Kerry, Netanyahu and the Settlements

Following the recent double-whammy against Israel, the first being the United Nations resolution condemning and demanding a stop to all settlement activity, and the second being United States Secretary of State John Kerry’s speech slamming Israeli policy, Israeli Prime Murderer Benjamin Netanyahu seems beside himself in fury.  Mr. Kerry, he lamented shortly after the secretary’s speech, “obsessively dealt with settlements and barely touched upon the root of the conflict”. He then made this incredible statement: “No one wants peace more than the people of Israel”. Well, there you are.

Has it really come to this? Has reality really disappeared from the international radar? The leader of a wealthy, prominent nation, one that receives more foreign aid from the U.S. than all other nations combined, actually spouts such nonsense, and is not be laughed off the international stage. Well, since Donald Trump is president-elect of the U.S., this writer supposes he has answered his own questions.

Mr. Netanyahu also said that Mr. Kerry only paid ‘lip service’ to condemning what he called Palestinian terrorism, and accused the secretary of “attacking the only democracy in the Middle East”.

The speech contained other pearls of twisted wisdom, but time and space prevent a thorough study of each of them. But let’s do our own fact-checking on the few mentioned herein, and see what we might be able to learn.

  • “No one want peace more than the people of Israel”.  Let’s see now. Israelis evict Palestinians from their homes for a variety of reasons: to live in them themselves; to destroy them to make room for Israeli-only ‘communities’ (a new word being bandied about to sanitize illegal settlements); to create roads that non-Israelis can’t even cross over, let alone drive on; to extend the apartheid wall. Israeli settlers commit crimes, including murder, against Palestinians, with nearly complete impunity, often protected by Israeli soldiers, who themselves commit unspeakable crimes against Palestinians, again with nearly complete impunity.

Israelis are free to carry deadly weapons with them wherever they go; non-Israelis are not.

Somehow, this does not sound to this writer to be the actions of people who want peace as badly as the Prime Murderer would have us all believe.

  • Netanyahu said that Mr. Kerry only paid ‘lip service’ to Palestinian terrorism. The fact that the secretary said anything about so-called ‘terrorism’ committed by the Palestinians was just an appeasement to Israel. Mr. Kerry should know that, under international law, an occupied people have the right to resist the occupation in any way possible. He should also know that the so-called ‘rockets’ that Hamas occasionally fires into Gaza are, in the words of scholar Norman Finkelstein, son of Holocaust survivors and an outspoken critic of Israel, nothing more than enhanced fireworks. These ‘rockets’ hardly compare to the deadly weapons the U.S. provides Israel to kill Palestinian men, women and children. And let’s be reminded that, in the summer of 2014, Israel fired more and far more deadly rockets into the Gaza Strip than Hamas had fired into Israel in the previous 14 years.

Mr. Netanyahu seems to have a very unusual definition of terrorism. One wonders if he would consider it terrorism if Palestinian soldiers routinely broke into the homes of Israelis in the middle of the night, ransacked the homes and arrested all the males in them over the age of 10. This writer feels that he would. Yet Israeli soldiers commit these crimes on a daily basis against Palestinians in the West Bank.

Would the Israeli Prime Murderer think it an act of terrorism, if Palestinians drove bulldozers up to the home of an Israeli family, and advised them to leave immediately, because their house was going to be demolished? Israel does this to Palestinians hundreds of times a year.

If Palestinians went to Israeli reservoirs, on which Israeli families relied for drinking water, and contaminated them with dead chickens and human feces, would the Prime Murderer feel that was an act of terrorism? Would he feel so if Palestinians simply destroyed those reservoirs? Israelis do this to Palestinians on a regular basis.

If Palestinians, in specially-equipped trucks, drove to a neighborhood elementary school, and sprayed sewage all over the school, adjacent residential buildings, and any people who couldn’t run out of the way quickly enough, would he object to that as terrorism? Palestinians suffer under this treatment from Israelis.

So, perhaps, in the twisted little mind of Mr. Netanyahu, it is only Israelis who can be victimized; after all, he will readily tell you, remember the Holocaust! Never again! Oh, that means ‘never again’ to Israelis; such crimes against others are just fine.

  • Kerry, according to the Prime Murderer, attacked “the only democracy in the Middle East”. One key element of democracy is this: “Guarantee of basic Human Rights to every individual person vis-à-vis the state and its authorities as well as vis-à-vis any social groups (especially religious institutions) and vis-à-vis other persons.” We have already mentioned roads that only Israelis can drive on. Also, non-Israelis in the judicial system have a separate set of rules. For people living under occupation, this includes arrest without charge; indefinite detention; no access to lawyers or family; lack of medical treatment, among others. Israelis, of course, cannot be arrested without charge, or held indefinitely. They have immediate and unfettered access to lawyers and family, and any medical needs they may have are fulfilled.

Another key element is freedom of speech and press. Israel glories in this freedom, as long as no one says anything critical of the state.

Democracy, indeed!

We have, perhaps, saved the best for last. Mr. Netanyahu said that Mr, Kerry:

  • “Obsessively dealt with settlements and barely touched upon the root of the conflict”. The Prime Murderer sounds like the bratty child in the school yard who, when asked why he struck another child, says “because he hit me back”. Palestine, with no army, navy or air force is occupied and oppressed by one of the most powerful nations in the world, back by the most powerful. Mr. Netanyahu says that Palestine refuses to recognize the Jewish state of Israel (how that concept squares with the idea of democracy has never been adequately explained to this writer), and that is key to the conflict. Yet Israel is slowly, although with increasing speed, annexing all of Palestine, with the ultimate goal of annihilating it, wiping it from existence, and replacing it with Israel.

With the election of the clown-like Mr. Trump as president of the U.S., there will no longer be any pretense that the U.S. is a neutral peace broker in the Middle East. Mr. Trump has said that Israel can build all the settlements it wants, and his political appointees are all in favor of destroying Palestine, as demanded by the wealthy and generous Israeli lobbies, AIPAC (Apartheid Israeli Political Affairs Committee) chief among them. Yet the recent vote in the U.N. Security Council shows international support for Palestine. Perhaps, just perhaps, with Mr. Trump as president, the rest of the world will recognize that it must act for the Palestinian people. Mr. Trump’s election, although an overall disaster for the world, may have a silver lining, if it motivates the global community to act for justice in Palestine.

Originally published on Counterpunch on January 6, 2017

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Palestine, the World, and Resolution 2334

Well, the sturm und drang caused by the passage of United Nations Resolution 2334, condemning Israeli settlements, is like the shot heard ‘round the world. From the apartheid nation of Israel, to the bought-and-paid-for-by-Israeli-lobbies halls of Congress, the cries of ‘foul’ are being heard loudly.  It is, indeed, as Macbeth might have said, much ‘sound and fury’, but it would be a mistake to say it signifies nothing.  However, what is signifies is not exactly what those shouting the loudest intended.

Let us look first at some of the provisions of the resolution. It demands, without any way of mandating adherence, that Israel “immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem”. Further, it states that the establishment of the settlements have “no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law.”

This is nothing new; all settlement activity outside of the U.N. – decreed 1947 borders have always been considered illegal by the international community. The United States has always vetoed similar resolutions. In 2011, then Ambassador Susan Rice, when vetoing one such resolution, said that ‘…we reject in the strongest terms the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlement activity. Continued settlement activity violates Israel’s international commitments, devastates trust between the parties, and threatens the prospects for peace. “ She further stated that the U.S. felt that the U.N. was not the place to resolve these differences, but that that should be accomplished through negotiations.

