Category Archives: Crimes against Humanity

A Dedicated Obsession: Washington’s Continuing Iran Sanctions Regime

One dogma that is likely to persist in US foreign policy during a Biden presidency will be the sanctions regime adopted towards Iran.  Every messianic state craves clearly scripted enemies, and the demonology about the Islamic Republic is not going to go begging.  Elliot Abrahams, the current US special representative for Iran, told Associated Press on November 12 that, “Even if you went back to the (nuclear deal) and even if the Iranians were willing to return … this newly enriched uranium, you would not have solved these fundamental questions of whether Iran is going to be permitted to violate long-term commitments it has made to the world community.”

It is worth pointing out that it was President Donald Trump who proved so itchy to renege on the nuclear deal to begin with.  In May 2018, his administration formally withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the long negotiated harvest of the Obama administration in July 2015.  Over the course of 120 days, it re-imposed all previously lifted economic sanctions, including “secondary sanctions” on non-US entities conducting financial or commercial transactions with Iran. A unilateral shredding of Washington’s own undertakings was made while still expecting the mullahs to continue in sweet compliance.

The less than compliant response from Tehran has not made this one of Trump’s finer moments: an abandonment of nuclear limits marked out by the agreement; a resumption of the nuclear program; an increasingly emboldened stance in the Middle East.  According to UN inspectors, Iran’s enriched stockpile currently lies at 2,440 kilograms.  Under the deal, it would have been under 300 kilograms.  All of this took place despite the precipitous fall in oil exports, a decline in currency value and a steep rise in inflation.

Even before the pandemic, human rights organisations were already warning about the broader health implications of a brutal sanctions regime.  As Human Rights Watch explained in an October 2019 report, the consequences of such sanctions “pose a serious threat to Iranians’ right to health and access to essential medicines – and has almost certainly contributed to documented shortages – ranging from a lack of critical drugs for epilepsy patients to limited chemotherapy medications for Iranians with cancer.”

The US State Department and the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control continue to maintain that humanitarian goods, which also covers medicine and medical supplies, are exempt in the sanctions policy.  A rosily inaccurate picture, given the imposition of sanctions on 18 Iranian banks including those entities engaged in financing foods and medicines.  To this comes the added complication of what the US considers “dual use” items: hazmat suits, face shields, oxygen generators, air filters.  Decisions to grant exemptions, the purview of bureaucrats, are tardily made.

The advent of the novel coronavirus pandemic inspired a ghoulish train of thought in the Trump administration.  Easing sanctions to better enable Iran to cope with COVID-19 was never entertained.  Instead, as Djavad Salehi-Isfahani of the Brookings Institute observed, “the US piled on more sanctions, and chose to ignore calls from world leaders, former US diplomats, and the United Nations to ease sanctions.”  Such a bloodthirsty sentiment was captured by the Wall Street Journal in March 2020, whose editors decided that sanctions should continue, despite Iran becoming a pandemic hotspot.  “If American sanctions were the culprit, it might be reasonable to consider lifting them.  But the regime’s incompetence and self-interest are to blame.”

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif thought differently of it, accusing the US of “medical terrorism” in blunting Tehran’s efforts to access financial resources during the COVID-19 crisis.  Hadi Yazdani, a physician and a member of the reformist Union of Islamic People Party, sports a more nuanced view: US sanctions have well hobbled the government’s pandemic policy, but so has inefficiency and habitual bureaucratic mismanagement.

The dedicatedly nasty sanctions regime encouraged and enforced by the United States is now frustrating efforts in the country to make advance payment to the COVAX facility, created to assist in providing future COVID-19 vaccines to more indigent states.  This will become more pressing, given rising death tolls.  (On November 13, 461 were reported in the state media.)

The rate of COVID-19 infections is also scorching: 11,737 cases over 24 hours from Friday, according to Sima Sadat Lari, a health ministry spokeswoman who has become the regular herald of doom.  She also admitted that various questions on the vaccines remained unanswered, notably in terms of “how effective the vaccine is and for what groups it is more effective.”

During the transition period in US politics, we can expect the Trump administration to be particularly testy about modifying its position on sanctions.  Secretary of State Mike Pompeo continues to busy himself with blacklisting Iranian entities.  The Treasury Department, for instance, recently placed a supply chain network on the list, claiming it “facilitated the procurement of sensitive goods, including US-origin electronic components” for an Iranian entity linked to the production of “military communication systems, avionics, information technology, electronic warfare, and missile launchers.”

Pompeo — and in this, he has a few devotees — argues that a return to the nuclear deal would be dotty and dangerous.  “It’s a crazy idea to think that you’re going to get back into a deal that permitted a clean pathway for the Iranians to have a nuclear weapon by which they could terrorize the entire world.”  President-elect Joe Biden, for his part, insists that Iran “must return to strict compliance with the deal.  If it does so, I would rejoin the agreement and use our renewed commitment to diplomacy to work with our allies to strengthen and extend it, while more effectively pushing back against Iran’s other destabilizing activities.”

The statements of the president-elect suggest nothing comforting to health specialists and policy makers bearing witness to the suffering caused by sanctions.  Trump’s “maximum pressure” policy might be abandoned in name, but will continue exerting a haunting influence.  The hawks in the Republican Party will be sharpening their talons, ever watchful of any softening towards Tehran.

The post A Dedicated Obsession: Washington’s Continuing Iran Sanctions Regime first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Criminally Responsible Americans Vote for Commander of Their Worldwide Genocidal Killing Machine

The good people of the 3rd World should not let themselves be taken in by worldwide satellite beamed CIA-fed media prattling on continuously about American democracy during ongoing presidential elections. Sadly, Americans are duped into participating  in elections that back crimes against humanity ordered by the ruling genocidal Wall St. plutocracy which militarily and financially plunders 3rd World humanity and corrupts American society.

A great many Americans voting believe the lies their criminal corporate media pours out daily, and are therefore gung-ho proud of Americans killing media-designated ‘bad guys” all around the world. These completely fooled Americans are happy to vote for the next commander-in-chief, but a substantial amount of Americans voting know they have been frightened into voting for what they hope is the lesser of two evils and are unhappy with what they feel is a mockery of the so called democratic process that has them voting for a choice that still represents evil.

Former US Attorney General Ramsey Clark, once the highest law officer of the USA, who helped write both important civil rights laws, speaks to his fellow Americans clearly, and meant that all the world should know this truth.

We’re not a democracy. It’s a terrible misunderstanding and a slander to the idea of democracy to call us that. In reality, we’re a plutocracy: a government by the wealthy.

One of the most internationally powerful plutocrats in US history, John Pierpont Morgan, in a candid moment admitted:

Of all forms of tyranny the least attractive and the most vulgar is the tyranny of mere wealth, the tyranny of plutocracy.

The well respected third president of the USA, Thomas Jefferson, saw the plutocracy coming when he said:

I hope we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations, which dare already to challenge our government to a trial of strength and bid defiance to the laws of our country.

Already in 1922, USA’s most famous economist Thorstein Veblen wrote:

The current situation in America is by way of being something of a psychiatrical clinic...Perhaps the commonest and plainest evidence of an unbalanced mentality is to be seen in a certain fearsome and feverish credulity with which a large proportion of Americans are affected…. There is a visible lack of composure and logical coherence, both in what they will believe and in what they are ready to do about it.

Veblen assumed depression to  be the normal condition  in a business-enterprise economy, to be relieved in periods of excitation caused by stimuli not intrinsic to the system like war and expansion abroad. Veblen saw the modern business leader as essentially a latter-day predatory warrior.1

Veblen’s observation is born out by Americans always having been willing to follow criminal orders and bomb, invade and occupy other people’s lands the world over.

Paul Craig Roberts, former editor of the Wall Street Journal, and Undersecretary of the Treasury under President Reagan, in his article, The Looting Machine Called Capitalism, wrote,

Americans are the least exceptional people in human history. Americans have no rights at all. We hapless insignificant beings have to accept whatever capitalists and their puppet government impose on us. And we are so stupid we call it ‘Freedom and Democracy America.’

Americans today are wildly mesmerized in avid interest in who will be president for the next four years. However, given the continual American wars in smaller countries and perpetual ramped up fear of nuclear Armageddon, it’s obviously of some greater significance who will serve as Commander-in-Chief of the American worldwide genocidal killing machine, because whether Americans realize it or not, they, each citizen, has a portion of citizen co-responsibility for the crimes of their fellow Americans ‘serving’ as soldiers following criminal, and therefore illegal, orders.

Those Americans voting, who believe the lies their criminal corporate media pours out daily and are therefore gung-ho proud of Americans killing media-designated ‘bad guys” everywhere and anywhere, believe US democracy makes them and all Americans to be above the law — above all law. On the other hand, that substantial amount of Americans voting, who know they have been frightened into voting for what they hope is the lesser of two evils, are well aware of their tacit complicity in the crimes against humanity in other people’s countries. Some more modest amount of Americans voting, or refusing to vote, realize that they have already been prosecuted in the court of public opinion and in the hearts of parents of children blown to pieces or starved to death by the actions of Americans. Hopefully, this is what people overseas, especially in nations under American attack, understand.

