An Encore for Charlie Hebdo

November 13, 2020

Posted by Lawrence Davidson

Part I—Insulting Islam

In mid October 2020 a French schoolteacher, 47-year-old Samuel Paty, decided to show his Freedom of Speech class cartoons demeaning Islam’s founding prophet, Mohammed. The cartoons were the same ones originally published by the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo (Charlie Weekly) in 2014-2015. At that time, the magazine’s actions resulted in the murder of twelve of its staff, including the editor, Stephane Charbonnier. The murders were committed by Muslim extremists associated with al-Qaeda. Samuel Paty’s fate turned out to be similar. Shortly after having shown the caricatures of the founder of Islam, the teacher was murdered by an 18-year-old Muslim immigrant. Other attacks have followed.  

In all of these cases, the killings were provoked as well as indefensible. The cartoons in question are all too easy to interpret as gratuitous insults against Islam and therefore against the almost 9% of the French population that are Muslim. Nonetheless, murder is incompatible with stable society. The latter being prima facie true, the next question is, What alternatives were available to those who were/are disgusted by the Charlie Hebdo caricatures? Lawsuits for defamation have been repeatedly filed. Some are still ongoing. However, to date, none have stopped the magazine’s demeaning ways. Well-organized public protests combined with steady political pressure might work in the long run. It was perhaps because such an effort was not forthcoming, at least not consistently, that action defaulted to emotionally driven individual fanatics.

By the way, Charlie Hebdo, with its own brand of fanaticism, is what you might call an equal opportunity defamer. Topics ranging from the Catholic Church to Italians killed in earthquakes have been depicted in distasteful, sometimes semi-pornographic fashion. As it stands, the right to publish gratuitously insulting cartoons is not only legal in France but, because of all the related violence, also now defended as an important expression of French national culture. To make this point clear, French officials have announced the publication of a booklet to include the Charlie Hebdo images. This will be “handed out to high school students as a commitment to defend the values of the Republic.”

Part II—A Trap 

The value referred to in the booklet is freedom of expression. As Charbonnier said in a 2012 interview, “We can’t live in a country without freedom of speech. I prefer to die than to live like a rat.” Of course, it is now obvious that Charbonnier’s ardent determination to avoid a rodent’s fate, and his nation’s embrace of the man’s grossness as a symbol of free speech, has led France into a trap. Here is how the Sorbonne Professor Pierre-Henri Tavoillot puts it: “what is at stake now is France’s laicite—the secularism that underlies its culture. If the nation compromises on laicite in this instance, this cultural principle may well unravel.” Refusal to consider a balanced way out of the situation paints the French into a corner while explicitly tying the culture to often semi-pornographic cartoons. 

The trap has many other dimensions. French enthusiasm for Charlie Hebdo has fueled Islamophobia and led others to use the situation to argue for the restriction of civil rights. France’s interior minister believes that the country is “at war against an enemy who is both inside and outside.” While it is true that the country’s 5.7 million Muslims (the highest number in any Western country) are increasingly alienated and fearful, the vast majority are peaceful. Yet they all have now been placed under suspicion of being terrorists. Now, the mayor of Nice is calling for a “modification of the Constitution” so that the nation can “properly wage war against Islamic extremists.” President Macron has announced a widespread crackdown on “Islamist individuals and organizations.” This includes closing French Muslim civil rights organizations and Arabic language schools. 

The whole affair has also brought France into conflict with Muslim populations and governments around the world. Presently, the French and Turkish governments are now trading insults. In Bangladesh, 40,000 people took part in an anti-French demonstration and called for the boycott of French goods. French goods were removed from shelves in shops in Qatar and Kuwait. 

Part III—Rationalizations

The French will tell you that their take on free expression was born in violence: in “eradicating the power of the monarchy and the Roman Catholic Church” during the French Revolution. Later, a 1905 French law made faith a strictly private matter and secularism the rule for the public sphere. There is nothing wrong with this arrangement. However, over the years the French have generally lost common sense relative to the subject and failed to be consistent in their approach to religion. On the one hand, laicite has caused some French men and women to see religion as a belief system that need not be taken seriously. Criticism of religion is seen as a “dear right.” On the other hand, recent history has led French governments to be very sensitive to even the slightest suggestion of anti-Semitism (which is illegal in France). Except in this case, the stipulation that one should not be critical of someone simply because he is observant is often forgotten.

Against this backdrop, French Muslims, the  most religious of French residents, have been held at arm’s length. Those who retain their traditional dress and ways stand out as outsiders and assimilation has not been made easy even for those Muslims who desire it. 

The French will also tell you that the art of caricature “is an old tradition that is part of our democracy.” French Muslims make the argument that “there should be limits to offensive satire [in the form of demeaning caricature] when it comes to religious beliefs.” They say that this is so because such satire “fuels extremism.” For millions of French Muslims, this suggests that “cartoons putting a prophet who is fundamental to millions of believers in suggestive and degrading postures” should not fall within the right to be satirical.

One can, of course, argue the issue of censorship. Free speech/expression rights are explicitly meant to protect speech we may not approve of. On the other hand, all societies impose some limits on speech—you can’t cry fire in a crowded theater. Who decides when, or if, there should be a legitimate restriction to free speech/expression? How about when there is a present atmosphere that leads to multiple murder and the breakdown of otherwise friendly foreign relations? Under such circumstances, can such competing issues be finessed by the application of common sense? The flamboyant display of such “art” as practiced by Charlie Hebdo, much less its presentation as a cornerstone of French culture, might be such a case.*

Part IV—Conclusion

How many cultures make rudeness a symbol of cultural excellence? It doesn’t seem to be a common practice. Yet, the French have done so in this case. It has gotten them nothing but trouble at home and abroad. 

The problem with the present French position is that it gives wide latitude to people who care little or nothing for cultural awareness. Stephane Charbonnier, the murdered editor of Charlie Hebdo, seemed uninterested in the real cultural consequences of his personal practice of freedom. In truth, he was an extremist who persisted on insulting a religion of 1.8 billion adherents, the vast majority of whom are peaceful folks. As he knew no bounds to his freedom to be brutally insulting, so his behavior activated a small number of Muslim extremists willing to be even more brutal than Charbonnier. This led to his violent death. In death he has become a French cultural icon—in total disregard of the extremist nature of his behavior and the counter-extremism it triggered.

Regression as a National Theme

October 2, 2020 

Lawrence Davidson | Author | Common Dreams
Lawrence Davidson is professor of history
emeritus at West Chester University in Pennsylvania.
He has been publishing his analyses
of topics in U.S. domestic and foreign policy,
international and humanitarian law
and Israel/Zionist practices and policies since 2010.

An Analysis (2 October 2020) by Lawrence Davidson

Part I—Going Backwards

Led by a reactionary, autocratic faction of the Republican Party, the United States has taken another step backward in terms of social progress. This comes with Donald Trump’s nomination of a religiously motivated conservative, Amy Coney Barrett, to the Supreme Court. Barrett, a devout Catholic and presently a federal appeals court judge, was nominated specifically at the behest of the president’s fundamentalist Christian supporters. They, in turn, are hell-bent (this term is employed purposely) on enforcing their moral sensibilities through secular law. 

I use the words “another step” because, in multiple different forms, this slippage has been going on for a while. It started with President Ronald Reagan (1981-1989) and his confused idea that the problem with American society—a society of now over 300 million people, a poverty rate of at least 10.5%, no mandated health insurance, a place where national and state regulations were the only thing standing between the citizen and environmental degradation, an unhealthy workplace and economic instability—was the size and intrusive nature of the federal government.

With occasional but always temporary pauses, the country has been following this Reaganite campaign for small government ever since. How so? All the “intrusive” rules and regulations that protect the workplace, the environment and the economy, have come under attack from people wrapping themselves in the cloak of conservatism and championing a perverted notion of individual freedom. The whole national domestic orbit has been thrown into retrograde motion.

Donald Trump is the apparent culmination of this self-destructive process. Even before he ran for president on the Republican ticket, Trump was suspected of only masquerading as a conservative to secure a political base. Subsequently, he has been described as a misogynist, narcissist, congenital liar, bully, autocrat, and con man. Nonetheless, Trump was voted into the White House in 2016.

President Trump has turned the Republican Party into a rump affair remade in his own image, essentially purging all moderate Republicans from the party ranks. His singular achievements as president have been to make the rich richer, keep the poor poor, and render most of the population more vulnerable to a range of social, economic and environmental ills. He has also sought to befriend and defend every un-American, potentially criminal outfit in the country, ranging from the Nazis and anarchist armed militias to organized religious fanatics.

In essence, Trump seeks to do to the U.S. as a whole what he has done to the Republican Party. That is why a very large number of government agencies are now headed up by henchmen whose number one job is to cripple their own agencies. For those branches not so easily sabotaged, Trump seeks to find a way to load them up with those he believes will follow his lead. Presently, he is moving to do just that to the Supreme Court.

The unfortunate catalyst for this effort at court stacking is the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Ginsburg personified for many the nation’s potential to move forward. She was a progressive figure who fought for civil rights, particularly those of women. As such, she became a symbol of resistance to the Trump administration’s efforts to move the Supreme Court to the right. Afflicted with cancer, Ginsburg was, alas, unable to outlive Donald Trump’s presidency. 

Now Trump seeks to replace her on the court with a candidate who, unlike President John Kennedy (a Catholic who was once falsely accused of being a tool of the Papacy), might indeed turn out to be more influenced by “orthodox” Catholicism than the U.S. Constitution. On the one hand, judge Barrett has asserted that legal careers ought to be seen “as a means to the end of serving God.” On the other, she says “I would stress that my personal church affiliation or my religious belief would not bear in the discharge of my duties as a judge.” These two statements are in direct contradiction. If the first is true, the second is certainly false. This is not the kind of conflict of interest you want for an arbiter of the U.S. Constitution.

Trump, of course, does not care about religion, nor has he read the U.S. Constitution, and thus is uninterested in a mandated separation of church and state. From Trump’s point of view, Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination was made not an act of religious faith or made on conservative principle, it is rather an act of political opportunism. With it Trump hopes to garner support in the impending election among a host of Christian fundamentalist voters who fantasize that he is an agent of God. For these fanatics, Barrett’s appointment to the court would serve as proof of this absurd conviction.   

America isn’t the only place such dangerous craziness can take place, but that offers little consolation. Just how depressed should we be due to this unfortunate turn of events? It depends on whether you take a long range or short range view. 

Part II—Short Range

Ginsburg’s death was a bad break at a time of serious confrontation between progressive and regressive forces. By this I refer to the next presidential election cycle and the question whether the country will be guided by the concepts of civil and human rights espoused during the 1960s. Will its citizens support the concepts of racial egalitarianism? Will they also uphold same sex-marriage, abortion rights, fair immigration rules, health care for all, and the ongoing struggle for rational gun control? Will they make the issue of climate change a major priority? Will the citizenry even maintain the traditional economic reforms instituted by Franklin Roosevelt in response to the Great Depression? In the short run, Trump’s ascendency, bolstered by millions of fundamentalist Christians (whose loyalty is to an anti-humanist religious ideology) and tens of thousands of libertarians and anarchists, makes these open questions. And now with Ginsburg’s demise, Trump will get another chance to undermine progressive standards with a reactionary appointment to the Supreme Court. 

Some might say that, despite such a court appointment, this retrograde movement will end after the upcoming November election. The assumption here is that Donald Trump and his rump Republican Party will lose the presidency and control of Congress. Then, after overcoming the illicit legal maneuvers and temper-tantrum violence the right attempts, the Democratic candidate, Joe Biden, will become president. At that point, presumably, he will begin to put the country back on a progressive path. Certainly, if Biden wins the presidency and the Democrats also win both houses of Congress, the potential for forward movement on all the issues mentioned above becomes possible. However, it is not guaranteed. 

Joe Biden’s present slogan of “Make America America Again”   can mean just about anything, but it seems not to imply making the nation more progressive than it was, say, under Barack Obama. Under Obama there was moderate progress on the issue of health care and the country was dragged out of yet another Republican-facilitated recession. On the other hand, under Obama, immigrants were deported in high numbers and drones were regularly hitting wedding parties and picnics in Afghanistan. 

Can Biden go beyond Obama in a forward direction? When you consider this question keep in mind more than the fact that the country will most likely be burdened by a screwed-up Supreme Court. Joe Biden himself has issues. He is a lifetime institutional politician—a guy who believes in, and plays by, long-established political rules. In this sense, he is Donald Trump’s opposite. Trump is willing to break all such rules, ostensibly to “make America great again.” Biden will reassert the primacy of tradition—that is, play by traditional political rules—and thereby “make America America again.” Doing so will not bring with it an era of greater progress—unless circumstances force Biden and the Democrat’s to take a “great leap forward.”

Part III—Long Range

Historically, what is usually needed to usher in significant progressive change? In our modern era such change usually follows catastrophes—mostly wars, disease and economic downturns. 

Modern wars and related military research are famous for providing leaps forward in technology. Everything from ambulance services, radar, and jet engines to intravenous blood transfusions, microwave ovens and duct tape comes to us through this route. Of course, war is a horrible way of motivating technological development. It is a truly murderous tradeoff. 

Epidemic diseases can spur medical progress. The outbreaks of viral epidemics such as MERS, AIDS and now Covid-19 have encouraged treatment research for virus infections and vaccine development. Again, it is death and debilitation that moves things forward at an accelerated rate. 

And then there is economic depression. In the U.S., progressive steps such as Social Security, collective bargaining and unionization, and various forms of necessary business regulation designed to prevent both corruption and instability followed the Great Depression (roughly 1929 

 to 1941). This catastrophic economic plunge, following decades of “boom and bust” instability, also encouraged the average citizen (minus some Republicans) to accept an activist government working for the interests of society as a whole.

There are other major stimuli to progressive change but they too tend to have their origins in dire circumstances such as long-term inequality, discrimination and exploitation. Over time these conditions spur uprisings that may overcome these socio-cultural evils. Martin Luther King’s civil rights movement is an example of how this works within a democracy. Today’s Black Lives Matter may also have potential to move us in a progressive direction.

Part IV—Going Forward

Assuming Joe Biden’s election to the presidency and Democratic control of both houses of Congress, is there a catastrophic circumstance that might push him to go beyond his stated goal of simply “Making America America Again”? Well we know that Covid-19 will still be with us in 2021 but the discovery process for a vaccine is already going very fast. Here Biden may do little more than relieve us all of Trump’s self-serving confusions and provide a more trustworthy, science-based platform for the curative process to proceed—which is something we should all be thankful for. Still, there might be another potentially catastrophic situation waiting around the corner. That possibility is continued economic breakdown and a painful restructuring process.

The U.S. is presently running a $170.5 billion budget deficit as well as a $63.6 billion trade deficit. The nation’s gross domestic product (GDP) or total worth of all production was down 31.7% in the second quarter of 2020. These figures will eventually necessitate an increase in taxes if the government is to be in a position to assist the citizenry in economic recovery. Trump, of course, has a regressive policy of as little taxation as possible and no help to the states or the citizens. 

The U.S. unemployment rate stands at 8.4%, which is down two percentage points as a marginal recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic took place. However, this proved temporary and the rate is now going up. Covid-19 led to a loss of 22 million jobs in the United States, and only about half of them have been recovered. Until there is an effective vaccine, not much additional progress on this front can be expected. 

Even with a vaccine, it might turn out that the pandemic has permanently changed the structure of the economy, making It unlikely that all of the lost jobs will come back. Even before Covid-19, retail was shifting to on-line sales to the detriment of normal retail stores and malls. The pandemic has greatly accelerated this movement. Work-from-home arrangements are leaving office space unoccupied and city-based luncheon eateries near empty. Overall, the restaurant business is shrinking. All of this will lead to higher levels of bankruptcies and unemployment for the foreseeable future. 

Under President Trump the approach to these changes would be to do nothing while claiming he was doing more than anyone else could or would do. Biden and the Democrats can be expected to be more proactive. This would hopefully go beyond the reestablishment of the programs and regulations Trump has destroyed. 

So what will Joe Biden do if he becomes president? He is not an original thinker. However, the worse the economy gets, the more violence from rightwing individuals and militias will manifest itself, and the more cases of police brutality there are, the more the Democrats will be pressured to institute progressive domestic reform (i.e. infrastructural renewal, debt reduction, police reforms, gun control, universal health care, etc.) I think we can count on these pressures persisting. 

Part V—Conclusion

The reader might have noticed a certain incompleteness in the above reasoning. That is, catastrophe can encourage regression as well as progression. Wars, pandemics and economic depressions have sometimes given rise to dictatorships and repression. Worse yet, quite often, this happens to the sound of cheering crowds.  

Throughout his presidency Trump has retained the support of roughly 35% of the U.S. adult population. Presently the adult population stands at 209,128,094, thus Trump supporters may number over 73 million citizens. That implies that even after four years of destructive behavior, these millions seem to still support the leadership of an incompetent authoritarian personality.