Such negotiations have been ongoing, off and on, for decades, and all that has been accomplished is the further theft of Palestinian land, mass arrests of Palestinian men, women and children, and the deaths of thousands of Palestinians. Once again, allow this writer to state that negotiations can only occur between two parties, each of which has something the other wants, that can only be obtained by surrendering something it has. Palestine wants a nation of its own, with secure borders. But it has nothing that Israel cannot take from it with complete impunity.

So, the U.N. Security Council, with 14 members voting in favor and the U.S. abstaining, passed this resolution. Israeli Prime Murder Benjamin Netanyahu has reduced ties with most of the nations among those 14 with which Israel has diplomatic relations.  He has harshly criticized the U.S., although this writer has missed any news about refusing a dime of the $4 billion the U.S. gives Israel each year. Mr. Netanyahu looks forward to dealing with an ego as big as his own, when Donald Trump, of all people, becomes president of the United States in a few weeks. We’ll all look forward to seeing how that goes.

Senator Lindsay Graham (R- SC), has demanded the defunding of the United Nations, as a result of this vote. He let loose with these pearls of wisdom: “The Obama-Kerry foreign policy has gone from naïve and foolish to flat-out reckless. With friends like these, Israel doesn’t need any enemies. I anticipate this vote will create a backlash in Congress against the United Nations. The organization is increasingly viewed as anti-Semitic and seems to have lost all sense of proportionality.”

So, in the good senator’s view, endorsing international law and human rights is ‘naïve and foolish and flat-out reckless’. One wonders if his view of the situation might be just a tad distorted by the $516,715 that pro-Israeli lobbies have donated to his campaigns, $101,850 of it this year alone.

But he is not alone in his condemnation. Texas Republican Ted Cruz said this: “These acts are shameful. They are designed to secure a legacy, and indeed they have: history will record and the world will fully understand Obama and Kerry as relentless enemies of Israel.” One really has to wonder why the president would pledge $40 billion dollars to his ‘enemy’ over a ten-year period.

But Mr. Cruz, too, has been the beneficiary of Israel lobby largesse. In 2016, this amounted to a whopping $309,281.  Is it any wonder he is in an uproar about criticism of this golden goose?

It’s not just Republicans who are in such dismay. New York Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer ‘tweeted’ this, following the vote: “Extremely frustrating, disappointing & confounding that the Administration has failed to veto the UN resolution.” Mr. Schumer’s 2016 take from Israeli lobbies was $386,901.  His career total is $1,179,800. So it is not surprising that he is ‘frustrated, disappointed and confounded’.

Former United Nations ambassador John Bolton was equally disquieted. In an article in the Wall Street Journal, he described Palestine as an “…imaginary state with zero economic viability.” He seems not to recognize that the reason Palestine has ‘zero economic viability’ is partly the result of the Israeli occupation that this resolution condemned. The other part of Palestine’s economic problems is the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip.

He also said that passage of Resolution 2334 is “… a hunting license to ostracize Israel from the international economic system, exposing it and its citizens to incalculable personal and financial risk”. Well, when the United Nations condemns the actions of any nation, it is certainly a reasonable step for other nations to ostracize that nation from the international economic system. And does he not consider the ‘incalculable personal and financial risks’ to which Palestinians are exposed on a daily basis, and have been for decades?

Mr. Netanyahu and his bestie, Mr. Trump, proclaim that a new era in Israel-US relations will begin on January 21. Yet ‘undoing’ a U.N. resolution is next to impossible, and based on the fact that 14 members of the Security Council voted in favor of Resolution 2334, there does not seem to be much appetite to even try.

The Israeli Prime Murderer is all in an uproar, accusing the U.S. of colluding with Palestine to pass the resolution. Oh, that the U.S. would collude with Palestine to accomplish anything positive for that beleaguered nation! Yet he himself pressured Egypt, which was originally scheduled to introduce the legislation, successfully preventing it from doing so. Apparently, collusion is fine if Israel does it.

So what does it all signify? Nations around the world can now take steps against Israel. There can be national economic boycotts, and the various laws passed in the U.S. and some European countries banning the BDS (Boycott, Divest and Sanction) movement, now have no legal leg to stand on, if they ever did. Talk of the illegality of settlements can be included in any negotiations on any topic that other nations have with Israel. Agreements about weapons sales, academic exchanges, business partnerships, etc., all can tie in restrictions, due to Israeli’s illegal settlement activities.

So let the U.S. Congress defund the United Nations. Ignore Mr. Netanyahu’s tantrums against nations that endorse human rights and international law. This resolution is, of course, only a step in the long march towards the freedom of the Palestinian people, but it is a significant and necessary one. Other nations must now act; history is on the side of justice, and justice will prevail.

Originally published on Counterpunch on December 30, 2016

 

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Trump and ‘Locker room talk’

As a United States citizen who fled the country for Canada after the 2004 presidential election, this writer looks with awe and horror at what is happening there now. He watched as the Democratic Party leaders arrogantly proclaimed their lack of interest in the will of the people, and anointed Hillary Clinton as their candidate for president, a highly flawed choice, one dragging tons of baggage from her long political career, who is disliked by large swaths of the public.

The Republicans, never a party to stray too far from the 1%, selected Donald Trump, an obnoxious billionaire businessman with no government experience, one whose record of so-called family values that the Party once held dear, is more than a bit shoddy. He, too, had a very low approval rating among voters, but it must have been somewhat higher that Secretary Clinton’s, since he was, sort of, victorious. Although he lost the popular vote, he won enough electoral college votes to be elected, and will assume office in January.

Weeks before the election, a taped conversation that Mr. Trump had with a television host by the name of Billy Bush, was made public. The now-President-elect discussed women somewhat extensively during this chat, and his words were shocking and crude, even for him.

Let’s look at a few of his statements.

  • Regarding groping women: “when you’re a star, they let you do it,”
  • Regarding an unnamed woman: “I moved on her, and I failed. I’ll admit it, I did try and f— her. She was married. I moved on her like a bitch, but I couldn’t get there. And she was married. Then all of a sudden I see her, she’s now got the big phony tits and everything. She’s totally changed her look.”
  • In reference to actress Arianne Zucker, who was there to escort Mr. Trump and Mr. Bush onto the set. “I’ve got to use some Tic Tacs, just in case I start kissing her,” Trump says. “You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait.” “And when you’re a star, they let you do it,” Trump says. “You can do anything.”
  • “Grab them by the p—y,” Trump says. “You can do anything.”

The backlash to this was swift, with several prominent Republicans condemning such statements, and withdrawing their endorsement of Mr. Trump. His spokeswoman, however, dismissed the controversy. Said she: “This was locker-room banter, a private conversation that took place many years ago”.

Other defenders of Mr. Trump have echoed the same sentiment. Retired surgeon, former candidate wannabe and darling of the Christian right, Ben Carson, in a CNN interview with Brianna Keilar, defended Mr. Trump’s comments as ‘normal banter between men’. This has been repeated, in one form or another, by his adoring, sexist fans, both men and women, in a variety of interviews.

This writer begs to differ. This is not ‘normal banter between men’. It is sexist in the extreme. Decent white men, in private, wouldn’t refer to Blacks using the ‘n’ word; nor would they make comical references to slavery, or the current trend of white police officers shooting unarmed Black men. Honorable straight men wouldn’t joke about the Matthew Shepard murder; respectable Christian men wouldn’t use derogatory terms to describe Muslims.  And principled men wouldn’t speak in such a way about women

But Mr. Trump isn’t decent, honorable, respectable or principled; he is the antithesis of these virtues, as he has repeatedly demonstrated.

