In Just Seven Years, It Became Ok For American Academics To Openly Criticize Israel

KITCHENER, Ontario — (Analysis) When Prof. Steven Salaita was denied a tenured position he’d been offered at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, due to his public criticism of Israel’s bombing of the Gaza Strip in the summer of 2014, it made international headlines and kicked off a firestorm.

Thousands of academics around the world started a boycott against the university. Available positions for professorships at Urbana-Champagne went begging, when qualified candidates hesitated to apply, for open positions. And the prestigious American Association of University Professors censured the school — an unusual move, and one reserved for the most egregious of violations.

Before the dust settled, the school had spent over a million dollars in legal fees.

A brief summary of the entire situation may be helpful: Mr. Salaita was a tenured professor at Virginia Tech when he was offered a tenured position in the American Indian Studies program at UIUC. He and his wife quit their jobs and sold their home in preparation for their move to Illinois. Shortly thereafter, Israel began bombing the Gaza Strip and Mr. Salaita expressed his displeasure via social media. Under pressure from wealthy donors, the school’s chancellor, Phyllis Wise, advised Mr. Salaita that the school would not move forward with approving his appointment.

It must be recognized that the meeting to “approve” (read: rubber-stamp) this appointment was not scheduled until after the start of classes. Mr. Salaita, like countless professors before him, would start his teaching responsibilities before this final approval was made. But that didn’t stop Ms. Wise from saying that he really had no offer, a move that brought down the wrath of the academic community on previously-respected UIUC.

In the end, in order to save the money that endless litigation would have cost, the school agreed to pay Mr. Salaita a settlement of $875,000.

Just seven years earlier…

Things were not always so positive for someone denied tenure due to his or her positions on human rights, particularly where Israel and Palestine are concerned.

In 2007, author Norman Finkelstein, a professor at DePaul University in Chicago, was denied tenure. The son of Holocaust survivors, Mr. Finkelstein is an outspoken critic of Israel, and has spoken and written extensively about Israeli crimes against the Palestinians. Nine years ago, such criticism of Israel was inexcusable in the United States. 

Alan Dershowitz, a fellow professor and an avowed Zionist, whose own books extolling Israel Mr. Finkelstein had publicly criticized, lobbied extensively against granting tenure to Mr. Finkelstein. Ultimately, Mr. Dershowitz’s efforts proved successful.

At the same time tenure was denied to Mr. Finkelstein, Prof. Mehrene Larudee, a strong supporter of Finkelstein, was also denied tenure, despite the unanimous support of her department, the Personnel Committee and the dean.

There was some backlash. Students protested and staged a hunger strike in support of Mr. Finkelstein and Ms. Larudee. The Illinois Conference of the American Association of University Professors, an arm of the association that would censure the UIUC seven years later, wrote to the university’s president, saying: “It is entirely illegitimate for a university to deny tenure to a professor out of fear that his published research … might hurt a college’s reputation.” The letter continued, asserting that the association has explicitly rejected “collegiality” as an appropriate criterion for evaluating faculty members.

In the case of Salaita, the issue of “collegiality” was not raised; “civility” had taken its place.

 

What made the difference?

One might reasonably ask what made the difference. Why, in 2006, would criticism of Israel cost a professor his livelihood, with little more than a ripple of protest, but less than a decade later, the same basic situation made international headlines, cost a school over a million dollars, and sullied its reputation?

One cannot too readily dismiss the impact of social media. In 2006, Facebook and Twitter were still in their infancy. By 2014, when Israel was carpet-bombing the Gaza Strip, targeting homes, U.N. refugee centers, mosques, hospitals and press vehicles, there were well over 1 billion Facebook users, with 757 million of them using the site daily. Twitter, although dwarfed by Facebook, had approximately 288 million active users by the end of 2014.

These and other social media sites provide a potential worldwide audience to anyone with a camera and Internet connectivity. The old narrative of Israel as the victim of Palestinian aggression no longer holds water, as long as people on the ground are posting photos of the horrendous suffering caused by Israel. The “rocket fire” that Israel so fears — and that it claims it must kill thousands of people in order to prevent — is trifling compared to its response. Palestine, with no army, navy or air force to speak of, blockaded and occupied, is able to cobble together an occasional missile which Mr. Finkelstein has described as “enhanced fireworks.”

For example, in 2014, videos of Israelis sitting in comfortable lawn chairs, watching Gaza being bombed, were widely shared. Publicity about this was not favorable, and such behavior by Israelis further eroded the general support that Israel had enjoyed in the U.S.

It should not be surprising that such a sea change occurred in the academic environment between the time of Mr. Finkelstein’s persecution and that of Mr. Salaita. University campuses are alive with strong human rights activists, many of whom are involved in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. The decision of so many academics to boycott UIUC, and of the AAUP to censure it, is merely reflective of the changing times and attitudes.

This is not going to end soon. The minor skirmishes, represented by campus votes on BDS, as well as the major battles, such as Mr. Salaita’s dismissal from UIUC, will only increase in number and intensity. Today, Jewish students who support Zionism will sometimes state that they feel “unsafe” on campus after a successful BDS vote. Yet from the comfort of their luxurious dorms, they don’t consider how “unsafe” the men, women and children of Palestine feel — and actually are — amid the brutal, ongoing Israeli occupation.

The Zionist narrative is strong. Jewish children grow up being taught of the Jewish homeland, but once out of the family confines, they often begin to see things differently. As Israeli government officials decry the BDS movement, they warn darkly that Jewish students who support Palestine and oppose Israel’s occupation of that country are the future leaders of the world. This, of course, does not bode well for Israel or Zionism.

The Salaita situation wasn’t, in and of itself, a watershed moment. It was simply the manifestation of the growing, worldwide recognition of apartheid in Israel. Much of the world has long seen Israel for what it is, and they’ve officially recognized the state of Palestine. The U.S., as was the case with apartheid South Africa a generation ago, is always late to support human rights if doing so could impact either its bottom line or its powerbase. And Israel lobbies are extremely generous to the U.S. lawmakers who toe the line.

While they bode well for the future of Palestine and its people, these new realizations do nothing to change the tragic facts on the ground today. But as the global ostracization of Israel grows, Palestinian freedom becomes inevitable. Those who believe in human rights, dignity and self-determination will continue to speak, write, vote, and otherwise act for those who can do little for themselves. Their efforts will not cease until Palestine is free.

Originally published by MintPressNews.

Efforts To Legislate BDS Out Of Existence Will Only Backfire

KITCHENER, Ontario — (Analysis) From September 2000 to February 2005, more than 3,200 Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces during the Second Intifada, or Palestinian uprising. From June to October 2004 alone, Israeli forces launched major assaults in Northern Gaza, killing at least 150 Palestinians, injuring hundreds of others and leaving as many as 800 people homeless.

These assaults were the latest in decades of violence and oppression perpetrated by Israel that ultimately inspired the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.

Launched in July 2005 by a broad alliance of more than 170 Palestinian political parties, trade unions, refugee networks, NGOs and grassroots associations, the BDS movement aims to pressure Israel to end its apartheid regime and grant equal rights to Palestinians, with the ultimate goal of the establishment of a Palestinian state with the pre-1967 borders.

 Modeled after similar initiatives targeting Apartheid South Africa a generation prior, the movement is having an undeniable impact. Even the government led by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a man guilty of the most heinous crimes, has defined BDS as an “existential threat” to Israel. (Other threats include the recent Iran nuclear deal, and, incredibly, a request by Palestine to FIFA, the world soccer association, to ban Israeli participation.)

