Wednesday, June 28, 2017

The American People Never Win--Here's Why

OpEdNews Op Eds 6/28/2017 at 13:35:06

By Arlen Grossman

There's a reason most Americans don't get what they want.

Billionaires and Large Corporations own this country. Period.

They make the rules and reap the benefits. They control the politicians and thus the laws. What they want, they get.

Which is why even though Republicans number between one-quarter and one-third of the electorate, they control the presidency, both houses of Congress, the Supreme Court, and most state governments.

Which is why polls show that even though most Americans want universal health care, more social security, stricter gun laws, stronger environmental laws, more spending on social services and less on the military, they never get them.

The majority of the American people also want debt-free college education for all students, a higher minimum wage, a massive infrastructure spending program, higher taxes on the wealthy, and fair trade that protects American workers and the environment. Those things don't happen because it doesn't matter what the people want.

George Carlin summed it up well: "The real owners are the big wealthy business interests that control things and make all the important decisions. Forget the politicians, they're an irrelevancy. The politicians are put there to give you the idea that you have freedom of choice. You don't. You have no choice. You have owners. They own you. They own everything."

The rich and corporations have always had undue influence in our government. But it was the Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United decision that put the final nail on the coffin of American democracy. That ruling essentially allowed the rich to spend unlimited amounts of money on elections. That made it easy to control politicians and buy elections, thus ensuring they get the laws that benefit them.

Our government is run by legalized bribery, and unless you are wealthy you are out of the game. Republicans especially, but Democrats too, play by these rules.

A 2014 study from Princeton and Northwestern University concluded that the U.S. is dominated by its economic elite. The wealthy dictate national policy, while average Americans are essentially powerless. According to the report: "When a majority of citizens disagrees with economic elites and/or with organized interests, they generally lose. Moreover, because of the strong status quo bias built into the US political system, even when fairly large majorities of Americans favor policy change, they generally do not get it."

Meanwhile, the rich keep getting richer, and consequently more powerful. According to The New York Times, the "richest 1 percent in the United States now own more wealth than the bottom 90 percent." UC Berkeley economist Emmanuel Saez estimates that between 2009 and 2012, the top 1 percent captured 95 percent of total income growth. This country has the highest wealth inequality among industrialized nations, higher than any time since 1928, the year before the Great Stock Market Crash and the beginning of the Great Depression.

How can we change this? It won't be easy. When conditions get bad enough, and Americans take to the streets in massive numbers, when and if they vote in candidates who believe in grass roots democracy, only then can the system be changed and the views of average Americans matter. That is unlikely to happen anytime soon, because the billionaires and big corporations--who own most of the mass media--like the status quo.

It should be evident to all that America is an oligarchy, a country run by a small group of wealthy individuals. Those who pretend otherwise are not paying attention and deluding themselves. The future of our country, and the world, depends on our finding the path back to democracy. Unfortunately, the obstacles have never been greater.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Hersh’s new Syria revelations buried from view

Jonathan Cook's blog
26 June 2017
(Updated below)

Veteran investigative journalist Seymour Hersh, the man who exposed the Mai Lai massacre during the Vietnam War and the US military’s abuses of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib in 2004, is probably the most influential journalist of the modern era, with the possible exception of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, the pair who exposed Watergate.

For decades, Hersh has drawn on his extensive contacts within the US security establishment to bring us the story behind the official story, and to disclose facts that have often proved deeply discomfiting to those in power and exploded the self-serving, fairy-tale narratives the public were expected to passively accept as news. His stature among journalists was such that, in a sea of corporate media misinformation, he enjoyed a small island of freedom at the elite, and influential, outlet of the New Yorker.

Paradoxically, over the past decade, as social media has created a more democratic platform for information dissemination, the corporate media has grown ever more fearful of a truly independent figure like Hersh. The potential reach of his stories could now be enormously magnified by social media. As a result, he has been increasingly marginalised and his work denigrated. By denying him the credibility of a “respectable” mainstream platform, he can be dismissed for the first time in his career as a crank and charlatan. A purveyor of fake news.

Nonetheless, despite struggling to find an outlet for his recent work, he has continued to scrutinise western foreign policy, this time in relation to Syria. The official western narrative has painted a picture of a psychotic Syrian president, Bashar Assad, who is assumed to be so irrational and self-destructive he intermittently uses chemical weapons against his own people. He does so, not only for no obvious purpose but at moments when such attacks are likely to do his regime untold damage. Notably, two sarin gas attacks have supposedly occurred when Assad was making strong diplomatic or military headway, and when the Islamic extremists of Al-Qaeda and ISIS – his chief opponents – were on the back foot and in desperate need of outside intervention.

Dangerous monsters
Hersh’s investigations have not only undermined evidence-free claims being promoted in the west to destabilise Assad’s goverment but threatened a wider US policy seeking to “remake the Middle East”. His work has challenged a political and corporate media consensus that portrays Russia’s Vladimir Putin, Assad’s main ally against the extremist Islamic forces fighting in Syria, as another dangerous monster the West needs to bring into line.

For all these reasons, Hersh has found himself increasingly friendless. The New Yorker refused to publish his Syria investigations. Instead, he had to cross the Atlantic to find a home at the prestigious but far less prominent London Review of Books.

Back in 2013 his contacts within the security and intelligence establishments revealed that the assumption Assad had ordered the use of sarin gas in Ghouta, outside Damascus, failed to stand up to scrutiny. Even Barack Obama’s national intelligence director, James Clapper, was forced to admit privately that Assad’s guilt was “not a slam dunk”, even as the media widely portrayed it as precisely that. Hersh’s work helped stymie efforts at the time to promote a western military attack to bring down the Syrian government.

His latest investigation questions whether Assad was responsible for another alleged gas attack – this one at Khan Sheikhoun in April. Again a consensual western narrative was quickly constructed after social media showed dozens of Syrians dead, apparently following the dropping of a bomb by Syrian aircraft. For the first time in his presidency, Donald Trump received wall-to-wall praise for launching a military strike on Syria in response, even though, as Hersh documents, he had no evidence on which to base such an attack, one that gravely violated international law.

Hersh’s new investigation was paid for by the London Review of Books, which declined to publish it. This is almost as disturbing as the events in question.

What is emerging is a media blackout so strong that even the London Review of Books is running scared. Instead, Hersh’s story appeared yesterday in a German publication, Welt am Sonntag. Welt is an award-winning newspaper, no less serious than the New Yorker or the LRB. But significantly Hersh is being forced to publish ever further from the centres of power whose misinformation his investigations are challenging.

Imagine how effective Woodward and Bernstein would have been in bringing down Richard Nixon had they been able to publish their Watergate investigations only in the French media. That is the situation we have reached now with Hersh’s efforts to scrutinise the west’s self-serving claims about Syria.

US-Russian cooperation
As for the substance of Hersh’s investigation, he finds that Trump launched 59 Tomahawk missiles at a Syrian air base in April “despite having been warned by the US intelligence community that it had found no evidence that the Syrians had used a chemical weapon.”

In fact, Hersh reveals that, contrary to the popular narrative, the Syrian strike on a jihadist meeting place in Khan Sheikhoun on April 4 was closely coordinated beforehand between Russian and US intelligence agencies. The US were well apprised of what would happen and tracked the events.

Hersh’s sources in the intelligence establishment point out that these close contacts occurred for two reasons. First, there is a process known as “deconfliction”, designed to avoid collisions or accidental encounters between the US, Syrian and Russian militaries, especially in the case of their supersonic jets. The Russians therefore supplied US intelligence with precise details of that day’s attack beforehand. But in this case, the coordination also occurred because the Russians wanted to warn the US to keep away a CIA asset, who had penetrated the jihadist group, from that day’s meeting.

“This was not a chemical weapons strike,” a senior adviser to the US intelligence community told Hersh. “That’s a fairy tale. If so, everyone involved in transferring, loading and arming the weapon … would be wearing Hazmat protective clothing in case of a leak. There would be very little chance of survival without such gear.”

According to US intelligence, Hersh reports, the Syrian air force was able to target the site using a large, conventional bomb supplied by the Russians. But if Assad did not use a chemical warhead, why did many people apparently die at Khan Sheikhoun from inhalation of toxic gas?

The US intelligence community, says Hersh, believes the bomb triggered secondary explosions in a storage depot in the building’s basement that included propane gas, fertilisers, insecticides as well as “rockets, weapons and ammunition, … [and] chlorine-based decontaminants for cleansing the bodies of the dead before burial”. These explosions created a toxic cloud that was trapped close to the ground by the dense early morning air.

Medecins Sans Frontieres found patients it treated “smelled of bleach, suggesting that they had been exposed to chlorine.” Sarin is odourless.

Hersh concludes that the

evidence suggested that there was more than one chemical responsible for the symptoms observed, which would not have been the case if the Syrian Air Force – as opposition activists insisted – had dropped a sarin bomb, which has no percussive or ignition power to trigger secondary explosions. The range of symptoms is, however, consistent with the release of a mixture of chemicals, including chlorine and the organophosphates used in many fertilizers, which can cause neurotoxic effects similar to those of sarin.
Political suicide
Hersh’s main intelligence source makes an important contextual point you won’t hear anywhere in the corporate media:

What doesn’t occur to most Americans is if there had been a Syrian nerve gas attack authorized by Bashar [Assad], the Russians would be 10 times as upset as anyone in the West. Russia’s strategy against ISIS, which involves getting American cooperation, would have been destroyed and Bashar would be responsible for pissing off Russia, with unknown consequences for him. Bashar would do that? When he’s on the verge of winning the war? Are you kidding me?
When US national security officials planning Trump’s “retaliation” asked the CIA what they knew of events in Khan Sheikhoun, according to Hersh’s source, the CIA told them “there was no residual delivery for sarin at Sheyrat [the airfield from which the Syrian bombers had taken off] and Assad had no motive to commit political suicide.”

