The First Amendment, BDS and Third Party Candidates

It seems sometimes that, like Alice, we have all tumbled down a rabbit hole and entered a bizarre new universe. However, Mr. Carroll could never have invented anything as peculiar as what is seen in United States politics and governance.

For reasons that only politicians and the lobbies who own them can completely understand, Israel, that brutal, apartheid nation, comes first and foremost in what passes for the minds of elected officials. It is reported that New Jersey is the latest in a string of states that is passing anti-BDS (Boycott, Divest and Sanction) laws. This, of course, will require endless hours of effort by some unfortunate bureaucrat to compile lists of organizations that support the boycott of Israel. Was it so long ago that other bureaucrats compiled lists of Communist ‘sympathizers’? We all know how well that turned out.

But anyway, why should politicians who bask in the largess of Israeli lobbies care about the First Amendment? That old thing! Let’s take a look at what is says: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

The Supreme Court over the years has expanded this to include states; it isn’t just Congress that is so forbidden. In 1982, in the case of the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) vs. Clairborne Hardware Co., the Court found that “the nonviolent elements of a boycott are entitled to the protection of the First Amendment”.

Now, what might the governing bodies of New Jersey, New York and nine other states that have passed anti-BDS legislation learn from this? The purpose of the BDS movement, as indicated on its webpage, is clear: in 2005, “Palestinian civil society called upon their counterparts and people of conscience all over the world to launch broad boycotts, implement divestment initiatives, and to demand sanctions against Israel, until Palestinian rights are recognized in full compliance with international law”. It would appear that all of these actions fall into the ‘non-violent’ category that the Supreme Court says is protected by the First Amendment.

During the long, drawn out, bitter campaign for the Republican and Democratic presidential nominations, which was only a forerunner to what promises to be an unparalleled circus of a campaign between Tweedle-Dum (Republican Donald Trump) and Tweedle-Dee (Democrat Hillary Clinton), most of the candidates from both parties made the obligatory visit to the AIPAC (Apartheid Israel Political Affairs Committee) altar in Washington, D.C. in March of this year. There, they decried Palestinian resistance to the occupation, resistance that is sanctioned by the United Nations, and praised Israeli ‘restraint’, that only killed 500 innocent children in less than two months in the summer of 2014. They spoke of the strength of Israeli ‘democracy’, where there are separate laws for Jewish Israelis, and non-Jewish Israelis. They talked of Israel as the U.S.’s only ‘friend’ in the Middle East, a friendship that the U.S. purchases with more foreign aid than is given to all other countries combined. Such groveling by men and women who would ‘lead’ the United States is nothing less than repulsive to watch.

Fortunately, the U.S. voter isn’t limited to the two representatives of the Republicratic Party. Choices abound, although the corporate-owned media (fascism, anyone?) would have us all believe otherwise. The candidacy of Gloria La Riva of the Party for Socialism and Liberation (PSL) has been mentioned by this writer previously, but is worth noting again, as she is one of the third-party candidates who does not feel compelled to kiss the unholy ring of Israel.

A few phrases from the PSL webpage are telling:

* The “campaign stands in full solidarity with the international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign…”

* “The BDS movement demands that Israel: End its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands occupied in June 1967 and dismantles the Wall; recognizes the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and respects, protects and promotes the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN Resolution 194.  It fights for an end to Israeli apartheid.”

We learn from this some important differences between Ms. La Riva and Mr. Trump and Mrs. Clinton. First, unlike her rivals, Ms. La Riva respects human rights. Second, she recognizes and respects international law. She understands the role of boycotting in bringing about change. Unlike the Republican and Democratic candidates, she recognizes apartheid when she sees it. Finally, she supports worldwide efforts to bring justice to the Palestinians, after decades of oppression.

But Ms. La Riva doesn’t stop there; she fully exposes the elephant (or perhaps, the donkey) in the room:

“Both of the presumptive major capitalist party candidates, Trump and Clinton, have expressed full support for Israel, outrageously painting Israel as ‘victim’ and the Palestinians as ‘aggressor,’ in keeping with the Israeli narrative that is constantly regurgitated by the corporate media here.”

