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Presentation in Conjunction with the U.N. International Day Against Racial Discrimination, in Kitchener, Ontario

Good afternoon. 

I would like to start with some basic definitions, so we all have the same understanding.

  1. Semitic. This word has two, related definitions:
  2. Relating to or denoting a family of languages that includes Hebrew, Arabic, and, Aramaic.
  3. Relating to the peoples who speak Semitic languages, especially Hebrew and Arabic.

Based on this generally-accepted definition, we can see that it isn’t only Jews who are victimized by anti-Semitism. Hostility or prejudice against Arabs, many of whom are Muslims, is also anti-Semitism.

A few more terms:

  • Judaism:

Judaism is a monotheistic religion. Jews believe that God appointed the Jews to be his chosen people in order to set an example of holiness and ethical behaviour to the world. They believe that Moses was the prophet of the Jews.

  • Islam

Islam is also a monotheistic religioin that is the third of the Abrahamic religions. It teaches that Muhammad is the messenger of God. It is the world’s second-largest religion, with over 1.8 billion followers, or 24% of the world’s population. Adherents to Islam are most commoly knowns as Muslims. Muslims make up a mojority of the population in 50 countries. Islam teaches that God is merciful, all-powerful, unique, and has guided humanking through prophets, reveald scriptures and natural signs.

  • Zionism

Zionism started as a movement for the establishment, development and protection of a Jewish nation. It was established as a political organization in 1897 by Theodor Herzl.

I have not mentioned Christianity, and I don’t want to imply that Christians are not persecuted anywhere in the world; this is simply not true. But my focus today is on the anti-Semitism, as described above, that seems to be growing within North America, how it is growing and the way it is or should be being combatted.

******

            In recent years, the term anti-Semitism has evolved slightly to denote prejudice against the Jewish people. This is only partially true, since Arabs are also Semitic. So prejudice, bigotry, and violence against Arabs, demonstrated most recently in the horrific massacre at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, where many of the victims were Arab, is anti-Semitism, and must be opposed as strongly as prejudice, bigotry and violence against Jews.

Theodor Herzl, the founder of Zionism, envisioned a nation for the Jewish people, which eventually was established in Palestine. This action disregarded the basic human rights of the millions of mostly-Arab people already living in Palestine, so it was, by definition, anti-Semitic.

Anti-Semitism against Jews perhaps reached its peak in the years up to and including World War II, when an estimated 6,000,000 Jews were murdered by the Hitler regime. This unspeakable crime against humanity was, unfortunately, then used by Zionists to compound the crime by dispelling 750,000 Palestinians from their homes, with no recompense and no say in the decision, to establish the nation of Israel. Additionally, at least 10,000 Palestinians were slaughtered at that time. The victimization of one group, the Jews, in no way justifies the victimization of the Palestinians.

While one might say that, with persecution of the Jews a centuries-old problem, perhaps having its origins in some Christians or Christian sects blaming Jews for the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, the Jews needed a protected homeland. But one could also argue quite reasonably that that homeland could have been established somewhere in which the displacement of 750,000 people, and the murders of at least 10,000 more, wouldn’t have been required.

How is anti-Semitism manifested today? I have already mentioned the recent slaughter of 50 people praying in mosques in New Zealand. But white nationalism seems to be on the rise in North America, too; note the white-nationalist demonstration in Charlottesville, VA, in 2017, in which people were chanting ‘Jews will not replace us’, and which resulted in the death of one woman opposing the white nationalists. U.S. president Donald Trump, commenting on this event, said there were good people on both sides. This is hardly a ringing condemnation of the blatant anti-Semitism against Jews that was the foundation of this demonstration. One might expect better from the so-called ‘leader of the free world’.

Additionally, the U.S. government has worked with some success to block Muslims from travelling to the U.S. The regulation doesn’t say ‘Muslims’, but those prevented from such travel are from mainly Muslim countries, and this regulation keeps one of Trump’s campaign promises, that he would prevent Muslims from entering the country until the U.S. government could ‘figure out what was going on’. This is clearly, also, anti-Semitic.

In the U.S. and Canada, government officials are working to criminalize criticism of Israel. The government of Israel, with separate schools, roads, laws and regulations for Israelis and non-Israelis, is itself practicing anti-Semitism. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu earlier this year said this: “Israel is not the state of all of its citizens. According to the nation-state basic law that we passedc, Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people – and of it alone.” This provides second-class status to nearly a quarter of the population of Israel. Imagine, if you will, the response in Canada and throughout the world if Canada determined that only 75% of its citizens could enjoy all the rights of citizenship. Would there not be widespread condemnation? Would other nations criticize Canada, or would they outlaw such criticism? Attempts in the U.S. and Canada to do the latter must be seen as supporting an apartheid regime, and are thus anti-Semitic, since the population being ostracized and oppressed is Semitic.

On a more anecdotal note, my wife and I have an old friend, a woman we’ve known for almost 30 years. She happens to be Jewish. She grew up in Chicago, but lived for the last 25 years or so in New York City. Following the 2016 U.S. presidential election, the rise in the number of swastikas and other anti-Jewish symbols and behaviors that she saw caused her to ask us if she could stay with us until she found a permanent place to live. She was with us for several months before moving to Columbia.

Whenever I attend a conference, I always want to come away not only with more information, but with specific things I can do to further the cause of justice. I will now list a few things each of us can do to fight racism in all its ugly forms here in Canada. My suggestions will focus on the topic of anti-Semitism, but can certainly be expanded to assist in combatting racism in whatever form we might encounter it.

  1. Talk about it. There is sometimes a tendency to avoid unpleasant topics, but this tendency has caused untold suffering throughout history. In the 1930s and 1940s, some people in Germany found it ‘unpleasant’ to recognize that their Jewish neighbors were disappearing. Today, some people find it ‘unpleasant’ to recognize that Palestinian homes in the West Bank are bulldozed to make room for new settlements that only Israelis can occupy. We must speak up.
  2. Defend. If you witness any act of racism, take immediate action. I’m not suggesting putting yourself at risk of physical harm, but often a few words from an uninvolved bystander will dispel an ugly situation, and bring it to an immediate end. Again, we must speak up.
  3. Take action. Demand the right to criticize racism in all its forms; don’t allow the government to take that from you. Let your government representatives hear from you, as you disagree with their support of any racist regime. We must make our voices heard.
  4. Look inward. Do you harbor any prejudices yourself? If someone makes a ‘raghead’ or similar insulting ethnic joke, to you smile, or do you immediately address it for what it is? Perhaps you have no prejudices, but are hesitant to speak out. I implore you once again to overcome your hesitancy, and speak.

Martin Niemöller was a prominent Lutheran pastor in Germany who was an outspoken critic of Hitler. As a result, he spent the last seven years of Nazi rule in concentration camps. You may not be familiar with his name, but you have probably heard his words:

“First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist.

“Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out— because I was not a trade unionist.

“Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew.

“Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”           

            I am neither Jewish nor Arabic; I’m not Muslim. I’m a Christian of European descent, and yet I feel compelled to speak out against the blatant and growing racism against Muslim, Arabs and Jews that I see today. Like everyone here, I have an obligation to do so, regardless of how unpleasant it might be. I can’t enjoy my own privilege, knowing that, here in Canada and around the world, other people are suffering horrifically, simply because they happen to be Palestinian, or Muslim, or Jewish, or African, or something else that doesn’t fall into a privileged category. I urge you, and all of us, to act.

Thank you.

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The Circus that Never Leaves Town

The circus that is called U.S. governance continues to entertain with its bizarre acts. This week, an awestruck public witnessed yet another one, this time with the Cohen clown testifying before Congress.

Yes, President Donald Trump’s former lawyer and ‘fixer’ (is that really a thing?) Michael Cohen stood before a Congressional committee and swore to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. This is the same man who, in May, will begin a prison sentence for, among other things, lying to Congress.

And what did we learn? Let’s look at just a few tidbits of information; we won’t call them facts, due to Cohen’s known record of lying to Congress.

+ Trump ordered Cohen to pay porn star and alleged former mistress (or perhaps one-night stand) Stormy Daniels, and then reimbursed him for that payment. Cohen claimed that his initial statements about that payment were not lies; he never said Trump didn’t reimburse him. He carefully said that no one from the Trump campaign reimbursed him. So there.

+ Cohen threatened people and organizations 500 times in ten years, under Trump’s direction.

+ Trump never tells people to lie, break the law, or even skirt it. He simply tells them what he expects as results. If achieving those results means his underlings must lie, or break or skirt the law, so be it. But Trump never tells them to do so.

+ When the infamous Billy Bush tape was made public, Cohen was immediately contacted by Trump aide Hope Hicks (a one-time member of his staff who, like so many others, became a victim of Trump’s employee revolving door), who told him to position Trump’s disgraceful, misogynist remarks as ‘locker room talk.’

Democrats on and off the House Oversight Committee, the hosts of this week’s spectacle, were gleeful; despite there being no actual smoking gun, there was enough innuendo for any normal person to conclude that Trump probably broke all kinds of laws, not only during his campaign for the presidency, but throughout his life as a real estate mogul.

These Democrats seem to forget that they were listening to testimony from someone who has been convicted of lying to them previously. Cohen may have been telling the truth, or he may not have been. His record in such things is not exemplary.

The Republicans, on the other hand, were filled with righteous indignation that anyone would dare to impugne the good name of St. Donald the Great. They were so outraged that they even arranged for one Matt Gaetz, a representative from Florida, to sit in the gallery, despite the fact that he isn’t a member of the House Oversight Committee. Gaetz, an ardent worshipper at the Trump altar, gained notoriety for threatening to expose Cohen’s extra-marital affairs, an accusation he made without any corroborating evidence. When asked for evidence, Gaetz replied: “As the President loves to say, ‘We’ll see.’“ One newscaster compared Gaetz presence in the gallery as akin to trials of organized crime figures, when enemies of witnesses were brought in to sit in the courtroom to intimidate the witness just by their very presence.

Today, some Republicans are referring Cohen and his testimony to the Justice Department, saying they have evidence that he committed perjury during his appearance this week. Whether or not their evidence falls into the Trump-Gaetz category of ‘we’ll see’, remains, ahem, to be seen.

Trump, meanwhile, was visiting his good friend Kim Jung-un, North Korea’s leader, to discuss nuclear disarmament. We must understand that this disarmament only applied to North Korea; Trump and most, if not all, of the U.S.’s elected officials only want the ‘bad guys’ (as they define them) to get rid of nuclear weapons, while the ‘good guys’ (again, by their twisted definition), can keep theirs. In U.S. parlance, the one nation that has ever used nuclear weapons, and on a civilian population no less, falls into the ‘good guys’ category. Go figure.

That this endeavor wasn’t successful, and that the world’s self-proclaimed best deal-maker wasn’t able to make any progress, isn’t too surprising. Additionally, while in Vietnam, Trump limited press access, because those pesky reporters wanted to ask about Cohen’s testimony. Why waste the president’s time with such trivia? Who cares about his relationships with porn stars, or his threats against people and companies? How dare that Cohen upstart attempt to upstage him? No wonder he fell into disfavor. The former ‘fixer’ better not expect a presidential pardon now!

This writer, watching such happenings from the relative safety of the U.S.’s neighbor to the north, is continually astounded. Republicans in Congress rally around their incompetent, petulant president, despite his erratic behavior and the fact they he can barely string two words together coherently. They attempt to explain away his behaviors or, worse yet, justify them.

On the other side of the aisle, the reality-show buffoon is universally despised, as the Democrats react in horror to each of his shocking behaviors, conveniently forgetting their own, and those of their past leaders. Democratic stars in the polluted firmament slowly announce to a world that hardly wants to hear the news, that they have decided to seek the party’s nomination for president, thus offering a viable alternative to the Great Orange one. Sadly, they seem to be stuck in the rut of believing that the voters will choose anyone other the current incumbent, as they hesitate to make any bold proposals, not wanting to alienate any voting bloc, and content not to please any, either. There are some exceptions, but most of them try to ride in the middle of the road, some being PEP (Progressive Except for Palestine), but mainly presenting themselves as the anti-Trump candidate.

Can neither member of either party learn nothing? Must they put party over principle? Why is this writer even asking? Of course they must! That is how they get re-elected, and for them, that is the highest goal. Statesmanship, integrity, the good of the people and other such lofty principles don’t have powerful lobby groups, and so such things are beneath notice.

The 2020 election is still a long way off; Trump may still be president by then, but his vice-president, Michael Pence, could assume that office if The Donald is found guilty of criminal activity and is removed from office. Pence, a conservative Christian, would probably be worse than Trump, if such a thing can be imagined. But in 2020, this writer, still a U.S. citizen despite his fourteen years living in Canada, will probably vote for a third-party candidate. That is where one looks for integrity, honesty and real caring for the people.

Originally published by Counterpunch.

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Congress, Israel and the Politics of “Righteous Indignation”

It is a rare day that some member of Congress doesn’t expose him or herself as a hypocrite of the first order. This week, we have seen this done in spades.

On February 10, Representative Ilhan Omar (D- MN) said that U.S. Congressional support for Israel is “…all about the Benjamins…”, a reference to the U.S. denomination, $100.00 bills, that sport a picture of Benjamin Franklin. One would think that stating the obvious would not be met with such umbrage.

But no! Democratic leadership (how’s that for an oxymoron?) issued a statement condemning Omar’s “…use of anti-Semitic tropes and prejudicial accusations about Israel’s supporters…’, and declaring her words ‘deeply offensive’.

Really? Was this, indeed, an ‘anti-Semitic trope’? Was it a ‘prejudicial accusation’? This writer, as is his custom, will attempt to make some sense of all this, a challenging undertaking, undeniably. We will do so first by looking at some of the members of Congress who voiced their objection.

+ Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), who issued the statement condemning Omar’s remarks, has benefited from pro-Israel campaign contributions to the tune of $514,449.00.

+ Representative Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) issued a concise statement to Omar: ‘STOP IT!”. Ms. Schakowsky has received $552,624.00 in campaign contributions from pro-Israel lobbies during her career.

+ Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) praised Pelosi’s condemnation of Omar’s statement. His career take from pro-Israel lobbies: $804,215.00.

+ House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), who just last year suggested that wealthy Jews were trying to buy the mid-term elections, vowed that Republicans would “… take action this week to ensure the House speaks out against this hatred.” The hypocrisy of that statement, based on his own words of just a few months ago, is obvious. During his Congressional career, he has received $174,625.00 in contributions from pro-Israel groups.

These are just four examples; four members of Congress, whose total cash haul from pro-Israel lobbies equals $2,045,913.00, condemning Omar’s words. That is a significant number of ‘Benjamins’.

We will now move onto the pro-Israel attempt to conflate criticism of the apartheid state of Israel with anti-Semitism.

Currently, the Yellow-Vest protests continue in France. If one condemns the French austerity measures that have triggered them, and the brutal force that the French government is using to oppress those protests, does that mean that one hates all things French? Does it suggest that the person condemning these actions attributes repression and brutality to being inherent in the French persona? Does it suggest that, if one has French neighbors, one will take frozen French fries and fling them into one’s neighbor’s yard, all the while chanting ‘go home French person’?

No; it means that one disagrees with the policies of the French government. That’s it.

Let us look beyond all this, and review the reasons that so many august politicians in the U.S. proclaim their support of the apartheid, Zionist regime of Israel: shared values.

In Israel, there are separate laws for Israelis and everyone else. A crime committed by an Arab will received a far harsher sentence than the same crime committed by an Israeli. One supposes that is, indeed, a shared value, since in the U.S., crimes committed by people of color generally receive far harsher penalties than those committed by whites.

Throughout the illegally occupied West Bank, Israel has housed over 500,000 settlers, all of them living there in violation of international law. The U.S. has violated international law countless times, including by withdrawing from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). So again, disdain for the rule of law is a value shared by the U.S. and Israel.

Israel periodically bombs the Gaza Strip, an action that is routinely condemned by the United Nations. The U.S. bombs multiple countries on a nearly-constant basis. We see yet another commonality between the two nations.

During the 2014 Israeli massacre of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, Israel bombed homes, houses of worship, hospitals, U.N. refugee centers and press offices. The U.S. said that Israel probably shouldn’t have bombed those refugee centers. Not what one would call an effective criticism for such barbaric actions.

While Israel was busy with active genocide in Gaza (in addition to its ongoing genocidal practices), some of its soldiers targeted four young Palestinian boys playing on a beach. Apparently sensing mortal danger from unarmed 10-year-olds kicking around a soccer ball, the soldiers shot and killed them. More recently, the U.S.’s other great ally in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia, dropped a U.S.-made bomb on a school bus carrying 40 boys ranging in age from 8 – 12. The U.S. and Israel apparently hold the slaughter of innocent children as a ‘shared value’.

But what is any of this? U.S. spokespeople are forever asserting that Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East, and since these same people also proclaim that the U.S. is a model democracy, that, they say, is the true shared value.

One must point out that democracy means more than allowing many citizens to vote. Yes, both Israel and the U.S. have periodic elections, but in both countries, voter suppression is actively practiced, effectively ensuring that potential voters who actually want change are ignored. And doesn’t democracy also include equal rights under the law? Israel had codified separate rights, and the U.S. Constitution, that document so revered by so many members of Congress, provided ‘equal’ rights for wealthy, white, landowning males; all other need not apply. There have been some changes in 200 years, but equality is still a dream for women, people of color, the poor, gays, etc.

Representative Omar, bowing to the weight of pressure from so many Israeli representatives in Congress, apologized for offending any Jewish people. She need not have done so. A spokesman for J Street, another pro-Israel organization in the U.S., while criticizing Omar’s words, further said that “…elected officials should also refrain from labeling all criticism of Israeli actions or policies as ‘anti-Semitic’”.

Might Pelosi, McCarthy, et al take some advice from these words? No, probably not. With all those ‘Benjamins’ at stake, why risk rocking the campaign-contributions boat? Better to hysterically shout ‘anti-Semitism!’ any time anyone criticizes Israel’s cruel, barbaric, inhumane and illegal actions.

It’s interesting to note that polls consistently show that younger Americans support Palestine over Israel, and these people are, of course, the future of the country. If and when the current crop of elected officials ever decides to actually represent their constituencies remains to be seen, but this writer is not optimistic. But things are changing and Palestinians are finally being seen as human beings with the same right to self-determination as everyone else. We have people like Representative Ilhan Omar to thank for that progress, and we look to her and other young and truly progressive officials to continue this trend.

Originally published by Counterpunch.

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Afghanistan, Venezuela and U.S. Interference

In this troubling week, this writer has seen a variety of disturbing news stories. Ok, that’s nothing new, we all know. But there are two that he would like to focus on today.

First, he saw an editorial saying that the U.S. must not abandon Afghanistan.  He attempted to make some sense of this series of words, but while each is easily understood, when strung together, they lose all meaning. The U.S. invaded Afghanistan in 2001, and has been bombing and terrorizing that nation every day since then. What the U.S.’s goal there is one cannot say; the war is certainly, in the minds of many in the U.S., a forgotten war, although it is all too real for its Afghani victims. As of November, 2018, civilian deaths are conservatively estimated at 80,000. The infrastructure is destroyed, and the air quality has become one of the worst in the world. One would think that the people of Afghanistan would be desperate for the U.S. to ‘abandon’ their country.

With Venezuela currently big in the news, this writer saw a second article, another opinion piece, saying that U.S. President Donald Trump is right on Venezuela. Trump, in usual U.S. fashion, wants to ignore and thwart the will of the people, by declaring an opposition candidate as the legitimate leader of Venezuela. If the consequences were not so dire, this would be a laughable statement, coming from someone who can hardly be seen as the legitimate leader of the United States. There is an old adage that ‘majority rules’, but that doesn’t apply in the U.S. If it did, Trump would be back on his reality television show, where he belongs, and Hillary Clinton would be president of the United States (heaven help us all!).

Why does the U.S. government feel it needs to insert itself into every trouble spot in the world? Is it because of its sterling reputation in solving global problems? Is it because, wherever it chooses to intervene, after just a short time, the opposing forces in whatever nation it has ‘helped’ all join hands and sing Kumbaya around some giant campfire?

And as we consider these trouble spots, it’s certainly worthwhile to note that it is the U.S. that frequently causes these problems in the first place. Already it is being suspected that the U.S. is arming anti-government forces in Venezuela. In Afghanistan, it was the U.S. who armed and trained the Taliban when it was a rag-tag group opposing the Russians during that long and deadly war. When the Russians left, U.S. government officials seemed surprised and puzzled to learn that the people they supported against the Russians weren’t willing to hand over the government to some U.S. puppet. As a result, the U.S. is now engaged in Afghanistan in the longest war in its long and bloody history.

Where else has the U.S. caused untold suffering? Let’s consider Chile, where, under the rabid anti-Communist president, Richard Nixon, the U.S. government overthrew the democratically-elected government of Salvador Allende, and supported the seventeen-year long reign of terror of dictator General Augusto Pinochet.