The source continues:

No one knew the provenance of the photographs [of the attack’s victims]. We didn’t know who the children were or how they got hurt. Sarin actually is very easy to detect because it penetrates paint, and all one would have to do is get a paint sample. We knew there was a [toxic] cloud and we knew it hurt people. But you cannot jump from there to certainty that Assad had hidden sarin from the UN because he wanted to use it in Khan Sheikhoun.
Trump, under political pressure and highly emotional by nature, ignored the evidence. Hersh’s source says:

The president saw the photographs of poisoned little girls and said it was an Assad atrocity. It’s typical of human nature. You jump to the conclusion you want. Intelligence analysts do not argue with a president. They’re not going to tell the president, ‘if you interpret the data this way, I quit’.
Although Republicans, Democrats and the entire media rallied to Trump’s side for the first time, those speaking to Hersh have apparently done so out of fear of what may happen next time.

The danger with Trump’s “retaliatory” strike, based on zero evidence of a chemical weapons attack, is that it could have killed Russian soldiers and dragged Putin into a highly dangerous confrontation with the US. Also, the intelligence community fears that the media have promoted a false narrative that suggests not only that a sarin attack took place, but paints Russia as a co-conspirator and implies that a UN team did not in fact oversee the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile back in 2013-14. That would allow Assad’s opponents to claim in the future, at a convenient time, yet another unsubstantiated sarin gas attack by the Syrian government.

Hersh concludes with words from his source that should strike fear into us all:

The issue is, what if there’s another false-flag sarin attack credited to hated Syria? Trump has upped the ante and painted himself into a corner with his decision to bomb. And do not think these guys [Islamist groups] are not planning the next faked attack. Trump will have no choice but to bomb again, and harder. He’s incapable of saying he made a mistake.

As was to be expected, there has been a backlash against Hersh’s investigation. If one thing is clear about the Khan Sheikhoun incident, it is that, in the absence of an independent investigation, there is still no decisive physical evidence to settle yet what happened one way or another. Therefore, our job as observers should be to keep a critical distance and weigh other relevant issues, such as context and probability.

So let us set aside for a moment the specifics of what happened on April 4 and concentrate instead on what Hersh’s critics must concede if they are to argue that Assad used sarin gas against the people of Khan Sheikhoun.

1. That Assad is so crazed and self-destructive – or at the very least so totally incapable of controlling his senior commanders, who must themselves be crazed and self-destructive – that he has on several occasions ordered the use of chemical weapons against civilians. And he has chosen to do it at the worst possible moments for his own and his regime’s survival, and when such attacks were entirely unnecessary.

2. That Putin is equally deranged and so willing to risk an end-of-times conflagration with the US that he has on more than one occasion either sanctioned or turned a blind eye to the use of sarin by Assad’s regime. And he has done nothing to penalise Assad afterwards, when things went wrong.

3. That Hersh has decided to jettison all the investigatory skills he has amassed over many decades as a journalist to accept at face value any unsubstantiated rumours his long-established contacts in the security services have thrown his way. And he has done so without regard to the damage that will do to his reputation and his journalistic legacy.

4. That a significant number of US intelligence officials, those Hersh has known and worked with over a long period of time, have decided recently to spin an elaborate web of lies no one wants to print, either in the hope of damaging Hersh in some collective act of revenge against him, or in the hope of permanently discrediting their own intelligence services.

Critics do not simply have to believe one of these four points. They must maintain the absolute veracity of all four of them.

Sunday, June 25, 2017


From The Intercept

Jon Schwarz

June 25 2017, 11:17 a.m.
THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY is at its lowest ebb in the memory of everyone now alive. It’s lost the White House and both houses of Congress. On the state level it’s weaker than at any time since 1920. And so far in 2017 Democrats have gone 0 for 4 in special elections to replace Republican members of Congress who joined the Trump administration.

How did it come to this? One person the Democratic Party is not going to ask, but perhaps should, is legendary consumer advocate and three-time presidential candidate Ralph Nader.

Nader, who’s now 83 and has been been based in Washington, D.C. for over fifty years, has had a front row seat to the Democrats’ slow collapse. After his bombshell exposé of the U.S. car industry, Unsafe at Any Speed, he and his organizations collaborated with congressional Democrats to pass a flurry of landmark laws protecting the environment, consumers and whistleblowers. Journalist William Greider described him as one of America’s three top models for small-d democratic activism, together with Saul Alinsky and Martin Luther King, Jr. Meanwhile, the 1971 “Powell Memo,” which laid the groundwork for the resurgence of the corporate right, named him as a key enemy of “the system,” calling him “the single most effective antagonist of American business.”

But of course Nader has been persona non grata with the Democratic Party since his 2000 Green Party candidacy for president. George W. Bush officially beat Al Gore in Florida by 537 votes, with the state’s electoral votes putting Bush in the White House even though he lost the national popular vote. (In reality, a comprehensive, little-noticed study released soon after 9/11 found that Gore would have won Florida if all disputed ballots had been recounted.)

Democrats excoriated Nader, who received over 97,000 votes in Florida, for handing the election to Bush. Since it’s impossible to rerun history, there’s no way to know whether Gore would have won without a Nader candidacy. He certainly might have, but it’s also possible that — since the Nader threat noticeably pushed Gore to take more popular, progressive positions — Gore would have performed even worse in a Nader-less election.

In any case, it’s now undeniable that the Democratic Party has significant problems that can’t be blamed on Ralph Nader in 2000. In a recent interview, Nader provided his deeply-informed, decades-long perspective on how U.S. politics got to this point:

JON SCHWARZ: I’m interested in the history of the Democrats caving, being more and more willing to do whatever the right wants, for the past 40 years. Take the recent stories about Jared Kushner. Whatever the ultimate underlying reality there, I think it’s fair to say that if a Democratic president had appointed their son-in-law to hold a position of tremendous power in the White House – if Hillary Clinton had appointed Chelsea’s husband Marc Mezvinsky – and stories had come out in the Washington Post and New York Times about him trying to set up a back channel with Russia, he would have been out the door before the day was over.

RALPH NADER: Do you want me to go through the history of the decline and decadence of the Democratic Party? I’m going to give you millstones around the Democratic Party neck that are milestones.

The first big one was in 1979. Tony Coelho, who was a congressman from California, and who ran the House Democratic Campaign treasure chest, convinced the Democrats that they should bid for corporate money, corporate PACs, that they could raise a lot of money. Why leave it up to Republicans and simply rely on the dwindling labor union base for money, when you had a huge honeypot in the corporate area?

And they did. And I could see the difference almost immediately. First of all, they lost the election to Reagan. And then they started getting weaker in the Congress. At that time, 1980, some of our big allies were defeated in the so-called Reagan landslide against Carter, we lost Senator [Gaylord] Nelson, Senator [Warren] Magnuson, Senator [Frank] Church. We had more trouble getting congressional hearings investigating corporate malfeasance by the Democrat [congressional committee] chairs. When the Democrats regained the White House [in 1992] you could see the difference in appointments to regulatory agencies, the difficulty in getting them to upgrade health and safety regulations.

The second millstone is that they didn’t know how to deal with Reagan. And the Republicans took note. That means a soft tone, smiling … You can say terrible things and do terrible things as long as you have [that] type of presentation.

[Democrats] were still thinking Republican conservatives were dull, stupid, and humorless. They didn’t adjust.

Ronald Reagan beat President Jimmy Carter handily on November 4. Reagan is shown holding a November 4th copy of The News World, predicting his landslide over Carter for the President of the United States. Ronald Reagan holds a Nov. 4, 1980 copy of The News World, predicting his landslide over Jimmy Carter for the President of the United States. Photo: Bettmann Archive/Getty Images
RN: Increasingly they began to judge their challenge to Republicans by how much money they raised. You talk to [Marcy] Kaptur from Cleveland, she says, we go into the Democratic caucus in the House, we go in talking money, we stay talking money, and we go out with our quotas for money. …

As a result they took the economic issues off the table that used to win again and again in the thirties and forties for the Democrats. The labor issues, the living wage issues, the health insurance issue, pension issues. And that of course was a huge bonanza for the Republican Party because the Republican Party could not contend on economic issues. They contended on racial issues, on bigotry issues, and that’s how they began to take control of the solid Democratic South after the civil rights laws were passed.

Raising money from Wall Street, from the drug companies, from health insurance companies, the energy companies, kept [Democrats] from their main contrasting advantage over the Republicans, which is, in FDR’s parlance, “The Democratic Party is the party of working families, Republicans are the party of the rich.” That flipped it completely and left the Democrats extremely vulnerable.

As a result they drew back geographically, to the east coast, west coast and so on.

And that created another millstone: You don’t run a 50-state [presidential] campaign. If you don’t run a 50-state campaign, number one you’re strengthening the opposing party in those states you’ve abandoned, so they can take those states for granted and concentrate on the states that are in the grey area. That was flub number one.

Flub number two is what Ben Barnes, the politically-savvy guy in Texas, told me. He said, when you don’t contest the presidential race in Texas, it rots the whole party down … all the way to mayors and city council. So it replicates this decadence and powerlessness for future years.

When they abandoned the red states, they abandoned five states in the Rocky Mountain area, and started out with a handicap of nine or ten senators.

You may remember from your history, the two senators from Montana were Democrats, Senator Church from Idaho was a Democrat, Senator Frank Moss, great consumer champion, Democrat from Utah. Now there’s almost nobody. The two senators from Wyoming are Republican, the two senators from Montana are Republican [John Tester, the senior Montana senator, is a Democrat], the two senators from Utah are Republican. I think the Democrats have one seat in Colorado. Then you get down to Arizona and that’s two Republicans.

So they never had a veto-proof majority even at their peak in the Senate. And of course later when they weren’t at their peak it cost them the Senate again and again. And now they’re in a huge hole, with the debacle in the Senate races in 2016, they’re facing three times as many Democrats up for reelection in 2018.

