiety.” The white majority has often conflated “national and racial identity,” and now white people feel that their identity is under threat. Working class whites not only “enjoyed the privileged status based on race,” but also “the fruits of broad economic growth.” As Western manufacturing and industry decline, however, this limits opportunities for new generations in communities affected by this decline. For Taub, the problem is that deindustrialization “creates an identity vacuum to be filled.”

Judith Butler, a leading philosopher, echoed these each sentiments. In an interview with Zeit on line this October, she explained: “I think that there are forms of right-wing populism that we are seeing now that object to laws that were securing equality between men and women, laws against racism, laws that permit migration and even affirm an ethnically and religiously heterogeneous population.” The goal of “reactionary populists” is “to restore an earlier state of society, driven by nostalgia or a perceived loss of privilege.” The right populists “want to take down state power for the loss of their former world.” Taking a page from Hannah Arendt, Butler deconstructed the nation: “As long as one functions within the notion of the nation-state, one is basically asking for a specific nationality to represent the state and for the state to represent that nationality.” Butler’s solution is pluralism as well as racial and ethnic heterogeneity.

Yet, are diversity and plurality sufficient? In the essay “Reflections on Little Rock,” Arendt wrote that equality could not “equalize natural, physical characteristics.” To the extent that equality is even reached, it may trigger resentment based on difference: “the more equal people have become in every respect, and the more equality permeates the whole texture of society, the more will differences be resented, the more conspicuous will those become who are visibly and by nature unlike the others.” Butler says some right-wingers feel “excluded” as when “their privilege has been lost,” with privilege tied to “their white presumption.” These losses refer to “a former world in which white privilege could be assumed.” This privilege, I assume refers to a hierarchy which whites had over others, an ability to exclude. Butler admonishes such people who are losing privilege that “it is their job to adjust, to accept their loss and to embrace a larger, more democratic and heterogeneous world.” In fact, Arendt wrote that “it is therefore quite possible that the achievement of social, economic and educational equality” for African Americans “may sharpen the color problem in this country instead of assuaging it.

The problem is not that the journalists and academics can’t see economic (and potentially class) factors at work behind the rise of the far right and Donald Trump. Rather, they go out of their way to downplay them. Moreover, they prefer intellectual dualisms in which persons aligning themselves with racist politicians can only be defined in this way. So, when it comes to gender, race and (sometimes) class, intersectionality reigns. But, the racist dimension of the far-right is often taken to be the most significant—if not the only significant—factor. Nevertheless, even racists can have class interests (as can Trump voters more generally).

Yet, while whites may resent Obama’s status as president or Brexit voters dislike mass immigration, the current story is not simply one of race, but also one of class and economics. Furthermore, Obama’s presidency has been associated with stagnating or worsening conditions for African Americans. Reflecting on race relations in the 1960s, at the height of the civil rights movement in the U.S. South, Arendt wrote, while the “difference between North and South,” was “still marked,” it was “bound to disappear with the growing industrialization of Southern states,” even if African Americans stood out in North and South “because of their ‘visibility.’”

Given the potential ameliorating effects of industrialization in the South which Arendt addressed, what do we make of the current wave of deindustrialization in this region? Trump won all five core states in the deep South during the Republican primaries: Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina. The percentage decline of manufacturing jobs lost in each of these states during the WTO-NAFTA period (1994-2015) ranged from a low of 19.7% in Louisiana to a high of 40.7% in Louisiana. Trump beat Clinton in all of these states.

In the North, we see similarities. Let us explore the differences in electoral outcomes among ten key states in the industrial belt stretching from Minnesota down to Iowa in the West and into New York and Pennsylvania in the East. Trump lost only four of these states: Ohio, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa. Generally speaking, aside from Ohio which was won by native son John Kasich, Trump won six out of the seven states in this group experiencing the greatest loss in manufacturing jobs during the NAFTA-WTO period (1994-2015). Here are the percentage losses in manufacturing jobs in the states Trump lost: Ohio (-30.3 percent), Wisconsin (-11.6 percent), Minnesota (-10.6 percent), and Iowa (-3 percent). In contrast the manufacturing job losses in the states Trump won were on average far greater: in New York (-45.4 percent), Pennsylvania (45.4 percent), Illinois (-32.8 percent), Missouri (-27.5 percent), Michigan (-26.3 percent), and Indiana (-16.2 percent). Against Clinton, Trump won Ohio, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Missouri, and Indiana. By losing New York, he lost to Clinton’s home state.

Taub and Butler both emphasize the psychological reaction to economic trauma in explaining the far-right’s rise and also tend to demonize Trump and far-right voters by failing to appreciate the potential economic motivations leading to their support. This move, centered on a kind of post-modern reading of the far-right, is problematic for several reasons.

