Category Archives: Crime

Saudi Wahabbism Serves Western Imperialism

When the Saudi Crown Prince gave an interview to the Washington Post, declaring that it was actually the West that encouraged his country to spread Wahhabism to all corners of the world, there was a long silence in almost all the mass media outlets in the West, but also in countries such as Egypt and Indonesia.

Those who read the statement expected a determined rebuke from Riyadh. It did not come. The sky did not fall. Lightning did not strike the Prince or the Post.

Clearly, not all that the Crown Prince declared appeared on the pages of the Washington Post, but what actually did, would be enough to bring down entire regimes in such places like Indonesia, Malaysia or Brunei. Or at least it would be enough under ‘normal circumstances’. That is, if the population there was not already hopelessly and thoroughly indoctrinated and programed, and if the rulers in those countries did not subscribe to, or tolerate, the most aggressive, chauvinistic and ritualistic (as opposed to the intellectual or spiritual) form of the religion.

Reading between the lines, the Saudi Prince suggested that it was actually the West which, while fighting an ‘ideological war’ against the Soviet Union and other socialist countries, handpicked Islam and its ultra-orthodox and radical wing – Wahhabism – as an ally in destroying almost all the progressive, anti-imperialist and egalitarian aspirations in the countries with a Muslim majority.

As reported by RT on 28 March 2018:

The Saudi-funded spread of Wahhabism began as a result of Western countries asking Riyadh to help counter the Soviet Union during the Cold War, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman told the Washington Post.

Speaking to the paper, bin Salman said that Saudi Arabia’s Western allies urged the country to invest in mosques and madrassas overseas during the Cold War, in an effort to prevent encroachment in Muslim countries by the Soviet Union…

The interview with the crown prince was initially held ‘off the record’. However, the Saudi embassy later agreed to let the Washington Post publish specific portions of the meeting.

Since the beginning of the spread of Wahhabism, one country after another had been falling; ruined by ignorance, fanatical zeal and fear, which have been preventing the people of countries such as post-1965 Indonesia or the post-Western-invasion Iraq, to move back (to the era before Western intervention) and at the same time forward, towards something that used to be so natural to their culture in not such a distant past – towards socialism or at least tolerant secularism.

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In reality, Wahhabism does not have much to do with Islam. Or more precisely, it intercepts and derails the natural development of Islam, of its strife for an egalitarian arrangement of the world, and for socialism.

The Brits were behind the birth of the movement; the Brits and one of the most radical, fundamentalist and regressive preachers of all times – Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab.

The essence of the Wahabi/British alliance and dogma was and still is, extremely simple: “Religious leaders would force the people into terrible, irrational fear and consequent submission. No criticism of the religion is allowed; no questioning of its essence and particularly of the conservative and archaic interpretation of the Book. Once conditioned this way, people stopped questioning and criticizing first the feudalist, and later capitalist oppression; they also accepted without blinking the plunder of their natural resources by local and foreign masters. All attempts to build a socialist and egalitarian society got deterred, brutally, ‘in the name of Islam’ and ‘in the name of God’”.

Of course, as a result, the Western imperialists and the local servile ‘elites’ are laughing all the way to the bank, at the expense of those impoverished and duped millions in the countries that are controlled by the Wahhabi and Western dogmas.

Only a few in the devastated, colonized countries actually realize that Wahhabism does not serve God or the people; it is helping Western interests and greed.

Precisely this is what is right now happening in Indonesia, but also in several other countries that have been conquered by the West, including Iraq and Afghanistan.

Were Syria to fall, this historically secular and socially-oriented nation would be forced into the same horrid direction. People there are well aware of this, as they are educated. They also see what has happened to Libya and Iraq and they definitely do not want to end up like them. It is the Wahhabi terrorist fighters that both the West and its lackeys like Saudi Arabia unleashed against the Syrian state and its people.

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Despite its hypocritical secular rhetoric, manufactured mainly for local consumption but not for the colonies, the West is glorifying or at least refusing to openly criticize its own brutal and ‘anti-people’ offspring – a concept which has already consumed and ruined both the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Indonesia. In fact, it is trying to convince the world that these two countries are ‘normal’, and in the case of Indonesia, both ‘democratic’ and ‘tolerant’. At the same time, it has consistently been antagonizing almost all the secular or relatively secular nations with substantial Muslim majorities, such as Syria (until now), but also Afghanistan, Iran (prior to the coup of 1953), Iraq and Libya before they were thoroughly and brutally smashed.

Aghanistan-US-air-force-Bagrani-base

It is because the state, in which the KSA, Indonesia and the present-day Afghanistan can be found, is the direct result of both Western interventions and indoctrination. The injected Wahhabi dogma is giving this Western ‘project’ a Muslim flavor, while justifying trillions of dollars on ‘defense spending’ for the so-called ‘War on Terror’ (a concept resembling an Asian fishing pond where fish are brought in and then fished out for a fee).

Obedience, even submissiveness – is where, for many reasons, the West wants its ‘client’ states and neo-colonies to be. The KSA is an important trophy because of its oil, and strategic position in the region. Saudi rulers are often going out of their way to please their masters in London and Washington, implementing the most aggressive pro-Western foreign policy. Afghanistan is ‘valued’ for its geographical location, which could potentially allow the West to intimidate and even eventually invade both Iran and Pakistan, while inserting extremist Muslim movements into China, Russia and the former Soviet Central Asian republics. Between 1 and 3 million Indonesian people ‘had to be’ massacred in 1965-66, in order to bring to power a corrupt turbo-capitalist clique which could guarantee that the initially bottomless (although now rapidly thinning) natural resources could flow, uninterrupted and often untaxed, into places such as North America, Europe, Japan and Australia.

Frankly, there is absolutely nothing ‘normal’ about countries such as Indonesia and the KSA. In fact, it would take decades, but most likely entire generations, in order to return them to at least some sort of nominal ‘normalcy’. Even if the process were to begin soon, the West hopes that by the time it ends, almost all of the natural resources of these countries would be gone.

But the process is not yet even beginning. The main reason for the intellectual stagnation and lack of resistance is obvious: people in countries such as Indonesia and KSA are conditioned so they are not able to see the brutal reality that surrounds them. They are indoctrinated and ‘pacified’. They have been told that socialism equals atheism and that atheism is evil, illegal and ‘sinful’.

Hence, Islam was modified by the Western and Saudi demagogues, and has been ‘sent to a battle’, against progress and a just, egalitarian arrangement of the world.

Poster of radical FPI in Jakarta

This version of religion is unapologetically defending Western imperialism, savage capitalism as well as the intellectual and creative collapse of the countries into which it was injected, including Indonesia. There, in turn, the West tolerates the thorough corruption, grotesque lack of social services, and even genocides and holocausts committed first against the Indonesians themselves, then against the people of East Timor, and to this day against the defenseless Papuan men, women and children. And it is not only a ‘tolerance’ – the West participates directly in these massacres and extermination campaigns, as it also takes part in spreading the vilest forms of Wahabi terrorism and dogmas to all corners of the world. All this, while tens of millions of the followers of Wahhabism are filling the mosques daily, performing mechanical rituals without any deeper thought or soul searching.

Wahhabism works – it works for the mining companies and banks with their headquarters in London and New York. It also works extremely well for the rulers and the local ‘elites’ inside the ‘client’ states.

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Ziauddin Sardar, a leading Muslim scholar from Pakistan, who is based in London, has no doubts that ‘Muslim fundamentalism’ is, to a great extent, the result of the Western imperialism and colonialism.

Ziauddin Sardar and Andre Vltchek discussing Islam at Mr. Sardar’s club in London

In a conversation which we had several years ago, he explained:

Trust between Islam and the West has indeed been broken… We need to realize that colonialism did much more than simply damage Muslim nations and cultures. It played a major part in the suppression and eventual disappearance of knowledge and learning, thought and creativity, from Muslim cultures. The colonial encounter began by appropriating the knowledge and learning of Islam, which became the basis of the ‘European Renaissance’ and ‘the Enlightenment’ and ended by eradicating this knowledge and learning from both from Muslim societies and from history itself. It did that both by physical elimination – destroying and closing down institutions of learning, banning certain types of indigenous knowledge, killing off local thinkers and scholars – and by rewriting history as the history of western civilization into which all minor histories of other civilization are subsumed.