The [third] millstone is they decided to campaign by TV, with political consultants influencing them and getting their 15-20 percent cut. When you campaign by TV you campaign by slogans, you don’t campaign by policy.

Next millstone, the labor unions began getting weak, weak in numbers and weak in leadership. They began shelling out huge money to the Democrats for television. And as they became weaker they lost their grassroots mobilization on behalf of the Democrats.

The Democrats began the process of message preceding policy. No — policy precedes message. That means they kept saying how bad the Republicans are. They campaigned not by saying, look how good we are, we’re going to bring you full Medicare [for all], we’re going to crack down on corporate crime against workers and consumers and the environment, stealing, lying, cheating you. We’re going to get you a living wage. We’re going to get a lean defense, a better defense, and get some of this money and start rebuilding your schools and bridges and water and sewage systems and libraries and clinics.

Instead of saying that, they campaign by saying “Can you believe how bad the Republicans are?” Now once they say that, they trap their progressive wing, because their progressive wing is the only segment that’s going to change the party to be a more formidable opponent. Because they say to their progressive wing, “You’ve got nowhere to go, get off our back.”

And this went right into the scapegoating of the last twenty years. “Oh, it’s Nader, oh, it’s the Koch Brothers, oh, it’s the electoral college, oh, it’s misogyny, oh, it’s redneck deplorables.” They never look at themselves in the mirror.

RN: Republicans, when they lose they fight over ideas, however horrific they are. Tea Party ideas, libertarian ideas, staid Republican ideas. They fight. But the Democrats want uniformity, they want to shut people up. So they have the most deficient transition of all. They have the transition of Nancy Pelosi to Nancy Pelosi, four-time loser against the worst Republican Party in the Republican Party’s history.

If you put Republican politicians today before the ghost of Teddy Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower, and “Mr. Conservative” Senator Robert Taft, they’d roll over in their grave. That’s how radically extremist, cruel, vicious, Wall Street, militarist the Republican Party is. Which means that the Democrats should have landslided them. Not just beaten them, landslided them in legislatures around the country, governorships, president and the Congress.

But no, it’s always the scapegoat. Maybe Jill Stein, the little Green Party, they took Pennsylvania and Michigan from Hillary the hawk.

JS: Democrats seem to have internalized the Republican perspective on everything involving the military.

RN: [Another] millstone is they could never contrast themselves with the Republicans on military foreign policy – because they were like them. They never question the military budget, they never question the militarized foreign policy, like Hillary the hawk on Libya, who scared the generals and ran over [Defense Secretary Robert] Gates who opposed her going to the White House to [push for] toppling the regime, metastasizing violence in seven or eight African countries to this day.

So they knocked out foreign and military policy, because they were getting money from Lockheed and Boeing and General Dynamics and Raytheon and so on. Even Elizabeth Warren when she had a chance started talking about maintaining those contracts with Raytheon. Here’s the left wing of the party talking about Raytheon, which is the biggest corporate welfare boondoggle east of the Pecos.

[Another] millstone is: Nobody gets fired. They have defeat after defeat, and they can’t replace their defeated compadres with new, vigorous, energetic people. Labor unions, the same thing. They [stay in positions] into their eighties no matter how screwed up the union is. You don’t get fired no matter how big the loss is, unlike in the business community, where you get fired.

The last millstone is, they make sure by harassing progressive third parties that the third party never pushes them. I’m an expert on that. They try to get them off the ballot. We had twenty-four lawsuits in twelve weeks in the summer of 2004 to get us off the ballots of dozens of states by the Democratic Party. Whereas if we got five percent, six percent of the vote they would be under great pressure to change their leadership and change their practice because there would be enough American voters who say to the Democrats, “We do have some place to go,” a viable third party. They harass them, they violate civil liberties, they use their Democrat-appointed judges to get bad decisions or harassing depositions. Before [third parties] finally clear the deck one way or the other it’s Labor Day and they’ve got an eight-week campaign.

There are some people who think the Democratic Party can be reformed from within by changing the personnel. I say good luck to that. What’s happened in the last twenty years? They’ve gotten more entrenched. Get rid of Pelosi, you get Steny Hoyer. You get rid of Harry Reid, you get [Charles] Schumer. Good luck.

Unfortunately, to put it in one phrase, the Democrats are unable to defend the United States of America from the most vicious, ignorant, corporate-indentured, militaristic, anti-union, anti-consumer, anti-environment, anti-posterity [Republican Party] in history.

End of lecture.

This interview was edited for length and clarity.


Saturday, June 24, 2017

If You Embrace Assata, You Must Fight the Black Misleadership Class

from Black Agenda Report

Submitted by Glen Ford on Wed, 06/21/2017 - 15:02

Donald Trump’s lynch party seeking the extradition of Assata Shakur from Cuba includes every U.S. president -- most especially Barack Obama, who doubled the bounty on her head and demanded “that a home-grown Black revolutionary and escaped political prisoner be returned to captivity.” As for the Congressional Black Caucus, there is “no chance that the CBC as a body will protest either Trump’s persecution of Shakur or his general policy on Cuba.”

If You Embrace Assata, You Must Fight the Black Misleadership Class

“It is truly obscene to hear Donald Trump -- and Barack Obama -- speak of Cuban political prisoners when the U.S. still holds at least 15 former Panthers.”

Donald Trump’s vicious demonization of exiled Black Panther Assata Shakur, spat out in the course of his partial reversal of his predecessor’s “opening” to Cuba, shows once again that imperialism is a system, not a face or a political party –- and that the U.S. version of imperialism is inseparable from the white settler origins of the State.

Near the end of his presidency, Barack Obama sought to ease the terms of Washington’s half-century long, self-defeating blockade of the socialist island, while simultaneously increasing U.S. regime change efforts against Cuba’s ally, the socialist government of Venezuela. But it was Obama’s FBI that, three years ago, doubledthe state of New Jersey’s $1 million bounty on Shakur’s head -- an inducement to kidnap or assassination that Obama could have withdrawn with the stroke of a pen, but did not. Obama was prepared to adjust a policy that had resulted in the isolation of the U.S., rather than Cuba -- and which was opposed by major sectors of corporate America -- but would not yield an inch on Washington’s demand that a home-grown Black revolutionary and escaped political prisoner be returned to captivity.

“It was Obama’s FBI that, three years ago, doubled the state of New Jersey’s $1 million bounty on Shakur’s head.”

Assata represents the continuity of the centuries-long U.S. war against its Black population, a conflict that was taken to “a higher level,” as folks used to say, with the Black rebellions of the Sixties, the imposition of a mass Black incarceration regime, and the designation of the Black Panther Party as Public Enemy #1. Three generations and tens of millions of prisoners later, the Mass Black Incarceration State is more entrenched than ever; heavily armed, high tech-wired garrisons of cop-soldiers occupy cities that are rapidly ejecting their poor Black populations; and Assata Shakur is the only woman on the FBI’s Most Wanted List.

She was placed there by the nation’s First Black President, with “not a peep” from “a single black mayor or member of the Congressional Black Caucus. Not Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, and certainly not the presidential lap dog Al Sharpton,” as BAR managing editor Bruce Dixon wrote, in 2013.

A year later, in June of 2014 -- just two months before Michael Brown was gunned down by a Ferguson, Missouri, policeman -- four out of five Black Caucus members voted to continue massive transfers of Pentagon weapons and equipment to local police. As (white) Florida Congressman Alan Grayson, sponsor of the bill to outlaw the arms transfers, stated:

“These weapons are not being used to defeat terrorism on our streets. Where is the terrorism on our streets? Instead, these weapons are being used to arrest barbers and to terrorize the general population. In fact, one may venture to say that the weapons are often used by a majority to terrorize a minority.”

“Heavily armed, high tech-wired garrisons of cop-soldiers occupy cities that are rapidly ejecting their poor Black populations.”

Among the 80 percent of the Black Caucus that voted to continue the Pentagon-to-local-police arms pipeline, was Michael Brown’s “mis-representative” in Congress, William Lacy Clay.

A study conducted two years later, in 2016, revealed that Barack Obama had used the 1033 Pentagon transfers program to oversee “the biggest escalation in the history of the one-sided war against Black America." As we wrote:

“The value of military weapons, gear and equipment transferred to local cops did not exceed $34 million annually until 2010, the second year of the Obama administration, when it nearly tripled to more than $91 million. By 2014...Obama was sending three quarters of a billion dollars, more than $787 million a year, in battlefield weaponry to local police departments. In other words, President Obama oversaw a 24-fold (2,400%) increase in the militarization of local police between 2008 and 2014. Even with the scale-back announced in 2015, Obama still managed to transfer a $459 million arsenal to the cops -- 14 times as much weapons of terror and death than President Bush gifted to the local police at his high point year of 2008.”

By the numbers, Obama qualifies as “the biggest domestic war hawk in the history of the United States -- bigger than Bush, Clinton and all his predecessors since the genesis of the Black mass incarceration regime in the late Sixties.”

The 1033 program was enacted in 1997. A year later, the U.S. House unanimously passed a resolution requesting that Cuban leader Fidel Castro extradite Joanne Chesimard, aka Assata Shakur, to the United States. Two Black California congresswomen, Barbara Lee and Maxine Waters, claimed they voted for the resolution by mistake, not recognizing that Chesimard and Shakur were the same person. Waters then released a statement opposing the extradition:

“I support the right of all nations to grant political asylum to individuals fleeing political persecution. The United States grants political asylum to individuals from all over the world who successfully prove they are fleeing political persecution. Other sovereign nations have the same right, including the sovereign nation of Cuba....

“The second reason I oppose this measure, is because I respect the right of Assata Shakur to seek political asylum. Assata Shakur has maintained that she was persecuted as a result of her political beliefs and political affiliations. As a result, she left the United States and sought political asylum in Cuba, where she still resides.