We could look to Iraq, where the U.S., in the 1963, overthrew the government of Abdel Karim Kassem, and threw its support behind a young, anti-Communist leader named Saddam Hussein. In the decades between that first support and the overthrow of Hussein in 2003, the U.S. ranged from naming Iraq a state sponsor of terrorism, to supporting it with advanced weaponry when Iraq was at war with Iran.

And while we’re speaking of Iran, let’s take a quick look at the U.S.’s violent history there.

In 1953, the U.S. overthrew the democratically-elected government of Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh, and replaced him with the brutal Shah of Iran. Relations between the U.S. and Iran were quite cozy during this time, although the people of Iran suffered horribly. The Shah’s oppressive, barbaric reign ended when the people of Iran overthrew him, and installed a government of their own choosing. The U.S. government has never forgiven Iranians for daring to indulge in the luxury of self-determination, and as of this writing, continues to threaten Iran as it continues with cruel sanctions (illegal under international law, since they violate the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)), and even threatening its closest allies with sanctions if they dare comply with the terms of the JCPOA.

Need we even mention Vietnam? Perhaps we should; there were many lessons to be learned from that imperial disaster that, if they had indeed been heeded, would have prevented much of the international suffering that has occurred since then. In the south, the U.S. first selected Bao Dai, who had a long record of collaboration with Vietnam’s previous colonial masters, the French and the Japanese. Later, the U.S. supported Ngo Dinh Diem, a repressive dictator, who provided many rights and privileges to the Catholics in that nation, but not so many to the vast number of Buddhists.  Ho Chi Minh, who, despite his education and international travel, never lost his native identity, led Communist North Vietnam, and sought to reunite the nation. But the U.S. was determined that Vietnam not ‘fall’ to Communism, despite the wishes of the Vietnamese people. And so it launched its war, which killed at least 2,000,000 people, decimated the countryside, nearly destroyed the U.S. economy and tore the U.S. apart. Despite all that, the people of Vietnam were victorious.

And now we have the brilliant pundits and politicians telling us that the U.S. must not ‘abandon’ Afghanistan; rather, it should continue to destroy the country. Certainly there are many people left to be killed. And the U.S., we are also told, is right to support an opposition candidate over the democratically-elected one in Venezuela. Will the outcome of either of these disastrous mistakes be as successful as, say, the U.S. intervention in Iraq? Will they bring the same ‘benefits’ to either country that U.S. ‘help’ brought to the people of Chile?

For two centuries, the U.S. has run amok on the world stage, killing millions upon millions of innocent people, causing the torture of millions more, and destroying prospects, hopes and dreams for more people than can be counted. The world will be a more peaceful and just planet when the U.S. is eventually eclipsed in terms of military and the economy by any other nation. This cannot occur soon enough for the people of Afghanistan, Venezuela, and too many other nations to mention here.

Originally published by Counterpunch.

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Venezuela, the United States and Hypocrisy

United States hypocrisy, thy name is legion.

The number of examples of this are truly stunning, and this writer has commented on them more than once. He will take this opportunity to shine his spotlight on yet another one that is currently prominent in the news.

In Venezuela, Nicolas Maduro was elected president, in an election generally thought to have been fair. He is, horror of horrors, a leftist, much to the chagrin of that mighty moral arbiter of world values, the U.S. So what did President Donald Trump and his minions do, which was followed quickly by many other world leaders who march in lock-step with the U.S? They recognized his opponent, one Juan Guaido, as the president of Venezuela.

This brings up so many questions, that one almost hesitates to count them. But we will ask just one:

What right does the U.S. have to determine who is the leader of any other nation on the planet?

Let us consider a hypothetical situation. We will ask the reader to think back to the U.S. presidential election of November, 2016, when the county was faced with a choice between a vile, corporate-owned elitist candidate, and one that was even, incredibly, worse. The hapless voters selected the former, who won the popular vote by about 3,000,000 votes, yet the bizarre Electoral College installed the latter in the White House.

Now we will get to the hypothetical part. Imagine, if you will, the U.S. response if Russian’s Vladimir Putin, France’s Emmanuel Macron, and Britain’s Elizabeth May all declared that they recognized Hillary Clinton as U.S. president. What then-outgoing president Barack Obama would have said would have been nothing compared to the bellicose, belligerent Twitter storm that would sure have been unleashed by then president-elect Donald Trump.

The U.S. has, for months, been watching the Robert Mueller investigation into possible Trump collusion with Russia during the campaign; imagine the horror of a foreign nation attempting to influence the outcome of a U.S. election! How could such a thing possibly have happened?

Yet the U.S. is happy to recognize people other than duly-elected candidates as another nation’s leader. And if we are going to discuss foreign interference in U.S. elections, might we consider the millions upon millions of dollars donated to the campaigns of U.S. candidates and officials by pro-Israel groups? Is it mere coincidence that, once these candidates are elected, pro-Israel lobbies actually write legislation for them to introduce? The U.S. senate recently voted overwhelming for just such a bill that would make boycotting Israel illegal. These same senators proclaim their reverence for the U.S. constitution, but ignore Supreme Court rulings that clearly state that boycotts are protected by the constitution. What is that, when campaign contributions must be considered? The U.S. constitution? Who needs that old thing!

But let us return for a moment to Venezuela. The U.S. is concerned about ‘irregularities’ in the election that maintained Maduro in power. We have already mentioned that curious U.S. electoral ‘irregularity’, the Electoral College. However, that is just one of many.

In the U.S., in some states, government-issued photo identification is required in order to vote.

Despite what Trump says, U.S. citizens are not required to present photo identification when grocery shopping. One understands that preventing voter fraud is important, but, again despite the pronouncements of the raving lunatic in the White House, there is no evidence whatsoever of widespread voter fraud anywhere in the United States.

Where, one might ask, is photo identification most likely to be required for voting? This is a requirement in some states that have large minority (read: generally vote Democratic) populations, which include states with significant voters of African or Hispanic descent. Also, some university students study in states with such a requirement. Is it a simple coincidence that they, too, tend to vote for Democratic candidates?

A common form of photo identification is a driver’s license, which not every person of voting age has. One can get a government-issued photo identification card, but one must travel to a government office that provides them. Without a driver’s license, getting there is often a challenge.

In Canada, the nation to which this writer fled following the 2004 election of George Bush, everyone has medical coverage (which U.S. government officials seem to believe is Satan’s finest achievement), with an accompanying photo-identification card. We must present that when visiting a doctor, but it is not asked for when one presents oneself at one’s voting place. One states one’s name, the voting official looks it up on the list, and one signs that list, and then votes. If this writer, for example, returned later that same day to the polling place and attempted to vote a second time, the poll worker would note that his signature had already been placed on the appropriate line, and he would be prevented from voting a second time.

Some U.S. officials decry the large number of deceased people whose names appear on voting records. Yes, it is true that there are many such names. But this writer’s experience in this context may not be uncommon. When his parents died several months apart in 2016 and 2017, his first thought was not to contact the voting board, and remove their names. It was also not his second thought. He must confess that the thought never occurred to him. Is there a possibility that, in a future election, someone will go to the local polling place, give their name as that of his late mother or father, and vote? Yes, that is possible. Is it likely? When pigs fly.