So why does he get a free pass for his comments about women?

This says as much about half of the U.S. voting public as it does about Mr. Trump himself. Granted, many people who voted for him would do anything to keep Mrs. Clinton out of the White House, but choosing one awful candidate to prevent the election of one equally as awful has just gotten the U.S., and the world, in the mess it is now in. But there are some things that decent people simply can’t overlook, and Mr. Trump’s dismaying comments about women fall into that category.

Perhaps, although how escapes the comprehension of this writer, some people can overlook those comments. One supposes that if that is the case, one can also ignore his comments about Mexicans, including this gem: “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.”

And, as long as one can ignore that, it’s not a stretch to say one could also ignore his statements that he would ‘absolutely’ require all Muslims to register in a national database.

It is more than troubling that enough people found those statements sufficiently easy to ignore that they were willing to cast their vote for Mr. Trump on election day.

Between November 9, the day after Mr. Trump’s election, and November 16, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) reported a total of 701 incidents of what it describes as “hateful harassment” against  people of color, women, LGBT individuals, Muslims and other groups. Is this a coincidence? Shortly after the election, the KKK in North Carolina announced a parade in Mr. Trump’s honor. With that organization celebrating, the drastic increase in crimes against various minorities since the election cannot be seen as mere coincidence. His supporters have achieved what they wanted: a racist, sexist, Islamophobic, homophobic candidate elected president of the United States.

What is to be done? With a compliant Congress that will provide no check on his worst impulses at home or abroad, and a government non-responsive to the will of the people, the options for those of us who do not share Mr. Trump’s narrow, twisted views are limited. But there are a few:

  • Defend victims. In whatever situation we see them, those who are being harassed due to their sex, nationality, religion or sexual orientation should have defenders outnumbering harassers. Whether in a restaurant, store, walking down a street or anywhere else, we need to speak up for those who, as of November 8, became far more vulnerable.
  • Put down hate speech. When among any acquaintances, if people demean women, gays, or any other minority,  they need to know that we will not tolerate such conversation. We will not listen to ‘locker room talk’, as defined by Mr. Trump’s supporters, or any demeaning conversation about anyone.
  • Contact Congress. This isn’t a one-time event. When any policy is introduced that would marginalize any group, such as the shocking, hateful idea of registering all Muslims, our elected so-called representatives must hear from us immediately, and in the strongest terms. As mentioned previously, the U.S. government isn’t responsive to the wishes of the citizenry, but if Congress members think some policy they support will cost them a significant number of votes in the next election, they will change. This, of course, is not due to integrity, but to the Congressional need for self-preservation.

The United States and the world are in for a difficult several years. Even if Mr. Trump leaves office in four years, significant damage will already have been done; the era of the 1950s, when a woman’s place was in the home, Blacks were still in the back of the bus, and being publicly gay was a death sentence, will have returned. And there is little hope that a Democratic president will do much to resolve these issues, partly because these attitudes will quickly become well-entrenched, and partly because no known Democrat has an ounce of integrity anyway.

But in our own spheres, we can, and must, make a difference.

 

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Advice for the Democrats, That They Won’t Take

Yes, impossible as it sounds, Donald Trump is president-elect of the United States. He of the multiple wives and revenge-fueled actions; misogynist, homophobic, Islamophobic attitudes; an originator of the birther movement and xenophobe extraordinaire will soon inhabit the White House. That is a frightening thought, but add to that the fact that with both houses of Congress in Republican hands, there is no reasonable check on Mr. Trump’s impulses. And since many members of Congress disparaged, insulted and refused to support him during the campaign, they will be crawling on glass as penance as they approach him to regain favor, and will not want to thwart anything he may propose.

And what will this mean? Well, he has vowed to abolish the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, thus depriving at least 20 million people of basic health care. He said he will nullify the Iran nuclear deal, destroying the trust of European allies in the word of the U.S, and bringing the world closer to nuclear disaster. He will prevent any Muslims from entering the country, provide greater impunity (if that is even possible) to the nation’s racist police, put an end to same-sex marriage, and, in many ways, bring the nation back to the era of the 1950s. For those who don’t remember those days, segregation was the law of the land, a woman’s place was in the home, anyone suspected of any communist leanings was publicly persecuted, and the Cold War was in full swing. Ah, yes! The good old days!

Predictions of the demise of the Republican Party were certainly premature; it is now the Democrats who need to take a careful look in the mirror. The fact that they probably won’t is neither here nor there.  But, on the off chance that someone in the Party thinks doing so is a good idea, we will provide them with a bit of guidance, to send them on their way.

First, they might want to rethink this whole ‘super delegate’ thing. Yes, it seemed to them that Hillary Clinton somehow ‘deserved’ the nomination, and why let the people decide such a thing? What do they know? And while Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders proved himself to be nothing more than a common politician, with no more integrity than that implies, this wasn’t necessarily common knowledge during the primary campaign. But, the Democratic Party, in a most undemocratic way, set about to torpedo his chances, and install Hillary Clinton as their chosen one.

We must ask: why did they think this was a good idea? What was it about Mrs. Clinton that made the powers-that-be in the Party think she was their savior? She and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, have enriched themselves through their ‘service’ to the nation. She carried along the campaign more baggage than a freight train. She was disliked and distrusted by large swaths of the population.  Yet this was the candidate who was going to break the glass ceiling, proving to all young girls that there were no gender-based limits. It would be she who would carry on President Obama’s legacy of healthcare for Americans, women’s’ rights, marriage equality, and other, less savory policies, like murder by drone, oppression of the Palestinians, etc., etc.

But. alas, the little people had other ideas about all this, and decided that a racist, misogynist, inexperienced blowhard was a better choice. We all know that, to hear the Democrats and their fawning minions tell it, the GOP is the Party of the rich, and the Democrats, of the working man and woman. Too bad those decision-makers have such an obstructed view from their ivory towers, and can’t quite see that, Republican or Democrat, they are different iterations of the same tired programs.

Second, the Democrats might try differentiating themselves from the Republicans in some significant ways. For example, both Mr. Trump and Mrs. Clinton, and a variety of other candidates, bowed and scraped before their Israeli masters at the annual AIPAC (Apartheid Israel Political Affairs Committee) convention in March; Mr. Sanders skipped that event, and instead sent a letter, criticizing Israeli oppression of the Palestinians. This did nothing to sink his candidacy; the internal workings of the Democratic Party did that to him. So, including as part of the platform, perhaps, some statement about making further financial assistance to Israel contingent upon that country adhering to international law and improving its dismal human rights record, might have been attractive to many voters. Mirroring the Republican policy doesn’t provide much choice.

Third, going back at least to the era of the 1960s and ‘70’s, as the Vietnam War raged, the Democratic Party eventually began to embrace the controversial concept of peace. Now, this, of course, was never fully adapted; who in their right mind wants peace over war? Whoever heard of such a thing? The U.S., we all know, must flex its military muscle almost constantly, in order to keep the arms manufacturers happy. But the idea of ending barbaric drone warfare, not interfering in the internal affairs of other nations, and perhaps even dismantling some of the U.S’. nuclear arsenal might have had more appeal than the tired, pro-war policies of Hillary Clinton.

Following the defeat of the odious Mitt Romney by Mr. Obama in 2012, there was much talk about the need for the Republican Party to redefine itself, to, perhaps, even, become more inclusive. Nothing ever came of that high-sounding rhetoric, and remaining as it was seems now to have been a formula for success. So, perhaps the Democrats will do the same; look for someone to blame for this electoral disaster, talk about how to prevent it in the future, and then carry on with business as usual.