“In a sad and shameful chapter of our history, during the 1960s and 1970s, many civil rights, Black Power and other politically active groups were secretly targeted by the FBI for prosecution based on their political beliefs.”

If Waters can break away from her 24-7 tirades against imaginary Russian subversion of U.S. “democracy,” she should compose a similar letter to Trump. But no such statement can yet be found on the Internet.

“Obama qualifies as ‘the biggest domestic war hawk in the history of the United States.’”

In December of 2014, attorney Martin Garbus told Democracy Now!host Amy Goodman that he was sure Shakur “will not be returned. Fidel Castro, when she came there, said that she would be allowed to stay in Cuba indefinitely. I had a meeting about a month ago with five congresspeople, including Representative Barbara Lee, and they were also absolutely clear that they would oppose any attempts on the United States to succeed that would get Assata Shakur back. So, to me, it’s absolutely clear she’s not coming back.”

We have yet to hear from the five Congressional Black Caucus members in the wake of Trump’s Miami announcement in Miami, and there is no chance that the CBC as a body will protest either Trump’s persecution of Shakur or his general policy on Cuba – despite their hatred of the Orange Menace in the White House. As a Caucus, they are easy to rile against phantom Russians, but worthless -- or worse -- when it comes to opposing U.S. wars at home and abroad. The Congressional Black Caucus voted overwhelmingly in favor of Bill Clinton’s 1994 anti-crime (pro-mass Black incarceration) bill, and all but a few CBC members supported the 1986 Anti-Drug Abuse Act with its 100-to-1 penalties for crack cocaine.

The Black Misleadership Class has proven, over the 40 years of its political hegemony in Black America, that its loyalty is to the Democratic Party and its corporate sponsors, and to the imperial system.

Shakur was more likely to reach a sympathetic ear with the Pope, whom she wrote in 1998:

“To make a long story short, I was captured in New Jersey in 1973, after being shot with both arms held in the air, and then shot again from the back. I was left on the ground to die and when I did not, I was taken to a local hospital where I was threatened, beaten and tortured. In 1977 I was convicted in a trial that can only be described as a legal lynching.

“In 1979 I was able to escape with the aid of some of my fellow comrades. I saw this as a necessary step, not only because I was innocent of the charges against me, but because I knew that in the racist legal system in the United States I would receive no justice. I was also afraid that I would be murdered in prison. I later arrived in Cuba where I am currently living in exile as a political refugee.

“The New Jersey State Police and other law enforcement officials say they want to see me brought to ‘justice.’ But I would like to know what they mean by ‘justice.’ Is torture justice? I was kept in solitary confinement for more than two years, mostly in men’s prisons. Is that justice? My lawyers were threatened with imprisonment and imprisoned. Is that justice? I was tried by an all-white jury, without even the pretext of impartiality, and then sentenced to life in prison plus 33 years. Is that justice?”

“Release of political prisoners is not visibly a high priority, even among most grassroots Black formations.”

It is correct and commendable to point out the hypocrisy of the United States, which offers a bounty on Shakur while harboring scores of real terrorists that have committed ghastly crimes against Cuba as agents of the U.S. It is truly obscene to hear Donald Trump -- and Barack Obama -- speak of Cuban political prisoners when the U.S. still holds at least 15 former Panthers, including Shakur co-defendant Sundiata Acoli, now 80 years old. ( Sekou Odinga, who was charged with helping Shakur escape, spent 33 years in prison before his release in 2014.) Moreover, since the Mass Black Incarceration State was created to crush the Black Liberation Movement, it is a political weapon, conveying a political character to all of its Black prisoners. The Black Misleadership Class has been complicit in the rise of this Black Incarceration State, as recently explored in James Foreman Jr.’s book, Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America.

Many in the broad Black Lives Matter movement express great love and admiration for Assata Shakur. Yet, release of political prisoners is not visibly a high priority, even among most grassroots Black formations -- which tends to indicate that most participants don’t anticipate that they might wind up becoming long term political prisoners, themselves.

The political activist’s only real defense lies with the people for whom she risks her life and freedom. In the end, it’s all on us.

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at

· Glen Ford's blog

Friday, June 23, 2017

Iran is no longer a theocratic juggernaut, even if Trump and friends want you to see it that way

from Mondoweiss
James North on June 22, 2017

For nearly 40 years now, Iran has been feared and hated as a Puritanical theocracy. In America and elsewhere, the prevailing image is of an austere regime, led by fanatical mullahs who are backed by masses of the Muslim faithful ready to die to defend it.

This picture, which was always at least somewhat inaccurate, is now profoundly wrong. The results in the recent presidential election in May are another sign that Iran is actually riddled with corruption, that the governing clerical elite is continuing to lose popular support, and that a growing number of Iranians, quite possibly already a majority, are no different than people elsewhere in wanting a government that respects human rights.

This picture of Iran in 2017 should raise doubts about U.S. policy in the region, which under Donald Trump is now aligned completely with Israel’s: Iran is supposedly unified, powerful and expanding, so it must be confronted everywhere. A sober look should also further discredit the Orientalist analysis of the Middle East, and its corollary, the Clash of Civilizations theory. Iran also reminds us of a universal human truth; wherever you have religion, you will also sooner or later find religious hypocrisy.

One of the best reports appeared in the May 16 Financial Times, (“Election Exposes Iran’s Deep Divisions,” unfortunately behind a paywall). Najmeh Bozorgmehr’s long article explained that the relaxation of international sanctions after the 2016 Iran nuclear deal did not end economic stagnation. Youth unemployment is at least 26 percent, probably much higher, and a third of the country is living in “absolute poverty.” This is not the profile of a nation that is a plausible threat to conquer the rest of the Middle East.

Corruption in Iran is becoming more glaring. Bozorgmehr reports that the elite Revolutionary Guards, long regarded as the pious shock troops of the theocracy, in fact have more earthly reasons for their loyalty; they control a business empire that is worth $100 billion.

One Iranian official told Bozorgmehr why new high-class apartments are rising in Tehran instead of the low-income housing the regime had promised:

These luxurious buildings are merely tips of an iceberg, which is the astronomical wealth of those who have no records of any innovative business or industrial and manufacturing work. Wealth accumulated over a short time is usually [the result] of special advantages of those linked to power centers . . .

The Financial Times finding of mega-corruption and repression is amplified in a just-published book: Democracy in Iran: Why It Failed and How it Might Succeed. The author, Misagh Parsa, is a professor at Dartmouth, and his study, although well-written, is a touch dry and academic. But as he piles on the evidence, his work becomes both a crushing indictment of the theocratic regime, and an inspiring chronicle of the widespread, continuing and brave resistance. It turns out that corruption may have even reached as high as the son of the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who is alleged to have taken 1.5 billion euros from oil revenues.

Professor Parsa explains that the Khamenei regime turned even more repressive after its candidate almost certainly lost the 2009 presidential election to the reformers. Iranians poured into the streets for huge post-election demonstrations, one of which attracted three million people, until the Revolutionary Guards cracked down. The regime arrested 4000 people in the months after the vote and put to death 115 of them, one of the highest rates of executions in the world. Some 100,000 fled Iran, and the candidates who supposedly lost in 2009 are still under house arrest.

But the resistance continues. The ongoing economic stagnation and corruption is regarded as the major reason that the more moderate candidate, Hassan Rouhani, comfortably won re-election on May 19. No one is suggesting that Iran is on the verge of a democratic revolution. But the portrait of a sinister Islamic juggernaut, the view that unites Benjamin Netanyahu, Donald Trump and the King of Saudi Arabia, is seriously out of date.

Iran today is another blow to the tottering Clash of Civilizations theory. Samuel Huntington, its main proponent, argued 20 years ago that “Islam” was unifying, preparing to expand beyond its already “bloody borders.” He claimed that the world was witnessing a “reduction or suspension of antagonisms within the Muslim world,” as “old differences among Muslims shrank in importance compared with the overriding difference between Islam and the West.”

Huntington died in 2004, so he is not around to squirm as his theory to fails to explain the vicious “intra-Muslim” civil war in Syria, and he would be stupefied by Donald Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia to strengthen the anti-Iran alliance between the U.S., Israel, and the most fundamentalist branch of his “Islam.”

Clash of Civilizations is inspired partly by the philosophy of Orientalism, which has as one central tenet the conviction that Muslims are different than other kinds of human beings. Unlike the rest of us, Muslims are not mainly motivated by the daily reality they face. Instead, Muslims act after consulting their sacred texts, and then, robot-like, they join with other Muslims to ruthlessly spread their religion.

But Iranian Muslims turn out to be not all that different from people elsewhere. Some are surely genuinely religious (and Professor Parsa reports that many of the most sincerely pious have turned against the theocratic regime). Certain other Iranians are hypocrites, who have used religion to consolidate political power and amass great wealth. But quite possibly a majority of Iranians see through that hypocrisy, and demand the same rights as Americans or Europeans; freedom to express themselves without fear of arrest or execution, to form independent labor unions, and to choose their leaders instead of being ruled by unelected, thieving theocrats.

And an inspiring number of Iranians are prepared to risk their freedom and even their lives to resist. Here is just one of them: Bahareh Hedayat, a 36-year-old student leader and activist for women’s rights, was sentenced to 10 years in prison in 2010 for “insulting the president” and “disrupting public order through participating in illegal gatherings.” The regime forced her to serve more than 6 years of her sentence before releasing her in September 2016, even though her health had deteriorated sharply in prison.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Democratic pro-Israel clone fails to take Georgia seat

from The Electric IntifadA

Michael F. Brown Power Suits 21 June 2017

Jon Ossoff, Democratic candidate in Georgia’s 6th District, lost the most expensive US House race in history. (via
Pundits and politicians billed Democrat Jon Ossoff versus Republican Karen Handel as a major referendum on the first few months of the Trump administration.