Can voter repression, which is part of the U.S. electoral system, be seen as an ‘irregularity’? Can the Electoral College, which defeats the will of the people who actually vote, also be so seen? And we have not even mentioned the fact that, without being independently wealthy, it is almost impossible to run an effective campaign for public office (for exceptions, see Alexandra Ocasio Cortez). What has Venezuela done to deserve the wrath of the U.S., that is so much worse than what the U.S. routinely does?

While the U.S. condemns injustices around the world, it perpetrates its own that are usually far worse than those it criticizes. It also overlooks major violations of international law and human rights (see Israel; Saudi Arabia) if those countries provide it with some benefits.

The people of Venezuela do not need to be schooled in the art of democracy by a country whose government doesn’t know the meaning of the word. U.S. hypocrisy must be understood for what it is, and that country’s official pronouncements must be held up for ridicule. It is tempting to then ignore them; unfortunately, with the most powerful military on the planet, and leaders not hesitant to use it to force their will on other nations, ignoring the U.S. is not an option.

Originally published by Counterpunch.

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Pompeo, the U.S. and Iran

The United States’ international windbag, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has been acting the imperial blowhard throughout the Middle East. With his boss busy denying that he’s a Russian agent, watching advisors and cabinet members come and go with dizzying alacrity, and dodging porn-star accusations, Pompeo is trotting through the Middle East, sounding war drums.

It seems that Iran, which has long been in the crosshairs of U.S. gunboat ‘diplomacy’, remains firmly targeted. In Cairo, Pompeo promised a “…campaign to stop Iran’s malevolent influence and actions against this region and the world”.

It is with a firm shake of the head that this writer reads such statements, wondering how anyone with even a modicum of intelligence can take such pronouncements seriously. If one is to discuss ‘malevolent influence and actions against this region and the world’, shouldn’t one look, first and foremost, at the United States?

The U.S. currently gives unqualified support to Saudi Arabia, which is decimating the nation of Yemen. Currently, at least 10,000,000 Yemenis, most of them children, are at risk of death by starvation due to the U.S.-supported Saudi onslaught. Several weeks ago, the Saudis dropped a U.S.-made bomb on what they must have thought was a horrifying terrorist group: a school bus full of 10-year-old children. U.S. spokespeople had hardly a word to say about this. Not surprising: if 10,000,000 people at risk of starvation brings no halt to U.S. support of Saudi Arabia, what is one school bus full of little boys? Does none of this qualify as ‘malevolent influence and actions’?

When discussing the U.S.’s ‘malevolent influence and actions’, it is impossible not to mention  its support of apartheid Israel’s brutal, inhumane and totally illegal (under international law: remember that old thing?) treatment of the Palestinians. Home demolitions to make room for Israeli-only housing; road construction on which only Israelis can drive (and if such a road intersects an existing Palestinian road, Palestinians cannot cross the intersection); the murders of innocent men, women and children by IDF soldiers and illegal settlers; the complete occupation of the Gaza Strip, with Israel forbidding the import of many basic needs, and the export of almost anything, crippling the economy; the periodic carpet-bombing of the Gaza Strip, with homes, mosques, United Nations refugee centers, hospitals and schools all targeted, all in violation of international law; the brutal harassment of Palestinians who only want to worship at Al Aqsa mosque, to name just a few of Israel’s constant atrocities. The U.S. responds to all this by giving Israel $4 billion in aid every year, more than all other nations receive from the U.S. combined. Is there nothing here that can be considered ‘malevolent influence and actions’?

For years, the United States supported rebel groups that fought for the overthrow of the Syrian government. It provided training and weapons to known terrorist groups, resulting in the death of at least half a million Syrians. With assistance from its allies Russia and Iran, Syria has been able to rid itself of most of these terrorists. Is U.S. financing and training of terrorist organizations not ‘malevolent influence and actions’?

For eighteen years, up to and including today, the U.S. has decimated and occupied Afghanistan, resulting in the deaths of thousands of Afghanis, and the destruction of the country. There is no end of this carnage in site. The reason for the invasion, ostensibly, was to capture Osama bin Laden, the alleged mastermind of the September 11 attacks on the U.S. Yet bin Laden has been dead for years, but the war rages on. The U.S. is determined to install a puppet government there, but the Taliban only came to power with U.S. support, when Russia was at war with Afghanistan. So the U.S. created the monster it is now fighting. Additionally, the Taliban was willing to surrender bin Laden to any nation other than the United States; he would easily and quickly have been extradited from that nation to the U.S. for trial. But an endless war seemed more appealing to the U.S. government. This all certainly sounds like ‘malevolent influence and actions’ to this writer.

The United States overthrew the functioning government of Libya, leaving that nation as a ‘failed state’. Today, there is no peace in Libya, poverty is rampant, and the country is divided by differing factions that are at constant war with each other. ‘Malevolent influence and actions’, anyone?

And despite all this, pompous Pompeo parades through the Middle East, condemning a nation that hasn’t invaded another country in over 200 years. Compare this to the more than 30 nations the United States has invaded and/or destabilized in just the last 50 years. Those imperial U.S. intrusions have killed an estimated 20,000,000 people, and the slaughter continues today, with no end in sight.

This is not a phenomena of the current incompetent, bombastic buffoon residing in the White House, or the result of the (until recently) Republican-controlled Congress. For generations, there have been few elected U.S. officials who ever met a war they didn’t love; rarely has there been a covert operation to overthrow a democratically-elected government that both Republicans and Democrats didn’t fully support. No, all this is business as usual for the globe’s most dangerous thug, which, were it an individual, would have long ago been found guilty of mass murder.

What is to be done? What can or will a mainly-ignorant public do, when most of its members prefer to wave a flag than look at reality? Like other imperial nations throughout history, the U.S. will eventually implode under the weight of its own ‘malevolent influence and actions’. It is hard to imagine any other nation emerging as the world’s superpower that will cause as much death, destruction and suffering as the U.S. has during its long and bloody history. The end of its reign of terror cannot come soon enough.

Originally published by Counterpunch.

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Pity the Democrats and Republicans

It is a rare occasion when one can only pity both the Republican and Democratic Parties. The GOP (Generally Opposed to Progress) has hitched its rather dilapidated wagon to a racist, sexist, narcissistic man-child of a star who has only the most tenuous grasp on reality. But it is not them we are here to discuss today. It is the Democrats, the Party that, had it been a person, would never have been voted most likely to succeed upon graduation from high school.

Currently, one would think that the Democrats would be poised for great success. Mid-term elections are approaching; the president, Donald Trump, has record-breaking low approval scores, and there is dissatisfaction with him from coast to coast. Now, one might think, is the time for the Democrats to clearly articulate their platform, allowing the populace to know exactly where the party stands, and what it will do to achieve its goals. This might include such popular items as sensible gun-control; recognition of Palestine’s human-rights struggles and Israel’s violations of international law; income equality, gender equality, and an end to institutionalized racism, among other things. These, according to public opinion polls, are topics that resonate with voters who mainly identify as Democratic.

But no! Horror of horrors! Best, according to the Party leaders, to lay low, and allow dissatisfaction with the Republicans to drive voters into the arms of the Democratic Party. Maintain the status quo, don’t rock the boat, steady as she goes, and adhere to every other tired out cliché that means don’t show any backbone. So what if voters enthusiastically evicted a ten-term, good-old-boy Congress member from New York, in favor of a socialist Democrat! Who cares that a large swath of the Party still feels the deep wounds of betrayal from the Party’s manipulation of delegates to give the 2016 presidential nomination to the candidate who is corporate America incarnate, Hillary Clinton, instead of the (somewhat) more progressive Bernie Sanders! The power brokers, such as they are, in the Democratic Party are not willing to surrender their positions, and are terrified to risk what they have by showing anything related to statesmanship. Those currently in power have been elected and re-elected despite their namby-pamby positions, or non-positions, on the current issues of the day. Why do anything differently now?

Well, we can answer that question, although the people who really need to hear the answer won’t bother to pay any attention. We’ll look at a few factors that one would think would cause the Party that claims to be progressive (you can stop laughing now) to take careful note.

  • Following a long series of mass shootings, high school students in Florida finally said ‘enough’. Several of the survivors of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre travelled around the country, saying that if the current Congress won’t act, a new Congress must be installed. Millions of people in this age cohort will be eligible to vote for the first time in 2018. Study after study shows that they are overwhelmingly to the left of where the Democratic Party is today. They probably won’t stay home, but they may seek third-party candidates, so they can vote for someone they actually believe in, rather than the slightly lesser of two evils. But if Democrats renew calls for sensible gun control, including the banning of semi-automatic weapons, they may find these new voters flocking to the polls to vote for them.
  • Israeli government officials are having apoplexy over what they correctly see as an increasing disconnect between Jewish-Americans and the racist, apartheid Jewish state of Israel. In the aforementioned 14th Congressional district of New York, twenty-year incumbent Joe Crowley, financed in part by AIPAC (Apartheid Israel Political Affairs Committee) went down to a crushing defeat at the hands of newcomer Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who has been highly critical of Israel. Might not some other candidates want to take a page from her playbook, and speak out for human rights and international law? Or are even those topics too controversial for Democrats to address?
  • Polls indicate that most voters aren’t thrilled with the newly-enacted tax reform (Surprise! Surprise!), which was an early Christmas present to the rich. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan showed how out-of-touch he was after the tax bill became law, when he ‘tweeted’ this: “A secretary at a public high school in Lancaster, PA, said she was pleasantly surprised her pay went up $1.50 a week… she said [that] will more than cover her Costco membership for a year.” So while this secretary received a whopping $78.00 annual raise, the richest 1% of the nation’s population receive about 34% of the total benefits from the multi-billion dollar tax reform. A platform by the Democrats to really reform taxes would probably resonate, even with people who are $78.00 richer as a result of the GOP version.
  • Trump and Company are beating the war drums for ‘regime change’ of the democratically-elected government of Iran. Trump withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) against the wishes and advice of nearly the entire international community, and his own military advisors. Wouldn’t a plank in the Democratic platform that says that Democrats will work to reinstate U.S. involvement in the JCPOA, and attempt to prevent chaos in yet another Middle Eastern country, possibly have wide appeal? Yes, U.S. citizens, inexplicably, seem to love their wars, but a new breed of voter is on the horizon, and will be pulling levers in voting booths in just three short months. They may be a bit less enthused about sending U.S. soldiers to die for Israel, whose influence was a main factor in Trump’s decision to abandon the JCPOA.
  • The Republicans have made good on their promise to deprive millions of people of health care. Democrats who will unflinchingly condemn those actions, and vow to reinstate the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare), or something better, may find unexpected popularity.
  • Young people often graduate from universities and colleges in the U.S. with crippling debt. Even if the free tuition advocated by Ocasio-Cortez and others isn’t possible at present (it is, but this writer doesn’t see the Democratic Party ever going that far), couldn’t interest rates be lowered? Why is it necessary for lenders to make huge profits from the efforts of the next generation to become educated? And couldn’t there be some kind of debt forgiveness program? Even 25% would be a windfall to many people.

These are just a few of the many areas in which the Democrats could differentiate themselves from the Republicans. Will they do it? Will the Party unite, look at not only what the people want, but also what is morally right, and stand up for those principles? When pigs fly. Government officials today (this writer refuses to refer to them as ‘representatives’, since they represent only special interests and anything that will benefit them personally, and not the voting populace) are only concerned with keeping their high-paying jobs with almost unlimited benefits. The idea of public service, working for the greater good, or sacrificing for those who are less fortunate are alien concepts to them.

It is possible that the Democratic Party will take control of one or both houses of Congress as a result of the November elections. If that happens, not much will change. The NRA (National Rifle Association), AIPAC, various military lobbies and others will still be the ones actually in control. The U.S. voters will have participated once again in what government officials proudly and disingenuously point to as a hallmark of U.S. democracy, but what is in reality an exercise in futility. With each election, the names may change, but all the injustice, domestically and internationally, continues.

Originally published by Counterpunch.

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Presidential Candidates 2020: a Preview of the Democratic Contenders

Apparently, two years out isn’t too early to start speculating on who the hapless Democrats may run for president in 2020. Let’s remember that in the last seven elections, they have only been able to elect two presidents (Bill Clinton and Barack Obama), despite only losing the popular vote once (George Bush’s second term, and the legitimacy of that is not something we will explore right now). Whoever they run may in two years may win the popular vote, but still not move into the White House. This is democracy, U.S. style.

So who are the candidates currently on the horizon? Please take a moment to prepare yourselves emotionally, since the picture this writer is about to paint is not a pretty one. In fact, it is downright terrifying.

  • Bernie Sanders. Yes, the darling of whatever remains of the leftist part of the Democratic Party still sees Sanders as the savior. The ‘Bernistas’ received a shot in the arm with the victory of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in the New York’s 14th district primary in June, when the much-feared word ‘socialism’ began its rehabilitation.

What does Bernie have going against him? For one thing, by the time the 2020 election rolls around, he will be 79 years old. Secondly, it will be difficult for some people to forget his enthusiastic endorsement of the woman who cheated him out of the nomination in 2016. It’s not as if there were no other candidates he could have endorsed. Gloria La Riva, who represented the Party for Socialism and Liberation, comes to mind. Her platform was one that anyone of intelligence and compassion would support.

  • Joe Biden. Now there’s a name to bring excitement to any dedicated Democrat. Don’t the words ‘Joe Biden’ conjure up change, dynamism and charisma? Can’t the reader imagine young people throwing themselves enthusiastically behind a ticket led by the former vice president? No, this writer can’t, either. If the party wants to once again shoot itself in the foot, nominating Biden might be just the ticket.

We will also mention that the former vice president will be a few weeks shy of his 78th birthday when some small percent of eligible voters next cast a presidential ballot. This is not to imply that a 78-year-old can’t be energic, sharp as a whip and ready to run the U.S; but that doesn’t describe Biden.