Politics in the U.S. isn’t about governing; it’s about keeping high-paying, low-responsibility jobs. After all, for most of us, there are a certain number of days required for us to attend our jobs; we may have a few weeks of paid vacation, but other than that, we are expected to be working. Not so for elected officials. Also, most of us have certain deliverables we need to produce: lesson plans, software programs, various products, etc. Again, elected officials have no such responsibilities. And if the wealthy individuals and organizations that donate to politicians’ election campaigns are happy, what else matters?

The next couple of months will prove interesting, and will provide us with a view of the next few years. From where this writer sits, it isn’t looking pretty. But the view of U.S. governance has never been very pleasant, since an oligarchy masquerading as a democracy can never conceal its true nature. And with the wild card called Donald Trump due to move into the White House, what happens next is anyone’s guess.

Originally published by TheTruther.US.

 

 

 

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The Press and Palestine

That most illustrious of all publications, the New York Post, sounded a dire warning this week, announcing that Israel can no longer count on the unqualified support of the Democratic Party. In true, Zionist fashion, the rag said that the recent election “… could be the last US presidential election that Israelis don’t have to watch with existential dread”.

Well, we all know that just about everything is an existential threat to apartheid Israel, from the Iran nuclear deal, that regulates that nation’s nuclear advancement, to criticism by the world soccer organization.  And that is just one of the gems available in the article. As this writer is wont to do, he will look at a few more, in some detail.

  • Minnesota Representative Keith Ellison, potentially the next chairman of the Democratic National Committee, is, apparently, not admired by The Post. The article says this: “Ellison ‘has organized letters urging pressure on Israel, and was an advocate of drawing lessons from the UN Goldstone Report following the 2009 Gaza War’.”

Does this seem bizarre? Should not lessons be learned from a report issued by the United Nations? The Post mentions, of course, that Richard Goldstone eventually backtracked on some aspects of the report, but didn’t mention the political pressure he was under to do so.

  • “On a trip to Israel last summer, Ellison posted a photo of a sign in Hebron declaring Israel to be an apartheid state and land thief.”

Well, let’s see: ‘Israeli only’ roads, many of them that non-Israelis can’t even cross, let alone drive on; separate laws for Israelis and non-Israelis, with punishment for similar crimes being lenient for Israelis, and extremely harsh for everyone else; military protection of Israelis while in the act of committing crimes against non-Israelis; fostering of hatred, from elementary school on up, of anyone not Israeli. Sounds like apartheid to this writer.

And what about land theft? Well, forcing people to vacate houses they own, with no recompense or possible redress, taking the land and building new residences there that only Israelis can occupy, sounds like both land theft and apartheid. So what point, one asks, was The Post trying to make?

  • Mr. Ellison apparently adds insult to injury. The article states:  “He has also called for Israel to end the blockade on the Hamas-run Gaza Strip — despite the fact that Gaza-based terrorists have launched over 11,000 rocket attacks on Israeli civilians since Israel withdrew from the strip in 2005”.

But the article doesn’t mention the fact that during 52 days in the summer of 2014, Israel fired more rockets into the Gaza Strip that had been fired into Israel in the previous 14 years. Nor does it comment on the strength of the Palestinian ‘rockets’. Dr. Norman Finkelstein, son of Holocaust survivors and an ardent supporter of Palestinian rights, calls those ‘rockets’, “enhanced fireworks”. Israel, on the other hand, has the most powerful, deadly weaponry on the planet today, provided by the United States.

  • “Israel discovered that Hamas had built a vast system of underground tunnels from Gaza to Israel in preparation for mass terror attacks.”

With the brutal blockade of the Gaza Strip by Israel, such dangerous items as crayons and pasta have been prevented from entering Gaza. The tunnels have been a means of bringing supplies into the area.

It must also be remembered that an oppressed people, according to the United Nations, has both the right and the responsibility to resist the oppressor. Palestine has no army, no navy and no air force. Israel has the fourth most powerful military machine in the world, back by the most powerful. If one wants to discuss ‘mass terror attacks’, one might consider the 2014 Israeli bombing of schools, hospitals, UN refugee centers, houses of worship and press vehicles and buildings, that killed over 2,000 Palestinians, including over 500 children, as young a infancy.

  • The article also states the following, which seems to cause great dismay to The Post’s editors: “According to the Pew Research Center, Democrats sympathize more with Israel than the Palestinians by a 43-29 margin — but that’s far closer than just a few years ago. And among liberal Democrats, it flips: Liberals prefer the Palestinians by a 40-33 margin’. And further: Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders “…had massive support among young liberals, who are increasingly hostile to Israel”.

The fish wrapper bemoans this trend, but somehow neglects to explore why it might be. Could some of those issues mentioned above – harsh discrimination in Israel against all non-Israelis, apartheid laws, violence against defenseless people, etc.  – perhaps have something to do with this growing hostility to Israel?

The new Republican administration is almost gleeful in its disdain for the human rights struggles of the Palestinian people, and the anticipated political appointees are all Israeli cheerleaders. Hopefully, Mr. Ellison and other progressives will be able to at least prevent the complete annexation of the West Bank by Israel, and stall another aerial bombardment. In two years, it is likely that the Democrats will regain control of Congress, and while one can hardly expect them to be champions of human rights (they are only champions of their own bottom lines), at least things may revert to the conditions currently existing under President Barack Obama. And, as more progressives gain office, which will hopefully occur now that the Clinton dynasty has finally been aborted, there may be a glimmer of hope for Palestine once more. That is, of course, assuming that the damage to that country can be minimized for the next two years. That, sadly, is not a sure thing by any means.

Originally published by Counterpunch.

 

 

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Romney and ‘Gravitas’

Romney and ‘Gravitas’

CNN, an entertainment venue masquerading as a news channel, reported on November 22 that President-elect Donald Trump (this writer still finds that, in itself, incredible), is giving serious consideration to naming former Massachusetts governor and 2012 Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney as Secretary of State. CNN states that “a Romney appointment would give Trump instant gravitas abroad.”

This writer has never felt that his memory is superior to that of an average person; he reads or hears things, and many of them stay, somewhere, in his mind, available for recall when necessary. Reading this statement by CNN, he was reminded of Mr. Romney’s trip abroad during his unsuccessful campaign for the presidency. At that time, CNN didn’t appear to believe that said trip brought much ‘gravitas’ to the campaign. A quick internet search confirmed that for him.

On July 31, 2012, CNN issued this headline: “Was Romney’s trip ‘a great success’ or gaffe-filled disaster?” The article states the following: “In the estimation of Mitt Romney and his top campaign aides, there were no gaffes, no mistakes, no ill-advised statements on the Republican candidate’s overseas trip.

“The poorly timed comments at the Olympics? No big deal. The remarks in Israel that inflamed the Palestinians? Overblown. The off-color words to the press by a Romney aide Tuesday? In the heat of the moment.

“The trip that was supposed to show off the former governor’s foreign policy expertise during an election year has been plagued with distractions as well as marked by substantive highlights.”

How this adds ‘gravitas’ to the Trump Administration is a mystery to this writer, despite any coincidental ‘substantive highlights’.

However, let us attempt to unravel it, by looking more closely at CNN’s own words from four years ago. Perhaps, like Sherlock Holmes or Hercule Poirot, we will be able to find the missing clue, and declare CNN accurate in its current estimation of this potential appointment. When pigs fly. But here goes, anyway.

  • “For Romney, the trouble began in Britain, when he publicly questioned whether London was ready to host the Summer Olympic Games. British Prime Minister David Cameron retorted that it was far more difficult to organize the Olympics in a world capital than in the ‘middle of nowhere,’ a not-so-subtle dig at Romney’s Games in Salt Lake City. London tabloids dubbed Romney ‘Mitt the Twit.’”