However, the entire adult population never actually votes. In the case of the United States a relatively large number of citizens are, like the permanently unemployed, no longer active in the political marketplace. That is, they pay little attention to electoral politics and don’t show up at the polls. In modern times it is rare that the percentage of eligible voters who actually turn out for presidential elections exceeds 60%. Using this number, that puts the actual voting population at 125,476,856. If we assume that 35% of this number supports Trump consistently, we get 43,916,899.

This may not be enough for Trump to win a second term as president—a fact that may actually save the country’s democracy. Yet this number is still very disturbing. The fact that just about 44 million Americans are willing to risk their democratic traditions and a relatively progressive future to follow a man without a conscience over a political cliff—an action that puts at risk not only their own country but, arguably, the entire planet—is certainly something to lose sleep over. Finally, this picture is not unique to the United States. It is probably true that one-third of any given population is susceptible to the overtures of a cult personality. 

Perhaps this last fact gives some insight into why history is full of civil and international disturbance. A large minority of any population is easily seduced into such engagements, dragging the rest of us along with them. That may help contextualize the choice U.S. citizens have come November 3rd. 

How the Israel-UAE Pact Undermines International Law

Lawrence Davidson (@PointAnalyses) | Twitter

Posted by Lawrence Davidson 

How the Israel-UAE Pact Undermines International Law—An Analysis (22 August 2020) by Lawrence Davidson

Part I—“Normalizing” Relations

Much of the diplomatic world has gone gaga over the 13 August 2020 “normalization” of relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates (UAE)—facilitated by years of encouragement coming out of Washington. 

In truth this is but a quasi-new relation, because “Israel and the UAE have been cooperating and normalizing relations under the table for many years.” The UAE’s agreement to the public upgrading of this relationship was reportedly made in exchange for Prime Minister Netanyahu’s “suspension of plans to annex parts of the West Bank.” We can now update the old warning to beware of Greeks bearing gifts—beware of Zionists offering compromise.

Though the Israeli Prime Minister’s suspension of annexation is hailed as a major compromise on the part of Israel, it is more illusory than real. Both the Palestinians and Netanyahu himself pointed out that the suspension is not seen as a permanent one. The Palestinians and their supporters also quickly pointed out that this agreement changed nothing in terms of Israel’s illegal behavior on the ground—particularly the de facto annexation represented by the continuing encroachment of Israeli settlements. Under these circumstances, the agreement actually registers the UAE’s acceptance of this criminal state of affairs. The Palestinian spokesperson Hanan Ashrawi put it succinctly: “May you never be sold out by your ‘friends.’ Israel got rewarded for not declaring openly what it has been doing to Palestine illegally & persistently since the beginning of the occupation.”

Despite the fact that the change from informal relations to something more official and public meant little change on Israel’s part, the leaders of the Zionist state, the U.S., and the UAE were determined to present the event in a way that would convince both themselves and others that something momentous had been realized. 

The joint statement coming from the three governments celebrated a “historic diplomatic breakthrough.” Netanyahu asserted that the agreement marked “a new age in Israel’s relations with the Arab World.” He expected to see more Arab states follow the UAE’s lead. And, indeed, it looks like the disreputable dictatorship in Bahrain might be the next in line. 

President Trump framed the event this way, “By uniting two of America’s closest and most capable partners in the region” — something which his egocentric worldview drove him to insist only his administration could do—“this deal is a significant step towards building a more peaceful, secure, and prosperous Middle East.” Trump’s National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien expressed his opinion that the deal should “solidify a Nobel Peace Prize nomination for Trump.” That would, potentially, put Trump right up there with the ignominious Henry Kissinger.

The Democratic Party candidate for president, Joe Biden, immediately gave his approval. “The UAE’s offer to publicly recognize the State of Israel is a welcome, brave, and badly-needed act of statesmanship. … A Biden-Harris administration will seek to build on this progress, and will challenge all the nations of the region to keep pace.”

Others soon chimed in:

—Egyptian military dictator Abdel Fattah El-Sisi told us “This step will bring peace to the Middle East. We appreciate the efforts of those in charge of this agreement in order to achieve prosperity and stability for our region.”

Germany’s Foreign Minister Heiko Maas: Germany welcomed the “historic” deal between Israel and the United Arab Emirates. The normalization of ties between the two countries “is an important contribution to peace in the region.”

—United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson praised the agreement, saying “The UAE and Israel’s decision to normalize relations is hugely good news.”

Besides the Palestinians, there were only a few others who saw through the facade. Iran labeled the agreement as a betrayal of the Palestinian cause. “The oppressed people of Palestine and all the free nations of the world will never forgive the normalizing of relations with the criminal Israeli occupation regime.” Turkey’s reaction was similar: “Neither history nor the collective conscience of the region will ever forget and forgive the hypocritical behavior of the UAE, which is trying to depict the deal as a sacrifice for Palestine, when in reality it is a betrayal to the Palestinian cause for its own narrow interests.”

I think Iran and Turkey are correct in their reaction to what is certainly a betrayal. However, I am not sure of the “never forgive” part, keeping in mind the fact that collective memories have, historically, proved fickle. Nonetheless, if anything, these two critical countries did not go far enough in their condemnation. This is so because the Israel-UAE deal is a betrayal of more than the hopes for justice and a better future of oppressed peoples. This bilateral agreement, whether it spreads to the rest of the Arab world or not, is nothing less than the forsaking of the world’s prospects for more civilized and humane international relations.

Part II—The Deep Context 

It would appear that the vast majority of world leaders either know very little history or consider it, as Henry Ford did in 1916, as “bunk.” Yet, the Israel-UAE pact should be measured not only against the historical injustices to Palestinians which it reinforces, but also against the harm it does to a number of progressive historical achievements realized immediately following World War II.

After World War II a number of seminal reforms were undertaken. A revived United Nations was established, a Universal Declaration of Human Rights was inaugurated, international conventions outlawing genocide and crimes against humanity were signed. Eventually apartheid was outlawed and an international criminal court established. These steps, spurred on by the horrors of total war culminating in the Holocaust, represented great forward progress for mankind. They should have strengthened the provisions set forth in the pre-existing Geneva Conventions and acted to restrain aggressive nationalism. They should have acted to educate the masses against racist policies and assured accountability for those who would promote government-level criminal behavior. 

If all of these post-World War II reforms had actually been enforced, it would now be easier to exercise effective pressure to settle the differences between Israelis and Palestinians based on the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the provisions of the 4th Geneva Convention. International acceptance of the racist nature of Israeli society and the apartheid-style policies it pursues would be much less likely. Government leaders who promoted near-genocide in places like Myanmar and Sri Lanka would face a truly effective International Criminal Court. George Bush’s unjustified invasion of Iraq in 2003 would have had to be judged every bit as criminal as Saddam Hussein’s 1990 invasion of Kuwait. And the two men’s fates might have been the same. The world would have progressed both in terms of ethics and respect for laws forbidding crimes against humanity.  

The recent Israel-UAE deal is but another sign that these progressive reforms mean nothing. The Israelis can perhaps look forward to “normal” relations with ever greater number of Arab states. The reaction of Western countries to Israeli crimes will be to continue turning a blind eye. All the governments concerned will see the UAE’s behavior as a green light, and thus they too will acquiesce in the destruction of those progressive achievements outlined above.

Part III—Calling Going Backwards Something “New and Innovative”

Back in 2018 I attended a small conference put on by an organization named Middle East Dialogue. The stated aim of this meeting was to “promote dialogue about current policy concerns in the Middle East, and to provide a civil space for discussion across the religious and political spectrum.” The conference theme in 2018 was “A New Collective Vision.” 

While there I attended a presentation on “new and innovative” approaches to foreign policy in the Middle East. The presenters were extolling an environment of national self-reliance—the formation of policy based on assumed national interests without any “unreasonable” restrictions placed on policy by outside organizations. This was, of course, a version of the traditional “realist” approach to foreign policy that conservatives support. However, here the approach was being presented as something new. And, surprise, surprise, the presenters were claiming that Israel was leading the way into this new and bright future.

Come the Q and A session, it took me about 45 seconds to destroy the presenters’ premise. And, if I do say so myself, I did it politely. Their only reply was that my rebuttal was not how they saw things—implying that mine was but another opinion. The presenters were wrong. What I laid out was a short version of the above, based on evidence of the potential progress they sought to destroy. As good Zionists they probably knew that it was only based on the destruction of agreements like the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the 4th Geneva Convention, that today’s Israel could be accepted as a “normal” state. The United States has long bought into this Faustian restructuring of international relations. Now the UAE leaders can regard themselves as fully part of this ruinous bargain. 

An Attack on Edward Said’s Legacy

Source

by Lawrence Davidson

Lawrence Davidson | Author | Common Dreams

Part I—Meeting Caroline Glick

I traveled to Israel and the Occupied Territories in the early 2000s with the progressive group Faculty for Israeli-Palestinian Peace. We made an effort to gain insight into most of the players in the conflict, and so a series of interviews was arranged with members of the Israeli right wing. I remember that one of them was Caroline Glick, an ardent American-Israeli Zionist. She lectured us on the positive personal relationships allegedly prevalent between Israeli Jews and Palestinians. 

It was an interesting and somewhat embarrassing experience. Glick and I are both American and both Jewish. Growing up, I had this understanding that American plus Jewish always meant being anti-racist. To be so was, in my mind, the prime lesson of modern Jewish history. What being anti-racist meant to Glick was unclear. She spent the better part of an hour giving us a defense of Israeli-Jewish treatment of Palestinians based on the classic “some of my best friends are Black” (read Palestinian) defense. In the words of the New York Times journalist John Eligon, this line of argument “has so often been relied on by those facing accusations of racism that it has become shorthand for weak denials of bigotry—a punch line about the absence of thoughtfulness and rigor in our conversations about racism.” And so it was with Glick, who explained that she, and many other Israeli Jews, had Palestinians who do small jobs for them and are treated well, and that this proves a lack of cultural and societal racism. It was such a vacuous argument that I remember feeling embarrassed for her. 

Things haven’t gotten much better when it comes to Ms. Glick’s worldview. She is now a senior columnist at Israel Hayom (Israel Today, a pro-Netanyahu newspaper owned by the family of Sheldon Anderson) and contributor to such questionable U.S. outlets as Breitbart NewsShealso directs the Israeli Security Project at the David Horowitz Freedom Center. There can be little doubt that she continues to see the world through the distorting lens of a particularly hardline variant of Zionism.  

Part II—Glick’s Attack on Edward Said’s Legacy 

Recently, Caroline Glick launched an attack on the legacy of the late American-Palestinian scholar and teacher Edward Said. Entitled “Edward Said, Prophet of Political Violence in America,” it was recently (7 July 2020) published in the U.S. by Newsweek—a news magazine with an increasingly pro-Zionist editorial stand. As it turns out, one cannot find a better example of how ideology can distort one’s outlook to the point of absurdity. Below is an analysis of Glick’s piece in a point-by-point fashion. Ultimately, the ideological basis for her argument will become clear. 

1. Glick begins by resurrecting a twenty-year-old event. “On July 3, 2000, an incident occurred along the Lebanese border with Israel that, at the time, seemed both bizarre and … unimportant. That day, Columbia University professor Edward Said was photographed on the Hezbollah-controlled Lebanese side of the border with Israel throwing a rock at an Israel Defense Forces watchtower 30 feet away.” She goes on to describe this act as “Said’s rock attack on Israel” and the “soldiers protecting their border.”

We need some context to put all of this in perspective: Israel is an expansionist state, and the original Zionist aim (as presented to the Paris Peace Conference following World War I) was to incorporate parts of southern Lebanon into what is now Israel. Southern Lebanon also briefly became a staging area for Palestinian retaliatory attacks into Israel. Thus, Israel invaded Lebanon multiple times only to be forced to withdraw in the face of resistance led by Hezbollah, a strong Lebanese Shiite militia in control of much of southern Lebanon.  

Said relates that during his 2000 visit to the Lebanese border with his family, he threw a pebble (not a “rock”) at a deserted Israeli watchtower (no Israeli soldiers were “defending their border”).  Said saw this as a symbolic act of defiance against Israeli occupation. Over the years stone throwing by Palestinian youth had become just such a symbolic act. And, it was from their example that Said might have taken his cue.

2. However, Glick wants to draw highly questionable consequences from Said’s act. She tells us that “with the hindsight of 20 years, it was a seminal moment and a harbinger for the mob violence now taking place in many parts of America.” By the way, the “mob violence” in America she is referring to is the mass protests against police brutality that followed the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police on 25 May 2020.

3. Now that sounds a bit odd. How does Glick manage this segue from Edward Said’s symbolic stone toss in the year 2000 to nationwide inner-city rebellions against police brutality in 2020 America? Here is the contorted sequence she offers: 

a. Said was a terrorist because he was an influential member of the alleged “terrorist organization,” the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO). “Terrorist organization” is a standard Zionist descriptor of most Palestinian organizations. Actually, the PLO is the legally recognized representative of the Palestinian people and as such has carried on both a armed and a diplomatic struggle to liberate Palestine from Israeli Occupation. In 1993, the PLO recognized Israel’s right to exist. This made little difference to the Zionist right wing who, like Glick, continued to use the terrorist tag for propaganda purposes. It is to be noted that all liberation movements are considered to be “terrorist” by those they fight against. And, indeed both sides in such a struggle usually act in this fashion on occasion. Certainly, Israel is no innocent in this regard. 

b. For Glick, Said’s alleged terrorist connection transforms his “rock attack” into a terrorist act. This is simply an ad hominem assertion on Glick’s part. There is no evidence that Said ever engaged in any act, including the tossing of stones, that can sanely be characterized as terrorism.

c. Glick tells us that, at the same time Said was ‘committing a terrorist attack’ on Israel, he was also “the superstar of far-Left intellectuals.” It is hard to know what she means here by “far-Left.” It is seems to be another ad hominem slander. Said was a scholar of Comparative Literature and, when not in the classroom, he advocated for the political and human rights of oppressed Palestinians—how “far-Left” is that?

d. Nonetheless, Glick goes on to assert that as a “far-Left” academic, Said waged a “nihilistic” and “anti-intellectual” offensive against Western thought. He did so in a well-known work entitled Orientalism published in 1978.

What does Orientalism actually say? Using mostly 19th century literary and artistic examples, the book documents the prevailing Western perception of the Near East and North Africa, which stands in for the Orient. This perception reflects a basically bipolar worldview—one which, according to Said, reserved for the West a superior image of science and reason, prosperity and high culture, and for the Orient an inferior somewhat mysterious and effeminate image of the “other” fated for domination by the West. Over time this view became pervasive in the West and influenced not only literary and artistic views of the Orient, but also impacted political, historical, anthropological and other non-fictional interpretations. Having helped create a superior sense of self, this orientalist perception served as a rationale for Western world dominance. It should be said that whether one agrees with every one of Said’s details or not, there is no doubt his well researched and documented work has made most scholars more aware of their biases.

e. Glick refuses to see Orientalism asjust an influential academic work. Instead, in what appears to be a pattern of illogical jumps, she claims that “in Orientalism, Said characterized all Western—and particularly American—scholarship on the Arab and Islamic worlds as one big conspiracy theory” designed to justify empire. This then is the heart of Said’s alleged “nihilistic” repudiation of Western scholarship. She particularly points to Said’s claim that “From the Enlightenment period through the present every European, in what he could say about the Orient, was a racist, an imperialist and almost totally ethnocentric.” While this is a far-reaching generalization, it basically reflects an equally pervasive, very real Western cultural bias. What Glick describes as a “conspiracy theory” is Said’s scholarly demonstration of how that bias has expressed itself. And, it should be noted that such pervasive biases are not uniquely American nor even Western. Chinese, Japanese, Arab/Muslim, Hindu and Jewish civilizations have their own variants of such biases. Yet, it is Said’s effort to expose and ameliorate the orientalism of the West that seems to madden Caroline Glick.

f. For Glick, Said’s suggestion that both past as well as many present scholars have culturally biased points of view of the Orient becomes an accusation that any “great scholar” with a classical Western worldview “is worse than worthless. If he is a white American, he is an agent of evil.” Glick is now building a real head of steam and her account becomes more and more grotesque. She now claims that Said’s work is “intellectual nihilism.” How so? Because it “champions narrative over evidence.” What Glick is implying here is that Said’s work is an anti-Western screed presented without evidence. This is demonstrably wrong, but nonetheless provides a platform for Glick’s further assertion that Said’s fantastical narrative is told in order to “manipulate students to engage in political violence against the United States.”

Part III—What Is This All About?

Caroline Glick makes repeated illogical jumps. As egregious as these are they actually point the way to her larger ideological agenda.