Democrats poured tens of millions of dollars into the effort to flip Georgia’s 6th District, helping to make it the most expensive US House race in history. But on Tuesday Republicans held the conservative stronghold by a margin of 52-48 percent.

Democrats have now lost all four special elections to replace Republicans who joined President Donald Trump’s cabinet, including in Montana where the Republican candidate physically attacked a journalist just hours before election day.

Ossoff ran a centrist campaign, trying to pull right-wing voters – exactly the kind of strategy that failed to put Hillary Clinton into the White House. Ossoff was also cautious in referencing Trump – one of the most unpopular presidents since polling began.

According to Kamau Franklin, editor of the Atlanta Black Star, this strategy “is just wrong.” By tacking to the right on issues like healthcare and the economy, Ossoff failed to galvanize the Democratic base.

Franklin predicts that Ossoff’s defeat will reignite the “civil war” within the party between the centrist Clinton-Obama wing and the more progressive wing that gravitates toward Senator Bernie Sanders.

Tough and ignorant
Domestic issues, of course, drove this vote, but Democrats also missed opportunities to distinguish themselves on foreign policy.

Like other Democrats foisted on voters by party leaders, Ossoff engaged in “me-tooism” to show just how tough – and ignorant – he could be when it comes to the Middle East, particularly the question of Palestine and the Israelis.

Both candidates emphasized their support for Israel.

Ossoff listed 13 priorities on his campaign website. “US-Israel relations” ranked sixth. Constituents might have been surprised to learn he put Israel before national security, veterans, seniors, the environment, education, criminal justice and fighting corruption.

It’s difficult to discern if Handel orders her priorities any differently. She listed eight issues on her website with “Israel” coming fourth, before “jobs and the economy.” But her list – unlike Ossoff’s – was in alphabetical order.

Ossoff declared he is “committed to Israel’s security as a homeland for the Jewish people and to strengthening the historic, unbreakable bond between the United States and Israel.”

Noting he has twice traveled to Israel, he affirmed his “deep personal relationships with family who live in Jerusalem and many friends who live in Israel.” In his view, Palestinians appear to count for less.

The victor Karen Handel sounded indistinguishable, emphasizing that the “United States and Israel share a remarkable friendship” and various “shared objectives” such as to “defeat terrorism.”

Both made boilerplate nods towards “peace.” But neither offered a word about the imperative ethical need to end the Israeli occupation, let alone about respecting the right of return of Palestinian refugees and ensuring equal rights for all.

Georgia’s 6th District was previously held for 20 years by Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker and Republican presidential hopeful who declared in 2012 that the Palestinians are an “invented people.”

Gingrich, who was re-elected repeatedly despite – or perhaps because of – a history of bigotry, was currying favor with billionaire casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, a major backer of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and big donor to anti-Palestinian causes.

A political group tied to Adelson reportedly spent more than $6 million dollars to defeat Ossoff.

Brutal mentors
Minimally qualified, Ossoff touted that while an undergraduate at Georgetown University he “studied under Madeleine Albright and former Israeli Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren.”

These are scarcely badges of honor, but they indicate that Ossoff, as a representative of the Democratic establishment, offered no break from interventionist foreign policies that have brought injustice and catastrophe on a global scale.

When she was secretary of state in the Clinton administration in the 1990s, Albright notoriously defended sanctions that killed an estimated 500,000 children in Iraq. Challenged by 60 Minutes’ Lesley Stahl whether inflicting such suffering could be justified, Albright answered, “we think the price is worth it.”

Oren, Ossoff’s other mentor, is currently a minister in Netanyahu’s government.

Oren lied in a 2014 interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer about the killings by Israeli forces of Nadim Nuwara and Muhammad Abu al-Thahir, two Palestinian children shot dead in cold blood on video during a Nakba Day protest a few days earlier.

Oren indicated on television – days after they were killed – that it was not certain that the two boys were even dead.

In order to generate this bogus doubt, he cited the videotaped shooting of 12-year-old Muhammad al-Dura in Gaza in 2000 at the outset of the second intifada, which generated worldwide outrage.

Oren recycled the far-right conspiracy theory that the shooting had been staged, even questioning whether the child “was shot at all.”

At the time, Oren was described by CNN as merely a “Middle East analyst,” as if he had not spent many years as a soldier in Israel’s army and an official apologist for its policies.

It is a damning indicator that Oren can be uncontroversially cited by a Democratic candidate with no party leaders challenging Ossoff for promoting his connection to an anti-Palestinian racist who engages in grotesque fabrications and conspiracy theories.

Time for radical break
National polling indicates that core constituencies increasingly disagree with the pro-Israel positions taken by Democratic candidates.

Majorities of Americans also support radical breaks on domestic policy – such as a single-payer healthcare system.

Yet in the race for Georgia’s 6th District, the Democratic establishment rallied around a candidate who opposes single-payer and stuck to the traditional script on foreign policy.

Defying conventional wisdom that voters only want right-wing populism or bland centrism, Britain’s Labour Party this month surged to its most successful general election performance in years on a platform of left-wing policies championed by Jeremy Corbyn, a leader with a lifelong record of supporting Palestinian rights.

After a string of defeats, it is an example Democrats urgently need to study.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Why Is One Pro-Israel Group Desperate To Keep You From Watching This Video?

Why Is One Pro-Israel Group Desperate To Keep You From Watching This Video?

Peter BeinartJune 21, 2017facebook

When it comes to Palestinians, the American Jewish establishment is in the ignorance business. The average American synagogue has never hosted a Palestinian speaker. The average “pro-Israel” activist has never read a book by a Palestinian author. The American Jewish philanthropists who fund Birthright send thousands of young American Jews to Israel each year, on a program that systematically excludes the voices of 50% of the people who live under Israeli control.

But that’s not the worst part. The worst part is that for major American Jewish organizations, ignorance is an export. It is not enough that American Jewish leaders never hear from Palestinians themselves — they do their best to ensure that American politicians don’t, either.

Consider the sequence of events that began on June 8. On that day, an advocacy group called No Way To Treat a Child hosted a panel discussion on Capitol Hill. That’s not unusual. Advocacy organizations hold panel discussions on Capitol Hill all the time; the location makes it easier for congressional staff to attend. What made this one unusual was its subject: the Palestinian experience under Israeli control.

You can watch the panel online. The first speaker was Omar Shakir, the Israel-Palestine director of Human Rights Watch. In dry, rather clinical, terms, Shakir discussed some of the consequences of the fact that West Bank Palestinians are subjects, not citizens, of Israel. He noted, for instance, that in Area C, which encompasses roughly 60% of the West Bank, it is “nearly impossible for Palestinians to obtain a permit to build a home.” When Palestinians build without a permit, the Israeli government often demolishes their homes.

Following him was Brad Parker, a staff attorney at Defense for Children Palestine. Observing that, according to the most recent statistics, Israel holds hundreds of Palestinians between the ages of 12 and 17 in its jails, often for stone throwing, Parker explained that the Israeli military frequently arrests Palestinian children at night. They are often bound, blindfolded and transported to a military installation, where they wait until morning before being interrogated without a lawyer and without their parents knowing where they are. They “essentially disappear for 24, 48, 96 hours.” Then they are generally prosecuted in military courts where the conviction rate approaches 100%.

Following Parker was Yazan Meqbil, a young West Bank Palestinian attending college in the United States, who talked about growing up in a house repeatedly slated for demolition. “Every single day,” he said, “I used to wake up hoping my house will not be demolished.” Meqbil ended his remarks by saying: “Palestinians, we all have a dream, to be free, to live like normal human beings. To not be afraid whenever we leave our homes.”

The final speaker was Nadia Ben-Youssef, who works for Adalah–-The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel. She stressed the links between Israel’s treatment of Palestinians in the West Bank and its treatment of Palestinian citizens inside Israel proper. Israel’s Palestinian citizens, she noted, lived under military law until 1966. And even today, she argued, inside the Green Line, Israel privileges Jews over non-Jews in important ways.

I offer this summation to illustrate the shamelessness of the attack that followed. In a video posted June 12, The Israel Project, which is led by former AIPAC spokesman Josh Block, called the event an “anti-Israel hatefest” filled with “hate speech.” Notice the Orwellian turn.

According to The Israel Project, it is not hateful to hold millions of West Bank Palestinians for 50 years as non-citizens, without due process, free movement or the right to vote for the government that controls their lives. It is hateful to criticize Israel for doing so. By that standard, the 2012 documentary “The Gatekeepers,” which featured former heads of the Shin Bet calling Israel’s occupation of the West Bank “brutal,” “colonial” and “unbearable,” was an “anti-Israel hatefest,” too.

Then came the inevitable insinuation of anti-Semitism. As menacing music played in the background, the video declares that while the panel pretended to be “about human rights,” the speakers “couldn’t stop talking about Jews.” Actually, the panel was entirely about human rights. But, as if uncovering a terrible offense, the video noted that panelists had 17 times used the phrases “Jewish,” “Jewish state,” “Jewish people,” “Jewish citizens” or “Jews.” How sinister! I’m sure Josh Block never uses such despicable phrases when speaking about Israel.

New Approach: The head of The Israel Project, Josh Block, right, and David Hazony appear at a launch of the group?s new publication, The Tower.
New Leader Josh Block Gives Makeover to The Israel Project
Nathan GuttmanApril 2, 2013
In fact, two of Shakir’s uses of the word “Jewish” came from quotations. He quoted the State Department as calling settlement growth “inconsistent with Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state,” and President Obama as saying that settlement growth undermines “Israel as both Jewish and a democracy.” Then again, everyone knows that Obama and the State Department are anti-Semitic, too.

Most of the references to Jews came from Nadia Ben-Youssef. The video quoted her as saying that “Israel was established as a Jewish state to privilege the rights of Jewish people,” and referring to “this Jewish state that is premised on the basis that you must have greater rights, so that means more Jewish people than anyone else in that land.” The video never explained what’s incorrect or odious about those statements. Their hatefulness is presumably self-evident.