The impacts of the BDS movement, once dismissed by Israel as little more than a college fad,  are now being taken seriously. The Israeli economy is expected to suffer a $15 billion loss because of the movement.

There is also a huge psychological impact, as academics, including physicist Stephen Hawking, performers, including Roger Waters of Pink Floyd and Elvis Costello, and novelists such as Alice Walker, refuse to participate in any events in Israel. Additionally, Palestine has received the support of rock group Coldplay, and actresses Mia Farrow and Vanessa Redgrave, to name just a few.

Mr. Netanyahu decries all this as an effort to “delegitimize” Israel: “It is not connected to our actions; it is connected to our very existence. It does not matter what we do; it matters what we symbolize and what we are.”

He appears to be in denial, since the movement is, indeed, connected to Israeli actions — actions which are themselves causing Israel to be “delegitimized.”

Can BDS be legislated out of existence?

But when a popular people’s movement is having an impact, what is a cruel, barbaric Israeli leader to do? Well, since Congress is bought and paid for by Israeli lobbies, what better response for Israel than to instruct its congressional employees to outlaw it?

Israel has had some success in this new initiative. The recently-signed Trans-Pacific Partnership includes anti-BDS provisions, “which will discourage European governments from participating in BDS activities by leveraging the incentive of free trade with the United States.”

To say that is was not Israeli-inspired is to demonstrate a remarkable naivete.

Additionally, several states are considering, or have actually passed, anti-BDS legislation. And Israel’s anti-BDS efforts aren’t confined to the United States, its most favorite bottomless pit of money; the United Kingdom, too, has passed such legislation.

So, does this mean that the most effective, nonviolent means that people of conscience around the world have of supporting human rights and justice for the Palestinians will now cease? Will the countless university proposals to divest from Israel, along with the religious bodies which have made the same decision, be rendered null and void? Will the endorsement of BDS by various British unions now cause the union members to get in line with barbaric Zionism?

Hardly.

No such thing as bad publicity?

Let’s step back for just a moment and do what Israel has long refused to even consider: take a reality check. Far from than defeating the movement, this backlash against BDS is likely to propel it forward.

Jay Michaelson, writing about billionaire Sheldon Adelson’s university campus initiative to thwart BDS in The Forward in July, described why, as he put it, opposition to BDS will be a “boon” for the movement. This opposition, Mr. Michaelson argues, puts Jewish students and their non-Jewish peers in a “For Us or Against Us” scenario. Accepting the “For Us” position aligns students with “patriotism, nationalism, ethnocentrism and a refusal to admit ambiguity and nuance.” Further, he states that, from his own observations, the pro-Zionist movement presents a caricature of BDS supporters that no reasonable person could possibly accept.

Further, Mr. Michaelson suggests that this anti-BDS initiative completely misses the point. BDS isn’t growing because of anti-Semitism, he argues, it’s growing “because many people think it’s wrong for any state to deny 4 million people the right to vote, to determine their own future, and to live free of military occupation.”

So the anti-BDS initiative on college campuses doesn’t seem to have much promise for Israel. But what about the greater effort, the attempt to legislate BDS out of existence? Well, the news there isn’t too promising, either.

Laws to prevent BDS serve to publicize it, allowing more people to know of its existence. When President Barack Obama signed the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015, he endorsed the provisions protecting Israel from boycott, but also said he won’t observe the measures requirement to extend those same protections to what is generally called “Israeli-controlled territories” (read: Palestine). So the controversy over BDS, rather than being silenced by this measure, only increased.

And so it is with racist Zionists such as Mr. Adelson and Haim Saban: As they sink millions into efforts to defeat the BDS movement, their attempts merely serve to help to publicize it, along with Israeli crimes. Their goal of “demonizing the demonizer” fails, as people see that Israel, by its racist, apartheid policies, only indicts itself.

Some say there’s no such thing as bad publicity, but this is far from the truth for Israel. As it publicizes BDS in an futile effort to thwart it, it only shines a spotlight on its own crimes and on Palestinian victimization. This inspires more people to shun Israel, support Palestine, and embrace BDS.

Francis Bacon said that “knowledge is power.” This notion appears to be confirmed, as Israel suffers from the BDS movement, a movement that exists and grows because of knowledge.

Originally published by MintPressNews.

Orlando and Palestine: Selective Mourning

Well, the United States, the gun capital of the world, has been subjected to yet another mass shooting, this one taking fifty lives at a nightclub in Orlando, Florida. There is no question but that this is a terrible tragedy, one that will result in Congress members and the president ineffectually calling for increased gun safety. We all know that nothing will come of that, due to the strength of the National Rifle Association (NRA) combined with the fear of a craven Congress. But such is a topic for another essay.

This writer doesn’t watch much television, but in the mornings, when using the stepper at his local fitness center, CTV News, certainly more an entertainment than a news outlet, is on the screens in front of him. Additionally, while searching through independent news sites online, he generally checks in to see what CNN, that bastion of bias, that servant of the corporate gods, is reporting as ‘news’.

As one might expect, and as is right, the horror of Florida was reported. It is news that another madman has obtained a gun and used it against scores of innocent people. The next logical step, one might think, is to look for ways of preventing a repeat performance by another mentally-unstable individual, in a nation that regulates teddy bears more stringently than it does guns. It is also reasonable to look for a motive; DAESH (aka ISIS) has claimed responsibility, although there is, to date, according to reputable news sites, no evidence that this is the case.

So while Congress blathers on about guns, and the FBI, one arm of the U.S.’s many-armed terrorist apparatus, seeks a motive, the so-called news stations are filled with other information. We are hearing about the individual lives of the victims; their love for family members; their dedication to others; where they worked and what their co-workers thought of them. We are subjected to the anguish of parents and other loved ones, who common decency would leave to grieve in private. We see ‘selfies’ of the victims that were recently posted on social media sites.

This writer will offer two names, and ask the reader to think of how much is known about each of them: Maram Abu Ismail and Ibrahim Taha. Ponder the names for a moment. Have you heard them on the news? Do you know where they lived, or how they died? Do you know who is responsible for their deaths? Did you see heart-wrenching interviews with their grieving survivors?

Sadly, these murder victims, and the unborn child of Maram, were never news. Maram Abu Ismail was a 24-year-old pregnant mother of two; Ibrahim Taha was her 16-year-old brother. They were shot and killed by Israeli soldiers at a checkpoint in Ramallah.

There is an eyewitness account of the crime, provided by Alaa Soboh, a bus driver. He said that Ms. Ismail and Mr. Taha appeared to be unfamiliar with crossing procedures and were swiftly challenged at the checkpoint.

“As soon as the two crossed, [Israeli forces] started screaming ‘Go back, go back’, and then they began shooting.

“The first one they shot was the girl, the boy tried to go backward, when they fired seven bullets at him.”

Another witness reported that Israeli forces shot more than 15 rounds into the woman’s body. And to add insult to grievous, mortal injury, the Israeli soldier/terrorists would not allow paramedics to aid the stricken woman.

What have we heard on the news about this unspeakable crime? Did we all see interviews with the grieving husband, now left alone to raise his two young children? Was the mother of both victims interviewed, tearfully telling the cameraman how she will miss her two children? Did President Barack Obama, along with presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, condemn this crime, demand a thorough investigation by Israel, and stand in solidarity with the victims?

No, none of these things occurred, because the victims were Palestinian, the top of the list in the long list of people that the U.S. simply considers sub-human.