At the same time a multitude of Americans vote, other Americans have been fueling, arming and target selecting for the Saudi airstrikes for five years. Already back in November 2017, Save the Children reported that 130 children were dying every day, with 50,000 children already believed to have died in 2017. The U.N. officials said more than 20 million people, including 11 million children, are in need of urgent assistance, with 7 million totally dependent on food assistance. The U.N. has called it the “worst humanitarian crisis in the world.”

US CIA controlled media is so sure of the headlock it has on the American public, its mainstream media can even inform of Yemeni children dying from bombs and starvation knowing its captive audience will not turn against their American killing machine. Even the most eye-rebounding photos  published in wars supporting New York Times Yemen Girl Who Turned World’s Eyes to Famine Is Dead (Published 2018) and seen on PBS television channels did not put a dent in American solidarity with its government’s and military’s genocidal actions in Yemen – prosecutable genocidal crimes against humanity.

During the current presidential election campaign criminal war promoting news and entertainment networks are making no mention of President Trump’s veto of a bipartisan Congressional resolution that would have forced an end to American military involvement in Saudi Arabia’s civil war in Yemen a year-and-a-half ago.

In One American Ear and Out the Other

In 2008, for two weeks the major networks telecasted as humorous, Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s cry, his finger pointed to the sky, “God bless America? No, no, God damn America for her crimes against humanity!”

In 2012, prime time news during the Republican debates of presidential candidates, candidate Rep. Ron Paul was heard denouncing “all US bombings and invasions beginning with those in Korea as illegal, unconstitutional and a horrific loss of human life.”

But nothing seems to effect a change in American dedication to their military and its military’s heritage (of gore, death and destruction).

American film maker Michael Moore castigates his fellow Americans as“sick and twisted violent people that we’ve been for hundreds of years, it’s something that’s just in our craw, just in our DNA. Americans kill people, because that’s what we do. We invade countries. We send drones in to kill civilians.”

In one American ear and out the other.

Martin Luther King made bold headlines in newspapers throughout the world with, “The greatest purveyor of violence in the world today is my government. In Vietnam we may have killed a million already, mostly children.” King cried out, “Silence is treason!” but at home extremely few Americans spoke out in agreement,  many spoke against him, most were silent, and King was shot to death within the year.

This archival research peoples historian activist is convinced that no change will be coming from anywhere in the American led First World, especially now as it is hard pressed losing its hegemony to a future multipolar world with China’s economy now the largest.

Some of us work to somehow make this Americans killing millions of children come to be a topic of conversation in the Third World for the children’s lives that could be saved once enough people became enraged enough to demand prosecution and justice.

Once USA-EU loses world economic hegemony and can no longer sanction, the many nations that have seen their children murdered by Americans and their European allies will demand justice in the courts of a reconstituted and reorganized democratic United Nations. In the meantime let’s have faith that the astounding intelligence witnessed in the miraculous achievements in outer and inner space will eventually manifest itself in ending the five centuries of European and American genocide for money and power.

  1. Thorstein Veblen, Douglas Dowd, 1966.

The post Criminally Responsible Americans Vote for Commander of Their Worldwide Genocidal Killing Machine first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Social Media’s Erasure of Palestinians is a Grim Warning for our Future

There is a growing unease that the decisions taken by social media corporations can have a harmful impact on our lives. These platforms, despite enjoying an effective monopoly over the virtual public square, have long avoided serious scrutiny or accountability.

In a new Netflix documentary, The Social Dilemma, former Silicon Valley executives warn of a dystopian future. Google, Facebook and Twitter have gathered vast quantities of data on us to better predict and manipulate our desires. Their products are gradually rewiring our brains to addict us to our screens and make us more pliable to advertisers. The result, as we are consigned to discrete ideological echo chambers, is ever greater social and political polarisation and turmoil.

As if to underline the ever-tightening grip these tech corporations exert on our lives, Facebook and Twitter decided this month to openly interfere in the most contentious US presidential election in living memory. They censored a story that could harm the electoral prospects of Joe Biden, the Democratic challenger to incumbent President Donald Trump.

Given that nearly half of Americans receive their news chiefly via Facebook, the ramifications of such a decision on our political life were not hard to interpret. In excising any debate about purported corruption and influence-peddling by Biden’s son, Hunter, carried out in his father’s name, these social media platforms stepped firmly into the role of authoritarian arbiter of what we are allowed to say and know.

‘Monopoly gatekeeper’

Western publics are waking up very belatedly to the undemocratic power social media wields over them. But if we wish to understand where this ultimately leads, there is no better case study than the very different ways Israelis and Palestinians have been treated by the tech giants.

The treatment of Palestinians online serves as a warning that it would be foolish indeed to regard these globe-spanning corporations as politically neutral platforms, and their decisions as straightforwardly commercial. This is to doubly misunderstand their role.

Social media firms are now effectively monopolistic communication grids – similar to the electricity and water grids, or the phone network of a quarter of a century ago. Their decisions are therefore no longer private matters, but instead have huge social, economic and political consequences. That is part of the reason why the US justice department launched a lawsuit last week against Google for acting as a “monopoly gatekeeper for the internet”.

Google, Facebook and Twitter have no more a right to arbitrarily decide who and what they host on their sites than telecoms companies once had a right to decide whether a customer should be allowed a phone line. But unlike the phone company, social media corporations control not just the means of communication, but the content too. They can decide, as the Hunter Biden story shows, whether their customers get to participate in vital public debates about who leads them.

The Hunter Biden decision is as if the phone company of old not only listened in to conversations, but was able to cut the line if it did not like the politics of any particular customer.

In fact, it is even worse than that. Social media now deliver the news to large sections of the population. Their censoring of a story is more akin to the electricity company turning off the power to everyone’s homes for the duration of a TV broadcast to ensure no one can see it.

Censorship by stealth

The tech giants are the wealthiest, most powerful corporations in human history, their riches measured in hundreds of billions, and now trillions, of dollars. But the argument that they are apolitical – aiming simply to maximise profits – was never true.

They have every reason to promote politicians who side with them by committing not to break up their monopolies or regulate their activities, or, better still, by promising to weaken controls that might prevent them from growing even more fabulously rich and powerful.

Conversely, the tech giants also have every incentive to use the digital space to penalise and marginalise political activists who urge greater regulation either of their activities, or of the marketplace more generally.

Unlike their explicit deletion of the Hunter Biden story, which incensed the Trump administration, social media corporations more usually censor by stealth. That power is wielded through algorithms, the secret codes that decide whether something or someone appears in a search result or on a social media feed. If they desire, these tech titans can cancel any one of us overnight.

This is not just political paranoia. The disproportionate impact of algorithm changes on “left-leaning” websites – those most critical of the neoliberal system that has enriched social media corporations – was highlighted this month by the Wall Street Journal.

Wrong kinds of speech

Politicians increasingly understand the power of social media, which is why they want to harness it as best they can for their own ends. Since the shock of Trump’s election victory in late 2016, Facebook, Google and Twitter executives have regularly found themselves dragged before legislative oversight committees in the US and UK.

There, they are ritually rebuked by politicians for creating a crisis of “fake news” – a crisis that, in fact, long predated social media, as the deceptions of US and UK officials in linking Saddam Hussein to 9/11 and claiming that Iraq had “weapons of mass destruction” testify to only too clearly.

Politicians have also begun holding internet corporations responsible for “foreign interference” in western elections – typically blamed on Russia – despite a dearth of serious evidence for most of their allegations.

Political pressure is being exerted not to make the corporations more transparent and accountable, but to steer them towards enforcing even more assiduously restrictions on the wrong kinds of speech – whether it be violent racists on the right or critics of capitalism and western government policy on the left.

For that reason, social media’s original image as a neutral arena of information sharing, or as a tool for widening public debate and increasing civic engagement, or as a discourse leveller between the rich and powerful and weak and marginalised, grows ever more hollow.

Separate digital rights

Nowhere are ties between tech and state officials more evident than in their dealings with Israel. This has led to starkly different treatment of digital rights for Israelis and Palestinians. The online fate of Palestinians points to a future in which the already-powerful will gain ever greater control over what we know and what we are allowed to think, and over who is visible and who is erased from public life.

Israel was well-positioned to exploit social media before most other states had recognised its importance in manipulating popular attitudes and perceptions. For decades, Israel had, in part, outsourced an official programme of hasbara – or state propaganda – to its own citizens and supporters abroad. As new digital platforms emerged, these partisans were only too willing to expand their role.

Israel had another advantage. After the 1967 occupation of the West Bank, Jerusalem and Gaza, Israel began crafting a narrative of state victimhood by redefining antisemitism to suggest it was now a particular affliction of the left, not the right. So-called “new antisemitism” did not target Jews, but related instead to criticism of Israel and support for Palestinian rights.

This highly dubious narrative proved easy to condense into social media-friendly soundbites.

Israel still routinely describes any Palestinian resistance to its belligerent occupation or its illegal settlements as “terrorism”, and any support from other Palestinians as “incitement”. International solidarity with Palestinians is characterised as “delegitimisation” and equated with antisemitism.

