Category Archives: Violence

Candidates, Palestine and Pro-Israel Lobby Money

It is not unusual for this writer to receive solicitations for campaign contributions from Democratic candidates across the country. The fact that he lives in Canada, and is registered in Florida (his last U.S. place of residence), is of no concern to candidates with their hands out. When receiving such emails, or when hearing about other ‘progressive’ candidates, he checks online to learn if they are truly progressive, or are PEP  – Progressive Except for Palestine.

One such candidate, House member Krysten Sinema, was recently elected to represent Arizona in the Senate. In researching her background, this writer found a ‘position paper’ from 2009 that parrots many of the statements he’s heard from other PEP officials. We will look at a few of them in detail. While this ‘position paper’ is several years old, the candidate has worked hard since then to hone her racist, Zionist credentials.

As we look at these statements, let’s keep in the back of our minds that fact that, during the 2017 – 2018 elections cycle, Sinema received $233,667.00 in donations from pro-Israel lobbies. In the two years prior, her take was  a ‘mere’ $61,725.00.

  • “The United States and Israel have been allies for more than 60 years, and this relationship, born of common values, must continue to be strong. Our friendship is rooted in our mutual respect for democratic values, human rights and religious freedom.”

It is a marvel that any thinking person can speak these words, let alone believe them. Democracy, unlike what the U.S. government officials would have us all believe, is far more than periodic voting. But even by that superficial litmus test, both countries fail. In both Israel and the U.S., voter suppression works to maintain the status quo. In both countries, there is one ethnic group that is favored and privileged above all others. In the U.S., it is whites of European descent. In Israel, it is Zionist Jews. In the U.S., people of African descent are more likely to receive harsher prison sentences for the same crimes committed by their white peers; they are far more likely to be shot by white police officers. In Israel, people of Arab or African descent are brutally treated. Palestinians can be arrested without charge and held indefinitely with no access to lawyers, or even family. And like the U.S., in Israel, Palestinians or people of African descent receive far more severe penalties for crimes than their Jewish counterparts.

Israel is continually criticized by the international community for its human rights violations against Palestinians in Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The U.S. vetoes nearly all United Nations resolutions critical of Israel, while it finances its crimes.

The U.S. also supports Saudi Arabia, despite its atrocious human rights record.

Additionally, the U.S. tortures political prisoners at Guantanamo, and in ‘rendition’ sites around the world.

In the U.S., the favored religious status is Christian or Jewish; Muslims need not apply. Mosques surrounded by armed protesters during religious services barely register with the citizenry. One can only imagine how much blood would flow should armed Muslims ever surround a church or synagogue during worship services, and all of it would be from Muslim bodies.

Based on all this, Sinema may be right in saying the nations have shared values.

  • “While I had read about the conflict between Israel and Hamas, it was only in Sderot that I saw first hand the danger in which many Israelis live each day. I will never forget the bomb shelter that was built at the site of a children’s playground after children had been killed by Hamas rockets.”

Is Sinema totally unaware of the danger in which all Palestinians live each day? Is she unaware of the brutality of checkpoints in the West Bank, and the blockade of the Gaza Strip? Is she completely ignorant of the brutal harassment that occurs on a daily basis at the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem? Is she blind to home demolitions, arrests without cause, assaults on and murders of unarmed men, women and children by IDF soldiers and illegal settlers? Does she not  know that since 2000, while 1,242 Israelis have been killed in conflicts with Palestinians, at least 9,510 Palestinians have been killed? Does she not know that this number includes 134 Israeli children and 2,167 Palestinian children? If she doesn’t know, she is too uninformed to be part of the U.S. Congress. If she does know, her racism makes her unfit for government ‘service’.

  • “I believe that Israel has the right to defend herself from her neighbors and from terrorist organizations.” One wonders if the illustrious Sinema also believes that a rapist has the right to defend himself when the woman he is raping fights back. The logic is the same in both situations. Israel brutally occupies Palestine, and according to international law, Palestine has the right to resist the occupation in any way possible. Israel doesn’t ‘defend’ itself from Palestine; it simply increases the brutality of the occupation.
  • “I also believe that the best path to long-term peace for Israel is a two-state solution – one a secure Jewish state of Israel and the other, an independent, demilitarized Palestine.”