  1. Said is a terrorist because he opposes Israel and supports the Palestinians. Participation in the PLO is her proof of this. 
  2. Because Said is a terrorist, his throwing of a stone at the southern Lebanese border is a terrorist attack against Israel and its defense forces. 
  3. Somehow, Said’s throwing the stone was also “a harbinger for the mob violence now taking place in many parts of America.” The connector here is Said’s tossing of an intellectual “rock”—his thesis presented in Orientalism.
  4. Just as his “rock attack” was terroristic, so Said’s book, Orientalism, is itself an act of terrorism as well as a “nihilistic” project. 
  5. It is all these nasty things rolled into one because it calls into question established cultural assumptions that had long underpinned colonialism and imperialism, and which also just happens to underpin Israel’s claim to legitimacy.
  6. But there is more. Glick tells us, “Said’s championing of the Palestinian war against Israel was part of a far wider post-colonialist crusade he waged against the United States. The purpose of his scholarship was to deny American professors the right to study and understand the world [in an orientalist fashion] by delegitimizing them as nothing but racists and imperialists.”
  7. And finally, “Orientalism formed the foundation of a much broader campaign on campuses to delegitimize the United States as a political entity steeped in racism.”

Part IV—Conclusion

Glick’s attack on Edward Said’s legacy is beset with leaps of illogic. So let me conclude this analysis with my own leap, hopefully a logical one, to an explanation of what may be Glick’s larger agenda. Glick is attempting to turn the ideological clock back to a time before decolonization. Specifically, she wishes to resurrect an overall acceptance of Western colonialism as a benevolent endeavor whereby progress and civilization was spread by a superior culture. 

Why would she want to do this? Because if we all believe this proposition, then Israel can be seen as a legitimate and normal state. After all, Israel is the last of the colonial settler states—the imposition of Western culture into the Orient. It rules over millions of Palestinian Arabs as the result of a European invasion made “legal” by a colonial document, the Balfour Declaration, and its acceptance by a pro-colonial League of Nations. Our post-colonial age in which Edward Said is a “superstar intellectual,” is seen as a constant threat to Zionist Israel’s legitimacy. 

Edward Said’s legacy provides a strong theoretical foundation for understanding why the Western imperialists thought and acted as they did, and hence helps both Western and non-Western peoples to confront their own modern historical situation. However, Glick cannot see any of this except through the Zionist perspective. Thus, Said’s legacy is just part of an anti-Israeli conspiracy—an attack on those scholars who support the legitimacy of an orientalist point of view and of the Zionist state. 

She also suggests that Said’s undoing of historically accepted biases lets loose the “mob violence” seen in the U.S. There is no evidence for this, but it may be Glick’s  roundabout way of undermining student support for Palestinian rights on American campuses. 

Ultimately, what Glick is interested in is preserving the image of Israel as a Western democratic enclave in an otherwise uncivilized sea of Arab and Islamic barbarians. That fits right into the traditional orientalist belief system and justifies the continuing U.S.-Israeli alliance. Said has successfully called that perspective into question. Hence Glick’s assault on his legacy. 

Finally, Glick’s present attack on Said, and her attempt to tie his work into the protests that followed George Floyd’s murder, shows how frightened the defenders of one racist state, Zionist Israel, become when their principle ally, the United States, comes under attack for racist practices. Said as a “superstar” foe of all racism becomes the lighting rod for that fear. 

Woodrow Wilson’s Racism And His Support For Zionism

Source

by Lawrence Davidson 

Author - American Herald Tribune

Lawrence Davidson is professor of history emeritus at West Chester University in Pennsylvania.

He has been publishing his analyses of topics in U.S. domestic and foreign policy, international and humanitarian law and Israel/Zionist practices and policies since 2010.

Part I— Woodrow Wilson’s Racism

Woodrow Wilson (1856-1924) was born in Staunton, Virginia, to Christian fundamentalist parents—his father was a Presbyterian minister—who supported the Confederacy during the Civil War. Thus, Wilson grew up and was educated in the segregated American South. This upbringing imbued him with both a literal interpretation of the Bible and a lifelong racist outlook which he brought with him to every position, every office he ever held. For instance, while he served as president of Princeton University (1902-1908), he refused to allow the university to admit African Americans. Despite his racist orientation, Princeton subsequently named a School of Public Policy and International Affairs, sub-colleges and buildings for Wilson. Today, in the wake of uprisings against not only police brutality toward African Americans and other minorities, but also America’s racist legacy, Princeton has removed Wilson’s name from these institutions and buildings. 

Wilson went on to become the 28th president of the United States (1913-1921). He led the United States into World War I, was instrumental in the founding of the League of Nations, appointed the first Jewish member of the Supreme Court and, notably, facilitated the eventual establishment of a “Jewish national home” in Palestine through his support for the Balfour Declaration (1917). At the time he remarked, “To think that I, son of the manse [minister’s house], should be able to help restore the Holy Land to its people.” Subsequently, this decision made him as much a hero to Zionists, and American Zionists in particular, as he was a villain to African Americans. 

Part II—The Zionist Dilemma

Given today’s reaction against the country’s historical racism, American Jews’ understanding of Wilson’s legacy is being debated. The challenge for Zionists is to save Wilson’s heroic image without totally disregarding his racist record. An attempt to do just that came in an essay, recently published on 2 July 2020, in the American Jewish newspaper the ForwardThe essay is entitled “Woodrow Wilson was a hero to Jews. What should we do with his racism?” and was written by Jonathan D. Sarna, a Brandeis University professor of American Jewish history.

Sarna notes both facets of Wilson’s career. On the one hand “The Jews of his day considered Wilson a hero and a savior, a man of principle and ethical uprightness.” On the other, African Americans “learn a totally different narrative” wherein “Wilson … staunchly defended segregation and characterized Blacks as an ‘ignorant and inferior race.’” 

Sarna seeks to square this circle by retreating to a frankly banal apologia: ”Many a flawed hero accomplished great deeds and changed the institutions and nations they led for the better. … They remind us that good people can do very bad things — and vice versa.” This is poor consolation for African Americans. It also turns out to be a shaky basis for Jewish admiration of Wilson. This is so because the alleged good Woodrow Wilson did for the Jews—his support for the Balfour Declaration—was based on the same racist foundation shaping his behavior toward African Americans.  

Part III—Wilson Supports the Balfour Declaration

What is the connection between Wilson’s racism and his support for the Balfour Declaration? The president was a European race supremacist, or what today would be called a “white supremacist.” As he saw it, African Americans were not the only “ignorant and inferior race” out there. All the non-European peoples, such as those of the Ottoman Empire, including Palestinians, qualified for this designation.

On 8 January 1918, in the run-up to America’s entrance into World War I, President Wilson announced his “Fourteen Points.” These were the nation’s war aims—notions around which to rally the American people. A major theme that runs throughout these “points” is the promise of self-determination for peoples then under the rule of the enemy Central Powers: Germany, Austria and the Ottoman Empire. Referring specifically to the last-mentioned, point twelve reads, “The Turkish portion of the present Ottoman Empire should be assured a secure sovereignty, but the other nationalities which are now under Turkish rule should be assured an undoubted security of life and an absolutely unmolested opportunity of autonomous development.”

Such a promise, of course, included the Arabs of the Ottoman province of Greater Syria, which in turn included Palestine and its indigenous population. This pledge might seem to conflict with Wilson’s racist outlook, but one has to keep in mind that point twelve was meant as a propaganda piece in support of the broader claim that America was joining a war to make the world safe for democracy. As a vehicle for arousing the enthusiasm of the American people, it was effective. However, it transformed itself into something problematic as soon as Wilson got to the Paris Peace Conference in 1919. U.S. allies Britain and France wanted to incorporate most of the Ottoman lands, which they considered the spoils of war, into their own existing empires, and so objected to point twelve. 

Because of his European supremacist point of view, Wilson really had no deep objections to this expansion. The question was how to go along with his allies’ wishes while still appearing to honor the Fourteen Points. He achieved this goal in a way that also meshed with his racist worldview. He and his allies established the Mandate System. Real self-determination was now to be reserved for the European peoples previously belonging to the German, Austrian and Russian empires. For instance, Poland and Serbia, among others, were to be “accorded the freest opportunity for autonomous development.” Non-European peoples were  viewed as unprepared for this reward. They were to be placed under the tutelage of a “mandatory power,” which in the case of most of the Arab lands meant either Britain or France. Such imperial powers, in turn, were to instruct these inferior peoples in the art of self-government. It should come as no surprise that Palestine was given over to the British as a “mandate territory.” Indeed, the Balfour Declaration was incorporated into the preamble and second article of the mandate document for Palestine.  

Part IV—Back to Sarna’s Suggestion

Woodrow Wilson supported the Balfour Declaration because he was a Christian fundamentalist who believed that God desired the Jews, whom Wilson understood to have been civilized through long residence in the West, to “return to their ancient home.” The instruments for that return were the Balfour Declaration and the British mandate. The Palestinians were not even relevant to the issue for Wilson.

Given this history, what do we learn when, as Sarna suggests, we “probe more deeply into [our hero’s] flaws”?

—It is now recognized that Wilson’s major flaw was his racist worldview and the behavior that flowed from it.

—This racism was the basis of his mistreatment of African Americans.

—As it turns out, that same racist outlook was part of the basis for his support of the Balfour Declaration—the very act that makes Wilson a hero for both past and present Zionists. 

Now we come to the second part of Sarna’s suggestion, that an examination of the hero’s flaws “invites us to think harder about our own flaws.” What are the resulting implications of such a self-examination for today’s Zionists?

—What sort of flaw in ourselves should an examination of Woodrow Wilson bring Zionist Jews to consider?

—The fact is that contemporary Israeli Jewish and Zionist attitudes toward the Palestinians in many ways mimic those of Woodrow Wilson toward African Americans. 

—If we are to consider Wilson’s racism a flaw from which Jews too can learn, the consequence must be a reconsideration of the inherently racist Zionist attitudes and policies toward the Palestinians.

I do not know if Jonathan Sarna really meant to inspire a serious assessment of Israel’s and Zionism’s flaws through the reexamination of those of their champion, Woodrow Wilson. However, such an assessment would certainly reveal a shared racism. Wilson never ceased to be a racist and, at least since 1917, the Zionists have been following his “heroic” model. How many of them can be counted upon to take up Sarna’s suggestion and look into this shared historical mirror in any honest way?

Covid Madness

by Lawrence Davidson 

Author - American Herald Tribune

Lawrence Davidson is professor of history emeritus at West Chester University in Pennsylvania.

He has been publishing his analyses of topics in U.S. domestic and foreign policy, international and humanitarian law and Israel/Zionist practices and policies since 2010.

1 July 2020

Part I—Episodes of Madness

If I told you that Covid-19 was sparking recently reported episodes of madness here in the U.S., what do you imagine would be the reason? Maybe it would be the consequences of isolation. If you are alone and have few resources, lockdown might send you over the edge. Maybe it would be the pandemic’s impact on those with chronic hypochondria. This is obviously not an easy time to be stuck with an irrational fear of disease. Or maybe it is coming from the fundamentalist crowd (both Christian and Jewish) who believe that Covid-19 is the wrath of God yet can’t figure out why it is being visited upon their congregations. If you guessed any of these possible etiologies, you would missing the main cause.

So what is mainly causing the present outbursts of madness? It turns out to be a perverted concept of freedom. It is an insistence that, in the midst of a pandemic, temporarily closing down businesses, mandating the wearing of masks, and maintaining social distancing is an intolerable infringement on individual rights. If you would like a visual snapshot of the emotion behind this belief, just take a look at the gun-toting, maskless protesters at the Michigan state legislative building in early May. They are shouting irately about state tyranny, into the faces of masked guards. Other anti-mask protesters around the country revealed a similar off-the-wall attitude, with signs and banners ranging from the nonsensical to the scary: “Give me Liberty or Give me Covid-19,” and in contradiction, “Covid-19 is a Lie,” “Sacrifice the Weak—Reopen,” and “Jesus is My Vaccine.” There is one other rightwing anti-Covid protest sign that must be noted. This one showed up both at the Michigan rally and one in Chicago: ‘Arbeit Macht Frei,” or “Work will make you free.” It is the slogan that stood at the entrance to the Nazi concentration camp at Auschwitz. 

Part II—A Perverse Notion of Freedom

This perverse notion of freedom is wholly individualistic. That is, it makes no reference to community rights or needs. This point of view is not restricted to armed anarchists or disgruntled religious fundamentalists. Some quite prominent and successful proponents of this view go so far as to deny the reality of society, per se. Such a denial makes government, particularly in the form of the welfare state, a freedom-denying effort at social control. Also, if society is an illusion, then an institution that taxes the individual for its upkeep is little more than a con artist. 

The British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was an advocate of this outlook. Here is how she put it: “I think we have gone through a period when too many people … understand that if they have a problem, it is the government’s job to cope with it!… ‘If I am homeless, the government must house me!’ and so they are casting their problems on society and who is society? There is no such thing! There are individual men and women and there are families and no government can do anything except through people and people look to themselves first. …There is no such thing as society.” This is faulty logic. Some problems, like poverty and homelessness, can only be understood and dealt with within a societal context. Thatcher would have none of that. Since society does not really exist, problems with societal roots can’t be real either. If Thatcher were alive today, she would probably admit that the Covid-19 pandemic was very real, but otherwise would be reluctant to deal with it in any collective manner—just as are our perverse defenders of “freedom.” 

Part III—Beyond Sloganeering

The madness of these rightwing provocateurs is largely ideological in the Thatcher sense. It is also underlaid with a strong selfishness that really has nothing to do with economic hardships of lockdown. What they are saying is that “I don’t care about other people. I don’t want to wear a mask and social distance, and you can’t make me.” It is the ideology of selfish children and this attitude can drive people to act out in the same way it drives five-year-olds to have temper tantrums. Unfortunately, these protesters are not just children and their acting out goes beyond sloganeering. 

Since April 2020, numerous public health workers, particularly those with policy-making input, have faced threats and intimidation. Sometimes this is through e-mail or Facebook or over the phone. Sometimes it is having to face an armed mob at your front door. Here are a few recent examples:

—Lauri Jones, director of public health in a county in western Washington state, followed up on someone breaking a Covid-19 quarantine. Immediately she faced a barrage of threatening calls and e-mails from not just her home area but from around the country. Her address was posted on Facebook. She called the police and had to set up surveillance cameras at her home. 

—Amy Acton, Ohio’s public health director “endured months of anger against the state’s preventive measures, including armed protests at her home.” One Republican legislator called her a Nazi (Acton is Jewish) and another labeled her a dictator. She has since quit her job and now consults for the state’s health department. 

—Georgia’s public health director has been assigned an armed guard.

—Pennsylvania’s secretary of health, who is transgender, has been publicly harassed for her role in fighting the pandemic. One Republican county official said that he was “tired of listening to a guy dressed up as a woman.”

—Then there is the emotion expressed following a recent Palm Beach county commissioners meeting. The commissioners had voted unanimously to make masks mandatory in the county. Those in the audience denounced the commissioners and threatened them with “citizen’s arrest.” They made the following accusations: “masks are killing people,” masks “toss God’s wonderful breathing system out the window,” and to mandate masks is to follow the “devil’s laws.”

Perhaps the best summing up of this “demoralizing” nationwide situation comes from Theresa Anselmo, executive director of the Colorado Association of Local Public Health Officials—eighty percent of whose members have been threatened with dismissal or were outright fired from their jobs. “We’ve seen from the top down that the federal government is pitting public health against freedom, and to set up that false dichotomy is really a disservice to the men and women who have dedicated their lives . . . to helping people.” 

Part IV—Lethal Consequences

Ideally, we are supposed to teach our kids that freedom comes with responsibility. Take away a sense of responsibility to others and what you are left with the perverted freedom to be selfish. And, often that selfishness is blind to its own lethal consequences. 

There is a precedent for this sort of selfishness tied to a perverse claim of freedom—it is the American insistence that gun ownership is a right and a primary symbol of freedom. Here in the U.S., an average of 109 people a day are killed with guns, sometimes in quite spectacular fashion, as in the case of mass shootings. We endure it, or perhaps more accurately we choose to ignore it, because an influential, militant and bullying minority has stymied the political will to reign it in. This is a situation that is suggestive of willful madness. The same appears to be happening in the case of Covid-19.

In the last six months over 2 million Americans have fallen ill with Covid-19 and the death toll stands at around 130,000. The present infection and fatality rates are climbing. It seems that after several months of lockdown, which had hurt the economy and increased unemployment while simultaneously bringing the pandemic under control, the will to continue restrictions has largely broken down. Both politicians and the populace appeared to have given up and, as one of those sloganeering signs put it, silently agreed to “sacrifice the weak and reopen.” And almost everywhere they did reopen, the Covid-19 virus returned with a vengeance. It was when a moderate state counter-response, mandating masks and social distancing in public and business environments, was attempted that the militant bullying by Republican politicians, armed “patriots,” and disgruntled religious fundamentalists picked up steam. What now is likely to follow?