The murders of Ms. Ismail and Mr. Taha are similar, in some ways, to the mass shooting in Orlando; it is so commonplace that it barely registers anymore. Between October 1, 2015 and February 21, 2016, at least 180 unarmed Palestinians, ranging in age from eight months to 65 years of age, have been killed by Israelis, either soldier/terrorists or settler/terrorists. Yet even in the U.S., major mass murders still receive substantial press time. If, say, only five or six people are shot to death, it really doesn’t seem to be newsworthy, just like the nearly daily slaughter of unarmed Palestinian men, women and children does not garner the attention of the corporate media.

Yet when four Israelis were shot to death in a Tel Aviv restaurant a week ago, it was headline news. Any thinking person may well wonder why that is newsworthy, but the assassination of a young, pregnant mother of two and her teenage brother isn’t.

It isn’t difficult for the government to determine what its citizenry will know about and care about. Corporations, able to donate unlimited amounts of money to the campaigns of candidates who will do their bidding, own the news outlets. Zionists are prominent on many of these corporations’ boards. Therefore, Palestinian deaths are not news, but Israeli deaths are to be mourned the world over.

In U.S. governance, there is no financial altar so unholy that politicians and elected officials will not bow before it. There are no dollars so soaked in blood that they will not pocket them; no bodies so tragically pathetic that they will not stomp all over them in their pursuit of the dollar, the only god they worship.

Between 2009 and 2015, Israeli lobbies contributed nearly $17 million dollars to the campaigns of 349 U.S. government officials. And Congress members are not apt to bite the hands that so generously feed them; ethics, morals and justice be damned. That is why the major candidates make the annual pilgrimage to the AIPAC (Apartheid Israel Political Affairs Committee) convention in Washington, D.C.

This writer mourns for the victims in Orlando, as he did for those in Newton, San Bernardino, Virginia Tech, Columbine High School and all the rest. Yet he also grieves for Ms. Ismail, Mr. Taha, and the tens of thousands of victims killed by Israel in the last few decades. They bled no differently than U.S. victims; they loved their children no less, and were loved no less by their parents. Their deaths are a tragedy for their loved ones and the world.

Nationalism, that belief that one’s own country or nationality is somehow better than any other, has long been on steroids in the U.S., from the inception of ‘Manifest Destiny’, to the oft-repeated concept of U.S. ‘exceptionalism’ today. With it comes the belief that the superior one can decide who is worthy to live, and who must die. Countless millions of people have died because of U.S. ’exceptionalism’, and that deadly concept, and all the carnage it brings, shows no sign of abating.

The current presidential election farce will only compound the problem, with one of two war-mongers, one with a proven record of death and destruction, and the other who, it seems, can’t wait to get his finger on the trigger, set to be the next president. Whichever one wins, the nation and the world can only lose.

Originally published by Counterpunch.

Apartheid, Human Rights and BDS

Now that Israel has declared the Boycott, Divest and Sanction (BDS) movement an existential threat, along with all the countless other things that supposedly represent such a threat to that apartheid nation, United States government officials, who are second to none in their obeisance to Israel, have begun to act. Some states have actually passed laws banning BDS. Since New York was not one of them, its Zionist governor, Andrew Cuomo, issued an executive order, preventing the state from doing any business with businesses that support the movement.

Now, one is not to be blamed if this brings to mind the McCarthy era, in which people from all walks of life were accused of being Communist infiltrators, bent on nothing less than the destruction of the United States of America. Lists were compiled, people were blackballed, careers and lives were ruined by a scurrilous U.S. senator who saw the Communist ‘threat’ under every bed. Mr. Cuomo assures us that lists will be compiled of business that are thought to support BDS; those lists will be made public, and the accused will have ninety-days in which to convince the governor that they don’t oppose apartheid. They are assumed guilty of the crime of supporting human rights, and must somehow demonstrate that they do not.

One can imagine government employees reviewing news archives, seeking information about unions, businesses or churches that have voted to divest from Israeli-owned companies. Names of company executives will be gathered from company websites, and then Facebook will be searched, to see if these executives have ever supported BDS. If so, a pox on them! Constitutional protections of freedom of speech do not apply to those who support Palestinian human rights. The governor of New York has just said so.

With the reactionary right ready to nominate Donald Trump, of all people, the old axiom that politics makes strange bedfellows is once again proven true. Mr. Trump did what he does best at the Apartheid Israel Political Affairs Committee (AIPAC) convention in Washington, D.C. in March of this year, when he made a spectacle of himself in front of that unholy group. He bowed and scraped with the best of them, but since he is, after all, The Donald, he somehow did it better than the rest.

But there he is now, in the Israeli bed with Hillary Clinton, Mr. Cuomo, and most other U.S. representatives, most of whom are bought and paid for by AIPAC.

Now, these august worthies will proclaim that the BDS movement is anti-Semitic. After all, they say, hands wringing in anguish, why do the BDS people say nothing about human rights abuses in other nations? Why do they only single out poor little Israel?

Let us look at an analogy, that may, perhaps, help clarify things for these confused souls. This writer donates money to the Heart Association. He does not donate to the American Cancer Society, Patients with Alzheimer’s, Victims of Landmines, etc. It is not because he does not consider these to be worthy causes; he certainly praises the valuable, life-saving work they do. However, his means are limited, and he cannot donate to every worthy charity on the planet. Therefore, he has selected one of two out of all the rest, and rather than making a very small donation to fifty charities, makes a more substantial one to those.

Perhaps Mr. Cuomo believes that this writer (if the good governor were aware of this writer’s existence), cares nothing about cancer patients. He may think this writer is unmoved by the difficulties people suffer when they or a loved one has Alzheimer’s. He may think this writer can look casually and uncaringly at those who have lost limbs due to land mines.

Similarly, he may think this writer is anti-Semitic, due to his dedicated support of all things Palestinian, including the BDS movement.

In all cases, the governor would be wrong in those beliefs.

Yet would this writer be wrong in thinking that the governor,with his eye on the White House, cares nothing for the suffering of Palestinians, looking instead at the deep pockets of the Israeli lobby? He thinks not; any reasonable person, looking honestly at the brutal oppression of the Palestinians, would not so quickly attempt to thwart every effort to assist them.

The media and those highly-regarded (for reasons that completely escape this writer) government officials, are quick to condemn any violent resistance on the part of the Palestinians, but overlook the extreme, constant violence to which they are subjected by the Israelis. And now, when a peaceful means of opposing the illegal and immoral occupation is growing, they seek to outlaw it. One wonders why they don’t simply say, as Texas Senator and one-time Republican presidential candidate wannabe Ted Cruz did, that Palestine simply doesn’t exist? Proclamations such as that issued by the New York governor are just as stupid, and will not hold up in any court of law, but wouldn’t their Israeli masters be more pleased with additional fantasies? They already talk about Israel’s brutal, murderous army as the most moral in the world; they proclaim with a straight face that a country with separate laws for Jewish Israelis and non-Jewish Israelis is the only democracy in the Middle East. Add to that the fantasy that any criticism of Israel is an existential threat to that country, and the only thing lacking is the belief that Israel will, as in all good fairy tales, live happily ever after.

The anti-apartheid movement in South Africa began in 1959 and lasted for thirty-five years. South Africa had separate laws for the minority white population, with everyone else a second class citizen. Even the Jewish publication Haaretz proclaimed in 2009 that Israel apartheid is worse than South African apartheid. But never mind any of that: the U.S. is attempting to outlaw BDS by passing legislation written by Israel.

Will this be successful? Does this reaction against BDS spell its doom? Let us not be too hasty here. First, it is highly unlikely that any of these Draconian, McCarthyesque laws will stand up in court. Secondly, BDS is an international movement, and the U.S. remains one of the very few nations that still stands completely with Israel against Palestine. The U.S. will only further isolate both itself and Israel in the international community by its go-it-alone support for apartheid. And lastly, this isn’t 1959, a year that began an eventually-successful boycott without the aid of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, email, text, and all the marvels that the Internet has introduced.