Does she not believe in a secure Palestinian state? And why, oh why, would any country, especially one adjacent to a nation that has spent seventy years trying to destroy it, be ‘demilitarized’? Does not Palestine have a right to defend itself from its neighbors and from terrorist organizations, such as the IDF?

  • “…lasting peace will only emerge from direct negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians themselves.” No, Ms. Sinema, this is not how “lasting peace” will emerge. If Israel is forced by the international community to adhere to international law, there will be peace. This means retreating to the pre-1967 borders, and ending the blockade of the Gaza Strip.

We will take a moment to state, once again, that negotiations can only be successful when each party wants something the other has, that can only be obtained by surrendering something it has. Israel takes whatever it wants from Palestine with complete impunity. Why wouldn’t Israel say it’s willing to negotiate? It can ‘negotiate’ all it wants while it simply steals land from Palestine.

Sinema’s statement goes on, but time, along with this writer’s ability to read such garbage, are both limited. But it is clear that Sinema is reading a script from her pro-Israel owners.

She is certainly not the only one. While she ranks fourth in donations from pro-Israel lobbies during the 2017 – 2018 campaign season, Texas’s own PEP candidate, Beta O’Rourke, ranks number one, with a whopping $390,982.00.

There is a great hue and cry among the self-righteous Congressional hypocrites on both sides of the aisle that Russia, perhaps, attempted to influence the 2016 presidential election. Yet when pro-Israel lobbies spend millions and millions of dollars to elect candidates who will work for Israel’s best interest, these same people are silent. Prior to the 2016 Democratic convention, true progressives (the few that remain in the Democratic Party) attempted to remove the provision that the Democrats recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. In its most un-Democratic way, the Party kept this provision, thus pleasing its Israeli owners.

Until any major party becomes truly progressive, this writer’s donations and votes will go to third-party candidates who believe in human rights and international law. He expects to be donating to, and voting for, third-party candidates for a long time to come.

Originally published by The Palestine News Network.

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

US and Turkey Agree to Occupy Syria Together

While Syria makes progress in freeing areas of the country from foreign-supported terrorist groups, with invaluable assistance from Iran and Russia, the United States is seeking alternate ways to maintain its own presence there. The defeat of ‘rebel’ groups is not good news for the U.S., since it arms and supports them, and has done so for years.

Now it is being reported that an agreement between the U.S. and Turkish governments, that seeks to give some semblance of legitimacy to continued U.S. presence in Syria, has been reached.

Turkey, like the U.S., is seeking to remove Kurds from Syrian areas, such as Afrin, where the Kurds gained control after ISIL was driven out. A Russian news outlet reported that U.S. and Turkish forces would occupy that area of Syria, once the Kurds are removed, and that Turkey will be represented in Afrin by the so-called Free Syrian Army, a western-financed terrorist group that was established with the sole purpose of overthrowing the legitimately-elected government of Bashar al-Assad. If the U.S. and Turkey do take control of Afrin, it will become the center of terrorist activity in Syria.

It is puzzling to consider how two nations can come to any kind of agreement on the partial occupation of another nation. U.S. presence in Syria violates the internationally-recognized sovereignty of the Syrian nation. U.S. support for groups in Syria that seek the overthrow of that government does the same. Yet government officials from Turkey and the U.S. discuss Syria as if it is theirs to divide however they choose.

Pentagon spokesman Eric Pahon, in December, said this: “We are going to maintain our commitment on the ground as long as we need to, to support our partners and prevent the return of terrorist groups.” This is typical of the black-is-white and white-is-black rhetoric of U.S. government spokespeople. Which partners are they supporting? They are supporting those, such as Israel, who seek to destabilize the Middle East. And the best thing the U.S. could do to “prevent the return of terrorist groups” is to remove all U.S. support for those groups, remove all U.S. soldiers from Syria, and assure that none ever set foot there again. It can also stop bombing Syria, and cease all efforts to overthrow the government of Syria. U.S. actions in and toward Syria are classic examples of the worst kind of terrorism.

U.S. spokespeople had been saying that the U.S. will maintain a presence in Syria, even after ISIL is defeated, proclaiming that it must do so to counter Iran’s growing influence in the region. Yet the government of Syria has in no way agreed to allow the U.S. to be there today, let alone to remain in Syria at any time in the future. And there is no reason to think that Syria’s government will ever do so, considering the destruction, death and unspeakable suffering that the U.S. has caused, and continues to cause, in Syria.

