Lawrence Davidson
NOC Featured Blogger
Published: Saturday 23 August 2014

Part I - The Liberal Ideal  Liberalism, framed as a socio-political ideal, argues that human beings are good and social progress achievable.  It is a “glass half-full” outlook. Within this paradigm all individuals, not just members of a specific religion, race or nationality, should have political and civil rights. Here also neither the state nor the law is an end in itself. They are instruments for the creation and maintaining of a environment meant to promote freedom while minimizing social inequalities. Holding this ideal does not preclude identifying with a particular ethnic or religious group. It does, however, preclude any claim of exclusive rights for such groups to the detriment of others.  Within the Western environment many Jews held to this liberal ideal. They saw it as in their interest to work toward an environment of universally applied political and civil rights while minimizing social inequality. For instance, by the mid-twentieth century in the United States, many Jewish organizations were allied with African Americans in their struggle for civil rights and equality.  However, this proved to be a complex alliance and it ultimately broke down. Its demise marked a waning of organized American Jewish liberal activism. What had happened? Part of the answer became apparent after the Arab-Israeli war of 1967.  At that time many civil rights leaders in the U.S. noticed that Israel was not, after all, a very liberal society. It was designed exclusively for one group and discriminated against those who were not members of that group. When this became a subject of concern ...

Published: Saturday 9 August 2014

Part I - The Precarious Status of International Humanitarian Law   By the end of the 19th century it was recognized by those concerned with human rights that the nation-state was a destructive anachronism. It was an entity that seemed addicted to periodic spasms of mass violence, particularly in the form of war carried on with little or no regard for non-combatants or other restraining factors. As a consequence, efforts began to create instruments of international law - treaties, conventions and other agreements - to modify state behavior in such areas as the treatment of prisoners and the victimization of civilian populations. Progress was spotty until the very end of World War II, when various human rights charters came into existence as a part of the United Nations. Through that institution, provision was made - albeit in very narrowly defined circumstances - for the fielding of UN military forces (the famous Blue Helmets) to try to enforce peace and protect civilian populations. Other institutions, such as the International Criminal Court (ICC), were also eventually brought into existence.     The post-war move to expand international law to cover human rights and provide enforcement measures was all for the good, and in the future it will hopefully prove a powerful precedent that can be built upon. However, this period of progress did not last long. It soon gave way to a hypocritical selective application of humanitarian law. The truth is that today only those nations which are relatively weak and have no ...

Published: Wednesday 6 August 2014

The decision of the Latin American countries to recall their ambassadors in Tel Aviv is a "deep disappointment", says Israel.El Salvador on Wednesday became the fifth Latin American country to withdraw its ambassador from Israel in protest at Israel's military offensive in Gaza.Brazil, Chile, Ecuador and Peru have already recalled their ambassadors.Israeli Foreign Ministry Spokesman Yigal Palmor said that the move encourages Hamas; "this decision encourages Hamas which has been recognized as a terrorist organization by several countries. The countries standing against terror must act responsibly and should not reward them. While Hamas has been responsible for hindering a ceasfire, El Salvador, Peru and Chile were expected to support international attitude for peace and demilitarization of Gaza", the statement said.Earlier Israel criticized Brazil over its decision to recall its ambassador in protest at Israel's military offensive in Gaza.Brazil was one of 29 countries in the UN Human Rights Council that voted last Wednesday to investigate Israel over its military offensive in Gaza.During a state visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping on July 17, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff said her country was "profoundly concerned by the dramatic events" in Gaza.The Palestinian death toll from a devastating Israeli onslaught on the Gaza Strip rose to 1283, according to a Gaza Health Ministry spokesman.According to the spokesman, at least 7170 Palestinians have also been injured in the ongoing Israeli attacks since July 7.

Published: Wednesday 30 July 2014

Part I - David Harris and the American Jewish Congress  For reasons unknown I have ended up on the list-serve of the American Jewish Congress. This means I receive messages sent out by its executive director, David Harris. Sometimes I even read them.    On 18 July 2014 I got just such a missive explaining that “too many in the international community fail to grasp the stark realities” Israel faces and its “severely limited policy options.” To set everyone straight Harris wrote an op-ed in the Boston Globe (also dated 18 July), a copy of which came along with his mailing.  Since the horror in Gaza continues unabated and Harris’s letter can be taken as representative of the American Zionist point of view, I decided that it was appropriate for me to deconstruct his op-ed for my own blog and list-serve. One should note that a similar contesting of Israeli rationalizations, dealing with somewhat different points, appears in a 25 July 2014 online article, entitled “Five Israeli Talking Points on Gaza - Debunked,”  from the Nation magazine.   Before looking at the op-ed we should note that Mr. Harris lives in a very tightly defined world. It is a world defined by a set of unquestioned assumptions which are prescribed by a thoroughly assimilated ideology. That ideology is, of course Zionism, the a ...

Published: Friday 18 July 2014

Part I - Rationalizations With the Israelis once more inflicting collective punishment in Gaza (a tactic which happens to constitute a war crime) it is time to consider the mind-set behind their repeated violent and sadistic behavior. One way to do so is to listen to the rationalizations they use, also repeatedly, to justify their actions. Among the many rationalizations offered by Israeli leaders for their violent behavior is the assertion that the Arabs, and Palestinians in particular, “only understand force.” If you do not use force against them they interpret its absence as a sign of weakness and this only encourages them to stand against the Zionist state. This notion that the Arabs only understand force is one of the holdover stereotypes of a mostly, but obviously not completely, bygone age of imperialism.Actually, when it comes to the Israelis, this persistent myth is mixed up with their own post-Holocaust determination to “never again” react to a threat passively. They believe that sort of reaction is what killed millions of European Jews, and so it is no longer psychologically acceptable. The only problem with these lines of thought is that they are seriously misleading - both in terms of Arab/Palestinian perceptions and European Jewish behavior. Part II - The Palestinians Only Understand Force Fallacy Since coming into existence in 1948, the Israel has attacked Palestinian individuals and infrastructure thousands of times. Israeli conventional wisdom would claim that this has been done in self-defense and to dissuade the Palestinians from future attacks. The self-defense rationale is misleading because Israelis have, from the beginning, been acting offensively: most of what is now Israel and the ...

Published: Wednesday 16 July 2014

Part I - Dogmatists in the Justice System  Scattered throughout the ranks of U.S. federal prosecutors and judges there have always been men and women who are unwilling to make a distinction between their own biases and the rules of evidence that are designed to keep the system focused on the goal of justice. Such closed-minded individuals, embedded in the system, can find themselves set free to act out their prejudices by special circumstances. One might think back to the “hanging judges” who appeared here and there on the American frontier in the 19th century. Being among the few enforcers of law and order in an otherwise anarchic environment, they indulged their fantasies of playing the wrathful god.    The “War on Terror” has likewise created a special circumstance that has liberated Justice Department dogmatists: Islamophobes, Zionists, neoconservatives and others who fancy themselves on a special mission to protect the nation from evil and conspiratorial forces. And, as with the hanging judges before them, the result has been an enhanced possibility not of justice, but rather of the miscarriage of justice.  Part II - The Case of Sami Al-Arian  In the past twenty years one of the most notable victims of doctrinaire judges and prosecutors has been Sami Al-Arian. Al-Arian is the son of Palestinian-refugee parents. He came to the United States in 1975 to attend university and earned his degree in computer systems engineering. Eventually he earned a Ph.D. and obtained a ...

Published: Saturday 5 July 2014

Part I - Denying the Connections    The display of anxiety and aggressive agitation in Israel, triggered by the kidnapping of three young men from an illegal settlement on the West Bank, seems to be accompanied by a near total denial of any legitimate relationship between government actions (the occupation) and Palestinian reactions (the kidnapping). No matter what the Israelis do to the Palestinians they insist that those actions are justified, and no matter how the Palestinians react, the Israelis insist those actions are never justified. By objective standards this Israeli attitude borders on the pathological.   Part II - Resulting Tragedies    There are multiple tragedies that result from this disconnect. The tragedy of the three Jewish kidnap victims is the one that is foremost in both Israeli consciousness and also in the Western media. At this level there is lots of speculation that the young men were taken as hostages to be exchanged for Palestinian prisoners. As if to put out the message that the government of Benjamin Netanyahu will not play that game, the Israeli military is arresting hundreds of Palestinians, including some who had been released in exchange for Gilad Shalit. They are also are destroying property in a wholesale manner, wounding scores and even murdering a steady number of Palestinians as they search for the kidnap victims. However, all this mayhem, which only deepens, if possible, Palestinian hatred, may be based on an Israeli false assumption. Quite likely this kidnapping was not carried out so as to set up some future exchange. Quite likely ...

Published: Tuesday 24 June 2014

Part I -  George W. Bush’s Invasion   Back in November 2003 President George W. Bush told the country that the invasion of Iraq was the part of an effort to “spread democracy throughout the Middle East.” Initially, of course, the president had declared that the U.S. attacked Iraq to fight terrorists who possessed weapons of mass destruction (WMDs). This specific claim could be fact-checked and indeed it was. Bush’s claims, both about terrorists in Iraq and WMDs, turned out to be false. The follow-up claim about spreading democracy could not be fact-checked. We can’t even be sure if Bush and his neoconservative allies themselves believed in this radical goal of spreading democracy by the sword. Given that most of the regimes the U.S. has backed in the Middle East, including at one time that of Saddam Hussein, were autocracies of one sort or another, one can legitimately have doubts.    However, one thing we can be sure of - the Americans are not the only ones who can launch a crusade based on an age-old idea. Islamic radicals, who may think they are replicating the spread of Islam as it took place in the 7th and 8th centuries, can do it too. And, thanks to the George W. Bush, who opened the floodgates for them, these Islamist radicals are doing just that.   Part II - Saddam Hussein’s Culpability   Bush and the neocons could ...

Published: Saturday 21 June 2014

Part I - Something Disturbing There is something disturbing about the Republican response to just about everything President Obama does. It has a knee-jerk yet patterned nature.  It displays a meanness that is acted out with a certain gloating quality as well. Take for instance Republican Representative Joe Wilson shouting “You Lie!” during Obama’s speech to Congress on health care. Wilson’s anger was displayed with the malicious satisfaction of a nasty child. Subsequently, Republican politicians have called President Obama a “tar baby,” a socialist, lazy, Hitler, and perhaps most tellingly, un-American. None these epithets are accurate, yet apparently they are believed to be true not only by the persons who said them, but many others among the Republican base.   What is the reason for this?  The New York Times editors think Republican attitudes towards Obama are politically motivated. As they put it in an editorial on 5 June 2014, referencing Republican reaction to the negotiated release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl from captivity in Afghanistan: “The last few days have made clearer than ever that there is no action the Obama administration can take — not even the release of a possibly troubled American soldier from captivity — that ...

Published: Tuesday 10 June 2014

Part I - Class Discrimination There are many forms of discrimination, but one that Americans seem to have a high tolerance for is that based on class. Class discrimination is a natural outcome of capitalist ideology. That ideology, in turn, has been assimilated into American culture to the point that even the poor accept it on the assumption that they or their children might someday become rich.  Thus, unlike race and sex discrimination, that based on class has gone largely underregulated. Eventually the result is a number of embarrassing instances of abuse that become hard to ignore. That is what has happened in New York City’s housing market, as testified to by an expose on the front page of last Sunday’s (18 May 2014) New York Times real estate section. Part II - The Situation: Since 1943 New York City has sought to protect the income diversity of its population by classifying a percentage of its housing market as “rent-controlled” or “rent-stabilized.” There are technical differences between these statuses, but we will refer to them both as part of a regime of “rent-regulation.” Landlords and developers who provide a certain number of such “affordable housing units” (particularly rent-stabilized units) alongside of apartments renting or selling at market rates can qualify for city-or-state-subsidized low-interest loans and tax breaks. Even though the landlords and developers ...

Published: Monday 26 May 2014

Part I - Watershed Moments World Wars I and II created watershed moments in the lives of Western intellectuals, defined here as those who are guided by their intellect and critical thinking, and understand various aspects of the world mainly through ideas and theories which they express through writing, teaching and other forms of public address. Just how were they to respond to the call of patriotic duty that seduced the vast majority of citizens to support acts of mass slaughter? What constituted a proper response is often debated. How most of them did respond is a matter of historical record. During the world wars most intellectuals on all sides of the conflicts uncritically lent their talents to their government’s war efforts. Some did so as propagandists and others as scientists. Some actually led their nations into the fray, as was the case with Woodrow Wilson. Wilson held a doctorate from Johns Hopkins University, had taught at Cornell, Bryn Mawr and Wesleyan, and became president of Princeton University. Eventually he was elected President of the United States and, having taken the nation to war, sanctioned the creation of a massive propaganda machine under the auspices of the “Committee on Public Information.”  He also supported the passage of the Sedition Act of 1918 to suppress all anti-war sentiments. Wilson never experienced combat, but another intellectual, the British poet Siegried Sassoon, did so in the trenches of the ...

Published: Monday 5 May 2014

Part I In 1988 Yasser Arafat declared independence for Palestine based upon the notion of the 1948 Arab-Israeli war. The border between those two states was to be set roughly at the armistice line established at the end of the 1967 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 signof 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 ...

Published: Thursday 17 April 2014

Part I - Legalizing Bribery On Wednesday 2 April 2014 the U.S. Supreme took another step toward the destruction of campaign finance reform with a five to four decision known as McCutcheon v. Federal Elections Commission. One gets the feeling that this is part of a general campaign, waged by class-biased, ideologically committed conservatives, against government regulation, which they see as somehow a violation of their constitutional rights. As if to suggest that this is so, the Court majority rationalized their decision in the name of “free speech.” What does this ruling do? First, the ruling removes limitations on overall campaign donations given in an an election cycle. The wealthy can now sit down and write checks to unlimited numbers of candidates and political organizations and thereby make themselves indispensable in an electoral process dependent on the raising of large sums, particularly for television advertising. Indeed, in this way the influence and demands of wealthy donors continue to be more powerful and persuasive than the solicitations of ordinary constituents whose interests the elected official is pledged to serve. In other words, McCutcheon vs. FEC pushed forward the process of legalizing bribery within our political system - a phenomenon which already is well along in its development.  Second, the ruling corrupts the notion of free speech by equating it with the use of money. Thus, the Court majority confuses free speech with that very act of bribery noted above. They seem to be pretending that we are dealing with the transparent efforts of constituents seeking to ...

Published: Tuesday 8 April 2014

M. J. Rosenberg Part I - Down with BDS, Up with the Two-State Solution Michael Jay Rosenberg is a well-known, sharp-minded critic of the Israeli government. But he is also a “liberal Zionist” who believes in the legitimacy and necessity of a Jewish state. This point of view has led him to attack the BDS (Boycott Israel) movement in a recent piece, “The Goal of BDS is Dismantling Israel”. In the process he seriously underestimates the movement’s scope and potential in an effort to convince himself and others that BDS has no chance of actually achieving the goal he ascribes to it. However, the only evidence he cites of the movement’s weakness is the recent failure of the University of Michigan’s student government to pass a divestment resolution. At the same time he fails to mention an almost simultaneous decision by Chicago’s Loyola University student government to seek divestment. Rosenberg also makes no reference to BDS’s steady and impressive efforts in Europe. Rosenberg continues by asserting that the reason the boycott movement “keeps failing” is because its goal is to destroy ...

Published: Thursday 3 April 2014

Part I - An Aggressive Anachronism Saudi Arabia is one of a handful of Middle East anachronisms: a family-based monarchy that believes it sits at the right hand of God. The Saud clan that rules in Saudi Arabia is both insular and fanatic. It is devoted to the Wahhabi sect of Sunni Islam, perhaps the most strict and intolerant manifestation of the religion.  Except for the religious details, there is really not much difference between the respective outlooks of a Wahhabi true believer, a hard-core Christian fundamentalist, and the Jewish extremists in Israel. Like their Christian counterparts, the Saudis are proselytizers who spend huge sums every year supporting fanatical preachers pushing their message in far-flung parts of the world. And, like their Jewish counterparts, the Saudis have an army equipped with more advanced American weapons than they know what to do with. This, if you will, mechanizes their fanaticism. Recently, there are suggestions that this is indeed the case. In 2011 the Saudi monarchy came to the rescue of another Middle East anachronism, the Sunni Al-Khalifa family monarchy in Bahrain. The Al-Khalifa were in trouble because for decades they had been systematically discriminating against the country’s Shiite Muslim majority until, in the atmosphere of the short-lived Arab Spring, the Bahraini Shias decided to stand up and demand a bit of democracy for their homeland. When the Bahraini police, mostly imported from Pakistan, could not handle the evolving situation, the Al-Khalifa called in U.S.-armed Saudi troops to put an end to any hopes of a better, more democratic Bahrain. Even though the Saudi incursion violated the U.S. 

