Category Archives: Crime

Netanyahu Seeks to Smash the Joint List and Cement Permanent Rule by Israel’s Far-Right

Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, is only weeks away from the scheduled start of his long-awaited corruption trial – the endgame in a series of investigations that have been looming over him for years. As a result, he has been taking extraordinary measures to save his political skin.

One of the most surprising is his moves to get into bed with politicians representing a section of Israeli society he has long characterized as the enemy.

In recent weeks Netanyahu has been working overtime to prise apart the Joint List, a coalition of 15 legislators in the parliament who represent Israel’s large Palestinian minority. In particular, he has been making strenuous overtures to Mansour Abbas, head of the United Arab List, a conservative Islamic party.

This is a dramatic about-face. Netanyahu’s political trademark over the past five years has been incessant incitement against Israel’s Palestinian minority – one in five of the population.

These 1.8 million citizens are the remnants inside Israel of the Palestinian people, the vast majority of whom were ethnically cleansed from their homeland in 1948, in events Palestinians call their Nakba, or Catastrophe.

Netanyahu appears to hope that sabotaging the Joint List will offer him short-term help as he seeks to evade his trial. But there may be a longer-term electoral dividend too. Destroying the Joint List, now the third largest party in the Israeli parliament, would remove the main stumbling block on the path to permanent rule by the far-right coalition he dominates.

Torrent of incitement

Israel’s Palestinian parties – like the minority they represent – have always been regarded as illegitimate political actors within a self-declared Jewish state. Israeli politicians, including Netanyahu, regularly depict them as a “fifth column” or “supporters of terror”.

The Palestinian parties have never been invited into any of the regular coalition governments that rule Israel. The closest they have been to power was when they propped up the government of Yitzhak Rabin – very much from the outside – in the early 1990s. Even then the arrangement was implemented out of necessity: it was the only way Rabin could get the “Oslo peace process” legislation through the parliament over the opposition of a majority of Jewish legislators.

But even by Israel’s normal standards of racist disdain towards its Palestinian citizens, Netanyahu has unleashed a torrent of incitement against the minority in recent years as he has struggled to maintain his grip on power.

His fear has been that the Palestinian parties might once again gain a role, as they did under Rabin, of serving as kingmakers, helping to support a government from which he would be excluded.

On the eve of polling in a critical general election in 2015, Netanyahu famously issued a warning to Israeli Jews that the Palestinian public were “coming out to vote in droves”.

And during one of last year’s indecisive elections he sent operatives from his Likud party into polling stations in Palestinian communities armed with body cameras in an effort to “kosher” the result – creating the impression that the Palestinian minority was defrauding the Jewish public.

Netanyahu’s Facebook page also sent out an automated message last year to voters claiming that “the Arabs” – including Palestinian citizens – “want to annihilate us all – women, children and men”.

Falling turnout

Netanyahu’s incitement has had two main goals.

He hoped for a low-turnout among the Palestinian minority – and conversely a strong showing by Likud voters – so that Palestinian parties could not bolster his Jewish opponents in the parliament. Falling turnout had been the long-term trend among Palestinian citizens, with barely half voting in the 2009 election that began Netanyahu’s current consecutive governments.

But the incitement efforts largely backfired, stirring the Palestinian minority to turn out in record numbers this March and rallying their support overwhelmingly to the Joint List rather than more moderate Jewish parties.

But more successfully, Netanyahu has also sought to make the idea of allying with the Joint List so toxic that no rival Jewish party would dare to consider it.

In part because of this, Benny Gantz, a former army general who became leader of the center-right Blue and White party, Israel’s version of a “resistance” party to Netanyahu, threw in his hand and joined the Netanyahu government following the inconclusive results of March’s election rather than work with the Joint List.

In return, he is supposed to become alternate prime minister late next year, though few – including apparently Gantz – think Netanyahu will honor such a handover.

The current wave of mass protests by Israeli Jews against Netanyahu, which have been growing weekly despite fears of the pandemic, reflect the sense of many, especially among Gantz’s supporters, that they have been politically abandoned.

Submarines affair

The issue chiefly driving protesters to the streets is not the boxes of cigars and pink champagne Netanyahu and his wife are accused of treating as bribes from rich businessmen. Nor is it the pressure Netanyahu is alleged to have exerted on media organizations to garner himself better coverage.

What really incenses them is the thought that he played fast and loose with – and possibly profited from – the national security of Israel, in what has become known as the submarines affair.

Evidence has amassed that Netanyahu’s government purchased three submarines and four ships from a German firm in defiance of advice from the military. The attorney general, however, appears to have balked at adding yet another indictment to the charge sheet.

It was precisely over the matter of the submarines deal that the budding romance between Netanyahu and Abbas was cemented last month.

Yariv Levin, speaker of the parliament and Netanyahu’s righthand man, appears to have pressured Abbas, a deputy speaker, into voiding a parliamentary vote Abbas oversaw that narrowly approved a commission of inquiry into the submarines affair. That would have proved disastrous for Netanyahu.

In return, the prime minister appears to have offered Abbas a series of favors.

That has included Netanyahu’s unprecedented appearance last week via Zoom at a meeting of a special parliamentary committee headed by Abbas on tackling the current crime wave in Palestinian communities in Israel.

Netanyahu’s attendance at an obscure committee is unheard of. But his sudden interest in the rocketing number of criminal murders among Israel’s Palestinian minority was hard to swallow. He helped to create the economic and social conditions that have fueled the crime wave, and he has done almost nothing to address the lack of policing that turned Palestinian communities into lawless zones.

‘Peace dividend’?

Abbas, however, hopes to leverage his ties with Netanyahu to his own political benefit, despite deeply antagonizing the rest of the Joint List by doing so.

Netanyahu has publicly argued that Palestinian citizens will feel a peace dividend from Israel’s warming ties to Arab states such as the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. He recently told the media: “This revolution that we are carrying out outside of the State of Israel’s borders, we must also carry out within the State of Israel’s borders.”

Abbas has taken credit for Netanyahu’s assurances of an imminent program to improve public safety in Palestinian communities – an issue high on the minority’s agenda.

Netanyahu’s office also recently sent an “official” letter to Abbas confirming plans for large-scale investment in developing Palestinian communities in Israel, allowing the United Arab List leader to claim credit for the initiative.

In fact, the plan was drawn up by Ayman Odeh, head of the Joint List, and negotiated not with Netanyahu’s Likud party but with a Blue and White minister – part of Gantz’s own cynical efforts to keep Joint List legislators onside in case they are needed in a later push to oust Netanyahu.

Return on investment

Netanyahu hopes for a long-term return on his initial investment in Abbas.

First he may need Abbas’s four seats in his complex coalition arithmetic. If Netanyahu calls another general election – as he is expected to do to avoid implementing the promised hand-over to Gantz, the defense minister, next year – the United Arab List leader could deprive any rival to Netanyahu of the votes needed to oust the prime minister.

And second, Abbas could help Netanyahu either pass or thwart legislative moves related to his trial. Abbas could, for example, block efforts by Netanyahu’s opponents to pass a law banning him from running for prime minister while on trial. Or if Netanyahu succeeds again in exploiting COVID-19 to postpone the legal proceedings against him, Abbas might help him pass a so-called immunity law exempting a sitting prime minister from being put on trial.

Abbas has shocked other Joint List members by hinting in interviews that he might consider voting in Netanyahu’s favor on just such a law.

Abbas, meanwhile, has his own long-term incentives to cultivate this pact. There are already deep tensions within the Joint List that Abbas wishes to exploit for his own ends.

Ideological divisions

The four parties making up the List share limited, if core, concerns about ending both Israel’s abuse of the Palestinians under occupation and Israel’s rampant and systematic discrimination against Palestinians living in Israel that severely degrades their citizenship.

The consensus on these issues has tended to overshadow the parties’ very different, wider ideological positions.

Hadash is a bloc of explicitly socialist groups that emphasize class concerns they believe can unite Israel’s Palestinian and Jewish populations. They have, however, failed dismally to draw poorer Jews away from supporting the right-wing populism of Netanyahu’s Likud.

Balad appeals particularly to a new and aspiring secular middle class that wishes to advance social democratic values that clash with Israel’s Jewish ethnic nationalism. That is one reason why, paradoxically, Balad feels the need to highlight its own community’s Palestinian national identity, as a counterweight.

Abbas’s United Arab List is a socially and culturally conservative Islamic party, but willing to horse-trade on issues that benefit its largely religious constituency. It tends to accentuate its “moderation”, particularly after Netanyahu banned its chief rival, the more politically radical and extra-parliamentary Northern Islamic Movement, in 2015.

Finally, a faction under Ahmed Tibi, a former adviser to Yasser Arafat, operates as a more charismatic party, tending to cherry pick policies – and voters – from the three other parties.

Lower votes threshold

None of these parties wishes to be in the Joint List, but they have been forced into an uneasy alliance since the 2015 election by the actions of Avigdor Lieberman, who was then a minister in Netanyahu’s coalition.

Shortly before that election, Lieberman advanced the so-called Threshold Law on behalf of the Israeli right. It lifted the electoral threshold – the point at which parties win seats in the parliament – just high enough to ensure that none of the four Palestinian parties could pass it.

The right had assumed that these parties were so hostile to each other that they would never be able to work together. But faced with electoral oblivion, and pressure from Palestinian voters in Israel, the four factions set aside their differences at the last minute to create the Joint List.

It has proved a success with Palestinian voters in Israel, who turned out in such large numbers that the party has become easily the third largest in the parliament – after Netanyahu’s Likud and Gantz’s Blue and White. But it has been a rocky ride by all other measurements.

The parties have been contemplating ways to break free of the alliance ever since – and now Abbas may believe he has found an answer. It is rumored – not least by Lieberman, who is now a vocal opponent of Netanyahu – that Netanyahu may agree to lower the threshold again.

That would benefit Abbas, freeing him to desert the Joint List and run on his own party’s platform. Lieberman has claimed that Netanyahu might offer Abbas a post in a future government, making concessions to its Islamic religious demands much as he already does to Jewish religious parties like Shas.

In return, Netanyahu would smash the Joint List apart, and likely see the turnout among a disillusioned Palestinian public drop precipitously, bolstering his far-right coalition by default.

Looking inwards

Why Abbas might play along with this plan is revealed by two related developments that have transformed the political scene for Israel’s Palestinian parties over the last couple of years.

The first is that there has been an almost complete loss of interest – in the west, among the Arab states and, of course, among Israeli Jews – at the deteriorating plight of Palestinians under occupation.

This has left the Palestinian parties in Israel bereft of their traditional role promoting the Palestinian cause, either rhetorically or substantively. There is simply no audience willing to listen to what they have to say on the matter.

That has required the Palestinian parties to quickly reinvent themselves. And that transformation has been further accelerated by changing attitudes among their own voters.

With demands for Israel to end the occupation increasingly off the table, Palestinians inside Israel have preferred to look inwards, addressing their own situation as second and third-class citizens of a Jewish state. If they can’t help their Palestinian kin in the current international climate, many think it would make more sense to pressure Israel to make good on its false claims that they enjoy equal rights with Jewish citizens.

Political influence

The sense that this is a historic moment for the Palestinian minority to take the initiative has been underscored by the spate of inconclusive elections that have made Netanyahu’s grip on power look increasingly shaky. Palestinian citizens have started to wonder whether they can parlay their potential kingmaker status into political influence.

Polls show that Palestinian voters in Israel want their parties to try to elbow their way into mainstream politics any way they can. In one survey last year, 87 percent said they wanted their parties involved in government.

That was one reason why all the Joint List legislators made a historic decision earlier this year, jettisoning their usual indifference to post-election horse-trading by Jewish parties, and backed Gantz as prime minister. He spurned their support and joined Netanyahu’s government.

The reality is that no ruling Jewish party is ever going to invite the Joint List into government, and none of the Palestinian parties – apart from possibly Abbas’s United Arab List – would ever contemplate joining one.

So Netanyahu has seen a chance both to pry apart the Joint List, making the Palestinian vote in Israel once again marginal to his calculations, and to recruit one of its factions into his orbit where he can offer its tidbits in return for support.

Profound crisis

None of this has gone unnoticed by Abbas’s partners. Mtanes Shehadeh, head of Balad, warned that “Netanyahu is trying to disband the Joint List,” using familiar “divide and rule” tactics.

Abbas, however, seems open to such divisions if he can exploit them to his benefit. He has written on Facebook: “We need to decide whether we’re going to serve our community or just grandstand.” He has said elsewhere: “I want to be part of the political game.”

In an interview with Israel’s Channel 12, he clarified: “What do I have in common with the left? In foreign policy [relating to the occupation] I’m with them, of course – we support the two-state solution. But on religious affairs I’m right wing. I have a lot more in common with [the religious Jewish parties] Shas and United Torah Judaism.”

The paradox is that the Joint List is in profound crisis a few months after it celebrated an unmitigated success at the March election. It received a record number of seats – 15 in the 120-member parliament – having unified the Palestinian minority’s votes. It broke for the first time the taboo among left-wing Israeli Jews on voting for the Joint List. And coalition-building arithmetic, given the Joint List’s status as the third largest party, has pushed the Israeli Jewish political scene into a prolonged upheaval that has Netanyahu finally on the defensive.

But Netanyahu, ever the experienced tactician, has more incentive than ever to play high stakes to keep himself out of jail. With the Joint List as one of the main obstacles to his political survival, he will do whatever it takes to bring the alliance down.

• First published by Mondoweiss

The post Netanyahu Seeks to Smash the Joint List and Cement Permanent Rule by Israel’s Far-Right first appeared on Dissident Voice.

The Healthcare Multinational Profiting off Fraudulent Detentions

In July 2020, US healthcare multinational UHS Delaware reached a $122million settlement with the US federal government as the result of an investigation by the FBI into fraudulent detentions of psychiatric patients for profit. Following the resolution of the investigation and civil settlement, UHS must retain an independent monitor selected by the Office of Inspector General within the US Department of Health and Human Services, who will monitor patient care protections. In addition, an independent review organisation will annually audit UHS’s claims to federal healthcare programmes.

The government claims UHS knowingly submitted false claims to Medicaid for services that were not medically necessary, including improper, excessive lengths of stay borne of failure to properly discharge patients when they were well enough, and the admission of patients whose conditions were not severe enough to warrant that level of care. UHS owns nearly 200 acute care inpatient psychiatric hospitals and residential psychiatric and behavioural treatment facilities in the US, with a front group in the UK in the form of Cygnet healthcare.

Furthermore, UHS stand accused of failing to provide safe, adequate care standards, improperly using physical and chemical restraints and seclusion. In the context of compulsory mental health care, principles of best practice place a high value on care standards that are least restrictive. UHS’s conduct in following practices that were improperly restrictive led to an unjustifiable deprivation of liberty. This occasioned the systematic violation of patients human rights.

The Acting Assistant Attorney General Ethan P. Davis for the Department of Justice’s Civil Division said: “The Department of Justice is committed to protecting patients and taxpayers by ensuring that the treatment provided to federal healthcare beneficiaries is reasonable, necessary, and free from illegal inducements… The Department will continue to be especially vigilant when vulnerable patient populations are involved, like those served by behavioral healthcare providers.”

“Illegal inducements should never play a role in a patient’s decision regarding treatment, especially when a patient is seeking care for addiction and other behavioral health needs,” said Byung J. “BJay” Pak, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia. “Our office remains committed to pursuing unlawful arrangements that undermine the integrity of federal healthcare programs.”

The scandal raises questions about the ethics of predatory corporate healthcare, and makes the case that multinationals with a commitment to care for vulnerable patients – entrusted with their health, safety and rights – should be subject to democratic oversight. The dearth of public scrutiny affords multinationals broad latitude in determining which care ethics constitute best practice, leading to a deviation from legitimate standards. Secretive, opaque corporate governance structures lead to cultures of impunity that reward failure and disenfranchise patients who are the victims of organisational dysfunction. It was only because of the courage of whistleblowers that the malpractice was brought to light.

The lure of lucrative profits compelled UHS to behave in ways that abused the very communities it is meant to serve, violating medical ethics. The scandal makes the case that healthcare should be a publically owned good rather than an object of corporate profiteering, that healthcare should be a public not a private asset. Longstanding, outgoing UHS CEO Alan B. Miller realized $348,083,919 in total compensation, and the company boasts annual profits of $10billion. The primacy of the profit motive led to a devalued role for ethics, and the proliferation of standards that violated the public interest.