‘Flood the internet’

As far back as 2008, it emerged that a pro-Israel media lobby group, Camera, had been orchestrating covert efforts by Israel loyalists to infiltrate the online encyclopedia Wikipedia to edit entries and “rewrite history” in ways favourable to Israel. Soon afterwards, politician Naftali Bennett helped organise courses teaching “Zionist editing” of Wikipedia.

In 2011, the Israeli army declared social media a new “battleground” and assigned “cyber warriors” to wage combat online. In 2015, Israel’s foreign ministry set up an additional command centre to recruit young, tech-savvy former soldiers from 8200, the army’s cyber intelligence unit, to lead the battle online. Many have gone on to establish hi-tech firms whose spying software became integral to the functioning of social media.

An app launched in 2017, Act.IL, mobilised Israel partisans to “swarm” sites hosting either criticism of Israel or support for Palestinians. The initiative, supported by Israel’s ministry of strategic affairs, was headed by veterans of Israeli intelligence services.

According to the Forward, a US Jewish weekly, Israel’s intelligence services liaise closely with Act.IL and request help in getting content, including videos, removed by social media platforms. The Forward observed shortly after the app was rolled out: “Its work so far offers a startling glimpse of how it could shape the online conversations about Israel without ever showing its hand.”

Sima Vaknin-Gil, a former Israeli military censor who was then assigned to Israel’s strategic affairs ministry, said the goal was to “create a community of fighters” whose job was to “flood the internet” with Israeli propaganda.

Willing allies

With advantages measured in personnel numbers and ideological zeal, in tech and propaganda experience, and in high-level influence in Washington and Silicon Valley, Israel was soon able to turn social media platforms into willing allies in its struggle to marginalise Palestinians online.

In 2016, Israel’s justice ministry was boasting that Facebook, Google and YouTube were “complying with up to 95 percent of Israeli requests to delete content”, almost all of it Palestinian. The social media companies did not confirm this figure.

The Anti-Defamation League, a pro-Israel lobby group with a history of smearing Palestinian organisations and Jewish groups critical of Israel, established a “command centre” in Silicon Valley in 2017 to monitor what it termed “online hate speech”. That same year, it was appointed a “trusted flagger” organisation for YouTube, meaning its reporting of content for removal was prioritised.

At a 2018 conference in Ramallah hosted by 7amleh, a Palestinian online advocacy group, local Google and Facebook representatives barely hid their priorities. It was important to their bottom line to avoid upsetting governments with the power to constrain their commercial activities – even if those governments were systematically violating international law and human rights. In this battle, the Palestinian Authority carries no weight at all. Israel presides over Palestinians’ communications and internet infrastructure. It controls the Palestinian economy and its key resources.

Since 2016, Israel’s justice ministry has reportedly suppressed tens of thousands of Palestinian posts. In a completely opaque process, Israel’s own algorithms detect content it deems “extremist” and then requests its removal. Hundreds of Palestinians have been arrested by Israel over social media posts, chilling online activity.

Human Rights Watch warned late last year that Israel and Facebook were often blurring the distinction between legitimate criticism of Israel and incitement. Conversely, as Israel has shifted ever further rightwards, the Netanyahu government and social media platforms have not stemmed a surge of posts in Hebrew promoting anti-Palestinian incitement and calling for violence. 7amleh has noted that Israelis post racist or inciteful material against Palestinians roughly every minute.

News agencies shut down

As well as excising tens of thousands of Palestinian posts, Israel has persuaded Facebook to take down the accounts of major Palestinian news agencies and leading journalists.

By 2018, the Palestinian public had grown so incensed that a campaign of online protests and calls to boycott Facebook were led under the hashtag #FBcensorsPalestine. In Gaza, demonstrators accused the company of being “another face of occupation”.

Activism in solidarity with Palestinians in the US and Europe has been similarly targeted. Ads for films, as well as the films themselves, have been taken down and websites removed.

Last month, Zoom, a video conferencing site that has boomed during the Covid-19 pandemic, joined YouTube and Facebook in censoring a webinar organised by San Francisco State University because it included Leila Khaled, an icon of the Palestinian resistance movement now in her seventies.

On Friday, Zoom blocked a second scheduled appearance by Khaled – this time in a University of Hawaii webinar on censorship – as well as a spate of other events across the US to protest against her cancellation by the site. A statement concerning the day of action said campuses were “joining in the campaign to resist corporate and university silencing of Palestinian narratives and Palestinian voices”.

The decision, a flagrant attack on academic freedom, was reportedly taken after the social media groups were heavily pressured by the Israeli government and anti-Palestinian lobby groups, which labelled the webinar “antisemitic”.

Wiped off the map

The degree to which the tech giants’ discrimination against Palestinians is structural and entrenched has been underscored by the years-long struggle of activists both to include Palestinian villages on online maps and GPS services, and to name the Palestinian territories as “Palestine”, in accordance with Palestine’s recognition by the United Nations.

That campaign has largely floundered, even though more than a million people have signed a petition in protest. Both Google and Apple have proved highly resistant to these appeals; hundreds of Palestinian villages are missing from their maps of the occupied West Bank, while Israel’s illegal settlements are identified in detail, accorded the same status as the Palestinian communities that are shown.

The occupied Palestinian territories are subordinated under the name “Israel”, while Jerusalem is presented as Israel’s unified and undisputed capital, just as Israel claims – making the occupation of the Palestinian section of the city invisible.

These are far from politically neutral decisions. Israeli governments have long pursued a Greater Israel ideology that requires driving Palestinians off their lands. This year, that dispossession programme was formalised with plans, backed by the Trump administration, to annex swathes of the West Bank.

Google and Apple are effectively colluding in this policy by helping to erase Palestinians’ visible presence in their homeland. As two Palestinian scholars, George Zeidan and Haya Haddad, recently noted: “When Google and Apple erase Palestinian villages from their navigation, but proudly mark settlements, the effect is complicity in the Israeli nationalist narrative.”

Out of the shadows

Israel’s ever-tightening relationship with social media corporations has played out largely behind the scenes. But these ties moved decisively out of the shadows in May, when Facebook announced that its new oversight board would include Emi Palmor, one of the architects of Israel’s online repression policy towards Palestinians.

The board will issue precedent-setting rulings to help shape Facebook’s and Instagram’s censorship and free speech policies. But as the former director-general of the justice ministry, Palmor has shown no commitment to online free speech. Quite the reverse: she worked hand-in-hand with the tech giants to censor Palestinian posts and shut down Palestinian news websites. She oversaw the transformation of her department into what the human rights organisation Adalah has called the Orwellian “Ministry of Truth”.

Tech corporations are now the undeclared, profit-driven arbiters of our speech rights. But their commitment is not to open and vigorous public debate, online transparency or greater civic engagement. Their only commitment is to the maintenance of a business environment in which they avoid any regulation by major governments infringing on their right to make money.

The appointment of Palmor perfectly illustrates the corrupting relationship between government and social media. Palestinians know only too well how easy it is for technology to diminish and disappear the voices of the weak and oppressed, and to amplify the voices of the powerful.

Many more of us could soon find ourselves sharing the online fate of Palestinians.

• First published in Middle East Eye

The post Social Media’s Erasure of Palestinians is a Grim Warning for our Future first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Social Media’s Erasure of Palestinians is a Grim Warning for our Future

There is a growing unease that the decisions taken by social media corporations can have a harmful impact on our lives. These platforms, despite enjoying an effective monopoly over the virtual public square, have long avoided serious scrutiny or accountability.

In a new Netflix documentary, The Social Dilemma, former Silicon Valley executives warn of a dystopian future. Google, Facebook and Twitter have gathered vast quantities of data on us to better predict and manipulate our desires. Their products are gradually rewiring our brains to addict us to our screens and make us more pliable to advertisers. The result, as we are consigned to discrete ideological echo chambers, is ever greater social and political polarisation and turmoil.

As if to underline the ever-tightening grip these tech corporations exert on our lives, Facebook and Twitter decided this month to openly interfere in the most contentious US presidential election in living memory. They censored a story that could harm the electoral prospects of Joe Biden, the Democratic challenger to incumbent President Donald Trump.

Given that nearly half of Americans receive their news chiefly via Facebook, the ramifications of such a decision on our political life were not hard to interpret. In excising any debate about purported corruption and influence-peddling by Biden’s son, Hunter, carried out in his father’s name, these social media platforms stepped firmly into the role of authoritarian arbiter of what we are allowed to say and know.

‘Monopoly gatekeeper’

Western publics are waking up very belatedly to the undemocratic power social media wields over them. But if we wish to understand where this ultimately leads, there is no better case study than the very different ways Israelis and Palestinians have been treated by the tech giants.

The treatment of Palestinians online serves as a warning that it would be foolish indeed to regard these globe-spanning corporations as politically neutral platforms, and their decisions as straightforwardly commercial. This is to doubly misunderstand their role.

Social media firms are now effectively monopolistic communication grids – similar to the electricity and water grids, or the phone network of a quarter of a century ago. Their decisions are therefore no longer private matters, but instead have huge social, economic and political consequences. That is part of the reason why the US justice department launched a lawsuit last week against Google for acting as a “monopoly gatekeeper for the internet”.

