Sunday, July 26, 2015

World Jewry feels increasingly endangered, embarrassed by Israel, study finds

from the Electric Intifada

Ali Abunimah 25 July 2015

Jews around the world, especially younger ones, feel increasingly embarrassed and endangered by Israel and its actions, especially after last summer’s massacre in Gaza.

This is a key conclusion from a new report by the Jewish People Policy Institute (JPPI), a think tank supported by Israel lobby groups that works with the Israeli government to bolster Jewish support for Israel and Zionism.

The study identifies a “sense of crisis” in many Jewish communities “regarding their relationships with Israel.”

The report, “Jewish Values and Israel’s Use of Force in Armed Conflict: Perspectives from World Jewry,” is based on in-depth discussion groups and surveys in Jewish communities from Australia to South Africa, in Europe and in North and South America.

JPPI is co-chaired by Israel lobby stalwart and former US “peace process” diplomat Dennis Ross and Stuart Eizenstat, a longtime US government official who now serves as the State Department’s “Special Adviser to the Secretary on Holocaust Issues.”

Losing faith
The report asserts that most Jews are still concerned about Israel and care about its future. But it confirms key trends that will be particularly troubling to Israel and its lobby groups around the world.

For one thing, it is becoming harder for Israel to convince Jews that its regular spasms of violence against Palestinians and others are justified.

“Many Jews’ confidence in Israel’s desire for peace with its Palestinian neighbors has eroded, and this erosion also affects their belief in the necessity of using force,” the report states.

Many Jews are more likely to view Israel as responsible for this violence – contrary to Israel’s own claims that it is merely engaging in “self-defense.”

The discussions that fed into the report “called attention to a growing difficulty that many Jews have understanding Israel’s long-term policy – which they see as contributing to, if not actually creating, the need to engage in repeated violent confrontations with its neighbors.”

They also revealed a “rising tendency among Diaspora Jews to regard their ties to Israel as a disruptive factor in their personal and communal lives.”

Among the report’s recommendations is more “effective hasbara (public relations) vis-a-vis the Jewish communities” in an effort to convince them that Israel wants “peace.”

It is notable that this report was compiled by institutions with strong pro-Israel commitments, meaning that non-Zionist and anti-Zionist Jewish perspectives were likely underrepresented in the research. Not mentioned in the report, for instance, is the fact that many young Jews are active in the Palestinian-led boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement. Yet even so the report found considerable and growing disquiet over Israel.

Jews versus Israel
While both Zionist and anti-Semitic propagandists typically present the interests of Israel, on the one hand, and Jewish communities around the world, on the other, as being identical, the reality is that they are often directly at odds.

Last summer’s Israeli attack on Gaza which killed more than 2,200 Palestinians highlighted these contradictions for many participants in the JPPI study.

“Many – most – Jews still feel close to Israel, are concerned about Israel, want the best for it and to see it succeed,” the report states. “One cannot, however, ignore the many voices testifying to a growing difficulty in accepting the price this closeness entails.”

“Israel’s wars have an immediate and, usually, a negative effect on Diaspora Jewry,” concludes the summary of one of the Brazil discussions.

“Many Jews around the world feel that their lives are directly affected by Israel’s actions,” the report states. “Some feel physically threatened in the wake of Israeli actions, but even those who do not may still feel that Israel’s actions affect them on many levels, from Jewish intra-communal relations to their interaction with the non-Jewish world.”

Particularly troubling has been the Israeli response to attacks that targeted and killed Jews in France, most recently the killings at a kosher supermarket in Paris in January.

“[Israeli Prime Minister] Benjamin Netanyahu’s invitation to French Jews to immigrate to Israel put the French Jews in an embarrassing situation,” a study participant in France observed. “They had to explain to their fellow French citizens that they are not ‘Israelis living [in France] on borrowed time.’”

Reluctant ambassadors
Jews also increasingly resent “the role of Israel ‘ambassadors’ they are forced to play, whether they want to or not.”

A discussion seminar in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, noted that “we are all held accountable for Israel’s actions … [There is] no separation between Zionism and Judaism.”

“Whether I want to or not – I become an ambassador of Israel,” said one participant in St. Louis, Missouri.

The self-declared “Jewish state’s” horrifying violence and refusal to seek peace is also making some want to appear less Jewish and, in the words of the report, “lower their Jewish profile.”

Israel is also seen as increasingly divisive even among Jews. “Israel, which seeks to be a unifying force for World Jewry, has become, over the years, a source of tension,” the report states.

Israel’s extreme right-wing policies in other areas also run against the progressive politics many Jews profess. Many, the report states, are “dissatisfied with ‘civil rights’ issues, especially those related to minorities” including Palestinian citizens of Israel, foreign workers and the Ethiopian Jewish community.

Boosting propaganda
The JPPI report makes several recommendations aimed at boosting Israel’s propaganda efforts among Jews, particularly with respect to the “image” of the Israeli army.

“The IDF’s image as a moral army is a vital asset to Israel vis-à-vis the Jewish community, one that should be cultivated and preserved,” the report states. “It is crucial to refrain from making statements or conveying messages that undermine this image.”

The report calls for better “preparation” by Israeli army officers who engage in propaganda efforts in Jewish communities to “specifically address the Jewish viewpoint, rather than being confined to general hasbara messages.”

Nowhere does the report recommend that the Israeli army actually end its occupation and well-documented criminal violence against Palestinians. The report does not call for Israeli leaders or soldiers to be held accountable for the war crimes in Gaza and the West Bank evidence of which is amply documented in the recently published independent UN inquiry.

Youth checking out
A key point in the JPPI study is that all the trends that the authors find alarming are even more pronounced among Jews aged under 30.

“The opinion that Israel has a problem with the younger generation of Diaspora Jews was pervasive,” the report states.

It notes, for instance, anxiety about “declining enrollment in the Taglit-Birthright and Masa Israel programs, and concerns that this could be attributed to the Gaza war.”

These are programs, funded by the Israeli government and pro-Israel foundations, that bring Jewish youths on free trips to Israel in an effort to inculcate or strengthen Zionist commitments.

Concern about the attitudes of the young is driven by one “obvious” reason, the report states: “This is the generation whose attitude (and the attitude of the Jewish leadership that will come from it) will define the status of Israel-Diaspora relations in the future.”

If the trends noted in the JPPI report continue – and there’s no reason to think they won’t – then the alienation of Jews around the world from Israel is only certain to grow.


Thursday, July 23, 2015

Bernie Out of the Closet: Sanders’ Longstanding Deal with the Democrats

from Counterpunch
JULY 21, 2015
by PAUL STREET

I am glad that the left intellectual and activist Chris Hedges does not support the Bernie Sanders campaign for the Democratic Party presidential nomination. As Hedges explained in a recent interview on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour, Sanders’ candidacy lends undeserved credibility to the thoroughly corporatized Democratic Party. Sanders has pledged that he will support the corporatist military hawk Hillary Clinton in the 2016 general presidential election. Sanders stirs up legitimate progressive energy and popular anger and then “funnels it back into a dead political system,” Hedges observes. Sanders fails to confront the American Empire and military state, and, Hedges adds, has unforgivably “abandoned the Palestinians and given carte blanche to Israel.”

I agree on all scores. Hedges’ reasoning is consistent with my own recent writings on interviews on the Sanders presidential sensation. I do, however, want to raise one quibble with Hedges on Sanders’ history – a difference that makes Hedges’ case against Sanders even stronger. “I don’t understand,” Hedges told Nader: “He [Sanders] fought the Democratic establishment in Vermont his entire career. Now he has sold out to it.”

Sanders’ 1990 Deal with the Dems

Sanders did not “f[i]ght the Democratic establishment in Vermont his entire career.” As the left University of Vermont philosopher Will Miller noted in a 1999 essay recounting left peace activists’ occupation of then U.S. Congressman Bernie Sanders’ Burlington, Vermont office to protest Sanders’ support of the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia and the ongoing U.S. War on Iraq, Sanders sold out to the corporate and war Democrats as early as 1990.

Between 1981 and 1988, it is true, Sanders “presented himself to the left outside of Vermont as the leader of the third party movement, vanquishing the two major parties in every Mayoral election.” But in 1988, Sanders got a lesson on the perils of third party politics when he ran for federal office. In the election for Vermont’s seat in the House of Representatives, the independent Sanders and Democrat Paul Poirer divided the majority vote and the contest went to a Republican. Sanders responded by drifting right and cutting a deal with the Vermont Democrats: the party would permit no serious candidate to run against him while he blocked serious third party formation in Vermont and adopted positions in line with the national corporate war Democrats. Miller’s up-close account merits lengthy quotation:

“Bernie – out of office for the first time in eight years – went to the Kennedy School at Harvard for six months and came back with a new relationship with the state’s Democrats. The Vermont Democratic Party leadership has allowed no authorized candidate to run against Bernie in 1990 (or since) and in return, Bernie has repeatedly blocked third party building. His closet party, the Democrats, are very worried about a left 3rd party forming in Vermont. In the last two elections, Sanders has prevented Progressives in his machine from running against Howard Dean, our conservative Democratic Governor who was ahead of Gingrich in the attack on welfare.”

“The unauthorized Democratic candidate in 1990, Delores Sandoval, an African American faculty member at the University of Vermont, was amazed that the official party treated her as a nonperson and Bernie kept outflanking her to her right. She opposed the Gulf build-up, Bernie supported it. She supported decriminalization of drug use and Bernie defended the war on drugs, and so on…”

“After being safely elected in November of 1990, Bernie continued to support the buildup while seeking membership in the Democratic Congressional Caucus – with the enthusiastic support of the Vermont Democratic Party leadership. But, the national Democratic Party blew him off, so he finally voted against the war and returned home – and as the war began – belatedly claimed to be the leader of the anti-war movement in Vermont.”

“Since 1991 the Democrats have given Bernie membership in their Congressional Caucus. Reciprocally, Bernie has become an ardent imperialist. Sanders endorsed Clinton in 1992 and 1996. In1992 he described Clinton as the ‘lesser of evils,’ (a justification he used to denounce when he was what the local press called an ‘avowed socialist’). By 1996 he gave Clinton an unqualified endorsement. He has been a consistent ‘Friend of Bill’s’ from since 1992. One student I know worked on the Clinton Campaign in 1996 and all across Vermont, Bernie was on the stage with the rest of the Vermont Democratic Party Leadership, while the unauthorized Democratic candidate for his Congressional seat was kept out in the audience.”

During the 1990s, the not-so “independent” Congressman Sanders voted for and/or otherwise supported:

* Economic sanctions that killed more than a million Iraqi civilians

* Every U.S. bombing of Iraq from 1992 on

* The sending of U.S. military units to Kuwait and Saudi Arabia to threaten Iraq because “we cannot tolerate aggression”

* The objectively racist and mass-incarcerationist Federal Crime bill.

* Every US intervention since elected to Congress–Iraq, Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia, Liberia, Zaire (Congo), Albania, Sudan, Afghanistan and Yugoslavia.

Many of Sanders’ liberal fans might be surprised to learn that he voted for a National Rifle Association (NRA)-supported bill to restrict lawsuits against gun manufacturers and against the Brady Bill.

The “leftist” Congressman Sanders liked to send out mailings sends out mailings to veterans that supported the US having “the strongest military in the world” and praised soldiers as sacrificing “for the freedom of Americans.” Sanders repeatedly failed to invite antiwar veterans’ groups to his many veterans events in the state.

By Miller’s account, the “independent” and “leftist” Congressman Sanders’ political trajectory stood well to the right of Black House Democrats like Maxine Waters and Ron Dellums, “who moved paulstreetcontinuously to their left during their Congressional careers.” Sanders, by contrast, “got where he is now by a lurch to the right. He promises working people, the aged, the poor, and the ‘vanishing middle class’ that he will defend them while he repeatedly blocks the building of the anti-capitalist political movement and party that might actual make such promises legitimate.” When a Vermont leftist questioned Representative Sanders in public about his failure to help build a left-progressive alternative to the capitalist party duopoly, Sanders said he was now too busy with his Congressional work to worry about such things.

“The Citizenry Moaned Audibly”

Miller’s essay appeared after he and fourteen other peace activists were arrested for “trespassing” in Sanders’ Burlington office. Seeking to control the public relations damage, Sanders hijacked a regularly scheduled town meeting in Burlington to advance his position on behalf of Bill Clinton’s criminal war on Serbia. By Miller’s observation:

“A general town meeting had already been scheduled for the following Monday, so he turned it to a ‘town meeting on Kosovo.’ Apparently, Bernie Sanders had forgotten what a Town Meeting is…Sanders as the self-appointed moderator/boss opened the evening with naked self-justification: ‘It is a very complex situation’… followed by the ritual of demonization of Milosevic – a technique he has perfected over the last eight years on Saddam Hussein of Iraq. Then he presented the false dilemma that the only alternative to bombing is doing nothing. Sanders said his situation was the same as that of Joschka Fischer’s of the Green Party, Germany’s Foreign Minister, who has outraged his Green Party membership by supporting the bombing his coalition government is carrying out as part of NATO. “

“Back in Vermont the assembled citizenry moaned audibly.”

After the 9/11 attacks, “Bomber Bernie” (as Burlington peace activists dubbed Sanders) voted for the initial 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Terrorists that has been cited as the legal justification for U.S. military interventions and endless U.S. “global war on terror” – including the invasion of Iraq (which Sanders opposed along with most Democrats in Congress in 2002 and 2003). He voted for a non-binding resolution expressing support for troops at the outset of the invasion of Iraq. In March 2006, he opposed efforts to bring articles of impeachment against the open arch-war criminal George W. Bush since “the Republicans control the House and the Senate.”

Senator Sanders as a de facto Dem

When Sanders decided to make a bid for an open U.S. Senate seat in 2005, his longstanding service to the corporate Democrats won him the critical endorsement of Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. Schumer’s backing meant that no Democrat running against Sanders could receive financial help from the party. Sanders was also supported by Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) and Democratic National Committee Chair and Chairman and former Vermont Governor Howard Dean, who described Sanders as an “ally who votes with the Democrats ninety eight percent of the time.” Then-U.S. Senator Barack Obama campaigned for Sanders in Vermont.

As when he was in the U.S, House, Senatorial candidate Sanders made a curious deal with the Vermont Democratic Party: he agreed to be listed on their primary ballot but to decline the nomination should he win, which he did.

The “independent” Sanders has enjoyed a special agreement with the Democratic leadership in the U.S. Senate. He votes with the Democrats on all procedural matters in exchange for the committee seats and seniority that would be available to him as a Democrat. (He can break this rule in some exceptional cases if Democratic Senate Whip Dick Durbin agrees, but the request is rarely made.) Sanders is free to vote as he wishes on policy matters, but he has almost always voted with the Democrats.

Consistent with this party loyalty, Sanders refuses to seriously or substantively criticize his “good friend” and Democratic presidential primary “rival” Mrs. Clinton – a militantly corporatist and militarist right-wing Democrat. Sanders has backed Obama’s numerous murderous military actions and provocations around the world, from Libya, Syria, Somalia, Afghanistan, Yemen, and Iraq to China, Ukraine, and Russia. Sanders has said repeatedly that he will not be a third- party “spoiler” in the general election and thus will direct his primary delegates and voters to line up behind Hillary, Inc. in 2016. In his presidential campaign speeches, Sanders has been unwilling to mention the corporatized Democratic Party as part of the nation’s oligarchy problem. Presidential candidate John Edwards fulminated consistently against “corporate Democrats as well as corporate Republicans” when he ran in the Iowa Caucus eight years ago. Sanders, by contrast, focuses almost completely on corporate Republicans.

“But he’s a socialist,” many leftists exult. I’ve heard a number of Sanders speeches since he announced his presidential candidacy. He does not call himself a socialist. He does not call for socialism. He does not criticize or even refer to capitalism or the profit system, the underlying political-economic regime that is wired for the endless upward distribution of wealth and power and the ruination of livable ecology. Sanders rails against “the billionaire class,” against economic inequality, against the Republicans, against FOX News, against the Citizens United decision, and especially against those terrible Koch brothers. He’s running as a strident populist Democrat. In that regard, he’s not really all that different from Dennis Kucinich in 2003-04, Jesse Jackson in the 1980s and even Edwards in 2007-08, all of whom struck strong populist chords in efforts to reach the Democratic Party’s “progressive base.”

Out of the Democrats’ Closet

None of this is a departure from Sanders’ earlier career since 1989. As the shaggy-haired Mayor of progressive Burlington during the Reagan years, Sanders may have been a Sandinista-supporting left politico willing to challenge the two party duopoly. But Bernie cleaned up his too-radical act after his 1988 defeat. He went to “liberal” Harvard’s imperialist Kennedy school and came back to work in tandem with the corporate and militaristic Democrats under the guise of an “independent” and third party political identity. He’s been on the not all-that-left wing of the dismal dollar Dems ever since.

It’s all very different than the story Sanders tells campus town progressives on the campaign trail. According to that narrative, he has joined with the Democrats only this year and because of his pragmatic calculation that third party candidates cannot succeed under the U.S. party and electoral system. In reality, however, the Democrats have been Sanders’ “closet party” (Miller) for the last fifteen years. He’s really just coming out of the closet now for the presidential race, in a Clinton-welcomed effort to help give the Democrats a much-needed fake-populist makeover for the 2016 elections. The great Socialist Party presidential candidate Eugene Debs (whose poster hangs in Sanders’ Senate office) would not be impressed.



Paul Street’s latest book is They Rule: The 1% v. Democracy (Paradigm, 2014)

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

INDY BLOG Color Blind=Tone Deaf: A Message to Bernie Sanders

[Sander's obtuseness on race in America is a fatal flaw. Another flaw is his running in the Democratic party...a proven graveyard of radical social change...RC]


from the Indypendent
ISSUE 207
Jun 1 - Jul 31, 2015

JULY 20, 2015
I am on the ground in Alabama, an author of two books about the civil rights movement and co-director of an African American history project-- and I can attest, Bernie is losing black support that was already flimsy--I'd give him a C for Netroots Nation, which is generous, and better than O'Malley's F but still not good enough--he sounds like an old white man who was current on race 50 years ago but who is now "colorblind" which equals tone deaf on the state of race relations in this historical moment. This letter is a follow-up to one I wrote the campaign in early June about Bernie’s approach to race relations.

There are things he can do to improve his thinking about race that will also improve his responses. If no one is stepping up to educate him on this, I can do it, but I would need his attention--I've had enough of pissing in the wind. I want to know the message will land before I go to the trouble to craft it. I could publish about this but I would rather educate Bernie directly than call him out in public.

I can't believe he isn't getting better advice about race. The answer to "say her name" this week is “Sandra Bland."

Bernie needs to catch up and stay current, because he is sounding too much like the *recipients* of MLK's letter from the Birmingham Jail--out of touch with the fact that black people in this country are in a state of emergency. Bernie is better than this and it is CRUCIAL that he not--through unconscious accident-- deliver talking points that modern-day white supremacists use. For example, suggesting that the BLM protestors “wait” until after the stump speech registered as an all-too-familiar dismissal of their urgency. It would have been better to improvise immediately by addressing their concerns first. When MLK called out Birmingham’s white clergy, he wrote: “For years now I have heard the word ‘Wait!’ It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This ‘Wait’ has almost always meant ‘Never.’ We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that ‘justice too long delayed is justice denied.’”

Bernie has made some effort to update his racial concepts but he needs to keep working on it by listening as well as by phrasing his points more carefully. Frederick Douglass was not, in fact, talking about "all of us.” Impoverished immigrant ancestors who chose to come here are NOT analogous to enslaved ancestors who were forced to come here. Some issues are **specifically** African American and that needs to be acknowledged openly. White supremacy is real and should be called out, not swept under the rug of progressive economic reform.

Dallas was a slight improvement—but Sandra Bland et al should be referred to as “human beings" or as "citizens who died in police custody” not as “things like Sandra Bland...” I am so worried that Bernie will say something clueless in Alabama, and from what I am seeing, the chances for a race relations gaffe are high. This isn't the time to defend Bernie's past record on race, but to learn from the moment about how to move forward effectively.

Bernie can step up to this moment but he needs to do some serious homework and I will help, given the chance. I am not the most skilled anti-racism educator in the country, not by a long shot, but I am willing to step up if no one else does. Bernie, from his national perch, has access to the best, and he should reach out and learn from them. This is urgent.

Jane DeNeefe lives in Huntsville, Alabama. She is the co-author of Alabama's Civil Rights Trail: An Illustrated Guide to the Cradle of Freedom. This article originally appeared at withabrooklynaccent.blogspot.com.

Brazilian stars Gil and Veloso reject calls to cancel Tel Aviv show

from The Electric Intifada
Sarah Irving Arts and Culture 20 July 2015

One week before their scheduled concert in Tel Aviv, Brazilian musicians Gilberto Gil and Caetano Veloso appear determined to defy the Palestinian call for a cultural boycott of Israel.

As well as major international names such as South African anti-apartheid campaigner Desmond Tutu and the ex-Pink Floyd rock star Roger Waters, many of Gil and Veloso’s Brazilian compatriots have urged them to cancel the show.

And at the time of writing, over 13,000 people had signed a petition asking the pair not to play in Israel.

Former Brazilian human rights minister Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro has said, “If I were in their place, I wouldn’t go.”

Gil and Veloso have scheduled a Tel Aviv concert on 28 July as part of their European tour. Activists have pointed out that this comes just days after the anniversary of Israel’s summer 2014 onslaught on Gaza, which killed more than 2,200 Palestinians.

Gil and Veloso’s refusal to respect the call for a cultural boycott is particularly shocking given that both men were active on the Brazilian left during the country’s dictatorship. Both were exiled from their homeland in 1969 and are generally regarded as musicians with principles.

Pinheiro, the former minister, reflected this view when he said: “For the recognition you both have in Brazil and all around the world, … for your moral authority for having resisted the dictatorship and for being fighters against censorship, I dare asking you not to perform in Israel.”

In a public letter, published in Brazil’s O Globo newspaper, Caetano Veloso wrote: “My heart is strongly against the arrogant right position of the Israeli government. I hate the occupation policy, the inhuman decisions that Israel took in what [Benjamin] Netanyahu tells us is self-defense. And I think most Israelis who are interested in our music tends to react in a similar way to the politics of his country.”

Veloso also claimed that he hoped that Israelis opposed to the occupation would take heart from their performance — ignoring the existence of Israeli activists who also call for international rejection of their country’s crimes.

The Israeli mainstream media, meanwhile, has greeted the pair’s refusal with joy. Using headlines such as “Brazilian crooners won’t bend to BDS,” the mainstream has hinted that the pair’s determination to continue with the concert is a setback for the Palestinian call for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel.


Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Chris Hedges on Bernie Sanders and the Corporate Democrats

from Counterpunch
JULY 15, 2015

by RUSSELL MOKHIBER

Bernie Sanders is the only major party candidate for President who favors a single payer national health insurance system.

What’s not to like?

That was the question Ralph Nader asked Chris Hedges on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour.

“Bernie Sanders wants to break up the New York banks, he wants to impose a Wall Street transaction tax, he wants to regulate drug prices, he’s for full Medicare for all — everybody in, nobody out, free choice of doctor and hospital — he wants to get rid of these corporate tax havens, he’s pushing for a $15 dollar an hour minimum wage, he wants to stronger labor unions. What’s not to like?” Nader asked Hedges.

“Because he did it within the Democratic establishment,” Hedges said. “He’s lending credibility to a party that is completely corporatized. He has agreed that he will endorse the candidate, which, unless there is some miracle, will probably be Hillary Clinton.”

“So what he does is he takes all of that energy, he raises all of these legitimate issues and he funnels it back into a dead political system so that by April it’s over.”

“That was the role of Van Jones in the last election,” Hedges said. “He was running around, using the language of Occupy — Occupy the Vote — and that is what Bernie has done. I don’t understand. He fought the Democratic establishment in Vermont his entire career. Now he has sold out to it.”

“Bernie has also not confronted the military industrial complex at all,” Hedges said. “On a personal level, having spent seven years in the Middle East, I’m just not willing to forgive him for abandoning the Palestinians and giving carte blanche to Israel. He was one of 100 Senators who stood up like AIPAC wind up dolls and approved Israel’s 51-day slaughter last summer of Palestinians in Gaza — the Palestinians who have no army, no navy, artillery, mechanized units, command and control.”

Hedges, who was on the show to promote his new book Wages of Rebellion: The Moral Imperative of Revolt (Nation Books, 2015), said that we need independent political candidates.

“That’s why I was a strong supporter of your independent runs,” Hedges told Nader. “That’s why I voted for (Green Party Presidential candidate) Jill Stein in the last election. But they have to be outside the system. And we have to begin to build movements that are divorced from the Democratic and Republican parties. My fear is that by this time next year, Bernie Sanders is running around once again repeating this mantra of the least worst and stoking fears against whoever the Republican candidate is. And we’ve gone nowhere.”

“We’ve seen that routine before,” Nader said. “Unfortunately, Dennis Kucinich had to toe the line. He was done by April. They even kept him out of some of the debates. Yes, we have seen it before. They are done by April. And then they are forced into a loyalty oath to whoever wins the nomination. And of course, it’s invariably the corporate Democrats.”

Ralph Nader Radio Hour co-host Steve Skrovan asked Hedges what a liberal feeding frenzy within the Democratic Party would look like and why the Democratic Party was so afraid of a vigorous debate.

“Because the party is completely captive to corporate power,” Hedges said. “And Bernie has cut a Faustian deal with the Democrats. And that’s not even speculation. I did an event with him and Bill McKibben, Naomi Klein and Kshama Sawant in New York the day before the Climate March. And Kshama Sawant ,the Socialist City Councilwoman from Seattle and I asked Sanders why he wanted to run as a Democrat. And he said — because I don’t want to end up like Nader.”

“He didn’t want to end up pushed out of the establishment,” Hedges said. “He wanted to keep his committee chairmanships, he wanted to keep his Senate seat. And he knew the forms of retribution, punishment that would be visited upon him if he applied his critique to the Democratic establishment. So he won’t.”

“The lie of omission is still a lie,” Hedges said. “Bernie’s decision to play the game within the Democratic Party and in essence lend credibility to the party and lend credibility to Hillary Clinton is very destructive. A liberal feeding frenzy within the Democratic Party would see a rise of an actual liberal establishment within the party – I’m not sure one exists any more — that challenged the Party for selling out working men and women.”

Nader said that the retribution by the Democratic Party against their left is pretty harsh, “but not against their right.”

“Senator Joe Lieberman — he goes (in 2008) and he endorses McCain at the Republican National Convention against Obama and he comes back after Obama wins to Washington and they give him a major chair of a major Senate committee,” Nader said.

Russell Mokhiber edits the Corporate Crime Reporter.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

ALEXIS TSIPRAS: HERO, TRAITOR, HERO, TRAITOR, HERO

Alex Andreou photo Alex AndreouAthens, Greece & London, UK13 July 2015
Alexis Tsipras: Hero, Traitor, Hero, Traitor, Hero


We apologise to Marxists worldwide for Greece refusing to commit ritual suicide to further the cause. You have suffered from your sofas.

It is revealing of the political landscape in Europe - indeed, the world - that everyone's dreams of socialism seemed to rest on the shoulders of the young Prime Minister of a small country. There seemed to be a fervent, irrational, almost evangelical belief that a tiny country, drowning in debt, gasping for liquidity, would somehow (and that somehow is never specified) defeat global capitalism, armed only with sticks and rocks.
When it looked like it wouldn't happen, they turned. "Tsipras capitulated." "He is a traitor." The complexity of international politics was reduced to a hashtag, that quickly changed from variants of #prayfortsipras to variants of #tsiprasresign. The world demanded its climax, its X-factor final, its Hollywood dénouement. Anything other than a fight to the death was unacceptable cowardice.
How easy it is to be ideologically pure when you are risking nothing. When you are not facing shortages, the collapse of social cohesion, civil conflict, life and death. How easy it is to demand a deal that would plainly never be accepted by any of the other Eurozone member states. How easy brave decisions are when you have no skin in the game, when you are not counting down, as I am, the last twenty-four doses of the medication which prevents your mother from having seizures.
Twenty doses. Fourteen.
It is a peculiar feature of pathological negativity to focus only on what is lost instead of what is gained. It is the very same attitude that means sections of every country's population - long for their perfect Socialist Utopia while simultaneously avoiding tax every way they can.
The idea of Tsipras as a "traitor" relies heavily on a cynical misinterpretation of the referendum last week. "OXI", the critics would have you believe, was "no" to any sort of deal; an authorisation to disorderly Grexit. It was nothing of the sort. In speech after speech Tsipras said again and again that he needed a strong "OXI" to use as a negotiating weapon in order to achieve a better deal. Did you all miss that? Now, you may think he didn't achieve a better deal - that may be fair - but to suggest it authorised Grexit is deeply disingenuous. And what about the 38% that voted "NAI"? Was Tsipras not there representing those people, too?
Fear not. The deal may prove unworkable anyway. It may not be passed by Greek Parliament. Syriza might tear itself apart from within. Grexit may be forced by those who have been trying to make it happen for years now. Then we get to assess what your better outcome looks like.
Twelve doses. Ten.
The agreement that Tsipras achieved (caveat: as we know it) after negotiating for 17 hours, is a lot worse than anyone could have imagined. It is also a lot better than anyone could hope. It simply depends on whether you focus on what has been lost or what has been gained. The loss is a package of horrific austerity. It is a package which, anyone with any political understanding knows, was coming anyway. The only difference is that, through a compliant government like the previous ones, it would be accompanied by no compensations.
What has been gained in return is much more money than previously imagined to properly fund the medium term and allow the government to implement its programme, a significant stimulus package, the release of EFSF money which had until now been denied (to the "good" government of Samaras), and an agreement to restructure debt, by transferring bonds from IMF and ECB to the ESM. That is nothing, hecklers heckle. ERT analyst Michael Gelantalis estimates this last part alone to be worth between eight and ten billion less in interest repayments a year. That is a lot of souvlaki.
In the last few hours I have been told that Greece "should just #Grexit NOW"; that we have "a wonderful climate and could easily be self-sufficient"; that we "should adopt bitcoin and crowdfunding to circumvent monetarism"; that "the US would send us medicine". None of these people are suggesting that this should happen in their own country, you understand. Just Greece, so they can see what happens. Most of them live in states with centrist governments, which espouse austerity, but guarantee a steady supply of the latest iPad to the shops. All of them, without exception, could have negotiated a much better deal with a knife to their throat; could have been braver.
My question to those critics is: What battles are you fighting in your country, city, town, right now? And at what risk? Are you not, in fact, just as bad as the hardcore austerity ideologues that want to experiment with a "toy country", with people's lives, and see how it pans out?
Eight doses. Five.
Seen as a sort of Helm's Deep, this defeat for the Greeks is monumental, irredeemable. It is the "all is lost" moment. Seen as one opening battle in much larger war, it is hugely valuable. It has drawn the enemy out into the fore, exposed its strengths and weaknesses. It has provided intelligence to others, in Spain and Portugal and Italy, which will ensure they're better prepared. It has been bravely fought. And smartly, because Greece gets to live to fight another day.
We elected a good, honest and brave man, who fought like a lion against unfathomably large interests. The result may not be the martyrdom for which you had hoped. But it will do for now.
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Note from Byline: Alex Andreou is crowdfunding his ongoing coverage of the Greek Crisis. Please consider contributing a few pounds through the link on the right of the page.
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Saturday, July 11, 2015