Far from being an isolated incident of malpractice, the scandal represents an endemic culture of calculated, cynical opportunism in the company, which took advantage of a system that is supposed to serve the public, not business. Federal healthcare beneficiaries expect a service that is reasonable and humane, not to become dehumanised objects of profit. The systematic illegality and corruption of UHS’s operations make it illegitimate and unfit for public service.

Documents pertaining to the criminal investigation into UHS reveal that they – albeit unsuccessfully – attempted to suppress evidence of their misconduct in court, showing them to be uncooperative with the investigation and attempts to realise justice. Cultures of abuse thrive on secrecy, and it’s evident that all throughout the investigation UHS sought to prevent their crimes being made public, in order to protect their power and privileges. They are the actions of a company whose operations are based on cynical calculations of self-interest rather than a principled desire to serve the public good.

UHS CEO Alan B. Miller’s extracurricular interests as a member of the board of directors for the Republican Jewish Coalition raises further questions about the lobbying power of the private healthcare industry in politics. His strong ties to the Republican party suggest he supports policies of deregulation and privatisation, which serve to enrich him and liberate UHS from public oversight. His presence in politics suggests he is using his lobbying power to influence policymakers to pass legislation that is beneficial to UHS’s profit agenda, corrupting the democratic process.

Under his leadership, in 1986, UHS created Universal Health Realty Income Trust, the first REIT in the healthcare industry, mixing healthcare provision with real estate. In April 2014 UHS announced the acquisition of Cygnet healthcare for $335 million, extending its operations into the UK market, where it has generated equal practices of abuse. Cygnet’s franchise model means it has the same mode of business operation as a McDonald’s. In the context of behavioural therapies, which seek to reform patients, this means that patients become a reconstituted product.

Fraud and abuse in the corporate healthcare market is not broad public knowledge, making reform seem like an impossible task. Except for a few media headlines, there is a dearth of sustained investigative reports into the corruption. The scale of the problem suggests nothing short of a public inquiry is necessary, and legislation to subordinate the corporate healthcare market to democratic governance structures.

William M. McSwain, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania said:

Quality mental health treatment is critical for the patients who place their trust in the hands of service providers… The allegations involved in this matter — inappropriate billing and inadequate care – have no place in our health care system. Behavioral health service entities must have strong mechanisms in place, including appropriate supervision and oversight, to avoid fraud and abuse in order to ensure they provide the level of care that their patients deserve.

The post The Healthcare Multinational Profiting off Fraudulent Detentions first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Transnational Adoption Concerns are Warranted and Beyond Amy Coney Barrett

SCOTUS Nominee, Amy Coney Barrett and Family

In recent days there have been accusations of a political “witch hunt” attacking Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett with “repulsive” comments about her adoptions from Haiti. These claims are a red herring intended to dismiss the very real and warranted apprehensions about transnational and transracial adoptions that have existed long before the current nomination and reach far beyond the scope of any single adoption or individual adopter.

Transnational aka intercountry, aka international adoption (IA), is notoriously fraught with corruption, kidnapping, trafficking, and exploitation of poverty, war, political unrest and natural disasters worldwide as documented by scholars such as David Smolin (adoptive father and professor of law at Cumberland School of Law in Birmingham, Alabama) and others.  Smolin popularized the phrase “child laundering”  to describe how kidnapped and stolen children are passed off as “abandoned” by criminals who are paid “finder fees” by orphanages. In other cases, mothers are duped into believing their children are being sent to America or Europe for education and will return.

Placements are arranged first by agencies in their homeland and then on to American and European adoption agencies. All of this has led Smolin to call for a moratoria of international adoption (IA) until more regulations can be implemented to protect children and their families. Until that occurs, loosely regulated adoption policies will continue to put well-meaning individuals and couples at risk for unknowingly adopting children who were kidnapped, as happened to the Smolins. This horrifying discovery also happened to Rose Candis and to Timothy and Jennifer Monahan of Liberty, Missouri and to Julia Rowlings who discovered her two daughters adopted from India had been sold, and may have happened to Barrett without her knowledge. Should we turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to potential serious consequences?

Such illegal and unethical practices led Guatemala, Ethiopia, China, and South Korea to cease or greatly limit their IA programs. The decision of these countries to discontinue the exportation of their children for adoption was also due to children from Russia and China, Ethiopia and Ukraine being rehomed  —  given by their “forever parents” to others without agency approval, vetting or home studies.

Russia stopped sending children to America for adoption because of the number of Russian adopted children abused (such as Mahsa Allen), abandoned (such as Artyom Savelyev who was put on an airplane back to Russia alone at 7 years of age), numerous Russian adopted children sent to the Ranch for Kids, in Montana, to at least 17 Russian children who died in domestic-violence incidents in their American families.

Haiti’s poverty has made it an IA “hot spot” with an estimated 3,000 children trafficked each year, many for adoption. Moreover, in January 2010, an earthquake in Haiti left hundreds of thousands of people dead, injured, and displaced, and over a million homeless. This tragedy triggered a stunning — albeit not uncommon — example of major child trafficking for adoption: A scandal involved missionaries swooping in and hurriedly scooping up children, many of whom were not orphans but had families. Ten missionary members, a group known as the New Life Children’s Refuge, did not have proper authorization for transporting the children out of the country and were arrested on kidnapping charges. NLCR founder Laura Silsby was found guilty and sentenced to time served in jail prior to the trial.

The fact that one of Barrett’s children was reportedly adopted from Haiti in the aftermath of the earthquake rightly set off alarms for those involved in adoption, personally and professionally. There is good reason to be apprehensive about the legitimacy of any adoption from that locale, especially at that exact time in history. Yet, the backlash against legitimate concerns has been fierce, as is often true of any criticism of adoption and/or adopters.

Ibram X. Kendi is an award-winning historian and a New York Times best-selling author. He is Professor of History and International Relations and the Founding Director of the Anti-Racist Research and Policy Center at American University, and the Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the Humanities at Boston University, and the founding director of the BU Center for Antiracist Research.

Kendi recently spoke out in light of Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination, and the revelation that she had adopted two children from Haiti, one in 2010 in the aftermath of Haiti’s earthquake and has been vilified with condemnation and chastised for suggesting Barrett could be a “white colonizer” who uses her two adopted Haitian children as “props” and Tweeting:

Some White colonizers ‘adopted’ Black children. They ‘civilized’ these ‘savage’ children in the ‘superior’ ways of White people, while using them as props in their lifelong pictures of denial, while cutting the biological parents of these children out of the picture of humanity.

As a result, Kendi is facing calls for his termination of his University position. Yet, Kendi’s critical views of IA and transracial adoption are neither wrong nor unique, but rather are shared by many experts in the field. In light of all of the horribly tragic outcomes of many transnational adoptions, how irresponsible it would be not to have dire concerns? Yet we want to shoot the messenger?

To demonize his message or that of others — to castigate him or make him suffer consequences for speaking truth about a well-known reality, albeit one we’d rather not admit — is akin to firing a whistleblower.

Transracial Adoption: Long-Standing Controversy

Tobias Hübinette, Korean-born transnational adoptee, Ph.D. in Korean Studies, Associate Professor in Intercultural Education, and author writes:

International adoption, the movement of predominantly non-white children from the postcolonial, so-called Third World to white adoptive parents in Western Europe, North America, Australia and Scandinavia, was born in the chaotic aftermath of the catastrophic and genocide-like Korean War. This forced child migration, which today involves around 30,000 children annually, has seen the trafficking of an estimated half a million children to date.

Ruth Ben-Ghiat, a New York University professor of Italian and history Tweeted in support of Kendi’s comments:

Many authoritarians seized children of color for adoption by White Christians. Pinochet’s regime did this with indigenous kids and Nazis took Aryan looking Poles for German families. Trump takes migrant kids for adoption by Evangelicals.

Transracial adoption has long evoked intense debate. On one side are those who believe that finding homes for children in need is greater than ethnic differences. On the other side are those who believe that adoptive placements should not strip children of their racial identity and to do so is  —  especially transnationally — colonialism and imperialism. Paula Fitzgibbons, white mother of three, two of whom were adopted from Haiti, says:

The most blatantly racist people I have personally known are white parents who adopted black children.

This claim cannot be ignored in cases such as that of Kenny Kelly Fry, of Osceola, Iowa, who were found guilty in 2019 of two counts each of child endangerment, for abuse including food depravation causing malnutrition and the neglect of two Black children: a 10-year-old girl and an 11-year-old boy adopted from Ghana years prior.

In 2018 transracial adoption made worldwide headlines when Sarah and Jennifer Hart who adopted six Black children domestically ended all eight of their lives by intentionally driving their vehicle off a cliff, seemingly to avoid abuse charges reported in 2008 and 2010 when they family lived in Minnesota including beatings with a belt and food depravation. Reports were again made in 2013 after the family moved to Oregon and yet again in 2017 while they resided in Washington state. All the while happy, smiling posed family photos were regularly posted online.

Jennifer and Sarah Hart with Devonte, Hannah, Ciara, Sarah, Markis, Abigail, Devonte, and Jeremiah Hart

The hypocritical life of the Hart family eerily mirrors that of Myka Stauffer who “rehomed” (read abandoned) the son, Huxley, she and her husband had adopted from China. Stauffer made her living as a social media “influencer,” documenting the life of the adorable toddler and the rest of the “perfect” blonde-haired family on YouTube. Fans noticed seeing Huxley less in the Stauffer’s videos leading the glamorous mom to reveal that Huxley’s special needs which included autism became “too much” for her to handle and she found him another family better equipped which sparked internet outrage.

Myka Stauffer and family, including Huxley

It is abhorrent behavior like this, as well as celebrities and politicians putting their transracial adopted children on public display, that leads to claims of adopted children being used as “props.”

Sherronda J. Brown (essayist, editor, and researcher who writes about culture and media through a Black feminist lens with historical and cultural context) examined the well-publicized Hart tragedy, taking a look at the backstory and larger implications, and wrote:

This is why performative white allyship is so dangerous, and not just for the Black and non-Black kids who get adopted by them. It is insidious, to say the least, when ‘good white folks’ impersonate someone who truly cares about anti-racism work, even as they continue to uphold white supremacy in their words and actions, and continually harm people of color.

Regarding a multitude of online photos of the Hart adopted children, Brown notes:

We witness this ally theater daily, both in our communities and on the larger world’s stage. We see the way that people like the Hart couple insulate themselves with people of color as tokens and trophies to provide themselves an alibi for their racism. . .

Their white saviorism complex is painfully obvious, a perpetuation of the colonialist and imperialist self-aggrandizing belief that people of color always need white people to save us, even from the white supremacy that they actively participate in and continually benefit from.

Lemn Sissay comments on the concept of color blindness, noting that it effectively renders those of color and their needs invisible. Transnational and transracial adoptees are taken, they disappear, and made invisible via homogenization and assimilation. Sissay quotes Mike Stein, in evidence presented to a British House of Commons select committee, by the Association of Black Social Workers and Allied Professionals:

The most valuable resource of any ethnic group is its children. Nevertheless, black children are being taken from black families by the process of the law and being placed in white families. It is, in essence, ‘internal colonialism’ and a new form of the slave trade, but only black children are used.

Haiti: Best intentions paving a road to disaster

Paula M. Fitzgibbons is an award-winning freelance writer (the New York Times, New York Magazine, Today’s Parent, and more) and former pastor in the Lutheran Church (ELCA). When she sought to adopt she was told by the director of a Haitian adoption agency that “Haitian children were generally godless and needed saving.” She and her husband were instructed not to let a Haitian child speak their native language and that their job as adoptive parents was to “beat the Haitian out of them,” right down to the size of rod to use and a website with detailed instructions.

The agency director warned the Fitzgibbonses that “our children might worship Satan. She described . . . as future criminals and sluts — unless we molded them into upstanding, God-fearing, born again, Jesus-loving Americans. She described their parents in the same way, repeatedly calling them liars and beggars.”

On online message boards, yahoo groups, and adoption “camps” Fitzgibbons sought help and support from, she found many believed the behavioral issues they saw in their Haitian adopted children were “because they had not yet been fully stripped of their cultural identities” and at least one comment that “the earthquake of 2010 was a welcome punishment from God for the evils of the Haitian culture. He hoped it would be a wake-up call for Haitians.”

All of this substantiates and validates Professor Kendi’s assessment of transracial as being colonialistic as spot on.

Fitzgibbons writes:

The concept of transracial adoption is predicated upon the idea that we (the white adopters, in this case) have something that the parents of the children we are adopting lack. Most often, that thing is resources, a commodity we consider more important for happiness than familial closeness, culture, or community. More common than I’d ever imagined before entering the world of transracial adoption, though, is the belief that the thing white people have over people of color within the adoption triad is superiority in one or more areas: education, lifestyle, values, and the biggie in the community of people adopting from African and black Caribbean countries: salvation.

In both cases, there exists a deprecating tone of white rescue — the new colonialism.

The very belief that we should adopt in order to rescue those who we consider less-than is classist. When we pair that with the assumptions made about people because of the color of their skin, their culture, or what we think we know of their country, we land at the intersection of racism and classism, the epicenter of dysfunctional adoptions.

Fitzgibbons notes the danger of adoption as salvation:

This pervasive adoptive parenting theme, that one’s child needs saving, erodes both the parent-child bond and the child’s own sense of self. . . . Very little is more daunting to a child than the feeling that he is where he is because he needed to be saved. . . Immediately, from the moment of adoption then, she is confronted with her own ill-perceived inferiority. She is not worthy. Her race and culture, her very life story are less-than.

The Real Experts

What happened in Haiti is a particularly glaring example of best intentions gone horribly wrong. In general, however, even when everything is perfectly legal in adoption, it doesn’t mean it’s ethical or devoid of corruption and exploitation.

More than academics and “professionals” or adoptive parents, the real “experts” on racial issues in adoption, are transracial adoptees. We need to hear what they have to say about their lived experiences —  even if it is painful to hear pp —  and not dismiss them as “disgruntled” or ungrateful.” As Nicole Chung, Korean-born, American-adopted author states: “Stories of transracial adoptees must be heard — even uncomfortable ones.”

Adoption is touted as being in the best interest of those who are adopted. But is it? You might think that adopted people are lucky or grateful. In fact, many express resentment at such expectations which downplay or ignore the losses they experience. Yet, until recently, the voices of those whose lives are shaped by these decisions have been left out of debates, discussions and policy-making, over-shadowed by the money-makers and the paying clients in the mega-billion-dollar adoption industry.

How do adoptees feel about being adopted? Adoptee memoirs and blogs such as Lost DaughtersDear AdoptionAdoptee in RecoveryAdoptees OnI Am AdoptedAdoptee Rights Law, describe feelings of loss, confusion, feelings of abandonment, rejection and sometimes anger. A small sampling of what some adoptees have to say, follows:

We adoptees have a big hole where our family and heritage should be, so the idea is that we will consume to fill the hole, such things a cigarettes, food, booze, pharmaceutical drugs, etc. We will also have mental, emotional, and relational problems, which will land many of us in institutions and the court system with legal problems and divorces, etc. We will be money-makers not only for baby brokers, but for many industries and the government itself. Unhappy people are the best consumers.

Lisa Haemisegger Allis

I am adopted also. Growing up, I could not imagine being anti-adoption. I did not even realize I could have negative feelings about being adopted, even though I did have those feelings, all the time.  It’s hard to describe the disconnect I had from my feelings.  When I found my family, at age 48, all the repressed feelings came flooding in. I finally realized that I did have a real mother, and an entire family that I was never allowed to know.

Jamie Smith, Facebook

We Adoptees are not Children, we’re Human Beings who spend a fraction of our lives as children and decades living with the brutal consequences of Relinquishment and Closed Adoption. Every cell in our bodies knows that we have another identity besides Adoption and longs to know it but we face barriers.

Nicole Burton

I sat in a church service. The pastor asked what adoption meant. All the non-adopted people were giving answers like chosen. Special. Lucky. I finally could not take it anymore and raised my hand. My answer was “Disposable” you could have heard a pin drop.

Gina Johnson Miller, Facebook

Being adopted is like living in a vacuum, creating oneself in one’s own image. But inside there is emptiness, and the emptiness feels like abandonment….

Heidi A. Schneider, Adoption Contracts and the Adult Adoptee’s Right to Identity

Those adopted across national borders additionally experience loss of heritage and culture and have little to no ability to know or ever meet their kin. Adopted people, writes Barbara Sumnerauthor“come from nowhere. You are strange fruit of obscure origin. The lack of a bloodline marks you.”