First, accepting pluralism will hardly solve the far-right’s rise when pluralism is limited by a politics of scarcity, i.e. as economic conditions worsen, ethnic minorities, immigrants and non-whites will be scapegoated. While diversity policies may limit racism, in and of themselves they are unlikely to be effective in an era when economic conditions deteriorate. Many whites have lost more than their ability to exclude non-whites. This March Noah Smith wrote an essay explaining that “Trump has a Point About American Decline,” in Bloomberg News. Noah wrote: “the economic well-being of the average American – defined as median household income – has fallen since the turn of the century.” I don’t think diversity and multiculturalism are sufficient to trump Trump’s appeal with many of his supporters to “Make America Great Again!”

Second, there is a materialist basis of support for racism that can’t be reduced to racism per se. Butler builds a lot of her arguments about white and far-right identity trauma on references to Hannah Arendt. Yet, Arendt argued that victimhood had some basis in larger material realities. In The Origins of Totalitarianism, Arendt wrote: “Totalitarian politics—far from being simply antisemitic or racist or imperialist or communist—use and abuse their own ideological and political elements until the basis of factual reality, from which the ideologies originally derived their strength and their propaganda value—the reality of class struggle, for instance, or the interest conflicts between Jews and their neighbors—have all but disappeared.” Just as Jacques Ellul argued in his classic study, Propaganda, ideology is based on a combination of truth and lies. Simply deconstructing the lies and ignoring the truths cannot explain the far-right’s power.

Third, Butler tends to use the discursive, ideological and psychological factors behind racism to displace the materialist factors. Butler does acknowledge that some right-wing persons blame “the migrants for taking their position,” but they fail to identity the roots of their problems in “an expanding precarity that cuts across economic class, though the very rich continue to profit.” Correctly, she argues that migrants become scapegoats as some right-wingers fail to analyze the “fiscal and financial policies” which jeopardize many persons. Yet, she also is quick to devalue any class explanation. She says persons laying “claim to white privilege…may claim that they are ‘excluded’ by migrants, but they actually worry about losing their privilege.” Yet, if whites worry about losing their jobs or their security, calling a job or such security a privilege would be patently absurd. My point is not to give a pass to racists and national security paranoids, but rather examine how racist politics overlaps with class politics and economic factors. Economic decline promotes security paranoia as well. Moreover, we might focus on how class and economics each propel what is nominally coded as racist. If the two intermingle, then someone who is a racist might act out of the subjective reflection of their changed economic status, not simply out of their lost “race” privileges.

Fourth, the displacement of the material and objectification of the far-right other is a way for academics and journalists to valorize their own professional interests. By casting the subjective reaction to objective material developments as their primary focus, Taub and Butler repeat a practice common to the human relations school of management, i.e. psychological reactions to industrial life (rather than changes in industrial realities) are of pre-eminent importance. In 1947, in an essay for Commentary, Daniel Bell offered a critique of this school of thinking, explaining that industrial psychologists (rooted in universities) were useful for industries’ seeking compliance. Today, many industrial workers conflicted about globalization’s impact on their communities are “acting out,” voting for Trump and Brexit, as a way to make the system pay. Yet, their reactions are reduced to psychic phenomena or the politics of these psychic reactions. Why? In Bell’s era psychologizing workers’ attitudes best suited academics’ “professional interests.” As he explained, such persons “the professors in general have an ideology geared to the need.” As academic scientists, “they are concerned with ‘what is’ and are not inclined to involve themselves in questions of moral values or larger social issues.”

Finally, the demonization of Trump voters and the far-right amounted to a kind of problematic application of the idea of “collective responsibility.” An essay by Arendt on that topic declared, given what Hitler’s regime did to the Jews, “the cry ‘We are all guilty’” first sounded “very noble and tempting” but “has actually only served to exculpate to a considerable degree those who actually were guilty.” Thus, “where all are guilty, nobody is.” While Trump and far-right voters are responsible for helping elect those whom they support, it is reasonable to explore the institutional roots of racism in deindustrialization, globalization and a faulty educational system. Castigating right-wing voters while glossing over institutional failures will prove fruitless in the long-run, particularly if far-right candidates win (as almost happened in Austria with the narrow defeat of Norbert Hoffer, candidate for the Freedom Party).

Some might object that Taub and Butler correctly offer a moral critique of the racism of white identity politics, yet the “what is” they take for granted is the current regime of deindustrialization and globalization. Neither explains when discussing Trump’s rise how to alter deindustrialization. Instead, both offer explanations that prioritize the non-economic explanations or delink economic explanations from right-wing politics. In contrast, a reconstructive politics would link opposition to the far-right to a nationally embedded Green New Deal, sustainable reindustrialization, new budget priorities to cut military expenditures and fund job creation and integration, and the development of economic democracy. This agenda of economic reconstruction (tied to Left Nationalism) and creation of new materialist possibilities stands in direct opposition to post-modern deconstructions of psychologies or the assumption that deflated white privileges automatically translates into citizen “privileges” tied to employment, security or even sustainability.