The U.S. is forever declaiming Iran’s growing influence, as if that is a dangerous and negative thing for the Middle East and the world. Nothing could be further from the truth. Unlike the U.S., which has been at war for 225 years of its 242 – year existence, Iran has not invaded another nation since 1798. The U.S. has invaded and/or otherwise destabilized several nations in the Middle East, and is currently at war with Afghanistan, and still has troops in Iraq, which it invaded and occupied early in the current millennium, destroying the infrastructure, ushering that nation to the brink of civil war, and killing at least 2,000,000 people. The U.S. is currently bombing at least seven countries. Nowhere on the planet does any nation want U.S. ‘influence’.

A partial list of independent nations victimized by U.S. violence is the following: Syria, Iran, Guatemala, Tibet, Indonesia, Cuba, Democratic Republic of the Congo, South Vietnam, Brazil, Ghana, Chile, Afghanistan, Turkey, Poland, Nicaragua, Cambodia, Angola, Philipp9ines, Iraq, Venezuela, Palestine, Somalia, Libya.  Please note that this is not a complete list, only covers U.S. aggression from 1949 to the present, and several of the countries listed have been targeted multiple times by the U.S. since the second half of the twentieth century.

Compare and contrast that record to that of Iran, a nation which has successfully defended itself from its enemies, and which aids its allies, as it is doing in Syria today. Iran does not have military bases around the world; the U.S. has close to 1,000 of them, often in countries where the people do not want them. The U.S. uses its military and intelligence to thwart free elections; foment rebellion; overthrow governments and bring death and suffering wherever it is, including within its own borders. Its contempt for international law is matched by no other nation, with the exception of Israel.

The spokesman referenced above also reiterated, incredibly, that the U.S. is assisting its allies in fighting ISIL.

That the U.S. supports ISIL and other terrorist groups can no longer be denied; the evidence is far too overwhelming. The U.S. arms and trains ISIL, and that organization also gets assistance from Israel. Using fighting ISIL as a reason to remain in Syria, against the wishes of the sovereign Syrian government, is a bold-faced lie.

What the United States government will do next, domestically or on the international stage, is unknown. The erratic and unpredictable Donald Trump seems to have few deeply held convictions, but those he does hold appear to be fraught with danger. He believes in U.S. supremacy in all areas; the need to use violent force to assure that the world is ordered to his liking is another core belief. He seems to think that wealth and power are better ‘virtues’ than fairness and equality, as is demonstrated by his full and uncompromising support of apartheid Israel. The concepts of human rights and international law have no importance to him, because of his belief that the U.S. way is sperior to every alternative.

Domestically, he governs for the rich, white class that supports him from the top, caring noting for civil rights, public education, affordability of higher education, assistance to the poor, universal health care or national infrastructure.

As the economies of China, India and other nations grow, and as the military power of Iran, and its influence around the world, continue to increase, the U.S. finds itself in the position of a world power in decline. This is always dangerous, like a wounded animal that knows it is vulnerable, and therefore lashes out at anything nearby. Add to that an unqualified, violent, egotistical president, and the formula for international catastrophe is very great.

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Filed under Syria, U.S., U.S. Politics, Violence

Guns, Violence and the United States

Let us all take a quick look at the news:

  • The White House is in chaos.
  • The investigation into possible Trump campaign collusion with Russia drags on.
  • The U.S. won some Olympic medals.

Is there anything else? Oh yes:

  • Seventeen people were killed in a school shooting, the eighth such shooting in the U.S. this year (and it is only mid-February), making it hardly newsworthy.

One might think that politicians in the U.S. would take note of this last item. This is not a ‘one-of’, but an ongoing pattern in schools across the country. This latest shooting happened in Parkland, Florida, named ‘Florida’s Safest City’ in 2017.

Florida Senator Marco Rubio offered his thoughts and prayers for the victims; very nice, indeed, but he is one of 50 people who could make changes that might have prevented this, and the seven other such shootings that have occurred this year. Yet he has consistently opposed any kind of gun control. Perhaps the fact that he’s accepted over $3,000,000.00 in campaign contributions from the National Rifle Association (NRA) over the course of his career may have something to do with his opposition to sensible gun laws. Following this latest tragedy, he said that it was too early to discuss gun control, “…because people don’t know how this happened.”