As Palestinian activist Hanan Ashrawi has said, “the Palestinians are the only people on earth required to guarantee the security of the occupier, while Israel is the only country that demands protection from its victims.” Ms. La Riva seems to recognize that odd fact, and is willing to do something about it.

It is unlikely that a third-party candidate will be victorious in the 2016 presidential election farce, where the major competitors are highly disliked by large swaths of the electorate, which will seek in vain to find the lesser of two evils. But this situation, where the 99% must choose between two members of the 1%, can begin to die this year, if increasing numbers of people decide to pull a lever for a candidate other than those of either the GOP or Democratic Party. If voters consider such things as human rights, international law, and justice, they will be unable to vote for Mr. Trump or Mrs. Clinton. There are excellent alternatives, and Ms. La Riva is one of them.

Originally published by Counterpunch.

A Perfect Couple: Sanders and Clinton

Much to the surprise of absolutely no one but his most ardent fans, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders has sold his soul and endorsed Hillary Clinton for president. Only time will tell what he received in return: a position in a Clinton Cabinet, or perhaps a prestigious assignment in the senate. One hopes he held out for more than a meaningless plank in the Democratic Party platform which, when combined with all the other meaningless planks, makes for a meaningless platform. More on that later. But this is all business as usual when the kingmakers are hard at work, plying their craft.

There was talk in the last several days about overtures the Green Party had made to Mr. Sanders, with the gross exaggeration that likely Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein had offered to step aside to enable him to head the ticket. Dr. Stein herself issued a clarification, saying that while the party had reached out to the senator, there were a variety of issues that would need to have been discussed if there was any partnership to be established. She also said that, unlike the Democratic Party, the delegates to the Green Party convention would determine the nominee; it wasn’t hers to give away.

Mr. Sanders’ statement endorsing his former opponent is puzzling indeed. The constraints of time and space prevent a thorough analysis, but we will look at a few key points, and attempt to make sense of them.

“Together, we have begun a political revolution to transform America, and that revolution continues.”

I think not. Certainly, many people jumped on the Sanders bandwagon, hoping for such changes as a higher minimum wage and an end to astronomical student debt. But, while these are certainly desirable, they do not a revolution make. A good place to start a revolution might be to end war and international militarism, but the good senator had no intention of doing any such thing.

“Together, we continue the fight to create a government which represents all of us, and not just the one percent….”

Senator Sanders would have us believe that Mrs. Clinton, a woman with an estimated fortune of $45 million, is going to fight for the 99%. This is a woman who never met a corporate lobby she didn’t love. Perhaps Mr. Sanders thinks that his devoted followers will buy whatever it is he chooses to sell, so he decided to bring out the snake oil.

“It is easy to forget where we were seven and a half years ago when President Obama came into office. As a result of the greed, recklessness and illegal behavior on Wall Street, our economy was in the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.”

Curiouser and Curiouser! Does Mr. Sanders forget that the woman whose praises he is now singing earned nearly $700,000 for three, yes three, speeches to Goldman Sachs? Does he expect anyone to believe that she will oppose corporate advantages in order to fight for the common worker? Favors, in the amount of fees and campaign donations, have been granted, and will certainly be called in during a Hillary Clinton administration.

Mrs. Clinton “…knows that it is absurd that middle-class Americans are paying an effective tax rate higher than hedge fund millionaires, and that there are corporations in this country making billions in profit while they pay no federal income taxes in a given year because of loopholes their lobbyists created.”

Please see comment, above.

During this puzzling speech, Mr. Sanders referred to the Democratic Platform, and said this: “… we produced, by far, the most progressive platform in the history of the Democratic Party.” ‘Progressive’ is such an appealing term to pass around and make liberals feel good. And while this writer risks boring the reader with endless bullet points, he reviewed a draft of the platform, and would like to point out just two of the ‘progressive’ aspects of it:

“Democrats will also address the detrimental role Iran plays in the region and will robustly enforce and, if necessary, strengthen non-nuclear sanctions. Iran is the leading state sponsor of terrorism. It violates the human rights of its population, denies the Holocaust, vows to eliminate Israel, and has its fingerprints on almost every conflict in the Middle East.”

Iran is not the ‘leading state sponsor of terrorism; by any and all accounts, that dubious distinction belongs to the United States, which ‘has its fingerprints on almost every conflict in the Middle East’.

“We will continue to work toward a two-state solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict negotiated directly by the parties that guarantees Israel’s future as a secure and democratic Jewish state with recognized borders and provides the Palestinians with independence, sovereignty, and dignity.”

“Israelis deserve security, recognition, and a normal life free from terror and incitement. Palestinians should be free to govern themselves in their own viable state, in peace and dignity.”

Now, this paragraph deserves our close attention, so the writer will dissect it, like a scientist in a lab.

“We will continue to work toward a two-state solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

The U.S. has been unsuccessful in this endeavor or generations, and will continue to be as long as the government is bought and paid for by Israeli lobbies. And it is likely that the U.S. has no interest in ending this ‘conflict’.

“…negotiated directly by the parties…”

As this writer has pointed out previously,  negotiations can only take place between two parties, each of which has something the other wants, and that can only be obtained by surrendering something it has. Israel takes what it wants from Palestine with complete impunity. There can be no negotiations.

Additionally, does the Democratic Party have no respect for international law? Israel is in violation of that law by its illegal occupation of the West Bank, and blockade of Gaza. Why would anyone suggest negotiations?

Such negotiations are supposed to “…guarantee Israel’s future as a secure and democratic Jewish state with recognized borders and provide the Palestinians with independence, sovereignty, and dignity.” Shouldn’t any plan also guarantee Palestine’s future as a ‘secure and democratic state with recognized borders’?

“Israelis deserve security, recognition, and a normal life free from terror and incitement. Palestinians should be free to govern themselves in their own viable state, in peace and dignity”

Do not Palestinians deserve ‘security, recognition and a normal life free from terror and incitement’?

So much for Mr. Sanders’ ‘progressive’ platform.

Difficult as it is to say anything positive about the Republican Party, at least its voters thought ‘outside of the box’ this year. There was no decent candidate running, so rather than choosing some tired career politician, they selected a billionaire racist, homophobic, Islamophopic misogynist. The Democrats played by their rigged rulebook, and are about to nominate the quintessential Washington insider.

Is there a lesser evil between these two? Hardly! Each, in his or her own way, will cause untold suffering at home and abroad; do nothing to assist those who are struggling; enrich their friends and associates, and leave a trail of blood and carnage in their wake.

On July 12, this writer had the opportunity of interviewing Gloria La Riva, the presidential nominee of the Party for Socialism and Liberation. He strongly encourages the reader to review her policy recommendations, which, unlike the Democratic Party platform, are filled with practical, common sense solutions to the complex problems facing the country and the world.

Never has the time been better than now to vote third party.

Originally published by Counterpunch.

Fighting Back in Dallas

This past week, the nation witnessed, not once, but twice, the apparently unjustified killing of two Black men by white police officers. This no longer shocks anyone; young, usually unarmed Black men serve as target practice for the mainly white police force, so the fact that two more officers were simply practicing their shooting skills is hardly even news.

Dont shoot

Then, on Friday, we all awoke to the national uproar over the killing of five police officers in Dallas, Texas. This writer heard some news about it when at the fitness center in the morning; forgetting to bring his mobile device, he had no music to listen to as he used the stepper, and watched that well-known entertainment station, CTV-News, report its version of the news.

One ‘expert’, the name of whom this writer didn’t notice, since said ‘expert’ was already speaking as this writer was setting the adjustments on the stepper he was to use, said mournfully that this shocking event had cast a pall over the entire country.

Now, this writer is sorry for any murder victim, whether that person has been killed by a drone strike in Yemen, a bomb in Syria, an Israeli terrorist in Palestine, a police officer in Baton Rouge or a sniper in Dallas. He feels for the grieving survivors, and sympathizes with their anger at the perpetrator. Yet he feels it is unfair, at the very least, and criminal at the very worst, to classify the killing of five police officers in Dallas as any more tragic than the killing of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge or Philando Castile in Minneapolis. If a pall has been cast over the nation, it is the pall of blatant, unchecked racism.

And while there is nothing surprising about the constant murders of unarmed Black men by the police, there should be little surprise that, finally, people are fighting back. This does not excuse the murders of these officers, but one must consider that, sooner or later, with no recourse from the courts or the government, victimized people would, eventually, strike back.

After the shootings, Dallas Police Chief David Brown said this:”We don’t feel much support most days. Let’s not make today most days. Please, we need your support to be able to protect you from men like these, who carried out this tragic, tragic event.” Well, who,one might reasonably ask, is going to protect members of the Black community from the police? When the police shoot unarmed Black men, internal investigations almost always find the killing justified. No wonder many police departments “don’t feel much support most days”.

As of this writing, a suspect in the Dallas shootings has been identified. Needless to say, he has also been killed. Micah Xavier Johnson is said to have acted alone, unlike the white police officers who routinely kill Black men; they usually have partners and extensive back up, as they approach and shoot their victims.

Had Mr. Johnson not been killed, he, unlike the murderers of Michael Brown, Eric Garner and the many others shot by police, would have felt the full effects of the law. Snipers, unlike police officers, cannot kill innocent people with complete impunity.

Let us return for a moment to this writer’s brief exposure to CTV-’News’. In the past, he has seen how the corporate-owned media tells the vapid-minded viewer what to think. For example, when four Israelis were killed in a Tel Aviv cafe, this event was widely broadcast. But when two unarmed Palestinian teenagers, observing but not participating in a demonstration against Israel’s illegal and brutal occupation of Palestine, were shot by IDF (Israeli Defense Forces. Read: terrorists), in a crime taped by a security camera mounted outside a nearby store, there was no CTV ‘expert’ decrying this horrendous crime, no interviews with the survivors, and, therefore, no instructions to the viewers that they should be angry, sorrowful, etc. A teenage girl, intentionally hit and seriously injured by car driven by an illegal Israeli settler, and then shot by that settler, is not, in the minds of the corporations who own CTV, worthy of being reported. There is, in this view, no reason to shed any tears for her.

With a name like Micah Xavier Johnson, it will be difficult for the media to associate Mr. Johnson with Islam, to which it is almost mandatory for the corporate-owned shills that pass as news outlets to tie to any violent crime. We must all remember, when anyone proclaiming to be Muslim commits a crime, he is a radical jihadist, representative of the entire 1.8 billion people who are Muslims, and who, by definition, are all terrorists. If a Black man commits a crime, it is simply representative of the criminal element that is inherent in the race. If a white man commits a crime, he is mentally unstable, acting alone and, if not shot and killed by police, deserving of the best psychiatric help there is, so he can be rehabilitated, and live the productive, peaceful, law-abiding life typical of all whites.

When the funerals are held for these police officers, we will see thousands of other police officers in attendance. That the police forces in the United States are a ‘brotherhood’ bordering on a cult can hardly be disputed. One episode is telling:

This writer lived for many years in New Jersey. While there, a police officer’s estranged wife obtained a restraining order against her husband, due to domestic violence. He was forbidden from contacting her, or coming to her home. While this order was in effect, she began living with another man. One day, when she was at work, the police officer, her estranged husband, broke into her home. He found her boyfriend naked, sleeping in the bed. He confronted him and shot and killed him. He was subsequently arrested for murder.

As soon as he was arrested, several of his ‘fellow-officers’ mortgaged their homes to pay his bail. He was tried and acquitted of all charges.

Let’s remember that the officer was illegally in his estranged wife’s home. The man he shot had just awakened from sleep, and could hardly have been concealing a weapon; he was wearing nothing to conceal it with. Yet other police officers rushed to his defense, and maintained their belief that he was innocent, despite clear evidence to the contrary. Or perhaps the matter of innocence or guilt didn’t enter their minds: he was a police office, and therefore anything he did, even killing an unarmed, defenseless man, wasn’t wrong..

Mr. Eric Garner, mentioned above, begged for his life as police officers choked him to death. Mr. Brown’s bullet-riddled body lay in the street for hours, before police officers allowed him to be removed, so he could find some dignity in his brutal, untimely and unjustified death.

Numerous stories have been relayed about Black parents warning their teenage sons how to behave if confronted by a police officer, but such guidance is probably given in vain. Mr. Castile informed the police officers that he had a legally-obtained and registered gun in one pocket, and would retrieve his wallet from the other. That was insufficient to save his life.

Can anyone truly say and believe that racism is not rampant in the United States? Can they not say that separate laws exist, if not officially on the books, but certainly in practice, for people of color, and whites?

Violence is seldom justified (note that this writer will not say it’s never justified), but in the current situation, it should not be a surprise. In any racist oligarchy, where power is consolidated among the wealthy few, and the rest are second class citizens, with people of color being in the lowest tier of that lower category, the status quo cannot be expected to be maintained forever. Today’s violence in Dallas will be met with increased violence towards Blacks by the white establishment, which can only increase the cycle of violence. Where this will all end is anyone’s guess, but it will leave a trail of blood and sorrow in its wake.

Originally published by TheTruther.

Black is White in the United States

It seems that United States society, somewhat like poor Alice, has eaten some kind of mushroom that is distorting reality. At first, this peculiar mushroom was a side dish, and those consuming it were considered the more bizarre elements of society. Today, however, it is the main course, greedily eaten whenever the opportunity presents itself.

And why does this writer think such a thing has happened? Let us look at what is, today, criticized, and what is embraced. The reader can then determine if a better explanation than the taking of some hallucinogenic exists.

  • Education: There was a time when it was thought beneficial to be educated. This would not only, it was said, get_a_brain_morans - resizedassure a better job, but would also make the educated person more well-rounded. While one may have focused on, say, accounting in college, required courses probably included world history, literature, a foreign language and other subjects not pertinent to balancing ledgers. Yet such a person could converse easily with a variety of people from different backgrounds; would have insights into different opinions, and would, it was thought, be open to new ideas.

Not so, say today’s politicians. Education is associated with ‘elitism’, an ‘I’m-better-than-you’ attitude that has no place in our society. After all, what good is ‘book learning’, when one can quote, out of context, a few passages of the Bible, and not need to think beyond that?

  • Tolerance: Many people can remember something referred to as ‘The Golden Rule’. This, simply stated, is: ‘Do unto others, as you would have others do unto you’. This is the foundation of most religious beliefs in the world today.

But in twenty-first century, U.S. society, why do we need such a thing as tolerance? What has it ever gotten us? Well, for one thing, it has gotten us foreigners! Yes, people who don’t speak English; people whose houses of worship don’t mosque - resizedhave crosses atop them; women so unenlightened as to want to keep their bodies covered, if one can imagine anything so backward!

And if that’s not bad enough, closets everywhere are opening, and gay people are coming out of them! Trying, by their very existence, to indoctrinate impressionable children into their way of life! Some of them even marry each other!

No, this tolerance thing has no place in U.S. society.

  • Respect: A general admiration for someone or something is usually thought of as a positive trait. One may disagree with a person, but still respect the thoughtful consideration of their position that has led them to draw the conclusions that they have. Respect is demonstrated by such things as not interrupting people; being able to disagree without criticizing, and treating them as one would like to be treated oneself (please see reference to ‘The Golden Rule’, above).

Today, who needs such old-fashioned things like respect? Much better to let one’s true feelings be known by referring to Hillary Clinton as ‘Crooked Hillary’ (this writer is not disputing that she is, indeed, crooked, but thinks there are better ways of getting that point across), or chanting ‘Dump Trump’. Clever, indeed, but not too respectful, but then again, like tolerance, respect is simply an outdated concept with no place in modern U.S. society.

  • Human rights: It is generally understood that certain rights, as outlined in the Declaration of Independence (remember that old thing?), are basic to every human being on the planet. The Declaration of Independence describes them broadly as life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Now, human rights are all well and good for some, but let’s not go around giving them to everyone. What do human rights and young black men wearing hoodies have to do with each other? Nothing! And while we’re on the topic, who do any unarmed black men think they are that they should have human rights? If police officers want to shoot them, stop murder by police - resizedthey can and should be able to do so. How else are they going to improve their shooting skills, in case they are called to a real crime scene, if they don’t have innocent blacks to practice on?

Related to this is the privilege of health care. Now, one may believe, naively, that all people are entitled to medical care, that it, too, is a human right. No so, say today’s talking heads. Candidates actually run for office with a pledge to reduce the number of people who get health care! This seems to this writer to be a most bizarre campaign promise.

  • Religion: For centuries, people have looked to a higher power, for comfort and guidance, in good times and bad. The various interpretations of sacred books such as the Bible and the Quran have resulted in multiple sects, most of them following the Golden Rule as well as they can. These religions taught tolerance and respect, so we can all see where they belong today.

But they are, actually, still around, and for most of those who choose to follow them, tolerance and respect are part of their daily lives. But others have chosen to use religion as a weapon with which to bludgeon anyone who disagrees with their position. This perversion has actually been used to pass anti-bullying laws that have exceptions for
‘religious oriented bullying’. Now, this concept is most puzzling to this writer. He is a Christian, active in the religion he embraced in his twenties. His familiarity with scripture makes the entire concept of ‘religious oriented bullying’
one that gives him a headache. Are there actually people walking the streets of our towns and cities who believe Jesus Christ was intolerant? Do they truly think he would endorse any kind of bullying? Alas, such people exist, and are in positions of influence, in the government, and the corporate-owned media.

So, let’s review the new ‘virtues’ of U.S. society: ignorance, intolerance, disrespect, selective human rights, and religion as a weapon. This is the ‘great melting pot’ of the United States, the ‘land of the free and the home of the brave’.

These attitudes are the very reason the U.S. is faced with two of the worst candidates in history in this year’s presidential election.  For example, Mrs. Clinton relies on the ignorance of the people to foster the idea that Palestine is a threat to Israel, when the reverse is clearly true. Intolerance for and disrespect of Muslims allow her to threaten Iran and oppress Palestine, and deny Palestinians their basic human rights.

Mr. Trump appealed to the basest instincts of an ignorant, intolerant population to propel himself to the GOP (Generally Opposed to Progress) nomination, and will continue this method as he attempts to gain the White House.

Can this be reversed? Although the situation has become dire, and the country seems to be at the brink of disaster, there is hope, and that hope resides in third party candidacies.  There are dozens of parties running candidates for president this year, and this writer encourages the reader to explore them. Of particular note is Gloria La Riva, of the Party for Socialism and Liberation (PSL). The 10-Point Program of the PSL is a treatise of practical, common sense
solutions to the many problems plaguing the 99% in the U.S. today, problems that benefit the powerful, governing 1%, thus removing from them any incentive to resolve them.

In an election year where there is clearly no lesser of two evils, a vote for either Mr. Trump or Mrs. Clinton is a throwaway vote; it doesn’t really matter which of the two is victorious. But a vote for a third-party candidate is significant, as it sends a message, one that will grow with time, that the status quo, the nomination of members of the established oligarchy, will no longer be accepted as a fait accompli.

Change does not happen overnight, but with the current situation in the U.S., it must not be delayed.

Originally published by TheTruther.

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.