In the early 1980s books on reconstructive alternative emerged by leading Left intellectuals concerned with industrial policy, manufacturing and progressive alternatives. Among these books were Barry Bluestone and Bennett Harrison’s The Deindustrialization of the America: Plant Closings, Community Abandonment and the Dismantling of Basic Industry (1982), Seymour Melman’s Profit without Production (1983), and Robert Reich’s The Next American Frontier (1983). These books found some support among populists like Fred Harris who ran for president in 1972 and 1976 (the first campaign supported “economic democracy”). Such alternative ideas, readily available to Democrats and the Left, lost favor to identity politics and piecemeal reformism. Now that politics is in crisis. Trump won 67 percent of whites without a college degree, 42 percent of the women’s vote and even 29 percent of the Latino vote. Alternative political organizing strategies are needed for the Left to advance beyond the false choice of Right Cosmopolitanism and Right Nationalism.

Jonathan Feldman is Associate Professor at the Department of Economic History at Stockholm University. He can be reached on twitter @globalteachin. This essay builds in part on discussions with Mark Luccarelli, Steven Colatrella, John Rynn and Brian D’Agostino. Thank you to the author for submitting this to Portside.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

The Reason for Israel’s Hysterical Response to the UN Security Council Resolution

Netanyahu takes pride in killing the two-state solution—but he doesn’t want to be blamed for it, because he knows the only acceptable alternative is equality for all in a single state.

By Yousef Munayyer Twitter DECEMBER 28, 2016

Since last week, we have seen a unique sequence of events, some unprecedented and others less so, that have brought the Palestine-Israel issue back to the fore. Last Friday, the United States abstained at the United Nations Security Council on Resolution 2334, thereby allowing it to pass when the 14 other members of the council voted for it.

The language of the resolution as it relates to settlements was nothing really new. The UN—and the whole world, with the exception of the Israeli right wing—has understood that the Fourth Geneva Convention applies to the territory Israel occupied in 1967, and thus that civilian settlements are illegal. In fact, even the Israeli legal counsel understood this in 1967. The Israelis thought that if they could colonize the West Bank under the guise of the military, they could argue that it didn’t put them in violation of the convention’s statute against transfer of civilian populations. This is why they initially called them “paramilitary settlements,” which were set up through a division of the military. Once it became clear that the world would not press them on this, they dropped the disguise and openly violated international law by building, financing, and subsidizing scores of settlements, which would grow to include hundreds of thousands of Israeli settlers.

What is unique in the language of Resolution 2334 is the utter desperation it reflects concerning the prospects of a two-state solution to the conflict. That solution itself had not even made it into a Security Council resolution until the George W. Bush era. Now, at the end of his successor’s tenure, this resolution states plainly that such a solution is on the verge of death due to Israeli settlements.

The upcoming funeral of the two-state solution may account for the passion behind Secretary of State John Kerry’s remarks in a speech today, in which he criticized the settlements and said Washington cannot allow a two-state solution “to be destroyed before our eyes,” arguing that there is “no viable alternative.” This was an attempt to get out ahead of the blame game in the history books. Kerry made clear that if the Israelis want to kill peace with settlements, that is their choice. Indeed, it is a choice they have already made.

The two-state solution is dead. I don’t think it is possible, and I doubt most honest observers do either.
I believe the two-state solution is dead. I don’t think it is possible, and I doubt most honest observers do either. Nearly two-thirds of Palestinians in the occupied territories—the highest numbers ever recorded on this question—also believe that because of Israeli settlement expansion it is no longer possible. But the world has pretended that it is still alive, in part because it is not prepared to confront the fact of its death. This pretense has helped shield Israeli colonization: As long as there is hope for a two-state solution, there is less reason to press Israel on settlements, since at least most of them would have to be removed to create a viable Palestinian state. This pretense regarding the settlements’ “temporary” status has allowed Israel to entrench the occupation ever more deeply. But the theater surrounding the two-state solution required actors who were willing to play their parts. The Obama administration did so for its eight years, but the incoming Trump administration is entirely off-script.

Everything we have seen from Trump suggests that he will fully embrace the Israeli hard right. Those voices were the most jubilant over Trump’s victory—so much so, in fact, that the Trump team actually had to ask them to take it down a notch. This past summer, Trump’s campaign introduced the most anti-Palestinian language ever to enter into a US national party platform, and Trump’s appointment as ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, supports Israeli settlements—not just rhetorically but financially. Friedman has actually helped funnel millions of dollars through an organization he heads to an Israeli settlement deep in the West Bank.