Future prospects are described by Dr. Megan Ranney, an emergency physician and Brown University professor who promotes gun violence prevention. She explains that the  “dynamics of the lockdown protesters” are similar to those of the gun rights advocates. Both groups of militants “moved the … debate” from a conversation about, first an epidemic of gun injuries, and now the wisdom of health and science in the face of a pandemic, to “a conversation about liberty.” Thus we are no longer talking about “weighing risks and benefits” and are instead involved in “a politicized narrative” about alleged individual rights. This is also a zero-sum narrative because this claim of prioritized rights is, for its advocates, not negotiable.

So there we have it. It is a fight between a perverse notion of freedom and a collective sense of social responsibility. The interests of society—which are real despite the rhetoric of the late Margret Thatcher—already lost out once in the struggle with “gun rights” advocates. Will it lose out again to mad opponents of masking and social distancing? The chances are good that it will. Sickness and death may well be our fate until science, in the form of an adequate vaccine, saves us from ourselves.

Protests And A Prognosis

 Posted by Lawrence Davidson

Author - American Herald Tribune

Part I—A Dangerous Dichotomy

If we go with the United States’ own picture of itself as a constitutional democracy that aims to guarantee citizens equal rights under law, how are we to interpret President Donald Trump’s reported desire to use ten thousand active duty troops to “dominate the streets” and quell largely peaceful protests against racist police behavior? A reasonable interpretation of President Trump’s attitude, and that of his supporters as well, is that they seek to prioritize the political and cultural desires of a largely racist subgroup of whites over the constitutional rights of citizens in general. This sets up a very dangerous dichotomy that constitutes a danger to the country’s democracy—at least as defined above.  

It should be kept in mind that the right-wing side of this dichotomy, and its challenge to a democracy based on a liberal interpretation of the Constitution has always been with us. Considering just the 20th and 21st centuries, figures such as Woodrow Wilson and his consistently racist use of power both prior to and during World War I; J. Edgar Hoover and his rights-defying use of the FBI; Joseph McCarthy and his pernicious use of anti-Communism; George W. Bush and his initiation of war on false premises; and now the clearly autocratic aspirations of Donald Trump. Such “leaders” have ruined countless lives while eroding the constitutional basis of equal rights.

Part II—The Bureaucratic Factor 

Why has the Constitution proven so fragile in this regard? One reason is the autocratic nature of bureaucracies. All these men wielded power through bureaucracies, and their power was magnified by such institutions. Bureaucracies are top-down affairs, and so those operating within them are expected to, and almost always do, follow the orders of their superiors. For instance, the President of the United States is also “Commander-in-Chief” of the armed forces—which in turn are themselves top-down bureaucracies. When, in early June, Commander-in-Chief Donald Trump demanded ten thousand active duty soldiers for deployment onto the streets of America, none of them could be expected to pull out a copy of the U.S. Constitution and fact-check the legitimacy of the orders issued. Nor were they expected to take seriously their induction oaths to “defend” the integrity of that same document. They were expected to readily follow their orders regardless of constitutional limits. Thus, all things being equal, President Trump should have gotten what he asked for. We are very fortunate that at that moment all things were not equal—a factor is to be considered below. 

If the regular army had hit the streets in June of 2020, they would have done so in order to suppress largely peaceful protests over the lack of equal rights and lack of legal treatment under the law. Indeed, in Washington, D.C.—the only place Trump’s order was partially followed—active-duty military police and the D.C. National Guard did act side-by-side against peacefully demonstrating citizens. Elsewhere, the National Guard called up by governors abetted the police in “riot control,” during which almost no distinction was made between looters and peaceful demonstrators. A few National Guard troops have subsequently expressed regrets over their participation.

The typical police force is also a bureaucracy with its own institutional culture that in many ways mimics the military. Most (there often proves to be a small number of exceptions) of those in the ranks are going to follow the orders of whomever they recognize as having authority. Quite frankly, there is a strong tendency over time for the police, particularly those assigned to minority neighborhoods, to forget all about the U.S. Constitution, its Bill of Rights, and other niceties of law, and slip into a fraternal (often white supremacist) culture which sets them apart from those they are “policing.” They are then easily used as an arm of establishment power. That certainly was the expectation of President Trump and many of the nation’s chiefs of police.  

Part III—All Was Not Equal

At this point we can ask, What were the demonstrators protesting? Specifically, thousands of citizens across the country were protesting the behavior of the police, who had long been brutalizing African American and other minority group citizens in the name of law enforcement. Most of the demonstrators understood their cause within the context of both human and U.S. Constitutional rights of citizens to live in a community where the law serves the cause of equitable justice. “No justice, no peace.”

The nation was fortunate that most of the protesters understood rights in this way. That understanding allowed them, in their great numbers (less a relatively small number of both black and white looters), to quite literally save American democracy. They did so by demanding that those who had authority confront one of the autocratic threats of our day—racist police forces, the brutality of which was captured repeatedly on video. The demonstrators used that evidence to force the issue, and this, in turn, caused the bureaucrats to eventually stop acting in a knee-jerk fashion. Thus, city councils, mayors, governors and even military officials had to choose between oppression (which included, in this case, following Trump’s order that they “dominate the streets) and the Constitution. Choosing oppression would have resulted in two things: erosion of the constitutionally sanctioned rule of law and the burning of cities across the land. No one, except perhaps Donald Trump and his white racist base, wanted either of those two consequences. So the notion that “without the right to protest, there can be no [liberal] democracy” was upheld, and that made the protesters “the nation’s true patriots.”

Part IV—Will the Changes Last?

According to a recent piece in the HuffPost, the demands of the protesters for a just and safe America are being heeded. As proof, the article notes the following:

—Police officers are being held accountable for brutal behavior.

—Some police departments are reforming police practices.

—Monuments to racist and hardline historical figures are coming down.

—Technology companies are halting cooperation with police departments when it comes to facial recognition techniques. 

—Finally, there has been a shift in public opinion: Americans “support the anti-racism protests by a 2 to 1 margin.”

 All this is for the better, but will it last? Barack Obama has compared the present protests to those of the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s. He believes that they have brought about a similar “sea change” or profound transformation. Is that actually the case?

It should be recalled that the earlier civil rights protests led to a series of changes in law and, ultimately, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, that banned discrimination in the public realm. These changes smoothed the way for other legislation expanding rights to people with disabilities, to homosexuals, lesbians and transgender folks, and to others. However, and quite significantly, these events triggered a culture war that focused white resentment and resistance within conservative political and fundamentalist religious movements. Among their unofficial institutional allies were and are some of the nation’s police forces. The racism, now exhibited by today’s Republican Party and its leader, President Donald Trump, as well as modern episodes of police brutality toward African Americans, should be understood within the context of that on-going culture war.

Looking at things this way, we can ask if the progressive response to today’s protests is best described as a “sea change” or a continuing, albeit important, chapter in what is still a very long-term struggle? As one activist and organizer, Sajari Simmons, realizes this is certainly not the end of the struggle for justice. Referring to the protests, she noted that “This is not just it. This is just one component,” she said. “There’s a lot more that we can do to help impact and educate and support.”

Part V—Conclusion

The American political system is lobby based. If the average citizen is important, it is only to be rallied at election time. However, if they are organized into politically potent interest groups, those citizens can have a long-term impact. To ultimately win the culture war, today’s protesters must be somehow united into a standing movement capable of “educating and supporting” their cause at local, state and national levels over the long run. 

Lest we forget, the enemies of a liberal, non-discriminatory interpretation of the Constitution are still out there and they have power. President Trump and his minions are still in place, as are millions of racist voters. Their political power must be broken at the polls, in the courts, and through a multigenerational process of reeducation. In working toward these goals, demonstrations are necessary, but not sufficient. Without a competently led and lasting movement, police brutality will come back, and “ten thousand soldiers” might, someday, really “dominate the streets.”

About Lawrence Davidson

Lawrence Davidson is professor of history emeritus at West Chester University in Pennsylvania. He has been publishing his analyses of topics in U.S. domestic and foreign policy, international and humanitarian law and Israel/Zionist practices and policies since 2010.

U.S. Urban Rebellions Revisited

An Analysis (31 May 2020) by Lawrence Davidson

Author - American Herald Tribune

What follows is an updated essay on the “perennial nature of U.S. urban riots” which I wrote a little over five years ago. The original version appeared on my blog on 9 May 2015 following racial rioting in the city of Baltimore. The murder of George Floyd, an African American, by police in Minneapolis on 25 May 2020, coming as it did within days of the killing of two other African Americans, largely replays events of 2015.

In those five years, despite having elected the nation’s first African American president in 2008, the U.S. is still a largely segregated society full of racist anger. Indeed, it would seem that with the culture wars of the past 30 years and the 2016 election of Donald Trump as president, things are getting worse rather than better. We are slipping back into a more primitive, angrily divided time.  

Part I – Unrest That is Almost Normal

If one goes to Wikipedia under the subject of “mass racial violence in the United States,” one will find a “timeline of events” running from 1829 to 2015. There are so many race-related riots listed for these 186 years that, from a historical point of view, rioting appears almost normal. Prior to World War II these outbreaks mostly involved ethnic, racial or religious groups going after each other: Germans, Italians, Poles, Jews, Hispanics, African-Americans, Chinese, Catholics, Protestants were all involved in these set-tos. Often the causes were economic with a territorial overtone – one group moving into the neighborhood of another group and/or taking their jobs. When the violence came, it was group against group. 

In the post-World War II era, the nature of the still numerous instances of rioting changed. The group-versus-group scenario gave way to group-versus-state. Most of the groups listed above had successfully assimilated under the heading “caucasian,” and religious affiliations no longer seemed worth bloody murder. As our present reactionary president has shown, immigrants can still instill anger in obtuse citizens who mistake foreigners for the cause of problems they themselves have caused, but in this case the result is state oppression. 

Actually, in the present era, the cause of rioting has mostly been African American resentment over prevailing inequality exemplified by frequent police brutality. It is a continuing fact that American society still places on most African Americans an economic handicap and segregation. Thus all too many African Americans, particularly men, have little opportunity for a decent life, while simultaneously having every opportunity to end up in confrontations with the police and then land in prison. It is these ubiquitous confrontations with agents of the state that are now the standard trigger to the phenomenon  of modern American rioting.

Part II – The Inadequacies of the Civil Rights Acts

The ongoing phenomenon of urban riots involving African Americans suggests that the civil rights acts that followed the widespread unrest of the mid-1960s have proved inadequate. In part this is so because their enforcement, such as it has been, was restricted to the public realm. That is, the effort to do away with discrimination went no further than areas serving the public: public schools and housing, restaurants, hotels, theaters, and the like. There were other aspects to the civil rights acts – grants to minority businesses, for instance – but they all just scratched the surface. As a result the number of African Americans made upwardly mobile by this legislation was less than optimal. A black middle class did emerge, but it was small relative to the numbers who needed help.

To say that the civil rights acts proved inadequate in the fight against nationwide discrimination points to the fact that they proved unable to reorient America’s discriminatory cultural mindset. That mindset was the product of, among other things, nearly three hundred years of institutional racism. To change things was going to take the consistent reinforcement of the idea of racial equality over at least three or four generations. This would have to be done mainly through the educational system, yet no specific efforts were made to this end. Indeed, even attempting to integrate the public school systems could provoke their own riots, as the “Boston busing crisis” of1974 proved.

Another sign of this problematic cultural mindset is that, as far as I know, there is nowhere amongst the vast, mostly white, population of the American suburbs, where one can find serious empathy for the fate of the inner cities. For instance, in the wake of the April 2015 riots in Baltimore, then mayor of Philadelphia, Michael Nutter, commented, “local government cannot itself fix problems of violence and unemployment.” This is absolutely true, but Nutter, and mayors who have followed him, have looked in vain for any meaningful help from a state legislature controlled by a hinterland of conservative whites who may not feel they belong to the same species, much less the same broader community, as those in the inner cities. The suggestion that they should send their tax money to help the residents of Philadelphia appears to be beyond their understanding. I doubt very much if it is different elsewhere in the country.

Part III – The Police

The police, of course, cannot stand outside the general discriminatory orientation of the culture. So the limited impact of the civil rights acts meant that the police were not reeducated to the new standards of public behavior. To do so would have required more than simply increasing the number of black officers to at least match the racial demographics of American cities. It would have required extensive retraining and testing of those who sought to be part of law enforcement. 

There is an entire industry out there to train and test people to safely drive cars. I know of nothing beyond piecemeal efforts to train police to act in an equable and lawful manner toward all the different sorts of people they come into contact with (plus to handle other problems that seem to affect the police as a group, such as stress and anger management). Nor are standardized ways of testing candidates applied so as to make sure that only those capable of impartiality and reasonable restraint are on the street. Because we do not do this, we guarantee having some police who themselves act in a criminal manner toward economically disadvantaged classes, thus expressing discrimination in a way that is violent enough to trigger mass unrest.  

Indeed, as of now the preferred personality type for the position of police officer seems to be the same as that for professional soldier, which may be why it has been so easy to “militarize” American police forces. This effort, along with the “home security” business, has become a multibillion-dollar industry (major players in which are Israel companies, which now train an increasing number of U.S. police departments in techniques developed while enforcing the illegal occupation of Palestine). Police departments and their suppliers have teamed up to lobby cash-poor municipalities for all manner of lethal gewgaws ranging from automatic weapons to armored cars. Military grade riot-control equipment is now de rigueur for most large police departments. So great is the demand for these deadly devices that the Defense Department now has a committee appointed by the president to look into what constitutes appropriate equipment to hand out to the cop on the beat.  

Part IV -The Need for Re-education

What this sad story tells us is that the United States has a very big problem of discrimination and exploitation of the urban poor that goes beyond the ideologically induced greed of a capitalist class. That is not to say that the capitalist structure of the American economy hasn’t played havoc with the aspirations of poor blacks seeking to get out of poverty. There is a very good essay by Richard Rothstein of the Economic Policy Institute that provides insight into the government’s role in this aspect of the problem.

However, it is wrong to believe that after three hundred years of racist acculturation, the problem of endemic discrimination would disappear if, however unlikely, the nation was to move in another economic direction. Americans would still have to retrain themselves in order to overcome the racist cultural addictions acquired over their history. 

It is relatively easy to write down some of the things that would have to be done to break these addictions. For instance:

(1) Tolerance and an attitude of community inclusiveness has to be taught to American children and done so consistently for multiple generations. In other words, this program must be a matter of national priority and not interpreted by the political efforts of those who believe teaching kids tolerance of other racial, ethnic and religious groups is somehow usurping parental prerogatives.

(2) The educational opportunities (including affirmative action programs), job training and meaningful low-cost housing programs that have been implemented piecemeal for the last fifty years have to be seriously revived, and seriously funded by taxing the wealthy upper 20% of the population. Alternatively, the money can be taken from the bloated defense budget. 

(3) No one should become a police officer (and while we are at it, a prison guard) without undergoing rigorous screening. And that screening should look to eliminate all those who have authoritarian personalities underlain with problems of impulsive anger. This is such a no-brainer that one wonders why it is not already being done. Perhaps part of the problem is that, in most cases, the police set their own criteria for admission into what has become a trade organization with the characteristics of an out-of-control college fraternity.  

Part V – Conclusion 

The rebellions of 2020 have now spread across the urban landscape of the United States. The governor of Minnesota, who has “fully mobilized” the states’ national guard to suppress the unrest has decided that the protests are no longer “about George’s death, this is about chaos being caused.” He is right that the the protests are no longer just about the murder of one African American. They are now about the inability of the justice system to deliver justice within an interminably unjust America. That system no longer has any legitimacy in the eyes of most African Americans and that view is spreading to other groups as well. When the state loses legitimacy in the eyes of citizens all that is left is the violence of mass suppression. And that is a one way road to hell for all us no matter what our race.

About Lawrence Davidson

Lawrence Davidson is professor of history emeritus at West Chester University in Pennsylvania. He has been publishing his analyses of topics in U.S. domestic and foreign policy, international and humanitarian law and Israel/Zionist practices and policies since 2010.

From Wuhan to Baghdad with Trump and Bush

Source

May 11, 2020  

by Lawrence Davidson

I have been writing these analyses for ten years. Really not a great amount of time, but enough that you see leaders ignorantly repeat the mistakes of their predecessors. You also notice that most of the media, and almost all of the citizenry, appear not to notice the repetitions. Just such a rerun is now playing itself out. 

Part I—Covid-19 and the Wuhan Lab Claim

According to a New York Times (NYT) article, President Trump and his Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, have begun pressuring the U.S. government’s intelligence agencies to come up with evidence that the Covid-19 virus originated in a Chinese lab in Wuhan—specifically, that city’s Institute of Virology. 