Add to that the fact that many transnational adoptions are also transracial. For most, navigating all that entails is complex and daunting. Feeling empowered enough to speak and write about it takes courage for those expected to be quietly imbued with gratitude for having been rescued by zealous righteous “Christians” in order to increase the ranks and be a soldier of God. Other saviors in shining armor believe they are providing children a “better” with all its amenities, some influenced by celebrities — America’s trend setters. Over the last recent decades celebs such as Angelina Jolie, Madonna and Sandra Bullock role-modelled transracial adoption — romanticizing and popularizing it  —  making it a badge of liberalism for some.

How do those adopted transnationally and/or transracially feel about their circumstances?

Angela Tucker, a nationally-recognized thought leader on transracial adoption and an advocate for adoptee rights, speaks for many transracial adoptees when she  relates:

Growing up, I often wondered why black parents didn’t adopt me. I wondered why white parents were always the ones adopting kids of color.

Sunny J. Reed, transracial adoption writer/researcher, budding PhD student writes:

[A}doption, the so-called #BraveLove, comes with a steep price; often, transracial adoptees grow up with significant challenges, partly due to the fact that their appearance breaks the racially-homogenous nuclear family mold. . .

Racial identity crises are common among transracial adoptees: what’s in the mirror may not reflect which box you want to check. . . . Growing up, I’d forget about my Korean-ness until I’d pass a mirror or someone slanted their eyes down at me, reminding me that oh yeah, I’m not white.

In the aftermath of World War II and Korean War, more than 200,000 Korean children were adopted by families abroad, making South Korea the fourth largest provider of children to U.S. families, sending more than 1,600 orphans that year, according to the U.S. State Department. It is thus that Korean adoptees, being the first cohort of transnational and transracial adoptees to come of age, are the most vocal about their experiences.

Jane Jeong Trenka, an activist and award-winning author, has written three books about her and others’ lives as transplanted adoptees. Trenka was adopted from Korea at the age of six months in 1972 and grew up in a rural Minnesota town where she never felt she belonged. She repatriated to South Korea in 2008 where she resides with her daughter and continues her activism, helping single Korean mothers fight the stigma that led to so many of them losing their children to adoption.

JS Lee is another Korean American author who writes about trauma, race, and adoption:

Like many transracial adoptees with White parents, I was raised in racial isolation, which caused me to have a fractured identity, experiencing racial confusion and internal bias. When I looked in the mirror, the face I saw was not what I expected or wanted to see. I didn’t look like my parents and siblings, or my friends, or the people who I read about in books and saw in magazines and on television. I was often told race didn’t matter, despite the many racist jokes and slurs carelessly flung my way by family, schoolmates, and strangers.

Some swore they forgot I was Asian and considered me to be White. The gaslighting and denial had me blaming myself for my own suffering.

Mae Claire, who was born in Haiti and trafficked for adoption, knows the truth because it is her life:

A typical adoptee is ripped from their environment and forced to survive with new expectations, new rules, new laws that govern their immediacy. They are forced to adapt….not the other way around.

A typical adoptee of color is coming from a country that is deemed “poorer” and in need of saving. Poverty should NEVER be a good enough reason to take someone else’s child….and it should never be a reason to go the extra mile to falsify documents.

When it comes to illegal and illicit adoptions, Haiti should get a gold star. . . .

We become props.

This is not political. Questioning is not criticizing. Nor is raising legitimate concerns “repulsive” or “attacking“. Questioning the Barretts’  —  or anyone else’s —  adoption(s) from post-earthquake Haiti, by Kendi or by anyone else, is totally appropriate, reasonable and needed to prevent future tragedies.1

  1. For more about the events that occurred in Haiti in 2010, see:

For more about transnational and transracial adoption see:

The Truth Behind Netanyahu’s Admission that Police Killing was a Cover-up

It is unprecedented. Three years after the Israeli government first began vilifying a Palestinian teacher to retrospectively justify his murder by Israel’s security forces, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a public apology to his family last week. Yacoub Abu al-Qiyan was not a “terrorist” after all, the Israeli prime minister conceded.

And there was more. Israeli police, said Netanyahu, had portrayed 50-year-old Abu al-Qiyan as “a terrorist to protect themselves” and stop their crimes being exposed.

They shot him even though he posed no threat to anyone. Abu al-Qiyan was unarmed and driving at less than 10 kilometres per hour at the time. After shooting him, police left him to bleed to death for half an hour, denying him medical assistance that could have saved his life.

To cover up their role, police falsely claimed that he had tried to ram them with his car. The Israeli state prosecution service was deeply implicated in this affair, too, having reportedly blocked a criminal investigation, even though they knew what really happened.

Netanyahu said his government had been deceived by the serial lies back in early 2017, implying that that was why he wrongly accused Abu al-Qiyan of committing a “terror attack”.

Hail of gunfire

Such soul-searching and contrition on matters relating to the abuse and killing of a Palestinian are startlingly rare from any Israeli politician. But from Netanyahu, such comments rightly raise an eyebrow. What is going on?

In fact, Netanyahu is telling only partial truths.

Abu al-Qiyan was certainly no terrorist, nor was he a member of the Islamic State (IS), as police repeatedly claimed. He was a school deputy principal and a member of Israel’s large Palestinian minority. That made him – unlike Palestinians in the occupied territories – an Israeli citizen, though one with few of the rights enjoyed by the country’s Jewish majority. Palestinian “citizens” comprise a fifth of Israel’s population.

Bedouin citizens such as Abu al-Qiyan face the most discrimination of all Palestinian communities inside Israel. Nonetheless, he had managed to gain a PhD in chemistry, the first Bedouin to do so in Israel.

And, as Netanyahu correctly observed, Abu al-Qiyan was indeed a victim of extreme police brutality – something all too familiar to Palestinians, whether in the occupied territories or inside Israel.

When his car came under a hail of gunfire, he was hit twice by live rounds. As a result, he lost control of his car, which sped downhill out of control, hitting and killing a police officer. Abu al-Qiyan was then left to bleed to death as police and Israeli medical teams refused to come to his aid.

“Had he received treatment … he would not have died,” concluded Dr Maya Forman, who helped conduct the autopsy. That’s why Ayman Odeh, a Palestinian legislator in the Israeli parliament and the head of the Joint List faction, called Abu al-Qiyan’s killing a police “murder” last week.

Netanyahu was also right that Israeli police lied, both about who Abu al-Qiyan was and the circumstances of his death. But then again, that is standard operating procedure for Israeli security forces when Palestinian civilians die at their hands. Lack of transparency, cover-ups and impunity are givens.

Character assassination

Where Netanyahu was wrong was in suggesting that he was ever deceived by the police claims. He surely knew almost from the start that Abu al-Qiyan was not a terrorist, even while publicly calling him one.

How can we be certain? Because I and many others knew about the police deceptions soon after Abu al-Qiyan was shot and left to die. In February 2017, for example, a month after his death, I wrote an article setting out the lies I had been told by police, which had been rapidly exposed by forensic and video evidence – lies Netanyahu claims only just to have learned about. If I knew the truth three years ago, so did he.

In fact, the Shin Bet, Israel’s intelligence service, which is directly answerable to the prime minister, concluded within two days that the incident was not a terror attack.

Netanyahu wasn’t tricked. He colluded in the character assassination of Abu al-Qiyan after the Bedouin man’s assassination by police.

Indeed, Netanyahu and his ministers amplified those slurs to include the rest of Israel’s Palestinian minority. His public security minister at the time, Gilad Erdan, demonised the minority’s representatives in parliament, accusing them of condoning terrorism and inciting against police by denying that Abu al-Qiyan’s killing was justified.

Killing exploited

Whatever he says now, Netanyahu’s claim last week that “yesterday we found out [Abu al-Qiyan] was not a terrorist” did not end the lies; it continued and expanded them.

The only reason the prime minister decided to break with Israel’s decades-old policy of dissembling to ensure its security services enjoy impunity over the deaths of Palestinians was to help himself out of a jam. It certainly was not because he cared about a glaring injustice, or about Abu al-Qiyan’s vilification and the family’s suffering – both of which he very much contributed to.

Netanyahu’s goal was not to clear Abu al-Qiyan’s name, but to tarnish the reputation of Israel’s police and prosecution service – and for all the wrong reasons. The police force and prosecutors involved in the killing of Abu al-Qiyan, and the cover-up of that crime, are the same police force and prosecution service that will be acting against Netanyahu in December, when his corruption trial begins in earnest.

Netanyahu faces a string of charges that he committed bribery, fraud and breach of trust. His political survival now depends on his ability to breathe life into a narrative that the Israeli police and legal system are themselves corrupt and waging an anti-democratic war to bring him down.

This is the story he is trying to craft: if police and prosecutors could deceive even Israel’s prime minister for three years over the killing of an Israeli citizen, are they not also capable of deceiving the public by accusing Netanyahu himself of being corrupt?

Should Netanyahu succeed, he will demand that all corruption charges against him are dropped. Another Palestinian legislator, Aida Touma-Suleiman, tweeted that Netanyahu’s apology was worthless, calling it the “cynical use of blood for ominous political purposes”.

Trigger-happy fingers

Netanyahu has been helped, of course, by the fact that, though his claims of a supposed establishment campaign against him are preposterous, he is not wrong about the profound corruption and anti-democratic nature of Israel’s law enforcement and prosecution system.

They are indeed corrupt – just not not against him.

But when it comes to the treatment of Palestinians, whether those in the occupied territories or inside Israel, Israeli security services have trigger-happy fingers and contempt for Palestinian lives. Investigations rarely take place, and when they do, their findings are preordained. Prosecutors willingly turn a blind eye to police misdeeds, hastily closing such files, as they did with Abu al-Qiyan.

On Monday, Human Rights Watch (HRW) demanded the return of the body of Ahmed Erekat, a 26-year-old Palestinian shot by Israeli soldiers 10 weeks ago in violation of both Israeli and international law.

His death parallels Abu al-Qiyan’s own treatment. Erekat was shot dead by soldiers after what appeared to be a traffic accident at a checkpoint in the West Bank in which a soldier was lightly injured. Video shows Erekat emerging from his car, posing no visible threat, only to be gunned down by the soldiers. Medical crews were again blocked from approaching.

Efforts by Human Rights Watch to find out whether Erekat was armed, or whether Israel has conducted an investigation and, if so, what its findings were, have all gone unanswered.

Similarly, in late May Israeli police killed an autistic Palestinian man, Iyad al-Hallaq, shooting him reportedly at close range, after chasing him through the streets of Jerusalem’s Old City. There were at least 10 cameras in that area, according to local media, but Israeli authorities have claimed none were working at the time of the incident.

These and many similar incidents show that Palestinian life isn’t just cheap. It’s worthless in the eyes of the Israeli police and army – and in Netanyahu’s eyes, too. Abu al-Qiyan’s life has meaning to the Israeli prime minister now only because it can be exploited to keep him in power.

Dehumanising Palestinians

Abu al-Qiyan’s story isn’t an aberration. It sheds light on the way Israel’s entire state apparatus systematically dehumanises Palestinians, both in life and in death.

The context for Abu al-Qiyan’s killing in January 2017 were Israeli police efforts to implement an abhorrent decision by the Netanyahu government to demolish his village, Umm al-Hiran, in Israel’s south, in the semi-desert Negev region. The entire village, home to 1,000 Palestinian citizens of Israel, was due to be razed so it could be replaced by a new, exclusively Jewish community under nearly the same name, Hiran.

In fact, it was the second time these Bedouin villagers were being ethnically cleansed by their own state. Sixty years earlier – long before 24-hour rolling news coverage or social media – they had been expelled by the Israeli army from their ancestral lands to make way for another exclusively Jewish community.

Remember, the village of Umm al-Hiran is located in Israel, and its inhabitants are all formally Israeli citizens. Nonetheless, the politicians and courts had no interest in protecting the rights of these Palestinian citizens. The state’s official policy of “Judaising” the Negev – forcing out Palestinian citizens to make way for Jewish citizens – took precedence.

Years of struggle by the villagers, aided by international and local human rights groups, had come to naught. The country’s highest court had ruled: “The residents of Umm al-Hiran have no right to the place.”

Trying to avoid bad publicity, Netanyahu’s government sent in hundreds of members of a paramilitary unit, the Border Police, under cover of night to forcibly evict the villagers. They arrived with live ammunition, rubber-coated metal bullets, tear gas and stun grenades.

Car veered erratically

Abu al-Qiyan had decided to leave before the demolitions began to avoid any confrontation with police. Other villagers staged a protest in the village, alongside Palestinian members of the Israeli parliament and left-wing activists, watched by a handful of journalists.

Abu al-Qiyan packed his car with the last belongings from his home, and then headed along a dusty track to reach the main road. As is the case with dozens of similar Bedouin communities in the Negev, there were no paved roads in Umm al-Hiran, because – as part of its Judaisation policy – Israel has denied these villages all basic services.

As Abu al-Qiyan carefully navigated the track down a small hill in the dark, Israeli police opened fire, aiming in the direction of his car’s headlights. Dozens of shots were fired. He was hit twice, an autopsy report revealed: once in the torso and once in the knee, rendering him incapable of controlling the car.

A police aerial video of the incident shows that, after the shots, the car suddenly sped up and veered erratically down the slope. At the bottom, the car crashed into a group of police, killing Erez Levy.

Bleeding to death

There had been no reason to shoot Abu al-Qiyan, apart from the racist preconceptions of the Israeli police officers there that night. Their force has long cultivated an institutional view of Palestinians, including those who are Israeli citizens, as not fully human and as an “enemy”. That last observation was made not by me, but by an official, judicial-led commission of inquiry into a spate of other killings by Israeli police of Palestinian citizens.

Because the police officers arriving in Umm al-Hiran regarded its inhabitants as criminals – a view that has been expressed towards Bedouins by all Israeli governments, including Netanyahu’s – they could not interpret Abu al-Qiyan’s car speeding towards them in any way other than as a car-ramming.

Cause and effect were easily reversed in their minds. They shot Abu al-Qiyan without reason. They created the circumstances that led to the death of a fellow officer. But in the racist worldview of Israeli police, the bullets fired at Abu al-Qiyan were retrospectively justified by an imagined “terror attack” the same bullets had caused.

Complicity in Abu al-Qiyan’s racist murder was not confined to the police officers. Two doctors and a team of paramedics at the scene joined them in allowing Abu al-Qiyan to bleed to death. They were only 10 metres from him as his life slowly ebbed away.

One of the paramedics explained that they did not help Abu al-Qiyan because they were not ordered to do so by police, as though they needed an invitation. Justifying the inaction, a paramedic told an investigator: “Sad, it’s easy to talk now but in the field the signs were that it was an attack.” In those circumstances, leaving Abu al-Qiyan to bleed to death was acceptable, it seems.

Politician shot

The police lies came thick and fast, but were quickly exposed by video and forensic evidence. Abu al-Qiyan had not raced towards police in a terror attack. He had not had his headlights turned off, supposedly fuelling their suspicions. They had not fired into the air, or only at his car’s tyres.

The Israeli newspaper Haaretz recently reported on transcripts of an interview with the officer who shot first, known only as S. He admitted that his life had not been in danger and that he fired not at the vehicle’s tyres – the official story – but at the centre of the car.

Police claims that they had proof that Abu al-Qiyan was an IS supporter never materialised. Later, the Shin Bet intelligence service quietly closed its investigation, unable to find any signs it was a “terror attack”.

Police were caught out in another blatant deception over that night’s events. Ayman Odeh, the head of a parliamentary delegation for the Palestinian minority monitoring events in Umm al-Hiran, was left with a bleeding head wound.

Police claimed he had been hit by a stone thrown by villagers. In fact, as Odeh claimed and photographic evidence proved, police had fired rubber-coated metal bullets at him, as they had at the villagers. Had one of those bullets hit Odeh’s head a fraction lower, he could have been blinded.

Photos of the scene show a group of armed police relaxing and chatting next to Odeh, as he crawls in the dirt, stunned, with his head profusely bleeding. Despite his parliamentary privilege, Odeh was shot as he tried to assist Abu al-Qiyan. Eyal Weizman, the head of Forensic Architecture, which used video and other evidence to piece together that night’s events, has noted that had Odeh been allowed to reach Abu al-Qiyan, the teacher’s life could have been saved.