As a consequence, Muslim cultures were de-linked from their own history with many serious consequences. For example, the colonial suppression of Islamic science led to the displacement of scientific culture from Muslim society. It did this by introducing new systems of administration, law, education and economy all of which were designed to impart dependence, compliance and subservience to the colonial powers. The decline of Islamic science and learning is one aspect of the general economic and political decay and deterioration of Muslim societies. Islam has thus been transformed from a dynamic culture and a holistic way of life to mere rhetoric. Islamic education has become a cul-de-sac, a one-way ticket to marginality. It also led to the conceptual reduction of Muslim civilization. By which I mean concepts that shaped and gave direction to Muslim societies became divorced from the actual daily lives of Muslims – leading to the kind of intellectual impasse that we find in Muslim societies today.  Western neo-colonialism perpetuates that system.

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In Indonesia, after the Western-sponsored military coup of 1965, which destroyed the Communist Party of Indonesia (PKI) and brought to power an extreme pro-market and pro-Western regime, things are deteriorating with a frightening predictability, consistency and speed.

While the fascist dictator Suharto, a Western implant after 1965, was said to be ‘suspicious of Islam’, he actually used all major religions on his archipelago with great precision and fatal impact. During his pro-market despotism, all left-wing movements and ‘-isms’ were banned, and so were most of the progressive forms of arts and thought. The Chinese language was made illegal. Atheism was also banned. Indonesia rapidly became one of the most religious countries on Earth.

At least one million people, including members of the PKI, were brutally massacred in one of the most monstrous genocides of the 20th century.

The fascist dictatorship of General Suharto often played the Islamic card for its political ends. As described by John Pilger in his book, The New Rulers of The World:

In the pogroms of 1965-66, Suharto’s generals often used Islamicist groups to attack communists and anybody who got in the way. A pattern emerged; whenever the army wanted to assert its political authority, it would use Islamicists in acts of violence and sabotage, so that sectarianism could be blamed and justify the inevitable ‘crackdown’ – by the army…

‘A fine example’ of cooperation between the murderous right-wing dictatorship and radical Islam.

After Suharto stepped down, the trend towards a grotesque and fundamentalist interpretation of the monotheist religions continued. Saudi Arabia and the Western-favored and sponsored Wahhabism has been playing an increasingly significant role. And so has Christianity, often preached by radical right-wing former exiles from Communist China and their offspring; mainly in the city of Surabaya but also elsewhere.

From a secular and progressive nation under the leadership of President Sukarno, Indonesia has gradually descended into an increasingly radically backward-looking and bigoted Wahhabi-style/Christian Pentecostal state.

President_Abdurrahman_Wahid_Gus_Dur

After being forced to resign as the President of Indonesia during what many considered a constitutional coup, a progressive Muslim cleric and undoubtedly a closet socialist, Abdurrahman Wahid (known in Indonesia by his nickname Gus Dur), shared with me his thoughts, on the record:

These days, most of Indonesian people do not care or think about God. They only follow rituals. If God would descend and tell them that their interpretation of Islam is wrong, they’d continue following this form of Islam and ignore the God.

‘Gus Dur’ also clearly saw through all the tricks of the military and pro-Western elites. He told me, among other things, that the 2003 Marriott Hotel bombing in Jakarta was organized by the Indonesian security forces, and later blamed on the Islamists, who were actually only executing the orders given to them by their political bosses from the pro-Western military regime, which until now is being disguised as a, ‘multi-party democracy’.

In Indonesia, an extreme and unquestioning obedience to the religions has led to a blind acceptance of a fascist capitalist system, and of Western imperialism and its propaganda. Creativity and intellectual pluralism have been thoroughly liquidated.

The 4th most populous nation on the planet, Indonesia, has presently no scientists, architects, philosophers or artists of any international standing. Its economy is fueled exclusively by the unbridled plunder of the natural resources of the vast, and in the past, pristine parts of the country, such as Sumatra and Indonesian Borneo (Kalimantan), as well as on the brutally-occupied Western part of Papua. The scale of the environmental destruction is monumental; something that I am presently trying to capture in two documentary films and a book.

Awareness of the state of things, even among the victims, is minimal or out rightly nonexistent.

In a country that has been robbed of its riches; identity, culture and future, religions now play the most important role. There is simply nothing else left for the majority. Nihilism, cynicism, corruption and thuggery are ruling unopposed. In the cities with no theatres, galleries, art cinemas, but also no public transportation or even sidewalks, in the monstrous urban centers abandoned to the ‘markets’ with hardly any greenery or public parks, religions are readily filling the emptiness. Being themselves regressive, pro-market oriented and greedy, the results are easily predictable.

In the city of Surabaya, during the capturing of footage for my documentary film produced for a South American television network TeleSur (Surabaya – Eaten Alive by Capitalism), I stumbled over an enormous Protestant Christian gathering at a mall, where thousands of people were in an absolute trance, yelling and lifting their eyes towards the ceiling. A female preacher was shouting into a microphone:

God loves the rich, and that is why they are rich! God hates the poor, and that’s why they are poor!

Von Hayek, Friedmann, Rockefeller, Wahab and Lloyd George combined could hardly define their ‘ideals’ in more precise way.

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What exactly did the Saudi Prince say, during his memorable and ground-breaking interview with The Washington Post? And why is it so relevant to places like Indonesia?

In essence, he said that the West asked the Saudis to make the ‘client’ states more and more religious, by building madrassahs and mosques. He also added:

I believe Islam is sensible, Islam is simple, and people are trying to hijack it.

People? The Saudi themselves? Clerics in such places like Indonesia? The Western rulers?

In Teheran, Iran, while discussing the problem with numerous religious leaders, I was told, repeatedly:

The West managed to create a totally new and strange religion, and then it injected it into various countries. It calls it Islam, but we can’t recognize it… It is not Islam, not Islam at all.

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In May 2018, in Indonesia, members of outlawed terrorist groups rioted in jail, took hostages, then brutally murdered prison guards. After the rebellion was crushed, several explosions shook East Java. Churches and police stations went up in flames. people died.

Destroyed Aleppo

The killers used their family members, even children, to perpetrate the attacks. The men in charge were actually inspired by the Indonesian fighters who were implanted into Syria – the terrorists and murderers who were apprehended and deported by Damascus back to their large and confused country.

Many Indonesian terrorists who fought in Syria are now on their home turf, igniting and ‘inspiring’ their fellow citizens. The same situation as in the past – the Indonesian jihadi cadres who fought against the pro-Soviet government in Afghanistan later returned and killed hundreds and thousands in Poso, Ambon and other parts of Indonesia.

Indonesian extremists are becoming world-famous, fighting the battles of the West as legionnaires, in Afghanistan, Syria, Philippines and elsewhere.

Their influence at home is also growing. It is now impossible to even mention any social or god forbid, socialist reforms in public. Meetings are broken up, participants beaten, and even people’s representatives (MP’s) intimidated, accused of being “communists”, in a country where Communism is still banned by the regime.

The progressive and extremely popular Jakarta governor, Ahok, first lost elections and was then put on trial and thrown into jail for “insulting Islam”, clearly fabricated charges. His main sin – cleaning Jakarta’s polluted rivers, constructing a public transportation network, and improving the lives of ordinary people. That was clearly ‘un-Islamic’, at least from the point of view of Wahhabism and the Western global regime.

Radical Indonesian Islam is now feared. It goes unchallenged. It is gaining ground, as almost no one would dare to openly criticize it. It will soon overwhelm and suppress the entire society.

And in the West ‘political correctness’ is used. It is lately simply ‘impolite’ to criticize Indonesian or even the Saudi form of ‘Islam’, out of ‘respect’ for the people and their ‘culture’. In reality, it is not the Saudi or Indonesian people who get ‘protected’ – it is the West and its imperialist policies; policies and manipulations that are used against both the people and the essence of Muslim religion.

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While the Wahhabi/Western dogma is getting stronger and stronger, what is left of the Indonesian forests is burning. The country is literally being plundered by the Western multi-national companies and by its local corrupt elites.

Extremist attacks against Indonesian churches

Religions, the Indonesian fascist regime and Western imperialism are marching forward, hand in hand. But forward – where? Most likely towards the total collapse of the Indonesian state. Towards the misery that will come soon, when everything is logged out and mined out.

It is the same as when Wahhabism used to march hand in hand with the British imperialists and plunderers. Except that the Saudis found their huge oil fields, plenty of oil to sustain themselves (or at least their elites and the middle class, as the poor still live in misery there) and their bizarre, British-inspired and sponsored interpretation of Islam.

Indonesia and other countries that have fallen victims to this dogma are not and will not be so ‘lucky’.

It is lovely that the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman spoke publicly and clarified the situation. But who will listen?

For the Indonesian people, his statements came too late. They did not open many eyes, caused no uprising, no revolution. To understand what he said would require at least some basic knowledge of both the local, and world history, and at least some ability to think logically. All this is lacking, desperately, in the countries that have found themselves squashed by the destructive imperialist embrace.

The former President of Indonesia, Abdurrahman Wahid, was correct: “If God would come and say… people would not follow God…”

Indonesia will continue following Mr. Wahab, and the capitalist dogma and the Western imperialists who ‘arranged it all’. They will do it for years to come, feeling righteous, blasting old North American tunes in order to fill the silence, in order not to think and not to question what is happening around them. There will be no doubts. There will be no change, no awakening and no revolution.

Until the last tree falls, until the last river and stream gets poisoned, until there is nothing left for the people. Until there is total, absolute submission: until everything is burned down, black and grey. Maybe then, few tiny, humble roots of awakening and resistance would begin to grow.

• First published by New Eastern Outlook (NEO)

• All photos by Andre Vltchek

Germany’s New Right Wing

Since parliamentary democracy was restored in Germany after World War Two, several right-wing parties have sought to get the required 5% of the popular vote to be represented in parliament. They all failed until 2017. In that election a new right-wing party, Alternatives for Deutschland (AfD), won 13% of the vote, making them the third most powerful party, ahead of the Greens, the Lefts, and the Liberals. They also won many seats in the individual state parliaments and one seat in the European Parliament.

Exit polls showed, though, that most people who voted for them weren’t convinced by their overall program but only by one aspect of it: their strong opposition to the government’s permissive refugee policy.

Germany has taken in over two million refugees from the Mideast wars, far more than any other country. The equivalent for the US population would be eight million refugees, double the number of people in Los Angeles.

This has created an enormous financial and cultural strain in a country that historically has had little immigration. It comes at a time when poverty is increasing and social services are being reduced. The once-generous welfare state is being dismantled. This financial squeeze is worsening now because of expenses for the refugees. The two million newcomers receive enough money to live on plus free healthcare, education, and access to special programs. Some cheat on this, registering in several places under different names and getting multiple benefits. Many Germans resent paying for all this with high taxes while their own standard of living is declining.

The clash of cultures has created other problems. Two-thirds of the refugees are young men, some of them convinced God has ordained males to dominate females. In their view, women who aren’t submissive need to be punished. Since being male is the only power many of them have, they feel threatened by women in positions of power, and they sometimes react with hostility. Over a thousand women have been physically attacked — some murdered and raped and many aggressively grabbed on the breasts as a way of showing dominance. Tens of thousands of women have been abused — insulted, harassed, spat on. Some examples here.

German foreign policy is also part of the problem. Many refugees are aware that Germany, as a member of NATO, supports these wars that have forced them to flee their homes. They’re not fooled by the rhetoric of “humanitarian intervention.” They know NATO’s motives are imperialistic: to install governments agreeable to Western control of their resources and markets. Although they are now safe, their relatives and friends are still being killed with weapons made in Germany and oppressed by soldiers and police trained and financed by Germany. Rather than a grateful attitude, some have come with a resentful one. A few ISIS and al-Qaeda members, determined to drive all forms of Western imperialism from their lands, have come to murder and maim.   See here.

Crime has increased, especially violent crimes such as knife attacks. Police and others have been killed and wounded by refugees.

Many Germans are incensed by this behavior.

Because AfD is the only party that demands a sharp reduction in refugees, they’ve benefited from an enormous protest vote. One factor in their success is that they don’t come across as extremists. Although their policies are reactionary, bigoted, and anti-Muslim, they present them with a populist rhetoric that seems moderate, emphasizing the defense of Western cultural values. Rather than eliminate immigration, they want to limit it. They are pro Christian and support the nuclear family structure and traditional gender divisions but aren’t as rabid about it as, for instance, conservative Christians in the USA. Their proposals for social services — healthcare, welfare, unemployment insurance, education — are more liberal than the Democrats’ in the USA. They call for more direct democracy such as voter initiatives and referendums. The AfD are not fascists. They are more like a stodgy, crabby old uncle.

That doesn’t mean they’re not dangerous, though. They now have a national platform for propagating their right-wing program. They have the power to block progressive legislation and influence governmental appointments. But they’re not a resurgence of Nazism. That specter is a media myth.

Of the two million refugees, those who cause problems are only a small minority. Most of the newcomers have a positive attitude. They are getting a fresh start in life, recovering from trauma, getting an education, learning new skills. They’ve been introduced to other cultural possibilities.

Women in particular are responding favorably to this new environment. Seeing how women here live, some of the refugees are beginning to free themselves from patriarchal bondage. With help from German feminists they are developing the energy and determination to challenge male rule and change the conditions of their lives. That’s the real Alternative for Deutschland … and for the Mideast.

Soul on Ice Goes to College, and the Murder of Dr. King

Capitalism does not permit an even flow of economic resources. With this system, a small privileged few are enriched beyond conscience, and almost all others are doomed to be poor at some level. That’s the way the system works. And since we know that the system will not change, we are going to have to change the system.

— Martin Luther King, Jr., 1967

The murder of Dr. King on April 4, 1968, marked a  sea change in black America’s long, tortuous sojourn in this nation-state.  Of course, assassination of black leaders and sympathizers has been a mainstay of American life from even before this country’s inception.  Still, the Civil Rights and Black Power era of the ’50s and ’60s featured an especially gruesome series of murders that included, to name only a few of the most spectacular:

November 22, 1963,  A date seared into everybody’s consciousness.  We watched on live TV half of President John Kennedy’s head get blown off on that mid-morning in Dallas.

Robert F. Kennedy’s gut-wrenching take-down in Los Angeles a mere six weeks after Dr. King’s assassination.

Medgar Evers (top state NAACP executive) collapsed into a pool of his own blood under the relentless rain of rifle and shotgun fire on the steps of his own Mississippi home, also in ’63. Evers’ killing fit seamlessly between the rhythmic drumbeats of black church bombings across the south.

Then, on February 21 of 1965,  Malcolm X’s enormous black heart was  shredded by gunfire as he stood on stage in Harlem’s famed Audubon Ballroom.

Since 1955, I have been troubled by an indefinable pain as the sad, sad saga of the lynching of Emmett Till, in a place ominously called Money, Mississippi, played out on our eight-inch Motorola television set.  As a small child, I listened hard with little understanding while my elders recalled some of our own kinfolk who, unlike them, had opted to stay in the south (or had failed to escape) and therefore suffered fates identical to Emmett Till’s and so many faceless, nameless others.

Each of these murderous moments presented to our black consciousness as earth-rending points in time. But, again, none of these past or ongoing days and nights of terror affected, changed, black America as profoundly as the wholly expected, public, and unspeakably brutal execution of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

1968:  How to Avoid  the “Paralysis of Analysis”

I was a  junior at Indiana University’s main campus in Bloomington in that revolutionary year.  Our mass marches, demonstrations and protests, walk-outs, stand-ups, sit-ins, lay-ins,  strikes, boycotts, and occupation of buildings paralleled and, more often than not, spearheaded the campus Hippies’, Yippies’, etc. assorted protests.  They, understandably, were offended by the Vietnam War, and inspired by a renewed white Women’s Liberation Movement.

We black students protested unjust and racially discriminatory practices and policies of the University itself – especially its abominable admissions policy. There were 500 black students on this, the state of Indiana’s flagship and largest state-supported university, a campus of 29,000 students.  There were just three black professors, not one of whom was tenured. And, naturally, there were no courses, let alone curricula, which even pretended to address the 400-year-old history and contemporary lived experience of black folk in this nation-state.  Thus, another of our non-negotiable demands was establishment of a degree-granting Black Studies Department.

We refused to allow our protests to be dismissed as momentary expressions of youthful exuberance. Through our marches, meetings, poetry slams, and classes, we questioned the fundamental assumptions of the University, especially its historical embrace of white supremacy/white racism. And, in concert with the anti-War movement, we challenged those who provided the financial wherewithal for corporations like Dow Chemical to do its lethal, on-campus research for napalm gas, which engulfed untold millions of Vietnamese in excruciating, fiery injury and death. We were at war, all right…at war with campus honchos who made peace with the war, and who were more committed to keeping peace on campus rather than in exploring the ways in which the University collaborated with the war efforts and its deliberate mis-education of all its students.