But both statements are true. Yes, Israel’s Declaration of Independence speaks about ensuring “complete equality of social and political rights… irrespective of religion, race or sex.” And yes, Palestinians inside Israel proper (as opposed to Palestinians in the West Bank) enjoy citizenship and the right to vote. But Israel was also explicitly founded to represent and safeguard the Jewish people, and that inevitably privileges Jews over non-Jews.

Jews who immigrate to Israel, for instance, gain citizenship on day one. For non-Jews who wish to immigrate to Israel, by contrast, including Palestinian refugees born inside Israel’s borders, gaining citizenship is virtually impossible. Israel’s flag contains a Jewish star; its national anthem speaks of “the Jewish soul.” In these symbolic ways, too, Israel privileges Jews over non-Jews. As for Israel’s effort to maintain a Jewish majority so that Jews can control the destiny of the state, that’s hardly a secret. It’s a goal that the Israeli government and mainstream American Jewish organizations proudly endorse.

Israel is not the only country on earth to face a tension between its desire to protect and nurture one ethno-religious community and its commitment to provide equality under the law. Many European democracies have immigration policies that favor a dominant ethnic group. Many have crosses on their flags. The 2003 Palestinian Constitution states that “the Palestinian people are part of the Arab nation” and that “the principles of Islamic Shari’a shall be the main source of legislation.” So if a Palestinian state is ever created, it will likely wrestle with the tension between ethnic nationalism and democracy, too.

I believe that in a post-Holocaust world, it’s important to have one country on earth that assumes a special obligation to protect Jewish life. The goal, therefore, should be to minimize the tension between Jewish statehood and liberal democracy as much as possible, while acknowledging that you can never erase it entirely. The challenge, as Martin Buber once put it, is to “do no more injustice to others than we are forced to do in order to exist.”

Zionist thinkers like Chaim Gans and Alexander Yakobson and Amnon Rubinstein have sought to meet that challenge. But doing so honestly requires acknowledging that all forms of Jewish statehood entail some moral costs, and that some are more morally defensible than others.

These are the kinds of debates that the American Jewish establishment fears. It fears them because such debates give Palestinians a voice. Given the influence that American Jewish groups wield in Washington, it’s far easier to simply deny Palestinians a platform. That’s why The Israel Project ends its video by urging people to call Rep. Mark Pocan, who authorized No Way To Treat a Child to use a room on Capitol Hill, and “demand that he condemn the event.” The goal is to scare members of Congress so they don’t facilitate such discussions again.

The deep, dark secret of the American Jewish establishment is that its leaders are not equipped to respond to smart Palestinian critics of Israel. They’re not familiar enough with the realities of Palestinian life under Israeli control. So having built itself a cocoon that shuts out Palestinian voices, the American Jewish establishment insists that Congress live inside that cocoon too. Because if the cocoon cracks, American politicians, and the American public, will realize how intellectually weak the American Jewish establishment actually is.

When it comes to Israel, the organized American Jewish community would rather bully than think. That’s what happens when power corrupts. It doesn’t only make you immoral. It makes you dumb.

Peter Beinart is a Forward senior columnist and contributing editor. Listen to “Fault Lines,” his podcast with Daniel Gordis here or on iTunes.

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

Democrats Have a Bigger Problem Than Jill Stein

from truthdig

Posted on Jun 20, 2017

Jill Stein is back in the spotlight.

In the past few weeks, a number of interviews with the former Green Party presidential candidate have popped up—and with them comes the inevitable ire of the Democratic Party.

Stein has faced this wave of criticism before, and it doesn’t seem to bother her. Earlier in June, she spoke with The Intercept’s Jeremy Scahill on his “Intercepted” podcast to discuss liberal accusations that her campaign took crucial votes away from Hillary Clinton.

“We’ve got to find a reason. We’ve got to blame somebody,” Stein says of the mentality of voters who see her as a “spoiler.”

“That said,” she continues, “it’s really important to stand back and realize that the solution for a democracy on life support is not less democracy. Silencing political opposition is a very dangerous thing to do.”

She expressed similar sentiments in an interview with Ben Schreckinger for Politico Magazine. “I consider it a great honor that the party and our prior campaign for president is suddenly being attacked outside of an election season,” she told him, adding that she doesn’t have any regrets about her 2016 presidential bid.

Stein’s comments in these interviews and on social media have prompted backlash. The left-leaning site Jezebel ran a story attacking her for her “infuriating” point of view. Keith Olbermann, who has a Twitter following of 972,000, called Stein an “imbecile” in a tweet earlier this month. Neera Tanden, president of the policy research organization Center for American Progress, also used Twitter to blame Stein for rising tensions in Syria. Even Schreckinger latched on to the assumption that Stein may have something to apologize for, running his interview with her under the title “Jill Stein Isn’t Sorry.”

Stein is probably used to intense criticism—she faced plenty of it when she was running for president. And as Schreckinger notes, there are some issues, such as her relationship with the Russian government, that may merit a closer look (although she addresses this topic in detail during her interview with Scahill, lambasting the “neo-McCarthyism” currently at play in American politics). But the Democrats’ insistence that Stein is partly to blame for Donald Trump’s election overlooks a more insidious element of American politics: nonvoters, or those who showed up at a polling place in 2016 and neglected to cast a vote for president.

Meagan Day of The Week explains:

There are two categories of non-two-party votes in the contemporary American political climate, and they’re regarded differently. The first is the third-party vote, which, especially on the left side of the aisle, is considered burglary. The second is total abstention, which is considered inevitable, and therefore hardly factors into the mainstream media’s election postmortems. In neither scenario does the losing major party (in this case the Democrats) take responsibility for failing to move potential voters to act on its behalf.

“But,” you may protest, “Donald Trump won by a margin smaller than the number of Green Party votes in key states, particularly the Upper Midwest!” And you’re right, that’s true. Take Michigan: Trump won Michigan by 13,225 votes, while Jill Stein walked away with 51,463 votes. Clearly, if all of those people had voted for Hillary Clinton instead of Stein, Clinton would have won Michigan. (Whether Stein votes ought to be otherwise considered shoo-in Democrat votes is a separate matter.)

If these are the only variables of interest to us — the number of ballots affirmatively cast for Trump, Clinton, Stein, and maybe Johnson — then yeah, the Stein-as-spoiler argument makes some sense. But here’s another number, one that ought to change your perspective: 87,810. That’s how many Michigan voters showed up to the polls, cast ballots, and declined to vote for a presidential candidate at all.

Day goes on to explain that in the swing states of Michigan, Maine, Florida and Arizona, “the undervote total was larger than the margin of victory.”

“And what is an undervote but an intentional expression of distaste for the prospects on offer?” Day ponders. “Apparently these voters found the presidential choices too unappetizing for even a clothespin vote.”

Also worth mentioning, of course, is the problem of low voter turnout. “Nearly three million Michiganders joined the roughly 40 percent of eligible American adults who declined to vote at all last year,” Day writes. “In Michigan, those eligible nonvoters were 200 times larger than Trump’s margin of victory.”

These nonvoters represent a critical problem in both the Democratic and the Republican parties, in that nonvoters tend to be poor or working-class people of color. Day writes:

Nonvoters are far less likely to identify with one of the major parties. And who can blame them? While it’s unfair and ill-advised to completely elide the differences between Democrats and Republicans, the fact remains that neither party has a proven track record of robustly demanding and taking consistent steps to ensure that everyone is paid a living wage, has access to health care, has quality public education — even where the provision of those basic goods and services contravenes corporate or donor-class interests. ...

Without a functional safety net, poor and working-class people have a hard time in America, and neither party is truly committed to fixing that.

“The only reason the [minuscule] Stein vote totals matter to anyone is that, deep down, they take the political inactivity of poor people — especially poor people of color — for granted,” Day concludes. And yet liberal media repeatedly utilize its platform to attack Stein for speaking up about poverty, the environment and inequality.

“We need a political process that creates multi-partisan democracy. That’s really where democracies get their best shot at moving forward and solving our crises,” Stein told Scahill in her “Intercepted” interview. “Let’s create the democracy that enables us to choose the candidates that we want.”

—Posted by Emma Niles.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Cuba’s Formal Response to Trump’s Speech on Policy Changes

Posted on Jun 18, 2017

Below is the full statement released Friday by the Cuban government.

On June 16, 2017, US President Donald Trump delivered a speech full of hostile anti-Cuban rhetoric reminiscent of the times of open confrontation with our country in a Miami theater. He announced his government’s Cuba policy, which rolls back the progress achieved over the last two years since December 17, 2014, when Presidents Raúl Castro and Barack Obama announced the decision to re-establish diplomatic relations and engage in a process towards the normalization of bilateral relations.

In what constitutes a setback in the relations between both countries, President Trump, gave a speech and signed a policy directive titled “National Security Presidential Memorandum”, which provides the elimination of private educational “people-to-people” exchanges and greater control over all travelers to Cuba, as well as the prohibition of business, trade and financial transactions between US companies and certain Cuban companies linked to the Armed Revolutionary Forces and the intelligence and security services, under the alleged objective of depriving us from income. The US president justified this policy with alleged concerns over the human rights situation in Cuba and the need to rigorously enforce the US blockade laws, conditioning its lifting, as well as any improvements in US-Cuba bilateral relations to our country’s making changes inherent to its constitutional order.

Trump also abrogated Presidential Policy Directive “Normalization of Relations between the United States and Cuba”, issued by President Obama on October 14, 2016. Although said Directive did not conceal the interventionist character of the US policy nor the fact that its main purpose was to advance US interests in order to bring about changes in the economic, political and social systems of our country, it did recognize Cuba’s independence, sovereignty and self-determination and the Cuban government as a legitimate and equal interlocutor, as well as the benefits that a civilized coexistence would have for both countries and peoples despite the great differences that exist between both governments. The Directive also conceded that the blockade is an obsolete policy and that it should be lifted.