Google, Facebook and Twitter have no more a right to arbitrarily decide who and what they host on their sites than telecoms companies once had a right to decide whether a customer should be allowed a phone line. But unlike the phone company, social media corporations control not just the means of communication, but the content too. They can decide, as the Hunter Biden story shows, whether their customers get to participate in vital public debates about who leads them.

The Hunter Biden decision is as if the phone company of old not only listened in to conversations, but was able to cut the line if it did not like the politics of any particular customer.

In fact, it is even worse than that. Social media now deliver the news to large sections of the population. Their censoring of a story is more akin to the electricity company turning off the power to everyone’s homes for the duration of a TV broadcast to ensure no one can see it.

Censorship by stealth

The tech giants are the wealthiest, most powerful corporations in human history, their riches measured in hundreds of billions, and now trillions, of dollars. But the argument that they are apolitical – aiming simply to maximise profits – was never true.

They have every reason to promote politicians who side with them by committing not to break up their monopolies or regulate their activities, or, better still, by promising to weaken controls that might prevent them from growing even more fabulously rich and powerful.

Conversely, the tech giants also have every incentive to use the digital space to penalise and marginalise political activists who urge greater regulation either of their activities, or of the marketplace more generally.

Unlike their explicit deletion of the Hunter Biden story, which incensed the Trump administration, social media corporations more usually censor by stealth. That power is wielded through algorithms, the secret codes that decide whether something or someone appears in a search result or on a social media feed. If they desire, these tech titans can cancel any one of us overnight.

This is not just political paranoia. The disproportionate impact of algorithm changes on “left-leaning” websites – those most critical of the neoliberal system that has enriched social media corporations – was highlighted this month by the Wall Street Journal.

Wrong kinds of speech

Politicians increasingly understand the power of social media, which is why they want to harness it as best they can for their own ends. Since the shock of Trump’s election victory in late 2016, Facebook, Google and Twitter executives have regularly found themselves dragged before legislative oversight committees in the US and UK.

There, they are ritually rebuked by politicians for creating a crisis of “fake news” – a crisis that, in fact, long predated social media, as the deceptions of US and UK officials in linking Saddam Hussein to 9/11 and claiming that Iraq had “weapons of mass destruction” testify to only too clearly.

Politicians have also begun holding internet corporations responsible for “foreign interference” in western elections – typically blamed on Russia – despite a dearth of serious evidence for most of their allegations.

Political pressure is being exerted not to make the corporations more transparent and accountable, but to steer them towards enforcing even more assiduously restrictions on the wrong kinds of speech – whether it be violent racists on the right or critics of capitalism and western government policy on the left.

For that reason, social media’s original image as a neutral arena of information sharing, or as a tool for widening public debate and increasing civic engagement, or as a discourse leveller between the rich and powerful and weak and marginalised, grows ever more hollow.

Separate digital rights

Nowhere are ties between tech and state officials more evident than in their dealings with Israel. This has led to starkly different treatment of digital rights for Israelis and Palestinians. The online fate of Palestinians points to a future in which the already-powerful will gain ever greater control over what we know and what we are allowed to think, and over who is visible and who is erased from public life.

Israel was well-positioned to exploit social media before most other states had recognised its importance in manipulating popular attitudes and perceptions. For decades, Israel had, in part, outsourced an official programme of hasbara – or state propaganda – to its own citizens and supporters abroad. As new digital platforms emerged, these partisans were only too willing to expand their role.

Israel had another advantage. After the 1967 occupation of the West Bank, Jerusalem and Gaza, Israel began crafting a narrative of state victimhood by redefining antisemitism to suggest it was now a particular affliction of the left, not the right. So-called “new antisemitism” did not target Jews, but related instead to criticism of Israel and support for Palestinian rights.

This highly dubious narrative proved easy to condense into social media-friendly soundbites.

Israel still routinely describes any Palestinian resistance to its belligerent occupation or its illegal settlements as “terrorism”, and any support from other Palestinians as “incitement”. International solidarity with Palestinians is characterised as “delegitimisation” and equated with antisemitism.

‘Flood the internet’

As far back as 2008, it emerged that a pro-Israel media lobby group, Camera, had been orchestrating covert efforts by Israel loyalists to infiltrate the online encyclopedia Wikipedia to edit entries and “rewrite history” in ways favourable to Israel. Soon afterwards, politician Naftali Bennett helped organise courses teaching “Zionist editing” of Wikipedia.

In 2011, the Israeli army declared social media a new “battleground” and assigned “cyber warriors” to wage combat online. In 2015, Israel’s foreign ministry set up an additional command centre to recruit young, tech-savvy former soldiers from 8200, the army’s cyber intelligence unit, to lead the battle online. Many have gone on to establish hi-tech firms whose spying software became integral to the functioning of social media.

An app launched in 2017, Act.IL, mobilised Israel partisans to “swarm” sites hosting either criticism of Israel or support for Palestinians. The initiative, supported by Israel’s ministry of strategic affairs, was headed by veterans of Israeli intelligence services.

According to the Forward, a US Jewish weekly, Israel’s intelligence services liaise closely with Act.IL and request help in getting content, including videos, removed by social media platforms. The Forward observed shortly after the app was rolled out: “Its work so far offers a startling glimpse of how it could shape the online conversations about Israel without ever showing its hand.”

Sima Vaknin-Gil, a former Israeli military censor who was then assigned to Israel’s strategic affairs ministry, said the goal was to “create a community of fighters” whose job was to “flood the internet” with Israeli propaganda.

Willing allies

With advantages measured in personnel numbers and ideological zeal, in tech and propaganda experience, and in high-level influence in Washington and Silicon Valley, Israel was soon able to turn social media platforms into willing allies in its struggle to marginalise Palestinians online.

In 2016, Israel’s justice ministry was boasting that Facebook, Google and YouTube were “complying with up to 95 percent of Israeli requests to delete content”, almost all of it Palestinian. The social media companies did not confirm this figure.

The Anti-Defamation League, a pro-Israel lobby group with a history of smearing Palestinian organisations and Jewish groups critical of Israel, established a “command centre” in Silicon Valley in 2017 to monitor what it termed “online hate speech”. That same year, it was appointed a “trusted flagger” organisation for YouTube, meaning its reporting of content for removal was prioritised.

At a 2018 conference in Ramallah hosted by 7amleh, a Palestinian online advocacy group, local Google and Facebook representatives barely hid their priorities. It was important to their bottom line to avoid upsetting governments with the power to constrain their commercial activities – even if those governments were systematically violating international law and human rights. In this battle, the Palestinian Authority carries no weight at all. Israel presides over Palestinians’ communications and internet infrastructure. It controls the Palestinian economy and its key resources.

Since 2016, Israel’s justice ministry has reportedly suppressed tens of thousands of Palestinian posts. In a completely opaque process, Israel’s own algorithms detect content it deems “extremist” and then requests its removal. Hundreds of Palestinians have been arrested by Israel over social media posts, chilling online activity.

Human Rights Watch warned late last year that Israel and Facebook were often blurring the distinction between legitimate criticism of Israel and incitement. Conversely, as Israel has shifted ever further rightwards, the Netanyahu government and social media platforms have not stemmed a surge of posts in Hebrew promoting anti-Palestinian incitement and calling for violence. 7amleh has noted that Israelis post racist or inciteful material against Palestinians roughly every minute.

News agencies shut down

As well as excising tens of thousands of Palestinian posts, Israel has persuaded Facebook to take down the accounts of major Palestinian news agencies and leading journalists.

By 2018, the Palestinian public had grown so incensed that a campaign of online protests and calls to boycott Facebook were led under the hashtag #FBcensorsPalestine. In Gaza, demonstrators accused the company of being “another face of occupation”.

Activism in solidarity with Palestinians in the US and Europe has been similarly targeted. Ads for films, as well as the films themselves, have been taken down and websites removed.

Last month, Zoom, a video conferencing site that has boomed during the Covid-19 pandemic, joined YouTube and Facebook in censoring a webinar organised by San Francisco State University because it included Leila Khaled, an icon of the Palestinian resistance movement now in her seventies.

On Friday, Zoom blocked a second scheduled appearance by Khaled – this time in a University of Hawaii webinar on censorship – as well as a spate of other events across the US to protest against her cancellation by the site. A statement concerning the day of action said campuses were “joining in the campaign to resist corporate and university silencing of Palestinian narratives and Palestinian voices”.

The decision, a flagrant attack on academic freedom, was reportedly taken after the social media groups were heavily pressured by the Israeli government and anti-Palestinian lobby groups, which labelled the webinar “antisemitic”.

Wiped off the map

The degree to which the tech giants’ discrimination against Palestinians is structural and entrenched has been underscored by the years-long struggle of activists both to include Palestinian villages on online maps and GPS services, and to name the Palestinian territories as “Palestine”, in accordance with Palestine’s recognition by the United Nations.

That campaign has largely floundered, even though more than a million people have signed a petition in protest. Both Google and Apple have proved highly resistant to these appeals; hundreds of Palestinian villages are missing from their maps of the occupied West Bank, while Israel’s illegal settlements are identified in detail, accorded the same status as the Palestinian communities that are shown.