The tide of justice has long since turned in Palestine’s direction. The U.S., which supported the apartheid government of South Africa right up to the bitter end, will once again be standing alone when Palestine rids itself of the shackles of Israeli oppression. That day is coming, and the pompous pronouncements of U.S. politicians, and even their executive orders, will not prevent it.

Originally published on Counterpunch.

Of Gorillas and Palestinians

On May 28, a 3-year-old child somehow entered a gorilla enclosure at the Cincinnati Zoo. After being picked up by a 17-year-old gorilla, zoo officials felt the child was in immediate, mortal danger and the gorilla was quickly shot and killed. The child was unharmed.

This is certainly a sad story; the gorilla was of a rare breed, and in picking up the child, was only doing what such animals do: it saw a curiosity, and went to explore it. Zoo officials say they had no choice but to kill the animal, because the child was at great risk.

There has been much discussion about this situation. There were initial news stories, with continual follow-ups; commentary from experts and the general public, etc. There is much anger directed at the zoo, with many people weighing in to say the gorilla was helping, and not harming, the child, and that zoo officials over-reacted. Anonymous hackers have attacked the zoo. As evidence of the publicity and interest this situation garners, a Google search of the combined words ‘”Harambe”, the name of the gorilla, and “Cincinnati Zoo” brings up nearly 1,000,000 results.

A Google search of the combined names, “Nadeem Nawara” and “Mohammad Salameh”, however, brings up only 472 results. After all, who are these people, and why should anyone care about them? These were two Palestinian youths, shot by Israeli forces in 2014. Now this is nothing new; Israeli terrorists (also known as IDF soldiers, or Israeli Defense Forces), kill unarmed Palestinians on an almost daily basis. What is different is that these murders were recorded on camera, much like the shooting of Harambe, the gorilla. Yet there is no outcry about these crimes; certainly nothing to compare to the shooting of a gorilla. While Twitter is practically overwhelmed with mentions of ‘#Harambe’, one finds very few results when searching for #NadeemNawara or ‘#MohammadSalameh’.

This is the typical narrative, as fostered by the news media, which is in the pocket of the U.S. government.

The death of the gorilla certainly has many considerations: from an environmental standpoint, it was a rare species, and the entire breed is endangered. There are security concerns: how was a toddler able to enter the gorilla’s pen? The child’s parents are being investigated, to see if abuse or neglect charges should be filed. Police are also investigating the numerous death threats the child’s family has received.  All this is being done under the microscope of public scrutiny.

Yet human victims of Israeli barbarism are ignored. Mr. Nawara, 17, and Mr. Salameh, 16, ‘hanging out’ together as teenage boys do, watching a protest against Israel but not involved in it, unarmed and unthreatening, were leaving an area which Israeli soldiers had entered. Both young men were shot in the chest with rounds of live ammunition.

Israeli policy states that live ammunition is only to be used against stone-throwers when Israeli terrorists (IDF soldiers) consider there is an immediate danger to their lives. It is remarkable to consider that heavily armed terrorists, with U.S.-government provided weaponry, helmets and other protective gear, would ever consider the throwing of a stone to jeopardize their lives. However, that is reasonable and logical in the unreasonable and illogical thought-process of Zionism. So Israel claimed, against solid evidence to the contrary, that no live ammunition had pierced the chests of these young men, autopsy reports be damned.

Additionally, the youths were between 650 and 820 feet from the soldiers who shot them. If Palestinian youths, from that distance, are able to throw stones so accurately and with such power as to jeopardize the life of a heavily-armed and armor-protected soldier, all of the baseball leagues in the world should be actively recruiting pitchers in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Israel, of course, that bastion of democracy in the Middle East, launched its own investigation, which ‘proved’, at least to its own satisfaction and that of the U.S., that its soldiers were justified in these killings, while it denied the use of live ammunition. Facts are not a prominent consideration when Israel investigates itself.  How careful, one might ask, is the fox when investigating whether or not it raided the henhouse? Israel refuses to participate in any external investigations of its ‘alleged’ crimes, preventing United Nations representatives from entering Palestine to interview residents, claiming that its own investigations are sufficient. But what is any of that, when the victims are Palestinians?

The United States is currently plodding towards it quadrennial display of faux-democracy, that time when about 60% of eligible voters (in a good year), actually cast their ballots for either Tweedle-Dum or Tweedle-Dee, resulting, despite the enthusiastic cries of those who voted for the winner, in the nation and the world simply meeting the new boss, same as the old boss.

This year, the ‘presumptive’ Republican candidate, blowhard billionaire Donald Trump (does anyone besides this writer find it absolutely incredible that Donald Trump is to the be the Republican candidate for president? Donald Trump!) used the AIPAC (Apartheid Israel Political Affairs Committee) conference in March to hone his Israeli credentials, and fawn all over that rogue nation.

On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton, who has fixed the system to all but ensure her coronation as that party’s nominee, is arguably more supportive toward Israel than any past president or candidate. Her ability to overlook violations of international law and human rights is astounding. Her opponent, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, actually had the audacity to suggest that Israel isn’t always right in its policies and actions, despite his long support for Israeli oppression of the Palestinians. So while he has, perhaps, thrown a bone to Palestine, he cannot be seen as its savior.

But let us consider really important issues: should the Cincinnati Zoo have killed a gorilla that was possibly threatening a child? Or let’s all discuss Caitlyn Jenner, who is to be on the cover of Sports Illustrated, to mark the 40th anniversary of her victory at the Olympics, long before transitioning from Bruce to Caitlyn. Or what new movie earned the most money at the box office last weekend? With all this to occupy our vapid minds, what time do we have to think of murdered Palestinians? After all, we don’t see much about them on the news, so what importance can they possibly have?

Because of the corporate-owned media’s dedication to Israel, and the powerful AIPAC lobby that owns the U.S. Congress, social media must fill the information gap. The trend to do so is ever-increasing, as was evidenced during Israel’s genocidal bombing of the Gaza Strip two years ago.

Yet those invested in social media must remember that the suffering of the Palestinians is ongoing; it must be reported all the time, so public opinion can continue to evolve away from blind acceptance of government pronouncements, toward justice and equality. It is happening, and human-rights activists around the world must work to ensure its continuation.

Originally published on Counterpunch.

US Pads Defense Industry Profits By Arming Both Sides In Conflict

KITCHENER, Ontario — (Analysis) The United States has long billed itself as “the land of the free and the home of the brave.” This fairytale receives credence within the country’s own borders, as its lemming-like citizens place hand on heart, look at the waving flag, and wipe tears from their eyes.

Yet a good story doesn’t often play quite as well when cultures and traditions are different, and for countries that have a free press or that have been victimized by the U.S. — and their name is legion — the lofty statements about liberty and equality that U.S. spokespeople are forever mouthing don’t hold much water.

From the Philippines, Mexico, Chile, Brazil and Nicaragua, right through Korea, Vietnam and Grenada, to Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Palestine today, the United States’ blatant hypocrisy is on full display, as the citizens of those nations paid or continue to pay a high price for daring to be independent when the U.S. wanted their natural resources, or who had the temerity to democratically elect leadership that was too far to the left to accommodate U.S. corporate interests. And in the case of Palestine, being on the opposite end of a powerful political lobby causes their suffering at the hands of the U.S.

And even within the U.S., the fantasy of freedom and equality proclaimed by the corporate-owned media falls far short of the experience of many citizens:

Unarmed young black men serve as target practice for white police officers, with the nearly complete compliance of the judiciary and political establishment.

Women are paid, on average, 80 percent of what men earn in comparable positions.

Students graduate from colleges and universities burdened by tens of thousands, sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars, of debt, payable to the U.S. government; meanwhile, corporations borrow at a fraction of the student rate.

Children live in poverty at shocking levels for an industrial nation.

 There are 1.49 million homeless people in this country, including scores of veterans who naively thought they were fighting for liberty. On any given night, more than 578,000 homeless people are without shelter — that’s more than half a million Americans sleeping on streets, in cars, under tents and in other exposed places every night.

But what is any of that when the bottom line is and always has been the almighty dollar? While exporting death by bombing nations around the world, the U.S. also does a brisk business in the international weapons market, making it the world’s top arms exporter. It buys these weapons from domestic manufacturers and defense contractors like Lockheed Martin — companies with deep pockets that contribute generously to the campaign coffers of elected officials who do their bidding, and thus keep their profits high.

It only makes sense that the need for such armaments will grow as wars are waged. And the U.S. wages more wars than all other nations combined.

 

Maximizing profits for a deep-pocketed defense industry

But someone in the hallowed halls of Congress figured out that it isn’t really necessary to take sides in international conflicts or internal uprisings around the world. Doing so risks being on the losing side. Losing, of course, isn’t all that important as long as there is money to be made, but it does limit profit margins. So why not provide weapons to both sides? This would keep the arms manufacturers happy and maintain the flow of contributions to political campaigns.

Now, this strategy is not without risk; one must consider what U.S. citizens would think if they knew that their beloved government was siding with both sides of a conflict. But, as with any good business model, risk mitigation strategies are developed. With the corporate-owned media in the pocket of the government (fascism, anyone?), the people will only know what the government wants them to know. Any conflict can be spun as a contest of good versus evil, freedom versus oppression, or whatever buzzwords U.S. public relations specialists — certainly experts in their field — toss out.

Let us look at the complex situation in Syria. The government of President Bashar Assad is far from democratic, but it did offer stability in the nation. However, demands for democratic reforms were repulsed, and conflicts between the reformers and the government escalated. Reform groups, once united, began to split apart due to ideological differences, spawning the rise of Daesh (an Arabic acronym for the group known in the West as ISIS or ISIL). As the government attempted to repress growing demonstrations, violence continued to escalate.

Enter the United States, always ready to drop bombs on any nation. In August of 2013, the U.S. claimed that the Syrian government had used chemical weapons against its own citizens, killing 1,400 people. This in itself is an example of U.S. hypocrisy, since Israel uses chemical weapons against the Palestinians, with nary a word of protest from the U.S.

Those who rely on the corporate media for their news have never heard of this. But they did hear of Syria’s alleged use of such weapons, because that’s what the U.S. wanted them to hear. So a year after this alleged incident, the U.S. started bombing.

The U.S.has been funding Syrian rebels since at least 2011. But as mentioned above, there are several rebel groups, and the U.S. isn’t particularly discriminating where it lends its support. Additionally, various U.S. agencies don’t appear to consult with each other on the topic. In March of this year, the Los Angeles Times reported: “Syrian militias armed by different parts of the U.S. war machine have begun to fight each other on the plains between the besieged city of Aleppo and the Turkish border.” Again, as long as U.S. arms manufacturers are happy, what else matters? So what if a third of Syrians have had to flee their homes? What difference do nearly half a million deaths of innocent people make?

 

A history of arming both sides

Of course, this is nothing new, as a look back at World War II shows.

In 1917, the U.S. passed the “Trading with the Enemy Act,” which granted the president the power to restrict all trade between the U.S. and its enemies in times of war. On Dec. 13, 1941, less than a week after Pearl Harbor was bombed by the Japanese, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed an amendment to the act. The crux of the amendment is:

“A general license is hereby granted, licensing any transaction or act proscribed by section 3(a) of The Trading with the Enemy Act, as amended, provided, however, that such transaction or act is authorized by the Secretary of the Treasury by means of regulations, rulings, instructions, licenses or otherwise, pursuant to the Executive order No. 8389, as amended.”

In his 1983 book, “Trading with the Enemy,” Charles Hingham describes the activities of the major U.S. automobile companies during World War II:

”The substantial contribution of these firms to the American war effort in terms of tanks, aircraft components, and other military equipment is widely acknowledged. Less well known are the simultaneous contributions of their foreign subsidiaries to the Axis Powers. In sum, they maximized profits by supplying both sides with the materiel needed to conduct the war.”

Further:

“In Germany, for example, General Motors and Ford became an integral part of the Nazi war efforts. GM’s plants in Germany built thousands of bomber and jet fighter propulsion systems for the Luftwaffe at the same time that its American plants produced aircraft engines for the U.S. Army Air Corps … ”

And lastly:

“The outbreak of war in September 1939 resulted inevitably in the full conversion by GM and Ford of their Axis plants to the production of military aircraft and trucks. … On the ground, GM and Ford subsidiaries built nearly 90 percent of the armored ‘mule’ 3-ton half-trucks and more than 70 percent of the Reich’s medium and heavy-duty trucks. These vehicles, according to American intelligence reports, served as ‘the backbone of the German Army transportation system’.”

The U.S. was willing then, as now, to support both sides in its worship of the almighty dollar. In 1963, the U.S. supported Saddam Hussein, a leader of a rebel group opposing the government of Iraq that had previously been supported by the U.S. In 1979, when Russia invaded Afghanistan, the U.S. armed radical extremists who eventually became Al-Qaida, with whom the U.S. has now been at war for years.

 

No reason for change and hope

Despite the U.S. Declaration of Independence’s assertion that “all men are created equal” and that everyone has the right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” the U.S. deprives countless millions of people around the world of these basic rights in its quest to enrich the already super-wealthy.

Will this change? Will the upcoming presidential election bring fruition of the unrealized “hope and change” promise of eight years ago?

Hardly.

As Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, the two likely contenders for president from the major parties, only promise more of the same, or worse, there can be no optimism about 2017. The U.S. will continue to arm rebel groups against legitimate governments, resulting in the suffering of innocent people around the world and sky-high profits for U.S. arms manufacturers.

No one is talking about hope or change this year. There is, sadly, no reason to.

Originally published by MintPressNews.

U.S. Hypocrisy: Front and Center, as Always

In its never-ending need to flex military muscle around the world, the United States, not content with creating chaos in the Middle East, has now decided to bait China. If ever a country was itching to start World War III, the U.S. seems to be that country.

Let us look at the current situation, and see not only the U.S.’s typical saber-rattling, but its astounding hypocrisy as well.

The ownership of the Nanshan Islands (also known as the Spratly Islands) in the South China Sea is unclear. China claims ownership, and has built an airstrip there, but the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also claim ownership. The U.S. does not support China’s claim. On May 10, the U.S. sent a destroyer to the South China Sea, going within the 12-mile limit of Nanshan, which is the internationally-recognized distance of which a nation’s rule extends beyond its own shores. This 12-mile limit is compliant with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

A Pentagon statement regarding the entry of this ship into the 12-mile limit said this: The “USS William P. Lawrence exercised the right of innocent passage while transiting inside 12 nautical miles of Fiery Cross Reef, a high-tide feature that is occupied by China, but also claimed by the Philippines, Taiwan, and Vietnam.” Further: “This operation challenged attempts by China, Taiwan, and Vietnam to restrict navigation rights around the features they claim … contrary to international law.”