African-Palestinian community’s deep roots in liberation struggle



Budour Youssef Hassan The Electronic Intifada Jerusalem 10 July 2015

Ali Jiddah speaks with a tour group in the Old City of Jerusalem in March 2014. Ryan Rodrick Beiler
In early June the African Community Club in Jerusalem’s Old City was crammed with mourners. They had come to pay their respects to the late Subhiyeh Sharaf, an amiable woman and community elder.

The club serves as the headquarters of the African Community Society. It is a gathering place for the African community and a social and cultural center for Palestinians, screening films and hosting debates and other activities.

Outside the club, young men were running to bring tea to every incoming guest and maintain order. The necessary funds for Sharaf’s funeral ceremony were raised through donations as is typically the case during occasions of mourning and celebrations that take place in the African community here.

This is known as hatita, a longstanding tradition among Jerusalem’s African-Palestinians, in which community members contribute a certain sum of money according to their ability.

The tradition mirrors the strong ties and communal solidarity that distinguish the African community in Jerusalem. Most of this community, of approximately 350 people, live in the Muslim Quarter of the Old City.

Interviews with members of the community and the society’s Arabic website reveal a rich history. African migration to Jerusalem dates back to 634 when Omar Bin al-Khattab, the second Muslim caliph, conquered Jerusalem. But it wasn’t until the beginning of the 20th century that Africans started settling in Jerusalem in significant numbers.

Coming mainly from Chad, Sudan, Nigeria and Senegal, Africans flocked to Jerusalem for two main reasons. The first was religious: some considered Jerusalem the final destination of their pilgrimage. The second reason was their willingness to fight along with Palestinians against British and Zionist colonialism.

Guardians of mosque
The Africans who came to Jerusalem were initially scattered across the city but were in the early 1930s concentrated in two buildings facing each other, a few meters away from one of the main gates to al-Aqsa mosque. The gate is known as Bab al-Nazir or Bab al-Majlis.

The neighborhood itself was built in the 13th century and is characterized by its Mamluk-era architecture. It primarily served as a resting place for pilgrims and as a shelter for the poor and the homeless.

During the final years of Ottoman rule, the buildings were turned into a notorious prison compound where rebels against the Ottomans were held, including African dissidents. Following the end of Ottoman rule, the buildings — referred to as al-Ribat al-Mansouri (or al-Ribat al-Kurdi) and al-Ribat Aladdin al-Bassir — became part of the Islamic Waqf, a religious trust.

In the early 1930s, Palestinian political and religious leader Sheikh Amin al-Husseini leased them to Jerusalem’s Africans.

While taking pride in their African roots and trying to preserve their ancestral traditions, Africans in Jerusalem have largely integrated with other Palestinians and were woven into the Palestinian Jerusalemite fabric. This integration was facilitated by shared religious ties, the sense of belonging that Africans immediately formed with Jerusalem and the fact that African migrants could easily interact in Arabic.

The two most powerful manifestations of this integration are social and political. On the social level, intermarriages between Africans and other Palestinians in Jerusalem are common, occasional complications notwithstanding.

Active in struggle
This is not to say that racism against African-Palestinians doesn’t exist. Some Palestinians who are not from Jerusalem pejoratively refer to the African community as the “neighborhood of slaves,” for instance.

Mahmoud Jiddah, an African community member and alternative tour guide, told The Electronic Intifada that “we occasionally face racism by other Palestinians due to our darker skins, but by no means can you say that this is a trend. Far from it.”

He added that the main perpetrator of racism is the Israeli police. “We face a twofold oppression by the Israeli occupation: first because we are Palestinian; and second because we are black,” he said.