The occupied Palestinian territories are subordinated under the name “Israel”, while Jerusalem is presented as Israel’s unified and undisputed capital, just as Israel claims – making the occupation of the Palestinian section of the city invisible.

These are far from politically neutral decisions. Israeli governments have long pursued a Greater Israel ideology that requires driving Palestinians off their lands. This year, that dispossession programme was formalised with plans, backed by the Trump administration, to annex swathes of the West Bank.

Google and Apple are effectively colluding in this policy by helping to erase Palestinians’ visible presence in their homeland. As two Palestinian scholars, George Zeidan and Haya Haddad, recently noted: “When Google and Apple erase Palestinian villages from their navigation, but proudly mark settlements, the effect is complicity in the Israeli nationalist narrative.”

Out of the shadows

Israel’s ever-tightening relationship with social media corporations has played out largely behind the scenes. But these ties moved decisively out of the shadows in May, when Facebook announced that its new oversight board would include Emi Palmor, one of the architects of Israel’s online repression policy towards Palestinians.

The board will issue precedent-setting rulings to help shape Facebook’s and Instagram’s censorship and free speech policies. But as the former director-general of the justice ministry, Palmor has shown no commitment to online free speech. Quite the reverse: she worked hand-in-hand with the tech giants to censor Palestinian posts and shut down Palestinian news websites. She oversaw the transformation of her department into what the human rights organisation Adalah has called the Orwellian “Ministry of Truth”.

Tech corporations are now the undeclared, profit-driven arbiters of our speech rights. But their commitment is not to open and vigorous public debate, online transparency or greater civic engagement. Their only commitment is to the maintenance of a business environment in which they avoid any regulation by major governments infringing on their right to make money.

The appointment of Palmor perfectly illustrates the corrupting relationship between government and social media. Palestinians know only too well how easy it is for technology to diminish and disappear the voices of the weak and oppressed, and to amplify the voices of the powerful.

Many more of us could soon find ourselves sharing the online fate of Palestinians.

• First published in Middle East Eye

The post Social Media’s Erasure of Palestinians is a Grim Warning for our Future first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Ending Regime Change in Bolivia and the World

Bolivian woman votes in October 18 election

Less than a year after the United States and the U.S.-backed Organization of American States (OAS) supported a violent military coup to overthrow the government of Bolivia, the Bolivian people have reelected the Movement for Socialism (MAS) and restored it to power.

In the long history of U.S.-backed “regime changes” in countries around the world, rarely have a people and a country so firmly and democratically repudiated U.S. efforts to dictate how they will be governed. Post-coup interim president Jeanine Añez has reportedly requested 350 U.S. visas for herself and others who may face prosecution in Bolivia for their roles in the coup.

The narrative of a rigged election in 2019 that the U.S. and the OAS peddled to support the coup in Bolivia has been thoroughly debunked. MAS’s support is mainly from indigenous Bolivians in the countryside, so it takes longer for their ballots to be collected and counted than those of the better-off city dwellers who support MAS’s right-wing, neoliberal opponents.

As the votes come in from rural areas, there is a swing to MAS in the vote count. By pretending that this predictable and normal pattern in Bolivia’s election results was evidence of election fraud in 2019, the OAS bears responsibility for unleashing a wave of violence against indigenous MAS supporters that, in the end, has only delegitimized the OAS itself.

It is instructive that the failed U.S.-backed coup in Bolivia has led to a more democratic outcome than U.S. regime change operations that succeeded in removing a government from power. Domestic debates over U.S. foreign policy routinely presume that the U.S. has the right, or even an obligation, to deploy an arsenal of military, economic and political weapons to force political change in countries that resist its imperial dictates.

In practice, this means either full-scale war (as in Iraq and Afghanistan), a coup d’etat (as in Haiti in 2004, Honduras in 2009 and Ukraine in 2014), covert and proxy wars (as in Somalia, Libya, Syria and Yemen) or punitive economic sanctions (as against Cuba, Iran and Venezuela) — all of which violate the sovereignty of the targeted countries and are therefore illegal under international law.

No matter which instrument of regime change the U.S. has deployed, these U.S. interventions have not made life better for the people of any of those countries, nor countless others in the past. William Blum’s brilliant 1995 book, Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II, catalogues 55 U.S. regime change operations in 50 years between 1945 and 1995. As Blum’s detailed accounts make clear, most of these operations involved U.S. efforts to remove popularly elected governments from power, as in Bolivia, and often replaced them with U.S.-backed dictatorships: like the Shah of Iran; Mobutu in the Congo; Suharto in Indonesia; and General Pinochet in Chile.

Even when the targeted government is a violent, repressive one, U.S. intervention usually leads to even greater violence. Nineteen years after removing the Taliban government in Afghanistan, the United States has dropped 80,000 bombs and missiles on Afghan fighters and civilians, conducted tens of thousands of “kill or capture” night raids, and the war has killed hundreds of thousands of Afghans.

In December 2019, the Washington Post published a trove of Pentagon documents revealing that none of this violence is based on a real strategy to bring peace or stability to Afghanistan — it’s all just a brutal kind of “muddling along,” as U.S. General McChrystal put it. Now the U.S.-backed Afghan government is finally in peace talks with the Taliban on a political power-sharing plan to bring an end to this “endless” war, because only a political solution can provide Afghanistan and its people with the viable, peaceful future that decades of war have denied them.

In Libya, it has been nine years since the U.S. and its NATO and Arab monarchist allies launched a proxy war backed by a covert invasion and NATO bombing campaign that led to the horrific sodomy and assassination of Libya’s long time anti-colonial leader, Muammar Gaddafi. That plunged Libya into chaos and civil war between the various proxy forces that the U.S. and its allies armed, trained and worked with to overthrow Gaddafi.

A parliamentary inquiry in the U.K. found that, “a limited intervention to protect civilians drifted into an opportunist policy of regime change by military means,” which led to “political and economic collapse, inter-militia and inter-tribal warfare, humanitarian and migrant crises, widespread human rights violations, the spread of Gaddafi regime weapons across the region and the growth of Isil [Islamic State] in north Africa.”

The various Libyan warring factions are now engaged in peace talks aimed at a permanent ceasefire and, according to the UN envoy “holding national elections in the shortest possible timeframe to restore Libya’s sovereignty”—the very sovereignty that the NATO intervention destroyed.

Senator Bernie Sanders’ foreign policy adviser Matthew Duss has called for the next U.S. administration to conduct a comprehensive review of the post-9/11 “War on Terror,” so that we can finally turn the page on this bloody chapter in our history.

Duss wants an independent commission to judge these two decades of war based on “the standards of international humanitarian law that the United States helped to establish after World War II,” which are spelled out in the UN Charter and the Geneva Conventions. He hopes that this review will “stimulate vigorous public debate about the conditions and legal authorities under which the United States uses military violence.”

Such a review is overdue and badly needed, but it must confront the reality that, from its very beginning, the “War on Terror” was designed to provide cover for a massive escalation of U.S. “regime change” operations against a diverse range of countries, most of which were governed by secular governments that had nothing to do with the rise of Al Qaeda or the crimes of September 11th.

Notes taken by senior policy official Stephen Cambone from a meeting in the still damaged and smoking Pentagon on the afternoon of September 11, 2001 summarized Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld’s orders to get “…best info fast. Judge whether good enough hit S.H. [Saddam Hussein] at same time – not only UBL [Osama Bin Laden]… Go massive. Sweep it all up. Things related and not.”

At the cost of horrific military violence and mass casualties, the resulting global reign of terror has installed quasi-governments in countries around the world that have proved more corrupt, less legitimate and less able to protect their territory and their people than the governments that U.S. actions removed. Instead of consolidating and expanding U.S. imperial power as intended, these illegal and destructive uses of military, diplomatic and financial coercion have had the opposite effect, leaving the U.S. ever more isolated and impotent in an evolving multipolar world.

Today, the U.S., China and the European Union are roughly equal in the size of their economies and international trade, but even their combined activity accounts for less than half of global economic activity and external trade. No single imperial power economically dominates today’s world as overconfident American leaders hoped to do at the end of the Cold War, nor is it divided by a binary struggle between rival empires as during the Cold War. This is the multipolar world we are already living in, not one that may emerge at some point in the future.

This multipolar world has been moving forward, forging new agreements on our most critical common problems, from nuclear and conventional weapons to the climate crisis to the rights of women and children. The United States’ systematic violations of international law and rejection of multilateral treaties have made it an outlier and a problem, certainly not a leader, as American politicians claim.

Joe Biden talks about restoring American international leadership if he is elected, but that will be easier said than done. The American empire rose to international leadership by harnessing its economic and military power to a rules-based international order in the first half of the 20th century, culminating in the post-World War II rules of international law. But the United States has gradually deteriorated through the Cold War and post-Cold War triumphalism to a flailing, decadent empire that now threatens the world with a doctrine of “might makes right” and “my way or the highway.”