Let’s state up front that there is no reliable evidence that this is the case. As the NYT puts it, “Most intelligence agencies remain skeptical that conclusive evidence of a link to a lab can be found, and scientists who have studied the genetics of the coronavirus say that the overwhelming probability is that it leapt from animal to human in a non-laboratory setting, as was the case with H.I.V., Ebola and SARS.” This is also the opinion of Dr. Anthony Fauci, the administration’s own top infectious disease expert. 

Alas, this is not what the Trump-Pompeo duet wants, or needs, to hear. What they want and need is something to support their already stated position that the Covid-19 virus is a “Chinese virus.” Thus, Trump told a reporter on 30 April that, while there were many theories about how the virus originated, he took the Wuhan lab contention seriously. He claimed that he had personally seen “intelligence that supported the idea” and that “we have people looking at it very, very strongly. Scientific people, intelligence people and others.” He then stated that he was “not allowed” to share the intelligence. Pompeo followed up in a 3 May ABC interview by describing the evidence as “enormous.”

It has also become apparent that Trump would like to tie the World Health Organization (WHO) into the Wuhan lab theory. “Administration officials had directed intelligence agencies to try to determine whether China and the World Health Organization hid information early on about the outbreak.” This seems to be the result of the president’s personal dislike of the WHO. He believes it has praised China’s fight against the pandemic more strongly than his own quasi-efforts. So annoyed has he become that he cut off U.S. aid to the organization in the midst of its fight against Covid-19—an almost universally condemned act. 

In the end Trump seems to think that nothing less than evidence supporting the Wuhan lab conspiracy theory will help shift popular attention away from his own abysmal failure to react to the pandemic in a timely fashion. So it doesn’t matter if the president is corrupting the intelligence agencies for personal political advantage, or that “the odds are astronomical against a lab release as opposed to an event in nature.” That is the state of our knowledge according to assessments based on science. What the president is demanding is a world that accords with his personal needs. It’s the latter he expects the intelligence agencies to serve. 

Part II— Nuclear Weapons in Iraq Claim

Where have we heard this sort of demand before? Well, how about during the run-up to the invasion of Iraq?

Back in late 2002 and early 2003, George W. Bush was planning an invasion of Iraq. His public reason for doing so was the assertion that the country’s dictator, Saddam Hussein, was on the verge of developing nuclear weapons. The real reason went beyond that charge and involved a long-range plan for “regime change” in the Middle East—a thoroughly implausible goal. However, Bush’s initial, obsessive need was a way to rally the American people behind his planned war. Why Iraq? Bush seems to have had a hate-filled preoccupation with Saddam Hussein and a desire to finish the job his father began with the First Gulf War. Or, maybe, as he claimed, it was because God told him to do it

At first he tried to connect Saddam Hussein to the 11 September 2001 attacks on the U.S. Though he never gave up on that stratagem, the lack of evidence made it difficult to shift popular attention, already fixated on Osama Bin Laden and Afghanistan, onto Saddam Hussein and Baghdad. However, the nuclear weapons gambit appeared to have more potential, not because there was any hard evidence for the charge, but because supposedly reliable witnesses, in the persons of mendacious exiled anti-Saddam Iraqis, kept whispering to Bush and others in the administration that the nuclear story was true.

So, what we had was (1) a U.S. leadership cadre who were itching to revolutionize the Middle East, (2) informants who, in order to precipitate the overthrow of Saddam, were willing to tell the tale of alleged atomic weapons, and (3) a president with enough of a personal grudge against Saddam to use anything in support of his desire to invade Iraq.

Bush proceeded to put pressure on the U.S. intelligence agencies to find evidence for the nuclear weapons claim. In essence, this pressure threatened to politicize and contaminate the White House’s normal source of intelligence. When the CIA and its military counterpart, the Defense Intelligence Agency, did not come through in this regard, Bush went so far as to create a shadow operation: the “Office of Special Plans (OSP),” staffed mainly by rightwing amateurs, to find him a nuclear “smoking gun” that would justify invasion.

Simultaneously, the U.S. insisted that the United Nations send in arms inspectors to scour Iraq for evidence of a nuclear weapons program. None of this resulted in the required evidence. This so frustrated President Bush that on 19 March 2003 he launched the invasion of Iraq without any proven reason to do so. This, by the way, constituted a war crime under international law. The president did have the expectation that, once in occupation of the country, American troops would surely find those nukes. They did not. 

Bush ended up blaming his appalling mistake, which led to the death and injury of tens of thousands, on “faulty intelligence.” He never admitted that the intelligence at fault was his own. 

Part III—Conclusion

What do Donald Trump and George W. Bush have in common? They are both know-nothing Republican leaders. (You can get Democrats like this too. They are just less common.) They are know-nothing in the sense that neither of them know the difference between their own desires and objective reality. If Trump needs a Wuhan lab to shift blame from his own failings, then there must be a lab out there and it is the job of the intelligence agencies to find it. If George W. Bush needs Iraqi nuclear weapons to justify his obsessive desire to invade that country and depose Saddam Hussein, then they must be out there and it is the job of the intelligence agencies to find them. Both Bush and Trump, and a whole lot of their staff, were/are caught up in delusions. And, tragically, they both had/have the power to spread their respective delusion, like a “virus,” to large segments of a historically ignorant American public. 

Now, if this writer can recognize the similarity between these two men and brand the connecting events described here for the delusional episodes they are, you would think that at least some of the media folks bringing us the “news” could do so as well. And maybe in the privacy of their offices and studies they do see the connection and its dire potential. But they are having a hard time translating that into public knowledge. One can only wonder why! As long as that is the case, most of the general public, focused on their local affairs, will not be able to recognize the danger such irresponsible behavior represents, and will once more be dragged along in whatever perilous direction their present muddled leaders take them. 

Lawrence DAVIDSON | West Chester University, Pennsylvania ...

Lawrence Davidson is professor of history emeritus at West Chester University in Pennsylvania. He has been publishing his analyses of topics in U.S. domestic and foreign policy, international and humanitarian law and Israel/Zionist practices and policies since 2010.

Where Is Joe Biden?

by Lawrence Davidson 

May 2, 2020 

Part I—The Where Is Biden Question

Do you remember that classic puzzle bookWhere’s Waldo? It was first marketed in 1987 and placed Waldo, a tiny, oddly dressed, twenty-something figure amidst hundreds of other ordinary folks. The challenge was to find him in the crowd. Today the Waldo puzzle is still out there but, because in the latest version he is wearing a mask and practicing social distancing, he is not so hard to find. 

The Where’s Waldo? puzzle has recently lent its iconic title to a different question: “Where’s Joe Biden?” Because Biden is the prospective Democratic presidential nominee, this question denotes more than a puzzle game. Some argue that, despite the present contagious environment, Joe Biden should be a lot more visible than at present. Why so?

Well, it might be true that our present Republican president, the all too easy to find Donald Trump, is in the process of self-destructing. But given the often fickle state of mind of the American voter, the Democrats would be ill advised to just rely on the Republicans to defeat themselves. 

Part II—So Just Where is Joe Biden?

Thanks to an in-depth article in the New York Times (NYT), we do in fact know where Joe is. He is presently hunkered down at his home in Wilmington, Delaware—involuntarily cloistered in the basement due to the Covid-19 pandemic. However, according to the NYT, Biden is not just twiddling his thumbs. 

Joe Biden is in an information-gathering mode. He has daily briefings via conference calls with chief aids and other advisers. The daily topics are invariably the state of the national economy; the state of the national health; and electoral strategy “seeking to map out the fall campaign and a potential administration.” Occupying only an occasional subject of discussion is the category of foreign policy. 

In the process, Biden seems to be presenting the picture of a sober elder statesman to be contrasted with the present erratic occupant of the White House. Whether the cloistered elder statesman image will cut it in an agitated age of pandemic, economic collapse, and global warming is something that is worrying a lot of Democrats. 

There can, of course, be no campaigning although Biden has experimented with virtual town halls and round tables). Unlike Trump, Biden hasn’t got a bully pulpit. Nor has he figured out how to replicate what can be called the Governor Cuomo phenomenon of drawing almost daily media attention to himself by the sheer public mastery of his circumstances. So, the Democratic leadership, never the most imaginative of pacesetters, seems to be content with casting a low-key virtual image.

There is another factor that keeps Biden secluded. The last thing the party leaders want is for the 77-year-old Biden to get sick (“rare outside visitors don masks and gloves as a safety measure”). A Corvid-crippled Joe would probably bring a Bernie Sanders candidacy back to center stage.

Part III—A Man for Our Time?

It appears that behind the scenes, Joe Biden is not optimistic about the nation’s near future, even if he wins the November election. “Before Mr. Biden entered his state of near-quarantine, he was telling associates that he feared the onset of a national catastrophe” in the form of  “another Great Depression.” This contrasts sharply with Donald Trump’s prediction that the economy will soon “come roaring back.” If the precipitous movement towards reopening the economy under Trump’s leadership backfires and triggers a national reinfection, Biden’s concern will prove much closer to the truth. Under such circumstances, he may very well win the presidency even if he never leaves his basement. 

And then what? Can Joe Biden be a man for our time? Can he be the leader who saves us all in this crises-ridden hour? Considering Biden’s political record, one has a hard time imagining this. 

There is a recently published (January 2020) book entitled Joe Biden, Yesterday’s Man. Written by Branko Marcetic, an investigative reporter and staff writer for Jacobin magazine, the book lays out Biden’s political biography. It argues that Biden’s political sensibility is that of a 1970s suburbanite. He sees his base as being a white middle class that has, in truth, shrunk and turned to the right. That process has, on occasion, led him to turn to the right (he has a record of sharp reversals on positions when subjected to heavy pressure). He has no problem taking corporate money (he told donors that with a Biden presidency “nothing fundamental will change for them”), and is the friend of many powerful lobbies. Biden is a politician whose lifelong self-image is that of a great conciliator—someone who believes he can work with all groups. In the 1970s, he cut political deals with segregationists in Congress so as to “get things done.” As Marcetic shows, what Biden got done at that time was putting a stop to busing as a method of desegregation. Biden seems to think he can now work with the Trump Republicans as well. Finally, as we will see below, he embraces most of the nation’s immoral foreign policy.

As it stands now, Biden’s ambition does not go any further than a naive desire to take the nation back to the time before Trump—“make it [America] like it used to be”. Two things can be said about this ambition. First, unfortunately, historical times cannot simply be reversed. Second, to limit your goal in this fashion means you fail to realize that “like it used to be” perforce embodies the problems that led to the “time of Trump” in the first place. Thus, Biden’s present thinking can only provide superficial and ultimately unsatisfactory answers to challenges facing both the U.S. and the world beyond. 

Part IV—Then there is Foreign Policy

Biden and his present advisers “largely embrace the core principles that have driven U.S. foreign policy for decades,” namely, the U.S. must lead the world, spread pseudo democracy, be loyal to its allies, etc. Here Biden is most often “yesterday’s man.”

Israel: Biden has been a loyal friend of Israel even during the tensions that arose when he was vice president under Obama. He has known Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for 30 years and considers him a good friend. As vice president, Biden once told Uzi Arad, one of Netanyahu’s advisers, “Just remember that I am your best fucking friend here.” 

If this holds true, what can one really expect from Biden the president? It would come as a surprise if Biden reversed Trump’s over-the-top embrace of the Zionist state. He has already said that, as president, he would not move the U.S. embassy out of Jerusalem. Even in the face of astronomical U.S. debt, Biden probably will still insist on giving billions of dollars to a Zionist state that, on multiple counts, stands in stark violation of international law.

Venezuela: It would appear that Biden would have little trouble following up on the Trump administration’s promotion of a rightist coup in Venezuela. For all intents and purposes he has backed Trump’s aggression in this arena and, of course, done so in the name of democracy.  

Iran: Biden says he continues to support the 2015 nuclear deal Obama helped negotiate with Iran—the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). However, he does so from the stereotypical American view that Iran continues to be “a destabilizing factor in the Middle East.” As president, he claims that he will rejoin the agreement. This would certainly be a positive move, but don’t be surprised if the Iranians are a bit suspicious of Biden—after all, they too know his political biography.  

Part V—Conclusion

A conciliatory, mediocre leader, who has shown little ability to resist the will of lobbies and donors, might find greatness when forced to face novel challenges. But that does not happen very often, and from all we do know about Joe Biden, the odds are against him blossoming in this fashion. 

If elected, Biden will face three immediate challenges: (1) a nation struggling to overcome plague, (2) an economy in deep recession, and (3) a world climatically self-destructing (Biden’s record on climate change is “sketchy). According to the NYT, Joe Biden,secluded in his basement, is trying to prepare himself to meet these challenges. However—and here is the key factor—he is doing so as the machine politician he has always been—and that one-dimensionality will certainly help define the results. Trump might well be dethroned, but there will be no new and better world emerging under Joe Biden. When all is said and done, perhaps things will become less bad.

Waging War Against The Rule of Law

An Analysis (21 November 2019) by Lawrence Davidson

Part I—An Embarrassingly Hard Moment

There is no doubt about it: at our present moment in history it is embarrassingly hard to be a defender of the rule of law. This is particularly so when such laws seek to assert and protect human rights. It is embarrassing because being supportive of such regulations should be a “no-brainer.” Instead, it pits you against the U.S. government and its closest ally, Israel.

Thus, there is the fact that while there are many countries that take no heed of international law in this regard, if you happen to be an outspoken humanitarian Jewish American, you are really going to have a tough time of it. You are assailed on one side by powerful American leaders who attack international law with manifestly faulty reasoning (see below). On the other side, one is confronted by Zionist Jews, both inside and outside of Israel, who would destroy not only the international law that stands in the way of their territorial greed, but the ethical and moral integrity of the Jewish people as well. For all those Jewish Americans who see value in defending human rights and the rule of law, I truly commiserate: it is not easy being us!

Part II—Assaulting the Rule of Law

In its latest assault on the rule of law, the Trump administration has declared that the Israeli settlements in the Occupied Territories are legitimate. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, a self-described advocate of “Christian diplomacy” has led the way in this. He stated that: “After carefully studying all sides of the legal debate, this administration agrees with President Reagan [who, back in 1980, expressed a similar sentiment]. The establishment of Israeli civilian settlements in the West Bank is not per se inconsistent with international law.”

No details were given on the “careful study” Pompeo claims to have been made. And, frankly, it is hard to take this assertion seriously because the Trump folks are not known to be objective, or even attentive, when it comes to detail. No information was given on what basis Ronald Reagan came to his opinion. Nor is it known whether or not Reagan was senile at the time he spoke. And, no elaboration was made as to what “per se” means in the context of Pompeo’s declaration.

The Secretary of State went on: “The hard truth is that there will never be a judicial resolution to the conflict, and arguments about who is right and who is wrong as a matter of international law will not bring peace. This is a complex political problem that can only be solved by negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.”

This bit of conjecture is dubious at best, and if such conclusions are the product of the Secretary’s “careful study,” we can conclude that Pompeo is either being disingenuous or is ignorant to the point of incompetence. Here is what I mean:

—The conclusion that “there will never be a judicial resolution to the conflict” is a contrived one. Pompeo should certainly know that there are readily discernible reasons, most of them coming from the U.S.-Israeli side, why attempts to apply international law as the basis of a settlement have so far failed. Actually, there are at least forty three reasons—that is the number of vetos the United States has cast in the UN Security Council to protect Israel, largely from international law, between 1972 and 2017. In addition, one should never say “never.”

—The assertion that “arguments about who is right and who is wrong as a matter of international law will not bring peace” is also contrived. Again, you cannot acquiesce    in seventy-one years of Israeli behavior, much of it in violation of international law, all the while protecting, as most U.S. governments have done, the criminal party, and then say “international law will not bring peace.” Obviously, the historical context means nothing to Pompeo.

—Pompeo’s final conclusion that “this is a complex political problem that can only be solved by negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians” is simply a throwaway line that has no meaning given the history of those “negotiations” that have been attempted.

Part III—Accepting “Reality”

Perhaps the most egregious assertion made by Secretary Pompeo was that all the U.S. is doing is “recognizing the reality on the ground.” This same excuse was used by the Trump administration when it blessed the occupation of the Golan Heights. Subsequently, some people assigned to the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem have claimed that all Trump was doing was recognizing the “truth.”

These claims oversimplify and distort the current situation to the point of absurdity. Mr. Pompeo and those folks at the embassy are not dabbling in some field of physics here. They have not come along and discovered a new naturally occurring phenomenon. The fact is that in our social, economic and political worlds we humans do not discover reality, we create our own constantly fluctuating “reality.” And, as touched on above, today’s variation on fluctuating “reality” in places like Gaza, Jerusalem, the Golan Heights, and the West Bank are the result of Israeli actions that defy international law. That makes those acts and their consequences—their “reality”—by definition, criminal. At the same time, as we have seen, the folks in Washington gave the necessary assistance that allowed the Israelis to get away with their criminal behavior. That makes the people in Washington who provided this cover, criminals as well.