There are two astounding claims in these statements:

“The “USS William P. Lawrence exercised the right of innocent passage.”

The ship in question is a guided missile destroyer. It is difficult for this writer to connect the phrase ‘innocent passage’ with such a vessel. This was not a cruise ship traveling from one leisure point to another, and innocently passing through the South China Sea as it did so. It was a battleship, sent there with the specific purpose of warning three of the four countries claiming ownership of the Islands.

“This operation challenged attempts by China, Taiwan, and Vietnam to restrict navigation rights around the features they claim … contrary to international law.”

Once again, we have the U.S. citing international law, as if it has any respect for it. Such law, for the U.S., is to be followed or invoked only when convenient. We will take just a moment to review some instances where international law wasn’t, or isn’t, quite so important to the U.S.

*The U.S. has a long history of supporting right-wing rebels against their leftist governments. In Nicaragua, Chile, Brazil and countless other countries in the past, to Syria and Afghanistan today, the U.S. is in violation of international law by supporting ‘proxy’ armies fighting their governments.

*The U.S. invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan violated international law.

*The unqualified, financial and military support of the Israeli occupation of Palestine is in violation of international law. Without U.S. backing, Israel would be unable to maintain the internationally-condemned blockade of the Gaza Strip (also defined as occupation by the United Nations), and the brutal occupation of the West Bank. Israel would be unable to bomb mosques, residential centers, hospitals and press vehicles with impunity, all violations of international law.

*Assassinations or attempted assassinations of various leaders and military personnel around the world violate international law. Yet the U.S. has done this countless times, including, but not limited to, Fidel Castro (Cuba); Salvador Allende (Chile); Muammar Qaddafi (Libya); Foreign Minister Orlando Letelier (Chile); Che Guevara (Bolivia); Ngo Dinh Diem (South Vietnam). This is just a small sampling of U.S. victims and attempted victims.

 

Prior to the U.S. invasion of Iraq, the U.S. cited Iraqi violations of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1441. This, according to the U.S., was sufficient to cause a ‘coalition of nations’ (please note that 90% of the invading soldiers/terrorists were from the U.S.) to invade Iraq. Yet Israel is in violation of over 50 such resolutions, and the U.S. still funds it with $4 billion annually. Since World War II, Israel has received more foreign aid from the U.S. than all other nations combined. And Israel, again in violation of international law, only allows Gaza fishermen to fish within a 3-mile limit, and often shoots them within that range. So much for respect for international law.

Let us look at just one additional example of U.S. hypocrisy. The U.S. government condemned, and rightly so, the beheadings carried out by Daesh (aka ISIL, ISIS) in 2014. Saudi Arabia, with which the U.S. has full diplomatic relations, uses public beheading as a means of capital punishment, and executes dozens of people annually in that manner. In August of 2014, at least 22 people were executed in Saudi Arabia, with at least eight of them beheaded. And the following month, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry made an official state visit to Saudi Arabia. If Daesh ever establishes itself as a nation on oil-rich lands, perhaps the U.S. will establish full diplomatic relations with it, and overlook any continued beheading. The other option the U.S. has is to invade it. As has been asked before, what business does any country have being situated about oil that the U.S. covets?

This is the nation that lectures other countries on democracy. The nation that, by its own laws, is forbidden from sending foreign aid to countries that violate human rights, sends billions to one of the world’s worst violators: Israel. The nation that forces its odd brand of democracy wherever it is financially advantageous to do so, is serving up presidential candidates bought and paid for by the wealthiest citizens.

Nowhere outside of its own borders is the U.S. perceived as anything but a rogue, imperial nation, jeopardizing the very existence of the world with its military might and nuclear weaponry. Its soldiers are seen as terrorists, whose power and ability to harm far exceeds anything Daesh, Al-Qaeda or any other identified so-called terrorist group is capable of.

Eight years ago, the nation naively looked for ‘hope and change’, following the disastrous Bush years. This year, there is no such catchy phrase, or novel candidate, as President Barack Obama was then. The coming presidential election will bring more war abroad and suffering both at home and around the world. Hope and change, never part of the equation in U.S. politics or governance, are not even an illusion this time around.

Originally published by Counterpunch.

Apartheid South Africa And Apartheid Israel: One Was Shunned, The Other, Embraced