When Barack Obama was elected in 2008, much of the world still saw Bush, Cheney and the “War on Terror” as exceptional, rather than a new normal in American policy. Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize based on a few speeches and the world’s desperate hopes for a “peace president.” But eight years of Obama, Biden, Terror Tuesdays and Kill Lists followed by four years of Trump, Pence, children in cages and the New Cold War with China have confirmed the world’s worst fears that the dark side of American imperialism seen under Bush and Cheney was no aberration.

Amid America’s botched regime changes and lost wars, the most concrete evidence of its seemingly unshakeable commitment to aggression and militarism is that the U.S. Military-Industrial Complex is still outspending the ten next largest military powers in the world combined, clearly out of all proportion to America’s legitimate defense needs.

So the concrete things we must do if we want peace are to stop bombing and sanctioning our neighbors and trying to overthrow their governments; to withdraw most American troops and close military bases around the world; and to reduce our armed forces and our military budget to what we really need to defend our country, not to wage illegal wars of aggression half-way round the world.

For the sake of people around the world who are building mass movements to overthrow repressive regimes and struggling to construct new models of governing that are not replications of failed neoliberal regimes, we must stop our government — no matter who is in the White House — from trying to impose its will.

Bolivia’s triumph over U.S.-backed regime change is an affirmation of the emerging people-power of our new multipolar world, and the struggle to move the U.S. to a post-imperial future is in the interest of the American people as well. As the late Venezuela leader Hugo Chavez once told a visiting U.S. delegation, “If we work together with oppressed people inside the United States to overcome the empire, we will not only be liberating ourselves, but also the people of Martin Luther King.”

The post Ending Regime Change in Bolivia and the World 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.

What Can We Learn from Cuba? Medicare-for-All Is a Beginning, Not the End Point

As a coup de grâce to the Bernie Sanders campaign Joe Biden declared that he would veto Medicare-for-All.  This could drive a dedicated health care advocate to relentlessly pursue Med-4-All as a final goal.  However, it is not the final goal. It should be the first step in a complete transformation of medicine which includes combining community medicine with natural medicine and health-care-for-the-world.

Contrasting Cuban changes in medicine during the last 60 years with the US non-system of medical care gives a clear picture of why changes must be all-encompassing.  The concept of Medicare-for-All is deeply intertwined with attacks on Cuba’s global medical “missions” and the opposite responses to Covid-19 in the two countries.

Going Forward or Going Backward?

Immediately after the 1959 revolution Cubans began the task of spreading medical care to those without it.  This included a flurry of building medical clinics and sending doctors to poor parts of cities and to rural areas, both of which were predominantly black.

As the revolution spread medicine from cities to the country, it realized the need to expand medical care across the world.  This included both sending medical staff overseas and bringing others to Cuba for treatment.  Cuba spent 30 years redesigning its health care system, which resulted in the most comprehensive community-based medicine in the world.

Throughout the expansion of health care, both inside the country and internationally, Cuban doctors used “allopathic” medicine (based largely on drugging and cutting, which is the focus of US medical schools).  But they simultaneously incorporated traditional healing and preventive medicine as well as respecting practices of other cultures.

Today, the most critical parts of the Cuban health care system include (1) everyone receives health care as a human right, (2) all parts are fully integrated into a single whole which can quickly respond to crises, (3) everyone in the country has input into the system so that it enjoys their collective experiences and (4) health care is global.

In contrast, the call for Medicare-for-All by the left in Democratic Party is a demand for Allopathy-for-US-Citizens.  It would extend corporate-driven health care, but with no fundamental change towards holistic and community medicine.  Though a necessary beginning, it is a conservative demand which does not recognize that a failure to go forward will inevitably result in market forces pushing health care backward.

There is already a right-wing effort to destroy Medicare and Medicaid in any form and leave people to only receive medical treatment they can pay for.  It is part of the same movement to destroy the US Post Office and eliminate Social Security.  It is funded by the same sources trying to get rid of public education except for a few schools that will prepare the poor to go to prison or be unemployed.  These are neoliberals who believe that Black-Lives-Do-Not-Really-Matter.  They hate all the gains won during the last century-and-a-half and want to overturn any form of environmental protection, any workers’ rights, the eight-hour work day, child labor laws, and civil rights, including voting rights.

Destroying Health Care Advances of the Cuban Revolution

What does the Cuban health care have to do with Medicare-for-All in the US?  Cuba has a lower infant mortality rate and longer life expectancy than the US while spending less than 10% per person annually on health care.  It has provided medical education to so many from other countries that in 1999 it opened the Latin American School of Medicine to bring students from impoverished countries to study and become doctors.  By 2020 it had trained over 30,000 doctors.  It had also trained huge numbers of other health professionals from beyond its shores.

Even before Cuba brought in students, it sent its own professionals on “missions” to help those in other countries.  Over the past six decades more than 400,000 Cuban medical professionals have worked in 164 countries and improved the lives of hundreds of millions of people.

The US response to this incredible international medical revolution documents that it is not satisfied to stop medical care from improving but has an irresistable urge to reverse gains across the globe.  The US government glommed onto complaints from physicians in multipe countries who whined because Cuban doctors would go to jungles and other dangerous areas where the rich urban doctors refused to venture.  Of course, the US had its own reasons to despise Cuban medical assistance.

Cuba has long done humanitarian work in education as well as medicine which puts its northerm behemoth to shame.  Its actions expose that health care can be done vastly cheaper with better outcomes than corportate medicine, which traumatizes financiers of the sickness industry.

Republicans and Democrats are firmly united with corporate media in hiding Cuban medical accomplishments from the US population.  They defnitely do not want other poor countries to replicate Cuba’s system.  Horrifed at the prospect that Cuban health care would shine as an example, the US went to work to undermine and destroy Cuban medical internationalism in any way it could.

In August 2006 the George W. Bush administration began the “Cuban Medical Professional Parole” program to encourage Cuban medical staff on international missions to desert and move to the US, with no questions asked. Only 2-3% did so; but their departure left those poor countries with less care.

This is in line with any corporate goals to destroy local health care and replace it with profit-based health care across the globe.  Driven by the same market factors that compel extraction, transportation and food production industries to go international, the US sickness industry likely feels the urge to create and control a global market of “health care providers.”  One of its main obstacles will be community health systems, which actually work much better for poor people.

As the knowledge of the success of Cuba’s medical information spread, its detractors flew into a frenzy and clutched onto wild hallucinations.  As accurately explained by Vijay Prashad, they fantasized that Cuba was engaging in “human trafficking” by forcing its doctors to work internationally.  The accusation is blatantly absurd since Cuban doctors always have the choice of whether to broaden their medical knowledge by going abroad and treating diseases that have been eradicated in Cuba or to stay at home.

It is true that its doctors have incredibly low wages (as do all working people in Cuba) due to the destructive effects of the US embargo.  In one of the great ironies of propaganda machines, the US seeks to criminalize Cuba in the eyes of the world by screeching that medical wages are low while itself being the cause of meager pay.

Results of this attacking Cuba during Covid-19 have been murderous.  After Lenín Moreno became president of Ecuador in 2017 he abruptly veered from what he promised and ordered Cuban doctors to leave.  At the same time Venezuela and Cuba had a total of 27 Covid-19 deaths, Ecuador’s largest city, Guayaquil, had an estimated death toll of 7,600.  Similarly, when the neoliberal Jair Bolsonaro took power in Brazil in 2019, he threw out Cuban doctors.  This left the country with rising infant mortality and so unprepared for Covid that even inviting them back was unable to undo the damage.  Following the 2019 anti-democratic coup in Bolivia, the ultra right-wing Jeanine Áñez had herself anointed as president and expelled Cuban doctors, which devastated that country’s health care system.  Although Bolivia is a physically isolated country with a population of only 8.7 million it had 2200 deaths by June 2020.

Who Coped with Covid-19?

The fact that Cuba had gone far, far beyond Medicare-for-All is what allowed it to have such spectacular control over Covid.  Its politicians unified behind the ministry of health which developed a national strategy.  That strategy was in effect before the island’s first victim had succumbed to the disease.  Social distancing, masks and contact tracing were universally accepted.  According to Susana Hurlich, medical students went door-to-door collecting data, distributing homeopathic medication (PrevengHo-Vir), and, most important, finding out what problems people needed help with.

Neighborhood doctors collected data to send to polyclinics and helped make certain that residents’ medical and other needs were met.  Clinic staff met needs that neighborhood doctors could not provide and sent patients they could not care for to hospitals.  Hospital doctors slept at hospitals for 14 day shifts before being quarantined for another 14 days so they would not infect their families or communities.

On July 18, deaths from Covid-19 numbered 140,300 in the US and 87 in Cuba.   Though its population is only 30 times that of Cuba, the US had 1,612 times as many deaths.

As US politicians conspired with corporations to see how much profit could be made from the pandemic, Cuban health care went international.  When northern Italy became the epicenter of Covid-19 cases, one of its hardest hit cities was Crema. On March 26, 2020 Cuba sent 52 doctors and nurses. A smaller and poorer Caribbean nation was one of the few aiding a major European power.

On March 12, 2020 nearly 50 crew members and passengers on the British cruise ship Braemar either had Covid-19 or were showing symptoms as the ship approached the Bahamas, a British Commonwealth nation. During the next five days, the US, the Bahamas, and several other Caribbean countries turned it away.  On March 18, Cuba became the only country to allow the Braemar’s over 1000 crew members and passengers to dock.