It looks like Trump is going to drop the pretense of US opposition to Israel’s apartheid policies.
The next president of the United States isn’t going to pretend anymore. Instead of doing what peace advocates have long called for—putting America’s money where its mouth is by ending US support for Israel as long as it contravenes US policy and well-established international law—it looks like Trump is going to put America’s mouth where its money has been by dropping the pretense of opposition to Israel’s apartheid policies.

How can the rest of the world, including the Europeans and the Palestinians, go on with the charade if the United States, the country that is supposed to be leading negotiations, won’t play along anymore? It’s simple: They can’t. This means the Trump era will finally provide the death certificate for the two-state solution. When that happens, UNSC 2334 will be seen as the autopsy. That is what those Israeli leaders who are responding to it with hysteria are most afraid of. They are not afraid of killing the two-state solution—they increasingly take pride in that. But they are afraid of being held responsible for its death, because they know that in the 21st century, the only acceptable alternative to it is equality for all in a single state.

The Israeli response has been a scorched-earth campaign, threatening retaliation of all kinds and in all directions. Most important, however, has been the direct Israeli attack against President Obama. The outgoing US president is being treated by Israeli officials as uniquely anti-Israel despite the fact that he has given more military aid to Israel than any president before him, and despite the fact that until last week, he had not permitted a single resolution critical of Israel through the Security Council, even as predecessors allowed many, with Ronald Reagan alone allowing 21. Reagan even found a way to support condemnations of the Israeli siege and bombardment of Beirut in the 1980s, while Obama was silent in the Security Council as Israel killed 551 children in its 2014 attack on the long-besieged Gaza Strip.

The truth is that many in Israel never trusted President Obama because of who he is. Barack Hussein Obama, whose middle name is often emphasized in the side conversations and chat forums of this narrative, is seen as someone incapable of understanding the story of Israel. While Netanyahu won’t say it directly, the echo chambers of the Israeli right, both in Israel and the United States, have trafficked in the narrative that Obama is betraying Israel and the Jewish people.

The reactions we are seeing from the Israeli right reflect a worldview that is anti-multicultural and anti-equality.
We heard this during the hyperventilation over Obama’s statement that the 1967 lines should be the basis of a two-state solution, which happens to be long-standing US policy. His observation was greeted with hysteria by Israeli leaders, some of whom call those lines “Auschwitz borders,” adopting a phrase that Israeli diplomat Abba Eban popularized in the late 1960s, in arguing against withdrawing from the newly conquered territories. We heard this when people like Elie Wiesel were taking out ads in major metropolitan newspapers attacking Washington’s nuclear diplomacy with Iran, portraying it as appeasing annihilationism. Netanyahu has routinely characterized Obama’s diplomacy with Iran in two frames: that of Neville Chamberlain’s appeasement of the Nazis at Munich, and that of the biblical story of Esther. Today, we are hearing from Netanyahu about how outrageous it is for Obama to support a resolution that says occupied East Jerusalem is occupied, even as Israeli settlers are lighting Hanukkah candles there.

These narratives are the product of a trend that has grown since the end of the Cold War. As the “evil empire” disappeared, Israel worried that so too would its utility to the United States, which had developed because of Cold War geopolitics. We began to hear of a new global bipolarity, famously promoted by Bernard Lewis, between the Judeo-Christian West and Islam. After 9/11, this approach accelerated, and right-wing Israeli voices found great utility in it. Immediately after 9/11 Netanyahu said that “it’s very good” before saying “well, not very good,” but that it would “strengthen the bond between our two peoples.”

Since 9/11, “Judeo-Christian” and Muslim have become increasingly racialized categories, often propelled by right-wing voices that have placed Israel at the forefront of the battle with Islam and sought to distract from any criticism of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians by pushing a “with us or against us” worldview. What we are witnessing today are allegations of race-traitorism against Barack Hussein Obama (there’s that name again).

It should come as no surprise, then, that the Israelis are boldly aligning with President-elect Trump, whose political career was launched through the birtherist slur that the first black president, who had a funny-sounding name, really wasn’t one of us.

Netanyahu is Donald Trump’s reflection. The reactions we are seeing from the Israeli right today, which are not only the official voices in Israel but increasingly dominate the pro-Israel establishment in the United States, reflect the doubling down on a view of the world that is anti-multicultural and anti-equality. They are the desperate, last throes of a bankrupt vision that may buy its adherents a few years in power but which has undoubtedly lost the future.

YOUSEF MUNAYYER TWITTER Yousef Munayyer is executive director of the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights, the nation’s largest coalition advocating for Palestinian rights, and a policy analyst with the Arab Center in Washington, DC.