Published: Thursday 20 March 2014

Part I -  Background For several months prior to March 2014 the peace organization Code Pink was in communication with Egyptian diplomatic representatives in the United States. The two sides were arranging for the arrival of approximately 100 women from around the globe who would come to Egypt, travel up to the Rafah border crossing with Gaza, and (if prevented from actually crossing into the besieged territory) hold a demonstration on International Women’s Day (March 8) to show solidarity with the women of Gaza.  One of the principal organizers of this event was the well-known peace activist Medea Benjamin, winner of such awards as the Martin Luther King Peace Prize (2010), the Marjorie Kellogg National Peacemaker Award (2012), the Thomas Merton Center Peace Award (2012) and the Peace Foundation Memorial Award (2012).  Benjamin is, as the Los Angeles Times put it, “One of the high profile leaders” of the American peace movement. Here then was the situation: We had a nationally known personality traveling to Egypt for a publicly scheduled and well-advertised peace mission. The Egyptian government knew she was on her way and it is probable that the U.S. government also knew her plans. Part II -  The Set-Up Benjamin, along with several other members of Code Pink, arrived at Cairo’s international airport about 8 p.m. on March 3.  In her own ...

Published: Wednesday 12 March 2014

Part I - Disturbing Democracy   In the past couple of years a disturbing political phenomenon has arisen. To put it simply, groups espousing democracy have caused their countries to politically self-destruct by violently turning against the results of free and fair elections. Apparently, they act this way because the elections did not go their way and/or the elected officials adopted policies they oppose. They do so even when there is a possibility that changes in policy, and even changes in constitutions, can be had peacefully through legal means.  Admittedly this is happening in states both new to democratic politics and deeply divided along ideological lines. A tradition of compromise and sensitivity to minority rights are not yet manifest. Part II - The Egyptian Example As I have explained in a previous analysis, this is what happened in Egypt in 2012-2013. In this episode, the country’s democracy movement, led on by such groups such as Tamaroud, turned against the democratically elected government of Mohammad Morsi because of its Islamist orientation.They boycotted the government’s constitutional convention, claiming that their demands were not being met, allied themselves with authoritarian forces, and went back into the streets to bring the government down.  These ersatz democracy advocates believed that the Morsi government was going to create a “dictatorship of the majority,” that is, an Islamist majority. They were frightened that their minority rights, be they in reference to religion, lifestyle, or gender, would not be protected. This was a palpable fear rather than an assured ...

Published: Saturday 1 March 2014

Norman Finkelstein  Part I - Norman Finkelstein’s Predictions Much has been made of the rising influence of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel. Indeed, there is a growing sense that the boycott power of civil society, particularly as it is manifesting itself in Europe, is on track to repeat history—to do to Israel what it once did to South Africa. Simultaneously, there is the persisting assumption that the latest effort at negotiating a settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, now being managed by Secretary of State Kerry, will go down the same ignoble path as all its predecessors.   However, not everyone agrees with this. In an interview given to the New Left Project, posted on-line on 11 January 2014, Norman Finkelstein (a well published critic of Israel) presents a different scenario. Finkelstein firmly believes that Kerry’s efforts will bear fruit and thus, before the end of President Obama’s term in office, Israel and the frankly unrepresentative Palestine Authority (PA) will come to terms.  Finkelstein explains that the classic debate over Israel’s illegal settlement blocs is over and, on this issue, Israel has won. It will be allowed to absorb the major settlements and thus render any Palestinian entity geographically dubious. The right of return so dear to Palestinian refugees will also be abandoned by the ...

Published: Monday 17 February 2014

Representative Duncan D. Hunter Part I -  Stereotyping in Congress 1922 In the year 1922 the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the U.S. House of Representatives held hearings on a joint resolution in support of the Balfour Declaration. The committee chairman, the pro-Zionist representative from New York, Hamilton Fish, called an array of witnesses, including a few who did not favor a “Jewish home” in Palestine. This did not mean that the committee’s support for the Balfour Declaration was ever really in doubt, but rather their apparent openness resulted from the political influence of certain academics, as well as American Christian missionary societies, who were sympathetic to Arab nationalist aspirations. Among those who testified against the resolution was Fuad Shatara, a Palestinian-born American citizen and successful physician who led an organization called the Palestine National League. Among the points he made to the committee was that a good number of Palestine’s Zionist community were devoted ...

Published: Wednesday 5 February 2014

Part I - Setting Up Iran The investigative reporter and author Gareth Porter has recently published a book entitled A Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare. An impressively written and researched work, it is also frightening in its implications. For if Porter’s allegations are accurate, it is not Iran that the American people should fear - it is their own politicians, bureaucrats and an “ally” named Israel. According to Porter, there has never been a serious nuclear weapons program undertaken by Iran. By the way, this is a conclusion that is supported by the heads of all American intelligence agencies reporting annually to Congress. Unfortunately, this repeated determination has been scorned by the politicians and poorly reported by the media. As a result the American people lack the knowledge to independently judge Iranian actions as regards nuclear research, and so can be led to erroneous conclusions by those pursuing their own political or ideological ends or, as in the present case, the intrigues of a foreign government.  Part II - Needing an Enemy Following the end of the Cold War, the U.S. foreign relations, military and “defense” bureaucracies quickly focused on the issue of terrorism. And well they might, for their own policies of backing all manner of right-wing dictatorships had identified the U.S. as an enemy of almost every resistance movement on the planet. These wrongheaded policies provoked violent responses, including the attacks of September 11, 2001. From that point on, the threat of terrorist attacks, particularly ...

Published: Saturday 18 January 2014

Part I - An Inevitable Controversy The controversy that broke out over the American Studies Association’s December 2013 vote to adopt an academic boycott of Israel was inevitable.The ASA’s academic boycott is a just a part of a much larger effort - the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement - which has been growing worldwide over the last decade. In fact the movement’s progress in the United States has been relatively slow, but this is changing, and the ASA controversy is an indicator of this shift. That being the case, the reaction on the part of Zionist supporters of Israel in and out of academia came as no surprise. On 5 January 2014 the New York Times reprinted a piece from the Chronicle of Higher Education more or less summarizing the reaction to the ASA move. It noted that “the presidents of more than 80 United States colleges have condemned the vote.” In addition five of these institutions of higher learning “have withdrawn from ASA membership.” The Chronicle piece concludes that the ASA has become “a pariah of the United States higher-education establishment.” That is a rather premature judgment. There are roughly 4,500 colleges and universities in the U.S. Being condemned by the administrations (which is not the same as the faculties and student bodies) of 80 represents condemnation by less than 2 percent. Over one hundred institutions of higher learning have ASA membership. Losing five is again a small percentage. All of this hardly makes the ASA a “pariah.” ...

Published: Tuesday 7 January 2014

Part I - Going from Bad to Worse This past week the confrontation between Egypt’s ruling regime and the country’s Muslim Brotherhood intensified. In an act that should make anyone familiar with this ongoing struggle sit up and shake their head, the “military-backed government” in Cairo declared Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood a “terrorist organization.” In case anyone is inclined to get the sides mixed up, it is the Muslim Brotherhood that is defending democracy in this confrontation, and the media’s use of the euphemism “military-backed government” is to be understood as whitewash for military dictatorship.   The truth is that the Muslim Brothers have behaved in a civil fashion. Indeed, they have shown great restraint in the face of the violent, sometimes terrorist-style provocations of the Egyptian military and police. Always advocating nonviolent demonstrations against the military coup that brought down Egypt’s first honestly elected government in modern times, the Brothers and their supporters have been met with murderous official violence that has killed, wounded and jailed thousands. Thus, when the generals brand the Muslim Brothers "terrorists," they are using an Orwellian propaganda ploy. As is so often the case, it is the dictatorship that practices terrorism and many of those who are resisting are destined to be its victims.

Published: Wednesday 1 January 2014

Part I - A “Snowy Sky in Jerusalem” In our house we get the New York Times (NYT) because the Philadelphia Inquirer’s (that is our city paper) coverage of international affairs is very limited. Sometimes I wonder why we bother. One can find a more thorough and certainly more balanced coverage on the web. However, we still enjoy the tradition of perusing a newspaper at the breakfast table. It is important to keep in mind that a newspaper, or really any media source, really, is a reflection of the political and cultural sensibilities of its owners and managers. So you can politically and culturally peg those who run a media outlet such as a newspaper by what makes up its content as well as what is left out. 

Published: Sunday 15 December 2013

Part I - Separating Legitimacy and Behavior In the year 1762 the King of Prussia, Frederick II, launched an unprovoked attack on Austria with the aim of conquering the province of Silesia. One hundred and two years later, in 1864, Otto von Bismarck, then prime minister of Prussia, provoked a war with Denmark in order to seize the Danish provinces of Schleswig and Holstein. Since its founding, the United States has launched over 330 mostly unwarranted foreign military interventions around the globe. Concurrently the U.S. existed as a slave state until 1865 and then practiced institutional racism right up into the 1960s. Throughout all of this history the citizens of these countries never doubted the legitimacy of their nation-states.  This discounting of violent and inhumane policies reflects a long tradition that asserts that if a state exists, that is, if it has a government that can exercise sovereignty over territory, it is automatically legitimate. In this way the idea of legitimacy has been separated from the fact of behavior. If you think about it, this is the equivalent of saying a killer is a legitimate member of society simply because he of she is alive and occupying space. In both cases it is true that the state and the person exist, but can either really be judged legitimate members of their respective communities apart from their behavior? In the case of criminals, no society separates legitimacy and behavior. Criminal behavior leads us to try to rehabilitate the offender or segregate him or her from the population through incarceration. Dealing with states which act in criminal ways is, of course, more complicated.  

Published: Wednesday 11 December 2013

Part I - The Diplomatic Deal with Iran By now most readers know that the five permanent member nations of the UN Security Council - the United States, China, France, Russia and the United Kingdom - plus Germany,  (referred to as the P5+1)have reached a six-month interim diplomatic settlement with the Islamic Republic of Iran. Within this six-month period the P5+1 powers and Iran will seek to conclude a permanent and comprehensive agreement. Readers may also know what Iran has to do according to the agreement, because most of the Western media have repeatedly listed those terms. Either skimmed over or skipped altogether are those things the P5+1 have to do for Iran.  Here is a brief synopsis of the agreement: For the next six months Iran has undertaken to: - Limit its uranium enrichment program to the 5% level - the level suitable for nuclear power plant fuel - while diluting its stockpile of 20% enriched uranium to below the 5% level. The 20% enriched uranium was used by Iran for medical treatment and research, but the paranoia of the Western powers in particular caused it to be seen as fuel for nuclear weapons. - Hold to present levels the size of its low-enriched (5%) stockpile. - Halt efforts to produce plutonium (a particularly efficient nuclear weapons material). - Limit its use of present centrifuges and not construct future ones. The centrifuges are the devices that take “uranium gas” and concentrate it into nuclear ...

Published: Wednesday 27 November 2013

Part I - Global Warming Is Real On 12 September 2013 I wrote a piece entitled Crisis Today, Catastrophe Tomorrow, through which I joined numerous others warning of the consequences of global warming. The evidence for the evolving dire effects of building CO2 and other greenhouse gases is getting increasingly conclusive. The question is what, if anything, will be done about it?   That question was recently addressed by Paul Krugman in an article, “Gamboling with Civilization,” in which he reviewed economist William Nordhaus’s new book on climate change, The Climate Casino. The article appears in the 7 November 2013 issue of the New York Review of Books. Here are some of the points Krugman makes: -- The scientific consensus laid out in the most recent report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change projects a global temperature increase of between 1.8 and 4.0 degrees Centigrade (3 and 7.5 degrees Fahrenheit) by the year 2100. According to Nordhaus, in the years following 2100 the temperature rise will continue upward perhaps to a maximum of 6.0 degrees Centigrade (10 degrees Fahrenheit). These increases can be directly tied to human activities. If anyone doubts the negative consequences of the heat waves such rising averages will make more frequent, they should consider what happened in Europe a decade ago. In the summer of 2003, with prolonged temperatures hovering around 100 degrees Fahrenheit, an ...

Published: Monday 18 November 2013

Part I - Israel’s Walls Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has announced his government’s intention to construct another “separation barrier” - a large fortified wall or fence referred to by Palestinians as an apartheid wall - “between the West Bank and Jordan after completing walls on the Egyptian and Syrian borders.” Netanyahu is doing this for a variety of reasons, such as to keep Arab and other non-Jewish refugees from coming into Israel and, in the case of the West bank - Jordan wall, to symbolize Israel’s ongoing control of the area. 

Published: Monday 4 November 2013

Part I - Poverty Most of the poverty in the United States is artificially manufactured. It is poverty created in the pursuit of “free market ideals,” expressed in recent times by the imposition of neoliberal economic policies - the sort of policies that cut taxes on the wealthy, do away with fiscal and other business regulations, undermine the social safety net and erode middle-class stability - all while singing the praises of self-reliance and individual responsibility. As a result we have done very well in making the rich richer and the poor both poorer and more numerous. How many poor people are there in the United States? According to Current Population Survey (CPS), which puts out the government’s official figures, as of 2012 about 15 percent of the population, or some 46.5 million people, were living in poverty. The rate for children under 18 comes in higher, at about 21.8 percent.  The U.S. government measures poverty in monetary terms. In 2012 poverty was defined as yearly total income of $23,050 or less for a family of four. The figure is adjusted for individuals or other size families. Then there is the depressing fact that “most Americans (58.5%) will spend at least one year below the poverty line at some point between the ages of 25 and 75.”  There happens to be ...

Published: Monday 21 October 2013

Part I - Going Backward In the eighteenth century the West shifted from mercantilism to capitalism. Mercantilism was an economic system that gave governments wide-ranging regulatory powers over commerce, mostly to ensure a positive balance of trade. It also allowed for strong guild structures and protection for domestic industries. However, the Industrial Revolution ended mercantilism and brought to power a business class that wanted to be free to operate without government oversight.  As the capitalist worldview evolved, it made a fetish out of the “free market” and viewed government as, at best, a necessary evil. Any sort of regulation was seen as the equivalent of slavery, and the proper role of officialdom was reduced to maintaining internal order (police), defending the realm (military) and enforcing contracts (the courts). Any government involvement in social welfare was disapproved of because it allegedly promoted laziness among the poor, but this was just a convenient myth. The real reason for keeping government activity to an absolute minimum was the rising business class’s fear and loathing of taxes. In Europe the rationalizations for capitalism remained primarily secular, looking to the maximization of efficiency for the sake of profit. In the United States, however, where little good happens that is not ascribed to an overseeing God, secular rationalizations were soon complemented with the notion of divine will. God wanted unregulated economic freedom and minimalist government to prevail. This religious view continues to exist. Today’s struggle to return us all to minimalist government and maximum economic “freedom” is led by a collection of fundamentalist Christian right-wingers and Tea Party mad hatters. Chris Hedges lays out a ...

Published: Wednesday 16 October 2013

Part I - Good News  On 22 May 2013 I wrote an analysis titled “Staying Sober.” It recounted two news stories that drew many hopeful comments from progressives. One was about the New York-based federal judge who placed an injunction on the U.S. government’s practice of indefinite detention. The other was the momentary success of Palestinian hunger strikers in Israeli prisons at attaining some relief from their intolerable conditions. They too were protesting, among other things, that country’s version of indefinite detention.  I noted that these were battles won and precedents to take heart from. They showed what was possible through determined opposition against unjust state practices. However, winning battles is not equivalent to winning wars, so it would be wise to celebrate soberly, knowing the struggles were not over. As it turned out, that was good advice. The New York judge’s injunction was overturned on appeal and the behavior of the Israelis quickly reverted to the status quo ante.  Today we are in a similar situation. Again we have two news stories that have raised the hopes of progressives. The first is the decision of U.S. President Obama and Iranian President Rouhani to engage diplomatically, a step which represents a setback for the influence of the Zionist lobby. The second report is about a poll indicating that a near majority of American Jews think the Israeli government is not serious about peace with the Palestinians. Again, while both developments show movement in the right direction - movement that progressives can help sustain - it would be wise to stay sober. Part II - The Diplomatic Approach to Iran The ...

Published: Tuesday 8 October 2013

Hassan Rouhani Part I - Moderate Iran Iran’s new and more moderate President Hassan Rouhani came to the United Nations at the end of September. Amidst numerous interviews and diplomatic discussions, his message was clear: no, Iran will not give up its legal right to enrich uranium and no, Iran will not develop nuclear weapons. According to Rouhani, Iran is willing to prove this second point by “ensuring full transparency [of its nuclear program] under international law.” In exchange for doing so, Iran will demand “a total lifting” of international sanctions. In truth, this has been the position of the Iranian government for years. As far back as 2005 Iran’s supreme leader Ali Khamenei declared that nuclear weapons violated Islamic law and Iran would not construct them. It primarily has been due to pressure from the Israelis and their Zionist lobby in Washington that U.S. politicians have refused to believe these Iranian assertions.  To overcome this lobby-induced skepticism, President Rouhani has switched from the in-your-face behavior that characterized his predecessor, Mahmoud Amadinejad, to a more tactful, forthcoming approach. At least for now this shift has borne fruit. There was the recent historic fifteen-minute phone call between him and President Obama, as well as a brief ...

Published: Tuesday 24 September 2013

Part I - The Two-State Solution Peter Beinart is a “liberal Zionist” who has written a piece in the New York Review of Books of 26 September 2013 entitled “The American Jewish Cocoon.” In this essay he laments, “The organized Jewish community [is] a closed intellectual space.” By this he means that most American Zionist Jews (it is important to remember that not all Jews are Zionists) know little or nothing about those who oppose them, particularly Palestinians. They also seem to have no interest in changing this situation. For these Zionists the opposition has been reduced to an irredeemably anti-Semitic “them.” Beinart goes on to tell us that such is the political clout of the organized Zionist community that this know-nothing attitude has come to characterize the “debate about Israel in Washington” and the opinions offered in the mass media as well. While Mr. Beinart does not say so, I can tell you that this has been the basic situation since the early 1920s. Beinart does note, however, that over time this situation has led Palestinians and those who support them to show less willingness to dialogue with Zionists, most of whom they consider irredeemably racist.    Beinart thinks this prevailing ignorance is a disaster. Why so? Because he feels that Jews betray the lessons of their own past by failing to understand the meaning of the “dispersion and dispossession” of the Palestinians. They do not seem to care that this particular people has had its “families torn apart in war - [continue] to struggle to ...

Published: Sunday 15 September 2013

Part I – Crises Both Local and Global  If one is inclined to make a list of worrisome trouble spots plaguing the world, there would be a lot to choose from: Syria, Egypt, Israel/Palestine, Bahrain, Yemen, Somalia, Sudan, Kashmir, Congo, Iran, those pesky disputed islands lying between China, Japan and the Philippines, and of course, the meddlesome behavior of the United States. I apologize if I inadvertently left out anyone’s favorite trouble spot.   It is perhaps little comfort that each of these man-made problems has a finite potential to be disruptive. What I mean by this is that they are localized in both space and time. Yes, I know that some of these problems have been going on for generations, and that thousands upon thousands have lost their homes, been maimed, or been killed. However, the problems represented above will not go on for millennia. It’s likely that all of them (except perhaps Washington’s ability to meddle) will be resolved, for better or worse, within say, the next 25 to 50 years.   There is another category of problems, also man-made, that seem more perennial in nature. These problems manifest themselves as universal social ailments such as crime and poverty. Such problems wax and wane in intensity, but are apparently always with us.    Now we come to a truly unique problem different in nature from those above. This is the issue of global warming. This also is man-made but with extraordinary long-range impact both in space (it is planet-wide) and in time (now we are talking millennia). Yet it is a problem over which we do have control. We know what causes it and we know how to at least ameliorate the situation. That is, if we wanted to, ...

Published: Thursday 5 September 2013

Part I - The President Goes to Congress President Obama has sidestepped the political hole he had dug for himself (what we might call the “red line” hole) over his proposed attack on Syria. Having insisted there must be “consequences” for a breach of international law, specifically the alleged use of banned chemical weapons by the Syrian government, he was faced with both popular American reluctance to support military action and Congressional pique over not being included in the decision process. As a consequence President Obama announced on 31 August 2013 that he now supports a Congressional debate and vote on the issue of attacking Syria. Then he told us how he sees the situation, “This [Syrian chemical] attack is an assault on human dignity.... It risks making a mockery of the global prohibition on the use of chemical weapons.... Ultimately this is not about who occupies this [White House] office at any given time, its about who we are as a country.”  Part II - The U.S. and Chemical Weapons For all I know, the president really believes his own words, but I am pretty sure his implied question of “who we are as a country” is meant to be rhetorical. If one was to give an evidence-based answer to that inquiry, as it relates to chemical weapons, it would be embarrassing in the extreme. Lest we forget, the U.S. defoliated parts of Vietnam with a chemical weapon called Agent Orange and by its use killed a lot more than large swaths of jungle. Agent Orange killed ...

Published: Friday 30 August 2013

Damascus Under Fire If you ever doubted the erosion of popular democracy in the U.S., the next few weeks should set you straight. The simple fact is that the voting population is the main “constituency” of politicians only at election time. Right now it is reported that approximately 60% of that constituency does not want the U.S. to attack Syria. However, it is not election time. In the post-election period, the politician’s real constituency becomes special interests, some of which are rich enough and influential enough to substitute their own parochial interests for the interests of the nation. There are a bunch of them which are now anxious for an attack on Syria.   The media is presently rife with reports that the U.S. government, along with other countries like the UK and France, operating with the blessing of the so-called Arab League (which has become little more than a front operation for the Gulf Arabs), are going to militarily strike Syria in just a matter of days. This will be done to supposedly punish Damascus for the alleged use of chemical weapons in its ongoing civil war. The U.S. government keeps saying they are sure the Assad government carried out this attack, but where are they getting their information?  Well, that is rather shady.  ...

Published: Tuesday 27 August 2013

Abdel Fattah el Sisi announcing the overthrow of the elected government  Part I – Historical Precedents There are a series of historical precedents that can give us insight into the problems now seen in Egypt. These precedents are from both the West and the Middle East. Both are relevant because the conflict in Egypt has modern structural qualities that are transcultural. Among others, these qualities are: a traditional military caste allied to a reactionary police force, to a reactionary judiciary and to “big business” elements; a middle class most of whose members have a stated aspiration for both stability and a democratic society; and a bete noire (dark beast) factor – a fear shared by the first two groups of a third group. In the European/U.S. context this bete noire group is usually identified as a politically organized left designated as Communist. In the context of the Middle East this role is usually played by politically active Islamist organizations. In both cases the bete noire element may represent a significant portion of the population. Here are two examples, one from the West and one from the Middle East, of how precedents involving these transcultural structural elements played themselves out. In both cases the consequences were horrific. After setting these out we will see how these precedents shed light on the current Egyptian situation.  Part II – The Weimar Republic 1919 The Weimar Republic came into being in Germany at the end of World War I, when Germany had fallen into chaos. Due to pressure from the victorious Allies the monarchical government collapsed and a new republican ...

Published: Monday 19 August 2013

Part I - Hedges v. Obama Back in January of 2012 former war correspondent Christopher Hedges and others, including Noam Chomsky and Daniel Ellsberg, filed a lawsuit in federal court challenging the constitutionality of the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and specifically the Act’s Section 1021(b)(2), which allows for indefinite detention by the U.S. military of people “who are part of or substantially support Al Qaeda, the Taliban or associated forces engaged in hostilities against the United States.” This detention denies those held of the ability to “contest the allegations against them because they have no right to be notified of the specific charges against them.” In this suit filed by Hedges et al., the issue in question was the vagueness of the terms “substantially support” and “associated forces.” For instance, could this vagueness lead to apprehension and detention of journalists who publish interviews with members of Al Qaeda or the Taliban? Could it lead to the same treatment against political activists protesting U.S. policies against these or “associated” groups? The case, now designated Hedges v. Obama, was initially heard in New York District Court by Judge Katherine Forrest. The plaintiffs claimed that the NDAA violated the 1st (free speech), 5th (due process as well as the stipulation that people must be able to understand what actions break the law) and 14th (equal protection) Amendments to the Constitution. To address the question Judge Forrest asked the government lawyers if they could assure the court that the activities of the plaintiffs would not result in indefinite detention under the act. If they could ...

Published: Saturday 10 August 2013

Part I - National Interest or Lobby Interest? President Obama and his congressional colleagues are carrying on an established, yet clearly dangerous, tradition of U.S. foreign policy -- the mixing up of national interest and the parochial interests of powerful lobby groups. Indeed, given the way U.S. federal politics has long operated, national interest is, except in rare cases, an impossible notion. This is because almost all politicians and both political parties are so tied to, and financially dependent upon, powerful lobby groups that they cannot formulate independent positions on issues important to these lobbies. Thus, what is put forth as national interest is most often the interest of a particular interest group with too much money buying too much influence.   In today’s foreign policy arena this conflation of the general and the particular is best seen in U.S. policies in the Middle East. Here are four recent examples: 

  • The renewal of “peace talks” between the Israelis and the Palestinians is presently big news. The Obama administration casts itself as the “honest broker” bringing the two sides together to renew negotiations after a three-year hiatus. However, the United States has never served as an “honest broker” between these two parties and this is one of the reasons that their conflict has remained unresolved so long.  

 Why can’t the U.S. be the “honest broker”? Because the American government is in no position to formulate an independent policy reflecting the nation’s national interest in a just and therefore lasting peace. The Zionist lobby (made up of both Jewish and Christian Americans) is so powerful that the vast ...

Published: Wednesday 31 July 2013

Part I - Happy Birthday, BDS The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement directed toward Israel is eight years old. It was started back in 2005, when a coalition of Palestine-based social and economic organizations called for such a comprehensive effort.   At first the BDS movement appeared to be a long shot. Israel, with its worldwide coterie of Zionist supporters, both Jewish and Christian, seemed invincible. Particularly in the Western world, the belief in Israel’s legitimacy had reached the status of sacred tradition. The Zionists worked very hard to achieve this status by controlling the historical interpretation of events that had led from World War I and the Balfour Declaration to the creation of Israel in 1948, and beyond. They might well have been able to maintain control of Israel’s past, present and future if the Zionist leadership had not succumbed to the sin of hubris. They became so ideologically self-righteous and militarily muscle-bound that they believed their place in the world to be untouchable. Thus, as they built a country based on discrimination and colonial expansion in an age increasingly critical of such societies, they refused all compromise with the Palestinians and treated criticism of their behavior and policies as at once anti-Semitic and irrelevant. They therefore failed to notice that their stubbornness was allowing others to erode the Zionist version of the history of modern Palestine/Israel.    Eight years is not a very long time, but a surprising amount has been accomplished. Increasing numbers of people, particularly in the Western world, have been made aware of the plight of the Palestinians as well as their version of the history of Palestine/Israel. With this change in historical perspective, BDS established a foothold and started to grow. The movement ...

Published: Saturday 27 July 2013

Helen Thomas, the renowned journalist, died on 20 July 2013 at the age of 92. She was the first woman journalist to cover the White House and did so for an unprecedented 50 years. She lasted in that job despite always asking the tough questions. It was a glorious run besmirched only late in her career by opportunistic attacks by Zionist American ideologues. When that happened, as described below, I wrote a piece in her defense. It was originally put online on June 23, 2010, but is here represented in an updated form. Part I - Helen Thomas Gets Angry Helen Thomas was the most respected of the White House press corps. However, she made a mistake the other day of wearing her feelings on her sleeve, so to speak, on a topic of deadly political sensitivity. She said out loud that the Jews should “get the hell out of Palestine” and return to Europe. Palestine is “not German, its not Polish” she added. Unfortunately, the whole thing ended up on a YouTube video. Predictably, the American Zionists jumped all over her. Several former White House operatives, who may have resented Thomas’s hard questioning of their bosses, were at the front of this charge. Lanny Davis, former Clinton White House Counsel, immediately announced that Thomas should be “stripped of her honors for having crossed the line of freedom of speech.” The attempt by supporters of Israel to exempt criticism of the Zionist State from the protections of the First Amendment of the Constitution has been ongoing. Davis added that Thomas “has shown herself to be an anti-Semtic bigot.” Another former White House press secretary, Ari Fleischer, ...

Published: Friday 19 July 2013

Edward Snowden Part I - The New York Times Takes a Stand (Sort Of) On 8 July 2013 the New York Times (NYT) published an editorial on the issue of National Security Agency (NSA) spying on Americans. The editorial described the issue as one of “overwhelming importance” worthy of national debate, and noted that President Obama said that he welcomed such a debate. Then the NYT pointed to a core problem: “This is a debate in which almost none of us know what we’re talking about.”  It turns out that everything about the NSA surveillance operation is “classified” and therefore done in secret. As a result there is no public access to the information needed for a debate. That is, until the “leaker” Edward Snowden risked all to tell the American public and, indeed, the whole world, about it.  Thus, the public now finds out that all the legal justifications for NSA operations are themselves secret. For instance, there is the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, originally created by Congress to judge the legitimacy of government requests for wiretaps. According to the NYT this court “has for years been developing a secret and unchallenged body of laws . . .” that now go far beyond its original mandate. Yet the process of the court’s runaway empowerment has been beyond contesting. As the NYT puts it, there is a “complete absence of any adversarial process” which is, after all, “the heart of our legal system.” To demonstrate this, the editorial tells us “the government in 2012 ...

Published: Tuesday 16 July 2013

There is now much talk about the "unprecedented" expression of the "will of the people" in bringing about the removal of Mohammed Morsi, Egypt's first democratically led president.  Several things should be kept in mind: 1. The will of the Islamist leaning majority was certainly not considered. You might not like the social conservatism of these people but they cannot simply be ignored.  If you want to protect civil and personal rights you should do so constitutionally.  One of things that should have been demanded by the demonstrators was the amendability of the Morsi constitution.  2. Subsequently, in the formation of the so-called Interim Government, the will of the liberal plurality seems to be ignored as suggested by this statement from Al Jazeera, Al Jazeera's Rawya Rageh, reporting from Cairo, said that some of the opposition groups like Tamarrod said that they were not consulted, and that the plans for the interim government was a rushed political process done secretly. 3. That there was a democratic alternative to the military coup.  Morsi, albeit belatedly, had agreed to a consensus government and new parliamentary elections.  This willingness to compromise was ignored.   Be careful what you wish for.  

Published: Tuesday 9 July 2013

Part I - The Heritage of Westernization The cultural situation in much of the Middle East resembles a volcanic landscape. On the surface there is a layer of Westernization. Within the confines of this layer dwell that portion of the population that has, in terms of lifestyle, come to favor Western ways. This is not an unexpected phenomenon. After all, imperial European powers controlled much of North Africa from the early nineteenth century onward as well as most of the rest of the region after the fall of the Ottoman Empire in the early twentieth century. Members of the region’s upper classes, both economic and military, long interacted with and often mimicked European colonials. Though there have always been differences in the details (for instance, some are more democratically minded than others), the resulting Westernized layer has always been largely secular. Those among them who may be of a religious bent are moderates and have no problem with a separation of state and religion. Though it varies with the country, those belonging to this layer make up perhaps 25% of the population.  Beneath this surface layer is the majority population - a deep pool of magma - which is much more religious and much more tied to Islamic traditions and values. This does not mean the majority is always united in outlook. Some strongly desire an Islamic state while others do not see this as a necessary goal. There are other sources of division as well. Nonetheless, as in the case of volcanoes, the magma exerts fluctuating political and social pressure on the surface layer. To indefinitely keep it from erupting forth is probably an impossible task.   In Egypt, since the mid-1950s, the task of keeping the magma from erupting was accomplished by a series of military regimes. The officer corps of the Egyptian military tends to be ...

Published: Wednesday 3 July 2013

Part I - Indifference Elie Wiesel is a worldwide personality. Through his powerful descriptive writing about the Nazi concentration camps, he has come to personify the suffering of the Holocaust. Among his many insights is the famous observation, “The opposite of love is not hate, it is indifference.” Wiesel has repeatedly put forth this idea. In a 2011 commencement address at Washington University in St. Louis he told his listeners, “The greatest commandment -- to me -- in the Bible . . . is ‘Thou shalt not stand idly by.’ Which means when you witness an injustice, don’t stand idly by.” After a Boston lecture in 2012 Wiesel told Boston University students “I think that is the greatest danger, ignorance, which leads to indifference and therefore to detachment. . . .If somebody suffers and I don’t do anything to diminish his or her suffering, something is wrong with me.”   Unfortunately, Wiesel has identified himself with Zionism and by doing so has inevitably been caught up in contradictions and dilemmas that challenge his reputation as a moral icon. For instance, in May 2010 he made a public appeal to President Obama not to put any pressure on the Israeli government over the issue of Jerusalem even as the Israelis evicted Palestinian residents. In doing so he revealed his own ...

Published: Wednesday 19 June 2013

The National Security Agency Part I - Shifting Historical Context Context One: It is 1971 and the United States is mired in a losing war in Vietnam. Thousands of young American soldiers are coming back to the U.S. in coffins or physically and psychologically maimed. Scenes of war can be witnessed nightly on the evening news. In the midst of this mayhem the American military analyst Daniel Ellsberg gives the New York Times a copy of a classified analysis of the war entitled, “United States - Vietnam Relations, 1945-1967” aka the “Pentagon Papers.” The Nixon administration then sought to prevent the publication of this report through a court injunction. Ultimately the Supreme Court overturned the injunction in a 6-3 ruling that favored the public’s right to know. The government also attempted to prosecute Ellsberg under the 1917 Espionage Act for releasing classified information to the public. That was thrown out of court because in making their case, government agents had gathered information through an illegal wiretap. Subsequently, the media widely covered the Pentagon Papers and its demoralizing description of how the U.S. was fighting the war. It can be argued that this reporting helped turn the tide of public opinion against the slaughter in Vietnam.  Context Two: It is 2012-2013 and the United States is waging a “War on Terror.” This is the result of highly destructive terrorist attacks that occurred a dozen years earlier on September 11, 2001. Both these attacks, the lies and misplaced aggression of the Bush administration that followed, and the skewed media coverage over the intervening years, have sensitized the country to the issue of security. In this ...

Published: Monday 10 June 2013

Neal Boortz  Part I - Some Background Information My wife and I have family in Barcelona, Spain, including a seven-month old grandson. We also have a family member who is a successful artist and has a piece in this year’s famous Venice biennial art show. Thus it was that my wife and I went from Barcelona to Venice at the end of May.  We decided to travel from one city to the other by sea and so ended up on the Regent Line’s Seven Seas Mariner, a relatively small ship with only 700 passengers. This turned out to be a very odd cruise, and that is the subject of this essay. For, as it turned out, some 270 of the passengers on board were fans of the libertarian right-wing talk show host and Fox TV commentator Neal Boortz. This was Boortz’s retirement celebration cruise, and his most devoted fans were on the Seven Seas Mariner, at their own expense, to help him celebrate.  Part II - Who Is Neal Boortz? Until his recent retirement, Neal Boortz (aka The Mouth of the South, aka The Equal Opportunity Offender, aka Mighty Whitey) was the seventh most popular talk show host in the United States. His show was nationally syndicated and averaged 4.25 million listeners per week.   The positions he has taken to achieve this status are remarkably diverse and often contradictory. For instance, Boortz has a rather progressive stance on some social issues (angering most conservatives), such as abortion rights, same sex marriage, ending the “war on drugs,” and supporting various other civil liberties. Yet at the same time he is adamant about reducing ...

Published: Friday 31 May 2013

Part I - Endless War There is an American tradition of frequent war. Indeed, over the course of the country’s history the United States been at war almost constantly.  Some of these have been relatively short conflicts like interventions in various Central American venues. Some have been much larger and longer affairs, like the Civil War, World War II and Vietnam. The point to be drawn from this is that the people of the United States are (perhaps unconsciously) acclimated to always being in one sort of armed conflict or another. Unfortunately, this history renders a recent public statement by the Pentagon’s general counsel, Jeb Johnson, into just a bit of fanciful idealism. He insisted “war must be regarded as a finite, extraordinary and unnatural state of affairs.” Certainly not for Americans. With their active assumption that the U.S. represents the world’s best chance for the victory of “good” against “evil,” Americans seem willing to battle on as long as they are convinced they are winning and the casualties are low. That may be why there was no popular protest when Michael Sheehan, Obama’s assistant secretary of defense for “special operations,” told a Senate hearing that the country’s “war on terror” might last “at least 10 or 20 years” longer (it has already been going on twelve years). In the mainstream media, there was not even a noticeable ...

Published: Sunday 19 May 2013

 I - Who Is Alan Hart? Alan Hart is an author and a journalist. He is the former Middle East Chief Correspondent for Britain’s Independent Television News and a former BBC Panorama presenter whose beat was the Middle East. He has written a number of books, including Arafat: Terrorist or Peacemaker? (1984) and the three-volume  Zionism: The Real Enemy of the Jews (2009-2010). He is also a longtime activist for various causes, particularly his three-decade struggle on behalf of justice for the Palestinian people. II - Alan Hart Resigns On April 25 Alan Hart, the activist for Palestine, literally turned in his resignation letter. In it he states, “I am withdrawing from the battlefield of the war for the truth of history as it relates to making and sustaining of the conflict in and over Palestine.” Why did he do this? In Hart’s opinion, the struggle for justice in Palestine is “mission impossible.” The information/propaganda war between Zionists and those, such as himself, supporting the Palestinians (which, in any case, had always been “the most asymmetric of all information wars”) is lost. He notes that the Western media still follow a Zionist line and asserts that most of the Western populations remain either pro-Israel or indifferent to the Israeli-Palestinian struggle. Hart blames this alleged Zionist victory in the propaganda war on a lack of financial support for those trying to write and speak out for Palestinian justice, and contrasts their plight to the situation of the Zionist writers and advocates, who enjoy almost unlimited funds. Hart feels it ...

Published: Wednesday 8 May 2013

   PART I - Richard Falk Tells the Truth Shortly after the 15 April 2013 Boston Marathon bombings, Richard Falk, professor emeritus of international law at Princeton University and the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in the Palestinian territories, published an analysis of the episode entitled “A Commentary on the Marathon Murders.” In this analysis Falk pointed out that there are “serious deficiencies in how the U.S. sees itself in the world. We should be worried by the taboo  . . . imposed on any type of self-scrutiny  [of U.S. foreign policy] by either the political leadership or the mainstream media.” This taboo essentially blinds us to the reality of our situation. Falk continues, “The American global domination project is bound to generate all kinds of resistance in the post-colonial world. . . . Especially if there is no disposition to rethink U.S. relations with others . . . starting with the Middle East.” It seems obvious that if Washington wants to prevent future attacks, it is not enough to  pursue alleged terrorists and beef up “homeland security.” It seems logical that one needs to also perform a foreign policy review, preferably in a public manner, to determine if any American policies or behaviors are unnecessarily provoking animosity. For instance, will continued unqualified U.S. support of Israeli oppression of  Palestinians increase or decrease future violent anti-American episodes at home or abroad? Yet, this critical aspect of any response to terrorism has apparently never been performed. As regards the administration of George W. Bush, this comes ...

Published: Wednesday 24 April 2013

 Part I - High Anxiety Americans may assume that public insecurity is a condition you find under dictatorships, where the agents of the state can burst through your door and cart you away without a warrant. That can now happen in the USA too, but only to those the government calls “terrorists.” Perhaps naively, ordinary folks see themselves as immune from that sort of treatment. However, public insecurity has many roots. Americans actually experience, but almost never acknowledge, the fact that there is a correlation between U.S. democracy’s relatively broad array of freedoms and public high anxiety. Here are some of the ways this works: 

  • Economic freedom can, theoretically, break down class barriers and open up opportunities for enterprising citizens. It also leaves you free to become abjectly poor and produces a socio-political environment in which ideologically driven leaders hesitate to use the power of the state to solve the consequences of poverty. Being poor is, usually, a high-anxiety state.

 

  • Political freedoms can become lopsided in favor of well-organized special interests with the financial ability to corrupt the political system. It might be that 90% or more of Americans favor reform of the gun laws and would feel safer if there were universal background checks on those purchasing firearms. It does not matter, though, because this majority does not know how to effectively use its political freedom to achieve this end. As a consequence lobby groups that specialize in working the system (such as the National Rifle Association) can easily override the wishes of the majority and, as just happened, arrange for the most innocuous of 

Published: Tuesday 16 April 2013

 Amira Hass Part I - Claiming the Right of Resistance Amira Hass is a reporter for the Israeli newspaper Haaretz. She reports on Palestinian affairs in the occupied territories and, over the years, has come to understand the Palestinians' plight from their own point of view. On 3 April 2013 Hass wrote an op-ed for her newspaper entitled “The Inner Syntax of Palestinian Stone-Throwing,” in which she wrote, It would make sense for Palestinian schools to give classes in resistance: how to build multiple “tower and stockade” villages; . . . how to behave when army troops enter your homes; . . . how to use a video camera to document the violence of the regime’s representatives; . . . how to identify soldiers who have flung you handcuffed to the floor of a jeep, in order to submit a complaint.  Hass has been writing in this fashion since 1991. She and Gideon Levy, another Haaretz reporter, are among the very small number of Israeli journalists who tell the truth about the Israeli occupation. And, as far as I know, they are the only ones who are regularly translated into English.   In this particular op-ed Hass goes on to contextualize the major resistance practice of Palestinian youth, stone throwing.   Throwing stones is the birthright and duty of anyone subject to foreign rule.  Throwing stones is an action as well as a metaphor of resistance. Persecution of stone-throwers, including 8-year-old children, is an inseparable ...

Published: Monday 8 April 2013

 Part I - Ignorance As a Default Position In 2008 Rick Shenkman, the Editor-in-Chief of the History News Network, published a book entitled Just How Stupid Are We? Facing the Truth about the American Voter (Basic Books). In it he demonstrated, among other things, that most Americans were: (1) ignorant about major international events, (2) knew little about how their own government runs and who runs it, (3) were nonetheless willing to accept government positions and policies even though a moderate amount of critical thought suggested they were bad for the country, and (4) were readily swayed by stereotyping, simplistic solutions, irrational fears, and public relations babble.  Shenkman spent 256 pages documenting these claims, using a great number of polls and surveys from very reputable sources. Indeed, in the end it is hard to argue with his data. So, what can we say about this? One thing that can be said is that this is not an abnormal state of affairs. As has been suggested in prior analyses, ignorance of non-local affairs (often leading to inaccurate assumptions, passive acceptance of authority, and illogical actions) is, in fact, a default position for any population. To put it another way, the majority of any population will pay little or no attention to news stories or government actions that do not appear to impact their lives or the lives of close associates. If something non-local happens that is brought to their attention by the media, they will passively accept government explanations and simplistic solutions.  The ...

Published: Thursday 28 March 2013

 Part I - Something Is Rotten in the State of Israel It is said that the devil has about him the smell of fire and brimstone (sulphur). Evil deeds are often described as “most foul.” On the other hand, people who appear, accurately or not, as always innocent are described as “smelling like roses.” There seems, then, to be a long standing, if improbable, association between behavior and smells.  The Israeli army has recently dedicated itself to demonstrating this association. Back on 6 March 2013 the Middle East Monitor reported that   Israeli forces have sprayed Palestinian homes in the village of Nabi Saleh with Skunk as a punishment for organizing weekly protests against the Apartheid Wall built on occupied land. Human rights watchdog B’Tselem published a video showing Israel’s armored tanker trucks fitted with “water canons” [spraying] the foul fluid.   Skunk is a fluid so offensive smelling that people automatically retreat from anywhere or anyone doused with it.    This is not the first time the Israelis have used such noxious tactics. Zionist settlers are fond of diverting the sewage from their illegal settlements, which are usually placed on high ground,  into the fields and towns of Palestinians living in the ...

Published: Saturday 16 March 2013

 Part I - Bureaucracy The institutions of modern society, including governments, large economic structures, and  military forces, are organized in bureaucratic fashion. A bureaucracy is a form of organization that operates by means of a wide range of closely supervised departments capable of performing specific tasks in efficient ways. This division of labor, or specialization, is carried on according to well-defined rules and regulations. Therefore, the workers in a bureaucracy (i.e., the bureaucrats) perform their tasks within a compartmentalized environment that narrows their focus to the task at hand. Potentially mitigating circumstances that might call into question the task set for the worker, or the rules governing its implementation, are almost always ignored.  The command structure of bureaucracies is hierarchical, or what is called a “vertical pyramid power structure.” This is how Max Weber, the great sociologist, described this topdown arrangement and its consequences: The principles of . . . graded authority mean a firmly ordered system of superiority and subordination in which there is a supervision of the lower offices by the higher offices. . . . Rational calculation . . . reduces every worker to a cog in this bureaucratic machine and, seeing himself in this light, he will merely ask how to transform himself into a somewhat bigger cog. . . . [Such an institution’s] specific nature. . . develops the more perfectly the more bureaucracy is dehumanized.

Published: Thursday 7 March 2013

Cultures can evolve over centuries and once their major parameters are set they have remarkable staying power. The notion that such parameters can be reversed in, say 48 years, is naive at best.  Nonetheless, the presumption that 48 years can eliminate historical racial prejudice in the U.S. South is indeed the basis of the attitudes of a potential majority of the U.S. Supreme Court when it comes to the landmark 1965 Voting Rights Act.   Part I - The Background The 1965 Voting Rights Act (reauthorized for an additional 25 years by Congress in 2006) requires nine southern states and parts of seven others (including Michigan, New Hampshire and New York) to submit any changes in local voting rules to the Justice Department for prior review.  This was done to prevent voting procedures that discriminate against minority groups.  “The Justice Department has used the pre-clearance requirement, also known as Section 5, to object to more than 2,400 state and local voting changes since 1982.”  One might ask what are the odds that the federal government would raise frivolous and unjustified objections 2,400 times?  Not likely.  Thus, it is fair to conclude that racial discrimination still plays a role in the making of voting rules in many localities.   Why, after 48 years (counting from 1965), would that be so?  A good part of the answer is that a culture of racism shaped the way of life, particularly in the southern United States.  This was only briefly interrupted by the Civil War.  After that war, there followed a period known as

Published: Wednesday 27 February 2013

 Part I - Emotionally Moving Pictures  Some images move us, or at least should move us, to sudden insight into the consequences of our actions. Images of innocent victims of violence, particularly children, should have the capacity to penetrate the most hardened defenses and touch our hearts.  However, the truth is that this does not always occur.  Skewed information environments, operating over time, may condition us to react with compassion only to images depicting the suffering of our own community.   When many of us see the anguish we have caused an “enemy,” we feel not compassion or regret but annoyance. The reaction is:  “Why are you showing me that? Don’t you know it is their (the other’s) own behavior that made us hurt them?  It is their own fault.”  That we react this way to the horrors we are capable of causing is a sure sign that those same actions have dehumanized us.  Part II - The Pictures in Question -- On 15 February 2013, The World Press Photo of the Year 2012 (pasted above) was made public.  The winning image (selected from 103,481 photos submitted by 5,666 photographers from 124 countries) was taken by Swedish photojournalist Paul Hansen, working for the daily newspaper Dagens Nyheter.  The photo depicts a funeral procession in the narrow streets of Gaza. Two men, visibly expressing the emotions of anguish and anger, are leading the procession. They are carrying the bodies of two-year old Sahaib Hijazi and her four-year old brother Muhammad. Both children ...

Published: Tuesday 19 February 2013

Part I -  What’s War? In the halls of Congress and confines of the Oval Office, the perception is that the U.S. is at war with an enemy called al-Qaeda.  Is this actually the case or is the claim an exaggerated piece of propaganda that has conveniently captured the minds of leaders whose abuse of power has become institutionalized? In modern history "war" most often describes a condition of armed conflict between two or more states.  War is also a condition that has a discernible beginning and a definite end.  Your state officially declares war, you take territory, destroy the other state’s army, its government raises a white flag, signs a cease fire or, preferably, a peace treaty, and that’s that.  Sometimes, a national government will want to hide the fact that the nation is at war and, as in the case of the United States in Korea (1950s) or in Vietnam (1960s), it does so through a blatant, but no less effective, bit of propaganda:  in place of a declaration of war it goes about calling its violent behavior a “police action.” In truth, however, these add up to wars waged against other states.  So, at least from the point of view of custom and tradition, not just any category of hostilities can be a "war."  For instance, feuds, vendettas, punitive actions, ethnic violence, tribal hostilities and the like, as bloody as they might be, are not traditionally thought of as wars. Part II -- al-Qaeda and the War Against Terror Unfortunately, the traditional definition of what constitutes a war is changing and not for the better.   Back in 2001 the United States was attacked by a shadowy organization called al-Qaeda.  Al-Qaeda was not a nation nor a government nor a state of any sort.  ...

Published: Friday 8 February 2013

 There is a new documentary movie about Israel, called The Gatekeepers.  It is directed by Dror Moreh, and features interviews with all the former leaders of the Shin Bet, the country’s internal security organization.  The Shin Bet is assigned the job of preventing Palestinian retaliatory attacks on Israel and, as described by Moreh, the film “is the story of Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories as told by the people at the crossroads of some of the most crucial moments in the security history of the country.”   Along the way it touches on such particular topics as targeted assassinations, the use of torture, and “collateral damage.”  The Gatekeepers has garnered a lot of acclaim.  It has played at film festivals in Jerusalem, Amsterdam, New York, Toronto and Venice, and elsewhere.  It has received critical acclaim from critics and won the Los Angeles Film Critics Association’s Best Documentary Award. It has been nominated for an Oscar.    Part II — The Messages  In order to promote the The Gatekeepers, Morah has been doing interviews and recently appeared on CNN with Christiane Amanpour.  He made a number of points, as did the Shin Bet leaders in the clips featured during the interview.  I shall review and critique some of these below. – Moreh says that “if there is someone who understands the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it’s these guys”  (the Shin Bet leaders).  Actually, this not necessarily true. ...

Published: Saturday 26 January 2013

 PART I - What Is Important When It Comes to Rights? Question:  Why is it that so many Americans are more angry over the prospect of relatively minor adjustments to the gun laws, than they are over the serious erosion of Constitutional rights to due process in the courts?  Despite the fact that proposed changes to the gun laws would leave the Second Amendment’s* alleged basic right of ownership intact, thousands of Americans rallied in state capitals across the nation last week to demand their “right” to own all manner of automatic weapons and multiple round ammunition clips. The rationale for this ranged from “the Second Amendment comes from God,” a popular claim with protesters in Austin Texas, to the equally absurd notion that the Obama administration is obsessed with controlling all our lives.  “It is not about guns, it is about control” proclaimed  the folks rallying in Annapolis, Maryland.  All this took place on the nation’s first impromptu  “gun appreciation day” (Saturday, 19 January 2013) during which five accidental shooting occurred at celebratory gun shows and three others took place elsewhere.  Nonetheless, as one protester in Maine put it, the right to “bear arms” is “a constitutional right no one can take away.”   Actually, the last twelve years have proved this fellow from Maine quite wrong.  There has been an erosion of ...

Published: Sunday 13 January 2013

 Part I - Does Torture Work? Back in the Fall of 2005 I wrote a essay, published in the journal Logos (issue 4.4), entitled “Torture in our Time.”  In it I laid out the historical evidence for the conclusion that torture rarely works.  This position goes back at least to the Enlightenment when Cesare Beccaria wrote a famous pamphlet, “ On Crimes and Punishments” (1764) in which he observed the obvious: “The impression of pain, then, may increase to such a degree that, occupying the mind entirely, it will compel the sufferer to use the shortest method of freeing himself from torment....He will accuse himself of crimes of which he is innocent so that the very means employed to distinguish the innocent from the guilty will most effectually destroy all difference between them.” Along with false admissions of guilt, those under torture will tell their tormenter just about anything, regardless of truth and accuracy.  Modern researchers, and even modern practitioners of interrogation, know this to be so.  They have come to the same conclusion as Beccaria. Torture produces more false and fictional information than not.   For instance, Darius Rejali in his book Torture and Democracy (2009), tells us that “the available evidence [against the efficacy of torture] is conclusive” and alludes to the fact that, for 250 years, criminologists, and psychologists have been pointing this out.   The ex-intelligence officer, 

Published: Sunday 6 January 2013

 Part I - Haneen Zoabi and Her Mission Haneen Zoabi is an Arab Israeli member of Israel’s parliament, the Knesset.  She was elected in 2009 as a member from the Balad Party.  Balad is an Arab party that was formed in 1995 with the aim of “struggling to transform the state of Israel into a democracy for all its citizens.”  In the West, this is a perfectly normal goal.  But Israel’s Zionist ideology disqualifies it as a “Western” nation.  Thus Balad’s aim is in direct opposition to the Zionist idea of Israel as a “Jewish state,” a concept that Ms Zoabi labels “inherently racist.”   Apparently, Haneen Zoabi is fearless.  She actually lives her principles.  She has been campaigning loudly and very publicly for full citizenship rights for Israel’s Palestinians.  She has also actively opposed Israel’s settlement movement, occupation policies, and its siege of Gaza.  That last effort led her to participate in the international flotilla that sought to break the Gaza siege in May of 2010.  That was the time Israeli commandos attacked the Mavi Marmara in international waters, killing 9 Turkish activists who tried to resist the assault on their ship.  In an outright dictatorship, Ms Zoabi would be in jail or worse.  And, given the direction of Israel’s political evolution, that still might be her fate.  However, as of now she is just the worst nightmare of an ...

Published: Wednesday 26 December 2012

 Part I - What is Education For? The last week of September, 1938 was deemed “American Education Week” and for the occasion President Franklin Delano Roosevelt released a message to the citizenry.  He noted that there were competitive systems of government that were fast coming into conflict and, when it came to the practice and preservation of the political system in the U.S., public education played a vital role.  “Democracy cannot succeed unless those who express their choice are prepared to choose wisely.  The real safeguard of democracy, therefore, is education.”   Thus did Roosevelt tie education to “national security.”  Nonetheless, this was a problematic assertion.  It assumed that citizens actually do choose their leaders rather than just affirming a leader chosen by elites.  And, significantly, it assumed that what is taught in the schools results in the ability to make “wise” political choices. The mission that FDR assigned to education continues to be part of a popular democratic trope that idealizes education’s mission.  Yet, underneath the quixotry there are more pragmatic, and certainly less democratic concerns.  In truth, education has always had two main functions: 1. To train people for the market place.  Before literacy was required for the market place, schools were strictly for those few who went into specialized careers such as religious vocations, scribes and record keepers and the like. Almost everyone else learned what they needed to know through apprenticeships.  For this, there were no instruction manuals to read.  As early modern times saw literacy become more ...

Published: Wednesday 19 December 2012

 Part I - Gun Violence Epidemic Continues Well here we go again.  Late in the evening of July 20th “a masked gunman entered a Colorado movie theater playing the new Batman movie and “opened fire…killing at least 12 people and wounding 50.” [To this we can now add the December 14th massacre of 20 young children and 6 adults by twenty year-old gunman in Newtown Conn].  The gunman was not a large anthropomorphized bat but rather a young white male, and he “was armed with a rifle, a shotgun and two handguns” all of which he had legally obtained. [The Newtown shooter was armed with two handguns and a 45 caliber automatic rifle].  This is nothing new in the Land Of The Free.  Among the more notable victims of the nation’s love affair with deadly weapons have been Abraham Lincoln, James Garfield, William McKinley, John F. Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Ronald Reagan and, of course, John Lennon . Then there are the recent (and periodically on-going) mass murders among the population at large: the Colombine High School shootings, the Beltway sniper incidents, the Virginia Tech massacre, and the 2011 Tucson killings.  To this can be added the daily shootings that occur in every city in the country.  Taking the representative year 2007, there were 31,224 deaths from gunshots with 17,352 of them (56%) being suicides. The numbers have, generally, been going up.  Part II ...

Published: Tuesday 11 December 2012
“As intelligence agencies go, the CIA and its like are fairly good at collecting information, analyzing it, and rendering reasoned judgments as to its meaning.”

 Part I - Magdulien Abaida and the Real Libya  On 3 December 2012, BBC News reported on the plight of Libyan activist Magdulien Abaida.  When the Libyan revolution broke out in Benghazi back in February 2011, she played an important part in developing a positive image of the revolt among European audiences and helped arrange material aid for the rebel forces.  She did this against the backdrop of Western governments describing the rebellion as one that sought “democratic rights” for the Libyan people.  Upon the collapse of the Qaddafi regime, the U.S. State Department issued a statement (2 November 2012) applauding the rebel victory as a “milestone” in the country’s “democratic transition."  This matched Ms Abaida’s expectations.  Unfortunately, her subsequent experience belied the optimism.  With the rebel victory in October 2011, Abaida  returned to Libya to help with the “democratic transition” and promote her particular cause of women’s rights.  However, what she found in her homeland was chaos.  The tribalism that underlies social organization in Libya had come to the fore.   According to Amnesty International, that tribalism is reflected in the activities of  “armed militias...acting completely out of control....There are hundreds of them across the country, arresting people without warrant, detaining them incommunicado, and torturing them....This is all happening while the government is unwilling or ...

Published: Tuesday 11 December 2012
“As intelligence agencies go, the CIA and its like are fairly good at collecting information, analyzing it, and rendering reasoned judgments as to its meaning.”

 Part I - Magdulien Abaida and the Real Libya  On 3 December 2012, BBC News reported on the plight of Libyan activist Magdulien Abaida.  When the Libyan revolution broke out in Benghazi back in February 2011, she played an important part in developing a positive image of the revolt among European audiences and helped arrange material aid for the rebel forces.  She did this against the backdrop of Western governments describing the rebellion as one that sought “democratic rights” for the Libyan people.  Upon the collapse of the Qaddafi regime, the U.S. State Department issued a statement (2 November 2012) applauding the rebel victory as a “milestone” in the country’s “democratic transition."  This matched Ms Abaida’s expectations.  Unfortunately, her subsequent experience belied the optimism.  With the rebel victory in October 2011, Abaida  returned to Libya to help with the “democratic transition” and promote her particular cause of women’s rights.  However, what she found in her homeland was chaos.  The tribalism that underlies social organization in Libya had come to the fore.   According to Amnesty International, that tribalism is reflected in the activities of  “armed militias...acting completely out of control....There are hundreds of them across the country, arresting people without warrant, detaining them incommunicado, and torturing them....This is all happening while the government is unwilling or ...

Published: Wednesday 28 November 2012
“Throughout history it has been standard operating procedure to demonize those you fight and demote to inferior status those you conquer.”

 Part I - Some History  By the middle of the 19th century the multi-ethnic empire was on its way out as the dominant political paradigm in Europe.  Replacing it was the nation-state, a political form which allowed the concentration of ethnic groups within their own political borders.  This in turn formed cultural and “racial” incubators for us (superior) vs. them (inferior) nationalism that would underpin most of the West’s future wars.  Many of these nation states were also imperial powers expanding across the globe and, of course, their state-based chauvinistic outlook went with them.   Zionism was born in this milieu of nationalism and imperialism, both of which left an indelible mark on the character and ambitions of the Israeli state. The conviction of Theodor Herzl, modern Zionism’s founding father, was that the centuries of anti-Semitism were proof positive that Europe’s Jews could not be assimilated into mainstream Western society.  They could only be safe if they possessed a nation state of their own.  This conviction also reflected the European imperial sentiments of the day.  The founders of modern Zionism were both Jews and Europeans, and (as such) had acquired the West’s cultural sense of superiority in relation to non-Europeans.   This sense of superiority would play an important role when a deal (the Balfour Declaration) was struck in 1917 between the World Zionist ...

Published: Monday 19 November 2012
“I don’t believe any of Skolnik’s pseudo-history. I also don’t give a damn who lived in or controlled Palestine three thousand years ago”

 Part I - Introducing Fred Skolnik Soon after my analysis, “In Defense of Robert Falk” (4 November 2012) was published by Media with a Conscience (MWC), the site editor forwarded to me an unusual chastising response.  Unusual because it came from a relatively well-known scholar and writer by the name of Fred Skolnik.  Mr. Skolnik is the editor in chief of a 22 volume Encyclopedia Judaica (second edition), a work that won the Dartmouth Medal in 2007.  He is also the author of numerous works of fiction all concerning life in Israel.  It is not rare for Zionists to take me to task, and Skolnik is most certainly a Zionist.  Yet it is rare that those who chastise are of Skolnik’s stature.  And so, a reply is in order. Mr. Skolnik does not like Dr. Falk who, the reader might remember, is the present United Nations Special Rapporteur for the Palestinian Territories.  And, because I defend Falk, he does not like me either.  Indeed, as far as Skolnik is concerned I am part of “an army of Israel haters...churning out endless... venomous half truths” about the Land of Israel.  Nonetheless, Skolnik has taken the time to write a three page commentary to set me and my readers straight.  He says,  “I will state Israel’s case in as few words as possible, though you of course may not choose to publish this in order not to lose the effect you are aiming at.”  Well, that is silly.  I have no objection to my readers seeing Mr. Skolnik’s response.  Here is how you can do so: go to the MWC site; search for Davidson; go ...

Published: Wednesday 14 November 2012
“All the early indicators are that the second term Obama will be a lot like the first term one.”

 PART I  --  Positives and Negatives Barack Obama won reelection last week (6 November 2012). And, what was the Left’s reaction?  “So what?”  Well, we are spared four years of Mitt Romney.  Again,  “so what?  They are both two peas from the same pod.”  Well maybe, but even peas can vary.  Here are some positive differences to consider.  These will be followed by some negative similarities to Romney and his conservative advisers.  We will start with the bright side: -- In terms of probabilities,  under Obama the U.S. is less likely to find itself at war with Iran then would be the case with Romney.  On such issues as war in the Middle East, Obama seems to be able to think relatively independently while Romney, by his own admission, can’t tell the difference between U.S. interests and those of racist Israel.  -- Obama took a sensible attitude toward the Arab Spring uprising except, of course, in Bahrain where its support for the monarchy was lamentable to say the least.  Romney’s reaction would have been to ring up Netanyahu and ask him what to do.   -- On issues of women’s rights, Gay rights, environmental and educational concerns an Obama administration is much preferable to a Romney one. -- If there are Supreme Court vacancies in the next four years we are much less likely to have extreme conservatives nominated than would have been the case under Mitt Romney. -- Obama dropped Bush’s torture ...

Published: Tuesday 6 November 2012
Professor Falk’s experience should serve as a warning to both those who would, on the one hand, make a career out of being a spokesperson for governments or companies, and on the other, those who would dedicate themselves to “speaking truth to power.”

 Part I - Who is Richard Falk and What Has He Done? Richard Falk is the present United Nations Special Rapporteur for the Palestinian Territories.  His job is to monitor the human rights situation in the territories, with particular reference to international law, and report back to both the U.N. General Assembly and the United Nations Human Rights Council. He is professor emeritus of international law at Princeton University and well qualified for his United Nations post.  Professor Falk was appointed in 2008 to a six year term in his present position. That means he has been telling the unsettling truth about Israeli behavior for four years now, with another two to go. Repeatedly he has documented Israeli violations of international law and its relentless disregard for Palestinian human rights.  For instance: -- In his 2008 report Falk documented the “desperate plight of civilians in Gaza.”-- In his 2009 report Falk described Israel’s assault on the Gaza Strip as a “war crime of the           greatest magnitude.”-- In his 2010 report Falk documented Israel’s array of apartheid policies. -- In his 2011 report Falk documented Israeli policies in Jerusalem and labelled them “ethnic cleansing.” -- And finally, in this latest report for the year 2012, Falk has concentrated on two subjects: First, Israel’s treatment of Palestinian prisoners which, he concludes, is so bad as to warrant ...

Published: Tuesday 30 October 2012
“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.”

 Part I - Savagery On-Going In my last analysis 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 behavior.  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: -- 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 ...

Published: Sunday 21 October 2012
The bulk of the citizens either give support to or are indifferent toward their leader’s actions.

 PART I - The Savage vs. the Civilized Back on 1 August 2012 I posted a piece entitled History on a Billboard.  It reported on the placement, in the northern suburbs of New York City, of informational billboards with  maps of Palestine showing the steady growth of Israeli confiscated territory and the corresponding shrinkage of territory available to the indigenous Palestinians.  It also told the observer that “4.7 million Palestinians are classified by the UN as Refugees.”  Although Zionists labelled the billboard as “anti-Semitic,”  it was nothing of the kind.  It was wholly informational, and completely accurate.   As it turns out that informational effort is now part of a growing number of ads, signs and messages which collectively make up what I call the “billboard wars.”  From San Francisco to Washington D.C. and New York City, both Zionists and pro-Palestinian groups have launched competing billboard efforts. This is going on mostly in publicly owned spaces because Zionist pressure often results in private billboard companies refusing to display pro-Palestinian messages.  Now, depending on how you want to read the message of the latest Zionist effort, the billboard wars battleground has widened beyond the issue of Palestine to encompass a worldwide clash between the “civilized” and the “savage.”  It is to be noted that this was the sort of language used by imperial colonizers, including the U.S. in its conquest of the American Indians, to compare themselves to the indigenous populations they oppressed.  Here is what has happened.  There is a Zionist group calling itself “American Freedom Defense ...

Published: Thursday 11 October 2012
“When it comes to foreign policy, what the powerful and the media tell us is what most of us accept as true.”

 Part I – Earning a Place in the Eighth Rung of Hell Mitt Romney might be the most brazen political liar since James Polk.   Polk, who was the 11th U.S. president (1845-1849),  lied through his teeth–to Congress, to his cabinet, to the newspapers– in order to get the country into a war with Mexico.  Of course, other presidents have lied to this end, for instance presidents Johnson (Vietnam) and Bush Jr. (Iraq), but Polk had the same audacious, “lying is part of what I do,” disposition as does our current Republican candidate.   If one has any doubt about Mitt Romney’s mendacious temperment, the first presidential debate should have put it to rest.  According to one analyst, Romney let loose with “27 myths in 38 minutes,”  finishing with a big grin after most of these prevarications. ...

Published: Sunday 7 October 2012
“You might have noticed how the attitudes toward women of Muslim, Christian and Jewish fundamentalists are quite similar. Each has fixated on the feminist drive for greater gender equality as a threat to their patriarchal concept of social life.”

 Part I -  Taking Progress For Granted People often take things for granted.  Take the concept of progress.  My students all assume that progress is continuous.  In fact, they think that it is inevitable.  Mostly they conceive of progress in terms of technology:  smart phones and computers of every sort. However, there is also a sense that there is a steady and inevitable movement toward the realization of social ideals.  Whether they are conservatives, liberals or libertarians, they all assume that the kind of world they want to live in is the kind of world that will evolve.   That is also true for the feminists in my classes.  They know that they have to fight for gender equality and they are  willing to do so.  Yet they also assume the betterment of women’s conditions will be continuous and that victory for their cause is ...

Published: Thursday 27 September 2012
“It is the way the U.S. political system is run that makes politicians so vulnerable to lobby power.”

 I. The Israel Lobby and How it Operates Much is being made of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s involvement in the on-going American presidential campaign.  His public stance has been characterized as an Israeli effort to  “openly…topple [President] Obama.”  The truth is that the only thing unusual about this meddling is its open and advertised nature.  In a more discrete fashion, Zionist pressure bordering on blackmail and bribery goes on every day.   I have written elsewhere about this corrupting process that I call “lobbification.“  In brief, this is how it operates: Step One:  A lobbyist, in this case someone from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), approaches Congresspersons or Senators.  At some point in time that means every single one of them has been approached:  all 435 voting members of Congress and every one of the 100 voting members of the Senate.  Party affiliation is not an issue here.   Step Two:  The lobbyist offers to organize financial campaign assistance, positive media coverage, briefings on situations in the Middle East, trips to Israel, etc.  Step Three: All that is asked in return is that the recipient consistently vote in a pro-Israel way.  In other words, AIPAC wants the politician to surrender a part of his or her mind to them — that part that might exercise critical and considered judgment on issues pertaining to Israel.   

Published: Saturday 22 September 2012
“The governments of the Muslim world, and indeed all governments, have the legal and moral obligation to protect foreign diplomats, embassies and consulates.”

When I finish one of my analyses I usually look forward to a week to ten day hiatus and sometimes even wonder if I will have to hunt around for the next topic.  It rarely works out that way.  Usually,  within three of four days, something happens which strikes me as worthy of attention.  Often other commentators  have moved more quickly than I to report on the event.    However, there are always more questions to be asked and different perspectives to be offered.   So it is with the death of four American diplomats, including Ambassador Chris Stevens, in Libya on Wednesday 12 September 2012.  There are two mutually reinforcing parts to this tragedy: one takes place here in the USA, and the other in Libya, Egypt and several other places in the Middle East.  Let’s take them in sequence.  Part I ...

Published: Thursday 13 September 2012
“For now, one can only conclude that, come 6 November 2012, it will be a lose-lose situation for progressives and their ideals.”

Part I – Reality TV At The Democratic ConventionOn Wednesday the 5th of September, 2012, in the middle of the Democratic Party convention, U.S. democracy took a big hit. Essentially the convention managers rigged a vote in the manner of those dictatorships that stuff ballot boxes and then announce that 99% of the voters support the dictator in question. Worse yet, the Democrats did this on national TV so millions of other Americans could watch them do it. Here is how it went:

  • The Democratic platform committee had decided to keep all issues pertaining to a final treaty between Israelis and Palestinians out of the platform. After all, Israel and Palestine are foreign nations. Among these issues is the final status of the city of Jerusalem.
  • However, the Republican platform “envisions” Israel with Jerusalem as its capital. Having set this gold standard, the Republicans were trying their best to make the status of Jerusalem a major campaign issue.
  • So, President Obama apparently decided that the politically savvy thing to do was to match the Republicans and put into the .Democratic platform language declaring that “Jerusalem is and will remain the capital of Israel.” (See amendments in picture above).
  • To amend the platform at this point in time required a two-thirds majority vote from the convention floor. So on Wednesday the 5th, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who was chairing the Democratic convention, confidently called for the amending vote.
  • If you would like bear witness to what happened then, click the following: Here is what ...

Published: Saturday 8 September 2012
“If you come across an individual who condemns an entire category of people and is also willing to violently act on the basis of that belief, you might call him or her a pathological racist, or a pathological xenophobe, or a pathological paranoid chauvinist.”

Caterpillar’s D9-R Armored Bulldozer Rachel Corrie Part I – The Death of Rachel Corrie On 16 March 2003, the last day of her life, 23 year old Rachel Corrie was in the Gaza town of Rafah standing in front of the Palestinian family home (not just a house) of Dr. Samir Nasrallah. Dr. Nasrallah was a local pharmacist and Ms Corrie had been staying with his family while serving as part of an International Solidarity Movement (ISM) cadre seeking to disrupt the Israeli army’s (IDF) on-going demolition of Palestinian homes. Between 2000 and 2004, the Israelis had destroyed enough homes in the Rafah area to leave some 1700 people homeless. The Israeli army claimed they did this because these homes were used as “terrorist hiding places.” The result, they claimed, was frequent gunfire at Israeli settlements and soldiers. Yet for the time that Ms Corrie stayed with the Nasrallahs, everyone in the home had slept on the floor and away from the windows to avoid a constant barrage of gunfire from Israeli snipers. On the day that Ms Corrie died, she had interposed herself between the Nasrallah home and a very large “D9R” armored Caterpillar bulldozer driven by an Israeli soldier. This was one of those infamous, made-in-the-USA machines sold to Israel by the Caterpillar Inc. even though the CEO, Board of Directors and sales staff know that their product is used to destroy homes in ways that violate ...

Published: Saturday 1 September 2012
“In the United States the core need is consistent educational and legal pressure against racist behavior both in terms of individual and institutional behavior.”

Part I — Some BackgroundThe Ku Klux Klan (the name derives from the Greek word Kuklos meaning circle with a modification of the word clan added), an American terrorist organization, was founded in Pulaski, Tennessee in 1865. It was organized by Southerners who refused to reconcile themselves to the defeat of the Confederacy in the Civil War, and its declared mission was to “maintain the supremacy of the white race in the United States.” To this end it adopted tactics in the southern states that would so terrify emancipated African Americans and their white allies, that they would not dare to vote, run for public office, or intermingle with whites except in “racially appropriate” ways.Intimidation took many forms. Non-whites and their allies who sought to assert civil rights were threatened, assaulted and frequently murdered. If they were women they were subjected to assault and rape. The property of these people was destroyed, their homes and meeting places attacked with bombs or burned. Finally, a favorite tactic was lynching.Lynching was/is murder carried out by a mob that collectively thinks it is protecting the community and/or its traditions. Between 1882 and 1930 the Klan and allied organizations lynched some 3,000 people, mostly black men. Often the accusation was that the black male victim had sought sexual relations with white women. It was very rare that those involved in these murders, which were carried out quite openly with little effort to hide identities, were arrested for their actions much less convicted and adequately punished. This, in turn, was possible because of a number of factors:– First and foremost, the belief that African Americans, and subsequently all non-whites, were dangerous to ...

Published: Monday 20 August 2012
“Following this ideology, a Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan presidency would most likely increase the pace of deregulation and destroy what is left of the country’s safety nets.”

Part I - The Good Old Bad Days In the 132 years between 1797 and 1929, there was no effective regulation of U.S. economy. No federal agencies existed to control corruption, fraud and exploitation on the part of the business class. Even during the Civil War, economic management on a national level was minimal and war profiteering common. As a result the country experienced 33 major economic downturns which impacted roughly 60 of the years in question. These included 22 recessions, 4 depressions, and 7 economic “panics” (bank runs and failures). Then came the Great Depression starting with the crash of the New York stock market in 1929. This soon became a worldwide affair which lasted until the onset of World War II. Millions were thrown out of work, agricultural production partially collapsed, and the fear of rebellion and revolution was palpable both in the U.S. and Europe. It is to be noted that the way capitalism worked over these 132 years was a function of ideology. This was (and still is) the so-called free market ideology which taught that if the government was kept as small as possible (basically having responsibility for internal order, external defense, and the enforcement of contracts), the citizenry would have to pay very low taxes and be left alone to pursue their own prosperity. Thus, as the ideology goes, everyone would be free to maximize their own wealth and in doing so also maximize the wealth of the community as a whole. The Great Depression was a real moment of truth for the capitalist West because it suggested to the open-minded that the free market ideology was seriously flawed. Free market practices had brought the economic system to the brink of collapse, and Russia’s newly triumphant communists represented serious competition. So the question that ...

Published: Sunday 12 August 2012
“Given that Americans know so little about so much of what they have strong opinions about, it is inevitable that know-nothingness should contaminate the politics of the nation.”

 Part I – The Know-Nothings, Then and Now There is a universal phenomenon that I call natural localism.  The majority of people, wherever they might live,  are affected by this condition.  It results in limited knowledge–knowledge of what is local and ignorance (often breeding fear) of what is not local.  Unless countered by positive education and tolerance,  natural localism can result in aggressive behavior toward the unfamiliar. In the year 1849, natural localism was institutionalized in a small nativist party in the United States called The American Party.  It was basically an anti-immigrant affair.  White men who were ignorant and fearful of outsiders came to see Catholic immigrants of all descriptions undermining the true character of ...

Published: Saturday 4 August 2012
“It is ironic in the aftermath of the Holocaust that international law was strengthened and now, as the history so simply displayed on Mr. Clifford’s billboards tells us, it is the Israelis who choose to cast it aside.”

Part I – History On A BillboardFor the past few weeks, those taking local trains from New York City’s wealthier suburbs into Manhattan have encountered a succinct billboard history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The lesson comes in the form of four aligned maps showing the absorption of Palestinian land by Israel from 1946 to the present, along with a declaration that “4.7 million Palestinians are classified by the U.N. as refugees.” In all respects, the ad is historically correct.  This was made possible thanks to the efforts of Mr. Henry Clifford, chairman of the area’s local Committee for Peace in Israel/Palestine, who purchased the billboard space so as to educate readers to what really is happening under the Israeli regime of occupation so generously supported by U.S. dollars. Immediately the ads were labeled “anti-Semitic” by area rabbis and Jewish community leaders. Here is the reasoning of Dovid Efune, “editor of the Manhattan-based Jewish newspaper, The Algemeiner.”  “This is anti-Semitic because when people think of the Jews they think of theJewish state. Jews have seen this happen many times. It always starts withmessaging that says Jews are committing a crime.”  Three things are to be said about Mr. Efune’s reaction: 1) On one hand, he seems not to care that the map display and UN statistic are accurate and what that means for the lives of millions of people. 2) On the other, and no doubt quite inadvertently, he does infer that what the ...

Published: Monday 30 July 2012
“In the United States, this process of diffusion was allowed based on a peculiar interpretation of Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.”

Part I - Gun Violence Epidemic Continues  Well here we go again. Late in the evening of July 20th “a masked gunman entered a Colorado movie theater playing the new Batman movie and “opened fire…killing at least 12 people and wounding 50.” The gunman was not a large anthropomorphized bat but rather a young white male, and he “was armed with a rifle, a shotgun and two handguns” all of which he had legally obtained.  This is nothing new in the Land Of The Free. Among the more notable victims of the nation’s love affair with deadly weapons have been Abraham Lincoln, James Garfield, William McKinley, John F. Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Ronald Reagan and, of course, John Lennon. Then there are the recent (and periodically on-going) mass murders among the population at large: the Colombine High School shootings, the Beltway sniper incidents, the Virginia Tech massacre, and the 2011 Tucson killings. To this can be added the daily shootings that occur in every city in the country. Taking the representative year 2007, there were 31,224 deaths from gunshots with 17,352 of them (56%) being suicides. The numbers have, generally, been going ...

Published: Saturday 21 July 2012
Guess Which One Wins?

Part I - Two Ideologies  There are two very powerful, and fully internalized ideologies in today’s America: one is nationalism and the other is capitalism. Nationalism Pope John Paul II once remarked that "pervading nationalism imposes its dominion on man today in many different forms and with an aggressiveness that spares no one." Whatever else you might think of this Pontiff, he makes a good point here–and one applicable to the U.S.A. American politicians never tire of telling us that ours is the greatest nation on earth and, for the world’s sake, we must aggressively (often by war) expand our freedoms, as well as our general culture, to the ends of the earth. Actually, this is a message that has been repeated for two hundred years and "its dominion" here in the "land of the free" is manifest. For many citizens, this assumption is one of the primary reasons we invaded Iraq, are hanging on in Afghanistan, and swear eternal loyalty to the Israelis. It is probably the case that American political and civic leaders invoke God and national manifest destiny more than those of any other nationality. Capitalism  This is the world’s prevalent economic system. It is based on private ownership of the means of production and the creation of goods and services for profit. Wage labor is an important element on the cost side of the capitalist ledger. So are things like safe working conditions and worker benefits. The capitalist impulse is to minimize costs in order to maximize profit. Left to themselves, capitalists will pay workers (white collar or otherwise) the lowest possible wages and deny or minimize other benefits. They ...

Published: Saturday 21 July 2012
Guess Which One Wins?

Part I - Two Ideologies  There are two very powerful, and fully internalized ideologies in today’s America: one is nationalism and the other is capitalism. NationalismPope John Paul II once remarked that "pervading nationalism imposes its dominion on man today in many different forms and with an aggressiveness that spares no one." Whatever else you might think of this Pontiff, he makes a good point here–and one applicable to the U.S.A. American politicians never tire of telling us that ours is the greatest nation on earth and, for the world’s sake, we must aggressively (often by war) expand our freedoms, as well as our general culture, to the ends of the earth. Actually, this is a message that has been repeated for two hundred years and "its dominion" here in the "land of the free" is manifest. For many citizens, this assumption is one of the primary reasons we invaded Iraq, are hanging on in Afghanistan, and swear eternal loyalty to the Israelis. It is probably the case that American political and civic leaders invoke God and national manifest destiny more than those of any other nationality. Capitalism This is the world’s prevalent economic system. It is based on private ownership of the means of production and the creation of goods and services for profit. Wage labor is an important element on the cost side of the capitalist ledger. So are things like safe working conditions and worker benefits. The capitalist impulse is to minimize costs in order to maximize profit. Left to themselves, capitalists will pay workers (white collar or otherwise) the lowest possible wages and deny or minimize other benefits. They will ignore worker safety and deny any responsibility for worker health. The only reason ...

Published: Saturday 14 July 2012
“That four year cycle comes to us with the regularity of a returning comet, accompanied by a shroud of campaign fog that makes a guessing game of discerning fact from fiction when it comes to political promises.”

I – Come November Soon it will be presidential voting time again in the U.S.. That four year cycle comes to us with the regularity of a returning comet, accompanied by a shroud of campaign fog that makes a guessing game of discerning fact from fiction when it comes to political promises. A hefty minority have opted out of this process. Thus, if history runs consistent, when the designated day in November arrives, between 38 and 40% of America’s eligible voters will automatically (without even thinking about it) stay away from the polls. Voting appears not to be part of their local culture: they obviously do not think the results touch them in a personal way.  They feel their vote is meaningless, and they see the candidates as irredeemable liars not to be taken seriously. The behavior of this minority is not in doubt. However, there is yet another group of eligible voters whose actions in November are in doubt. These are people who are regular voters, but are now so put off by their usual party candidate that they refuse to support him. They will either not vote at all or cast a vote for a minor third party. Back in 2000 and again in 2005, when George W. Bush, Jr. stood for election, a good number of moderate Republicans suffered a voting dilemma of this sort. Seeing the Republican Party of Dwight Eisenhower and Nelson Rockefeller (whatever we on the left might think of these folks) taken over by a proven neo-con screwball like Bush Jr. must have made many of them hesitate to vote in their usual fashion. Maybe that is what made the elections so close that only a series of fraudulent maneuvers got George W. elected.  This year an unknown ...

Published: Saturday 30 June 2012
“This behavior on the part of our elected officials and appointed diplomats is a function of corruption.”

The State Department is that branch of government that has responsibility for foreign policy. Every U.S. embassy and consulate is an extension of the State Department. U.S. citizens traveling abroad, be it on a short vacation to Canada or Mexico or an extended venture for business or study to anywhere on the globe where the U.S. has diplomatic relations, can rely on assistance in an emergency from the State Department. Well, almost anywhere. How about Israel? In theory there is no difference between the behavior of State Department personnel in Israel and anywhere else. If you go to the State Department’s website and look under Israel, Entry and Exit Difficulties it will tell you how to contact the embassy or consulates, in case of need, depending on where in the country you are. Thus, if you are stuck at Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion airport you should contact the consular section of the U.S. Embassy (972) (3) 519-7575. If you are stuck at the Allenby Bridge border crossing you have to ring up the consulate in Jerusalem (972) (2) 630-4000. But, again, that’s theory. In practice, however, the behavior of the State Department’s diplomatic personnel in Israel is quite different than that of diplomats in other countries. In fact, like everything else touching on Israel, U.S. diplomatic practice has been corrupted by the power and influence of the Zionist lobby in Washington. Take the recent case of Sandra Tamari. Ms Tamari is a Quaker, the mother of two children, an American citizen of Palestinian dissent, and also a member of the St. Louis Palestine Solidarity Committee. She traveled to Israel at ...

Published: Monday 21 May 2012
The fact is that, in terms of social conscience, the U.S. is still quite a primitive place and this primitiveness is sustained by a philosophy of selfishness.

Part I - Health Care in the USA On 7 May 2012 a new study came out on healthcare in the United States. Based on research carried out by the Urban Institute, the report is published in the journal Health Affairs. Here are some of its findings: – There is a prevailing "trend toward private insurance policies with larger deductibles and higher co-payments..."– "Employers [are] shifting more [heath care] costs onto workers." – "Poor and uninsured adults [there are presently 41 million such people in the U.S.] had greater difficulties not just with health care costs, but finding doctors who would see them." In addition, "too few providers are taking Medicaid" patients. – One consequence of this trend is that "one in five American adults under 65 had an ‘unmet medical need’ because of costs in 2010, compared with one in eight in 2000." What all this means is that health care in the U.S. has deteriorated in the first decade of the 21st century. That was also reflected in a 2005 study by the World Health Organization that ranked the United States (supposedly the richest of nations) as 141st in government spending on health. Perhaps not unrelated, the U.S. ranks number 1 in the world when it comes to anxiety disorders. 

Published: Monday 20 February 2012
“According to James Clapper, the National Intelligence Director, ‘despite the hype surrounding Iran’s pursuit of nuclear technology, the country’s leaders are not likely to develop weapons unless attacked.’”

In mid February 2012 an array of top U.S. intelligence chiefs appeared before Senate Intelligence Committee to give their annual report on "currant and future worldwide threats" to national security. Those testifying included CIA Director David Petraeus, National Intelligence Director James Clapper, Defense Intelligence Agency Director Lt. General Ronald Burgess, and FBI Director Robert Mueller. Their presentations on what is and is not a real threat to the nation, as well as the reaction of the senators holding the hearings, turned out to be an exercise in one dimensional thinking. What is real? Well, what comports with your point of view. Here are two examples from their testimony:1. The Enemy Within – Rogue individuals operating "within the ranks" of the intelligence community and armed forces" now constitute a major threat to U.S. security. According to Lt. General Burgess these people are "self-radicalized lone wolves." He then pointed to the "recent massive Wikileaks disclosures."Everyone involved in these hearings agreed with this assertion even though it is based on a dubious, yet unquestioned, assumption. The assumption is that the behavior of U.S. government forces is a model of acceptable normal military and intelligence behavior. Those who work for the government but find this behavior unacceptable, and indeed a criminal betrayal of all that is humane, and then do something about that conviction, are "self-radicalized"dangers to national security.But what if the support of oppressive and racist regimes, the invasion of other ...

Published: Sunday 5 February 2012
“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.”

Part I - Two 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 towardIsrael.

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 ...

Published: Sunday 15 January 2012

Part I - Flawed Systems

Winston Churchill once said that "No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except for all the others that have been tried from time to time." He was right. Democracy in its various manifestations is a flawed system, flawed by virtue of its roots. By definition it is the system where power flows from the people (or at least a supposed majority of the people), and as there are no perfect people, then.... Well, the logic speaks for itself.

Many of democracy’s problems are common to all forms of governance. For instance, (a) the tendency of a political leader to mistake his or her own interests or that of his party, for the nation’s or community’s interests and (b) the corruptive influence of powerful subgroups or lobbies usually coming through the manipulation of money and other resources. The ubiquitous nature of these problems suggest that they are structural. That is they are built into the system no matter what form a government takes. That does not mean such flaws cannot be held in check or minimized. As James Madison, the father of the U.S. Constitution believed, they might be subject to control by a well crafted constitution. However, it is unlikely that they can be eliminated.

Part II - Today In The USA

Today, we are presented with a stark example of U.S. democracy’s systemic flaws. Again, these bring together the influence of small but powerful and wealthy subgroups with the tendency of national leaders to define interests in personal ways. The trigger for the present structural malfunction is a foreign policy issue. It is the issue of Iran (which, alas, is a reworking of the recent issue of Iraq).

As the Consortium News website

Published: Friday 30 December 2011

Part I - New York City

The announcement came from the mayor’s office of New York City (NYC) on 19 December 2011 in the form of an eleven page declaration. It begins "Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, Cornell University President David J. Skorton, and Technion-Israel Institute of Technology President Peretz Lavie today announced an historic partnership to build a two-million-square-foot applied science and engineering campus on Roosevelt Island in New York City." This is the result of an Applied Sciences Competition that drew at least seven competitors from around the world.

Good news? Well, NYC officials certainly think so: "Thanks to this outstanding partnership...New York City’s goal of becoming a global leader in technological innovation is now within sight." And all it will cost the city is some public land on Roosevelt Island and "$100 million in city capital to assist with site infrastructure." Oh yes, and written in invisible ink, ‘the forfeiture of one municipal soul." That is the catch. What we have here is a three way pact with the Devil. There is New York City and........

Part II - Cornell University

Cornell University is an 147 year old elite institution located in Ithaca New York. According to the announcement cited above it is "a global leader in the fields of applied science, engineering technology, and research, as well as commercialization and entrepreneurship." Just what NYC was looking for. 

Cornell is led by David J. Skorton, a former professor of medicine and a proven college administrator. He has been the university’s president since 2006. Among other things, president Skorton presents himself as an ethical leader. Back ...

Published: Friday 23 December 2011
“Jewish criticism of Israel is growing quickly and this creates a frustrating dilemma for the Zionists.”

Part I

On 12 December 2011 hundreds of Israeli settler fanatics besieged a West Bank IDF army base. They destroyed equipment, set fires, and even stoned the base soldiers. This was the second such attack in a month. The cause? Anger over the army’s dismantlement of a small number of isolated, unauthorized settler outposts. The Chief of the Central Command of the Israel "Defense" Forces, Major General Avi Misrahi, is quoted as saying "I have not seen such hatred of Jews towards soldiers during my 30 years of service." He must not have been looking.

This was not an exceptional event. The subsequent indignation over the attack expressed by Prime Minister Netanyahu ("red lines have been crossed") was, as Alex Fishman writing in Yedioth Ahronoth put it, staged hypocrisy. The Prime Minister is certainly aware that for some time there has been on-going skirmishing between the settlers and government security forces. Right wing settlers regularly throw rocks and fire bombs at police and army vehicles and "physical altercations" between settlers and Israeli police and soldiers are "almost routine." This is so despite the fact that the government, both Prime Minister and Knesset, "either tacitly or openly" support the settlers; then why the hatred and why the attacks?

At this stage the battle is over strategy. The Israeli government wants to gobble up all of Palestine in an orderly step by step fashion. In part, this is to avoid too much international criticism at any particular stage of the process. On the other hand, the settlers don’t give a damn about ...

Published: Sunday 27 November 2011
“As the settlements expand, Israeli democracy shrinks.”

Part I - Bad Movies

Have you seen those old time movies notable for their endings? The cowboy is seen riding into the sunset or the lovers are reunited, etc. And then comes the end - the screen dramatically fades to black. Most of these movies are pretty bad. The stories are predictable, the acting melodramatic and directing inept. Well, this genre seems to be making a comeback, but off the screen rather than on it. In this revival, the Israelis are leading the way.

Israel’s bad movie starts out as an historical drama with moral overtones. It’s the story of Israeli democracy but, unfortunately, it has an illogical and misguided script. It begins with the premise that you can have a religiously exclusive democracy amidst a multi-religious population. Under these circumstances happy endings are impossible and the drama quickly turns to tragedy.

Part II - Final Act

The final act of this tragedy appears to be playing itself out before our eyes. It opened in 2009 with the second term of Prime Minister Netanyahu Netanyahu is a hard-line "Likudnik" determined to expand Israel to the Jordan River (if not the Potomac). That makes him an ally and supporter of the settler fanatics who represent today’s version of Zionist fascists.

There is a correlation between the condition of Israeli democracy and the ambitions of Netanyahu’s allies. As the settlements expand, Israeli democracy shrinks. This in turn is tied into the fact that the prime minister is determined to keep greater Israel demographically Jewish, and this means expansion must be coupled with ethnic cleansing. One can see this clearly in present Israeli policies in East Jerusalem as well as the violent harassment of Palestinians by settler thugs throughout the West Bank. Following logically from the flawed premise in the original script, this is a perfectly predictable ending for the story of modern Israel.

The drama ...

Published: Wednesday 2 November 2011
“The hard fact is that any suggestion on the part of Ms Rice that there has ever been a time when such a jump from rags to riches was possible for most Americans is as misleading as the stories she spun to help get us into the Iraq war.”

Condoleezza Rice was both National Security Advisor and Secretary of State under President George W. Bush. She was also an administration spokesperson who helped scare the American people into supporting the invasion of Iraq. She accomplished this by invoking the image of “mushroom clouds” incinerating the skylines of America. In doing so she gave credence to the false story that Iraq was a threat to the United States because it possessed weapons of mass destruction (WMDs).

Rice is presently on a lecture tour promoting her 734 page memoir entitled No Higher Honor (Crown, 1 November 2011). That is what brought her to the Belk Theater on the campus of Queens University in Charlotte, North Carolina on 25 October 2011. There she spoke to a packed house of 2000 people. Actually, what made this event notable was not the large numbers who had come to hear her, but rather that, among other things, Condoleezza Rice chose to speak about values.

According to Ms. Rice our present challenge “is not China or Brazil or India, and certainly not Europe. The challenge is the United States gone badly.” Well, she should know. Despite the fact that values are fluid concepts most people esteem the precepts underlying honest government and respect for the law. Most but not all, and it may very well be that Rice is not with the majority on this. There is no living group of individuals who have done more to undermine these sorts of crucial values than those who worked in the Bush Jr. White House. Truth in government, due process in the Justice System, personal protection from official spying, regulating economic greed and corruption, and a general respect for the Constitution and its Bill of Rights, you name it and they managed to trash it. And, of course, Condoleezza Rice was there throughout the entire eight your assault on those sorts of values.

Not surprisingly, in her Charlotte address Rice avoided these topics and instead ...

Published: Wednesday 26 October 2011

Not too long ago I gave a talk on the Palestinian bid for statehood. In the audience was a Russian-Israeli expatriate who politely took exception to my criticisms of Israeli policies and behavior. His main point was that I could not credibly criticize the Israelis because I had not experienced what they had and did not know what they knew. Or, to put it in a more homey manner, I had not walked in their shoes. “Israelis have been trying to find solutions to the Israeli-Palestinian dilemma for over sixty years, so what gives you the wisdom to criticize them and tell them what they should do?” This is an old and often used objection and, if taken literally, would suggest that outside mediation is never possible.

My response to this was quite pointed: it is exactly because Israelis have been entangled in this dilemma for so long and, in addition, have passed off to themselves as well as others their hidden expansionist ambitions as “security” needs, that most of them are incapable of coming up with a just and equitable solution. They therefore very much need those with an outside and relatively objective view to critique their actions.

Essentially, most Israelis live in a “closed information environment.” This is so despite their claim to have a free media. That media may be technically free, but it is nonetheless dominated by the nation’s Zionist ideology and the political and social assumptions it expounds. Counter views may indeed exist, but they do so only as rare exceptions or at the margins. So consistent is the Zionist interpretation of things that, for the country’s Jewish citizenry, it now constitutes a “thought collective” and as such dictates the parameters of their thinking. Under such circumstances, it is only by standing outside this “thought collective” (as do a small number of clear sighted progressive folks on the Israeli margins) and looking in that one ...

Published: Saturday 8 October 2011

Part I – What “Real Democratic Rights”?

In his speech to Congress on 24 May 2011 Prime Minister Netanyahu boasted that “Of the 300 million Arabs in the Middle East and North Africa, only Israel’s Arab citizens enjoy real democratic rights.” This is, of course, a variation on the oft cited claim that Israel is “the only democracy in the Middle East.” Leaving aside places like Lebanon and now potentially Tunisia and Egypt, one can ask just how “real” are these democratic rights the Prime Minister claims for Israel’s Arabs? Here is some recent evidence that speaks to this question.

1. At the end of September 2011 the Israeli government announced “a plan to displace 30,000 native Bedouin Arabs [all of whom are Israeli citizens]...from their homes [in the Negev].” This would constitute “the biggest dispossession plan of Palestinians issued by Israel since 1948. It would forcibly relocate about half of the Bedouin population from their existing villages, which are older than the State of Israel itself....”

Why should Israel do this to the Bedouin? Is it to facilitate their enjoyment of their “real democratic rights”? Well not quite. According to head of the Regional Council of Ramat Ha-Negev, a Zionist settlement in the region, the reason goes like this, “I want the Negev to be Jewish....Jewish settlement must grow, must continue.....What do you mean by ‘they [the Bedouin] also have rights’! You know what–after all this it is no longer possible to conceal the core problem, which is the struggle over the land. Who does this land belong to–us or them?”