KITCHENER, Ontario — (Analysis) In 1948, the same year as the founding of the state of Israel, South Africa made a policy of apartheid the law of the land. This policy of racial discrimination would remain in place for 55 years, causing untold suffering for millions of people.
Conditions under apartheid in South Africa may not be widely known or understood. It meant separate and inferior public services, benches and building entrances for anyone who was not white (European). Writing for The Associated Press, Michelle Faul described life in apartheid South Africa: Train carriages for black people (Africans) and people of mixed race or other non-white ethnicity (colored) were “decrepit,” and while gas stations would sell fuel to non-white drivers, these drivers were not allowed to use the restrooms.
But that was certainly not the extent of it. Under this racist policy, the non-white population was stripped of citizenship, and any and all non-white political representation was abolished, thus depriving the majority of the population of having any voice in the government.
Under apartheid, the minority white population (4.5 million people) owned 87 percent of the property, while the majority non-white population (19 million people) owned the remaining 13 percent.
Additionally, non-whites were forced into bantustans, where water was hard to come by and sanitation almost unheard of. As a result, it is estimated that 15 million South Africans were without safe water and 20 million without sanitation. Meanwhile, the white majority had all the water they wanted, and sanitation was not a problem for them.
Deciding the race of an individual was hardly scientific. One test was to see if a pencil would stay in a person’s hair. If the pencil slid through, the person was considered white.
“Under such rules of apartheid, Chinese were classified colored despite their straight hair; Japanese were white,” Faul wrote. “Blacks who wanted to be reclassified as colored also could undergo the pencil test: if it fell out when you shook your head, you could be become colored.”
It was not unusual for families to be separated due to such tests, including the removal of children from their parents.
 Violence against the non-white population was endemic. Random shootings by white police of non-whites, kidnapping of non-whites, despite having the necessary paperwork that identified them, and rampant torture were all part of life in apartheid South Africa.
Boycotting South African apartheid
This system of apartheid didn’t sit well with the international community. In 1962 the UN General Assembly passed Resolution 1761, which declared apartheid to be a violation of South Africa’s obligations under the UN Charter and a threat to international peace and security. Member states were asked to voluntarily boycott South Africa and break diplomatic relations. Though initially ignored by most nations, this action, along with the creation of the U.N. Special Committee Against Apartheid, greatly encouraged the growing civil society-based, international solidarity campaign.
An academic boycott, begun in 1965, empowered principled academics from around the world to refuse invitations to South Africa to lecture and to pass on collaborating on scholarly projects with South African academics.
Athletics are an important component of South African society, and the sports boycott, begun in 1961 with South Africa’s expulsion from FIFA, the international soccer governing body, proved effective. South Africa was excluded from many international rugby and cricket competitions, not to mention the 1964 Olympics. After nearly 50 countries threatened to boycott the 1970 Olympics in protest of possible involvement by South Africa, the country was expelled from the Games.
Starting from the mid-1980s, the European Community and Commonwealth countries imposed some trade and financial sanctions. In the United States, President Ronald Reagan opposed sanctions, but, to appease Congress, did agree to a limited ban on exports. (It must be remembered that the U.S., never at the forefront of human rights when power or economic strength may be compromised, considered Nelson Mandela, the longtime leader of efforts to overturn South African apartheid, a terrorist. Indeed, Mandela was on a “terrorism watch list” as late as 2008, decades after some semblance of democracy had been initiated in South Africa.)
Another major effort was the grassroots campaign to encourage institutional investors to withdraw all investment from countries based in South Africa. American university campuses became a focal point for such efforts.
Now and then
Apartheid in South Africa officially ended with the 1994 elections in which members of all races were allowed to vote.
Yet the ugliness of apartheid still exists elsewhere, most notably in Israel. A few examples highlight the similarities of South African apartheid and Israeli apartheid:
Capture
Congress condemned apartheid in South Africa, even overriding a presidential veto to sanction that country, but Congress cannot seem to praise Israel enough. What is different now than it was 30 years ago?Although there are stark similarities, conditions for Palestinians under Israeli apartheid are considered far worse than they ever were for non-whites under South African apartheid. Yet there does not appear to be the same international outcry against Israeli apartheid as there was against South African apartheid.
One hates to sound cynical, but, as with so much in U.S. governance, it all seems to come down to money. Between April 1, 2009 and March 31, 2015, Israel lobbies contributed $12.6 million to U.S. senators for election, re-election and presidential campaigns. From April 13, 2013 to March 31, 2015, Israel lobbies contributed $4.3 million to members of the House of Representatives for election, re-election and presidential campaigns. A 2013 report indicates that, at that time, winning a senate seat in the U.S. cost about $10.5 million, while a seat in the House of Representatives cost about $1.7 million. It is much easier, certainly, to obtain a single contribution of tens, or perhaps hundreds, of thousands of dollars, than to collect that amount with donations of $5 or $10 from working people.
The impact of the Israel lobby on American politics is nothing new, though. In 1984, incumbent Sen. Charles Percy of Illinois was defeated for re-election by Paul Simon. Mr. Simon was tapped by the American Israel Political Affairs Committee to run against Mr. Percy, who had acknowledged not on
ly the existence of the Palestinians, but also that they had rights. This was untenable in a U.S. senator, and with backing from the powerful AIPAC, Mr. Percy was defeated. Congressional dissent from the AIPAC party line will not be tolerated.
At the recent AIPAC convention, GOP presidential candidate and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who, during the six-year period mentioned above received $100,354 from Israel lobbies, actually told his receptive audience that “Palestine has not existed since 1948.” This was perhaps the most extreme statement made to AIPAC audience by anyone seeking the U.S. presidency this year.
Money and fear fuel support for Israel
In February of 1986, Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme participated in “The Swedish People’s Parliament Against Apartheid,” during which he described apartheid as “this despicable, doomed system.” He was assassinated one week later. After Sweden officially recognized Palestine in 2014, Sweden’s foreign minister, Margot Wallström, received numerous death threats.
France and Belgium are two additional countries that seem, at least in some regards, favorable to Palestine, and there has been talk in both nations about recognition of Palestine. Some pundits note that it is, at best, an odd coincidence that each experienced a “terrorist” attack after making known their intentions about recognizing Palestine.
So it appears that money and fear play a significant role in global support for Israel, but that support is quickly fading, as more countries recognize Palestine and condemn Israel. Steps by the European Union requiring appropriate labeling of Israeli goods produced on occupied land; the increasing academic, economic and entertainment boycott of Israel; and even the U.S., Israel’s main financier, approval of the Iran nuclear agreement that Israel spent as much as $40 million opposing, all point to a major change in world opinion.
Today, with the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement gaining traction at universities, religious organizations and labor unions, the same methods that ended apartheid in South Africa are being implemented to accomplish the same thing in Israel.
Frederick Douglass, who fled slavery and went on to become a leader in the abolitionist movement and American statesman, once said, “Power never concedes anything without a demand; it never has and it never will.” The world is now demanding that Israel surrender its power over Palestinians. Israel is resisting, as it has for decades, but as the weight of the demand increases, Israel will eventually bow beneath it.
Originally published by MintPressNews.

A closer look at Sanders’ letter to AIPAC

 There seems to be a great deal of excitement surrounding Vermont Senator and presidential candidate Bernie Sanders’ absence from last month’s American Israel Political Affairs Committee (AIPAC) convention, the letter he sent, and the recently-released draft of the speech he would have given.

In the letter, which is, basically, the speech, Mr Sanders does two remarkable things that no other presidential candidate has done in recent memory: he acknowledged the existence of Palestinians, and recognised their right to self-determination.

This is, of course, to be commended, but, other than his pronouncements about Palestine, the good senator did not stray too far from the usual pro-Israel talking points regurgitated by politicians in the United States.

Let’s look at just some of the pandering Mr Sanders did for his Zionist audience.

“America and Israel are united … by our values, including a deep commitment to democratic principles, civil rights, and the rule of law.

At this point, any but a zealous Zionist should have tuned out, and accepted Mr Sanders as what he is: a politician, bowing down, perhaps not as deeply, but bowing nonetheless, to the Israeli master. It is difficult to know where each of the lofty concepts he listed – democratic principles, civil rights, or the rule of law –is more routinely violated, in the US or Israel. In the US, ‘democratic principles’ apparently mean thwarting the will of the people when they elect a president, by calling in the Supreme Court to award the presidency to someone else, as was done in 2000. It means, as Mr Sanders of all people should know, allowing the so-called ‘Super Delegates’ to vote to nominate whoever they choose, despite the will of the people. In Israel, ‘democratic principles’ means having separate laws for Jewish Israelis and non-Jewish Israelis, with those for non-Jewish Israelis far more restrictive and punitive than the others.

The concept of ‘civil rights’ in either country could be considered a joke, except that no one is laughing. In the US, white police officers use unarmed young Black men as target practice, with nearly complete impunity. IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) soldiers use unarmed Palestinian men, women and children the same way.

And now we get to ‘the rule of law’. Well, in the US while the rules may appear to be the same for everyone, the more money one has, the more one is able to circumvent the law. In Israel, any laws, including murder, that apply to both Jewish Israelis and non-Jewish Israelis, and Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip, are enforced very differently.

“Israel is one of America’s closest allies, and we – as a nation – are committed not just to guaranteeing Israel’s survival, but also to its people’s right to live in peace and security.”

The concept of ‘ally’ seems to indicate that each side benefits. What the US gets from this peculiar alliance, beyond a seemingly endless source of money for political campaigns, is anybody’s guess.

And why is it that the US is committed to ‘guaranteeing Israel’s survival’, any more than that of Iraq, France, Guatemala, or any other nation? What has Israel done to warrant this paternal protection?

One might also ask why the US, busy depriving the people of Yemen, Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and who knows how many other places of their ‘right to live in peace and security’, should be so concerned about Israel’s.

“I believe firmly that the only prospect for peace is the successful negotiation of a two-state solution.”

This begs two questions: First, since negotiations can only be successful between two parties, each of which has something the other wants, that can only be obtained by surrendering something it has, why would Israel be interested in negotiations? For decades it has taken from Palestine whatever it wants, with complete impunity. Why would it want to kill the goose that is laying the golden eggs?

Second, why are negotiations even required? International law recognises Palestine’s and Israel’s borders as those that existed prior to 1967. What was it Mr Sanders said about ‘the rule of law’? If someone robs a bank, the police do not contact the robber and the bank manager, and ask them to sit down and determine how much of the money the robber will return. The money is all returned to the bank, and the robber is punished as the laws of that particular community demand. Why is it so different for Israel?

“Peace will require the unconditional recognition by all of Israel’s right to exist. “

Mr Sanders seemed to have omitted ‘unconditional recognition by all’ of Palestine’s right to exist. Palestine, with no army, no navy and no air force is in no position to destroy Israel. Yet by its continued illegal settlement expansion, Israel is slowly denying Palestine’s right to exist.