  • Hillary Clinton. You were warned; a terrifying picture was about to unfold to your view. Yes, there are rumors abounding now that Clinton, former First Lady, U.S. senator and Secretary of State, will once again toss her tiara into the ring for another go-round with Donald Trump. If the Democratic Party really wants to commit suicide, surely there are less painful ways of doing so. Clinton lost the election (granted, she won the popular vote by over 3 million votes; see note above about U.S-style democracy) to one of the least qualified, most dangerous candidates ever nominated for president, and now she may actually think she has a chance of beating him. The election of Trump was never an endorsement of his policies; his approval rating has rarely gone above 40%, and never above 50%. No, his election was not an endorsement of Trump, but a startling repudiation of Clinton. Her blatant greed, blind ambition, disdain for the poor and less fortunate, her ties to Wall Street and her questionable ethics all led large swaths of the population to vote for the odious Trump.

Why, one might reasonably ask, would the Democrats want to nominate someone who so un-democratically manipulated the delegates in 2016 to wrest the nomination from Bernie Sanders? Does the word ‘democracy’ mean nothing to the Democrats?

On the plus side, of these three potential candidates, Clinton is the most ‘youthful’. She will turn a mere 73 a few weeks before the next election. Does anyone remember a time, perhaps back in the days of George McGovern (only 50 when he ran for president), when the Democrats were the party of the young people? Has that entire age cohort now been dismissed from consideration?

  • Elizabeth Warren. The junior senator from Massachusetts is forever saying she isn’t interested in the presidency. We’ll see. She gets publicity every time Trump notices her, since he insists, in his juvenile way, on calling her ‘Pocahontas’. She did give a very good impression when questioning bankers following the bailout during the administration of Barack Obama, and she certainly put several of Trump’s Cabinet appointees on the hot seat during their appearances before the senate, but none of that has really resulted in very much. All form; no substance. And can one ever forget, in 2014, when Apartheid Israel was bombing Gaza, and she was asked her opinion on the matter, she actually ran away from the reporter! Later, apparently after seeing that pro-Israel lobbies donated $115,203.00 to her campaign, she endorsed that genocidal activity. But to give her the minimal credit she may be due, she has been critical of Israeli actions against unarmed Palestinians demonstrating at the border.

And just to keep things consistent, Warren will be 71 on the next presidential election day.

It is still very early days. No one has actually declared for the nomination yet, and these four, and who knows how many others, may rise like a phoenix, and then flame out, adding to the debris that always litters the campaign trail. This writer, unfortunately, can think of no Democrat whose name he can suggest; being an elected member of the House or Senate in the U.S. automatically means that one has sold one’s soul to the highest corporate or lobby bidder. This is nothing new; as Matthew said in the New Testament, “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also”.  Congressional members have shown that their ‘treasure’ is the money they get for their campaigns, and these are not the $5.00 and $10.00 donations that some misguided citizens occasionally send them. During her muddied career, Clinton received $2,473.367 from pro-Israeli lobbies. That’s quite a treasure, and there can be no doubt about where it leads her heart.

What is to be done? Surely, Trump must be prevented from another term in office, but what are, or will be, the alternatives? Probably, on the Democratic side, another old or aging white man or woman who is bought and paid for by corporations and lobby groups.

As mentioned earlier, the world is still more than two years away from the quadrennial circus known as U.S. presidential elections; it is probably about six months away from the first candidates to declare their candidacy. Is it too early for this writer to encourage readers to look to third-party candidates? The futility of voting for the lesser of two evils was brought home to him clearly in 2016, when there didn’t seem to be one. So he found the candidacy of Ms. La Riva, and voted for her.

While the outcome of any U.S. election probably doesn’t impact this writer as much as it does other U.S. citizens (he fled to Canada after the 2004 election; things were that bad then. He can’t imagine how fast he’d have left if he’d still been in the U.S. in 2016!), the leader of a war-mongering, nuclear-armed nation is of concern to everyone on the planet. If enough people take a stand, and say a resounding ‘no’ to both major parties, perhaps, just perhaps, there is a chance for change. The probability is small, but the consequences of not acting are too great.

Originally published by Counterpunch.

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Why Palestine is the Civil Rights Issue of our Time

In the last several days, Israeli barbarity against the Palestinians has been featured in the news like never before. The U.S. embassy move to Jerusalem, in violation of international law, assisted in publicizing Israel’s crimes. It’s important to understand why this change in favor of Palestine is so important, not only for Palestinians, but for human rights and international law.

In 1948, the newly-minted United Nations gave over 50% of the nation of Palestine to establish Israel. Over 750,000 Palestinians were driven from their homes, with no decision in their own displacement, and no recompense. Thousands were killed.

Since that time, Israel has had no regard for Palestine’s borders, constantly stealing land, demolishing Palestinian homes, displacing more Palestinians, and building illegal settlements for Israelis. International law clearly states that an occupying power cannot move its citizens permanently onto the occupied territory. Yet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has stated clearly that not one of the over 500,000 illegal settlers will ever be removed.

In the West Bank, there are roads on which only Israelis can drive. If a newly-build Israeli road crosses one used by Palestinians, the Palestinians are not permitted to even cross it.

Palestinian farmers must obtain permission from Israel to farm their own lands. That permission is often only granted after a long waiting period, after the time for planting or harvesting has passed. When farmers are able to plant on time, their crops often rot in the fields, because Israel refuses permission to harvest them.

In Israel, there is one set of laws governing Israelis, and another governing Arabs. Penalties for crimes committed by Arabs are far more severe than those for the same crimes committed by Israelis. Palestinian children who are accused of throwing rocks at Israeli soldiers can spend 15 years in prison. Israeli soldiers, filmed shooting unarmed Palestinian teens in the back, face no consequences whatever.

The West Bank is full of checkpoints, staffed by Israelis and arbitrarily opened and closed. These arbitrary openings and closings turn what should be a short commute to school or work into an hours-long ordeal. Women in labor have been blocked from crossing, resulting in dozens of babies being born at checkpoints, without medical assistance. Many babies requiring medical attention have died because Israeli soldiers refuse to allow their mothers to take them through a checkpoint to a medical facility.

Israel has a powerful military, provided by the United States. Palestine has no army, no navy and no air force. The media is quick to report any ‘rockets’ fired into Israel by Palestine. Dr. Norman Finkelstein, son of Holocaust survivors and a strong supporter of Palestinian rights, describes those rockets as ‘enhanced fireworks’. Calling them rockets, he says, serves a purpose for both Palestine and Israel. For Palestinians, they at least feel that their government is doing something on their behalf (please remember that, according to international law, an occupied people has the right to resist the occupation in any way possible); for Israel, calling them ‘rockets’ conjures up a picture of deadly missiles raining down on defenseless people.

The facts, however, tell their own story. In the last 18 years, 242 Israelis have been killed by Palestinians. During that same time, nearly 10,000 Palestinians have been killed by Israelis. These tolls include 134 Israeli children, and 2,167 Palestinian children.

Much criticism is directed toward Hamas, the democratically-elected government of the Gaza Strip. The United States has decreed this to be a terrorist organization. Yet after Hamas’ election, the government in the Gaza Strip worked to improve conditions there.

Hamas is criticized for not recognizing the existence of Israel. Yet Israel has been slowly destroying Palestine for decades. Hamas does not have the power to destroy Israel, yet by ‘appropriating’ more and more Palestinian land for Israeli-only housing, Israel is slowly destroying Palestine.