The incidents of Crema and the Braemar were hardly without precedent.  They resulted from 60 years of medical internationalism by Cuba.  Just as Cuba’s actions during Covid-19 reflected its development, so the horrible expansion of the disease in the US, Brazil and India showed the lack of concern under reactionary rule.

Capitalism has exterminated hundreds of millions, if not billions, of people in order to consolidate growth and power.  Whether enslaving Africans, or slaughtering native Americans to steal land, or experimenting with nuclear bombs during WWII, or destroying health systems that would prevent mass death during a pandemic, these are merely “costs of doing business” to capitalism.  Driving native peoples off of land is not unique to US in the past, but continues today throughout Latin America, Africa, Asia and the Pacific Islands.

Trump has terribly bungled coping with Covid-19, but the approach of Democrats is not essentially different.  Neither corporate party has any intention of providing Cuban-type care within the US. And they certainly do not even imagine putting protection of the world’s poor from Covid above profit potentials for US corporations.  They never had any intention of telling US public that 72 countries had requested Cuba’s Interferon Alpha 2B for treating Covid-19.  They wanted people to believe that only an American or European country could discover treatment.

Is Thinking Beyond Medicare-for-All Part of the Real World?

Is the idea of a radical health care transformation even worth talking about as right-wingers seem to be on the move across much of the world?  Let’s remember our past.  During the time the reactionary Richard Nixon was president (1969-1974), despite an overwhelming pro-war victory, the following were accomplished under his reign: declaration of an end to the Vietnam War, start of the Food Stamp program, decriminalization of abortion, recognition of China, creation of Environmental Protection Agency, passage of Freedom of Information Act, formal dismantling of FBI’s COINTEL program, creation of Earned Income Tax Credits, formal ban on biological weapons, and passage of the Clean Water Act.

We have never won as many gains since then, even when there was a Democratic House, Senate and president.  The essential difference between then and now was the existence of mass movements.  Perhaps it is the time for today’s movements to ask if a fair and just payment of reparations by the US and western Europe for the pain and suffering they have caused throughout the world should include providing medical care for those billions of people who Cuba cannot afford to help.  Health care is not genuine health care if it fails to be health-care-for-the-world.

Netanyahu vs Gantz: Gaza Escalation as Reflection of Israel’s Political Rivalry

Only recently, the Palestinian group, Hamas, and Israel seemed close to reaching a prisoner exchange agreement, where Hamas would release several Israeli soldiers held in Gaza while Israel would set free an unspecified number of Palestinian detainees held in Israeli prisons.

Instead of the much-anticipated announcement of some kind of a deal, on August 10, Israeli bombs began falling on the besieged Strip and incendiary balloons, originating in Gaza, made their way to the Israeli side of the fence.

So, what happened?

The answer lies largely – though not entirely – in Israel, specifically in the political conflict between Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu and his right-wing political camp, on the one hand, and their government’s coalition partners, led by Defense Minister, Benny Gantz, on the other.

The discord between Netanyahu and Gantz is concentrated on a fierce budget conflict currently underway in the Knesset, which has little to do with government spending or fiscal responsibilities.

Gantz, who is supposed to serve his term as Prime Minister, starting November 2021, believes that Netanyahu plans on passing a one-year budget to disrupt the coalition agreement and to call for new elections before the leadership swap takes place. Therefore, Gantz insists on extending the budget coverage to two years, to avoid any possible betrayal by Netanyahu’s Likud party.

Netanyahu’s plot, which was revealed by the daily newspaper Haaretz on July 29, is not entirely motivated by the Israeli leader’s love for power, but by his mistrust of Gantz’s own motives. If Gantz becomes the country’s Prime Minister, he is likely to appoint new judges who are sympathetic towards his Blue and White and, thus, eager to indict Netanyahu in his ongoing corruption trial.

For both Netanyahu and Gantz, this is, perhaps, the most crucial fight of their political careers: the former fighting for his freedom, the latter fighting for survival.

One issue, however, is acceptable to both leaders: the understanding that military strength will always garner greater support from the Israeli public, especially if another election becomes inevitable. A successive, fourth election is likely to take place if the budget battle is not resolved.

As a military showdown in South Lebanon becomes unattainable due to the massive explosion that rocked Beirut on August 4, the two Israeli leaders have turned their attention to Gaza. Moving quickly, as if on the campaign trail, Gantz and Netanyahu are busy making their case to Israelis living in the southern towns bordering the Gaza Strip.

Gantz paid the leaders of these communities a visit on August 19. He was joined by a carefully selected delegation of top Israeli government and military officials, including Agriculture Minister, Alon Schuster and Gaza Division Commander, Brig.-Gen. Nimrod Aloni, who joined via video conference.

Aside from the customary threats of targeting anyone in Gaza who dares threaten Israeli security, Gantz has engaged in election campaign type of self-promotion. “We have changed the equation in Gaza. Since I entered office, there has been a response to every breach in our security,” Gantz said, emphasizing his own achievements, as opposed to those of the coalition government – thus denying Netanyahu any credit.

Netanyahu, on the other hand, has threatened harsh retaliation against Gaza if Hamas does not prevent protesters from releasing incendiary balloons. “We have adopted a policy under which a fire is treated as a rocket,” he told the mayors of southern towns on August 18.

Netanyahu is keeping the Gaza war option open, in case it becomes his only recourse. Gantz, as Defense Minister and Netanyahu’s rival is, however, enjoying greater political space to maneuver. From August 10, he has ordered his military to bomb Gaza every night. With every bomb dropped on Gaza, Gantz’s credibility among Israeli voters, especially in the south, increases slightly.

If the current conflagration leads to an all-out war, it will be the entire coalition government – including Netanyahu and his Likud party – that will bear responsibility for its potential disastrous consequences. This places Gantz in a powerful position.

The current military showdown in Gaza is not entirely the outcome of Israel’s own political fight. Gaza society is currently at a breaking point.

The truce between Gaza groups and Israel, which was reached through Egyptian mediation in November 2019, amounted to nothing. Despite much assurance that besieged Gazans would receive badly needed respite, the situation has, instead, reached an unprecedented, unbearable phase: Gaza’s only power generator has run out of fuel and is no longer in operation; the Strip’s tiny fishing zone of barely three nautical miles was declared a closed military zone by Israel on August 16; the Karem Abu Salem Crossing, through which meager supplies enter Gaza through Israel, is officially shut down.

The 13-year-old Israeli siege on Gaza is currently at its worst possible manifestation, with little room for the Gaza population to even express their outrage at their miserable plight.

In December 2019, the Hamas authorities decided to limit the frequency of protests, known as Gaza’s March of Return, which had taken place almost daily, starting March 2018.

Over 300 Palestinians were killed by Israeli snipers during the protests. Despite the high death toll and the relative failure to ignite international uproar against the siege, the non-violent protests permitted ordinary Palestinians to vent, to organize and to take initiative.

The current growing frustration in Gaza has compelled Hamas to open up a space for protesters to return to the fence in the hope that it pushes the subject of the siege back to the news agenda.

The incendiary balloons, which have ignited the ire of the Israeli military recently, are one of several Palestinian messages that Gazans refuse to accept that the protracted siege is now their permanent reality.

While Egyptian mediation may eventually offer Palestinians a temporary fix and avoid an all-out war, Israeli violence in Gaza, under the current political arrangement, will not cease.

Certainly, for as long as Israeli leaders continue to see a war on Gaza as a political opportunity and a platform for their own electoral games, the siege will carry on, relentlessly.

“People of the Cave”: Palestinians Take Their Fight for Justice to the Mountains 

Palestinians are not going anywhere. This is the gist of seven decades of Palestinian struggle against Zionist colonialism. The proof? The story of Ahmed Amarneh.

Amarneh, a 30-year-old civil engineer from the northern West Bank village of Farasin, lives with his family in a cave. For many years, the Amarneh family has attempted to build a proper home, but their request has been denied by the Israeli military every time.

In many ways, the struggle of the Amarnehs is a microcosm of the collective struggle of Farasin; in fact, of most Palestinians.

Those who are unfortunate enough to be living in areas of the West Bank, designated by the Oslo II Accord of 1995 as Area C, were left in a perpetual limbo.

Area C constitutes nearly 60% of the overall size of the West Bank. It is rich with resources – mostly arable land, water and ample minerals – yet, relatively sparsely populated. It should not be surprising why right-wing Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, wants to annex this region. More land, with fewer Palestinians, has been the guiding principle for Zionist colonialism from the outset.

True, Netanyahu’s annexation plan, at least the de jure element of it, has been postponed. In practice, however, de facto annexation has been taking place for many years, and, lately, it has accelerated. Last June, for example, Israel demolished 30 Palestinian homes in the West Bank, mostly in Area C, rendering over 100 Palestinians homeless.

Additionally, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), Israeli army bulldozers destroyed 33 non-residential structures as well. This is “the same number (of homes) demolished throughout the entire first five months of 2020,” OCHA reported.