“It will require an end to attacks of all kinds against Israel. “

But will it not also require an end to ‘attacks of all kinds’ against Palestine? Yes, Palestine occasionally fires ‘rockets’ into Israel, rockets that Dr Norman Finkelstein, son of Holocaust survivors and a strong proponent of Palestinian rights, refers to as ‘enhanced fireworks’. Israel has the fourth most powerful military in the world, backed by the most powerful. And in fifty-one days in the summer of 2014, Israel launched more rockets into the Gaza Strip than Palestine launched into Israel in the previous fourteen years.

“The third major challenge in the region is Iran, which routinely destabilises the Middle East and threatens the security of Israel. Now, we all agree that Iran must not get a nuclear weapon.”

Does it, and do we? It seems to this writer that the United States, with its training, arming and funding of various rebel groups, does far more than Iran to destabilise the Middle East.

And why is it that Israel is permitted to have nuclear weapons, completed unregulated by the international community, and Iran’s peaceful nuclear program must be scrutinised by the world’s self-appointed police force?

As anyone who is interested in Palestinian rights and self-determination looks with some hope to Mr Sanders, it is also important to note that, in this letter, he referred to ‘Israel’ forty-one times, but only said the word ‘Palestine’ once.

The senator from Vermont is waging a battle against former New York Senator Hillary Clinton, and it is an uphill one, since there seems to be a feeling among Democratic Party bigwigs that he is just an annoyance on the road to her coronation at the Democratic convention. He has, to some extent, differentiated himself on the Palestine issue, but he seems to have worked hard to compensate for that sin by echoing the words that are music to Zionists’ ears.

In all likelihood, the next president of the United States will be a puppet of Israel, dancing to its tune as it pulls all the strings. Freedom and justice for Palestine, like that for South Africans a generation ago, will not initiate within the hallowed halls of the US Congress, or the White House. No, it will come from other nations with a more democratic, and less oligarchical, nature than the US.  But Mr Sanders skipping of the AIPAC convention, and his acknowledgement of Palestinian rights, represents a sea change in the US. It is just one of many in the US and internationally. Progress toward freedom and justice for Palestine is happening; the outcome of the US election may slow it, but cannot stop it.

Originally published by Days of Palestine.

AIPAC, Israel and the U.S: an Unholy Alliance

The annual Israeli-lobby love fest is in full swing, the highlight of which may be the sight of most of the candidates for the highest office in the land groveling before their financial masters. The annual AIPAC (Apartheid Israel Political Affairs Committee; oops! That is, officially, the American Israel Political Affairs Committee) orgy always draws the United States president and every member of Congress worthy to be called a lackey for Israel, and their name is legion.

But during what the U.S. calls an election year, that quadrennial event when a four-year lease for the White House is auctioned off to the highest bidder, excitement at AIPAC is at a fever pitch. And this year, the thrill is even greater, since this is the first major meeting of this unholy lobby since the passage of the Iran agreement that moderates that nation’s nuclear ambitions, an agreement that the Israeli lobby found most unpalatable. Also, in January of next year, Israel will have a brand new president, when that odious Barack Obama, with whom Israeli Prime Murderer Benjamin Netanyahu has a most uncordial relationship, will be replaced.

It is amazing to anyone who is not besotted with Israel, anyone who recognizes its constant, ongoing war crimes and violations of international law, to observe this spectacle. And what a spectacle has been brought to us thus far this year! A few gems will suffice to help the reader know what he or she is missing.

*The frontrunner for the GOP nomination, businessman and erstwhile reality television star Donald Trump, wowed the audience by promising to dismantle the nuclear agreement with Iran, and condemning Palestinian violence while he commended Israeli moderation. ‘The Donald’, famous for saying whatever his racist audience, be it an all-white one in Middle-America or a Zionist one in the nation’s capital, wants to hear, certainly delivered for AIPAC.

*Republican candidate wannabe Senator Ted Cruz, the obnoxious junior senator from Texas, who received $100,354 from various Israeli lobbies between 2009 and 2015, proclaimed, in response to Mr. Trump’s remarks, the amazing statement that the nation of Palestine doesn’t exist, and hasn’t since 1948! Well, aren’t we all enlightened by such a geography lesson from Mr. Cruz? Never mind that Palestine is recognized by at least 193 member states of the United Nations, and the United Nations itself. What is any of that, against the proclamations of a U.S. senator? Mr. Cruz announced to his anticipated AIPAC financiers that he would personally, as U.S. president, veto any move by the U.N. to enhance its recognition of Palestine, and would withhold federal funding from any institution, including universities, that boycotts Israel. Finally, he would move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, something opposed by the world community. It is difficult to imagine a speech more pleasing to the Apartheid Israel Political Affairs Committee.

*On the Democratic side, former First Lady Hillary Clinton also pleased her financiers. She vowed to strengthen U.S.-Israel ties, fight BDS (Boycott, Divest and Sanction), and strengthen the Israeli military machine. Nothing surprising from the woman who would be queen (or in this case, president), and who is beholden to every major lobby group and 1% special interest group in the country.

*Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, the only Jewish candidate in the race, skipped the convention in order to campaign in the west. This, in itself, was an affront to Zionists everywhere. His offer to appear via video was refused, so he sent a letter instead. In this missive, he did, unlike his various competitors, throw a bone to the Palestinians, saying that the occupation of the West Bank and the blockade of the Gaza Strip must end. But he talked about Israeli democracy, which is a figment of the imagination of U.S. and Israel public relations campaigns, and was careful to refer to the safety of the ‘Palestinians’, but never to a safe and secure Palestine, although a safe and secure Israel was uppermost in his words.

Mr. Sanders also talked about the shared values between the U.S. and Israel. He was, quite possibly, referring to racism, disdain for international law, a ‘might makes right’ attitude and other ‘values’ that the two nations share.

So that is what is being served at the AIPAC convention this year, and it is certainly a foul-tasting meal. More racism, more genocide, more apartheid, all financed and supported by the U.S., that bastion of liberty and freedom (see earlier comment about public relations). Yet for the Zionist population, the words of all the candidates, with the exception of Mr. Sanders, were music to their ears.

But do Mr. Sanders words really represent some hope for Palestine? Well, he does seem to recognize that the concepts of human rights and self-determination do apply to them, a fact that escapes all the other presidential candidates, and that is a good sign. But talk is cheap, and the senator has a long history of supporting Israel’s periodic carpet-bombing of the Gaza Strip. But with an election year offering the likes of Messrs. Cruz and Trump, and her highness, Mrs. Clinton, we should be grateful for any small favors such as those offered by Mr. Sanders.

On March 20 of this year, I attended the AIPAC convention, but only from the outside; he had no desire to join the racist Zionist hoodlums in the convention center. He listened to the thoughtful words of Rabbi Dovid Weiss; author Miko Peled, son of a prominent Israeli general, and many others who oppose Zionism. The number of attendees was not large; certainly, it was dwarfed by the 18,000 attending the convention. But the numbers don’t tell the story; what is telling is that at least two of the major party candidates singled out BDS for mention, indicating the growing strength and effectiveness of that movement.

Criticism of Palestinian resistance, with no acknowledgement that Israeli oppression is the cause, a fact that even United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon spoke clearly of in January of this year, falls increasingly on deaf ears in any but a Zionist audience. International impatience with Apartheid Israel, seen in the increasing number of resolutions to recognize Palestine, and growing numbers of laws to clearly label products made in the occupied West Bank as Israeli, and not Palestinian, continues to expand. Time is on the side of justice; Israel and the U.S. will not prevail against it forever.

Originally published by Counterpunch.