Once again, the US Government resorts to coercive methods of the past when it adopts measures aimed at stepping up the blockade, effective since February 1962, which not only causes harm and deprivations to the Cuban people and is the main obstacle to our economic development, but also affects the sovereignty and interests of other countries, which arouses international rejection.

The measures announced impose additional obstacles to the already very limited opportunities that the US business sector had in order to trade with and invest in Cuba.

Likewise, those measures restrict even more the right of US citizens to visit our country, which was already limited due to the obligation of using discriminatory licenses, at a moment when the US Congress, echoing the feelings of broad sectors of that society, calls not only for an end to the travel ban, but also for the elimination of the restrictions on the trade with Cuba.

The measures announced by President Trump run counter to the majority support of the US public opinion, including the Cuban emigration in that country, to the total lifting of the blockade and the establishment of normal relations between Cuba and the United States.

Instead, the US President, who has been once again ill-advised, is taking decisions that favor the political interests of an irrational minority of Cuban origin in the state of Florida which, out of petty motivations, does not give up its intent to punish Cuba and its people for exercising the legitimate and sovereign right of being free and having taken the reins of their own destiny.

Later on, we shall make a deeper analysis of the scope and implications of the announcement.

The Government of Cuba condemns the new measures to tighten the blockade, which are doomed to failure, as has been repeatedly evidenced in the past, for they will not succeed in their purpose to weaken the Revolution or bend the Cuban people, whose resistance against aggressions of all sorts and origins has been put to the test throughout almost six decades.

The Government of Cuba rejects political manipulation and double standards in human rights. The Cuban people enjoy fundamental rights and freedoms and can proudly show some achievements that are still a chimera for many countries of the world, including the United States, such as the right to health, education and social security; equal pay for equal work, children’s rights as well as the rights to food, peace and development. Cuba, with its modest resources, has also contributed to the improvement of the human rights situation in many countries of the world, despite the limitations inherent to its condition as a blockaded country.

The United States are not in the position to teach us lessons. We have serious concerns about the respect for and guarantees of human rights in that country, where there are numerous cases of murders, brutality and abuses by the police, particularly against the African-American population; the right to life is violated as a result of the deaths caused by fire arms; child labor is exploited and there are serious manifestations of racial discrimination; there is a threat to impose more restrictions on medical services, which will leave 23 million persons without health insurance; there is unequal pay between men and women; migrants and refugees, particularly those who come from Islamic countries, are marginalized; there is an attempt to put up walls that discriminate against and denigrate neighbor countries; and international commitments to preserve the environment and address climate change are abandoned.

Also a source of concern are the human rights violations by the United States in other countries, such as the arbitrary detention of tens of prisoners in the territory illegally occupied by the US Naval Base in Guantánamo, Cuba, where even torture has been applied; extrajudicial executions and the death of civilians caused by drones; as well as the wars unleashed against countries like Iraq, under false pretenses like the possession of weapons of mass destruction, with disastrous consequences for the peace, security and stability in the Middle East.

It should be recalled that Cuba is a State Party to 44 international human rights instruments, while the US is only a State Party to 18. Therefore, we have much to show, say and defend.

Upon confirming the decision to re-establish diplomatic relations, Cuba and the United States ratified their intention to develop respectful and cooperative relations between both peoples and governments, based on the principles and purposes enshrined in the UN Charter. In its Declaration issued on July 1, 2015, the Revolutionary Government of Cuba reaffirmed that “these relations must be founded on absolute respect for our independence and sovereignty; the inalienable right of every State to choose its political, economic, social and cultural system, without interference in any form; and sovereign equality and reciprocity, which constitute inalienable principles of International Law”, as was established in the Proclamation of Latin America and the Caribbean as a Zone of Peace, signed by the Heads of State and Government of the Community of Latin America and Caribbean States (CELAC), at its second summit held in Havana. Cuba has not renounced these principles, nor will it ever do so.

The Government of Cuba reiterates its will to continue a respectful and cooperative dialogue on topics of mutual interest, as well as the negotiation of outstanding issues with the US Government. During the last two years it has been evidenced that both countries, as was repeatedly expressed by the President of the Councils of State and of Ministers, Army General Raúl Castro Ruz, can cooperate and coexist in a civilized manner, respecting the differences and promoting everything that benefits both nations and peoples, but it should not be expected that, in order to achieve that, Cuba would make concessions inherent to its sovereignty and independence, or accept preconditions of any sort.

Any strategy aimed at changing the political, economic and social system in Cuba, either through pressures and impositions or by using more subtle methods, shall be doomed to failure.

The changes that need to be made in Cuba, as those that have been made since 1959 and the ones that we are introducing now as part of the process to update our economic and social system, will continue to be sovereignly determined by the Cuban people.

Just as we have been doing since the triumph of the Revolution on January 1st, 1959, we will take on every risk and shall continue to advance steadfastly and confidently in the construction of a sovereign, independent, socialist, democratic, prosperous and sustainable nation.

Havana, June 16, 2017.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Ain't No Notion: new blues album from Random Chance Records

Street date is 6/16/2017 Available from Amazon, Itunes, retail outlets and other locations

Blues Harp Master Martin Lang with Oscar Wilson, Rusty Zinn, Billy Flynn, Jimmy Upstairs, and others

Monday, June 5, 2017

Fresno State Cancels a Middle East Studies Professorship Amid Alleged Right-wing Pro-Israel Pressure

Fresno State Cancels a Middle East Studies Professorship Amid Alleged Right-wing Pro-Israel Pressure
Murtaza Hussain

June 5 2017, 3:01 p.m.

Late last year, the California State University at Fresno began soliciting applicants for a newly created Edward Said Professorship in Middle East Studies, a teaching role named after the late Palestinian-American public intellectual. In a job posting, the school described the role as a “tenure-track, academic-year position” teaching courses on the Middle East and helping develop the school curriculum on the region. Said was famously known as an advocate of Palestinian nationalism in the United States as well as the author of the groundbreaking work of cultural criticism “Orientalism.”

Last week, however, after months of evaluating candidates, Fresno State abruptly announced that it would not be filling the role this year. While the school cited “procedural errors” as a reason for the cancellation, academics at the school, including one professor who resigned in protest, are claiming that the school is engaging in an act of academic censorship.

In a resignation letter issued last week, Vida Samiian, the longtime dean of Fresno State’s College of Arts and Humanities, said that a pressure campaign had targeted the search committee for the professorship, and that the school had balked at having four Arab-American finalists for the role. “I have decided to resign in objection to the unethical and discriminatory cancellation of the Edward Said Professorship,” Samiian wrote. “The administration carried out the vicious and discriminatory attacks launched by Israel advocacy groups against the search committee and the four finalists who were of Middle Eastern and Palestinian ethnicity.”

PARIS - NOVEMBER 25: Palestinian author Edward Said poses while in Paris,France to promote his book on the 25th of November 1996. (Photo by Ulf Andersen/Getty Images)
Palestinian author Edward Said poses while in Paris to promote his book on Nov. 25, 1996.

Photo: Ulf Andersen/Getty Images

Amid the debate about campus free speech in recent years, a lot of ink has been spilled over the alleged excesses of left-wing students who have often sought to shut down unpopular speakers and events on American campuses. But the suppression of speech and activism on Israel-Palestine differs markedly in that it is taking place on a systemiclevel — targeting both activism and scholarship and often taking place with the connivance of school administrations and under pressure from outside pro-Israel groups. In recent years, a number of schools have shut down academic programs, banned Palestinian student groups, and even criminally prosecuted students for protesting events held by Israeli government officials.

And, with the latest flap at Fresno State, advocates for Palestinian rights are worried that even the appearance that the school folded to a pressure campaign could have a chilling effect on faculty and their scholarship.

Speaking to The Intercept, Samiian, the former Fresno State dean, said that she had decided to resign in protest as a last resort, seeing it as the only way left to bring attention to the increasingly intolerable level of academic suppression on Israel-Palestine.

“This pattern of behavior has always existed on campus and goes to a longer campaign to attack Middle East studies programs,” she said. “I served 10 years as dean of this college and have been the target of attacks many times. Ultimately, I felt that resigning was the only option left and only way to tell the story of what happened.”

Fresno State, for its part, denied that there had been either any discrimination or a pressure campaign. “During the search, the university was never pressured by any individual or group to cancel the search based on candidates’ ethnic background or political point of view,” Lynnette Zelezny, the school’s provost, said in a statement forwarded to The Intercept. “In particular, the individuals who determined to cancel the search and reopen it next year were not exposed to any pressure from any source at any point in time during the search. It is unfortunate that attention has been improperly directed to this unfounded allegation.”

A petition initiated by activists in response to Fresno State’s decision to cancel the hire has collected hundreds of signatures from academics across the United States and Europe, calling on the school to reinstate the search for a candidate. But there is little indication that the school plans to change course.

Particularly troubling to some activists is the role that outside advocacy groups play in suppressing academic freedom. In her resignation letter, Samiian referenced the role played by the website Canary Mission in influencing the search committee. Canary Mission has become notorious for its blacklists of pro-Palestinian student activists and professors and for public databases intended to threaten their future career prospects over their stances on Israel-Palestine.

“For years, Israel advocacy organizations like Canary Mission and others have been blacklisting students and professors, pressuring administrators to silence political advocacy around Palestinian rights,” says Naomi Dann, media coordinator of Jewish Voice for Peace, a progressive Jewish-American organization working on the Israel-Palestine conflict. “This instance at Fresno State is particularly concerning because it seems that outside pressure from Israel advocacy organizations succeeded in preventing the university from hiring a professor for a position working on Palestine and related issues.”