So, ‘Mitt the Twit’ as Secretary of State will be welcomed in the United Kingdom, despite putting his foot in his mouth during his last public visit there. David Cameron is gone, so maybe it doesn’t matter. Unfortunately for the twit, however, the tabloids remain.

  • “…Romney also outraged Palestinians leaders with his talk of Jerusalem as the undisputed capital of Israel. He commented at a fundraiser in the same city that “culture” can partly explain the economic disparity between Israelis and Palestinians, inflaming the already raw feelings in the region.”       Kissing up to Israel is, of course, required fare for U.S. politicians. After all, AIPAC (Apartheid Israel Public Affairs Committee) funnels countless millions of dollars to their campaigns, and who cares about international law and human rights when campaign donations are on the line? So, Mr. Romney’s kowtowing to Israel is par for the course

But the U.S. stands almost alone in its belief that Jerusalem is the ‘undisputed capital of Israel’, so such a statement is bound to rankle foreign leaders outside of Mr. Romney’s Israeli audience. And the idea that ‘culture’ explains the economic disparity between Palestine and Israel would be laughable, if it didn’t demonstrate an incredible degree of ignorance. Do not occupation, blockade and apartheid laws, not to mention $4 billion in U.S. aid to Israel, compared to none to Palestine, have anything to do with this economic disparity.

  • “After Romney paid tribute at the Polish Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, members of the traveling press attempted to ask about some of his perceived gaffes, only to be shouted down by the campaign’s traveling press secretary.

“’Kiss my ass. This is a holy site,’ Rick Gorka barked at one reporter. ‘Shove it, he said to another. Gorka later called two reporters and apologized.”

Well, what a high degree of professionalism! Just what any international leader would want from a U.S. president. It occurs to this writer more like juveniles on a middle-school playground, shouting insults about each other’s mother.

But now, four years later, this is the man who will add instant ‘gravitas’ to the stumbling, racist, xenophobic, homophobic, misogynist incoming administration of Donald Trump.

It is said that politics makes strange bedfellows. The current article about Mr. Trump and Mr. Romney shows them cordially shaking hands after their meeting. Five short months ago, CNN reported that Mr. Romney was less than enthusiastic about the possibility of a Trump presidency. Said he: “Presidents have an impact on the nature of our nation, and trickle-down racism, trickle-down bigotry, trickle-down misogyny, all these things are extraordinarily dangerous to the heart and character of America.” Mr. Trump, now apparently one of his ‘besties’, Tweeted this in response:  “Mitt Romney had his chance to beat a failed president but he choked like a dog. Now he calls me racist-but I am least racist person there is.”

In an article from March, 2016, headed ‘Romney Implores: Bring Down Trump”, CNN reported this: “’Here’s what I know: Donald Trump is a phony, a fraud,’ Romney said. ‘His promises are as worthless as a degree from Trump University. He’s playing members of the American public for suckers: He gets a free ride to the White House, and all we get is a lousy hat.

“Romney said that ‘dishonesty is Donald Trump’s hallmark,’ pointing to his ‘bullying, the greed, the showing off, the misogyny, the absurd third-grade theatrics.’”

This is the man that Mr. Romney, who this writer hoped was permanently relegated to a minor footnote in the annals of U.S. history, is willing to represent as the U.S.’s top diplomat.

We started this conversation to solve the mystery of CNN’s statement that Mr. Romney’s appointment as Secretary of State would bring ‘instant gravitas’ to Mr. Trump. Let’s summarize, and then draw conclusions:

  • Mr. Romney made of fool of himself internationally in 2012.
  • The former governor has made no bones about his utter disdain for Mr. Trump.
  • He campaigned hard to prevent Mr. Trump from obtaining the GOP (Generally Opposed to Progress) nomination.

The conclusion that this writer draws from all this is that CNN does not report the news, but rather attempts to influence opinion. If CNN says that Mr. Romney is a statesman, who will be a great asset to a Trump Administration, and is respected the world over, then it must be so. Why look any deeper than that one, current news article?

CNN may say that the emperor is wearing a stunning new wardrobe, but that wouldn’t change that fact that he is, in fact, naked. The world is in for a rocky ride under a Trump presidency, and Mr. Romney will only worsen it. His arrogance, perhaps eclipsed by that of Mr. Trump, but perhaps not; his twisted worldview and his obvious hypocrisy do not bode well for a peaceful world where international law and human rights are held sacred. Yet his possible appointment as Secretary of State is only in keeping with Mr. Trump’s idea of how the world should be ordered. Heaven help us all.

 

 

 

 

 

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The Democrats’ Great Mistake

Donald Trump is president-elect. It is still difficult for this writer to string those words together. He watched the unfolding disaster on election night, knowing, when he sat down to his computer screen, that, regardless of who won, it would be a disaster. He had not, however, anticipated this particular one.

Democrat Hillary Clinton appears as of this writing to have won the popular vote, but Mr. Trump prevailed in the archaic, outdated and counterproductive electoral college. One hopes he doesn’t see his win as a mandate, but this is Donald Trump we are talking about, so we might as well forget that idea.

But how did this happen? How did an obnoxious, egotistical blowhard like Mr. Trump manage to be elected president of the United States? He discusses women in the most repulsive, derogatory manner. He has insulted Mexicans and wants to ban Muslims from entering the country. He has vowed to remove health care from at least 20 million U.S. citizens. He has wondered aloud why the country has nuclear weapons if it isn’t going to use them. The frightening list goes on.

Yet how this came to pass isn’t really a secret; self-deluding Democrats may wonder about it, but the evidence is clear: the Democratic Party offered a deeply flawed candidate.

Let’s go back even earlier than the primary season, to find the source of this crucial error. The Democrats created the ‘super delegate’ model, providing all Democratic members of Congress, party bigwigs and insiders with nominating votes that had no accountability to rank-and-file party members. As a result, Hillary Clinton entered the primary season with hundreds of pledged delegates. Then, regardless of the outcome in state primaries and caucuses, these delegates were not obligated to vote for the candidate who won; they were free to vote for anyone they chose, and nearly all of them were committed to Hillary Clinton.

This causes at least two problems: 1) a candidate who doesn’t have widespread support (Mrs. Clinton) can be nominated, and 2), if that happens, Democrats who voted for the opponent (Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders) for the nomination feel cheated, and, rather than falling into line like good little soldiers, seek out a third-party alternative, or just opt to stay home on election day.

Now, let’s look at the candidate herself. Hillary Clinton has a long and storied history in U.S. politics and governance. She was twice First Lady of Arkansas during her husband’s two, non-consecutive terms as governor there, and then was First Lady of the U.S. for eight years. She was twice elected to the senate, representing New York State, resigning midway through her second term to become Secretary of State, a role she held for four years.

Each of these roles deserve some consideration.

Following Governor Bill Clinton’s defeat for governor after his first term, it was Mrs. Clinton who engineered his comeback. This certainly indicates an ambitious and politically savvy woman, both traits needed for elective office. Yet during his time in office, it was more than subtly suggested that he directed lucrative government contracts to the law firm that employed her. There was never any proof; neither of them was charged with any wrongdoing, but this was just the first of the shadows of impropriety, bordering on illegality, that would haunt her through the 2016 election.

Additionally, during the time of Mr. Clinton’s tenure as governor, Mrs. Clinton invested the modest sum of $1,000.00 in cattle futures. At the end of ten months, when she decided to stop trading, without having any training or experience in this area, she had turned that amount into $100,000.00.