This writer is puzzled by Rubio’s pearls of wisdom. ‘How this happened’ seems quite clear; he will explicate it for the good senator: A man with a semi-automatic weapon, designed to shoot many bullets quickly, thus enabling the person operating it to kill many people quickly if he so chooses, walked into a school, activated the fire alarm so students would come running out of their classrooms, and began doing with his gun exactly what it was built do to. As a result, seventeen people are dead, and dozens more are injured. Seventeen families now must bear unimaginable grief. Thousands of students are now at risk of post -traumatic stress disorder (PTSD); whether or not they will return to that school, or if they will need to be relocated is yet to be determined. School administrators now face a situation they should never have had to experience. But Rubio doesn’t know how this happened.

A year and a half earlier, in June of 2016, Florida had another massacre, this one at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando. Fifty people, including the assailant, were killed and 58 wounded by an assassin using the same kind of gun that was used in Parkland. Republican Governor Rick Scott, another darling of the NRA, said at that time that “…the Second Amendment didn’t kill anybody.” He implied that that shooting was somehow related to ISIS and terrorism, although the perpetrator was U.S. born. And in Florida, it’s easier to purchase an AR-15 than it is to buy a pistol. But the governor, like Rubio, sees no point in doing anything more than offering ‘thoughts and prayers.’

Just this year, there have been at least 31 mass shootings, causing 58 deaths and 124 injuries. These have occurred in high-crime areas and well-to-do neighborhoods. No one is exempt, even people living in the ‘safest city’ in the country.

Also this year, 123 people have been killed by the police, another group for whom guns and gun violence are a way of life.

As of this writing, we are 46 days into the new year. That means that there is a mass shooting in the U.S. every day and a half. It means that more than one person per day dies as a result of a mass shooting. It means that the police in the U.S. kill nearly 3 people every day.

This does not occur in any other nation on the planet. Rich or poor, democratic, socialist, or any other form of government, the U.S. leads in gun deaths.

It is simplistic to say that the availability of guns is the cause; that is merely one of many, and reasonable, sensible gun laws would certainly reduce this tragic number of deaths. But there is an acceptance of violence that permeates U.S. society, and is glorified within it.

In the media and through the words and actions of government officials, soldiers, who are trained to kill, are revered. The more they kill, the greater their respect. A soldier named Chris Kyle, the most deadly sniper in U.S. history, was the subject of a movie showing his ‘heroics’ in killing people. It is ironic that, in 2013, he was shot to death by a fellow soldier suffering from PTSD, who used a gun Kyle owned.

This attitude of reverence for killers is nothing new in the U.S. After Lieutenant William Calley was convicted of murdering hundreds of people in My Lai, Vietnam, he was sentenced to life in prison. Surveys in the U.S. indicated that 79% of the U.S. public thought the verdict was too harsh. He wound up serving for less than four years under house arrest.

Parents, when speaking of their grown children in the military, speak proudly of their ‘service’. Veterans, those who do not regret their time in the military, talk about how they helped ‘keep America free’. Police officers appear to have little concern about their countless victims, or the suffering and grief of the loved ones of those victims. That they act as judge, jury and executioner cannot be denied. Darren Wilson, the police officer who shot and killed the unarmed Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri in August of 2014 described his victim as a demon. He testified thusly: “I looked at his face. It was just, like, intense; was very aggravated, aggressive, hostile.” This is a significant amount of information to be gleaned from a look on a person’s face. He further stated: “You could tell he was looking through you. There was nothing he was seeing.” What this means is anyone’s guess, but it was sufficient for Wilson to determine that Brown had sufficiently bad intentions to warrant his immediate death.

The U.S. movie industry differs from that of many European nations in how it rates films. In the U.S., movies with explicit sex scenes receive R and X ratings, but explicit violence tends to garner a PG-13 or R rating. In many other nations, the reverse is true; younger audience are permitted to see movies with some sex, but are prevented, at least according to the ratings systems, from seeing those with excessive violence.

For these nearly constant acts of violence to end, the U.S. must recognize that killing is not beneficial; U.S. wars only increase hatred towards the U.S., glorifying soldiers only begets violence, and granting impunity to the police for their murders only intensifies hostility towards all police officers.

This mindset will not be easy to change, and will be impossible under the current government. Republicans and Democrats alike share the blame, and as long as it is legal for them to be bribed by ‘campaign contributions’, nothing will change.

Originally published by Counterpunch.

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Filed under Guns, Political Musings, U.S. Politics, Violence