‘Blood on your hands’

In the following days, the demonisation of Abu al-Qiyan – and of Palestinian leaders, such as Odeh for disputing the police narrative – was led by the Netanyahu government.

Erdan, now Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, called the villagers of Umm al-Hiran “violent thieves”. He accused Odeh and other Palestinian legislators of being equally responsible for the death of police officer Levy as the “terrorist” Abu al-Qiyan. “This blood is on your hands too,” he wrote on social media.

In a 2017 post praising Erez, Netanyahu said those “supporting and inciting for terrorism” – code for the Palestinian leadership in Israel – would face “all necessary force”, including even denial of citizenship.

The Netanyahu government’s demonisation campaign provided the excuse for further indignities suffered by Abu al-Qiyan’s family and his village. The family was denied compensation, and are today reported to be still living in mobile homes after their home was demolished following the 2017 incident.

In line with its policy towards “terrorists”, Israeli authorities delayed releasing Abu al-Qiyan’s body and refused a public burial. As his nephew, Raed, told me angrily five days after the killing, as he attended a funeral at which the body never arrived: “Not only did the police kill him in cold blood, but now they are holding his body hostage to try to make more convincing their ridiculous story that he is a terrorist.”

It has apparently taken three and a half years for Netanyahu to learn what Raed Abu al-Qiyan knew from the start.

Circle of complicity

Nothing that happened to Abu al-Qiyan that night – or in the weeks and months that followed – was exceptional. The police lies and the state cover-up were not an aberration, nor was the subsequent incitement directed at Israel’s Palestinian minority. Those are all the norm.

What is exceptional are the circumstances that allowed the truth to finally gain traction – differing from cases like those mentioned earlier of Ahmed Erekat and Iyad al-Hallaq.

Because Abu al-Qiyan was killed inside Israel rather than in the occupied territories, the actions of police were initially investigated, in part to try to prove he was a terrorist, even if the findings were never supposed to see the light. Because witnesses were present, including journalists and politicians, it was easier to piece together the real events and discredit the police account.

And now, because Netanyahu is in trouble and facing trial, he is ready to spill the beans to save his neck. He is using the truth about al-Qiyan to bury the truth about himself.

This moment of dishonest truth-telling should be grasped nonetheless, because it briefly exposes Israel’s treatment of Palestinians – even those who are nominally its citizens – in all its hideous, racist depravity.

It shows how wide, in a self-declared Jewish state, the circle of complicity is in a murder such as Abu al-Qiyan’s and the subsequent cover-up. That circle embraced police, prosecutors, doctors, politicians – and, of course, the prime minister himself.

• First published in Middle East Eye

The post The Truth Behind Netanyahu’s Admission that Police Killing was a Cover-up first appeared on Dissident Voice.

The Case for Israel as a Criminal Enterprise

After UAE-Israel deal, missing is that the Emirates bewildering moment and the shattered Palestinian moment are due to a misrepresentation of what is called the Middle East conflict. The misrepresentation has led to a fallacious approach for rectification, and an impasse for obtaining peace with justice.

Even the terminology seems incorrect. Is this a conflict between Palestinians and Zionists or has it always been a crisis that the Zionists imposed on the Palestinians? Providing a correction is more than semantics, it places the dispute in proper context, a starting point for organizing a response.

In a conflict, two parties have clashing interests for the same objective; both have reasonable narratives that allow pursuing the objective, and almost equal “skin in the game.”

The Zionist’s aimed at establishing an overwhelming presence in a land to which they had no title. The Palestinian objective has always been to remain in lands in which they have title. Compare the objectives; they are not the same. Correctly and honestly pursued, attaining both objectives was not contradictory, could have been achieved, maybe, with difficulty, but eventually. Khalil Sakakini, Palestinian nationalist, essayist and poet, and other Palestinian notables concurred.

I see no reason why the Jews and the Arabs cannot work together in this great country. There is room for all, and up to the present time there have been no serious quarrels. At the be­ginning, what little dissension arose has smoothed out, and I believe it is the desire at least of the younger and vigorous and open mi­nded group of Arabs to do everything they can to work amicably with the Jews. We must say that the Jews have brought considerable progress, and as they are mainly spend­ing their own money in developing the country, it would be wrong not to give them credit for efforts in trying to make a future and better Palestine.

On November 3, 1918, a day after the one-year anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, a delegation of the Muslim-Christian Association handed a petition signed by more than 100 notables to Ronald Storrs, the Occupied Enemy Territory Administration military governor.

We noticed yesterday a large crowd of Jews carrying banners and overrunning the streets shouting words, which hurt the feelings and wound the soul. They pretend with open voice that Palestine, which is the Holy Land of our Fathers and the graveyard of our ancestors, which has been inhabited by the Arabs for long ages who loved it and died in defending it, is now a national home for them. These are words which displease the heavens.  How do the Jews expect Palestine to be a national home when the Muslims and the Christians never asked that it should be a national home for those of them who are not inhabitants of Palestine?  We Arabs, Muslim and Christian, have always sympathized profoundly with the persecuted Jews and their misfortunes in other countries as much as we sympathized with the persecuted Armenians and other weaker nations. We hoped for their deliverance and prosperity. But there is a wide difference between this sympathy and the acceptance of such a nation in our country, to be made by them a national home,  ruling over us and disposing of our affairs. We Muslims and Christians desire to live with our brothers, the Jews of Palestine, in peace and happiness and with equal rights. Our privileges are theirs, and their duties are ours.

An internal conflict between the Zionists – the real conflict – prevented the occurrence; extremist Zionists sought their objective and tried to prevent the Palestinians from maintaining their objective. The cultural, political, revisionist, labor, reform, revolutionary, and religious Zionists fought a conflict among themselves, and a combination of revisionist, revolutionary, and religious Zionists won – chase them out and take their land – the Zionist objective was achieved and the Palestinian objective was defeated.

The Zionists had no reasonable narrative that allowed them to pursue their objective; just unproven and fantastic propositions that scattered Jewish communities throughout the world, who spoke different languages, had different histories, ate different foods, and practiced different customs, constituted a nation, and this nation, despite the fact that few Jews had lived, visited, or had any interest in the area for 2000 years, had a national home in Palestine. The latter concept succeeded from other preposterous suppositions that 19th century Jews, although separated by 100 generations, were direct descendants of Hebrew tribes that had wandered the area, and their wanderings, which left no significant footprint on the soil, were mesmerizing forces beckoning Jews to return. Compare the hypothetical and artificial Zionist narrative to the Palestinian narrative: Palestinians spoke a common language, practiced similar customs, ate the same foods, and walked, worked and prayed in the area for centuries, tracing themselves to the biblical populations that inhabited the area,

The “skin in the game” for the Zionists was zero. They had no original investment in the area, no physical attachment to the area, no care for its surroundings. The Palestinians had 100 percent “skin in the game”; they cherished every olive tree their ancestors planted centuries ago, every orange tree that gave aroma to their surroundings, and all the baba ganoush they could eat.

A crisis is an event that leads to an unstable and dangerous situation, which affects an individual, group, community, or whole society. Since 1948, the Palestinians have been in an unstable and dangerous situation. Since 1948, the Palestinians have had a crisis.

Due to clever propaganda and an unknowing and caring world, the crisis has been purposefully portrayed as two ethnicities struggling for national acclamation and contested land. The Zionists, who did not have the most basic requirements for national identity – speaking a common language and living together in the same place – have assumed a national identity. The Palestinians, who have all the requirements for national identity – a common language and living together in the same place for centuries – are perceived as seeking identity.

The Zionists had little ownership of property and nil existence in Mandatory Palestine. Palestinians had legal title to vast areas and centuries of living, tilling, nurturing the soil, and populating the lands in large numbers. Yet, the crisis is portrayed as two parties fighting for contested lands.

The true nature of the crisis is best described by posing questions: How did the Israel government manage to acquire 90 percent of the land in Israel?  How did Jewish immigrants obtain housing on that land? How did West Bank settlers obtain land, water and other resources on land they did not own?

Palestinian experiences, two of hundreds of thousands, supply the answers.

From Remembering Jerusalem by Hala Sakakini,

In 1953, five years after the year of the disaster, we settled close to Ramallah, so near to our Katamon neighborhood in Jerusalem, yet so far. A rigid Jordanian-Israeli border divided us from the family home that came to life over and over in our memories, as if we had left only yesterday.

In 1967, a month after the Six Day War, when people were allowed to go from one part of Jerusalem to the other, my sister and I made our way on foot into Katamon, yearning. Now, in the heart of the Jewish neighborhood called Gonen, on Yordei HaSira Street, Number 8, we found what had been, in our youth, our house, our mother’s and father’s and son’s and we two daughters’, and the house of relatives and friends and guests from near and from far. A building that housed a committee of wise men who considered all aspects of Palestinian life ceased in an instant to exist under the blows of the weapons of war and became, over time, with the help of contributions from American Jews, a WIZO nursery and kindergarten.

From Remembering the Palestinian Nakba by Nasser Barghouti,

Twenty years since I (Rasmiya Barghouti had seen Northern Galilee, I was finally given a permit by the Israeli military authorities to visit. I decided to take two of my daughters with me.
It took less than three hours to reach Safed, renamed Tsvat by Israel after 1948. The van stopped in front of the white stone home that held childhood memories. I proceeded to the familiar metal door, where I knocked. A large eastern European woman opened the door. We argued. I returned to the van, my hardened face wet with tears. “She wouldn’t let me in! She still has the same curtains I made with my mother.”

We proceeded in silence, as I wept discretely, to lunch at a hotel on Lake Tiberias, where my youngest child grew hyper. Instead of imposing my usual military-style discipline on the child, I encouraged her to  “splatter water,”  “make more noise” – a shock to the rest of the family. The Israeli waiter hurriedly came to the table demanding, in Hebrew, they stop the raucous behavior. It was then that my defiance exploded into cursing the waiter in Arabic. “We can do whatever we please! This is my father’s hotel!” Until that moment, my children had been sheltered from knowing anything about my dear loss.

One word summarizes the taking of another person’s property, livelihood, and dignity – theft!  In this case, a specific type of theft, known as Raubwirtschaft, German for “plunder economy.”

In Raubwirtschaft, the state economy is partially based on robbery, looting and plundering conquered territories. States that engage in Raubwirtschaft are in continuous warfare with their neighbors and usurp the resources of their conquered subjects, while claiming security objectives and defensive actions against defenseless people.

Israel has gone further than Raubwirtschaft, using it as a springboard for transnational corruption — having its citizens extend the illicit activities to global networks of money laundering, human trafficking, drug smuggling, and general crime.

A Broad Brush of Israeli Involvement in Transnational Corruption

Money Laundering

Blacklisted 16 years ago, Israel has gained entry to the Financial Action Task Force, yet new immigrants can bring in unreported income for 10 years and vast scams go unprosecuted. Not to mention complaints from law enforcement in places like France and the United States that Israel is not cooperating sufficiently on international financial crimes.

Ariel Marom, a Belorussian-born former banker and social justice activist who lives in Israel and frequently travels throughout Russia and Eastern Europe for work, told The Times of Israel he believes that hundreds of millions of dollars of dirty money from the former Soviet Union is being smuggled into Israel, including by new immigrants, a phenomenon he fears may have been lost on the FATF. There are certain branches of large Israeli banks, he said, that have developed a reputation among newcomers for looking the other way.

Much of it is black money, smuggled out of Russia or the Ukraine, Moldova or the Baltic countries that has been stolen from the government budget or constitutes the proceeds of prostitution, drug sales, weapons sales or oil sales in contravention of international law. “Israel is one of the financial havens for this black money,” he claimed, based on his conversations with businessmen and politicians in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. “A small percentage of this money is used to corrupt Israeli politicians,” he charged. “Russians – and this is no secret – fund the campaigns of a number of politicians, not just one party.”

Murdered Israelis involved in ‘money laundering,’ says Mexico government

Two Israelis shot dead in Mexico City were involved in money laundering and had links to local mafias, Mexico’s government said on Friday.

Human Trafficking

Fourteen Israelis are suspected by Colombian authorities of running a child sex trafficking ring which marketed tour packages from Israel to the Latin American country aimed at businessmen and recently discharged soldiers, according to reports on Monday.

In the recent past, Israel was faced with a severe phenomenon of human trafficking for prostitution. Since the mid-1990’s until around 2005, women were “imported” to Israel from poverty-stricken countries and forced into prostitution by criminal groups. According to police estimates, 3,000 women were trafficked for prostitution in the year 2003 alone, and there were 300-400 operating brothels and escort services. Other sources believe that these numbers were even greater.

Drug Trade

In its annual report for 2012, the International Narcotics Control Board lists Brazil and Israel among the “countries that are major manufacturers, exporters, importers and users of narcotic drugs.”

Hug Drug

Oded Tuito was alleged to be a global pill-pusher, whose Israeli mafia group was the biggest operator in a booming international trade in the lucrative “hug drug.”

“The profits were ploughed into Israeli real estate, being sent there from the US or Barcelona,” a police spokesman said. Police forces in various parts of the world said Mr Tuito’s arrest confirmed the alleged growing global influence of Israel’s loose-knit, but expanding, crime organisations

International Crime Center

Israel is at the center of international trade in the drug ecstasy, according to a document published last week by the U.S. State Department.

A seriously embarrassing record for a nation that was created to be “a light among all nations,” and claims to represent world Jewry.

Along with the kleptomania and civil violations, Zionists are guilty of massive killings. An Irgun soldier told me that when the Irgun entered a village, they were ordered to take seven Palestinians hostage, shoot them, and frighten the other villagers to leave. Kidnappings (called arrests), wanton destruction of property and resources, control of movement, and other crimes are committed by Israel, continually, day after day, year after year, with impunity and without care. Here is a recent one of thousands of examples, in which few are ever charged with the crime, and, if charged, are not penalized.

Palestinian Farmers Lose Hundreds of Olive, Fig Trees to West Bank VandalsHaaretz

The Shai (West Bank) Police have opened an investigation following the uprooting of over 300 olive trees and 20 fig trees and vines in the plot of a Palestinian farmer in the area of al-Tawamin in the South Hebron Hills. The farmer, Abu Mahmoud Barakat from the town of Yatta, told Haaretz that he estimates the damage caused to him – which includes the destruction of the irrigation system at the site – to be about 200,000 shekels ($59,000).

Present day Israel behaves as an assortment of criminal elements that has evolved into and a criminal enterprise. It may not have started that way, but it became that way.

The Zionist experience closely resembles a previous criminal enterprise, the Massachusetts Bay Colony, which financed the Puritans, enabled them to steal the land, and decimate the indigenous population. Similar to the Massachusetts Bay Colony financing the Puritans, International Banker Edmund Rothschild’s financing enabled the Zionists to form enterprises in the Kibbutzim. Rothschild provided funds for manufacturing and infrastructure, including wineries, agricultural firms, and power plants.

Possessing the economy was important to the Zionists, and Histadrut, General Organization of Workers in Israel, at its inception a Trade Union only for Jewish workers, sought and became the most powerful institution in Mandatory Palestine and Israel. After becoming a Trade Union, it evolved into the proprietor of businesses and factories and was, for a time, the largest employer in the country. Together with the government, Histadrut eventually controlled most of the economy, pauperizing Palestinian peasants and crippling Palestinian enterprises.

Puritans and Zionists – A Close Resemblance

A small congregation of Puritans differentiated themselves from their co-religionists by being unwilling to reconcile their independent organization with the established Church of England. Desiring to preserve their identity and feeling constantly persecuted, they sought new places to live their unique social and communal life. Concluding they would never be accepted in Europe, they sought opportunity in a foreign and open land. Because they made a voyage to what they termed ‘their Promised land’ (not a land promised to them), they became known as the Pilgrims.

The Pilgrims did not intend to uproot native communities they anticipated they would encounter. Due to a series of contagious diseases resulting from contacts with European fishermen on the Maine coast, the land was sparsely populated. However, the Pokanoket Tribe and Federation, led by Chief Massasoit, controlled the entire area. After being wary of the newcomers to his territory, Massasoit concluded that his people could benefit from a cordial relationship with the Pilgrims.

When word reached England that the Pilgrim adventure, which had several times been near failure, had finally succeeded, due principally to Pokanoket assistance, other English — Puritans, entrepreneurs, adventurers, merchants, farmers — booked passage to the New England. They and Pilgrim descendants acquired an insatiable thirst for land and detoured from the original mission.

The Pilgrims bought their land from the Natives, but the Natives expected to continue to use the land’s resources.  The colonists built fences where no fences had ever been before, closing off their property to make the land their own. Tensions had long existed due to the two cultures different ways of life.  Colonists’ livestock trampling Native cornfields was a continuing problem.  Competition for resources created friction. Regional economic changes forced many Natives to sell their land. – Nathan Philbrick, Mayflower.

Living behind fences, similar to the Palestinians who live behind a wall, the Pokanoket Indians became fearful of losing all their land, agriculture, and fishing rights. Their fear and insecurity generated fear and insecurity in the Puritans. After 40 years of a peaceful and helpful relationship, both sides contemplated a future without the other. Massasoit’s son, who gave himself the name of King Philip, felt betrayed by the Puritans and started a 14-month war to drive out the English, a war for survival, which he almost won.

Fourteen months of attacks and counter attacks devastated New England. The Puritans survived, but many of the area’s tribes lost their homes, their culture, and their way of life. Within a century, the Cape Cod Indians had been reduced to several hundred people, most of them living on reservations in the towns of Mashpee on the Cape and in Aquinnah on Martha’s Vineyard. The Sakonnets dwindled from about four hundred survivors to six men and nineteen women by 1774.

Specifying an ideology and a nation as criminal enterprises is a severe charge, controversial, and not easily accepted. Facts and logic lead to the charge, but, because they contradict the accepted norm, they can be conveniently discarded for made for consumption stories and carefully planned agendas, whose huge army of faithful followers spread the deception and numb the mind. It is difficult to replace the ingrained and more pleasant story – the Hollywood story of a nation built by the intrepid Kibbutz settler who diligently worked the soil during the day and guarded the settlement from evil forces at night. The label, criminal enterprise, needs and has support from an examination of other Zionist behaviors.

Case For The Charge of Criminal Enterprise

Israel has sufficient agriculture to feed its people and water to hydrate its population and irrigate its crops. Intended annexation of the Jordan Valley has several motives — gain valuable fertile land to produce crops for export, control the entire Jordan River for industrial purposes and deny the benefits of the Jordan Valley to the destitute Palestinians. Taking land from others for commercial purposes and calling it annexation is definitely the work of a criminal enterprise. How else can it be characterized?

Israel has not defined its borders, which allows for criminal extension of the borders by conquest and confiscation. In negotiations, Israel proposed trading land in Israel for incorporation of West Bank settlements into Israel. If Israel has available land for trade, why did it not populate the settlers in those lands? Answer: The West Bank lands have more importance to the Zionist enterprise.

Israel does not have a national identity that equates with citizenship. This arrangement develops competing ethnic identities and enables a majority ethnicity to gain more benefits from the national largesse.

Israel does not having a written constitution, which allows some laws to be applied arbitrarily, and be bent to favor the major ethnicity.

The greatest of all the crimes is the denial of ontological security for the Palestinians, a stable mental state derived from a sense of continuity in regard to the events in one’s life. Caused by the severe Israeli repression, which features terrorizing communities, isolating communities, destroying crops, diverting water, subjecting passage to checkpoints, disabling bread winners, and reducing fatherly figures by humiliating the men, by breaking of bones ordered by the Rabin administration, and by brutal and senseless beatings. Add purposeful denial of agriculture, water rights, fishing rights, livelihood, and employment, and the absence of ontological security accelerates to total deterioration of the Palestinian community. Without law to protect them, the Palestinians are continuous victims of a criminal enterprise.

Why do the Zionists embrace their dubious connection with wandering tribes and errant kings and reject the well-established and historical memories of their most precious epochs and proud moments of history – their centuries of sojourn in Mesopotamia and Persia. In The Chosen Few: How Education Shaped Jewish History, 70-1492, winner of the 2012 National Jewish Book Award in Scholarship, by Maristella Botticini, Zvi Eckstein, Princeton University press, 2012, the authors claim that “Judaism reached its Golden Age in 800 -1200 A.D. During that time, Mesopotamia and Persia contained 75% of world Jewry with the rest in North Africa and Western Europe.” Readily absorbing the new wisdom they encountered after their exodus to ancient Iraq and Persia, the Jews compiled the Talmud, and moved rapidly into achieving almost total male literacy, obtaining economic advancement, and becoming leaders for progress and modernity. The answer to the first line question: This history, truth, and reality do not fit into their Raubwirtschaft agenda.

Proper Interpretation of the Crisis Leads to Improved Understanding of Events

Characterize Israel as a criminal enterprise and

(1) The Emirates “normalization” of ties with Israel is better framed as, “You do not disturb my turf, and I will not disturb your turf.”
(2) Boycott, Disinvestment, and Sanctions (BDS) is more correctly described as a valid attempt to punish illegal activities and criminal actions.
(3) Realize that misinterpretation of the nature of the crisis led to a faulty approach to resolve it. Palestinians have always been in a no-win position, never having the power to counter overwhelming power, and could only hope for a suitable compromise, which was impossible – the Zionists want the entire enchilada. Those who honestly sought a reasonable compromise and solution of the crisis by negotiations did not factor into their arguments the true nature of the Zionist mission; there was nothing the Palestine Authority could do to change the situation. While deliberating negotiations, Israel did what it wanted, when it wanted, and where it wanted. That is how West Bank settlers obtained land, water and other resources on land they did not own.
(4) The failure of other nations and international institutions to intervene and modify the situation makes them guilty of aiding and abetting. An opportunity existed in 1956 when U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower prevented Israel from seizing the Sinai Peninsula and, indirectly, moving its boundaries to the Litany River in Lebanon (A behind the scenes deal proposed by David ben Gurion). France assisted Israel in developing nuclear weapons, the U.S. and Great Britain enabled Israel to continue its criminal activities, and Germany donated funds for Israel to build infrastructure and submarines for nuclear-armed Israel to threaten all enemies.

Solution

The Palestinians have found themselves thrust in an unenviable role with specific challenges — expose the contrived narrative of the Israelis and impress the world with their narrative of continuous transitory life as Canaanites and Hebrews, to Christians, to Muslims, to Arabs, to citizens of the Ottoman Empire and finally to suffering the Al-Nakba, which started their route to being oppressed. Despite decades of mental, physical, and emotional fatigue, they owe this task to themselves, to their communities in Diasporas, to Jews who do not want to be involved in the injustices, to a Middle East that suffers from the expansion of the crisis, and to a world that might soon face a related catastrophe. Although, under present conditions, the outlook is not favorable, they must keep trying in the best manner they perceive. Only a change in Israel from a criminal enterprise to a democratic nation can resolve the situation. Not being imposed within, demands it be imposed from without. Without a just solution, the Palestinians and world Jewry will suffer.

Palestinians want what all peoples need for survival – self- identity that derives from being part of a state that protects its citizens. Loss of safety results in loss of trust and loss of self-identity. Nationality and religion enhance identity and are an answer to ontological security. The latter two words are more than an esoteric expression. They define what the Palestinians lack and most need. Without ontological security, the Palestinians will face deterioration leading to genocide. Be aware, it is not genocide until it is all over.

The biblical “Exodus” story did not free the Jews. Just the opposite, it has been used to keep Jews in perpetual bondage to a spurious history and to promote an attitude of constant victim hood, while distracting them from realizing the role they play in the injustices done to others. Hopefully, Jews who absorb actual history will awaken other Jews to the destructive impulses generating from Israel, which prevents them from recognizing the roots of modern Judaism and instead reverts them to become atavistic and reactionary relics of an ancient Hebrew and fictitious world.

The post The Case for Israel as a Criminal Enterprise first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Prison: Therapeutic Centers Or Academies of Crime?

We may know where one is, we may regularly pass by one, but most of us will never go to prison. Dark Islands of Confinement, existing in a space separated from the rest of society, where men, women and youths are locked up, often poorly treated, seldom rehabilitated.

Black men and people from Asian and minority ethnic groups including tribal peoples, make up a disproportionate percentage of the prison population in many countries. In America, where incarceration based on race is routine, Prison Policy found that “Black Americans make up 40% of the incarcerated population despite representing only 13% of U.S. residents.” In Britain, Government statistics show that, “people of minority ethnicities made up 27% of the prison population compared with 13% of the general population.” This figure increases further in young offenders’ institutions (YOI), where about 51% of boys aged 15–17 and young men, aged 18–21, are from black minority ethnic backgrounds, nearly four times the BAME proportion of the wider UK population. In addition between 2018/19, black people were eight times more likely than white to be stopped and searched, and police are five times more likely to use force against black people than white people.

Globally there are around 10.35 million people in prison (World Prison Population List), half of who are held in just three countries – the USA, China and Russia. With 2.2 million people behind bars America has the highest number of prisoners in the world; 655 people per 100,000, in Russia its 615 per 100,000.

At the other end of the scale is Norway, a world leader in prison reform. The total prison population is 3,207, equating to 60 people per 100,000 – over 10 times lower than the US and Russia and five times lower than Britain (87,900 behind bars – 148 per 100,000). Norway also has among the lowest re-offending rates in the world at 20% – by comparison in the US 76.6% re-offend and are re-arrested within five years; in the UK it’s almost the same.

These stark statistical differences reflect alternate approaches in the judicial system, the prison environment and in the nature of the society, the values and ideals, as well as levels of wealth and income inequality, which are much lower, and the overall atmosphere in which people live.

Prison officers are well-trained professionals, not merely ‘guards’. The Governor of Norway’s maximum security Halden Prison told the BBC “We make sure an inmate serves his sentence but we also help that person become a better person. We are role models, coaches and mentors.” Staff and inmates take part in activities together: “they eat together, play volleyball together, do leisure activities together and that allows us to really interact with prisoners, to talk to them and to motivate them.”

Prisons are well designed, well resourced and properly maintained, humane places in which inmates can study, learn skills and prepare themselves for a new life on release; centers of rehabilitated and education, rather than hostile places in which retribution is sought and punishment meted out. This rather crude, but widespread approach is based on the misguided belief that tough sentencing and a rigid penal system will act as a deterrent.

Is fear a deterrent?

The idea of prison as punishment posits the power of fear to change behavior. It is part of a broader ideological approach that believes in competition, together with reward and punishment as effective means of motivation, of manipulating behavior to achieve the goal, whatever that may be – obedience and conformity for one thing. It is a common technique in the world of business, is widely employed by parents and to a lesser degree teachers when faced with ‘difficult’, children, usually meaning children who won’t conform.

It is an approach that ignores, disregards or has no time for underlying causes – social, psychological and behavioral, and determines, that criminals should be punished. And while this approach appears justified, and commonly has public support, all the evidence suggests that not only does this method not deter criminals or, as re-offending rates show, change behavior, but it feeds into a societal atmosphere of intolerance and judgment, strengthening embedded divisions.

Instead of institutions of retribution, prisons should be refashioned as Therapeutic Centers for Change in which the criminal takes responsibility for their actions but is not made to feel guilty, or despised. An approach that looks at the range of influences that lead a young person into crime and to joining a criminal gang. Communities in which inmates are offered educational and therapeutic support; the whole focus of activity should be to rehabilitate, educate and heal, with the aim of releasing people back into society better educated and (psychologically) better equipped to deal with the demands of life. As in the Norwegian model, prisoners need to be shown respect and compassion and prisons need to be well resourced, funded by the state – private companies have no place in prisons or anywhere else in the criminal justice system – and staffed properly with trained personnel.

Wealth, crime and confinement

The underlying causes of crime and anti-social behavior are complex, but study after study shows that poverty, poor education and lack of parental guidance (specifically a stable father), are key factors. Education is consistently hailed as key to release from poverty and social deprivation, and therefore crime. The education a child/young person receives, however, including extra tutoring, access to the Internet, parental support, exposure to the arts, freedom to travel, is conditional upon their social/economic background. Varied levels of opportunity are one aspect of a world defined by inequality.

Inequality is an issue of social justice. It is not simply a financial issue. It is inherent in the socio-economic order and impacts on all areas of life (including political influence – with wealth goes power), enabling broader social imbalances to prevail. Restricting social mobility, condemning those born into poverty, to, by and large – there are always exceptions – remain there. Interestingly there is a correlation between levels of inequality and crime. Homicides, suspicion and fear of others are higher in countries where differences in wealth/income/opportunities are most pronounced, as are child pregnancies and mental illnesses in addition to a range of other social issues.

Operating under the same socio-economic model all countries suffer from inequality. Comparing levels of inequality is not straightforward. South Africa often tops the list, with China and India close behind but according to inequality.org the US, is the “most top heavy, with much greater shares of national wealth and income going to the richest 1 percent than any other country.” America is also the prison capital of the world and has more people serving life sentences than anywhere else: 30% of the estimated global number.

All is interconnected; prisons and crime are consequential elements within a societal structure of injustice and prejudice, which requires fundamental change. The current outdated, habitual and in many cases shameful methods need to be reviewed, the interconnections revealed and alternate approaches developed.

Such an examination must seek to understand the psychological impact that certain habitual methodologies and relentlessly promoted values have; the widespread use of competition, reward and punishment; the impact of fear, its relationship with desire and comparison; the reductive construct of the self. It must also examine the social conditions people are exposed to. Education and housing, the lack of access to the arts and the impact of materialistic values relentlessly promoted by corporations and governments, as well as the behavior such ideals encourage and the focus on material success. Probably not everyone can be rehabilitated, but many can and all deserve the chance.

A radical shift is needed, rooted in the recognition that humanity is one, that prejudice has no place in our consciousness or society and that the seed of all that is good rests within each and every human being. In order for that to flourish the creation of environments free from competition, judgment and hatred is required; stimulating spaces (home, school/university, the workplace, prisons and society as a whole) built on compassion, understanding and tolerance.

Burger Chef and Dan Died on the Same Day

If you’re like most 16 year old males, there’s a better than average chance that the suit inventory in your wardrobe consists of a total of one. And by suit I mean the matching sport coat and pants that was purchased on clearance from a discount warehouse that has as much chance of staying in business as a groundhog attempting to take up tenure on the 18th hole of Torrey Pines. It’s the periodic skeleton in the closet that rears its head primarily during weddings you don’t care about, shows its face annually to celebrate the birth of Jesus at the church you otherwise never attend and the threads that make an intermittent appearance at whateverthefuck anniversary or birthday you’re required to participate in. Not to mention the occasional unanticipated funeral.

We’ll get back to the suit momentarily.

While growing up in the Midwest, a significant part of my weekly caloric intake came from Burger Chef. For those unfamiliar with it, Burger Chef was a fast food restaurant chain that originated in Indianapolis, Indiana in 1954. It rapidly expanded throughout the United States and at its peak in 1973 approached 1,200 locations, challenging McDonald’s for artery-clogging supremacy. It was a mostly now-forgotten pioneer on many levels, patenting the first flame broiler that is now standard throughout the industry. But perhaps the most lasting and ingenious element that Burger Chef introduced to the fast food marketplace was an understanding that its success was primarily predicated on its ability to market specifically to children. They initially introduced a couple of mascots: Burger Chef (who looked sort of like everyone’s creepy uncle) and his sidekick Jeff (who looked like the kid everyone beat up on in high school). They were also the first fast food concept to introduce a meal specifically targeted at kids – the Burger Chef Funmeal (five years before McDonald’s would copy the idea with their own Happy Meal). The Funmeal included a small hamburger, fries, dessert and a drink that came in a colorful box containing puzzles, riddles, stories and toys. No one had ever seen the likes of this sort of culinary miracle before, and not a week went by that Burger Chef didn’t coerce a portion of my father’s paycheck from him just to get me off his back.

Back to the suit.

Mine was a shade of brown that when worn made me look like a turd that had escaped the toilet pre-flush and had – through some genetic malfeasance – learned to walk. Due to a recent teenage growth spurt, the pant legs dangled around my ankles to where I would have been able to wade through high water without getting them wet. The arms that had once been too long were now closer to fitting and my clip-on tie almost matched the rest of the polyester ensemble. But as I stood there looking at myself in the mirror, none of that mattered. The only thing on my mind was why I had to put the damn thing on in the first place.

In 1978 I was a sophomore attending Decatur Central High School in Indianapolis, and one of my classmates was Daniel Davis. Though I wouldn’t have categorized us as the best of friends, he rode the same school bus as I and sat at the desk behind me in history class that year. Like the rest of us he was in that awkward phase of life where navigating hormones was the primary challenge of any given day, acne was often an unwelcome surprise and we were all in the throes of beginning to consider what we wanted to “be.” He had recently taken an evening job as a cook at the Burger Chef in the town of Speedway, which is primarily associated with a little car race they annually host known as the Indianapolis 500.

Friday, November 17, 1978 was a relatively typical fall day weather-wise in Indianapolis. The temperature reached a high of 66 degrees and the overcast skies delivered a day-long drizzle that dropped about an inch of rain. It was just another day in the Midwest, with the Thanksgiving school break looming and the anticipation of Christmas break hanging in the air. That evening, Daniel Davis, 16; Ruth Shelton, 18; Mark Flemmonds, 16; and Jayne Freidt, 20 were working their shifts at the Speedway Burger Chef. Freidt was the assistant manager on duty and from all accounts everything was operating normally with the crew scheduled to leave an hour after closing upon completing their nightly clean up duties. Around midnight, one of them opened the back door to take the trash out. Later that evening, an off-duty employee showed up at the restaurant to meet a couple of his fellow coworkers because they had plans to go out. What he found instead was an unlocked, uninhabited restaurant. So he called the police.

The following day, The Indianapolis Star newspaper was delivered to our front door like it was every morning. There wasn’t any remarkable or otherwise memorable news as I rifled through it like I usually did during breakfast, and I went about Saturday with my normal routine of trying to avoid homework while dwelling on how much I hated school. The real news of the day, however, was delivered that evening across the local network channels – four separate sets of parents had reported to the local police that their children hadn’t returned home from their jobs the night before. They were all working at the Burger Chef in Speedway, and when their names were announced my heart sank though I wasn’t really sure why.

Initially, the first officers on the scene didn’t expect foul play. As there was approximately $500 missing from the cash registers, they instead hypothesized that the workers had absconded with the money and went out to party on the company dime. They arrived at this conclusion in spite of the fact that both of the girls left their purses behind and no one had taken their coat with them. No one thought to wear a coat. In Indiana. In November. No pictures of the scene were taken that evening, the general manager was called and the building was locked up for the night. The following morning, a fresh batch of employees showed up for work, finished the work and cleaning that hadn’t been completed the night before and the restaurant opened as usual.

If I would have performed my job – any job – like those cops, I would have been summarily terminated and probably jailed for impersonating a human being.

Once the families reported their children missing, the cops began to suspect foul play. They returned to the location, but by then any critical forensic evidence had either been contaminated or destroyed by the morning crew. Later that day Jayne Friedt’s vehicle, a Chevrolet Vega, was found abandoned a few blocks from the Speedway police station. Once again, no forensic evidence was taken from it nor was it treated as a crime scene.

The following morning, The Indianapolis Star again arrived on my doorstep as scheduled. The Sunday, November 19, 1978 headline that day read Police Baffled By Kidnappings. The entire state was beginning to take notice, and I had never before felt so helpless at such a young age. You didn’t dare allow yourself to think the worst, even though there was a part of you that kept dragging you to go there. Also on the front page that morning, directly under the main headline, was a report that Congressman Leo Ryan from California had been assassinated along with several reporters in Guyana, South Africa while investigating abuse allegations at something called the People’s Temple which had been founded – coincidentally enough – by another native Hoosier, Jim Jones.

And then the worst came true.

I woke up Monday morning, November 20, 1978, hoping for the headline that would reassure me that the weekend had been a bad dream and that everyone had been found safe and that Dan would be back at school in a couple of hours. As I took the rubber band from around the newspaper and unfolded it, the headline smacked me upside the head like a baseball bat exploding a watermelon: 4 Speedway Kidnap Victims Found Dead In Wooded Area. Their bodies had been discovered Sunday afternoon by a couple of hikers in what was then a remote field in Johnson County approximately 20 miles from where they were initially abducted. Both Davis and Shelton were lying face down in the dirt and had been shot execution-style numerous times with a .38 caliber handgun. Friedt had been stabbed twice in the chest. The blade had broken off inside her – which was later recovered during autopsy – and the knife handle was missing. Flemmonds was found with a blunt-force head injury which he is believed to have received by running headlong into a tree branch while trying to escape his captors. He is also believed to have choked on his own blood and was later determined to have been bludgeoned with what was possibly a chain prior to his death. The leading theory emerged that the four had been kidnapped during a botched robbery and the crime escalated to murder after one of the victims recognized one of their perpetrators. The following morning, November 21, 1978, The Star headline announced that Jim Jones had been successful in carrying out his psychotic vision by orchestrating the largest cult mass suicide in modern history by encouraging his followers to drink cyanide-laced Flavor-Aid – Rev. Jones, 408 Cultists Dead. It was a number that would rise to over 900 within a couple of days. The headline directly below that read, Kidnap Victims Believed Slain By More Than One with the photos of the four Burger Chef victims prominently displayed.

Overnight, the world seemed to have gone from idyllic to fucked for no apparent reason. The city of Indianapolis was overwhelmingly stunned while trying to process the senselessness that was simultaneously creeping into our homes within a 48-hour period out of seemingly nowhere. Locally, what would later become to be known as The Burger Chef Murders resonated more strongly than The Jonestown Massacre, as parents could more easily relate to the fear of their own children potentially suffering the same fate as the doomed fast food workers than with apparent brainwashed and disillusioned fanatics who willingly and quite literally drank the Kool-Aid.

There was an eerie and omnipresent silence that hovered in the air at school that day. This was long before the era of school shootings and grief counselors and we were, quite literally, on our own trying to process and make sense of what had happened to our classmate between the last time we saw him at the end of the day on Friday and that Monday morning. None of us, teachers included, had any idea what was appropriate to say or even think. One of the strangest moments of my life – and there have been many – was sitting in history class the Monday morning after Dan was murdered and looking at his empty desk while realizing he’d never be sitting there again. For the first time in our short lives, impermanence knocked on our collective doors, invited itself in, and has stayed with us ever since.

That Monday, Burger Chef held a press conference in front of the closed Speedway location and announced a $25,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the murderers. Steak n’ Shake, another local fast food chain, contributed another $1,000 to the fund. In 1978, that was enough money to get your attention.

As the investigation crept forward, information began to emerge of further sloppy and unforgivable decisions made by the law enforcement departments involved. In addition to not preserving the initial crime scene at the restaurant, it was later revealed that some of the Indiana State police officers who were first on the murder scene moved some of the bodies before the forensic technicians or coroner arrived. Officers also failed to rope off the wooded area, allowing police vehicles onto the same path that potentially could have held the tire tracks of the vehicle the murderers transported their victims in. There were three departments on the scene – the Speedway Police, the Indiana State Police and the Johnson County Sheriff’s Department – all apparently bumping into each other without effectively communicating. When confronted about the quality of the police work being done, Speedway Police Chief Bill Burger (I can’t make that name up) defended his department while admitting that he personally had not been present at either the restaurant or the field where the bodies were found. He also claimed that allowing the restaurant to open the following day without collecting evidence was the right decision.

As I stood in front of the mirror in my polyester poop suit, though, none of that really fucking mattered. I had an appointment to watch a classmate get buried. He – as well as the other three victims of that horrific and senseless crime – had as much right to live out their lives and seek their destinies as the rest of us, and for the first time I was confronting fate with questions that I’m still waiting on answers for.

To this day, the Burger Chef Murders remains one of the largest unsolved murder cases in Indiana crime history. Despite the reward money and numerous suspects being pursued and vetted over decades, no attackers have yet been officially identified or prosecuted. The Indiana State Police continue to keep the case open and have reportedly investigated the use of new DNA-tracing techniques not available during the initial investigation.

After Dan’s murder, I never set foot in a Burger Chef again. Though the chain continued to operate until eventually meeting its demise in 1996 after selling its final existing units to Hardee’s, my relationship with it was similar to the amicable divorce many parents inevitably endure after experiencing the loss of a child.

In my mind, Burger Chef and Dan died on the same day and neither one of them was ever going to be part of my life again.

The Big Plantation

European Left-wing political scientists find difficult to understand that the colonial contradiction is at the heart of our present, they think it’s a conceptual error, something anachronistic, that the joyful postmodernity – the one that delivers their Macs to them at home – has gone beyond all that, and that Trump or Bolsonaro are racist accidents of History, or of the “free world”. It’s just the opposite. Under the advertising varnish of capitalist globalization, the deep History of our world has never disappeared, it has even come back to the surface, even stronger. The revolt that is happening in the United States is the same one that founds the resistance of the Venezuelan people.
— Thierry Deronne, Algeria Resistance Mohsen Abdelmoumen’s blog, 2020

Everyone is a philosopher, though in his own way and unconsciously, since even in the slightest manifestation of any intellectual activity whatever, in ‘language’, there is contained a specific conception of the world, one then moves on to the second level, which is that of awareness and criticism.
— Antonio Gramsci, Prison Notebooks

Three of the four police officers involved in the murder of George Floyd were previously employed as stock boys by TARGET and Home Depot, and two had worked at McDonalds. One stocked for a grocery store. One didn’t graduate high school. In other words these were economically part of that large temp minimum wage work force that is now increasingly unemployed. The fourth, officer Kueng, whose file was redacted, was apparently more middle class, from a nice family and who graduated with some distinction from his high school. It’s interesting, first off, why his file was redacted.

But one of them had served in the military, Derek Chauvin, the man now charged with the murder. Chauvin also had 17 complaints filed against him for excessive force before he kneeled on George Floyd’s neck.

There are a couple things to consider here. One is why these men are not on the side of the people they abuse (and murder)? The answer is multi-fold. One is a culture of machismo and violence that saturates American society. Another is that the United States was a slave owning nation where twelve presidents owned slaves. Racism and Calvinist and Puritan values have never left this society. And it was founded (and it’s in the constitution) as an unequal and anti-democratic republic. Owners of property were established as privileged. And so it has continued. But it also has the allure of the uniform. Now it’s understandable that being a cop and being handed a gun and impunity to harass and abuse the public is preferable to flipping burgers. One job is utter humiliation while the other is validated as heroic by popular culture.

Domestic police departments tend to hire military veterans before those without military service.

The Obama administration helped expand the preference: in 2012, the Department of Justice provided tens of millions of dollars to fund scores of vets-only positions in police departments nationwide. Official data on the impact of veteran-cops is scarce. Nearly all of the 33 police departments contacted by The Marshall Project declined to provide a list of officers who had served in the military, citing laws protecting personnel records, or saying the information was not stored in any central place. The Justice Department office that dispenses grants to hire cops and study policing said it has no interest in funding research into how military experience might influence police behavior.
— Simone Weichselbaum and Beth Schwartzapfel, The Marshall Project, May 30, 2017

Those with special forces training tend to go into Private Security. One in four soldiers in theatre in Afghanistan are private contractors. The wars of empire are increasingly being outsourced.

During the Obama administration, the Pentagon has been equipping US police departments across the country with a staggering amount of military weapons, combat vehicles, and other equipment, according to Pentagon data.

According to a New York Times article published last week, at minimum, 93,763 machine guns, 180,718 magazine cartridges, hundreds of silencers and an unknown number of grenade launchers have been provided to state and local police departments since 2006. This is in addition to at least 533 planes and helicopters, and 432 MRAPs — 9-foot high, 30-ton Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected armored vehicles with gun turrets, and more than 44,900 pieces of night vision equipment, regularly used in nighttime raids in Afghanistan and Iraq. Much of the lethal provisions have gone to small city and county police forces. The recent militarization is part of a broader trend. According to Eastern Kentucky University professor Peter B. Kraska — who has studied this subject for two decades — as of the late 1990s, about 89 percent of police departments in the United States serving populations of 50,000 people or more had a PPU (Police Paramilitary Unit), almost double of what existed in the mid-1980s. Their growth in smaller jurisdictions (agencies serving between 25 and 50,000 people) was even more pronounced. Currently, about 80 percent of small town agencies have a PPU; in the mid-1980s only 20 percent had them. The domestic military ramp-up is far from being in proportion to any perceived threat to public safety. The Times notes that, “today, crime has fallen to its lowest levels in a generation… the number of domestic terrorist attacks has declined sharply from the 1960s and 1970s.” And yet, “police SWAT teams are now deployed tens of thousands of times each year, increasingly for routine jobs.
— Zac Corrigan, WSWS, June 2014

Couple this to the growing social inequality in the country, where 15% live below the poverty line (in 2015, and which no doubt is closing in on double that post Covid), and where on the heels of the pandemic hysteria and government fearmongering, which resulted in a nation wide (and global) house arrest, the problems with a militarily trained and equipped domestic police force, one drawing its officers from the low end of the educational spectrum, and one that provides at best rudimentary training, is obvious.

A Buddhist friend of mine was mentioning that at her retreat one of the Tibetan teachers observed that Covid-19 and the authoritarian policies it has engendered will unleash cataclysmic dark forces. Spiritual forces, so I take it. Or anti-spiritual, actually. And this is how it feels. And this is beyond the clear fascist agenda in play, but extends into realms of psychic transformation for the bourgeoisie in particular. The anxiety and fear that has grown silently for this privileged class, grown steadily over the last twenty years, is now cracking open and the toxic emotional slag of the atrophied inner lives is spilling out on the rest of society at large. It feels or is felt most deeply, from my anecdotal experience, in the white bourgeoisie’s fear of the other.

And I have not felt this sort of collective confusion, anxiety, and fear since the days of Vietnam. Things surface for people. The psychological effects of this lockdown are being wildly underestimated (especially in the long term for children). The difference from the Vietnam war is five decades of screen damage and an accelerated transference of wealth to the top 1%. The reality of such profound economic inequality is impossible to deny now, and the staggering numbers of homeless across the country eventually can’t be NOT seen.  It finally starts to serve as a psychic wound, a constant silent witness to the crimes of the system.

The ruling class, or certainly at the least one corner of it, launched the ‘Covid-19 panic’ as a means to shut down western society. No matter if the virus is man made or accidental or just a naturally occurring zoonotic virus… it served as a prop for their agenda. The ultimate plan remains a bit opaque but it likely includes a wholesale eradication of what is left of civil liberties, intensification of an already draconian surveillance state, and a transformation and rebranding of the meager welfare state into something fit for 7th century serfs, only far worse actually. This is the world of Bill Gates’ moist nocturnal dreams, and those elite new green capitalists, royal families, and digital billionaires. It should be noted that global health bureaucracies like WHO and the CDC are political organizations first. Both have deep and long standing ties to big Pharma and various other corporate interests. The WHO is privately funded (Gates essentially owns it and directs policy) and the CDC is actually a part of the Health and Human Services department of government. And the current head of the CDC is a former pharmaceutical company executive and a guy who worked with John Bolton drawing up the National Biodefense Strategy for president Trump. Anthony Fauci is the creepy and slimy little front man for all the agencies involved in urging governments around the world to shut down (they like the term lockdown for its prison connotations). Without digressing too much here, what is relevant is that when one starts to wonder how it is allowed for known white nationalists and Klansmen to openly serve as police officers, the answer is not that the de-centralized nature of state and city police departments are hard to reform or clean up but rather that the very top office holders in criminal justice share sympathy with the racists.

We are watching in real time the normalizing of martial law and the suspension of democracy. And these measures have given a bit of a boost to the beleaguered and increasingly brutish police departments across the country. When not even a high school diploma is necessary to be given a badge and gun, when the police recruit from the ranks of malcontent and angry TARGET stock boys and blank McDonald counter people, there must be a logic at work, and I suspect there is. First, flipping burgers is the only thing many young men and women have open to them. I’ve done that kind of work. And I hated it, too. But the domestic police, those city departments fresh with new military hardware, don’t want empathic or imaginative young men, they want the emotionally dead. As a side point here, I know martial arts masters who can train you to subdue the wildest suspect without any harm. Adroitly and calmly — but it would require a few months training, not a few hours. But that is not what the departments want. They want crude clumsy tactics, ones that instill fear and which cause pain and suffering and sometimes death. Those few percent of military trained special force guys, they don’t go the Minneapolis police department, or San Diego, or Toledo or Indianapolis. They go into high end private security.

This is not even to touch on the wide spread use of steroids.

When it came to incarceration, the US prison population had reached a staggering 2.4 million people by 2014. Out of this number — which accounted for a full quarter of the entire world’s prison population — 38 percent of inmates were black, even though as mentioned black people made up just 13.3 percent of the entire population. Compare this to whites, who made up 35 percent of the US prison population while constituting just under 78 percent of the country’s population. Mass incarceration was brought into being by Bill Clinton with the passage of his omnibus crime bill in 1994. Obama, over his two terms, did nothing to address what prison reform activists had long described as the new plantation.
— John Wight, Medium, 2020

The police today are increasingly used for purposes of optics, as much as any real police work. Most crimes go unsolved and for uniformed cops in their black and white (usually) Cruisers the job description is essentially to function as an occupying force in poor neighborhoods. They carry out parole checks, harass and detain the poor, often on a whim. Most acutely in black inner cities. `They are a new gestapo. They are there to brutalize and frighten what is seen as a surplus population. The essence of America’s slave legacy is found right there, in the grim counter insurgency tactics of domestic police departments on the streets of black inner cities. For important work, for the protection of important persons and prestige property the ruling class have turned to private security. That leaves the uniformed cops, badly paid, with minimum job security actually, as tools for enforcing racial oppression. And if any more proof were needed, one need only check the hyper incarceration rate in America’s prisons, and further, the results of the Innocence Project. The numbers of falsely convicted men and women is staggering, it is mind numbing and a spiritual stain on this society that can never be washed away. It is the overriding and ineradicable symbol of a savage culture of strict class separation, a separation enforced with lethality and pointless cruelty. For the hyper incarceration starts right there, on the same streets where Eric Garner was choked, or Tamir Rice was shot, where George Floyd was murdered, and Trayvon Martin and Philando Castile and hundreds of others have suffered and died. One topic not discussed enough is post arrest custodial deaths.

In properly staffed households throughout the world, the bodyguard is the new nanny, fear of terrorism, a volatile political climate and a pervasive sense that the wealth creation of a few has come at the expense of the many have made paranoia the norm.
Town and Country, December 2016

We learned that the contractors in our sample are predominantly white man in their 40s who chose contracting as a second career. Most are veterans with significant military experience. Among those contractors who were previously deployed as service members, many are former officers and about half of them are Special Forces veterans. They are more likely to have a college degree than their active-duty counterparts, but less likely than their fellow veterans in the general population. They come from parts of the U.S. or United Kingdom with higher unemployment rates and fewer job opportunities—not the areas with the strongest traditions for military service.
— Ori Swed and Thomas Crosbie, Pacific Standard, “The Demographics of America’s Private Military Contractors”. March 2019

In 2009, after Obama was elected, the Department of Homeland Security and FBI jointly wrote an intelligence study on white extremism in domestic police departments.  Janet Napolitano, then DHS head, quickly and quietly swept the report under the proverbial rug. Back in 1991 Los Angeles U. S. District Judge Terry J. Hatter Jr found that sheriffs at the Lynwood substation were engaged in what he called ‘racial hostility’ and ‘terrorist tactics’ against Latino and Black prisoners. And that the top brass for the Sheriffs’ department were well aware of this. In 2006 the FBI released a redacted memorandum warning of white nationalists in domestic police departments. Or look up the Joe Burge case in Chicago. In departments in Florida, Texas, and Ohio, there were active Klansmen in police departments. It is common knowledge that across the country police culture is profoundly racist and reactionary. The educated classes in the U.S. have internalized the Hollywood version of all this. Just think how many hours of cop shows (all them, literally) you have watched and how every single one signs off on a fantasy version of police heroism …the thin blue line metaphor, and how it is only these handsome and beautiful (if slightly flawed, you know, human) public servants are protecting you and your family from the vicious underclass, from drug dealing gangs, all minority, and where all them, literally, portray inner cities are lawless wastelands without culture, brutish and bestial. This has led to the new narrative archetype of ‘taking the wrong off-ramp’. These are openly racist stories but the public has come to digest such pseudo storytelling in a sort of pattern recognition manner. And nearly every single cop show features one or more military veterans. Usually special forces, but not always. Service in the military is a signifier for virtue and honour.

Forward to 2019, and Los Angeles again, this time in the incorporated mostly black city of Compton in south LA. The details of the Ryan Twyman killing, by sheriffs again, is perhaps the most perfect example of American white supremacism and, when empowered, the violent consequences.

Ryan Twyman was unarmed inside a parked car when two Los Angeles sheriff deputies approached and fired 34 rounds. Video of the entire incident, which happened in roughly 50 seconds, was as shocking as many police brutality cases that have gone viral in the US. But the killing of the 24-year-old father of three barely made the news. On that day, his death was far from unique: officers across LA shot five people in five separate incidents in just over 24 hours. Only one person survived. Families and activists said the bloodshed on 6 June provided a terrifying illustration of the culture of police violence and a system that trains officers to kill – while ensuring they won’t face consequences.
— Sam Levine, Guardian, August 2019.

This is not what you see on the new FOX cop show Deputy. Watch a few episodes and get back to me. But that is hardly a unique phenomenon. There is SWAT, Chicago PD, the various Law & Order franchises, or Criminal Minds. I could go on and on, obviously. The problem is not the violence depicted, for Shakespeare is violent. It is the naked propaganda and the racism. Anti-black racism at the very top but today Islamaphobic narratives abound as well, often with pro Israeli sub plots. Military shows follow the same blueprint.

The point is that you cannot separate the Imperialist wars of aggression across the planet, which serve as recruitment pools for domestic police and private security and you cannot separate the counter insurgency tactics in Iraq and Afghanistan, or Syria, not to mention the covert activities against Venezuela and Bolivia both of which involved at least some uniformed military personnel, from the sadistic actions of America’s police. Nor can you separate these aggressions from the jingoistic entertainments (recruitment shows for the military and police) from Hollywood. These foreign policy actions remain largely accepted and popular. The country may hate Trump, with good reason, but his foreign policy is so far actually less lethal than Obama’s or Bush’s or Clinton’s. In any event every President gets a bump in approval ratings when he kills a dark skinned foreigner either by drone or by military actions. The public didn’t much care at all about Fallujah, and the architect of that butchery, Jim ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis, former Secretary of State for Trump before being fired, is now a darling of the white educated liberals who are so incensed about the prez’ and his failure to lock down the country even more, harder, and certainly for longer. They are quite happy to cheer and identify with the FBI and war criminals like Mattis. That exaggerated hatred of Trump contains a number of contradictions. But for the purposes of this discussion the central one is that of soft or disguised racism vs. overt white sheets MAGA racism.

White paternalism knows no bounds. And the inherent tokenism of the educated white American has sort of reached its own, from their perspective, cultural horizon event. Another way of saying it is truly the death of irony epoch.

That Americans approve of military violence against the poor nations of the world suggests why the police in America are so steadfastly racist and white supremacist. They are hugely supported. Now, there is with the murder of Floyd a lot of discussion of defunding the police. The problem being, as many have pointed out, this would only increase privitization of security. The US spent 100 billion on domestic policing last year, give or take. And around 80 billion on prisons. The US defense budget is four or almost five times that amount. So it would seem critical to defund the military right along with the police. It is clearly a positive to reallocate cop money to mental health and community infrastructure and education. But this is the nefarious aspect of Covid-19 and the lockdown. In Philadelphia the proposed budget cuts, due to the massive effects of the lockdown, include cutting nearly all sanitation workers down to almost nothing, cutting stuff like soap in hospitals and upkeep of school and city buses. The Covid lockdown was a tool of the ruling class.

There is much press now given to polls showing American support for the Floyd protests. Except those polls are misleading.

Forty-five percent of respondents told Morning Consult that, on the whole, most of the protesters are peaceful and desire meaningful social reform, while 42 percent said most protesters are trying to incite violence or destroy property. In Monmouth’s poll, only 17 percent felt the actions of the protesters were fully justified, 37 percent said they were partially justified and 38 percent said they weren’t justified at all. And the Reuters/Ipsos survey found that most Americans (72 percent) didn’t think violent protests were an appropriate response to Floyd’s killing, and that property damage caused by protesters undermined their goals (79 percent). Morning Consult’s survey also found that Americans were less supportive of the protests when they were specifically asked about black people protesting.
— Five Thirty Eight

It’s that last sentence, you see. Whatever grass roots movements achieve is always going to run up against that last sentence. But I’m not cynical about defunding cops. It is a concrete material step in developing alliances in the working class. The movements for prison abolition and defunding are doing the ground work for alliance formation. It has to start somewhere. And they are the front edges of suggesting property and capitalism are the source of most all of their problems. Gramsci envisioned the ‘hegemonic’ struggle as two-pronged:  one to educate the working class from ideas that chain them to the existing order and their own exploitation, and two, to bring other ‘subaltern’ classes into what he called a ‘bloc’ with the working class.

I only see the average American remains bizarrely ignorant of US foreign policy. How many people know of Hillary Clinton’s coup in Honduras? I suspect not many. The violence against the global south has not abated for sixty years (okay, for three hundred). From AT&T to United Fruit to Dole Pineapple, the business interests of corporate America have stood on the backs of the developing world (sic). What would actually happen if police were defunded? What would massive upticks in privatized security look like? Possibly something out of Robocop. And that is the danger today, that is the situation in which we find ourselves.

Take a look at Alabama, which sits up top in the U.S. alphabetically and in the middle, population-wise: Since 1996, Alabama police departments have received $78,534,297.32 in planes, helicopters, rifles, and mine-resistant vehicles. How is there so much stuff to dole out? After 9/11, U.S. military funding increased 50 percent. In fact, the average American has paid $23,386 in taxes to support the military and its war efforts since 2001. All that spending has translated to a lot of extra mine-resistant vehicles, which local police now own.
— AC Shilton, Fatherly, 2020

Over the last thirty years funding for domestic police has grown over 400% according to the Justice Policy Institute. And there are millions of dollars shortfall for public education. The problem there is that public education sucks bad anyway. It is almost worse than no education, frankly (and, yes, I know there are exceptions). And this takes us back to the shelf stockers at Tesco and TARGET. The elite Universities and prep schools are available for the rich, and increasingly the very rich only. And which serves as yet another factor in the acute resentment that seems to fuel so much American discourse. And while private schools are better (how could they be worse?) the problem is the culture at large. It’s not only a reflexive and embedded and indelible racism, it is an anti intellectualism, and fast eroding literacy. And then there are the screens. The pernicious effects of social media (which really is a machine for creating resentment and/or guilt) and smart phones, aps, algorithms … the entire attention economy, has produced a populace of emotional deadness, of crippling anxiety and insecurity about self, and it has done nothing to even mitigate in the slightest of ways the Imperialist project and what is called American Exceptionalism. The cops that killed George Floyd, if prosecuted, will be exceptions that change nothing. Most cops serve with impunity. American soldiers shoot at Iraqi civilians as sport, amusement. The vicious IDF, fresh from killing teenagers, comes to the U.S. to teach domestic departments better how to instill terror and pain, nothing more. There is no secret magic Zionist martial art or mind control. It’s just brute terrorizing. As it has always been for fascists. And as it has always been for plantations and chain gangs.

Political ABCs: Maybe the Difference between a “Cop” and a “Crook” is Just a Badge

Not the only “finest” but the ones with the biggest TV and movie coverage

While it may be common knowledge that fire departments originated as private organisations to defend the interests of property insurers, it has probably been forgotten that in the US police were originally the hired gangs of landowners and merchant-industrialists. As urban conurbations like New York City grew, the police were the action arm of the political machines that served to dominate native and immigrant workers. A job in the police department was a patronage post; i.e., one either bought a job or by demonstrated willingness to act for the political boss(es) could be given a shield, a license to use violence and commit crimes on behalf of the machine or for personal gain as long as it did not conflict with the interests of the former.

In the expanding continental empire that became the USA, the rural police were either the auxiliaries of the slave patrols or the “deputised” vigilantes in the service of big landowners, railroads, mining companies or ranchers. Community policing, let alone “democratic” policing was never a meaningful part of the US political system. What has recently been condemned as corrupt and brutal policing is actually consistent with historical tradition of localised repression.

When in the so-called Progressive Era corporate cartels realised it was necessary to counter emergent mass democratic movements, the ruling elite began a process of “professionalisation”. This trend actually covered most of the West. Ideological catalyst for “progressivism” was the adoption of the ideas of Auguste Comte, best illustrated in the case of Brazil whose flag today is adorned with the motto of Positivism (and the Positivist Church) “Order and Progress”. The emphasis was on technocratic order, embodied in the military as an emerging scientific bureaucracy. Progress meant resisting democratic demands with gradual technocratic solutions.

In the US this meant professionalisation of local government and integration of the private/ partisan police forces into a permanent civil service. Thus the gangs of capitalists acquired protected status as part of the new, modern, professional government apparatus which rationally could counter the “irrationality” attributed to democracy, not least of which the horror of communists and anarchists among the immigrant population. In many US cities, this meant that the ethnic hierarchy became entrenched in the forces of “law and order”.  Irish came to dominate East Coast urban armies — later Italians were allowed to join. Blacks were excluded– also because one of the jobs of the police was control over Blacks and other racial inferiors in the labour force. Even today the major urban armies of the US Eastern seaboard; e.g., Boston, New York, Philadelphia, are dominated by Irish and Italian dynasties for whom the police force is also a cult.

Tourist trap, New York City

Not only was the struggle for democratic and socialist government subverted by imposing “progressive” public administration, these professional governments were equipped with private armies which were then given a badge and virtual immunity from any form of civil or criminal prosecution. Although some may know the history, it is important to recall that these policies were developed, supported and ultimately imposed by the plutocrats of the 19th century, Morgan, Rockefeller, Carnegie, later Ford and others both directly and through philanthropic foundations — established to evade taxes and distribute bribery — and make public policy at arm’s length.

Under Woodrow Wilson, that South Carolina racist and Princeton professor promoted to POTUS, the Pinkerton Detective Agency was essentially moved from its role as private and mercenary political hammer to a State apparatus.  Under A. Mitchell Palmer, who installed them under a fascist bureaucrat named John Edgar Hoover — who then turned it into the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the US equivalent of what Hitler established as the Reichssicherheitshauptamt (the controlling office for all Nazi political and criminal police forces).

The US Constitution does not provide explicitly for police powers — except in the Second Amendment. That infamous addition is usually interpreted as the right for anyone in the US to own and bear firearms. However, that is incorrect. The Second Amendment was adopted to protect the slave states from federal interference in their “slave patrols”, the militias organised under state authority to hunt runaway slaves, discipline slaves and prevent resp. suppress slave rebellions. In other words, the implied police power of the Second Amendment was conceived as an instrument for controlling slaves and later Blacks after slavery was abolished. This is the license that the Constitution gives to the thugs clothed in municipal or state uniforms as professional armies for the oligarchy that owns the United States.

After World War I those owners sought means to establish federal jurisdiction over political dissent, especially given the enormous numbers of urban immigrants from inferior European stock. People like Henry Ford realised that suppressing the consumption of alcohol would create a nationwide pretext for social control without openly contravening the supposed constitutional liberties; e.g., the First Amendment or those forbidding unreasonable search and seizure or denial of due process. The Volstead Act was adopted and the Prohibition amendment entered into force. For the first time since the Civil War, the federal government had a mandate to coordinate policing throughout the US and to mobilise the corporate machine police forces for political control. This not only made families like the Kennedys and Bronfmans fabulously rich, it helped establish the corporate form of crime of which Meyer Lansky became the paragon (although popular culture focuses on Italians rather than Jews).

The federal prohibition of alcoholic beverages did not end drink but created the context for a massive expansion of corporate and state police power. Now the taxpayer — obviously not corporations or their plutocratic owners — could pay the bill for their own repression. This would not have been possible were the US not historically saturated with the hypocritical theocratic culture of Oliver Cromwell’s puritan republic. Since “white” American politics — even abolitionism — has always been dominated by the theocratic tradition of the colonial era, prohibition of alcohol could be promoted as a necessary imposition of moral conduct upon inferior European stock — where wine and beer were ordinary food — and as a purification of the body politic. In fact, it was an alibi for political policing of immigrants, socialists, and any other “un-American” activities.

When it became clear that Prohibition’s days were numbered and an enormous army of uniformed thugs would suddenly be unemployed, people like Harry Anslinger, wed to the Mellon dynasty and a former head of the Pennsylvania Railroad’s private army, lobbied for the prohibition of narcotic drugs. One of his barely valid reasons was that policing narcotics would also preserve an instrument for policing Blacks. So the Federal Bureau of Narcotics became the primary national race police while the its senior rival the Federal Bureau of Investigation was the US secret political police (what was called under Hitler the Gestapo — abbreviation for Geheime Staatspolizei, as opposed to the Schutzpolizei or protective police).