“Soul on Ice” Goes to College

In late ’67, Indiana University’s Black Theater Workshop was organized by black students to produce plays, poetry and nonfiction that addressed this nation-state’s real history, our present condition, and hoped-for revolutionary future. We breathed deeply, freely, of the burgeoning Black Arts Movement as it raced through the blackosphere like a fast-moving river. Those black tributaries flowed from, to, and back again through Harlem, Gary, Oakland, Madison, Watts, Ann Arbor, Chicago’s South and West Sides, Ohio’s Central State University, and New Jersey’s newly christened “New Ark.”

Our literary high priests and priestesses included, but were by no means limited to:  Nikki Giovanni, Langston Hughes, Sonia Sanchez, Hoyt Fuller, Maya Angelou, Ishmael Reed, Rosa Guy, Sterling A. Brown, LeRoi Jones, Richard Wright, and, of course, the Master of them all, James Baldwin.

In ’68, the Black Panther Party’s Minister of Information published a black-busting tome entitled Soul On Ice. Eldridge Cleaver had done lots of California prison time, mainly for rape and robbery; but he was a powerful, even essential essayist.  Soul On Ice provided a first-hand look at the Panthers sans the usual establishment media bias.  Soul on Ice also chronicled Cleaver’s own astounding rise from prison inmate to Ramparts Magazine’s star, revolutionary writer.  

The BTW converted Cleaver’s book into a play.  Because his life and persona were so deeply conflicted, we divided the “Eldridge Cleaver” character into three parts:  The Rapist; The Revolutionary; and The Writer. Guess which part I played.

The Murder of Dr. King

On April 4, 1968, I was hiking – sans umbrella – across IU’s idyllic campus to play rehearsal. A light, steady Spring rain began to fall, so I decided to cut through the blocks-long Student Union building.

I passed through the giant cafeteria and approached an open-area TV lounge.  A large group of students stood gathered around a television. I stopped, but could hear only  muffled voices. Just as I came up directly behind them, Walter Cronkite said, “….and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. died at 6:30 p.m. Eastern Standard Time.”

The students before me burst into loud, raucous whistles, hoots, and applause.  They cheered.  I stood directly behind them and watched and listened in open-mouthed shock….dumbfounded – not at the heart-stopping news  – that had not had time to register – but at the utterly appalling scene unfolding right before my eyes.

I never saw the TV screen and could no longer hear it.  I stared at the backs of these my fellow students for what seemed a long moment as some of them began to guffaw and slap each other’s backs.

Slowly….ever so slightly, the laughter began to subside.  And then, en masse, they turned their faces in my direction — as though they shared a single neck.  Their toothy, ear-to-ear grins looked weird, distorted. I could sense – feel –  sharp-edged daggers of hate radiating from them.  I could see their disgust at not just my presence among them but at my very existence. It was clear that I had intruded upon an electronic lynching and had inadvertently disrupted their blood lust.  It was only then, however, that I noticed the thing that has come back to haunt me each and every 4th of April since that night:  Every single one of these faces was “white.”

I dared not turn my back to these people.  I tentatively began walking backwards, furtively eying each one of them as I carefully placed one foot behind the other.  I made it out into the hallway and then sprinted to the nearest exit.

“Burn, Baby, Burn!” versus Learn, Baby, Learn!

I arrived at our director’s off-campus apartment soaking wet.  She was a strikingly beautiful, jet-black East Indian political science PhD. candidate, a devotee of both Dr. King and Mahatma Gandhi. Although she was East Indian, she “identified” completely with “black” Americans. Indeed, she was so dark-complected (black) that when the sun touched her skin just right, she actually sparkled.

Standing there, just inside her pad, dripping onto the threshold, I watched  the girls gathered around the TV sobbing uncontrollably, hysterically. The guys, enraged, walked around the place pounding their fists into their hands, “We gotta get ’em!  We gotta get ’em,” they alternately mumbled or shouted. “How could they kill him?!” somebody said. “Not this man!”

The TV began showing scenes of riots breaking out across the country:   Chicago was ablaze; New York; L.A.; St. Louis; Detroit, even staid Indianapolis.  Later, we learned that over 110 cities had gone up that night.

“We can’t meet violence with violence,” the director said finally.  “If we even try,” she continued, “we will lose. They’ve got all the guns.”

“Not this one!,” a brother said, pulling out a shiny snub-nosed .38 pistol.

“Put that thing away!”, she ordered.  “The last thing Dr. King would want you young people to do is commit violence in his name,” she declared.  “Let’s use our heads! All of you must stay in school and graduate.  It’s more important now than ever before that we complete and present this play.”

Like so many other black people, that night changed my life.  I was one person before Dr. King’s murder, and a completely different person afterwards.

Netanyahu’s Corruption: How Israeli Journalists Project Israel’s Crimes on to Palestinians

In an article published in Al-Monitor without a single verifiable citation, Israeli journalist, Shlomi Eldar, went to unprecedented lengths to divert attention from the corruption in his country.

He spoke of Palestinian journalists – all speaking on condition of anonymity – who ‘applauded’ and ‘admired’ Israeli media coverage of corruption scandals surrounding the country’s rightwing Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.

Eldar’s approach is underhanded and journalistically unsound.

The Israeli media, which has largely supported Netanyahu’s devastating wars on Gaza, continues to relentlessly defend the illegal occupation of Palestine and to serve as a shield for Israel’s stained reputation on the international stage. It is hardly praiseworthy, even if it arguably provides decent coverage for the Netanyahu investigations.

For an Israeli journalist to handpick a few Palestinians who, allegedly, praised the war crimes-apologist Israeli media is a remarkable event that surely cannot be satisfactorily addressed in anonymity.

But Eldar’s journalism aside, one would think that seeking Palestinian admiration for Israeli media should be the least urgent question to address at this time. Others are far more pressing. For example:

Is corruption among Israel’s political elite symptomatic of greater moral and other forms of corruption that have afflicted the entire society?

And, why is it that, while Netanyahu is being indicted for bribery, no Israeli official is ever indicted for war crimes against Palestinians?

In fact, well before Netanyahu’s corruption scandals included more serious charges – for instance, quid pro quo deals in which his advisors tried to manipulate media coverage in his favor and offering high political positions in exchange for favors – it included bribes pertaining to fancy cigars and expensive drinks.

What Israelis are trying to tell us is that, despite all of its problems, Israel is a good, transparent, law-abiding and democratic society.

This is precisely why Eldar wrote his article. The outcome was a familiar act of intellectual hubris that we have grown familiar with.

Eldar even cites a supposedly former Palestinian prisoner who told Al-Monitor that, while in prison, “we learned how the democratic election process works in Israel. The prisoners adopted the system in order to elect their leadership in a totally democratic fashion, while ensuring freedom of choice.”

Others cited their favorite Israeli journalist, some of whom have served and continue to serve as mouthpieces for official Israeli hasbara (propaganda).

Many of Israel’s friends in western governments and corporate media have also contributed to this opportunistic style of journalism; they come to the rescue when times are hard, to find ways to praise Israel and to chastise Palestinians and Arabs, even if the latter are not relevant to the discussion, whatsoever.

Who could ever forget US Senator John McCain’s criticism of his country’s torture of prisoners at the height of the so-called ‘war on terror’? His rationale was that such a war can be won without torture, because Israel ‘doesn’t torture’ and yet it is capable of combating ‘Palestinian terrorism’.

Thousands of Palestinians have been tortured, and hundreds were killed under duress in Israeli prisons, the last of whom was Yaseen Omar on the day when this article was written. Moreover, according to the Palestinians Prisoners’ Club, 60% of Palestinian children arrested by Israel are also tortured.

If Israeli media was truly honest in its depiction of Netanyahu’s corruption, it would have made a point of highlighting the extent to which corruption goes well beyond the prime minister, his wife and a few close confidantes, but this would pierce through the entire legal, political and business establishment rendering the system itself as rotten and corrupt.

Instead, the heart of the discussion is relocated somewhere else entirely. In Eldar’s article, for example, he quotes the anonymous Palestinian who speaks about how Palestinians prisoners “rejected the political systems of Arab states and opted for the one they had absorbed from the ‘Israeli enemy’.”

This Israeli obsession of diverting from the discussion is an old tactic. Whenever Israel is in the dock for whatever problem it has invited upon others or itself, it immediately fashions an Arab enemy to beat down, chastise and blame.

In the final analysis, somehow Israel maintains the upper hand and self-granted moral ascendency.

This is also why Israelis refer to their country as “the only democracy in the Middle East”. It is a defense mechanism to divert from the fact that apartheid, racially-structured political systems are inherently undemocratic. So, Israel resorts to belittling its neighbors to confirm its own self-worth.

When Israel facilitated and helped carry out the Sabra and Shatila Massacre in Lebanon in September 1982, it used the same logic to defend itself against media outrage.

The then Israeli Prime Minister, Menachem Begin, was quoted as saying “the goyim kill goyim, and they blame the Jews.” By ‘they’ he meant the media.

The bottom line is always this: Israel is blameless no matter the hideousness of the act; it is superior and more civilized, and, according to Eldar’s selective reporting, even Palestinians know it.

But where is the outrage by Eldar and his Israeli media champions as thousands of black men and women are being caged in by Israeli police, ready for deportation, for committing the mortal sin of daring to escape war in their countries and seeking refuge in Israel?

How about the millions of besieged and subjugated Palestinians living a bitter existence under an inhumane military occupation?

Should not the Israeli media be targeting the very legal and political structures in their country that makes it okay to imprison a whole nation in defiance of international and human rights law?

In some strange way, corruption is one of few things that is truly normal about Israel, for it is a shared quality with every single country in the world.

What is not normal, and should never be normalized, is that Israel is the only country in the world that continues to practice Apartheid, many years after it was disbanded in South Africa.

Israeli media would rather delay that discussion indefinitely, a cowardly act that is neither admirable nor praiseworthy.

The Killing Field

Every time we hear news of yet another mass shooting in the United States we inevitably also hear that it is the right of every American to own a gun, sanctified by the Second Amendment to the US Constitution. But I wonder how many people making that claim have actually read the Second Amendment, because that’s not really what it does.

Fortunately the section is very short and pretty easy to understand. It reads, in its entirety, as follows:

A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

So it’s pretty obvious that the purpose of this law, which should be far more important than the actual wording, is to provide for the “security of a free state”. In the days when the amendment was written the only way this could be readily achieved was by permitting any citizen to bear arms, and to be ready to join with fellow citizens in defence of the community if it was attacked. Obviously that condition no longer applies. The US is the most powerful armed nation in the world and its existential security is no longer dependent on individual citizens bearing arms.

In other words the infamous Second Amendment, which is routinely quoted every time another appalling mass murder takes place in the US, does NOT give an unconditional right for Americans to own guns. It strongly suggests that the right to own a gun is dependent on the necessity of a citizen being part of a well-regulated state militia which, given the fact that the US has the most tooled-up government on the planet, is itself no longer a necessity. But how many of the perpetrators of previous mass slaughters, or even the more everyday suicides and shootings that happen on average 33,000 times a year are members of well-regulated state militias? Because those are the only people the Second Amendment actually authorises to bear arms.

Then we hear from the huntin’ shootin’ fishin’ brigade, the people who think it’s well hard to murder defenceless animals as some sort of perverted survival instinct. But the truth is that almost no one needs to kill animals in order to survive. Except for tiny isolated communities living in remote parts of the planet in the way their ancestors have always done, no one needs to kill animals to stay alive. Apart from the fact that the vast majority of human beings obtain their food from shops – much of which is slaughtered animal flesh of one kind or another – there’s also the obvious fact that we don’t actually need to eat animals at all, as millions of healthy vegans can easily prove.

Sometimes we also hear from gun clubs, about the harmless pleasures of shooting at bits of paper. Well, here’s a news bulletin: you don’t need high-powered rifles or handguns to put a hole through a bit of paper. You can do the job very successfully with an air-rifle, or by using an archery bow.

No, the real reason thousands of innocent Americans are destined to be gunned down every year has nothing to do with constitutional rights, or defending the need of a tiny handful of deluded people to murder defenceless animals, or standing up for people who like to put holes in bits of paper. The real reason is pretty much the same reason that’s behind every other factor that makes the United States the most dysfunctional nation on the planet: protecting the sacred right of giant corporations to make maximum profits.

It really is way beyond time for Americans to get a proper grip of their sick government. How many more Americans must get shot by their own people before someone says “enough”? 50,000 a year? 100,000? 1,000,000?

It’s not like it’s hard. All that needs to happen is to make it illegal to own or sell a high-powered rifle or handgun. No one needs these things. If guns didn’t exist, say, and someone just invented them, what chance would there be of being allowed to start selling them? None. Zero. Zip. So get a grip. Outlaw these things. Outlaw the people who make and sell them, and outlaw the people who make and sell the ammunition for them – because a gun without ammunition is only so much scrap metal.

And let’s please stop hearing about this “constitutional right” to bear arms. The Second Amendment does not give that right unconditionally. Its obvious purpose is to authorise armed militias to provide security. But having the most tooled-up government on the planet, supposedly providing security, armed militias are obviously irrelevant today. This needless perpetual slaughter must stop. Come on, America. Get a grip of yourself!

Netanyahu’s Ruthless Instinct for Political Survival Remains Undimmed

The recommendation by police to charge Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu with two counts of bribery – there are more cases looming – marks a dangerous moment for Israel and the region.

For the past three decades, corruption scandals have swirled around a succession of Israeli leaders. Ehud Olmert, Mr Netanyahu’s predecessor, was forced to resign over suspicions he took cash in envelopes, and later ended up in jail. But Mr Netanyahu is the first to face the possibility of criminal corruption charges while in office.

This is new political terrain and Mr Netanyahu shows no signs of preparing to go quietly.

After 12 years at the head of various governments, Mr Netanyahu was on course to become the longest-serving prime minister in Israel’s history, beating even the record set by David Ben Gurion, the country’s founding father.

No one alive knows how to manipulate the levers of power in Israel better than Mr Netanyahu. And no one has a stronger and more ruthless instinct for political survival.

That has led to extreme arrogance. In late 2016, as his wife, Sara, was brought in for police questioning, the couple were still receiving from businessmen shipments of jewellery, luxury cigars and pink champagne whose value reached $280,000.

Mr Netanyahu is accused of offering many favours in return, in particular to Hollywood mogul Arnon Milchan, a self-declared former Israeli spy and arms buyer. Those included efforts to change Israel’s tax laws, help Mr Milchan with TV interests and lobby on his behalf for a US residency visa.

Reportedly, the prime minister also tried to aid Mr Milchan and other investors by planning unsuccessfully a free-trade zone in the West Bank to build cheap cars and by participating in the murky dealings of a security firm.

In the second bribery case, Mr Netanyahu is on tape apparently offering Arnon Mozes, head of Israel’s most influential media group, legislation to damage a competitor in return for supportive coverage from his newspapers.

In another, as-yet unfinished investigation, Mr Netanyahu’s closest aides are suspected of receiving huge kickbacks from a deal with a German submarine manufacturer.

None of this has yet delivered a knockout blow, not least because members of the governing coalition fear moving against him.

These scandals have split Israeli society down the middle. While thousands have turned out to march against Mr Netanyahu, his core electorate is still behind him.

Rivals seen to be turning on the prime minister at this stage risk alienating the right-wing public, dooming their political future. Instead they are waiting to see whether Israel’s law chief, attorney general Avichai Mendelblit, agrees to put him on trial.

Mr Mendelblit is in no hurry. He is Mr Netanyahu’s appointee, and fears being seen toppling a popular government. He could take as long as a year to decide.

In the meantime, to bolster his position, Mr Netanyahu is already provoking a damaging confrontation at home and might yet engineer a regional crisis.

The first casualty is a further erosion of what is left of the threadbare rule of law in Israel. In a sign of desperation, Mr Netanyahu’s allies have attacked a former government minister, Yair Lapid – a potential centrist challenger – for testifying that the prime minister asked him to change the tax laws to help Mr Milchan.

They have publicly labelled him a “snitch”, as if senior politicians ought to lie to police investigators.

Meanwhile, rather than denying the findings, Mr Netanyahu has launched a frontal assault on the probity of the police and its commander, Roni Alsheikh, suggesting they are organising a politically motivated “coup”.

That is rich, given that Mr Alsheikh was parachuted into the post by Mr Netanyahu. And, as a former long-time resident of the Kiryat Arba, one of the most extreme settlements, Mr Alsheikh is firmly in the same ideological camp as Mr Netanyahu.

The latest attacks follow years of Mr Netanyahu’s coterie lashing out at every institution that threatens the right’s rule – from the media, courts and human rights organisations to the United Nations and Europe. All have been presented as “enemies of the people”.

But there are larger dangers. Mr Netanyahu’s legal troubles come as Israeli intelligence services have warned of potential crises on multiple fronts that need careful management.

In the south, the suffering in Gaza is pushing Palestinians there to the brink of endurance. Clashes escalated at the weekend, when Israel struck more than a dozen sites and left at least two Palestinians dead.

On the western flank, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas is running out of credibility and options as Israel and Donald Trump’s administration deprive him of any realistic prospect of achieving statehood.

With the Lebanese militia Hezbollah, Iran, Russia and jihadists drawn into the fray in southern Syria, on Israel’s northern border, tensions could explode at any moment. That was powerfully illustrated this month when an Israeli war plane flying over Syria was shot down. Addressing the incident on Sunday, Mr Netanyahu told a security conference in Munich that Israel was ready to act “against Iran itself”.

And Mr Netanyahu is assumed to be meddling already behind the scenes with Mr Trump to tear up the nuclear accord with Iran.

The man deciding how to handle each of these inherently incendiary matters has crowned himself “King Bibi”, his wife “the First Lady”, and had been grooming his eldest, Yair, as heir – until Yair self-sabotaged by posting anti-semitic memes online.

All signs suggest Mr Netanyahu has a massively inflated ego and an insatiable sense of entitlement. Where it might push him in a time of profound and prolonged personal crisis should worry us all.

• First published in the National

Netanyahu’s Ruthless Instinct for Political Survival Remains Undimmed

The recommendation by police to charge Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu with two counts of bribery – there are more cases looming – marks a dangerous moment for Israel and the region.

For the past three decades, corruption scandals have swirled around a succession of Israeli leaders. Ehud Olmert, Mr Netanyahu’s predecessor, was forced to resign over suspicions he took cash in envelopes, and later ended up in jail. But Mr Netanyahu is the first to face the possibility of criminal corruption charges while in office.

This is new political terrain and Mr Netanyahu shows no signs of preparing to go quietly.

After 12 years at the head of various governments, Mr Netanyahu was on course to become the longest-serving prime minister in Israel’s history, beating even the record set by David Ben Gurion, the country’s founding father.

No one alive knows how to manipulate the levers of power in Israel better than Mr Netanyahu. And no one has a stronger and more ruthless instinct for political survival.

That has led to extreme arrogance. In late 2016, as his wife, Sara, was brought in for police questioning, the couple were still receiving from businessmen shipments of jewellery, luxury cigars and pink champagne whose value reached $280,000.

Mr Netanyahu is accused of offering many favours in return, in particular to Hollywood mogul Arnon Milchan, a self-declared former Israeli spy and arms buyer. Those included efforts to change Israel’s tax laws, help Mr Milchan with TV interests and lobby on his behalf for a US residency visa.

Reportedly, the prime minister also tried to aid Mr Milchan and other investors by planning unsuccessfully a free-trade zone in the West Bank to build cheap cars and by participating in the murky dealings of a security firm.

In the second bribery case, Mr Netanyahu is on tape apparently offering Arnon Mozes, head of Israel’s most influential media group, legislation to damage a competitor in return for supportive coverage from his newspapers.

In another, as-yet unfinished investigation, Mr Netanyahu’s closest aides are suspected of receiving huge kickbacks from a deal with a German submarine manufacturer.

None of this has yet delivered a knockout blow, not least because members of the governing coalition fear moving against him.

These scandals have split Israeli society down the middle. While thousands have turned out to march against Mr Netanyahu, his core electorate is still behind him.

Rivals seen to be turning on the prime minister at this stage risk alienating the right-wing public, dooming their political future. Instead they are waiting to see whether Israel’s law chief, attorney general Avichai Mendelblit, agrees to put him on trial.

Mr Mendelblit is in no hurry. He is Mr Netanyahu’s appointee, and fears being seen toppling a popular government. He could take as long as a year to decide.

In the meantime, to bolster his position, Mr Netanyahu is already provoking a damaging confrontation at home and might yet engineer a regional crisis.

The first casualty is a further erosion of what is left of the threadbare rule of law in Israel. In a sign of desperation, Mr Netanyahu’s allies have attacked a former government minister, Yair Lapid – a potential centrist challenger – for testifying that the prime minister asked him to change the tax laws to help Mr Milchan.

They have publicly labelled him a “snitch”, as if senior politicians ought to lie to police investigators.

Meanwhile, rather than denying the findings, Mr Netanyahu has launched a frontal assault on the probity of the police and its commander, Roni Alsheikh, suggesting they are organising a politically motivated “coup”.

That is rich, given that Mr Alsheikh was parachuted into the post by Mr Netanyahu. And, as a former long-time resident of the Kiryat Arba, one of the most extreme settlements, Mr Alsheikh is firmly in the same ideological camp as Mr Netanyahu.

The latest attacks follow years of Mr Netanyahu’s coterie lashing out at every institution that threatens the right’s rule – from the media, courts and human rights organisations to the United Nations and Europe. All have been presented as “enemies of the people”.

But there are larger dangers. Mr Netanyahu’s legal troubles come as Israeli intelligence services have warned of potential crises on multiple fronts that need careful management.

In the south, the suffering in Gaza is pushing Palestinians there to the brink of endurance. Clashes escalated at the weekend, when Israel struck more than a dozen sites and left at least two Palestinians dead.

On the western flank, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas is running out of credibility and options as Israel and Donald Trump’s administration deprive him of any realistic prospect of achieving statehood.

With the Lebanese militia Hezbollah, Iran, Russia and jihadists drawn into the fray in southern Syria, on Israel’s northern border, tensions could explode at any moment. That was powerfully illustrated this month when an Israeli war plane flying over Syria was shot down. Addressing the incident on Sunday, Mr Netanyahu told a security conference in Munich that Israel was ready to act “against Iran itself”.

And Mr Netanyahu is assumed to be meddling already behind the scenes with Mr Trump to tear up the nuclear accord with Iran.

The man deciding how to handle each of these inherently incendiary matters has crowned himself “King Bibi”, his wife “the First Lady”, and had been grooming his eldest, Yair, as heir – until Yair self-sabotaged by posting anti-semitic memes online.

All signs suggest Mr Netanyahu has a massively inflated ego and an insatiable sense of entitlement. Where it might push him in a time of profound and prolonged personal crisis should worry us all.

• First published in the National

Israel: DNA Tests May Provide Answers on Missing Babies

Thousands of Israeli families who have been searching in vain for answers since their babies mysteriously disappeared in the early 1950s – shortly after Israel’s creation – have been thrown a lifeline.

The mystery of the missing children has plagued Israel for decades, with evidence mounting that at least some of the babies were trafficked by hospitals and orphanages – possibly with the connivance of Israeli officials.

Other documents indicate some children may have died during experiments conducted by hospitals without the parents’ knowledge or consent.

The families hope two new initiatives based on DNA testing – including the opening of graves – will reveal whether their children were abducted, as many have long suspected, or died of natural causes, as Israeli officials maintain.

The vast majority of the children – potentially as many as 8,000 – were from Jewish families that had recently immigrated to Israel from Arab countries such as Yemen, Iraq, Tunisia and Morocco.

The Arab Jews, known in Israel as the Mizrahim, have faced well-documented racism and discrimination from Israeli authorities.

Three official inquiries have concluded that most of the babies died, even though many families lack death certificates and were not told where their babies were buried. A number of mothers have told of nurses seizing a healthy baby from their arms, only to inform them shortly afterwards that the baby had died.

Israeli law has also hampered efforts to reunite families by making it nearly impossible for adopted individuals who suspect they were abducted to find out who their biological parents were.

Now the two separate gene-testing initiatives promise to shed light on what happened to the babies.

Stolen babies?

The creation of a DNA database of Mizrahi Jews led to the first breakthroughs recently in matching adopted children to their long-lost families, strengthening suspicions that a significant proportion of babies were given away or sold.

Varda Fox, 67, discovered through a gene test that she had been taken from Yemeni parents in 1950 when she was a few months old. She was sent to an orphanage run by the Women’s International Zionist Organisation (WIZO), a semi-governmental charity, where she was put up for adoption.

Both Fox’s biological parents are now dead. As she was reunited with a surviving sister late last month, she told Israeli media: “I so wanted to meet my mother. It was a lifelong trauma. Tearing an infant from his mother and father causes an internal rupture.”

MyHeritage, the company overseeing the database, said Fox was one of three missing children it had located so far.

Fox’s experiences echo the findings of an investigation in 2016 by Al Jazeera into the missing babies.

It reported on Gil Grunbaum, who discovered by accident in the early 1990s that his parents, who were Holocaust survivors, were not his biological family. A few years later, and over opposition from Israeli officials, he tracked down his original family, Arab Jews who immigrated from Tunisia.

There have been a number of similar cases reported in the Israeli media.

Grunbaum told Al Jazeera: “Thank god for DNA – it is now our best hope of getting to the truth.”

He added: “The hole in the dyke cannot be closed. It will only grow bigger. There is now a huge public demand [in Israel] for information on these missing children.”