The affair at Fresno State followed a flap last month where a professor of Native American Studies at Dartmouth College, who had been offered a deanship at the school, was forced to withdraw after being targeted by a public campaign over his support for the Palestinian civil society-led boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement. In another high-profile 2014 incident, Palestinian-American professor Steven Salaita lost a tenured position he had been offered at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign after criticism of social media postings he had made about the conflict. Following a lawsuit, the school ultimately settled with Salaita for over $600,000 in damages, though it refused to concede wrongdoing.

In 2016, the legal monitoring organization Palestine Legal registered 258 instances of suppression of campus speech on Israel-Palestine, roughly 10 percent of which targeted faculty. But these cases are only “the tip of the iceberg,” said Liz Jackson, a staff attorney at Palestine Legal. Many more students and faculty have simply become too afraid to engage in activism or critical scholarship about Israel-Palestine, for fear of the inevitable blacklisting and threats that follow.

“We get calls on a weekly and often daily basis from people asking us if it’s safe to be involved with campus groups like Students for Justice in Palestine,” she says. “People are very hesitant to speak because they are concerned about how their future will be affected.”

Jackson cited a recent example of a young woman who contacted her to inquire if it would be safe to speak out publicly about Israel-Palestine on campus. The woman was a green card holder from a country targeted by President Donald Trump’s ban on travel from select Muslim-majority countries and was concerned that getting involved in activism on this subject would jeopardize her family’s immigration status. “She told me that she wants to be a civic leader, but she’s a black Muslim woman and is afraid of what will happen to her and her family if she is profiled and accused of being a terrorist,” Jackson said. “I had to give her an answer that I never want to give, which is that there really might be consequences if she is profiled by advocacy groups and accused of being at terrorist because of her stance on this issue.”

Along with the concerns felt by individual students and faculty, Jackson said that a “McCarthyite” environment is being created more broadly on campuses, driven by institutional pressure to censor opinions on the issue. This pressure will have an inevitable chilling effect on scholarship in the long term, with faculty and students increasingly self-censoring to avoid scrutiny.

“There are courses that are not offered, dissertations that are not written, faculty who are denied positions, students who won’t join activist groups or attend lectures — all because they are afraid of the likely consequences,” says Jackson. “This isn’t just a problem for people who care about Palestinian human rights. It’s a problem for anyone who cares about keeping our universities places of rigorous learning and open inquiry, especially in the Trump era.”

Top photo: Ryan Branagan carries a sign during a protest in support of Palestine in Boston, Tuesday, March 18, 2014 after the Northeastern University student organization “Students for Justice in Palestine” was “temporarily suspended for multiple violations of university policy over an extended period of time,” according to a university statement. in Boston, Tuesday, March 18, 2014. Branagan, from Pittsburg, Penn., was a Masters candidate in History at Northeastern concentrating on the history of the Middle East.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Israel provoked the Six-Day War in 1967, and it was not fighting for survival


James North, June 2, 2017

I am old enough to remember clearly how the Six-Day War was reported at the time. Just about everything we were told then was wrong, as the major historians of the period all acknowledge today. Let’s start with how the crisis was covered as it happened, 50 years ago:

* Gamal Abdel Nasser, the leader of Egypt, was portrayed as a dangerous demagogue, widely popular across the Arab world, who wanted to destroy Israel. The Western press regularly demonized him, and he was easily the most recognized Arab leader until Saddam Hussein.

* In May 1967, Nasser made his move. He ordered the United Nations to remove peacekeeping troops from the Sinai peninsula, where they had been serving as a tripwire to prevent conflict between Egypt and Israel.

* Next, Nasser escalated by closing the Straits of Tiran to international shipping, blockading Israel’s southern port of Eilat, which started to strangle the country.

* Meanwhile, Nasser was plotting with other Arab states, chiefly Syria and Jordan, to launch a joint invasion and push Israel into the sea.

* Israel’s very existence was in danger. Therefore, Israel launched a “preemptive” attack on June 5, fearing that it had no choice if it were to survive.

* Fortunately, despite the odds against Israel, it won in only 6 days.

* To protect itself against another onslaught, Israel occupied the Sinai, the Golan Heights, and the West Bank. The occupation was the purely accidental consequence of a fight for Israeli survival.

This Mainstream Narrative remains unchallenged in the popular imagination, 50 years later. Just the other day, a New York Times reporter stated as fact that in 1967, “Israel defied annihilation by its Arab neighbors.”

Norman Finkelstein, the distinguished scholar, has done as much as anyone to uncover the truth about the Six-Day War. In a wide-ranging interview in his Brooklyn office, he refuted the Mainstream Narrative point by point. You can find his detailed revisionist account in a chapter of his now classic Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict, supplemented by another work: Knowing Too Much: Why the American Jewish Romance with Israel is Coming to an End. Finkelstein is known as combative, a man who has not been afraid to fight for the truth, despite damage to his career along the way. But what’s also vital to recognize is that he is a serious scholar, Talmudic in his intensity, and that no one has ever successfully challenged his research.

Norman Finkelstein, May 2, 2017, in his office in Brooklyn.

[We will run the entire interview with Finkelstein this weekend.]

Finkelstein emphasizes that no genuine academic today, whatever their political orientation, endorses the Mainstream Narrative. He starts by identifying what he has called the “Two Biggest Lies.”

* The truth is that Nasser and the other Arab leaders had absolutely no intention of invading Israel in June 1967.

* And Israel’s existence was never in the slightest doubt, as both Israeli and American leaders knew that Israel could easily win any conflict, even against a coalition of Arab states.

Finkelstein insists we cannot understand the Six-Day War without going back 11 years, to the 1956 Suez Crisis. That year, the Egyptian leader, Nasser, nationalized the Suez Canal — and Israel, Britain and France launched an unprovoked joint invasion of Egypt to seize the waterway back. But the United States, under President Dwight Eisenhower, opposed the attack, and pressured the tripartite invasion force to withdraw and leave the Canal to Egypt. Suez was a catastrophe for all three invading nations, and British Prime Minister Anthony Eden was forced to resign. Meanwhile, Nasser’s reputation in the Arab world, and across Africa, Asia and Latin America, rose to new heights.

Norman Finkelstein argues that the historical record shows that in 1967 Israel yearned to complete its failed mission of 1956. First, he says, Israel’s “primary goal was to neuter Nasser, to deliver a death blow to these uppity Arabs, and finish off what was called radical Arab nationalism.” He goes on that Israel’s government had a “secondary goal” — “to conquer the lands they had coveted but didn’t manage to seize in ’48: East Jerusalem, the West Bank, Gaza, the Golan.”

Israeli leaders had only one big doubt: what would America do? If Israel did attack, would the United States force another humiliating climbdown, as in 1956? Or would Washington look the other way?

Finkelstein challenges the Mainstream Narrative’s account of the specific events in the months leading up to the war. His analysis is not at all unusual, and is shared to a great extent by other scholars. He argues that the facts show that Israel was not peacefully minding its own business, but instead regularly and violently provoking its Arab neighbors. In November 1966, in the largest military action since the Suez invasion, Israel attacked the West Bank town of Samu, then under Jordanian rule, killing 18 Jordanian soldiers and destroying 125 homes. Israel continued instigating along its border with Syria in April 1967, triggering an aerial battle in which 6 Syrian planes were shot down, including one over Damascus. Voices in the Arab world started to accuse Gamal Abdel Nasser, the leader of the Arabs, of standing by and doing nothing.

So Nasser did tell the United Nations to remove the peacekeeping troops from Egyptian Sinai, mainly so he could be seen to be taking some action. But Finkelstein points out that Israel could have asked for UN peacekeepers to be placed on its side of the border, which would have maintained the tripwire. Israel did no such thing.

Nasser’s closing of the Straits of Tiran has been similarly distorted in the Mainstream Narrative. Finkelstein explains that Nasser may actually have had the legal right to close the Straits, that he probably did not intend to maintain the closure, and that he offered to take the dispute to the International Court of Justice, but Israel refused. And Israel would not have choked overnight, but got 95 percent of its imports through its other ports and had a several months’ reserve supply of oil.

Meanwhile, Finkelstein says, Israeli diplomats descended on Washington, D.C. to find out if the United States would give them a green or at least an amber light. Finkelstein has looked through the historical record, and here is a summary of what he found:

* The U.S. agreed with Israel that Nasser had no plans to attack.

* The U.S. agreed that Israel would easily defeat Egypt on the battlefield, either alone or with any combination of other Arab nations.

* And the U.S. tacitly gave Israel permission to start the war, or at least indicated there would be no repeat of Eisenhower’s repudiation after the 1956 Suez invasion.

Once Israel attacked first, Finkelstein says the conflict should more aptly be called the Six-Day Walkover. “In fact,” he says, “the war did not last six days; it lasted closer to six minutes. Once Israeli planes in a surprise blitzkrieg knocked out the Egyptian air force still parked on the ground, the war was over. . . If the war lasted longer, it was only because Israel wanted to conquer the Egyptian Sinai, the Jordanian West Bank, and the Syrian Golan Heights.”

Finkelstein does recognize that the Israeli public did believe the Mainstream Narrative, took to heart the lies and distortion their government was feeding the world, and genuinely feared the Arab states wanted to push them into the sea. He explains that the Israeli government “figured the Israeli people would give their all if they feared their backs were up against the wall. The leaders were culpable twice over; they provoked the crisis and then launched an unprovoked attack.”

Once the war ended, in the United States it was treated as a lark, a thrilling adventure. After Israel occupied the Egyptian Sinai, jokes circulated: “See the Pyramids. Visit Israel.”

But it was no joke for the at least 18,000 people who died in the fighting: 10,000-15,000 Egyptians; 6000 Jordanians; 1000-2500 Syrians; and nearly 1000 Israelis.

Israel did win its immediate war objectives; Nasser’s image was severely damaged, and he died three years later, with his brand of Arab nationalism greatly discredited. Israeli soldiers did occupy the West Bank, Sinai and the Golan.

Whether the occupation, now shuddering into its 51st year, has been good for Israel is still to be decided by history.

- See more at: