Category Archives: BDS

Trump, Palestine and ‘The Deal’

On May 4, United States President Donald Trump said that the Palestine-Israel problem may not be as hard to resolve as people have thought. And, as the self-proclaimed ultimate deal-maker, he was confident he could resolve it.

Much as one hates to ever agree with the former reality-TV star who currently occupies the White House (and whose tenure may be considerably shorter than 4 years, if the chaos he engenders continues), but it is true: the resolution to the problem is clear. However, it isn’t whatever the delusional Mr. Trump may think it is. All it takes is adherence to the rule of international law.

In 1947, the newly-minted United Nations partitioned Palestine to establish Israel. This had been the plan of Zionists for at least fifty years, and the atrocities committed by Germany against the Jewish people motivated the U.N. to commit a major, ongoing atrocity against the Palestinians. The illegality and immorality of that action will not be addressed here. Suffice it to say that the Palestinians and their Arab neighbors were not keen on this plan, which displaced, in that and the next year, at least 750,000 Palestinians, and caused the deaths of at least 10,000. And the death toll has mounted drastically since then, along with the number of people brutally displaced from their homes and homeland.

So on this bloody ethnic cleansing, Israel was born.

Following the 1967 ‘war’, Israel occupied the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, and has done so ever since, this year marking the half-century point. Although it ostensibly left the Gaza Strip in 2005, it has blockaded it since, and the U.N. considers it still occupied.

Despite its key role in the monster it created, the U.N. has issued more resolutions condemning Israeli activity than it has against any other nation.

Currently, nearly 500,000 Israelis live illegally in the West Bank. Israel routinely demolishes Palestinian homes to make room for new buildings that only Israelis can inhabit. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in disdaining international law, has stated categorically that not one settler will ever be removed from the West Bank.

But the easy resolution Mr. Trump sees is not the one that actually exists. With his promise to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, a move sure to bring more hostility toward the U.S. throughout the Middle East and elsewhere, international law does not seem to be anywhere on his radar. His request to Netanyahu to, perhaps, slow down on settlement building reinforces that idea. But, as the ‘ultimate deal-maker’, he is confident he can broker an agreement between the two sides.

Let’s look at a similar situation. A bank is robbed; the robber wore no mask, and made no attempt to conceal his identity as he brandished a gun, shot a few tellers, and emptied their drawers. He escaped in a police vehicle

The police are notified. They go to the robber’s house and ask him to please meet with the bank manager, to discuss how much of the money he stole, if any, could be returned to the bank. The murders of the tellers isn’t even mentioned.

The robber agrees; after all, what does he have to lose? As he sits down with the bank manager, word is received that an associate of the robber has robbed yet another bank. The bank manager leaves, seeing that the robber isn’t negotiating in good faith. The police ask the robber to please meet again, but to agree not to rob any more banks during the negotiation period. The robber refuses; he agrees only to negotiations with no pre-conditions. The police drive the robber back home.

Now, this scenario is, of course, ridiculous. When a bank is robbed, the perpetrator, if known, is arrested and the money, if found, is all returned to the bank. If anyone was killed during the robbery, the robber is also accused of murder, and tried for his or her crimes.

But in the lofty circles of international crime, such petty considerations as law, justice and fairness have no role. Israel takes what it wants from Palestine – land, natural resources, etc. – with complete impunity. Why should Israel negotiate, when in doing so, it may have to give up something? Without negotiating, it simply takes whatever it wants, and gives nothing in return.

So what if international law demands an end to both the blockade of the Gaza Strip and the occupation of the West Bank? So what if the land on which 500,000 Israelis live in illegal settlements belongs to the Palestinians from whom it was stolen? What is any of that, when the mighty U.S. finances Israeli crimes, spits on the United Nations, and holds international law in contempt? Israel and the United States are two of just a few nations that haven’t signed on to the International Criminal Court, and are, therefore, not under its jurisdiction. That makes perfect sense from their point of view: when guilty of crimes against humanity, why involve oneself in an international organization that may hold you accountable for such crimes?

So what is to be done? One looks to the U.S., that self-proclaimed beacon of freedom and democracy, in vain. With a government owned by powerful lobbies, with AIPAC (Apartheid Israel Political Affairs Committee) among the most powerful, such trivialities as international law, human rights and basic human dignity have no place in the equation. Photo-ops with Netanyahu, as he accepts $4 billion annually from the U.S., are far more important that tens of thousands of homeless Palestinians, struggling to find clean water in the largest outdoor prison in the world. The monies that flow from various Israeli lobbies, AIPAC chief among them, cannot be jeopardized by such trivialities as human rights and international law. Between 2010 and 2016, those political contributions amounted to $20,193,517. When lobbies donate that much money on a consistent basis, one knows that they are getting what they paid for. And what they pay for has nothing to do with human rights.

The Trump White House is, by all accounts except his own, in total disarray, with morale low and confusion high. The current focus is on the firing of FBI Director James Comey, the now-former head of one branch of U.S. terrorism. Why he was dismissed from his job is in question; the reason seems to change from one presidential ‘tweet’ to the next. Not even his vice-president, the radical Christian-right Zionist Mike Pence, seems to have that particular story straight.

So it is unlikely that Mr. Trump will be brokering any new ‘deals’ between Palestine and its brutal occupier, Israel. What is required is a continuation of the growing people’s movement, informing the public of Israel atrocities by publicizing them on social media. Additionally, pressure must be put on elected officials (this writer does not refer to them as ‘representatives’, since that implies that they represent their constituents, not the multiple lobbies whose work they actually do) to demand that the U.S. adhere to its own laws, which prohibit financial aid to countries in violation of human rights. The continued boycott of Israel, through the ever-growing BDS (Boycott, Divest and Sanction) movement, must increase.

Despite the continued Israeli barbarity against the Palestinians, all financed and supported by the U.S., Palestine will be free. That day cannot come soon enough for the suffering Palestinians.

Originally published by the American Herald Tribune.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Apartheid, BDS, Gaza, Human Rights, Israel, Palestine

Tulsi Gabbard: the New Democratic ‘Savior’

The grossly misnamed Democratic Party has a brand new savior. Yes, with former Senator Hillary Clinton having been vanquished, and her ardent cheerleader, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, being ‘old news’, one Tulsi Gabbard, Representative from the state of Hawaii, has ridden in on her white stallion to save the day.

Ms. Gabbard gained the attention of the Democrats when she dared criticize President Donald Trump’s bombing of Syria, saying that without hard evidence that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was, indeed, responsible for the alleged chemical attack that killed several Syrian citizens, there should be no retaliation. It is puzzling that Ms. Gabbard seemed to be almost alone in this assertion, since it would seem to be common sense that before punishing anyone for anything, it should be known that that person was responsible for whatever deed is being punished for. And why U.S. government officials feel the need to punish any international entity for anything is a topic for a different essay.

But this position has launched Ms. Gabbard’s new career in what passes for the progressive wing of the party, as a leader in the Democratic Party, and a potential contender for the White House.

Sadly, like many Democrats, Ms. Gabbard is ‘PEP’: Progressive except for Palestine. She has said that she believes Palestine and Israel must negotiate the terms of peace, and supports an independent, demitiliarized Palestine. A few quotations from her official website are instructive:

“I know how important our enduring alliance with Israel is. My vote upholds my commitment to maintaining and strengthening this alliance, as well as my long-held position that the most viable path to peace between Israel and Palestine can be found through both sides negotiating a two-state solution.

“Ultimately, a negotiated solution must come from Israelis and Palestinians themselves, and can only happen when both parties are committed to peace, where they alone determine the terms of the settlement.  I co-sponsored H.Res.23 which reaffirms the U.S. commitment to Israel, and a negotiated settlement leading to a sustainable two-state solution that re-affirms Israel’s right to exist as a democratic, Jewish state and establishes a demilitarized democratic Palestinian state living side-by-side in peace and security. I will continue to work with my colleagues in Congress to support bilateral negotiations between Israel and Palestine in order to bring an end to this enduring conflict.”

As we dissect these few sentences, we must remember that between November, 2014 and November, 2016, the illustrious Ms. Gabbard received $21,975 from pro-Israeli lobbies. This is a mere pittance when compared to the contributions of some of her colleagues, with Illinois Representative Bradley Scott Schneider being the big winner, with a windfall of $300,932 during that same time period. But that grand prize is one that Ms. Gabbard, if she plays her Zionist cards right, can obtain, or even exceed.

+ “I know how important our enduring alliance with Israel is.” Ms. Gabbard may know it, but would someone, anyone, please enlighten this writer? Why should the U.S. have any alliance with an apartheid state, one that spits in its eye and then demands, and receives, billions of dollars in aid?

+ “…the most viable path to peace between Israel and Palestine can be found through both sides negotiating a two-state solution.” Again, this writer needs to be enlightened. If I am in ‘negotiations’ with another party, and I am able to take from that party whatever I want, whenever I want, and give nothing in return, what would be the advantage to me in negotiating? Oh, I might proclaim to whatever idiotic entity is encouraging negotiations that I am willing to sit down with the other party, without preconditions (meaning I can continue taking whatever I want as we ‘negotiate’), and then actually do so, but it will have no meaning. I will never honestly negotiate, since doing so won’t be in my best interest.

+ Gabbard reaffirms “Israel’s right to exist as a democratic, Jewish state.” That is a two-pronged sword, and we will try to prevent being stabbed by either one.

Like most Democrats, Ms. Gabbard does not seem to understand the root words from which the term originates. Basically, it means ‘citizen rule’, and implies equality. In a democracy, there are not separate rules for different ethnic and religious groups, as there are in Israel. Yet she is willing to spout the happy mantras that have served the party for so long, despite the fact that they have long since their luster among the populace.

She further affirms Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state. Again, the meaning of that term is unclear. The only reasonable definition contradicts the idea of a democracy. If Israel is to be a Jewish state, than non-Jews living there will not have the same rights, as is true today.

The concept of a ‘Jewish, democratic state’ is a contradiction in terms. For generations, the U.S. was, in effect, a ‘White European, democratic state’, meaning that all laws favored the predominately white population, and everyone else was a second-class citizen. Democracy? This writer thinks not.

+ Gabbard further wants to “establish a demilitarized democratic Palestinian state”. How is it possible for anyone to utter those words with a straight face? Set aside for a moment the fact that an independent Palestine will have a mortal enemy at its border, one that has been actively working on its destruction for decades. Leave out for just a minute the fact that that enemy has an extremely powerful military, and is backed by the strongest and most violent nation on the planet. Even without those considerations, why should any country be prevented by any other country from having the means to defend its land and citizens?

All of this indicates that Ms. Gabbard is either ignorant of international law, or cares nothing for it. International law states clearly, and this has been reiterated by numerous United Nations resolutions, that the occupation of Palestine by Israel is illegal. This, apparently, means nothing to Ms. Gabbard.

It’s also worth noting, that the celebrated Representative from Hawaii also condemns the BDS (Boycott, Divest and Sanction) movement.

And this is the new savior; this is the ‘new breed’ of ‘progressive’ Democrat who will carry the mantle of the war-mongering former President Barack Obama; former standard-bearer, the war-mongering Hillary Clinton, and the rest of the war-mongering Democrats.

This is what ‘progressive’ has come to mean in Democratic Party circles. The party has long been nothing but a cosmetically-different version of the Republican Party, with opposition to Republican policies only on display when the GOP is in power; the same policies, with few exceptions, are promoted when the Democrats are in power, and one constant is the bowing at the Israeli altar and the accompanying complete disdain for the human rights struggles of the Palestinian people. And with that, of course, is an equal disregard for international law.

As long as the government and the corporate-owned media are able to maintain their stranglehold on what passes for the two-party system in the U.S., nothing will change. Politicians will do the bidding of the lobbies that support them, ignoring the will of the people. Suffering in the U.S. and globally will be ignored, as long as the U.S.’s elected officials are able to keep their low-challenging, high-paying jobs.

To say that a third party movement, a real one not beholden to any outside interests but with the good of the people in mind, is long overdue, is a classic understatement.

Originally published by Counterpunch.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Apartheid, BDS, Gaza, Human Rights, Israel, Palestine, Palestine, Political Musings, U.S., U.S. Politics

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

Leave a Comment

Filed under Apartheid, BDS, Gaza, Human Rights, Israel, Palestine, Palestine, Political Musings, U.S., U.S. Politics

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

 

Leave a Comment

Filed under Apartheid, BDS, Gaza, Human Rights, Israel

‘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.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Apartheid, BDS, Gaza, Human Rights, Israel

Israel Lines Its Pockets With Palestinian Aid — And The US Helps Israel Keep It That Way

From severely limited water supplies to a blockade on even the most basic supplies, Israel’s continued illegal occupation of Palestine has destroyed even the most basic infrastructure Palestinians need to survive, forcing residents of Gaza and the West Bank to struggle through a humanitarian disaster.

This was intensified in 2014 during Israel’s most recent genocidal attack on the Gaza Strip, which left over 2,000 Palestinians dead and over 100,000 homeless. During that onslaught, Operation Protective Edge, Israel deliberately targeted Gaza’s infrastructure, destroying factories and plants that posed no threat to the occupation.

In September 2015, The United Nations’ Roberto Valent estimated that, at the current rate, it will take 30 years to rebuild Gaza, not to mention the estimated $7.8 billion required to fund those efforts.

Now, just two years later, the unemployment rate in Palestine has neared an astronomical 27 percent, and Oxfam International operates a food voucher program that assists 71,000 people in Gaza alone.

And while the chief reason for Palestinian suffering is the brutal, illegal occupation of Israel there are a number of other compounding factors found in the deeply corrupt Palestinian Authority under Mahmoud Abbas.

In March, Mondoweiss reported that Mr. Abbas refused an opportunity to construct new electricity lines that would have supported the power sector in Gaza, where residents have electricity for just a few hours each day.

Ongoing “security cooperation” between Israel and the PA is another example of Mr. Abbas’ complicity in Palestinian suffering. There is also strong evidence that the PA shares information with Israel to prevent armed resistance to the occupation.

This complicity and corruption in Mr. Abbas’ PA plays into another major roadblock on Palestine’s path to recovery: International funds meant for reconstruction efforts in Gaza and other forms of humanitarian aid are routinely diluted by Israel.

 

Israel: A sieve for aid money intended for Palestine

Last month, the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, which regularly polls Palestinians on a range of issues, including their perception of corruption within the PA, reported that 80 percent perceive corruption and 52 percent view the PA as a burden.

An April report by Haaretz highlighted Palestinians’ long-standing grievances with the puppet government headed by Mr. Abbas and controlled by Israel and the United States:

“Outright theft of public funds, receiving of bribes and other favors in return for services, hugely inflated salaries and favors paid to senior NGO officials and high-level political interference in the replacement of senior civil servants.”

Monies donated to various NGOs operating in Palestine do not always reach their ultimate destination. This generally occurs for one of two reasons: corruption within the Palestinian government or theft by the Israeli government.

Over a five-year period, Rafiq al-Natsheh, chairman of the Palestinian Anti-Corruption Commission, recovered $70 million in state money which officials used to strike profitable deals abroad. While Al-Natsheh said tens of millions are still missing, he also refuted allegations that the missing monies total into the hundreds of millions. So the issue of corruption within Palestine, under the watchful eyes of the spineless Mr. Abbas, is significant, but it still isn’t the biggest component of the problem.

The main challenge to funding the needs of the Palestinians is caused by Israel. That apartheid nation demands that all aid to Palestine go through Israel. Therefore, such things as taxes, transportation costs and many other “fees” reduce the amount of aid that actually reaches Palestine, while enriching the occupiers.

And this causes international donations to decrease. Reuters reported in February:

“Over the past five years, direct support to the Palestinian budget from the EU and others has fallen from around $1.3 billion a year to less than $700 million, with the decline attributed in large part to frustration over money not being spent where it was intended or not being fully accounted for.”

It is interesting that while money “not being spent where it was intended or not being fully accounted for” is cause for the European Union and other entities to draw back their support, the model is not the same for the U.S. In the final report of the Commission on Wartime Contracting, which reviewed monies ostensibly spent for the reconstruction of Iraq and Afghanistan following the United States’ devastation of those countries, it is estimated that between $31 billion and $60 billion had been lost to fraud and waste. However, U.S. money still flows to Iraq.

Indeed, the occupation of Palestine is a lucrative arrangement for Israel. Mondoweiss reported in March that Israel periodically tests new weaponry, usually provided by the U.S., on Palestinians. Then, after the testing is done, leaving thousands of innocent Palestinians dead or maimed, the weapons are ready to be sold on the international market.

 

Aid subversion and unfulfilled pledges

Since all aid to Palestine must go through Israel, as the Mondoweiss report highlighted, this provides endless opportunities for “aid subversion” or “aid diversion.” That is why studies indicate that 72 percent of that money remains in Israel, never benefitting Palestinians.

Another related issue is the lack of pledge fulfillment. After the 2014 Israeli slaughter of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, the “Cairo Conference on Palestine – Reconstructing Gaza” was held on Oct. 14, 2014. Several nations pledged $5 billion — including $3.5 billion intended specifically for Gaza — to support the reconstruction of the more than 200,000 homes and businesses destroyed or damaged by Israel. Yet, as of March this year, less than half of the pledged monies had been sent.

Donations were to be made available between 2014 and 2017, but even allowing for the donations being sent periodically, rather than all at once, they are still behind. The following table shows the pledges, monies sent and shortfall from four Arab nations as of April, the most recent date for which this information is available:

aid graph

If one looks at the $232 million that has already been sent, far short of the nearly $2 billion pledged by these four nations, and considers that Israel skims at least 70 percent off that total, the amount actually received by Palestine is less than $70 million.

One of the international arguments against universal recognition of Palestine is that it cannot be self-sustaining. Yet as Al-Jazeera reported in April:

“The Palestinian Authority is being deprived of $285m in revenues annually, the World Bank reported, attributing these losses to arrangements outlined by the Paris Protocol, the Oslo Accord-era agreement that determined the economic relationship between Israel and the Palestinians.”

The report further states that Israel is withholding $669 million in Palestinian revenue. Certainly, the influx of this money would greatly stimulate the Palestinian economy.

 

The 8th most powerful country in the world gets more US aid than Palestine

Israel is ranked as the eighth most powerful country in the world. Yet it still receives billions of dollars in foreign aid from the U.S. each year.

For fiscal year 2017, the U.S. has pledged $364 million to Palestine. Compare that to the proposal for foreign aid to Israel for 2017, which currently stands at $3.1 billion but could rise to as much as $4 billion. So the U.S. will give Palestine less than 10 percent of what it gives to the eighth most powerful country in the world.

And while the amount given to Israel is ever-increasing, the same is not true for Palestine. In October 2015, the U.S. reduced the $370 million promised to Palestine (less than what is pledged for 2017) to $290 million in order to send a “message” to that country in response to stabbing attacks in Jerusalem. Yet Israel kills hundreds of innocent Palestinians annually, and it continues to enjoy aid boosts from Washington.

Does it not appear that perhaps the international deck is stacked against Palestine? The U.S. sends it a fraction of what it sends to Israel, and Israel steals most of it anyway.

There can be no question that Mr. Abbas is far more beneficial to the U.S. and Israel than he is to Palestine, nor can it be questioned that the U.S. enables Israel’s apartheid regime. With billions required to rebuild Gaza, pledged donations only trickling in, Mr. Abbas cooperating with Israel, and the occupation continuing, the situation for Palestinians is dire.

Only when the rest of the world chooses to oppose the gross injustices that those two nations perpetrate on Palestine, will the Palestinians find peace and justice.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said that Palestine will not be a free and independent during his time in office, yet worldwide protest and condemnation appear to make it harder and harder for him to keep that promise.

 Originally published by MintPressNews.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Apartheid, BDS, Gaza, Human Rights

The First Amendment, BDS and Third Party Candidates

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A few phrases from the PSL webpage are telling:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Originally published by Counterpunch.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Apartheid, BDS, Gaza, Human Rights, Israel, Militarism, Palestine, Palestine, U.S., U.S. Politics

A Perfect Couple: Sanders and Clinton

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Please see comment, above.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“…negotiated directly by the parties…”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Originally published by Counterpunch.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Apartheid, BDS, Gaza, Human Rights, Israel, Militarism, Palestine, Palestine, U.S., U.S. Politics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just seven years earlier…

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

What made the difference?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Originally published by MintPressNews.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Apartheid, BDS, Gaza, Human Rights, Israel, Palestine

Efforts To Legislate BDS Out Of Existence Will Only Backfire

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Can BDS be legislated out of existence?

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

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

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

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

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

Hardly.

No such thing as bad publicity?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Originally published by MintPressNews.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Apartheid, BDS, Gaza, Human Rights, Israel, Palestine, Palestine, U.S., U.S. Politics