Demanding answers

Pressure has been mounting on Israel’s right-wing government to provide answers in what Israelis call the Yemenite Babies Affair. The government of Benjamin Netanyahu relies heavily on support from Mizrahi Jews.

Last summer thousands protested in Jerusalem for more urgent steps from the government to provide answers and reunite families. Organisers have also demanded that the state acknowledge its responsibility for the children’s abduction.

In response, the Israeli parliament recently passed a law allowing the families of missing babies to seek permission to open graves for DNA tests.

The first 17 families received approval to take DNA samples from the disinterred remains late last month.

A small minority of the families who suspect their babies were taken have been notified of the official burial site since a state inquiry, the Kedmi Commission, issued its findings in 2001, said Yael Tzadok, an Israeli journalist and member of the Forum for the Families of the Kidnapped Children, a group helping the families find answers.

“This is an important first step,” she told Al Jazeera. “Now we can check if a grave in the name of a specific child actually contains that child’s remains. We can test whether the state has been telling the truth in these limited number of cases.”

Experts, however, have warned that the DNA tests on the remains may prove inconclusive. Given the long delay, the DNA samples may not be viable.

Tzadok noted in the case of a mass children’s grave in Jerusalem, containing 400 bodies, new corpses were interred above the children’s graves, effectively denying the families any hope of identifying the remains.

She added that some of the children’s burial sites were already known to be bogus. Some 20 years ago, as part of the Kedmi inquiry’s investigation, a handful of graves were opened. There proved to be no correlation between the missing children and the remains found in the graves.

Grunbaum observed: “Even if all the graves we know about are opened and if all the families find their children inside – which is unlikely – that will only be a small fraction of the total. Lots of families will still be no closer to finding answers.”

Baby trade

Some 50,000 Yemeni Jews were airlifted to Israel in the state’s first 18 months alone. They and new Jewish immigrants from Iraq, Morocco, Tunisia and the Balkans were housed in temporary absorption camps for long periods.

Officials have argued that in this chaotic period, with its low standards of hygiene, many babies died of disease. The problem was compounded by medical services that were overwhelmed and failed to keep proper records.

The case of Fox, who was reunited last month with her sister, Ofra Mazor, however, bolsters claims that a significant number of babies were abducted.

According to Mazor, their mother had often spoken of how she was told by the hospital where she gave birth that her baby had died.

A year ago, under public pressure, the government released thousands of documents relating to the three state inquiries that had been scheduled to remain under lock for another 50 years.

The files included testimonies from officials and medical staff indicating a trade in babies had taken place, with some given away or sold to childless European Jews in Israel and abroad.

Last October 83-year-old Shulamit Mallik, who was a child-care worker in an absorption camp in the 1950s, came forward to corroborate those accounts. She told a public meeting that delegations of overseas women visited, and shortly afterwards babies disappeared.

As well as an apparent trade in Mizrahi children, evidence has emerged that hospitals took some of the missing children for medical experiments.

According to documents unclassified last year, George Mendel, head of the Rosh Haayin hospital’s children department, testified to the Kedmi inquiry that he and colleagues performed experiments to determine if Yemeni children had “black blood” – an apparent reference to whether they were racially inferior.

A parliamentary committee found documents indicating some of the studies were paid for by the US National Institutes of Health. Mendel told the inquiry he had heard rumours that documents relating to the experiments were destroyed several years later.

‘Great crime’

The committee also uncovered a letter written in 1950 by a female physician by the name of Rothenberg to a senior official at the Rosh Haayin hospital warning that her colleagues were “murderers” of the children.

Photographs produced by the committee showed Yemenite children, apparently used in the study, with their internal organs marked on their skin.

The parliamentary committee’s chair, Nurit Koren, heavily criticised the Kedmi inquiry for not referring to the experiments in its conclusions. “It is increasingly apparent that the bodies of the children were used for research. … There was a great crime here that was never reported.”

Tzadok said racism was rampant against the Mizrahim among the European Jews who led the government at the time, including Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben Gurion. Quotes show him calling the Mizrahim “primitive” and “without a trace of civilisation”.

“The racism came from the very top, making it legitimate in the wider society,” she said. “The general view of the time was that we are taking babies from bad parents to give them to much better parents.”

Tzadok added that the government’s reluctance to come clean in the face of mounting evidence was out of concern for Israel’s “international image”. She said: “Just a few years after the Holocaust, the state that was supposed to offer Jews sanctuary was stealing babies on a racist basis.”

Grunbaum said he suspected economic considerations were behind the government’s reluctance both to be more transparent and to issue an apology.

“They are worried that there will be a flood of compensation claims that could reach billions of dollars if the truth comes out,” he said.

• First published in Al Jazeera

• See related articles here and here

Little Barbies: Sex Trafficking of Young Girls is America’s Dirty Little Secret

Children are being “targeted and sold for sex in America every day.
— John Ryan, National Center for Missing & Exploited Children

They’re called the Little Barbies.

Children, young girls—some as young as 9 years old—are being bought and sold for sex in America. The average age for a young woman being sold for sex is now 13 years old.

This is America’s dirty little secret.

Sex trafficking—especially when it comes to the buying and selling of young girls—has become big business in America, the fastest growing business in organized crime and the second most-lucrative commodity traded illegally after drugs and guns.

As investigative journalist Amy Fine Collins notes, “It’s become more lucrative and much safer to sell malleable teens than drugs or guns. A pound of heroin or an AK-47 can be retailed once, but a young girl can be sold 10 to 15 times a day—and a ‘righteous’ pimp confiscates 100 percent of her earnings.”

Consider this: every two minutes, a child is exploited in the sex industry.

According to USA Today, adults purchase children for sex at least 2.5 million times a year in the United States.

Who buys a child for sex? Otherwise ordinary men from all walks of life.

“They could be your co-worker, doctor, pastor or spouse”, writes journalist Tim Swarens, who spent more than a year investigating the sex trade in America.

In Georgia alone, it is estimated that 7,200 men (half of them in their 30s) seek to purchase sex with adolescent girls each month, averaging roughly 300 a day.

On average, a child might be raped by 6,000 men during a five-year period of servitude.

It is estimated that at least 100,000 children—girls and boys—are bought and sold for sex in the U.S. every year, with as many as 300,000 children in danger of being trafficked each year. Some of these children are forcefully abducted, others are runaways, and still others are sold into the system by relatives and acquaintances.

“Human trafficking—the commercial sexual exploitation of American children and women, via the Internet, strip clubs, escort services, or street prostitution—is on its way to becoming one of the worst crimes in the U.S.,” said prosecutor Krishna Patel.

This is an industry that revolves around cheap sex on the fly, with young girls and women who are sold to 50 men each day for $25 apiece, while their handlers make $150,000 to $200,000 per child each year.

This is not a problem found only in big cities.

It’s happening everywhere, right under our noses, in suburbs, cities and towns across the nation.

As Ernie Allen of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children points out, “The only way not to find this in any American city is simply not to look for it.”

Don’t fool yourselves into believing that this is merely a concern for lower income communities or immigrants.

It’s not.

It is estimated that there are 100,000 to 150,000 under-aged child sex workers in the U.S. These girls aren’t volunteering to be sex slaves. They’re being lured—forced—trafficked into it. In most cases, they have no choice.

In order to avoid detection (in some cases aided and abetted by the police) and cater to male buyers’ demand for sex with different women, pimps and the gangs and crime syndicates they work for have turned sex trafficking into a highly mobile enterprise, with trafficked girls, boys and women constantly being moved from city to city, state to state, and country to country.

For instance, the Baltimore-Washington area, referred to as The Circuit, with its I-95 corridor dotted with rest stops, bus stations and truck stops, is a hub for the sex trade.

No doubt about it: this is a highly profitable, highly organized and highly sophisticated sex trafficking business that operates in towns large and small, raking in upwards of $9.5 billion a year in the U.S. alone by abducting and selling young girls for sex.

Every year, the girls being bought and sold gets younger and younger.

The average age of those being trafficked is 13. Yet as the head of a group that combats trafficking pointed out, “Let’s think about what average means. That means there are children younger than 13. That means 8-, 9-, 10-year-olds.

“For every 10 women rescued, there are 50 to 100 more women who are brought in by the traffickers. Unfortunately, they’re not 18- or 20-year-olds anymore,” noted a 25-year-old victim of trafficking. “They’re minors as young as 13 who are being trafficked. They’re little girls.”

Where did this appetite for young girls come from?

Look around you.

Young girls have been sexualized for years now in music videos, on billboards, in television ads, and in clothing stores. Marketers have created a demand for young flesh and a ready supply of over-sexualized children.

“All it takes is one look at [certain social media] photos of teens to see examples—if they aren’t imitating porn they’ve actually seen, they’re imitating the porn-inspired images and poses they’ve absorbed elsewhere,” writes Jessica Bennett for Newsweek. “Latex, corsets and stripper heels, once the fashion of porn stars, have made their way into middle and high school.”

This is what Bennett refers to as the “pornification of a generation.”

“In a market that sells high heels for babies and thongs for tweens, it doesn’t take a genius to see that sex, if not porn, has invaded our lives”, concludes Bennett. “Whether we welcome it or not, television brings it into our living rooms and the Web brings it into our bedrooms. According to a 2007 study from the University of Alberta, as many as 90 percent of boys and 70 percent of girls aged 13 to 14 have accessed sexually explicit content at least once.”

In other words, the culture is grooming these young people to be preyed upon by sexual predators. And then we wonder why our young women are being preyed on, trafficked and abused?

Social media makes it all too easy. As one news center reported, “Finding girls is easy for pimps. They look on MySpace, Facebook, and other social networks. They and their assistants cruise malls, high schools and middle schools. They pick them up at bus stops. On the trolley. Girl-to-girl recruitment sometimes happens.” Foster homes and youth shelters have also become prime targets for traffickers.

Rarely do these girls enter into prostitution voluntarily. Many start out as runaways or throwaways, only to be snatched up by pimps or larger sex rings. Others, persuaded to meet up with a stranger after interacting online through one of the many social networking sites, find themselves quickly initiated into their new lives as sex slaves.

Debbie, a straight-A student who belonged to a close-knit Air Force family living in Phoenix, Ariz., is an example of this trading of flesh. Debbie was 15 when she was snatched from her driveway by an acquaintance-friend. Forced into a car, Debbie was bound and taken to an unknown location, held at gunpoint and raped by multiple men. She was then crammed into a small dog kennel and forced to eat dog biscuits. Debbie’s captors advertised her services on Craigslist. Those who responded were often married with children, and the money that Debbie “earned” for sex was given to her kidnappers. The gang raping continued. After searching the apartment where Debbie was held captive, police finally found Debbie stuffed in a drawer under a bed. Her harrowing ordeal lasted for 40 days.

While Debbie was fortunate enough to be rescued, others are not so lucky. According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, nearly 800,000 children go missing every year (roughly 2,185 children a day).

With a growing demand for sexual slavery and an endless supply of girls and women who can be targeted for abduction, this is not a problem that’s going away anytime soon.

For those trafficked, it’s a nightmare from beginning to end.

Those being sold for sex have an average life expectancy of seven years, and those years are a living nightmare of endless rape, forced drugging, humiliation, degradation, threats, disease, pregnancies, abortions, miscarriages, torture, pain, and always the constant fear of being killed or, worse, having those you love hurt or killed.

Peter Landesman paints the full horrors of life for those victims of the sex trade in his New York Times article “The Girls Next Door”:

Andrea told me that she and the other children she was held with were frequently beaten to keep them off-balance and obedient. Sometimes they were videotaped while being forced to have sex with adults or one another. Often, she said, she was asked to play roles: the therapist patient or the obedient daughter. Her cell of sex traffickers offered three age ranges of sex partners–toddler to age 4, 5 to 12 and teens–as well as what she called a “damage group.” “In the damage group, they can hit you or do anything they want to,” she explained. “Though sex always hurts when you are little, so it’s always violent, everything was much more painful once you were placed in the damage group.

What Andrea described next shows just how depraved some portions of American society have become. “They’d get you hungry then to train you” to have oral sex. “They put honey on a man. For the littlest kids, you had to learn not to gag. And they would push things in you so you would open up better. We learned responses. Like if they wanted us to be sultry or sexy or scared. Most of them wanted you scared. When I got older, I’d teach the younger kids how to float away so things didn’t hurt.”

Immigration and customs enforcement agents at the Cyber Crimes Center in Fairfax, Va., report that when it comes to sex, the appetites of many Americans have now changed. What was once considered abnormal is now the norm. These agents are tracking a clear spike in the demand for harder-core pornography on the Internet. As one agent noted, “We’ve become desensitized by the soft stuff; now we need a harder and harder hit.”

This trend is reflected by the treatment many of the girls receive at the hands of the drug traffickers and the men who purchase them. Peter Landesman interviewed Rosario, a Mexican woman who had been trafficked to New York and held captive for a number of years. She said: “In America, we had ‘special jobs.’ Oral sex, anal sex, often with many men. Sex is now more adventurous, harder.”

A common thread woven through most survivors’ experiences is being forced to go without sleep or food until they have met their sex quota of at least 40 men. One woman recounts how her trafficker made her lie face down on the floor when she was pregnant and then literally jumped on her back, forcing her to miscarry.

Holly Austin Smith was abducted when she was 14 years old, raped, and then forced to prostitute herself. Her pimp, when brought to trial, was only made to serve a year in prison.

Barbara Amaya was repeatedly sold between traffickers, abused, shot, stabbed, raped, kidnapped, trafficked, beaten, and jailed all before she was 18 years old. “I had a quota that I was supposed to fill every night. And if I didn’t have that amount of money, I would get beat, thrown down the stairs. He beat me once with wire coat hangers, the kind you hang up clothes, he straightened it out and my whole back was bleeding.”

As David McSwane recounts in a chilling piece for the Herald-Tribune: “In Oakland Park, an industrial Fort Lauderdale suburb, federal agents in 2011 encountered a brothel operated by a married couple. Inside ‘The Boom Boom Room,’ as it was known, customers paid a fee and were given a condom and a timer and left alone with one of the brothel’s eight teenagers, children as young as 13. A 16-year-old foster child testified that he acted as security, while a 17-year-old girl told a federal judge she was forced to have sex with as many as 20 men a night.”

One particular sex trafficking ring catered specifically to migrant workers employed seasonally on farms throughout the southeastern states, especially the Carolinas and Georgia, although it’s a flourishing business in every state in the country. Traffickers transport the women from farm to farm, where migrant workers would line up outside shacks, as many as 30 at a time, to have sex with them before they were transported to yet another farm where the process would begin all over again.

This growing evil is, for all intents and purposes, out in the open.

Trafficked women and children are advertised on the internet, transported on the interstate, and bought and sold in swanky hotels.

Indeed, as I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, the government’s war on sex trafficking—much like the government’s war on terrorism, drugs and crime—has become a perfect excuse for inflicting more police state tactics (police check points, searches, surveillance, and heightened security) on a vulnerable public, while doing little to make our communities safer.

So what can you do?

Educate yourselves and your children about this growing menace in our communities.

Stop feeding the monster: Sex trafficking is part of a larger continuum in America that runs the gamut from homelessness, poverty, and self-esteem issues to sexualized television, the glorification of a pimp/ho culture—what is often referred to as the pornification of America—and a billion dollar sex industry built on the back of pornography, music, entertainment, etc.

This epidemic is largely one of our own making, especially in a corporate age where the value placed on human life takes a backseat to profit. It is estimated that the porn industry brings in more money than Amazon, Microsoft, Google, Apple, and Yahoo.

Call on your city councils, elected officials and police departments to make the battle against sex trafficking a top priority, more so even than the so-called war on terror and drugs and the militarization of law enforcement.

Stop prosecuting adults for victimless “crimes” such as growing lettuce in their front yard and focus on putting away the pimps and buyers who victimize these young women.

Finally, the police need to do a better job of training, identifying and responding to these issues; communities and social services need to do a better job of protecting runaways, who are the primary targets of traffickers; legislators need to pass legislation aimed at prosecuting traffickers and “johns,” the buyers who drive the demand for sex slaves; and hotels need to stop enabling these traffickers, by providing them with rooms and cover for their dirty deeds.

That so many women and children continue to be victimized, brutalized and treated like human cargo is due to three things: one, a consumer demand that is increasingly lucrative for everyone involved—except the victims; two, a level of corruption so invasive on both a local and international scale that there is little hope of working through established channels for change; and three, an eerie silence from individuals who fail to speak out against such atrocities.

But the truth is that we are all guilty of contributing to this human suffering. The traffickers are guilty. The consumers are guilty. The corrupt law enforcement officials are guilty. The women’s groups who do nothing are guilty. The foreign peacekeepers and aid workers who contribute to the demand for sex slaves are guilty. Most of all, every individual who does not raise a hue and cry over the atrocities being committed against women and children in almost every nation around the globe—including the United States—is guilty.