Part IV—Conclusion

So what we have here is the Secretary of State of a country that has acted as an accomplice to years of illicit behavior throwing up his hands and saying “the law has failed”—while not mentioning the fact that he and others before him, acting in their official government capacities, helped to arrange that outcome.

This bit of sleight of hand was no doubt made easier for Mike Pompeo given that he has ridden the coattails of a boss who is himself lawless. That fast-and-loose attitude toward the rule of law is a main reason Donald Trump is going to be impeached.

Despite all, the struggle of the Palestinians and their allies will go on. Applying the appropriate biblical comparisons, the BDS movement (the boycott of Israel) has become the “light unto the nations” that Israel itself was mythically supposed to be. And outspoken anti-Zionist Jews, like some of those Old Testament prophets, are now the last bastion against Israel’s racist idolatry.

Addendum24 November 2019, supplied by a close historian friend : “In 1931, in contravention of International Law, Japan occupied Manchuria and turned it into a vassal state called Manchukuo. In response, the United States announced the Hoover-Stimson Doctrine declaring that this nation would never recognize territorial changes brought about by force.” How many of our working diplomates even remember that this doctrine exists?

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About Lawrence Davidson

Lawrence Davidson is professor of history emeritus at West Chester University in Pennsylvania. He has been publishing his analyses of topics in U.S. domestic and foreign policy, international and humanitarian law and Israel/Zionist practices and policies since 2010.

Are Democracy and Despotic Racism Compatible

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Are Democracy and Despotic Racism Compatible? An Analysis (12 April 2019) by Lawrence Davidson

Part I—The Israeli Model and Its American Supporters

On 25 February 2019, the Jewish American publication Forward, printed a remarkable opinion piece by Joshua Leifer. Leifer, who had worked in Israel for the anti-establishment +972 Magazine, is currently an associate editor ofDissent. His piece in the Forward was entitled “Wake Up, American Jews: You’ve Enabled Israel’s Racism for Years.”

Leifer begins by saying that the Israeli rightwing political parties have always been racist, though there was a time, back in the 1980s, when they objected to being too upfront about this. Thus, for the sake of public relations, they held their violent and despotic fringe—the Kahanists—at arm’s length. As Leifer puts it, what was frowned upon was the style rather than the substance of “explicit, violent racism.” That objection is now gone. The goal of a “Jewish supremacist state” is out in the open—an explicit political goal. And the Palestinians, including those who are Israeli citizens, are to be condemned to “forever live subjugated under military occupation, confined to isolated Bantustans, or … expelled.” Those Jews, both Israelis and diaspora Jews, who object to this process will be labeled as “traitors.”

Having established these facts on the ground, Leifer asks “how has the American Jewish establishment responded?” His answer is, they have either been silent or, more often, have actively sought to enable the power of Israel’s despotic racism. They have cooperated with, lobbied for, and raised money to underpin Israel’s racist policies. Of course, a Zionist is sure to assert that the lobbying and money are pursued for the sake of Israeli security. Yet, today’s Israeli leaders don’t define security, with the possible exceptions of Gaza and the Lebanese frontier, in terms of borders. Instead security is defined in terms of achieving and maintaining Jewish supremacy in all territory under Zionist control. This is why all of Israel’s Zionist parties have pledged never to include the token number of Arabs in the Knesset in a governing coalition.

In their effort to support Zionist Israel, America’s establishment Jewish leaders have proven themselves willing to undermine the constitutional freedoms of their own native country, as has been the case with their relentless attacks on the right of free speech as practiced in the boycott Israel movement—BDS. In the end, there can be no more convincing proof that these organizations serve as de facto agents of a foreign power, than to see how their leadership willingly discards the modern principles of civil and human rights found in the U.S. Constitution—to say nothing of international law—in order to support a state that openly pursues apartheid ends.

Leifer offers two possible reasons for why establishment Jewish organizations in the U.S. have chosen this path. The first possibility is “willful ignorance,” that is, a psychological inability to face the truth about a state that they, as American Jewish leaders, have always seen as an ultimate haven if a new Holocaust threat arises. The second possibility is that the leadership of the American Jewish organizations are themselves conscious racists when it comes to a Jewish supremacist state. According to Leifer, “No one exemplifies this better than Ambassador David Friedman, whose rhetoric—calling JStreet “worse than kapos”—mirrors the kind of rhetoric popular on the Israeli right.”

Part II—Racism Beyond the Israeli Right

This is a strong, and quite searing, condemnation of Israeli society and its American Jewish allies. Still, things can and do get worse. On 4 April 2019 the British anti-Zionist Jewish writer Tony Greenstein posted an essay entitled “There Is Nothing That Netanyahu Has Done That Labour Zionism Didn’t Do Before Him.” Greenstein begins by citing an 11 March 2019 piecein Haaretz written by Amira Haas, one of the few prominent non-Zionist Jewish journalists still working in Israel. Haas draws attention to the fact that “when Israeli governments in the 1960s and 1970s worked hard to steal Palestinian land while quoting God’s promises to atheists, they paved the way for parties promoting Jewish supremacy.” Thus, as Greenstein puts it: “It is often forgotten that it wasn’t Likud but the Israeli Labour Alignment which helped to launch the settler movement.” The remorseless absorption of Palestinian land and the oppressive treatment of its native population is not the work solely of the Israeli right wing. From the beginning, all of the major Zionist political parties, left and right, supported these policies as a way of fulfilling Zionist destiny.

Haas is unflinching in her characterization of their actions. For her, this “racist messianism” smacks of the policy of “Lebensraum” or “the urge to create living space.” Haas goes on to lament the fact that “we thought that in the end, the heads of the Labour movement would learn from the expansionist impulses of other nations. After all, they were the sons and brothers of the victims of Lebensraum.” In other words, at least in this policy of expansion and expulsion, all Israeli governing coalitions have adopted behaviors toward the Palestinians reminiscent of those practiced by the persecutors of Europe’s Jews.

Part III—The Question Answered

Considering that Israel and its supporters often proclaim that it is a Western-style democracy, and given the bit of history laid out above, we can ask if democracy and racist despotism can in fact be compatible. And, while the example of Israel serves as our backdrop for this query, we can consider the question generically. Can any democracy prove compatible with racist despotism?

Historically, the answer is an obvious yes. All that needs to happen is that a powerful group within the nation identifies itself as a privileged elite and reserves democratic procedures and privileges for itself, while condemning others to discrimination, segregation, or worse. Again, this posture has nothing to do with Jewishness. Any ethnicity or self-identified group can adopt it—based on color, religion, gender, or something else. The much-idealized ancient democracy of Athens did it based on gender and citizenship linked to birth.The United States ran as a selective democracy/racist despotism that practiced slavery until the middle of the 19th century while statutory discrimination persisted until the 1960s. Recent events indicate a revival of virulent white supremacism.

If there is a remedy to this it is in the rule of law functioning as an enforced regulatory process—one linked to a tenets of human rights. The U.S. Bill of Rights and the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights are good, if incomplete models. Politics, including democratic politics, has to be constitutionally regulated to assure equity (much like economies), and the regulations have to be applied consistently until they become ingrained as natural expectations within the consciousness of the citizenry. This probably requires generations of equalitarian practice. And, even then, what you achieve is the minimizing of the infiltration of corruptive bias, and other such variants corrosive of genuine democracy, into the system. The truth is that you probably cannot eliminate the threat altogether.

Getting back to Israel: under the present circumstances, there is no reason to believe that the outcome of the recent 9 April 2019 Israeli elections would have changed the fate of either the the country’s Jews or the Palestinians. And, now that we know that Benjamin Netanyahu and his rightwing Likud Party will lead the next coalition government, it is certain that the illegal Zionist colonization of the West Bank, and its accompanying oppression, will continue apace. This, by the way, is simply the maintenance of a long-standing status quo—a conscious policy in its own right. And, it is a policy that reflects the fact that “for years, most Israelis have passively or actively allowed values of equality, justice, and yes, peace, to go by the wayside.”

So what is the legacy of Zionism? Is it the establishment of a genuine democracy in the Middle East? Is it even the realization of a haven for the world’s Jews against the next Holocaust? No, it is neither of these. It is rather the melding of an elitist pseudo-democracy with racist despotism—the realization of an elitist fortress from which Israel maintains distinctly undemocratic control of a hinterland full of conquered people. To paraphrase the odious Israeli Minister of Justice Ayelet Shaked, this whole setup smells nothing like democracy. It smells to me like fascism.

About Lawrence Davidson

Lawrence Davidson is professor of history emeritus at West Chester University in Pennsylvania. He has been publishing his analyses of topics in U.S. domestic and foreign policy, international and humanitarian law and Israel/Zionist practices and policies since 2010.

israel’s (apartheid state) ‘Psychological Obstacles to Peace’

Israel’s ‘Psychological Obstacles to Peace’

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Understanding is Not Excusing

There is a difference between understanding and excusing. I might understand the arguments of Donald Trump and John Bolton, but by virtue of that very understanding I find their arguments inexcusable. The same goes for the arguments of the Israeli leadership and their diaspora allies. I hear their words and find that they can never excuse their actions.

Given this difference between understanding and excusing, it’s hard to know what to do with efforts to have us understand the “psychological obstacles” that supposedly prevent Israelis from making peace. A good example of this effort is found in a reprinted essay by Carlo Strenger, an Israeli psychologist and public intellectual who is a strong opponent of the Occupation. It appears in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz and is entitled “Psychological Obstacles to Peace in Israel.”

Though Strenger is an Israeli peace activist, his essay is really an effort to move the reader to take more seriously— to better understand—Israeli feelings of “existential” fear when it comes to prospects for peace with the Palestinians. Such understanding will, allegedly, bring us to “acknowledge that moving toward peace entails genuine security risks [for Israeli Jews], and to address these risks unflinchingly.” One suspects that this line has long been fed to the U.S. Congress, among other governments. In any case, for Strenger, this is the sine qua non for peace.

Professor Strenger’s Obstacles

Strenger describes three Israeli “psychological obstacles to peace” that can only be overcome by such an “unflinching” effort based on sympathetic understanding. I do not think he means to offer these obstacles as excuses for over fifty years of Israeli wars and occupation, but unfortunately, in the end it comes through that way. Perhaps that is an expression of the dilemma faced by most Israeli “moderates.” Here are Strenger’s obstacles:

(1) The concept of “loss-aversion”—the assertion that people “are far more guided by fear of loss than by the prospect of gain.” Strenger tells us that average Israelis are afraid to risk the loss of territorial “assets,” which they identify with both national security and religious tradition, for the gains that might come with peace. It is an alleged natural bias for the status quo. Strenger goes on to say that the Palestinians are responsible for this Israeli fear of peace due to their violence during the second Intifada and the rocket attacks from Gaza. That Israel itself created the historical conditions for these Palestinian acts of resistance is not considered by Strenger.

Strenger describes three Israeli “psychological obstacles to peace” that can only be overcome by such an “unflinching” effort based on sympathetic understanding.

There are problems with the loss-aversion thesis. One is that individual assessments of the loss/gain risk are subjective. In other words, in the case of Israeli fears, there have been decades of government propaganda downplaying prospects for peace and Palestinian as well as Arab efforts at compromise—for instance, the outright lie that the Israelis have no one to negotiate with on the Palestinian side. This has been paralleled by a continuous playing up of the alleged security risks of withdrawal from occupied territories.

The result is a psychological context that magnifies a national aversion to the loss of security that may come from peace. Put another way, Israeli leaders have produced an artificial political and psychological environment that identifies national security with the avoidance of peace. All Israeli governments have played this propaganda game because all of them have been and still are more interested in land than peace.

(2) Strenger’s second psychological obstacle is Israel’s “inability to let go of Zionism as a revolutionary movement.” The surprising point here is that he confines “the revolutionary movement” aspect of Zionism to the post-1967 war period.  Thus, he tells us “the history of Israel’s occupation and gradual colonization of the West Bank cannot be understood without the religious-Zionist movement that emerged from the 1967 war.” However, just like the notion of loss aversion, this assertion is misleading. Limiting Zionism’s aggressive expansion, and its accompanying notion of territorial destiny, only to fanatic settlers is just wrong. It was secular Labor Party leaders and military officers who started the Occupation after the 1967 war, and they were (and many probably still are) as reluctant to let go of that territory as any wild-eyed Israeli religious fundamentalist.

(3) Finally, the third psychological obstacle put forth by Strenger is “a need to justify the occupation.” Didn’t we just go through this with loss aversion? Yes. But he wants us to understand that justifying the Occupation also means justifying the guilt that he knows must go along with it. He explains, “almost every Israeli in the last 47 years has done military service in the territories. Almost all of them have had to do things [italics added] that go against human decency and morality—often not for the sake of Israel’s security at large, but to protect some isolated outpost of settlers.” Giving up the territories for peace would be like an admission that it was all for naught and according to Strenger, “this idea is too difficult to bear, and the regret would be unendurable.” This need for denial then underpins the need to see the Occupation as “necessary for Israel’s survival.”

While phrases like “too difficult to bear” and “the regret would be unbearable” are exaggerations, I can understand this argument. It is the same as the argument that the Vietnam War was fought to keep the United States free. Many Americans still cling to this myth. As Strenger notes, it makes both sacrifices and sins appear justified. Yet, in the long run, not facing one’s guilt only poisons both individual and national lives. We can already see this happening within Israeli society.

There are other problems with Strenger’s understanding of Israeli psychological obstacles. He approaches them in a one-dimensional fashion, as if there is not another relevant party to these traumas. Yet Israeli fears about peace are indelibly tied to the Palestinian demand for justice. Indeed, the more we “understand” Israeli fears and accommodate them, the more we are forced to ignore the Palestinians’ psychological and material need for justice. And, justice for the Palestinians is yet another sine qua non for peace.

Finally, Strenger fails to realize that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not just about the Occupation. His own endgame is tied to the maintenance of Israel as a “Jewish democratic state” within the 1967 borders. Yet the concept of a Jewish democratic state is actually a contradiction in terms. You cannot have a democracy for just one select group put down amidst a large population of “others.” That road leads to apartheid. Whether Strenger likes it or not we are now well past the time for a “two-state solution.”

The Need for Coercion

It is not just the prospect of two states that is gone. The “peace process” itself is also long dead. Thus, reason has been displaced and we are thrown back on the need for coercion—just as was the case when confronting apartheid South Africa.

At this stage the aim of coercion is not the withdrawal of Israel from the Occupied Territories. Rather, it is forcing Israeli adherence to international law through the abandonment of the racist ideology of Zionism and the corresponding restrictive notion of rights. If Professor Strenger is in any way typical, most Israeli peace activists will not be able to push the issue this far. However, those few who do have come to the conclusion, as have most Palestinians that they will need a lot of outside help to accomplish this task.

This is made clear in a recent interview (22 September 2018) with the Israeli peace activist Miko Peled. Peled, the son of an Israeli general, argues that we are at a point in the conflict when “only a focused and well-coordinated strategy to delegitimize and bring down the Zionist regime can bring justice to Palestine.” Peled’s aim is the creation of “a single democracy with equal rights on all of historic Palestine.

” This is the same goal of most Palestinians. Currently the best strategy to move in this direction entails an international effort to isolate Israel and stigmatize its racist ideology. Right now this is embodied in the BDS movement—Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions. Peled believes that “BDS is the perfect form of resistance available.” He calls its supporters to “embrace it fully, work hard, and demand the expulsion of all Israeli diplomats and total isolation of Israel.” He also recognizes that this will be a “slow process.”

There seems to be no other choice. And it really does not matter that part of the reason we are at this point are those “existentialist” fears of many Israelis. Those fears are certainly no excuse for the destruction of Palestine, its people and culture, and international law as well. However, if they are sufficient to preclude the use of reason to end to the conflict, then it will have to be coercion—administered worldwide for as long as it takes.

 

 

Reality and its Enemies – An Analysis (28 May 2017) by Lawrence Davidson

tothepointanalyses

 Part I – Reality

There is an ongoing reality that is destroying hundreds of thousands of lives in the Middle East. And though most Americans are ignorant of the fact, and many of those who should be in the know would deny it, the suffering flows directly from decisions taken by Washington over the last 27 years. Some of the facts of the matter have just been presented by the first Global Conflict Medicine Congress held at the American University of Beirut (AUB) earlier this month (11-14 May 2017). It has drawn attention to two dire consequences of the war policies Americans have carried on in the region: cancer-causing munition matierial and drug-resistant bacteria.

— Cancer-causing munition material: Materials such as tungsten and mercury are found in the casing of penetrating bombs used in the first and second Gulf wars. These have had long-term effects on survivors, especially those who have been wounded by these munitions. Iraqi-trained and Harvard-educated Dr. Omar Dewachi, a medical anthropologist at AUB fears that “the base line of cancers [appearing in those exposed to these materials] has become very aggressive. … When a young woman of 30, with no family history of cancer, has two different primary cancers – in the breast and in the oesophagus – you have to ask what is happening.” To this can be added that doctors are now “overwhelmed by the sheer number of [war] wounded patients in the Middle East.”

— Drug-resistant bacteria: According to Glasgow-trained Professor Ghassan Abu-Sittah, head of plastic and reconstructive surgery at AUB Medical Center, drug resistance was not a problem during the Iran-Iraq War of 1980-1988. However, after the fiasco of Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait, things began to change. In the period after 1990, Iraq suffered under a vicious sanctions regime imposed by the United Nations at U.S. insistence. During the next 12 years “Iraqis were allowed to use only three antibiotics” and bacterial resistance quickly evolved. Those resistant bacteria spread throughout the region, particularly after the American invasion of the country in 2003. Today, according to a Medecins Sans Frontieres analysis, “multidrug resistant [MDR] bacteria now accounts for most war wound infections across the Middle East, yet most medical facilities in the region do not even have the laboratory capacity to diagnose MDR, leading to significant delays and clinical mismanagement of festering wounds.”

Insofar as these developments go, it is not that there aren’t contributing factors stemming from local causes such as factual fighting. However, the major triggers for these horrors were set in motion in Washington. As far as I know, no American holding a senior official post has ever accepted any responsibility for this ongoing suffering.

 

Part II – Hiding Reality

As the cancers and untreatable infections grow in number in the Middle East, there is here in the United States a distressing effort to rehabilitate George W. Bush – the American president whose decisions and policies contributed mightily to this ongoing disaster. It is this Bush who launched the unjustified 2003 invasion of Iraq and thereby – to use the words of the Arab League – “opened the gates of hell.” His rehabilitation effort began in ernest in April 2013, and coincided with the opening of his presidential library. In an interview given at that time, Bush set the stage for his second coming with an act of self-exoneration. He said he remained “comfortable with the decision making process” that led to the invasion of Iraq – the one that saw him fudging the intelligence when it did not tell him what he wanted to hear – and so also “comfortable” with the ultimate determination to launch the invasion. “There’s no need to defend myself. I did what I did and ultimately history will judge.”

The frivolous assertion that “history will judge” is often used by people of suspect character. “History” stands for a vague future time. Its alleged inevitable coming allows the protagonist to fantasize about achieving personal glory unchallenged by present, usually significant, ethical concerns.

Those seeking George W. Bush’s rehabilitation now like to contrast him to Donald Trump. One imagines they thereby hope to present him as a “moderate” Republican. They claim that Bush was and is really a very smart and analytical fellow rather than the simpleton most of us suspect him to be. In other words, despite launching an unnecessary and subsequently catastrophic war, he was never as ignorant and dangerous as Trump. He and his supporters also depict him as a great defender of a free press, again in contrast to Donald Trump. However, when he was president, Bush described the media as an aider and abettor of the nation’s enemies. This certainly can be read as a position that parallels Trump’s description of the media as the “enemy of the American people.”

But all of this is part of a public relations campaign and speaks to the power of reputation remodeling – the creation of a facade that hides reality. In order to do this you have to “control the evidence” – in this case by ignoring it. In this endeavor George W. Bush and his boosters have the cooperation of much of the mainstream media. No sweat here: the press has done this before. Except for the odd editorial the mainstream media also contributed to Richard Nixon’s rehabilitation back in the mid 1980s. These sorts of sleights-of-hand are only possible against the background of pervasive public ignorance.

 

Part III – Closed Information Environments

Local happenings are open to relatively close investigation. We usually have a more or less accurate understanding of the local context in which events play out, and this allows for the possibility of making a critical judgment. As we move further away, both in space and time, information becomes less reliable, if for no other reason than it comes to us through the auspices of others who may or may not know what they are talking about. As a society, we have little or no knowledge of the context for foreign events, and thus it is easy for those reporting on them to apply filters according to any number of criteria. What we are left with is news that is customized – stories designed to fit preexisting political or ideological biases. In this way millions upon millions of minds are restricted to closed information environments on subjects which often touch on, among other important topics, war and its consequences.

So what is likely to be more influential with the locally oriented American public: George W. Bush’s rehabilitated image reported on repeatedly in the nation’s mainstream media, or the foreign-based, horror-strewn consequences of his deeds reported upon infrequently?

This dilemma is not uniquely American, nor is it original to our time. However, its dangerous consequences are a very good argument against the ubiquitous ignorance that allows political criminals to be rehabilitated even as their crimes condemn others to continuing suffering. If reputation remodelers can do this for George W. Bush, then there is little doubt that someday it will be done for Donald Trump. Life, so full of suffering, is also full of such absurdities.

Getting Past The Issue Of Being Jewish – An Analysis

by Lawrence Davidson

(12 March 2015)

Part I – Is Being Jewish the Real Issue?

 

On 5 March 2015 the New York Times (NYT) carried a front page story about a second-year student at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) named Rachel Beyda. Ms. Beyda, who is Jewish, was seeking appointment as a member on the university’s Judicial Board – a student committee that considers judicial questions in reference to the activities of student government.

 

As the story goes, Ms. Beyda’s application was originally rejected because a majority of the board felt that her association with organizations such as Hillel, a group that uncritically supports Israel’s apartheid-style culture and maintains anti-democratic rules and procedures of its own, would represent a conflict of interest and result in possible bias on her part. Given the tension on many campuses, including UCLA, between those who support and oppose Israeli policies and behavior – tensions which occasionally result in student organizations being disciplined – it was not an unreasonable assumption. Unfortunately, the student board members who questioned Ms. Beyda’s affiliations made it appear that their concerns flowed from her religion and ethnicity.

 

Then “at the prodding of a faculty adviser … who pointed out that belonging to Jewish organizations was not a conflict of interest, the students [on the board] revisited the issue and unanimously put her [Beyda] on the board.”

 

Of course, the story does not end there. According to the NYT, the episode has “set off an anguished discussion of how Jews are treated” and served to “spotlight what appears to be a surge of hostile sentiment directed against Jews on many campuses in the country, often a byproduct of animosity toward the policies of Israel.”

 

The Los Angeles-area Zionists have had a field day blowing the incident out of all proportions. For instance, Rabbi Aaron Lerner, “the incoming executive director of the Hillel chapter at U.C.L.A.” told the NYT, “we don’t like to wave the flag of anti-Semitism, but this is different. This is bigotry. This is discriminating against someone because of their identity.” At least on one point Lerner is wrong. Hillel does “wave the flag of anti-Semitism.” After all, Hillel maintains that “Israel is a core element of Jewish life and the gateway to Jewish identity.” The organization follows the Zionist line that those who strongly oppose Israel, oppose the Jews and Judaism per se.

 

Lerner’s charge of “bigotry” is harder to evaluate without seeing the recorded video of the board meeting (which has been removed from YouTube.) However, in a letter to the campus newspaper, the students who originally voted against Ms. Beyda apologized for the tack they had taken in their questioning of her.

 

The NYT goes on to air the opinions of Rabbi John L. Rosove, senior rabbi of Temple Israel of Hollywood, who called the board incident “insidious”; Avinoam Baral, the president of student council, who said the board was unfairly suggesting Beyda might have “divided loyalties”; and Natalie Charney, student president of the UCLA chapter of Hillel who complained that this was all the result of an “overall climate of targeting Israel” that has led to the “targeting of Jewish students.” Well, no one can accuse the New York Times of putting forth a balanced interpretation of events.

 

Part II – What is the Real Issue?

 

There is certainly something upsetting about this incident. It might very well be that the recent acrimonious struggle that resulted in the UCLA student government endorsing the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel set the scene for a less than sensitive approach to Ms. Beyda’s application to the Judicial Board. Nonetheless, the incident and its repercussions tell us that those who oppose Israeli behavior have to be careful not to fall into the Zionist trap of assuming, or even inferring, that Israel is identical with the Jewish people and that individual Jews cannot do other than support the Zionist state. This is simply not true.

 

It seems to me that the mistake the board members made was to focus on Ms. Beyda’s membership in “Jewish” organizations. We can infer that from the faculty adviser’s intervention as described above. If those objecting to her application had thought the issue through, they would have realized that the real problem is not membership in organizations that are Jewish, but rather membership in organizations that support institutional racism and oppression. Focusing on the latter points allows one to get past the issue of being Jewish. After all, there should be a problem if an applicant belonged to any such organization, be it Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, communist, or even pseudo-democratic.

 

In the United States we may be approaching a tipping point in the struggle against Zionist racism and Israeli oppression. As such it is extremely important that those involved in this struggle express their feelings in a way that clearly maintains a separation between what is objected to and Jews generally. The struggle is against racism, discrimination, oppression, occupation and illegal colonization because they are evils no matter who perpetrates them. The Israeli case has to be prioritized because Israel and its Zionist allies have bought and bullied our own government and political parties in a corrupting manner.

 

Expressed in this way, anyone who applied for the UCLA Judicial Board, regardless of religion or ethnicity, might properly be asked about their attitude toward such issues.

River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian   

The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Blog!

The Peace Process Hustle – An Analysis

7 November 2014

by Lawrence Davidson
Part I – Intractable Process
An intractable process, one that never seems to resolve itself, is either no process at all or a fraudulent one contrived to hide an ulterior motive. The so-called Israeli-Palestinian (at one time the Israeli-Arab) “peace process,” now in its sixth decade (counting from 1948) or fourth decade (counting from 1967) is, and probably always has been, just such a fraud.
One might object and say that the Oslo Accords (1993) were part of this process and they were not fraudulent. In my opinion that is a doubtful assumption. The talks were carried on in secret by officials who, at least on the Israeli side, never had an equitable peace in mind. Their goal was a political modification of the occupied territories that would free Israel from its legal obligations as occupiers of Palestinian territory and facilitate the pacification of the Palestinians and their resistance organizations. The Israeli side seemed to have believed that negotiating the return of Yasser Arafat and Fatah to the West Bank would provide them a partner in this process – not a peace process, but a pacification process.


It did not take long for the Palestinians to see through this gambit, and relations with the Israelis soon returned to the tense and sometimes violent status quo ante.

It was only after Arafat’s suspicious death in 2004 that the Israelis finally got a Palestinian “leader,” in the person of Mahmoud Abbas, who would cooperate with them in this process of pacification. Organized resistance then became the pursuit of those in Gaza who persist in calling the “peace process” a fraud. They are correct.

 
Part II – “Detached from Reality”

The present Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and some of his ministers have, of late, hinted at the truth. Netanyahu recently told the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, that criticism of his government’s expansion of Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem (which are illegal under international law), whether it comes from the U.S. government or Jewish groups such as J Street and Peace Now, are “words detached from reality” and “foster false statements [of hope] from the Palestinians,” therefore delaying the coming of “peace.”

 Likewise, Israel’s ambassador in Washington, Ron Dermer, has accused Palestinian “president” Abbas, the very man who helps Israel pacify the West Bank population, of “promoting hatred of Jews.” 

Why?

Because Abbas has complained at the United Nations and other world forums of Israel’s unwillingness to bring the “peace process” to a conclusion that he and his Palestine National Council could accept. Abbas, who lost the last Palestinian free election (held in 2006) to Hamas, but with U.S. and Israeli support has usurped the office of Palestinian president, is actually a nearly perfect “peace partner” for the Israelis. The amount of compromise he asks for from the Israeli side in exchange for coming to terms is embarrassingly minimal. However, Netanyahu’s government refuses the Palestinians any compromise at all because, for these Zionists, the “peace process” is a facade whose only value lies in its very fraudulence. Its only value is as a cover for the process of territorial absorption.
Thus, it is probably justified to conclude that a good number of Israelis (and certainly a vast majority of their leadership) are not interested in peace, and probably have never been, unless you define peace as total Palestinian surrender. More accurately, they are interested in expansion and control of all of Palestine from the Jordan to the Mediterranean Sea. After six decades of a “peace process” going nowhere, anyone who does not understand this is deluding themselves.


Part III – Self-Delusion

Just who are those deluding themselves? Many of them are diaspora Jews who are, whether they understand it or not, caught in a contradiction: they are at once committed to Zionism’s ideological goal of a secure Jewish state in Palestine, but nonetheless are, at this moment of maximum Israeli power, calling for ideological compromise. Some of these people are members of Zionist groups in the U.S. such as Peace Now and J Street. Both organizations want continuing peace negotiations with the Palestinians looking toward achieving some variation of the two-state solution. J Street is apparently upset with Netanyahu’s determination to continue the colonization process “in every part of Judea and Samaria” (the West Bank) as well as East Jerusalem because to do so “erects one obstacle to peace after another.”
Unfortunately, the history of official Zionist behavior is on the side of Netanyahu. All the evidence indicates that Zionism and its leaders have been committed to the conquest of all of historic Palestine at least since 1918. In that year Chaim Weizmann submitted a map of the proposed Jewish national home to the Peace Conference that settled matters after World War I. It represented a maximalist program that has been incrementally realized first in 1948 and then 1967. Nowhere in the Zionist program has there ever been room for voluntary retreat. That is why Prime Minister Netanyahu describes those who criticize his colonization efforts as “detached from reality.”

 
Part IV – Conclusion
Netanyahu and his ilk, however, tend to ignore the fact that there are multiple realities operating here. Certainly, one should not forget the Palestinian reality, particularly that of Gaza, and Israeli culpability in its creation and maintenance. On the Zionist side there now exists at least two realities. One is certainly that of Prime Minister Netanyahu – the reality of the Zionist ideologue with Israeli power backing it up. But then there is the other Zionist reality – that of Israel’s increasing isolation, not only diplomatic and cultural, but also, over time, economic. The latter reality scares many diaspora Jews to the point where they are willing to compromise maximalist ideological goals.
The Zionists in power are as yet impervious to this fear. However, if the reality of economic and cultural isolation ever overtakes that of Israeli power, then the number of compromisers will rapidly grow, and the zealots such as Netanyahu will find themselves alone in a Masada-like fortress of their own making.

River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian   

The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Blog!

The New York Times Declares the Peace Process Futile

 (27 April 2014)

Part I

 

In 1988 Yasser Arafat declared independence for Palestine based upon the notion of two states living in peace in historic Palestine. The border between those two states was to be set roughly at the armistice line established at the end of the 1948 Arab-Israeli war. The Palestinian state’s capital was to be located in East Jerusalem.

 

That was 26 years ago. Then on14 April 2014, the editorial board of the New York Times (NYT) decided that Arafat was correct and the “principles” that “must undergird a two-state solution” are those he had proposed. Of course the board did so without ever referencing the great Palestinian leader.

 

Not only does the NYT declare the pre-1967 border and a shared capital at Jerusalem necessary and valid, but it calls on the U.S. government to do the same: “It is time for the administration to lay down the principles … should the Israelis and the Palestinians ever decide to make peace.”

 

Part II

 

Before anyone gets too excited over this seeming miracle on Eighth Avenue (where the paper is headquartered), it should be noted that the NYT editorial board made this pronouncement at a point when its fulfillment was impossible. And the editorial board knew this was the case. “The pointless arguing over who brought the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks to the brink of collapse is in full swing. The United States is still working to salvage the negotiations, but there is scant sign

of serious purpose. … President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry should move on and devote their attention to other major international challenges like Ukraine.”

 

Having reached this point in the editorial board’s text one starts to suspect that the board is being disingenuous. First of all, why is it “pointless” to discuss the reason these talks are collapsing? Secretary of State Kerry’s explanation (the famous “poof” heard around the world), made before Congress, lays blame right where it has always belonged – with Israeli acts of sabotage of those very principles the NYT now espouses. Why does the NYT say that stating this increasingly obvious fact is “pointless”?

 

It is also interesting that the editorial board suggests in what direction the subject should be changed – toward the “major international challenge” of Ukraine. I am not sure the board thought this suggestion through. After all, what is the core Western complaint about happenings in Ukraine? It is the Russian land grab in the Crimea as well as the alleged threat of more such moves in eastern Ukraine. Yet just how different is Russian behavior in this regard from that of Israel in the West Bank and Golan Heights? Obviously the NYT editors do not think it is “pointless” to to discuss land grabs when the Russians do it. It is only pointless when the Israelis do it.

 

The editorial board also surrounds its declaration of principles with an archaic effort to present Israel and the Palestinians as equally at fault. It is not only the Israelis who have decided against making peace, it is both the “Israelis and Palestinians.” It is not just “the obstinacy of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu” that is a problem. That “obstinacy” has to be coupled with “resistance from the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas.” It is not just Israel which is unwilling to “move on to core issues,” it is “the two sides” that are unwilling. This insistence on dualism is an illusion hiding the fact that the two sides are not at all equal and, with the exception of the red-herring issue of Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, ninety-nine percent of the obstinacy and all the resistance has been on one side – the Israeli side.