Now, that could be considered luck, or simply being a ‘quick study’. No one has ever accused Mrs. Clinton of being stupid.

At one period during this ten-month stretch of time, Mrs. Clinton was in debt for over $100,000 to a financial services firm. Typically, in such a circumstance, the financial services firm would require the investor to pay the funds, or offer some collateral against the debt. This, however, was not done in this case. What, one might have asked at the time, might the firm have received in return for its generosity towards the governor’s wife?  The shadow, therefore, lengthened.

As First Lady of the United States, she didn’t fulfill the traditional role. She was considered a close advisor for her husband, and was appointed by him to develop a healthcare plan. This also caused deep resentment against her; she had no official position in office, but was given a major responsibility.

During these years, she was accused of orchestrating the dismissal of the White House travel staff, so that her own friends and those of her husband could replace them. Although questioned, she was never charged, but the prosecutor said that, while many of her statements were ‘factually false’, there was insufficient evidence to prosecute.

In June of 1996, Mrs. Clinton was implicated in what became known as ‘Filegate’. Craig Livingstone, director of the White House’s Office of Personnel Security, had requested and received from the FBI information about a large number of individuals, mainly advisors from previous, Republican administrations. Mrs. Clinton was accused of requesting, or authorizing the request of, these files, for political purposes. She and the president were eventually exonerated.

During Mr. Clinton’s re-election campaign, Mrs. Clinton was implicated in a scheme to obtain donations to the Democratic National Committee from China, in violation of U.S. law.

In 1996, Mrs. Clinton became the first, and to date, only, First Lady to testify before a Federal grand jury. This was in the investigation into possible obstruction of justice at the White House regarding an inquiry into her former Arkansas law firm.

On the day before Mr. Clinton left office, he pardoned 450 people convicted of various crimes. Included in this number were two people who each paid Mrs. Clinton’s brother, Hugh Rodman, $200,000.00 to represent their cases for clemency. One can imagine that Mr. Rodman may have had an ‘in’ to the president, that not every lawyer had.

When Mrs. Clinton decided to run for senate from New York, she had to make a change in her life: she had to establish residency in a state in which she had never lived. Despite the fact that she was the first and, thus far, only First Lady to run for elective office after her husband’s term as president ended, being a senator from Arkansas, where she lived for many years, apparently was not as potent a springboard to her further ambitions as being senator from NY would be. So, she and Mr. Clinton bought a house in New York, she announced her candidacy, and won.

Before she threw her hat into the ring, the most likely person to run was Representative Nita Lowey. However, as soon as Mrs. Clinton expressed an interest in running, Ms. Lowey stepped aside. This brought about more than a little criticism; Ms. Lowey had been a member of the House for ten years, and Mrs. Clinton had held no elective office.

It is interesting to note Ms. Lowey’s sentiments during the most recent primary season. She, of course, was a ‘super-delegate’, who had pledged to vote to nominate Mrs. Clinton. When her spokesperson was asked if she would switch her vote, should Mr. Sanders win the NY primary, this was the response: “Absolutely not… Hillary Clinton is Congresswoman Lowey’s friend, colleague and her constituent, and she is behind her 100%.” This ‘loyalty’, which disregards the will of the people does nothing to endear Mrs. Clinton to the average voter.

When Mrs. Clinton was Secretary of State, Mr. Clinton’s charitable foundation received millions of dollars in donations, not only from huge, multinational corporations, but also from foreign governments. The appearance of conflicts of interest in this situation is too strong to be overlooked.

More recently, her use of a private server for highly-confidential emails, and the resulting FBI investigations, further cast doubt on her integrity, and added to the general consensus that she sees herself above the law.

The millions of people who despise Mrs. Clinton will say that no one can be under so many different clouds of suspicion, and be completely innocent. Her countless fawning minions will say that, despite all attempts to besmirch her good name, she has never been charged with anything.

Let’s look now at some of her policies that may have been troubling for the U.S. voter.

It is said that Mrs. Clinton was the mastermind of the decision to overthrow the government of Libya, which has caused untold suffering in that nation. No one believes that Muammar Gaddafi was a choir boy, but the death toll since his overthrow far exceeds the numbers that died during his reign. And Mrs. Clinton’s flippant attitude about his death also repels many people.

After the September 11 attacks on the United States, Mrs. Clinton voted to authorize the illegal and immoral invasion of Iraq. This invasion killed at least a million people, sent millions more into refugee camps, spawned a civil war, and left Iraqis in dire situations.

She fully supports Israel, despite its ongoing violations of numerous international laws, and ignores the legitimate claims to basic human rights of the Palestinian people. She says nothing in opposition of the draconian, apartheid laws of Israel, or the brutal killings of unarmed, innocent, Palestinian men, women and children by Israeli soldiers and settlers. She is silent about the illegal Israeli settlements.

Mrs. Clinton supports the foreign fighters opposing the government of Syria. She has accused Russia of crimes in Syria, ignoring the greater crimes of the U.S. in that country. She says nothing about the barbaric human rights record of Saudi Arabia, with which the U.S. has full diplomatic relations.

Now, there are many factors that impact the result of an election. The popularity of the incumbent; the state of the economy; the personality of the candidates, etc., all play into the decision-making process of the voters. This year, the Democrats offered a candidate:

  • Who is the quintessential Washington insider;
  • With a long history of activities that apparently were just short of illegal;
  • That had the demonstrated support of party bosses, but not of the rank-and-file voter;
  • Who supported a war that much of the world opposed, that was built on transparent lies, and
  • With a long record of supporting war.

This shouldn’t imply that the Republicans nominated an angel; seldom, if ever, has a more unsuitable candidate been elected president. But the voting public wasn’t interested in more Clinton: eight years of Bill, and Hillary being in the public eye for decades, was simply more than enough. She could not be seen as a ‘change agent’; no one perceives her as being able to ‘shake things up’.

Although Mr. Sanders showed his true colors when he gave Mrs. Clinton a glowing endorsement at the Democratic convention, after the nomination had been stolen from him, and after he’d said she was unfit to be president, he was by far the stronger candidate than she. But the strength of the ultimate U.S. ‘power couple’ far outweighed logical considerations. Mrs. Clinton had been waiting in the wings for years, the curtain was soon to rise, and she wasn’t going to miss her cue. She and the Democratic Party didn’t realize that the audience had already departed.

 

 

 

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The First Woman President: We Can Do Better than This

Well, with just a few weeks to the 2016 presidential election, the voters seem to be hesitantly lining up behind (‘rallying around’ denotes some level of enthusiasm, and is really too strong a term to use here) what many consider to be the less loathsome of two loathsome choices. These are people who overlook the blood, carnage and death that Hillary Clinton left in her wake from her time in the U.S. senate, and as Secretary of State. They focus, instead, on Donald Trump’s repugnant misogyny, his leaked comments about women, and the many women who have come forward to accuse him.

So, it does appear that the U.S. will follow-up on the history-making election of an African-American, with the history-making election of a woman. But does it have to be her? Surely, in a nation with hundreds of millions of people, there are women more qualified than one so wealthy, self-centered, and out of touch with the common man and woman, owned by corporate lobbyists, beholden to every individual or corporation whoever wrote her a check in excess of $50,000, who disdains human rights and international law. Somewhere, there must be a woman qualified to lead the United States out of the current corrupt, war-mongering mess it has gotten itself into.

Well, this writer wouldn’t bring up such a serious problem, unless he had an answer to it.  A woman who is the antithesis of Hillary Clinton is, in fact, running for president, not as a Republican or Democrat, two sides of the same ugly coin, but representing the Party for Socialism and Liberation. He refers, of course, to Gloria La Riva.

gloria_la_riva

He first learned of Ms. La Riva when looking for a third-party candidate for whom to vote, being ready to fling himself off a bridge before voting for Mrs. Clinton or Mr. Trump. He subsequently had the opportunity of interviewing her, after studying her platform. Recently, she was interviewed by Abby Martin on ‘The Empire Files’, and once again demonstrated that she is an intelligent, articulate woman who is able to describe realistic solutions to the complex problems the U.S. has brought onto itself and the world.

On October 25, Ms. La Riva will be one of three (thus far) candidates scheduled for a presidential debate sponsored by ‘Free and Equal’, in Boulder, Colorado. She, of course, is not allowed into the three-ring circus known as the Republican and Democratic presidential debates. No, only the two aforementioned clowns can perform there, because Ms. La Riva, Dr. Jill Stein and Gary Johnson don’t qualify with a large enough standing in the polls. Of course, those rules are set by the Democrats and Republicans. One might think that some independent organization would sponsor debates to which all potentially-viable candidates were invited. Oh, wait; an organization has done so. It’s known as ‘Free and Equal’. Unfortunately, Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Trump are too busy with their own program to guest-star on another one. After all, aren’t three debates enough for the little people? What do they expect? Transparency? Choice? Ha!

So, does this writer think that, if the stars align just right, Ms. La Riva will be elected president? He is many things, but naïve is not one of them. Yet with the major parties offering repulsive candidates, a vote for Ms. La Riva and her sensible platform is the only vote that makes sense to him.

If we want to look for a glimmer of hope for the United States, perhaps we should look to the youth. In California, several high schools recently held a mock election (a good term for the farce that approaches on November 8). Of the nearly 190,000 votes cast, Ms. La Riva received about 7%, or approximately 13,000 votes. It is noteworthy that, despite the media blackout on all third parties except for Dr. Stein and Mr. Johnson, and media coverage of them being limited at best, fully 7% would vote for the Socialist Party candidate. As Ms. La Riva said: “Students are increasingly aware of the problems in their society. They know when their family is struggling to get by, or doesn’t have stable housing or enough food to live on. Students experience the pain and insecurity of capitalism.” The social media generation, which relies less on the corporate-owned media for news, may be what saves the U.S., if it isn’t simply too late to do so.

trump-and-clintonWhen this writer announces to friends and associates his intention to vote for Ms. La Riva, he hears the same tired objections to third-party voting that he himself made in previous years: you are throwing away your vote; you are drawing a vote from the lesser terrible candidate, thus ensuring the election of the more terrible one, etc., etc. You need to vote for Hillary Clinton, he is told, otherwise a racist, misogynist, Islamophobic, homophobic blowhard will be elected president, with his finger on the nuclear button! Or, you must vote for Donald Trump, otherwise a corrupt, war-mongering, hypocritical liar will be elected president, with her finger on the nuclear button! Blah, blah, blah.

Well, please allow this writer to repent and apologize; he sees clearly now that to which he was previously blind. Or, just perhaps, there was some semblance of choice in previous elections, but he will leave his justifications for another time.

Voting for either of the 1% candidates to which we are subjected by the so-called major parties only entrenches them further, and enables them to keep their monopoly on elections.

By voting for Gloria La Riva, this writer is endorsing significant change, and indicating to the powers that be that their crimes will no longer be universally overlooked. He is helping to lay the groundwork for a new party, not just something established or propped up by the Democrats to appear to offer the voters a choice, as the Republican Party self-destructs. With his vote for Ms. La Riva, he hopes to motivate others to look at alternatives, and not just for a more ‘liberal’ Democrat (does such a creature even exist today?), but someone who offers real change, who respects domestic and international law, and recognizes the basic human rights of every man, woman and child on the planet. This is not something we see among the Democrats or Republicans; they may be a somewhat distorted mirror image of each other, but they are a mirror image nonetheless.

Gloria La Riva proposes smashing that mirror, and establishing a United States based on justice for all, an end to the oligarchy, and making the country a responsible global citizen, rather than the frightening global thug it is today.

Throwing away his vote? Not at all. He is pleased to cast it for Ms. La Riva.

 

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The Olympics: Nationalism at its Worst

Once again the world is being subjected to the periodic nationalist orgy known as the Olympics. Here, we are told, participating nations around the globe are all equal, and send their best athletes for a friendly competition, where nothing but sportsmanship counts, and any and all other differences are not even considered. After trying their very best in each of many different sports, the top three are honored with a gold, silver or bronze medal, something he or she can look proudly on for generations to come.

This writer hates to burst such a pretty balloon (actually, he doesn’t hate doing so at all), but once one has passed the age where Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and the tooth fairy have all been relegated to the status of pleasant childhood memories, the same should be done with the farce of the Olympics.

Let’s look for a minute at a few examples.

Thirty-one-year old U.S. citizen Michael Phelps has now won more gold medals in Olympic games than any other athlete in history. Americans are so proud of his ability to swim faster than anyone else, and his savings account will no doubt increase greatly, as ever more companies seek his endorsement. This is certainly a success story; a young man who grew up in a middle class neighborhood in Maryland, and who began swimming after being diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity disorder, as an outlet for his energies. We will forget for the moment his multiple arrests for impaired driving; what on earth does that matter, when he can swim so fast?

Now let us look at another Olympic swimmer, Yursa Mardini, age 18. Ms. Mardina is a Syrian refugee, who, perhaps, didn’t have the same advantages as Mr. Phelps. She refers to being in the Olympics as a ‘once in a lifetime’ opportunity; please note that the current games are Mr. Phelp’s fifth foray into an Olympic pool. And training was sometimes difficult for Ms. Mardini, not because she didn’t have sufficient energy or motivation, but because of other factors. Said she: “…sometimes we couldn’t train because of the war. Or sometimes you had training but there was a bomb in the swimming pool.” Mr. Phelps, once caught with a bong in his mouth, never had a bomb in his pool.

But perhaps Ms. Mardini did have an advantage. When fleeing Turkey for Greece, along with nineteen other people in a boat designed to hold six, the motor failed. She and two others, the only people on the boat who could swim, entered the cold water and pushed the boat for three hours until reaching safety. Think of the lessons in endurance, stamina and determination! Poor Mr. Phelps was probably out getting high when Ms. Mardini was involved in this rigorous practice session.

Early on, it was reported that athletes from Lebanon riding a bus from one venue to another, refused to allow Israeli athletes to board. Is this not a lack of sportsmanship? Should not the Lebanese athletes have allowed representatives from a brutal, murderous, apartheid regime in violation of countless international laws to have ridden with them in the sacred name of sportsmanship? After all, aren’t there times when civilized people just put the thought of slaughtered children, blown apart when playing on a beach, or of families bombed when taking refuge in United Nations shelters, behind them? Shouldn’t there be occasions, such as sporting events, when such trivial things as carpet-bombing residences, hospitals and houses of worship should just be ignored?

Swimming and bus rides; where else should one ignore violations of human rights? Well, how about martial arts? Egyptian Olympian Islam Shihabi was defeated by an Israeli, and after the Judo match, refused to shake his hand. Again, shock and outrage by nationalists who, every few years, become enamored with the athletic world, and couldn’t countenance this breach of etiquette.

Why, one wonders, could not Mr. Shihabi ignore the barbarity of Israel in the name of sportsmanship?