Together these two federal agencies began the process of shaping disparate and independent warlords with their municipal armies into forces that could be mobilised either for political or racialist purposes. The so-called New Deal not only introduced a vast array of federal interventions in the economy and social organisation, some of which were barely socialist but most of which were proto-fascist/corporatist, it nationalised the police powers (and overseas subversion). This meant the corporations were no longer directly liable for the actions of their gangs; e.g., the Pinkertons, Ford Service or the numerous railway and factory police forces deployed to control workers and their communities. The uniforms and badges were exchanged and now these private armies were agents of state repression. The fiction of civilian control was preserved in part due to corporate and jurisdictional jealousies. However, these armies became entrenched parts of the civilian bureaucracy, unionised, and established legacies that made many forces virtually hereditary castes.

It is against this background that one needs to understand the decades of opposition to police in the US, mainly from non-white and poor communities in the US. This opposition is not based on occasional abuse or failures in training. It is based on the intuitively recognised fact that the police in the US — as in the rest of the US Empire — are an army of occupation. They are, individual police officers of good faith notwithstanding, the daily terror and threat of terror which is the complement to Hollywood propaganda and the dictatorship of the workplace. It is no accident that someone like Dan Mitreone, an Indiana police chief, became a notorious trainer of torturers in Latin American police forces before he was kidnapped and executed. Michigan State University ran, or served as a conduit for, programs throughout the US war against Vietnam which brought members of these municipal terror organisations to Southeast Asia to torture Vietnamese.

Of course, policing in Britain and throughout Europe is also derived from state terror policies. Yet only in Britain and the US does one have such an enormous investment in the myth of good police officers. The late journalist Alexander Cockburn once wrote that Britain had the only police department that was treated as a global tourist attraction. Hollywood has done everything possible to give the NYPD that reputation too — although even less deserved. FBI and DEA have become “brands” for leisure attire. Have you seen anyone wearing a “GESTAPO” tee shirt?

Tourist trap, London (1981)

The current wave of demonstrations and demands for an end to police repression and even an end to the police force as such may shock some who think that it would be enough to end racialist abuse by the police, to finally convict police of the capital crimes they commit and punish them accordingly. In a country which is proud of its death penalty, the number of police condemned for murder and punished accordingly can certainly be counted on one hand — or less! The number of people wrongly convicted and/or executed for allegedly killing police gangsters is enormous. The City of Brotherly Love is infamous here.

The problem, of which the murder of George Floyd is only one example among thousands (or perhaps millions throughout US history), is complex. First of all, the warlords — the corporate owners of municipalities and their armies called police — have to be restrained. These armies, like the paramilitary units that same US corporate oligarchy maintains in its overseas protectorates, have independent means; e.g., through their control of drug, gambling and other cash flows. They can buy, blackmail or otherwise suborn politicians and judiciary. They are organised in powerful unions with cult-like loyalty through generations. They are supplied by the covert internal security apparatus established since Hoover’s ascent and enriched after the war on Vietnam and 9-11 — officially the Department of Homeland Security. They can rely on a perverse criminal code, both at local and federal level, which legitimates their functions. Last but not least they are integrated in the penal value chain since the privatisation of prisons and other disciplinary operations. There is so much money involved that it is mind boggling.

Although I remain sceptical as to the actual organisation(s) behind the wave of demonstrations and actions aimed at police forces and their crimes, the issues are real. An adequate and dialectically developing movement to address these long suppressed issues will need to deal with the complexity of police history and especially the powerful financial and political interests behind this municipal militarism that plagues the US and constitutes one of the main obstacles to democratic struggle there.

Being Inconvenienced While Minding My Own Business

I wrote this article almost four years ago in reaction to the public’s claim to be inconvenienced by Oakland protesters stopping traffic on the freeway of Interstate 880 in Oakland in solidarity with the two black men shot and killed by police in Louisiana and Minnesota. The point of that article was to show that bystanders’ ideas of where violence starts, when it starts and who the perpetrators of violence are betrays an adherence to a liberal social contract theory rooted in Locke, Hobbes and Rousseau. Even those who claim to be “non-violent” are trapped in social contract theory. At the end of the article I argue for a political-economic understanding of where, when and who is responsible for the violence.

Given the recent police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, the subsequent torching of police stations and the shutting down of bus lines, we will surely hear even greater howls from bystanders that they are being inconvenienced, that their rights are being infringed on, they had nothing to do with the violence and that the police are a neutral force. All these claims are rooted in the same social contract theory that becomes increasingly moth-eaten as capitalism continues to disintegrate.

First published July 22, 2016 Planning Beyond Capitalism

Are “bystanders” to violent events neutral or complicit?

In the past couple of weeks I’ve read a number of articles about police violence and citizens’ reactions to that violence. Most of these articles rightly point to the structural roots of police violence. However, I have found little written about how the people who are not directly involved in confrontations, “bystanders”, make sense of what is going on. How do people react to either police shooting citizens, citizens shooting the police or to the protests against police violence? Do people who seemed not directly involved in the violence constitute a neutral force or do they have some responsibility for what happens? I soon found how these bystanders thought about it, but not in the manner of my own choosing.

My controversial Facebook post

Almost two weeks ago one of my Facebook friends posted an aerial view of about 1,000 protesters in Oakland moving towards highway 880 to block traffic in reaction to the killing of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. In my post I congratulated the protesters for their collective-creative courage in stepping out onto speeding traffic and stopping it. I said we need more of this until the entire road system is clogged. I also pointed out of the relatively recent existence of police departments (second half of the 19th century) and that for most of human history societies managed without them.

Since the original post was linked to KRON news, many more people saw my post than my normal networks. In a single day, I received over 2,000 responses. The good news for me, and what I suspect are most of the readers of leftist news sources, is that close to 80% “liked” what I said. Now for those of you not initiated into the mysteries of Facebook, “likes” don’t tell you much about the thinking processes of people, but I see it as better than having no information at all.

However, I want to focus on the responses of the 500 or so people that had commented. Most of these comments were hostile. Those who were hostile, but intelligent (meaning they explained why they were upset) can be divided into those who were put off because they were inconvenienced and thought I was insensitive to that. Then there were those who couldn’t imagine doing without the police and that I was completely unrealistic in claiming that a society could exist without them. I want to focus on how their hostility is connected to a liberal, social contract theory of violence.

A liberal theory of violence

Most people in the United States think that social life operates as social contracts, just as Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau described it. They also think normal social life is neutral and non-violent. Violence, they believe, begins at the point of a physical confrontation between people and usually includes lethal weapons. If there is no physical confrontation, there is no violence. So, for example, at a demonstration when the protesters are gathered and listening to speeches and the police are present, but simply talking to each other, these folks would say there is no violence. For a liberal theory of violence, the point where violence begins is when the police either use billy clubs, tear gas or tasers on the protesters, or when the protesters start throwing rocks at the police or through bank windows. If none of these things occurred, bystanders and the media deem the demonstration “peaceful”.

In the case of the protesters blocking the freeway, the police forcing them off the freeway and the protesters resisting the police, these would be claimed to be acts of violence. However, the people patiently waiting for the cops to get the protesters off the freeway – bystanders – were not being violent. So in other words the world is composed of three groups: cops on the one hand; protesters, criminals or deviants on the other; and the neutral public as bystanders.

This liberal theory of violence is grounded in the social contract theory of Hobbes and Locke. Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau (whom I’ll discuss later) were very different politically, but they all agreed that individuals were autonomous, self-subsisting beings who entered into social relations as a result of a “contract”. Interactions between individuals were voluntary, accidental and associative. Contracts were made only after the individual shrewdly weighed the costs and benefits of joining an association – as opposed to remaining alone.

Minding my own business: a Lockean theory of violence

The first of two major complaints against my post was that people were minding their own business. “Why should we be inconvenienced with something that has nothing to do with us? Even if the police were wrong to kill these guys, what does that have to do with me? Why do I have to lose two hours out of my day over something that has nothing to do with me?” This is a great example of the social contract operating. People imagine themselves as isolated monads who have families and jobs where their real social life is. Their membership in a social class, race, region or religion is a secondary matter. Primarily, they are individuals (or in cross-cultural psychology terms, “individualists”). But these individuals still enter the public zone where they walk, take public transportation or drive to get to work or go home. These Lockean individuals treat the public world as an instrumental waystation between their real social world of home, family and work. How is the public world engaged? The state of public bathrooms, increasing road rage and people crossing the street checking their cell phones, oblivious to cars making turns into their crosswalks, are just the tip of an iceberg of the increasing contempt of public life in the United States. This is a world in which normal social responsibilities are generally disregarded or kept to a bare minimum. In the public world “minding my own business” is the code of public conduct.

The political and racial nature of being inconvenienced

Being inconvenienced is intolerable if you play by the rules of minding your own business. As I shall argue shortly, social contract theory has very little to do with the real requirements of social life and the deeply social nature of our identity among even those who complain about being inconvenienced. The same people who claim to be minding their own business and being inconvenienced generally are quite capable of dealing with the ups and downs of public life and making adjustments, depending on the occasion. As I said in one of my rebuttals to some Facebook posts, you are inconvenienced all the time. You wait on lines to buy groceries longer than you’d like because the stores are understaffed. You wait on lines for hours on Black Friday to get deals the day after Thanksgiving. You wait in traffic for hours before and after ball games. Maybe most importantly, you accept the inconvenience of stock market crashes which deplete your savings and threaten your pensions. For these things you have plenty of reasons as to why you shouldn’t make a big deal about it. After all, what can you do? But when events are political and racially charged, for this — you will not put up with being inconvenienced.

Why don’t people see this? Cross-cultural psychologists say that the United States is the most individualist society in the world. Part of being an individualist, as I’ve said earlier, is that demographic membership — region, class, race — is generally not considered an important part of one’s identity. Another characteristic of individualism is that history does not matter. As individualists, those minding their own business tend to downplay their class and racial identity and they can’t understand why people are making such a big deal of these police killings. Because of their lack of appreciation of history, individualists can’t imagine that things that have happened in the past matter today because they are still present within existing social structures. When I teach a class in social psychology or cross-cultural psychology, I have my students answer questions about white privilege. Most of my white students are amazed at how much privilege they have without ever being aware of it. This privilege entitles people to “mind their own business.”

“Without the police there would be anarchy”: a Hobbesian theory of violence

As I said in earlier part in my post, we could do very well without the police, not immediately, but in the long run. I pointed out that the police force was established in the 19th century, essentially to help capitalists combat an increasingly militant labor force. I pointed out that tribal societies and agricultural civilizations also had to keep most of their population safe and they did so without police forces. I also pointed out that in revolutionary situations, citizen militias were formed as people patrolled their own communities. For some people on the Facebook thread, this was incomprehensible. Specifically, they said that without the police there would be “anarchy”. Thomas Hobbes couldn’t have said it better. Their belief is that people are competitive, aggressive, greedy, full of insatiable appetites and that without state intervention (in this case the police) life would be nasty, brutish and short.

“Give Peace a Chance”: A Rousseauism theory of non-violence

By far the most radical of the three social contract theorists was Rousseau. Rousseau had a more optimistic view of human beings than either Hobbes or Locke. Rousseau thought that people were basically good and that the state, private property or the trappings of civilization oppressed them. Rousseau believed the public was capable of participatory direct democracy. In spite of Rousseau attributing a more social nature to humanity, he also held that individuals voluntarily entered into a social contract and they were free to withdraw.

Up to now I have only talked about social contract theory as it relates to violence. Now I want to suggest that even those who claim to be non-violent still operate using a social contract theory of society. Today, Rousseau’s way of making sense of the relationship between individuals and society roughly corresponds to those liberals or anarchists who advocate “non-violence” as a political strategy. Social contract theory is operating when those advocating non-violence imagine that they can choose to be non-violent. For these left-wing social contract theorists, violence begins at the point of forceful contact. If, during a demonstration, protesters stayed away from the police, or practiced civil disobedience, these liberals or anarchists would congratulate themselves on behaving in a non-violent way. At the point of contact, if the police act violently and the protesters don’t resist, the protesters believe they are behaving in a non-violent way. They imagine that public social life is neutral and can remain neutral if the force of the state can be resisted.

Towards a political economy theory of violence                                                                                    

Marx and Durkheim are not alone in claiming that individuals are constitutionally social beings. In social psychology, Lev Vygotsky, George Herbert Mead and Ivana Markova all say in their own way that we are already always social. It is impossible not to be social. In fact, they would say that without being socialized you are not even human. So, where does social contract theory come from? According to C.B. Macpherson, social contract theory is a product of the development of early capitalist society as a way to explain new market relations. But how might these social constitutionalist theories help us to understand the relationship between the police, protesters, deviants and bystanders? Read on.

All class societies are, at their core, violent. In a society where oligarchs control the wealth and the lower classes are subjugated, violence is always the means of first or last resort. True, the ruling classes in history have used various types of propaganda to convince the lower classes why the upper classes deserve to be where they are and why the lower classes deserve to be where they are. But if all else fails, state repression is the result. In class societies state violence is always already the case. That means that even when the state (in our case the police) appears to do nothing, it already is violent because the police have massive violent and lethal means at hand. “Ok” you might say, “but where do the bystanders come into this?”

Bystanders on the freeway who think they are minding their own business and are inconvenienced pay taxes. Those taxes go into the production of violence from the factories where all the weapons are assembled and produced, to the places were the weapons are circulated as well as where they are distributed – including to the police. When weapons are produced, these weapons are already violent, ready-at-hand to use. Secondly, these same citizens pay taxes, which are converted into the salaries of the police. Furthermore, the workers all the way down the supply chain from production to circulation to distribution of weapons are also implicated in what the police do. For these workers it may just be a job, and they consciously live in their micro-world of family and friends, but behind their backs, they are part of a macro world. They are “socially unconscious” that they are also helping to produce violence. There is no such thing as people having a choice of whether or not to be violent. Everyone is more or less complicit.

For the Facebook critics that I’m calling Hobbesians who say that without the police there would be anarchy, what I think they mean is that without the police people would be even more violent than they are already are. They seem to think the citizens without the police are more violent in their social life than citizens with the police. For them the police restore “order”. These folks think that normal public life with the police guarding us is orderly and not violent. Rather than state violence being institutionalized to protect the upper classes, these Hobbesians think that the state is the great neutralizer, the great emulsifier that holds colliding monads from creating a war of all against all. Where might that way of thinking come from? Research shows that those who watch violent programs on television and in the movies repeatedly are more likely to imagine society as more violent than crime statistics show.

Lastly for those Rousseaians who want to give peace a chance, this is an impossible project while social classes continue to exist. The natural resources must be seized from the hands of the upper classes and redistributed to the middle class, working class and poor. This would certainly involve violent conflicts and it would take generations of resocialization to reduce the violence, even in a socialist society. Those who meditate, do yoga,0 attend non-violent workshops and practice civil disobedience still have jobs and pay taxes that fund the state machine of violence.

Violence involves both force and coercion

In the field of social psychology there is a simple distinction made between force and coercion as power bases. Force is the direct application of lethal means of violence on human beings. This is what social contract and my Facebook critics mean by violence. What they are missing is that there is a second source of violence, coercion, and it is defined as the threat of the use of force with lethal means. This threat of force has to be produced by all the people who are working to produce the weapons and those who pay taxes to pay the workers to make the weapons. In other words, there is violence being produced in the process of making the weapons available even if they are never used.

Qualifications

First, I am not suggesting that because I am calling my hostile audience “liberal”, that means that I think everyone posting was politically liberal. Liberal social contract theory operates as a theory of how society and the individual should be understood, based on living in a capitalist society. It is a framework that both liberals and conservatives accept no matter who is in power. Conservatives were won over to this somewhere in the middle of the 19th century when they realized that feudalism and the king were not coming back. This occurred at roughly the same time that they abandoned their organic hierarchical theory of society and the individual and slowly embraced social contract theory.

Lastly, to those brave thousand people who stepped on the freeway in Oakland and risked their lives in 2016, I salute you and I hope more of these freeway closures happen as police violence continues. At the same time, to expect the people whose lives you stopped on the freeway to “get it”, that Black Lives Do Matter, the message needs to be more explicit. To assume people understand that they are complicit is naïve. We have to meet people partly where they are and build bridges between where they are and where we are. Moralizing and screaming at people as they helplessly wait in their cars will have a boomerang effect. Showing people it is in their self-interest to join the fight against state violence is a much more practical course. This will not be easy. But something more than simply stopping traffic is required.