 

Part III

 

The NYT editorial board has the same problem as the Obama administration: they both know the truth but are unwilling to do something about it. They both know the problem is that the Israeli government is not interested in genuine peace (actually, has never been interested in it). Israel is only interested in continuing its conquest of Palestinian land. And thanks to the West, most particularly the United States, Israel has the military wherewithal to ignore not only the Palestinian protests but also those of the rest of the world.

 

Both the U.S. government and the U.S. “newspaper of record” refuse to act on their knowledge of Israel’s history of sabotage and call for punitive action against a nation that is hurting U.S. national interests in an important part of the world. Their main concern is to avoid a confrontation with Zionist lobbyists and NYT advertisers whose devotion to Israel is wholly uncritical. This appears to still be the most favored position even though standing firm over negotiations with Iran has proved the Zionists are not omnipotent.

 

It’s that old two steps forward, one step backward shuffle: heading in the right direction while ensuring we never reach the proper destination.

Israel’s catalogue of savagery

Lawrence Davidson views Israel’s litany of savage behaviour, from the ethnic cleansing that started in earnest in 1948 and is ongoing to the starvation war waged on Gaza and numerous acts of wanton, petty cruelty.

Savagery ongoing

In my article “America’s billboard wars: Zionists vs. the truth, I noted that a Zionist organization run by the Islamophobe Pamela Geller is posting messages on buses and subways calling for support for Israel. The messages claim that Israel represents the “civilized man” in a struggle against jihadist “savagery”. I questioned Israel’s qualifications for civilized status in the earlier piece, but am drawn back to the subject by the almost daily revelations of the Zionist state’s questionable behaviour. It is not that the jihadist cannot be a savage at times; it is that the Israeli government seems quite incapable of being civilized. For instance:

Ethnic cleansing

On 16 October 2012 the Israeli organization Yazkern hosted dozens of veterans of Israel’s 1948 “War of Independence” for a look at what that struggle really entailed. The veterans testified to what can only be called a conscious effort at ethnic cleansing – the systematic destruction of entire Palestinian villages and numerous massacres. A documentary film by Israeli-Russian journalist Lia Tarachansky, dealing with this same subject, the Palestinian Nakba or catastrophe, is nearing completion. It too has the testimony of Israeli soldiers of the 1948 war. These latest revelations lend credence to the claims of Israel’s “new historians”, such as Ilan Pappe, who have written books based on evidence gleamed from government archives showing that, even before the outbreak of hostilities leading to the creation of the state of Israel, the Zionist authorities planned to ethnically cleanse as much of Palestine as possible of non-Jews. The aim of Yazkern’s effort at truth-telling is to break through the sanitized “mainstream nationalistic narrative” of 1948 and the accompanying denial of any legitimate Palestinian counter-narrative.”

OK. The Israelis were savages in 1948 and only a small minority will admit it. What about after “the War of Independence”? As it turns out the ethnic cleansing never stopped. Conveniently, the long-standing denial that it ever started has helped to hide the fact of its ongoing nature. Yet just this week we received the news that Defence Minister Ehud Barak has given the order to demolish eight Palestinian villages with some 1,500 residents in the south Hebron hills. The excuse offered by Barack is that the land is needed for military training exercises. According to the “new historians”, this is a standard Israeli government cover for ethnic cleansing. Sure, for a couple of years the Israeli army will use the land that held the demolished villages. Then, almost inevitably, the area becomes the site of a new Israeli Jewish settlement.

Starvation

On 20 October 2012 Al-Jazeera reported on Israeli documents showing that between 2008 and 2010 the Israeli army allowed food supplies into the Gaza Strip based on a daily calorie count that held the basic diet of a million and half people to a point just short of malnutrition. According to the Israeli human rights organization Gisha, “the official goal of the policy was to wage economic warfare which would paralyze Gaza’s economy and, according to the Defence Ministry, create pressure on the Hamas government”. Actually, this bit of savagery predates 2008. Back in 2006 Dov Weissglass, then an advisor to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, stated that “the idea is to put the Palestinians on a diet, but not to make them die of hunger”. Of course, precedents for this can be found in the treatment of European Jews in the 1930s and 1940s. One assumes that Mr Weissglass was aware of this.

However, just as with the barbarism practiced in the “War of Independence”, in this case too there is a well practised capacity for national denial. According to Gideon Levy writing in Haaretz, “the country has plenty of ways … of burying skeletons deep in the closet so that Israelis shouldn’t be overly disturbed”. The military authors of the document that turned Weissglass’s hideous “idea” into savage practice, operated in “a country afflicted with blindness”. So, the present Israeli government does not have to worry about public unease over the fact that it is slowly but surely destroying the Gaza sewage system and rendering its water supply undrinkable.

Wanton cruelty

Then there are the petty acts of cruelty that can be considered tell-tale signs of savagery. For instance, the fact that Israeli customs officials held back the exam sheets for the October 2012 College Board tests bound for the West Bank graduating high school seniors. AMIDEAST, the organization that serves as the testing agency for the Palestinian territories, had made sure the Israeli authorities had the tests in their hands weeks in advance. Nonetheless, in an apparent act of petty vindictiveness, the customs officials held on to them until AMIDEAST had to cancel the exam. One observer has asked the question: “What has the SAT [tests] have to do with Israeli security?” Well, it might be that, in the mind of a savage customs official, the more college-bound Palestinians from the occupied territories, the more articulate witnesses to Israeli oppression. On the Gaza side of the equation, the US was forced to cancel a small scholarship programme for Gaza college students because the Israelis refused to let the students leave their open air prison, even if only to go to a West Bank school.

For anyone who might want to follow the grim procession of Israeli oppressive and barbaric acts on a day to day basis, I recommend the web site “Today in Palestine“, provided by the International Middle East Centre.

Challenge and denial

In the face of this persistent savage behaviour on the part of Israel, that country’s public support has finally begun to slip in the United States. Most recently, 15 prominent church leaders, representing major Christian denominations, wrote an open letter to Congress calling for

an immediate investigation into possible violations by Israel of the US Foreign Assistance Act and the US Arms Export Control Act which respectively prohibit assistance to any country that engages in a consistent pattern of human rights violations….We urge Congress to hold hearings to examine Israel’s compliance, and we request regular reporting on compliance and the withholding of military aid for non-compliance.

So far, the Congress has turned a deaf-ear to this request, but the Zionist reaction was loud and clear. Leading the way in this effort was the head of the misnamed “Anti-Defamation League” (ADL), Abraham Foxman. Charging the Christian leaders with a “blatant lack of sensitivity” (one might ask just how sensitive one is supposed to be to an oppressor?) Foxman decided to punish the offending clergy by refusing to engage in ongoing “interfaith dialogue”. The Zionist reaction to being called out for their own savage behaviour is a classic example of denial.

Conclusion

Having “big brains” is a two edge sword for human beings. It means we can think all manner of creative thoughts and even exercise some self-control over our own inappropriate impulses if we care to try. However, it also means that we can be manipulated into thinking that we need not try – that we are the victims even as we are oppressing others and that any criticism of our actions is just another example of our victimization. Israeli culture, and indeed the culture of Zionism generally, is one ongoing project of self-manipulation to achieve just such a state of mind. And, to a great extent, it has succeeded. A recent poll taken in Israel shows that “a majority of the [Israeli Jewish] public wants the state to discriminate against Palestinians … revealing a deeply rooted racism in Israeli society”.

The Zionists are not the only experts in denial. The United States, Israel’s chief ally, has always been good at this gambit as well. After the 9/11 attacks any consideration of the possibility that United States foreign policy in the Middle East might have helped motivate the terrorism was anathema, and it still is over a decade later. Instead of taking a hard look at our own behaviour we are simply expanding our capacity to kill outright anyone who would challenge our policies in a violent fashion. Our answer is targeted killings by drones or otherwise – a bit of savagery we learned from the Israelis.

Machiavelli, who can always be relied upon to see the darker side of things, once said:

Whoever wishes to foresee the future must consult the past; for human events resemble those of preceding times. This arises from the fact that they are produced by men who ever have been, and ever shall be, animated by the same passions, and thus they necessarily have the same results.

But yet, is it really inevitable?

River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian  

The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this Blog!

‘US will try to preserve low-grade instability in Syria’

Press TV


March 16 2012

The secretary-general of the Lebanese resistance movement of Hezbollah has called on the Syrians to start political dialogue to resolve their differences.

Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah has warned that any other course of action would result in more bloodshed.

Syria has been experiencing unrest since mid-March 2011. The violence has claimed the lives of hundreds of people, including many security forces.

Damascus blames ‘outlaws, saboteurs, and armed terrorist groups’ for the unrest, asserting that it is being orchestrated from abroad.

Press TV has conducted an interview with Lawrence Davidson, a professor at West Chester University of Pennsylvania, to get more on the issue.

The video offers the opinions of two additional guests: Omar Nashabi from Al Akhbar, a daily Arabic language newspaper published in the Lebanese capital Beirut, and Jiwad Rashad from Syrian Social Club.

What follows is an approximate transcription of the interview:

Press TV: What the Syrian government has done so far in terms of the constitution, in terms of the reforms, is much more than what for example Yemen has done under this joint US-Persian Gulf Arab countries mainly Saudi Arabia and we can include some of the other countries from the Persian Gulf area also. But Syria is accused of doing nothing and when it comes to the efforts by President Bashar al-Assad and his government, why this contradiction?

Davidson: I think it is a political positioning, if you will. There is no inherent contradiction. The government in Syria has in fact set forth a program of reform. Now that has been done under pressure but it has been done and I think that a certain amount of pressure will have to be maintained on the government to make sure that there is a modicum of follow-through on this.

But that pressure cannot be in the form of a civil war and that is really what these outside agitators, if you will, and their supporters really want. The United States, the Saudis, what they want is regime change and clearly in the case of Syria, the only way you are going to get regime change is by a very bloody and destructive civil war and so it is [de facto] that is what they are trying to do.

That is why they are smuggling the weapons; that is why they are enticing Syrian soldiers to desert and that is why these Saudis are pouring in the money. Now that seems to me that strategy has resulted in the pressure that is factionalizing the opposition and so there probably are a lot of Syrians who had started out in the opposition and demonstrated in the streets, etc. would say OK, let’s take the government out of its words, so to speak, and see where these proposed reforms go.

And I think that they are wise decision under the circumstances because the alternative is pretty bad. However, I do not think that we should kid ourselves. If there is going to be serious follow-through on these reforms, people are going to have to periodically take to the streets in a non-violent fashion but in a relatively massive fashion to make sure the government knows they are still there.

Press TV: We saw in the hundreds and thousands today Syrians poured out; Kofi Annan tomorrow will be making his revelations to the UN. What do you think? Is this the point where some of the Arab countries such as Qatar and Saudi Arabia along with the US and its allies have realized their approach has not worked, of course given the fact that Russia and China have stood firmly against them?

Davidson: I am not sure if that is the case. I think they have realized that they cannot promote outright civil war and get their regime change, but I think that they are perfectly willing to maintain a low-grade unstabilizing kind of profits. So I do not think that the smuggling of the weapons and the funding of an armed opposition, I do not think that is going to go away; I do not think it is going to go away even if everybody else is satisfied with the reforms of the government.

So my feeling is that you are going to have this sort of insidious, periodic outburst of violence, car bombing, the whole nine yards, I think that is going to go on for a while yet because a certain modicum of the instability particularly in a place like Syria are distracting the government say from its confrontation with Israel, making nervous the Iranians. I think that that kind of low-grade instability is something that the US will try to maintain.

MSK/HN

River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian  
The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this Blog!

For both Humanity and Palestine: One front: Occupy the Lobby…Kill the Beast

Nature of the Beast

In Case you missed it: The Helen Thomas’ Resolution by Gilad Atzmon

Two Front International Struggle For Palestine

by Lawrence Davidson

 
Part I – Two International Fronts
In January 2011, I wrote an analysis in support of a one-state solution to the on-going Israeli-Palestinian struggle. It is the Israelis themselves who have made the one-state solution the only practicable approach, because their incessant and illegal colonization of the West Bank has simply eliminated all possibility of a viable and truly independent Palestinian state. Israeli behavior has not changed in the past year and so I still stand by the position.

That being said, it is important to point out that even a one-state solution capable of bringing justice to the Palestinians, and in doing so, saving the Jews from the folly of Zionism, will not be possible without worldwide intervention. What is necessary is a struggle on two international fronts:

  • A) A strong growing international boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign against Israel and
  • B) Growing popular pressure in the United States that forces a change in foreign policy toward Israel.

Without achieving both of these goals the fate of both Palestinians and Jews looks very bleak indeed.

Part II – Israel Will Try To Prevent A Civil Rights Struggle.
The necessity of this two-front international approach was reinforced for me upon reading a speech given by Noam Chomsky in Beirut in May of 2010. When commenting on a one-state solution to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, he made the following points:

  1. For the indefinite future, “Israel will continue doing exactly what [its] doing….[taking] the water resources, the valuable land…the Jordan Valley…and send[ing] corridors through the remaining regions to break them up into separated cantons…”
  2. In the process the Israeli government will make sure that “very few Palestinians [are] incorporated in the valuable areas that Israel will take over” and they will do so in order to preclude “any civil rights struggle.”
  3. he Israelis can do this as long as the United States supports them. Chomsky calls this the “mafia principle.” He notes that in the case of South Africa, the apartheid state was able to hold out against an international boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign as long as the United States did not participate in it. And the primary reason the US gave for not doing so was that the leading resistance organization fighting apartheid, Nelson Mandela’s African National Congress, was a “notorious” terrorist organization.
  4. However, international anti-apartheid sentiment did help push Washington to finally cease its support South Africa and then apartheid collapsed. Chomsky concludes: “When the godfather [that is, the U.S.] changes his policy, things change….I think this could happen with Israel. If the United States changes policy and decides to join the world[‘s growing opposition to Israeli behavior], Israel will have no option but to go along.”

Chomsky’s analysis is a bit too reductionist for me. That is, he tends to bring everything down to positions taken by the U.S. government. But there is no denying that changing U.S. policy is one of two necessary international parts to any solution. And, he makes a seminal point when he tells us that the Israeli government has no intention of incorporating the mass of West Bank Palestinians (to say nothing of the Gazans) into the Jewish state.

Part III – Avoiding A Civil Rights Struggle Through “Transfer”

Indeed, Israeli strategy necessitates allowing a fake “Palestinian state” in the form of West Bank Bantustans, and then deporting their Arab Israeli citizens into those enclaves. No Arabs in Israel, no civil rights struggle.

An interesting piece of news that speaks to this possibility appeared on January 31, 2012. According to Associated Press reports, the Israeli Interior Ministry plans to deport thousands of Southern Sudanese refugees. Why so? Because, according to a ministry spokeswoman, “since the Southern Sudanese have an independent state, they will no longer be given protected status in Israel.” The first step will be to offer them “voluntary deportation and around $1300″ in ‘thanks for leaving’ money. After that, forced deportation and no money, will be the policy.

As the American Palestinian activist Ali Abunimah notes, “Israeli leaders have already hinted that they could use the same type of logic to justify removal of Palestinian citizens of Israel if a nominally independent Palestinian state is established on scrapes of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.”

This is known as a policy of “transfer” in Zionist parlance and it has been discussed at least since the time of Theodor Herzl. In recent years it has been suggested by former Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni (now head of the Israeli opposition in the Knesset) and the present Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman as well as a slew of other Israeli politicians. Abunimah’s conclusion is that a “two-state solution would be more likely to lead to further ethnic cleansing of Palestinians than to peace.”

Part IV – Conclusion

So what do we have here? On the one hand, Noam Chomsky points to the very real possibility that the Israelis will not allow a one state solution that creates the conditions for an internal struggle for civil and political equality. And, on the other hand, Ali Abunimah points to the very real possibility that any two state solution will lead to forced deportation of Palestinians into Bantustans.

Is there a way out of this? Well if the South African experience is to be a guide it is this: The sine qua non of any solution is the collapse of Israel’s ethno/religious, that is Zionist, ideology of governance. Just as the racist apartheid form of governance had to be changed for there to be a resolution of the South African struggle, so the Israeli Zionist form of governance has to be changed for there to be a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian struggle.

And, I think that Chomsky is right when he says the Israelis have no intention of allowing such a change in governance to come about through an internal civil rights struggle. Therefore, the pressure for the necessary transformation will have to come from outside. It will have to come in the form a two-front movement: one front building the worldwide boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel, and the second front concentrating on making support of Israel a national scandal in the U.S. and therefore a domestic voting issue.

While there are a few good organizations in the U.S. (such as the U.S. Campaign To End The Occupation and Jewish Voices for Peace) involved in building this second front, I think that the effort has not been given enough attention by Americans involved in supporting the Palestinian cause. It is time this changed for, as Noam Chomsky suggests, there will be no just solution to the Israeli-Palestinian struggle unless Israeli treatment of the Palestinians becomes a strong enough cause to impact U.S. policy.

River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian  

The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this Blog!

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