2. At the Beginning of October 2011 leaders of the Jewish settler movement announced their ...

Published: Monday 3 October 2011

Has anyone noticed that the political air is wafting rancid lately? That is the smell of modern barbarism. Modern barbarism is a malodorous umbrella concept. Underneath the umbrella are lots of fetid phobias, isms and behaviors: Islamophobia, homophobia, xenophobia, semi-fascism, scapegoating, stereotyping, bullying, libeling and a growing, aggressive intolerance of everything and everyone who is not to the liking of the modern barbarian. Here are some recent instances of this phenomenon.

Part I - Mistaking the Particular for the General

Michael Quigley, a Democratic Congressman from Chicago, made the New York Times on 24 September 2011. He made it by promoting the virtues of tolerance and diversity and lamenting the suffering that occurs when tolerance fails. Out and about in his Chicago district, he stopped in at a meeting of the American Islamic Conference. He made a short speech to the 100 or so conferees during which he said "discrimination comes in many forms, many shapes and many guises. You have my pledge to work with you to fight them, and I think it is appropriate for me to apologize on behalf of this country for the discrimination you face." Mr. Quigley was correct about the growing levels of Islamophobia that confront Muslim Americans. Islamophobia is a delusional mind-set which mistakes the general for the particular, which condemns an entire group (which happens to have a billion plus members) for the particular actions of a very few. There is no logic to such an overreaching generalization. It is irrational.

Within days of Mr. Quigley’s brief presentation he was "attacked harshly...in the conservative blogosphere...on radio and TV." There was "at least one death threat on a Fox news site that by week’s end was still not taken down despite ...

Published: Friday 23 September 2011

Part I - The Erosion Universal Jurisdiction

Back on 12 February 2011 I put out an analysis on the subject of Universal Jurisdiction. Here is the first paragraph from the piece:

“One of the really progressive acts that followed the end of World War II was the establishment of the principle of universal jurisdiction (UJ). UJ is a legal process that allows states that are signatories to various international treaties and conventions (such as the Geneva conventions) to prosecute alleged violators of these treaties, even when these violations are committed outside the country’s borders. This is particularly so if it can be demonstrated that the home government of the accused has no intention of bringing them to trial for the alleged offense. The assumption behind this principle is that the crime committed is so egregious as to be seen as a crime against humanity at large. In the wake of the Nazi Holocaust and other such crimes against humanity, UJ was accepted as a necessary and positive legal step by almost all Western nations.”

It has been 66 years since the end of World War II and the memory of the concentration camps has faded (except when invoked as a political tool by Zionists). Nor has the subsequent holocausts such as those in Cambodia, Rwanda and Bosnia been sufficient to keep the issue of crimes against humanity front and center in the governmental minds of the great powers. The historical fact is that such truly horrible crimes committed at the edges of the European world or beyond have never been seen as symbolically important in the same way the Nazi holocaust was. And so we cease to pay attention. That allows for the erosion of the safeguards against these crimes such as UJ.

Now we have proof of this process of erosion. On 15 September 2011

Published: Monday 12 September 2011

There is an interesting phenomenon which we can call "the political retiree’s confession." I don’t mean all those hyped memoirs, ghost written for all manner of high ranking ex-officials. Here I refer to statements by important political leaders and bureaucrats, either out of office or about to vacate their positions, publically describing what really needs to be done. For instance, what really needs to be done to obtain peace, or accurately pointing fingers at those obstructing peace. These statements can be shocking in their honesty, but curiously enough, are never made, much less acted upon, while the truth sayer is in a position of power. They come to us only with retirement or pending retirement.

For example, take former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. Olmert was Prime Minister from 2006 (replacing Ariel Sharon who had suffered a debilitating stroke) till early 2009. A few months before leaving office Olmert told the newspaper Yediot Aharonot that, in the end, Israel would have to return "almost all" of the West Bank to the Palestinians, including East Jerusalem. There was no other way to achieve peace with the Arab world. Olmert went on, "the decision we are going to have to make is the decision we have been refusing for 40 years to look at open-eyed....The time has come to say these things. The time has come to put them on the table." Of course "the time" oddly coincided with a period when the Prime Minister could not move this insight from theory into practice.

Now we have another example of this strange phenomenon. This time from the United States. According to Jeffrey Goldberg, the national correspondent for The Atlantic magazine, former ...

Published: Saturday 3 September 2011

In the wake of the dubious UN investigatory report which all but exonerated Israel for its May 31, 2010 attack on the Mavi Marmara–an attack that killed 8 Turkish citizens and 1 Turkish-America–Turkey has downgraded its diplomatic relations with Israel and suspended all military cooperation. Ankara had little choice in this matter. The Israeli attack was egregious. It took place in international waters against an unarmed civilian vessel and was carried out in defense of a barbaric and illegal policy of collective punishment against one million Palestinians bottled up in Gaza by an Israeli blockade.For their part, the Israelis claim that they murdered the Mavi Marmara Turks in self-defense. I juxtapose the words self defense and murder quite purposefully, for the Turkish passengers were in the process of defending themselves from a violent assault when they were gunned down by Israeli soldiers who now describe their actions as self-defense. This scenario is a tragic parody of a hundred years of Zionist action in the Middle East. Having come to the region in the baggage train of an imperial occupying power (Great Britain) and successfully establishing themselves by evicting the native population (a process that is on-going), the Israelis define all acts of resistence to their aggression as attacks which require their defending themselves. The Mavi Marmara action fits neatly into this Zionist world of peculiar logic. In this sense, they turn the world upside down.The Turkish government will have none of this and demanded the minimum of decency from the Israelis–an apology and compensation. In so doing they stand for civilized behavior. The ...

Published: Thursday 1 September 2011

Part I - Entrapment as Government Policy

Here is an important question: What single organization is responsible for more terror plots in the USA than any other? Possible answers: Al Qaida. That would no doubt be the popular answer but it would be wrong. The KKK. Way past their prime, so that is not it. The Jewish Defense League. Good guess, but still not it. So what is the correct answer? It is the Federal Bureau of Investigation, AKA the FBI. Don’t believe me? Well, just read Trevor Aaronson’s expose entitled "The Informants" published in the September/October 2011 issue of Mother Jones.

Aaronson looked at over 500 terrorism related cases taken up by the FBI and found that over half of them involved the Bureau’s stable of 15,000 informants. Many of these are ex-felons and con men who are often paid well if their efforts result in an arrest and conviction. So what, you might say. Using informants to obtain information about criminal activity is an old and legitimate tactic. Yes, however, that approach to information gathering is not exactly how the FBI uses all of its informants. Indeed, the Bureau has a program, misnamed "prevention" which encourages its agents to get creative in the use of informants. How creative? Well, if they can’t find any terrorist activity going on, they have their informants instigate some. Where are they doing this? Mainly in our country’s Muslim communities.

According to the Mother Jones story the FBI has concluded that Al-Qaeda as an organization is no longer a major threat to the US. The threat now comes from the "lone wolf," the person who is angry at or frustrated by their life situation and open to the influence of terrorist rhetoric. Allegedly, the American Muslim community is full of these "lone wolves" just sitting out there fuming, ...

Published: Friday 26 August 2011

Part I - Stretching the Definition of Anti-SemitismCan criticism of Israel, particularly a) criticism of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinian people and b) criticism of the state ideology of Zionism that justifies that treatment, be labeled anti-Semitic? This is not a hypothetical query. An affirmative answer to this question is being advocated by influential Zionist lobbies in the United States. The question is of particular importance on the nation’s college and university campuses. In places like the University of California at Berkeley and Santa Cruz, and also at Rutgers University in New Jersey, Zionist students are now threatening to sue these institutions for failing to prevent an "atmosphere of anti-Semitic bigotry" allegedly created by the presence of pro-Palestinian student groups and faculty.One might ask if it isn’t a stretch to assert that protesting Israeli and Zionist behavior is the same as anti-Semitism? Common sense certainly tells us this is so. Unfortunately, we are not dealing with situations that are ruled by common sense. What we are facing here is the issue of ideologues bred to a specific perceptual paradigm and their insistence that others conform to it.Here is an example: Take an American kid from a self-conscious Jewish home. This kid does not represent all American Jewish youth, but does typify say 20% of them. He or she is taught about the religion and also taught about recent history and the near annihilation of the Jews of Europe. He or she is sent to Hebrew school, and maybe a yeshiva school as well. Most of our hypothetical student’s friends will be Jewish and of similar background. Between home, friends and school the student might well find him or herself in something of a closed universe. Throughout this educational process Judaism and its fate in the modern world is connected with Israel and its survival. The Arabs, and particularly the Palestinians, are transformed ...

Published: Friday 19 August 2011

The electromagnetic spectrum is a window on the real world in all its vast variety. In wavelength it ranges from 0.1 nanometers for gamma rays to long wave infrared waves of a 1000 meters. Humankind has invented instruments that can look out into the world at all of these wave lengths. However, when it comes to the human eye (our innate instrument for seeing) the perceptual range is very much smaller. The visible spectrum ranges from 400 nanometers (which appears to us as violet) to 700 nanometers (which appears to us as red). Leaving aside those who are blind, there are a number of defects that can limit our vision range even further.

Thus, without artificial aids, humankind’s ability to see the natural world and to understand the full range of what is real and operative is quite limited. Unfortunately, this phenomenon of restricted perception is not just physiological. Something akin to it seems to happen on the psychological level as well, inhibiting our sense of the world beyond familiar community and cultural wave lengths. A phenomenon that I call "natural localism" concentrates most people’s attention to the limited geographical area within which they live, work and study. Inside their local zone, people can have first hand knowledge, but they are also led (again quite naturally) to conform their views to those of their neighbors, their friends, their fellow workers, their religious congregations, etc. In many of these categories there will be personalities who stand out as leaders and they often have great influence in shaping the perceptions of local populations. Beyond their local zone most people know little of what is real. The rest of the world is, if you will, beyond the wave lengths they can see and understand. Many folks are simply indifferent to world beyond their own personal sphere. And, most of those who might periodically become interested in what is happening on the other side of the hill, will tend to go ...

Published: Saturday 13 August 2011
An Analysis

 Part I - Education as Indoctrination

Over the last ten years there have been periodic outbursts of rage over the alleged anti-Semitic nature of Palestinian textbooks. Most of these episodes have been instigated by an Israeli based organization called the Center for Monitoring the Impact of Peace (AKA the Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education). According to one Israeli journalist, Akiva Eldar, the Center does sloppy work. It "routinely feeds the media with excerpts from "Palestinian" textbooks that call for Israel’s annihilation...[without] bothering to point out that the texts quoted in fact come from Egypt and Jordan." The Center’s conclusions have been corroborated only by other Israeli institutions such as Palestinian Media Watch.

Not surprisingly, almost all independent investigations of the same issue have come up with very different conclusions. Non-Zionist sources such as The Nation magazine, which published a report on Palestinian textbooks in 2001, the George Eckert Institute for International Textbook Research, reporting in 2002, the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information, reporting in 2004, and the U.S. State Department Report of 2009 all found that Palestinian textbooks did not preach anti-Semitism. Nathan Brown, a professor of Political Science at George Washington University, who did his own study on the subject in 2000, set out the situation this way, Palestinian textbooks now in use, and which replaced older ones published in Egypt and Jordan, do not teach anti-Semitism. However, "they tell history from a Palestinian point of view." It might very well be this fact that the Zionists cannot abide and purposefully mistake for anti-Semitism.

Here is another not very surprising fact. When it comes to choosing which set of reports to support, which set to take a public stand on, American politicians will almost always go ...

Published: Monday 1 August 2011
Israel’s staunch ally, the United States, also opposes, with equal illogic, the Palestinian move toward UN recognition.

On the 26th of July, 2011 Robert Serry, The United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East peace process appeared before the UN Security Council. Mr. Serry is a career Dutch diplomat and had led the Middle Eastern Affairs Division of the Dutch Foreign Ministry. There is every reason to believe that he knows what he is talking about. He told the Security Council that the "peace process," that is the political process allegedly seeking a negotiated settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, had reached a stage of "profound and persistent deadlock." Attempts to resume negotiations are "extremely difficult" he said. And, "in the absence of a framework for meaningful talks, and with Israeli settlement activity continuing, the Palestinians are actively exploring approaching the UN." That is actively considering asking for UN recognition of Palestine as a sovereign state within pre-1967 borders.

Mr. Serry’s description of the negotiations seems pretty straight forward. The two sides are stalemated. And, as the Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat noted, this stalemate follows negotiations that have stretched out over at least 20 years. Indeed, we know that in the most recent phase of these marathon negotiations the Palestinian team had dropped just about all of their original demands. Erekat told U.S. Middle East envoy George Mitchell, that the Palestinian negotiators had done everything but "convert to Zionism." And yet, the Israelis scorned the Palestinian’s offered compromises. As Mr. Serry indicated, Israel’s settlement of Palestinian land continues. In fact throughout this entire 20 year process colonization has gone on unabated. And, of course, all of it is illegal under the Geneva Conventions. One of the reasons that restarting any negotiations is so "extremely difficult" is that the Palestinian side has insisted that, as a prerequisite for any new talks, Israel ...

Published: Sunday 17 July 2011
What investigations have been conducted by the administration have been purposefully designed not to address “the systematic nature of the abuses.”

Part I – Facing the WorldIt was the Scottish poet Robert Burns who, in a 1786 poem, wrote “O would some power the gift to give us to see ourselves as others see us, it would from many a blunder free us.” That gift is now ours in the form of modern polling technology but, alas, Burns underestimated our abilities to turn a blind eye to its revelations and continue our blundering ways. Here is a recent example.The respected polling company Zogby International recently conducted one of its periodic “Arab Attitudes” polls measuring, among other things, the popularity of the United States in the Arab Middle East. This one was conducted between the middle of May and the middle of June, 2011 and involved 4,000 face-to-face interviews in six countries: Morocco, Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. The results are not pretty. As 

Published: Thursday 14 July 2011
Washington has opened the way for Iran’s influence in Iraq to eventually become predominant.

The time for U.S. withdrawal from Iraq is coming closer. In December of 2008 the Iraqi parliament approved the negotiated Status of Forces Agreement that set a deadline of the end of 2011 for all American troops to leave the country. However, just like someone who starts to beg off a promise when the time for action approaches, U.S. officials are now expressing second thoughts.Back on May 24th outgoing Defense Secretary Robert Gates said he “favored extending the American presence, noting that the Iraqi military will need help with logistics, intelligence and defending its airspace and that a continued U.S. military presence will send a ‘powerful signal that we’re not leaving, that we will continue to play a part.’” We will continue to pursue “our role in the region.” Considering that we have known for some time that the Iraq war was waged for false, contrived reasons and thus constitutes the same sort of criminal behavior (the waging of illicit and unnecessary war) that was prosecuted at Nuremberg after World War II, it is difficult to know just how Gates defines “our role.” To date in Iraq, that role has equaled the removal of one dictator (who we once supported) at 

Published: Thursday 7 July 2011
Politics shapes our lives whether we pay attention to it or not.

Part I – Civil Society Movements vs. Corrupt Politics

When it comes to the struggle against Israel’s policies of oppression there are two conflicting levels: that of government and that of civil society. The most recent example of this duality is the half dozen or so small ships held captive in the ports of Greece. The ships, loaded with humanitarian supplies for the one and half million people of the Gaza strip, are instruments of a civil society campaign against the inhumanity of the Israeli state. The forces that hold them back are the instruments of governments corrupted by special interest influence and political bribery.

Most of us are unaware of the potential of organized civil society because we have resigned the public sphere to professional politicians and bureaucrats and retreated into a private sphere of everyday life which we see as separate from politics. This is a serious mistake. Politics shapes our lives whether we pay attention to it or not. By ignoring it we allow the power of the state to respond not so much to the citizenry as to special interests. Our indifference means that the politicians and government bureaucrats live their professional lives within systems largely uninterested in and sometimes incapable of acting in the public good because they are corrupted by lobby power. The ability to render justice is also often a casualty of the way things operate politically. The stymying of the latest flotilla due to the disproportionate influence of Zionist special interests on U.S. and European Middle East foreign policy is a good example of this situation.

There are small but growing elements of society which understand this problem and have moved to remedy it through organizing common citizens to reassert influence in the public sphere. Their efforts constitute civil society ...

ABOUT Lawrence Davidson
Lawrence Davidson is professor of history at West Chester University in West Chester PA. His academic work is focused on the history of American foreign relations with the Middle East. He also teaches courses in the history of science and modern European intellectual history.
ldavidson@wcupa.edu
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