Unfortunately, Farasin, like numerous other Palestinian villages and communities across Area C, has been singled out for complete destruction. A small population of approximately 200 people has been subjected to Israeli army harassment for years. While Israel is keen on implanting Jewish communities in the heart of the occupied West Bank, it is equally keen on disrupting the natural growth of Palestinian communities, the indigenous people of the land, in Area C.

On July 29, Israeli forces invaded Farasin, terrorizing the residents, and handed over 36 demolition orders, according to the head of the Farasin village council. Namely, this is the onset of ethnic cleansing of the entire population of the village by Israel.

Ahmed Amarneh and his family also received a demolition order, although they do not live in a concrete house, but, rather, in a mountain cave.  “I didn’t make the cave. It has existed since antiquity,” he told reporters. “I don’t understand how they can prevent me from living in a cave. Animals live in caves and are not thrown out. So let them treat me like an animal and let me live in the cave.”

Amarneh’s emotional outburst is not misleading. In a recent report, the Israeli rights group B’tselem, has listed some of Israel’s deceptive methods used to forcefully remove Palestinians from their homes in Area C or to block any development whatsoever within these Palestinian communities.

“Israel has blocked Palestinian development by designating large swathes of land as state land, survey land, firing zones, nature reserves and national parks,” according to B’tselem. Judging by the systematic destruction of the Palestinian environment in the West Bank, Israel is hardly interested in the preservation of animals, either. The ultimate goal is the allocation of “land to settlements and their regional councils,” B’tselem argues.

Therefore, it should not come as a surprise that, for example, as of November 2017, only 16 of the 180 Palestinian communities in Area C have been approved for development. The rest are strictly prohibited.

Between 2016 and 2018, of the 1,485 Palestinian applications for construction and development in these areas, only 21 permits have been approved.

These unrealistic and draconian measures leave Palestinian families with no option but to build without a permit, eventually making them targets for Israeli military bulldozers.

Hundreds of families, like that of Ahmed Amarneh, have opted for alternative solutions. Failing to obtain a permit and wary of the imminent demolition if they build without one, they simply move to mountain caves.

This phenomenon is particularly manifest in the Hebron and Nablus regions.

In the mountainous wasteland located on the outskirts of Nablus, the wreckage of abandoned homes – some demolished, some unfinished – is a testimony of an ongoing war between the Israeli military, on the one hand, and the Palestinian people, on the other. Once they lose the battle and are left with no other option, many Palestinian families take their belongings and head to the caves in search of a home.

Quite often, the fight does not end there, as Palestinian communities, especially in the Hebron hills region, find themselves target to more eviction orders. The war for Palestinian survival rages on.

The case of Ahmed Amarneh, however, is particularly unique, for rarely, if ever, Israel issues a military order to demolish a cave. When the cave is demolished, where else can the Amarneh family go?

This dilemma, symptomatic of the larger Palestinian quandary, reminds one of Mahmoud Darwish’s seminal poem, “The Earth is Closing on Us”:

Where should we go after the last frontiers?
Where should the birds fly after the last sky?
Where should the plants sleep after the last breath of air?

However depressing the reality may be, the metaphor is undeniably powerful, that of savage colonialism that knows no bounds and Palestinian steadfastness (sumoud) that is perennial.

Often buried within the technical details of oppression – Area C, home demolition, ethnic cleansing and so on – is the tenacity of the human spirit, that of the Amarneh family and hundreds of other Palestinian families, who have turned caves into loving homes. It is this unmatched perseverance that makes the quest for justice in Palestine, despite the innumerable odds, possible.

How Israel wages War on Palestinian History

When the Palestinian actor Mohammed Bakri made a documentary about Jenin in 2002 – filming immediately after the Israeli army had completed rampaging through the West Bank city, leaving death and destruction in its wake – he chose an unusual narrator for the opening scene: a mute Palestinian youth.

Jenin had been sealed off from the world for nearly three weeks as the Israeli army razed the neighbouring refugee camp and terrorised its population.

Bakri’s film Jenin, Jenin shows the young man hurrying silently between wrecked buildings, using his nervous body to illustrate where Israeli soldiers shot Palestinians and where bulldozers collapsed homes, sometimes on their inhabitants.

It was not hard to infer Bakri’s larger meaning: when it comes to their own story, Palestinians are denied a voice. They are silent witnesses to their own and their people’s suffering and abuse.

The irony is that Bakri has faced just such a fate himself since Jenin, Jenin was released 18 years ago. Today, little is remembered of his film, or the shocking crimes it recorded, except for the endless legal battles to keep it off screens.

Bakri has been tied up in Israel’s courts ever since, accused of defaming the soldiers who carried out the attack. He has paid a high personal price. Deaths threats, loss of work and endless legal bills that have near-bankrupted him. A verdict in the latest suit against him – this time backed by the Israeli attorney general – is expected in the next few weeks.

Bakri is a particularly prominent victim of Israel’s long-running war on Palestinian history. But there are innumerable other examples.

For decades many hundreds of Palestinian residents in the southern West Bank have been fighting their expulsion as Israeli officials characterise them as “squatters”. According to Israel, the Palestinians are nomads who recklessly built homes on land they seized inside an army firing zone.

The villagers’ counter-claims were ignored until the truth was unearthed recently in Israel’s archives.

These Palestinian communities are, in fact, marked on maps predating Israel. Official Israeli documents presented in court last month show that Ariel Sharon, a general-turned-politician, devised a policy of establishing firing zones in the occupied territories to justify mass evictions of Palestinians like these communities in the Hebron Hills.

The residents are fortunate that their claims have been officially verified, even if they still depend on uncertain justice from an Israeli occupiers’ court.

Israel’s archives are being hurriedly sealed up precisely to prevent any danger that records might confirm long-sidelined and discounted Palestinian history.

Last month Israel’s state comptroller, a watchdog body, revealed that more than one million archived documents were still inaccessible, even though they had passed their declassification date. Nonetheless, some have slipped through the net.

The archives have, for example, confirmed some of the large-scale massacres of Palestinian civilians carried out in 1948 – the year Israel was established by dispossessing Palestinians of their homeland.

In one such massacre at Dawaymeh, near where Palestinians are today fighting against their expulsion from the firing zone, hundreds were executed, even as they offered no resistance, to encourage the wider population to flee.

Other files have corroborated Palestinian claims that Israel destroyed more than 500 Palestinian villages during a wave of mass expulsions that same year to dissuade the refugees from trying to return.

Official documents have disproved, too, Israel’s claim that it pleaded with the 750,000 Palestinian refugees to return home. In fact, as the archives reveal, Israel obscured its role in the ethnic cleansing of 1948 by inventing a cover story that it was Arab leaders who commanded Palestinians to leave.

The battle to eradicate Palestinian history does not just take place in the courts and archives. It begins in Israeli schools.

A new study by Avner Ben-Amos, a history professor at Tel Aviv University, shows that Israeli pupils learn almost nothing truthful about the occupation, even though many will soon enforce it as soldiers in a supposedly “moral” army that rules over Palestinians.

Maps in geography textbooks strip out the so-called “Green Line” – the borders demarcating the occupied territories – to present a Greater Israel long desired by the settlers. History and civics classes evade all discussion of the occupation, human rights violations, the role of international law, or apartheid-like local laws that treat Palestinians differently from Jewish settlers living illegally next door.

Instead, the West Bank is known by the Biblical names of “Judea and Samaria”, and its occupation in 1967 is referred to as a “liberation”.

Sadly, Israel’s erasure of Palestinians and their history is echoed outside by digital behemoths such as Google and Apple.

Palestinian solidarity activists have spent years battling to get both platforms to include hundreds of Palestinian communities in the West Bank missed off their maps, under the hashtag #HeresMyVillage. Illegal Jewish settlements, meanwhile, are prioritised on these digital maps.

Another campaign, #ShowTheWall, has lobbied the tech giants to mark on their maps the path of Israel’s 700-kilometre-long steel and concrete barrier, effectively used by Israel to annex occupied Palestinian territory in violation of international law.

And last month Palestinian groups launched yet another campaign, #GoogleMapsPalestine, demanding that the occupied territories be labelled “Palestine”, not just the West Bank and Gaza. The UN recognised the state of Palestine back in 2012, but Google and Apple refused to follow suit.

Palestinians rightly argue that these firms are replicating the kind of disappearance of Palestinians familiar from Israeli textbooks, and that they uphold “mapping segregation” that mirrors Israel’s apartheid laws in the occupied territories.

Today’s crimes of occupation – house demolitions, arrests of activists and children, violence from soldiers, and settlement expansion – are being documented by Israel, just as its earlier crimes were.

Future historians may one day unearth those papers from the Israeli archives and learn the truth. That Israeli policies were not driven, as Israel claims now, by security concerns, but by a colonial desire to destroy Palestinian society and pressure Palestinians to leave their homeland, to be replaced by Jews.

The lessons for future researchers will be no different from the lessons learnt by their predecessors, who discovered the 1948 documents.

But in truth, we do not need to wait all those years hence. We can understand what is happening to Palestinians right now – simply by refusing to conspire in their silencing. It is time to listen.

• First published in The National