Israel has blockaded the Gaza Strip since the election of Hamas. Shortly after Hamas’ electoral victory, an Israeli official describe Israel’s response: “The idea is to put the Palestinians on a diet, but not to make them die of hunger.” By restricting the amount of food that is able to be imported, and blocking Palestinian efforts to grow their own, Israel further oppresses the people of Palestine.

The Gaza Strip is blocked by air, sea and land, on all sides. Palestinians in Gaza wanting to visit friends or relatives in the West Bank, part of their own country, are not allowed to do so. Leaving the Strip for medical attention which isn’t available in Gaza, mainly due to Israeli restrictions on medical imports, is next to impossible.

These facts have been concealed by the U.S. and Israel for decades, partly due to the power of Israeli lobbies in the U.S. Yet as U.S. citizens learn the truth, sympathy for the Palestinians is growing. This is shown in a variety of ways. International condemnation of Israeli soldiers shooting unarmed Palestinians, even killing members of the press, is increasing. In the U.S. there is a sea change; not a single Democrat attended the recent opening of the new U.S. embassy in Jerusalem.

Israel’s existence as a nation is an accepted reality, despite the fact that it is only 70 years old. Palestinians, whose country predates Biblical times, fight for that same recognition. Increasingly, the world is siding with Palestine, justice, international law and human rights.

Originally published by AHTribune.

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CNN: Blaming the Palestinian Victim

As Palestinians continue to struggle under the heavy, deadly hand of U.S.-sponsored Israeli oppression, the world’s governments mainly ignore them. This is business as usual for most governments, including U.S. officials, many of whom are ‘PEP’ – Progressive Except for Palestine.

March 30 is Land Day in Palestine, a day commemorated annually to mark events first held in 1976, in response to a major land theft announced by Israel. This year, tens of thousands of peaceful demonstrators camped and marched on the Palestinian side of the Palestine – Israel border, once again demanding the basic human rights that the world community has refused them. In response, Israeli snipers killed at least 18 unarmed Palestinians.

On April 1, CNN’s loftily titled ‘International Diplomatic Editor’, Nic Robertson, offered his pearls of wisdom on this situation. He wasted no time in both showing his ignorance of the current events, and his desire to blame the victim.

We will look at just a few quotations from his ill-informed editorial. We will start with the title of the article.

“The Timing of the Gaza Protest is No Coincidence.”

Is there anyone who is familiar with the situation in Palestine who thought it was a coincidence? The organizers were clear from the start: the demonstration would start on Land Day and continue to May 15, the day of the Nakba, or catastrophe, when, on that date in 1948, three-quarters of a million Palestinians were displaced from their homes, with no voice in the matter, no choice and no recompense. Does Robertson not know that this current protest was to be a major event, planned carefully to hopefully draw international attention to the plight of the Palestinians? Or did he, in his oh-so-insightful way, see that those crafty Palestinians were up to something, hidden from view but obvious to his particular brand of cleverness?

In this bizarre article. Roberson recognized that the scheduled end of the protest coincides with the relocation of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, something which the Palestinians and the vast majority of the world oppose. Said he, again demonstrating that particular intelligence that is clear throughout his article: “Given that Palestinians oppose this move, the timing of the protest is not likely a coincidence.” Right.

“Like so many battles of yesteryear, both sides arrive to this current field of conflict carrying a weight of historic grievances, armed with today’s political imperatives.”

Let’s look for a moment at some of these ‘historic grievances’. Palestinians were driven from their homes so the United Nations could establish the state of Israel.  Hundreds of ancient Palestinians villages were bulldozed, leaving not a trace. Sacred shrines and cemeteries received the same fate. Since that time, using the advanced weaponry that the U.S. provides to Israel, thousands of additional Palestinian men, women and children have been killed, arrested, illegally jailed, displaced, beaten, abused and disregarded by Israeli law. This is ongoing to this day.

On the other hand, Israel must contend with Palestinians throwing stones at its occupying soldiers, and occasionally even slapping one of them. Yes, as Robertson said, there are grievances on both sides.

“Israeli officials are convinced Hamas is challenging the status quo of Gaza’s limits and is ready to throw down civilian lives to achieve it.”

Yes, the murders of at least 18 unarmed Palestinians by Israeli snipers, and the injury to at least 700 more, injured with live ammunition, is all Palestine’s fault!

“In public statements before the confrontation, Israeli officials said an attack on the border fence is an attack on Israel’s sovereignty and pulled no punches on what a response could look like.”

Robertson neglects a few pertinent facts here, so we will inform him. The vast majority of the protesters were hundreds of yards away from the fence, ON PALESTINIAN LAND. Yet many were shot by Israeli snipers. To read Robertson’s words, one would think that hundreds or even thousands of Palestinians stormed the fence. Yes, a few dozen did approach the fence, but at all times they remained on Palestinian land. And, as mentioned earlier, some of the pesky Palestinians actually threw stones at the ‘brave’ Israeli snipers, who were heavily armed and outfitted against them. All this was happening while Israeli drones dropped tear gas on unarmed and defenseless Palestinians on their own land.

“To make their message clear, the Israel Defense Forces’ Arabic website posted a video of a young man being shot in the leg; it was accompanied by the caption: ‘This is what will happen to you if you try to get close to our border.’”

Robertson sees no problem with Palestinians being threatened for committing the ‘crime’ of being ‘close’ to the Israeli border. He did not choose to comment on that at all.

“It is hard to ignore the calculation on Hamas’s part that some of their protesters would get killed.”

Was this Hamas’ ‘calculation’, or an expectation, based on Hamas’, and the world’s, knowledge of the savagery of Israel? Robertson, like most U.S. government officials, seems to see Palestinians demanding equal rights from their apartheid oppressor as something that is ‘calculated’ by a scheming ‘terror’ organization.

In 2014, Robertson met with Khaled Meshaal Hamas’ political leader. In the current article, he says this: “He told me that Hamas does not seek international sympathy through its own victims. Today, that notion is increasingly questioned amid criticism that the group is once again sacrificing civilians for political gain.”

Once again, he is blaming the victim. The government of Gaza is right to encourage its citizens to peacefully demonstrate for their rights. The government of Israel is in violation of international law by shooting them and tear-gassing them. Yet it is the Palestinians in whom Robertson sees culpability.

It has been some time since this writer has seen such a blatantly one-sided, biased article about Palestinian’s struggles on a ‘mainstream’ news site. Generally, although Israel is usually seen as defending its ‘national security’, there is usually some bone thrown to Palestinian aspirations for peace, freedom and human rights. But CNN’s ‘International Diplomatic Editor’ was content to find fault only with the Palestinians, a people who have been brutally oppressed by Israel for decades.

Thankfully, Robertson is in the minority, although it is far more than a shame that he is given a national audience. The unspeakable injustices committed against the Palestinians seem to not only continue, but also increase, as more of the world stands up to Israel. Eventually, however, justice will prevail; it’s tragic that so many innocent Palestinians must suffer and die before that occurs.

Originally published by Counterpunch.

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