Well, let’s move on a bit, and look at the glittering city of Rio de Janeiro, hosting the Olympics. Yes, the police said they couldn’t offer adequate protection, and yes, some athletes participating in sporting events in the water were told not to submerge their heads, but we’ll overlook those things and only watch the exciting competitions.

Oh, and should we bother to even think about the 60,000 Brazilians who were driven from their homes so the Olympic stadium, parking and other structures required for this penultimate sports activity could take place? Some received some compensation for their loss, but none of them had any choice in the matter. So what if they lived in a house built by a grandparent, where three generations had been raised? It only took a bulldozer a short time to make their cherished home nothing but rubble.

The Olympics, for some bizarre reason, attract the attention of people for whom watching an athletic event, let alone ever participating in one, does not occur outside of this periodic spectacle. But these are people who never let an opportunity pass for a flag to be waved, and to rejoice in anything that, in their narrow little minds, sets their nation above all the rest. There is no thought of the deadly, murderous horrors their country may inflict on innocent people (see: USA, Israel), no thought to the exploitation and abuse of the poor (see: USA, Brazil), no thought of blatant racism (see: USA, Israel). No, if a swimmer from one’s own country swims faster than the swimmers representing other countries, one’s country is the greatest! For such people, seeing an athlete representing their country stand atop the highest pedestal, accepting a gold medal, brings a tear to the eye as the chest swells with pride!

Ah, sportsmanship! Another distraction from reality! Just what the U.S. needs.

 

Originally published in Counterpunch.

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‘Newspeak’, the U.S. and Palestine

In George Orwell’s prophetic novel, 1984, we are introduced to ‘Newspeak’, which can be described as speech or writing that uses words in such a way as to change their meaning, with the intent of persuading people to think a certain way. Often, the goal is to make it appear that black is white; that war is peace, or that corruption is honesty.

Mr. Orwell himself spoke of political speech, perhaps a subset of Newspeak, saying that, in our time, political speech and writing are largely used in the defense of the indefensible.

Let’s see how ‘Newspeak’ has been utilized in describing the brutal Israeli occupation of Palestine.

Rarely a day goes by that some Israeli politician isn’t screaming about an existential threat to that rogue nation. The Boycott, Divest and Sanction (BDS) movement, which includes churches, labor unions and universities voting to divest from Israeli holdings; scholars refusing to take part in academic projects with Israel, and entertainers refusing to perform there, along with the ‘rank and file’ boycotting Israeli products, is decried as an ‘existential threat’. Criticism by any nation of illegal settlements is seen as an ‘existential threat’. Palestinian resistance, that of a poorly armed, starved, occupied and blockaded population, is seen as an existential threat. The list is really endless.

The United States government, of course, owned by the Israeli lobby AIPAC (Apartheid Israel Political Affairs Committee), buys right into this, with billions of dollars of taxpayers’ money going to Israel, and laws being passed in various states banning the boycotting of Israel. How any elected official thinks such a law will ever stand up to a court challenge, and how they think such a law can be enforced, is beyond the understanding of this writer. But they all agree that these and other criticisms of Israel threaten the very existence of that country.

Now, it must be remembered that Palestine has no army, navy or air force. Its imports are severely restricted, and its exports, thanks to the occupation and blockade, are almost non-existent. Israel continually ‘confiscates’ (read: steals) Palestinian land to build huge new housing developments, all in violation of international law. Palestine faces a very real existential threat, but is seen as threatening Israel. This is certainly Newspeak.

Hanan Ashrawi, a Palestinian legislator, summed up this example of Newspeak clearly. “We are the only people on earth asked to guarantee the security of our occupier, while Israel is the only country that calls for defense from its victims”.

Newspeak does not only inhabit the halls of Congress, where that august body constantly sends billions of dollars to Israel, despite its violations of international law, and in violation of U.S. law, which predicates foreign aid on adherence to basic human rights, standards which Israel doesn’t even come close to meeting. It isn’t restricted to State Houses, where governors sign into law restrictive measures in clear violation of the Constitution. No, it even lives in the White House. When Israel was bombing the Gaza Strip in 2014, President Barack Obama said that “if someone attacked my daughters in their home, I would retaliate, too”. Newspeak at its best! He simply ignored the reality that Israeli terrorists are constantly attacking Palestinians in their homes in the West Bank; the night raids, when males as young as ten years old are dragged out of their beds and thrown into police vehicles, as their anguished mothers attempt unsuccessfully to protect them, somehow don’t count as ‘attacking children in their homes’. The bombing of the illegally blockaded Gaza Strip, where, when Mr. Obama issued that statement, nearly 300 children had been killed in their homes, somehow doesn’t count. All that counts is the fabrications that are created to please apartheid Israel.

Israel’s general excuse for bombing Gaza is ‘rocket’ fire from the Gaza Strip into Israel. Dr. Norman Finkelstein, son of Holocaust survivors and a strong proponent of Palestinian rights, calls these rockets, ‘enhanced fireworks’. The bombs from Israel, provided by the United States and including the most sophisticated, deadly weaponry on the planet, cannot be seen as ‘enhanced fireworks’. But in the Newspeak of Israel and the U.S., those ‘rockets’ from Gaza justify the carpet-bombing of homes, hospitals, mosques, press offices, and United Nations refugee centers.

It is also worth noting that in the summer of 2014, the number of bombs that Israel dropped on Gaza exceeded the number of so-called rockets that Gaza had fired into Israel in the previous fourteen years. Yet in the Newspeak of Israel and the U.S., and, of course, the corporate media, those ineffectual ‘rockets’ justified the killing of over 2000 Palestinians, nearly a quarter of whom were children, some as young as one month old.

Israel, we are told, is in great danger from Palestinian rockets. Yet the U.S. has provided Israel with the ‘Iron Dome’, which intercepts most of the rockets before they ever reach the ground. Palestine, of course, is defenseless against Israeli bombs. More Newspeak.

In many countries, an assailant with a knife is disarmed in a variety of ways. In the U.S. and Israel, being armed isn’t necessary to be threatening. In both nations, unarmed people are routinely killed by what is euphemistically called ‘law enforcement (more Newspeak), with the perpetrators being immune from prosecution. In the U.S., unarmed black men are fair game for any police office with an itchy trigger finger, and in Israel, any Palestinian, male or female, from children to the elderly, is fair game for IDF (Israeli Defense Forces; Israel’s state terrorists), if they are simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. And minutes earlier, that might not have been the wrong place; it’s all up to the whim of the Israeli terrorists controlling the area.

Israel is now arresting and prosecuting anyone in Israel or Palestine who posts anything on social media critical of Israel. Big Brother is certainly alive and well in Israel. And it wasn’t so long ago that whistleblowers disclosed how the U.S. government was spying on millions of its own citizens.

In this election year, the U.S. is faced with two candidates who are fluent in Newspeak. Democrat Hillary Clinton declares her dedication to the 99%, when all her actions favor the super-rich. Republican Donald Trump proclaims the threat of Islam, a peaceful religion, the radical element of which is no more representative of it than the so-called Religious Right in the U.S. is of Christianity. And one of them will be the next president of the most powerful imperial nation in recent history.

Like Oceania in 1984, constantly fighting either Eastasia or Eurasia, the U.S. will wage deadly war in the Middle East and wherever else it invents an enemy. And like the people in Mr. Orwell’s Oceania, U.S. citizens will cheer with each death of an innocent victim, and take great pride in the might of their nation. They will boast of U.S. military strength; will ‘stand with Israel’, despite its unspeakable crimes against humanity, and will, in their own ways, proclaim their love for Big Brother.

In 2016, Mr. Orwell’s 1984 has arrived.

 

Originally published in Counterpunch.

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