On the political level, Africans have been strongly involved in the Palestinian struggle.

Jiddah, whose father migrated to Jerusalem from Chad at the beginning of the 20th century, said that Africans were particularly active in the Arab Salvation Army and played a key role in the Jerusalem battles during the 1948 Nakba, Israel’s ethnic cleansing of Palestine. In fact, the commander of the battalion that prevented the fall of Jabal al-Mukabber — an East Jerusalem neighborhood — in 1948 was the Nigerian-born Muhammad Tariq al-Afriqi.

Africans also suffered their fair share of displacement during the Nakba with almost one-quarter of the original African population in Jerusalem becoming refugees in neighboring countries.

The role of Africans in the Palestinian liberation struggle became even more notable following the 1967 occupation of East Jerusalem.

The very first female Palestinian political prisoner was Fatima Barnawi, a Palestinian of Nigerian descent, who served 10 years in Israeli occupation jails after a foiled bombing attack in Jerusalem. She was released in a 1977 prisoner exchange and deported.

During the height of the first intifada, a high percentage of the African population — both male and female — was imprisoned.

The first Palestinian killed during the second intifada was Osama Jiddah. A member of the African community, he was shot dead by Israeli forces on 29 September 2000 while on his way to donate blood in al-Maqased hospital on the Mount of Olives.

These are just a few examples of the active participation of the African community in the Palestinian struggle for liberation that belies their relatively small numbers. For the African community, resistance is not a choice, but an obligation made unavoidable by living in the Old City.

Passport racism
For some people coming from other places in Palestine to pray in Jerusalem for the first time, it is not obvious that there is a community that lives a few meters away from one of the holiest Muslim sites. Their initial reaction when they learn about it is to say that these people are so lucky and blessed.

For African-Palestinians, however, this can occasionally be a blessing in disguise.

Living in the heart of the Old City means being a target of Israel’s constant attempts to drive Palestinians out of this place and erase Palestinian identity and existence. In this context, Israel systematically denies building permits to African-Palestinians living in the Old City.

Even minor restorations or the building of an additional room are banned, forcing people to smuggle basic construction materials into the neighborhood. Newly-built Israeli settlements in the city are quickly restored and expanded, while Palestinians are threatened with demolitions if they build one additional room or restore their houses.

Restrictions on building — combined with high levels of poverty and unemployment — have forced some members of the African community, particularly the younger generation, to look for residence outside the Old City. Many have moved to areas like Beit Hanina or Shuafat because it is extremely difficult to accommodate a growing family in the Old City.

This problem is faced by all Palestinians in the Old City. But one problem unique to African-Palestinians is that — unlike most Palestinians in Jerusalem — many of them do not have a Jordanian passport.

“My father carried a French passport which he gave up following Chad’s independence in 1960,” said Mahmoud Jiddah. “When he applied for a Jordanian passport — since Jerusalem was under Jordanian rule then — it took him more than four years to receive it … But even the fact that my father carried a Jordanian passport doesn’t mean that I could automatically attain one. I’ve only received a temporary passport a couple of years ago and it’s about to expire.”

Jiddah added that he has a list of 50 African-Palestinians from Jerusalem who are banned from receiving a Jordanian passport. He explained that this Jordanian policy of refusing to give passports to African-Palestinians has to do with considering them “strangers.”

He said: “Imagine — we’ve been living here for our entire lives and we’ve sacrificed everything for Jerusalem and the Jordanian authorities consider us strangers. But when they ruled over Jerusalem in 1948, they suddenly became the kings.”

African-Palestinians are forced to travel using a laissez-passer, which means they are not allowed to visit Arab countries with which Israel has no diplomatic relations. Alternatively they are left with the option of applying for a Palestinian Authority or international passport which could jeopardize their residency status in Jerusalem. The other option left is to apply for an Israeli passport, which the community strongly rejects.

Microcosm
In a sense, the African community in Jerusalem is a microcosm of the challenges Palestinians in Jerusalem face, and of the resilience they maintain.

Jiddah was arrested by Israeli occupation forces on 5 September 1968, along with his brother Abdullah and their cousin and comrade in the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Ali Jiddah.

Mahmoud was sentenced to 25 years in jail, while Ali was sentenced to 20 for planting bombs. Both of them were released in 20 May 1985 in a prisoner exchange between Israel and the splinter group PFLP-GC.

A self-proclaimed Palestinian, African and socialist, Mahmoud, like his cousin, refused all pressure to deport him from Jerusalem. The men preferred to spend most of their lives in jail over leaving Jerusalem.

Mahmoud’s brother Abdullah, though, was deported in 1970, and was separated from his family and city.

“The first time I saw my brother was in Switzerland in 1993 when I got an invitation to a human rights conference in Geneva. I will never forget that moment,” Jiddah said. “The second time we met after that was in Jordan in 2012, which only makes me wonder: do I still have 20 years left in my life to see my brother again?”

Mahmoud Jiddah is as old as the Nakba. His community embodies the Palestinian narrative of uprooting, defiance and survival in all of its details.

Budour Youssef Hassan is a Palestinian blogger and law graduate based in Jerusalem. Blog: budourhassan.wordpress.com. Twitter: @Budour48